“Henry?” Something cold jabbed Henry in the cheek, causing him to groan and roll over. “Hen-ry! You gotta wake up, we’re going to be leaving soon.”
Waking up and getting going had always been hard for Henry, but it had never been quite as hard as this. The second his consciousness returned from the land of Nod, a dull ache began to radiate from every muscle in his body. He was sore all over. But, as he peeled his eyelid open to gaze at Charles’ stupid smile, Henry decided that sleep was overrated anyways, and forced himself to sit up. It was hard. Harder than sitting up had any right to be. But he still did it, and as he did he smiled reassuringly at his best friend.
“Di-” Henry’s voice came out soft and chocked, and his throat closed up in a painfully familiar way. As a child, being selectively mute was never much of an issue, as there was no one who cared to talk to Henry, or vice versa. But in the present, when he had Charles and Galeforce and Ellie, the way his vocal cords just stalled caused him no end of frustration.
But it couldn’t be help. With the fragments of Henry’s very soul held together only the HOPE Charles’ magic had created, he was not only physically weaker than before, but mentally as well. Anxieties and fears Henry hadn’t even been aware were still there suddenly came back in full force, and his skin was hypersensitive, irritated by even the tags of his clothing, which Galeforce had KINDLY cut out for him earlier in the day. It was annoying, to say the least, that Henry only had the strength to try helping someone lift a table before feeling like he was about to collapse.
Even though Henry himself was annoyed by the new limitations of his body, Charles only smiled PATIENTLY at him and grabbed the backpack sitting nearby. It took a few attempts, as the bag kept slipping through his hands, but he kept at it until he managed to open it. That ratty old bag had always been filled with a fair mix of useful and useless trinkets, so Henry wasn’t particularly surprised when Charles managed to find a pen and a notebook. Once Henry had the time, he really should clean that thing out. For now, though, Henry took the notebook with a grateful nod and began to write.
Thanks, Charles. Sorry, still can’t talk just yet. Did you guys finish taking down the camp then?
Charles reached over and slung his glowing green arm around Henry. “It’s fine, dude. And yeah, we got it done. Now Dad is just supervising the boarding of the monsters on their transport. Once they’re loaded up, we’ll get into his car and follow after them.”
Henry nodded shortly and jotted down his thoughts.
I feel kind of bad. Everyone else was working hard, and I just sat here and napped.
“Dude.” Charles gave him a firm, pointed look. “You had your soul literally torn apart and put back together. If that’s not a valid excuse to get out of work, then I don’t know what is.”
Fair enough. The green ghost stood, and Henry followed suit, slower and much less stable. His legs felt like jello, shaking as Henry pulled himself up, but he managed to stand with minimal help from his best friend. Which was good. The last thing Henry wanted was to inconvenience Charles any more than he already had. He felt guilty when he thought too long about how much Charles had gone through because of Henry. It was, at least, partially because of the new weakness of his soul that these feelings were so strong now, but Henry would still do his best to pull his weight and make sure Charles didn’t have to put up with too much trouble from him.
After all, they would be living together from now on.
“Th-This is incredible!” Alphys proclaimed. “I’ve never seen anything like it!”
Henry tried not to squirm too much. His body was hooked up to many, many scanning devices, each one with a different purpose. His soul, REFUSED by the power of Charles’ KINDNESS, hung out in the open, entirely exposed. He felt raw seeing it in this state, the red fastened together by white light. Only the presence of Charles’ hand on his shoulder, firm and steady, kept Henry calm enough to sit still. Frisk and Chara shared a chair nearby, watching in silence with their worry clear on their faces, and Ellie and Galeforce were both sat on a cot close by.
“According to these readouts, Henry, your soul is being held together by HOPE, like monster souls are!” She pushed her glasses back on her nose, grinning ear to ear. Her eyes were practically sparkling with scientific curiosity, and her speaking voice sped up to the point where Henry was having a bit of trouble keeping up. “I didn’t even know KINDNESS magic could do that! There’s nothing like this in any of the ancient records we have of humans performing magic. The fact that HOPE and love serve such important roles in human souls when they previously haven’t been seen as necessary components suggests so much about-!”
Galeforce, gracious enough to SPARE Henry the excited rant to come, interrupted the enthusiastic dinosaur. “Doctor, er, while this is fascinating, what does this mean for Henry?”
“Oh!” She seemed surprised, as if having forgotten about Henry. Her scales turned a vibrant red in her embarrassment before she got back on topic. “Right, sorry. Um, well, it’s hard to say for sure what effects this will have in the long run. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you if this is a permanent fix or not.”
Charles’ hand, resting on Henry’s shoulder, tightened. “So it could fall apart again…?”
“It appears stable for now.” The Doctor answered, referencing back to the test results. “But we don’t know if he’ll need constant maintenance, or if it will heal further than this if left alone…” She began to scratch her head, knitting her brows in worry. “Uhh, also… look, I don’t have a lot of human soul data to back this hypothesis up, but with monsters, a loss in HOPE causes their souls to become unstable and ultimately results in them Falling Down. Henry isn’t a monster, but HOPE is much more fragile than DETERMINATION. If he begins to lose it, that could unravel the seams of his soul and it would… fall apart again.”
“So, in short,” Chara piped up, arms crossed with a serious expression. “If Henry begins to feel super depressed or super anxious and lose HOPE, it could actually kill him?”
“More or less.” Alphys agreed. “Again, this is all speculation on my part.”
Oh, that was just splendid. So if Henry stressed himself out too much, he could literally die. Just from that. Thinking about it caused his pulse to spike and his muscles to tense and shake. All the work everyone put into bringing him back would be for nothing, because Henry couldn’t keep his cool. Luckily, Charles was right there, and when he noticed Henry’s change in demeanor he moved the hand on Henry’s shoulder to yank the ex-thief into a warm embrace. With KINDNESS at his back, soothing his nerves, Henry took a deep breath and focused on late nights with hot chocolate. His heart rate slowly dropped.
Even as Henry fell apart, Charles always seemed to know just what he needed.
Ellie raised her hand, and when Alphys nodded to her she asked, “So that means Henry still can’t use magic, right?”
“I wouldn’t try it.” Cautioned the Doctor. “I’m not going to say anything definitively until we have more information about his current state. That won’t be until I get a new lab up and running. So Henry will have to stay close by until then.”
That made Henry frown, and he stretched out his arm towards Ellie. His muscles ached, as though he were lifting something far more heavy than just his hand, but he managed to reach her tunic and tugged on it to get her attention. She made a questioning hum as she turned to Henry, and after a breath Henry raised his hands again. “TRANSLATE FOR ME?” Though his wrists ached as well, it was much easier for him to sign than talk.
“Huh?” She blinked stupidly, then comprehended what Henry was telling her. “Oh, yeah, I can do that! So, Henry says… ‘I can’t leave the city?’”
Alphys bit her lip. “Well, you shouldn’t be too far from Charles or Toriel or myself, in case you need emergency healing. And you should at least be close enough that we can check on your soul regularly, even if the long-term prognosis ends up being good.”
“I can send someone to ship over your belongings from Red Mesa, if you’d like.” Galeforce offered.
Ellie crossed her arms, shifting to better see Henry’s hands as she continued to translate for him. “‘Don’t worry about that. Between being captured by the Wall and going incognito after escaping, I haven’t paid rent in two months, so my landlord probably cleared out my apartment and sold anything of value.’” Henry made a face as he realized something. “’I’ll need to get all my papers replaced. That’ll be a headache. But I’m more concerned about money. I’m basically broke, I can’t afford squat.’” Ellie shifted to look at the others. “That was all Henry, by the way. Except I’m broke too. And probably have a bounty on my head after my screw up with Frisk.” She winced. “Yeah, I’m boned.”
“Speaking of your assassination attempt…” Galeforce stood up, towering over Ellie. “Now that things have calmed down, I’ll be attending meetings with the Toppats and the City Council. After I’ve handled all that, you and I will be meeting with Asgore to discuss your situation. Both your efforts against Gaster and your attempt to murder his kid.”
The look on Ellie’s face vaguely reminded Henry of a kicked puppy.
“As for you, Henry, don’t worry too much about your situation. I will arrange to have all your legal documents replaced, including your copy of your pardon. I’ll get it framed if you like.” His voice changed tones as he redirected his attention towards Henry, becoming gentler and more jovial. The softness of it pulled a smile from Henry, and he signed a quick thank you. “And I’ll dip into my savings to put you up until you can get on your feet here.”
“Oh! Dude, I just had a great idea!” Charles’ face lit up, and he flew over Henry’s head to look him in the eye. “We should get an apartment together! Here in Ebott!”
Henry blinked. He thought really hard for a moment, to allow Charles’ to magically sense how he was feeling, and when that didn’t work he almost began to sign at his friend, but stopped when he remembered the other didn’t know ASL. Fortunately, Frisk asked the questions that were on his mind. “You’re staying here in Ebott?”
“Well, yeah. Can’t exactly go back to active field work like this.” Charles rubbed the back of his head innocently. “Interacting with non-living things is still weird, I don’t think I can safely fly a helicopter like this. Besides, you’ll need me close by! In case you need healing!”
A weight Henry hadn’t been entirely aware of was lifted from his shoulders at Charles’ enthusiastic suggestion. He hadn’t wanted to voice it, but the thought of being separated from Charles, after everything, made Henry sick to his stomach. He felt his eyes begin to water, and immediately brought his hands up to hide it.
In response Charles once again pulled him into the warmest of embraces, and the ghost laughed heartily. “Aww, Henry. It’s okay. Of course I want to live with you. You’re my best friend, why wouldn’t I? Hey, we can even start up your P.I. business again! Stickmin and Calvin, Ace Detectives!” Charles outstretched his arm as he spoke, waving it as if to unveil an incredible surprise. His smile was wide, and his eyes practically sparkled with excitement.
Henry couldn’t help himself, and signed, “NICE THOUGHT, BUT YOU DON’T HAVE PATIENCE TO GET SPOON BEFORE EATING CEREAL, LET ALONE DETECTIVE WORK.”
In response, Galeforce and Ellie, both of whom understood sign language at least enough to get what he was saying, laughed out loud. Galeforce had a deep belly laugh, and Ellie snickered with her mouth hidden behind one of her hands. Charles gave them both a suspicious look. “What? What did he say? Come on! Tell me!” Nobody seemed inclined to answer Charles’ question, and he pouted. It was all in good fun, but Henry couldn’t help the guilt creeping into his chest, so he rested his head on Charles’ chest, looked up to him, and mouthed ‘sorry’. Charles rolled his eyes. “It’s fine, you’re fine. One day I’m gonna learn a second language and talk about you behind your back.”
Henry fluttered his eyelashes, making his best puppy dog eyes, and Charles sighed good-naturedly. Never once did his embrace loosen.
“Once we get to the hotel,” Charles spoke up, filling the silence, “We’ll have to use their internet to search for open apartments. I can sort of cook, but I’ve seen you try to cook and yeah, you’re not setting foot in our kitchen. I prefer my apartments raw, thank you very much.” Henry smirked and elbowed Charles hard in the side, which with his current strength basically did nothing. Charles chuckled. “I don’t need to bathe or use the restroom, so that part’s entirely your call. Do you want to get one bedroom, or two?”
Henry felt his mouth go dry. Charles was leaving that up to him? It was Henry’s call whether or not to share a room? A two-bedroom apartment would be much more expensive, but what if Charles didn’t like sharing a room with him? Henry wasn’t exactly a neat person, and while his selective mutism would make him a more quiet roommate than others, what if something he did annoyed Charles? Already he could imagine himself making annoying noises and terrorizing Charles, leaving things out one too many times, doing everything wrong and making Charles realize that he’d chosen the wrong friend, that Henry wasn’t worth his time, or his effort, or his magic, or-!
“Hey, hey.” Charles wrapped his arm around Henry’s shoulder, squeezing him reassuringly “I’m asking you because I don’t care if we share a room or not. I don’t need much sleep, only when I’m emotionally exhausted, and I’m kind of neurotic about how things need to be. Not a neat freak exactly, more like… organized chaos. And I know that’s not easy to live with. I just want things to be more comfortable for you. This won’t be like sleeping over. We’ll both have equal say in the place.”
Hearing that calmed Henry’s nerves some. It felt like every little worry he had was blowing up into a full blown paranoia; intrusive thoughts digging into his joyous excitement and mutating it into something anxious and unpleasant. Still Charles… sweet, adorable, considerate Charles… was already doing everything he could to alleviate the stress piling on his friend. While that still made Henry feel like a crummy friend – Charles shouldn’t have to put so much effort into making someone like Henry comfortable – it only made the appreciation he had for this man grow ever stronger.
Taking a quick break from walking, Henry quickly jotted down his answer.
I don’t think I mind either. But let’s just pick out a few places we like and do walk throughs, then we can decide on one from there.
“That’s a great idea!” Charles gently bumped his shoulder into Henry’s, a playful gesture that Henry was only barely able to hold his own against. “Henry Stickmin, the man with the plan!”
Charles’ joy was infections. Henry couldn’t help but smile as well, even as his mind raced and body ached.
“Ahem, excuse me, sir.” Both men turned around at the sound of the familiar, surprisingly stern voice. There stood Ellie Rose, her arms crossed, her eyes narrowed into a piercing glare. A brand new scarf, brilliant violet to match her eyes, billowed in the wind behind her. Silhouetted against the setting sun, Henry was not ashamed to admit she looked quite cool. Especially when compared to- no, no. That was a rabbit hole he REFUSED to fall down. She looked cool. That was all that needed to be said. While Henry did his best to control his intrusive thoughts, Ellie’s glare locked in on Charles. “This is a VIP of particular interest. Do you have clearance to relocate him?” She held out her hand, making a ‘gimme, gimme’ gesture. “I’ll need to see your papers, please.”
Charles, with an expression like a grumpy cat being forcibly moved, slapped her hand away. “Geez, power sure is quick to go to your head, huh?”
Power? That had Henry confused. He raised his hands and signed to Ellie. “I FEEL LIKE I MISSED SOMETHING.”
The stern expression on Ellie’s face melted away, leaving a playful smirk in its place. She stuck her hand into her back pocket and produced a crumpled piece of paper. “You could say that. Here, take a look at this.” She underhand tossed it to Henry, who wasn’t able to react quickly enough to catch it, but luckily Charles was right there, and he plucked the paper ball out of the air for Henry. He then unfurled it and held it out so Henry could see.
OFFICIAL PARDON: This document is to certify that Ellie Rose has been pardoned from all crimes prior to 2XYX. All data collected on this individual will be destroyed. Signed, President Smithsonian
Henry’s eyes widened, and then broke out a huge grin. “PARDONED? YOU’RE FREE?” Did the General just keep these on hand in case he needed a criminal in his debt?
“For crimes I’ve committed in this country, at least.” Ellie replied flippantly, walking over and plucking the piece of paper out of Charles’ hands. She wasn’t bothering to translate, but Charles could probably reasonably guess what was going on from what Ellie was saying. “General Galeforce said the actions I took to help in the FIGHT against Gaster, and everything I did to protect Charles and Frisk, were enough to redeem me in his eyes, and Asgore said that while I’d made a lot of monsters upset, a lot of them also tried to FIGHT Frisk at some point, including him, so it was kind of hypocritical of them to hold that against me, especially when I’ve done so much to help them out.”
Monsters, Henry decided, had an utterly incredible capacity for forgiveness. Personally he was relieved that they could help Ellie out of her predicament. From what Henry knew of her situation, she’d been backed into one hell of a dangerous corner. The would-be assassin wasn’t quite out of the woods yet, having gotten on the bad side of the Poshley family, but her position was far better than it was before.
“And that’s not all.” Announced the excited woman, beaming ear to ear. “They also offered me a job.”
Henry’s jaw fell. Though his wrists were beginning to ache from the constant writing and signing, he brought it up to ask, “SERIOUSLY?”
“Seriously.” Ellie answered. “King Asgore said he wanted a human bodyguard for the Ambassador. One who was well-versed in magic, knew how to fight hand-to-hand, was proficient in wielding firearms, and wouldn’t mind living in Monster Town. And I’m basically the only human who fits that category… that hasn’t almost died in the last twenty-four hours.”
Charles made a face at Ellie just for bringing that up. It suddenly occurred to Henry that he’d essentially put Charles through what Henry himself had gone through when his dear friend had died. They’d have to talk about that, at some point. For now, however, Henry decided the best thing to do was deflect with humour. He quickly brought his notebook back up and jotted down his words, then passed the object to Charles.
Probably for the best. Not sure how the general public would react to the Ambassador’s bodyguard beating up a possible assailant with a pool noodle.
The effect was instantaneous; the tension practically melted from Charles’ face as he snickered. “Do you even have one of those?”
Henry shrugged, then scribbled something else down on the notebook.
I honestly don’t know. I have the most random stuff stashed in there.
Charles laughed and clapped Henry on the back, which would have made him lose his balance if he hadn’t been clutching onto the ghost like a lifeline. This simple act nearly knocked the both of them over, though luckily Charles was able to catch and right them, smiling sheepishly as though Henry’s clumsiness was his fault somehow. Ellie took this as her cue to take a place at Henry’s other side, and they both supported Henry as they began to walk towards the car park.
They’d only just come to know each other, but Henry was proud of the change Ellie had made. Once an assassin out for his blood, she’d risked life and limb to protect both Charles, the most important person in Henry’s life, and Frisk, the monster’s best hope for a happy life. She was strong-willed and strong-hearted, carrying the PERSEVERANCE to survive and the DETERMINATION to keep going on, no matter what terrible circumstances she found herself in. The two of them were alike, in more ways than Henry could count. They’d both started from shady backgrounds, but through the graces of the people who’d SPARED them, the two had found their way back to the light. Their personal friendship had a long way to go, but after everything that happened, Henry had a good feeling about her. Even Charles was all warmed up to her after everything, the two calmly talking as they both helped along their dear friend.
The Henry Stickmin of two years ago would have scoffed at the idea of having friends to support him, believing in them and sharing his feelings. The Henry of two years ago was an absolute moron.
Buses lined every corner of the car park, and monsters chatted excitedly as they stood in lines waiting to board, with soldiers helping the monsters unable to move by themselves into more specialized transports. Frisk and their family were directing people into assigned seats from a spot in the center of the action, and the little human waved excitedly when they noticed Henry and his friends. With a smile, Henry waved back. They really were a good kid, even if they had some problems with meddling.
“Capt’n!” Charles called, waving his free arm excitedly. Not too far away from the buses was a smaller, deep gray car decorated with military stickers Henry couldn’t even begin to understand. It was surrounded by bags and boxes, and shortly after Charles shouted out General Galeforce pulled away from his loading to see who had called out to him.
In spite of everything they’d been through, it still surprised Henry that Galeforce smiled in obvious happiness as they approached. “There you three are! I was worried you’d run off into the woods for a minute there.” His eyes turned towards Henry, and the obvious warmth and concern made the younger man avert his eyes. General Galeforce had made it quite clear he was fond of Henry, too, and Henry had more or less confessed to the same, but having a parent figure was still… weird. Especially in his late twenty's. “How are you feeling, son?” Galeforce asked, brushing back Henry’s hair so it wasn’t falling in his face.
“BETTER.” Henry signed, his wrists still sore. “STILL TIRED. NOT SURE IF THE FATIGUE IS GONG TO BE CONSTANT.”
“Hmm…” Galeforce bit his lip. “We’ll have to ask Doctor Alphys for her opinion later. Ellie, you’re okay riding with us?”
The woman shot him finger guns. “For sure, dude.”
“I’m your boss. Don’t call me ‘dude’.” The General instructed flatly, looking less like an angry boss and more like a disapproving uncle. “We’re almost ready to move out. You two help me get everything loaded up.”
Henry stepped forward, going to pick up a box, only to be yanked backwards by the General grabbing him by the jacket.
“By ‘you two’,” He told Henry, putting on his best ‘stern dad’ voice. “I meant Ellie and Charles. You sit down and just try to relax. Lord knows you’ve been through enough these past few days.”
Henry tried not to let his discomfort at the idea of doing nothing show through, but judging from the softening of the General’s brow, he obviously FAILED. So instead of hiding it, Henry signed, “FEELS BAD LETTING YOU DO ALL THE WORK. I WANT TO DO SOMETHING.”
“Well, why don’t you think of what you want to do with your future after things settle down?” Galeforce suggested gently. He planted his hands on Henry’s shoulders and guided him to sit in the grass nearby. “I obviously can’t allow you to return to crime, but if you want to go to college or trade school or something, I’m more than happy to help you fund it.”
The thought of that made Henry freeze. He wasn’t sure what to make of the offer. It sounded like too much, but it also made his head spin from the sheer number of possibilities it opened up. What did he want to do? Thievery had been a core part of the Henry Stickmin experience since he was a young child, but now he couldn’t steal. And without his SAVE powers, he’d likely bungle it up anyways. The closest a job had gotten to making Henry feel fulfilled that didn’t involve crime was his P.I. work back in Red Mesa. Except…
“WISH I COULD GO BACK TO PRIVATE EYE WORK.” Henry signed to the General. “BUT AM HESITANT. THAT’S HOW THE WALL CAUGHT ME. DON’T WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN.”
“Ugh, the Wall.” Ellie’s face scrunched up like she’d just bitten into a sour grape. “I don’t blame you for being hesitant. That place SUCKS.”
“Are you still worried about the Wall?” Charles asked. The friendly concern he’d been wearing all evening gave way to a protective rage that Henry was kind of selfishly glad to see in his best friend. “Oh, don’t you give them a second thought. They’re never going to bother you again. Dad and I are going to be giving Warden Petrov a piece of our collective minds after the bull he’s pulled.” Charles glanced over to the General. “Right, sir?”
“Absolutely.” Galeforce confirmed with the same protective rage present in his tone. “That place is inhumane. With your and Ellie’s testimonies, we should have more than enough to launch an official investigation of that ‘Golden Boy’s’ prison. And if he resists…” With one hand outstretched, the General closed his eyes, focused, and a beam of light erupted from his hand, taking shape into a spear.
All three of the younger humans flinched backwards at the sight of it. “Holy-! Since when could you do that?!” Exclaimed Ellie, more surprised than fearful.
“Since the Void.” Galeforce answered, looking a little too pleased with himself. “The power of my concern for my soldiers and my family shapes my JUSTICE into a weapon I can use to protect myself and others. Since my natural JUSTICE is so high, I can basically shape it into any form I want. Undyne went crazy when I showed it off to her earlier. She told me, since we’re technically going to be partners now,” It was difficult to tell how Galeforce felt about that. He didn’t necessarily sound displeased, but he already looked tired, “that she’ll teach me how to FIGHT with weapon magic, and maybe someday I can manage a Named Weapon.”
“Named Weapon?” Charles questioned.
Oh, this, Henry knew about! He excitedly brought up his hands to sign. “READ ABOUT THAT IN MY BOOK. AUTHOR THEORIZED THAT WEAPONS OF LEGEND, LIKE E-X-C-A-L-B-E-R, WERE IN FACT SPECIAL MAGICAL WEAPONS SUMMONED BY WEAPON MAGES THAT HAD INCREDIBLE POWERS. CALLED NAMED WEAPONS BECAUSE THEY WERE BOUND TO CASTER’S SOUL, SO THE CASTER WOULD GIVE THEM A NAME.”
Thankfully, Ellie felt up to translating for Charles this time.
“Geez, we’ve just been standing here talking. Come on, kids, let’s get this loaded. We can talk while we do so, but if we keep standing around we’re going to be out here all night.” Galeforce commanded, sheathing his magic spear and picking up a box. Ellie and Charles grumbled good-naturedly, but quickly followed suit. As they loaded Henry thought, and he decided this was the perfect time to write a very necessary letter. Henry made himself comfortable in the grass and began putting his thoughts to paper, listening to the conversations occurring nearby.
“So your stuck here in Ebott too, sir?” Ellie asked, carrying an armload of bags.
With a heavier box in his arms, the General managed an affirmative nod. “The higher ups want someone ‘experienced’ here to keep an eye on the monster situation, and to ‘keep them informed’ and give my ‘recommendations of action based on how dangerous the monsters are.’” Henry could practically hear the eye roll in Galeforce’s voice. “Frickin’ idiots. If they took a week to get to know these creatures, they’d agree that they’re no threat to anyone. Still, it could be a while before we get any sort of federal ruling on the monsters.”
“When we were talking with Asgore, he seemed… cautiously optimistic.” Noted Ellie aloud.
“He’s trying to keep positive. From what I’ve heard, he’s used to trying to give people HOPE by any means possible. But it’s clear he doesn’t quite trust the human governments, and for very good reason.” The General sighed. “We can only hope that, once they’re living amongst people, the humans will warm up to monsters quickly enough to demand quicker action from the federal government. But it could be a long while before monsters are given equal rights.”
“Well, once Monster Town is built, we should focus on giving them a positive public image!” Charles, ever the optimist, chimed in while effortlessly carrying the largest box of the load. He pushed it into Galeforce’s trunk before Ellie and Galeforce loaded in their cargo. “Henry advertised his detective business basically entirely online! We can do the same thing for the monsters! Just show what their lives and culture are like, show them interacting with humans. People are a lot more open-minded than old folks give them credit for!” He paused briefly, then added. “No offense, sir.”
Henry couldn’t help but snort, and Ellie snickered aloud. No matter how much trauma or tragedy Charles endured, he always remained Charles. The more time went on, the more Henry appreciated that simple fact.
“You should talk to the Ambassador about that kind of stuff. Frisk’s going to need all the help they can get.” Ellie sighed. “And it’ll be my job to protect and help them. The child who keeps running off in high-stress situations and puts themselves right in the middle of the action. Dear god, what did I get myself into?”
“Something incredible!” Charles declared delightfully. Henry smiled at the sound his happiness.
“It’ll be a lot of work coming up to get them all situated. This, believe it or not, was the easy part.” Galeforce warned them.
Just the thought of it made Ellie cringe. “If that whole debacle with Gaster was the easy part, I’d hate to see what you consider hard, sir.”
“Believe me, Ellie, thirty minutes into a political debate and you’ll be wishing for another Void abomination.” Charles assured her. He sounded so confident.
Galeforce made a face at him. “No, son. That’s literally just you.”
The three of them continued their idle banter as they packed up the car, with Henry being the silent observer. This was a role he was used to. Even after he’d overcome his selective mutism as a child, Henry found himself sitting back and listening, OBSERVING, watching the surroundings as an outsider before even attempting to interact. Now, though, he didn’t feel like an outsider looking in. Not when Ellie kept glancing over to see if he needed anything, or with the General taking a quick break to make Henry down a bottle of water, or Charles attempting (and failing) to carry something on his nose just to make Henry laugh. No, this time Henry wasn’t the lonely kid staring longingly at parents playing with their children, or the miserable adult staking out an area for a potential robbery. He was given his space, but the door was open for him to be an active participant at any time.
It was nice.
Every single piece of luggage was crammed in after a few short minutes, and Ellie’s attempt to call shotgun was met with a firm reminder from the General that the front seat was occupied by an awkwardly shaped box that hadn’t fit in the trunk. She grumbled and sulked as she shoved herself into the back, and Charles ignored all this drama as he came to offer Henry his hand.
“Ready to get the hell out of here?” Charles asked. “Cause, uh, not that this place isn’t pretty, but I’m sick of this forest.”
Silently to himself, Henry agreed. But instead of taking the offered hand, Henry placed his just completed letter into it, watching Charles’ face contort in confusion as he unfolded the square of torn notebook paper. His eyes scanned over it, and Henry got the privilege of watching his expressions as they shifted the further he read.
Hey, Charles. So we’re going to be living together. That’s cool. I’m not sure how good a roommate I’ll be, but I’ll put in every effort to make this work. Before that though, there’s some stuff I want to get off my chest.
Firstly, I owe you an apology. Losing you was the worst thing that ever happened to me, and watching you die broke me in a way no physical pain ever had. And I put you through that. I’m so sorry. I never wanted you to suffer like I did, but I couldn’t lose you. You were the only person who ever cared about helping me. I never thought I’d have a friend, never thought it would be worth it, but you proved me wrong. You proved to me that there is good in the world. And though I know you don’t want to hear this, I’d do it again. I’m sorry, but I can’t let anything happen to you. I hope, if it comes to that, you can forgive me.
“Henry…” Charles whispered, his voice nearly stolen by the whispering evening winds. Those tearful green eyes fell upon Henry, and before he could blink Charles arms were around him again, holding his best friend close and tight. The green aura of KINDNESS that naturally radiated from Charles soothed Henry’s aches, if only for a moment. “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me. I just… I don’t want anything to happen to you, either. You’re my best friend.” Charles pulled away enough that Henry could see his smile, though the green soul still kept a tight grip on Henry. “I’ll make sure you never have to go through that again. For me, or anyone else. From now we do this together! That way, nobody gets hurt.”
Henry smiled weakly. Charles’ conviction was genuine, but trouble seemed to follow them both like a magnet. He couldn’t quite shake the fear that dozens and dozens of FAILED attempts to SAVE Charles had instilled in Henry, and without the DETERMINATION he used to have those fears gnawed at him. They clawed at Henry’s insides, whispering in his ears that he’d only bring this amazing person to ruin if he stuck by Charles’ side.
Still, Henry fought those feelings. ACTING on them would only hurt them both in the end. He gestured to the paper, encouraging his friend to keep reading. Charles nodded and continued with the letter.
Beyond that, Charles… I’m scared.
That simple statement caused Charles’ brow to furrow. He huddled slightly closer to Henry as he read on.
Every waking moment my mind is racing with every little thing that could go wrong. I think the shattering of my soul did more of a toll than just being really tired and not talking. I’ve always been uncomfortable around people, but earlier it felt like everyone around us was staring at me, and it made me feel sick. I keep having bad thoughts about myself, and things I’ve done, things that aren’t even my fault like, what what happened to the Toppats’ leader, and even about you.
Charles paused to give Henry a sad look.
Things like, that I didn’t deserve you, and one day you’ll realize that and leave me. Or that something would happen to you, and with my soul like it is I wouldn’t be able to SAVE you again. And the more I think about these things, the worse my thoughts get. I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad, or guilty, or anything like that. I just wanted to let you know where I am. I promise, I’ll try to get better.
“Dude.” Charles sounded melancholy as he finally spoke up. “Henry, I think you should see a professional about this. If you’re really so overwhelmed… heh, actually, therapy might be good for both of us.” His hand ran through his glowing green hair, a tiny smile forming. “I’ll talk to dad about that, so he can help us set something up. But Henry, you’re going to be okay. Even with your soul like this, I know you’re really strong. And I’ll be there to help you.” Then, to lighten the mood, Charles ruffled Henry’s hair.
Despite the tightening sensation in his chest, Henry managed a smile. This wouldn’t be the first time Charles had done the impossible, and even though a dark voice in the back of his head told him that once Charles got sick of him he’d drop Henry like a hot potato, the former thief shook it off. He trusted Charles with his soul, the soul he’d cared enough about to RESTORE. Every action Charles had taken since the two had met was proof enough that Henry could trust him.
And lastly, I just wanted to thank you. I know that some part of you may feel guilty about everything that’s happened, but Charles, you’ve brought so much good to my life. You’re the reason I gave Ellie another chance, because I wanted to do the same good for someone else that you did for me. I’ve never gotten along with people. My family sucked, my peers were either afraid of me or just awful, and there weren’t many people willing to get involved with a dumb, spoiled criminal brat. I thought I was okay with it. I thought love didn’t really exist. But now I know it’s real, because I love you. You’re the first person to see any good in a wicked person like me. And I want to stay with you, even after we’re both in a better place. For as long as you’ll have me.
Maybe even forever, if you want.
That’s all that’s on my mind right now. I’m so happy to be able to stay with you, Charles. I promise I’m going to do everything I can to be the best roommate, the best friend, the best family I can be for you.
I love you,
This time, Charles’ tears were accompanied by a warm, affectionate smile. “You really are just a big ol’ sap, aren’t you?” The ghost teased playfully, and Henry responded by nuzzling his head into the crook of Charles’ neck. “Don’t stress about being the perfect anything right now. We’re just going to take it one step at a time right now. But, where I am right now… I’d love to stay together after you’re healed. I love you too Hen.” Once again, Charles pulled Henry close and embraced him tightly with both arms.
Henry’s heart welled up. He’d heard of people who thought of home as a someone instead of a somewhere, but never thought he would be one of them. Here in Charles’ embrace, filled with more love than he’d ever felt in his life, Henry decided he would be perfectly happy if he died right there.
Well, no need to get morbid. Henry pulled back and gestured down towards the paper, making a movement with his hand that indicated flipping.
“Huh? There’s more?” Charles flipped the paper over and read.
PS: I haven’t mentioned it until now because I wanted to see if you’d remember on your own, but I don’t think you will, so… as a soul without a body, you still have the power to reach out to other souls and communicate with them that way. This entire time, you could have just been reading my mind. <3
Instantly Charles face dropped. He looked up at Henry with a scowl. “Henry, you suck.”
This only made Henry laugh, covering his mouth as heavy guffaws tried to escape. Charles tried to keep up the annoyed, disappointed expression, but couldn’t seem to help smiling at his laughing friend.
“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up… come on, let’s get in the car. It’s time to say goodbye to this place.”
Once again Charles’ hand was offered to him, and this time Henry readily accepted it and allowed Charles to pull him up. The ghost helped Henry to the car, and he was given the middle seat, Charles quickly climbing in beside him. This meant that Henry was sandwiched between his two friends, and while it was a little claustrophobic, he wasn’t too uncomfortable.
“About time,” Ellie quipped. “What were you two talking about?”
“Just had to have a quick discussion.” Charles responded. “Sorry about the delay, we’re ready now.”
Galeforce sighed. “It looks like almost all the buses are loaded… once they are, we’ll escort them into the city and settle everyone into their hotel rooms. After that’s done, I’ll order the four of us some pizza. How does that sound?”
“Pizza!” Ellie cheered. Henry triumphantly pumped his fist.
His soul tickled a little as Henry felt Charles reach out to him, then after a moment the ghost proclaimed, “Henry said he wants green peppers on his.”
“What? He didn’t say squat! How would you know that?” Ellie questioned, folding her arms. In response Charles tapped his lips with his finger. Ghostly bastard.
As his two friends bickered over toppings and Galeforce began to drive, Henry felt his eyelids grow heavy. He’d managed to SAVE his best friend, and happened to SAVE the rest of the world along the way. Nobody would mind if he took a nap on the way back. The once thief leaned over and nestled his head into the crook of Charles’ neck, causing the ghost to suddenly still. His yawn caused the entire car to quiet. Warmth at his side let him know that Ellie, too, had cuddled up to him, and Charles rested his head atop Henry’s, a constant reminder that he was still there.
For the first time in his life, Henry felt perfectly content.
Thank you, everyone, for reading my fanfiction. I hope you all enjoy this final epilogue.
I feel... strange. Happy, I think. I've been writing this for almost a year now, strange to think of it as over. We'll come back to revisit these characters eventually, but for now... that's it. Thank you to everybody's who's read, given kudos, left a comment... you've been great. And as for what's next? Well, there's no shortage of ideas, but... first I gotta clear out my tumblr inbox. Check me out there, if you like comics and art and stuff.
I went a little overboard on the title for this chapter, but I think it works pretty well. I love painting the sky. It's so pretty.
Some final thoughts:
My favourite Frisk chapter was probably 'Frisk Believes in You!' It had the perfect balance of action (a personal weakpoint of mind), drama, and suspense, with a lovely downer end and a great conflict to lead us into the final act. My favourite Henry chapter is probably 'BUT NOBODY CAME', for similar reasons, and also because it's the best written action set in the story, with Charles' awakening being an excellent jumping point to part two. My favourite Toppat chapter is 'You've Gained love', and not purely because of shipping trash. It was the part of the story where we see RHM at his breaking point, and I enjoyed writing that a lot.
Thank you, everyone. See you next time.
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