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Flotsam & Jetsam

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You’ve always loved jellyfish.

They seemed…somehow ethereal to you, beautiful, and you often found yourself watching them in aquariums or online—meditatively mesmerized by their translucent forms for hours as they rippled, drifted, and bobbed with the currents, their tentacles swaying along beneath them.

Yes, you loved jellyfish…but you’ve never seen a beached one until now.

…And your lazybones boyfriend, currently snoring loudly into the sand, wasn’t awake to tell you to leave it alone.

You quietly edge over to take a closer look.

The bell is shiny, almost glassy to your eyes and oddly clear. You’re used to seeing this sort of creature in the water, with a faint blue glow and the difference seems strange…but you supposed most things looked different underwater than on dry land.

The four curvy petals on top of the bell certainly do, normally luminous but now just an odd purpley color.

Your curious fingers itch to touch and trace those pretty curves…but after what you’d read on the wiki about the lovely aurelia aurita, you…don’t feel quite right just touching on those.

But you do want to touch and find yourself restraining a delighted giggle when your hand makes contact.

It actually feels like jelly!

Smooth and squishy, still thoroughly moist from seawater and just as unspeakably cool as it was weird.

You’re so absorbed in the sensation, in fact, that when you scoot even closer, trying to stroke the strange texture more, you don’t even notice that your bare knee is coming dangerously close to the wisp of long, hair-like tendrils trailing out from the bell.

Not until it’s too late.

As soon as your skin makes contact, a stinging sensation courses up your nerves. You hiss, instinctively jolting backwards onto the beach.

Beside you, Sans snorts awake and before you can say a single word in your defense, he’s fixing you with a disappointed stare.

“i gotcha, didn’t i.”

Not even a question.

You sigh, rubbing at your knee.

“A little,” you mutter, “don’t worry about it…”

But of course, Sans is pushing himself up, twisting to move his gelatinous lower half away from you.

“warned ya’ about that,” he mutters sleepily, reaching for your leg. You let him have it, knowing he won’t leave you be until he sees for himself. “forgot the golden rule, huh? no touchy, no stingy?”

You roll your eyes.

“I just wanted to see you!” you protest.

“with your fingers?”

“………”

“uh-huh. y’know i ain’t talkin’ outta my ass when i tell ya’ to watch the stingers, right?”

“Be kinda hard since you don’t have an ass,” you mutter, but your mer-monster date-friend just smiles at you, unbothered.

“exactly,” he says. “so how ‘bout ya’ listen to me next time? invest in that wetsuit i keep tellin’ ya’ to get.”

You huff. “Can’t you just…not sting me?”

Sans chuckles at you. “don’t work like that, babe. i do not control the nematocysts.”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s what they all say.”

His eye-sockets narrow, squinting at you suspiciously.

“hey, how many skelly-jellies ya’ been seein’, anyhow?”

…Alright. That gets you.

You’re smiling as you assure him, “Just you, Sansy.”

He grins right back, finally letting you have your leg back. “good,” he says, “‘cause otherwise, i might get a little—”

“Don’t.”

Sans snickers, but obligingly does not use your least favorite pun.

Instead, he props his skull up on his fist, all but leering at you.

“hey.” You know already by that face and that tone that he is up to no good. “hey. ain’t there somethin’ you’re supposed to do about that sting?”

You frown at him. “Something…?”

“yeah, yeah, y’know, that…heheheh, that human field-medicine thing you’re supposed to do, right away or else…heheh, or else urine trouble.”

Heat rushes to your face.

“No!” you exclaim emphatically. “That’s! That’s not a thing! That’s a myth!”

Utterly unperturbed, Sans grins even wider, his eye-sockets practically crescents. “are ya’ sure?”

“Yes!”

And then teasingly, “are ya’ sure ‘cause ya’ googled it when we started goin’ out…?”

“Y… Maybe…”

“pffffft, heheheh!” Sans flops forward onto the beach and rolls over onto his back, his squishy bell squelching against the sand. “humans are hilariousyou’re hilarious…”

“Well, apparently, I am dating a joke.”

“oof, ow.” Sans puts a hand to his sternum, feigning injury. “now that stings… ya’ sure ya’ weren’t a box jelly in a past life or somethin’?”

“Pretty sure,” you say, and Sans shrugs.

“prolly for the best,” he decides. “if ya’ were, cnidar of us’d be happy ‘bout it.”

Yeah, probably not.

Box jellies were the really painful stingers—the kind you might not even walk away from, they were so bad.

You, however, stand up, getting a better look at your stung knee, which is…really more irritated than hurting; kinda itchy and not great, but perfectly livable.

You thank your lucky stars that of all the jellyfish mer-skeletons you could’ve fallen for, you picked a moon jelly.

“Alright,” you say aloud with a sigh, “I get it. I’ll be more careful.”

Sans’ smile takes a turn for the beatific as he gazes up at you.

“ah, that’s all i wanted to hear. don’t wanna keep messin’ up that dainty human skin of yours.”

You raise your eyebrows at him. “Dainty?” you echo.

“yeah, i know, s’your curse an’ your blessing.”

You snort. Loudly.

“but hey, y’know what oughta help? gettin’ a lil seawater on ya’.” He gestures vaguely at your knee. “should clear that right up for ya’, easy.”

He sounds entirely too confident about that.

“Did you look that up when we started going out?” you tease.

Sans scoffs—in just such a way that you know he definitely did—but before you can double-down on the teasing, he raises his arms up with his eye-lights locked beseechingly on you.

“carry me,” he says, bold as brass. “or drag me, i don’t care.”

You laugh at him.

“Wh—are you for real?” you snicker. “You got yourself out of the drink, but you can’t get yourself back in?”

“it’s all the way over there!”

You turn, watching the gentle, lapping waves of the sea—two yards away. Maybe three.

“…You’re kidding, right?”

Sans groans miserably, throwing his arm over his face.

“have mercy,” he whines. “i’m dryin’ out an’ i got no legs. lookit you, standin’ an’ walkin’ all over, it’s enough to make a guy real jelly.

You fix him with your flattest stare.

“Do you want me to leave you on the sand to cook?” you ask him. “Because that’s how you get left on the sand to cook, mister funnybones.”

But then…Sans says the magic words.

A little singsong-y, a lot playful, but somehow when your boyfriend is coaxingly saying, “i loooooove youuuuu,” it’s a lot harder to stay mad.

You sigh and trudge forward, grabbing Sans’ hands and starting to pull.

You drag your half-vertebrate, half-invertebrate jackass across the sand and fling him carelessly into the surf before joining him yourself for a quick swim to round out your date.

He was right about your sting, too, which doesn’t itch nearly so unpleasantly once it’s underwater…

But you’re not about to give him the satisfaction of knowing that.

Chapter Text

You carefully pick your way along the craggy coast, slowly and cautiously hopping from rock to rock.

You have precious cargo today—your brand new unfairly expensive camera that you very much need if you have any chance of getting the kind of photos you got last week.

Even on your crappy phone camera, those shots had come out gorgeous and you couldn’t wait to see what you could do with the better technology, or how popular your new batch of photos would be.

…Assuming, of course, he was even still here.

Mer-creatures and other such aquatic monsters had always been a weird and reclusive bunch. Pretty much as soon as the Barrier was broken, they’d dispersed out into the world’s oceans, rarely seen or heard of by anyone who was stuck on dry land.

It was assumed that they kept in touch with land-locked friends and family somehow, but the habitat mismatch made interactions with the average, non-monster-associated human exceedingly rare, with so much as a mere sighting being an exciting, thrilling experience for anyone lucky enough to catch such a glimpse.

And you, just trying to take a few snaps of the water at sunrise, had hit the Cryptid Photo lottery.

Your social media had blown up when you posted the handful of lucky pictures, and all the attention and excitement and compliments had been, in a word, addicting.

So now you’re back, at the very same rocky beach, at the same early hour, hopping out as far as you can safely get yourself.

You have a better camera and you know what you’re looking for this time, and you feel as ready as you can possibly be to get The Perfect Shot!

Just…

It’s…possible, you may be able to admit in retrospect, that wearing flip-flops…might have been a tactical mistake.

They certainly don’t provide you with very much traction when you jump out to a very far, very wet rock and immediately slip, falling down towards the water.

You yelp and brace yourself, instinctively holding your camera as high as you can like it was more important than not braining yourself on any of the sharp, craggy rocks you could be about to fall on…

But you don’t crack your head open on anything.

You barely even hit the water, as a matter of fact, your fall suddenly halted by…

…by a pair of big skeletal hands, wrapped around your ribs.

You turn, blinking stupidly to find a broadly-grinning skull poking its way into your peripheral vision and before you can even finish processing that, it starts to speak.

“WOWIE, HUMAN, YOU REALLY OUGHT TO BE MORE CAREFUL!” it…he laughs at you, making you flush a little. “YOU COULD’VE HURT YOURSELF WITHOUT THE GREAT PAPYRUS HERE TO SAVE YOU FROM YOUR OWN FOOTWEAR-RELATED HUBRIS, NYEH-HEH-HEH!”

You find yourself all too speechless as the mer-skeleton, Papyrus apparently, easily lifts you up higher and sets you down atop the nearest rock, safe and sound.

The words you do, eventually, come up with are blurted thoughtlessly.

“Oh my god, it’s you!”

Your savior blinks his eye-sockets at you, noticeably confused.

“…YOU KNOW ME???” he asks eventually, only to quickly cough and change his tone.

“UH, I MEAN! OF COURSE YOU DO! OBVIOUSLY, MY REPUTATION PRECEDES ME! ……BUT. AHEM, JUST SO I KNOW…WHAT YOU’VE ALREADY HEARD…” Papyrus squints at you suspiciously. “WHICH…REPUTATION, PRECISELY, HAS DONE THE PRECEDING?”

“You were here last week, too!” you exclaim, smiling widely. “I saw you! I…oh, uh…”

Jeez, you’re…you’re a little embarrassed now to admit it, faced with your living, breathing unwitting subject, looking at you curiously.

“I, um… I may have…taken a few pictures? O-of…of you?” you sheepishly tell him. “They! They were really good, though, they got a lot of likes and comments and…and everybody thought they were cool! So I, uh… kinda…came back? To try and find you again and take…more?”

You grimace, resisting the urge to physically facepalm.

“Damn, that sounds super creepy, doesn’t it?”

Yeah. Yeah, it does, you realize, hearing it said out loud.

Aw, man…

“Look, uh, Papyrus? I’m… I’m sorry, to take your picture without even asking, that’s…that’s really rude of me, now that I… I mean,” you attempt to explain, “it was…kind of an accident the first time? But still, uh, it’s… I’ll take down the ones I already—………”

You trail off as you look up, getting your first good look at the mer’s reaction to your awkward confession.

He’s staring at you, intently.

And his eye-sockets are sparkling.

You have no idea how that works and you’re a little afraid to ask.

“E…EVERYBODY?” he echoes, an eager note in his voice. “WHO IS EVERYBODY? WHERE? CAN I SEE???”

“…Oh. Uh…”

Somehow, that’s…not the response you were expecting?

Still, “Sorry, I actually, um… I didn’t bring my phone with me today…which is a good thing, I guess, since…since I ended up getting a little wet, haha…”

Your eyebrows shoot up as Papyrus tsks at you, reaching down to pull a little pouch with a striking resemblance to a fanny-pack up out of the water.

“YOU HUMANS,” he says, pulling out a phone and looking like he’d be rolling his eyes if he had any. “STILL NO IDEA HOW TO EFFECTIVELY WATERPROOF TECHNOLOGY! WHAT SITE, TELL ME THE SITE! I WANT TO SEE!”

Well.

What else can you do but tell him?

You give him your username and watch from above as he pulls up your account and the series of pictures you’d taken.

You don’t think you’ve ever felt more awkward in your life than right now, fidgeting on a craggy rock in your damp clothes as the strange monster you’d photographed without permission scrolled through your images with intense concentration.

The few blurry ones especially make you want to wince as you see them pass by on Papyrus’ screen, but the rest…

In spite of everything, there’s a few in there that you really aren’t going to want to delete, even if you do have to take them down from your page.

The shiny fish-tail attached to the other end of this skeleton, swishing unseen beneath the water, made for a truly beautiful sight in the moments you’d caught it above the waves, mid-leap—the silvery underside, the perfect-crescent caudal fin, the cobalt-blue scales glittering in the fresh light of the sunrise…

Your personal favorite, of course, is the iridescent blue of the dorsal fin you can just barely see over Papyrus’ shoulder from your perch, trailing down the middle of his vertebrae. That had been truly spectacular to see on a mer-in-motion, your most treasured picture by far.

“THESE PICTURES ARE NO GOOD.”

You frown, sagging a little at the not-unexpected verdict.

But… you aren’t a creep, or at least you don’t want to think of yourself as one, so if your subject isn’t happy with his pictures, you’ll have to…

To…

Stare in confusion as Papyrus suddenly dives underwater, a blur disappearing beneath the gentle waves only to reappear in one magnificent leap onto a taller rock than yours, putting himself on display.

And then, he poses.

“ACTION SHOTS ARE TERRIBLE,” he proclaims to you, shaking his skull in dismay. “ALWAYS BLURRY, THE CURSE OF BEING SUCH A FAST SWIMMER, I’M AFRAID… I’LL HOLD STILL FOR YOU TO TAKE SOME BETTER ONES!”

You stare for a moment, not quite believing your ears.

“I… Are you serious?”

“ABSOLUTELY! YOU’RE PRETTY GOOD WITH A CAMERA IF YOU CAN EVEN MAKE THE BLURRY SHOTS LOOK DECENT, AND YOU CAN ONLY GET BETTER WITH PRACTICE! PLUS, I’VE ALWAYS SUSPECTED I SHOULD GET INTO MODELING, I’M JUST SURPRISED IT’S TAKEN SO LONG FOR SOMEONE TO ASK—SO GO AHEAD, I’M READY!”

So saying, he strikes another pose, one you’d call ‘flexing’ if he had any visible muscles to flex. You very nearly laugh, delighted by the handsome skele-fish’s display of ego, but your amusement falls away into awe as the big, gorgeous fin on his back suddenly flares, fanning out to catch the sunlight.

Your camera is instantly up, snapping three or four shots in a row.

“Wow,” you breathe, shamelessly admiring the fin. “I didn’t know you could raise it like that! It’s so pretty…”

You watch, mildly fascinated as a faint shade of blue—the same as his fin and half of his tail—starts to spread across Papyrus’ cheekbones.

He quickly strikes another pose for you, obviously trying to cover it.

“OH,” he says casually, “MY SAIL? YES, OF COURSE, IT IS PRETTY AMAZING, ISN’T IT?”

You’d certainly say so!

Papyrus keeps talking and posing, and you keep taking pictures and somewhere in there, you manage to properly introduce yourself.

Somewhere in there, Papyrus also manages to tell you that while he’s half-skeleton—“THE TOP-HALF, IN CASE YOU WERE CONFUSED!”—the other half of him is sailfish.

“Oh,” you say, “like a marlin?”

Papyrus waves his hand dismissively.

“SIMILAR, BOTH BILLFISH, BUT NO—I’M LEAGUES FASTER THAN ANY OLD MARLIN!”

You smile and can’t help but tease, “If you’re a billfish, where’s your bill?”

“I DON’T HAVE ONE,” he says matter-of-factly, “DIDN’T I EXPLAIN ALREADY ABOUT THE TOP-HALF NOT BEING THE FISH-PART?”

You only just barely restrain a snicker.

“Oh, right, guess you did.”

“WELL, IN ANY CASE, EVEN WITHOUT A BILL, I THINK YOU GET THE POINT.

It takes you a second to realize what he just did there, his casual, nonchalant delivery throwing you off.

When it hits you, you can’t restrain your laugh that time, and Papyrus laughs with you, that bold and oddly charming, ‘NYEH-HEH-HEH’ that you have to admit, you’re starting to grow fond of.

You like this guy, and not only for his shiny scales and pretty fin.

You wonder if, maybe, this could become a regular thing…

Obviously, you have to finish up this photo-shoot first, but once it’s done, you’re going to try to set up another one.

The internet needs its pictures of Papyrus, of course, to rake in the attention he so clearly deserves, but also, you think you’d really like to see him again.

Even if it’s not for just pictures.

You wonder if your cruddy, non-waterproof human phone, back at home, will be able to receive calls from an underwater monster one.

Only one way to find out, you suppose!

Chapter Text

Some dreams are just…impossible.

“Alright, well…maybe not impossible,” you concede, “but…y’know…better given up on than pursued!”

Undyne merely stares at you.

“No???” she asks more than says. “You don’t just…give up on your dreams? You chase them? That’s how literally everything in history has been achieved?”

Not strictly true, you suppose, but not entirely wrong either—and you can tell already that nothing you say to your friend is going to change her mind.

Between the flash of her eyes behind her glasses and the awkwardness suddenly permeating the gaps in conversation that her girlfriend is browsing very important manga stuff on her phone to try to ignore, you know you’ve stumbled onto something Undyne is passionate about.

You don’t even know how this subject came up, but it’s not going anywhere now, so…

“Okay, let me… I mean, like…”

You try desperately to come up with an example, some sort of personal experience to at least try to convey your point of view…

Grasping at straws, you think of one.

“Dolphins!”

Undyne squints at you in confusion, and Alphys is so perplexed that she even looks up from her phone.

“……What about dolphins?” your fish-friend wonders, and you are so happy she asked.

“I love ‘em!” you tell her. “I always have, they’re cool! Ha, you should’ve seen my room when I was a kid, I had t-shirts and folders and all kinds of random dolphin-junk, all over the place…”

“So, like Alphy’s room now,” Undyne concludes, at least following you.

Alphys blushes a little, but denies nothing—she can’t, you’ve seen all her Mew-Mew memorabilia, too.

“Exactly! And y’know, I still like dolphins! I used to dream about getting to swim with them someday, maybe even…ride one, like in the movies?”

A fond memory of yours, actually…only a little bittersweet in retrospect.

“I tried, though, one time, once I grew up… Found one of those ‘Swim with the Dolphins’ places, but when I got there… I couldn’t do it.”

Maybe you’d let too many stories about ‘evil dolphins’ psych you out, or maybe it was just some kind of instinctual fear of getting into a wild animal’s habitat and having no real guarantee of your safety…

“I dunno, ‘trained’ or not, an animal’s still an animal, I didn’t…trust it not to…” You don’t know, for sure, what could’ve happened…but, “I mean, have you seen the videos online?!”

Alphys snickers a little, so you know at least she knows exactly what you’re talking about.

“It freaked me out a little, up close like that! It was different, I didn’t wanna do it anymore, so y’know… I still like dolphins, it was a nice dream as a kid, but what am I gonna do, shell out another couple hundred bucks just to try again and… probably still be too nervous to get in the water? Pass!”

Undyne steeples her hands, taking a long, deep breath.

“So… What I’m hearing is… you’re a chicken.”

You sag a little in your seat. You kinda knew you weren’t going to change her mind, but you’d also sorta hoped…?

“A few mean, horny dolphins is no reason to give up on your whole dream,” she exclaims, sounding exasperated with you. “I mean, how many nice, horny dolphins do you think there are out there?! The odds are probably—”

Abruptly, Alphys gasps, her eyes going wide.

Both you and Undyne turn to her immediately, but instead of explaining some sort of wild plot twist in her manga, she just clutches at her girlfriend’s arm.

“Alphy, baby, is everything…”

Undyne trails off as Alphys pulls her down, urgently whispering something into her fin.

…And then Undyne’s eyes get big, too.

“You’re a genius,” she breathes, “I love you…”

“I know, I love you, too,” Alphys returns, and then to you, “S-sorry, we, uh, we…we have t-to, uh, leave, right now, i-immediately, goodbye!”

So saying, she gets up and tugs Undyne with her as they practically flee from your lunch date, without explaining a goddamn thing.

…What got into them all of a sudden?

You have no idea.

But you guess that you could ask them soon, when you took the day-trip the three of you had been planning next week.

After all, the purchase of even a tiny boat like the one they’d gotten for themselves on their anniversary was something to celebrate: an ‘exploratory vessel’ Undyne had said, ‘a loveboat’ Alphys had shyly, happily called it, and you had a feeling both of them were right.

The gal-pals had been kind enough to invite you along for a quick outing, just for fun— a little sun, a little swimming, a little lounging around atop the waves, eating and drinking and shooting the breeze with your friends.

You were looking forward to it… no matter how weird their exit today was.

-

The day of the outing comes and everything seems normal enough.

You get on their boat and go a ways out, into open water, and when they suggest that you all go for a swim first before breaking out the drinks and really having fun, you have no reason at all to be suspicious.

Except…when you change into your swimsuit and get back out on deck, Alphys and Undyne are still…fully-dressed.

No swimsuits in sight.

“Uhhh…”

At first, you don’t even know how to ask.

“What, uh…what’s up? Are you guys…not swimming?”

Undyne dips her head, adjusting her glasses and making them glint in the sunlight.

“Afraid not,” she says, certainly not sounding sorry. “There’s been…a change of plans.”

Ominous.

“What do you mean…?”

“This isn’t a friend-hang-out anymore,” Alphys explains. “You’re going on a blind date!”

Your eyebrows shoot up in alarm.

“What! But I’m not r… I didn’t…” You flounder for your words for a bit, before finally settling on an more emphatic, “What?!”

“Aw, don’t worry so much, human,” Undyne ‘reassures’ you, waving away your concerns. “You’ll like him, it’ll be fun! He’s a great guy, he’ll show you a good time! Besides, we’re…fuhuhu, we’re just helping you…snrk…follow your dreams!”

You have no time to protest or process the meaning of that.

Mostly because Alphys is picking you up off the deck and flinging you overboard at the time.

You hit the water with a huge splash and by the time you resurface, sputtering and halfway to ‘actually kind of pissed’, their little exploratory-love-vessel is chugging away, far faster than you could ever catch up to.

The betrayal sinks in almost immediately.

What the hell were you supposed to do now?

They literally abandoned you out in open water!

How was this a blind-date?! This was ‘leaving your trusting human friend alone to die’!

“OH GOOD, YOU’RE HERE!”

…Or… maybe not?

You turn, wet and flustered, to see…a skeleton (???) bobbing next to you in the waves, cheerful as can be.

And he’s greeting you by name.

“…THAT IS YOUR NAME, RIGHT?” he asks when you don’t respond immediately. “ALPHYS SAID SHE’D DROP YOU OFF AT THESE COORDINATES, ANYWAY…”

Oh, she’d ‘dropped’ you off, alright.

“OH BOY, SORRY IF THIS IS A LITTLE AWKWARD, I DON’T USUALLY DO THIS KIND OF THING, BUT, UH…HEHEH, I’M KIND OF GLAD I DID, YOU’RE…YOU’RE AWFULLY CUTE!”

Oh.

Oh, well, that’s…an unexpectedly charming thing to say.

Forgetting for a moment the utterly bizarre circumstances, you take your first good look at the guy you’ve been dumped into the sea with.

He’s not too bad-looking himself, for being a skeleton—a handsome skull, pretty lights shining from his eye-sockets, blue as the sky…

Between that, his broad shoulders, and that delightfully deep voice of his…

…Fuck it. Why not?

“Thanks,” you say to his compliment. “You know my name already, but uh, what’s yours?”

He looks at you for a second before putting a hand over his face and starting to laugh.

“OH STARS, HOW SILLY OF ME NOT TO INTRODUCE MYSELF! MY NAME IS SANS,” he helpfully tells you, “AND SINCE YOU LOOK A LITTLE CONFUSED STILL, I’M A MER-SKELETON—PROBABLY BEST TO GET THAT OUT OF THE WAY RIGHT OFF!”

“Oh!” Well, that does explain a lot. “Yeah, that’s… I was… Haha, oh jeez, I’m sorry, I’m probably coming off as oblivious right now, but uh, our mutual friends didn’t really tell me anything about this…”

“REALLY? NOTHING AT ALL?”

“Nah, just kinda…chucked me off the boat?”

“PFFT…OH WOW, I’M SORRY…”

Maybe that’s true.

But Sans also looks like he’s making a concerted effort not to laugh at your plight, so you’ll take it with a grain of salt.

“I’M NOT THAT MUCH BETTER OFF THAN YOU, THOUGH, HONESTLY! I MEAN,” he explains, “I AT LEAST KNEW IT WAS A DATE, BUT ALL THEY TOLD ME WAS YOUR NAME AND THAT YOU REALLY WANTED TO SWIM WITH A DOLPHIN.”

………

Oh, stars above.

You get it now.

You can physically feel your face heating up and as Sans says your name in something between confusion and concern, he leans in towards you a little aaaaand yep.

Exactly like you thought.

Just over his shoulder, you can see that your brand new mer-friend has a dorsal fin poking up along his spine.

A very dolphin-y dorsal fin.

“……Oh, I’m gonna freaking kill them,” you mutter, with all the embarrassed fury your body can contain.

“HEHEHEHEH, OH NO, COME ON, YOU DON’T HAVE TO KILL THEM!”

“No, I do, you don’t understand, I absolutely do have to kill them.”

Showing himself to be a mer of great patience and fantastic humor, Sans only smiles at you, patting your shoulder.

“IT’S NOT THAT BAD,” he insists. “I CERTAINLY DON’T BLAME YOU FOR BEING INTERESTED IN THE EXPERIENCE!”

“……You don’t?”

“OF COURSE NOT, I LOVE SWIMMING! AND NOT ONLY BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE A CHOICE, HEHEHEH… I MEAN, I WONDER WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO HAVE LEGS SOMETIMES—THE WALKING AND RUNNING AND…FOLDING? I HEARD BIPEDALS CAN FOLD THEIR LEGS, IS THAT TRUE?”

You confirm this fact.

“FASCINATING… BUT MY POINT IS! IT’S ONLY NATURAL YOU’D BE CURIOUS ABOUT THE OPPOSITE, RIGHT?”

You consider it. “I…I guess so…?”

“HONESTLY,” Sans adds, looking around as if to make sure no one could be listening, “I’D SAY YOU’RE BETTER OFF SWIMMING WITH ME THAN WITH ONE OF THOSE ‘TRAINED’ ANIMALS. MY MANNERS ARE FAR BETTER. HAVE YOU SEEN THE VIDEOS?”

“Yes!” you exclaim, excited. “Yes, exactly!”

“SO, YOU KNOW, THEN!” Sans scoffs. “SHAMEFUL BEHAVIOR, IT GIVES DOLPHINS EVERYWHERE A BAD NAME!”

For one split-second, you realize your friends’ insight in setting you up on this date—there you’d been, lamenting the unpredictability of your favorite animal, and they just so happened to know a half-dolphin monster who could speak and be reasoned with.

The perfect solution to your dilemma, and still not a bad-looking skeleton, to boot.

You are literally never going to admit to them that this was… probably a good idea.

“BUT HEY, IF YOU’RE STILL INTERESTED, I WOULDN’T MIND SHOWING YOU AROUND.”

Sans’ voice pulls you out of your moment of epiphany, and you frown.

“Around…what?” you ask, looking around. “The sea?”

Sans’ grin is broad and delighted.

“YEP! I’D BE HAPPY—NAY, HONORED TO HELP YOU LIVE A DREAM OF YOURS!”

“Uh… well…”

You waver, torn between your desire to live the experience and your lingering embarrassment. You are starting to get tired of treading water, too, but…

“TELL YOU WHAT,” Sans declares, shooting you a wink, “I’LL GIVE YOU A ONE-HUNDRED PERCENT GUARANTEED MAGNIFICENT RIDE, OR YOUR MONEY BACK!”

That gets you to laugh.

“I haven’t paid anything?”

“SO, WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO LOSE, THEN?”

…Touché, he’s got you there!

“Alright… alright, yeah, let’s…let’s go for a swim!”

Sans pumps his fist in victory before turning to show you his back.

“GRAB ON AND HOLD TIGHT—THIS’LL BE FUN!”

With only a moment of further hesitation, you reach out and grasp his dorsal fin, smooth and almost rubbery beneath your fingers, and in short order the two of you start to move through the water, picking up speed.

It’s…incredible.

Once Sans really gets going, it’s exactly as exhilarating as you’d always dreamed it would be—the wind in your face, water splashing around you as you skim fast through the waves, driven forward by each snap of Sans’ thick, powerful tail.

He even jumps for you, surprising you into holding tighter to his dorsal and the backs of his ribs, just to stay with him. He laughs and swears not to lose you, and only proves it with another leap or three that has you and him both laughing in delight.

By the time you finally, finally start to slow and let go of him, you’re breathless and smiling wide enough for it to hurt.

“Oh…oh man, Sans, that…that was awesome!” He turns to face you, looking like even after all that, he isn’t even winded, and you marvel at him just a bit. “I can’t believe I’ve never done that before… thank you!”

Sans puffs out his chest, looking proud.

“YOU’RE QUITE WELCOME,” he says. And then, with a waggle of his browbones, he adds, “MY PLEASURE TO FULFILL YOUR LIFELONG DREAM OF RIDING ME…”

You promptly choke on nothing.

“Don’t! Say it like that!”

Sans just laughs at your flustered expression.

“OH, BUT HOW COULD I NOT WHEN IT MAKES YOUR CUTE FACE TURN SUCH A NICE COLOR?”

Your blush, you presume, because your face certainly feels quite hot again, but…

Wait.

“Are…are you flirting with me?”

“IS IT WORKING?”

…Oh, stars above, the stones on this guy!

But…it was a blind date, wasn’t it?

So, there’s no reason for you not to admit, “…yeah, a little bit.”

Sans looks so smug and pleased by your answer, though, that you have to squint at him petulantly.

“I thought you said you weren’t as horny as those other dolphins.”

“WHAT? I NEVER SAID THAT, JUST THAT I HAD BETTER MANNERS!” 

Of course.

“…WHICH IS WHY I’D LIKE TO ASK YOU…ON ANOTHER DATE, MAYBE? IF YOU’RE AMENABLE? IF NOT, I CAN JUST, AHEM…TAKE YOU TO THE RENDEZVOUS POINT FOR OUR FRIENDS TO TAKE YOU HOME, IF YOU’D RATHER THIS BE A ONE-AND-DONE SORT OF THING…”

…Okay. Okay, yeah, that’s definitely good manners, right there.

Sans is a boneafide gentleskeleton and despite yourself, you…really like him already.

The gal-pals will literally never get a ‘thank you’ for this, though.

“I…don’t think I’d mind another date sometime,” you slowly admit to Sans. “But…this one’s pretty fun so far. Does it…have to be over already?”

When you look over at him, the lights in Sans’ eye-sockets have turned into stars.

“I KNEW IT,” he declares, “I KNEW YOU COULDN’T RESIST THE ALLURE OF THE SEA!”

He turns around, offering his back again.

“HOP BACK ON, I KNOW A NICE, BIG BUOY A LITTLE FURTHER OUT I CAN SET YOU DOWN ON, AND THEN I CAN SHOW YOU SOME OF MY REALLY ACROBATIC TRICKS!”

You laugh, but duly climb on. “You’re gonna do tricks for me?”

“IT’S THE FIRST DATE! I’M DUTY-BOUND TO BE A SHOW-OFF, YOU KNOW! HEHEHEH…”

You can’t wait.

…but somehow, you don’t think it’s the sea that you find so alluring.

Chapter Text

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?”

…What?

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.

“Uhh…not…very??? But—”

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.

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.

“…You do?”

“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.”

“Platonically.”

“………”

Fuck.

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.”

“……Wh…what.”

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.

It’s…

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

………Pfft!

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?

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

So…it occurs to you that you might be stupid.

Well, you internally debate, maybe not stupid, I mean…my heart’s in the right place, at least!

You have to think that.

You have to think that because you are just one lone activist, fighting for animals’ rights against those that meant them harm.

…It’s…a more literal description than you’d like, at least today.

Sitting here, on this dinky little ship, tied up in a fishing net of all things while a whole bunch of big, strapping poachers watched to make sure you didn’t try anything funnier than you already had.

Which was honestly, not that much.

You were alone, of course, which you know you shouldn’t have been, but you’d gotten the tip-off and time had been short and nobody else was answering their phones so you’d…stowed away on the boat? To…catch them in the act?

………

Okay, yeah, you’re…you’re kinda stupid.

The fishermen had caught you within an hour, stripped you of your phone and your emergency flare gun and everything else you’d had. You watched in dismay as it was all chucked overboard and you were manhandled into a net and shoved down to the deck, to sit where you could be watched and wouldn’t cause any trouble, you assumed.

Until they kill you, which…yeah, they’re definitely going to do.

You can hear them chatting about it, casually, with occasional glances and laughs at you and your predicament.

You know too much, of course.

You’ve seen their faces, heard a few of their names, and most damningly, all around you on the boat, you’ve seen the evidence of their crime.

The piles of bloody, fresh shark fins.

Oh stars, even with bigger things to worry about, you can hardly look at them knowing where they came from: hacked off of living creatures, creatures carelessly chucked back into the sea, crippled and bleeding and literally dead in the water…

It makes your stomach turn and your heart ache.

You can’t abide this kind of cruelty and…

If you have to die doing anything, you suppose you’re glad that it’s trying to stop this.

…Though you have to admit, it stings your pride a little that murdering you doesn’t even seem to be your captors’ priority.

All around you, they go about their business—cleaning equipment, telling bawdy jokes, pointing and laughing at you, chumming the water…

Which is when it hits you.

They’re not done fishing, you realize, dread in your stomach.

You’re going to have to watch the next one.

Oh stars, no…

The next several minutes feel like hours, your head anxiously whipping back and forth across the distant waves, hoping against hope that nothing happens; that no poor unsuspecting fish takes the bait.

Why on earth would your luck start now?

Around you, the poachers start to sound excited, moving faster, getting ready, and when you crane your neck, that’s when you see it.

The fin.

Just another victim to be caught and mutilated by men after a quick buck with no thought to the fragile ecosystem, or the endangered status of so many sharks, or, or…

Maybe if you can distract yourself with the rhetoric, this won’t be burned into your brain for however long you have left in this world yourself.

The shark gets closer.

You want to close your eyes as it comes into the range of the nets and harpoons—old school, these fishermen—but it’s like watching a trainwreck, you can’t look away.

The fin dips underwater, and one man just barely leans out of the side of the boat to get a better look.

“More chum,” he calls to another, turning back around. “It’s too low f—aaah!”

There’s a blur and a huge splash and a very suddenly cut-off scream, and it all happens so fast that for a moment, you’re not even sure you saw it right.

Surely, you hadn’t just seen a hand shoot up out of the waves and drag that man into the water.

A skeletal hand.

Everything rapidly dissolves into chaos from there, even more impossible for you to follow.

There are shouts, some angry, some confused, and increasingly many afraid because now the little boat is rocking from side to side, violently—being rammed from below?—and people are stumbling all over the deck.

They don’t stay there for long with the way the boat is cracking and heaving, more swearing, more splashing, more quickly-silenced screams, and you have no idea what’s going on except that you’re a little bit terrified!

Except…

You’re also kind of stupid.

So instead of staying seated or trying to hold onto something bolted down, you try to stand up.

Tangled in netting, wearing absolutely the wrong kind of shoes for a boat, you’re the last to be jostled overboard and into the reddening water.

You take a breath before you fall under, but you almost lose it to a gasp when what is definitely a hand grabs at your ankle and drags you down even further into the briny deep.

You don’t know why, but you open your eyes and through the sting of the salt, the blur of the water…you see him.

A skeleton—a mer-skeleton, a sleek and powerful shark from the waist down and scarred, sturdy bones from the waist up—with burning red lights for eyes glaring at you in a ferocious snarl.

Or at least…it is, until he seems to get a good look at you, taking you in.

Then, all you can see in that skull is confusion, growing greater by the second.

But you can only hold your breath so long.

Your lungs give out on you and your mouth opens, your body trying to force you to take a breath that just wasn’t there.

You don’t see the skeleton’s eye-sockets going wide, choking on your first gasp of water, but you do feel his hands, pointed claws grabbing ahold of your arms and practically jettisoning the both of you up to the surface.

As soon as you’re there, you hack and cough and gasp and suck in several greedy lungfuls of air, even as your butt is settled onto the edge of the boat, almost delicately.

The skeleton is…still there, when you finish, floating there in the water just below you.

“WHO ARE YOU?” he demands in a low, raspy voice.

You’re so stunned and shaken by everything that’s just happened that you thoughtlessly just…introduce yourself.

Like this was a totally normal way to meet somebody.

He gives you a flat look.

“NOT YOUR NAME,” he corrects, utterly unamused. “YOU AREN’T A POACHER. WHO ARE YOU?”

“Oh…oh! I’m, uh…” Well, obviously, a monster probably wouldn’t…be familiar with the name of your organization…so. “I was…st…stopping them? From……from poaching?”

The skeleton doesn’t have eyebrows, but he seems to do a very good impression of raising one at you.

At your still be-netted form.

“REALLY. LOOKS LIKE THAT WENT WELL.”

You think you can feel your face heating up a little. “I! Could do without the sarcasm!”

“YOU COULD DO WITH A LITTLE MORE COMMON SENSE, TOO. ARE YOU SERIOUSLY HERE BY YOURSELF? WHAT WERE YOU SUPPOSED TO ACCOMPLISH LIKE THAT?!”

The absolutely deserved chiding makes you bristle and you pointedly turn away.

“Y’know what! I! ……”

As you turn, though, the deck fills your vision—empty now but for scattered fishing tools…and for fins, spilled all over.

Your voice lowers, coming out in a murmur this time.

“I just…wanted to help…”

There’s a moment of silence.

And then a gentle awkward pat on your kneed.

“…AN ADMIRABLE SENTIMENT,” the skeleton says, his voice a little softer. “BUT PERHAPS NEXT TIME…YOU LEAVE THINGS TO THE PROFESSIONALS.”

“Like who?” you blurt.

“……LI—LIKE WHO?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ‘LIKE WHO’?!” he sputters, scowling at you indignantly. “LIKE ME, OF COURSE! WERE YOU NOT PAYING ATTENTION?!”

He swims back a bit, puffing his chest out and gesturing broadly all around you.

“I SINGLEHANDLEDLY TOOK DOWN THESE DASTARDLY CRIMINALS!” he declares boldly. “THEY WANTED A SHARK AND I GAVE THEM ONE! I SHOWED THEM WHAT IT IS TO TRULY TANGLE WITH A PREDATOR! I MADE THEM CHUM FOR THE VERY THINGS THEY SO VICIOUSLY HUNTED!”

He looks you up and down again, sneering haughtily.

“AND I SAVED YOUR LIFE, TOO, BY THE LOOKS OF IT! HOW ABOUT A LITTLE GRATITUDE? THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE PAPYRUS DOES NOT MAKE A HABIT OUT OF SAVING HUMANS, YOU KNOW!”

You look around at the still-bloody water around the boat.

And somehow…the fear and disgust that you’re…kind of expecting to feel, seeing the implied gore just…doesn’t come.

Those men were…not good people.

They’d done terrible things to animals. They’d done them illegally, in waters that were supposed to be protected.

They’d also seemed to find the idea of killing you, too, to be a very hilarious prospect, you couldn’t forget that part.

And this guy who’d stopped that from happening—Papyrus?—he didn’t seem all that ‘terrible’ to you.

“Well, then…thank you, Papyrus,” you tell him. “I guess, uh…I guess you’re kinda my hero, huh?”

You say it casually enough, with a bit of a laugh, but…

The way Papyrus looks at you, with wide eye-sockets and a jaw a hair away from dropping, you think you must’ve caught him by surprise somehow.

…Is…is he blushing?

Can skeletons blush?

They must, you think to yourself, because you can’t think of anything else to explain the soft tint creeping across Papyrus’ cheekbones, staining his white skull a very cute pink.

“UH! WELL! O-OF COURSE YOU’RE GRATEFUL,” he blusters after a moment, folding his arms over his chest. “I AM…! A VERY IMPRESSIVE MONSTER! IT TOOK YOU LONG ENOUGH TO REALIZE THAT!”

You want to smile a little, until he looks down and away from you, speaking just a little more quietly.

“YOU’RE…YOU ARE…QUITE WELCOME…” he says, and you see him moving further away, ready to escape you and whatever kind of bashfulness you’d managed to bring on.

But then you realize a few very important things, all at once.

“Wait! Wait, you can’t leave yet!”

Papyrus pauses, tilting his head at you. “I CAN’T?”

“No!” you say. “Not, uh… I mean… can you, uh…” You demonstratively raise your arms, drawing attention to the net still awkwardly wrapped around your body. “Can you get me out of this, before you go? Just, like…really quick?”

Papyrus rolls his eye-lights at you, but he also swims back over and grabs at the rope, ripping through it easily for you with his claws.

“THERE,” he drawls, unimpressed. “IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I CAN GET FOR YOU? PLEASE, DON’T HESITATE TO ASK.”

You hear the sarcasm loud and clear.

But…

“Um… I, uh… I was kinda…hiding? For most of the trip out here,” you explain, “and, uh…I don’t…have a compass, o-or a phone anymore? So, I…have no idea which way the shore is.”

Papyrus scoffs at you, gesturing vaguely in a direction.

“NEXT, YOU’RE GOING TO TELL ME YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO STEER A BOAT,” he quips under his breath, which would really be a very funny joke, except…

“………”

Papyrus takes one look at your sheepish face and seems to understand that yes, you don’t know how to do that, either.

“………STARS ABOVE, HUMAN,” he exclaims, “YOU ARE A DISASTER! HOW HAVE YOU NOT GOTTEN YOURSELF INTO LIFE-THREATENING SITUATIONS BEFORE NOW, IF THIS IS YOUR LEVEL OF FORETHOUGHT EVERY TIME?!”

You…have no answer.

You just shrug and actively attempt to look pathetic and reprimanded, hoping he’ll take some kind of pity on you—since you really don’t have many other options here.

It works like a charm.

Apparently, the big bad vigilante mer-shark before you has one hell of a weak-spot for the helpless because as much as he runs his mouth about it—“RIDICULOUS, YOU ARE TRULY RIDICULOUS, DO YOU KNOW HOW STUPID IT IS FOR AN AIR-BREATHER TO BE THIS FAR OUT AND NOT KNOW HOW TO USE A BOAT?!”—he’s already moving towards the little one-person life-raft on the edge of the vessel and bringing it down into the water.

“I SUPPOSE,” he sighs with great vexation, “THAT IT WOULDN’T BE TOO MUCH TROUBLE TO PUSH YOUR FOOLISH BEHIND TO SHORE FOR YOU… YOU’RE QUITE LUCKY THAT YOUR SAVIOR TODAY HAS ENOUGH STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE TO RESCUE YOU TWOFOLD FROM A WATERY GRAVE, YOU KNOW!”

You do know, and your gratitude does not yet know end.

Before you go, you dump the fishermen’s ill-gotten gains off of the boat, down with the rest of the chum. You hope to at least put it to good use for the other, less well-mannered sharks that are surely on their way with so much…er…

With so much in the water to attract them.

You don’t stick around long enough to see any arrive, just hopping into the lifeboat and letting your exasperated hero give you a ride back home.

In your teeny tiny little boat, skipping across the waves at impressive speeds, you can’t quite resist making idle conversation.

“It’s kind of a shame…”

“WHAT IS?”

“Ah, well, y’know… I just sort of expected you to offer me a ride on your back or something… More intimate that way.”

“WHAT!!!” You know without looking that Papyrus’ skull is probably reddening again as he all but screeches at you, “THAT IS! WHY WOULD I…?! YOU, YOU HAVE BEEN READING FAR TOO MANY SAUCY NOVELS, HUMAN!”

You laugh.

“‘Saucy novels,’ like what? ‘Tides of Passion’? Or ‘Love on Stormy Seas’?”

“YES, EXACTLY! TRASH! RIDICULOUS PACING, PURPLE PROSE, TOTALLY UNREALISTIC, OVERSEXED NONENSE!”

“Hmm… I wouldn’t know, I’ve never read them. Sounds like you have, maybe…”

The noise Papyrus makes behind you is completely garbled and choked, like a keysmash verbalized.

You laugh louder.

So…you don’t know how, without your phone or literally anything else on your person, but…you think that maybe you need to get this guy’s number, or maybe just to figure out how to see him again sometime.

He is hilarious…and you guess he was kinda cute, and he saved your life, or whatever, in that order of importance.

You’re pretty confident you’ll figure something out.

After all, as long as the situation isn’t life-threatening, you really aren’t that stupid.