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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201. Not A Date

“Are you naked?”

Fatima doesn’t even look up from her phone, leaning against the side of her bed as she tries not to check her text messages for the fifth time in as many minutes. “Totally,” she says, voice flat and emotionless. “All the bits exposed, just sitting around, in my room, naked—”

Rashid lets out an annoyed sound. She glances up to see her brother open his eyes just so he can roll them as he slips through the wall separating their bedrooms. The faint cyan glow ghosting off his skin dissipates as he rests one hand on his hip and ruffles his already-messy hair with the other. He looks like he just rolled out of bed.

“You’re not as funny as you think you are,” Rashid says, but his words don’t carry any bite. “One day you really are gonna be naked and then where will we be?”

 You will be thrown out of the room on your ass if that’s the case,” she retorts, arching a brow. “What do you want?”

“To bug you. Looks like it’s working.” His smirk is nearly insufferable. She gives him an impatient look and he shrugs his shoulders. Then he gives her a once-over, and his smirk is replaced with a confused expression. “What’s with the outfit? Going somewhere?”

‘The outfit’ is just a pair of nice jeans and a decent, sleeveless orange top. She’d also changed out her sneakers for some nice flats instead. Okay, maybe it isn’t her day-to-day wardrobe, but what’s with the weird look? “Yeah? I told you, I’m meeting Chris for lunch.”

“Oh,” Rashid says, wrinkling his nose. “Right. I must have blocked it out.”

Fatima scowls at him, pushing away from her bed and pocketing her phone. “Don’t be an asshole.”

“Where are you guys going?”

“Grillby’s.”

“Sort of a weird place for a date, isn’t it?”

Taken aback, Fatima’s eyes widen and she fidgets with her bangs. “It’s not a date,” she insists. “We’re just getting lunch. He wants to understand magic better, and not a lot of magic-less humans go to Grillby’s so it’s safe to talk there.”

“Well it’s nice of you to take pity on him and his tiny, pea-sized brain,” Rashid says, leaning back against her dresser. “And it’s about time he tried to learn a bit more, he’s only been surrounded by magic for five years.”

“He’s not—” she catches herself, refusing to continue to rise to his bait. “Forget it. I’m going to lunch with Chris, you can keep the rest of your snide comments to yourself.”

“Okay. Then why are you sitting around in your room?” He makes a flippant gesture, arching a brow.

“I’m waiting for him to let me know when he leaves.”

There’s a pause where Rashid must not be able to think of anything shitty enough to say. Or maybe he’s listening to her for once and keeping his comments to himself. They regard each other for a second, and Fatima debates if she should just tell him to leave.

“Well since you’re going to Grillby’s, did you know that apparently him and Deacon had a fling before he met Bo?” Rashid says, shrugging his shoulders.

“Um, no? Who told you that?” she blurts out, curious and a little guilty for being so interested.

“Frisk,” he says, smirking. “They mentioned it a few weeks ago. It’s why Deacon never wants to go to Grillby’s.”

“Oh my god, that makes so much more sense now,” she mutters under her breath. “I thought he just didn’t like the food.”

“He probably just finds the service a little lacking.” Rashid gives a lewd chuckle and Fatima shakes her head, doing her best to look scandalized.

She’s not though. She’s more worried she’s not going to be able to look Grillby in the eye anymore with this new tidbit of information. What must that have been like? Not that she can ever mention it to either of them. Ever.

Thankfully her phone goes off in her pocket, saving her from descending even further into that dangerous spiral of curiosity. Especially since it involves Deacon. And Deacon in rather… compromising positions. Oh geez, she needs to check her phone.

“Guess I should let you get to your date,” Rashid says, earning himself a weak glare. She knows he isn’t going to listen so Fatima doesn’t bother protesting again.

‘Headed your way. Be there soon.’

Fatima smiles. ‘OK. I’ll see you there. Don’t text and drive.’

Her brother makes an annoyed sound and when she looks up she catches sight of him right as he phases back through the wall to his own room. Morwenna used to get on their case about ‘wasting’ magic, but that was just asinine. Rashid even told her so. Eventually she backed off, but Fatima thinks it still sort of bothers her. Years —no, decades — of restricting herself and the other members of the Literatum has beaten that habit into her brain. She and Grant both share that mentality. Deacon, Vanessa, and Maria have slowly grown more accustomed to embracing their magic. Deacon especially. She caught him catching a bug inside of a bubble a couple months ago just because it was bothering him. She’s not so sure about Howard. He’s the only one that still lives off-mountain because of his job and his daughters’ school, and has to be more careful.

‘Red light. I can pick you up?’

‘I can take the bus.’

Fatima grabs her small, crossbody purse and shrugs into it, opening her bedroom door like a normal human being. Morwenna is sitting at the dining room table, plugging away at something on her laptop. She looks up as Fatima enters the room, giving her a half-smile as she takes in her outfit.

“Going out?” Morwenna asks, her attention flicking between her and the computer. She seems distracted.

“Yeah, meeting up with Chris for lunch,” she says, curling one hand around the strap of her purse. It feels strange still, checking in with someone. Someone who seems to care.

“Do you need a ride?” She’s still typing as she talks, whatever she’s doing is probably important.

“No, it’s okay,” Fatima says, forcing a polite smile. She glances towards the door. “You’re busy, I was just going to take the bus.”

“Are you sure? I don’t mind.”

“Really, I’m fine.” And she is. She doesn’t need any help, she can manage getting there on her own. There’s no need to bother Morwenna, or impose. She tries not to let her discomfort show on her face.

“Okay,” she says, her attention falling back down to the laptop. “Well, call me if you need a ride back home. You don’t have to take the bus, Fatima.”

“Okay, Mom. I’ll let you know,” Fatima says, trying to feign annoyance to deflect. But instead she feels an uncomfortable twist in the pit of her stomach, realizing what she just said.

Morwenna notices it too, because there’s a moment where her head jerks up and they look at each other. She’s startled, definitely taken aback, and it takes her just a bit too long to rearrange her expression into something neutral. Like she hadn’t noticed the awkwardness that word had caused between them.

“I’ve got to get going or I’ll miss the bus—”

“Fatima—”

“Bye.”

Turning on her heel and hurrying for the door, she slips through with her magic instead of letting it slow her down. She just needs to get away. (She can do that now, she’s not trapped anymore. She can go anywhere she wants.) That was just weird and awful and… Fatima shakes her head and focuses instead on following the sidewalk to the end of their road.

Woodside is built more like a typical city suburb, the houses set closer together and more uniform. With the majority of the residents being human (mages, especially), they constructed something familiar. Just from looking at it, no one would ever suspect that there was anything extraordinary about the people here. Just a neighborhood with people and families…

Her parents would never have been able to afford someplace nice like this.

She only has to wait a few minutes at the bus stop. The Busperson gives her a friendly nod as she climbs up the steps and takes an empty seat between a group of human and monsters kids and a coiled, serpentine monster staring out the window. The ride itself is noisy with chatter, which she prefers to silence. It’s easier to feel like she has some privacy with her thoughts when there’s a crowd to get lost in.

There’s a handful of stops between Woodside and Mountainside, so it takes about fifteen minutes to get there. The pack of kids piles out of their seats first, taking the lead off the bus with her trailing after them, but as she reaches the front she hears the deliberate sound of a throat clearing.

Hesitating, Fatima glances over at the Busperson. They’re looking at her, she thinks.

“He will be beneath you,” they say, humming to themselves. The words are spoken in a sing-songy voice, unsettling enough to make her freeze in her tracks.

“What?” she asks, gripping the handrail.

“Staying or going, dear, I’ve got a schedule to keep,” the Busperson says in that same musical cadence. She wonders if she just misheard before.

Either way the Busperson is watching her and she can’t just stand here. She hurries down the steps and the door snaps shut behind her. What was that all about?

“Hey, Teemz!”

She jumps at the sound of her nickname, chastising herself for being so anxious as she turns towards the voice. Chris is walking over to her from the parking lot beside Grillby’s, raising his whole arm in an enthusiastic wave. It’s enough to make her smile and forget that business with the Busperson.

He’s just how she remembers him. Tall and about twice her size (she and Rashid were always sort of short and thin), he pushes his long brown hair out of his face and over his shoulder, letting the piercings in his eyebrow and his ears catch the light. His gray jeans look new but his Pink Floyd shirt definitely isn’t. That scruffy almost-beard still covers his jawline and chin, and he gives her a big, beaming grin.

Her wave in return is nowhere near as showy, more of a raise of her hand and wiggle of her fingers. But Chris doesn’t seem to mind. He just comes right up to her and reaches out to touch her shoulder. She glances towards the gesture, not sure of what to do, then realizes too late that maybe he was trying to see if he could hug her. Maybe. God, she’s not really sure.

But before it gets awkward Chris hooks his hands on his jeans and does this casual sort of flap with his elbows. “You look great! Was the ride over okay?”

“Uh, yeah,” she quickly lies, shrugging. “You know, just a bus ride.”

“Cool, cool…”

There’s a pause where she glances up at him and he looks down at her and—

“You look great too!” Fatima blurts out, realizing she hadn’t reciprocated his compliment. Why does this feel so awkward all of a sudden? It’s just Chris!

His smile turns a little shy, tucking his hair behind his ear and glancing away. He chuckles. “Thanks. Did you, um, want to go inside? I’m starving.”

She takes a step towards the restaurant and he follows suit at her side. “Did you skip breakfast again?” she teases. This is easier. This is a conversation they’ve had before.

“Uh…”

“Me too,” she says, smiling.

He laughs. “So this is more like brunch, then.”

“Nothing says brunch like burgers and fries. Though, now I’m thinking brunch, and pancakes …”

Chris slows his steps, jerking his thumb back towards his car. “Do you want pancakes instead? We can—”

“No, no, come on,” she says, pinching the side of his shirt between her fingers and giving a weak tug. “We’re already here.”

He smiles and nods and the corner of Fatima’s mouth quirks up in response. She appreciates the offer, she really does, but he’s just being silly. Reaching for the door, she pulls it open and Chris holds it until she’s inside, following after her.

It’s not very busy, which isn’t surprising for a weekday. Catching Grillby’s eye from where he’s standing behind the counter, Fatima gives him a little wave and leads Chris over to an empty booth. She tries not to think about Grillby and Deacon, even as the thoughts surge to the surface of her mind, taunting her. Maybe she would have been better off not knowing.

“You okay?” Chris asks, looking at her from across the table, settling into his seat.

Fatima blinks. “Huh? Oh, yeah,” she says, her cheeks feeling warm. She wonders if he can tell. “Why?”

“You just had this funny look on your face,” he says. Chris rubs at the scruff on his chin, glancing away.

“Sorry, it’s just been a weird morning,” she admits, feeling guilty all of a sudden. She’s not sure why. Ticking off the events of the day so far in her mind, she settles on the one she’s willing to talk about. “Morwenna was doing this, like, hovering thing? She was asking me if I needed a ride here, and was just…”

“Acting worried about you?” he offers.

 Yeah, and it’s just, like, I don’t need her to do that. I’m twenty-two, it’s not like I’m fresh out of child-soldier camp anymore,” she says, rolling her eyes and frowning down at her hands where she has them pressed flat to the table. “So I did what whole ‘okay Mom’ thing, as a joke, and it got weird.” Gritting her teeth, Fatima shakes her head. “Then I bailed.”

“Yikes,” Chris says.

“Yeah.”

“Well, I mean, she’s sorta like your mom? Kinda?” Fatima looks up at him sharply and he winces, shrugging his broad shoulders high enough to brush his ears. “I mean, not really, just… I’m sure she cares about you. You’ve been with her for five years.”

She catches herself before she points out that she’d been with Avery Fletcher for seven years, and that didn’t mean he cared a single fucking bit about any of them. But that’s not a fair comparison, Morwenna is a thousand times better than Avery could have ever hoped to be, and she knows that’s not what Chris was getting at. So instead Fatima makes a noncommittal noise, thankful when Grillby chooses that moment to step up to their table.

The fire elemental’s face crinkles into a smile, nodding to both of them. Neither of them are strangers to this place, but he seems surprised to see them together. Then he gives them a questioning look, gesturing towards the door.

Chris doesn’t seem to understand what he’s asking, casting Fatima a confused glance.

“It’s just us,” Fatima says, smiling as Grillby gives a quick nod in understanding. “How’s Cindy? Is she off today?”

His niece has been working here the entire time she’d known him. As far as Fatima can tell, she’s going to end up taking over the business whenever Grillby decides to hand it over. She hopes that’s not for a long time.

Grillby nods. “She’s been working too much,” he says quietly.

“Sounds like she takes after you,” Chris chimes in, smiling.

That makes him laugh.

They place their orders and Grillby heads off to the kitchen, leaving them alone again. Chris and Fatima look at each other, both hesitating. He tucks his hair behind his ear and she taps lightly at the table with her fingers, fidgeting.

“So I guess you were gonna tell me—”

“So how’s work been—?”

“No sorry, you—”

“What were you—?”

Chris’s face breaks out into a huge, embarrassed smile, gesturing to her with one hand and rubbing his cheek with the other. He looks a little pink. “You first,” he says.

“I was just asking how work’s been,” Fatima says, fighting against that anxious twist in her gut at that disastrous start of conversation.

“Oh!” His expression brightens. “I mean, just the same shit. Getting more caught up on the instrument repairs though, so that’s something. Ruth’s been getting on my case about the backlog, and that’s… not fun.”

“She still not having any luck getting that job she wants?”

Chris shakes his head. “There’s not a lot of hiring going on for firefighters. She says there’s just not enough positions for the people certified, at least not in the area.” He makes a pathetic sound, his face falling. “And I think she’s taking her frustration out on me. Zane’s just isn’t enough for her. I had hoped that once she finished her training and shit that she’d be able to go…”

“I’m sorry,” she says, unsure of what else to say. She’s never been good at this stuff. The comforting stuff.

“Oh, fuck, I mean, it’s not your fault,” he says quickly, holding up his hands. “I’m just bitching. It’s fine, really. It’s just hard to feel like the assistant manager when someone who’s supposed to be beneath you is bossing you around… And I can’t really tell her she’s wrong because technicallythere’s stuff I could be doing. She acts more like the manager than me.”

“But Zane promoted you ,” she says, frowning.

Chris lets out a humorless laugh. “Yeah, because we all thought that Ruth would be leaving to go save people. Fight fires. Do the shit she was trained to do. Not do inventory on twenty-year-old records and rent out instruments to middle-schoolers. If she had any intentions of staying on long-term she would have gotten the position, not me.”

“I’m sure that’s not true…” She gives him a sympathetic look, wishing she knew something better to say.

He looks at her, something sad passing over his face for a second before he shakes his head and smiles. “Sorry, we didn’t come here for me to whine to you. This isn’t fun for either of us. You were going to tell me more about magic.”

That’s true, she was. That’s why they’re here after all.

So she goes over the basics. The differences between monster and human magic, the limitations by color, how it feels to her when she taps into that well of energy within her Soul. He’s a good audience, listening carefully and asking her questions, genuinely interested in what she has to say. It feels nice to have his undivided attention.

The talk goes through lunch, and she barely notices as another hour passes by after Grillby comes back around to refill their drinks and clear their plates. The topics of conversation shift from magic towards other things. TV shows, movies, things they’ve watched online. Video games, whatever they’ve been up to recently. Chris keeps asking her questions and she’s more than happy to answer, to tell him about what she’s been doing and seeing when she’s not on the computer playing WoW with him and the others.

By the time they realize it’s been almost two hours she’s got a list of games to play and more things to watch jotted down on her phone, things Chris thinks she’d like. (And they actually do sound like things she’d like, not just stuff that he likes that he’s trying to push onto her. She’s had that happen before.) Sometimes it feels like she’s still trying to catch up on almost a decade of pop culture that she missed. In a way, she is.

Fatima had refused his offer of a ride earlier, but when he asks her if he can take her home this time she doesn’t tell him no. He still has that BMW his parents bought him before he struck out on his own, though it’s starting to show its age. She doesn’t think it suits him very much, but knows that he really can’t afford a car payment right now. Maybe she should have argued with him more when he insisted on paying for her lunch.

Chris plays some Led Zeppelin and when Fatima reaches across the dash to turn up the volume his huge smile makes her laugh. He looks ridiculous, but she’s glad that he’s happy. Nodding his head in time with the music, he rests his arm on the back of her seat.

When they get back to her house she doesn’t expect it when he cuts the engine and unbuckles his seatbelt. A weird, fluttery feeling makes her stomach swim as she gets out of the car and he walks with her up to the door.

“You didn’t have to walk me,” she says weakly, fidgeting with the strap of her purse. “I promise I wouldn’t get lost.”

Chris shrugs his shoulders, rubbing the side of his neck. “Yeah, well, it didn’t feel right just pulling up the driveway and being all like, ‘okay, get out’ so…”

She laughs, shrugging back. “Fair enough. This was fun, though.”

“Yeah! We should do this again. I really liked getting to do something just us for a change,” he says. His smile seems a little uncertain, almost nervous. Which is making her nervous.

“Me too,” she says, partially because she feels like it’s what she’s supposed to say, and also because she means it.

“Sweet.”

There’s a pause, a heavy, awkward pause where she’s standing next to her front door, he’s looking down at her, and neither of them seem sure of what’s supposed to happen next. She’s supposed to go inside, right? That’s why they’re here. Then he reaches and touches her elbow and it’s a simple gesture but it’s easy enough for her to read.

Fatima leans in and hugs him, and he leans down to hug her back, wrapping her up gently in his big arms. He’s always been big, but hugging him makes her feel small. Not in a bad way, not in a weak way. Just small. Her cheek brushes against his and she feels the scrape of his beard against her skin and smells something like sandalwood now that she’s closer.

She’s not sure if it lasted too long or not long enough, but then Chris is pulling away, definitely a little redder than he was a moment ago. He also can’t seem to stop smiling.

“Maybe next time I can pick you up? That way you don’t have to take the bus,” he says a little clumsily, pushing his hair out of his face and catching a bit of it on the piercing in his eyebrow. He fixes it and Fatima tries not to let the nervous energy inside of her turn into a laugh.

“Yeah, okay,” she says.

“Okay. Uh, then this is you,” he says, pointing at the door. Then he jerks a thumb back at his car. “And that’s me, so I’ll let you go. I’ll see you online tonight?”

“Yeah,” she says again, feeling at a loss for anything else to say. She can’t stop smiling either.

“Cool. Sweet. Then, uh, later Teemz,” he says, taking a couple slow steps backwards, glancing over his shoulder to make sure he doesn’t bump into anything.

“Bye Chris,” she says, covering her mouth as she laughs when he finally turns around to look at where he’s going.

When she unlocks the front door to let herself inside, she takes one last look towards his car to see him standing by his car, watching her. Making sure she gets in before he leaves. She smiles and he smiles back and gives her a little wave. She ducks through the door, feeling giddy and anxious and a little confused.

The second she turns the lock she hears the sound of footsteps behind her. Deliberate footsteps, because if he wanted to be sneaky, she wouldn’t be able to hear that Rashid was there. “So, how was lunch?” he asks. When she turns around to look at him he’s standing there with his arms crossed over his chest, eyebrow raised in question and a stubborn look on his face.

Fatima fidgets with her hair. “...I think it was a date?”

He rolls his eyes, pointing at her with both hands. “I fucking told you so,” he says, then turns around and walks away.

   
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