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One Way to a Cliche

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You and your friends had come to the conclusion a long time ago that nothing exciting ever really happened in your hometown.  Not that that was a bad thing mind you, more of just a statement of fact. Yet, it was this fact that had driven the three of you to travel as far from home as you could for school, and in your case, you never really intended to return, but when opportunity knocks you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  So you returned to your hometown, it being much more the booming metropolis than you quite remembered, and settled in to the familiar.

 

Never in a million years would you have even dared hope that your friends moved back as well.  That would have been an exercise in wishful futility really. So when you ran into Kyle at the grocery store, and Hailey at the craft store, you could only chalk it up to luck.  It didn’t take long for the three of you to reconnect and subsequent hours were spent regaling each other with stories from your time away from the city.

 

Months later, while the three of you were hanging out and catching up on a show you had managed to suck them into, the mountain opened up.

 

You used to say that nothing exciting ever happened in your town.  

 

With the mountain open and the monsters filtering into the streets, Hailey decided to finally quit her job at the insurance office.  It had been something that she had talked about wistfully since you had reconnected, and it was clear that she was miserable. There was just something so draining about being behind a desk, pushing papers and taking calls that ate at her.  The one plus about that job though was the fact she had managed to save enough to go to culinary school instead, and her mood wasn’t the only thing that improved from this endeavor; so too did your diet.

 

A couple of years later Hailey graduated as the top chef of her class, and had barely left the school before she was approached with a job offer to the recently opened MTT Resort Restaurant.  The resulting scream that you unleashed upon hearing the news left Kyle swearing that if he lost his hearing, he was sending you the bill, but it was clear he was happy for Hailey as well.

 

That evening you and Kyle decided to take Hailey out to celebrate, and what better place to take her than the monster bar that you had been hearing about.  It came highly recommended from nearly anyone that wasn’t a blowhard and you had been wanting to check it out for a while now. Once Hailey heard about where it was exactly that you were taking her she lit up and excitedly asked, “Do you think anyone I’ll be working with will be there?”   Of course you had no fucking clue, but there was a higher chance there than anywhere else.

 

When the three of you entered the bar you were met with what had to be the most pleasant cacophony of sounds you had ever heard.  Monsters and humans alike occupied tables and booths together, and very few people seemed to be uncomfortable in this environment. The space was bright, unlike the places you usually frequented.  If ever you could call a bar homey, this would be it.

 

Your eyes darted around trying to drink up the sights as you made your way to the bar, sliding into a space that a couple of monsters left open as they took their order of burgers and drinks back to their table.  Hailey froze mid step from a stool at the bar, causing you to bump into her and push her into the bartop.

 

“Wha-,” you said looking from her face to where she was staring.  “Well hot damn,” you muttered appreciatively and heard a snort from nearby.  Hailey was staring at the human shaped bonfire of a bartender, seemingly at a loss for words.  Or so you thought until -

 

“Why doesn’t the alcohol go up in flames?”  she asked, eyes almost squinting as she watched him pour a drink.  

 

“Would you believe me if I said….. magic ?” Kyle said, wiggling his fingers in the shape of a rainbow.  Hailey flicked his forehead and waved down the bartender, and no, you weren’t surprised that the first thing out of her mouth was the same question she had just asked the air moments ago.  You were surprised when he gave the exact same answer that Kyle had. You wheezed, gripping the bar top as you climbed atop your stool next to Hailey.

 

“c’mon grillbz, don’t be cold.  least she asked outright.” You looked towards the man beside you and blinked.  It wasn’t that you were particularly surprised to see a skeleton beside you yes you were , it was more the fact that you’d seen this particular one in the park rather often selling hot dogs.  You’d never interacted with him before, and clearly you had been missing out.

 

“Is that even possible?”  you asked. “It seems like he might be temperaturely challenged.  Not that being hot was ever a bad thing,” you said, biting your lip to keep from laughing at the expression the bartender gave you, and failing when the skeleton monster snorted again.

 

“OHMYGOD!”  Hailey put her face in her hands.  Laughter bubbled up from the four of you at the bar and even the bartender seemed to chuckle, shaking his head.  Kyle put his arm around Hailey’s shoulders and shook her gently to get her to look up at the curious expression of the bartender and her face reddened.  Not one to stay down for long, she crossed her arms on the bar and ordered the first round of drinks. Her expression was one of amusement when the drink that was set before her was flaming on top.  “Oh very clever aren’t we?”

 

A very prominent smirk played over the flames of his face and you leaned towards your new companion to whisper, “wonder if he ever gets hot under the collar,” making him choke on his own drink.  Before he could respond you shared a look with Kyle, leaned over quickly and hugged Hailey around the waist while Kyle hugged her around the shoulders. “CONGRATS, LEE!” You both shouted, making her jump and turning her face an even deeper shade of red.  You planted as large and messy a kiss on her cheek as you possibly could and pulled back, leaving her to scrub at the lipstick mark left on her skin.

 

“Oh come on, really?”  she asked, laughing all the same.

 

“What about me?” Kyle asked, affronted.

 

“You graduate top of your class and then get a helluva job out the gate and I’ll cover you in so many kiss marks your parents will start asking when the grandchildren will arrive,” you swore.  Kyle’s face paled.

 

“Don’t you dare,” he said.  You and Hailey laughed, blowing him a kiss each.  Kyle lifted his glass and drained half of it in one go.



Very quickly you learned that the bartender’s name was Grillby and your skeleton companion was named Sans, and just as quickly you and your friends found yourselves in as familiar a conversation with them and the surrounding monsters as if, you too, were regulars here.  Hailey unleashed a number of questions on Grillby, the poor man, and he answered them, in a way. He seemed to enjoy giving her vague responses that left her frustrated. At least up until she asked if he ever used his flames to cook with, and that was when they lost you.  Lost you, and made you incredibly hungry. Kyle switched seats with Hailey and the two of you shared an order of fries.

 

You learned that Sans fashioned himself a bit of a jokester.  Enough so that Kyle, usually one for good banter, found himself quickly outmatched.  Of course, that only made you that much more determined to beat Sans at his own game, and you held your own.  The people around the two of you, including Hailey and Grillby, stopped talking to witness your attempt to defeat the local pun master; and witness they did.  Everyone witnessed your brutal defeat, and you stubbornly challenged him to outdrink you instead.

 

“sore loser, eh?” Sans said with a chuckle.  His hand was under his chin, propping up his head as he raised a bone brow at you.  

 

“Are you?  Cause this shouldn’t be a problem for you, seeing as it will just go through you,” you said, poking at him.  He swatted your hand away and picked up his drink.

 

“what’re you gonna do when you lose this too?”

 

“Oh kiss my ass and drink, bone boy.”

“bottoms up then,” he said, lifting his glass to his mouth.  You squinted at him and followed suit.

 

About 4 drinks and 2 shots later.

 

“Yea that’s right!  Kiss my assssssss!” You put your empty glass down a little harder than necessary...but it was completely necessary, because Sans hadn’t even finished his last drink and you had won.  He opened his mouth, an ass related pun on the tip of his tongue, and he just couldn’t get it out right.

 

“oh fuck you,” he said, giving up and putting his glass down. That just made you laugh.

 

“Ask nicely.”

 

“hell no.”  Sans moved to slide off of his stool and only landed and stayed standing thanks to Hailey who had moved to catch him in case he fell.  He pointed a boney finger at you. “watch yer rear, kid, i’ll kick yer ass nexsht...next time. fuck.” You put your arm on the bar to lean forward and a loud, long fart filled the air.  You looked down to see a small whoopee cushion was under your arm and you looked back at Sans. His mouth trembled and then you were both laughing like lunatics.

 

“Alright, I think that’s our cue to leave,” Kyle said, only half as inebriated as you were.  

 

“No,” you said, sliding off your own stool to the ground and then leaning into the bar to steady yourself. “Yes.  Home. Good idea.” Kyle laughed and started helping you towards the door. Hailey helped Sans around to the side of the bar to where Grillby was waiting to take him into the back. The skeleton was clearly having a much harder time, because Hailey was mercilessly poking fun at him, and as soon as he passed into Grillby’s care, it was clear the flame man was doing the same.  He nodded to Hailey and she smiled, jogging over to get the door for you.

 

One dizzying cab ride later and Hailey was helping you to your bed.  You’d started to doze off in the cab. That being said, by the time she returned with a glass of water you were barely conscious.  You’re pretty sure you said, “gods you’re the best friend in the world,” amongst a few other sappy and choice words, but you fell asleep before you could ask if you really had said that out loud or if it was in your head.



The next morning you woke up with the worst hangover you’ve had in years, and you couldn’t even blame Sans.  

 

After getting up and cleaning out your mouth, and drinking about a gallon of water, you climbed back into bed and dug your phone out of your pants on the floor.  “Sorry I got shwasted at your graduation celebration,” you sent to Hailey before checking the messages you had received. One was from Kyle checking up on you, and one was from Sans.  All it held was a photo of a bony hand flipping you the bird. Ok, the hangover was worth it. You sent him an audio file of an air horn and went back to sleep.



It was safe to say that you and your friends became regulars at the monster establishment, with the stipulation that there were to be no more challenges of the drinking kind.  Which suited you just fine, because the more sober you were, the more you noticed exactly how hot under the collar the bartender was becoming for you friend. So of course this became the highlight of your evenings at the bar, watching to see who would slip first.  Poor Hailey was about as oblivious to the metaphorical torch that was being carried for her as always.

 

You had your suspicions about Hailey’s own feelings, and nosy as you were would often poke her in private to try to get her to confess.  If not to the monster in question, then at least to you.

 

“I dunno….maybe…” was the most you could get out of her for the longest time, but the way she ducked her head with the smallest and most embarrassed smile, while adorable, told you all you needed to know.  So there were many a-nights when you would lean on the bar and waggle your eyebrows at her. Unfortunately, also around this time you noticed that Grillby wasn’t the only monster sweet on Hailey, and if you thought she was oblivious to the bartenders feelings, then she sure as hell didn’t even notice Sans’s.  

 

The more you hung out with your new friends, both in and out of the bar the more you noticed that Sans would smile just a little proudly when Hailey laughed at one of his jokes, or when his cheekbones would turn the slightest hue of blue when she would smile at him.  You weren’t really surprised, Hailey had always been a sweetheart and she had a way with making people feel wanted, but you had grown rather fond of the skeleton man, and it hurt to watch him watch the other two fall for each other. Sadly, there was only so much you and Kyle could do to lowkey distract him.  So you watched and waited.

 

When Grillby finally, and really you were getting a little impatient, asked her out on an actual date, your own eye had been on another common patron of the bar.  

 

You had noticed him some time ago, and he got along well with many of the monsters you had come to know.  His name was Tyler, you learned shortly after Hailey and Grillby started going steady, and he was sweet. He joined you at the bar one day after Sans had left early.  You were impressed with his care of the situation, he had thought you were involved with your boney friend and hadn’t wanted to impose.

 

That made you choke on your drink.

 

If you were being honest the reason you hadn’t approached him in the first place was because you just really didn’t want to follow the same path you always had in your prior “relationships”.  Bed and bolt. That’s what it usually felt like. As soon as you let a guy into your bed it wasn’t long before they were gone. You were sick of it. Not that the sex was ever that bad really, sometimes , and you really did quite enjoy a good ride, but putting any emotional investments into someone that invariably was going to bed and bolt as soon as you felt the relationship had a shot to go anywhere was...draining.  

 

Yet, over the course of the following weeks, and then months, Tyler never once brought up sex, and you let your guards down.  Maybe this could work.

 

And that was where you made your mistake.  As soon as you did, as soon as the two of you started taking things a little more seriously he asked to join you for the night.  You turned him down, and he shrugged and kissed you goodnight.

 

Then it happened again.  And again. And a small kernel of dread grew in the pit of your stomach.  

 

In an attempt to head off any sort of miscommunication with him you decided to talk to him about why you just weren’t ready to sleep with him.  He listened, and he asked questions, and behind his eyes there was a flash of irritation and then nothing. He told you it was fine, that he understood and if it was really that important to you then he would stop asking, and you could tell him when you were ready.  Now ok, not to say the two of you never got frisky with each other. He was one helluva kisser and his body checked off almost everything on your list of skin deep desires, but you made sure it never went farther than that, and you were happy.

 

He got along well with your friends, and even Sans had fun taking the mickey out of Tyler.  You honestly thought this was going to go somewhere, you really did.

 

Some months after the conversation you had had with Tyler you decided you were tired of stopping the shenanigans early.  Let’s be real, if sexual frustration was a person it was you. So the night it all went to hell, was the night you were most looking forward to seeing him for dinner.

 

You left work, going to the store to pick up supplies for dinner and checking to make sure you had enough time before you saw him.  Well, you saw him, same as you saw the girl he was sucking face with outside the cafe next door. You stood there for a minute, just watching them and feeling that kernel of dread bloom into a soul squeezing thorny entanglement of loathing.  Mostly at him, but even more so at yourself. Your jaw was clenched so hard your teeth creaked.

 

You walked into the store, and bought supplies for dinner.

 

When he arrived at your apartment, you were eating, and you had only made dinner for one.  

 

Tyler laughed, confused, and kissed you on the cheek while you chewed your food in silence.  You didn’t even breathe while his lips were on your skin, feeling yourself shut down a little.  Tyler seemed to notice something was off, because he looked at you for a moment before shrugging and straightened back up.  “Forget I was coming over tonight, babe?” he asked, walking to the kitchen to look for the food.

 

“No.  I didn’t.  I just decided you didn’t need food,” you said, slowly.

 

“You what?”  He was indignant.  You put your fork down, your stomach too knotted up for you to barely finish the bit of food in your mouth at the moment.

 

“I figured you ate enough at that cafe earlier; you certainly ate face enough.  I would like you to leave, and I would appreciate it if you didn’t bother me again.”  This was going good. Right? You were keeping calm, and you weren’t yelling, or crying.  

 

“I have no fucking clue what you are talking about!  What exactly are you accusing me of?” Tyler stepped up to the other side of the table, voice rising.  You couldn’t even look at him without feeling sick, and it took all your effort to not blame yourself.

 

“Don’t.  Just spare me the act,” you said.  Your voice cracked. Shit. “I saw you, I was right there going to pick up dinner.”  Your left hand was gripping the leg of your jeans and your knuckles were white.

 

The longer you tried to stay calm, the more indignant he became.  He started saying how it was really your fault, how he wouldn’t have if you hadn’t been so uptight, and through his victimization of you for his actions you learned he’d been sleeping with that girl for a while now.  That was when you broke.

 

“Get the fuck out of my house!  Don’t talk to me, don’t come near me, just get. Out,” you said.  Your voice cracked and you pushed yourself up from the table. In seconds you had strode across the apartments and opened the door.

 

“Are you FUCKING kidding me?”  Tyler spat out, his back straightening.  For a moment you felt a flash of fear drive down your spine.  Was he going to hurt you? “Fuck you!” Then he walked through the door.

 

The second the door was closed you leaned against it and breathed out.  

 

It took you an hour to move from the door to your couch, and by then your food was so cold that even if you had any sort of appetite you probably wouldn’t have eaten it.  

 

Eventually you called Hailey and asked her to come over.  She didn’t even ask for what reason, and she was there within ten minutes.  You were pretty sure she sped. You were glad she did.

 

At first she just sat with you, she didn’t press you for information, instead she just held you close to her side.  After a short while of silence, she turned on a comedy special, something to cure the silence. Whether or not her plan was to cheer you up with it, it did, enough that you chuckled and smiled more than you had since you left work that day.  When you made it through the special you sat in silence again, until you managed to tell her what you saw.

 

Slowly and broken up with pained silences and bursts of angry ranting, you told her everything, and if ever you had a friend who was quick to righteous anger it was Hailey because by the time you were done she was enraged.

 

“I’M GOING TO ROAST HIS TESTICLES AND MAKE HIM EAT THEM! I SWEAR TO THE GODS ABOVE AND BELOW IMMA KICK HIS ASS!” Hailey shouted into the air, all but jumping from the couch to do that very thing.

 

“Then you’d have to torch the kitchen,” you said with a grin, loving her all the more.  She’d do it. Or at least threaten him with it, and that warmed your heart.

 

“Fuck,” she said.  “You’re right. No kitchen deserves that kind of abuse.”  You laughed and she smiled, nudging you with her shoulder.  “I’m sorry I didn’t see how sleazy he was before.” Oh no. You hugged her fiercely.

 

“Hey me too.  Don’t blame yourself, ok,” you said.  

 

“I’m not.  I just wish I could have spared you this.  You know I’m sure the boys would gladly go give him a scare.  I’ve never seen them mad before, I wonder how that would go.” She was talking about Grillby and Sans, and honestly, you were kind of curious yourself, but not that curious.  Yet.

 

You sat with her for a little while longer, making jokes about how exactly to make Tyler pay, and how much better off you were without him.  It didn’t take long before the cloud of pain began to descend upon you again, and Hailey saw it begin to overtake you. In a final attempt to distract you from the incident she pulled you from the couch and took you to the bar.  Sure you had memories there just as you did in your own place, but at the very least you had friends there that could help keep your mind busy. Anything that got you away from your apartment for a while was more than enough.

 

When you got there, your friends quickly picked up that something was wrong.  Sans kicked your stool out for you and was about to ask where Tyler was when he saw your eyes dim and your shoulders tense up in preparation to hear his name.  He stopped mid sentence and slid you his drink. You downed it in one go and he raised a bone brow at you, then looked at Hailey. Whatever look she gave him was enough to keep him from asking you what had happened.  She left to find Grillby at the end of the bar to fill him in and get the both of you new drinks. While she was gone you told Sans yourself what had happened, not once looking up from the now empty glass you held.

 

“shit,” he said.  “what a fuckin trash pile, good thing you dumped him.”  You looked up at him with your brow creased.  Did he really? “i heard cheat-ahs were an endangered species, clearly he didn’t get the memo since you made an ex-ample out of him.”  You face palmed. “in all fairness, he really didn’t realize how lucky he was,” Sans said more seriously. You peeled your hand from your face and smiled at him.  Before you could thank him, he launched into a fifteen minute roast of Tyler using jokes that increased in lewdness and vaguely promised violence towards the human male and by the end of it you couldn’t take any sips from your drink for fear of choking on it.

 

Finally, he stopped and you rubbed at your eyes. For a moment you felt like everything was alright again and Sans could tell, as he was grinning triumphantly.  Yet, as with all fresh wounds, the pain always comes back, and your smile faded from your face and you busied yourself with your drink. Beside you your friend sighed.  He leaned over and gave you a half hug around the shoulders.

 

“we’ll get through this, one way or another,” he said, lifting his own drink in solidarity before letting you go.  

 

Together the two of you drank in silence while Hailey tried to liven the situation back up, finally managing to engage the two of you in conversation over a topic as far from Tyler as she could and one she was well versed in.  Cooking. More importantly, the mischief her boss had caused in the kitchen at work that day. She was trying so hard to get you out of your head, and you felt bad that you kind of just wanted to wallow for a while so your responses were half assed and a little empty.  Eventually she stood up from the bar, a little tipsy, and said she was going to go to the ladies room. She hugged you and squeezed Sans’s shoulder as she passed, and when she was out of sight you watched Sans’s face fall.

 

He looked how you felt, the poor guy.  If only he had a way to distract himself from his own pain of liking his best friend's girl.  If only you had a way to distract yourself from your own….no. You must have had more to drink than you thought, because the thought that just crossed your mind was not one you ever expected to have.  You pushed it aside and rubbed your eyes, but the longer you tried to ignore it the more prominently the idea played around in your head. The more you thought about it, the more enticing it became, until you were looking at Sans curiously and finishing your drink to give you the liquid courage to ask what you wanted to actually ask.

 

“Hey, Sans.”

 

“hmm? wassup buddy,” he said,  turning to look at you, leaning on the bartop.

 

“I have a...uh….shall we say proposition for you,” you said. You chewed on your lip from a moment, peeling a small strip of skin from it in your stall for time.

 

“o...kay?”  He raised his bone brows and waited with amusement.  “whatchu got for me?”

 

“I need a distraction - want… a distraction, and honestly I think we could both use one.  I was wondering if we could distract each other.” As soon as you said it, you wondered if you should have just kept your mouth shut.  Instead, you looked at him seriously, and as soon as he realized what you were saying his eye sockets widened almost impossibly large.

 

“what?”

 

“No strings, no expectations, just friends helping friends and having a good time,” you said.  Beyond Sans you saw Hailey returning from the restroom. He followed your gaze and then turned back to you.  You could almost see the gears working in his head. “Or not, but offer stands. I think I’m going to head home before I end up sloshed.”  Ok yes, you were feeling self conscious and you were one hundred percent running away from the situation you had created. No shame. Maybe one shame.  

 

As soon as Hailey got close you headed her off and told her you were going to catch a cab home.  She looked a little put out, but after you reassured her that she had really helped you, and truthfully she had, she smiled and said she would wait with you outside for the cab.  

 

Sans said nothing as you left, he barely even looked at you, and you were damn near certain you had just fucked up.

 

A couple hours later while you laid in bed and watched mindless videos on youtube, your phone screen lit up with a text from Sans.  It read, “deal”.

 

He didn’t stay the night, but you slept better than you expected to after the day you had.