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Gunpowder and Rose Petals

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Reaper couldn’t help fidgeting as he stared at himself in the mirror, his outfit was just so uncomfortable! Gone were his usual loose black metal band T-shirt, dark wash jeans with ragged hems, and oversized black hoodie. In their place were a too tight black three piece suit, stiff white shirt, cyan noose tie around his neck, and shoes. If Reaper thought he could get away with it he’d just go barefoot like usual, but that wouldn’t go with the expensive suit Geno had gotten him. Reaper gave one last swipe at imaginary dirt on the suit, took a deep breath, then walked over to the door. He opened it to find his datefriend waiting for him in the hall.

The way Geno’s eye sockets hooded and his pips glittered as he looked Reaper up and down was worth it.

Geno, himself wearing a suit very similar to Reaper’s but with a powder blue shirt and a black tie with little bones in a zigzag pattern over it, ambled closer with a soft grin on his round face as he reached up to straighten Reaper’s lapels. “You look good, it suits you.”

Reaper snorted, “You think it fits my style?”

“Like it’s tailor made.” Geno added on a wink, then pulled a familiar card stock box from his inventory. Reaper should recognize it, he’d helped pack them up and bring the whole lot here earlier that day. “Can’t forget the finishing touch.” He opened the box to reveal a single white rosebud with a couple little indigo delphinium under it and a spray of greenery to back the whole thing, an exact match for the one on Geno’s lapel. Geno pinned it to Reaper’s lapel, then gave the suit one more pat before looping his arm through Reaper’s and pulling him down the hall. “We should get going, I’m sure the others are ready by now. Pops will get cranky if we make him late.”

Reaper suppressed a shudder, the last thing he wanted to do was get on the bad side of Geno’s tall, imposing father. “Are we all riding in the same car?”

Geno chuckled, “No, there’s way too many of us for that. But Pops wants us all to arrive together regardless, so we’re all leaving together.”

“That makes sense.” Between Geno’s brothers, their dates, and their father that was a lot of people to try to jam into one car, and the Gaster family didn’t seem to be the type to use a big van like the bun family that lived next door to Reaper’s childhood home.

As they descended the stairs they got their first glimpse of the others. It was a dazzling array of sparkling jewels and shimmering black that would have left Reaper feeling under dressed if he hadn’t let Geno insist on buying him a suit. Every single last one of them had a boutonniere or corsage to match the ones Reaper and Geno were wearing.

“Ah, there you are,” Mr. Gaster, looking very elegant in his long, slim, black dress that seemed to have little crystals sprinkled over it and trailing a short train behind it, said as they got to the last step. “Fashionably late, I see.”

Reaper ducked his head and was about to start apologizing for being unfamiliar with the fiddly little intricacies of formal wear when Geno simply blew past him. “We aren’t even the last ones ready, where are Error and his air headed boyfriend?”

“Right behind you, asshole.”

Reaper turned to look behind them and immediately regretted it. Like always Error was dressed in eye searing shades of dark blue, yellow, and red. Surprisingly the cut of his dress was rather fashionable, a strapless top attached to a long, slim skirt with a second half skirt/butt cape thing that billowed around him, even if the shiny black most of it was made from made Reaper wince. Then he squinted at Error’s feet. “Are those high heeled flip flops?”

“Of course,” Error replied with his usual arrogance. “Unlike some people I know what looks good AND is comfortable.”

Then Reaper noticed Error’s date’s feet, nothing but socks with the toe and heel cut off. Reaper was scandalized! “No fair, how come he doesn’t have to wear shoes?”

“Ink’s not wearing a suit,” Geno replied placidly.

He wasn’t, he was wearing a huge tan scarf that trailed behind him like a cape, some sort of structured crop top, a pleated brown skirt that came down to his shins, and a pair of weird gloves that were fingerless except for the pinkie, which was teal. The outfit left his lower ribs and spine bare, showing off the matte black swoops and swirls that ran over his bones. Reaper himself may not really care about fashion, but working at The Secret Garden he’d seen enough sharply dressed people pulling together some formal event or another to know these two were dressed in aggressively fashionable clothes.

Reaper was getting more jealous, if he could look good and be comfortable he didn’t see why he or Geno were bothering with formal suits, the way Geno usually ran around in a track suit it seemed he liked being comfortable.

“If we’re quite done, the cars are waiting.” Mr. Gaster raised a brow ridge at them, then started herding the lot of them out the front door. Outside four gleaming black cars, each with a monster in a black uniform standing next to the open back door, were lined up and waiting for them. Now came the weird part, for some reason they went in the opposite order than Reaper would expect. He would think that Mr. Gaster as the oldest would take the first car, but instead it was Mercy at the head of the line.

Resplendent in his tuxedo jacket, complete with crisp white shirt and smart bowtie, and fluffy black skirt Mercy had to carefully gather and lift to get into his car, showing off black leather dress shoes. Followed by his date, a monster wearing some kind of strappy, drapey, flowy shirt and matching suit pants that stopped just short of their strappy high heeled shoes.

The next car was for Error and Ink. Error hefted his skirts up and climbed in, Ink hopped in right after. Then Ink seemed to be pushed out, arms and legs wheeling as he stumbled back and tried to keep upright. “Wait until I’m settled!” Error yelled out the door.

“Wait a minute,” Reaper said to Geno, “are those actually pants?!”

“Huh, guess they are.”

“Seriously, why am I in a suit? That looks way more comfortable.”

“Because you don’t have to design a suit, haute couture takes a lot of time and effort and going back and forth with the designer and agonizing over fabrics and whether it should be crimson or scarlet and just ugh. Though since Error just designs his own stuff I guess he kinda skips that step.”

“Wait, are all of Error’s clothes custom made?”

“Well yeah, you think you can find any of that on a rack? C’mon, we’re holding up the line.” Geno slipped into their car and Reaper followed.

The drive to the Fourside Convention Hall was relatively short and smooth, they pulled up to find the whole building lit up with spotlights. After enduring a gauntlet of flashing cameras, the group walked into the hall together, Reaper gasped. About half the room was filled with round tables and elegant chairs, each with elegant place settings and elegant floral arrangements Reaper was sure Life would adore. The rest of the room was open space with long tables that seemed to be topped with lots of random things lining the far wall. Most of the crowd seemed to be milling about the long tables, while the empty space already had a few people in it dancing to the music he couldn’t see the source of.

Reaper pointed at the tables, “Do you think anyone would mind if I took pictures?”

Geno looked towards where he was pointing, “I guess not? I mean, the paparazzi’s here so one more guy taking pictures wouldn’t mean much, but uh… some might not like it????”

“I mean the arrangements, Life would love to see them.”

“Oh. Oh! Yeah, let’s go take some pictures while they’re fresh and there won’t be a lot of people in the background.”

They headed for the tables, then around to take some pictures of some other arrangements around the room. As they headed towards the far wall with the long tables Reaper noticed Karma talking to a skeleton Reaper hadn’t met before. They were taller than Karma, had sharp teeth, horns, and a long, thick tail. They were also wearing a fancy suit, but with a deep red vest and tie over a black shirt. Their jacket was left open and was that a holster? Surely not, there was no way someone would bring something like that to an event like this. Karma picked up the other skeleton’s hand and put it to his teeth before tucking it into the crook of his arm and pulling them other away.

“Does Karma have a datefriend?”

Geno looked across the room, when his pips fell on Karma and the stranger his sockets narrowed. “Well now, that’s an interesting choice if he is.”

“Uh oh, is that someone he shouldn’t be dating?”

“Kinda, it’s complicated.” They watched the pair slip away through the crowd. “It’s more like he should have told us before getting caught canoodling in such a public place. I’ll have to talk to him about it. After tonight though, for now how about we go check out what’s up for auction? Gotta think of the children.” Geno pulled Reaper towards the row of long tables along the far wall.

“So how’s this auction going to work? Are we going to bid while we eat? I don’t think I saw any ping pong paddles.”

“Ping pong paddles? What?” Geno laughed as they continued their leisurely walk to the other end of the room. “It’s a silent auction, everyone already downloaded the app and set up an account, we just scan the QR codes of the items we want to keep track of and place bids that way. The bidding ends when dinner starts.”

“Oh, that makes sense.” They had arrived at the tables by that point so Reaper leaned forward a little to read the description of the first item, a large-ish white vase with blue details painted over the whole thing and a few green gems inset. Sure enough at the bottom of the description was a QR code. “Huh.”

“You like it?”

“What? The vase?” Reaper looked the vase over, it certainly looked pretty. He kind of wondered what kinds of bouquets Life would put in them. Then again the bidding was set to start at ₲8 million and that seemed like far too much to ask Geno to spend on something that Reaper wouldn’t even want for himself. “I think that’s more Life’s thing than mine, what else is up for auction?”

They moved down the line, passing over a bird statue, an ornate cup, and a set of six candy colored gemstones, until Reaper stopped. The item they were looking at was just a photograph of a small table with candles and two wine glasses and two place settings set on a pastel purple tablecloth. Geno leaned against Reaper to get a better look, causing something hard and cold to press against Reaper’s humerus. Weird, that wasn’t bone. “Dinner for two at Madame Muffet’s, huh?”

Reaper’s maxilla dusted faintly with blue magic, “It sounds romantic.”

“It does,” Geno agreed as he held out his phone and scanned the QR code. “See anything else you want? There’s more guests than prizes, it’s best to pick a couple if you want to actually take something home.”

“If something else catches my eye socket I’ll let you know.” They continued down the line, Reaper trying valiantly not to pay any attention to what was listed as the starting bid for the items. This was a charity for a children’s hospital, that money was all going to a good cause. While nothing else had jumped out at Reaper yet Geno was scanning codes pretty regularly, including a yacht. Well Fourside was right next to the ocean, Geno might like going on a cruise. Reaper stopped in front of a sports car, “Would it be terrible to ask for a gift for my brother?” It was a deep red, but he was sure Respite would love the thing no matter what color it was.

“I think it’s sweet,” Geno said as he scanned that one too.

Reaper blushed, then pulled Geno to the next item. By the end of the line Reaper had picked out a fancy camera and mic set up, and a week at a resort halfway up Mt. Ebott as things for Geno to bid on. Reaper’s pretty sure Geno scanned half the prizes, but if it made him happy then Reaper wasn’t going to complain.

“So, now what?” Reaper asked as they ambled away from the auction section.

“Now we just hang out until the bidding’s done.” Geno motioned to a large LED display that was counting down. “Mostly at things like this we just mingle for a while, do a little dancing…”

Reaper laughed nervously, “Dancing? No way, I can’t dance.”

“It’s not that hard, c’mon. Half a dance won’t kill us.” Geno pulled them a short ways onto the dance floor, practically off to the side and well out of the way of the rest of the guests smoothly waltzing across the dance floor. Then he turned so he and Reaper were facing each other, “Just put your hand here…” Geno moved Reaper’s hand to rest just under his scapulae, rested his own hand on Reaper’s shoulder, then took up his free hand. “There we go, now just follow my lead.”

“Uh, ok.” Reaper wasn’t sure how well he’d do, some of the other guests were spinning and strutting around the dance floor like it was Dancing with the Stars, there was no way Reaper could do that.

Geno started swaying in place, slowly shifting his weight from one foot to the other and back again. Reaper started swaying with him. “That’s it, see? And if we want to get really fancy…” Geno started lifting his feet a little with every sway, slowly moving them in a circle.

Reaper couldn’t help laughing, of course Geno wouldn’t want to go strutting about on the dance floor like the others. “This is nice.”

“Yeah, you’re probably the best dance partner I’ve ever had.”

“A shame we’re so far apart, though.”

“Well we can always get junior high prom if you want.” Geno slipped his hand out of Reaper’s and moved it to his other shoulder, pulling Reaper closer as he did so. Reaper’s own hands slid down to Geno’s lower back to help pull him closer.

“Karma!” A short skeleton in a powder blue suit with a shirt that seemed to be made entirely of ruffles came bouncing up to them. “Or is it Geno?”

“You got Geno, not sure where Karma got around to.”

“Well either way it’s good to see you. Care to dance? We can trade partners when my brother eventually finds his way here.” The strange skeleton looked behind them, but Reaper couldn’t see who they were talking about.

“Nah, I like this dance partner. And I have no idea where Error is right now.”

“Oh!” The bright cyan stars in the skeleton’s eye sockets spun briefly in place. “So he’s here, wonderful! I’ll just have to go find him then. Thank you, Geno.” Without any further ado the skeleton waved cheerfully, then went bounding off into the sparse crowd gathering around the outer edges of the dance floor.

“Well that was fun,” Geno said. Whatever else he was about to say was interrupted by a buzzing from his pocket. Geno moved to hook their arms and start leading Reaper off the dance floor as he pulled out his phone. “And the bidding has got going, let me just take care of this and then we can mingle for a little while.”

The rest of the evening flowed by surprisingly fast. They danced to a couple more songs, they walked around and chatted to the other attendees, Geno paused to check his phone every time he got outbid. When the bidding was about to end everyone counted down the last few seconds like it was new year’s, then everyone sat down to a fancy meal, Mayor Dreemurr gave a nice little speech, there was a raffle that none of their party won, the winners of the auction were announced (Geno had the winning bid on the dinner and of all things a spa package), and the evening was finished off with the waiters bringing out desserts and the band starting up again as an excuse to keep people around to trickle slowly out rather than rush the exit all at once.

It wasn’t until they were all getting up to head out that Reaper noticed a couple someones were missing. “Where are Error and Ink?”

“They dipped out a while ago,” Karma replied. “You didn’t notice?”

“I thought he and Ink were just dancing or something.”

“Error doesn’t do well in crowds,” Mr. Gaster said as he led them out to the front entrance, the rest of them leaving a wide space for the short train of his dress. “It’s why we take separate cars, the last time we all rode together he ended up locking himself in the human restroom.” The last word was said with so much disgust Reaper was surprised nothing nearby melted. “Honestly I’m surprised he didn’t leave before dinner was served, that was the longest he’s been at an event yet.”

“Yup,” Geno said, popping the P. “And we shouldn’t make a huge deal out of it or it’ll just embarrass him.”

Reaper took that to mean he wasn’t supposed to talk to Error about it, which was fine. Reaper understood social anxiety, even if he didn’t have it on the same level Error apparently did.

Once they were settled in their car and on their way back to Geno’s house, Geno snuggled up to Reaper. “Didja have fun?”

“Yeah,” Reaper replied as he happily pulled Geno closer. “I thought it was going to be stuffy and boring, but it was actually pretty fun.”

“That’s good, I’m glad you had a good time.” Geno snuggled into Reaper’s side. Reaper happily put his arm over his boyfriend’s shoulder and drew him close for the ride home.