Chapter 1: Captured in a Portrait
May 15, 2013
The news exploded today. It was like some kind of crazy ass sci-fi, come to life. The mole people have emerged, and they're after our sunlight or something. It really was some 'we are not alone in the universe' kind of shit. Except, we weren't even alone on our own planet.
I'm still not sure I believe it. It was just April, it could just be a really, REALLY late April Fools prank, and the entire government is in on it. And so is every single large news company out there. And hundred of thousands of people, if not millions in Virginia and the D.C. Area. Damn East Coasters.
All just one big prank. Right?
Except, Kristen has relatives over there, and she showed us the pictures that they've sent. And videos. Monsters, just... Marching out of the side of a mountain. Monsters parading through the streets, talking to each other, looking at everything like it was... I don't know. I can't read inhuman features very well, I guess.
They can't be in on the conspiracy too, can they? Kristen's relatives, I mean. Maybe they are, because the alternative is absolutely insane to consider. Actual, real life monsters crawled out of the ground, with their huge teeth and claws and their big, buggy eyes. And to top it all off, diary, they come in peace?
That would mean a skeleton really did shake hands with the president. I have the picture open on my computer right now. Their ambassador apparently, appointed by their king. A giant goat man. And I can't tell if it's Photoshopped. I'm trying so hard to find anything about it that is off. A pixel, blurred in objects... I can't find anything! There's nothing wrong with the picture and no obvious tampering anywhere.
Did I eat something weird? Is there something in the water, and the entire country is just high, all at once? Has Climate Change finally melted all of our brains and we're all sharing the same collective hallucination? Just... How can this even be real?
Okay, so, I live in Seattle, and I'm into photography. I'm practically obligated to be open-minded, no matter what, aren't I? But, and excuse my language diary, how the fuck am I supposed to just accept literal monsters?
Okay, I've said it. Got my initial freak out out of the way. Open mind, Max. Open mind. This... Could be good. Great, even. Even if things went bad, how many games have we made where humanity beats the big bad beasts? And that's with swords and bows and stuff.
That's not open minded at all. 'At least we can kill them if we wanted to!' Smooth. Real pacifistic.
I'm going to have to think about this. Talk to Mom and Dad. They're probably freaking out just as much as me, and if I make them pretend they know everything so that they're baby girl isn't scared we should all feel better.
Birds were singing, flowers were blooming. The sun was baring down brilliantly on Mt. Ebott in the distance. If one squinted, they might have even seen the entrance to the Underground. The mouth of the cavern was a lightless speck of inevitability, two thirds the length of a bony finger away from the peak.
On days like this, skeletons like Sans should just slack off and do absolutely nothing. Sure, the same could have been said of the day before that, and likely the day after too. Turns out, every day was great for doing nothing. Just that with this weather, one could take that nothing outside.
Not that Sans did nothing all day. The surface had taken him through a few jobs, all part time of course. And easy to not do much of anything at. Somehow, he hadn't been fired from his most recent gig selling hot dogs yet. Most likely because hot dog stacking was good for business, even if it drove the boss nuts. His hot cats weren't so hot with the customers, but the heat didn't melt away the reliability he had gotten by accident.
The fast food joint he'd tried working at didn't keep him for long after he passed out at the grill, and retail was a no go once the managers realized they would never teach him how to fold the shirts. Not to mention the sock incident. All of that, just in the month they'd been out on the surface.
Right now, it was too early for his nothing doing to take him to his job at the hot dog cart. His favorite customers wouldn't be there yet, either. It was late May on a Thursday. Kids apparently had schooling five days a week on the surface, and Sans wasn't planning on taking that away from them today. Not like either of the kids would ever detract from his life in any way for the fun of it. No, they'd do it for 'a good reason.'
The permanent grin that was ever etched on his face never faltered, though anyone watching may have noticed his misstep. Heh, there's a grim thought. An unfair one, too, given all that he knew the two of them had gone through. Or did they put themselves through it? Hard to say, when he both was and wasn't there for most of it.
Ebott Park wasn't quite abuzz with activity. A few older folks were out, enjoying the nice weather and chatting about human stuff. Whatever old people talked about in these modern times. Politics maybe. Their grand children. Or that the world has changed for the worse, obviously, because there was a skeleton in pink slippers, a hoody and shorts soiling their park. Maybe he had a bit of ketchup on his shirt. He wasn't going to change anything about that especially, since he knew it drove Papyrus nuts.
He pulled out his phone - because 'of course he had to have one, everyone has one!' - and checked the time. If nothing else, it made keeping track of his meals everyday easier. Noon already. And he'd just had breakfast an hour ago. Brunch had only been half an hour ago, and now it was time for lunch, already? Gee, how the time flew when he wasn't working.
With a shrug, Sans shoved his phone and his hands back in his pockets. He removed himself from the stone path and stepped behind a tree. The birds over head couldn't find where the little slipper-print trail took him.
It was good for Sans that his little shortcuts didn't rely on the credibility of birds. They probably wouldn't have worked awfully well in the Underground if they had. For the birds, he simply vanished under the branches. For Sans, he took behind one step behind the tree, and the next step brought him to the door of Grillby's new place on the surface. It wasn't exactly homely yet, given they had only been out on the surface little more than a month, but the jukebox was still busted. So, there was that.
"Hey, Sans!" Dogaressa greeted as he entered. Her husband Dogamy greeted him similarly, whilst Doggo slid in his greeting cautiously afterwards. The dog couple had given up their old cowls, due to the human association of the outfits with executioners and cults. Even if the Royal Guard had been disbanded, and technically they were under the protection of the United States government, Asgore's request that they try to meet humanity in the middle had driven the two of them to get proper outfits, and human jobs. The blue uniforms of the EPD were surprisingly fitting on the two of them.
Whether the Ebott Police Academy had taken them in based on qualifications or on diversity quotas was up to debate, given the frailty of monsters. The politics of it all didn't bug Sans whilst they were out here. Their K-9 badges were especially hilarious. How did humans get so clever?
There was a noticeable empty suit of armor where a bundle of dog had been half an hour ago.
"hey there. where's g. dog?" Sans asked. He peered at the table they were sitting at, chips down and dog treats to the side.
"He saw a car and got excited. Bolted after it just after you left last time," Dogamy answered.
"I still don't believe there was a car out there," Doggo said. A pair of bulbous glasses laid over his eyes. It wasn't really clear what was holding them up, given they had been designed by a human, for a human. Wasn't Doggo's ears, that was certain. Sans had just chalked it up to magic the first time he'd seen it and moved on. It was incredibly probable, given they were magical dogs.
"gotcha," Sans said, ignoring the last dog's skepticism. "can't say i'd do the same myself, i'd be bone tired by the end of it." He stayed quiet for a moment as the groans and pity laughs greeted his joke. "and how's about your parents?"
"They're still at Alphys's for a checkup," Doggo said, a frown on his muzzle. "Just like they were half an hour ago."
Sans shrugged, pulling his hands out his pockets for the first time since he entered the place.
"hey, a lot can change in thirty minutes. or even thirty seconds."
"Such as?" Doggo pushed grumpily. Geez, those glasses had to really be bugging him. Only seeing not moving things had to be driving him nuts, after years of seeing only moving things. Did help him read the cards in front of him without shaking his hands around. Why didn't he just take them off?
"well, i could be ordering food in thirty seconds."
That got a laugh. With a wink, Sans departed from their table. He'd stopped to greet a few of the other regulars as he went, politely refusing invitations to join this person and that monster at their seat. Behind the counter, a straightened out tangle of black hair was humming away to a tuneless tune, and cleaning a glass. When the hairs' owner peeked up to see who was sitting in the stool, the human girl's expression twisted oddly.
"Sans? You're back again? Already?" That was the young human at the counter, who called herself Natalie. Nice girl, and a bit of a curiosity. Taking a job at a monster establishment, when there was still so much controversy over the fact that monsters even existed? Sans had to respect that.
"of course i am. i haven't had lunch yet, Nat," Sans answered cheekily. Natalie was just too many syllables, and there wasn't enough time in the day for that.
The girl had only been there a few days, and didn't seem like she was any more used to his regularity at the establishment. Sans would have preferred Grillby himself behind the counter to take his order, but there was some difficulty for the poor fire monster. Namely, the main part of the new Grillby's hadn't been meticulously fireproofed yet. Wouldn't do any good for business if the place burned down during open hours. The kitchen was both less flammable and more on fire, so that was where he was trapped until he got that done.
Natalie shook her head. To her credit, she was adapting to the oddity of serving monsters pretty well. Especially when compared with the last kid. That one had broken Grillby's number one rule for anyone in his establishment, monsters and non-monsters alike. The fire door was for his use, and his alone. Safety rule, not a territory thing. Can't take the heat, don't walk into an actual oven. The health and safety suit was going to be weird. First time a monster would be in court for any reason, preceding even whether they were American citizens.
That one would be a fun argument to watch. Sans had figured that even though they hadn't been born on American soil, they had been born under it.
"Okay then. What can I get you?" She asked.
"how about you let grills know he's got some fries to make?" Sans told her. The girl rolled her eyes, and tapped a few buttons on the register.
"And there we go. Should be out in a few minutes. That'll be..." She pressed a few more buttons before Sans held up a hand.
"tab it." Sans instructed. Nat rolled her eyes.
"Of course. I won't be surprised by any of this in a week, will I?" She asked him. Sans shrugged.
"depends. sunlight get any easier on the eyes?" He shot back. Natalie frowned.
"You're not supposed to look directly at it. You'll burn out your eyes." Sans paused for a second, and just looked at the girl with widened eye sockets. She kept her face stolid for a solid few seconds, and he started to believe she actually meant it. Then her lip twitched upward, and they both started to laugh. As they shared in the mirth, a little window slid open behind Natalie and a tray of fries slipped through it.
"i'll have to keep that in mind. i'd hate to lose these peepers," Sans joked as she slid the fries in front of him. She passed him a bottle of ketchup with a proud smile still on her face.
"Finally, a joke sticks," She beamed. Her brow quirked up as Sans took the bottle she'd laid out. "Should I charge you extra for that?"
"do i get to keep it if you do?"
"Keep it anyways, since you're going to be emptying it. Make sure you eat some of your side of fries with it."
Sans laughed again as Natalie stepped away. He shoved a single magical fry into his face before popping open the bottle of ketchup and starting to chug. Who was he to disappoint, after all?
Lunch was over as quickly as it began. He hadn't been there for fifteen minutes before he was done and saying his see you laters. His shift began at 1:00 in the afternoon. The time in between he lazed around the park once more, catching a few zzz's in his last bits of free time. He'd almost caught a letter y once, but it got away. At 12:50, he was stretching out and standing up, and moments later he had vanished again.
He reappeared in the unforgivable pile of filth that Sans referred to as his room. Armageddon itself could have awaited in the hodgepodge, but he'd never know. Socks, a ball of laundry, and mess that would have been a catastrophe anywhere else. And yet, this was only the beginning of his schemes. He hadn't created a new trash tornado yet, after all.
He found his work hat quick enough, a hot dog and slipped it on. He didn't have any outfit otherwise. At 12:58, he was heading out the door.
His boss was pulling out his phone when Sans showed up behind him. Probably to call him, and ask where he was. He patted the older man on the back as way of greeting. The man recoiled as the sound of flatulence started to emitted from Sans's hand. The whoopee cushion fell unceremoniously to the ground.
"Good god, Sans!" The man squawked. Red faced and flustered, the skeleton's boss turned down to glare at him. "Where were you?"
"getting ready for work," was the answer given. Sans's white iris's flicked upwards towards the hot dog hat he wore. Boss man pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Fine. Take over. Shift ends at five," the boss said as he started to walk away. Before he got to far, he turned and pointed a finger at the skeleton. "No exceptions, this time. I don't care how famous your brother is, you either work here for me, or you work for him."
Sans shrugged. "okay."
And with that his boss departed. A cool headed man all around, Sans thought. Honestly, Sans just thought the man was angry at the world. He didn't seem to be angry at either him or monsters in particular. It didn't bug Sans really. No marrow off his bones.
Course, he didn't really have many customers for the first two hours. The boss had already covered the early waves of emergency lunch people. Still a few of them were coming up to him, humans in suits and burgeoning monster employees alike. The monsters were excited to see Sans. Who wouldn't be? He 'preformed' at the MTT Resort in the Underground before, and he was the brother of the Great Ambassador Papyrus.
The bulk of his customers were tourists. People from all over the globe wanted to see the infamous city of monsters. It wasn't a surprise, given Asgore's efforts to get as much of humanity comfortable with the presence of monsters as possible, before they could teach the next generation how to feel about them. It was a pretty clever move from the king, especially given his imperfect reputation for all things clever. It was probably his experience, and how he'd taught the better part entire generation or two of monsters to hate humans with the war. A mistake that a certain human child had solved by being so lovable to everyone, and bringing hope back to the monsters. Nothing big really.
Part of the king's plan was tourism. Ebott's mayor had been helping with the push too. Asgore and the monsters did tourism, humans did business as usual, and a few of the downsides of a tourism based economy dissipated. Didn't stop the littering or vandalism, though.
"yeah, i'll take a picture with ya. it'll be a snap," he'd told one couple, ending with a wink. The man chuckled whilst his companion groaned. He stood beside the guy, who was a comfortable two feet taller than him and looked up at the phone. The man held his camera in the air and pointed it down at the three of them so they could all be in the picture.
"Thanks, I appreciate it," the man said. "Now, about that hot dog..."
Overall, it wasn't a lot of work. Grill hot dog, give hot dog, take cash, give change, be a skeleton. Nap, if the opportunity arises. Much as he slept, Sans was good at waking up when he needed to. It was a talent, and one that he hid well. Wouldn't do any good if he couldn't pretend to be asleep on demand.
The city moved past his little stand quickly. Whilst the street was a bit out of the way from most shopping and touristy stuff, a handful of traveling cars from across the country passed by him. It was a relatively safe neighborhood, really. Quite a few monsters could afford to live so close to center city, given that they came to the surface with gold. Sure, the shiny rock's value was depreciating fast around them, but that hadn't happened yet when they first emerged.
That sure didn't do anything to drum up support from the skeptics, but what are you gonna do? Not like they could all turn back time and do it again.
"Sans!" The kids' voices were the very essence of young and sweet. He didn't know whether to really believe they were, but he didn't have proof they weren't. Someone messing with time made it hard to keep track of the details.
Two kids bounced up his stand, their colorful shirts, bright backpacks and overall familiarity made them stand out from the crowd. On the human boy's head, a mess of long brown hair struggled to keep up with its owner in blue. Two purple stripes lined his shirt. On the other, yellow stripes against a lime green covered the mat of white fur that covered him from the tips of his droopy ears, up the length of his snout and down to his toes.
"sup, kids." Sans greeted. "whatever are you doing here?" He knew, but that wasn't how the game was played.
"Coming to see my second favorite skeleton," Frisk answered.
"really? just second?"
"Papyrus," Frisk answered, a small smirk on his face. Sans shrugged.
"true. guess i just can't compete," Sans answered. "and how about the prince?"
"Um... I wanted a hot cat?" the monster child questioned meekly. It was an attempt at a joke.
"sorry asriel, no can do. only have 'dogs today."
"Yeah, with the apostrophe. Guess it'll have to do, then," the prince acceded in what was meant to be a playful tone. He sounded tense instead. Of course, Asriel always seemed tense to him. He didn't understand why, he was a stand up guy. He knew his mother the queen well enough, he got along with his dad. Maybe it was something to do with having died. Skeletons were a symbol of death among humans, and Asriel was spending lots of time around a human.
Sans never got the full story of how that happened, exactly. He just knew it was thanks to Frisk that the dead Prince Dreemur was now less deaded. He assumed Tori knew how it happened, given how she looked at her son whenever he went over. It was a hard to read face, which drove down the entire length of the visible spectrum of emotion and then just kept on going.
Sans shrugged it off. No use dilly dallying when there were 'dogs to prepare.
"So how's Papyrus been?" Frisk asked conversationally. "It's been a few days since I heard from him, and all he's told me about what he's been up to has been that it's," Frisk cleared his throat. His voice went up a few decibels as he finished with "GREAT AND PROGRESSIVE!"
Asriel laughed at the impression and Sans let out a snort. The birds fled from a nearby telephone line, and passing folks stared down the disruptive child.
"yeah, that sounds right. i could tell you." San started as he rolled the 'dogs on the grill. The kids both perked up a bit. "but then, why would i want to ruin the surprise?"
"Aw come on, Sans. Please?" Frisk whimpered. Sans looked at the large human eyes that shimmered at with. Kiddy pout of the century.
Frisk frowned, and let out the breath he was holding. He turned to his partner in crime. "It's okay. I already know Muffet's involved, so I'll just ask her."
"Or Dad!" Asriel added. "I could definitely get him to crack."
Frisk smiled weakly at that, but nodded at it anyway. Sans was definitely missing something there. Then they looked back at Sans.
"nice try, but tricks are not going to work on me. i break before i bend." Sans smiled down at them. They didn't seem to find that very funny either, did they? And he thought he was being so clever. Then he turned back to the dogs, and lifted two up in his narrow marrow fingers. He didn't have skin to burn, so he didn't feel the heat. He placed them in two different buns, wrapped them in napkins, and handed them to the kids over the cart. "here you go. two dogs, absolutely fresh. means you'll have to potty train 'em."
Asriel looked up at him with an odd twist of the snout, and stuck out his tongue in disgust. Frisk snorted before biting down on the dog.
"uh, kid? 'fresh off' means they're still hot."
Frisk looked up at him and nodded. It was a strained motion that betrayed just how aware Frisk was of his mistake. With a shake of the head, Sans pulled a water bottle out of the cart and handed it to the kid.
"on the house." Frisk took the bottle from his savior gratefully and started to chug it without mercy. Would've been a good opportunity for a prank, but Sans couldn't think of anything that didn't seem to be in bad taste. Like hot sauce instead of water. He was a skeleton of with standards at the very height of the low standards. Frisk still looked hilarious chugging down the water. By the flash of light and the ubiquitous clicking of the Prince's camera, it was evident Asriel thought the same.
"Athree-el!" Frisk complained water still sloshing in his mouth. The prince ignored him as the photo slid out of the camera. Asriel shook the picture a bit and smiled at his work.
"Perfect!" He cheered with a pump of his little fist. Sans chuckled a bit. Was that how those instant camera photos were supposed to work? Pull 'em out and shake? Seemed like it'd ruin the picture, but what did Sans know.
"you better run along now. your mother is going to be worried if you take too long. same with your dad, if he hears about it." In that case, they'd get one hell of a bleating. He kept that joke to himself.
With a smile and a thank you, the kids ran off with their hot dogs in hand. The joy of seeing the kids got him through the rest of his shift awake. It had been a few days since he was scheduled to work the cart, and he hadn't seen them in as long. He had other jobs to occupy his time, but they didn't put him on the kids' path to the bus stop from their school.
He threw his hat somewhere in his room without a care, and sat down down on his mattress. Calling it a bed would have been generous. He kicked off his slippers, took off his coat, and leaned back on the uncovered pillow. The strangest thing happened when he laid down.
He couldn't fall asleep. He did everything right. Closing his eyes, getting comfortable. Snoring. Yet, he had laid there for a while, and sleep just didn't happen. Could have been hours, could have been minutes. Nothing. What did that mean?
He still laid there a while longer, just to make sure. There was an itch, though. Did seeing the kids today do something to him? Or was he just... inspired? He sure didn't feel especially awake, but something was definitely nagging at him to get out of bed.
With a groan, Sans creaked his cricker and cracked his back to an upright position in a slow and monotonous grind. No matter what the universe itself was demanding of him when he'd rather be snoozing, he was going to take his time. Given that the urge was neither going away nor growing, he wasn't going to push himself either. That'd just be productive. He slipped the slippers on, stretching out his toes in them. He threw his hoodie back on, and then he stood. Point of no return, there. Guess I'm doing something now.
He just didn't know what that something was yet.
For the first time that day, Sans forewent his shortcuts and just stepped out his door into the apartment proper. Where his room was small and messy, the rest of the place was grand and enchanting. Only the best suite for the monster's ambassador, of course. Best view that the King's gold could afford. Asgore himself wasn't living in the city center, he loved his greenery too much for it.
Papyrus, on the other hand, loved the view of Mount Ebott in the distance. He also loved the apartment itself, and how important it made him feel incredibly important. Not that he wasn't always important, he was Sans's brother, but validation made it all the better. Being able to meet someone new every three steps outside of their apartment building was perhaps the taller skeleton's favorite part.
Sans' room was on the second level, connected by a balcony that hung over the main room. Papyrus's was the next one over, distinctly less sticker-y than either of the skeletons would have liked. Asgore had somehow managed to talk the younger skeleton down to a conservative handful of stickers and a single stripe of tape. Given that Papyrus was the monster ambassador, he did have to be presentable in some human ways. The king couldn't ask Papyrus not to be Papyrus, that was what made him so cool after all. He could ask him to meet the humans in the middle on at least decor, though.
The sacrifices made for the greater good.
It was a bother, but given that this suite was technically a perk of Papyrus's job, they could deal with it. In return, any guests they hosted stayed both comfortable and in good humer-f(em)ur-us. Yeah, cross that one away. That was a stretch, even for him.
There was a dining area tucked into the corner of the main room, with a long table and particularly decorative bones in the vase at its center. It was a very, very tidy space. It was where Papyrus fed and greeted his guests, after all! And they would only ever have the best! And the guests would be so wrapped up in how great Papyrus was, and how great the apartment was, they'd have to also see how great the spaghetti was!
It reached the bare minimum of edible. Only so much could change in the month they had been out. It had improved since Undyne turned over teaching to an actual chef. Being a police officer, caring girlfriend, and one of the strongest, if not the strongest monster in the world didn't leave much time for her cooking lessons. Even with her lack of culinary skills no longer holding Papyrus back, it wasn't enough to make up for him just not having taste buds. There was a reason Sans kept himself scarce when things got political, and as much as he loved his brother, it wasn't just the history-making in the kitchen.
Sans looked at a clock. 6:00. He hadn't even stayed down for an hour. Papyrus wouldn't be back for at another hour yet. Regardless of how his and Asgore's deal ends up, he'd still need to take the time to inform anyone involved. Mourn or celebrate as necessary. He'd call as soon as he could. Sans just might be able to answer, since he was awake anyway.
Sans moseyed down the stairs, and figured the kitchen was the best place to start he search for what urged him. Could just be the urge to eat. Sure, it never kept him up before since he lacked the internal organs to actually digest any of it, but it was a possibility. Or a distraction.
One bag of chips later, he decided that wasn't the case. He put the bag into the trash can gently, pressing down to give his brother as much leeway in the future as he could. Trash was a apparently a serious problem on the surface, or so Sans had been told. He'd have to ask Alphys about the truth there, given that Trashmotology had never actually been his field. Wait, that thought came out wrong. He'd meant that she was a more well diversified scientist than...
who am i justifying myself to? No one that he knew could read minds.
Snacked out, and given that the evidence was effectively disposed of, Sans wandered the house. Nothing came up in the foyer with its chairs and rugs, nothing in the living area and that beautiful widescreen. Nothing in the guest bedroom, either. Probably a good thing, there. No one was staying over right now.
The study did trigger something though. An itch in the back of his cranium. Although a flick of a switch could bring light into the room, it failed to shed light on his urge to do something. He walked into the room warily, ready for something to happen. Nothing did. He expected something to jump out at him when he turned around, but still nada.
Then he saw the door tucked away in the back. The door was dusty and unused, and had been since Sans asked Papyrus not to go in there. Was that why he was here? Well, no time like the present.
Sans pushed open the door, and gone was the comfortable hardwood. It was replaced by cold tiles, and a claustrophobic hallway that lacked the personality of the rest of their home. It was a soulless room with only one way in and out. That's apparently where he wanted to be.
He was amazed the lights even worked for him. There was a desk built into the wall, drawers and cabinets underneath. Just like in Snowdin. At the end of the thin walk-in-closet-turned-evil-lab was a machine, wrapped in cloth. Not what he was here for, right?
Sans was feeling uneasy just being in this room. He'd been doing a surprisingly good job so far of moving past this. Sure, the timeline could reset at any moment and he's be trapped all over again, but why not enjoy this reality as best he could? Don't answer that question.
He sidled over to the desk, sliding his hand down it and sweeping the first clumps of dust bunnies off of it. He hadn't been gone from the lab that long. They'd just finished settling into the place two weeks ago. Even dust bunnies didn't breed that quickly. A peculiar thought, since he knew a few rabbits personally. Nice people.
He stopped just short of the machine, draped in cloth and failure. He never got that thing working, and no cosmic anything would be fixing it either.
Perhaps the lab wasn't where he needed to be? No, he'd never pass up a nap willingly. He had a reputation to uphold. What the hell was keeping him awake?
His eyes darted to the first drawer. It slid open, and a familiar couple of images looked back up at him. One was fairly old drawing, and the other was a timeless photograph. Literally, the photograph never happened. Never would. No way Toriel would allow a picture of all of them without Asriel in it, and that kid was learning his pictures well enough that he would've put it on a timer to get in if he had been there. It was all of the rest of them, on the surface. And he'd had that photo since the kid first came back to this timeline. Who knows how many other Sanses out in the multiverse had it.
The other picture had its own state of limbo about it. Three people who didn't exist anymore, just as Sans wanted to remember them. Smiling. Not that Sans was an artist. Picture was kind of awful, if he was being honest with himself. Not like he was besmirching anyone else's memory of them. In the corner, a younger Sans had wrote a message to himself. 'don't forget.'
Was that why he was here? To remember? Nah, that didn't sound right. The elevator dinged in the distance.
"SANS?" His brother shouted. He sounded excited. "I'M HOME! WHERE ARE YOU?" And he hadn't even called to tell him he was coming back? That wasn't very much like Papyrus.
"in the room you're not allowed in," Sans answered. He heard the sound of boots scraping the wooden floor of the study after a minute, but he couldn't see his brother when he stopped. Papyrus never broke that rule. It had been the only request Sans had made of his brother when they moved out into the city.
"YOU HAVEN'T GONE IN THERE FOR WEEKS. ARE YOU OKAY?" It was a gentle question, which was still a shout for Papyrus.
"yeah, should be bro. i know you won't believe it, but insomnia of all things hit me."
Paps gasped dramatically, as though he had just been told the world was ending and that pig-men actually couldn't fly. "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU THEN! SOMETHING HAPPENED! AND AS YOUR BROTHER, IT'S MY JOB TO FIX IT!"
"just a sprout of productivity whittling away at me. couldn't fight it, bro. too lazy to fight." Papyrus's gasp was happier this time. Sans felt guilty, lying like that. He really had no idea why he was in here.
"OH MY GOD! YOU CAN'T FOOL ME, SANS! YOU'RE JUST NOT BEING LAZY? THAT'S GREAT!" The joy in his brother's voice felt nice. He should do something a bit more often, if that's how it was always met.
"yea. guess i'll turn these lazy bones into productive bones." There was a groan. "it'd be a shin to stop now that you've got my backbone."
"I TAKE BACK EVERYTHING!" Papyrus groaned. He didn't mean it, and that was obvious, but Papyrus was great at playing along. Lots of experience around lots of bad jokes changed a person. His voice lowered slightly. "IS THERE ANYTHING I COULD DO FOR YOU?"
Sans let out a snort. His brother almost sounded tired, himself, yet here he was worrying after him. "if i need anything, you'll be the first to know, bro. right now, i just need to find out where to even start."
"OKAY! I WILL JUST BE OUT HERE. IN THE APARTMENT. NOT WORRYING ABOUT MY BROTHER."
"okay. sounds good."
There was not the sound of Papyrus walking away. With a sigh, Sans got back to digging through the drawers. Nothing else was really in the lab. A few tools, the broken machine, pictures. Blueprints for the machine, written in symbols that he only had the scarcest memories of. Of the several machines the blue paper depicted, he only knew enough about one of the machines to maybe build it again. Smaller machine, just a scanning device. Still a power drain, though, and needy. And it required a lot of things that didn't exist anymore. Sans stared at those blueprints for a moment longer.
Maybe those pieces could be replaced?
Was that why he was here?
His brother's silence was incredibly distracting. Knowing he was out there waiting, even more so.
"how'd your deal go?"
"IT WENT GREAT! MUFFET AND HER SPIDER FRIENDS SHOULD BE HEADING TO THE OTHER COAST IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS!" The excitement was palpable. Sans spread out the blueprints, trying to figure why he would even want or need the machine again. It hadn't survived the initial accident.
"they agreed, then? guess that means all the others are moving out too?"
"YES, THEY ARE! THE AQUARIUM MONSTERS SHOULD BE IN THE SEA IN A MATTER OF MONTHS! SNOWDRAKE AND HIS FAMILY ARE GOING NORTH TO NEW YORK, PAID FOR BY METTATON!"
Sans's smile felt especially genuine for a minute. Frisk was going to love that when he heard, considering how hard he'd tried to get them out. The fact that monster kind was actually integrating at all was amazing. Lucky, really.
He traced his finger across the symbols, and then over his loose translations below. He couldn't build this alone. He didn't have the mechanical know-how.
"IT IS A GOOD THING WE ALL WILL KEEP CONTACT, THAT WAY I WON'T HAVE TO MISS THEM!" Papyrus added. Sans didn't believe that for a second.
"course." Sans wasn't sure what to say. His brother had gotten a bit famous amongst monsters, being their representative and all. He cares for every single one with all his heart, and even if it was what they wanted, Sans knew his brother was already dreading the idea of any of them not being close by. "hey, bro. remind me where it was everyone's going?"
"OKAY! I JUST TOLD YOU, BUT I'M HAPPY TO TELL YOU AGAIN! THE SNOW FAMILY ARE GOING TO NEW YORK, FOR THEIR COMEDY GIG. FISH MONSTER'S WILL BE DROPPED INTO THE ATLANTIC AT THE JERSEY SHORE-" Sans could practically feel the disgust his brother held for that place - "AND MUFFET'S GOING OUT WEST, SOME SMALL TOWN IN ORGAN."
"oregon, bro." A pause.
"OF COURSE I KNEW THAT. I WAS JUST MAKING SURE YOU DID TOO."
"okay. what town?"
"IT WAS... ER... ARCADIA... DOCK? NO, BAY. ARCADIA BAY."
Sans hmm'd under his breath. Sans knew most of what Papyrus had said, since it wasn't the first time they'd talked about it. Papyrus always kept him up to date on his work. Sans didn't return the favor normally, since there wasn't much exciting about selling hot dogs and getting fired.
He'd known that Muffet had wanted to go somewhere where her spider folks could be safe from others, humans and monsters alike. They were the monsters that probably had it the worst of all, since they were barely distinguishable from normal spiders. Even normal spiders, Muffet cherished. Almost as much as money, the second reason she wanted to go out there. She'd be only a day's drive away from Seattle.
Apparently there was some prestigious school there too, or something. Rich kids, quick bucks. Money she could spend in the city, whenever she took her limo there.
Sans looked the blueprints up and down one last time.
"saw the kids today. frisk tried to eat a 'dog when it was still too hot."
"OH NO! WHAT A DISASTER! IS MY HUMAN OKAY?" Concern in his voice, ignorance to Sans's light-hearted tone. How did he ever survive politics?
"yeah, gave him water. prince shot a pic of him chugging it. ask him for a peak the next time you see him." Giving up on the blueprint, Sans wrapped it up. He pulled open the tool drawer and pulled out a rubber band. The blueprint was bound and under his arm when he stepped out of the lab to greet his brother properly.
Papyrus's state dress was definitely a case of Asgore's compromise he'd been pushing for. No more did he don his battle body, with its well painted basketballs. After all, 'his battles now were of words, not of violence. And a battle of words needed a different kind of armor.' Where once was a well washed thing of beauty was a black human dress suit, black pants, with a clean white undershirt. The only accommodation Papyrus was allowed was the black tie with a very happy skull on it. That was tucked into the overcoat at all times, though, so only a few people knew that.
"WELCOME TO THE REST OF THE APARTMENT!" Papyrus announced as he stepped out. Sans grinned harder at his brother's enthusiasm. "AND WELCOME TO YOUR PIECE OF PAPER TOO!"
"heh. thanks. great to be here. it's a papercut above the rest." Sans joked. Papyrus's eyes bugged out. "thank you. much as i'd like to say i'll be here all week, i've got to go see someone real quick. can you hold down the fort?"
"ER... OKAY! I GUESS WE SHALL NOT BE MAKING DINNER TOGETHER TONIGHT THEN. A PITY... FOR YOU!" Papyrus let out three of his iconic 'Nyeh heh heh's. "WHOEVER YOU GO SEE, TELL THEM THAT THE GREAT PAPYRUS, AMBASSADOR OF THE MONSTERS SAYS 'HELLO!'"
"will do." Sans walked out of the study, and in a single step more, he vanished.
Alphys's place was nice. It was in the suburbs near the city of Ebott, a few blocks down the street from Asgore's house. Even in the waning dusk light, Sans could see the shrubs of the King of all Monsters home, trimmed to perfection. Just like the school in the city proper, except there he had a whole block to work with, and more restrictions. He did manage to fight for the hedge of Papyrus's face, though.
Alphys's was dorkier, and more macho all at once. He could see the backside of a poster on a window upstairs, and the light of a tv in a darker room downstairs. Otherwise, the building could have just as well been condemned with how dark the house was and uncared the grass had been. Sans knew a little something about uncared for anything. He stepped up to the door, grinning at the 'no punks allowed' sign. He pulled his free hand out of his pocket and knocked.
Sputtering and surprise resounded in the house. Shuffling. Eventually, a stocky and lizard-y figure about Sans's height opened the door with a robe thrown on hastily.
"Uh... H-hi there... W-what a surprise. At this hour. On a weeknight. W-without warning. What can I do for you Sans?" She asked, said, and greeted all at once.
"hey alphys. you busy?" He asked casually.
"Um..." Alphys turned back into in the house, and back to Sans. "Yes? C-can whatever it is wait until tomorrow? Or even the day after? Not that I don't want to help, I-I just... Kind of sort of... Am busy?"
"eh, okay." Sans answered casually, a complicit shrug added for good measure. He patted the blueprint in his arm. "i'm just going to leave this here with you. that sound good?"
"great." He shoved the sheet into her hands. "if you get the chance, give it a once over. if not, oh well. it's just a little timed study anyway. let me know when you're free, we can both look at it." Sans turned on the heels of his slippers, and started to walk away. "tell undyne that papyrus said hey." He turned to walk away again, and stopped once again, turning back once again to face a still befuddled nerd. "also, papyrus says hey."
He got a call as soon as he stepped into his room about thirty seconds later. Caller id revealed it to be Undyne, tagged by a picture of her in her armor holding Alphys on her shoulder, just because she could. Impressive that she was already calling, since it hadn't even been a minute since he left Alphys's door. He slid the green bar over and put it on speaker.
"hey. sans here. except i'm not. leave a message after the-"
"I know that's you Sans! What the hell did you do?"
"nothing, probably. same as usual," he answered cheekily. He was a bit disappointed the leave-a-message bit didn't pan out.
"Real funny punk. One minute Alphys and I are snuggling hardcore! Hanging out, watching this anime ninja kid kick some serious ass! The next, she answers the door, comes back, sputters some apology, mentions your name, and disappears into her lab!" Something shattered on the other side of the phone.
"huh. sounds terrible. guess i'll just go take my doomsday device blueprints back from her. build it myself in the city."
The line went quiet for a moment.
"Sans, I am a cop," Undyne deadpanned.
"and i'm the ambassador's brother and roommate. that sounds like cause for diplomatic immunity."
"Enough! Quit with your damn jokes, what did you really do?" She sounded pretty frustrated, like her scales had been peeled off.
"guess you got me. it wasn't a doomsday device. I only left her the blueprints to a doomsday clock of sorts," Sans answered. Undyne huffed on the other side of the phone. "wanted to build it myself, but you know how it is. like her chances of doing it more, since she has a sentient robot under her belt. not that mettaton would fit.."
"Seriously? What the hell?" Undyne was shouting. She probably thought he was still joking. It was about half the truth, though.
"yeah. i'm always serious about the end of the world. at least, that's what people tell me."
There was a groan. "Fine. I'll have to ask her then. She won't give me this crap." There was a click, and the line went dead.
That settled, Sans sat back on his bed once more. Not really anything more he could do now, since Alphys was busy. His coat didn't come off this time. He didn't even lay down before he fell asleep.
June 15, 2013
Busy day today. Last of my finals are finally done. Chemistry is now a thing of the past. Suck it, Mrs. Williamson. H2-suck it! Turns out, temperature is how fast the atoms that make me up get the hell out of your class! And let's look at our thermometer... Yep, it turns out it's boiling!
Okay, I have to be tired if I really just wrote that. Or bitter that I probably just barely did okay on the test itself. That line was awful, and I'm so damn glad no one will else ever read it.
As if that wasn't enough of a load off my chest, as of four hours ago the last of my papers have been officially been sent to Blackwell Academy. Last scholarship info, last minute updates to the portfolio, last absolutely everything. They've had my application and my parents financial information for months now, and now they have my transcript. Officially, it's out of my hands. Can't wait until I see the rejection letter, and can stop hoping beyond a hope that I don't suck.
To celebrate, my parents took me out for dinner. Not sure if it was really that much of an occasion. I think Dad just wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe down by the art museum. Dad loves his murder-ribs, and the music was definitely up to both of our standards. Mom... Mom tolerated us, though I suspect it's lucky that her eyes didn't roll out of her head. Too much nostalgic music grosses her out.
On the way out, though, we saw one of those monsters. Real as can be. I hadn't even thought about them in months, beyond when Dad has the news on. She was like... A spider? And a person? Six arms, two legs, and a bunch of eyes that stared into my very soul. She was selling donuts and cider around the corner from the Cafe. And she had actual spiders crawling all over her table, too... Ewwwwww ew ew ew!
I wanted to keep walking, but my dad had to be brave. He went up to her, and started talking. Mom and I got dragged along with him. And she talked back, with this creepy high pitched voice. And... She was almost human in how she acted. Told us how she moved out West with under some kind of Monster Expansion fund that the President pushed out. Dad asked her where she was staying, just trying to be neighborly, and you wouldn't believe where she was living.
Yeah. Home. Arcadia Bay.
There is a spider person living in my hometown. Apparently she wanted to be somewhere where her... Spider clan... Could live with being stepped on all the time. What a world. If I did get into Blackwell, would I ever see her? Or her spiders? :-|
I wish I could say I would be cool with that, she seemed pretty okay. She did charge way too much for those donuts, though. But at the same time, um... Hello? SPIDER!
Well, as is, I have to see her every time I open this page. Dad had been so excited to hear about home, he practically made me take a picture. It's... Not my best work. The lighting was awful, and I couldn't get a great angle with all the people walking by, and I think that got me more upset than everything else today did combined.
Phew, that was a lot of writing. I'm going to go pass out now. Night, night, sleep tight, and such.
In the corner of the page is a single photograph. A short, shy looking girl with light brown hair is standing woodenly in the foreground, her arm barely visible as she holds the camera out. A man and woman stand side by side on one end of her, barely poking their heads into the frame.
On the other end of the girl is another girl with periwinkle colored skin. She has several more eyes than the others, each with beady white irises staring into the camera. Her black hair is done up in pigtails, with little red bows holding them up. Her dress is a bright red, a perfect match to the bows in her hair. Most ominous, or perhaps most appealing would be the sly, perhaps even cat-like smile she had.
July 10, 2013
I GOT ACCEPTED INTO BLACKWELL ACADEMY.
If words can dance this would be a rave. Even though I've never been to one. But who cares because I GOT INTO BLACKWELL ACADEMY, a unique and famous private school for seniors! NO KIDS ALLOWED! I didn't think I would be so excited, since it's not like I didn't used to live in the same town. But when I saw the first text from the Blackwell scholarship office, I could literally feel my pulse speed up.
I thought it was going to say "Sorry! Thanks for playing!" It took me a few seconds to read the whole thing. I guess I wanted to enjoy that last moment of blissful ignorance. And when I saw the first word, "Congratulations..." I think I screamed.
My mom cried, and my dad laughed. They're so weird. But they're happy and this means extra financial support because they don't have to pay anything to Blackwell. This means new clothes and if I can work it in, a new laptop.
Oh, and I have to keep telling myself in all caps I'M GOING TO BLACKWELL ACADEMY.
"H-hey Sans?" Even through the line's static, Alphys's concern was palpable.
"yes?" He'd had to step away from his cart to answer.
"Um... You still haven't told me what it is that this thing does. A-and there are a lot of... Um... Gauges? I-I was able to repurpose a printer for one part of it, but... Well, I can't figure out what it's supposed to be telling me."
"oh. do you want to know?" Hesitation on the other side of the line.
"Um... Would you actually tell me? All I know is you spooked Undyne when she called you back when we started. A D-doomday clock, I think? I mean, not that you would ever do anything bad, you're nice and all, but it-"
"it has you nervous. that's okay." Sans looked back by the cart. Two pairs of eyes were staring at him inquisitively. Really didn't feel like the time for an audience. He flashed the kids his iconic grin, and returned to his phone call. "think of it like a gps. or that google earth thing the humans came up with."
"Um... I'm not sure I understand." Her interruption wasn't appreciated, but also not unexpected.
"it's also like a clock, though," Sans continued without skipping a beat. "a clock tells time. google ogles the planet, and you can find where you are, right? but you can also look anywhere else, too. even places no one has ever been."
Alphys went silent on the line. Was his comparison working at all? It made perfect sense to him. How could he make it simpler, though.
"It keeps track of where we are in time?" She hazarded. Sans sighed. No, his metaphor didn't quite work yet.
"not really. that'd just be a clock. what we're making keeps track of what version of time we're in, and maps how many other possibilities exist."
"What? That sounds like w-we're playing with the multiverse. How is that... Sans, where did you get this blueprint?" She sounded exasperated. Sans visibly flinched at the question.
"found it in new home back underground." And hid it under my house for years and year, bringing it with me up to the surface to lock it in a room I don't let anyone else in. No need to tell her all of that.
"Well... Okay. That should give me a better idea of what I'm working with. It'd be easier if I could read all of it, though. Power costs for this thing are already looking a bit crazy." She still sounded flustered.
"couldn't you move it all and plug it into the core?" He hazarded.
"Without all the old safeguard in place? I-I mean, Ice Wolf isn't even keeping it cool anymore. Who even knows how little power it would take before it got too hot in there?"
Sans sighed. That was a good point. This was why it was a two person job. One he wasn't really sure why he started. Even so, he couldn't really stop since he dragged someone else into it. That'd be rude, and he wasn't in the business of being rude for rudeness sake.
"could you run it at your place, if nothing else was going?"
"Um... Probably not for long, even if we turned everything else off. And it'd be loud, too..."
"i could run it alone when it's done. you could take undyne out somewhere nice, on me."
"Oh, um... That sounds great!"
"doesn't it? just promise to bring something back for me. something greasy."
He ended the call there, not waiting for her to answer. He turned around back to the kids, who had been very obviously waiting patiently. No chance at all they were over there listening in. Especially not with the questions written all over their faces, or how Frisk was swaying back and forth whistling. Sans had tried to whistle before, but he lacked one of the most important components for it: lips.
"sorry about that. alphys needed to know stuff about the doomsday device we're making," Sans told them. Frisk sighed, clearly resigning himself to a lack of information.
"Golly, what kind of stuff?" Asriel's mechanical answer well practiced and devoid of much emotion.
"doomsday stuff. she still needs a lock of a boss monster's hair, the bottled up groans of a thousand puns, and a newt to stir the ingredients together." Diffuse, distract, deny.
"Aww, come on Sans," Frisk pleaded. "Can't you just 'humer-us?' He concluded with a heavy handed wink.
Sans snorted. "frisk, you're better than that. it hasn't been long enough yet for you to get away with that one again."
"So? Come on, please Sans? You know I'll just find out anyway. Alphys can't lie to us anymore," Frisk insisted. He did have a point there. Since coming out and telling the world about what happened in her lab, the Unroyal Scientist had gotten incredibly bad at keeping secrets. Or perhaps people had just gotten better at reading her and pushing her buttons.
"heh, fair enough," Sans responded with a shrug. He threw a trio of 'dogs onto the grill so they could start to cook. "depending on how it worked, i might have been telling you anyway."
"found a blueprint for a a device that keeps track of how many timelines exist. used to have one in the underground too, back when... well, before alphys was the royal scientist. the device was close to complete, only a few things missing. the main part was functioning before the project kicked the bucket. just before it could triangulate which one we were in. a sine of things to come, i suppose, and i'd cosine that statement." Silence. So trigonometry wasn't elementary school learning, then.
"So... Why now?" Asriel questioned. Concern in his voice as he flicked a glance at Frisk, who looked hurt. "I mean... It's not like there's anything left for him to go back to."
"Yeah... Sans, don't you trust me?" Yeah, that was hurt in his voice. Quite a bit of it, actually.
"i'd love to. thing is, no one else has what you have as far as i know. if I know when a timeline is supposed to turn itself around, maybe i could get you to not... or maybe you really never do reset again, and i sleep easier knowing it." He shrugged again. "only started because of an itch bad enough to keep me awake. yeah, that bad. best method of scratching was watching time go by, it turns out." The 'dogs were done, he put them in their buns, and handed two of them to the kids. "shift's over at five, if ya want to talk. tell tori i said hey."
The kids shared a glance, and said their goodbyes. It wasn't a particularly happy one. Perhaps he shouldn't have said anything? No, then Alphys would say something, and they'd be more upset with him. He can at least trust them with his discomfort, and his desire for a little control over his life.
Hey, author here. Wanted to make note of Frisk's gender real quick. I know the jury's out on how 'they' should be represented, and I'll probably get some people upset by making Frisk a boy. The main reason I, in a word, 'gendered' Frisk was because that was never going to be the focus of the story, and it would've been distracting if I had to keep using 'they' and 'them', not to mention dehumanizing. I know there are people out there who struggle with things like that, and I do respect your struggle. The thing is that I'm not here to make a statement, nor am I close enough to the issue in my life to be able to give it the respect it would deserve. I dare say that anything I could say would either be a copy of other people's work, or accidentally offensive. Thus, Frisk is a dude.
If you're looking at this story, coming from my other brief escapade into Undertale, crossing it with Adventure Time, and thinking, "What gives?" The answer is simple: I lost interest in Adventure Time. I did not lose interest in Undertale. If you're here from World of Dragons, then don't worry. That's not dead. Just wrestling with some uncertainties there. I needed a break, and in general something different. This is also the first story I've written the word 'fuck' in, and it's been unbelievably cathartic not inventing PG swears.
As for the last question I can answer: why? Well, I played through Life is Strange for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and thought... You know, what happens when you put two time travelers in a room together? One thing lead to another, and now goat bro is saved, monsters are freed, and Sans is rebuilding a DT based device. I started making notes eight days ago. I started this chapter six days ago, and started my editing-rounds two days ago. Might be a few kinks to work out with how this works out down the line, but I'm feeling good about this.
Some of your other questions will find their answers In Time (Eyyy), whilst others don't need answers.