The Space Between
Chapter 1: The Window
Note: This is a short little plot-bunny. This whole story will probably be only a few chapters long, but I really liked the idea of exploring Frisk as a character and the motivations behind the pacifist and genocide routes. Because it's all too easy to blame it all on Chara when we know that there's a little bit of hatred and evil in all of us. Can good people do bad things, and can people who do bad things ever make up for the pain they have caused? Frisk will find out...
I wasn't sure how long I'd been here when Sans finally found me. Time made little sense in a realm of constant resets. Years, lifetimes, resets, deaths. I'd lost count of them even before Chara stole my body. Now, here in the gap between save files, time was a distant memory. Things that were, things that are, and things that might be all bled together in a kaleidoscope of death and mercy.
"hey, kid," said Sans in a voice so artfully casual that I might have believed it once upon a time. But the glint of his eye and the Gaster Blasters hanging in the blackness behind him belied the truth. He was here to kill me. Again. And this time, it would be permanent.
I opened my mouth to say something. Maybe I should tell him how sorry I was or beg for my life.
"Hi, Sans." It wasn't what I'd intended to say, and the small part of me that could still drudge up the will to care was saddened by the crack in my voice.
Sans's eye flashed, but his gaze shifted to the hole in the blackness, to where I was watching Chara frolic murderously through the ruins. I didn't like to watch it, but the alternative was the endless dark. And sometimes Chara did a pacifist route. I could watch and remember happier days. Sans flicked his wrist and the Gaster Blasters faded away.
"so, mind telling me what's going on?" he asked, flopping down beside me. He tilted his head toward Chara-in-my-body. "what is that?"
"Chara," I said. My voice felt rough and strange.
"it looks like you," Sans observed.
"It stole my body," I said. 'It' was probably the kindest thing I could call Chara. And I had to be kind, or else how could I know what was me and what was not? At one point, I'd become so lost that I couldn't even tell the difference anymore. It was important to know who I was, though I could hardly remember why anymore. "It stole everything."
"what's your name, kid?"
"well, Frisk, you seem like a nice kid," said Sans.
"You're wrong," I said. "If I was nice, none of this would have happened. It's my fault. I'm so sorry, Sans."
Sans scratched his chin and gave me a sidelong glance.
"how did you end up in here, with that thing out there?" he asked.
I tucked my chin into my knees and watched the screen from beneath my bangs. This felt so familiar and strange all at once. I wanted to curl up by Sans's side and cry or maybe I wanted to run away and never look back. It was hard to tell.
Well, Sans had always been there in the Judgement Hall to sentence me for my crimes or to let me pass with advice and a kind word. It seemed right that he should be here now to judge me one last time. And if he chose to strike me down, I would not move. My Determination had long since been taken from me.
"I fell," I said. "The first time, I fell onto a bed of yellow flowers. There, I met Chara. It was so nice to me. It helped me up. It comforted me when I was afraid. It guided me through the Underground. It helped me find my way to the surface." I paused to watch Chara strike down Toriel. I should have felt pain, but the scene was too familiar. That wound no longer bled. "I trusted it completely."
"bad idea," Sans offered into the silence. I nodded. "you sure you want to watch this? i know i don't have the stomach for it."
The joke fell flat, as it usually did.
"Everyone was so happy to see the sunset," I said. "Life was good. No, it was perfect. But then it just became…life. I would ask Mom to watch the sunset with me, but she would say she was busy. Dad would be watering the flowers and wouldn't even look up to see the clouds. Alphys said that there would be a meteor shower, but she would rather watch a new anime show. I thought…I wanted to bring that joy back. I wanted everyone to feel wonder and hope again."
I watched Chara talk to the other Sans, the one inside the timeline. There was no fear. Why should there be? Sans had promised to never harm a human, and he didn't know that Toriel was ash just beyond the door.
"I reset time and did it all over again," I said. "I didn't mind. It was fun to meet everyone again. We played pranks together. I made puzzles with Papyrus. I went on all of Mettaton's shows. I brought us all to the surface. The joy was there again, and it was just as good as the first time. So I reset. And I reset. And I reset. I never wanted to stop. And the whole time Chara was there, watching. It waited until a bad run. For some reason I was having a hard time fighting Undyne. I just couldn't keep up. I died over and over and over again. It was hard to set her up with Alphys, but in the end, I managed it anyway. When we reached the surface, Chara finally spoke to me."
I stopped to watch Papyrus zap himself on his own puzzle. There was a time I would have laughed, but I could hardly remember what it felt like now.
"It told me how terrible Undyne had been this time and how sorry it was that I had to suffer like that," I said. "It told me how I should try to understand Undyne's position, her power, her resentment. Undyne had suffered so much at the hands of humans. And hadn't I as well? Wouldn't I want to use my power to make sure that no one else could ever hurt me? Didn't I want to get through the Underground without dying, even once?"
I felt disgust as the words slipped past my lips. At what point had those questions made sense to me? Repeated deaths had always done something strange to my Determination. It awakened my will to survive. And that was where Chara had found an opening, a weakness.
"It knew about my resentment," I said. "I've never once made it through the Underground without dying. Not once. Just about everyone had killed me, even Mom, though she always told me how sorry she was. She meant it, of course. But that was a cold comfort when I was dying at her feet. Even Papyrus beat me down to my last sliver of health, though he never actually killed me. I hated them a bit, though I loved them a thousand times more. When Chara whispered that I could kill them just once, just to see what it felt like to have power, to see what it felt like to get revenge for things only I remembered, I listened. I listened and I reset. I could always go back and reset at the end, right? No one would ever know."
Sans stiffened beside me. I had expected that reaction. I could have spun more excuses, but I'd long since given up lying to myself.
"So I killed…everyone," I said. "And with every death I felt better, freer, happier. Even now, I'm not sure if that was me or Chara. Maybe either, maybe both. And then I reached the Judgement Hall. And I faced you. You, Sans, who had never lifted a finger against me in all the resets. You, who I loved and trusted more than anyone else, even Mom. You, who were so incredibly lazy that you'd never stand a chance against me. I planned to spare you that first time, though now I think that sparing you might have been just as cruel. But you killed me."
Papyrus crumbled to dust on the screen, and Chara laughed. Sans's eyes were flickering blue, and I half expected the Gaster Blasters to make a reappearance and punish me then and there. But they didn't.
"I died," I said. "I deserved it. But at the time I was filled with anger. I died more times than I can count. And with every knife swing, Chara became stronger and stronger. Eventually it—we—wore you down. You chose to spare us, and I almost let Chara kill you anyway. But I came to my senses and remembered why I was there, what I had done and why. I dropped my knife, I ran to you, and I hugged you as hard as I could. And you killed me again. You told me that if we were really friends, I wouldn't come back. I'd die and stay dead."
"get dunked on," said Sans easily. Even now, I flinched at the familiar admonition. Strange, I was so sure that I couldn't feel anything anymore. Chara was hunting now, searching for the hidden monsters that hadn't been able to evacuate it time.
"It wasn't fair," I said. "At least, that's what I thought. I only wanted to kill you and then bring you back, as good as new and with no memory of dying. You wanted to kill me forever. I guess I hated you for that. Self-righteous anger from a murderer. That's a joke even you would say was bad."
"i'm not bone-headed enough to joke about that," said Sans.
"I guess not," I said. "But when we killed you, I finally understood. I realized what I'd done. I did a hard reset back to the start. But Chara was still there. We fought. It took control and killed. I took control and spared. We reset each other. We tried again. Sometimes it would wait in the back and emerge just long enough to kill Papyrus so that I would have to reset or face you. I couldn't reach my happy ending anymore no matter how hard I tried. Then…it finally grew strong enough to throw me aside completely. It took my body and my Determination. And now I'm here."
"and now you're here," Sans echoed. "eh, what a mess. and here i thought it would be as easy as cinnamon butterscotch pie."
"Are you going to kill me?" I asked. The question should have roused something in me: fear, relief, or pain. But there was only emptiness.
Sans thought about it before answering.
"nah," he said. His eye gleamed blue. "death brings out the worst in us. besides, i think i need your help."
I turned away from the screen to stare at Sans. Sitting like this, it almost felt like the first time again, where I was shy and uncertain and yet strangely hopeful.
"How?" I asked.
"i think i know a way to stop Chara," said Sans. "if you're up to a small challenge."
I blinked slowly at that and considered what he was asking. Was I prepared for a challenge? My Determination was gone. I was barely a shade of my former self. And Chara held all of the power. What could I do? No…what could we do?
And suddenly, I felt warmth bloom in my chest. I wasn't alone anymore. If Sans had somehow gotten into the space between timelines, Chara did not have power over him. That thought filled me up, and I raised my head from my knees.
I was filled with Determination.