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Department of Human Monster Relations

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Behind the stage curtain of Ebotton High’s school auditorium and five minutes before your first meeting in your new position is supposed to start, you’re staring at your own warped reflection on the back of a poorly-forged metal deathtrap that the public school systems call a chair.

“You can do this,” you tell the funhouse-looking version of your face. “No big deal. It’s just your first public appearance as the Deputy Director and face of the newly-established Department of Human Monsters Relations. In front of a group of angry fear-mongering townspeople who hate anything new or different by default. No pressure. You wouldn’t have been appointed this job if you couldn’t handle it. Unless I’m being set up for failure. Oh God, am I being set up for failure?”

Rachel, resident intern and apathetic college student, looks up from her phone and fixes you with an odd stare. “Oh my God,” she exclaims through a mouthful of gum. “Are you having a nervous breakdown?”

“I’m not, but thanks for asking.”

“Okay, then why are you talking to inanimate objects like a crazy person?”

“No I’m not! You are!”

“No… I’m talking to you.” She gets a distant look in her eyes, pupils darting to the side. “Unfortunately.”

“Right, right. Sorry. I’m just a little nervous, I guess.” You run your hand through your hair. “You don’t think I’m being set up for failure, do you?”

She shrugs. “I’m only here for the college credit and because my parents think it will look good on my résumé. I could not care any less about what’s going on right now.”

“So, what you’re saying is that I shouldn’t care whether or not my superiors want me to fail because I’m amazing and succeed at everything I do regardless?”

She glances back down at her phone. “Yeah, sure, whatever.”

“Oh, Rachel.” You clasp both her cheeks between your hands and make uncomfortable eye contact. “Bless you and your unpaid intern teenage apathy.”

“Please stop touching me.”

Your hands drop to your sides but you maintain the eye contact. “I’ll let go of your face, Rachel, but I will never stop touching you. Just as I will never stop touching the hearts and lives of every single resident of our beautiful home of Ebotton. Because I love this town and all its inhabitants and that’s why I started working in local government to begin with: to touch everybody.”

“Gross.”

Reinvigorated by your love for local government work, you make your way to the stage curtain with a skip in your step. When you push it aside and step out in front of that room full of people, all traces of your previous anxiousness is set aside in favor of a winning public relations smile.

It’s show time.

“Greetings, citizens of Ebotton.” You pause for a welcoming chorus of hellos to be repeated back to you. There is none so you just barrel on through. “We understand that many of you have some questions and concerns regarding some of the newest members of our community. And so that is why we have gathered here today.”

A grin stretched across your face as Rachel wheels out a projector from offstage. It turns on with a chainsaw-like rev and a puff of smoke.

“I have put together an educational PowerPoint presentation on monsters that should help to inform and answer any questions that you all might have about our new neighbors.”

“I was told there’d be free snacks,” calls a voice from the back of the room.

“Yes, we lied about that to get people to come. Now, please take your seat. And don’t bother trying to leave, folks; we’ve already locked the doors from the outside.” The majority of citizens that had lifted themselves out of their chairs promptly sit back down. “Besides, who needs snacks when I’m about to nourish your hungry minds with a three course meal of some sweet, tasty knowledge.”

The lights dim as the first slide of your presentation is projected onto the wall: your magnum opus of clipart images and comic sans type print.

“As many of you may know, today marks the second anniversary of the day that the group of people we call monsters climbed down from Mount Ebott and joined our community. Even though it’s been a whole two years, there’s still a lot of animosity between us and our monster brothers as well as a lot of misinformation being spread about the nature of their race.”

Your PowerPoint presentation turns to the next slide with a spinning three hundred and sixty degree transition and the sound of a duck’s quack. Because even though you’re discussing a serious topic, learning can still be fun.

“The main difference between monsters and humans stems in the differences of our physiology; more specifically, magic. Most tension between humans and monsters seems to be based on the idea that all monsters have magical powers that can be used to harm people. While this case might be true for some monsters, most monster magic is actually incapable of causing harm. Those monsters who do have the capability to cause harm are no more dangerous than the average human being. In addition, there has been a grand total of zero reports of monsters attacking humans since they’ve appeared on the surface.”

The sound of an air horn suddenly blares through the speakers as a giant zero appears and bounces up and down on the screen. An elderly woman grips her chest and falls to the floor but you ignore it. Everyone in Ebotton knows that Edith is a huge drama queen.

“While not all monsters have special powers, they are all made from magic. Magic can take on many different forms, thus the reason why monsters come in so many different variations of shapes and sizes. But, even though monsters look very different from us, in many ways they’re much the same. Like humans, monsters have a wide range of emotions that they regularly experience such as: joy, fear, love, sorrow, and even anger.” Each bullet point appears on the screen accompanied with the sound of a dog bark. The bullet points themselves are matching emoticons. “All emotions that we as humans are very familiar with.”

A young man in the second row coughs loudly. Rachel pulls her wet wad of gum out of her mouth and chucks it at him. You’d give her a raise for that if you were paying her in the first place.

“In conclusion, monsters aren’t scary creatures hiding in your closet or under your bed. They’re regular people, just like you and me.” The lights turn back on. “So, any questions?”

An elderly gentleman sitting in the back raises his hand.

“Gerald, we’ve been over this already. That’s not a monster hiding under your sink; it’s your garbage disposal.”

“Then why does it keep growling at me?”

You ignore him. “Does anybody have any real questions?”

“Yeah, I’ve got a question.” A middle-aged gentleman with thick eyebrows and an unkempt beard stands up from his seat in the third row. “How do you plan to deal with the fact that monsters are stealing our women?”

You blink. “Excuse me?”

“How are you gonna stop the monsters from stealing our women?!” he repeats, thick eyebrows furrowing in rage.

You maintain a neutral expression, keeping your voice calm and even. “That, sir, is a broad and baseless accusation to make against an entire race of people and has absolutely no merit behind it.”

“What do you mean baseless? My wife left me for a monster!”

A woman on the other side of the room stands up. “I know you, Roger, and your wife didn’t leave you because of the monsters. She left you because you’re a no-good drunk.”

“I am not. Prove it!”

“You’re drinking right now!”

Roger stares down at the brown bottle in his hand. “Ah. So I am.” He takes a long swig.

“How did he get that in here?” You and Rachel share a look before you turn back to address the crowd. “May I remind everyone that this is a public school building and no alcohol is allowed on the premises.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be finished in a second.”

“You’re missing the point!”

The same young man that had coughed during your PowerPoint presentation raises his hand. You know it’s the same man because a wad of gum is still stuck in his hair. “Hey, yeah, I have a question. Do monsters eat people?”

“I’m actually glad you brought that up.” You clasp your hands together. “That’s a common misconception constructed by the media and based on old folklore written after the monsters had been sealed beneath the mountain. Monster diets actually consist of foods made entirely of magic. Not only would eating a human yield no nutritional benefits for a monster but, with the way their digestive systems function, it would be anatomically impossible.”

“I heard they grind our bones to make our bread,” says a girl in her mid-twenties.

“Okay, one, that’s giants, not monsters. Two, you heard that from a fairytale.”

“I heard it from a reputable source.”

You fix her with a dull look. “Your reputable source is Jack and the Beanstalk.”

“If monsters are made of magic and they eat magic,” cuts in the young man who first asked about their diet, “Does that make them cannibalistic?”

“That…” You pause. “Uh, no comment. Are there any other concerns?”

And that opens up the floodgates for all manner of stupidity to come flying at you.

“Tentacle monsters are sexually-assaulting our Japanese schoolgirl populations!”

“Monsters are taking our jobs!”

“These aren’t monsters; they’re demons rising straight from the pits of hell! This is a sign of the end of days, folks. Repent, sinners!

“Monsters turned my teenage son gay!”

“Oh yeah? Monsters turned my gay son straight.”

“I LIKE YELLING!”

“People!” you shout. “People, please, calm down!”

The cacophony of shouting simply grows louder so that it can drown out your voice. No matter how much you raise your voice, the sound that exits out of your mouth is but a single raindrop gently dropping into an ocean of idiocy.

A sharp whistle cuts through the thunderous roar of stupid and shocks everyone into silence. Your intern removes her fingers from her mouth and returns her attention back to her phone.

“Thank you, Rachel.” You turn back to the crowd of people before you. “Alright, now, I understand a lot of people here are scared about the changes in our communities and our lives and, believe me, your voices are being heard, but a lot of the arguments I’m hearing tonight are the same arguments that were brought up when that community of Mormon families moved into town about eight years ago. People were confused and scared back then, too, but since then we’ve all integrated and get along and—”

“Wait a minute,” interrupts Roger. “So you’re saying we have to deal with monsters and Mormons too?!”

You blink. “Uhh…”

“OH GOD IT’S WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT!”

You duck just in time to dodge the sharp end of a stiletto heel being tossed your way.

Once again, the room devolves into a mass of shouting, stupidity, and violent outbursts. You and Rachel stand on the school auditorium stage and overlook what can only be described as an angry mosh pit of unadulterated chaos. Chairs are turned. Punches are thrown. One guy even gets kneed in the junk. Out of the public forums you’ve attended in the past, this is actually pretty typical. Moderate, even.

“Well,” you say, placing your hands on your hips. “Nothing’s on fire, so I think that turned out well.”

Rachel points behind you to old man Gerald holding a lighter to the stage curtains.

Oh.” You blink slowly. “I’m probably going to regret having the doors locked from the outside.”

Chapter Text

“This really isn’t necessary, Director,” says Gerome Jackson, Ebotton Fire Chief, as you come bearing yet another thank you basket filled with assorted fruits and cheeses.

“Technically, it’s Deputy Director. And it’s absolutely one hundred percent necessary,” you counter, forcing the basket into his hands. “Your men and women constantly put their lives on the line and no amount of gift baskets we give could ever be enough for that kind of selfless dedication. It’s thanks to your people that nobody ended up at the hospital that day. Well, except for Edith, but that was less to do with the fire and more to do with the heart attack. Which kind of makes me feel bad for not calling 911 sooner.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Gerome waves a hand dismissively. “Everyone in Ebotton knows that Edith’s a drama queen.”

“Anyway, this isn’t the first time y’all saved my bacon from a public forum-related fire. It’s the least I can do.”

“Well,” he smiles. “If you keep bringing us hand-crafted baskets full of fresh fruit and expensive cheeses, you can feel free to lock yourself in as many burning buildings as you want.”

“Aww, Gerome, that’s so nice of you to say.” You pause. “I think? That was meant to be nice, right? You’re not telling me to die in a fire, right? Right?!”

He just laughs as he turns around and walks away, taking the basket out of sight.

“RIGHT?!” You call after him but there’s no response. “Okay, right. Good talk, Chief.”

~*~

When you enter the DHMR office, you’re surprised to find a skeleton sitting at one of the desks; not because he’s not supposed to be there, mind you, but because he is supposed to be there and this particular employee is so rarely where he’s supposed to be at any given time. What’s not so surprising to you is that the skeleton is asleep.

“Good morning, Sans.” You step closer to him, gently prodding at his shoulder. No response. “Hey. Sans, my sweet prince, my morning ray of sunshine, the apple of my eye. It’s time for you to wake up. It’s a beautiful day outside. Birds are singing. Flowers are blooming…”

You bend down, making sure your lips are just inches away from where his ears would be if he were a human.

“On days like these, guys like you… SHOULD BE AWAKE AT WORK!”

He lifts his head up slowly, not seeming all that disturbed by your sudden bout of shouting as he squints up at you from half-closed sockets. “Morning, boss.”

“Sans,” you say, folding your hands across your chest. “What have I told you about sleeping at work?”

“Not to do it.”

“And what were you doing just then?”

“It.”

“And why were you doing it, Sans?”

“Sorry,” he says, not sounding very sorry at all. He stretches his arms over his head and yawns. “Guess I’m just dead tired.”

You ignore the attempt at a joke, mostly because you’re not sure whether or not it would be considered a racist joke by monster standards and you wouldn’t even begin to know how to address that issue. You settle for fixing him with a stern look. “Yes, it must be very exhausting not working all the time.”

Sans folds his arms behind his neck, leaning back in his chair and crossing his legs on top of the desk. “I do work the hardest at not working hard.”

You snort. At least that’s something the both of you can agree upon.

“Well,” you begin, hardened expression fluidly switching back to your default smile. “Now that you’re up, you can get to work on those stacks of papers sitting on your desk that need to be reviewed for accuracy and then filed correctly.”

“Okay.”

“And when you’re finished with that, I want you to make a call out to Superintendent Malone so we can propose our pen pal program between human and monster students.”

“Okay.” Sans’ eye sockets lower. He looks like he’s about to fall asleep again any moment now.

“Also, I need you to head to the new bakery that opened on Main Street and meet with a Ms. Muffet at two this afternoon. We want to promote of the local monster-run businesses in town and I need you to scope the place out for me.”

“Okay.”

“And once that’s all said and done I’m gonna need you to remove the dead hookers from my car’s trunk and dispose of them in the lake.”

“Okay.”

“SANS!” You slam your palm against the desk but he doesn’t even flinch. “Are you listening to me?”

He looks at you with a huge, unapologetic grin. “Sorry, boss. Wish I could say I’m all ears but, in case you couldn’t tell, I haven’t got any.”

Okay, you are really going to need to learn whether that’s considered racist or not.

“Could you please, for once, just do what I asked you to do? Except that last thing. I can’t stress enough about how much that last thing was a joke. Please don’t check my trunk.” They must never know.

“I dunno. Seems like these kinds of tasks would be better suited for Rachel.”

“Yes, they would be, and I when I want something done I would normally pick Rachel over you any given day of the week. Unfortunately, Rachel is not here right now because she’s currently in class getting a college education so that when I leave this position to be President of this great nation, she can fill in for me and be your boss instead. Meanwhile, everyone else is away from the office either on vacation or out with the flu. You are literally my last choice.”

“Huh.” He scratches his jawbone. “So I guess that makes me your bonely option.”

“Do you even take this job seriously?”

Sans arches his brow. “Is that a trick question, boss?”

You want to scream.

You want to scream and tear your hair from your scalp and flip his desk and grab the water cooler from the corner of the room and toss it through the window. But you don’t do any of those things because you’re a professional. Instead, you take a deep breath, mentally recite the beginnings of the US Constitution until your lungs are burning, and release it.

“You okay, boss?” His tone sounds concerned but the widening of his grin suggests otherwise. “Didn’t mean to get under your skin.”

You inhale sharply though your teeth, offering no explanation as you turn on your heel, and barge into the office of Reggie Williams, head and Director of the Department of Human Monster Relations. He’s in the process of solving a Sudoku puzzle when you slam your hands flat on his desk.

“We have to talk about Sans.”

“Okay.” Reggie pushes his puzzle to the side and leans back in his office chair. “What about him?”

“He needs to go.”

“Already?” Reggie raises an eyebrow. “But he just got in today. Did he catch that virus that’s been going around?”

“No, I mean he has to go. As in, we need to get rid of him. ASAP.”

Reggie’s eyebrow lowers. “We can’t fire Sans.”

“Why not?” you shout. “He’s lazy, unmotivated, and disrespectful. Half the time he doesn’t even bother to show up to work. And when he does deign to grace us with his presence, half of that time he’s goofing off.”

“Which makes him at least twice as productive as the average government employee.”

“I’m being serious.”

“So am I.” He folds his hands together, fingers interlocking as he rests them under his chin. “How do you think it would look if the Department of Human Monster Relations fires one of its first and only monster employees? The City Manager is already breathing down my neck to hire on another monster employee. You’d have better luck just finding another monster candidate to pick up his slack.” He leans forward in his chair. “Besides, I like Sans. He makes me laugh.”

“You can’t keep people around because they make you laugh.”

“Why not? That’s the number one reason why I keep you around. I personally find your nervous breakdowns hilarious.”

“I don’t have nervous breakdowns! I’m always calm and collected and one hundred percent in control of my faculties!” you shout as you sweep your arm out across his desk, knocking over his nameplate as well as several picture frames. “…I’ll pick those right up.”

Your boss sighs heavily as you get down on your knees on the floor. “Look, even if I wanted to fire him—which I don’t—it wouldn’t just be up to me. I could make the referral—which I won’t—but that kind of decision would ultimately be up to the City Manager. And, considering Sans is the first monster to work in government and, given the nature of our own department, getting rid of him is absolutely out of the question.”

You stand up, picture frames and name plaque in your arms and frown on your face.

“Face it, friend. Firing Sans would be a PR nightmare.”

You drop everything back on his desk with a loud clatter. “But he’s the worst,” you groan.

“He’s not that bad,” your boss shrugs. “He might lack the drive and enthusiasm that you have for the job, but in some ways the two of you are very alike.”

You jab a pointed finger in his face. “You take that back!”

Reggie smiles at you in a placating way, placing a hand on your wrist and slowly lowering your arm. “I think, deep down, you see some of yourself in Sans. That’s why you’re so hard on him; because you hold him to the same standards you hold yourself.”

“The only standards I hold him to are that of a productive member of society.” You cross your arms over your chest. “And he’s failing miserable.”

“I know the two of you butt heads, but how about you give him a chance first? Instead of trying to get the guy fired, just make him get to work.”

“And how am I supposed to do that? He has zero motivation.”

“Part of your job is to figure that out.” He shrugs. “I would suggest you find something to motivate him.”

You perk up. “The threat of losing one’s job is usually a good motivator.”

“Nice try. Find something else.”

Easier said than done. The most motivated you’ve ever seen Sans since you’ve met him is when the vending machine in the break room stocked ketchup-flavored potato chips for a limited time.

Still, maybe your boss is right. Maybe you are too hard on Sans. And, yeah, maybe part of the reason you are is because you see he’s incredibly bright and full of untapped potential and you’re just frustrated with him because you know he can be so much more.

But yelling at him won’t change anything. You need to act, not as a boss, but as a mentor. To help him discover his talents and abilities and to guide him along a career path that will benefit not only him, but every citizen of Ebotton.

What Sans needs most now is a patient and gentle hand to help nudge him in the right direction and, damn it, you will be that hand.

When you exit Reggie’s office, Sans is nowhere to be found. All that’s left of him is a sheet of notebook paper with a messily-scrawled, out on break, next to a crappy doodle of a cartoon-looking bone snapped in half.

Your patient and gentle hand crushes the paper into a ball and chucks it straight into the rubbish bin.

“He’s dead to me.”

Chapter Text

After another nervous breakdown and a pep talk from Reggie Williams, you decide that you’re not quite ready to give up on Sans. If all it took was a couple jokes and a little insubordination to bring you down then you would’ve given up on this town a long time ago.

But you believe in this town and all its inhabitants; even little potential-squandering skeleton monsters that get a kick out of pushing your buttons.

You’ll find Sans and not only will you make him work; you’ll make him like it.

Using the resources allotted to you, you look up Sans’ address and go straight to his home. No, it’s not weird. No, you’re not overreacting or abusing your power. Yes, there are more productive things you could be doing but gosh darn it you are going to mentor Sans into being a great public worker even if it kills you.

You follow the pleasant-sounding robot lady voice of your car’s GPS as it instructs you to take a left into a friendly-looking cul-de-sac and pull into the driveway of one of the houses.

You step out of your car, shut the door behind you, and stare up at the home with a raised eyebrow.

All and all, it’s a nice-looking home. Two stories, impressive size, aesthetically-pleasing landscaping, though the décor is questionable. The Christmas lights strung along the house’s roof are equal parts typical and baffling because, while you can see Sans as the type of person to leave the lights up for many months after the holiday has passed, you still find it hard to believe he’d make the effort to hang them in the first place.

With loins girded and excessive mental preparation, you approach the house and knock on the door quietly.

No answer.

You knock a little louder and yield the same results.

“Sans!” You slam your fist against the door. “Sans, open up! I know you live here! Your name is on the mailbox! SAAAANNNNS!”

You hear some shuffling from inside and the door is opened by a skeleton, but not the skeleton you were expecting to see. This skeleton is tall, lean, and sporting a large sun hat, bright red gloves, and a pink apron stained with dirt.

“Thank you for stopping by, but we don’t want to hear about Joseph Smith today. Have a nice day!” And with that, the door slams back shut.

“Oh, no, I’m not a Mormon,” you shout through the door. “I’m the Deputy Director of the Department of Human Monster Relations. Um, does a skeleton named Sans live here?”

The door swings back open and the monster’s sockets widen in recognition. “Oh! You’re the one always making Sans carry you around and then refusing to feed him.”

You blink. “Excuse me?”

“Sans is always talking about how his boss rides him so hard without buying him dinner first, though I personally don’t think giving someone a piggyback ride is worth a meal.” He opens the door all the way and takes a step back. “Come on in! Anyone who’s friends with Sans is surely cool enough to be friends with The Great Papyrus!”

You wouldn’t consider yourself and Sans friends by any stretch of the imagination but you don’t bother to correct him. You step inside and allow The Great Papyrus to lead you through his house and into his kitchen.

“Please, feel free to rest your squishy human bottom in one of our seating apparatuses,” he says, arm sweeping out and gesturing to a couple stools by the kitchen counter.

“That’s okay, I’ll stand.”

“You don’t like sitting either, huh? That’s fine!” He removes the sun hat and apron and turns to hang them by a hook near the backdoor. He keeps the gloves on. “I’m not a fan of sitting myself. Much like sleeping and breathing, it’s a huge waste of time when you could be doing much more productive things with your life!”

“Speaking of, I hope I’m not interrupting anything important.”

“Oh, no,” the skeleton waves at the air. “I was just planting some tomatoes in the back yard. Tomato sauce is much more delicious when you tenderly raise the produce yourself before pulverizing them into a pasty submission. I think it’s the sense of betrayal that makes them especially tasty!”

“So, The Great Papyrus—”

“You can just call me Papyrus,” he interrupts. “Because calling people by a shortened version of their name and title is a cute thing that friends do! Also, the greatness is implied.”

“Yes, well, Papyrus,” you amend. “You wouldn’t happen to know where Sans is right now, would you?”

Papyrus scowls. “Let me guess; that lazybones brother of mine is shirking his duties once again?”

You lean your elbow against the kitchen countertop, your cheek against your open palm. “He does this a lot?”

“Try constantly!” Papyrus gives the distinct impression of rolling his eyes in spite of not actually having eyeballs. “Sans has always been the type to give the minimum amount of effort since way before we came to the surface. Making snow lumps instead of snowmen, setting up Junior Jumbles instead of elaborate self-made puzzles, and, worst of all, telling silly and unfunny puns instead of performing hilarious japes!”

You nod your head in understanding. Because if there’s one thing about this conversation that you do understand, it’s being frustrated with Sans. “Do you have any clue where he is now?” you ask.

“If I had to guess, he’s probably goofing off at one of his other three jobs as we speak.”

“Other three…” You pause, going over the words in your head a second time to make sure you hadn’t misheard. “Papyrus, how many jobs does your brother have?”

“Four, including his job with you. Then when he gets home from work, all he ever wants to do is lie around the house and sleep a solid eight hours every night like a lazybones!” Papyrus looks at you expectantly.

“That’s… awful?” you hazard a guess.

“It is!” he agrees wholeheartedly. “We used to work on puzzles together every night before arriving on the surface, but now, well…” he trails off.

Oh no, he looks like he’s going to cry. Kind of? It’s hard to tell without him actually having tear ducts but his head is hanging low and his shoulders are slumped and you swear you hear something that sounds like a sniffle.

“Um.” You awkwardly pat his upper back. “There, there.”

That awkward, half-hearted attempt to comfort is enough to move Papyrus to pull you into a full-bodied hug, his ribs pressing painfully into your chest as he picks you up and spins you around in his enthusiasm.

“Human!” he cheers, spinning you around once more. “Thank you! Your gentle attempts at stunted flirtation to try and distract me from my melancholy are appreciated but entirely unnecessary! Also, while I am flattered by your obvious attraction, I must inform you that I am not currently looking for a relationship.”

“But, I wasn’t—”

“And while I may not be able to return your affections, surely I can help to return my brother to his post!” He sets you back down on the floor, offering a gentle pat to the top of your head before posing dramatically with his leg raised, foot planted on the seat of one of the kitchen stools, and index finger pointed towards the heavens. “Onwards!” he shouts before diving through the closed kitchen window, sending shattered shards of glass flying as he rolls onto the front lawn.

“Oh my God!” You rush towards the front door, throwing it open as you head straight for the skeleton sprawled across the grass. “Papyrus, are you okay?!”

He quickly picks himself up, brushing bits of glass off his clothes. You watch in horror as he sticks his fingers into his left eye socket and pulls out a particularly large sliver of glass.

“Do you need me to call 911?!”

“Worry not, newest friend!” he laughs as he flicks the glass away. “With me on your side, we’ll find my bumbling brother in no time!”

“That’s not why I’m…” You pause, collecting yourself. “You realize you just jumped through glass, right?”

“As I am in most things in life, I’m a most proficient jumper,” Papyrus answers, brushing off your concern with a puff of his chest. He then proceeds to bend down, offering his back to you. “Hop on!”

You make no move to climb on. Papyrus makes no move to stand back up. A woman in a minivan drives past slowly and gives the two of you an odd look and almost drives through a stop sign.

“Papyrus,” you say with a sigh. “I’m not going to climb on your back.”

“WHAT?!?!” He turns his head backwards at an angle just short of one-hundred-eighty degrees and stares at you with the most crestfallen expression you’ve ever witnessed on someone who doesn’t have any skin or muscles. “But I thought you liked piggy-back rides!”

“Not really.”

“Then why are you always making my brother give them to you?!”

“Uhhhh…”

Papyrus stands up, keeping his head facing you as he rotates the rest of his body so that his back is no longer towards you. He places his hands on his hips. “If you can ride my brother then you can ride me!”

One of the elderly neighbors tending to her azaleas turns your way and shakes her head in a disapproving manner. You smile and wave to her until she stops giving you the stink eye long enough to get back to watering her flowers.

You turn back to Papyrus. “If you’re going to say things like that, can you at least say them in an inside voice?”

“But… we’re not inside?”

He’s got a point.

“Look, it’s very, um… nice of you to offer, but I don’t need a ride. I brought my car,” you tell him as you gesture towards the vehicle currently parked in his driveway.

Papyrus looks at your car with a skeptical eye socket. “Nonsense! There’s no need to waste the gas, friend! The Great Papyrus is faster than anything on less than seven wheels!” That’s oddly specific. “I’m also much more comfortable and energy-efficient.”

Papyrus’ back doesn’t look very comfortable but you decide not to tell him that. Instead, you rack your brain for any other excuse you can think of to prevent you from being carried around like a child. Because you’re a respected member of this community with an important position and you can’t be seen riding on someone’s back even if it does sound kind of fun.

“You know what? I think I’ll just walk. I could use the exercise,” you say with a shrug.

You must’ve said something right because his entire face lights up. “Aha! A fellow fitness enthusiast?! I should have known! If exercise is what you need, then how about we jog instead? That way we’ll burn more calories and cover ground much faster!”

You beam at Papyrus. “That’s a great idea.”

It’s a terrible idea.

Two blocks later and you’re drenched in sweat, breathing ragged, and your shoes are committing unspeakable tortures upon the soles of your feet. If you dropped dead right now, you think you’d be okay with it.

Papyrus, on the other hand, hasn’t even broken a sweat. You think it has less to do with the fact that he doesn’t have sweat glands and more to do with the fact that he is secretly powered by Duracell batteries because he just keeps going and going and going.

Before this day, you’ve never met another person who could match your energy and enthusiasm but Papyrus is in a league of his own. You bet if everyone you worked with had even half of Papyrus’ drive then a lot more would get accomplished around the office.

“C’mon, human, pick up the pace!” Papyrus says as he jogs literal circles around you. “My brother could be slacking off halfway across the world by now!”

You intend to respond to that with an enthusiastic, You got it, chief! and a thumbs up. Instead, what comes out of your mouth is a long string of throaty noises that sound more akin to dry-heaving than words.

“Human, do you need a break? Maybe some water?” He pulls a couple bottles of water out from under his shirt, holding one of them out to you.

You stare at the bottle in wonder. Was he just storing them in his ribcage? Is that normal for skeletons? And, if so, what sorts of things has Sans been smuggling inside his chest?

That line of thought is interrupted by Papyrus shaking a bottle two inches away from your face. “It’s very important to stay hydrated!” he shouts, wiggling the bottle some more for extra emphasis.

You accept the proffered water bottle and gulp down about half before pouring the remainder of its contents over your head. Your suit is already done-for anyhow.

Fully hydrated, you and Papyrus continue to move forward though, this time, at a casual walking pace. Well, you walk casually. Papyrus is, well, not quite jogging in place because he’s moving the same distance as you but he’s certainly exerting a disproportionate amount of energy for the amount of ground you’re covering.

“Hey, Papyrus, can I ask you a question?”

“You just did!” he laughs cheerily, arms pumping and legs being raised higher than necessary even for jogging. “But feel free to ask more. The Great Papyrus is an infinite source of wisdom and Mettaton-themed trivia.”

“Do you know why your brother works so many jobs?”

“Probably because we couldn’t live without all the extra income!”

You pause mid-step.

Papyrus keeps talking. “Most people around here don’t like to hire monsters and they especially don’t want to hire me for some strange reason. I think it’s because they’re intimidated by how cool I am. Also, job interviews are very nerve-wracking and I tend to scream when I’m nervous. So until I find an employer who appreciates my special set of skills, Sans has to work these jobs to earn paper money because apparently spaghetti is not considered a form of currency.”

“That’s terrible.”

“I know! What kind of backwards civilization doesn’t recognize pasta as legal tender?! I mean, honestly.”

The rest of the walk consists of Papyrus listing the many benefits of having a noodle-based economy. You quietly bob your head up and down as he goes into the finer details of replacing pennies with penne, too distracted to pay the words much mind.

Papyrus has moved on to explaining the architectural properties of uncooked pasta shells when the two of you spot Sans sitting behind a hotdog stand at the entrance of the Ebotton Public Park.

“Hey bro,” Sans greets before the lights in his eyes shift towards you. His brow furrows briefly, possibly surprised to see you with his brother. The look is gone as soon as it appeared and he grins up at you as he holds a hot dog out to you. “Hey boss. Wanna’ dog?”

“Do you even have a vendor’s permit?” you ask.

“Is that a no? Shame. It’s a real wiener.”

“…And you’re handling food without wearing gloves.” You cross your arms over your chest. “If you think I want to eat that, then you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“Doggone it, boss, no need to be so ruff. It’s bad enough you’re always hounding me.”

Papyrus’ sockets narrow. “If I knew this was going to turn out with the two of you assaulting me with puns, I don’t think I would have helped you find my brother, new friend.”

“Don’t listen to my bro; he loves it. Just look at that smile.”

“I’m not smiling! My jaw is always like that!”

“Don’t you mean jaw ways?”

“GAH!”

“Sans, let me be frank,” you begin, interrupting Papyrus’ screams of indignant anguish and ignoring the way Sans’ grin widens at your words. “I didn’t come here for small talk and bad jokes.”

“Okay, Frank, then why’d you come here?”

“I guess I just had to see this for myself. Never in my wildest imaginations would I have thought you were skipping work to work. And apparently you have two other jobs.” You heave your shoulders. “It’s no wonder you’re completely useless at work.”

“What are you talking about? A sleeping skeleton has plenty of uses. Paper weight, attractive table centerpiece, an emergency floatation device in case of a flood—”

“Sans,” you cut him off. “If you want to continue to work at the DHMR, you’re going to have to quit your other jobs.”

That wipes the smile right off his face.

The whites of Sans’ eyes dim so low that it looks like he’s staring you down with empty sockets. It is one of the most terrifying looks that have ever been directed your way, second only to Rachel’s scowl right after you hugged her when you were first introduced.

“I can’t do that, boss.” he tells you, shoulders tense and voice eerily calm.

Never have you been more thankful to be wearing dark pants.

“You’ll have to,” you tell him, hands folded behind your back and sounding much calmer than you feel. “Either that or you’ll lose your office position. Our policies are pretty strict about multiple jobs if they’re affecting your performance, which they clearly are. How many part time jobs would it take to equal that? Three more?”

A trail of sweat beads down the side of Sans’ scalp.

“Of course, we’ll probably have to hire someone else because making sure you do your job is a full-time job in itself, complete with benefits such as health insurance and paid vacation time.”

You turn towards Papyrus who has been twiddling his fingers and uncharacteristically silent during your and Sans’ exchange.

“You have a lot of experience picking up Sans’ slack, right?”

“Do I ever!” The tall skeleton puffs out his chest as he places his gloved hands on his hips. “I pick up his slacks all the time. And his shirts. And sometimes even his socks!”

“Wow, you’re almost over-qualified. Of course, nothing’s set in stone because the decision-making isn’t all up to me, but I’d say you have a very good chance of getting the position.”

You turn back to Sans. He’s still not grinning but the lights have returned back to his eye sockets.

“Sans, I know you have trouble following orders but do you think you could use the rest of your work hours helping Papyrus with his résumé?”

“Uh… yeah.” His shoulders relax. You can’t quite read the look he’s giving you though you guess it’s either suspicion or curiosity. “I think I could do that.”

You nod your head. “I expect to see it on my desk bright and early tomorrow.”

You don’t wait around for his response. You offer Papyrus a parting farewell before setting to retrieve your car. When you’re out of hearing distance, you pull out your phone, scrolling through your contacts until you find who you’re looking for. You hit dial.

The call is answered by the second ring.

“Hey, Reggie, the city manager still wants us to hire another monster, right?”

You pause long enough to let him answer.

“Good,” you smile. “I’d like to give a recommendation.”