Determination Cubed: Chapter Nine
Posted January 17th, 2019 by Gracithe1andonly
in wardly searching
chapter nine: time sneezes, it’s a bit dusty in here
Asriel had not slept at all. Not that sleep usually came easily to him, and he didn’t seem to need it. So he stayed up, stewing in thoughts of alternate pasts and impossible futures, until he knew that he could no longer restrain himself. He had to do it. No matter whatever anyone else knew. He was going to Reset. And to force the cowardly part of him to do it, he had to kill someone. So when Alphys went upstairs right on time, he followed her, and threw his most damaging bullets from behind. It took quite a few pellets before she dusted, but she never knew what, exactly, was happening, only that she was dying.
Now he was on the other side of the upstairs, looking out at the burning landscape, trying to remember how to call up that power from within him. If he could only do it again, he was sure, he would always be able to.
The sound of soft tennis shoes thudding upstairs at an alarming rate startled him. Asriel only knew one other person who would be in this lab, and didn't bother turning to meet him.
"Asriel," greeted the small skeleton who had treated the soulless flower like a person, like a friend. His voice was breathless and fatigued, and Asriel could hear him panting. "Where's Alphys?"
Asriel could hear it in Sans' tone. It wasn't confrontational or judgmental, but there was an undertone to it that couldn't be denied. "I think you already know."
Asriel didn't turn to look at the pupils he knew were vanishing. "Yeah. You're right. I do know."
"She's dead," Asriel confirmed, turning. Sans was standing in the dusky room, eyes closed, hands limp at his sides, grief rolling off him. "She didn't even see it coming."
"Because I wanted to feel something," Asriel felt his strange voice escalate into a shriek, "anything at all! You don't understand. You will never understand, you, you stupid smiley trashbag!"
Sans' eyes opened, one eye glowing blue. "But you know it's wrong."
Asriel-no, Flowey-scowled. "Does that even matter at this point?"
Sans stepped forward. "That's not how right and wrong work. Either it never matters, or it always matters. Not somewhere in between."
"Shut up," Flowey hissed.
"Listen to me," implored the small skeleton, slowly moving closer, "you seemed to think what I said before was right."
"I've changed my mind. You're stupid, and remembering what it's supposed to be like won't change what it is!"
"But killing...killing Alphys...was wrong. And you know that. You didn't have to kill her. You don't have to do this."
Sans was close enough now to extend a hand. He seemed so steady, so wise. It seemed he knew something Flowey didn't.
Then Flowey saw his hands shaking. 'He's bluffing. He doesn't know anything. He's scared,' the voice within he had refused to listen to at first now commandeered all his attention.
"I think you don't understand, Sans," Flowey drawled.
"Asriel-" he started again, but Flowey cut him off.
"You're right, I don't have to do this. But I can. And because I can..." He wove his vines into the flimsy partitions, crumbling and breaking them, "I very much want to."
He realized too late that he was in the way of the falling ceiling as well.
Sans startled awake, shouting one concise "No!" His closed eyes-why were they closed?-flew open. He had been hit by a large part of the ceiling, he was in pain and dying, and worse, Asriel had forgotten, given up, was the most dangerous thing in the Kingdom-
No, he realized, he was in his room, in his bed. His treadmill he saved for pranking people wasn't where it had been the day before, when Asriel had come over for the last time. His room was messier than usual, but not entirely chaos.
So. Asriel went back in time. The question was, how far?
As Sans was trying to figure out what day it was, Papyrus, having heard his brother's shout, was flying upstairs and bursting through the door.
"Sans! Sans! Everything is fine! Did you have a bad dream?!"
Sans was caught in indecision. What to tell Papyrus? As much of the truth as possible, he resolved.
"I had a dream that I lost a friend," he said, pulling scattered thoughts together, "I had a dream I had a friend who became a bad person."
"Oh..." Papyrus, out of long habit, swooped Sans up into a hug. "But your friend can become good again, right?"
"Maybe," Sans said into Papyrus' scarf, fear beginning to sink in. He shuddered, then looked Papyrus in the face.
Papyrus looked confused and sad, as he did oftentimes when confronted with Sans' singular problems, but there was hope and trust and faith in his eyes, forces that banished fear and despair.
"He'll be alright," Sans said, borrowing confidence from his brother, "if he just remembers."
Papyrus smiled cheerfully in response. "I'll go downstairs and finish my eggs. They're probably done by now." The smell of burnt eggs wafted through the open door, and Sans lovingly grimaced, if such a thing were possible.
"Hey, bro?" Sans asked as Papyrus was leaving. "What day is it?"
"April twenty-seventh, I believe," Papyrus said breezily as he departed downstairs, not noticing Sans's shock.
After ensuring Papyrus was out of earshot, Sans murmured, "All the way back? Why, what for? What's his game? What is he trying to do? What should I do?"
He decided in a moment that he should get to work as quickly as possible, and threw on his turtleneck and sweatpants with all due speed.
As he rushed downstairs, his little red notebook tucked under his arm, Papyrus stopped him and gave him a plate of noodles-not, thank goodness, burnt eggs. "For the way," he said, "have a good day, brother!"
Sans took a shortcut to the lab, and landed outside the cell where Asriel had awoken previously. He found it empty, and stood confused, frozen, unknowing of what had happened or what to do next.
Then a scream echoed through the lab. Sans startled. "Alphys!"
He sprinted upstairs and found her in the front hallway, hands over her eyes, shaking. He took her by the shoulders.
"Alphys, Alphys, where's Az-fl-the flower?" Sans stumbled over Asriel's names, deciding he should not tell Alphys what had happened.
"It's gone," she said tightly, shrugging out of his hold.
"How? Where?" Sans tried to suppress his anger and worry.
"I don't know!" she cried, picking up on his turbulence nonetheless, "it popped in here, said something about how I-I'm a m-miserable excuse for a s-scientist, then went into the freaking floor! I don't know where it went and I don't care! Now if you'll excuse me, Sans, I have work to do." She set off at a clip towards the escalator, leaving Sans lost and worried in the entryway.
Flowey woke in the lab, not at all surprised at what had happened, and serenely without distress, even on a rational level. He met Alphys in the lab by accident and said things he had been thinking all the time, but resisted saying. Her distress awoke his reason-he still remembered how Asriel would react to such things, with compassion and gentleness. Nonetheless, it also gave him a chance to get out of the lab with no resistance from her, which was convenient. He didn't want to stick around to see Sans.
There was nothing the skeleton could say that he had not already said, and there was the slightest possibility that he remembered, would be angry, would try to kill him.
He needed to find his mother. There was no possibility that she was dead.
His mother had taught him the dogma that all life is precious.
If anyone could defend it, she could.
He even had a hunch about where to find her.
Flowey burrowed underneath the door of the Ruins, where Asriel had spent his earliest childhood, where Toriel used to like to go to get more flowers for Asgore's garden. He emerged on the other side, scaring a wandering Whimsun half to death, and began moving through the long, half-familiar hallway as quickly as his roots would allow.
He found her in a chair by the fire, dozing with a battered book on her lap. He sat next to her, quietly, impatience burning deep inside him but unwilling to affront Asriel’s memories of this woman by trying to wake her forcefully.
In good time, she did wake, and sighed deeply before rising. She placed the book on the shelf and serenely turned, only to yelp in shock.
“Oh, goodness,” she chuckled, hand on her heart, “you startled me!” Gently, she approached. “Are you new around here? I’ve never met a flower monster before.”
The truth flew out of Flowey’s mouth. “Mom, it’s me. Or it was. I don’t, um, really know anymore.”
She blinked, frozen. “Who…are you?” she managed to say.
“It’s Asriel,” Flowey recited, feeling deeply that he was lying. Asriel never would have killed someone, and definitely wouldn’t have tried to destroy Sans.
“My…son? How?” Toriel was in a place far away from what was happening, utter bewilderment turning her usual softness to distant calculation.
“It was that Determination,” Flowey explained. “They put Determination into a flower and I happened.”
“My son, if that is truly you,” Toriel beseeched, “then tell me. What was your sister’s name?”
“Chara,” Flowey murmured.
“And what is the name I convinced your father not to give you?”
“Togore,” he recited listlessly.
“And what is my favorite pie?”
Flowey smirked. “Snail pie. Though you make Butterscotch and Cinnamon pies more often.”
Toriel blinked, stock still for one more moment, then sank onto her knees, gently touching his petals. “It truly…is you. How…very, very, very strange!” A sound, half-chuckle, and half-sob ripped its way out of her, and Flowey found himself hugged, insofar as it was possible to hug stems and leaves.
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