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Six Skeletons, One Store Clerk

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Monday

Your feet hurt. A lot.

You considered it a blessing that there were at least five others on the floor where you couldn't be, restocking items customers had returned or simply didn't want, rearranging certain classes of items so there would be enough space for a new class to fit in next week, and, of course, displaying that over-the-top-bubbly, Mary Poppins-esque fake smile as they happened to pass within ten feet of a customer, asking cheerfully about their day and if they needed help finding any store item their little hearts desired.

Yeah, you were obviously glad that you were spared from doing all of that inane prattle by yourself at the end of the day, but that still didn't mean that you were particularly a fan of standing stock-still behind register #1, doomed to remain in one place for hours on end while your other coworkers wandered about freely. In fact, you could have sworn that one or two of them, clad in their navy uniform vests, plastic nametags and their Dr. Scholl's-clad tennis shoes, simply happened to pass by the front of the store where you resided, only to exaggeratedly yawn and stretch their limbs as they meandered right on by, and just to get a playful rise out of you.

The unmistakable feeling of pins and needles in your left foot urged you to stomp it in place in an irritated huff, until you felt the blood flow resume correctly. You couldn't help but mutter about skipping your clockwork routine at your local gym for this.

Yeah, you were just peachy.

And then the bell over the sliding doors jingled as a couple walked into the store, snapping you out of your thoughts enough for you to instinctively plaster on a Lite-Brite-worthy smile in their direction. When you had gotten a better look at the couple to realize that, unsurprisingly, another pair of monsters had come striding leisurely over to the cart-return section, you instantly allowed your smile to soften the slightest bit to form one near genuine in nature.

That fact also drove you to call out to them in a much sweeter voice than your usual monotone drawl, "Hi, how're you folks doing today?"

The couple, a pair of bipedal dogs looking to wear full suits of armor (on such a hot day as it was? You were surprised that they weren't panting like...well, dogs), turned their heads to look at you while managing not to break their almost intense-looking, nose-nuzzling moment going on. When they took notice of the fact that a human had addressed them, the male dog seemed to automatically tense; not uncommon, though the store posed a much friendlier atmosphere than most. The female, however, must have detected the amount of genuine curiosity and acceptance that you tried your hardest to portray in your voice, eyes and smile, because she made it a point to respond with a fur-lined smile of her own right back at you, her black-spotted tail wagging excitedly.

(We are doing wonderfully. Thank you, weird puppy - um, I mean, nice human!) she corrected herself before turning to her partner, her large, black eyes seeming to sparkle. (See, Dogamy? Didn't I tell you that this town was a perfect place to settle? I mean, take a look at the environment; it's exactly what we need during these times, don't you think?)

The male, Dogamy, made an effort to soften his uncomfortable look at you once he also caught sight of your smile and registered the reassuring words of the female hanging lovingly off of his arm. (Whatever you say, my Dogaressa,) he agreed, seeming to appease her excitement. He then turned to ask you directly, (Would you happen to know where your dog treats are located, human clerk?)

You nodded. You knew off the top of your head that you had plenty of kinds of treats and snacks to choose from in your pet-catering aisle, but you also knew that, because of who was asking, these two would be more interested in monster-brand dog treats in particular. Oddly enough, the dog treats monster dogs usually partook in behaved similar to cigarettes, which were located within the adult-groceries section of the store. You told them both as much, finding your assumption to be correct, and pointing them in the direction. All this time, your smile never wavered from its place even an inch.

Dogamy nodded at your aid, turning back to his mate with a similar smile to hers. (Come on, my little hot dog~), he said affectionately. With that, they each gave you a parting nod, strolling off to their destination while nuzzling noses and exchanging similar sentiments.

You found your small smile to still be lingering long after the two had left your line of sight. You couldn't help it. It was true that you had already found monsters and their culture to be fascinating in the first place - it was what drove you to choose a monster-friendly grocer's to work at, after all - but those two were simply too adorable for you to revert back to your emotionless, neutral-opinionated cashier's personality. In fact, it was the little things like these that, even from humans, tended to put you in a good mood for the rest of your day behind your boring cash register.

So what if your boss had called you this morning at the last minute, insisting you take the evening shift? So what if you had to cancel your self-scheduled time at the gym for the day? So what if you had to spend that time standing in one spot until your break time - which was literally hours away at this point? So what if the blood circulation in your foot was disrupted for a mere minute or two?

If you had people like this coming and going during your shift, smiling and greeting you warmly and having a much nicer disposition than most - coming from monsters, no less, given the tension brewing between your species and theirs even after three years - then you couldn't bring yourself not to care, to simply be another forgettable face in the crowd that they wouldn't pay any mind to after a few minutes. You were going to show those two just how much of an improvement they had made on your day whenever they came back! You made a mental note to remember what they looked like.

"HIYA, HUMAN! I'M READY TO CHECK OUT!"

Your mind unconsciously wandered to think about how funny and ridiculous it would be if you were in a relationship just like they had with each other. Just the stares alone you would receive would make it all worth it!

"UHM...HUMAN?"

If it was with a monster, that last fact would be even more likely, you reasoned. But you...with a monster? Not that you would mind, but the chances of the public eye viewing something like that as endearing would be minuscule.

Sigh...if only humans were like monsters. They were much nicer, in your experiences interacting with them. They wore their hearts on their sleeves, practically.

"HUMAN, ARE YOU OKAY? YOU'VE GOT THIS WEIRD SMILE ON YOUR FACE..."

No, wait, it would be their souls in this sense, wouldn't it?

"OH! I UNDERSTAND NOW!"

A sudden sound like someone snapping their fingers together startled you out of your thinking (daydreaming?), and you turned to face the source at the opposite end of your register counter. In front of you stood another monster, having all of his items on the counter ready for checkout. Had he been there this entire time?!

Oh, stars, you sincerely hoped that the customer service manager hadn't returned from their break to their spot at the front and witness your slip-up.

"Oh, my goodness! I'm so sorry, sir! I wasn't even paying attention, and it's been a rather slow day for me so far, so my mind has been wandering pretty often, and of course, these things happen from time to time, and I'll be glad to finally...well, uhm..." you rambled out an apology rather quickly, dead-set on preventing him from becoming any more irritated than he probably already was with you. You were just staring off into LaLa Land while he was trying to make a conversation with you, for Pete's sake!

Speaking of which... "What was it that you were saying before? I didn't quite...register much..."

You trailed off unintentionally once you had gotten a better look at the monster. Oddly enough, you hadn't seen this type before now: a skeleton, he looked like. He was a little on the shorter side, only coming up to your chest and having only his skull able to pass the counter's height. His attire was certainly something else as well, what looked almost like a sky-blue and grey-colored costume of what you could only assume was a knight of some sort. There was a large, light-blue bandanna tied around his neck to somehow complete the look he sported.

You had only glanced over his outfit before your gaze settled on his face. His features seemed surprisingly malleable despite being made of bone (was that even bone?), given the smile gracing his teeth that was almost wide enough to split his skull in two. His cheekbones were also dusted with a bright, almost glowing light-blue. Magic? That had to be it; why else would you see a blush on a skeleton? But you weren't too focused on that, either.

"Your...eyes..." you couldn't help but gawk as you took in his eyes - well, eyesockets. There looked to be literal stars in his eyes: some kind of light-blue, star-shaped pupils floating in an endless expanse of black. They were even twinkling, somehow, dancing in his sockets as he all but held your gaze in...admiration? Pride? Joy? Well, whatever was making those stars shine, it only added to the single adjective you could supply to this skeleton monster.

Ah-dorable.

"MWEH-HEH-HEH-HEH!" the skeleton laughed joyfully, catching sight of your bewildered stare, before he continued in a loud, boisterous tone, "I SAID THAT I UNDERSTAND WHY YOU HAD THAT DREAMY SMILE ON YOUR FACE WHEN I APPROACHED YOU!"

Dreamy smile? Oh, jeez, you hoped that the tiled floor from under you would swallow you whole right then and there to save you from what was sure to be inevitable embarrassment.

"...Wh-why is that?" you muttered, cheeks tinged a light pink to combat his sky-blue hue.

The skeleton suddenly struck a pose: his hands on his hips and his chest puffed out in a pride-filled stance, all the while looking at you with what seemed to be a knowing look in his eye(socket).

"WHY, YOU'RE BLUSHING, FAIR HUMAN! THIS, PAIRED WITH YOUR STUTTERING WORDS AND THAT BEAUTIFUL SMILE MUST ONLY MEAN ONE THING: YOU'VE FALLEN HEAD-OVER-HEELS IN LOVE WITH ME!"

"Wh-what?!" you squeaked, too stunned to politely refute his deduction, or even deny it. As if every deity known out there were conspired against you, you felt your blush only darken in shade, and any words in your mind failed to take form on your tongue, adding to your stammer.

The skeleton laughed again at your reaction, though not mockingly so. Instead, it seemed as though it were in victory, as if he had been correct in proving his point that it was, indeed, love at first sight.

Which it so, totally, wasn't.

"THERE IS NO NEED TO FEEL SHY UNDER HAVING SUCH INTENSE AND SUDDEN DECLARATIONS OF AFFECTION FOR ME, FAIR HUMAN," he continued, still going strong and showing no signs of stopping any time soon. Why did he have to talk so loudly?! You thanked the stars above that it was still a slow period for you, and that he was the only customer in sight. "AFTER ALL, I, THE MAGNIFICENT SA - UHM, BLUE, AM VERY GREAT!"

Okay, this had to stop. You opened your mouth to try and revert the subject back to the items he carried to the counter, but before you could get a word out, he further continued his speech like it had been long prepared up until this point.

"BUT, ALAS, LOVELY MISS! I AM AFRAID THAT I SIMPLY CANNOT RETURN THESE PASSIONATE FEELINGS OF DESIRE THAT YOU HOLD SO DEAR FOR ME." the skeleton, Blue, suddenly announced in a tone that took on the implication that his own words were mortally wounding him. "FOR, AS SUDDEN AND ROMANTIC AS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT IS, MY OWN FEELINGS MUST RUN FAR DEEPER IN ORDER FOR ME TO MAKE A FULL CONNECTION." One of his hands clutched at his shirt, right where a heart would be (if living skeletons possessed one). "OH, HOW HEARTBROKEN YOU MUST FEEL NOW, SWEET HUMAN!"

You blinked. Boy, this was taking so many turns, you could have sworn that you were fast-forwarding through season after season of one those cheesy, monster-run drama shows (What was his name again? Megatron? Mettabot? Something like that?) by the second. Not to mention that with the way that Blue was dramatically refuting your 'affections' and pretty much hamming it up as if he were performing some grand stage play for an audience, it was all somehow making you secretly want to roll with it, just to see where the adorable monster was heading with this whole scene.

But the only words you could supply were, "...Sure, let's go with that."

As riveting as this was, you needed to do your job.

"BUT FEAR NOT," Blue declared. Hopefully he was coming up on the end of his little performance. "FOR THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU STILL DO NOT HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO BE MY COOL FRIEND WHILE YOUR FEELINGS OF LOVE QUICKLY DIE OUT. IF YOU SO DESIRE, I WILL HELP YOU THROUGH THESE TRYING TIMES YOU EXPERIENCE, FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES FOR YOU TO RECOVER." he finished with a smile once more crossing his bony features. His eyesockets flashed with those same stars again as he gave you a hopeful stare. "WHAT DO YOU SAY, HUMAN CLERK?"

After his ramblings had finished, you finally found yourself shooting him a small, patient smile, one that you were used to giving to customers who would tell you about how their day was going. You found yourself asking mentally...what on earth had just happened? And yet, you already knew your answer: certainly a meeting for the books, that was for darn sure. In fact, you could even say that you had been thoroughly entertained by the whole spectacle. Whatever was going through your mind through the twists and turns of this first conversation, it did absolutely nothing to dissuade you from your previous good mood. All in all, there was something about the air that this skeleton possessed that you simply couldn't be mad about in the slightest.

So, picking up one of his items - a package of monster-brand taco seasoning, it looked like - you gave him your answer. "That's perfectly fine by me, hon. Did you find everything you were looking for beforehand?"

The stars in his eyesockets twinkled at your acquiescence, before he remembered he was checking out. He grinned. "INDEED I DID, UHM..." Blue leaned forward slightly, taking only a second for you to realize that he was reading your nametag. "MISS Y/N! A VERY FITTING NAME, BY THE WAY; IT'S VERY NICE-SOUNDING, LIKE YOU ARE!"

Well, consider your happiness meter (and your awww-meter) boosted by ten percent.

"well, that was quite a performance," a new voice spoke up, and you and Blue turned to find another skeleton monster sauntering up to stand behind the former. This new monster was much taller than Blue, almost being a head or so taller than you, and he was dressed much more casually - sporting an orange hoodie, cargo shorts and a pair of well-worn orange sneakers. His hands were stuffed in the pocket of his sweatshirt, and he had an unlit cigarette dangling from the lazy grin on his skull. "every word managed to capture my ears...if i had any, that is."

The taller skeleton chuckled at his own joke, and you even found yourself fighting back a snort. Blue, surprisingly, did a complete one-eighty from his joyful mood. His grin morphed into a pout (complete with his bony cheeks puffed out in anger), and the stars disappeared from his sockets with a blink, replaced with tiny, sky-blue pinpricks instead. He stomped his foot childishly.

"PAPY! WERE YOU SPYING ON US?!" he shouted, and, much to his irritation, the taller skeleton seemed unfazed by it. "THAT'S INCREDIBLY RUDE! NOT TO MENTION TORTURING THIS POOR HUMAN CLERK WITH ONE OF YOUR TERRIBLE JOKES!"

The taller monster, Papy(?), shrugged in response, his eyesockets never wavering from that lazy hood to them. "what can i say, bro? i've just..."

Blue interrupted him. "PAPY, DON'T YOU DARE FINISH THAT SENTENCE."

"got..."

"PAPY, I WILL HARM YOU."

"a..."

"BROTHER..."

"skele-ton of them."

That seemed to be the grain of rice that tipped the scale. Blue wailed angrily, rushing over to the taller skeleton - whom you now knew to be his brother - and furiously beating on his chest with his blue-gloved fists. The taller, again, didn't seem to mind, snickering at his second joke as his shorter brother pounded away futilely in his temper-tantrum.

All the while, you were pointedly fighting to hold back your giggles at the display; you didn't want to come across as rude, after all. Instead, you opted for sliding the rest of Blue's items across your scanner, and bagging them, like you would do normally for any other customer. Most of his items consisted of ingredients to make and prepare tacos...aside from a single tube of glitter floating among them. You couldn't help but wonder what it was for.

After you finished bagging the items, you looked up to see that Blue had finished his little outburst, resorting to crossing his arms and hunching his shoulders in a childish pout. Seeing this, you allowed your patient smile to kick it up a notch in sincerity. It was practically in your job description to see customers leave with a smile, after all.

So you spoke up. "Those must be some pretty special tacos you're making, Blue; you picked out some pretty high-quality ingredients to make them."

To your delight, Blue's attitude perked right back up at your deduction. "I'M GLAD YOU NOTICED, MISS Y/N! THESE ARE INDEED THE INGREDIENTS I NEED TO PREPARE MY SPECIAL FRIENDSHIP TACOS!" he leaned in once more, holding a hand sideways up to his mouth as if he was telling you a secret. "THE SPECIAL INGREDIENT IS THAT GLITTER OVER THERE!"

"O-oh...!" was all you could supply at first. 'That glitter over there' you scanned wasn't even edible! You hoped, for the sake of the recipient of those 'friendship tacos' that Blue would only put in a pinch of the stuff. "They must be very...flashy, then, aren't they?" you asked neutrally. With the way he was staring at you now, with something akin to childish innocence in those sockets, you didn't have the heart to shoot him down.

Blue laughed gleefully once again. "ONLY THE FLASHIEST! MY FRIENDS ONLY DESERVE THE FINEST DELICACIES FROM THE MAGNIFICENT MASTER CHEF, BLUE!" Another pose. How was his bandanna...fluttering? There wasn't even any wind!

"I'm...sure they will be." you agreed with him, seeing his brother's pointed look at you from the corner of your eye. At your response, you caught the taller skeleton soften his stare and give you an almost imperceptible nod of approval.

You turned back to your register sadly. As entertaining as this was, you had to get this show on the road before any other customers formed a line. You told Blue his total balance, to which he fished out a wallet from his pants pocket and pull out a shiny metallic credit card. In all honesty, you were a bit shocked; considering his somewhat childish demeanor, you had half expected him to pull out a crumpled wad of cash and coins.

Realizing what you had just thought, you mentally kicked yourself for being so judging. Such actions does not a good cashier make, after all.

The receipt printed out, and you handed it to Blue with a smile. "Well, thank you for shopping with us, Blue. I hope to see you again soon!"

It was a simple gesture, a thank-you that you said to all departing customers regardless if you knew them or not, but one look from the little skeleton showed you that he was ecstatic by it. His sockets twinkled with stars yet again, his grin had somehow gotten wider, and he even let out a little squeal of glee, gazing at you with such happiness, you swore your very heart was melting.

"I WILL, MISS Y/N! I'D COME HERE EVERY DAY IF A HUMAN AS NICE AS YOU WERE TO HELP ME CHECK OUT!" Blue suddenly snapped his fingers, looking like a light bulb had gone off above his head. "IN FACT, MAY I SEE A SLIP OF PAPER AND A PEN?"

Your brow raised quizzically, but you shrugged nonetheless, printing out a blank piece of receipt tape, grabbing a pen, and handing them to him. At once, he began furiously writing something down, holding a hand in front of the paper so you couldn't see.

You glanced over to his brother, expression unchanging, but he simply mirrored your shrug, rolling the unlit cig between his teeth.

You waited until Blue had finished writing, and when he did, he wasted no time in shoving the paper into your hands, closing his own around them as if he were giving you a prized possession. "I HOPE TO HEAR FROM YOU SOON, HUMAN Y/N! YOU SIMPLY MUST TRY MY MAGNIFICENT FRIENDSHIP TACOS SOMETIME!" With that, he rushed excitedly out of the store, giggling to himself all the while.

You blinked in surprise, unfolding the receipt tape in your hands.

'CALL ME ANYTIME, HUMAN Y/N!

XXX-XXX-XXXX

-THE MAGNIFICENT BLUE :)'

A phone number. He had given you his phone number.

"hey, congrats, kid; he likes you." the voice of the taller brother startled you so hard that you jumped, fumbling with the slip so you wouldn't drop it. Without giving you a chance to compose yourself, he leaned forward so his elbow rested on the counter top, and so he was almost eye-level with you. He was regarding you with that same lazy look as before, but you knew there was so much more behind it in that moment - something sharper that you could only describe as a protective aura. For whom, you were almost certain you knew. "he's a pretty good judge of character, ya know. he sees the good in everyone, and you..." he paused, taking the cig from his mouth and holding it between his fingers as he stared you down. You squirmed uncomfortably, trying not to make your gulp too audible.

"you weren't just pulling that 'bubbly cashier' shtick. i could tell you meant what you said, so thanks."

You let out a tense breath you hadn't realized you had been holding in. Jeez, you felt like you were about to shrink in on yourself under his judgmental gaze. How was is he could go from a seemingly lazy jokester to making you feel like you were in a full-on job interview?! You cleared your throat, which had suddenly gotten uncomfortably dry, to reply to him.

"Y-yeah, you're welcome. He's certainly seems very..."

Trailing off, you tried to find a good enough description to compliment the smaller skeleton, and the brother's bony brow raised further upward at your pause.

"passionate about what he enjoys." you finished.

The brother softened his look at your answer, and you desperately hoped he picked up the level of genuine-ness you supplied with it. Finally, all of the tension seemed to dissipate as he chuckled lightheartedly, putting the cigarette back in his mouth. "yeah...isn't my brother cool?"

You finally smiled back, relaxing your shoulders. "Certainly one of the coolest monsters I've ever seen, that's for sure, mister." you replied, once again finding yourself meaning every word.

The brother's own smile seemed to grow.

You finally took notice of how long you had been talking with him. It was a complete miracle no other customers had shown up yet to hurry your conversations along. Still, you had to at least humor him a little, lest the CSM be watching out of your field of vision. "By the way, did you want to check anything out, mister...Papy...?" you guessed, trying out the name Blue had called him earlier.

The tall skeleton whole-heartedly laughed at that, shaking his head slightly. "nah, i'm good, but only my bro calls me that. you can call me stretch, okay, honey?"

You blinked, stunned into silence at the nickname he had used for you. Against your will, your blush returned, dousing your cheeks in a light pink as you nodded almost a little too frantically. 

What was with this guy? Making you laugh one moment, practically fear for your life in the next, and then leaving you a blushing, speechless mess at the end? Heck, you had even used that same nickname on Blue not ten minutes ago! But...there was just something about the way he said it, in such a drawling, relaxed tone that seemed to curl around you like nonexistent smoke from that cigarette of his, and it was just...woah.

"so..." he tilted his head slightly, his cigarette bobbing between his teeth as he spoke. "are you gonna call him?"

You registered his words after a moment, making you take another moment to stop and think about your next response. Should you call him? Blue definitely seemed innocent enough that it wouldn't pose too many problems for you, but, he had the full expectation that he wanted to meet up with you - and for you to try his cooking, no less. How would that play out, then? You had just met him, for Pete's sake! Not to mention the fact that his brother seemed to be taking the 'intimidating and overprotective sibling' role to a new level; he wouldn't want a complete stranger calling his brother, or even meeting up with him. But then again, Stretch had almost basically given you a stamp of approval when Blue outright declared his friendship with you. did that mean anything? Were you looking too much into things? Were you taking too long in deciding this?

Stretch raised another bone brow at the length of your pause.

Yep, you were taking too long.

"Well, uhm..." you began nervously, wanting nothing more but to stay on this monster's good side. "I mean, Blue's a really nice guy, and you already heard him rejecting my 'feelings' before, so I really wouldn't mind being friends with him too much at all! And, uhm, I've accidentally swallowed some glitter in the past many times before, so trying his tacos if he wants me to shouldn't be too bad, in my case. And, uhm..." you trailed off, your voice getting higher and higher pitched by the second.

It was Stretch's relaxed chuckle that made you stop, seeing him give you another content look paired with that lazy-looking smile of his. "relax, hon, i'm glad you're taking him up on the offer. if was if you weren't that the story would be, well...different."

Yeah, you were totally relaxed now.

"can i see the paper and pen he gave you?"

Confused, you complied and gave him the folded up note and pen, watching him write something of his own down on the backside. Stretch didn't hold up a hand to conceal his own writing, so you would clearly see that he had scribbled down his own number, along with a message:

'just in case you're feeling phone-ly.

-stretch'

He handed you back the note, and you looked it over, the corners of your lips turning up slightly at the pun he used. Almost immediately, you came up with a perfect response for him.

"Thanks for the number, but wouldn't I instead be feeling bone-ly in your case?" you snickered playfully.

He actually snorted this time, and you couldn't help but feel that you'd just improved your budding friendship with him as well as his brother. He waved a hand dismissively. "yeah, probably, but i didn't use that pun 'cause it'd be too obvious."

This time, you joined him in his laughter.

After your mirth had died down, Stretch reached an arm over the counter to grab Blue's bag of items. Apparently, the little guy had been so excited to give you his number that he forgot them in his hurry to get out of the store.

"listen, uh - y/n, right?" he asked, and you nodded. For some reason, the way he said your name like that, in almost that exact tone of voice he had used when he called you 'honey', had you fighting off another blush-in-the-making. This was starting to get ridiculous, this rollercoaster of emotions he was putting you through. Would it ever end if your friendship with him grew in time? ...Would you even want it to?

"blue really wasn't kidding back there: you're kindhearted, for a human, and like i said, i could tell you meant everything you said when you were talking to him; you weren't just trying to appease him." again, he took his cigarette from between his teeth, this time pocketing the unused thing in his cargo shorts. "you're a good person, kiddo, and i don't say that to just anyone."

Finally, he shot you a lazy, extended wink, before turning around to call to you over his shoulder, "we'll both be lookin' forward to that call, if you get the chance. see ya 'round, honey."

Before you could muster up a response, he was gone.

Finally alone, you let out a final, award-winning sigh. To say that whole encounter was interesting would be an understatement. You had met, and practically befriended two monsters - one of which was almost too precious for words, and the other...well, you knew that your heart shouldn't have been racing for this long after he had left, and you shouldn't be wondering what emotion it was from, either.

And you had gotten both of their phone numbers.

You checked your register clock, shocked to find that not even half an hour had gone by since your exchange. How in the world were you supposed to face the rest of your boring shift after that?

All too soon, your slow period in the day reached its inevitable end, and you had finally gotten that line of customers you had been dreading. But...to say that it deflated your mood would be a complete lie. You found that every family that came by with a playful, energetic child had you thinking back to Blue's downright adorable demeanor, and that every baggy sweatshirt or lazy remark to your polite small talk had you remembering Stretch's easy-going smirk, unlit cig and all.

The day went by much faster than you thought, to your delight. You even managed to wave that armored dog couple from before into your line. And you made sure to let them know exactly about the chain reaction of good moods that they had started in you.

The second you could clock out and grab your things to head home for the night (you thanked the stars that this place wasn't open twenty-four/seven. As much of a night owl you tended to be like, you needed your sleep, too), you fished out the note with the brothers' phone numbers, thankfully still intact from being in your pocket all day. After a moment of nervousness, you shut the brief insecurities down in favor of adding both of their numbers in. You also shot them each a text for good measure.

You: Hey, this is Y/n from Monster and Human Groceries. Do I have the right number?

You had to snicker to yourself as you sent the messages. You had worked at the store for some time now, long enough to that you were taken seriously enough not to be referred to as 'some college kid part-timer', but you still got a laugh every now and then from the name of the building. Whoever had founded this store in the first place had been a pretty forward thinker, but had to be downright lousy and coming up with names.

You finally heard your phone alert you of some new messages as you drove to the district where your apartment complex was located. In the far off distance, almost blending in with the warm colors of the horizon under the setting sun, you could see the snowy cap of the infamous Mt. Ebott.

Your mind wandered, on instinct, to remember the day that the shocking bomb had dropped: monsters were real, and they were coming for all of the humans. Widespread panic had ensued by nearly every human, and you were no exception. To be honest, you had been no better than the rest of humanity when the news had first reached your ears. Scary, inhuman monsters that haunted bedtime stories and horror films everywhere were suddenly more than simply stories to prevent children from looking under their beds? You had wanted nothing more than to get the heck out of dodge and go running back home for your parents to protect you.

But, soon enough, with the help of the tiny monster ambassador smoothing the risen tensions over (as much as they could, being no more than ten years old at the time), and several testimonies of peaceful intentions from the mysterious creatures, humanity had been only kind enough to give the monsters the mere basic necessities they required for integrating into society. Of course, the nature of humans can only go so far, with fear, prejudice and downright hateful actions taking place from the moment after they stepped out of the mountainside.

Getting used to the change for you was no simple walk in the park, either. In the past three years since the integration, you had: been settling into your apartment for the first time - the first taste of life on your own, been notified that your district was to be where mixed species were allowed to live together, and gotten a part-time job at the only business that would allow your lack of work experience: the newly opened, monster-friendly grocery store in your area. Throughout all of this, having time to interact with monsters firsthand and learn more than you ever could about them from experiences other than simple bedtime stories, you had been making vows to view the new future ahead of you with an open, positive mind. With some hard work, dedication, and DETERMINATION on your part, you were brought back to the present, doing all you could to coexist with these fascinating new faces, a smile on your face through it all.

And you were doing a pretty darn good job so far, if you did say so yourself, thank you very much.

You pulled into the parking lot of the complex, switching your car off, grabbing your bags and making the trek into the building like clockwork. Opening the door to the place you'd called home for three long years only served to dull you gaze as you looked at your meager surroundings. You certainly weren't starving for money, that was for sure, but it wasn't extravagantly the opposite, either. It looked simply...normal. Other than certain things that added your own little touch of flair here and there, your surroundings were completely uninteresting. You also expected to go through your nightly routine like normal, with no unexpected interruption or spontaneous events whatsoever.

Sigh. Home, sweet-boring-and-tedious home.

...Until you remembered your phone. You yanked it out of your bag, flying through your notifications until you found what you were sure to be the correct ones. Sure enough, the skeleton brothers had responded, and paired with the contact names you had given each of them, their texts made you giggle aloud.

Adora-Blue: YOU HAVE THE CORRECT NUMBER, HUMAN Y/N! WAS THE REST OF YOUR DAY AS MAGNIFICENT AS I AM?

Stretch-shirt: yep. text-stravigant day you've been having, hon?

After typing some quick responses (and racking your brain for any phone-related puns for Stretch), your brain decided that this was the limit of energy it was going to supply for today. You yawned explosively, flopping down on your bed for the night, and not even bothering to change out of your work clothes. There were only two more days left until your day off. You could make it.

Yeah...you could make it...

 

You were woken up hours later from some particularly loud talking coming from the other side of your wall. Groggily, you decided that banging on the wall to make them stop would only make them agitated. Instead, you turned your head and strained to overhear the conversation, like the little eavesdropper you were.

"...WILL BE AN EXCELLENT PLACE TO LIVE! DON'T YOU THINK SO?"

Funny, that sounded a little like Blue...

"...decide with the others. try not to get your hopes up."

...And that kind of sounded like Stretch. What were those two doing here?

After a long pause of silence, you shrugged mentally, falling back asleep almost instantly. You were desperate for some well-deserved shut-eye, and besides: those few rooms next to you had been vacant ever since you moved in. You might have just been dreaming everything that you heard.

Yeah, that sounded right.

Chapter Text

Tuesday

Another evening shift come and gone. At least this time you were able to double your workout time for the appointment you had missed the day before (your work uniform might not have been doing your body much justice as it was, but that didn't mean you could condone any slacking!). Thankfully as well, the flow of customers in and out of the store had been surprisingly much steadier than they had been the previous day. This allowed the time to almost fly by, and for you to distract yourself from your recently wandering mind.

Yeah, you were still thinking about the brothers.

But, in your defense, how could you not? Just this afternoon, you had received close to a tsunami of text messages from Blue, ranging from wondering how you slept last night, to listing tips on a successful 'training session' at the time of your workout (how any human could keep up with what he considered a normal workout was beyond you), to your opinion on your favorite 'finishing touches' for tacos (he gave you three options of what he had to work with: maple syrup, marshmallow cereal, or licorice candy. With your decision, you mentally added to bring along a bottle of pepto bismol). Stretch wasn't nearly as active, save for the occasional grocery-related pun (how were there even that many?) or update on what his brother was doing.

Compared to the day before, absolutely nothing of apparent interest had occurred during your shift, and you found yourself, surprisingly, the most bored you'd been on the job in a long while. You kind of expected it when that feeling came by where you wanted nothing more than both of the skeletons to wander once more past those sliding glass doors - with those twinkling starry pupils in Blue's wonder-filled sockets, and a pun and/or cigarette hanging off of Stretch's lips (teeth?).

And, boy, that feeling hit you hard.

Sadly, the rest of your evening shift flew by in but a blink, and before you knew it, there was only half an hour left until closing. Besides you and your skittering coworkers, you could have sworn that the store was completely deserted. You thought so due to the sudden, ominous-looking storm clouds that rolled in a few minutes prior.

Your one saving grace was the fact that you were assigned to another register, one that got significantly less action when handling departing customers. In the meantime, you were currently busying yourself with walking around the store and restocking certain classes of items. The only bad news: your legs were both beyond sore from that grueling make-up workout you had done this morning (which you promptly blamed Blue for; any normal human being that ventured to keep up with the energetic tyke should be deemed suicidal). Every step you took sent painful shocks up your calves, and you would have winced if not for the blissfully content mask you wanted to put on for the customers.

But wait...what customers? You had just said yourself that there was no one even in the frickin' store, anyhow! Was your mind as muddled as your muscles were for your thought process to be this scrambled?

You looked up from your cart, only just realizing that you were in the wrong aisle, the correct one being located several sections to your left. Yes, yes it was.

Sigh. You supposed you couldn't complain too much. After all, the day was rapidly coming to a close, and any sour mood you left on could be easily remedied with another few messages from the skeleton brothers. Besides, you thought, it's not like things could get any more worse with so little time left, right?

The mere second after you heard his voice from the front of the store, shouting so loudly that it wasn't even difficult for you to register what he was saying, you knew that you should have just kept your big mouth - er, brain - tightly shut.

"I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU MANAGED TO WASTE MY TIME ENOUGH FOR US TO FINALLY COME HERE WHEN THEY'RE ABOUT TO CLOSE SO SOON AND RUSH US ALONG!" the male voice boomed, rough and gravelly and so full of complaint that you felt your stomach drop a good few stories. "I JUST CAN'T EXPECT YOU TO DO ANYTHING RIGHT, CAN I?"

Oh, no. It was one of those customers.

"...Why me...?" you muttered under your breath. You hoped to the stars that whoever this was would stay out of your general area as much as physically possible. Besides, you knew that the cashier on register #1 was just as used to dealing with these types of people as you were.

They could handle it, you were sure. They would be just fine, you were slightly less sure.

You were all getting out late tonight, you were downright certain. 

"JUST GO GET YOUR STUPID ITEMS AND MEET ME BACK UP HERE BEFORE THEY HAVE TO FORCE US OUT, OR THAT TEMPEST OUTSIDE WILL BE THE LEAST OF YOUR WORRIES." the voice demanded. "IS THAT CLEAR, BROTHER?"

The person he was shouting to must have been talking at a much more normal decibel, because you couldn't hear a response. All the same, you couldn't help but wince, and for an entirely different reason than your aching legs.

There were two of them?! Why did your luck have to be so darn lousy for you to be stuck with two potentially 'unsatisfied' customers, in the middle of a thunderstorm, and with only twenty-five minutes left until your shift was supposed to be over? Were you just not allowed to have two good days in a row? Was that it?!

You tried to distract yourself by going back to your cart of restockable items. You had just gotten to the condiment section, one of the last sections for you to sweep in the refrigerated foods area. As long as you kept your head down and didn't draw too much attention to yourself, you would be fine.

You were in the middle of doing just that when you suddenly felt the tiled floor start to move and shake from under your sneakers. Was this an earthquake? It didn't mention the possibilities of this on your phone's weather radar! Was this really how you were going to die?!

But before you could dive underneath your shopping cart to duck and cover, you managed to notice the particular pattern the rumbles seemed to emit. They felt too...rhythmic...to be coming from the earth itself.

Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.

You had a sudden flashback to the first time you watched the movie Jurassic Park. Oh, stars, this was much worse than an earthquake.

In a split-second decision, you did the only thing you could think of and turn your back to where the shockwaves were coming from. Hopefully what - well, who - you thought this was wouldn't pay you any mind if it looked like you were busy.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

The presence was suddenly right there at the front of your aisle, stomping along by as you weren't even given a second glance. You couldn't help but sneak a look over your shoulder at the customer (you thought it was odd to call him a customer given the scare just gave you) before he left your line of sight. In that split-second, you could only catch an incredibly tall figure whisk on by with his long legs, along with a blur of red and black on his clothing. Straining your ears, you could hear the grumbling of his growling voice grow fainter and fainter as he got farther and farther away from you.

You let out a breath you'd been unconsciously holding in during the whole ordeal when you realized that you were safe. You were just fine. The big, scary man was gone, and you could go right back to your job without anymore rude interruptions. Picking up a bottle of ketchup, you stood on your tiptoes to open the refrigerator door and reach the shelf that they all rested on.

"heya, dollface~"

The new voice was right in your ear, and you couldn't help but let out a small shriek, letting go of the shelf and losing your balance. Thankfully, the bottles you were organizing were pushed far enough back that they wouldn't topple down onto you, but you were still going to have to deal with using a likely-to-be very irate customer as a pillow to break your fall. You prepared yourself for the jarring impact...

...but it never came.

Instead, you felt the new presence shift around so that they were suddenly at your side, their arms catching you by your waist and upper back so you were held inches from the tiled ground. A moment of tense silence passed by where neither of you said a single word, nor moved a single muscle. You managed to finally open your eyes, which had been held tightly shut, to look at your mystery savior.

Your first thought was in shocked delight. Blue?!

Your next thought was one of mortified realization. Wait, that's not Blue. Who is this guy?!

Indeed, your skeletal rescuer bore a striking resemblance to your shorter friend, but the similarities stopped immediately after facial structure and build. Whereas Blue's eyesockets were wide, inquisitive, and usually sporting those twinkling starry pupils you loved, this new skeleton's own sockets were narrowed slightly in concentration, having much smaller pinpricks of light that were flashing a bright crimson. In addition, this guy's teeth looked like they should belong on a shark: impossibly sharp and just as intimidating (was that a golden tooth you saw among them?). Not to mention that after the beat of silence had gone, those teeth shifted slightly to form a smile. Only, it wasn't an incredibly wide and gleeful smile like Blue also possessed, but a smaller, sharper one - more of a smirk, you should say - coated with an essence you could only describe as predatory. 

You gulped. Had you just been rescued by a Good Samaritan, or your escort to the afterlife?

Since your voice box refused to stay in commission, the new skeleton decided to break the silence, with a much deeper - but just as rough - tone of voice.

"heh, whaddaya know? you try to make a conversation with somebody, and, not even three words in, they're already fallin' for ya. i guess i'm just that good, eh, doll?"

"U-uhm..." was all your disoriented mind could conjure for a response. C'mon, you dumbbell! Say something! ANYTHING!

It was only after a moment or two did you realize the compromising position the two of you were in; if a passerby were to see you both, you were pretty sure they would think that you were in the middle of a rather intimate dance routine. So, like a switch was flipped, you launched yourself out of the red stranger's arms and back on your feet where you previously were.

When you retrieved your bearings, you were finally able to discern just how different from Blue this guy was. Your answer being: very. The skeleton instead posed an almost similar, lackadaisical aura similar to Stretch...if Stretch had suddenly taken a sharp, edgy turn and traded his honey-orange sweatshirt for a deep red turtleneck, black basketball shorts, and a black, fur-rimmed jacket that looked like it had come straight from Hot Topic itself.

Was...was that a red, spiked collar around his neck? Yes, indeed it was.

The edgy stranger quirked a bony brow at you, as if awaiting an actual verbal response, so you quickly replied so as to not suddenly piss him off, "I-I, uhm, well...thank you...for, uhm, catching me back there." you chuckled nervously, cheeks turning pink to compliment all of the red standing before you.

This seemed to be the right kind of thing to say, because he responded with a chuckle of his own, lower, grating and, dare you say...malicious?

"s'no problem, sweetheart." the way the nickname rolled off of his tongue(?) was meant to be degrading, you could tell. But the way those fiery pinpricks of light in his sockets never left your own eyes as he took a single step closer to you, had you completely disregarding that fact. Still not breaking eye contact, he grabbed the handle of your cart and pushed it away from you both. You briefly followed it with your eyes, watching it lazily roll to the middle of the aisle before they flickered back to him. If things proved to be too much for you, then there just went your only means of a weapon.

You took a step backward to counteract his advance, but he only responded with another step forwards. Your heart was sent a-racing once more, half in fear of this much darker version of someone you knew, and half in...well...you hoped you were wrong about that half.

"but, all the same, i think i'll at least be wantin' an apology," a small glint shone in one of his eyelights, but it was gone before you could look at it closer. "after all, bein' clumsy on the job just ain't at all professional, huh? wouldn't want any info like that to just slip, now would we...?" he took another step forward on the word 'slip' while popping the 'p' sound, his aura suddenly glowing with a darker, more dangerous edge.

"now, c'mon, dolly...what do we say...?"

"I-I'm sorry, sir!" you blurted out quickly and before you could stop yourself. Your mortification levels were going through the roof, blinding you from any and all common sense. You should have just toughened up at least a small bit and told this jerk to leave you alone for the sake of your pride, but his threat, coupled with the fact that he almost matched your height save for an inch or so - and maybe some other feeling in the back of your mind that you weren't willing to admit - urged for you to do just as he said for the sake of your low pain tolerance.

He took yet another step forward to your step back, now effectively leaving you trapped against the refrigerator doors. Your back hit the cool, condensation on the glass, and you knew right then that you were ultimately screwed if you didn't do something fast. At the same time, his sharp-toothed smirk grew even wider at your quick submission, and he hummed appreciatively. "hmm..." out of the corners of your eyes, you could see his arms slowly sliding upwards to plant themselves on either side of you on the door. "thatta girl~"

The pink on your cheeks darkened to match the color of his shirt down to a tee.

"now, don't get me wrong," the red stranger continued, shrugging noncommittally as if it would make the situation seem somehow casual, "i didn't mosey on over here and get us, well..." another low chuckle, "...like this, for no reason - i'm a gentle-monster, after all. so i was wondering if i could get a bit of help?"

Oh, how your common sense wanted to slap this perverted wisecrack right into next week! He scares you, distracts you from your job, demands an apology from you as if you were somehow at fault...and now he wanted you to help him?! The only words you wanted to come out of your mouth right then should have been 'screw' and 'off', maybe throwing in a 'perv' or a 'loser' in there to really stick it to him.

But for some reason (oh, who were you kidding; you knew exactly the reason), your 'polite little retail worker' persona decided to grab the reins and force you to respond, "Oh, of course, i-it's no problem, sir." with another nervous laugh. Way to sort your priorities, Y/n. "Is there anything I can help you find?"

This seemed to perk the skeleton right up as he leaned in forward slightly. You couldn't even back away at this point. "well, now that'cha mention it..." you sucked in a breath unconsciously. "there is, but at the same time, i don't think ya need to help me too much..." if it was possible, he got even closer. Now his sharp teeth were but a hairbreadth away from your lips.

You couldn't stop yourself from thinking two things: hoping that one of your coworkers would get their backside to your aisle and stop this creep in his tracks...and wondering how it would feel to receive a kiss from someone with no lips.

You didn't even have to strain to hear his next words, spoken in a low whisper, "because it's right in front of me~"

With those outright sensual words, something seemed to snap your common sense back to where it belonged. Acting on it, you put on the stoniest glare you could muster, planted your hands on the front of his jacket and gave him a firm push backwards. As much as this situation excited some deep and reckless part of you to no end, you weren't about to end your work day by getting molested - or worse - by some pervy skeleton monster. You may have had your moment, but you had standards, thank you very much!

"Okay, stop." you firmly stated once you had gotten your personal bubble back. "I don't know what you're thinking, but I'll have you know that I'm not the type of girl that you can just walk up to and sweet-talk your way into having fun with. And for that matter, what even is your game, buddy?" you couldn't stop your voice from raising. You finally allowed all of your building anger to boil over like soup in a pot, proper retail-worker etiquette be damned. "You think you can just get a scare out of me, make me apologize for it, and then have the balls to ask for my help?! A-and then, you actually try and ask for...for something like that?! I've got half a mind to report this to my manager, and if you think that I care that I'd be holding up our closing time by this point, then you'd be sorely mistaken, because that's just...!" you stopped. "Just..."

The sound of the skeleton's low, gravelly voice suddenly giving way to a long and hearty bout of laughter stopped you in your tracks mid-rant, and you found yourself going silent to stare at the monster. His sharp teeth were parted to form an even wider smile, his arms were clutching at the sides of his jacket, and his shoulders shook with the amount of effort it took him to try and stay upright.

Your eye twitched, and you briefly wondered just what degree of trouble you'd be in if you really did act on your thoughts and slap him.

But before you could even decide, the red-clad skeleton seemed to calm down considerably from his outburst, but not before getting another few laughs in at your expense. "oh, sweetheart, you're a riot! hahahahahaha!" he paused to wipe a fake tear away from the corner of his eyesocket. "i was talkin' about the fridge behind ya. i wanted somethin' from in there."

Oh.

Oh, crap.

You tried not to widen your eyes too much as you also fought to tone down your complete and utter stare of disbelief. Even stuttering would have been too risky at this point, so you refrained from even that. So, you did the only thing you could without embarrassing yourself even more: keep a stony look on your furiously blushing face as you silently stepped out of the way for him to get to the refrigerator door.

Thankfully, he didn't prolong your embarrassment by talking, instead choosing to keep that smug-entitled, slappable grin on his face as he opened the door to grab and extra-large bottle of mustard. As soon as he shut the door, he was suddenly over at your side again faster than you could blink, his golden tooth right next to your ear so that his breath rushed down your neck in waves.

"but i gotta say, i just loved what you were insinuating there, darlin'~"

You jumped away from him as if you had been burned, the fiery look in your eyes enough to combat the red-pinpricked flames in his sockets. He let out another string of chuckles, but what he said just after made you start.

"eh, who am i kiddin'? this ain't no way to make a friend, now is it?" he stuck out a bony hand for you to take, his smirk giving way to one more relaxed and easy-going.

You blinked. "A...friend...?" you echoed back to him.

"yeah, a friend. y'see, where i'm from, we don't have the greatest reputation with other people - human and monster - if you get what i'm saying." he admitted, shrugging once more as if the whole previous ordeal didn't even occur. "just tryin' to do my part to smooth it over. sure, i might be a bit rough around the edges, but i can tell ya firsthand that there are other monsters out there way worse than me."

You narrowed your eyes, gently pushing his hand out of the way. "If you're asking someone like me, than you'd be right: you're not off to a very good start at all. In fact," you added, crossing your arms, "you might have just ruined any chance you might have had with that little stunt, back there, amigo."

The red skeleton rolled his eyelights in what you could tell was some form of exasperation. "which is why i'm acting like the mature one here, and am willing to let bygones be bygones. don't'cha think so, pal?"

"Don't you dare try and turn this whole thing on me again. After what you just pulled, I have every right to be angry with you!"

"and i've got every capability to just walk straight up to the boss in about two seconds to tell 'im that a certain little retail worker was being nothing but difficult to a monster in need of some help. capishe?"

You were about to retort that someone like your manager would most certainly sympathize with you after hearing your side of the story, but the monster held up a hand before you could even get a word out. "and it ain't your boss i'm referring to, kitten. i'm pretty sure that he's gonna be waiting for me at the front any minute now..."

You stiffened, realizing in horror exactly who he was talking about. Not only was this guy brothers with that big, hulking customer you saw earlier, but he also regarded him as some kind of superior? You were deathly sure (no pun intended) that you wouldn't live to see tomorrow if this guy was anything like the shorter skeleton said he was. You were even more sure that he would be the kind of guy to stick up for his family. And if he got wind of what transpired just a few minutes ago, straight from the perv's sharp-toothed mouth...

"...Y-you wouldn't..." you muttered, at a loss for any kind of comeback, and also knowing full well what his response would be.

Sure enough, one of his bony brows raised as his red eyelights gave you a knowing look that supplied his unspoken words as clearly as a bell: try me, sweetheart.

You fixed the skeleton with the steeliest glare you could, resisting all urge to reply with any snarky remarks about just where he and his 'boss' could shove any problems they had with you. As much as you hated to admit it by this point...he was right, at least about handling the situation maturely so that no other ill intent could transpire. Let him have his fun for now, you thought, the malicious part of your consciousness already plotting some form of karma-induced revenge, he'll get what's coming to him, oh yes, he will...

Finally, you straightened your posture, shut your eyes briefly, and let out an explosive sigh. Better to rip the bandage off quickly, and not say anything that would force it back on. "In that case...I hope that we can grow to be very good friends, mister."

"oh, yeah, wait," he seemed to remember, slapping a hand to his forehead with a loud 'CLACK' of bone against bone. He stuck that same hand out to you once more, the sleeve of his jacket allowing some extremely soft-looking fur to slide along his palm. "the name's red, toots. but you can call me...anytime~" he then shot you an extended wink, along with that predatory, crocodile smirk of his.

Keeping your glare in its proper place, you reached for his outstretched hand. You said your next words as if you were being punished to do so. "It's very nice to meet you, R-!"

BZZZZRT!

A jolting feeling in your palm had you recoiling so fast that you bumped hard into the refrigerator door again, the loud 'BOOM' echoing up and down the aisle. Your eyes widened to saucers as you clutched at your hand in shock (again, no pun intended). What was that?!

Instead of forming that exact question, your voice only came out in breathless, startled gasps. "Wh-wha...what did you just...wh...huh?!"

To make your situation worse, Red only started to laugh again, loud, rude and completely at your expense once more. Through his snickering, he held up the same hand he used to shake yours with. It had a small toy buzzer wrapped around it, almost completely concealed by his jacket sleeve.

"hahahahahaha! aw, man, the ol' joy-buzzer-in-the-hand trick," he rose back up to his full height again, his malcontented mirth at once dying down. "you humans can be such suckers for a good prank!"

You would have said that would have been the final straw, but you were so angry by this point that any straw would have been long gone and burned away. You stood on your tiptoes up to his full height and got right in his face, jabbing your finger inches from his skull. "Listen, you-!!" you were about to address him with one of your rarely-used expletives of choice - there were no security cameras pointing down this aisle, thank the stars - but stopped right in your tracks as soon as you saw his brow quirk yet again in defiance, along with one of his eyelights flashing briefly with a dangerous-looking spark of magic.

Hissing on the next inhale, you forced yourself to choose your next words carefully. "...As funny as that was, mister Red," you addressed his name through gritted teeth, "would you mind warning me next time before you give me a scare like that? I would...greatly appreciate it." Each word felt like it had been laced with the consistency of molasses, tumbling almost painfully slow from your lips and drawing out your humiliation every second.

You had to wonder: if you had chosen to end your route in a different aisle, would things, in turn, have gone significantly smoother than they were right now?

A single glance at his sparkling eyelights and downright shit-eating grin offered you a big ol' 'NOPE' as your answer.

"that's much better, dolly~" he drawled, crossing his arms in satisfaction.

"You're despicable."

"guilty."

It was then that you finally decided that you weren't going to entertain him anymore. Spinning on your heel, you marched over to your abandoned cart, wheeling it back to where you were and wasting no time in putting the rest of the condiments away. All the while, Red never budged an inch from his spot just off to your side, looking at you with something akin to genuine interest flashing in his sockets. You scowled internally. Since when was the task of putting things away worth having an audience over?

You cleared your throat, making the skeleton flick his eyelights over to your own annoyed irises. "Is there anything else I can help you look for?" you asked, trying desperately to keep your voice level.

He only smiled, the hoods of his eyesockets lowering lazily. "nah, i'm good. thanks though."

You narrowed your own eyes. This was getting ridiculous. "Well, I don't mean to sound rude, but would you allow me to get back to my job? The store is closing in a few minutes."

His smile grew, the sharp points of his teeth catching the light from the overhead fluorescent bulbs. "i know that. but it looks to me like your job's done, sweetcheeks."

You blinked, whipping your head downwards to investigate. You had been so preoccupied with trying not to be irked by this monster that you didn't notice the bottle of ketchup in your hand: it was the last one. Your cart was completely empty.

You sighed nonetheless, shoving the bottle onto the shelf and practically slamming the door closed. "I'm sure I have even more carts up at the front I have to put away, all the same. I want to get all of those out of the way before it gets too late in the evening, so I'm sorry, but I have to-!"

*BING BONG*

*Would Register #2 please come to the front of the store? Register #2, to the front please. Thank you!*

You raised up a hand to gesture to the ceiling, where the loudspeakers were located, while also taking care to shoot the red skeleton a triumphant smirk of your own. "Would you look at that! I'm needed for my job sooner than I thought. Now, if you'll excuse me-!"

Once again, you were interrupted. As you turned around to wheel the cart away, you felt the shockingly soft fabric of his jacket loop around your arm to yank you back over to his side rather harshly. "really? what a coincidence!" he exclaimed, reaching a bony finger up to brush a small lock of hair behind the shell of your ear. "pretty sure i'm done shoppin' for now, thanks to your wonderful help. care to have an escort up to your post, darlin'?"

You flinched at the oddly feather-like touch, yanking yourself back from his grip to white-knuckle your hold on your cart once again. "I can walk myself, thank you very much!" you hissed, picking up a brisk pace to walk towards the front of the store.

To your expected irritation, Red was hot on your heels the entire time, coming close to walking to your side so he could loosen his posture with his hands folded behind his back, giving the illusion of strolling with you at a leisurely pace. You exhaled harshly through your nose, but said nothing, not wanting to egg him on by telling him off anymore. You instead let your thoughts of swift and sure payback stew in the farther recesses of your mind.

You'll get him back, Y/n, you thought, letting it drive you with a purpose, and he'll be none the wiser...

~~


 

Chapter Text

Okay, I know that I literally just posted my second chapter (first part) a few minutes ago, but I'm just adding this little author's note to make sure the update actually appears on the Undertale works page so people can see it. For some reason, it wasn't showing me that I updated it.

So for all of you thinking I have the second part of the second chapter uploaded, I apologize, but that's not the case quite yet (it's not even finished :/ ), so for all of you reading this, you can just skip it when the next chapter is available (and I'll probably delete this once it actually is available). Again, I just wanted to make sure people knew I updated (if this doesn't work, I'll be really mad), and I'm so incredibly sorry for the misleading chapter count! I will update with the second part soon, and thank you so much for your time. Have a good rest of your day!! :)

Chapter Text

You arrived finally at the impulse section of the store, just before the lines of registers. Wasting no more of your time, you practically shoved your empty cart to its proper place with the others, making an immediate beeline for the CSM to inquire about your next task. You hoped with all of your might that, whatever it was, it would give you some reprieve from mister tall(ish), red and edgy behind you.

"Hey, what do you need up here? I'm almost finished with restocking everything." You asked, gesturing toward the other two carts ready and waiting for you to take and practically overflowing with miscellaneous store items. You paused. "...Okay, maybe not almost finished, but, you get what I mean." You added with a sheepish giggle.

The CSM immediately shook their head, grinning lightheartedly before suddenly shifting their expression to form a wince along with their next words. Well, that couldn't be good.

"Well, yeah, you're doing great, Y/n, but I've decided to have someone else do the rest of that for you until closing." they admitted. "You're instead going to be needed on your register for the time being."

Turning to look at said vacant register had you also noting one of your other coworkers standing at register #1 just before it. It turned out that you were wrong before about the place being completely deserted: they were in the middle of checking the items of a sweet-looking elderly human woman, the only person in their line. To your distaste, you also noted on how the woman was also very slow in her movements, sliding her items up to the clerk and reaching into her purse at an almost comical - albeit pretty typical - snail's pace.

You nodded, understanding your lesser boss's point, while shooting them a playful thumbs-up - hopefully they wouldn't catch on to how mentally exhausted you already were. "Sure thing, chief. I'll get right on it."

You were about to walk past them on your way to your station, until one of their hands reached out to stop you in your tracks, much gentler than Red's had been a few minutes ago.

Their voice was low so only the two of you could hear. "Good luck on this next customer; it looks like you'll need it, so call me over if you need any help, okay?"

Immediately, your gaze sidelonged over to Red, standing just off to the side of you with his arms crossed and a slight scowl on his face. For some reason, the thought of him having that "resting-bitch-face" as his normal expression was enough to briefly make your lips turn up in a barely-detectable smile.

You shook your head dismissively, already knowing what you were up against. "Thanks, but this idiot's been tailing me for the past ten minutes, and I've handled it up until now." you whispered back to them. "I think I'll be fine for the time being." you tilted your head in Red's general direction, rolling your eyes.

With that, you sauntered away from the CSM - leaving them with a confused look on their face as they snuck a glance at the skeleton - and slunk behind your register counter. Like you normally would, you typed in your login information before getting the computer to the normal hub screen. Tapping the 'sale' button, you turned to look behind the counter. Sure enough, Red was already there at attention, plopping the large mustard bottle in front of him unceremoniously.

Without a word to start him up again, you turned on your scanner, preparing to slide the bottle across it. To your surprise, Red suddenly snatched the item away from you before you could, and you finally looked at him head-on, a confused and irritated look on your face. 

Oh, what now?

"ain't'cha forgetting something, doll?" he asked condescendingly. When you answered with only silence, he elaborated with an eye roll, "y'know, that stupid little greeting ya always give the customers." he shook his head teasingly at you. "this ain't the self-checkout aisle, lady; i shouldn't be doin' everything here myself."

You chose to ignore the barb, in favor of shooting him an incredulous stare. He wasn't serious, was he?

When he wouldn't surrender the item, you finally pursed your lips for all of two seconds, before stretching them into a laser-bright smile you were all too familiar with. "Did you find everything okay, sir?" you made sure to pack that last word full of venom.

Red's grin returned, as sleazy and salacious as you were unfortunately used to. "that's better." he paused, before continuing. "i actually did; one of the staff back there - and a pretty lil' thing, too - gave me more than enough help. makes me wanna come back here sometime to...give her the message, y'know~?"

All at once, your unamused look returned as you looked at him straight in the eye(socket) with all the bored-ness you could muster. "Aren't you a charmer..."

He shrugged, taking it as a compliment. "guilty." he repeated from your argument before.

When he finally released his hold on the bottle, you snatched it off the counter, before scanning it and pointedly plopping it in a bag lazily enough for it to catch Red's attention - his scowl briefly returned; he looked like you had just done the same thing with that precious jacket of his - but not enough to catch the CSM's, thank goodness.

"Will that be all?" you inquired like usual, while internally pleading for the answer to be 'yes'.

However, Red abruptly turned to glance at the candy rack positioned just before your counter, holding a hand to his bony chin almost too thoughtfully, as if he deliberately wanted to waste more of your time. Finally, he reached over to pull out his selection and slide it over to you on the counter.

"not quite..." he drawled.

Fighting the urge to roll your eyes, you picked up the item to scan it. It was a pack of gum, a pack of Big Red gum, to be exact.

You paused midway to the scanner, staring down at the sugarless treat. Ever so slowly, understanding started to dawn before your eyes, given Red's odd pause of silence. He couldn't possibly mean...

On impulse, you raised your head up a fraction to look at the monster, and sure enough, he was staring at you intently. What you were sure was his trademark smirk was gracing his teeth, along with a small flush of crimson on his cheekbones, and both of his brow bones wagging at you suggestively.

Oh, my stars, he did.

You couldn't help the sudden barrage of unwanted thoughts to invade your mind. Thoughts of how he probably could have meant all of his flirts and quips back at the fridge area, of wondering yourself on how anything like what he had suggested was even possible for a skeleton monster...and of wondering why in the stars-forsaken world you were imagining what it would actually look like.

The unauthorized flush to your own cheeks - close enough to match his shirt shade-for-shade - was enough to betray those exact thoughts to Red, to which he responded with another extended wink to put you down for the count.

...Was it wrong for you to wish that the raging storm just outside would do some noticeable damage to the store, just to get those damn eyelights off of you? At this point, you hadn't even thought to care if it was.

Finally managing to scan the offending item and shove it in the bag along with the bottle, you forced one last smile on your face, but to anyone else, it would have looked like more of a grimace.

You were about this close to snapping. If this jack-wagon managed to push even one more of your buttons, you were sure that you would retaliate with a scene worthy of on-the-spot termination, if you were lucky. Your voice came out desperate, pleading.

"Is that everything, then, sir...?"

It may have been just a trick of your practically overloaded mind, but you could have sworn that you saw that smug-entitled grin on Red's face take a small crack in its confident facade, faltering almost in...pity? Sympathy? Regret?

Pfft. Yeah, right. And you were lounging by the pool in a five-star hotel, sipping champagne through a crazy straw.

Nonetheless, his next choice of words did take you by surprise.

"heh, you remind me of another monster workin' in retail, makin' that face right there. his boss is almost never off his ass over somethin'." he offered another chuckle, oddly much softer than usual, and almost with an intent of genuine warmth and humor.

Red shoved his hands on the pockets of his jacket, relaxing his posture considerably. "yeah, that's everything, sweetness. you gonna tell me my total, or what?"

He locked onto your gaze yet again, and you noted with even more surprise that his stare was also much softer than his previous constant leer. It was a look that rendered you mute for a brief moment, breath all but escaping your parted lips as the dark red hue of embarrassment on your cheeks lightened to a warm, rosy tint. In that moment, you actually considered the possibility that this monster indeed possessed a soul, like all of the others. It made you almost completely forget about all of the emotional turmoil he had put you through mere minutes ago.

Almost.

But not quite, as you quickly latched onto those thoughts long enough for you to regain your professional-esque composure. Moment or no moment, you just wanted this guy to leave.

So you told him the total balance, to which, contrary to Blue, he actually did pull out a wad of dollar bills, wrinkled and creased from being in the pocket of his jacket, along with some monster gold. Yeah, that really figured.

Regardless, you dealt with it as smoothly as you could, processing the payment method and handing over the correct change. As you dropped it into his open palm, the tips of your fingers just slightly brushed over bone, and you found yourself marveling at the feel of it. Smooth, but it still felt plenty different from Blue's hand, when he had given you the note. Red's instead seemed to be littered with small, barely discernible scratches that ever-so-gently grazed your skin, allowing you to notice them fairly easily. Where did those even come from...? you wondered.

And when it was over, you finally composed yourself to utter the words you had wanted to say to him since that first encounter: "Thank you for shopping with us, Red. I...hope to see you again soon." You had to force yourself to add that last bit, for the sake of the CSM slowly gravitating toward your register.

Yet again, his smile grew smug as he, of course, went to add an unnecessary comment. "oh? well, in that case, i might just have to take you up on that, hot stuff." Don't wink don't wink don't wink don't wink...dammit.

You sighed. "Calm down, slick. I say that to everyone."

"everyone?" he echoed, raising his brows in mock surprise, before lacing his next words with a purr from the back of his throat(?), "you minx~"

This guy.

Comfortable enough to end on that note - you hardly cared about getting the last laugh anymore - you waited for Red to take his bag and walk out of the store, and, by extension, out of your life. He turned around.

You waited. He slowly leaned back against your counter, sighing as he relaxed his posture.

You waited. He crossed one leg over the other nonchalantly, resting his elbows against the counter top.

You waited. He didn't move.

Your mouth was slowly forming into a thin line throughout the length of the pause. Why wasn't he leaving?!

Unable to stop your irritation from showing, you pointedly cleared your throat to get his attention. It worked, causing him to turn his head over his shoulder to regard you lazily.

You subtly tilted your head over to the sliding glass doors marking the exit, hoping he would get the message. "Uhm...bye."

His teeth curved once more into an amused grin, along with one of his browbones rising teasingly at your hint. "'bye'? what's the rush, sweet thing? i ain't in any hurry, y'know."

You only just stopped yourself from giving an exasperated sigh before you responded. "Well then, if you wouldn't mind moving out of the way of the counter, there are more customers I still need to..."

You stopped yourself from finishing that sentence when you got a good look behind the monster; he was the only one in your line. Another glance to the register before yours proved that it, too, wasn't free: the woman was still there, although she looked like she was just shy of finishing up.

Red hummed to get your attention, turning a nonexistent ear to you, grin unfaltering. "hmm? what was that you were saying...?" 

...Was he seriously pulling this with you? Regardless of the CSM standing at the ready just out of reach of your register, you lowered your voice to a hiss as you addressed him. "Why? What is it you could possibly want now?"

Red's eyes narrowed for the slightest moment. "ease up on the hostility, pali'm not doing anything wrong," he responded in a warning tone of voice, before softening it just after. "besides, honeybee, i couldn't leave even if i wanted to. 'm waiting for my ride outta here."

"Your ride?" you parroted back, your own eyes narrowing and your teeth unintentionally gritting. "This entire store is practically deserted. Who in the world could even..."

Yet again you stopped yourself, and you swore that the exact moment that lightning flashed outside the door was the moment your dense brain clicked it all together.

The CSM hadn't been talking about Red when they wished you luck. Just as much, Red and the older woman weren't the only customers in the store. And your night, you realized in utter horror as you remembered your scare in the fridge area, was nowhere near over.

You muttered your next exclamation on noting but a deflating rush of air. "Oh, you've got to be fu-!"

"BROTHER!!" that louder, growling voice from earlier cut you right off, sounding faint, but coming ever closer, remarkably fast. "I SWEAR TO ASGORE, IF YOUR SORRY TAILBONE IS NOT AT THE FRONT OF THIS STORE BY THE TIME I GET THERE..."

You whipped your head down to face Red. Those pinpricked irises were gleaming maliciously, and his expression was enough to warn you that he had all the power to waive or seal your death sentence.

He responded, in a louder voice than usual, "yeah, yeah, i'm up here, boss!"

You whipped back around to where the skeleton was facing, and only just in time to see that giant figure from before turn the corner from behind one of the aisles and...sharp.

If the main adjective to describe sweet little Blue had been 'ah-dorable', then 'sharp', was definitely the single word to describe this new skeleton.

Oh, while maybe adding in a 'holy-mother-of-mercy-it's-the-grim-reaper's-even-more-terrifying-relative'.

The taller monster, upon seeing Red's much shorter frame lounging without a care against your counter, seemed to soften his seething-bordering-on-murderous glare. Hardly a change, you noted, as he now looked to be only a few pegs down, to sport an exceptionally irritated grimace. The jagged points of his teeth (if Red's belonged on a shark, his could give even the kraken a run for its money) then curved downward into a sneer as the bloodred pricks of his eyelights came to rest on the both of you.

"AH, FINALLY," the sharp skeleton muttered, walking right up to the register with his exceptionally long legs, the pointed boots he wore clacking against the tile with every step. The store-provided shopping basket hanging off of his bony arm - which you thought seemed very out of place with this guy - swung lazily with the weight of his items just inside.

"I TRUST YOU FOUND EVERYTHING? I'D LIKE TO NOT WASTE TIME IN THIS PITIFUL EXCUSE FOR A GROCERY STORE ANY LONGER." he shifted his pointed gaze down to Red, awaiting an answer.

Red shrugged. "yeah, pretty much, boss. only snagged a few things, and, y'know..." he paused, sidelonging his smug look over to you, "it's actually all thanks to this sweetie-pie right here~"

You nearly choked when the shorter skeleton mentioned you with yet another wink thrown your way, causing the taller to tilt his skull down to face you directly.

His eyesockets narrowed slightly, making the three large, jagged cracks along his left one shift with the movement.

"IS THAT SO...?" he remarked, drawing out nearly every syllable.

At that moment, the older woman at register #1 finally decided to grab her purse and her bag of items, and leave, but not before she and the cashier behind the counter both shot you a near matching set of sympathetic and frightened looks.

An ice-cold shudder passed through the length of your spine, but you forced with all of your might not to let it show.

Okay, yes, you admit that this new skeleton monster came just about this close to making you piss yourself upon only the first glance...but deep down, you knew that breaking down and getting the fresh heck out of dodge would only make your situation so much worse for you at the end of the night.

If you could just manage to keep yourself steady and handle this customer like you would any other - on a good day for you, at least - then everything would turn out just fine. Above all else, you had to force yourself to calm down.

Of course, there was still the smirking, edgy wild card you had to appease as well. But as much as you wanted to be rid of him as well as the taller one, you could afford to cross that bridge when you got there.

Bite the metaphorical bullet before you find the nerve to shoot yourself with it. A pretty solid plan, if you did think so yourself.

So you took a shaky inhalation of breath in, before letting it out on a smooth rush of air. Clearing your throat, you turned your lips up into one of the most non-exaggerated, sweetest smiles you could manage. You forced your eyes to connect fully with his sockets, made sure your tone of voice was set to 'extra polite', and...

"Well, I sure did try. He only had a few items, so it wasn't difficult at all, if I had to say so."

The pause the skeleton took to process your answer was short, and he acknowledged it with a curt nod. "WELL, ALL RIGHT, THEN. AT LEAST YOU AREN'T AS GOOD-FOR-NOTHING AS THE REST OF YOUR KIND IS, HUMAN."

As insulted and slightly offended as you were by the comment, you held your tongue to keep any and all objections at bay behind your smiling facade.

The absolute last thing you wanted to do was piss this behemoth off.

When he broke your gaze to turn to his items, you discreetly took another few breaths to slow down the erratic pace of your heart. You also skimmed along past Red's downright bewildered expression of shock, in favor of looking at your CSM's excited thumbs-up and encouraging grin from their place to the side of you.

That gave you the newfound courage to speak up once more to the tall monster. "And did you find everything you were looking for, as well, mister?"

The skeleton suddenly snapped his skull up to look at you again, frowning. "'CAPTAIN', IF YOU WOULD. I DIDN'T NEARLY SLICE EVERY LIMB OFF OF THE PREVIOUS HEAD OF THE UNDERGROUND'S ROYAL GUARD FOR NOTHING, YOU KNOW!" his head lowered before he could even register your sudden horror-stricken expression. "BUT, OF COURSE, A LOWLY HUMAN LIKE YOURSELF WOULDN'T EVEN KNOW THAT, NOW WOULD YOU?"

"...N-n-no, I actually didn't..." you replied cautiously, every facet of bravery you had now shattering to pieces.

You couldn't bring yourself to look at Red's amusement as he held a shaking, bony palm up to his perma-grin to keep from laughing aloud.

"ALL THE SAME, I FOUND ENOUGH." the sharp monster added, taking the remainder of his items out of the basket. He then practically threw the container at Red without even a look his way, to which the shorter monster took without complaint over to where they were stored.

"OF COURSE, SOMEONE AS REMARKABLE AS I DIDN'T EVEN REQUIRE ANY ASSISTANCE! NOT EVERYTHING ON MY LIST WAS HERE..." he paused, shifting his eyelights around the area in distaste, "...TO NO SURPRISE, BUT IT WILL BE SUFFICIENT." Again, his eyelights settled on you at the end of his reply. "DID THAT ANSWER YOUR QUESTION, CLERK?"

You fought with all of your might to keep the calm and content smile on your face, instead of the irritated purse of your lips you so desperately wanted to show this jack-wagon to replace your previous fear. There's just no pleasing anyone, is there? 

"It certainly did." you replied, only for the skeleton to raise one of his bony brows at you menacingly, as if he was expecting something more to come out of your answer. It suddenly dawned on you, and you quickly went to correct yourself.

"It certainly did, captain." His brow lowered, leaving you in the safe zone as the hostility dissipated.

He gestured toward his clutter of store items with a slight wave of his arm. "WELL, GET ON WITH IT, THEN. AS I SAID, I DON'T WANT TO BE HERE ALL DAY."

Were it not for the unneeded insults and derogatory tone lacing nearly every one of his statements...the over-inflated ego this monster seemed to carry reminded you remarkably of Blue. At the same time, his stature and overall build made you think immediately of Stretch.

That being noted, those particular quirks seemed to be the only things you could bring yourself to like about this pompous, scary-looking, and downright mean excuse for a monster. You could absolutely see this pair of skeletons as being brothers; their overall rough exteriors and seemingly spiteful interiors made their relation practically uncanny.

Nonetheless, you forced your rising anger to simmer down into the pit of your stomach as you grabbed the first of his items to be scanned.

BOOP. *Package of monster-brand lasagna noodles - $11.99/6G* your register screen read.

You had to stop yourself from letting out a long, low whistle at the price. These better taste like they were made by some Italian god, if he's spending that much on them. You thought to yourself, placing it in the bag with one hand and grabbing another item with the free one.

BOOP. *40 oz jar monster-brand tomato sauce - $13.99/7G*

Woah. Why did the monster-brand items in your store all have to be so fancy-schmancy? Was it just because they had all of the required supplements - taking care to include the literal magical ingredients - to keep monsters alive? You had only bought a handful of monster-brand items during the three years they were available, but if you remembered correctly, they hadn't really been anything to sneeze at in terms of the cost. They certainly didn't cost a whole fourteen smackers when you were purchasing them! Were you merely buying the cheap stuff and didn't know about it, considering the overall confusion of integrating monster currency with humans'?

You frowned slightly, but not enough to catch anyone's attention. Jeez, by monster-standards, were you as poor as all dirt, or did this customer just have money coming out of his non-existent ears?

You actually risked a quick glance at the tall skeleton to keep from bumming yourself out anymore. What you saw wasn't exactly the prettiest, but then again, just how much had you swooned over his 'movie-star' looks already (note your obvious sarcasm)?

The monster's frown seemed to be growing deeper by the minute as he continuously glared out the window at the downpour. Other than the mechanical 'blips' of your register computer, the steady 'CLACK CLACK CLACK' of his black, pointed boots practically echoed around the front as he tapped them absentmindedly. He really wasn't kidding when he implied he wanted to be anywhere but here, and in the middle of a thunderstorm, no less. The silence droned on, with not even grunt or a low chuckle from Red to break it.

You amazed yourself at how quickly your sympathy yanked the reins of your mood away from your irritation at this new monster. You just had to wonder...

Maybe, despite his current prickly demeanor, he was just having an off day today, and he really wasn't such a grouch all of the time. You did overhear him say to Red earlier that he hated that he had to come here just before closing hours, after all, and who could be happy about being outdoors in a storm?

Briefly, you wondered what those dangerous-looking teeth would look like curled up in a smile. A genuine smile, like how Blue's had been when you lifted up his sour spirits.

BOOP. *Bag of monster-brand shred mozzarella - $9.99/5G*

Whelp, you sure hoped you knew what you were doing. Before you could grab another item to scan, you threw all reservations to the wind as you cleared your throat to get the tall skeleton's attention. Not even tilting his skull down to regard you, you only saw the tiny pricks of his eyelights lock onto yours.

You cleared your throat again. "If you don't mind me saying so, captain," you put extra emphasis on his title, and to your delight, his frown lessened quite a bit, "these are some very high-quality ingredients you're purchasing. May I ask what you plan on making?" It was nearly the exact same question you had used on Blue, with just the right amount of praise in it to leave his skyrocketing self-esteem begging for more. Perfect for this customer.

The skeleton scoffed, though without as much distaste as he put in earlier. "I BELIEVE ONE OF THE ITEMS YOU SCANNED SHOULD BE ENOUGH FOR YOU TO GUESS, BUT I SUPPOSE I'LL HUMOR YOU, NONETHELESS." With that, he reached a long, red-gloved arm over the counter to the bag to lift up the box of pasta, and you took half a step backward at his proximity. "I PLAN TO MAKE MY WORLD-FAMOUS LASAGNA, SO THAT ALL WHO MAY DINE ON IT WILL HAVE THEIR TASTE BUDS GLISTEN WITH THE INCREDIBLE FLAVOR OF MY MASTER CULINARY SKILLS!"

To your surprise, Red leaned forward slightly, putting a hand sideways up to his smile to give the illusion of telling a secret to you. "it actually ain't. it's just gonna be for us tonight."

Red suddenly received a quick smack to the back of his skull by his brother to even further your surprise, the latter growling his dissent. "QUIET, YOU IMBECILE!"

"hey, c'mon, boss, y'know i'm just tellin' her the truth." The smaller skeleton chuckled, seeming shockingly unfazed by the - honestly uncalled for - strike. "still, you know your cooking's amazing, and i ain't just ribbin' ya~"

"..."

What you could only describe as magical beads of sweat started to materialize from somewhere out of Red's skull, rolling down the malleable bones of his face in red-tinted droplets. The reason: the sharp skeleton was giving him a look so menacingly disapproving, that even you knew that laughing at the pun yourself would reward you with so much more than a scary look.

You cut the silence before you could stop yourself, half in acting on your plan to brighten the tall monster's mood, and half in saving the shorter brother from some inevitable wrath that was sure to ensue (as much as you disliked Red, you didn't want to have any HP being lost while you were on the job).

"A-actually, I think that Red might be on to something!" you blurted, and you swore you heard the cashier on #1 hitch their breath. "I mean, I may not have tried your cooking myself, but...you seem so sure of yourself, and these items you're purchasing are so...legendary in quality, that I don't even need to, to realize what a..." c'mon, think of something, you dolt! "what a...dashing and d-debonair master chef that you truly are, c-captain!"

BOOP. *The tall monster's face upon hearing your genuine compliment - priceless*

Sure enough, all focus on the shorter monster had completely evaporated upon your interruption, as both of the brothers turned to you with equally dumbfounded expressions. But whereas Red's bore surprise as well as some kind of fear - for your life, most likely, the sharper skeleton seemed...genuinely taken aback. All traces of anger had completely left him, making you unsure of whether you just saved the day, or made the biggest mistake of your probably limited life.

A deep blush rose to your cheeks in sudden embarrassment, and you scratched the back of your neck nervously, flicking your eyes down to the tiled floor. Oh, boy, what had you just done?

"...!"

The taller brother suddenly made a noise of surprise in the back of his throat(?), and when you looked at him again, you were presented with a tinge of red almost shade-for-shade with yours, making his cheekbones literally glow.

Curiosity bloomed in your irises at that, and you unconsciously tilted your head to the side to give it away...and somehow, his face got even redder.

Red finally spoke, his grumbling voice much shakier than you would deem normal for him. "u-uhh...b-b-boss...?"

But he seemed too far gone to even acknowledge his brother, let alone you, as his stare glazed off into the distance. It was like he had forgotten anyone else was there.

"...A genuine compliment..." he actually whispered, though compared to his usual loud tone of volume, it seemed like anyone else's normal tone of conversation. "...that look on her face...obvious attempts at flirting...this can only mean one thing..."

That second-to-last bit caught your attention. "Uhm, c-come again?" you deadpanned.

But before you could blink, the tall one's hand reached out to yank the shorter one's collar rather roughly, turning both of themselves away from the three humans gawking at them. "EXCUSE US FOR A MOMENT!!" he boomed, the sudden rise in decibel enough to make you jump.

As the two skeletons stepped away from the register to engage their sudden time-out, you slowly turned your head to look at your CSM, nothing short of completely baffled. The unspoken question in your eyes was as clear as day: What in the fresh heck is even happening?

The CSM merely shrugged, mirroring your expression of disbelief, as you got your answer. Beats the ever-loving fluff out of me. Turning the other way to look at your coworker on #1 proved only the same result.

Both of the brothers were standing a little ways away from the register area, huddled together as if they were going over a game strategy for football, rather than a plan of action. In addition, the taller brother must not really have an idea of how to properly whisper, because you could hear every single word that he was saying to Red. Said shorter skeleton was indeed much quieter, but his body was turned to face your way in the huddle, so you could pretty decently make out what he was saying, as well.

The whole while, you pretended to turn a blind ear to them both, grabbing the rest of the taller skeleton's items to scan them as if you weren't totally eavesdropping on them like a five-year-old. You didn't need to be in any more hot water than you probably(?) were with them, that was for darn sure.

"Brother, we must figure out what to do with this human immediately! What game I suspect she is playing with us cannot go on any longer!"

"uh, yeah, totally boss...so, uh...what exactly is she doin' again...?"

"Isn't it obvious, you fool?! You heard just as well as I did those statements she made to me, observing my greatness and proclaiming it to the world! She didn't even try to make it subtle her intentions towards me!"

You saw the absolute confusion on the shorter brother's face, before it morphed into such a fake look of understanding, you had to hold in a snort of laughter. "o-oh! yeah, of course, bro...m-my mistake...?"

"You are forgiven. Now then, while you were floundering around during the whole audacious spectacle, I have started to form a foolproof idea of how we can deal with this...this utter vixen which has managed to perplex someone as...as un-perplexable as I!"

Red turned his head to mutter something that even you couldn't hear, but the way his mouth was moving made it look like an "oh, boy...", which made you almost break into laughter again. "oh, yeah? what're you thinkin', boss?"

"Exactly this, brother - and pay attention, for this is extremely important..."

At this point, the taller brother seemed to tighten their huddle, so that, even with his "whispering" tone of voice, you had to strain to hear the next part of their discussion. But that would have definitely given away your position, so, reluctantly, you turned your full attention to scanning the rest of the spikey monster's items. Whatever it was that those two were planning, you were simply going to have to trust your gut - and the effectiveness of your CSM's ability to get help - that nothing bad would happen to you.

But you weren't feeling convinced at all. 'How we can deal with this human', and 'foolproof idea' were some of the little snippets you heard to prove that fact.

You shut your eyes momentarily, letting out a shaky rush of air to calm your nerves. I mean, nothing's happened to me so far, you reasoned, and I'm sure that these two would know what causing a scene in a public store would lead to. What do you even have to worry about?

But as the two edgy monsters finally released their time-out stance...only to simultaneously lock onto your irises with their own gleaming crimson eyelights, you couldn't help but get that nagging feeling that you were never going to be that lucky.

In addition, you seemed to finally get a smile from the tall one: a wide, sharp, and downright evil grin that did little more than root you to your spot out of pure terror.

And lightning just so happened to crash outside the store in that moment, as well. Did this guy always come pre-packaged with an ominous atmosphere wherever he went?!

"WE APPRECIATE YOUR PATIENCE WITH US BOTH...MISS Y/N..." He practically purred his gratitude and your name in such a sickly sweet tone, that you unconsciously gulped the remaining moisture coating your tongue down, leaving it uncomfortably dry.

You hoped to the stars that the CSM's walkie-talkie was turned on and ready.

The tall skeleton continued, coming to rest just beyond your counter. "AS IT APPEARS, YOU'VE JUST SO HAPPENED TO GIVE ME QUITE THE STARTLE WITH YOUR UNEXPECTED DECLARATION OF UNBRIDLED AFFECTION TOWARDS ME, AND I HAD TO TAKE A MOMENT TO REGAIN MY COMPOSURE."

Unbridled...what now? Oh boy, you mentally groaned at the assumption, all of your previous fears for your pitiful life deflating almost comically fast, not this again.

Before you could get a single word out to correct him, the behemoth interrupted you. "HOWEVER, I MUST ALSO BRING TO YOUR ATTENTION SOMETHING YOU MUST UNDERSTAND: I DON'T NOW, NOR WILL I EVER FEEL THESE ROMANTIC ATTRACTIONS FOR YOU, AS YOU SO OBVIOUSLY FEEL FOR ME." To your relief, his evil smirk grew more smug, and by extension, less dangerous for your situation. "SO YOU MIGHT AS WELL JUST GIVE UP, HUMAN! YOUR PLAN HAS BEEN THWARTED BY NONE OTHER THAN THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE P - ER, EDGE!"

...Really? That was his name? It was certainly fitting, but...Edge? It was like proclaiming to the world that he not only shopped at Hot Topic - as his red and black, spiky armor-looking clothes clearly stated - but that he had just bought all the rights to the name itself.

Weird baby names aside, you knew for a fact that, just like with Blue, the only way for you to get out of this relatively unscathed would be to appease the beast before anything...unsightly were to transpire.

So, you responded, with a frown and a pointed snap of your fingers, "Oh...darn."

Short, simple, and hopefully not too sarcastic for Edgy here to pick up on it, you deduced.

And by the stars, you were right! Edge proudly placed his hands on his hipbones and let out a laugh that reminded you of Blue just as much as his exceptional ego had.

"NYAH-HAH-HAH-HAH! I KNEW IT! YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY CRUSHED, AREN'T YOU, LITTLE HUMAN? YOUR HEART SIMPLY CANNOT TAKE THE PURE REJECTION THAT I HAVE SO MERCILESSLY DELIVERED UNTO YOU!" he gloated, the edges of his grin turning up in a cruel sort-of happiness.

Were it not for his spiky exterior and hurtful intentions, you could have sworn that you were here talking to a carbon copy of Blue himself. And given how cute the smol skele was to you, the way this tol skele was acting had you almost letting a few giggles slip, just like yesterday. Needless to say, all of your nervousness had all but vanished, leaving you fighting back a smile.

Oh, what the hell? Much to Edge's delight - and Red's utter shock - you decided to play along. 

"Oh, please, captain!" you sighed dramatically - but not overly so; you knew that he couldn't be that oblivious - placing a hand over your chest as if you had been shot. "Can't you be so kind as to spare the feelings of a poor cashier like me?"

Completely contradictory to his point, that cherry glow to his cheekbones returned at once, making him stutter briefly. "T-THIS DOESN'T CHANGE A-A-ANYTHING, YOU INSOLENT GIRL!" he all but shouted, the sound ringing in your ears. "IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW YOU BEG OTHERWISE, OR HOW HEARTBROKEN YOU LOOK RIGHT NOW, O-OR HOW...how pleading your eyes look, or how your lower lip t-trembles like that..."

Oooookay, you saw where this was going. Rather than indulge this tsundere's fantasy any longer, you hurried to get his point across. "But, if I have to suffer without you, dear captain Edge, then so be it," you interjected solemnly. "I'll just have to settle for less..."

As you bowed your head in reverence, you caught a glimpse of the shorter brother literally gawking, open-mouthed, at your performance. Ever-so-subtly, you shot him a triumphant wink of your own, and Red blinked dumbly right back at you.

But, to yank back up your nervousness, Edge shot you a skeptical look that you'd hoped he wouldn't display. "HMMM..." he paused, placing a gloved hand on his chin, rustling the ripped, crimson scarf wound around his neck vertebrae. "YOU SEEM TO BE VERY...ALRIGHT WITH SURRENDERING SO EASILY, HUMAN CLERK." he bent down so that his menacing eyelights were level with your own irises. "ALMOST TOO ALRIGHT WITH IT..."

Crap. Settle down, heart! Don't give yourself away!! "W-whatever do you mean...?" you countered, reaching for his bag of items and plopping them on the counter like nothing was wrong.

Edge said nothing, only keeping his stare locked onto yours with a persistence you had to admire. You tried to look as convincing as possible, praying the monster would go easy on you in some miracle from on high.

Suddenly, the skeleton slammed both of his hands down on the counter, making you jump nearly a foot in the air out of shock.

"I KNOW YOUR GAME, HUMAN!!" He shrieked, the points of his teeth curling in a horrifying snarl. Yipes! "THIS ENTIRE SPECTACLE HAS BEEN NOTHING BUT A PLOY! YOU HAD BEEN TRYING TO TRICK ME ALL ALONG, FALSELY DECLARING TO ME FEELINGS OF ATTRACTION THAT HAD NEVER EVEN EXISTED!!"

"U-uhh...!" Words all but escaped you as you looked at the tyrant in newly-regained fear. Even Red was looking on in surprise, as if he didn't even know where his brother was going with his rant.

"DON'T EVEN TRY TO DENY IT! I NOW SEE WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN TRYING TO DO TO ME ALL ALONG: TO START A...A FRIENDSHIP WITH ME!!" The skeleton practically spat the word, as if it had been laced with poison. "ABSOLUTELY DETESTABLE, THINKING YOU COULD GET AWAY WITH DECEIVING THE LIKES OF ME WITH YOUR CONNIVING PLANS, YOU TREACHEROUS GIRL!!"

...Oh.

Well, to be perfectly honest, he wasn't wrong. Not in the slightest. That was exactly where you had been going, in your rush to try and get off the topic of unrequited feelings. You figured that, despite his prickly and rough exterior, someone that behaved in a manner similar to Blue - with his outright entertaining attitude and reluctance to pose any real feelings of hostility towards you - would make for a fairly interesting friend, to say the least.

And, to further your resolve, just look at you now: you had been handling both of these edgy monsters for...okay, wow. It was already after closing? And you didn't even need the CSM's or your co-worker's help? If that wasn't impressive by your standards, you didn't know what would be.

All in all, could you handle a friendly relationship with either of these guys? Yes.

Would it be easy? Stars, no.

Were you DETERMINED enough to see it through anyway? Oh, hell yes.

You didn't even try to fake your next statement, shrugging with complete compliance. "Yeah, you've pretty much got me pegged, it was all my plan to make you my friend." you admitted.

...But that didn't mean you still weren't above humoring him one last time, just to get another entertaining rise out of him. "In fact, I almost got you to do it, you have to admit!" you smirked, playful. "You know, captain, if they make greeting cards to thank people for helping with evil plans...I owe you one." you giggled lightheartedly, and Red blinked again in shock at your risk.

Edge jabbed a clawed finger in your direction. "AHA!! SO YOU ADMIT IT!! THIS WAS ALL PART OF AN EVIL HUMAN SCHEME OF SOME HENIOUS KIND!" he seethed, a cruel, victorious grin suddenly gracing his sharp teeth. "WELL, Y/N, IT SEEMS THAT, ONCE AGAIN, YOUR PLAN HAS ULTIMATELY..."

He paused, the triumphant look all but disintegrating from his bony features. His pointing arm lowered, and a look of deep concentration completely took him over. It looked like he was having a life-or-death mental argument with himself.

Red finally decided to make himself known, once more to check on his brother. "uh...boss?"

Edge seemed to break out of his trance at the sound of the shorter monster, and, surprisingly, he grabbed his arm, once more yanking him off to the side so he could talk to him out of your earshot.

You sighed, only now checking the time on your register clock. 9:17. You should have been clocked out nearly twenty minutes ago.

Hopefully for the last time, you glanced at the CSM, who once again gave a confused shrug, this time with a hint of exasperation to it. You could tell that if they weren't so afraid of these two - why else hadn't they stepped in on your behalf yet? - they would have been trying to hurry them both along so everyone could go home.

Not even bothering to listen to the two anymore, you turned your gaze to the sliding glass doors leading out into the parking lot. Surprisingly enough, the rain had finally stopped. Well, there was one less thing to worry about.

The skeletons broke apart much quicker than last time, and you turned your attention back to them. What now? you thought in a tired haze.

Edge was silent for a moment, seeming to figure out how to say his next thought. After a beat, he cleared his throat, and said in a shockingly calm voice,

"VERY WELL, HUMAN. I WILL CONSENT WITH FORMING THIS...FRIENDSHIP WITH YOU."

...What?

"...What?" you all but gawked at the monster, eyes widened to saucers.

Edge elaborated with an eye roll, "I CAN SEE NOW THAT YOU ARE VERY, WHAT WE MONSTERS WOULD CALL, DETERMINED. MEANING: NO MATTER HOW I TRY TO FIGHT THIS, I CAN TELL YOU'LL BE RESILIENT ENOUGH TO KEEP COMING BACK TO ME WITH THIS SAME REQUEST, ADAMANT THAT I FORM SOME SORT OF RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU."

Again, he leaned down over your counter, but in a far less intimidating manner. "AM I WRONG?"

"N-no, I guess not..."

"THEN I SEE NO POINT IN CONTINUING THIS ARGUMENT." Before you could reply, he whipped to the side to address his brother. "SA - RED, I HOPE YOU REALIZE WHAT THIS MEANS. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO INTENTIONALLY HARASS, PROVOKE, OR OTHERWISE CAUSE THIS HUMAN ANY DISCOMFORT WHILE THIS FRIENDSHIP REMAINS INTACT. IS THAT CLEAR?"

Red stammered, trying in vain to get his say in the matter. "b-but wait, boss, i mean, i was only tryin' to -"

The taller brother glowered, his bloodred eyelights glimmering dangerously. "I SAID, IS THAT CLEAR?!"

The shorter skeleton jolted in fear, those red, magical beads of sweat rolling unceremoniously down the sides of his skull. He gulped, despite the apparent lack of a throat to do so. "y-yeah, of course, boss..."

Defeated, Red shifted his pinpricked irises over to your own, and you couldn't help but shoot the poor monster another satisfying wink, along with a smirk of victory for good measure. 

How's that for karma, sucka?!

"HUMAN." Edge shifted your focus to him, for you to see one of his clawed hands held out expectantly, palm up. "I REQUIRE SOME PAPER, AND SOMETHING TO WRITE WITH."

...Oh, stars, you knew where this was going. Sure you were friends, and all...but did you have to...?

As one of his bony brows raised at your pause, you sighed in compliance before printing out a blank piece of receipt tape, and handing him a pen.

While the sharp skeleton was preoccupied with his writing, you busied yourself with stretching your uncomfortably stiff limbs. You had requested a register with less action with customers for a reason, and it showed. As you stretched your arms, rolled your shoulders, and rotated your neck, you heard each satisfying 'POP' in return, making you sigh in relief.

Out of the corner of your eye, Red jolted in his spot beside Edge, and a light red shade began to take over his cheekbones. What was up with him...?

The taller brother finally shoved the paper and pen in your hands after a minute. Sure enough, it had his phone number scrawled in jagged, all-capitals handwriting, along with his name.

As you were looking it over, you could see him suddenly lean over towards the poor CSM just standing by, holding up a hand to his mouth to keep his next words secret from you (when they really weren't).

"Little does she know, I'm only agreeing to this to learn her weaknesses and foil her secret malevolent tactics in this so-called 'friendship'. She'll never know what's coming to her~" he smirked, the CSM replying with a shaky thumbs-up and an appeasing head nod.

When you were sure his full attention was nowhere near you, you rolled your eyes. Sheesh. There really is no pleasing anyone, is there?

You cleared your throat, startling the monster into regaining a stiff composure. Smiling like normal, you got right to the point, telling Edge his total balance for the items (you must have been right about him having money to spare, because whoa mamma, it was a lot).

Without a word, he payed for his purchase. He then reached an arm over to grab all of his bags - displaying an impressive amount of strength, you might add, considering the many bags he had on a single arm.

"I EXPECT TO HEAR FROM YOU AT LEAST ONCE A DAY, HU - Y/N." He actually said your name this time, making your grin wider at his friendly attempt. Who cares if he was doing it to 'learn your secrets'? It was a start, at least!

"I will, don't worry, Captain Edge." You replied, putting emphasis on his own name with a wink.

His cheekbones - unsurprisingly - lit up in a blush, and without another word, he turned on his high-heel and stalked out of the sliding glass doors in a huff.

The second the high-maintenance monster was out of earshot, everyone at the front of the store let out a collective sigh.

"stars, kiddo," Red finally spoke up, his deeper timbre surprisingly a welcome sound after Edge's growl. "i don't even know how ya did it, but...at least you're alive."

You barked a laugh, letting it grow stronger with the realization that, yes, you were alive. Alive, and with a new friend in tow, to boot.

Red chuckled at hearing your laughter. "yeah, i'd be in a good mood, too, sugar lips," he commented, and his face shifted into an all-too familiar smirk at the nickname.

"heya, ya wouldn't happen to have another one of those papers for me to -"

"Nope."

he blinked, his pinpricked eyelights seeming to shrink. "...w-wha-?"

"Nope." you repeated, smile unwavering from your face. You were not going to let this bozo dampen your mood, not anymore.

That was clearly not what he was expecting. "b-but i..." he stammered, sweating, "i mean, ya gave him a -"

You butted in. "Because, unlike you, Edge was actually making an effort to be nice to me. What exactly have you done, champ?" you countered, crossing your arms over your chest in defiance.

"i-i...i, uhh..."

"Mmhmm, that's what I thought." You told him in your teacher's voice, standing your ground like a rock. It felt so good to finally show this a-hole what for!

"Once you've proven that you can act like more than a perverted wisecrack, then we'll talk, m'kay, slugger?" Let's see how he liked the nickname-game, huh?

The skeleton all but stared at you in disbelief as the red on his cheekbones lightened to a pinkish hue...before he let out a few breaths of laughter. He shook his head, a dumbfounded smile crossing his shark-like teeth. "jeez, sweetheart, you're..." a pause, to let out another chuckle, "you're really somethin' else, ain't'cha?"

Your smirk immediately softened to a happy smile at his compliment - and a real compliment, no less. Reaching behind you, you grabbed a plastic sign just off to the side of the register, placing it on the counter in front of Red's face.

'REGISTER CLOSED'

"Don't you forget it, friendo. Now, have a good rest of your day, y'hear?"

The monster laughed again, grabbing his bag and turning to leave, but not before shooting a wave at you over his shoulder.

He was gone.

A long pause of silence stretched between the remaining three of you at the front of the store for a good solid minute. It was broken by your coworker on register #1, as they let out a dumbfounded curse under their breath, raising a hand to their forehead.

"Wow," the CSM reciprocated, walking up to your counter with an elated smile, and even slowly clapping at your performance. "That was really something else! I'm pretty sure you handled that better than I ever could, Y/n."

Your smile widened at the praise, and you dragged a hand down your face tiredly. "Don't get used to it," you replied, breathlessly. "I'm not even sure where the heck half of that confidence even came from..."

You finally shut down your register, the sounds of all of your laughter ringing all the way to the punch-out clock.

 

Your back hit your well-worn mattress, and you let out a shuddering yawn, stretching your limbs so that they popped again. You'd made the effort to change into your pajamas this time, and you would have gone straight to sleep after the day you had...if you didn't have a few friends to text first.

Adora-Blue: WOWZERS, IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU'VE HAD QUITE A DAY, FROM HOW YOU DESCRIBED IT! I HOPE YOU GET LOTS OF SLEEP, OKAY MISS HUMAN?

You: Don't worry, hon, I will :)

Adora-Blue: AND HOPEFULLY YOU'LL NEVER SEE THOSE RUDE CUSTOMERS AGAIN. I CAN'T IMAGINE SOMEONE BEING THAT LOUD AND HAVING SUCH A COCKY ATTITUDE! THAT WOULD BE SO ANNOYING! >:(

Oh, boy. You giggled, but didn't move to correct the smol skele. Instead, you chose a more neutral route.

You: I promise I'll take care of myself, Blue. Thanks for looking out for me ^3^

Adora-Blue: NO PROBLEM-O, HUMAN COMPANION! HAVE A GOOD NIGHT'S REST!!

You: Bye-bye :)

You flicked back through your messages to find the next one, the smile never leaving your face.

Stretch-shirt: yikes. sounds like you had a run in with some bad weather...in more ways than one

You: Har dee har :P You're lucky I can't slug you from here

Stretch-shirt: maybe next time hun lol

You rolled your eyes.

Stretch-shirt: but seriously, i don't mind if you wanna vent after a day like that. they're lucky i wasn't there to slug them for acting like that

You: lol :)

Stretch-shirt: who were those idiots anyway?

You hesitated. You knew how Stretch could get around his brother, and as much as having that kind of protection appealed to you, you needed to get across that you didn't want him to worry. Besides, dropping names could only lead to trouble.

You: Didn't get their names. They were just some edgy monsters trying to start shit, no biggie

Half-lie, half-truth. Good enough.

Stretch-shirt: edgy, huh? weird...

*DING* In the middle of texting Stretch back, your phone notified you that you had gotten a new message, and from a recently added number, too.

Edge-tacular: THANK YOU FOR ADDING MY NUMBER, HUMAN. LIKE I HAVE SAID BEFORE, I SHALL EXPECT NOTHING LESS THAN A TEXT A DAY FROM YOU.

You should have expected that he would type in all caps, like Blue. Upon reading his message, you made a mental note to take a minute to discern his texts from Blue's. You didn't want that ending in a disaster.

You replied to Stretch, first, just to get him off the line. You had a feeling that Edge would want his texts to be responded to promptly, and frankly, you didn't want to test if you were right.

You: Hey, gtg, I'm gonna get some sleep now, okay?

Stretch-shirt: sure. sweet dreams, okay honey? :)

You: x)

Now, for the Edgelord...That actually seemed like a better name for him. After a quick adjustment, you responded with a smirk.

You: I'll certainly try :)

<EDGELORD>: THEN GET SOME REST. I CAN'T HAVE MY NEW FRIEND BEING DEPRIVED OF SLEEP, NOW CAN I?

You: I will haha x) You as well, captain ^3^

Resting your phone on your bedside desk, you yawned once more and snuggled under your down comforter, determined to take Edge's advice.

You were just about to drift off, when...

*DING*

"Uughh..." you groaned, reaching a hand out from under the covers to snatch your phone over to you again. "...I thought I told everyone I was going to sleep..."

Unknown Number: heya dolly~

You stiffened. The ID may have been unknown, but you'd know that nickname use anywhere. Narrowing your eyes, your furiously typed a response.

You: Red?? How did you get this number??

Unknown Number: i looked over my bro's shoulder when he was texting you. got your number, now, sweets ;)

You: Well, lose it! I meant what I said about not wanting you to have it yet, you jerk!

Unknown Number: ouch. not a very friendly thing to do, is it?

You: You can't hold that threat over me anymore. Your brother told you not to screw with me, remember? I can call him right now!

Unknown Number: i know i know

Unknown Number: before you wake him up tho, lemme make a deal with ya

Unknown Number: i'll only text ya once every day, and you can respond once back. i won't even make 'em that bad, i promise ;)

You growled under your breath.

You: You're not making a convincing case, Red

Unknown Number: c'mon, darlin', i've got the same intentions as the boss, here

Unknown Number: i just wanna hear from ya, make sure you're okay

You paused after you read that last bit, flopping your head back against your pillow as you groaned in frustration.

He actually was being nice...and a single text a day wouldn't exactly kill you...

Oh, stars, you hated yourself.

You: Fine. But if just ONE of your texts gets out of line, I'm calling Edge

Unknown Number: i'll hold ya to that myself, sweet thing ;)

You frowned at the annoying nickname usage. Well, you thought, pulling up your contact settings, let's see how he likes it.

You: Cool it with the nicknames, okay?

Red-gisteredSexOffender: can't help it, doll ;) at least let me have a few?

You snorted. Yeah, as long as you were keeping this name for him, he could have his fun.

You: Only a few :P Now let me sleep!

Red-gisteredSexOffender: nighty-night, princess ;*

Once you switched off your phone, for good this time, you collapsed back on your bed, a giggling mess. That name really was too much!

That thought, paired with the fact that you had one more day of work until your free day, had you falling asleep the most content you had been in a while, a small smile on your face through it all.

Chapter Text

Wednesday

The late afternoon period was a quiet one, and the mellow suburban area that lay just before the hustle and bustle of the center of town was certainly living up to it's namesake. The hottest time of the day led to several kids playing in their yards, and even in the roads, given the lack of traffic. Those with days off were spending the glorious weather tending to their outside gardens, watering their greener-than-green grass, or simply sitting in a comfy lawn chair on their porches, soaking up the continuous vitamin D that shined from above. Once in a while, they would notice one another, casually sauntering up to their neighbors with a friendly greeting or an inquiry about their day ready on their lips.

On the pavement that stretched its arms through the mess of neatly tended-to houses, numerous pebbles and chalk drawings bloomed like daisies, always seeming to daily replace another should they have gotten moved or faded away. Occasionally, bits of random litter would float about here - a plastic bag here, a scrap of paper there - giving the slightest taint to that magazine look the area usually posed for its residents. Normally, such stains wouldn't have bothered you, as they would always seem to disappear into a friendly neighbor's recycling bin at the end of the day.

But, of course, one such mess had to pointedly 'slap'  against the front of your windshield as you zipped down the street, going as fast as you dared over the crawling speed limit.

"Oh, give me a break!" You grumbled, flicking on your wipers to swipe away the offending substance. You lowered your speed by just a fraction, though, you couldn't afford to go any slower than that.

You had taken the evening shift yet again for your Wednesday work day. Given the excitement you carried all throughout the morning because of your long-awaited day off tomorrow, you had foolishly decided to let the unnecessary stress leave you be by taking a nap. It was only a simple shutting of the eyes, not meant to be more than an hour, an hour and a half at most. When you had woken up in a groggy, sandy-eyed haze nearly three hours later, it took a literal minute for you to finally realize the time, bolt up stock-still on the couch, shout an expletive you had prayed none of the other tenants would hear, and get off your butt in a rush to get your work uniform.

You knew you'd regret it by the end of the day, but you knew you'd never function at your register taking every five minutes to openly yawn like a kitten. That was why you were carefully bringing a travel mug of instant coffee to your lips as you drove. Leaving the outskirts of the suburbs, you hoped to the stars that the commoner's beverage would do its job by the time you got to the store.

As your brain gained its steady charge of caffeine, you allowed it to wander away from the daunting fact that you were nearly late. Where should it have gone, but the two brothers - the edgy ones, at least. But no, wait, the nicer ones were still creeping in there, too. With both sets of monsters bouncing around in your thoughts, you took the time to ponder on it.

One day after the other, you had met two pairs of skeleton brothers, both of which seemed to look nearly identical to the other, excluding the obvious discrepancies. In fact, they seemed to act like the other as well, with Edge being a taller, meaner counterpart to little Blue, and with Red being a shorter, downright perverted counterpart to the lazy Stretch. Maybe it was just you, but you were starting to think that these weren't mere coincidences after last night.

Was one pair somehow related to the other? That seemed to be the only conclusion that would make sense. Granted, you knew there had to be a ton of skeletons among the monster race you had yet to meet...but this was just too weird. Maybe you should tell one of the pair of skeletons about the other, just to get some clarity. What would be the harm?

You decided you'd do just that at the end of the day, as you turned the car into the entrance to the Monster and Human Groceries parking lot. Parking your car at the end of the pavement and away from the store, like you always would, you gulped down the remainder of your coffee, straightened your hair and your uniform vest, and stepped out into the warm air...

Only to jump back in and quietly shut the door when you saw the crowd. There were at least forty or so humans standing right at the entrance to the store, some carrying eye-catching picket signs, most shouting incoherently with their fists raised in the air, but all of them turned to the establishment with angry, sneering looks on their faces.

You groaned. Of course there was a protest today. Already this month, there had been three others; why wouldn't there be one more?

The very minute that you had seen the first reports of monsters integrating on the surface, you had known for a fact that public unrest, riots and hate groups would be the next terrors plaguing humanity, even if the monsters had proved merciful. If there had been stirrings in the past (to put it mildly) when humans themselves proved different from the majority, than what was stopping this?

A new, civilized and very different species that wanted nothing more than friendly, diplomatic relationships with their past foes, as a way of making peace for all future generations? You might as well have slapped a giant target on each of their backs, declaring in big, bold letters: 'I'M NOT LIKE YOU. YOU SHOULD BE AFRAID, ANYWAY.'

This was why you chose to peer out your tinted car window at the grizzly gathering, contemplating your next move. They hadn't seen you yet, but you knew that they would once you got anywhere near the front doors. It wasn't hard to imagine how they'd act after that. If you somehow managed to hide your uniform, you'd undoubtedly get yelled at for choosing to shop there, but if you didn't even try to, their reaction would be even worse.

Of course, there was always the option of 'calling in sick' and burning rubber right on out of there...

But before you could chicken out and choose that option 'C', your mind suddenly flickered back to the nicer pair of skelebros. You remembered Blue's excitement and happiness as he declared your friendship, regardless of the fact that the majority of your kind had wanted all like him dead, gone, or both. And Stretch...the approval he gave you as he witnessed your genuine acts of kindness to him and his brother, and that comment he made about you being a good person...in that moment, that had meant so much to you.

What were you thinking?! If you bailed now in the face of those butthurt degenerates, what good example would you be setting? How would people know that you weren't afraid to stand up for what was right?

At that moment, you decided that you couldn't afford not to care. If you weren't going to do the right thing for the rest of humanity's patience and goodness, then you would do it for those two. Remembering their smiling faces as the first threads of friendship started to tie between you...you just couldn't let them down.

And besides, every second you spent weighing your options was another second not recorded on the punch-in clock. You had to move.

With a fire set in your eyes, a clench to your fists, and a set to your jaw, you got out of your car and slammed the door shut. After a quick fix to your hair and a deep breath, you were setting a brisk pace towards the edge of the crowd, pure waves of DETERMINATION fueling your drive.

You forced your head to keep its high stance, forced your eyes to keep on the front doors beyond the throng, forced your pace not to falter. Almost there.

They noticed you. You heard the clamor and noise of the protesters die a fraction or two as your footsteps slapped on the pavement. Out of your peripheral vision, numerous heads turned your way, initially with curiosity, then with surprise, and then with slowly rising anger. None called out to you yet. Almost there.

You had to force your way through the several people at the edge of the crowd, and you did so as quietly and with as much courtesy as you could express. "Excuse me. Pardon me. Sorry about that..." your own voice seemed to be swallowed by the white noise of the majority of the people, but you kept at it. Almost there.

Almost the--

"Hey, you!"

The exclamation was much closer to your ear than you'd expected it to be, and you startled, stumbling over your own feet. Right into the back of another protester.

"Eugh, get off me, you freak!" she hissed, violently shoving you off of her and onto the blacktop. She backed away the instant you hit, and so did the people around her.

When you looked upwards at your assailant, you found that she and the rest had all given you a wide berth, forming a circle around you. Their hateful stares intensified as they offered no path of easy escape. Your heart hammered in your chest. This was definitely a much worse scenario than the other protests.

Before you could scramble back up and bolt through the blockade, the owner of the first voice stepped forward into the ring, a picket sign slung over his shoulder like a baseball bat. The words, 'THEN, UNDER OUR NOSES. NOW, UNDER OUR BOOTS.' glared down at you just as much as he was.

"Where're you goin', birdie?" the man smirked, his baseball cap casting a shadow over his face extending down almost to his rather unkempt beard. You, on the other hand, were staring up at the sun like it was a spotlight, squinting your eyes up at his looming figure. Even from on the ground, you could tell he was taller than you, and could just as easily gain an advantage over you if things turned physical. "Don't tell me that you actually work at this freak circus?"

Your blood boiled at his snarky tone, and your stare hardened. Planting your thinly scraped hands on either side of you, you pushed yourself to stand to full height, at a safe distance away from this bully. "Yes, I actually do." you pointedly answered, brushing specks of gravel off your vest. "And I'm actually close to being late. So if you kind people would excuse me for a mo-"

As you took your first step towards the edge of the circle, the man moved to stand right in front of you. "Aw, come on, one late incident won't fire ya. Why don't'cha stay with us for a bit, hmm?" the forty-something interrupted, parking himself just within your reach. You knew that this bozo was just begging for you to try and physically move him aside, to give him an excuse to put his hands right back on you. "We don't wanna bite, we just wanna talk with ya for a bit."

You clenched your fists. "Do you really want to start something, buddy?" After a beat, you forced your hands to uncurl. You knew that would just egg him on even more.

"What's there to start?" he retorted, giving you a look as if you were the crazy one. "We're just asking for a friendly little chat. Is that so wrong, sweetheart?" The man addressed you with the same degrading nickname that Red had given you, and that just made you all the more irritated.

"Frankly, I think that friendliness is the last thing any of you have on your minds." you outright snapped. Your time was ticking down every second you were letting this guy pester you. "I don't have time for this. Now, excuse me."

You finally walked around the man to the line of people. You turned to squeeze your way through the tiniest of gaps, hands pressed firmly to your sides.

But a woman around your age, positioned right in front of you, loudly shrieked, "Don't touch me!!", causing the other bystanders to glare menacingly at you.

You sighed, exasperated. Had she not heard you before? "Excuse me." you plainly stated, so that she'd have no choice but to hear you.

You tried again, gentler this time, but she only screamed louder, shoving you backwards harder. "Don't touch me!!" Even more protesters took notice, and were soon in a complete uproar in mere seconds. "You're assaulting me! She just assaulted meee!"

You gaped at the woman in disbelief. "I didn't even lay my hands on you! I'm only trying to get away from you crazy people!" You looked around at those who witnessed the scene. "You all should know, since you've got your stupid phones recording the whole thing!" Indeed, the majority making up the circle had their ridiculously giant smartphones in the air, red recording lights flashing like homing beacons.

Ah, 201X, what a time to live in.

A wide hand was suddenly on your shoulder, roughly yanking you back to stare up at the man's sneering face. "Y'know, you may be one of us, but you're no better than the rest of those demons!" he shouted, and those around him lifted their voices in agreement. "Not even bothering to listen how you're hurting us as a species, and playing the victim when it benefits you the most! You're disgusting!!" His grip tightened on your arm, bordering on painful.

"Let me go!" You tried to slap his arm away, but the bigger man didn't even flinch. "Leave me alone, you sonovabi--!"

SMACK. The man flat-out backhanded you across the face, sending you spiraling to the ground once more. The onlookers cheered and jeered all the same, raising their voices in a chant.

"OUT OF OUR TOWN! BACK UNDERGROUND! OUT OF OUR TOWN! BACK UNDERGROUND! OUT OF OUR TOWN! BACK UNDERGROUND!"

Your cheek burned, but you refrained from showing any signs of injury. You knew it wouldn't get you anywhere even if you tried.

You saw the guy bend toward you to yank you back up...

Before a stranger sporting an odd set of pink slippers blipped right in out of nowhere, partially blocking your view of the man.

"buddy. i think i heard her say to leave her alone."

The crowd's chanting ceased at once, dissolving into little more than mere murmurs. Looking around, however, at the surprised faces of a variety of humans, proved that they hadn't gotten any less angry. In fact, this new disturbance seemed to only cause the opposite reaction. None made a move, tightly coiled to strike at any moment not unlike a cobra.

You instantly scooted back a few paces to get out of the...'splash zone', per se. As you looked up at your mystery savior, you knew immediately why everyone else appeared exceptionally on edge.

A monster had come to your rescue. Decidedly male, you could tell by the deepness of his voice. He had his back turned to you as he and the human male locked eyes. You took in the royal blue of his hoodie, to which he had his hands stuffed nonchalantly in the pockets, and the way his black basketball shorts cut off just below the knee, giving way to a very skeletal-looking leg structure.

Over the monster's shoulder, Baseball cap snarled at the unwanted interruption. "This doesn't concern you, monster. Only another ugly monster-lover who needs to be taught which side she's on. So why don't you blip on out of here before this gets any worse."

To your surprise, the skeleton chuckled deeply at the man's threat - a casual, rumbling baritone that seemed uncanny to another sharp-toothed monster you knew. The man bristled at this, seedy eyes narrowing at the response.

The monster finally turned to look at you over his shoulder, and you knew why that more than just his laugh seemed familiar. The skeleton regarded your cowering form with a lazy, yet calming look in his eye sockets, tiny pinpricks of white light seeming to glow in contrast to pitch black. His perma-smile was devoid of any gold and sharpness, yet still proved to have that malleable quality to it and the rest of his face, much like the other skeletons. You may have mistaken Red for Blue when you had given him a first look, but you were positively swearing up and down that this character was a softer, safer-looking version of the crimson-clad skeleton you'd met yesterday.

You hadn't known that you would be the type to attract skeletons whenever you showed up to work three days ago, but you were certainly at that conclusion now.

The skeleton had only looked at you for a moment before he turned his attention back to the man, shaking his skull lightly. "okay. first off, you seriously need your head checked if 'ugly' was the word you were going for..."

...Did this guy just indirectly call you 'pretty'?

"and second off, i thought these protests were s'pposed to be peaceful. you've got a funny way of showin' it if you're slappin' one of this store's clerks across the face for no reason, don't'cha, pal?"

Baseball cap crossed his arms. "If you saw that, then you'd have seen her try to attack one of us not even two minutes ago. She's just as much of a trigger-happy nuisance as you creeps are!"

The skeleton cocked his head slightly, as if he was confused by the man's accusation. Good, as he should have been! This ridiculous charade had been going on far longer than you would have liked - you were quite positive that you were late to clock in by now - and it felt nice to have someone on your side.

"really? 'cause i'm pretty sure i saw that she didn't even try to lift her hand. and i'm sure you heard her say that she was only tryin' to leave." he retorted. The man opened his mouth to object, but the skeleton cut him off. "and y'know what? i don't even think she tried to 'attack' you before ya started smackin' her around. so, what right do ya think you have to lay your hands on her?" he said all of this without tripping over his words, which someone like you was positively amazed at.

The skeleton stepped back to where you lay, stunned into silence just as much as the man was right about then. Kneeling down, he offered you an arm to help yourself up of the pavement, to which you gladly took. "seems like a bone-ified load of crap to me, don't ya think, kid?" One of his sockets closed in a familiar extended wink.

You snorted in surprise at the pun as you hefted yourself up, giving a light smile, and that seemed to make his wide skeleton grin even wider.

But the man suddenly stomped forward, stopping right in front of the monster's face and jabbing his finger as close as he dared. You were thankful that this new guy was only an inch or two shorter than you, because that gave you an opportunity to crouch behind him and out of the man's general view. "Sure, buddy, sure. Play the knight in shining armor for a girl and you think you're all hot shit, don't ya? But really, you're nothing more than a wise-ass who gets off on sticking his nonexistent nose into where he shouldn't belong, aren't you?!"

The skeleton didn't even flinch. "nah. i'm sans." he said simply.

Both you and the man blinked at the remarkably short answer. The man finally voiced your unasked question. "'Sans' what?" 

The skeleton elaborated with a shrug, "'sans' as in my name...and 'sans' any time to deal with all the shit comin' out of that ass you call a mouth." He suddenly allowed the pricks of his eyelights to disappear with a blink, leaving two empty, void sockets that creeped you out far more than you knew it should. "so why don't you go and bully someone with your own scraggly beard length, huh pal?"

The man's face turned a shade of red to match your pervy friend's namesake, and he looked just about ready to strike this monster as he did you. "Are you threatening me?! Get all that magic mumbo-jumbo out of my face, you freak!! I'll have you both arrested--!!"

Before the man could finish his outburst, the skeleton, Sans, turned to you and whispered, "don't let go of my arm."

You obeyed, for protection as well as the fact that his sockets still had that creepy, 'don't-mess-with-me' look to them, and then came a rather...odd feeling of having the ground disappear from under your feet.

Suddenly you were engulfed in a whirlwind of colors, whizzing by your head so fast, you thought that you were going to be sick. You kept a death grip on the monster's arm, in your weightless state, praying that the dizzying sensation would be over before you could pass out.

And then, after only two seconds, it was over, and you found yourself standing on solid ground once again. Unfortunately, you clumsily greeted that sensation with another collision with the floor, leaving you sprawled across the off-white tile in a heap.

Wait, since when were you standing on tile?

Sure enough, when you looked upwards, you could see a slowly spinning image of the inside of the store, fluorescent lights twirling around with the metal parts of the ceiling.

"Ohhhhhh my stars, what the heck was that..." you muttered woozily, all of your focus now set on keeping that instant coffee from making a reappearance.

Sans let out another chuckle, and you turned to see his spinning image supplying a rather sheepish grin, one of his hands rubbing the back of his skull. "yikes, heh heh. uh, sorry kid. i forgot that you haven't been through one of my shortcuts before." Stepping closer to you, he knelt down again to your level and placed a bony hand on your back, rubbing in slow circles. "just give it a minute; it'll go away soon, just don't move too quickly while it does."

You groaned in reply, moving to rest your cheek on the cold, tiled floor, a welcome temperature as opposed to the hot sun you were exposed to just minutes ago - not to mention that stinging slap you had gotten. "Yeah...gotcha. Thanks, uh, Sans..."

The skeleton made a noise of faint surprise, before leaning over you to get a better view of your nametag. "yeah, sure thing...y/n."

Chapter Text

Welp, you guys have floored me. Every single comment I read was in favor of my idea, and I am simply ecstatic about it. So, to not keep anyone waiting on my official answer (as if it wasn't already clear by the amount of help you all have been giving me on my tumblr): I am now officially taking any and all suggestions for anything beneficial to this story. Be these suggestions in the form of ideas about a potential plot, little one-shot chapters, certain characters I should add, or anything else, I am all ears for what you guys have to say. And just to clarify, after I get the second part to this third chapter posted, that's when I'll be implementing most of these ideas, if not all of them (because the ones I've been sent so far are freaking cool!!).

You're probably getting tired of hearing this by now, but I mean it when I say that this story would not be even off the ground if it weren't for all you readers. Ever since day one of this fic being out, I've gotten nothing but constant support and praise from these comments, which is already fantastic in itself. But then you guys had to go all out with the support for my tumblr and the story's continuation -- not to even mention your notes of sympathy when I can't update as frequently as most can. Your patience, understanding and encouragement for me to stay DETERMINED never fail to put a smile on my face every single dang time, and I really cannot be more grateful for that. I might be laying it on thick with this 'humble start' thing I've got going on, but I haven't and will not take for granted every moment of your appreciation for me just being here. To someone who's basically doing this as a side hobby, this is nothing short of amazing, no matter how small the benefits are to me. :)

Okay, okay. Sappiness over. I promise. Again, I apologize for the misleading chapter update, but the next one will be for Part 2. Once again, my tumblr name is @mccloudydays for all who want to swing by, and I'll be seeing everyone either there, or here with my next update! As always, have a good day, everyone! Ciao~ (^.^)/