Would That Make You Happy?

Frisk is your child, the result of a teen pregnancy, but they've always been told that you're their older sister. In an effort to get away from your own abusive mother, the two of you end up falling into the Underground, where Sans is startled by this abrupt change in what had become a predictable pattern of events. Maybe your presence is what is needed to stop the endless cycle of Resets.

After many struggles, both internal and external, you and your found family reach the surface, only to face even more difficulties from the society you weren't sure you'd ever see again. You meet new friends and encounter people from your past, though for good or ill, you're not sure. Sometimes it's difficult to tell kindness from cunning.

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129. A Life From Before

Irene's Bar and Grill is a little hole in the wall place, stuck on the end of a strip mall. It's nothing to write home about, but the food is decent and it's popular with the locals. Just about everyone in your old neighborhood at least knew of Irene's, even if they'd never been there.

Everything is just the way you remember it. The old, wooden furniture, the giant fish tank right as you come in. Even the neglected gumball machine, with the turn crank that takes quarters. As you walk in with Sans and Frisk, glancing around anxiously for sign of Kim even though you didn't see her car in the parking lot, you catch sight of a few familiar faces. Behind the bar, waiting tables, it looks like most of the staff is still the same as when you left. The host's station is empty, but as you stand there, waiting, a distracted young woman walks towards the front, straightening her ponytail.

"Hey, sorry about your wait, how— oh!" she yelps, jumping back as she finally looks at the three of you, her eyes wide and fixed on Sans. "Oh Jesus, you scared me. I haven't— oh that must be rude, I'm so sorry, I uh..." She's gone as white as a sheet, frozen in place.

Sans looks at you, arching a brow, and you decide to take pity on the girl. Besides, you know her, even if she's too busy freaking out to notice you. "Becca, it's fine. How are you doing?" you ask, shifting yourself to stand in front of Sans, catching her attention.

Her eyes widen even more, somehow. "Oh my god, Hope! Holy shit, I— oh, Frisk, sweetie I'm sorry I shouldn't be cussing, shoot, shoot. Um." Becca lets out a slightly manic laugh, running her hand over her pulled back hair, giving you a desperate look. Taking in a deep breath, she gives you a forced smile. "Hope. It is so good to see you."

You smile back, trying to be as reassuring as you can. "It's good to see you too. Is Irene here today?"

"Yeah, she's in the back. Do you want me to go get her for you, I'm sure she'd love to see you!" she blurts out, maybe a little too quickly. Like she's desperate to get away. But Becca was always a bit... high strung.

"No, you don't have to do that now, really. We're actually here for lunch, my mom is supposed to be meeting us," you say, gripping the strap of your purse a little too tight. You feel a hand on the small of your back and you glance at Sans as he moves a little closer to your side. "Becca, this is Sans, my fiancé." There's this uncomfortable tension in your chest as you say the words, not shame or embarrassment, but like you're bracing yourself for the worst. Waiting for the knee-jerk reaction of disgust or confusion. Instead the only thing you see on her face is recognition.

"Oh, I remember that on the news! We, well... There's been a bit of talk about you since you disappeared," she says, cheeks reddening a little. If it's from embarrassment or guilt, you're not sure. "But, it's, um, nice to meet you Sans!" Becca doesn't reach out to shake his hand, or make any kind of movement towards him. Instead she ducks behind the host's station and grabs three menus and a folded up kid's menu with two crayons tucked inside.

"you too," Sans says, flashing a friendly smile. "i take it you don't get many monsters out this way."

A bit of the tension leaves her body, and she looks a little relieved. "No, not at all. I mean, it's only been a week right? And this place is nice and all, but why bother coming here when you guys can go downtown?" The front door opens behind you and Becca startles a little, clutching the menus to her chest. "Let me get you guys seated!"

She takes the three of you over to a small table in the corner, out of the way. You think you catch people talking about you and Sans as you pass occupied tables, but there's music playing and over the general noise of the restaurant it's hard to make out individual voices. Not that you're surprised. Like Becca said, it's not like anyone would expect to see monsters here in the middle of the suburbs. Leaving you with your menus and the promise that your server will be with you shortly, Becca hurries away back towards the front.

"i guess that coulda gone worse," Sans mutters under his breath. You reach out to touch his arm, and he covers your hand with his. "does your mom normally run late to stuff? where is she?"

"I don't know, but this waiting is killing me," you answer, glancing over your shoulder towards the door. As you do so you realize that many of the other customers are watching you, openly staring. Meeting their gaze one by one, most of them look away.

"babe, just let them look. eventually they'll get tired of it," he says, squeezing your fingers.

You grip his jacket, and bite your lip, turning back around to look at him again. "Maybe we should have just gone to her house, then at least we wouldn't have to deal with all this staring."

"no, this is better. she'll be less likely to cause a scene in public."

Frisk unfolds their colorful menu and spreads it out on the table, hunching over it with their crayons and working on a word search. They've been quiet today, and you can't blame them. You know they're nervous too, and there's been this stifling tension over the three of you all day leading up until now. Now it's like a buzzing under your skin, a prickling on the back of your neck. Why did you agree to this? No one is happy to be here.

As you start to wonder who your server is going to be, none other than your old boss Irene herself comes up to your table. She's an older black woman, tall and lean with her natural, graying hair pulled back into a ponytail. Becca must have warned her because she only shows the slightest hint of surprise as she spots Sans at your side, but her face lights up into a smile as she catches your eye. "Oh, Hope, look at you girl!" she says, circling the table to wrap you up in a big hug. "I never thought I'd see you in this place again, we were all worried sick about you."

"I'm sorry, I should have come by sooner, but I... I haven't left Ebott much," you admit, giving Irene an apologetic look as she pulls away and straightens.

"Oh nonsense, don't you worry about us. At least we were able to see you were doing alright from the news," she says, waving away your apology. Fixing Sans with a scrutinizing look, she holds out her hand to him. "And you must be her fiancé."

Sans's eyes flick down to her outstretched hand, looking surprised. After a second he shakes it, and you're happy to notice that your old boss doesn't pull away the second it seems polite. If she's uncomfortable at all with touching a monster, she sure doesn't let it show. "that's me. the name's sans. s'nice to meet you," he says, and this time his smile seems a little more genuine.

"You treat this girl right, you hear me?" Irene says, letting go of his hand and pointing at him. For a second you're not sure if that half-glare is entirely joking or not, but soon enough her face breaks out into a smile again. "She doesn't deserve any less."

Chuckling, he nods, and you feel a little bit of the tension leave your chest. "course. wouldn't have it any other way."

"Good," she says with a nod, then turns to look at Frisk. "And how are you doing, cutie pie? You and your momma doing good?"

You give Irene a startled look, though you know you really shouldn't be surprised. The news had already covered the fact that Frisk was your child, and all of your coworkers must have seen it. Did you honestly expect any people from your old life to still believe that lie?

"Yeah, really good!" Frisk says, probably the most cheerful you've seen them all day. Irene just has that effect on people.

"Don't give me that look, I saw you when you were pregnant," Irene says, catching your eye. "We went along with what you told us because who were we to argue, but most of us knew your momma didn't have any second child. Speaking of, Becca told me you were here to meet her for lunch?"

You nod.

"Have you seen her since..." She gives a vague gesture at the table. "All this?"

"Once, right after we got out," you admit, glancing at Sans. He meets your eye for a second and you both return your attention to Irene.

"Sugar, can I talk to you for a minute? D'you mind? Before your momma gets here," she says, and you feel a twist of apprehension in the pit of your stomach.

"Yeah, okay," you say, standing up from the table and giving Sans a worried look. "I... I don't want to go too far, I..."

"frisk and i will be fine, babe. you go," he says, doing his best to be reassuring. 

"But what if she shows up while I'm gone?"

"How about we go right over there, by the kitchen, where you can see everybody," Irene says, putting a hand on your shoulder. 

Hesitating, you look at the spot. After a moment, you nod. "Alright."

Steering you away, she gives your shoulder a squeeze as the two of you take your places near the kitchen entrance, out of the way of foot traffic. From here you can see your table and Sans can see you, though he's leaning over to help Frisk with their word search. Which means that when Irene speaks to you, he can't see the shock register on your face.

"Hope, I know you're desperate to stay out of your momma's house now that you're out, but you and Frisk can come live with me. You don't need to stay on that mountain with those monsters," she says, with all the sweetness and sincerity you'd come to love about her over the years. Your head whips around to look at her, too stunned to speak. "I'll keep you as long as you want."

You search her face, lips parting as you struggle to find the right words. You hadn't even considered what your old boss might think about Sans, hadn't had time to worry about anything other than seeing your mother today. Brow furrowing, you swallow and bring one hand to your chest. "Irene, I know you mean well," you say carefully, doing your best not to sound ungrateful. "But I'm not using Sans to stay away from my mother. I love him."

Irene blinks, clearly taken aback. She glances over at the table, at Sans and Frisk, then back at you. "Hope, sugar, he's a skeleton," she says, not angry, or upset, or even scandalized. Just confused.

You huff a weak laugh, caught between the sheer ridiculousness of this moment and your own lingering frustration. "He's a monster that looks like a skeleton. He and his brother took us in, without them I don't know what would have happened to us. I mean, look at them," you say, turning to watch your little family.

Frisk is looking up at Sans, frowning a little as they talk, a crayon poised in their hand. Sans grins and you can see his shoulders shake a little with laughter as he taps a finger on the word search and nudges their shoulder. They smile at him, ducking away as he tries to ruffle their hair. You can catch the faint sound of their laughter even from where you're standing.

"He does seem awful sweet on you and Frisk," she admits, giving you a serious look. After a second she gives a soft sigh and a small smile. "And I'm the last person that ought to be telling anybody how to live their life, so you do whatever keeps you smiling. Just remember that you've got people who care about you, people who knew you before you started headlining newspapers. You've got more than your momma off that mountain."

You're about to thank her, because you really do appreciate her concern, but the words catch in your throat as you watch her expression sour.

"Speak of the devil and she shall appear," Irene mutters, and as you follow her gaze you see your mother standing by the host's station. "Go get back to your man before she spots him. I'll be by in a second to get your drinks."

"Thank you," you blurt out, touching her arm before she ducks into the kitchen. She glances back at you, gives you a weak smile, and disappears into the back. You hurry over to your table.

Sliding into your seat, you grab Sans's sleeve to get his attention, heart beating frantically in your chest. You're on edge, all the anticipation from this morning finally about to spill over, and as he turns to look at you, meeting your eyes with the calm, steady reassurance you've come to rely on these past few months, you find yourself just a bit more at ease. Sans is here with you. No matter what happens, no matter what she might say, that won't change.

"She's here," you say in an undertone, swallowing as your fingers grip his jacket.

He pries your hand away, holding it in his own and stroking your knuckles with his thumb. "just remember we don't have to stay any longer than you want to. we can walk out at any time," he says, then looks over at Frisk. They're slumped a little in their seat, a hand pressed over their mouth. "you holding in there ok, kiddo?"

Frisk just nods.

"Oh, I'm so sorry I'm late," Kim says, coming up beside your table and standing behind the empty chair on the edge between you and Frisk. Sans, from his place across from her, gives her a forced smile. "I had to work a morning shift to make up for this afternoon, and it's just been so busy with Christmas around the corner. I couldn't even go home to change."

Well, that's true. She's still wearing black slacks and a white polo shirt, the only thing she's missing is her work apron and name badge. Shrugging off her jacket and sliding it over the back of her chair, she lowers herself down onto it and rubs her forehead. Kim looks tired, more tired than you remember her looking. Has she lost weight too? She's still bigger than you, but she looks smaller than before, somehow not in a good way. Like she's lost weight from stress. You think there's more gray in her hair.

She meets your eyes, giving you a tremulous smile as she lets out a small sigh. "Sweetheart it's so good to see you. I'm glad you agreed to meet for lunch," she says, and when your mouth gives the faintest twitch of acknowledgment she turns to Frisk. "Frisk, do you think your grandma could get a hug? I didn't get a chance last time."

Last time you were too busy fighting. Too busy defending yourself from the words she flung in your face. Is she trying to insinuate that it's your fault she didn't get any time with Frisk? You bristle but you aren't sure if you're just being oversensitive. Sans has your hand in his under the table, and he squeezes your fingers.

Frisk glances over at you, unsure.

"You don't have to if you don't want to, sweetie," you tell them, and you see your mother's shoulders stiffen. It makes your stomach give an uncomfortable lurch, but whatever she might be thinking, she doesn't say it.

Frisk looks from you, to Kim, and after a second they nod. "Okay," they say quietly, and it's all you can do to just watch as they share a hug. You notice the moment that Frisk tries to let go, and Kim holds on just a fraction too long for comfort, but before you can say anything she finally releases them.

Irene chooses that moment to come back, and as she and Kim share a few polite words (they know each other, after all) you glance over at Sans. He traces your fingers with his thumb and gives you a reassuring look. After a minute your old boss ends up taking your drink and food orders and disappears again, but not before giving you an odd look, like she's checking up on you.

"So, how are you doing?" Kim asks you, her tone coming off a little forced.

"We're fine. Work and school. The usual," you answer, unwilling to elaborate.

"The usual? Hope, I don't know what the usual is for you anymore," she says clipped but with a fake levity that tells you she's annoyed but trying not to show it. She manages a short laugh. "Who knows what life must be like for you now."

"Things in Ebott are just like things down here. People live their lives, go to work, go to school." You're getting defensive. You can hear it in your voice and feel it in your muscles. But you don't care. You suddenly don't want to be here anymore, it all feels so fake. Part of you wishes she would argue with you so you can just go home. You want her to make a mistake.

"Oh, well, that's good," she says evenly. Her attention shifts to Sans. "And what do you do for work?"

Leaning forward to rest his free arm on the table, Sans clears his nonexistent throat. "i help work on the core and in the lab back in the underground."

"So you're... a technician of some kind?"

You fight the urge to grit your teeth. "Mother, he's a scientist. He helps keep all the power flowing to the surface and assists Doctor Alphys, a friend of ours."

"Oh, I didn't realize they had degrees back where you came from." 'Back where you came from', as if Sans was just from another country, not one of thousands of people trapped underground for centuries... "Sweetheart, you don't have to keep giving me that look," she says, the corners of her mouth going tight.

You look down at the table, knowing you're being unfair. Swallowing, you glance back up at her again. "Sorry," you say.

It looks like she wants to say something, judging from the way her face is all pinched, but whatever it is she keeps it to herself. "So when are the two of you planning on getting married? Now that you're engaged."

"We haven't decided," you lie quickly, and to your relief Frisk doesn't correct you. Sans squeezes your hand. "Right now it's not technically legal, so we'll just have to wait."

Conversation remains reserved and polite. Kim talks about work and Frisk starts telling her what they've been learning in school, which she eats up. In fact, Frisk and Kim seem to be doing most of the talking, now that your child seems more comfortable with her presence. And to your mother's credit, she's being just fine. You feel yourself relax, just a little, as your food arrives and the four of you start eating.

You catch Kim watching Sans with that confused expression you remember from Deacon, and you almost start to laugh before you catch yourself. You're not ready to joke with her, to act like everything is okay. Sans doesn't even tease her like he did with Deacon. He just eats and pretends she's not looking.

Finally, as lunch starts to come to a close and you find yourself glancing at your phone (one message from Deacon: 'Let me know how it goes. You can do it.') Kim clears her throat and looks at you. "I was hoping I could talk to you in private, just for a few minutes," she says.

All the tension is back in an instant. You feel Sans's eyes on you. "Whatever you have to say you can say here," you answer, voice tight.

Kim's jaw clenches, you can see the muscles bunch on the sides of her face. After a second she leans back in her chair, looking between you and Sans. "All right. I'm only saying this because I'm worried about you sweetheart, but are you sure being in a relationship with a monster is the best idea?"

You grit your teeth, fighting back the anger coiling in your chest because damn her she actually sounds concerned. "Yes it is, not that it's any of your business," you bite out, brow furrowing.

"Hope, I'm your mother, of course it's my business," she says, frowning at you. Oh here it is, that tone like she knows what's best just because she gave birth to you. Sighing, she looks at Sans instead, which confuses you. "If something happened to you, what would happen to Hope and Frisk? You don't have any legal rights. Where would that leave her? Homeless? Penniless? When my husband died, the only thing that kept the two of us off the streets was his life insurance that paid off the house."

Sans looks taken aback, meeting your eyes for a second before returning his attention to Kim. "she'd have my brother, for starters. and all of our friends. not to mention we're both close with the king and queen. nothing bad would happen to her and frisk, i can guarantee that."

"Can you?" Kim presses, raising her brows. "Then what if, for whatever reason, something happens to monsters in general? What happens to her if your king and queen lost favor with the government?"

"Mother, you're being ridiculous!" you snap, shaking your head. "We're not going to let uncertainty stop us from living our lives. We've made our choice and there's nothing you can do to change our minds."

"Hope—"

"she said no, kim," Sans says, and though his voice is low and quiet it still silences her. "keep arguing and we're gonna leave."

Kim fixes him with a cold look, and for a moment you think she's going to argue. But the seconds tick by until finally she lets out a resigned sigh and glances over the three of you. "I just wanted to make sure you considered the risk you're taking, committing yourself to that life. I'm sorry you took it the wrong way."

You don't answer. Her apology is flimsy at best, insincere at worst, and you can't think of an answer that doesn't feel like a lie. The four of you sit in uncomfortable silence, until finally Irene swings by with the bill. Kim snatches it up before you can even look at it, sliding a credit card into the check presenter and handing it back before you can object.

"I want to see you for Christmas," Kim says bluntly, folding her hands on the table and meeting your gaze. "I don't want to spend another holiday alone."

You and Sans share a look, and both of you are quiet for a moment. His expression is closed, but you can tell he's leaving this up to you. Swallowing, ignoring the twist of discomfort in your chest, you offer her a compromise. "How about you come up to Ebott next weekend, to our house. We can do dinner and if that goes well we can talk about Christmas."

Kim's face erupts into a warm, relieved smile, and you feel a little bit of your guilt ebb. Just a fraction. "I'd like that, very much."

   
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