Still, even though Rannoch was lovely, it was nice to be back home. Well, the home that wasn't over two-thousand years in the future. Shaking her head, she walked through the streets when she felt it again; a strange feeling that she'd missed something. The town looked the same as ever, with the addition of a few new faces here and there, yet something was definitely different.
It finally hit her as she neared the Cherry House; there was no guard at the gate. Specifically, there was no Papyrus at the gate. The skeleton always had a knack of being there when Glen returned, usually followed by his easy-going brother. This wasn't a huge deal, of course; perhaps Paps finally took a day off. Perhaps he was busy; Paps had been considering expanding the guard when Glen left.
Then where was Sans? It was unusual enough to not run into Papyrus, but Sans always managed to find her before she reached the Cherry house. Oh, he'd be lounging in a tree, or snoozing on a public bench, but when Glen returned, she inevitably found herself met with a smile and a bad pun. Good ol' Sans, Glen thought to herself, smiling. Glen was a friend of their whole family, of course, but Sans was something else: always willing to help with some hare-brained scheme or to give her a hand with one of her inventions. She was something she'd forgotten she didn't have since being thrust back in time; a true buddy. Not the sort who'd keep you out of trouble, but the one who'd be in the cell with you when you woke up after a night drinking, offering to hold the bucket.
The thought made her smile as she walked up the steps to the front door of the Cherry house. Perhaps Toriel and Sans had been blessed with a child of their own. They'd adopted Frisk, but Sans confided in Glen that he and Toriel were trying to give the human … formerly-human child a little brother or sister. Smiling at the prospect of a new little one to spoil (and wondering idly just what a cross between Toriel and Sans would look like), Glen knocked on the door.
There was no answer. Glen tried again, just in case she hadn't been heard, but still received no answer. Now truly worried, Glen tried the handle and found it unlocked. She opened the door, calling out, "Tori? Sans? It's Glen. I'm lettin' myself in."
She stepped inside the living room, her eyes moving first from Toriel's comfortable armchair to Sans's recliner, to the chair she'd made for Frisk with holes for her wings. There was no sign of any of them, not even so much as one of Sans's socks. Toriel kept a clean house, though Sans always managed to leave bits of laundry in the places she never thought to check.
"TORI!" Glen yelled. "Sans! Frisk! Anyone?"
Hearing nothing, Glen rushed through the home, checking every room only to find them all empty. Now truly worried, Glen murmured, "Alphys … if something weird happened, she'll know about it."
Glen hurried to the door handle, only for it to turn just as she reached for the handle. She froze as the door swung open to reveal Toriel and Frisk, both wearing black robes.
"Thank the Creator!" Glen said, relief flooding over her as she gave the surprised Bossun woman a hug. "You had me scared, y'know?"
"Glenda?" Toriel said, her surprised voice sounding a little hoarse, as though she had a cold. "We didn't know you'd be coming."
"Yeah, I'm back for awhile." Glen said, reaching to rustle the little girl's hair only to stop when she saw Frisk's tears. Kneeling down beside her, Glen said, "Hey! What's wrong, Frisk?"
Frisk threw her little arms around Glen and cried in earnest, leaving Glen dumbfounded.
"What's going on?" Glen demanded. "Is someone messing with you and the other monsters again? Where is Sans?"
"Resonant Magical Degradation." Alphys said, patting Glen's shoulder. She was being surprisingly supportive, considering Glen nearly knocked the front door off its hinges. "I tried everything. I even coordinated with your contacts on Vinta for experimental treatments, but he just kept getting worse and worse.:
"I still can't believe it." Glen said, staring into the depths of her coffee as she sat at the small table in the house Alphys and Undyne shared. "He seemed fine last time I was here. I mean, it was over a year ago, but still …"
Alphys let out a sigh. She sat down across from Glen and, after a moment of silence, said, "He'd been suffering from it for decades, Glen."
Glen stared at her. "Decades? You mean …"
"Even while in the Underground." Alphys finished. "My tests were very thorough. Honestly, it's amazing he lasted so long. I think … I think it was Papyrus that kept him going."
Glen didn't know what to say to that. It made sense, of course. Sans and Papyrus bickered, but ultimately they were brothers.
"But we worked together on the cure for Frisk." Glen said, still shaking her head. "It would've been a pain to make another dose, but if he had just said something-"
"It wouldn't have worked." Alphys said with another sigh. "I tested the residue of the formula; it seems to be formulated for humans, not monsters. I tried everything to keep him going, but he just kept deteriorating. Then, a few days ago, Sans and Papyrus went out to watch the stars like always. Sans … didn't make it."
"Dammit, why didn't he tell me? We were buds, best buds, but buds aren't supposed to keep secrets like this." Glen sighed again. "I just … I don't get it."
In truth, she did. Sans didn't want to worry her. He knew more than most about her, about her long wait to rejoin her wife and her attempts to speed things along.
They sat in silence, both looking at their hands.
"Um … Miss Glen …" Alphys eventually said, blushing. "S-sorry if this is a bad question, but … could you bring him back? I've seen you do things even all this wonderful equipment can't explain. Surely reconstituting a monster would be a piece of-"
"I can't." Glen said flatly.
After a few moments, Glen realized Alphys was still looking at her. Sighing, Glen said, "I could easily reconstitute his body, yeah. I could probably sort out this magical degradation, make it so he's fine, easy. Thing is, his soul's gone beyond the veil. To bring it back I'd … well, I'd have to violate one of the few rules my kind has, and believe me: the Sunset Accord exists for a very good reason."
Alphys continued looking at Glen for a few more moments before sighing sadly one final time. "Then he's really gone."
Glen nodded slowly, yet even as she did, she could feel her mind starting to piece together a plan.
"No!" Glen barked. The illusions vanished, leaving her once again in the cabin. The tendrils of darkness holding her suddenly released, dumping her on the floor like a pile of dirty laundry.
Barbara Jagger stood in front of her, a wicked smile on her face.
"There it is." Jagger whispered softly. "Like a seed of darkness hiding in your soul."
"I don't know what you're talkin' about." Glen said despite the pain throbbing through her head.
"Your friend died while you were messing around across the galaxy. All you had to do was make a call, to see how your friends were doing, and you could've saved him."
"Yeah, well I've lost a lot of friends."
"Oh, no." Jagger said, smile widening. "This one is different, I can feel it. Show me the rest."
Glen opened her mouth, another insult on her tongue, only for a thump from the floor above to make Jagger look up and frown.
"Apparently, Mister Wake is stronger than I expected. I will be back later to finish our conversation."
With that, Barbara Jagger was gone. Glen shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts; digging through what could be called the dark presence's mind was slow work, and left her mind feeling strangely greasy.
The sound of metal pincers clicking made Glen turn. Bubba was back; the little skriever crawled down the chimney and scurried over to Glen.
"Hey there." Glen said with a small wave, still lying on the floor.
Bubba chirped. A moment later, Glen hear Papyrus's voice coming from Bubba's speakers. "Oh, Miss Glen! Just like Sans; resting on the floor. What people have against beds, I'll never know."
"Are you okay, Glen?" Claudia asked.
Glen managed a nod before realizing that Bubba might not have video projection capability. "I'm breathing. Making progress too. Any idea how you're gonna get me outta here?"
"Jinkie and I are throwing something together, but it'll take a little more time. Glen, Artie's here too."
"What?" Glen frowned and pushed herself into a sitting position. "Guess he was touching Fuku or Sans when the rest of us switched."
"Well, whatever happened, he's in the Underground. Apparently, the SCP Foundation's taken root down there in this dimension.
Glen groaned. "Not the SCP Foundation. Those jerks are such a pain."
"Yeah, well they've got the monsters all bottled up in Snowdin."
"Something else to look forward too." Glen said, slowly rising to her feet. "Hopefully Gears and Kondraki are busy poking some anomalous shrub on the other side of the planet right now."
"Any progress on your end?" Claudia asked.
"A little. Seems like there've been several outbreaks of ichor before. From what I can tell, it always centers around a specific person who acts like a kind of catalyst for the whole thing."
"So it's tied to a person?"
"Only at first. Once it gets a mind of its own, the source person just gets engulfed like everything else. I'm still digging for info here, but if things get to hot out where Artie is and you've got my escape ready, yank me outta here."
"Just leave it to us." Claudia paused and added, "Speaking of, how attached are you to both of your arms?"
Glen frowned at Bubba, even though it was unlikely Claudia could see her. "Very funny, Claudia."
She froze at the sound of a door closing upstairs. "She's coming back." Glen whispered, shooing Bubba away. "Get going already!"
Bubba did not need to be told twice. In a matter of moments, the little robot was back up the chimney and out of sight.
Barbara Jagger walked down the stairwell a few moments later, a satisfied smile on her face.
"Ah, Miss Glenda." She said. "I see you're back on your feet."
"More or less." Glen said. "I take it the Mister Wake situation's working out for you?"
"Oh, yes. He's doing quite nicely. Things work so much more smoothly when people cooperate with me."
"Yeah, well … mum always told me I had a stubborn streak."
Barbara let out a small chuckle before approaching Glen. "Shall we continue?"
Glen clenched her eyes shut as the darkness once again probed her thoughts. She opened them again, only to find herself asleep in her workshop, a post-it note stuck to her cheek with sweat.
"Huh?" She murmured, peeling off the sticker. It read, "Ask Sans about Transversive Alternation Drive resonance problems."
She stared at the post-it note for a few moments, guilt flooding her. Sans was gone now; no more big goofy smile, no more bad puns, no more chilling on the back porch, and no more help for her inventions. Three months passed since she'd returned to find her old friend gone, and still the news gave her pause.
People like Sans weren't supposed to die. They were constant fixtures of life, always sitting on a ba rstool somewhere or popping up behind you with a joke or a drink. Buddies, that's what they were.
Glen was no stranger to death; being functionally immortal, seeing friends grow old and die was inevitable. Perhaps that was why this struck her so hard; the monsters weren't like other species. They could live for ages, hundreds of years in some cases. Toriel refused to give her a number (to be fair, Glen wasn't fond of the subject herself), but Asgore mentioned that he'd been around when the barrier first sealed them Underground. That was over a thousand years ago. She thought she'd have more time with Sans, that she might even be godmother to one of their future children.
Even the loss of her smiling skeletal friend was nothing compared to the sight of Papyrus; the lonely skeleton had taken to wearing Sans's old coat and carrying around his brother's ashes everywhere. Glen heard him telling Undyne that he wanted his own ashes to be mixed with Sans's whenever he passed away, so he could be with his brother forever. That alone nearly had Glen in tears. If only there was a way to bring him back …
But there was a way. It wasn't too late; she knew right where his soul was. If only getting it wasn't a clear violation of the Sunset Accord.
But the Sunset Accord was an agreement between the Celestial Plane, the Burning Hells, and the Elsewhere Incorporate. She was a Dreamer, yes, but the Elsewhere Incorporate didn't exist in her reality, did it?
It was a technicality, and she knew it. It wasn't about subverting rules, it was about balance. The forces of heaven and hell were in an eternal deadlock, with neither able to overthrow the other. Her actions could kick of an apocalypse if she was careless. That could mean countless lives caught up in a pitch battle between the forces of good and evil, all brought about by her reckless interference in the natural order, all to bring back her friend. Could she really be that selfish?
The sound of shattering glass made her look up. Thieves weren't an issue in Ebott, but given the state of her extended family, Glen was not about to take any chances. She quickly snatched Headache from her workbench and pulled them over her arms before heading toward the kitchen.
She slowly pushed open the door, only to find Papyrus kneeling beside a pile of dust and broken glass, a small brush and dustpan in his hands. It didn't take her long to realize what happened.
"Oh!" he said, noticing Glen. "Hello. I'm sorry if we disturbed you."
"Not at all." Glen lied, deactivating Headache's combat system. "Um, everything okay?"
"Oh, Sans just fell down, that's all. He's so clumsy. He's lucky I'm here to take care of him."
"Yeah." Glen said, giving him a small smile. "He is."
She could only watch as Papyrus tipped the remains of Sans into a fresh jar.
"I'm always cleaning up after him." Papyrus said as he carefully brushed as much of the ash into the new jar as he could, taking care to get every single possible grain. "But one of us has to be responsible, and it's always me … it's always …"
Papyrus froze, his eyes on his gloves, now smudged with some of Sans's ashes. The tears came a few moments later.
Glen hurried to the skeleton's side and hugged him tightly, trying to ignore the terrible feeling coiling in the pit of her stomach.
"I'm here, Papyrus." She whispered, "We're all here for you."
He didn't respond; he simply sat there, trembling as tears rolled unheeded down his cheekbones.
The creak of the door made Glen turn. It was Asgore, a look of concern on his face that quickly turned to sorrow at the sight before him.
'Together, Asgore and Glen helped Papyrus to his bedroom. The skeleton allowed himself to be laid down in his hot rod bed.
"I'll stay with him." Asgore said.
"But …" Glen sighed and nodded. As she turned to leave, the guilt stabbed at her again. If she'd only noticed … if Sans had only told her.
She walked slowly back to the kitchen, feeling strangely numb. She stood in the doorway for a few minutes before she realized Papyrus had left Sans and his new jar on the floor. She sat beside it and stared into its depths. There were some glass shards still in it, nothing she wasn't able to filter out and dispose of in a few seconds, leaving her with a jar of Sans. Fortuantely Toriel kept her floors immaculately clean, so there was likely only a little normal dirt in there as well.
Her mind kept flashing from images of Sans smiling at her like he did when he made a bad joke, or played a prank on her to the image of Papyrus staring at his dust-covered gloves, tears in his eyes. She saw Toriel and little Frisk crying, of Alphys looking down and Undyne frustrated at the one enemy she couldn't take on. Every face made Glen's insides twist tighter and tighter until she could scarcely breath.
As her gaze fell to her Headache-clad hands, she realized she'd already made her decision. She just needed to make a few preparations first.
The SCP Foundation was taking no chances with the Underground. The Overseer Council ordered the Monster issue be dealt with promptly so that Site 37 could be completed and the last inhabitants of the Underground contained. To make this happen, the Foundation sent some of its best task forces to assist in the final push.
This was both helpful and problematic, as some task forces' appearance and reputation proceeded them in unpleasant ways: the cyborg clones of Tau-5, the eerie presence of the Oneiroi of Omicron Rho, the whispered rumors regarding Epsilon-11. Still, the groups didn't have to like each other to function well, and so far, their assault on the Underground had been a success.
Now they stood at the threshold of the Ruins, the final area of the Underground and the last refuge of the monsters. Arguments had been made that no more effort was needed; seal the door from the outside, and the monster threat was gone. Tau-5 wanted to push through and finish the mission for good, but the operatives from Alpha-1 insisted on contacting the Council to confirm their orders.
In the meantime, the comparatively normal members of Zeta-9 (those not assigned to distraction duty, that is) were examining the door to the Ruins. There was no handle, and the thin space between the door and the frame wouldn't accept even the thinnest of crowbars. They couldn't even slide the opti-wand underneath the door to see what lay within. This wasn't a huge problem, as they packed enough c-4 to level a small mountain, and their tests so far showed that even if the door survived, they could likely destroy the rock around its frame.
All conversation went silent as the soldiers as a group turned to the path that led to what remained of Snowdin. Sans stood in the middle of the road, his hands in his pockets.
The initial shock ended quickly; the soldiers quickly raised their weapons at the skeletons, team leaders shouting for him to not move, but also for the soldiers to hold their fire.
"I ain't goin' anywhere." Sans said. "See, I've been to realities where humans and monsters get along, and we get along well. I don't pretend to know the big difference; maybe the folks of Ebott were just scared, maybe some of the monsters didn't behave themselves … maybe you lot are just a bunch of jerks. Frankly, I don't care. It didn't have to come to this; you sticking all of us in cells. Humans imprisoning monsters again instead of listening, and learning to live together."
"Or maybe," Sans said, shaking his head. "I'm just an idiot like that. At this point, I guess it doesn't matter; I'm here now, and I'm gonna make sure this reality turns out better than mine. I want you out of the Underground … all of you, your facility included. If you cannot coexist with us, then at least have the decency to let us live in the Underground undisturbed. You guys got fancy tech; surely, you can put up another barrier."
"It's not that simple." Said one of the closest soldiers, his rifle lowered and an emblem of a red hand gripping a spear or an arrow. "We have our orders."
"You have free will. You have determination." Sans said. "And I'm betting some of you know that what you've been doin' is wrong. See, I've learned something about humans during my travels; some of you are jerks, yeah, but some of you are damn impressive … so impressive that it almost makes it balance out."
Sans let out a chuckle. "You know about LOVE? That's an acronym monsters use, you know; it means 'Level of Violence'. It's basically how willing a guy is to inflict pain on another. You guys and gals, you've got a lot of LOVE. Thing is, even after everything I've been through, I don't. I guess finding love cost me my LOVE, if that makes any sense."
Shaking his head, Sans said, "But we're talkin' now. You gotta know by now that we monsters aren't mindless beasts; we think and feel just like you humans. Ain't that enough for us to at least try and be decent to each other?"
One of the more nervous soldiers accidentally fired a shot; Sans could tell it was an accident from the man's face, visible behind his helmet's visor. It didn't matter; Sans dodged the bullet instantly, prompting other soldiers to fire as well even as the soldier with the red hand emblem shouted, "Hold your fire! Stop firing, goddammit!"
Sans dodged the hail of bullets before finally finding shelter behind a snow-covered stone.
"Right." He muttered as the Gaster Blaster took form above him. "Can't say I didn't try."
When a soul enters the great beyond, it is brought to a place known as Purgatory. Purgatory is best described as a sort of waiting room, and in fact appears as a large waiting room to those within it. Incoming souls are asked to take a seat and wait while their judgement is being processed. Those unwilling to submit to judgement may opt for oblivion or immediate reincarnation, but must do so before their judgement is pronounced.
Those that are judged 'good' pass into The Outer Halls, where they are sorted into whatever plane of paradise in which they believe. These deemed evil or wicked pass (or, more often than not, are carried forcibly) to Nocturnes, which serves much the same purpose as The Outer Halls, but for the Burning Hells. While Glen wanted to assume Sans would end up somewhere in the Heavenly Planes, the method in which souls are judged is not privy to Dreamers. As such, she had no choice but to start in Purgatory with an idea so stupid, she knew it would work.
Glen approached the reception desk, where two representatives of the cosmic balance were filing their nails. The angel was a stereotype of her kind; fair haired, big white-feathered wings, soft blue eyes, gorgeous (of course), and wearing the standard white robe and halo. Her counterpart was a black-skinned, red-eyed demon wearing a low-cut dress that left little to the imagination and stilleto heels. Glen couldn't help but smirk; everyone had to have equal representation, even in the afterlife. Besides, someone had to be on hand in case the other side made a move.
The demon was the first to notice Glen's approach. Her red eyes took in Glen's form appreciatively. "Mmm. My, you're a strong one, aren't you?"
"Comes with the job." Glen said, setting down the brown package she was carrying. "Delivery."
This made the angel look up as well, her brow furrowed. "Delivery?"
Glen pulled out a clipboard and pretended to read, "Reception desk, Purgatory. Says here it's for a fella named Sans. Some kind of birthday present."
The demon and the angel exchanged curious looks at this. Glen wasn't surprised; Purgatory wasn't the sort of place a standard shipping company would consider a suitable destination.
"Um … I'll check our system." The angel said before turning to her computer. As she laboriously typed at her keypad, the demon gave Glen a smile that set off warning bells in the Dreamer's head.
"Who's the package from, sweetie?"
Glen again focused on the blank paper attached to the clipboard. "Let's see; says a Missus Ding-Mei, first name Kidd."
"Ding-Mei." The demon woman repeated thoughtfully. "Sounds Asian. Maybe a Taoist?"
Glen shrugged. "Don't look at me; I'm just the delivery-woman. Sooner I find where this Sans fella's sittin in your little lobby here, sooner I can get back home."
"Found him!" The Angel said triumphantly, only for her face to fall moments later. "Aww … I'm sorry, Miss …?"
"Glen." Glen said automatically, common sense catching her in time for her to finish, "Er, Glenda Proost."
"I'm sorry, Miss Proost." The angel said sincerely, "But Sans has already entered the Outer Halls."
"Oh." Glen said, picking up the package. "Fair enough; I'll just drop in real quick and see if I can't find him. You mind opening the gates for just a sec?"
"Sure thing." The Angel said, smiling kindly. She barely had time to stand before the demon stopped her.
"Wait just a second." The demon pointed to the clipboard. "Let me see that."
Glen shrugged and handed her the clipboard, inwardly thanking her lucky stars that she'd just made the lines and text appear on the page.
The demon glanced over the list a few moments before handing the clipboard back to Glen. She didn't let go of it however.
"How exactly did you get here?" The demon asked.
"Mirabelle!" The angel said, looking horrified that her friend was being so confrontational. "She's just doing her job."
"Yes, I see the had. Gineritek Industries?"
Glen snapped a salute for show. "No address is out of the way, ma'am."
"Uh-huh. And you just broke through the barriers between the mainstream and Purgatory?"
"Hey, I just drive deliver the things. Shipping handles all that portal crap. It's way above my pay-grade."
"I know the feeling." The angel said with a kind smile, much to Mirabelle's annoyance. "Go on; I'll let them know you're coming."
"No need to bother anyone." Glen said with her most charming smile. "I'll just slip in, find the guy, and be back. I mean, it's not like there are a bunch of skeletons who pass through here, right, Miss …"
"Temperance." The angel said, blushing slightly. Glen had to fight the urge to grimace; that was exactly the sort of name you'd expect from an angel.
"Miss Temperance. Miss Mirabelle." Glen bobbed her head at both of them before heading toward the pearly gates. She could feel the demon's gaze on her back as she walked as calmly as she could manage toward the pearly gates. There was a buzzing sound followed by a loud click, after which the gates parted slightly.
Glen had only just slipped inside when she heard Mirabelle screech, "Kidd Ding-Mei?!"
"Aaaand off we go!" Glen said before running as fast as she could, the package containing the jar with Sans's ashes still tucked under her arm.