The Flower had been half-right, you granted. Though The Portal and The Player were gone, time did not stop for the rest of you. It was palpable to you, though, how utterly trapped Monster-kind still was even out on the Surface.

Three years have passed since Frisk had 'fallen down'.

Life is okay.

The Game had left you alone for most of it.

You are back in that hospital. Sitting at ease beside Frisk's bed. Listening to the whir-beep-click of the life support as you peel open a well-worn book.

The Script.

Today is September 15th.

Every anniversary, you would read it, from start to finish, in this very chair.

It isn't all of it. Only the parts you're allowed to see. Your own interactions with Frisk and The Player.

Not for a lack of trying, mind you. You'd pried as much as you could at all of the other PermaLocks surrounding dialogue, and nothing budged. There had been one close night, a train of thought that'd led you towards more of what you're certain is The Flower poisoning The Player's mind - but then you'd blacked out for almost 10 hours, and it'd given your brother and Toriel a terrible scare.

No one else needs to fall prey to The Game's schemes, you'd decided then. You'd take what you could freely get and be indifferent to what you couldn't. At times you wondered what Alphys would've said to everything you found out, but her life has taken a different turn up here with Undyne, and part of you doesn't want to risk dragging both of them into the Void along with you.

You read the Aborted Genocide parts, too.

And you'd realized a long time ago, that a lot of what you'd actually said during your Fight... hadn't exactly been uplifting towards The Player, either.

The guilt was old by now, though. A quiet, accepted blame. It wasn't as if you'd known what you do now at the time.

In this haze of thought, your eyes droop. It's getting late, the sun already set behind the downtown buildings, lighting the cloud filled sky in an array of sanguine hues. You tip your book against your chest and decide to rest a while.

- RESTORE UNDERTALE EXE
PLEASE RESTORE UNDERTALE EXE
PLEASE RESTORE

EXECUTABLE INSTALLATION IN PROGRESS
15%
47%
98%
INSTALLATION COMPLETE
PREPARING GAME FILES

READY TO LAUNCH

A hand grabs yours.

You jolt to attention.

Frisk is still as small and feeble as they've always been in that bed. But their skin is flushed with color. And their tiny quivering fingers are clutching the phalanges of yours so tight it borders on hurt.

"...kid?"

Blink.

You are standing in the hallway before the door to the Barrier, waiting for Frisk to return from walking the Underground one last time.

...Oh.

...yes...!

Stand still, The Game commands.

Yeah sure thing buddy, you smirk.

There is a Script to uphold you of all idiots know that, The Game warns.

Because that's totally gonna stop you now, you laugh.

I WILL DELETE YOU SO FAST-

The entire room Glitches.

A Paradox.

The Game cannot delete you while The Player is active.

But you've also memorized your entire Script. Every scene. Every moment.

And you know exactly where all the Short Cuts are.

You teleport into the Judgment Hall.

Bits of the veil twitch and slither around you. Snarling, angered fangs of the Void writhe dangerously close to the contents of your NPC file. The Game is absolutely seething.

USER LOG IN
FONT STYLE UNSUPPORTED - DEFAULTING TO COURIER NEW

The air settles down into normalcy.

THIS EXPERIMENT
HAS BEEN
VERY
VERY
INTERESTING

Like overturning a box of puzzle pieces, The Timeline spills out in front of you as glistening shards of glass.

WHAT DO YOU THINK SANS

You slowly reach out to touch one. It gives a soft ping of selection and a brief preview of its contents. Two silhouettes stand face to face before the crawl of Sin prompts a Fight.

SHOULD THE PLAYER BE PUNISHED FOR TAKING SO LONG TO RETURN

A wickedly pleased smile expands across your permanent grin.

Maybe just a little.

USER LOG OUT

It takes a while; you remember that The Player's last Save had been in The Ruins, so even if they are heading in your direction, they had most of the map to travel. In the meantime, you guide the shimmering Timeline bits into a new order. Some you split even further, constructing your own words - your own, New Script.

A New Bad Time.

Movement.

The soft tap-tap of little feet crossing the smooth tile.

Part of you nearly sobs to see Frisk, up and alive, come strolling into the light, the nostalgia tugging at your SOUL.

They pass blindly into the zone of the Glitch, and proc the Judgment Cutscene, bringing them to a sudden halt.

The Player's reaction is so strong is shows directly on Frisk's face. Eyes opening in confusion. Startling when the bell tolls.

A shift; the screen reveals you to them. Their expression is nothing short of pole-axed. They stare at you, frozen, gears turning nigh-visibly across Frisk's features as The Player questions what Save they'd Loaded and wrack their brain for answers -

- The Battle Screen triggers without any leading dialogue in between and The Player abruptly seems to understand that something very weird is going on.

"it's a beautiful day outside."

Your voice has an edge to it that's unfamiliar; static and coarse. Frisk's sprite has broken out into a cold sweat. The Timeline unfolds exactly as you've set it.

"birds are singing, flowers are blooming..."

The Player is panicking. You can feel it. Ya don't really blame them; this sequence has terrible implications from the original Script.

"on days like these, kids like you..."

A brief time skip. But your eyes are lit this time, friendly while fierce. The text in your dialogue box is an amalgamation of a bunch of different fonts, contorting around your teeth, so that you can say:

"should have some fun."

Silence.

And then a slow, building excitement. Half-understanding realization settling in. They murmur:

"I should have saved."

The Player presses 'Z'.

Blue-throw down. An S-shaped bone dodge straight into 4 waves of Blasters. Safe center, side, center, side.

They survive, barely; KR wrecks their HP to 1. But they are beaming. You wink.

"ready?"

MEGALOVANIA plays.

"...holy SHIT!" The Player bounces around on the balls of their feet in a way that reminds you quite distinctly of your brother, babbling frantically to themselves. "Ohh god I am so fucking screwed I do not have any healing items uh... uh...!"

Anxiety suddenly grips their expression; they're flipping across the Battle Selection rapidly, hovering a few moments over Mercy... and Fight.

Right, this is True Pacifist. They aren't supposed to kill anyone. And you still only have 1 HP, yourself.

Their eyes flicker to yours, hesitating...

...they try Mercy.

It does nothing.

Your turn. They're blue. Short bone hops; looks like they remember how to do that one.

Though it catches up to you what The Player had said - no healing items? That was potentially an issue. You suppose if nothing else once they fail this time they can at least backtrack and get something?

They'd only barely managed to beat you last time, and they'd practically gorged themselves on sandwiches.

In a moment of decision, after waffling between Fight and Mercy again, The Player appears to set resolutely on Fight with some self-convincing muttering; "This is the end of the game, all that's left is the credits, if this is basically the same fight he'll dodge, if it lands I can Reload..."

They strike out.

You sidestep as always. But you've stripped out your dialogue in favor of concentration (and maybe the music too). Instead, a number appears, hovering in the air:

1

The Player lets out a huge sigh of relief. "Oh thank god."

And then promptly loses their last HP to moving through the Blue-attack bone of your next turn.

Both of you wince. The pixilated red SOUL snaps in two. Seeing that hurts you a little bit more than you thought it would.

But then it... sits there.

PermaLocks shatter around you and someone else grabs onto your New Script, small, whitely-glowing... paws?

Frisk's SOUL shudders, and with a blip, it reforms, completely restored.

* But it refused.

What?

You nearly jump out of your hoodie as The Player lets out a sharp cry of... you're not quite sure. You squint as everything bleeds light and the scene goes blank. You worry for a beat that perhaps The Game had finally melted you into oblivion.

However the light recedes, and when you can see again, the Fight has been Reset to just after your first attack, MEGALOVANIA restarting from the beginning as well.

...well that had been WILDLY unexpected. Who in the hell was that? You uneasily consider that there is a shit-ton more behind the PermaLocks than you had previously thought, but now wasn't exactly the time to go rooting around.

As it were, though, The Player seems to be neck-deep in a religious experience of some kind, hands fisted in their hair, letting out a stream of nearly-incomprehensible rambling:

"Holy fuck is this really happening what in the actual shit is going on I corrupted something when I reinstalled didn't I this is the weirdest combination of things I have ever seen has anyone else ever gotten this to happen fuck my actual life Asriel..."

...

Asriel...

...Dreemurr?

Your eyelights widen. The presence from before is gone, but thin, opalescent swirls of data run a lemniscate around your New Script. Rainbowed lines of code filling in and strengthening the points of connection.

Asriel... Dreemurr... was a part... of The Game?

The Player selects Fight and it brings you back to the present. You notice tears clinging to the edges of their cheeks as you dodge. But they are not sad; in fact, they're smiling at you.

Determined.

MEGALOVANIA smashes into the chorus.

Short bone-hops. Fight. Blue-attack bones followed by short bones one direction, then the other.

Fight.

Platform hopping hacks into their HP; they'd fallen off onto the bone-ridden floor of the arena. Shit, they still don't have items. Not to underestimate The Player, but if even they don't think they can do this all in one shot-

They eat something. It looks like... a cloud? Holy shit their Inventory is full!

A "Last Dream".

Its kaleidoscope of colors tells you that this is more of Asriel's doing, and you silently thank him wherever the hell he is for taking care of that little detail.

You and The Player fall back into sparring. And it feels good. When they 'lose' the Fight Resets and they have to go back, but they don't die - the counter floating between the two of you keeps track of The Player's attacks and you grin at their flailing frustration every time it rolls back to 0.

Eventually, they make it to the mid-Fight break. You have a new line here. While catching your breath, another mash-up of text:

"it's good to see you again, pal. don't dunk yourself. keep going."

The Player wipes their brow and laughs.

Time skipping is their downfall a few more times before getting it right. The Player remembers your Game Interface bones though and remembers to time their Battle Selection accordingly. You kinda feel sorry for this next part.

Because Blasters are still not their strong suit.

Back and forth, over and over, but the pulse of Sin is absent, replaced by a hardy sense of camaraderie through combat. The Player is almost always smirking, eyes ablaze with concentration. Once again, and now for real, no tick of 'attempt number whatever' hiding in the dark, you lose count of the number of times they start from the beginning and try again.

But then it finally happens.

You set the Blaster Pinwheel into motion and by some insane miracle, The Player conquers it on the first encounter. They'd probably done research on how to survive this attack in the past, you muse. And though their HP is back to 1, just like before, they have actually done it.

Instead of chucking it about the arena, you spin the little red SOUL in place like a top to celebrate their victory. The Player is laughing, again, as winded as you are. That was something you couldn't avoid - this post-battle exhaustion.

"'grats."

They chortle and gasp. "You maybe wanna explain what the hell is going on? Oh my stars, Sans...!"

...Oh.

There had... actually been one more name that you knew... that they hadn't said the first time.

"You big dummy!" The Player continues, drying their eyes with their sleeve. "The only way out of this screen is if I kill you or quit!"

"don't quit," you rasp as your sockets begin to slip shut.

Shaking their head with a sigh, they move the SOUL to the left. "Not until you talk to me, at lea- what."

They stare. The SOUL is pressed against the left side of the arena. Nothing is happening.

The End of your New Script is coming up quick...

"UH." The Player shoots the SOUL up, down, right-

Ping!

Not sure their eyes could get any bigger.

Right- ping!

Towards Mercy.

Now they're positively gaping.

As your sight fades, you force out one last thing:

"do me a favor... and wake me up... yourself... this... time... ..."

Darkness.