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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171. Forming a Plan

Sans wakes up in bed alone.

He knows he’s still in the present, still on the surface, that you’re still out there , but there’s that moment where he reaches for you in half-sleep and his hand gropes empty space and his chest gives a sudden, panicked lurch. Then it all crashes over him all over again, the knowledge that you’re in a place where he can’t go. That he’s trapped; everyone is trapped even though he’s reached the surface and there’s nothing he can—

Stop.

Grabbing your pillow, he hugs it to his chest and buries his face in it, forcing himself to take a slow, steadying breath. He is doing something. Yes, for the past few days he’s been waiting, but there’s still something in the works. And he knows you got his letter from Howard because you gave him that sign. So if things get worse, if it comes to it…

He’ll see you again. One way or the other, he’ll have you back.

He needs to get up, to get out of this bedroom that should have two people in it but only has one. Your absence is painful. You’re not lost, or truly gone, but these moments where he catches himself alone and it’s not so simple as just finding you somewhere in the house, he feels a little bit more of his resolve and patience slip away. It leaves him raw, like an open wound.

His phone starts to ring. He’s never felt this much relief to see Deacon’s name on the screen.

The members of the Literatum still let out a collective yelp of surprise when Sans and Deacon appear in Morwenna’s living room, but this time their reception isn’t quite so violent. He spots familiar faces. Howard is out of uniform, sitting in a chair closest to the front door. Maria is in casual clothes too, jeans and a loose blouse, and it takes Sans a little too long to realize that it’s Saturday. With you and Frisk gone, it’s harder to keep track of the weekdays. Grant barely gives them a glance from where he’s sitting, and finally Sans spots Morwenna in the kitchen with a woman he hasn’t met before.

She’s tall and thin, with rich brown skin darker and cooler in tone than yours. Her short hair is a collection of tight twists that bounce as she catches sight of him and walks out into the living room.

“Vanessa,” Deacon says, in lieu of a hello.

“Deacon,” she replies. She doesn’t look at him, instead keeping her dark eyes on Sans. “And this must be Sans. Morwenna was just telling me about you.”

“can’t imagine she had much to say,” Sans says, wondering if he should offer to shake her hand. Her arms are crossed over her chest and she feels closed off, so he thinks better of it. He shoves his hands in his pockets. “wasn’t exactly a social call.”

“Hm. Well, neither is this. But that doesn’t mean we should skimp on pleasantries,” she says, arching a manicured brow.

“you’re vanessa, i’m sans, seems pleasant enough,” he says, shrugging his shoulders. “i thought we were here because you had something to tell us, not to make polite conversation.”

Deacon makes a noise in the back of his throat and Vanessa’s hand darts up, pointer finger raised in the universal sign for silence. She still isn’t looking at him, her focus never straying from Sans’s face. It’s a little unnerving. Deacon huffs an annoyed breath but doesn’t speak, and her mouth curves into a smile. “A fair point. I see you’re not here to make friends, which is just as well. We have business to discuss.”

And on that note she turns and walks back to where Morwenna is waiting, placing a hand on her shoulder and leaning in close to say something to her. Whispering.

“what was that about?” Sans mutters, glancing up at Deacon.

Deacon hooks his thumbs on the pockets of his jeans, giving Sans an impatient look. “She was testing you.”

“huh. did i pass?”

“Probably. If the test was ‘how not to make a good first impression’.”

“she’s right. i’m not here to make friends,” Sans says, gritting his teeth.

“Yeah, you’re real good at that.” The bitterness in Deacon’s voice is enough to stir up the still-glowing embers of guilt deep in Sans’s ribcage.

He doesn’t answer.

There’s a few minutes of greetings where Deacon leaves him to his own devices to talk to Maria. Instead of just standing there, Sans goes over to Howard to thank him for delivering his letter to you. He just nods and tells him it wasn’t a problem, that he was happy to help. But Howard isn’t the most talkative person, so they slip into an awkward silence before it’s finally broken.

“So, now that everyone is here,” Morwenna says, walking into the center of the living room with Vanessa trailing behind her, “we can get started. Tell us what you’ve found out.”

Vanessa’s eyes sweep the room and she fidgets with a gold bangle around her wrist for a moment before she speaks. “Governor Williams isn’t being bribed, like we suspected. Which, in a way, works in our favor. He didn’t change out the soldiers on Ebott or close the Line because he wanted to. The Vigilum are holding him and his family hostage inside his home.” Surprised murmurs fill the room, and even Grant leans forward in his seat, looking grim. “He has a new ‘secretary’ that’s with him at all times at work. That break-in that was reported in the news? That was when the Vigilum installed themselves.”

“So then we need to get rid of them. Then the governor will be able to issue new orders to the National Guard,” Howard says.

“That’s the idea, yes,” Vanessa says, nodding. “Things weren’t ideal, but they were tolerable before the governor was compromised. And if we can pull this off and get the governor on our side, then he can take the pressure off the monsters. Because that’s their goal; putting enough pressure on you to try and get you to crack.” She’s looking at Sans now, her eyes meeting his. “The bad press? Stirring the pot to encourage ordinary people who might not have acted on their own? That was the Vigilum trying to get you and your people to react. To lash out.”

“they underestimated our capacity for tolerance and our desire for peace,” Sans says, shaking his head. “they expected us to react like humans.”

“Right. So they took it a step further. They’re pushing in different places to see where you’re weakest. They knew that your wife and kid are important to a lot of people on Ebott, including the king and queen. They were hoping that by taking them away, they’d push your people into action.”

“well, they weren’t wrong,” he mutters. “just not in the way they were expecting. but why do they want to do this? what’s their goal? and how do you know all this?”

Her smile is smug and predatory. “Purple magic may not be the flashiest, but it’s useful for finding out secrets. It just takes knowing which people to listen closely to, and some perseverance. The people I work for have been thinking about the situation with the governor a lot lately, so it was just a matter of fitting all the pieces together.”

Sans’s eyes narrow as he studies Vanessa’s face. “you’re saying you can read thoughts?”

“I’m saying that I can sense intent, and yes, when I choose to, I can hear surface thoughts. It’s very draining on my magic, so I have to select my targets wisely.” Her expression sobers, that smile slipping away. “As to your other questions, they feel threatened. You and your magic returning places all mages in a rather precarious position. They’re also paranoid that all those old stories of monsters using human Souls being true. Speaking of which, perhaps you could enlighten us.”

All at once attention shifts to Sans. His eyes narrow as he watches Vanessa, resentful of being put on the spot. Of course it’s true, he knows for a fact that it’s true. But he doesn’t want to tell them that, it’s not his secret to—

Shit. He glares at Vanessa as he catches sight of the very faint, barely noticeable purple glow that catches in her eyes.

“yes, it’s true. at least, it's possible,” he mutters. “we’re told that’s what started the war in the first place. humans being afraid of us having the potential to take in your souls.”

To his surprise, none of the mages seem at all shocked. Grant and Morwenna share a knowing look, and Vanessa just nods. “We suspected as much,” Vanessa says. “But fearing someone for their potential to harm does no one any good, does it?”

Sans can’t help it. He glances over at Deacon at the same time that Deacon looks over at him and there’s that twist of guilt again.

“So are we honestly talking about… what, rescuing the governor?” Maria blurts out, drawing everyone’s attention.

“If we’re going to do anything about this, then yes,” Morwenna says. The stubbornness in her tone is enough to make Sans feel a little more confident that they’re finally going to do something.

“Eso es una loca,” Maria says under her breath, resting her forehead in her hand. “You’re going to get my ass thrown in jail, Morwenna. Or deported.”

“Or killed,” Grant mutters, and once again the focus in the room shifts. “You can’t expect them to do this.”

“Grant, we've talked about this,” Morwenna sighs, and Sans can't help but notice the slip of not using his last name.

“Wait, before you two argue,” Vanessa cuts in, looking between the two of them. “There's something you both need to know.” Her expression is hesitant, which is the first time he's seen her at less than completely confident. That piques his curiosity. “The man in charge of all this at the governor's house… It's Avery Fletcher.”

The name doesn't mean anything to Sans, but it clearly does to everyone else. Grant and Morwenna both stare at Vanessa and the others go quiet, like they're afraid to say anything. He gives Deacon a questioning look but his only answer is a quick shake of his head.

“Well that certainly changes things,” Grant mutters, and Morwenna's expression turns alarmed.

“Oh, so now you'll stop fighting with me for the sake of revenge?” she says, eyebrows shooting up.

“Killing Avery fucking Fletcher isn't revenge. It's justice . For your brother and for—”

“Don't you dare bring Willem into your goddamn crusade,” she snaps, glaring now.

“Stop pretending you wouldn’t be glad to see that murderer six feet under. Ten years ago you would’ve leapt at the chance.”

“It’s not just Avery,” Vanessa interjects, and Morwenna and Grant look at her again. Grant crosses his arms over his chest and Morwenna rubs her shoulder, a somber look on her face. “It’s the… it’s his initiates too.”

There’s another silence laden with grim understanding. It’s enough to be downright irritating.

“ok. who wants to fill me in?” Sans says, arching a brow and looking around the room as their attention shifts to him. They all seem to have forgotten he was there. “all these meaningful silences aren’t so meaningful when you don’t know what the hell’s going on.”

He looks at Deacon, thinking that he might be the one to speak up, but he’s looking at Morwenna. And Morwenna is looking at Vanessa. Vanessa’s mouth is set in a hard line.

“How much you want him to know is up to you, Ingram,” Morwenna says, taking a step closer to the young woman. “It’s your story to tell. You know the initiate program better than anyone.”

“Does he know anything about what happened with Willem?” she asks her, and she sighs when Morwenna shakes her head. “Do you want me to tell that part too?”

“That’s fine.”

Vanessa looks at Sans, a deep furrow forming between her brows. “When I was nine, I was kidnapped by the Vigilum. There was a whole group of us, all kids under twelve. They wanted to turn us into some kind of special task force and didn’t want to use their own people to do it. So they figured they’d snatch a bunch of mage kids from across the country and train us up.” She shrugs her shoulders. Anger swells in Sans’s ribcage, and he balls his hands into fists in his pockets. It’s hard not to imagine Frisk as one of those abducted, magical kids. “The Literatum caught wind of what they were doing, and a bunch of them came to try and rescue us. I was the only one they managed to get out, and that was after two casualties; Morwenna’s brother Willem, and a man named Thomas. All the other kids got left behind. They’re the initiates helping Avery keep the governor and his family hostage, because if they get found out, they don’t have any family ties to the big names in the Vigilum. And in case you couldn’t figure it out, Avery is the one that was in charge of the initiate program back when I got rescued, and he’s the one that killed Willem.”

There’s another beat of silence, but this time Sans understands why the air feels so heavy.

“Did I forget anything?” Vanessa asks, looking at Morwenna.

“No. That was fine,” Morwenna says gently, and Vanessa nods. The older woman looks at Sans, jaw tense. “So you can see why we might have a vested interest in disrupting the Vigilum’s plans, and why there’s some… division about getting involved. We haven’t openly stood against them in seventeen years.”

“so what’s the plan? when are we going to do this?” Sans asks, which seems to catch Morwenna off-guard.

“You’re… coming with us?” she asks.

“damn right i am.”

“I’m not sure that’s wise.”

“He should be there,” Deacon says, before Sans can argue the point further. “He’s just as committed, if not more , than anyone else here. Not to mention his magic is… incredibly powerful. We want him there.”

Morwenna glances between the two of them, then fixes Sans with a calculating look. After a moment she nods. “Okay then. Let’s talk planning.”

Planning is long and tedious, with a lot of bickering back and forth. Vanessa insists that she wants to be involved in the attack but Howard is quick to point out that her magic is non-combative and she shouldn’t be going. Vanessa counters with the fact that apparently Howard’s cyan magic isn’t exactly equipped for combat either. That phasing through objects and turning invisible won’t help them fight.

There’s a short debate on if they should bring guns, which is quickly squashed by Howard. They don’t want to leave any clear evidence of a fight (which means that Sans’s blasters are right out, unless there’s an emergency). This decision is supported by Vanessa, who is confident that Avery and his team aren’t armed either.

It’s decided that everyone will meet back at Morwenna’s house tomorrow after midnight, with the hopes that doing this at night will reduce the chance of any extra, uninvolved people getting caught in the middle. And maybe they can catch the Vigilum off-guard.

But all this talk makes Sans feel like he’s going around in circles. That they’re repeating the same arguments over again. He just wants to go and dosomething about all this! His patience is frayed and his attention keeps drifting…

Which is why it takes him so long to realize that the Literatum are repeating themselves. Sans’s attention snaps back into harsh focus as he listens to Howard give the same argument against guns that he made twenty minutes ago. When he looks at the clock, he realizes that it is twenty minutes ago!

There was a Load and he barely even noticed.

   
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