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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74. The Conference

The conference is held at the school in downtown Ebott, partially because it's the largest of the city's three schools but also because it's in the only part of town that's designed to handle this much traffic. The fields next to the school are packed with cars and the crowd spills outside from the gymnasium. It's more than Asgore ever expected but he seems pleased by the turnout. You wish you could share his enthusiasm, but all of this just makes you nervous. Scanning the crowd inside the gym, you find comfort in the sight of familiar army fatigues.

The soldiers have been remarkably supportive of you and the monsters, for the most part. The same unit has been working the Line since the very beginning, and as such built up a familiarity with many of the residents. Plenty of the rank and file frequent the shops downtown, and you've even seen some of them enjoying leisure time down at the lake. They're invested, you think, and that makes all the difference. You can tell by their focused expressions as they pass by that they're determined to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Even Sans seems reassured by their presence, and that's saying something. His opinion of the Line soldiers is indifferent at best, regarding them as a constant reminder of just who is in control (not him, and not Asgore).

You, Sans, and Frisk stand off to the side, watching Asgore and his family handle a group of curious humans. You haven't seen any cameras yet, which is a relief, and so far people haven't been too keen to approach you. You think that Sans has been scaring them off, but you're not sure if he's doing it on purpose or not. He looks distinctly uncomfortable in a pair of dress slacks (wrinkled) and a button-up shirt (top button undone and missing a tie), his hands fidgeting at his sides before hooking on his belt loops. You know he's perfectly capable of dressing nicely, you've seen it firsthand. Maybe this is some kind of silent protest of this whole ordeal.

Asgore and Toriel were born to this kind of work, you think. They've handled everything thrown at them since first reaching the surface with remarkable poise and diplomacy. You still have no idea why Asgore thought you might have been any good at being some kind of ambassador, not when the two of them have been doing so well on their own. Though, remembering just how exhausted the king looked the night before, you admit that maybe he should have more help. Hopefully, once today is over, Toriel talks to him like she said she would.

The only member of the Dreemurr family that seems out of sorts with all of this is Asriel. Wedged between his parents, he's got one hand on his mother's skirt and the other wrapped tight around one ear, watching. You run your fingers through Frisk's hair, a futile wish of going to fetch their friend away from all that pressure flitting around in the back of your mind. You can feel Frisk's anxiousness, the way their whole body is tensed against yours as they lean into your side. The two of them have been close, almost uncannily close since reaching the surface. You think that it might have something to do with whatever Frisk did with Chara's Soul. That Soul mortared together with some of their own and given to Asriel so he might stay the child he should be, instead of returning to being Flowey.

"He hates this," Frisk mumbles, fidgeting with the hem of their oversized vest.

Frisk had been the hardest to pick out clothes for, barely edging out Papyrus. You and Frisk settled on a long-sleeved shirt, a nice vest, and a pair of black shorts paired with leggings. Papyrus, on the other hand, had tried to get out of the house in pants inexplicably patterned with eye-destroyingly bright paisley and a crop top that read "CHILL" in big block letters. Sans tried to convince you to let him go like that but you just couldn't. Not in good conscience. So after some desperate bargaining, you got him to change into some jeans and a paisley shirt (he was very set on paisley for today) instead. In retrospect, maybe Papyrus was the more difficult of the two.

"I know, sweetie," you say, sighing as you look away from Asriel and his parents. "But this is something he's going to have to get used to."

"But why?" Frisk asks, tipping their head to look up at you.

"It's... complicated. I know it's not fun, but he has to learn how to handle these situations. As Asgore and Toriel's son, he's going to get a lot of attention," you say. You let out a soft sigh. "It's like... well, you know that I don't really want to be here either, but it's important that people see that you and I are happy here. As much as I'd rather be at home, just spending a nice day with you and your dad, I have to be here, to help."

"And I'm helping too!" they say, grinning.

You smile back at them, nodding. "Exactly. We're both helping. And so is Asriel."

"oh you've got to be kidding me," Sans hisses between his teeth, prompting you to look up.

There's Mettaton, in all his glossy, black and pink glory, strutting across the gym and headed straight for the three of you. Following in his wake are a handful of people with microphones and cameras. A heavy sense of resignation settles in your chest. This was bound to happen sooner or later.

"Hope! Frisk! My darlings, here's where you're hiding!" Mettaton exclaims, making you cringe. It's bad enough that he's bringing reporters over to you, but does he have to announce your presence to the whole room? His visible, pink eye flicks over to Sans and he purses his lips just enough for you to notice. "And Sans, of course. Never far away, are you?"

"nope," he says, and you can feel the insult he's holding back for the sake of appearances. You brush your hand against his arm to let him know you appreciate it.

Mettaton slides in next to you, putting an arm around your shoulders and smiling at the cameras. Oh he must be loving this. "Hope and I have been friends since the Underground—" that is a bit of an exaggeration, "—I just couldn't get enough of her then—" true, but not for why the reporters must think, "—and things have been so busy here on the surface I just hate how little time we've been spending together." That's nice of him to say, but you're not sure how much of that is true and how much of it is for the cameras. Either way, you're certain that Sans is perfectly content with the very limited time either of you have spent with the robot.

"And how did the two of you meet?" a woman with a microphone asks, holding it out to the two of you.

"Well we met through the brilliant Doctor Alphys, she created me, you know," Metatton says, flashing a bright smile. You just stand there next to him, feeling more than a little uncomfortable.

"And where is Doctor Alphys today? Is she here at the conference?" a second reporter asks, this one an older man.

Mettaton falters for a second and you suspect he must have no idea. For acting like he's so close with her, he's terrible at keeping up. Clearing your throat, you give the small group of people —all of them watching you intently— a nervous look. "Um, she's at the Core, I'm sure. She's been working very hard to keep things running smoothly for everyone in the Underground and here on the surface," you say, fighting to keep your voice steady. This is a lot more nerve-wracking than you thought it would be.

A third reporter is about to ask something when Mettaton gives a charming laugh, smoothing his hair. "Now, I know that some of you are just dying to see my plans for the new MTT Resort and I actually have some models set up just for this opportunity! If you'll just follow me— my beauties it was wonderful to see the two of you, I just had to stop by to say hello when I saw you," he croons, giving you a one armed hug and Frisk a quick pat on the shoulder. You just stare as he flits off again, the reporters trailing in his wake.

Well, all except one and her cameraman. She gives a you a polite smile that you do your best to return, giving the lens over her shoulder an apprehensive glance. She seems nice enough, with stylish brown hair, a smart pantsuit, and an air of patience about her distinctly separate from the ravenous energy you assume most reporters have.

"Hope —is it okay if I call you Hope?" she asks, tracing her finger down the lapel of her blazer. For some reason the hint of nervousness sets you a little at ease.

You give her a nod, swallowing. Your hand finds Frisk's shoulder and you can feel Sans touch your back. You give him a strained smile, then return your attention to the woman. "Um, that's fine. What should I call you? I mean, what's your name?"

"Gloria is fine," she says, glancing over at Sans. "I was hoping to ask you a few questions, the people have been curious about you. Would that be all right?"

"I sorta figured this would happen eventually. It's okay," you say, giving a nervous laugh. Gloria's smile widens just a little in response.

"Now, if you don't mind, for this I'd rather just have you and your... child in the shot alone." She looks at Sans again, raising her hand and making a quick little gesture. "If you could just take a few steps to your left, please."

Sans looks at you, a silent question in his eyes and you nod, doing your best to look like everything is fine. Everything is fine, you're just nervous. Anyone would be nervous talking to a reporter, right? Well, maybe not Mettaton, but... He gives you a tight smile you think it supposed to be reassuring and takes a few steps back, waiting until Gloria gives him a thumbs up before stopping.

"So, Hope," she says, coming to stand beside you and Frisk, looking over at her cameraman to check her position. "You've been living here in Ebott for the past four months, since the very beginning. How has that been like for the two of you, being the only humans here?"

Oh, that question isn't too bad. Maybe you really have been worried for nothing. You glance down at Frisk, smoothing their hair nervously as they watch Gloria. "It's been pretty great, to be honest. I mean, at first it was a little, uh, rustic before they were able to start construction," you hesitate as she gives a polite laugh, "but now things are really coming together. And all the monsters are so nice. I don't think I've ever met a kinder, more compassionate group of people. Frisk and I couldn't ask for a better place to live."

Gloria nods. "Of course. And what have you been doing in your spare time? Helping with construction? Staying home with Frisk? Or do you work at any of the local businesses, the ones seeking outside employment, such as Mettaton's new hotel?"

"Oh, I work at Frisk's school, actually," you say. Then, realizing what you might be insinuating, you add, "Not as a teacher or anything, I'm just more of an aide."

"So you work here at this school we're in now?" she asks, gesturing at the walls of the gymnasium.

"No, the one in Mountainside. It's closer to where we live."

"That's right, I believe there are three schools here in Ebott?"

"Yes, this one in downtown, the one in Mountainside, and the one in Lakeside."

She nods again, still smiling kindly at you. This is getting a little easier, you think. You can feel the jittery stage fright starting to ebb away. You've been through worse than this. Gloria looks at Frisk, leaning down a little to speak to them. "And how do you like your school, Frisk?"

"It's great! All my friends are there, and the teachers are really nice," they say, beaming.

"And how old are you?"

"Almost seven!"

Gloria looks back to you, straightening. "What about you, Hope? You've been through a lot for someone so young. How old are you?"

You swallow. "Twenty-one."

"Oh, you've had a birthday since you stumbled into the Underground. Your missing person's report listed your age as twenty," she says. If she knew how old you were then why did she ask? "How was your birthday? Did you do anything special?"

You glance over at Sans, though maybe you shouldn't with the camera on you. His expression is unreadable, his body a tense line with his hands shoved in his pant pockets. You look back at Gloria. "It was great. My friends took us down by the lake and we had a big cookout. There was a lot still going on with construction back at the beginning of August, so I was just really grateful that everyone took the time to do anything at all."

"They sound like a good group of friends," Gloria agrees, looking over at the camera and smiling. "That must be why you agreed to help bring down the Barrier, am I right? To help your friends?"

The 'official' story is that you, as a human, had helped break the Barrier in a way that monsters alone had been unable to. It was sort of an over-simplified version of the truth, without having to mention six dead children... "It's a lot more than that," you say, your grip on Frisk's shoulder tightening. "All of these people, including my friends were trapped underground. For generations. They didn't deserve any of that. I think any decent person would have done what I did."

"Some people might disagree. Have you been keeping up to date on people's opinions on this whole monster situation?" she asks. You realize her smile is faded, her eyes more focused and intent. "How do you feel about the negative reactions people have been having?"

"There's not a 'monster situation'," you say, a little too harshly. "They're just people trying to live their lives. And if these humans would take a moment to just understand that, I think more opinions would change. That's why we're having this conference in the first place."

"'These humans'," she echoes back to you, something odd playing around the corners of her mouth. "You say that like you consider yourself somehow different from the rest of us."

What? You give the camera an anxious look, your confidence slipping away. "That's not what I'm trying—"

"How does Frisk's father feel about all this?" she asks, interrupting you sharply.

"What?"

Frisk tries to take a step towards her but you're still holding their shoulder. "My dad—!"

"Frisk, please," you say, trying your best to control this situation that's rapidly getting out of hand. "I don't know how he feels, we haven't spoken since before Frisk was born."

"But Mom!" Frisk protests, looking up at you, alarmed.

"So why did you take Frisk up to Mt. Ebott? Did you not take the rumors seriously?" she presses, moving in closer.

You feel cornered. You look at Sans and all he can do is look back at you, gritting his teeth. Why isn't he helping you? What could he even do to help? His pupils are almost gone and you think for a second you see a spark of blue. Oh no. "I'd rather not discuss that," you say.

"There was talk that you had a... troubled situation at home. Is that the reason?"

You shake your head quickly. Too quickly. "Talk from who? My personal life isn't any of your business."

"As I said before, the people are curious—"

"Well the people can go stick their nose somewhere else," you snap, grimacing.

An unfamiliar voice cuts through the air. "Hope, is that you?"

You and Gloria both turn. There, dressed handsomely in a green button-up shirt and tie is a pale, blonde man you've never seen before. He's approaching quickly, one hand raised in greeting as he flashes you a bright, charming smile. "Hope! Oh my god, I was hoping I'd run into you here, how are you doing? It's been so long!"

Gloria is just as taken aback as you are as he comes over and clasps your free hand in both of his, wedging himself between you and the reporter. He gives you a wink and then turns to face her instead, oblivious to the confused looks that you and Frisk are giving him. "Oh, hey there miss, sorry to intrude but could you give us a few minutes? That would be fantastic."

Gloria fixes him with a glower that clearly says that it would not be fantastic but the man just ignores her, putting his arm around your shoulder. He's just as strong as he looks as he tugs you close and starts leading you away. You're not sure who this guy is but part of you wants to kiss him for rescuing you from that horrid woman. At least, you hope that's what he's doing and not leading you to something even worse. Frisk trails along with you silently, turning their confused expression towards you.

Once you're a short distance away Sans appears at your other side and you realize he must have teleported. He shouldn't have done that, not with all these people around. Someone might have seen him and Asgore wanted everyone to be careful not to do anything that might seem threatening, like use their magic. He's giving the man with his arm around your shoulder an unreadable look.

With a good crowd now between you and where you left Gloria, the blonde lets you go and gives you an apologetic smile. You can't help but notice his pale blue eyes. "Sorry about all that, it just seemed like you could use some help," he says, running his hand through his hair. It gives him a slightly ruffled look that's more handsome than it ought to be.

"No, thank you so much," you say, touching your face a little self-consciously. "I expected reporters, but I didn't think... I dunno what I thought."

"Well, hopefully that's the worst of it for you. Try to be a little more cautious next time, okay? I won't be there to help next time," he says with a wry smile.

Feeling a little dazed, he wanders off as quickly as he appeared, giving you a little wave before he vanishes back into the crowd. All you can do is stand there, bewildered, wondering what just happened.

"who the hell was that?" Sans says, reaching out to wrap his arm around your waist.

You shake your head, covering Sans's hand with your own and squeezing. "I don't know."

   
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