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A Year Every Minute

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The war against the humans was devastating to monster-kind. There weren't many left after they had been sealed into the mountain. Those that were huddled into the darkness of the caverns and either tending to the wounded or were the wounded. The first few months were hard for everyone. Those that survived walked miles and miles deep into the mountain until they finally reached the end. That was where they chose to settle; the King calling it 'HOME' in an attempt to make it sound so much more welcoming than it really was... or perhaps he was just horrible with names. Maybe it was both.

 

Unknown how long they would be trapped, the first means of business was making sure they could survive. Food and housing was of top priority and, shortly after that, light and power.

 

W.D. Gaster had been the King's royal scientist since the war. Above ground things had been easy; the objective had always been 'keep our monsters alive and kill the humans'. Developing death machines wasn't difficult, but Dr. Gaster had always found it quite boring. What was the fun of creating something so simple? Everything more complicated he had thought up was quickly scraped as being just that. The battlefield was a much too simplistic, barbaric place for a mind to really flex.

 

Being trapped underground however, no matter how dismal the situation might be, finally allowed Gaster to stretch his mind to things that were more complex than just 'kill this group of humans the quickest way possible'.

 

The CORE was his first major undertaking.

 

Once you got deep enough into the mountain, the earth's molten center made itself known. Upon first seeing it Gaster knew what he wanted to do with it and, after many years of hard work, developed the core that powers every home in the underground and then some. Upon seeing such a massive, complicated machine you really began to appreciate the mind behind all of the horrible devices that had been used against humans for what it really was.

 

After making the core W.D. Gaster's name was known all throughout the underground. Who could ever forget the monster who provided an entire race with power? The spotlight left him only after the first human fell into Mt. Ebott, the monsters finding a new kind of HOPE with the appearance of this new child.

 

Unfortunately it was not to last. Once both the prince and the adopted human child died, the Queen vanished. The King, furious, declared war on the humans and vowed to collect the souls of those who fell into the underground. He would make himself a God and destroy their oppressors once and for all. It wasn't much long after that the first human fell into their home. King Asgore, still filled with rage, murdered the human. Once again Dr. Gaster's help was required.

 

Special containers were developed, each able to house a single soul. It was an easy enough task but, at the same time, he knew that in the end it would mean his brilliance being catered to war for a second time. Even so, a King's orders were not meant to be questioned.

 

As time went on the murder of humans, sometimes just small children, really began to weigh on King Asgore's heart. He kept a smile on for the people of his small kingdom, but when you worked so closely with him you could really see just how much it affected his spirit.

 

W.D. Gaster met with the King on a regular basis. Even if there was little in development he was still required to report in with the occasional status on the core and approve any other experiments he was working on.

 

“The King will see you now.” The burly guard rumbled through his helmet, stepping aside and letting Gaster through. Standing beside him he looked absolutely scrawny, Gaster had always been a pretty lanky monster. Being of the skeleton variety certainly didn't help things either. After making a vague 'thanks' gesture to the guard, Gaster stepped through the large doors and into the throne room. Despite what little sun managed to shine through the windows and the plethora of golden flowers that had grown, it seemed so empty and quiet now that the Queen was gone.

 

“King Asgore, I have the reports ready for you.” The doctor said, his voice oddly disjointed and always accompanied by strange hand gestures.

 

He stopped short of the throne, staring with the white dots of his eyes as the King slouched in his chair. Asgore didn't seem to even notice his presence.

 

Gaster stood there awkwardly, his arm slowly dropping and the papers falling back to his side. He looked around the room, as though this was some weird prank or trying to think of an exit if Asgore didn't notice him. Maybe if he set the papers on the desk and just... tried to sneak back out-

 

“Oh... Dr. Gaster... I didn't even hear you come in.”

 

Dammit.

 

His eyes zoomed away from the desk he was staring at to meet those of the King.

 

“Yes, I've... been standing here...” He made a few annoyed hand gestures and slightly narrowed his eyes.

 

Awkward.

 

“I have the reports.” Gaster finally spat out. He closed the distance between them much quicker than he actually intended, lab coat flapping behind him as he walked. The King took the reports from him and gave them a cursory glance.

 

“I see... thank you...”

 

“Yes. As you can see, nothing new to report. Same thing as always.” Gaster said, watching as the King stared straight through the reports in his hands. He stood there in silence, waiting to be dismissed. The dots of his eyes shooting in all directions.

 

“...Okay, well, science never sleeps!” He shoved his boney hands into the pockets of his lab coat and spun on his heel to quickly head out of the throne room. His footsteps reached as far as the doorway before they stopped.

 

The King always interrupted him by that point when he tried to show himself out. There was no invite for tea or the awkward grasp at conversation just to keep him around. There was only... silence.

 

Gaster slowly turned his head to look back at Asgore still slumped in his throne. He didn't look like even half the massive monster charging the battlefield he once was. The royal scientist rubbed the back of his skull, the sound of bone on bone seeming so much louder than it actually was.

 

He might not have been close friends with the King, but they had certainly been good acquaintances for many years. It was strange to see him so downtrodden and depressed compared to how jolly he once was. The death of his children and the departure of the Queen really had left him in quite a bad way.

 

… Killing children who fell into the mountain certainly hadn't helped things either.

 

Dr. Gaster had started to toy with other ideas after his last visit but hadn't wanted to divulge them just yet. Especially when they were just that; ideas. Seeing the state the king was in now, however, he couldn't help but think that Asgore might do something stupid if something didn't change.

 

Inhaling sharply he spun on his heel. “King Asgore! What if we're going about this the wrong way?”

 

That finally got him to look up. “Hmm?”

 

“What if we can harness the power of a human soul? What if we can use their own power against them?” Gaster began, taking a few more steps towards the throne.

 

“I've been thinking of this for some time now, why don't we capture that potential and use it for our own gain?” His voice began to get louder, the motions of his hands more wild as he grew excited at the mere idea spilling forth. “Think about it! Can you imagine the power a monster could hold if they were given the same raw capacity as a human? It would be insane!”

 

“Dr. Gaster...” The King began, but there was no stopping the royal scientist now.

 

“A monster with the power to maintain form as long as a human, to fight with the same ferocity!”

 

“DOCTOR!” Asgore bellowed, authority suddenly surging through his veins. Gaster quickly shut up, suddenly realizing that his hands were in the air and he had begun pacing. He quickly brought them to his sides and stopped. The King sighed and rubbed at his forehead.

 

“What would you need?”

 

“I'm... uh... not entirely certain yet.” Dr. Gaster mumbled and shoved his hands into his pockets, suddenly aware of just how excited he had become. “I would need a soul to analyze. The power inside them would need to be-”

 

Asgore suddenly cut him off. “Take them. Do what you will.” He didn't look up from the hand over his eyes. Gaster fought down a surge of excitement at the prospect of new experiments. Instead he mimed with his hands in front of him, now eager to get back to his lab.

 

“Perhaps you will figure out a better way to free us than this old fool.”

 

The excitement ebbed. Gaster fumbled with his hands and stood there for a moment, pondering what to say. He couldn't leave on that note, no matter how much he wanted to grab the soul and run like a madman back to his lab.

 

“I... I'll do my best.”

 

After obtaining the soul to test from the King, Gaster spent the next few years trying to figure out what exactly made humans so powerful. It was quite a lot of work, but nothing that the good doctor couldn't enjoy to the fullest. Despite the end result no doubt being used for military purposes he couldn't help but be absolutely intrigued with the idea of figuring out what made humans tick.

 

DETERMINATION was the cause. With DT the humans could exist after death and hold onto their form with much more ease than any monster could ever hope. If that could be harnessed and somehow put inside of a monster it would be unstoppable, surely! Perhaps it would even be able to break the barrier and set them free!

 

It took more years of hard work to get the DT extraction machine up and running and once that was finished... well... how was he supposed to test it? Not many monsters had fallen down since they reached 'Home', if anything the population was on an incline. A lot of the citizens were becoming comfortable with their new situation and starting to settle down to start families.

 

Once again he found himself standing outside the large double-doors to the throne room. The muscular guard let him through just he always did and Gaster approached the King with papers in hand. This was always such a chore. He could be doing other things with his time, but no, for whatever reason King Asgore always insisted that it be him that discuss his reports rather than one of his underlings.

 

At least the King seemed in better spirits lately.

 

“Hello Dr. Gaster.” He smiled, turning from watering the flowers around his throne and facing the skeleton.

 

“King Asgore.” Gaster nodded, always curt with his words when he was able to be. He just wanted to get back to his work. “Here are the reports. Preliminary testing has completed. I can begin the second stage of trials immediately.”

 

The pages were held out at arms length, Asgore reaching out to take them with his clawed hand. This time he actually started to read them, setting his watering can aside to flip through each page slowly as he read. That was another thing that annoyed Gaster, the King was such a slow reader.

 

His boney hands were shoved into the pockets of his coat while he stood there, painfully watching Asgore read at a snails pace. After less than 30 seconds of waiting Gaster inhaled through his teeth and started to gesture with his hands as he summarized the notes for both of their sakes.

 

“I have successfully extracted what I believe is the source of a humans power and have finished my initial testing, but I need monster test subjects in order to know if it works. Injecting monsters with 'DT' as I'm calling it is the next step, all-”

 

“Test subjects?” Asgore cut him off, looking up from the reports. “You want to test this on our citizens? The few we have left?” His brow furrowed, suddenly looking rather against the idea.

 

Gaster's arms stopped where they were at an odd sort of angle in front of him, halfway between two signals. The white dots of his eyes bounced from the King, to the floor, to the wall, then back again. “How else will we know it works? What else are we do do with it? This was the original plan.” His arms fell, one motioning to the papers in the King's claws.

 

“No. We will not be using our people as guinea pigs.” Asgore turned and sat down on his throne, the pages still in his hand but going unread now that he knew what its contents were about. “Our numbers are too small as it is. We haven't recovered from the war fully yet.”

 

Dr. Gaster narrowed his eyes. The King's tone had changed rather drastically over the course of the past few years. When he had first mentioned the DT extraction machine he had seemed elated at the idea, but now... it was as though Asgore no longer even cared about getting the barrier down at all.

 

“Not even volunteers? Surely there are monsters willing to put forth-”

 

“No.” Asgore said sternly, apparently dead-set on putting a stop to Gaster's work.

 

Gaster's mouth opened and closed, the royal scientist having to stop his own thoughts before they spilled forward and got him in trouble. His hands locked with one another before rubbing their palms. Even his feet became animated, rocking back and forth as he fought with his initial opinions about the King and trying to word them in some other way that wouldn't get him a slap on the head.

 

“I... I'm not sure what you want me to do. Without being able to move the testing to the next step the project might as well be discarded completely!” His voice, distorted as it was, became louder with his anger. His brow furrowed, unable to hide the obvious disappointment and animosity he felt for the King.

 

“Figure out another way.”

 

Gaster could feel his teeth start to grind. “Another way? But the whole point was to create monsters capable of fighting against humans, to match their power! Maybe they would even be strong enough to break the barrier! Surely only with a few souls-”

 

“DOCTOR.” Asgore cut him off again, the mention of souls striking quite the nerve. His voice, when used to it's fullest, was enough to make the entire room shake.

 

Gaster stopped and clenched his jaw tightly. He shook with indignation, trying to keep all the words he wanted to say in his throat. It had taken years to get this far. He hadn't been so excited to see an experiment through to the end since he had developed the core. Having a large project such as this one snuffed out before it could even get off the ground was beyond infuriating. The skeleton's emotions bubbled to the surface. He wasn't very good at keeping his manners in check, but if there was one place he did it would be in the King's presence.

 

“MmmmmMMMMmOKAY!” The scientist suddenly burst out, his arms flailing upwards. He spun around and began to walk out, this time getting past the doorway without the King calling him back.

 

His hands twitched and his fingers flicked this way and that as he mumbled under his breath. Scuffed shoes clacked against the tiled floor of the long walkways of the castle until they made it to the elevator. Gaster punched the buttons and stepped inside, waiting until the doors were fully closed before finally letting himself express the anger he had contained to that point.

 

“FFFFUCK!”

 

He screamed into the tiny box as it slid downward, his head falling into his hands as he groaned loudly into his palms. Why had Asgore suddenly changed his mind about the whole thing? Had he given up on getting out of the mountain completely? It wouldn't surprise him, it had been years since the last human fell into the underground. Without the Queen to punt his rear into gear the King was most likely unwilling to make any major decisions on his own, especially since the last one caused her to run off.

 

… No. To hell with the King. He had started this project and he was damn well going to see it to the end. Too much time had been invested into it, too much effort. He was much too invested into it now to watch it go up in smoke just because the King was a wimp. If he couldn't get volunteers he would make his own.

 

Without the King's approval Gaster knew he wouldn't be able to fully trust any of his subordinates, especially if any deemed his experiments unethical. Was it unethical if it was his own clones he was experimenting on? It was almost like doing it on himself, right? It would be fine. Everything would be fine. He just had to keep it a little secret is all.

 

Dr. Gaster sealed himself away in his lab, making sure all of his assistants knew that what he was working on was top secret and he was not to be disturbed. Most of them were too intimidated by him to ever sneak in and see what he was working on, so for the most part he was in the clear. Now all he had to do was figure out how to duplicate himself.

 

Holing himself away in his lab wasn't exactly an uncommon thing for him. When an idea struck him, however ridiculous, he would sometimes spend weeks without being seen. This was no different. It took months to figure out how he wanted to clone himself, deciding to use a part of his body, a part of his soul, and a little bit of DT to glue it all together.

 

He crunched the numbers again and again, needing to be absolutely certain that it would work... or as certain as he could manage to be when it came to something so unknown. Gaster knew it would be painful but the end result would be worth it.

 

The palm of his hand was chosen for the sacrifice of genetic material. Thankfully skeleton monsters weren't as receptive to pain as most others, what without nerves and all. Still, it wasn't exactly a tickle. Any subordinates that happened to be in the same wing as his room undoubtedly heard the yelling and swearing coming from his workshop.

 

… Not that that was particularly abnormal.

 

Extracting a piece of his soul was a bit trickier. Gaster had never been a very physically strong monster and was unsure if he would be able to stay conscious for the process. He had heard of humans operating on themselves during the war in cases of emergency, so this would be roughly the same in theory. Hopefully he lived through it.

 

After mentally preparing himself and drinking enough alcohol to numb his senses at least a little, Gaster went to work late at night when all of his assistants had gone home. Any screaming went unheard and in the end it was a success. After getting a small piece of his own soul out and in with the DT and bone before it dispersed he had promptly passed out on the floor.

 

Waking up the next morning and seeing that his operation had been a success cued much rejoicing, although he found himself feeling incredibly weak and fatigued. That was understandable.

 

After giving himself a few days of rest Dr. Gaster found himself mostly back to normal. Save for a bandaged hand and occasional dizziness he was back to work. It would take time for the clone to develop and his routine began anew, mostly checking on the core and making sure it was stable between monitoring his new experiment. When asked about his hand it was easy to lie and say he had accidentally hurt himself in a test, it had happened enough before to not seem the least bit suspicious.

 

Growth was slow, as to be expected. Months went past before Gaster began the real testing. Tubes and syringes were hooked into the small skeleton's skull and soul as it hovered in the slime inside its incubation tank. Progress was going well; the new soul was stable and the body seemed to be developing on schedule. A few more months and it would need to be moved into a new holding chamber to allow for more growth. Perhaps he didn't need monsters to test on after all, if this clone worked out to be a capable fighter then it was all they needed!

 

… Of course the process could only be done once, possibly twice, but that was something to worry about in the far future.

 

Soon the day came to upgrade holding tanks. Gaster began to gingerly pull each plug from the tiny skeleton floating in its cell and set it aside, a much larger tank already filled with fluid sat on the floor beside him. He rolled the sleeves of his lab coat up to his elbows and just as he was about to dip his hands in to the vat the room flashed red, a siren loudly shrieking through the facility. He stopped what he was doing and looked up at the spinning alarm above him.

 

“... Oh. That can't be good.” Gaster commented dryly to himself just as there was a rapid knocking on his door.

 

“Doctor! The core is overheating! The guys downstairs can't get it stabilized!”

 

Gaster stood there, hands poised over the tank of his creation. His eyes shot back and forth between the door and his experiment, for a moment actually considering ignoring his subordinate slamming on the door.

 

No, that was stupid. But... no. No, everything was about to blow up. He should fix that.

 

Gritting his jaw in annoyance the skeleton sucked in a breath through his teeth and spun around, rushing out the door and slamming it behind him.

 

 

Gaster didn't return for some hours, sighing as he opened the door to his personal laboratory and swinging it shut behind him. Sweat covered his brow, his lab coat dangling from his shoulders. He took a moment to lean against the door and rub his head. That had been quite the situation, but nothing that couldn't be handled. His eye sockets slowly opened and stared at his feet. What had he been doing again?

 

As he slipped off his lab coat to toss haphazardly onto the nearest desk his eyes finally met the container that his specimen had been sitting in only hours before.

 

It was empty.

 

The doctor's jaw tightened, his back suddenly going stiff and the whites of his eyes fading. The jar was tipped over, the slime having spread out across the floor and a gooey trail lead under the desk.

 

Oh... shit...

 

Gaster pushed himself off the door and slowly walked over to the desk, grabbing the tank and lifting it back up. The whites of his eyes followed the trail under the desk, staring at where it ended for a few long seconds before finally going to his knees and peering under it.

 

A tiny skeleton stared back at him, both of them gawking at one another before the clone smiled broadly and giggled. Gaster looked uncomfortable, unsure if he should smile back or slam his head into the floor. He chose the latter.

 

His skull clunked against the tiles, a groan melting out of his throat. He tapped his head against the floor a few more times, punishing himself for being so dumb. If only he had reattached the cables before rushing off.

 

The clone's mumbling brought his attention back, eyes looking at the baby now reaching out to him with grabby little hands. Gaster sighed and reached under the desk, lifting the child under its arms and standing, holding it at arms length.

 

“... I have really cocked this up.” He moaned to himself, staring at the little skeleton.

 

Gaster sat down on his stool, setting baby down on his desk before they proceeded to stare at one another. What was he supposed to do now? Could he just... put it back?

 

He stood, lifting the clone up before walking it over to the bigger holding tank. He started to lower it into it, but as soon as its foot touched the gel it started to cry and scream, frightened of going back into the cold, slimy bed it had awoken from. Gaster nearly dropped it, eye sockets going wide and holding it at a distance while it cried.

 

What if someone heard?

 

“SSH-SHH-SH-SH-SHHH!” The doctor scrambled further away from the door, a boney hand going over the baby's mouth and trying to muffle its cries.

 

“Shut up! Quiet! I won't do it if you just stop!” He yelled in a hushed tone despite the baby not understanding a word he said.

 

Gaster stood there, hunched over and trying to muffle the baby's cries until it finally stopped. He looked down at it, a slimey little face staring right back.

 

“... I have really cocked this up.”

 

This was... problematic. Gaster was going to have to move his secret project to somewhere a little bit more covert. His own personal area of the lab would be the best, although he didn't often go there just because it was so far from the main area of the facility.

 

He sat with the baby in his hands, staring straight through it as he thought of a plan. Once an idea was formed he began to move.

 

The clone was placed on the ground gently before he turned and started to get things packed and ready to go. The tubes, the papers with all his test results, and anything at all that had the slightest relation to his current project all needed to go. If he wasn't going to be locked inside his lab then he didn't want any chance of his work being found.

 

With a briefcase packed and ready to go, the doctor turned his attention back to the baby. It had toppled over sometime during his rush and crawled a short distance to him. How was he going to get that across the entire building?

 

Gaster stared at it for a moment before grabbing a bag and promptly putting the baby inside it.

 

Perfect.

 

Briefcase in hand and bag over his shoulder, the doctor marched out of his office and into the halls. Most of his assistants didn't bother him either because they were too busy themselves or were too intimidated by the monster who had single-handedly invented the core. There were a few exceptions, though.

 

“Doctor! Dr. Gaster!” A high-pitched voice came from behind him, the sound of footsteps closed in.

 

Gaster paused, his jaw hardening. He turned his head just in time to see the monster calling him stop by his side, grinning from ear to ear and clutching papers to her chest.

 

“It was amazing watching you work earlier today, Doctor. I had never really gotten to see you in your element. You're always cooped up in your lab working on... oh who knows what.” She giggled, as though her words were somehow funny. Gaster's expression didn't change.

 

“Yyyes.” He mumbled, the white dots of his eyes bouncing around the hallway looking for a way out.

 

“I've started a few experiments of my own. Sh-should you ever have any time to look over them I think they might be interesting! I've been testing to see if-”

 

Her words seemed to go on and on, everything coming out turning into a slur of rambling nonsense. Gaster's eyes were fixed on her, unblinking and unfeeling as he stared into her. Apparently it made her uncomfortable enough to stop, as she started to fumble with her words and say something that actually caught his attention.

 

“Ssssooo... what are you working on?” The monster glanced at the bag over his shoulder, which he hadn't noticed had started wriggling.

 

The doctor looked back at the bag, then at the monster who had been talking him into a coma for the past five minutes. “On a way to get out of this conversation.”

 

“Uhh...” The monster stammered, standing there dumbfounded. After a few seconds of uncomfortable, awkward silence had passed between them Gaster made a sudden movement of flinging his arms up in the air.

 

“EUREKA!”

 

The assistant jumped at the sudden burst of energy. Gaster only smiled down at her in that weird, distressing way someone without any lips could manage.

 

“Welp, that's solved.” He smiled and turned, legs picking up pace once more as he left the subordinate standing in the middle of the hallway, embarrassed.

 

 

The walk to the abandoned part of the lab was a long one, one of the main reasons why he never used it despite it technically being his home. He punched in the code and stepped inside, flicking on the lights and squinting at the sudden change in brightness.

 

Inside still looked like your typical lab. The main entrance was strewn with blueprints, a beaten-up couch, and desks full of vials and books. It then shot off into a few smaller rooms, one he had turned into a sort of kitchen, a bedroom with a small cot he rarely used, a few storage rooms, and a spare room.

 

Gaster walked to the spare room, flicking on the light before setting down the bag. The baby had been surprisingly still during the last part of the journey and he soon found out why; it was curled up and sleeping soundly.

 

He watched the tiny clone for longer than he intended, his face devoid of expression. After shaking his head he stood up and went to work.

 

A large box was dumped of its contents and pulled into the room, then filled with a couple of blankets and pillows. That would do for a crib, right? He lifted the baby gently, doing his best not to wake it and set it inside the box before leaving the room and turning out the light.

 

While the specimen slept he set about getting the things for his experiment scattered across his desk, shoving anything obsolete out of the way even if it meant spilling it onto the floor. In a tube or in a crib, his experiment would continue either way. Too much had been invested into it. This was just a small bump in the road, surely. He would just need to... figure out how to take care of a baby.

 

No problem.

 

Gaster moved over to his collection of books from the human world, scanning through the titles up on shelves or stacked along the floor. Eventually he found what he was looking for, a disheveled copy of some book about 'preparing for baby'. He sat himself down and started to thumb through the pages. Unfortunately the book started at the very beginning of parenthood.

 

“Oh... OH! Wow.” The doctor stared at the pages, smudged by the water it fell in. A brow raised and he tilted the book slightly to the side. A smile spread across his face. Humans were disgusting! He thumbed a bit further, making sickened noises at such things like 'potty-training' and 'diaper-changing'. How were humans so powerful when they did nothing but leak? Repugnant.

 

Eventually Gaster got to what he wanted, the development stages, but that still didn't tell him much other than what he already knew.

 

“Oh well, guess I'm just going to have to play it by ear.” He commented to himself, haphazardly flinging the book over his shoulder. It landed with a thud by others he had done much the same to, the noise causing a cry to start from the spare room. Gaster turned to eye the door, suddenly annoyed at himself.

 

“Great...” He sighed.

 

Chapter Text

Gaster pushed himself off his chair and opened the door to the spare bedroom. He grimaced at the sudden increase in noise, the sound of a crying baby like nails on a chalkboard. Peering down into the box he stared at the little skeleton, sniffling and sat up against the old pillows he had tossed in a few hours before. Upon seeing the scientist looming over, the clone reached up for him.

 

“Ugh...” He groaned, looking disgusted. Dr. Gaster wasn't sure who he was offended at more, the sniveling child or his own incompetence that caused this situation to begin with. Either way he leaned into the box and lifted the child up, holding him at an arms distance. He couldn't get attached, that much he knew, but at the same time he couldn't neglect a child's progress. An underdeveloped child would yield bad results.

 

“I guess we need to take a trip to the dump. You're going to get bored in here. You need stimulation.” The doctor said, pausing a moment when he realized that perhaps it wasn't himself that he was talking to. Was he really talking to this child? That was bad. He should stop that, lest he get too attached.

 

Grumbling to himself he carried the baby out and put him into the same bag as before. The dump was a rather desolate place, not many going there or seeing the value of what humans threw down into the mountain. He couldn't exactly leave the baby to cry alone in a box either, that would be potentially damaging to his psyche. So off they went.

 

--

 

Once at the dump Gaster set the bag containing his experiment down while he went to work. Extra blankets and pillows were good, as well as any childrens books he might come across. Toys and clothes were primarily what he was looking for. Building blocks, a jack-in-the-box, a tangled up slinky... he could fix that. Everything he could find of interest was tossed into a pile.

 

After a few trips back and forth from his lab the spare room was looking a bit more livable. Toys were scattered around the room along with blankets and pillows. That would hopefully be enough to keep the infant entertained while he worked.

 

It lasted for awhile at least.

 

While Dr. Gaster mulled over some of his calculations his concentration was once again shattered by the sounds of a crying baby. His eyes widened before he leaned back in his chair, groaning loudly and letting his head hang backwards. Boney hands pressed against his eye sockets while he mock-sobbed right along with the experiment a few rooms away.

 

How on earth was he supposed to get any work done like this?

 

The scientist shot up from his chair, storming towards the room and swinging the door open.

 

“WHAT!?” He yelled, perhaps with a little more aggression than he intended. The baby stopped for only a moment, then went right back to screaming even louder.

 

Gaster's expression fell. Whoops.

 

With a sigh he approached the crying infant, kneeling down over him. He grabbed an old, beaten-up bunny rabbit and wiggled it, but nothing seemed to change. A few more toys were tried after that, but still nothing. He crouched there, staring at the sobbing baby and trying to think back at the book he had thumbed through. Monsters didn't need diapers, so that was out of the question. What else could he be crying about?

 

“... Are you hungry?” Gaster finally asked, as though the clone could give him any sort of worthwhile response. The white dots of his eyes bounced around the room before he stood up and left, coming back moments later with a container of takeout that had been sitting around for who knows how long.

 

It was a good thing monster food didn't spoil.

 

“Here.”

 

A noodle was pulled from the carton and handed over. The baby grasped at it, squishing it a little between his fingers before sucking it in his mouth. Gaster watched him for a moment before setting the noodles down and standing. He was going to have to get a bottle and milk... or something.

 

Gaster gestured with his hands in irritation before he turned and left to make a quick stop for whatever it was babies ate. His experiment was left alone, happily suckling away at an old lo mein noodle.

 

--

 

Thankfully it didn't take too long for him to run out, grab some things, and run back. As soon as he opened the door he stopped and groaned, head hanging down. The baby had toppled over the entire box of noodles and was sat covered from head to toe in them, a few shoved into his mouth sucking away.

 

Gaster dropped his groceries and picked the clone up under his arms. “Of course you would make a mess.” He sighed, carrying the baby over to the chemical shower and setting him down in the center. After turning on and testing the temperature he grabbed the detachable nozzle and started to hose the child off.

 

“You had better drink the formula I bought you. I had to pull a good lie to explain why I needed it.” The doctor mumbled, then narrowed his eyes. He caught himself talking to it again. That really needed to stop.

 

The baby didn't seem to mind the shower, occasionally coughing or rubbing at his face. Once he was clean enough Gaster dried him off and shoved a onesie he had found on him. It was a little big but he would grow into it.

 

Dr. Gaster carried him back to the spare room, placing him in the box that served as his crib before going off to prepare the formula. Once finished he came back, leaning over the edge of the box and holding the bottle down to the clone's mouth. It didn't take long at all before he started to drink from it. Gaster pulled up a chair and sat down, holding the bottle as the baby fed.

 

“You're going to have to learn how to hold this yourself, I'm not doing everything for you.” He leaned his chin in his free palm, watching as his experiment slowly closed his eyes and started to drift back off to sleep.

 

He really did need to stop talking to it so much.

 

 

Life settled into a new routine. Gaster wasn't the best father in the world but he could at least keep a baby alive and fed... for the most part. He still hadn't named it, fearing that doing so would make him too attached. He already caught himself talking to it on a daily basis and couldn't seem to stop himself from doing so.

 

Nevertheless, the experiments went on.

 

For the first time since his clone had accidentally awakened he placed him onto the operating table. A mask was arranged over its tiny mouth and nasal bone, sending the little infant into a deep sleep. Gaster waited, making sure the child was completely unconscious before he began to hook up monitoring equipment, followed by all the tubes and needles that had been in him before.

 

Things were made easier by the number of small valves he had installed in the clone's body. One was placed directly into his soul, another into his arm, and a final one into his eye socket. With everything in place his experiments began.

 

Squirming infant or not, Gaster was still determined to make a monster capable of withstanding a human's fury and, perhaps, destroy the barrier altogether. He was convinced that determination was the solution to this. With enough of it a monster could surely reach the same great potential as a human.

 

 

Months went by, Gaster caring for his specimen with as much detached emotion as he could manage. It was a difficult task when you had to feed it and comfort it when it cried. If only he hadn't messed up and it was still floating in a test tube in his other lab. But there was no point in lamenting about that now.

 

It had been a long night, the doctor having fallen asleep on top of his desk. His face slumped on one of his hands, eye sockets closed. The soft whisper of air being drawn in and out through his teeth and the hum of the lights above him were the only things that broke the silence.

 

Suddenly his chair slowly began to move, pushing his head further than his elbow and nearly causing him to fall flat on his face. Gaster managed to catch himself just in time, the sensation of his head falling snapping him awake.

 

“Hmm?” He mumbled, blinking and looking around before feeling a pressure on his leg. The white dots of his eyes looked down, seeing a tiny skeleton standing and propping himself up against his leg. The baby smiled.

 

“How... did you get out?” Dr. Gaster narrowed his eyes and looked over to the door to the child's room, left slightly ajar. He knew for a fact he had closed it and the clone was too short to reach the handle. Curious, Gaster stood up and took the child with him. He placed it in the room and then shut the door before stepping back and waiting.

 

After a moment there was whimpering and whining, but that soon ended. The doorknob glowed a faint blue, twisting this way and that before the door creaked open. Gaster watched with amazement as the toddler stepped out, his eye glowing. He stumbled forward, nearly falling into the scientist's legs.

 

“Amazing!” Gaster suddenly shouted, grinning like a madman. He lifted the baby up, staring into his eye socket as it began to fade. “Such proficiency at such a young age! I hadn't even taught you anything yet! Oh this is very promising. This has opened up so many possibilities that I didn't think were yet possible!”

 

He tucked the toddler under an arm and marched him to the main area of the lab. Middle of the night be damned, it was time for science.

 

 

The tests increased tenfold. Over the course of the next coming months Gaster pushed his clone to practice his magic as often as he could. He still let the child rest, eat, and play, but any other time he was being pushed to become more and more adept with his telekinetic powers.

 

Perhaps he pushed a little too much.

 

Gaster opened the door to his subject's room and flicked on the light. He had been a lot more quiet today than usual. Typically around this time he was out watching Gaster work or playing with his toys. He peered into the box and saw his clone curled up, sweat dripping from his skull.

 

The doctor set his clipboard aside and reached in, gently rolling the toddler onto his back. Magic oozed from his nose and his eye flickered blue. Gaster grimaced, flinching a little as the child coughed.

 

“Oh boy...” He frowned and lifted the child into his arms, for once holding him close against his chest. A part of him wondered if this was his fault. Had he pushed too hard?

 

Gaster sat down, pulling one of the blankets from the crib and wrapping the child up. He felt its skull, noticing it was a little hotter than usual. Around his eye was especially warm. A sleeve of his coat was used to wipe away the magic dripping from his nasal cavity.

 

“Sorry kid. This is probably my fault.” He repeated aloud, gesturing with his hand in a way that was rarely seen. It wasn't often he showed any sort of remorse.

 

After a moment just sitting and watching his specimen sniffle and cough he stood up and carried it to the same table he used to run tests. He started to hook up the nodes to monitor its vitals. Everything was mostly normal save for its body heat, so it was probably little more than a fever or a head cold.

 

“You know, I'm not this kind of doctor.” He said, watching the tiny skeleton stare blankly up at the world around it. Gaster's brow furrowed and he drummed his boney fingers on the metallic table. After a few moments he sighed and pushed himself away, spinning in his chair.

 

“Okay. Alright. Stop guilt-tripping me.” Gaster flailed his hands and stood up, pulling vials and powders from one of the cabinets. He started to combine them in a very practiced manner, as though he had done this many times before. Only a few minutes later and he was pouring a rather foul green liquid into a sippy-cup and walking back to the toddler, twirling his chair around and sitting by its side.

 

“A little science and a little magic and presto!” He grinned, taking the child in his arms and urging him to take the cup. “I used to make this stuff all the time for when I had hangovers.”

 

The toddler put the cup to its mouth, instantly crying and dropping it as the liquid passed its teeth.

 

“Hey, hey!” Gaster grabbed the cup before it could all spill down his lap and thrust it back to the child. “You're drinking this. I'll put it into your IV drip if I have to.”

 

The two engaged in a battle of stubbornness, Gaster trying to force the cup into the toddler's mouth when it very much hated the taste of whatever he had put inside it. After much crying and growling from both sides, the doctor finally put a hand over his subject's nasal opening to try and get him to breath through only his mouth.

 

… Only to realize that hand was the one with the hole in it.

 

“Oh come on.” He groaned at himself, switching hands and holding the child's nose closed as best he could. As soon as it opened its mouth the cup was thrust between its teeth, forcing it to drink the disgusting liquid. The baby cried and kicked its legs, a nearby vial glowing blue and catapulting itself across the room. Gaster's attention snapped to it, staring at the shattered glass on the floor.

 

“... We're going to have to work on that.”

 

Once the liquid was finished he set the cup aside, cradling the child in his arms. He sighed and pat its back while it cried.

 

“Shhh, shhh, shut up it wasn't that bad.”

 

Gaster sat patting the child and swaying in his seat until everything finally started to calm down. The struggling must have used whatever energy it had left, sending him asleep within minutes. He set the toddler down on the operating table and covered it with the blanket. After letting out a sigh of relief the doctor leaned back in his chair.

 

“Was I so annoying as a child? How did my parents not kill me?” He wondered aloud, the dots of his eyes moving down to watch his clone sleep soundly in front of him. He moved his chair forward and leaned his chin on his hand. Slowly his eyes began to close, the rhythmic sound of the toddlers breathing and the gentle hum of his soul sending Gaster to sleep beside him.

 

 

Now that the subject could walk its interactions with Gaster had increased tenfold. Had the good doctor thought it was difficult to distance himself before, now it was near impossible. He tried his best to keep a clear, level head when dealing with his experiment, but sometimes that slipped without him really even taking notice until much later.

 

Closing the door to the clone's room was pointless now, as whenever he wanted to spend time with Dr. Gaster he would just open it up with his powers. The lab had turned into a daycare, the floor scattered with blankets and toys. Gaster even found himself picking the subject up and carrying it around when it whined hard enough, its tiny legs unable to keep pace as Gaster moved around the room from one table to the next. There were even times when he found himself working with the child sitting in his lap quietly watching, or sometimes slumped against his chest snoozing as he hunched over his papers.

 

Gaster didn't mind it, although were anyone around to see he probably would have thrown the child off in a heartbeat.

 

The tests had slowed down considerably after the little scare with the toddler's health. Rather than pushing him on a daily basis it had been stretched out to every few days with plenty of breaks in between. The last thing Dr. Gaster wanted to do was stress his experiment to its limits, especially when it was still so young and growing.

 

It was a typical day, the royal scientist huddled over his work while the child sat behind him in the middle of the floor. By now he knew how to read somewhat fluently, both with Gaster's help and his own intelligence. There was very little it needed help with understanding.

 

The toddler held a book in its boney fingers, the pages smudged but still easy enough to read. It was a story about a little boy having a day out with his father. They flew kites, built a race car for a derby, and went to the beach. These were all things the child knew nothing about, but it was nice to read all the same.

 

White dots of its eyes stared at the images of the boy being tucked into bed, something that Gaster did every night... even if it was done a bit less ceremoniously than the book depicted. It looked back and forth between the father on the pages and the back of Gaster's head a few times before a grin spread across his face.

 

“D... d...” It looked back at the book again, then to Gaster. “D... Dadda!”

 

The doctor froze, eye sockets going wide and pupils vanishing. Slowly he turned his head, eying the little skeleton sat a few feet behind him. Whatever horrible, grim look Gaster was wearing didn't seem to phase it.

 

“Dadda! Dadda!” It pointed at him, grinning and proud of its new word.

 

Unsure of what he was feeling, Gaster turned back to face his work. Was it rage? Was it pride? Was it... something else? Whatever it was he didn't know how to deal with it. His eyes glowed a bright purple, the pencil in his hand suddenly snapping in half. He dropped it and rubbed at his eye sockets before quickly standing up and swooping down, lifting the toddler under an arm before abruptly shoving it into its room and closing the door.

 

Confused noises of distress came from the other side almost instantly, only making the doctor to feel worse. He quickly looked around and grabbed the keys to the doors he so rarely used and locked it, wanting to make sure that the child didn't get out this time. As if on cue the doorknob glowed and wiggled, but this time it didn't open. After a few moments it stopped, even louder crying picking up from the other side.

 

Gaster leaned against the door and held his head in his hands. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. This was wrong.

 

He pushed himself away and hurried out of the lab. If he was going to think of how to approach the situation calmly he needed to get away before he did something he would regret.

 

 

A good walk was what Gaster usually did when things didn't go according to plan. Science wasn't exact after all, so when things really messed up it was good to get away and clear your head before tackling the problem.

 

Although this problem was definitely new.

 

He couldn't punish the child for calling him 'dadda', that would possibly stop it from wanting to talk ever again. Maybe the right thing to do was to correct it, to have it call him something else. Being labeled as its father was out of the question, this was an experiment after all. The toddler was his clone, not his son.

 

Dr. Gaster found himself out of the main facility walking around Hotland when he began to realize that perhaps locking the child in his room was... not the best course of action. The crying came back to him, the sounds of dejection ringing loudly in his skull.

 

Shit.

 

He turned and quickly ran back to his lab, hoping that any time spent alone hadn't completely ruined his subject's willingness to speak.

 

 

One back in his lab the doctor unlocked the door and peered inside, white dots shooting around the room. He didn't have to look far, the tiny skeleton whining and waddling into his legs as soon as he saw him. Gaster looked down at it and sighed. At least it didn't hate him.

 

He leaned down and lifted the child into his arms. “Sorry kid. I wasn't really prepared for that. I'm glad you're learning to talk.” A hand pat the child's skull with a clink of bone against bone. It had since buried its face into the collar of his sweater, quietly whimpering. “That's just... not the word we're going to use, alright? Lets think of something else.”

 

Gaster set the subject down on the desk and grabbed a pad of stickynotes. He scribbled down 'Dings' in his own horrible language before sloppily translating it into the Latin alphabet beside it. A chair was pulled up in front of the child and he began to point at the words, then himself.

 

“Diiings.” He said aloud. It wasn't a particularly flattering name but his friends had called him that at one point long ago and it was simple enough for a baby to learn. “Dings.” He said again, pointing at himself.

 

The baby watched him, eye sockets still wet from tears. Gaster frowned and looked at the note, then the child before ripping it off and abruptly smacking it onto his head. He winced, having slapped it on with a little more force than he intended. The subject giggled and Gaster smiled.

 

“Atta boy. See? Dings. Call me Dings.”

 

“D... Da... Dang... Da...” It tried and tried, Gaster giving him encouragement all the way. Until finally...

 

“Dins!” It announced proudly.

 

Dr. Gaster just shrugged. “Good enough for now.” He smiled, lifting the child and setting him on his lap. It looked up at him, giggling at the label still stuck to his forehead. Gaster glanced up at it and smirked.

 

“Is this a good look for me?”

 

The baby giggled louder.

 

 

A few bumps in the road weren't uncommon when you were a scientist. If anything they were almost guaranteed. Things were going along fine for Dr. Gaster and his subject, the child growing at a normal pace and developing mentally even faster than normal. Words were becoming easier to understand and simple puzzles had started to become effortless. The real experimentation still occurred regularly every few months. The only difference was now the child was beginning to remember them.

 

Gaster lifted the subject up and onto the table, urging it to lay down. It whined at first, having an idea of what was to come.

 

“Come on kid, it isn't that scary.” He said, wondering if this was going to get harder and harder to do as time progressed. “Here, see?”

 

Gaster handed it a blanket and its favorite toy, a tiny plastic alligator. He urged it to lay back as he put the mask over its face and started the anesthetic. He stood and started to walk away, but was stopped as the child grasped at his hand and squeezed a boney finger.

 

The doctor looked down and sighed, pulling up a chair to sit with it while the gas went to work. A few seconds of uncomfortable silence went between them, Gaster trying his best to avoid the frightened look in the child's eyes. He could only do that for so long, however, and soon that scared look finally got to him.

 

He forced a smile. “You know how to make a tissue dance?”

 

The little skeleton shook its head.

 

“You put a little boogie in it.”

 

The toddler laughed, the mask fogging up with each exhale. Gaster's smile became more genuine and he continued, each joke punctuated with wild gestures with his free hand.

 

“What did the mushroom say to the fungus?” He paused. “You're a fun-gi.”

 

It laughed again, it's eyes starting to slowly close.

 

“Why couldn't the pony sing itself a lullaby? … Because he was a little hoarse.”

 

The child laughed for the last time, only a tiny giggle leaving its mouth before it slowly fell unconscious. Gaster's smile slowly faded, the dots of his eyes looking down at the little hand holding onto his finger. He pulled his hand away and gently moved the toddler's arm to its side.

 

Time to get started...

 

--

 

After the tests the toddler would be covered up and allowed to wake up on their own time. The tests were always rather draining, so even after waking up it would spend a lot of time sitting beside Gaster on the floor and watching him work, or mimicking him by scribbling with crayon on a piece of paper. The notes pinned to the board in front of him had since become a mess of both actual science and incomprehensible crayon scratches.

 

“Dins.” The child mumbled, tugging on the edge of Gaster's coat. When it didn't get his attention it tugged harder. “Diiins!”

 

Gaster raised his head, eyes going wide as he finished his current thought and quickly scribbled it down before turning his attention to the child. “Hm?”

 

“Hungy.”

 

“Hungry?” He asked. It was pretty common for the child to be hungry after his experiments and sleeping nearly the entire day.

 

“Hungy!” The toddler pouted.

 

“Alright, lets see...”

 

Gaster looked around their messy living space. He grabbed a few takeout cartons sitting around looking for something extra, but everything was empty. Container after container was peered into before being tossed towards the garbage can, not always hitting its mark. After awhile he paused and looked at the growing mound of old takeout boxes and narrowed his eyes.

“Hm... Should I try cooking something for once?” He looked down to the toddler who had been following him around the room and smiled. “Yeah, why not? What could go wrong?”

 

 

Some time later Gaster arrived back home from doing a little shopping and went to work. It had taken awhile of staring at the food to think of what to make, he hadn't actually eaten anything outside of something instant or made by someone else in a long time.

 

“Okay.” He said to himself as he set the bags down. He pulled out a package of meat and some vegetables, setting them aside before looking around for something sharp to cut them up with. Eventually he found a scalpel... that would do.

 

While he tried his best to dice up the meat and vegetables, his subject wandered over and started to dig around in the bags. It knocked over a few of the bottles inside, stumbling a little and lifting it up to see what it was. Gaster took notice and quickly swooped down to lift the bags onto the counter and out of reach.

 

“Those are, uh... grown-up drinks. Here.” He dug around in the bag to grab a juice box, punching the straw through the hole before handing it down to the toddler. It wandered off and climbed up onto a nearby stool to watch Gaster work.

 

Everything had gone fine until he threw everything into a pan and set it over a burner. Thinking cooking rather boring, Gaster soon found himself opening a bottle of beer and reading some of his notes sat across from his test subject. It wasn't until he glanced up and noticed the child staring behind him that the smoke finally caught his nose. He spun around, the meat and vegetables in flames.

 

“Oh shit.”

 

Gaster shot to his feet and grabbed the fire extinguisher, spraying the fire until it was little more than a flicker under the pan. After a moment of staring he sighed and gestured tiredly with his hands. The clone started to giggle, grinning like an idiot over the edge of the desk. Gaster narrowed his eyes at it and grabbed a box of cookies from the grocery bag. “Ha-ha. I don't see you cooking dinner.”

 

He opened the box and slid it over to the child, sitting back down to nurse the rest of his beer before stealing a cookie and twirling it between his fingers. The dots of his eyes met the toddler sat across from him as it chewed messily on one of the cookies.

 

Bone appetit.” Gaster said, popping the cookie into his mouth.

 

Chapter Text

Now that the child was capable of speech and some understanding of commands, Dr. Gaster felt it was time to finally teach it bone magic. It had already showed great proficiency with its telekinetic powers, each time after their experiments getting stronger and stronger lifting objects up and tossing them certain distances or using them to perform delicate tasks. The only thing that didn't seem to change was after extended use it became tired, more tired than you average monster. As of now Gaster was unsure if this was because it was still a young child or something else, but all he could do until it grew older was to make a mental note of it and pay attention to any change.

 

“Today is a special day, kid.” He said, approaching the toddler as it scrawled on a piece of paper with crayon. “I'm going to take you outside and we're going to do some new tests, alright?”

 

The white dots of the subject's eyes grew twice as large. “Ou'side!” It shot to its feet, nearly toppling over before grabbing a book and waddling over to Gaster to thrust it upwards. The doctor looked down and took the book, the page open to a father and son flying kites in a field.

 

“Sorry, our outside isn't anything like that. But it's certainly bright!”

 

He closed the book and set it aside before bending down and lifting the child into his arms. When had he become so comfortable carrying it? When had he come to... enjoy it?

 

Those thoughts were quickly shoved to the back of his mind as he carried the toddler out the door and further into the lab, opening an old emergency exit to a space outside that had long since been forgotten. The ground was rocky and hard, the sound of bubbling magma all around them. Any sane parent would have thought this a horrible place for a child, but Gaster wasn't exactly the most cautious of caretakers.

 

The subject looked up and frowned, the lava lighting up the rocks high above them that made their ceiling. “Staws?”

 

“No stars. Maybe someday.” Gaster set his clone on the ground. “Now pay attention.” He began to gesture his arm outward to summon a row of bones, but stopped when he noticed the child was absorbed in studying a rock. It turned it over in its tiny hands, sniffing it and staring at it before giggling and moving onto another rock, clanking them together. Gaster suddenly realized that this was the first time he had taken the child outdoors.

 

He fought with himself whether or not to stop it and get him to focus, but being such an inquisitive mind himself Dr. Gaster couldn't bring himself to do it. Instead he ended up standing and watching as the toddler wandered around, clacking rocks together and playing in the rocky dirt that made up Hotland's landscape.

 

This continued for awhile before he finally put a stop to it, walking over to tap on the little skeleton's skull. “Okay kid, time to concentrate.”

 

“Awhh...” It pouted.

 

“No pouting. You'll come out here more often after this, trust me.” Gaster promised, which seemed to be enough for the child to only mumble a little in complaint and stand up. It was covered in dirt now, but that didn't seem to bother either of them.

 

“I want you to feel inside you, feel the magic that you use when you grab things with your mind. Got it?” Gaster looked down at the skeleton, who nodded.

 

“Good. Now let that magic snake out along your arm-” He raised his hand out in front of him. “-and feel it pull in front of you. Think of summoning an attack just like this.”

 

The doctor flicked his wrist, a row of bones shooting up from the ground like flowers.

 

“Cool!” The child grinned and started to run towards them, but was quickly grabbed by the collar of its shirt and pulled back.

 

“Oh no, don't touch those. Those aren't yours so they'll hurt you. Try making your own just like I showed you.”

 

It frowned but did as it was told, feeling the magic inside them before throwing their hand outward.

 

“No, make your arm stiffer. Keep it straight.” Gaster instructed, bending down to move the toddler's arm in the way it needed to go. “Feel it from here-” He pointed to the its chest. “-then come out along here as you lift your arm, then boom. Flick your wrist and summon it in front of you.” His hand trailed along the subject's arm and then to their fingertips.

 

It mumbled in annoyance, scrunching up its face before doing the motion again. This time the ground rumbled, a bone cracked along the side and as tall as Gaster himself shooting out of the earth.

 

“Uh did it!” The child grinned back at the doctor, who stared in disbelief. His jaw hung open, having not expected a toddler to summon an attack as big as himself.

 

“Y-... yeah you did. Wow. Wow!” The shock quickly turned into enthusiasm, Gaster grabbing a pen and a notebook from his pockets to scribble down what had just happened, noting the attack's dimensions and the crack in the side. Just as he finished the bone dissipated, followed by the sound of the toddler falling onto its rear.

 

“Mm... tired now...” It mumbled, Gaster quickly putting his things away and knelt down.

 

“Tired? Anything else?” He asked, eager to know the effect the spell had.

 

“Jus'... tired...” The toddler yawned, slowly flopping onto its back and rather quickly falling asleep.

 

Dr. Gaster blinked before lifting the child into his arms. “I better hook you up and monitor you for awhile. That was pretty unexpected.” He commented to himself, glancing back at the large disturbance in the earth the bone had caused.

 

The year slipped by, Dr. Gaster working on the child's ability with bone magic. It had a hard time controlling just how much power it let loose, usually causing it to become light-headed and tired even with their practice lasting only a few minutes. It was coming along slowly, the tiny skeleton able to summon smaller and smaller attacks as the months drew on. The experiments also continued at a slow and steady pace with no incident since the last time he had pushed it too hard.

 

“Alright kiddo, time to get on the table for me.” Gaster said, approaching the child as it lay in the middle of the room reading.

 

“Awwwhh...” It groaned. “I dun wanna.”

 

“I know, but...” For a moment he fought with himself over the words he wanted to use, hands gesturing nervously. “... it has to happen.”

 

The child made farting noises with its mouth before tossing the book aside and holding their arms up to be lifted off the ground. Gaster stared down at it and couldn't help himself from smirking.

 

“Really? I have to carry you?”

 

“Yes.” It grinned.

 

The scientist groaned and leaned down, scooping the child into his arms and setting it down on the operating table. It sat on the edge, wearing little more than a t-shirt that was much too big for it and a pair of slippers in the shape of fuzzy, clawed paws.

 

Gaster prepped everything, not even needing to say a word as the subject laid back and got comfortable. They had both settled into a routine, the child laying down and then holding out their hand to be held while the gas slowly lulled them into sleep.

 

Once the mask was in place Gaster sat beside the table and without even questioning it, took the child's hand in his own.

 

“I have some good number jokes for you today.” He smiled, having started teaching his clone how to counter and identify numbers.

 

“Why was six afraid of seven? … Because seven, eight, nine.”

 

It took a moment, but the little skeleton got it and laughed. Gaster never thought he would have such enjoyment telling horrible jokes like he had before his career as the royal scientist, but here he was telling them to a little kid laying on his operating table and loving every second.

 

“What kind of flower likes to talk the most? … Two-lips.”

 

The child laughed again, it's eye sockets beginning to close. Usually three jokes was the magic number before the anesthetic finally kicked in.

 

“What did zero say to eight? … Nice belt!”

 

With that the subject let out its last giggle, their hold on Gaster's hand growing weak as they drifted off to sleep.

 

 

The process went smoothly and, after awhile, the little skeleton woke up. It usually laid around for awhile anyway, too tired to really move around or do much. Gaster would bring it some water and a snack with occasionally a toy or book to read while they recuperated.

 

While the doctor transcribed what had happened during their latest test the child lay on its side, reading a children's book. After getting a few pages in it stopped and sleepily turned to look at its creator.

 

“Dings?”

 

“Hm?” Gaster mumbled without looking up.

 

“Wha's my name?”

 

The doctor froze, pupils vanishing from his eye sockets.

 

“Is 'kid' my name?” It asked, turning back around to read the book and taking no notice of Gaster's discomfort. “'Cuz tha's-”

 

“Sans.”

 

The little monster turned and looked at Dr. Gaster, who had resumed jotting down notes.

 

“Sans?” The child repeated, then looked at his book again. “Oh. Okay!” He smiled, happy to know his name as he read his book. In the book the human kids were calling each other by names and he had started to wonder what someone other than Dings would call him. It wasn't like he knew anyone else and 'kid' or 'kiddo' had been fine up until this point.

 

After some uncomfortable silence, at least for Gaster, the doctor stood up. His boney fingers rubbed his clone's head as he passed before he walked out of the room. It wasn't too uncommon for him to leave for short periods of time without telling Sans where he was going.

 

This time he didn't go far.

 

Once outside he walked down the dark, abandoned hallway inside the core facility and turned the corner before stopping. Standing stock still with blank eyes and hands inside his pockets, Gaster stared at the wall ahead of him before slowly taking a step back and leaning against a wall. He slid down onto his rear, legs propped up and arms hanging over his knees.

 

Why had he done that? Why had he given the child a name? Why hadn't he just said he didn't have one or given him a name that was just a serial number? The name Sans held no real significance to him other than being a typical name for skeleton monsters. He closed his eyes and slapped a hand over them.

 

Stupid. So stupid.

 

Gaster sat there doing his best not to think about it. Eventually he opened his eyes to find himself looking through the hole he had put in his hand to create Sans in the first place. He lowered it, hollow sockets focused on the perfect circle in his palm. He had thought he could stay detached even after his blunder, but now...

 

No. No he had to stay the course. This could still work.

 

Inhaling deeply with lungs he didn't have, Gaster stood and started to walk back to the lab.

 

 

Sans was always a rather low energy child. Whether it was the tests that made him that way due to draining his strength or just how he was made, Gaster still didn't know. Things like that might forever be a mystery, no one had made a clone of oneself before and it wasn't an exact science by any stretch of the imagination.

 

That said, for everyone there came a time when your child got to the age where they started to be a little defiant.

 

Gaster sat hunched over his desk, having been particularly engrossed in his work the past few weeks. His clone was starting to get restless and annoyed, their time practicing bone magic being the only point he was allowed outside.

 

“can we go practice today?” Sans asked, his head lower than the desk was tall as he stood beside his creator. When Gaster didn't hear or even take notice of him he became cross.

 

“dings!”

 

“Uh, huh? What?” The doctor finally peeled his eye sockets away from his work, dark circles having developed underneath. The past few months he had been developing new magic to introduce to his subject and now things were starting to get within arms reach. Days had gone by with Gaster barely moving an inch, often falling asleep on top of his work for short periods of time before picking it right back up again.

 

“can we go practice?” Sans repeated, his brow furrowing.

 

“Oh, no, not today.” Gaster turned back to his work.

 

The child frowned, his left eye flickering blue. “you said that yesterday. when are you going to let me go outside by myself? i'm old enough!”

 

At that Gaster laughed in his non-existent throat. “You're five and 70% of our surroundings are nothing but molten rock.”

 

“well then come outside with me.” The child grabbed at Gaster's lab coat and gave it a tug.

 

“I can't, kid.” He said, starting to get annoyed as he scribbled line after line of calculations in front of him. This conversation was starting to make him lose his train of thought. “I'm close to figuring something out. You're just going to have to wait until I have it finished.”

 

“and how long is that going to be?”

 

“Could still be a few days yet. Maybe weeks.”

 

“what!?” Sans' eye flared blue again. “i don't want to wait that long. i'm going outside!” He stormed towards the door, but just as he got to the handle the electronic keypad buzzed to life. With a loud click the door locked. The boy spun around to glare at Gaster.

 

The doctor's eyes glowed purple, a hand outstretched after using his magic to make sure Sans couldn't leave unattended. “The answer is no.” He said firmly.

 

Sans grit his teeth, magic spitting from his eye. “yes! let me go outside!”

 

The doctor slammed down his pencil and gestured angrily with his hands. “No! Go find something to do in your-”

 

Before he could finish his sentence a beaker zoomed towards him, Gaster flinching out of the way just in time before it shattered on the wall behind him. He turned and looked at the mess, then back at Sans. The dots of his eyes vanished and he frowned deeply before standing up abruptly from his chair.

 

Sans stood his ground, unknowingly picking things up around him with his powers. Pencils, trash, books, anything within four feet wiggled above where it had originally sat. Gaster approached him, staying just out of reach of his creation's angry little grasp.

 

“Sans. Put everything down and go to your room.”

 

“no!”

 

The skeleton stomped one of his feet, a cup shooting towards Gaster. He caught it before it could smack him in the face and set it down calmly on the desk beside him. Sans began to realize that there was something incredibly creepy about the doctor when he was angry; truly angry. He looked calm, yet when you stared into the darkness of his empty eye sockets it was as though you would get sucked in at any minute. It was like the center of a tornado, calm yet surging with energy all around.

 

“Do not. Throw things.” Gaster said, the gestures made by his hands slow and sweeping as apposed to their usual fast and jerky nature. Sans faltered slightly, part of him still determined to get his way but at the same time frightened of what his creator might do.

 

“Go to your room.” Gaster repeated.

 

“n-no!” Sans managed to spit out, instantly regretting it as the doctor very quickly stepped towards him. The child screamed, expecting to be smacked or hit despite Gaster having never once raising his hand to him before. A cold, rigid hand wrapped around Sans' arm and began to drag the little boy towards his room.

 

“no! noooo!” The child screamed and kicked, throwing a tantrum as he was pulled along. Books and pencils were flung this way and that, some of them colliding with Gaster while others were tossed haphazardly across the room. The doctor didn't flinch once, pulling Sans into his room and then closing the door.

 

Sans cried and banged on the door, twisting the knob this way and that but it was firmly locked. Toys, books, and pillows were flung carelessly around the room. His emotions sent everything out of control, Gaster unable to do anything but wait until the child blew off enough steam to tire himself out.

 

He sat himself back down at his desk and stared at his calculations, waiting for his rage to subside before going straight back to work. The screaming and crying from behind Sans' door didn't help, but it eventually quieted enough to the point where Gaster could continue his work. He did so for awhile until he started to wonder if he had done the right thing. Perhaps it would have been better to just give Sans what he had wanted in the first place?

 

No. Sans had to learn that not everything went his way. This was just another small bump in the road.

 

… A road that had turned into a highway covered in potholes.

 

 

 

The following day everything had returned to normal. Gaster stopped what he was doing long enough to give Sans some time outside before they went back in and their routine resumed. The doctor was still very absorbed into his work, but Sans didn't seem to be throwing a fuss about it anymore.

 

The first cough didn't even register in his head, but after the second and third Gaster finally stopped what he was doing to look back at the child sat in the middle of the room playing with a pile of legos. Sans was sniffling and looked even more tired than he usually did, a familiar blue liquid hanging on the edge of his nasal cavity.

 

“You, uh... feeling alright there, kiddo?” Gaster asked, a brow raised.

 

“huh?” Sans looked over at him, eye sockets only partially opened. “i'm just still tired...”

 

Gaster frowned and stood up, crouching beside the child and wiping the magic coming from Sans' nose onto his sleeve. “I don't buy that. I think you're getting sick again.” He put his hand against the boy's forehead to feel how hot it was, then moved down closer to his left eye. “You should probably get back to bed.”

 

“but I just got up. its boring in bed.” Sans complained.

 

The doctor sighed. “Fine, you can stay up for a bit longer... but I'm going to make you something to drink.”

 

He stood up and went about making the same concoction he had made for him before. It wasn't a cure by any means, but it at least made you feel a little better. Soon enough the foul, green liquid was handed down to Sans.

 

“ugh, this smells gross!” He said, taking the cup and nearly spilling it in another coughing fit.

 

“I know. Just drink it, you'll feel a little better. Then in a few minutes I want you in bed.”

 

Sans grumbled, gagging after he chugged the disgusting fluid and handing the cup back to Gaster.

 

“I'll even stop work and come read you a story, how's that sound?”

 

Sans smiled and nodded.

 

Not long after Sans was feeling pretty tired and crawled into bed. His 'crib' had long since been replaced by a cot. The blankets were always a mess and the mattress was lumpy and a little uncomfortable, but it never seemed to really bother him or stop him from sleeping on it.

 

Gaster kept his promise, pulling up a chair and grabbing a book to read to Sans. He read a story about a knight and a dragon, although he wasn't at all too terribly good at reading aloud. In the end Sans couldn't help but laugh nasally, Gaster looking up from the pages and frowning.

 

“What?”

 

“you're not very good at reading. you didn't even give anyone special voices.”

 

The doctor scoffed in mock distress and tossed the book over his shoulder. “Ungrateful! It took me years to learn to read the Latin alphabet!” He gestured wildly with his hands and moved to stand up. “Well I'm just going to go back and do cool science stuff if you don't like me reading to you.”

 

“nono!” Sans eagerly reached out to him. “tell me jokes instead.”

 

Gaster eyed him skeptically for a moment before he smiled and sat back down. “Alright. Knock, knock.”

 

“who's there?”

 

“Little old lady.”

 

“little old lady who?”

 

“Wow, I didn't know you could yodel!”

 

Sans laughed, the doctor waiting until he calmed down a little to start again.

 

“Knock, knock.”

 

“who's there?”

 

“Cows go.”

 

“cows go who?”

 

“No, silly, cows go 'moo'!”

 

Gaster sat there telling Sans knock-knock jokes until he looked like he was getting pretty tired.

 

“Okay, one more and then you need to try and sleep.”

 

Sans moaned, his eyes already drooping but enjoying his time so much he didn't want to sleep.

 

“Knock, knock.”

 

“who's there?”

 

“Interrupting, squawking parrot.”

 

“interrupting, squawking parrot wh-”

 

“SQUAWK SQUAWK SQUAWK!” Gaster yelled, getting close to Sans' face and tickling him through the sheets.

 

“no! nooo!” The boy laughed, swatting weakly at Gaster's hands. It stopped soon enough, the doctor standing up and going to leave the room.

 

“Okay, get some sleep kid.” He flicked off the light and started to close the door when Sans interrupted him.

 

“dings, wait.”

 

“Hm?” Gaster raised the ridge of his brow.

 

“um...” Sans began, losing his nerve for something he had been thinking about since he had gotten angry about not being allowed outside.

 

“do i... have parents?”

 

The lights in Gaster's eyes faded, along with his smile.

 

Sans watched him, suddenly feeling strangely guilty for asking. He had all the right to know... right? Every book he read showed kids had parents, even if it was just one. If Gaster wasn't his father then who was? Did he have a mother too? Where were they and why wasn't he with them? His thoughts were stopped as Gaster finally spoke up once more.

 

“I'll tell you when you're feeling better.”

 

“... okay.”

 

“For now just... get some sleep.”

 

Sans nodded and slouched down into his bed, tugging his blanket up close to his chin. Despite his worries it didn't take long at all for him to fall asleep.

 

Gaster slowly closed the door, empty sockets staring down at his boney fingers wrapped around the handle.

 

Shit.

 

Chapter Text

Putting off talking to Sans about his origins until he was well was only a temporary solution. As soon as the child started to feel better he continued to ask about it, Gaster always postponing it until he no longer could. After a few days without any coughing or sniffling, Sans finally put his slippered foot down and approached the doctor sat hunched over his work.

 

“dings, i've felt better for like... two days now. when are you going to tell me about my parents?”

 

Gaster stopped writing, the light fading from his eyes. He had pushed it back as long as he could and, during all this time, had yet to really figure out what he was going to say. Every time he started to think about what words would be best suited to the situation his mind had just gone blank. Being socially responsible was hard... that's why he had gotten into science instead.

 

Eventually he sighed and set his pencil down.

 

“Sans... what I'm going to tell you, you probably won't like.” Gaster began, having toyed with the notion of lying to him for his own sake but eventually decided that he just couldn't do it. He was attached now, he knew. There wasn't much he could do about that.

 

“Come.”

 

He stood, walking over to the center of the room that was littered with pillows and toys. The doctor took a seat, Sans sitting with his legs crossed in front of him and looking up with both curiosity and apprehension.

 

“First I need to tell you about our history. The history of monsters.”

 

Gaster went on to tell Sans about the war, about how humans were so much more powerful than them. He told him about how few their numbers were at first, how they had been sealed into the mountain they currently lived in and many monsters had fallen down and lost hope. He told him about King Asgore's plan to kill any human that fell into their new home in order to absorb their souls and become a God to enact revenge on what they had done to not just his people, but also his two children. As he continued on his expression fell and his hand motions became slower and more deliberate.

 

The doctor explained that he had realized DT was what might have made humans so powerful, that his plan was to make a monster who could withstand the onslaught of humanity or simply have enough power to destroy the barrier once and for all. He kept his words vague at first, but as they drew closer and closer to the real reason of their talk his voice became slow.

 

He held up his hand with the perfect hole cut from his palm. “I made you.” Gaster finally managed, trying his hardest to keep his voice level. “You are made from a part of my body and soul. A clone.”

 

The lights of his eyes faded once more, the rings underneath his sockets somehow looking all the more pronounced. Sans sat and stared, his own eyes going dark as they shared a moment of uncomfortable silence between them.

 

“that's... not how normal monsters are made, is it?” The boy finally said.

 

Gaster shook his head solemnly. “No. Similar in some ways, but... no.”

 

Sans looked down into his lap just as Gaster looked up, trying to read his expression. His gaze didn't last long, both of them looking downward and unwilling to face the other.

 

“so... you're my dad?” The skeleton finally asked. Gaster twitched a little and rubbed his skull.

 

“Y-... yes.”

 

“did... did you make me to break the barrier?” Sans looked up at him with apprehension. “did you make me as a weapon?”

 

The doctor quaked slightly, a hand going over his mouth.

 

“... you did, didn't you?” Sans finally said, his voice shaking and his tiny hands clenching at the hem of his oversized shirt.

 

Gaster finally forced himself to nod, the boy recognizing the meek hand gesture that followed as a 'yes'. They sat in silence for a few more seconds before Sans quickly stood up and rushed to his room, the door slamming behind him. Gaster was left to sit alone, doing his best to keep himself as calm as he could.

 

Why had things turned out this way? This was a mess. Sans was never supposed to know, and why did he feel so bad telling him about it? Sure he was attached but Sans was just his clone... right? Or... was he more than that now? Were they really father and son? He had certainly never even entertained that idea.

 

He rubbed his face with his hands and looked at the door to Sans' room, able to just make out the sound of muffled crying. Maybe it was wise to just leave him alone for awhile and see what came of this whole situation.

 

 

Once Sans had closed the door to his room he had climbed into bed and pulled the blankets up over his head. After fighting back his emotions as much as he could, he finally started to sob into his pillow. He didn't know how he was supposed to feel about all this new information, but everything did start to make sense. That was why he had never seen anyone else and was stuck inside a lab. That was why he had been practicing magic ever since he could remember. That was why Gaster put him up on that table... he was being experimented on and turned into a killing machine.

 

He didn't want to hurt people. He didn't want to have so much responsibility on his shoulders. Why couldn't he live a normal life like the children in his books?

 

A big part of him wanted to be angry at Gaster, but he just... couldn't be. Not now. He was too tired, too sad. The meaning to his life had just been thrust at him on a platter and he didn't like what he saw.

 

He was just a kid. He wanted to go outside and play with other kids and go to school and make friends. The reality that that might never happen began to hit him. What if he spent his whole life stuck in his lab before being sent off to kill people he didn't even know?

 

Sans cried and cried, his eyes becoming heavier as time drew on. He fell asleep clutching his pillow, the bones of his cheeks glossy with tears.

 

 

The day drew on painfully slow, and the night wasn't much better. Gaster worked as much as he could through the horrible distraction of his feelings until the next day. Sans hadn't left his room and it was getting to be rather late, surely the poor boy was hungry.

 

He got some of their favorite takeout and a glass of his favorite soda before knocking on the door and stepping inside. Sans didn't move, little more than a curled up ball underneath the blankets.

 

“I got you some food. It's the stuff you like.” Gaster said as he approached, voice about as downtrodden as he felt. He set everything on the table beside the bed and stood there for a moment, watching the lump under the covers breath in and out. Unsure of what to do, he sat down on the edge of the bed and sighed.

 

“I'm sorry Sans. I never meant for it to end up this way.”

 

Silence.

 

“Cloning has never been done before. I actually thought you would be a lot more like me, but you aren't. You're your own monster. I want you to know that.”

 

Still nothing.

 

Gaster's eyes cast themselves away from the mass under the blankets and to the space between his scuffed shoes instead. “I want you to know I'm proud of you too. You're strong, and not just physically. You put up with a lot from me and you rarely argue. I'm... I'm sorry for the things I do to you.”

 

“I don't want you to worry about your future. We'll deal with it when it comes, but... I do want you to know that you could mean everything to the monsters trapped in this mountain. Humans falling down to us are few and far between. We might be stuck down here for centuries. That's why I made you. You will give everyone hope. You might not even need to fight any humans. You might be able to break the barrier on your own when you're older. You might be able to free every monster trapped here.”

 

The lump under the covers shifted slightly. Gaster watched it, but when nothing else happened he looked back to the floor.

 

“I know it's a lot of responsibility for a little kid... but you won't be little forever. You can grow into it. It's not all going to happen at once. You still have a lot of growing up to do and we'll take it slow.” The white dots of his eyes looked at the blankets. “Okay?”

 

They sat in uncomfortable silence until, finally, Sans shifted and slowly sat up. The blankets were still held tightly around him, hiding his face. A boney hand reached out for the soda and drank a little. More silence passed.

 

“I understand if you're angry with me. You have every right to be. Just...” Gaster's eyes bounced between Sans and the food he had brought. “... eat something for me. I'll be around if you want to talk.”

 

He lingered for a moment before slowly standing up and leaving the room. Sans was left on his own, waiting until he knew the doctor had gone to reach for the styrofoam container sat on his desk. His mind was blank while he munched down the little nuggets and fries, eyes blankly staring ahead as he began to contemplate everything Gaster had said.

 

He thought about how Gaster had apologized, at the same time feeling angry that he had to to begin with. Being an experiment was scary, but at the same time he realized that despite everything the doctor had never hurt him. He woke up feeling pretty tired but that was really all that had happened. They trained and he was drained afterward, but... he honestly liked it. It was fun being able to throw things around and summon magic. Was that not a normal thing kids did? Sans had always thought that it was.

 

Would he break the barrier someday? Could he really live with having such responsibility on his shoulders? He thought about every monster cheering him on and looking to him to fix their problems and it filled him with a mix of pride and fear. It was scary to think an entire civilization would one day be looking to him to free them.

 

After sitting alone for awhile he finally pulled himself off the bed and slowly walked to the door, the blankets still wrapped tightly around him. He dragged it along as he opened the door and walked out, slowly making his way to the stool that Gaster was almost always sitting in. This time he didn't even need to tug on his lab coat to get his attention.

 

The doctor turned and looked down, frowning upon seeing the tired and defeated look in Sans' eye sockets. He hesitated for a moment before setting his pencil down and reaching to lift the child up and into his lap. Neither of them were particularly affectionate to one another, it had been a few years since Gaster had held him against his chest. Now that he could walk there hadn't been much point.

 

Sans leaned into his creator, tiny hands clutching at the collar of his coat. He turned his face into the black sweater underneath and started to cry. The doctor wrapped an arm around him and held him tight, unable to get himself to look down. He could feel a lump catch in his throat, sitting in silence as the little boy softly wept into his ribcage.

 

Eventually the crying quieted and was replaced with a whimper. “i'm scared...”

 

Gaster reached up, rubbing his fingers along Sans' head. Bone on bone might have been a disconcerting sound to most, but to them it was soothing.

 

“I know, kiddo.” He paused and forced a smile, finally making himself look down at the child in his lap. “But right now you have nothing to be scared of. I'm not going to hurt you. Maybe one day you'll even be a hero.”

 

“what if i don't want to be a hero?” Sans looked up at him.

 

Gaster's smiled faltered for only a moment. “Well... we'll deal with that when we get there, okay? Let's take this one step at a time.”

 

That's what this whole experiment had ended up like, hadn't it? One shaky step after another.

 

“... okay.” Sans said, then sighed. He was so tired from all of this.

 

They went quiet, Sans sat curled up in Gaster's lap. He would stay like that for awhile, not even getting back to work until he was sure the little skeleton had fallen asleep in his lap.

 

 

The following few weeks after that were a little tense, but Sans didn't seemed to hold any grudges. Gaster made an honest attempt to spend more time with the young skeleton, although Sans still didn't feel comfortable calling him 'dad'. They weren't quite like father and son, but they were a little closer than they had been before.

 

The royal scientist had started to make more of an effort to teach Sans about the world, mostly magic and the science behind it. He had realized after their talk that he wanted the boy to get more out of life than just what he did to him with his experiments. He wanted Sans to be smart, to perhaps even carry on in his footsteps. The boy was already very intelligent, nearly an entire year ahead of what someone typically his age would be.

 

Sans had also started to become interested in telling his own jokes, although Gaster had heard them all before. Now that the dirty laundry had been aired and he was getting a little older, Sans and Gaster were starting to become more like friends despite their massive age difference. In the end both of them really only had the other to socialize with. Even though Sans didn't take after Gaster as much as the doctor had originally thought he would, they did share quite a few similarities that allowed their relationship to blossom despite its hardships.

 

After months of solid work, Gaster had developed something new. Sans was now old enough to begin the real testing. Unlike before, however, the doctor made sure he knew what was going to happen to him.

 

“Teleportation.”

 

“... teleportation?” Sans repeated, staring oddly up at the doctor.

 

“Yes. Being able to vanish from one spot and appear at another.” Gaster explained. “It's magic I toyed with many years ago but had never been able to get it to work.” He said, leaving out the reason being that teleporting behind enemy lines for assassinations was its original intention. “I was finally able to get it to work, in theory, thanks to DT.”

 

“... 'in theory'?” Sans said again, not looking too confident in what the doctor was telling him.

 

“You have no need to worry, Sans. This will be just like all the other times. Just in the end you'll be able to learn something new. Remember how fun it was learning bone magic for the first time?” Gaster tried to encourage him, the smaller skeleton finally managing a somewhat forced smile.

 

“yeah... i guess.”

 

Not much later Sans found himself on the same operating table. He lay down, mask over his face while he stared up at the ceiling. This was the first time he had gone under since their little 'talk' about his origins and it felt so much different now that he knew what the end result was going to be. After Gaster had prepped everything he sat down just like he always did and held out his hand for Sans to take. After a moment of it not being reciprocated the doctor looked at the child and hid any rejection or sadness he felt as best he could.

 

“Too old to hold my hand anymore?” He asked with a smirk, doing well to hide his emotions for both Sans' sake and his own. “Should I stop telling jokes too?”

 

Sans finally glanced over at Gaster, worry on his face. He might have been older now but he was still just a kid. After a moment he reached out, fear winning over pride, and took Gaster's hand.

 

“you can still tell jokes.”

 

Gaster smiled, “Good, because I have a beryllium of them.”

 

Sans laughed even though he only slightly knew what that was. The elements were still pretty new to him, but he had a fantastic memory.

 

 

The experiment was a success.

 

The following weeks consisted of Sans trying out his new ability, teleporting small distances around the lab. Any fright he had experienced before was gone now, the little skeleton primarily using it to sneak up on Gaster and spook him, or getting something without actually having to move. It was an amazingly convenient power to have.

 

Knowing that it all worked in the end lent them a small break in terms of research. Between practicing his new power Gaster had begun to commit actual time to the boy's education, primarily science and mathematics. Sans' skills in reading and literature were primarily his own doing, Gaster not particularly skilled at either.

 

During a break in their lessons the two sat side by side eating lunch. While Sans munched away on his sandwich Gaster casually drank from a beer bottle. Sans had never seen him get drunk, but Gaster enjoyed the occasional brew every now and then. Whenever he did, however little, it seemed to incite a certain carefree childishness inside him. Perhaps doing so reminded him of a time long past, a time when his life was much more innocent.

 

The bottle was set down suddenly, Gaster standing up and shifting around for something in the kitchen. Sans watched, his chewing slowing.

 

“uh... what are you doing?”

 

“I'm going to show you something cool.” The scientist grinned, eventually finding a bowl and filling it with water. He set it in front of the boy. “Take this outside and put it against the wall.” Sans stared at him but shrugged and did as he was told.

 

A few moments later Gaster stepped outside, a very confused looking Sans waiting for him. He was holding a vial with chunks of something sitting at the bottom.

 

“Any idea what this is?”

 

Sans shrugged.

 

“Symbol is 'K'.” The doctor hinted.

 

“... potassium?”

 

“Yes! Very good!” Gaster said with excitement. Using magic he pulled a piece from the vial, the small chunk of metal floating above his palm. “Do you know how it reacts with water?”

 

Once again, Sans shrugged.

 

“It explodes!” The skeleton said gleefully, grinning like an idiot before abruptly tossing the piece floating in his hand into the bowl of water. As it hit the surface there was a loud pop, liquid spraying against the side of the building.

 

“Here, take a piece and toss it in!” Gaster grinned, holding the vial down towards Sans. The boy stared at him, absolutely perplexed as to why they were doing this. He took a piece out using the same method as Gaster, staring at it floating above his hand before looking up at the doctor.

 

“why are we doing this?”

 

“Why not? It's been years since I've blown things up. This is at least a safe way to do it.”

 

Still confused, Sans tossed the potassium into the bowl and watched as it exploded just as before.

 

“Nice!” Gaster beamed, urging the boy to do it again. This time Sans smiled, grabbing a piece and tossing it. He had to admit watching it explode was pretty cool.

 

 

With time teleporting became second nature, Sans using it almost constantly throughout the day. At first he would even go out of his way to use it, but now it was mostly for the sake of convenience.

 

Sans had also been given the okay to wander around the more abandoned parts of the lab. Now that he could teleport outside the door there was little Gaster could do to stop him, so they set up a set of rules for how far he could go and when. The consequences of being seen could be damning for them both, so the doctor made sure Sans knew how serious it was that he remain hidden, at least for now.

 

The boy begrudgingly obeyed, unwilling to admit that he was scared of what the consequences for being found might be. Gaster was also spending a lot more time in another section of the facility, the door always locked and a strange glow emitting from under the door. He had been told to stay out until it was completed because it was dangerous, but it took a lot of restraint.

 

Days had passed and Sans hadn't seen Gaster out of his work room once, he was starting to get worried. The boy stood outside his door pondering whether he should just teleport onto the other side. With a sigh he decided a more subtle approach, pounding on the door with his fist.

 

“dings!” He yelled. When no reply came he beat the door a little harder.

 

“dings!!”

 

This time there was stumbling from the other side, the door cracking open and Gaster's head peering around it. He looked... well, bad. Sans had to take a moment before collecting himself.

 

“uh... wow. you look like crap.”

 

“Do I?” The doctor mumbled, rubbing at the deep circles under his eye sockets. He was covered in filth of some kind, probably a mix of magic and chemistry judging by the smell.

 

“y-yeah... its been like... almost a week and you haven't come out.”

 

“A week? Wow. Hm...” Gaster glanced back into the room before looking down at Sans. “I'm fine. Is there something you need?” He said, eager to get back to what he was working on.

 

The boy looked Gaster up and down, frowning. “i... yeah. i need you to take care of yourself. that would be nice.”

 

“I'm fine, Sans. Really. Now is there something you want? I really need to get back to work.” He started to close the door, but Sans reached in and grabbed the edge of his coat.

 

“dings. come on, man.”

 

The boy looked up at him, worry in the white dots of his eyes. Gaster turned, looking at him for a moment before eventually sighing and slipping out of the door.

 

“Okay. You win, mom.”

 

“wow.” Sans scowled, watching as the scientist skulked passed him and to their 'home'. He hurried ahead, opening the door and then digging around in the fridge.

 

“here.” He pushed some leftover pizza onto the table. “eat and then get some actual sleep.”

 

Gaster sat down a lot harder than he intended, body crumpling in on itself now that he didn't have the intense drive to complete his next invention coursing through his bones. Those days without sleep and very little food started to catch up on him fast. He grabbed a piece of pizza, mindlessly chomping down and chewing through it.

 

“so... what are you working on?” Sans asked, although he didn't expect Gaster to actually tell him.

 

“A weapon.” The doctor said, gesturing weakly with his free hand. Sans had to hold back his surprise that he had actually answered him. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation. Either way the little boy wasn't passing up this opportunity to learn more.

 

“what kind of weapon?”

 

Gaster yawned loudly, his head soon leaning against his hand while he absently chewed on his pizza. “A weapon for you... You'll like it. It looks cool.” He mumbled on without any real thought to what he was saying or who he was saying it to. “I'm...” The doctor paused to yawn again. “... making it really powerful so... you don't have to worry about getting hurt...”

 

His head began to slip, the pizza in his hand dropping onto the plate. “Laser... dinosaur...”

 

“woah. wow. okay.” Sans reached up, urging the much taller skeleton off the stool and guiding him towards the bedroom that he never used. Gaster stumbled the whole way there, nearly tripping over books and trash in his path. Once actually at the bed he abruptly fell into it, the mattress squeaking loudly. Not a second later and he was drooling into the pillow.

 

Sans stood beside him. He couldn't even remember Gaster using his bed more than once or twice, and what had that 'laser dinosaur' thing been about?

 

He had to really fight the urge to go peeking.

 

 

After getting enough rest Gaster was a little more keen on taking breaks, if only for Sans' peace of mind. It took many months to finally finish what he had been working on and it was time for the big reveal.

 

“Are you ready?” Gaster asked with excitement, his hand on the doorknob to the lab he had been sealed away in.

 

“uh... as ready as i'll ever be.” Sans shrugged, the doctor soon swinging the door open and allowing Sans inside for the first time.

 

“Ta-da!” Gaster gestured to a massive skull sitting in the center of the room, the area around it littered in blueprints and magic spills. The white dots of his eyes bounced from one creation to the other, his smile fading upon seeing the apprehension on Sans' face.

 

“What? You don't like it?”

 

“its... freaky looking.”

 

Gaster frowned and looked back at it. “What!? That looks cool!” He walked over and pat the surface with his hand. “Besides, this is just the prototype. It doesn't actually work. You can only see the real thing when its summoned.”

 

“summoned? like bone magic?”

 

“Yes, it's an attack just like that. It already works so you don't really have anything to be scared of.”

 

“i'm not scared!” Sans frowned. He was getting to be a big kid, why would he be scared?

 

He didn't go any closer.

 

“how do you know it works?”

 

“Well I tested it on myself. This thing is immensely powerful. I wouldn't give it to a child without using it first.” Gaster explained. The boy mumbled, but was glad to hear that for once the doctor had tested on himself before giving it to him. Sans finally stepped closer, standing just off to the side of the strange skull.

 

“Ready to see what it does?” The doctor asked, nearly jittering with excitement.

 

“i guess so...”

 

Sans had barely gotten the words out of his mouth before Gaster was already marching out the door. He lead the young boy down the hall and to a room that he had only explored once before, a massive empty space used for weapons testing.

 

“Ready?” The doctor asked, nearly jumping out of his clothes with enthusiasm.

 

Gaster's eyes glowed, a moment later the same skull that had been sitting inside the lab appearing beside him. White dots sat inside its eye sockets, moving around and fixing on a point before going black, then glowing the same shade of purple as Gaster's. The lower jaw unhinged and parted at the front, a ball of energy culminating in the back of its mouth before shooting out in a massive purple and white beam.

 

Sans flinched at the sound, hands going over his skull and eyes scrunching shut before opening them again to see a massive line of scorched tiles where the blast had taken place. He looked over at Gaster, the skull fading and dissipating as spent magic.

 

“Isn't that amazing?!” The scientist beamed, turning to look down at Sans. His expression fell almost instantly. “Kid, you alright?”

 

Sans looked terrified. He was going to be given something that powerful? That could... that could really hurt someone!

 

“dings... man, that's... that's pretty crazy. i don't know if i want something like that...”

 

Gaster frowned, the dots of his eyes looking at the burnt floor and wall before returning to the boy by his side. He hadn't even humored the idea that Sans would be fearful of his new invention. The doctor sighed and rubbed his hand along his skull.

 

“It's not that scary... I have one too now, you know. We'll both have it. You might not even ever have to use it outside of practice.” He tried to encourage, but was finding it hard. This wasn't like teleporting that could be used on a daily basis for mundane tasks, this was a lethal weapon no doubt about it.

 

Sans didn't look convinced.

 

“Look.” The doctor kneeled down, a hand resting on Sans' shoulder. “I don't want you to think of this as just something you're going to use to hurt people. I want you to see it as something to defend yourself with. Humans are horrible, evil beings who won't hesitate to hurt you or me, or anyone who isn't human. They hate us. If we ever get out of here you need to be able to protect yourself and the monsters you care about. You have to be strong.”

 

The boy looked at him as he spoke, eyes slowly being cast downward. “i don't want to hurt anybody.”

 

“I don't think anyone does, but when your life is on the line you don't have much choice.” Gaster paused and inhaled. “Do you know what I did before we were sealed underground?”

 

Sans looked at him.

 

“I made things like this.” He gestured to the charred area in front of them. “My inventions have probably hurt or killed a lot of people; but I don't regret it. Do you know why?” Gaster's face became serious. “Because at the same time those inventions saved a lot of lives. A lot of monster lives. Without things like this we would have been wiped out. I wouldn't be here, you wouldn't be here, monsters as an entire race would be gone.”

 

“I know it's frightening, especially to a seven-year-old kid, but it necessary.”

 

The doctor let his words hang in the air and watched Sans. A boney hand dug into the pocket of his lab coat, pulling out a vial of glowing liquid. He held it out to him.

 

“This is what will allow you to summon and control it. I won't force you to drink it, but...” Gaster trailed off, unsure of how to finish his sentence. He had worked on this attack for months and months and the old him would have probably just forced it down the boy's throat, but these days there was no way he could do such a thing. He could only hope that Sans did what he wanted.

 

Sans focused on the vial, staring at it for a few long moments before finally taking it. He said nothing, watching the glowing fluid swirl around behind the glass.

 

“It will be just like learning bone magic... and that's something that every skeleton monster knows. All monsters can summon attacks. The only difference is that this one was made in a lab.” Gaster offered as one last bit of encouragement.

 

Sans looked at him, then at the vial and sighed. He pulled off the top and held it towards his mouth.

 

“I better warn you, it tastes horrific.” Gaster said just as the liquid passed Sans' teeth. The boy gagged, nearly spitting it out.

 

“Nonono, you have to go all the way.” The doctor reached out, urging Sans to finish. With a pained expression the rest of the liquid was forced back, Sans crumpling to his knees and holding up the now empty vial back to Gaster.

 

“ugh... more warning next time, okay?” He groaned.

 

The doctor laughed and pat him on the back. “Sorry. So, what do you think we should name them?”

 

“name what? the skull things?” There was a pause as Sans sat up, wiping his mouth.

 

“gaster blasters.” He grinned.

 

“What?” Gaster frowned. “That's a ridiculous name.”

 

Chapter Text

With yet another huge milestone overcome, Sans and Gaster settled into a more calm routine just as before. The DT treatments Sans went through were still on-going, but these days it was a very mundane task that both of them treated pretty indifferently. Sans' blaster practice was going well, he was developing amazing control with them in a variety of ways, but once fired they drained his energy considerably. The only way that would get better was with constant use. The boy had always had pretty horrible stamina.

 

The two sat going over some chemistry together, Gaster using the supplies he had to show Sans what some of the elements looked like and how they reacted to each other. Some of them had differing reactions to magic as well, particularly if they were unstable to begin with. The times their studies were side-tracked by Gaster blowing things up for fun happened... way more often then they probably should have.

 

“I'm going to show you something I made when I was about your age.” Gaster said, taking a few of the magical chemicals they were working with before mixing a few drops of them together.

 

“what is it?” Sans asked, watching his teacher go to work.

 

“A self-sustaining tornado.” The monster grinned, taking the small amount of mixed fluid and walking to one of the messier, unused corners of the room. He put a drop on the floor and stepped back, watching as the fluid began to interact with every item in a small radius of its center. It grabbed papers, trash, books, anything within a foot of it and slowly started to spin in a circle.

 

“All you do is mix those two magical elements and boom, spinning!”

 

“... why?” Sans asked, a brow raised.

 

Gaster paused and looked at the tornado, then to Sans, then back to the tornado. He shrugged and grinned.

 

Sans put a palm to his face. Sometimes it was easy to forget that this monster made death machines.

 

Their studies were stopped when it was once again time for another DT treatment. Sans didn't need to hold Gaster's hand anymore or even be told jokes as the gas put him to sleep, the two often just chatting casually as he drifted off.

 

“can we get from that one takeout place tonight?” Sans asked through his mask, the doctor busying himself with starting up the equipment.

 

“I don't see why not.” Gaster smiled. “Although maybe now that you're older you should start learning how to cook, because I sure can't.” He laughed at the thought.

 

“pfft, heck no.” The boy scoffed. “why would i spend... all that.. effort making something when we can just... call in and have it come to us...?” He said, his voice becoming slower as the gas kicked in.

 

“Because it's healthier.”

 

“man, who... cares... about... that....” Sans said, his eyes closing and his head rolling slightly to the side as he drifted off to sleep. Gaster went about connecting all the monitors and needles, the tube feeding directly into his soul attached to the bag filled with diluted DT. He sat back, waiting until everything was going smoothly before he begin filling out the usual charts keeping record of Sans' condition.

 

It was only a few minutes in that things started to go horribly wrong.

 

Sans' eyes flung open, one pitch black while the other rapidly began to flick between blue and yellow. His body started to twitch, a few objects around him being lifted up into the air. Gaster didn't notice until he saw a beaker sitting in front of him glow blue and begin to levitate. His eye sockets widened.

 

Looking up he began to notice things all around the room being lifted, no matter how big or small. The doctor spun around, seeing his subject shaking and convulsing. He leapt to his feet.

 

“Sans? Sans!” Gaster cradled the child's head in his hands, looking into his eye sockets. He started to scramble to stop the machine, but was stopped short as a very familiar sound grabbed his attention.

 

The doctor looked up, staring down into the mouth of one of Sans' blasters. It's jaws opened and it fired.

 

 

The first thing Gaster noticed was a splitting in his skull. He could feel the cold floor beneath him and the electrical tickle of magic all around.

 

“Nn... ugh...”

 

He reached up, able to feel a deep crack over his right eye. The last thing he remembered was the blaster and narrowly dodging it... and... Sans.

 

Groaning in pain Gaster sat up, unable to open up his eye. Everything was dark, the only light being the flicker of magic and the sparking of electrical wires that had been sliced through. Everything was a mess.

 

The doctor grabbed the edge of the operating table and pulled himself to a stand, nearly fainting at the sight in front of him.

 

Sans was... melting.

 

“No... nonono!” Gaster became a flurry of activity, forsaking the pounding in his skull to quickly turn off the machine feeding in DT and then yanking out the tube injecting it into his soul.

 

“Sans!”

 

He grabbed the child's head, instantly regretting it as it started to mold around his palms. Gaster jerked himself away and stared onward at what he had done.

 

“No... no. No. No.” Gesturing wildly the doctor began to pace, spinning in circles in front of the operating table.

 

“What have I done? What have I done?”

 

Tears began to well up in the corners of his eye sockets. His footsteps finally stopped again, his one remaining eye staring down at the poor monster barely able to hold himself together. Gaster looked at his vitals, barely anything to speak of showing up on the screen.

 

“I'll fix this... I'll fix this...” He repeated, once again getting a surge of life. He crouched in front of the machine that had fed DT into Sans and ripped off the front panel. Chords and circuits were yanked out and haphazardly tossed aside or redirected. Once he was finished he pulled the tube out and quickly rummaged for another, feeding it through the machine and then hooking it into Sans' soul.

 

Gaster flicked it on, watching with bated breath as it whirred to life and began to slowly draw some of the DT out of his system.

 

Sans suddenly let out a monstrous gurgle, his head rolling and his limbs weakly reaching for the device hooked into his soul. The pain had yanked him from the darkness, the feeling of something draining at his soul beyond anything he had ever felt before.

 

Gaster quickly grabbed his arms and pinned him down, not wanting him to rip out the tubes and potentially shatter his soul completely.

 

“Sans! Sans if you can hear me everything is going to be okay!” He said, not sounding at all convinced by his own words. “I can get you back! I can fix you! I...” His emotions came crashing down.

 

“I'm sorry. I had no idea this would happen... If I had known this would happen having too much determination I would have never done it. I'm sorry.” He fought back his tears for another time, struggling to keep the boy from hurting himself even further as Sans kicked and yelled in pain. Gaster watched as the DT was slowly pulled back out along the tube. As long as he managed to get enough for Sans to keep his form then everything could be salvaged. Sans would live.

 

There was little else Gaster could do than stand there holding him down. Time passed excruciatingly slowly but eventually Sans' struggles abated due to exhaustion, his body starting to pull back together. The doctor waited until the bag was as full of DT as it had been before, reaching in and unhooking the device from his soul with a sickening click.

 

He tossed it aside and looked down at the poor child he had subjected to his experiments, the weight of what he had done to him all these years to result in this crashing down on him. Sans had since fallen back unconscious, leaving Gaster sat alone in the dimly lit, destroyed lab.

 

The doctor fell back onto his stool, body slumped forward.

 

 

He remembered feeling like he was going to explode... then like he was falling down. Then there was pain. So much pain.

 

Sans slowly opened his eyes, the world blurry and unfocused. He could make out someone moving around above him, walking back and forth and messing with something hanging over his head. It stopped when it noticed him looking, and soon a familiar hand was touching his face.

 

“Sans? Are you awake?”

 

His eyes slowly focused, latching onto Gaster's face. Half of his head was bandaged up.

 

“.... dings?”

 

The doctor let out an audible sigh, like a weight had lifted from his shoulders. “It's me, kiddo. How are you feeling?”

 

It took a moment for Sans to answer. “... bad. everything hurts. my chest hurts a lot.”

 

Gaster's mouth tightened and he went back to messing with the drip bag leading into the port in Sans' arm. “I'm sorry. Things went really, really south. I've got something for the pain getting into you now.”

 

“... what happened?”

 

The doctor finished what he was doing and sat down. “You hit your limit with DT. It... you....” He stopped to rub the good side of his skull. “It nearly killed you. I reversed what I could to get you stable.” Gaster paused before he suddenly looked resolved.

 

“We're done. No more DT testing. No more weapons.”

 

While this was pretty good news for Sans he just didn't have the energy to show it.

 

“oh... and... what happened to you?”

 

Gaster touched at the bandages around his head. “You clocked me.” He simplified. “Your powers were going haywire and you knocked me out is all.” The severity of the wound was much more than that, but it was the least he deserved for nearly killing Sans.

 

“oh...”

 

The two fell into an uncomfortable silence, both of them exhausted.

 

“that... stuff is working...” Sans said, able to feel some of the pain start to subside.

 

“Good.” Gaster smiled a little, but it soon faded. “I'm sorry, Sans. I'm sorry for everything I've done to you. I'll make it up to you, somehow.” He clenched his hands together in his lap. “I meant what I said. We're done. I won't do anything to you again. We can find another way to break the barrier. I won't put anymore responsibility on you.”

 

He looked up at the skeleton laid before him, looking so tiny and frail. Somehow Sans managed a little bit of a smile.

 

“guess i better start thinking up ways for payback then, huh?”

 

Gaster smiled meekly in return and shrugged. “I deserve whatever you throw at me and more.”

 

“you know what i've always wanted, dings?”

 

“Hm?”

 

“i've always wanted to know what having a normal family would be like.”

 

 

The following weeks inside the dimly lit lab were filled with defeat and misery. Sans spent a lot of his time sleeping, his body doing its best to fight off the horrible things that had happened to him. DT was like a bacteria. The overload he experienced had caused his body to go into shock and react negatively to the DT that had been injected into him all those years. Despite Gaster's best efforts to drain what he could, he dare not do it again for fear of Sans truly falling down for good.

 

A mix of painkillers and magical 'immune boosters' was constantly fed into the port in Sans' arm. The operating table had since become the boy's bed, layered with blankets and pillows in an attempt to keep him comfortable. When Gaster wasn't monitoring the child's condition he found himself telling jokes to him even though he was fast asleep. It was an act as much for himself as it was for Sans. When he wasn't doing that he often found himself sat by the child's side doing... nothing.

 

Gaster was always a rather high-energy monster. He could go days without sleep if something had piqued his interests enough. There had rarely been a time in decades where he wasn't working on something, despite how big or small it might be. Now he found himself listless. The guilt over what he had done dragged him down, pinning him beneath the rubble that littered the room as a constant reminder to his mistakes. He had thought that eight years ago when Sans had emerged from his container in a dumb accident of his own doing, that he could still do this.

 

He had been gravely mistaken.

 

Sans wasn't a subject anymore. He had cared for him, fed him, clothed him, and taught him about the world and science from the very beginning. They were a family. A disfunctional, messed up little family of two.

 

He had nearly killed his own son. Gaster wouldn't blame Sans if he saw him as a devil for the rest of his life.

 

Occasionally the doctor forced himself away from Sans' side to check on his own wounds. It had been a few weeks since the accident, but the damage done was much worse than he had originally thought. He stood by a mirror, unwrapping the gauze for the last time to peer at the huge crack along his head. Opening his right eye was difficult now and he noticed a large drop in vision in both.

 

Looks like he was going to need glasses... but that could wait until Sans was well again.

 

The thoughts concerning himself soon faded at the sounds of groaning coming from the operating table grabbed his attention. They were noises he had come to hear a lot over the past few weeks, but no matter how often they always made his soul ache.

 

Gaster approached Sans again and stood over him. The boy's head tossed, a hand gripping at the blankets covering his body. Magic flickered from his eye weakly as he whimpered and groaned.

 

“Sans.” He said, reaching out to gently shake the child awake. “Sans, wake up. It's just another dream.”

 

Slowly Sans opened his eyes, the blue and yellow lights fading. He murmured and focused on Gaster stood over him.

 

“Another nightmare?”

 

“yeah...”

 

The doctor's mouth tensed. “Was it about the same as the others?”

 

“yeah.” Sans repeated, one hand rubbing at his skull. “just weird flashes of images. not all of them were pleasant.”

 

Gaster sighed and sat back on his stool. “I see.”

 

He wondered if this was a product of the DT, but kept those thoughts to himself.

 

“dings, woah...” Sans' eye sockets widened upon seeing the crack in his creator's head. “is that what i did?”

 

“Hm?” Gaster let his fingers trail gently along the break in his cranium. It was still a little sore. “Yeah. Don't worry about it. You've been through worse.”

 

“st... still...” The boy frowned, feeling rather guilty that he had hurt Gaster at all, despite what he had been through by his hands.

 

“'Still' nothing. You're not allowed to feel bad about me.” The doctor said sternly. “Consider this some of your payback.” He smirked, trying to play the whole thing off.

 

“i'd never want to hurt you for payback.” Sans argued, sounding a little offended. Gaster sighed.

 

“I know, just... don't worry about it. I'll be fine.”

 

 

Sans' recovery was slow. The time he was awake Gaster would always drop whatever he was doing to talk to him, either about his nightmares or something more light-hearted. As the weeks drew on into months Sans started to be able to move around again, but was taking things easy. He began to notice that Gaster was cleaning up the place and making it more of a typical home from the books he read, but figured it was just for that sort of half-delirious wish he made after first waking up.

 

Maybe the crazy royal scientist would actually go through with it. He had said they were finished with all the tests, but... that made him wonder just what he was going to do now.

 

Once enough time passed and their tiny lab really was beginning to look like more of a normal home, Sans had developed enough strength to be left unattended. He found Gaster wandering off a lot more to somewhere else, but whenever touched on the issue the topic was avoided or skirted around completely. Sans would have pressed harder but he was still pretty tired from everything that had happened, as though any sleep he got meant nothing. The nightmares didn't help, of course.

 

It was a few long months after the incident that Gaster came home looking even worse than usual. Sans was in his room reading when he heard the door click shut.

 

“dings?” He called out, but got no answer. After putting his book away he stood up and walked out of his room to find the doctor sprawled out on a beaten up couch he had put in the center of their 'living room'. The glasses he had taped to his head were askew, nearly falling off as his head lay flopped on one of the pillows.

 

One of his hands was also wrapped in a bandage.

 

“dings.” Sans said, reaching out and shaking the monster by the shoulder.

 

“Nnnhh...” Gaster groaned, his one cracked eye opening as much as it could.

 

“you look like crap. what the heck are you working on?”

 

“Stuff.” The doctor mumbled, turning his head to face away from Sans.

 

The boy's face scrunched up. “come on, dings. i'm feeling better now. why can't you tell me what you're working on? why are you doing stuff in another lab again? it's boring being here all by myself.”

 

“I know.” Gaster mumbled from around the pillow. “Just trust me, okay? I'll be around more now that it's mostly finished. Just... gimmie some time to sleep for once.” He grumbled, finally rolling over to face completely away from the him.

 

It was true Gaster didn't sleep much. Sans felt a little guilty for hounding him with questions and decided to leave it at that and let him get some sleep.

 

--

 

Just as he promised Gaster began to hang around again. Whatever it was he was working on only took a few minutes of his time every day, the rest of it spent mostly concentrating on Sans' education just like before. The machines he used to be hooked to had since been mostly done away with, only a couple remaining to occasionally monitor his vitals and make sure he was okay.

 

Despite everything things seemed to go back to being pretty normal. Or as normal as things ever were for the two of them. Sans still had nightmares and still felt sick sometimes, but it was nothing he couldn't power through. As for Gaster his hand remained bandaged, any questions tossed aside and left unanswered, but Sans had a sinking feeling in his gut he knew what it was from. He let it slide for awhile, but the more Gaster deflected his questions the angrier he became. Sans started to jump to conclusions and none of them were pretty.

 

“i'm sick of you skirting around the issue!” Sans finally said as an argument about Gaster's hand came up for probably the third time that week. “tell me what that's from!”

 

“Sans.” The doctor sighed, rubbing at the wrappings over his palm. “I'm sure it isn't what you think.”

 

“you're making another, aren't you? you're going to start all over again and put someone else through that hell that i went through! i can't believe it. you said you were finished, but i guess what you really meant was that you were just finished with me. that's it, isn't it?” Sans yelled, becoming more and more emotional. He pushed himself off the chair he had been sitting next to Gaster, the magic in his eye flickering as his feelings spiraled. Random objects around him began to levitate, encased in a blue glow.

 

Gaster had remained silent throughout his yelling, finally taking a deep breath and standing. “Alright. I'll show you.”

 

Everything landed back into place, the anger Sans felt seeming to melt away. He hadn't thought it would be that easy. The dots of his eyes followed Gaster as he walked to the door.

 

“Stay here, I'll be right back.”

 

Once he left the longest hour of Sans' life began.

 

Thoughts zoomed around in his head, some of them negative and others positive. He had a hard time believing Gaster would go back on his word, but at the same time if that really was a hole in his hand he was hiding it was undeniable. Was Gaster making someone to replace him? Was he really that heartless that after a failed attempt he would just start over and make sure he didn't make the same mistakes?

 

Sans' attention snapped to the door as it clicked open.

 

Gaster stepped inside, a bundle of something in his arms. Sans jumped from the couch and quickly ran over.

 

“You weren't wrong, Sans. I did do it again, but not for the reasons you thought.” The doctor explained. “I'm true to my word. The experiments are over. I'm done testing on monsters.” He shifted the bundle in his arms before holding it down to Sans. The boy reached out and took it. His face lit up more than Gaster had ever seen.

 

Inside was wrapped a tiny skeleton, empty eye sockets staring up and a smile spread across its face. Sans somehow managed to pull his eyes away from it and up to Gaster.

 

“You said one way I could make it up to you would be to give you a normal childhood. Well...” He laughed in spite of himself. “I'm not a very good father, that much is obvious, but I'm willing to give it a try. You might not have two parents or really even one competent one, but the least I can do for you is to make you a brother.”

 

Sans' was speechless. His gaze shifted between Gaster high above him and the baby in his arms.

 

“It's okay if you never want to call me dad or even think of me as one. I just hope this is enough.” The doctor smiled.

 

The boy stood in stunned silence, feeling a deep connection with the tiny baby in his arms. For the first time in his life he felt like he had family. Real family.

 

“wh-what's his name?” Sans asked, fighting to hold back tears of happiness.

 

“I've been calling him Papyrus. If you don't like that y-”

 

“no... no that's a cool name.” Sans grinned and walked forward, hugging the doctor's legs tightly. Gaster seemed surprised at first, soon grinning and patting the boy's head.

 

“th-... thanks, dings.”

 

 

The rest of the night was calm. Sans spent most of his time sitting on the couch holding his new baby brother, talking to him and watching him interact with the world for the first time before falling asleep. Even then he didn't want to move, happily slouched over with the tiny monster in his lap.

 

“dings?”

 

“Yeah?” Gaster responded, sitting a few feet away munching on some leftover noodles that had been sitting around for who knew how long.

 

“what are you gonna do now?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“i mean for like... the barrier.” Sans craned his neck to try and see the doctor from around the couch.

 

“... Oh.”

 

Some uncomfortable silence passed between them before Gaster broke it again. “I'll think of something. Don't worry about it.”

 

More silence passed, the sound of Gaster's fork stabbing into the takeout container slowing until it stopped altogether.

 

“Actually...” He stood up and walked over to the couch, sitting down beside Sans. “If we're going to try and live a normal life, we're... going to have to tell the king about you.”

 

The dots of Sans' eyes vanished, his smile dropping instantly. Gaster caught it rather quick and waved his hands. “Hey hey, you have nothing to worry about. I'm the one who's going to get in trouble.” He chuckled.

 

“he won't hurt me or pap?”

 

“King Asgore?” The doctor raised a brow. “God no.”

 

“but you said he kills all the kids that fall down here.”

 

“He does. That doesn't mean he would kill you. He kills the humans because they can kill us with far less, and he wants to free his people from being sealed in this mountain. It's not exactly pretty or perfect but it's a noble effort.” Gaster explained.

 

“... oh.”

 

“Honestly I think he'll like seeing you. The guy is pretty lonely these days and he loves kids.”

 

“what will he do to you?”

 

“Uhh... hah...” The scientist laughed nervously and rubbed the back of his neck. “Hard to say. I've gone against his orders before and gotten half of my lab destroyed. He's a nice guy but he has one hell of a temper. At least he did. These days he seems pretty mellow.”

 

“he won't hurt you, will he?”

 

“Maybe a little.” Gaster smirked, laughing slightly at Sans' horrified look. “Don't worry about it, kiddo. Just worry about you and Papyrus and know that the King won't hurt either of you, alright?”

 

“We'll go visit him in a few days. I just need to get some of the paperwork in order.”

 

 

As promised it only took a couple of days for Gaster to get his things in order and for the first time in his life Sans was allowed to go further than he ever had before. Gradually he started to see more and more monsters, staring at them way more than was considered polite. He had never seen any other than what was in his books.

 

The assistants did their own share of staring too. Gaster had only been seen periodically for nearly the past decade and now here he was with a child in tow and a baby in his arms. What on earth were they supposed to think?

 

… Well, whatever they thought they kept to themselves. Sans noticed how nearly everyone avoided talking to Gaster like the plague. It was almost like they were afraid of him for some reason. Sans wondered why.

 

They marched through the lab and to an elevator, Gaster punching a few buttons before they began their upward climb.

 

“what does the king look like?” Sans asked.

 

“He's a big hairy goat.” The doctor said unceremoniously.

 

The elevator stopped and they stepped out, walking down a long hallway before turning through a door and going down yet another. This one looked much more colorful and bright, the tiles a cheerful yellow and the first specks of sunlight he had seen trickled through the windows. Gaster stopped at a pair of huge double doors, a massive guard in black armor standing in front.

 

Sans found himself inching a little behind Gaster to hide.

 

“Here to give my usual report.” He said, the guard taking a moment to peer at the baby in his arms and then at Sans before turning and going through the doors.

 

They stood and waited.

 

Sans eventually found the courage to wander off a little and climb up to peer out one of the windows. For the first time he could see the expanse of the city, the small amounts of sunlight that managed to get into their cave twinkling on bits of metal and glass below.

 

“Sans, let's go.”

 

Gaster's voice brought him back, the tiny skeleton slipping from the window ledge and hurrying in through the large doors behind him. He looked up at the massive guard as he slipped past, a pair of eyes peering at him oddly through the tiny slit in its helmet.

 

The King was massive. He stood head and shoulders over Gaster and was twice as wide. He was the biggest, most intimidating monster Sans had ever seen. Upon seeing the royal scientist with two children his eyes widened and he said probably the most unintimidating thing he could.

 

“... Golly. I thought the guard was lying when he said you had two boys with you.”

 

Sans suddenly felt silly for hiding behind Gaster's pant leg again.

 

“Yyeeeeaaahh...” Gaster said, eyes narrowing.

 

“What on earth happened to your head?!”

 

“I slipped.” The doctor said flatly, thrusting the report towards Asgore. “There's the report on everything that's actually happened over the last eight years.”

 

“Wh-what!?” The king grabbed the booklet from Gaster's hand, glancing at it before his gaze went back to the scientist. “You've been lying all this time?” His voice became louder, a growl inflecting along each word.

 

“Pretty much.” Gaster shoved his free hand into his pocket.

 

Asgore looked at the bound pieces of paper in his claws before slowly stepping back and taking a seat in his throne. He suddenly looked angry.

 

“Start from the beginning. This had better explain those two.” His claws gestured to the children.

 

Gaster inhaled deeply and looked down at Sans. “Get comfortable, kiddo.” He handed Papyrus down to him.

 

Sans sat down in the bed of yellow flowers surrounding them, resting his little brother in his lap. He spent the time Gaster explained everything plucking them and tickling them on Papyrus, even making him a little flower crown to wear.

 

Meanwhile Gaster paced back and forth, explaining how he originally went through with the plan Asgore refused, how he created a clone but colossally messed up. He told him about putting DT into Sans, the teleporting, the blasters, everything up to the point where things had gone horribly wrong.

 

Once it was all finished, the King sighed deeply and rubbed at his temples. “What about the other one?”

 

Gaster looked down at Papyrus, now covered in flowers. “Uh.” The dots of his eyes bounced between the baby and Asgore.

 

“Same process. I made Sans a brother.”

 

“... That's it? That's the only reason you made him?”

 

“Yep!” The doctor gestured wildly with his hands, something that had been a constant through the whole conversation.

 

Asgore growled in exasperation, his hand sliding over his eyes. “Well... what are you going to do now?”

 

“I'll try and think of a new way to break th-”

 

“No, no.” The King waved his hand, eyes scrunching shut. “I mean with these two. Are you going to take care of them yourself?”

 

Gaster blinked and looked down at his boys. “Well... yeah. They're my kids... technically.”

 

Asgore leaned back in his seat, not looking at all convinced. He didn't think Gaster was the greatest person to be taking care of one child, let alone two, especially after everything he heard. The doctor caught his skeptical look.

 

“... What? I've done... okay so far. Right?” He stood there, waiting for confirmation. When he didn't get any he looked down at Sans.

 

“Right?”

 

“uhhh... i... guess? i'm not dead?”

 

“See?!” Gaster pointed with both fingers at his son.

 

The King sighed again, rubbing his face before a slow laugh started to bounce his broad shoulders. The skeletons looked at one another oddly, watching as Asgore went from grumpy and annoyed to laughing with a broad smile across his muzzle. Neither of them said anything until he had calmed down.

 

“Ahh... my apologies. I'm just reminded of some of the things my two young children would do together... a long time ago.” His smile was warm but sad. After regaining his composure the King straightened up and reorganized the report in his hands.

 

“Dr. Gaster, I wouldn't dream of taking your boys away from you, but something does need to be done about your disregard to my orders.”

 

The room became deathly silent as Asgore pondered the appropriate punishment.

 

“The human soul I lended to you is to be returned and any and all remaining determination is to be handed over. You are to refrain from performing any more experiments involving it and from now on you will be sure to approve all future experiments with me before you do them. If you fail to do this the consequences will be much greater than today. Understood?”

 

Sans looked up at the doctor, watching as he fought to keep his mouth shut and gestured with his hands. He noticed what they were doing pretty quickly, the whites of his eyes bouncing to Asgore and quickly realizing that the King actually had no idea Gaster was actually cursing him out in his own strange, speechless way.

 

Wow.

 

“Under... stood.” Gaster finally mumbled, rather angry that something so powerful and full of potential was being ripped away from his grasp.

 

“That will be all then.” The King leaned back in his throne. “I will... go over this and if I have any questions you can expect to see me.” He flopped the thick stack of pages in his lap.

 

Sans picked up his baby brother and the three began to leave, Asgore stopping them just as they were at the door.

 

“Oh, and Dr. Gaster?”

 

Gaster stopped and looked back.

 

“Please, take care of your boys.”

 

The skeleton paused, then nodded and vanished on the other side. As they left the hallway and got into the elevator, Sans waited until the doors were closed to speak up.

 

“yo dings, were you... uh... cursing out the king back there?”

 

“Huh? Like this?” Gaster asked, making a few gestures with his hands.

 

“yeah.”

 

“Yes. Definitely. I do that to him all the time and he has no idea.” The doctor grinned wildly.

 

“wh- why!? how does he not know what that means by now?”

 

“Our conversations are usually pretty short and he's not a particularly bright guy.” He explained. “As for why?” He turned and looked at Sans, that same crazy grin still there.

 

“Why the fuck not?”

 

Once of Sans' eye sockets twitched.

 

“you're insane.”

 

 

Months slipped by, the three skeletons almost becoming like your average family. Of course nothing would ever be totally normal with Gaster, who now ventured off during the day to his personal lab closer to the core and his assistants. Now that his secondary lab was turned into a house he had gone back to the usual work, mostly testing out to see if the core could be optimized and working on smaller, silly side projects that never really got off the ground. With the DT gone he had lost a large pool of resources; it would be a long time before he could think up another way to get them out of the mountain.

 

Sans stayed home and took care of Papyrus. Despite being only eight years old he had insisted that he do it and had actually turned out to be pretty good at it. The boy still didn't see Gaster as his father and was determined to give his little brother the early life growing up that he never had.

 

The doctor walked down the hallway, pausing and standing outside the door to their home as screams came from the other side. He raised a brow and stepped in, whites of his eyes bouncing around the mess that had become of the kitchen.

 

… Well, a bigger mess.

 

Papyrus was sat in his highchair, the surrounding area covered in baby food. His older brother was in front of him, looking incredibly defeated and coated in even more of the mush than anywhere else.

 

“Impressive!” The doctor grinned, stepping inside and setting a bag full of groceries down.

 

“pap is so finicky. he only wants to eat the fruit ones but he needs more than just that.” Sans moped, eyes watching Gaster as he walked closer. “was i this picky?”

 

“No. I just starved you until you ate whatever I gave you.”

 

Sans' pupils vanished.

 

“I'm kidding!” He threw up his hands. “You ate pretty much anything.”

 

Papyrus had since calmed down now that his brother wasn't trying to shove gross things in his mouth. The little skeleton grabbed fistfuls of the orange goop in front of him.

 

“NEH!”

 

He tossed the mush in different directions, one clump slapping into Gaster's head and the other on the wall. Gaster flinched, then froze. The dots of his eyes vanished and Sans watched in horror as the goo slipped down and into the crack in Gaster's head. The room went deathly silent save for the mumblings of the happy little baby sat in front of them.

 

“He's... he's got good aim.”

 

“...are you alright?”

 

“No. Yeah. I've just got baby food inside my skull.”

 

Sans watched as Gaster walked over to the sink and leaned his head in it. He took a moment to remove his glasses.

 

“If I die...” He began dramatically. “Tell Asgore I've always thought he's a fuckhead.”

 

“whu-” Sans mumbled, cut off by the sound of the doctor suddenly screaming as he turned on the faucet.

 

“d-dings!” The skeleton jumped from his chair and rushed over to help, only to stop as Gaster let out a garbled laugh.

 

“I'm joking! Water in your head doesn't hurt, it just feels weird.” He turned off the water and angled his head to let it drain.

 

“oh my god.” Sans threw up his hands and stormed back to his seat. “i hate it when you do things like that!”

 

“Aw, come on. Comedy is more than just knock-knock jokes and puns, kiddo.”

 

Sans grumbled and went back to attempting to feed his little brother.

 

Meanwhile the doctor grabbed himself an old hairdryer he had found in the dump and sat down, using it to dry the inside of his skull. It actually felt quite nice. The two sat in silence, Sans eventually giving up getting anything into Papyrus he didn't like and opening a can of the mushed fruit he enjoyed instead.

 

“uh... does that hurt?” Sans said, finally breaking the silence.

 

“The heat?”

 

“no, the crack.”

 

“Not anymore, no. It's a little weird, but I'll get used to it.” Gaster shrugged, glancing at the boy and noticing the regret on his face.

 

“Sans, if you're still feeling bad about what you did to me you need to stop. It's a small price to pay for what I put you through.”

 

“i didn't mean it.”

 

“I know you didn't. It's okay. Stop feeling bad about it. I'm fine.” Gaster offered him a smile.

 

“i guess...”

 

 

Time seemed to fly by when you were taking care of a baby. Papyrus was growing up fast and soon he was crawling, then standing and starting to learn how to walk. His first word was, rather boringly, 'no', but not much later he started to call Sans by his name, as well as referring to Gaster as 'daddy'. Despite not calling him that himself, Sans didn't have much of a problem if Papyrus wanted to. He was still just a baby after all, and maybe having Gaster as his dad would be good for him.

 

“do you think we could do this?” Sans asked, approaching Gaster as he sat at his desk. He held up a book that Papyrus had especially started to like, having seen the lights and decorations every time they left the facility to go shopping. The doctor took the book and peered at the cover, an old washed-out version of some Christmas story from the surface.

 

“I guess so. I know some parts of the underground celebrate it a lot. Mostly it's just an excuse to go shopping. The King dresses up as that Santa character for the kids.” He handed the book back. “Why the sudden interest?”

 

“pap seems to really like it. i thought it would be nice to set up a tree and buy him some presents.” Sans took the book and opened it to one of the pages, eying the brightly colored tree and wrapped boxes that sat beneath it.

 

“Eh, sure. I don't see why not.” The doctor shrugged.

 

The three of the headed out of Hotland and into the city. With little Papyrus in tow they bought themselves a tree, ornaments, and lights. Carrying bags and bags of shopping was easy when you could just teleport back home with it and be back in a second.

 

While Gaster sat with Papyrus back home to decorate the tree, Sans went out again to buy presents for him. He didn't get back until late, spending the time his little brother was asleep to wrap the presents he had bought and hiding them away until the big day.

 

A few days later he decided to take him to see 'Santa', which was really just the King in costume.

 

“SAN'A! SAN'A!” Papyrus flailed his arms wildly as they stood in line, desperate to get glimpses of Santa sat in his big chair at the front.

 

“calm down, bro. you gotta wait in line to see him.” Sans said, one hand holding onto his little brother's to keep him from falling over. Standing and walking around without falling on his face wasn't something Papyrus could fully grasp yet. “what are you gonna ask him for?”

 

“TOYS!” Papyrus announced loudly, by far one of the most boisterous children in line.

 

Sans chuckled. “i got that, pap. but what kind of toy?”

 

“A LOT!”

 

“an a lot kind, huh?”

 

“YEH!”

 

“well okay, can't argue with that.” He shrugged.

 

Eventually the two reached the front of the queue, Sans needing to jog slightly to keep up with Papyrus holding his hand and waddling towards 'Santa'.

 

“SAN'A! SAN'A! SAN'A!”

 

The King looked surprised to see them, soon hiding it for the sake of Papyrus. He cleared his throat. “My, aren't you an excited little boy.” He smiled, lifting the tiny skeleton onto his knee. “What might your name be?”

 

“PAP!”

“And have you been a good little boy?”

 

“YEAH!” Papyrus shouted with glee.

 

“What would you like the most this year?”

 

“TOYS!”

 

The King blinked, Sans laughed a few feet away. “pap isn't the best with words yet.”

 

“I see.” Asgore smiled, “Well, since you are such a good little boy I'll be sure to give you plenty of fun toys this year.”

 

Papyrus grinned and opened his arms, wrapping them however little he could around Santa and squeezing him tight. “T'ANKS SANTA!”

 

Sans approached, helping Papyrus off Asgore's lap before leading him back out through the hallway. “did you like santa?”

 

“YEAH!”

 

“think he'll get you some cool new toys this year?”

 

“YEAH! 'M A GOOD BOY!”

 

“yeah y'are, pap. you're the best.”

 

As the holidays rolled around, Papyrus was beyond excited to open up all his presents. Sans and Gaster mostly watched, the little skeleton busy smashing together his new action figures and ramming his toy cars into the empty boxes.

 

“Here Sans.” Gaster said, pulling a present poorly wrapped from behind the couch. He handed it over, the boy raising a brow as he took it. He hadn't expected to get anything at all.

 

Unwrapping it he found a book, a collection of harmless pranks to pull off on others.

 

“heh... nice. thanks, dings.”

 

Gaster shrugged. “I'm sure I'll regret giving that to you.” He smirked, reaching over to rub at Sans' head.

 

The odd little family sat quietly together, Gaster drinking coffee while Sans started to read his new book and Papyrus crashed his little toy cars into the leftover wrapping paper.

 

Chapter Text

Little two-year old Papyrus was quite the handful, developing into a rather rambunctious and animated child. Sans didn't have much of a problem taking care of him mostly on his own and didn't hate Gaster for being away for hours at a time during the day. He was still the royal scientist after all and whatever he was working on didn't seem to stop him from coming home and spending time with them. In particular he was very dedicated to Sans' education. Gaster's desire for his eldest son to make the most of his intelligence was unwavering, pushing him further ahead than other monsters at his age.

 

“BIRD!” Papyrus yelled, pointing one of his boney fingers at a picture of a parrot. Sans was sat behind him on the floor, holding a book full of pictures of animals with his brother in his lap.

 

“what kind of bird, bro?” He looked down at the toddler, who looked confused. “paaarr...?”

 

“PARROT!” Papyrus thrust his hands in the air in victory, nearly clocking Sans in the chin in the process.

 

“sure is. you're so smart, pap. what about this one?” He pointed to a picture of an elephant.

 

“EMAPHANT!”

 

Sans stifled his laugh. “yep. what about this?” He pointed to a duckling.

 

“CHICKEN!”

 

“no, that's a-”

 

“CHICKEN!!” Papyrus screamed louder, jabbing his finger at the picture.

 

“bro that's totally not a-”

 

“CHICKEEEEN!!” The toddler screamed loud enough to shatter glass. Sans winced and leaned back, then smiled.

 

“ok. its a chicken.”

 

Papyrus grinned. “I WIN!”

 

“yep.” Sans exhaled. Sometimes his brother's energy was exhausting, but it never stopped him from being around in every part of his life.

 

“HORSEY!” He held up his arms to Sans. “GO SEE DADDY?”

 

His older brother sighed and relented. “alright, lets go see 'daddy'.”

 

Sans leaned down, lifting Papyrus up and putting him on his shoulders. The two left their home and began the long walk deeper into the complex to visit the doctor as he worked. He wasn't in his lab, so Sans asked around until finally one of the assistants directed them to an exit that lead to a plot of land outside. Gaster was waist deep into what looked like a turbine from a jet. It had clearly seen better days.

 

“HI DADDY!” Papyrus yelled, wiggling until Sans let him down. He stumbled over, flopping into Gaster's legs.

 

The scientist pulled himself out, his coat, hands, and head covered in grease and oil. “Hey Papy. Come to see what I'm doing?” He smiled and reached down, lifting the toddler into his arms.

 

“YEAH!”

 

“What've you two been up to?”

 

“i've been teaching pap-”

 

“AMINALS.” Papyrus finished for him.

 

“Oh, nice.” Gaster said, the arm not holding Papyrus going deep into the engine to continue working.

 

“is that a... plane engine?” Sans asked, a brow raised.

 

“Yeah! I found it at the dump. Always wanted to mess with one of these.” Gaster said with excitement. “Just... gotta... there!” There was a click, one long string of wire trailing from a button on the ground deep into the engine.

 

“Okay let's see if this works.”

 

He handed Papyrus back to Sans and then lead them a good distance away, trailing the button along with him. After making sure the boys were behind him he pressed it. The engine began to roar to life.

 

“you sure we should be standing here?”

 

“We'll be fine.”

 

The turbine became louder and louder, Gaster clenching his fists in victory. “YES!”

 

There was a loud bang, the turbine beginning to shake.

 

“Uh-oh.”

 

With a sudden jolt of energy, the entire thing shot off towards the edge of the lot, careening off the side and into the magma below.

 

“No!”

 

Gaster ran over, peering down into the mix of steam and heat. Sans slowly followed, sure to keep a firm grip on Papyrus to stop him from running off.

 

“Aww... I had been waiting years for one of those to fall down.” He pouted and turned to look at his boys. “Well, now that I've fucked that up lets go home. I'm not doing anything else today.” Gaster gestured angrily with his hands.

 

Papyrus giggled. “DADDY SAID FUCK.”

 

They all froze.

 

Gaster looked down at Sans, still holding his little brother's hand. His pupils were gone, brow heavily creased despite the smile that almost all skeletons had a hard time changing. The doctor began to sweat, and not because of the heat.

 

“Uh. Yeah. Daddy says that a lot, but... uh...” His eyes bounced around the lot before he got an idea and crouched down to Papyrus' level. “You see, that's a bad word that only bad people like me are allowed to say. If you say it you won't be a good boy anymore and next year Santa might not give you as many presents.”

 

“OH NO!” Papyrus put his hands over his mouth.

 

“Oh yes!” Gaster pointed. “So no saying the word 'fuck'. Santa and I aren't on good terms anyway, so I can say it as much as I want.”

 

“WHY DOESN'T SANTA LIKE YOU, DADDY?”

 

“Uh...” Gaster thought back to all the times he hadn't listened to Asgore and done what he wanted anyway. “I ruined Christmas once.”

 

“OH NO!”

 

“Oh yes!” The doctor repeated. “Anyway, lets go home.”

 

He lifted Papyrus up, placing him on his shoulders before looking down at Sans. His hands gestured to ask if that had been an 'okay' solution to Pap's cursing, Sans eventually shrugging with annoyance that it had even happened in the first place, but as long as his little brother didn't pick up on the habit it was okay.

 

The three of them walked back through the facility and to their home. After Gaster gave Sans his lessons and they ate dinner, the two boys spent the rest of their evening playing, or at least Papyrus spent it playing. His older brother mostly dozed off on the couch.

 

Their father, meanwhile, tinkered away with something in the back of the house that still slightly resembled the workplace their home had once been.

 

“Hey.” Gaster said, leaning over the couch after hours had passed and shaking Sans awake. He already had Papyrus in his arm. “It's getting late. I made you boys something.”

 

Sans grumbled a little but rolled off the couch and followed his father to their room. Papyrus had the luxury of sleeping in an actual crib, even Sans' bed having been upgrade to something a little more comfortable even if he never kept it very tidy.

 

“Check it out.” Gaster smiled, flicking off the light. Above them something began to spin, a tiny mobile projecting pictures of the stars and planets around the room dimly.

 

“COOL!” Papyrus grinned, wiggling until Gaster put him down. The toddler wandered around to one of the walls, watching each star and constellation glide past. Sans stood in silence watching too. Eventually the doctor pat his head.

 

“I know you're a little old for it, but what do you think?”

 

Sans blinked and looked up at Gaster. Despite all the things he had done to him and how weird he might have been a lot of the time, it was moments like these that he knew that deep down the crazy scientist did have love in him. He wanted to care and be a good father, he just wasn't very good at it.

 

“it's cool. i like it.” He smiled.

 

“Good.” Gaster returned his grin. “I'm glad.”

 

 

Years seemed to slip by uneventfully. Papyrus was nearly four years old, growing up rather normally despite his less than natural birth thanks to Sans making sure that things were as ordinary as he could manage.

 

“Boys!” The doctor yelled behind the door to their house, the knob glowing purple before a foot abruptly kicked it open. Gaster stood on the other side, a TV in his arms. “I finally found enough parts to fix a television for us!”

 

“WHAT'S A TELEBISHION?” Papyrus asked, looking back and forth between his brother and father.

 

“just call it a 'tv', pap. its something to watch, uh... you know that really fancy store with the moving pictures sitting in the window?”

 

“YEAH.”

 

“that's what that is.”

 

Papyrus gasped and leapt to his feet. “WE CAN WATCH THINGS NOW!?”

 

“Yep!” Gaster said proudly, setting the TV down in front of the couch. He began to hook up the VCR, another thing he had found at the dump and managed to fix. Televisions and the like were still pretty rare and expensive in the underground. Despite Gaster probably having plenty of income he always preferred to fix things and bring them home than actually go out and buy something new.

 

“I grabbed a few shows that are good for Pap, as well as a few for us to watch when he's asleep.” He held up a few shows for small kids, then a couple of horror movies. He put in one of the kids shows.

 

Gaster and Sans sat, watching as a happy song about the alphabet played. Papyrus loved every minute of it, singing along to the furry little monsters as they learned their letters. His brother was happy as long as he was happy, blissfully dozing off while the music played. Gaster had a bit harder of a time enjoying it.

 

“Whoo, man I'm getting a beer for this.”

 

He stood up, grabbing a bottle from the fridge and sitting back down. The three of them watched for Papyrus' sake, eventually even the doctor getting into it. As a little bear tried and tried to learn of a certain phrase but kept failing, he groaned and flailed at the TV. “God dammit Mr. Noodle!”

 

Sans' peeked over with one of his eyes, smirking slightly.

 

 

Ever since Papyrus had been born, Sans read to him. A bedtime story was always a must, although during the day he would read to him too. Papyrus was still very young, but reading really wasn't much of his strong suit. Sometimes Sans wondered if he had gotten the only part capable of reading and literature from his creator, as Gaster definitely wasn't any better at it. Unless it was in his own strange handwriting it often took him ages to even finish a single sentence.

 

Despite not being very good at it Papyrus was still determined to learn how to read. Often he would shove a hand over his brother's mouth and loudly announce that it was 'his turn' before attempting to read. Sans encouraged him all the way, not wanting his little brother to ever feel like he couldn't do something or achieve a task if he put his mind to it.

 

He had to admit though that he could only do so much... and he wasn't sure if he wanted to have Gaster be Papyrus' only source of education; never mind the fact that he needed to develop social skills and make friends. During a lull in one of their lessons, Sans decided to finally ask about going to school.

 

“hey, dings.”

 

“Yeah?” The skeleton looked over at his son, sat beside him as they went over his work.

 

“i think we should send pap to school.”

 

“School!?” Gaster suddenly outburst, brow furrowing. Sans found himself reeling a little. That wasn't the reaction he had expected. “They don't teach you anything worthwhile at school. He'll learn more here, with me.”

 

“he'll learn more about science with you. pap needs friends. he needs to learn more than just this.” He gestured a hand to the math in front of him. “honestly i think i wanna go too, to see what its like. maybe make some friends of my own for a change? finally?” Sans pleaded, watching the anger melt away from his father's face.

 

“...I am still isolating you two, aren't I?” The doctor admitted, frowning. “... Okay.” He sighed, closing his eyes for a moment before looking at Sans again. “But I'm still going to teach you what I know. I have no faith in the public school system.”

 

Sans' face lit up and before he realized it, his arms had wrapped themselves around Gaster and hugged him tightly. The doctor sat rigidly, eye sockets wide. Before he had a chance to return it Sans realized what he was doing and quickly pulled away.

 

He cleared his throat. “im, uh, gonna go tell paps.” The boy slipped off his chair, lingering for a moment to smile back at Gaster. “thanks.”

 

Gaster watched Sans trot off to his room to tell Papyrus, still a bit starstruck at the sudden display of affection. The boy had never been really warm to him, which was understandable given their past. It was a crowning moment for both of them, the doctor slowly turning around in his seat and letting a broad, unseen smile spread across his face.

 

 

The next day the three of them went to enroll in school. It was easy to set Papyrus up for kindergarten, but Sans was a little trickier. He sat and took a few tests to determine the appropriate grade, Papyrus and Gaster sitting outside the office. It wasn't much later that the teacher called them both back in to discuss Sans' placement.

 

“Your son has excelled in every subject, Dr. Gaster.” The principle said with a smile, a single eye in the center of her head scanning the test on her desk before looking to the three in front of her. “I don't see why he can't go ahead and jump right into junior high. He'll be two grades above normal.”

 

“That's my boy.” Gaster smirked, rubbing Sans' skull playfully.

 

“And of course Papyrus can start his first day of kindergarten at the start of the school year.”

 

“YAY SCHOOL!” The little skeleton flung his hands in the air, tiny legs kicking back and forth on the edge of his seat.

 

After processing the paperwork, the three of them began their walk home. Papyrus swung his arms and legs in a wild march as they paraded down the street and back closer to Hotland. One hand held tightly onto Gaster's, his brother walking along on his other side.

 

“I'M GOING TO MAKE LOTS OF FRIENDS!”

 

“you sure will, pap.”

 

“I can't see how anyone wouldn't want to be friends with you, kiddo.” The doctor smiled. His eyes bounced from Papyrus and then over to Sans. “What about you? Looking forward to getting to spend some time with other kids your age?”

 

“ah... heh...” The boy shrugged and looked a little shy. Gaster raised a brow.

 

“No?”

 

“im just a little nervous. never been around other kids my age. or, well, i guess they'll be older than me if i'm a few grades ahead.”

 

“Ah, you'll do fine. You're pretty well adjusted despite... everything...” Gaster voice fell off awkwardly.

 

 

As soon as his boys started school, Sans found himself being kept back a lot by Gaster. He didn't say anything at first, but it was strange that suddenly he was being pulled away and taken to work with him when he had something to actively participate in.

 

Today was no different. Gaster was once again attempting to optimize the core, the sudden increase in the population of the capitol causing the power to flicker on and off during peak hours. It had once only needed to light the houses of few, now the city was growing well beyond what he originally built it for.

 

While the doctor rambled on about how it worked and what each part was, Sans cut him off.

 

“how come you're pulling me away from school to do stuff like this? you never used to.”

 

Gaster blinked and stopped what he was doing to look at him. “Well you're getting older. I want you to take over from me if something should happen and you need to know how this works.”

 

Sans narrowed his eye sockets, unsure if he believed him or not. He let it slide, but something else had been bothering him too.

 

“am i your distraction?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“from the barrier. you haven't done anything with that since...” He let his words fall off towards the end, neither of them having to say it to know what he meant.

 

Gaster sighed and rubbed his head, peering at Sans from behind his glasses. “You're not just a distraction, Sans. The ideas I had about getting rid of the barrier relied on DT. Without that I don't know where to even begin.” He looked away, then back again and smiled. “Besides, I've got you and Papy to worry about now.” He stood up, towering over his son and did what he always did, rubbed the top of his head.

 

“Getting back to the surface doesn't seem so important when I've got you two.”

 

 

School was going rather well for the two young boys. Sans soared through nearly every subject, science in particular seeming like a cakewalk in comparison to everything else. He had to admit when it came to things like chemistry and mathematics, Gaster was on top of his game. The other kids were mostly nice to him, although there were of course some that were jealous of the fact a little boy could come in and ace every test when they struggled. It was nothing Sans couldn't handle.

 

Papyrus was doing well too. Kindergarten and then elementary school was a great place to make friends and Pap was a pretty smart little kid, but it was clear from the start he wasn't quite as gifted as his older brother. Much like his father Papyrus was gifted when it came to numbers and problem solving, but reading and writing always gave him quite a lot of trouble. He made up for it by having the social skill and confidence that anyone could ever dream of. Papyrus' unwavering kindness made him lots of friends and put him in great standing with his teachers.

 

Perhaps it was a good thing that school was so easy for Sans, as Gaster was still very adamant in keeping him back to help him work at least a few times a month. Thankfully it didn't seem to effect his school work and what teacher is going to say no to the royal scientist? The royal scientist who had a reputation for being rather... interesting to deal with.

 

Gaster wasn't the only thing that kept him out of school though. Sans still occasionally got sick, the DT inside him constantly fighting with his soul and occasionally becoming too much for him to bare. During the week Gaster would have to take over getting Papyrus to school and often stayed behind from work to make sure Sans got through it alright. The fear that what had happened before might happen again always crept on his mind despite the fact he knew it was highly unlikely.

 

“DADDY, HOW COME SANS GETS SICK SO MUCH?” Papyrus asked as they walked down the long, dimly lit corridor towards their home.

 

“Uh...” The doctor began, his head racing through any excuse at all to tell Papyrus. “He's just... frail, is all. Don't worry about your brother, he'll get better. He always does.”

 

“YEAH...” Papyrus looked down at the floor, deciding to hop around each crack between them and make sure he didn't step on any. Sans' schoolwork was clutched tightly to his chest, the young skeleton always very insistent that he carry it home and make sure Sans got it in one piece. His brother was very smart, after all, and he would hate for him to miss chances at becoming even smarter!

 

The two entered their home, Papyrus running off towards his room to eagerly give his big brother his homework.

 

Sans was sat on his bed, sweat covering his brow and a bucket in his lap. The glow of discharged magic lingered around his mouth in a mix of blue and yellow. His eye sockets were watering, the sensation of puking always causing him to tear up a little. It was never pleasant, even when you didn't have a throat.

 

“HI SANS!” Papyrus announced, although his smile dropped as soon as he saw the state of his brother.

 

“h-hey pap.”

 

Sans forced a smile and wiped the magic away from his mouth. His plain t-shirt was nearly soaked through and his narrow shoulders rose and fell with each labored breath.

 

“YOU LOOK WORSE THAN YOU DID THIS MORNING.” Papyrus frowned, Gaster soon falling in line behind him. He set a glass of water down beside the bed.

 

“i feel worse.” He chuckled, giving Gaster a nod in thanks before using the water to swish around in his mouth and spit it in the bucket. Magic had a really bizarre, tingling coppery taste to it that was never very nice. “but i'll be okay. i'm always okay. how was school, pap?”

 

“FUN! WELL... KINDA FUN.” Papyrus began, setting the school work on the bedside table. He leaned over the edge of the bed, happy to regale his brother about his school shenanigans.

 

“I HAD TO READ IN FRONT OF THE CLASS TODAY. I'M NOT VERY GOOD AT READING.” The smile on Papyrus' face faded a little. “THE WORDS ALWAYS LOOK REALLY WEIRD. LIKE... I KNOW THEM, BUT AT THE SAME TIME I DON'T.”

 

“That's probably my fault.” Gaster smirked. “Don't worry about it. You can read my handwriting, can't you?”

 

“WELL, YES. YOUR HANDWRITING IS BIG AND EACH SYMBOL LOOKS DIFFERENT SO THEY'RE EASY TO TELL APART. THE ALPHABET IS HARD. ALL THE LETTERS LOOK THE SAME.”

 

“see pap? you're just good at other things. you'll get the hang of reading eventually.” Sans encouraged.

 

“YEAH... YOU'RE RIGHT! I'M THE BEST AT COUNTING! I FINISH BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE IN THE CLASS!”

 

“you're the best counter, bro.”

 

While Papyrus went on and on about his day, Gaster removed the bucket from Sans' lap and the two began a very practiced task. Sans laid back in the bed, his creator turning on the only machine that remained from their exploits all those years ago. It was permanently stationed by Sans' bed now, ready to read his vitals whenever he became sick. Sans lifted up his shirt, Gaster placing the tiny sensor over his ribs before staring at the screen above.

 

Sans continued to nod and listen to Papyrus, the dots of his eyes slowly looking over and up at Gaster. He always looked so crushed when he stared at that machine.

 

“hey pap, why don't you go get your homework? helping you out always makes me feel better.” Sans said, watching as Papyrus grin and push himself away from the bed.

 

“OKAY, BROTHER!”

 

Once he was out of the room, Sans turned his attention to Gaster.

 

“you alright there dings?”

 

“Hm?” The doctor looked down at Sans from behind his glasses. “I'm fine, don't worry about me.” He reached over and turned off the machine before removing the sensor from Sans' chest. The boy laughed.

 

“that must be where i get it from, huh?”

 

Gaster raised a brow.

 

“telling everyone im okay when im not?” He pulled down his shirt and moved to sit up a little.

 

“... Ah.” Gaster frowned.

 

A moment of uncomfortable silence passed between them.

 

“well?”

 

Gaster couldn't help but let out an airy snort through his nasal cavity. “I think you already know. I'll never stop feeling guilty for-”

 

“OKAY, I HAVE MY HOMEWORK.” Papyrus stated loudly as he came through the door, both Gaster and Sans going quiet for the little monster's sake. “ARE YOU SURE YOU'RE FEELING WELL ENOUGH TO HELP ME, BROTHER?”

 

“im sure.” Sans smiled, watching as Gaster stood up. As he left he rubbed his hand over Pap's skull, eliciting a giggle of 'nyeh-heh!'

 

 

Heading in with Gaster to visit the King was a semi-common occurrence. Usually he would take the boys inside with him even if their meetings were dull and mostly pointless. Seeing children almost always put a smile on Asgore's face.

 

This time was different.

 

The three stood outside the door, Gaster having just picked them both up from school. The burly guard out front leaned down to the doctor and whispered something before Gaster's attention turned to Sans and Papyrus.

 

“I'm gonna need you to wait outside this time, boys.”

 

“AW, WHY?” Papyrus asked; he always enjoyed spending time with the King. He reminded him of Santa!

 

“The King isn't feeling very well. Sans-” He began before falling silent, his hands signing 'we'll talk later'. The boy felt a knot tie where his stomach would be.

 

Nevertheless he nodded and turned to look down at his little brother. “how about we get a start on our homework?”

 

“MMM... OKAY.” Papyrus said, taking Sans' hand as he was lead towards one of the benches outside the throne room.

 

As they sat down Sans watched Gaster whisper something else to the guard before he slipped in.

 

 

The meeting lasted much longer than usual. Sans couldn't hear any yelling or screaming, so Gaster probably wasn't in trouble. If that wasn't the case than why was it taking forever? The small amount of light that shown through the windows was starting to fade and Papyrus was beginning to whine about being hungry. A candy bar Sans had in his backpack would have to do even though the little skeleton really hated sweets.

 

Strange thing to hate for a six-year-old.

 

After what felt like forever Gaster finally stepped out of the throne room. He was wiping his hands off on a rag, the front and sleeves of his lab coat coated in red smudges and splotches.

 

“IT'S ABOUT TIME, DADDY!” Papyrus scolded, quickly grabbing his bag and slipping off his seat.

 

The doctor's eye sockets widened as the boy approached, quickly yanking off his lab coat and throwing it back into the throne room before abruptly closing the door. He quickly put on a smile and lifted Papyrus into his arms before he could make any contact with his legs. It was hard to see against the black fabric, but his pants were covered in the same splatters as well, especially around the knees.

 

“Sorry Papy, got really caught up in something. We can head home now.”

 

Sans approached him and gave him a strange look. He had never seen blood before, but whatever Gaster was covered in smelled and gave him a sinking feeling.

 

The three of them walked back home, the silence only broken by Papyrus' loud chattering about his day and how he had managed to finish his homework before they even got home! How funny was that? Despite how happy Papyrus always was it was obvious Gaster was having a hard time keeping chipper for his sake. When they got home Sans was put in charge of dinner, the doctor quickly making his way into the bathroom to clean up.

 

The night was a little awkward between Sans and Gaster, but both of them doing their best to make sure Papyrus didn't notice. After reading Pap his bedtime story, Sans slipped outside of their room. His father was sat on the couch, mindlessly staring at the TV even though it was turned off.

 

“hey. so uh...” He began, Gaster motioning for him to be quiet. Without a word the doctor stood, grabbing a bottle of beer on the way. He lead Sans outside the house, slowly closing the door just to be sure Papyrus didn't hear them.

 

“Another human child fell down today.” He finally said before opening the bottle and taking a drink. “Asgore killed it. That was blood I had all over me. I didn't want Pap to know.”

 

Sans looked a little shocked. “so... what happened?”

 

“The King is pretty messed up. He's having a real hard time keeping it together. This isn't like killing adults attacking us. They're just kids. But...”

 

“but?”

 

“He's gotta do it. Everyone is relying on him to get souls to break the barrier.”

 

“is there anything we can do?”

 

Gaster let out a defeated laugh. “Short of killing them ourselves, no.”

 

They both fell into an uncomfortable silence.

 

“dings, have you ever...?” Sans trailed off, the white dots of his eyes looking up at his creator.

 

“Yep. Not kids, but yeah. Just because I'm the royal scientist didn't mean I was totally away from the battlefield. I'm pretty desensitized to it now. Asgore isn't, despite him being there right with everyone fighting more than I was. He just doesn't have the same... personality to help him get through it. The Queen was always around to help him, but now...” Gaster shrugged and drank more from the glass bottle in his hands.

 

“I know I don't have to tell you to keep this between us. Pap shouldn't know about any of this.”

 

Sans nodded in agreement and more quiet passed between them.

 

“I don't know how much longer Asgore can keep going like this. Humans falling down is rare but... I think I need to start thinking of a new way to break the barrier. I've just been putting it off all this time.”

 

Sans inhaled through the opening of his nose. “we'll figure something out.” He offer Gaster a smile. The scientist looked down at him and finally managed to look genuinely relieved for the first time that night.

 

“... Yeah. We will, won't we?” He took another drink and laughed. “How the hell did I get such nice kids?”

 

Sans smirked and shrugged. “maybe we're the only two nice parts of you?” He joked, the doctor laughing again.

 

“I'd fucking believe it.”

 

 

Another year rolled along rather uneventfully. Despite needing to try and figure out how to break the barrier, without DT Gaster really was at a bit of a stand-still when it came to ideas. A few were tried and mostly abandoned before even getting to the testing phase.

 

The boys were doing well in school, Sans even managing to get some friends despite the age difference he faced after jumping straight from junior high into high school. However as Papyrus was growing older he soon began to learn that not everyone would be his friend, no matter how kind and warm he was.

 

Every grade was taught in the same building, which meant that the two brothers would run into each other at least a few times during the day. So when Sans happened to come across a few older kids circled around Papyrus, things took quite the turn for the worse.

 

He couldn't make out what they were saying, but as he got closer he began to think of a way to defuse the situation. Papyrus was a good kid and no way did he deserve any sort of harsh treatment. Sans loved his little brother more than anything and wasn't about to let anyone get him upset. Before he could get close enough to make out their conversation, one of the older monsters shoved Papyrus against the locker.

 

Sans froze and his pupils vanished. Without thinking his hand reached forward, left eye glowing blue. The monster who had shoved Papyrus looked down in alarm as their soul lit up, barely having enough time to react as they were roughly slammed into the other side of the hallway. The locker they were thrown against clattered loudly, denting the door.

 

The hallway went silent. Everyone turned and stared.

 

Sans approached through the crowd, everyone wisely stepping aside. He looked down at the scaled monster sat on the floor, pupils nowhere to be seen in the depths of his eye sockets.

 

Touch my brother again and it won't be the locker that gets bent.

 

As the monster recoiled a loud, commanding voice echoed through the hall. “SANS!”

 

Looking up Sans could see the principal, a one-eyed monster in a dress suit with tentacles for hands and feet. The reality of what he had done and the amount of force he had used started to hit him and he reeled a little. The memories of being told he was a weapon started to creep back, but before he could start feeling sorry for himself he felt Papyrus quickly cling to his back.

 

“In my office. Now.”

 

“yes m'am.” Sans said meekly, taking hold of Papyrus' hand as they were lead to the principal's office.

 

 

The next hour was filled with scolding, the principal calling Gaster to have him come in so they could discuss Sans' punishment for being so physical with another student. Afterward they sat in awkward silence until he arrived.

 

“Okay, what's going on?” Gaster said, not even bothering with formalities as he stepped into the office.

 

“Sans was physical with another student. He threw him into a locker hard enough to dent it.” The principal explained. Papyrus, having been uncharacteristically quiet, finally spoke up.

 

“A MEAN BIG KID SHOVED ME INTO MY LOCKER! SANS WAS JUST PROTECTING ME!”

 

Gaster looked around the room, looking for said child. When he didn't see anyone but his own sons, he turned to the principal.

 

“So where is this kid? Isn't he going to be bitched at too?”

 

“Well-”

 

“No. Go get that kid.”

 

Taken aback, the monster opened her mouth to retort but thought better of it. After a short phone call they waited for the other child to arrive.

 

“So what happened?” Gaster asked, looking at his boys.

 

“BIG KIDS WERE TELLING ME THAT SANS AND I ONLY GOT GOOD GRADES BECAUSE YOU WERE THE ROYAL SCIENTIST AND YOU JUST USED THAT TO MAKE THE TEACHERS PUT DOWN WHATEVER YOU WANTED AND THEY SAID THAT I WAS JUST SUCKING UP TO EVERYONE BUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS I JUST WANT TO BE FRIENDS!” Papyrus' mouth wiggled as he finished the rant he had been holding in all this time. Tears appeared in the corners of his eye sockets and Sans was quick to wrap an arm around him to squeeze him tight.

 

“Is this what happened?” Gaster asked Sans.

 

“i didn't hear the conversation but one of them shoved pap into his locker. i... uh... grabbed him and flung him across the hall. sorry.”

 

“Sorry? Why are you being sorry?” The doctor asked, then looked at the principal. “Why is he sorry?”

 

Before she could answer he cut her off and turned back to Sans. “Don't be sorry about protecting your brother. That kid got what he deserved picking on someone half his age.”

 

“Doctor!” The principal frowned, clearly not agreeing in the slightest.

 

“What!?” He spun around to face her, the whites of his eyes gone. Sans watched as the woman went pale. Gaster could look pretty terrifying when he was angry.

 

Things went quiet as the door opened and the monster who had been called in stepped inside. Gaster abruptly turned to face him and the colour drained from him too.

 

“Did you push my boy?” A boney finger pointed at him.

 

“Doctor! Please let him sit down and explain.”

 

Gaster narrowed his eyes but relented, stepping aside while making wild gestures with his hands. The monster stepped in and sat down.

 

“Did you push Papyrus?” The principal asked calmly.

 

“Y-yeah...” The boy glanced over at the skeletons, both Gaster and Sans staring at him with a deep, pitiless gaze. He swallowed hard.

 

“Why did you push him?”

 

“We-we were just goofing off. Y'know- messing around.”

 

Bullshit.” Sans grumbled, glaring at the other monster. Papyrus was still hugged tightly against him.

 

“Sans.” The principal frowned and looked back at the other boy. “It's clear that Sans isn't the only one at fault. Now the matter of punishment.”

 

While the principal began to think of a proper penalty for their actions, Papyrus spoke up again.

 

“MISS PRINCIPAL LADY?”

 

“Yes, Papyrus?”

 

“SINCE I WAS THE ONE WHO WAS PUSHED, CAN... IF HE JUST SAYS SORRY THEN THAT'S ALL I WANT. NO ONE HAS TO BE PUNISHED THEN, RIGHT?”

 

Everyone else in the room, including the principal herself, blinked in surprise and looked at him. His kindness really did know no bounds, didn't it? Eventually she smiled.

 

“Would you be satisfied with that, Papyrus?”

 

He nodded.

 

“Okay.” The principal looked at the monster who had started it all, fidgetting uncomfortably in his seat.

 

“I'm... sorry for pushing you and saying all those things. I won't do it again.” He glanced at Sans and Gaster, who both still looked incredibly angry. “I-I swear.”

 

“THAT'S OKAY. I FORGIVE YOU.” Papyrus smiled, as did the principal.

 

“Okay, then I suppose that's settled. You may all leave.”

 

As they filed out of the office she said one last thing. “Sans, please be careful with your magic.”

 

“yes m'am.” He mumbled, quickly reaching up to grab Gaster's hand as he started to flip her off.

 

 

Gaster managed to keep his mouth shut until the door to the principal's office closed behind them. “Who is she to tell you to be careful with your magic? You could have wiped the floor with that little brat.”

 

Sans just groaned and tried his best to ignore his father's ramblings. His attention turned down to Papyrus instead. “you ok, bro? he didn't hurt you, right?”

 

“I'M OKAY. ARE WE GOING HOME NOW? I NEED TO GET ONE OF MY BOOKS FROM MY LOCKER.”

 

“yeah, we're headed home.” He looked around at the mostly empty hallway, the bell having rung to signal the end of the school day awhile ago. The only other monster around was the boy who had shoved Papyrus digging in his locker getting ready to go home.. Sans glared daggers into his back but tried his best to forget it and lead his brother to his own locker. “come on. lets get your stuff.”

 

“I'm gonna talk to the kid.” Gaster finally said, marching towards the boy who was hurriedly packing his backpack.

 

Sans felt a few syllables mumble out between his teeth but ultimately he couldn't think of anything that would stop Gaster. A part of him didn't want to anyway, that kid deserved it.

 

He watched as the scientist approached him, nearly scaring the boy out of his skin. Sans couldn't hear him due to the distance as he helped Papyrus pack his bag, but from the look on the kid's face he could tell whatever it was was terrifying. Gaster was doing that smiling, void-like gaze and looming over him that he had only seen a few times before. Whenever he did it, it really had scared the crap out of him.

 

Just as Papyrus was finishing up Sans watched the monster under Gaster's eye slouch before sprinting out of the school, glancing back at him with terror. The two boys walked up to their father, Sans raising one of the ridges of his brow.

 

“wow. what did you say to him?”

 

“I told him if he touched either of you again I would find his parents and use their souls to help power the core.”

 

Sans teetered away from him a little. “... damn. what the hell, dings?”

 

“Well he won't touch my boys again, will he?” Gaster grinned broadly and reached down to lift Papyrus into his arms. “How are you holding up, kiddo?”

 

“I'M OKAY. HE DIDN'T HURT ME.”

 

“Good. Wow, you're starting to get too big to carry.” The doctor chuckled, Papyrus leaning against his father and wrapping his arms around his neck. As they started to walk out of the school there was an odd silence that was usually taken up by the little skeleton's jabbering.

 

“So... you wanna pick where we eat tonight?” Gaster asked, that alone being enough to ignite the little boy's vocal chords.

 

“OH YES! I WANT TO EAT AT THE CAFE.” He wiggled a little and pointed in the general direction of one of their usual take-out places. It was about as healthy and non-greasy as their food got.

 

“Alright, lets head there then. You can get whatever you want.”

 

“YAY!”

 

 

The incident at school was really just that, a small event that didn't seem to have any sort of significance impacting the daily lives of the dysfunctional little skeleton family. Perhaps Papyrus had learned that making friends wasn't as easy as he thought, but it didn't appear to effect him trying his hardest at everything he did anyway. That being sad, he had begun to realize that his personality was a bit far different from Sans and his father.

 

Neither Gaster nor Sans seemed to be very good at taking care of themselves or their surroundings, and it was beginning to get on Papyrus' non-existent nerves.

 

After school one day the little skeleton stood in the doorway to the bedroom he shared with Sans, eye sockets looking at his clean and tidy half and then the absolute mess of his brother's. Then he turned and looked at the rest of the house, absolute disorder with books, take out boxes, clothes, blueprints and notes everywhere.

 

Gaster was sat at his desk slurping away at a box of noodles while going over his notes, his lab coat tossed over his chair and his collared shirt unbuttoned and wrinkled. Sans was still in his clothes from school, having not even bothered to take his shoes off before flopping onto the couch for a nap. Papyrus then looked down at himself, his shoes tied neatly and his denim overalls clean save for a few patches of dirt from recess that day. His loudly colored shirt was tidy and his favorite baseball cap with 'DUDE!' across the front was always kept nice and clean, he never wanted to ruin that.

 

Silence crept through the home.

 

“WE NEED TO CLEAN!” Papyrus suddenly announced. The sound of Sans snorting and rolling off the couch was followed by Gaster nearly choking on his noodles.

 

“Wha-”

 

“YOU'RE BOTH MESSY. LOOK HOW CLEAN I KEEP MY HALF OF THE ROOM AND LOOK AT THE MESS YOU LAZYBONES MAKE!” Papyrus gestured to his tidy little area, then at the rest of the house.

 

Sans climbed back up onto the couch and peered over the back at his brother. “a little mess never hurt anybody, bro.”

 

“THIS IS MORE THAN JUST A 'LITTLE' MESS.”

 

“I can't clean.” Gaster suddenly said, mouth full of noodles. “I gave that small part of me to you.”

 

“NUH-UH!”

 

“Yeah-huh.” The doctor smiled, slurping more noodles smugly.

 

Papyrus looked around, grabbing one of Gaster's old socks and rolling it into a ball before tossing it at his head with a loud 'NYEH-HEH!' It bounced off and rolled on the ground, the doctor turned to look at it before a grin spread across his face.

 

“Man you really socked it to me.” He glanced over at Sans, who grinned.

 

“y'know pap, cleaning this place would be no small feet.”

 

Papyrus looked between them. “NO! NO DON'T GET STARTED!” He flailed his arms.

 

“We would probably work ourselves to the bone just to get this place looking half-decent.”

 

“STOP!”

 

“i don't think i have the backbone for all the labor it would take to get this place looking nice.”

 

“Don't be a numbskull, Sans. You've got 33!”

 

“AHHHH! FORGET I SAID ANYTHING!” Papyrus stormed into his room and Sans snickered.

 

“Wait, wait!” Gaster stood up and started to follow him in. “I didn't mean to be so skellfish.”

 

“NO!” Papyrus climbed into his bed and yanked the covers over himself.

 

“Come on Pap, I hate seeing you upset. It really rattles my bones.”

 

“STOP!”

 

Gaster hovered over the lump of the blankets. If he leaned in close he could hear muffled giggling. “Ohhh, you can't hide your funny bone from me, Pap. I hear you laughing!”

 

“NO!” Papyrus said through giggles. “YOUR JOKES ARE TERRIBLE AND SANS IS EVEN WORSE.”

 

“you got a bone to pick with my puns, bro?” Sans called over from the doorway.

 

“STOOOP!” Papyrus whined, kicking his little feet under the blankets.

 

The house remained dirty for quite a long time after that.

 

 

With Sans now in his teens the core facility and even the city were beginning to feel a little small, especially when you were able to teleport around at the blink of an eye. Perhaps being sheltered for so long made him crave to know every tiny nook and cranny of the city or maybe he was just naturally curious, but even with the freedom he had now everything seemed pretty small. Gaster must have picked up on this, and so one morning he roused his boys earlier than usual.

 

“BWA BWA BWA!” Gaster yelled each time he flicked on the lights, mimicking the alarm the sounded whenever there was a problem with the core.

 

Papyrus sat bolt upright “AHHHH-... DADDY?”

 

Sans, meanwhile, didn't even move.

 

“Wake up! I have a special day planned today!” The doctor walked over to Sans' bed and yanked off the covers, but it still got no response. Papyrus gasped and beamed, hands clutching at his sheets.

 

“A SPECIAL DAY? WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?”

 

“We're going to Waterfall!” Gaster lifted Sans to a sit, the skeleton wobbling in place before a low groan slipped out from his teeth.

 

“its the weekend...”

 

“Get up, Sans. You can sleep on the ferry. Get dressed.”

 

Papyrus didn't need telling twice. He leapt from his bed and instantly ran to wash up and put on new clean clothes. As soon as Gaster left the room to prepare everything Sans slowly tilted and flopped back onto his pillow.

 

“SANS!” His little brother scolded as he reentered. Papyrus grabbed one of his brothers arms, grunting as he got him to sit up and then pulling him off the bed. “GET DRESSED! I DON'T WANT TO BE LATE!”

 

“... bro i don't think waterfall is going anywhere.” Sans mumbled, eye sockets barely open.

 

“THAT'S NO EXCUSE FOR BEING LAZY.”

 

Sans struggled to shove on some clothes, the only thing keeping him awake being the rambling of his brother about how excited he was to see it. Afterward he trudged to the kitchen table, dragging himself onto an old stool, and let his head hit the table with a hollow thunk.

 

“SO WHY ARE WE GOING TO WATERFALL, DAD?”

 

“Just for something fun to do. I know neither of you have seen the 'stars' yet, so-”

 

“REAL STARS?!”

 

Gaster chuckled, “Sadly not, Pap. Just glowing crystals in the ceiling. But it's still nice to imagine.”

 

He set down a bowl of oatmeal for Papyrus and then a cup of coffee beside Sans' head. The boy groaned and drearily reached out to take it.

 

“I think you'll like it too, Sans.”

 

Chapter Text

After breakfast the three of them headed out of the core facility and through Hotland. The fastest way into Waterfall was the ferry, a single little boat manned by a robed monster. During the weekends it was a little busy, the three of them sitting on a bench waiting for the River Person to come back from their latest trip.

 

Sans was still having a hard time staying awake, boney fingers clutching a thermos filled with even more coffee after finishing his first cup back home. His father and Papyrus never had a problem staying awake, although Gaster was obviously much more grounded than the little skeleton bouncing around the edge of the river... Unless you gave him something to tinker with. Then it was clear to see where Papyrus got all his energy.

 

“Still with me?” He asked, the white dots of his eyes glancing down at Sans. Despite them being outside the lab Gaster still wore his lab coat, it was pretty rare he ever took it off unless they were at home, especially now that he had gotten himself a new one in black rather than white. After the incident with the blood he had realized that it would be better to hide some of the stains of what he was working with from Papyrus rather than have them stand out like a sore thumb against white fabric.

 

“kinda.” Sans mumbled and finally looked around. He caught sight of a briefcase sat beside his father. “what's that?”

 

“You'll see.”

 

Not much later the little wooden boat came cruising up along the river, a cloaked figure sat at the front. Gaster helped Papyrus step in before following suit, Sans climbing in shortly after. The two boys sat towards the back while their father sat closer to the front.

 

“Tra la la, where would you like to go today?”

 

“Waterfall.”

 

“Then we're off.”

 

The boat began to move despite there being no oars or motor. Papyrus leaned over the side, letting his hand trail through the water as it moved and staring at his reflection through the ripples. Sans had just been starting to wake up, but now that the boat was rocking him gently from side to side that was quickly fading. His head slumped on his hand and soon he was dozing off again, not even the oddly comfortable conversation between Gaster and the River Person able to keep him awake.

 

“Tra la la, it's good to see you Doctor.”

 

“You too. How's the ferry business going?”

 

“It's enjoyable.”

 

“DADDY DO YOU KNOW THEM?” Papyrus asked, finally sitting still and taking his spot next to his sleeping brother.

 

Gaster nodded, “We knew each other on the surface.”

 

“WOWIE! DID YOU WORK TOGETHER?”

 

The doctor chuckled. “Nah.”

 

“Tra la la, I never took you to settle down and have children.”

 

“Who's settling down?” Gaster smirked, glancing back at the cloaked figure. “Sans and Papyrus are my greatest achievements.”

 

“... I see.” The River Person slowly turned to face forward, apparently not needing any more hints that the two boys were created by less than normal means.

 

“Tra la la, and they aren't even blowing things up. Have you grown out of that, Doctor?”

 

“Hell no.” Gaster laughed.

 

“IF YOU DIDN'T WORK TOGETHER, HOW DO YOU KNOW EACH OTHER?” Papyrus asked just as the boat began to slow down.

 

“Tra la la, we're here.”

 

As the boat stopped by the shore of Waterfall Gaster stood and gestured to Papyrus. “I'll tell you another time, kiddo. Wake up your brother.”

 

Papyrus pouted and looked over at Sans, drooling into his palm as he slept. A boney hand reached out and shook him awake. Sans' head bobbed up and down until he sat up. “WAKE UP, LAZYBONES! WE'RE HERE.”

 

“mmm... ok...” Sans mumbled, slowly standing up. Papyrus jumped off the side of the boat, his brother trudging behind him.

 

“Goodbye Doctor.” The River Person said as Gaster paid their fare. While the boat loaded with other monsters the three skeletons began their walk through Waterfall.

 

“do you know them?” Sans asked, watching as the little ferry sped off. Before Gaster could answer, Papyrus took the liberty to speak for him.

 

“THEY KNOW EACH OTHER FROM THE SURFACE. YOU'D KNOW THAT IF YOU DIDN'T SLEEP THE WHOLE RIDE HERE!”

 

“.. oh. huh.” Sans blinked and rubbed his eye sockets with the ball of his hand.

 

The three of them walked along the wooden piers, Gaster pulling out two retractable umbrellas from his pocket and handing one to Sans.

 

“It gets pretty wet around here, so share your umbrella.”

 

They eventually got passed the piers and began to walk along a wet path, the wooden boards in the ground barely helping them keep free of the mud.

 

“WOWIE!” Papyrus eventually yelled as they walked, the tiny skeleton pointing at the horizon. In the far distance you could see the castle, something he had never seen from the outside from far away before. “IS THAT THE CASTLE WHERE THE KING LIVES?”

 

“Sure is.” Gaster smiled and set down his umbrella. He began to unpack what was in his briefcase, the two boys peering up over the rim of their umbrella to stare at the twinkling crystals high above.

 

“ARE THOSE THE STARS?”

 

“They're crystals, but it's nice to think they are.”

 

“THEY'RE PRETTY.”

 

“They'll look even prettier in a moment.” The object in the briefcase becoming apparent as he began to hook together a telescope. Sans' face lit up; he had always loved astrology... even if he would maybe never see the actual stars themselves.

 

“i didn't know you had a telescope, dings.”

 

“Why wouldn't I? There just hasn't been much use for it.” Gaster shrugged and stepped aside once it was all put together. “Go ahead and try it out.”

 

Sans eagerly handed the umbrella to Papyrus and did just that, peering through the eyepiece and up at the crystals.

 

“I WANNA SEE!” His brother pouted, trying to peek around Sans.

 

“You will. Just give your brother his turn first. Here, while he's looking-” The doctor grabbed a book that had been packed away with the telescope and crouched down to get on his son's level. He began to teach Papyrus about the many constellations in the night sky on the surface and what they had originally been named after, as well as how they could help guide you home.

 

They stayed there for awhile, Papyrus and Sans taking turns looking up through the telescope and asking any question they could think of about the stars on the surface. Eventually they decided to move on, Gaster packing up their things and picking up his umbrella. There was much more to see.

 

“WHAT'S THAT?” Papyrus asked as they walked along. He let go of his brother's hand to run over to the wall, a glowing sign carved from the stone and decorated with some of the glowing crystals shining brightly had caught his attention.

 

“THE WAR OF HUMANS AND MONSTERS?”

 

Sans glanced at Gaster, but his father was already walking over to him to explain.

 

“I guess they haven't gotten to that point in history class with you?”

 

“I DON'T THINK SO.” Papyrus shook his head, then looked down the wall at more writing. He walked a short distance to the next sign and read it aloud slowly. “WHY DID THE HUMANS ATTACK? IT SEEMED THEY HAD NOTHING TO FEAR. HUMANS ARE UNBELIEVABLY STRONG. IT WOULD TAKE THE SOUL OF NEARLY EVERY MONSTER JUST TO EQUAL THE POWER OF A SINGLE HUMAN SOUL. BUT HUMANS HAVE ONE WEAKNESS. IRONICALLY IT IS THE STRENGTH OF THEIR SOUL.”

 

Gaster and Sans remained silent, both of them following along Papyrus as he went from sign to sign reading it aloud to himself. Both of them already knew the history of what happened, Gaster the most intimately of all. Once he had finished reading them he looked up at his creator.

 

“I DON'T GET IT. WHY DID THEY SEAL US UNDERGROUND?”

 

“It was either that or be eradicated. Not many of us survived the war. The capitol might seem crowded now, but it wasn't always like that.”

 

“BUT... WHY? WHAT DID WE DO?” Papyrus frowned.

 

Gaster inhaled through his nasal cavity. “We didn't do anything. At least not that I remember. Sometimes people fight even if they don't have any real reason to.”

 

The little boy pouted, taking his father's hand as they walked through the waterfalls raining down from the sides of the caves. “THAT DOESN'T SEEM RIGHT. THERE MUST BE A REASON.”

 

Gaster smiled and glanced back at Sans, who had been following along in silence. He saw no reason to interrupt, Gaster was doing a surprisingly good job handling the subject for once.

 

“I know you see the good in everyone, Pap, but trust me when I say that humans can't be trusted. I've seen what they can do.”

 

“HMM...” Papyrus mumbled with uncertainty. “MAYBE... BUT MAYBE THEY JUST NEED SOMEONE TO TALK TO. NO ONE IS ALL BAD. EVERYONE HAS GOOD IN THEM.” He finally smiled, having decided that was the right thing to believe.

 

“If only everyone was like you, Papyrus, the world would be a better place.” Gaster smirked and Sans finally stepped up beside his brother to give him a pat on the head.

 

“you keep believing, bro. someone's gotta.”

 

“I WILL! NYEH-HEH!” His other hand grabbed onto Sans as they marched along the muddy pathway deeper into Waterfall.

 

Things became darker and darker, the crystals becoming less abundant and instead being replaced with strange glowing flowers and plants. Even the water took on a sort of hypnotic blue glow.

 

“THOSE ARE PRETTY FLOWERS.” Papyrus pointed out, walking a bit closer to one.

 

“Those are pretty flowers.”

 

The little skeleton froze, eye sockets going wide. Slowly he turned and looked at Sans and his father, who was suppressing a giggle. “IS... IS THIS FLOWER TALKING TO ME?”

 

“Is this flower talking to me?”

 

“NYAH!” Papyrus scrambled back a little, clutching onto Sans.

 

“its okay bro, its just an echo flower.” He rubbed the top of his skull lovingly. Even though he hadn't seen one before himself he knew what they were from school and seeing them in Gaster's lab before.

 

“Echo flowers are magical plants that really only grow in Waterfall. They repeat whatever is said last to them. Quite fun to play around with.”

 

“OH.” Papyrus blinked and then approached the flower again. He cupped his hands to his mouth despite being unable to whisper at all. “PAPYRUS IS THE GREATEST.”

 

“Papyrus is the greatest.”

 

The little boy grinned and looked back at Sans, who returned his smile and approached another flower nearby.

 

“i am the legendary fartmaster.”

 

“I am the legendary fartmaster.”

 

“SANS!” Papyrus glared.

 

 

“Come on, lets go get some lunch.”

 

Gaster peeled the two away from the echo flowers and in towards one of the vendors, but stopped as soon as he caught sight of the old turtle sat behind the stall.

 

You.” Both of them said in near unison, eyes narrowing.

 

“So this is where you slinked off to, huh?” Gaster hissed.

 

“Buy somethin' or get out.”

 

“UM...” Papyrus mumbled awkwardly, tugging on his father's hand and pointing at a crab apple. “CAN I HAVE THAT FOR LUNCH?”

 

“Sure, Pap. Get whatever you want.” The doctor growled, although his anger wasn't directed at him.

 

“UM... NEV-NEVERMIND...”

 

“no, come on pap. here.” Sans walked over and grabbed one for each of them as well as some sea tea. He placed them on the counter.

 

“So where did you steal these two from? Or did you cook them up in that lab of yours?” Gerson said, eying the two skeletons in front of him.

 

Gaster slammed gold onto the counter and tugged at Sans and Papyrus' shoulders. “Fuck you Gerson.” He turned the boys around and urged them to leave.

 

“Yeah, go on. Go hide in your lab like you always do.” The turtle narrowed his eyes.

 

Gaster waited until Sans and Papyrus were outside to turn back around, his eyes glowing purple. He flicked his hand upwards, the small light hanging overhead glowing brighter before the bulb popped and the store went black save for the glowing crystals on the walls.

 

“Hey!” The turtle stood up in anger.

 

“You're welcome for the free power. Asshole.”

 

With that he turned and left, guiding his sons far away from the little hole-in-the-wall vendor. Once he had deemed the distance great enough Gaster sat down and grumbled.

 

“jeeze dings, what the hell was that about?” Sans asked, a brow raised as he bit into his crab apple.

 

“YOU'RE NOT MAD AT ME, ARE YOU?” Papyrus asked as he stood in front of Gaster, little hands clutching his treat.

 

“No, no. Of course not.” The doctor sighed and rubbed Pap's head. “Gerson and I just have some history is all.”

 

“YOU SURE DO KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE, DAD.”

 

“Unfortunately.” Gaster frowned.

 

“so what's the history?”

 

“After we were sealed here Gerson was the first to bring up the idea of staying. Forever. Not just until we got our numbers up or until we found out how to leave, but forever. I, obviously, disagree.”

 

“He convinced the King and Queen the same thing and all efforts to break the barrier were ceased until Asgore declared war on them again after his kids were killed. We had always clashed even before we were sealed underground though. He's a warrior, a damn good one I'll admit, but he thinks I'm a coward for doing most of my work behind closed doors and didn't agree with a lot of my weapons and experiments.”

 

Papyrus swallowed his mouthful, having pulled himself up onto the bench beside his father. “YOU'RE NOT A COWARD AT ALL, DADDY. I DON'T KNOW HOW ANYONE COULD THINK THAT OF YOU.”

 

“Ehh... heh.” Gaster laughed and wrapped an arm around the little skeleton. His teeth clacked against his skull in as much of a kiss as he could manage. “Thanks kiddo. The only opinions I care about are yours and your brother's. He can think whatever he wants.”

 

After finishing their lunch Papyrus was eager to play in the puddles and streams. He hiked off his boots and splashed around, even getting Sans in on the action. Gaster watched happily as his two boys played around in the mud. It was an odd sort of happiness, he thought. Before now all he had ever felt driven towards was science and the exploration of knowledge, but now here were these two tiny skeletons made from pieces of his hands and soul splashing around in mud and water in front of him that felt like his entire world.

 

Even though he disagreed with Gerson about never returning to the surface, he could finally see why a monster might not want to. Subjecting his boys to the horrors of war was one of the last things he wanted to do, but at the same time he couldn't help but think it was a massive disservice to both of them to never strive to get them to see the real stars someday.

 

Eventually Papyrus and Sans tired out, both muddy and wet, and sat beside their father on the bench to rest.

 

“ARE THE STARS AS PRETTY AS THESE?” Papyrus asked, head leaning back to stare at the crystals sparkling along the ceiling.

 

“Prettier. Prettier by far.”

 

“I THINK I'D LIKE TO SEE THEM. WHAT DO YOU THINK, BROTHER?”

 

“i'd like to see them too.”

 

“You will.” Gaster said with a smile, his arms reaching outward. He pulled Papyrus close, not caring at all how muddy his coat became. His other hand tentatively came to rest around Sans' shoulders, relaxing a bit when the boy didn't shrug him off.

 

“If I have anything to do about it, you'll both see the stars one day.”

 

The strange little family sat there for awhile, Papyrus asking questions about the surface and what it was like while his brother listened peacefully. Some of the questions were hard to answer, as it had been a long time since he had seen the surface.

 

Ultimately they decided to call it a day and headed home, trekking through the muddy pathways of Waterfall and to the ferry. The rest of the night was spent at home watching movies together, even if it was mostly Papyrus and Gaster commenting on it. Sans almost always fell asleep.

 

“Okay, you two should get to bed. I'm going to go do my rounds.”

 

“OKAY. GOODNIGHT DAD.” Papyrus stood up to hug him as he left, the doctor leaning down to clack his teeth against his skull and pat his head.

 

“Goodnight kiddo. Goodnight Sans.”

 

“night dings.” Sans waved from the couch and yawned. “guess its time for your story, huh pap?”

 

Papyrus nodded eagerly and rushed towards their room, eager to climb in and settle under the blankets for his story. Sans was always so good at it, he gave everyone their own distinct voices even if all of them sort of sounded the same anyway. It was hard to mask the soothing monotone of his voice, but it was nice all the same.

 

Sans entered the room and sat down, pulling out his brother's favorite book. He never questioned why an eight-year-old still wanted bedtime stories. If Papyrus still enjoyed them when he was 30 he didn't care, he would still read them every night. Perhaps he got as much enjoyment out of it as his little brother.

 

About halfway through the story Papyrus interrupted him. “SANS?”

 

His brother looked up, surprised. It was very unlike Papyrus to say anything during the story unless it was to yell about falling asleep between the pages.

 

“yeah bro?”

 

The skeleton faltered, his expression becoming uncertain. “... WHY DON'T YOU CALL DAD 'DAD'?”

 

Sans' smile faded and his pupils vanished for all but a second before he forced them back. “uh, whad'ya mean bro?” He stalled, knowing exactly what his little brother meant but wanting to buy some time to think.

 

“I MEAN WHAT I SAID. WHY DON'T YOU CALL OUR FATHER 'DAD'?”

 

“uh...” Sans swallowed hard and dug around in his skull to try and come up with an excuse, or something innocent to satisfy Papyrus' curiosity.

 

“we don't really have quite the same relationship.”

 

“WHY NOT? HE DOES THE SAME THINGS WITH YOU AS HE DOES WITH ME. HE MADE YOU JUST THE SAME AS HE MADE ME, RIGHT?”

 

Sans couldn't stop a bitter laugh from bubbling out of his mouth like acid, the whites of his eyes vanishing once more. “n-not really, pap. maybe now but... it wasn't always very nice between us.”

 

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?”

 

“i...” The teenager began, but wasn't sure where he was going with what had originally started to come out of his mouth. “our relationship was more 'business-like' at the start. things are fine now, but they weren't always.”

 

Papyrus furrowed his brow and sat up. “I... DON'T UNDERSTAND.”

 

Sans tried to force a smile, but even he knew it wasn't convincing. “our relationship is just... different is all. there's nothing to be worried about, pap.”

 

His little brother pouted. “... NO. I AM WORRIED.” He began, looking at Sans with resolve. “DO YOU LOVE HIM?”

 

Sans felt something catch in his throat. Silence lingered in the air.

 

“DO YOU LOVE DAD?” Papyrus was frowning again.

 

He hated seeing Papyrus sad.

 

“i... i dunno, bro. hes done a lot of bad stuff.”

 

“THAT DOESN'T SOUND LIKE THE FATHER I KNOW. HE'S ALWAYS BEEN VERY KIND TO US. TO... TO ME. SURELY HE'S BEEN KIND TO YOU TOO, RIGHT?”

 

Sans looked away, unable to keep staring at that sad little face. He thumbed the pages of the book in his hands just for something to idly do and keep his mind off what he was feeling, at least for a few seconds.

 

He started to remember the pain, the feeling of falling down, the fear of never being able to get back up again. He thought of the words Gaster had said to him. How he had made him to be a weapon. How he had wanted him to destroy the barrier and create hope for all of the monsters of the underground.

 

Hope...

 

Sans remembered the doctor sitting by his side, holding his hand and telling him jokes as he drifted off to sleep. He remembered being lifted up and carried around the lab even when Gaster was busy and trying to get things done. He recalled all those horrible pictures he drew for him between practices and tests, every single one still hanging up over his work station in the next room.

 

He thought of how proud Gaster was after every problem he answered correctly. He remembered their stupid little science projects that always ended up with them blowing something up.

 

He thought of the huge crack running down Gaster's head, how after the accident he woke up to the doctor sitting slumped by his side just... waiting for him to regain consciousness. He remembered the relief on his face when he finally spoke to him and the sadness in his eyes every time he read his vitals when he got sick.

 

Oddly enough, Sans found himself laughing. It was quiet at first, soon growing louder and louder.

 

“SANS?”

 

He tried to calm down, wiping some of the tears that had gathered in his eye sockets. He wasn't sure if they were from laughing or something else entirely.

 

“i'm fine bro.” He took a few deep breaths to calm down and then smiled, genuinely this time.

 

“yeah... maybe dings ain't all that bad.”

 

 

As time drew on and Sans grew up into quite the brilliant young teenager and he began to stay back from school from time to time without needing his father's influence. His desire to learn almost matched Gaster's and school, despite being placed higher than his typical age, wasn't quite enough for him to satisfy his curiosity. Occasionally he would stay back just to watch Gaster work and other times he would hunker himself down, much like his creator, on something that had inspired him.

 

Lately he had begun tinkering with an old computer found at the dump. They were becoming much more common to find, but it took some time to figure out just how they worked when every one that fell into the mountain was broken one way or another. As much as Gaster wished to join him in figuring it out, he left the entire endeavor to his son, wanting him to experience that first rush of completing something all on his own.

 

It was nice to see Sans' usual laid-back and even lazy nature get swamped by the desire to learn and experiment.

 

He had stayed home from school for two days in a row now, barely leaving his seat hunched over the lab table the doctor had once called his own. Now it was a mix of them both with twice the clutter and mess scattered all around it.

 

“SANS!” Papyrus yelled from their bedroom door, looking over at the skeleton slouched over a circuit board. “IT'S TIME FOR MY BEDTIME STORY!”

 

Gaster's eyes bounced between his two boys. It was pretty unlike Sans to miss the nightly story time. He pushed himself over on his stool and peeked down at him, Sans' cheek resting on the desk and his hand still flopped on top of his work. The doctor smiled and removed his coat to drape it over Sans' shoulders.

 

“How about we let Sans sleep for once? He's been working pretty hard.”

 

“BUT HOW WILL I SLEEP WITHOUT A BEDTIME STORY?”

 

“I can read one to you.” Gaster smiled.

 

Papyrus didn't look convinced.

 

“Oh come on, I'm not as good as Sans but I'm not that bad.”

 

“I GUESS YOU'LL HAVE TO DO.” Papyrus mumbled. He didn't hate his father's reading but it just wasn't as good as Sans.

 

The doctor grinned. “I'll be in in a moment.”

 

Papyrus turned and climbed into his bed, settling himself underneath the covers. A moment later and Gaster entered the room. He took a seat on the chair that was almost always preoccupied by Sans at this time of night and pulled out a wad of papers.

 

“WHAT IS THAT?” Papyrus raised one of the ridges of his brow.

 

“Your story.”

 

The look of uncertainty came back.

 

Gaster cleared his throat and began. “July 18th, 19XX. Second and final cloning experiment. Should be similar to the one before, using more DT than first run at the start for clone's own safety. Using bone of right palm to-”

 

“WAIT!” Papyrus sat up, frowning. “THIS ISN'T A BEDTIME STORY. THOSE ARE YOUR NOTES!” He pointed a finger accusingly at the papers in Gaster's hand.

 

“Not just any notes! These are the notes from when I made you!” He grinned proudly and hugged them to his chest. “My favorite notes for my favorite creation.” The doctor cooed, batting his eyes as much as someone without flesh could manage.

 

“OH MY GOD.” Papyrus flailed his arms. “READ A REAL STORY!”

 

“This is a real story! The story of your birth! It's really interesting.”

 

“UUUGGGH!” Papyrus flopped into his pillow and yanked his blankets over his head.

 

Gaster grinned like an idiot and continued. “Using bone of right palm to replace magical genetic material for body. Soul extraction will be done on opposite side of own soul from the first in hopes of lessening overall damage.”

 

“NOOOO!” Papyrus grabbed his pillow and shoved it over his head. “STOP! READ A REAL STORY.”

 

The doctor kept on talking, his voice growing louder to try and overshadow Papyrus as he yelled for him to stop. “Soul extraction was a success as before! Piece of soul, DT, and genetic material combined and placed in incubation tube to germinate!”

 

“DAAAAAD!” Papyrus kicked at the covers.

 

Gaster leapt to his feet, grinning madly and reaching down to shake the skeleton under the blankets as he read with great enthusiasm.

 

“SOUL, DT, AND BONE HAVE BEGAN TO FUSE! PHYSICAL BODY SLOWLY BEGINNING TO FORM! GENERAL BONE STRUCTURE DIFFICULT TO DISCERN IN EARLY WEEKS!”

 

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Papyrus yanked the pillow from his head, eyes wide enough to finally see his pupils as he screamed. Gaster couldn't contain himself, hunching over and laughing. The boy under him lay splayed out to every angle, glaring at the ceiling.

 

“Oh. Oh man.” The doctor tried to regain his composure. He wiped the tears from laughing away from his eye sockets and sat back. “Okay, okay. We're going to end up waking Sans doing that. I'll try and read a real bedtime story.”

 

“FINALLY!”

 

 

Another year had passed uneventfully. Sans had graduated high school with flying colors and was currently thinking about getting into college. Once again, however, Gaster had his own plans.

 

Sans sat at his computer, leaning back in his chair with his feet propped up on the desk. Learning how to code had been surprisingly easy, but then again a lot of things like that came naturally to him. It had been pretty strange to teach Gaster something though, that had definitely been a first.

 

“Hey kid.” The doctor said as he approached Sans from behind, one boney hand resting on his shoulder. Before Sans could fully turn around and look back at him he flopped a massive stack of papers into his lap all bound together.

 

Sans grunted and sat up, setting his keyboard aside before picking up the pages. “uh... what's all this?” He started to thumb through the pages.

 

“It's your PhD.”

 

The skeleton stared, then blinked and turned to Gaster. “what?”

 

“You were thinking about going to college, right? Get through this-” Gaster tapped the bundle in Sans' lap. “-and I'll give you one myself.”

 

“you can't just give out PhD's, dings.” Sans said flatly, getting little more than a scoff in response.

 

“I'm the royal scientist. I'm the smartest monster in the underground, and I'm not just saying that because I'm full of myself.” He paused and grinned. “Even though I am. If you can pass this you're smarter than most of the assistants I hire.”

 

The dots of his eyes bounced from the papers in his lap to Gaster in disbelief. “um... okay. i guess i'll give it a try.”

 

“Good!” Gaster roughly patted his back, a proud grin stretching across his skull. “I know you can do it. You're a genius. Just take your time. It's a marathon, not a sprint.”

 

 

Gaster had been right about it being a marathon rather than a sprint. After leafing through some of the pages Sans realized that this wasn't going to be just some walk in the park. His father hadn't been lying, this was some serious stuff. Quantum physics? Thermodynamics? Magical Sciences? Even the mathematics were on a whole new level than he hadn't even really played with before.

 

Plenty of reading material had been provided to help him get through it, some of which the doctor had written up himself. It was clear from the sheer volume of it all that Gaster had been preparing this for years. He hadn't been lying when he said that he wanted Sans to take over if something were to happen to him.

 

It took over two years for him to finally complete it. There had been many sleepless nights, a lot of coffee, and way more energy poured into it than Sans was used to. Ever since getting out of school his interest in the sciences really had been taken to a whole new level. He napped less, he smiled more genuinely, and overall just seemed... happier. The things that had happened in his past didn't seem to weigh on him nearly as much. Even though he still didn't call Gaster his 'dad', their relationship had blossomed into something special. They were friends. Colleagues. Family.

 

He had set down the massive stack of papers on Gaster's desk victoriously once he was finally finished, but any success he felt faded quickly once Sans realized that now he had to wait until Gaster went through it all to determine whether he had 'passed' his little test. It took months, every time Sans saw him mulling over it causing him to feel a knot where his stomach would be.

 

Until finally, the day came.

 

It had been a boring day. Papyrus was still in school and the past few months Sans had sort of been between projects now that the biggest test of all was over. He was sitting at the table idly watching TV while chewing on a sandwich when Gaster came in.

 

The doctor said nothing, a smile stretching across his face. A moment later he revealed something he had been hiding behind his back.

 

In one hand was a white lab coat and in the other was a rolled up piece of paper and a badge hanging from a lanyard.

 

“Congratulations, Sans. You passed with flying colors.”

 

Sans felt his hands shake, his sandwich dropping onto the counter. He choked back what was still in his mouth and slid off his seat to run over to the doctor.

 

“i passed!?”

 

“Yep. Here you are.” Gaster held down the coat which was taken with more enthusiasm than he had ever seen from the teenager before, then the rolled up PhD and badge.

 

After pulling on the lab coat Sans took the paper and stared at it, the edges trimmed in gold and his name written as neatly as possible in the middle by his father's horrible handwriting. He then looked at the badge, an all-access key to get to every single part of the core facility.

 

“hah... hahahaha...” The skeleton laughed, unable to stop himself as tears collected in the corners of his eye sockets. He tugged the lanyard over his head and wiped at his eyes. “i don't even know why i'm crying. so dumb.”

 

Gaster just smiled and crouched down, reaching out to pull Sans into a hug. It was the first time he felt comfortable initiating affection towards him, unafraid that his son might pull away.

 

But Sans didn't. His comparatively small arms wrapped around the doctor's neck and his face buried into Gaster's sweater. He cried for only a few moments, forcing the tears back as he deemed it quite silly to be crying over getting his PhD.

 

“thanks dad.”

 

Sans didn't even notice what he said, but Gaster certainly did. His grip tightened, fingers clenching at the pristine lab coat covering the baggy hoodie underneath. He couldn't manage to say anything, teeth clenching to try and keep his composure.

 

He leaned his head down, teeth clacking on top of Sans' head.

 

 

The emotions ran high that night. Sans teleported to school to pick up Papyrus nearly jumping out of his new lab coat with the news. It was strange to see his brother so animated. Of course even at his most excitable it was like watching himself on a particularly slow day. Either way it was pleasing to see his brother be so happy.

 

That night they got their favorite takeout and spent the evening watching their favorite movies. In the morning the routine began anew, Sans taking his little brother to school after breakfast and then teleporting back. The difference today was that when he entered the house, Gaster was sat at his desk rather then doing his rounds.

 

“Oh good, you're back.” Gaster smiled and rolled away from his desk on his chair. “I have something I want you to look at.” He pulled a few papers together and handed them to his son once he got closer. “Take your time. Read it carefully.”

 

Sans took the papers, confusion on his face. Slowly he began to read through the calculations and rough scribbles of his father's handwriting. For a moment he wished he was as good as deciphering it as Papyrus.

 

At first it just confused him. Sans looked back and forth at Gaster but the doctor wasn't giving any hints, so instead he walked away and sat down to mull over them. He plopped on the couch, staring and flipping between the pages about ready to give up after awhile when something clicked. The skeleton sat bolt upright and went through it all from top to bottom one last time.

 

“wha-...” Sans scrambled up the couch, leaning over the edge to wave them at the doctor.

 

“is this fucking time travel?”

 

A manic grin spread across Gaster face.

 

“this is fucking time travel!”

 

Sans flopped back into the couch and read over it again as the doctor approached, leaning his lanky frame on the back of the sofa.

 

“You can probably tell it isn't complete and it's very rough around the edges, but yes. I had the idea awhile ago after the King commented about going back in time before everything bad had happened.” Gaster watched with pride as his son flipped through the pages a few more times, then grinned up at him.

 

“you're insane, dings.”

 

“I know.” The doctor beamed before reaching down to snatch the papers back up.

 

“but how is this going to help us break the barrier?”

 

“Well if this works it gives us a few options.” Gaster said as he walked back to his desk and sat down. “There could be a timeline out there that already figured it out, or perhaps a timeline where it never even happened. Maybe there are even other possibilities that I can't comprehend.” He shrugged. “Either way we have to try. I can't be this close to discovering something like time travel and not take it all the way.”

 

He looked over at Sans as he approached, the white lab coat still pulled over his baggy hoodie. “So what do you say? Gonna help me travel through time?”

 

Sans looked at the papers, then at Gaster. An even broader smile than usual crept along his face.

 

“hell yeah.”

 

 

That evening the family sat around as they usually did eating less than healthy foods (much to Papyrus' dismay) and chatting about the day. Of course it mostly consisted of Papyrus talking and Gaster and Sans listening, occasionally adding their two cents. Neither of them seemed to mind, listening to Papyrus make even the most mundane of tasks enthusiastic and interesting was always a highlight of their night.

 

“SO SINCE YOU'RE WORKING FOR DAD NOW, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?” Papyrus asked, finally changing the topic from himself and over to his brother. Sans blinked and looked over to their father, who was busy chomping down on a burger.

 

“If I tell you-” Gaster began with a mouthful.

 

“SWALLOW FIRST!” The boy chided.

 

Gaster groaned and rolled his eyes, chewing before swallowing his food. “If I tell you, you have to promise to keep it a secret from all your friends and teachers at school, alright? No one is to know about it.”

 

“A SECRET? OHHH!” Papyrus grinned and leaned forward. “YES I PROMISE!”

 

Gaster glanced to Sans, allowing him to deliver the blow. They shared a look before he turned to Papyrus and grinned, stars in his eyes.

 

“we're gonna figure out time travel!”

 

Papyrus gasped, hands on his cheeks and eyes going wide enough to see his pupils. “WOWIE! LIKE... TO SEE DINOSAURS?”

 

Gaster chuckled. “Kinda, kiddo. You got the right idea.”

 

“THAT'S SO COOL! OH IT'S GOING TO BE SO HARD NOT TO TELL ANYONE! BUT PAPYRUS ALWAYS KEEPS HIS PROMISES.” He pat his chest with a boney palm. “YOUR SECRET IS SAFE WITH ME.”

 

 

Now that Sans was free of school and working for Gaster, he had begun to develop relationships with the other assistants that worked for him. He was no longer simply known as 'Gaster's boy' but by his own name, and many of them were surprised to find out that he was a pretty funny, charming kid to hang out with. He quickly made friends with most of the staff, a lot of them wondering just how he could come from Gaster at all. Nearly all of them avoided their boss like the plague, he never took kindly to being interrupted and he wasn't a very personable man.

 

Those that saw him interact with Sans, however, got a small glimpse into what Gaster was really like. It was clear he deeply cared for his boys and had the potential to be at least slightly friendly, but any semblance of that usually vanished once Sans and Papyrus were out of the picture.

 

Sans stood around with a few of his coworkers chatting about what they did that weekend. Despite being much younger than all of them he could at least relate to them on an intellectual level. Usually any awkwardness that was brought on by their age difference was easily covered up by his humor. The chatter quickly died down to mumbling as Gaster marched up behind him.

 

“Sans.” His voice was stern, causing the skeleton to jump a little and turn around.

 

“yeah dings?”

 

“I just got a call from school. Some kid really dug into Pap today. It must be bad because they said he's fine but isn't 'himself'.” Gaster turned from stern to worried. “Go pick him up. I want him home.”

 

“... oh. shit. yeah i'm on it.” Sans handed his mug of coffee to Gaster before turning and taking a single step forward, his form flickering out of existence accompanied by the sound of electrical interference.

 

The coworkers he had been talking to stared with their mouths open at the sight. Every time he had used it before he usually hid away, but apparently Papyrus being in trouble didn't warrant that luxury. The small group of monsters then turned and looked at Gaster, still looming over them.

 

The doctor slowly sipped from Sans' mug, eyes narrowing. Each one of them looked away in discomfort before making awkward excuses and going in different directions. Once they were all gone Gaster smiled.

 

“Still got it.”

 

--

 

Sans appeared just outside the school and walked in, hands deep into the pockets of his lab coat. He headed straight for the principal's office, only needing to peak inside before she knew what he was after and directed him to the nurse. He headed there next.

 

Papyrus was inside curled up on one of the beds. Sans was quick to walk over and lean down to look at his face. He could tell he had been crying and the usual broad smile was gone.

 

Sans placed a hand on his arm. “hey pap... you okay?”

 

Papyrus nodded, but said nothing.

 

“pap... you don't look ok, bro. are you hurt? did somebody hurt you?”

 

He shook his head.

 

Sans sighed and straightened up. “you're not lying to me are you? please don't lie to me.”

 

“I'M NOT LYING.” Papyrus finally said, his voice softer than usual but still managing to be loud.

 

“... ok. i believe you. you wanna go home?” He held out his hand. Papyrus stared at it for a moment and looked away, but eventually reached out to take it.

 

His brother helped him off the bed and lead him outside, thanking the nurse and grabbing his things before they started to leave. Sans glanced over at him, nearly having to start looking up now that Papyrus was getting so tall. He realized that his little brother would probably end up just as tall as Gaster.

 

Half his age and already his height. Jeeze.

 

The two walked out of the school and began to make their way to the core. It was bizarre having Papyrus so quite. Unnatural.

 

“do you wanna talk about it?” Sans asked, holding his hand as they moved along. Papyrus shook his head.

 

Sans couldn't hide his concern. This was so unlike his brother. Of course there had been times Papyrus cried but it was usually over something silly like stubbing his toe as a little kid or throwing a tantrum like children sometimes do. This was... this was something new. Something had really gotten to him and now he wasn't talking.

 

Papyrus loved to talk.

 

“s-so...” Sans began, not used to starting the conversation at all. “was school ok?” He asked, then realized what a dumb question that was.

 

“sorry. dumb of me to ask.” He hung his head and more silence passed between them. As they got closer to the core he finally stepped a little faster to get in front of his brother. Sans took his shoulders and looked him square in the eye sockets.

 

“bro, please. this really isn't like you. are you really not going to tell me what happened?”

 

Papyrus returned his stare, his mouth wobbling a little. He then looked away and shook his head.

 

Sans sighed and hung his head before letting out a bitter laugh. “man you're killin' me here. but... ok.” He looked back up at him and took his hand again as they started walking. “just... im here, ok? you ever wanna tell me, no matter what im doing you just come and i'll listen. i'm always here for you. never think i'm not.”

 

The rest of their walk back home was in silence. After they arrived Papyrus went to his room and closed the door. Sans found himself lingering outside it, stressing himself stupid over what could have possibly happened to make his little brother shut himself off so completely.

 

Chapter Text

After awhile of lingering outside the bedroom he shared with Papyrus, Sans finally decided it would be a good idea to tell their father what had happened. He took his usual shortcut from their home to the main area of the core and began to look around for him, eventually finding the scientist talking to one of his subordinates.

 

“dings, i got pap.”

 

Gaster stopped what he was doing to turn around and face the skeleton half his height. “Oh. Good. How is he?” He made a dismissive gesture to his assistant before turning all of his attention to Sans.

 

“not... not good. he won't talk to me, dings. something is really wrong. he didn't talk all the way home and now he's just... lying in bed.” He fumbled around with his hands as he spoke, unsure of what to do or how to handle the situation. This was new and it wasn't exactly science.

 

“Papyrus won't talk to you?” The doctor asked in disbelief, his eye sockets widening. “Wow, uh...” He rubbed the back of his skull and looked around the hallway nervously, his other hand signing out of anxiety. “That's... that's bad. Is he okay? Is he hurt?”

 

“he said nobody hurt him. the school just said some kids were picking on him today, they didn't push him or anything like that, but they must have said something to him to make him like this.” Sans said, looking just as nervous. “maybe... you should try talking to him?” He looked up at Gaster.

 

“Me?!” The doctor gestured to himself, sounding alarmed at the mere thought. “Why would you think Papyrus would talk to me over you?”

 

“just... i dunno, man.” Sans shrugged and then grabbed his father's coat, gently pushing him in the direction of their living quarters. “go try. he's not getting any better.”

 

Gaster grumbled and began walking, looking back at Sans. “Okay but if this doesn't work it isn't my fault.”

 

 

A short while later and he had made it to their home, everything oddly silent. It was hard to believe Papyrus was even inside the dark, sad little house that had once been a lab.

 

“Pap?” Gaster called out, but got no response. He approached the boy's bedroom and peeked inside, his youngest son curled up under the blankets still in his school clothes. This was a scenario he expected with Sans, not Papyrus.

 

The doctor stepped inside and closed the door, approaching the bed to sit down on the edge and look down at Papyrus. He could tell he had been crying. “Pap... what's wrong, kiddo? Why aren't you talking to Sans?” Gaster asked, his expression somber.

 

There was no reply.

 

“Papy come on.” He reached out to touch Papyrus' arm, rubbing a hand along his humerus. “Why aren't you talking? I'm not good at this, kid.” Gaster laughed bitterly at himself.

 

“DO YOU THINK I'M STUPID?”

 

There was a long, drawn out pause until Gaster's brain finally computed what his son had asked.

 

“... What?”

 

“DO YOU THINK I'M STUPID?” Papyrus repeated, turning to look up at his father, tears gathering in his eye sockets.

 

“... What?” Gaster repeated again, suddenly looking angry. “What!? Who told you that!?”

 

Papyrus shook his head and hid his face into his pillow.

 

“Oh no, no. You can't open with that and then go quiet.” Gaster reached for his son's shoulder and gently pulled him out of hiding. He coaxed Papyrus to sit up, firmly grasping his shoulders and looking him square in the eyes.

 

“Did someone say you were dumb? Because that is fucking wrong. You're one of the smartest boys your age I have ever known and don't you dare let anyone tell you otherwise.”

 

Papyrus started to cry gently. “BUT I'M NOT AS GOOD IN SCHOOL AS SANS WAS AND YOU ALWAYS GO OFF DOING COOL SCIENCE STUFF WITH HIM! YOU NEVER DO THAT WITH ME! IS IT BECAUSE I'M NOT SMART ENOUGH?”

 

“What? No. No! Never!” Gaster shook his head. “I do this stuff because Sans is older! You're too young to-”

 

“BUT YOU DID THINGS WITH HIM WHEN HE WAS MY AGE. YOU'D TAKE HIM AWAY AND SHOW HIM THINGS IN THE CORE AND TEACH HIM ALL SORTS OF STUFF EVEN WHEN HE WASN'T IN SCHOOL. WHY WON'T YOU DO THOSE THINGS WITH ME?”

 

Papyrus looked up at him, cheek bones wet with tears and his arms hanging limply at his sides. The doctor didn't know what to say.

 

He felt his grip loosen, hands falling off Papyrus' shoulders to come to a rest in his lap. Gaster knew the reason why. But... he wasn't sure if he wanted his precious, innocent Papyrus to know.

 

“I CAN BE SMART! I CAN BE AS SMART AS BROTHER! YOU JUST...” The little skeleton started to sob. “... YOU JUST NEVER GIVE ME A CHANCE...”

 

Papyrus cried, his head hanging low and his scrawny arms wiping at his tears. Gaster sat on the edge of the bed without a word.

 

Eventually he reached over onto one of the neatly organized toy shelves over Papyrus' bed and grabbed his Rubik's cube. He held it out to Papyrus, who stared at it in confusion.

 

“You know how old you were when you solved this?”

 

“UM...” Papyrus sniffled and wiped his nose on his arm.

 

“You were five. I know adults who can't solve this.” He gestured for Papyrus to take the puzzle and handed it to him.

 

“BUT... IT'S SO EASY...”

 

“It's easy because you're smart.” Gaster smiled and tapped a single digit between his son's eyes.

 

“BUT...” Papyrus mumbled again, his eyes looking down at the cube in his hands. “THEN WHY DON'T YOU TEACH ME ALL THE THINGS YOU TEACH SANS? HOW COME YOU WORK TOGETHER ALL THE TIME AND LEAVE ME OUT?”

 

Gaster's smile faded. “We... we don't leave you out, Pap. We just have a different kind of relationship is all.” He tried to explain without really saying why.

 

“BUT... WHY? I WANT THAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU!”

 

“No you don't!” The doctor snapped, instantly regretting it as he watched Papyrus flinch away. The boy's teeth began to wobble, tears gathering in the corners of his eye sockets yet again.

 

“No, no. Pap I didn't mean to yell.” Gaster reached out, gently taking hold of his son and pulling him tightly against his chest. He pet his head, teeth clacking on his skull in a kiss. As Papyrus cried into his sweater he sighed and bounced the white dots of his eyes around the room. After awhile he closed them tightly and pulled the boy back to look him in the eyes.

 

“Papyrus. I'm going to tell you why things between Sans and I are different. I'm.. I'm not proud of what I did and I won't make you promise not to hate me, but I won't be surprised if you do.”

 

Papyrus blinked away his tears and cocked his head slightly to the side in confusion. “I DON'T THINK THERE'S ANYTHING YOU COULD EVER DO TO MAKE ME HATE YOU.”

 

Gaster could only smile meekly and rub his son's skull before taking a deep breath. “Okay, well...”

 

His story began. He told Papyrus of his initial reason for making Sans, to essentially be a test-tube baby super soldier riddled with enough DT to make even the strongest human look like a plaything. He told him of how he had messed up and ended up caring for Sans almost from the very start as a baby, but had continued the experiments. Papyrus learned that all the tests and practices were to mold his brother into the perfect vessel to be able to destroy the barrier and possibly help them defeat the humans beyond, then how it all went... horribly wrong.

 

The doctor confessed that he felt more regret for treating Sans the way he had and nearly killing him than anything else in his entire life. Never before had he been so connected to another living being and care so deeply. He told Papyrus why he had originally been made, to give Sans a family. He explained that he didn't think Sans would ever really see him as his true father and he had come to terms with that, he didn't blame him for any hate he felt. It was all perfectly reasonable.

 

That was why he went out of his way to teach Sans so much. That was why he pushed him to become more and more. He felt the least he could do was give Sans the most precious thing he had; his wealth of knowledge and everything he had ever worked towards. It was the closest he would ever be to giving over his entire soul for what he had done to him.

 

In the end Gaster was sat on the edge of the bed, feet on the floor and body hunched over. His thumbs dug into the center of his skull, eyes staring vacantly at the floor. Papyrus had been silent throughout his entire monologue. When it was all over the little skeleton moved forward, arms wrapping around his father and hugging him tightly. The doctor sat up with a start and looked back at him.

 

“I DON'T HATE YOU, DAD. YOU DID EVERYTHING FOR THE MONSTERS WHO LIVE HERE, RIGHT? I KNOW YOU LOVE SANS... AND ME. I KNOW SANS LOVES YOU TOO EVEN IF HE DOESN'T SAY IT.”

 

The doctor sat there for a long moment in a mix of disbelief and serenity. Knowing Papyrus didn't hate him for what he did was more than he could ever hope for. Finally he let out a sigh he felt like he had been holding in for hours. A tiny laugh escaped between his teeth.

 

“Why are you so damn good, Pap?”

 

Papyrus smiled and sat back on his knees beside his father. “BECAUSE I HAVE A GREAT DAD AND AN EVEN GREATER BROTHER!”

 

Gaster just chuckled and shook his head. He really had no idea why Papyrus was such a precious, kind little thing. An arm wrapped around him, pulling the skeleton in tight. A comfortable silence washed over them for a few nice, relaxing moments.

 

“So...” The doctor began, looking down at his son. “How come you didn't say any of this to your brother?”

 

Papyrus made a face. “HM... WELL... I LOVE BROTHER BUT HE TELLS ME WHAT I WANT TO HEAR ALL THE TIME, EVEN IF IT ISN'T TRUE. HE DOESN'T WANT TO HURT MY FEELINGS.”

 

Gaster couldn't help but laugh. “That's very true. Sans loves you more than anything in the world, you know.”

 

“I KNOW.” Papyrus smiled. “AND I LOVE HIM.” He then looked up at his father. “AND YOU.”

 

The doctor smiled and rubbed Papyrus' skull.

 

“I love you too, kiddo.”

 

 

The two sat together for awhile until there was a knock on the door. Slowly Sans' head peeked inside, having been pacing around the facility worrying himself sick before finally deciding it was getting nowhere and coming back home.

 

“heya... so...” He began awkwardly, unsure of where he was taking what he was saying. Papyrus didn't care. The little skeleton climbed off the bed and walked over to Sans, arms wrapping around his neck and pulling him close into a hug.

 

Sans was confused at first, but he wasn't about to ever turn down a hug from his brother. He smiled and returned the gesture. As a sigh of relief left through his teeth he looked over at Gaster, who suddenly wasn't looking so happy.

 

“um...” Sans' expression fell and he pulled back to look at Papyrus. “so... is everything ok now? are you ok, pap?”

 

“YES. I'M OKAY.” Papyrus smiled and nodded.

 

“He knows.” Gaster finally said, breaking his silence. His left eye dropped to match the permanent slouch of the right and his pupils dimmed. “I had to tell him.”

 

Sans looked confused at first, then angry. “wha-... what? why!?”

 

The two had come to some sort of silent agreement over the years that Papyrus was never to know of either of their actions before his birth. For Gaster it had been because he was afraid his youngest son would hate him. For Sans it was because he didn't want Papyrus to worry about him. But now that didn't matter.

 

Sans pushed passed his brother and stormed towards his creator, but was stopped as Papyrus snatched up his arm.

 

“SANS.” He frowned, his brother turning to face him. “DON'T HATE HIM. IT ISN'T HIS FAULT. I KEPT PRESSING HIM TO TELL ME WHY HE DIDN'T TREAT ME THE SAME AS HE TREATED YOU.”

 

Sans relaxed slightly, his gaze turning back to Gaster as the scientist sat slumped on the bed. Papyrus deemed it safe to let go of his brother's arm.

 

“A FEW KIDS AT SCHOOL WERE CALLING ME STUPID. I... STARTED TO BELIEVE THEM.” Papyrus frowned and hugged himself thinking back on it all. “THAT MADE ME THINK OF ALL THE COOL SCIENCE STUFF YOU DO WITH DAD AND HOW HE NEVER DID ANY OF IT WITH ME.” Papyrus looked away from them both and down at the floor.

 

“I THOUGHT IT WAS BECAUSE I WAS STUPID. BUT...” He smiled and his eyes moved back up, bouncing between his family members. “HE TOLD ME THAT ISN'T TRUE.”

 

Sans looked at Papyrus, then to his father. “but why did you have to tell him everything? he didn't have to know.”

 

Gaster kept his gaze downward, hands folded in his lap.

 

“I DID.” Papyrus argued softly, or as softly as he could with his naturally loud voice. “HE HAD TO TELL ME WHY HE DID IT. IT'S BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU, BROTHER. HE WANTS TO MAKE UP FOR EVERYTHING.” He smiled and took Sans' shoulder to get him to look at him. “I DON'T HATE DAD FOR WHAT HE DID AND I DON'T THINK ANY DIFFERENTLY OF YOU, SO DON'T WORRY. EVERYTHING IS OKAY.”

 

Sans was silent for a few moments before he finally sighed and reached out to hug Papyrus once more. “as long as you're happy and talking again pap, that's all that matters.”

 

The two embraced, holding it there and enjoying each others company before Papyrus broke it to suddenly drag Sans over to their father. He grabbed Gaster's hand and yanked him to his feet, the doctor blinking and staring at him oddly.

 

“COME! IT'S TIME FOR A FAMILY GROUP HUG!” He beamed, throwing himself around Gaster and then looking at Sans expectantly.

 

Sans stared for a moment before sighing and shrugging his shoulders lazily. “if you say so, bro.”

 

He hugged around Gaster even if it was a little awkward and the doctor hugged them both back.

 

 

Figuring out time travel was hard. The following months were filled with much groaning and complaining, especially on Sans' part. Even though he had assistants helping too, the two of them always brought their work home after everyone else had left to keep on going.

 

Sans and Gaster sat slumped over their work, the doctor mindlessly spinning a pencil and staring vacantly at a wall while Sans sat with his head flopped onto the table. They had been trying to figure out a certain element pertaining to their work for days now and it just wasn't coming together.

 

“wait... wait!” Sans sat up, eyes wide. He braced himself on the counter as he thought he suddenly had the answer. Then he relaxed.

 

“no... no never mind, that doesn't make sense.”

 

“UGH.” Gaster flicked the pencil at Sans, the writing implement bouncing off his skull and landing who knew where. Before he could grab another the phone rang. He reached over to pick it up.

 

“Hello?” The doctor picked idly at his teeth and leaned back in his chair, then stopped abruptly and sat up. “Oh. Oh shit. We'll be right there.” He slammed the receiver down and looked at Sans.

 

“what?”

 

“You forgot to pick Pap up from school.”

 

The two stared at each other for a long moment before Sans nearly fell off his chair getting up, the seat still spinning as he teleported away and to the front of the school. He jogged up to the steps where Papyrus was sat waiting.

 

“s-... sorry bro.” He huffed, having gone from sitting for hours to sudden panic in an instant.

 

Papyrus frowned. “IT'S VERY UNLIKE YOU TO FORGET TO COME WALK ME HOME. ARE YOU AND DAD STILL WORKING ON THAT...” He stopped to look around. “... THING?”

 

“yeah...” Sans inhaled deeply and reached out to take his brother's hand. As soon as he did they turned, zapping out of one instance to end up outside their house. Papyrus grimaced.

 

“I HATE IT WHEN YOU DO THAT. WHY COULDN'T WE JUST HAVE WALKED?”

 

They stepped inside, the entire living area and small side lab overloaded with papers and books. Gaster was still in his chair, head leaned back and staring at the ceiling balancing a cup on his face. Papyrus' frown deepened.

 

“THIS IS GETTING RIDICULOUS, YOU TWO NEED A BREAK. YOU'RE BOTH GETTING STIR CRAZY.”

 

“it ain't that bad, pap.” Sans tried to convince him, but Gaster had to agree.

 

“No, I think Pap is right.” He moved the cup off his head and looked at the ceiling, pencils and spitballs covering the tiles from both Sans and himself. “I think we need to get away from it for a few days. We're not getting anywhere.”

 

“NYEH-HEH!” Papyrus grinned, hands on his hips. “OF COURSE I'M RIGHT.”

 

“I've got an old drinking buddy I haven't seen in awhile who lives in Snowdin. I wouldn't mind popping in to visit and relaxing for a few days. I think you boys will like it there too.” Gaster looked over at them.

 

“OH BOY! I LOVE THE SNOW!”

 

It snowed occasionally in the capitol but not often, and when you got closer to the heat of the core snow was impossible.

 

“i've got no complaints.” Sans shrugged.

 

“Then it's settled. I'll give him a call and we'll take a few days off.” Gaster looked back at the ceiling, tossing a pencil upwards and watching it get stuck.

 

 

A few days later and the three of them had made it to Snowdin. The tiny little village was lively but small, it's small community knowing everyone and everything that went on in it's own bubble of the underground.

 

“WHAT'S YOUR FRIEND'S NAME?”

 

“Grillby. He's ex-military. We used to unwind together during the war whenever we were able. He's a monster of few words... I think that's why we got along so well.” Gaster smirked, “Nice guy.”

 

They passed a rowdy group of children playing, Papyrus needing to be dragged along by Sans so he didn't instantly run off to play with them despite probably being older than every one of them.

 

“Here we are.” Gaster stopped in front of a tavern, the sign reading 'closed' on the door. He knocked.

 

“closed?” Sans asked, a brow raised.

 

“He said it would be, give him a minute.”

 

They stood and waited, eventually a light from inside turning on and the door opening. On the other side stood a smartly dressed monster made of fire, a tiny pair of spectacles floating where his nose would be.

 

“Long time no see.” Gaster smiled, the two shaking hands firmly before they all stepped inside and the door was closed behind them.

 

Grillby looked down at Sans and Papyrus, Gaster following his gaze and then gesturing to each one.

 

“That's Sans, this is Papyrus. Boys, meet Grillby.”

 

“hey.”

 

“HELLO MR. GRILLBY.”

 

“... They look just like you...” The monster finally spoke, his voice crackling like fire.

 

“Well, yeah. They're clones.” Gaster smirked.

 

Grillby stared at the doctor. “... I should have known...” He turned to head back behind the bar. “... No other monster could put up with you enough to procreate...”

 

Gaster laughed as he removed his scarf and hung it on the coat rack by the door. The three of them took their seats at the bar, Grillby going about getting them something to drink.

 

“How's this working out for you? Liking the quiet away from the capitol?”

 

Grillby nodded.

 

“HOW DO YOU KNOW DAD, MR. GRILLBY?” Papyrus asked, eagerly taking his drink as it was given to him.

 

“We both loved getting drunk.” Gaster chuckled.

 

“... War...” Grillby added, the doctor snorting through his nasal cavity.

 

“That too.”

 

 

The conversation between them was pretty lighthearted. Gaster was interested to hear about how Grillby's life was going and his relationships while Grillby was interested to hear about what the doctor had been up to for nearly the past 20 or so years.

 

They ate and chatted, Papyrus eventually asking to go play with the local kids and leaving the adults to do the talking. Once he was gone the subjects turned a little darker.

 

“So, uh... you holding up okay?” The doctor asked, swirling his drink in its glass.

 

Grillby said nothing, instead glancing at Sans.

 

“Don't worry about him. He doesn't look like it but he's nearly 20 now.”

 

“hey.” Sans frowned between bites of his burger.

 

Gaster just shrugged and smiled. “Sorry shortstack.”

 

Grillby was silent for another few long moments, his head moving to indicate he was probably looking down at his drink. “... I've been alright... Better since I moved away from the city...”

 

“That's good.”

 

Silence stretched between them.

 

“... What about you...?”

 

“Eh, you know me. The times I was out there it didn't really bother me. It still doesn't.” Gaster shrugged and took a drink. “I haven't changed much.”

 

“... You have...”

 

“Eh?” Gaster gave the living fire an odd look.

 

“... You're not as loud... or twitchy... I think your boys have helped you a lot from what I can see...”

 

The doctor mumbled a little but didn't make any real comment on Grillby's words. Sans meanwhile finished his burger and dropped down off the bar stool.

 

“i'm gonna go check on pap.”

 

Sans left the bar and looked around, hands shoved into his pockets. He could hear the kids yelling, their voices carried over by the wind. He started to walk towards them, knowing that Papyrus would want to be anywhere there was fun to be had.

 

As he got closer he saw his brother running around the trees, a group of kids chasing him and throwing snowballs. From a distance it looked like good, clean fun, but the closer he became it was obvious they were ganging up on him. Sans frowned and blipped from one spot to another, stepping out from behind a tree just in time to intercept Papyrus and pull him behind some bushes with him.

 

“HELLO BROTHER! WE'RE SNOWBALL FIGHTING!”

 

“you are, are ya?” Sans smiled, watching as his brother happily started to make a snowball with his mitten-clad digits.

 

“YES! ALTHOUGH NONE OF THEM WANTED TO BE ON MY TEAM. NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE WE HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN!”

 

“is that so?”

 

He peeked over the bushes, a snowball coming hurdling in his direction that was narrowly avoided.

 

“Go back to the capitol, city-slickers!” One kid yelled out, which was followed by the triumphant cheers of his friends. Sans frowned, his eye flickering blue and yellow. He closed his sockets and took a few deep breaths to calm himself down. When he opened them again Papyrus was still happily making them an arsenal of snowballs to throw.

 

“hey, uh... pap. dad wanted me to come and get you. we gotta check into the inn.” Sans lied.

 

“AWWW, ALREADY?” Papyrus pouted and looked down at his stack of snowballs. “BUT I JUST MADE ALL OF THESE!”

 

“no worries, pap. let your big bro handle this.” Sans peeked through the bushes, counting the children still throwing snowballs in their direction before grabbing the same amount of his own with his telekinesis. They raised into the air before being flung forward, each one hitting their mark and nailing the kids in the head or face. They yelled and groaned, some of them falling over.

 

That would sting for awhile.

 

Sans smiled victoriously and stood up, taking his little brother's hand and walking back towards the center of town. As they passed the children still sat in the snow Sans lingered, letting Papyrus walk ahead.

 

“hey.” He turned to look down at the kids sitting in the snow, his pupils gone.

 

Gang up on my little bro again and those will be rocks next time.

 

“SANS? WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WE CAN PLAY WITH OUR NEW FRIENDS LATER!” Papyrus called back once he realized his brother wasn't by his side.

 

“coming bro!” Sans smiled, casting one more hollow gaze at the kids flinching away from him before he followed Papyrus back to Grillby's.

 

 

The rest of their little holiday went off without a hitch. After a few days in Snowdin they all headed back home to the capitol and resumed work and school. Papyrus had been right, those few days off had helped them in the long run. The equations the team had been stuck on were solved within the next few days and progress continued, or at least until they hit another bump in the road.

 

Papyrus was sat on the couch watching TV when the yelling outside growing ever closer started to drown out his program. He turned to the door just in time to see Gaster step inside looking tired. Sans was behind him, looking... well... pretty angry.

 

“i can't believe you don't see it.”

 

“It's because it's wrong.”

 

“but it isn't!” Sans yelled, his eye flickering blue. A coffee mug started to float, Gaster snatching it up and shoved it down again.

 

“You need to calm down before you start breaking shit in here too!” He yelled.

 

This only made Sans more mad. His eye flared and a few more items started to hover. He clenched his hands in front of him and growled, but stopped as soon as he saw Papyrus peeking up over the couch at them.

 

“gah!” The stout skeleton threw up his hands and stormed to his room, slamming the door behind him. Everything that had been floating around him fell.

 

“WHAT'S GOING ON?” Papyrus asked tentatively.

 

“Sans and I are just having an argument over the thing we're working on is all.” Gaster sighed and removed his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose. “Which happens, but your brother's magic correlates with his mental state of being sometimes and he's already made a mess of the other lab.”

 

He sighed and flopped down onto the couch beside his son. “Don't worry too much about it. Sans will calm down.”

 

Papyrus didn't look so certain, but tried to trust in his father's judgment and stayed put. He continued to watch his TV show, occasionally glancing over at Gaster until he finally noticed him slowly falling asleep. It had been a rough, busy few months and the doctor already didn't sleep much.

 

Quietly he stood up and approached the bedroom he shared with Sans. Peeking inside he could see a few of their things floating around the room, his brother face-down into his pillow.

 

“BROTHER?” He asked as quietly as he could, which still wasn't very soft at all. Sans didn't reply.

 

Papyrus frowned and stepped in, closing the door behind him. He pushed his way through the mess on his brother's side of the room, grabbing one of his books floating in the air to set neatly on his desk only to watch another float upwards. He sighed and sat on the edge of the bed, reaching out to place a hand on his back.

 

“EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY, BROTHER.”

 

Silence passed, Papyrus gently petting his brother. Slowly but surely each item floating around the room fell until nothing was left. Sans sighed into his pillow and finally turned to look over at his brother.

 

“i know. i was just angry is all. we're stuck on this one part of what we're workin' on and dings just won't believe i'm right. it's so obvious though. i don't understand.”

 

“WELL... MAYBE IT ISN'T?” Papyrus shrugged.

 

“what do you mean?”

 

“MAYBE IT ISN'T OBVIOUS? DAD IS A VERY SMART MONSTER. NOT TO SAY YOU AREN'T, OF COURSE, BUT...” The skeleton trailed off and frowned. “I DON'T KNOW. I JUST DON'T WANT YOU TWO BEING MAD AT ONE ANOTHER.”

 

More silence, but it was a comfortable one. With time Sans finally sat up and grabbed a piece of paper from the side of his bed. He started to scribble down what he remembered they were working on and stared at it for awhile. As time went on he sighed and his head flopped back down.

 

“dings was right.”

 

Papyrus looked back at him. “ARE YOU SURE?”

 

“yeah. man...” Sans sighed and rubbed his skull. “i've been a jerk about it all day too.”

 

“YOU SHOULD GO APOLOGIZE.”

 

“... yeah.” Sans stood and pulled himself off the bed, patting his little brother's shoulder. “thanks pap.”

 

He walked out and into the living room, peeking around the couch at a sleeping Gaster before he flopped down onto the cushions with more force than usual. The scientist mumbled and looked up, surprised to see his eldest son sat beside him and in a calmer state of mind.

 

“sorry dings, you were right.”

 

Gaster groaned sleepily and rubbed the corners of his eye sockets. “I know, kiddo. It's okay.” He paused to yawn and leaned his head back on his hand, closing his eyes. “You don't have to apologize. All you gotta do is clean up the mess you made.”

 

“oh... yeah.” Sans frowned, recalling the things that had been throw around involuntarily at the peak of his anger. Before he could really start hating himself, a hand reached over to pat his skull.

 

“Don' worry 'bout it...” The doctor mumbled, his body starting to relax as he slowly drifted off to sleep.

 

 

More weeks passed until, finally, they made a massive breakthrough. The calculations were finished and then the machine was built. As the moment of truth came, the contraption whirred to life.

 

It worked.

 

The entire team that had been creating it went mental. Gaster, Sans, and the other monsters couldn't contain themselves. There was screaming, yelling, and very soon after, a lot of drinking. Once the celebrations with the crew were finished, the two skeletons made their way home to Papyrus.

 

“PAP! PAAAAP!” Gaster yelled as he nearly kicked down the door, a bottle of champagne half empty in his hand.

 

His son stared, sat at the kitchen table doing his homework. As Sans stumbled in behind their father, Gaster rushed over to him and wrapped his arms around the lanky skeleton, smothering his head with tiny kisses as his teeth clinked against his skull.

 

“AH! AHH! WHAT?!” The skeleton flailed at his tipsy father.

 

“IT WORKS! IT MONITORS TIMELINES! WE DID IT!” He thrust his arms into the air victoriously, Papyrus only able to stare on. Behind him Sans drunkenly shuffled to the couch and immediately passed out.

 

“IS... IS SANS DRUNK?” Papyrus narrowed his eyes.

 

“NOT AS DRUNK AS I'LL BE HERE IN A MINUTE!” Gaster boasted before tipping the entire bottle of champagne down his mouth.

 

“UGH...” Papyrus grimaced. How was he related to these two?

 

 

While time travel was on the horizon, a lot of data needed to be taken before anyone was willing to actually try it. Months and months worth of information came out of the machine, every single thing logged and categorized.

 

What they found was... strange.

 

Gaster stood with Sans and his colleagues, every one of them staring at a large whiteboard filled with data they had collected.

 

“This doesn't make any sense.” The doctor scratched his skull with the back end of a marker. “Look.” He circled a large area of the data and then a small area on the other side. “This is our timeline right here.” He tapped the small circle. “But as you get further out it just... goes to hell.” He tapped on the large circled area, the data becoming an absolute mess and difficult to track.

 

“Something has to be causing this. Some sort of anomaly.”

 

“Do you think it would be because of the barrier? A massive change in history?” One of the assistants pondered aloud, but Gaster just shook his head.

 

“I don't think so. It's effecting multiple timelines, whatever it is. Nothing makes sense the closer you get to this section of timespace. It's like... something is effectively killing and creating new timelines just... willy-nilly.” The doctor gestured with his hands.

 

“what do you think we should do, dings?” Sans asked, hands in his pockets as he looked up at the whiteboard.

 

“We should stay away from this mess is what we should do.” Gaster said as he pointed to the large collection of confusing information. “Other than that we keep moving forward.”

 

The doctor and his crew continued to collect data into the following year. It was only once they were sure where to go that they began on the actual time travel itself. As the staff began to put their theory into practice, Gaster stood and watched. Sans and even Papyrus had joined him, both standing by his side as he flipped through lab reports.

 

“Dark... darker... yet darker.” The doctor narrowed his eyes as he read, his voice growing more curious with each word. “The darkness keeps growing, the shadows cutting deeper. Photon readings: negative.” He looked up and smiled, watching as his staff continued to finish the machine for actual time travel. “This next experiment seems very, very interesting... What do you two think?” He looked to his boys.

 

“we've come this far.” Sans smiled and shrugged.

 

“SOUNDS WORRISOME TO ME.” Papyrus frowned.

 

“do you think it's the space between timelines you're seeing?”

 

“It could very well be.” Gaster handed the reports to Sans. “I can't think of what else it could possibly be if we're finding negative photons.”

 

--

 

Time passed and progress on the time machine was going well. While Sans went to fetch Papyrus from school Gaster stayed back as he usually did to toil away. The day had gone as normal and the two boys drew closer and closer to the core, Papyrus talking about his day and Sans happily listening to every word. As they drew closer a sound they had only heard once before started to play.

 

It was the alarm. Something had gone wrong. Both brothers could feel their nonexistent guts twist.

 

“stay here!” Sans urged his brother, not even bothering for him to reply before he teleported away.

 

“SANS!” Papyrus reached for him, but it was too late. He frowned and shifted his backpack before beginning a sprint into the core's facility.

 

Sans appeared outside the lab the time machine was inside, the entire building shaking. He could hear monsters screaming from behind the door. He reached for the handle and tried to yank it open, but it felt like 20 people were holding it closed from the other side. He took a step back, eye flaring blue and yellow and yanked the entire door off the hinges. What he saw on the other side made him freeze in fear.

 

Where the machine had been was just a void; an ever increasing mass of solid black with no light able to penetrate it. Some of the crew had already been sucked in during the initial implosion, their forms little more than solid black blobs hanging around the edges of the ever increasing mass.

 

Gaster was at it's edge, his feet enveloped by the darkness. He didn't seem to notice that his son was nearby.

 

“d-... dings!” Sans yelled, rushing forward. The skeleton stopped by his side, grabbing his shoulders and shaking him, trying to pull him away, but it felt like he was nailed in place.

 

Slowly Gaster turned, a crack running down his good eye and leading to his mouth. A few of his teeth had been knocked out as well and his glasses were nowhere to be found. Upon seeing Sans he seemed to get some of his wits back.

 

“S-Sans... you gotta get Pap.” He mumbled, voice picking up speed as he regained his thoughts. “Go get him and teleport as far away as you possibly can.”

 

“wha- no! dude we gotta get you out of here!” Sans yanked on him again, but the darkness was creeping further and further up Gaster's legs.

 

“SANS!” Gaster grasped at his coat and shook him roughly, suddenly becoming serious. “GET PAPYRUS AND GO!”

 

As soon as the words escaped his mouth the familiar tall skeleton slid into the doorway, huffing and puffing. His expression fell further than it ever had before. “D-... DAD?”

 

The doctor grit what teeth he had left and roughly shoved Sans back towards his brother. The hum caused by the increasing darkness was growing louder and louder. He had a good feeling what would be coming soon.

 

Gaster summoned one of his blasters and pointed it at the ceiling, giving them no warning as it shot a massive hole in the roof. His hand then outstretched, grabbing Sans and Papyrus by their souls.

 

“GRAB HIM! I'M GIVING YOU A HEAD START!”

 

“WH- DAD!” Papyrus scrambled for Gaster, Sans barely having enough time to clutch onto him before they were both flung into the sky.

 

He tossed them as far upward as he could, knowing now Sans would have no choice but to teleport them as far as he could manage. Papyrus screamed and screamed, able to do nothing but reach downward as the tiny image of their father grew smaller and smaller. Sans watched too, unable to feel anything but panic as the darkness grew.

 

Gaster watched his boys sail into the air, forcing his eyes away and to the darkness around his waist. He sighed and closed his eyes.

 

The blackness exploded outward without the slightest noise or breeze.

 

It began to swallow everything. Sans watched as it drew closer and closer, panic setting in. He grabbed Papyrus as tightly as he could and teleported as far as he could ever remember, but it was too late.

 

It grabbed them. Everything went black. The explosion had been utterly silent, swallowing everything like a whale in one quick gulp. Now everything was gone.

 

There was only black.

 

There was no noise.

 

There was no wind.

 

There was nothing.

 

Sans could feel Papyrus screaming in his arms but couldn't see him, as though his eyes had simply ceased to exist. He held onto him as tightly as he could and teleported... and teleported... and teleported.

 

He did it again and again and again, desperately trying to get him and his brother out of the void they had been sucked into. The more he did it the more he could feel his grip on Papyrus weaken. He felt like he was getting smaller in his arms, slipping away between his fingers.

 

It was then he realized that he couldn't breath. He hadn't been breathing. He couldn't breath. There was no air.

 

There was nothing.

 

Nothing.

 

In a last, desperate attempt, Sans opened his eyes as wide as he could. His one eye socket flickered blue and yellow and, for the first time, he could make out color. In the far distance was the faintest, tiniest dot of light.

 

He clutched what he only assumed was Papyrus and with the last bit of strength he could muster, teleported them one last time towards what he saw.

 

They collided with something and for the first time in what felt like hours, they could feel.

 

They were falling.

 

Sans felt around in his arms, unsure of what he was holding onto was Papyrus or just his arm, or a piece of clothing, but he clung to it as tightly as he could. He didn't have the energy to get them to the ground safely.

 

The cold air rushed all around him and he exhaled the breath he had taken right before the void had swallowed them.

 

The last thing he saw was his own arm reaching upwards.

 

He hit the ground, feeling cold all around him only for a second before everything went black.

 

Chapter Text

The first thing Sans felt was the cold.

 

Even as a skeleton he was chilled, the snow having piled in small hills over his body. At first all he could hear was ringing in his skull and the coppery, tingling taste of magic in his mouth. It was a flavor he knew all too well.

 

As the ringing stopped it was replaced by the howling wind around him which became clearer and clearer. Then it was accompanied by something familiar. Something he had heard before but not for a very long time.

 

It was crying.

 

Sans forced himself to open his eyes, everything a hazy white around him. Snow had fallen into his eye sockets, making his vision blur and twist. He tried to lift his head but only managed a few inches before he couldn't raise it any higher.

 

“p-... pap...” He mumbled, the dots of his eyes barely flickering to life. That crying was Papyrus, no doubt about it now. But it sounded... strange.

 

The crying stopped abruptly, replaced by the sound of shuffling snow. There was a thud beside him. Sans could just barely make out a small figure by his side.

 

“SANS!”

 

Papyrus' voice sounded different.

 

Sans groaned and turned his head, the snow dumping out of his eye sockets with the help of gravity. Slowly his vision started to come back, the dots of his eyes dim but there. He focused on the figure beside him.

 

It was Papyrus.

 

It was a tiny, two-year-old Papyrus.

 

There was little he could do but stare. After the initial shock he looked at what his little brother was wearing and it was the same shirt he had worn to school that day, only now much too big for him and torn around the edges.

 

With great difficulty he sat himself up, Papyrus reaching forward to help. Magic gurgled to the surface, Sans having to turn and cough a mix of blue and yellow fluid on the snow beside him. It melted through a few layers before being absorbed into the snowflakes gathered on the ground.

 

He looked down at himself, wearing little more than an oversized sweater and lab coat, both ragged and torn. A shaking, tiny hand raised itself to his face.

 

He felt faint.

 

“SANS?” Papyrus said again, his mouth wobbling at the onset of tears. “WHERE DADDY?”

 

His little brother's voice became background noise. Sans stared at his hand and the oversized clothes hanging off his body.

 

Were they in another timeline?

 

Had they just gone back in time in their own?

 

Had their timeline been destroyed?

 

Was Gaster...

 

The sound of his brother's crying grew louder, snapping him back to reality. Sans looked over, Papyrus sobbing and rubbing at his eye sockets. He reached out to him, pulling him close and holding him as tight as he could. Tears gathered in the corners of his eyes.

 

“i dunno, bro... i dunno.”

 

They stayed where they had fallen for much longer than was wise, both of them poorly clothed for the weather. Papyrus eventually settled down, exhausted from crying and their struggle through the void that had nearly swallowed them whole. Sans had removed his lab coat and given it to his brother, the two huddled together and their bones clattering with each shiver caused by the harsh, cold wind.

 

While Papyrus tried to rest Sans began to think. They had to be in Snowdin, right? Looking up was nothing but darkness, but he definitely got the feeling they were still in the underground.

 

But which underground?

 

He felt so sick.

 

He felt so tired.

 

He felt so... devastated.

 

He looked down at Papyrus, staring as the little skeleton shivered against him. His brow furrowed; first things first, his little brother needed to be taken care of.

 

“we... we gotta get moving, pap.” He finally managed to sputter out. “we'll freeze if we stay out here for too long, even without skin.”

 

For the first time in his life Papyrus didn't have the energy to speak, simply nodding in agreement.

 

He stood up and reached down to help up his brother, Sans struggling to his feet and then instantly toppling to his knees. Magic spewed from his mouth, melting the snow in front of him. He had used so much energy to get them out of the void he could barely stay awake. The only thing keeping him from falling into the snow to sleep and never wake up was Papyrus, his tiny little hands clutching at his shoulder.

 

“s-... sorry pap. i'm ok.” Sans lied, his body jittering as he forced himself to stand again.

 

Slowly they made their way through the forest they had landed in, Sans leaning heavily on his brother and needing to stop every few feet to lean against one of the trees. It felt like they walked forever.

 

Until finally, there was light over the hill.

 

The warm, welcoming glow of Snowdin was so close. The sign flapped with each gust of wind and the single street down the middle was deserted but a pleasant sight to behold.

 

“l-look, bro... snowdin... you remember... we stayed... here... once...” Sans mumbled before his entire body crumpled, Papyrus yelling as he desperately tried to keep him up. It was no use, the toddler barely able to walk himself.

 

Sans fell into the snow and lay there, eye sockets vacant.

 

“SANS!” Papyrus cried, kneeling down to shake his brother. “SANS!”

 

After realizing he wasn't going to get up, Papyrus wobbled to his feet and ran as fast and steady as his little legs could take him into Snowdin. His mind was racing, bouncing back and forth between forgetting everything he had seen and remembering it as clear as day. He recalled being older, but the more time passed the more distant the memories were getting.

 

It scared him.

 

He didn't know what was going on and had desperately wanted to ask, but realized he didn't know the words to express his concerns and hadn't wanted to strain his brother more than he already was.

 

Papyrus fell into the snow a few times and got right back up until he was at the inn, tiny fists banging on the door. Eventually a very sweet looking rabbit monster answered, expression going from tired to alarmed in a matter of seconds upon seeing the little boy, raged and wet on her doorstep.

 

“BROTHER! BROTHER!” The toddler frantically pointed towards the edge of the little village, tugging on the woman's skirt before taking off in the direction of Sans. After quickly grabbing her coat the rabbit followed.

 

“Oh my goodness...” She mumbled to herself upon seeing the boy laying in the snow. She sprinted ahead of Papyrus, quickly reaching down and lifting the unconscious skeleton in her arms. As soon as Papyrus caught up she took his hand, quickly marching them both back to the inn.

 

“Come on, we need to get you two warmed up.”

 

Once inside they were given a room, Sans laid in bed and covered in blankets. She had tried to get a story out of Papyrus and he desperately wanted to tell her, but every time he tried he couldn't stop himself from breaking down into heart rending sobs, unable to get out anything but simple words.

 

Sans.

 

Daddy.

 

Darkness.

 

There was little the inn-keeper could do. She sent Papyrus to bed beside his brother, hoping that the morning would fair better for both of them.

 

But by the next morning Sans still hadn't woken up.

 

The rabbit did what she could for Papyrus. He was given a warm breakfast and clean clothes, but still was unable to talk about what had happened. Every time he tried he couldn't control his emotions and started to cry. He wondered if that was because he was so young again.

 

Despite being reverted back to a toddler he was still able to hold onto some of his older thoughts, at least for the time being. But it was getting harder. Hours would pass where he would be sad without really knowing why outside of his brother being asleep and having had a 'bad dream'. Then he would realize what he had forgotten and get scared.

 

His brain was fighting to forget and remember at the same time.

 

Eventually, late into the afternoon, Sans woke up.

 

His head rolled around on the pillow, eyes focusing on Papyrus huddled beside him.

 

“h-hey pap...”

 

Papyrus' eyes widened and he surged forward to hug his brother tightly. “SANS!”

 

“sorry bro... i guess i passed out for awhile... where are we?”

 

“AT DA INN.”

 

“ah...”

 

Sans looked around the room, his mind sluggishly trying to make sense of the situation. Like always it always ended up with his brother as the main concern.

 

“pap, how much do you remember?”

 

Papyrus looked up at his brother and frowned, biting back yet more tears. He didn't know what to say, so he just nodded.

 

“... i see.”

 

That answered one question. Papyrus was definitely his Papyrus.

 

Thank god.

 

An arm wrapped around the tiny skeleton, squeezing him tightly. His eyes moved around the room for a second time, spotting a change of clothes and a bowl of soup that had long since gone cold.

 

“we can do this, bro. we still got each other.”

 

He refused to cry this time. He had to be strong... for Papyrus.

 

 

Sans tried to take it easy, knowing that the less he exerted himself the faster he would feel better. He ate the soup that had been left for him and put on the new clothes provided; a big puffy blue jacket and a pair of yellow boots among other things. As much as he hated to leave Papyrus alone, he couldn't stop from drifting off to sleep a few times. Eventually though, the kind rabbit that had taken them in came up with dinner.

 

“Oh! You're awake!” She smiled happily, a tray in her hands with plates of food. She set it down beside the bed and leaned over to feel Sans' skull. It was an act that took him back to being a little kid again, Gaster hovering over him with a worried expression on his face.

 

He tried to shake the memory away.

 

“i'm alright.” Sans said, still slightly taken aback by the sudden change in his voice.

 

“You had me quite scared little one. I wasn't sure if you would wake up. Where did you two come from?”

 

“uh...” He turned and looked at Papyrus, who just gave him a sad glance.

 

“the, uh... the capitol.” Sans began, still not sure how much he should say.

 

“The capitol? How on earth did you get this far all by yourself? Where is your family?”

 

Papyrus curled up and tried not to cry. It was so hard for him to keep his emotions in order, like he lacked any sort of control over them anymore.

 

“we, uh... got split up from our dad.” Sans swallowed, the name of their father stuck in his throat and painful to say. “gaster? dr. gaster?” He looked up at the rabbit woman, waiting for her to react. He wasn't sure if the doctor even existed in this timeline, or if he did they were even supposed to exist either. What if there were already a Sans and Papyrus in this world?

 

“Dr. Gaster?” The rabbit repeated, a brow raised. “I can't say I've ever heard of him. But the capitol is a big place.”

 

The boys could feel their hearts twist.

 

“do you know of the core?” Sans asked, testing the waters and forcing himself to keep his composure despite the feeling of their world crashing down around them.

 

“Well yes, that's how we get our power.” She looked confused, thinking that an odd question for the boy to ask in his situation.

 

“who made it?”

 

The woman looked even more confused. “That's an odd quest-”

 

Sans cut her off. “just... humor me?”

 

“Er... well...” She mumbled and then suddenly looked disoriented. “I... actually don't know.”

 

An awkward silence filled the room, broken up only by the tiny whimpers of Papyrus as he sat huddled beside his brother. Sans wrapped an arm around him and held him tightly, his eyes pitch-black.

 

That could mean two things. The woman simply didn't know or... Gaster had never existed in this timeline. But if he didn't, then how did they?

 

Ultimately the rabbit woman left after enough encouragement from Sans that they would be okay. The two sat side by side in bed eating the meal that had been left for them. Papyrus was still quiet, lacking the energy or will to say anything or even be his usual chipper self. Not even his brother could manage to try and goad him into a conversation, both utterly drained from the events of the previous day.

 

“SANS...” Papyrus finally said, looking up at his brother. He was wearing a slightly over-sized striped sweater that had been given to him, the fabric hanging off his bones. Sans looked at him, realizing how small and fragile he was. Just a day ago he had been towering over him, able to lift him up and carry him around like nothing.

 

“yeah bro?”

 

“I...” Papyrus began, suddenly looking like thinking in of itself was painful. “... FORGETTING.”

 

Sans' pupils vanished. “wh-... what d'ya mean?”

 

The toddler clutched at the glass of milk in his hands and for what felt like and millionth time that day fought back tears. Crying was so exhausting but he couldn't seem to stop doing it. He fought internally with himself, knowing that he knew the words he wanted to say but unable to think of them or spit them out. It was like all of his memories were on the tip of his nonexistent tongue and he couldn't do anything about it.

 

“SOMETIMES...” He began, trying to remember the words. “NIGHTMARE. ALL SCARY. THEN JUST... SAD.” Papyrus' mouth wobbled and he set down his glass, a hand going to his head and his eye sockets clenching shut. “THINKING HARD. IT'S GOING AWAY.”

 

His words might have been a jumbled mess but Sans got the idea. Papyrus was forgetting. He was forgetting their previous life. Was it because he was so little now? Was this just a tiny brain trying to cope with having a near lifetime of information shoved inside it? Sans wasn't having the same problem. He remembered everything down to the tiniest little detail.

 

Papyrus started to cry again, frustrated at his own incompetence. “DON'T WANNA CRY ANYMORE...”

 

“pap... pap, hey.” Sans quickly shoved his meal to the side and reached out for him, holding him again and trying to bring some sort of comfort. “everything will be ok, we'll be ok. we have each other. we'll figure this out. i'll get us back home. we'll go to the capitol and ask around. he might still be here, we don't know that yet.”

 

“WHAT IF HE'S DEAD?” Papyrus sobbed.

 

“we lived, didn't we? we're here, alive. maybe he is too.” Sans offered, although he wasn't sure he believed his own words. “dad is a pretty stubborn guy. if anyone could make it out of that its him.” He said, not even realizing that he had called him dad. “ok? just... hang in there. we can do this.”

 

Papyrus nodded, his face buried into his brother's side.

 

 

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̞̪̞͎̹N̢̰̮o̢̜̤̖̰ț͓̬̠h͈i͏͇͈n͍̙̰̠̹g͍͙.̡̮͕̟̙̩
̪̱̹̘̪̙
̫̥̺Ṉ̻̜͙ơ̦̥̫̯̤̮͔t̮h̭̬͔i͚̪̳̠̙̤n͙g̪͈̙̪̤ ̸̱̯͍͎̻̖̫b̲͉̖u̺̯̥̮̪̞t͉̻̬ ̟d̵̳̙̼̪͍̪ạ̶̯̙̪r̬͎͉̭̗̤̻͜k̸̙̞͈̦n̬̠͍̼̪ȩs͘s̶̘̞̺.̺̲͘

 

 

Gaster's consciousness flashed into existence. It clawed and scratched at the area around it, lashing out in desperation. It tried to grab something, anything, but there was nothing. It tried to scream and breath, but there was no air; no sound. It tried to cry and yell but all there was, was emptiness.

 

Was this what he had seen? Was this the negative area between space and time? It was smothering yet liberating all at once.

 

The doctor didn't know how long he had been fighting. Time seemed irrelevant here, but eventually he crashed through... something.

 

He felt his consciousness pull at the nothing around him, tugging strings and binding them tightly around his awareness. Slowly he started to build something out of nothing.

 

As his head formed he felt the need to inhale sharply, but it didn't satisfy his desire to breath. All it did was choke him further. Still he continued on, yanking himself around a new form from the space around him.

 

Eventually he stood... or stood as much as his new body would allow. He could see his hands, digits not unlike what he had before. The tell-tale circles in his palms were there.

 

Gaster suddenly remembered his boys.

 

He looked up but saw nothing.

 

There was nothing here or anywhere.

 

Yet... here he was.

 

Outside of a head, neck, and hands, he couldn't tell if he had a body. If he did it matched the same blackness around him and after a time he could feel himself move. It was like gliding through water, his body moving like a spectre through the void.

 

This was... interesting.

 

If this was, in fact, nothing, then why was he here? Was this a delusion created by his soul? Was he actually here, now, with remnants of his body? Where had those remnants come from? Was it just an illusion he himself had created, or perhaps... it was something that had carried through.

 

Gaster wasn't sure how or where he could get answers to his questions, but he was damn well going to try.

 

He was, after all, a very stubborn man. A very determined man.

 

The doctor moved as fast or perhaps as slow as he could through the endless void. He was looking for anything at all. Even the smallest dot of light, the tiniest change in the all expansive void would be something to satisfy his curiosity.

 

It felt as though he moved along for an eternity with nothing anywhere, but then... the tiniest blip of noise.

 

Gaster turned his head in the direction he felt it was coming from, a difficult task in a place with no walls, ceiling, or floor. He moved around for a long time trying to pinpoint the source.

 

Eventually he found it.

 

The tiniest, smallest little crack in the void. It was an area that was just slightly off colour enough to notice if you really, truly stared at it long enough.

 

He hovered in front of it, staring and staring. After enough time he saw something flicker. Letters, numbers, and symbols. It was like... code.

 

The doctor watched until it did it again and finally, reached out to touch it.

 

An explosion of light burst forward.

 

Gaster flinched, his eyes having felt like they hadn't seen light in millions of years. As he finally became adjusted he turned to face what was in front of him.

 

It was like a window. A window full of code. It twitched and moved but stayed contained within a certain area. The doctor watched it, read it, studied it. He stood and deciphered everything for what was probably days, feeling no exhaustion.

 

Gradually he began to understand it.

 

Once again he reached out, digits touching the lines of information. He felt it all stop as soon as his fingers came into contact with it. Suddenly everywhere around him burst into action, the same strange windows full of code appearing everywhere for miles and miles and miles. The doctor stared on, everything surging outward and looking as though there was no end in sight.

 

He watched it all unfold and for the first time, felt his toothless mouth curl upwards into a tight smile.

 

This was... v̺̞̘̪̩͜e̤͉̝̳̳̰̳r̰̩͓͔͉̪͍y̘̬ ͇̖̼̦͕̪͕̕i͇̥͍̪̹̠̼n͚̥͘t҉̱̯e̴̠͍̹͍̜r̢̭e̝͈̹̞̦̰͕s̟̕t͡i̭̫̜͜n̜͉̕g͉̲͎͖̳̫̪͢ ̭i̦͝n̴̠̲͉͚d̯̻͚̘̫͓͡e̳̙̼̖͙͍ed.̩̟.̧.̼̮̠͚̪͟

 

 

The following day Sans was still feeling pretty terrible, but he knew he couldn't stay in bed forever, especially not if his little brother was beginning to forget their previous life. After much convincing the rabbit monster let them leave, making sure they had a little food and some money for their journey back to the capitol. It had taken even more persuading to get the woman to believe that she didn't have to escort them.

 

Being nine again sucked... but not as much as being two.

 

Sans and Papyrus made their way out of Snowdin and to the ferry, eager to get back to the capitol.

 

“Tra la la. Where would you like to go?” The River Person asked, in the same spot just as before.

 

“hotland.”

 

“Then we're off.”

 

As the ride began Sans wasted no time in asking about Gaster. He remembered from before that he had history with this particular monster.

 

“excuse me, but do you know a dr. gaster?”

 

There was a long pause before the monster under the robe spoke. “Tra la la. I do not.”

 

“... oh. thanks anyway.” Sans sighed and sat back down beside Papyrus, the rest of their trip in silence.

 

Once they arrived in Hotland their first stop was the lab. Even from the outside it looked old and abandoned, and trying to use his lab badge didn't seem to work. That didn't bode well.

 

They walked passed it and into the capitol, Sans doing most of the talking for once and asking anyone at all that looked even remotely official if they knew of Dr. Gaster, or who invented the core. Everyone he asked had never heard of him and didn't remember who had built the core in the first place.

 

The nights were spent sleeping in back alleys and the days were spent asking anyone and everyone if they knew Gaster, but nothing ever turned up. The money they had been given was running out and soon they would have to do something about food. There was also the problem with Papyrus' memory.

 

Each day that passed he was returning more and more to his usual self, but it wasn't for a good reason. The tragedy they had suffered was becoming more like a bad dream than reality and Sans had no way to keep him from forgetting. The times he remembered were the worst.

 

His little brother would cry and cry, unable to properly dictate what he was feeling other than sobbing about not wanting to forget their father, not wanting to forget their old life. He didn't want to forget any of it, but he knew he was.

 

There was nothing either of them could do.

 

Eventually they ran out of money and Sans decided that asking around was going to get them nowhere. He would have to sneak around the lab... but not with Papyrus. The more rare it became that Papyrus remembered, Sans had begun to make a story to replace it. He explained that the nightmares he had was from them getting into an accident with their father, who died because of it. Now it was only them, he would take care of him and everything would be okay. It seemed simple enough for his little brother to believe.

 

They settled down in a small cave in Waterfall close to the dump. A lot of people came to see the 'stars' and make wishes, so it was the best bet when looking for discarded food. It was just enough to keep them alive. Some nights they went hungry and cold, but there was little else Sans could do.

 

The tiny cavern turned into a home away from home. Papyrus seemed pretty content despite everything, but that was just like him wasn't it? They rummaged for toys and books just like their father once had for them.

 

After Sans was confident that Papyrus was okay he made him promise not to leave the cave before heading off back to the lab. The sickness he had felt from over-using his powers was gone now, so he used them to close the distance quickly and then teleport deep within the lab's facility.

 

Everything looked the same, but old. Very old. The room they had called their home was barren, as though nothing had ever happened there. None of the files held any sort of hint that Gaster had ever existed, save for small bits of his projects.

 

The core. The blueprints for the DT extractor. They were here. The notes for his own creation and the blasters were missing.

 

He did, however, find some photos.

 

They were of him and his coworkers and he could tell a few were pictures of him and Gaster, but where Gaster should have been were oddly vacant.

 

What did that mean?

 

He had obviously been alive at some point in this timeline, but why didn't anyone remember him? Is this what the time machine had done when it exploded? Rendered Gaster and their coworkers out of existence but just slightly?

 

It was hard to wrap his head around. A large part of him wanted to start rebuilding the time machine right then and there, but...

 

Papyrus needed him. Papyrus had to be top priority. This wasn't a small problem to fix and right now he had to try and make sure his little brother didn't go cold and hungry every night.

 

As he stuffed the photos into his jacket Sans sighed.

 

“i gotta take care of pap on my own now, dad.” He looked up at nothing in particular. “but i won't stop looking for you.”

 

 

H̛͓̳͉̙ḛ̢̟͕ ̳̼̬̤̘͇c̜̯͍o͓̞̭̪̱̦u̵̬ļd͉̗̤̕ s̤̻̗e̳ḛ͇̗̫ ̲͈͉̟͙̹e҉͇̫v̷͔̤̮e̹̥r͕̙͍̫̞y͇t̫̻͠h̡̘͕ͅi҉͎̺̝̗̞̻̜ng.̨͔̠͓͙ͅ

 

Gaster moved around the void, reading window after window of code. Eventually he began to make sense of the patterns, picking one line out of a hundred and knowing what it meant. He began to realize what these were.

 

They were timelines. Each one was an instance of time and space.

 

As he explored each one from the outside looking in, something began to pull him towards one in particular. He stared at it for some time before trying something he hadn't before.

 

The doctor reached out and pushed.

 

The code crackled and sparked at his touch, but with enough force he could bend the code and push through it. Slowly, with enough effort, he ended up on the other side.

 

He was in Snowdin.

 

SANS!”

 

The sound of Papyrus' voice was unmistakable.

 

Gaster snapped to attention, moving through the air like a ghost towards the sound of his son's crying. As he got towards the edge of the village he could make out Sans lying in the snow, Papyrus sobbing and trying to shake him awake.

 

"̴̲M̨̞ͅy̴ ͓̬b͙̜̤̘͠o̪̗̣y̹̲͠s̱.͓͟.̵̬.̻̤̫͎ͅ"̸͈̤̖̥͙̬̬

 

He reached out to touch Sans but his hand contacted nothing, sinking through him as though he wasn't there. His gaze looked at Papyrus, sobbing and not reacting at all to his presence. The doctor had already felt like hundreds of years had passed since seeing his children again and here they were.

 

Here they were and they had no idea he was there.

 

Gaster moved around and hovered behind Papyrus as he cried. He let a hand rest on his head, rubbing it like he used to even though he could feel nothing and his son didn't react.

 

"̮̟͇̭̖͠E͚̰͎̳v̻er̻̖̙̩y̩̝͙̻͝t̶̻̜̱͉h̵̠͇͔̫͙i̫̻n̤g̵̖̖̭ ̱͉̜̹w̥̰̯̜̰i̮l͔l̲͙̳͚ ͏̠ḇe̵͇̗ ͇͉͙̞f̦͈͠i̝̫n̫͎̯͔̼̖e̥͔͢,̧̯̠ ̬̦͙P͓̰a͓͖̤p̹̦̳y̥r̢͔̞͙̪̱̗̦u̮̻̝͟s̥̥̠͎͞.̶͕"̱̹̦̠̱ͅ

 

He hovered there beside him until Sans finally woke up, watching in pained silence as his son tried his best to keep moving. He watched as they made it to Snowdin and stayed at the inn, sitting by their sides and desperately wanting to hug them, comfort them, tell them that he was there.

 

But he couldn't.

 

This was like his own personal version of Hell.

 

Gaster moved with them for days, which turned into weeks. He watched as they struggled to find food and stay warm. He watched as Sans tried to find him in the lab. As his son looked up and spoke to him for the first time, he could feel a part of him crumble.

 

i gotta take care of pap on my own now, dad. but i won't stop looking for you.”

 

As he watched his son teleport away, the code around him fluctuating and changing with the sudden displacement, Gaster's toothless mouth turned upwards into a smile.

 

"̴̦͈I̞̹͘f̦ ̱̲̩͈͢a̗͜ṉ̠y̹̻͖͚̲̜̲o̘̖͚͇̟̜̱n͟e̦͇͙͕̫̝ ͔̰̺̲͉̝͓c͉͕̱̼o̬u͉̘͙̟͔͉̥l͚̗͍͈̝d͓̝̳ ͍͉̬͢f̫͈ix͞ ̠̠͓̳͈͎t̷͓̩̪͕h̞̦i͙s̢͎̪̻̖̖,͔̱͇͈ ͏̮̜͇̦i̪̟̞̭̳͇̫t̲̟̱ ̲͓͉w̥̲͚̘ͅͅo͕̤̹̤̳͖u̡͔͉̘͙̪̺̪ḻ̰̠͉̼̜̦̕d̘̼͉̜͓̲͍ ̠̟̖̣̟b̸̠̺̠̼ͅe͝ͅ ̰̹͖̠̻̩u̷̫͙͍ș̺̣̘͚̦. ͎̬̭̖͍͎I̳̭̲͍͉ͅ'͙m̬̯̱̮̠͙͔ ̟̫͚s̟̠͔̲̳̺u̶͖̖̝̯̬̺r͏̮͕e͚̙̯̲̠̱̝ o̞f͇͍̩̘͙͘ ͏i͍͓̥͠t̴͙͍̱.͏̟͉̠̞̙"͇͍̣̬̝̯̬

 

He turned and looked at the code that made up the timeline he was currently in, each object compiled of thousands of tiny lines of information. His gaze then went down at himself, able to see the code that made up his own body.

 

His smile stretched wider.

 

If he had created something out of nothing once... he could do it again.

 

Gaster turned, pushing his way through the code to escape back to the black void between time and space. He realized the second time wasn't as hard getting through. That meant it would get easier. If Sans wasn't going to give up on him, he certainly wasn't going to sit by and make him do all the work.

 

Everything was code. He was code. He could change it. With enough practice he could manipulate the world to his will.

 

The doctor began on himself as the first experiment.

 

Recoding himself didn't hurt, but the more he toyed with it the more he realized it had it's own set of limitations. He couldn't stray too far from his original form, but making anything with a lot of detail was difficult. Still, he wanted to be more than just a floating set of hands and a head.

 

Gaster gave himself a body, a black robed figure with minimal detail. His head and hands remained mostly the same, the cracks in his skull and lack of teeth being of little concern to him. The holes in his hands remained for sentimental reasons. Every time he looked at them he was reminded of his end goal; to be with his boys again. To live together.

 

To see the stars with them.

 

It took a long time, but eventually he was happy with the results. Gaster stood on the emptiness of the void and flexed his boney fingers in front of himself before his attention turned to the thousands upon thousands of windows of information stretching out to infinity before him.

 

They were just like stars.

 

He smiled.

 

“T̸̝͇̣͔͔̹i̦͖͎̗͙̼m͏͉̜e͚̱ ̮̜̺͖̘̪t҉͕̘͎o̫̞̪̺͔͔ g̸̺͈e̟͓̯̕t̩͡ ̶̘t̼̯͉̜͍̬ͅo͏͕̯̞ ̪̱w͏̳̯̣̤͔̫ͅor̢̙͖̗̟̹͙͕k.”

 

 

As Gaster studied the code in the void, he eventually came across something strange. One of the windows flickered and twitched, as though something inside it was seriously wrong. He dare not touch it at first, standing outside and watching the strings of information become more and more chaotic. Then something new surged across the screen, a line of red code that seemed to devour everything it touched. The doctor took a step back, unsure if it would effect him as well. If he was code too now, it was surely a possibility.

 

He watched on with a mix of horror and fascination as the line of red chewed its way through the world beyond and then, eventually, the window faded. The code that had made up its existence stopped and slowly disappeared into the blackness around it.

 

The doctor stood and stared at the emptiness in front of him before something in the corner of his vision caught his attention. He looked over to one of the windows that had been close to the one that had just vanished and, sure enough, that same line of red code had begun to feast.

 

Realization hit him.

 

This was the anomaly. This was what he had seen.

 

He had to find out more.

 

Gaster reached out, pushing through the code and entering the timeline the anomaly was currently residing in. Once again he appeared in Snowdin. He wondered why it was always this specific location. Was there something pulling him towards it? Was it his boys?

 

He looked around the lively little village, but seeing the destructive 'virus' was difficult from inside the timeline itself. He began to wander around, hoping that he would eventually run into the disruptive code.

 

Once again the sound of Papyrus' voice was unmistakable.

 

HOWEVER! I, PAPYRUS, SEE GREAT POTENTIAL IN YOU!”

 

The doctor turned and began a brisk walk in the direction he could hear his son's voice.

 

EVERYONE CAN BE A GREAT PERSON IF THEY TRY! AND ME, I HARDLY HAVE TO TRY AT ALL! NYEH-HEH-HEH-HEH!”

 

It was so good to hear his voice again. Every time he was in the void it felt like years passed. Despite knowing his little boy wouldn't be able to see him or hear him, his mere presence was enough to bring him at least some semblance of comfort. The closer he became the louder Papyrus got until, finally, Gaster could make out the outline of his son's form.

 

What on earth was he wearing?

 

A smile crept along his warped features, the cheer and kindness in Papyrus' voice warming his heart. Then he caught sight of a small figure in front of him.

 

A human.

 

Gaster started to run towards him. The same glitching red code danced across the human's eyes.

 

"̗͕̲͞P̦̙̠ͅͅa̸͚̣p͍y̮r̸̲̙̤̠ṵ̮̙̘̣͉͠ͅs̪̳̯̱̼.̴̬.̧̘͕̹̭̹.̬͍ ̹̱̻͇̗̗̪P̣̘͍̗̩ͅẠ͇͈͙̻̤̟͠P̨̩̞Y̜͢R͈̹͚͎͍͠US̹̮̜̜̤͍͚!"͇̩̖̤͈̞͘

 

Gaster watched in horror as the human dashed forward, a knife slicing across his son's neck. His body began to turn to dust, his head falling into the pile left behind. The doctor stopped where he stood behind him, eyes wide and hand outstretched, shaking.

 

ST... STILL! I BELIEVE IN YOU! YOU CAN DO A LITTLE BETTER! EVEN IF YOU DON'T THINK SO! I... I PROMISE...”

 

The doctor watched in horror as the human approached, a foot raising upwards and pressing down on his son's head. It cracked, turning into powder just like the rest of him. The human smiled and turned, leaving the empty clothes and pile of dust behind.

 

Gaster fell to his knees, unable to take his eyes off the lump of dust that had been his son only moments before.

 

His happy, kind, upbeat little boy.

 

He reached out to clutch at the powder but his boney digits merely passed straight through it. Gaster started to sob.

 

Black, inky tears spilled from his eye sockets.

 

"̵͉̼̠̲̗M̴͔̘y̭ ͕̩̼̹͙͖͎bo̞̬̳͚y͏͉̣..̣̹̘͚.̰̺̻̙̩͠ ͖̮͓̥̘P̠̪̙̹̻̬͔͟a̪̝͔͙̥ͅp̣̟͇̠͙̕y̯̱͓r͕u̼͍̥s̸̮͓͙͔̰̰.҉̯̻̳̳.̖̠.̦͈͎̟̮͈ ͅn͔͙̙̼͔͕̥ǫ͕̣͙̖̠̰͉.͍̠͢..̲͚̻"̮͈̞͇̠̫̳͜

 

The doctor's attention was only shaken by the sound of footsteps. He looked up to see Sans, hollow eye sockets staring down at the empty battle-body that was once his brother. He didn't shed a single tear, looking as though he hadn't slept in years. The exhaustion on his face was unbearable, a fatigue that wasn't brought on by lack of sleep, but stress and trauma.

 

you'll never stop believing in them, will you bro?” He said, his hands removing themselves from his pockets to reach down and lift up the red scarf his brother had been wearing. Sans wrapped it around his neck before pulling up his hood.

 

lets see how far they take it this time, huh?” He clutched at the scarf and his hand shook slightly before he turned and teleported away.

 

Gaster's tears stopped. As Sans left he suddenly realized that this whole situation sounded eerily familiar.

 

Sans' nightmares.

 

This had been what he saw. This was what he had experienced. He could see into other timelines. That's what the overload of DT had done to him.

 

Oh god...

 

The doctor clutched at his head, the feeling of overwhelming guilt nearly consuming him.

 

No.

 

Now wasn't the time.

 

Gaster stood and stepped around the corpse of his youngest son. He might be too late to save his boys in this timeline, but there would be others. The boys that were directly related to his own time were still alive. He could use the other timelines to learn.

 

The doctor followed the human throughout the timeline, watching as it cut down every single monster that got too close. He could see Sans was watching too, waiting, but what for? Why was he taking so long? He had so much potential yet why was he not stopping the human?

 

There had to be a reason.

 

Eventually the human made it to the final corridor before the King. Like always, Sans was waiting for them.

 

heya. you've been busy, huh? so, i've got a question for ya. do you think even the worst person can change...? that everybody can be a good person, if they just try?”

 

Gaster felt his heart sink. No, surely Sans wouldn't let the human walk away from this, right? He wasn't like Papyrus.

 

heh-heh-heh-heh... alright. well, here's a better question. do you wanna have a bad time? 'cause if you take another step forward... you are REALLY not going to like what happens next.”

 

He watched as the human stepped forward.

 

welp. sorry, old lady. this is why i never make promises.”

 

The fight began.

 

Watching Sans actually use what had been given to him was... astonishing to say the least. Gaster felt guilty that he was enjoying it, watching as his son was put against the wall and forced to unleash his potential. It was power that not even he himself had ever witnessed.

 

As Sans killed the human for the first time he could see a part of him crumble. Gaster knew that hurting people was one thing he feared the most, one thing he hated. But here he was, pushed into a corner and forced to do what he despised, what he had been originally created for.

 

But the human came back.

 

The doctor watched the code fluctuate as the anomaly reset the timeline to just before their death. He listened to Sans comment on it, able to tell what had just happened. Was that also an effect of the DT? Or was Sans just incredibly perceptive? It was hard to tell, but Gaster imagined it was probably the former, especially if he took his nightmares into consideration.

 

He watched his son kill and kill and kill, each time taking a mental toll on Sans and each time the human got a little bit further in his attacks before being killed. He could tell Sans knew that he wouldn't be able to keep it up forever.

 

In a last ditch effort Sans used everything he had, teleporting, blasters, flinging the human around the room, and then...

 

alright. that's it. it's time for my special attack. are you ready? here goes nothing.” Sans said between labored breaths.

 

yep. that's right. it's literally nothing. and it's not gonna be anything, either. heh-heh-heh... ya get it? i know i can't beat you. one of your turns... you're just gonna kill me. so, uh. i've decided... it's not gonna BE your turn. ever. i'm just gonna keep having MY turn until you give up. even if it means we have to stand here until the end of time. capiche?”

 

The doctor couldn't help but smile. Clever. Somewhere down the line Sans had figured out how things worked. He could manipulate it to dodge attacks, could use it to skip slightly in time to try and throw the human off, and could eventually toy with it just enough so the anomaly could never have their turn to attack.

 

Gaster swelled with pride.

 

Sans and the human stood facing off, his son occasionally passing comments until slowly he started to fall asleep. The doctor watched, unable to interfere.

 

While Sans slept he saw the human smile and begin toying with the code just like before, manipulating it to get its way. Eventually it got what it wanted, leaping forward to strike at the sleeping skeleton.

 

The doctor panicked, but Sans dodged.

 

heh, didja really think you would be able to-” The human lashed out, it's second strike landing. Sans stumbled back, clutching at the huge gash along his ribcage as he felt to his rear.

 

"͖̬͈̘̰NO͖̯̙̮̘͚͎!̠̙̝̬͖"̙̪̯̼̣̙

 

Gaster rushed forward, kneeling down beside his son. Despite knowing this was inevitable it made it no easier. He desperately wanted to hold him, to tell him everything would be okay, but he couldn't.

 

He could only watch.

 

so... guess that's it, huh? just... don't say i didn't warn you.” Sans pushed himself to his feet. “welp. i'm going to grillby's.” He started to slowly shuffle away behind one of the pillars.

 

papyrus, do you want anything?” He said as his body began to turn to dust, teleporting away one last time.

 

Gaster wept silently, his gaze slowly turning to watch the human walk towards the King's throne room. As it vanished around the corner his expression turned resolved. For the first time colour came back to his face, a flash of purple igniting in his eyes. He turned and pushed through the code, entering the void once more. Just as he turned back to face the timeline he had occupied, it fluctuated and then vanished altogether.

 

His flaring, purple gaze looked over to the timeline he knew the boys, his boys occupied. It was dangerously close.

 

Th͝e͙͚̣͟ ̹̯̣͙a̤n̝̖̹̫̮ͅo̦̞͕ma̮͖̦͕͍̤͜ͅl͓͓͓͇͟y.̻̟̲
͔͓̳͈͎͉͢
͍͕͓̮͎̪Ț̢̺͎̭̜h̻̲͢a̙͍̯̯t̺̤̬͙ ͏̟̞͖̰̠̝h̘͔̘̯̳̳͝ͅu̟̻̭͍m̗̠̦a̡͉̼͖̻͎̮̹n̻̦͖̲.҉͍̞̥̟̜̥
͙̳̱
͔̙̮M̸̟̦̟͕u̫s̡̘̹̣̳͈̜̳ṱ̵ ҉̠̺̹͖̩ͅdi̧e̱͕̫̺̦͜.̨̘

 

Chapter Text

Times were hard for Sans and Papyrus, but they were alive and that's what mattered. It had been a year since everything had happened and by now Papyrus had completely forgotten what had transpired. To him the whole ordeal had been nothing but a bad dream, a nightmare that was easily forgotten. There were times when he wanted a bigger family, to have someone taking care of both him and Sans, but that was often overshadowed by the unconditional love his brother showed to him.

 

Everything Sans did was for Papyrus.

 

On the other hand Sans remembered everything. Being the only one in the world who knew of the previous royal scientist and everything that had happened to them was excruciatingly lonely. He missed their house. He missed his friends and coworkers. He missed bouncing off horrible jokes with his father. He missed watching Gaster blow things up, intentional or not.

 

You never knew how much you loved a person until they were gone forever.

 

Their little cave wasn't particularly warm but it was dry and homey. The two slept on an old mattress together, they had a few toys and books they had found at the dump, and their clothes were dirty and ragged but warm.

 

Sans spent his days looking out for Papyrus and exploring the dump. Whatever they couldn't eat or use he sold to some of the vendors in the area, a few of them taking pity on the two homeless little children and doing what they could to help get them by.

 

Papyrus was rather happy despite everything. He hadn't really known much else, so what they had was okay with him. The only trouble was that, aside from his older brother, he had no friends. Not many other kids, whether they lived in Waterfall or were just stopping by, wanted to play with a dirty little skeleton in rags. Nevertheless this was Papyrus, and any monster that turned him down didn't crush his spirits. In the end he still had Sans; and Sans would never leave him.

 

While Papyrus was safe in their little home, Sans made a trip into Snowdin to sell some of the things he had found. Thankfully he hadn't lost any of his intelligence, so whenever he managed to find something fixable it always got him a pretty high price that would hopefully feed him and Papyrus for a week or more.

 

He stopped by the shop keeper, a very kind rabbit woman who was always happy to buy his junk. Part of him had a feeling she only did it out of kindness and didn't actually want any of his trash. Sans had to admit that looking like he did, it wasn't surprising. Many nights went by where he went hungry just so Papyrus didn't. He was sure the stress of the situation and what had happened showed pretty heavily in his eye sockets, too. Being a 22-year-old physicist stuck in the body of a child wasn't exactly easy.

 

After selling his wares he headed to the library, returning some of the books he had taken and getting more. It was always nice to read pages that weren't stuck together or sticky from the dump and Papyrus liked the occasional change in story before bed.

 

As he was walking out he saw a flyer by the door announcing that tomorrow 'Santa' would be making an appearance. Sans managed to smile a little as he pushed through the door. That would be nice for his little brother. He always liked Santa.

 

… It was just a shame he couldn't get him a gift this year.

 

Once he had stepped out of the library and rounded a corner he teleported back to Waterfall, but stopped as he heard crackling behind him. Sans turned, looking at the spot he had just come through.

 

There was a hole. A small, black hole.

 

He raised a brow and stared at it, the edges flickering and code shooting around the rim before it eventually built itself together with strings of information and was gone just as quickly as it had come. Sans wasn't sure what to make of it, but something about it filled him with dread. He turned to head back to the tiny cave he shared with Papyrus.

 

That night, like many others, was filled with nightmares.

 

Sans had dreamed the same things before and it had gotten easier the older he became, but much like Papyrus he found it rather hard to keep hold onto his emotions now that he was young again. Everything in his dreams felt so real. He could feel the cold of Snowdin against his skull. He could feel the snow gathering in his slippers as he walked. He could feel the cloth of the red scarf Papyrus always seemed to be wearing in his hands.

 

It was just so real...

 

Like many times before he would find Papyrus after trying to talk to the human. Sometimes they would spare him, other times they wouldn't. This ended up being the latter.

 

Papyrus was cut down at his most vulnerable, his body falling to dust and leaving nothing but his clothing behind. He then watched everyone else get murdered by this same terrifying entity. It didn't even seem like a normal human child anymore, it was like... a devil. An evil creature who wanted nothing but to kill and consume the world.

 

He fought it. He fought it like so many times before and like so many times before he was killed by it. His last thoughts were always of his little brother before waking up in a cold sweat.

 

Sans opened his eyes to the twinkling ceiling of their cavern. Tears gathered in the corners of his sockets and he looked to his side, Papyrus happily sleeping on the dirty old mattress they called their own.

 

Without a word he rolled over and reached around his little brother, pulling him tight and burying his face in the top of his skull.

 

“MM... SANS...” Papyrus mumbled, smiling in his sleep and nuzzling into his brother's chest.

 

Sans swallowed hard, trying his best to keep his sobs as silent as possible. His teeth clacked against his brother's head and he spent the rest of the night staring vacantly at the wall across from him, only pretending he was asleep once his brother woke up.

 

“SAAANS...” The skeleton mumbled as he sat up, reaching over to shake his 'sleeping' brother awake.

 

Sans opened his eyes, dark circles already firmly in place. “yeah bro?”

 

“I'M HUNGRY.”

 

The older of the two sat up and rubbed the back of his skull. “yeah. i guess we didn't get a great dinner last night, did we?” They had been running low for awhile, but that would change today. He had fixed up a decent cellphone and sold it to the rabbit woman yesterday.

 

“i got you covered. lets go into snowdin and get something special today, huh?” Sans tried to smile, apparently that being enough to get his little brother excited.

 

“OKAY!” Papyrus leapt to his feet and pulled on a pair of boots that were a few sizes too large while his brother sighed and forced himself out of bed.

 

He took Papyrus' hand and they started the long walk into Snowdin. He was hesitant to use his teleporting with Papyrus after what he had seen the night before and the ferry was too expensive when you were already pinching pennies for food. As they got closer to Snowdin Sans looked down at his brother, his little gloved hand reaching out to stare at the snowflakes that landed on the fabric.

 

“guess what i found out yesterday.”

 

“HM?”

 

“santa is gonna be here.” Sans smiled, but for a moment realized that Papyrus might not remember who that was.

 

“SANTA!?” The little skeleton exclaimed, a weight being lifted off Sans' shoulders now that he knew that was one thing Papyrus remembered.

 

“yeah. so we're gonna get something nice to eat to celebrate and then go see him, ok?”

 

Papyrus erupted into fits of giggles, happily prancing around in the snow as they drew towards the center of town.

 

Grillby's was the first stop. While old Papyrus might have groaned at the greasy food, this time he didn't. It was rare they got something warm and fresh, so it was enjoyed by both of them. Sans didn't even bother asking if the bartender knew of their father, he already knew the answer.

 

Once they had finished eating it was time to see Santa. The King had arrived at the center of town, a large chair having been placed beside the Giftmas tree. He was wearing the same Santa suit Sans remembered from all those times before. They got in line and waited.

 

“know what you're gonna ask for this year, bro?”

 

“YEAH!”

 

“yeah? what is it?”

 

“NOT TELLIN'.”

 

Sans chuckled. “ok.”

 

They eventually got to the front of the line, Papyrus eagerly running up and climbing onto 'Santa's' lap. Asgore looked shocked at the state the little boy was in, his clothes filthy and a few sizes too large. Nevertheless he tried to keep his composure.

 

“What's your name, little boy?”

 

“PAPYRUS!”

 

“What an interesting name! How old are you, Papyrus?”

 

“THREE!” He held up three boney fingers.

 

“Ohh, a big boy!” The King chuckled. “What is it you would like for Giftmas this year, Papyrus?”

 

“A FRIEND!”

 

Both Sans and the King flinched a little. Asgore glanced over to Sans, who stood with empty sockets nearby and looked even worse off than his little brother, clothes hanging off his bones and rings under his eyes.

 

“I see. Well, I'm sure you will find a friend to spend your Giftmas with this year! Is that your brother?” He asked, looking at Sans.

 

“YES. SANS IS MY BEST FRIEND! BUT I WANT MORE FRIENDS!”

 

Asgore forced a chuckle. “Do you think your brother would like to wish for something this Giftmas?”

 

Sans just shrugged his shoulders, eyes blank. “you don't gotta ask me. all i want is my brother to be happy.”

 

“THAT'S SILLY!” Papyrus scolded, then turned to Santa. “I WISH FOR HIM. I WANT HIM TO FIND WHAT HE'S LOOKING FOR.”

 

“And what would that be?” Asgore raised a brow.

 

Sans laughed nervously and reached up to lift Papyrus off the King's lap. “nothing. lets go pap, other kids gotta get their turn too.”

 

“AWWW.” Papyrus pouted as his brother lead him away, turning back to wave. “BYE SANTA!”

 

The King waved back, but was unable to stop himself from looking sad as the two impoverished children walked away.

 

Sans and Papyrus began their walk back to Waterfall, both feeling full for the first time in over a year. As they walked Papyrus looked up at his brother.

 

“SANS?”

 

“yeah bro?”

 

“WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?”

 

Sans squeezed his little brother's hand a little tighter.

 

“something important.”

 

 

Time meant nothing in the void.

 

Gaster didn't know how long he spent trying to toy with the code every timeline was made up of, but eventually he got through. He couldn't quite figure out of if a physical form was possible, but that wasn't his main goal. His aim was to stop, slow, or altogether destroy the anomaly before it could reach his sons.

 

If he could slow it long enough for Sans to figure out the rest, everything would hopefully work out. There was still a chance they could all live together again and have their happy ending, but the odds were not in their favor.

 

Still, that slim possibility was worth holding onto.

 

After what felt like a very long time, the opportunity to put his newly acquired skills to the test was at hand.

 

The doctor pushed through the code in the timeline the anomaly currently resided in and just as before, it was fighting Sans to their inevitable deaths. Despite all the time that he had felt had passed it was still difficult to watch. He no longer held the same fascination with his son's power as the first time. Knowing what came after just made him feel sick.

 

He stopped behind the human child, red code flashing across its eyes. With a wave of his hand he opened his own small window and began to type in a string of information. His fingers moved at ridiculous speeds, each darting in a movement he had practiced thousands of times before. Gaster just hoped this actually worked.

 

The world in front of him bent and wobbled before it started to flicker. Sans and the human child froze in time. Code began to overwrite everything in the long corridor, the color draining from the pillars and floor to become gray. Gaster moved his hand away from his prompt and watched, hands interlocking behind his back.

 

As everything finished the only color left in the room was the lines of red across the child's eyes. It twitched and peeled itself from the frozen human, hovering in front of Gaster. Oddly enough he could feel it almost 'glaring' at him.

 

He smiled.

 

"̘̯̩͕̝̗D͘i̹̦d ͈̱̭͔I̹̖̹̗͖ ͓̗̪̻ͅg҉e̗͍̠t̸̺̮͓̭͔̲ͅ ̵̞̭y̱͠o̬̙u̳͈͈̱͓̮r͙̗̺̼͙̣ ̲̣̼ͅa̮̖̼̤̫ͅt̙̤̫̟̮ͅt͍̭͓ḙ̠̥̤̗̮ͅn̥͎̣̻͞ṯ̙̟͍i̱͉͕̟̖͈̤͞o̢̱̲̭̦͕̝̩n?̻̹̟̦͢"̙̲̪͎̲͇̗͠

 

The red string of code began to give itself a form, turning into a small child similar to the human it had corrupted. It gave itself color, a body, clothing... a familiar green and yellow striped sweater.

 

Gaster's smile fell.

 

"̜͔̳̘̯͞.͢.͉̗̲̗.͕̖̜̜ ̛̗͙͈̠̭͓I͏̩ ͚̬̫s̰eẹ.͙̻ ̻͜I͝s̪̣̤̜͓ ̩t̖̟̖h̸͖̖͔̮̩̣i̻͕͇̦͎ͅs̬̪̜̹ ͙͇̥͍͖w҉̯͖̮̙̹͇̪h҉͙̼a̪͔̻̗̳͉t̷͓ ̧̝̦̯̦̹̜h̼appe͕̪n̻͍s̤͎͉̤̪͇ ̸̠̫w̼͖̟̱̰h̛̥̥̳̜̖̖͎e̟̟̱n̗̣ ̵̼̹̞͉̞̳͇h̸u̩m̵̘a̞͔̮̠̙̪͖n̼͟s̬͔̣͖͝ ̹͉̕l̯̱̯̬̣̠͠os͟e̡̯̞̮͎̺͔ ̡͍̯̞t̰̩̳͚h̳̤̘̲̺̟ȩ̱̞̬i͓̥͉̮͍̭̖r̹̯͓͎ ͇̣̣͖̻͠s͓̠̜͙̹͠o̲͇̻̣ͅu͙̹̣̟̯͠l̖̺̼͔?̤̱̺̳͚̹"̦͉͚

 

He remembered the tiny human child the King and Queen had adopted. He hadn't agreed with it of course, he despised humans. However not even he knew the after effects of a monster taking in a human soul. The Prince had taken their fallen sibling's soul and crossed the barrier only to fall as soon as they returned. Usually a human's soul would persist after death and, presumably, venture into some sort of afterlife. But what if that soul was absorbed? What happened to the human then, other than their body laying to rot in the ground? Was this what little remained of the child's consciousness warped without a soul? Was this the result of their very basic desires? An evil, corrupt piece of information that wanted nothing more than to destroy everything in its path?

 

Those were all questions for later.

 

"̡͕͙̭̜͕͖W͕̬͈̗͚ę̬l̻̝̲̤͢l̪͓͔͈̺̙ͅ ̨̰͚̰i͕̟̮͎̼̙f̹̯̱̲͖̭̗ ̲̦̭yo҉u̧̹'r̪e̯̱̪̥̬ ͈͈͚͕͓̜͞d̺o͓̫̬̠̯̳i̝̲̬̜̦͔n͔̘̫̩͍͉g͓̰̟̥͇͡ ̘̣̯̟̺t̷̥̬h͍̰i̢͚̼̲̖̤̭s̞̖͙̲̗ ̨̲͓t̤̕h̨̲͎͎a̷̳̠͍̞̭n̗̬̹̘ ̬͕̤̫̺I̦̝̹̺̙ ̻w̫̰o̩̝͖n̜̫̯'̱̝̘t͖̖̝̰̖ ͢t̖̩͎͚r̺̤͕͔̲̼y̯̲̼̜̻̺̮ ̸̞̩̱̜̦ͅṱ̻̱̠̮o ͓̠͓̻r̵̠̼ͅe͏̦͕a̵̰̜̳̩̳ͅs̴̘̠͈̙̹o҉̤͇͇͙̟ṉ͍̻͡ ̼̙͙̗w͓̬͕ͅi̪͕͉͢t͏͚͇̙ͅh̠ ҉̮͍̠̲̞̯y̝̟̣̱͍͉͔o̜ͅṵ̯̻͍͍̖͡.̨͙̱̙̫ ͔N͕̲͕o̵̗̲̙t ̻̹̜͉̠t͡h͜at͇͔̹̤̼ ҉̱͚̹̝̳͕̭Ḭ̪̟̦̦ͅ ͎̥̪̘̟͚w̲̰͉͕̘̭o͓̙̗͖͈͕̦u̢̥͇̦̫̺̗l̷͖̟̟͍d̬͓̣̰ ̬̜͕̟̕ẖa͈v̝̖̬̮̼e̩͇̪͚̳̬ ͎̟̣͕t̫̖̝̙̮̗h̼͖̙ḙ̻͙̖̠̰ ̯̺͎͎͙͟ͅp̛a̪̪͙t̻͖̪͍̭̼͔i̸͇̱͓̯̟e҉͇̬̪͈͍n͓̗̼͚͇c̲̠ẹ͙͕͟ ͕̼f̝̯̬̗͙o̵͔͉͖͖̖͉̺r̠͖͓͖̭̟ ̖̝̼̭͔i͙̦̮̥̹̥̪t̹̗͡ ̳̯͔a̷̺͕̗̻̝͓̲n̪yw̡̼̼͓̤̯a͖̖̝͚y͡.̣̣̞̦"͖͍͉̥͢

 

The creature came for him, wasting no time in swinging their knife directly for Gaster's torso.

 

He evaded it before punching another string of information into his prompt, the area around them flickering and glitching. The human stumbled, becoming disoriented. Having seen it plenty of times before while testing it, Gaster remained unaffected.

 

"͕̮͢I҉͍͇̠̜͇̝̬f ̶̖͍̠̦̲͓y̝̣̟͎̳ǫ͈̰̤̼̪u̦̜'͕̘̹̜̻rẹ̶̖̥ ͖̩̤͝g̛̜̖͚̠o̼̗̩̭̥̠̺i͚͙͕̰͎͚͚͡ṋ̪̖̮͝g ͉͔t̛̳o͈̕ ̘̪͎̻͕̳ț̰̦o̞͈y̷̭̗̻̜̥̣̯ ̘̺̬̰̘̤͠w͔̼͇͇̲͚̕i̬̥t̫̣̼̮͙͈̤͠h̛͇͔͔͈͓ ̴̭̜͈̖t̩̻̘͙̜̞ͅh̝̼̮̠e̠̫̟ ̜l̥͍͈̖͡ͅi͕̞͎͔͙̗ͅṿe̤͉s̞̫͇͉̩ ̼̬o͕̳̠̝f̥͚ ̼͓̼͚͉my̧̫̝̰̻̯ ̷̯b̝̱̲̤̗o͏y̡͎̭͉ṣ̶̳̹̪̮,̨̝ ̨̯̜I̴͙͉̤̩̲͖̫'̗̗̲̙͠ͅm̘ ̜͍̭̗̫g̪̰͓̟̜̯o̶̠̖̣̯̟̬ị̶̮͓̳n̩̼͠ͅg͉ ̧t̜̲̰̹̮o̯̰̺̫ ̠t̗̦̺̖̻͢o̻͇̗͓̞͇͚͡y̙̜͍̘̰͍ ̙͚̳̱̥͞w̴̙̼̩̣ḭ̧̥̥̪t̙͙̰̤̠͝h͍ ̞̼̫yo͔̖̬̻͓̲̭u̱̖.͔̟̮̪̱͡"̳̠̮̜

 

The prompt in front of him vanished and he stood with his hands behind his back, confident that he could at the very least stall the anomaly and survive. Everything he practiced was so memorized and proficient he no longer needed to actively change the world's code, able to manipulate it at will.

 

Fighting through the glitches the human attacked again, but found themself right back where they started. As soon as they were mid dash towards him, time skipped and forced them back to their original spot.

 

"̫͉̱̲̻̞̲I ̘͕͔̼̜͠d̢̯̻̤̙͕o̺̤͙n̢̦͚̱̩̹͇'̯̞̗̣̼̺͢t̲̦͚͇̤ ̭͉̫̱thi͍̦͍̤̥͓n̞̭̖̞k͔͔̮̞ ͜s̜͉o.͉"̖̭̗͚̙

 

Gaster's eyes flared purple and he waved his hand, staying in one spot himself but flipping the entire world for the evil little virus.

 

They toppled and fell, barely able to pick themselves up before another gesture sent out a wave of bones rising and falling. The doctor watched as a few hit, turning just slightly to open up his window again and rapidly type something in before his other hand sent out another wave.

 

This time they came from the walls seemingly at random. A few of them crashed into the child, sending them flying against the opposite wall. Gaster waved his hand again, the world tilting and rotating as more attacks flew in all directions towards the little demon. He glanced down at his prompt, watching as it painfully slowly gathered information about the strange, corrupt little piece of data.

 

Gaster frowned. There was little more he could do now than keep buying time.

 

With each wave of his hand the world would rotate this way and that, forcing the human to continuously fall and jump away from the bones crashing towards them. He began to summon blasters, the huge skulls appearing out of thin air only to open their disjointed maws and fire white-hot beams directly into the disruptive code.

 

Unfortunately nothing seemed to be stopping it or even really damaging it; but at least he was slowing it down.

 

Gaster decided to switch it up a little. He began to summon blue and orange attacks, both of which he was naturally incapable of using in the real world. The human was forced to continuously stop and start, leaping from side to side to try and dodge as much as they could.

 

A thought suddenly occurred to him. If his attacks weren't hurting it or even effecting it to any degree, why would it put forth the effort to avoid them?

 

He glanced at the strings of code shooting across his window collecting data. Perhaps this would be easier than he thought.

 

Gaster turned back to the battle, the human having been unable to get to him all this time. He filled the room with blasters, only small areas free of the onslaught of his barrage. A part of him wished the creature had a soul to grab onto just so he could fling it into the wall again and again. The memories of what this child had done to his boys resurfaced and he found himself filled with rage.

 

Right now he wanted nothing more than to grab the evil, corrupt little pest and strangle it until it was no more. He wished he could impale it again and again to make it pay for what it had done.

 

When he had hinted to Grillby all those years ago that he didn't mind killing humans he had been truthful, but his friend had been right too. His sons had changed him for better... and for worse. He had seen humans slaughter nearly his entire race, but now... now he had family, family he wanted to protect at any cost.

 

He didn't just want to save his sons anymore. He wanted to make this creature pay for all the times it had slaughtered them over timelines.

 

Gaster felt his emotions get the best of him and began to walk forward.

 

Taking their chance the human leapt at him, but was caught as bones shot up from the ground, impaling them and skewering their body somewhere between the ceiling and floor. The doctor summoned as many blasters as he could manage, every single one pointing at the strange anomaly and firing all at once. He wanted to destroy it. For the first moment he didn't care about the data.

 

He wanted it dead.

 

Dead.

 

D̶͇ͅE̖̝̮̳̣̥̮A̵̖̰̟ͅD͚͞.̶̭̪͓

 

They fired and fired and fired until they could fire no more. The human hung limply, impaled and unmoving for all but a moment. It was just long enough for Gaster to wonder if he had done it.

 

Its head raised, eyes now nothing but large hollow sockets and mouth upturned in an unnatural smile.

 

Have I made you angry?”

 

Gaster couldn't hide his alarm as it spoke.

 

Don't seem so shocked. I'm not a mindless killer, just a determined one.”

 

Gaster looked up at the once-human, impaled on his attacks yet chatting happily down to him. "̡̟̼̲̤A̭̜̬r͎͡e̡͉ ̫̺̹͙̥̙͞y̼͙̭̺o̸̱̮̖̥u̺̬͔͇̣͈ ̘t͍̮͎͟h̥e̗̘͞ ͙̯K͔i͎̺̭̹͍̩n̠g̨͖ ̯̺̫̰͇aͅn̪̮͓͈̖̹ͅd̰̘̦̹͈̠ ̛̮̭͙͍Q̘̖̯͇̺u͙̗̬e̪̪̘e̩̹̬̤̹̫͚͝n̫̞̣̯͎͙̼'̵̠̲̲s̭͓̠̰̮ ͈͙̜͜h̵̝̙͚̗̩̺u̖̯̻̳̤̠͔ṃ̴̯͕̞̜̱̭a̹̦̣̼͍n͈ ͔͚͓͖c̞̣̫̪̖̕h͔̖̜̣i̗̤̮͇̱̪l̘̹̟̗͕̲̖d̼̦̞̯̮̟͘?̟̩͕"͚̪̙

 

Not anymore.”

 

"̭͖͚̤W̨͎̪̰̟h̵̼̦̱y̨̯͉ ͙̬̳͚̗̪̕a̝̦̙͚̞͎͢r̶e̴̱ ̸͓̦̬͇͇̥yo͏u̥̻̘̜͉͙ ͈͓̟̞d̢̼̰o͎̤͙̰͝i҉͇͎̗͉̼̫n̛̩̮̜̺͖͇̖g͔̣ aļ̦l͓̩͕̗̦̼ ̭̠͎̣̳̗o̹̺͔̭͉̩̻f̝̙͓̻͝ ̥̝͍̼th̹̘̙̗̺̹͢i͖̬͕s̮̺͍?̱̰̠̮̥͓͘"̝

 

The human started to laugh, the sound like nails on a chalkboard layered over itself a few hundred times.

 

Because it's fun.”

 

Gaster could feel his already slightly unstable form ripple with anger.

 

So was our little ballet for awhile. But now I've grown bored.” The human rest their head on their palm and started to flicker in and out of existence. Their grin and haunting gaze were the only thing that remained like the Cheshire cat as the rest of them continued to fade. “I'm sure we'll meet again.”

 

"͍̭͔̙Ṋ͖̬̕o̤̳̦!̼ ̼͕͟Y̢͙͚̩o͖̞̙̦͙̤̕u̖̳̜̱͓͔ ͢g̯̩e͚̗̪̝t͎̮̞̬ͅ ̬̣b̬̮̙̻a̸̘̩͙̯̭̬c̮͝k̡̪̝̗ ̥h̛̻̤͕̝e̦͎͇r͏̞̖̭͓̠e͕͔̼̥͕̣͉͟ ̢̦̝̼̝̻̯y͕̲͙̕o̪u̡̗͙ ͏͇ͅl̹̥͉̞͕i̻̹̲̺͖̘̹t̤̣͖ͅt͕̲͙̺l̜e̝̻-̶̩͔͇̲̥ͅ!̱͟"̟͚̫̥̩̱͟

 

The doctor dispersed his attacks to try and drop the human and snatch him before they could fully vanish, but his hand grasped nothing but air.

 

"̩̝G̜͔R̢R̢̦R͍̬͙̝̰͖Ŗ̹̲̥̲͚̙̲A͍̤̫̼̥͈̫͟H͇̭̫̫̹͔!̩̩̜͎ ̤̳̙̝Y̳͎̯̣̯̟OU̘̝̝̰̗̲̲ ̮̼L̪̪͍͠I͖̝̘̲̙͓͞T͚̺͓͇͞TL̘Ḛ͎̙̮̭͇͡ ̧̠̟̝S̰̭̞͜H̬I̷͕T͏͈̯̗ͅ!̻͓͚̭͖̤͙͜"̢͉͓ He yelled into the vacant world around him.

 

Gaster stood there, groaning in frustration with his head in his hands. Eventually he pulled up his prompt and checked how much information he had gotten during their battle.

 

Not much.

 

With a sigh he began to punch in the code to reverse what he had done, the color coming back to his surroundings and Sans' fight with the human continuing. He was just about to fade back into the void when he heard crying.

 

The human that had once been giving their all to kill him had dropped their knife.

 

you're sparing me? finally. buddy. pal. i know how hard it must be... to make that choice. to go back on everything you've worked up to. i want you to know... i won't let it go to waste… c'mere, pal.” Sans outstretched his arms and Gaster felt himself panic again, thinking that soon he would watch his son die for yet another time.

 

But the human didn't kill him. They sobbed, running into Sans and hugging him tightly. Sans hugged them back, taking the moment to catch his breath before a hand raised upwards and abruptly impaled the child with an array of bones that stretched through and into the ceiling so they couldn't escape.

 

The doctor stood by his son, both of them watching as the human squirmed and yelled out.

 

geeettttttt dunked on!!!” Sans yelled up at them, his grin never fading despite the front of his jacket being covered in the child's blood. “if we're really friends... you won't come back.”

 

Sans waited until the human stopped struggling before turning to lean against one of the pillars and sinking down to sit. Gaster watched his son catch his breath, that grin finally tugging down around the edges.

 

now what will it be this time?” He asked no one in particular, unaware that his father was stood by his side. “will they come back and kill me? will they go back to the beginning? or will I be stuck here?” The edges of his mouth turned up again. “stuck here... in a world without pap. without dad.”

 

Sans started to laugh.

 

It was a hysterical, deranged sort of laugh. Gaster could only watch a few seconds of it before he couldn't take anymore and pushed through the code to enter the void. Once there he stood in the absolute silence, unable to breath or hear or smell.

 

But he could feel. He felt pain.

 

His son's crazed laugh didn't seem to leave his mind. The doctor turned and looked at the timeline he had come through, having learned quite a lot about the anomaly and the human it seemed to like possessing.

 

For once the acquisition of knowledge didn't bring him joy.

 

 

The first few years for Sans and Papyrus in their new world were pretty rough, but they managed to pull through. As soon as his little brother was old enough to go to school Sans used it as a sort of free daycare, taking the opportunity to get as many jobs as he possibly could and doubling his efforts at the dump selling what he could find and repair.

 

Eventually they no longer had to worry about food. Then Sans didn't have to worry about Papyrus going to school in dirty rags. Soon enough he had saved up enough to afford them a rather nice house in Snowdin. He was glad it had such cheap real estate. He had gone without eating or sleeping a few times but in the end it was all worth it; they had a big house they could grow into. Sans never wanted his little brother to go cold or hungry again.

 

Despite still working a number of odd jobs Sans was never late to pick up his little brother from school and walk him home. He teleported to the tiny little building that taught the children of Snowdin just out of sight, casually walking around the corner just in time for his little brother to see him.

 

“SANS!” The little skeleton cheered, running to his brother and wrapping his arms around him in a hug.

 

“hey bro. how was school?”

 

“IT WAS OKAY.” He took his brother's hand and they began walking to their home.

 

“only 'ok'?” Sans asked, knowing from this life and the last that unless Papyrus didn't shut up about his day it had probably been a bad one.

 

“WE READ A LOT TODAY.”

 

“... ah.” Sans nodded. That had been one thing that hadn't changed, Papyrus still wasn't the best reader. He wondered if his little brother could read the strange symbols his father always used to write, but didn't have the heart to ask or test it out. It would just open old wounds.

 

Papyrus wasn't making friends as easily as he had in the capitol. Perhaps the community was so small he was still considered an 'outsider'. There wasn't much Sans could do though, other than always be there to make sure his little brother knew just how smart and amazing he was.

 

As they walked home they passed a patrol, a pair of heavily armored guards trudging through the snow and towards the ferry. Snowdin was still too small to have its own force, so usually only one set of sentries would be sent out a day to scan the place before heading back to the capitol. The little skeleton watched them as they passed, stars in his eyes.

 

“SANS?”

 

“yeah pap?”

 

“I'M GOING TO GROW UP AND BE BIG AND STRONG, JUST LIKE THAT!” He pointed at one of the guards. Sans couldn't help but smirk.

 

“better get drinking plenty of milk then. gotta have strong bones for that.”

 

“GAH!” Papyrus flailed and jumped onto his brother, arms locking around his neck. “YOU WON'T MAKE SO MANY TERRIBLE PUNS WHEN I'M OLDER!”

 

Sans stumbled and little. “i wouldn't count on that, bro. you're really going to have to sum up the strength to be able to become a prime bodyguard for little ol' me.”

 

“AUGH! THOSE WERE MATH PUNS, WEREN'T THEY?” The little skeleton groaned, knowing them only because of his brother's humor.

 

“you figure-d me out, bro.”

 

Papyrus made a high-pitched whine that only a six-year-old was capable of before roughly tugging on his brother's back, finally causing him to stumble and fall back into the snow. Once he was down the little boy scrambled over him, taking a proud seat on his brother's stomach.

 

“VICTORY FOR PAPYRUS!” He yelled, arms thrust in the air.

 

“welp. my number is up.” Sans grinned, unmoving as he lay in the snow with a smile on his face. It was times like these that being younger wasn't so bad.

 

“NO!” Papyrus clasped his gloved hands over his brother's mouth. “I HAVE WON. NO MORE PUNS FOR THE NIGHT!”

 

“ok, ok.” Sans waved his hands in truce.

 

The night went on like any other. Sans wasn't the best cook but he tried sometimes. After helping Papyrus with his homework and spending some quality time with him, he read his little brother a story and put him to bed.

 

That was when his other job began, working to rebuild the time machine.

 

He had started to build what he could from memory but it was very complicated, difficult work for a single monster, let alone one that was stuck in the body of a 13-year-old and had to take care of his little brother first and foremost.

 

It was stretching into the early hours of the morning when he started to doze off, struggling to keep himself awake and working. He looked at the clock, trying to figure out in his head how few hours of actual sleep he could get away with before having to wake Papyrus up, get him ready for school, and then go to his job.

 

As he sat hunkered over his desk, the light above him buzzing, a familiar figure hovered behind him.

 

Gaster hadn't fared well over the years. A year to him was like a minute in Sans' world, views of time skewed by all measure in the void. It was a rather maddening experience, but for all things considered the doctor was doing well.

 

His form wasn't quite as solid as the first time he had made it and his battles with the anomaly hadn't been kind to him; it wore him down mentally and physically. From time to time he would allow himself a small break to venture into the timeline his boys inhabited just to regain some of his sanity. The last thing he wanted was to lose sight of his original purpose, to stall the evil child long enough to figure out how to fix everything, or long enough so Sans could do the same.

 

Watching his boys struggle to survive for years had been heartbreaking, but at the same time seeing Sans push himself so hard had been a great comfort. Despite everything, despite how insurmountable their odds seemed, he was still doing everything he could for their family. Papyrus was happy and well taken care of and any waking moment that wasn't spent on that was used to try and figure out how to get them all reunited once more.

 

Gaster watched as Sans toiled over his notes, his eye sockets slowly starting to close and his head sagging as he started to fall asleep. His neck snapped upwards, the skeleton slapping the bones of his cheeks to stay awake.

 

"̺Y̭o̤̖ư̰ ̭͕͉̹̱c̶̟̟̜̜͓a̤̝͖͖̪͟n͇̯̭̻̤͠ ̫d͞o̗̙̣̝̙ ̶̦̭͍it̟͚͙̮̟ͅ,̳̝ͅ ̙͚̮͇͠S͖̥̻͖a̵͓̮͈n̸s̸̯.̺̞̟ ̥͍͙̼̕I̛͈͈͙̥̟̻͚ ͉̼͍̼k̯̰͞n̩ͅo̸̤̘w̢͉ ̛̻̦̮y͍͕̲̼͘ͅo̧u̩̖͠ c͕̰͚̩̤͍̲͘a҉͓n̟͚̗̳.͇̘͝"̙͎̼̤̝͘

 

The doctor smiled and reached out to touch his son's shoulder, laying it there even though neither of them could feel it.

 

Sans eventually fell asleep, his father standing over him and merely watching the back of his jacket rise and fall for awhile before making his way back to the void between timelines.

 

What little sleep Sans managed wasn't peaceful.

 

The night was filled with more nightmares than usual, he felt like his brain was hopping all over the place. One moment he would be in Snowdin with Papyrus building snowmen, the next he would feel a knife slashing across his ribcage as a demonic-looking child loomed over him. It felt like there was a new world every second, like time moved ten times as fast.

 

The knock on the door startling him awake was welcome for once.

 

“SANS?” Came the muffled voice of his brother from the other side.

 

He slowly looked up and realized he was still in his workshop. Sans jumped to his feet and quickly opened the door. His little brother was on the other side, dressed for school. Papyrus' mouth opened to berate his brother for spending the night in his shed, but stopped as he saw panic, stress, and fatigue on Sans' face.

 

“I... IT'S MORNING, BROTHER. YOU WEREN'T IN YOUR BED SO-”

 

“oh jeeze. i'm so sorry pap.” Sans rubbed his skull and quickly grabbed his coat.

 

“IT'S OKAY. YOU DON'T HAVE TO WALK ME TO SCHOOL. I EVEN MADE MYSELF SOME BREAKFAST!” Papyrus smiled, trying the only thing he knew how to do to make the tension he knew his brother was feeling go away; making light of the situation so he didn't worry.

 

“how late are you?” Sans asked as he stepped out into the snow, quickly locking the door behind him and stashing the key in his pocket.

 

“UHHH...” Papyrus made a face, not having the heart to tell him that he had wandered around yelling for him for awhile.

 

“that late, huh? guess we'll take a shortcut.”

 

He grabbed onto his brother's hand and teleported them both to the side of the school, but was jerked backward as soon as he took a step forward. He looked back and so did Papyrus, his little brother's mitten caught on a window of black nothingness. Code flickered around it and it buzzed and snapped.

 

“AHH!” Papyrus wailed, Sans quickly reaching out to yank his brother's hand out of the mitten.

 

He grabbed Papyrus and pushed him behind him, standing between his little brother and the chunk of missing code. The mitten hung from it before it slowly started to close, eventually dropping the piece of fabric in the snow once it vanished.

 

Both of them stared onward, Papyrus clinging to his brother's back. Eventually Sans reached out, taking the mitten and inspecting the missing tip where it had been consumed by whatever that was. He stashed it in his pocket.

 

“o-okay. we're never gonna do that again. heh. heh-heh...” With empty sockets he turned Papyrus around and lead him to the entrance of the school.

 

“BROTHER, WHAT WAS THAT?”

 

“i dunno, pap.” Sans partially lied.

 

After making sure his little brother was okay and getting him to class, Sans went back around to the side of the school he had come out of. He stared at the location that had glitched out only minutes before, hands in his pockets. One nervously felt the key to his workshop while the other felt the missing tip of Papyrus' glove.

 

He had started to see those strange glitches more and more while teleporting, so much so that he had begun to get used to them, but they had never 'grabbed' something before. Was it because he was so tired? It was hard to say, but it made him begin to piece things together.

 

The time machine.

 

His nightmares.

 

The DT.

 

Surely it was all linked. It wasn't normal to have the kind of nightmares he had and they had only ever started after the accident.

 

Was he seeing other timelines in his sleep? Had his teleporting ability always done this, he just hadn't been able to see it? What was that darkness?

 

… Darkness...

 

Darker, yet darker...

 

Suddenly all of Sans' movements stopped. He felt frozen in time as he came to the sudden realization that what was beyond that glitch was what he had seen with Gaster.

 

The emptiness between timelines.

 

The code that made up everything.

 

When he was teleporting he was rewriting the code; but more importantly...

 

Could Gaster be alive, stuck between time and space?

 

 

Eventually Sans began to realize that if he was going to survive long enough to actually get his machine working and have a chance at finding Gaster, he was going to have to start taking better care of himself. No longer did he stay up for days on end, instead forcing himself to get five or so hours of sleep every night. He had also realized that there was a silver lining to all of this, he was able to experience Papyrus growing up for a second time. Sans wanted to make sure that he grew up into the same kind, cheerful skeleton he had before whether they had a father or not.

 

Though his little brother's lack of friends concerned him, there was little he could do about it. Despite having a few stable jobs now he still went to the dump every now and then, especially for parts to his time machine. Building it would take years with how little resources he had.

 

During one of his trips he found a skateboard and figured it would be a neat little toy for his brother to play with, so he took it back home and fixed it up. After a new wheel, some paint and stickers, it was ready.

 

The two were walking home, Sans having forced himself to keep his mouth shut about his little present. As he opened the door it was sat just inside, propped up against a couch that had seen better days. When his little brother saw it his eye sockets lit up.

 

“OOOOOH A SKATEBOARD!” Papyrus shouted, eagerly dropping his backpack to run over to it and inspect the red paint and 90's style stickers across the underside. “COOL!” He grinned and looked up at Sans, who just smiled and shrugged.

 

“saw it and thought of you, bro.” He didn't mention he had lost an hour of sleep repairing it.

 

Papyrus wiggled happily before running up to him, squeezing his brother tightly before he turned to head outside.

 

“hey, hey.” Sans grabbed his shoulder to stop him. “you aren't gonna get much use out of it in the snow, pap. you'll have to play with it inside.”

 

The little skeleton looked out at the snow-covered ground, then back at Sans. “OH. RIGHT.” Papyrus turned and stared out again, suddenly looking much more pensive than usual. For a moment he looked older than he really was.

 

Sans started to get worried as the silence between them stretched into uncomfortable levels. “papyrus?”

 

“HM?” He suddenly snapped his attention towards his brother, as if coming out of a daze.

 

“you ok?”

 

Papyrus blinked a few times, as though shaking away some distant memory. “OH. YES... I'M FINE.” He smiled and closed the door. “CAN I PLAY WITH MY SKATEBOARD BEFORE DINNER?”

 

Sans chuckled and waved a hand dismissively. “knock yourself out, bro. hotdogs?” He asked while walking to the kitchen.

 

“AGAIN?” The little monster frowned.

 

“hey, i'm no culinary master. it's that or mac 'n cheese.”

 

“OOOKAY...” Papyrus sighed, although any disgust he might have felt quickly vanished as he looked down at his new skateboard.

 

Sans went into the kitchen to begin making dinner, his expression turning somber once his little brother was out of sight. What had that staring off into the distance been about? Was he remembering something? He had had a skateboard for awhile in the capitol and had sped down the halls of the core a lot when he was about the same age, did it trigger some sort of memory?

 

What if he tried to jog Papyrus' memory with more objects like that? Would he regain bits and pieces? What would that do to him? Would it hurt him? Would it benefit either of them? Or was Papyrus better off simply not knowing?

 

All of these questions and more ran through Sans' head as he watched the hotdogs bubble and boil over the stove. It wasn't until he heard a loud thud and a scream that he was snapped back to reality. His body surged with energy he didn't usually have as he sprinted back into the living room where he had heard the commotion. Sure enough Papyrus was sat by the stairs, tears in his eye sockets clutching his arm.

 

“oh jeeze. ohhh jeeze.” Sans ran over to his little brother and kneeled down in front of him.

 

As soon as the kitchen was vacant a familiar figure stepped out where Sans had once been, taking a moment to look around in confusion before following the voices of his boys. The ghostly apparition of the royal scientist slid into the living room, looming over his sons to assess the situation.

 

“I TRIED TO DO A TRICK OFF THE STEPS AND FELL. I THINK I'M GOING TO NEED A DOCTOR.” Papyrus looked down at his arm, a thin splinter running up his ulna.

 

"Hưh.͞ ͡Dįd҉ ̷I ͢mis̕s͘ ̨a̶ s̷wee͟t͜ kic̵kfl̸i͘p̵?̵"̛ Gaster asked despite knowing he wouldn't get an answer. Acting as though they could hear him helped his sanity sometimes.

 

“i might be able to heal it.” Sans said, sitting down in front of his little brother and taking his arm. Papyrus winced but didn't cry, he had always been a pretty tough kid, much more durable than Sans ever was.

 

The doctor looming behind him instantly frowned. "S̨ans ̡yo͠u̷'͡re a̕ ͞shi̵t ͠he͠aler.̷ ̶Do̵n't do t҉his̵."̡

 

“UHHH...” Papyrus mumbled, watching as his brother hovered a hand over the crack in his arm. He wasn't sure why but he felt like letting Sans heal it was a bad idea. Nevertheless he said nothing, watching a faint blue glow emanate from his brother's chest and then his eye.

 

They sat in silence until eventually Papyrus noticed how sweaty his brother was getting.

 

“SANS?”

 

“not now bro, gotta concentrate.”

 

"See? ҉Ev̧en Pap ̛k͞n͝ow҉s ̸y̕o̶u̵'r͠e ̡shit̴ ͜a͟t th̕iş ͢an͜d ͠h̢e ̛d̨ơes͜n͘'͡t͏ ̷even ͠rem͝em͝be̸r͞!͏" Gaster scolded from the void.

 

Papyrus went silent for another few moments, glancing down at the fracture that had barely healed at all; his brow furrowed.

 

“SANS.”

 

“pap, come on i-”

 

“SANS, STOP.”

 

The older of the two blinked and looked up.

 

“YOU'RE HURTING YOURSELF TRYING TO HEAL ME.”

 

Sans looked away, the glow in his chest and eye fading.

 

“AND YOU'RE OVERCOOKING THE HOTDOGS.”

 

"̸Ha̛h̢. Goo͝d͜ ͡jo͢b͝, ̵Pap͘y̕ru͘s.͝" The doctor said as he watched Sans' eyes widen.

 

Sans jumped to his feet perhaps a little too quickly, stumbling a little before running into the kitchen and turning off the stove. As he came back he sighed, wiping the sweat that had accumulated on his skull with the sleeve of his sweater. Papyrus had since stood up, holding his arm in front of him with the other.

 

“sorry pap. i was just hoping i could do it.”

 

“IT'S OKAY.” Papyrus smiled, “IT ONLY HURTS WHEN I MOVE IT.”

 

Sans sighed deeply and grabbed his coat. “guess getting you a skateboard was a bad idea.”

 

“NO. I STILL HAD FUN.”

 

Sans couldn't help but smile at his little brother and helped him put on his coat to take him to the resident healer. Unbeknownst to them their father followed.

 

"̸.̡.. Th̨i͡s k͢i͠nd҉ ̨o̵f̕ remi͞n̕ds̷ ͝me ̨of the ͞tįm̨e̛ ̢Papyr̷u҉s̕ ̧le͢ar͜ne̸d we c̷o̢uld det̴ach ̛o͝ur ̶l͞i̢mbs͘.̵" Gaster commented to himself as he followed his sons. "͘R͡e̵m̵emb̡er̸ t̡ha͏t? ͟D͢įd͝n̷'t͟ ̕he̵ a̕s̡k̛ f͢or͝ ą ͢'͜hand' wi̶t͟h̢ ͘som̵ęt̸hin̛g̕ ̵a̕nd ͏I̧ ̨t͢ḩr̛e͡w hi͝m ̸my ̶wh͜ol͠e ̨ar͞m? ͞M̡an ̴d͏id ̨he͠ scr̕e̸am̶." He laughed at the thought, the first time he had done so in what felt like millennia.

 

How he wished he could talk to his boys. The loneliness was becoming unbearable. There had been a day when any contact with another being was hated, but now... all he wanted to do was sit around and listen to Papyrus talk about his day at school, or shoot jokes back and forth with Sans.

 

But those days were gone; his days now were filled with fighting. Gaster was constantly tracking down and slowing the anomaly as much as he could and it was draining to say the very least. He had never been a big fighter, but now it was a necessity.

 

Suddenly Sans chuckled. Papyrus blinked and raised a brow at his brother, who just waved him off.

 

“it's nothin'. just thinking about something funny.”

 

The doctor managed a weak smile.

 

They made it to the doctor and Papyrus was taken away to the back of the little clinic to be healed. Sans took a seat out front, the tiny shack empty at this time of day especially when there weren't many residents to begin with. Gaster was about to follow Papyrus back when Sans' coughing caught his attention.

 

He turned to watch his son cough into his sleeve and wipe a tiny bit of yellow and blue magic from the corner of his mouth.

 

“dammit. that was so dumb of me. i shouldn't have even tried it.” Sans said to himself with a sigh and leaned his head back to stare at the ceiling. “bet i'm gonna get sick now.”

 

"P͠r͢oba͠bly ͜yo͘u idi͜o͏t." The doctor said, frowning and turning around to face him. His stern expression didn't last long though, a hand reaching out to rub at Sans' head. "̛Papyr҉u͝s is ͜st͠r͝o̵n̢ge̶r̷ ͡t͟ḩan ̷yo͜u͡ ̸t͡hink͢.̧ ͜H͟e͢ c̵ąn͘ ̕tak̷e͡ ͞çar̢ȩ o̢f h͞imse͞lf͏,͠ e̕v̵e͞n n̢o̵w. ͘Yo̕u ̛nee̸d to̵ ̡wor̷ry̧ more̶ ͏a̡b҉o͡uţ you҉rsel͏f̢."̛

 

His words went unheard, the doctor lingering there for a moment before sighing and leaning down to touch his teeth against Sans' head. "͘Ple͘a̧s͡e ̕d͢o̧n't̷ ͢d҉o ͜any̵th̵in̵g ̧stup̛id.̵"

 

He turned, phasing through a few walls to get to where Papyrus was laying down, a mousey-looking monster woman healing his arm. Gaster did the same to him, kissing his head before turning to go back into the void.

 

"̸Se͢e҉ ̷yą ͝k̵idd̨o.̨ ͘Take c̷a͟re͏ of҉ your broţher,̧ o͞k̢ay?"

 

Chapter Text

With good healing and a few days resting his arm, Papyrus would be good as new. However his brother was another story.

 

Stressing his magic was never a good idea, especially when he was younger. Teleporting was one thing, it came naturally to him now, but healing had always been very difficult; perhaps because it countered his original purpose for being made. Either way forcing it, even as little as he had, set forth into motion the same churning, bubbling cauldron of magic inside him he had felt in his previous life.

 

Of course, as usual, he hid his ailments as best he could and continued as though everything was normal.

 

While Papyrus was at school Sans spent some of his breaks from work hanging out at Grillby's. He was still 'too young' to drink but it was a nice change in setting from his workroom that helped him think. The monsters there liked him, thinking his sense of humor and quick wit were charming just like his coworkers had back in the other world.

 

It was a slow day at the tavern and Sans was sat at one of the booths scribbling down equations in a tiny notebook. He had been trying hard to muffle his coughing, using the puffy sleeve of his coat to suppress the sound. He rubbed his skull and stared down at the page in his notes, the numbers blurring together.

 

Dammit. He was too busy to be sick.

 

What little concentration he had managed to muster was broken as a glass was set down in front of him. Sans turned, looking up at Grillby who was standing by the table.

 

“i didn't order anything.”

 

“... I know...” The talking fire said, the two of them staring at one another until Sans finally pulled in his notebook a little to hide it away.

 

“oh. thanks.” He took the drink and had a sip before coughing into his sleeve. A bit of magic ran from his nasal opening which was quickly wiped away.

 

“... You should go home and rest...”

 

“heh. nah. still got a shift to do after this. then i gotta pick up pap and make him dinner.” Sans stashed away his notebook and took another drink.

 

Grillby stood beside him in silence for a few moments before finally turning to go back to the bar. “... Take care of yourself...”

 

“i will grillby. thanks for the drink.”

 

Sans sat there for awhile nursing his drink before getting up to head back to work. Once outside he tried to weigh his options; teleport or walk? Both had their downfalls, but eventually fatigue won and he used his magic to get there instead, regretting it instantly as he stopped to puke up a little magic directly after.

 

Today was going to be a long day.

 

Sans stumbled and floundered through work, feeling worse and worse as the hours passed. As he was walking home he felt like he was going to pass out, sweat covering his brow and bags under his eye sockets much larger than usual. However as he got closer to the house he shared with Papyrus he noticed something odd.

 

The lights were on.

 

Great. Were they getting robbed? He was way too tired for this.

 

He opened the front door slowly, seeing Papyrus already picked up from school and playing with his toy cars across the sofa.

 

“HI SANS!” His little brother smiled, stopping what he was doing to get up and help his brother inside.

 

“pap? why are you home from school already?” He asked in confusion.

 

“GRILLBY CAME AND PICKED ME UP. HE SAID YOU WEREN'T FEELING WELL. HE'S GOING TO MAKE US A REAL DINNER TONIGHT!” Papyrus grinned.

 

“you got a problem with my gourmet hotdogs?” Sans joked, an exhausted smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.

 

“HE TOLD ME TO GET YOU TO BED AS SOON AS YOU GOT HOME.” Papyrus said, brushing off his older brother's joke and taking his hand to urge him up the stairs.

 

“bed? bro i can't just let him do all the work.” Sans said, trying to pull away and peer into the kitchen where he could hear the fire monster at work.

 

“NOPE. NO, HE SAID BED.” Papyrus grabbed at his brother tighter, easily able to guide his sickly sibling up the stairs.

 

Sans sighed, “alright, alright.”

 

Sans begrudgingly went to bed, falling asleep the instant his head hit his pillow. While Grillby made them their first decent, home-cooked meal in years, Gaster decided to pay them a visit.

 

He appeared in the living room looking drained and unformed. The whites of his eyes were gone, black voids of his eye sockets forlornly staring down at Papyrus. He managed only the weakest of smiles this time.

 

The doctor made his way into the kitchen, expecting to find Sans but instead seeing his old drinking buddy manning the stove. A look of confusion passed over him.

 

"G̛ril̢lby͝?̕"

 

He turned and looked around before making his way up the steps and phasing through Sans' door to find his son sleeping soundly on his bed; a bare mattress tossed on the floor. A sigh escaped his mouth before the calender on the wall caught his eye.

 

It had only been a day since he had been here last.

 

The doctor stood and stared at it. "̸Y-͘.͞.. you͞'̕r̵e ki̡dding.̴..̢ ̨on͏l͝y҉ a͏ da҉y..̷.?͢" He mumbled, head spinning. Slowly he reached up, grasping at his skull. It had felt like years had passed. He had fought the anomaly so many times since last coming here and it had only been a single day.

 

Eventually he started to laugh, a horrible sound that tended to glitch out with each inhale. "̴I tol͞d ͠y͡ou ̧no̧t to̧ t͏r̨y ͟he͠al̷i̡ng yo҉u͘r brother, S̵a̧n̵s. ҉Y͘ou͠ ͟k͢n̡ơw you'̢r͜e n͢ot̛ go͠ǫd̛ a͠t̢ it͘.͡ Now look at ̕y̕o͢u. ҉Yo҉u̧'̴r̷e ̢sic͟k̨ ̶aŗe͏n't ͏yo̡ư?̢ Tha͟t's w̧h͡y̨ ̡Gr͜ill͞by͜ i̕s he͜r̢e.͝..̕ ͟tak̷i̡n҉g̷ ca̧re͡ of̷ yo̕u.̡.."

 

Taking care of them.

 

Taking care of them when he couldn't.

 

Gaster turned to Sans, leaning down and letting his body rest over him as much as he could without phasing through. Silently he wept, inky black tears falling down his cheeks.

 

It was getting harder.

 

Time in the void was horrible but he had no choice. If the anomaly got into this timeline then everything he had endured so far would be for nothing, it would kill his boys without a doubt. All he could do was keep holding on. He had to have hope that Sans would be able to finish the time machine.

 

There was nothing else for him. Every grain of sanity he had was kept afloat by the belief that his son would succeed.

 

He sat with Sans for awhile, his crying quickly subsiding; looking at him sleep was peaceful. Eventually he went downstairs, watching as Grillby sat with Papyrus as they ate dinner, the little skeleton regaling the bartender with all his adventures at school and the stories he made up with his action figures.

 

Gaster smiled a little, feeling nostalgic as he watched his old friend do exactly as he had, sat and listened to Papyrus do all the talking. It was so nice to hear him talk, to know that he was happy.

 

Unfortunately he couldn't stay forever. He watched as they finished dinner before turning to fade back into the void.

 

 

Time proceeded for all of them. Sans got better after a few days and their routines continued. While Papyrus went to school his older brother juggled his job and building the time machine, always stopping to spend time with him. He took him sledding, read him a bedtime story every night, and even sometimes sat and watched him sleep.

 

It was a tiring, busy, lonely life, but it was all he had. He even made his own self-sustaining tornado in his room just like Gaster had shown him all those years ago. Looking at it reminded him of what his end goal still was and always would be, to get them all together again.

 

To have a happy ending.

 

Eventually Sans reached a point in his project where regular stuff from the dump he could salvage just wasn't going to cut it. He would need some equipment from the lab. The last time he had been there it had been abandoned, so hopefully getting things would be rather easy. During one of his breaks he teleported to Hotland and into the deeper parts of the lab, eager to get in and get out.

 

Being there always made him really uneasy. It felt like he would turn a corner and suddenly there would be the darkness creeping towards him to yank him away from everything he knew for a second time. This time around he grabbed some of Gaster's old blueprints, but found a few things strangely misplaced. The ones for the DT machine were gone.

 

Getting more creeped out by the minute he stuffed some of the notes in his jacket before turning to leave.

 

The light flicked on.

 

Sans stood still, eye sockets wide as a short yellow monster hovered in the doorway wearing a lab coat and glasses.

 

“AHHHHH!” Alphys screamed, clutching at the door frame. “W-who are you!?”

 

“uh...”

 

The whites of Sans' eyes bounced back and forth in their sockets, mimicking one of his father's odd traits. “just a guy who likes science.”

 

“H-how did you get down here? D-do you work here? I don't think I've ever s-seen...” She trailed off, suddenly realizing something. “Hey, w-wait... h-haven't I seen you at the dump before?”

 

Sans thought back for a moment, but did recall seeing a yellow monster with two others hanging out there from time to time digging for junk. He had never really struck up a conversation with them, usually too busy looking for something in particular for his machine.

 

“um... probably. i go there for stuff sometimes.”

 

“O-oh. M-me too.” The lizard managed a shaky smile and the silence between them grew uncomfortable rather quickly. “S-so what are you doing here? D-do you work here?” She asked again.

 

Sans tried to think of an excuse, eventually digging in his pocket to fish out the badge from working with Gaster and flashing it just quick enough for Alphys to get a glance of what it was. “used to. now i just come to get some things every now and then.”

 

“O-oh! Wow!” She grinned, arms hugging her clipboard tightly. “W-wait, aren't you too young t-to be an assistant?”

 

Sans tried to hide his annoyance, doing so rather well since he lacked any flesh. “yeah i get that a lot.”

 

 

“S-sorry.” Alphys mumbled out, her eyes looking away from the skeleton. “I-is there anything I c-can help you find? W-what are you looking for?”

 

“uh... nah.” Sans smiled and shrugged. “i was just about to leave, actually.”

 

“O-oh. Okay.”

 

As the lizard turned to exit Sans glanced at the table that had once been home to the DT extraction machine blueprints. “on second thought...” He began, watching as the scientist turned back around. “any idea where some of these blueprints went?”

 

“I-... uh...” Alphys began, looking nervous. Eventually she hung her head. “Y-yes. I-I don't know who made them but one of them was for a m-machine to extract determination from human souls. I-I took it to use for a p-project the king wants me to complete.”

 

Sans turned away to look at something else to casually hide the whites in his eye sockets vanishing in a mild sort of panic. “... is that so?”

 

“S-sorry.” Alphys stuttered, although wasn't quite sure what she was apologizing for. “D-do you know who originally m-made them?”

 

“not a clue.” He answered rather quickly.

 

“O-oh.”

 

“but i'd like to see it, if you don't mind?” Sans asked, hands in the pockets of his jacket.

 

Alphys' face lit up. “S-sure!” She turned, gesturing for the skeleton to follow. Despite it being a rather secretive project she seemed rather lonely and eager to talk about it with someone who might understand.

 

“Th-the king wants me to create s-something to break the barrier. I f-figure this is about as good a shot as I have.”

 

The two walked down the empty corridors, a few of the lights flickering from disuse. After a few moments had passed Sans spoke up again.

 

“are you here alone?”

 

“Y-yeah...” Alphys said, sounding saddened by the fact. “S-save for a few other monsters who come in occasionally to make s-sure the core is okay I'm all by myself.”

 

“huh.” Sans raised a brow, finding that odd. “you're the new royal scientist, right? how come you don't have any assistants?”

 

The lizard laughed nervously. “I-I don't really need any... I w-work pretty well on my own.”

 

“so why did the king hire you? musta dazzled him with something, right?” Sans asked, eager to learn more about this awkward, strange little monster. A part of him longed to have a friend interested in the same things as him again, someone to talk to on an intellectual level even if he kept his own projects to himself. Besides, this monster seemed pretty lonely too.

 

“O-oh. I, uh, made a robot with a soul.”

 

Sans' eye sockets widened. “really? wow. how long did that take you?”

 

“Oh, heh, uh, quite awhile. He was, uh, pretty impressed.” Alphys said, blushing at the thought.

 

“sounds awesome.” Sans grinned, causing the lizard to blush even deeper.

 

“Th-thanks...”

 

As they walked they chatted about random things, mostly science and modern technology. Alphys tried to convince him to get a cellphone and a TV, both of which he lacked simply due to being busy with other things. Apparently she had even invented the undergrounds own version of the internet. Sans only vaguely recalled learning about that before everything had gone wrong in his previous life.

 

Eventually a familiar figure stepped out in front of them, going completely unseen as they got closer and closer.

 

"͡So͢ ͝th͏is͞ i̕s ͞wher҉e yo҉u ͟are͢. Why ͏are̷ ̷y͟ou ̛ba͝c͜k he̕r͘e͟?"̸ He asked, eyes narrowing at the yellow lizard talking to him. "͟An͟d͏ w͝h̴o͞ ͢t̴h̷e ͡fuc̕k ̧i̛s͘ th̡at? ̴Wh̴y ͜a̷r̕e̕ they͜ ̧i̸n̡ my̸ lab̴?͏"͢

 

He didn't move, watching as the two walked directly through him. Both shivered afterward and Alphys turned to look at Sans. “D-did you feel that?”

 

“yeah. weird draft i guess.”

 

They both stared at the spot where Gaster was standing before turning to walk again. He sighed and followed, listening to them talk about this and that. Eventually he caught onto the fact that Alphys was the new royal scientist.

 

"W͜oah҉,̶ ͝wo͢ah̸,͟ T͠H̷I̵S?̵ ͜T͡H̵IS̶ is th̢e͞ ̸nęw ̡r͞o̧yal sci͘en̡t̵is͏t? O͢h̢ m̴an ͠ha͠s̕ ҉Asgore ͠rea̸che̷ḑ ̴n̨e̛w l̡ev̨els.̶" Gaster rolled his eyes and gestured with his hands.

 

He followed them into a dark room, the lights flickering as Alphys flipped them on. “H-here we are.”

 

In the middle was a partially built DT extraction machine. The lizard walked up to it and lifted the blueprints from the floor, a few tools clattering on the ground. She handed them over to Sans, who took it and looked it over.

 

Definitely 'Dings handwriting.

 

“The d-design is pretty w-weird and the writing is nothing but s-symbols but I was able to f-figure out most of it.” She said, looking nervous. “I-it's still a w-work in progress...”

 

"̴'W͘e͏iŗd̢'̧?̴ ̵Yo̕u mean̴ ̴b̴ada̶s̛s̕.̛ All the ̡s̵t̵u̡ff ̢I̕ m҉a͡de was͘ ͞b͠a̛da͢ss.͝"̨ The spectre said in annoyance, folding his arms. Everything he made tended to look pretty grim or like skulls of some sort, no matter what it was. It must have carried over from the war days where looks were meant to intimidate... Or maybe he just thought it looked cool.

 

"̨Y̧o͘ư'r̢e͡ ͟w҉ȩl͡com̴e ̨f̵or ͞d҉o҉in̶g a̕l̷l t҉he̴ wor̴ķ." He grumbled.

 

“so... what are you doing to use the dt for?” Sans asked, looking up from the blueprints at Alphys.

 

“'DT'?”

 

“uh... the determination.” Sans said, catching himself using phrases from his past life. Had to be careful he didn't let on too much.

 

“O-oh... well...” The lizard fumbled a little with her hands. “I h-have a theory th-that maybe it's what gives humans all their p-power. M-maybe I can use it s-somehow to break the barrier like the king w-wants.” She shrugged, being intentionally vague.

 

“i see.” Sans said, looking down at the blueprints again before rolling it up and handing it back to the scientist. “well, be careful with it. it might be dangerous.”

 

Gaster's expression fell as he stood behind them. "T͟his ͠pr͜oba͟b҉ly ͡won͞'t͞ ̡end we͟ll҉.̵.̡."

 

The two continued to chat for awhile longer, their topics of discussion jumping from the project at hand to general tech and eventually 'social media'. It was about then that Gaster decided to tap out.

 

"͝Nope. ̧N̢u͡h-uh.̵ Not҉ ͜l͝i̡şt͝e͞ni̕n̛g̨ t̨o ͝t͘h̢i̴s̡ ͠shit̡. I͟'d̢ ra̶th͞e̕r ̨g̷o͞ ̷inşa͘n͜e͟ in ̵an ͘area of̴ ̧in̕f͘ini̷te ͡t͜i̡me ̛a̷nd s͝p̢a͏c͝e̵ t͞ha̧n҉ l̶i̧st̛en̷ ̵to t̨h̨i͡s." He turned to leave, pausing for a moment to sigh and rub his son's skull before passing through the code to perhaps go check up on Papyrus again before getting back to work inside the void.

 

Eventually Sans decided to leave, turning around a corner and getting out of sight before teleporting outside the lab. He decided to walk this time rather than teleport home, figuring it would give him some time to think. He might not have gotten what he came for but the conversation with Alphys had been welcome. Sans hadn't had someone to really talk to outside of his brother and sometimes Grillby for years, at least not on a more-than-acquaintance level.

 

As he walked he noticed something in the distance warped by the sweltering heat of Hotland. He could barely make it out even as his eye sockets squinted at the horizon, a wavering gray blob standing by one of the edges of the pathway.

 

He started to jog towards it, but the closer it got the more it faded into the heat, eventually dissipating completely once he got close. The skeleton slowed down and stood where it had once been, an odd sort of feeling of familiarity overcoming him.

 

He slowly turned and continued on his way back home.

 

 

Sans snuck into the lab quite frequently after that. Alphys was a welcome ear to talk to even if he never let on why he came back or what he was working on. The only thing he was ever willing to talk about was that he had been an assistant at one point and right now he was living with his little brother in Snowdin. Everything else remained a mystery.

 

Each time he would sneak something out, a piece of equipment or a tool he needed in order to complete his time machine. However each time he left he would run into a strange gray silhouette on the horizon that would fade away the closer he became.

 

Eventually he got sick of it and vowed he would figure out what the strange visions were about.

 

During one of his walks back home he caught sight of the gray outline and, instead of running towards it, teleported instead. He zipped from one point to another, landing just a few feet from where he knew the weird image to be.

 

Stood in front of him was a familiar figure devoid of color. It was a monster that had been working with Gaster on the time machine, their large eyes staring vacantly ahead. Sans' own eyes widened, his arms going slack.

 

He felt an indescribable fear creepy up over him.

 

“d-...” He began, wanting to say the monster's name. As soon as he spoke it turned and looked at him. They stared at one another, the look on the gray monster's face devoid of any sort of emotion.

 

“ssssssssssSSSSSSSSSSAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-!” It began to say, but it soon turned into a scream. Sans flinched and took a step back, hands going over where his ears would be as the screaming turned into a high-pitched squeal, which then fluctuated and screeched as the figure began to glitch out. Pieces of it vanished altogether while some rotated and twitched at odd, impossible angles.

 

Sans panicked.

 

After taking another step back he quickly teleported away as far away as he could. He got about halfway into Waterfall and collapsed onto his knees, mud splattering upwards onto his clothes.

 

Sans could still hear the screaming, the sound ringing in his skull.

 

Had that really been one of his coworkers? How had they ended up here? And... more importantly, what had that even been about? Had they gone insane?

 

He wondered if his father was stuck in the same position, somewhere between worlds and driven mad by it.

 

Sans stood up and ran the rest of the way home, teleporting occasionally to make the trip faster. The encounter had terrified him and all he wanted to do now was see Papyrus and cling to him so tightly he would get annoyed and yell at him.

 

The thought of Gaster being stuck in the same position, staring vacantly and screaming... it would haunt his dreams for weeks.

 

He needed to finish his machine.

 

 

A few more years passed, Sans regularly 'borrowing' equipment from the lab and using Alphys as an excuse to get inside. All things considered however, he really didn't mind hanging out with her. She was a nice monster, if not a little shy and socially awkward. The more time he spent with her the more she opened up and spoke about her work, most of which Sans was unwilling to help with unless it was to hopefully steer her away from the idea of using DT at all.

 

Her idea to try and inject DT into monsters that had fallen down got him worried, but he tried not to get too involved. Alphys was a smart monster, after all. Maybe not as smart as Dr. Gaster, but still very capable. Perhaps she could figure out a way to break the barrier; her thought process was much different from the original royal scientist and maybe that was what they needed.

 

Every time he went back into Hotland he would occasionally see his old coworkers as well. They were always in the same spot and always just out of reach, but truth be told he was simply too frightened to get close to them after the first encounter. He had to stay focused on his goal to save Gaster first and foremost.

 

Then finally, after years and years of working hard, he got it working.

 

The time machine whirred to life just like it had before. Although the key elements to break into the void were still incomplete he could at the very least monitor the timelines. Still, this was a very big step in the right direction.

 

It was time to celebrate.

 

After containing himself at least a little Sans made his way around the house and to the front door, the grin across his face even wider than usual. He opened it to find Papyrus sat in front of the TV watching one of his favorite programs, the robot Alphys had made dancing across the screen while discussing how to make some sort of food dish.

 

“SHOULD I MAKE DINNER TONIGHT?” Papyrus asked, the 12-year-old now putting forth a helping hand when it came to cleaning and cooking around the house. It was the least he could do what with his brother busy working all the time and paying their rent.

 

“you make whatever you want, pap.” Sans said as he plopped down beside him, an arm reaching around his brother to pull him close into a tight squeeze. They were about the same height now, Papyrus no doubt going to hit a growth spurt in a few years just like he had before everything had happened.

 

Papyrus blinked, his cheek clonking against his brother's while being pulled into the impromptu hug. “WELL YOU'RE RATHER HAPPY.” He smiled, hugging him back and able to squeeze all the tighter.

 

“yeah. just finished something big, pap. i think we should celebrate somehow.” Sans grinned. “what do ya say we take a little trip back to waterfall for old times sake?”

 

“THAT SEEMS LIKE A STRANGE PLACE TO GO TO CELEBRATE. BUT... IF YOU WANT.” Papyrus said, his smile growing.

 

 

The following day they both took off school and work to go to Waterfall, a place Papyrus hadn't really been to since they had upgraded to a house in Snowdin. He still wasn't quite sure why his brother wanted to go here, but he wasn't going to question it or complain if it made his brother happy.

 

They walked around, stopping occasionally to stare up at the 'stars'. Papyrus might not have remembered their first time here, but Sans did. A part of him felt a connection to it all, as though he would be able to turn around and see his father standing behind them, smiling and staring up right along with them.

 

“so, don't you have any wishes to make?” Sans asked as they walked.

 

“HMM... JUST ONE, BUT IT'S KIND OF STUPID.” Papyrus said after some thought.

 

“don't say that. come on, i promise i won't laugh.” Sans gave his little brother a nudge with his elbow.

 

“HMM... IF I SAY MY WISH, YOU PROMISE YOU WON'T LAUGH AT ME?”

 

“of course i won't laugh.” Sans smiled.

 

Papyrus suddenly stopped, his brother pausing and looking back as both of their gazes moved towards the crystals in the ceiling. “SOMEDAY I'D LIKE TO CLIMB THE MOUNTAIN WE'RE ALL BURIED UNDER. STANDING UNDER THE SKY, LOOKING AT THE WORLD ALL AROUND, THAT'S MY WISH.”

 

Sans blinked and snorted, unable to help himself as he began to laugh. His little brother frowned and ran up to him. “HEY! YOU SAID YOU WOULDN'T LAUGH AT IT!”

 

“sorry, it's just funny.” Sans said through chuckles as they continued walking once more. “that's my wish too.”

 

Their walk was calming and leisurely, both of them eventually finding a bench to sit on. It was the same bench they had sat on all those years ago. Sans could almost feel Gaster beside him.

 

But the ghostly apparition of his father was hovered behind him instead, having watched some of their journey through Waterfall. It had been so painfully bittersweet. He looked down at one of the echo flowers where his feet would have been, having spent some of the time toying with their code for just this occasion.

 

Gaster waited until Papyrus sprang up and left to go get something to eat from one of the local stands before setting his plan into motion. It took a lot out of him to influence the world even doing something so small, so he only had one shot. He couldn't say much, but he knew what Sans needed to hear. The doctor opened his prompt and began.

 

Beep bee beep beep.

 

Sans blinked and turned around, staring at the echo flower.

 

Beep beep beep.

 

Was that... morse code?

 

Bee bee beep.

 

The skeleton frantically grabbed his notebook from inside his pocket and scribbled down the code, stopping only as Papyrus came back and shoving the booklet back into his jacket. He played it off as nothing and the two got up to head home, Sans glancing back at the flower as they left.

 

Gaster watched, his form becoming more and more unstable. He allowed himself only the smallest moment to watch his boys leave before pulling himself back into the void, needing as much time as he could to rest and regain his strength before having to fight the anomaly for the up-thousandth time.

 

Once they had gotten back home and Papyrus was put to bed, Sans went to his workroom and opened up the page with the morse code.

 

-.-- --- ..- / -.-. .- -. / -.. --- / .. - .-.-.-

 

Sans stared at it, his hands beginning to shake.

 

You can do it.

 

He hadn't allowed himself to cry over the situation since it all began, but now he couldn't hold it in anymore. Sans sat on his stool, mouth wobbling and tears beginning to slip from the corners of his eye sockets. He put the notebook to his face, stifling the tiny sobs that managed to escape as much as he could.

 

 

After that his efforts doubled. Any moment he wasn't taking care of Papyrus, working, or catching a few hours of sleep, he was occupied with his machine. Days, weeks, months; all passed by where he monitored timelines. If he was going to make the machine work properly this time around he would need as much information as he could get. However even before it had taken years of monitoring by multiple monsters to get a semi-decent understanding of everything.

 

He stopped going to see Alphys, completely neglecting any relationships he had outside of his little brother for his work.

 

It had to work. He had to get it running. Whether that echo flower was just someone's joke or not, he didn't care. Sans just had a feeling deep within his soul that it had been Gaster. His father was watching. His father was alive and sane enough to relay a message across time and space.

 

This had to work.

 

The entire workshop became a mess of papers and codes, timelines linked to one another with bright red marker. The more and more Sans discovered the more he began to realize where they had ended up. The anomaly was close, very close. However it was moving much slower than before, the timelines that were destroyed and created coming in much more gradually than they had in their previous world. Sans didn't know why, but it was a welcome change nonetheless. Whatever that anomaly was it could, potentially, get to the timeline they were in and destroy everything. He would have to beat it to the punch.

 

--

 

Over a year passed where Sans neglected everything but his own brother and his job for data. Day in and day out he would hunker down in his workshop and monitor timelines. But as time passed things began to change.

 

Things felt... weird.

 

At first he had barely noticed it. Then he felt a strange sense of deja-vu. He would go into the workshop and feel like he had gotten much more done than what was in front of him.

 

Sans began to keep a notebook detailing his accomplishments every day and sure enough, things didn't add up.

 

Hours, sometimes days worth of work just... vanished. He began to tweak the machine to monitor his own timeline more than others, an act that could have taken days ending up taking months with how much work could be lost in the blink of an eye.

 

It was exhausting.

 

Eventually he got it to work, his own timeline jumping around like there was no sense of direction. Up and down, left and right, it started and stopped at random intervals.

 

At first he thought it was the anomaly. Had it really gotten to him so fast? But... no. The anomaly was still doing what it had always done, leeching off timelines and destroying them. This particular abnormality was complete isolated to a single timeline, only directly interacting with the one he was in. It didn't jump from world to world, it stayed where it was and stopped and started it without actually destroying it.

 

Sans stood in his workshop, staring at the wall full of data tacked in front of him. The white dots of his eyes bouncing between one anomaly to the next. He felt his arms suddenly go slack. His notebook and pencil clattered on the ground.

 

What was he supposed to do now? How could he ever possibly finish the machine if everything was going to start over? What was causing this? Why were there two?

 

Sans clutched at his skull and slowly crumpled to the ground, legs pulled close to his chest. This was overwhelming. He felt his soul cry out in anguish and he began to shake.

 

How?

 

Why?

 

What was he supposed to do?

 

He was alone.

 

Sans raised his head to look at the information in front of him and started to laugh.

 

 

Sans tried. He tried and tried and tried to figure out where the anomaly was and what it was doing, but for the life of him he simply couldn't. Any work done would just be swept away as though it had never happened.

 

He was starting to lose hope.

 

He began to spend more time at Grillby's sat by himself and trying to think of a plan, but couldn't come up with anything. The time spent there slowly turned into an escape, any emotions he felt masked with humor and drink. As Papyrus grew older he stopped going to get him from school or even coming home for dinner.

 

It was getting late and even the regulars had begun to funnel out of the bar, only Sans and the monster made of fire tending to his business left. Sans already had a few drinks in him, the bags under his eye sockets distinctly noticeable and the ever-present grin tugging slightly downward around the edges. He pushed back the rest of his drink before setting the glass down.

 

“one for the road, grillb'?”

 

Grillby took the glass and turned, returning after with a glass of water and setting it carefully down in front of Sans. The skeleton raised a brow and looked up at him. The fire only stared back.

 

“heh, alright.”

 

As Sans reached out to take the glass Grillby walked around the bar, locking the front door before coming back and taking a seat beside the other monster. He folded his hands on the counter-top and looked down at one of his most regular customers, who had become much more regular over the past year.

 

“... what?” Sans asked, a brow raised. He looked away and drank more.

 

“... Sans, you've been coming here much more often recently...” The fire finally said.

 

“appreciate my business?” Sans joked with a grin.

 

Grillby turned and looked ahead for a moment. “... I'm concerned about you...”

 

The skeleton's grin faltered again. He turned and looked at nothing in particular, hiding the awkward silence by taking a drink of water. “you don't gotta be worried about me. i'm fine.”

 

“... I am not blind, Sans...” Grillby said, a tinge of annoyance in his breathy voice.

 

Sans made a face and shifted on his stool, his untied sneakers tapping at one of the rungs before finding a comfortable position to rest. “look, grillb-”

 

“... Talk to me...” The bartender said, cutting him off and turning to face him.

 

Sans frowned and the grip on his glass wavered. A long stretch of silence passed, Grillby as patient as always. He didn't rush him or push him to talk, but simply sat and waited for the skeleton to gather up the courage.

 

“... i've been trying to get back home.” He finally said, eye sockets closing. “i'm not from here, grillby. i know how crazy this is all going to sound and i know you won't believe me.” Sans opened his eyes and looked down at his lap. “there was an accident. pap 'n i were flung here. i think my dad is somewhere else and i'm trying to find him, but...” He paused to try and keep his composure.

 

“things keep... resetting. i don't understand. i've been trying and trying to get the machine to work or figure it out but i'm only one guy, grillby. i can't do this by myself. i'm not smart enough.” He leaned on the bar, head resting in his hands. “i miss my dad. i miss my friends. i just wanna go home...”

 

Sans couldn't hold back anymore, tears gathering in his eyes. He let out a few quiet sobs before hiding his head in his arms and resting on the bar. Grillby said nothing, a warm arm reaching out to rest against the boy's back.

 

“the worst part is i know you won't remember any of this.” Sans said once he had calmed down enough. “it might be tomorrow or a month from now, but i know one day i'm going to wake up and you'll have no idea this conversation even happened. no one will. i'm the only one that notices.”

 

Again Grillby remained silent, gently rubbing his hand across Sans' back. He didn't understand what Sans was talking about, but he didn't need to. All he needed to do was to be there for him.

 

The gentle sensation of comfort was enough to lull his addled mind to sleep, Grillby only getting up once he knew Sans was going to be okay. A short phone call later and Papyrus was knocking on the door.

 

“I'M SORRY GRILLBY.” He apologized as he entered, now nearly as tall as the bartender. “SANS HAS BEEN... HAVING A ROUGH TIME.”

 

Papyrus approached Sans, a gloved hand resting on his back. His brother only mumbled as he was lifted and carried out.

 

“THANK YOU, GRILLBY.”

 

Papyrus walked out of the bar and towards their home, his older brother in his arms. He sighed, his breath steaming up as soon as it left his teeth. Things had been getting worse and worse over the past few months. Whatever it was Sans had been working on didn't seem to be going well and he was starting to slack in all areas because of it.

 

He barely ate, he slept all the time, and he had since quit his job.

 

“... i'm sorry.” Sans finally mumbled, head resting on his brother's shoulder. Papyrus blinked and stopped, glancing down at him.

 

“i'm sorry we'll never get to see dad again. i'm sorry i'm not smart enough. i'm such a terrible brother.” He mumbled, Papyrus sighing and continuing to walk towards their house.

 

“YOU'RE DRUNK, SANS. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO BE SORRY ABOUT.”

 

“yeah i do.”

 

“NO, YOU DON'T. YOU ARE A WONDERFUL BROTHER WHOM I LOVE VERY MUCH. IT'S JUST...” He trailed off, Sans glancing up at him and expecting the worst.

 

“I WISH YOU WOULD TAKE BETTER CARE OF YOURSELF. YOU'RE WORRYING ME, YOU KNOW. WHAT'S CHANGED TO MAKE YOU FEEL THIS WAY?”

 

Sans looked down again, closing his eyes and tugging his arms tighter around Papyrus' neck. He didn't say anything, causing his little brother to sigh once again.

 

Sans never told him anything if it was bad.

 

As they walked home a ghostly figured followed behind them, Gaster looking much worse than he had in previous visits. Watching his son lose hope was what really took the most toll on him. If Sans gave up then that might very well be the end of everything for him unless he figured out a way to get out himself. But everything he had tried had been impossible or failed.

 

"P͘le̴ąse̡,͞ S̸a̢ns̷... ͞do̕n̶'͘t gįv͝e ͡up.̴.."

 

He followed them back home, watching as Papyrus tucked Sans into his messy bed before leaving. Gaster started to weigh his options, wondering if he could somehow figure out what was causing the skips in time in this particular world while still fighting the original anomaly. At this point he didn't think there would be anything to lose.

 

After kissing his sons goodbye he vanished back into the void.

 

 

Sans didn't sleep well that night. He woke up on his bed still in last night's clothes with a strange sort of buzzing in his skull, something he had begun to feel quite often ever since things had gotten strange. As he sat up he rubbed his head and slowly pulled himself out of bed.

 

Papyrus had already left for school, which was pretty normal these days. Gone were the times when his big brother walked him to and from the little house Snowdin's school took place in. As Sans stood in the doorway to his room something occurred to him.

 

Hadn't yesterday been Friday?

 

He shook off the thought and walked around the house trying to find Papyrus, but eventually came to the conclusion that maybe he had been wrong. Maybe...

 

Sans went down to his workshop and turned on the light, shuffling through his papers to lazily find his logbook. Some of the messages he recalled writing down were missing. With a heavy sigh Sans let his back press against the wall and slid down, sitting there with his head low for much longer than he had any right to.

 

He didn't want to move. He didn't want to get up. He didn't want to be here.

 

He was so tired.

 

After what felt like hours he stood up and headed to Grillby's, the scientist in him still driven to double-check his facts. Sans pulled up a stool and sat down, not even having to say anything for the bartender to place his usual in front of him; a burger and fries.

 

“thanks grillby.” He said, then gestured for him as the monster started to turn away. “hey, about last night...”

 

Sans looked at him, able to read the fire's blank expressions rather well after all these years. He could tell he wasn't sure what Sans was talking about.

 

“... eh, nevermind.” He shrugged and forced a smile, Grillby turning to attend to more customers.

 

That confirmed it.

 

Sans sighed and rubbed his skull before digging into his food. He forced himself to eat it, even Grillby's amazing cooking tasting lackluster these days. Everything did. After he finished he wandered aimlessly, unsure of where to go or what to do.

 

He wandered through the forest, through Snowdin, stood outside the school wishing Papyrus was done already, and eventually headed back home. Sans didn't bother going into his workshop, too depressed to handle any of it right now. Everything had been turned upside down and now he didn't even know where to begin or how to combat any of it.

 

Life had been hard before, but now? It was impossible.

 

This was all impossible.

 

Sans lay on the couch in the living room, the TV blaring some sort of program he wasn't paying the least bit of attention to. His arm draped across his eye sockets as he let the world pass by him. Eventually he sat up simply to have something else to look at, choosing to stare at the carpet. The notebook in his jacket shifted with his movement, a boney hand reaching in and pulling it out to stare at the cover.

 

He started to flip through it absentmindedly without really paying attention to any of the words or calculations. Halfway through something felt weird and he stopped, brow furrowing. A couple of the pages were stuck together.

 

Sans blinked and slowly peeled them apart. Between them was a strange black ooze. One one of the pages had a series of symbols slapped onto it haphazardly.

 

Hand-Frown-Flag-Cross-Hand-Sun.

 

He raised a brow.

 

Flower?

 

Chapter Text

After passing into the void that night Gaster did something he hadn't done in what felt like a millenia; let the anomaly cause havoc across the timelines. Instead his focus changed onto the timeline his sons inhabited, going through the code with a fine-toothed comb. If he was going to find the second irregularity this would be the only way to do it, to find the strange difference in code that made up each timeline.

 

Eventually he found it.

 

The doctor stepped through and into the timeline, stood behind a tiny yellow flower as it sat in the ruins unaware of his presence. He waved a hand, opening his prompt to run the same thing he did while fighting the other anomaly, wanting to find out just what this strange creature was. The area turned gray and froze, but unlike the other abnormality it didn't stay active or leap out at him, but froze in place just like everything else.

 

"̧H͠m̡..." Gaster frowned, stopping the program and letting everything go back to normal. Whatever this thing was could only effect a single timeline, stuck in place and unable to jump from one to the other, but still capable of resetting.

 

That was... good, yet troublesome at the same time. It meant that he wouldn't have to go chasing after another anomaly through the timelines, yet it also meant that he was powerless to save or even help Sans deal with it. His son would be on his own.

 

There was only one thing he could do for him.

 

He left the flower and made his way back to the house Sans and Papyrus lived in. The notebook was still inside his son's jacket pocket as he slept, but that wouldn't make a difference. Gaster stood by his side, mentally preparing himself for what he was about to do. Influencing the real world took a lot out of him, as though it sliced a piece of himself away each time. He wasn't sure what kind of state he would be in after this, but he had to try. There was nothing to lose.

 

Gaster opened up his prompt, hand hovering over the window. He closed his eyes, hand clenching and unclenching before he finally input what he wanted. The window vanished to reveal a cut in space, the same blackness Sans had seen while teleporting but backwards, Gaster able to see the colour and life of the real world through the glitching, fluctuating window. Every second it was open was agony, leeching off what little power he had.

 

His form began to glitch and melt, any semblance of detail beginning to slop away. The doctor groaned in pain, reaching out to go through Sans' pocket like a ghost and touch the notebook inside. Each time he touched it he could feel a piece of himself rip away, using it to write in the same messy symbols he always had. He only had enough in him for a single word;

 

Flower.

 

Once he was finished he withdrew his hand, the window closing shortly after. He fell to his knees, or at least where he thought his knees might be, and clutched at his head. It glitched and spasmed, his entire body becoming more and more like an amorphous blob.

 

With the last of his strength he pulled himself back into the void, knowing that all he could do had been done. The rest relied solely on Sans.

 

 

Sans didn't know what to do with the message. It was clearly sent by Gaster, there was no one else he knew who wrote in such a strange way. Even so it was hard to stay determined when everything could reset at the drop of a hat.

 

He explored the areas of the underground where he knew flowers to be. Waterfall turned up nothing. He had even snuck into the King's throne room and looked around, but still nothing of any interest came up.

 

He didn't know what to do.

 

“SANS?” Papyrus asked through the door of his brother's bedroom. It was the weekend, so the younger of the two didn't have to worry about going to school or trying to make friends, instead worrying about his brother. It was during these days at home that he really started to see how depressed and down Sans had gotten.

 

“SANS, I'M COMING IN.” He finally said, opening the door and stepping into the dark room. One of his boney fingers flicked on the light, Sans laying on his bare mattress fully clothed and with his arm draped over his eye sockets.

 

Papyrus sighed, “SANS... IT'S NEARLY NOON.”

 

He approached his brother and peered down at him with concern. Eventually Sans moved his arm, dark circles under his eye sockets like he hadn't been sleeping at all even though the opposite was true.

 

“oh... is it? sorry, bro.” Sans said, squinting at the sudden change of brightness.

 

“YES.” Papyrus said, his voice stern yet laced with worry. He reached down, grabbing his brother's arm and pulling him into a sitting position. “COME DOWNSTAIRS. I MADE YOU SOME LUNCH.”

 

He pulled his brother up and lead him down the stairs. Sans barely even looked up from his feet, having since done away with sneakers to wear little more than a pair of fuzzy slippers. Putting effort into anything anymore felt like it sapped what little life he had away.

 

Getting up made him tired. Eating made him tired. Hell even napping felt like it made him tired. He was just exhausted to the point where nothing seemed to help.

 

Papyrus let go of his hand as they entered the kitchen, watching as Sans chose his usual seat and slumped down into it. He placed a bowl of soup in front of him, crackers floating on the top in the shape of a smiley face. Sans blinked and stared at it before looking up at his brother. Papyrus smiled back and sat across from him.

 

“CHEER UP, SANS. I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOTTEN YOU SO DOWN, BUT... YOU KNOW I'M ALWAYS HERE IF YOU WANT TO TALK, RIGHT?” Papyrus said, hope in his voice. His older brother gave the slightest tug of a smile before lifting his spoon and twirling the crackers around in his soup.

 

Silence stretched between them for only a moment before Papyrus ended it all with the sound of his loud yet cheerful voice. “I'VE TAKEN UP TRAINING A LITTLE.” He began, watching as Sans started to eat slowly. “THERE ARE A FEW BOOKS ABOUT IT IN THE LIBRARY THAT I'VE BEEN READING. I THINK MAYBE I'D LIKE TO TRY GETTING INTO THE ROYAL GUARD. I'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT THEY WERE PRETTY COOL.”

 

He paused, “REMEMBER WHEN I SAID I'D GROW UP TO BE STRONG TO PROTECT YOU? I THINK THAT'S WHAT I'M GOING TO DO.” Papyrus' grin widened. “YOU'VE ALWAYS BEEN THERE FOR ME, SO I'D LIKE TO BE THERE FOR YOU FOR A CHANGE.”

 

Finally Sans let out a chuckle. “bro you've been there for me more than you probably realize.”

 

“EVEN SO.” Papyrus said, firm in his belief. “I WANT TO KEEP BEING THERE FOR YOU. I DON'T WANT YOU TO HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT ME. IF I'M A GUARD THEN I CAN GET STRONGER AND BE ABLE TO PROTECT MYSELF AND YOU.”

 

He folded his hands on the table, fingers interlocking as his brother ate in front of him. Watching him was like watching a machine that had replaced his brother, the spark he had having faded drastically over the past few years more and more. It was so painful to see.

 

“I WAS THINKING ABOUT PICKING UP ONE OF THE SENTRY JOBS ONCE I'M OUT OF SCHOOL. WHAT DO YOU THINK?” He waited only a moment before continuing. “YOU SHOULD GET ONE TOO. THERE ARE QUITE A LOT OF POSITIONS OPEN AROUND SNOWDIN. WE COULD BE SENTRIES TOGETHER.”

 

Sans finally sighed, grabbing a cracker from the packet beside him and dropping it into his soup. “i dunno bro. i don't really feel like doing much of anything anymore.”

 

“THAT'S WHY I THINK IT WOULD BE GOOD FOR YOU.” Papyrus frowned a little. “IT WILL GET YOU OUT OF THE HOUSE AND BACK TO DOING THINGS. YOU HAVEN'T EVEN GONE INTO YOUR WORKSHOP IN WEEKS.” He paused again, a sly smile stretching across his teeth. “BESIDES... YOU'D MAKE A SOUP-URB SENTRY. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS SIT AROUND.”

 

The corner of Sans' mouth twitched and he couldn't help but finally smile, genuinely this time. He chuckled, shoulders bouncing as tired eyes looked up at his brother. “that was a good one, bro.”

 

“NYEH-HEH-HEH, THANK YOU!” Papyrus grinned.

 

A short moment of silence between them passed again, even Papyrus finding it difficult to say the things he wanted. Getting his brother to talk was always so difficult, but things had really gotten to quite the point, hadn't they?

 

“BROTHER...” He began, looking away for a moment before his eyes returned to Sans. “ARE YOU SURE THERE IS NOTHING YOU WISH TO TELL ME?”

 

The corners of Sans' mouth tugged downward slightly, about the only indication of frowning he could ever manage with his near permanent grin. He said nothing at first, taking the bowl of soup in his hands and tilting the rest into his mouth. Once the bowl was firmly on the table again he sighed.

 

“pap... there's nothing i could tell you that would make the situation better. i don't hide things from you because i don't trust you, but because i don't see the point, y'know? there's nothing you can do. there's nothing i can do anymore. i'm just...” His words trailed off, the lights of his eyes fading. “i'm just tired, pap. i've been working so hard for so long... and for nothing.”

 

Papyrus frowned, his hands clenching together. Hearing his brother finally speak of his problems, however vague it may be, was heart-wrenching. But at least it was something.

 

“S-SURELY THERE IS SOMETHING I COULD DO... RIGHT?” His little brother asked, looking at Sans with a sliver of hope.

 

Sans just looked away, his boney hands resting on either side of his soup bowl. Eventually he forced a little bit of a smile. “you could keep making me soup-er food to eat.”

 

Papyrus made a face before being unable to hide his grin. “NYEH-HEH-HEH... NO, NO THAT WAS TERRIBLE EVEN BY YOUR STANDARDS!” He tried to stop himself from laughing, a hand going over his teeth.

 

“heh, i know.” Sans glanced away.

 

Papyrus just shook his head and stood up, taking the now empty bowl from in front of his brother and to the sink. “BUT... IF THAT'S ALL YOU WANT FROM ME, OKAY. I'LL BE HERE FOR YOU.” He said as he began to wash the bowl. “I STILL THINK I'M GOING TO TRY AND GET YOU THAT SENTRY JOB. IT WILL BE GOOD FOR YOU TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AGAIN.”

 

“yeah... you're probably right. you're always right, pap.” Sans said, turning in his chair to watch his brother.

 

“OF COURSE I AM! NYEH-HEH!” Papyrus grinned, looking back at Sans over his shoulder. “THEN WHEN I FINISH SCHOOL I WILL COME AND BE A SENTRY WITH YOU. IT'LL BE FUN!”

 

“yeah... maybe it will be...” Sans said, resting his cheek on his palm.

 

Papyrus finished cleaning up and dried his hands before walking over to his brother and placing a hand on his shoulder. Sans blinked, looking up at him.

 

“I STILL WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT YOU CAN TALK TO ME ABOUT ANYTHING AT ALL. I'M HERE FOR YOU. I DON'T LIKE SEEING YOU SO DEPRESSED.”

 

Sans smiled a little and reached up, his boney fingers clacking against his brother's. “yeah... i know, pap. thanks.”

 

 

A number of weeks passed, Papyrus going through with what he had originally planned and getting Sans a position as a sentry in Waterfall. It seemed like a nice enough place to start, his brother did enjoy going there quite often to search through the dump or look at the 'stars'. It got him out of the house as well, something Papyrus had been trying to do for months. It was good to see him moving again, even if some days he ended up being late.

 

“SANS?” Papyrus called out as he opened the door to their home, having just gotten back from school. He looked around the living room, his brother passed out on the couch with the TV flickering in front of him. Sans' slippers were muddy, lazily kicked off in front of him before he had flopped down into the couch.

 

Papyrus sighed and walked over, scooting his brother's messy slippers out of the way and deciding he would clean them up later. “SANS?” He repeated, reaching down to gently shake his brother awake.

 

“mmm...” Sans mumbled, his eye sockets slowly opening. “oh. hey bro.”

 

The skeleton waved at him to sit up, which he did sluggishly before Papyrus sat down beside him. He held a briefcase in his lap.

 

“I GOT YOU SOMETHING AFTER SCHOOL TODAY. I'VE BEEN SAVING UP A LITTLE OF MY LUNCH MONEY FOR AWHILE TO GET IT.” He passed the case over to Sans, who raised a brow and took it into his lap.

 

“pap, don't tell me you've been going hungry just to buy me something.” Sans said, annoyance in his voice.

 

“NO, NO. I'VE JUST BEEN CUTTING BACK ON DESSERT IS ALL. TOOK A LONG TIME TO GET ENOUGH THAT WAY, BUT... I HOPE YOU LIKE IT.” Papyrus smiled.

 

Sans glanced at him with uncertainty, but he had no reason to ever believe that his little brother would lie to him. He opened up the briefcase, inside being a simple telescope.

 

“I KNOW IT ISN'T FANCY, BUT... SINCE YOU'RE IN WATERFALL A LOT NOW WITH YOUR SENTRY JOB, I FIGURED YOU COULD USE IT TO LOOK AT THE CRYSTALS IN YOUR DOWNTIME.”

 

Papyrus watched his brother's face, but even he was having a hard time gauging his reaction. It was somewhere between a mix of sadness and happiness. “... SANS?” He raised a brow, concerned.

 

“huh? oh.” Sans blinked and finally smiled at his little brother, having to look up now as Papyrus began to skyrocket over him in his teens. “it's amazing, pap. you really didn't have to do this for me.”

 

“I DIDN'T, BUT I DID.” Papyrus smiled. “I'M GLAD YOU LIKE IT.”

 

--

 

The following day Sans took his new telescope to his sentry position, eager and a little hesitant to try it out. He set it up by his station and began to peer through it. At first he felt alive again, if only for a moment. He loved looking at the crystals and a part of him did still very much want to see what the stars were like. But... at the same time it only served to remind him of his father, of his failure to find him. Eventually he straightened up, standing by his telescope and looking up at the glowing rocks in the ceiling of the cave.

 

His soul ached, crippled by loneliness and defeat.

 

Gaster stood behind him, his legs and torso having long since become a single shape. It was getting harder and harder to stay formed. Both relaying his message and watching his son give up was taking its toll on him. The less Sans tried, the less Gaster tried. The times he came and talked to them started to become much less frequent, and when he did he often merely hovered around behind them and watched.

 

He hung his head and turned, gliding back into the void between timelines.

 

His routine continued, Gaster finding the timeline that held the anomaly and pushing through. They had possessed the human child and were currently fighting the captain of the royal guard. He had seen it all before. Sometimes he got there in time to stop it, other times he didn't. This time he managed to halt it all before the final blow could be struck, everything going gray and the nasty little virus pulling itself from its host.

 

We really do have to stop meeting like this.” The demonic child spoke, its face always twisted into an inky black grin with hollow eyes.

 

The doctor only frowned.

 

No retort? You've been growing more and more silent lately, Bonesy. Or should I call you Gloopy now?” It asked with a shrug. “Not able to hold yourself together very well anymore are you? I wonder why that is...”

 

The child smiled, watching as Gaster opened up his prompt just like every other time before. As he began to type the demon surged forward, the knife in their hands swinging and just barely missing Gaster by a few inches. He wobbled backwards, caught off guard.

 

You're getting slower. How long do you think you can keep this up? I wonder how much time has passed... years? Centuries?” It smiled, “Not that it makes any difference to me. I could keep going for an eternity. Can you?”

 

The child attacked again, Gaster barely able to keep up as he rushed through his prompt and began their usual dance. The floor wobbled and tossed, bones and blasters going out in all directions. Plenty of them hit, but plenty didn't either. He could tell he was losing. He was losing hope, just like his son.

 

Eventually a blow finally landed. The anomaly swung its knife downward, slashing across Gaster's chest. It split open, revealing a cracked and roughly patched together soul glowing like a diamond against the rest of his black body. Upon sight of it the child lit up.

 

Gaster stumbled, clutching at the wound in his chest. The edges glitched and slowly started to pull together, albeit slowly.

 

A soul? You still have a soul?” The child asked before erupting into insane, cacophonous laughter. Gaster could only watch, grasping at his chest. He took this small moment to open up his prompt again. The laughter abruptly cut off.

 

Give it to me.”

 

The child charged again, suddenly filled with a primal desire to grasp the shattered soul hidden in the depths of Gaster's being. He barely had the capability to dodge long enough to finish his program, exiting it all in one fell swoop. The virus was sucked back into its host, leaving the doctor stood beaten and alone between worlds.

 

His hand shook as he looked down at the gash, edges around it flickering. Upon looking up again he froze in fear.

 

The possessed human was staring at him, smiling. The two stood off, Gaster's eye sockets wide. There was no way that they could know he was still there. It was impossible.

 

It all ended as a blue spear came crashing down through them, stabbing through their torso while they paid attention to something that wasn't there. But the child kept smiling. It smiled until it died, never leaving eye contact with Gaster as he stood between realms.

 

He stumbled back into the void, collapsing as soon as he was fully through and clutching at his chest. Fighting it forever was futile, he realized. He and his son began to become a mirror of one another, both of them suddenly beginning to realize that their happy ending might never come.

 

They might die at the hands of the anomaly despite everything they had worked towards. It might all be for nothing.

 

Both of them were losing their already weak grip on one another. Their hope, their wish, was slipping between their fingers.

 

 

The following year things got worse.

 

Nightmares had always been pretty common for Sans. Once a week was pretty usual, but it was nothing he couldn't handle. It had been very rare for him to wake up in a panic. But as time drew on it started to happen every night. The visions got clearer, more real. He had watched Papyrus die before in that sort of strange, dream-like haze, but now it was different.

 

Sometimes he was with him as Papyrus crumbled in his arms, able to feel the dust pass through his fingers as his brother died. Other times he could feel himself simply watching, as though he felt nothing while the only thing special in the world was cut down right in front of him. How could he let such a thing happen? Why would he stand by and watch?

 

Then there were the times when the underground would become a ghost town, all murdered by the same smiling little kid. Sometimes he would step in sooner, but more often than not he found himself in a bright yellow hallway dueling it out one-on-one.

 

Occasionally he would win. Most of the time he wouldn't.

 

The feeling of the knife slicing across his ribs always stung as he woke up, but even that wasn't the dream that bothered him the most. What bothered him the most was the times he watched with apathy while Papyrus was struck down.

 

Why? Why would he ever stand by and watch?

 

Sans tossed and turned, a faint blue and yellow glow emitting from his closed eye socket. He grabbed at his blankets and yanked, twitching as things began to float and hover around his room.

 

“p-... pap...” He mumbled, feeling trapped inside his own mind as he watched from the trees just as the human sliced his brother's neck. Sans wanted to scream, to leap out of his own body and stop it from happening. It was like the first time he had seen it all over again when he had been just a child.

 

“pap... pap! papyrus!” Sans started to yell, his legs kicking at the bedsheets.

 

It didn't take much at all for Papyrus to be woken up, let alone by his brother screaming. His eyes shot open and he scrambled out of bed, knowing exactly what was going on. This was becoming an almost constant occurrence.

 

He rushed to Sans' bedroom door, his brother having begun to leave it unlocked just for this occasion. As Papyrus stepped inside he pushed through some floating socks and papers to sit down at his brother's side.

 

“SANS? SANS! WAKE UP, YOU'RE HAVING ANOTHER NIGHTMARE!” He grabbed onto his brother and shook him by the shoulders.

 

Sans' eye sockets flung open, his eye burning brightly as everything he had been holding telepathically went careening in different directions. For a moment he lay still, reeling from the impact of being yanked from one life and into another. The glow of his eye faded, replaced with tiny white dots.

 

Papyrus stared down at him, frowning sadly. “ARE YOU OKAY?”

 

Sans felt tears start to slip from the corners of his eyes even though he didn't want them to, the emotional impact of his nightmare hitting him. He had cried plenty of times before, but now it was just a reflex more than anything. It was like having your eyes water after throwing up, something you hated to do but couldn't stop.

 

“y-... yeah...” He inhaled sharply, wiping away at the tears.

 

Papyrus sighed and pulled his brother up, embracing him tightly. “WAS IT THE ONE WITH ME AGAIN?”

 

“... yeah.” Sans commented dryly, or as dryly as he could.

 

They hugged for a few long minutes, Sans closing his eyes and enjoying the calming, strong arms of his brother until they finally parted.

 

“YOU'RE HAVING THESE NIGHTMARES NEARLY EVERY NIGHT NOW. WHAT'S CHANGED OVER THIS PAST YEAR?” Papyrus asked with concern, hands on his brother's shoulders as he looked him in the eyes. “IS IT BECAUSE I WANT TO JOIN THE GUARD?”

 

“n-no. no that isn't it at all.” Sans shook his head. “you remember me having nightmares before, right? when we were kids?”

 

“WELL... YES. BUT THEY WERE NOTHING LIKE THIS.” Papyrus raised a brow.

 

“no, they were. they were the same dreams but they didn't feel quite as real, y'know? they didn't happen nearly as much either...” Sans trailed off and suddenly looked thoughtful.

 

“... SANS?” His brother asked, the sudden change in expression on his brother's face confusing him. “DO YOU WANT ME TO STAY IN HERE FOR AWHILE WITH YOU? OR YOU CAN COME SLEEP IN MY BED TONIGHT.”

 

Sans blinked, as though being broken out of a daze. “n-nah, pap. i'm fine now. you can go ahead to bed. i think i'm gonna take a little walk to clear my head.”

 

“... HM. ALRIGHT. JUST... WAKE ME UP IF YOU NEED ME.” Papyrus said worriedly, a hand patting Sans' shoulder before he stood up and headed for the door. He paused in the doorway. “I LOVE YOU, BROTHER.”

 

Sans smiled, “love you too, bro.”

 

He waited until he could hear Papyrus close his bedroom door to stand up and pull on his coat and slippers. A thought had struck him and he planned to find out if he was right.

 

Sans walked down the steps and out of the house, going around to the back and opening his workshop for the first time in years. He flicked on his machine, the circuits whirring and complaining with disuse. He smacked the side a few times.

 

Percussive maintenance always worked.

 

The next few hours were spent mulling over data he hadn't looked at in years. It was slow going at first to get back into the swing of things, but with time he finally confirmed his suspicions. Timelines around them were appearing and disappearing faster than they ever had before. Whatever had slowed the anomaly down had stopped.

 

He wasn't just having nightmares.

 

He was seeing every time they died.

 

 

Papyrus held up on his promise. As soon as he finished school he got a similar sentry job to Sans, his post being in Snowdin and closer towards the outskirts of town. He even got his brother one nearby, figuring that two wouldn't be hard for his brother to handle at all since he could nearly be in two places at once already. It would keep him busy.

 

The two brothers walked along, beginning their trek towards the end of the village.

 

“I WISH WE GOT COOL ARMOR LIKE THE DOGS DID.” Papyrus commented, glancing back at one of the posts as they passed.

 

“eh, i'd be too lazy to wear it anyway.” Sans shrugged, then smiled a little. “bet i'd just end up looking like a potato covered in tinfoil.”

 

Papyrus laughed. “YOU'RE PROBABLY RIGHT.”

 

They walked passed Papyrus' station and continued on to the one Sans was given, his being much closer to the old ruins and dense forest.

 

“I THINK I'LL START PLACING PUZZLES ALONG HERE. IF A HUMAN EVER DOES COME ALONG THEY'LL SURELY BE JAPED BY WHAT I CAN COME UP WITH.” The skeleton grinned and looked down at his brother, now standing head and shoulder over him.

 

“i'm sure they would, bro.”

 

They eventually came to a stop by Sans' station, the roof covered in snow and a few of the boards lose from lack of care. It hadn't been used regularly in quite awhile.

 

“WOWIE, YOU EVEN GET A REAL STATION!” Papyrus grinned, “I SHOULD MAKE ONE OF MY OWN JUST LIKE THIS.”

 

Sans walked around behind the post and looked at the old stool. He brushed off the snow and sat down. “i'll make you one, bro. just gotta find some wood is all.”

 

Their conversation was cut short as a loud snapping noise broke through the forest to their right. Both of them turned and stared into the dark woods. More snapping followed, the sound of twigs crushing beneath some sort of force turning into the sound of entire trees crashing down.

 

The brothers glanced at one another.

 

More crushing, more breaking. Sans stood up, hands on the counter of his booth. Shadows of massive tendrils began to sneak out through the trees, curling around entire trunks and crushing them in their grasp.

 

“... SANS? IS THAT... A HUMAN?” Papyrus asked, keeping his feet firm and getting into a defensive stance.

 

“no... no it definitely isn't.” He rushed around to the front of his post and grasped his brother's arm. “pap we gotta go.”

 

Papyrus didn't move.

 

“pap! we gotta go!” Sans finally yelled, tugging on his brother and yanking him with him as he started to run away. Papyrus stumbled behind, watching as the huge vines crashed through the line of trees and crushed the station they had just been standing by mere moments before.

 

A manic laugh echoed out from the forest.

 

Suddenly Papyrus dug in his feet, easily able to stop his much smaller brother from pulling him any further. Sans nearly slipped and fell on his face, turning and staring back at his brother with wide eye sockets. “pa-”

 

“GO TELL THE GUARDS. YOU CAN GET THERE IN AN INSTANT, I'LL SLOW THIS DOWN.” He held out his hand, a row of blue bones beginning to surge upwards through the snow.

 

“pap! no way! we're both going and letting them handle this!” Sans argued, yanking at his brother's sleeve again.

 

“WE'RE SENTRIES TOO, SANS!” Papyrus yelled, frowning. “THIS IS OUR JOB, TO PROTECT OUR HOME!”

 

“this isn't our home, pap! come on!” Sans pleaded, finally letting go of his brother's arm.

 

“OF COURSE IT IS! NOW GO!” He gently shoved his brother backwards before all of his attention turned to the vines crashing through the trees heading straight for them. The bones he had summoned went careening forward, crashing into the tendrils and eliciting a screech that quickly turned into the same crazed laugh as before.

 

Sans hovered for a moment, eyes bouncing from the vines coming for them to the back of his brother, so much taller than himself and full of confidence. Despite how much he wanted to stay there would be no moving Papyrus when he was set in his decision.

 

Reluctantly Sans turned, teleporting from one point to the next.

 

While his brother rushed from station to station telling the guards about what was happening, Papyrus was putting all those years of training in the backyard to use. He rolled from side to side as each vine came crashing down, face focused and magic coursing through his bones. Whatever was on the other end of the vines didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason to their attacks, everything just lashing out wildly without a care of what they hit or what they didn't.

 

He was honestly surprising himself with how well he was doing.

 

As a tendril came crashing down towards him he summoned a bone in his hand, holding it up to block. The force knocked him back a few inches into the snow, the vine wrapping around it before tossing it aside. He let it go, dashing away before another could grasp onto him.

 

Papyrus nearly ran straight into his brother as he blipped into existence in front of him.

 

“papyrus!” Sans yelled, eagerly rushing towards him as his brother skid to a halt and slipped onto his rear.

 

A vine came crashing down, careening towards Sans. Papyrus watched as it got closer and closer, time slowing down as his brother turned to face it. Magic ignited in his soul, acting out of pure desperation and instinct.

 

A large, animalistic skull appeared above him, it's jaws unhinging and opening wide to let out a terrifying beam of bright, hot light. It burned through the vine in an instant. The charred remains sprinkled over Sans, his arms having gone up in a pathetic attempt to protect himself. Both of them looked at one another before their eye sockets moved to the skull floating above Papyrus as it began to dissipate and fade out of existence.

 

“wh-...” Sans mumbled, arms going slack.

 

Papyrus held himself together much better, scrambling to his feet and rushing to Sans to pick him up like nothing and rush closer to town.

 

“ARE THE GUARDS ON THEIR WAY?”

 

“i can't believe he gave you those.”

 

“SANS! ARE THE GUARDS ON THEIR WAY!?” Papyrus asked again, huffing as he began to grow tired from all the fighting and magic spent. That last attack had really taken a lot out of him.

 

“i can't believe he gave you those...” Sans mumbled again.

 

“UGH!” The taller skeleton groaned, rushing through a patch of trees before sliding to a stop and hiding behind some shrubs. He collapsed, dropping Sans by his side.

 

“DID... DID YOU HEAR ME?” He asked, brow furrowing as he tried to catch his breath.

 

Sans pushed himself up, eye sockets staring him right in the face. He looked a mix of shocked and exhausted, more exhausted than usual. “y-... yeah they're coming. shit i'm sorry pap.” He said, finally realizing just how useless he had been in the heat of the moment.

 

“IT'S OKAY.” Papyrus said between breaths, forcing a smile and patting his brother's shoulder. “I'M QUITE GOOD AT THIS!” He grinned, peering over the shrub they were hiding behind but not seeing the vines just yet. Maybe they had stopped following them.

 

“yeah...” Sans said, peering around the bushes with him. He started to wonder how much Gaster had put into Papyrus when he made him. He certainly had the blasters, so what else? Did he have DT? He knew his health and overall physical ability was much better, but Papyrus had never really needed to use them before now. Seeing how proficient he was with them was worrying but relieving at the same time.

 

All those times Gaster had scolded him for worrying about Papyrus started to make sense. 'He can take care of himself, trust me.' was taking on a whole new meaning.

 

“HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT WILL TAKE THEM TO GET HERE?” Papyrus asked, able to hear the vines getting closer again.

 

“uh... not long.” Sans said, turning back around to sit. All this teleporting around and panicking was making his soul hurt. Gaster really had improved everything when making Papyrus, hadn't he? His brother had been fighting the whole time and was still able to keep on going. How did he do it? How had using the blaster, presumably for the first time, put so little strain on him? Sans remembered the first time he used it, it had taken a lot out of him.

 

Papyrus was just now starting to break a sweat.

 

“COME ON, WE NEED TO KEEP STALLING IT. THE GUARD WILL BE HERE ANY MOMENT.” Papyrus said as he started to stand, a hand going on his brother's shoulder. “ARE YOU OKAY? CAN YOU FIGHT? I WON'T THINK ANY LESS OF YOU IF YOU DECIDE TO STAY HERE.”

 

Sans looked up at his little brother, so strong and full of determination. “sit by and watch? no. never.”

 

He had done that enough in his dreams.

 

The two of them stood up and walked around the bushes they were hiding behind. The cackling was still coming from somewhere inside the trees, hidden from view.

 

“READY?” Papyrus asked, glancing at his brother. Sans nodded.

 

The two of them stood side-by-side, each attack somehow perfectly synchronizing up with the others. When Sans sent out rows of attacks to protect their front, Papyrus would summon blasters and walls of blue bones to guard their sides. They stood in place, focusing on a single point and protecting their position.

 

Eventually the guard showed up, each of them rushing around the two brothers and dodging the whipping vines. With the creature concentrating its efforts on the two skeletons they easily found the source of the noise. The two listened, unable to see anything passed the tendrils but still able to make out the conversation between each guard.

 

“I found it!”

 

“What is it!?”

 

“It's a... a flower!”

 

Sans faltered slightly as the vines began to recede. Flower?

 

The laughing stopped abruptly. “Go on! Kill me! Do it!” Came a high-pitched voice, the source hidden by the trees. “DO IT OR I'LL KILL ALL OF YOU!”

 

Each tendril lashed out at one of the guards or the brothers. Before they could hit anyone they all stopped and fell to the ground, slowly turning to dust. Papyrus and Sans stood, the smaller of the two finally collapsing to his knees and huffing like he had just run a marathon.

 

“IF THAT WASN'T A HUMAN... WAS IT A MONSTER? DID THEY JUST KILL ANOTHER MONSTER?” Papyrus asked, suddenly looking extremely concerned. “I... I DIDN'T WANT TO KILL IT!”

 

“y-... you didn't... pap...” Sans said, trying to catch his breath as sweat soaked his skull. “th-... they did... just... doing their job, alright?” He turned and looked up at Papyrus, his vision blurred.

 

Papyrus looked between the guards and his brother, part of him wanting to rush over and ask them what had happened, but his brother was definitely the most important thing right now. He leaned down in the snow, a hand resting on Sans' back.

 

“HOW ARE YOU FEELING?”

 

“like... crap...” Sans said with a smile and started to laugh. “how do you do it, pap?”

 

The younger of the two merely made a face and shrugged before smiling. He was tired, very tired, but apart from being pretty sweaty and a little sore he was fine. “SHOULD I CARRY YOU HOME?”

 

“heh... unless... you want me to sleep in the snow... i don't think you have a choice...” Sans huffed, his arms already shaking as he tried to keep himself upright.

 

Papyrus sighed, but was smiling nonetheless. He reached down, hefting his brother up into his arms and holding him like a baby. It made his bones ache, but he wasn't about to let Sans pass out in the snow.

 

Still... the words the 'flower' had said before being killed bothered him. He would have to ask the guards about it. But first, he had to get Sans home to rest.

 

 

As much as Papyrus wanted to stay and talk to the guards, getting Sans home was his top priority. He carried his older brother back to their house, opening the door and marching up the stairs to his room. Sans had fallen asleep halfway there.

 

He set his brother down on the mattress, tugging off his wet slippers before covering him up with a blanket. Already Sans wasn't looking too good, it would only be a matter of time before he got sick from using so much magic. He remembered how he had gotten mad at...

 

Wait...

 

An odd tingling sensation caught Papyrus off guard, as though it wanted desperately to remember something. He shook the feeling away and went about his business, grabbing a bucket just in case Sans started to get sick, as well as a glass of water and a note.

 

'GOING TO TALK TO DOGS, WILL BE BACK SOON'

 

Once he was sure everything was taken care of, Papyrus made his way out of the house. He was tired and sore, but not exhausted enough to stop himself from finding out what had happened. Thankfully he didn't have to walk far, Dogaressa already heading in his direction. Upon catching the skeleton's scent on the air her pace quickened.

 

“Papyrus, right?” She asked, knowing him only by what she had overheard Sans say about him.

 

“YES, THAT'S ME.”

 

“We're going to need you to write a report on what you saw.” She dug into her robe and held out a form. “You and your brother will need to complete one now that you're sentries.”

 

“OH... ALRIGHT.” Papyrus said, taking the papers from her. He paused for a moment, looking them over before his gaze went back to the dog. “WAS IT YOU THAT SAW THE... 'FLOWER'?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“DID YOU... KILL IT?” He frowned.

 

“No, that was my brave husband.” Dogaressa smiled, her tail wagging behind her. “Chopped it clean from the stem.”

 

“OH... IT WAS TALKING. WAS IT ANOTHER MONSTER?”

 

“It was like no other monster I've ever seen.” The canine shrugged, then smiled. “You and Sans did a very good job keeping it at bay until we could arrive.”

 

Papyrus' smile returned slightly. “THANK YOU.”

 

Dogaressa turned and left, leaving the young skeleton standing in the snow by himself.

 

He turned and walked back home, papers in hand. He would have to get Sans to help him with these, he thought. His handwriting had always been really bad. Speaking of Sans, what had been with him earlier during the fight? 'This isn't our home'? Surely he had been joking, they had lived here all their lives! Then there had been that... thing he had summoned. It looked so evil, yet came so naturally. Sans had looked shocked, but not shocked enough that he hadn't seen it before.

 

'I can't believe he gave you those.' What had that been about, too?

 

Papyrus entered their home and made his way up the stairs, peeking into Sans' room. He hadn't been gone as long as he had originally thought, so he walked in to grab the note and crumple it up.

 

“pap?” Sans mumbled from his bed, one eye cracking open to peer up at him.

 

“IT'S ME. JUST BRINGING YOU SOME WATER.”

 

“oh, thanks.” He mumbled, rubbing some of the sweat from his skull. Sans laughed somewhat bitterly at himself. “man i feel terrible.”

 

Papyrus hovered for a moment before eventually sitting down on the edge of his brother's mattress. “CAN I ASK YOU A FEW THINGS?”

 

“hmm?”

 

“WHAT DID YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAID THIS WASN'T OUR HOME?” He asked, turning to watch as his brother's smile twitched a little around the edges, faltering for only a second. “AND WHAT DID YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAID 'I CAN'T BELIEVE HE GAVE THEM TO YOU'?”

 

“... heh, man i dunno. guess it was just the panic and everything that-”

 

“DON'T LIE TO ME.” Papyrus cut him off, frowning.

 

The white dots of Sans' eyes looked down at his brother before staring up at the ceiling. They eventually faded altogether, a hand grabbing his pillow to shove it over his eye sockets. He let out a few emotionless chuckles before his smile eventually tugged down around the sides.

 

“... even if i told you, pap, you wouldn't believe me.”

 

“YOU KNOW THAT'S NOT TRUE. YOU'RE JUST USING THAT AS AN EXCUSE. TELL ME.” Papyrus demanded.

 

Silence stretched between them until, finally, Sans sighed. “we're not from here, pap.”

 

Papyrus raised a brow. “... I DON'T UNDERSTAND. YOU MEAN WE'RE ORIGINALLY FROM WATERFALL, OR...?”

 

“no, i mean from here. this world. this whole place.”

 

His little brother stared at him, not sure of what to say. Eventually Sans moved the pillow away from his eyes. “this is the second time we've grown up. do you remember anything... odd from a life before snowdin? or waterfall?”

 

Papyrus looked away and thought about that for a moment. “I... I'M NOT SURE, ACTUALLY. I MEAN I GET THESE FEELINGS SOMETIMES BUT I ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT WAS NORMAL. LIKE DREAMS. YOU HAVE DREAMS ALL THE TIME... EVEN IF THEY'RE BAD.”

 

“they aren't dreams, papyrus. you're remembering the life we used to have before we were brought here.”

 

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY 'BROUGHT HERE'? WHAT HAPPENED?”

 

Sans inhaled deeply, his breath shaking. “we had a dad once. he was the royal scientist. we built a machine that could take us through time, hoping it would clue us in to getting out of the mountain. but... everything went wrong. it all went wrong.” He put a hand over his eyes and shut them tight, flashbacks of the explosion and watching his father become a smaller and smaller dot as they were tossed into the air coming back to him like it was yesterday.

 

“we ended up in this world. a world where he doesn't exist. we had to grow up again. i've been trying all these years to rebuild the machine so i could find him, but...” Sans started to laugh bitterly. “time keeps resetting. i can't get anywhere. it all just goes back to square one.”

 

“there's nothing I can do. there's nothing either of us can do. i know he's out there, but...” He trailed off, suddenly becoming even more exhausted than he had been before, as though each word had sapped more energy from him as soon as it passed through his teeth.

 

Papyrus had remained silent as he took in all of this new information.

 

“WE... HAD A DAD?” He finally muttered, suddenly feeling a great hole in his soul that he didn't even know he had. “AND HE COULD BE ALIVE?”

 

“... maybe...” Sans sighed, closing his eyes. “i haven't really... 'heard' from him in a long time.”

 

“YOU'VE TALKED TO HIM AND DIDN'T TELL ME?” Papyrus said, anger suddenly in his voice.

 

“no, no. nothing like that. he's sort of given me really tiny messages over the years.” Sans said, suddenly remembering the word 'flower' in his notebook. He kept that a secret for now.

 

“OH...” Papyrus' anger faded as quickly as it had come, turning right back into sadness. “I CAN'T BELIEVE IT. I'VE FORGOTTEN MY OWN FATHER?”

 

“it's not your fault, pap.” Sans looked down at him, the white dots of his eyes having returned. “when we got flung here you were just a baby again. you remembered everything for awhile, but... it just sort of faded away.”

 

His little brother looked down at his lap, suddenly folding his hands together as though giving himself a hug.

 

“SO IS THAT WHERE I GOT THAT... SKULL... THING?”

 

“yeah. he made it for me, originally.” Sans said without missing a beat. Confessing all this was becoming easier the more he did it, like he had pulled the drain holding in everything he had wanted to say for decades. “guess he gave it to you when he made you.”

 

“... MADE?” Papyrus raised a brow.

 

Sans inhaled deeply and ran a hand over his eyes. “we're clones. kinda. neither of us look much like him. well, maybe you a little. i'm too short.” He chuckled at the thought.

 

“WHY DID HE MAKE US?”

 

At that Sans tensed up a little and decided now was a good time for a little white lie. “to be a family. he was, uh... pretty dedicated to his work.”

 

“OH...” Papyrus fell silent again, both of them sitting quietly and letting the whole thing sit in the air like a fog. His exhaustion was starting to catch up with him, this new revelation hitting him like a truck when he was already tired from fighting. Slowly he turned and crawled into bed beside Sans, something he hadn't done in years.

 

“... WHAT WAS HE LIKE?”

 

Sans glanced over at Papyrus, the look on his little brother's face sadder than he could remember in years. He frowned, but tried to keep himself together for the sake of his brother. A smile forced across his face.

 

“he was a goofball. a really smart, insane goofball.”

 

“HE SOUNDS FUN.”

 

“he was.”

 

The two fell silent, Sans' smile becoming a little more genuine. “we'd play pranks on each other all the time... and he loved blowing stuff up. he would always bring things home from the dump and fix them up for us. like our first tv or a microwave.” He paused, “actually i think the tv was the only thing he didn't blow up when he brought it home.” Sans laughed a little.

 

“he wasn't very good at being a dad though, if i'm honest. but he tried hard. he tried extra hard after he made you, pap.” He looked at his brother.

 

“DO YOU THINK WE'LL EVER MEET HIM AGAIN?”

 

Sans frowned a little. “... i dunno, pap...”

 

Papyrus suddenly turned to face him. “I'M SORRY I FORGOT, BUT I'M GLAD YOU DIDN'T.” He smiled, “I BET YOU REMEMBERING HIM WHEN NO ONE ELSE COULD IS WHAT'S KEEPING HIM ALIVE.”

 

A little smile fought its way back on Sans' face. “you think so?”

 

“YES.” Papyrus nodded, “DON'T GIVE UP FINDING HIM, SANS. I'D LIKE TO MEET HIM ONE DAY.”

 

The two grinned at one another before Papyrus reached out to pull him into a hug. They slept peacefully that night side-by-side. The next morning Papyrus was up and moving around just as usual, if not a little bit slower due to soreness. Sans on the other hand felt like he had been beaten up by a mob.

 

After eating breakfast he stumbled his way out of the house when Papyrus wasn't looking and unlocked his workshop. Once inside he fumbled around in the drawers until he found a drawing Papyrus had made as a little kid. It depicted both of them with a black figure, although the face wasn't too accurate. Papyrus had drawn it just as he was starting to forget, but soon not even looking at the tiny stick figures allowed him to remember their father and the drawing was long forgotten.

 

Sans stared at it for awhile before grabbing a pen and scribbling a few words above the drawing.

 

don't forget.

 

Chapter Text

The following few days passed as normal, or as normal as it could after such a drastic event. Sans was predictable held up in bed a lot, only coming down to eat and lay around on the couch. It still amazed him that his little brother, who had looked so fragile as a kid and was so sweet to everyone he met, could pack such an impressive punch without missing a step. Papyrus had only needed a single day to recover before he was back to normal. Meanwhile Sans was still sweating and puking on day two.

 

Both of them were sat together on the couch, Sans laying across it with his brother at his feet. Papyrus had gone back to sentry duty today and had filed their reports for them with a little help. Sans could tell that their conversation about Gaster had rattled him quite a lot, often catching his usually chipper brother staring off at nothing and looking forlorn.

 

“SANS?” He finally asked, looking over at his brother.

 

“mm?” Sans mumbled, his eyes barely open as he mindlessly stared at the TV flickering in front of them.

 

“I KNOW YOU'RE STILL NOT FEELING WELL, BUT... CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT DAD?” Papyrus' boney fingers grabbed at the hem of his shirt, tugging at it nervously.

 

“sure, pap. what d'ya wanna know?” Sans asked, the faded whites of his eyes moving to look at him.

 

“I... EVERYTHING. I WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING. I KNOW YOU CAN'T REALISTICALLY CLUE ME IN TO EVERY DETAIL, BUT I WANT TO KNOW AS MUCH ABOUT HIM AS I CAN.”

 

The other skeleton chuckled, an arm reaching up to wipe some of the sweat from his brow. “that's quite a loaded question. i dunno where i'd even begin.”

 

Papyrus looked down at his lap again and thought for a moment. “DID HE REALLY MAKE US JUST TO HAVE A FAMILY? WAS HE REALLY SO LONELY?”

 

Sans snorted bitterly, “i... no. not really.” He was too tired to keep on lying, especially right now with how sick he felt. “i was lonely. he made you for me.”

 

“WH-... REALLY?” Papyrus raised a brow and looked at his brother.

 

“yeah.” There was a pause before he sighed and waved a hand. “look, pap... i'm happy to tell you a lot about dad, but let's keep it to the time after you were born, ok?”

 

“... ALRIGHT.” Papyrus said, turning to look back at the TV even though he wasn't actually watching it anymore. “WHAT WAS HIS FAVORITE FOOD?”

 

Sans chuckled, figuring that a pretty boring question, but still happy to oblige his brother. “we used to get from this one noodle place a lot, lo mein or something i think it was. he loved it. couldn't cook at all though, nearly burnt the place down a couple of times. we ate nothing but takeout for a really long time.”

 

“I GUESS THAT'S WHERE WE GET IT FROM THEN?” Papyrus asked with a sad smile. Neither of them were very good cooks.

 

“... yeah, maybe.” Sans smiled too.

 

“WHAT DID HE LOOK LIKE?”

 

“tall. about as tall as you. looked pretty similar overall but he had a crack in his head and had to wear glasses.”

 

“HOW DID HE GET THAT?” Papyrus raised a brow and looked at Sans.

 

“eeehh, pap let's keep it to after you were born, remember?” Sans grimaced.

 

“OH. RIGHT.” He thought for a moment. “WHAT DID HE ACT LIKE?”

 

“outside of a goofball? weird. he was always weird. he was really socially awkward around people other than us and would use hand gestures a lot. cursed a lot too. not very, uh, eloquent.” Sans couldn't help but laugh a little again, then instantly regretted it as his head throbbed.

 

Papyrus smiled sadly. “I REALLY WISH I REMEMBERED HIM.”

 

Sans looked at his brother for a moment, then back to the TV. “... yeah. i wish you did too, pap. he was a good guy deep down.”

 

The two of them fell into a comfortable silence, Sans' eye sockets becoming heavier and heavier. Soon enough he found himself asleep, the sounds of the TV in front of him becoming a distant memory.

 

--

 

Sans...

 

Sans!

 

SANS!

 

Sans' eye sockets flew open. He could hear his brother yelling through the door.

 

“SANS, ARE YOU AWAKE? THIS IS YOUR FIRST DAY OF SENTRY DUTY OUTSIDE THE FOREST! YOU CAN'T BE LATE!”

 

He was laying on his bare mattress and staring up at the ceiling of his room. Slowly Sans sat up, feeling his chest and then his head. The feelings of nausea were gone now. He felt fine, if not a little weird from a strange tingling sensation deep within his skull.

 

“SANS? I'M COMING IN.” Papyrus said before opening the door and stepping inside. The confusion on his brother's face alarmed him. “... ARE YOU ALRIGHT?”

 

“i... yeah... i'm fine.” Sans inhaled deeply and pulled himself out of bed. “sorry bro. didn't realize what day it was.” He offered a weak smile.

 

“HMM... IF YOU'RE SURE YOU'RE ALRIGHT. COME ON, GET DRESSED. I'LL BE WAITING IN THE LIVING ROOM.” Papyrus closed the door, leaving Sans by himself.

 

He pulled on his shirt and coat, slipping his bare feet into his slippers. This had happened before plenty of times, the only change this time had been that quite a lot had happened during the last reset. He wanted to check on something just to be sure.

 

Sans grabbed the key from his dresser and headed downstairs, looking up a Papyrus once they were stood outside. “just gonna check on something real quick, bro.”

 

“OKAY.”

 

He jogged around the house and opened up his workshop behind it, instantly going for the black binder that he stored some of his old photos and notes inside. Sure enough the picture Papyrus had drawn was there, but the text was gone. Sans inhaled sharply and pressed it against his skull before writing the same thing again and putting it back.

 

It was then he decided that no matter how many resets he faced, he would keep writing those two words until they stayed. He had to, for Papyrus.

 

Sans made his way back around the house and began to walk with Papyrus to their new sentry stations. The conversation was just as he had heard before, his little brother commenting on wanting armor like the dogs and how he was going to put puzzles in place to 'jape' the human when it finally came.

 

Then everything began just as before.

 

They were checking out his post when the vines crashed forward. Papyrus stood his ground while Sans teleported away to fetch the guards. The difference this time was that Sans didn't try to drag his brother with him.

 

The two fought, waiting for the dogs to arrive. It all played out like it had the other day, but this time when they got home there was no heart-felt talk. Papyrus was none the wiser that they had a father at any point in time.

 

This time only a single day passed before things reset again.

 

Sans went into his workshop and wrote down those two words before following Papyrus to their stations. It was hard to keep up with his conversation this time, a large part of him so tired and drained from reliving the same day over and over. They arrived and the vines started.

 

Papyrus fought. Sans got the guards. They stalled it long enough for them to arrive. It was killed. They went home and not a day passed before it happened again.

 

This time as they were waiting for the guards to arrive, something changed. Between all of the manic cackles coming from the trees the high-pitched voice yelled out something different.

 

“It doesn't matter! It doesn't matter anymore!” It began to laugh again. “NONE OF THIS MATTERS!”

 

The flower was struck down shortly after.

 

Their walk home was silent, Sans fighting through his exhaustion to get to his workshop once they were home. It took a lot of convincing for Papyrus to let him go and not carry him straight to bed. Sans collapsed once he was inside and opened up the notebook he carried with him at all times, specifically to the page he was sure his father had touched years before.

 

Flower.

 

Was this flower they kept killing the second anomaly that had appeared? Had Gaster found it all those years ago?

 

Sans sighed and hung his head. He was so exhausted, but...

 

The white dots of his eyes looked up to the binder, the very edge of the drawing poking out. He had to keep trying, if not for Gaster than for Papyrus.

 

He closed his eyes and put the notebook away. If things were going to reset again it really didn't matter where he slept, did it?

 

And they did.

 

This time Sans decided things would be different. As the vines grew closer Sans didn't even bother getting up from his stool. Papyrus was the one who urged him to run this time.

 

“SANS!”

 

“hey pap, you trust me, right?” He asked, finally pulling himself up.

 

“WH-... NOW IS NOT THE TIME FOR-”

 

“i want you to go get the guards and let me take care of this. i promise i'll be ok.” He flashed his brother a smile, causing Papyrus to falter a little. It was strange to see his brother so calm when massive tendrils were coming straight for them.

 

“I... ALRIGHT. PLEASE BE CAREFUL!” Papyrus frowned before he turned and started to run back into Snowdin.

 

Once Papyrus was out of sight Sans wasted no time in getting right down to business. He had lived this day too many times already. As a vine came crashing towards him he took a step forward, blinking out of one spot and into the next deeper into the forest. Every step he took teleported him closer to where the vines were originating from until, finally, he found the flower.

 

A tiny, harmless, golden flower.

 

“heya.” Sans smiled as he pulled a hand from his jacket pocket. His eye socket flashed yellow and blue as he grabbed onto the little flower and its vines and pinned them to the ground. It was quite a lot to hold, so he would have to make this quick.

 

“Gah!” The plant groaned, desperately trying to turn around and see what was holding him down behind him. Eventually he managed to see Sans' face. “Oh. It's you.”

 

“ok, pal. i'm really not in the mood to keep this up for long so, uh, gonna get right to the point. are you the one resetting the timeline or not?”

 

The flower cackled, it's face twisting into a wicked grin. “Interesting. You remember?”

 

“you could say that.”

 

 

“so.” Sans began again, his arm outstretched. His magic kept the flower and its vines pinned to the ground. “who are you and why are you doing this?”

 

“Wouldn't you like to know, you smiley trashbag.” Flowey hissed. Sans wasted no time in slamming the disk of the flower's face into the ground a few times. “GAH!”

 

“let's try that again. who are you and why are you doing this?”

 

“Why would I ever tell you?” The flower narrowed it's already tiny eyes.

 

“to save us both some trouble. you already know what's going to happen. those guards are going to arrive and kill you again. resetting to die again and again ain't no way to live. trust me, i know.” Sans said, the grin on his face never faltering.

 

“So?” Flowey glared, “What if they do kill me? None of it matters. I always come back. I'll win eventually.”

 

“you sure about that, bud-dy? 'cause you're going to have to get through me first and, uh, i've had about enough of this day already, so... let me just ask you one more time.” Sans paused, “are you sure you want to keep doing this?”

 

Flowey laughed, “What are you going to do about it, trashbag? You're not half as strong as your brother. I'd like to see you try.”

 

The skeleton sighed, a puff of steam carrying upwards from his teeth. “you're right about that at least. i'm not near as strong as my bro. but... okay.” He shrugged and his eye flashed, his arm flicking upwards. Flowey watched as a row of blasters all summoned one after the other, surrounding him completely while he lay pinned to the ground. His petals drooped and before he could say another word, each one of them fired at once. The flower was reduced to nothing more than a pile of scorched earth and melted snow, vines turning to dust around him.

 

With a sigh Sans put his hand back into his pocket and began to walk back to his post. Tomorrow would be another day just like this.

 

Just as he was about to teleport back to his post he could feel a tingle in the air, everything going black for all but a second before he was suddenly standing beside Papyrus as they walked along towards his station.

 

That was fast.

 

Sans looked around for a moment, shaking his head and trying to get his bearings. Papyrus didn't even notice his disorientation, much too busy talking about the puzzles he planned to set up along the route into Snowdin.

 

“hey pap?” Sans said, cutting his brother off.

 

“YES, SANS?” Papyrus stopped what he was saying and looked down at him.

 

“i'm gonna pop home real quick, alright? just remembered something.” He gestured with his thumb behind them.

 

“WHAT? SANS, DON'T YOU DARE SKIP OUT ON YOUR FIRST DAY OF SENTRY DUTY!” His little brother frowned.

 

“you got me all wrong, bro. i would never.” Sans smiled and flashed his 'eyelids' as much as he could. Papyrus made a face, his lower jaw sticking out further than his upper.

 

“cool. i knew you would understand.” The older brother grinned and spun around in place before lifting one leg forward.

 

“SANS, DON'T YOU DARE-”

 

Papyrus' words were cut off as Sans finished his step, blipping from one place to another. He stood in the middle of the dense forest after the ruins, knowing that this was where the flower would be. The calm, cheerful grin he had put into place for his brother twitched and faded around the edges, his eye sockets going dark as he started to search for the flower.

 

He had really had enough of this.

 

Sans made his way towards the sound of shuffling snow and breaking branches. Sure enough the little plant was making its way from the ruins towards Snowdin just like before. He wasted no time in teleporting behind Flowey.

 

“heya.”

 

The flower screamed in alarm and instantly swung one of its vines in Sans' direction. His eye flashed, hand pulling itself from the pocket of his jacket and pinning Flowey down.

 

“do you really want to keep doing this?” Sans asked again. “you don't have to do this.” His eyes became more sad than angry. “i don't want to do this.”

 

“Then don't!” Flowey growled.

 

“what other choice do I have?” Sans let out a pitiful, dry chuckle. “i'm not going to let you hurt my brother or anyone else if i can help it.” His anger returned, brows wrinkling. “so stop. you can still get on a better path. we don't have to do this.”

 

Slowly he released his grip, watching Flowey closely. The plant sat there for a moment, looking thoughtful for all but a second before that insane grin returned. A vine came crashing towards Sans and for a brief period time seemed to slow down. With his left eye he could see the strange code that made up everything around him, being able to read exactly where the vine was going to land. He took a step back, the huge tendril crashing where he had been moments before.

 

That was certainly new.

 

Sans blinked and frowned, arm reaching up to pin Flowey down to the ground again and summon the same array of blasters as before. He could think about what happened later.

 

The monstrous jaws unhinged, light blasting the plant into oblivion.

 

Flowey reset not a moment later at the same spot. This time Sans didn't even bother saying anything to Papyrus, teleporting right behind the flower and doing the same song and dance all over again.

 

And again.

 

And again.

 

Eventually Flowey was gone.

 

Sans wandered around the dense forest looking for him until he could hear Papyrus yelling for him. Hesitantly he turned back, popping from deep in the forest to beside his station.

 

“SANS!” Papyrus yelled angrily, “YOU LEFT WITHOUT SAYING A WORD! I GOT WORRIED SICK!”

 

“sorry bro, just uh...” Sans found himself unable to think of anything. He was so tired. Instead he started to laugh bitterly and leaned against the desk of his checkpoint. A hand went over his skull and he kept on laughing despite how ridiculous it was. Eventually Papyrus became concerned, reaching down and putting a hand on his brother's shoulder to try and calm him.

 

“SANS? WHAT ARE YOU LAUGHING ABOUT? YOU'RE WORRYING ME.”

 

He tried to calm down, tears having gathered in the corners of his eye sockets from laughing so hard, or perhaps they weren't from that at all.

 

“do...” Sans chuckled and looked up at his brother. “do you remember any of that? do you know how many times we've done this? it's gotta be over 10 now.”

 

Papyrus only looked confused, which only incited more laughter from his brother. Sans put his hand over his eye sockets, laughing and laughing as he slowly sank down to sit in the snow. Slowly the laughing turned to sobbing, his mouth pulling down around the edges. He pulled his legs up against him, hugging them tightly to his chest and burying his face into his knees.

 

“S-... SANS...” Papyrus reached out to him, kneeling in the snow and grabbing his brother to pull him into a hug. Sans wrapped his arms around his little brother's neck and hid his face into the red scarf around his shoulders. His crying didn't last long, he was too tired to keep going.

 

Eventually he sighed, feeling his soul fall into that same deep hole surrounded by darkness. He didn't want to have to explain everything to Papyrus. He didn't want his little brother to worry. Talking was too much effort. All he wanted to do was to go home and sleep. Why did he have to remember everything when no one else did? It was like when they had been flung into this world all over again.

 

He was alone and the only family he had, the only thing important in his life, had no idea why he felt the way he did and Sans was simply too drained to talk about it.

 

The two brothers hugged one another for awhile before Sans finally let go and leaned back against his post. “sorry.”

 

“YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE SORRY.” Papyrus said, trying to give his brother a reassuring smile. He moved around to sit beside him in the snow, not wanting to rush his brother into getting up or doing anything at all. “I AM WORRIED ABOUT YOU, THOUGH.” He looked down at his brother. “DO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT?”

 

Sans closed his eyes and hung his head before slowly shaking it side-to-side. Papyrus looked a little hurt, but sighed. “OKAY. WE DON'T HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT.”

 

The two of them sat there in silence for only a moment before Papyrus began talking again, trying to lighten the mood. He started to talk of all the puzzles he could build and how much he wanted to see a human, or to at least know what they looked like. Sans was happy to just sit and listen to him, a small smile creeping up on his face with the more time that passed.

 

Eventually the two of them got up to take their break, Papyrus even suggesting both of them go to Grillby's this time. He didn't particularly like how greasy the food was, but he knew it was his brother's favorite place to go.

 

It wasn't until the next day with no resets that Sans finally started to wonder about what had happened before. Why had everything slowed down and why could he see the code? Before then the only time he could see into... whatever that place was, was when he teleported. It confused him and he wasn't sure what had triggered it. Sure he was using his magic, but he had used that plenty of times before without seeing such a thing.

 

Sans lay on his bed and sighed before sitting up. He closed his eyes, concentrating and igniting his magic. He held his hand out in front of him and shook it about, thinking maybe it was triggered by movement, but got no such luck.

 

After a bit more thought he grabbed a rubber ball he sometimes idly threw at the wall and stood, staring at it in his boney fingers. Maybe... it had to be coming at him?

 

He looked at the wall before throwing the ball. It bounced off and headed straight for his face. Just like before time seemed to slow down, his eye flashing yellow and the trajectory of the ball becoming as clear as day. Sans had just enough time to angle his head out of the way, the ball bouncing off the wall behind him and rolling onto the floor.

 

The skeleton turned and looked at it, blinking a few times to get his magic to subside. So that was what caused it; something had to be coming directly at him.

 

Sans rubbed his left eye socket, suddenly remembering the time when Gaster had accidentally overloaded him with DT. He remembered all the tubes and wires coming out of that eye. It made him shudder.

 

Had Gaster known he could do this? A part of him seriously doubted it. If he had known there was no way he would have let it gone untested. Sans flopped back down onto his bed and rubbed the back of his skull.

 

“man...” He sighed and moved his hand to go back over his left socket. “learn something new every day, don't we dad?”

 

 

A few weeks passed uneventfully. There were no resets, no killer flowers, and for the most part everything seemed peaceful. Maybe that little plant had decided to go on the straight and narrow after all.

 

Sans was still fighting with himself over whether or not he wanted to continue his work. He was at a loss, unsure of where to even begin. He didn't have the manpower, equipment, or skill. Getting it into working condition to open up 'the void' and see if Gaster was inside was dangerous... and he couldn't risk another explosion. If it happened again there was a high chance neither him, Papyrus, or anyone else in the area would survive.

 

His father was important to him and he wanted to do everything he could to get him back, but he wasn't about to sacrifice another timeline in order to achieve that.

 

Enough time was beginning to pass to make Sans feel like all of his previous resets were just nightmares, the memories melding into the others and feeling like bad, vague dreams. Details began to get lost in translation, everything returning to normal save for that sinking feeling that everything was going to be reset again eventually.

 

It was an average night for the two brothers. Papyrus was happily tucked into his race car bed after being read his favorite story while Sans had collapsed into his bare, messy mattress still more or less fully clothed, his jacket tossed to the side and one of his slippers laying on the floor while the other dangled off his boney feet.

 

In the dead of night a meaty vine reached up to the window in Papyrus' room, slowly feeling around the bottom and trying to wedge it open. Eventually it succeeded, sliding through silently and towards the skeleton's bed. The thick vine loosely wrapped around Papyrus' neck before quickly tightening and starting to squeeze.

 

Papyrus was awake in an instant, eye sockets shooting wide open. He clawed at the tendril with his fingers, scratching at it while he wheezed for air. His other hand summoned a blue bone, using it like a laser and pressing it firmly into the vine around his neck.

 

Something outside screeched before the entire thing unwrapped and pulled away back outside.

 

Papyrus gagged and choked before leaping to his feet, getting to the window just in time to see a lump in the snow quickly making its way back out of Snowdin and into the forest beyond. He coughed and tried to yell for Sans, only the hoarsest of whines coming from his mouth.

 

Clutching at the vertebrae of his neck Papyrus ran out of his room and to his brother's, banging on the door.

 

Shuffling and mumbling came from the other side before a very tired Sans cracked the door open and peered up at his brother. “bro, what...” He trailed off, eyes growing wider as he noticed the panic on his brothers face, the scuffs on his neck, and the glowing blue attack still in his hands. He grabbed onto Papyrus and nearly dragged him in through the doorway before quickly shoving it closed behind him.

 

Papyrus tried to talk but ended up just coughing and wheezing. Funny how he lacked a throat yet nearly being strangled could limit his voice so much. Skeleton monsters were an interesting thing, weren't they?

 

“pap, what happened?” Sans finally asked, flipping on the light. He grabbed onto Papyrus and pulled him further down to his level to inspect the marks on his neck.

 

“V-... VINE...” The younger brother finally managed to cough out. It was only then he noticed the attack still in his hands and quickly dispersed the magic.

 

“vine?” Sans repeated, suddenly looking angry. Those dreams started to fill themselves in again.

 

“THROUGH... WINDOW.” Papyrus said, pointing to the window in Sans' bedroom. He then motioned around his neck and made a pulling gesture.

 

“jeeze, pap...” Sans sighed, already feeling exhausted and fed up with the day and it hadn't even begun. He walked over to the window and opened it up, leaning out and looking around the house. The entire village was still dark and asleep, and he wouldn't be able to see any marks in the snow by Papyrus' window from his angle.

 

Exhaling heavily he closed it again and locked it tight before looking at his brother. “are you alright? do we need to get you to the doc or something?”

 

Papyrus rubbed the scuffed vertebrae and shook his head. “I'LL... BE OKAY. IT'S JUST SORE.” He said, starting to get some of his voice back now that the initial pain was subsiding.

 

Sans fell silent and started to weigh his options. The flower had obviously not decided to go on the better path. No, it had decided to try and sneak attack while they were sleeping because it knew it couldn't beat them fully aware. It knew that the strongest things in the village were him and Papyrus. Papyrus was undoubtedly strong and capable, and while Sans might not have been, he knew how enough of the code worked to be a problem.

 

Once they were out of the picture Flowey could face the others, if that really was what he intended to do.

 

Sans wondered what would be best, to keep Papyrus by his side or make him stay here while he went to investigate, both had their advantages. With Papyrus close he could keep an eye on him, but at the same time he would be more hesitant to use his own powers if he was nearby. That was another clear difference between them both.

 

Papyrus eased into his attack, getting faster and more complex as time went on. Sans was the opposite, for him it was all or nothing. His first attack was his most lethal, always trying to end it as soon as possible. He knew Papyrus wouldn't approve, but he just didn't have the stamina to keep it up like his little brother could.

 

“stay here, pap.” Sans finally said, looking up at his brother. “i'm gonna go and see if it's still around.”

 

The younger skeleton rapidly shook his head and instantly regretted it as pain shot up into the back of his skull. He winced and grabbed at Sans' shoulder. “D-... DON'T.”

 

Sans tried to play off his brother's concern, smiling wide and giving a shrug as he grabbed for his coat. “don't worry about me, bro. if things get hairy i'll teleport right back here, alright? no worries.”

 

Papyrus didn't look convinced, but eventually let his brother go.

 

“thanks. i'll be ok. promise.”

 

Sans tugged on his jacket and put on his other slipper before leaving the room, making sure he shut it tight and heard the lock from the other side. First he made his way to Papyrus' room, peering out the still open window down to the ground. He could see a tiny patch of disturbed snow, along with a trail as though something had burrowed in and then out that went off into the forest outside of Snowdin.

 

So he was still hiding there, huh?

 

He ducked back inside and closed the window tight, locking it before making his way from Papyrus' bedroom to the front door, exiting and taking a step forward to teleport from their doorstep to the outskirts of town.

 

--

 

Sans searched for a good hour before finally teleporting back home. The near constant snow made it hard to trace the path after awhile, and by the looks of things Flowey was deliberately making false tracks to lead Sans off his true trail. Once home he knocked on the door to his bedroom.

 

“i'm back, pap.”

 

Papyrus unlocked the door and looked down at him. He cleared his throat before trying to talk again. “FIND ANYTHING?”

 

“nah. he-” Sans stopped himself. “... 'it' ran off.”

 

“OH...” The skeleton rubbed at his neck again. “I THINK I'M GOING TO TAKE A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR THE PAIN. IT'S STARTING TO GET PRETTY SORE.”

 

Papyrus pushed past his brother to go to the kitchen and fetch some medication, Sans watching him all the way down the stairs and then peering at him over the banister before his view finally became obstructed. He yawned and started to walk down the steps.

 

Sans figured Papyrus wouldn't be going back to sleep after that ordeal, so the least he could do was plop down onto the couch with him and wait for the sun to rise; and that was exactly what they did.

 

Papyrus soon came back out of the kitchen and sat down to turn on the TV. He didn't manage to fall asleep again, but Sans certainly did. Sans could sleep no matter the circumstances.

 

The following day went on as normal with no resets. Sans began to think that, unless the flower was killed, there wouldn't be any. That was good at least... but he wasn't about to go out and test that theory. The lull in resets had been more than welcome, but it worried him. It was obvious that Flowey was planning something. His sneak-attack had failed, so now what?

 

 

Yet more time passed with no incident. Things were getting back to normal, although Sans found it nearly impossible to relax now that he knew the flower might pop up at any time. Still, he didn't want to alarm his brother. The guards had been told of the incident the day after it had happened, so at the very least they were on alert just as much as he was.

 

Hopefully it would all be for nothing.

 

Sans was taking one of his many breaks from sentry duty at Grillby's when he decided it would be a good time to check up on Papyrus. Lately he had been sitting at certain points in the trail into Snowdin setting up puzzles, eager to thoroughly jape the human should one ever arrive.

 

As he drew closer he could hear the sound of struggling.

 

His casual demeanor dropped and he started to run, quickly teleporting to where he could hear the skirmish. Sans landed at one of Papyrus' usual spots and spun around, eye sockets going wide at what he saw.

 

Flowey was directly underneath Papyrus, staying out of view and arms reach. He had sprung up beneath the skeleton, vines surging upwards and wrapping him tightly so he couldn't summon attacks or escape. Flowey grit his little teeth as he squeezed and squeezed, the vine around Papyrus' neck growing tighter and tighter.

 

Magic flickered on the skeleton's fingertips, but he was too restrained to summon anything. Papyrus gagged, catching Sans through blurred vision. “S-... S-...”

 

Sans' eye flared, his hand raising to pin Flowey down, but it was too late.

 

There was a sickening crack as the vine finally made headway, Papyrus' face turning to shock before his limbs went limp. His head slowly rolled downward before falling into the snow at his feet. Flowey's vines began to go slack as the skeleton's body turned to dust in their grip.

 

“Man, did that take awhile!” Flowey laughed, his voice chipper and relieved. “Finding him alone long enough sure is a pain when you barely leave his side!”

 

He looked at the other skeleton, who was frozen in place. The magic in his eye was gone, replaced with hollow, empty sockets. Sans' hand reaching outward quivered.

 

“What? Not going to blast me into oblivion?” The little plant asked, waving his head from side to side.

 

Sans felt emptiness and impossible grief all at once. This had been nothing like his dreams. As real as they had been, this was it. This is what it was like to live it. He didn't even notice as his legs gave out from under him, body crumpling into the snow.

 

Flowey watched with interest. “... Golly! You sure love your brother, dont'cha? Well... it would be real dumb of me not to take advantage of this little situation, wouldn't it?”

 

His grin turned wicked and he wasted no time in surging his vines outward, coiling them around Sans from head to toe. One tightened around his neck, squeezing and squeezing.

 

Sans did nothing.

 

“I can already tell you're so much weaker than your brother. Well, it was nice knowin' ya, you idiot.

 

Flowey squeezed and squeezed, able to feel the bones of Sans' arms, ribs, and neck begin to crack. Sans did nothing, his eyes empty and his smile ever present as he stared at the sky while being strangled and crushed.

 

He didn't care.

 

There was a loud snap as his neck finally gave, Flowey's cackling being the last thing he heard before his vision went black.

 

 

The next thing Sans knew he was sitting at his usual stool in Grillby's.

 

A fry was already halfway to his mouth, a smile on his face from all the jokes he had been cracking not a second before. His smile faded instantly and he dropped the fry back into the basket.

 

The sockets of his eyes went black and his body shook, the feeling of death and watching his brother die hitting him like a truck. Those around him barely noticed the change until he haphazardly stumbled off his stool like a drunkard.

 

“Sansy?” The rather tipsy bunny mumbled that had been sitting beside him. Her eyes went wide as she watched him vanish in a blue flash through what looked like a hole in space.

 

Sans didn't care that they saw. He didn't care about anything but getting to his brother. He teleported where he knew he would be, sat on a rock drawing out a puzzle map for a particular spot on the trail into Snowdin.

 

The strange sound of electrical interference caught Papyrus' attention. “BROTHER? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” He asked, looking up from his work. His brother didn't answer, instead slowly walking over to him with an expression devoid of anything.

 

Sans collapsed into his brother, arms wrapping around Papyrus' neck and squeezing him tightly. Not a word left his mouth, his body starting to quiver as memories replayed over and over in his head. Papyrus dropped what he was working on and wrapped his arms around his brother.

 

“SANS? WHAT'S WRONG?”

 

The older brother tried to say something but couldn't find the words, anything he could think of becoming trapped somewhere in his throat. Instead he just shook his head.

 

Papyrus sighed with a mix of annoyance and concern, but was happy to sit there and hug his brother for as long as he needed, which turned out was much longer than usual. Sans stood with his arms around his brother for what felt like hours until finally pulling away.

 

He stood in front of Papyrus, head down and arms hanging at his sides.

 

“ARE YOU... SURE YOU DON'T WANT TO TELL ME WHAT'S WRONG?” The skeleton asked again, craning his head down a little so he could see up and into Sans' empty sockets. Not a spec of light could be seen in them.

 

Sans smiled even though he had no idea why, a single sob escaping through his teeth. Before he could stop himself he started to cry, tears rolling down his porcelain cheeks as he stood in front of Papyrus and watched him sit there as he always did.

 

Just as Papyrus was about to leap up and hug him again, Sans shook his head. “m'okay.” He mumbled as he sniffed back his tears and forced them to stop. Using the puffy sleeve of his jacket he wiped the tears away and moved to sit beside his brother on the snowy rock. “just gonna... spend the day with you, pap... if that's alright.”

 

“OF COURSE IT'S ALRIGHT.” Papyrus said, his voice slightly softer than usual. He watched as his brother slumped against him, his eyes still empty and that grin still seeming so devoid of emotion. He swallowed and reached for his plan again, silently going back to work.

 

Sans spent the hours he was supposed to be at his post sitting beside Papyrus, unwilling to go away from his side. He just couldn't bare the thought of losing him again so soon, although there was a sinking feeling in the pit where his stomach would be that he knew it was going to happen again.

 

How was he supposed to stay sane through all of this?

 

Little did he realize that his predicament was shaping up to be an exact mirror of his father's; forever stuck in a loop fighting an enemy that couldn't be killed, desperate to try and keep the few things they still had, they still loved, alive.

 

Gaster hadn't been around to see the act, but he had seen Papyrus struck down before. What he hadn't seen was his son, or at least a younger version of his son, react to it.

 

The doctor loomed behind the two, watching as Papyrus tried to make one-sided, chipper conversation with his brother while working on his puzzle. Sans was devoid of life, slumped against his brother as they sat on the rock that, for the moment, served as a placeholder for Papyrus' checkpoint.

 

"͏Sa͏ns...͢ I̴ k̵no̸w ̸t̷hi͘s̸ is͡ ̡ver̴y ha̛rd ̡for ̴yǫu.͘ ҉It ̸w̷a̕s v͏e̡ry ̢h҉ard̕ f͞o͝r ̶me ͡t̨he͟ fir͏st ͞t͜ime ̡I ͟watched͝ ͝y̕oų ̸and P҉ap͝y͜ru̸s̶.͠.̴."̸ Gaster trailed off with his words, unable to finish them. Talking in of itself had become almost a chore for him, his form having never regained the detail and figure it had managed in the beginning. Each time he came into this timeline, which was less and less, he felt himself be more and more detached from it.

 

"But̸ yo͜u ̧hav̸e̶ to ̵sta͢y ̸stron̵g.̕ Yo͜u ͝m͢ust.̨ Y̨ou'̢re̵ ̧t̷he o̸nly ho͜pe I͠ h̷a̷ve̶.̸.." He frowned, his head sinking a little lower into the blob that had become his body. The doctor moved around to stand in front of them, his tired eyes bouncing off Papyrus before going back to Sans.

 

"̡I̡'m no͢t͞ su̢re how҉ ͟muc̷h l̸o͘nge͢r͝ I c̶a̡n҉ k͟eep͡ ͠this̛ up͝,͞ Sa͡n̷s͢. I'̴m ҉b͢e͜ginni͞n̴g ͡t͘o͏..̕. ̷fo̷rge͠t." Gaster paused and looked between his sons again. "B͟e͟ ̷st̕ro͝n͡g͝. I ̨kn҉ow̨ yo̶u ca͝n͏ ͝do̡ it.̷ Do ̧it͘ for P̷apyru̧s."̡

 

Gaster didn't stay long, slowly sinking back into the void between time and space to leave his boys alone yet again.

 

The night was uneventful, although Sans still made sure to stay by his little brother's side all throughout the evening. Even as bedtime rolled around he read the story like he usually did, then ended up sitting in his seat beside Papyrus' bed for the remainder of the night. Despite how tired he usually was he couldn't get himself to sleep, every time his eye sockets closed he could hear the sickening crunch of Papyrus' neck, or feel the squeezing sensation around his own.

 

Days passed like this.

 

It wasn't until the end of the week that Papyrus started to get a little annoyed by it, although a huge part of that annoyance wasn't that Sans followed him, but that his brother refused to take care of himself. He didn't sleep or eat, he didn't go to his jobs or even to Grillby's to hang out with his friends. It worried Papyrus more than anything to see his brother start to slip back into those bad habits it felt like he had only just begun to crawl out of.

 

Eventually, with enough convincing, Sans finally did as his little brother asked.

 

Their routine started to continue as it had before, although Papyrus hovered around his brother much more to start. He always made sure he got up on time, always made sure he, at the very least, ate some toast for breakfast and then escorted him halfway to his sentry station outside the forest.

 

The forest.

 

Sans bet that little flower was hiding out there somewhere. What was he plotting now? Surely someone must have killed him to reset, but who?

 

Although... did it matter who? Did anything even matter anymore?

 

Sans spent a lot of his time napping when he could, often waking up from flashbacks or nightmares. It was exhausting, even his sleep plagued with uncertainty over whether what he was seeing was actually happening in another world or if it was just his brain trying to remember something that had happened in his own timeline.

 

It was confusing and the more time that passed between resets, the more they blurred together.

 

Weeks went by uneventfully, Sans even beginning to feel a little more like himself again. Of course by that he was able to mask everything he felt, or didn't feel, with plenty of humor.

 

It was getting late in the day and his shift was up, the skeleton pulling himself from his post before zapping himself to where he knew Papyrus would be.

 

“hey pap.”

 

“HELLO BROTHER!” Papyrus said cheerfully as he sat crouched in the snow, a twig in his gloved hand. “I'M STILL WORKING ON THE PLANS FOR MY PUZZLE!”

 

Sans peered down at the scribble in the snow. “shoulda put it on paper, that's gonna be covered up by the morning.”

 

Papyrus blinked and looked up at Sans. “IS IT THAT LATE ALREADY?”

 

“afraid so.”

 

“SHOOT.” The skeleton frowned and stared down at his work again. “OH WELL. PLANNING IT OUT IS FUN ALL ON IT'S OWN. I SUPPOSE DOING IT AGAIN WON'T HURT. NYEH-HEH!”

 

Papyrus tossed the twig away and stood up, brushing some of the snow from his pants. “SHALL WE HEAD HOME OR ARE YOU GOING TO GO EAT GREASE AGAIN?” He asked, sounding a little annoyed as though he already knew the answer.

 

“no need to grill me about it, bro. we can eat f-at home if you want to.” Sans grinned.

 

Papyrus narrowed his eye sockets, his bottom jaw sticking out slightly as he tried not to smile. “NYEH...”

 

Sans wiggled the ridges of his brows.

 

“OH STOP THAT!” Papyrus flailed his arms as Sans laughed. “DO WHAT YOU WANT. I'M GOING TO HAVE A HEALTHY MEAL AT HOME.”

 

The two of them turned and began to walk back along the path into Snowdin.

 

As they drew closer to the first checkpoint past their own that Doggo was stationed at, things began to look different. A few of the tree branches around the pathway were knocked over and part of the booth itself was broken. Claw and skid marks were everywhere in the snow, dirt and ice kicked up all over.

 

Both of the skeletons slowed down, at least at first. Sans stopped altogether while Papyrus sped up, running towards the checkpoint.

 

“DOGGO?” Papyrus called out, really only knowing him in passing and when they were first introduced when he had been hired as a sentry.

 

While Papyrus called for the near-sighted canine Sans stood still, the white dots of his eyes inspecting the ground. He had seen those marks plenty of times to know where they had come from. Eventually he started to walk again, grabbing onto his brother's arm as he passed.

 

“come on, bro. maybe he was just playing rough with one of the other dogs? he might be at grillby's already.”

 

Papyrus frowned, “I... SUPPOSE THAT'S POSSIBLE. ALRIGHT.”

 

The skeleton ceased his search and the two began walking again, Sans doing well to stick a little bit closer to Papyrus than he had before.

 

Next they reached the station of Lesser Dog. Usually it was scattered with the broken necks of snowdogs, but now it looked just the same as the one before it. Trees were crushed, snow was kicked up, and huge marks in the snow all indicated that a fight had happened.

 

The two brothers stood in silence, side-by-side.

 

“I'M... STARTING TO DOUBT YOUR 'PLAY' THEORY, BROTHER.” Papyrus said with uncertainty. The corners of Sans' mouth twitched slightly and his pupils almost started to fade before he forced them back, along with his usual smile.

 

“maybe they got so rough it carried from one station to another. you know how excited lesser dog gets.” Sans offered with a shrug.

 

“... HM...” Papyrus mumbled, still not quite able to believe or disbelieve his brother's words. The two of them looked around for a bit to see if they could find the little white pup, but there was no such luck.

 

They moved forward.

 

Dogamy and Dogaressa were usually next along the pathway into Snowdin, but just like before the entire area they usually occupied was a mess. The difference this time was that shreds of black fabric from their robes were caught on some broken tree branches, blowing along in the ever-present wind.

 

Papyrus was quick to see it, running up to the broken branch higher than Sans could reach and pulling off the torn fabric. He stared at it and frowned deeply before turning to look at Sans.

 

“I... DON'T THINK THEY WERE PLAYING.”

 

He handed the fabric down to his brother, who took it and sighed.

 

“they might still be okay, we don't know that they aren't.” Sans said, looking up at his brother. He wanted to keep him as happy and positive as he could up until the very end.

 

“I GUESS SO...”

 

“let's just... be a little careful.”

 

Papyrus nodded and they continued. Greater Dog would be next.

 

Chapter Text

The closer the two brothers got to Greater Dog's station, the louder things became. Papyrus looked down at his brother, the sounds of yelping and scuffling growing stronger by the minute. Quickly he reached down, scooping Sans under one of his arms before sprinting along the pathway to where all the noise was coming from.

 

As they broke through the line of trees Papyrus slid to a halt just in time to watch a vine wrap around the little dog outside its armor before whipping it over the ledge to their doom. The yelping echoed upward, piercing the ears of everyone nearby as the poor dog plummeted to its death.

 

“NO!” Papyrus yelled, dropping Sans who barely had enough time to land on his feet.

 

Flowey spun around to face them, vines surrounding the little golden flower in the center. Quickly he began to retract all of his tendrils into the earth, hoping to escape.

 

Sans was giving him no such opportunity.

 

His eye flared blue and yellow, hand reaching out to grab hold and keep him still.

 

“WHY? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?” Papyrus asked, frowning deeply.

 

“don't try to reason with him, pap. we just need to deal with him and everything will go back to normal, i promise.”

 

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?” The skeleton asked, turning to his brother before looking back at the flower. “THERE MUST BE A REASON YOU'RE DOING THIS. WHY WOULD YOU HURT OUR FRIENDS?”

 

“pap, i can't hold him forever. we just gotta-”

 

“NO!” Papyrus yelled at his brother, tears in his eye sockets. “THERE MUST BE A REASON WHY HE'S DOING THIS.” He looked at Flowey, who was struggling in Sans' grip. “WAS IT YOU WHO HURT THE OTHER GUARDS TOO? WHY? DID THEY DO SOMETHING TO YOU?”

 

“pap...” Sans mumbled, starting to sound annoyed and strained with the constant use of his power to hold Flowey in place. If he managed to go under the dirt there would be no finding him.

 

“PLEASE JUST TELL US! WE CAN TALK THIS OUT.” Papyrus took a step forward, his arms outstretched.

 

Sans watched in horror, eye sockets going wide. Watching his brother's head roll off his shoulders with a sickening crack started to play over and over again in his head. In his panic he let Flowey go, who quickly flailed his vines under the ground before cackling and vanishing under the snow.

 

Both of the skeletons were left alone.

 

Sans had fallen back onto his rear, covered in sweat and eyes staring ahead blankly. Papyrus let his arms fall to his sides.

 

“SANS, I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU-” He began, but cut himself off as soon as he saw the state of his brother. Quickly he crouched down, taking hold of him and trying to shake some sense into him. “SANS! SANS, ARE YOU ALRIGHT?”

 

The skeleton shook and huffed as though he couldn't inhale any air, his eyes blank as the scene from before played over and over and over. Eventually his brother's voice finally reached him, the white dots reappearing in their sockets.

 

“... p-pap?”

 

“SANS, WHAT ON EARTH WAS THAT ABOUT?” He asked with concern before helping his brother sit up. Sans wiped at the sweat on his brow and took a few deep breaths.

 

“n... uh... nothin', pap...” The skeleton finally managed as Papyrus helped him to his feet. He looked behind them where the flower had been only moments before.

 

“WE NEED TO GET BACK TO SNOWDIN TO WARN THEM. CAN YOU WALK?”

 

Sans held his head, still reeling from the flashbacks. “i... uh...”

 

Papyrus frowned and decided to take matters into his own hands, turning around and lifting his brother up onto his back. “I'LL GET US THERE, DON'T WORRY.”

 

As his little brother began to race back into town, Sans tried to regain his thoughts. He clung onto his brother's shoulders, wondering what the best course of action would be. Eventually he shut his eyes tight. He didn't want to be doing this. He didn't want to have to deal with any of this.

 

“I KNOW IF WE FIND HIM WE CAN TALK TO HIM.” Papyrus finally said, breaking the silence between them. “WE CAN TALK AND FIGURE OUT WHAT BROUGHT HIM TO THIS POINT.”

 

Sans could feel where his gut would be sink. “... pap, i don't think he's gonna want to talk.”

 

“WELL, WE'LL JUST HAVE TO TRY. I WON'T GIVE UP.”

 

Sans knew why Papyrus' demeanor towards the flower had suddenly changed; he had seen its face. It was no longer just nameless tendrils, but a sad little flower who didn't know what it was doing. Papyrus always saw the good in everyone and the murderous Flowey was no exception.

 

Eventually they came to the edge of the town, Papyrus' pace slowing.

 

Everything seemed normal. Monsters were walking from the store to their homes, playing in the snow, standing around and talking outside with their friends. The sound of something heavy whizzing through the air was the only signal Papyrus managed to get before a massive vine came crashing down towards him.

 

“pap!” Sans yelled, his eye flashing yellow. Everything slowed down just long enough for him to yank at his brother's shoulders, toppling him over backwards to narrowly avoid the massive tendril. Sans rolled head over heels into the snow while Papyrus sat dumbfounded, watching as the huge vine slithered back to where it had come from.

 

“Well, well, well, only you two boneheads left! If I can beat you two then there's nothing stopping me from wipeing out this little section of the map, is there?” Flowey cackled as he popped up from the snow a few feet from the two skeletons.

 

All the other residents were already scrambling and screaming to get inside. Grillby was the only one to do the opposite, stepping out of his bar and standing on the porch.

 

Sans finally pushed himself up and stood, spotting Grillby down the single street through Snowdin. “better get everyone out of here, grillby. go tell the guard.”

 

The living fire nodded and disappeared back into the bar just as Papyrus was getting to his feet. He summoned an attack in his hand and put himself into a defensive stance.

 

“WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?” He asked again, frowning sadly. “WHY ARE YOU HURTING EVERYONE?”

 

Flowey let out a manic cackle, his face warping into a wicked grin. “Because it's fun!”

 

A huge tendril raised into the air before slamming down where Papyrus once stood. He rolled off to the side, Sans teleporting away to get behind Flowey and hopefully grab hold of him.

 

“Ah, ah, ah~” The plant cooed, a huge vine swinging behind him and forcing Sans to side-step out of the way. “You can only do that so many times before I start to catch on!”

 

Flowey continuously struck his vines outward, keeping the two skeletons on their toes. Papyrus was still capable of sending out attacks in between, but Sans wasn't. Unless he could stand still and concentrate he couldn't cast his magic, and with how many times he was having to dodge he was being worn out rather fast.

 

Eventually Sans decided another approach, teleporting around a corner where Flowey couldn't get to him before stepping out to get a sight on him and grabbing hold. He huffed and puffed, arm already shaking and struggling to keep him still.

 

“p-... pap, you gotta finish him off.” He breathed heavily, watching as his brother's attacks completely stopped altogether.

 

“... I...” Papyrus began, his gloved hand squeezing at the attack in his hands. “I... NO! NOW WE CAN TALK!” He looked over to Sans, who grit his teeth and struggled to keep the flower and its vines down.

 

Flowey couldn't help but start cackling. “Talk!? About what?”

 

“ABOUT WHY YOU'RE DOING THIS!” The skeleton frowned, clutching his attack tightly. “WHY ARE YOU HURTING OTHER MONTERS? SURELY YOU'RE A MONSTER TOO, AREN'T YOU?”

 

The flower laughed again. “Oh I'm more powerful than any of you idiots. I'm something else entirely! Something better.”

 

Sans' arm started to shake and he quickly used his other hand to try and help balance it. “paaaaap...” He groaned through grit teeth. “you gotta do it.”

 

Papyrus frowned and looked down at his boots. Then, he glared and stood up straight. The attack in his hands vanished. “NO.”

 

“bro, come on!” Sans pleaded, the visions starting to come back. He shook his head in desperation, trying his hardest to stay focused so he didn't let Flowey go.

 

“NO. EVERYONE IS GOOD IF THEY TRY.” He said, then smiled at Flowey. “I KNOW YOU HAVE GOOD IN YOU. YOU CAN STILL TURN BACK AND BECOME A BETTER PERSON IF YOU REALLY TRY! I BELIEVE IN YOU!” Papyrus held his arms outward and took a step forward.

 

“papyrus!” Sans yelled, starting to panic more and more.

 

Flowey's evil expression faltered for all but a moment. “What-”

 

Whatever he was going to say was abruptly cut off by a massive fountain of flames. The plant yelled and screamed, vines flailing and twisting as they burned. Grilly calmly walked down the path from the entrance of the bar, each step he took melting the snow around him.

 

He had rolled up his sleeves, one arm turning into a jet of fire blasting into the plant from behind and growing stronger as he got closer and closer. The other was holding the hilt of a sword, although it lacked any sort of blade attached to it.

 

“GRILLBY NO! WAIT! WE CAN TALK ABOUT THIS!” Papyrus pleaded, but it went on deaf ears.

 

The hilt in Grillby's hand began to light up, inscriptions glowing and burning until they met at the very tip. A long blade made of fire suddenly ignited, roaring to life like a saw blade.

 

He began to step through the vines, swinging the sword to slice through each one like butter while Sans struggled to keep Flowey pinned. Once he reached the center his arm returned to normal, the little flower in the center barely more than a charred little stump. With a single swing of his blade it turned to dust, the vines surrounding it soon following.

 

Sans collapsed into the snow not far away, gasping for air and sweating profusely. Papyrus stood in front of the fire monster, hands over his eye sockets.

 

“NO... WE COULD HAVE TALKED HIM OUT OF IT!” He cried.

 

Grillby reeled in his blade, the fire dulling before extinguishing altogether. He approached Papyrus and gave him a pat on his shoulder. “... Sometimes you have to do something you don't want to, Papyrus...” He paused and looked over to Sans, collapsed in the snow.

 

“... Go tend to your brother... He needs you...”

 

The skeleton finally looked up from his hands and over to Sans. “S-SANS!” He jumped to action, racing over to his brother and sliding into the snow beside him. He lifted Sans up into his arms, his big brother feeling so light and weak.

 

“everything'll... be fine... pap...” Sans breathed, feeling light-headed and dizzy. Grillby approached them, his expressionless face peering over Papyrus' shoulder. Sans managed a smile.

 

“thanks grillby.”

 

“... It was nothing...” He looked to Papyrus again. “... Let your brother rest... Don't feel bad about what happened... Some things can't be avoided...”

 

Papyrus looked back at him and nodded, then down at Sans again. Already he was beginning to fall asleep in his little brother's arms. As Grillby left them to themselves and to help the town recuperate, he stood and started to carry his brother back home.

 

“THERE ALWAYS HAS TO BE A WAY... I KNOW IT...”

 

 

Papyrus carried his frail, tired older brother back to their house and up the stairs, laying him on the bed. He sat beside him and watched him sleep for a few moments, although by the look on Sans' face it was anything but a restful slumber. After a few moments he sighed and stood up, leaving his brother to doze before getting himself a little something to eat and doing the same.

 

The following morning Papyrus was woken by a knock on the door. He rushed down and opened it, Grillby standing on the porch with a basket in his hands.

 

“OH, GRILLBY. H-HELLO. COME ON IN.” Papyrus said as he stepped aside, thoughts from the evening before still very fresh in his mind. Grillby had handled it so calmly it... kind of bothered him. He tried to shake away those thoughts as the fire monster stepped inside and looked around.

 

“SANS IS STILL ASLEEP. SHOULD I GO WAKE HIM?”

 

“... No need...” Grillby said before removing his coat and heading straight for the kitchen. Papyrus didn't even need to ask what he was about to do. A number of times throughout their lives growing up Grillby just occasionally showed up and cooked them a meal. He knew neither of the brothers ate particularly well and Sans had gone through a lot of ups and downs taking care of his little brother all by himself. During Sans' worse days he would come over and do this. Even though little was said between them all it felt very nice to have a sort of father figure in the house.

 

It just felt 'right' for some reason.

 

Papyrus watched the monster head into the kitchen without a word and get to work. He hesitated for a moment before walking up the stairs to Sans' bedroom door. Slowly he opened it to peek inside and check on him, surprised to see his brother awake and wiping at the sweat on his brow.

 

“SANS?” He asked softly, or as softly as he could ever manage. “HOW ARE YOU FEELING?” Papyrus stepped inside and closed the door behind him.

 

“... i'm okay, pap.” Sans said with a sigh. He hadn't used much magic yesterday all things considered, but all of those flashbacks had really taken a toll on him. The nightmares didn't help of course. He was actually surprised the flower hadn't reset.

 

“GRILLBY IS HERE.” Papyrus said as he approached his brother's bed and took a seat on the edge of the bare mattress. He looked his brother over, Sans covered in sweat with deep bags under his eyes. Papyrus frowned, “YOU DON'T LOOK OKAY.”

 

“didn't sleep very well.” The skeleton said as he sat up and slumped forward.

 

The two sat in silence together, Sans eventually taking notice of his brother's odd quiet. Papyrus was sat slumped over as well, his arms cross over his chest and his head down.

 

“... you okay, bro?” Sans finally asked, frowning.

 

“AM I WRONG?” Papyrus finally said, turning to look at his brother sadly. “AM I WRONG FOR WANTING TO SEE THE GOOD IN EVERYONE?”

 

Sans looked surprised at the question. “n-no way.” He forced a terrible smile and reached out to rest a hand on his brother's back. “that's what makes you great, pap.”

 

“THEN WHY DID YOU TELL ME TO DO IT?”

 

Sans twitched and let his hand pull away from his brother's back. “i...” He began, then paused and let his hand drop. “i was scared he would hurt you. i just don't want you to get hurt and i wasn't strong enough to stop him all on my own.” He glanced away. “sorry bro. i'll never ask you to do anything like that again. i promise.”

 

Saying that made his entire body ache. Little did Papyrus realize what a kind of promise that was. If Sans were to keep it than there would perhaps be many a time where he watched Papyrus die, just so he didn't upset him by making him go against what he believed in. He just wanted his little brother to be happy when he was alive.

 

“THANK YOU.” Papyrus finally said, hugging himself tightly. He could defend himself, sure, but he drew the line when it came to killing another being. It wasn't that he couldn't do it, but rather he simply refused. There was good in everyone, he believed in that to the very core of his being and he would stand by it until his last breath.

 

Little did he realize how soon that might be.

 

After a moment Papyrus sighed and stood up. “WELL, GRILLBY IS DOWNSTAIRS DOING ALL THE WORK. I WOULD FEEL BAD IF I DON'T HELP HIM AT LEAST A LITTLE. COME DOWN WHEN YOU'RE READY.”

 

He left Sans to his own devices and walked to his room to get dressed before heading down and into the kitchen. Usually Grillby never let him help, instead making him do things like set the table. Once it was all nearly done Sans stumbled his way to the table and sat down.

 

In front of him was a breakfast he could have only dreamed of having. Eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns; it was a feast the two boys only saw when Grillby decided to pay them a visit.

 

“YOU REALLY DON'T HAVE TO DO THIS FOR US, YOU KNOW.” Papyrus said, a little embarrassed as he started to fill up his plate and dig in.

 

Sans was much less abashed; in fact he barely said anything as Grillby set a cup of coffee in front of him. “thanks grillby.”

 

He took a drink of it and stared at the wonderful buffet in front of him, all of it looking beyond delicious yet unappetizing at the same time. Still, he had to eat, and he wasn't about to have Grillby's cooking go to waste.

 

The two boys ate their fill, sat across from one another while Grillby took the head of the table and silently drank a cup of coffee with them. The conversation was brief, the skeletons both too busy shoving food into their mouths and Grillby being a monster of few words, but once the brothers were finished he stood up to leave.

 

Sans received a pat on the shoulder as Grillby passed, Papyrus getting up to show him to the door out of courtesy.

 

“THANK YOU, GRILLBY. I'M SURE SANS REALLY ENJOYED HAVING YOU OVER TOO.” He said as he held the door open for him.

 

Grillby nodded and put on his coat before looking at the young skeleton. “... Keep an eye out for your brother...” His head turned to look into the kitchen, or at least what little he could see from the front door before turning to leave.

 

Papyrus nodded solemnly, closing the door once the bartender was gone. Sans sat at the table, one hand resting against his skull while the other loosely gripped at his coffee mug. He closed his eyes and could feel something familiar, a strange buzzing followed by a tingling sensation in his skull.

 

When he opened his eyes again he was sat at his sentry station.

 

He didn't even react anymore, his pose going unchanged and expression hollow. The more and more it happened, the harder and harder it was to care. He sighed and folded his arms on the desk of his checkpoint, resting his head into puffy sleeves. Sometimes the nightmares were better than reality, especially if he managed to get one or two pleasant dreams among them.

 

Those were always the best despite how swallowed up they were with the bad. Sometimes he made new friends. Sometimes they made it to the surface. Sometimes Gaster had never been swallowed by the machine and they explored different timelines together. During those dreams he wished he would never wake up.

 

--

 

Weeks or maybe months went by where Flowey tried a different approach each time and failed. Killing the weaker enemies first seemed to be his go-to strategy for now, but every time it boiled down to taking care of Papyrus or Sans he failed. Grillby was only ever a problem for him if he was stupid enough to fight inside the town, which he quickly found out after a few resets.

 

After multiple tries attempting to win there was a large lull between them just like there had been at the beginning, Flowey using that time to think of another way to go about his strategy for wiping out the underground.

 

… It seemed like your ordinary day.

 

Sans had fallen asleep at his checkpoint just like he had every day, waking up who knows when. Dates and times didn't really matter anymore to him, he pretty much only got up and out of bed when Papyrus nagged him to. He pushed himself up and began to walk along the pathway back into Snowdin, teleporting after a few steps to where Papyrus usually was.

 

Sans stood in the empty clearing that his brother had been making puzzles in, not a soul in sight. He shoved his hands into his pockets. “papyrus?” He called out before taking a few steps forward. “paaaaap!”

 

But nobody came.

 

The white dots of his eyes looked around and started to notice the snow kicked up around the area his brother usually sat. As he got closer a noticeable mound of dust lay by the rock he always sat on and Sans felt himself lock up.

 

He stared at it for a few long minutes before finally walking forward to grab something sticking out of it; a piece of wet paper with the plans for a puzzle written on it in crayon.

 

The whites of his eyes vanished and his arm flopped to his side, his grip on the piece of paper wavering until eventually the wind ripped it from his boney fingers and blew it across the clearing.

 

He started to laugh.

 

It was soft at first, his shoulders bouncing with each chuckle, then it grew louder... and louder. Soon he was hollering with laughter, barely able to contain himself as he clutched at the boulder he always sat on with his little brother to keep himself upright.

 

Then it started to turn into sobs. Gut-wrenching, heart-breaking sobs.

 

He couldn't stop himself. Sans cried harder than he ever had before. His yells carried on over the wind, louder than he ever thought he was capable of yelling. There was no way that it couldn't be heard in the little village, but whether or not anyone did actually hear it nobody came to his aid.

 

Eventually he exhausted himself, bent over and bracing against the rock as he stared down at the lump of dust that had once been his brother. He collapsed to his knees and started to mindlessly grab handfuls to stuff into the pockets of his jacket. Sans didn't even know why he was doing it, his mind blank and his soul in the darkest pit imaginable.

 

He could never hope to fit all of Papyrus' dust into his pockets, filling them full before slowly pulling himself to his feet. Sans wobbled back and forth, drunk with grief, before finally taking a few steps forward.

 

He headed back towards Snowdin.

 

He passed Doggo's stand, the checkpoint broken to pieces. Lesser Dog's snow sculptures were crushed to bits. Dogamy and Dogaressa were nowhere to be found. Greater Dog's armor lay scattered.

 

The skeleton barely gave any of them even the slightest glance.

 

His fingers felt around inside his pockets, feeling his brother's ashes as though it would somehow bring them closer together. Once he reached Snowdin he finally looked up from his feet with dead eyes to find it in just as much shambles as the checkpoints before it.

 

The shop was crushed. Grillby's was on fire. Dust littered the street.

 

Sans slowly walked along the single road through Snowdin, but said nothing. He didn't call out or yell or cry, he merely surged forward like a zombie. He could tell, he just knew that everyone was dead.

 

Eventually he reached the end of Snowdin just before Waterfall and stopped, collapsing to his knees. His legs slid out from under him and he slumped before falling over onto his face and laying in the wet snow.

 

He didn't care. Nothing mattered. Papyrus was dead. It would all be reset anyway.

 

A sinking, horrible feeling in his gut began to grow as he came to a sudden realization.

 

This was why those other versions of himself never stopped the human. This was why they did nothing until the very end.

 

They were him, and just like him, they were tired.

 

Exhausted.

 

Sans slowly closed his eyes as he lay motionless in the snow.

 

He just wanted to sleep.

 

 

Sans fell asleep in the snow.

 

He wasn't sure how long he slept there, alone and abandoned in the desolated little village of Snowdin, but he eventually woke up at his post again. His eyes cracked open and stared out, able to realize where he was without so much as lifting his head.

 

Whatever.

 

The skeleton closed his eyes, drifting in and out of consciousness but too defeated, too tired, too depressed to move. Nothing he did would matter anyway. He couldn't save Papyrus. He was too weak to keep this up. He just... couldn't.

 

Sans wasn't sure if he experienced even more resets without moving. It was hard to notice them when he was asleep, which was one of the reasons he enjoyed it so much even if he did have near constant nightmares. At least then it was like watching through the eyes of someone else without having to experience it directly.

 

Sans?

 

SANS?

 

“SANS!” Came Papyrus' loud voice, the tall skeleton looming over his brother from behind and shaking him awake. He looked down at his brother with concern.

 

“HAVE YOU BEEN SLEEPING HERE THIS WHOLE TIME?”

 

Sans slowly opened his eyes, worn and emotionless. “... oh. hey bro.”

 

Papyrus frowned, “SANS I'VE BEEN LOOKING ALL OVER FOR YOU. YOU'RE USUALLY HOME BEFORE I AM SO WHEN YOU DIDN'T COME BY I THOUGHT YOU HAD WENT AHEAD. YOU WEREN'T AT GRILLBY'S, YOU WEREN'T AT HOME, I DIDN'T EXPECT TO STILL FIND YOU AT YOUR SENTRY STATION.”

 

Sans finally sat up. “oh... what time is it?”

 

“LATE! WAY PAST DINNER TIME. ARE YOU ALRIGHT? THIS IS VERY UNLIKE YOU.”

 

The skeleton rubbed his skull and stood up, his joints stiff from lack of use. He wondered how long he had been sleeping or how many resets he had gone through. “i'm fine.”

 

Papyrus didn't look convinced, but getting his brother to talk was an olympian task all on its own. “IF YOU SAY SO... COME ON, LET'S GET YOU HOME.”

 

A gentle hand placed on his brother's back, guiding him around his checkpoint before the two set into a slow walk back home.

 

The night passed as usual if not a little uncomfortable on Papyrus' end. He didn't understand why his brother had been fine yesterday and now was even worse than he had been years ago. It was confusing and for the life of him he simply couldn't get his brother to say a word about it.

 

In the end he decided there was really only one thing he could do for his brother; be there for him and make sure he took care of himself.

 

Days, then weeks passed without a reset. Papyrus felt like a mother, having to drag Sans out of bed some days and nearly force him to eat and go to his job. Seeing him so destitute was nearly enough to make him depressed too, but it was a good thing that his spirit was always so high.

 

Sans tried his best to get back the way he had been for his brother's sake, but it was hard. He tried, he really did, but faking that same smile and overlaying it with humor and laziness had become near impossible. It took weeks and weeks before he could show up at Grillby's again, having been dreading it simply because everyone asked where he had been and why he was down even though his act had bounced back a little.

 

Nearly a month went by without a reset. Word of mouth began to spread rumors that something was happening in Waterfall, monsters were vanishing without a trace. If Grillby's was good for anything, it was local gossip.

 

There was no doubt in Sans' mind that it was the flower, and that was when the resets began again.

 

Whenever a few rumors would begin about something strange happening in Waterfall, things would reset. Sans vaguely recalled that the captain of the Royal Guard lived there, so perhaps it was all her doing.

 

That was good. At least that meant that they could deal with it for awhile and give him a break.

 

It seemed as though as soon as the resets had picked up again, they slowed down. Sans didn't know it at the time, but facing Undyne was proving to be rather difficult for Flowey. Not only was she stronger than Papyrus, but she had the same lethality as Sans. To top that all off she went out looking for him whenever he started to kill other monsters.

 

It would be awhile before he was able to beat her.

 

With his approach slow and steady, rumors about the amazing captain grew and grew. The tales of her defending the locals from some strange, tentacle-like evil spread all across the underground. Eventually they reached the figurative ears of Papyrus, who had been spending his days caring for his brother and building puzzles along the pathway into Snowdin from the ruins.

 

“DID YOU HEAR THAT CAPTAIN UNDYNE THWARTED THAT STRANGE CREATURE AGAIN?” Papyrus said to his brother as they stood outside their posts building snowmen, or at least Papyrus was building a snowman. Sans had built a lump to sit on. “SHE HASN'T CAPTURED IT YET, BUT SHE DROVE IT BACK INTO THE GROUND AND SAVED A WHOLE GROUP OF SCHOOL CHILDREN!”

 

“cool.” Sans said, looking tired but at least a little less depressed than he had been weeks ago.

 

“I THINK I WANT TO ASK HER TO TRAIN ME!” He said, grinning wide while patting some snow together with his mittens. “I WANT TO HELP MONSTERS JUST LIKE HER! MAYBE I'LL EVEN MAKE SOME FRIENDS ONCE I'M IN THE GUARD. EVERYONE LOVES THE GUARDS!”

 

Sans frowned a little. Ever since Papyrus had gotten out of school he had noticed how much he craved the attention of his peers. He had always been a very sociable skeleton and during their 'second life' things hadn't really worked out like they had before. Papyrus had never managed to have more than a few fleeting, distant friends. He was the type of monster that needed much more than that, very opposite to himself.

 

He forced on a smile again for his brother's sake. “how ya gonna get her attention?”

 

“WELL I'M JUST GOING TO GO UP AND ASK!” Papyrus said with a grin.

 

Sans raised one of the ridges of his brow and couldn't help but chuckle. “okay. i'm sure she'll see how great you are and train you no problem.”

 

Late that evening while Sans was asleep, Papyrus made his way out of the house and ventured to Waterfall. He didn't really sleep much and was sure that showing up in the middle of the night would show the captain that he was determined and serious about his training.

 

He banged on the door to the captain's house and stepped back, smoothing out his sweater. He had worn the nicest clothes he had, resolved to make a good first impression. After a few long minutes the door finally opened.

 

A tall, tired-looking fish monster stood in the doorway wearing a tank top and pajama bottoms, one of the straps of her top slipping off her shoulder.

 

“CAPTAIN UNDYNE!” Papyrus yelled, causing the monster to flinch backward at the sudden sharp noise.

 

“I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, HUMBLE SENTRY, REQUEST THAT YOU TRAIN ME TO BECOME AN AMAZING ROYAL GUARD!”

 

He had practiced that little speech in his head the entire way there, having shoved in the 'great' after his brother suggested it. After all, he was very great.

 

Undyne stared at him for a moment, her one good eye bouncing up and down the lanky skeleton before she abruptly slammed the door into his face and trudged back to bed. Papyrus stood outside, shocked at first, but that soon faded. It was near impossible to keep his upbeat attitude down.

 

“AH, I SEE! THIS IS A TEST! WELL THE GREAT PAPYRUS WILL NOT BACK DOWN! I'LL SHOW YOU JUST HOW DETERMINED I AM TO BECOME ONE OF YOUR LOYAL DEFENDERS!”

 

Papyrus took a step back away from the door and stood.

 

And stood.

 

… And stood.

 

It wasn't until daybreak that the door finally opened and Undyne stepped out, armored up and helmet under her arm to start her morning patrol. She stopped upon seeing Papyrus still stood right outside her door and blinked.

 

“Uh... have you been standing here all night?” She asked, her eye twitching.

 

“OF COURSE!”

 

Undyne gave a slanted, uncomfortable grin full of sharp, yellow teeth before laughing loudly. “HAH! WOW!” She approached the skeleton and tapped him roughly square in the chest with one of the fingers of her gauntlet.

 

“That's impressive! What is it that you wanted again?”

 

“I WANT YOU TO TRAIN ME TO BECOME THE BEST ROYAL GUARD YOU'VE EVER HAD.” Papyrus said, then paused and quickly went to attention. “ER, CAPTAIN UNDYNE, SIR.”

 

“... M'AM.”

 

Undyne laughed again and wrapped an arm around Papyrus' neck, yanking him rougher than she probably intended and dragging him along by her side as she walked down the lane of her house.

 

“You've got heart and I like that! Alright bonehead, I'll train ya!” She let him go and stopped at the edge of her lawn. “Meet me here tonight, seven PM SHARP. I wanna see what you're made of!” She lifted her helmet and pulled it over her head, her voice reverberating under the metal. “But, uh, don't spend all that time waiting here, alright? Go home for now.”

 

Papyrus couldn't see her face but knew that she was grinning from fin-to-fin behind that helmet. He stood there for a moment, a little star-struck before quickly regaining his composure and saluting.

 

“Y-YES CAPTAIN UNDYNE!”

 

Undyne waved before heading down the pathway through Waterfall, the metal of her armor clattering with each movement.

 

Papyrus stood at the end of her lawn until she was out of sight before erupting into fits of giggles and flailing appendages in excitement. He ran all the way home, not stopping once to take a rest. You wouldn't even know he had gone the whole night without sleeping by the looks of him.

 

“SANS!” Papyrus yelled as he kicked open the door to his brother's bedroom. Had his brother been awake it might have taken him back to the days living in the lab. Gaster had always loved nearly kicking down the door in either excitement or anger.

 

“hmwuh?” Sans mumbled, slowly lifting his head from his pillow. Papyrus wasted no time in scrambling over to his side. He grasped his shoulders and shook him excitedly. It was a good thing his skull was firmly attached.

 

“CAPTAIN UNDYNE IS GOING TO TRAIN ME! I STOOD OUTSIDE HER HOUSE ALL NIGHT AND SHE WAS IMPRESSED WITH ME! I'M GOING TO BECOME A ROYAL GUARD!”

 

“th-th-thats-s-s-gr-gr-great-br-bro.” Sans said, the white dots of his eyes bouncing around in their sockets as Papyrus continued to shake him. Eventually his little brother let go and stood up.

 

“I SHOULD START TRAINING RIGHT NOW! I DON'T WANT TO SEEM OUT OF PRACTICE FOR WHEN WE START!”

 

While Papyrus flailed his hands in front of himself and nearly danced in place, Sans rubbed at his skull and tried to stop the room from spinning. “don't worry about it bro. i'm sure she'll think your technique is avant-guard.”

 

Papyrus stopped his little dance and narrowed his eye sockets before picking up a dirty sock and throwing it into his brother's face.

 

“what? eight o'sock too early for puns?” Sans grinned.

 

After a moment Papyrus couldn't help himself and begun to laugh.

 

It was nice to see his brother at least a little back to normal.

 

 

That evening Papyrus showed up early at the captain's house. It was good to show that he could be punctual!

 

… Perhaps too punctual.

 

The skeleton ended up standing by the fence for an hour longer than was needed, Undyne eventually walking up the pathway to her home and pausing slightly when she saw Papyrus stood by the fence. She removed her helmet as she approached, the skeleton quickly going to attention when he saw her.

 

“You haven't been standing here this whole time, have you?” She asked, her eye twitching.

 

“NO, I WENT HOME FOR AWHILE JUST LIKE YOU SAID.”

 

“Oh...” Undyne smiled, “Good! Eager to get started, huh? I like that! Just give me a sec to get changed.”

 

“YES CAPTAIN!” Papyrus declared, unmoving from attention.

 

The fish monster gave him and awkward look but her smile remained. “Uh... you can stop all that now, don't worry about it.” She roughly nudged his arm with one of her gauntlets as she walked passed and into her house.

 

Papyrus relaxed and watched her, standing there for a few moments still in attention before slowly starting to relax a little. While he waited alone he couldn't help but do a little dance in his spot. This was all so exciting!

 

Soon enough Undyne stepped out of her house looking much more casual, that grin on her face rarely leaving.

 

“Okay! Uh... what was your name again?” She asked awkwardly.

 

“PAPYRUS!” He yelled before going to attention again out of habit. This time Undyne didn't stop him.

 

“Right, Papyrus!” She slapped a fist into her palm. “So why do you wanna be a royal guard, Papyrus?”

 

“TO HELP PEOPLE AND... AND MAKE FRIENDS! EVERYONE LOVES THE GUARD!” He said enthusiastically.

 

Undyne chuckled and looked a little stiff. That was a really strange reason to want to be a guard, but she wasn't about to tell that to someone who was so passionate about it.

 

“Well the guard is much more than just helping people and making friends. You gotta be tough!” She clenched a fist in the air and shook it. “Especially these days, what with all the disappearances! You always gotta be on your toes!”

 

Papyrus nodded to her every word and, if he had a notebook in his hands, would have been furiously scribbling down notes.

 

“Now show me what you got, Papyrus!” Undyne yelled and pointed at the training dummies to the side of her yard. “Bash those things to pieces!”

 

“YES SIR!” The skeleton yelled and walked over to stand in front of the targets. He wasted no time in summoning an array of bones in front of him, sending them careening into the targets and smashing them to pieces.

 

Undyne stared, having not expected such proficiency with magic from some goofy... kid? Was Papyrus a kid? She couldn't tell. Either way she didn't have much time to just stare, the skeleton turning around and grinning at her.

 

“Er... nice job!” She congratulated and gave him a thumbs up.

 

“But now let's see how you fair against me!” Undyne grinned and summoned a spear in her hand. “Get ready!”

 

The skeleton suddenly looked surprised, but wasn't about to back down. He summoned a bone in his hand, the captain wasting no time once he was ready to strike.

 

“NGAH!” Undyne yelled, thrusting her spear towards him. Papyrus blocked it quickly, stumbling backwards. She didn't allow him to regain his composure, her glowing spear thrusting this way and that. The skeleton managed to block a surprising number of them before eventually tripping over a rock and falling flat on his rear.

 

The blue spear pointed at his throat and the fish woman smiled down at him. “That was good for your first try!” She encouraged, the spear's magic dissipating. A hand was held down to help Papyrus get back to his feet.

 

“I GUESS I HAVE A LOT MORE PRACTICING TO DO...” The skeleton said, sounding a little discouraged.

 

“Practice makes perfect!” Undyne smiled, roughly slamming a hand into the skeleton's back. “You've got real potential, Papyrus! You really surprised me today. I thought you were just some weak, scrawny nerd!” The captain laughed.

 

“TH-THANK YOU, CAPTAIN UNDYNE!” Papyrus smiled, growing more confident with her encouragement.

 

“Please, you can just call me Undyne.” She said, feeling a little guilty that he felt obligated to do so. He might have been a sentry and technically should call her by her title, but... he just seemed so goofy and innocent if felt weird. “Now go home and get some rest. From now on I want you here every evening at the same time, gotcha?”

 

“YES SIR! I MEAN, UNDYNE!” The skeleton smiled, stumbling a little as she punched him playfully in the arm.

 

“Good! See you tomorrow, Papyrus!” Undyne said as she turned and went back into her house.

 

Once the captain was out of sight Papyrus did as he had the day before, sprinted home to tell his brother all about it.

 

“SANS!” Papyrus yelled as he flung the door to their house open, snow blowing in behind him. His brother lazily turned to look at him from the couch and, for a moment, nearly forgot it was Papyrus he was looking at and not his father. He swallowed and forced a smile, shoving those thoughts far back into his mind.

 

“hey bro.”

 

“UNDYNE SAID I WAS GOOD FOR MY FIRST TRY!” He said, closing the door and having a mind to kick off his snow-covered boots before running over to Sans. “SHE SAID I EVEN HAVE... POTENTIAL!” He grabbed his brother's shoulders and shook him while yelling like a fanboy in excitement. “NYEEEEH!”

 

“n-n-nice j-j-ob.” Sans said through all the shaking. Papyrus eventually stopped and sat down beside him, bouncing his brother up a little on the cushion.

 

“I'M SO EXCITED!” He kicked his feet about. “I'M GETTING REAL TRAINING WITH THE CAPTAIN! I BET ALL THE ROYAL GUARDS WISHED THEY GOT SUCH A THING!”

 

“i bet.” The older brother smiled.

 

“I'LL BE A ROYAL GUARD IN NO TIME. I'LL SURELY MAKE LOTS OF FRIENDS THEN!” Papyrus grinned, his hands on his knees and his legs twitching with energy. “I'LL BE ABLE TO BE THERE TO PROTECT YOU TOO, BROTHER.” He looked down to Sans, who's smile faltered just for a split second before he forced it back up.

 

“you already protect me just fine, pap. you're the strongest, greatest monster there is.”

 

Papyrus noticed the small change, but didn't bring it up. Bringing it up just made his brother sad and harder to deal with, so he ignored it for both of their sakes. Instead he leaned over and pulled Sans into a hug. “THANK YOU, BROTHER. YOU'RE NOT SO BAD EITHER! … EVEN IF YOU ARE A LAZYBONES.”

 

Sans smiled.

 

 

Papyrus' training with Undyne was going well. The more and more they practiced, the longer and longer Papyrus was able to hold out against her. The captain was actually very surprised she had never heard of this particular monster before, his skill with magic was nearly on match with her own when he was truly giving it his all.

 

… Or at least, when he nearly did.

 

One thing Undyne noticed was that Papyrus went out of his way to give his opponent leeway. His attacks would slow or do less damage depending on the situation. It was impressive in some ways, but in others it was worrisome.

 

He would be put to the true test soon enough.

 

Undyne and Papyrus were training at their usual time when it was cut short by a monster running up the path. “Undyne! Undyne!” It yelled, stopping just outside her house to catch its breath. “That thing is back!” It pointed down the pathway.

 

“What!?” The captain growled, spear gripped in her hand. She turned to Papyrus, “Come on!” Undyne raced down the lane of her house and ran alongside the other monster with the skeleton in tow. “Where is it!?

 

“Just outside the wishing room!”

 

The two sprinted passed the other monster and headed to where they were told the strange creature to be. As they ran other monsters ran the other direction, some stopping to yell Undyne's name and point to the area the chaos was coming from.

 

They arrived to see a mass of tendrils up from the ground squeezing and trying to kill a group of Moldbygg.

 

“HEY!” Undyne yelled, the spear she had been holding all this time being throw from her hand and piercing one of the vines. A part of it lopped off but it didn't stop trying to kill the other monsters. The captain growled and summoned another spear. She glanced back at Papyrus, “Come on, Papyrus! Lets kill this thing once and for all!”

 

Papyrus barely had time to react before the captain yelled and rushed in to take care of business. As she slashed and speared the tendrils, all he could do was stand there and watch.

 

Kill?

 

His mouth tensed up and he shoved worried thoughts into the back of his mind. Papyrus summoned waves of bone attacks, pushing the tendrils back and pummeling their flesh while Undyne sliced up each vine to rescue the monsters in their grasp. Eventually the vines started to retreat, letting go of their victims to hide away once more.

 

Undyne charged after where they receded, throwing a spear where the last one vanished. “NGAAAH! Come back here and fight me! Don't be a coward!”

 

She huffed and puffed before turning her attention back to the crowd that had gathered and the monsters she had saved. They swarmed her and Papyrus, cheering for them and celebrating their small victory. Undyne waved them all off, but was happy everyone was okay and made sure no one was seriously injured.

 

Eventually she and Papyrus managed to peel away from the crowd and started to walk back to her house.

 

“You did great back there, Papyrus!” She grinned while throwing an arm around the skeleton's shoulders.

 

Papyrus flinched a little and forced a smile. “TH-THANK YOU!”

 

Undyne blinked her eye, catching his change in demeanor instantly. “Something wrong?”

 

“NO! I'M FINE! JUST... A LITTLE TIRED! NYEH-HEH!” He lied, trying to shake off the feeling from earlier.

 

“Papyrus.” Undyne said, suddenly sounding serious. She stepped in front of him and stopped. “I saw you hesitate back there. I know something is wrong.”

 

During the past few weeks training him she had really started to become close with the goofy skeleton. He was energetic and kind, always cheerful and willing to learn. A part of her was starting to feel protective of him, the two growing closer and more like good friends than colleagues.

 

“WELL...” Papyrus began, frowning. “YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO KILL IT AND...” He looked at the fish woman stood in front of him and suddenly regained his composure. No, he knew what he wanted to say. He knew what he believed in. “... AND I DON'T THINK THAT'S RIGHT.” The skeleton said, straightening up. “I THINK EVERYONE CAN BE GOOD IF THEY TRY! MAYBE THAT THING JUST NEEDS SOMEONE TO TALK TO.”

 

Undyne blinked and looked shocked, her mouth fighting somewhere between frowning and grinning. Eventually it decided on grinning. “You know what? You're right, Papyrus!” She finally said and slapped him on the shoulder. “Maybe it's lonely!”

 

“Y-YEAH!” Papyrus said, smiling and happy to hear his new friend agree with him.

 

Undyne let go of him. “It's been a busy day. You should go on home and get some rest. I think tomorrow I'm going to think up some new training methods for you!”

 

“OH GOODIE!” The skeleton nearly bounced in place with the news. “I CAN'T WAIT!”

 

After the two said their goodbyes and Papyrus bounced off back home, Undyne was left at her doorstep facing quite the conundrum. She simply didn't have the heart to tell Papyrus that sometimes, especially in the guard, that killing might be a necessity. Maybe training him and letting him in wasn't the best idea. She would have to think of something else.

 

Chapter Text

Undyne had been successful in angling Papyrus' training in another direction, having started teaching him how to cook some days rather than fight. She still sparred with him on occasion and taught him new techniques, but her intention was now to simply make sure the goofy skeleton was able to defend himself rather than prove he was good enough to be in the royal guard. Papyrus was simply too nice, too pure to ever be initiated. What if a human were to finally fall down? There was no way Papyrus could kill it or even capture it, he would probably just end up making a new friend.

 

As the weeks passed Flowey was beginning to get more confident in his abilities, each time he surfaced able to kill a few more monsters before Undyne chased him away. Eventually he decided that his LV was high enough to begin taking on the captain of the guard once more.

 

Unbeknownst to either Undyne or Papyrus, he fought the fish woman again and again, losing each time. She was a trained fighter, after all, and despite the amount of LV he had accumulated he was still defeated time and time again. Every time he was killed Undyne would hobble home in a worse state than the last, unaware that she had done the same thing before.

 

Eventually she didn't show up for training at all.

 

Papyrus' walk to Undyne's house had been eerily quiet. Waterfall seemed so much more... lifeless than usual. He had stood outside of her house for hours wondering where his teacher could be. Just as he was about to go home, or at the very least go out looking for her, the clattering of something metal being thrown nearby caught him off guard.

 

A shiny round object was flung through the air towards him, crashing on the ground before rolling to a stop at his feet. The skeleton peered down at it.

 

It was Undyne's helmet.

 

Papyrus could feel where his stomach would be sink as a familiar twisting sound drew nearer.

 

“Papyrus, Papyrus, Papyrus...” A familiar voice chirped out from behind the vines drawing closer. He felt like he had heard it before, but for the life of him couldn't place where or who from. Soon enough Flowey made himself known, the little golden flower popping up from the dirt only a few feet in front of the skeleton.

 

Papyrus flinched back, having been slowly reaching out for Undyne's helmet at his feet.

 

“Don't look so shocked to see me! We've met plenty of times before!” Flowey said with a smile across his little face. “You're so fun to torment. I think you're actually the only one in this whole underground that I don't mind leaving alive!”

 

For once the skeleton didn't know what to say, eye sockets wide as he stared down at the strange golden flower with masses of tendrils coiling around behind him.

 

“I'll be straight with you, Papyrus. The only reason I kill you is to watch that idiot brother of yours suffer. He really is a mess, isn't he?” Flowey giggled at the thought. “But... not this time. This time I'm going to let you live, because you're just that fun to watch!” He beamed up at the skeleton with childish glee.

 

“Shame about your fish friend though. She just wouldn't get out of the way.” Flowey looked at the helmet in front of him, scuffed with marks from their battle.

 

Papyrus looked down at it too, still frozen in fear and shock. The flower turned as though it was going to leave, but decided against it and turned back to him.

 

“Oh! I nearly forgot.” Flowey grinned broadly up at the skeleton. “Why don't you go ask your brother how many times hes watched you die and done nothing about it?” His grin turned wicked, “Not something I would expect from a brother who claims to love you, don't you agree?”

 

Papyrus' jaw went slack, but he was unable to say anything before the little flower vanished beneath the soil. He stood there for a moment, dumbfounded and stunned. Slowly he reached down to lift Undyne's helmet into his hands and stare into the single eye hole as though waiting for an eye to show up any second staring right back at him. The words Flowey had said began to sink in.

 

“UNDYNE?” He called out in a panic and started to run, shouting his friend's name as he went to every part of Waterfall he could think of. Undyne had been his first real friend in years and now...

 

She was dead.

 

Papyrus was eventually stopped by a guard who had been called in after news of Undyne's demise spread. He had been running around shouting for the captain for what felt like hours. It was only once he heard it from someone else, someone who wasn't a murderous flower, that he actually believed it.

 

His friend was dead.

 

Papyrus had given the helmet back to the guard before making his way home. He opened the door so quietly he barely managed to wake up Sans, who had been dozing off on the couch waiting. Upon seeing his brother, apparently alive and well, Sans sat up.

 

“oh hey pap.” He smiled a little nervously, having expect this to be another night where his brother never showed up. “was startin' to get worried there. you aren't usually this late. things get heated with undyne?” Sans joked, knowing that they had nearly burnt her house down on at least two occasions already.

 

“UNDYNE IS DEAD.” Papyrus said, his voice tired. Sans' smile faded, or at least faded as much as he was able.

 

“what?”

 

“SHE'S DEAD, SANS.” The skeleton repeated as he kicked off his boots and walked over to the couch. He sat down roughly beside his brother and put his head in his hands. “SHE WAS MY ONLY FRIEND BESIDES YOU AND SHE'S DEAD.”

 

Sans' eyes widened, but he probably didn't look as shocked as he should have upon getting such news. He had felt the resets become quicker and quicker, and each time Papyrus had come home saying practice had been cut short by Undyne being in a bad state after fighting the 'creature'. It was only a matter of time before the flower won.

 

He floundered with what he should say. Half of him wanted to put on this great act, to be sad for his brother and comfort him through this terrible time in his life. The other half was just... tired. He already put on an act 24 hours a day, seven days a week; this was just going to be an act on top of another. Sans wasn't sure if he even had the energy for such a thing, or was capable of pulling it off.

 

“i... bro that's terrible.” The skeleton finally managed to say. “what happened?”

 

He already knew.

 

Papyrus had started to cry into his hands. “THAT CREATURE THAT WAS KILLING OTHER MONSTERS FINALLY GOT HER.” He said as he wiped the tears from his eye sockets. He wasn't sobbing, the tears coming silently. “I CAN'T BELIEVE IT, SANS. SHE WAS SO STRONG. HOW COULD ANYTHING BEAT HER?” He turned to look at his brother, who had moved closer to place a hand on Papyrus' back.

 

“i dunno.” Sans lied, casting the white dots of his eyes down to his lap.

 

“WHAT DO WE DO NOW?” He asked his brother and let out a sob. “IF IT CAN KILL HER, WHO'S TO STOP IT?”

 

Sans' expression faltered. Papyrus might not have realized it, but he had made a point. If the flower could beat Undyne now, who would stop it? Surely it was no match for King Asgore, but... then again, what if it did what it always did? Fought him until eventually being able to win?

 

Sans was faced with an unavoidable situation he didn't want any part in. He would need to figure out what this plant wanted and why. If he didn't it could possibly mean the end for everyone... permanently.

 

“we... well...” The skeleton finally said, having been caught up in his own thoughts for far too long. “we have the King, right? The King can stop it.” He lied again.

 

“YEAH... YOU'RE RIGHT.” Papyrus sniffled. He had kept himself pretty composed until this point, but now that he was home and actually talking about it things were starting to bubble up to the surface. Normally being so upbeat he very rarely cried, but now he found himself unable to stop. The skeleton finally began to let out hard, heavy sobs. He hid his face in his hands and cried and cried, Sans unable to do anything but sit beside his brother with an arm around his broad shoulders.

 

Sans watched Papyrus as he cried harder than he remembered in recent memory, but it wasn't sorrow he felt. For the first time in a long time, he felt rage. It was a silent, steaming, brooding rage that you couldn't see on the surface. Normally he didn't care about the resets, he didn't have the energy to care about every single one, but he cared about this one. This one would have to end. There was no way he would let his brother live in a world where his only friend had been killed.

 

Papyrus eventually calmed down enough to get up and make himself tea, declining Sans' help. He just need to get up and keep moving, to keep his brain from stagnating and dwelling on what had happened. He made some for his brother and came back to the couch, both of them sitting quietly as the TV played in front of them.

 

“SANS...” Papyrus said, breaking the silence. He glanced at his brother, now both of them looking like a sorry sack of tired bones.

 

“IT... THE THING THAT KILLED UNDYNE TALKED TO ME.”

 

Sans tensed.

 

“IT SAID THAT IT'S KILLED ME BEFORE. I DON'T... I DON'T SEE HOW THAT'S POSSIBLE. WHY WOULD IT SAY SUCH A THING?” Papyrus stared into the swirling liquid in his cup, suddenly not feeling up to drinking it.

 

Sans' hands shook and he casually shifted positions to hide it. “beats me, bro. that doesn't make any sense. you look alive and well to me.”

 

Papyrus looked at him, able to notice a strange difference in his brother's demeanor, no matter how small and easy he was able to hide it. He opened his mouth to make a comment on it, but chose not to and went quiet again. Asking about it would only further upset them both and Sans was right, how could that creature have killed him if he was alive and well now? It didn't make any sense.

 

But... why would it make up something like that? What was the point? Just to rattle his bones?

 

The skeleton sighed and took a sip of his tea. The two of them sat quietly for the rest of the evening before Papyrus dragged himself to bed, not even wanting a bedtime story to fall asleep to. He figured the crying had put him in more of a state of exhaustion than anything else ever could. Sans watched his little brother go to bed before doing much the same.

 

… Or, at least, pretending to.

 

He walked to his room and shut the door before teleporting to Waterfall. Tonight he was on a mission. Sans might not have had the energy to stop the resets for his own happiness, but he would be damned if that stupid plant was going to do the same for Papyrus.

 

Sans scoured Waterfall and then Hotland, but there was no sign of the pesky little flower anywhere. He had nearly decided to go home when a thought occurred to him. He made his way through the capitol before teleporting passed the guards of the castle and into the throne room. It was empty at this time of night, the windows dark and shining only small bits of light from lamps outside through the windows.

 

He scanned the flowers in front of him. Only one was swaying slightly out of sync with the rest.

 

Sans pulled his hand from his pocket, eye flaring blue as he grabbed the flower and yanked it from it's roots. Just as he suspected the flower yelled and growled, a face appearing on its disk. He approached the dangling plant, snatching it up beneath it's petals and squeezing it tightly. A large part of him wanted to strangle it right then and there for playing his brother like he had, but he refrained.

 

Instead he teleported them both out of the castle and back to Hotland, his arm poised to drop the flower into the magma in front of him.

 

“heya.” He said, his smile ever present and his eye sockets blank. “you've been busy, huh?”

 

 

Flowey struggled in Sans' grip, not wanting to talk to him at first and just get away. He had accomplished too much since his last reset to lose it all now, he was so close!

 

“so.” Sans began, his grip on the flower tightening. “you've put me in a position where i've got no choice anymore. messing around with me is one thing, but you don't get to mess with my brother.” His smile never once faltered, the white dots of his eyes nowhere to be seen. “undyne was pap's best friend. not only that, but you mentioned how many times you had killed him. you don't get to say those kinds of things him.”

 

Finally Flowey laughed, “Please! Like you can do anything about it. You know I'll just reset this world and do it all over again.”

 

“will you?” Sans asked, his expression going unchanged. Flowey didn't want to admit it, but it was very unsettling to look at. “i might be lazy in a lot of things. i might have given up on myself, but i haven't given up on pap.”

 

“and i won't.”

 

The flower snorted, “Seems to me like you have. You've let that idiot brother of yours die tons of times! You haven't tried to save him in... what? Months? Years?” He laughed, “Silly me. Time just seems to jump all over the place. It's hard to keep up!”

 

Sans clenched his other hand firmly hidden in his pocket and tried hard to hide the amount of anger he was feeling. “the only one who suffers when my bro is gone is me. i tried to get him to kill you once and he couldn't. that's not who papyrus is, and i'll never make him do something he isn't okay with. i know no matter how many times you fight him, he always spares you, doesn't he?”

 

Flowey was silent, gritting his teeth. Sans smiled a little broader. “thought so. as evil and twisted as you are, my bro still believes in you. he always will.”

 

“... but i won't.”

 

The skeleton tossed the flower over the magma.

 

“I'll just come back you know! You can't stop-” Flowey was cut off as his little body met the liquid rock, bursting into flames in an instant.

 

He reset only a few seconds after, appearing in the flowerbed of the ruins. Just as he was about to pop underground and move back to Waterfall, something appeared in front of him. Sans had been forced back at his sentry station not far away and had wasted no time getting to him. He snatched the little flower up, ripping him from his roots before he had a chance to react.

 

“How did you-” Flowey gagged as he was ripped upwards.

 

“every reset i watch you come from the ruins. took only a little bit of exploring to figure out the rest.” Sans shrugged. “so as i was saying.”

 

The flower groaned. How long was this stupid skeleton going to keep this up?

 

“it's time i got some answers out of you. who are you?”

 

Flowey rolled his eyes. “Haven't we been through this? Why would I ever tell you?”

 

“wrong answer.” Sans said, reaching up to yank one of the petals from Flowey's head.

 

“Ow!” The plant yelped, then laughed. “Is that all you're going to do? Rip off my petals? I've been through worse than that!”

 

Sans ripped off another.

 

“Ow! Stop that!”

 

And another.

 

“Quit it! Just kill me already! You're not going to get-”

 

And another.

 

“STOP! Talk to that stupid lizard if you wanna know!” Flowey said, fed up more from being bothered than the actual pain.

 

Sans' hand, having been hovering over one of his last petals, lowered. “alphys?”

 

“Yeah, her.”

 

The white dots of his eyes reappeared and he looked off to the side as though he was about to finally leave Flowey alone, but there would be no such luck. “huh. okay. well, that's some progress. i hope for your sake it yields some results. but before that, i got one more question to ask.” He looked back at Flowey.

 

“why.”

 

It was more of a statement than a question, the whites of his eyes fading for a second time.

 

“Why?” Flowey repeated, eyes narrowed. “Why what?”

 

“why are you doing this?”

 

“Haven't I told you that before, idiot?” The plant groaned in frustration. “Because it's fun.”

 

“i don't believe you.” Sans' eyes changed, looking more sad than angry. “so answer me; why.”

 

“Wh-...” Flowey began, but looked at a loss for words. “I told you!”

 

“why.” San repeated.

 

“I JUST told you!” The plant yelled, its leaves beginning to flail in annoyance.

 

“why.”

 

“STOP!”

 

“why are you doing this?” He asked yet again, his voice pained.

 

“STOP!”

 

“why are you-”

 

“STOP! STOP! STOP!” Flowey screamed, flailing his head around in Sans' grip. “I'll kill you! I'll kill you and your stupid brother and that stupid fish! I'll kill everyone! I'll kill the king! Then nothing will be standing between me and those souls! I'll take them and become a god! Then not even the human world will stand a chance against me!”

 

He gnashed his teeth at Sans, his leaves gripping at the skeleton's wrist.

 

Sans began to smile.

 

A sudden realization came over Flowey, his face fell.

 

“thanks bud-dy.”

 

He tossed the plant to the ground, Flowey landing amongst the other golden flowers. “Wait... wait!” Flowey tried to take root, wanting to grab the stupid skeleton as he walked away from him and kill him so no one would be in the way of his plans, but by the time his roots took to the ground the skeleton had already teleported miles away.

 

First on the agenda was making sure Papyrus was alright.

 

Sans stepped into the house, the noises of his brother cooking reaching him instantly. He sighed in relief and walked in.

 

“hey pap.”

 

“OH HELLO BROTHER!” Papyrus smiled as he stood over the stove cooking pasta. “I'M COOKING SOME SPAGHETTI TO TAKE OVER TO UNDYNE. SHE WASN'T IN VERY GOOD SHAPE YESTERDAY AFTER DEALING WITH THAT CREATURE.”

 

“that's nice of you.” Sans smiled as he hovered in the doorway, hands in his pockets.

 

“I HOPE SHE LIKES IT. SHE'S BEEN TEACHING ME HOW TO COOK A LOT LATELY. SHE SAYS I'LL NEVER BE A ROYAL GUARD IF I CAN'T COOK A PROPER MEAL FOR MYSELF.”

 

“can't argue with that.” Sans shrugged. “so have they caught that weird thing yet?”

 

“NOT YET. YESTERDAY UNDYNE SAID SHE SCARED IT OFF. I'M SURE SHE'LL FIND IT EVENTUALLY.”

 

Sans nodded, that being enough to know where the timeline had been reset to.

 

“DO YOU WANT ANY BEFORE I TAKE THE REST OVER TO UNDYNE?” Papyrus asked.

 

“no thanks, pap.” He smiled, “just got back from Grillby's.”

 

Papyrus groaned, “WHY DO YOU ALWAYS EAT THERE? ESPECIALLY NOW THAT I'M BECOMING SUCH A GOOD COOK.”

 

“old habits die hard?”

 

“NYEEEH...” The skeleton narrowed his eye sockets skeptically. “I SUPPOSE. BUT YOU SHOULD EAT SOMETHING FROM HOME ONCE IN AWHILE.”

 

“if I ate something now would it make you happy?” Sans asked as he walked into the kitchen and leaned against one of the chairs.

 

“YES.”

 

“okay.”

 

Papyrus watched his brother as he walked over to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of ketchup.

 

“SANS...” He narrowed his eyes. “DON'T YOU DARE.”

 

Sans opened the bottle and brought it to his teeth.

 

“SANS!”

 

He began to walk out of the room, chugging the red goo.

 

“SANS! OH MY GOD THAT ISN'T EVEN A REAL FOOD!”

 

“it's made out of tomatoes, bro. it's totally a real food.”

 

“IT'S A CONDIMENT!” Papyrus yelled, head leaning out from around the doorway to the kitchen as he watched his brother head for the door, bottle in hand.

 

“don't get salty, bro. I relish our relationship too much for you to be mad at me.” Sans opened the door and called back to his brother, stashing the ketchup somewhere in his jacket. “i'm gonna go ketchup with a friend of mine. i'll be back later.”

 

“OH MY GOD.” Papyrus shouted from the kitchen, having since ducked back in to resume cooking. Sans closed the door and was gone in and instant, leaving Papyrus to his lonesome.

 

“WAIT... WHO?” He yelled, head peeking around the doorway once more. He didn't know who Sans could possibly be catching up with, all of his friends were in Snowdin weren't they?

 

Upon seeing nothing but an empty room the skeleton just sighed and shook his head. He needed to concentrate on this pasta. It had to be the best for Undyne!

 

 

As soon as he stepped from the doorstep Sans zapped his way into the lab. He ended up where he always had, the old portion that they had called home with Gaster decades ago. The mission he felt like he had been on suddenly faded and he felt his soul grow heavy. His hands shoved into their pockets and he lingered, fighting with himself whether or not he wanted to take a peek into their old room or ignore it.

 

Eventually he decided to go in.

 

He walked down the same dim hallway he remembered running down as a child and stopped at the same door he had always seen Gaster kick open enthusiastically. Inside was different, but the layout was the same.

 

Sans stood in the doorway, recalling sitting around the table eating frozen pizza. The white dots of his eyes bounced around, looking for the holes or burn marks Gaster had created on more than one occasion, but none of them were there. As he stepped further inside he spotted something he hadn't noticed before, a tiny black tape under some of the folders.

 

He walked over and picked it up, the symbols on it old and scuffed, but he could almost make out a few familiar words. Sans stared at it for a few moments, his mouth shaking before he put it in his pocket.

 

He should leave.

 

The skeleton turned and left the room, lingering in the doorway for a second time with his back turned before finally closing the door. He sighed, his eye sockets closed and his head down.

 

Suddenly hot air and heavy breathing were inches from his face. He blinked and looked up, staring into a black void surrounded by white... ears? A face?

 

Sans tensed up and gripped the door handle. The strange creature gurgled before a goopy tail waggled behind it and it surged forward, flopping on top of him while panting and huffing.

 

Sans groaned underneath it and hesitantly reached up to pet it between the ears. Some of it looked familiar as he recalled the dogs that Alphys had brought in after falling down. Sans hid his discomfort and smiled. “hey there.”

 

The amalgamate gurgled and wagged it's tail.

 

“Oh... O-oh no!” Came a familiar, stuttering voice from down the hall. Alphys came running, flailing her arms and shooing the melting canine off of Sans. “G-go on! He-he doesn't want to play! I've g-got some treats for you later!”

 

The creature's ears perked and it stood up, wet tail wagging behind it.

 

“B-but only if y-you're good! S-so go on!” She shooed it again and watched as it shambled down the hallway. Once it was gone her attention turned back to Sans who was laying against the door. He smiled up at her.

 

“hey alph. long time no see.” He waved lazily.

 

“Oh jeeze. Oh-oh...” Alphys mumbled, reaching down to help get him to his feet. “I'm s-so sorry Sans. I-I didn't know y-you were here. Y-you always just sort of... pop up.” She started to wring her hands together nervously. “I-I can explain ev-”

 

“side effects of the determination, right?” Sans said, suddenly cutting her off.

 

“H-huh?” Alphys blinked in surprise.

 

Sans jerked a thumb in the direction the amalgamate had slid off to. “too much determination.”

 

“I... y-yeah...” The lizard looked down at her feet. “How d-did-”

 

“call it a hunch.” Sans shrugged, recalling the feeling of melting during the accident. It... hadn't been pleasant.

 

He suddenly noticed how low Alphys had gotten, as though the mere mention of her failures had crushed her shoulders and she wanted nothing more than to curl into a ball and vanish forever. Sans knew how she felt and frowned, or frowned as much as he was able. He had stopped coming around right as she was injecting them with determination and hadn't said anything. Back then he was just so involved with his own project, his own problems, that he hadn't really cared about helping her out.

 

He suddenly felt like quite the 'smiley trashbag'.

 

Sans sighed through his teeth and reached out, holding the lizard's shoulder. She looked up at him. “if you're beating yourself up about what happened, don't. you tried your best and that's what matters.”

 

“I... y-yeah... I guess...” Alphys mumbled, although she didn't sound very convinced. Instead she was eager to get the subject away from herself. “S-so why are you here? Y-you've been gone for a l-long time.”

 

“i... yeah... sorry about that.” He frowned.

 

“N-no! It's okay! I r-remember you talking a-about some project y-you were working on s-so it's understandable.” She laughed nervously and turned to lead him out of the darker parts of the lab. “H-how is that going by the way?”

 

Sans made a face before fighting it back, glad Alphys' wasn't facing him. “it's going. hit a bit of a block though.”

 

“O-oh. W-well if you ever n-need help you can ask!” The lizard offered an awkward smile, which was returned by Sans.

 

They were an odd mirror of one another. Neither of them had asked for help when things seemed impossible. Neither of them told the other anything. Both of them hid away in different ways, wanting to avoid everything crashing around them.

 

Both of them remained silent.

 

As they reached the brighter sections of the lab Alphys finally broke the silence again. “S-so you never did answer me. Wh-why the sudden visit?” She walked over to her messy desk.

 

Sans watched her and started to dread asking about the flower. Alphys was already so timid and stressed out, it seemed unnecessarily cruel to bring up something else that might be even worse, but... he had to know.

 

“... do you know anything about a talking, golden flower?”

 

The lizard nearly dropped a box of dog treats the second she picked it up, knocking over an empty instant noodle cup and some folders in the process. Her eyes widened and she tensed up. “I-I dunno what y-you mean.”

 

“alph.” Sans said sternly, but calmly.

 

The lizard gripped the box of dog treats, her claws scratching at the cardboard nervously.

 

“alphys it's okay, i'm not going to mad at you or anything.” The skeleton said as he approached her, slippers scuffing along the tile floor.

 

Eventually Alphys let out some sort of noise between a sob and a whine, turning to her friend while using the box to hide the lower part of her face. “I-... I-...”

 

“calm down. breathe.” Sans said, putting a hand on her shoulder again.

 

The scientist inhaled deeply a few times before she closed her eyes and then looked at the ground. “We... we needed a v-vessel to carry th-the monster souls after they...” She trailed off and swallowed deeply. “I-... I chose th-the first flower to bloom fr-from the outside. The golden fl-flower in Asgore's throne r-room. We-we can't carry o-other monster s-souls so I had to f-figure out something that could, r-right?”

 

Alphys glanced up at Sans before suddenly hanging her head again. It was too much to look him in the eyes. “I... I injected m-more determination into it h-hoping it would g-gain the w-will to live.” She said, her stuttering becoming worse the more she talked of her own failures.

 

“At-at first I d-didn't think it w-worked. N-Nothing was happening... S-so I just... kept... in-injecting them...”

 

Sans could feel the weight of what he had done, or what he hadn't done, start to crawl on his back. He should have stopped her. This was his fault. The situation she was currently in could have all been avoided if he had helped her. Alphys was an engineer, this had all been entirely out of her element.

 

“Th-then everyone st-started to w-wake up!” Alphys smiled and looked up at him, tears had begun to gather in her eyes. “I-I thought ev-everything had w-worked out in-in the end ev-even though we di-didn't get their s-souls! B-but... it... d-didn't last...” She hung her head again and wiped at the tears in her eyes. “Th-they... w-well... as y-you see... and... the fl-flower just... vanished...” Her arms hung in front of her lifelessly. “I d-don't know wh-where it went, b-but... it's g-gotta be the s-same flower you're t-talking about...”

 

Silence hung on the air like a fog for what felt like an eternity.

 

“I... I'm so s-sorry... I j-just mess ev-everything up...” Alphys began, dropping the box of dog treats and putting her hands over her eyes.

 

Sans didn't know what to say, so he stepped forward and hugged her. The lizard cried into him for a few moments, her body shaking.

 

“i'm sorry too.”

 

Alphys blinked and looked up at him through tears, confused.

 

“i should've helped you. i'm sorry i kinda... got side-tracked with my own stuff.” He glanced away, feeling like garbage for what he hadn't done.

 

“N-no... don't.” Alphys shook her head and peeled away from their hug. “It's... it's not y-your problem. I-I'm the royal scientist. It's... It's my responsibility...” She started to wring her hands again, frowning sadly while staring at the floor.

 

“still...” Sans said, frowning.

 

The lizard just shook her head and sighed, then smiled up at him. “Y-you being here n-now is a l-lot more than I c-could ask for. It was... n-nice to see you again, ev-even if you just came to ask about s-something.”

 

Were it possible Sans would have frowned even deeper. The skeleton sighed and shoved his hands in his pockets. “well... tell ya what, alph.” He began, looking at her. “from now on i want you to call me. for anything. you ever need help, just... let me know.”

 

He pulled out his phone and brought up his number before handing it over. Alphys fumbled with it before pulling out her own cellphone, the end clattering full of charms. After adding it in she smiled and handed the phone back.

 

“Th-thanks, Sans... That m-means a lot...”

 

Sans put the phone back in his pocket. “don't just call me about science stuff either, alright? even if you're just having a bad day, i'll come over.”

 

Alphys nodded and smiled sadly, but gratefully.

 

Sans began to walk away deeper into the lab and away from the actual exit. Before he turned a corner he stopped and looked back at the scientist.

 

“oh and, alph?” He said, waiting until Alphys was looking at him to finish what he wanted to say. “i... know what it's like. to have bad days just because they're... bad... okay? so...” Sans smiled, “... call me if you have one, alright? i won't mind. i... know what it's like.”

 

Alphys stared at him for a moment before she smiled and nodded. “Thanks, Sans...”

 

The skeleton nodded and turned around the corner, teleporting away once he was out of earshot.

 

 

Sans made his way back to the house he shared with his brother and rather than go inside, turned and headed to his workshop. He had barely gone into it in weeks, all it did was bring back painful memories... much like the tape in his coat pocket.

 

He fumbled with it between his fingers while unlocking the door and stepping inside, making sure the door was firmly closed behind him. Once alone he took a seat on the stool in front of his desk and pulled out the little tape to examine it. He could definitely make out a few symbols; a flag, a hand, and then another flag.

 

Pap.

 

The rest was illegible.

 

Sans dropped the tape onto his desk and put his head in his hands. He was too tired to cry, so all he managed to do was sit there and stare blankly at the tiny little tape in front of him. He wasn't sure how much time passed with just him staring ahead, but eventually he felt a familiar tickle near the back of his left eye socket.

 

A reset was coming.

 

Sure enough everything went black for a split second before he found himself still sitting, but with the tape in his hand. He frowned and decided he had to get moving.

 

Sans shoved the tape into one of the drawers of his desk and stood up, first teleporting to Undyne's house. He stood just outside and out of sight, the lights glowing from inside the fish-shaped house. If she was alive that probably meant Flowey was in the castle. Was he really going to go through with his plan even though he had accidentally spilled the beans earlier?

 

He felt the tickle of another reset and, once again, found himself sat at his desk. He put the tape in the drawer just like before, then took a shortcut to the last corridor instead. As soon as he arrived he watched the tiles down the center of the hall wiggle as though something was moving around beneath them.

 

Sans stepped forward, roughly putting his foot down on one of the squares as it popped up. There was a pained gurgle from underneath.

 

“still goin' through with it, huh?”

 

He reached down, flipping up the loose tile to find the crushed little flower beneath. Before Flowey could regain himself he was roughly ripped up by the roots.

 

“You can't stop me, you know...” The plant growled, its petals crumpled and crushed. “You have to kill me to stop me and you know what that means. I'll reset and be right back here.” A smile spread across his face.

 

“yeah. i know.” Sans said, his smile ever present and his eye sockets black. “i might not be able to stop you, but i can still give you a bad time.” He roughly threw the plant onto the ground before flicking his hand upward, an array of bones impaling the flower from the floor and turning it to dust before it so much as had the chance to speak.

 

Then he waited for the reset.

 

It came rather predictably and Sans went through the motions. Put down tape, teleport to last corridor, kill the flower with a bone attack.

 

Then again.

 

Put down tape, teleport, kill.

 

Then again.

 

This time Flowey wasted no time in bursting his vines through the tiles, swinging them at Sans as soon as he teleported in. The skeleton's eye flared, each moment slowing down just enough to allow him to dodge out of the way with a grace that you surely wouldn't expect from a short, lazy bag of bones like himself.

 

“RRAAAGH!” Flowey screamed in frustration, the constant smile on Sans' face only serving to frustrate and anger the plant even more. “Stay still and let me kill you!”

 

“nah.” Sans said with an itch of a smile in his voice. After dodging another vine he teleported beside Flowey simply to give him a kick in the face with his slipper.

 

“Stop!” The flower growled, slamming a vine straight down where the skeleton stood only to watch him dodge out of the way by mere inches and then kick him in the head again.

 

“nope.”

 

Flowey hissed and pulled all of his vines under at once, surging every single one directly underneath Sans. He couldn't dodge all of them at once, surely.

 

For a moment the skeleton looked worried, jumping upwards as time slowed down but knowing that there wasn't any way he could dodge them all. So instead he summoned a blaster underneath him, hanging onto the back of it as it demolished every vine under its jaws with a hot, blue and white beam of light.

 

The vines crumbled to dust, Sans landing on the floor again once the blaster dissipated. The two of them stared off at one another, each at an end of the long hallway.

 

“You can't win.” The flower glared, beady little eyes narrowed.

 

Sans smiled and shrugged, his hands in his pockets. “i can't afford not to try.”

 

Both of them watched one another before Flowey eventually started to lower himself into the ground, eventually vanishing beneath the dirt altogether.

 

Once Sans was sure he was alone he sighed, shoulders slumping. He stood there in the bright, golden hallway and looked towards the entrance. A part of him could almost see a little child walk in. He could almost feel them hug him in acceptance... or slash him across the ribcage in hatred. He put a hand over his chest where he had felt that slicing sensation so many times in his dreams.

 

This was where it all lined up, wasn't it?

 

Sans thought back on how he had felt during his first nightmares, how he had wondered how any other version of himself could ever possibly watch his brother die without doing anything at all to stop it. He wondered why he would watch a human walk through the entire underground murdering everyone before stepping in at the last minute. He wondered why he had been to indifferent, so cold, so uncaring.

 

It was now that he finally, truly understood.

 

Those other versions of him were tired. They were tired and depressed and faced impossible odds. In the end every single one of them knew they couldn't last forever, that everything they did was for nothing.

 

They lived in the moment. Nothing mattered. The moment was the only thing they had, the only thing they had any power to change even a little. Trying to grasp anything beyond that, to reach for the future, was pointless.

 

… Pointless...

 

Sans' let his head rest in one of his palms and just... stood there. Reality began to sink in. Never seeing his father again became the only sensible conclusion.

 

It was over.

 

Realizing that Flowey was finished, at least for now, Sans teleported back home and went into his workshop once more. He flicked on the light and stood looking at all his data, his broken time machine and blueprints. He grabbed a nearby sheet he used to work on when things got messy and tossed it over his equipment.

 

Once it was covered he stood and looked it over. Covering the time machine like covering a part of his life that was now over.

 

He turned and was about to leave before he noticed the black binder, a familiar image poking out from the edge. Sans walked over and reached for it, pulling it out and staring at the scribbled text.

 

Don't forget.

 

His eyes turned dark and he slowly put it back.

 

“sorry papyrus...” Sans mumbled before leaving his workshop, shutting the light off and closing the door. “sorry dad...”

 

 

“SANS?” Papyrus yelled outside his brother's door. He stood there for a moment before knocking again. “SANS YOU'RE GOING TO BE LATE FOR YOUR JOBS.” He paused, but got no answer. “UGH. I'M COMING IN.”

 

The skeleton opened the door to find his brother still in bed. Papyrus frowned deeply and walked over to him. “SANS!”

 

He shook his brother by the shoulder before realizing Sans was actually awake but not moving, his eye sockets mindlessly staring at the wall in front of him. “S-... SANS ARE YOU ALRIGHT?”

 

Sans said nothing.

 

“SANS!” Papyrus said again, growing more and more concerned. He yanked his brother up into a sit and shook him a little. “SANS, LOOK AT ME.”

 

The skeleton rolled his head before finally moving the tiny dots of his eyes to look up at his brother. “oh. hey pap.”

 

“SANS, WHAT WAS ALL OF THAT ABOUT?” Papyrus asked, worry seeping into every word.

 

“... sorry. i guess i kinda dazed off for a bit there. s'up?”

 

“YOU'RE... LATE FOR YOUR JOBS. ARE YOU SURE YOU'RE ALRIGHT?”

 

“yeah... i'm fine.” Sans rubbed his head a little.

 

Papyrus stared at him before finally letting go. He didn't believe his brother at all of course, but knew getting him to talk was near impossible. “... OKAY. JUST... GET READY AND COME DOWNSTAIRS. WE CAN WALK TO OUR POSTS TOGETHER.”

 

The skeleton stood up and left the room, hovering in the doorway for a moment and looking back at his brother slumped on his mattress in last night's clothes before slowly closing the door. He didn't understand, Sans had been fine yesterday. What had changed?

 

While Papyrus waited Sans fought with himself to get out of bed. It was a good thing he had slept in his clothes, as he wobbled a bit between collapsing again and getting up, but once again the only thing keeping him going was his brother. He had to be there for him. He couldn't let him worry, even if it killed him.

 

Eventually he crawled out of bed and walked downstairs.

 

The two headed through the snow, Sans happy to listen to Papyrus explain the puzzles he had devised for the human, should one ever come, but once his brother stopped at his own station he was left alone. Left to his own thoughts.

 

He had admitted defeat. He would never save Gaster.

 

He had given up.

 

Chapter Text

Upon making it to his post Sans sighed and went to sit down onto the stool behind the counter, but no sooner had his rear met the wood of the seat did the ground begin to rumble. He jumped up just in time for his entire checkpoint to be demolished to splinters by a flurry of thick, thorny tendrils.

 

The skeleton huffed, watching as Flowey popped up in the center of them all. He shook the snow from his petals and smiled. “Thought I was going to let you get some rest? Think again, you idiot.” The plant cackled, sending the vines outward to try and pierce through Sans. Just like all the times before he managed to side-step every one with grace that greatly betrayed his form.

 

“persistent, aren't ya?” Sans commented, his head angling just so to miss a vine coming right for his neck. He hid his troubles well, instead putting on an air of confidence and indifference while the flower was around. The happier he seemed, the more frustrated Flowey became.

 

As if on cue, the flower growled. “You can't win! I'll beat you eventually!” He sent out more vines, tendrils popping up from the snow and very nearly managing to wrap around the skeleton's ankles before he vanished from one point and appeared at another at the flower's side.

 

“yeah? hows that goin' for you?” Sans smirked, taking the time to kick some snow into the flower's face. Flowey blocked it with one of his vines and glared. “'cause it seems to me like you're doing a lot of losing.”

 

Flowey grit his little teeth and sent out another attack. This time Sans' eye glowed, his hand flicking upward and producing a line of blue bones in front of him. The vines collided with them, burning and sizzling until they pulled back with the stink of burnt plant foliage.

 

“really putting the petal to the metal this time, aren't ya?” Sans grinned.

 

“Augh!” The plant groaned, his vines flicking and sending out a rain of thorns where Sans stood, but all he did was teleport away and to another side.

 

“come on, why not leaf me alone for awhile? you're style just doesn't seem to be working.”

 

“Shut up!” Flowey yelled, his vines flailing in the skeleton's direction.

 

Sans expertly dodged each one. “as much as i'd love to stick around and play, i got places to be. there are jobs out there that need to be slacked off, and i'm just the guy for it.” The flower twitched and surged forward, tendrils reaching out to grasp onto Sans before he could do what he knew what he was going to do, but it was too late.

 

“i'll seed ya around, kid.” The skeleton winked, taking a step backward and vanishing from the entire area.

 

Flowey's vines hit nothing but air and his scream of frustration could be heard for miles.

 

Sans, meanwhile, teleported just out of sight at his sentry station in Hotland. He grinned, hands in his pockets as he walked around to his station and took a seat on the stool. The white dots of his eyes looked about, making sure no one was around to see him before he doubled over onto the counter of his desk and let out a low, painful moan through his teeth. He pulled the collar of his shirt to peer down into his ribcage, his usual white soul glowing a faint blue.

 

That was never good.

 

He closed his eyes and clutched his chest through his shirt, breathing slowly and deeply. The past few resets had been very close to one another and each time he had needed to fight and use his powers. Usually he had at least some rest between them, or managed to avoid using his powers altogether, but not this time. Sans could feel his soul become stressed, the determination inside of him churning and fighting against him the more it was used.

 

Despite how terrible he might have felt, he couldn't let Flowey onto it. If there was any hint of weakness it would be seized upon, that much was certain.

 

--

 

Sans was able to sleep most of that day and then the following night, but the next played out similar to the last. This time Snowdin was quiet, although as soon as he showed up to his post in Waterfall and no one was around, Flowey attacked.

 

Sans dodged what was thrown at him, trying his best to hide any sort of distress of discomfort he was feeling. As a tendril slammed down beside where he stood he gave the little yellow flower a broad smile.

 

“come back for another rib-bing?”

 

“RAUGH!” Flowey yelled, his vines blocked by a line of blue bones. “Shut up! Your jokes are terrible!”

 

“i dunno about that. i find them quite humerus.” Sans grinned as the plant became more and more frustrated by each pun or joke he let fly. Flowey's attacks became predictable and without any real concentration behind them. “come on now, don't look so stern-um.”

 

Once again the flower lashed out, swinging his vines and missing Sans each time.

 

tibia honest this is getting pretty old, so...” Sans grinned as he heard the flower yell out a 'no!' in frustration before zapping away.

 

He stumbled into the side of his house back in Snowdin, groaning and clutching his chest. This was becoming problematic, but he had to keep going. If he had noticed anything about the flower, aside from it's obvious lack of empathy or compassion, it was that it got frustrated easily. Sans wasn't like Papyrus, easy to sneak up on and forgiving; nor was he like Undyne, head-strong and eager for a fight. Instead he was hard to hit, elusive, and lethal. With those traits combined and an air of cockiness and annoying banter he hoped Flowey would eventually grow tired of him and move on to something else.

 

Sans stumbled his way through the house and up to his bedroom before crashing onto his mattress. He felt awful and sick in more ways than one, having not had even the slightest chance to try and rebound from what had happened. Keeping up the air of self-confidence was exhausting all on it's own, but adding fighting to that... it left him with no energy at all. He slept every chance he got and had taken to doing the bare minimum of everything else.

 

The ketchup bottle he had taken as a joke the other day had served as his only food. Right now he couldn't stand to put up his act at Grillby's and putting any effort into making something for himself was simply out of the question.

 

Sans sighed and closed his eye sockets to drift off to sleep once again.

 

--

 

As it nearly always was, he was woken up by a familiar fist against his door followed by an equally familiar voice.

 

“SANS?” Papyrus said, this time only knocking one more time before announcing that he was coming in. He opened the door and stepped inside, finding his brother sound asleep. He sighed and walked over, gently shaking Sans awake. The skeleton mumbled and slowly opened his eye sockets.

 

“SANS HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN HOME? DID YOU EVEN GO TO YOUR JOBS TODAY?”

 

“wuh... huh?” Sans mumbled, confused at first. Time was getting so hard to keep track of. “i... yeah i did. i got back early and was really tired, so...” He sort of let his words fall from his mouth, unable to keep the lie going.

 

Papyrus merely sighed. “I'M MAKING DINNER, WOULD YOU LIKE SOME?”

 

“... yeah, of course.”

 

Papyrus offered his brother a smile before standing up and walking back down into the kitchen.

 

Sans sat on his bed for awhile, his mind blank. He didn't go back to sleep or move, the only thing he could feel being a slight throb in his soul. Time didn't feel like it existed, everything black and numb and empty until after awhile, the only thing he still cared about reached him through the darkness of his bedroom.

 

“SANS! IT'S READY!”

 

He struggled to stand up, but eventually got out of bed and made his way downstairs. Each footstep felt like his feet were encased in concrete, every step draining more and more energy from him he didn't feel like he even had.

 

Sans got to the table and sat down, a plate of spaghetti placed in front of him. He could see that some of the noodles were burnt while others were soggy, as well as the sauce barely being mixed. That didn't matter though. He grabbed his fork and dug in.

 

It was awful.

 

“HOW IS IT?” Papyrus asked, hopeful.

 

“s'not bad.” Sans lied, but didn't have any problem at all eating it. Even the best things tasted bland these days and this was much better than putting forth any effort to make something for himself. “you're getting better, papyrus.” He smiled up at his little brother, who had stars in his eye sockets.

 

“YOU THINK SO?”

 

Sans nodded.

 

“OH I CAN'T WAIT TO SHOW UNDYNE!” Papyrus said with glee before setting about cleaning up. “OUR TRAINING IS GOING RATHER WELL. SHE'S TEACHING ME HOW TO COOK AND FIGHT!”

 

“that's good, pap.” Sans said as he shoved more noodles into his mouth. He bet some ketchup would make this taste better, or at least mask the burnt parts.

 

Papyrus was silent for a few moments before he looked at his brother. “ARE YOU FEELING BETTER TODAY?”

 

The question caught Sans a little off guard. “hm?”

 

“DO YOU FEEL ANY BETTER THAN YESTERDAY.” The skeleton repeated. “YOU... SEEMED EVEN WORSE THAN USUAL.”

 

“... oh.” Sans looked down at his now empty plate. “yeah. i'm... okay.” He said, instantly hating himself for hesitating on his words. Now Papyrus would surely know he wasn't feeling okay at all, but saying 'I'm okay' was like pulling teeth. It got stuck in his throat like a bad cough.

 

Instead of prying or bugging him, Papyrus nodded and offered him a reassuring smile. “... OKAY. IF YOU SAY SO.”

 

As his little brother turned to continue cleaning up Sans looked surprised. Usually when it got this bad Papyrus always bugged him to tell him everything, but not this time. Had he given up asking or... was he refraining from doing so for Sans' benefit? Whatever it was, it was welcome not having to talk about it.

 

Sans sighed and smiled a little. “thanks for dinner, bro. i think i'm gonna go back to bed. wake me up for work in the morning, okay?”

 

“OF COURSE.” Papyrus said with a smile as he watched his brother leave the kitchen. “SLEEP WELL, BROTHER.”

 

“yeah... i'll try.”

 

--

 

As promised Papyrus woke him up the following morning for his job, the two of them walking the same pathway as always out of Snowdin before the younger brother stopped at his own sentry point to continue working on his puzzles. Sans, meanwhile, made his way towards his. It was still smashed to pieces but so few came out this far from Snowdin it hadn't even been noticed.

 

This time, however, Sans failed to note the shifting of snow by his feet. A tendril quickly coiled around the skeleton's ankle, yanking him upwards roughly to dangle him upside-down.

 

“HAH! I've finally-!” Flowey began as he popped up from the snow, only to be staring down the jaws of a blaster. His petals drooped before it fired, blasting the little flower away along with the snow behind it. The vine around Sans' ankle turned to dust and he fell face-first into the snow.

 

As he pushed himself back up he looked at his post, shattered and splintered across the ground before everything flickered black once Flowey reset.

 

It was morning again. Papyrus was pounding on his door and telling him to wake up. It was strange, but he didn't feel quite as heavy inside.

 

“coming bro.” He mumbled before sitting up and walking out of the house alongside Papyrus. Sans listened to the same conversation he had heard a number of times before, but it never seemed to bother him as long as it was coming from his little brother. Then, like always, Papyrus stopped to work on his puzzles while Sans went to his sentry point.

 

The little wooden outpost was just as it had been days before, worn down and covered in snow, but standing.

 

Sans stood in front of it, hands in the pockets of his jacket.

 

Something inside him had stopped. As he stared at his checkpoint, as good as new, a calm sort of indifference washed over him.

 

He wasn't sad or angry. He was just... there. He was there just like his sentry point was. Nothing mattered in the end, did it? In the end it would all be undone.

 

Sans smiled and chuckled, his voice as empty as his eye sockets.

 

 

A number of days passed without any resets or even the smallest sight of Flowey. Sans was beginning to get back into his routine and slowly building up the wall he had created around himself for what felt like the up-tenth time. Eventually Sans was able to smile again, even if it was a little forced, and his trips to Grillby's started to become more frequent much to the elation of the regulars.

 

After a week however, the flower attacked again. Nothing major happened with their encounter, Sans able to dodge until teleporting away after dropping a few puns. Then, once again, time went on like nothing had ever happened.

 

Flowey seemed to be getting fed up with him, knowing that if he were to die and reset Sans would know what he was doing. The two had reached a stalemate and, for awhile, Flowey would have to figure out some other way to spend his time. Occasionally he would try and catch Sans off guard, but rarely did it ever end up in anything but him growing annoyed and the skeleton fleeing. It was impossible to keep the skeleton in one place.

 

The random attacks worked themselves into Sans' daily life. They weren't always daily of course, but often enough that it became predictable and even a bit boring. He knew that as long as he kept Flowey alive there would be no resets, but even then he couldn't seem to gather the will to work on his machine.

 

After seeing his sentry-point return to normal something had broken inside of him, whether for better or worse. He no longer cared about anything anymore. Even his little brother, the light of his life, didn't hold the same spark it once had. Sans went through each day expecting things to start over at the slightest touch, the smallest breeze. All Flowey needed to do was find someone else to kill him, right? Then it would go back to square one, so why try?

 

Perhaps that outlook on life helped him. The more time that passed the more okay he grew with the idea of being powerless and living in the moment. His constant nightmares became just things that could happen and probably would happen, but in the end he felt the same as his other selves; powerless.

 

Sometimes he wondered if there was a version of himself out there that hadn't given up and what he was like. But no point on dwelling about it when it didn't matter in the end, right?

 

Despite how large Sans knew the world to be, how broad their timeline covered and how many different off-shoots there must have been, his world felt so very, very small. The only thing he had was Papyrus. Even though he watched Papyrus die again and again there was something about him that never changed; he was innocent, kind and loving. He put up with his jokes and cared for him when he didn't even want to care for himself.

 

His world was a single monster and... that was starting to be okay.

 

During one of his many breaks Sans decided to go for a walk. Normally he enjoyed nothing more than sitting and doing nothing or napping, but for whatever reason he felt compelled to move his feet. Perhaps it had been a rather pleasant night of dreams over nightmares, or maybe Papyrus had just put him into a rather good mood that morning, whatever it was he found himself walking through the forest that he had so often used as a battle ground between himself and Flowey.

 

Eventually the path became overgrown and thick with snow drifts, Sans pushing himself forward through some piles that reached well over his head. He wasn't even sure why he kept going, usually he would end up flopped onto the ground for a nap before teleporting out the lazy way, but... not this time.

 

Eventually he came across a door he didn't ever recall seeing before. That wasn't too surprising though, not with how few people came out so far away from Snowdin.

 

“huh.” He commented to himself, his voice going unheard and echoing through the trees.

 

Sans approached the door and felt the wood. It was old and splintered with the royal emblem across the middle. He recalled learning about the first settlement inside the mountain before everyone moved deeper in and took residence at what was now the capitol. Perhaps this was it?

 

He sat down, back leaning against the huge door. At first he thought about taking a nap, but instead slowly reached up and knocked. “knock-knock.” Sans said, pausing to allow his own internal voice to respond. “anee.” Another pause. “anee one you like.”

 

The skeleton chuckled a little to himself and did another.

 

“knock-knock.”

 

“avenue.”

 

“avenue knocked on this door before?”

 

Sans continued for awhile before finally growing tired and standing up. He shook the snow from his shorts and glanced back at the door before finally taking a step forward and teleporting away, planning for sure to come back. It was a nice, quiet place to practice jokes he hadn't told in a long, long time.

 

As the day drew on Sans eventually stumbled into his usual haunt and did his usual thing. He was always the life of the party at Grillby's, making everyone laugh and being more entertainment than the bartender could ever hope for. It was funny, really. So few of them even really knew much about him despite how much they loved his company. Everything about Sans was left in a broad spectrum. He was smart, loved jokes, and really cared about his brother. Outside of that his entire life was an absolute mystery that no one ever seemed to question.

 

The fun always ended eventually though, Papyrus trudging into the bar as it got later and later at night to pick his brother up. Sans sat slumped and a little drunk with one of the other regulars, a fuzzy orange rabbit that never seemed to leave and always looked absolutely wasted.

 

“Oh noooo, here comes the fun police.” The bunny slurred as she caught sight of Papyrus.

 

Sans peered through the end of his bottle to make out the blurred image of his brother approaching, the other monster slumped into his side and arm on the table. He grinned up at him. “hey bro. is it that late already?” He asked, turning his hand and looking at a wrist that didn't even have a watch.

 

“YES, IT IS. IT'S TIME TO GO HOME, SANS.”

 

“Nooooo, you're the only fun I ever have!” The drunk rabbit whined, Papyrus having to literally peel her off his brother as he lifted him up and under an arm.

 

“oop. guess i'm goin' home.” Sans chuckled, his face flush. Papyrus turned, carrying his brother out of the bar.

 

“Byyyee Sansyyyyy~” The bunny cooed while slumping down into the seat. Sans waved tiredly to her before vanishing behind the door and out into the cold.

 

Once outside Papyrus shifted his brother to carry him against his chest like a baby, pausing as something fell out of his brother's jacket and onto the ground. He peered down and around Sans to see a bunch of ketchup packets.

 

“... OH MY GOD, SANS.” The skeleton rolled his eye sockets as much as he was capable of before beginning to walk back to their house.

 

“what?” Sans asked, then eventually saw his ketchup the farther away they got from it. A hand tiredly reached out, as though he was abandoning his long lost lover at the peak of a blizzard. “wait, pap, no don't leave those.”

 

“I'M LEAVING THEM.”

 

“bro please.” The skeleton started to mock-cry, arms wrapping around Papyrus' neck.

 

“NO.”

 

“you're killin' me here. you can't just let good ketchup go cold in the snow. what kind of monster are you?”

 

“A RESPONSIBLE ONE WHO'S TAKING YOU STRAIGHT TO BED. I DON'T GET WHY YOU FEEL THE NEED TO HANG OUT AT GRILLBY'S ALL THE TIME. YOU COULD BE DOING SOMETHING SO MUCH MORE PRODUCTIVE.” Papyrus nagged as he trudged through the snow.

 

Sans didn't say anything, his expression having fallen considerably from his brother's words. Papyrus caught on and glanced down, frowning.

 

“I'M SORRY, SANS. IF IT MAKES YOU HAPPY I DON'T MIND, REALLY.”

 

“it's okay, bro.” He said, letting his head rest against his brother's broad chest. “it doesn't make me as happy as you do.”

 

Papyrus smiled, the rest of their trip home in calm silence. He carried his brother to bed and made sure a glass of water was waiting for him for the morning.

 

--

 

The next few days were uneventful, but Sans had started to visit the door deep into the forest more and more. Something about knock-knock jokes brought him back to happier times without making him all that sad. He remembered laying on the table, mask over his face listening to Gaster tell him dumb knock-knock jokes before he fell asleep. It was bittersweet to be doing it now all by himself, not an audience in sight.

 

“knock-knock.” Sans said as he tapped his boney knuckles against the door.

 

“Who is there?” Came a sweet, motherly voice from the other side. The skeleton nearly jumped out of his jacket, head spinning around and staring at the wooden door before he smiled and sighed.

 

“dishes.”

 

“Dishes who?”

 

“dishes a very bad joke.”

 

The laughter from the other side was loud and genuine, more genuine than anything he had heard in a long time. Sans' smile broadened and he stood up before knocking again.

 

“knock-knock.”

 

The voice on the other side took a moment to calm down before responding. “Who is there?”

 

“harry.”

 

“Harry who?”

 

“harry up, it's cold out here!”

 

Whoever was on the other side began to roar with even more laughter. Before Sans knew it he was knocking them out a dozen at a time, each one more corny and worse than the last. Until, eventually, the woman on the other side decided to knock instead.

 

“Knock-knock.”

 

Sans blinked in surprise before answering, his trademark grin firmly in place. “who's there?”

 

“Old lady.”

 

“old lady who?”

 

“Oh! I did not know that you could yodel!”

 

As the woman began to laugh anew, so did Sans. Both of them laughed and laughed, undoubtedly a mirror of one another on each side of the door as they leaned against it.

 

The day drew on, both of them taking turns telling jokes until, eventually, it began to grow late. Sans sighed after another bought of laughter and turned to face the door, talking through it to the woman on the other side.

 

“i had probably better get going, my little bro will want his bedtime story soon.”

 

“Oh? You have a younger brother?” The voice asked, the sound of suppressed laughter still lingering with every word.

 

“yeah.”

 

“How sweet of you to read to him...” She said, a tinge of sadness in her voice. “Well, I will not keep you. But... please, I would very much enjoy it if you came by again.”

 

Sans smiled and shoved his hands in his pockets. “i wouldn't miss it for the world.”

 

The voice on the other side giggled. “Then I shall be here again tomorrow. Take care of yourself, will you not?”

 

Sans turned to leave. “yeah... i will.”

 

 

With Flowey mostly out of the picture Sans started to return to a semi-normal life. There were still the occasional fights with the angry little plant when he must have felt compelled to try and beat him again, but the more time passed they became fewer and far between. Resets still happened once in awhile but Sans wasn't sure why or how; whenever he checked on Asgore everything seemed to be alright. As long as he wasn't trying to get the souls Sans didn't care what Flowey was up to.

 

He was making regular trips to the locked door where the ruins began and talking to the woman on the other side. Sometimes they spent the day making jokes, other times talking about their daily habits. The woman apparently loved going hunting for bugs and baking pies; Sans on the other hand did little but talk about his brother and how great he was. Neither of them knew the name of who they were talking to, but that didn't seem to matter.

 

What mattered was that they had a friend. A friend with no strings attached and no social stigmas. Just someone to talk to, someone to share their love of jokes with.

 

Sans was also making a little more effort to hang out with Alphys, if not for his own sake than for hers. Occasionally she would get called away to work on Mettaton's body for repairs, the underground celebrity calling her out from the lab to fix or input something at the drop of a hat for a show. During those times she would call on Sans to watch over the amalgamates in her care, making sure they stayed fed and hidden. While Sans didn't particularly agree with keeping them sealed away, he wasn't the type to force the nervous scientist to do something she clearly didn't want to.

 

Their time together was usually spent either cruising the Undernet or watching anime. Although Sans didn't particularly like the latter, he didn't hate it enough to completely push her away. Most of the time he fell asleep before the episode was half-over, but Alphys enjoyed his company all the same.

 

But of course there were still bad days.

 

Sometimes Sans would find it hard to get up in the morning, Papyrus having to yank him to his feet and get him to eat something other than the ketchup packets he stole from Grillby's or an uncooked hotdog without a bun. Occasionally the nightmares would be worse than usual, Sans waking up screaming or in a cold sweat. Papyrus would rush into the room to comfort him, now very much used to the nightmares that his brother had and able to keep him calm in record time without letting him get so frightened that his powers lashed out.

 

Then some days he was just... sad.

 

Every now and then Sans found himself dwelling on what had happened and his failures for what felt like no reason in particular. His head would cycle through everything he did wrong and play it back to him again and again, or remember all the wonderful times they had had with their father before things had gone so terribly wrong. Sometimes he didn't need anything to trigger him feeling these things, he just did and wasn't sure how to stop it.

 

… But, like always, his little brother was there for him.

 

Papyrus didn't ask questions anymore, he knew it only served to upset Sans even further. The particularly bad days he would call them both off work and simply spend time with his older brother making sure he felt safe and loved, even if he did little more than sit in front of the TV with him while Sans slept in his lap. As much as Papyrus hated sitting around and doing nothing productive, he hated seeing his brother upset even more.

 

Papyrus himself didn't seem to change that much, still just as kind and caring as he had ever been. Now, however, he was filled with ambition. Undyne was his first real friend outside of Sans in a very long time and the two spent a lot of time together after work, even if it was just practicing most days. She was teaching him how to cook and fight, but still managed to peel him away from that to do fun things like snow-wrestle.

 

He was determined to become a royal guard despite how much Undyne didn't want him to, although the captain didn't quite have the heart to tell him to his face. Instead she figured she could do one better by being his friend when no one else seemed to find his lovable, enthusiastic charm appealing.

 

 

The day was growing to be rather average, Sans and Papyrus going about their business as usual. The older of the two was standing outside Grillby's talking to the mostly silent bartender as he opened up the tavern for the afternoon when a loud voice interrupted nearly every conversation going on in the entirety of Snowdin.

 

“SANS!” Papyrus yelled as he ran towards his brother, a slip of paper in his hand.

 

Sans glanced over his shoulder at Papyrus before waving goodbye to Grillby and fully turning to face him. “yeah bro?”

 

“LOOK!”

 

Papyrus thrust the flyer at his sibling, who pulled a hand from his pocket and took it to give it a look over. It was about a costume party for Halloween.

 

“A COSTUME PARTY!” The skeleton declared with a happy little jig of his feet. “I'M GOING TO START PLANNING OUT MY COSTUME RIGHT NOW!”

 

“that's pretty cool, bro.” Sans smiled as he handed the flyer back to him, the two beginning to walk back home. “what are you gonna dress up as?”

 

“I...” Papyrus narrowed his eye sockets. “... DON'T KNOW YET.”

 

“hmm...” The skeleton pondered as they drew closer to their house. “why not go as the best monster in the underground?”

 

“THE KING?”

 

“no.” Sans said as he unlocked their front door, turning to point at his little brother. “you.”

 

Papyrus' eyes lit up, or lit up as much as a set of hollow sockets could. He smiled and held the paper against his chest. “OH SANS THAT'S SO NICE OF YOU! BUT...” He narrowed them again. “I DON'T THINK THAT WILL MAKE MUCH OF A COSTUME.”

 

“okay... why not the 'great' papyrus then?” He said as he stepped inside, not even bothering to kick the snow from his slippers. Papyrus on the other hand kicked each foot clean and wiped them before coming inside.

 

“BUT THAT'S STILL JUST ME.”

 

“not if we make you a cool costume to go with it.”

 

Papyrus' face lit up for a second time. “DOES THAT MEAN YOU'LL HELP ME MAKE IT?”

 

“of course, bro. i wouldn't miss helping you out for anything.”

 

The younger brother wiggled his arms before letting out an excited yell that could have woken the dead. After kicking off his boots he ran upstairs while Sans flopped down onto the couch and turned on the TV. Not a moment later and Papyrus was crashing into the couch at his side with a notebook and pencil in hand.

 

“OKAY, WE MUST PLAN IT OUT.”

 

Papyrus huddled close to his brother, spouting plans about a grand costume that neither of them had the capability to make. He doodled on the pad terrible drawings of himself in fancy armor. Eventually Sans reached out and took it from him while he was busy talking.

 

Sans did a few rough sketches of something more simplistic, occasionally tapping his brother's arm to get him to stop talking and look. Papyrus would pause, put forth his opinion, then go right back to saying how amazing he would look and how fun the party was going to be. Sans worked in silence as his brother chatted away, eventually finishing a sketch that both of them agreed on.

 

The following weeks Sans and Papyrus worked on his costume, although Sans did most of the leg-work. It was a nice distraction from the worries of his life and gave him a project to focus on, something he hadn't had in a long time.

 

He made his brother a pair of shorts and a hard chest piece with a black bodysuit to go under it. His usual boots, gloves, and scarf made up the rest. It looked pretty goofy but Papyrus loved it more than anything. It took a lot of convincing for him to keep it off until the party.

 

--

 

The party came and went and even though Papyrus didn't win any prizes, he was enamored with his new 'battle body' as he lovingly called it. Rarely did he ever take it off and, now that he wore it nearly all the time, his already bountiful amount of confidence had multiplied.

 

Funny how a simple change of clothing could do such a thing.

 

“SANS, MAYBE YOU SHOULD START MAKING PUZZLES ALONG THE TRAIL TOO!” Papyrus said as they walked along the pathway out to their posts. “I KNOW YOU DON'T LIKE PUZZLES QUITE AS MUCH AS I DO, BUT I'M SURE YOU COULD THINK OF SOMETHING THAT WOULD SLOW DOWN THE HUMAN SHOULD ONE EVER COME.”

 

“i dunno, bro. puzzles are kinda your thing.” Sans said with a shrug.

 

“OH COME NOW. IT WOULD GET YOU UP AND MOVING, WOULDN'T IT? FLEX THAT BRAIN OF YOURS!”

 

“but bro, we don't have brains.” The skeleton grinned.

 

Papyrus narrowed his eye sockets. “NYEEEH... YOU KNOW WHAT I MEANT.”

 

Eventually they came to an empty spot Papyrus had yet to plan a puzzle of his own. “WHY NOT RIGHT HERE?” He said with a grin, gesturing to the clearing covered in snow.

 

Sans stopped to look at it, then smiled and shrugged. “sure.”

 

Papyrus raised the ridge of his brow. “'SURE?' YOU AREN'T GOING TO JUST SAY THAT AND NEVER DO IT, ARE YOU?”

 

Sans scoffed in mock offense. “pap, please. what kind of skeleton do you take me for?”

 

“A LAZY ONE.” His brother said flatly.

 

Sans gasped and clutched his chest before falling backwards into a snowdrift. “how could you? my own bro thinks i'm a lazy bag of bones.”

 

Papyrus leaned over him, staring down into his face from above. “THAT'S BECAUSE YOU ARE. YOU BARELY EVEN DO YOUR JOBS! ALL YOU DO IS... IS... SIT AROUND AND BOONDOGGLE.” He gestured needlessly at the area in front of them.

 

“that's not true. i do a lot of things.” Sans said, folding his arms over his chest.

 

“LIKE WHAT?”

 

“like nap.”

 

“OH MY GOD.” Papyrus rolled his eye sockets and started to walk away.

 

“and tell amazing jokes.” Sans said before he sat up and grinned broader than usual. “not to mention how good i am at slacking.”

 

“NOT LISTENING ANYMORE!” His little brother yelled, throwing his hands in the air.

 

Sans stood, stepping forward only to appear just in front of Papyrus. “i'm also great at taking shortcuts.”

 

“NOW THAT DEFINITELY IS LAZY.” Papyrus chuffed through his nasal opening before stopping at his own post, a tiny little house he had made from cardboard. “AT LEAST GIVE IT SOME THOUGHT.”

 

“okay, okay.” His brother said, waving his hands dismissively before turning around and heading to the sentry point by the ruins.

 

 

Sans went to his post, but only to take a short nap before getting up and teleporting to the locked door of the ruins. He sat down and began to knock out jokes, as was the custom he had developed with the woman on the other side. Eventually she would hear it and come answer, today was no exception.

 

The two did their usual thing, telling any new jokes they had thought of back and forth before eventually the topic changed to a more personal nature. Sans began to explain how his little brother was learning how to cook, but wasn't that great at it yet. Perhaps his teacher was to blame, as from what he was told she didn't seem all that skilled at the art of finesse.

 

“Perhaps he should try making something that is not spaghetti?” The woman suggested through the door.

 

“heh. i dunno if i can convince him to.” Sans said with a shrug of his shoulders.

 

“Well... perhaps you could try making something then?”

 

He couldn't help but chuckle again at the thought. “i'm even worse at cooking.”

 

“Oh? Have you ever tried?”

 

“... yeah. a long time ago. it never turned out.” Sans said, looking down at his lap.

 

“Perhaps you could try again. What if I were to give you one of my recipes?” The woman asked. Sans gave it some thought before he shrugged and smiled.

 

“sure.”

 

The monster behind the door gave him the recipe, Sans pulling out his notebook to jot it down. The topic of conversation then changed again, both of them flopping between jokes and the experiences of their daily lives, as mundane as they were.

 

Eventually they parted ways for the day, the skeleton doing his usual jump from job to job and then Grillby's before making it back home to Papyrus.

 

“HELLO BROTHER!” Papyrus said from the couch, having been sitting and watching his favorite show. “SHALL I START ON DINNER?”

 

“... actually bro, i was wondering if i could try making something tonight.”

 

His brother's eye sockets widened, shocked that Sans would want to make anything at all. “REALLY? WHAT IS IT?”

 

“just some recipe a friend gave me.”

 

“ALRIGHT.” Papyrus smiled and went back to watching TV. “JUST TELL ME IF YOU NEED ANY HELP FROM A MASTER CHEF!”

 

Sans smirked, “i will bro.”

 

Sans went about making the pie his friend had told him about, going about it slow and steady. A part of him wondered why Gaster had hated cooking so much, it was almost like a science with how you had to measure things out just right.

 

After awhile it was all finished, the skeleton reaching in and pulling out the pie. “it's ready pap.”

 

He could hear his brother move off their lumpy couch before coming into the kitchen and eying what he had created. “WHAT IS IT? IS IT A... QUICHE?”

 

“i think it's a pie.” Sans said as he looked at the recipe again, then went about slicing them both a piece. He handed Papyrus his plate before sitting down across from him at the table. Both of them dug in and paused.

 

The younger of the two looked conflicted, as though he wanted to spit it out but was too polite. Sans wasn't, coughing a bit and then spitting out what he had eaten back onto his plate. It was really poorly mixed and poorly cooked, chunks of the ingredients still present and some parts mush while others were burnt.

 

“huh, that didn't turn out at all.”

 

Papyrus forced himself to swallow. “WELL... AT LEAST YOU TRIED? EVEN IF IT IS THE STRANGEST QUCHIE I'VE EVER HAD.”

 

Sans smirked, “don't force yourself to eat it. i'll just go dump it somewhere.” He stood up, scraping his portion back into the pie dish.

 

“I SUPPOSE IT WILL BE ANOTHER LEFTOVERS NIGHT.” Papyrus said, watching as his brother took the pie and started heading out of the kitchen.

 

“WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”

 

“just gonna dump this and head to Grillby's.”

 

“AGAIN?”

 

“of course.” Sans smiled as he rounded the corner and left the house altogether.

 

Instead of dumping it outside, Sans found himself standing on the porch holding it. Looking down at it, for whatever reason, suddenly filled him with grief and he wasn't sure why. He turned, teleporting away from Snowdin and to a small remote bench he often liked sitting at in Waterfall. Sans sat down, the pie in his lap.

 

After a moment he glanced over to a lone echo flower by his side, remembering the time when Gaster had managed to talk to him through one all those years ago. He smiled bitterly and looked back at the food in his lap.

 

“guess the crab apple doesn't fall far from the tree, huh dad?” He laughed dryly. “neither of us are very good cooks. neither is papyrus. guess we just don't have it in us.”

 

Sans sat in silence afterward, feeling his soul weigh heavily inside him. He felt like he wanted to start crying, to burst into tears and never stop, but he didn't. Instead he sat and felt hollow, eye sockets staring down at the pie tin in his lap. Eventually he leaned down, shoving his creation under the bench.

 

“i'm sorry...” He put his head in his hands. “i'm a failure. i broke my promise to pap. i...” His hands shook and he finally let slip a few silent tears.

 

Once again he fell quiet and sat there for what felt like hours doing nothing. But it didn't last, the peaceful silence broken by a familiar voice.

 

“Awww, sitting around and feeling sorry for yourself?” Flowey asked, having popped up from the soil beside the echo flower. “Boo-hoo. Man, what a cry baby.” He laughed, knowing full well that Sans wouldn't kill him for fear of a reset.

 

“I'm the only one who knows about the resets! A flower killed all my friends!” The plant said in a tone mocking Sans' voice. “I'm so alone and brooding!”

 

The skeleton had been silent, his head down and his eye sockets blank. “listen.” He said, the same grin plastered on his face as always despite how horrible he might have been feeling. “if you came for some high quality jokes, i'm afraid it's not the time.”

 

“Pfft! Quality? Please. The only joke here is you.”

 

Flowey was taken aback when the skeleton started to laugh, his shoulders bouncing up and down. “yeah... you may be right.”

 

The plant raised a brow before a familiar light shone in Sans' left eye, his hand pulling out of his pocket. He ripped Flowey from his roots with his telekenisis, the flower letting out a startled yell before being tossed into the water with a flick of Sans' wrist.

 

Before Flowey could float back to the surface to badger him, Sans was gone.

 

 

Thankfully Sans was able to bounce back particularly well, that seemed to be getting easier and easier as time went on. The following days were spent doing his usual thing; he even managed to get the energy to rig the record player at Grillby's to play the same song over and over again, much to the annoyance of the regulars.

 

It didn't take them long at all to get fed up and break it completely just to get it to stop.

 

A few days passed and during one of his times talking with the monster at the doors to the ruins, his jokes didn't really seem to be having the same effect on her. She was laughing a little less and sounded much more morose than usual. After awhile of one-sided jokes and very little laughter, he finally had to ask;

 

“hey... what's up? you don't sound very happy today.”

 

There was silence from the other side until, finally, the woman spoke.

 

“If a human ever comes through this door... could you please, please promise something?”

 

Sans said nothing, waiting.

 

“Watch over them, and protect them, will you not?”

 

The skeleton stayed silent for some time before finally sighing. “i'll try.”

 

Their conversation didn't last much longer after that, Sans getting up and heading back to his post. He felt something strange deep within his soul, as though he could sense something coming. Something familiar, like a dream he had long since forgotten the details of.

 

The following day the woman behind the door didn't show up.

 

The sinking feeling in Sans' soul grew. It felt as though something had changed, as though their entire world had suddenly dropped into an abyss. He waited outside the ruins the following morning, the feeling of something coming being unmistakeable.

 

He didn't have to wait long.

 

A child emerged from the door, a knife in hand. They began to walk towards the bridge Papyrus had built like they had a mission to fulfill, head forward and gaze unblinking.

 

Sans pushed off the tree he had been leaning on and followed them.

 

Once the human reached the bridge, it stopped.

 

Sans approached, bits and pieces of distant memories beginning to trickle back. Nevertheless he put on his same smile, stopping just behind the child stood by the bridge.

 

H u m a n.” He said, using a tone of voice that he rarely ever did. The sound always reminded him too much of Gaster. But before he could say anything else the child turned and looked at him, Sans suddenly noticing just how much dust was covering them from head to toe.

 

He put out his hand, a whoppie cushion firmly in place. The child reached out, grabbing it and setting it off.

 

“heheh... the old whoopee cushion in the hand trick. it's always funny.” Sans grinned broader, but the child remained stoic and cold.

 

As he got a good look at its face a billion scenarios, all slightly similar but slightly different played in his head. It was like getting deja-vu, but layered over and over itself.

 

He had seen this child before. He had done this before.

 

… This was it, wasn't it?

 

Sans kept his grin firmly in place, hiding any sort of distress or discomfort he was feeling. “that's, uh. your cue to laugh.”

 

The child's expression suddenly changed, it's bored face warping, it's mouth turning upwards more and more until it became almost impossible, looking warped and inhuman.

 

It opened it's eyes, glowing red irises staring up at him.

 

Chapter Text

 

Sans' grin faltered only slightly but he couldn't stop his eyes from going black.

 

This was bad.

 

He knew that sometimes the child would stop its genocide halfway through, but never knew why. All he could do was hope that this was one of those times and try his best to convince them killing wasn't the right thing to do. Maybe they would stop; maybe he could get that happy ending he had seen through the eyes of himself in other timelines. Or maybe he would end up slumped against one of the pillars of the last corridor crumbling to dust.

 

He could see the silhouette of his brother approaching.

 

“oh hey, looks like my bro is coming. he's pretty fanatic about seeing a human, so, uh, you might wanna hide or something.” Sans walked around the child and lead them over the bridge. “why not hide behind that lamp over there?”

 

He gestured to a lamp he had found at the dump a few weeks ago, but the child stood beside him and didn't move. Sans was thankful he didn't have skin or else there was no doubt in his mind that now was the time he could feel it crawling. He had never seen a human in person before, but he knew what they looked like from books and his dreams.

 

This human was... not normal.

 

“okay, uh, you don't have to hide if you don't want to.” He said just as his brother approached.

 

“SANS! ANY LUCK FINDING A HUMAN?” Papyrus asked, his eye sockets staring between his brother and the strange being beside him.

 

“yeah.”

 

“REALLY!? WOWIE. I GUESS THAT'S SETTLED! I'LL GO PREPARE MY PUZZLES!”

 

The skeleton turned and left, leaving Sans and the child stood alone by his post.

 

“huh. that worked out.” He said, hands in his pockets. The human slowly turned and stared at him. Sans stared right back. “well? are you just gonna stare at me, or...?”

 

The child smiled it's uncomfortable, impossible smile before turning to leave. Sans watched it go, his smile sinking further and further. After a moment he spoke up again, the child stopping in its tracks.

 

“my brother would really like to see a human. so, y'know, it'd really help me out... if you kept pretending to be one.”

 

He looked at the back of the child's head, his eye sockets empty. It said nothing and continued to walk forward. Sans turned, walking in the opposite direction until teleporting away.

 

 

As time passed Snowdin was becoming more and more empty. Sans had made his way to one of Papyrus' puzzles and did his best to remain happy and calm for his little brother's sake. He knew how this could end, but at the same time knew that there was a small chance the child would spare him and stop everything before it ever really started.

 

The child approached, walking halfway through one of Papyrus' puzzles before he even noticed.

 

“HEY! WAIT, STOP!” Papyrus glared, the human eventually pausing in the middle. “SANS!” Papyrus gestured toward the child. “THEY KEEP WALKING THROUGH MY PUZZLES BEFORE I CAN EXPLAIN THEM, THEN BAFFLE THEM WITH DANGEROUS JAPES!”

 

Sans shrugged, “maybe they don't like japes.”

 

“EVERYONE LIKES JAPES!” Papyrus threw up his hands as though that was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard.

 

“what about undyne? you told me she hates puzzles.” Sans raised the ridge of his brow and looked up at Papyrus.

 

“SHE HATES PUZZLES BUT SHE LOVES JAPES.” The skeleton explained.

 

“oh. that makes sense.” Sans smiled.

 

“HUMAN! WHAT DO YOU THINK? PUZZLES OR JAPES?” He turned and looked at the child, its head down and a smile on its face, but it said nothing.

 

Papyrus' face fell, “... OKAY THIS IS NORMALLY WHERE YOU WOULD AGREE OR DISAGREE.”

 

The child remained still and silent.

 

“... HM. WELL, MAYBE YOU CAN DO THIS PUZZLE YOURSELF.” Papyrus said before turning to leave. Sans stayed, the human eventually passing through the rest of the puzzle before walking by him entirely.

 

--

 

Sans eventually teleported again, stopping beside Papyrus at another one of his 'puzzles' along a high suspension bridge. It was much less a puzzle and more a death trap, but he already knew how this played out. He didn't even need to have those dreams to know that Papyrus was incapable of ever actually going through with such a thing. Sans wondered if maybe Undyne had something to do with this particular 'puzzle'.

 

It seemed right up her alley.

 

“so, uh, you gonna activate it bro?” Sans asked, watching the white dog in particular as it swung back and forth.

 

“WELL THEY'RE PROBABLY JUST GOING TO WALK RIGHT THROUGH IT. THAT WON'T BE FUN AT ALL!” Papyrus frowned, having thought that the human would at least entertain his puzzles slightly.

 

“hm, so this human thing was a bust, huh?” Sans asked, looking up at Papyrus.

 

“WELL... I MEAN, I'M EXCITED TO CAPTURE THEM SO I'LL BECOME A FAMOUS ROYAL GUARD! BUT ALL THE TIME I PUT INTO THESE PUZZLES...”

 

Sans watched his brother's expression fall for a second time before speaking up. “what about undyne? i think she'd like this puzzle.” He pointed at the swinging death traps.

 

“HM... YES, YOU'RE RIGHT! I WON'T WASTE THIS ON THE HUMAN. UNDYNE WILL HAVE MUCH MORE FUN WITH THIS PUZZLE!” He turned, pulling the lever to put everything away. “I GUESS I'LL JUST HAVE TO APPRECIATE THE FRIEND I ALREADY HAVE. A VALUABLE LIFE LESSON!” Papyrus turned and left, the human child walking across the bridge before Sans spoke up to stop them.

 

“hey, looks like you're going to fight my brother soon. i'll give you some friendly advice.” He paused, his smile never fading, but his eye sockets going dark. “if you keep going the way you are now... you're gonna have a bad time.”

 

The child remained there for a moment before ignoring him and continuing forward. Once they were out of sight Sans stepped back, fading out with the sound of electrical interference.

 

He knew where Papyrus would be, just on the edge of Snowdin waiting for the human. He made his way there, the entire town quiet. He stood by his brother, both of them waiting. Sans' eyes went dark and his head hung, dreading what could potentially happen next.

 

“pap...” He finally said, turning to look up at him. “are you sure you want to do this?”

 

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?” Papyrus asked, looking down at him.

 

“i mean fight the human.”

 

“WELL, OF COURSE. I'M A SENTRY AND SOON I'LL BE A ROYAL GUARD!” He smiled broadly. “UNDYNE SAYS I'M ONE OF THE STRONGEST MONSTERS SHE'S EVER MET. I'LL CATCH THIS HUMAN AND TURN THEM IN SO NO ONE ELSE HAS TO GET HURT.”

 

“you don't have to be the one to catch it, pap. we can just head to undyne right now.” Sans said, trying desperately to keep his voice level.

 

“SANS, I KNOW YOU'RE WORRIED, BUT DON'T BE! I'LL BE FINE. I'M SURE THE HUMAN IS JUST A LITTLE SCARED AND CONFUSED.”

 

The two fell silent, nothing but the wind breaking the silence.

 

“... there's nothing i can say that will change your mind, is there?” Sans finally asked.

 

Papyrus was quiet for a moment. “... NO. SANS, THIS IS MY JOB. THIS IS OUR JOB. I KNOW YOU DON'T TAKE IT SERIOUSLY, BUT I DO. I'LL CAPTURE THE HUMAN AND UNDYNE WILL TAKE IT TO ASGORE. THEN WE'LL SEE THE STARS TOGETHER, RIGHT? THAT'S WHAT WE WANTED TO DO WHEN THE BARRIER BROKE.”

 

“i... yeah. yeah, that's what we'll do...” Sans mumbled, fighting back tears. He stood there for a moment before swallowing the lump in his nonexistent throat and turning to hug his brother.

 

Papyrus blinked in surprise before smiling and hugging him back, a gloved hand petting his skull. “I'LL BE FINE, SANS. DON'T WORRY.”

 

“yeah... yeah you'll be fine.” Sans laughed through his tears, grinning all the way. He finally let go and turned to leave, not wanting Papyrus to notice he was crying. “i'm gonna go pack up my telescope. we'll need it when the barrier is broken.”

 

“OH, GOOD IDEA!” The skeleton smiled, watching as his brother walked through the fog before vanishing.

 

Papyrus turned to face Snowdin, able to make out the silhouette of the human drawing closer.

 

 

Sans couldn't bare to watch. He found himself crumbling at the bench he so often sat at by himself in Waterfall and cried. He held his face in his hands, silently weeping for the death of his brother he knew would be inevitable.

 

After a few moments he inhaled sharply, wiping at the tears in his eyes before standing up. He grabbed the hood of his jacket and pulled it up, tugging it tightly around his face.

 

“well... guess it's time to see how far they take this.”

 

He stepped forward and vanished.

 

He would watch the human march through Waterfall, murdering everyone in their path. He knew Undyne would be ready and if they managed to get past her, well... that would be the end, wouldn't it?

 

As the child drew closer and closer to Hotland, Sans made his way to the ferry. If he was going to end up fighting the child he would have to start conserving some of his energy.

 

“Tra la la, to Hotland?” The River Person asked, having been ferrying fleeing monsters. Now that it was mostly barren it was only them and Sans.

 

“yeah...” He mumbled, the tiny boat beginning to coast through the water. Soon enough they ended at Hotland, the skeleton climbing off the tiny boat.

 

“Sans.” The River Person spoke up, causing him to stop and stare back at the robed figure. He didn't remember ever telling the ferryman his name, especially when he took it so little.

 

“Don't be afraid.”

 

Sans froze, his eye sockets growing wide. Before he could say anything the robe suddenly fell, becoming little more than a clump of fabric sitting on top of the boat. He scrambled for it, grabbing it and yanking it up, turning it over and over in his hands and shaking it out.

 

There was nothing there. It was as though they had never existed.

 

Sans stood there flabbergasted, the robe in his hands. Eventually he clutched it, hands shaking before dropping it at the side of the river and moving forward.

 

He took the last shortcut he would ever make, zapping himself to the last corridor, and waited. It felt as though hours passed, his body slumped against one of the golden pillars and waiting for the sound of footsteps.

 

Eventually they came.

 

Sans waited until they got halfway down the hall before stepping out. “heya.” He said, his grin firmly in place. “you've been busy, huh?”

 

The child remained silent, their hands and clothing covered in dust and small splotches of their own blood where they had managed to get hit.

 

“so, i've got a question for ya. do you think even the worst person can change...? that everybody can be a good person, if they just try?” He asked, his eyes closed. “my brother thought that.”

 

He paused and started to laugh, eventually having to restrain himself and inhale deeply to get himself to stop. “alright. well, here's a better question. do you wanna have a bad time? 'cause if you take another step forward... you are really not going to like what happens next.”

 

The child smiled it's inhuman smile and stepped forward.

 

Sans took a deep breath. “welp. sorry old lady. this is why i never make promises.”

 

He turned and looked out the window, what little light that manage to shine down from the surface glowing through and into the corridor. “it's a beautiful day outside, isn't it? birds are singing, flowers are blooming. on days like these, kids like you...” Sans closed his eyes before turning to the child and opening them, his eye sockets dark and emotionless.

 

S h o u l d b e b u r n i n g i n h e l l.

 

Sans raised his hand, the human's soul glowing blue.

 

Then everything stopped.

 

Code ran down the walls and pillars, both Sans and the human frozen in time. Soon enough and the world was gray. Red code flickered around the human's eyes before the virus began to pull itself from its hosts' back like a cancer, hanging off it and using it's shoulders to prop itself up. It knew what this was, it had seen it so many times before.

 

Oh? Are you back to play with me?” The virus asked, it's grin never once faltering. It looked around the room before a familiar hole opened up and a figure they hadn't seen in quite a long time stepped through. “Oh my. You're looking better than the last time we met.” The anomaly cooed, eying Gaster up and down with it's oozing black eyes.

 

The doctor was no longer a black, amorphous blob. He looked the best he had in a long time, forming legs and most of the detail in his face and coat. Small bits and pieces of the void broke off from the end of his jacket, dispersing and fading behind him.

 

He didn't answer.

 

Not even going to greet an old friend? It's been so long. What have you been up to all this time?” The virus asked, watching as Gaster walked over to his son and stood behind him.

 

He opened a prompt and began to type.

 

What is that you're doing?” The demon asked, leaning forward off it's hosts' back to try and see what he was writing.

 

Gaster inhaled deeply and closed his eyes. “I'̶m҉ ͏s̷o̶rr̶y, Sa̷ns. Į jus͢t͏ h͜ope͜ ͝you͜ c͝a͟n̛ f͠o̡rgiv͏e me.̵”

 

He hit enter.

 

 

 

After hitting enter Gaster stood with his hand slightly shaking over his prompt, waiting. Not much longer and his body began to break away, pieces of code ripping off of himself and being pulled inside of Sans. After a moment the virus in front of him realized what he was doing and began to laugh loudly, the sound almost like screaming but much too joyous.

 

Oh, so that's your plan! Going to possess your own son and piggyback on him for the rest of your days? See? We aren't so much different from each other after all.”

 

Gaster scowled, "̷N̸o.͟ Wę ̡a̡r͡e ̶ver͘y̢, ve͘ry͘ d̡įf̨f͝ere̴nt.̷"

 

He watched as his body broke into pieces faster and faster, his own code being pulled into Sans. As the last of himself vanished the command prompt blinked and disappeared, the walls crawling with code. Sans' right eye socket glitched with purple before the gray around them receded, leaving both him and the human child stood in the hallway as they had been what felt like seconds before.

 

Instantly it felt as though someone had taken a hammer and smashed through Sans' skull. His eyes opened wide and his body shook, arm still extended outward before he had been able to grab onto the human's soul. Memories that were not his own flooded into him.

 

Panic. Running. Fear. Hiding.

 

He saw war. Blood and dust in immeasurable amounts. There was fighting. So much fighting. Anger. Rage. Blood-curdling frenzy.

 

Exhaustion. Grief. Then... nothing. Not pity or remorse, but emptiness.

 

Then, after a long time, love.

 

Sans found himself staring down at what he could only assume was him as a baby laying on the table with tubes and wires coming out of him at every angle. He saw hands hover over him, one of them lacking a circle of bone from the middle. They hesitated.

 

... I'm not sure if I can keep doing this.”

 

He felt guilt.

 

Sans watched through Gaster's eyes as he sat huddled over the same table, but things were different. The room was dark and the only light was from a half-broken monitor beeping above him. He felt himself shed a single tear for the first time in decades before quickly wiping it away and looking up to see himself weak, melting, and half dead.

 

Time passed and the feeling of love grew. He could see Papyrus now, a happy and giggling baby. Sans watched Papyrus and himself grow up in front of his eyes through the gaze of his creator, the feeling of love and acceptance growing more and more.

 

… Yet the lingering feeling of guilt remained.

 

He felt excitement.

 

He watched through Gaster as they both worked tirelessly on the time machine and then felt the absolute elation when they succeeded.

 

Then despair.

 

Sans saw himself and Papyrus get launched into the air... and then everything went dark. Dark, darker, yet darker still, there was nothing.

 

Nothing.

 

It was suffocating. The emptiness was drowning. He tried to yell, to see anything at all, but there was nothing anywhere.

 

Then there was everything.

 

Every world, every time was right at his fingertips. He saw himself die over and over again and watched through his father's eyes as he fought the anomaly over and over... and over... and over.

 

He saw as Gaster was finally struck down, the virus looming over him with their knife poised over a cracked white soul. He barely managed to get away, slipping back into the void. Then he collapsed and everything went dark.

 

When he woke up again everything was still black. He lay still, doing nothing. He didn't remember who he was or where he was.

 

It felt like a millenia passed like this. He was a ghost, occasionally floating through time and space but never once being able to interact with the world. Until, eventually, he managed to be at the right place at right right time.

 

He hovered beside Sans as he sat on the bench in Waterfall.

 

guess the crab apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, huh dad?”

 

Something clicked and Gaster watched Sans as he talked to him before beginning to cry. No... no, what was he doing?

 

Memories had flooded back to him just as they were flooding into Sans now, the doctor turning and heading back into the void.

 

He remembered who he was. He knew what he had to do. He had to make a decision he didn't want in order to save his sons.

 

Sans didn't even realize he had doubled over onto the ground, hands clutching his head as he screamed. He screamed and screamed and screamed as memories that weren't his own, memories from what felt like thousands and thousands of years pushed everything else aside to make room. Years? Minutes? None of it mattered. It was all just a mess. Now was then and then was now. Nothing wanted to line up and everything was scattered.

 

He felt like he would go insane.

 

Sans! SANS!”

 

The voice was one he felt like he hadn't heard in a lifetime. It was stern and authoritative, yet there was something about it that brought him comfort. It pierced through all the noise in his head like a bullet, snapping him to attention.

 

Calm down! Everything will be fine.”

 

Sans lay on the floor huffing and puffing, his head drenched in sweat and his eye flickering with magic. His eyes bounced around the room trying to find the source of the voice, but found nothing. “d-... dad...?”

 

... Yeah it's me.” The voice said, hesitantly.

 

Sans slowly pushed himself onto his front and looked around again.

 

I'm not there. I'm inside you.”

 

He looked at the floor and smiled, then started to laugh and put a hand over his eye. “i'm going insane. i've gone fucking insane.”

 

No you haven't. Get up, Sans.”

 

Sans didn't move, instead laying on the ground and laughing harder and harder.

 

SANS! Dammit...” The voice groaned. Sans could feel a tickle on his right eye socket he had never felt before, his pupil coming back before flashing purple. He could only watch as his body stood all on its own. His laughter stopped and he stared down at himself.

 

“wha...”

 

Sorry. I didn't want to do that if I didn't have to, but you aren't giving me many options here.”

 

Sans looked up, the human having been standing and patiently waiting. The smile on their face never left, the knife casually picking at the ends of their fingernails. He swallowed and looked at his hands. “is it... is it really you?”

 

Yeah. It's me.” Gaster said, not sounding at all happy. “I just wish our reunion could have been less... creepy.”

 

Sans laughed bitterly. “yeah, this is pretty weird.”

 

Are we finished?” The human finally spoke, the sound distorted and like two different voices overlayed over one another. “As fun as it is watching you scream and flail about on the floor, I'm really eager to get this underway if you don't mind.” The child smiled, the knife swaying by its side. “This hasn't happened before, you see, and I'm very excited to see where it goes. I wonder if your daddy will be able to help you after failing so many other versions of you.”

 

Sans frowned, instantly snapping back to the reality he was currently facing. He stood and put his hands in his pockets, waiting.

 

Sans, this isn't going to be easy on either of us. I want you to understand that.” Gaster said, “I'll be forcing your body to do things it shouldn't be capable of. I...” He paused, as though the next words were painful to say. “It's going to hurt both of us. But it's all I could think of. This is the last chance we have to save not just this timeline, but every other.”

 

“yeah... i figured.” Sans inhaled sharply through his nasal cavity.

 

The human began to giggle, their mouth twisting into an inhuman grin. “Let's see what you've got up your sleeve this time.”

 

They charged forward, Sans sending out a wave of blue bones to stop them. The child jumped over them, racing closer and closer before swinging downward with their knife. Sans side-stepped it before summoning a bone in his right hand and using it to swing into the child's head like a bat and sending them flying into a nearby pillar.

 

He faltered and looked at the bone in his hands. “i didn't...”

 

That's me. You're going to have to get used to that.”

 

Sans swallowed uncomfortably. “oh.”

 

The child pushed itself up, wiping blood from its nose as it began to laugh. “Interesting. That's new!”

 

Sans said nothing, finding himself reaching forward and looking down at his right hand. He watched as a prompt window opened, a sharp pain going up his arm and to the back of his head. Sans grit his teeth and mumbled while typing in something he didn't know.

 

Sorry kiddo. Hopefully I only have to do this a few times.”

 

“do what ya gotta.” The skeleton inhaled sharply, trying to block out the pain.

 

He hit enter, the window vanishing. “I'm probably going to take over for awhile, this will get confusing.”

 

The walls twitched and fluctuated, code running down every surface before suddenly vanishing again and everything returning to normal. Then without warning everything went black before appearing again in no order at all. The pillars stood on their sides or through walls, some of the floor jagged like rocks and shooting off into the distance. Some areas were black voids that lead to nothing while others constantly conflicted with one another and spasmed against whatever they were touching.

 

Sans looked around, all of it appearing as though it went on forever with no end in sight. “whu...”

 

I told you it would get confusing.”

 

The human looked around too, frowning. “I see. You've figured out to bring your little parlor tricks into this world too.” They sounded annoyed.

 

Sans found himself smiling, his eyes closing for a moment as he chuckled and then shrugged. As he opened them again, the right one flared purple while the left juggled between blue and yellow. The voice that came out was almost his own, but layered with a much more distorted sound of Gaster's.

 

"͢w̵e͝ll͞.̸.͘.͠ ͏i w̨asn't̷ t͘h҉e r͡o͝y͝al ͢sc̕i͜ent͏i͠s̶t f͠o͟r͞ ͞n͡oth͢ing.͝"͜

 

 

 

The anomaly scowled and rushed forward.

 

Sans threw out another wave of blue bones, the human leaping over them easily and swiping to his side. He side-stepped before a raising a leg and kicking the human in the side. They stumbled and swung again and again, each time Sans was able to dodge just enough out of the way for it to be frustrating. He grabbed onto the child's soul, flinging them between pillars again and again like a ping-pong ball before tossing them abruptly into a piece of the wall that was jutting out at an impossible angle.

 

It speared them through the middle with a sickening squelch. They gurgled and yelled, grasping at the point impaling them through the stomach. Sans' eye sockets widened and his hand shook.

 

“i... i didn't...”

 

I told you you wouldn't like it.” Gaster said internally. “Sans, please just let me do this. You don't have to be the one in the pilot seat. I've done this before. You can sit this one out.”

 

“it's my body.” Sans frowned.

 

The doctor sighed in irritation. “I know, Sans, I know! I wouldn't be doing this if we had any other choice.”

 

He watched as the human struggled, pulling itself from the spike before falling down in a bloody heap. Code crawled over the wound, stitching it back together. It began to laugh, slowly pushing itself back to its feet.

 

Having a little family quarrel?”

 

Before Sans could reply it charged him again. He began to continuously walk backwards, now using both hands like a conductor to summon attacks. With each movement of his arms bones shot out from the ground or from the pillars and walls that jutted from random angles, anything to try and slow the anomaly down or hurt it.

 

A few managed to hit, but it still got within arms reach again. It swung wildly, Sans managing to dodge each one just barely. A leg swung out to kick them again, but they ducked back just in time. As Sans stumbled forward their knife swung towards his head.

 

His hand zipped upwards, snatching the child's wrist before it could make contact. They stared at one another in the eyes, the child's red and blazing with hatred and Sans' right glowing purple while the other flickered blue and yellow.

 

You can't beat me even if the two of you did manage to work together. I'm going to kill you both and then move onto the next world, then the next and the next. With you gone there won't be anyone to stop me.” The human giggled and inched a little closer, their hand shaking as they continued to try and push the knife forward. “Not that you could stop me in the first place anyway.”

 

Sans grunted, his brow beginning to sweat from the strain. “why are you doing this?”

 

Don't talk to it.” Gaster ordered before taking control, swinging his son's hand up and balling it into a fist. He punched the child in the side of its head, watching as it crumpled to the ground. Still holding onto the hand that held the knife he straddled over it, swinging into their face again and again, each time pulling back with more blood smeared over his knuckles.

 

“stop. stop!” Sans cried, eventually stopping his next punch midair.

 

SANS!” Gaster yelled, his grip on the wrist holding the knife loosening. The human wasted no time in swinging it at Sans' neck despite their face being a bloody mess. He barely managed to dodge, the sleeve of his jacket sliced as he rolled to the side.

 

Sans, we can't keep doing this. You're either going to have to let me do what I need to do or let me have control.”

 

The skeleton inhaled and exhaled tiredly. He put a hand to his head and slumped. Gaster's voice spoke again, this time calmer and more understanding now that they had a small break while the anomaly healed itself.

 

I have a plan, but you need to work with me. Don't hesitate. It's not two against one anymore.”

 

Sans looked down at his knuckles covered in blood with bits of sinew caught between the joints. He wanted to puke. “i can't do this... i can't...” His hands reached up, grabbing at his skull before he started to collapse, the light of his left eye fading.

 

Gaster caught him before he could fall, stumbling a bit before catching his feet and standing again. ".̧.. ̴sh̵i̷t.̵"

 

The demon pushed itself up, its smile returning and its face healed. “Oh? I see your little boy couldn't handle it. I guess it will just be me and you after all.”

 

He looked up, only the purple eye remaining. Gaster was in full control now, but not in the way he wanted to be. He clenched his fists and summoned an array of blasters, forcing the anomaly to stay in one spot and put all of it's concentration on dodging.

 

"s҉an̵s̢? ͟k̢idd͜o͡, c̴o̕me ̴o͞n͞.̢ ̡y̛ou ̶got̡ta w̛ak̸e҉ ͏up̛.̷" Gaster said, breathing heavily. He hadn't realized just how weak his son's body was until now. "i̶ ķn͘o̴w thi͡s ̢i͞s ͡har̷d f͡or you̢, ̵bu̶t̵ you̡ got̢t̨a̶ do it. ̢y̕ou'v͢e͡ ̕com͝e ̧so fa̵r͟ alr̷ead͘y, you c̢a̵n͞'t͞ ͟q̨uit ̨no̢w."

 

The anomaly managed to break through his blasters and charged for him again, Gaster stepped back more and more, summoning larger bones trying to crush the human between them.

 

"s͞an͠s̢, ̕pl̢ea͏s͜e. i'̴m̵ beģg͠i̶ng ̢yo̷u̢.̢" He laughed bitterly. "i̛ ̡kņo͠w͟ i҉'m in̕ n͘ơ p̡lace̵ to͏ ̨be a͢sk͠i͞n͜g͡ you ҉f͠o͠r ͘fąvo͜r͡s, bu̵t͘ ̧i͘ ̴can'̢t d̷o ̨this͜ withou҉t ͏yo͟u. t̸h͡is͠ isn͏'͠t ͟m̸y̢ b̧o̴dy̸."͜ Eventually he managed to crush the virus between two massive bones, standing there for a moment to watch the arm hanging out between them twitch before turning around and running to get as much distance between them as he could in the infinite hallway he had created. He clutched at his chest, feeling his soul ache.

 

"s̷a҉ns̨.͝.͟. ͞please.͜"͞ Gaster pleaded, stopping and turning to look back at the corrupted human as it crawled out from between his attacks like mold sprouting from a wall. "͡i͜ ̢k̴n̸ow you'̛v͜e̸ s͠ee͢n ̡what ͜i've͜ ̡s͟een. i͞'̛m s͡o͢r͠ry̸ my̴..͏.͠ ţac҉tics ҉a͠re a͝ ̶little di͝f͟f̡e͞rent th̡a̸n y҉ou̶r͢s, bųt͟ w͟e ҉don̵'͟t ̷ha͠v͡e t̛h̛e̶ ̶t̶i҉me t̸o͏ f҉i͘ght ov͠e͞r̶ ͡th̢i̡s ̸r͟ight no͟w.͝ i n͟e͟e̡d you͏. ̵we͠ n̸e͝ed to͏ ̡f̵ig̛ht͜ ̨to͟gȩther͡ ̸įf w̡e're g̶oing to̶ sa͟v̧ȩ ͘th͏e r͞est̨ ͡o̷f ̴th͞i̛s̡ time͞l̶ine̕.̨ ̸the͝r͠e'̴s stil̛l͞ a ̧c̸h͡an͠c͡e̶ ͝to҉ go b̢a͏çk..͢. ͡t҉o sa͠v̧e p̢ap҉ ͘be͝fore̡ all ͘of ̢t͡h͜i͢s h͘appen̕s̕."

 

Gaster could feel his shoulders begin to loosen, his arms wanting to hang lifelessly by his side. He kept them up and on the defensive, the light of his left eye coming back as a tiny white dot. He could feel how tired Sans was, how defeated and hollow he felt.

 

He smiled and breathed a sigh of relief just to have the feeling of his son back with him. "w͡el̴c͘o͠m̨e͞ b͠ac̵k."̴

 

sorry.” Sans said, their roles reversed for the time being. “i'm sorry. you're right.” The hope of getting Papyrus back, maybe for good, was the only thing that kept him going.

 

"̸i̕t'͠s̕ ̕alri̴g̶h͟t. do y̸ou͘ ͘want҉ tơ take ̵o̷ve͡r͡, ̡or͠...̴?͠" Gaster asked.

 

no. you can... do things i probably can't.” Sans said, having seen all of what his father had done in the past.

 

"̴oh.̢ ͝y̶e̸ah͠.̶ sor̢ry ̵a̵bou̸t̛ t̨ha͜t҉." The doctor grimaced, then found himself shrugging and letting out a tired laugh, or rather Sans did.

 

The human stumbled after pulling itself from between the two massive bones, it's leg battered and broken but quickly healing. The more it healed, the faster it's pace became until it was sprinting towards them once more.

 

Gaster, now fully backed by his son, sent out waves of attacks both blue and normal, the anomaly having to constantly stop and start to keep from getting hit or burned. He spoke in a hushed tone, not wanting it to overhear them. "̡w̴e'l͘l͘ need͡ t͏o ͠g̡e̢t̕ r̡ea͢lly̨ close͞, ̨wh҉i̵ch mea҉ns͜ w̷e're goiņg̨ ͝to ҉h͡a͜v̢e̵ to͡ ͜d̢isa̡r̸m̴ ̴them ̷or im͝mobil̷iz̢e th͡e͠m̡ so͝meho̴w."

 

Sans nodded and activated his magic again, left eye vanishing before flashing yellow and blue. Without having to be told he took over, keeping the human at a distance while his father opened up the command prompt again. He winced, inhaling sharply through his teeth at the pain shooting up his arm.

 

Gaster quickly punched in a few lines of code before the window vanished. The world wobbled and flickered before everything started to glitch out even worse than before, artifacts flashing this way and that and geometry constantly changing. He took a step back before teleporting them both a distance away and hiding as best he could through the ever-changing world.

 

"͜wo̶w̡,͢ t͞h̛i̢s ͜i҉s͡ ̡con̸fu͡s̕in͡g.͜" Sans said as he looked around.

 

"y̕eah̡,҉ ͞i̷ kn͘o̴w҉.͘"͡ Gaster replied, both of them talking through the same mouth and voice. He summoned an array of bones sticking out of another part of the wall and the two fell silent, waiting for the anomaly to approach.

 

Running away? Again?” It asked, it's voice growing louder the closer it became. “Come now, that didn't work out the last few thousand times you tried it, did it?”

 

The skeleton waited for the perfect moment before stepping out, grabbing hold of the human's soul and flinging them into the bones they had set up minutes before. There was a sickening crunch as they were impaled through multiple parts of their body, attacks sticking out through their torso, legs, and arms.

 

It gagged and coughed, the smile never leaving its face. “Tri-... tricky~”

 

Sans teleported in front of them and reached for the arm holding the knife. The human ripped their arm from the bone it was impaled on, slicing at the skeleton's hand.

 

He just barely managed to pull it out of the way in time.

 

Gritting his teeth Gaster summoned an attack in his hand and used it to pin the child's arm down before reaching for the hand again. He grabbed it's wrist, trying to squeeze it hard enough so that they dropped the knife.

 

Instead they laughed and began to sit up, the sound of flesh sliding off bone and blood pouring from their wounds filling the room. Gaster could feel Sans start to lose it.

 

"͘stay f͘o͟cuse͠d͞, don't f̨a̕int on ͘me." He ordered, reaching up with one of his legs to push the human back down onto the bones sticking from its body and keep it pinned to the wall. Gaster started to twist and pull on the human's wrist until he heard a sickening pop. The human screamed and, for a moment, it sounded almost... innocent.

 

The knife began to slip from its loose fingertips, Gaster reaching out to yank it quickly away. He spun it around in his hands and poised it over the human's chest, but paused.

 

"wo̴a̛h̛, w̧o͏ah͞ ̸d̨ąd you̶'re k̴i͘ddin͝g.͢"

 

He grit his teeth, hand shaking as he fought with himself. "͠n̢o ͢i̢'m͢ defini̶tel͘y͘ ̷n̕ot͟.͏ ̶i̶ ̛nee͘d ̴y͢o̧u̢ t̛o͢ l̵et me͘ d̸o̸ t͡his̷. i͡t̡ ͝is͟n̶'͢t g͢oi̴ng ̷to̸ be̵ ̢pr̵e͞t̸ty.̶"

 

Sans continued to hesitate. "..̢.͡ oh̛ g͡od.͜ fuck." He clenched his eyes shut.

 

"͠san͢s.̵.." Gaster said, sounding stern at first, but soon smoothing his tone. "̨ta̛ke̵ a ͝d͘e̶ep brea̕th ̛a̢nd o͘p͠en҉ y̢our ey҉es͠."

 

Sans inhaled deeply and opened them, Gaster giving him no time to think before quickly plunging the knife deep into the child's chest and beginning to pull downward. Sans screamed, nearly losing his grip on the knife as Gaster continued to work, trying to fight through his son's panic.

 

"oh ̨g͠od͞ ͜oh ̧g̶od ̸o̧h go͝d̶!"

 

The anomaly, still pinned to the wall, screamed as well. “No! No what are you doing!?” It started to panic, trying to pull it's impaled body from the bones sticking from the wall. Gaster shoved his foot down harder, needing them to stay immobile for as long as it took to do what he needed.

 

When the cut was made he tossed the knife aside before plunging his hand into the human's chest cavity. He felt Sans start to faint, his foot on the human slipping and his body starting to drop. With his other hand he roughly smacked himself in the face.

 

"st̴a̡y͝ with̵ ̛m̢e̸,̢ ҉sa̷n̕s͘!͞ you ͏c͡aņ ̶do̵ ̕t̡his!͠"̡

 

"͞no ͘n̕o ͠n͡o̷ i can'̵ţ ̴d͝o̷ ͜t͏h͏i̶s̨ ͞i҉ ͞c͞an'͞t̴ i can'̕t͘.̴" He shook his head, unable to turn away as his own hand dug around in the chest of an impaled, bloody, broken child. "this i͏s i̸ņsa͠n͘e̛.͢ thi̷s is͜ i̵nsan̨e!"

 

Gaster ignored his son's pleas, doing his best to concentrate through it all and force his body to do something it desperately didn't want to. Eventually he found what he wanted, the child's soul.

 

He wrapped his fingers around it and pulled out a bright red heart coated in a thick black slime, the tendrils coiling around it and hissing angrily all on their own. It desperately pulled back, trying to yank the soul from Gaster's hand.

 

No! NO! THAT'S MINE!”

 

He kept a tight grip on it and opened the command prompt with the other, quickly typing in a long and complicated line of code.

 

"̧oh my̢ g͡o̧d͘... oh̛ ͜m͞y ̸g͢od̛.̡.." Sans mumbled, eyes wide and staring at what he was doing.

 

"h̢ang҉ i͝n ̵t͢here, ̕s͠a͢ns.͘"̸ Gaster said, the human beginning to writhe and scream in desperation underneath his foot.

 

"͏a͝l̕rig͜ht... h͞e͠r͠e̛ goes͞ ͏not̕hin҉g͠."̛ He looked up at the demon screeching in front of him and hit enter.

 

 

 

As soon as the program started to run the child let out a freakish, inhuman bellow. Even Gaster flinched, his eye sockets wide. The human began to flail and pull off the bones impaling them, the doctor using Sans' foot and free hand to try and keep it immobile.

 

"s͘ans͘! k͏e̴e̷p̴ ͢i͠t͡ ̛dow͠n͘!"̕ He yelled, Sans grabbing onto the body with his powers and keep them pinned to the wall. It felt as though they had suddenly gained so much more strength than before, desperation sinking in as it found itself being drained from the soul it had stolen. He held onto the little red heart as hard as he could, struggling to use his telekenisis and his free arm and leg to keep the human subdued.

 

"͝d̸o͡n'͠t ͝let i̛t̕ ͏ta̸ke̕ i̸t͞ ba͏c͏k, ҉wḩate͠v̨e͏ŗ y̴ou͝ ̨dơ!̕"͟ Gaster yelled just as one of its arms freed itself from the bones it was impaled on and swiped at them. He had to step back, his foot dropping from the child's chest. It used the opportunity to launch itself forward, ripping itself from the bones it was speared on and landing on the ground in a heap.

 

"s̴h͡i͡t.̢.." Gaster mumbled, the heart still in his hand and attached to the child's chest by thick, swirling black ooze. He glanced at the prompt window as it followed him, the lines and lines of code scrolling by rapidly.

 

As soon as he took his eyes away from the human it leapt at him like an animal, growling and grasping at his shoulders. It knocked him down, Gaster desperately trying to keep it from hurting Sans' body while still keeping a solid grip on it's soul. He kicked it and pushed it's head away as blood dripped over him from all of its wounds. With only one hand and his legs free though, it still managed to grasp and claw at the shirt underneath Sans' jacket, ripping it to shreds to reveal what it was after - their souls.

 

Two white hearts sat side-by-side in his ribcage, one glowing a slight blue with distress while the other appeared as a hologram over it, two holes missing and small cracks crawling along its surface. Upon realizing what it was doing Gaster summoned attacks all around him, angling them in such a way that they speared the child above him but still kept it close enough so he didn't let go of the soul.

 

It screeched and clawed for him, it's body impaled and crushed even more. Code ran over it's body but much slower than usual, the program Gaster was running hindering it's regenerative abilities. He huffed underneath it, blood splattering on his skull.

 

Now it was his turn to slip. Sans could feel a memory from a long time ago resurface that wasn't his. It played out in front of him, watching as he, or rather his father, fought a human with his bare hands. Somehow both of them had lost their weapons and they ended up grappling, but the human was clearly stronger. It pinned Gaster down, both of them in the same position he was in with the human now, and started to pull and yank at his neck.

 

Gaster gagged, fumbling with trying to grasp at the human's throat and eyes. He managed to shove his thumb into one eye before grabbing a rock by his side. Next thing he knew and he was standing over his attacker, it's head crushed in with the piece of rubble in his hand.

 

It was the first human he had to kill with his bare hands. He stood over it, staring at the blood and gore, eyes wide and hands shaking.

 

"̡da̴d!" Sans yelled, snapping his father back to reality. He shook his head and blinked rapidly.

 

"͘i'͏m̨ ͘g̕ood. ͟i'͡m alri̶g̢h͝t."͞ Gaster mumbled quickly before looking over at the command prompt. "al͘mo͜s̛t..."͜

 

No! NO!” The anomaly screamed above them, screeching and clawing trying to get at the pair of souls hovering just behind his ribcage. The blood dripping from the wound in its chest where their soul was pulled from suddenly began to bleed an unusual amount, black goo slipping forward and forming into the shape of another child.

 

Sans' eyes widened and he tried to scramble back, but couldn't go far if he was to keep hold on the soul.

 

The creature grabbed onto his ribcage and started to pull, dripping inside of it to reach the two souls hidden underneath. As soon as it touched them agony shot out through his body like an electric shock. Sans and Gaster screamed, the lights of their eyes flickering in and out as they fought to stay conscious.

 

Gaster summoned an attack in his hand, swinging it roughly into the head of the virus, but all it served to do was splatter it across the floor rather than actually stop it or slow it down. He glanced at his prompt in desperation, watching as the code continued to fly across it.

 

Almost...

 

Sans tried to grab onto the slime that was invading his chest, his hand slipping through it and unable to grab onto anything of substance. He could feel himself start to pass out. Gaster glanced over at the prompt one last time as it started to flash.

 

"͘no͞w!"̛ He yelled, slamming his fist onto it.

 

The prompt vanished only for another, larger window to open up above them. A rough, pixelated image of an animalistic skull opened and closed in mock laughter before text blinked underneath of it.

 

'GOODBYE.EXE'

 

He grinned just as a loading bar appeared over them, the anomaly stopped to turn and stare at it. It felt its body start to break apart. “No! STOP!” It screamed again, desperately trying to cling to the little red soul still in Sans' grasp. The black goo started to pull downward, grasping at his hand and arm to try and get it back into the body of the human.

 

Sans didn't let go, his father grinning through him all the while.

 

It spun back around, the loading bar nearly having reached the end, then looked back at the stupid grinning skeleton laid in front of them. It let out an inhuman scream before it pulled off the soul altogether.

 

Gaster's smile fell instantly. "w̵ąit! n̕ǫ!̧ s̕h̷i͘t҉!̸"͢ He tried to sit up to grab at the black slime as he watched it slink away and seep into the cracks of the walls and begin to vanish. "̨no̧ n̸o n͏o no!̕" He screamed grabbing at the floor as the last of it fell away between the cracks of the code that made up the room.

 

His eye sockets stared, the window above them blinking as it finished before 'ERROR' appeared across it. Gaster put a hand over his mouth and looked up at the screen as it vanished, then looked down at the glowing red heart in his hands.

 

Sharing a body at least let Sans in on what had gone so wrong, able to read the thoughts in Gaster's head as they both sat there staring at the little heart in his hands. He hadn't expected the anomaly to ditch its soul. It was so attached to it that, no matter how close it came to being killed, it always managed to pull the soul with it wherever it went from timeline to timeline.

 

This time it had been desperate. It had left without it, knowing that had it stayed it would surely be wiped from existence.

 

"i̷'m͡ ͡sorry. i ̷ḑi͡dn't̶ e͜x̢p̷e̶ct.͝.̕.͟"͞ He groaned, head in his hand.

 

"͠it͝'s͟ o͏kay, dad̸."̡ Sans said after a moment, patting himself on the shoulder.

 

The two sat there housed in the same body for what felt like hours, both of them were exhausted. After awhile Sans finally broke the silence.

 

"so.͘.. w͏hat ͝n̴ow҉?͟"

 

He looked down at the soul. "n͜ow͡?̷"̢ Gaster asked, "a҉s so̧o͝n a̢s ͜i̶ ͟l͡et̵ ͘g͝o ̢o̵f ͠t̕h҉i͟s͜ s͠o͞ųl įt ̷w̕i͘ll͟ go ̕b͝ac̡k̸ in͜to͘ t҉he hum͜an͜." His head turned to look up at the child, still impaled on his attacks and motionless, having succumbed to their injuries not shortly after the anomaly had left them. "th̡e͜y w̸ill͟ ͝d͠o ͡one of̴ ͟t̵wo҉ t̴hingş;̢ ne͢ver ̛come̕ back..͏. ̡o͘r ͟re҉se̶t͝.͜"̡

 

"reşet?" Sans repeated, "̧y̵o̸u me͘an͡ ̢f̷rom ţhe̛ b͠egin͏n̡ing̛?"҉

 

Gaster nodded and closed his eyes, Sans able to feel building dread well up in him from his father's soul. "e͢ithe͜r w̷e̢'ll ͜b҉e͜ ̵s͝t̨u̵ck he͡re ̕for̨eve҉r ͟in th̡i̕s w͢o͟r̴ld͜ w̷it̡h n͜o s͢u͟rv͡i̶v͞o̡rs̴, ǫr͡ eve̡r͠yth͜i͝ng̷ ͟w҉ill go͜ ̛back̡ ̵to͟ b̴ef̧o̕re ̵t̛hey f͏ell͟ ̵in͢ ḩȩre. w͠hic̶h̴ m̨ean͘s̢ ̸pap͘y̨r͠us̸ ͏wil̸l b̵e a̵li҉v̛e͏. bu͞t̕ ͠i̴..̧." Gaster paused and opened his eyes again, the right lid sagging just like his own and both of the colors from their eyes long gone.

 

"i'ļl ̶b͝e ͡s͡u̡c͜ķed b̡ack in͞to t̕h͜e ͢voi͝d҉." He said, able to feel his son's heart drop. Gaster tried to laugh it off the only way he knew how, with his morbid sense of humor. "o̕r,͡ y'̴k̶n̸ow̶,̕ ͟my͝ so̢ul ̸w̷i͝l͝l͢ s̴h̷a͞tt̡e̵r fo͏r̸ ̴go͟od͠.̢ ̨i͘'v͢e̸ ͝had a ̴go͠od̕ ru̕n.̧"

 

"̧no̵.͞.̧. no͏ ̧d͘o͝n̸'̛t say ͜t҉hat̸.̷" Sans mumbled and hugged himself, squeezing the soul in his hand. It was the closest he would get to hugging his dad.

 

The doctor laughed dryly, "sor̛ry̡ k͘i̢ḑ. i̷'m̕ ̶af̴rai̢d ͟t͜her̕e's͡ no w͟ay ar̕oun͘d it.̕"͡

 

Sans couldn't stop himself from finally crying, tears rolling out from his eye sockets and down his cheeks. He had been through so much. This wasn't fair. This just wasn't fucking fair.

 

"it'̡l̢l ͡b̵e̕ ̛alrig͏ht, sans." Gaster said, his voice warbled through his son's crying even if the tears weren't his own. "yo̕u'r͜e a ̕s̡t̡ro͟ng k͞id.͞ ̛you͜'v̧e͘ ̷b̶e̡e͏n̴ ̛th̕ro̕ugh a̶ lot.͘ ͟i̛ ̡d͟o͏n'̧t͟ ̸blame y͏oų ͟for͜ any̷t͏hing y̷ou̴'v̴e d̴one̡." He paused, then added; "̧or ̛h͢a͞ven't͠ ̷do̶ne."

 

"̕i͟ ̵le̛t ͢p͜a̛p͝ dię ̸s̛o͡ ͘many͟ times͠!" Sans cried, finally letting out everything he had been feeling for decades. "̶i ̶g̛ave̸ ̵up.̴ i̴ ̷let̸ yo͜u̶ bo͠ţh̕ ̛dow̢n̕.̷"

 

"shhh, ̸shh͘hh..."͏ Gaster said through Sans' mouth, reaching up to rub his own skull just like he used to when he was a child. "̷every̕t̸h̵in̶g͞ ͟wi̢ll b͏e͜ ҉o͠kay.̷ ͘if ͏t͠h҉e h͏u̧m҉an ͘r̵e̛s̵e҉ts ͟y̨ou'̶ll͜ ͡ge̢t p̴a̧p back̷. ma̶y̢b̨e they̷'̧ll e̸ve҉n̡ ge͞t̵ y̷o͜u ͠t̕o t͞he sųrfa̴ce͝. you can̕ s̡hǫw͘ him͏ ͞the ̡şta͞rs̢. ̶yǫu҉ ̕ca̧n ͘bu̷y͏ h͜im t͢h͘at ͜car͡ he̷'̕s͞ a̶lw̡a̛ys want͞e̶d͏."̛

 

"҉i want us̨ t̴o͟ ̕be a͠ family҉ ͢ag̢ain.̛.͢.̛" Sans sobbed, doubling over as he sat on his knees, the soul clutched to his chest.

 

"i̧ k҉now̛..." Gaster said sadly, then smiled. "he͢y, ͘l͢oo͏k͏ ̨at i̧t this w̶ay͘. i͡f th̵ey̷ d͜on'̕t̢ ̷res͜e̡t̵ y͞ou get t͡o ̴liv͢e w̨i̕t̸h ͡y̡ou͝r o͘ld̡ m̶a͢n҉ ̶as a͠ pa͞r҉a̴s͢itic̴ gh̛os͝t fo͢ŗ ̸t͟he res̵t͢ o͜f ͜y͠our̨ li̴f͟e͝. i̢ c͜a͠n ̕m̴ake ͜fun of ҉yo̡u̕ wi͏thout ͠even̕ hav̴in̨g to̕ ͢pe҉er o̢v̨e̸r͞ yo͡ur ҉s̕h̡o͝ul̴d̶er͞!͡"͘

 

Sans couldn't stop himself from letting out a laugh. "that's͘ ̴stu̡p̛i̷d҉."͏

 

"i̢ k͝now͝.͘"̧ The doctor smiled.

 

They fell silent, Sans' tears eventually stopping as he sat slumped and staring at the soul in his hands. After awhile Gaster spoke up, "̨i'm͏ g͟o̶in̴g̛ ̛to ̡l͟e̷t ͘it ̡go.͡"̸

 

Sans let out another dry sob and nodded, watching as his fingers opened all on their own. The soul hovered above them before going to the body of the child still impaled nearby.

 

Then they waited.

 

"i ͏wan͞t ͝y̡ou͞ ͏and pap to̷ ̸bę h҉app҉y҉. i͞ ͢kn͜o͏w g͜e͘t͞tin̶g oveŗ this ̴i̕s go͏in̵g to̵ ̨b͝e̕ ͜ha̡r̢d҉,͜ ͟b͠u͠t.̛.̵.͠ ͡tr҉y. ͜i'll̵ ̴be̕..͠. ͢i̸'ll̕ ͘b̸e ͏alri҉gh̢t." Gaster said, his voice starting to falter. It was his turn to cry, a single tear sliding down from his right eye socket. "̷i̧'m prou̢d ̡o͞f͘ b͞o͏th ҉o͜f you͟.͜ i͠ wa̶n̨t͡ ͟y̛o̸u ̛bot̷h͜ ̶t͘o kno̢w̛ t̡h҉at̶.̴ ͘tel͏l͝ p͠apyrus͏ ̛i̛ lov̡e̡ ͏h҉im."͢

 

Sans started to cry again and nodded. They could feel the slight tickle of an incoming reset in the back of his head.

 

"k͢nock,͏ ͝k̛nock.͏" Gaster said, swallowing a lump in his nonexistent throat as the impending reset creeped further.

 

"wh̴o'̵s the̴r͞e?̴" Sans asked.

 

"j̸u͠no̸."
̨
͏"j̶uno ̶who?"
̷
"͏ju̴no̴ ͟i ͝l͢ov͏e y͠ou, ̷r͡igh҉t?͘"̧

 

They both smiled and Sans felt his arms wrap around himself, squeezing tightly. He let out one last dry laugh before the world went black.

 

Chapter Text

Sans opened his eyes. His pupils shook for a moment before they focused on the ceiling of his bedroom. He inhaled sharply and sat up. For a moment he did nothing, reeling in the actions that had taken place mere seconds ago. Eventually he reached down and lifted up his shirt, checking to see if that same holographic soul was still there over his own.

 

It wasn't.

 

He slowly pulled down his shirt and put his hands over his eye sockets before beginning to cry silently.

 

“SANS?” Papyrus called from behind the door, knocking. “SANS ARE YOU AWAKE? IT'S TIME-” He barely had a chance to open the door up all the way before his brother ran into him, arms wrapping around his chest and squeezing tightly. Papyrus blinked and looked down at him before he put a hand on his skull.

 

“ARE YOU ALRIGHT?” He asked, worried that his brother was having another 'bad day'.

 

Sans nodded and looked up at him, smiling. “yeah. i'm... i'm good.”

 

Papyrus sighed in relief and hugged him back, the two standing there for a few moments before he finally pulled away. “LET'S GO, WE DON'T WANT TO BE LATE! TODAY WE MIGHT FINALLY MEET A HUMAN!”

 

Sans watched as his little brother joyfully jogged down the stairs and began to put on his boots by the door. He wasn't sure why he felt so happy at the moment, a sort of bittersweetness lingering over him. A part of him was so happy to having seen his father again, or at the very least talk to him, but that time was over.

 

He was gone for a second time.

 

“yeah...” Sans said as he walked towards the stairs.

 

 

The two of them headed along the same path they did every day, Papyrus eager to show the human his many amazing puzzles. Just like every time before it, his little brother stopped at his little cardboard sentry post and Sans kept on going ahead to his own, but this time was different.

 

Sans didn't go to his sentry spot or wait at the door for the human to arrive. Instead he stood just in front of the bridge where they had first met and waited.

 

Soon enough the large doors to the ruins opened and a tiny human stepped out. They walked through the snow slowly, catching sight of Sans stood by bridge. At first they hesitated, then started to walk forward again, then began to run. Not a moment later and they had slammed into him, tears streaming down their face as tiny arms wrapped around his torso.

 

Sans stumbled in surprise and looked down at them.

 

“I'm sorry.” The human cried, little hands clutching at his jacket. “I didn't mean it. I didn't mean any of it.” They started to sob, Sans taking a moment to regain his composure before he smiled and hugged the child back, squeezing them tightly against him.

 

“it's okay, kid. it wasn't your fault.”

 

They held one another for some time before the familiar sound of footsteps grew closer. Sans peeled the human away from him and looked down into their eyes. “you can do it, kid. you can make it right. i'll keep an eye socket out for ya.” He winked and the child nodded and smiled.

 

He guided them behind the lamp near his post and joked around with Papyrus once he showed up, turning and looking at the lamp once he was gone. The human stepped out and looked at him.

 

“i believe in you, kid.” Sans smiled and turned to walk in the opposite direction, hands in his pockets. The child smiled back and ran off deeper into Snowdin.

 

He watched the story unfold just like it had all the times before in his happier dreams. They befriended Papyrus, happily going through all of his puzzles and even fighting him in the end, but instead sparing him to move forward.

 

They ventured through Waterfall, fleeing from Undyne and befriending her despite the odds. They made their way through Hotland, fighting off Mettaton and helping Alphys through her problems. Eventually, through it all, they made it to the last corridor before Asgore.

 

Sans was waiting for them.

 

“well... looks like you made it. only a little further left.” He said with his trademark smile and a shrug. “i'm proud of you.” The child approached him, wrapping their arms around him for a second time. Sans smiled and sighed, petting their short brown hair.

 

He looked around the long hallway, feeling like not only a day earlier he had been struggling for his life with this same child. Eventually he pulled away and smiled down at them. “i'm rootin' for ya, kid.”

 

They smiled and nodded before walking around him and heading for the King. Once they were gone Sans walked around to hide behind one of the pillars and waited. Soon enough the patter of heavy feet came blasting passed him and the sounds of a rather angry Queen soon followed.

 

Then came Undyne and Alphys, both running by and into the room that held the barrier. Papyrus was soon quick to follow, the sound of his boots unmistakable.

 

“well...” He sighed to himself and smiled. “time to play my role.”

 

Sans pushed himself off the pillar and casually walked in behind Papyrus, everyone gathered around where the child was about to fight Asgore.

 

“hey guys, what's up?”

 

 

Things had gotten a little hazy, but the kid did it. In the end they all stood outside the mountain together side-by-side. Sans closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling of fresh air on his face. It was nice to finally be the Sans that got to experience it for real rather than second-hand through dreams.

 

“HEY SANS?” Papyrus asked, looking up at the sky. “WHAT'S THAT GIANT BALL?”

 

“we call that 'the sun', my friend.” Sans grinned.

 

“THAT'S THE SUN!? WOWIE! I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M FINALLY MEETING THE SUN!” Papyrus smiled.

 

As they began to discuss Frisk becoming their ambassador, Sans opened his eyes and stared at the sky. It was more beautiful than any of his dreams had ever come close to depicting.

 

“YEAH! FRISK WILL BE THE BEST AMBASSADOR!” Papyrus suddenly yelled. “AND I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS... WILL BE THE BEST MASCOT!” He turned to start running down the mountain. “I'LL GO MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION!”

 

He watched his brother run off and shrugged. “welp. someone's gotta keep him from getting into trouble.” Sans said before turning to walk in the opposite direction. “see you guys.”

 

He could hear the sound of Undyne yelling before he teleported away back into the mountain.

 

Sans made his way to Waterfall and sat on the bench hidden away. “well...” He said, turning to look at the echo flower by his side. “we made it... i guess.” His mouth twitched a little into a smile, but didn't last. “i'll keep pap happy, but...” He sighed, “this isn't fair. this just isn't fair.” He leaned back, staring at the crystals on the ceiling of the cave.

 

“how am I supposed to move on? are you even still out there? are you alive?” Sans asked, turning to the flower and moving closer. “please tell me. i need to know.”

 

He sat there for what felt like forever, but nothing happened. There was no morse code, no black ooze in his notebook. Nothing.

 

Eventually he hung his head in his hands. “please... we deserve a happy ending, don't we? we didn't do anything to deserve this.” He looked at the flower, pleading for something to happen.

 

But nobody came.

 

Sans pressed his hands over his eye sockets before inhaling sharply and standing up, teleporting away.

 

 

That night he did what he had promised Papyrus all those years ago. The two stood at the top of the mountain, Sans setting up the telescope.

 

“I CAN'T BELIEVE OUR WISH IS FINALLY COMING TRUE.” Papyrus said gleefully, waiting for his brother to finish with the excitement of a five-year-old.

 

“yeah...” Sans said, but didn't sound nearly as enthusiastic as one would think someone who had just been freed would be.

 

“IS SOMETHING WRONG?” Papyrus asked, watching as Sans peered up through the telescope and then stepped away, gesturing for his little brother to try. When Papyrus didn't he paused and looked up at him.

 

“sorry. guess i should be more upbeat that we got our happy ending, huh?” He said, forcing a smile. His little brother frowned and sat down beside the telescope before giving Sans a worried look.

 

“... what, after all that you're not even gonna look through it?” His big brother asked, gesturing to the telescope.

 

“SANS, WILL YOU TALK TO ME NOW?”

 

His expression fell before he looked away, the lights of his eyes fading. After a few moments of standing there he finally walked over to Papyrus and sat down beside him.

 

“it's funny. i've told you all of this before but it still feels like i left so much out. so much has happened since then it's like it isn't even the same story anymore.” He said, letting out a dry chuckle.

 

Then he began to tell his story.

 

He told Papyrus of their creation, of their father. He told him what a goofball the man had been, how he had a penchant for blowing things up and getting wound up over the dumbest things. He told Papyrus of the dumb prank wars they used to have and how every meal was takeout or something from a can. He explained the weird quirk Gaster had with his hands and how he was terrified of social interaction, but at the same time could be intimidating and scary.

 

Sans then recalled the accident. He told Papyrus about being flung into another timeline, about growing up for a second time. He told him about struggling to build the time machine to get back to where they belonged and failing.

 

Then the resets began.

 

The entire fiasco with Flowey unfolded in front of him, Sans telling Papyrus about just how many times he had watched him die and being unable to do anything about it; about how many times his progress on the machine had been reverted.

 

He told him about giving up. Then there was the child.

 

Sans confessed that the anomaly had come into their timeline and how their father had piggybacked onto him in order to defeat it, but they failed. They had failed and now their dad was gone again, stuck somewhere unattainable while the anomaly still ran loose.

 

By the time he had finished both of them were laying on their backs staring up at the stars. Papyrus had been oddly silent throughout the whole thing.

 

“... YOU KNOW...” Papyrus began, turning to look at Sans. “I THINK I REMEMBER SOME OF IT. TINY BITS AND PIECES.”

 

“yeah?” Sans asked, looking exhausted from all of the talking.

 

“YEAH.” He looked back to the sky. “HE TOOK US TO SEE THE STARS IN WATERFALL ONCE, DIDN'T HE?”

 

“... yeah.”

 

“THAT WAS NICE, I THINK. I REMEMBER FEELING HAPPY.”

 

They were quiet for awhile before Papyrus spoke up again. “I DON'T THINK YOU SHOULD GIVE UP, SANS.”

 

Sans frowned and closed his eyes, breathing out a sigh. “he told me to just try and be happy.”

 

“BUT WILL YOU?” Papyrus sat up and looked down at his brother. “WILL YOU BE HAPPY WITH THAT?”

 

Sans was quiet for awhile, closing his eyes. “... no... i guess not.”

 

 

A few years had passed since the barrier had finally been broken. Monsters had integrated into human society rather well, the brutal history between them being like a distant memory. There were still some rather bumpy roads to cross here and there, but for the most part things were going alright. They made a community for themselves at the base of the mountain still a distance away from the nearest human city, but that seemed to be what was best. A gradual integration was good for everyone; the monsters relearning about human culture and the humans learning to accept monsters into a modern world.

 

After a lot of preparation Sans and Papyrus were moving into their new home on the surface, a townhouse that was shared with a number of other monsters.

 

“I THINK THAT'S EVERYTHING.” Papyrus said as he carried the last box into their new home. It wasn't quite as spacious as their place in Snowdin, but it more than made up for it by having a sky overhead.

 

“guess it's time for a congratulatory nap.” Sans said with a smile before flopping onto the couch dumped in the middle of the room. Papyrus groaned and rolled his eye sockets before beginning to rummage around in the boxes they had packed. He began to carry his things up to his room and put them away while his brother dozed off.

 

After a few trips back and forth he paused halfway up the steps and looked down into the box he was carrying. On the top was a tiny black tape. He blinked and held it up before setting the box down.

 

“SANS?” He asked, his brother mumbling half-asleep from the couch. “IS THIS YOURS? IT WAS WITH MY THINGS.” Papyrus walked back down the stairs and held the tape out to his brother.

 

Sans cracked open an eye socket before blinking and sitting upright to take the tape from his brother's hands. “oh, yeah. sorry. guess it got mixed up with your stuff.” He shoved it into his pocket and started to lay back down.

 

“WHAT IS IT?” Papyrus asked.

 

“just some junk of mine.”

 

His little brother frowned and folded his arms. “SANS, YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO STOP HIDING THINGS FROM ME, REMEMBER?”

 

Sans opened his eyes, recalling the lengthy discussion they had a few days after the barrier had broken. Papyrus had made him promise that he wouldn't give up again, that he would stop being so secretive and hiding things from him. Sans sighed and sat up again, pausing to try and force himself to be honest.

 

“if you can find the old video recorder in my stuff i'll show you.” He finally said, Papyrus grinning widely. Instantly his little brother went to work, digging through the boxes for what felt like an hour before finally finding it. He handed it over to his brother, along with the chords to hook it into the television.

 

Sans inhaled and took it, putting the little tape into the recorder before plugging it into the TV that sat on the floor of their new home. His thumb hovered over the play button before he turned and looked at Papyrus. “i actually don't know what's on this, but it's... it's got dad's handwriting on it, so it must be his.”

 

Papyrus took a seat on the floor beside his brother before giving him an encouraging smile. Sans tried to return it but it fell flat and he sat down before pressing play.

 

Alright, let's see if this works.” Came a familiar voice from the TV before the screen started to brighten, a hand removing the cap from the lens. Seconds later and Gaster's face filled the TV screen. He smiled and moved away from it, the sounds of buttons pressing and things moving around on his desk following. “Nice. Now to show the kids.” He spun the camera around before it turned off.

 

It turned on again just outside the door to their house back in the lab. “Boys, look!” He shouted, the camera picking up both Papyrus and Sans lounging around in a rather messy living room.

 

WHAT'S THAT?”

 

Papyrus started to lean forward at the sound of his own voice, watching as a tiny version of himself jumped up and rushed over to the camera. As Gaster began to explain it and hand it down to him, Papyrus leaned back again. Watching himself as a child despite having no memory of any of it was... eerie. It was eerie and sad.

 

COOOL!” He heard himself yell before zooming in on his brother's nose, who waved him away.

 

The two brothers sat and watched everything unfold, Papyrus declaring he would make a cooking show and roping his father into being his assistant. After a few minutes Sans glanced up at Papyrus, who had pulled his legs up to his chest and started crying silently.

 

Sans quickly paused it. “bro i can stop it if you want.” He said, worry in his voice.

 

Papyrus quickly shook his head and smiled, wiping away tears. “N-NO, KEEP PLAYING IT. IT'S... NICE.”

 

Sans managed to smile a little and hit play again.

 

As soon as the puns began Papyrus groaned and laughed through his tears. “OH MY GOD THAT'S WHERE YOU GOT IT FROM?”

 

Sans just smiled and shrugged.

 

They watched as little Papyrus made some sort of horrible concoction, eventually making them all try it out. The video cut off as Sans ran away from their father who chased him with a spoonful of whatever it was Papyrus made.

 

After going black for all but a moment the next part began, the sound of sneakers walking along the tile floor of a long corridor. It showed whoever was holding it approach a door before swinging it open, Gaster sat over a lab table delicately mixing something together.

 

HI DAD!”

 

Gaster twitched, dumping whatever he was working on into something else by accident. It began to bubble before he quickly ducked under the desk and a loud explosion rocked the room, the camera nearly falling out of a little Papyrus' hands. The next thing you saw was Gaster standing up and looking at the scorched wall behind him, then at the failed experiment in front of him.

 

Welp! That's fucked up. Let's go home.” He began to race towards Papyrus just as the sprinklers turned on, grabbing him up under an arm.

 

I'M SORRY DAD. I JUST WANTED TO SAY HI...”

 

It's fine, kiddo. I'm just not sticking around to clean that up.” Gaster laughed before the camera shut off.

 

Papyrus laughed along with him, his tears having slowed down but his smile growing larger by the minute.

 

It started again recording Papyrus and Sans opening their Christmas presents. They chattered amongst themselves, Papyrus excited about getting toy cars and a skateboard. Sans was much more calm about it, most of his gifts being books or things to do with science and pranks. As things wound down Papyrus approached the camera with a small gift in his hands.

 

SANS AND I BOUGHT YOU SOMETHING THIS YEAR! WE FEEL BAD THAT SANTA DOESN'T GET YOU ANYTHING BECAUSE YOU'RE ON HIS NAUGHTY LIST, SO...” Little Papyrus smiled and shrugged, Gaster handing over the camera to him in exchange for the gift.

 

Gaster ripped open the wrapping to reveal a coffee mug with #1 DAD written on the side. He smiled and glanced between them both. “Wow. Thanks boys. Although I think this is pretty inaccurate.” The doctor laughed.

 

The video carried on a little further, the family happily spending their time together around the poorly decorated tree before it cut out and the video stopped altogether.

 

Sans and Papyrus sat side-by-side in silence until the older of the two reached out to remove the tape. Papyrus looked at him, Sans having been silent throughout the whole thing.

 

“ARE YOU OKAY?”

 

“yeah.” Sans said, then paused and remembered his promise. “... no. not really.”

 

Papyrus shifted a little and hugged his legs against his chest. “... IT'S OKAY, SANS. I'M SAD TOO.”

 

Sans slumped back down and leaned against his little brother, who wiped the last of his tears away from his eye sockets. “I CAN'T BELIEVE I DON'T REMEMBER ANY OF THAT. IT'S SO... WEIRD.”

 

“it isn't your fault, pap.”

 

“NO... I KNOW. BUT I STILL FEEL GUILTY.” He said, falling quiet for a moment. “HE LOOKED LIKE A REALLY GOOD DAD.”

 

“he tried.” Sans said, looking down at the tape in his hands.

 

Papyrus glanced down at him. “I'D LIKE TO MEET HIM SOMEDAY.”

 

His brother turned and met his gaze, Papyrus' smile doing little to comfort him this time. He turned away and looked back at his lap.

 

“SANS, YOU SAID YOU WOULDN'T BE HAPPY UNTIL YOU TRIED. YOU SAID YOU WOULDN'T GIVE UP AGAIN.”

 

“i know, i know. i just...” Sans put a hand over his face. “i've already tried so hard and it's gotten nowhere...”

 

“TRY AGAIN.” Papyrus encouraged, dropping his legs from his chest so he could face his brother. “YOU HAVE FRIENDS TO HELP YOU. I'M HERE FOR YOU, ALPHYS AND UNDYNE ARE HERE FOR YOU. EVEN THE QUEEN IS HERE FOR YOU NOW.” He smiled, “YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO THIS ALONE.”

 

When Sans didn't say anything Papyrus continued. “NOW YOU HAVE SO MANY MORE OPTIONS FOR HELP AND... MATERIALS AND EVERYTHING! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING ON THE SURFACE. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS TRY.” He smiled and turned, taking his brother's shoulders and spinning him around so they were facing one another.

 

“I BELIEVE IN YOU, BROTHER. I BELIEVE IN YOU EVEN IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.”

 

Sans looked up at him before he inhaled deeply and closed his eyes. “pap... you know what could happen if it goes wrong, right? it could completely destroy this whole timeline just like it did ours. is that really worth it? is the small chance i might find dad worth the risk?”

 

“YES.” Papyrus said without missing a beat. Sans looked up at him in surprise.

 

“YOU KNOW WHY I THINK IT'S WORTH IT? BECAUSE I DON'T THINK IT WILL HAPPEN.” He smiled and squeezed his brother's shoulders. “YOU'RE THE SMARTEST PERSON I'VE EVER KNOWN. I DON'T THINK, EVEN FOR A SECOND, THAT YOU WILL FAIL IF YOU REALLY TRY, IF YOU LET YOUR FRIENDS HELP YOU. YOU CAN DO IT.”

 

Sans stared up at him before leaning forward and wrapping his arms around Papyrus, who hugged him back tightly.

 

“DON'T WORRY ABOUT PAYING RENT OR UNPACKING YOUR THINGS. I'LL GET A JOB TO HELP OUT. I'LL MAKE YOU MY GREATEST SPAGHETTI EVERY NIGHT. I'LL DO WHATEVER IT IS YOU NEED. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS ASK. LET ME TAKE CARE OF YOU FOR ONCE.”

 

Slowly Sans smiled, his face hiding in the crook of his brother's neck. “why are you so great, pap?”

 

Papyrus smiled, “BECAUSE I WAS RAISED BY THE GREATEST BROTHER. NYEH-HEH-HEH!”

 

Sans sighed and let his head rest on his little brother's shoulder, smiling.

 

 

--

 

Sans held up to his promise.

 

After a lot more urging from his little brother Sans approached Alphys with his idea, or rather the idea that his father had originally had. He thought that maybe, just maybe, he would get lucky and it had all been an engineering problem. Even if it wasn't two brains were better than one, right?

 

Sans spent most of the first day filling Alphys in on everything that had happened, at least to some extent. He told her that him and Papyrus were from another timeline and their father, the royal scientist before her, was potentially trapped between time and space. He wanted to try and find him, to finally save him and get their happy ending.

 

Despite how strange it all sounded, Alphys happily offered her assistance.

 

They began to build it inside the old lab near the core, knowing that if they did manage to get it working it would need some serious power. Not only that, but if something were to happen... well, the further away it was from everyone the better, and most monsters had moved out of the underground.

 

The two began to rebuild the machine from the blueprints Sans had stolen all those years ago. The surface provided them with much better building materials than the junk he had used rebuilding it as a teenager and even possibly even better than what Gaster had used to build it.

 

It took months to get it up and running to the stage that Sans had gotten it to before, monitoring timelines as they stretched on into infinity. He was shocked to see that the stopping and starting that had been so prevalent before had nearly stopped completely.

 

Once the first part of the machine was complete and working properly, Sans and Alphys stood side-by-side admiring their work. They both knew the job was only halfway over.

 

“alph...” Sans began as they sat in front of the time machine eating lunch.

 

“Hm?” The lizard blinked and looked over to him, a pair of chopsticks sliding strings of noodles into her mouth.

 

“remember what i told you when we started this whole thing? about what it did to my timeline?” He said, slumped over the back of his chair as he stared at the machine.

 

“Y-yeah.”

 

“what if it happens again?” Sans frowned and looked down at the half-empty bag of chisps in his hand. “what if we mess up?”

 

Alphys looked at him, the frills on her head lowering slightly. “Uh... w-well then there will be n-no one to hate us for messing up?” She laughed nervously, realizing that was probably a terrible thing to say but being unable to sum up any sort of encouragement.

 

Sans groaned and dropped his chisps, hands pressing into his eye sockets.

 

“S-sorry... I'm n-not good at pep-talk...” The lizard frowned.

 

“no... it's fine, alph.” The skeleton said around his palms as he inhaled sharply. When he dropped them again he looked over at her. “let's just take a break today. we got it working, that's a pretty big achievement.”

 

Alphys finished slurping up her instant noodles and nodded before setting the plastic cup aside. “S-sounds good.”

 

The two stood up and began their long walk out of the lab. Silence stretched between them until, eventually, Alphys spoke up. “Y'know, we have a-a lot more to work with than your dad probably did. Technology has come l-leaps and bounds. I... I think we can do it.” She finally managed to say, a smile spreading across her snout. Sans looked at her in surprise before returning her grin all the same.

 

“Talk to Papyrus when you g-get home. He always ch-cheers you up.”

 

“... yeah. i will.”

 

 

That evening when Papyrus returned home from shopping and began making dinner, Sans sat at the table trying to work up the courage to talk to him like Alphys suggested. Despite how much he loved and trusted his little brother it was still hard, he wasn't used to actually talking to anyone about anything.

 

But he had made a promise.

 

“pap.” He suddenly said, his brother turning to look at him as he hovered over the stove. “we're at the point with the time machine when... the accident happened.”

 

“OH THAT'S GREAT!” Papyrus grinned, then paused and thought about what that meant for a moment. “OH, WAIT. I SUPPOSE THAT'S A BAD THING? BUT YOU'VE MADE PROGRESS! YOU'RE NEARLY THERE!”

 

“yeah...” Sans said, suddenly looking down into his lap and then holding his head in his hands.

 

Papyrus' expression fell, “ARE YOU WORRIED THE SAME THING WILL HAPPEN?”

 

It took a moment for Sans to finally nod.

 

“WELL, DON'T BE.” The skeleton smiled, “I BELIEVE IN YOU, BROTHER. YOU AND ALPHYS ARE VERY SMART. I'M SURE YOU'LL SUCCEED TOGETHER WHERE OUR FATHER FAILED.”

 

Sans sighed heavily and rubbed at his face. “what if we don't, pap? what if the same thing happens?”

 

“IT WON'T.” Papyrus said as he turned back to the stove.

 

“but what if it does?”

 

“IT WON'T.” He said again, looking over his shoulder at Sans with a loving smile. “YOU'RE MUCH TOO HARD ON YOURSELF. YOU'LL NEVER KNOW UNTIL YOU TRY. YOU'VE ALREADY COME SO FAR, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU STOPPED NOW?”

 

Sans leaned on one palm and looked over at him. “our timeline won't be destroyed for a second time?”

 

Papyrus rolled his eye sockets. “NO. THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD HAPPEN WOULD BE YOU BEING SAD AGAIN. YOU WOULD MOPE ABOUT AND BE DEPRESSED AND...” He trailed off for a moment, his expression faltering slightly before he turned back to pay attention to his cooking and hide his emotions. “... AND WE'LL TRULY NEVER HAVE A CHANCE TO SEE OUR DAD AGAIN.”

 

Sans felt a lump grow where his throat would have been. Sometimes he forgot that Papyrus really didn't remember a thing from when they were children. The only thing he had of his past was a single videotape and fuzzy images of a goofy, over-exuberant father.

 

If he didn't want to do this for his own happiness, he had to convince himself it was for Papyrus' instead.

 

“yeah... you're right pap.” He finally smiled over at him. “sorry. it's just hard to stop giving up when you're so used to it all the time.”

 

“THAT'S ALRIGHT, BROTHER.” Papyrus said as he dished out a plate of spaghetti and placed it in front of him. “BONE-APPETITE. NYEH-HEH-HEH.”

 

 

Later that evening Sans made a visit to Toriel, who was living only a few doors down. He knocked and only had to wait a few minutes for the former Queen to open the door.

 

“Oh, Sans! Greetings.” She smiled and stepped aside to let him through. “Come in my friend. Is there something you need?”

 

“thanks tori.” Sans smiled, taking the time to brush off his slippers on the welcome mat before walking inside.

 

“don't really need anythin', but... uh...” He inhaled deeply and rubbed the back of his head. “was hoping to talk about something.”

 

Toriel's eyes widened. “Of course. I am all ears.” She grinned and gestured to her floppy ears with a giggle. Sans chuckled back. “Frisk is spending the night at a friend's this evening, so if you wanted privacy this is the perfect night for it.”

 

The goat-monster lead him into the kitchen, the smell of freshly baked pie almost always present. “Would you care for a drink? Or perhaps a slice of pie?”

 

“sure.” Sans smiled as he pulled himself up onto a chair. He watched as Toriel went about slicing him a piece of pie and getting him a glass of milk to set in front of him. “I am sorry for all of this mess.” She said, pushing a few stacks of paper and books away off the table. “I am studying to be accepted into a school for teaching. Things have changed quiet drastically since I was last on the surface.”

 

“it's fine, tori. y'know me, mess ain't anything i'm bothered with.” Sans said through a mouthful of pie.

 

Toriel chuckled, “Yes. I suppose that is right.”

 

She sat down across from him once she deemed the space tidy enough and folded her hands in front of herself on the table. “Now, what is it you would like to discuss?”

 

Sans' chewing slowed, the skeleton taking much longer than usual before washing it down with some milk. After a moment of awkward stalling he looked up at the former Queen, who was patiently waiting. He sighed, “i... y'know that project i'm working on with alphys?”

 

“Yes.” Toriel said, the two of them having discussed it briefly here and there. She knew what it was and what it's intention was, but little beyond that.

 

“well... we're reaching a point where... something bad might happen.” He finally said, pupils dimming.

 

Toriel's smile fell. “Oh...”

 

“yeah...” Sans mumbled and glanced away. He awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck before looking to his friend. “i promised something to you once, so i was, uh, wondering if you could promise something for me.”

 

“Of course, Sans.” Toriel said, reaching out to place a fuzzy, warm hand on his comparatively small, cold one.

 

He looked down at her clawed digits before suddenly taking it and looking up at her, squeezing her hand tightly. “promise me you'll look after papyrus if something happens to me.”

 

Toriel looked shocked for a moment, not only by his words but by the slight trembling of his hand that squeezed hers so tightly. “Of... of course, my friend.” She smiled warmly at him and placed her other hand over her soul. “I promise you with all my being I will watch over your little brother if something were to happen to you.”

 

Sans sighed, his voice shaking. “good...”

 

“But-” Toriel began, the skeleton's head snapping up to look at her worriedly. “-you have nothing to fear. You are an exceptionally brilliant monster. I am sure that whatever you plan to do, you will succeed.”

 

Sans' worry melted off his face and he smiled, chuckling slightly while trying to hide a blush over his cheeks. It was so strange to have everyone cheering him on, to have so many friends standing behind him and saying how great and smart he was. He felt like his entire life had been the opposite; dark, alone and nothing but a failure.

 

But like Papyrus had said, that life was over. This was a new beginning.

 

“thanks tori...”

 

 

With renewed hope and plenty of encouragement, Sans went right back to work on the machine with Alphys. Now things were getting into the unknown. This was something he had never managed to finish before and, if things went wrong, it would mean doom for everyone in the area, if not the entire timeline itself.

 

Needless to say they took it slow.

 

Weeks turned into months and months into years. With only two of them working it took a very long time, especially with how cautious they had to be.

 

Until, finally, it was the moment of truth. After routing the last of the power to the machine, it was time to flip the switch.

 

“ready?” Sans looked over at Alphys, his hand hovering over the lever.

 

“A-as ready as I'll e-ever be.” The lizard said, pulling a pair of goggles over her glasses.

 

Sans did the same, his fingers drumming on the switch and recalling the catastrophe he had witnessed all those decades ago. He hesitated for a moment before scrunching his eyes closed.

 

If not for yourself, for Papyrus.

 

He held his breath and yanked the lever downward.

 

The machine whirred to life, Sans and Alphys watching from behind a plate of protective glass. Two large pillars on either side of the machine sucked in the power from the core, feeding it through and pulling energy into its center. Electricity arced between them, the sound of buzzing and humming growing louder and louder.

 

The two scientists looked at each other tentatively before their attention turned back to the machine. The walls and floor began to shake, papers falling from their desks before there was a flash of negative light.

 

They flinched away before everything suddenly went silent and the room stopped shaking. Slowly Alphys peered around behind her hands and Sans moved his arm away from his eyes. In front of them was what looked like a black hole, a rip in space and time.

 

“Is- is that...?” Alphys began, Sans taking his hand from the lever before quickly walking around the protective glass. She had just enough time to catch the possessive look on his face, quickly grabbing his arm.

 

“S-sans! W-wait, you can't just go running in there!” She urged, having to forcefully hold him back.

 

He turned and looked at her, eye sockets wide. His gaze shot back to the hole and he relaxed, having been much too eager to just jump right in in the hope that his father would be hiding just inside. “y-yeah... you're right.”

 

“W-we need to make sure it's stable. Th-then we'll see if w-we can go in safely, o-okay?” Alphys pleaded, for once having to be firm and authoritative just so Sans wouldn't run off and potentially get himself killed.

 

“yeah... yeah...” Sans rubbed his face. “sorry alph. i just got... really excited is all.”

 

“I-it's okay.” She offered him an understanding smile, “W-we're almost there. Just a few days of study and w-we'll be ready to go.”

 

He nodded in agreement before looking back at the hole of complete darkness in front of them.

 

 

Days passed where the two mulled over data nonstop with very little sleep or pause. They would have to get as much information as quickly as possible, as not even the core could power such an impressive feat indefinitely. During the third day they did their first tests.

 

“Trial number one: coffee cup.” Alphys said into a camera before it zoomed over to Sans, who stood behind the protective glass beside her. He waved at the camera before holding up a coffee cup tied to some industrial-grade rope, then used his telekenisis to guide the cup into the black void in front of them. After a moment of hesitation he tossed it in, the cup and rope vanishing as soon as it touched the blackness.

 

Sans looked down at a watch on his wrist while Alphys spoke for the camera. “30 seconds.”

 

Once the time was up Sans pulled on the rope, the cup being dragged from the void and across the floor towards them. There was strange black ooze around one side. The skeleton put on a thick glove and grabbed a set of tongs to pick up the cup and set it on a desk. Alphys followed him with the camera.

 

“Cup appears i-intact save for a strange black... slime... a-around the left side.” She recorded as Sans scraped off what he could into a dish before grabbing the cup again and tossing it back into the void once they were behind the glass. They repeated the experiment a few more times, extending the time it stayed in more and more, but each test got the same results.

 

After a few more different objects, all with the same mundane results, they tested the strange black ooze that had been gathered each time.

 

Despite spending another few days trying to figure out what it was, both of them were at a loss. It was nothing that supposedly even existed in their world. It was neither dark matter nor anything they had ever seen. It didn't react to anything they tried it with; if anything the lack of reaction was the most interesting.

 

Fire? Below-freezing temperatures? Organic matter? Nothing made it react. They were both at a loss.

 

But that discovery would have to come later. The days were beginning to turn into weeks and they only had so much time before the machine itself would cease to be able to withstand the energy being put into it just to keep the void open.

 

It was time for the real test.

 

Sans hooked the rope around himself. He wore thick rain boots, gloves, a mask, and goggles, armed with as much protection as he could as well as various tools in his pockets and on a belt around his waist. He looked at Alphys as she nervously stood behind the glass and gave her a thumbs up.

 

“A-alright...” She said nervously, both of them poising fingers over their stopwatches. “Y-you've got 30 seconds. R-ready?”

 

Sans nodded and hit his watch. “go.”

 

He held his breath and jumped into the void, landing on the other side. His feet made no noise as it hit the ground and he began to look around. There were windows everywhere. Thousands upon thousands of windows filled with code. He stood and stared in amazement before eventually realizing he had to be keeping time, quickly looking down at his watch.

 

It wasn't moving.

 

As much as he wanted to run forward and explore, he refrained. He had to do this carefully. One step at a time. He counted back until his 30 seconds were up and then turned, jumping through where the rope abruptly stopped and landing back into the lab.

 

Alphys looked up at him in surprise. “Wh-what? Y-you weren't even gone f-for...” She glanced down at her stopwatch and clicked the button. “... F-five seconds.”

 

Sans looked back at the void, a sinking feeling washing over him. If time really meant so little there... how long had it felt like to Gaster who had been stuck there over the last 20+ years? The thought made him sick to his nonexistent stomach.

 

“time works a lot differently there.” He said before his excitement returned. “alph, you won't believe what it's like.” Sans said, more enthusiasm in his voice than she had ever heard before. “give me an hour. that'll be more than enough time to look around.”

 

“I... well... o-okay.” She looked down at her stopwatch, hitting the button just as Sans leapt back into the void.

 

Sans stood and looked around for a moment, then suddenly realized he couldn't breath. He hadn't taken a breath before jumping in. He put a hand to his mouth and resisted the urge to jump back out, taking a few moments to realize that it wasn't effecting him. It was uncomfortable and strange, but he could push through it and continue.

 

First thing was first; he had to find his father. As interesting as all the other data around him was, it wasn't his primary objective.

 

He began to hike through the sea of windows.

 

Sans walked and walked for what felt like hours. It was disorienting and uncomfortable, the lack of any sensation, even the feeling of walking, feeling incredibly alien and unusual. It was like every part of him was numb. The only light in the entire area came from the windows, but even that didn't stretch far at all.

 

It was just a never-ending sea of darkness. This was what they had seen before everything had gone wrong. This is what had swallowed their timeline.

 

Gaster had to be here. He had to be.

 

Sans wondered just how little time had passed since he jumped into the void. But, for the first time in a very long time, he was determined not to give up. He was here, he was in the place his father had been thrown into and he would be damned if he didn't spent every waking moment searching for him.

 

Finally he saw a faint light closer to where the ground was perceived to be.

 

Sans ran towards it. The closer he became the more excited he felt. A tiny, tiny speck of light shown out from the black goo on the ground. He stopped beside it and reached down, pushing the slime out of the way.

 

It was a soul.

 

It was a cracked, damaged soul with two holes drilled from its core.

 

Sans' hands began to shake. He quickly pulled a jar from his pocket and reached for the soul, but paused.

 

How was it still intact without a body? Monster souls couldn't persist without something holding it all together. Even boss monsters souls only lasted a few moments before shattering, so...

 

He began to feel about in the goo around the soul, digging with his gloved fingers and trying to feel for something, anything that could count as a body, but he found nothing. Sans sat on his knees in the void and stared at the damaged heart. After some thought he pushed the black goo off it and waited, watching as it slowly pulled back to hug the souls' surface.

 

That was it. Whatever this black mass was was holding Gaster's soul together. It was the only 'body' he had left. Sans didn't even care how or why, that could come later. What mattered now was getting him out of here and back into the living, breathing world.

 

Delicately Sans began to scoop up the soul and the slime surrounding it, gingerly placing it into the jar. He filled it with as much as he could before getting out another jar and filling more, just in case. His hands trembled as he held the container with his father's soul in it against his chest.

 

He had found him. He had finally found him.

 

As he stood up tears welled in his eye sockets. He pushed off his goggles to wipe them away and started to walk back the way the rope led, but something caught the corner of his eye just as he turned.

 

Sans paused and looked back.

 

One of the windows nearby glitched and twitched before flashing red, the image of a horrible smile displaying through lines of code.

 

A hand reached through the window, grabbing at its edge.

 

Chapter Text

Sans didn't need to guess what that was.

 

He took a step back, hoping to teleport as far away as the rope lead him, but stopped when he realized it didn't work. His eyes darted from the code to the area miles away where the rope lead back into the physical world. As the creature pulled itself from the window more and more he squeezed the jars against his chest.

 

Then he turned and ran.

 

Sans ran as fast as he ever had, suddenly cursing all of those naps and his horrible diet. He had never needed to really run before, it was all just shortcuts and quick side-steps. But now he wasn't just running for his own life, but his father's as well.

 

He looked down at the jar in his arm, the faintly glowing white heart tucked safely around all the black slime keeping it together. His head then turned to watch as the strange creature flopped from the window and pushed itself to a stand.

 

Quickly he wrapped an arm around the rope on his waist and gave it a few quick tugs, hoping that it would somehow get to Alphys in time before the thing caught up with him.

 

He glanced back now and then, the demon building itself up from the black muck. Red code mixed in with the strange ooze to create a horrible-looking monstrosity. The only thing that stayed the same was the horrible grin across its face.

 

It started to charge, moving much faster than he could ever hope. It came at him like a wave in the ocean, unavoidable and quick. It drew closer and closer until it was nearly touching him.

 

Sans squeezed the jar in his hands just as the demon collided with his back.

 

He landed on his front, the 'floor' soft and pliable. Sans kicked at it, his feet going right through but managing to break it apart enough to slow it down slightly. It grabbed his shoulders, rolling him over before doing much like it had in the last corridor.

 

It tore open his shirt.

 

The ooze began to seep down into his ribcage and make contact with his soul. As soon as it touched him it was as if a thousand knives were stabbing him from head to toe. He screamed, but no noise came out.

 

Sans desperately punched and kicked at the entity with his free hand and legs, but all it did was stall it slightly. He fought to stay conscious as it tried to possess him.

 

Then there was a sudden yank.

 

Sans began sliding across the floor, pulled from the creatures grasp. It looked up at him in surprise before it's mouth opened. Nothing came out, but he could feel it screaming.

 

It began to chase him as fast as it could, the wench on the other side of the portal barely able to keep up the same speed. It pulled and pulled, Sans grabbing hold of the rope and using his feet to roughly kick the demon in the face to slow it down. It stumbled only once, but that was all he needed. The end was in sight.

 

Sans crashed through into the physical world, sliding along the ground and hugging the two jars tightly against his chest. He spun around to Alphys, who was worriedly stood beside the wench.

 

“shut it down! SHUT IT DOWN!” He yelled, his voice louder than she had ever heard before. The lizard scrambled to the lever and yanked it downward. It began to wobble, the rip in time and space swirling as it began to close.

 

No. No it needed to go faster.

 

Sans scrambled to his feet and darted behind the glass, summoning an array of blasters overhead while still clutching the two jars like his life depended on it. The hole became smaller and smaller until a horrible cry echoed out from just behind it as it finally closed.

 

Red code shot across an invisible wall where the portal had once been before the entire machine shut down with a heavy CLUNK.

 

“Wh-what was that!?” Alphys stuttered, her eyes shooting over to the skeleton taking labored breaths beside her. He didn't answer her, instead collapsing to his knees and clutching his chest, the blasters above him dissipated.

 

“S-sans!” She raced over to him, arms outstretched. As she kneeled by his side he started to laugh.

 

“i... i got it... i found him...” He pushed his goggles and mask off before holding the jar out, his hands shaking.

 

Alphys looked at the jar, a tiny white soul floating inside amongst the black goo. “Th-that's your dad? H-how...”

 

“i dunno!” Sans said around his laughter, looking between her and the soul in the jar. “but i don't care. this is him. there's no mistaking it.”

 

She smiled at him, “I'm happy f-for you, Sans.” But her smile didn't last as she looked back to where the portal had been moments before. “B-but what was that? Was s-something chasing you?”

 

“yeah.” He said, trying to regain his composure as he stood up with Alphys' help.

 

“Wh-what was it?” She repeated.

 

“a bad memory.” Sans said, not having the energy to properly explain it all.

 

Alphys frowned, but didn't want to pry. If it was urgent information he would tell her, right? What was important now was Sans had finally gotten his father back.

 

 

Sans wasted no time in trying to figure out how to rebuild Gaster's body. He gently placed the soul and the goo surrounding it on an operating table and gave it awhile to see if anything happened now that they were back in the physical world. When nothing did he added the other jar, hoping maybe it just needed more building material, but still nothing happened.

 

Alphys was of little help now that engineering was out of the picture and she was, understandably, very hesitant about helping with something that involved a monster's soul. He sat mulling over data for weeks, comparing the notes Alphys had written down regarding determination in monsters to what he remembered from Gaster's. His own creation had never been a secret to him, his father always willing to share the process he went through in creating both him and Papyrus, as well as the things he had put Sans through as a child.

 

Despite how guilty he had felt it was still science, and he didn't want to hide such a thing from either of his boys.

 

Eventually Sans decided there was only one thing he could do; use determination to boost his father's ability to rebuild his body. He reluctantly approached Alphys with the idea.

 

“A-Are you crazy!? You've seen wh-what that does to monsters! I m-mean he's already pretty gooey, b-but...” Alphys trailed off, fidgeting with her claws nervously.

 

“you know what else it can do, though?” He said, pausing before pointing at himself. Alphys gave him a confused look.

 

“i'm a clone. pap is too.”

 

“Whu-” Alphys mumbled, eyes going wide.

 

Sans sighed and folded his hands together, the two of them sat side-by-side on stools in front of her messy desk. “it's kinda personal so i didn't really say on just how he's my dad, y'know? but... yeah. we're clones.”

 

“Th-that's... amazing... I m-mean s-sorry, but...” Alphys gave him a nervous shrug.

 

“yeah i know. he used a part of his soul and body, along with determination to make me and papyrus.” He said, not going into detail about how much more determination had been pumped into him after the fact.

 

“so... we just have to figure out the perfect amount.” Sans inhaled deeply and looked over at the lizard. “which brings me to why i'm telling you this. do you have any left?”

 

Alphys flinched away at the question. “N-no. It's all long since b-been used up... I'm s-sorry, Sans.”

 

He sighed and hung his head, then abruptly smiled and raised it up again. “don't worry, alph. i know where to get more.” Sans had figured this was going to be a real possibility, so it was no shock. He lifted up his shirt to reveal his own glowing white soul.

 

The ridges on Alphys' head raised in alarm. “N-No way, Sans!” She frowned, “Th-that might k-kill you!”

 

“you know what also might have killed me and done a lot worse? making the machine.” Sans said as he pulled his shirt back down, his eye sockets pleading. “alph, please. we've come this far and this is the only idea i have. i have to go through with it.”

 

“Oh my god.” The lizard squeezed her eye shut and clutched at her head. “F-fine... i-if you really have n-no other choice. The D-DT extractor is still up, b-but we'll need to reroute power back t-to it.”

 

 

The two did just that, spending the next few days rerouting the power that had been fed into the time machine into the DT extractor once more. Alphys was understandably nervous to use it again after what happened last time and she had never tried using it on a monster soul, so this was all an unknown to both of them.

 

Sans pulled off his lab coat and shirt as he stood in front of it, a slow smile spreading across his face. “funny how everything he built ended up looking like a skull.”

 

“Huh?” Alphys blinked, looking over at him from her position at the controls.

 

“everything he built looked like this. i still don't know why.” Sans gestured to the extractor.

 

The lizard smiled a little, “W-well soon m-maybe you can ask him.”

 

Sans smiled back and positioned himself in the machine.

 

“R-ready?” Alphys said, waiting for Sans to give her a thumbs up before inhaling deeply and beginning to start the procedure.

 

Sans lay still as the machine hooked itself up to his soul, wincing at the feeling and gritting his teeth. He knew this would be painful and he knew there was a chance he wouldn't make it out alive, but he had to try.

 

As the machine began to suck the determination from his soul Sans clenched at the table he was laying on. He could feel it draining him away, pulling what was keeping him together out of his soul. He huffed and puffed through his teeth, desperately wanting to keep himself composed for as long as possible. Sans knew when he started screaming Alphys would shut everything down.

 

His legs twitched and he felt himself almost pass out. Sans' left eye flared into action, blue and yellow flickering inside his eye socket as the pain finally reached a crescendo.

 

He started to scream, his legs kicking and his hands squeezing at the edge of the table.

 

“O-Oh god. Oh god.” Alphys muttered and instantly began to shut down the machine, but it was a lengthy process.

 

There was a sickening CRACK and suddenly Sans was still.

 

“Oh no. Ohnoohnoohno!” Alphys scrambled through the controls, quickly jumping off her seat once the machine powered down. She pulled the table Sans laid on out from underneath it and gasped.

 

The skeleton lay unconscious, a crack running up along the top of his left eye socket with blue and yellow magic seeping from it and his mouth.

 

 

Papyrus was home doing laundry when his cellphone rang. He dug around in the pocket of his jeans for it, flipping it open to see 'ALPHYS' in large letters across its front. With a smile he accepted the call, holding the phone up to where his ear would have been while he began loading in the laundry with his free hand.

 

“HELLO ALPHYS! HOW IS-” He was abruptly cut off as the lizard on the other end began to ramble on and on, something about things going wrong and Sans being hurt. “WAIT, ALPHYS SLOW DOWN.” Papyrus said worriedly, standing up straight and dropping one of Sans' dirty socks back into the basket.

 

“I-i-it's Sans! He-he's hurt! We t-tried... oh god. Oh god...” Alphys mumbled from the other end.

 

Papyrus swallowed the lump in his nonexistent throat. “I'LL BE RIGHT THERE.”

 

He hung up and threw everything down, racing for the door and shoving on his boots before jumping into his car. He had only recently learned to drive but was surprisingly good at it and it wasn't exactly his dream car, but that would come soon enough.

 

The skeleton drove up the bumpy dirt road that had been made only recently, stopping at the entrance of the underground near the top of the mountain. He then had to make his way through the castle and into the old lab in Hotland before he could get to his brother.

 

Alphys was already waiting at the entrance to lead him deeper into the facility. She looked more exhausted and stressed out than usual.

 

“SO WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED?” Papyrus asked, calm but worried.

 

“W-Well we-... he found your d-dad.” Alphys said, knowing Sans hadn't been back home since or talked to anyone. He hadn't wanted to get Papyrus' hopes up if things didn't turn out right. The skeleton stopped dead in his tracks and looked at Alphys with wide eye sockets.

 

“It-it isn't as good as you think.” She frowned, her hands rubbing themselves nervously. “Y-your dad is... b-basically just a s-soul.” They started walking again. “Sans wanted t-to use determination to see if it w-would help him rebuild his body, but th-the only determination we had was... inside him.” She grimaced while punching the button for the elevator.

 

Papyrus only vaguely knew what determination even was, but that wasn't important right now. What was important was making sure his brother was alright.

 

“H-he said he wanted to try it. I kn-knew it was a bad idea.” Alphys put her hands over her eyes as they slowly descended downward into the deeper sections of the lab. “H-he's hurt now. I-I'm not good with magic. I c-called you as soon as I got him comfortable.”

 

Papyrus looked at the lizard sadly before he forced a little smile. “IT ISN'T YOUR FAULT, ALPHYS. IF BROTHER WANTED TO DO IT HE WOULD HAVE DONE SO WITH OR WITHOUT YOUR HELP. I'M GLAD YOU WERE AROUND FOR HIM WHEN THINGS DID GET BAD.”

 

She looked up at him and managed a tired smile. “Y-yeah. I guess you're right.”

 

They eventually made it to the level Sans was staying on and walked down a few corridors before she opened the door to a room filled with cots. Only one was in use now, Papyrus' brother laying under a few blankets with half of his head bandaged up. Monitoring equipment was hooked up to him, the soft hum from the machines being the only sound in the room.

 

Papyrus rushed over to him, quickly taking his brother's hand and squeezing it. “SANS?” He said as softly as he could, his brother unresponsive.

 

“H-he's still unconscious. He hasn't w-woken up since it ha-happened. But it w-wasn't that long ago.” Alphys said as she stood beside him.

 

Papyrus looked at the bandages wrapped around his brother's head, already starting to soak through with a mix of blue and yellow magic. He frowned and pulled off one of his gloves before turning to Alphys. “DO YOU HAVE A STOOL I COULD SIT ON? MY HEALING MAGIC ISN'T TOO BAD.”

 

“Y-yes, of course.” Alphys nodded and grabbed a stool to set beside the bed, then set out undoing the bandages gently to give Papyrus better access to his wound. Upon seeing it he winced.

 

A long crack ran up along over his brother's left eye and gauze had been gently placed into his eye socket to try and keep the magic from pooling inside it. Alphys gently pulled it out with a pair of tweezers and threw it into the garbage. “I-I'll get new dressings while you d-do that.”

 

Papyrus nodded and settled himself to sit beside his brother. He inhaled deeply before his soul began to glow through his shirt and faint pupils appeared in his eye sockets. They flickered between orange and dark blue, the same glow appearing around his hand as he hovered it over his brother's wound.

 

After awhile Alphys returned, fresh bandages in her arms. Upon seeing her Papyrus stopped, sweat on his brow as he flexed his hand and the glow vanished. She peered at the crack, now slightly smaller.

 

“W-wow. I didn't r-realize you were so good with magic. O-outside of what Undyne has told me anyway.” She offered him a nervous smile as he moved back to give Alphys room.

 

“IT'S ALWAYS COME PRETTY NATURAL TO ME.” Papyrus shrugged, watching as Alphys patched his brother back up.

 

Once she was finished she turned to face him. “I-I'm not sure what else to d-do now... You're free to st-stay as long as you need.”

 

Papyrus nodded, “THANK YOU.”

 

 

Alphys left the two alone, occasionally checking up on how they were doing. Eventually Papyrus ended up falling asleep holding his brother's hand, the magic he used on him rather draining even for him. Alphys woke him up after a few hours and offered him what meager food and drink she had, which he happily accepted.

 

He stayed the night, but during the next morning decided it was best to head home and get some things done, at least for awhile. If anything happened he knew Alphys was sure to call.

 

Another day passed with Papyrus driving up and down the mountain multiple times a day before Sans finally woke up. The younger of the two had just arrived when his phone rang.

 

“P-Papyrus! He's awake!” The lizard said happily from the other end, Papyrus' face lit up.

 

“I'M ALREADY HERE, I'LL BE RIGHT DOWN.”

 

He raced to the elevator and rode down before sprinting to the room he knew Sans was staying in. As he swung open the door he watched Sans tiredly turn his head to face him.

 

“hey pap...” Sans mumbled, his voice hoarse and even quieter than usual.

 

Papyrus raced over to him and hugged him as gently as his enthusiasm would allow before sitting back on the stool. “SANS! I'M SO GLAD YOU'RE AWAKE!”

 

“me too.” The skeleton tried to smile, but it came out flat. He was still very, very tired.

 

“ALPHYS TOLD ME ALL ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED.” He said, looking at the lizard standing on the other side of the bed. “SHE SAID YOU FOUND DAD, BUT NEEDED DETERMINATION TO HELP PUT HIM BACK TOGETHER. THAT'S HOW THIS ALL HAPPENED?”

 

“yep, that's about the gist of it.”

 

“YOU SHOULD REALLY EAT AND DRINK SOMETHING.” Papyrus said, lifting up a plastic bag he had brought with him. “I EVEN GOT SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE JUNKFOOD.”

 

“thanks pap, you're the best.” Sans smiled.

 

 

The following days were mostly spent trying to keep Sans in bed. He desperately wanted to get up and continue work when he was awake, but a lot of the time was spent sleeping. Eventually the magic oozing from his eye stopped, although they kept it bandaged up just to try and keep it healing properly.

 

After a week they finally allowed him out of bed, but only if he was accompanied by one of them and used a wheelchair. Papyrus helped his brother into one, a blanket draped over his lap while he wheeled him towards the room their father was currently in. The vial of DT sat in Sans' lap.

 

“SO THIS IS IT?” His little brother asked as he paused outside the door.

 

“yep. dad's inside. or what's left of him anyway.” Sans said, craning his neck back to look up at Papyrus. He watched as his little brother's hand hovered on the doorknob before finally pushing it open and wheeling Sans inside.

 

“there he is.” He gestured to the pile of black goo resting on top of an operating table.

 

Papyrus wheeled Sans up close before peering down at the slime, the soul hidden somewhere in its mass. “AND YOU'RE SURE THIS IS HIM?”

 

“without a doubt. you can't see it but his soul is in there. wheel me over to that table.” Sans pointed to a nearby workbench, Papyrus doing exactly as he was told.

 

His older brother got right to work filling a syringe with the determination. While he worked Papyrus stood by him, unable to remove his gaze from the pile of black goo on the table. “DO YOU THINK IT WILL WORK?”

 

“i dunno, pap. it's all we can try at this point.”

 

Sans finished and Papyrus wheeled him over to the operating table. He pushed away the goo from the white soul sitting in the middle and took a deep breath. “here we go...” He stabbed the syringe into the soul, DT being pumped into it before he pulled it away.

 

The two waited.

 

Slowly the black ooze began to fluctuate and build around the soul, pulling together and duplicating. The mound grew and grew until it nearly filled the entire operating table. Sans could feel Papyrus clutch at the handles of his wheelchair, ready to yank it backwards at a moment's notice.

 

With time two white hands pushed out from the muck, followed by a vaguely head-shaped white blob on top of the black mound.

 

“d-dad...?” Sans said, hopeful. But the blob didn't react, his eye sockets blank and his mouth turned in a sad frown. The two skeletons looked at one another, Papyrus appearing much more worried than his brother. This was nothing like his father looked like in the video.

 

But Sans had an idea. He reached up, taking the boney hand floating on top of the black slime into his own.

 

“knock-knock.” He paused, before continuing all on his own. “amish.” Another pause. “a mish you too!”

 

Nothing happened, so he tried again.

 

“knock-knock... doughnut... doughnut worry, it's just a joke.”

 

Papyrus looked down at him before realization came over his face. He smiled and walked around his brother's wheelchair to take hold of his father's other hand. “WHAT DO YOU CALL A FAKE NOODLE? … AN IMPASTA! NYEH-HEH-HEH!”

 

“why are there fences around a graveyard?” Sans asked, smiling up at his brother. “because people are dying to get in!”

 

“WHY DO GHOSTS LOVE ELEVATORS? BECAUSE IT LIFTS THEIR SPIRITS!” Papyrus said back, then groaned and palmed himself in the face. This was terrible, but if it helped their father regain some of himself, it would all be worth it.

 

“what's the difference between ignorance and apathy?” He looked at Papyrus, who raised one of the ridges of his brow. “i don't know and i don't care.”

 

“PFFT NYEH-HEH-HEH-HEH!” The taller skeleton laughed. “OKAY THAT ONE WASN'T TOO BAD.”

 

They both instantly went quiet as the goo started to shift, both of them keeping their hands on Gaster's. Slowly it started to rise up, the head poking from the mound turning and positioning itself on the front. It turned, looking at Sans at first, then at Papyrus before it's head shifted down to look at his hands held by theirs.

 

His fingers twitched before he suddenly realized he could feel them. He could feel them.

 

Gaster's eye sockets widened and his hands squeezed his son's. Slowly a dot of light appeared in each eye, moving back and forth between Sans and Papyrus' faces. His toothless mouth suddenly turned upward into a smile and the slime that made up his body moved forward, silently slipping off the table to 'stand' in front of them.

 

He brought the hand holding Sans' to the older boy's face, feeling his cheek before doing much the same to Papyrus. His mouth wobbled before black goo began to drip from his eye sockets, the mass making up his shoulders shaking as he cried silently.

 

An arm stretched out, pulling Papyrus down to his brother's level so he could hug both of them at the same time. Sans and Papyrus happily hugged him back, squeezing his hands tightly in theirs.

 

All of them shed tears of joy, finally back together again.

 

 

The following week was mostly spent recovering in Alphys' lab for not only Sans, but Gaster as well. Papyrus came and went as often as he could, being the only one fit enough to go out and buy them food and bring back entertainment. Gaster was unable to speak and occasionally having a hard time holding his form. Sans wasn't much better, spending a lot of time sleeping and recovering from his ordeal extracting DT from his soul.

 

Despite everything they enjoyed things the same as any family would. They watched modern TV together and discussed at length about almost anything and everything, Papyrus being the big talker as he always was. Gaster and Sans were just happy to sit and listen to him a lot of the time.

 

One thing that had changed was Gaster was much more affectionate. Whenever he could he would hug one or both of them, longing to be in contact with his boys as much as he could. It had been so long since he had felt anything at all, it was such a great joy to have sensation again.

 

After a few days of recovery and spending quality time together, Gaster finally decided to ask Sans about what had happened when Papyrus was out of the room. He stood by his son's bed, Sans' eye still bandaged.

 

'What happened?' Gaster signed before gesturing to his eye.

 

“... oh. heh, was waiting for you to ask.” Sans smirked and closed his other eye. He had told Gaster everything up until the point where they had rescued him already. “you weren't really... forming so i, uh, kinda pulled out the dt from myself and injected it into you instead.”

 

The doctor's eye sockets widened before he gently shoved his son in the shoulder. 'You fucking idiot, that could have killed you!'

 

Sans laughed, having missed his father's rather uncouth pattern of speech. “i know. it was the best idea i could come up with.”

 

Gaster's angry expression softened before he smiled and signed, 'To be fair I would have done the same thing. You are my boy after all.'

 

“guess so.” He smirked.

 

The two fell silent before Gaster reached forward, rubbing the top of his son's skull with his hand just like he used to. 'I'm proud of you. I'm proud of Papyrus too. You've both exceeded any expectation I ever had and more.'

 

Sans could feel himself blush a little. “thanks dad.”

 

The goo's smile widened, 'I don't think I'll ever tire of hearing you call me that.'

 

His son chuckled, “i'm over what happened. it's ancient history now. you've more than made up for it.”

 

Gaster's shoulders visible loosened. 'For what it's worth now, I'm sorry.'

 

“don't be. your intentions were in the right place.”

 

The two shared another moment of comfortable silence before Gaster signed again. 'This does pose a question, however. If I have your determination, or at least some of it, how much of your abilities remain? Perhaps I'm the one with them now.'

 

Sans shrugged, “i dunno. i'm not really in the best state to test that out and neither are you. let's just get some rest first, alright? i know you're 'wing dings the science king' but you gotta take a break too. let's just be a family for awhile.”

 

Gaster nodded in agreement.

 

The following week Sans was capable of moving around on his own and the bandage was clear to be removed for good. After taking the last of it off Sans held a mirror up to his face, the crack small but still rather noticeable. He touched it with his hand and winced. It was still tender.

 

“IT DOESN'T LOOK NEARLY AS BAD AS IT DID.” Papyrus encouraged, looking at their father and waiting for him to agree.

 

'The ladies love disfigurement.' He signed with a grin.

 

“wow. thanks dad.”

 

“WHAT DID HE SAY?” Papyrus asked, unable to understand his father's gestures.

 

“he said ladies love disfigurement.”

 

“OH MY GOD, DAD!” The skeleton glared at Gaster, who laughed silently, his gooey shoulders bouncing up and down. “THAT'S A TERRIBLE THING TO SAY!”

 

“it's okay, pap. he's always been like this. you hated it back then too.” Sans smirked.

 

After getting an all-clear from Alphys in terms of Sans' health, they said their goodbyes and made their way up to the entrance of the underground. The sun was just beginning to set as they stood at the entrance. Papyrus was carrying Sans on his back, their father gliding beside them. He stooped just behind the large opening to the mountain and stared up at the sky.

 

It wasn't until he was a few steps ahead that Papyrus noticed his father wasn't beside him. He stopped and turned, looking back at him before following his gaze up to the sky. “OH, THAT'S RIGHT. YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THAT BEFORE HAVE YOU?”

 

Gaster finally blinked and looked at his son. 'I have, but... not for a very, very long time.'

 

Sans translated for him and Papyrus looked surprised. “YOU WERE ON THE SURFACE BEFORE? WOWIE!”

 

“hey, lets stick around and watch the sunset, huh? this'll be dad's first time since.” Sans suggested.

 

“THAT'S A GREAT IDEA!” Papyrus grinned and slowly leaned down to set his brother on his feet. “I'LL GO FETCH A BLANKET FROM THE CAR.”

 

Gaster looked at the area in front of him, slowly gliding out and looking up once more. He hadn't seen the sky in what felt like thousands upon thousands of years. Perhaps it had been, he no longer knew.

 

“like the view?” Sans asked, smiling over at his father.

 

Gaster smiled back and nodded, 'It's been a long time. I'm glad I get to see it again with you two. Just like we said all those years ago, huh?'

 

“yeah...” The skeleton sighed happily and looked up. For the first time in what felt like forever he could finally say he felt... relieved.

 

Papyrus soon returned with the blanket, laying it out along the ground so the three of them could sit and watch the sunset. After they were all comfortable Papyrus had to ask; “SO YOU WERE ON THE SURFACE BEFORE WE WERE SEALED AWAY? DID YOU FIGHT IN THE WAR?”

 

Sans laughed, “pap that might be a little much to ask.”

 

'It's alright.' Gaster signed, 'But yes, I was in the war.'

 

Once Sans had translated Papyrus grinned. “WOWIE! DID YOU FIGHT?”

 

'Yes.'

 

“wait, you did? i didn't think the royal scientist had to fight.” Sans raised a brow.

 

'Who said I was always the royal scientist? You don't get into that position overnight.'

 

“huh...” Sans said before translating for Papyrus.

 

“NEATO! HOW MANY HUMANS DID YOU CAPTURE?”

 

Sans and Gaster both shared a look. 'Tell him 'enough'.'

 

“uh... he said plenty.” Sans lied.

 

“THAT'S SO COOL! I HAVE THE COOLEST DAD EVER!” Papyrus grinned and wrapped his arms around Gaster, who smiled and pat his arm.

 

As the night drew closer Sans and Gaster did their best to steer Papyrus' questions away from the war and instead to their previous life, the one he didn't remember. They talked about what he was like as a baby, how he had been popular at school in the capitol, how he had loved puzzles and problem solving even back then, and even how they had all promised to look at the stars one day together like they would do now.

 

It was all perfect.

 

As the sun finally set and the stars became visible, the three of them huddled together and pointed out the constellations. You could see everything from up high on the mountain, not a single light to interfere with your view. They probably could have stayed there forever talking, but eventually Sans grew tired.

 

The three headed to Papyrus' car, Sans sliding into the passenger's seat and Papyrus helping Gaster into the back. As it started Gaster braced himself against the door.

 

“OH, SORRY. I GUESS YOU'VE NEVER BEEN IN A CAR BEFORE, HAVE YOU?” Papyrus asked, glancing back at his father through the rear-view mirror. He made idle chitchat as they drove down the mountain about how he wanted to get a shiny red convertible one day and how he had passed his driver's test on the first try.

 

Once home Sans was eager to get to bed and pass out. Papyrus and Gaster stayed up much later, both of them watching TV and having a rather one-sided conversation about Papyrus' favorite shows. Eventually though even he turned in, leaving Gaster by his lonesome.

 

He stood by the window looking outside at the sky. Gaster had always had hope that this day would come. He knew his boys would pull through and it had finally happened.

 

He couldn't be happrier.

 

 

The next few weeks were all about finding a routine as a family. The rent wouldn't pay itself and so Papyrus had to go back to a few of the odd jobs he had managed to land while Sans had been working in the lab. While he was gone Sans and Gaster mostly spent time hanging out and recovering. Sans was still a bit weak, but that was understandable given how frail he had always been. Gaster on the other hand seemed to get better every day.

 

Sans did his best to teach Gaster about the human world, knowing that a lot of the information they had gotten was dated and weird. Things had definitely changed in the time since they were sealed underground. Monster and human relations were much, much better than they had been.

 

That being said, Gaster was having trouble accepting it. He still hated and feared humans with a passion. Who could blame him after what he had been through?

 

It was a normal evening for everyone, the three sitting around the kitchen table forcing down Papyrus' terrible cooking. Sans had since long gotten used to it, but even Gaster seemed to enjoy eating it. It didn't matter that it was burnt or soggy, it was just nice to be able to eat again. The fact that it was made by his son was all the better.

 

As they finished and Papyrus was gathering the dishes, Gaster opened his mouth.

 

"Th̸at̸ ͜was.͏.̛. g̛o͠o͡d̸..͝. P..̨. ͘Pap̡yrus.͟.."

 

Both of his sons stopped what they were doing and looked over at him in surprise, then at each other. Gaster didn't sleep very much, so during his time alone he had been pushing himself to relearn how to speak. It was only now that he felt like he could string together a sentence.

 

“YOU CAN TALK!” Papyrus yelled, dropping the dishes in excitement. They clattered onto the floor, the skeleton not caring as he stepped over them to rush and hug his father. Sans stared at him from across the table, slowly smiling wider and wider.

 

Gaster laughed slightly, his voice rough and choppy. He patted his son on the arm and then smiled over at Sans. "B͝e͡e͝n...͠ w͜an̵tin̶g ͏t͘o͘.͞.. s̢urpris̴e y҉o̢u.̵.͞.͏"

 

Sans laughed a little, quickly pushing back tears of happiness.

 

"͢P͟a.̵.̧. Papy͏r͡us̷..̷.̶ y͡o̡u͏ ͝know w͡h̨a̵t..̡.̷ ̧th͏i̛s͢ ͢m͏e͡a̧ns,̨ ri͟gh̶t͝?"͢ Gaster asked, the white dots of his eyes looking up at his youngest son.

 

“YOU CAN NOW TELL ME ALL OF YOUR AMAZING LIFE STORIES?”

 

"I ca̴n..͡. m͞ak͜e̸ ͜pu̸n͡s͘ ͡w͡ith͟ ͡you̸r̵ ҉b͟r͠o͡t͞h͞er... ̵a̢n̡d͏ ͢a͠ņn̵oy͢ t̷h̢e ̷shit̸..҉. o̢ưt o͡f͏ y̶ou.̷.͜." A grin spread across his face.

 

Papyrus' expression fell, his arms still wrapped around his father.

 

Sans and Gaster laughed.

 

 

As the weeks passed Sans finally felt well enough to start pitching in, eager to head out and explore the human world he had been neglecting so much over the past few years spent trying to find their father. They would also need to have both of them working if they were going to afford their new home above ground.

 

Gaster was doing well, eventually able to form himself a neck and more of a normal head, as well as arms. He still lacked any legs, but that would undoubtedly come with enough time.

 

The two sat in front of the TV while Sans was out, Papyrus hugging his long legs to his chest as they watched one of his favorite programs. Mettaton had since become quite the star and he followed everything the robot starred in from being a celebrity guest to his own cooking shows and dramas.

 

Papyrus moved to get up. “I'M GOING TO GRAB A DRINK WHILE THERE'S A COMMERCIAL. DO YOU WANT ANYTHING?”

 

Gaster lowered his book, having been spending most of his days reading about human history and science while he was recovering. "I̕'m.̡.."̷ He paused and cleared his throat, his speech having gotten better and better over the weeks. “I'm fine. Thanks, Papy.”

 

Papyrus smiled, loving that he had a new nickname that only his father seemed to use. As he stood up and began to walk to the kitchen his father spoke up for a second time. “Hey kiddo?”

 

“YES?” The skeleton asked, stopping in the kitchen doorway to look back at Gaster.

 

A smile crept up along Gaster's toothless mouth. “You know I'm proud of you, right?”

 

Papyrus stopped what he was doing, stars in his eye sockets. “REALLY?”

 

"̧Reall͘y͟."͏

 

“WOWIE.” The skeleton said, tears gathering in his eye sockets.

 

"͘He̷y-҉" Gaster said nervously, pausing to clear his throat again. “What are the waterworks for?”

 

“I'M JUST HAPPY!” Papyrus walked back to the couch and sat down beside his father, deeming his drink less important than what could possibly be bonding time. “SANS ALWAYS SAYS THAT, BUT... SANS SAYS A LOT OF THINGS ABOUT ME. SOMETIMES IT'S HARD TO TELL IF HE'S SAYING THEM JUST TO BE NICE OR IF HE REALLY MEANS IT.”

 

“Oh he means it, trust me.” The doctor smirked. “Both of us do.” He closed his book to turn his attention fully to Papyrus. “You know how many timelines I saw?”

 

Papyrus shook his head.

 

“Thousands.” He gestured with his hands. “You know what was always a constant?”

 

Papyrus shook his head again and Gaster pointed at him. “You. You being you. I don't know how I did it, but I made one of the best fucking monsters I've ever seen. You're not just strong physically, but here too.” He put a hand over where he knew Papyrus' soul to be. “You've got some of the most rock-solid morals that I have ever seen and I'm really proud of you for that.”

 

He laughed in spite of himself. “I really have no idea where you got that from. It certainly wasn't me and I wasn't a very good dad.”

 

“NONSENSE!” Papyrus argued, “FROM WHAT I SAW YOU WERE A GREAT DAD! SANS EVEN SAID SO.”

 

The doctor let out a short, loud laugh. “Now that I don't believe.”

 

“HE DID!” The skeleton frowned, “WELL MAYBE NOT THOSE EXACT WORDS, BUT IT'S WHAT HE MEANT.”

 

“Alright, alright.” Gaster smiled and put up his hands defensively. “I believe you, Papy.”

 

 

A month had passed since they had officially become a family again and despite how much their father didn't want to do it, Papyrus was very eager for Gaster to meet their group of friends. They set up a day to all gather and mingle, the doctor having since formed himself a pair of legs. He was looking almost normal now, although still lacked a lot of detail.

 

Alphys and Undyne were the first ones to show up.

 

“Hey Papyrus!” The fish monster grinned, instantly wrapping an arm around the skeleton and giving him a noogie. “How ya been?!”

 

“AHH! NO!” Papyrus flailed, assaulted as soon as he opened the door.

 

“H-hey guys.” Alphys waved from behind her girlfriend.

 

“hey alph.” Sans waved back from the couch, his father sat beside him.

 

“UNDYNE, I WANT YOU TO MEET MY FATHER!” Papyrus said once he was released from the captain's grip. He lead her over to Gaster, who would have preferred to wave lazily from the couch, but stood up knowing that Papyrus was all about formal greetings.

 

Undyne put out her hand, grabbing the doctor's to shake it roughly. “So you're the guy responsible for these two goofs? Ya did a good job! At least with Papyrus anyway.” She laughed.

 

“Thanks...” Gaster said awkwardly.

 

“AND YOU ALREADY KNOW ALPHYS.” Papyrus said, gesturing down to the shy lizard beside them.

 

She gave him a nervous smile before suddenly remembering something. “Oh!” Alphys dug around in her bag to pull out a few books. “Th-these are some of my books on r-robotics. Sans said y-you would like to read them.”

 

Gaster immediately looked interested and took them happily. “Robotics, huh? This will be interesting.”

 

Undyne glanced at Papyrus, “Jeeze, your dad is a bigger nerd than I thought.”

 

“NYEH-HEH, THAT'S WHERE SANS GETS IT FROM. BUT HE FOUGHT IN THE WAR TOO, DIDN'T YOU DAD? HE CAN DO EVERYTHING!”

 

Undyne's eyes widened, “You fought in the war? Like Gerson?!”

 

One of Gaster's eyes twitched. “Gerson?”

 

“uh-oh.” Sans sat up from the couch. “let's not talk about that.”

 

“You know him?” Undyne asked the doctor as Sans abruptly shoved himself between them and waved his arms around.

 

“new subject, new subject.” He pleaded at Papyrus with his eyes.

 

“Yeah I know that fuck-” Gaster began with a glare, but was abruptly cut off.

 

“WOWIE I DIDN'T EVEN OFFER ANYONE REFRESHMENTS!” Papyrus yelled, the fish monster wincing and putting a hand over one of her ear fins. “WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DRINK?” He looked between the two guests.

 

“Uh, I d-don't mind.” Alphys smiled.

 

“I'll take whatever.” Undyne shrugged, but was abruptly grabbed by Papyrus and lead into the kitchen, stumbling along behind him.

 

“I'LL NEED YOUR HELP, UNDYNE. TO CARRY ALL THOSE DRINKS.”

 

Sans sighed and flopped back onto the couch. “can we not start fights tonight?”

 

“Wh-what was that all about?” Alphys asked, looking between the two.

 

Gaster flopped down beside his son. “Gerson is an asshole. End of story.”

 

“O-oh.” The lizard made a face. “Y-yeah that wouldn't have gone d-down well with Undyne.”

 

“Who knows, maybe he's less of an asshole in this timeline. But I doubt it.” Gaster huffed and looked at Sans. “Who else is coming anyway?”

 

“tori and fr-”

 

“Toriel!?” The doctor shouted much louder than was necessary. “The Toriel who abandoned her kingdom? Man you two can pick 'em.” He paused and looked at Alphys, who stood in front of them looking uncomfortable. “Except for you, Alphys. You aren't bad.”

 

“Th-thanks?” Alphys blushed a little.

 

“hey, tori had her reasons.” Sans said in defense of his friend.

 

“Yeah, dumb reasons. If you're Queen you don't just abandon your kingdom. That's what she did in this timeline too, right? That didn't change?” He looked between the two of them but before they could answer, there was a knock at the door.

 

“that's probably her. will you at least try to be nice?” Sans pleaded.

 

Gaster threw his hands up, his son rolling his eyes before getting up to answer the door. “hey tori.” He smiled up at the boss monster who stood beside Frisk holding their hand.

 

“Greetings Sans. I hope I am not too late.”

 

“not at all.” He stepped aside to let them in.

 

“S-Sans!” Alphys yelled, but before she could say much more a cage of blue bones shot up from the ground surrounding Toriel and Frisk. Sans barely stepped back in time to avoid them. Toriel yelled in surprise, instantly bending down to shield the child at her side.

 

“wh-...” Sans mumbled, eye sockets wide. He turned and looked back at Gaster, who was on his feet with purple flaring from his eyes.

 

A bone summoned in his hand, the end splintered off and angled at a sharp point. Sans scrambled towards him, desperately grabbing onto his waist and trying to stop him.

 

“dad! dad come on, don't!”

 

As he looked up into Gaster's eyes he could see that something about them was distant, like he wasn't there and instead was seeing something else entirely. He suddenly remembered the flashback he had in the last corridor when they were fighting the demon.

 

Oh no... the demon.

 

He glanced back at Frisk, who was crying and hiding in Toriel's arms.

 

“pap! pap come help!” Sans yelled, unable to hold his father at bay by himself.

 

Papyrus and Undyne leaned around the doorway to see the spectacle before them, both instantly dropping what they were doing and rushing out. Papyrus wrapped his arms around his father, squeezing him tight and stopping him dead in his tracks. Undyne meanwhile shot around to stand in front of him, a spear materializing in her hands.

 

“Stand down!” She yelled, spear poised at his throat.

 

“DAD, WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? THEY'RE OUR FRIENDS!” Papyrus pleaded, the only thing keeping his father from nearly spearing himself on Undyne's magic being his arms tightly wrapped around him holding him back.

 

"T h a t ͢ ̢c ̧r͡ e a ̨t͡ ͠u ͝r͘ e͏ ̡ ̕i͝ s n͠ '̸t ̸y̵ o͘ u̷ ̨r̢ ̨f̸ r̛ i͝ e͟ n͘ d. I ͘t ͏ m ͘u s ̴t b͡ e̵ k͝ i̶ ̨l l͞ e̕ ͜d.̧"͠ Gaster growled, his voice distorted and much deeper than usual.

 

“dad come on! it's alright! frisk isn't them!” Sans said, waving his hands and putting himself between them so he blocked Gaster's view of the child.

 

"I̵ ̴t̡ ͞w i l l c o m e͞ ̵ ͝f o ̛r͡ ̷ t͠ ̨h e m̨. I t̢ w i͜ ͘l l͟ ̴ ̨t͘ ̛a ͝k̵ e̶ ̷ t̢ ̴h e̛ i ̵r ̨ s o u ͜ l.̧ T h ҉e ̛o n͡ ̷l҉ ̶y͝ ͢w a̛ ̛y͢ ̷ t o ͠ d e͝ ͢a l ͠ w į t h i t ҉ i̡ ͢s̴ ͢t o ͡k͝ i l l̵ i͞ t 's ̸ ͠h ͞o ͞s ̸t̛."͡

 

“DAD PLEASE!” Papyrus begged, his arms still firmly wrapped around his father to keep him from moving forward.

 

The hand holding the pointed bone began to shake and, after a few tense moments, the blue bones around the human and Toriel vanished. Sans looked back and quickly ran to their aid, making sure they were okay before hurrying them out the door and slamming it closed behind him.

 

Papyrus eased up on his grip after feeling the push against him stop and quickly moved around to stand in front of his father.

 

“Careful, Papyrus!” Undyne urged, but the skeleton paid her no mind.

 

He wrapped his arms tightly around Gaster, squeezing. “IT'S OKAY, DAD. EVERYTHING IS FINE NOW. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE AFRAID.”

 

Undyne relaxed, but only slightly. Her spear remained ready to stab the doctor straight in the throat if need be. “Alphys, go check on them.”

 

The lizard nodded and rushed outside.

 

Chapter Text

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?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

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.

 

“I SEE...”

 

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.

 

“dad... please...”

 

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.

 

"T̛h̕i̡s."̡

 

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...”

 

“H...e....l...p....”

 

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.”

 

“huh?”

 

“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.

 

“... Oh.”

 

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?”

 

“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.

 

… Almost.

 

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.

 

Five years.

 

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.