Frisk falls out of bed with a strangled yell.
“Sorry,” you whisper, guilt bitter in your mouth, “sorry.”
They don’t move for a while, laying face-down on the floor. You would almost think they’d fallen back asleep if you didn’t know better. But soon enough they’re pushing themself to their feet, rubbing at their eyes with tired hands, and you have to bite down on the impulse to carry yourself closer. It never does either of you any good.
“Not your fault, Chara,” Frisk whispers, but they’ve never been the best at lying.
“Still sorry,” you say, and you are, because between being an ambassador and a high schooler the one thing Frisk needs is sleep, and it’s so hard to rest through the night when you’re being plagued by nightmares. Your nightmares. Your memories. All the things you can’t stop yourself from thinking about when Frisk is asleep and there’s no one to talk to, no way to distract yourself. There’s only so much you can keep from them when you share a soul.
I know, they tell you, not bothering to speak out loud, and you know they do.
They send you the closest approximation of a hug you can ever get -- feelings; love, warmth, home -- and you can only smile back.
“Big day today?” Sans asks.
Frisk shrugs over their breakfast. “What a meaningful conversation,” you mutter, mostly to yourself, but it gets a barely-there smile out of them.
‘Presentations,’ they sign, ‘on the 1900s. But not really.’
You’d question how he’s managed to get a new edition of the Sunday comics newspaper when it’s not even Tuesday, but you’ve learned to just- not, when it comes to Sans. “I’d say good luck,” he says, “but I already know you’re gonna do great.”
‘Thanks,’ they sign, and ‘are you coming to the meeting today?’
“Maybe.” He shrugs. “Might be busy later.”
“You tell him he’s full of shit,” you suggest. Frisk ignores you.
‘OK. Don’t be out too late.’
“Sure thing, mom,” he says, and Frisk snorts.
“So,” you say, when Frisk is finally out of the house and you’re both walking to their school, “do you think he’s a drunk?”
Chara. They shoot you a warning glance, and you smile, innocently.
“What? He’s a sad angsty skeleton with a wealth of avoidance issues, he has to deal with it somehow. And he’s for sure not doing it at your meetings.”
They frown, looking down at the cement as they walk. You’d feel bad about bringing it up if you didn’t know they were worried about it already. Papyrus would know if he was hiding in his room, they speculate, and he wasn’t at New Grillby’s last time I checked. I don’t know where else he would go.
“It’s a mystery.” You wiggle your fingers ominously. “We will just never know.”
Probably, they concede, and the conversation ends there.
“We’ve got to do SOMETHING,” Undyne says, standing suddenly. Everyone looks up at her. “It’s a special occasion! It’d be a crime to just let it pass us by!”
“B-b-but, um...” Alphys wrings her hands. “I thought that celebrating would be something that most people w-would...be doing on their own already? I’d be surprised if they weren’t, y’know?”
Frisk knocks on the table to get everyone’s attention. ‘Making it official might be a good thing, though.’ There’s a thoughtful look on their face. ‘It would give monsters a mark on the human calendar. Plus, it would bring everyone together.’
“That is an excellent idea.” Toriel beams, looking between Undyne and Frisk. “I will be sure to bring it up at the next embassy meeting-- oh! Sans! I thought you would not make it this time.”
Sure enough, there’s a skeleton where there wasn’t one before, coming in from the completely opposite direction of the door. Why does he always do that. You’re almost disappointed when he sits down in his appointed chair; there goes your alcoholic!Sans theory. For now.
“Welp, I’m here.” He steeples his hands up by his, uh, jaw, giving everyone a grave look. “What’d I miss?”
“We’re making a holiday!” Papyrus claps his hands together. “To celebrate how great we are!”
“And,” Toriel adds gently, “the anniversary, of the breaking of the barrier.”
Sans considers this for a moment. “Sweet. A holiday means an excuse for more candy, right?”
“Only a little candy!” Papyrus wags a finger at his brother. “I don’t want you getting cavities!”
Can they even get cavities? You hang over the back of Frisk’s chair, musing only half to yourself. What would that even look like? Half of their face all black and rotting--
Ew, Frisk interrupts, but you must have gotten them curious, because they ask, ‘You guys get cavities? I thought you were made of magic.’
“They’re magic cavities,” Papyrus supplies, and the only reason you don’t bang your head against the chair is because your face would go right through it.
“If I may,” Asgore breaks in. Everyone goes quiet as they look to him. You don’t miss the nervous fidget in his fingers. “I was hoping to discuss something like this, actually. I thought it might be appropriate if we were to do something to commemorate those who...” He looks down at the table. “...Could not make it out.”
There’s only silence.
You ask him what he means, you start, but Frisk is already on it.
“Ah.” Asgore glances, nervously, to Toriel, but her expression is set carefully neutral. “What I mean is that the mark of the barrier breaking should be a time for celebration, yes, but also... It would be right, I think. To set aside time to remember the seven whose lives were cut short.”
It’s quiet for another long moment. You look to Toriel; her face is almost outright steely at this point, which...you’re not sure how you feel about. You had always thought that Asgore and Toriel’s relationship had been a little too perfect -- too perfect to be real -- and a part of you feels justified now, seeing them separated. Another part feels cheated.
“...Wait,” Undyne says, breaking the silence, “seven? But there were only six.”
“No,” Asgore says quietly, “seven,” and-- oh.
“Oh,” Toriel whispers.
“You sayin’ there’s one we don’t know about?” Sans asks, one eye closed.
“He means the- the first human,” Alphys explains hastily. “Um...Chara, right?”
Frisk’s gaze slides over to you. They bite their lip, and you can feel them thinking, weighing something in their mind, and you think you’d feel your heart stop if you had one.
“Don’t,” you interrupt, maybe more forcefully than you meant to, because Frisk jumps a little in their chair. The sudden movement draws everyone’s attention.
‘Sorry,’ they sign, and you get the feeling it’s for you just as much as everyone else. ‘I think it’d be good. Show them our respect.’
“...Then I’ll bring it up in the next meeting as well,” Toriel says after a few long moments, and everyone breathes an almost collective sigh of relief as the tension breaks. Sans, you notice, holds Frisk’s gaze for several more seconds before he looks away. Your own eyes ache in sympathy.
The meeting changes topic, but you don’t listen to much of the rest of it, choosing instead to take refuge in Frisk’s mind. You don’t do it as often as you used to; you like your privacy, and there’s only so much of that you can keep when you’re sharing a body along with a soul, but there’s something about it you need now.
Frisk doesn’t comment on it. They just hold their own hands under the table, occasionally nodding along when someone says something they find important.
It’s a useless gesture, but you appreciate it anyway.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to tell them?” Frisk is quiet, barely even whispering, but you can hear them. You always can. “They wouldn’t be mad.”
“I told you.” You watch them pick their way through the brush. “It’s better if they think I’m still dead.”
“You’re scared,” they point out. Your scoff comes out half-hearted.
“And you’re running from your problems.” You look pointedly down to where a bramble has caught on their sock, halting their progress. They make a face as they bend to remove it. “You can’t run from him forever.”
“Watch me,” they mutter, and you snort. Neither of you say anything for a minute. It’s a beautiful day outside. Birds singing, flowers blooming... A perfect day for a hike in the woods.
“I can’t deal with his questions right now,” they finally say. “He’ll want me to explain everything, and then he’ll get the wrong idea.”
“Probably.” You shrug. “But-- here, go around this way, there’s less rocks.” Frisk rolls their eyes a little, but follows your directions. After so long of guiding them through the Underground you guess it’s become habit by now. Whatever. “But as I was saying, he’s never going to get the right idea if you don’t shove it down his spine.”
“Pretty sure that would break him,” they counter, but they look thoughtful. “You know I’ll have to tell him about you. If I start, I can’t stop halfway.”
You make a face. “I know. But he can keep a secret. Besides, you seem to think he deserves the truth, or something.”
“Sans has been through a lot,” they whisper.
You hum. “More than you?”
They just shrug. Well. That’s as good an answer as any.
The both of you are quiet for a while more. Frisk continues their ascent up the mountain; you’re careful to guide them around any holes that you can see. You’re almost surprised when Frisk speaks up again, nearly half an hour later.
“Chara,” they say, gaze turned upwards toward the peak of Mt Ebott, “I miss him,” and you know they’re not talking about Sans.
“...There’s nothing we can do for him,” you say. “And even if there was, I don’t think he would appreciate it.”
“I know.” Their brow furrows. They look back down towards the earth. “I hate it.”
Their pace picks up, leaving you behind, and you hurry after them, grateful for once that your incorporeality leaves you physically tireless.
“You can’t keep beating yourself up over this,” you huff. “You did your best! You need to cut yourself some slack eventually; it’s been a year, almost!”
What does a year even mean anymore, they shoot back. They’re walking ahead of you, and you can tell from the way they almost trip that they’re not bothering to watch where they’re going. Their labored breathing is loud in the relative silence. I haven’t been able to SAVE since we got up here. What if something happens? What if I change my mind? I don’t want us to all end up back at the beginning again!
“We won’t,” you try, but they keep pushing forward, away from you. “Frisk--”
The soil shifts under their feet, loose and rocky, and from behind them you can see the way they throw out their arms for balance- too late.
You scream. They fall. And you tumble down with them.
“Frisk,” you call, Frisk, and the feeling of their consciousness blooming alongside yours makes you want to sob in relief. You think you do. Frisk, you’re okay, you’re- you’re hurt, I don’t know how bad--
Chara, they think, softly, and it’s enough to shut you up. They sound small. Distant. Where?
A ravine, you think back at them, long-unneeded breath gone shaky, in the mountain. You fell.
Oh. And they try to laugh, you think, but as soon as they do they make a pained noise in the back of their throat and stop. You can’t see how bad it is; their eyes are still closed, and you’re too afraid of projecting yourself outwards to asses the damage for yourself. Chara, they start. I’m sorry.
For what, you nearly snarl. You’re sick with-- something. Worry. Fear.
I think I’m dying.
No. But there’s a coldness in their limbs. A weight in your chest, one you’ve felt and shared more times than you care to count. No, you’re not, that’s not funny.
I always knew, they try weakly, this mountain would be the death of me, and you shriek into your shared headspace.
Stop it, stop it, stop it! Reset! Frisk, reset, you can’t stop here, you can’t--
I have to. And they’re resigned. I’m sorry, Chara. I can’t do this to everyone again. I can’t. I just wish you weren’t stuck with me--
SHUT UP. You’re screaming. Who CARES about anyone else, you can’t give up here, I fucking REFUSE-- DON’T YOU DARE DIE ON ME, FRISK--
I’m sorry, they say, with the finality of someone who’s saying it for the last time.
You shove at them, shove them back, and taking control of their body is like greeting a semi-truck with your face. Their face. Good thing you’ve always been good at blocking out pain.
You don’t waste effort trying to open your eyes -- there’s something wet and sticky in your hair and when you try to clench your hands into fists the semi-truck decides to introduce itself to an entire side of your body. You choke. Frisk is there, distantly, vying desperately for control. They really are weak if they can’t shake you off.
You reach into your pocket with the hand that feels sort of okay. Frisk’s phone is there. No energy wasted on relief; you’re running out of time. Right now, there’s only one number you need: the second one, on speed dial.
“‘Sup. You need something?”
“Sans,” you start, Frisk’s voice cracking. There’s something in your mouth. You think it’s a tooth.
“‘Course you do. You called me, right? Leave a message and I might get back to--”
Hang up. Try again.
Three failed calls later and the entire right side of your body is just white noise. Your head is ringing. Frisk is completely silent, now, and all you can do is repeat a mantra in your head: please pick up, please pick up, please pick up.
“Hey,” you get on the fourth time. You almost hang up again in surprise.
“Sans you smiley son of a bitch I need you,” you grit out, and wheeze when that’s too much for your battered chest at once.
Shuffling on the other end of the line. Startled silence. “Uh-- what?”
“Dying,” you choke out, and “help,” and the phone slips from your shaking fingers, falling- somewhere. Away. Too far. You don’t know. The world is spinning, which doesn’t makes sense when you’re on the ground and your eyes are closed, but next thing you know there’s a flash of blue behind your eyelids and the smell of ozone and a surprised “Jesus!” from somewhere up.
“Oh fuck, kid, what did you do,” you hear him say, and when hands make to lift you up, you fall backwards into darkness.
There’s a difference, between unconsciousness and the void. It’s subtle, sometimes, but it’s there, and by the time consciousness has its slippery fingers gripped around your head you’re filing those subtleties away for later. You hate what you’ve had to do, but god, does it feel good to rest.
And hey. It means you’re alive, right?
You’re in a bed. It’s easy enough to recognize when you spent the last few days of your life dying in one. There’s a soreness in your body you can feel without even having to move, but a careful flexing of your fingers under the covers turns out a lot less painful than you were expecting. Saved by monster magic. Again. It’s ironic, almost, or at least funny (it’s not), and you find yourself breathing out a laugh.
“Laughing already? But I haven’t even said anything yet.”
You crack open your eyes, and sure enough, there are several chairs arranged around your bed, all of them empty except for the one Sans is taking up at the opposite end of the room. Which seems...unlikely. You glance around the room. Frisk’s room.
“Where--?” you start, and are interrupted by a cough when you find your throat too dry.
Sans seems to understand anyway. “Where is everybody?” He shrugs. “Tori kicked everyone out a while ago. As for your mom, she’s at the store right now, getting stuff for what she couldn’t fix.” He looks at you, his gaze steady. “It was really touch and go for a while there, Frisk.”
You frown, looking down at the star-patterned blanket. Was it really that close? Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you’re still here; Frisk, too, for all they’re quiet at the back of your mind. There, though. The fall must have really wiped them out.
“You’re not Frisk, though,” he says casually, “are you.”
His gaze is still just as steady when you lift your head up to meet it. And the thing about Sans’ smile is it never changes, not really, but you can tell from the way his eyes are squinted just so that he knows that you know that he’s got it right.
“You’re probably wondering how I figured it out, aren’t you?” he asks when you don’t say anything. “There’s some stuff in my notes. Some things the kid said that didn’t make sense. Little things, you know? But, really...heh.” He chuckles a little. “The kid doesn’t talk, and they certainly don’t talk like that. So I gotta wonder. What gives?”
He just keeps looking at you for a minute, and it’s clear he’s waiting for an answer. You feel around in your mouth with your tongue. Yep. Definitely missing a tooth. Sorry, Frisk.
“...Well,” you try. “The soil gave out under Frisk’s feet earlier. Does that count?”
Sans stares at you for a second. Two. “You think that’s funny?” he asks, and it’s your turn to shrug.
“I’ve been told I have a sick sense of humor.”
He squints at you again. Really squints at you, like he’s actually seeing you for the first time, or he’s trying to solve a particularly complex mathematical equation, or he has a headache. “You might want to start explaining exactly who you are, before Tori comes home to find her kid replaced with a stranger.”
A stranger. You snort a laugh before you can stop yourself, and before you know it you’re forced to cover your mouth with bruised hands as you’re buried six feet deep in a laughing fit. It’s just- he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know exactly how much of a stranger you aren’t, and by the time you manage to pull yourself together there are more than a few beads of sweat on his face.
“Oh, boy,” you breathe. Your chest aches. It’s what you get. Ignoring a twinge in your shoulder, you tap your temple with a finger. “They are still here. Frisk. They haven’t gone anywhere. They’re just not ready to wake up yet.” You sit up a little. The better to talk to you, my dear. Sans watches silently. “The fall really did a number on them. It’s why I had to take over. They...” You pause a moment, wondering how to say it and deciding it doesn’t really matter anyway. “They were dying. They refused to reset.”
That, out of everything, seems to give Sans pause. “...Excuse me?”
“They refused to reset.” You draw your knees up to your chest, shrugging. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they can’t save anymore. Not since they left the Underground. The last one they had was just after the barrier broke.” You close your eyes. You don’t want to see his face. You don’t care. Frisk should really be the one explaining this. “So they either would have had to push everyone back a year, or boot us all back to the beginning, erasing everyone’s memories. They found that unacceptable,” you continue, “but I thought the same of their death, so Frisk can eat shit.”
Sans doesn’t say anything for a while. You don’t really feel like breaking the silence, so you content yourself with sitting there, your eyes closed, letting him think it all over.
After a while, he takes a deep breath and says, “Yikes.”
“Jesus,” he mutters, and then seems to rally himself. “Thanks for the rundown. But that still doesn’t tell me who you are, or how you’re here.”
“Frisk gave me their soul,” you say, and crack an eye open at the sound of Sans’ chair scraping across the floor.
He’s still sitting in it, but it’s certainly a couple inches to the left of where it was a moment ago. His grin is ceaseless. “This better have something to do with that sick humor of yours,” he starts, but you shake your head before he can finish.
“It’s the truth. They gave me their soul. We were bound together since the moment they fell, and through their journey through the Underground they began to think of me as a friend, I guess. Trust me. It don’t really understand it, either.” You rest your chin on your knees. “You think I accepted.”
He’s glaring at you now. “What, you telling me you didn’t?”
“I didn’t want it,” you explain, “and they wouldn’t take no for an answer, so we settled for a compromise.” You smile. “You know what they say. Sharing is caring.”
He just looks at you, and then he settles back in his chair, and neither of you say anything for a long while.
Frisk places the cowboy hat on top of the statue’s head, and carefully puts the empty gun in its holster.
You sure you want to do this now? you ask, but you already know the answer.
I want to finish this before everyone gets here, they say. They take the apron out of their inventory next. It’s just as stained as when they found it. I don’t want it to be a show. They deserve better. The handle of the pan goes into the slot made just for that purpose, carefully carved fingers wrapping around. Frisk moves on.
Things had fallen a little...behind, after the whole commotion with Frisk almost dying and everyone worrying about them, but when they’d ultimately proven to be fine (with much thanks to Frisk waking up before anyone else had returned, and Sans agreeing to keep quiet until they could explain everything), preparations for the year mark of the barrier breaking had started up full swing. There was to be a huge gathering at the base of Mt. Ebott, for humans and monsters alike. A sort of giant, magical block party. Or something.
But it wasn’t to be all fun and games, and you’re reminded of this as Frisk places the glasses on the statue’s face.
Asgore had gotten his wish. A memorial was erected for each of the fallen humans; one statue for each, not unlike the one he’d set up for Asriel, back at Waterfall. Frisk had taken it upon themself to include special modifications for each one. They hadn’t really told anyone else about it yet.
I still can’t believe you kept all these, you tell them, not for the first time.
They shrug as they pull the tutu over the statue’s head. They helped me, they respond, not for the first time. I wasn’t just going to leave them behind.
You almost tell them that it’s not as if they’d know the difference, but then you think of Asriel, and you don’t.
Neither of you say anything else as they pay their respects to the third child, and the second, and when Frisk stops in front of the last -- the first -- you’re almost confused, until you remember.
It’s vaguely shaped, just like the others, but it’s still, undeniably, you. You’re not sure how to feel about it.
Well, this is morbid, you say, and Frisk cracks a smile as they walk up to the statue. You’re not sure what you’re expecting when they reach under their sweater, but the last thing you expect is for them to pull out your locket.
Frisk, you start, but you don’t really know what else to say, so you stop.
The locket goes around the statue’s neck. You can almost feel it.
They take the dagger out of their inventory. You don’t know where they’re going to put it; the statue’s hands are completely swallowed up by the sleeves of its sweater.
They thrust it, blade-first, into the earth at the statue’s feet.
They step back several paces. You can see every statue from here, guarding the path up the mountain like ageless sentinels. They’d looked so cold, you thought when you first stepped up here with Frisk, but now, with their objects in their hands, they almost look alive.
Music plays, distantly, down the mountain. The festivities are starting.
“Let’s go back,” Frisk whispers. They smile at you in the twilight.
You make your way down together.