Determination Cubed: An Undertale Fanfiction
Posted January 16th, 2018 by Gracithe1andonly
in denial that I'm in college
author's note: pre-canon is fun and full of mystery. my headcanon is probably not your headcanon and probably isn't even anywhere near Toby Fox's idea, but i decided to go with it anyway.
i hope you enjoy.
(owes a lot to Handplates and to Zarla in general!)
chapter one: we make a new friend (or not a friend, but we tried)
"Sans! I won't call you again! Are you going to work today?!"
The familiar voice cut through the pleasant rest of Sans' often frenetic mind. He grumbled and pulled the sheets over his head, but Papyrus had a knack for bringing him out of oblivion.
Slowly, he sat up and stretched, realigning his bones that had, as usual, gotten a little crooked as he slept. "I'm up, bro," he muttered, walking to the door like a zombie and opening it.
Promptly he was hustled to the kitchen by the nagging Papyrus, who chattered and cackled his brother into full wakefulness. Once Sans began punning in response, Papyrus set down a plate of noodles.
Though Papyrus' culinary instincts were strange at the best of times and wild when he followed Undyne's teaching, he was adamant in the matter of how to cook noodles. He refused to do so with her brand of passion that flattened the pot rather than yielding noodles, and since his plain noodles could be relied on he rarely tried to create a new kind of pasta for breakfast. (Lunch and dinner were another story!)
After a morning full of puns and laughter and teasing, Sans pulled on his small lab coat and took a shortcut to Hotland.
As always, the silence of the lab dismayed him. When he had first worked here, there had been five scientists and a curious armless child frequenting here, as well as numerous janitors and curious citizens. When Sans had first been inside this lab, though, he had been so young, so afraid. There had only been one royal scientist, and it had not been Sans. Working in the lab voluntarily had always been different than being trapped in it, and he hadn't realized how much of that difference was due to the people who lived and laughed and loved in it until they were gone.
In the silence, old memories hounded Sans a bit more than they used to. "Just another reason to focus on getting back," he told himself, straightening his hunching shoulders and tapping into the determination that wasn't naturally his.
As he walked down the empty halls, so ill-kempt now that Alphys insisted on solitude and secrecy, he heard his last co-worker shriek.
"Al?" he yelled, then ran to find her.
She was downstairs, outside the cell-like room where Sans had made her put the flower to try to make sure no one could take it without their knowing. She was in a familiar pose of desperate confusion-she always got like this when something happened that reminded her of people she didn't remember.
"Alphys? You okay?" Sans grabbed her arm in solidarity. She jerked her arm out of his hold-when taken by surprise she tended to treat Sans as though she remembered he was the sort of person to push Gaster into the CORE, which wasn't surprising as that was more or less how they had met-and drew back.
"Alphys," Sans tried to bring her rational mind back to the surface, "what color is the floor?"
"Green," she responded.
"What about your face?"
She snorted, as she always did when faces were mentioned, and calmed down a bit more. "Yellow."
"White as your soul," Alphys sniffed, then laughed a raw laugh.
"You good?" Sans asked softly.
"Y-yeah," her voice hitched, "I just...wasn't expecting this."
"What happened?" Sans inquired.
Alphys gestured despairingly to the cell. "See for yourself."
Cautiously, Sans went through the open doorway. The flower was still there, and for a moment he felt confused relief-what on earth was all the fuss about?
Then the flower spoke.
"Why won't anybody give me a straight answer?!" he shrieked, and Sans flinched from the noise, then approached hastily. The flower had a face, and was looking extremely peeved. He turned on Sans, petals fanning out. "Where am I? Who are you? Where's Chara? Why can't I feel my legs? Or arms? What happened? Where are my parents?"
Sans was stunned, and that was an understatement. It had taken him months to even let Alphys inject a flower with that infernal substance, and now all that caution had come to nothing. Besides that, this person didn't seem to think he was a flower.
"...Who are you?" Sans inquired softly, hoping gentleness would still this mysterious being's railing.
The flower nearly growled, then railed in the unholy shriek with which he had started the conversation. "I am Asriel Dreemurr! I'm the prince! I need answers and I need them now!"
Sans' frenetic mind whirred, trying to work through the question of 'how on earth can this creature be Asgore's son,' but his voice was calm.
"In the order of your questions- you're in the lab of the underground. My name is Sans and I work here. I don't know who or where Chara is, and as for your legs and arms..."
Sans stopped, conceiving of the other's situation. Delusional or not, he certainly believed himself to be anthropomorphous, and to find he was not would be a shock to him. "...I really don't know how to explain it. Let's go find a mirror."
Sans picked up the flowerpot and tucked it under his arm, waving off Alphys as she tried to stop him-despite the fact that she was Royal Scientist and he wasn't, the two behaved more as equals than anything. As Sans walked, Asriel reiterated, "Where are my parents? What happened to me?"
Sans frowned through his permanent smile. "By your parents you mean the King and Queen?"
The flower bobbed his head. "Yes, Asgore and Toriel. Where are they?"
Sans exhaled. "King Asgore's in his palace. I don't know where the Queen is. No one has since the first soul was taken, and that was before I was born, I think."
The scientist's brow furrowed. It was getting harder and harder to entertain the assertion that this wasn't really Asriel's consciousness. The way he knew how to speak, the way he remembered the names of the King and the Queen-if they weren't the prince's memories, they were an excellent imitation.
"Yes," he replied to Asriel, "you don't know about the decree?"
The flower shook his head, wide-eyed. "It was made after the prince-well, you-and your sister died," Sans recounted. "Every human that comes down here is supposed to be captured and taken to the King, who's waiting for seven. He has six souls." The Judge did his utmost to keep his bitter knowledge and worry for his King out of his voice.
"You're lying," said the flower coolly, with no heated emotion whatsoever. "My father's not like that."
"You wouldn't think so," sighed Sans, "but it's happening."
There was a heavier silence between the odd pair until they reached the large mirror-Asriel gasped in surprise as he caught sight of himself.
"That's me?" he asked incredulously, "how?"
Sans felt his crisis-driven calm vanish in the presence of guilt. "I don't know how you got involved, Asriel," he said almost too softly to hear, but gained volume as he went on, "but we never should have even touched that stuff, much less injected it into a living thing. I'm sorry."
"What stuff?" the flower seemed unnerved.
"Determination, she calls it," Sans explained, "it's why you're alive again. I don't know how, but it's what's responsible for all of this."
"Oh," said Asriel lamely, and silence reigned for a long, long moment.
"Well, I wish it could have happened in better circumstances," Sans tried to start on the right foot with his prince, "but it's nice to meet you, Asriel."
The flower said nothing, and Sans shifted to get a better look at him. He was pensive and quiet, but as he noticed the skeleton watching, shook himself and grinned a somewhat saccharine grin. "Nice to meet you, too, Sans."
Asriel knew he should be very distressed.
Chara was dead. His parents thought he was dead too. His gentle father had somehow turned into a murderer, and his mother had vanished. The Royal Scientist he had known all his life and even called "Uncle Gaster" had inexplicably disappeared, and another skeleton and a lizard were the scientists now. The new skeleton snagged Asriel's attention-wasn't Gaster the last of his kind? This Sans should be impossible. Yet here he was. And-strangest of all-somehow, the prince had turned into a flower, of all things.
Asriel knew he should be very distressed, but he was not. At first he mistook his emotional status for serenity, something the normally overly sensitive young prince was glad for. Then, as time went on, and it was all he could do to keep boredom from driving him mad, he realized he was not serene, but in a trap of apathy.
Just as Sans had piqued Asriel's curiosity and interest, Asriel seemed to have piqued Sans'. The small scientist would often sit next to him as he worked equations, chatting gaily or silently working contentedly. Early on, Asriel discovered Sans liked bad jokes just as much as his missing mother.
Science-related puns abounded, especially botanical ones, which made sense given Asriel's strange new form. Finding that he no longer involuntarily giggled at such jokes as he used to, and finding that the sloppiness of most of the on-the-fly wordplay actually irritated him on an animalistic level, he amped up his angered reaction. It was a delicate but worthwhile balance to strike, expressing anger just short of acting to kill the annoyance as part of him urged him to do.
Talking to Sans was really the only interesting thing that happened. Alphys avoided Asriel like the plague, and the rest of the lab that Alphys allowed Asriel didn't have many diversions. It didn't help that most of the things the flower remembered liking to do no longer appealed.
The opportunity to see Sans's comedy act at the MTT Hotel and Resort, a posh place Asriel didn't recall existing, seemed to be just the thing to pull him out of his never-ending boredom.
Sans' brand of humor mostly consisted of taking the English language and investigating it with innocent curiosity, then suddenly turning a word and its definition into a snarky statement about being a monster or a skeleton or living underground or holding grudges or any other dimension of life everyone understood. Asriel knew that if he could care about what was happening, he would be crying with laughter, but instead it was a mere distraction.
Everything, even Sans, is a mere distraction.
Asriel shook his petaled head. No. I must not think like that. Mom told me that all life is precious and meaningful.
But why is it meaningful? He asked himself. Why does anything matter at all? Maybe I was blinded by emotion before, and now I see the world clearly.
Mom would disagree.
These thoughts and others circled around his head, and even as Sans carried him back to the lab he struggled with them.
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