“So, what do you think?”
“y’really gotta ask?” A familiar, rough voice answers before you can think twice . “t’be frank kid, i can’t wait t’choke you with it.”
“Yeah,” You sigh, and roll your eyes before shooting the skeleton a look over the bar - it’s not a very friendly look, but he grins back all the same, full of sharp teeth and sharper words. “ Funny thing, I wasn’t asking you.”
“no, but you should be.”
Try as you might to return back to your company, your… “favored” patron was far from someone you could easily ignore. He’d just keep cutting in, keep stealing the show, keep ravenously tearing you apart from across the room with his eye … lights (?) alone.
Not that you were unused to it, but he was a paying customer, and at the end of the day? Harmless.
You sigh, and shoot your coworker an apologetic glance, but they only shrug behind your back - they know how Red is just as much as you do, only they didn’t share your tolerance for the way you put up with the skeleton’s usual hassling. Shift after shift, the monster stumbled in, raking up his tab until he either had to be hauled out or somehow stumbled away on his own, cursing all the while.
… He always left a nice tip, at the very least, so you couldn’t think him completely bad.
“And why should I, hm?” Genuine curiosity tugs at your voice as you reach for his now empty glass. Ruby lights watch as you’re quick to refill him, knowing he prefers it ( and honestly, is more hospitable ) with the drinks coming and the banter even more so. “No, wait. I can already guess. ‘Cause it’s stupid and you think i’m stupid, or to some varying degree. Sound about right?”
The monster only grins at you, a lascivious thing on his razor teeth, and how he draws out the words, thick in his accent, “keep this up, you won’t even need me ‘round to remind you what scum you are.”
“And yet, you still make passes at me and anything else that breathes. Talk about double standards, dude.” Something sly creeps into your voice, off-handed as you slide his drink back before him, and he’s quick to huddle it close like some kind of treasure. Something in his brow furrows, and he looks ready to turn and spit another insult at you, just as always, but he doesn’t get to.
“Sans .” Relief etches in, just barely so. You can handle Red plenty fine most nights, and while he’d been in a somewhat decent mood thus far, something about his off-kilter mood swings tonight just hadn’t been sitting well with you ( sometimes he gets just this shy of too much, and after this long working behind a bar, you know the signs for trouble clear as day ). Seeing the familiar blue-clad skeleton eases you more than you thought, making you return his somewhat lackadaisical grin. Red, for whatever nasty thing he was about to say, turns from irritated to sulking, a half-groan, half-snarl escaping through his ribcage.
“really? y’had t’call fuckin' him again?” If you knew any better, you’d say Red was a decent monster enough to sound betrayed by the fact you’d called his… roommate (?) to collect his sorry ass. But you do know better, so you don’t even spare him a glance as Sans catches your eye, sauntering up behind Red.
“heya.” His voice is the same low murmur as Red’s, without the inlaid snarl, that thick accent barely hinting at his words. Amenable looking as always, there isn’t a thing Sans couldn’t sport and make look uncomfortable down to that trademarked hoody, grey sweatpants, and pink slippers - and all out in public, no less! You return his easy, warm grin for your own, dipping your head at a fuming Red.
“Hey, Sans. Come for your pick-up order?” It’s a slight tease, but Red rumbles all the same, the look he shoots you positively murderous.
“heh, just the usual, as always.”
“hardy fuckin’ har. you two done flirtin’ yet, or can you just skip to the part where you kick me out?”
“don’t be like that.” Something tenses in Sans’ tone, and where he’d almost gone to set a hand on Red’s shoulder, he hesitates before sliding into the bar seat beside him. You watch as Red momentarily cinches up, baring his teeth as if he might rise to the bait once again, only for him to sigh, slinking further into his arms, nursing his last drink sullenly.
Sans and Red have a… strange relationship, to be honest. You knew the edgy skeleton from your last gig - before you got fired, and had only met Sans the once or twice then, when he’d come in to whisk away his lookalike without a second word. Even beforehand Red was a handful of a customer - causing fights, disrupting the bar, and simultaneously lusting after you and calling you a whole host of terrible things in the same breath.
He staked it up to the fact he didn’t like humans. Couldn’t stand them by his regard, and distrust lingered in his eyes whenever he talked to you, and down to any other human he managed to sneak out the door sometime during your shift. But he treated most monsters the same - brisk and at a distance, sharp and full of threats and slurs, until the moment he was basking in their attention or pulling them out of the bar for a round.
Red said it was just a human thing, but you’re pretty sure it’s an everyone thing.
“don’ be like what, huh?” Huffed into the rim of his drink, those ruby eyes not daring a glance over to Sans or you, stuck to his drink and the bartop. You’ve got nothing urgent to do, so you stick near, idly cleaning taps and glasses alike. Sans looks like he’s about to say something, before Red grits his teeth and suddenly pulls from the bar, snarling through the words - “forget it. fine. ‘m goin’ home.”
He turns to leave out the door, leaving Sans alone to stare quietly after him, a far-off look in those faded, white lights of his. He almost looks… sad? You aren’t sure. He’s harder to read than Red, and not just because you’ve known him a shorter amount of time. He’s good at keeping himself guarded, minute in his expression changes whereas his roommate damn near wears his heart on his sleeve.
He cares for Red, you know that. But from the bits and pieces you’ve heard of them talking, down to helping Sans half carry out a drunken Red at the end of your shift one too many times, you know that Red cares for him too in his own prickled way. Roommates, but close, just not in a way you’re sure you want to broach upon. There’s a lot of unsaid stuff there, and it’s written in that look following Red’s back out the door.
“... You good?” You can’t help but ask. Sans snaps out of it, and with the way his lights dart to you, he seems to realize you’d watched the whole thing and clears his throat, putting back on that familiar mask. His smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes, but you can still see that all the same, as he shamelessly reaches for Red’s unfinished drink.
“... yeah. uh, thanks. for texting me.” He takes a sip - only to screw up his face at the taste, nasal ridge scrunching up, and you bite back a snort of laughter. While Sans does like the strong stuff, he doesn’t drink often, so when he does it’s usually something light and sweet - unless he’s really looking to get hammered. But Red’s tequila slammer really isn’t… his type.
“'Course. I figured something was up when he basically threw himself onto the bar to mope.” Humor laces through what was partly the truth. At first, you were more than willing to let Red drink himself through whatever it was bothering him. After all It wasn’t your business, you weren’t friends by a long shot, and honestly, it’s how he usually came in - downing drink after drink like he either had something to prove or something to forget, but tonight…
Tonight, instead of picking fights or making you uncomfortable, you’d noticed by the time he was on his fourth drink, Red had started to flinch at nearly anyone that passed him by. He’d played it off well enough, but you had a keen eye for nervous bodies sitting at your bar, if only for the best intentions - and, well, Red normally, if ever seemed far from the nervous type.
So you’d done the responsible thing, texting Sans with the usual he’s drunk. Which wasn’t a lie, but… still. He came, and you’re thankful if mostly for Red’s sake ( Okay, maybe you aren't friends - and yeah, red seems to hate you, but that doesn't change the fact you couldn’t help but care ).
“heh.” Sans huffs out a laugh, scratching idly at the back of his neck, before leaving the drink to sit. “well, still.”
A movement you know too well, and you crook a brow, raising up a hand. “Hey - don’t worry about it.”
“Yeah. Besides,” You crook him a grin, and can’t help but feel slightly proud when his own becomes a little more genuine. “What kind of precedent are you setting if you pay for his tab, but not your own?”
“shit.” Snickering behind a hand, amusement rolls light in those sockets of his. “guess you’re right.”
“Besides, whenever he comes back, he’ll make good on it. Always does.” Even if he doesn’t have to, even if Grillby seemed to have somewhat of a penchant for these skeletons, dressed down in their faded and stained hoodies, and those plastered grins. “Now, uh, I’ve gotta get back to work. Text me?”
He never does.
“you got it, pal.”
And with a wink, he saunters out, and you grab the glass off the bartop. Familiar flames flicker out of the corner of your eye, and you fix Grillby with a warm, eased smile, even as he crackles lightly in return.
You’ve got the whole night ahead of you, and without much thought, tuck the necklace you’d shown off prior under your collar, hidden.
It’s long past midnight by the time Grillby closes shop, and despite his slight protest you should’ve already long been gone, you linger. Not for the extra hours or to suck up to your boss, nor a fear of what happens should you stay out too late - but the idea that once you get home, you’ll be alone again, and much as you like your space, there’s a companionship that you crave you can’t quite get anywhere else.
He’s a kindly monster, and an older one too - few words and little discrimination when it comes to humanity, and while you haven’t known each other long, he’s… pleasant to be around, even in the silence of his crackling flames. You’re sure he understands because he doesn’t press too badly once you stay behind to help close, putting things away and cleaning diligently, humming an idle song.
Because of the curfew it’s too late and too long of a walk home from Grillby’s most of the time when you get off. It’s why he presses for you to leave on time most nights, but thankfully he’d been kind enough to vouch for you and fill out the forms necessary to get you a bus pass when you’d first been hired on. It cuts out most of the hassle of traveling in the city without an escort, but sometimes you’re just unlucky enough to be caught by the wrong monster or by the Royal Guard.
“... HALT! Human!”
A quiet sigh spills a plume of fog from your lips, and despite it being mid-fall, winter looks to be coming early by the chill of things. You know better than to hesitate to listen and stop in your tracks - turning to face the voice, the glinting streetlights casting harshly on what you know to normally be soft features.
“O-oh, I didn’t... recognize your scent.” Keen black eyes fixed on you, black nose twitching on a pointed snout - Dogaressa without Dogamy it seems, her ever shy nature shining through quite easy. You offer her a wince of a smile, kind all the same, and draw your coat closer. “... You’re out past curfew.”
“I know, um, but I’ve got my bus pass and my collar - I was just running late, you know, the usual. I can show you? If… you need to see,” It’s… uncomfortable, and not just for you - Dogaressa is shy despite her brutish strength and her position in the guard, most especially without her partner Dogamy. If anything, you’re lucky he’s not alongside her, or else you might be facing more than her uncertain stare.
She seems to waver for a few moments, before slightly shaking her head.
“No need.” Soft compared to the way she had barked at you at first, and you relax, relieved. You’d hate to spend the time it’d take her to check exactly where you’d been by the chip against your neck - so you give her as grateful a smile you can manage, tucking further into yourself.
“Thanks, Dogaressa. I appreciate it - my stop is just up the street, I’ll be gone in less than ten minutes, promise.”
A pause, and she knew you were telling the truth. Like she could smell it on you - or knew, from the handful of other times she’s caught you walking out past curfew, mostly with her partner, only to have to detain you for a good part of the night. Unlike Dogamy, she’s a lot less strict, and seems to dislike the law as much as you do.
“You can’t keep doing this.” A murmur, and you pause, swallowing carefully. Avoiding her gaze, you rub at your arm, half turned on your heel.
“... Yeah, I know.”
You’ll admit that much. Too many times, and it wouldn’t be a simple reprimand.
But she doesn’t seem keen on giving lectures, and only huffs, black nose twitching once more before she tilts her head, behind you to the street, and you follow her gaze to see your bus turning down the corner.
“Be quick.” Dogaressa warns, “Consider this a warning.”
A friendly one.
So you gift her another grateful smile, and turn around, just barely catching your bus in time.
It’s a thankfully quiet ride from Grillby’s to your apartment, the shift to the human district only acknowledged by a simple announcement by the driver ( a human as usual - they knew the city better than the monsters did, and ran most of the bus lines under scrutiny ) and the more silent, but plenty drastic change out the fogged windows.
Ebott was a gem of a city, nestled in a valley tipped by the tallest mountains this side of the coast. It’d been a surprise across the world when monsterkind had emerged, but less so for the superstitious inhabitants of the once sleepy valley, the sudden flood of creatures too swift, too quick, too brutal to fight back.
There’d been too many, too much hysteria, too much force behind their sudden appearance to really do anything. Ebott fell to Asgore’s quick work to get a firm grip on the city, and it was a miracle there wasn’t a single casualty in the following panic. Just a very tense standoff that still lingered to this day, from the outside world to the monsters that held an iron grip on the city.
You weren’t a prisoner - none of the humans that still lived in Ebott were. But for the longest time, even after the house arrest was removed, leaving the city was impossible. Not just because of monsterkind, but from the barricade stretching across the mountain range and the encampment at every road out of the city, it just wasn’t feasible.
But it wasn’t all terrible. It’d gotten better, eventually, and most humans left after the first year when given the chance. Enough stayed for there to be laws set into place, a whole district of the city repurposed for humans. Despite all the misunderstanding and distrust, despite Asgore’s blatant distrust of humanity, not all of monsterkind was bad, and it showed from the work the queen did to keep things civilized, up to the way Dogaressa let you go not an hour ago.
The human district wasn’t a bad place either - humans and monsters alike could roam about, the curfew no such thing in these streets, and strangely enough, the nightlife bloomed here in this part of the city more than any other. Monsters were in love with the idea of humanity, and whoever stayed behind, whoever smuggled in… loved the idea of monsterkind, too.
Clubs and bars illuminated signs against the glass, while antiquity and book stores amongst so many others sat sleeping for the night. While many had left because things had gotten worse - staying had been worth it, even if you had to wear a collar outside the district you belonged to. The sights were worth it, the way monsters and humans alike danced and met together in the cold streets under lamplight, drawn by similarities and differences alike, worth it.
Ebott city belonged to the monsters, but humans weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The bus drove past it all, stopping twice more to load up and you thankfully hardly flinched as someone took a seat beside you, looking out onto the night. It wasn’t long until apartment buildings loomed up behind the glass, the bus coming to a squealing stop, and you gathered your things before slipping past the quiet teen half asleep, quick to take the window seat you vacated.
Taking the fire escape two stairs at a time, it wasn’t a fancy place - good as you could afford. Once halfway between your college campus and old job, it was comfortable enough with two, but cozy with just you. Your roommate had left months ago, not because of monsters, but… because of something else.
You try not to think about it.
It’s the paper taped to your door that catches your eye before you can even grab your keys. Bloody red against the dark door, black text that you can read without even meaning to.
Your heart jumps into your throat.
It’s an eviction notice.