Determination Cubed: Chapter Seven
Posted December 25th, 2018 by Gracithe1andonly
in wardly searching
chapter seven: a hiccup in time and a shopping cart
Papyrus’s cackling was loud enough to escape his own home and echo around Snowdin. People poked their heads out to see what was so amusing, but they were left wondering, because all the action was happening inside of the tallest house in town.
Asriel shrieked as he stirred the spaghetti noodles with such gusto that sauce covered the entire counter and fell onto the burner, sizzling satisfyingly as it did so. It helped that his vines weren’t quite the same as arms, and so his stirring was very graceless. Papyrus whooped along with him, and just discernible in the background were the warm chuckles of Sans.
Again, and again, Asriel felt a sense of contradiction. He felt nothing, but acted as though he did. Though he didn’t know it, this would be the last time that his inward paradoxes didn’t feel like a problem.
That very afternoon, he was keeping company with Doctor Alphys as she murmured and mixed and scratched out calculations as she dabbled in chemistry-not her strong suit, as she herself admitted. Asriel’s inexorable curiosity reared its head, and given that Alphys was not wearing gloves, he thought she wasn’t dealing with toxic chemicals. Yet, as he yanked the beaker up, splashing himself with its contents, and said, mischievously, “Got you!” she shouted his name as though something were wrong.
Physical pain ripped through him suddenly, and he looked down and realized with a start he was disintegrating.
Sans said his farewells to Asgore and hung up the phone, pensive. It wasn’t often that Asgore called him to offer his position on a case. Something must either be confusing Asgore, whose sight was clouded since he was in the midst of his own crimes, or something was so urgent it needed both their eyes to see it. He had been reluctant to share details over the phone, which again may have been an innocent effect of Asgore being old, or may have meant that the situation was fraught. Sans chuckled at his propensity to overthink, then noticed his phone ringing again. He quashed the rush of annoyance at having his thoughts interrupted and took out the phone, brow furrowing when he noticed it was Asgore again.
Confused, he accepted the call and greeted, “Hello?”
“Ah, Sans,” said Asgore, “I am glad to have found you available. There is a matter that has been brought to my attention, and I would appreciate your input.”
Sans’s permanent smile lost any actual mirth. “Didn’t we just…have this conversation?”
“…No,” Asgore denied with certainty, adding, “I haven’t spoken to you for quite a while.”
Sans wondered why his hands curled into fists, why what felt like a bowling ball was dropping into the pits of his metaphorical stomach. He had no reason to think that this was anything other than a mistake of his own mind.
Yet he did have reason. The royal scientist before Alphys-no one knew his name but Sans, who knew him all too well. Others forgot, but Sans remembered. Though this situation was different than that one, it was similar enough that all Sans had learned on the topics of time and the nature of existence flashed through his mind at top speed.
“Sans? What is it?” Asgore prompted, and Sans remembered he was speaking to someone on the phone.
Quickly reiterating what had been agreed before, Sans hung up the phone and tried to disprove what his instincts were telling him-that someone or something had gone back in time.
Asriel awoke into blackness, two words before his eyes. CONTINUE, was the first, and RESET was the other. Immensely confused, he hovered over the RESET, and somehow knew that that would undo everything. It was an enticing option-to start over, to do things differently, and have no one but himself be aware of it- but he wasn’t quite ready, so he went to the CONTINUE option and awoke moments before the accident with the chemicals. He withdrew his half-extended vines, startled, and Alphys looked at him strangely. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” he said, hating how his voice squeaked. Alphys was thankfully willing to let it go. Sans, however, was not so willing when he returned from errands an hour later with a bag he dropped on the counter.
“These are for the chemistry experiments with love from Temmie,” he said hastily, doffing his lab coat, and her brows furrowed. “Sans? Where are you going?”
“Call from my other job,” he explained, neatly putting his red book in the drawer and throwing away the trash. She nodded and murmured in understanding, then went upstairs, and Sans turned to Asriel as though he had been waiting for an opportunity.
“Asriel,” he said, “Something odd happened on the way back here.”
His tone was carefully casual, and he hadn’t even stopped hastily cleaning up his space, but something about the way he said it caused an echo of fear in Asriel’s mind. He knows.
“I could have sworn I had the same conversation twice,” he chuckled, “you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”
Asriel stopped, but hated himself for it, knowing that every moment he hesitated was a sign. “No,” he said as flippantly as he could, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Sans looked him in the eye with a smile on his face but only seriousness in his eyes. “Okay,” he said, but Asriel sensed that by no stretch of the imagination was that his real opinion. “Have a good night, then.”
Sans left Asriel to try to convince himself against all the evidence that Sans couldn’t possibly know what he had just done. The days passed, and he couldn’t convince himself, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the incident, either.
The idea of resetting, of having a clean slate, was attractive to him-immensely so. He knew already that unless his fear that it wouldn’t really be a clean slate was proven soon, he would do it, and have no regrets. That was the only thing keeping his curiosity in check, after all-consequences.
As a result of having the new, strange dilemma of a possible “reset” to chew on, Asriel lost interest in pretty much everything else. He barely spoke to the people around him. He stopped taking Sans up on his offers to go out, to walk, to see, to have a change of scenery. Days flitted by unmarked, until at last, at the end of a day, Sans stopped next to him and, without warning, picked up his flowerpot. Asriel tried to leap out and get away, yelling at Sans, but the skeleton trotted on resolutely, using his gravity magic to keep Asriel still and ignoring the stares of passerby until they were in Waterfall.
“Are you going to explain what you’re doing?” Asriel asked sourly, his temper tantrum too tiring to continue. Sans nodded, going down into the dump.
“Yes, I’ll explain. But I’m not good with words at times like these. Gonna show you instead.”
Asriel scowled. “It’s like you’re planning to murder me or something, you’re so vague.”
Sans looked up, eyes wide. “You think that? Jeez, dude, you’re killing me,” he chuckled, punning as he dismissed Asriel’s suspicion. “Oh, found it. Here we go.” He drew a shopping cart out from a drier area, securing his grip on Asriel’s flowerpot.
Then, quite abruptly, there was darkness, the feeling of rushing through a tunnel, little bright green and blue lights spiraling around them, growing dimmer as the darkness vanished, revealing that they were now in New Home. Asriel turned to Sans, uttering profanities as he asked what had just happened.
Sans grinned. “Bet I’ve stemmed your boredom a bit.”
Asriel gave him a nonplussed glare. He cleared his throat and explained, “I can teleport. It’s a weird magic skill. Unheard of, except in really old half-myth histories. I call it ‘shortcuts.’ They’re how I get into work without tripping the doorbell.”
“Oh,” said Asriel, a thousand half-formed questions running through his mind, but he figured, as with the Temmies and certain other monsters, perhaps it was best to just let Sans do his thing and not worry about it.
“So I bet you’re wondering why we have this shopping cart,” Sans said.
“I couldn’t care less,” Asriel said, “as you well know.”
“Come on,” Sans egged him on, “surely, on a rational level, you’re annoyed by what you don’t know.”
Sans looked searchingly at Asriel, then gently put him in the shopping cart and began to roll it down the street. Asriel left his flowerpot and was about to jump out of the cart from sheer annoyance when Sans began to run.
“Hang on,” Asriel had a chance to hear Sans cry before the shopping cart’s wheels left the ground.
A wild roller coaster ride down staircases and through alleys ensued. Asriel felt himself screaming, afraid for his life on a very basic level, but was somehow comforted by the distant sound of Sans laughing with unadulterated glee.
The cart rolled to a stop at long last, and the odd pair caught their breaths, Sans still wheezing with laughter, a steadying hand on his chest.
“Oh my God,” Asriel snapped, “for someone with one health point, you sure have a death wish!”
“No, no,” Sans panted between desperate breaths and chuckles, “Not a death wish. A life wish. For you too.”
Asriel hated his rational part murmuring that if he had his spirit, this would touch him deeply. He chose to look around for literally anything to change the subject, and was lucky enough to see his father walking down the alley, cape flying majestically.
“Uh oh,” Asriel hummed softly, just as Sans saw Asgore too. “We’re in trouble,” the skeleton concluded.
“Comic Sans, I know that’s you,” Asgore’s familiar voice rumbled. Asriel felt the lack of his filial feelings, and fancied that Sans had stolen them upon seeing the strange bashful expression playing with his permanent smile.
“Uh, yeah, hi,” he called back, pushing the shopping cart towards the king, who did nothing to approach and make the awkward moment of silence shorter. At last, when Asgore deemed them close enough, he spoke.
“I thought you said you would not use the shopping carts this way anymore.”
Sans winced. Asriel derived what delight he could from the idea that this was a recurring event.
“I expect more of you, of all people,” Asgore said disapprovingly. “What on earth made you think this was a good idea?”
“With respect, I still think it was a good idea,” said Sans calmly.
“Someone could have been hurt!” Asgore objected.
“I decided it was okay to go because nobody’s ever out this time of night. I didn’t forget what you said,” Sans admitted, letting embarrassment show, “but there was something big to be gained doing it.” He let his left eye slide towards Asriel, telling him subtly that his entertainment, his temporary freedom from boredom, was that big thing to be gained.
“What was this thing?” Asgore asked, the disapproval melting from his tone, and Asriel realized that his father must like Sans very much. He couldn’t stay angry with him, just has he had never been able to stay angry with his children, when he had had them.
Sans had not broken eye contact with Asriel, and the flower realized Sans wanted to know if it was alright to tell Asgore the truth. Asriel shook his head, and Sans sighed a very small sigh before devoting his full attention back to his king.
“I can’t tell you that, sir,” he said softly. “It’s someone else’s secret.”
Asgore looked at Asriel curiously, then at Sans, and shook his head fondly. “Very well. But this must not happen again,” he said, sternness creeping back into his tone.
“Sure. And sir? I’m sorry for not asking permission first, or letting everybody know what was going on,” Sans said softly, with difficulty, and a real guiltless smile shone on Asgore’s face.
“You couldn’t speak better than that,” he replied, giving the closest thing he could to a blessing. “Now you had best head home. It is getting very late.”
“Yeah. Bye, your majesty,” Sans called, beginning to wheel the cart back up the lane.
“Goodbye, Sans,” Asgore rumbled, “and goodnight, Flowey.”
Mildly surprised that his father remembered his nickname, Asriel said, “Goodnight, your majesty.”
The moment Asgore had crossed into the other lane, Sans took another shortcut through the darkness studded with green and blue, landing in the dump to drop off the cart. From there, he walked to the Riverperson, and they headed back up to the lab. Sans put the flowerpot down gingerly and was about to leave when he turned. “Hey, Asriel?”
“You do know that I…and more than just me…care about what happens to you, right?”
Asriel looked at the man who had a life wish and felt his mouth twist wryly out of habit. “I know,” he responded dully.
Sans lingered for a moment, but thought of nothing else to say, so departed, leaving Asriel alone with his thoughts, with the reason that could never be enough to replace his lost soul.
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