They continued to stare at each other.
For a very long time.
"I..." the monster finally spoke. "...I can't believe it's you." He took a moment to examine Frisk top to bottom. "You've gotten bigger..."
The human half-giggled. "Yeah, so I've been hearing."
She had wanted to do it for a while now, but Papyrus took the initiative. He walked forward and put his bony arms around her, containing the wide-eyed Clement in his embrace as well.
"I mean, what are the chances?" he said, though Frisk didn't answer his question.
"Do I really look the same?" she asked the skeleton.
Papyrus pulled away, and looked her over once more.
"Actually, yes," he concluded. "You really do. You're just a bit taller. And a little more mature-looking..."
He looked down at the baby in her arms, who was still staring in confusion at this creature before him.
"A lot more mature!" he said in shock, pointing at the infant. "Is this yours, human?"
Frisk smiled slightly, and gazed down at her little boy. "Yes, he is," she answered. "This is Clement."
Papyrus placed his hands on his hips. "Well, how do you do, Clement?" he greeted, although the child had no idea what he was saying.
As adorable as these introductions were, Frisk needed to change the subject quickly. "Why aren't you..." she started, not sure of how to put it, "...with the others?"
The skeleton lowered his hands from his waist. Thankfully, he seemed to understand. "You mean, why am I not with Undyne's army?"
Frisk nodded, nearly afraid of how he would respond.
Papyrus glanced to the side, not wanting to lock eyes with her—of course, if he had had eyes. "Well, you see..." he uttered, fiddling with his hands, "...that's the thing. I'm not actually...supposed to be here."
Frisk knitted her brow. "What?" she questioned. "Why?"
Papyrus cringed. "Undyne asked me not to come," he replied. "She said that I wouldn't be able to do what they were going to do. And as much as I argued and assured her that I could, she wouldn't listen." He scratched his head. "She told me that they were going to invade peacefully. Request a treaty or something like that. But...now I realize that she was trying to protect me."
He looked up at Frisk. "I understand what she was trying to do, you know? Though I would have appreciated it more if she had just told me the truth. Because when I sneaked through the Barrier..." He paused, clearly remembering that event. "...I...I would have never thought that Undyne would do something like this..."
Frisk nodded absentmindedly. It made sense to her that he would be shaken. Papyrus was a sweetheart, and he always thought the best of others. So the fact that the head of the royal guard, and his good friend, had lied to him would certainly throw him for a loop.
"But!" he suddenly burst, startling Frisk a little. "Enough about me! What about you? Did they attack you? Are you hurt?" ~~~
Frisk had been saddened at first, but sudden tears welled in her eyes. "They killed him," she whimpered, covering her mouth with her free hand. Papyrus was confused by this. "Wh—what? Killed who?" Suddenly the woman fell into the monster's arms, weeping quite uncontrollably. "Edmund! They killed him! The only person that loved me on this planet! And they killed him! And now Undyne wants to kill Clement!" Papyrus was thrown by this sudden action, but he put his arms around the human one again. "I'm so sorry," he apologized. He wasn't exactly sure who Edmund was, though he fully understood the severity of the latter statement. "I'm so sorry this happened to you." Slowly and eventually Frisk ceased her crying. "It's my fault," she spoke, words as stone-cold as the gaze of an effigy. Papyrus looked down at her. "What did you say?" he asked, slightly horrified. "This is all my fault," Frisk repeated. "I did this. I killed so many monsters..." A few sobs returned as she spilled her mind. "They want revenge because of me. I killed Edmund." Immediately the skeleton pulled away and held her at the shoulders. He looked into her eyes, with the most intense glare upon his chiseled face. "Don't ever say that," he commanded, and Frisk was rather frightened by this. "Please don't tell yourself that ever again. Because it's not true." Frisk shook her head, as Clement was taking hold of Papyrus's arm. "Yes it is," she argued, sniffling at every pause. "If I hadn't killed your people, then—"
"Then this would have still happened," the monster interrupted. "Asgore wanted to do this too. And if he had gotten your soul like he planned, this would have still happened. It just would have been a decade ago."
Frisk considered this, for she hadn't thought about it that way. Now that he mentioned it, Asgore had planned on doing this precise thing. Sans had even discussed that fact in that phone call all those years ago. But in his own words, the king had been very "bad at it". Undyne had managed to do what Asgore wasn't able to do, and basically carry on his legacy.
Which had gotten Frisk to thinking...
"So, how did Undyne break the Barrier?" she asked, although she was nearly sure of the answer. Papyrus looked down at his gloved hands, which were fidgeting quite spastically. "Well," he started, "she had originally tried to break it with sheer force. But, that proved to be unsuccessful. And, uh, Doctor Alphys attempted to find a 'scientific' way to get through, but for some reason she didn't seem to try very hard..." His hands stopped moving, yet he gazed straight at them, as if he found them curiously fascinating. "So we kinda just waited. Eventually enough humans fell down there that we just used their souls. It was actually quite morbid." The skeleton said nothing for a moment, which Frisk understood. "We were basically just keeping an eye on the Ruins. And once someone came out of the exit, there would be a team waiting there to capture them." He looked up at the human. "It was almost like cheating. We knew that enough humans were bound to fall down that hole eventually. And all we had to do was sit and wait. It was...it's just terrible. I can't believe Undyne carried out with it." Frisk placed a hand on his shoulder, which he apparently hadn't been expecting. Though she hadn't expected it either; it was more of a reflex honestly. When the skeleton glanced up at this gesture, he immediately faced back down. "This isn't what I wanted," he said, the words wavering as they became. "It's not what I thought the royal guard was. Though...I don't know what I expected. I guess it just seemed like being in the guard would make me popular. But...I wasn't aware of the duty that came with it." Frisk rubbed the monster's shoulder. She remembered how much Papyrus had wanted to be in the royal guard, all those years ago. He had thought that capturing the human child would induct him into the occupation of his dreams. The moment of realization, it was quite heartbreaking. This aspiration of his that once was, shattered to pieces in an instant; indeed a dismal thing to witness. "I'm sorry, Papyrus," she said, almost forgetting her own dilemma. The skeleton looked up at the apology. "Oh my, please don't be," he asked. "It is not your fault. If anything it was my own ignorance." He held out his arms and took her hand into his own. "I should be the one to apologize, for steering the subject towards me. There is nothing you need to be sorry about."
Frisk closed her eyes, and jerked her hand away. "Yes there is," she opposed. "There's plenty to be sorry about." Papyrus stayed quiet for a few seconds, but suddenly understood. "Human, please don't do this," he pleaded. "I know what you are about to say, and I'm asking you not to—"
"Please, Papyrus!" she shouted, not caring about her situation, and how it would have been wise to keep quiet. "Just listen to me, okay? I have been tormenting myself about it for years. Ten years! I've had nightmares every night since I came back. And I haven't been able to make up for it in any way. All I could do was try and forget, and I never could. So please, let me say what I have to say!"
There was a silence that followed, where neither of the three, not even the fickle-emotioned infant, made a sound. Frisk stared at the monster, who was obviously contemplating the request. After what seemed like eternity, but was merely a few seconds, he returned her stare. "Alright," he allowed.
Frisk was relieved, yet looked away at the permittance. "I know that nothing I say will solve anything," she said, "but no one will be able to say that I was a coward." With that she forced herself to gaze into the monster's eyes, or where they would have been if he had any. "I am sorry for everything I did." Tears rolled down her face as she spoke. "And if I could go back and change everything I would. I wouldn't have killed so many monsters. In fact, I'm sure I wouldn't lay a finger on them. I regret hurting your people. I was a naive child who didn't know better, but I should have." Soon the sobs grew uncontrollable, as Frisk struggled to say a word. "I'm so sorry! And I don't deserve any forgiveness! I deserve to die! People like me should be burning in hell!" She plunged herself into Papyrus's arms, which he wrapped around her immediately. The teardrops plunked on his ivory bones, though he felt not the need to wipe them away. "Shh," he uttered, stroking the weeping human's head. "It's alright. It will be alright." Frisk didn't retort, nor did she show indication that nothing would ever be alright. She only listened, for as much as she disagreed, it felt good for someone to finally care about her, and try to calm her down.
She really could count on Papyrus for anything.
"Look, human," the skeleton spoke, awaking Frisk from her diminishing fit. "I know that this doesn't really mean anything, but..." He paused a moment. "...but I forgive you." The sobs subsided, as the woman looked up at him. "To be honest," she said, gasping at every other word, "I was sure you would." Rather than huff at the remark, Papyrus nodded. He understood what she meant. "People always think that I'm just childish," he mentioned. "You know, because I seem quick to forgive. Though I tend to think it differently." He pulled away from the embrace, yet kept his hands on Frisk's shoulders. "It's not that I'm naive or ignorant, like others think. I just have a different way of thinking. I believe that no matter how evil people can seem, there will always be some, if not even a little, goodness in them. And that someday, they may come to realize what they did; and if they have the humility and the courage to do so, they can bring themselves to say aloud that they were wrong, and change the way that they live because of it." Frisk stared in awe at the monster. The things that came from his mouth were said like a philosopher, as if he were proclaiming his beliefs to a crowd of onlookers. Yet he was a skeleton, and Frisk was only one. But the quality of his words might as well have been for many.
"You know, Sans doesn't believe what I believe," Papyrus continued. "He thinks that people are either black or white, good or bad. Which is a reason why he refused to talk about you for years." He stopped speaking to peak a smile, or however it looks for a skeleton to smile. "I don't understand why he thinks this way," he said, "but I do know this." He lifted a hand from Frisk's shoulder, and pointed straight at her. "You proved him wrong."
Suddenly Frisk returned to her sobbing, but for an entirely different reason. She was a murderer; there would be no denial. But maybe, just maybe, there was some good in her after all. Yes, she had killed many monsters, yet she regretted it all. Perhaps she had done terrible things, but she was not ruthless. She knew the difference between right and wrong, and acting upon the latter filled her with guilt. She had changed, contrary to what Sans had thought.
Though as much as the thoughts were comforting, they were only that.
Nothing had changed. Her past, her situation, the truth...
Papyrus had done so much as to calm her mind, but it wasn't enough to change it.
All of a sudden a sound was heard from the woods. Frisk's head whipped around, as had Papyrus's as well. Neither of them were able to track the location of the noise, which was perhaps the strike of a tree trunk; but it was obvious to both that someone else was in the forest.
"What was that?" the skeleton asked, thinking that somehow Frisk would know. Although she wasn't sure, she had a very good guess.
"Papyrus," she said, backing away from the previous hug. The monster turned to her. "Yes?" The human's breath revved. "I need you to do something," she requested, a graveness prominent in her voice. The skeleton seemed confused. "What? Do what?" he asked. Another noise was heard beyond where they conversed, and Frisk's heartbeat picked up the pace. "I need you to take Clement."
Papyrus was appalled, to say the least. "Y—your ch—child?" he sputtered. "W—why would I—"
"Please!" she implored. "I"m begging you!" Clement looked up at his mother, sensing some kind of tension. "She won't stop," Frisk continued. "Undyne won't ever stop looking for me. No matter how much I hide we won't ever be safe." She lifted her child slightly toward Papyrus, but he had no intention of taking him. "Please, human, I can't—"
"I don't expect you to raise him," she clarified. "I just want him to be safe. You can take him to someone else. Maybe they'll take him." The reason for her sobbing shifted again, as the tears poured down more than ever.
"B—but couldn't you do it?" Papyrus asked. "You know what's best for him. I mean, I know nothing about what a human child needs."
Clement was starting to wonder why he was being held toward the strange being. Though Frisk wouldn't take him back, no matter how much she yearned to do so. "I can't risk it," she admitted. "If she finds me with him she'll kill both of us."
"But she'll kill him if she finds him with me!" he retorted. Clement may have finally realized that they were talking about him, and began to whimper. Frisk grimaced, but refused to hold him to herself. "But she might not," she said. "She respects you. If she found you with Clement she would hesitate. But not with me." The child looked back at his mother, still not understanding why he was being held so far away. "He would have a better chance," she spoke, the words catching in her throat, "if he had nothing to do with me."
Papyrus shook his head. "How could you ever say that?" he rebuked, horrified that she would ever mention anything like it. "You're his mother! He needs you!"
"Papyrus, if you don't take him now Undyne is going to find all three of us!" she shouted, not improving their situation in the slightest. They were silent a moment, just like before; Frisk awaiting a response, and Papyrus thinking up one. Though in time, the skeleton reluctantly reached out his arms. And Frisk, with as much reluctance as he, slowly handed Clement to him. Clement was beyond bewildered; he didn't like this at all. His tiny arms reached out for his mother, as he whined to be back with her. And as tears formed in his eyes, so did they appear in hers. "I'm sorry, baby," she apologized, grasping his little hands in her own. "Mommy is gonna be away for a while, okay?" She kissed her boy on the forehead, for an abnormally long time. Though she felt like it couldn't ever be long enough. "I love you, Clement," she whispered, unable to say anything louder. "Make Mommy proud, okay?" Frisk forced herself to let go, causing her child to snivel in bafflement.
Frisk looked up at Papyrus, who seemed as somber as ever. "Are...are you sure about this?" he asked. "Because if you're not absolutely, one hundred percent, positive—"
'I'm sure," she answered, though her tone and expression said otherwise.
So with that, and a brief exchange of stares, the skeleton made off with Clement. Though before he could get too far...
He turned around, attempting to calm the sniffling child. "Yes?"
"Thank you. I...I can never thank you enough..."
If it was even possible, Papyrus seemed to...smile. "There's no need," he said, which puzzled Frisk. "I understand what you're trying to do. You are protecting your child." He gazed down a moment, but looked up hastily. "But can you tell me something first?"
"Um, sure," she confirmed. "But please hurry."
The skeleton understood the severity, yet he needed to ask her something. The one question that had been bothering him for years.
"What is your name?"
Frisk stopped right here. She hadn't realized that he didn't know her name. Of course, he had no way to. No one had asked her real name while she had been in the Underground, but no one had seemed to find it important. Everyone had just referred to her as "the human", though now she realized that such a title would be confusing at the Surface.
"Frisk," she spoke. "My name is Frisk."
Papyrus nodded slowly. "Frisk..." he muttered, as if thinking it over. "That is a beautiful name."
As flattered as she was—or rather as flattered as she should have been—she ruined the moment. "Now please, run."
The skeleton hesitated, but nevertheless ran. Into the brush he disappeared, whining child in hand.
And just in the nick of time too.
For just moments after the faint cry of a baby dissipated, Frisk heard a new sound behind her. The ruffle of leaves, the footsteps of a person, and the voice of an enemy.
"There you are, punk."