A/N: I started this story mid-2016, during the lowest time of my teenage life. I was 16, severely depressed, and in a clinic. I desperately needed an outlet for all of the emotions I felt within me, and, having played Undertale in the winter of 2015, used the game as a medium for this. It started out as a simple one shot, but quickly grew bigger, thanks to all of your support and comments. Each of you have contributed to this story, have encouraged me to write it, and now finally, finish it.
Thank you all of you for your love, support, and kindness.
I would like to make a special mention to Lutias, a friend who went over this chapter, let me bounce ideas around, and has generally been incredibly helpful. If you want to read the best UT fic that deals with a character falling into the game, then please, please check out their story. I'm normally not a fan of those stories, but this one is absolutely incredible, with a wonderful format and excellent writing. It's realistic, hilarious, and mysterious at the same time. So go read 'Learn When to Quit' on AO3: works/17471276/chapters/41144096
Epilogue: An Ending
The meadow was particularly fetching this time of year, golden flowers glowing in the falling sun, the last dregs of warmth from the day still lingering in the approaching evening. In the distance, the lights of the small mountain town started flickering to life as gentle music swayed through the wind. The festivities would carry on well into the night, monsters and humans alike coming together to celebrate the first anniversary of the monsters finally, finally breaking the Barrier.
But to a group of seven, it meant something more. It meant a year without resets.
A year of healing.
To Sans, it meant Chara's sacrifice had held true.
"Time passes pretty quick, doesn't it," he mumbled, twisting the stem of a flower between his fingertips. It was easy to avoid the preparations for tonight's festival, to simply lie in this field until the sun rolled beneath the mountain.
The memories had come back slowly, gradually as Frisk had gone through the Underground a final time. And even then, not all of them were fully there. But there was enough to piece together the fragments, to understand the pain and deaths that had happened. Most of it had come rushing back after the Barrier broke apart, but even before then, there had been echoes.
(Toriel who had been unable to harm her child for even the barest of moments, sweeping them up in a desperate hug and following them secretly throughout their journey, certain that something terrible would happen. Papyrus, who had acted so gentle and kind to the little Human, hugging them whenever they needed and looking at them with a knowing glint in his eyes. Undyne, who had collapsed before she could throw her spear at them, who had taken to the little tyke like a new mother. Alphys, who had watched them carefully, an unspoken caution in her body as she helped bring them to the Core, unwilling to play the act she had done so often before. Asgore, who had taken one look at them and begun sobbing, wrapping them up in a desperate embrace in the hopes to shield them from everything and everyone. And himself, who had helped them through the Underground with an ache in his Soul and the faint memory of... something happening.)
The memories had flooded back in all their glory as they watched the sunset together, past trauma and horrors coming back to haunt each one of them.
He wouldn't lie; this year had been difficult, even with the easing of Monster-Human relations, especially compared to other endings they had lived through. Compared to all of that, settling in with humans had been... simple. But their time in the Underground, trapped within the resets had complicated things for their group, had left scars that only they could see. Frisk was still reeling from the loss of Chara and the depression that continued to follow them, although it was starting to get better with proper support and professional help. Undyne and Toriel still couldn't let Frisk out of their sights for longer than an hour before they got anxious and frantic, terrified that one day they would stumble across their body again.
Except this time, there would be no coming back.
Asgore would pop in often, always looking for Undyne or Frisk, constantly trying to hold on to one to make sure that they were okay, that they were alive. Toriel even allowed it, and it seemed like the prolonged contact was allowing them to slowly fix what had happened so long ago. Papyrus would bounce between everyone, checking up on how people were doing, just to make sure that he could be there to catch them in case someone fell, always ready with some kind words and a patient smile. Alphys would always do headcounts, checking her monitors vigorously, before coming to see them herself; just to make sure her eyes didn't deceive her. Sans was pretty sure her and Undyne were slowly rekindling the relationship they'd had so many times before, but it would be different this time.
And Sans... Sans had continued to lurk on the outside, letting himself be pulled in whenever the fancy struck him, but he spent a lot of his time travelling. A part of him felt desperate to explore all this world had to offer in case there was another reset. Just to be safe. But it was also because he couldn't face being with Frisk for too long, even now. Not with the knowledge they both held over Chara's sacrifice. Not with the bad blood that still lingered between them.
The sky continued to darken, stars slowly coming out to glint in the sky, and Sans smiled. This was why he had come back, not just for the celebrations going on tonight, although that had played a large role. He couldn't deny that there was something special about the stars by Mt. Ebott, even though it was so close to the wounds of the past. He let out a content sigh, rolling the flower again between his fingers.
"I thought I saw your jacket in the grass," a quiet voice broke into the settling evening, and Sans startled, dropping the flower onto his chest. He froze for another second, before sighing again, deeper and more weary this time.
"Frisk," he muttered out, craning his head to look at them from the corner of his eye. They gave a sad, helpless smile.
"You look... better," he said cautiously, and it was true. Their eyes didn't seem as empty, their posture not as defeated and for the first time in a long while, they looked almost... content. Especially since the last time he'd seen them they were sobbing in the bathroom every night and had to be stopped from doing anything... rash. There were no second chances here, not anymore, a fact which rang painfully in each of their Souls.
"It has been four months," they agreed softly, "but you look different as well. More open, I think."
"Yeah, well, what can I say? Travellin's been doing me some good."
The quiet of the evening overtook the two of them, neither quite wanting to break it with everything unsaid. The last dregs of the orange sun still lingered in the distance, but by now, night had slowly started to settle properly.
"I didn't think you'd come back."
Sans turned his head slightly to look at the kid relaxing in the field beside him, face still carefully neutral. It felt like a night for honesty. Just for now.
"I'll be real with you, neither did I," he admitted, "but I knew Papyrus would be upset if I didn't come for this."
Frisk nodded softly, eyes still facing the sky as small fingers plucked absentmindedly at the grass and flowers.
"He'd let you go, you know. So would your parents. I met them, like, a month ago. They're nice," they offered into the silence, and Sans didn't know if he wanted them to keep talking or to shut up.
"Speaking of guardians, aren't yours gonna be worried about where you are?" It was an empty conversational gesture, mostly devoid of any real concern on his part, but he figured it was fair for bringing up his own folks.
"Probably, but mom's busy with decorations, and grandma's been cooking all day. Grandad's helping mom. I think he's having a bad day today," they speculated softly, and he wondered if there had been many of those, for all of them.
"Ah." He wasn't sure what else to say. "Does it get difficult?" A dumb question, but Frisk shrugged in response, squishing a stem between their fingers.
"There are good days and bad days, like anyone else. But therapy's been helping. We usually commute to the city for it, since there aren't a lot here, but it's been... better. As long as I let mom know where I am, I can go to town by myself. I'm still not allowed to take any trains though, until we feel... more confident, you know?"
He did and didn't. While he wasn't by any means very suicidal, he sure wasn't against death either. It was probably terrible, and would definitely make Papyrus cry, but it was the truth.
"Why are you here, Frisk?" he asked eventually, because they'd pussyfooted around it for long enough. There was no reason for the kid to seek him out, not willingly, not after everything. To be honest, he didn't even want the kid there.
"I wanted to talk," they replied slowly, almost hesitantly, before adding, "and to apologise."
Well. That was a first.
"For what?" They both obviously knew why, but he figured he wouldn't make it easy. It was petty, but if Frisk wanted to drag all of this out, then who was he to stop them.
"I guess for everything. I've been talking to my therapist and she's helped me realise that... a lot of things were out of my control, and that... Chara was out of my control. And by trying to fix things, I made it worse. But she's also helped me understand that maybe... not all of it was my fault, and that I'm still just a kid who tried to get people what they wanted, except it backfired- and this isn't in anyway trying to absolve me of my actions, or the stuff I pulled. Even if Dr. Vogel thinks I'm giving myself too much credit there, ha..." they trailed off, and Sans could see the chlorophyll beneath their fingernails, anxious picking having massacred the stem in their hands.
"She's also been helping me realise that Chara's decisions were their own decisions in the end, and you were just... trying to help solve a problem. I miss them so much, every day, and I probably won't ever be able to forgive you for what you did, but... I can try to continue. 'Cause that's what they wanted and I still have my whole life ahead of me, as cheesy as that sounds."
And he could concede that yes, Frisk was at the end of the day, still a kid. A kid he had had a grudge against, but still a kid, despite his previous thoughts of demons and murderers. What happened had happened, and no amount of resets could truly erase the mistakes of the past. But they could grow from it, now that they actually had the chance to.
"I wanted to apologise for putting you through everything," they mumbled sincerely. Sans heaved a breath, and sighed.
Maybe it was time to let bygones be bygones. Not forgotten, never forgotten, but slowly forgiven. Or just... accepted.
"I'm sorry for how I treated you, kid. That... that wasn't right. No matter the stress, or the shit I believed, I shouldn't... I shouldn't have taken it out on you. You did some shit, but a lot of that stemmed from stuff you couldn't even control. So... I'm sorry."
Something settled quietly inside his Soul, and he wondered if that was what acceptance felt like. If he had finally managed to move past his anger stage, and skip straight into the final step. Hey, the others weren't the only ones with therapists.
Neither of them spoke for a while, not until the moon hung high up in the sky, and the sounds of joy and celebration could be heard even from the meadow.
"I should probably go see Papyrus," he admitted, slowly letting himself rise from his position in the grass. Frisk stood up shortly after, dark brown eyes watching him.
"Are you going to come back?" they wondered gently, and he shrugged.
They both knew the answer.
"Maybe if Papyrus asks," he conceded, but even then... his brother was less dependent on him, and while he adored his younger sibling, Sans needed... distance. From everything.
"No-one's gonna hold it against you. So... take your time. Visiting doesn't mean living here. But it would be nice to see you occasionally."
It was a small olive branch, held out in (mostly) goodwill, and for once, he didn't second-guess himself about taking it.
"I guess it wouldn't be too bad to see you occasionally too."
The past wasn't fixed, not by a long shot, and the wounds that they had both left behind on the other would linger for many years to come. Maybe forever.
But it was a start.
And sometimes, that's all that it needs.