Bark at the Moon Chapter 14: Wild Type/ Next>
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Rating, Setting: Gen, Pre-canon
Chapter Warnings: None
Chapter Summary:He’s survived this long. But there’s not much to scavenge in the depths of Snowdin’s forest. He can only hope something turns up… and boy, will it.
You are watching: Blade and soul bark at the moon
He stretched, pulling the magic back out to his extremities after a night curled up, working his claws into the soft earth and yawning widely. He shook any remaining stiffness out with a clatter, and ignored a painful twinge in his leg. He rubbed at it with his snout, soothing the ache, but he had a task at hand. An old injury couldn’t interfere. He dug into the dry leaves that served as their bedding and heaped a little bit more over his brother, then stepped out from the den.
He sniffed the air–clean snow, sharp pine, musty leaves and earth from the hollow behind–nothing new. Nothing dangerous. It was safe to forage. He stretched again, rolled around in the snow for a bit, then set out.
He wove through evergreen brush and fallen branches along a well-worn path. Navigating down a rockfall with careful leaps, he landed on the stony banks of the river, loose cobbles clacking underfoot. Putting his nose to work, he sniffed along the river’s edge, hopeful. It was rare, but he’d once found discarded food along here… maybe there’d be more today.
Oh! What was that? Not food, but there was something interesting caught on a branch in the water. He waded in and pulled at it with his jaws until it came free–a piece of something soft. This would be nice to lay on. He got it back on land and shook it out, then blinked… the thing was wet, and wet things froze, and this thing would be useless frozen. He needed to do something to stop that… he needed heat. Oh! He had heat! He laid the piece out flat and went over it with his beam, the power set low to dry it with a careful precision. When it wasn’t damp anymore, he picked it up, head held high as he avoiding snags and rough terrain. He’d solved the puzzle–he was clever, he was good.
He reached the den and hooted as he entered, his latest prize in his jaws. He scraped out the most deteriorated of the leaf litter, then fussed with the soft thing to get it just right. It would be a nice surprise for his brother when he woke up. Content with his final arrangement, he chirped his satisfaction before heading back out. He still had to find food. Loping between the trees, he struck off towards the river again.
But his resources were dwindling, and he hadn’t been able to find food for a while now. No berries anymore, and the mushrooms from the warm part of the river were gone too. He couldn’t take from the farms–he’d done that once and it made him feel so bad the memory still made him cringe. It was all the food he could possibly need, but he couldn’t take what wasn’t his. His best hope was something discarded… or…
He froze and perked up, head swiveling in the direction the sound had come from. He waited–the sound came again, from a slightly different spot. The voice’s owner was moving, quickly. He sniffed the air–nothing yet. Only sound. He tilted his head from side to side, then slowly wove it back and forth, trying to hone in.
There were hardly ever noises out here–much less a voice. It sounded like the scary lady from yesterday… She’d had food. He’d smelled it, had tried to get it… maybe she’d have it again today. He’d get it for sure this time. It was worth the risk.
The shouting came again, and he crouched to slink through the sparse undergrowth towards it. His bones blended in with the white snow, and he’d gotten very good at making only the softest sounds. This would be easy. Keeping a steady pace, it wasn’t long before he was much closer to his target. There was still no scent to follow, but he caught a glimpse of movement between the trees, enough to see it was the lady from before. He changed his trajectory a little so he’d sneak up behind her.
There was a familiar feeling…
He caught the scent of food, and refocused. His brother was counting on him… This time, he’d use magic. Just until she was too tired to fight… There she was, walking quickly, looking everywhere. He crouched lower. He’d have to be very careful… He crept along as fast as he dared, until–now!
A line of bones jabbed from the ground before her, and she skipped back–another row rose behind her, and she whirled to see him leaping from the brush. She looked… happy…?
He squinted. That was–how did she know his name? She’d said other things, but his name had stuck out… Why would she know it? He shut his eyes and uttered a short growl–he had to focus! He sent a row of bones at her, but she leapt over them easily… Oh right! He had to do the other thing! Next turn. He paid full attention to what she was doing–he had to be ready.
“Look, usually I’m all for a workout, but I dunno if you are. You look… kinda beat, man. So, JUST this once, I’m gonna go easy on you.”
So many words–
The sharp ping of soul magic surprised him. He couldn’t move, and the first spear took him off-guard. But he blocked the next, and a third, easily, tail lashing as he navigated this challenge. It felt familiar too…
But it was his turn now. He cast his special magic and turned the scary lady blue, then sent a number of bones at her. But she dodged those too, like she’d seen this before… His turn wasn’t over yet–he braced himself and let a beam of magic loose from his jaws, catching her by surprise. Ha! That did the trick. He could win.
She picked herself up, rubbing her leg where his attack had connected. “C"mon Papyrus, it’s me–your friend Undyne. You remember us hanging out, right? We used to do it all the time!”
She gave him a big grin, and he couldn’t shake the feeling… No, he didn’t want the memories to wake up. He knew they were painful, and pain was bad, so he shouldn’t think about them. He shut his eyes and attacked again. He needed to win.
She grunted as a bone connected, then returned with her own attack. “We used to spar all the time too–you think I can’t handle anything you dish out?!”
He was green again–and ready for the incoming spears. But then he wasn’t, his mind foggy with tired, and Undyne threw another he wasn’t prepared for–it hit his bad leg. He yelped–okay, nope, time to leave, get away!
He was still green, and no amount of writhing let him budge. He spun to face his opponent and growled, jaws clattering. He didn’t want to fight anymore, but if he had to–!
The lady wrapped her arms around his shoulders. He was too surprised to do anything, even as the lady lifted him up. This really was familiar…!
“NGGGAAAAAAHHHHH! FRIENDSHIP SUPLEX!”
Stunned, he laid helplessly as she rolled from under him and put him in a headlock.
“IF YOU DON’T REMEMBER, I’LL NOOGIE THOSE MEMORIES RIGHT BACK INTO THAT THICK SKULL OF YOURS! I’LL DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET YOU BACK ALL THE WAY, PAPYRUS!”
He… he could almost…! This was so familiar–
He remembered bad cooking lessons and fire and laughter. He remembered snow wrestling. He remembered sparring sessions that left them both winded but exuberant. He remembered her.
He remembered all the trouble she’d went through to help him ever since this whole mess had started, and that their last conversation had been an argument. All the same… he’d missed her. He whined, and shoved his head into her side in apology, nearly bowling her over.
“Hey, shh, it’s okay. I’m–I’m glad that wor–I’m glad you’re back,” Undyne said. Her voice sounded thick. “Here, we both landed some good hits. I didn’t know if you’ve been getting much to eat, so I brought sandwiches.”
At the mention of food Papyrus scrambled to his feet–but his body seemed to remember just how tired he really was, and he stumbled right back down with a whimper. Undyne eyed him with concern.
“Dude, I didn’t hit you that much, are you–” She paused to cast a quick check, and frowned. “Gotcha. You’ve been out here a while after all… even longer than that first time you ran away. You must’ve been finding something to last this long, but… Here. It’s nothing fancy, but I don’t think that matters.”
She dug into her backpack and pulled out a sandwich, and Papyrus almost lost himself again as he was overcome with hunger. He nearly snatched the sandwich out of Undyne’s hand before she could unwrap it, and it was gone in a snap once she’d handed it over. He’d never been particularly food-motivated, but that was before he’d been deprived of it for so long.
“Whoa dude, take it easy. Try to enjoy this one, okay?” Undyne teased as she offered another. “I have a couple more, but they’re for Sans… Um… he’s still… around, right?”
Papyrus blinked, and nodded quickly before going back to tearing off chunks of the second sandwich and wolfing them down. He almost felt bad he wasn’t saving it for Sans, but Undyne said she had more–his brother would get his share eventually. He needed to take care of himself if he was going to take care of anyone else–and the sandwich tasted really, really good compared to the various mushrooms and refuse he’d been scavenging from.
“Y"know I asked you to bring him… ‘Course, maybe you couldn’t. Eh, I bet he’s just as lazy as he always is, huh?”
Papyrus looked aside and gave a short huff. That was… one way to put it. Undyne’s smile faded as she studied his expression.
“Well, no matter what, we’ll get him taken care of too. I’ve got a lot to tell you guys. Feeling better?”
Papyrus finished off his meal and nodded, offering a happy cluck. He wasn’t sure he could get his voice working again–at least, not yet. But Undyne didn’t seem to mind, and patted his shoulder heartily.
“Alright! If you’re ready… let’s go see him, huh?”
Papyrus wearily got to his feet and shook himself out. Sans probably wouldn’t be happy about this… but then… he hadn’t been happy for a long time. The initial joy of seeing each other again hadn’t lasted after their new reality set in.
Papyrus turned towards their home of the last… however long it’d been, and trilled at Undyne. She nodded and slung her pack over her shoulders, ready to go. Without further ado, Papyrus lead the way at an easy lope while Undyne jogged behind him. Aside from their footfalls, it was utterly silent.
Ah, there was the tree he’d marked with his claws–he bugled a call to announce his arrival, and added a couple of hoots to relay there was something new. He doubted it would work, but… oh, that’s what he could say–he uttered a trill to indicate food. That would at least wake his brother up.
Before they got much closer, he slowed down and turned to face Undyne. She slowed accordingly, looking puzzled, and he clumsily raised a paw and clapped it on her shoulder while giving her a stern look. He could only hope his meaning got across…
“You want me to stay here?”
He nodded, bouncing in place before turning to approach the den they’d made. He poked his head into the dark–Sans hadn’t moved since he’d left, but at his entrance he blinked an eye open to look at him. Papyrus trilled again, nuzzling him before shoving his snout against his brother’s sternum to push him up. Sans offered a low grumble and no effort to support himself; Papyrus growled back and pushed harder. When it was clear Sans simply refused to move, Papyrus picked him up by the nape and dragged him out.
Sans’ initial reaction to Undyne was to hiss and try to back away, but Papyrus caught him by the back spines before he could shuffle further. He cooed at him, and gave another food-trill; on her part, Undyne sat and did her best to look friendly. Sans uttered a few more wary growls–but Papyrus wasn’t surprised when his brother’s eyelids lowered, and he sank back to the ground. Sans’ reactions to anything these days was… short-lived, to say the least.
“Hey Sans,” Undyne greeted. “I’m glad to see you’re alive too, y"know?”
Sans just watched her from lidded eyes.
“You’ve gotta be hungry, so–I know it’s not Grillby’s, but I brought sandwiches.”
Papyrus nudged his brother again, then trotted over to Undyne and picked up the offered food; as much as he still wanted it for himself, Sans really needed it. He placed the sandwich by his brother’s jaws, and Sans gave it a tentative sniff. He rolled his head over and took a bite…. And that was it. Papyrus prodded him with a whine, but Sans only gave a raspy sigh and turned away.
Where Papyrus had become more motivated to find food and eat it… it seemed the opposite had happened to his brother. He wasn’t interested in it… He wasn’t interested in much of anything. Too much had happened.
Papyrus looked up at Undyne sadly, flicking his tail. He didn’t know what to do to make his brother feel better anymore. Undyne studied them both and frowned.
“How long’s he been like this?”
Papyrus thought for a moment how he could convey… He had no idea how much time had passed while they’d been out here, but… oh! He carefully drew a line in the snow, then a tick mark near one end and pawed at it.
“Uh… Oh… Since pretty much the start, huh?”
Sans huffed a sigh behind them.
“Well, listen… You guys don’t have to live out here. I know the last time you were around other monsters, they were afraid of you…” Undyne began. “But, there’s a reason for that, and it has NOTHING to do with anything you guys did or what you look like. You need to know that.”
Papyrus tilted his head. That couldn’t be right–they were too dangerous, too scary to be around monsters. As soon as they’d been seen, they’d been attacked. He whined, looking away. They had to stay out here–it was better this way.
Undyne frowned. “After you guys ran away, we learned the truth. This flower–it looks just like a golden flower, the same kind the king grows–but, it can talk. And… it lied to everyone. It told the townsfolk you guys were dangerous, and that they should attack if they saw you.”
Papyrus tilted his head again. Hadn’t they talked to that golden flower…? About…
A snarl tore from Sans’ jaws, and Papyrus whirled to see him rising from the snow, eyes wild and tail lashing. Papyrus backed away with a whine–the last time he’d seen his brother this angry, they’d been facing down their creator. Still growling, Sans’ gaze darted as though the flower might appear at any second–and made the others jump when he suddenly fired a beam at a stick waving in the breeze. Panting, he twitched at any sign of movement–a blade of dry grass bobbed, and was instantly evaporated. A dry pine needle dropped and was scorched into oblivion before it hit the ground. Undyne called his name and raised her hand to placate him–
Papyrus leapt in front of her, taking the brunt of the blast. It couldn’t do much to him, and maybe it wouldn’t have done anything to Undyne either, but he didn’t want her getting hurt. And it got Sans to stop.
Sans stared at him, steam trailing away from his jaws as he panted. His eyes winked out, and he sank down with a low moan. Papyrus loped over, warbling softly to show he was okay. Sans moaned again, looking up at him mournfully, and Papyrus nuzzled his snout. He’d forgiven him for this already, just as he’d forgiven the broken arm. It wasn’t Sans’ fault so many bad things had happened to him.
“Is he okay…?”
Papyrus looked up and chirped, waving his tail. His brother was okay, just sad and scared.
“That’s good. I don’t blame him for being so mad. Honestly? When I found out what that flower did? I destroyed a whole tree. We haven’t found him yet, but, maybe once you guys are healed up you can help us look for him so he can face justice.”
Papyrus made an uncertain groan. Somehow, he knew it wouldn’t be so easy.
“But… we can deal with it later,” Undyne continued. “Let’s get you guys back home, huh?”
Papyrus lashed his tail. He was still scared, and knew Sans would be too. Was it really okay…?“
"Listen, if nothing else–I’ll be right beside you, and won’t let ANYTHING bad happen. If anyone even TRIES to start something, they’re going to be facing ME before they can get near you guys. Heh… you know Papyrus, that was your idea. Guess I should’ve listened to you.”
Papyrus blinked. He didn’t remember that idea, but Undyne was saying she should have listened to him? He’d had a good idea? And she thought so?! He bounced, prancing around and chattering proudly, and Undyne laughed.
“Yeah yeah, you were right. If we wanna get back in time for dinner though, we better start now. You guys managed to get pretty far out here, so I’m afraid we’ve got a ways to go.”
Papyrus hooted in agreement before turning to look at his brother, who was still laying in the snow. He gave an inquisitive chirp, then padded over and nuzzled him. Sans only rasped a sigh, and Papyrus’ spirits sank. Didn’t he want to go home? He nudged him, then thought–maybe he just didn’t have the strength–and bounded over to pick up the unfinished sandwich and offered it to him again.
But Sans weakly turned away.
“I can just carry him,” Undyne offered, and Papyrus whined. He wasn’t sure he’d let her…
But Undyne stood and walked over, rolling her shoulders as she thought how best to go about this. She bent, wedging her hands under Sans’ ribcage and hips, and much to Papyrus’ surprise lifted him without complaint or protest. She draped him across her shoulders, and he hung limp–it seemed he really had given up. Undyne did her best to brace him, then turned.
“See? Easy. He doesn’t even weigh like, anything. Also, I guess you can have the rest of that,” she said wincingly, indicating the sandwich he still had in his jaws. “I’ve still got another in case Sans decides he’s hungry on the way, and we’ll be getting back to civilization soon enough. If there’s anything you wanna bring with, you better grab that too.”
Papyrus thought, then knocked his head back to finish the sandwich off before heading to the den. He didn’t think there was anything, but… He dug through the leaf litter a bit, but all that remained was the scrap of fabric he’d found earlier and a few old food wrappers he’d scavenged. Nothing he needed. He popped back out, giving a short bark to indicate he was ready, and Undyne grinned.
“Alright you guys, let’s head home.”
Papyrus needed no further encouragement, happily following her as she retraced her path back to Snowdin. Snowdin! He’d be seeing it again! His real house, his things–he’d spent too long trapped inside it once, but now he just wanted to curl up in his own bed, play with his action figures, read his puzzle books again. And if Undyne was right, then he’d even get to see his neighbors and there’d be no screaming, or attacking, or fear or panic or hurt or–
Undyne looked back at him, having noticed his bones rattling. “Everything okay, punk?”
He snapped his head up and chirped. Yes! He was alright, those nerves wouldn’t get the best of him. He was a very brave skeleton.
They finally set foot on a road, and Papyrus froze. The last time he’d been on a road, he’d… Focused on making her way forward, it took Undyne a little while to notice the lack of footsteps behind her. But she finally did, and turned.
“Papyrus…? Oh.” She made her way back to him. “Still nervous, huh?”
He could only remain still, too full of dread.
“C"mon, it’ll be okay. Everyone’s been going crazy not knowing if you guys are alive.”
She reached out and patted his shoulder, and he took a deep breath. That’s right. She was his friend, who wouldn’t let anything happen to him or his brother. It would be fine. He took a hesitant step forward, and Undyne kept her hand on his scapula the rest of the way. A light snow was beginning to fall, but something about the air pressure told Papyrus it would become heavier soon. He hoped they got home before it got too bad, but it seemed to mean no one was out and about. He breathed a little easier.
“Undyne?!” a soft, distant voice called, and Papyrus faltered. “Oh my god, it’s Undyne–I thought I could smell her. Hurry up Dogamy, maybe she’s found something.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” another voice replied, and soon enough, two figures materialized out of the falling snow on the path ahead–the Dogi.
Undyne waved eagerly. “I found them!”
Papyrus was unsure at first, but–no, no, he knew these monsters, they weren’t going to hurt him and it’d been so long since he’d seen or spoken to anyone! He bounded ahead to meet them, circling the two exuberantly before running back to Undyne. The Dogi seemed taken aback though, and he hesitated–oh no, had he scared them…?
“Is that…?” Dogamy piped up, and Dogaressa reached for his paw.
“Not that we doubted you, but, it’s something else to see in person… They really are shaped differently,” she said, taking in the brothers’ altered forms. “Are they alright? How can we help?”
“Being attacked and fending for themselves has done a number on "em, but they’ll be okay,” Undyne answered. “Right Papyrus?”
He chirped an affirmation, and the Dogi both tilted their heads at the odd sound. Oh, that was funny–he chirped again, and they tilted their heads the other way.
“What’s that sound?”
“Why’s that sound?”
“Papyrus, quit messing with "em” Undyne laughed. “Uh, I guess it’s complicated, but, as far as I can tell, when he’s like this, it’s harder to talk for some reason. He can still understand us just fine, he just… can’t talk.”
Papyrus whined, and the dogs seemed to understand that well enough, their tails and ears drooping.
“Well, what do you need us to do, Captain?”
Undyne pursed her lips as she thought. “I’m not sure… I don’t think they want to meet everyone just yet, so I wouldn’t go sounding any alarms or making any announcements. Hmm… Papyrus, do you think Sans’ll want to eat something from Grillby’s?”
He shrugged to the best of his ability, dipping his head. It was worth a shot–and Sans seemed to agree, moving for the first time since Undyne had picked him up. Papyrus reached over to nuzzle him, then looked up at Undyne.
“Alright. If you guys could get something for Sans from Grillby’s–you know what he likes, right?”
The dogi nodded.
“Cool. I’ll pay you back when we meet up at the brothers’ house, okay?”
The Dogi saluted, then Dogaressa turned to Papyrus.
“It’s really good to see you’re alright. We’ve been so worried ever since we heard Sans was sick… If there’s any way we can help you two, please let us know, alright? I’m sure we’ll see you soon.”
“Absolutely,” Dogamy confirmed. “Town just hasn’t been the same without either of you.”
Papyrus gave a low, wavering hoot, and bowed his head. He’d been missed… He felt very foolish, thinking that hiding had been the answer to his problems back when this all started. Really, it had only led to more, and he wished he’d seen that sooner.
They waved the Dogi off as they trotted ahead to put in Sans’ order, leaving them alone on the road again.
“See, told you guys didn’t I?” Undyne started as she set off. “No one wanted that mess with the flower to happen, and have missed you guys for even longer. Even I didn’t realize how much you meant to everyone… They’ll all be glad to see you.”
Papyrus hooted, and nuzzled her arm before taking the lead. He was feeling much better about how things would go now. The first lights of town shone through the steady snowfall, and a feeling he couldn’t describe filled him. He hadn’t seen it like this in so long… but he’d decided–his days of hiding were over from now on.
They made it to their house without further encounters–the snow had begun coming in thick, so no doubt a blizzard would be keeping everyone hunkered indoors. Papyrus was a little disappointed–but, he knew Sans wasn’t ready for so much attention, even if he normally thrived on it. Undyne laid him down on their couch, then helped Papyrus clean things up after his home had been left neglected. He also took the time to clean himself–unlike other animals, or even monsters, skeletons didn’t exactly have many ways to groom themselves. His hands and feet in particular had mud staining them, and the hard-to-reach spots between his vertebrae especially needed tending. It was a relief to clamber into a warm shower and wash it all away. Sans needed a good scrub too, but they could see to that later.
It wasn’t long before the Dogi had arrived with the order from Grillby’s; Undyne took it, paid them, and bid them goodnight before bringing the food over to the couch. Papyrus had just gotten a clean blanket out, and the two converged on the small, listless skeleton. Papyrus flung the blanket over him, working to spread it evenly over his spines and tail while Undyne got his favorite order unwrapped.
“Alright bonehead, maybe that sandwich earlier wasn’t your thing, but we got you a burger from Grillby’s. That’s gotta sound good, right?” Undyne coaxed, placing it next to Sans’ head.
Papyrus watched in anticipation as his brother sniffed at it–but then, only took a tiny bite before turning away again. A sharp wail burst from him–this was his brother’s favorite food and he still wouldn’t eat! What was wrong, what could he do, was Sans sick, would he die?! He paced anxiously from one side of the room to the other before Undyne stopped him by the shoulder.
“It’s gonna be okay Papyrus. I know you’re worried–honestly, I am too. But, maybe Sans just needs some time to rest or process stuff. You guys have been through a lot, so…”
Papyrus wanted to say that he knew. His thoughts were getting clearer, but his voice was stubbornly clinging to animalistic expressions. He couldn’t say just how bad it was–he could only sit on the floor and shiver.
Undyne frowned. “I… don’t really know what’ll help. But, I was thinking… maybe I should stay with you guys for a while, make sure you’re settled in. We can make snacks, watch movies… actually… actually give you guys something normal, for once. Does that sound okay?”
Papyrus nodded, and she pulled him into a hug. He didn’t know if he’d be able to relax, but he wanted this house to feel like his again. He also wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Undyne yet, even if he knew she’d be back soon. So they set things up, found Mettaton’s 24/7 movie channel, and got comfortable. At one point, Undyne decided to noogie him, and it turned into an all-out wrestling match. She managed to pin him, and he was too tired for another round–but it had felt good to roughhouse.
It was well after Undyne had fallen asleep that Papyrus hopped up onto the couch, stepping carefully around his brother so he could curl up next to him. The burger still sat by his head, cold and untouched; Papyrus was careful not to disturb it in case his brother would want it later. His brother… Papyrus nudged his snout, checking on him–it was hard to tell if he was asleep or not, his eyes half-open and breathing slow.
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Oh Sans… It seemed like he really had given up–not just on being his old self, but even trying to move forward as who he was now. Whatever had happened before they’d reunited had taken its toll, and Papyrus could only wonder what had driven his brother to such complete apathy. Attacking people he’d once been friends with probably didn’t help either… and then, when he’d startled him one morning and been bitten… Regardless, Papyrus knew he had to make his brother see a reason to keep going, but he didn’t have the slightest idea how. Even when they’d been trapped in a lab, treated as little more than curiosities, Sans had never been this bad. He was at a loss…
But, too sleepy to keep thinking about it. Laying on something soft, in a safe warm house, with his brother and his friend by his side, was lulling his eyes closed. He knew his body needed the rest, so he let it. As soon as he could, he’d work on getting his real voice back if only to talk some sense into his brother.