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En Garde

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It begins on a sunny, cold afternoon.

 

“Papyrus!” The sharp voice rang, followed by a loud slam. It takes a moment for you register that it came from the door and its Undyne because it’s so abrupt. Your hands twitch, the bowl slipping from your fingers and falling and falling, and some part of you anticipated for a splat - that is, until Sans casually caught it with a quick swipe of his arm.

 

You manage to send him a quick look of appreciation before a spear cracks the table in half, splinters showering. Undyne stomps over the remains and you wince at every crunch.

 

“Papyrus!” She yells again, raising a finger to jab in his direction, “It’s time to spar!”

 

He doesn’t even miss a beat. “Of course, Undyne! I, the great Papyrus, accept your challenge!”

 

The bowl of pasta sauce he’s mixing is left untouched on the counter.

 

 

And that was how you ended up sitting at the doorway, hugging your arms tightly around yourself,  mustering the most unimpressed face you can possibly make as you watch the two monsters - one sporting a huge, for a lack of a better word, shit-eating grin as she leers at the skeleton facing her. You dearly wish to wrap yourself under a pile of warm blankets, back inside. Sans is eating a hot dog beside you.

 

You don’t bother questioning where did the hot dog came from. 

 

“Hey,” You jab your elbow into Sans, “Why does Undyne always fight Papyrus?” For a fish, Undyne sure has a ton of stamina. Where does she get all her energy from, anyway?

 

...Then again, she is the Captain of the Royal Guards for a reason.

 

He paused in his chewing and turns to you, the white pinpricks of light in Sans’ eye sockets twinkles as he flashes you something that is definitely a smarmy grin. 

 

“Well, you can say-”

 

“Sans no. No, stop-”

 

“-that she has a bone to pick with him.”

 

You half-bury your face into your hands. “Oh my god, Sans.”

 

He just chuckles, pulling out another ketchup bottle as he lets some sort of glee seep into his voice. “Hey, can’t blame me for that. You walked into that one yourself.”

 

Did not. His grin only widens at your glare. You fixate a scowl at him and lasted exactly five counts before heaving a sigh, shoulders slumping. As expected, it has no effect. Why are you even not surprised?

 

Pointedly ignoring Sans’ amused gaze, you cross your arms as you look back at the two other monsters.

 

“...Can I go back inside?”

 

Not a second later, Undyne returns your question with a firm “No! You are our referee for this match!” It was worth a shot, you grumbled, plopping back down because no matter how cold it is out here, you don’t feel like running from the fish monster if you break her request (or demand, you snort.) Undyne, no matter how awesome and cool she is, is pretty darn terrifying if she starts chasing someone.

 

...Or maybe it was how Papyrus beamed at you, and it may or may-not be your imagination or the sun but you think you saw actual sparkles around him when Undyne announces that you are the judge. You don’t have the heart to say no to him.

 

 

So, back to the situation.

 

 

Undyne’s sharp-toothed grin, if it was possible, grew even bigger. “Are you ready for me to wipe the floor with you, bonehead?” She cackles, making a show out of spinning her weapon around, snow crunching under her foot as she bounces, warming up. You could feel the excitement radiating off from her even at your distance.

 

You’ve seen them spar before, a couple of times that occur around twice per week. According to Undyne’s exact words, it is just so she can “Keep those weakass brittle bones in shape”(You suspect that it was just an excuse). Nevertheless, their movements and skills always leave you wide-eyed and breathless. Sometime when a stray spear finds itself stuck into a nearby rock, a sense of relief never fails to fill you because god, I’m so lucky I don’t have to fight them anymore. It’s mostly directed at Undyne, but hey, you’re not complaining, because one time a bone shard would had actually embedded itself right into your foot had you not shift it out of the way just in time.

 

Papyrus still hasn’t gotten over it, yet.

 

Speaking of which, the skeleton has just finished warming up. Papyrus rises from his squat as he claps his gloves together, a flash of blue and before you blink, he is twirling a long bone in his hands. An even wider smile is stretched across his features. “I have finished my preparations, Undyne! Let us commence th-”

 

"Wait!” There was a shuffle as Undyne scrambles, no, stomps away, “I almost forgot!!"

 

She disappears behind the garage, weapon stabbed and forgotten in the snow for the moment.

 

You were just as confused as Papyrus. What is she up to now?

 

A faint whoosh slices through the air and something embeds itself right at Papyrus' foot. You squint. It's slender and sharp, hilt elegantly curled and sleek. A small voice nags at the back of your head because it looks so familiar.

 

You frown. Have you seen it before?

 

"For today's session," Undyne says, spear raised and her body crouched, sharp teeth bared in some form of a smirk and a sneer, "We use swords!"

 

And then she charges right in.

 

'Wait what?" Snow kicks up behind her, wind almost howling as her spearhead lanced towards her target. You glance at Sans in alarm.  'She's not using a sword, and Papyrus doesn't-"

 

Your next words died, only barely out of your lips, because Papyrus flicks the bone away into thin air at the same time he snatches up the sleek metal and swings, meeting Undyne head on in one smooth arc. Steel clashes against steel, the two lock against with each other, screeches and sparks flying between the blades.

 

"What the-"

 

"Nyeh heh heh! You thought you could surprise the great Papyrus?" Another flick of his wrist, and the both of them slides back, more sparks and ringing in their wake. The skeleton brings the hilt up so that it levels with his chin - the blade itself vertically parallel to himself as he stood straight, facing his opponent. Papyrus’ friendly grin almost looks cheeky. “You’ll have to try harder than that, Undyne!”

 

In response, she slaps her spear onto the ground in a display of threat, the resulting bang echoing as she brings the tip up to point at him a moment later. “I’ll show you your ‘surprise’, you bonehead!” Undyne snarks.

 

And she drags a finger across her neck.

 

Papyrus returns her grin, though a little less wolfish. He pulls his sword downwards, mirroring her spear as he tilts it towards her, free hand resting on his hips. At the same time, Undyne bends low on her knees in anticipation, tension rising.

 

 

A beat.

 

 

“En garde!”

 

She rushes straight into him and propels her weapon down in a swing. Papyrus, in a fluid motion, slides his left leg back while the other bended, entire form shifting as his blade meets Undyne’s yet again, parrying the blow. He follows through with a quick series of thrusts, swift assaults that cause his opponent to curse in a multitude of colourful languages as she scrambles to fend off his onslaught.

 

Through the whole thing, you didn’t even realized that your mouth was hanging open until a hot dog was shoved unceremoniously right into them.

 

Holy shit.” You spluttered, never once taking your sight off from the field.

 

You aren’t even mad at Sans for doing that because you are in awe, mesmerized, and downright impressed. Your eyes stick to the both of them, drawn in directly at how the skeleton is actually gaining the advantage over the Royal Guard Captain herself. And while your sight dart between the two, it dawns on you that the thing Papyrus is wielding is a rapier, and that he’s fucking fencing.

 

 

''Nyeh heh heh!"

 

"Why you little-"

 

“Since when did Papyrus knew how to fence?” Your left eye starts to twitch. And actually being so good at it?

 

Sans shrugs. “When Papyrus first tried to join the guards, Undyne trained him herself so that he could qualify for the position. Turns out, they discovered that my bro’s a natural at this at some point in time, and there’s that.” He turns back to the fight, and something akin to a proud smile graced his features. “And while she’s more experienced in everything else, Undyne has never won him in a spar whenever he uses that sword.”

 

Wordlessly, you follow his line of sight. Undyne is screaming in anger as she flips back, avoiding a particular hard pierce, and you snickered along with Sans. He presses a hand to his teeth. “That is, if she doesn’t bring out her actual hunting spear.”

 

“Oh.”

 

With that, a comfortable silence settles between the two of you, save for the occasional “Ngahhh!” sounding from the field. You don't talk in favor of appreciating the spar session, and another ten minutes into it a whistle escapes your lips when Papyrus sent the spear flying with an upward slice, following a thrust, and that's all it takes for Undyne to launch herself onto him with a warcry. The two monsters crash into the ground in a mix of bones and scales and snow.

 

Wow, you think. You've been living with the skeleton brothers for so long, and you were so sure that you knew them pretty well by now: how Papyrus labels and places his jars of sauce in the cardboard; how the difference in Sans’ grins varies; how excited Papyrus is just by listening to pitch and speed he talks. Turns out you were wrong after all, but not that it bothers you, much - This was a pleasant surprise.

 

Plus, while Sans doesn’t seem to notice, but you can see how proud he is of his brother. The smile seems faintly warmer than usual; he's talking much more, and there's that twinkle of pride in the pinpricks within his eye sockets.

 

It's almost cute.

 

 

...But wait.

 

 

Your train of thought halted. Didn't he said that they discovered Papyrus' skills while he trained under Undyne? It happened way, way back, a long time ago even before you came to the underground. Judging from his performance right now, he's definitely trained and experienced enough.

 

So it does not make sense. It does not make sense at all.

 

 

 

 

''HUMAN! Are you alright?"

 

A set of ribs blurred into view and you blinked, eye slowly dragging up to a very puzzled skeleton. "Hey Papyrus."

 

“Hello Human!” He returns, enthusiastically like he always does. The scarf he usually wears looks more powdery and dirtier than usual, and with him closer you could see there are little scratches and dings on his armor plate. Otherwise, Papyrus looks fine. “Why are you making a face like you just ate something bad?”

 

“...Am I?” You aren’t sure but now that he’s mentioning it, you can feel the way your lips curled downwards.

 

“YES!” He gestures at you like it should be obvious. “Human! Is there something wrong? Are you hungry? Would you like some of my delicious pasta later?”

 

The ridges of his eyes furrow in concern. You could almost laugh, but before you can open your mouth and reassure him that no, I’m not hungry, thanks for the concern, Papyrus jerks sideways like he’s been shoved, Undyne taking his place right in front of you. Loudly.

 

“HEY PUNK!” She yells, teeth glinting. “So who won? I did, right?”

 

Beside you, Sans snorts on his third - or fourth? - hotdog and drawls, “Nah, my bro definitely won this round.”

 

“Shut up lazybones!” Undyne snarks, and punched a hole in the stairs with what’s left of her spear. You can feel her glowering at the skeleton until her sight whips right back at you, grinning in a sort of unintentional, aggressive way. You felt sorry for the poor weapon. “You saw me defeat his ass earlier! Am I right Human!?”

 

“Sorry Undyne,” You say, smiling sheepishly. “Papyrus totally destroyed you this time.”

 

“Yeah, he had utterly pommeled you into the ground during the match.”

 

Papyrus’ groan is louder than yours. Of course, you think, head shaking in exasperated defeat. Leave it up to Sans to make puns in fencing terms. You passed a towel to the taller skeleton while Undyne just shrieks in frustration, sending the poor spear flying back into the snow as she jabs a finger in Sans’ direction.

 

“You don’t even know much about fighting!”

 

He shrugs. “I guess I could use some boning up on my knowledge.”

 

"SANS!”

 

 That was it. You can’t stop your giggle at Papyrus’ scandalized look. There was a crash as Undyne slams a hole into where Sans was a second ago. The skeleton himself is casually avoiding her punches and swipes while he continues to enjoy his food, stepping backwards as Undyne screams in mock anger.

 

 Sans disappears into the house with her hot on his heels. You just watch them go and sighs, picking the towel out from the taller skeleton’s hands and looped it around him like his scarf, fluffing him dry. It definitely caught his attention. “That’s Sans’ for you.” You grin fondly. “By the way, you were really awesome just now. I didn’t know you could use a rapier like that.”

 

 He puffs up, entire posture swelling with pride at your compliment. “OF COURSE HUMAN! I AM THE GREAT PAPYRUS, A MEMBER OF THE ROYAL GUARDS, ANY LESS WOULD BE VERY UNBEFITTING FOR MY GREATNESS AND POSITION.”

 

 There was a pause. “But wait! I’m not in the Royal Guards yet. Hey Undyne, am I qualified to join now?!”

 

 Oh Papyrus, you snort quietly.

 

 “You wish!” Undyne hollers from somewhere in the living room. “You still have a long way to go! And you owe me a rematch!”

 

 “Ah, no problem! I’m sure I will catch up sooner or later!”

 

 There was no answer, aside from some more crashes and screamings of Sans, get the hell back here. You would have followed them, if not for a boney hand resting gently on your shoulder as Papyrus asks again, worry in his words. “Are you sure you are okay, human?”

 

 You laugh quietly. Taking his hands in yours, you pat his in reassurance and he relaxes. “I’m fine, Papyrus. Now c’mon, let’s stop her before she catches Sans.”

 

 With that, both of you hurry into the house, subject long forgotten for the moment as you follow the source of crashing and screaming.

 

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

 

The following week passes by relatively peaceful. Or, as peaceful as it could get living with a bunch of monsters.

 

Undyne doesn't give up. She ambushes Papyrus at random intervals; at lunch, before breakfast, and while preparing dinner. For some reason she refuses to disturb him during patrols or while sleeping, but you appreciate it. You can only tolerate having a fish lady crashing through the window, waving a spear and yelling about a rematch at three in the morning for so long, after all.

 

Sans, on the other hand, doesn't mind much. Instead, he enjoys a sense of perverse glee in cracking more puns at the three of you. One time you snatch a towel and tried to stuff it into his face, but alas, it was useless. He only sidesteps you, twisting out of the way when Undyne launched herself onto him.

 

Geez. For someone who doesn't fight, he sure has some quick reflexes.

 

Other than that, you find yourself looking forward to the sparring sessions. Papyrus is happy too, judging by the way he lights up even as Undyne bellows an “I’m gonna kick your ass this round” each time. That, or the fact that you see those darn sparkles again whenever he looks at where you are onlooking their fight.

 

It is a very endearing look on him.

 

And, well, between appreciating how fluid his movements are and the way he smoothly attacks while switching forms, you learn to relax and just watch. Sans teases you when you hadn't heard him thrice, but it was only because you were so engrossed. So you snort, resting your arm on his shoulders and steals his food away in response.

 

In all, it is a very normal week.

 

But still, you wonder, absentmindedly noting how frightening fast the rate Undyne is improving at the back of your head. You can’t ignore how skilled Papyrus is, so the question eventually comes filtering through the fog in your mind.

 

 

Why did he not use his sword when he tried to capture me?

 

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

 

Perhaps it was because you kept thinking about it (or how you cannot actually see your facial expression without a mirror) that Papyrus confronts you one night.

 

"Ew." You grimaced. There were some crumbs left on the couch. You would have lectured Sans right in his room, but he's out for the night. Patrolling, he drawls, orders from Undyne. A grumble escaped your lips because you are sure he's slacking at Grillbz's again. Or at his station. Just like every time.

 

You fluff your pillow, brushing the crumbs off of them in one sweep of your arms, and look up to a very bony and white skull.

 

"Christ!"

 

"Human!" You took a step backwards, hands clutching your chest because you almost died. Papyrus is wearing a sleeveless, loose shirt, white sharp against the faint blue shorts - Not that it matters now. "I’m sorry! Have I frightened you? Are you okay?"

 

Sans have been rubbing more of his habits off on his brother again.

 

"Paps, I almost had a heart attack." Not really, but it was a figurative speech.

 

“Oh no, please don’t, human. Please don’t have a heart attack.” Gosh, Papyrus looked so guilty. His hands finds your shoulders, softly grazing them as if you would crumble.

 

Until his worried frown is replaced by confusion. “What’s a heart attack?”

 

A laugh involuntarily finds its way out of you. “I was just joking. What can I do for you?”

 

“Ah yes, I almost forgot!” Papyrus exclaims in his usual energetic tone. “Human, I have noticed that you look troubled by something. You mostly have that look during whenever Undyne trains with me! Is there something wrong?”

 

Oh, so he did notice. “Nothing is wrong Paps. I’m fine.”

 

“Really?” His eye - or socket, whatever equivalent to a skeleton’s eye - narrows in question. Then, you were taken back by the abrupt, upset expression he has now. “Is it because of that time when one of my bones almost hit you? I’m so, so sorry for that!”

 

What? “No! It’s not that Paps! And you know I already forgave you.” At that, he calms down from his distress, but you can feel the concern practically rolling off him in waves.

 

 It’s not that you don’t want to tell him - in fact, you do. You were more curious than anything. Problem is, it’s not really a proper subject to ask someone who once tried to impale you with bones, whether on purpose or not.

 

 … And is that your imagination or is Papyrus’ worry intensifying, silence deafening the room.

 

 You sigh.

 

Gently prying his hands off, you carefully cup them in yours as you guide him to the couch. Papyrus is quiet, and your fingers are shaking. You made yourself comfortable and swallowed the lump in your chest.

 

“It’s just…” Your stomach drops. You don’t know where to begin. “...You knew how to fence a long time ago, right? Around the time when Undyne first started training you.”

 

Papyrus hummed. “Yes, that is correct. After many harsh sessions, Undyne presented me with a sword one day. The same one earlier.” He laughs, his usual “Nyeh”s soft. “She brandished her own, a blade almost as tall as her and challenged me. So naturally, I, the great Papyrus, accepted it!”

 

“Ah,” So that’s what happened. “And since then, you guys sometimes fought using swords.”

 

It’s not a question, but the taller skeleton nods.

 

“So, uh, there’s been a thought on my mind lately. I’m fine; it’s not something to be worried about.” You fidget. “I just wanted to ask you something.”

 

“Of course! I am happy to assist you in any way!”

 

You sucked in a lungful of air. All right then, here goes. “Why didn’t you use that sword on me when you tried to capture me?”

 

It was as if the question itself struck him. Papyrus falls quiet, his hands slacks in yours. Panic and most of all regret crawls up your back and fills you. Was I wrong to ask that in the first place?

 

The clock ticking faintly upstairs only made it worse.

 

A solid minute passes. Papyrus shifts. Scoots himself and presses into the couch cushion, fingers shaking a bit. You would have choked from the way you are holding your breath and at the dread in your lungs, so you blurted out apologizes. Starts to pull away. “Its fine you don’t have to answer that and I’m-”

 

“No!” He tightens his grip, a surprisingly amount of force halting you in your tracks. He stammers, stumbles on his words, and you can’t tell if he’s feeling distressed, puzzled, or guilty and now his hands and shoulders trembles. Clutches your fingers tightly, voice hitching: “It’s not- I would never- Please stay-”

 

It’s was ridiculous how fast the tables have turned. Your hands shot out to hold his skull firmly in place, and the skeleton straightened out so quickly that you wonder if you startled him.

 

“Papyrus!” Seeing him like this...  God, you shouldn’t have asked. “Paps, calm down. Calm, down. I’m not going anywhere, so breathe.”

 

In the few seconds of nothing but heavy gasps, you lock your eyes on his, never once breaking away. He breathes, sighing, boney hands sliding up to yours and grazing them, almost afraid. Papyrus blinks once, twice, and says, almost hushed, “I would never use it on you.”

 

Your eyes soften.

 

“All this time,” He shakes, “I’ve been thinking, too, and I never knew why I did not do it. Undyne asks me, sometimes, and I still can’t give her an answer.” Another soft hitch of breath. He curls into you, and you don’t resist. Rub soothing circles into his spine beneath cotton fabric. “But I’m glad I didn’t, on that day.”

 

He presses tighter. At some point you managed to shift into his lap but you don’t say anything in favor of pressing back. Sooth more circles. Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen. Good, the shaking is subsiding. 

 

...Gradually, the trembling stops. You trace over the ridges and bumps on his bones, feeling his form relax under your fingers. His breathing slows.

 

Thank god.

 

 

 

“If it makes you feel better, I’m glad you didn’t, too.” You smile, taking a crack at him in an attempt to lighten the mood. “Who’d stop you from sulking every now and then?”

 

The clock ticks.

 

“WHAT! I do not sulk. I’d never sulk!”

 

...With that, the old Papyrus is back. You snort, though a sense of relief floods you. In hindsight, if he had actually confronted you with that rapier of his (don’t think about it don’tthinkaboutit), you doubt you would have been able to avoid him and survive. And considering how painful it is when a bone struck you back then (in your shin, your arm, and one time your chin), well, you wouldn’t want to imagine if that blade pierces you.

 

 A tiny, small part of you is relieved for Papyrus, too (He would have been so guilty and sad and anguished-)

 

 “Uh, Human?”

 

 As a yawn was coaxed out of you, you feel Papyrus freeze up. Oh, so he finally noticed that he had practically pulled you flush up against him. You laugh quietly, pressing your arms tighter around him. “Human! I-Is this okay?”

 

“It’s fine Paps.” He froze again. As you scoot closer and resting your head on his shoulder, his breath hitched, and you giggle sleepily at his nervousness.

 

“Paps, really. It’s okay.” You paused, considering. “Plus, I’m way too comfortable to move.”

 

Papyrus stills. A second clicks by. And another, before he finally relaxes, melting into you. He wraps a shaky arm around your waist, the other brushing almost feather-like on your lower back and gently pulls you closer. You could feel the heat radiating off him when he rests his head on yours, with you pressing into the crook of his neck. It’s just right, slotting into place against him, without any bones out of place.

 

He tilts backwards, and before you knew it the pillow is caressing your head. Papyrus curls an arm around your back and you mirror him, sliding yours over his ribs and settles against his lower spine.  You sighed, contently, tucked comfortably against the skeleton.

 

“A-are you okay with this, human?”

 

You hummed softly in response, reassuring him and he falls silent again. Sluggishly, you hook your toes on the blanket at the end of the couch, bringing it to your fingers before you threw it over the both of your forms. At the same time, Papyrus scoots closer, snuggling into the top of your head. You relax your legs and somehow tangle with his, and it was perfect.

 

“Goodnight Papyrus.” You say, though it came out more like “G’nght Ppyrus”.

 

“G’night, Human.” He mumbles, nuzzling your hair, sleep beginning to lace his voice.

 

It smells like bones and sunshine. You still feel the smile on your lips when sleep finally consumes you.

 

 

 

 

-

 

 

 

 

The next morning you find yourself sitting at your regular spot on the stairs, a bowl of cereal in your arms as you basked in the sunlight. You try to ignore the sleep still clouding your eyes.

 

Being woken up by a spear stabbing into the couch cushion, after all, is not exactly a desirable way to start the day with.

 

“Ngahhhhhh!”

 

Oh my god, you wince, because Undyne’s piercing warcry is horrible at this moment and Sans sniggers in his place beside you, shoulders pressing against yours. You don’t stop him from stealing a scoop of fruit loops because your head is pounding way, way too hard for you to bother, throbbing and dizziness looping into a massive migraine at the back of your skull. Well, at least until he brings his hands up in an attempt to help, massaging it.

 

You flash him a quick smile.

 

But still, despite how your day started off sour, you turn your eyes back to the field and watch Undyne throws herself again and again at her boney opponent. She closes in, directing her wooden spear in a rapid barrage of jabs and thrusts towards him, and while it seems that it’s too quick to dodge, Papyrus brings his rapier in a steep arc, cutting right into her line of attack. And they lock once more.

 

Sparks fly. Snow kicks up between them, behind them. In the next flash Undyne’s spear rebounds back from the impact and he sends her skidding back with another swing of his blow.

 

He points his blade at her in preparation of a thrust, but you didn’t expect Papyrus to glance your way, catching your eye.

 

And he winks at you.

 

Your face heats up. Sans glances at you knowingly from his side, but you don’t care. You just bring a hand up to your mouth and let genuine laughter bubble from your lips.