Actions

Work Header

Grillby's

Chapter Text

The skies were muddled today as well, you noted sullenly as you made your way through the bustling crowd.

Everyone was in a rush to get somewhere, and you couldn't afford to glare at a rude stranger that pushed you aside so roughly. You rubbed the offending area on your arm but moved on.

The weather was terrible. Streets were strewn with snow and pavements were slick with ice. You sighed into your blue scarf, digging your frozen fingers into the pockets of your worn coat.

It felt as though everything was going wrong.

It hasn't been long since you lost your former waitressing job, but now, even the weather felt harsh and unforgiving.

How were you going to pay rent this month? You had spent the last few days job-hunting around the city and around the web, but to no luck.

You felt more and more discouraged as you trodded through the snow, casting your eyes to the ground.

Stopping in front of a secluded bookshop, you contemplated whether or not to go in. It looked warm and cozy enough.

Grillby's, the nameplate read. The building itself was wedged in between two larger structures, but you had a feeling it was bigger on the inside.

A poster on the window caught your eye soon enough, and you moved closer to read it.

It was a help-wanted ad. Despite the weather and your problems, you couldn't help but feel slightly hopeful at the sight. Maybe you would be able to pay rent this month.

You walk up to the door and pushed hesitantly. A small chime sounded, and you were immediately greeted by the smell of books and dust.

As you expected, the walls were backed with shelves and stacks of paperbacks, and further in were more bookshelves and stationery. When you turned your head upwards, you discovered old-fashioned ceiling fans and dim lights hung from above. The shop was silent save for the sound of the floorboards creaking underneath your feet and the distant hum of the fans.

"May I help you?"

You jumped a bit, startled at the sound of a voice. The source stood behind a counter, and you realized it belonged to a....burning...man.

The shock barely registered on your face; you had nearly forgotten the existence of monsters, who had just recently surfaced a few months ago. Needless to say, you still weren't used to seeing them around.

The man was definitely on fire. Or more accurately, he was fire; his body appeared solid and fluid at the same time.

He had black frames on his face, so you assumed he had eyes, at least. He wore a crisp button down and a sensible-looking pullover, which seemed a bit unnecessary to you, considering he was literally made of...fire.

"Uh," you said eloquently. You bit your lower lip to keep from gaping; you already felt like you were being rude by staring and wondering whether or not he had eyes.

The man raised a flaming eyebrow, as if telling you to go ahead.

"I--I saw that ad outside and I wanted to apply," you said, trying your best to sound confident.

He stayed silent, and you felt yourself shrinking from his intense gaze.

Finally speaking, he said, "Do you have a resume?"

"Uh," you muttered, blinking twice before digging into your bag for the papers you had so haphazardly stuffed in a few days ago.

"I do," you said, producing the worn copy with relief. "Here."

You inwardly cringed at your unprofessionalism, wondering why you were even considered. He took the resume without another word.

"Wait here," he said, motioning to the couch beside a bookshelf. Before you could say anything else, he retreated to the back of the shop and disappeared behind a door.

You hesitated before taking a seat and picking a random book off the shelf. It was a dog-eared copy of Pride and Prejudice, cover worn and pages yellowed.

You turned the pages and scanned through it idly. You could have cared less what you were reading, because the couch was completely irresistible, and you felt your cold, tired limbs melting into the inviting fabric.

The quiet lull of the ceiling fans and the warmth that came from the presence of the fire monster lingered, and slowly, you felt your eyelids droop.

It was a long day.

Your entire body felt too warm and spent to move, but you didn't mind.

The last thing you heard was the book dropping from your hands before you allowed exhaustion to drift you slowly to sleep.

 

 

"Miss."

A gentle nudge to your shoulder.

You groaned, stirring awake. Blinking a few times and getting your eyes adjusted to the sight and smell of books and wooden floorboards--

Your eyes flew open and you stumbled out of the couch in alarm. You had fallen asleep. At a job interview, no less.

You inwardly cringed again. This probably wouldn't sit well with the hot bookshop owner, but you had already decided that ages ago.

"I'm so sorry," you insisted, staring at the tips of your boots in embarrassment and fidgeting with your scarf. "That was extremely unprofessional and I sincerely apologize. It was just that the couch was so warm and it felt so nice and--"

You shut your mouth forcibly, realizing the excuses made you look immature and silly. You decided to risk a glance at him,  and you felt your eyes widen at the surprising sight of his smile.

The upper corners of his mouth had tilted into an amused grin, and the white pinpricks behind his glasses danced in a merry way. You felt your neck heat up despite yourself.

It was adorable.

"I've read over your resume," he said finally, his face reverting back to normal. "It seems you have a lot of experience in handling books."

You nodded, swallowing anxiously.

"I served a part-time job as the school librarian and I've worked at similar shops before," you said, your confidence returning.

"I can't offer you a big salary," he warned, as if giving you a chance to turn it down.

You shook your head vigorously, saying, "No, it's alright! Really. I appreciate anything you can offer."

Okay, now you sounded desperate. But after a few days of searching for work and failing, you had every right, goddamn it.

"Can you start tomorrow at 7? We have a new shipment of books coming in," he explained, looking quite pleased.

"Yeah, 7 sounds good," you said, smiling with relief.

He stopped for a moment, and held out his hand apologetically.
"I believe we haven't introduced ourselves yet. I am Grillby."

You shook it after a beat, telling him your full name. He already knew from looking at your resume, but was polite about it anyway.

He laid out the ground rules around here, stating that food and drink weren't allowed inside, and that the shelves had to be arranged everyday. The floors had to be swept and the cashier had to be emptied every night.

Basics, you decided. You could handle that.

"Oh," he said suddenly, gazing at you with a knowing twinkle in his eye. "And no sleeping on the job."

Chapter Text

It was a little bit after six, but you found yourself at the doorstep of Grillby's once more. The majority of the snow-laden town was still asleep, with only a startling few crossing streets and hailing taxis. 

You glanced around and hugged your arms to yourself, burrowing further into your scarf. The warm breath escaped your lips with a sigh, trailing up into the sky and disappearing in the cold. 

Maybe it was too early.

It was still dark out, with traces of the rising dawn barely visible in the horizon. You decided you wouldn't know until you tried. Shaking off the snow that had formed on your boots, you forced your frozen fingers against the steel bar of the doors and pushed forward. 

Much to your surprise, the doors opened and the familiar sound of the chimes tinkled overhead. Some of the lights were already on, but Grillby was nowhere to be found.

"Grillby?" you called, shutting the door close behind you. Taking off your scarf and coat, you hung it on one of the hooks nailed on the wall. 

You rubbed your numb hands against your sweater and moved around the shop, looking for signs of him. Nothing much had changed from yesterday, other than the empty mug on the counter. 

"You're early."

You jumped a bit at the sudden voice behind you; you had yet to get used to the sound of Grillby, and he wasn't making it easy.

"You scared me," you huffed, turning to see him standing next to the couch, coat in hand. 

He wore a black vest over a pristine dress shirt and slacks, as if he was going to a formal event. It made him look incredibly out of place amidst the rustic atmosphere of the shop, but you couldn't deny the fact that he looked good

The fire monster rubbed the back of his flames in an apologetic manner. He gestured to his watch and repeated his statement. 

"I thought I'd be late, so I took the first bus," you explained distantly, still taking in the sight of Grillby in that vest.

He nodded thoughtfully, then made a sound that reminded you of crackling fire, but you had a feeling he was just clearing his throat. He seemed worried about something.

"You said something about a new shipment today, right?" you started, "Do you know when it's coming?"

Grillby made another noise, as if affirming your question.

"Around 7:30," he replied, but the corners of his mouth seemed to tighten further. 

"Is everything alright?" you pressed slightly. The snow from your boots had made a puddle on the wooden floor you were on, and as you moved forward, it squeaked in protest. 

He nodded again, somehow reluctant. 

"I won't be here to help today," he said, gripping the black coat draped over his arm. "I have something to attend to."

"Are you okay with that? I mean, leaving the shop to me for an entire day--"

Not to mention it was your first day at work and you had a terrible feeling you would screw up somehow. You immediately felt the weight of responsibility resting on your shoulders, your heart filling with anxiety.

Grillby gazed at you for a moment with an unreadable expression. It felt like he was looking right through you, as if deciding something.

"Don't worry," he said finally. "I asked someone to watch you."

Watch you?

You just stared at him, feeling less and less like an adult who graduated with a degree and more and more like an incompetent five-year old. He seemed to understand, and hurriedly moved to correct himself.

"I asked someone to supervise you and your work ethics for your first day, as I will not be present."

That was probably the longest sentence he had ever said to you without a break, and it made you feel a tiny bit better.

You nodded, gathering your resolve.

"I understand. Will you be gone until tomorrow?"

He paused for a moment, as if contemplating it, but nodded after a while. Gesturing to the time, Grillby looked mildly apologetic.

"I have to leave now," he says, putting on his coat and wearing his leather gloves. "Sans will be here soon."

You glanced quickly at his leather-clad hands and faintly wondered if he owned a bike, but almost immediately banished the thought of it. It didn't quite fit his image. You wouldn't mind seeing him in black leather jackets and tight ripped jeans though, you decided.

Yikes. One day in and you've gone and fantasized about your boss in tight jeans. You cringed to yourself.

Nodding after a beat, you gave him what you hoped was a confident smile. Grillby seemed satisfied at that, and with a quick wave, was out the door before you could say anything else. 

You released the breath of air you didn't realize you were holding in. You still had plenty of time before the delivery, so you decided to clean up the place a bit. 

Not that it needed much cleaning, you noted, the dry cloth from the storage room picking up nothing once you swiped it across the wooden counter. Grillby certainly seemed like the neat freak to you.

The floors were a bit musty, though, and you knew that shouldn't have made you glad but it did. The mop from the store room was barely used, but you figured Grillby probably preferred cleaning the floors without the danger of water. By 7 AM, the floors were dust-free and even shining from the can of wax you found at the back of the shop.

You thought of arranging the shelves too, but decided to do it along with the new books that were supposed to come around later. Grillby mentioned someone named "Sans," so he must be the delivery guy.

Dropping onto the couch, you stretched and checked your watch again. It was still too early. The shop opened at 9 and closed at 7, so there was still enough time before opening hours to deal with the new shipment.

You picked up Pride and Prejudice again, which was, incidentally, in the discount pile among its fellow yellowing paperbacks. Mr. Darcy was getting chewed out by Elizabeth Bennet at this point, and you were totally here for the Regency-era call out of the century.

By the time 7:30 rolled around, you had almost finished the book and Darcy and Elizabeth had hooked up, but there wasn't any sign of the delivery yet. Fifty agonizing minutes ticked by, but to no avail.

You usually weren't this anxious about things, but you didn't want to screw this up. The rent this month depended on it.

Finally, there was creaking of the door and a sudden gust of freezing air immediately filled the room. You jumped from your spot and moved past the counter to see in front of you--a skeleton.

You stared blankly at the short monster, who in turn gazed at you with drooping lids. How did he even have lids? 

The skeleton was dressed in a simple blue uniform, and a cap with a company's name embroidered on it sat on his skull. He had a smile on his face, so he seemed friendly enough.

"Sans," he said, offering his hand. "Sans the skeleton."

You shook it, introducing yourself. The bones in your hand felt unnaturally warm but you weren't complaining. 

After letting go, Sans produced a clipboard from the inside of his jacket and handed it to you, along with an old ballpen that looked like it had ketchup stains on it. 

"Sign here," he says, and then gestures to the stack of boxes next to him. "Ten boxes all in all."

"I thought Grillby said you'd be here at 7:30," you mumbled, signing the scrap of paper. "Aren't you supposed to get a penalty for being late?"

"Hey," Sans said, shrugging. "We aren't Pizza Hut. Besides, this is early."

"It's been an hour," you said, returning the clipboard back to the skeleton.

"Pretty marrow, eh?" Sans said, closing an eye. He was still smiling.

You marrowed--narrowed your eyes, but despite yourself, felt the corners of your mouth lift. 

"That wasn't funny."

"You mean, that went right through you," Sans continued, his grin widening.

You snorted, even against your best efforts. Okay, so the delivery guy liked skeleton puns. 

"So," you started saying, "What now? I signed the thing." You gestured vaguely to the clipboard under his arm.

"Welp," he sighed, closing both eye sockets. "I'm supposed to ask you if you need help storing them, but... you don't mind letting this slide, right?"

He opened an eye socket hopefully, his grin widening. You shook your head, snorting, but took the first box off the pile anyway. It was bigger than you expected, and way heavier than a bunch of books should have been.

Struggling under the weight, you crab-walked to the shelves, huffing all the way. You dropped it down on the floor with a loud sigh, breathing heavily. It had been a while since you hit the gym.

Walking back to the counter, you took a pair of scissors and knelt beside the box before ripping through the packaging tape. The smell of fresh paper and books hit you when you opened the box; there were 50 in total, all of the same book. 

Sans watched you the whole time, and somehow he had already gotten comfortable on the couch. By the third box, you were already wondering.

"Hey, I don't mean to be rude, but shouldn't you be leaving?"

He made a sound that was similar to laughter, but was really just the sound of bones grating against each other. 

"Grillby told me to keep an eye on you for the day," he said, his right eye socket dimming suddenly, as if proving his point. 

Oh, so he was the babysitter. 

"How am I doing so far?" you said, standing and wiping your palms on your jeans.

"Terribic," he deadpanned, the grin never leaving his face.

You genuinely laughed this time.

"Thanks," you said. "Don't forget to like and subscribe."

"I won't," he said, chuckling again.

 

By the time you had shelved all the books and disposed of the litter, it was already past 9, which meant the shop was open. You quickly moved to switch the sign on the front.

Sans had fallen asleep in intervals around that time, so you weren't sure Grillby picked the right guy for the job. But during the times he was awake, you shared puns and talked about the previous jobs you had and he told you about life in the underground.

Sans seemed very fond of his brother, and it was the only thing he ever talked about, aside from the underground. He had lightened up considerably when you mentioned that you wanted to meet Papyrus.

"You'll love him. He's great."

"Must be, he's the Great Papyrus, isn't he?" you replied dryly, grinning.

He nodded, suddenly bashful. Sans seemed really proud of him, so you had no doubt Papyrus really was great.

The customers came and went, all varying in age and size. The number of people that passed by the small shop surprised even you, but Grillby must have built a good reputation for himself.

You had settled into the routine of scanning the barcodes and handing change to customers, all while Sans kept a close watch on you, in his own way. The hours flew by, and by the time you had to close up shop, you were exhausted.

After waving goodbye to the last customer, you allowed yourself to sink back into your chair, heaving a loud sigh. You heard Sans get off the couch and move towards you, the floor creaking under his shoes. 

"Not bad, kid," he says, hands in his jacket pockets. 

"Thanks. Must've been boring, though," you said, closing your eyes.

"Having to babysit me on my first day and all," you added, opening them blearily. 

Sans shrugged, glancing elsewhere.

"It was a favor," he said. "Besides, I don't mind the couch."

You agreed, remembering the first time you came here and dozed off on Grillby's couch. Getting up and stretching, you cleared your throat.

"Well, I'd better head out now," you sighed. "It's getting pretty late, so be careful, okay?"

"I could say the same to you, kid," Sans chuckled quietly, under his breath. He watched you gather your things and stood by.

Coat on and scarf wrapped snugly against your neck, you were ready to leave. It looked like Sans waited for you instead of heading out first. You smiled at the thought.

Pushing the door open and stepping out, you shivered at the sudden greeting of cold air. You held the door open for the skeleton, motioning for him to close the lights. He complied and stepped out with you.

It was a cold night. The streets were still full of snow, and the stars could barely be seen. You checked the watch on your wrist. There was a scheduled bus around this time, so you were hoping to take it on the way home.

As if reading your thoughts, the bus came, rounding to corner and squealing to a stop next to the street. Glancing back at the skeleton, you said your goodbye and got on the bus. 

Sans merely waved and grinned from outside the vehicle. You didn't mind; you knew that was just the way he is.

 

 

"You can come out now."

As if on cue, Grillby moved from behind the shadows of the alley and into the light of the streetlamps. 

"She's a hard worker," Sans said, closing his eyes. "Worked herself to the bone."

He opened one eye to see Grillby's reaction, but shrugged when the fire monster said nothing. After adjusting the cap onto his skull, Sans shoved his hands into his pockets.

"Welp," he said, "Better be getting home to Papyrus. See ya 'round, Grillby."

Grillby gave a slight nod, and in his own way, bid him goodnight. The skeleton smiled wider this time, and disappeared into his van. The quiet of the night was interrupted by the sputtering engine, and soon enough, Grillby was all alone.

 

Chapter Text

"It should be around here somewhere," you muttered under your breath. Your fingers traced the spines of the books on the shelves, intent on finding the right book.

"Well, if you don't have them it's fine," the customer assured, "I can come back another day."

You shook your head vigorously, saying, "No, I unpacked them just days ago; I'm sure we have it. Give me just a moment."

The customer nodded, a bit unsure, but took a seat anyway. It was the end of your first week, and it was a hell lot busier this time around. You had been rushing all over the place to find books the customers have been looking for and arranging the shelves on off times.

It was definitely a challenge, but you found satisfaction in getting the job done. You left the customer to head over to the back area where you restocked the new books. If it wasn't there at the previous bookshelf, it was here for sure.

You scanned the shelves for the yellow spine, eyes moving over the books quickly. Even when you were supposed to be at your busiest, you found yourself drifting to the thought of Grillby and his whereabouts the other day. The idea of him in a suit that early in the morning seemed terribly strange to you.

Did he have another job? Or did he just come back from a wild night and decided to go home to sleep? It looked like the perfect casino attire, but it looked fresh and clean the day you saw him. You sighed, shaking your head. You were way too nosy for your own good.

Pushing thoughts of him aside, you knelt and gasped when you found them. The books were still packed together in plastic, though. You pulled out a pair of scissors from your belt and started snipping right through.

"Um, excuse me..."

"Just a moment! I've found it!" you called, working faster to get the plastic off.

You yelped and pulled your hand back, blood oozing from your finger. Hissing underneath your breath, you dropped your scissors and pulled the book out with your free hand.

You stood, hiding your bleeding hand behind you, and gave the book to the relieved customer.

"Here you go," you said, smiling. "That will be $15.99, please."

After giving the receipt and waving goodbye to the customer, you heaved a sigh of relief. Taking another look at your finger, it seemed like you had cut pretty deep. It was just your luck, you groaned.

The bells on the door chimed again and you whipped around to see Grillby in his overcoat and hat, shaking the snow off his arms.

"You're here!" you squeaked in surprise. The strangled sound of your voice made him look up. He had taken off his coat and hat to hang it on the knobs when you realized he was in a sweater and button down again this time, so you felt the slightest bit of hope that he was going to stay.

"Ah, yes," he said, rubbing the back of his head. "I apologize for leaving without notice for a while; I was--"

His eyes widened, and without delay he walked over to you in urgent strides and grabbed your wrist, lifting it for him to see. You whimpered at the pain, squeezing your eyes shut.

"You cut yourself," he said, quietly.

You nodded, lacking the words to say. His hand on your wrist was warm but gentle, cradling your hand as if it was glass. He sighed and released you. You mourned the loss almost immediately.

"Come with me."

You followed him meekly in the tiny bathroom. Turning on the lights, he walked over to the sink and twisted the knobs open. Water gushed out and he motioned for you to stick your hand in. You complied and glumly watched the blood run down your hand.

"Be more careful next time," he said, turning off the faucet after a while.

You nodded again, giving a weak laugh. It was just your luck. The first time your boss comes back you just had to mess up. You really, really needed this job. Grillby pulled out a musty box under the sink and went through it until he found some ointment and a bandaid.

"Hand," he ordered, putting out his own hand in expectation.

"I can do it myself, so you don't need to--"

"Hand."

You gulped and placed your hand in his. He patted it dry with a towel, taking care to be gentle. You felt your pulse quicken at the gesture, but forced yourself back to reality. Now wasn't an amazing time to catch feelings.

As you watched him apply the ointment to the bandaid and wrap it around your finger, you thought about how very much mistaken you were about monsters from the underground. Grillby had an incredibly gentle manner around him, warm and quiet. Nothing like the terrible misconceptions humans had apprehensively drilled into their minds.

Realizing only after a beat that he had let you go, you clutched your hand to your chest, feeling a warmth rise in your cheeks.

"Thank you," was your only reply, hushed and brittle.

"You're welcome," he hummed, returning the box under the sink and stepping out of the tiny bathroom.

You groaned inwardly. It had been just a week. A week. It was infatuation, for sure. It would be gone soon. Definitely.

-

It was almost closing time. The slowest time in the store, you knew. After the incident in the bathroom, Grillby had taken to removing sharp objects around you. You felt both embarrassed and amused because of his worrying.

The lull in the shop brought your mind back to the idle thought of him in that suit the other day, and you felt curiosity grow despite yourself.

"Hey Grillby," you started, caution lacing your words.

Grillby looked up from the stack of books he had been arranging, a puzzled look on his face. He had his sleeves rolled up and the first two buttons open, his sweater discarded onto the coffee table.

"I was wondering...about the other day, you know," you said, nerves taking over. "Where were you headed? I mean, with you dressed all fancy and everything."

He watched you with an unreadable gaze. You felt yourself die inwardly, regretting everything that came out of your mouth.

"If it's too personal I completely understand though, I mean, it's your--"

Grillby laughed, cutting your stuttering to a stop. It was low and quiet, but unmistakably a laugh. You felt yourself grow warm.

"You are surprising," he says, his tone light.

You reddened further.

"It's nothing to concern yourself with, though. It is very kind of you to worry."

The way he said it made you feel as though you hadn't just invaded his privacy. You felt slightly disappointed at his reply, but determined it was his privacy and it wouldn't do any good poking around.

"I see," you replied, hoping you didn't sound too put-out.

Glancing at the clock above the doorway, Grillby made an affirming sound.

"It's closing time. You can leave now; don't forget your things."

With another unfathomable smile, he disappeared into the stockroom. You sighed, gathering your coat in your arms, and with a final look around the shop, you pushed open the door and stepped out. It was freezing as usual, a harsh contrast to the warmth of the bookstore. You shivered and hurriedly put your coat on.

Even as you moved farther and farther away from the tiny bookshop, you felt your mind drift off to thoughts of Grillby.

What was he hiding? Why was he mostly gone? More importantly, why did he have a faucet?

Yeah. Why the hell did he have a faucet? That just doesn't make any sense.

Checking your watch made you realize it was a few minutes before the last bus left, so you quickened your pace a little. It was only a couple more blocks away.

Suddenly, you hear footsteps behind you and an urgent voice yelling, "Wait!" You turn around in surprise to see Grillby barreling towards you in a sprint, just in time to see him slip across the ice and knock you off your feet.

You let out a strangled yelp and felt yourself get thrown against the freezing ground, a warm weight pressing down on your chest. You could hear groaning and labored breathing right next to your ear, and when you opened your eyes, you realized you were inches away from Grillby's face.

He had on the most vulnerable expression yet. Up close now, you could see that his eyes were little pinpricks of white light and that they were blinking rapidly at the proximity. A faint blue hue dusted across his face. Was he...blushing?

"Are you okay?" he asked immediately, breathing still ragged.

"Well, considering I just got flattened by my boss, I don't think I'm doing too well," you replied with a weak laugh. "If you give me a bit of space here, I could check."

He laughed as well, albeit awkwardly, and tried his best to disentangle himself from you. He crouched back on the ground and stood up shakily. You accepted his extended hand, and lifted yourself up with his help.

"Phew," you said, laughing. "Thanks, Grillby."

"I apologize for...flattening you," he said, a hint of embarrassment lingering, "but you forgot this."

He held out a keychain with your house keys on it. You could have hit yourself in that moment.

"Oh man, thank you so much! I'm sorry you had to run all this way," you cringed, taking the keys from him. Were you insane? Losing your keys on your first week! And having the boss run over and remind you! It couldn't get any worse.

"It wasn't any problem. I'm more worried about the accident that I caused," Grillby said with a pang of remorse.

You shook your head vigorously, putting up your hands. "Oh, it's fine! The snow cushioned my fall, so it's alright!"

"You're shivering," Grillby said in a low voice.

"Huh? Oh, the snow must have melted," you mumbled, checking the back of your coat. It was soaked.

"No worries though, I can just take the bus home. They installed a heater a month ago," you added hastily.

Grillby was quiet for a while, then suddenly he shook off his own black coat.

"Take it off," he said.

"What?"

"Use mine."

"No, like I said, it's fine-"

"The bus already left, so take it off."

"How did you-?"

Grillby shook his head, and without another word started unbuttoning your coat himself. You felt your eyes widen in surprise and backed away, him following.

"Woah, hey, I said it's alright-!"

He took your coat off with care, but he did it so fast you were just left with his own coat around your shoulders. It was still warm from his body heat, and you thought you smelled s'mores.

"It was my fault, so I'll take responsibility," he said firmly. "Which way is your house?"

"It's a half hour drive. I can call a cab," you insisted, clutching the black coat.

"At this hour?" he said this as though he was raising an eyebrow, if he had one.

"I'll walk, then," you said, a bit defiantly. Nah, sis, you've seen enough k-dramas to see where this was going. Was he even for real?

"I'll walk you home, then," he said, a bit of triumph in his voice.

You sighed. You thought you knew Grillby; he was warm, kind, and gentle, but you never imagined he would be this stubborn about certain things.

"It's really no trouble," you tried again.

"It really isn't," he said, "Now lead the way."

You stared incredulously at Grillby, but understood it wasn't worth the effort. It was in that moment you realized how little you actually knew about him as you started walking, with him following beside you. It was going to be a long walk home.

Chapter Text

Ever since that night Grillby almost crushed your ribs on the pavement, he’s been making an effort to make it up to you. You thought the jacket and the walk home was payment enough, but apparently not. He would hurriedly take a stack of boxes away from your reach before you could open and shelve the books inside, insist that he checks the temperature of your coffee before you take it (which you found was quite ironic, considering he was made of fire), and usher you away from the cash register and onto a couch whenever there would be a line of customers, among other similarly ridiculous things. 

You have had enough, you decided. 

You grit your teeth as you walk in the shop, bells tinkling overhead. Grillby, clad in his sensible button-up and sweater ensemble, turns to find you standing on a puddle of melted snow, and immediately moves from behind the counter to take your coat.  With a determined look on your face, you hold up a hand before he gets there.

“Grillby,” you said firmly. 

He blinked twice in confusion, and ventured a small “yes?”

“You don’t have to keep doing this. I’m your employee, you know,” you continued, eyeing him tiredly.

“And what of it?” he maintained, obviously not understanding.

“Well, for starters, could you let me do actual work?” you sighed. “I would like to believe you don’t just pay me to lounge around and sit pretty while you shelve the books and deal with the customers. I want to help you too, and I can’t do that when you don’t let me.”

“O-Oh,” was all he managed to say, looking very much at loss for words. His hands drooped to his sides, and he seemed quite embarrassed and somewhat defeated.

“I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable,” he finally says. “I just- I’m not very used to dealing with…humans.”

He scratches the back of his head awkwardly, a faint hint of blue appearing across his cheeks. Your eyes immediately widen at the sight of your boss blushing, and you hold out your hands in a hurried motion, saying, “No! It’s not that; oh, I didn’t mean to-“

“It’s perfectly alright,” he interrupts, “I misunderstood and caused a great deal of discomfort on your part. It seems I must have gone wrong with my research…”

You stopped for a second and repeated, “Research?”

Grillby averted his gaze and cleared his throat, saying, “Well…yes. I didn’t know if human social rituals differed from that of my kind, and I wanted to present the best manner of apology to you without losing any sort of sincerity, so I looked to some of the books we have on hand for information.“

You stared at him incredulously. How could one person be so infuriatingly endearing? You couldn’t stop the small smile that started to widen, much to his bewilderment.

“I don’t believe checking the temperature of my coffee would be high on the list of normal human rituals,” you drawled, an impossibly amused expression growing on your face, “and I appreciate the thought you put into this, but the next time anything happens, we could just talk about it and resolve the matter together. Is that okay?”

After what looked like a brief moment of him considering this idea, he nodded, satisfied. 

“It seems we share the same social rituals,” he admitted, a corner of his mouth lifting. He seemed happy about that. 

“However, you must permit me to take your coat, at the very least -“

“And no more hovering!” you teased lightly, taking your coat off yourself and placing it on one of the hooks beside the door. “Does Sans know that you’re this much of a mother hen?”

You laughed at his expression, a mix of embarrassed indignation and surprise. Walking past Grillby, you set yourself behind the counter he was in just a few moments ago. It seems your work was cut out for you, with a couple of boxes underneath that needed to be shelved before the customers came in. The both of you spent the rest of the morning in comfortable silence dotted with a few idle conversations here and there as you prepared to open shop. What had interested you the most, however, was when Grillby brought up a small detail about his old life in the underground. 

“You were a bartender?” you repeated, somehow more surprised than when you found out he rode a motorbike. Glancing up at Grillby on the stepladder, you paused your typing on the keyboard.

“Yes,” was his short reply. He didn't divulge any more details, and busied himself with dusting off the tops of the shelves. You got the feeling that was all he was willing to admit, but you wanted to press it a bit more.

“Did you like it?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

A sigh, and the sound of the duster ceases. You were afraid that you went too far, but he simply stepped down from the stepladder and folded it back up. The lingering sensation of a question unanswered was burning in the air, but both refused to address it. With your fingers frozen and poised above the keyboard, you wondered if you should change the topic, but you winced at how you immediately knew your delivery would be awkward. After a while, he sighed again as he placed the duster in its container.

“…Because of all the stories,” he finally replied, breaking the silence.

“The stories?” you repeated, feeling quite conscious of how often you have been parroting after him today. Well, what could you do if the man won’t speak more about it, you reasoned, starting to get enveloped by the niggling feeling that you were on uncharted territory, and that if you were a respectable person at all, you would stay off. Good thing you weren't that respectable. 

“Yes,” he said, for the third time. “The people there - you never could get bored. Especially if they were regulars.” 

Grillby’s expression was especially solemn and drawn as he leaned on one of the bookshelves, and you couldn’t figure out why. He said he enjoyed his job, the people there - so why did he look so upset?

“You know…um,” you said lamely, clenching your hands into fists, “You seem like you have a lot on your mind. If you’re ever comfortable with it, I’ll listen. If that helps any.”

A smile flitted on to his face, and it crinkled his white-hot eyes. You suddenly felt very conscious of yourself and of his presence. 

“Thank you,” he says quietly, “but that won’t be necessary. I wouldn’t want to burden you with anything like personal baggage, especially as your employer.” 

Employer. Your heart sinks slightly at the word, much to your horror. It was only right, so it was stupid to start having feelings in the first place, you remind yourself. A professionally professional work relationship as professionals! Anything more or less was silly to even dream about, and you barely even knew the man, but a part of you hesitates.

“I understand,” you conceded, looking down at your hands, “but the offer’s available, whenever you need it.” 

He watches you twiddle your thumbs awkwardly, and to your surprise, he chuckles, low and soft. You glance back at him only to be greeted with the warmest expression he had on yet. 

“You remind me of someone,” he states, a fond look in his eyes. 

You felt almost breathless when you asked, “Who?”

Shaking his head, he moves off the bookcase to unlock the front door, a smile still playing on his face. You stood up to ask him again, but an incoming customer immediately sets you back down. You shoot Grillby a purposeful look that hopefully told him that they’ll have another word later, but he brushes this off with a mysterious smile, almost playfully - not having the faintest idea what he was doing to your heart. 

-

A while later, around closing time, Sans comes by to drop off his shipment of books, but is greeted through the window with a scene of Grillby and that new hire reading on the couches together. The stubby skeleton adjusted the cap on his head, knowing he was about to ruin a moment, and ruining it anyway by knocking loudly on the frame, a sniggering grin plastered on his skull. He watches Grillby get up with an inaudible sigh, opening the door for him.

The smile on the skeleton’s face only grows wider when he sees that the fire monster is holding a dog-eared copy of Pride and Prejudice, and that new kid had a book of poetry in her hands. 

“Trading books now, huh? I feel kinda left out, you boneheads,” he laughed, eyeing Grillby the whole time. As expected, the pair flush significantly before Grillby snaps at him to hurry up and bring the boxes inside.

Now wasn’t this interesting, Sans mused.