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Toriel offered to walk you back down the mountain, but you tell her that you’ll be okay. She and all the others have got a lot they need to worry about right now. Besides, a little mountain climbing is nothing compared to the adventures you’ve been having—you made it up just fine, so you’ll make it down just fine too.

She didn’t seem convinced, but she smiled and patted your head and told you to be good, and to call her or the others if you needed anything. You promised her that you would.

You’ve scraped your hands and knees a little bit from rocks and from falling, but you found the trail and the signs that pointed back easily enough. It takes a couple of hours, and you have to stop for a while to catch your breath and eat one of the hot dogs you got from Sans. But just as the sun sinks under the horizon, you catch sight of the bus sign. You’re finally back.

From the outside, the rain shelter looks so small—nowhere near as big and lonely as it felt the first day you sat there. You take a deep breath and try to avoid the sinking feeling of weight settling over your whole body. It’s only been a few days. You have food and everything. It’s going to be fine.

You sit down in the corner of your favorite bench and listen to birds chirp and leaves rustle outside. It’s not as comfortable as you remember. You lift your feet off the ground and fold your legs up to your chest, and wait.

 

 

Aside from the boredom, you think the worst part is the silence. There’s noise outside, of course, but it’s not quite the same as having people around—inside the mountain there were monsters everywhere, loud and exuberant and friendly. And there were your friends, too, since Papyrus and Undyne were anything but quiet, and Alphys was on the phone with you all the time.

But what’s hardest to get used to is the silence in your head. And that would be funny if it weren’t so sad, given how much time you spent wishing that Chara would just shut up back in the beginning.

You still have their locket tucked under your shirt, and it’s warm against your skin even as the air starts to get colder and colder.

Back when you headed for the barrier with everyone else—when you felt them slipping away—you tried to offer to take it back to the Ruins, to Asriel and their grave. But they said you didn’t need to, that it would make them happy for you to keep it. You remember closing your eyes, listening hard, already afraid of the day you might forget the sound of their voice.

Hey, don’t worry about it, they said, and Asriel is right, you’re going to do just fine, and Thanks for everything, okay? I think I’m finally ready to move on too.

You felt warm all over for a minute—they were hugging you, you think—and you saw, or thought you saw, the faint image of a kid about your own age in a striped shirt like yours. Red-faced, smiling, crying. Then the insides of your eyelids were black again, and you were private in your mind for the first time since you woke up on top of Chara’s grave.

You close your eyes again now, and try to fix them into your mind. You try to remember Asriel, too, and everyone else you’ve met. You try to feel brave—to feel determined.

Mostly you just feel lonely.

 

 

Coldness, damp, and soft pattering noises rouse you from a doze: It’s started to rain. The streetlight outside the bus stop is muted and blurry, bobbing like one of those deep-sea fish you’ve seen on Discovery Channel specials. Smells like petrichor. It makes your nose itch, and you turn over your shoulder to sneeze.

The sound of the rain is soothing, like it’s always been, but you’ve only been hit by a few stray droplets and you’re already shivering. The temperature must have dropped a lot, which is a bad sign—you could get sick like this.

You wonder why it feels so much colder here than it did in Snowdin. Then you try to stop wondering, rubbing your upper arms and curling into yourself more tightly.

Time to help yourself to another hot dog. They don’t taste very good cold.

It’s okay, though. This is okay. You just have to be patient, and they’ll come back. You don’t want to call wandering off a mistake—helping the monsters, meeting so many nice people, wasn’t and could never be a bad thing—but you won’t do it again. You’ll stay right here, and eventually, everything will be okay again.

Even you can go home.

You feel sort of uneasy thinking that, but you’re spared examining that feeling too closely when something in your back pocket starts to buzz. Startled, you jump a little—then get on your knees to lift your butt off the bench so you can extract your phone, when you remember that that’s where you put it.

The bright display hurts your eyes a little; you have to squint to make it out. You pull your sleeves up to cover your cold hands, balance the phone on your knees, and open her text.

I take back every nice thing I ever said about meteorology weather suuuuuuuuuuuucks

You imagine Undyne out in the rain and smile a little, opening the keypad so that you can answer her.

Is it at least better than hotland?

Your phone buzzes in your hands again only seconds after you hit send.

I’m giving it points for actually being wet but not by much lol? And then another, shortly after: Also don’t get fresh with me punk!!

You start to type in a smiley face in reply, anticipating Chara’s delight—they’re always nagging you to do this—then your own smile fades when you remember how alone you are. You backspace over the smiley and sort of stare at your blank reply form for a while.

Thankfully, your phone buzzes again, saving you both from your own moping and having to reply to Undyne. It’s Alphys this time.

i noticed undyne had you on and just wanted to say how glad i am, now we can tell toriel you’re still ok lol

Huh? Why whats wrong with toriel? you thumb in.

oh jeez you didn’t know? i’m sorry :( Alphys answers you. maybe you should check your missed calls?

You close your inbox and do as she suggests: You do indeed have missed calls. A lot of them. All of them are from Toriel.

Whoops, you type back to Alphys. Im ok though i just fell asleep.

you should prob call her when you can but i’ll pass it along lmao, Alphys sends you.

Thanks, you type. You consider hitting send right then and there, but instead you decide to add more: Hows everybody doing?

no pandemonium yet, says Alphys. a lot of us are still waiting out the weather but asgore and some of the furry harmless-looking folk are headed for the nearest town to see if we can start working out a place to stay?

Hope thats going ok, you tell her.

well he’s calling us every half hour or so just to keep everybody in the loop, Alphys goes on. so far the humans he’s talking to seem pretty nice?

You smile. Theres a lot of bad ones too so im glad to hear that.

maybe if push comes to shove you can put some of us up at your place lmao, Alphys says. don’t know what your folks are like but if they’re related to you they can’t be all that bad, right?

Your hands start to shake. It doesn’t have anything to do with the cold.

frisk?

hey frisk, are you ok?? did i say something wrong?

have you even gotten home yet? now i’m starting to worry too :(

You shake your head at yourself. No im ok, you text back. You have to backspace a lot; you keep hitting the wrong keys. Not home yet. Waiting for the bus

well um

let us know if there’s anything you need, ok?

You take a deep breath to steady your hands. Sure. Think my batterys running low im turning my phone off now.

oh ok, Alphys messages you back.

You tuck your phone back into your pocket and exhale. Your breath is white steam.

 

 

There were definitely some Times during your journey when you were really upset or scared, but on the whole it was actually Chara who was the crier, not you.

Maybe your subconscious is just trying to make up for their absence.

(Perhaps unsurprisingly, thinking about it like that just makes you feel worse.)

 

 

You get sick of your phone buzzing like an angry hornet and take it back out of your butt pocket, giving it your best jaundiced stare.

The first text is from Alphys:

WAIT A SECOND YOU CAN’T PULL THAT ON ME YOUR PHONE DOESN’T *RUN* ON BATTERIES FRISK

(Yeah, okay, maybe that was kind of a bad lie.)

frisk what’s going on you’re acting really weird

frisk frisk frisk i KNOW your phone is working fine please answer me

please ok??? you were there for me when i almost did something cowardly it’s the least i can do to return the favor!!

The texts go on like that. There’s a ton of them. You don’t even bother opening them, after a point—you just feel weird and guilty looking at them.

Some are from Undyne, too:

Frisk what the hell is going on??? Alphys is freaking out

Hey punk answer us! Stop being a weirdo

Seriously what’s the matter?? Did something happen?? Do I need to suplex some jerkface for you? I WILL DO IT

There are no messages from Toriel. Just a lot of calls that you haven’t answered.

This time you actually push the off button.

 

 

This was what you came all this way for, right? So that you could go home. And you have to wait and be patient to be allowed back home.

They said they’d be back soon.

And, okay, soon can sometimes mean a couple of days, but you’re used to that. It’s normal, it’s how it is.

So why are you so anxious? What’s wrong with you?

You put your hands over your ears and mush your face against your knees, as if that’s actually going to help you block out the thoughts.

 

 

The rain doesn’t let up. You sleep some, you think, but mostly it’s way too cold. You’re starting to get a headache. Might just be from the thoughts, but you haven’t eaten or drank anything in a while, so you make yourself eat another cold hot dog and hold your hands out into the cold rain so that you can drink from them.

(You’re going through your food a little fast. You used to be better at pacing yourself, but you got a little spoiled when you were in the underground. Everyone was always so ready to give you food for free, or sell it to you for cheap.)

That’s what scares you, honestly. Chara told you once that deep down they believed it preferable to die rather than actually return to the surface, and it’s only now that you’re back here yourself that you’ve started to understand. Everyone was so nice to you there. Papyrus and Sans, and Undyne and Alphys, and Toriel, and Asgore, and Asriel and Chara—for all that most of them have actually tried to kill you at least once apiece, you felt safe around them. You can’t remember the last time you felt like that—maybe you never have at all.

So why are you back here? Is it just, in the end, because you know you’re supposed to wait?

You think of Flowey taunting you, at the end of that battle, when Chara was too exhausted to keep fighting and you were scared nearly witless.

But nobody came.

You start to shake. You hug yourself, but the shivers don’t stop.

What if this time they don’t come back for you at all?

What if they do?

 

 

It’s starting to get light again.

You haven’t slept much. It’s too cold; the rain is getting worse, so it’s too noisy now too. Your stomach is tied in a knot, either from too many bad thoughts or too many cold hot dogs.

No one has come to find you.

Well, it’s an abandoned bus stop anyway. There have been a lot of disappearances on this mountain, so all the climbing trails were closed ages ago. So that’s only to be expected. Anyone who comes out this far will have to be looking for you.

You are not feeling very determined. To the contrary, you’re actually feeling pretty faint-hearted right now. Wearily, you turn your phone back on.

50 missed calls! your pop-up screen informs you cheerily. You groan.

Most of them are from Toriel, but about ten of them are from Undyne, and maybe five more are from Alphys. You start to feel bad again; you know how much she hates making phone calls. You bet it hurt her feelings when you never picked up. One of your missed calls is even from Asgore.

You’ve got a bunch of texts, too. You skip the ones from Undyne and Alphys. Papyrus has sent you a lot of messages. Trying to read them makes you smile—somehow he’s figured out a way to get his messages to display in his favorite font—but it also hurts your heart, because his texts are all cheerful announcements of his belief in you. Your vision blurs. You can’t read them. You have to stop and wipe your face.

The most recent text message you’ve received is from Sans. You hesitate for a little bit, and then open it.

It’s in comic sans, just like Papyrus’ texts were all in papyrus. You smile a little, take a breath, and actually concentrate on the words.

look, kid. i’m not gonna tell ya that you’ve gotta explain what’s going on. we’ve all got one or two secrets we don’t want to share, you know? but the same way you’ve always let us know you’ve got our backs when we need it… if you think you need help, you can ask us anytime. we WILL be there.

It’s really hard to breathe, for some reason.

There’s about a million reasons why Sans’ words shouldn’t be affecting you this way. This isn’t a big deal. It’s the usual for you. It’s not anything dire, like your friends’ problems. You shouldn’t be complaining when Asriel decided he was going to stay in the underground with Chara’s grave. You don’t have it as bad.

You don’t deserve to ask for help. And it’s not like help would come anyway, even if you screwed up your courage to beg somebody.

But there’s a rational part of you, too, that says if it were Chara saying this, or Alphys, or Sans, or Asgore, or Napstablook or anybody else, you’d argue with them and tell them that’s not true. Why is it only different when it’s you?

And you think back, again, to the fight with Flowey. When you called for help then—even when Flowey mocked you for it—somebody did come for you.

When, all those years ago, Chara had fallen and was hurt and they called for help—somebody came.

Once you realized that Asriel had just been calling for help this whole time—you and Chara went.

You grip your phone in both shaking hands. Your vision sways and doubles, your heart thuds in your ears, you nearly throw up. But you lift your thumb over the enter key, your cursor hovering over reply.

Then the thing rattles in your hands, and you yelp out loud and nearly drop it.

It’s Toriel.

She’s calling you.

She’s still calling you, even after everything.

Teeth chattering, you hit the accept call button. You lift the phone to your ear, hands trembling so badly your keys rattle.

“Frisk?”

Her voice is hoarse, and guilt swamps you. You didn’t think of how much talking she must have been doing, trying to call you so many times, and after she’d spent so much time alone and not talking to anybody at all.

“Are you there, my child? It is Toriel. Are you all right?”

You try to say that you’re fine, it’s okay, and barely stop yourself in time. Instead—and it kind of horrifies you—you start to cry in loud, ugly, hiccupping sobs.

“Frisk?!” She sounds so worried for you. It just makes you cry harder. Chara isn’t with you anymore, there’s no fear of having their thoughts pop out of your mouth, but you want to call her Mom all the same. “What has happened? Have you been harmed in any way? Answer me, my child.”

You struggle to wipe your eyes. “I’m…”

On the other end, Toriel exhales—a sigh in relief, maybe, at hearing you speak. “Yes? You can tell me anything, Frisk.”

“I need you to come get me,” you say, and sniffle loudly. “I need—I need help.”

Toriel is quiet for a moment, then: “I understand. Can you explain to us where you are?”

You wipe your eyes. “A bus stop… I… it’s n-near the bottom of the mountain I think, on the climbing path. There’s signs and a really big tree and…” You go on, listing as many landmarks as you can spot.

“All right,” says Toriel. “I will have someone there as quickly as possible. As soon as we know where you are, I will be on my way.”

“T—thank you,” you manage.

Another pause. “Thank you,” she says, “for trusting me.”

 

 

Sans arrives before you even finish responding to everybody’s texts, and he has the king with him.

“Glad you took my advice, kid,” Sans says as you stare at them blankly. “Gonna round up as many of the others as I can.”

And he saunters away again. You blink and he’s gone. This leaves you blinking at Asgore with tears still on your face, and him staring down at you apologetically, not seeming to mind that he’s getting rained on. He’s too big to fit through the rain shelter’s door—his horns are as high as the ceiling, and his shoulders are wider than the doorway—so when he kneels down and offers you a hand big enough to sit in comfortably, you cautiously pick your way outside.

“Once again,” he says in a gentle rumble, “I find myself without a cup of tea to offer you. Hopefully the next time I will be able to do so successfully.”

You don’t bother to take his hand; you just hug him, burying your face in his front and letting the rain batter your head and shoulders. There’s a sound of fabric shifting, and then you start hearing raindrops patter on something above you instead of feeling them. You don’t need to look to guess that Asgore is using his cape to shield you.

The king is very warm and solid—and either very patient or very used to being clung to by crying children. He cups his free hand over your shoulders and back, saying, “There, there. Everything is going to be all right.”

You think there’s a catch in his voice as he says it, and that makes you feel a lot better about your own sorry state.

Sans shows back up with Papyrus a few minutes later.

“Undyne and Alphys are staying behind to look after things,” says Sans, “but I’ll go get Tori now. Just a little longer, buddy.” And then he pulls his disappearing act again.

“Frisk!” Papyrus exclaims, his voice booming dramatically, and you step away from Asgore so that you can hug him too. He’s not very comfortable to hug, but you don’t mind. Asgore shifts his cape again to shelter the both of you from the rain, and you are glad of this, because Papyrus could fit inside the little bus stop but just the thought of going back in there makes your skin crawl.

When you can actually bring yourself to let Papyrus go, he kneels down to be on face level with you, taking your face between his long cold hands. For all of that, he touches you very gently. He’s always been careful with you, you think, since you first met; it squeezes a few more tears out of you, which makes him frown.

“Frisk! You look wan! And you’re leaking! Have you been eating and sleeping enough for a human? How often DO humans need to eat and sleep?” But before he can distract himself too badly, he removes one hand from your cheek to pose it winningly over his armored chest. “No matter! For I, the great Papyrus, will whip you up a plate of delicious spaghetti as soon as I have procured the materials necessary!!!”

Your stomach chooses precisely this moment to let out an enormous growl. From the corner of your eye you can see Asgore raising his eyebrows at you (he must already be aware of Papyrus’ reputation with cooking). Papyrus himself looks delighted.

“That actually doesn’t sound too bad,” you say, and try to grin.

Papyrus is so moved that he leaps to his feet. “Really?? Wowie! Then leave it to your super cool friend!”

“Maybe you could leave some of the cooking to Toriel or myself,” Asgore interrupts, not unkindly. You think he’s trying to stifle amusement. “But I’m glad to have your help looking after Frisk.”

Papyrus preens beneath this high praise.

You’re scrubbing your face and trying to relax when a branch snaps, and you hear Sans’ distant voice saying “Careful on the landing, it’s always hard when you’re not used to it”—and you whip your head back up so fast you get a crick in your neck. Wincing and rubbing at it, you squint through the trees towards where you think you heard them, and—

There.

She’s there.

You make—some sort of noise, halfway between a scream and a wail, and Toriel’s eyes go round, and then you’re running at her headlong before you’ve consciously decided to do it.

She holds out her arms—

You’re being swept up into the air—

And she’s here, it’s Toriel, it’s really Toriel, soft and warm and solid, encircling you in powerful arms. “It is alright,” she says to you. “I am here.”

You can hear steps in the leaves, and you turn your head to see your friends gathering around you: Sans and Papyrus close, Asgore keeping a reluctant-but-respectful distance. Toriel’s attention is only on you, though. You close your eyes and allow her to rock you like you’re very small again, and the lightening rain seeping into your clothes feels like being born.

“What has happened?” Toriel says.

Something inside you bursts, and the words are coming out from some deep and wounded place in between your ugly sobs:

“T-told me—stay here—said they’d—be right back—they always do this—I thought I had to wait—but they’re not, they’re not coming, I d-don’t think they care, I d-don’t think they ever cared, and I just d-didn’t know it b-because I d-didn’t know what being c-cared ab-bout was really like—”

Toriel’s grip on you tightens. You bury your face in the shoulder of her robe, but it’s not enough to muffle your voice.

“I d-don’t want to go back, I c-can’t go back, I d-don’t have anywhere to go b-back to, I’m s-sorry, c-can I s-stay with you p-p-please, I’m s-sorry, I’m s-s-so s-s-s-sorry—”

And that’s all you can say. It’s all you can do to even breathe. Toriel strokes your hair and your back patiently, you think waiting for you to stop crying so hard.

“Of course you may stay with me,” she says, and her voice is trembling with some emotion you can’t read. “I would be honored to be allowed to care for you, my child.”

You can feel yourself turning red. You still don’t trust yourself to speak, so you just tuck your face into her shoulder and hope that she can still understand how grateful you are.

“For the time being,” Toriel goes on, “let us at least return to the others and get out of this rain. If we reach proper shelter, we can watch the sun rise and discuss our next course of action then.”

You close your eyes and take a deep breath. All the tension, all the anxiety leaches out of you, dripping invisibly from your body like water.

You are finally safe.