Chapter 1: One
HAPPY BIRTHDAY FRIENDO
You can smell dinner cooking as soon as you open the front door. Work needed you to stay later, so Papyrus must have started making something, even though it’s supposed to be your turn to make dinner tonight. The takeaway bags in your hands suddenly feel ten times heavier.
Sans spots you standing in the foyer of the house staring down at the containers of food you’d ordered on your way home. His hands are deep in the pockets of his black jeans, a relaxed smile on his skull, and a tilt to his head as he looks at you fondly. You don’t see any of this.
“welcome home, babe. need help?”
“No, I got it,” you mumble, squeezing past him to bring the food into the kitchen.
It’s quick work to shove it all onto an empty shelf in the fridge and shut the door so you don’t have to look at it, a reminder that they could do just fine without you. You living here is more a convenience to you than any sort of help to them. Moving here brought you miles closer to your job so you could save money. There were debts you needed to pay. You’re probably more of an inconvenience , really, the more you think about it.
Papyrus waves at you with a serving spoon, a large skillet starting to sizzle in front of him.
“HELLO, HUMAN! HOW WAS YOUR TIME AT THE OFFICE?”
“Hey, Paps. Was alright. Thanks for cooking.”
The skeleton looks back to the chopping board in front of him, his hands deftly cutting up celery, carrots and other vegetables. “DO NOT MENTION IT. IT WILL BE READY IN A LITTLE WHILE.”
“Cool. I’ll just...go upstairs to change.”
“IT IS COOL! NYEH! BECAUSE I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, AM MAKING IT!” Papyrus strikes a pose for a moment, little bits of vegetables flying off the end of his knife onto the ceiling. He blushes and jumps up to knock the food off, his COOL GUY shirt fluttering a little, and acting like it never happened when he turns back around. “I WILL SEND SANS TO COME GET YOU WHEN IT IS DONE.”
You’re able to sneak away without another word from Papyrus, who’s so engrossed in his cooking you’re surprised he noticed you at all. Probably wondering why you shouldered him with your chores tonight without warning and is just too nice to say anything. He’s a good friend. You wish you could say the same about yourself.
Walking up the stairs, you try to move as quietly as you can, happy that you decided to wear soft-soled shoes to work today. It was casual Friday, but your clothes feel just as uncomfortable and scratchy as any other day of the business-casual week. You can’t wait to change into something, anything, comfier.
The door clicks softly as you close your bedroom door behind you. The days are getting longer now, but it’s still dark at a depressing time outside. But the way you feel, you don’t make the effort to turn on the light, you already know where everything you want is anyway. You’re stripped out of your jeans and work sweater in record time and almost fall over in your exuberance to put on baggy sweats and a loose t-shirt.
Your toes remove your socks without having to bend over. You stare at your bed for a moment, the unmade sheets looking more like a disturbed nest than a person’s resting place, and fall into a face plant on top of them. Face safely shoved into your comforter and one of the pillows that made its way from the head of the bed last night, you take your chance, this moment of solitude, and scream into them.
When light blinds and wakes you, you realize you had fallen asleep.
“hey,” a voice says quietly from your doorway.
Your eyes blink slowly to clear away the haze of sleep. Sans’s outline blocks part of the light from the hallway, casting his skull in a light you would have found eerie three months ago when you first moved in. Hell, it did frighten you two years ago when you met the skeleton for the first time while you both worked in a grocery store stockroom on overnight duty.
That feels like so long ago.
“‘Sup?” you mumble, pushing to sit up and scrub at your face. There’s a crease on your cheek from your pillow, and a bit of dried spit on the edge of your mouth. Your hand lifts to wipe that away with your sweater sleeve. Your memory catches up with your tired brain. “Did Paps finish dinner?”
“yeah, he sent me up to get you.”
“How long have I been asleep?” you ask, more to yourself than him as you dig in your sheets for your phone.
Sans pushes the door open a little more and leans against the frame. “not long. you got home less than an hour ago.”
You hum to let him know you heard him, finally finding your phone in the crumpled fabric. Its bright screen makes you blink again. Your feet hang over the edge of the bed as you just sit there for a minute watching the animated ocean scene you set as your background.
“are you okay?”
With a little jump, you drop your phone as you look up to meet Sans’s eyes. He flicks his hand and catches it in blue magic before it can land on the hardwood floor and crack the screen more than it already is. He’d moved into the room quietly enough you didn’t notice, so he’s close enough to touch if you lifted your arm. Or maybe you were too much in your own head to hear him.
“hey,” he says gently before repeating, “are you okay?”
“Yeah, sorry, just - I have a lot on my mind right now?” you answer, wincing in apology for not answering when he asked the first time.
Sans’s eye lights feel like search lights on your face, the way they scan your expression, and you can’t hold his gaze very long. The well of emotions inside threatens to break. You trust Sans, you really do, but he’s been going through so much with the politics around monster rights, and doing his accreditation sessions for his PhD, and...you don’t need to burden him with your issues.
“you’ve been pretty down for about a week now. is it work? can you take time off?”
Before you answer, you can hear Papyrus’s voice rise from the first level. “YOU TWO SHOULD STOP CANOODLING AND GET DOWN HERE BEFORE THIS DELICIOUS FOOD IS COLD!”
He makes you jump a little again, but Sans is used to his brother’s shouting by now, so he doesn’t flinch. One of his hands reaches for yours off your thigh and you realize you were gripping it tightly through your sweats. You don’t mean to recoil from his touch as hastily as you do. He curls his fingers back as if he were burnt, but if you hurt his feelings you can’t see it in his face.
“let’s go down and get something to eat,” he says, “and maybe play some games or something? get your mind off what’s bugging you?”
You give Sans the biggest smile you can muster, which isn’t much more than a little grin, and stand. “Yeah, maybe we can do that. I’ll be right down.”
“‘k,” Sans says. He pops back downstairs a moment later to leave you in peace.
Chapter 2: Two
Only your fear of disappointing Papyrus gets you to leave your room and eat dinner with the skeletons that evening. Nothing out of the ordinary is said or done, except Papyrus announcing he would be leaving a day earlier than planned to head to the campground. Undyne needed him to help finish constructing a new dock for the camper’s boats, and the mixture of monster and mage children would be arriving sooner rather than later. It would be the first summer with human children present at camp and the monster community was buzzing with excitement over the integration.
Dishes washed and put away, something you insisted on to help with the gnawing guilt in your gut, you walk out into the living room to see Sans and Papyrus sitting on the couch with the menu screen of a Disney movie loaded up. Huh. So much for gaming with Sans then, if they planned to watch a film instead. Doesn’t matter. It’s probably best if you just went upstairs to bed, anyway, and stayed out of the way of their fun.
The shower feels amazing on your skin. As you dig your fingers into your scalp to gently massage the shampoo through your hair, you tell yourself you really need to take the time here more often. Sure you shower often enough but you don’t really ever take your time. You’re uninterrupted as you go through the motions of cleaning up, brushing your teeth, drying your hair, and getting ready for bed.
You blame your impromptu nap earlier but you’re finding it hard to fall asleep tonight. You’d purposefully put down your phone already, reading not helping you rest at all, and were staring up at your dark ceiling just waiting.
For a few moments you’d felt okay after your shower. Now you were back to feeling like...just like shit. At least it’s Friday night and if you can’t fall asleep you can sleep in. As soon as you thought that, though, you remembered how much you had put off this week to do on the weekend. The post office would only be open until noon, and you promised Toriel you’d help her plant some flowers and if you didn’t do that early the sun would be murderously hot. Your brief good mood evaporated again.
Your door is shut so you don’t hear the movie end but you do hear the brothers moving upstairs and heading to bed. There are muffled voices in the hallway for a moment before you hear a door shut.
Then there’s a knock on your door.
There’s a moment where you think about just hiding and pretending to be asleep. But, you get mad at yourself for even thinking that, and start to push the covers off. You figure you know who it is when you get up out of bed. So when it’s an entirely different skeletal face peering at you from your doorway you’re genuinely surprised.
Papyrus has changed into his pajamas already so even with your face is a huge picture of the superhero from the newest Marvel movie, the pants boasting the same image over and over. He’s so thin that buying a large size would make it fall off his shoulders, but you know Sans is skilled with tailoring by necessity, using what they could find from the Underground dump to make clothes that fit them well. He’d mended some of your work clothes before.
“Paps?” you say, blinking in the light from the hallway. “What’s up, dude?”
“I WAS COMING TO SAY GOOD NIGHT IF YOU HADN’T ALREADY FALLEN ASLEEP!” he explains. “I SEE I HAVE WOKEN YOU SO I APOLOGIZE.”
“Ah, that’s alright, Paps,” you say. You give him the best smile you can muster because he deserves that.
He doesn’t move though or talk right away like normal. His hands twist together and the light clacking sets your teeth on edge and the hairs on your arms stand up. The sound doesn’t normally bother you - it’s easy to get used to it when you live with two skeleton monsters - so you wonder why it specifically does now.
“I-I’M GLAD THAT IS ALRIGHT. MY FRIEND HAVE I UPSET YOU IN SOME WAY?”
Your heart falls to your feet at the tone of his voice. “Oh, my god, no! Absolutely not! Why would you think that?”
Papyrus fidgets for another second before walking into your room to sit on your desk chair. He rarely is in your room so he looks comically tall at your desk. The look on his face erases all humor in the situation, though.
“YOU HAVE BEEN AVOIDING ME FOR SOME TIME, AND IF I HAD DONE SOMETHING TO UPSET YOU I WANTED TO FIX IT RIGHT AWAY! YOU ARE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT HUMANS TO ME, AFTER ALL. AND TO MY BROTHER. HE CARES ABOUT YOU VERY MUCH.”
The insinuation at the little crush you were harboring for Sans made you blush. You had had feeling the shorter skeleton might feel the same but now was not the time to try to get information out of his brother. You’re certain that Sans might have told Papyrus something in confidence and only because he is so upset did he reveal anything at all.
You walk over to grab his hands in yours and look up at his face. Even sitting in your chair he’s a bit taller than you. Such a sweet, gentle soul in a crazily tall body.
“Papyrus, I don’t think I could ever be upset with you,” you say. “I promise what’s bothering me is nothing you’ve done.”
He looks at you carefully, then leans in closer to your face. “DOES THAT MEAN IF I DIDN’T CAUSE IT THAT I CAN’T HELP FIX IT?”
“God, the world doesn’t deserve you,” you say to him. On impulse you lean over and hug him. “I don’t know what I need, but if I can think of anything, I’ll tell you right away. Okay?”
“PROMISE?” the skeleton asks immediately.
“I...yeah, I promise, Paps.”
As Papyrus stands and wishes you goodnight, and after making you promise three more times if there is something he can do you will tell him, the monster listening just out of sight carefully shortcuts away to his room so he isn’t seen.
Chapter 3: Three
The weekend passes like you expected, without much time to rest like you really wanted. You tell yourself at least you’re being helpful and not sleeping it away like you normally do. Toriel sent you home with aloe vera and a picnic basket worth of treats to take home to share with the brothers. Being around her and Frisk did make you feel a bit better, so you tried to ride the burst of energy all the way home, blasting the AC in your car against your skin and bumping some tunes louder than the fans.
You’re not surprised Papyrus is nowhere to be found as you open the door between the kitchen and garage. You are surprised, however to see Sans walking around in the kitchen.
“I thought you had work today?” you ask.
“what, not happy to see me?”
The response sounds like it’s supposed to be a joke, but it instantly deflates any of the good mood you had left. You walk towards the fridge with the basket in your arms getting heavier. You had wanted to at least have a thin slice of pie before heading up to shower but your appetite is gone now.
“I just thought you said Alphys needed you is all,” you mumble, face hidden in the fridge. You put the aloe vera on an empty shelf, too, just in case you need it later. It always feels better when it’s cool.
Sans seems to pick up on your sour tone immediately and speaks far more neutrally. Settled on one of the barstools in the kitchen, he says, “i did. we finished early, is all.”
“That’s nice,” you say. It’s hard not to let your voice snap.
“how was toriel’s?” Sans asks.
“Fine, planted a bunch of flowers and stuff,” you answer.
You shut the door to the fridge and wince as some of the jars inside rattle with the force. You didn’t meant to do that. The kitchen is actually pretty cool right now compared to the heat outside so you walk towards the living room to grab the sweater you think you left on the couch a couple days ago.
Before you get far, Sans speaks up again. “actually, i was gonna see if you were busy the rest of today? we didn’t get to hang out the other night.”
Something in the skeleton’s voice sounds cautious, and you interpret it as he is only asking to be nice. He probably felt guilty about watching a movie instead of playing games. You sort of want him to wallow in that a bit since it upset you so much the other day. But, as much as you want to, the moment you think that you feel ashamed. You’re the problem, here. You know it.
“You don’t have to,” you say, folding your arms as you stand awkwardly between the living room and kitchen.
“i don’t have to,” Sans says quietly. “i want to.”
“Really?” You can’t keep the bite out of your voice. “I mean, you don’t-”
“really,” he interrupts. His hands rest folded together on the kitchen island and his eyelights flick to you a couple times before he continues. “i...i miss you, ________. things haven’t been the same for a little while and i just thought it would be nice to hang out. just you and me. we can do whatever you want.”
All the fight evaporates out of you immediately. You drop your arms so they aren’t folded in a defensive stance anymore.
“Really?” you repeat. This time the word is hopeful, and maybe a little bit disbelieving.
Sans steps past you to go to the living room but pauses next to you to smile and say, “really, really.”
The two of you settle onto the couch with the blinds pulled so there isn’t a glare on the TV. Sunlight still comes from the kitchen so there is still a nice wash of natural light inside. You know Sans gets very antsy when the sun is blocked out artificially during the day. He admitted once it felt like living Underground again. Even when he worked the late shift with you at the grocery store and had to sleep during the day you know he didn’t use blackout curtains in his room. He said he slept better knowing that if he woke up he would see the sun and not imagine himself back in Snowdin.
“so, what do you wanna play?” he asks, reaching for the remote to turn on your impressive entertainment set.
Sans didn’t spend much many material things but there was a huge exception when it came to electronics. The first time you’d come over to hang out your jaw had nearly dropped to the floor. It only had gotten more impressive since then. After searching for ages on auction sites Sans had managed to collect almost every console ever made.
As the TV chimes to life you bite your lip and think. “What about some couch co-op?”
“classic or something newer?” He looked at you with bright eye-lights and a soft, real smile.
“Newer, but I don’t feel much like versus,” you say. “What about something like Mario Kart? Wasn’t there a new mode added recently?”
Sans’s face lights up. “hell yeah, dude.”
Losing yourselves in the bright colors and cheerful music of the game the two of you were soon full of giggles and banter. During a bathroom and snack break you looked at yourself in the mirror while washing your hands and noticed your chest was getting a little red where the sun had kissed it. You pulled the sweater aside and saw your shoulders were the same.
“Gotta aloe up,” you explain as you walk past Sans.
Sitting on the couch with a bowl of popcorn in his lap he looks incredibly comfortable and content. Your soul flips in your chest at the sight. Having fun with you seems to make him happy, and it sure did the same for you. You haven’t felt this good in weeks.
You’re grabbing the aloe out of the fridge when Sans enters the kitchen behind you. “want help with that?”
Heat that has nothing to do with your slight burn blossoms over your cheeks. Your mouth runs away with you before your brain can catch up. “But you’re bones.”
Sans stops dead in the middle of the floor with a shocked look on his face and you can feel your stomach drop, until he starts to chuckle. He lifts his hands out of his pockets then wiggles his fingers. It shows off the spaces between his palm where the bones, bigger than a humans, don’t quite overlap the whole way. As you look closely he holds his hand out in a shaft of sunlight. The dust motes float around but you start to see the glittering outline of a layer of something covering his hand, like he’d stuck his hand in blue shimmer glitter. His bones looked almost pearlescent.
“magic, baby.” He waggles his brow bones suggestively and clacks his fingers together.
“Have you always been able to do that?” you ask, honestly in awe. You’d lived with him for a while and start to realize you’d never actually touched him that much. That thought makes you blush more at the idea that you’d like to change that.
“yep. lemme help.”
You sit on one of the stools at the island counter and shrug off your sweater. You’re sitting there in a tank top and you’ve been more exposed to him than this before - Undyne and her love of strip poker - but this felt far more intimate. Together you work to cover the spots on your body tinged with color from the sun. While you gently massage it into your chest and neck he covers your upper back and shoulders.
His hands are firm and direct so it doesn’t tickle and it also doesn’t feel like he’s trying to take advantage of the situation. He’s gentle. The tenderness rolls over you like a wave. You’re surprised when you start to feel the tightness in your throat that precedes crying because of it. You try to cover it up with deep breaths and act like you’re going to apply some aloe to your cheeks and forehead. And because you’re acting too fast, you poke your eye while your finger is still covered in aloe.
Your yelp of surprise and pain makes Sans spring back from you. “sorry!”
“No, not you,” you hiss, holding a hand over your eye. You use the other one to point at your face and turn around. “Me. Poked my eye.”
Sans has his phone out immediately and clicks away for a second, scans the screen, and sighs. “Fresh aloe shouldn’t hurt human eyes. an’ this is stuff tori makes so it shouldn’t really hurt you. probably more magic than anything.”
“I’m still gonna wash my eye out,” you say.
Your soul flutters a little because he immediately took action to try to help. Lazy bones doesn’t do that for just anyone. Taking action for him usually involves his brother or Frisk, who proudly calls him “Duncle Sans”.
He helps you to stand and go to the sink, using the filtered water to rinse out your eyes, then brings a clean dry dish towel for you to rinse your face.
“Ugh. Thanks, dude,” you say as you take it from him.
“no problem. i’ll aloe you to clean up in peace, then.”
Half blindly you flail your arm in his direction to shove his shoulder. “Go away punderboy.”
When you bring down the towel and set it on the sink you see him walking away. Your throat doesn’t hurt like you want to cry anymore. His little saunter as he goes back to the couch for his snack and to wait for you makes you smirk a bit.
Maybe it could be a good day after all.
The aloe on your chest and arms is dried and slightly tacky when you wake up from an impromptu nap. Blinking slowly you take stock of where you are. And who you’re leaning into.
“how you feelin, babe?” Sans says.
His voice vibrates through his ribcage and into your shoulder where you’re leaning into him. It feels very nice. You sit up away from him because your arm is falling asleep from getting pressed into him. He is stockier than someone would imagine, for a skeleton, since you’re sure you wouldn't be able to fit a hand around his upper arm bone (what was that called again?). But he still has harder edges than a human would in unfortunate places for you.
A yawn interrupts you before you can talk and you make a squeaking sound by mistake. “Sorry, heh.”
“s’fine. didja sleep okay?”
“Yeah. Surprised I’m the one who fell asleep and not you, lazybones,” you say with a sleepy smile. You take a deep breath to stop another yawn and look at the television. He had booted up a YouTube series of some kind with a soothing soundtrack and timelapses of DIY projects. It wasn’t what you’d fallen asleep to. “You paused the show?”
It’s darker in the living room than it was when you fell asleep so you can easily see the tinge of blue on Sans’s face when he blushes. “course. can’t see what happens next before you do. i still say i want to buy that game instead of watch someone else play it.”
“You should do it,” you say. “I keep telling you that you’d have a great following if you started streaming stuff like those people do.”
Sans shrugs and smiles lazily at you. “the idea of people watching me play makes me twitch .”
“You don’t mind when I watch you,” you reply. The way the wood falls away from whatever the person is making is mesmerizing so you’re staring at the television.
Sans’s voice is so soft you almost don’t hear him so you turn and say, “What?” before realizing what he said. And now you’re blushing, too.
His head is resting against the back of the couch and his face is turned to you, eye sockets heavy lidded and smile soft. You’ve learned the differences between his smiles over the years and the one he’s showing you now is genuine and makes your heart flutter. You can feel your heart rate jump, too. And you realize if he were a human you’d be staring at his lips right now. The feeling in your hand is fully returned now and you use it to clutch your own thigh under the blanket that covers both of your laps.
“Yeah? How am I different?” you ask a bit breathlessly.
When did his face get closer to yours?
“i don’t care what the rest of the world thinks of me as much,” he says just as quietly as you.
The words take a second to sink in but once they do your heartbeat is definitely quicker. They hit home hard. All your worries and stresses the last days, weeks, months, have been fueled by what other people might think of you. Sans seems to let most things roll off him and you’re starting to understand how. You want that, too. You want to care as much as he does about the right things, the important things. The ones that matter.
Heat from his body is much closer now, too, and you can’t tell if it’s him moving closer or you but so long as the result is a kiss you don’t really care at the moment.
When your lips do brush his teeth you feel a little spark between you like a static shock. It almost makes you back off but as soon as you start to there’s another spark that is far more pleasant and less of a surprise. You realize you’d been holding your breath and you release it in a shuddering sigh as you started to learn what it meant to kiss a skeleton.
It’s brief, soft, and ends with your foreheads pressing together. Both of you are trying to catch your breath. A few soft giggles pass between you in the half-dark.
The moment is interrupted by the video ending and an advertisement starting up that is much louder than the video was. Instead of calm music there’s a man yelling about how good his law firm is and why you need to call his office now! You both jump, bump heads, and start laughing at how silly the situation is.
“That was nice,” you say, fingers on your lips. They still tingled from Sans’s magic.
“sure was,” he agrees.
“We should do it again sometime.”
Eyelights soft, his grin gets wider and he opens his arms for you to snuggle into him. You do so happily. He reaches for the remote and changes the show back to what you were watching before. His face presses into the top of your head and he nuzzles you for a second. It’s so tender that it makes you swell with a lot of emotions you aren’t ready to sort out right now, but make you feel better than you have in a long time.
With his face pressed into you he nuzzles again and says, “definitely.”