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Spooky Seconds

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Until six months ago, the village of Ebott was a sleepy little town, nestled in the woods at the foot of a mountain. The Ebott National Park, right down the road, was home to an abundant forest, and numerous hiking trails that criss-crossed the foothills of Mt. Ebott. All Ebott was known for, was being a quiet place to stay the night, with good food and affordable rooms. All of that changed, however, when the monsters emerged from a cavern in Mt. Ebott, and thrust the little town into the spotlight of the world. The monsters wasted no time, seeking audience immediately with world leaders, and doing their best to communicate to humanity that they came in peace. They sought neither war, nor conquest, but rather a peaceful life where they could travel freely between the surface and the underground. The leader of your country, a peaceful man, met with the monster queen several times, in publicized meetings, and an agreement was reached. He ceded the lands of Ebott National Park to the Monsters as a show of good faith, and was the first world leader to recognize the Sovereign Nation of Monsters. They got to work immediately, building up a small town named “New New Home.” With its new claim to fame as the nearest town to the Sovereign Nation of Monsters, Ebott flourished, expanding and upgrading in order to keep up with the monster city, which had been built into the foot of the mountain that once concealed the entrance to the underground.  


You were surprised when you discovered that New New Home was open to tourists and human visitors. Given the fact that humans were the ones that had sealed the monsters away, you had expected them to be afraid, or at least defensive, but the news interview with the Queen of the Monsters made it very clear that the monsters only wanted to get along with humans. The King and Queen made several appearances on talk shows and the news, though the King seldom said much, and preferred to spend his time in New New Home or the Underground.The only place in New New Home that was restricted was the actual entrance to the underground, but you couldn’t really blame the monsters for wanting to maintain a bit of privacy. It came as even more of a surprise to you though, when you first saw a monster shopping in a little store in Ebott and learned that through the agreement, they were also allowed to come and go in town. Good for them , you thought. You hoped they would be able to adjust to people, and that the people in town, barring the few outspoken monster-discriminating shopkeepers and residents, would adjust to them. Monsters were even working through the government to be able to travel to other places in the world unimpeded.  


You knew that there were always going to be some humans who could never learn to love anyone who was different from them, and that they would protest and call for the monsters to be put back. The handful of human supremacists in town took to refusing service to the monsters out of racism, fear, and illusions of superiority, while others took bolder steps and outright harassed the monsters who were just trying to live their lives. Thankfully, it was no secret that those humans were viewed by the rest as shameful, a disgrace to the good name of Ebott. Slowly their stores closed and their protests were drowned out by the overwhelming support the monsters received from human communities all over the world. Communities of every color, nationality and orientation stepped forward, offering open arms to the monsters, and promising them a place in their towns and homes.


You were staring at the clock on the wall, slowly clicking the pen in your scrub pocket in a mindless tune, as you thought about all the ways the world, and even more so, your world had changed in the last few years. You were just trying to pass the time before your shift ended and it was officially the weekend. Four years ago, you had moved away from the big city, an hour away, and found yourself a job at one of the local animal hospitals. You had been working there ever since. It didn’t pay a lot, despite your degree in the field, and sometimes it drove you crazy, working forty hours even on the slowest of weeks, but it was steady income. You enjoyed the work and helping animals everyday, even if your coworkers, and the occasional overbearing pet owner, made you want to scream sometimes. Sending a healthy animal home to their happy owners was the one thing that made it worth it.


The thought of your unbearable coworkers made you groan internally. Today had already been one of the most boring days you had had in quite a while, and it still wasn’t over! You had one vet working and hardly anyone had come in for appointments. Your boss sent most of your coworkers home almost an hour ago, leaving behind nothing but a skeleton crew. You were the last vet tech working, along with the receptionist, the vet who was sequestered back in his office, and one assistant. It seemed like the clock was moving in slow motion just to spite you. The last hour until close seemed like a decade standing between you and your evening plans. If the doors just stayed closed, the clinic empty, for fifty-eight more minutes, you would be home with plenty of time to spare before your band’s show tonight. The new bar, that had opened up a few weeks ago, was the talk of the town. It was one of the first businesses owned and run by a monster, in the city of Ebott itself, rather than in New New Home. The little bar hadn’t seemed like much in the light of day, when you had met with the owner, but it had a reputation for being a whole different place after dark, so you were really excited to see what the place had in store for everyone tonight.


Taking a deep breath, you stretched out your arms and back, forcing a yawn back, and shaking your head to clear the drowsiness that had crept up on you as you daydreamed. 


It’s only an hour, you thought to yourself, maybe if I restock supplies or check the calendar on the computer, I’ll be able to pass some time.  


As you debated restocking supplies for the third time, if only to avoid dealing with the office’s cranky receptionist, the familiar sound of a chart, not-so-gently thrown into one of the boxes up by the lobby reached your ears. Odd, you thought, usually the receptionist would be loudly complaining about a walk-in this late and demanding a smoke break, but for once the older woman was silent as a mouse. Interesting.


You stretched once more before walking up to the wall of charts. Taking the folder, you flipped it open curiously, hoping to see what it was about your next client that had left the naggy receptionist quieter than you’d ever seen her. The lack of a name at the top of the folder immediately told you that it was a new client and you hummed in interest as you flipped the chart open. The lanky vet assistant walked up behind you, leaning over you to look at the chart. You had gotten used to your coworkers reading over your shoulder, since it wasn’t hard to do at your height, so you shifted the file to your other hand so he could get a better look. There was only one short note from the receptionist:


Found dog, broken leg. Will be keeping the dog.


You tried and failed to suppress a sigh. The receptionist was notorious for leaving the shortest, most vague notes on patients. Had the dog been hit by a car, or injured itself some other way? How old was it? Those were the things that would have been useful to know. You would have to find out yourself, you thought, sighing again, nothing else you could do. 


You turned to the assistant, Brian, who was still lurking over your shoulder. “Hey, you mind making sure the x-ray is on, while I bring them in and take the history?”


 He nodded and you flashed him a grateful smile. If you two could split the job, maybe, just maybe, you would get out on time. It's not like it would take two of you to do the history anyway. Glancing, once more, down at the chart in your hand, you opened the door separating the waiting room from the rest of the clinic without looking up.


 “The Dreemurrs, we will take you now.” The room remained curiously silent, causing you to finally look up from the chart, which only left you more confused when you tried to meet the eye of your newest client.


Sitting on one of the benches out in the waiting room was a small child. Only a child, no adult figure in sight. There was a potted plant sitting in their lap, and a dog laying on the floor beside them. The child wore a pink, purple and blue sweater that looked way too oversized for them and their short, shaggy brown hair fell over their face in bangs that seemed to hide their eyes from any angle you looked at them from. If you had to guess, the kid was maybe eight at the very most, and you would have had better luck guessing the gender of the potted plant in their lap, than the gender of the child. But even the flower seemed peculiar the longer you looked. 


The flower in the pot was perhaps a small sunflower of some kind, but the longer you looked at it, the less it looked like any flower you had ever seen. It certainly didn't look like a real flower, so maybe it was a fake one? As your eyes wandered over the strange trio, they landed lastly on the dog laying by the kid's side. It was flopped over on its side in the sun patch from the window, looking asleep. It had markings in white, brown, silver and black along its coat, and looked to be no more than six months old. Despite its size, it was gangly like a baby deer, a sure sign that it was a puppy, maybe a mix of a wolfhound and a shepherd if you had to guess. 


You repeated their name clearly, and this time, the kid heard you call their last name. They jumped down from the bench, keeping an expert hold on the flower pot with one small arm, while keeping the other hand on top of the dog’s head to keep it still. You took that as a hint to come and help, so you quickly walked over to the odd group and placed your hand over the dog's side to take over for the kid. Now that you were right next to the dog, it was easy to see which leg was broken.The back right leg was twisted at an odd angle and just dangling. The sight made you frown. 


“Hey there, let me pick up the puppy for you. It’s a good thing you brought him in. Follow me, okay?” You kept your tone soft, not wanting to freak out the kid or the dog, since doing so would only make things worse in the end. To their credit, the kid, while they didn't answer aside from giving you a quick nod, seemed to understand what you needed from them, and made room for you to properly get your arms around the puppy without them being in your way. You walked your little group into the second exam room, and quickly placed the heavy puppy on the table before closing the door behind you.


You took your pen from your pocket and opened the chart that you had shoved under your arm in order to pick up the puppy. You began making quick notes on what was going on with the dog. This included confirming the age by looking at the teeth, which left you surprised when you saw that it was only about twelve weeks old. The puppy’s temperature was normal and you took his weight while the kid got settled into the chair across from you.


“Alright, so can you tell me what happened?” You looked up from the chart to speak to the small child, giving them your full attention with a small smile and waiting for them to explain what was going on. The kid started to sign, too fast for you to understand, given the very few signs that you knew, and you felt the corners of your smile begin to slip a little bit in your confusion.


“Uh, I’m sorry um…” You paused, trying to sneak a glance at the chart to find their name, but before you could decipher the secretary’s scribbles, a high pitched, obnoxious voice chimed in, which startled you so profoundly you could have sworn you were going to have a heart attack. 


“The human’s name is Frisk, dummy, and before you ask, I’m Flowey. Flowey the flower.”  You realized, belatedly, that the flower was talking to you. It turned its head to look at you, and gave you a lopsided smile, waving its petals in a vague sort of greeting. You placed your hand on your chest, where you could feel your heart pounding with surprise, and blinked a few times to make sure you were actually awake, and hadn’t dozed off at work. 


You had met monsters before, plenty of times, in fact, but you had never seen a monster that resembled a plant before. Dog monsters, goat monsters, rabbit monsters, skeletons and ghosts were all things you had gotten used to seeing around town, in the clinic, or on the news, but a sunflower? That was new. Then again, the more you thought about it, it did make more sense for the kid, Frisk, to be holding a flower monster rather than sitting in a vet clinic all alone. You took a deep breath to try and calm your still pounding heart, and once it was normal, you smiled once again, and returned to the conversation at hand. 


“Alright then, Frisk and Flowey, you can call me Brighid. Do you mind telling me what happened to this puppy?" You rubbed your free hand over the puppy’s ear, and could feel abrasive grains of sand and flea dirt under your thumbnail. You tried not to cringe at the feeling. Frisk turned to Flowey and began to sign rapidly, but the flower monster didn’t seem to have any trouble following the kid’s movements. Flowey nodded and began to relay the message for you. 


“Frisk says that we were on our way home and saw someone dump the mutt out the door of a moving car. See, Frisk is such a bleeding heart that they couldn’t stand to see it hurt. That’s why they had the smiling trash bag come by and drop us off here.” 


As Flowey was translating for you, you couldn’t help but be surprised by the brash way he spoke about the dog and Frisk. A smiling trash bag? You couldn’t think of who they could mean so you put that thought aside for later. Sparing a glance over at Frisk you quickly noticed that the kid didn't seem bothered by Flowey’s choice of words, as they were happily nodding along as the flower monster spoke. Strange, you thought, this must just be how Flowey speaks about everyone. Your thoughts flashed to your friends, lovingly crying out ‘bitch!’ every time they saw each other, and you wondered if maybe Flowey’s seemingly harsh language was like that, an alternative term of endearment. 


“Oh, the poor puppy! Well Frisk, Flowey, let’s see what we can do for him. We are going to have to take an x-ray and give him something for pain, for sure." The dog seemed to know you were talking about him as you explained, and he yipped happily, nudging his large head into your hand. "Even though he acts like he doesn’t need it, I'm sure something to help with the pain will be useful in a few.”


You paused thoughtfully, before continuing.”Sorry to have to ask, but are you Frisk’s guardian, Flowey?”


Flowey cackled a rude harsh laugh. “Ha! As if! That would be the smiling trash bag’s job.”


You smiled again hesitantly. “Ah, okay then. Well the vet will need to speak to Frisk’s guardian before we can get you all squared away. We like to make sure an adult knows before we send a child home with a new pet. Plus, sorry Frisk, we can’t let underage kids pay the bills.” Frisk nodded vigorously before taking a cell phone out of their pocket. They started typing  furiously, which you could only assume was a message to whoever it was that had dropped them off here. 


“I’m going to go talk to the doctor really quick and let them know that your pup is ready for them to see, okay?”


Flowey nodded.“Yeah yeah, Frisk is texting the smiling trash bag right now, so he should be here soon.”


“Sounds good,” you replied. “I should be back in just a few minutes with the vet, so hang tight.” You left the room, closing the door softly behind you, and let out a sigh. This was going to be interesting, whoever this ‘smiling trash bag’ was, and you weren’t sure if it would be good-interesting or bad-interesting. You tried to picture it in your head, a smiling trash bag, but all you could picture was a monster made of literal trash. Flower monsters might be new, but you were pretty sure there wasn’t an actual trash bag monster. 


Oh well , you thought, at least I’m not just standing around anymore. 


Brian poked his head around the corner, looking for you. “Hey, the x-ray is all ready to go. Do you need me to go into the exam room with the doc or do you want to do it?” You shrugged, and Brian leaned against the wall while you logged into the computer and started typing in the dog’s information.


“You can go in with the doctor if you want. Just watch what you say, the client is a kid who uses sign language, and has a talking a flower monster translating for them. Plus their guardian hasn’t arrived yet.” Brian was so obviously flabbergasted, it was like you could see the gears turning in his head. 


You paused to focus on what you were typing for a moment before continuing. “The dog is cute as hell though, and he’s going to be a big old boy when he grows up.”


“How old is he now?”


“Judging off his teeth, the big boy is only about 12 weeks old, and he already weighs about thirty pounds. Looks like a wolfhound-shepherd mix, so like I said really cute.” 


In true Brian fashion, as soon as a cute dog was mentioned, he immediately forgot his earlier confusion about the client. “Oh man, I’m going to have to look, mind if I go in?”


“Nah, go for it.  I’ll get dressed for the x-ray we need to take, and I’ll set up everything we need for the dog’s cast.” You glanced at the clock, which had somehow shot forward 20 minutes, and your thoughts flashed again to your evening plans. “Hopefully we can get this done a little quicker than usual, since we don’t have any other clients, and still get done on time.”


“Awesome.” Brian replied, before he disappeared back down the hall toward the exam rooms.


Notes finished, you walked over to Dr. Johnson’s office and stuck your head into the room. You gave him the rundown on the client and handed the chart over to him before walking back to the x-ray room. He went into the exam room, where Brian was waiting with the dog, while you walked into the x-ray room to get dressed. You had just finished putting on your lead apron and neck protector when Brian walked into the room, the puppy in his arms, followed by a worried looking Frisk. You noticed that Flowey was nowhere in sight, and neither was the adult Flowey had promised was on his way. Once you had loaded the x-ray up on to the computer, Brian beckoned you over. 


Brain passed the dog off to you and carefully leaned in so that he could whisper in your ear. “The kid wanted to watch. That guardian you mentioned showed up, and man is he creepy. He’s just a skeleton wearing a hoodie. Glowing eyes inside of a hood.” He shuddered, “I know it’s not “pc,” but he was spooky! A warning would have been nice.”


 You could only roll your eyes at that; honestly, skeletons weren’t all that odd or scary. There was one you had seen on TV with the Queen of Monsters a few times, and that one seemed like he was really friendly and happy. Frisk was a good kid, so even if their guardian was a monster, you doubted they would be someone ‘scary’ like Brian made them sound. You were used to kids who acted out and cried when they were dragged into the clinic with their parents, fussing about having to wait, and throwing tantrums when they got bored. Those were the kids that you didn’t like to have back in the treatment room, but when the kids were poorly behaved so were their parents. Those kids almost always had parents who threw tantrums when they got the bill, argued with the doctor, and tried to treat infectious diseases with essential oils and crap. It always seemed like the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. If that was the case you could only assume that Frisk’s guardian was a good influence on them. Frisk was quiet, compassionate and listened to instructions, so you didn’t mind them watching. 


Putting Brian’s dramatic introduction aside, you turned and waved Frisk into the tiny room. “You can watch until we need to shoot the x-ray then you’ve got to step out into the hallway, okay, Frisk? It will only take a minute for the camera to take the picture, and as soon as its finished, you can come back in.” 


You waited for them to nod and you smiled again. Frisk was a cute kid, especially in that oversized sweater. The way they nodded so eagerly, and wanted so badly to make sure that the puppy was okay, was endearing. You placed the dog onto the x-ray table, and took out the measuring stick. Frisk was being surprisingly helpful by standing near the dog’s head, stroking it lovingly, and keeping it distracted while you positioned its broken leg. You had to keep a firm hand on the puppy as you tried to keep it still, since the puppy was straining toward Frisk, trying to lick them. 


Frisk looked at the tool in your hands with a puzzled expression, so you began to explain what you were doing while taking the dog’s measurements. “I have to know how big Mr. Puppy’s bones are or we won’t be able to see them in the picture,” you explained, as you gently slid the measuring tool under the broken leg and closed the tool over the bone at the widest part. Frisk had taken a step back and was now hovering at your hip to see your what you were doing more closely. Measurement taken, you removed the tool and walked over to the chart on the wall with the adjustment settings. “This chart tells me what settings to use on the camera. Mr. Puppy is a big boy already, and once we get his leg fixed up he’s going to grow up to be big and strong!” 


The child’s face lit up at the mention of getting the puppy all fixed up, and you took a moment to adjust the numbers on the machine. Brian stepped away for a moment to put on his own neck protector and lead apron, before coming back over to help you flip the dog. “Now I’m going to have to lay the pup down on the table, so they are on their side. It’s not going to be comfortable and they might not like that, but I promise that we’ll be careful okay?” 


You tried to make sure you didn’t baby Frisk about what was going on. You had always hated adults speaking to you like you were stupid when you were a kid, so it felt wrong to do that to someone else. Frisk seemed to understand the importance of what you were saying, so they nodded, reached up on their toes to pat the dog on the head, and then stepped back to give you and Brian the space to do your work.


Once you were in position you said, “Alright, one, two, three.” You and Brian gently flipped the dog onto its side, making sure the bad leg was touching the table. The puppy whined a bit as you flipped him, but didn’t snap at you or try to get away. You flipped off the overhead light for just a moment so you could line up the dog’s leg with the projected frame of the x-ray. Once you had everything set, you turned back to Frisk who had stepped back toward the door, their face illuminated by their phone in the dark. 


“Alright I’m about to take the picture Frisk, so I’m going to need you to step out of the room and close that door behind you. When you hear the beep, you can come back in, alright?”


Frisk gave you a double thumbs up, and spun on their heels to disappear through the door. It seemed like such a well-practiced move that you couldn’t help but chuckle at them. You got the impression it was something they had seen someone they admired do in the past.  


“I’m telling you, that skeleton dude is creepy, Brighid.” Brian asked as he tweaked his grip on the dog’s leg, making sure his hands wouldn’t be in the frame. You fumbled in the now dark room, trying to find the pedal to take the x-ray, cursing under your breath before replying. 


“Skeleton dude? Oh, right, you mean Frisk’s guardian, the one Flowey was talking about.” You had already chosen to ignore Brian’s nonsense so you were a little irritated that he was bringing it back up. “I really don’t see what the issue is, we deal with bones everyday. Next thing I know you’ll be telling me x-ray photos are ‘spooky’ too, so you can get out of doing work altogether,” you said teasingly. You couldn’t see his face but you got the distinct impression that Brian rolled his eyes. 


“Yeah, yeah, well, we’ll see if you can meet that monster without being creeped out,” Brian retorted. “You could have warned me that that flower had a mouth on them, though.”


“Eh, so do I,” you said, your voice dripping with sarcasm. “Maybe Flowey is just having a bad day. Happens to everyone, y’know?” Your foot found the pedal to take the shot and you snapped the picture with no further discussion. Flowey aside, you hadn’t been bothered, startled, or freaked out by any of the monsters you had met so far, and you doubted that Frisk’s guardian would be any different. The machine beeped, and you flipped on the light before letting the puppy sit up carefully. Just as soon as the light clicked on, Frisk walked back into the room to pet the puppy and scratch him behind the ears.


“Alright let’s see what we are working with.” You mumbled, sitting down at the computer to wait for the x-ray to load up. You glanced at the clock once again, noting that another 10 minutes had zipped past, before turning your attention back to the, now loaded, in-focus, x-ray on the computer in front of you, and saying, “Aw shit.”


 The dog’s leg was fully broken in two places below the knee; you had hoped that it wouldn’t be as bad as all that since the dog wasn’t acting like it was in pain. You swore again under your breath, thinking about how the dog’s cast would have to be changed every week since he was still a growing pup.  


You removed your x-ray gear before stepping into the treatment room, expecting to have to go hunt for Dr. Johnson. To your surprise he was sitting in a chair at the treatment table, waiting for the x-ray to finish. As soon as you opened the door, he followed you back into the x-ray room to take a look at the damage you would be working to repair every week for at least the next month. 


He sat down at the computer and frowned at the x-ray, but Brian was calling to you from the x-ray table to come hold the overgrown puppy in place so he could take off his lead apron. As soon as you turned away, Dr. Johnson stopped called after you, “Brighid, can you please bring the child’s… dunkle… in to look at the x-rays?” 


You raised an eyebrow at the odd word, but shrugged it off. There was only one person, or, you thought, monster, who could be Frisk’s ‘dunkle’.  


“Sure thing,” you replied, looking over your shoulder at him. “It’ll just be a moment.” Dr. Johnson nodded once and resumed looking at the x-rays that were pulled up on the computer. 


Frisk looked excited at the mention of their ‘dunkle’, hopping from foot to foot and grinning, but they seemed unwilling to leave the puppy’s side for any longer than absolutely necessary. You decided not to bother asking what a dunkle was, since Frisk wasn’t likely to answer you and Brian wasn’t likely to know. You shrugged mentally. Maybe it was a monster thing. Once Brian had taken off his gear, he took back over the job of handling the puppy, so that you could go get Frisk’s companions. One look at Brian’s expression made it clear that he would prefer to be holding a flea-bitten plus-size puppy, over talking to monsters, any day. 


  Deciding to search for the word ‘dunkle’ online later, you went down the hall, back to the exam room, to bring Frisk’s dunkle back to the x-ray room. You knocked on the door before entering the exam room, but when you opened it, you were met with a rather strange sight. You thought you knew what to expect when you met a skeleton but the skeleton in front of you was different than the one you had seen on TV. 


He was short, just about the same height as you, with broad shoulders, and a sturdy frame. He was quite literally big boned, but his face, though skeletal, was expressive and currently split by a mischievous grin. His face was also rounder then what a normal human skull would look like, and though he had no eyes to speak of, a bright cyan blue light was glowing in his left eye socket. The right, on the other hand, was a black void. He was standing in the middle of the exam room, with his right hand tucked into his hoodie pocket and his left extended out into the air in front of him.


 You couldn’t help but look him over, trying to take in everything about him you could see. His hoodie was a dark blue, open in the front, showing a plain t-shirt beneath it and he was wearing gym shorts, which allowed you to see that, without a doubt, he really was a skeleton. You could identify the bones in his leg with just a glance, before they extended down into a pair of plain black sneakers. It took you a moment to overcome your curiosity, as you gazed at him silently, before you remembered what you were there for, and realized what was going on in front of you. In the grasp of, what you could only assume was, magic, you saw Flowey slowly spinning in the air, holding his little leaves over his mouth as if he was trying not to puke.


“heh, look at that, it’s a spunflower …” The skeleton said, sounding amused. His voice was rich and deep, but his pun was almost immediately interrupted by an angry, muffled screech from Flowey. You had almost decided to turn around and come back in a few minutes, when they noticed you staring at them from the doorway, and suddenly froze. 


The skeleton wore a sheepish expression for a moment as he glanced back at you.“uh, hey there miss, don’t mind us,” he said, “s’just a fun game me and the weed like to play.”


“Put. Me. DOWN!” Flowey hissed, his face contorted into something much less cute than when you saw him earlier. In fact, if you had seen that kind of look when you had first met him, you might have really had a heart attack earlier. Now though, you couldn’t help but notice that his expression bore a striking resemblance to the sour puckered face of the office’s receptionist when she was feeling vindictive. The thought almost made you chuckle. 


Sans gave Flowey an evil grin, his sheepish expression vanishing, and replied, “if you say so,” before releasing the magic holding Flowey up in the air. The potted monster crashed down onto the table with a heavy thud, but his pot didn’t shatter, and although his face still looked sour, he was obviously relieved to be back on a solid surface. The skeleton monster turned to finally face you all the way, allowing you a better look at his face. Both eye sockets now had bright blue-white lights flickering in them, giving the impression of eyes, and you were relieved that the unnerving blue light and void combination had vanished. Sans seemed to relax when he realized that you weren’t afraid, and he offered his left hand out for you to shake as he introduced himself.


“sorry about that. my name’s sans, sans the skeleton. i’m frisk’s dunkle.” The sheepish expression returned to his face as he spoke. “also, i would appreciate if you didn’t tell the kid about what you just saw... they don’t like it when we don’t get along.” 


You couldn’t hold back a grin as you reached out and shook the offered bony hand, but you were surprised by how warm and heavy his hand felt in yours. There was nothing about how his hands looked that would make you think they would be warm, and it took you a moment to remember that, yes, magic was real, and monsters were made of it. You knew this, in concept, but this was the first time you had seen and experienced it first hand. You were trying to keep your scientific mind from doing a comparison between magic bones versus real, dead, animal bones, when a loud “plllllbbbbbbbbt” sound erupted from his hand as you shook it.  


“whoopee cushion in the sleeve,” he said, laughing warmly. “gets them everytime!” 


You really did laugh at that, letting go of his hand after a moment, before quieting your giggling and answering him. “I’m Brighid, and I’m a vet tech. I’ll pretend I didn’t see anything this time, so your magic tricks are safe with me.” You winked and Sans’ smile spread even further. 


Flowey, on the other hand, stuck his tongue out at Sans with a sour expression. “We took a picture of your dog’s leg.” You continued, “If you would just follow me, the doctor would like to show you the x-rays.” As you turned around to lead the way, you froze, a horrifying thought crossing your mind. “U-Unless that’s rude, oh my gosh I didn’t even think of that, is it rude to you?” 


Your face began to feel hot and you could feel yourself blushing crimson in embarrassment as you realized that maybe showing broken bones to an actual skeleton was in poor taste. To your relief though, Sans seemed to understand, and he waved a hand at you shrugging.


“eh, it’s no bone off my nose, you’re fine.” He chuckled and you smiled weakly, relieved that you hadn’t made a bad impression on him. He started to follow you out the door, but he paused when he noticed you looking back at the little flower left behind in the exam room. You looked from Sans, and back to Flowey, noting Flowey’s pouting face as he crossed his little leaves in front of him.


“Should they come with or…?” You left the question hanging in the air as Sans followed your gaze back to Flowey. 


For a moment, it seemed like he was really thinking of leaving the little flower behind, but after a few seconds he sighed and went back to pick Flowey up. “good call, i would not have heard the end of it from the kid,” he said. 


Sans and Flowey in tow, you began walking back through the clinic, leading them through the treatment room and into the x-ray room, where Frisk, Dr. Johnson, and Brian were waiting. Brian’s face drained of color as soon as he spotted the monsters coming in behind you, and he suddenly became very preoccupied with checking the puppy for ticks. And trying not to make eye contact, you thought in disgust. 


To Dr. Johnson’s credit, he seemed entirely unfazed. As soon as Sans came into the room, Frisk began signing at him rapidly, and Sans started signing, one handed, in reply. He’s just as quick, you noted mentally, as you tried, and failed, to make sense of their conversation. Their conversation was brief, and fast, and you didn’t recognize many signs besides dog and car, but, once complete, Sans turned to Dr. Johnson and introduced himself, shaking the doctor’s hand. Without a whoopee cushion, this time, you thought. 


The doctor wasted no time, leading Sans to the computer where the x-rays were displayed. Sans walked around Frisk to follow Dr. Johnson, and handed Flowey off to them as he passed.


“Alright, Mr. Sans, as you can see here, the pup has a compound break on the tibia, here and there.” The doctor said, pointing out the breaks to Sans, who leaned over his shoulder to look at the display.


“ah, I see. well, tibi-honest that looks like a nasty break doc. what can we do about it?” Sans said, his bony smile lighting up.


You stifled another chuckle at Sans’ latest pun, and, once you heard Dr. Johnson confirm that the pup would be getting a cast, you stepped back into the treatment room to get the cast materials ready. Only a moment later however, you noticed a tiny shadow behind you, and when you turned, Frisk was following you. You gave them a small smile as you moved the mat to the wet table and started to warm up the water. 


Some light sedation is probably necessary, you thought to yourself, but I would rather not sedate a dog that’s so young. Re-aligning a broken bone can be pretty painful though. You drew up the sedation, to have it on hand just in case, but also grabbed a needle and filled it with pain medication. If I give this to the puppy now, it will be working by the time we’ve finished cleaning him up, and that might cut out the need for sedation.  


You had assumed that Frisk was following you because they were curious, but when you felt a tug at your scrubs, you looked down to see Frisk looking up at you, an unasked question in their worried eyes. They were staring at the needle in your hand, and their fear was evident on their face. You squatted down to rest on the back of your heels in order to be on their level. 


“Hey, don’t worry Frisk. We’re going to fix him up; it’s just going to take some time for the bone to heal. I need to give the puppy some pain medication so that it doesn’t hurt while we fix his bone,” you said, tapping the needle you had placed in your scrub pocket. 


Frisk tilted their head, looking apprehensive, but eventually nodded. You gave them another small smile. This kid is already starting to grow on me , you realized, even though I might not see them again. There’s just something about the kid that makes me adore them.


 “Sorry,” you said, making a circle on your chest with a closed hand. “I don’t know many signs, but if you have a question don’t be afraid to ask. I’m sure I’ll figure it out, and if I can’t maybe Flowey can translate for me. Or maybe your dunkle Sans can help.”  Frisk had set Flowey on the treatment table when they had followed you into the treatment room, and when Flowey heard his name, he gave you a wink. When you mentioned Sans, however, the little potted flower monster blew a raspberry at you. 


You resisted the urge to blow a raspberry back at Flowey, and instead stood up and looked back over into the x-ray room. Brian was still standing next to the dog on the x-ray table, but it appeared that Sans and Dr. Johnson had finished talking, since Sans was standing in the doorway watching you, his hands in his pockets. His eye lights had narrowed and dimmed, but when you blinked, they were back to normal. Strange, you thought. Before you could give it anymore thought, however, Dr. Johnson walked out of the x-ray room,and gestured for you and Sans to join him at the treatment table.


“Alright Brighid,” Dr. Johnson said turning to you, “You know what to do. Brian should be able to help you get everything set.” He paused looking back to Sans. “Mr. Sans, while you’re more than welcome to stay, many owners prefer not to watch. You can feel free to wait back in the exam room if you would like.” He hesitated there, clearly doing the same mental gymnastics you had gone through earlier, trying to determine the best way to be tactful when talking about bones with a literal skeleton. 


As he did before, Sans shrugged off the topic altogether, flashing the doctor a smile. “nah i’m good here, but thanks doc. i think it would be neat to see how you humans set bones.”


Dr. Johnson looked relieved. “Alright then, if you want to have a seat right there, Mr. Sans, we will get your puppy taken care of and then you’ll be free to go. Don’t forget to bring your dog back in a week, though, as we’ll need to change the cast regularly as he grows.” The vet’s tone was jovial, and he gave Frisk a small wave before walking back to his office to finish the chart and order up the medication for the puppy. You had just finished gathering your supplies when Brian came walking out of the x-ray room with the puppy and set it gently onto the wet table beside the tub in the treatment room. 


“Alright little one, let’s get this pain medication into you before we start.” You said out loud. Sans had taken a seat next to the treatment table and pushed Flowey to the furthest corner of the treatment table, precariously close to the edge. Once Brian had positioned the dog correctly, you injected the medication into the puppy with a smooth and practiced movement.  “See just one small poke. Once the water is nice and warm we can get you all cleaned up.”


 You began pulling supplies out of the cabinets beneath the tub, shampoo and flea medication, and once everything was set, you checked the water again. 


“Frisk,” You called out, looking around for the kid, before spotting them sitting next to Sans, having a conversation in sign language. When Frisk heard their name, the two of them paused, and looked your direction. You smiled at them. “Do you see the cheese on the table to your right?” Frisk looked around for a moment before pointing to the nearby can of cheese whiz. “Yep that one,” you said. “Do you want to come over here and give this good boy a treat for me while I wash him off?” 


You often assigned tasks like this to kids so that they could feel like they were helping, but you had never seen anyone light up at the chance like Frisk did. Their expression was exuberant, as if you had told them you were taking them to an amusement park, not asking them to feed cheese to a dog. Frisk nearly bounced out of their chair in excitement, as they made a beeline for you, cheese in hand. 


Once Brian had passed the dog off to you, and the dog was situated in the tub, he slipped out of the room quietly to go ‘clean up’ the X-ray and exam rooms. You were irritated for a moment since Dr. Johnson had told him to help, but you decided to let it go. I can probably do this better and faster on my own without him, you thought. Brian was known for being fidgety anyway, and you didn’t need him setting the dog, or clients on edge.


Turning your attention back to Frisk, you said,“Alright then, give them a little bit at a time. You don’t want them to get to full on the stuff.”


Sans chimed in behind you,“i dis-a-brie. kid, you should go all out! after all, we don’t know when he ate last.” The skeleton grinned at his own pun, but Flowey let out a shrill, “ughhhhhhhhh.” 


You giggled a little, and so did Frisk who was dutifully feeding the dog fingerfuls of cheese. Thankfully, Frisk seemed to disregard Sans’ advice, and was careful not to give the puppy too much. The puppy stayed mostly still and didn’t fight you while you bathed him. It didn’t take long to scrub the sand and fleas out of the dog's short fur, and he took the flea meds you had grabbed for him willingly, once you had coated them with cheese. 


Once you were done, you grabbed a towel, and moved the freshly cleaned dog over to the other table where Sans and Flowey were waiting. Frisk moved flowey onto the top of the tall step stool that was usually kept in the corner, and pulled their own chair around to the same side of the table as you, so that they could reach the dog and continue petting him. Once everyone was situated, you finished toweling the dog off, being careful not to jostle his broken leg.


“Alright,” you said, turning to Frisk once again, “Now I’m going to start making the cast on his leg. If he gets too uncomfortable, I’m going to give him some medication to help him relax. It will probably make him sleepy, but he’ll be okay. I want to make sure I don’t hurt him while I work.” Frisk nodded, but didn’t seem willing to leave the dog’s side.


A thought struck you. “Have you thought of a name for the puppy?” you asked, looking at Frisk. 


Their face shifted into a concentrated expression, but after a moment they turned to discuss it with Sans in rapid sign language. Sans shook his head, but after a moment his face lit up, and he signed something back to Frisk. Frisk instantly grinned.


“the dog’s name is dump ling,” Sans said, grinning. “you know, because he was dumped on the side of the road.” You grinned at his silly pun, and nodded, laughing.


“Okay then,” you replied. “Dumpling it is. This is going to take a while, Frisk, so it will help me a lot if you can keep petting Dumpling to keep him from getting restless.


Frisk continued to give the dog cheese as you flipped him over and got him to lay down with his broken leg up, facing you. Sans seemed absorbed in his phone while you began to work. Though Flowey had been moved out of your way, and set on a step stool, he was still opposite the table from you, next to Sans, which probably explained his sour and impatient expression.


You grabbed the medical tape and began wrapping it around the dog’s leg to make the stirrup that would hold up the cast, and the room gradually fell silent. You didn’t mind chatting with clients most of the time, but you preferred silence when it came to tasks like this. You were grateful for the quiet, since it helped you focus. You hummed as you worked, wrapping layers of gauze and splinting material around the dog’s leg. Dumpling didn’t even whine as you straightened out his leg in order to make sure the bones were lined up, and it wasn’t long before the puppy dozed off. It wouldn’t be the first time that an injured animal had succumbed to sleep while you worked on them; you prided yourself on being level headed, and you were always the one they called for when an animal was too hurt and scared to be handled by the other techs. Slow movements and humming had always seemed to work better for you than the tense anxiety that rose off your coworkers like steam on hot pavement. You were glad you hadn’t had to sedate him. 


You continued to hum as you worked, gradually forgetting about your surroundings, focused entirely on the dog in front of you. You didn’t notice that anything was off until you looked up to ask Frisk what color wrapping they wanted for Dumpling’s cast. Flowey was staring at you, his face disturbed, and the lights in Sans’ eyes had gone out. Your thoughts began to race, wondering if it was your humming that had upset them, or if they were just horrified by the process of forcing a bone back together with tape and gauze. Your hands froze, and the tune you were humming died on your lips. You mumbled an apology and ducked your head before they could see your face reddening. 


Sans coughed, and rubbed the back of his head, as the lights in his eyes flickered back to life.“sorry about that miss.” he said, “i didn’t mean to stare. i, uh, just got caught up watching you fix the dog. you’re really skilled at that.” It sounded a bit like a lame excuse but you tried not to dwell on it. Flowey’s expression was unreadable, and he offered no apology or explanation.


“It’s okay Mr. Sans, I didn’t realize my humming had gotten so loud,” you replied. “I kind of tune out my surroundings when I’m working. Sorry.” You were saved from the awkward conversation by a tiny hand tugging at your sleeve. Frisk had a roll of medical wrap, pink and decorated with sheep, in their hand, and was offering it up to you. You wasted no time, and quickly wrapped the dog’s splinted leg with the wrap, ignoring the odd look Frisk was giving their monster friends.


Sans had flipped up his hood as if trying to hide his face.“nah, it’s not that,” he said, “it was nice, the humming i mean. i was just surprised the dog fell asleep so quick. You must have that special touch, huh?”


Flowey looked like he was going to explode when Sans said that,“A special touch?!? You smiling trashbag, you mean a -” whatever Flowey was going to say was muffled until it was unintelligible by Sans' hand, which he had thrown over Flowey’s mouth. Sans mimed like he was wiping sweat off his forehead, which struck you as silly, since you were pretty sure skeletons, even magic skeletons, didn’t sweat.


“don’t mind the weed miss, he still needs to learn that if you don’t have anything nice to say, it's better to say nothing at all. and he never has anything nice to say.”


The whole scene was absurd; a skeleton pretending to wipe sweat from his forehead, with one hand over a talking flower’s mouth, and the flower trying to bite the bony fingers that were pressed over his mouth. You were unsure of how to move forward, so you simply turned away and fiddled with the dog’s wrap once more for good measure, just to make sure it was on there very well.


That was when a small voice spoke at your hip, accompanied by a familiar tug at your sleeve.“Don’t worry, Dunkle Sans always acts silly around pretty ladies.” Frisk said quietly. Sans and Flowey stopped their shenanigans immediately, and swiveled their heads along with you to look down at Frisk. The kid was wearing what could only be described as a shit-eating grin, and there was a mischievous twinkle in their eyes.  Sans made a sound like was choking for just a split second and buried himself deeper into his hoodie. You decided to ignore the flustered skeleton, and turn your attention to Frisk instead.


“Thank you for the complement Frisk. That’s sweet.  And thank you for using your voice to talk with me. I’ll try and learn more signs so we can talk better next time. But it’s okay if Mr. Sans acts a little silly, everyone does when they meet new people. We’re all still getting used to one another. We’re bound to seem a little strange to each other from time to time.” Frisk smiled back at you when you said this, but didn’t reply.


You gave Frisk a gentle pat on the shoulder and a warm smile, before you pulled away to put Dumpling down on the floor. He awoke as you shifted him, and once he was on the floor he shook himself out and woofed quietly. The puppy tried bounding over to Frisk, but fell onto his butt as it discovered that it's leg was bandaged straight, and wouldn’t be bending anytime soon. Frisk only laughed and walked over to the pup, who began excitedly licking Frisk’s hands and face.


Obviously understanding that you were finished, Sans stood up and walked over to stand by Frisk, picking up Dumpling in an easy movement and holding the giant puppy like a baby. You slipped a leash over Dumpling’s head and offered the handle to Sans who took it silently.


“Alright then,” you said, “I think you’re all set now. If you guys will just follow me, I’ll get you all checked out and we can schedule a time for you to come back next week so we can adjust the cast.”


Frisk walked over to the table where Sans had left Flowey and grabbed the little plant monster who almost immediately began whispering jabs about Sans into Frisk’s ear. Frisk was obviously trying not to laugh, and Sans just buried himself deeper into his hoodie, pretending he couldn’t hear. The scene made you smile, and you checked them out at the front desk. Once they had paid, Sans took Dumpling outside, but Frisk set Flowey down, and darted behind the counter to wrap you in a quick hug that caught you by surprise. You waved goodbye to the kid as they nipped out the door, Flowey in hand, and found yourself smiling. They had been a friendly group, just like all the monsters you had met in your line of work, and you were glad to know that you would be seeing them again.

It wasn’t until you glanced out the door after them, that you realized it was almost dark, and your breath caught when you checked the clock.  “Shit!” You cursed, frantically moving through the clinic, cleaning up your messes and shutting down equipment. “Shit-shit-shit-it’s-already-seven!” You grabbed your keys and clocked out, before running out to your reliable, if run-down, car, hoping the car would start for you without trouble.


“They are going to kill me~” You sang to yourself as you turned the key, but you breathed a sigh of relief when it sputtered to life. You zipped through town, catching both lights that stood between you and your apartment while they were still yellow, before skidding into a parking spot as close to your apartment as you could get.  


There was no denying that your apartment was shitty. The apartments you lived in were undeniably the worst in town, with jacked up rent prices, loud neighbors, and narrow staircases that made moving in an absolute nightmare. But it was home until you could afford to move out; You were stuck there, just like everyone else living there; everyone who made enough to pay the bills and not a penny more. You all but ran head-first into the door when your key caught in the lock, but you caught yourself and jiggled the key until the latch came undone. You immediately dumped your bag by the door before dashing back the hall. You opened the door to your bathroom, and cranked the shower over to HOT, hoping against all hope that the shower would be at least lukewarm by the time you finished grabbing your clothes and towel. You mentally thanked the past version of yourself that had decided to pick out your clothes ahead of time. Clothes, phone, make-up and towel, all in hand and accounted for, you dashed back into the bathroom. You tapped your friend’s contact in your phone to call her, put the phone on speaker and tossed it into your bathroom sink before jumping into the still cold water.  


“Fuckkkkkkkkkkk.” You groaned, shivering at the cold water, and mentally cursing it into oblivion, as you ducked your head into the freezing cold torrent.


“Hey girl, where you at?” A female voice came over the speaker as your friend Ava picked up the phone.


“Sorry!” You cried, “Work held me late because we had a last-minute walk in but I’m in the shower now. Give me 15 minutes, and I’ll be on my way okay?” You squirted shampoo into your hand and began the task of washing your hair as quickly as you could. It was no easy feat, given that it fell to the middle of your back, but you got it rinsed and slathered in conditioner, before you began scrubbing your nails and hands to rid yourself of the smell of cleaning chemicals and animals. 


“Damn, that sucks,” Ava replied, “Where was everyone else today?”


“Take a guess. They got sent home early, as always, and I got stuck working until close.” You tried not to gasp as you stepped back into the still cold water to rinse yourself off. 


“Again?! I hate that they always do that to you! Did I ever tell you I hate your boss?”


You smiled ruefully. “Only a million times, Ava,” you replied, “That makes two of us. At least my last clients were interesting though. It sounds like the start of a bad joke: a kid, a talking flower and a skeleton monster, walk into a vet clinic.” You turned off the shower and started to wring the water out of your hair, waiting for Ava’s response.


“A kid, a talking sunflower and a skeleton? That is an odd bunch. But then again, odd has started to become the norm around here; just look at our boss for the night.” Ava replied. “So what did they come in for? Was it another rabbit situation?”


You giggled, grabbing your towel to finish drying off, before you answered her. “No, it wasn’t anything as embarrassing as that! Someone tossed a dog out of a moving vehicle, and the kid, Frisk, decided to bring it in. They named the dog Dumpling because it was dumped out of a car,” you said, laughing again at the name Sans and Frisk had picked out. You put on your underwear and slacks, before grabbing your hair brush to do your hair.


“Wait hold on…”Ava said, sounding startled. The line went silent, and once you saw that she had just put you on hold, you put your phone back on the counter, glad that it hadn’t died on you like you thought. 


You sang softly to yourself as your braided your hair, turning occasionally in the mirror to make sure that your hair was still neat in the back. 


The line clicked and Ava exploded over speaker phone,“HOLY shit Brighid!” she screeched.


“What?! What?” You jumped at the sudden noise, dropping your hairbrush.


“You said the kid’s name was Frisk?!? As in Frisk Dreemurr?!?!” She replied, still not explaining.


“Yeah? Wait, I didn’t tell you their last name. Are they famous or something?” You glanced at the clock, cringing at how little time you had left, before tying off your braid with a white ribbon. 


“Uh, YES!” She replied, exasperated. “Dreemurr, as in KING AND QUEEN DREEMURR! As in the King and Queen of Monsters!?! That “kid” is their adopted child, the Ambassador of Monsters, Brighid!” 


You froze at that, your eyes wide as all your other thoughts came to a screeching halt. That kid was the ambassador everyone was talking about? The one who freed all the monsters from the underground?! You groaned, placing your head in your hands. I gave the AMBASSADOR OF MONSTERS a talk about how sometimes people don’t understand each other, and how that was okay! No wonder Sans was so freaked out by me, you thought, I treated Frisk like a normal kid and acted like a weirdo in front of them! Frisk is basically royalty!


“Oh no babe, you didn’t give the kid a lecture did you?” Ava asked sympathetically when she heard you groan. 


“No!” You replied, pulling yourself out of your thoughts. “I just made a comment, when their friends were giving me a strange look about my humming. All I said was that people who just met were bound to find things strange about one another, but that it was okay!” You reached for your makeup, applying it quickly, with a deft hand, before carefully sliding on the white top you had picked out. 


“Oh, well that’s not so bad,” Ava replied, “What did you think of them? Not just Frisk but the monsters too. I haven’t met that many.”


“Frisk was a sweet kid,” you replied. “They gave me a hug before they left and everything, so I must not have fucked up too bad. The flower, Flowey, had a bit of a mouth on him, but the skeleton, Sans, seemed really nice. He really took care of Frisk, and seemed to really like puns.” You paused for a moment, applying mascara and a deep red lip stain, before continuing. “Plus I really liked his hoodie. It looked comfy.” 


You could almost hear Ava raising her eyebrows. “Sounds like just your type,” she replied. “Maybe you’d like to get comfy with him.”


You rolled your eyes, but you were glad that Ava couldn’t see you blushing pink. “ Please Ava, he was a client. You know I don’t like to mix business with pleasure,” you shot back. At least not that I’m willing to admit! You thought. “But, it’s not like he was that cliched spooky, scary skeleton type. He was just a guy in a hoodie and gym shorts, but I guess he was kind of cute. And his magic was this pretty shade of blue…” You said trailing off. 


Ava sounded smug when she answered you. “ Uh-huhhhhh… So you’re not interested, but he was cute, and his hoodie looked comfy, AND his magic was this ‘pretty’ shade of blue?” she replied. “You sound awfully interested for someone who’s ‘not interested,’ Brighid! Maybe the next time you see him, you’ll be out in town, that way you won’t be mixing business and pleasure!”


“Ugh Ava, don’t make it weird! I’m probably going to have to see them a few more times when they come back to get Dumpling’s cast re-done,” you answered. “I know it’s going to be me, since Brian looked like he was going to piss himself everytime he got within 20 feet of Sans. Also, I’m hanging up now! I’m about to leave, so I’ll see you at the bar in a few, okay?”


“If the skelly’s not your type, I’m sure I can hook you up with someone here!” she replied teasingly.


“Not listening!” You called back, hanging up the call with a final huff and tap before giving yourself a final once over in the mirror.


The outfit was simple and elegant without being too formal. A white blouse, a black bow tied around your neck. Black slacks, and a white bow tied at the end of your braid. Simple makeup that wouldn’t run, and brought out your eyes in the best way. You finished off the look by clasping the black buttons at the end of each sleeve, before nodding at yourself in the mirror. 


You slipped into the plain black flats you always wore for shows, because even though they didn’t help you look any taller, you had chosen comfort over vanity a long time ago. You did one last check, grabbing your keys, phone and wallet, before rushing to the door. You grabbed the large black instrument case from the front hall, locked the door and headed to the car. You were ready to get this show on the road!

Chapter Text


You screeched into the parking lot of the crowded Grillby’s Tavern, and tried frantically to find a parking spot. You were in luck; someone was pulling out. Whipping into the spot, you had barely thrown the car into park before you were scrambling out, instrument in hand, and booking it to the door of the pub. Two large monsters in standard bouncer attire, black shirts and black jeans, who were wearing strange helmets, flanked the front door of the bar. When they looked up and saw you approaching, instrument in hand, you flashed your musician pass at them and they opened the door for you without a word. You zipped inside, weaving through the crowd and trying not to hit anyone with your instrument case, as you made your way towards the bar’s kitchen.

The inside of the bar, which had seemed small, even in the light of day, when it was empty, seemed even smaller now. The little bar could only hold around 150 patrons, and it was packed. Both humans and monsters weaved through the crowd, and it was easy to see that Grillby’s Tavern was almost at max capacity. The dark, shiny, L-shaped bar to the right had patrons on every one of the light colored wooden bar stools, and the faces of the bartenders were intense and focused, illuminated by the soft lights hanging over the bar. The wall of bottles and mixers glittered invitingly, and you had to resist the urge to stop and order a drink. I’ve got to make it to the stage! You thought, forcing yourself away from the show the bartenders were putting on, shaking drinks and flipping bottles, and towards the door that led to the kitchens and the stage. 


You slipped through the door and took the stairs up to the stage in two large steps, bursting through the back curtain to where the band was waiting, before finally pausing to catch your breath. “Whoo! Sorry I was almost late. I got stuck at work again today,” you said breathlessly. You straightened up and twisted your back, cracking out the tension that had been building up all day, before you stepped out onto the stage to get your instrument set up. 


“Don’t worry babe; I already told them you might be late.” Ava called out to you from her spot at the mic. Her service dog, a white lab, laid quietly at her feet, wearing custom faux leather studded earmuffs and a vest that said ‘service dog’ in glow in the dark letters.  


The other members of the band, Ava’s husband, John, and your friend Chris, hadn’t 

looked back at you yet but they said, in unison, “Have we mentioned that we hate your boss?”


You couldn’t help but grin at that, “Only a million times,” you replied with a laugh. 


Ava looked back at you now, and whistled low and long. “Would you LOOK at that, boys! Brighid’s all dolled up!” She nodded in approval, her cherry red bobbed hair flashing in the lights. “I love to see you doing something with that cute face of yours!”


Her husband John grinned at you from behind his drum set, and Chris blew two long notes on his sax, a musical wolf whistle.


“Har har, Chris,” you replied, rolling your eyes and grinning. You stepped forward on the tiny stage, finding your spot, stage right behind Ava, and flipped open the locks on your bass’s case. Your upright bass always drew a lot of attention, but you were used to that. “Where’s Daisha?” you asked, turning to Ava when you realized that your keyboardist was missing. 


“She’s handling the final details right now, and paying for our spot tonight. Oh, and the owner said we were each allowed a drink, on the house tonight!” Ava raised her half finished glass of something green and fruity to you, and smiled. “Cheers,” she said, “You look stunning and I’m really glad you decided to join back with us.”


  “Thanks, Ava,” you said, “It feels nice to be back. But I’ll pass on the drink for now. I’m just not ready to be drinking in public yet.” Your smile fell slightly, as you took your seat behind the bass.“One of you guys can have it tonight; don’t worry about me.” 


“Are you sure, Brig?” Chris asked, “We’re all here for you if you want to do some drinking; we won’t leave you alone.” 


His face was serious, and you knew they were all there for you, but you just shook your head. “I swear I’m fine,” you answered. “I may have a glass of wine when I get home this evening,  but right now, I want to play with a clear mind.” They seemed to understand, and accept that you were okay, so they dropped the subject. 


The stage was almost set, so everyone turned back to their individual tasks, doing tuning and sound checks. You turned your attention to the crowd as you tuned your bass, plucking the strings gently and adjusting them as needed. The crowd was unlike any other you had ever played for; it was made up of more monsters than you had ever seen in one place, but there were also humans mixed in among them, laughing and chatting. 


A green fire elemental was weaving through the groups of people, who were talking loudly and drunkenly, and gathering up empty cups and glasses as she went. When she walked past the stage, you couldn’t help but notice that she bore a striking resemblance to the owner; You wondered if they were related. You realized, as you watched her move, that there was another floor to the bar, a half floor raised up above the lower crowds. You could see a group of dog monsters lounging and drinking up there, in what appeared to be a VIP lounge. They appeared to be playing a game, and the green fire elemental frequently returned to their table, replacing empty drinking jars with fresh ones. Occasionally a sound would echo down from there, though you weren’t sure if you were hearing actual barks, or barks of laughter.


The entire bar was finished in various wood tones, which only made the crowd in front of you appear even more colorful and diverse. The green waitress flitted between groups of monsters, and it seemed like she knew nearly every patron in the bar. Even the humans among the crowd looked delighted when they saw her, stopping her to chat and laugh, and you were glad it seemed like everyone in the bar was getting along. It's a lot easier to KEEP a crowd happy than it is to MAKE them happy, you thought. All in all, you decided that you liked the bar a lot. It was friendly and welcoming, and you could see yourself coming back to listen to other bands play while you enjoyed a drink with your friends. Plus, you thought, It would be great to be able to play this venue more than once!


Just as you finished tuning your bass, the owner, Grillby, walked up the steps to the stage, Daisha in tow. She took the stairs in two bounds, just as you had, her white blonde afro bouncing, before taking her place at the keyboard. She gave you a little wave, and a smile, before turning her attention to Grillby who had paused toward the back of the stage, looking at you.


His fire glowed warmly when he spoke. “Ah, Brighid, my dear, it is nice to see you again,” he said, smiling.  


“Hey,” you replied, “How goes it Grillby? You weren't kidding when you said the bar came alive at night! It’s gorgeous here, we’re so glad you picked us for your first live show.” You had really hit it off with Grillby when you had come in to interview with him. He was a lover of classical and jazz music, just like you, and after talking about music over lunch with him a few times in the last week, you had come to consider him a friend. 


His fires crackled brighter when you said that. “Thank you,” he said, “it means a lot to hear that you humans are enjoying our monster flair. It warms my heart to see so many humans here in the crowd. I really hope that for our races, spending time together peacefully like this, becomes more commonplace.” He looked over the band members standing nearby, who were all smiling.


Ava spoke up first, replying, “If the crowd’s like this every weekend, I don’t doubt that those humans will spread the word.” 


“Definitely!” Chris agreed. “But I gotta ask Grillby, I heard word that you guys have some primo stuff called monster alcohol. Any chance you can hook me up with some?” Chris was a remarkably large man, who, standing over six feet tall, towered over even Grillby. 


He was known for his liquor tolerance, but before Grillby could even answer him, everyone else in the band, including you, cried, “NO!”


“You have work tomorrow!” Daisha replied, “And while you can handle human booze just fine, who knows what monster liquor would do to you!” She crossed her arms, believing her point made, but John still chimed in to drive the point home.


“Just wait until next weekend,” John said. “You have both days off, so if we go out Saturday and you get really messed up, you can sleep it off on Sunday. Besides, Ava and I wanted to try it too, so let’s do it when we’re not scheduled to perform, and make it a party!”


Chris feigned shock at the ‘betrayal’ of his band mates, and Grillby erupted in laughter. “Well, well, Mr. Chris, it seems that the Jury has spoken,” he said teasingly, as he turned to look at you all. “I’ll be sure to keep him out of the good stuff, no matter how nicely he asks. But let’s get down to business. Ms. Daisha, would you like to fill them in? I need to get back to the bar.”


Taking her cue from Grillby, Daisha pulled out a sheet of paper from her pocket and unfolded it. “Alright,” she said, “We’re the only band Mr. Grillby booked tonight, so we should be able to play all of our pieces, a total of about two hours. It’s almost 8 now, so he recommends we play the classics until 9,  and then take an intermission. Intermission is an hour, and we can drink between our sets. The second half is our cover pieces, but Mr. Grillby said that the monsters are more likely to know our covers, so don’t worry if reception to the first half is a little weak.” 


She paused after saying this to take a swig from a water bottle. “We’re free to start as soon as we’re ready,” she said, “But Mr. Grillby asked me to make sure we introduced the band. You’ve got that, Ava.”


Ava nodded, “Brig, how do you think the crowd is feeling? Do we need to hype them up?” she asked, turning to you. You had always been the best at reading crowds, but for once you shook your head. 


“Not much,” you replied. “The crowd is in a good mood, and seems pretty mellow. I think even our classic songs will go over pretty well, but I bet they’ll really love our covers set.” You smiled at her reassuringly, and she seemed relieved. 


“Alright, then!” Ava said, before looking back over the band, “You all ready to go?” Everyone nodded in response, taking up their positions, so she turned back to the mic and took a deep breath before clicking it on. She motioned to the monster working the lights from the balcony, giving him a “three, two, one,” before she began speaking.


“Hellooooo everyone!” She called cheerfully over the mic. “I’m Ava, and we are the Jazz Radicals! We are so honored that Grillby gave us this chance to be the first band to ever perform here, live. As our name implies, we’re a Jazz band. We’ll start with some classics, but after the break, we’ll move into our cover songs. We hope that tonight will be a big success for both us and Grilby’s Tavern. We’re really excited to be able to share our music with everyone here, but especially our new neighbors from New New Home! Thank you for coming, and we hope you enjoy the show. Be sure to support Grillby’s by buying lots of delicious drinks!


Ava gave the band a hand signal behind her back, and, as the applause died down, you began gently plucking the strings on your bass, falling into a practiced rhythm. Right on cue, Chris chimed in on his saxophone, and a moment later Daisha and John picked up their parts, playing a slow tune, Ava’s favorite song from the set. The song picked up slowly, until Ava came in, her alto voice crooning gently,


I'm feelin' mighty lonesome,

haven't slept a wink;

I walk the floor from nine to four

in between I drink

Black coffee…”


  You all knew the set well, having practiced it dozens, if not hundreds of times, and you found yourself slipping into the gentle rhythm of the song within moments. It was key, in a bar like this, to scale your volume just right. If any one of you played too loudly, it would be too loud for the patrons to hear one another, but if you played too softly, they wouldn’t be able to hear you at all. It didn’t matter how good you were; if the patrons couldn’t hear you, or couldn’t hear over you, they weren’t going to enjoy the show. You were grateful that the Jazz Radicals seemed to slip into the appropriate volume almost immediately, but it wasn’t surprising to you.


The Jazz Radicals had been playing together, in one form or another, for the better part of the last two years. Before you had moved to Ebott, you had all played together in an orchestra in the city, but even after you moved, the five of you kept in touch. It was always easy to pick out the misfits in an orchestra, and your little band was definitely that. Chris stuck out due to his height, as well as his long mohawk. Daisha’s afro, like a fluffy snowball, always drew attention to her. Ava had been wearing her hair in that shade of red for years, and her husband John was always at her side. As for you, well, you weren’t sure what it was about you that made you stick out, aside from the fact that your bass stood taller than you did, and you hung out with those four “weirdos”. 


Daisha moved to Ebott shortly after you, and crashed in your apartment for a while until her paintings began to sell regularly from Ebott’s kitschy little art galleries. Her landscapes and still lifes of wildlife were remarkably popular with tourists. So when John and Ava began talking about settling down and buying a house, you were quick to mention how nice Ebott was. They bought a lovely house about a half hour from the main town, and Ava took up gardening. It wasn’t long before Chris and Daisha moved into their spare bedrooms as tenants. Chris was the last to move. When the firm he worked for opened an office in Ebott, he jumped at the chance to live somewhere quieter, especially since all of his friends had moved there too. 


You had all enjoyed playing in the orchestra, but one night, shortly after the five of you were reunited, you had all met up at Ava and John’s place. As was usual for you and your friends, a bit of drinking led to the five of you pulling out your instruments. That late night drunken jam session went so well, that the next morning, in the sober light of day, the five of you decided to try your hand at making a band. The orchestra had been nice, but rigid and strict, and it couldn’t hold a candle to the sense of peace you felt standing on stage, playing music with your friends after a long day. 


The Jazz Radicals moved almost seamlessly from one song to the next, pausing only for scattered applause, and it made you feel like you were walking on air. Men and monsters alike were watching you as you played, and the sounds of conversation in the bar had quieted to a low hum. Your slow intro songs moved into more upbeat songs as you played through the first half of your set, and every member of the Jazz Radicals had seemingly become one with their instruments. You were no exception, swaying your hips alongside your bass, leaning into the rhythm as the beat picked up. The bar-goers were almost all on their feet by this point, swaying, and seeming to genuinely appreciate the music. Grillby’s was no place to sit down, after all, and the band and audience alike seemed lost in the songs. It stayed like that until the last song of the set, when Ava stepped away from the mic and picked up her trumpet to accompany you, as you took over vocals.


You paused, before stepping forward to take the mic, bringing your bass up to share  center stage with Ava. The crowd erupted with applause, and you waited for it to die down before speaking. “I’m Brighid, and this is our last song before intermission,” you said into the mic, “Our lovely vocalist Ava is also a talented trumpet player, and will be accompanying me for this piece. Without further ado, this is I Put A Spell on You.”


Daisha began playing the familiar intro chords, and on cue you began to sing. 


“I put a spell on you,” you sang, beginning to strum your bass, each note heavy and poignant. “Because you’re miiiiiiine.” The drums and saxophone, as well as Ava’s trumpet, picked up and you were once again lost in the whirl of music. 


You were a third of the way through the song, when you looked up into the crowd to make sure the audience was still engaged, only to notice a familiar face sitting at the corner of the bar. A certain skeleton was sitting on the very last stool, closest to the stage, facing you, with the lights in his eyes completely gone. 


You hadn’t expected to see Sans SO soon, perhaps, but you shook the thought off, since you were, after all, playing in a monster bar. Unlike his blank expression from earlier in the day, which had seemed shocked, the expression on his face was something like admiration, or awe. The rest of the crowd was listening intently, but none of them were as transfixed on you as he was. It seemed like he had been mid sip, from what you could only describe as a ketchup bottle? But had stopped when you had begun singing. He was leaning back on the bar now, his face relaxed and smiling, and despite your best efforts to seem aloof, you couldn’t look away. It may have been your imagination, but as he looked up at you the smile on his face seemed to widen even further. Before you knew it, it was like you were singing to him and him alone. 


That is, until Ava noticed that you seemed distracted. She took a step backwards toward you, getting ready for your duet at the closing of the song, and followed your eyes. The movement caught your attention, and you finally tore your eyes away, but not before it was too late. Ava’s face split into a wicked grin around the mouthpiece of her trumpet, and she raised her eyebrows at you in a not-so-subtle call out. You turned your attention back to the audience at large, who was still moving in time with the music, swaying, and enjoying themselves, and tried not to meet her eyes, but Ava was obviously not deterred. You could feel the eyes on your back as Chris, Daisha, and John seemed to supernaturally tune into what was going on. Even without turning around to look at them, you could tell they were probably all wearing their own wicked grins. 


Their apparent hive-mind made them great to work with, especially as musicians, but made keeping secrets a nightmare. They were your friends, and even if they drove you crazy, when you looked out over the enraptured crowd in front of you, it was impossible for you to be mad at them. They only want me to be happy, you thought, resigned to your fate, even if that means loving me to death. 


You put aside the thought as the song finale came in, and Ava set her trumpet down, leaning in toward you to sing,


“Oooooooo I put a spell on youuuuuu,”

“Because you’re mine” “Because you’re mine”

“Because you’re miiiiiiiiine, ooooooooh yeah!” The two of you finished in harmony.   


As the last note died in the air, the audience burst into applause, and Ava took over the mic once again.


“Thank you! Thank you!” she said. “Our show is not over, but it's time for intermission! We’ll be back in an hour for our cover set, where we play jazz adaptations of popular songs and soundtracks from some of your favorite movies, games and shows!” 

That announcement brought forth another, even more raucous, round of applause and Ava bowed low, signalling for the curtain to close. You smiled, thrilled that the audience had enjoyed your show this much so far. As the curtain began to drop, you couldn’t help but glance back toward the bar at Sans. He was clapping along with the crowd, lights twinkling in his eyes once again. Despite your failed attempt at subtlety, he saw you looking and gave you a little wave before lifting the strange red bottle back to his lips. You felt your face heating up, and you were glad, when a second later, the curtain drew past you, hiding your beet-red face from the audience.


You turned to slip out the back door of the stage, your stomach growling, but the band was looking at you expectantly. 


“Going to go make eyes at that cute skellie?” Ava asked teasingly. 


“No!” you protested, “I’m going to get some food! I just didn’t expect to see him here…” you trailed off, face still red. 


Ava rolled her eyes dramatically. “Uh-huh. Alright then, you go and ‘get something to eat.’ We’ll give you a few minutes of alone time.” She wiggled her eyebrows at you suggestively, but you brushed it off, and headed out the backdoor to the stage.


 The rest of the band was grinning too, but they at least had the courtesy to pretend they weren’t paying attention to you. You sighed. Here goes nothing, you thought. He’s sitting at the bar, and I need to go to the bar to order food. It would be weird if I didn’t say anything to him. 


You took a deep breath, steeling yourself, before stepping out of the kitchen door. Sans was leaning on the bar, but he looked your direction when he heard the door swing shut behind you. You stretched, and deliberately looked away from him, before walking over to him. You made a point of leaving a stool between the two of you, and ordering a good juicy burger from the waitress, before you finally acknowledged him. When you finally looked his direction, the twinkle in his eyes told you plainly that your act hadn’t fooled him. 


“hey there miss,” he said as way of a greeting, “fancy meeting you here. i didn’t expect to see you again so soon.” His tone was warm, and you felt yourself relax a little, despite yourself. He paused a moment, taking another sip from his strange red drink, that you could now see, without a shadow of a doubt, was definitely a ketchup bottle.


“Hey Sans,” you replied hesitantly, eyeing the strange bottle. “How are you? I didn’t expect to see you either.” You must have been staring, because he set the bottle down again and sighed. 


“Go ahead and ask,” he said. “I know you’re curious.”


“Are you drinking ketchup?!” you asked. “And second thing, HOW are you drinking anything at all?” Your hand flew to your mouth. You hadn’t expected the question to come out so excitedly. “Shit, I’m sorry!” you spluttered, “Was that rude?”


Sans laughed, a deep warm laugh. “No, not at all. You wanna try it?” he asked.


You eyed the bottle suspiciously. “Uhh… sure…. But there’s no alcohol in it, right?” 


“Nope,” he replied, tilting the bottle toward you. 


You took it hesitantly, and gave it a sniff, crinkling your nose at the unmistakable smell of tomatoes and vinegar. It looks like ketchup, and it smells like ketchup, you thought, so it must be ketchup. You felt strange about drinking from the same bottle as him, but you were past the point of no return, so you slowly brought the bottle your mouth and took a small sip. 


Your first reaction was OH GOD IT REALLY IS KETCHUP followed by intense confusion as the red viscous liquid magically dissolved in your mouth, before you even thought to swallow the noxious fluid. Your mouth was filled by a strange tingling sensation, as if you had just drank pop rocks, but it was definitely not the feeling of alcohol, or anything else you had ever drank in your entire life. You set the bottle back down on the bar, and looked up at Sans who looked amused. His eyes were shining with mischief, half moons of blue white light looking at you expectantly. 

“how was it?” he asked, grinning widely. 

“How..?!? What..?!?” was all you managed to say in response. 


“long story short, its monster food,” he replied. “there are some monsters who can eat human food, no problem, but some of us, like me and my brother papyrus, who are skeletons, can’t eat normal food. we don’t have guts, so we have to eat food made with magical agents so the magic in our bodies can dissolve it.” 

You nodded as he spoke, trying to process the impossibilities of what you had just experienced, but magic was magic, so you shrugged off your wonder, and tried to change topics. “Ah magic, that explains it,” you said, “Despite seeing monsters almost everyday, and working for one like tonight, I still sometimes forget that it’s real.” 


Sans seemed especially amused when you said that, for some reason, clutching his ribs as he laughed into the bar. 


“Ummmmm,” you said, confused, “Anyway, I wanted to apologize for earlier. You guys were staring because I was treating Frisk like they were just a normal kid, right? I didn’t realize they were the freaking Ambassador of Monsters. I even gave them that little lecture about how sometimes people who just met don’t get along right away. Sorry if I was disrespectful to you, or Flowey. Please let them know I said sorry.” 


Sans only laughed harder at that, wiping a magical blue tear from his watering eyes, and you couldn’t help but bristle. “Geez, it’s not that funny,” you said coldly, the happy mood for the night slipping away though your fingers. “I know I was being ignorant, but you don’t have to laugh at me.” Your smile had fallen flat, and you slid off your bar stool, and started to walk away. You were prepared to go get your food from the kitchen and eat it backstage if he was going to be so rude. 


Sans realized you were upset, and before you could get more than a step away, he reached out a hand, tugging your sleeve to stop you. “no! please wait!” he said, “you’ve got it all wrong!”


You paused and looked at him, but your smile hadn’t returned. 


“seriously! i was laughing because humans are always so worried about offending us that after a while it’s just funny! you all jump through hoops trying not to embarrass yourselves, but monsters aren’t like that, and neither is frisk! the kid loved you ! they spent all afternoon telling my brother and their mom about how much fun it was to meet you! They want to come with me again every time dumpling needs to have his cast adjusted,” He smiled reassuringly at you and you hesitantly took a step back toward the bar, to sit back down. When Sans let go of your sleeve, and you looked at him, you noticed that he was sweating blue, the same color as his magic.

It was at that moment that you felt a tap on your shoulder, and you turned to see Ava standing beside you, her dog Momo at a heel beside her. 

“Hey Brig, I’m taking Momo out. You wanna come with? I can have them drop your food backstage for you if you want,” she said, looking a little worried. You realized that she must have seen you getting up and Sans stopping you.


You knew she was offering you an out, but you decided not to take it. “Nah, thanks Ava, I’m good. I think I’m going to order a drink after all.” She raised an eyebrow at you. “A non-alcoholic drink,” you said, clarifying.


“Okay then,” she said, smiling again. “And, who is this?” she asked, gesturing to Sans. 


You groaned internally, since she clearly already knew, but you introduced the two of them nonetheless. “Ava, this is Sans. I told you about that cute kid who came into the clinic earlier right? Sans is Frisk’s dunkle, their guardian. Sans, this is Ava, lead vocalist and trumpet player for the Jazz Radicals.”


Sans offered his hand to her, and she shook it, showing no sign that she thought there was anything odd about it. “It’s a pleasure,” she said. 


“no, the pleasure is all mine,” he replied, “you blew me away with that trumpet solo in the last song. i’ve really enjoyed the show so far.” You couldn’t help but chuckle at his penchant for puns and Ava relaxed a hair once she saw you smiling again.


“I’m glad to hear it!” she replied, beaming. “Well, Momo has to go, so I’ll leave you two to it. Don’t forget that we pick back up at ten!” she said turning to you. You nodded, and she left, giving the two of you a little wave, and winking at you slyly so Sans couldn’t see her. Oh gods, you thought, Now I’m never going to hear the end of this. 

You hopped back on your bar stool, and Sans smiled softly, apparently relieved. “really though,” he said, “frisk is such a good kid. my brother papyrus can make friends with just about anyone, but frisk is even better at it than he is. maybe it’s because they’re a kid, but they accept everyone almost instantly, so don’t worry about them.”


“Oh?” you said, arching an eyebrow. “And what about you? And Flowey?” 


Sans huffed a laugh again, before replying. “ha! flowey doesn’t make friends . they just have people they’re slightly less rude to. as for me, it takes an awful lot to rattle my bones. i’m trying to be more like papyrus. he doesn’t let anything get to him. he’s so cool.”


“That’s good to hear,” you said, relieved. “The world needs more people like that. I never know what is and isn’t okay to say around people. Especially around monsters. I just have so many questions, but like they say, curiosity killed the cat.”


“i get that,” Sans replied, “but i try not to let it get to me. feel free to ask me any weird questions you have about monsters. speaking of which,” he said, moving over to the stool directly next to you. His proximity to you made your breath catch, especially when he leaned in conspiratorially, to whisper, “i didn’t want to be rude, but what’s with the dog?”


Your thoughts went to the dogs in the VIP lounge before you realized he meant Ava’s service dog. “Oh! You mean Momo. She’s Ava’s service dog. You wouldn’t know it, but Ava is actually really jumpy. She’s lived through some dark shit, and doesn’t like people coming up behind her. Momo does a lot for her, and Ava doesn’t go anywhere without her.” 


“ah, I see,” Sans replied, “and i take it that it would have been impolite to ask about it?”


You nodded, “yeah, I’m glad you asked me and not her. Ava’s a good friend of mine but she tries really hard not to think about the past, and it’s a sensitive subject. It's rude to ask someone with a service dog what they are for. It could range from ptsd, sight, alerting for medical issues. Since they are working animals, they are treated, when working, as a medical device.”


As you finished that sentence, a heavenly aroma reached you, and you turned your head to see Grillby himself placing your food down at the bar. The burger looked even better than it had on the menu, and your stomach growled loudly in response. Grillby glanced at Sans and back at you as he handed you your food.


“I hope Sans isn’t making a nuisance of himself,” he said. “If he’s being a bother, let me know and I’ll call Papyrus for you.” 

When Grillby said that, Sans looked like he was ready to retreat back into his hood. Although it made you smile to see him squirm under the fire elemental’s gaze, and the threat of having his brother called on him, you put a stop to it pretty quickly. “Thank you, Grillby,” you said, “but I don’t think that will be necessary. Sans was just answering some of my silly questions about monsters. Speaking of which, I think I’d like to order a drink.”

Grillby smiled at you and waited for you to continue. “I’d like a virgin Malibu Sunset, with plenty of coconut. And if it’s okay, can you pour Sans a glass of something since I’m not getting alcohol in my drink?” 

Grillby raised an eyebrow at the request, but nodded. “I can, sure, but you know you can get that drink with alcohol, right? I can still give Sans something on the house, per your request, if you do want alcohol in that.”


“That’s a generous offer,” you replied, “But no thanks. I don’t drink in public anymore, and I like to keep a clear head when we’re performing.”  Grillby nodded, pouring Sans a drink from a decanter with horns on it, and you took the opportunity to dig into the burger in front of you. The meat was cooked just right, spiced just enough that it wasn’t bland but not so much that it overwhelmed the flavor of the perfectly seared beef. It was juicy, and the bun was the perfect kind of bread to soak up all the good juices. You shimmied a little in delight, and closed your eyes, enjoying the decadence. 


“That good, huh?” Grillby asked. You nodded vigorously, and Grillby chuckled. “Glad to hear it. Your drink will be up in a moment.” 

Sans didn’t watch you wolf down your burger, choosing instead to drink down some more of his ketchup before turning to the bubbling purple liquid in the glass in front of him. “Thanks for the drink, Brighid” he said, lifting it to you in a ‘cheers’ motion. A chill went down your spine when he said your name, since up until now he had only called you “miss,” but you were thankfully able to hide your blush behind a mouthful of food. Once your burger was finished, you took your plate and set it in your lap, spinning on the barstool to watch the crowd as you ate your fries. Sans turned with you to watch as well. There was a small group of monsters gathered at the foot of stage, where your friends had come out to sit and eat their food. You thought about joining them for a moment, but, glancing over your shoulder at Sans, you decided that your current space was preferable. And the company’s pretty great, you thought to yourself. 


“Who are they?” you asked after a moment, gesturing at the small crowd of monsters, who you recognized were the ones that had been in the VIP lounge earlier. “I saw them sitting upstairs. It seemed like they must be important.” 


Sans followed your motion with his eyes before answering you. “Well,” he replied, “the blue fish lady with the eye patch is Undyne. The little yellow lizard lady is Alphys, her girlfriend, and the dog monsters, well, heh, they’re a bit harder to tell apart when they’re not in their armor, but, they’re just called the d-squad.” He turned to look at you, and definitely caught you staring at them. “That bunch, aside from Alphys, who is a scientist, are the royal guards. They’ve always been a rowdy bunch, since Undyne was their captain for so long.”


“Was?” you questioned.


Sans nodded. “Yeah,” he replied, “Back in the day, before the kid broke the barrier, they guarded the entrance to the surface. But now my brother Papyrus is the captain of the royal guard, and Undyne can fin-ally take it easy. They’re still royal guards but they’re a lot more relaxed than they used to be. They’re good friends of mine, y’know? We’ve known each other for forever.”


You were a bit surprised at that last bit, and it must have shown on your face. 


“What, you thought I couldn’t hang with the big dogs?” Sans asked. Once again, you couldn’t keep the grin off your face at his jokes. 


“No, it’s not that. You just seem… too relaxed to hang out with guards and what not. They seem pretty badass.”


“Those guys? Nah.” He replied with a laugh. “Undyne dotes on Alphys all the time. I used to catch her practicing her ‘turn back now’ doom and gloom monologue all the time in the mirror. Alphys is the Royal scientist of New New Home, and loves making puzzles. And the D-squad all go bonkers if you throw a stick for them, or scratch them behind the ears. You don’t have to be weird around them. Actually,” he said, “You and Alphys would probably get along really well. Maybe you can talk with her after the show.”


You looked back over at the group of monsters, looking at them with a new perspective. Undyne and Alphys had pulled up one of the cocktail tables so they could sit, and were currently snuggled up together chatting with Ava and John. Both couples looked cute together, you decided. Alphys seemed embarrassed and was blushing a dark orange. While they chatted with the band, the D-squad had sprawled out on the floor and appeared to be losing a game of cards to Chris. “So it’s not rude to scratch a dog monster behind the ears, like you would a normal dog?” you asked curiously. 


“hmmm…” Sans said thinking. “i would treat them kinda how you treat ava’s dog momo. you wouldn’t scratch a dog you didn’t know, right? and you wouldn’t interrupt them while they were working.” He replied. 


“Yeah, I guess that makes sense,” you answered him. “While we’re on the subject of dogs though, how is Dumpling?” 


“the kid’s taking good care of him,” Sans replied, “but toriel keeps trying to talk to the dog like she does with the d-squad.”


Toriel?” you asked incredulously. 


“yeah,” he answered. “c’mon miss, you knew the kid was the ambassador of monsters. you must have known that toriel was the kid’s mom.” 


You nodded but the shock hadn’t faded. “Yeah,” you said, “I mean, Ava told me about Frisk, but it hadn’t occurred to me that I sent an untrained, un-housebroken dog home to live with the Royal Family of Monsters. ” 


Sans laughed again when you said that. “heh, yeah, i guess that would be a big deal for most humans, but toriel’s not like that. she’s kind of like everyone’s mom, but frisk’s especially. don’t worry, you won’t be in the doghouse with her about something as minor as that.”


His joke broke through your temporary horror, just as the green fire elemental appeared in front of you with your drink. “Here you are, Miss,” she said, “My name is Venus. My dad, -er, I mean Grillby, told me to make sure this drink didn’t have any alcohol in it. One virgin Malibu Sunset, with extra coconut.”


“Thank you!” you answered her. “It’s lovely to meet you Venus. I’m Brighid.” She reached over the bar and shook your hand when you offered it. 


“Likewise,” Venus replied. She flashed you a smile before disappearing back into the kitchen. 

You smiled after her, before taking a long slow sip of the sweet cold drink. “Ahhhhh,” you said. “ That is perfect.” You held the glass firmly, and kept it in front of you as you turned to continue chatting with Sans.


Sans grinned at you, “everything at grillby’s always is,” he replied, “but now it's my turn to ask a weird question. do humans really have huge families like i’ve heard? i’ve heard some people say they have seven siblings. that can’t be right, right?”


You shook your head, “Nope, that’s right. I’ve even met people who have as many as eleven siblings. Not me though. My parents passed away when I was young, and I was raised by my two awesome aunts,” you took a moment to take another long swig of your drink, nearly giving yourself brain freeze. Sans looked sympathetic when you said your parents had died, but it wasn’t a sad thing for you so you just shrugged.“I’m lucky, to be honest. I had great people to raise me, and in a lot of ways, the band is like my second family. They helped me through some difficult times in the last few years. I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for them. What about you? You mentioned Papyrus, right? Do you have any other family?”


Sans shook his head. “nah,” he answered, “it’s just me and paps. or it used to be anyway. ever since the kid joined us, everyone has felt a little bit more like family.” He smiled as he said this, and you realized as you looked at him that this was the first time you had seen him smile really genuinely, not because of a joke. “although,” he continued, “i suppose next to your jazz band family, we’re not all that interesting.” 


You couldn’t keep a straight face as you answered him.“Who are you kidding, Sans?!?” you exclaimed. “Don’t sell yourself short! You’re fun to be around. I find your puns pretty humerus.” He looked at you, his brow-bones shooting up at your retort. 


“you’re one to talk!” he replied. “especially about selling yourself short. you thought we were offended by your humming, when you literally perform music for other people on a stage! i had no idea you were so talented.”


You blushed at the compliment, and looked away from him, only to realize that the band was up off the floor, and you could hear muffled sounds coming from the stage. You whipped around to look at the clock at the end of the bar, and realized it was almost time to start back up.


“Shit!” you said, jumping from your stool to the floor and leaning over to jam the last of your fries in your mouth. “Sorry , Sans,” you said, before chugging the rest of your drink, “But the stage calls.” 


He smiled at you as you started to leave, saying, “i understand,” but before you had gotten more than a few steps away, you stopped, as an idea came to your mind. 


“Hey, Sans?” you asked, turning back to face him. “Do you have any requests? We cover a lot of songs, if you have a favorite, or know one that will go over well with the monster guests, please let me know.”


He was grinning again when he answered you. “play something from an anime, or a video game. trust me, it’ll be great,” he replied. 


“Thanks!” you answered, and he gave you two thumbs up before spinning around on his bar stool to finish his drink. The movement gave you an odd sense of deja vu, until you remembered Frisk, earlier that day, giving you a double thumbs up and spinning on their heels before they left the room. 


You darted backstage as quickly as you could, and took your place back at the front of the stage. Ava was smiling this insufferable grin, and you could already imagine her grilling you for details about your little sit down with Sans, but it was just about time to start, so she turned back to the band instead of harassing you. 


“Anything in particular you guys are in the mood to play?” she asked. John shrugged, Chris shook his head and Daisha replied “nope” so after a moment Ava turned to you. “And you sweetheart? Any ideas?”


You hesitated for a moment, but finally answered her. “Well, actually, Sans said that anime and video game music was really popular with his friends. Maybe we can start with Cruel Angel’s Thesis?”


Ava nodded thoughtfully, “Okay then, let’s sprinkle in some of our geek shit. It’s been a bit since we’ve performed it live, since humans prefer our top 40 covers, but a change of pace can be a good thing. It’s been a while since we’ve done Tank!”


With everyone on board, the lights in the house went down once again, and the curtain drew free of the stage. A hush fell over the crowd as Daisha began playing the intro notes, but as soon as the drums started and you began playing the rhythm line, it was as if a wall of electricity hit the crowd. Monsters of every type hit the dance floor and began moving and dancing with one another. Some, like Sans who you could pick out in the crowd easily by now, bobbed their heads and shoulders, while others, like Undyne and Alphys, were pretty much dancing a full swing. You were mesmerized by the crowd, and how fluidly they moved. If their reception earlier had been warm, this time around it was like an inferno. 


Sans wasn’t kidding, you thought to yourself, I didn’t expect everyone to be so into this! Cruel Angel’s Thesis drew to a close, and the fervor in the crowd died down for a moment until Ava took her place at the mic, putting her trumpet to the side. She accepted the applause with a grin and a nod before picking up the mic and beginning the next song.


“This was a triumph,” she sang. The next song was from Portal; the crowd recognized it instantly. As if she had dropped a match to a gasoline trail, the bar lit up again. The third song was a slower one, and the monsters and people paired up for a slower dance. One song after another drew raucous applause from the crowd, and even your modern non-geek covers were received wildly, particularly Thriller and Never Gonna Give You Up (even though you could hear a few people in the crowd groan when they realized that they were being rick-rolled through a jazz cover). Everyone really jammed to Everybody Wants to be a Cat, aside from the d-squad, who howled over the word cat several times. The first time they did it, Chris nearly choked on his Saxophone, and you could hear their barking laughter at his expense. 


The night seemed like it would go on forever, but before you knew it, you were on your last song. The set had taken longer than usual, since the crowd seemed to insist on applauding for at least 2 minutes after most songs, and by the time you realized it, it was already eleven thirty. The crowd had lost some of its energy as the show went on, and your bandmates were looking haggard, particularly John, who had been really going to town on the drums for some of the numbers. At long last, Ava gave you guys the signal, and began to sing the band’s outro song, Bad News. 


There's the final curtain

There's the dotted line

No more celebration

No rum, no brandy, no sparkling wine

The bad news has arrived

It's closing tiiiime…”


You and Daisha both joined in on the final chorus, and you heard several whistles from the crowd, one of which you strongly suspected came from Sans, although you weren’t sure if skeletons could whistle. Once the last note had fallen, Ava closed the act with, “You guys have been amazing! Thank you! Good night!” 


The lights went down again, and you all packed up your things before leaving the stage only to find a line of monsters waiting at the merch table. Usually, the Jazz Radicals were lucky to sell enough merchandise to make up the cost of gas and the venue fee, but it didn’t seem like that was the case this time around. As usual, John, in his typical anti-social way, sat down behind the table and left the rest of you to chat up the new ‘fans’. Your face burned when you turned around and spotted Sans looking your way. He was chatting with Ava, but still gave you a three fingered wave. 


“it was pretty cool of you guys to take my request to heart. seems like my pals really liked the show,” you heard him say as you walked over. 


“Yeah, seems like it,” you replied absent-mindedly. Daisha was standing at the edge of the stage, looking overwhelmed as Undyne talked at her excitedly. Chris appeared to have just embraced one of the larger members of the D-squad as the dog he was, and was scratching the monster vigorously. The dog monster seemed obviously overjoyed at this, and the other members of the d-squad were watching with envy. They appeared to be waiting their turn for scratches from the big man. 


“i think the name fits you, you know?” Sans continued. “that was a pretty rad show.” His wordplay caught you off guard since you hadn’t been really paying attention, and you stifled a laugh only to end up snorting. You were mortified, and although Sans looked highly amused, it seemed like he decided not to harass you about it. 


Before your conversation could continue any further however, a shadow loomed over you from behind and an excited voice called out for Sans. 


“Oy! Sans, it’s not like you to move so fast! I didn’t expect you to already be talking to the band!” Undyne laughed loudly as she approached you; her laughter seemed infectious, it was as if all the awkwardness you had just been feeling melted away. 


“hey undyne,” Sans replied, “lemme introduce you since i’ve already had the pleasure. this is ava, the vocalist and trumpet player, and brighid. she’s the one that patched up the kid’s dog earlier. that’s her day job.”


Behind them, Daisha, free from Undyne’s overwhelming presence, quickly snapped a picture of Chris rubbing the big dog’s belly, before she walked over to join you, eyeing Sans with a pointed look. 


“You HAVE to send me that picture later,” you whispered at her. She winked at you as way of a response. 


You turned to face Sans. “Oh, and Sans, this is another of my band mates you haven’t met, this is Daisha, she plays the -” before you could finish Undyne jumped in. 


“SANS! Did you know that the little keyboard she has on the stage is programmed with all kinds of instruments?!? She was explaining it to me! What an excellent piece of technology!”


“whoa, whoa now. that’s cool and all but lemme finish introductions.” he replied. “ava, brighid, daisha, this is alphys. she’s the lead scientist of new new home.” Undyne was such a loud and boisterous character that you had hardly even noticed the little lizard lady at her side. Undyne’s blue skin blushed when Sans introduced her girlfriend and she quieted down so you could better hear Alphys.


“It’s very nice to meet you,” Alphys said warmly. You, Ava, and Daisha echoed the sentiment. She was quiet and tiny compared to her boisterous eight-foot tall girlfriend, and the energy she gave off was relaxing compared to the high energy of the other people in the room. Despite that, she was obviously nervous, and you could see her fidgeting, rubbing her thumb back and forth over Undyne’s hand. “So you’re the one who put the c-cast on D-dumpling’s leg earlier? If you d-don’t mind, I would love to ask you some questions about veterinary medicine. Monsters heal very differently from my understanding of most normal animals.”


You smiled at her, and nodded. “Sure, go ahead,” you replied. 


“C-can you explain the purpose of the c-cast? I d-don’t understand why the d-dog's leg needs to be wrapped up like that for so long. Isn’t a month a rather long time? Monsters use magic to heal so recovery for us seldom takes that long.” Alphys explained, her tail curling around her feet as she spoke. Your ears perked up when she said that Monsters healed using magic, as so far there were hardly any available publications on Monster healing and medicine. You remembered that Sans had said she was THE royal scientist, so you couldn’t help but feel a little excited at the prospect of learning from her as well.


You tried to hide the excitement on your face, and answered her right away. “Oh! We had to put the pieces of the broken bone back together in Dumpling’s leg. But setting a bone is painful for the dog, so they either need pain medications or anaesthesia in order for us to repair it. Once that’s done, we use a cast to hold the bone in place while it is healing. If the bone gets out of alignment while it's healing, it would hurt him a lot. As long as the pieces of the broken bone are aligned, Dumpling’s leg will grow new blood vessels at the point of the break, and knit itself back together over time. Dumpling’s leg should be as good as new in a month or two.”


“Pain medication?” Alphys asked, “But I thought humans d-didn’t have magic.”


You shook your head, “No, we don’t,” you replied, “Our medicines are made from plants and chemicals. Not all medicine that humans use can be used on animals, so there’s also special medicines just for pets.”


Alphys seemed deep in thought, her tail lashing behind her. “Huh, plants and c-chemicals.”


“Well, what are your medicines made of? If Sans were to break a bone, how would you fix it?” you asked. 


“Well, since our bodies are made of magic, they c-can really only be treated with magic, though there are a few exceptions. We’ve recently synthesized some magic pills, but for the most part we rely on monsters that are skilled in healing magic, and some of us c-can heal naturally so long as we c-consume magic foods. If Sans were to break a bone…hmmmm….”She thought for a moment, “I think if a piece was broken off, it would grow back, but if it was broken in two, we would have to apply healing magic at the break site and -Oh! That gives me an idea! Maybe something like a c-cast would work if an injured monster c-couldn’t get to a healer right away. I wonder if a monster in a c-cast would heal on its own without additional healing magic?” Alphys suddenly exclaimed. “We were trying to think of ways to d-deal with injuries if they occurred to a monster while they were abroad! That’s incredibly helpful, Brighid!” 


Her face lit up as she spoke, and satisfaction spread over you like a wave. It was nice to be able to help one another. 


“If you d-don’t mind,” she continued, “What do you do about d-diseases? They’re fairly un-c-common in monsters, and usually go away with enough healing medicine, but we really d-don’t know what kind of things we’ll encounter when monsters begin visiting c-countries overseas.”


“Well that depends on the disease,” you answered after a moment. “Some diseases caused by bacteria are relatively easy to fix with basic antibiotics, but viral and genetic diseases vary on how well we can treat them. For many of those conditions, you can only manage the pain the patients are feeling and try to make them feel comfortable. For some viral diseases, we have developed vaccines that allow a human’s immune system to fight off the infection. Genetic diseases are trickier though. In some cases, like cancer, we do surgeries to remove the cancerous part, or use radiation to kill the patient’s abnormal cell growth. There are also mental illnesses that are common in humans, but those are harder to treat, because even the same condition can’t be treated the same way for everyone that has it.”


Alphys was nodding thoughtfully as you spoke, and had taken out a little notebook to jot notes down in. “Thank you so much!” She replied, once she finished scribbling her notes, “I’ll make sure to look into this more later. You’re very knowledgeable, you know. D-did you go to school for this?” 


“Yes,” you replied, “But not for human medicine. I went to school for veterinary medicine. So I’m not technically qualified to heal people, even though animal medicine and human medicine have some things in common.”


A movement distracted you, and you turned your head to see that Daisha had joined Chris in scratching various members of the D-squad. The expression on her face was pure delight, and you couldn’t help but grin. Sans was chatting with Ava at the bar next to the merch table, ketchup bottle in hand, while Ava nodded occasionally and took long slurps of one of her usual green cocktails. Undyne had, at some point during the conversation, unbeknownst to you, and apparently Alphys, gone over to chat with John at the Merch table. At present she was sliding a Jazz Radicals T-shirt over her head. The human size shirt was probably a large, but she wore it as a crop top and looked delighted. 


You realized you had turned away, and looked back to Alphys, but she didn’t seem to be offended. She was staring at Undyne with an unmistakable look of adoration and her yellow scaled face seemed to be blushing a deep orange. You blushed lightly yourself at the realization that the large monster did look awfully good in that t-shirt, with her blue belly exposed. She realized you had noticed her and looked flustered, so you decided to pick the conversation back up. “Uh, anyway, what about you, Alphys? Sans mentioned you were the royal scientist for the monsters. What’s your specialty?”


To your surprise, this made Alphys considerably more flustered and she nervously clicked her nails together. “Uh, well I was royal scientist back in the underground so… I learned a lot from textbooks that humans threw away, since we didn't have any kind of formal schooling, and when monsters emerged from the underground…” She was rambling with no sign of stopping, but you were interested in what she had to say so you didn’t interrupt. “And so when we got out, I took a bunch of tests administered by all these c-colleges. So I have bachelor's-degrees in c-chemical, electrical and  mechanical engineering and robotics, and I was given honorary d-doctorates in biology, c-chemistry, and medicine by Ebott University. They kept talking about me being the forefront of advanced medicine but I’m…. really… not.” She trailed off, before flashing you a nervous smile. 


You were stunned but you tried to hide it so you didn’t make her more uncomfortable. “Wow, that’s amazing.” You replied. “You’re probably the smartest person I’ve ever met. You should be proud of that! If humans and monsters can benefit from communicating, the world could become a truly amazing place.”


Alphys blushed orange again when you said that, and a voice from behind you said, “Yeah, she’s pretty great right? She’s so passionate and analytical, I think it’s neat.” You realized that Undyne was behind you again, and heard the tail end of your conversation. She smiled widely at you, before tossing a shirt over to Alphys. “I got you that Alphys! Are you ready to go?”


Alphys nodded shyly, looking up at her tall girlfriend, but turned back to you before Undyne could pull her away. “I would love to talk to you more sometime. C-could I have your phone number?”


“Sure!” you replied, taking the phone from her outstretched hand and putting in your name and number. “I don’t talk on the phone much but text me and I’ll answer as soon as I can.”


She nodded, taking her phone back, and walked away, hand in hand with Undyne. You were excited to learn a bit more about monster science. It had been nice to meet a few different types of monsters, you decided. It was already 11:30 and the weight of the day seemed to finally be hitting you, as you fought back a yawn. You waved a farewell at Daisha and Chris who both returned the gesture, but as you turned to go say good-bye to Ava and John, you suddenly found yourself face to skull with Sans. You couldn’t help but yelp in surprise. 


“Ah! Sans!” you exclaimed, taking a step back. “Don’t sneak up on people like that!” 


“sorry,” he said, blushing blue under his cheekbones. “i said your name but i must not have been loud enough.”


“Ah, it’s okay. You just startled me.”


“uh… anyway….” he said. His face was still blue and he was being uncharacteristically quiet. You arched an eyebrow at him, worried that Ava had said something weird. 


“Yeah, what’s up?” you prompted. 


“i...uh… i saw Alphys give you her phone and...uh… was wondering if i could… have your number too….” He said hesitantly. “just in case! something could happen with dumpling and frisk really seemed to like you!” He was sweating blue now, and clearly nervous. 


“Yeah!” you said quickly, before you mentally cursed yourself for being over-eager. Ava’s getting in my head, damnit! You thought to yourself. “It’s chill. I expected you guys to have some questions,” you continued, recovering your composure. 


“...yeah?” he asked. 


“Yeah.” you replied, holding out your hand for his phone. He pulled an old style flip-phone out of the pocket of his hoodie and handed it to you. You had gotten used to smartphones, so it took you a minute to find his contacts and start typing. “Don’t hesitate to call or text me, I would much rather tell you myself than have you get bad information from the internet. And trust me, there is A LOT of bad information about taking care of pets out there.”


When you had finished entering your information in the phone, and looked back at Sans, the strange blue sweat had disappeared off of his face, but the blush had not. “There, here you go, Sans,” you said, handing his phone back to him, before stretching and reaching for your bass on the floor beside you. “It was nice talking to you. I’m glad we got things cleared up about this afternoon, and I still have a million questions to ask you, but I should head on out.”


“heh, yeah,” he replied. “i had fun at the show, thanks so much. stay safe, and have a good night.”


Sans waved as you started to head out, saying goodbye to Ava and John and confirming the time for dnd next weekend. As usual, Chris appeared like a silent giant behind you, and insisted on walking you to your car. He always did after gigs that ended late, so you nodded, and the two of you walked out. He chatted about how cool it was to pet a dog that could tell you you were doing a good job, and bid you a good night with a large crushing bear hug before you pulled out of the parking lot. 




A little while later, you finally arrived home. You shut the front door behind you and locked it with a sigh, as you rubbed a hand over your mouth to stop a yawn from breaking through. Setting your bass to the side in its proper place, you went about your nightly routine. You set your electric kettle on to boil for tea, washed your face, and chucked your dirty show clothes into the hamper, making a mental note to do laundry this weekend. You slowly pulled on your pajamas in your bedroom, before walking back out to the kitchen to pour your tea. You leaned on the counter as you took the first sip, letting the warmth spread over you and take the edge off of your fatigue. 


Sighing happily, you shuffled back over to the bed, and sat down on top of the covers to meditate. Ava had gotten you into meditation a few months ago, when you were going through some rough things, and now you couldn’t sleep without it. It helped relax your body enough to overcome the anxiety of the day, and the insomnia that usually followed it if you didn’t clear your head before bed. Taking a longer sip of your tea, you rested your back against the wall, closed your eyes, and started to even out your breathing. Visualizing yourself in your mind like always, you started ‘feel’ along the edges of your mind, then mentally traced through your tiny apartment, going over each rune you had written into the windows and doors in your mind. While most people would call your runes and wards nonsense, ever since the monsters had emerged and confirmed the existence of magic, you couldn’t help but feel that your beliefs had been validated. Even if humans couldn’t use magic the way they could, magic was real. Either way, it helped you relax, and what you did at home and believed in was nobody’s business but your own. You finished your meditation, then finished your tea, before sliding under the covers and allowing your exhausted body to surrender to the warm embrace of sleep.


Sleep came easily to you that night, something you were thankful for since it didn’t happen every night. Your dreams were filled with odd shapes and hissed whispers that rushed against your head like water, but even as you were aware of them, you also knew that you would not remember the dreams come morning. After a while, your mind settled, and as if a weight was removed from your chest, you drifted off into a deep, undisturbed sleep.