You are…pretty sure you’re dying.
Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you are sweating more than you thought it was humanly possible to sweat, feeling hot and dizzy and all-around bad, and there’s nothing you can do to get away from it.
There’s not a drop of shade to be found at this beach, and of course you didn’t bring your own umbrella to make any. You’ve exhausted your supply of bottled water and even sitting out in the shallows, with the waves lapping at your legs, you’re getting barely any relief from the unrelenting heat of the sun.
You really need to go home.
…But you’re not ready to leave yet, either.
The sound of your name rouses you a little from your abject, boiling misery, and you remember exactly why you want to stay here, on this stars-forsaken beach.
“…you okay? you’re not lookin’ so hot,” Papyrus notes from just a little further out, his malleable skull crumpling in concern.
You do your best to put on a tired smile.
“Wow, way to hurt my feelings,” you try to joke. “I’m…I’m plenty hot!”
Boy, were you ever.
“yeah… yeah, i can see that. that, uh…that kinda looks like the problem?”
If you were feeling better, you might’ve been able to play it off a little more; bluffed longer, tried to throw your friend off the scent of how miserable you were…
But that was a moot point.
You aren’t feeling better.
Instead, all you can do is slump in exhausted defeat, sagging back onto your elbows in the wet sand.
“Okay,” you admit, reluctantly. “Yeah, I…might wanna go get my phone. Look up ‘heat exhaustion’ symptoms or something…”
Just like that, Papyrus is zooming over to you, gliding into the shallows.
You jump a little as wet, bony phalanges touch your flushed face and your forehead, feeling out your temperature. Papyrus’ quietly worried expression doesn’t reassure you, but you’re way too hot and tired to do any sort of panicking.
“hey,” he says, getting you to look him in the eye-sockets. “how attached are you to your towel being dry?”
You don’t understand the question.
Which is a little alarming—you didn’t think you were at the delirious stage yet—but you try to answer to the best of your ability.
Oh, Papyrus is no longer listening to you.
He’s leaning over, up onto the beach to grab your abandoned towel. The moment he has it, he’s dunking it underwater, soaking it through, and then…slinging it around his shoulders, like some kind of cloak?
You don’t get it.
At least, not until he climbs on top of you.
Though ‘climbs’ is definitely the wrong word, you suppose: really, he flaps onto you, the fleshy wings of his manta-half oscillating up and over you, covering your legs and lower body. His skeleton-half bends to do the same, his hands planting in the sand on either side of your head, the perfect framework to hold up the wet towel like a…like a…
“dig me,” he murmurs above you, “m’a tent.”
You laugh because it’s funny, and maybe also a little out of hysteria because your totally-platonic-definitely-not-anything-going-on-here mer-friend is on top of you now and you’re not sure what to do with that.
It feels fantastic, with pretty much every part of you now shielded from the sun, giving you some shade to cool off in, but also, he is very close to you, touching you, and that’s…
It’s hard to ignore it.
Especially since you don’t want to.
You don’t know that you have the wherewithal to put up your usual This Is Fine façade to keep him from noticing…
At least Papyrus has his priorities straight, immediately switching back to concerned after his tense little joke.
“is this any better?” he asks you. “or…is it just weird?”
“Uh, a little weird,” you suppose, because you’ve never had a living blanket before, and the rolling wave-like motions of Papyrus’ body gently splashing the water around you is definitely new.
And…also because with him leaning over you like this, looking at you so closely, you just know he’s going to see…
But shade is shade, blessedly cool and very much needed, so you assure him, “I’ll get used to it, it’s…it’s definitely better! I, uh… I just gotta cool down a little and then…then I can go home, I guess…”
The words make Papyrus frown at you.
“probably should’ve gone home awhile ago,” he chides. “should’ve at least said somethin’ if you weren’t feelin’ good. you know i don’t want you givin’ yourself heat stroke just to hang out with me longer, right?”
Yep, he had you.
That was pretty much what you’d just almost done.
It sounds so stupid said out loud, and you sigh, feeling duly chastised.
“I know, I know, I just…”
How to explain, in a perfectly innocent, ‘just friends’ sorta way, that leaving the beach had become an utterly miserable experience for you?
That driving home, alone, with wet hair and a swimsuit to wash and no sly, wisecracking skeleton beside you to lighten your mood was starting to feel depressing?
That the thought of having your already-limited time with your favorite person in the world cut short by something so stupid as a biome difference was beginning to actually break your heart?
“…I didn’t wanna leave so soon…”
You regret the words immediately.
Simple, small, but still far too much, way too raw of a thing to just say to your good buddy that you had only friendly feelings for.
You wonder if, maybe you just don’t…make eye-contact with Papyrus, he’ll…he’ll let it go anyway?
There’s a crunch of shifting wet sand just beside your ear, and then a skeletal hand touching your face again. It feels a little gritty on your cheek and that should be gross, but all you can do is tilt your head up where Papyrus tugs it—looking right into his eye-sockets.
“hey,” he says, his voice low and soft and gentle and your traitorous heart skips a beat. “you don’t have to be embarrassed about it. i… i get pretty sad when you gotta leave, too, y’know.”
Your eyes widen hopefully.
“yeah, of course,” Papyrus tells you, like it ought to be obvious. “i miss you every time you’re gone. you’re pretty much my favorite human.”
You actually, physically bite your tongue for that bitter outburst and the heaviest silence falls over the beach as you all but scream at yourself internally.
Papyrus wasn’t an idiot.
How could you let something so stupid slip out like that?! You can’t believe you just said that, you can’t believe you just ruined—
“…not if you don’t want it to be.”
You’re still half-mortified, desperately trying to understand…anything right now, but Papyrus…
Suddenly, Papyrus is smiling at you.
“jeez,” he says, shaking his skull a little. “how long’ve you been holdin’ onto that little pearl? hon, you gotta work on the whole ‘sayin’ something’ thing, your track record today is awful.”
Did…did Papyrus just call you…?
But you have no time to process that, because he’s leaning down to you even further—still hiding you from the rays of the mercilessly hot sun with his own body and a dark, damp towel—his eye-sockets falling shut as, in slow motion, he carefully touches his teeth to your lips.
Honestly, it’s not great, as far as kisses go.
Papyrus has no lips, for one thing, which makes the gentle nuzzling…thing that’s going on a little bit awkward. For another, you’re recovering but still just a touch hazy from the sun, and maybe also from the magnitude of what’s happening here, and probably aren’t appreciating or participating as wholly as you could.
But the gesture, the meaning of the gesture…
That is very, very good.
The worst part about it is that eventually, it ends.
And in the scant space between your parted mouths, you breathe a resigned, yet not regretful…
“I never meant to fall for a sea-pancake…”
Papyrus snorts, sounding offended.
“hey. i will have you know…” he protests, pausing for effect. “…that i am a majestic sea flap-flap, and—”
You don’t hear the rest of what he says: you’re laughing too hard…and frankly, so is Papyrus.
So… you may have flirted a little with heat exhaustion that afternoon, but by the time you finally leave the beach, you’ve also done some flirting with your brand new boyfriend (bonefriend?).
You’ve had worse days.
And that very night, Papyrus gives your number to his ‘nerdy’ friend, who has quite a slew of texts for you.
Undyne: You are such a ridiculous human…
Undyne: Did you do ANY research before getting smitten with a mer-monster? Like, any at all???
Undyne: Because there are SO MANY magi-science adaptive devices out there
Undyne: Mainstream ones, not even the super-cool stuff I can make
Undyne: Totally unobtrusive, like you’re not even wearing them
Undyne: Made for air-breathing landlubbers like you who wanna hang out in extreme heat or cold or pressure
Undyne: To smooch some sort of manta, perhaps, as a completely random, nonspecific example, maybe
News to you, of course, and perhaps to Papyrus, too, who also texts you even as his friend is blowing up your notifications.
💙 Papyrus 💙: are you getting the scathing lecture about trying to be ‘dumb, dramatic star-crossed lovers for no reason,’ too?
You: Haha, yeah!
💙 Papyrus 💙: lol sorry
💙 Papyrus 💙: she’s…a lot, when she’s really into somethin
You: It’s fine, she means well! Besides, she’s helping me out with something I’M really into, so I don’t mind. ;3
A minute or so goes by with no response.
You start to wonder if maybe you flustered him before he finally texts you back.
💙 Papyrus 💙: 😘 🌊🥞
💙 Papyrus 💙: change my name in your phone to that
Papyrus is so stupid.
Your absolute favorite ‘smoochy sea-pancake,’ sure.
But still pretty stupid.
You switch back to your chat with Undyne to ask the most pressing question on your mind.
You: How soon can I get one of those things, exactly?