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If You Could Only Try

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Chara-and-Justice-in-the-Void

 

Bright sunlight filtered down the jagged hole in the mountain, lighting upon a lone figure laying in the soil. The earth around her was disturbed, the many golden blossoms uprooted, some smashed in a disruption that seemed to have been caused by the earth itself vomiting up a body. A long, baggy sweater, lightly torn, cradled the torso of a young woman with porcelain skin highlighted by brilliantly rosy cheeks.

 

The girl stirred. Thin, short lashes lifted to reveal brilliant, jewel-red eyes as she struggled to shift her weight up onto her elbows, eyes sliding into focus as she glanced around the area in confusion.

 

This isn’t Frisk’s body. These aren’t Frisk’s hands. Why am I covered in dirt?!

 

Warrior…

 

The girl would have jumped were her muscles not already screaming in agony from the sudden life flowing through them after decades of disuse. Someone was speaking to her. It took her a moment to realize that the voice was in her head. This didn’t alarm her. She was used to it.

 

What alarmed her was that this voice did not belong to Frisk. “Show yourself! Who are you? Where’s Frisk!?” Even her voice felt hoarse, her throat dry. She supposed being dead would do that.

 

The time traveler has not been here for some time, now. But as for me… look around you. I’m right in front of you.

 

The crimson-eyed woman searched about wildly. It took a little while, but her eyes eventually landed upon a small, floating yellow heart. It sparkled in midair. A little human soul. But it was nearly completely transparent. It was either damaged, fading from the world, or both. Probably both. Small wonder it’d been so hard to see.

 

We know what you did. We know you tried to end the monster threat. But the monsters, they deceived the time traveler. She stopped you from putting an end to them. We know she is not to blame, but she needs a guardian, and somebody must protect humanity from certain disaster. My comrades are already gone. I stayed behind that I might explain. With the threat no longer contained to this cavern, humanity is in need of a champion.

 

The red-eyed girl gave the soul a simple blank look. Champion of humanity? Her? Did they ever have it wrong. Stupid, naive little souls. Couldn’t they tell that her goal wasn’t the end of the monsters, but of everyone?

 

Damn you, Frisk… The girl in the soil had to ask, “So, what do you want me to do, exactly?” The woman noted her clothing. They could bring her back from the dead, reverse the centuries of rot and decay, even repair her damaged digestive track, but they couldn’t get the dirt out of her sweater!?

 

Damn selfish souls… Only human, after all. Of course they are.

 

The little yellow soul seemed to glitter more brightly.

 

Protect the time traveler. Put her on the right path. Save her from the monsters’ lies. Only she has the power to save humanity from their threat.

 

The girl glared at the little soul. “Are you saying I can’t reset?”

 

The soul bobbed from side to side a little, twinkling. The girl suddenly had a mental image of a teenaged boy contemplating something. Doubtful. Your new soul is made of cobbled-together pieces of ours. None of us ever were able to wield that ability, else we wouldn’t have died. Only she and the flower have ever held such power, as far as we have seen. The skeleton may have the potential, but he’s a mystery even to us.

 

The girl’s large crimson eyes narrowed in disgust. Of course. Sans. That skeleton had been the bane of the young woman’s brief rebirth into the wrong body, after all. The one to halt her plans. The one who had convinced Frisk…

 

The time traveler is the key to everything. She believes the monsters to be kind. But we know better. We waited until these old ruins were empty to enact our plan, after all. We didn’t want anyone to find you before you knew what was going on. But the strain of creating a new soul from pieces of our own has taken a toll;  I don’t have much time left in this world.

 

I can’t believe this fool, the girl thought to herself. Champion of humanity. What a bunch of idiots. Well, at least this seems to have worked out for me… He’s about to be gone for good. I may as well humor him. The girl struggled to her feet, giving the little yellow soul a somewhat pointed look. “What exactly do you propose that I do? The ruins are empty, right? As is the whole of the Underground? I can’t simply take them all out if they’ve scattered, and I doubt I’d be able to without Frisk’s power.”

 

Unfortunately, that’s for you to figure out on your own. I don’t have long. It would be ideal if the time traveler could be convinced to reverse the monsters’ release. But she is too gentle a soul to give up on them, now that she believes them to be her friends. She needs protection from their lies more than anything. The little soul was already barely visible. All the young woman could see now were faint yellow sparkles. The underground isn’t empty, but the only ones left are those who prefer the dark or need to stay in the water to survive; their freedom will come later, but if you take care of them first, it may simply put the others on guard.

 

Abandoned in the Underground… Great.

 

Good luck, brave warrior. We are counting on you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took quite some time for the young woman to get her bearings. It felt like only an hour ago, she and Frisk had helped Asriel break the barrier. I guess my spirit couldn’t remain fused to Frisk outside of the Underground, for whatever reason. Shame that soul couldn’t tell me how much time has passed before he left.

 

She looked down at her body. Her hands. Her feet. Her clothing. After having been a part of Frisk for so long, her own body felt alien to her. She pushed her weakness, dizziness, and exhaustion to the back of her mind, deciding to ignore it, and pressed on through the ruins on her quest to reach Toriel’s old cottage, ignoring the empty rooms, neglected puzzles, and the vague feeling of being watched as she passed through. If any place in all the Underground still had any resources she could use, it’d be her mother’s place. Thankfully, it wasn’t far.

 

When she managed to push open the door to the little house, the hinges creaked as though they were in need of oil. The house itself seemed… dusty. Not monster dust, the regular kind. The young woman noted tracks through the dust, footprints, but they, too, looked a bit old. Someone had clearly returned to this place at some point, but it had been empty at least a week. The human had just begun to relax a little when her stomach made an unpleasant rumbling noise.

 

I’m hungry… No wonder I’m so tired and dizzy, it’s been… sheesh, I don’t know how long it’s been… The young woman ceased her examination of her mother’s bookshelf and proceeded to the kitchen, deciding to continue analyzing her new base of operations at a later time. There had to have been some food left behind, right?

 

…Right?

 

The young woman began to search the kitchen, pulling open drawers and cabinets. Irritatingly, there wasn’t any flatware or cooking utensils, not even a knife. The refrigerator was no longer plugged in, but she managed to find several sticks of butter in the meat keeper, and a small package of rotten snails in the back of the freezer. The snails were obviously not worth considering, but butter could often keep a long time at room temperature, so she pocketed it. The pantry wasn’t much better, but she eventually happened upon a large bag of flour tucked into the back, a split in the bottom attesting to why Toriel hadn’t bothered to remove it. There was an expired packet of yeast wedged into a crack in the wood.

 

Well. I guess I’m making buttery dough of some sort for… whatever meal this is supposed to be.

 

The refrigerator wasn’t working, but thankfully the magically powered oven and the plumbing were, and a simple test confirmed that she had hot water, indicating that the furnace was also intact and running. Maybe I’ll get a shower later… The young woman gave her underarm a sniff. I certainly need it… She suddenly stopped and glanced around her. It’s all in my head. I’m completely alone…

 

She couldn’t shake the feeling that she wasn’t.

 

She remembered how her mother had taught her to make bread. She supposed the butter would suffice in place of oil. It took a few hours before she had a misshapen blob of something that might resemble bread - there weren’t any cooking utensils left behind save for a slightly rusted cookie sheet, after all, and the expired yeast packet didn’t exactly make the mess rise correctly.

 

Oh well. Food is food. Dry, bland food. Why couldn’t there have been chocolate? 

 

She still couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being watched.

 

I have to get out of here. Damn little souls, waking me up like this. Should have left me be, I’m not supposed to be alive, but now that I am…

 

What… exactly was her plan, anyway? The young woman wrapped up the remainder of her doughy, misshapen bread for later, though she left it in the kitchen. One step at a time. What do I need to do next? She looked down at her filthy, ripped clothing. Oh. Right. Change of clothes and… Perhaps a bath.

 

Suffice to say, the girl hadn’t lived with most modern conveniences during her own life, but her brief existence attached to Frisk’s soul had imparted upon her basic knowledge of everything that Frisk knew about the way the world worked. This home wasn’t the one she had been raised in with Asriel, but the layout was essentially the same. She found what had been her brother’s bedroom at the end of the hallway, thankful that the bizarre feeling of being watched had finally left her.

 

All the clothing in the dresser was too small for her. It took some searching, but she eventually found a storage bin underneath the bed with clothing in it her size. But of course they were her size. They were her clothes, they even smelled a little musty with age, but at least they were clean. Toriel had kept them all this time…

 

The girl felt a fleeting twinge of regret.

 

She noted with a slight fondness that most of the clothing still had stripes. Boss monsters grow up much more slowly than humans, after all, and her parents had been reluctant to allow her to give up wearing them, even into her twenties. Heck, they’d not bothered yet giving her her own bedroom apart from Azzie, whom at his time of death was the human equivalent of a child, still. It had made her feel a little awkward.

 

With a decidedly not striped sweater and leggings chosen and laid out on the bed, the girl made her way to the bathroom at the end of the hallway, only to stop dead when she caught sight of herself in the decorative mirror along the wall.

 

She looked… She looked like herself.

 

She and Frisk had similar taste in hair and clothing styles, sure, but the red-eyed young woman was a full head taller than the determined little flirt, and curvier besides, though not by a terribly large margin. In spite of herself, she started laughing. Somehow, seeing herself alive and in her own body after being dead for such a long, long time was hysterical. It nearly brought tears to her eyes.

 

With considerable effort, she tore herself away from her reflection and continued down the hallway to the bathroom, only to discover that it had been completely stripped bare. The tub was still there, sure, but there weren’t any towels, no soap, no anything. Even the shower curtain was gone. She’d have to improvise.

 

An hour later she was settling into the bathtub, filled to the brim with hot, steaming water. She had a torn child-sized sweater on hand to use for a wash cloth, and the bedspread from the room she’d laid her clothes out in set out as a towel.

 

It felt like forever since she’d had a bath. It probably had; Frisk hadn’t even taken a shower on her trip through the underground, after all. There wasn’t much need for it; it had taken barely three days in real time, and the resets had set back the state of her clothing, so she hadn’t gotten all that dirty.

 

She settled into the tub and began to make use of her improvised washcloth. How was she going to hunt down and kill monsters without the ability to reset, and on the surface, where they’d all likely spread out?

 

 

 

 

…Could she gain LOVE from killing humans?

 

She had never heard of any person on the surface who had taken part in a war or some such thing gaining absurd power or growing cold of heart, perhaps it had specifically to do with the magic of the deceased monster being absorbed in some way into the person who had killed them?

 

Could she even enact her plan to end it all without Frisk’s power in addition to all of that, though?

 

The young woman felt herself relax despite her dilemma. Nobody else was down here. She could afford to indulge. The warm water she was soaking her body in was almost intoxicating after how stiff her body had been following her resurrection. Formulating some manner of plan and locating Frisk could wait.

 

…Right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLUNK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SWISH

 

 

 

 

 

CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP

 

“BRAEBUN, ARE YOU SURE NOBODY HAS BEEN BACK HERE IN A WEEK? THE KITCHEN IS A DISASTER!”

 

The young woman jolted awake to the sound of an obnoxiously loud voice. The water had gone cold. It took her a moment to remember where she was, followed by the horrified realization that there were people in the cottage.

 

“Yeah, this uh, dude, this looks really messed up. Like, someone totally ransacked this place and made some kinda nasty hard bread stuff!”

 

Was… Was that one of the royal guards?! It was clearly not one of the dogs or Undyne. She recognized his voice, but couldn’t figure out where from.

 

“YOU ARE RIGHT, AND THE SPARE ROOM WITH THE TINY BED HAS BEEN DISTURBED! I THOUGHT ALL THE RUINS RESIDENTS WERE GONE? DID SOMEBODY STAY BEHIND?”

 

The loud, enthusiastic voice was familiar, too, but moreso. She couldn’t quite place it…

 

“Well, if they are then they ain’t a froggit, dude. Or a whimsun, or any of the usual Ruins monsters. I’m pretty sure Toriel was the only one back this way who could, like, cook, ya know?”

 

Panic. PANIC. They were going to find her. Royal guards had been sent to kill her, she was a human in the underground, she didn’t have a weapon, she couldn’t RESET, she didn’t have CLOTHES…

 

“CAN’T VEGETOIDS COOK?”

 

CALM DOWN, She chided herself. They clearly have no idea I’m here. I have to get out, get covered, and get moving before they find me. The young woman delicately extricated herself from the now freezing cold water, noting the shriveled state of her fingers and toes. She must have been asleep for some time. She pulled the plug out of the bathtub and tiptoed across the bathroom to begin drying herself with the bedspread, when she heard the bathtub drain give a large, highly audible gurgle.

 

She froze.

 

“I’M FAIRLY CERTAIN THEY ONLY GO FOR VEGETABLES, ACTUALLY…”

 

Saved by that one idiot’s loud voice. He really did sound extremely familiar, but so did the other one. She just couldn’t comprehend ever having heard the two voices together before, and it was throwing her for a loop. I know that I know these monsters…

 

She shook her head, took a deep breath, and continued patting herself dry with the bedspread. I just have to wait until neither one of them are in the hallway, then make a dash for the room and the clothes, and lock the door from inside. Then I’ll be safe. Or at least, I’ll have a chance to get some clothes on. She wrapped the blanket all around her body and tied it like a toga, resting her hand on the doorknob, ready to bolt the instant she was certain they were both out of visual range of the hallway.

 

“You can like, totally cook vegetables, dude.”

 

That was decidedly too close to the bathroom for her comfort. She would have to wait…

 

“CORRECT, BRAEBUN, BUT THIS FOOD IS CLEARLY NOT MEANT TO BE ANY KIND OF SPAGHETTI SAUCE.”

 

Wait a second…

 

“Dude, you do know there’s foods made with cooked vegetables other than spaghetti, right?

 

The young woman had just come to a jarring realization when the doorknob suddenly twisted in her grip and the door swung outward, pulling her along with it, face-first into the ribcage of a very tall skeleton.

 

She screamed.

 

The skeleton screamed.

 

A large, muscular rabbit in a Dragon Ball Z T-shirt screamed.

 

The female human came to her senses first.

 

And she used their shock as a distraction to shove past the both of them, bolting down the hallway into the spare bedroom, locking the door behind her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Papyrus and Braebun were beside themselves. A human! In the ruins. Papyrus hadn’t been able to shake the mental image of the look of absolute terror in her eyes.

 

Her very large, brilliantly red eyes.

 

And of course, the fact that she was clearly wearing some kind of blanket tied around her body. Obviously, this wasn’t clothing, so unfortunately the pretty human wouldn’t be interested in dating at the moment. He made a mental note to ask later. Her eyes were red. He liked red.

 

For now, he’d settle for her answering the bedroom door. “Hey, human! What are you doing in the queen’s old house? Nobody’s supposed to be here! We, like, came to pick up the last of her junk! How’d ya get here?” Braebun called out after giving the door yet another hammering.

 

Silence.

 

Papyrus decided to try a different approach, “HUMAN, DID YOU FALL DOWN HERE, SOMEHOW? WERE YOU HUNGRY? WE FOUND A MESS IN THE KITCHEN, WAS THAT YOU? NOBODY IS MAD, BUT ARE YOU STILL HUNGRY?”

 

Further silence.

 

Papyrus contemplated this conundrum while Braebun knocked on the door again, far harder this time. A human in the ruins. There’s no way anybody could have fallen down here after all this time, they had put up plenty of warning signs and yellow tape, all the humans knew that the hole into the ruins was very dangerous and anyone who fell could possibly hurt themselves very badly!

 

The Frisk human had explained that all humans understood the yellow tape, except for sometimes children who were too small to go without supervision. Was the human hurt? She didn’t look hurt. But it was hard to tell when she was wearing that big, lumpy blanket. Why was she wearing a blanket? And her hair was all wet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone rapped on the door, again. She was getting rather sick of it. The instant she’d barred herself into the bedroom, she spotted the obvious hole in her plan. She was trapped.

 

She ignored the rapping on the door and yelling, and the two monsters’ questioning of her presence, and focused on getting some clothing on. The frigid cold bath water had given her somewhat of a chill, and she’d just come back to life! Catching her death of cold would be a waste.

 

She dressed herself in the long sweater dress and leggings she’d picked out and thick, warm socks, then bundled herself up on the bed to try to warm up.

 

She hoped they’d eventually give up and leave her be, but she thought it far more likely that they’d eventually break down the door. Papyrus was as stubborn about giving up on something as his brother was at not dying when he was supposed to.

 

He’ll be the first to die… as soon as I get out of here and find a suitable weapon…

 

It took her a moment to realize that the knocking and talking had stopped, replaced by at least two more sets of footsteps, one much heavier than the other, though neither was anything on the thudding Papyrus had made earlier. When they came to a stop, it was to the sound of someone panting, as if they’d just run a rather long way.

 

“BROTHER! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? I THOUGHT YOU WERE TOO BUSY TO HELP FETCH THE QUEEN’S THINGS?”

 

Fuck.

 

“I made him come, Pappy. It’s *huff* important. Have you seen a human down here? Apart from me, I mean?”

 

FRISK!

 

“HOW IS IT THAT YOU KNOW ABOUT THE BLANKET HUMAN, FRISK? WE JUST DISCOVERED HER! SHE MADE A VERY LOUD NOISE AND LOCKED HERSELF IN THIS BEDROOM!”

 

“blanket human?” That voice. I’m going to kill that little grinning…

 

“She was wearing a blanket?” Asked Frisk, clearly somewhat concerned and slowly catching her breath.

 

Papyrus was silent a moment before responding with his usual exuberance. “YES! A VERY STRANGE FASHION CHOICE, I MIGHT ADD! SHE CAME FLYING OUT OF THE WASHING ROOM AT THE END OF THE HALL, NEARLY PUSHED US BOTH OVER, AND LOCKED HERSELF INTO TORIEL’S GUEST BEDROOM! WE’VE BEEN TRYING TO TALK TO HER EVER SINCE! SHE WON’T SAY ANYTHING!”

 

The woman inside the locked bedroom felt her face grow even redder, if that were possible, wrapped in her nest of blankets. Did he have to make her sound like a frightened migosp!?

 

“She’s the reason I’m down here, Papyrus. She’s… Uh, a friend of mine? It’s complicated. Can you let me talk to her?”

 

“IF SHE’S YOUR FRIEND, WHAT IS MY BROTHER DOING HERE?”

 

The red-eyed woman held her breath.

 

“He’s… uh… My guard today? Look, Papyrus, it’s complicated, can you just lemme…”

 

“HOW DID YOU KNOW YOUR FRIEND WAS HERE?”

 

Dead silence.

 

If the skeleton was along as protection, then Frisk acknowledged the idea that she might attack her. But she knew full well that doing anything like that in front of Sans, of all people, was literal suicide without a reset to fall back on. She didn’t even have any LOVE to strengthen her. He could kill her with a flick of the wrist. The woman in the locked room wished she could see what was going on. For all she knew, Frisk had actually brought the skeleton along to execute her on the spot.

 

“ya know your little flower friend, bro? he came and told frisk, he saw her cookin’.”

 

She heard Frisk take a breath. She sounded… Exasperated? “If Flowey could move any faster, we’d have been here hours ago. Now, I do believe that Toriel sent you two back to get her journals and sock collection?”

 

There was a lot of scuffling around in front of the door, she could hear them all moving. Soon enough, she could hear Papyrus’s dulcet tones along with the large rabbit’s in her mother’s bedroom. It almost startled her when another knock came through the door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Followed by Frisk’s voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Chara?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sans leaned idly against the wall of the hallway, casually observing Frisk as she attempted to extract some form of response out of the locked door. It was taking considerably more effort than he would have liked to appear unbothered by the chain of events. In all his weighing of options, of calculating possibilities, he never anticipated that the demon who had possessed the anomaly might resurface in another form. He didn’t know what to do with the information. Would she go murder-happy again? Or was Frisk correct in her insistence that there was more to the freak who had used her to wipe them all out?

 

“C’mon, Chara, I just wanna talk. I’m glad you’re back, really!” Frisk insisted at the door, “Is this permanent, somehow? How’d it happen? Come on, I wanna see you, you always told me you were taller than me…” Frisk crossed her arms and glared at the door. He couldn’t tell if she was pleading with her to come out or lecturing her on making people wait. She would probably follow whichever route appeared most likely to get her her way.

 

she is very determined, after all.

 

As amusing as her determination to talk the demon out of the room was…

 

There were too many variables. He couldn’t trust anything.

 

And yet there he remained, eye sockets half lidded, leaning casually against the wall as if the events of the day hadn’t shaken him any great amount. Heck, he even pretended not to notice the little yellow flower observing him through the tiny gap in the open doorway of Toriel’s room as he bemusedly watched the little human lady arguing with the door.

 

If nobody knew he was watching, they’d underestimate him. Sure, Frisk and the weed were wise to his ruse, but at this point it was just force of habit. He supposed it was ironic how putting enormous effort into appearing lazy and oblivious had become second nature. “frisk, if she doesn’t wanna come out, ya can’t force her. i mean, she’s gotta come outta there eventually, she’ll starve to death.”

 

The girl finally directed her gaze away from the door for a moment. “Yeah, well, I’d like to actually BE HERE. And spending the rest of the day holed up in the ruins doesn’t sound particularly productive, I’ve got shit to do today!” She let out an agitated huff and put her hands on her hips to glare at him, as though it was his fault the demon was being so obstinate. “You know, she’s PROBABLY scared to come out because YOU’RE here, right?”

 

Ohhhh, yes. He knew what the game was, now. He’d played right into it.

 

“I AM NOT AFRAID OF A BAD COMEDIAN.”

 

Sans and Frisk both froze where they stood. Sans, with an irritated glare of acceptance that he’d been unwittingly used in the girl’s ruse, and Frisk, a triumphant grin. “Really? Prove it.”

 

The look of challenge Frisk wore led him to wonder if she’d forgotten that the demon could not actually see her face.

 

The door emitted another indignant exclamation. “I will not be baited like that, Frisk. I’m not scared of your new sidekick, I’m just a realist. He’ll kill me the moment I step out of here.”

 

oh, so now i’m the anomaly’s sidekick?

 

Frisk responded in absolute deadpan. “You do realize doors are irrelevant and he could just kill you anyway, right? This is Sans we’re talking about.” He didn’t react to this, outwardly. Inside though, his mind was doing cartwheels. Frisk had responded to Chara automatically, talking about him as if he wasn’t standing right there next to her. Almost like…

 

“waste of magic, kiddo. ‘sides, you say she won’t pull any bullshit, i believe ya.” Frisk jumped as if she hadn’t realized he could hear her. The statement seemed straight forward enough, but was accompanied by one of those black-eyed stares he was so known for, directed straight at Frisk. She raised an eyebrow. Frisk understood perfectly well the implied “or else”; he didn’t have to overdo it. But… He let out an audible sigh, “if i wanted to mess with ya, i’d be in there already, ya know? ‘an the kiddo does have a meeting with alphys in a bit…”

 

He let that statement sink in for a minute. No need to let the demon think he cared about letting her go unsupervised more than he let on. No need to let anybody present know exactly how nervous he was. The two of them stared at the door in an awkward silence for what felt like a solid ten minutes before the knob turned and it slowly creaked open… Sans caught a glimmer of red…

 

Which was suddenly obscured by a mop of fluffy brown hair.

 

“Whaaa…. Uhhh… Ahh… FRISK?! Leggo, you’re crushin my boobs!” The demon looked particularly comical being squeezed silly by the most harmless person he knew, admittedly. He was about to voice this observation, until he heard a wet sob escape from Frisk.

 

Of course she was upset. Frisk got too attached to people, even demons. Her earlier determination had obscured it, but now that Chara was out… He didn’t need to stand here and watch her blubber, though, and if the demon was aggressive…

 

Well, he’d find out in about five minutes.

 

He wasn’t about to leave the anomaly alone with her for more than that.

 

“uh… i’m… gonna go see if pap needs any help.” Sans sheepishly slouched down the hallway, pretending to be oblivious to the fact that none present believed he had any intention of helping anybody and just wanted to avoid making things any more awkward than they already were.

 

 

 

If Chara was expecting anything on opening the door, it wasn’t the fluffy brown head currently tucked underneath her chin. She let out a sigh. Of course Frisk would get emotional on her. She got far, far too attached to people in general, and she’d thought that she was dead.

 

Frisk pulled back slightly and wiped her eyes on the back of her sleeve. Those small, sparkling brown eyes stared up into Chara’s large red ones.

 

Suddenly the girl’s face, tear-streaked as it was, wore an accusation. “You’re okay! I was so worried! Where have you been all this time? Why did you hide from me?”

 

Oh. Frisk thinks I’ve been alive and hiding from everybody this whole time…

 

“I uh, I wasn’t hiding. Papyrus caught me in a towel and I kinda freaked. I wouldn’t come out because I was getting dressed, sheesh.” She didn’t want to talk about her resurrection and get Frisk even more emotional. She was annoying when she got all blubbery, after all.

 

Frisk didn’t seem to entirely buy the explanation, but let it slide. “I can see how running into him in a vulnerable situation out of nowhere could freak you out. He’s… intense.”

 

Chara did not like where this was going. “I’m not any more afraid of Papyrus than I am of Sans. I just… I walked into him. Actually, come to think of it, he wasn’t wearing a shirt. At all.”

 

Frisk giggled. “Oh, that. Papyrus saw a bunch of construction workers at a site we walked by topless one day… it was hot out… He asked me why. So I told him they took their shirts off when they did heavy lifting to show how strong they were.” Frisk let her arms drop and rolled her eyes, pulling a strong-man pose. “Ever since, he insists on going topless whenever he does any lifting. I haven’t had the heart to tell him he’s completely missing the point.”

 

Frisk mimed kissing her bicep.

 

Chara found herself assaulted with the mental image of Papyrus longingly gazing at a bunch of large, muscular, sweaty humans with hammers and wrenches and couldn’t prevent herself from cringing.

 

Frisk nodded. “Yeeeaaaaah. He’s… impressionable? I have to be careful what I say, sometimes. He still can’t make spaghetti worth eating. I can’t find a way to offer him cooking lessons without telling him how bad it is first, and you know how anything negative goes right over his head and doesn’t stick? It doesn’t help that Sans would kill me if I did somehow convince Paps his cooking was garbage.” Frisk made an exaggerated retching noise. “But anyway, you’re staying with me, right?”

 

Chara blinked awkwardly at the sudden topic change, still wondering at the implications of Frisk using such a familiar nickname for Papyrus. “Uh… Staying?”

 

Frisk grinned up at her. “Well, now that you’re not dead, and not in my head, you need a place to stay, right? I can clean out the old office!” Chara could see stars nearly explode in the girl’s eyes, “We can go shopping, pick out a bed and a bedspread and a dresser… ooh, and clothes! I bet you… Where did you get this?”

 

Frisk had just noticed the long sweater dress that Chara had donned. It bore no stripes. It was a solid red. Together with the black leggings, Chara felt it made her look sort of badass. “It matches your eyes.” Frisk observed.

 

“It’s mine. Toriel had my old clothes tucked under the kiddie bed in there, in a bin. Kinda ironic how she held onto them for so long. It never did her any good.” Chara spat savagely. Frisk did not get to know that the discovery had made her feel a little sad. Nope. “And it’s mine again now, too. The old bat isn’t getting it back.”

 

Frisk narrowed her eyes at that statement. “Well, I mean, I think she’s gonna want you to have your clothes back. She’s your mom, she’s going to be really happy that you’re okay.”

 

Nope. “Yeah, no. Mom doesn’t get to know about me. Not happening. I’ll bunk with you as long as you’re not living with her or Dad, but I haven’t forgotten how they betrayed me and Asriel. Dad killing… And Mom abandoning everybody. They don’t deserve to know. ” She gave Frisk a dark look. “I haven’t forgiven ANY of them.”

 

Frisk’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah. I figured. How are we going to explain this sweater missing, though? Paps was supposed to come back and bring up the very last of Toriel’s things, including what was in that room.”

 

They hadn’t yet had time to further discuss the issue when a high, tinny voice pierced their thoughts. “You two done playing long-lost lovers yet? I think the trash bag is on his way back.”

 

Chara felt her face redden even more than usual. She looked down at the flower who had appeared near Frisk’s ankles with a cold expression. “Just how long have you been here, Azzie?”

 

The flower pretended he had to think about this for a moment, then put on a smug grin. “Long enough to know that you still can’t bake worth a damn.”

 

This earned him a glare.

 

“You try making edible food with no tools and the wrong basics.” Chara let out a huff. The hard, lumpy, inconsistent bread felt like it’d been days ago. And it might have been. She still wasn’t sure how long she’d been sleeping in that bathtub. Speaking of which… “How long has it been since the barrier broke, anyway?” She spoke idly, not to anyone in particular, but she hadn’t anticipated the person who responded.

 

“month.”

 

Chara whirled around. The two skeletons and the large, muscular rabbit were now behind her. The rabbit and the topless skeleton were laden with several cardboard boxes. “GOODNESS, HUMAN! YOU MUST HAVE BEEN THROUGH SOME KIND OF CONFUSING ORDEAL TO FORGET HOW LONG WE MONSTERS HAVE BEEN AMONG YOU! WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS IT OVER A PLATE OF MY FAMOUS SPAGHETTI?”

 

That was yet another gigantic nope. But there was the matter of not unnecessarily upsetting the brother, who was giving her that stupid black look of his. Just because she knew it was a threat didn’t mean she found it frightening. Luckily, Frisk had just given her an excuse.

 

Chara put on her biggest, most apologetic smile and tried to sound like she really did want to try his cooking. “Well, I do love me some spaghetti! But, uh, well, I promised Frisk I’d be staying with her already, see! It’d be rude to run out on her the first day after that…” Wait, why is Sans’s palm now on his FACE? And… Okay, why is he shaking his head, now? What… Oh, don’t suddenly decide to kill me…

 

“FRISK! YOU DIDN’T TELL ME WE WERE GETTING A HOUSEGUEST! I HAVEN’T CLEANED SINCE TUESDAY!!” The skeleton had the nerve to look indignant, and began ordering the rabbit around. “COME ON BRAEBUN, WE HAVE TO GET A MOVE ON! I NEED TO GET BACK TO THE HOUSE IN TIME TO ENTERTAIN A GUEST!”

 

Chara just stared, dumbfounded, as the skeleton chased the rabbit, both stacked with cardboard boxes, down the hallway and presumably out of the cottage. The information had already clicked, but it took her a moment longer to process the further implications.

 

Frisk had withheld the fact that tweedle-dee and tweedle-dumb were already living with her. At least, presumably. She couldn’t imagine Papyrus had moved in with the little savior of monster-kind without his brother following suit. She let out the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding, turned slowly on her heels, and locked Frisk with a firm, accusative glare.

 

“Lemme guess. HE’S living with you, too?” She pointed unabashedly at the other skeleton.

 

“hey, i’ll have ya know…”

 

“When were you going to drop that bit of information?” She voiced her demand right over Sans as though he wasn’t even there.

 

To her surprise, Frisk didn’t look remotely ashamed. Only… Determined. Well, shit. Now what?

 

Frisk looked at her as though she was sizing her up, and took a needlessly large breath before beginning in a very even, level voice. “That was the agreement. I didn’t want to spoil the mood by bringing it up just yet, I had just finally got you to relax a bit.” Frisk nodded to Sans, who looked exasperated with the turn of events. Apparently, he was only allowed to speak in the presence of Chara with Frisk’s permission.

 

“i wanted to kill ya on sight.” Sans shrugged nonchalantly with an air of someone commenting on the weather. “frisk talked me out of it. i agreed, on the condition i get to keep an eye socket on ya. since we already live together and all, and frisk has the space, i figured, it just kinda worked out.”

 

“And it would seem we’re having a spaghetti dinner tonight” added Frisk, with an exasperated eye roll. “Sans can take you home and show you around while I’m with Alphys, alrighty?”

 

Chara and the skeleton stared at her with identical expressions.

 

“What?”

 

Sans deadpanned. “you want me to hang out with her alone at your place and give her a fuckin’ tour ?”

 

Chara ran her hand through her hair, exasperated. “I have SO many questions… Starting with… Frisk, of all people… Why THESE TWO!?”

 

Frisk grinned at her cheekily. “I’ll tell you tonight over dinner. Or rather, we’ll have Papyrus tell you. Then we’ll fill in the gaps later at actual dinner when we sneak out.” Frisk looked positively ecstatic at the idea of spending an evening out at a (presumably) human restaurant with her and the Lord Helixdamn comedian.

 

Sans did not share her enthusiasm. “really. really? we have to bring her with…”

 

Chara looked from Sans to Frisk.

 

“You wanna leave her alone in the house with Pap? Asleep.”

 

Chara bemusedly noted that his cheekbones had tinted very slightly blue. “no. fuck. fine. you… you watch her. i’ll run out and get fast food after pap goes to sleep. we’re not goin’ out ta eat like that, grillbz teases me enough!”

 

Teasing him. What…

 

This was apparently news to Frisk, too. Her eyes narrowed and her tone turned stern. “Wait, still? I thought we cleared up what happened, I didn’t think he was like that…”

 

“nothin like that!” Yep. His face was definitely blue. Chara had no idea what that meant, but it made him look even stupider than usual. She wasn’t sure if that was an accomplishment.

 

“We don’t have to eat at Wendy’s!”

 

“i don’t like the food anywhere else!”

 

“I thought you hated mayonnaise on hamburgers!”

 

“no place else hires monsters yet!”

 

“So we’re supposed to boycott every business in the city that doesn’t have a monster working at it?”

 

Chara looked back and forth from Sans to Frisk, thoroughly confused. Frisk sounded angry, sure. But her face said otherwise. In fact, she appeared positively delighted about something. And Sans was maintaining his odd color change. She wasn’t sure if the idiotic argument was entertaining or irritating, but she wasn’t in the mood for bullshit, so she cut in. “Does Grillby work at this Wendy’s place or something?”

 

Sans leapt on the subject change like a starved man on bread. “yep! tried to get restaurant work as soon as we were revealed to the public, wants to open up shop up here as soon as possible, figured the best way to do it would be to learn and observe from a human business!” His face had begun returning to normal.

 

“Yeah, Wendy’s is a fast food chain. All across the country, every single place is essentially identical. They mostly hire kids for their first real job, most of the food that they ‘cook’ comes pre-cut and seasoned. I like them a bit better than some similar places, though. They’re cleaner.” Frisk said with a shrug. “The food’s all made before anybody comes in the door, and the menu is pretty limited, so you basically get your food minutes after it’s ordered. Fast, simple, efficient. Not an amazing dining experience. But they’re open all night.”

 

Chara was a little curious of the concept of fast food, but she wasn’t going to let Frisk’s deception just slide. “So. Let me get this straight.” She locked eyes with the girl. “You asked me to live with you when in reality I don’t get a choice, and I’m basically being held hostage by the skeleton?” Frisk’s reddening face only encouraged her. “And you’re going to have to babysit me while he goes and gets real food after his brother is done trying to poison us all?”

 

“hey just a minute, it ain’t quite like that…” Said skeleton protested. Chara decided to hear what he had to say… This time, anyway, “frisk swore up and down ya weren’t always like…” He looked at the ceiling, “well, how i got to know ya… it’s… temporary, ok? just… insurance?” Now he was staring at the floor. It seemed he had difficulty looking at her. He let out a heavy sigh, “can ya really blame me for being paranoid? ya killed everyone, kiddo. everyone. bit scary.”

 

“I KILLED them because they were all out to kill ME, and Frisk was just too weak to defend herself properly. Don’t you DARE.” She glowered at him. “If your asshole king had his way, all the humans would be dead right now! Don’t try to give me the whole ‘he didn’t meeeeaaaan it’ spiel, he actually KILLED innocent people whose only crime was falling in a HOLE and BEING HUMAN.” She quickly took a large breath and barreled onward, “Don’t get me started on your two-faced BROTHER!” She added, seeing Sans about to voice an objection and getting there first.

 

“yep, because that vicious snowman and little kid were just so aggressive with ya…”

 

“ENOUGH.” Frisk, surprisingly, raised her voice, silencing them both. She continued in a subdued yet forceful tone. “We fucked up, Chara. Even if they did plan all that, they didn’t deserve the lengths we went to. And the monsters on the surface? Everything isn’t perfect for them. We’ve essentially kept complete transparency. Any monsters who would, could, or have in the past harmed a human are essentially under observation, and every last one has a criminal tracking anklet so they can be found via GPS. The humans have chosen to forgive them, given the nature of their imprisonment, but with precautions. Sans wanting oversight on you isn’t really any different.”

 

Well, when she put it like that… “You saying you forgive me, trashbag?” She leered at him.

 

“fuck no.” He spat at her. Chara opened her mouth to retort, but he continued. “but i forgive frisk , and frisk says you’re not bad. if that changes, i’ll have no regrets makin’ sure nobody finds ya.” He added forcibly, adding that black-eyed glare of his, presumably for effect. “i think it’s completely fair that me and frisk take the same precautions with you that the humans took with us, at least. there’s no arguing that logic.”

 

“You look stupid when ya do that, you know. Not remotely scary.” She glared coldly down at him.

 

“Golly, you kids really don’t know how to get along at all, do ya?”

 

Frisk jumped possibly half a foot in the air. She’d been so focused on Chara and Sans, presumably, that she’d forgotten about Flowey again. Chara looked down at the weed and he tilted his petally head from side to side in apparent amusement, as though the whole argument were some sort of show put on exclusively for his entertainment.

 

“I don’t get along with anybody who sits around watching all his buddies murder Frisk over and over and then takes credit for us being alive.” She hissed through her teeth. “And even less with cowardly traitors.” She glared at him, then raised her voice, directing her words at the other two. “In fact, if you two don’t mind, I’d like a little word with my dear brother .” She glared down at the flower as he began to cower. If Sans heard her comments implicating him as she hissed at Flowey, he didn’t respond, but Chara didn’t care. Her attention was focused on her brother.

 

“Chara, hey, I thought we were over all that…” he began, only to be interrupted by Frisk.

 

“You won’t kill him?” She raised an eyebrow.

 

“Does me no good to run around knifing things right now, Frisky. I don’t even have a knife, anyway.”

 

Frisk let out the breath she’d apparently been holding. “Alright. Sans, I need to talk to you anyway, in the kitchen, if you don’t mind?”

 

The skeleton let out what Chara could only assume was a lazy grunt of compliance as he hoisted himself, with what appeared to be far more effort than strictly necessary, off the spot on the wall he’d been once again occupying, and followed somewhat reluctantly behind the tiny, determined human in the blue tunic.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Frisk slipped across the empty kitchen and hoisted herself up onto the countertop, turning to face the skeleton who had followed her into the room as she seated herself upon her perch. His omnipresent grin had settled into more of a grimace than she’d come to be used to. He looked… uneasy? She liked to think she was getting at least slightly better at reading him. He leaned, once again, against a wall, this time in the open doorway. Once settled, he looked at her sideways, a look of expectation clear upon his otherwise unreadable face.

 

“That went… Far better than I expected…” she breathed, “But I feel like it could have gone better, still…”

 

“when were ya gonna tell me the flower was the prince?” He interjected. Frisk deadpanned, caught off guard. Sans so regularly knew things he had no business really knowing that by this point she tended to just assume.

 

“I wasn’t. He made me promise not to tell anybody, especially his parents.” She let out a sigh. “Sorry. I had sort of assumed you already knew, and we just didn’t talk about that. You always seem to know everything else. Speaking of which, did you get a look…?”

 

Oh, he knew EXACTLY what she was asking. “at the soul?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“’course i did. read her as i came back, before you two knew i was there. she’s clean,” Frisk smiled,  “but… that soul she’s got is messed up, frisk. i’ve been around plenty of humans, seen a lot by now. somethin ain’t right with her.”

 

Frisk’s eyes narrowed. “Not right how, exactly?”

 

His brow ridges furrowed in what Frisk had come to know as a thoughtful look. “like… like she hasn’t got a human soul at all. i mean, she’s got a soul, sure, and it’s a human one, but… but… it’s white, frisk.” He paused, taking in the bewildered look on her face. “as far as i can tell, anyway. it might have some color to it, but it’s so washed out… i thought the princess was supposed to have a powerful red soul, like yours?”

 

“Um…” Frisk was at a loss. “I always assumed she got stuck to me because her soul was like mine when she was alive, yeah, but I mean, I never actually asked.” Frisk explained. “The white color could have something to do with her coming back to life, which just raises even more questions… But speaking of which, what do you think of her? So far, I mean.” She held her breath.

 

The ridges of his brow furrowed in contemplative thought. “well, she’s not really a threat. her soul, i mean, what she’s got now, it ain’t even on par with a regular human, it’s just sad… though, well, she and the flower knowin’ each other is a little worrying, i mean, he’s the prince? ya gotta explain that one to me sometime…” He was rambling. “i mean but, you know the only reason i couldn’t just pin you guys to the ceiling indefinetly before is ‘kuz your soul’s so absurdly strong, right?

 

“Sans…” Frisk gave him a tired look. “As amusing as that mental image is, I wasn’t talking about her soul anymore. What do you think of her, as a person?” Frisk hesitated. “I mean, what I told you, that she’s not so bad. You see it, right?”

 

She wanted so, so badly for the two of them to get along.

 

“well…” He hesitated. “she’s about… four times more snarky and about half as stabby as i expected?” He suddenly grinned at her. “but considering she doesn’t have a weapon, i would have to say, that’s still rather more stabby than anybody really should be.” he continued while Frisk face-palmed, already knowing where he was going. “and yet her sudden reappearance is a conundrum i wouldn’t mind having a stab at…”

 

Really , Sans?” She knew the deadpan look she was giving him could’ve burned holes in anyone else.

 

He only grinned even bigger, if that were possible. She knew she wasn’t going to get out of it.

 

“It’s not very knife to treat a person like a mystery to be solved, you know.” She added with a cold glare.

 

But he could see the corners of her mouth twitching upwards. She’d pretended to ignore his punning, but then added to it. She cringed inwardly at herself. She really should stop indulging him, all it ever did was distract both of them, but it was slowly becoming a habit.

 

“she wasn’t very knife to me to begin with, considering we’ve never met before, technically .” He added, sockets narrowed but lights flickering brightly at her, “talking over me, not letting me finish a slice of what i was trying to say…”

 

…Aaaaand Frisk went back to pretending she didn’t find him amusing when he got like this. She really needed to focus.

 

“I’m going to go check on Chara. And help her pack.” She said stiffly, sliding off the countertop. “Toriel had apparently kept her clothing in a storage bin under the spare bed.” She added, in response to the incredulous look he gave her.

 

“aww, c’mon, frisk! the knife thing was a good one!” He protested.

 

“The slice bit was pushing it and you know it.” She replied, locking eyes with him briefly, failing to hide another little smirk. “Can you make that phone call to Alphys now? We need to know she’s finished before you drop me off, after all.” She gave him a light, playful shove. He was, after all, blocking the door.

 

“yeah, yeah…” he began digging in his pockets for his phone as she slipped out past him back toward her friend.

Chapter Text

The scene that Frisk returned to in the hallway of Toriel’s cottage was about what she expected. Flowey cowering in fear, and Chara looking like she was about to pop a blood vessel about something. As soon as Frisk made her presence known, however, they ceased whatever it was they had been arguing about abruptly and Flowey sank into the floor, for all intents and purposes gone.

 

“Chara!” Frisk called out. “You two done?” The taller woman whirled around, an accusatory glare fixed on her face. Her gaze softened somewhat when it landed on Frisk.

 

“I don’t think we’ll ever be ‘done’, Frisky.” Chara replied, her large eyes narrowed. “That little traitor…”

 

“Traitor?” Frisk gave her a skeptical look.

 

“Yeah, traitor!” Chara seethed. “If he had only gone along with our plan back when I first died, none of this ever would have happened, we…”

 

“Would have killed six humans, caused a total panic, gone back and broke the barrier, let everyone free, and the remaining humans would freak out and kill everyone in fear based on the killing you and Azzie had done.” Frisk rattled it off as though she’d memorized a speech in advance.

 

“I’ve put a lot of thought into it.” She said in response to Chara’s blank stare. “I honestly think it was for the best that the plan didn’t work. Even if you and Azzie were all Lord Helixlike and stuff, the rest of the monsters were vulnerable.” She cocked her head to the side and fixed Chara with a genuine smile. “besides, if you hadn’t died way back when, and then somehow come back to life, I never would have got to meet you!”

 

Chara was speechless. She didn’t appear to know whether to be flattered at how highly Frisk clearly valued her friendship, or insulted at how easily she’d dismissed her original plan as doomed to backfire and incredibly stupid. She settled for looking confused.

 

“Now come on, let’s get your clothing packed up. Papyrus was supposed to bring everything, and he rushed off without it, so Toriel won’t be any the wiser when nobody can find them.” Frisk grinned. “And if she gets mad… well, Toriel can’t stay mad at Papyrus any better than Sans can.” She winked.

 

The red-eyed woman furrowed her brow. “It kind of sounds like you’re taking advantage of Papyrus a little…”

 

“Maybe.” Frisk shrugged sheepishly. “Sometimes he’s like a little kid, and when stuff gets too complicated to explain, getting him stuck in the middle somehow always simplifies things.” She smiled. “Maybe if we only take some of your clothes, Toriel won’t notice later?”

 

“Well… I grew out of stripes forever ago, and most of that is all stripes…” Chara finally relaxed out of her scowl. “You know what, Frisky? You worry about the damn aftermath. Let’s get my clothes.”

 

It took a moment to slide the bin out from underneath the twin bed a second time. It was wedged in rather tightly, but Frisk’s small size allowed her to pry it out from under the bed more easily than Chara had the first time around.

 

It took only about five minutes to sort through the wide, deep bin. The diversity in the apparel greatly amused Frisk, as much of it seemed to her to be centuries out of date. When everything was said and done, they had an old fashioned brassier, two corsets, two pairs of panties, three pairs of mens’ boxer shorts, one pair of bloomers, pantyhose, another sweater dress, eight pairs of socks, something Frisk could only describe as a brown wedding dress with shoulder pads, and several pairs of what appeared to be mens’ button-down shirts and dress pants.

 

Frisk didn’t know what to make of it. Chara had fallen forever ago, sure, but the sheer variety was… odd. After wordlessly sorting through the pile and taking the things that Chara separated out for herself and folding them for her, Frisk was left speechless.

 

“...What?” Chara inquired after the look on her face. “Is there something wrong with my clothes?” Her face began to settle into that accusatory glare again.

 

“Well… This is all… Shit, Chara, what century did you fall?!” Frisk gaped in wide-eyed wonder.

 

"The monsters told me that by the human calendars they sometimes found, it was nineteen something or other. I don’t really recall the date all that well. Why?” The glare hadn’t left her face.

 

“Well… Uh…” Frisk struggled to find words, “I’ve only ever seen a corset like this in a costume shop… And why do you have mens’ underwear?” She blinked owlishly.

 

“Down here you’re limited to whatever the monsters can figure out how to make and whatever humans on the surface throw away that manages to survive the trip down the river.” Chara rolled her eyes. “We made due.”

 

Frisk grinned. “Well, now that you’re coming to the surface with me, how about we just go clothes shopping later? Leave most of this here. Just grab the other sweater dress and some pants and underwear. I’m actually free all day tomorrow! We can go shopping!” Frisk willed herself to be absolutely ecstatic at the prospect. As if Chara wasn’t a serial murderer and they were just two young ladies contemplating planning a day at the mall.

 

They could be normal. Like sisters! Well, almost.

 

~~~~~~~~

 

In the end, Chara wound up keeping only the sweater dress, the pantyhose, some underwear, and some of the mens’ dress things. Frisk folded it all neatly and tucked it into her dimensional box just as a knock sounded on the door.

 

“you ladies all set? got the go-ahead from alphys, frisk, we can swing by early if ya like, she ain’t busy.” Sans drawled lazily.

 

“We’re good! Your timing is perfect, Sans!” Chara could almost hear her grin in her voice. This girl never did anything halfway, did she?

 

The knob turned and the door slowly opened. The skeleton entered looking as though he expected someone to ambush him, carefully picking his way around the door… But once she and Frisk were fully in sight, he relaxed back into his default bored expression. “so what’s the plan now, boss?” he directed at Frisk.

 

“I told you not to call me that.” Frisk glowered at him. But at the same time, her lips were fixed into a coy smile.

 

“but you’re the one deciding everything lately!” Sans protested, grinning.

 

“Yeah, ‘kuz I’m the only one who knows everything that’s going on most of the time!” She spouted indignantly.

 

“i’m not stupid, ya know…” Now, Chara could tell he was pretending to be upset. It was incredibly obvious; he even put on a fake pout. But Frisk appeared to take it at face value.

 

Her brow creased into a look of what Chara could only assume was genuine concern. “I never said you were!” She protested.

 

Chara looked back and forth from Frisk to Sans. The rapid-fire argument almost seemed rehearsed, the two bounced back and forth so quickly. Either Frisk was oblivious to the fact that he was just teasing her, or she was willfully playing along because for whatever reason she liked the attention. The implication left Chara feeling a bit disturbed. Suddenly she had an idea.

 

“Anybody ever tell you two that you fight like an old married couple?” She suggested innocently.

 

“you…” Sans froze mid-word and suddenly that blue color was overtaking his face again. Is that seriously what he looks like when he blushes? That’s hilarious.

 

Frisk was now staring determinedly at her feet.

 

A moment passed in awkward silence before anybody said anything. Coming to her senses first, Frisk took a deep breath, and that oddly controlled voice of hers made a return. “No, Chara, nobody has ever told me that. I don’t know about Sans. But anyways, we need to get moving.” She looked up and met Chara’s eyes. “Sans will be taking us on one of his shortcuts. Alphys’s place is only two blocks away from my place. I’ll have Undyne walk me home after we’re done. I need you to promise me you’ll behave.” She added sternly.

 

Chara blinked at her incredulously. “What are you, my mother?”

 

Frisk raised an eyebrow and appeared about to give a sarcastic retort when the skeleton spoke up. “nah, it’s not that. i promised Frisk i wouldn’t kill ya if you pissed me off, but there are other ways to incapacitate a human.” His eye flashed. “do we really need to go into detail about it, or do you get the picture?”

 

“Well, considering how worthless your promises are…” Chara began

 

“ENOUGH.” Loud Frisk was back. “Can you two somehow manage not to kill each other until Papyrus comes back? Seriously? Do you need a babysitter?! Or am I allowed to go have my meeting with Alphys in peace?” Her hands were placed firmly on her hips as she glared at the two of them. Chara thought she looked rather comical.

 

Clearly pretending Chara hadn’t said what she had, Sans took over. “look, papyrus has to walk all the way home, and he’s gotta go to tori’s place first. we’ll be stuck at the house, alone, for at least two hours.” He looked Chara in the eye and the trace of blue faded from his face completely. “don’t try to acquire a weapon or leave my sight and you’re golden, got it? last thing i wanna do is spend the next hour pinning you to a wall or somethin’ until frisk gets back.”

 

Pinning her to a wall? “What exactly…”

 

Frisk interrupted. “I haven’t seen him do it, but it makes a pretty funny mental picture.” Frisk put her serious face back on. “Listen, just be good for Sans, alright? I have a plan that will put all involved parties at ease with you, and then you can do whatever you like.”

 

“Okay…” Chara tried to wrap her mind around what Frisk had just said. “So I have to just sit and make small talk with the skeleton for an hour?” She directed at Frisk.

 

“i’m right here, ya know, kiddo.”

 

Chara ignored him again and shifted around Sans to direct her gaze at Frisk. “Seriously, is he gonna play me a song on his little noisemaker?” She voiced over the disgruntled skeleton.

 

“hey, I…”

 

“Sans can show you around the house.” Frisk said pointedly, effortlessly silencing Sans. Again. “And for what it’s worth, he’s actually really good! When he’s not just using the thing to irritate Paps.” She moved so that Sans was once again able to make eye contact with both of them at will. “And you can ask him, ya know, he’s right here.” She finished with something of a coy glare at Chara.

 

Chara looked back and forth between the two. Whose side is Frisk even on? She overrode the skeleton at will and kept treating her like a long lost best friend. Did Frisk really care about her that much? She shifted her gaze back firmly onto Sans as she heard his voice pick up. “i’m not really comfortable showcasing my room and i dunno about papyrus, but i’ll show her the rest of the house, sure. you okay with her being in your bedroom?”

 

“It’s fine.” Frisk replied, a cheerful smile back on her face. “We need to shortcut directly into the house and then you guys need to walk me to Alphys’s. I’m not supposed to go anywhere unaccompanied, king’s orders, and the humans don’t know what Sans can do, so he left his anklet behind at the house. We need to pick it up before he’s seen in public again.” Frisk explained to Chara with a slightly apologetic smile, “Normally shortcuts are emergencies only but, well, we had no idea if we could get to you before Papyrus or not, and… Well, I won’t get into it.” Frisk finished with a stammer.

 

Why she and Sans wouldn’t want Chara alone with Papyrus unaccompanied was something that didn’t need to be said. But ‘we wanted to get there in time to make sure you didn’t murder anybody’ would have been tactless. Still, Chara got the unspoken point. Neither of them really trusted her. She would just have to play along until they did, or until an opportunity presented itself. Still

 

“That seems rather dishonest.” She said pointedly. “Not telling the humans you have magic that lets you just disappear and reappear wherever.” She glared at him smugly. Now who had the moral high ground?

 

“s’more complicated than that,” the skeleton replied. He looked a little confused to be spoken to directly by Chara, finally. “thing is, though, most monsters don’t even know i can do that. only you lot and the king. maybe the flower, not sure. it’s not exactly a normal bit of magic, ya know? i only flaunted it around frisk back in the underground ‘kuz i was trying to be all mysterious and scary and shit, and i figured she’d be gone forever at some point one way or another.” he added darkly. He didn’t need to say he expected her to either escape or die. They knew what he meant. “got used to calling it shortcuts ‘kuz paps noticed, but he takes everything at face value and just ran with the explanation. and called me lazy, heh.” He smiled fondly at what was clearly some kind of memory of his brother from long, long ago.

 

“Geeze, did I ask for your life story?” Chara drawled sarcastically at him, ignoring the glare she received in return. “What a sap.” She rolled her eyes. “Well, I’m ready to get going. What are we waiting for?”

 

Frisk hesitated. “Well… Uh, nothing. I guess. Grab on?” Sans grabbed Frisk’s hand and reached for Chara’s with his other one, but she drew away. He settled for her elbow.

 

Before Chara could react, the world spun and everything went dark.

 

 

~~~~~~~

 

 

The next thing she knew, her face was resting firmly on what appeared to be a rather worn plush beige carpet. Chara scrambled up as quickly as she could, her head spinning. Sans and Frisk were standing nearby, looking exactly as they had before they’d taken the shortcut, though they’d let go of each other’s hands.

 

“Are you okay?” Frisk said gently, a look of concern passing over her face. “I’ve never fainted from taking a shortcut before…”

 

Chara deadpanned. “Fainted!?”

 

“Yeah, you were out for like a minute, I was kinda starting to freak out. I mean, nobody knows you exist, it’s not like we could take you to a hospital…” Frisk stammered at her, red-faced. “I mean, I know a guy who can fix all that, but not instantly…” she trailed off as Chara began to look around and Sans climbed the staircase behind them, likely to retrieve his tracking anklet.

 

The room was fairly large, an open concept living room and kitchen with a very comfy looking matching set of sofa, love seat, and recliner all in the same shade of dark blue. A long, low table sat just in front of the larger of the two matching sofas, and a second couch was propped against a wall where the room transitioned from kitchen to living room. It was lime green. Chara assumed Papyrus had insisted their old couch get to see the surface with them, there really wasn’t any other explanation. She briefly wondered if they’d brought any of their other furniture with them before telling herself that there was no reason to care. There was a very large, wide, flat, shiny rectangle in one corner on some kind of complicated shelf with numerous smaller boxy devices situated below it, and all four seating apparatuses pointed at the arrangement of square-ish devices to some degree. She found herself walking toward the strange array of boxy objects, only to be startled by a noise that one could only describe as the sound of a tiny helicopter. And suddenly there was a weight on her head. A weight with numerous sharp and tiny points digging into her scalp.

 

“Quartz, no!”

 

Chara yelped in surprise and a degree of fright, ducking her head in an effort to dodge away from the unknown thing that had suddenly attached itself to her head. She brought her arms up in an attempt to attack the unknown addition to her scalp just as Frisk came running over waving her arms around. She looked up to see a small white bird flying around a partial wall and presumably back to its cage in the kitchen.

 

“Sans!” Frisk was suddenly calling up the stairs. “Sans, I thought you locked her in her cage before we left! Quartz just dive-bombed Chara!”

 

A moment of silence was followed by a call of “sorry!” from down the hall.

 

Chara strongly suspected that he genuinely was not. “Frisk you… You have a bird?” She inquired, still a little bewildered.

 

“Yeah.” Frisk grinned. “Used to be just me and her in this big empty house…” Frisk trailed off, apparently lost in thought. “She… She has more friends now, though. She’s really nice, but people who aren’t used to her…” She didn’t appear to know how to finish what she was saying.

 

For a minute there, Chara could have sworn Frisk was talking about herself and not the bird.

 

“She’s really quite well trained, she can do a few tricks, she flies on command, she’s potty trained… But ever since Sans and Papyrus moved in, she’s mysteriously figured out how to open her cage.” Frisk gave Chara a wry grimace. “But only when I ask Sans to put her in it.” She winked. “He swears she’s figured out how to take shortcuts from having him around, but you know as well as I do that he’s full of it.” Frisk rolled her eyes and grinned. “He either doesn’t shut the door all the way or doesn’t close it at all when he knows I’m in too much of a hurry to check. And Quartz loves to get into mischief whenever she thinks she can get away with it because nobody’s home.”

 

Frisk’s explanation of the bird named after a rock was cut short with the reappearance of the short skeleton.

 

“i’m right here. i can hear ya talking about me. seriously, ladies, this is getting old.” The disgruntled skeleton mumbled. “you ready to go?” he said, looking only at Frisk.

 

Frisk gave him a stern glare. “I will be after you shut Quartz in her cage. Properly.” And so, Chara found herself following Frisk and Sans as the latter sheepishly sauntered into the kitchen and approached a wide, squat birdcage with a small door open like a balcony and attempted to coerce the fluffy ball of white sitting on top of it to go inside. It took ten minutes of (slowly) chasing her all over the sitting room and kitchen for Quartz to concede and finally go into the dang cage, at which point Sans closed up the balcony door behind her.

 

“Isn’t it fascinating how earlier it only took you a second to get her in the cage before we left?” Frisk said wryly to a disgruntled Sans.

 

“that thing hates me.” He complained at her.

 

“No, she doesn’t. You’re scared of her and she can tell, that’s all.” Frisk lectured as she turned to Chara, “Birds don’t trust anybody whose afraid of them, see. They can tell, and they assume it’s for a reason, so they don’t trust you.”

 

Chara watched bemusedly as “Quartz” began to slowly shred a piece of wood screwed onto the cage bars. “Sans is afraid of harmless little birdies?”

 

Sans looked like he was about to offer a retort when Frisk answered for him. “He’s uneasy about anything he can’t predict. Honestly, you’d think the lack of repetition would be a relief.”

 

“will you two stop talking about me as if i can’t hear you!?” He grumbled irritably.

 

Chara backed away from the frustrated skeleton as Frisk’s face turned beet red.

 

“Sorry Sans… I just… I’m used to it being just me and her…” Frisk looked as though she were reaching out to touch his shoulder in an apologetic gesture of comfort, but he backed just out of her range.

 

“let’s just get moving. the sooner you get to alphys’s place the sooner i don’t have to put up with her.” He nodded in Chara’s general direction, and before Frisk could come up with a response, he’d zipped up his jacket and skulked out the door without making eye contact with either of them.

 

“...What crawled up his pelvis?” Chara glared in the direction of the door.

 

“Pffff… Chara…” Frisk was blushing hard, now. “Metaphorically? I’m pretty sure… you.” Frisk was clearly expecting Chara to react to the innuendo, but Chara wasn’t going to be phased by something so childish. “Ehhhh… he can have a bit of a temper, but not usually this… much. We’ve been talking over him all day, though, and he… Look, I’m not surprised he’s crazy uptight today. Will you be warm enough in that? It’s a bit nippy today.” She said as she reached for a jacket hung on a peg by the doorway.

 

“It’s a pretty heavy sweater.” Chara shrugged off nonchalantly. “Besides, I don’t think anything of yours would fit me.” She grinned down at the shorter woman. “You and the comedian take the same size, though?”

 

Frisk deadpanned. “You have no idea. He’s wearing a mismatched pair of my socks today.” She grimaced. “And Papyrus keeps stealing my pants! Something about curvy-fit ladies’ jeans being more comfortable?” She rolled her eyes. “I keep offering to take HIM clothes shopping, but Sans doesn’t want him out in public in crowded human places without him, and Sans always just HAPPENS to be busy whenever it’s a good time to go…”

 

“Sounds like you could use a breather from the boneheads.” Chara grinned. “Anything I can lend a hand with?”

 

“You already are.” Frisk’s breath steadied a bit. “I have to be stuck with one of them at essentially all times unless I’m home. King’s orders. At least with the excuse that you need ‘watching’, I can ditch Sans for an hour or two and hang with Undyne and Alphys.” She grabbed the door handle. “Let’s not keep him waiting any longer, he’s already in a bad mood, and I’d really like for you two not to kill each other today.”

 

The walk to Alphys’s place was rather uneventful, save for the plethora of puns Sans started making once Chara made her presence unobtrusive by walking a step or two behind them both, trying to figure out where Frisk’s loyalties lay. The further they walked, the more horrible jokes came out of him, and the more Frisk laughed. Chara decided she liked them both better when they weren’t getting along. They were nearly there and Chara was bored out of her skin, barely paying attention to her surroundings when a sleek black sedan shot past them at surprising speed. Frisk barely batted an eye.

 

“Is… Was… Frisky, was that a CAR?!” The taller woman exclaimed, drawing the smaller and her companion from their camaraderie.

 

“You told me you’d seen cars before.” Frisk replied, concerned. “Something wrong?”

 

“Yeah, no, it’s fine. I’m just used to them being more square. And not that fast. And with a lot more smoke out the back.” Chara willed herself to calm down. Don’t draw attention to yourself and play nice with the skeleton until you can make a move. Even if you don’t know what that move is, yet. She smiled. “I can hardly wait to take a ride in one. You got wheels, Frisky?”

 

“Yeah, I’ll show you tomorrow. We’re here.” Frisk replied.

 

Chara turned to look up at what appeared to be a massive old brick building with large windows placed in a systematic pattern. It was at least eight stories tall and went around the block. Alphys lives HERE?! “Uhhh… New lab?”

 

“Kinda? I mean, there’s a small makeshift lab IN here. This city had been shrinking for a long time until now. The government wanted to let the monsters out, but keep them all generally centralized. They’re divided into several groups all over town into some old abandoned apartment buildings and factories converted into apartment housing temporarily. Most of the Waterfall residents live in this one, it had the best plumbing, but it’s the second smallest.” She walked up to the door and scanned over a panel of what appeared to be nearly a hundred buttons, carefully choosing and pressing in on a specific one that responded by lighting up. She and Sans stared at it intently for a moment until the light blinked three times and then went out. “Alphys is on her way down. I’ll see you both when we’re done!” She said to Chara by way of explanation for the button pushing.

 

“i’m not supposed to leave until you’re safely inside, kiddo.” He muttered by way of reminding her that he was still technically supposed to be her bodyguard. No sooner were the words out of his mouth, however, when Alphys was at the door.

 

“Frisk! H-hey!” Alphys did a double take when her eyes landed on Chara. “Sans said you would be early, but I wasn’t expecting you to bring a friend…”

 

“she’s not stayin.” Sans responded without missing a beat. “didn’t wanna leave a guest alone at the house is all.” His gaze shifted from Alphys to Frisk. “don’t be late for dinner.”

 

“You know it!” Frisk gave them both a little wave as she slipped through the huge building’s front entrance after Alphys.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

And so, Sans stood alone on a sidewalk with his brother’s murderer. The dead silence left in the wake of Frisk’s departure from their midst was deafening. He wanted to let her know they were returning to the house, that he would show her around, but the constant nervousness he’d felt around Frisk their first week on the surface had found a new source.

 

He didn’t know what to say.

 

So after a few more moments of silence, when Chara turned around and began to head back the way they’d come, he simply… followed her.

 

The pair were dead silent the entire way back to Frisk’s house, where Sans produced a key from his pocket and let them both inside. It wasn’t until Chara had flopped on the couch that she finally said something to him, though she seemed to be directing her words at the television set.

 

“So… Uh… Frisky said something about a tour?” She spoke in an unnaturally even voice. Sans idly wondered if she’d learned that from Frisk or the other way around.

 

“yeah. i can show ya around if ya like. papyrus took over the guest bedroom as his when we moved in, so you’ll be stuck on the couch for a bit until frisk gets the office cleaned out, but I can still show ya…” He realized he was rambling. “welp, c’mon then.”

 

He was careful never to have his back to her as he explained each location around the home, from the small water closet on the ground floor up to Frisk’s bedroom, which Chara appeared to find highly amusing. It was neither as messy as anything one would expect from Sans, nor as fastidiously clean as anything one would expect from Papyrus, and the whole room was decked out in soft greyish blues with dark purple highlights in the form of drapes and the bedspread. Apart from a computer workstation, the most noteworthy thing in the room was a silver trumpet on a stand next to a music stand and a bookshelf full of a wide variety of objects in addition to the books. Sans watched as Chara approached the instrument.

 

“No wonder she likes your playing.” Chara laughed derisively. “She’s got her own stupid noisemaker.”

 

Sans was preparing what he thought would be a satisfying retort when Chara surprised him by giving him what appeared to be a genuine smile. “Do you two ever play music together or anything? Just wondering.”

 

He hadn’t been expecting that. Was she putting on an act for his benefit? There was no way to know.

 

i’ll just play along, be nice, be polite, and if she snaps, I can deal with her then. He took a hesitant breath. “uh… yeah, sorta. ever since undyne found out she played, she’s been adamant about starting a band, but it’s just the three of us until paps gets a grip on the drum set… frisk’s been trying to teach him, but she says she’s not so good with percussion… pap can handle simple beats already, though. we’re gonna have a short gig at a restaurant in town next week. he’s real excited. thinks mettaton will invite him on his show if he gets to be a famous drummer. napstablook is already a fan, though. He recorded one of our rehearsals.”

 

“Of course that depressed sack of tears likes your shitty garage band.” Chara laughed again. “I always wanted to learn to play something,” She said, a bit of genuineness creeping back into her tone; she looked like she wanted to keep going, but did not.

 

The rest of the tour passed with little incident, though Chara seemed more interested in the power tools in the garage than he’d have liked. Her disappointment when he mentioned none would operate without Frisk’s key was also rather poorly disguised. Sans would explain what each area of the house was for in a simplistic monotone, Chara would nod, sometimes look around, and then they’d move on. They lingered for a rather longer time in the basement, however. Chara found the small bar, piano, drum set, and array of tables and chairs very curious indeed. Sans wasn’t surprised. The sizeable basement room resembled Grillby’s in miniature. Minus the large television set in the corner, of course.

 

“frisk likes to have people over.” He said in response to her confused look. “she has friends by for stuff. tabletop and video games, both. last week was the first time in a good while, ‘kuz of the whole underground thing and me and pap moving in. haven’t got used to it yet.” He finished with a shrug. Frisk had asked him to try to explain things to Chara as best he could, but she didn’t get to hear about how some of Frisk’s friends had stared at him. Like he didn’t belong there. He wasn’t going to leave the anomaly alone in a room with nearly a dozen unknown factors. Nope.

 

“Okay…” Chara trailed off, staring at the TV set. “I only have one question.”

 

“and that is…?” Sans wondered if she had the gall to ask him where the cutlery was kept.

 

“What is a… video game?”

 

Sans visibly relaxed. “I think I’ve figured out what we’re going to do for a couple hours.”

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

After explaining the concept and going through a list of the different types he knew of, Sans had attempted to interest her in a wide array of multiplayer games, but Chara wasn’t interested in doing anything with him. She was even less interested in having him show her how to hold any of the controllers properly. She wasn’t stupid; she could figure out how to push some buttons, and the very notion of allowing him to touch her hands utterly repulsed her.

 

After a lengthy explanation of what, exactly, playing a video game entailed, she’d decided that she wanted to try one that was better off played alone. The rather loud noise her stomach made at the announcement, however, had Sans mumbling that they’d be having a belated lunch of leftover pizza, and she’d better eat hers before Papyrus came home and accused him of spoiling dinner. The lazy oaf didn't bother to heat it up, but it filled the hole. 

 

Chara wound up going through a number of Frisk’s single-player video games and essentially interrogating Sans on their contents, pretending they were of utmost interest. The bag of bones wasn’t a lot of help; he’d only heard Frisk talk about most of them. She finally settled on a game that featured a fellow made of paper who appeared to be one of only two humans inhabiting the entirety of his fantasy world, a concept Chara found herself drawn to. Sans said that it was one of Frisk’s favorites, and also that Frisk had said it was a good beginner “RPG”, whatever that meant.

 

It didn’t really matter. I need something I can pretend to be focused on while I think, she had thought to herself on his first explanation of the concept. She hadn’t been alone with her own thoughts since the bathtub.

 

The power tools had intrigued her. Apparently they could tear right through metal or wood, but only with the key Frisk kept on her person, yet the blade on the one that supposedly cut wood looked something like metal tooth floss…  she wanted the skeleton to think she was interested in just living life, but she also needed time to sit and process all the information Sans had just fed her...

 

…The game… Did not provide that opportunity. No sooner had Sans set everything up and, having been refused his offer of a demonstration on how to use the controller, (She did NOT need his help.) promptly flopped on the couch and fell asleep.

 

Or… she assumed he was pretending to be asleep.

 

He wasn’t that stupid.

 

She could nearly feel his eye sockets locked onto the back of her head while she sat through a short movie telling a story about a lost city underground. It rang somewhat familiar to the monsters’ situation. And then she had to pretend she couldn’t hear him snickering while she attempted to figure out how on earth she was supposed to push all of those buttons, move both of the little sticks, AND hold the thing at the same time with only two hands. It took some doing, but she eventually managed to wedge it between her knees, manipulating the tiny swivel-stick with her left hand and the buttons with her right. It took even longer to input her name into a “File”, whatever that was, and start the actual game.

 

She was feeling quite confident with her progress. It had taken well over half an hour, but she hadn’t needed any help from him. She received the map, took control of a cute red cartoon fellow and… Promptly walked off a pier into some water several times in a row to the tune of a “Game Over” screen.  

 

Followed shortly afterwards by the sound of someone laughing derisively in a very low, deep voice.

 

 

She ignored him.

 

 

What little determination she’d had to use the game as cover for mentally gathering herself and trying to form a plan faded. Her pride insisted she had to prove she was not so incompetent as to be unable to figure out a “Beginner” video game, and she needed Sans to think she actually did care about this activity. She willed herself to focus on it. Perhaps if she got the basics down, she could then focus her thoughts inward?

 

She managed to get past the small segment with the water she had started with and was so focused upon her interaction with some kind of diaper-wearing mushroom monster that she didn’t notice the front door opening and closing until she heard a very loud voice directed at herself.

 

“WHY ARE YOU PLAYING A VIDEO GAME WITH YOUR KNEES?”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

Frisk waved goodbye to Undyne as the pair arrived at her home, shaking slightly from nerves as she produced her house key from the clip on her belt loop. There was no telling what she’d find when she got inside the house. If she was being honest, her worry over the pair she’d left behind had kept her from really enjoying her time spent with  , though she had paid very close attention to Alphys’s explanation of the new objects she now carried in her inventory. The pair she’d left behind had agreed not to harm one another, sure, but even Sans’s seemingly infinite patience had its limits, and she wasn’t remotely certain how far she could trust Chara.

 

Her hand was barely on the doorknob when she heard Papyrus’s voice echoing through the walls.

 

“WHAT KIND OF GOOD HOST GIVES A GUEST A GAME TO PLAY ALONE AND FALLS ASLEEP!?” Frisk paused. Clearly both Sans and Chara were alive and well if Papyrus was nagging Sans over, of all things, his hosting qualifications. She listened further.

 

“HUMAN, WHO TAUGHT YOU HOW TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES? YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO USE YOUR THUMBS, NOT YOUR LEGS! THE GREAT PAPYRUS WILL SHOW YOU HOW TO DO IT PROPERLY!”

 

“pffffff….” Frisk willed herself not to laugh. Either Sans had played some form of a prank on Chara and Papyrus had caught him, or the entire situation had arisen from something awkward and strange that Sans would probably explain to her later. She wished she could hear what the other two were saying, but Papyrus was the only one of the three prone to such a ruckus as to be heard through the front door. She took another deep breath. She couldn’t walk in through the door laughing like that…

 

“SANS, HOW COULD YOU MISLEAD THIS POOR HUMAN WHO HAS NEVER SEEN A VIDEO GAME BEFORE!?”

 

Frisk nearly choked.

 

Okay. This is hilarious. I need to go in there and be the adult before this escalates any further, she thought to herself, amused at the irony of the role she often played with the two brothers in spite of Sans’s unfortunate nickname for her. She desperately wanted to just wait outside and see where it headed.

 

But she was determined to be a good friend.

 

She took a deep breath, turned the doorknob, pushed the door open, and stepped into a rather strange scene indeed. Chara was sitting on the floor with her knees in the air in front of the television set holding a GameCube controller upside down in one hand, her thumb on one of the trigger buttons, looking thoroughly like the embodiment of barely controlled rage. (Had Sans not shown her where the controller extension cables were?) Sans was sprawled on one of the couches, grin fixed into the most neutral line she’d ever seen it in, but his eye sockets were shut, still somehow trying to feign sleep. Papyrus stood between them, spine ram-rod straight and gloved hands on his hipbones.

 

He was, mercifully, wearing a shirt.

 

“FRISK! DID YOU REALLY HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LEAVE THE BLANKET HUMAN ALONE WITH MY BROTHER!? HE’S TOO LAZY TO BE A GOOD HOST!”

 

Neither one of them is dead. It can’t have gone that badly.

 

“Blanket…?” Had she arrived mere moments after Papyrus? The glare she received from a radiantly blushing Chara confirmed it. “Pappy, I’m so sorry I never introduced you correctly. This is my friend Chara. Chara, this is Papyrus. Sans and Chara already knew each other, so I just sort of… forgot that you two hadn’t met before. I’m sorry.”

 

“YOU ALSO FAILED TO MENTION HOW LONG YOUR FRIEND WOULD BE STAYING WITH US! OR WARN ME AHEAD OF TIME SO I COULD GET THE HOUSE CLEAN!” The tall skeleton had now turned his ire on And it wasn’t like he was the only person who cleaned.

 

Great. Papyrus is asking questions. Frisk took a deep breath and looked him dead in the eye sockets, trying to look as apologetic and put out as she could. “We honestly didn’t know until just this morning, right after you left, Pappy. And I didn’t tell you how long she’d be staying because I’m not sure. She might even be moving in. It’s complicated.” Be as honest as possible and he won’t know what I left out.

 

The tall skeleton seemed taken aback. Or at least, his hands dropped from his hipbones. “SO THIS ISN’T JUST SOME POLITE FRIENDLY VISIT? IS YOUR FRIEND IN SOME KIND OF TROUBLE? IS HER PREVIOUS PLACE OF RESIDENCE UNAVAILABLE?”

 

More like it’s a hole in the ground, Frisk thought to herself, but Papyrus couldn’t know that Chara was from the Underground, or had come back from the dead. She wasn’t sure what kind of story to make up on the spot to explain to Papyrus. He was childlike, sure, but he was more perceptive than he often appeared.

 

“bad people tried to hurt her, pap.” Sans replied from his spot on the couch, still unmoving. “she didn’t have her phone or anything and was just runnin, she knew about the underground from the news and hid there, it was just lucky your flower pal saw her and knew she knew frisk.” he drawled lazily, as if he’d rehearsed the excuse. He probably had. Sans was just good at this stuff.

 

Chara, however, was now giving her a glare fit to burn a hole through her. Sans had used Chara’s ACTUAL story for falling into the Underground, that Frisk had told him, albeit bereft of detail. He'd added on the bit about the news and knowing Frisk to make it seem deliberate. Frisk had never told Chara that Sans knew her backstory.

 

Frisk held her accusatory gaze firmly. She had told him all about Chara in her effort to make her seem less of a horror, and there hadn’t seemed to be any point in protecting the privacy of someone long dead, so the reason for her fall had been included.

 

Papyrus bought the explanation hook, line, and sinker, thankfully. “BAD PEOPLE, GOOD PEOPLE. HUMANS AND MONSTERS HAVE BOTH, IT SEEMS, OTHERWISE THE ROYAL GUARD WOULD ALL HAVE HAD NOTHING TO DO. DO YOUR HUMAN OFFICIALS NOT HAVE PROTOCOLS IN PLACE FOR SUCH INCIDENTS?” Frisk's eyes widened. She’d long since learned that they weren’t all like the sentries; no real purpose aside from standing around waiting for a human to suddenly appear. And she knew the monsters had some small crime, though not enough to be a problem. She just hadn’t put two and two together before.

 

“Sometimes nobody else sees what happened, Pap. The humans don’t know who to believe if someone is lying, so bad people get away with stuff a lot.” Frisk offered. This, at least, she knew all too well.

 

“yeah. it’s not like humans can just read somebody’s soul to know what their intentions are, right?” Sans added pointedly, “s’not like monsters, where ya got royal judges who can just… know.” His grin suddenly widened into a smirk. Really. Sans. Do you seriously need to threaten her while explaining why we’re protecting her? Thought Frisk.

 

Sans still hadn’t moved or opened his eye sockets.

 

“So like, say for example, Pap, the bad person she’s running from is someone who is well respected. Nobody would believe her. Chara just doesn’t want anybody to know she’s here, just in case.” Frisk added, trying to ease the tension. Papyrus, naturally, was oblivious to the tension between her friend and his brother.

 

Papyrus deadpanned “OH NO! I ALREADY TOLD THE QUEEN I HAD TO RUSH HOME BECAUSE WE HAD UNEXPECTED COMPANY!”

 

Chara’s usually ruddy face went pale. This was the LAST person she wanted to know about her rebirth. “Well, thankfully, Papyrus, you didn’t mention Chara’s name or anything, since you didn’t know it, right?” Frisk queried

 

“THAT IS TRUE!” The tall skeleton seemed to be deep in thought. “I HAVE A FANTASTIC IDEA! FRISK, DO YOU STILL HAVE THE DEVICE YOU GOT FROM ALPHYS LAST WEEK? THE ONE THAT CHANGES YOUR EYES?”

 

“Yeah.” Frisk could see where this was going. She had thought of it, too. “Humans with red eyes are basically unheard of. We can just use it to change your eye color and nobody will know who you really are!”

 

Chara looked back and forth from Frisk to Papyrus. “Uh… Device?”

 

Papyrus’s eye sockets sparkled as he enthusiastically took it upon himself to educate the new human. “WE MONSTERS NEED SOMETHING TO MAKE OURSELVES VALUABLE TO HUMANS. HUMANS CAN’T USE MAGIC WITH THEIR SOULS DIRECTLY, BUT THEY CAN POWER MAGICAL DEVICES WITH THEM, LIKE DIMENSIONAL BOXES!” Frisk realized he was simply repeating Asgore’s speech on the subject. “FRISK HAS BEEN WORKING WITH ALPHYS TO DEVELOP SOME SIMPLE THINGS WE COULD MAKE THAT HUMANS CAN’T MAKE BUT WOULD WANT, SO THAT WE CAN HAVE HUMAN MONEY TO SPEND ONCE THE MONEY EXCHANGED FOR OUR GOLD RUNS OUT!”

 

Frisk smiled. “We decided simple cosmetic devices would be the first thing we tried. We don’t want to give the humans anything that could be used as a weapon against monsters, after all. It’s upstairs. It can turn your eyes blue, brown, green, orange… Any color, even purple!” She giggled. “The change lasts until you use it again or you just will the magic to end, since you power it yourself. This thing is going to be in huge demand with cosplayers…” Frisk made a mental note to explain that concept to Chara later… “But it’s a long way until we get humans other than myself testing it, and then it’ll be years before it hits the market at large… Humans like to test everything half to death for safety, and nobody on the surface has ever really used magic at all before. Thankfully the literal gold the monsters used as currency down below was worth a fortune, we’re all basically set for at least a decade already. Speaking of which…”

 

Frisk pulled out her phone, dialed up her dimensional box, and pulled out a small object with a dramatic flourish worthy of Mettaton. “She finished it.”

 

The object Frisk brandished was a small, round, bright silver hair brush with bristles tipped in hot pink. Chara looked at her inquisitively while Papyrus’s sockets lit up with stars and Sans, still feigning sleep, gave possibly the least genuine smile she’d seen since getting back in the door.

 

“so now ya can go out without a constant guard.” he grumbled.

 

She didn’t bother trying to meet his eyes. They were still closed, anyway. “Well, yeah. Now I can go out in public and not be immediately recognized.”

 

Chara stood up from the ground slowly, dropping the game controller to the carpet as her red eyes narrowed into a piercing gaze directed at Frisk. “I didn’t realize you were hiding too, Frisky.”

 

“FRISK IS NOT HIDING! SHE JUST WANTS TO GO OUT IN PUBLIC WITHOUT CRAZY PEOPLE RECOGNIZING HER FROM THE TV!” Papyrus corrected enthusiastically. “DOES THIS MEAN WE CAN GO OUT TO THE PLACES TO BUY CLOTHES, FRISK?”

 

Frisk felt herself pale slightly and turned to look at Sans, who had been strangely silent and still hadn’t moved from his spot sprawled out on the couch. He spoke again without opening his eyes. “even with different hair and stuff, she’s still frisk. she’s less recognizable without a skeleton or two in tow at this point. frisk’s been seen with us a lot, pap.”

 

The stars in Papyrus’s eye sockets began to die out and Frisk began to get annoyed with the older brother. He’d take any excuse not to let Papyrus go to the mall, and she couldn’t figure out why. “Chara and I are going clothes shopping tomorrow afternoon. Surely one skeleton with two humans is a little less conspicuous if I don’t look like me?” She couldn’t believe she was practically pleading with him.

 

“check with asgore-” Sans began, only to be cut off by Chara.

 

“Honestly, Frisky, I’d rather it’s just you and me.” She turned to the taller brother. “No offense, Papyrus, but you and I just met and trying on clothes and modeling them for opinions and such… I’d rather it just be us girls.”

 

“BUT FRISK IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE A GUARD AND YOU’RE HIDING FROM BAD PEOPLE!” Papyrus protested. Frisk felt terrible, but she was secretly kind of relieved. If Papyrus was coming, Sans would find a way to insist on going and she’d have to deal with the constant animosity between Chara and the older brother throughout the entire trip.

 

Not exactly any kind of reasonable environment for trying on clothes.

 

“Guys, can this all wait? I’m standing in a doorway.” Frisk said flatly, trying to change the subject. “I’ll show you all what the brush can do after dinner, and I’ll show off the glasses for Chara, alright?” She began removing her jacket to hang it on the peg next to the door, “Have you started on the spaghetti yet, Papyrus?”

 

She watched his eyes light up with sparkles.

 

“NO! I WAS TOO DISTRACTED WITH MY BROTHER’S CLEAR INEPTITUDE AT BEING A DECENT HOST!” declared the skeleton. “SANS SHALL DELAY THE SPAGHETTI NO LONGER! I MUST BEGIN AT ONCE!” and he began to stomp off indignantly through the open archway into the kitchen, but Frisk rushed ahead of him and blocked his way.

 

“Papyrus, you remember what I said about humans and needing variety in a diet?” she said somewhat sternly.

 

“...YES?” the tall skeleton replied with a guilty pout, “BUT I THOUGHT THE OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW OFF MY COOKING PROWESS…”

 

“That’s all well and good, Papyrus, but if we’re having spaghetti tonight, then we’re not having it tomorrow as originally planned, okay?” Frisk’s hands rested sternly on her hips, now. “Once per week was the rule we agreed on.”

 

The now contrite skeleton began to protest. “BUT WE HAD ALL AGREED THAT THURSDAY EVENING WOULD FOREVER BE OUR SPECIAL SPAGHETTI NIGHT!”

 

He really, really wasn’t very good at pouting. Especially at Frisk.

 

“If you want to move spaghetti night to Wednesday for this week only, that’s fine, but we can’t have two spaghetti nights in one week, Papyrus, it’s not healthy for me and Chara.” Frisk stated sternly. “We’ll have the London broil I’d planned for tonight tomorrow.”

 

She stepped aside and allowed Papyrus entry into the cooking area, to the tune of a very soft “okay mom” from Sans, which earned him a stifled giggle.

 

Silence settled over the living room in which Chara loudly cleared her throat and awkwardly tried to catch Frisk’s eye to no success. Frisk had other things on her mind. Video game music continued in the background, and she took note that Chara had been taking one of her old-school RPGs for a test run. Ironically, she’d stopped right before the first save point. Frisk stifled another giggle.

 

She sidled over to Sans, perched lightly on the armrest by his head, and leaned over him, “Did you seriously tell her to hold the controller with her legs?” she asked quietly, her grin apparent in the tone of her voice.

 

The skeleton FINALLY, finally opened his eye sockets and rolled slightly to face Frisk. “nope. she refused to lemme show her how ta use it, that’s all.” he shifted his gaze to the tall young woman now glaring at him irritably. “not my fault she couldn’t figure it out.” He fixed his eye lights back on Frisk, who was now grinning down at him. “alph give ya the other thing we discussed?” He asked quietly, tone devoid of humor.

 

The tiny human’s smile faded, and she nodded. “Yep. She was pretty flustered about giving it to me, though. Said it was top secret, that I should give it straight to you for her, and that she couldn’t tell me what they were for. I didn’t have the heart to tell her you already had, and I figured you didn’t want her to know you told me, either.”

 

“i’m not surprised alph was a bit weirded out. it’s a strange configuration for one of those, even for me.” He turned his head slightly to face Chara, whose glare had faded into a contemplative stare. “you’ll find out soon enough after pap hits the sack, kiddo. got the thing ordered for you, after all.”

 

Chara opened her mouth to voice either an accusation or confusion, Frisk couldn’t tell, but she was robbed of the chance when Papyrus appeared in the archway leading into the kitchen.

 

“WHERE ARE THE KNIVES, SANS?”

 

The indicated skeleton sat up so suddenly that, unmindful of the human who had bent over him to keep their conversation quiet, he banged his skull on her chin.

 

Hard.

 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

It had to be the funniest thing Chara had seen all day. Sans yelped, shut his eye sockets, and was now clutching the top of his skull. Frisk squeaked in a shockingly girlish manner for the tomboy and promptly tumbled straight on top of him. She silently wished she had her old camcorder on hand at the moment, she’d like to have recorded the skeleton trying to deal with the pain in his skull whilst said skull had a human stomach on top of it.

 

The quirky video game music continued uninterrupted in the background.

 

Chara couldn’t help herself. She laughed out loud as Frisk quickly rolled off of Sans and onto the carpet, still clutching her jaw, whimpering. Sans sat up again, but very slowly this time. Papyrus gave Chara a quizzical look. “WHAT WERE THOSE TWO DOING WITH THEIR FACES SO CLOSE TOGETHER?”

 

Chara took a deep breath before responding, contemplating her response. Her first instinct was to tell him they’d been kissing, because that would have raised all sorts of inappropriate questions, but the very notion of Frisk and Sans as a couple made her feel ill. So she went with something deliberately calculated to force a wedge between the brothers, however childish.

 

“Frisk was telling Sans all about her super secret spaghetti recipe she doesn’t want you to know about.” she said to him with wide eyes, trying to look as innocent as possible. “If he knew about it he would steal it, she said, and then his spaghetti would be as good as hers!” she continued, batting her eyelashes in what she assumed was a cute manner, willing herself to believe the lie she had just told so that he might, also.

 

Frisk, still curled up on the floor, stifled a moan of protest. Ironically, this seemed to confirm Chara’s statement to Papyrus, who immediately grew annoyed.

 

“SERIOUSLY? AGAIN?” Chara held back a triumphant grin as Papyrus flew into his lecture mode. “BROTHER, YOU AND FRISK HAVE SO MANY SECRETS ABOUT SO MANY SILLY THINGS, I WISH YOU HAD TOLD ME. I WON’T STEAL ANY RECIPES, BUT I’D LOVE TO HAVE KNOWN FRISK HAD ONE.” The tall skeleton bent to help the tiny human up off the floor, but his face had transformed into a pout. Or, well, what Chara assumed passed for a pout on a skeleton monster. She’d known a couple back when she’d lived in the underground, even befriended one, but they were always hard to read. Frisk, on the other hand, was an open book.

 

“...My mum..” She muttered, taking Papyrus’s offered hand but not meeting anybody’s eyes.

 

Sans and Papyrus’s eye sockets widened and neither of them said anything. Chara looked back and forth between them. So what if the recipe had something to do with Frisk’s mother…?

 

Wait, they aren’t talking about Toriel. Frisk has to have a human mother, She realized silently. Come to think of it, isn’t Frisk a bit young to be living alone in a house clearly built for a family? A realization dawned on her as Sans and Papyrus silently locked eye sockets and Sans nodded at his brother. Something must have happened to her, and Frisk is avoiding any association… She DOES have a spaghetti recipe, though, and it has to do with her….

 

 Did her human mother hurt her??? 

 

“IN ANY CASE, SANS, I THOUGHT YOU HAD GOTTEN OVER YOUR INCOMPREHENSIBLE NEED TO ABDUCT ALL THE CUTLERY” Papyrus returned to berating his brother as if the secret of the spaghetti had not been let slip, a look of plain concern upon his otherwise scornful face. Chara willed herself to just observe and not ask about Frisk's family. Clearly the brothers had an unspoken agreement not to bring up Frisk’s parents for some reason.

 

She could get to the bottom of it later. For now…

 

“Geeze, Papyrus, that’s a weird habit to have.” Chara began conversationally as Frisk rubbed her face. She would likely have a bruise on her chin. “Your brother likes to randomly hide all the knives?” She knew exactly why he’d done it, but Papyrus couldn’t know that she knew, and she was curious what he thought the reason was.

 

“IT IS WEIRD, BUT IT IS A BIT PERSONAL, CHARA HUMAN. SANS CAN DISCUSS IT WITH YOU IF HE WOULD LIKE, BUT RIGHT NOW I SIMPLY WANT TO KNOW WHERE HE PUT THEM. I REALLY THOUGHT HE WAS OVER IT.” he continued grumbling loudly as Frisk let go of his hand and righted herself.