The problem is, Papyrus just wants to be friends with everyone.
He doesn’t exactly make a secret of it, but sometimes he thinks that it’s harder than it should be. There isn’t a soul alive who just doesn’t want to be happy, right? And what makes a person happier than having friends? It seems so obvious, and Papyrus can’t possibly imagine not wanting want to be friends with everyone they come across.
The Captain of the Royal Guard is very respectable, but occasionally, he gets the feeling that she doesn’t share his viewpoint. For one, she seems to really hate humans-well, ‘hate’ in the extremely overzealous, inspiring way she does everything, full of passion that he knows she can’t always control.
Passion is a wonderful thing to have. Still… Papyrus would never call one of his friends ignorant, but he can’t help that think that if Undyne actually just met a human, she might even like them.
He’d told her as much one time, and she’d punched the boiling pot of water off the stove, completely ignoring the way the hot metal seared her knuckles. Then she’d told him (quite loudly; maybe she’d forgotten that he could hear her without ears) that that kind of thinking would never stand in the Royal Guard.
Papyrus wants to be in the Royal Guard more than anything, so he tried to think about it her way for a while.
Then the first human he met had liked puzzles and spaghetti and refused to lift a finger against him. They hated crosswords and made his brother happy by going along with his dumb pranks. They’re so easy to make friends with, and Papyrus is back to square one.
He just wants to be friends with everyone.
Maybe that means Papyrus isn’t very good Royal Guard material, but he hopes it at least makes him good friend material, and he tells himself that when he meets Undyne in the water-smoothed walls of a cave and lies to her face that he’ll help her capture the human.
He keeps telling himself that when he moves out of her earshot into a darkened, cobalt-blue tunnel and calls the human to ask what they’re wearing.
Lying to Undyne again hurts this time, but he doesn’t let it show in his smile. He doesn’t even let himself sweat when she flashes a razor-edged smile at him and charges down the sodden grass in the same direction Frisk went.
He’s so sure that once she talks to them, she’ll like them as much as he and Sans do. He believes in the best of everyone, especially someone as noble and great as Undyne. He has faith in her do do the right thing.
He’s so sure, in fact, that he calls again a few minutes later to suggest they all spend time together once Undyne comes to her senses.
When Frisk picks up, he hears wheezing and wind, and wonders what on earth the human is getting up to. Just as he opens his mouth to speak, Frisk cries out and the phone clatters loudly to the floor.
The last thing Papyrus hears is Undyne’s triumphant laughter, tinny and hollow over the line.
Then it dies.
Once, a long time ago, Papyrus had accidentally used the back of a photograph as notepaper for Junior Jumble. When Sans found out, he’d moved faster than Papyrus had ever seen him move, frantically flipping the picture over so he could see the damage. He’d only relaxed when he saw the photo and whatever was or wasn’t there.
He’d patted Papyrus on the arm amiably, telling him something about not needing a ‘photographic’ memory for an easy-peasy game like Junior Jumble, but the strained, slightly harried expression had stayed until he disappeared out the front door with the photo.
Sans has that look on his face now.
It doesn’t make him feel any better.
“WHAT DO I DO?” Papyrus asks, wringing his hands.
Sans doesn’t answer at first; his eyes dim in their sockets in a way that Papyrus has never seen before.
“when did this happen again?” he asks, and Papyrus would be infuriated at the lazy curiosity in his voice if it wasn’t so overtly forced.
“ALMOST TWO HOURS AGO! I… WELL, I TRIED CALLING UNDYNE, BUT SHE DIDN’T PICK UP. AND HER HOUSE IS EMPTY. AND LOCKED. ” He looks off to the side. “AND ALSO… NEEDS A BIT OF SWEEPING. FROM THE GLASS ALL OVER THE FLOOR. BUT THE POINT IS, NEITHER SHE NOR THE HUMAN ARE ANYWHERE TO BE FOUND!”
Sans begins to sweat a little, ducking his face into the fleece of his jacket.
“that’s, uh… a pretty long time. geez, kid, what are you doing?”
Papyrus bristles. “SANS! THE HUMAN HAS DONE NOTHING WRONG! IN FACT, IF I…”
The truth hits him like a sack of bones. Something awful starts crawling on his back.
“IF I HAD JUST TRIED HARDER TO GET UNDYNE TO SEE HOW SPECIAL THEY WERE, THEN MAYBE…” He feels himself start to shake, ribs clacking inside his armor. “SANS… WHAT HAVE I DONE?”
“hey.” His brother’s tone is firm, and it’s his voice that wakes Papyrus up more than the fact that he’s being pulled by the glove towards their couch. Sans sits him down, patting his shoulders with both hands. He looks… stressed, which isn’t something Sans does and it’s a bit unnerving.
“don’t worry about it, pap. she just doesn’t know the squirt like we do. it’s gonna be fine, ‘kay? that kid is undying.”
“SANS, I JUST WANTED THEM TO BE FRIENDS! THEY HAVE SO MUCH IN COMMON! LIKE, UM… WELL…” His voice quivers. “… ME.”
For all the good he did them. Now Undyne would never know the joy of having such another good friend, and Frisk…
He blinks into reality again to find Sans pulling his hood over his face. He swears that his brother’s left eye flickers bluish-green before settling back into its dull white glow.
“look, bro… i gotta see a nerd about a goat. just hang out here for a while, will ya? wouldn’t mind some world-class spaghetti when i get back.”
Sans is out the door before Papyrus can get mad at him for abandoning their human, but in all truth, Papyrus isn’t in much of a position to throw stones.
Not when he’s so badly failed his dear friends.
There’s only one place left he can turn to for advice.
Rocketing to his feet, Papyrus shoots out after his brother, unsurprised to find him already long gone. He turns on his heel and heads north of the village, past a family of stones and a wolf hauling ice off of conveyer belts, all the way to the outcropping of land that oversees a dark river.
“I KNOW YOU’RE HERE!” he shouts at the ground, stamping his foot in the snow. “A LITTLE HELP, PLEASE?”
Laughter sounds in the air. When Papyrus turns around, a yellow echo flower springs up from the frost, grinning widely at him.
“Howdy,” it says, and Papyrus is glad that he at least has one friend left in the world.