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One Of My Turns

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Prologue

From the minute Papyrus woke up, he knew that it was going to be one of those days. One of the days where it was hard to ignore all of the thoughts swirling in his head a million miles a minute. And one of the main thoughts was the overwhelming urge to just stay in bed all day and not face any of it.

He couldn’t get his legs to move and get himself out of bed.

It was stupid, he knew. If he really wanted to get out of bed, then he would have already. It wasn't as if he had suddenly become paraplegic overnight. But, instead of actually moving his legs, he was laying there wallowing in… whatever it was that he was wallowing in, and wouldn’t get up to face the day.

It was also impossible to go back to sleep now. He had already slept in much later than he was supposed to and everyone else was probably already up and wondering where he was. Plus, sunlight was already shining through the window right next to his that didn’t have any curtains to close, and insisted on blinding his nonexistent eyes. At least the sunlight was a nice reminder that he was on the surface, even though it wouldn’t let him roll over and go back to sleep for maybe a week.

It had been a year after Frisk had freed The Underground, and everything was so different. The sun was nice when it wasn’t keeping him awake, the stars were beautiful, the humans were slowly accepting monsters as part of their society, and Papyrus couldn’t deny that he felt happier now that there was so much more to enjoy on the surface, so many more people to meet, and so many of the new friends he had made. But, it only seemed to make the intrusive thoughts he had worse in the long run. He thought that he had a good handle on them while underground, but now that everything had changed, it seemed that there was so much more to worry about and it was just getting to be too much.
It wasn’t normal, he knew. No one else seemed to have thoughts that plagued their mind every waking moment and wouldn’t let them move on normally. He couldn’t count how many times he had backtracked to do something he knew was pointless but he couldn’t stop worrying about anyway. If he didn’t, the thoughts wouldn’t go away, and would keep him in constant worry until he did something, or finally forgot about it. In the end, it was just easier to follow what they said. But it wasn’t normal.

And now these types of days were happening more and more often. Days where he knew from the moment he woke up, it was going to be exceptionally hard to act normal. People were starting to catch on that something was wrong. It was hard to keep everything incognito when you were living in a house with seven other people, no matter how huge it may be. Before, it was only Sans that he had to pull the wool over, and even then that wasn’t hard because most days were completely fine. Now, though, it was just too much.
He had to push on, though. No one else had to worry about him. It was his own problem. It was all his fault that he couldn’t control himself and the compulsions, and it was his own thoughts that were plaguing him day after day. It wasn’t anyone else’s.

There was nothing that they could do about it anyway if he told them. It wasn’t like they could pry into his mind and drive the worries away. He was alone in this, and he intended to keep it that way.

And that, of course, meant getting out of bed.

...His legs still wouldn’t move.

This was going to be harder than he thought.

He told himself that if he didn’t get out of bed this instant, then he would be wasting the limited amount of time he had in his life, and he’d never get anything done.

He still didn’t move.

He told himself that if he didn’t move his legs, he’d become a lazybones, and then who would be there to motivate Sans to not be a lazybones either?

Nothing.

He laid there for a good thirty minutes, trying to motivate himself any way possible to get up and move. To start the day finally, and keep up the facade of being perfectly fine until it became real once again. But it just felt like so much work when he knew the whole day he’d constantly be worrying about every little thing. Not like it’d be any different from now when he was lying in bed worrying, but at least he wouldn’t have to act like he was perfectly okay around everyone else if he stayed in bed.

He was snapped out of his pity party, however, when he heard the sounds of someone coming up the steps. It was noticeable, so it couldn’t have been Sans or Frisk with their light steps, but it wasn’t so loud that it could have been Asgore or Undyne. That left either Toriel or Alphys, and Flowey wasn’t walking up the steps in his flower pot.

He already knew that by now everyone was already up and getting ready for the day ahead, and by now his absence had probably been noted. Everyone would know something was wrong by now, as he was usually one of the first people up.

He could hear the steps come down the hall, and stop by his door. Papyrus quickly closed his eyes, adjusting the blankets and placing his head on the pillow so it seemed like he was still asleep. The door to his room cracked open a slight amount, and a voice came through. “Papyrus, dear, it is time to get up.” It was Toriel. She sounded slightly concerned.

Papyrus slowly sat up, the motivation of not revealing what he was feeling to his friends and family outweighing the urge to sleep the day away finally. He stretched his arms out, acting like he had only just gotten up. It was better not to worry them, he told himself repeatedly.

“Oh! Yes! Thank you, Ms. Toriel! I must have overslept!” He said, putting just the right amount of enthusiasm in his words. It was something he had perfected over the years, helped by the fact that he once played that role so perfectly he even believed it himself. He hoped that would happen again some day.

Toriel flashed a small smile, her fangs poking out from her mouth. “Of course, dear. Though usually you are the first one up. Are you sick at all?” Her motherly instincts were kicking in, and if Papyrus didn’t stop her now, he knew that she would be fretting all day that he might be sick. She wouldn’t be entirely wrong, though.

“The Great Papyrus never gets sick! I just stayed up later than usual last night! There was a Mettaton marathon on TV!” He punctuated the sentence with a bright smile. He actually had stayed up late watching Mettaton the night before, although that was because he couldn’t fall asleep, not the other way around.

Toriel smiled, bigger this time. “You should not stay up so late, dear. If you do not get enough rest, then Sans might have a BONE to pick with you.” She winked.
“UNBELIEVABLE! IT IS MUCH TOO EARLY FOR PUNS!” Papyrus yelled, throwing his blankets off of him in mock annoyance and forcing his legs to finally move and step on the cold ground below.

“It is never too early for puns, Papyrus!” She had put a hand to her mouth, silently holding back her laughter. “I simply cannot understand why they don’t tickle your funny bone!”
He had to push down the urge to smile and laugh at that one along with her. He didn’t truly hate puns, but it was worth it to act like he did when it made Sans or Toriel smile at his overblown reactions.

“UNACCEPTABLE! Puns are the absolute lowest form of comedy! They take absolutely no effort!” He shouted. It was true that they were pretty lazy, too.
“Alright, alright. I will end my pun-slaught of pun-derful puns for now. Everyone is eating breakfast downstairs waiting for you, so you should get dressed and come down. I am sure they’ve all heard you by now, but they were worried before! It is truly unlike you to stay in so late. In any case, I’m sure Sans will have many jokes to make on your behalf now!”

“Tell them not to worry! The Great Papyrus will be down in a jiffy!” He struck a pose, wishing he had his scarf on right then so it would flow in the wind and complete the scene, but sadly he still had to get dressed. “And tell Sans not to make any puns until at least noon! I refuse to allow him to ruin breakfast!”
“Alright, dear.” Toriel flashed one final smile and closed the door.

Papyrus waited until he heard her steps go down the stairs once more, and then like a switch had been flipped, and he sunk back down onto the side of the bed, letting out a sigh.
It was hard work acting like everything was normal. Even keeping up what was once instinctual and normal for him was becoming harder as the days went by.
He wasn’t depressed. He just… couldn’t ignore the thoughts that said that everything he did was a sham, anymore. That his entire personality was just inflated beyond belief, that everything he was in The Underground had just been an act that he played without realizing it, and that he didn’t know who the true him really was. And it scared him. Because who was he if he wasn’t The Great Papyrus?

Nobody. He was nobody.

He didn’t want to think about it.

He walked over to his dresser drawer, opening it up and examining the different outfits inside. He passed his hands over all of them, feeling the fabric. They all felt too scratchy. Despite the surface having a seemingly never ending supply of new fashion and clothes, none of them ever felt comfortable on his bones.
He wished he could still wear his battle body. That was one of the only outfits that he truly felt comfortable in, and that didn’t rub any of his bones the wrong way. But, that wasn’t socially acceptable now on the surface. Sure, no one had told him not to do it, but he saw how everyone gave him weird stares whenever he had it on, and disgusted looks when he wore it more than once or twice in a row, despite the fact that he always made a point to wash it the night before!

So, he had retired the outfit, and now it was sitting collecting dust in the closet. He wanted desperately to break it out once more- screw what everyone else thought- but he just couldn’t.

Instead, he picked out the least uncomfortable outfit he still had a pulled it on. The fabric pulled at his bones the wrong ways, and it felt like no matter how much he tried to smooth it out it just wouldn’t stop folding and pressing against him, but he just had to deal with it. There was nothing he could do.
He walked over to the door, turning off the light in his room, flipping the switch several times off and on just to make sure that it was really off, and took a deep breath, pushing open the door and plastering on the classic Papyrus smile.

One day it’ll be real again, he told himself.

He just had to get through the day, he told himself.

The next day would be better, he told himself.

One day, it’ll all reset again, he told himself.

Chapter Text

Papyrus was curled up on the couch with his puzzle book, idly filling in the squares in a sudoku when he could figure out the solution. It was one of the hardest ones in the book, and all the other pages before it were completed. He never skipped puzzles.

Sudokus were nice. When it seemed like everything worried him and there was so much to think about at every turn, it was nice to just sit down with a puzzle and put all of his focus exclusively on them, especially if it required a lot of thought. It just allowed him to forget everything else he was thinking about. Sudokus especially were good for that purpose.

That didn’t mean it didn’t come with it’s own problems, though.

He was currently curled up in the main room of the house under a blanket, sans lazing next to Papyrus, head resting against his hip. Flowey was chatting away with Frisk by the windowsill while they tried to do homework, Toriel making dinner in the kitchen a few rooms away, Alphys and Undyne watching anime upstairs, and Asgore doing some late in the day gardening. It was comfortable.

The solutions to this sudoku just weren’t coming to him, though. Now that he had gone through all of the easy ones in the earlier parts of the book, all that was left were ones that made him stress out over the answers. He made the mistake of starting one of them thinking that he could figure out the solution given enough time. Now he couldn’t put it down.

If he did put it down, he knew that it would be like admitting failure, and he wasn’t going to be a failure! If he couldn’t solve a simple stupid puzzle, then what? One of the major facets of his personality was his love of puzzles! That was something he knew was still true to this day. But if he couldn’t do this, then who's to say that he wouldn’t be able to do any other simple puzzle! How could he call himself the puzzle master? He’d just be adding more weight to the lies he was already telling everyone. The whole rest of his puzzle book would be utterly useless, and he would be too.

Plus, just the idea of leaving the puzzle half finished was anxiety inducing. It would bug him for hours and hours until he just gave him and went back to try and complete it, and it would become a cycle until he finally could. So he’d just finish it now and cut out hours of worrying He wouldn’t let it have power over him. He’d just complete it now so he didn’t have to worry later. It was easier than stopping the worries after he had already put the puzzle down, anyway. So… he may have been giving in to the compulsions a bit. But everything else was just so tiring… This was easier.

“Everyone! Dinner is ready!” Toriel called from the kitchen, placing a finished snail pie on the table.

Papyrus jolted. He didn’t think it had been that long! He looked down at the sudoku, seeing that it was only halfway done, if that. He wouldn’t finish it before dinner! But, if he went to eat, then he’d have to put the book down… and he couldn’t do that either! He had to finish! Just the idea of putting it down wracked him with anxiety even though he hadn’t even put it down.

Sans had already gotten up, pushing himself off the couch and walking towards the kitchen, but he looked back to Papyrus when he noticed he wasn’t following close behind.

“You coming, bro?”

“Uh… I’m not hungry! I had a big lunch! I think I’ll just stay in here! I’ll grab something later if I get hungry!” He quickly lied, forcing his eyes to look back at the puzzle so he didn’t have to see his brother’s face.

“Uh, alright. Have fun. I’ll make sure Toriel keeps some extra for ya.” He had turned back and walked away into the kitchen.

Papyrus focused back intently on his puzzle, but soon his train of thought was derailed, and it became almost impossible to focus on it. Everyone was in the dining room, eating and talking like normal people. And here he was. Trying to focus and failing spectacularly. It had become impossible when his thoughts kept telling him that he wasn’t focused, and he had to almost battle them off. Eventually, dinner had ended, and he hadn’t filled in a single box on the page, too busy lost in his own thoughts.

He felt Sans sit back down next to him.

“Hey, you need help?” Sans looked over his shoulder, staring at the page.

Papyrus was about to smile and say that yes, he would love some help, but something stopped him. He couldn’t get the words to form. It would be cheating, wouldn’t it? He wouldn’t be solving it himself. He couldn’t accept Sans’ help! Otherwise he’d be admitting defeat! And he’d also be burdening Sans. Because he couldn’t solve something so stupid himself.

“No thanks! I’ve got this!” He smiled.

“Alright. Just tell me if you do.”

They sat in silence for a few hours. At some point Papyrus was sure Sans had dozed off, and before he knew it, he had succeeded in getting three fourths of the puzzle done! He didn’t need Sans’ help! It would only take a bit more time, and then he could go sleep-

“You want a bedtime story tonight, Pap?” Sans spoke up. “I’m going upstairs now.”

Papyrus jolted, looking at the clock. It was ten-o-clock. His bedtime. He couldn’t put it down now! He was in a grove!  If he didn’t finish this puzzle now, he would be worrying about it all night! It had happened to him countless times before with different worries, and those nights he would never be able to get any sleep because of his thoughts running a mile a minute and making his nonexistent stomach do back flips. It would be exactly the same if he tried to sleep now.

“I think I’ll stay up a bit longer! The Great Papyrus is almost done with this dastardly puzzle!”

“Do you want me to stay up until you’re done?”
Papyrus’ eyes widened. “No, no! You get your sleep, lazybones. I can live one night without a bedtime story! Now, shoo!” He waved Sans over to the staircase.

“Alright.” Sans smiled. He walked over to the staircase, going up a few steps before turning back to his brother. “Hey… If… If anything is bothering you, you know you can tell me, right?”

Papyrus froze up. “Oh… Of course, brother! Why would you say that?” He said, his voice slightly more strained. He hoped Sans wouldn’t notice.

“...No reason. Just me worrying over nothing.” A small smile graced his face. “Night, bro. Love ya.”

“I love you too, brother! Sleep tight!” He smiled back genuinely.

When Sans was in his bedroom and out of sight, Papyrus focused his attention back on his book in an attempt to get back in his grove, but he couldn’t stop thinking about Sans’ words. Did he somehow tip him off that something was wrong? He had been so careful! But, Sans did say that he was worrying over nothing… Did he really mean that? Why did his brother always have to be so cryptic! He could never figure out exactly what he meant by pretty much anything he said!  Was Papyrus being obvious, or not? He needed to know! He couldn’t let anyone notice!

He resolved to just redouble his efforts. Sure, it was going to be stressful, but if any of his cracks were showing through, then he had to cover it up. There was a nagging sensation that he should take Sans up on his word, and talk to him, but he knew that he couldn’t. It was his problem. Only his problem. He kept repeating this to himself. No one else could fix him, and no one else should have to worry like him. That would just make everything worse. That was what he wanted to prevent. No one should have to feel like he was. He would do everything in his power to make sure of that.

Hours passed, and he was no closer to completing the puzzle. His eyes began to droop slightly. He desperately wanted to stay up- He had to!- but his body needed sleep. He hadn’t been getting nearly enough lately, and it was catching up on him.

He didn’t want to, though… Not only because he wouldn’t finish his puzzle, but because he knew the second he did, the nightmares would come for him.

In the end though, his need for sleep won out. The book dropped the the floor, and he fell asleep lying on the couch.

 

****

 

He was King of the Underground.

His job had been all but relegated to taking care of the flowers, and trying in vain to encourage the monsters of the Underground.

He couldn’t do it.

Left and right, monsters were dusting, and it was all his fault.

No one had any hope left. Papyrus couldn’t be the king that they wanted him to be, and everyone knew that they would never see the surface again.

There was no hiding the scars that the human had left throughout the Underground, and nothing could repair that. Most monsters were just waiting for the next human to fall and just pick all of them off once and for all.

He had acted naive, tried to keep up the act that everything was alright, even tried to fool himself into believing everyone was just on vacation, but he knew that it wasn’t true. Still, if it gave his people even a modicum of hope, he would continue doing it. If people believed that there was still innocence in this world, they might keep holding on, if only for a little while longer.

He wasn’t fit to be king, though.

All his solutions he had come up with and spouted to the human on that one phone call that was never returned only worked in the short term right after the they had left. He truly didn’t have any clue how to rule a kingdom or enforce laws that would promote stability in the long run.

And now there was barely a thousand of them left, if that. There was no royal scientist, no royal guard, no entertainment, and barely enough food to go around.

He knew he had failed. Even if it was all just going to reset some day, he had still failed in this instance. He would remember. Sans would remember. They would both know that all he did was screw things up, even when an entire country was depending on him.

It was all because the human who had come through had spared him, given him mercy, and went on to kill everyone else. And yet, he still believed in them. He had to. That was all he had left.

He was sat in the royal garden, tending to the flowers slowly.

He wondered what his dust would look like scattered across the delicate blossoms.

If this timeline kept going the way it was, he might just find out.

 

****

 

Papyrus woke up shaking, tears streaming down his face and breath ragged. He clutched a nearby pillow, trying to ground himself and calm his hyperventilating, but it only made it worse. His breath came out in short gasps, and nothing he did was stopping it.

Memories of the dream and memories sparked by the dream were coming back to him, relentlessly reminding him of everything that caused him to be this mess in the first place. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. His breathing got worse, and the tears came back full force.

Where was he? Was he in Snowden? The castle? The surface? He couldn’t remember. Was he still King? He had to be.

He had so much to do.

He needed to encourage everyone.

He needed to stop everyone from falling down

He needed… he needed… he needed to do something. Anything.

He had to.

Or else everything would fall apart.

He had so much he needed to do.

If he stopped, then he’d have failed everyone.

He needed to be a good king!

He had failed Undyne, Asgore, Mettaton, Alphys, everyone.

He wasn’t good enough.

He had so much to do.

He had-

“-yrus! P-Papyrus!”

All of a sudden he was shocked back to reality, and could feel everything. Tears were still dripping down his cheeks. He was shivering, trembling almost. He could see moonlight coming through the window.He wasn’t in the Underground. He was on the Surface. It was just a dream. He wasn’t back there. Maybe one day when the human would reset he would be, but right then at that moment, he wasn’t.

His heart plummeted into his stomach. He could feel a hand on his shoulder, shaking him lightly. It was what had brought him back to reality, he realized.. That meant… someone had seen him. Someone had witnessed his panic attack. He had failed.

His carefully crafted world was crashing down in front of him.

Alphys was standing right there, fearful and scared for him, and she knew.

Chapter Text

“Papyrus? A-Are you okay?”

No. He wasn’t. Alphys’ hand grabbing onto his shoulder was the only thing anchoring him from spiraling into another panic attack at the idea of someone else having witnessed him in this state. His mouth was dry. He didn’t know if he could form the words to reply to her, but she was staring at him waiting for a response, and he couldn’t just not reply! That would only make it worse!

Apparently he took too long to decide, though, because she took it as a sign that he wasn’t.

“Can you hear me? I-I want you to focus on my breathing. C-Copy me, okay? Can you do that?” She began breathing deeply, holding a hand to her chest and bringing it out in time with her breaths.

She wanted him to breath? He didn’t understand. Wasn’t he already breathing? Sure, it was ragged, but what point could doing it deeper possibly serve?

“I need you to do this with me, o-okay? I promise it’ll h-help.” She continued breathing. He joined her. It couldn’t possibly make it any worse, so why not?

Five seconds in. Five seconds out. Five seconds in. Five seconds out. In. Out. In. Out.

They did this for a few minutes, and soon it was like the fog in Papyrus’ mind was clearing just a little bit. He wasn’t short of breath anymore, and focusing only on breathing meant that he wasn’t focus on any other niggling thoughts at the back of his mind. It was… calming.

Papyrus relaxed a bit into the couch, feeling Alphys’ hand slip off of his shoulder and her weight depressing the couch cushion next to him. He glanced over to get a gauge of exactly what she was thinking. Her face was contorted with worry and slight curiosity, and he immediately  knew what that meant. He was going to get barraged with questions. Questions that he didn’t have answers for. He could barely explain it himself, and nothing he could ever say would make it seem like he wasn’t insane, plus it would just worry her even more! He had to keep repeating that to himself. Don’t worry anyone else. He just had to do what he did best now. Lie.

Before he could get a single deceitful word in, though, Alphys had already interrupted him.

“P-Panic attacks are no fun, aren’t they? I-I know you probably don’t want to talk about it. I don’t like talking to Undyne whenever I have them. B-But… It does help. Do… do you want to talk about what happened? I p-promise I won’t judge. I’ve done a lot of bad stuff. N-Nothing anyone could say could be any worse than w-what I’ve done.” She looked down at her lap, fumbling with her hands like she didn’t know what to do with them.

Papyrus put his hand on hers, stilling them. “It wasn’t your fault. You were just trying to help monsterkind.” He said softly. “None of the Amalgamates blame you.”

Alphys smiled slightly and gave a small nod, wiping away the beginnings of tears from her eyes before they could fall. “H-Heh, look at this. I’m trying to c-comfort you and instead you end up comforting m-me...”

“The Great Papyrus doesn’t need any comforting!” Papyrus perked up, trying to regain his usual persona to try and encourage her. That’s what The Great Papyrus did best! It was horribly forced, though, and he knew Alphys could tell. His voice was still hoarse and he didn’t have the energy to cover up his usual nervous ticks, but he couldn’t bring himself to drop it. It was comforting to fall back into it instead of having to talk about what happened, especially if the encouraging persona could help Alphys even just a little bit. “I just had a nightmare is all. Nothing I cannot handle!”

“I-I have trouble believing that... “ Alphys looked straight into his eyes, face blank. “Y-You didn’t seem okay t-to me… I came down here and you were completely out of it… I was r-really scared…” She looked down again, worried. “I don’t know what w-would have happened if I hadn’t been here. T-That isn’t normal, Papyrus. I…” She trailed off, not completing her thought.

“It’s okay now, though!” Papyrus lied. “I’m really okay. It was just a nightmare, is all. This has never happened before. But, I’m sure it’s just a one time thing!” More lies. That’s all he could do. Spew lies until Alphys believed them.

“If it was a one time thing only… I don’t think you’d be as calm as you are right now. I… I don’t know w-why you’re lying to me, but… Well I guess I do. I understand. It is hard to talk about… But I’m here for you! I can tell that you aren’t okay.” Tears began welling up in her eyes, and she tried to brush them away again, but they kept coming this time. “I don’t want anyone else to feel the way I did- do.”

Papyrus’ eyes widened, and he went in for a hug instantly, placing his head in the crook of Alphys’ neck. She slipped her hands around his waist. “It’s okay! Don’t cry! I promise I’m fine! I’d tell you if something was wrong! I… I…” He couldn’t help himself. He started crying too. Everything had gotten completely out of control. He’d just end up worrying Alphys more if he kept lying, and he wasn’t going to be able to keep himself together enough to actually pull one off completely! It seemed like the only option was the truth, but… what is she told everyone else? Then they’d be worried too! It would just be a domino effect! If he lied, though, she might end up telling everyone anyway! There was no way out.

“Are you really okay, Papyrus?” Alphys whispered, hiding her head in his bony shoulder, still embracing him. “I n-need to know.”

“...No.” It slipped out of his mouth. He didn’t mean to admit it, but it was the honest truth.

Instead of freaking out, though, and pushing him away to go run and tell anyone and everyone, she just seemed to hug him deeper.

“What was your nightmare about?” She asked.

“...I was trapped. I had so many things to do but I couldn’t do any of them, and nothing I ever did made any difference. It was suffocating.” It was vague, but it got the point across.

Alphys’ breath seemed to stutter for a second. Normally it wouldn’t have even been noticeable, but she was right near his ear hole so it was painfully obvious.

“T-That sounds awful… I’m sorry. I… I know what that’s like. Personal experience and all… Was- Was it a memory for you t-too?”

“Yeah,” he rasped.

“I’m sorry.”

A pause.

“D-Does it happen often?”

“Sometimes.” Always.

“H-How long?”

“For some time…” Forever.

“Since the b-barrier?”

“Yes” No.

“Do you… n-need anything?”

“No.” No.

“Why didn’t you say anything? W-We’re all here for you. I… I know adjusting to the surface has been hard for everyone. It’s tough when everything was routine and status quo before, and now it’s like there’s a whole new world opened up for us. It’s scary. Y-You don’t have to feel trapped, though. We aren’t Underground anymore. U-Undyne said how you felt a responsibility to join the Royal Guard before, t-to help protect people… But, y-you don’t have to do anything like that if it makes you… scared. It sounds scary to have t-that much responsibility to me. Y-You can choose your own path out here. I don’t know if that’s what your nightmare meant, but I think that m-message could apply to a lot of stuff...”

...This was his way out. He could say that it really was just the pressure of trying to figure out his path in life. He could recover from this. Alphys had already hypothesized on her own, and even though it was completely off track, he could use that. But… did he really want to? This was his only opportunity to actually talk to someone who understood about everything he worried about. Someone he could confide in. Maybe it would help…?

No. He couldn’t.That would be selfish. Talking about it would just make Alphys worry more about him and try to find a solution that wouldn’t exist. No one could fix this but him.

Though, she would still know a little bit. She’d know he suffered from nightmares. That he was insecure about his identity. Not to the full extent, but just enough to know things were not as they should be... Maybe that meant he could tell her bits and pieces every now and then, if things got to be too much... But, not everything. Not even close to everything.

That was what he had to do.

“You’re exactly right. I feel lost. I don’t know what my path should be. But I’m glad we had this talk. You’ve really helped me, Doctor Alphys.” He pulled back from the hug. It didn’t feel right to keep in the embrace now that he was lying in full force again. Instead, he put back on the normal Papyrus persona, maybe slightly more subdued, but still a lie, and smiled. “I promise I’ll find out what I want to do with my life. With your help, I’m sure I can do it.”
She smiled a real smile. “And everyone else can help too!”

He froze up slightly, but forced himself to relax. “...Can you not tell everyone else? I’m not comfortable with them knowing right now. Please?”

Alphys blinked once. Twice. Then, she nodded her head, a determined look on her face. “O-Of course. I promise. I know it’s hard to t-tell people. I-I won’t pressure you to do it. I’ll be there to help you though, o-okay?” She tried to put emphasis and passion into her last sentence, almost like Undyne would, although very much in a stuttering, clumsy Alphys way.

“Alright.” He smiled. It wasn’t fully real like Alphys’, but… his soul felt just a little bit lighter right then.

It probably wasn’t because he got some things off his chest, though. Panic attacks just left him too tired to worry for a little while after them. It was normal.

Just because Alphys knew some things didn’t mean it would change anything or make things any better. It couldn’t. It would get better on it’s own, someday, but for now he just had to power through it. Act like he was just a lost young adult just trying to find his way.

He could do this.

A comfortable silence settled across the room for a short while, before Alphys stuttered out, “D-Do you want to w-watch some a-anime? I… I don’t think we’ll both be getting back to s-sleep anytime soon. I have some g-good ones on my laptop, i-if you want…”

“Sure! I’d love to.” That was the truth.

Her eye’s lit up, and he could swear he saw stars in them.

“A-alright! I’ll go grab it! I know the perfect one to watch!”

They spent the rest of the night watching a wacky anime about a bald human who could defeat enemies with only one hit.

It was nice.

Chapter Text

The next few days after the incident with Alphys were… lackluster. Perhaps that was a good thing.

At least no one had come bursting into Papyrus’ personal space demanding that they tell him what was going on, so she had kept her promise. Not that he expected any less of her. She had managed to keep one of the biggest secrets in The Underground. If he had to trust anyone to keep his secrets safe, it would be her.

But, like all the panic attacks that he had, after it all, he just felt drained. It wasn’t that he was anxious- that had actually taken a backseat for a short while- he was just tired. He didn’t want to sleep again, though. The fear of seeing that dream again was enough to keep him up for more than a couple sleepless nights.

Out of all the runs, that was the one that affected him the most. Sure, when the human killed everyone in sight it was awful, but he was killed so early on. It must have been nothing compared to what Sans had went through- he’d never know exactly what did happen after he died, and wanted to keep it that way- but when he was left to be king of the Underground, that was the time he felt the loneliest. Despite everyone looking up to him, he was still alone.

Sans was there, but it was more like his ghost rather than anything else. Just waiting for the next reset. Just like Papyrus was.

The human didn’t reset for six months after he became king. He kept count of every single day, waiting. He had almost lost hope of them ever starting over again, but when it did, he cried tears of relief.  He knew it would all reset, and everyone he watched dust would come back in a matter of time, but that didn’t stop the hurt he felt then. Knowing that he couldn’t do anything. That he was an incompetent leader who couldn’t do anything right. Couldn’t stop his kingdom from dying.

Waking up without the weight of the crown on his head was one of the best feelings he’d ever experienced, however sad that sounded.

Looking back on it, after that run all of his obsessive thoughts had gotten much worse. Sure, they were always there before, but that experience had really solidified it all. Or maybe it was because he just became more reclusive and began focusing more on his thoughts… He’d never know.

But, as it always did, the anxiety came back in full force. It was the third day after the fallout and he was washing the dishes after breakfast. Everyone had dispersed around the house at that point, but Undyne and Alphys were still chatting about their plans for the day at the table.

“P-Papyrus? A-Are you okay?”

He snapped out of his thoughts, pausing in his mindless scrubbing one of the plates in the sink and turning towards Alphys who was looking at him with a worried expression. “Yes! Of course I am! What makes you think I wouldn’t be?”

“You’ve been washing that plate for the past five minutes, dude,” Undyne piped up, chuckling.

He looked down at the plate in his hands. It was squeaking clean. “Oh! I… hadn’t even realized! I must have been lost in thought.”

“What were you thinking about?”

“I was thinking about what to do today!” He lied, flashing a bright smile to Undyne.

“Do you wanna join me and Alphys? We’re gonna go back to the Underground and pick up some stuff we left there! It’s gonna be awesome!” Undyne slammed her hand on the table to make a point, even though there wasn’t a point to make.

At the mention of the Underground, Papyrus could feel himself starting to become claustrophobic. He never wanted to set foot back in that place. All the memories it brought up. The terrifying thought of it all being reset, and being stuck there again. Sure, he was going to have to brave it and go back one day when Frisk finally got bored of the surface and reset once again, but he would avoid it for however long as possible.

“No thanks, Undyne! I think I’m just going to stay in for today!”

He caught a glimpse of Alphys scrunching her face up with worry. “I-I think you should get out of the house, P-Papyrus,” she spoke up.

Papyrus internally cringed. That was just another problem with Alphys knowing. Now she would push for him to change, to ‘get better’, even though that was impossible. Even if she wasn’t blatantly saying it, she was still worrying about him, and that just made it all the more worse.

“It’s okay! I can just stay home!” He pushed.

“N-No one else is going to be here though,” Alphys stuttered. He could see in her eyes that she was worrying about him having another panic attack and having no one to comfort him. “F-Frisk, Toriel, Sans, and Asgore are all going o-out.”

Papyrus quickly looked around, trying to find an excuse, when his eyes locked onto a particular flower sitting in the living room looking done with everything.

“I have Flowey!”

“W-What?”

“Yes! He can’t be home alone! I must take care of him!”

“W-Well… I g-guess so. I-If you really want to,” Alphys gave in. She probably thought he was extremely desperate if he wanted to take care of Flowey. No one seemed to want to be alone with him, even if he was apathetic at most times. He could become violent at the flip of a switch, and no one wanted to deal with that. But not Papyrus! He actually enjoyed the flower’s company! And that wasn’t just because it was in his set personality to be friends with everyone. Flowey was just a genuinely good friend, despite the whole lacking a soul factor.

“Alright then! It’s settled! I’ll take care of Flowey for the day!” He smiled, putting the plate he was washing into the drying rack and picking up another.

There was no further argument.

By the time everyone had left the house, it was already noon, and Papyrus was sat down in the living room watching another MTT program. It was mostly background noise as he was mostly just wandering off into thought. That was, until his eyelights trailed towards the ground, where he saw the discarded puzzle book sitting from three nights ago. He had dropped it in his sleep, and he still hadn’t picked it up. It wasn’t even finished. He had completely forgotten about it in his panic, and now it was still sitting on the ground days later, not even properly shut, just laying on the ground split in the middle of two pages.

It was still there reminding him of his failure. But if he picked it up, he knew that he would just feel the need to finish it again and run himself ragged over it, so instead he left it laying there. He hoped one of these days someone would just pick it up and put it far away from his sight so he would never have to think of it again.

“What are you thinking about?” Flowey snapped him out of his musings, sitting on his perch on a nearby table looking bored.

“Oh nothing! Just watching this Mettaton show! It’s really interesting.”

Flowey deadpanned. “We both know you weren’t doing that. I know that look in your eyes. You were lost in thought. It’s been happening a lot over the past few days. Don’t think I haven’t noticed. What’s really going on?” He interrogated, never one to pad his words or not cut straight to the chase.

Papyrus took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Flowey wasn’t going to take no for an answer, and he was extremely observant. He couldn’t get out of this, no matter how hard it was to talk about. But… there was one detail that made it easier to talk to him.

“...Do you remember that one reset… The one where I was king?” He finally asked, not looking his friend in the face.

“Of course. How could I possibly forget. You screwed that up monumentally.”

Papyrus cringed. He knew that he did, in fact, ‘screw it up monumentally’, but it kind of stung to have it put so bluntly.

“I had a nightmare. A few days ago.”

“About being king? Oh, how scary.” He said sarcastically.

“That’s not it … I’ve told you how it...” Papyrus couldn’t finish his sentence, feeling the beginning of tears start to well up in his eyes. He quickly wiped them away.

Flowey sighed, looking away from him as well. “I know.” At least he looked sort of regretful for what he said. He had a tendency to speak without thinking, and most of the time his words were blunt, a side effect of not having a soul and thus not having any real filter, or real emotions to inject into his words. Plus, he just really loved being a bucket of sass. He did, however, always have a soft spot for Papyrus. “I’m… sorry.” He mumbled, looking away. “I know it was hard for you.”

An awkward silence settled over the room, before Flowey finally broke it.

“What makes this nightmare so different? Don’t you get them a lot?” He looked genuinely curious.

“I don’t know…” He wasn’t about to go into explaining the intricacy of his worries to Flowey. Sure, Flowey couldn’t worry about him, so that negated his whole reason for not telling the others, but it just didn’t feel… right. He already knew that Papyrus remembered the resets, and that was more than enough for Papyrus. He knew that some of them gave him nightmares, but he didn’t know that it was because of the constant worry surrounding them, not the whole death thing. He had honestly become numb to that at this point, however scary that whole concept was. All in all, he’d rather just keep that all to himself. It’s not like he could explain it that well, either.

Flowey sighed once again, this time to get his attention. “Do you… want a hug?” He said begrudgingly.

Papyrus’ eyes lit up. Flowey never offered up hugs!

“I’d like that!” He smiled, leaning into him. Flowey stiffly took out his vines, wrapping them around Papyrus in a loose fashion, while pointedly looking away. It wasn’t the most affectionate of hugs, but coming from Flowey it meant a lot. He really was worried about him, despite all odds.

“Alright, that’s enough.” He said after a few long seconds, extracting his vines and stuffing them back into the dirt of his flowerpot where they came from.

“Thank you, Flowey. It’s… been a hard couple of days.”

“It’s no big deal.” He puffed up his cheeks, still refusing to make eye contact. “Don’t make it all sappy. I just don’t want everyone to come back to you crying and think that I caused it.”

“Really. It means a lot.” To emphasize his point he placed a hand on the lip his flowerpot, like he was grabbing him on a non-existent shoulder.

“Now, do you want to watch some more Mettaton with me?” He said, wanting to get off the topic as the air was beginning to feel tense and awkward again.

“Sure.” Flowey rolled his eyes. “Not like I have anything better to do. Or have any arms to do it with. Or any mobility at all.” He added saltily.

“Alright!” Papyrus smiled, grabbing the remote from the couch cushions and turning up the volume on the TV. It was another Mettaton quiz show, and it looked like they hadn’t missed too much of it, so it was easy to get invested into.

It was only later that he realized the puzzle book was gone from the ground. And it was much later that he realized it was tucked into the corner of the bookshelf in the living room, hidden from view.

Chapter Text

“P-Papyrus! I think I-I have the p-perfect job for you!”

Papyrus looked over his shoulder at Alphys from where he was washing dishes one again. She was standing behind him holding onto a paper so tightly she was piercing it with her claws.

“What?” He asked, baffled.

“Y-You said that you were having t-trouble finding your path in life, a-and, I t-think getting a job is a g-great way to start!”

Papyrus’ eyes widened. He took a subtle glance around the kitchen, making sure no one else was nearby. Of course no one was. Alphys knew not to talk about it around others. That didn’t make him any less cautious, though.

“A-A job?” He cringed minutely at the stutter in his voice. The Great Papyrus didn’t stutter! “What is it?” He asked more smoothly, hoping she wouldn’t question why he didn’t seem quite so enthused.

“Yeah! T-There’s an opening at the lab w-with me and Sans. I-I know you’re not the science-y type, b-but, it’s just a secretary job. Filing papers and s-such, and I know how you like to keep things o-organized, so I thought it m-might be a good fit. If you don’t l-like it, that’s okay, I just really thought it might be a nice start because you haven’t had a job for two years, and you’re the only one of us who doesn’t have one, and I know you probably don’t like sitting around the house all day, and-”

“Thank you, Alphys.” Papyrus smiled genuinely, cutting her off before she passed out from lack of air. It was easy to see the passion and caring the dinosaur monster had radiating off of her, and the genuine want to help him in any way she could. However, the though of getting a job scared him. He should’ve known saying he was looking for a path in life would come back to bite him, but it was the only way to get out of that conversation without incriminating himself further! He was happy sitting around the house all day with Flowey. Sure, it was a bit lonely, and being alone made the anxiety worse a lot of the time, and there was only so much cleaning, cooking, and TV watching he could do in a day before he got bored, but a job just seemed one hundred times worse.

Even the idea of even getting a job was daunting. He’d have to have an interview for a position he had no qualifications for, or any qualifications in general, really. He’d have to dress up in uncomfortable work clothes and deal with them all day without any reprieve. He’d have to make sure everything was perfect in his work so that he didn’t make a stupid mistake and get fired and have everyone disappointed in him! He couldn’t handle that!

“So you’ll do it? I-I can pull some strings and get you an interview, and s-see if I can persuade them to hire you! I-It’s as the secretary f-for the mechanics s-section, m-my field, so I t-think they’d listen to me. B-but I’m sure you’d be able to see Sans a lot too, even if you wouldn’t be working in his field! I’m sure h-he’d be really happy to see you at work all day!” Papyrus was about to interject that he wasn’t sure if it’d be a good fit for him, but before he could get a word in, Alphys was already talking again. “I… I don’t know if I should be telling you this, but I know that S-Sans worries a lot about you being alone a-all day. H-He’s confessed to me b-before that r-really wants you to find something you’re extremely passionate about again, l-like the r-royal guard, because he knew that it made you so h-happy, a-and that he was worried that y-you weren’t getting a job because y-you’ve never had one before a-and didn’t know w-what to do.”

And just like that, Papyrus couldn’t say no.

All his excuses meant nothing if Sans was worrying about him not getting a job. That was inexcusable. All his work would be for nothing if Sans was worrying! And if he rejected this job offer, Sans would get even more worried!

It hurt to hear that Sans was still worried about him. He shouldn’t be. He should be enjoying the surface while they were still here. He didn’t even seem to worry about the resets anymore. He could be worry free if he just stopped worrying about Papyrus, and he knew that Sans deserved that, and more. Sure, it would hurt him all the more when it did all inevitably reset, but if he could be happy for now, that’s all Papyrus wanted.

There was nothing Papyrus wouldn’t do for Sans. So, if it meant that he’d have to get a job, even though it was pointless and would bring him more anxiety, he would do it. For Sans.

“Alright, I’ll do it!”

~~~

He couldn’t do it.

Alphys had scheduled an interview all for him, had gone through the hard work to put in a good word for him, and he couldn’t do it.

He was sitting on his bed, shaking, trying to work up the nerve to get up and drive to the interview. He’d already be five minutes late at this point. He couldn’t focus enough to bring himself to do it, though, because he’d had to dress up in a new extremely uncomfortable suit for the job, and he couldn’t concentrate with them on. If he went to the interview like that with them rubbing against him in all the wrong ways, there was no way they’d take him seriously! He’d just be constantly shifting and trying to feel comfortable because of the way it felt like sandpaper against his bones. And he would have to wear this everyday! He just couldn’t go out like this.

He couldn’t just put the worry out of his mind and ignore it, either. He kept telling himself if he kept readjusting the fabric, it’d feel better and then he could go, but it just wasn’t working. He had to keep trying, though. That was the only way he could go, because Alphys would be so disappointed in him if he didn’t. He would have forced her to do all that work for nothing. Sans would still worry about him. He hadn’t told him that he was going for a job yet, thank God, but he’d still be jobless and causing his brother to worry for no reason. It’d be his fault, really, if he didn’t go to this job and kept Sans worrying, because if he knew that Sans was worrying and he didn’t do anything to fix the problem it would be all his fault in the end.

He did let Alphys tell one other person that he was going for the job, though, because he knew she would have trouble not blurting out something so seemingly insignificant to her girlfriend, and he thought it it really didn’t matter in the end if she knew. But then, he heard footsteps come down the hall, and tensed up. His door was wide open. Undyne walked past the door, going for the stairs, but quickly backed up when she saw Papyrus in her peripheral vision.

“Papyrus? Shouldn’t you be at that interview thing? What are you doing here?!” She asked, confused.

“Oh, yes! I was just about to go, Undyne!” He said, inserting false pep into his voice.

Undyne’s eyebrows scrunched up, and she looked into his bedroom more, tilting her head so she could see the clock on his wall. “You’re supposed to be there already, nerd! Why are you just sitting at your bed?!” She stalked in further, standing in front of Papyrus with her hands on her hips.

“I was running a bit late, is all! I’m just getting ready!” He shifted, about to stand up and appease Undyne, but she cut him off.

“Then what are you doing sitting here! Go, Papyrus! You’ve never been late to anything before!” She furrowed her eyebrows even more. “Is something wrong?”

His eyes widened. Was it really that obvious? Could he really not hold himself together as well as he thought? Because he had been caught red handed twice now in a pathetically short amount of time! Two years of nothing, and now his ruse was falling apart...

“What? No! What makes you think that?” He protested, worrying the bottom of his shirt again, shifting around uncomfortably, although he wasn’t sure if it was from Undyne’s intense gaze this time, or just the scratchiness.

“Because you haven’t made a move to get up to the door yet, even though you know you’re running late.” She raised an eyebrow.

“I would, but you’re blocking my way!”

“That’s never stopped you before,” she pointed out.

Papyrus blanked. She was shooting down all of his rebuttals with perfect accuracy. How in the world could he get out of this? He could barrel right through her now to go to the interview, but he’d still be late, uncomfortable, and Undyne would STILL interrogate him when he got back. It would give him some time to figure out what to say, though…

Before he could move, though, once again Undyne cut him off. She sat down next to him on the bed, putting a hand on his shoulder. Now that she wasn’t looming over him waiting for an answer like an impenetrable wall, the atmosphere became a lot less tense, and Papyrus instinctually felt more at ease. He didn’t really want to run, now...

“Papyrus, this really isn’t like you. The Papyrus I know would be out there acing that job interview right now! The Papyrus I know is PASSIONATE! He wouldn’t be sitting here late! What’s really wrong?”

“...My clothes are uncomfortable,” he mumbled out, more subdued. Maybe it would be best to just reveal that small bit of information and get her off his back. It worked with Alphys!  And it wasn’t because he wanted someone to share this with, and get some comfort from. He just wanted her to stop worrying about him.

“What?” Undyne tilted her head, puzzled.

“My clothes are too uncomfortable, and I can’t stop focusing on it and get myself to go because I don’t want to go to the interview because if I do then I’ll be fidgeting the whole time and I’ll never be able to focus, and I won’t get the job.” He took a deep breath. “I don’t want to go out like this.”

“Well that’s stupid!” Papyrus cringed slightly. It was stupid. Extremely stupid. No one else was ever worried about their clothes that much! Why was he the only person who got worried about stupid stuff like this? And why did he think Undyne would think any differently...
“We just gotta get you better clothes!”

What. “What?”

“If that’s the problem, then all we need to do is go clothes shopping! There’s gotta be some clothes out there that are comfortable enough!” She flashed a winning smile, slapping him on his back and would have made him almost pitch forward if he wasn’t so used to it after all these years.

“What?” He repeated.

“What?” Undyne asked, looking confused.

Papyrus blinked a few times. He was confused. Flabbergasted, even, but… this was one of the best possible outcomes. Undyne didn’t question it. She didn’t ask him any more, pushing him for answers he didn’t have to questions he didn’t want to hear. It warmed his soul. Maybe… it wasn’t that bad to reveal some things. She certainly didn’t seem worried for him, like he was worried would happen. She didn’t even seem phased. Of course, she was Undyne. That was just the kind of monster she was.

He smiled genuinely. “That sounds great, Undyne. I… don’t think I’ll have time to get to the interview, though…”

“Pshhh,” Undyne waved her hand in dismissal. “Who cares about a dumb secretary job! The Papyrus I know wouldn’t want to do that! You’re too much of a busy body to stay at a desk all day.” She smiled.

He laughed. “Yeah, you’re right! The Great Papyrus never rests!”

“That’s what I’m talking about!” She gave him another slap on the back, but then kept her hand there, pulling him in further, so that they were nearly face to face. She looked around suspiciously, even though they were both in the house alone, and then whispered, “Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but Asgore and I have been talking about getting the Royal Guard back together. Not like what it was before, but like a kind of police force for monsters! Now that humans aren’t so fearful of us anymore, they won’t freak out if we have a Royal Guard! And you know what? I think you’d be one of the perfect monsters for the job!”

Papyrus’ eyes lit up. The Royal Guard? One of his lifelong dreams. One that he had lost all hope of ever getting during the resets. Was it really possible for him to become one? Despite everything, he still really wanted to help people, just like the Royal Guard did. And now it was possible that he could?

“Really?” He squeaked out.

“Really!” Undyne flashed another smile, clapping him on the back. “Don’t tell anyone, though! It’s not finalized! But you’ll be one of the first people I tell when it is, alright?” He nodded excitedly. “Now let’s go get you some clothes!”
“Alright, Undyne! I won’t let you down.” He saluted her, just like the old times.

“That’ll be Captain Undyne to you, again, punk!” She laughed, and Papyrus joined her, before being dragged out the room by his wrist to wherever Undyne was going to bring him.

His soul shined brighter.

Chapter Text

Papyrus stood outside, leaning against the banister of the house deck, just basking in the fresh surface air. He looked to the sun, which was nearing it’s peak. Most of the family was in the house, but he could see the one monster who preferred to be outside kneeling in the garden.

Asgore was absorbed in his work, carefully planting flowers in fresh dirt, and watering them precisely with the perfect amount of care.

A few weeks passed by since the whole interview disaster without any incidents. It was nice. Calming. Even the obsessions had died down to a dull hum in the back of his mind.

Alphys had stopped fretting so much over him, Undyne said that the proceedings for creating a new Royal Guard were going well, and Sans seemed to be happy as well.

He knew it wouldn’t last forever, but he was going to take what he could get while it lasted.

Even if it was just enjoying a nice day watching the former King of Monsters plant flowers.

“Papyrus! Do you want to join me in gardening?” Papyrus flinched, torn from his thoughts, and focused his gaze back to Asgore, who was flashing a smile and patting the dirt next to him.

He cringed inwardly. None of his experiences with gardening had ever turned out well, and just the thought of gardening brought back bad memories…

--

He was tending to the flowers in the throneroom, cutting the dying ones, watering the blooming ones, and trimming the overgrown ones. So many overgrown ones. Their vines creeping up the walls, almost creating a cage around the room. That was his fault. When he began his rule as king, he hadn’t wanted to come into the throneroom for awhile, and when he finally did, he realized that a lot of the golden flowers were dying without Asgore’s care. And he knew that these flowers were just as much his responsibility as they were Asgore’s, now.

He had been working to get the flowers back into proper condition for weeks, but there there must have been hundreds, maybe even close to a thousand flowers in that one room, and it was a large task for just one skeleton.

He didn’t want any help, though. Sitting there, he could understand why Asgore had liked them so much before he died. It was mindless work. He didn’t have to think about anything but the flowers. It was peaceful. He didn’t want anyone else to disturb that.

It was inevitable that someone did, though. He was king. He had a duty to his people, and he couldn’t hide away forever.

He felt someone sit down next to him, but he didn’t turn to see who it was. Only one person was alive now who cared about him not just as a ruler.

“Hey bro, you, uh, doing okay there? You’ve been down here for a while.”
“I’m fine, brother! Just taking care of the flowers!”

“Monsters are getting worried, Pap. They haven’t seen you in days. I think they need you more than these flowers do.”
Of course they needed him. They always needed him. To keep the morale up. To stop them from falling down. But when it gets too much for him, and he needs a break, things start to go wrong. And then he’s the one they blame. Even though it was their fault for relying on him so much in the first place. For believing in him.

Everyone thought that one person could solve all of their problems. That’s why they wanted him to be king. But no one ever thought about him. No one ever wondered if he was really fit for the job. They just needed someone’s shoulders to stand on, not thinking that those shoulders felt the same things they did. That those shoulders were being weighed down by them.

But... that was his job now. And there was nothing he could do about it.

“Oh, okay, brother! I’ll get right on that!” Papyrus smiled, putting down his watering can.

--

“Papyrus?” Asgore asked worriedly, snapping him out of his reminiscing.

“Oh, sorry! I just got lost in thought for a second. I’m… okay with just watching, don’t interrupt your routine just for me.” Papyrus waved a hand flippantly.

“Are you sure? It must be a bit boring just watching. I certainly don’t mind.”

“No, that’s okay! Really. The Great Papyrus, though he is great at many a things, is not so great at gardening.”

“Alrighty then. Would you be opposed to talking, though? It would be nice to have some company,” Asgore said, plucking another weed from the dirt.

“Not at all.” Papyrus gave a small smile.

Despite that, though, an awkward silence settled for a few seconds, neither monster sure what exactly to say.

“So, Undyne may have let it slip to me that you know about the Royal Guard,” Asgore started.

Papyrus rubbed his neck sheepishly. Trust Undyne not to keep a secret for more than a few weeks. “Yeah, she did. I hope you do not mind, even though you wanted to keep it a secret. She just wanted to make me feel better after I didn’t get the job at the labs!”

“It’s okay, Papyrus. I know she had good reason to tell you. Besides, I think that the new Royal Guard will greatly benefit if you join once it is enacted. Undyne has told me many times before about how passionate you are, how caring, how merciful. I think those are the most important traits for a guard to have. It takes real strength to show mercy even in the face of terrible things. Stars knows I wasn’t strong enough… But it warms my heart to know that there are other monsters out there who are,” He said, a twinge of regret lacing his last sentence.

Papyrus was flabbergasted. He couldn’t figure out any words to say that would explain what exactly that meant to him. Through the resets, through the obsessions, through his identity crisis, he made sure to kept that mercy in his soul. And to hear it validated… To hear it said that that would make a good guard- something he had dreamed of being since he was a babybones-... It made his soul feel lighter.

“Thank you…” Was all he managed to say.

“I truly mean it, Papyrus.” Asgore said, smiling..

After a few seconds of pause, Asgore turned back to his garden, deep in thought. “You know, you remind me of Asriel in a lot of ways… He also believed in giving mercy to everyone, no matter what. He was so light-hearted and free. He believed in the best in everyone. If he was still here, I think you two would be really close friends… Don’t ever lose that sense of justice, Papyrus. It doesn’t make you innocent or naive like some might think. It makes you strong.”

And in that moment, he could truly understand why Asgore was king.

Chapter Text

Papyrus yawned, going through another day’s motions. Washing the breakfast dishes, waiting for everyone to go to their respective jobs, cleaning the house for the umpteenth time, and then crashing on the couch.

He hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, like most nights. He was doing better recently in getting some amount of rest, with the anticipation of finally getting back into a regular sleeping schedule once the New Royal Guard was put into place, but it was still an adjustment. Especially when what kept him up was mostly just his endless running thoughts. It was hard enough to silence those during the day when he had things to distract him, let alone during the night when he was all alone. But, The Great Papyrus would not be deterred.

He looked up from his washing up, hearing the telltale signs of Toriel coming down the stairs, ready to go out for the day to her school.

“Papyrus, would you mind watching after Frisk for today?” Toriel called out, grabbing her coat next to the door and looking over her shoulder at him. “They have a day off from school, but I still have to go in.”

“Oh! Of course, Toriel!” He smiled. Frisk was always nice company to have. They could spend the whole day watching Mettaton together! Or do some puzzles! Frisk had been so busy recently with school and ambassadorial duties that it was hard to get some one on one time with them. But, if they had a whole day together, they could finally catch up. It would be nice.

Toriel had left by the time he was done with the dishes, and Papyrus walked up the stairs, hoping to tell Frisk the good news. Undyne would be out for work soon along with Alphys and Sans, and Asgore was always away from the house, so it would just be the two of them in the house soon for the whole day.

He walked past Undyne and Alphys’ room where they were getting ready for the day, and he was about to pass by to Frisk’s room when he heard his name.

“I’m worried about Papyrus, Alphys. He just… doesn’t seem to be acting the same as he was Underground. It’s been bothering me for a while, and I thought maybe he just needed something to be passionate again like the Royal Guard, but even now he isn’t back to normal.”
“W-Well… The Surface has been a big adjustment for a-all of us…”

“But it’s been a year, Alphys! I just don’t understand how he changed so much. I wish I knew what was wrong!”
“T-That’s for him t-to tell us. P-Papyrus is his own m-monster. I-I’m sure he’s w-working hard. I mean, h-he is going to be in the New Royal Guard again. Maybe once that happens he’ll be less… r-reclusive?”

“Maybe… But it won’t be reinstated for at least a few months! I can’t just let my best friend stay inside the whole time until then! And I can’t help but think it might be something more…”

“Y-Yeah… B-But we just have to w-wait.”
“NGAHHH! I don’t want to wait! I want to know why so I can punch the problem in the face!” She sounded about ready to supplex a boulder.

“U-Undyne, I-I don’t think you can punch the a-anxiety out of a monster… I-I’m sure if you could, you would have d-done that to me a l-long time ago.”

Anxiety?
“Anxiety?” Undyne parroted.

“O-Oh… Um… I-I…”

“Deep breaths, Alph.” There was a pause. “What do you mean by anxiety? Papyrus doesn’t really act like you do. You’re like polar opposites!”

“T-There are d-different types of anxiety. I-I don’t want to d-diagnose him o-or anything… b-but I know what i-it’s like, and… yeah… i-it just seems to… fit.”

“But why?! He’s Papyrus!”
“W-Well… S-sometimes there isn’t a reason. I-It’s just in a monster’s magical makeup. It’s just always t-there. M-Maybe i-it was just never apparent before b-because y-you didn’t live w-with him in the Underground?”

“But-”
“U-Undyne… H-He might not h-have an anxiety… but i-if he does, t-that’s his personal business. I… I didn’t want to talk about m-my s-social anxiety before, u-until Frisk… I-It’s hard to talk about…”

“But then what do we do to help?!”

“W-We just show our support… L-Let him know we care. A-And promote his interests! H-He really seems into the New R-Royal Guard… M-Maybe you can start up training with h-him again?”

“Yes! That’s a perfect idea, Alph! I need to start getting ready, now!”

“W-Wait, Undyne-”

Undyne was already rushing out the room and out the house with Alphys trailing close behind, completely missing Papyrus smushed up against the wall behind the door, evesdropping.

Once he was sure both of the girls were out of their home, he slowly peeked out of his hiding spot, and took a deep breath, sliding down the wall to sit down.

They were catching on.

He took another deep breath.

An anxiety disorder? How could it be an anxiety disorder? He wasn’t that anxious, was he? No, he knew that was a lie. He was anxious. He was anxious all the time. He had panic attacks because the anxiety got so bad at times. But it wasn’t a disorder. It couldn’t be. He wasn’t that broken, was he? He couldn’t be. He had to be strong enough to keep his front up.

Even if it was, these were his problems, and his alone. Even if it had a name, that didn’t mean anything.

He just had to continue acting normal. He just needed to act more like he did Underground. The happy, carefree Papyrus everyone knew. Before the resets started and he died too many times to count. Before he became king and failed everyone. Before they got to the surface and every day was just one step closer to the next reset.

Another deep breath.

He felt tears well up in his eye sockets, but he couldn’t acknowledge them. He couldn’t go into a panic attack now. He still had to spend the day with Frisk and finish keeping the house tidy, and spend an entire day making everyone think he was okay. He couldn’t afford to break down before the day had even begun.

He just needed to push the thoughts to the back of his mind. Just don’t think of them. If he just doesn’t acknowledge them, then others wouldn’t be able to either.

Just as he made this resolution, Frisk walked down the hall, snapping him out of his thoughts. They were still in their pajamas, holding a bitter Flowey while walking down the stairs.

“Oh! Hello, Frisk!” Papyrus called, wiping the residual tears from his eyes and pushing himself off the wall, following them downstairs.

“Hey, Pap.” Frisk yawned, covering their mouth with one hand before placing Flowey down on the nearest windowsill. “What are you doing today?”

“Toriel put me in charge of you for your day off!”

Their eyes widened for a second, and then they smiled widely. “Oh, that’s great! We haven’t had any alone time in… Forever! What are we going to do?!” Their tired mood from before was all but gone.

“Um… I was hoping you would have some ideas! You know, to make it your day off, and not because I have no ideas myself!”
Frisk giggled. “How about we watch some anime? Alphys recommended a new one a few days ago, and I’ve been meaning to check it out.”
“That sounds wonderful!” Papyrus exclaimed, secretly glad that it wasn’t anything that required a lot of energy.

They both sat down on the couch, curled up under a blanket, and Frisk pulled up an anime called ‘Re:Zero’.

At first, it was a classic Japanese anime with all the characteristics of a cliche plot with tons of romance and weird characters. And then… it got familiar.

The main character had died, and then… He had turned back time.

The main character had reset.

There was silence. The episode ended without any words spoken between them.

Papyrus tried to form words. To make it seem like everything was normal and he didn’t notice anything off. But nothing would come out.

He looked to Frisk. They were catatonic, not moving even an inch as they stared at the credits scrolling by on the screen. After a few minutes, they looked over to him, finally seeming to realize that he was looking at them intently.

It looked like they were about to play it off, and to make it seem like just a fluke. And then he could see their eyes trace over his expression. Their eyes went wide.

There was a silence, Frisk trying to move their mouth, forming words without saying anything, like they were trying to find the right word combinations but it wasn’t working. And then it did.

“Papyrus… Do you remember the resets?”

Chapter Text

There was silence. Complete and utter silence. Not even the TV made any noise, despite rolling through the credits of Re:Zero just moments before.

“I… W-What?” Papyrus stuttered. He nervously fiddled with the hem of his shirt. “What are resets?” He asked hoping he could convince them he was oblivious, despite the fact that his body language betrayed what he really knew.

“I can see it on your face… Just like Sans...” Frisk said breathlessly, not answering him. “You remember them, don’t you?!” Tears started to build up in their eyes.

Papyrus gasped. “No, no, Frisk, don’t cry!” He waved his hands haphazardly, trying to motion for them to stop. “I’m sorry!” That just made them tear up even more, some tears starting to slip down their face.

Papyrus wracked his brain, but he couldn’t think of what to say to get them to stop crying and understand. This is why he never brought it up! Whenever he did, something always managed to go wrong! That was just what he did. Messed things up.

He placed a hand on Frisk’s shoulder. “Please, Frisk, listen to me,” He said, softer. “I… do remember the resets. All of them. Even Flowey’s resets, before you. And, I need you to know that I don’t hold it against you. Just like I don’t hold it against Flowey…”

“How can you?” They whispered, almost barely audible. “Even Sans hasn’t fully forgiven me yet. I… k-killed everyone. Just for fun… I… I’ve murdered you! I’ve murdered Sans!” Their voice got progressively louder, tears still streaming down their face.

“I know…” Papyrus couldn’t think of anything to justify that. Any normal monster would hate them for everything they’ve done. No normal monster would want to hang out with either of their murderers, and yet he spent everyday with both of them.

“Why aren’t you mad?” They looked at him through their hands, which were working to try and catch all the tears and failing horribly.

“Because you’re my friend,” Papyrus said simply.

It was easier to just worry, instead of get mad. Being mad took energy. Energy he didn’t have. Plus, getting angry could ruin friendships.

He startled as all of a sudden Frisk had launched themself at him, arms wrapping around his waist. Their tears began to stain his shirt, but that didn’t matter.

He returned the hug, embracing them as tightly as he could without cutting off their air supply.

Surprisingly, he felt lighter now that Frisk knew. Another weight lifted off his shoulders. But he was also the cause of Frisk’s despair, and the reason they were crying right then… He was a bad friend...

Before he could spiral down deeper into self-hatred though, he heard a muffled noise against his shirt.

“Frisk?” He asked.

They pulled away from his shirt just enough to whisper, “I’m sorry…”

“I forgive you.” He said without even a second thought. “Can you just do me one favor, though?”

They looked up at him, nodding their head with excess force. Their eyes pleaded him to just ask anything, and they’d do it.

“Can you just tell me… when are you going to reset it all again? I just want to know so I’m not constantly wondering when it’ll happen. Then at least I can enjoy the time I have up here…”

They pushed away suddenly, their arms braced against his chest. “What?” They said, incredulous. “I’m never going to reset again, Papyrus! I never want to go through that ever again, and I don’t want to lose everything I have now! I’ve promised!” More tears began to drip down, but there was a look of utter determination on their face.

Papyrus froze. He stayed like that for a few seconds, trying to comprehend what they said. Then, he laughed. It wasn’t a boisterous Great Papyrus laugh, or even a hearty chuckle. It was just a soft, unbelieving laugh. “Okay, Frisk. That was funny. Now tell me the truth. When?”

Frisk grabbed his hands, and looked him straight in the eyes. “Never. Never again, Papyrus. I’m being one hundred percent serious right now. I will never reset again. I promise. Just like I promised Sans.”

It took a few second for the words to process.

No more resets? But that was… impossible.

Iit felt like something broke inside Papyrus. A stream of tears welled up behind his eyes sockets, and began to tumble over the sides, streaming down his face. When he tried to push them away with the back of his hand, more just came out, not stopping.

His whole life was dictated by the resets. Whether it was reliving the same days over and over, following the same script as always, just waiting for the next one to come when his friends had been dusted, or even now on his surface, he was always waiting. That was all he did.

Two years on the surface and still everyday he wondered when it would all end. And now Frisk was saying that it wasn’t something to worry about anymore? That there would be no more resets, and he could just live a normal life like everyone else?

It didn’t seem real.

It couldn’t be real.

This had to be a dream. A cruel, cruel dream.

Everything felt distant, like Frisk was a million miles away from him, but yet they felt so close at the same time. His breathing was rough, like he was gasping in air that wasn’t there, and the pit in his nonexistent stomach only deepened.

He wondered if he was having a panic attack, but that didn’t make sense. Panic attacks were when something bad happened, and he couldn’t cope with it. This was good, wasn’t it? And yet he still couldn’t cope with it.

He was really messed up, wasn’t he? Breaking down when getting good news. Who did that?

He distantly felt Frisk shaking him slightly, trying to get his attention, but all he could focus on were his own spiraling thoughts. Soon after they left the couch and out of his line of vision.

When they got back maybe five minutes or maybe an hour later, they were putting their phone away into their back pocket before they sat right back down beside him.

“It’s okay, Papyrus.” He heard them whisper. Or maybe they were speaking normally, and he was just having trouble hearing them over the roar of his own thoughts. “No more resets, I promise. You don’t have to be afraid.” They paused for a second. “I’d be scared too.” They finally said, as if reading his thoughts. “...I am scared, actually. I still have trouble coming to terms with it. I know it’s a lot to take in. At some point, the resets just become a part of your life, you know? They’re a staple. You come to rely on them. There was a point in time where death was something that didn’t even phase, because it was all just a game to me. Now I’m hyper aware of everything I do, because I know no matter what, I can’t reset any mistakes I make. Even if I die. That’s scary. It’s scary to everyone, really, but we’ve become desensitized to it because of the resets. And now we have to face reality,” They rambled on, filling up the silence. Papyrus was grateful, because he was so focused on their words that he didn’t have time to acknowledge his own thoughts. “What I’m trying to say is... it’s okay to be scared. To not know what to do. I sure know that I don’t. But… we’re here for you. Everyone is. The resets were a big part of the lives of everyone who can remember them, and it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that they’re over, but it’s something that you can move on from now. I just... wish I knew sooner about you remembering. You shouldn’t have to struggle on your own, Papyrus. No one should.”

There was the distant sound of a car pulling up in the driveway.

"And I think there’s someone you really need to talk to before anyone else,” Frisk finished, hopping off the couch. "You both really need this."

The front door opened.

“...Papyrus?”

It was Sans.

Papyrus didn't know what was going to happen next. He didn't know how this talk was going to go, or what the future would hold for him. He didn't know if his thoughts would ever stop plaguing him, or if Frisk's words would be enough to stop his paranoia. He just didn't know.

But what he did know was that it wasn't going to stop if he didn't take this step right now. If he didn't reach out for help when he so desperately needed it.

So he did.

"I'm sorry, Sans..."