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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169. Getting the Message Across

Chris invites you and Frisk to go to work with him, to get out of the tiny apartment, but you decline. Which is just as well because you spend most of the morning on the phone. Papyrus calls to talk to both of you, so does Alphys. Undyne texts you between classes and Sans talks to you for about an hour before lunch. He asks you about how things are going between Frisk and Chris, and you hesitate. Because you’re not sure what he wants to hear.

So you tell him the truth, that they’re talking now and getting along fairly well. Sans seems satisfied with that answer, to your relief. The last thing you want him worrying about on top of everything else is how Chris fits into this mess that is your life right now. The conversation shifts onto easier topics, and as you run out of things to say he seems like he’s waiting for something. You’re just not sure what. After a few moments of awkward silence he says he’ll let you go, that he misses you both and that he hopes this separation won’t last long. After you exchange ‘I love you’s he hangs up the phone.

You text Deacon while you’re eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, watching Frisk play that video game from yesterday. You don’t really have much choice in that regard; there’s one television, one room, and one kid you want to keep entertained. They can have free rein of the TV for now.

Your best friend is quick to reply and bring a smile to your face. You complain about the tiny apartment, the lack of privacy, the fact that you and Frisk are sleeping in Chris’s bed and he’s sleeping on the couch. Things that you’re not comfortable complaining to Sans about because you don’t want him to worry. Also, it’s not lost on you how weird and awkward it is that you’re using your ex-boyfriend’s bed. It’s not lost on Deacon either.

‘I’d say something, but I don’t want to make it gross.’

You cringe. ‘Okay, but now I can’t stop thinking about all the gross possibilities and now I think I need to see if there’s a change of sheets anywhere in this tiny shoebox of an apartment.’

‘It’s too late. You already slept on those sheets. Twice.’

‘That doesn’t mean I need to keep sleeping on them. Ugh.’

‘Sorry.’

‘At least I know he’s single right now. So, that makes it a little better, right?’

‘Who knows what he’s done in that apartment. Or where.’

‘STOP.’ You bury your face in the crook of your arm, leaning against the side of the couch. You bite back the urge to make a distressed sound, not wanting to get Frisk’s attention.

‘He’s a young man.’

‘Deacon no.’

‘Young men have needs.’

You grimace, hiding one eye behind your hand. ‘I hate you so much.’

‘You don’t. You love me.’

‘I do love you. Jerk.’ You’re grinning, laughing softly to yourself as something bittersweet stirs in your chest. It feels so normal, having this back and forth with him, and for a moment you’re able to forget that you’re stuck here away from your friends and your family. Away from two of the people you love the most in your life. ‘I miss you. We should be eating lunch together right now at school.’

There’s a longer pause between messages, a few minutes instead of just a few seconds. As you glance around the room, looking to see if there’s any storage space you might have overlooked that might have some spare sheets (and considering you might just have to do some laundry instead) you hear your phone chime at last.

‘I miss you too. I wish there was something we could do to help.’

You get the feeling that there’s more to this than he can say. That someone is doing something to try and fix this. At least, you hope so. You have no way of knowing.

‘I know.’

The sudden, loud knock on the door is enough to make you jump. Frisk looks back at you with wide eyes, pausing the game and standing. You leave your phone on the armrest of the couch, rising to your feet and debating if you should ignore it. The can of mace Chris gave you is sitting on top of the television. You bite your lip. After a second you hear another knock.

“This is the police,” comes a stern voice through the door.

Considering that you can’t even trust the military, you’re not sure you have much faith in the police either. But you can’t just stand there and pretend this isn’t happening. You leave the mace where it is, because the last thing you need is to be accused of threatening a police officer, and go to the door.

“Mom?” Frisk asks.

You wave them back. “Stay there.”

Taking a quick look through the peephole, you’re relieved to see that it’s just one man at least. You open the door just a crack, enough to get a better look at him. His uniform is crisp, the badge on his breast is shining in the midday sun, and his name tag reads ‘Min’. You’re pretty sure that’s Chinese.

“Hello?” you ask tentatively, gripping the side of the door tight in your hand.

“We received a report of a disturbance here last night,” he says, loud and firm. “Do you mind if I come inside and speak to you about that?”

A disturbance? There wasn’t any kind of disturbance. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” you say, biting your lip.

“Please, this will only take a few minutes and then I can get out of your hair,” he says, giving you a small smile. It crinkles the corners of his eyes, and something about it is reassuring. This isn’t like that cold smile Jacobs gave you.

You think that technically you can deny him entry to the apartment. That he can’t come inside without a warrant. But something tells you not to worry. Drawing in a deep breath, wondering if that little voice in the back of your mind is telling you the truth or not, you take a step back to let him inside. Officer Min gives you a curt nod and you shut the door behind him.

“Is this Christopher Osborne’s apartment?” he asks, taking a quick look around the place. Frisk is still standing by the couch, watching the two of you with apprehension.

You cross the room to stand beside your child, resting a hand on their back. “Yes it is. What was this ‘disturbance’ you were told about?”

“And can I get your first and last name, please.”

“...Hope Garcia,” you say. Is he going to recognize you from the news? And if he does, what does that mean for you?

His face breaks out into a warm smile, holding out his hand for you. You just stare at it. “Sorry about all that, there wasn’t any disturbance. I just wanted to make sure I had the right person. And the apartment is being watched.”

You feel dazed, like you’re missing something important. “I… what? Watched?”

“Yes. There’s a car parked a few buildings down. I couldn’t let them know why I’m really here.” Officer Min drops his hand when you refuse to shake it, reaching inside his vest to pull out a folded square of paper sealed with strips of tape. “I’m Howard, by the way. I brought you a message from your husband.”

“My…” You can only stare, struggling to put the pieces together. “How do you know my husband?”

Howard is holding out the note. He makes a weak gesture, pushing his hand closer to you to get your attention. Finally, looking from his face down to the paper, you take it and turn it over. There’s nothing on the outside other than a few pieces of tape keeping it closed. “Through Deacon Stuart. I believe he’s a friend of yours.”

Your attention snaps back up to his face, and your free hand goes to the bracelet around your wrist. “Are you…? One of the—”

“Yes. I’m sure Sans explained in his letter,” he says, pointing at it. “I can’t exactly linger, I’m not supposed to be here. But as a husband and a father…” Howard looks down at Frisk and gives them a weak smile. “I figured I could at least do something to help get word to you guys.”

“I… Thank you,” you say. Realizing how rude you must have seemed, you hold out your hand. His smile brightens and he shakes it. “Really, it’s been hard not being able to know what’s going on.”

“You’re welcome. Just be sure to destroy that note, just in case. I know it sounds really… spy movie, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If the wrong people got wind of what we’re up to, it could put all of us at risk.”

Holding it close to your chest, you nod. “Sure. Of course. Did you see them? Sans and Deacon, I mean.”

“Yeah. We met with them yesterday. Your husband’s teleportation is really impressive. I don’t think that’s even possible for any human mages,” he says, casting a look towards the front door.

“They what?” you blurt out, eyebrows shooting up. “No, they’re not allowed out of Ebott, if they got caught—”

“They clearly think it’s worth the risk,” he says, making a patient, placating gesture with his hands. “Just know that we’re doing what we can to help fix this situation.”

You bite back further protests, knowing full well that Howard Min isn’t responsible for your husband and your best friend. He’s just another… well, a mage probably. An ally. Sighing, you nod. “Okay. Fine.”

“Are you really a police officer?” Frisk asks, just barely louder than a whisper.

Howard blinks, then starts to laugh. He crouches down to put himself at eye-level with Frisk. “Yeah. I am. I know it’s a little sneaky, coming here to see you and your mom, but I’m really a cop.”

“Is it like, your secret identity?” Their face scrunches up in confusion.

You feel your cheeks heat up, a little embarrassed by Frisk’s questioning. But Howard just gives them a good-natured grin. He did say he was a father, after all. “Nah, it’s just part of what I do. Just like being a mage,” he says conspiratorially, winking. Then he stands back up, looking at you with something like pity in his dark eyes. “I’m sorry there isn’t more I can do to help. With you being watched, it makes things much more difficult for us.”

Swallowing past a lump in your throat, you nod. “I understand. But thank you for bringing me this. And letting us know that something’s being done.”

“We’re trying,” he says. “And now I really should get going.”

When he leaves me makes a show of apologizing for the misunderstanding and telling you to have a good day before getting back into his squad car and driving away. For a moment you hesitate, wondering if you should try to figure out which car is the one he mentioned with the person watching you, but that would just look suspicious. You go back inside.

Then you remember the note squeezed tight in your hand. Going to sit on the couch, you break the tape and unfold the paper. You recognize the messy handwriting.

hopefully howard got you this letter ok. i can’t even ask you over the phone, so next time we talk, after you get this, tell me about the first time we met. then i’ll know.

Oh. Maybe that’s why he seemed like he was waiting for you to say something specific earlier.

howard’s an ok guy i guess. he’s one of deacon’s people. he and a few of the others (you were right, grant is a huge asshole) are supposed to be helping us help you and frisk. and everybody, i know it’s not just you. we need to get the line back open for everybody.

but babe, you know i’m doing this for you.

the literatum have some kind of inside woman trying to figure out the source of this mess so we can… i dunno, do something i guess. this whole thing isn’t what i expected. they’re just a handful of people, hope. people with power they don’t know what to do with, which is worse. i’m trying to stay optimistic, but they don’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence. but it’s something. it’s better than sitting around and giving up and doing nothing.

if something happens, if you feel like this whole thing is hopeless… you call me and you tell me to come get you and damn the consequences. we’ll run as far as we have to as long as we’re together. i won’t let them keep you from me. i’m not gonna lose you.

but right now i’m trying to be patient.

tell frisk that i plan on keeping my promise. that one way or another, these people aren’t going to keep us apart. deacon and i are working together with the literatum to make sure. don’t tell them how worried i am that these mages don’t know what they’re doing.

i love you both, until the end of time.

sans

There are tears in your eyes as you reread the letter two more times, then start to tear it into tiny pieces.

The next day when Chris asks you again to come with him to work, you accept. Because you can’t forget Howard’s comment about someone watching the apartment, and you’re starting to feel some cabin fever from spending so much time in that one little room. Even Frisk, who was content to play video games, perks up at the idea of going to the music store.

Zane’s is just how you remember it. It’s a small, privately owned music store, specializing in instrument repair as well as sales and rentals. Right at the entrance is a small, glass display case and counter, behind which is a row of hanging guitars in various states of damage. Looks like their repair guy has some backlog. The room to the right is crowded rows of boxes, some with sheet music, others with records and CDs. Straight ahead, past the counter to your left, is the room with the instruments, including a soundproof booth for playing and testing. The light that filters through crowded windows catches on the dust motes hanging in the air, and you’re enveloped by the smell of wood, dust, paper, and polish.

It’s small and cramped and a little run-down, but it’s all so familiar you can’t help but smile. You spent hours here with Chris. You were with him when he picked out that Gibson SG he loves so much. And now you’re here with Chris again, and the child you’d made together.

That thought hits you so strongly that you have to take a moment to backpedal, to remind yourself that Chris was hardly more than a sperm donor. But you know that music is in Frisk’s blood, because they certainly didn’t get that talent from you.

And Frisk is looking around them with a look akin to awe, taking in all the sights as Chris flicks on the lights and starts fiddling with the cash register.

“Don’t touch anything without permission,” you tell them, combing your fingers through their hair.

Chris looks up at that, catching your eye then looking at Frisk. “You can check out a bunch of instruments back there,” he says, grinning and pointing. “Do you like music?”

Frisk nods enthusiastically. “Undyne was showing me how to play piano!”

“That’s so metal! Piano was my first instrument too,” Chris blurts out.

There’s a moment of silence where Frisk looks back at you. “What’s ‘so metal’ mean?”

Chris’s mouth falls open, gaping at you. “You know, like… Hope, how does Frisk not know what that means? You used to say that all the time.”

You scrunch your nose. “I haven’t said that in years.”

He gives you that look that you’ve come to realize is the one where he notices that you’re not the same Hope from high school. At the same time, you’re seeing more and more that Chris is still that same boy you remember. Just older, bigger, with piercings he got to spite his parents after moving out and a scraggly attempt at growing out the hair on his chin. You grew up out of necessity. He’d been stunted, and now he’s trying to play catch-up.

“Well, uh, you want to check out the most expensive keyboard in the shop?” Chris asks, doing his best, you think, to sweep aside his mistake.

“Yeah!”

No,” you interject, catching Chris’s eye. “Please remember that Frisk is seven.”

“Oh. Uh. Right,” he says, letting out an embarrassed laugh. “Then, how about the cheapest keyboard in the shop?”

The two of them disappear into the next room, with Chris talking animatedly about different types of keyboards. You’re sure that Frisk hasn’t the faintest clue of what he’s talking about, but they seem excited nonetheless. With both of them occupied, you take the time to wander the cramped rows of sheet music.

It’s a good way to pass a bit of time, but after about half an hour you head back to the instrument room. They’re sitting together on the floor, a keyboard (a cheap one, you guess) in front of Frisk and an acoustic guitar in Chris’s lap. As you peek around a stack of boxes, it looks like Frisk is showing him what they’ve learned from Undyne, while he mimics it on his guitar. Trying to show them how the notes compare, you think.

Frisk is looking at him with unguarded interest, watching his hands as they slide up and down the strings. They lean in closer, paying attention, and Chris has this focused look on his face that you recognize. He’s not playing around, not sitting there in awe of Frisk’s attention. He’s honestly trying to show them what he’s doing, concentrating on the task of teaching them. It’s the same expression he’d have when memorizing a new song, or figuring out some tricky chords.

You’re about to come out from behind the boxes to go join them when you hear the tinkling of the bell above the front door. Turning at the sound, you’re surprised to see a familiar face.

Eric looks just as surprised as you are. But he recovers quickly, shutting the door behind him and hooking his fingers on one of the two belts hanging around his waist (not even in his belt loops, just hanging from his waist). He’s dressed in the same sort of stuff you remember seeing him in back in high school, when he’d help the two of you skip classes and encourage most of your delinquent behavior. A ripped band shirt, ratty faded jeans, boots, an old leather jacket (actually, that might be the same leather jacket), and chipped black nail polish. It’s the band look, you think. By comparison, Chris looks positively cleaned up.

Thin and lanky, Eric has that sort of pinched look to his face like he just tasted something sour. Dark circles like bruises shadow his blue eyes, and his thin, black hair hangs limply on either side of his face. He must be twenty-five now, but whatever he’d been up to in the last eight years hadn’t been kind. He looks closer to his mid-thirties than his mid-twenties.

“Look what the cat dragged in,” Eric drawls, his mouth curving into an amused smile. “Long time no see.”

“Yeah. It has been a while,” you agree, crossing your arms over your chest. Your hand finds the locket hanging around your neck, rubbing your thumb over the design on the front.

“I guess this explains why Chris keeps fuckin’ bailing on me.” He rolls his eyes, walking over to you. “You got him pussy whipped already?”

Your eyes narrow, clenching your jaw. “We’re not together.”

“I didn’t say ‘together’,” he says, laughing. He makes a crude gesture with his hands. “I meant together.”

“You’re disgusting as always,” you say, lip curling involuntarily. “And do you mind toning it down? My kid is here.”

“Oh this I gotta see. Where’s Chris’s crotch fruit?” His grin is downright giddy, which just pisses you off even more.

As Eric tries to brush past you, you put yourself bodily in his way. He halts, his smile faltering as you fix him with a hard look. “Back off, Eric. This situation is hard enough as it is without you trying to turn this into a fucking joke,” you growl, anger making your skin prickle as your hands clench into fists.

He laughs in your face. “Are you kidding me? This is hilarious. I need to know what made you come crawling back to this big dumb idiot.”

“Why are you here, Eric?”

Chris is behind you, and you feel the faintest pressure of his hand on your shoulder. You twist to the side, away from his touch and out of his way so he can shift to stand in front of you. Looking for Frisk, you see them watching you from their spot on the ground on the other side of the instrument room, poking absently at the keyboard.

“I came to see why you kept cancelling on me, dude,” Eric says, smacking Chris in the stomach with the back of his hand. “That’s two days in a row you’ve been ‘busy’.” He grins and waggles his brows. “I didn’t realize you meant you were getting busy.”

Chris cringes, pushing his hair out of his face. “Dude, fuck off, it’s none of your business. They just needed a place to stay while the shit on Mt. Ebott gets sorted.”

“Well if you two aren’t fucking then why aren’t you coming to practice with us?” he asks, shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders.

“Not everything is about sex you goddamn creep,” Chris mutters.

“Sure it is!” Eric gives Chris a healthy shove in the shoulder, laughing. “And since when did you think otherwise? You don’t have to put on the big ‘good guy’ act just because your baby momma is here. Especially if you guys aren’t even screwing. Who do you have to impress?”

Chris’s shoulders tense, and after a second he shoves Eric back, towards the front door. Eric’s eyes go wide, then narrow as he looks up at the much bigger man in front of him. “Unless you’re buying something, get out. Or quit being such a fucking prick.”

He stares up at him, like he’s trying to gauge his seriousness, before letting out a weak laugh and throwing his hands up in surrender. “Fine, fine. Whatever dude. You keep doing what you’re doing,” he says, turning and heading towards the door. “Call me when you get your balls back from your ex.”

After the door closes and the bell tinkles once again in the now thankfully-quiet store, you look up at Chris. He lets out a haggard sigh, rubbing his face with both hands before giving you an apologetic look.

“I’m sorry,” he says, wincing as he searches your face. “He’s still such an asshole, but he…”

“You don’t need to apologize for him,” you say, biting your lip. “But why the hell are you still friends with him? Shit, he’s worse than I remember.”

Chris bobs his head. “Tell me about it. But he’s the frontman and the rest of the band thinks he’s hilarious… And I mean, he’s my best friend.”

You arch a brow.

“Ehh,” he says weakly, shrugging. “Okay, oldest friend.”

“Do you always let him talk to you like that?”

“...Yeah?”

Chris,” you say, sighing as he wilts under your stare.

He looks away, rubbing his arm. “Look, he’s gone, and I’m sure he won’t come back for today. So why don’t we just forget about him, okay?”

That pleading look in his grey eyes is hard to resist, so after a moment you ease the tension out of your body and give a nod. “Fine. Yeah. Sorry, I know he’s your friend,” you say, giving him a weak smile. “But you did real good, standing up to him like that.”

Chris perks up a little at that, returning your smile. “Yeah?”

You give him a pat on the arm, then a comforting squeeze. “Yeah.”

   
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