The air almost felt wet itself, just hours after nearly two days of rain. The sky was still a muddled blueish purple, the kind of color you mind find in a dirty pond. Not quite greenish yet, but hints of the tone bled into the others. It was early, though, even if it didn’t look it, and if it was early, that meant there was still much to do with the day.
The young monster knew the path well, he’d traipsed it many times before, returning to the place he’d known as home for nearly all his life. But unlike his flowery friend, the one he was visiting today had a habit of lingering only close by. Not quite Underground, but never far enough away to enjoy the company of others.
Which was precisely why he visited.
It was a mild hike to get to the opening of Mt Ebbott, a trek he made even shorter by manipulating the laws of physics. Expediting his trip, he landed deftly in the grass a few yards from the gaping hole in the mountain. A child sat at the edge, looking down, a somber air about them.
“HELLO, CHARA!” His sing-song voice echoed around them, exaggerated by the otherwise near-absolute silence.
They weren’t surprised, glancing back to him with only vague interest.
Closing the gap between them, he dropped to the ground beside them in a comical fashion, readjusting himself to sit more properly at their side.
“THE RAIN ALWAYS MAKES THINGS SMELL WEIRD. BUT I LIKE IT!” He joined them in watching the dark, shadowy abyss.
“I can’t honestly say I remember what that smells like, but I’ll take your word for it.”
Tapping a finger to his chin, he pondered. It made sense that a ghost had no sense of smell, but smells were particularly hard to describe.
“YOU KNOW FRISK RIGHT?”
Breaking the trance, the child looked to him with a sarcastically raised brow.
“IT KIND OF SMELLS LIKE...THEIR PERSONALITY!!”
Earning a very soft chuckle, the spirit turned their eyes back on the mountain.
“That does sound weird.”
Finally smiling, the child sighed as they repositioned themself to face him.
“So...how are they doing?”
This was the skeleton’s favorite part of all their hang outs. But it was the ghost’s most apprehensive.
“ASGORE AND LADY TORIEL ARE BOTH DOING WELL!! FRISK HAS EVEN CONVINCED LADY TORIEL TO ALLOW THE KING TO GARDEN FOR THEM!”
The child looked away, the sadness in their eyes growing deeper as memories waned like a tide wanting to pull them out to sea.
“That’s good. And it’s just Toriel, Papyrus. Although,” they refocused on him, “it’s an improvement from Lady Asgore, I’ll give you that.”
A proud smile beamed back at them. He was by far the most ridiculous monster they’d ever known. Still, his unwavering belief in ‘the greater good’ always struck a bittersweet chord in their heart. He was so much like that fool.
“And your brother?”
Somehow perking up even more, the monster’s face lit up, “SANS IS DOING SURPRISINGLY WELL! I THINK HE’S REALLY STARTING TO BE MORE LIKE ME!!!”
Humming their acknowledgement, Chara’s smile deteriorated. They’d seen the monsters get to the surface before. They knew, deep down in the heart they no longer had, this was all only temporary.
“Are you certain that that’s...a good thing?” Their eyes drifted, this time finding the patch of flowers beside them. The golden petals muted by the unsaturated light.
“ABSOLUTELY! I AM THE GREAT PAPYRUS AFTER ALL!! WHAT MORE COULD I ASK FOR?? BUT DON’T WORRY, HE IS STILL VERY MUCH MY BROTHER. HE STILL DOESN’T PICK UP HIS SOCKS...”
Out of the corner of their eye they caught the frustrated scowl on the skeleton as he looked away, focused somewhere back into the forest.
“After all this time...how do you still find trust in the humans?”
Without missing a beat, he rolled his eyes, “GEEZ, CHARA, IT’S ONLY BEEN A FEW MONTHS. BUT THEY’RE SURPRISINGLY NICE! I AM ALREADY VERY POPULAR HERE!!”
For as much as he played down his awareness of the resets, it was easy to see the intensity in his eyes. He was determined to have faith. But why?
A quiet fell over them, the spirit playing at leaves and petals, the skeleton watching the fog in contentment. They knew he knew, and he knew they knew he knew, so why bother playing this game? Why bother trying so hard to be ‘The Great Papyrus’?
They already knew the answer.
“You remind me of him.”
His eyes were soft as he drew his smile back to them. Plucking a single flower from the Earth, the child looked out toward the world. The cruel, unrelenting world.
“That’s not really a good thing.”
The monster was silent for a moment, turning to search for whatever they were watching.
“MAYBE YOU SHOULD TRY BEING A LITTLE MORE LIKE HIM, TOO!”
Fighting back a cringe of resentment, their eyes were distant when they met his. Plucking a single petal off the flower in their hand, they kept their eyes locked.
“And what good would that do me now?” Another petal between their fingers, a slight twitch of the wrist and it followed the other.
“YOU CAN CHOOSE TO BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE! ANYTIME!! EXCEPT FOR ME, I’M ALREADY TAKEN!!!”
And another petal.
“But why bother?”
His hand reach across, pulling another flower from the ground while they disregarded the final petal.
“THAT’S A PRETTY SILLY QUESTION! TO BE HAPPY!! WHY NOT?”
Just as they tossed the wilted stem into the cavernous pit, a gloved hand took them by surprise. The skeleton smiled brightly as he offered the fresh flower.
They watched him, waiting for him to give up, but he held it there, almost touching their chin, for minutes. Conceding, they took the stem, more gently than the last.
Perhaps they were trying to prove a point, or maybe they were frustrated, but they held his encouraging gaze while throwing the new plant into the mountain as well. He wasn’t surprised.
Instead, he plucked another, a smaller one, holding it out proudly.
“IT’S A GOOD THING THERE ARE SO MANY FLOWERS!!”
Resting an arm on their leg, the child held their face as they took the second replacement.
“I take it back. You’re actually more unbelievable than he was.”
“NYEH HEH HEH!!! I TRY!!” Blushing, he waved a hand at them. What a simply ridiculous being.
The flower looked back to them, slightly tattered and smaller than the others. Perhaps this one suited them. They tucked the stem into behind their ear, smiling patronizingly to the monster.
“What about Frisk...how are they?”
The goofy smile on his face spreading almost impossibly wide, the skeleton jumped at the chance to talk about his good friend.
The ghost listened as he recounted any recent happenings involving the living child, including a few things he’d forgotten he’d mentioned last time. He was very good at rambling.
But after an hour or two of listening and interjecting with an occasional joke, or snarky remark, they were growing tired. They found it funny, sometimes cruel, that they had so little energy for the rare interactions that came to them.
An hour or two of rambling can be quite exhausting as well. It was a natural decline that they could both feel, something they actually had in common. So after reconfirming another visit a couple of weeks from then, the skeleton got to his feet.
He tried to convince them to meet perhaps a little closer to the town the monsters were currently living in, but they weren’t read for that, not yet. He chimed that they had plenty of time, almost in a challenging tone, but they merely smiled and nodded. Maybe next month. Should it come around.
A reassuring shoulder clap, a brash laugh, and Papyrus was off again. Waltzing right off the mountain and through the air like it was a completely normal thing to do.
Drifting downward, he disappeared amongst the trees, he felt lighter. Happy he could provide a positive influence for such a lonely child.
They watched after him, minutes passing as the fog grew denser. It looked like it was going to rain again. He was foolish, they were sure of that, but beside his annoying optimism, something about the skeleton resonated with the spirit. It took far longer to get tired of him than most others. Not that it mattered being that he and Frisk were the only ones who could see them. But there were worse things.
And when it all started over, he’d stay exactly the same. But...there were worse things.