When Papyrus wakes up, it’s to the sound of sirens. Someone is screaming— it’s high pitched, terrified. He blinks his eyesockets open, a strange exhaustion weighing down his bones.
Red and blue lights flicker and dance throughout his vision, blurring with the rest of the scene that he tries to blearily look at. The incessant wail hasn’t stopped, and he lifts his hands to cover his skull. He has a horrible headache, and it feels as if that screech is drilling directly into his skull.
He grimaces, then looks around warily. If he wanted that annoying noise to stop then he had to figure out what was causing it. Papyrus stumbles to his feet and he realizes his bones ache. It’s almost as bad as the first time he sparred with Undyne, so whatever had happened to him must have been big. First things first, though. Stop that screaming so he can concentrate.
Sound wraps around him, suffocating.
He drags himself closer to the causation of his pain, sight blurring concernedly while he limps onward. The screaming somehow raises in pitch and volume and Papyrus wants to cry. If they could just shut up for a couple of seconds he could concentrate and help them.
It’s a child. They’re screeching, ruddy face screwed up in pain and terror, and Papyrus scoops them up. Tiny fists batter against his cranium and their body thrashes angrily like a fish out of water. Summoning up all of his patience, he forces his face into a smile and chirps, “WHAT’S WRONG, TINY HUMAN?
The wailing somehow gets louder. Papyrus is convinced that if their pitch goes any higher his skull will shatter. It kind of feels like it already has, but Papyrus shoves that thought away. He has more important matters.
He hitches them onto his hip and notices that a binkie is clipped to their little shirt. Those are supposed to comfort and hopefully keep these little humans quiet, correct? He prays to any god that’s listening that it will work and delicately picks it up and pushes it against their mouth. They accept it, body beginning to stop it’s frantic movement and blessedly, blessedly, quiet down.
The sirens are still going, but now he can actually think. Thank god, Asgore, and Pretty Princess Mew-Mew or whatever her name was.
Papyrus straightens, wobbly, and finally looks around properly at where he is at. He’s in a grocery store. Weird. Their refrigerator was stocked, as well as their cabinets, so why was he here? The rest of his thoughts catch up to him, and the extent of the situation hits him. The store looks as if it had been torn apart, isles knocked over, dust and the stench of blood hanging thickly around him. Bodies litter the ground around him, and he spots where he picked the human up.
A woman lays on the ground in a fetal position, caked in blood and dirt. Her back is shredded, the blouse that she is… was… wearing glued to her wounds. He knows she is gone. He cannot feel the pulsing of her soul, and she is surrounded by dried blood. She’s been dead for a while. The pieces of the puzzle click together in his mind— the child, the crying, the blood, the position— she was protecting her child, the one in his arms, from whoever or whatever did this. His head pulses, and he strengthens his grip around the human.. They snuffle and curl into him, rubbing their chubby face into his ribcage. Papyrus forces himself to relax; he does not want to accidentally harm the human because of his distress.
Why doesn’t he remember how this happened?
Dread curls in his soul, and he reaches up to his skull. Something in trickling down the back, making the hurt worsen, and he touches it. A flare of pain erupts, and Papyrus groans low in his throat. His fingers come back dirty with dust, marrow, and magic. He realizes why he doesn’t know what’s going on or what happened. He has a head injury. That was not good. That was not good at all.
Papyrus allows himself a moment to quietly freak out, and then pulls himself together.
He had to get out of here. The smoke would harm the baby and he needed healing as soon as possible. Carefully, he picks his way to the shattered windows, glass and debris crunching unpleasantly beneath his boots, and clambers through the empty frame.
Red and blue flashes across his vision momentarily before a white spotlight is put on him, and he covers his eyesockets with a shaky hand. He tries to yell for help, but his voice catches in his throat. He swallows, stumbles forward a few steps, and manages to croak out a pitiful “HELP, PLEASE—” before he’s cut off by a loud staticy crackle.
Everything is bright and overstimulating. The baby in his arms begins to screech again, horrible sounds of anguish ripping themselves from their tiny mouth, and Papyrus swings from them from his hip to his chest, cupping his hand against their frail neck. He tries to concentrate on whatever the hell the person with the blaring speakerphone is saying, but too many sounds are trying to stuff themselves into his skull at once.
Gunshots crack through the cacophony of noise, and Papyrus moves. He hunches over the baby, twists away from the police cars in front of him and stills when a bullet buries itself into the dirty pavement next to him. Everything is silent except for some quiet bloody gurgling from what Papyrus can only assume is one of the shot humans.
If he was confused before, he is now downright stupefied.
Whoever they are, they’re shooting other humans, they are shooting at him, they are shooting at the baby –
The muddled confusion and panic suddenly stops when a smooth silky voice ripples from the speakerphone. It’s not the same person as before– this one is soothing and warm like butter, but terror swirls deep in his soul at the sound. His head goes light, fluffy. He doesn’t feel connected to his body anymore.
(He can’t tell if that’s a good or a bad thing. Distantly, part of him screeches that it is a horrible, awful bad bad bad thing.)
As smooth as honey, the voice directs him forward, away from the wreckage of the store and towards a heavily armed car. The baby is quiet in his arms, and Papyrus can’t bring himself to care why. All that matters is that voice.
The door slides open and he climbs into the car while the baby fusses at being jostled, and a wave of deja vu sweeps over him. He’s been here before. He doesn’t remember being here, though, and that unsettles him deeply.
A hand lays itself on his shoulder and lips press against his cranium. Part of him shivers in revolt but Papyrus still inexplicably leans into the touch.
(He needs to get out. He needs to get out. He should not be here and he needs to get away right now. But. He can’t. His body is a twitching thing below him, grotesque and as of now, not his. He’s stuck. Again? Again.)
“I’m so proud of you,” the voice says. It sounds like the last shovelful of dirt poured in a hole, like the last notes of a waning song, like the last crack of a gleaming soul, all covered up in thick cloying honey.
The lips grin against his skull, and a long finger boops the nose of the baby lying prone in his arms. “We’re going to have to prevent something like this cute little bastard from happening again, hm? Still, considering your… previous history, I suppose this was to be expected with your first run without me.” Papyrus has never felt the stronger urge to hit someone, and he doesn’t even know this person. At least. He thinks so.
His skull is turned, and his head wound inspected carefully.
There’s a soft, tinkling laugh and Papyrus yearns to squirm away, but his body refuses to move. The voice speaks again, amused. “Ah, this is why the programming broke. Why you brought this adorable sack of shit back despite the orders to kill everyone in that store.”
His breath hitches. He was the one that killed– no, murdered– all of those people?
His frantic, disjointed thoughts are interrupted by a gentle coo against his skull, one that terrifies him even more than everything that has just transpired; it says, “I guess we’ll have to fix that for next time.”