Nobody understands why, as soon as you have a house to live in with Toriel (and sans, and Papyrus, because there aren’t a lot of houses to go around to monsters yet and both you and Toriel are happiest in a house filled with laughter, and you know Papyrus is too, and sans is happiest in a house filled with Papyrus and Toriel and you), you go back down into the Ruins with a flower pot and come up with a belligerent, soulless flower that you keep on a table in your bedroom. Everybody’s memories are hazy, but just strong enough that the last thing that anybody remembers is Flowey’s vines crushing them as he stole everybody’s souls to transform.
Nobody likes Flowey. You don’t really like Flowey, but then neither does he, and sometimes that’s enough to soften how much you dislike how he asks Toriel if snails have any interesting uses in curing sick or injured children
Or how he mocks Papyrus for his clothes and his pasta and his enthusiasm
Or asks Undyne how long she thinks it’ll be until the next war between humans and monsters, who’ll die first, how many will die
Or asks loudly, apparently not to Asgore but when he’s in earshot, whether it’s safe for him to be around you or working at Toriel’s school
Or asks Alphys for details of her Determination research and wonders aloud if a stronger monster like Undyne could handle Determination or if it would melt her away, scale by scale, “imagining” (remembering) in lurid detail
(Even Chara doesn’t remember that with relish anymore, not like they once did. You’ve both softened since you first fell, since you went from gaining LOVE to gaining love)
Or asks sans why he even bothers to get up in the morning “or afternoon, lazybones! Gosh, you sleep so much sometimes, a person’d think you didn’t want to get up at all!”
You don’t really know why you keep Flowey sometimes.
He can’t stop pushing buttons out of boredom, you know. He’s too used to being able to start over, of nothing he does being permanent--except you and Chara both know that the secret is that it is, that the change is scarred into you, not your victims.
Because you’ve killed everyone you love too, over and over again, resetting again and again until you and Chara reached a better accord and began to make friends again and again with strangers who couldn’t know how much more you already loved them every time, and even Chara (reluctantly, with many threats to take you over and kill everybody again) began to accept the possibility of a happy ending, of killing nobody and not being killed.
You can never not be a person who killed. But you can be a person who will not kill. You have been a person who has killed, but you have also been a person who has saved. You think you might even have saved Chara, once the voice that told you to kill the scary monsters and now the voice that grumbles and says rude things about everybody you talk to and loves sharing the smell and taste of Toriel’s pies and her warm hugs and listening to Napstablook’s music
After all those resets, all that time spent looking for a way to save everyone, even Chara, you can’t just leave Asriel behind.
You love a lot of people, and try to tell them every chance you get. Before you fell(werepushed) you had not loved and had not been loved, which was how you resonated so strongly with Chara, filled so easily with their own long-festered bitterness and hate, believed in them until the smile of a disintegrating skeleton who believed in you began to make you think of another way and then suddenly love and hugs and dates and anime and cooking and texting all entered your life and that matters, because monster souls are made of mercy, compassion and love and it radiates from them and warms you to your bones
You love Toriel and sans and Papyrus and tell them every day with hugs and kisses and smiles at snail facts and cape-tugs and bad puns. You love Undyne and Alphys and the way they love each other and how you can all cook badly and watch anime together (Alphys’ Mew Mew Kissy Cutie DVDs that she found in the trash have turned out to be very old indeed and she has three series reboots’ worth to catch up on). You love Mettaton and so does he, enough for both of you, but he smiles a little less showbiz and a little more real when you tell Napstablook that you love him and his music and lying on the floor with him. You love Asgore, which always surprises him, which is why you make sure to tell him a lot. You love all the dogs and all it takes is a pet on the head for them to know it. You love Grillby and Temmie and Muffet and Temmie and Shyren and Temmie and Woshua and Bob and Froggit and Snowdrake and even Jerry. You reach inside yourself and tell Chara that you love them and that they aren't alone and unloved and sometimes these days, slowly, hesitantly, they reach back
You want to love Flowey. It’s hard to, and sometimes you have to think very hard of Asriel crying on your shoulder to do it, but you tell Flowey that you love him every day because you want Flowey to believe it.
Sometimes, when Toriel leaves you a slice of pie in case you want a late-night snack, Flowey steals and eats it and you ignore Chara’s complaining and let him. Toriel says the most important ingredient is love.
Flowey manages to move around just fine, but he never tries to leave the house, which you’re okay with, but when you have schoolfriends you know you can’t bring them home because who knows what Flowey will say to them? Who knows if he’ll have gotten in a fight with sans or Papyrus again and the house will be a wreck?
Papyrus moves out after a year claiming that he is on a “quest” (a roadtrip, really, but Papyrus’ version of events is always much more fun). He confides that it’s to give sans and Toriel space now that they’re all smoochy (and they really are, just like Alphys and Undyne, it’s gross). You hope that Flowey is nothing to do with it, but you know that sans’ bad days are a little bit badder without his brother around, and you and Toriel hug him all the harder to make up for it.
Actually, Flowey is curiously quiet on the subject of sans missing his brother. It takes you a long time to notice, because he still mocks sans for his laziness and drinking ketchup out the bottle and whether he’ll ever be good enough for Toriel (he does know Mom can still barely hold a conversation with Dad, right? Chara scoffs in your head), he’s still rude and pushes buttons and pushes people away, but it’s a step, and you say “I love you” to Flowey with extra feeling whenever he goes awhile without being mean
He scoffs at you every time for your empty, meaningless words, but you say them anyway.
“I read a funny thing on the internet today,” Flowey says while you’re trying to do your homework one day. You don’t look up at him. You’re getting much more homework this year and you want to try and finish it before dinner. You could probably ask Toriel for help, but she’d help you finish the whole assignment and that counts as cheating because she’s a teacher and she could get in trouble. Chara makes suggestions, but the suggestion is usually “the answer is knives” and that’s never right, so you ignore them too and struggle on alone.
You saved all of the monsters. You turned back time, undid reality, unwound your own fear and mistrust and bitterness and that of the dead child living in your head. Surely you can remember all of the capital cities you were supposed to learn.
“There’s a word for this in German, did you know?” Flowey continues when you ignore him. “Schadenfreude. It means being happy because somebody else is miserable and you’re not them. That’s why you brought me up, isn’t it? I mean, your life’s pretty boring now. Must be nice to know that however dull your life gets, at least you’re not stuck as a soulless, emotionless flower, huh?”
You shake your head, because that isn’t it, but you’d really like to concentrate on your homework.
“Yeah, because we just love the way you won’t shut up about how hard your life is,” Chara shoots back. You know it’s probably not a good thing that the two fight all the time, but Flowey’s the only person aside from you that Chara will speak to, and you think it’s probably good for them. You wonder if that kind of fighting is normal for siblings, because your classmates talk about fighting with theirs all the time.
Besides, Flowey’s different when fighting with Chara, because Chara’s the only other person who knows who he is.
You asked Flowey once if he wanted you to tell everybody who he really was, and he threatened to tear the house down and kill everybody if you did. He makes this threat a lot anyway, but something about the way he said it this time, the little tremble he was trying to hide in his voice and petals, told you how much he really didn’t want Toriel or Asgore or anybody else to know who he used to be. Chara’s the same way, though Napstablook and Mettaton, also being ghosts, do know that he’s there and Mettaton in particular likes to shoot back at Chara’s snide running commentary. But you haven't told anybody else that he’s there, partly because he asked you not to, partly because you don’t want to admit the history between the two of you, no more than Flowey does.
You try to do good things now, but you’re not always sure if anything will be enough to undo what you’ve done, and in that way you’re no different from Chara or Flowey.
“I brought you back because I saved you once,” you tell Flowey after you’re done with your homework. “Maybe I can do it again.”
“I don’t need your pity,” Flowey says with a frown.
“It’s not pity, it’s compassion.”
“What’s the difference?”
You aren’t really sure. You’re sure there must be a difference and that it’s important, but you’re only ten (though you feel so much older, how much time did all those resets add up to?) and you don’t really know how to say such things.
“The difference is I love you,” you tell Flowey instead.
“That doesn’t even make any sense,” Flowey scoffs.
It takes a very long time for Toriel to start having civil conversations with Asgore again, longer still before she smiles at him, but she’s put up with him being there at Undyne and Alphys’ anime marathons when she comes to pick you up and she’s put up with him sometimes doing some gardening at her school and maybe time and peace and seeing him not killing children so often has had a calming effect.
Time heals all wounds, you hear people say sometimes, probably not meaning the way that turning back time turns dust into smiling skeletons and brave fish warriors and warm, soft moms. Sometimes moving forwards heals things too, slowly. It heals the way Alphys flinches any time the word “determination” is said and hides under her desk and hates herself for no reason at all some days. It heals the way Asgore flinches and hunches in on himself any time he sees you, or crosses the street to avoid walking too near to children because even he doesn’t trust or forgive himself. It heals how much Undyne mistrusts humans, it heals a little of how much Chara mistrusts everybody, and you slowly realize that maybe it is healing Flowey a little too.
The first time you notice is when you wake up in the middle of the night from a nightmare (the ones where you kill are worse than the ones where you are killed) and half your pie is still there, still warm and filling the room with the smell of butterscotch and cinnamon and sitting closer to you than it was when Toriel left it in the room.
You don’t say anything, but you realize that it’s been awhile since Flowey last threatened to kill you all. He passes the TV remote to sans sometimes, under the guise of throwing it at his head. He starts to tell you the answers to your homework when you’re really stuck, while telling you how stupid you are. And he leaves you half of your pie when you’re having nightmares.
It’s slow, over years, but any time you notice a change, it gives you hope.
“YOU GOT BIGGER AGAIN, HUMAN!” Papyrus cries every time he visits, with wilder and wilder stories of the far-off lands he’s been travelling. He puts a hand on your head and points down at his knees with the other. “TRULY INCREDIBLE! YOU MUST SHARE THIS MIGHTY POWER WITH SANS!”
From the vicinity of Papyrus’ knees, Chara glares balefully up at you. They’re always complaining about how tall you are now, how weird you act sometimes, especially around that cute girl in your History class, always hissing “why don’t you just smooch her already?” in your ear. You sometimes think you’re going to regret having a child in your head forever and sometimes wonder about asking Alphys to build them a robot body, like they did for Mettaton, now that they’re almost never homicidal. It would be nice to give them a real hug. You could pick them up in your arms now.
Papyrus stiffens a little when you bring Flowey to join everybody for dinner. He’s still happy and upbeat, of course, so proud of the new CHINESE SPAGHETTI DISHES! as he calls them that he’s learned to make, but you know he’s expecting something cruel to come from Flowey at any moment and he’s clearly confused that the empty monster is joining you all for dinner at all. But Flowey’s still changing, and while he’s still rude and steals everybody’s food, he seems to have decided that he won’t cross some lines. He never once insults the food, either, and him eating so much makes Papyrus declare that Flowey must love his food.
Flowey’s protestations make him sound like Tsunderplane, according to Chara.
You really mean it when you tell Flowey that you love him before you go to bed,and he doesn’t protest it.
Flowey’s quiet a lot these days. You ask if he’s going to miss Toriel and sans when you go to college, if he’d rather you left him behind, and he scoffs at both questions. He tells you that he’ll kill them and absorb their souls as soon as you’re gone, but he doesn’t really sound like he means it.
Papyrus makes you a special dinner the night before the day you’re due to move into your dorms, and Undyne and Alphys bring you an anime body pillow of your favourite Mew Mew Kissy Cutie character to hug if you get lonely, and Napstablook brings you some CDs, and Mettaton brings you a poster of himself “to fill you with determination, darling” and Asgore brings a new pot for Flowey. The room is shocked into silence when the flower quietly says thank you, which makes Flowey yell at all of them about how he’s going to kill you in your sleep as soon as you’re alone together until sans stares him down with his left eye glowing blue.
You hug everyone a lot, especially Toriel, even though she’s going to see you in the morning when she and sans take you to college. She even hugs Flowey, wrapping an arm around his flower pot and kissing a petal. “It will be very… quiet without you here,” she says to Flowey, really looking like she’ll actually miss him like she’ll miss you. Flowey is very quiet again, but you see him, just for a second, close his eyes and lean into her touch.
“Thought he said he tried and couldn’t feel anything for her,” Chara comments. Napstablook and Mettaton shift their odd looks from Flowey to them for a moment.
“we’re right here if ya ever need a warm pie or a hot dog,” sans says, patting you on the back. He can barely reach it, you’re so much taller than him now. “call us any time and i’ll be there in a new york second.” He winks and you clutch your phone in your pocket, reassured that between the life of monster batteries and sans’ shortcuts, you’ll never be alone.
After changing into your pyjamas, you pick up Flowey in his new pot and hug him. “I love you, Flowey,” you say like you do every night, and you hope he knows you mean it because you really do, because sometimes his comments are more funny than they are mean, because sometimes the people he trolls on the internet really deserve it, because he leaves you pie, because when he said that without a soul he couldn’t feel you’re pretty sure that means he couldn’t feel for others because you know he feels crushing fear and loneliness and sadness
“I love you too, Frisk,” he says, and he really sounds like he means it. He really does mean it, and suddenly you see something fluttering and white
sans appears in your room as soon as he hears the crash of the breaking flowerpot and you can hear Toriel running on the stairs but there’s no sign of Flowey, all your attention is on the furry white child sobbing into your shoulder, whispering “I love you, I’m sorry” over and over as you hold him in your arms (and he’s really in your arms now, last time you held him you were so small that you could barely get your arms around his neck but now you can envelop him fully in warmth and love)
And Toriel doesn’t understand what happened but she understands love and she holds you both so tightly, crying Asriel’s name, and explanations can come later because right now Asriel is in your arms and a small white soul is fluttering in his chest
Monster souls are made of mercy, and compassion, and love.