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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188. Practice Makes Perfect

‘Are you doing anything this afternoon?’

The text is a simple one, with a myriad of implications. At least, it would if it was from anyone but Chris. Fatima looks at the message, tapping her finger against the side of her phone, and is certain he’s not asking for any reason outside of their typical jaunts in-game. Maybe he wanted to run some dungeons, or go through some old raids for cosmetic gear. It is Tuesday, which means everything got reset…

Sitting on a padded bench in the Woodside ‘community center’ where she and her brother are waiting for Morwenna and Frisk to finish their training, Fatima pulls her legs up beneath her to sit cross-legged as she types in a reply. ‘No plans. Did you want to run something? I’m not home right now, but I shouldn’t be out too long.’

Rashid makes a muffled sound that’s suspiciously close to a snort, and when she glances over at him he’s busying himself with his own phone held close to his face. Leaning back against the wall, his sneakers are propped up on the edge of his seat, his knees jutting up as he slouches.

She frowns. “What?” she asks petulantly, arching a brow. Dropping her arms to rest in her lap, she turns the screen off with a quick press of her fingers.

“Look, I may not be interested in all that” —he waves his hand in the general direction of her phone, and then at her— “relationship stuff but even Ican tell that Chris doesn’t want to just play WoW with you.”

Fatima scoffs. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“He’s been talking to you a lot lately.”

“We’re all playing the same game together, of course we talk, Rashid,” she says, shaking her head and looking away from him.

The community center (Super Secret Mage Headquarters according to Sans, which had also been picked up by Deacon) is a newer building, and still has that sort of clean smell to it. The walls, which are curved to fit some sort of artistic style, are painted in a nondescript neutral greenish color. There are potted trees, glossy tile floors, and huge floor to ceiling windows. In order to keep up appearances, there’s a pool inside the facility, along with a basketball court and a few rec rooms in addition to the training room strictly used by the Literatum. A receptionist (a mage; a young man named Oliver) sits at desk not too far away, watching YouTube videos on his computer.

Rashid just makes an impatient noise but doesn’t bother to say anything. He doesn’t need to, his message is plain enough. He’s wrong, but obvious. She’s about to tell him so when her phone vibrates in her hands.

Chris replied. ‘Well, we’re all doing dungeons later tonight right? I don’t have work today, so I was just wondering what you were up to before then.’ There’s a pause where she just sort of stares at her phone, feeling a little confused. What’s he getting at? Then her phone buzzes again. ‘Sorry, if you’re out doing something we can talk later. I don’t want to bother you.’

Well now she just sort of feels vaguely guilty. What is he apologizing for?

As Fatima gets ready to reply to him, to tell him he’s not bothering her, the automatic door near the receptionist’s desk opens with a quiet rush of air and a robotic tone. Distantly curious, she looks up right as a familiar face strides in. Deacon looks preoccupied with something, pushing his hair back off his forehead as his eyes seek out the training room without even noticing the twins sitting across the hall from it. Fatima feels a bit voyeuristic, watching him like this. But she can’t help it!

“Oh,” she says, unable to stop herself. Rashid looks up at that, glancing from her to the door. He rolls his eyes and looks back at whatever he was doing a second ago. Fatima frowns at him. “Shut up.”

His eyebrows shoot up, looking over the top of his phone to meet her eyes. “I didn’t say anything.”

“You didn’t need to. I could hear you thinking it.”

As Deacon heads towards the door to the training room, still not seeing them, Fatima feels a little anxious twist in her stomach before calling out to get his attention. “Hey Deacon!” she says, swallowing after her voice gives a nervous crack.

He jerks to a halt, looking around for a second as he tries to figure out who said his name. She’s pleased at the way his expression brightens in recognition when he spots her. Raising a hand in greeting, his eyes flick from her to Rashid, then back to her as he takes a couple steps towards them. “Hey, how’re you two doing?” he asks, smiling.

“We’re good,” Fatima says, smiling back. Her phone buzzes and she ignores it, setting it down on the bench as she stands up. She can’t help it; she tucks her hair behind her ear and stands up a little straighter than normal, suddenly hyper-aware of her own body and the space she occupies. Fidgeting, she hooks a hand on the pocket of her shorts, rubbing the fabric absently. “Did you need Morwenna? Her and Frisk are still training.”

A crease forms between his brows as he glances behind him at the door. “Yeah, I wanted to talk to her about that,” he says, dismayed. Sighing, he shrugs his shoulders. “Ah well, I guess I’ll just talk to her after.”

“Um,” she begins. Not the strongest start. Berating herself silently, she tries again. “If it’s something important, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind you interrupting.”

Deacon gives her a lopsided smile, laughing in a quiet, breathy way that makes her have to glance anywhere else. Her cheeks are warming, certain she’s said the wrong thing. “Oh she definitely would mind,” he says, proving her own suspicions correct. She winces internally. “Unless she’s gotten soft in her old age.”

Rashid lets out a snort behind her.

That just makes Deacon laugh again. “Morwenna’s going to be a hardass until the day she dies, mark my words,” he says, shaking his head and grinning. “It’ll be safer for me to just wait out here with you guys.”

“How was your trip?” Fatima asks, changing the subject. As Deacon moves to take a seat on the end of the bench, she sits back down and picks up her phone, but doesn’t look at it. The little notification light is blinking, and she dimly remembers it vibrating a little bit ago, but she can just check that later.

“Yeah, how was that trip with your wife?” Rashid asks pointedly, and Fatima can almost feel him smirking on her other side. She could punch him, it would be worth it!

She knows he’s married. She doesn’t expect anything from Deacon, she knows better! But her eyes dart down to the gold band on his left hand and her mood dampens. If he’d ever suspected about her feelings for him he’d never said anything. Never given any hint. She’s been doing her best to keep her own behavior restricted appropriately, not that it stopped her brother from pestering her about it. Maybe Deacon never said anything to her because he didn’t want to embarrass her. That would mean that he at least cared about her feelings…

Of course he cares about her. He’s a kind person.

That doesn’t make it any easier. With her initial excitement at seeing him again wearing off, she finds herself less than interested in his stories about his trip (especially since most of them tend to center around Bo). So while she smiles and nods at all the right places, she feels a twinge of relief when the door to the training room opens.

The first thing she notices is the downcast, frustrated look on Frisk’s face. Oh, things must not have gone well. They shove their hands in the pockets of their gym shorts, glancing up at Fatima as she catches their eye. She offers them a sympathetic smile. It softens them a little bit, their mouth twitching in response.

They seem surprised to see Deacon sitting beside her. “Oh, hey Uncle Deacon,” they say, sounding hesitant.

“Hey Frisk,” he says. “Don’t give me that look, I’m here for Morwenna.”

Morwenna has her hands on her hips, watching Frisk with something like concern before Deacon catches her attention. Is she worried that it’s taking Frisk so long to pick up on their magic? What could have her looking like that? “Deacon, I heard you made it back in one piece,” she says, giving him a weary smile. “Enjoy yourself?”

“Always,” he says, pushing up to his feet and grinning. “Bumped into a few mages while we were gone, too. Told them to spread the word about Ebott, you know… just in case anybody was interested.”

Mages from all over the country have been slowly ( very slowly, it’s not like there’s many of them) trickling to the mountain, in part thanks to people like Deacon making sure others knew about what was happening with the Literatum. Fatima never would have thought to see so many mages in one place, the way they are now. It’s been… well, maybe complicated is the best word for it. She liked the small, compact way the Literatum had been organized before. She had been comfortable with knowing every name and every face of the ones responsible for saving her and her brother. Now there were so many new people, and not enough time to learn whether or not they were trustworthy.

“Did you need me for something?” Morwenna asks, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand.

“Yeah, I wanted to talk to you, if you’ve got a few minutes,” he says, and Fatima sees the moment his eyes flick towards Frisk, just for a split second. She gets the feeling, not for the first time, that a lot more is going on with Frisk than they’re being told.

Fatima wonders if Chris knows.

Nodding, Morwenna gestures back towards the room she just exited. “Yeah, we can talk in here,” she says. “Frisk, I’ll see you on Thursday, alright?”

Frisk doesn’t say anything, just mumbles their assent. Fatima and Rashid couldn’t get away with treating her like that, but she just purses her lips and follows Deacon back into the training room. Instead of feeling annoyed on her behalf, Fatima just feels badly for them.

“Still no luck?” she asks, leaning forward in her seat and giving them an apologetic look.

“Nope,” Frisk grumbles, fidgeting with their hair. Their bangs are clipped back out of their face, their hair pulled back into a thick braid. Flushed and sweaty, it looks more like Morwenna was teaching them aikido than magic.

“Maybe you should just give up,” Rashid says. Startled and more than a little annoyed, Fatima turns to look at him, bristling at the nonchalant shrug of his shoulders as he deigns to look up from his phone. “You’ve been at it for a month now with nothing to show for it. Maybe Morwenna’s wrong about you being a mage.”

“Rashid, stop,” she warns, her voice dropping low.

Frisk crosses their arms over their chest, scuffing the toe of their shoe against the glossy tile floor. It makes a muffled squeak, and their face scrunches up as they look at Rashid. “I have magic,” they say quietly.

“Well it must not be very much,” he says. Dropping his feet from the edge of the bench down to the ground, he rocks forward to sit up, tilting his head to the side as he studies Frisk. “If you are a mage, you must be pretty weak. When Fatima and I were your age, we were already reaching our full potential, magic-wise.”

“Well, I’m not being raised by some sick psychopath,” Frisk snaps, gritting their teeth and glaring at him. It stings a little, hearing them put it so bluntly, but Fatima understands why they’re angry.

She’s angry too. “What the hell are you doing?” she demands. Rashid glances over at her, arching a brow and looking confused. “Frisk is just a kid—”

“I’m not just a kid!” Frisk says, balling their hands into fists and dropping them to their sides. Letting out a growl of frustration, they storm off, leaving Fatima feeling dazed.

The twins watch them go, and after they disappear through the automatic door, Rashid lets out a sigh and slumps back against the wall. “Nice going, Fatima.”

Sometimes she wonders how her brother survived living under Avery’s thumb with his big fat mouth. With a frustrated noise, she casts a dark look at her brother. “Shut the fuck up you asshole.”

The clubhouse has undergone some renovations over the past few years. Where once there was just an old tarp keeping the elements out of their rocky den, now they have a wooden roof supported by posts. There’s just enough of a gap between the tops of the boulders and the roof to let light filter through. Undyne and Papyrus had built it for them (they’d had plenty of practice with construction back when her house had burned down) back before the twins were born, even before Papyrus’s film career had really taken off…

Asriel had burned looping, swirling designs into the posts with his magic, and every once in awhile he adds more to what has been gradually overtaking the inside of the roof. Frisk loves it. It makes their clubhouse feel more personal, etched with Asriel’s work. Their eyes follow the dark lines through the wood, up towards the top where it transitions from post to roof. It’s a good distraction as their best friend stares at them.

They can feel his anger bubbling beneath the surface.

“What did they say after that?” Asriel asks, his snout wrinkling in a barely-withheld snarl.

Frisk shakes their head, twisting the end of their braid in their fingers. “That’s when I left,” they say.

“Good!” he blurts out. “Rashid is a jerk. If he had any idea how strong you are he wouldn’t be saying stupid crap like that!”

They appreciate his anger on their behalf —they really do!— but theirs had died out on their way home, leaving them wondering if Rashid was right… If maybe they should just give up. Whatever is going on with the magic inside of them, it’s not working the way it should. It refuses to let Frisk tap into it, except for Loads. “Maybe Morwenna’s wrong about you being a mage,” he said. Well, whatever they are, they’re not sure that ‘mage’ is the right word for it.

Chara was the mage, not them.

Stay determined.

...They can’t give up! That’s not like them! They have to keep trying until they get it right.

If nothing else, just to prove Rashid wrong.

“—should make sure that if any leather gear drops in the dungeons tonight that he doesn’t get any of it. I’m going to roll on all of it even if I don’t need it,” Asriel is saying, sounding particularly vindictive. He always was so protective of Frisk. As he shakes his head, his ears brushing against his shoulders, he opens his mouth to say more but Frisk cuts him off.

“I want to practice with you here,” they say, meeting his eyes and holding them. “If I can figure out how to do it with your help, then maybe it’ll be easier during practice. Like you said.”

For a moment Asriel seems taken aback by Frisk’s abrupt change of mind. Just yesterday they’d told him they intended to follow the rules you and Sans had set for them, to not mess around with their magic unsupervised. But it doesn’t take long to recover, grinning and nodding enthusiastically. “Yeah! I want to see the look on Rashid’s face when you finally show that jerk you’re not weak.”

The two of them leave the shelter of their clubhouse, walking out into the sun-dappled forest. It’s the middle of the afternoon, bright and sunny, but with just enough shade to keep the heat from being unbearable. Asriel scoops up a palm-sized rock as they leave the circle of boulders behind, just far enough away to give them some space to work.

Morwenna practices with aikido, trying to get Frisk to tap into the ability she specializes in: distorting time on herself to make herself move faster. She said that other red mages are better at directing their magic outward, using it to slow objects or people. Some can even reverse time for a few seconds, which sounds at least a little similar to their own ability. They opt to start with the latter two methods.

Asriel stands next to them, not touching but close. When they let him know they’re ready, he lobs the rock up into the air. Frisk holds out both hands (Deacon channels his magic through his hands, and so does Sans, so maybe this will help) and tries to reach for their magic and push it towards the rock. Nothing happens. It just falls back into Asriel’s palm.

He watches them as they try a few more times, his enthusiasm starting to fade as Frisk feels more and more frustrated. They’ve been trying all day, they’re hot and sweaty and tired and they just want this to work damn it! They have all this magic, more than anybody should, and it just sits there inside of them and won’t do anything! They try to slow the rock, they try to reverse the path of the rock by turning it backwards in time, but the only thing they feel inside of them is a stirring in that place where their Save is.

That’s not what they want! There’s so much more that they should be able to do, but it won’t let them.

Why is everything about them so difficult? Their magic, even their body, why can’t any of it just feel right for them? Why can’t they just be normal ? Normal would be easier than this—

Asriel takes their hand in his, the pads on his fingers are smooth against their skin. Surprised out of their rapidly spiraling thoughts, Frisk looks at him. His expression is kind and reassuring, and once he sees he has their attention he leans over to press his forehead against Frisk’s. Their eyes, green and brown, lock as he nudges them gently.

“You can do it. We’ll figure out a way, don’t worry,” Asriel says. It’s Frisk’s turn to blush at their closeness, the sincere, heartfelt affection and care in his voice.

“Okay,” Frisk says softly, reaching up to take hold of their friend’s ear with their free hand. Asriel nudges them again with his head and they give him a gentle tug before they pull away from one another.

But they don’t stop holding hands. Frisk laces their fingers together and holds on tight.

They try again, and now, with Asriel’s contact and support, they feel… closer. Like it’s within reach for the first time. The magic in their Soul stirs from what they can only guess is a response to his presence (and the shell of Chara’s Soul inside of him).

But it’s not close enough. Feeling the magic respond but still refuse to do like they want, it just frustrates them even faster as the rock refuses to alter its course no matter how hard they try. Asriel squeezes their hand, trying his best to silently reassure them, but they’re annoyed to the point of embarrassment. Of shame. Even with him here, they can’t manage what they’d done on accident, once, the first day of training. That tiny leap backwards in time that hadn’t been linked to a Load had felt like a turning point!

Now it just feels like a fluke.

“I can’t do it!” Frisk finally blurts out, tearing their hand away from Asriel and turning their back to him. “This isn’t working. Maybe we’re wrong, maybe you aren’t the key to this stupid magic.”

Asriel is quiet for a long moment, long enough that Frisk starts to worry that they’ve upset him. It’s not his fault that this isn’t working. They should turn around, look at him so they can make sure he’s okay, but it feels too late for that. If he’s hurt, he’s hurt and it’s their fault—

Arms circle their waist and Asriel hugs them close, resting his chin on top of their head. Frisk feels a funny lurch in their chest, something that makes their heart beat fast. Asriel makes a soft, uncertain sound. “Well, uh, there’s one thing we haven’t tried,” he says.

“What’s that?” they ask, too self-conscious to refuse any more ideas.

“We… uh…” Asriel clears his throat, and as suddenly as he’d reached for them he’s pulling away now, leaving Frisk to turn around to face him. He’s looking down at the ground, head tipped to the side as he fidgets with his ear. “There’s another way for our magic to be closer. I mean, I could… Our Souls I mean.”

Frisk blinks. “You mean share our Souls?”

Asriel bobs his head, going pinker under white fur. “Yeah. It makes sense, right? I mean, if the problem is that Chara’s Soul is split between us, then wouldn’t linking it back up make your magic work?”

“Yeah, okay.”

His head jerks back up, eyes widening. “Oh! A-are you sure?”

They smile weakly, feeling a bit embarrassed. “We’re already connected,” they say, glancing away as their cheeks warm. “And I don’t… If I’m gonna share my Soul with anybody, it’s gonna be you.”

Asriel smiles at that, grinning from ear to ear and looking pleased with himself. It just makes Frisk feel more self-conscious. Of course they’d share their Soul with him! He doesn’t need to look at them like that! “Okay! Then, um, I’ll just…” His confidence diminishes a little, that uncertainty creeping back in. “Are you ready?”

“I guess,” Frisk says, patting their chest with their hand and looking down. It’s been a long time since they’ve seen their Soul. There was never any reason to.

So when Asriel raises his hands and brings them towards their chest, then pulls back slowly, they take a moment to stare at the bright, brilliant red heart that emerges. A single grey slash across the center of it is the only blemish. That tugging sensation is very faint, the weakest they ever remember feeling, and they wonder if that has to do with Asriel. That their Soul is just that willing to respond to him. They wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.

“Um. Okay,” Asriel breathes, hesitating as he holds one hand towards their Soul. He reaches into his pocket with the other and pulls out the rock they were practicing with earlier. “Let’s try this?”

Frisk can’t help but laugh at the emotions playing across Asriel’s face. The apprehension and excitement and curiosity. “Come on, you’re making me nervous,” they say, fidgeting with their hands.

“Oh! Sorry,” he says. He gives them an anxious smile. “Okay.”

And then Asriel reaches for their Soul and the instant they come into contact it’s like everything they’ve ever felt through their connection but morethan they thought possible. Instead of a faint echo of Asriel’s emotions they feel them as strongly as their own. His nervousness, his fear, his exhilaration at sharing their Souls like he’s wanted to do for so long now. How long has he been meaning to ask? Didn’t he know that all he needed to do was ask?

That makes Asriel blush, which makes Frisk embarrassed too, and the two of them stare at each other, both afraid to speak or think or move, worried that the other might find out more than they’re ready to admit. There’s so much beneath the surface of their minds, and they’re both so curious, but afraid to delve too deep.

But as they both struggle with this, Frisk realizes that— oh, there’s the magic where’s it’s been all along! But now they can reach it. It’s in their grasp. Asriel must be able to feel it too (of course he can) because he grins and raises the hand with the rock.

Ready? he seems to say, but doesn’t need to because Frisk can tell exactly what he’s thinking.

They nod, even though they don’t need to, because Asriel knows the answer to his unspoken question before they can even start to move. So Asriel pulls his hand back and tosses the rock into the air.

It’s so simple now, to reach out with their magic and push.

What they don’t expect is for the rock to vanish and leave behind a hole. That’s all they can imagine it as, a hole there in the air, a black spot where the rock should have been. It’s dark, darker than any shadow, almost a solid thing itself. Frisk and Asriel barely have time to wonder what it is, to stare at it before it rips open, a ragged diagonal tear. And as it widens the darkness clings to the edges, and in the center of it, there’s a soft, misty white.

They barely have enough time to feel afraid before, by some unseen force, they’re pulled bodily into the rift by Frisk’s Soul.

   
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