The pitter patter of rain against the ground just outside filled Frisk with DETERMINATION.
Mom made them stop for just a moment to dress Frisk in a rubber coat and boots before taking their hand and leading them out into the drizzle. It wasn’t too bad just yet, but this storm had been brewing for quite some time, so Frisk imagined it would get worse later. Asgore… Dad held their other hand, gazing down at them with a smile that didn’t quite meet his eyes. He carried Flowey with them, the only one who wasn’t putting on a mask of any sort. He looked just as haggard as Frisk themselves felt.
Behind them the various humans and monsters that had joined in the FIGHT against Gaster followed sullenly. Undyne, Papyrus, and Sans were exchanging stories with Rupert and Dave, trying to piece together the entire battle for each other. That made sense; Papyrus, having been holed up in the Ruins the entire time, knew basically nothing about the events that unfolded, and Undyne had basically missed half the battle. Rupert and Dave, meanwhile, had a skewed perception of the first half of the battle. Their tones were hushed as they recalled the close calls they’d all overcome.
The Top Hats trailed behind them, sort of huddled together in pairs. The Right Hand Man and his husband, Reginald the Twin Hat man, used each other as crutches as they scuttled slowly behind the monsters. Despite his slow speed, the Right Hand Man seemed content – after all, he had his friend back, his husband was healing, and the threat that had almost taken them from him was gone forever. On the other hand, Sven and Burt (with Councilor Mitchell in tow) seemed to be careful to not make contact, despite walking side by side. There was thick tension between them, and Frisk didn’t understand why Burt didn’t just tell Sven how much he meant and how much he’d missed him. It felt like such a simple problem to fix. But with the way Sven kept touching his new eye patch, or how Burt would casually graze the scar on his chin when Sven wasn’t looking, there was a lot unsaid between the two. Frisk’s heart went out to them.
But not as much as it went out to Charles and Henry.
They trailed along at the tail of the party, Charles clinging miserably to Galeforce while Ellie cradled Henry’s too still body. He wasn’t dead – Frisk could see his chest moving if they looked closely – but his entire body was slack, and despite numerous attempts at prodding from everyone (barring the Top Hats, for obvious reasons) Henry’s eyes remained shut. Frisk still remembered the way they felt, gazing upon those fading, broken shards of Henry’s soul. It invoked a deep ache within them, one that made Frisk’s stomach turn and their breath quicken. Their very soul felt broken when they stared upon the ruined pieces of Henry Stickmin.
That’s empathy, Frisk. You have a large amount of KINDNESS, and it compels you to feel other people’s pain. And seeing a person’s soul is like seeing to the core of their very being. Their truest state. It’s only natural seeing a broken soul makes people upset.
Well, at least Frisk had Chara. For better or worse, they’d always have Chara.
Their ghostly sibling was currently inhabiting the same body as them once again; this time, it was to the benefit of them both. Their experience in the Void, in Gaster’s clutches, had left both children feeling small and vulnerable. Chara had craved physical contact with their family; something that was only possible in Frisk’s body, and while Frisk was slowly growing more comfortable being alone in their head, it felt nice to share their thoughts with someone who truly understood what they were going through. The arrangement was temporary. After they got back to camp and had calmed down some, the two had agreed to separate for good. The thought of that made Frisk feel surprisingly anxious but…
But it’s for the best.
Yeah. Frisk knew that. But still… they felt bad. Chara had only been a part of them for a few days, but already they’d become so ingrained into Frisk’s life. The options they’d pointed out to Frisk, the way they would give Frisk information about things they didn’t understand…
...the way I pressured you into certain choices, the way I tried to push some of my worst traits on to you…
That… was true. The visions Gaster had conjured of their friends, butchered in cold blood and taunting Frisk over their guilt, still haunted the darkness behind their eyelids. The child had a feeling they’d be having that nightmare for a long, long time. There was no erasing what Chara did, what Frisk had let happen while sitting idly by. Even if no one else truly remembered, the consequences of their actions lingered in Frisk’s mind. There was no escaping it.
...and now there was another pair of eyes that would haunt Frisk’s conscience.
Frisk, Henry’s fate wasn’t your fault. If anything, it was my fault for allowing Gaster to pull me into his realm. I was… weak. Careless.
Something about Chara’s voice gave Frisk pause. They sounded guilty.
I’m so sorry. You were right; all I wanted was to protect you, like I’d FAILED to protect Asriel, and I only ended up hurting you worse than the monsters ever could. Even after you told me, I didn’t understand how badly this was effecting you until Gaster trapped you in that nightmare. I’m sorry Frisk. I’m…
A weight fell off of Frisk’s shoulders, one they hadn’t realized had been there at all. The wound wasn’t healed quite yet, but hearing Chara apologize – hearing them understand that they’d done wrong – was enough to stir something familiar in Frisk’s soul. It felt like forgiveness.
“My children?” Toriel asked, squeezing their little hand. It appeared they’d been quiet for too long; she was worried again. “Are you both alright?”
Frisk and Chara squeezed their mother’s hand together, smiling up at her as sincerely as they could. For once, it felt like the twin souls were in perfect sync.
Doctor Alphys greeted them a short distance from her tent, panic written plain as day on her face. “Oh my god! You’re all okay, thank goodness!” She leapt forward into Undyne’s embrace, and though certainly exhausted from the battle and the long march, Undyne caught her with ease. The reveled in each other’s company for a brief moment before she turned began to look around, “Did any of you see Reginald? I lost track of him, I thought he was right there, and then he wasn’t and I only looked away for a second-!”
“Relax, hon.” Undyne pointed out the Top Hats walking back towards their own tent, “He followed the others up the mountain, but they looked after him. He’s just fine.”
“Good.” The Doctor looked relieved. “I’ll have to apologize to Mister Right Hand Man later…”
Well, she’d have plenty of time to do that, as the General and the Top Hat Chief had privately agreed to a one-on-one meeting later, once things had calmed down, so they would be sticking around for at least another night. Mister Galeforce wasn’t comfortable just leaving them to their own devices, especially with Sven in the camp, but it was clear to Frisk and the rest of the monsters that none of them were in any condition to make an escape attempt. Burt glanced over briefly, and Frisk gave him a cheeky smile and a confident thumbs up. He just turned red and increased his pace.
Oh yeah, he and Sven were totally gonna smooch later.
Nah, ten G says Sven chickens out like the wuss we know he is.
Frisk inwardly snickered, and was about to rebut Chara’s statement when they caught sight of Ellie stepping forward, Henry’s body cradled in her arms, and their smile died instantly. Alphys, too caught up in her panic about Reginald, hadn’t noticed him until then, and when she did her eyes went wide with horror. Then she just looked sad. “Oh no… Henry, what have you done?”
“He… he didn’t have a CHOICE…” Charles’ soft voice whispered anxiously. His green hand was entangled with Henry’s own, holding it so tightly Frisk could swear Henry’s skin was turning red. “You have to help him, please!” His voice nearly broke as he breathed out one final, desperate, “Please…”
Horror and panic flashed across Alphys’ face, but after a moment a more professional calm overtook her and she reached to stretch the entrance to her tent wide for them. “Bring him inside, quickly.”
Charles and Ellie immediately escorted Henry to one of the open cots while Rupert, who currently had all of the lost souls, took care of reintegrating them with their bodies. While they took care of that, Undyne and Alphys grabbed a variety of machines that Frisk recognized as soul and magic monitors from all over the tent. Frisk took a seat on a nearby cot, watching everyone buzz around like bees in a hive.
They were immediately engulfed by family. Mom and dad sandwiched them from both sides, and Flowey slithered down Asgore’s arm like a plant serpent. To get a better look, he’d likely claim later, but Frisk still relished in the tickling sensation of his head resting on their shoulder.
Once all of the monitoring devices were set up, Alphys briefly tapped Henry’s chest and the tattered remains of his soul appeared again. Three jagged little shards, irregular and choppy like fragments of a broken mirror. The empathy that immediately shrouded Frisk caused them to shiver like a sudden rush of cold wind had rushed passed them. Tears began to burn the edges of their eyes. And this was nothing compared to the pain Henry was feeling…
Easy, Frisk. Don’t get too caught up in other people’s pain.
From her position at the printer nearest Henry, Alphys flipped through readout after readout, her brow furrowing as she examined the results of her scans. Her lips pressed together in a thin line. Something sad glistened in her eyes as she looked first up at her girlfriend, who offered a comforting hand on her shoulder but no words of advice, and then over to Henry.
There’s no good news here.
The Doctor pushed the papers aside and walked back over to Henry, opening her mouth and then closing it again as she struggled to find the words. After a moment, she told them. “Charles, I… I’m so sorry. This isn’t something I can reverse.” She pushed her glasses further up her snout, not looking anyone in the eye. “Quite frankly, it’s a miracle he’s hung on this much. In this state his soul and psyche are both fragmented, leaving him in what is best described as a vegetative state. He did his best to hang on but… once the DETERMINATION in these pieces fade, there will be nothing left of Henry Stickmin.”
Charles bit his lip and stifled a sob. A set of strong footsteps alerted Frisk to the person approaching the grieving green soul from behind, and General Galeforce put a comforting hand on Charles’ shoulder. Following behind were the rest of the returned souls; Mitchell, who stood straight and tall even as his eyes were shrouded with pity, and Dave, who used Rupert as a crutch as they hobbled over to watch.
“Thank you, Doctor Alphys.” General Galeforce said with a soft but professional tone. His eyes were dark and tired, reminding Frisk of the state he’d been in when they’d first met. He squeezed Charles’ shoulder comfortingly. “How long do you think he has?”
“Given the rate of DT decay in what remains in his soul… I’d guess three days. At most.” Charles’ breath hitched audibly at the news. “Worse case scenario, there’s a chance he might not make it to morning.” Toriel squeezed Frisk a little closer, hugging them a little tighter.
Three days at best? No… that couldn’t be it for Henry. His DETERMINATION to live a happy life with Charles was so strong… he wouldn’t just give up. He couldn’t. Frisk REFUSED to accept that. There had to be something they could do to fix this. There had to be.
“Damn.” Rupert whispers silently under his breath. He looks stunned.
Galeforce immediately readjusted to hug Charles close to his body. “I see… is there anything we can do for him?”
“We can use healing magic to try making him a little more comfortable…” Here, Alphys looked a little less certain. She may just be saying that to make them feel like there’s something they can do to help. In his current state, I doubt he can feel much of anything. “Other than that, not really. It’s just a matter of time at this point.”
Charles bowed his head down. Galeforce’s arm remained steady around him, though his face was hidden under the brim of his hat. Emotions buried beneath the mask of professionalism. “I’m sorry, son. Do you want to step outside for a moment? I know this is hard to see.”
“No.” Charles rebutted immediately. “No, I’m staying. Henry didn’t leave me behind, not even for a second. I’m not leaving him either. I’m staying until… I’m staying.” Ellie, without a word, sat down next to him. Her eyes were dark, but her expression was as stony as her resolve. She, too, would stay by Henry’s side.
General Galeforce nodded, likely having already suspected that would be his answer. “Doctor, thank you again for everything you’ve done for us. I hate to impose on you any more, but…”
“Stay as long as you need.” Alphys assured them immediately.
“Charles…” Rupert seemed to struggle for words, approaching Charles slowly while still being mindful of Dave’s leg. The sympathy he must have felt, knowing what it’s like to lose someone so important to you, was spelled across his face clearly. “I’m so sorry. This shouldn’t have happened.”
Chief Councilor Mitchell cleared his throat briefly to get everyone’s attention. At first glance he appeared detached from the situation, but judging from their conversations, Frisk knew better than to assume this was how he truly felt. Does he mask his emotional responses? Or simply suppress them and pretend to feel nothing so he can analyze a situation? “I understand it’s easy to be lost in grief, but please remember that nobody here other than Gaster is responsible for anything we’ve gone through. He is the only one to blame for Henry’s condition.” He sighed, looking upon Henry’s motionless form. “I will make sure the City Council honours Henry Stickmin for what he’s done for Ebott. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find the other councilors, and try to figure out how the hell to condense what happened into one comprehensive report.” The politician began to message his temples with two fingers, as if he could preemptively soothe the headache that was to come.
As he made his way out, General Galeforce called out to him, “Make sure you leave time in your calendar to see me tomorrow! We need to have a discussion about…” The General’s eyes flicker briefly over to Ellie. “…certain events.” The Councilor nodded and took his leave.
Frisk frowned as they watched Mister Mitchell leave. The way he spoke about Henry was like it was already decided that Henry was dead. But he was still alive… there was still a piece of him left. Three pieces, in fact! That meant the FIGHT wasn’t over yet, but everyone was acting like it was. Didn’t anyone want to find some way to SAVE him? Were they all just giving up on the man who’d sacrificed everything for them?
Calm down. They’re all still caught up int their emotions, but Frisk, so are you. This may be a problem that’s just too complicated for us to fix…
No. No, Frisk REFUSED to accept that. There was always another way. If they couldn’t SPARE a monster, they could RUN AWAY until they found what they needed. If they couldn’t SAVE Asriel, then they’d SAVE Flowey instead. And just because Henry’s soul was shattered into a million pieces didn’t mean there wasn’t a way to fix him. Henry was strong enough to FIGHT Gaster, courageous enough to take a bullet in Frisk’s place, devoted enough to bring back his best friend from the dead. There was no way this would be the end for him.
Frisk was DETERMINED,
Frisk? What are you doing?
Ignoring their inner voice for the time being, Frisk pulled themselves away from their parents and hopped down onto the floor. With everyone preoccupied, there was no resistance to Frisk’s approach. Galeforce and Ellie’s murmured words of comfort to Charles were like the wind blowing in the distance, audible but separated from the situation at hand. Without even being noticed by the people talking about ‘final wishes’ and ‘last days’ and other things that Frisk would keep from applying, they were able to stand right next to Henry’s still body. The quiet demeanor that had suited them so well in the Underground had once again given them the upper hand.
Henry slept so soundly. All he needed was something to bring his soul together…
Frisk, I don’t know about this. This may be a bad idea…
Once again brushing Chara aside, Frisk reached their chubby little fingers out towards the three floating triangles of Henry’s soul before them. If only he had a little more DETERMINATION, they knew he could pull himself together! He just needed a little help! After all they’d accomplished, there was no way Henry would give up like this! There was no way… he just needed a little help…
Stay calm, Frisk.
They took a deep breath, calmed their mind, and reached out to touch the soul shards; one in each hand. Instantly their mind began to flood with emotions not their own. Bitter grief and sweet affection… a dream of happiness and warmth… a sense of responsibility, fueled first by obligation, then guilt, and then by loving devotion. Those were the things that had remained tethered to Henry when the core of his very being had shattered.
And they all had one core. Charles. Come on Henry, Frisk thought as they attempted to push the three shards together. Come on!
“W-what are you…?!”
“What are you…?! Henry! STOP!!!”
Frisk didn’t listen. Tears streamed down their face as the emotions became overwhelming. They focused their DETERMINATION on the pieces, pushing with all their strength while the pieces resisted, like magnets repelling each other. There was this sound echoing in the air. It was hard to describe, like a continuous strike of lightning directly in their ear. It hurt, but Frisk kept pushing. And pushing. And…
All of a sudden Frisk’s hands were suddenly enveloped in green, which forcibly pulled them away from their mark. The child glared up, perhaps to complain, but any resistance within them was quashed when they looked directly at Charles. His face was the picture of rage, eyes narrowed with white tears and teeth gritted, forehead wrinkled from how hard his brows were pressed together. The entire time they’d known him, Frisk had never seen Charles get more than a little annoyed, so the raw anger overflowing from his soul made them shrink back as he simply said, in a harsh gravelly voice, “Don’t. Touch. Him.”
Frisk blinked owlishly at Charles, but otherwise didn’t react. The General took the lull in action as an opportunity to pull Henry closer to his side, scanning him over for any visible sign of injury.
This reminds me of something Henry did once… it seems they’re more alike than I initially suspected.
After an awkward second that felt like an awkward eternity, Charles’ brain finally caught up with his heart and he quickly released Frisk, backing away. His eyes kept to the ground, bashful. “Sorry, I’m sorry… I just wigged out when I heard Henry screaming.”
You couldn’t hear it? It wasn’t coming out of his mouth, but Henry’s soul made, like, a death cry or something.
They’d only heard the thunderous sound of DETERMINATION flowing freely. Had that distressed the fragments somehow?
“Frisk, I understand you want to help.” Alphys consoled. “You’ve always done everything you can to help us out, even when we… really haven’t deserved it.” She looked over to her fellow monsters. Papyrus, Undyne, Mom and Dad, Flowey, Sa- no, Sans was gone again. But everyone else wore sympathetic expressions, looking at Frisk with pity.
Not pity, worry. You’re worrying them.
What did they have to be worried about? Frisk was fine. They weren’t the ones with their soul torn to shreds, lying in wait to die with all their loved ones unwilling unable to do anything. Even if it hurt, there had to be something Frisk could do.
(Because Henry had SAVED them. Protected them with his body and rescued their souls from the Void, at the cost of his own. They couldn’t just leave him like this. They couldn’t FAIL Henry like they’d FAILED to SAVE Asriel.)
“My child, this isn’t something you can just fix. The majority of Henry’s soul is missing.” Toriel gently scolded, walking over to lead Frisk away from Henry. Reluctantly, if only because of the worried stares of Henry’s friends and family, Frisk allowed them. “As hard as it is to say, there’s nothing we can do for him now but make him comfortable.”
The wince that put on Charles’ face filled Frisk with DETERMINATION.
“No, there has to be a way!” Frisk insisted. There was always a way, even when nobody thought it possible. “Maybe we can recreate the missing parts!” After all, it only took DETERMINATION and some other stuff to make a soul! And they had those in spades!
“That’s… very much impossible.” Alphys explained, her cadence slow. She was treating Frisk like a little kid. She’s trying to be careful, because of how sensitive you are. “Even if we could recreate the missing parts, core parts of Henry’s identity – his love for others, and his memories – would be entirely disconnected from the new soul parts. It wouldn't be Henry. Not really.”
This failed to discourage the young ambassador. “Then let’s get the missing pieces!” They’d brought Chara back, after all. They could bring Henry back too!
It’s… not that simple.
“It’s not that simple.” Flowey’s voice echoed Chara’s in their mind, which made Frisk scowl. “The pieces of Henry’s soul would be impossible to find. They’re likely scattered all over the place. There’s no way you could track them all down. And we don’t know if they retain enough of Henry’s sense of identity while separated to respond to you CALLING for him.”
Frisk REFUSED to accept that. Henry was strong-willed, one of the most DETERMINED people Frisk knew. He wouldn’t go down so easily. He couldn’t. “We won’t know until we try!” Frisk snapped back, wrenching themselves free of their mother’s grip. Frisk, slow down… “We have to at least check first! It’s not fair otherwise!”
No. Frisk was DONE being calm. They nimbly dodged a pair of hands reaching out to restrain comfort them and bolted. Their mind was traveling a million miles a minute. They had to get underground, quickly. Out the front entrance? No, the soldiers would never let them pass by themselves. Over the fence, then. It would be tricky, but they were sure they could climb it before anyone noticed. No, you need to go back, you shouldn’t be down there by yourself. Frisk ignored this ‘brilliant’ advice and raced up to the nearest fence.
They gripped onto the fence and began to scale as quickly as they could, their climbing clumsy and rushed. A familiar feeling formed in their soul, though Frisk didn’t recognize it until a pair of red arms was tugging them down, and Frisk put all their strength into resisting Chara’s pull.
“This isn’t… helping… anything!” The red ghost scolded as they redoubled their strength. Frisk tried to ignore them and kept climbing. Chara still weighed them down. “Frisk…! You need to calm down! I KNOW you’re exhausted! You’re in no condition to climb the mountain again!”
The pressure on Frisk sudden increased, like gravity had SHIFTED to drag them down, and with the added weight Frisk couldn’t continue to hold themselves up. They squirmed and clung to the fence, but felt themselves slowly being dragged down until, eventually, they were forced to release the fence, falling into a blue cushion of skeleton jacket. “you should listen to your friend kid.” Sans scolded gently. “just because there are no monsters in the underground doesnt mean you can just run around down there willy nilly. That sounds like a good way to your parents femor-ous, especially if you end up buried alive.” Sans winked for good measure. “all the action that caves seen has probably made some things unstable.”
That wasn’t something Frisk had considered. The Underground had always been so vast and lively, it was easy to forget that the entire place was actually a gigantic mountainous cavern. Even so, “I have to get down there! I-I have to at least try to get Henry back! He-” He’d sacrificed everything for them. To SAVE them from the Void. Frisk couldn’t just let someone else suffer for their mistakes…!
“Hey, shh…” Chara whispered soothingly, their arms looped tightly around Frisk. “You can’t just run off blindly into danger. He’ll hang on long enough for you to get some proper rest and, maybe after you sleep for a little bit, you’ll come up with another idea.”
Begrudgingly, Frisk had to admit Chara had a point. “I just… so many bad things have happened because of me.” Because of what they’d let Chara do, because Frisk had slipped up and let themselves and Chara be caught by Gaster. “I can’t just let it go.”
“kid.” Sans sighed. “this isnt making up for your mistakes. this is punishment. youre holding yourself to a ridiculously high standard because thatll ‘make up for what you did’, and when you FAIL to meet those standards you just pile more self-loathing onto yourself. Your not going to ‘make up’ for what happened because youre still in that mindset of needing punishment.”
Something in Frisk broke, and they squinted their eyes shut to stop the tears. “So… what do I do?”
“You just… keep doing your best.” Chara told them. “Keep helping your loved ones, but don’t try to martyr yourself if it’s too big. Remember when we faced Flowey in his Asriel form?” Sans didn’t respond to that tidbit of information. Frisk couldn’t tell if it was because he already knew, or because of his naturally chill demeanor. Right now it didn’t matter. “You CALLED FOR HELP, and all the friends you’d made responded? You can’t do this alone.”
Frisk sniffled and confided. “I feel like I’m just burdening everyone with my problems. I should be able to do this by myself, because I owe everyone for all the bad stuff we did.”
Chara opened their mouth, thought for a second, then closed it again. They stroked their chin and stuck out their tongue, puzzling their options over in their head. This momentary silence gave Toriel and Asgore the opportunity to catch up, both slightly winded from their frantic attempts to keep up with one very nimble, very fast child.
Toriel reached them first, dropping to her knees to take her child into her arms. “Oh, Frisk!” The words she breathed out was barely loudly than the wind. “Please, my child, you must stop scaring us like that!”
From the shoulder of his father, Flowey slithered down the king’s arm like a snake and dove into the ground, tunneling below and reemerging by Frisk’s side. “Seriously. You’re going to give these poor people heart attacks.”
“Sorry.” Frisk sniffled out as they wiped away their tears. “I just… got overwhelmed.”
“It’s been a difficult day for all of us.” Asgore agreed, and Toriel took Frisk’s hand and helped them stand up. “On days like this, I like to take a moment to rest and relax. Once you’ve done so, you may find yourself able to look at the problem with a new perspective.”
When it came to problems like this, Frisk could definitely use a new perspective.
“Okay,” They whispered, and allowed themselves to be lead back their tent. Sans waved to them as they left.
By the time Frisk awoke, the morning sun was streaming through the slit of the tent entrance and pouring onto their face, gently nudging the child awake to greet the new day. They stretched, yawned, and took a quick glance around. Mom was asleep atop her bed, and Flowey was loosely wrapped around her shoulder, head pressed down against Toriel’s ear. He subconsciously nuzzled his face into her fur as he slept, which made Frisk smile. Asgore, being both too big for any of their beds and also a guest, slept on a pile of pillows on the floor. His snoring sounded like whistling, which Frisk decided was quite cute. There was no sign of Chara, but with the danger passed perhaps they’d decided to spend some time by themselves? Well, wherever they’d wandered off to, Frisk hoped they were doing okay.
Slow and quiet as a mouse, Frisk crept up to the kitchen table to find a whole smorgasbord of magical treats. There was a plate of cookies, mostly broken into pieces, with a note on top from Undyne telling their little punk to ‘get better soon, or else!’ that Alphys amended with a clarification that ‘or else’ referred to the two of them playing nurse for Frisk. There was also a plate of spaghetti from Papyrus, with a rambling note telling them how he’d made ‘human-style’ pasta for Rupert and Dave, how he’d gotten their seal of approval, and how, now that he’d mastered spaghetti, his next goal was to perfect the art of the pancake. Frisk silently wished him luck with that. Nearby was a blue and purple striped mug filled with a cool beverage that smelled like tea. Asgore had left them a little note with a heart, which was positively adorable. And mom had cut them a single slice of her famous butterscotch-cinnamon pie.
So precious. Frisk really had worried them all, hadn’t they? They were so caught up on the idea of making up for what they’d done that they hadn’t really considered how their actions would affect their friends. In the future, they would have to be more careful about that.
Frisk took the time to reheat the tea with the help of a portable hot stove they’d been provided by the government, and ate a pleasant breakfast of tea and pie, saving the cookies and spaghetti for later. Once they’d had their fill, the child looked back to see the others still asleep and pulled out their phone to access their item box. From the box they procured a pencil and a piece of paper, and did something they probably should have done earlier; they left a note.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Went out to look for Chara and check on Henry. I won’t leave the camp, promise.
Satisfied, Frisk left the note atop the remaining food and paused only to wipe the crumbs off their face before exiting the tent to face the new day.
The world outside was cool and bright, with the grass smelling of dew. Frisk took in the fresh mountain air before marching out into the camp. Already, they noticed a change in the humans and monsters. More specifically, that they were much more integrated. The Royal Guards of Snowdin were patrolling alongside the humans, engaging in casual banter. Off-duty men gathered around as Shyren, Nabstablook, and Mettaton performed live. Muffet and another woman Frisk recognized as the human chef were engaged in a deep discussion. Probably about muffins or something. These new developments made Frisk’s heart full to burst. Gaster’s plan had done so much harm, but in the end he may have brought them all together in a whole new way. The sight of everyone at peace filled Frisk with DETERMINATION.
In the end, Frisk was surprised to find Chara sharing a pleasant conversation with Monster Kid. The two spoke in hushed tones that died completely when Frisk approached. Monster Kid was smiling brightly, waving Frisk over with a familiar, “Yo!” while Chara merely hovered nearby.
“It took you long enough.” They declared when Frisk was close enough to hear. “I thought you’d sleep through the whole day!”
“But it’s only nine in the morning.” MK pointed out.
Frisk gave them both an apologetic smile. “Sorry. With everything that’s happened, I guess I’ve been more tired than I thought.”
“Oh no, it’s cool!” MK immediately assured them. “I’ve just been talking to your buddy Chara. They said they’ve been with you the whole time? How come I’ve never met them before?”
There was so much baggage with that one simple question that Frisk didn’t know how to respond. They paused, unsure feelings swelling inside of them, before answering with a partial truth, “Well, Chara’s a human ghost, so I wasn’t sure how everyone would react… I didn’t want to scare anybody…”
Scare, traumatize by bringing up literal ghosts of the past that they couldn’t even see, same difference.
‘Oh, okay!” Monster Kid immediately accepted this answer, not pursing the line of questioning any further. A part of Frisk felt warm and bubbly at their consideration. Maybe one day Frisk would give them the whole story. One day, when they’d made peace with it themselves.
Chara made a hand gesture that was something like ‘close enough’, then hovered down a little closer to Frisk. “We were talking about what happened yesterday.” Chara’s eyes darted briefly over in the direction of Ebott, and then clarified, “Under the mountain.” As if Frisk needed reminding. “I’ve been trying to make sure my story’s straight, for when we need to tell people later. MK’s a really good listener.” The little dinosaur monster stuck out their tongue, smiling widely at the praise. “I’ve also been thinking about… Henry.”
“Henry…” Frisk looked down. “Any change?”
“He’s not dead, if that’s what you mean. First thing I checked on this morning.” Chara shrugged. “I’ve been thinking about what we should do about him. My best guess is that we’d need something to locate all the pieces of his soul. Like a metal detector, but for souls stuck in the Void.”
“Is that, uh, possible?” MK asked.
Frisk tapped their chin, sticking out their tongue as they puzzled it over. “Maybe… if we had something Henry really cared about? Like, maybe we can get something of Charles’?”
“I’ve heard Henry likes shiny things.” Chara mused. “Perhaps we could get a shiny rock from the Underground and attach it to a magical transmitter?”
MK jumped up and down, excited by the plans they were making. “Oh! Oh! That Henry guy says he hates being told what to do! What if we had a bunch of people yelling ‘Go Away!’ in a big magic circle? That would reverse pie-cology him into showing up.”
Frisk couldn’t quite help their giggle at Monster Kid’s mix up. Chara gently corrected him. “It’s reverse psychology. You were very close, though.” Still, Frisk didn’t think that would really work. There had to be some way they could get those soul pieces. But how…?
“U-um… Ambassador Frisk?” The children turned, and Frisk almost jumped when they spotted Sven’s familiar blue hat clutched in his hands. Chara and Monster Kid had similar split section reactions, with Chara moving to a straight standing position and MK jumping between him and Frisk with an adorable growl. But this wasn’t Gaster; it was Sven, and in response he merely took a few steps back, with one hand releasing his hat to be held up in a placating fashion. “Er, sorry to interrupt, it’s kind of important…”
Frisk frowned, noting the dark bags under his eyes, the way his hair was tousled. It was likely he hadn’t slept all night. They held out an arm to signal to Chara that they should hold back, and then their other in front of Monster Kid to do the same. The two other children briefly glanced at Frisk, but ultimately trusted them and backed down, allowing Frisk to approach. They asked, “Is something wrong, Mister Sven? You look terrible.”
Oh, they hope nothing was wrong with Sven, because that would mean there was something up with Gaster, and they were hardly prepared for another battle. Just the thought of that had Frisk suppressing a shiver.
But Sven merely shook his head ‘no’. “I have something important for you.” He knelt down next to them and held out his blue hat. All three children peered inside.
It was empty.
“What…?” Chara squinted their eyes, looking confused. “There’s… there’s something in there. I can’t quite make it out, what is it?”
Those words made Frisk and Monster Kid peer closer. Though their eyes were narrowed in focus, Monster Kid complained aloud about not seeing anything. Frisk focused their DETERMINATION, and saw the light reflect off of something. Little odd shapes, piled up on themselves. They looked familiar. They felt familiar. They were… “Henry’s soul.” They realized, and clutched the hat closer. “You… found it?”
Sven grinned at them, bringing up a finger to brush against his eye patch. “Yeah, took me all night, but I know I got them all. My INTEGRITY tells me so, and Gaster’s habitation of my body had certain… advantages.” That made Sven frown deeply, though he quickly moved on. “But I don’t have the power to bring them back. That takes DETERMINATION, and I don’t have enough. You, though… you are the most DETERMINED person in the world. Gaster said so at least twice. If anybody can bring those shards back to this reality, you can.”
They could? Frisk peered down into the hat. That was Henry Stickmin. Henry, who sacrificed himself to drag them back to the real world. He fixed their happy ending. He protected Frisk with his body, even after he’d made it clear he didn’t like them. Everyone missed him so, so much. Charles was a wreck. Galeforce was barely suppressing his emotions, and likely only for Charles’ sake. Ellie, the few times she had caught their eye, looked tired and hopeless. He meant so much to them. He made so many people so happy. He protected Galeforce, devoted himself to Charles, forgave Ellie. And Frisk would bring him back. To repay their debt. To bring a smile back to his family. To give him one final chance after everything he’d been through.
They were DETERMINED.
Under their hands, the many soul shards began to slowly fade in, and MK took a few steps back in shock while making an awed noise. Frisk’s DETERMINATION surged through them like electric shocks. They first appeared a sickly gray, then slowly grew more saturated as life flooded back into them. Each one radiated warmth and emotion. Eventually Frisk pulled away their hand and gazed down into the hat, which was now filled up with radiant red light.
MK gasped aloud. “Whoa… it’s so pretty… and so sad…” Silently Frisk agreed. The ambassador could vaguely feel the souls, their proximity allowing for some semblance of a consciousness that was reaching out. The consciousness wasn’t quite complete; it was vague and fragile, unable to really form any coherent thoughts. Only its emotions were even remotely capable of being felt, and they too felt off, like soft gray television fuzz. Poor Henry. Frisk reached down and softly stroked one of the triangles, receiving a vague feeling of comfort in response.
“Thank you, Mister Sven.” They smiled up at him.
“Yeah,” Chara remarked, “You’ve really SAVED us some time. I was worried we’d have to climb Mount Ebott AGAIN. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Underground, but I’m kind of sick of it at this point.”
Frisk silently rolled their eyes.
“It’s… no trouble, kids.” His eyes were dark and haunted, but Sven didn’t necessarily look bad. Just tired, like he’d surpassed some impossible obstacle and had come out the other end exhausted but accomplished. “Henry SAVED the Right Hand Man, and fixed my mistakes. I owed him a favour, and now we’re even.” Sven then frowned. “There’s… a lot of mixed feelings there. Henry and Charles were a big part of why the Toppat Clan fell. But I’m trying to listen to my INTEGRITY from now on, and it says that I need to square my debts, however I can.” Sven then looked to the side. “Now I need to figure out what comes next.”
“That sounds hard.” Frisk consoled, taking a moment to touch Sven’s arm. “But I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
Sven smiled tiredly down at them. “Heh, that makes one of us. Good luck fixing Henry, kid. It’s up to you now.”
Frisk was DETERMINED.
“Charles! Charles!” Frisk yelled as they rushed into Alphys’ tent. Their miniature stampede was brought to a halt by a harsh shush. Galeforce gave them a stern look from his spot at the head of Henry’s cot. Henry rested in his lap, supported by General Galeforce’s knee as his hair was combed through by one of his hands. In the cot to the left Ellie slept soundly, her eyes circled by dark rings. Charles was snoring in another cot, his body so translucent in his resting state that it was basically see through. From the looks of it, none of them had gotten much sleep last night.
“Sorry, yo.” Monster Kid whispered from behind Frisk. Chara flew over their heads to hover next to Henry’s body. “But- but we’ve got good news! We’ve got Henry’s soul!”
The poor General had looked like he was barely awake, but MK’s words had him jump up from his chair. “What?!”
“With some unexpected help from the Top Hat Clan, we were able to secure what was left of Henry’s soul and use Frisk’s DETERMINATION to bring the pieces back from the Void.” Chara made a grand gesture towards Sven’s hat, still outpouring with a beautiful red glow. “They’re right there.”
Galeforce’s knees buckled as he swiftly made his way over to Frisk, falling to his knees as he took Sven’s hat and gazed into it. “Henry…” He breathed, completely stunned. Tears formed at the corners of his eyes as the emotions overwhelmed him. “Oh my god, son, oh my god…” The hat was clutched close to Galeforce’s chest and he began to hiccup with suppressed sobs.
The commotion, at last, roused Charles and Ellie. They both groaned as they awoke, Charles returning to full transparency and Ellie taking a few seconds to just stare sleepily at the scene before her. Naturally, they were quite confused to see General Galeforce clutching a Top Hat and quietly crying into it. Ellie forced herself up and got closer, while Charles paused to stroke Henry’s hair before joining Galeforce.
“Sir…?” Charles asked. His eyes widened as red light began to reflect in them, though he asked before daring to hope, “What’s going on? What is that?”
Ellie stood stone still in her shock. Her eyes remained trained on the red soul shards.
“It’s Henry!” MK announced excitedly, jumping up and down energetically. “One of those Top Hat fellows found and brought back the pieces of his soul, and Frisk brought them back! Yo, they’re so COOL!”
The blatant praise made Frisk blush.
Ellie, like Galeforce before her, fell to her knees and watched the shards slack-jawed. “I-I can’t believe it. I would have thought that’d be the last of him. Heh, should have known.” She smiled and wiped at her face with her sleeve. “You red souls are way too stubborn to just keel over and die.”
“I feel like that’s directed towards me.” Chara remarked flatly.
Charles was stunned, frozen in one spot levitating above the ground. Once he got his bearings he dove down to peer into the hat. “You… oh my god.” Charles was smiling with brilliant white orbs of light falling from his eyes. “You really SAVED him… thank you, thank you so much!” Galeforce rose, and Ellie and Charles rose with him, as though pulled up by the red glow of Henry’s soul. “What are we waiting for?! Let’s put them back!”
Everybody raced to Henry’s side, Frisk ducking under Galeforce’s arm to get as close to the body as possible. The hat was carefully emptied of its contents, the soul shards flooding out over Henry’s chest. They just remained there, floating over their person. Frisk reached out. This was it. They’d get Henry back. They’d returned the favor Henry had done them, SAVE him as he’d SAVED them. Frisk was DETERMINED.
And… nothing happened.
Frisk frowned, and focused their DETERMINATION again. Come together, they openly willed the soul shards, come together and remake Henry. Everything was there. Frustrated, Frisk tried to physically push the pieces together, but like before they repelled each other, and when the DETERMINATION began to thunder they stopped.
“Why… why isn’t it working?” They asked, trying not to sound hysterical for the other’s sake.
A hand pressed down on Frisk’s shoulder. “Stay calm.” Ellie instructed them. “Just try to focus. If anyone can do it, it’s you.”
Frisk tried again. They tried to focus their DETERMINATION like a black hole, to pull the rest of the pieces in. Nothing happened. Frisk tried again. They attempted to imagine the pieces sorting together like puzzle pieces. Nothing happened. Frisk tried again. They thought of the soul pieces as continents, and imagined them moving together as a super-continent in fast motion. Nothing happened. Frisk tried again. Nothing happened. Frisk tried again-
“Frisk, stop.” Chara gently pulled at their shoulder. “Your DETERMINATION is great. Gaster may even be right about you being the most DETERMINED person in the world. But DETERMINATION alone… it might not be enough. This may be the best we can do.”
“No.” Frisk whimpered. Their hands were shaking, they had no idea how much time had passed. Frisk tried again. Nothing happened. They tried again. Nothing happened. “No, no, this can’t be it! This can’t be!”
Tears began to burn their eyes and face as they dripped down. Frisk tried to stop, they really did, but once Chara had pulled them back into a proper embrace they couldn’t help themselves. MK, careful not to touch Chara, sidled over and nuzzled their head into Frisk’s side. With their sibling on one side and their dear friend on the other, Frisk let go and started sobbing in their embrace.
It felt like, no matter how hard they tried, there would always be someone they FAILED to SAVE.
Step two is complete. Next Chapter: Step Three.
Things I've done that have delayed chapters while writing this fanfiction:
-Play Dragon Age: Origins all the way through (which is a very frustrating experience, btw)
-Buy a new laptop
-Delete an entire chapter halfway through and start over because 'it didn't vibe right'.
I'll let you decide which excuse applies to this chapter.
We're getting closer to the end. Here's hoping I can pull it off. :)
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