That was their name.
They had to get up.
They had to go to school. They had to clean the house, they had to make dinner, they had to wash dishes.
Cold, shaking feet were pushed out from under the bed covers, and the quilt was wrapped around them, a cloak of warmth and insulation. Starlight lit the room just enough to see by, and the child slowly made their way to the doorway. Fingers closed around the doorknob and twisted…
Something was wrong.
The hallway outside was still dark, the shadows twisting and warping the space. Was there supposed to be a hallway outside their door? Were they still asleep? Was this a dream?
Wait a minute.
It was still dark out. What time was it?
No, no. That was a distraction. They had to get to school.
Frisk walked out into the hallway, turning one way and then the other, trying to make out a landmark or reference in the dark, before their eyes settled on some shadow in the center of the hall. Slow, tentative steps brought them closer, and a shaking hand reached out.
A wooden railing.
And next to it, stairs.
Frisk managed to get to one step, then another, then another. Slowly but surely, they made their way down. On one step, the wood squealed as their weight was added. Their heart rocketed up into their throat and the child froze, waiting for some sign that the noise had been heard.
It took a few seconds, but then they heard it; the creaking of box springs and a mattress as somebody left their own bed.
The quilt was abandoned, and Frisk scrambled down the remaining steps, looking around. This wasn’t their house, this wasn’t their home, they were trespassing how did they get in they were in so much trouble why were they sleeping in some strange house and they had to get out they had to escape escape from what and get to school isn’t it too early for school so they could get back home and-
The front door was illuminated before them, and they turned around to see a light at the top of the stairs. A fireball in some massive hand, belonging to a massive figure, with the firelight reflected in that figure’s eyes.
“Frisk? What is wrong?”
The figure started to descend the stairs, pausing as it came to the discarded quilt. Frisk turned to the door, then back at the figure, who had let the fireball fade in order to pick up the quilt, but the glow of light could still be seen in its eyes.
“I need to go to school.”
“What?? Frisk, it is not even five in the morning-”
“I need to go t-t-to school,” Frisk repeated, their jaw getting away from them and shaking in the chilled air, now sapping the heat from Frisk’s body without the protective cover of the quilt to keep them warm. “I didn’t mean to break in, I just want-t-t to go home, I have t-to g-go to school, I have to g-go home-”
“Frisk, you ARE home.”
That couldn’t be right.
Their home was…
Their home was more…
Their home had cracks in the walls and the doors and piles of trash and it was LOUD it was ANGRY it wasn’t like THIS, it wasn’t home it wasn’t REAL it was a DREAM, they had to wake up, they had to wake up and go to school and-
And the massive figure was in front of them, and wrapped the quilt around them, shielding them from the cold. Two massive hands, hands covered in fur why are they covered in fur are they gloves settled on Frisk’s shoulders, with one reaching up to touch the child’s forehead with rough pads on the fingers.
“Frisk, you’re burning up. Come, let us get into the kitchen and get you more medicine.”
“...am I sick?”
The figure hesitated for a few seconds.
“Frisk, what do you remember of yesterday?”
The child stood still for a moment. Fragments of images and sounds were bubbling up to the surface if their mind, hazy and distorted as it was by the heat and the cold…
“...do I have the flu?”
“Yes, Frisk. We took you to the doctor’s office yesterday.”
A red car, and a red scarf flapping in the wind as a skeletal figure started putting the top up.
An annoyed face ringed by golden petals.
Bowls of soup, warm and delicious and made with love and magic.
“Your name is… you are Toriel. Caretaker of the Ruins.”
“Yes, my child. Though the Ruins have not needed a Caretaker for many months now.”
Soup, and a television show about painting, and pills, handfuls of pills they had to choke down, but always there was Toriel, talking to them and wrapping them up in blankets and her arms and her love and even when Frisk couldn’t keep the soup down, couldn’t keep the pills down, coughing and sneezing and shaking, she was still there.
“Frisk, are you hurt? Come, we still have to go to the kitchen and get your medicine.”
Frisk reached up and rubbed at their face with the back of one hand.
“I don’t want to wake up.”
“...you are already wake, my child.”
“No, no, I mean...” Frisk’s voice trailed off. This wasn’t their house. This wasn’t their home. This wasn’t the place that they needed to be. They had so many responsibilities and they could not risk oversleeping, in case they neglected them… but this dream house, it was clean, and whoever this giant fuzzy woman was, Toriel, she had shown them kindness and patience, even making them food, while they were sick and gross.
But that was because this was all a dream.
The real world didn’t work like that.
The real world didn’t have monsters.
The real world didn’t have magic.
The real world didn’t have people who sat by you when you were sick and made sure you were warm and told you stories to take your mind off of the pain and nausea and didn’t scream at you for making a mess when everything you ate the previous night came back up again-
“It’s alright, Frisk. I’m right here.”
Somehow, Frisk had been picked up without noticing; Toriel’s arms wrapped around them, supporting them. Frisk managed to bring one arm up to wipe away the tears and the snot that had started to come out of their face before it got onto Toriel’s nightgown and she got angry.
“I don’t want to wake up… I don’t want to wake up...”
“They are to take one of these every three hours, and two of these every five hours.”
A voice. A tense, almost angry one.
They must have woken up anyway.
“There is chicken soup in the fridge. It can be heated up in a saucepan with ease. What is THAT?”
Frisk froze; they had been trying to figure out where they were and get up, but maybe… yes. They weren’t supposed to be here. If anyone noticed them, they would be in trouble. The kind fuzzy lady was probably not going to be as nice after a second offense of trespassing.”
“It is simply the ingredients for ginger tea. I did some research. Apparently the chemicals in ginger can have a beneficial effect on humans, especially when it comes to alleviating nausea.”
“And what if the chemicals in the ginger interact with the chemicals in the medicine?”
“I took the liberty of printing out this list of potential interactions at the Librarby. Mr. Van Garrett was very helpful.”
“...none of Frisk’s medication is on the list. Very well. Clean up the kitchen when you are done.”
“What is it now?”
“...I know you are worried. I am worried too. But the human doctors are here to help us. We have their knowledge, we have their medicine. It will be okay.”
“…I will be home as soon as school is out. You can… help yourself to anything in the refrigerator.”
There was the muffled sound of footsteps, paired with slight vibrations, and Frisk heard and felt something or someone come closer. They instinctively tried to freeze up, but the shaking and the chills made that impossible.
“It is Toriel. I am heading to school, but I will be back as soon as I can, understand? Asgore is here, he will take care of you today.”
“...school. I have to. I need. To get ready for school.”
“No, no, Frisk. You are sick, so you are staying home today. Okay? I am going to work at school. I will be back.”
Frisk tried to put the words they were hearing together in an order that made sense, but their head throbbed and everything felt… wrong.
“...am I supposed to be here?”
“Yes. You will stay home and get better. When you are no longer sick, then you can come to school.”
“...homework. I have stuff I needed to do.”
“That can wait until you are better, Frisk. I will save all your assignments.” A fuzzy hand reached down and ran over their hair. “You will be okay, understand? You will be okay.”
Frisk heard the footsteps of what had to have been the fuzzy lady, Toriel, and then opening of the front door, followed by it shutting.
Inside them, they felt a sort of tension relax. It was almost like not recognizing something and then finally looking at it and seeing something familiar. But hand in hand with that feeling was a dull pain in the child’s chest that had nothing to do with coughing, sneezing, or throwing up.
Frisk stared at the bowl of soup. It felt warm in their hands, looked just like the bowls of soup they remembered from the day before, even smelled the same… but instead of making their mouth water, it made their stomach turn.
“Is everything alright, Frisk?”
Frisk shrugged and put the bowl of soup on the coffee table.
“Just looking at food makes me feel sick right now.”
“It’s nothing you did wrong. It’s just a part of being sick.” Frisk buried their arms in the quilt again and leaned against the back of the sofa. “Maybe I’ll be able to manage later.”
“...okay, Frisk. Is there anything you would like to watch on the television?”
“...I’m fine. I just need to warm up. I just need to close my eyes.”
“Okay then, Frisk. Just call for me, if you need me. I will be in the kitchen.”
There was the sound and the feeling of footsteps again, of someone or something walking away from them, and Frisk let their mind wander… only to immediately have it caught by memories of the previous night. Waking up, stumbling in the dark, getting downstairs, being discovered caught by Toriel, falling asleep again, waking up, stumbling around, being caught again, over and over-
“Frisk… can you hear me?”
“Mmmn. I just closed my eyes for a moment.”
There was a deep chuckle.
“Actually you have been asleep for about an hour. It is time for you to take some medicine.”
“I have made you some tea that may help.”
Slowly, Frisk managed to open one eye a fraction, and take stock of their surroundings. Still on the living room sofa. Asgore standing nearby, with a cup in his hands. More light from the windows. A small, delicate cup and saucer seemed even smaller in the king’s massive grip, and Frisk carefully reached out from underneath the quilt to accept it. The steam from the tea seemed to push back the soreness in their face and chest as they inhaled it, and their head cleared a little, if only for a few seconds.
Which was long enough to drain half the cup. The hot liquid evaporated into pure heat, heat that spread inside them, pushing back the cold and the chills, smothering the aches and pains, and most important of all, clearing out even more of the fog in the child’s mind. One hand reached out, grabbed the pills in Asgore’s massive palm, and gulped them down, washing them down with the rest of the tea… producing a strange sensation when the tea seemed to vanish halfway through the drinking process.
“...healing magic. Even if it can’t kill off the virus, it’s still the best thing since sliced bread.”
“Oh, they’re selling bread already sliced? What a world of wonders you have here on the surface.”
Frisk giggled at Asgore’s joke, and heard the king chuckle before opening their eyes and looking up at him.
“Thanks dad. This… it really helps. Uhm.” Frisk shook their head. “My brain’s going to get all foggy again in about ten seconds so I had to say that then.”
“I am glad that I could help.”
Frisk carefully put down the cup on the coffee table, and was reaching for the bowl of soup when their hands started to tremble and exhaustion came back with a vengeance.
“Oh. We’re d-doing this again.”
Frisk retracted their arms under the quilt and leaned over on the sofa, head resting on the pillow Toriel arranged near the armrest.
“Frisk sleeps now.”
“Okay. That is a good plan. You need your rest. I will wake you up when you need more medicine.”
The voices could be heard, but from far away and underwater, and the waves of heat and cold that crashed into them sapped Frisk’s ability to concentrate.
“What do you mean they can’t heal it?! What’s the point of humans having doctors if they don’t DO anything?!”
“Undyne, please. Frisk is trying to rest.”
“...sorry. But still. That’s all they can do, just wait it out?”
“Humans are… complicated. The medication helps with the symptoms, but the body itself has to fight off the contagion in this case. Apparently the flu is caused by something called a virus, which cannot easily be killed because it is not entirely alive in the first place. At least, that is what I remember from talking to Mr. Van Garrett.”
“The human at the Librarby. He helped me make sure there would be no danger to Frisk if I made them tea to help them feel better.”
“Oh. So… what’s this flu thing actually do?”
“It is… the symptoms are similar to Fever and Chills, and are explicitly called that, but can alternate unpredictably in various proportions. There are also various muscular pains, and the higher temperature seems to influence thought and memory; Toriel found Frisk on the bottom floor before the sun was even up, mumbling that they had to get ready for school.”
“...sounds like Fever, Chills, and Confusion. That’s a nasty combination.”
Frisk managed to pull away some of the blanket surrounding them, and saw through bleary eyes the massive horns of Asgore. Pushing themselves into a sitting position, they managed to see the rest of their father, as well as Undyne, talking by the front door… or at least, they had been talking until they heard the rustling of fabric.
“Oh, hello Frisk. I hope we did not wake you up.”
Frisk opened their mouth to reply, then instantly shut it and clapped a hand over it, scrambling to get out of the nest of quilts with their other, shaking hand.
Socks slid on the floor, but Frisk managed to remain upright and in control of their momentum as they turned the corner to the ground floor bathroom, then again to get out of the hallway and into the bathroom proper. In the living room, Asgore and Undyne were already upright, and could hear the sound of Frisk’s body rejecting everything it could, which was not much.
Eventually, there was the sound of a toilet flushing, and Frisk slowly made their way back into the living room, stepping cautiously to keep from sliding on the floor.
“...I think I lost my place. What were we talking about?”
Large white paws ran through brown hair, over and over again, surrounded by green light that seemed to seep into the child’s head below. Frisk’s breathing was somewhat raspy, but still regular.
Slowly and quietly, Toriel stood up and carried the empty glass of water and the bottles of pills out of the bedroom, down the staircase, and into the kitchen. The pills were placed in one of the cabinets, with the instructions that Dr. Therrick had provided taped to the inside of the door, while the glass was placed in the sink with some of the other dishes.
Toriel checked that the drain was plugged, pulled out some soap from another cabinet, then squirted some soap into the pile while turning on the hot water tap. Paws rested on the edge of the counter while she watched the sink slowly fill with hot water.
By the time that the sink was half full, the queen had her elbows resting on the edge, paws covering her face, as if she could hold back the tears building up behind her eyelids simply by holding her eyes shut. Behind closed eyes, images jumbled together; one human child, shaking and shivering, then another human child, bloody and blistering. And there were other faces, drifting in and out of focus, faces Toriel had only ever seen for a short time, children that had stumbled into the Ruins and then out again, on their way to a terrible end… and then, finally, his face. Laughing and happy, giving way to crying and broken as his best friend wasted away… and then, crumbling to dust before her very eyes.
Toriel’s stopped sobbing as she heard and felt the dishes in the sink shift, and she looked up with a start. One of the dishes was being pulled away from the pile, and then, as her head turned to track it, she saw the human hand, and the striped pajamas, and finally Frisk, standing on their tip-toes in order to grasp the kitchen tap and rotate it to the other side of the sink, to rinse off the dishes.
“Frisk? What are you doing up and about, you need rest-”
“No time. No time. Gotta catch up, gotta catch up, gotta catch up.” The child was mumbling, washing the dishes in a mechanical motion much slower than their normal speed at the sink. Their eyes were glazed over and it was not clear if they could even see the plate in their hands.
“Frisk, you must stop. You are ill and you need to recover. You must give your body a chance to heal.”
“Can’t wait. Gotta catch up.” The dish was carefully deposited in the drying rack after the soap suds had been rinsed off, and the child grabbed a bowl that had previously held chicken soup inside it. “Can’t get better if I’m not here. It’s contagious, it’s spreading. It’s spreading.”
Toriel blinked, then turned towards the dishes still piled in the sink, only to turn back to Frisk with a speed that would have given a human neck whiplash as they almost stumbled and fell backward.
“No. NO.” Frisk almost growled after catching themselves. “Not yet. Not yet. I can still catch up.”
“...Frisk.” Toriel spoke, as her own paws reached for dishes to wash, “What do you mean, you have to catch up?”
“Got sick… Saturday morning. Friday night. Doctor visit. Got medicine. Spent. Most of Saturday. On the sofa. Most of Sunday. In bed. Missed Monday. Toriel went to school without me. Without my homework on Friday. Two days behind on class. Four days behind on chores. Toriel has to do all the cooking, all the cleaning. All the dishes. She’s gonna get mad.”
Toriel let a glass slip out of her grip, which sunk beneath the water with a glooping sound before meeting the bottom of the sink with a dull thud.
“...Frisk. I promise, I would never-”
“Dad. Ever since I got sick. I have not been. Meeting my obligations. For sharing a home. At the very least. I have to get these dishes done. Before mom gets home from school.”
Toriel stared at Frisk, still mechanically trying to wash dishes, and slowly reached out a still wet paw to touch the child’s forehead, which they immediately pulled away. Frisk was burning up.
“Frisk, what makes you think that?”
The child slowed to a stop and swallowed.
“Last night. I think it was. My head is all messed up. But I came downstairs to get a drink because I was so hot. And I saw mom crying. Because of all the dirty dishes still left over. If I...” Frisk shook their head. “I need to catch up. I don’t want her to be disappointed in me.”
“That is not what is happening, Frisk.” Toriel reached out and grabbed Frisk’s shoulders, turning the child so they faced her and forcing the glass in Frisk’s hands to be dropped back in the soapy water. “I would never… Toriel would never give you up just because you fell behind on your chores. And certainly not if it was because you were sick.”
Frisk stared at Toriel, stared through Toriel, seeing her but not seeing her.
“I can’t take that chance. She took me in when she didn’t have to and if she ever thinks that she made a mistake then-”
Toriel rested one paw on Frisk’s head, green light shining from it, almost unbearably bright.
“Toriel did not make a mistake, taking you in. She loves you. So much… listen. You go back to bed and rest. I will finish the dishes, before Toriel comes home. It will be our little secret, okay?”
“...okay. Thanks, dad.”
Toriel pulled Frisk closer, and wrapped their arms around the child, and felt the child respond in kind.
“You are very welcome.”
Frisk watched blankly as Toriel pointed out the pills, instructions, and food related details to a short skeleton in a blue jacket. They reached out an arm to hug Toriel as she embraced them, but otherwise did not respond as the boss monster walked out the door and Sans walked over to one of the chairs and sat down.
“so… how’s it going, kiddo?”
Frisk’s eyes peered over the quilt surrounding them, staring at the coffee table. When they spoke, their words were muffled by the quilt, but not so much that Sans couldn’t make out what they were saying.
“Think my fever broke in the night. Had a laundry list of nightmares though. Trying to clean the house before mom got home from school. Also I had to run away from Papyrus because he was trying to make me spaghetti.”
“hey, that’s harsh. he’s been able to make consistently edible stuff since the new year started.”
“I mean, he was trying to make me into spaghetti. Squeeze out all of my blood for sauce and then toss my corpse into a pasta cutter machine.”
“Yeah.” Frisk shook their head. “My brain is full of crazy and stupid when I get sick.”
“good to know. Hope you’re feeling better now at least.”
“Better is relative.” Frisk squeezed their eyes shut and opened them again. “Soon as my stomach settles down, I need to catch up on my school work. I have a book report due… is today Tuesday?”
“Then it’s due tomorrow. Gotta get started on my backlog of work before it gets away from me.”
“you sure your head’s cleared up enough to think in a straight line?”
“Like I said. Fever’s broken. I’ll be fine.” Frisk reached one arm out from underneath the quilt, and grabbed a book resting on the coffee table, and Sans shrugged.
“okay then. just let me know if you need anything.”