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If Sans had a better sense of humor, perhaps he could laugh at how ridiculous his life had become. The Sans that had been sworn to capture all humans, knighted and sharing the position of head of the Royal Guard with Alphys, the Sans with the holding cell in a little-used shed… The violent, tyrannical, iron-fisted monster he’d once been would crush him to dust if he could see what he’d become, what he now did.

Here he was, pinching a beauty blender between his skeletal fingers, hovering over the human ambassador to the Underground, his gloves long-since abandoned on your makeup table. He should find the situation hilarious, how far he’d fallen, how silly the situation, but instead he tilts your head from side-to-side, examining his contour. Stunning, as always. You were always a work of art, makeup or none.

“How do I look?” You bat the eyelashes that he had just painstakingly layered onto your eyelids, and he rolls his eye-lights in response. As if the answer would ever be any different.

“NOT AS GOOD AS YOU’LL LOOK ONCE I FINISH. HUSH.” Your lips curl in amusement, rolling your eyes playfully at him and scooting around on your seat. Your smile is just as sweet as that first night you’d met, stumbling out of the Ruins with a curious look on your face, delighted by the fact that it was snowing underground. Of course, the smile was soon wiped off of your face when he had stepped out from the woods to capture you, culminating in a rather sour stalemate as you refused to fight but also, skillfully dodging him, refused to be hit.

When they were Underground, Sans hadn’t given two shits about your occupation on the Surface- Papyrus was more than happy to curiously peer at you and ask for your celebrity stories, sitting and hovering around you as you sang your little human songs while you “WORKED OFF YOUR CRIME’S SENTENCE” in their home. You’d rolled your eyes then, just as you rolled your eyes now (half-amused and half-curious), and taken to the rather mediocre household chores he’d asked of you. Ultimately, he’d been surprised by your usefulness, your kindness, and that soft, tired smile you gave them once you were back inside the house after wandering around town.

And, now, here he was, holding your chin like you were a canvas that needed just one more dash of paint. It’d started as a joke too many months ago, you joking about vlogging the first human-monster makeup mess while winging your eyeliner and wagging your eyebrows at him, and Sans, never one to back down from a challenge, immediately set about proving you wrong. On the surface, he quickly learned that he was only about three Youtube videos from mastering a skill, and he spent an unreasonable amount of time watching videos of humans slapping paint onto their skin in precise strokes.

Of course, all of that had been to prove that he could easily master any human skill. Of course it hadn’t been to impress you.

He had a strange idea about color palettes and he’d had to reveal his bare hands to you after fumbling with the brush too much, but the end result had been striking and you’d been so impressed that you never went to your shows without him taking a pass at you. All the while, he’d grumble and grunt and act as if he weren’t having the time of his life, your face delicately cradled in his hands, the wide holes through his palms being brushed by your slight exhales. There was a pride to this, being so good at this task that no other human could compare, where you completely surrendered and trusted in his guidance.

“I don’t think my contour needs to be-” He quiets you by tilting your chin up- only when you’re sitting down is he tall enough to even consider a move like this. You laugh-snort, delight evident in your voice as you look at his avid concentration, “Sansy, it’s not so serious!” He’s just about to chastise you for crinkling your eyes and the powder surrounding them, hand half-raised to fix it, but you catch your hand in his.

“OF COURSE IT’S SERIOUS TO ME. IT’S FOR YOU.” It stumbles out of his mouth, supposed to be a gruff complaint, but he can’t help the tenderness that slips through. You look surprised, and he tries to deflect as hard as possible by pointing a lip gloss wand at you, “YOUR PERFORMANCE IS IN FIVE MINUTES. I NEEDED TO HAVE YOU READY TEN MINUTES AGO.” As he rounds the swell of your lips with the wand, he tries to distract himself from how soft they are, how pretty the color he’d chosen looked on you. A stunning red, chosen to match your outfit, and certainly not for his preferences.

You’re silent until he finishes, knowing what a pain the sticky lip gloss would be if it was smeared anywhere else other than your lips. When he’s done, you smack your lips together and blot, your eyes trained on him the whole time. With a mischievous look, you ask, “Kiss for good luck?” and start leaning towards the swell of his cheekbone, your lips pursed in a perfect red pout.

Sans freezes, staring at you as if you had just threatened him with bodily harm, then starts to sink down to your level as if he were a slime instead of a skeleton. When your breath brushes his cheek, your lips likely soon to follow, he suddenly realizes the situation and straightens up, “I WON’T LET YOU RUIN MY HARD WORK-” You pull back immediately, your mischief dissolved, your expression almost professional.

“Oh, uh, right. My bad, Sans- I got kinda caught up, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. Guess I should be on my way, huh? Crowd’s waiting for me.” Instead of a kiss, you pat his cheek fondly, friendly.

This time, he’s the one to stop you, catching your wrist. “BUT. IF THE OFFER STILL STANDS, I WOULD-” He fumbles for a word that isn’t ‘love’. “-GREATLY ENJOY CASHING IN AFTER THE SHOW.”

Chapter Text

Papyrus, if pressed, would’ve said that his second least favorite thing to do was move. His ideal day had him lazing about, sketching out some complex Rube Goldberg machine to move even less but with more complex hijinks involved. He certainly hadn’t been so low when he was younger, but growing up seemed to take the wind out of his sails, and the fact that his friend group extended to one person and his brother certainly hadn’t helped. He’d had big dreams- becoming a part of the Royal Guard and all of the romance that entailed. The suit of armor, the fancy outings, the prestige of it all, the hope for a future on the Surface... It had painted a very shiny and ideal future to a kid whose earliest memory was of his older brother panicking about finding them somewhere to live.

That future had dulled as he got older. Some dreams, he had supposed, were best left as dreams. He was slow and achy at only twenty years and those weren’t the kind of goals a slow achy skeleton got to have.

Unfortunately, Sans disagreed. He’d been the president of the Papyrus Fan Club the day that he’d become an older brother, and his optimism and hope for him never ceased to amaze Papyrus. He’d long since given up trying to get him to physically prepare for being a knight in the Royal Guard (giving Papyrus all of his sentry shifts so he wouldn’t have to move as much), but Papyrus had been naive to believe that his brother had forgotten about his childhood ramblings.

On the Surface, now, everything seemed limitless and possible, and Sans has fucking signed him up for a ballroom dancing class.

“i’m not going. you can’t make me.” Papyrus says, petulantly, childishly, sitting at their living room table. His fingers find a carved indention where he had tried to write his name in the wood when he was younger- ‘papiris’. “you remember what happened when you signed me up for a yoga class. what do you think is going to happen?”

“OH, DON’T GIVE ME THAT.” Sans turns around only briefly from where he’s scrambling eggs to roll his eyelights at him. “YOU DIDN’T DO THE WARM-UPS, IT’S NOT THE ENTIRE PRACTICE OF YOGA’S FAULT. BESIDES, BALLROOM DANCING IS THE LOWEST EFFORT DANCE LESSON I COULD FIND.” The spatula gently scrapes the bottom of the pan. “BESIDES. YOU USED TO LOVE THOSE CHEESY HUMAN ROMANCE SOAPS.”

“well, i’m about a decade and a half older than i was when i first watched ‘beauty and the beast’, so i don’t think that counts, sans.” He grumbles, slumping onto the table. Yoga had been a horrific incident- the humans were nice, the atmosphere was fine, but they’d done a simple move and his thigh bone had popped out of his pelvic cradle and the woman next to him had screamed and fainted. And then the instructor had called a human ambulance despite Papyrus’ protests, all while he tried to calm down enough to get his magic to reattach his leg. It was single handedly the most embarrassing moment of his life, even over the time Undyne invited her girlfriend over and had completely forgotten that he hadn’t left her house yet.

If he knows Sans, though, there’s no way around this because, “I ALREADY PAID FOR IT.” Then, to soften the blow, “IT’S ONLY ONE LESSON. WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN?”

“my leg could fall off again?”

“WELL, KEEP AN EYE ON THEM SO THEY DON’T RUN AWAY, THEN!” He starts building his plate- a slice of toast, several strips of turkey bacon, and his eggs (lightly salted). “I EVEN SPOKE WITH THE INSTRUCTOR ABOUT THIS- SHE SAID SHE’D PAIR YOU WITH SOMEONE EXPERIENCED SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THEM STEPPING ON YOUR TOES. JUST...” Sans hands him his plate, a small smile on his face, “JUST TRY TO HAVE FUN!”

Papyrus stuffs his face with eggs and tries to ignore how hard his brother is trying to make him happy.

-

Even though the idea of being over-dressed for this occasion was horrifying, Papyrus could only imagine how embarrassing it would be if he had ended up underdressed. When he was younger, he used to love fashion and his idea of what was ‘cool’ (usually, clothes that looked like they were covered in car decals), but he had been hard-pressed to find one dress shirt in his closet. Ultimately, he’d ended up borrowing one of Sans’ and tucking it into khakis he hadn’t worn in four years, which exposed his growth spurt and, incidentally, his thin tibias.

He walked into that auditorium room feeling like a class-a clown in the worst of ways. He couldn’t tell if it was a good or a bad thing that no one turned to look at him when he’d walked in, and the indecision had sweat beading on his skull. Was it too late to just bail? Could Sans afford for him to just leave and lose the money on this lesson? It was ballroom dancing, so it couldn’t have been cheap- what if he’d spent that extra money he was going to use for his vacation days on this? What if-

“Hi! Are you Papyrus?” He lurches, feeling someone’s hand touch his shoulder, disrupting his running thoughts. “Oh! Sorry to startle you!”

“oh, uh, um, uh.” He can’t physically return his eye sockets to how they were normally. He’s suddenly very glad that Sans had pressed his shirt for him, because you’re wearing a sleek black outfit that compliments you so well that he has to tell himself not to stare. “yes. papyrus. that’s me. and, um, you are...?”

“I’m your dancing partner for today.” You say with a smile, and introduce yourself. “You’re a bit behind with the lessons, so everyone’s a little more practiced. Your brother, um, mentioned that you’d be uncomfortable with having more attention on you than necessary, so we’re going to be practicing separately from the group to get you caught up. Is that alright?”

“yup. that’s alright, yeah.” Stars, why can’t he make his mouth say something, anything, cooler than that? The light sweat on his face still hasn’t faded.

You chuckle, just a little, and reach out your hand. It takes him a moment to realize you wanted him to hold your hand. For the dancing. Duh. He hesitates, fitting his hand into your’s slowly, a wobbly smile reaching his face when you flex your fingers on his. “Wow! You’re real solid.” Staring down at your joined hands, it takes Papyrus a moment to realize why his soul is racing in his rib cage- this is the first time in months that anyone other than Undyne or Sans has touched him. Stars, he’s a mess. Taking his pause for more hesitation, you try to amend, “We won’t be doing too much dancing today- it’s mostly about helping you find some rhythm and sync up with me. Just, um, let me know if anything makes you uncomfortable?”

You’re really nice and he feels super bad about this entire situation- he can only imagine how frail his brother must’ve made him sound. “don’t worry- i know you’re just doing your job. if anything’s sour, i’ll let you know.” He hadn’t noticed that you were tense until he’d finished speaking and saw your shoulders relax.

“Phew, okay. I mean, it’d get really hard to get you into rhythm if you’re not comfortable, so that’s our first obstacle.” You sway forward and, automatically, Papyrus leans forward to make sure you don’t fall. He then realizes it was on purpose, to test if he could take your weight. “Okay, Papyrus, talk to me. What kind of music do you like?”

“for this kind of stuff? i’d say blues.” You rest your other hand on his shoulder, and indicate for him to do the same. He feels your shoulders raise with a small laugh.

“That was a joke, right? ‘Rhythm and blues’? That’s cute.” You say it so genuinely that it pulls a chuckle from him. You begin to sway side-to-side- initially, the both of you are mismatched, but he falls into step easily soon, matching your pace.

“hey, i got a few more up my button-down’s sleeve. you ever heard the one about the old duck comedian?”

You got a silly smile on your face, as if you could guess the punchline. “Nope, never have. Is it going to... quack me up?” Your fingers slide more securely towards his neck, and he finds that holding you under your arm and around your shoulder blade is far more comfortable than locking his elbow straight to hold onto you.

“nah, but he’ll bill you for it later.” The punchline gets a small laugh from you, shaking your head. “hey, how long have you been dancing?” The two of you had fallen into an almost-natural sway, gently rocking to-and-from. You take one step to your right, and he immediately follows with you. Papyrus can suddenly see the importance of being familiar with your partner’s body language.

“Oh, not too long. About two years- I did a competition a little while back. Not much came of it.” He misreads you and steps forward, stepping on your foot. You simply take a step back, pulling your foot out from under his. “The instructor’s a friend of mine- I help the newbies out. And don’t worry about my shoes- I always wear a scuffed pair for the first-timers.” You wink, and it sends his soul fluttering.

“that so? you know, i’ve never really looked, but i’m pretty sure i have two left feet. i might wear a hole down on those shoes.”

“Now, that’d be a feat!” You look so proud of your little joke, your smile crinkling the edges of your eyes. He laughs and, for some reason, that little joke makes the rest of the evening go so much faster. It’s mostly swaying to the beat and chatting idly, you moving him and him being moved until he finally gets it and he can almost predict your next steps. You shoot him a wicked grin, “So, did you notice?”

“notice what?” To make sure, he looks down at his feet to make sure they aren’t scuffing your shoes again. You giggle at that, so he tries to crack a joke, “now, are you saying that my two left feet are making a right?”

You snort. “Actually! I just taught you the box step, so I’d consider that a right! Here, watch your feet.” You pulled him back, stepped to your left, then forward, then back into resting position. It wasn’t anything impressive, but Papyrus was somewhat amazed that he hadn’t noticed the both of you moving in a perfect square. “So? Not as bad as you were expecting, huh?”

“no, not bad at all...” He responds, almost surprised himself. Forward, right, back, return. All with your hand resting on the slope of his shoulder, all with you smiling up at him. “huh.”

“Yeah, ‘huh’.” You laugh and wink at him again, as if all of this was some elaborate plan on your part, to lull him into a sense of security and trick him into dancing. “So, you want to refine it a bit?”

“yeah, i think that’d make us square .”

-

When Sans comes to pick him up, he can’t conceal the smile on his face. You wave to him from amongst teenagers reuniting with their parents, partners sharing water bottles and dabbing sweat from their foreheads, and your grin is so wide it forces your eyes shut. Papyrus watches you from the passenger seat of Sans’ economic Nissan, fingers drumming on his pressed pants’ leg. “SO. HOW WAS IT? DID YOU... SHAKE A LEG?”

The joke startles a laugh out of him, “you know what? i shook two of them, and they stayed attached this time.” Sans lets out a mock gasp of surprise. “it was a lot of fun, sans. honestly, i didn’t think i’d enjoy it, but... well, i guess part of it is the partner.”

As hard as he tries to ignore it, Sans is giving him an ‘I TOLD YOU SO’ grin in his peripheral. “WELL, I GUESS THAT OLD DANCING SKELETON JOKE ISN’T TRUE ANY MORE.” He turns to wink at his younger brother, “I’M GLAD YOU HAVE SOME BODY TO DANCE WITH.”