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At This Particular Moment in Time

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You can smell dinner cooking as soon as you open the front door. Work needed you to stay later, so Papyrus must have started making something, even though it’s supposed to be your turn to make dinner tonight. The takeaway bags in your hands suddenly feel ten times heavier.

Sans spots you standing in the foyer of the house staring down at the containers of food you’d ordered on your way home. His hands are deep in the pockets of his black jeans, a relaxed smile on his skull, and a tilt to his head as he looks at you fondly. You don’t see any of this.

“welcome home, babe. need help?”

“No, I got it,” you mumble, squeezing past him to bring the food into the kitchen.

It’s quick work to shove it all onto an empty shelf in the fridge and shut the door so you don’t have to look at it, a reminder that they could do just fine without you. You living here is more a convenience to you than any sort of help to them. Moving here brought you miles closer to your job so you could save money. There were debts you needed to pay. You’re probably more of an inconvenience , really, the more you think about it.

Papyrus waves at you with a serving spoon, a large skillet starting to sizzle in front of him.

“HELLO, HUMAN! HOW WAS YOUR TIME AT THE OFFICE?”

“Hey, Paps. Was alright. Thanks for cooking.”

The skeleton looks back to the chopping board in front of him, his hands deftly cutting up celery, carrots and other vegetables. “DO NOT MENTION IT. IT WILL BE READY IN A LITTLE WHILE.”

“Cool. I’ll just...go upstairs to change.”

“IT IS COOL! NYEH! BECAUSE I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, AM MAKING IT!” Papyrus strikes a pose for a moment, little bits of vegetables flying off the end of his knife onto the ceiling. He blushes and jumps up to knock the food off, his COOL GUY shirt fluttering a little, and acting like it never happened when he turns back around. “I WILL SEND SANS TO COME GET YOU WHEN IT IS DONE.”

You’re able to sneak away without another word from Papyrus, who’s so engrossed in his cooking you’re surprised he noticed you at all. Probably wondering why you shouldered him with your chores tonight without warning and is just too nice to say anything. He’s a good friend. You wish you could say the same about yourself.

Walking up the stairs, you try to move as quietly as you can, happy that you decided to wear soft-soled shoes to work today. It was casual Friday, but your clothes feel just as uncomfortable and scratchy as any other day of the business-casual week. You can’t wait to change into something, anything, comfier.

The door clicks softly as you close your bedroom door behind you. The days are getting longer now, but it’s still dark at a depressing time outside. But the way you feel, you don’t make the effort to turn on the light, you already know where everything you want is anyway. You’re stripped out of your jeans and work sweater in record time and almost fall over in your exuberance to put on baggy sweats and a loose t-shirt.

Your toes remove your socks without having to bend over. You stare at your bed for a moment, the unmade sheets looking more like a disturbed nest than a person’s resting place, and fall into a face plant on top of them. Face safely shoved into your comforter and one of the pillows that made its way from the head of the bed last night, you take your chance, this moment of solitude, and scream into them.

When light blinds and wakes you, you realize you had fallen asleep.

“hey,” a voice says quietly from your doorway.

Your eyes blink slowly to clear away the haze of sleep. Sans’s outline blocks part of the light from the hallway, casting his skull in a light you would have found eerie three months ago when you first moved in. Hell, it did frighten you two years ago when you met the skeleton for the first time while you both worked in a grocery store stockroom on overnight duty.

That feels like so long ago.

“‘Sup?” you mumble, pushing to sit up and scrub at your face. There’s a crease on your cheek from your pillow, and a bit of dried spit on the edge of your mouth. Your hand lifts to wipe that away with your sweater sleeve. Your memory catches up with your tired brain. “Did Paps finish dinner?”

“yeah, he sent me up to get you.”

“How long have I been asleep?” you ask, more to yourself than him as you dig in your sheets for your phone.

Sans pushes the door open a little more and leans against the frame. “not long. you got home less than an hour ago.”

You hum to let him know you heard him, finally finding your phone in the crumpled fabric. Its bright screen makes you blink again. Your feet hang over the edge of the bed as you just sit there for a minute watching the animated ocean scene you set as your background.

“are you okay?”

With a little jump, you drop your phone as you look up to meet Sans’s eyes. He flicks his hand and catches it in blue magic before it can land on the hardwood floor and crack the screen more than it already is. He’d moved into the room quietly enough you didn’t notice, so he’s close enough to touch if you lifted your arm. Or maybe you were too much in your own head to hear him.

“hey,” he says gently before repeating, “are you okay?”

“Yeah, sorry, just - I have a lot on my mind right now?” you answer, wincing in apology for not answering when he asked the first time.

Sans’s eye lights feel like search lights on your face, the way they scan your expression, and you can’t hold his gaze very long. The well of emotions inside threatens to break. You trust Sans, you really do, but he’s been going through so much with the politics around monster rights, and doing his accreditation sessions for his PhD, and...you don’t need to burden him with your issues.

“you’ve been pretty down for about a week now. is it work? can you take time off?”

Before you answer, you can hear Papyrus’s voice rise from the first level. “YOU TWO SHOULD STOP CANOODLING AND GET DOWN HERE BEFORE THIS DELICIOUS FOOD IS COLD!”

He makes you jump a little again, but Sans is used to his brother’s shouting by now, so he doesn’t flinch. One of his hands reaches for yours off your thigh and you realize you were gripping it tightly through your sweats. You don’t mean to recoil from his touch as hastily as you do. He curls his fingers back as if he were burnt, but if you hurt his feelings you can’t see it in his face.

“let’s go down and get something to eat,” he says, “and maybe play some games or something? get your mind off what’s bugging you?”

You give Sans the biggest smile you can muster, which isn’t much more than a little grin, and stand. “Yeah, maybe we can do that. I’ll be right down.”

“‘k,” Sans says. He pops back downstairs a moment later to leave you in peace.