"what I'm saying is...if i hadn't made that promise...you'd be dead where you stand."

He looked at them when he said it. His eyes went dark, watching as their own widened. The implications of his little story sunk in, and they shrank away, into the back of their chair. The moment lingered, a sort of tension in the air that pressed in on the skin, wrapped around the body with the intent to suffocate. They were uncomfortable, arms wrapped around their chest, speechless in response to his not quite so veiled threat.

The laugh sounded natural, and if he kept telling himself it was, maybe he'd be convinced. The light came back into his gaze, the dagger edge of his tone softened, "relax, kiddo. we're buddies now, right? i'm trying to say i'm thankful i kept my promise. why don't you finish your burger there before it gets cold?"

It wasn't enough to edge the conversation back to casual, but it helped. They picked up the half eaten hamburger and ate, albeit with less enthusiasm than before. Sans turned his head away, pretending to be distracted by one of the servers walking by, but still he paid close attention to them. At least they weren't crying this time, he thought, stomach twisting at the memories. They hadn't threatened him either. A good sign, that, it meant that they were less likely to lash out later on, to resort to attacking when the battles got rough.

That happened sometimes. They came out of the ruins without having hurt anyone, only to have thought it necessary to kill when faced with Undyne or Mettaton. He tried very hard not to blame them when that happened, knew well enough that they were scared, acting out of self defense. He tried, but it didn't make it hurt any less, knowing his friends had died again.

Sometimes, they killed Papyrus in self defense, too. Not always, nor often, but it happened. It was like having his soul ripped out, but even then, he tried. He remembered his brothers' firm, unending belief that everyone could be a good person, and he tried to understand. Sure, maybe his size and his voice could be intimidating, especially to a young child. There was a reason Sans went out of his way to prove him harmless before an actual confrontation could take place. But Papyrus wouldn't harm anyone, not even to defend himself. He didn't deserve to be hurt, and he certainly didn't deserve to have his head ripped off and be reduced to dust in the snow...

Not once, not in a single run of this endless loop had he ever earned that knife in his back.

"Sans?" He pulled his attention back to them and found their meal had been eaten entirely. "Are you okay?"

"mmm? i'm fine. just got lost thinkin' of a new joke. wanna hear it?"

"Sure.."

"did you hear about the burger who couldn't stop joking around? it was on a roll." Their laugh was rather lackluster, but they put the effort in. Even so, he could see the unease still shining out from their gaze. A hand clenched around his wrist, bones squeezing a little too hard. He threw a grin at them, "no? oh well. guess you can't win them all. next one'll get ya, though."

"No, it.. it was a good joke."

"nah, it wasn't. you don't have to pretend it was. i'll just find a better one down the line. for now, though, i better get going. my break's almost over. don't worry about the bill, sans has you covered there."

"Wait..are you sure you're okay?"

"i'll be fine, kid." he said, standing to start toward the door. He ruffled their hair as he went by, "focus on yourself for now. you've got a long road ahead of you. take care. remember, i'm rootin' for ya."

As soon as the bill was paid and he was away from them, Sans vanished, and was nowhere to be found when they tried to follow him.

His station rested just outside the door to the ruins. He'd never actually seen what was on the other side, though he heard things. Just as he could exchange jokes with the lady that lived there, so too could he hear the last conversation she had with the kid, for better or for worse, before they were set free into the world beyond.

Sans hated the wait. The long hours of just sitting there, waiting to see whether a child or a monster came out to greet him. He rested with his back against the door, eyes closed, listening for those first few quiet footsteps.

The moment he heard movement, he turned his head, pressed the side of his skull to the wood. There she was, starting off the battle, urging them to either flee or to prove to her they can fight. There was sound of things hitting the wall, but no counterattack. They weren't fighting back, they were pleading with her. That didn't mean anything. They could just be biding their time, ready to hit her once her guard was down.

She cried out, and a shudder when down his spine. He gasped, tears starting to well. It was going to happen again, another round of hell, before that knife-

"Frisk? Frisk, are you okay? Oh, God.." Wait, what? Did something happen? Did Flowey...? No, he couldn't hear his voice...just hers, "I-I'm so sorry. I didn't mean it, Oh, Frisk I'm so sorry."

Was she crying? Oh. Oh, no. Without thinking, he clawed at the door, fingers shaking as they scrabbled over edges much too thin for him to get a good grip on. He couldn't open it, he could only call out to Frisk and know that even if they were still alive to hear him, they wouldn't know who he was. What happened in there? Did one of her attacks hit too hard? How, how could she mess up, after going through this a million times?

Then he was sitting. Sitting there, as he had before. The transition was jarring enough that an icy trail of smoke drifted up into the air from his left eye. Not a true reset, just a jump in time. It took only moments for the conversation to replay itself behind him. He put his ear to the wood, forcing his breath to be quiet and even, so he could hear how this round went.

They stuck to the path of mercy. But they were upset. He could hear it in their voice, tiny cracks that made every word waver. Once the two said their goodbyes, he fled into the surrounding forest, but stayed close enough to watch them once they were out. He kept a hand over his eye, hiding the power that leaked from it. The frost in the air would go unnoticed because of the snow, what worried him was the light he emitted. In the end, it didn't matter. They weren't in a fit state to notice anything.

Frisk sat in roughly the same place he had, legs pulled up to their chest, sobbing. They weren't loud. They were quiet in the way that one is quiet when they don't want to be heard. He didn't move from his hiding place, ready to stay there until they went down the path.

But they didn't.

Bit by bit, he swallowed down the burning energy, and slowly, his eyes went back to normal. He risked inching a little closer, enough to see that Frisk wasn't just shivering from emotional distress any more. Giving up on his favored entrance, he stepped out into the open. They jerked their head up at his approach, a strangled yelp torn from their mouth. "W-who are you?"

"name's sans. 'ice' to meet ya." he said, tone light, as if he didn't realize they were afraid. As gently as possible without making it obvious he was doing it on purpose, he wrapped his jacket around their shoulders. "thought you could use this. you look chilled to the bone, kiddo."

They flinched at the contact, and he knew right down to the detail what they were feeling. It hurt, being killed by someone thought of as a friend, accidental or not. He smiled, a practiced, easy smile, "feel like coming to town with me? it's a long walk, but i know a good place to get some food. i'll even introduce ya to my bro papyrus. he's never met a human before, i'm sure he'd love the chance to say hello."

They rubbed at their face with his jacket sleeve, sniffing, before giving a little nod. He held out a hand, and helped them to their feet when they took it.

He stood at the far end of the judgement hall, trying not to show the tension that coiled within him. The bite in the air was harsh, a sheet of ice cutting through an otherwise lovely summer day. He could hear them even now, birds that lived in the underground chirping away, lucky creatures small enough to escape both their attention and their knife.

He stared back at them, their eyes blank, nothing in their expression but the acidic smile of a viper. Even though the air was frigid, they didn't so much as shudder as they stepped forward, relentless and covered in dust. "alright. how about another question. do you wanna have a bad time? because-"

They lunged for him before he could finish. He leapt out of the way, his eye flaring, trailing a stream of blue behind his head like a comet. He threw a hand up, fingers curling around nothing. A dim glow found its center in their chest, and he thew his fist to the side, their body following the motion to collide painfully with the wall. He threw them to the other side of the room, then up to the ceiling, and finally, as hard as he could, smashed them back down to the floor.

"well, i suppose you're committed to this then. but don't say i didn't try to warn you."

"Like...like you tried to warn Papyrus?" they gasped out, pulling themselves back to their feet, a trickle of blood dripping from a gash on the forehead. Their laugh was sickly sweet, and as poisonous as their words. With a snarl, he spread his arms, and above him, ice gathered, coming together to form the skulls of dragons, each with the same glowing eyes as he.

Four of them, all pointed at Frisk, went off at once. They tried to leap out of the way, but they did so with the slow, stumbling gait of an armature. This was the first fight the kid would be able to remember, and he used it to his advantage. The beams of energy hit them dead center, and they gave a startled shriek as their body temperature dropped. From naturally warm to thirty below, the skin and the muscle froze while the core was left to follow at a snails pace after it. They fell, unable to move as the inner organs began to cool, every ounce of warmth sucked from their tiny form.

He stepped closer, moving to kneel by them, hands trembling as he turned them over. Their eyes stuck open and sightless as if they were already dead. This was a terrible way to die, and the merciful thing to do would be to finish them off with a bone through the chest. Sans didn't feel like being merciful.

"feel that, kid?" he hissed, "not fun, right? so, if you don't wanna feel this again, i suggest you don't come back here. just start over. it's what you do, isn't it?"

No response. He didn't expect any. Shaking his head, he left them to lay there, staring up at the ceiling as what little life they had left faded into the void. He hugged himself and leaned against one of the pillars. This wasn't over. They never stopped at just once. They'd come again, and again, until he couldn't fight them anymore, and then...

The shift came. He was back at the end of the room, and there they were, stalking toward them, and now they were pissed. He just barely managed to unfold his arms and put on a mask of calm before they charged.

This time, they managed to avoid the dragons, only to get a hole torn through their stomach, their guts spilling out through the wound. He grabbed them, physically, by the back of the neck and shoved them into the stained glass hard enough it shattered. "like i said, give up. you can't beat me. no matter how many times you come back, i'll still be here, standing in your way."

Again, he found himself at the back of the room.

"How do you know about the saves?" they demanded. They were shaking now. Good.

He shrugged, hand raised, ready to throw them to the ceiling, "maybe i'm just different than all the monsters you've gone up against before."

Over, and over, they threw themselves at him, and each time, like every time before, they lasted a little longer. All too soon he felt his energy drain away. His breath grew heavy, movements slowed down, their blows inching their way closer and closer to him. Sooner or later, one of them was going to hit. He caught the glint of metal out of the corner of his eye, and just before it could plunge into him, he grabbed their wrist.

They cried out as he shoved them into the ground, his hand twisting the joint wrist until it cracked and released the knife with a clatter. "how many times are you going to make me kill you, kid?"

"Sans?"

"aren't you bored of this yet? it's not getting even a little tedious for you? or are you just so filled with 'determination' that you can't-"

"Sans, you're hurting me." He tightened his grip, hearing the squeal it brought from them but not feeling any sign of struggle. Were they trying to spare him again? Bit late for that, wasn't it? "S-stop, please."

They were looking up at him, but not with the demonic hate he was expecting. Their gaze was soft, wide, confused. He blinked, and the pillars around them faded, replaced by the soft brown walls of the kitchen. The knife on the ground wasn't even a knife, it was a metal stirring spoon. He let them go immediately, retreating back to the counter, covering his eye before he could summon a snow storm in the small room.

"oh, crap, frisk, i'm..i'm sorry, i thought..." They stayed where they were on the ground, cradling their wrist. He'd dislocated it, hadn't he? No, no he was sure he hadn't squeezed quite that hard, it was probably just twisted. Not that it made it much better. With a breath, he held back the power as much as he could and lowered his hand, letting the smoke float up to the ceiling. Going to the freezer, he wrapped several cubes of ice in a towel, and then knelt to press the makeshift pack to her wrist.

"SANS? WHAT'S ALL THAT NOISE?" Papyrus's voice reached them long before he actually made it to the door. The skeleton stuck his head in the room, and Sans winced, "I THOUGHT I HEARD SOMETHING- OH MY GOD, HUMAN. ARE YOU OKAY? SANS WHAT HAPPENED?"

He couldn't tell either of them the truth. He couldn't. Frisk hadn't done anything, not this version of them, at least. They shouldn't have to feel bad for the things they did in other timelines. But what else could he say to explain this? Oh, I just accidentally crushed their wrist. Oops.

If anything, it was his fault. Look at him, shoving them to the ground and they weren't even holding a knife. It was just a spoon for crying out loud. He'd asked them himself to help with stirring the sauce for dinner, so how the hell did he manage to think they were holding a weapon? Apparently he was just such an idiot he couldn't risk letting them into the kitchen with him anymore.

"um...papyrus..i.."

"AND WHY ARE YOU GLOWING?"

"...i.."

"I tripped." they put in, pulling their hand away from the pack to check the damage. He looked down too, seeing how much it had started to swell already. It was going to be stiff as hell before long, and he could tell there'd be a nasty bruise. "Hurt myself on the floor."

"kid, no, you don't need to-"

"Shh."

Sans felt pressure behind his sockets, and he looked away, rubbing at them with his sleeve before they could overflow.

"THAT'S IT. I WILL HELP SANS WITH THE MEAL. YOU, HUMAN, WILL GO WAIT ON THE COUCH."

Without giving either of them room to argue, not that Sans felt like arguing, Papyrus carried Frisk out of the room. He forced himself up off the floor and tossed the offending spoon in the sink. Grabbing a new one, he stirred the now burnt sauce. By the time Papyrus returned, he'd managed to clam down enough his eye started behaving again.

"hey bro. are they alright?"

"THEY TWISTED THEIR WRIST PRETTY BAD, BUT THEY'LL BE FINE. I WRAPPED IT SO THEY WOULDN'T MOVE IT TOO MUCH."

"oh. that was nice of you."

"YOUR EYE WAS REALLY COOL SANS. HOW DID YOU DO THAT?"

"do what?"

"YOUR EYE WAS GLOWING. IT WAS AMAZING. ALMOST AS AMAZING AS I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS. YOU NEED TO SHOW ME HOW TO DO THAT. PLEASE?"

"heh. i'd love to, bro, but i honestly don't know what you're talking about."

"AWWW. WELL, IF YOU FIGURE IT OUT, BE SURE TO TELL ME."

"of course."

He sighed, still stirring the sauce, though it didn't need it anymore. Papyrus took care of the noodles and the meatballs that went with them. Sans poured the sauce in the bowl, trying to think of a way to make it up to them somehow. He'd hurt them, it wasn't something he could shrug off, he wasn't that person.

A trip to Grillby's, maybe. No, not good enough, they always went to Grillby's. It had to be somewhere nice. Somewhere he hadn't taken them before..

He'd think of something. And he'd officially apologize. Thank them for not telling his brother, but let them know he was sorry they'd felt the need to lie for him.

It was a good plan. Too bad the reset happened later that night and he didn't get the chance.