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Challenge #01213-C118: Talking it Out

Therapy ghosts! -- Gallifreya

[AN: This prompt harkens back to the second half of story #01176, Free Spirits. But you know I'm not going to go further with that one]

Someone was in his usual hiding spot. One of the more corporeal monsters. A skeleton. A tiny little kid. And they were crying to themself.

Happstablook remained invisible as he crept closer. This kid was crying. Not the loud crying that demanded attention, but the silent kind that would not go away, no matter how much the cryer wanted it to. He... knew... that kind of pain.

The kid leaned one way, and then another. Swaying in time to the music coming from the echo flowers.

Happ's music. He came here to hide and sing and dream of a better future than just farming snails with not enough customers to go anywhere or do anything. It was the only way he could practice. Away from criticism. Away from people telling him that his dreams would never come true.

Nobody would smooch a ghost.

Happ faded into view. Just inside the skeleton kid's field of view. And as soon as the kid noticed him, they immediately began making urgent motions to keep quiet.

"You like my music?" Happ blurted.

And the flowers took his voice and repeated it ad infinitum. Melody forgotten.

"NO! Why did you do that? That music's the only good thing there is down here and you ruined it!"

The only good thing? Why would anyone say-- oh. Oh, of course. Happ had only heard about it, but a human had fallen into the Underground and almost made it all the way through Hotland before the Royal Guard collected their soul. Hundreds of skeletons had... 'fallen down'.

"I'm sorry," said Happ. "Give me a moment..." He shut his eyes and thought about a new song. About the hope in tomorrow, and the angel that would one day come. About how, very soon, there would be seven powerful souls to break the barrier and they would all see the sunlight. About how, while there was life, there was hope.

The look of awe-filled realisation on the kid's face was... it was amazing. He gestured the kid out of the nook and into a more public area where the flowers recited gibberish. "See?" he said. "For everything that's lost, there's something waiting to be found."

"...my whole family went away..." said the kid. "I don't think you can find anything good outta that, miss."

Miss. Ugh. For all that that word stung, Happ wanted to help this kid. "Call me Hap," he said. "It's cold and damp, here. Not a place for little kids. You can talk to my cousin and I where it's warmer. Would you like that?"

"I'm Pap," said the kid. And once he was warm and dry, the story poured out. The figure in the night and waking up to a house coated in dust. To a town covered in dust. All the houses and buildings were empty. Meals half-eaten. Furniture left untidily. Beds half-made. The lights left on, but nobody was home.

And, days later, the other skeleton. He said he would take Pap home. But they never went back to that skeleton town. They went to Snowdin. Where the people were nice, and there was a tidy little house with just enough room for two.

The other skeleton was kind enough, Pap guessed. He was older, and his name was Sans. He worked with the Royal Scientist most of the time, and brought home whatever meals he could buy. And he lied. He called Pap 'bro' or 'brother' but Pap couldn't remember him in his home.

He could barely remember his home, any more.

And this morning, he realised that he couldn't remember what his parents looked like. Sans wouldn't let him go back to skeleton town to get anything. He said it was too dangerous. Pap had tried, once or twice, to find the way... but there was no way back. Not one that he could find.

Blooky had joined them, by then. They could not fix what had gone wrong with Pap's world, but they could make him feel a little better about the way it was.

And when his 'brother' Sans turned up, haggard with worry and down to his last HP from stress, Pap took one look at him and said, "I'm sorry, brother. I only wanted to listen to the flowers sing."

Sans just hugged him tight and sighed, "Don't scare me like that again..."

"You're scared of everyone going away, too?"

"Of course I am. I have nightmares about it all the time."

And just like that, Pap understood a little more about the sad world of the monsters. Everyone knew Sans. He was a joker and a punster and never, ever, opened up about what was going on in his head. All to spare a little kid from knowing about it.

Happ was secretly pleased about that. The fact that he had one fan was... something else. His cousin may be gone, but he had found an audience.

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