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Boned

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Boned

Well, so much for a day trip.  We’d been on the surface for nearly a year now and having never actually been to New York, I’d felt like I’d go see what it was like.  I couldn’t teleport that far so I took the bus.  I could have asked Papyrus to drive me, I guess, and watching his amazement at every little thing might have improved my mood.  Honestly I was frustrated, about a lot of things.  Being tired didn’t help.  I didn’t sleep very well to begin with and I kept having these recurring nightmares.  I knew Frisk was a good kid, at least now he was, and maybe he’d always been and I was just imagining it, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there might be some truth to the dreams I had about fighting him.  

The dreams and lack of sleep weren’t the only thing bothering me, but being so tired probably caused the nap that made me miss my stop.  The bus stopped running around two in the morning, so now I was stuck in a strange town somewhere between New York and Washington.  The humans had brought us all to the capital of this country until they sorted things out and most of us had just decided to stay there. That was another reason I’d wanted to take a trip somewhere for a day; basically the entire Underground and Frisk all lived nearby and I just needed to get away from them for a bit right now.  

Toriel and Asgore had gotten back together, half the royal guard were now dating each other, and Undyne and Alphys barely left each other’s side.  I mean, it was great that they were all happy, it just got frustrating.  It didn’t help that most people who didn’t know me too well just assumed I was a kid.  That got to me at the best of times, I wasn’t really glad I was short and being treated like a child annoyed me more than a little.  I knew that most of the time it was an honest mistake, especially now, but still.  Papyrus was the only one I didn’t mind treating me like a kid.  He liked feeling responsible.  

Heck, now that it had been a year, pretty much every monster had someone they were involved with.  With the barrier gone, even the people who hadn’t found any monsters they liked had gotten with somebody.  Jerry met some human online and moved far away to be with them (prompting a massive party as soon as everyone could be sure he was really gone.)  Tsunderplane kept circling the local airport, “not that it wanted to land, or anything.”  Mettaton was Mettaton; he had his fans and didn’t seem interested in actually getting with any of them.  Even my brother had started very tentatively looking for a girlfriend, not that I expected him to move very fast.  That pretty much left just me and Burgerpants.  And Burgerpants sort of scared me even if I had been interested.  The face was not meant to have that range of expression.

And even if I found someone, there was the simple fact that I was a skeleton.  I was fine with being a skeleton, of course, but there were a few problems that caused.  

Going on a day trip wouldn’t fix that, I’d just hoped that maybe being away from all the couples for a bit might help me to be less preoccupied about it.  Instead, I’d spent almost the whole day distracted by my thoughts, fallen asleep on the bus, and now I was stuck in an unfamiliar town with no place to stay and no way of getting home until morning.  I’d had enough money to buy a ticket back to Washington on the first bus in the morning, but not for that and a hotel.  It wasn’t the end of the world, I’d figure something out, it just wasn’t great.  I didn’t have my phone either, I’d been so distracted that I’d forgotten it when I’d left this morning and hadn’t really thought that was a big deal until now.  Papyrus would be worried and he’d probably be very cranky tomorrow, but there wasn’t really any way I could change that.  He’d gotten a new phone recently, we both had, and I didn’t know the numbers yet, even if I had asked someone to call.  I couldn’t teleport home for here either, I didn’t know the area well enough to manage that.  

It was December, and whatever town this was, there was snow, although I was still dressed for the cold and not having any skin, it didn’t bother me much.  Actually, it was pretty.  Most of the monsters were surprised by how similar the holiday of Christmas was to our own little tradition in Snowdin, but I’d known about that before we’d been freed.  The stores had displays and lights in the windows even though they were closed, every tree along the main road had been decorated with lights, and with the hills on which the town sat, I had a great view of a smaller town and a river across the way.  Getting stuck here wasn’t really too bad, I guess, the place was beautiful and I wouldn’t really have a problem waiting overnight for the next bus as long as no one bothered me.  

I would have stayed at the bus station itself except that once it closed, there wasn’t a good place to wait.  I also got the sense that the old ticket salesman, security guard, and maybe just everyone in this town hadn’t seen a monster in person before, and they weren’t particularly friendly.  They weren’t mean just…inhospitable.  Besides, the bus station wasn’t in the town itself, but slightly outside of it among a bunch of dark warehouses and that didn’t seem like the best place to spend the night.  It was probably best if I didn’t get mugged or anything just so humans didn’t become even more afraid of us.  

I ended up wandering into the heart of town without really finding anything.  Jeez, did this place have laws against benches?  I couldn’t even find a good place to sit down.  That was all I really planned to do; I’d rather not fall asleep again and miss a second bus home.  

Reaching the end of the main street, I sighed and looked around.  This late at night, I wasn’t too surprised that the whole place looked deserted, the only person I saw was a guy outside the apartments across the street, bundled up and muttering at a dog that didn’t seem interested in doing what it was probably out here to do.  The main road ended in a sort of Y-shape, one branch became a bridge that looked very long and seemed to merge onto a highway, the other branch in that direction curved down into a very dark area that looked to be a lot of parking lots.  Neither seemed likely to have benches or a safe place to sit down and wait for a few hours.  The other road went up a steep and dark hill with trees on the right and houses on the opposite side.  It looked like it just had houses and yards, but compared to my other options, that seemed to be the best place to investigate.  Maybe there was a park up there.  

There wasn’t a park.  The open places with trees, however, weren’t yards, they were cemeteries.  I mean, there were lots of humans, and humans didn’t turn to dust right away when they died, so I knew cemeteries existed, but this was a lot more space than I would have expected for dead people.  I didn’t remember cemeteries this large from before I’d been a monster, although those memories were very hazy.  I walked about five houses down the street before I recognized the low, square things on the mowed lawn as old grave markers and another ten before I realized that this long cemetery on the left wasn’t the only cemetery in view.  There’d been a church on the main road a block or so before it ended and between the houses on my right I could see another huge cemetery over there, just as dark as this one.  Up ahead on the road I was on, some kind of dark municipal building came after the end of the cemetery on my left, but another cemetery sat beyond that, extending as far as I could see by the street lights.  Did all humans just come here to die?  Why did this town have so many graves?  

I had gotten to the second cemetery before I realized that not only was I surrounded by graveyards with another two up the hill in line with the church’s one, but three of the apparent houses were actually funeral homes and one was a law office.  At this point I just stopped to lean on the iron fence of the graveyard.  I was exhausted and starting to think I might fall asleep if I ever found somewhere to sit down, but I knew that I would fall asleep if I kept walking all night and that would probably be even less safe.  The cemetery, dark as it was, looked out over some more of the town, maybe I could see a park or something if I went in to look.  I couldn’t tell if there were benches in the graveyards themselves, and as much as I knew there wasn’t anything to fear from the truly dead, I didn’t know how humans would react if I waited in the graveyard.  

That was a question I’d answer some other time.  The gate to the cemetery wasn’t locked or anything, actually it was already partly open.  I closed it carefully behind me and used the feel of the gravel beneath my sneakers to follow the path so I wouldn’t trip over a grave-marker.  It was less of a problem in this cemetery.  Once my eyes adjusted, I could see that although the markers in the other cemeteries I’d passed had been nearly flat square stones close to the ground, this one had big polished slabs and statues.  I wasn’t sure if the statues marked graves themselves or if they were just decorative, but if humans used art like that to mark their graves maybe there was something to be said for leaving a body behind after death, even if it did take up way more space than seemed necessary.  

The edge of the cemetery overlooked a cliff above another part of the town, so a stone wall had been built to keep people from falling.  I didn’t want to make myself more tired by using magic and there was no one around to see me anyway, so I hauled myself partly onto the wall so I could see over.  I didn’t get completely onto the wall, just used my arms to lift myself until I rested my chest against the snow on the top of the wall and could see over it.  Looking down, there were more streets with old-style streetlights and a series of trees that probably hid even more graves.  Just beyond that, barely fifty feet past the base of the cliff, there was the river.  Another long bridge crossed it and beyond that I could see another small town that looked a bit darker and maybe shadier than this one with all its graveyards.  

“What are you looking for?”  

I was pretty startled to hear somebody ask that from so close behind me, but I didn’t really show it.  Even with the snow on the ground, and even knowing a person was there, it took me a minute to see the human. He stood about five feet away, looking out across the river.  I couldn’t see much about him and I wasn’t even really sure it was a guy, but his voice sounded sort of deep so I presumed.  He had his back against a very big tree and he looked like a part of it unless he moved.  Before I could answer, he stepped forward to stand on the path beside me, acting a bit awkward.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be creepy.”  

“It’s fine.  I can be pretty creepy myself.  Is this one of your favorite haunts?”  I made the joke automatically and he laughed, although his laugh seemed bittersweet.  I almost asked before I realized that this was a human in a graveyard.  “Sorry,” I amended, “You’re probably visiting some-`body’.”  

He laughed again, more heartily this time.  “No.  No, actually, I’m not.  Are you alright?  I mean, you seem like you’re looking for something, and this isn’t really the best place to be walking around this late.”

If he hadn’t just laughed so sincerely at my puns I might have been a little concerned by how he said that, but right now I wanted to believe that he was just worried about me.  “I’m fine.  I’m sort of stuck here for a bit and I’m looking for a place I can sit down for a while.  Like a bench.  Seriously, are benches illegal here or something?”

He thought and then shrugged, “Well, there might be one on the path between the church and its graveyard, off Main Street back there,” he pointed, “but it’s awfully cold, are you sure you’ll be alright?  How long do you have to wait there?”

“Not too long,” I started to walk back towards the church, debating how easily I might be able to take one of my shortcuts.  I paused under a light near the gate of the cemetery.  I couldn’t see him when I looked back, but I hadn’t heard him leave.  “Hey, buddy, why are there so many graveyards in this town?  I mean…you’re kind of buried in them.”

He laughed again, this time sounding neither relaxed nor bittersweet but slightly afraid.  “Perks of living in a town with history, I guess.  Great for quiet walks, not so great if you’re easily frightened.”

*       *       *

The guy from the graveyard turned out to be right about the bench by the church.  It was carved stone, and looked more decorative than functional.  I brushed off the snow and sat down.  The stone was probably freezing, but I couldn’t feel temperature very much any more, so that didn’t bother me.  A human would probably have jumped right back up as soon as their butt touched the bench.  The thought made me smile a bit more sincerely.  Between two big Christmas trees on either end and the church behind me, I could only be seen if somebody walked along the uneven stone path from the old church to the cemetery up the hill.  There was another, equally old building about ten feet in front of me, making that path even narrower so I felt pretty safe here.  It was probably best that I couldn’t be easily seen, I mean these people didn’t seem too friendly towards monsters.  If anyone saw me, I’d probably scare them, given how close they’d need to get to see me and how creepy the town was.  Here I was, scaring humans again.  Just like old times.  

Just sitting down made me realize how tired I was.  I felt like I’d been walking for days and I guess I must have dozed off because I woke up a few hours later.  The minimal traffic on the main road had all but vanished and the whole town seemed almost silent except for a scuffle up the hill in the graveyard.  The branches of the trees hid me from view as much as the sparse street lights, but I could easily look through them to see what was going on.  I didn’t even have to move.  

Up the hill, a few guys were walking towards me, or rather one guy was walking towards me and the other two seemed to be following him.  I got the sense as soon as I saw them that the first guy was trying to get away, or at least get to the main road.  The main road seemed like a decent part of town, maybe even well-policed, but pretty much everywhere else from what I’d seen looked sketchy.  Old, and historical, I guess, but sketchy at night.  The living were usually more of a threat than the dead in this town.  Usually, but not necessarily tonight.

But hey, this wasn’t my town.  I might cause a lot more problems than I’d fix if I got into a fight here, monsters were welcome but humans weren’t too fond of us and I probably shouldn’t give them any reason to think that the feeling was mutual.  I didn’t know exactly what was going on here anyway, as long as it didn’t look like this guy was in serious danger, it was probably better if I stayed out of it.  

“What are you doing out here anyway?”  It was the pursuer who said that.  He looked a bit scruffier than the average human, and maybe a little dirty, like he found other things more important than hygiene.  He had a weird lurching walk and kept one hand in the pocket of his ragged coat.  The other man following the fleeing human looked similar except he was bigger, significantly more muscular, and he held something in one fist, keeping a bit behind the others like he was trying not to be seen.  The scruffy guy kept looking back at him but the other human seemed like he was trying to ignore them both.  

“Just taking a walk.  Aren’t you?”  For the second time tonight that voice startled me and I didn’t show it.  This was the same guy from the graveyard, the guy who’d told me about this bench.  I mean, it wasn’t the greatest thing anyone had done for me, but it was still helpful.  Now I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stay out of whatever happened.  

Graveyard guy had a tense note to his voice even if he sounded casual, he knew there were two of them and that they weren’t friendly, he was just trying to stall them.  Now that I could see him in decent light, he was a fairly recognizable human.  He had a relatively tall, lean build with a young-looking face.  He must have been in his twenties, but he looked like the kind of guy who didn’t need to shave.  Aside from his height and relatively broad shoulders, I guess he looked almost delicate, and maybe it was that seemingly fragile appearance that drove him to dress the way he did.  The fact that I hadn’t heard him in the cemetery seemed a bit amazing now that I could see him; he wore enormous black snow boots, thick jeans, and a very long black trenchcoat that looked bulkier than the fabric suggested.  He was probably wearing a hoodie beneath that coat.  Above that dark coat, the graveyard man wore a thick fluffy hat with ear flaps.  The hat was dark enough that it looked less goofy than functional.  He had his hands in his pockets as well, though in his case that seemed like it might just be a habit he had.  He watched the bricks beneath his feet rather than the man beside him, but the path was very uneven and his walk didn’t suggest someone who felt afraid.  Actually, that walk reminded me of someone…  

Scruffy laughed, “Oh?  That’s what we’re doing, isn’t it?  Taking a nice walk in the graveyard, ain’t we?  Hear that, Pete?  We’re just taking a friendly walk.”

There was a small staircase where the graveyard met the back of the church and fluffy-hat guy moved like he was going to run down it and try to lose them.  Not even pausing his rambling conversation, Scruffy held out a hand to stop him.  The big guy, apparently called Pete, stepped up behind hat guy, cornering him between an iron fence and Scruffy, who still had one hand in his pocket.  Going after hat guy, Pete stepped into the light, revealing that his fisted hand held a knife.  

It was a large knife, not the cleanest, but not dull.  Something about it reminded me of the nightmares I had, dreams I never fully remembered.  I couldn’t think what exactly made this knife so unsettling, but I froze for a full minute.  

*       *      *

I’d walked through here nearly a hundred times by now, so I knew they had me trapped.  With the nearest apartment a good block away, and given the time of night, it wouldn’t do any good to yell.  I had no idea what these guys were after, but whatever it was I probably didn’t have it or wasn’t willing to give it away, so my options were pretty much to fight them.  There were two of them and one of me, so right off the bat, those weren’t great odds, but I’d done dumber things and I can’t say I hadn’t anticipated that this might happen if I kept taking walks alone at this time of night.  I’d gotten myself into this mess and no one else would get me out of it, or so I thought.

The scruffy guy stepped towards me, poking the pocket of his jacket in my direction so I knew he had something hidden in there.  “Gimme your wallet and all the cash you’ve got.”

There wasn’t much I could do but shrug.  “Sorry, you’re out of luck.  I don’t have my wallet on me or any cash.”

“Then what’s that in your pocket?”

I hesitated.  He’d noticed I was holding something.  Crap.  I took so long to answer that, on a signal from Scruffy, Pete stepped towards me with his knife.  “What is it?”

“A very bad idea.”

“No shit,” Scruffy growled, “hand it over!”

I had my switchblade out and opened before either of them registered what it was.  I might have tried something right then, but I was distracted.  When I flicked the blade open, I changed my stance and heard a sound that the shady guys must have mistaken for the crunch of snow or maybe the springs of the blade.  Trying to place it, I’d glanced around the graveyard yet again and realized that things had suddenly taken a turn I hadn’t expected.  

As it happened, being distracted by that sound and what it meant probably saved my life.  Once Scruffy saw the blade in my hand, he drew his own weapon, which was not a knife as I had presumed, but a .45 auto.  

“Bad idea is right,” Scruffy chuckled, “Now—”

In the nearly silent graveyard surrounded by tall, old buildings and brick walls, the acoustics could be tricky, so neither of the men had ever considered that the sound they’d heard might have come from behind them.  As such, neither of them realized that we were no longer alone until a surprisingly deep voice interrupted the scruffy guy.  

“You should let him go.  Right now.”

The first time I’d seen the skeleton, I’d thought he was a human kid until he’d spoken.  I hadn’t realized he wasn’t human at all until I’d seen him under the streetlight and I hadn’t expected to see him again.  I’d told him about the bench hours ago and I’d figured he must have left by now.  Even putting that aside, as much as everyone knew some monsters had magic and weapons and other things that made them dangerous, most were pretty harmless so I hadn’t thought of this guy as anything but a somewhat spooky-looking average person.  

That changed a bit when I saw him suddenly appear behind Scruffy.  That only proved he had magic, but this skeleton already seemed smarter than the typical human, so I didn’t expect him to jump into a fight like this if he wasn’t more dangerous than he looked.  

Pete and Scruffy turned to look at him.  Pete quite visibly shuddered.  Monsters weren’t common, especially, here, and given where we were a skeleton showing up like this would have freaked out most people.  Scruffy, however, looked unfazed, if not pissed off.  He laughed.  “And what if I don’t?”  He opened his mouth to ramble more, but the skeleton cut him off before he could continue.  

“If you don’t, you’re gonna have a bad time.”  As he spoke, the white gleams that seemed to be his pupils vanished.  I wasn’t easily frightened and this skeleton certainly seemed to be on my side, but I still felt a chill run down my spine seeing that.  

Scruffy just laughed again.  “Is that supposed to scare me?”  He started to raise the gun.  

Scruffy barely got his arm halfway up when the skeleton’s left eye flashed blue and Scruffy was gone.  It took me a second to realize that he’d been flung against the back of the church, presumably by magic, and for all I know Pete just thought he’d been vaporized.  The big guy screamed and dropped his knife, bolting through the graveyard in such a panic that he fell over more than one gravestone and kept going until he rounded a corner and passed out of sight.  Hitting the church stunned Scruffy, who groaned and fell about fifteen feet to the snowy ground.  

I grinned at the skeleton, trying not to sound as nervous as I felt.  He’d tossed a guy thirty feet without moving, I was way out of my league if he decided to attack me.  “I thought you weren’t sticking around?”

He shrugged.  “What can I say, I feel very at home here?”  He glanced pointedly at the graves around us.  

I laughed and resisted the urge to make a joke that revealed more about myself than I wanted to share right now.  “Thanks.”  Scruffy groaned and started to slowly stand up and I looked back at the skeleton a bit more hastily.  “We should really talk somewhere else.”

“Yeah.”  He held out a hand.  I took the hint.  It seemed like a weird gesture, and considering I’d only ever held hands with my mother and my ex, I admit I wondered what he meant by it, but there was a very angry guy with a gun fifteen feet away and I was dealing with a skeleton in a graveyard at four in the morning.  I can’t say I didn’t half believe that I’d fallen asleep and this was all some very strange dream.  

I took his hand, realizing that he was wearing white gloves as I did so, I hadn’t looked too closely at his hands and it was dark.  Cold gloved fingers wrapped around my hand and we were suddenly on Main Street a good five blocks up the hill.  A bellhop smoking outside the hotel across the street dropped his cigarette and bolted inside in a fit of panicked swearing.  

“You’re sure making an impression on the locals, aren’t you?” He let go of my hand and I awkwardly followed suit.  Putting my hands back into my pockets, I realized that I hadn’t introduced myself yet.  “My name is Zion, by the way.”

His white pupils had come back and he smiled up at me.  He hadn’t stopped smiling once and I wasn’t sure that he could.  “I’m Sans, Sans the skeleton.”

*       *       *

Zion nodded as if that clarified something.  “Oh.  Nice to meet you.  I wasn’t sure you were a skeleton, so I’m glad you cleared that up as well.”

…was he joking?  “Well, what else would I be?”

He shrugged.  “You might be a zombie, some kind of golem, a ghoul, a lich, a wight, a revenant, a draugr, or an Abhartach.”  Okay, this time I might have looked a little surprised; I really hadn’t expected that kind of response, but then again Zion apparently hung out in graveyards late at night so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.  He shrugged awkwardly, “Sorry, there are a lot of different corporeal undead and I don’t pretend to be an expert on monsters, I’ve never even met one before, I just read a lot of folklore and fantasy novels.”

“Wow.  You actually know more than I expected.  Most humans just seem to assume I’m an ordinary skeleton.”

Zion shrugged.  “So you aren’t an ordinary skeleton?”

I probably shouldn’t admit what I was if he knew legends about it, at least until I knew the gist of those legends.  I mean, humans thought werewolves ate people’s hearts and stuff, these legends might be all wrong, but they could also be accurate and I didn’t know right now.  

I shrugged.  “Well, no one’s really ordinary, but do I look like anything but a re-ghoul-ar skeleton?”

He laughed once, that kind of uncertain laugh where I could tell he knew I was avoiding the question.  “I guess you do,” he admitted.  “…Look, I’ve never met a monster before, so I keep feeling like I’ll accidentally offend you or something, so I apologize in advance because, knowing my social skills, that’s bound to happen, but you basically just saved my life and it’s freezing out here, so are you actually going somewhere or do you need a place to stay?”

Zion had a way of rambling that reminded me of more than one of my friends, but I found his awkwardness less distracting than the fact that his voice cracked in the middle of his question, forcing him to cough a few times before he could continue, even more nervously, in a voice a little deeper than his starting tone.  I’d just figured he was a guy, but now I wasn’t so sure.  When his voice broke, he said a few words in a much higher pitch before forcing his voice back into a more manly tone and he acted so awkward about the lapse that I wondered if he was embarrassed by that, or just a very awkward person, or if I’d scared him back at the graveyard when I’d used magic.  

I guess it didn’t matter whether or not he was a guy, I mean, I didn’t care even if I had had any reason to care and besides, with that coat and his baggy clothes, I couldn’t really see the shape of his body.  He might be a woman under that, I really had no idea.  

Zion also might have been blushing, which was hidden by the way his skin flushed with the cold.  While I considered him, he stood frozen, perhaps trying to decide if I’d noticed his gender or not.  I should probably just gloss over that.  

“Well…there’s a guy with a gun where I was waiting, so a place to stay would probably help.”  Zion seemed alright, even if he was human.  I mean, Frisk was alright too, but in general I found it difficult to like humans at all.  Still, Zion seemed friendly enough and I doubted he could really pose a threat to me, so I admitted, “I sort of missed my bus stop and now I’m stuck here until morning.”

“Oh. Well, considering you saved my life, and it’s probably seven degrees out here, and my apartment’s right up the street…”  He nodded towards the street behind him in what was clearly a suggestion.  

Zion really had this awkward thing down pat, didn’t he? 

Chapter Text

Following Zion up the street, he led me into a narrow and shabby door between a bakery and a laundromat.  The door revealed a set of dark and crooked stairs so close that there really wasn’t room to step inside without climbing them, as such Zion asked me to close the door.  I did so by magic, and locked it considering the kind of people we’d run into in the graveyard.  

At the top of the stairs and through another, somewhat higher-quality door, Zion’s apartment sat above the bakery.  We were in the living room as soon as we entered and a dark hallway extended back from that into what seemed to be a very tiny bedroom.  It looked like there was a bathroom to the side of that and a mix of counters and appliances at one end of the living room served as the kitchen.  The kitchen had room for maybe one person between the counters and opening the oven or dishwasher would have forced him to back up into the hall, they couldn’t be opened at the same time and the fridge was the same way.  I couldn’t really see the bedroom, but it looked like the bed filled everything but a very narrow walkway.  Between the kitchen and the door, Zion had a couch and two very small tables buried under papers, books, and dirty dishes.  Between that and the wall-mounted TV, there was enough room for the two of us to stand comfortably, but a third person would have made it crowded.  Zion rushed about while I looked around, “Sorry, I don’t really have company often, I’ll get these plates out of here.”

“It’s cool.”  Actually, it wasn’t that bad.  The carpet, hideous though it was, looked clean, and aside from the piles engulfing the tables, the place wasn’t that cluttered.  Excluding the top of my dresser, my room had always been messier, this place was just a bit smaller.  I mean, the whole apartment must have been no more than fifteen feet wide and maybe twice that from the door to the back wall.  Zion had turned on a light, but it was only a single fluorescent bulb over the stove, so most of the room was still dark, just cast in a faint white glow.  

With that lighting, I couldn’t see the color of the walls, only that almost all of them had been covered with drawings and posters and fabric.  The drawings were small and detailed, mostly dragons, wolves, and big cats stylized to look a bit more angry than normal with a lot of dark lines around the shapes of the animals and monsters depicted.  It looked like most tattoos I’d seen and the posters all had a similar style except for a few which seemed to advertise bands.  One in particular showed an enormous winged skull and covered pretty much all the wall behind the couch.  I’d never heard of Avenged Sevenfold, but I guessed that it was another band.  My brother would probably want a poster like that even if he ended up hating their music.  The posters and drawings took priority to the fabric, which ranged from tapestries to flags and seemed solely intended to hide the blank walls.  On the tapestries, I noticed scenes of knights and dragons, but I didn’t recognize any of the flags.  

Zion’s method of organizing turned out to be quite simple: he carefully put all the plates in the dishwasher and then shoved everything else that had been on the tables and the couch into a basket beside the kitchen counter.  It didn’t seem to be trash, considering that it looked like he had a decent quality road atlas in the same thing.  After hesitating awkwardly for a second, he gestured towards the couch.  “You can sit down if you want.”

“Okay.”

As soon as I was on the couch and out of the way, he closed the door to the stairwell and hesitated awkwardly again before walking down the hallway without an explanation.  He walked differently since he’d been talking to me directly.  Right now, even on the street outside, he’d had a rushed way of moving like he was constantly trying to get out of someone’s way.  He took up as little space as possible, slouching slightly and keeping his hands in his pockets with his arms tight to his sides.  He placed each step practically in line with the last, whereas before he’d taken strides slightly wider than his shoulders.  When he’d been trying to get away from those guys earlier, he’d been a lot calmer.  Something about the confidence of his movements had reminded me of someone and it took me a few minutes to place it.  He’d walked like Undyne.  Of course, she had a little more grace and he had a little more…uh, force, I guess, for lack of a better word, but they moved very similarly.  

With such a tiny apartment, I could hear Zion pretty clearly, but I had no idea what he was doing.  “You know, you can relax.  I don’t bite,” I dropped my voice until he may or may not have heard me and added, “often.”  Somewhere, probably in his bedroom, a thud suggested he’d fallen over.  

While Zion scrambled to his feet and continued whatever he was doing, he called back an even more awkward reply.  “R-right.  N-not often…— Look, um, what…”  

He reemerged and trailed off.  He’d changed, or just taken off his coat.  He had the same pants on except now he wore a tight black shirt.  The sleeves showed his arms.  He had intricate tattoos on most of them, almost to the point that they covered the skin down to a set of leather bracers he wore over his wrists.  I guess those were really bracelets, they just stood out because they covered so much skin and had laces instead of metal clasps.  His gender, perhaps intentionally, still seemed a bit debatable.  He had broad shoulders and was fairly muscular, in a thin sort of way, but his chest had that shape that could be muscles or small breasts and his shirt was stretchy material cut like a woman’s shirt, it looked like it was meant to expose his midriff, although he had it pulled down to his waist.  He wore a length of steel chain around his neck and without the hat, I could see he had thick and simple silver earrings in both ears.  His hair cut didn’t clarify his gender any more than the rest of him, it was short in a style that might have been butch or punk.  In the dim light, it looked black.  

Apparently, he’d been distracted mid-sentence by the fridge.  “Do you want something to eat?  Or drink?  Or anything?  I’m hungry.”  

Well, I was sort of hungry as well, or I guess the better term was thirsty, but asking for what I lived off of didn’t seem like a good idea.  “Nope.  What were you going to ask me?”  

Zion seemed to blush, though it was hard to tell in the dim light, “Um…I can’t remember.  Sorry.”  He grabbed a jar of pickles, a bag of deli balogna, and a ball of mozzarella cheese from the fridge as well as a plastic tub of cashews from a cabinet and set the hoard of food on the counter.  Apparently, he wasn’t quite ready to sit down, because he went back to the fridge and rummaged around while he asked, “Do you want to sleep or are you planning to stay awake?  We can watch a movie or something…”  He took a glass of something that seemed to be milk and closed the fridge, leaning awkwardly against the array of destination magnets that covered the white plastic.  

Considering that sleeping had gotten me stuck here, it was probably best if I stayed awake until I was home.  “Nope.  We can watch something, if you want to.”  Otherwise…  Well, I wasn’t sure what else I’d do, I hadn’t really brought anything to keep myself occupied.  

Zion seemed like he hadn’t really known what he’d do if I’d wanted to sleep.  He smiled.  “Okay.  The power’s somewhere over there, probably on the table.  You can turn on the TV and find something.  Or I can go dig out my DVDs.”  He moved his food to the table beside the couch and came over with his glass of milk.  “Sorry, I didn’t think to ask, you do sleep, right?  Monsters sleep?”

“Dude, who doesn’t sleep?”

Zion shrugged.  “Sorry.  I know a lot about myths and legends, but I really don’t know what’s actually true.  Sorry.”

I really hoped he’d relax a bit or this night would be one awkward conversation after another.  

Zion started up the TV, which was the only thing in the house that seemed new and of decent quality: it was a flatscreen, the kind Papyrus was trying to save up to buy.  Zion flicked open the menu and browsed Netflix for something.  I figured he’d just ask if I was alright with whatever he planned to watch and I didn’t have input otherwise, but that was fine, I didn’t really watch much TV and he was letting me stay in his house.  As long as I had somewhere to wait until morning, I didn’t care, this trip hadn’t served its purpose anyway, I was more frustrated than ever with this reasonably attractive possible-guy and now I kept wondering what I’d do with my life now that we were free of the barrier and trying to live in peace with humans.  That nullified two of the only three goals I’d ever had.  

Half to distract myself from pondering what to do with my life now and half to avoid him asking another painfully ignorant question (less painful to me and more painful to watch how sorry he felt for asking), I took a closer look at Zion.  On the old, creaky couch he looked even more tall and leggy because of the way he sank into the seat.  He hunched forward so he could reach the coffee table to set the remote back down once he found something, and while the pose wouldn’t normally have been flattering, it actually showed off his muscles pretty well.  Whether or not this was a guy, his shoulders were really his best feature.  

I tried to look at something else.  Even in the dim light of the single bulb and the TV screen, his tattoos were clearly very beautiful.  The black lines stood out on his coppery skin even if the colors just looked like shades of grey.  The tattoos got less intricate as they went further down his arm.  From my angle, I could only see his left arm clearly, but the right looked pretty similar in theme.  On the left, I saw dragons, snakes, crocodiles, lions, tigers, and all kinds of cats with a few birds mixed in.  That jumble went down about half of his bicep with a tattoo of a thorny vine wrapped around his arm and continuing until it vanished beneath the bracer.  Only the dragon extended as low as the bramble, the tail spiraled around in the opposite direction, crossing back and forth over the bramble.  Zion had tattooed a series of metal objects that I later recognized as railroad spikes intersecting the vine and the dragon tail to form a pattern reminiscent of DNA.  Compared to all of that, his hand looked bare.  He wore a silver ring on his thumb, as intricate as his tattoos and shaped like a dragon, but his tattoos were relatively small.  On the back of his hand, near the knuckles and facing towards him he had a raven.  Written over its spread wings was the phrase “Quoth the raven…”  I’d read enough Poe to get the reference, but couldn’t be sure if he was just a fan or if it meant something deeper.  More puzzling was the tattoo on his thumb, so close to his palm that I barely noticed it until he moved his hand to push his hair back.  At first I thought it was dirt or maybe a mark from a broken pen, but looking closer I realized that the tattoo really showed a semicolon.  I mean, grammar was all well and good, but that just seemed strange.  He was still looking through movies, so, to avoid extending the awkward silence, I decided to ask him about it.  

“You really like literature, or something?”

He looked at me and then followed my gaze to his hand.  “Kind of.  Mostly I just like Poe, along with some other authors.  I tend to like horror and creepy stuff.”

“I kinda figured.  That’s not the tattoo I was talking about, I meant the one on your thumb.”  He turned his hand over and looked at it like he’d forgotten it was there.  Tattoos were a bit unfamiliar to me— most monsters didn’t or couldn’t get them— so I was starting to realize that this change of subject had been a mistake.  

Snapping out of his daze, he shook his head.  “No, that’s nothing.”  Probably just looking for a reason to fall silent, Zion took an enormous gulp of his drink.  The glass was taller than average, about 10 ounces by my estimate and he downed more than half or it.  I guess I couldn’t say anything, considering I drank at least 20 ounces of what I lived off of in a sitting, but I did notice in the brighter light of the TV that what I’d presumed was milk actually had a much darker color.  It was probably chocolate milk.  

Proving me wrong, Zion set down his glass as he swallowed, frowned at the glass, and thought aloud, “That’s not chocolate milk, it tastes like coffee.”  After pausing to think, he continued, “Wait…I didn’t make iced coffee today.  This must be a White Russian.  Oops.”

Yet another thing I knew nothing about, but judging from his reaction it was probably alcoholic.  After another awkward pause, Zion got up, returned the remainder of his first drink to the fridge and got some actual chocolate milk before returning to the couch.  

The first movie that peaked his interest was one of the few I’d seen and probably my favorite of those, or at least my favorite trilogy.  Back to the Future offered a pleasant respite from all of the awkwardness, although to be fair the handful of conversations we had during the trilogy proved that Zion had relaxed considerably, probably because of whatever he’d accidentally drank.  

Now that we were sitting quietly the energy I’d had started to ebb.  I was usually pretty tired and I usually didn’t sleep well but once again, sleep snuck up on me.  It must have been towards the end of the first movie when I dozed off.  Zion had the trilogy set up to play all the way through, so there was no pause in the films that might possibly wake me up.  

I woke up towards the end of the third movie to discover that I wasn’t the only one who’d fallen asleep.  Zion had dozed off and slumped onto me.  Technically he was still sitting, except his torso had slid along the couch until he had his head on my shoulder and his face buried in the fluff of my hood.  My arm ended up pressed against his chest, so even though it had been a mystery before I could tell that he was, in fact, female or at least he had breasts, but that wasn’t the main focus of my attention right now.  Slumping onto me, his shoulder had gone behind my own, turning him towards me in a way that basically left my humerus pressed between his breasts.  Or as pressed as was possible, it felt like he’d bound them but that binding had loosened while he’d slept and now one was mostly free while his weight and my arm held the other pressed against his ribcage.  That would have been distracting enough even if our hands hadn’t ended up in interesting places.  My left hand was still on the arm of the couch, and my right was probably in the second least awkward position.  Considering that arm was pinned between the two of us, my hand could have easily ended up between his legs, so I guess it was a relief that it was just pressed against the side of his hips.  He was female there too, or at least his body was female, not that it mattered.  Guys had narrower hips and I could feel Zion’s pelvis really clearly through his skin.  His tight shirt had slid up a little, exposing a few inches of abs and his jeans fit just below the top of his hips, held on by a tight and very thick belt.  On the side of his waist, my hand rested against bare skin.  I still had my gloves on, of course, but I could feel the iliac crest through that as well as see it.  He had nice hips.  

I focused first on my hands and his breasts mostly to distract myself from the main problem and hope he’d wake up and move.  This trip was really not helping my frustration.  Both of Zion’s arms had ended up crossed in front of him over me, which left his hands between my legs.  One of them curled around the upper end of my femur through my pants.  The other hand lay palm up on the front of my pelvis.  Having no flesh below my ribcage, his hand had pushed my shirt inward until it almost touched my spine on both sides, which was a pretty weird sensation I tried to avoid, but right now I was more preoccupied with the back of his hand being draped across my pelvis.  He had relatively long hands, which didn’t help, it meant that his fingers rested along the curve of my own iliac crest while his wrist and a small portion of the weight of his arm pressed against the pubic crest.  It wasn’t painful, just…extremely awkward.  If it had been physically possible, I would have been blushing, and probably more than that if I could have blushed.  

Before I had a chance to move him off of me, Zion woke up.  He stretched groggily, pulling away from me in a way that inadvertently dragged his fingers along my pelvis and part of my leg.  I tried not to show how much that effected me.  

Zion rubbed his eyes before he opened them.  By now the credits were rolling and the fluorescent bulb in the kitchen must have died, because the TV was the only light.  I guess I wasn’t awake enough to do the math of starting a five hour series at four in the morning and I didn’t realize that the tiny apartment had no windows, so I still thought it was night.  Zion didn’t seem to notice how I was feeling.  

*       *       *

From what he’d said earlier, I’d figured that Sans was completely skeletal, but I hadn’t really considered what that meant.  I didn’t wake up quickly, so my first thought had been that I wasn’t comfortable, followed quickly by the realization that I’d fallen over onto him and then the thought that I might be hurting him.  I’d started to move back before I’d realized where my hand was and then I was just a little freaked out.  I’d felt his pelvis quite clearly.  Everything I’d seen about him suggested that he had no flesh whatsoever, which was kind of…fascinating.  How did he move?  Magic?  Did he need to eat?  I guess I’d just figured that skeletons only looked like human skeletons, the way some animals looked like sticks or rocks or whatever.  I hadn’t really though that he could actually be…  

He looked uncomfortable.  

“Sorry.”  I’d basically had my hand inside him, for all I knew that might have hurt.  It might disturb him more than it disturbed me.  I mean, I didn’t exactly put parts of my body inside of other humans on a regular basis, but I wasn’t disturbed by that, I was just a bit shaken up by the fact that I could accidentally do that with him.  “Are you alright?”

The light had gone out again, as usual, so the room was dark and it wasn’t that easy to see the white gleams in his eyes, but it still looked like he was avoiding my gaze.  “Yeah.  I’m fine.”

Considering I’d fallen asleep, sugar and caffeine seemed like a good idea and thankfully I had both.  I got up to get expresso ice cream out of the freezer.  Between still being pretty tired and probably a little drunk, I couldn’t feel so nervous around him anymore, or maybe I’d just gotten used to him.  I’d been a bit creeped out by him at first, but I’d gotten over that pretty quickly, he wouldn’t have saved my life if he had wanted to hurt me.  That said, the guy had still flung a man thirty feet without batting an eye, I didn’t think he was harmless.  He was tough, and he seemed smart, and the way he joked made me laugh.  I liked him.  I barely knew him, but apparently I’d barely known my last boyfriend, so that didn’t seem too important.  I didn’t even know if he was interested in… in someone like me.  I didn’t need to date him, even if he wasn’t interested one friend was one more friend than I had on this side of the country, and we already seemed to have the same taste in movies.  

He still seemed awkward.  I felt like it would help to say something, because that totally hadn’t caused problems before.  My curiosity came to mind.  “Are you completely skeletal?”  He gave me a look I couldn’t decipher, so I elaborated.  “I mean, you implied you were a skeleton, but you never got specific.”

He shrugged.  “Mostly.”

When he said nothing more, I felt like I had to keep talking.  “Do you eat?”  He had started looking awkward again while I thought of the question, like he had something on his mind, but when I asked, I distracted him.  

He’d been evasive earlier, and he still wasn’t giving complete answers, but he was hinting at whatever the truth was.  “…sometimes.”  He avoided my gaze again and I knew I wasn’t getting more out of him about that, but that was fine, I had plenty of things I’d been wondering about him.  

I got the ice cream out of the freezer, practically throwing the bin onto the counter and stifling a curse as the cold stung my hand.  That made me think of another question to ask.  “You said the cold didn’t bother you.  Do you… um… feel?”

I’m pretty sure he stifled a laugh.  “Course I feel.  Just not hot or cold.  That ice cream was more fridge-id than you expected?”  He looked like he’d been about to say something else but told that joke instead.  His gaze flicked back to the table while I chuckled.  Something was still making him uncomfortable.  

I realized that my attempt to bind my breasts had failed while I’d been asleep and figured that was why he’d been acting so awkward.  I turned my back to him and tried to fix them as discreetly as I could, not realizing that retightening the cloth pulled my shirt up and showed off a tattoo I’d been trying not to think about.  

“Well… `tat’’s very interesting…”

I blushed and hoped the dark would hide it.  The tattoo was a tramp stamp, and while an ordinary one would have probably provoked a similar reaction, this was a bit more awkward.  My ex had talked me into getting it.  All my other tattoos had been entirely my idea and as much as I’d toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo there it had been my boyfriend who’d talked me into getting that specific image.  It was a femur, done in the same semi-realistic style as most of my tats.  A few stylized roses made it look a little less random.  Given that he was a skeleton, it made things more awkward, but I’d gotten it because my ex had been a furry and his sona was a doberman.  Dogs and bones, and I had enough morbid tendencies that it seemed appropriate.  The guy had been a jerk, and I wasn’t happy that I still had the tattoo because it reminded me of him, but I had no idea what I would have replaced it with and getting it removed would have cost money I didn’t have.  

I got my ice cream and headed back to the couch.  “You still don’t want anything, right?”

I’d meant food or drink, but the way he awkwardly rubbed the back of his skull made me wonder.  

“Not really…”  

I’d just figured he was uncomfortable because I’d been embarrassing myself and basically fallen asleep on top of him, but maybe I’d misjudged his reaction.  He was still avoiding my gaze even now that I’d fixed my chest.  “…you realized that I’m trans, haven’t you?”

“Yeah.”  He sounded surprised if not a little amused that I’d mentioned that.  

I guessed from his tone that my gender wasn’t the problem, but it never hurt to check, and my seemingly endless curiosity about him came up with a dozen new questions.  “You’re cool with that?  With me being…technically female?”

Now that grin of his seemed genuine.  He winked at me and my blush returned if it had ever left.  “Dude, why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well, for starters, you’re a lot more accepting than most folks around here.”

He shrugged.  “Well these people don’t seem too fond of monsters either.”

“Fair point.”

We lapsed into silence that was emphasized by the lack of background noise and the frustrating smell of bread and cakes from the bakery downstairs.  My apartment was mostly soundproofed, but not smell-proof.  

“So, uh, I’m really sorry if this question is completely ignorant or offensive or anything, but I’ve been really curious for a while now, so I have to ask: monsters have genders and…everything, right?”

He looked awkward again.  “Well…uh…we have genders…”

Now it was my turn to avoid his gaze.  I’d gotten a pretty good feel of him, as much as it made me shiver to think of it that way, so unless he had something seriously unexpected going on down there, I already knew that skeletons were…different.

“Sorry, I just meant…”  I’d figured it had hurt or just unnerved him that I’d had my hand there, but now it occurred to me that maybe I had this all wrong.  I mean, I’d never accidentally groped a guy, but this could feasibly be the same thing.  Maybe he wasn’t just uncomfortable?  I swallowed and tried to finish my sentence as matter-of-factly as possible.  “…I just meant, is it only skeletons who don’t…?  Do other monsters have…?”  This just wasn’t going to sound right any way I could say it.  I ate some ice cream to shut myself up.  I didn’t expect him to answer.  

*       *       *

He couldn’t talk about something else, could he?  I mean, dwelling on my frustration…well, it wasn’t the best way of dealing with it, and this line of questions didn’t seem like it was going to help.  Besides, talking about my junk, or lack thereof didn’t exactly help me forget where he’d had his hand a few minutes ago.  

Still, I guess I might as well talk about it on the off-chance that might help.  “Yeah.  Most other monsters have…most other monsters are more like humans.”  I leaned against the back of the couch and looked up, realizing that he had flags or tapestries on the ceiling even though I couldn’t see what they looked like.  He must be trying to hide some awful color of paint.  

Zion either finished his ice cream or just set the bowl down.  “But you’re still…I mean, you’re not asexual or anything, right?”

One of the flags looked like the one Papyrus kept in his room and I was struggling to see it better in the dim light, trying to distract myself.  “Nope.”

He’d been hunched forward again to reach the table while he’d been eating, but I felt the couch shift slightly as he leaned back, staring at the ceiling like I was.  “That must be really frustrating.  That sucks.”

I glanced over at him.  He sounded absolutely sincere.  I hadn’t really expected him to get that.  

*       *       *

I realized he was watching me when he didn’t say anything.  I guess maybe he hadn’t realized how well I’d understand that frustration?  “Dude, I’m trans, I know that feeling, or at least I can probably empathize better than most humans…”  I looked back up, mostly scanning the fabric for tacks and nails coming loose, as they so often did.  

“Right…”  Now he sounded less awkward and more… thoughtful?

We lapsed into silence again, but this time it wasn’t uncomfortable.  I was still too distracted to wonder what time it was.  It was dark and I had no job here yet, so there was nothing I needed to do.  I usually slept during the day, so the only window in the house had black-out curtains and the only clock was in my bedroom.  I used my phone to check the time unless I was asleep or otherwise undressed and there was no other room where that usually happened except when I showered.  Right now, I just figured it was still night.  It was always four in the morning unless I had a reason to care about the time, and I guess subconsciously I didn’t want to rush the morning.  

“Sorry about where my hand went earlier.”

“It’s cool.”

“That didn’t hurt you or anything, right?”

“Nah.”  He seemed like he’d planned to say more but decided against it and I got the sense that he was considering something.  

I would have probably left it at that, except the way he paused and the way he’d been acting made me curious, and I was curious about other things as well, and for a lot of reasons my judgement with him probably wasn’t the best.  

I kind of wanted to do something and in that vein, I kinda wanted to ask him something, but the question warred with my own constant social awkwardness to the point that I ended up frozen in place.  A different, but probably equally important question occurred to me while I hung in indecision.  

I must have stared blankly at him for long enough that he noticed my gaze.  That gleam of white in his eye sockets flicked towards me.  “…you okay?”

“How old are you?”  I didn’t find out until much later how lucky it was that he’d misjudged my meaning.  I didn’t think he was a kid, I certainly wouldn’t have asked those questions if I had, but I wasn’t positive he was… well, twenty or older, considering that whatever ideas I was getting, I didn’t want to start anything with a monster younger than I was.  I had no idea what I was doing with my life, I didn’t want to date somebody who had even less experience being an adult than I did.  I’d done that once already and wasn’t having it again.  I guess, in reality, that was a weird quirk, but age bothered me like that.  

Instead, Sans thought I was asking about his lifespan, which, I suppose was a fair assumption considering my previous questions.  I hadn’t really considered how old monsters might be.  Mostly I’d assumed they lived about as long as humans did, meaning a hundred years, give or take.  I’d also expected a straight answer when I asked, but instead he avoided my gaze again.  “Well… let’s just say I’m older than I look.”  He must have realized I’d want more of an answer than that because he added, “Or, in other words… I’m so seasoned I’m practically a spice rack.”  

I laughed, but the mirth died a little as I wondered how serious he was and how much he’d exaggerated to make the joke.  “Do monsters age?”

Another evasive look.  Then a shrug.  “Kind of.  Monsters age if they have kids.  Their souls sorta flow into the child, but if they don’t, they’re pretty much immortal.”

“So you’re immortal?”

“More or less.” That grin got a little unsettling now that I found myself wondering exactly how much older he was.  

I spent a few moments just pondering the fact that he could be my age and screwing with me or I might be talking to somebody who’d lived through the plagues.  For all I knew, he’d seen centuries go by and that was more than a little daunting, but on the other hand, he more than deserved to mess with me after all the awkward questions I’d asked.  I chose to believe that he was pulling my leg and tried to turn the tables.  

“Well, teenage pregnancy must suck.”

“Doesn’t really happen on account of everybody knows they’d start dying.”

He didn’t miss a beat.  I wondered if I’d been wrong or not, but that didn’t last long.  I hadn’t really meant to ask if monsters aged and the whole pregnancy equals death thing killed any mood there might have been, which made it a bit counterproductive if I wanted to find a way to ask him to date me, or at least ask if he’d be interested.  Not that a relationship had to involve sex, but I felt horny enough most of the time that despite my gender situation and awkwardness, I didn’t trust that I wouldn’t try to suggest something.  The question was how.  

At least, how was the main question, because now I had another, which would probably never matter considering his own reason to be frustrated.  

I had to get away from the last conversation topic before I could try to take things in any romantic direction, so I asked yet another question just to keep talking.  “Are skeletons…born?  Like, were you always a skeleton, or did you used to be human?”

By now I expected the evasive look, but instead he seemed almost thoughtful.  “Well… some of ‘em are born, just like other monsters…and some are…made…I guess.”

He was still cryptic even when he wasn’t being awkward about it.  “So some were human originally?”

He nodded.  

“Were you?”

He stayed quiet for a long moment and then he shrugged.  “Does it matter?”

I shrugged back.  “Common ground, I guess?  Not really.  You are who you are now.  Though it’s probably more frustrating if you remember having…well, a human body.  I don’t know, I think I’d be more frustrated if I had been born with a male body and got stuck with a female one later on somehow…”

It seemed like he’d never thought of it that way.  He shrugged again.  “Maybe.”  His tone was more thoughtful than dubious, but it still wasn’t the happiest remark.  

The guy had saved my life and humored me a hell of a lot more than most people would have.  Even if I hadn’t been attracted to him, I like to think I would have tried to cheer him up.  

“On the upside, you don’t get frostbite.  The winter’s a lot more annoying with skin.”  He made eye contact, but didn’t seem to react, so as always, I kept talking, “You can’t get sunburned, or burn yourself cooking.”

“I don’t cook much.”  I could tell that he was saying that less to refute me and more to play devil’s advocate.  

“Neither do I, but I’ve been burned before.”  I was bad at judging his emotions considering that grin that never seemed to leave his face, but the tone of his laugh told me I hadn’t been imagining a familiar sort of melancholy about him.  I wanted to keep talking about the benefits of not having skin, but I’d run out of ideas, so I switched to plan B.  I guess I hesitated just long enough trying to think of something else that he realized what had happened.  “I’m sure you can do some awesome stuff now, right?  I mean, you couldn’t…use magic before, could you?”

He gave me an odd look followed— eventually— by a shrug.  It took me a full minute to guess that his reaction meant he couldn’t remember.  

“…oh.  Look, I’m a god-awful motivational speaker, I’m really sorry.”

“It’s cool.”  His tone just seemed neutral now and I found myself worrying that he sounded so normal because he was always sort of sad, I’d just gotten a chance to see it.  That wasn’t surprising, I knew that feeling as well.  My fear of making him uncomfortable managed to take a backseat to my compassion and I hugged him before I realized what I was doing.  He wasn’t tall, although his proportions suggested he’d weigh almost the same as I did; when we’d been standing he was about level with my chest.  I felt like I might accidentally hurt him, mostly because he was so much smaller than me and I wasn’t sure how his bones even stayed together, but I was more afraid that I’d crush him because I lost my balance than because I hugged him too tightly, so I lifted him up.  As stocky as he looked, he weighed much less than I’d expected, which was probably because he was all bone.  I hauled him forward easily, wrapping my arms around him.  I guess I surprised him from the way he just let his legs go limp while I picked him up and pulled him towards me.  With the difference in our heights and the fact that the middle of my couch had developed a pit where I usually sat, Sans ended up kneeling rather than sitting beside me.  After a moment, the hug didn’t feel right and I realized that it was because he hadn’t moved.  At all.  Apparently, he didn’t need to breathe.  

With his thick jacket,  I wasn’t even sure if I’d hugged under his arms or if I had them locked in my grip until he surprised me by bringing his hands up to hug me back.  It was the first reaction he’d shown to the hug, he’d stayed completely silent and with the fluffy lining of his hood tickling my eyelids, I didn’t open my eyes to see his expression.  His hands startled me.  I didn’t mind that he was hugging me back, I hugged him as tightly as I dared when I realized what he was doing, but he placed them low, very low.  A normal hug between friends was anywhere from neck to maybe the small of the back, at the lowest, but his gloved palms— which, like his jacket, felt much more plush than expected— now rested along the crests of my hips, just above the studded leather of my belt.  I’d definitely been on the right track in thinking he was interested in me.  My shirt had slid up again, exposing my skin almost to the bottom of my ribcage and I realized a bit nervously that I would have felt heat from human hands.  He was room temperature.  That would take some getting used to.  

After a moment, Sans leaned back, pulling his hood away from my face until I opened my eyes to find him grinning up at me.  “Seems like I was right, yer kinda interested in me, aren’t ya?”

My voice seemed to die in my throat and I knew I was blushing again.  It took two tries to answer him and even then I was practically whispering.  “I take it you aren’t just referring to my general curiosity?”  His look gave me the answer I should have assumed and I nodded.  

Apparently a nod was all the confirmation he needed.  I’d planned to nod twice but as my chin brushed the fluff of his hood, his normally invisible iris glowed blue and he used magic to push me back onto the couch so I was lying on my back.  I can’t deny that I was into some pretty kinky stuff, so the way he just pushed me down like that and then moved up to kneel over me turned me on a lot more than it frightened me, although there was still that nagging voice in the back of my mind pointing out that this clearly intelligent monster apparently considered himself more than equal to a guy wielding a gun.  If he wanted to hurt me, I had no chance of stopping him.

I was always awkward with people I didn’t know very well and my interest in him made me more of a social idiot than usual; I didn’t have one-night-stands for a lot of good reasons, but one of them was my inability to shut up when I had questions to ask, and that chattiness persisted regardless of the situation.  Yes, I know I’d been working practically all night to get to this point, but I just couldn’t help it.  I was curious, and I asked the question before I could think to shut myself up.  

“What do you have in mind?”  He gave me a look like it should be obvious and started to answer, but I added hastily, “I mean neither of us really…  I mean we’re both… we’re both sorta frustrated about…that sort of thing…right?”

Now he looked like he was beginning to reconsider his advances.  “Exactly.  That’s kinda why I thought that this… well, that it might be a good idea.”

Now I felt bad.  I was really starting to hate this part of me that felt blurting out questions like that was always the right idea.  “No, it’s a good idea…I mean…I haven’t gotten laid in…nearly a year.  And I am totally okay with you, I just…I was curious.  What specifically are you planning?”  He didn’t even have a chance to start to answer before I amended, “Or you don’t have to tell me, I am absolutely fine with just…letting you do whatever you have in mind, it’s cool, I’m game for anything.  Almost.  There is almost nothing I am not okay with.  Go for it.”

He hadn’t moved while I’d been rambling and when I finally shut up he chuckled.  “Buddy, if you keep cutting me off this isn’t going to happen.  I wasn’t planning anything too crazy.”  

He hauled my legs up onto the couch and straddled them.  Given our starting positions, straddling me now left him with one knee on either side of my hips, his own pelvis resting lightly against my upper thighs.  He rested his hands on my waist to steady himself for a moment before leaning back to pull the glove off one of them, revealing clean white bones.  It must have been magic holding him together, there was certainly no evidence of muscles or ligaments connecting those knuckles.  He saw the way I was watching his hands and flexed his fingers in something that was almost a playful wave.  He winked.  “I was thinking I’d just go for the `hands on’ experience.”  

The pun made me laugh but it also made me wonder.  I studied neurology as a hobby, and granted, he was a skeleton so I wasn’t even sure how he felt anything, but human fingers (particularly the thumb), being as sensitive as they were, could sometimes develop a hyper-sexualized kind of sensitivity if — err— other parts were missing or paralyzed.  I usually studied neurology for other reasons, but the idea that thumbs could develop sensation as a surrogate penis was pretty appealing considering I was transexual, so the lack of that tended to frustrate me.  I’d never gotten that kind of sensation to work, I just felt like I’d lost a limb I’d never truly had, and I had no idea if that kind of altered sensation was even possible in his case, but the thought made me curious.  

On the other hand, there weren’t too many options for sex with us both being essentially men and lacking the normally required parts.  

He removed the other glove and shoved them both into his pockets, leaving him free to grip my hips with both bony hands.  I hadn’t been prepared for the cold bumps of the joints of his fingers.  Just running his hands from the small of my back to the subtle ridges of my iliac crest made me shudder.  

“Your hands feel interesting.”  I knew his hands were going to feel even more interesting once they got lower.  

He chuckled.  “So do yours.”  To my frown, he added, “What?  You basically groped me earlier, I can’t pretend that didn’t give me a pretty good feel of you, pal.”

I blushed.  “Sorry, I really didn’t mean to—”

“You don’t need to apologize,” he cut me off, “considering what we’re doing now.”

Damn it, I was being an idiot again.  “Right.  Sorry.”

He laughed.  “You know, you really need to relax.”  He punctuated his statement by sliding one hand up to hold me down as he leaned over me.  It was more superficial than anything else, he had magic if he wanted to really hold me in place and without the use of magic, I got the sense that I could easily overpower him.  That meant that he only held me down because he must have realized that I was more at-ease with him in charge.  It was true.  Left to my own devices (in anything, but especially in sex) I second-guessed myself and always felt I should be doing something more or less or differently than I was.  He voiced the conclusion he’d drawn.  “You’d prefer I just took charge, wouldn’t you?”

I nodded.  

He stayed up on his knees, one hand on my ribcage but not my chest.  The way he had his fingers to the side, he must have intentionally avoided it, which I appreciated.  I’d known the guy less than twelve hours and he already seemed to understand me.  Saving my life had inclined me to trust him, but now I felt even more content to let him do what he wished.  

I’d expected him to do something with his other hand, but I’d been wrong, instead his left eye flashed blue again.  My belt slowly snaked out of its buckle and slid to the floor.  I guess it took a lot of effort or focus because I noticed he was breathing a bit heavily.  Maybe he only had to breathe when using magic.  Using magic to unzip my fly was just as tricky, apparently, but he paused as he did that to look back up at me and explain, “I’m not gonna tie you up or anything.  You can touch me, you don’t need to just lie there.”  

Now I felt awkward again.  “Sorry.”  I wasn’t sure where to begin and, of course, my big mouth insisted on explaining that even before I’d really thought through what I was going to say.  “I just… Usually I’d be kissing, and…”

With my fly unzipped, his eye stopped glowing and he glanced away awkwardly.  “And kissing kinda requires lips.  Yeah.”

“Sorry.”

I think my constant apologies were starting to annoy him.  He looked back at me and shifted his weight forward, holding me down a little more effectively.  “You can improvise.”

Before I could improvise, his other hand slipped beneath my waistband.  Bony fingers slid along the sensitive skin of my belly, pausing when they found hair.  He gave me an odd look and answered my plethora of questions before I could ask them.  

“You know…this is my first time doing this with a human.”  He avoided my gaze and his hand probed tentatively downward.  “I mean, I know human anatomy, it just…feels different.”

Somewhere between curious and self-conscious, I had to ask.  “Good different or bad different?”  

More evasive looks.  “Well…for one thing, you have really soft skin.  That’s not bad…

“…just…really different?”

“Yup.  It feels nice… it just takes some getting used to.”

“That makes me wonder what kind of monsters you’ve had sex with before, but I kinda don’t want to ask…”

“Yeah…”

He looked back at me at the same moment that his fingers slipped around the front of my pelvis to find my clit.  The feeling was electric and I froze while he lingered there, just rubbing at it with one finger while the rest of his hand explored my groin.  I hadn’t had any surgery or even hormones yet, so I was anatomically female for pretty much all intents and purposes.  I couldn’t be sure if he was curious about that, if he was just trying to pleasure me, or if he just didn’t know as much about human anatomy as he’d thought.  Or maybe it was some combination of the three.  

I remembered what he’d said about improvising and reached up.  In the past I’d mostly kissed or ran my fingers through my partner’s hair, but those weren’t really options right now.  My hand hesitated beside his face.  I felt too awkward to just move lower after that, so I ran the tips of my fingers along his cheekbone.  I wasn’t sure if it was because he was a monster or someone I had only just met that made me so nervous when I touched him.  

He glanced at my hand and although he didn’t say anything, I’m pretty sure he felt I was being awkward.  I tried desperately to think of something else to do and slid my hand to his shoulder.  I felt too uncertain to reach straight for his pants, so I opted instead to work my way there more slowly.  I let my fingers slip beneath his jacket to feel the thin cotton shirt beneath.  Running my hand along his chest and sides I realized that I could feel more than bones before he caught my wrist.  

“Just move to my hips or something, okay?  That kind of hurts.”

“Sorry.”  That was surprising; I’d touched him so lightly that I was afraid it would tickle.  The shirt was loose, but the fabric had been thin enough that I’d felt uneven skin or maybe muscle between his ribs.  Whether it was skin or flesh, it clung to the bone tightly enough that he must have looked emaciated, I could feel the ribs more clearly than whatever was between them.  Still, even though I’d only touched him for a second and through his shirt, his skin or whatever it was had felt extremely delicate, like it was some last remnant of a more human body that was only barely clinging to his bones.  Now that I knew he wasn’t all skeletal, I wanted to see what he actually looked like where he wasn’t just bones, but I felt like I shouldn’t ask.  We could have sex, but asking what he looked like beneath his shirt felt too invasive.  

I was afraid that I’d hurt him again and with his loose clothes I had no idea how far down he had flesh.  I knew his pelvis was skeletal.  I didn’t want to touch too high and hurt him again, so I started lower and decided to work my way up.  Straddling me the way that he was, he had his knees on either side of my hips, well within reach.  I rested my finger on his knee, half expecting him to stop me again.  His pants were thin enough that I knew immediately that he was skeletal there.  There was nothing but bone in the joint and I moved up fairly quickly, tracing the slight curve of the femur.  I had no idea what felt good to him, but going off my fairly limited experience, I focused on the inner edge, running my thumb lightly along the bone almost to the joint.  I still had trouble reading him and touching the actual socket of the joint seemed like it would hurt, but he seemed to enjoy what I’d done so far.  I let my fingers slide up over the waistband of his pants and curl inward to trace the upper edge of his pelvis.  

He’d still has his fingers on my clit, just rubbing it slowly, but mostly watching my reaction as I tried to figure out how to touch him.  I don’t know if he was doing it intentionally because I was transexual or if he just didn’t have much experience with female parts, but he wasn’t rubbing it the way I’d expected, it was more like the way you’d stimulate a guy.  Well, a guy who’d been biologically male, anyway.  

I hesitated on the rim of his pelvis, not sure if he’d want me to touch the inner or outer edges and he chuckled.  “Jeez, you don’t need to be so cautious.  It’s only my rib cage that’s…like that.”  He got awkward as he finished the explanation and I took that to mean that he meant only his ribcage wasn’t skeletal.  He’d been human once, or at least I decided that he must have been.  That seemed to explain why he was so awkward about this, he missed it, or just felt awkward that we were technically the same species and this was so new to him.  Sometimes, on rare occasions, my awkwardness didn’t quite thwart my attempts at romance.  I kissed him.  

Without lips, I really just kissed his teeth, but at the same time I dared trust my instincts and slipped my hand into his pants, sliding my fingers over the front of his pelvis and gripping it gently in a way that wrapped my hand completely around the bones, my palm on one side and my fingers on the other.  My knuckles brushed the inside of his femur as he leaned forward over me.  Without lips, the kiss was extremely short, but I kept my hand where it was and found him grinning when I broke the kiss.  “There ya go, sweet-cheeks.  Relax.”

I could feel myself blushing, embarrassed by my own initiative and surprised that he’d called me that.  I’d never really had a pet-name before and wasn’t sure what to think of it.  I liked hearing it, but I think that was more because of the way he said it than what he was saying.  

My blush was about to intensify.  He hadn’t actually pulled my pants down yet, but now he did.  His hand slipped around my front, running the bones of his palm over my clit and pressing his fingers against my entrance.  I gasped involuntarily.  

He grunted and I realized that I’d tightened my grip on his pelvis.  I loosened it until I was barely touching him.  “Sor—”  

He caught my hand and curled my fingers back into place, pressing them back into that tight grip.  “That didn’t hurt.”

Alright, then.  I held my hand exactly as he’d placed it, afraid that I’d move it the wrong way or use too much or too little pressure.  I squeezed again without meaning to when he slipped his fingers inside of me.  His bones might have been dry before, but they sure weren’t now.  I’d expected that he’d start with one or two fingers, but I guess having no skin or muscle made him more flexible and he just slid his whole hand into me, rolling the bones inward in a way humans couldn’t manage.  That was more than I’d expected in size as well, it hurt, but I’d always been into that.  Maybe he’d picked up on that as well, or maybe he just thought I was slutty enough that I could handle that much inside of me.  If he thought I was slutty, I was flattered; as if I had the looks to get laid on a regular basis, I’d always been too much of a weirdo.  Not to mention that constant fear that anybody I was dating just saw me as a tattooed biker chick and not a guy.  It must have been that we both had similar problems, sexually, but for once that worry wasn’t nagging in the back of my mind.  

Tightening my grip made him shudder and I stifled a gasp as he curled his fingers into a fist inside of me.  I could see traces of sweat beading on his skull and wondered how that was possible before logical thoughts like that fled my mind as he started sliding his arm in and out, like he was thrusting into me.  The lack of fingernails really helped, I’d always felt that they would have hurt in this kind of situation, which was the main reason I’d never tried it.  Now I wasn’t sure if that was a mistake or if I just wished I’d found Sans sooner.  I felt like I was going to moan and my lungs immediately clamped down.  Growing up in a series of tiny apartment buildings with thin walls, I didn’t let myself do anything loudly.  Sans’ knuckles rubbed against the shuddering muscles inside of me, pushing it outward while his thumb pressed up and down along the front of me.  I wondered again about transferred sensation, but that thought only lasted an instant before the first wave of orgasm washed over me.  

When I could see clearly again, I noticed he was a little more sweaty and maybe a little more tired-looking, but otherwise he didn’t even seem close, not that I was the best judge.  He hadn’t stopped or even slowed, just shifted his fingers to keep things interesting.  He uncurled one and slid it up even farther.  I’d gotten used to the size of his hand, at least as much as I could in so little time, but that finger brought some of the pain back and I gasped, inhaling for a moment before I went back to holding my breath.  He frowned, but right now neither of us planned to talk.  

Between my post-coital haze and how tired I felt now, I dared to move my hand a bit.  Keeping the tight grip, I worked my way towards the front of his pelvis.  Without the parts I was used to, I really had no idea what to do, but grasping at metaphorical straws, I found my fingers rubbing the bone in the motions I used to work clay and polish metal.  Apparently that was the right choice.  

Sans grunted and leaned forward suddenly, nipping my earlobe just above my silver earring.  At the same time he rammed his fist as far into me as it would go, pushing me over the edge a second time.  My fear of being heard only barely kept me from crying out and in the process I didn’t breathe at all for nearly a minute.  I felt like I was about to pass out and between my fear and my health, that was entirely possible.  I might have passed out, I was only partly aware of the rest of what happened before I blacked out, although I was tired enough that I like to think I just fell asleep.  Sans shuddered and lay down on top of me, covered in sweat and exhausted.  He took his hand out of me to lay down and when I passed out, I slid towards the center of the couch, inadvertently pulling my pants part of the way up.  

I woke up before him about an hour later and pulled them up the rest of the way.  I would have zipped my fly and maybe put my belt back on, but Sans was still asleep on top of me and I didn’t want to wake him.  At least, I hoped he was asleep.  His eye sockets had closed, somehow, and he wasn’t moving even to breathe.  He’d let go of my ear and turned his head, using my chest as a pillow, probably unintentionally.  I was hungry, but sleeping helped that as much as eating would have, so I closed my eyes again and dozed off, hoping that Sans really was asleep.  There was no way I could think of the check if he was dead (or undead?) or as alive as he ever got.  It didn’t occur to me that Sans had planned to leave in the morning and the barely audible bustle outside suggested that it was already noon.