The spray of dirt settles.
“welp. i’m sure as fuck not in kansas anymore.”
There’s weight behind those words and Papyrus holds onto it like a grounding point. The rattling breath that escapes the other monster conflicts with him. There hadn’t been any resistance, just a betrayal of utmost surprise to contrast the extreme hurt and anger that suddenly flared up in Papyrus’ soul.
He had struck without warning. It wasn’t the usual precise and cacophonous thunder of rigid lines and pointed blue bones. That’s what got to him. The moment he saw their face, all will and intent to harm had vanished in a cloud of smoke.
It doesn’t appear to matter. The one wearing his brother’s face stumbles back, a glaring pastel version of a brother he has lost ages ago. Papyrus feels his soul clench and twist with pain left buried deep inside of him, reawakened thanks to this…
He won’t call them ‘Sans’. Sans was dead. Has been dead for a long while. It hadn’t been too many years that it couldn’t be counted, but long enough that the wound had torn open upon seeing his face again. Papyrus feels the burn of emotion rip through him, bitter and wholly encompassing him. His anger roils within him like a silent scream of agony.
He launches another attack, aiming to incapacitate.
This time he strikes, though he hesitates once more when the other monster stumbles back, falling to one knee. They’re sweating. Their clothes are torn and red is seeping out from between their fingers. They hold their side, eye sockets narrowed and white eye lights constricted in obvious pain.
Papyrus’ soul clenches again. He turns the pain into more anger, feeding the fire to attack the imposter that has so rudely intruded upon his territory and memory.
He doesn’t want to get close to them. He’s already gotten so riled up at the very notion of someone exploiting his pain in this way that it doesn’t take long for Papyrus to learn to keep a distance. And the other monster seems to know this.
“what’s ha-” The intruder stops mid-sentence, attempting to rise to both feet. It’s a laborious process, one that looks as though they’re weaker than they appear.
They shamble, stumbling, like one side of them is weighed down with lead. With any luck, Papyrus’ attack should have shaved them down to 1 HP, perhaps even sporting a few cracked ribs as a warning. If they were smart, they would stop now.
Papyrus has LV. It’s out of necessity; he was made for fighting. He’s respected for extracting information with just as much precision as his attacks.
So when this interloper arrived, Papyrus was shocked to his core that he was affected to the point where he could not be calm. He balls his hands into fists, leather gloves gripping against themselves as he summons more attacks - this time using Blue magic.
They fall with a strangled noise as the heavy gravity pins them down. The soul feels small and feeble, thrumming helplessly against his vice-like magic. As much as he collected himself in the span of seconds it took to ground them, anxiety is welling up inside of Papyrus’ soul, replaced with aggression.
Their appearance stops his normally collected nature. With the intruder’s second attempt to rise from the ground, Papyrus strengthens his grip on their soul, shoving them down further. A groan tore from the monster’s throat, muffled against the snow.
Collect yourself, Papyrus!
“I DO NOT KNOW WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE, WANDERING AROUND LIKE YOU ARE NOW. IT SEEMS TO ME THAT YOU EITHER HAVE A DEATH WISH, OR YOU HAVE COMPLETELY LOST YOUR FACULTIES. IT WOULD BE MERCY FOR ME TO END YOUR LIFE HERE.” Nothing betrays the rawness in Papyrus’ voice, but the stranger looks up as though the taller skeleton has been all but wailing. “IT WOULD BE MERCY… UNFORTUNATELY, ONE CANNOT EXTRACT INFORMATION FROM A PILE OF DUST.”
Papyrus then summons a ring of bones, encircling his hand as he raises it into the air. With a clench of his fist, the bones speed off, directionless, until the defeated monster’s body is surrounded by them. Their eye lights remain constricted, as though evaluating just how far up the creek they are. They shudder a breath, still gripping at their side. Every exhale is touched with dust.
And yet, Papyrus hesitates. His position doesn’t allow for mercy. He is the last in a long ladder of unequivocal ruthlessness, utilitarian and precise, before Undyne. Snowdin is no longer the lawless land it once was, thanks to him. For one thing, there is a lot less senseless murder.
He’s too unguarded, too angry to think straight. He knows deep inside of his LV-tainted soul that he needs to calm down and question this intruder and why he wears his dead brother’s face.
The feeling is thick, wedged between his jaw and armour. He hasn’t brought the main attack down, hovering overhead like a looming stalactite of razors. The intruder’s eye lights never leave him, despite their obvious confusion.
That settles it. Papyrus is suddenly less sure the longer he glares back, his red eye lights slivers of pain for all the world that’s staring back at him.
He hates it. He hates that he cannot even deal a warning shot to this disgusting interloper. They wouldn’t stand a chance.
Papyrus dispels the attack and instead holds onto them with Blue magic, squeezing tight for all he wants to pop the stranger like a fetid sore. The monster scrabbles at the ground, their eye lights the size of pinpricks and their soul fluttering in Papyrus’ grip like a trapped moth.
Papyrus needs answers. But he doesn’t want to touch them. He doesn’t even want to get near them, but he drags them, bodily, the thick entanglement of Blue magic leaving a scent to others not to screw with what he’s caught. The guard has hung back and dispersed; they know better than to interfere.
It’s a good thing he has a place for this to happen. Somewhere where he can privately go through his emotions and analyse each one in order. He hates that he needs to take a breath to calm down, enough for him to look the stranger in the face.
They’re trying to reason with him. He doesn’t hear a word, but Papyrus can feel the helplessness come off from them in waves.
It’s too raw.
It’s too real.
He pins them in place against the side of the shed with magic. Boards litter the wall in a hasty effort to keep the local brat population from engaging in larceny. It may be slightly serrated, but the impact makes the unfamiliar monster choke on an already laborious breath.
Papyrus heard the crunch. There’s no weight nor venom behind the manhandling. He’s throwing them around carelessly, but it’s not touching their HP. He’s too careful. They’re already at 1. Anymore intent to harm would be careless, and he needs answers.
The lookalike inhales a sharp breath, like the air is full of embers instead of magic and oxygen. It cuts off part way, their injured ribs likely to blame. If Papyrus is a little gentler in the way he manoeuvres them into the shed, it should not be examined for more than it is: pure coincidence.
The monster is afraid; they should be, their destination to Hotland or scattered into a hole in the corner of the shed for quick disposal if Papyrus doesn’t like what they say.
They say his name again, in a way Papyrus feels his heart plummet on every syllable.
It’s been too long since he’s heard it, full of concern and desperation. The last he heard it had been when his brother was Falling Down.
Papyrus buries the feeling, his soul flaring up anew with the red bleeding from between their fingers.
Phalanges. So, still a skeleton monster.
He advances, the aura surrounding him much like a scared animal, ready to lash out. They put up a hand in a placating gesture, eyes half-squinting through the pain.
“listen, i don’t want trouble, buddy-” They sound so unphased despite how injured they are.
Perhaps they don’t care. Papyrus can feel the twinge of annoyance and he looms down over them, summoning bones tainted red, gold, green and blue from his arsenal.
His voice is tight. He can’t speak. Not yet - not one on one. Papyrus glares them down, every footfall towards them sending the stranger back. It ires him that they don’t appear fearful, only wary.
He hates them.
They reach the wall; by the look in their eyes, it’s like its presence surprises them. They move minutely, gauging the area around them. Then they lower their hand, bracing it on the wall behind them, and slip down its length until they are prone on the floor.
It seems that their strength has finally worn down. Papyrus stands in front of them, silently demanding answers to his questions; who are they? Are they the enemy? A spy? What do they have to gain from this? Who’s sent them? Why are they here? Why-
Why did this hurt so much? Why does the reminder of his brother, living and breathing and in front of him now, pain him like no other wound?
Papyrus whirls his head to glare into the corner, unable to face them but keeping an eye on them in case they attempt to try something. They’re weak enough. They’re bleeding dust into the floorboards. He needs to calm himself, otherwise he’ll have more to clean up in the future.
Papyrus grits his teeth, sharp fangs jabbing into his mandible, grinding, hard and careless. It prickles, an anchor to hang onto as he listens to them breathe, quiet rattles poking fun at even more memories that he’s left buried.
Several moments pass, then he hears a quiet laugh. It’s the same, grating half-chuckle he’d heard often enough in the past that it fills his heart and soul with shame. It’s a good thing that the shadows of the shed hide the tears pricking at his eyes.
“didn’t anyone tell you not to grind your teeth?” they murmur, watery thick and nearly a wheeze. They gulp, a wet noise that Papyrus has heard all too often. Magically fettered, just like…
He stays quiet. Silence is his ally here. He keeps his jaw set, his red eye lights following the shadow bleeding on the floor. The laboured breathing is starting to grate on his already frayed psyche, even if he’s starting to calm after the initial LV recoil.
“sorry,” the watery apology hangs in the air like a thick and humid stench. “not used to bein’ on the receiving end of a good ass-whoopin’ since…”
The words linger. Since when?
Papyrus doesn’t care. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t want to know this disgusting excuse for a monster.
Yet something inside of him knows better.
The monster raises a hand and immediately Papyrus flings out his arm, an attack ready and spiking through the floorboards with wild recklessness. They freeze, their eye lights so small that they’ve disappeared. Their grin is haunting this way, like the emptiness of the void is staring back at him. A ghost with a tight grin.
‘It’d be a waste, we both know… and you know I’d never send you off on your own without anythin’ to remember me by, right?’
Papyrus leaves the undispelled attack where it is and throws himself at the door, his eyes pricking with emotion. He grabs at the handle, nearly tearing it off in the process, and leaves quickly, slamming the door behind him. The stranger can stay in the dark, illuminated by their waning magic for all he cares. He needs time.
He covers his face after a moment to regain his bearings, his soul tight in his chest and a doubt burning within his mind.
This has to be some kind of ruse.