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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165. Uncomfortably Familiar

Deacon's plan isn't as immediate as Sans was hoping. Instead of being able to do anything now, he's stuck waiting. Deacon said he'd have to call Grant and get the message across to him for a meeting using some kind of secret code. Figures that some stuck up mage organization would have goddamn codewords (he stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that right now those codewords might just save their asses a lot of trouble).

For the time being they agree not to tell anyone what they're planning. Not until they have a better idea of what to expect from the Literatum.

So Deacon heads back to Bo's for the evening, Toriel takes Asriel home after making sure that Sans will be all right without her (she gives him a lingering hug, telling him to call her if he needs anything whatsoever), and Mettaton chooses to stay. Not that he's much company, he spends the majority of the evening making calls with his staff and his director. With the Line closed, he's lost access not only to his movie shoot, but also to about a quarter of his employees. To his credit, Mettaton manages to keep his selfish whining to a minimum when Sans is in earshot, but he's definitely feeling the pinch.

And Papyrus... Papyrus is hovering. He's making a good show of trying not to seem like he's hovering, but it's exactly what he's doing. Offering to make him spaghetti, suggesting movies, doing his best to make jokes, his brother is pulling out all the stops to try and keep him distracted. Like he's afraid of what might happen if he lets Sans stay still for too long.

Finally, after the third suggestion of food, he catches Papyrus by the arm as he starts flitting anxiously towards the fridge. "bro, stop. all this nervous energy is just making my bones buzz," he says, giving him a weak grin.

"I'M JUST WORRIED." He claps his hand over Sans's, an unsettled look on his face. Nervous sweat dots the side of his skull and his brow creases.

"hope and frisk have somewhere to stay, they'll be ok—"

"I'M NOT WORRIED ABOUT THEM! I MEAN, I AM, BUT..." Papyrus trails off, holding Sans's gaze with an intensity that's not unfamiliar, but strange at the same time. "SANS, I'M WORRIED ABOUT YOU."

Sans gives a strained laugh. "you don't need to worry about me. i'm not the one stuck out there."

"I KNOW THAT YOU'RE UPSET, BUT YOU CAN'T LOCK YOURSELF IN YOUR ROOM THIS TIME. YOU CAN'T..." Papyrus looks down at the ground, his teeth snapping shut as he tries to find the words. Sans's smile slips by just a fraction, and the hand holding his brother's arm falls back to his side. For a moment they just stand in silence. "YOU CAN'T LEAVE AGAIN."

"i didn't go anywhere, pap. i've always been here with you."

Papyrus shakes his head. "YOU WERE HERE A LITTLE WHEN WE MOVED TO SNOWDIN, BUT YOU DIDN'T COME BACK UNTIL HOPE AND FRISK STARTED LIVING WITH US." He meets Sans's eyes again, and he's just not used to seeing his younger brother look so sad. "WHEREVER YOU WENT WHEN WE WERE STILL IN THE CAPITAL... YOU ALMOST WENT BACK THERE. I SAW IT."

"bro—"

He's cut off by a sudden hug, pulled tight with his face crushed into Papyrus's ribcage. After a second he wraps his arms around his brother, hugging him back and letting out a heavy sigh. "PROMISE ME YOU WON'T GO BACK TO THAT PLACE. STAY HERE!"

"ok, ok... i promise," he says, smiling weakly though Papyrus can't see it. "i'll be right here, with the coolest guy i know."

"Y-YOUR FLATTERY IS UNNECESSARY BUT APPRECIATED." Papyrus pulls away, taking quick swipes at his eye sockets with the backs of his hands. "JUST BE SURE TO KEEP YOUR PROMISE OR I'LL... I'LL... BE FORCED TO ASK DEACON FOR HELP! METTATON INFORMED ME THAT HE PLAYED A CLEVER TRICK TO GET YOU TO SNAP OUT OF IT, AND WHILE I AM FOND OF JAPES, I'M AFRAID I CAN'T BE MEAN TO YOU, EVEN IN JEST."

"i guess that's jest as well. you don't have a mean bone in your body."

"I SUPPOSE I SHOULD BE GLAD THAT YOU'RE FEELING WELL ENOUGH TO RESORT TO YOUR AWFUL PUNS," he says, a disgusted look on his face. Sans just grins at him.

"mettaton's the one with the resort. i just visit sometimes."

"UGH."

Sans feels guilty enough about worrying Papyrus that he finally accepts the offers of food and distraction. It seems to make his brother feel better, which is good enough for him. As the hour gets later, he tries not to think about how right now he'd be talking Frisk into going to bed. How they'd try to wheedle him into reading a bedtime story and how, depending on the night, he'd try to get out of it so he could spend just a little bit longer with you.

He sees Papyrus start to nod off on the couch, the glances that Mettaton makes towards the clock. Normally his brother would be in bed by now, but... he suspects he's staying up to keep him company. Sans is tired, though he knows he won't be able to sleep, but he feigns a yawn and forces himself to his feet.

"i should get to bed," Sans says, making a show of it as he shuffles off towards the stairs. "s'getting late."

"MMM— HUH? OH, WHAT?" Papyrus blurts out, jerking upright after he started to slump to the side. "OH! YES, OF COURSE! IT IS LATE, ISN'T IT? I BARELY NOTICED!"

"see you two in the morning."

"Oh," Mettaton says softly, and when Sans glances back at the two of them the robot is giving Papyrus a surprised look. His voice is quiet as he asks, "Do you... want me to stay? I understand if you'd rather I go."

"YOU SHOULD STAY. I... HAVE AN OUTLET IN MY ROOM YOU CAN USE WHILE YOU REST."

Sans doesn't hear the rest of the conversation as he heads upstairs. Mettaton hasn't ever stayed the night at their house before, both of them preferring the robot's apartment at the hotel instead. Which is fine, he understands the appeal of privacy. It's not something that he'd been afforded much with you, at least at first. 

At least both of them won't be alone tonight.

It's dark. It's especially dark in the cramped loft where Chris's bed is, with just enough room to sit up. Frisk dragged you to bed early, equal parts tired and wanting to get away from Chris, you think. They made a point to ignore him all evening, refusing to look at or speak to him. Any other day you would have scolded them for their behavior, but you just didn't have the energy. Besides, you can't blame them for being upset.

They fell asleep with their head pillowed on your shoulder, but after about thirty minutes they rolled away to sprawl out better. You wish you could fall asleep so easily. You're exhausted but sleep refuses to take you. Rolling onto your side to try and hide the glow of your phone, you check it. Not quite midnight, no new messages. Not since you told Sans you and Frisk were going to bed. You wonder if he's able to sleep.

Probably not.

The bed smells like Chris. You remember hearing something about smell being especially good at triggering memories, and you suppose it must be true, because you can't help the wave of nostalgia that hits you. Cuddled up to him at lunch during school, his arm around your shoulder, sharing your food. Your friends (his friends, really) would tease the two of you but he'd just ignore them. You can almost feel the heat of the sun against your hair, the metal lunch table bench pressing against your legs.

Then there's the more intimate memories. Mornings spent skipping school, ducking back to your mom's house when you knew she'd be at work all day or catching a ride with Eric to go down to the beach or the park. Hours spent roaming the city... or roaming each other. You skipped school a lot your freshman year.

The gentle sound of an unplugged electric guitar being played —quiet strumming, the soft scrape of fingers over strings— reaches your ears, and for a moment you wonder if it's just part of your memories. But no, it's real. Chris must still be up. Suddenly frustrated with your inability to sleep, you sit up and crawl towards the ladder.

When you're halfway down, the music stops. "Sorry, was I bothering you?"

Bare feet hit hard, short carpet —the kind that they put in stores and schools; durable with hardly any padding— and you cross your arms self-consciously over your chest. You shake your head, feeling hyper aware of the fact that you're wearing one of Chris's t-shirts and a pair of flannel pajama pants. Fourteen-year-old Hope would be beside herself to be in your position right now. But you just feel uncomfortable and uncertain.

"Can't sleep?" you ask him.

He's sitting on the floor by the window with the blinds cracked open, just enough to let the orange light from the parking lot lights to filter in. Shifting the guitar in his lap, he's only wearing one of his other pairs of flannel pants, not bothering with a shirt. There's a patch of dark hair in the center of his chest, and a thin trail down his stomach.

He barely looks like the boy you remember, like this. His piercings catch the light as he tucks his hair behind his ear. "Nah, it's just... early for me? Normally I'm up for a few more hours."

You hug yourself tighter, walking over to him so you don't have to whisper across the room. "Sorry, I guess we're really throwing you off, aren't we?"

He flashes you a reassuring smile, setting his guitar to the side and hoisting himself to his feet. "It's fine, really. You don't have to keep apologizing." Hunching his shoulders and fidgeting with his eyebrow piercing, he glances over at the front door. "Do you, uh, wanna go outside? So we don't have to whisper."

You hesitate for a second, then nod. His mouth twitches into another smile and he nods back, skirting around you to carefully pry the door open. With a little more time spent navigating the pressure against the frame, he's able to get it open without making too much noise. Chris leaves it cracked as you both step outside.

The steady drone of the freeway is quieter, but accompanied by the buzz of insects and the parking lot lights. Glancing up at one, there's a trio of moths fluttering around the foggy glass. The night air is brisk, but not as cold as it is up on the mountain. Here in the foothills, it's warmer. It smells like asphalt and car exhaust. You miss the scent of pine and wood.

A sudden, muffled yell from somewhere nearby makes you jump, and Chris casts an anxious look your way. "You okay?"

"You didn't...?" Gritting your teeth, you shake your head. "Sorry, I'm just... It's been over a year since I've been away from Ebott overnight. It's not... it's loud down here."

"Oh, yeah," he says, casting an embarrassed look around the apartment complex.

"Never would have expected you to end up in a dump like this," you murmur, and he lets out a humorless laugh.

"Shit. Yeah, me neither," he agrees. He rubs his arms, glancing up at the sky. There's barely any stars that you can see, thanks to all the lights.

"Are you safe here? I mean, this place... Sorry, I'm being rude."

"Do you not feel safe?" he asks you, looking at you again.

You feel your cheeks flush with embarrassment, but you shake your head. "Not really. I'm just... I'm used to being around monsters. They don't hurt each other like humans do."

"I have to go to work tomorrow. Are you two going to be okay here, or do you want to come with me?"

You give him a surprised look. "Oh, I mean, we have to go shopping. So it's not like we're going to be here all day. But, um, where do you work?"

"Zane's. You know, that music store down the road?" Chris jerks his thumb over his shoulder.

"Oh, yeah! We used to go there, for—"

"Strings and sheet music," Chris finishes, chuckling. "I remember you used to spend hours looking through books for the cheesiest fucking love songs to try and get me to play them for you."

"And you would," you press, feeling yourself start to smile, "so long as Eric wasn't with us."

"Well yeah. I couldn't, like, look like a wuss in front of Eric. I'd never hear the damn end of it. He was more than happy to help us ditch school so we could—" He cuts himself off, cringing a little and shaking his head. "Uh, nevermind."

The reminiscent, amiable air that had settled between the two of you turns awkward, thanks to Chris's near slip into things best left unsaid. You both feel it, the weird tension lingering there. You can't deny that you used to be a couple, that you'd loved him what feels like ages ago.

But that doesn't mean you need to talk about it. Not the intimate parts, anyway.

"I should probably try to get to sleep," you mumble, tucking your hair behind your ear.

Chris nods too quickly, pushing the door open for you and yanking his arm back to give you space. "Yeah. You've had a long day and stuff. You should sleep."

You don't look back at him as he follows you inside, and shuts and locks the door. Frisk is still sound asleep where you left them when you climb back into bed, the smell of the night air clinging to your borrowed clothes. As you lay down and close your eyes, you focus your attention inward. To the soft, high note of your Soul and the deep, steady rumble accompanying it. It's like listening to air filling your lungs; unnoticeable until you think about it. It helps you ignore the constant drone of the city outside, of the quiet sound of Chris plucking at his guitar again, the too-familiar smell of the pillow under your head.

You focus on that bit of Sans that's always with you, and as you're lost in the comforting feel of it, you somehow drift off to sleep.

   
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