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Flotsam & Jetsam

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A couple’s day at the boardwalk with your partner: such a romantic outing…

In theory.

In reality, you’re at least ninety percent sure that today is the day you’re going to break up with them—a slowly encroaching inevitability that you’ve been coming to terms with for weeks, now.

This little date was a perfect microcosm of all the things that had been bothering you.

“Maybe we could have a little fun together,” you’d said when you suggested it. “For once.”

The response you got was a sigh and a begrudging, “Yeah, sure, whatever…”

You’d tried to get them invested in the trip on the way, detailing all the shops and attractions there would be—to a belittling, “That’s all dumb tourist stuff, y’know, I still don’t get why you want to go.”

And then, once you’d actually arrived and been on the verge of some kind of happiness, observing a cute beachy trinket you kinda wanted to buy, you’d been tugged away by the arm and told, “No way, that’s tacky!”

You hate it.

You hate this whole beautiful summer day and right now, you definitely hate them, acting like a miserable…jerk when all you were trying to do was have a nice time with them; maybe remind yourself of why you’d started dating them in the first place.

They weren’t even trying!

It makes your eyes prickle just a little, your mouth tightening so you don’t just spew a bunch of melodramatic vitriol all over them.

You try… you try to just…breathe, for a second. Calm down.

Your stomach growls a little and you realize you’re hungry, and one more thought occurs to you.

One last chance…

“Hey,” you say aloud, trying to slap on an optimistic smile, “I’m hungry, why don’t we get some food?”

(Maybe you were just…hangry? Maybe you’d be less annoyed with them after some food?)

You cast your gaze around the boardwalk and spot a little stand a ways in the distance.

“Hot-dogs! That’s perfect, let’s go there!”

Your datemate scoffs. Loudly.

Your optimism is already fading, leaving behind a sour residue by the time they start to speak.

“Look,” they say, gesturing dismissively, “there’s a monster running it.”

You frown, glancing only briefly at the skeleton asleep behind the stand, skull propped up against his hand.

“What’s…wrong with monsters?” you ask slowly, not sure what to make of that.

Had you been dating a monsterphobe?

That might’ve been even more of a deal-breaker than their complete lack of investment in you!

“Nothing!” they protest. “But…c’mon, you know monsters, there’s always some…weird, dumb gimmick they wanna overcharge you for!”

Stars, were they still hung-up on that monster-magic cocktail they hadn’t gotten for free by complaining?

Practically rolling their eyes at you, they add, “I’m not even hungry, you can go get conned if you want to. I’ll be over there when you’re done.”

They gesture at a distant bench and start to walk away.

You let them.

Mostly because if you went after them, you were going to say something very nasty.

A little space is…probably for the best right now.

And you’re at least as hungry as you are pissed, so you turn on your heel and all but march your way over to hot-dog stand.

As you approach, it’s as if the vendor can sense you—his snoring stops and he rouses a little, looking at you with bleary red lights that seemed to float in his eye-sockets.

He looks you up and down as you come to stand in front of him and a grin spreads across his skull.

“heya,” he says, his deep voice rough as gravel. “what can i get fer ya’…?”

Your heart starts to beat a little faster in your chest.

Did…

He just…gave you the once-over, didn’t he?

It had…been awhile since…

No! That’s…that isn’t what you’re here for!

You forcefully tamp down the thrill of flustered excitement at the pretty handsome skeleton’s interest and focus.

“Well,” you say, quirking a grin of your own, “it’s a hot-dog stand—I’m probably gonna get a hot-dog, right?”

“not necessarily.”

You squint at him, confused. “…What do you mean ‘not necessarily’?”

The skeleton shrugs. “ehh, just that if yer feelin’ adventurous, i could maybe wrangle up somethin’ else fer ya’. ever heard of a hot-cat?”

You laugh.

“No??? What the hell is a hot-cat?”

“ahh, that’s proprietary,” he informs you with a wink, one gold fang glinting in the sunlight. “s’a specialty item, doll—gotta buy one ta’ find out…”

“Oh, of course.”

This skeleton is one cheeky son of a bitch, you can tell already.

And he’s also the cause of the first real smile you’ve had on your face all day.

“Alright, you drive a hard bargain, uh…”

“sans.”

You quickly introduce yourself in return, and add, “I’ll take one, I’m too curious.”

“tickled yer fancy, eh?” Sans chuckles, but duly gets out a bun and digs around in his cart for something to fill it before passing it over to you. “here ya’ are, one genuine hot-cat fer the darin’ human.”

…Oh no. Oh no, it’s adorable!

The thing in your hand looks just like a normal hot-dog, but on one end there’s a little face—a kitty face, complete with tiny triangle ears poking up, easily the most hilariously cute object you’ve ever held.

You’re definitely not expecting it when the little thing mews at you.

“It’s…it’s not alive, is it?” you ask, a little concerned.

Sans bursts out laughing at the question.

“heheheheheheh, ah, nah, don’ worry ‘bout it,” he assures you. “s’just a lil magic trick, it ain’t alive. the ‘dogs do it, too, see?”

He reaches out to a different compartment, opening it up for a moment.

A cacophony of barking ensues until the lid closes again and holy fucking shit.

You…lose it.

Just a little bit.

When you finally catch your breath again, Sans is smirking at you like the cat that got the canary.

“don’ worry, their bark’s worse than their bite,” he says. And then, looking squarely into your eyes, “i’m a bit of the opposite problem, myself…”

Unbidden, the thought of Sans’ bite fills your head. Your gaze flicks down, taking in those big, sharp teeth of his, on display in a smile, and…

Oh…oh stars, that’s…

Hmm.

You try not to flush too obviously, or let on that you’re almost entirely sure by now that Sans is flirting with you.

“I, uh…haha, I kinda hope you don’t bark,” you joke. “You don’t really seem the type!”

“eh, more people expect it than not,” he retorts, unbothered.

And you are…confused.

At least until Sans sticks out one clawed thumb and directs your attention around the side of his stand, where you see…

Oh!

Sans isn’t only a skeleton.

He’s a mer-skeleton, his entire lower-half a very familiar shape to someone who lived along the coast—four flippers attached to a big, thick tail, a smooth coat of dark fur all along it.

Monsters were so weird.

And so cool.

You say the first thing that comes to mind.

“…I’ve never actually seen a sea lion all the way dry before. You look soft!”

It doesn’t really occur to you how such a statement could be taken until you’re looking up into Sans’ lasciviously delighted face.

“ohhh, ya’ wanna pet me?”

K…kinda?

But!

Certainly not the way he’s implying!

Probably blushing a whole lot, you give a flustered laugh and try to change the subject in the clumsiest way possible.

“Uh! So, uh, wh…what do I owe you, again? For…for the hot-cat?”

To your relief, though, Sans placidly lets you do it, telling you the price—not nearly expensive as your datemate would’ve had you believe—and you start digging around for your cash to pay the roguishly handsome flirt the skeleton.

“oh, hey, just askin’ ta’ ask, but uh…don’t suppose yer single?”

Ah—there it is.

You wince a little as you pass over your money, admitting, “Uh, actually…no, I, um…I’m here with my partner. S…sorry.”

Normally, this is the part where you’d expect him to start acting like a jerk—to push you to change your mind, or to turn ‘sour grapes’ on you upon finding out you’re taken.

But that’s… not what happens.

Sans simply tsks. “had ta’ ask, ” he says easily. “damn shame, but it is what it is…”

Frankly, though, you find yourself agreeing with him.

About the ‘damn shame’ part, that is.

Sans was a charming guy, and if you weren’t already in a relationship…

With somebody you weren’t even sure still liked or respected you, for that matter.

Sans tilts his skull at you, curiously. You have the odd sense that he’s almost looking through you, reading your thoughts in your expression somehow.

And maybe he did, because the next thing he asks you is a tentative, “is, uh…s’there any chance of that changin’? or…?”

You…

You want to say ‘yes.’

Or even to just give him a ‘maybe.’

…But you also…really don’t think you feel right about that. It doesn’t seem fair, as unhappy as you are with your relationship right now, you’re still in it, and you do have some standards.

You split the difference by making an awkward face and just…not answering.

Sans takes that pretty well, too.

He sighs, sounding a little disappointed, but the last he says of it is, “fair enough. ya’ know where ta’ find me, if ya’ wanna, some other time.”

Despite yourself, that piques your curiosity.

“Are you…always here?” you wonder. “Do you not… I mean, I’ve heard that mers usually… y’know, live in the shallows, o-or the underwater cities?”

Ah jeez, you hope that wasn’t an ignorant question…

Sans doesn’t seem bothered by it, at least.

“nah,” he explains, “that’s fer full-aquatics. m’only semi-aquatic—i swim, sure, gotta hunt an’ see my bro, but…i dunno, lotta neat stuff on land… interestin’ humans, such as yerself.”

You don’t blush again at that. You definitely don’t.

“anyway, i gotta lil shack out on the beach, but yeah, mostly m’here sellin’ apostrophe-dogs an’ cats to the tourists, makin’ some cash, ya’ know how it goes.”

Kinda…and kinda not.

You’d love to know more, actually, except that…

Well, your partner was bound to track you down eventually, weren’t they?

They storm up, actually, like a rain cloud personified, looking impatient and annoyed.

You feel a little guilty for being gone so long…until they start to hiss at you.

“How long does it take you to get a hot-dog? Do I need to help you or something?”

You frown, all of your earlier annoyance rushing back in just a handful of words.

Before you can speak, though, Sans cuts in.

“hey, sorry, pal,” he says, not sounding very sincere. “didn’t mean ta’ hold ‘em up so long, jus’ makin’ a lil small talk, is all.”

This does not seem to be a good answer for your partner.

“Well, maybe you should focus on the food-selling part—y’know, your job? Nobody’s paying you for conversation, don’t be wasting people’s time.”

Okay.

Okay, that makes you even madder.

You turn to your date, lowering your voice a little. “Hey, it’s okay, we’re not in a hurry. Can you…not make a big deal out of this?”

Apparently, also the wrong thing to say to them—or maybe there just wasn’t a right thing to say, maybe they just wanted to be mad.

“It is a big deal,” they snap at you. “We’ve already been here for so long, I didn’t even wanna come! Speak for yourself, ‘not in a hurry,’ look—you got your stupid monster-food, so let’s just…go home already!”

Home being their apartment, naturally.

Where they would just sit around ignoring you all day, like they’ve been doing for weeks.

Shooting down every suggestion you made to try and spend time together, except for oddly enough, this one last-ditch effort of yours to find something you still liked about this person.

And now, they were trying to get out of that, too.

“I don’t want to go home yet,” you say.

They huff and reach out, grabbing your arm to try and pull you again.

“h e y.”

Faster than you thought possible for flippers, Sans is there, butting between the two of you. Your partner lets go of you in surprise, and you watch them take a step or two back, almost nervous.

You don’t think you blame them—when Sans isn’t slouching, it’s very obvious that he’s a bull, big and bulky and not to be messed with.

But it doesn’t seem like Sans is spoiling for a fight.

He just…stares them down, and very calmly, very quietly says, “buddy. yer date don’t wanna go. maybe ya’ keep yer hands ta’ yourself. okay?”

They scowl, and from where you’re standing, they look like nothing less than a brat on the verge of a temper tantrum.

“Stay out of this!” they sneer. “They’re my—”

Which is where you cut in.

“No, actually.”

For a moment, everything just freezes.

And you continue.

“I’m not your anything. Not anymore. This…this isn’t working out. I want to break up.”

Your ex-in-progress gawps at you, looking positively outraged.

As if you needed anything to strengthen your resolve.

“So…what,” they demand in a scoff, “you’re…you’re breaking up with me for this guy? Some…random monster you just met?!”

“No,” you say firmly. “I’m not breaking up with you for anyone! I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and…and today is just the clincher, okay? I’m done.”

“We were fine until just now,” they protest.

But, “No! No, we weren’t! We were very much not fine, which I tried to tell you several times! But you don’t listen, alright? And even when you do, you don’t…you don’t care, about what I want, or what I like, and I, y’know, I tried! I tried to make this work, but this outing was supposed to be something fun for both of us and it feels really telling that the happiest I’ve been all day was the part where you ditched me to go sulk on a bench.”

To this, they have no retort.

“So…” you say. “Why don’t you just go do your sulking at home, if you want to go so bad?”

They glare at you…but with Sans still standing halfway between you, like a bodyguard, it’s an utterly impotent glare and all three of you know it.

It’s not long before they mutter a pathetically bitter, “Whatever…” before storming off as resentfully as they’d come, leaving you alone with Sans.

…who turns to you the moment they’re out of sight, laying careful claws upon your shoulder.

“hey. ya’ alright?”

The gentle question deflates you.

“I…yeah, I’m fine.” You sigh, scrubbing a hand over your face. “That was…a long time coming, probably, that was not your fault, I… ugh, I’m really sorry you had to see that…”

Sans chuckles.

“ah hell, don’t be sorry, i don’t mind a lil excitement now an’ then.”

“Yeah…just a little more excitement than I wanted today,” you grumble.

Stars, you’re still hangry; still holding your uneaten hot-cat like an idiot.

You sure could stand to bite the head off something right now, all the better that it wasn’t something actually alive.

You do so, letting flavor and magic burst along your tongue—delicious, like all monster food is, and well worth the purchase.

“…at the risk of soundin’ like m’after a rebound or somethin’, i gotta tell ya’, that was pretty hot.”

You choke on your hot-cat.

Only briefly, but still.

“I’m sorry,” you cough out, “what?”

Sans grins at you, utterly shameless.

“y’know, tellin’ ‘em off like that, standin’ yer ground… real attractive, hafta say.”

“Oh… Yeah?”

“very much, yeah.”

“Well…it was pretty,” hot, “cool of you to make them let go of me. So…thanks for that.”

“think nothin’ of it,” he says. “…unless, ya’d like ta’ repay me by lettin’ me give ya’ my number, or somethin’…”

“………pfft. Ha…ahahaha! Oh jeez…”

The nerve of this monster…!

…You kinda like it.

You reach into your pocket for your phone.

“For the record,” you tell him, holding onto it, “I did, literally just get out of a relationship. I’m probably gonna want to take things slow.”

Sans sighs—dramatically, so you know he’s only teasing.

“ehh, slow ain’t usually my speed for this kinda thing,” he drawls, ‘regretfully.’ “but if ya’ insist. i dunno, ya’ seem like just the kind of interestin’ human who’s probably worth the wait.”

It’s probably the sweetest thing you’ve heard in…

Well, too long.

So once Sans is done putting his number in your phone, you tell him, “Hey, I was gonna head back to another shop, to get a…a very important knickknack. Do you wanna come with?”

Sans takes a cursory glance around the boardwalk.

“ah, i think the people can go without their ‘dogs for a coupla minutes,” he decides. “i’d be delighted ta’ accompany ya’.”

You smile.

Maybe your ‘couple’s day at the boardwalk’ idea isn’t totally sunk just yet.