Frisk had never been to a big theater before, so they were amazed by what they saw after reaching their balcony seat. It was a huge chamber, with multiple floors of large balconies, in addition to the small VIP ones. The stage itself was mostly covered up by a large red curtain, leaving only a small space in front. The colour scheme was largely red and gold, along with the brown of the wood walls and stage. The regular seats were filled to capacity with humans and monsters alike. It was strange that Frisk's own seat had not been claimed already - they suspected that Mettaton kept some of the VIP balconies in reserve for his friends.
They didn't have to wait long for the show to start - the lights soon began to dim, and an announcer asked the audience to turn off their cellphones. Frisk was briefly reminded that they no longer had a cellphone, and they resolved to ask Mettaton about securing a new one after the show.
Just as Frisk was thinking about him, the robotic star strode in front of the curtain with a spotlight shining on him, greeting the audience's wild cheering with a bow. Upbeat music played in the background as he spoke.
"Welcome, humans and monsters - and thank you for the applause! I'm so happy to be back in town after oh-so-much time touring the continent!" He said, waving at the audience. "I know you're all just as excited as me, so I won't bother wasting your time with the pre-show. Without further ado, let's welcome my fellow performers back home!"
The curtain parted, revealing a wide stage with a flashing multi-coloured dance platform in the middle. On a second, taller platform behind the dance area, Napstablook was acting as a DJ, currently playing Mettaton's introductory song.
"As usual, I am accompanied by a cast of wonderful performers - starting with my dear cousin, Blooky! Give them a round of applause, everyone!"
The audience cheered accordingly, prompting Napstablook to duck their head down shyly, which only caused the audience to cheer even louder in support.
Mettaton leaped onto the dance platform, holding his hand out stage right. "Next up is my second cousin, Mads, whose passion for justice burns almost as brightly as their hatred of boring people!"
The mad not-dummy ran next to Mettaton, laughing dramatically and crossing their arms. They received similar cheering, although it was not as intense as what the previous two had received.
"The fourth member of our troupe is quiet and reserved, but they have a lot in store for you tonight! Yes, it's our good pal Cotton!"
The green robot, Cotton, walked in and took their place to the right of the dance platform, observing the audience in idle curiosity. The clapping was subdued once again, but not so much so that it would have been rude.
Mettaton did a twirl, and then pointed up into the air. "Of course, we can't possibly forget our fishy friend! Let's all give a warm welcome to the lovely Shyren!"
Shyren descended slowly from the ceiling, not currently inhabiting the rocket-fishbowl that Frisk had observed in the magazine. Fittingly, she seemed very shy about getting up on stage, and floated to the back, behind the robots. However, when the audience cheered wildly for her, she blushed and smiled in response - Frisk was sorely tempted to squeal in delight over how cute she looked when she did that.
For his part, Flowey looked intrigued. "I've never seen anything like this before. Considering how Mettaton's fight with you went, I'm expecting this thing to look pretty cool."
Frisk blinked at Flowey in surprise. You liked that?
"Yeah, he may be a rampantly egotistical maniac, but he sure knows how to put on a good show. I probably wouldn't like this if it was something plot-heavy, but it looks to me like they'll mostly be dancing and stuff."
That makes sense. Frisk nodded.
Mettaton snapped his fingers. "Last, but not least, here's the dutiful worker that'll never quit, even when he desperately wants to: Burgerpants!"
"Wait, what the heck?" Flowey was immediately caught off-guard by this declaration.
Burgerpants emerged looking uncharacteristically subdued, nervousness displayed on his face instead of exasperated anger. He was wearing a black t-shirt and black pants, with a white MTT logo on the front. He gave a sincere smile, doing his best to look friendly.
Rather than making another announcement, Mettaton snapped his fingers, prompting all of the other cast members to pose in perfect unison. Napstablook pressed a button, and a song began to build up. The troupe began to dance, starting off small and getting more dramatic as the song picked up. Instead of following the same choreography, each dancer had their own unique moves, seemingly designed to reflect their personality. The song was perfect for them: fast-paced and easy to dance to, but it felt open to all the troupe's contrasting members - as opposed to favouring the aesthetic interests of one over the other. It used powerful synthesized instruments, which worked well with virtually any sort of dancer, as long as they kept to the beat. Frisk was particularly curious about the green robot, Cotton - presumably the dummy Frisk had encountered in the ruins. Their dancing was very similar to a dance that Frisk remembered as "the robot", and their facial expression was perpetually one of mild interest. It was as if they regarded everything from the perspective of a passive casual observer.
Watching the group perform like this, Frisk felt a surge of joy for Mettaton. He'd dreamed of performing for humans on the surface, and now his wish had come true. He certainly seemed to be happy at the moment, performing alongside his family proudly. Even Napstablook and Shyren were enjoying themselves, though they remained safely at the back of the group.
Frisk glanced at Flowey, who was watching the performance attentively. It was probably just curiosity, and that was to be expected - this new reset-free world was filled with new things for him to enjoy. They were happy that he was enjoying himself somehow, but they wished that he could be Asriel again. If he could be back for good, that would make everyone happier in the long term, even if he didn't think so.
The song faded out before too long, and the audience applauded enthusiastically. Mettaton bowed proudly, and then raised his arm into the air. On cue, a microphone fell from the ceiling and he caught it, an electronic pop song starting the moment it landed in his hand. Almost immediately afterwards, he launched into a song, the others acting as synchronized dancers and backup singers, with the exception of Napstablook. Within the first twenty seconds of the song, Frisk was able to identify it as a song about following your dreams - something that Mettaton obviously felt very strongly about, given his past.
But that wasn't all there was to it. As the song went on, the lyrics started talking about the importance of friends and family, noting that they need to be valued even while you're pursuing your ambitions. Coming from Mettaton, it sounded a lot like an apology, and this probably wasn't even the first time he'd sung it. Frisk could only imagine what it must have been like when the song first debuted.
Even now, the song seemed to have an effect on them, as Napstablook started to blush and smile when these themes came up. Frisk wondered how a robot could blush - was that an intentional feature, or was there some kind of magic involved?
"Oh, wow..." Flowey stared at Mettaton, his voice sounding almost impressed. There was a hint of something else in his tone as well, but Frisk couldn't quite catch what it was.
As soon as he noticed Frisk watching him, Flowey turned to the child indignantly. "What? It's just a pretty good song!" He snapped.
I like it too. Frisk said.
Flowey turned to watch the show again, avoiding Frisk's gaze. They caught him making the same face as before soon afterwards, but didn't focus on it for long. If he was making progress, then they didn't want to interrupt it by embarrassing him.
The show went on for five more songs, adding up to seven in total. Probably not the longest show anyone had ever put on, but it was quite possibly the most dramatic thing Frisk had ever seen. Every song had earned clapping and cheering from the audience, but their reaction to the final song was by far the largest. It was far too loud for the cast to offer any closing remarks, so they simply bowed, then waved to the audience as they left to stage. At one point, while the spotlight was briefly on somebody else, Mettaton looked up at Frisk, winking and jerking his head backstage. Apparently, he wanted them to make their way over there themselves. Considering that most people didn't recognize them - or in the case of many of the humans, had never met them in the first place - they could only assume that Mettaton had given them VIP access via physical description. Maybe he'd taken secret photos of them while he was in the mansion?
In any case, they wouldn't be left wondering for long. They made their way down to the theater's lobby, a huge fancy place filled with chairs, tables and decorations. A pair of fire monsters was operating a large bar, coloured dark blue and dark green respectively. Recalling the two occasions on which they'd visited Grillby's, Frisk wondered if bartending was a tradition for fire monsters.
As there were obvious entrances in the lobby, Frisk's only option was to push through the crowd and literally go to the back of the stage. A muscular bear monster in a long coat was standing on the stage now, but he nodded at Frisk and let them pass. As they suspected, he had made sure for them to grant the Skeleton in the striped sweater backstage access. Walking past assorted props and tools, they walked through a door and into backstage proper. The back halls were just as fancy as the lobby, though their only contents were more equipment. They quickly spotted a door labelled "CAST", and quietly ducked inside before something could interrupt them.
Frisk had expected a utilitarian dressing room, but what they found was more like a lounge with costumes and makeup supplies. It had a multitude of cushioned chairs, positioned in front of desks with mirrors, and a massive couch that could easily seat twelve Mettaton-sized people - although in this case, it only needed to accommodate four. The robots were all seated on the couch, chatting with each other casually. Burgerpants was seated in one of the chairs, looking himself in the mirror in what appeared to be a moment of intense self-reflection. Shyren was in the corner, speaking with a monster Frisk had not expected to see here: Lemon Bread.
"I like your singing." They said, giving Shyren a toothy smile.
"Thank you." Shyren whispered, so quietly that Frisk didn't actually hear it - they had to read her lips.
When Mettaton noticed that Frisk had entered, he jumped to his feet and ran over to the child. The others looked towards the former human, alerted to their presence by his movement. All of them had directly encountered Frisk along the way, and Mettaton had probably informed them of Frisk's presence already, so it was no surprise when they all recognized them immediately. Most of them were shocked, and almost all of them were happy; Cotton was still just casually interested, while Mads stared at them in annoyance.
"Hello again, darling! Did you enjoy our performance?" Mettaton asked Frisk brightly.
Frisk nodded. I've never seen one of your normal shows before. It was amazing to watch.
Napstablook smiled. "We made sure to do our best, because we knew you'd be in the audience."
"Perfect, perfect, perfect!" Mads yelled, jabbing a finger at Frisk. "That's what our performance was! You'd have to be a dummy to dislike it!"
Burgerpants swiveled his chair around, staring at the child anxiously. "Is this actually happening? You're really here, and I'm not finally going insane?"
Don't worry, I'm real. Frisk reassured him.
Flowey smirked at the troupe of monsters. "Are any of you really surprised, considering they made it through the entire underground?"
"I expected them to die. They were a human, and I only met them once." Cotton noted, frowning slightly.
Frisk approached Cotton. When I fought Mads, they said that I had scared you when I tried to talk to you. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to.
Cotton smiled. "Actually, I was scared of Toriel. Mads just assumed it was you, because you're the one who was talking to me."
Frisk looked away, suddenly reminded of the motherly boss monster. They had no idea what they would say to Toriel if they were reunited with her right now, and they weren't sure if they could ever think up something satisfactory. However, they still very much wanted to see her again, in spite of all the challenges it would create. Knowing she would probably give anything to see them again...if they were still human, it would have filled them with determination.
Meanwhile, in response to Cotton's correction, Mads yelled out indignantly. "That's a perfectly reasonable assumption to make! She's a mom, so I didn't think she could be scary!"
Lemon Bread burbled, glaring at Mads. "You could have visited the ruins more often."
"The monsters in the ruins were boring, boring, boring! I didn't want to associate with boring people!" Mads crossed their arms, stomping their feet with each utterance of the word 'boring'.
Flowey coughed. "Hey, I don't mean to interrupt, but I wanted to say something about your performance.
Burgerpants whipped his head towards Flowey, leaning forward with rigid tension. "Was it good?"
Flowey blinked. "Yeah, it was good. I-I liked the way you guys...worked together." Flowey spoke sincerely, sounding surprisingly meek. He snapped back into his usual persona moments later, catching Frisk's incredulous stare. "Don't give me that look! I just thought it was cool that they were so well-coordinated!"
Napstablook blushed again. "I'm glad we made you happy."
Frisk winced, expecting Flowey to snap at the shy robot, but instead he just stared in confusion. This reaction puzzled Frisk, but they didn't want to ask in front of other people. Better to wait until they were alone with him.
Flowey coughed. "S-so anyways, what are they doing here?" Flowey gestured at Lemon Bread in any attempt to change the subject.
"I control the special effects." Lemon Bread gave a flexed thumbs-up.
Frisk blinked their pupils and tilted their head at them in surprise.
Lemon Bread shrugged. "It's interesting, but the best part is helping my sister."
For several seconds there with a lull in activity, during which Mettaton glanced around, in case somebody else spoke up. When nobody did, the star flashed a smile and snapped his fingers. "Now that all that business has been taken care of, it's time for us to present Frisk with their special welcome-back gift!"
Frisk widened their eyes in surprise. You got me a gift?
"Of course I did! This is a very important occasion!" Mettaton spoke as though the very concept of not giving them a gift was appalling. Before another word could be said, he whipped out a small rectangular object - Frisk had no idea where he had gotten it from - and handed it to Frisk.
Upon inspection, the object turned out to be a red cell phone. It had a sleek rectangular design, with a keypad positioned below the screen. Frisk turned it on experimentally, and found that it came pre-installed with a wide variety of apps, including an internet browser and an updated surface version of Undernet. It also had detailed contact information for all of the Troupe's members.
Flowey inspected the phone in bemusement. "What's with all this pre-installed stuff? How did you have the time to get it in the phone?"
"We had a member of our staff set up the phone for us during the show. Mettaton wrote down instructions for them." Cotton explained.
Mettaton waved a hand dismissively. "Oh, it was no trouble at all. Frisky-darling deserves nothing less than the latest in cell-phone technology!"
So why is Undernet still around? Frisk asked.
Mettaton laughed. "Oh, you can thank Alphys for that. Since she wasn't the royal scientist anymore, she decided to work on a new version of Undernet instead. Monsters were happy to see it come to the surface with them, and it caught on quickly with the humans."
What is she doing now? She lives with Undyne, right? They continued asking, still curious about Alphys's situation.
Mettaton nodded. "She lives with her girlfriend. Her actual job is as an Undernet administrator, but she also attempts to create new inventions sometimes."
Suddenly, Mads stomped the ground loudly, getting everybody's attention as they pointed at Frisk. "Hey, hey, hey! I'm sorry to interrupt, but it’s late at night, and a kid like you shouldn't be out like this!"
Napstablook looked at Frisk apologetically. "He has a point. Do you know where you want us to take you?"
Frisk put a hand on their chin. Now that they thought about it again, both options were highly appealing. Wherever they went, their old clothes would probably be washed off, which would make it much harder for the other party to recognize them. They supposed that it would be possible to tell Sans things only Frisk could know, at which point Papyrus would be relatively easy to convince. But if Toriel was introduced to a fresh Frisk with new clothes, she would never believe them.
I'm not sure where to go. Frisk admitted. I think it's important for me to visit Sans and Papyrus, but I also really want to see Toriel again. I'm also worried that either Papyrus or Toriel will want to clean my clothes, which will make it harder for the others to recognize me.
"Oh my, that really is a dilemma." Mettaton frowned.
Cotton smiled. "Papyrus has a reputation for being quirky, but honest. If you tell him to call all your friends over for a very important surprise, they will not think it's unusual, because it is Papyrus."
Frisk was surprised they hadn't thought about it before, but the idea was immediately appealing to them. Thank you, that's a really good idea! I'll go see the skeletons, then. They signed, bouncing up and down excitedly.
"But it's getting late, like Mads said." Napstablook pointed out. "You might have to explain why you don't want clean clothes, and then wait until morning to call everyone."
Yeah, you’re probably right. Frisk admitted. I'll see what Papyrus and Sans think about the idea.
"Now we just need somebody to take Frisk there." Mettaton said, looking very conspicuously at Burgerpants.
Burgerpants just shrugged. "Anything for you, little buddy. I wouldn't have gotten to become an actor if it wasn't for you."
Frisk was amazed by how quickly their situation had improved once they found Mettaton. They got to visit his house, then they saw his show, and now they had a brand new cell-phone and a free ride to the skeleton brothers' house. They still weren't capable of much determination, but with all of these good things happening, a growing feeling of hopefulness was rising up in its place.
Hope was nice. They could settle for that.
Meanwhile, on a stone path not too far away, someone had just finished putting the lights of the city behind them.
She hadn't actually gone through the city, but had decided to walk along the outside wall instead. Most people would have gotten bored doing this, but not her. Mom had always told said that patience is a virtue, and that she was such a good girl for always waiting so politely. She was happy to please her mother, but it was never something she had to actively work at. She was just a very patient person.
Patience wasn't just about waiting, though. It also meant being able to take action at the right time. This was another thing that she was naturally good at, so she wasn't surprised at all when she woke up. She could feel in her bones that she had been sleeping for ages, but now that perfect moment had finally arrived.
Her mom had always said that if she got lost, she should go and wait somewhere familiar, where she could find her. Nothing was familiar anymore, and her mom probably wasn't looking anymore, so she couldn't really do it the way they used to. Instead, she'd have to do the next best thing - finding a familiar person.
She already knew exactly who to look for, and it would only be a matter of time before she found her. She just had to be patient.