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Ocean on Fire

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“I hate you.”

“Aw, thanks.”

You glare furiously at the smirking girl innocently twisting one black curl around her finger. “You are a terrible friend and a cheater.”

Faith pouts but it doesn’t hide the glint in her dark eyes. “How dare you! I didn’t cheat!”

“Making a bet when you know the outcome is cheating!”

She pats your cheek. “I pressed my advantage. I can’t help it if you didn’t know that the aquarium was loading in all the fish for the new exhibit today.”

You groan loudly, slumping over. It was sheer luck that you had narrowly escaped running straight into one of the massive tanks being loaded into the aquatic museum. You had been so sure of your route when Faith had challenged you to a race to see who could reach the pier faster. Skipping the main road and cutting back behind the museum was normally faster but…it wasn’t normally filled with trucks and tanks filled with unsuspecting fish of various sizes. You had rounded the corner at full speed and only your quick reflexes had saved you from smacking into one holding about five hundred angel fish.

That would have been a disaster, in more ways than one. And thanks to the delay, Faith had beat you to the docks, subjecting you to your current torture.

“Tell your sister she’s a dirty cheat,” you grumble to the man shifting through various bottles of hair dye.

“I’ve got my model,” Lincoln says with a fake innocent air that tells you he’s not quite so unaware of what went down. “You’ll hear no complaints from me. You shouldn’t be complaining either, you’re getting this exclusive hair treatment for free!”

You shift slightly in the salon chair, fixing him with a stare too. “The last time I got one of your free treatments, my hair was sea green for three months!”

“That was an accident.”

“How do you accidentally dye someone’s hair sea green?! It was supposed to be purple!”

Lincoln ignores you while Faith laughs. “C’mon, someone who spends as much time in the ocean as you do should’ve loved it! I’m kind of surprised it’s not your natural color anyway.”

You grumble quietly. You would rather run into a tank of fish again than admit that you had grown to love the weird color. “The ocean’s blue, not green.”

Faith plops down into the empty seat next to you. The entire salon is empty aside from you three at the moment. It is rather early but it’s still a surprise. “Look, I’m finally back to my roots, I wanna keep them black and beautiful for a while,” Faith says. “Besides, you owe me for getting us that gig on the East Side.”

That had indeed been a good gig. Dancing for a few hours at the high-end mall opening had paid well. Better than usual anyway. You had actually been able to afford some new high quality shoes AND replace all the tires on your car!

What a fascinating life you lead.

Lincoln taps your head with his comb. “Have more faith in me Shore,” he says brightly. “This time, I am going to make you look like a goddess.”

“Yeah, yeah,” you reply good naturally because, sea green incident aside, he really does know what he’s doing most of the time. He’s got a gift for creating art in hair styles, you’ll give him that. Unfortunately, you and Faith usually wound up as his test subjects when he wanted to try something new, like today. And…well you aren’t exactly opposed to the idea of your hair changing color (again). It was just kind of nice to have your normal hair color back for a while. And from what Faith has told you, this new style is a doozy.

“What are you calling this one?” you ask, leaning back into the sink set up behind the chair.

“Sun Fire,” he replies proudly as he begins to work his magic. “You know, like sunshine? But hotter!”

Both you and Faith make a face.

“Gross.”

“Yeah, not loving it.”

“C’mon Link,” you tease. “Can’t you do better than that?”

“Who’s got the bottles of hair dye and controls your immediate future?”

You decide to drop it.

Bored now that you’ve accepted your fate, Faith turns to her phone, nails tapping against the screen as she catches up on all the breaking news that she’s missed in the last ten minutes since she last looked.

“Oh, apparently, some monster near the Walk finally got all the permissions needed to open a grill and bar,” she says with some surprise. "It's opening in a few days."

You try to look over at her but Link keeps your head firmly in place. “Really? That’s…good, right?”

Monsters. They’ve certainly the talk of the town, even if it has been well over a year since they first appeared on the surface. Actually, it’s almost closer to two years by now, isn’t it? You had just barely moved to the city when it happened. In fact, you had been out on the water, the distant shape of the mountain illuminated by the setting sun. Just another day, another moment in time that suddenly changed the world.

You’re brought out of your thoughts by Faith humming thoughtfully. “I hear monster food is made with magic,” she says, excitement making her eyes gleam.  “Only the military has gotten to taste it. Finally we, the general public, will finally be able to taste magic!”

“All food is magic, monster made or not,” you point out.

She waves a hand. “Point to you. Anyway, we’ll have to check out next time we’re by the Walk.”

The Walk being a collection of shops and lower income apartments set pretty close to a series of boardwalks and a cove that most of the locals tend to visit rather than the ‘tourist beach’ up closer to the east side of the city. Of course, thanks to the monsters gradually moving into the city after negotiations with human government had finally passed, all beaches have pretty much become tourist beaches.  It’s not surprising that pretty much everyone in the world wants to see the monsters for themselves.

The area around the Walk is where most monsters seemed to have set up shop, at least for the time being now that they’ve finally been allowed off of the mountain. It’s rather amazing how quickly the area changed from a mostly abandoned shamble of a town outside the main city into a bustling and quickly expanding business strip. But this is the first you’ve heard about a restaurant being run by a monster.

“I wonder what kind of food they’ll be making.”

“Doesn’t say,” Faith mumbles, scrolling through the story. “There’s not a lot of info on it. Just kind of a ‘hey this is happening’ memo.”

The topic changes from there and you chat aimlessly with Faith while Link finishes up with your hair. As his process gets closer to completion, you do find yourself a little nervous.

Link runs blue painted nails through your hair one more time, seemingly satisfied. You try to ignore Faith’s growing grin.

“Yes, yes, yes,” he murmurs to himself.

You fidget under his increasingly frightening glee. “So, um…do I look like a goddess?”

His teeth flash, perfectly white against his dark skin. “See for yourself.”

He spins your chair and you do indeed see for yourself. Your natural hair color has completely disappeared and in it’s place is a stunning array of reds and oranges that fade into a pleasant gold. The colors intermingle just enough to hide the clear lines of transition from one shade to another, blending together in a way that makes your hair appear to shift with each movement of your head. It’s not obnoxiously bright while maintaining the full effect of looking like the sky at sunset.

Whoa.” You run your own fingers through your hair. Holy crap, you…you look awesome!

Link laughs loudly and you swear you can see his nose growing out with pride. "Did I deliver, or did I deliver?" 

"You really did!" There's a huge grin crossing your face as you tilt your head back and forth, examining the colors. 

Faith pops up in the mirror behind you, picking at your locks. "I told you you'd thank me!" 

You shove her playfully. "You did not!" 

"I accept your gratitude. Now." She gives you a smooch on your cheek. "I'm gonna take Liam to work. See you at the studio tonight?" 

You hum your confirmation, still occupied with admiring your hair. 

As Faith leaves, Link starts cleaning up. "Now my sales pitch on this look is that even though it contains super low levels of peroxide, it won't fade for at least three months no matter what you throw at it and it will keep your hair healthy and shiny. And you don't need to wait to wash it! So-" 

"So I can keep up my usual levels of living in the water?" you ask with a grin. 

"I'm counting on it. Now shoo! I've got to clean all this up before my next customer comes in." 

You gleefully leave the salon, very pleased with the results of your hair. Okay, so maybe losing the actual bet still stings your pride a bit but you got this killer look out of it. You head back to your place, a rather run down, shabby set of apartment buildings about a ten minute walk from the Walk. When you first moved here, it was the only place you could afford and it certainly shows. The paint is peeling, the doors all creak and get stuck on a regular basis and you've had more than your fair share of roaches pop up. But the neighbors are quiet (to be honest, with your dancing practice, you're probably the noisy neighbor) and best of all, it's within eye shot of the beach. You're actually rather lucky that you moved in when you did. Once the monsters appeared and started moving into the city, the rent shot up like crazy. But thanks to your pre-established contract, your rent stays within your budget. 

You climb up the stairs to the fourth floor, passing old Ms. Meyers as you do so. She's your next door neighbor and has a rather impressive collection of plants that she keeps crowded around her front door. The woman herself has to be at least in her seventies but she still manages to make it up and down the stairs easily enough when she does leave, which admittedly, isn't often. 

"Hey Ms. Meyers," you greet. 

She looks up from her plants, her bright blue eyes observing you through her too large round glasses. "My goodness! Again?" 

She of course, has been present for your previous adventures in hair color. "Yep! But I think this one really turned out, don't you?" 

"Yes, it's certainly much prettier than that awful green from before." She hobbles over to you, touching it with her wrinkly hand. "You look like your head is on fire!" 

"Isn't it great? Anyway, I'm about to hit the water, I've got to test how well it holds up." 

She waves goodbye. After some wrestling with the door, you step inside your apartment. 

"Hey Stitch," you say, greeting the old gray cat curled up on your couch. His ears twitch and you see his eyes open. He takes you in and, unimpressed with your hair, goes back to sleep. You give him a pat anyway and quickly change into your swimsuit; it's a long sleeved black one piece speckled with light blue splashes of color and black swim shorts. You tuck your keys into the hidden pocket and turn to your boards. It's a fish style board, good for the usual smaller waves out there on the water. Even with a discount from working at the shop, it had cost you a pretty penny and isn't the nicest board around, but it gets the job done. You've taken good care of it and it's one of your most precious possessions. 

"Besides you, Stitch," you say to the cat. 

Stitch offers you a snore. 

You head outside after throwing a towel over your shoulder and start the short walk to the water. It'd be quicker to take your banged up truck but you don't mind walking. It's a beautiful day out, just warm enough to make the idea of cool water appealing. The asphalt quickly changes to sand under your feet and you pick up the pace, eager to get going. No matter how many times you come here, the salty smells, the gentle roar of the waves against the sand, the cry of birds above never fails to make your heart race and your body relax. The beach isn't terribly crowded yet, though that will probably change as the day goes on. You can see the Walk in the distance. A few of the docks extend out over the water but most of the shops and apartments are set back a little ways. The whole area is actually quite large now thanks to the expansion put in place by the King of monsters. You've yet to see him in person, though you've heard that the giant goat like being likes to mingle with his people. Maybe you'll see him when you check out that new bar. 

You kick your shoes off, drop the towel into the sand and head out into the waves. You do shiver a little at the cold water but it doesn't stop you from paddling out away from shore. The waves are small, easy to swim past. There's not a lot of wind so you probably won't get much actual surfing in today. But that's fine, you're just happy to be out here. You sigh happily, leaning back on the board all the way once you've got a little distance. Water laps and tickles your ears and you trail your hands over the surface of the waves. All of your problems just fade away when you're out here. There's no workload from the shop, no tourists in your face screaming their opinion on the monsters in the city, no pressure to perform in front of people. It's just you and the water. 

For quite a while, you just lie there, gently bobbing in the waves. You let the water carry you where it wants, keeping a lazy eye on the distance from the shore. You don't want to go too far out but you're not terribly stressed about it happening. As you float, your eyes shift over to the mountain range in the distance. Though most of them can hardly be called mountains, they're more like extremely large hills. The only one tall enough to actually resemble a mountain is Mount Ebott. That mountain is a good distance away and looks almost blue thanks to the haze of the clouds. You were in this exact spot, just killing time out in the water when the barrier fell. Even from here, you felt it. A wave of power that cut through the air like a strong breeze, stirring up the waves and sending a great shiver down your spine. At the time of course, you had no idea what it meant and just assumed it was a weird sign of an approaching storm. 

But then again, isn't that exactly what it was? 

You've seen monsters around town, often enough that the shock has started to fade. For the most part, you leave them alone to their own business. You're sure they must be tired of all the stares and questions from everyone else. Occasionally though, you have talked with them. Sometimes they come into the surf shop, curious about the sport or looking for beach wear. Every monster you've helped has been cheerful and nice and you really have to admire them for that. You can't imagine what it must have been like, being trapped under the mountain for so long and suddenly having to adjust to life with the species that had trapped them there in the first place. 

You're pulled out of your thoughts by the increasing chatter of voices. You look around and realize you've floated pretty close to the Walk and more and more people start to appear in your field of vision. Tourists, locals and a couple of monsters. You see what looks like large skeleton building a rather impressive sand figurine of himself. There's a white ball on top of a mound next to him...you squint. That's a head. A skull actually. You hope that means there's another whole skeleton buried under the sand but there's no way to know for sure.

You grin. Monsters are so freaking weird. 

You sit up as a large motorboat goes cruising by. That combined with the increasing wind will give you a nice wave to ride in on. As you swing your legs up, you notice someone bobbing in the water a short distance away. It's a kid, maybe nine or ten years old. Their brown hair is plastered to their face and they've got a small paddle board, just enough to keep them afloat. They're quite a ways out and you're about to call out to them, make sure they're okay when you see a flash of color in the water. What the hell was that?! You stare at the spot. There is it again! Whatever it is, it's big and it's moving fast. 

A shark? No way! You've never seen sharks in this area before! 

"Kid!" you call out, paddling as quickly as you can over to them. They continue to kick their feet idly. Crap, they can't hear you.

You see the color flash again, closer this time.

You plow into the water with your arms, glancing at the incoming waves thanks to the boat. If you time this just right-

The kid lets out a little noise of surprise as they finally look up and see you, crazy eyed and with a head of fire like hair bearing down on them. "Shark!" you yell, reaching for them. "Get on!" 

They just blink at you so you grab them by the back of their swim shirt, hauling them up out of the water and onto your board. It's a fight not to capsize but they're smaller than you thought and light so you manage to get them on the board. In a fluid motion, you stand, crouching low over them right as the waves hit you, sending you back to shore. You wobble, adjusting yourself to the extra weight. "Hold on!" you yell to them.

They clutch at your ankles, letting out an excited whoop. Their excitement makes you grin, shark threat aside. You make the board wobble a little and they squeak, tightening their grip. Okay, you're almost to shore! Just a little-

Suddenly something big, blue and red shoots out of the water and slams into you. You yelp with shock and hit the water, knocked clean off your board. You scramble for the surface, caught in the whirling water. You feel someone grab the back of your suit and yank you up and out of the water. You sputter and gasp, preparing for the pain of shark teeth in your neck.

"Who the hell are you?!" 

You swipe your hand over your face, trying to blink away the salt water and realize you're being held up in the air by a monster. A very sharp toothed, fish like monster with shocking red hair pulled back into a pony tail. Two ear fins twitch on either side of it's head, flicking water away. One eye is covered by a black patch but the other one, bright yellow and inhuman, is glaring at you. 

"Hey! I asked you a question!" The monster, who's voice sounds somewhat feminine even though she's yelling, shakes you. You realize you're being held up high enough that the water only reaches your knees.

You give her your name, choking a little thanks to the swallowed sea water. "Could you put me down-" 

She drops you before you finish and you almost fall again. Now the water is up to your waist but barely reaches past her knees. Man she's tall! "Why are you trying to steal Frisk?"

"Huh?" 

"Undyne!" A new voice calls out. You turn your head to see the kid you rescued attempting to paddle over on your board. They're not having much luck. "It's okay! They said there was a shark!" 

"A shark?" Undyne, you presume that's her name, looks out over the water and then back to you. "I was swimming all over the place and I didn't see anything!" 

"But...but I saw something huge swimming and..." you look her up and down then back out over the water. Oh.

"And what?!" 

You cover your mouth. You shouldn't laugh, it's a bad idea but you can't stop yourself from snorting. 

Undyne looks confused and still rather ticked when another voice calls out: 

"WHAT'S GOING ON OVER HERE?" 

You look over to see the tall skeleton you saw before striding out into the waves. They pause next to the kid. "WHY HELLO FRISK! WHEN DID YOU GET SUCH A LARGE SMALL BOAT? I THOUGH YOU ONLY HAD YOUR LITTLE ONE." 

Frisk starts and look around. The paddle board they were using before is nowhere to be seen. They pout for a moment before shaking their head. "It's not mine Papyrus, it's hers." Frisk points to you. 

Papyrus takes you in, soaking wet and probably looking like a deer in headlights before splashing closer. He's the same size as Undyne and the two of them tower of you. Papyrus stares at you for a moment and you feel yourself starting to sweat. His sockets are pitch black and empty. Oh man, this is both terrifying and exhilarating. 

"WOWIE! YOUR HAIR IS SUPER EXCITING!" He suddenly shouts, making you jump. "IT LOOKS ALMOST LIKE GRILLBY'S!" He pats your head (he's wearing gloves? in the water?). He frowns, the motion odd on his skeletal face. "HMM IT'S NOT WARM LIKE HIS THOUGH. IT'S RATHER WET ACTUALLY." 

"Papyrus!" Undyne snaps. "Don't get chummy! This punk was trying to snatch Frisk away!" 

"No, I swear I wasn't!" you say quickly, putting your hands up. "Look, I thought I saw a shark and they can be dangerous. I was just trying to get...Frisk?" You look to them and they nod. "Frisk out of the water. But I guess...I just saw you and um...jumped to conclusions?"

The pair of monsters blink at you for a moment. Then, right at the same moment, they both burst into laughter. Undyne claps a hand on your back hard enough to make you pitch forward. Ow! 

"So I tackled you off your weird boat thing for nothing! Ha ha ha!" Undyne gives you a wide grin.

"YOU TACKLED THEM?" 

"Uh, yeah! Didn't you see my awesome leap?" 

Papyrus guiltily rubs at the back of his skull. "I WAS PUTTING THE FINISHING TOUCHES ON MY SCULPTURE! EVERY OUNCE OF MY FOCUS WAS OCCUPIED!" 

"Aw man, you totally missed it! Hey punk, wanna do it again so he can see?" 

You quickly shake your head. "I'm good thanks." 

Undyne taps her chin with one sharply nailed finger. "That was a pretty cool move yourself, pulling them out of the water like that. You must be pretty strong." She suddenly snatches your arm, making you flex. "Hmm. Not bad, but not as good as mine!" 

She flexes for good measure. They are really impressive. 

"NOR MINE!" Papyrus crows, similarly flexing. His arms...they're just bone. There's no muscle there whatsoever. But he's posing so proudly, you can't bring yourself to mention that. 

"Yeah, really impressive," you say, trying to hide your smile. 

Frisk finally manages to paddle over to the three of you. You reach out and steady the board. "Hey, I hope I didn't scare you." 

They shake their head, beaming at you. "That was awesome! I've always wanted to surf!" 

"Well, hey, come by the surf shop down that way," you say, pointing in the direction you came from. "It's called Surf Free. Can't miss it. I give lessons Wednesday through Saturday."

"Surfing huh?" Undyne looks thoughtful for a moment before breaking into a wide. "Sounds fun! Count me in!"

"ME TOO!"

You can't stop yourself from giggling at the mental image of a skeleton on a surfboard. But then again, there's plenty of merch out there that already uses that exact image. "Sounds good to me!" 

Papyrus suddenly takes your hand. "BROTHER! THIS HUMAN IS GOING TO TEACH ME TO SURF!" He drags you out of the water and Undyne helps you out by grabbing your board, dumping Frisk into the water and carrying it out with her. Papyrus leads you to the mound of sand next to his finished sculpture. You were right; there's a skull sitting atop a mound of sand. He blinks sleepily at you.

"surfing huh?" This skeleton's voice is softer than the booming yelling of his brother. "you do remember that you sink in the water, right paps?" 

Papyrus goes dead still for a moment before throwing his hands up in the air with a devastated, "NYOO HOO! I COMPLETELY FORGOT! HUMAN!" He whirls on you, taking your hands with his. "IS IT TRUE THAT I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SURF?"

Oh dang, you didn't think about that. But... he doesn't even have lungs does he? He's a skeleton! But you can't imagine sinking into the ocean would be fun for him. You don't want to crush this enthusiastic monster's hopes but... "Well...um, you could...stay in the shallows? You're really tall, you'd still be able to surf the small waves without worrying about sinking if you fell off." 

Papyrus beams at you, his expression changing from devastation to joy at a speed that leaves you dizzy. He hugs you, lifting you up into the air. "THANK YOU HUMAN! I AM HAPPY WITH THAT!" 

The tightness of his hug takes your breath away and thanks to the coating of salt water in your throat, you start coughing. Papyrus puts you down in alarm, patting your back. 

"Are you okay?" Frisk asks with concern. 

"Yeah," you cough, fighting to get your breath back. "I think I just swallowed some sea water." 

"THEN YOU NEED A DRINK TO CLEAR YOUR THROAT, RIGHT?" Papyrus nods knowingly. "ALLOW US TO TREAT YOU HUMAN!" 

"Oh, no that's-" You break off into more coughing. 

"why don't we go to grillby's new place?" The skull in the sand pipes up. "plenty of drinks there."

"EXCELLENT IDEA! EVEN THOUGH IT IS JUST AS GREASY AS BEFORE I CAN BEAR IT FOR THE SAKE OF HER THROAT!" 

They all seem set on it, so you decide to go along. "Okay, thanks guys. I just gotta get my shoes. They're back that way." 

"I'll get 'em," Undyne volunteers. "I'm fast!" 

"I'M FASTER!" 

"Oh yeah?!" 

The two of them take off running before you can protest and it's just you, Frisk and what you are still hoping is an entire skeleton buried in the sand. At least she left your board before she took off. 

"C'mon, help me dig him out," Frisk says, tugging at your hand. "Otherwise he'll just sit here all day." 

The skull grins. "what can i say? i'm sans motivation." 

Frisk kneels and starts digging at the sand and a moment later, you do the same. The skeleton watches you. It's a little unsettling but you notice that instead of the blank black sockets that Papyrus has, his contains two fuzzy circles of light that follow your movements. His mouth is shaped differently too and seems to be stuck in a smile that shifts a little as he talks.

"that's my name by the way." 

You snort. "What, Motivation?" 

His grin grows a little. "nah, just sans. i don't have any motivation, as previously stated." 

"Ah, well it is nice to meet you Sans. You said we're going to Grillby's? Is that the new bar I heard about?" 

You unearth a bony hand. The digits wiggle at you. "yep." 

"I thought it wasn't opening for a few more days?" 

Sans uses his newly freed hand to scratch at his skull. "officially yeah but it's been open to monsters for a while now. we'll give you a pass," he says with a wink.

Well that's cool! You'll be able to brag about visiting the new bar early to Faith. Papyrus said something about your hair being similar to Grillby's? You have to assume that's the monster who runs to the place. You wonder what he means by that.

By the time Undyne and Papyrus return, you and Frisk have managed to free Sans from the sand and he is indeed a whole skeleton and not just a head. He's a lot smaller than his brother and a little more round. How that works with just bones, you have no idea. His simple t-shirt and shorts combo is filthy, covered in sand and what looks like ketchup stains. 

"I SEE YOU'VE UNEARTHED MY BROTHER!" Papyrus says happily. He doesn't look winded as all. Undyne however-

"I...hate...the heat!" she pants. She holds out your shoes and towel. "I hope this is yours or we just stole some stuff." 

You take your stuff. "Nope, this is mine. Thanks guys." 

Papyrus leans down and picks his brother up, shaking him to dislodge the last of the sand. "YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO WASH OFF BEFORE WE GO HOME! YOU'VE GOT SAND IN ALL OF YOUR CREVICES!"

"i'm gonna have to change my name to sand the skeleton huh?"

You snicker as everyone else groans and follow the odd group as they head towards the Walk. Papyrus offers to carry your board for you and you once again can't bring yourself to say no. But he handles it with care and the tension soon leaves your shoulders. Frisk bounds ahead with Undyne as she chatters to Papyrus about someone called Alphys. Sans is walking at more of a easy shamble and you find yourself walking next to him. You notice his eye lights keep moving up to stare at your hair. You run your hands through it; it's air dried quite a bit by now.

"Does it look okay?" 

Sans' gaze drops back down to your face. "yeah?" he says with clear confusion. 

You laugh a little. "Sorry, I just had it done this morning. I'm testing out a friend's new hair dye technique." 

"oh. well, i dunno much about all that," he says, tapping at his own hairless skull. "but it looks pretty cool. reminds me of someone i know." 

"Papyrus said the same thing earlier. Is it the guy who runs the bar?"

"that's him." Sans grins widely. "i'm just burning to see how he's gonna react."