Promise you Heaven


People often assumed your parents were bad to you; that you were a result of a parental failure of abuse and negligence culminating in a not-so-great homelife and thus an appropriately attached personality deficit that most your age would summarize as: mean. Yes, you were mean, even in self-admittance. You didn't come to school every few days and get in trouble with the higher administration without recognizing that you were, in yourself, not a very nice person. You have been called, amongst other things accusingly: a bully, a monster (the impolite version of it of course), and, of all things, a trouble maker.

Then again no one occasionally steals someone's home baked pastries during lunch without being mean.

You once thought of, during your more introspective moments in detention, forced to be alone with nothing but your thoughts as you leaned back in the classroom chairs, on why you were this way. Looking up at that familiar ceiling as the dull drone of your alarm going off by your bedside had made you remember the conclusion you had found comforting, after all that time.

Only until very recently you had no friends, no real aim in life save the day by day platitudes and wants of having fun at anybody's expense, and no great escape, be it a future or any thought of it. Most of these were because you were who you were: A mean girl, less interested in school and more interested in just being free.

If that was the case, then that was who you were at your very core. Who were you, out of anybody in that world, to change that? Might as well have accepted it, right?

No one can choose who they are in this world.

Your ceiling fan rotates in its eternal circle above your head on your pullout bed, its shadow extending its presence in the morning light as you instinctively smacked the alarm by your head on the coffee table turned bedside stand. Your room was decorated by your parents, a long, long time ago. Back when they bothered. The remnants of which had still remained hanging by threads over the windows and the frame of the room: Lace and paper flowers in gossamer white, now greyed by time and dust.

Perhaps a testament to a person's non-choice in life culminated in yourself. You weren't planned after all.

You lived in a double wide, out in the sticks of Hometown. Perhaps you would've been at school more often if it hadn't been such a hike, but you don't kid yourself, it was never the distance that made you not go.

Slipping up from your diagonal sleeping posture, the bed barely fitting you already, its creaky springs groaned as you slipped your legs over the side. In the groggy morning state of your mind, you heard one of the few indications that your mother had actually been home:

You and her, you lived on opposite schedules. Night and day had become reversed, the intersection in between the choice moments when, at times, you thought they were present at all in your life. Her presence had been made and heard in the bright and open tone, undercut by metallic strings. Music: her own. Out here in the sticks, the privacy she needed for practice was given, disturbed only by you as the violin down the hall traced notes that you could never be qualified to observe.

The break of wood palettes and the cackle of fire was more your sound.

Ripping and tearing, the violence as given to you by your strength as a monster; it was a part of you, and like everything else, you accepted it as you stretched out your claws. Your scales were somewhat dry, but a shower would do them good, along with, at some point, some filing down of your claws themselves. Their black tips had come under neglect recently, if only because of your lack of care to do anything about it, but you had known better.

Glancing by the base of your sheets, the reason was spilled out: The very area where your feet had lain during the night were shredded by the black tips of your toes.

"Ah shit." Left your dry throat as you punched down a curse, gathering the fabric at your fingers and seeing the remnants of squares and patchwork sewing.

You were a growing girl, no doubt, and the fact your claws were becoming a problem were indicative of about a thousand other things you didn't particularly care to worry for at the moment. As far as creature comforts went, you cared much for them, and losing a blanket that actually fit you all and kept your cold-blooded ass warm? Well, it was a conundrum. You didn't want to hear it from Mom or Dad, assuming Dad was going to be around that week. Mom at the very least had at least sterned you about this. She didn't have time to go shopping around for replacement sheets.

Waking up in a bad mood wasn't a great start, but then again what else was new? It would've gotten even worse if she found out you'd done this, and earful that you had to sustain later.

To think that you were gonna spend all day doing… doing…. Well, nothing, now only for you to go procure a new blanket? At least you were doing nothing on your own terms and that was all you needed in life.

Another cursory look at the clock: It was Tuesday. About an hour before school would begin. You always made a note of that. Playing hooky was easier when everyone's day already started. The co-op where you spent your often ill-gained cash wouldn't open until after school, and, if your memory was any good, you swore that you heard Miss Toriel said she dropped off some of her child's blankets there recently for a donation.

The larger child, that is. The goat woman's own and not-

Your phone went off by your bed, clawing at it as you looked at the notification and who had buzzed it: Kris Dreemurr.

Your interactions with them in the last few weeks had been interesting to say the least. The Dark World did that. What felt like the longest day on Earth for you culminating in an adventure you didn't know you had in you, left unexplained as you further and further gotten away from that day. As if a dream, corporeal and surreal.

Before that your only interaction with the only human in town had been the aforementioned bakery stealing. You've stolen at least forty cakes and pies from the human ever since you started high school together, and, as terrible as it was, they never seemed to put up much fuss about it.

You remembered their brother: a spitting image of their father in their youth according to Dad. Asriel Dreamurr was the star of Hometown, a hero, a handsome (you even worked out your own flame for them at some point) charismatic monster who everyone trusted, and everyone loved. You don't recall if you knew many goats, by name or by recognition, but it was odd to see what you remembered to be their face, younger, on someone else's body. Ralsei. Was there something to that? You didn't much care for the whole of the Dark World, before you saw the goat boy's face in the light, but yet…

You wanted to go back the day after immediately with Kris, their expression unreadable upon seeing what, for all intents and purposes, was their brother again after quite a bit. That much you had empathy for them. No such tomorrow came though. The store closet was empty of its magic, the world shut off from you and them.

How long had you searched? Hours? Days afterwards to try and think of some solution, some doorway back as if it was one of the many puzzles down there.

After a while though, Kris had called it off. They remembered their explanation and their cool-headed tone: If Ralsei needed us again, they would find a way to get us back, right?

You agreed, but that left you then. Just you two.

No words, no agreement, but an understanding in the days following. It was at school, finally having to accept the fact you needed to do Alphys' project; you still had no interest, but it was a comforting pretext to have in leading Kris around town. You didn't know why you offered to get outta school during lunch and time devoted to the project, maybe it was just so you could have an alibi that Kris could make up about what you were doing (the library would've been a good excuse) as you were instead kicking around alleys and backyards, just doing about anything you wanted. They seemed to enjoy it, if you read their face right. They seemed so natural in playing hookey. Then again, what you had heard of them beforehand? Asides from the fact they was quiet, they had been a prankster unto themselves. Some of their stunts had gotten a laugh out of you. Mentioning that one day as you threw pebbles at raccoons, they had brought you along on something they were brewing for a while.

Your perception of double-sided tape hadn't been the same since.

Of all the things you did with Kris it was summarized in this: You tried having a friend for once, and, as far as you could recall, so did Kris. You did it together.

You opened up the text on your flip phone, biting off the tip of your thumb's claw to blunt it before typing away to respond. They had gotten up early today.

Nerd, you typed accusingly. Want to get to school early too?

They had responded back pretty fast, fast enough for you to be half a leg into your jeans as the phone rung again. You could deal without a shower today. Forecast said rain anyway. You rose an eyebrow as you fully took in their response though.

They just wanted to see if you wanted to hang a bit, outside of school, get some breakfast?

That- that was a thing friends did at your age, right?

Sure. I'm heading out now.

You had an intersection you met at, leading into town, it went past the school actually, you living on opposite sides of town as them, but they made the journey. You didn't realize until very recently they did take that time to meet you, to walk the way back. It wasn't the warmth of your heater that morning that made you feel your cheeks as again, you realized that. A kindness extended to you you didn't know what to do with, or what it meant to you. Someone being nice to you was… new. Not out of complacency or fear, but rather, just because you were you.

Had you been so starved of friendship that when you did have something of it, it made your heart soft… made you soft?

As long as you didn't think about it you'd be fine, you figured. Nothing deeper to look into, right?

The ruined sheets were jumbled into a ball by you, thrown into your meek closet as you held your breath, slipping on your usual attire for a day as the creaking sound of your door was pushed open by you.

The sound of your mother's music had amplified at that moment, unblocked.

There she was as you walked out into the hallway toward the kitchen, the rather messy house you kept on-display as, despite all of the domestic squalor, an element of grace:

She was a dragon, much like yourself, and the age difference between you two would've made people question a lot of things about your family (which was to say she had given birth to you young). You got your hair from her: the straight (yet unkempt for you) locks that cascaded down your shoulders. She had kept hers in a bun, an exquisite one at that. Her scales had bordered on grey however, giving her a certain classy greyscale that you had thought was dreadful, but again, it was your mother.

The bow of her violin danced as she played the song of an upcoming performance. Your mother was a violinist in a not-so-local orchestra. You never cared for the terminology, but she was Third Chair for her section, whatever that meant. She was Third Chair for a while, and you saw the distaste in her eyebrow every day you actually were up at the same time and spoke passing words to each other. She was a musician by any other name, throwing herself fully into her craft, no matter what that meant; even you. She had practiced almost every moment she was home. The music, which you had assumed was at least good, after all those years, had been toned out of your head. Her back was to you, the dress she wore wrinkled, and yet shining all the same with her scales as she sat in the morning light, her pedestal hosting the sheets to the next performance. Her tail had been like her own metronome, pacing back and forth. Vaguely you felt your own wag in imitation, only for you to quit that.

She traveled with the orchestra, often times leaving you alone at the house for days. A cursory peek at the fridge; again, she had forgotten to get any sort of groceries. Takeout instead had inhabited in cartons and in rolled up bags. Another morning you might've indulged that. You had breakfast with Kris instead. Still, the lingering annoyance of not having anything worth cooking (and you did, despite your habits, enjoy a proper meal from time to time) had made you shut the fridge door unkindly, reverberating the room all the way to-

"Suzanne!" Your mother's voice was hoarse as she snapped at you, her cadence off now, violin held at resting.

"Sorry, sheesh!" You immediately recoiled, one hand up.

The fire in her eyes had been the one that you, inwardly, knew where your attitude came from. For someone in such a dainty profession as hers, she had a temper. "You know the November Recital is coming up!"

"I know, I know." You responded, breathing out tiredly even though you had just woken up. People imagined you to be constantly fighting with your parents. It seemed to fit you. It was a cruelty then, that it hadn't been the truth. You were good at fighting, verbal, physical, every way in between. You had done so all your life. But with your parents? It was emotionally draining, so you didn't bother.

The claw marks on her violin were long pressed into them as a trademark, and again, they were dug in just a little deeper that morning. "Your bastard father is up my ass about alimony, and we need the bonus from playing next week."

You and Kris, you didn't bond in ways you expected. It took a long while to even realize that you had been bonding with them, and by the time you did know, it was too late. You didn't bond like most people did: with a life being shared, in cliché phone call sessions or childhood stories. You were both in the latter-half of High School, such options, not necessarily denied to you, but rather frivolous. Your bonding then, just as it started, came in coincidences.

Divorced parents were something that had made both of you look a little more softly at each other, both in retrospect, and now. Something in common.

You called them a freak, and yet, you shared something. More than that even.

She hesitated on beginning again, rolling back her music sheets as you made your way to the door. This was the first time you'd seen your mother all week, and, hopefully, the last time in a while, but she called out to you, in a snide voice.

"Actually going to school now, dear? Something I should know?"

The Dark World. Somewhat improving grades (if not because you had been piggybacking off of Kris). A Best Friend. Destroyed sheets. Tons of things, and yet-

"Nothing. Bye."

Rolling the cuffs of your green and beige sweater, it offered a momentary distraction from the elephant in the room. The one that had been there for the last several weeks. Routine was always a good thing in your life, and ultimately sweeter now that your future was on the precipice. Of course, out of High School off to university, just like-

You glance at me.

I wasn't an elephant, to be fair. An elephant doesn't fit in a bird cage, and you knew what circus animals deserved to be in cages after OUR adventure down there, with you in the Dark.

You've been getting up on time, nowadays, if not even half an hour earlier. I mean it's not I have much to do than just sit here and watch you, see who you are.

Your name is Kris.

Behind your scruffy bangs, brown and full, you took a few labored steps toward me before squatting. You say you know what your name is. You hear me, from time to time, most of it you ignore, but you chime in now. Which was an improvement.

"Of course." I respond, "But do you know who you are?"

How many times have we been through this conversation? I don't remember, time got blurry for me, my hereness, and all that, it's been odd. Being kept in captivity like this hasn't helped.

You grind your teeth as you took in a breath through your nose, glancing at your phone as you await a response from earlier. It's understandable why you're doing this to me, in a sense, cruel as it is. You felt me stirring inside of you, like a snake, that morning as you woke up late. Not until you and that girl tumbled into some underground piece of work that Prince called a world, did you realize that something was within you. Something that you had never felt before. A certain warmth that was absent all your life but never knew you were missing. It wasn't a matter of metaphorical belief or some theological faith, no, I was physical, at least to you. Me looking at you, and you looking at me: Your very idea of what a SOUL looked like.

You're a very natural conduit, you know. Was I not your first rodeo?

You turned the question on me. Usually you didn't much say a word to me most days, just a brief visual acknowledgment as if you needed to confirm I was still here. I mean, I ain't goin' anywhere kid. Ain't my time or yours. We're inseparable.

That wasn't an answer, admittedly.

"I'm your best friend."

It hurt, what you said next. I wasn't your best friend, you were going off to meet her right now.

You didn't spend much time with me after our first night together, a war within yourself as my jig was up and you realized something was different from your normal. So much so, as if you were doing it all your life, tore your very being from you and threw it into this cage, so used. All of it surprised me, and it had only made me giddy.

Going to the bathroom that morning you took a look in the mirror, just to verify, that yes, it was you. Not you and someone else, puppeteering you. If I were you, I'd do the same. You didn't care much for brushing the teeth today, not when you were gonna have breakfast shortly. Still a quick swish and spit of mouthwash might've been warranted, you doing so as you glanced at one of the full bottles of apple shampoo you needed to use to replace the one in the shower with. You'd been using the stuff since you were young, and hadn't cared much to change out, even if your particular scent was a marked giveaway during your more tense pranks where you had to stay on site.

For all the years you had been up to your stuff, some choice details would always slip your mind. The fact you weren't a monster being one of them; not blessed with some particular senses that eluded you as a human. Sense of smell was one of them.

It wasn't as if you had a read on the particulars of each kind of monster in town; it took you a long time to come to terms with the fact you weren't physically one. The fact that your family had been a bunch of goats, a far cry from the wolves or dragons of Hometown, it meant you hadn't learned of many specifics until, well, you had come home from school one day with the knowledge that you had a monster to call your friend.

Azzie would've teased you about it; how the first real friend you had made had been someone they always thought of as something of a complete douche. You heard their voice in your head now: birds of a feather, as they said. However, Susie wasn't what first impressions promised.

Far from it.

She was stubborn, her mannerisms defaulting to being a jerk to most everyone around her, and, for most people, the further away they had been from her the better. For the most part until that fateful day the floor gave way from you and sent you hurtling into another world, you had always thought of Susie eventually being swallowed by society for her sins: disappearing to no longer bother the functioning members of society. Not to say you were in a better place, but she was more likely to be sacrificed into adulthood.

You always thought in such morbid terms for some reason, and the idea of Susie washing out of life now to you had been harsh. Harsh enough that you felt bad for ever thinking that way. You weren't someone who did regrets.

Despite all that, it was a veneer to the beneath for her. She was headstrong, confident in a way you didn't even consider.

Your family was always there for you, you knew, but you could hardly remember if you had someone, who wasn't bound by blood, that would stand up for you. That would fight for you. Kill for you even, but you didn't dwell too much on that. Susie was that person, became that person. You pegged it of her when she found Lancer, and then, eventually, stood up for you. She did it, eventually, without complaint, if not willingly out of her own determination.

You remember very clearly, with an inkling of life left as that mad king threatened to end her, what it meant to you.

The blow left a mental scar on you. You don't ever remember being hurt that badly in your life, but that pain was different. It was a pain you would've taken time and time again for her.

The look of appreciativeness in her eye after the battle, realizing what you did… the dip in temperature in the morning suddenly went away for some reason around your cheek area.

She was your friend now. Perhaps by technicality your best friend, but you were comfortable claiming that of her. As perceptive as you were, you could've said the same for you to her.

It's not like you didn't know what having a friend was. Azzie was by and far the best brother you could've asked for, and even then, Hometown only had one school, so you had known the same people all your life as they grew up with you. At the very least there was a common understanding all around that you, Kris, had been something of a troublemaker, but by no means meant ill by it in the same way Susie would bump smaller kids around.

Noelle was always friendly to you, even if that's just how she was in general. Temmie had been, well, more willing to talk to you about whatever personal project she was on commission for online, even if her work had wandered into the more risqué bit of things than you were comfortable with. You had even played ball around with MK and Snowy during boring PE days, but, all in all, you never had outright called any of them friends as you would understand it.

Azzie had friends. That was how you knew: The way they had confided secrets and stories with them, made stories and caused trouble that you often heard of through Mom, it was a stark contrast to what you had with people. Up until Susie that is.

You washed your face down at least with a wet towel, freshening you up as you finally made your way out of the bathroom, grabbing your bag by the door.

"Kris…?" It was Mom. In her creaky voice she had just woken up as you passed her room. It was still quite a bit before even she got up for school, the ambient light still a somewhat murky blue, still, a mother's instinct knew its way around the dark and through doors. You opened up her room as you saw her prop herself up on one of her arms, her loose pajamas giving her an air of slack that you didn't see from her much. With one hand she had beckoned you forward. One of the guilty pleasures of the divorce, if there was any pleasure for it, was that she now got the bed to herself, and she was using all of it.

Walking to the side of the bed she had reached up and ruffled your hair, cupping your cheek. "Good morning my dear." She said groggily, glancing at her clock. "It's early." It was a little of an understatement, but QC's Diner was open regardless.

You told her you just wanted to get some breakfast before school, and that you had a coupon for some eggs and toast at the local diner. It wasn't a lie, but it was a BOGO deal.

A murmur came out of her throat, it dying as she only reached up and gave you an affectionate peck on the cheek before sliding back down to bed. Not driving you meant, at least to her, a few more minutes of sleep.

"Jus' be there on time today, okay Kris?"

Alphys had never told Mrs. Toriel about the fact you had gone missing that day, and to be frank you wanted it to keep it that way. Making sure Mom was complacent had been one as you wiped your cheek of her drool, sliding out the front door as silently as you could. She was glad that you waking up early now. When she asked why, it was because you wanted to just walk yourself over. There had been some skepticism with that, but you had made it to class every day. Her suspicions that you had been suing that time to hang out with your new friend had been more or less confirmed by her, but she never knew who.

If she had found out it was Susie, well… Your mother had her way with people.

Of them, your father.

As you walked down the street into main street Hometown, you had considered saying good morning to Dad, staring at their flower shop in the dark light of the morning, the street lamps above still on.

While Mom hadn't known of Susie, Dad had known.

You often got there first. It was a simple consequence of your house being closer to that intersection, but for your pleasure it had made you the waiter in the game, leaning against the street sign that marked its crossing. It was bent now, by how often you'd done this recently, but it was no matter. Not many people came out that way, and Mayor Holiday wouldn't make a stink about it if she didn't know one of her precious utilities was bent.

You had fumbled with your leather wallet in between your hands, old and worn, but puffy, betraying how much money was actually inside.

It was different now, now that you had been in high school and, for the most part, those of the students that had once been above you had either gone off to college or started working jobs in town. A long time ago a rather reliable source of income for you had been taking on dares or requests for the older classmen.

"Susie! I bet you can't drink this old glue bottle!"

"Hey Susie! I'll give you a twenty if you draw a human dick on Mrs. Toriel's car!"

"Susie! Can you go tie up Undyne for a bit? Me and the guys are going to have some fun by the lake and we don't need no cop pooping on our party."

It gave you cash, and you didn't mind for any of the trouble that came your way for it. More money meant more fun stuff. Whether it be lighters or tools or even, occasionally, take out on your own terms. Unfortunately, money hadn't been so great for you recently, and having to replace your sheets? Well, thankfully the co-op wasn't made to make a profit.

With the way you dressed people assumed that you weren't well off. To be fair, your mother had been a musician paying alimony, so you were by no means privileged; she had taken herself into your work and her homelife had been a mess. Consequently, you had a lack of order to it that did end up with you preferring your town jeans, cheap tees, and hoodies or oversized jackets. The punk look was cool anyway.

You'd be lying if you didn't have an inkling of influence from what your mother did as a career. Growing up, the orchestra she played in had tried to become hip and cool by translating contemporary music into its arrangement. It meant a lot of listening to punk and rock music at home as she practiced, and quite frankly the reason why you spoke and sounded like the lead singer of the rock band Paramonster, known for its pop punk and alternative rock songs that made band teeshirts like the one you were wearing chic, was pretty laid out.

The lyrics to one of their songs had been graphically illustrated on your shirt, and given that it had been, decidedly, a shirt you were growing out of, it was to be their Misery's Business if they did read it.

A green fleck on the horizon:

You had squinted at the knowable shape coming down the sidewalk. It had more color than usual.

Having breakfast with Kris hadn't been a thing you didn't do, per se. In the month and a half you had known them, you spent most weekends together, and did this walk every school day. There had been times they had slipped you a pancake or waffle from their home, and you wouldn't ever say no. Mrs. Toriel's cooking had been legendary.

You let them walk up this time, other days you meeting them up half-way as soon as they appeared in your vision, only the trees really flanking the street, the ground lousy with leaves. A smirk had painted itself on your face as you saw them get annoyed behind their brown bangs, tilting their head. A gesture of 'really?' over them as you finally recognized what was in their hands.

A bouquet.

Why would they have a-?

They had closed the distance between closer than you expected, they going down on one knee in your shadow and extending the multicolored bouquet out to you, offering.

Would you be their partner to the Sadie Hawkman's dance? It's what they asked in such a sappy tone that, before you had stumbled, you had known what game was playing as even they burst out laughing from even the thought of it.

The look on your face had been something though, according to them as they kept their kneel, chuckling to themselves as you finally sputtered out a response.

The way they had twitched their head one way to jerk their bangs out of their eyes, to allow you to really see those blue irises of their, and the sap and weight they put in their words like a breath, you had thought they was serious.

Grabbing their neck and hoisting them up their feet had been, at some point, an adjusted move between you two.

You remember what seemed like a year ago you had first slammed them against the locker and saw not even a reaction out of them then. They had responded differently now as their voice hitched, half-way expecting it as a response as they had instinctively raised their hands up to your arm and pushed themselves up a bit so as not to be choked out completely.

"What kinda joke is that, freak?!" You demand of them. Your reaction had only gathered another laugh out of them, and quite frankly you wished you were back in the Dark World if only to account for your axe then and there.

You didn't exactly think of Kris as particularly lithe or limber. If she was Miss Toriel's kid and had access to her pies she too would be a bit thicker all around, but they had surprising weight to them as a human, even if you did stand a head and a half taller than them. Hoisting them up had been becoming easier however, and you couldn't tell if it was just because you had known how to lift them by now or they had just been less resistant to it. Maybe both.

Your thought of swinging at them with your axe had faltered as you remembered the times that you did, and they had been, admittedly, better behind a sword and shield than you anticipated.

Gently their fingers had edged their way between their neck and your grip, you letting them go back onto their feet as again offered the flowers. Not in jest however. They really did want you to have them, even as you stood there annoyed and on eyebrow raised accusingly. One whiff however and you recognized, and remembered, the only place in town where you could get a bouquet.

You don't know why it took you so long to realize Asgore had also been Kris's father. You knew they was Asgore Dreemurr, and you knew of the divorce (everyone in town knew), but you just didn't put two and two together one day until Kris had found you inside Asgore's shop. Just one of those brain farts of yours that, subsequently, was more present in your academic affairs.

The florist had been always awfully generous with their samples, and you were feeling the appetite for something lighter on your stomach than greasy takeout and their plastic utensils.

Asgore had been trying to describe the particular floral particularities of the snapdragons (was it racist that they had offered you something with dragon in the name?) when you heard the door open behind you and half expected Undyne to, as she did, pre-emptively stop you from shoplifting again.

It hadn't been Undyne however. It was that same friend you had made in the Dark World, an eyebrow raised behind their scruffy bangs.

That's when two plus two was put together and you realized you had been not-so-secretly taking advantage of Kris's father.

And yet here, that morning, they had offered you a bouquet again, fully knowing what you were to do with it. You never went back there again after finding out, and, you didn't lie to yourself, you always craved the taste of things you couldn't eat.

Asgore's flowers had become one of those things.

"This breakfast?" You asked warily before grabbing the paper cone the flowers were in.

Kris shook their head. They had explained they were just flowers intended for their mother, from Dad. There was a weight to that that betrayed their measured tone. They would've ended up discarded anyway. Miss Toriel always seemed so nice, and yet, with what she had known through Kris, cold all the same to someone she once vowed: Till death do us part. Things you didn't know about each other, coming together so easily it seemed. It would be a lie to say that it hadn't felt nice.

Nicer than you deserved sometimes, looking at the flowers before realizing how this might've looked to anyone who passed you by. The assortment had been in your jaws before that thought stopped, grinded down by teeth Kris had, on occasion, been caught staring at as you worked through chalk before. It tasted flowery, unsurprisingly.

"Mm. Thanks." Kris had given you back nothing more than a light smile as you crossed back over the street. "Where we goin' anyway?"

A half-crumpled coupon for Q.C's had been drawn by Kris. Their treat.

Usually was.

"Ah. Uh, thanks?"

They shrugged. Wasn't like they had anyone else to share it with, they mentioned.

It was easy to follow in their stead. You forced yourself to do so in the Dark World, but here, it had become natural all the same. Not that you would admit to them you were following them, but they had held the door for you as you both entered QC's diner.

The manager had seen you immediately and tensed up, but before she had made a show of it she noticed Kris, her gaze softening behind the counter. You were the first ones in today.

"Hun'." She said to Kris in an almost loving way. It was that of familiarity, her bunny ears twitching fondly as she put away the spray bottle and rag she was wiping down the counter with. Over her heart had been a nametag: Julie. "What can I do ya for today?"

The usual, they answered, unfurling the coupon and handing it to her as they approached.

She warmly received it, taking it herself and warming up the griddle. As long as, as far as it seemed, you were with Kris, things would be okay.

"I'll be with you two in a second!" She had spoken as she had gone to the fridge to retrieve what had already been a handful. You might've been tempted to just sit there at the counter, watching her crack eggs and hash browns onto the griddle and see the best breakfast you've had in weeks get made. You felt the tug on your sleeve otherwise:

Hardly a word, Kris had gotten your attention as they tipped their head by one of the window side booths.

The view outside was still dim as Kris settled opposite of you, the faux-leather of the seats taking you in well enough as you both looked out. School wouldn't start for a bit. Enough for you to take time with eating. The sizzle of the grill had made that instinctual part of your brain send signals to your maw to start drooling, but you had sucked it down.

Breakfast was always your favorite meal, but you never found yourself awake for the time. Brunch had been made for people like you, but you admitted, it was a nice change of pace that morning. You don't remember the last time you had been in here even.

Kris had seemed comfortable here as the manager had left the counter for a moment, pouring into a white mug what you had thought coffee. Your nose told you otherwise. They protested, getting their wallet out, but the manager had only reached down with her paws and grabbed Kris's cheek, tugging it. "This is always my treat dear. Azzie would give me hell if I wasn't treating you right."

She had gone back to the griddle before Kris protested, a small smile on their face, eyes averted away from you. Everyone treated them like a child if only because they had been Human, embarrassing as that felt sometimes, even to you secondhand.

"Good morning." Those words dropped from your tongue absentmindedly. "I mean. Yeah. Good morning." You never told them those niceties before. Nor did you actually give anyone that nicety, but this was Kris, and they was giving you breakfast. It felt… okay for you to do that, awkward as it came out.

They said good morning to you too somewhat confused as they just rolled with it, despite having already been with you for a hot minute. The steam from their drink wafted up in front of their face. Chocolatey. Frankly you had been momentarily annoyed that she hadn't given you one, but there had been something there with Kris and this diner. Something that went a little more than skin deep.

Years ago. When you had a whole family. You remember those days more and more frequently, even as got further away from them. Right after Sunday Service Mom and Dad would take you out here for lunch, and during the Christmas time even, on account of your own good behavior and Asriel being, well, Asriel, they even let you have the luxurious concoction that had been the drink in your hand: a mug of heaven that tasted sinful.

Hot chocolate. Smooth as it always had been. Enough to settle your heart with a kindness that came with…

Some of the steam of the hot chocolate had been forming condensation on the window, your hand automatically moves up to make designs, but you stop short, remembering who was across from you.

She's still tired, bed raggled, clothes thrown on and still adjusting to the day. Cold blooded as she was she didn't truly start being awake until much later, in your experience, but then again as the government always liked to say: a good breakfast is a staple of a productive day. Not that, you assumed, Susie paid much heed to advice from the government. (Do you have a record? You asked one day. She shrugged. "Undyne always lets me off with a warning for some reason.")

It put you in a certain state of mind: imagining Susie domestic enough to wake up and make herself a simple breakfast over a stove. It seemed so unlike her now as she sat in her purple long coat, a band tee beneath it and worn jeans as her head tilted one-way, brown hair frizzy. She had never been one to even tie up her voluminous hair into a pony tail, so it just, well, fluffed out. It was pretty much the only fluffy thing about her as she scratched her scales, fighting back the drowsiness.

There was an air about her, so unlike herself in the morning. Off-guard, unbothered, perhaps more chill if that was the correct word to use. But today you noticed she had been even more distant than usual as her hand rested on her neck almost to balance her.

The smell of cocoa wafted in your nose, remembering that this was your drink, and it always served you well to wake you up when your family did come after a rather long church service. Just short of cupping it and sending back a sip however, another thought slipped into your mind.

Was it right? It felt right, your fingertips pushing the mug her way.

It took her a moment to recognize what was happening, but when she did that had been a wake up enough.

"Wha- Kris it's alrigh-"

Nonsense, you explained, you had them all the time. You should try them.

She allowed you to see her like this. That much had become apparent after your time together. As in not Susie the bully, but Susie the… Susie. Dropping her guard like this, you had realized after a while, had meant perhaps as much for you as it did to her. She wasn't kind, that much you had known in your years growing up parallel to her, but it's not because she was necessarily predisposed to.

You were kind to her, and, to be honest, it felt good. It felt right. It made you feel good to see her treated well.

You were lonely, even with Azzie around; moreso now that they had gone to college. It wasn't something dwelled on, no more than you were aware of your own breathing or the nose at the bottom of your vision, but when you did, there was a certain echo of pain. Fact remained, you had been lonely, but Susie had changed that, and it wasn't such a hard thought to believe that she was the same as you in some part. You knew what that isolation felt like.

Her larger hands grasped the mug, making sure her claws didn't mark it up. You had hardly seen her handle something so gently before as she brought it to her lips. You saw the surprise in her eyes that this was the good stuff. Not the watery pre-packaged dusty stuff you just dumped into hot milk or (you shudder at the thought) water. No, this was actual melted chocolate and cream, mixed together with steamed milk. It was more solid than she was expecting, coating her mouth as she took a sip.

You'd never seen her become so awake in the morning as you did at that very moment.

Her breath pushed away some of the steam from the mug as it was idly held in front of her face. Was this really her first time having hot chocolate from QC's? If it were up to you, the entire world should've tried it. Susie was a good start though.

"It's good. Yeah, real good."

She said after a hot minute, appreciating the taste, her mouth still parted slightly as its steam made its way to her tongue, tasting it.


"Yeah." She parroted, keeping herself from taking in another sip, a smile forming unconsciously on her mouth. One had been on yours too.

There were moments recently that thoughts in your mind had wandered. She was your first real friend, honest to goodness friend, and yet it was a weakness of your mind to think of her kindly. To think of her in such a warmth that made your heart swell like a muscle you've never stretched before, distinctly giving a feeling that you yearned to have. Were you really that weak that you had fallen to crush on the first girl you knew like this? Even if, by every account, she was the one girl that would be advisable not to have a crush on given the risk of, well, crushing.

Or was it a mistake to see it as a weakness?

Did every person have this conflict of the heart? If so, why wasn't it taught in schools? This was bullshit and you wished you could be anything else but annoyed at it. You might've been good at puzzles, but this was… different. The solution both the problem: One that sat across from you as she gave such a domestic, pleasurable look at something you had given to her.

It caught you off guard when she noticed you were staring.

"Why are you looking at me like that, freak?" Shit. You had been giving her a complacent look, flaccid almost as she had taken more sips, finally looking back at you, eye to eye. You shook your head, hair fluttering, as you said you simply zoned out. She bared her teeth in a tiny threat, but it was more of a smirk on her part, an eyebrow raised. "Oh, I know that look."


"You got something planned, don't ya?"

It'd been about a week since your last hijinks, and even then, it was rather tame. It turns out planting catnip discretely by the mayor's office was a great way to attract stray pets by the dozen. It had even given Noelle a nice laugh or two as cats of all types and sizes accrued at the town hall, and she at liberty to play with them. It was nice seeing her be her lighthearted-self nowadays, all things considered with her father's hospitalization.

How odd, it was, that you and me still checked up on them when that day, after the Dark World…

You shook your head. Not necessarily. You really just did want to have breakfast with her.

"Oh, uh-" Susie had paused. "That's fine too." She had said, working away at the mug as you heard the tell-tale sizzle of eggs being broken over the griddle. It wouldn't be long now.

It'd be nice, you explained, that not every time you were together that you were up to no good.

"Nerd." Again, Susie had used one of the many pet names she had taken to you. Nerd, freak, 'tard, loser, dweeb, bro. You didn't know if it was a consequence of her particular dialect, hard and brash and almost urban in a sense, but you had known she really didn't mean those words as they meant on the surface. Well, at least not completely. Her casualness with you was endearing, if not a mutually awkward. "What other fun can we have in this town? Not like we got places to go."

It was a little tiring, accompanying Susie on her antics. Not that you were a goodie-two-shoes yourself, but Susie had clearly lived a life to that point not meant to be followed. Her strength was derived from what she had done; by the way she had been able to climb up onto even the daunting rooftops to throw pebbles at passing cars, or how she had gone into the back alleys and practiced ripping and tearing wood pallets or much of anything that could be broken down with her strength alone. Her claws were made to pull teeth, and yet, there was a somberness to it.

She wasn't much used to having someone along with her, and now, you had both caught that: You wouldn't want to go back to how it was before.

Was it because of the other person that this was the case? Well, that was a question that you didn't quite want to answer yourself as the sound of footsteps approaching you on tile floor approached with sizzling food and a smile.

Eggs, hash browns, toast, some bacon on the side. The classic diner breakfast. Meat and potatoes. The once and a while, not every day. The savory smell rose into your nostrils as Julie, the diner owner, had happily served you. She was always kind to you.

"On your tab?" She asked, you nodded.

Susie rose an eyebrow. Julie had walked away happily as the plates were right in front of you, wafting up. "You got one here?"

You nodded again at her, taking a fork and lancing the egg yolk, letting it run down and across the rest of what was on the platter. Reminded you of blood, right?

You ignored that very true thought as Susie picked up her own fork, really, just so very much willing, to tear into it. Though there was something on her mind: that pensive quiver in her eye that made her think something beyond you.

"I usually don't get breakfast you know." She tapped her fork against the plate, not wanting to dig in, just yet, even though you could practically see the salivation on her teeth. "Always slept in."

You remember Susie explaining her appetite one day, and how it seemingly went against what she said.

"Dragons like me? Always hungry. So don't test me nerd." She flashed her fangs at you one day and you only laughed, she dropping the act in defeat.

Was Susie well off? Did she have food at home? Were you at liberty to ask?

Perhaps, perhaps not; what you did know is that she didn't need your permission to dig in. She flashed a smile with those sharp teeth at you, almost as if she made a point to do so, an amused, happy sound coming from her throat unconsciously.

Mom taught you well for manners. Perhaps the most stringent in town in regards to that. Table manners were beat into your head as you unfolded the table cloth that you were provided, though by the time you had smoothed it out Susie had already hastily stacked the eggs on one piece of toast, followed by… the rest of the plate.

You didn't particularly care to explain radical sandwich-flavor-delivery theory to Kris this morning, but you had mulled over what they had said seconds earlier: That it was simply nice that you two were just hanging out, without any pretense. It was a savory fruit gusher, for all intents and purposes, as you wolfed down your platter as Kris had only began to bite into their hash browns. They had gotten used to how you ate, surely.

Breakfast was new, at least this sort of sit-down affair, but lunch had become a constant. On nicer days lunch had been outside in the school yard, and despite that even, you two found your place on the backsteps of the school, around a corner near the garage for the yard's keeper. Peace and quiet. It had been your spot, actually, the great mystery that apparently had been where you went during lunch revealed to Kris. It had become their place too.

Their mother had still packed lunches for them for Asriel; which is to say a boy with an appetite four times their size. They had been more than willing, one day, just to offer you the rest after a bite.

You had denied at first, which had been particularly painful on account you didn't pack yourself a lunch of your own, but they had insisted after days and days, and, through fresh baked bread and pastries beyond your belief, there was always a bit more pep in your step after lunch, actually with a full stomach.

Those little things, that bare niceness, they were more foreign to you than the idea that an entire world had lain inside the closet of your school.

They had a particular sweet tooth, you knew, and it had shown itself again as you licked your teeth clean and they had chomped down on their toast. French toast to be exact, actually, in their case. Powdered sugar and a drizzle of syrup over it.

Julie treated them well. Very well. Was it the goodness they deserved? Or was it just what had rubbed off from Asriel's reputation you thought.

You never interacted with the older goat boy, but they never went out of their way to suggest the particularly more… reckless things their friends had proposed to you. You looked at them from afar, seeing nothing more than the beloved jock; only now, in hindsight, you had seen the brother in their shadow.

In shadow. How bright, content, Kris looked in this morning light as the sun peeked out from behind the cover of buildings that morning. Your opinion of them was formed not in relation to Asriel. It was them, and them alone.

Unconsciously, your claw moves their mug back to them. The taste of chocolate lasting long enough for you. They had wiped some syrup off their lip, moving one of their brown bangs out of the way as they tilted their head at you. They didn't mind if you finished it.

You squinted at them. "Dude," You started. "It's alright. Thank you."

There it was, the characteristic grumble to her voice. Still it seemed unwarranted by your take. Most times it was often her way or the highway. Not that you ever really played that game with her, but you knew when it was on the table. She seemed annoyed so easily, and even for the morning it was odd. You tilted your head and saw her face more clearly through your longer bangs, but she had turned away from your gaze, feigning drowsiness.

You didn't stop eating all proper-like, just like your mother taught you, your fork and knife held so formally Susie had, before, made fun of you for it, but there was something there this morning.

You asked her what was up; she seemed a bit… off.

Taking back the mug you had, with all the familiarity in the world, sent a sip back, the drink cooled off enough now for you to over indulge. Knowingly you had raised an eyebrow as the mug was in your face.

"Just woke up wrong, alright?"

Wrong? Helluva word for you to use, but you hadn't been of the mind to go digging for some more fancy word that Alphys had taught you.

Kris asked if you slept with the window open again, or if you had forgotten to do your homework again.

"What, no, nah." On the inside of your jacket you had taken out a really badly folded piece of paper. Who needed backpacks when your coat had like, twenty frickin pockets? "Made sure to pack it in before I went to bed this time."

Good, they said, and a spark you felt in your stomach had gone off, and distantly you felt your tail wag once. God, you were really fucked up if that little a praise was enough to get you going.

Stuffing your homework back in your jacket you had finally found a better explanation: the truth.

"I just need to go buy something so my Mom doesn't get on my ass." You looked away, out the window at the ever-approaching full sunrise. You'd be a little more embarrassed if you were explaining to another monster, but Kris hadn't the luxury of your particularities. "It's ah, something me specific, and my Mom would give me grief if I had forgotten to deal with it." You paused before adding in another detail which was important. "She was home, today."

Kris was surprised to hear that your Mom was in town today. You were too, to be fair. Last time you checked the text messages between her and you, it had been three months ago. Communication wasn't one of your strong suits.

"I mean, it's not like she does laundry or anything, but she always gets on my ass for, like, anything dude, and I don't wanna deal with it."

Again, they took another sip, and you wondered if Kris was just the sort of guy who always found an extra gulp in their cup. Was your Mother good for anything? They asked, a cruel undertone to it, almost, and you had smirked at it. It was that same mischievous to their meanspirited pranks.

Those were the best.

"You know all that good shit your Mom does?" They nodded. "Yeah, well, none of that."

Like a flick of your thumb you had knowingly put a little snark in it. Kris caught it, as they usually did. They flared their nose a bit as they glared. Miss Toriel, they explained, isn't as good as you think.

"It is where I'm looking from dork."

Really ain't.

Hmph. A stroke of pride. "Really ain't?" They sounded like you for a moment, and you parroted. Accent and all. Kris's voice was always unidentifiable to you, in a way. Asriel spoke like any good, hometown hero, with such an inoffensive, youthful tongue they could've been casted for any daytime television movie about teens saving the world. Asgore spoke with that full, almost Western belt. You could hear them from the town over somedays. Miss Toriel on the other hand spoke with such politeness it became her speech. An angel almost, if you could say.

To hear Kris speak in that brash, short, almost slurred speech, it really did mean they had been spending quite a bit of time with you.

They blew some of the steam off their drink at you in a pout.

They really didn't like the idea they had been easy to imprint upon.

You're not quite sure how you know that now, but you knew it. You knew so many things about Kris Dreemurr now.

A sequitur, and Kris pushed through it. You wouldn't be you if you had lived under Toriel, always keeping them on a tight leash. They glanced out the window. They really didn't think you two would be hanging out if Miss Toriel knew. Especially if she knew that you two had been just being yourselves.

"Dude, you like, get your favorite food, every single day. Cooked for ya. I get my Mom giving me side eye as she plays that stupid Viola or whatever."

Kris huffed again, the steam moving with it. I don't want her too.

"What? You'd rather her not do that? Why? What are ya stupid?"

You winced. Why were you like this? Why were you so inclined to turn everything into an attack? Kris knew better as they shook it off. They knew you didn't mean it.

It was just that, they started, she's been doing the same thing to them since they and Asriel were kids. They still felt like they was still being treated like one.

If life was going to be hard, why was she doing them the disservice of making it, and in a way, keeping them easy?

You thought for a moment what it would've been like to have a Mom that cared for you like Kris's. What did it mean to not want that?

To a bystander, any might've thought that this conversation was pretty heavy over a good breakfast, but it hadn't been, at least to you two.

The surrealism, and yet the reality, of having been through the Dark World and all of its magic, both literal and figurative, dropped down a pretense between you and them. That there was no excuse or barrier keeping you from delving into particular points of your nature. You were, in some ways, indebted to each other. You saved their life, and they saved yours, and if that was your introduction to them, on that first day of really knowing them, then this conversation was within your measure.

Julie had walked back over, seeing you two silent, a small kettle she used for hot chocolate in her hands and steaming as she spoke to Kris. "No one else really orders this stuff, so just go ahead and finish it, yeah?"

No complaints from them as she refilled.

There was a silence after that, and you saw it in Susie's eyes why there had been. She really was taking those words in, and, to be fair, there really wasn't a response to that codified in anything. So, you kept eating your breakfast, letting the food fill you, appreciating that she was taking your words in and really listening. Today would be a good day if it started like this, fading out the particularly somber conversation as you tried to rectify it.

"Hm?" She blinked, mishearing you as you asked her a question, chewing at the same time.

You wondered what food she really enjoyed.

"What do you mean?" She asked, her claws tapping against the porcelain plate she had been given, now empty. "Food is food, man." She thought that you two had already been over this, but no, you shook your head. Surely she must've had a preference.

"I've never really put much thought into it. As I said, we dragons? We ain't picky."

But she must've had a choice, right? If you had a choice.

She shook her head at that. "Choice isn't really something I get, you know. I mean in general, yeah, but with food less so." Looking down at her plate, you saw her blink several times before she pursed her lips for a quick moment. "I mean, even with this, you really didn't give me a choice on what I'd get."

You frowned. You were sorry, but she raised one hand up almost urgently.

"Hey, hey- I don't mean it like that dude. I like this kinda food."

Like, specifically?

"I guess?" She rolled her head on her shoulders, you hearing the distant cracks of her bones. "Back home, Mom couldn't cook for shit, and my Pa, well, they eats at the job, so we'd always get takeout from some place or another. I know it sounds awesome, and yeah, sure, it was… But you kinda get sick of all that rich, heavy stuff every single freaking day."

You remembered those days when your Mother had gone off to conferences or training per her career as a teacher. Asgore would often treat you and Azzie to that similar style of dietary shift, and when Mom got back she often found the three of you lethargically passed out on carb overload.

"If it wasn't for the fact I'm-" She gestured at her arms, giving you a good flex, not that you could see it past her sleeves, "I'd be like, fat as hell."

You know, you commented, you're not exactly sure how you aren't fat given the diet you do have, with every meal being finished off by some sort of lovingly baked good. Susie had understood almost immediately, having now been beneficiary to that.

Mom still packed lunches for you the same way she did Azzie: which is to say that it was intended for a growing goat boy and not you, a human. So, servings sizes were often three times bigger than necessary. To counter this, you had stopped by Dad's, every once and a while, when they couldn't afford groceries and gave them the excess. You don't know if it was mercy or cruelty that they still remembered Mom's butterscotch pies after so long, but they had gladly taken it.

They also gladly understood that, yeah, if Susie needed it too, then by all means give it to her. They told you this as they rubbed down their large stomach, and even then, it was doing a poor act of convincing you that they hadn't been getting thinner. In their case, that was a bad thing.

So, you offered Susie the excess. You fed her most days, and it was as natural to you as it was natural having Ralsei around. It was if you should've been doing it all your life.

She loved your Mom's cooking, more than she would admit as she, even by her standards, wolfed it down faster than you could finish what remained for you.

She wouldn't admit it until now that is.

"Your Mom's baking, the bread especially…" There was a dreamy look in her eye again, as if she was drinking the hot coco, thinking of your mother's buns. "It's light, but so filling, but not so filling that you couldn't eat more of it, you know?"

You certainly did.

Some days your lunch had been baked bread slices with butter and cheese to spread along with grapes for sides. For days when she was feeling particular fancy or when, when she made it for herself, given to you. Those days had made you and Susie feel more cultured and classier than even you could stomach. The thought of you two in suits or dresses, eating away at high society meals where charcuterie boards and wine were the food had been laughable, though, then again, hadn't you just asked her out to a dance?

Mayor Holiday had hosted the Sadie Hawkman Dance at Town Hall, just before Thanksgiving every year, and like all thing in the small town politician's life, she had gone particularly overboard. It was far more than just an auditorium, keep-enough-space-for-God, kind dance. It was a suit and tie kinda number.

You meant it as a joke, but you had to contend with the risk she might've actually said yes in some fashion.

Thank God (right?) that she didn't.

You could get that for lunch tomorrow, if you asked Mom, you said, and in one amused huff, she had nodded. "I'll bring the wine, too, I guess."

You laughed at that implication. "What? I'm serious. My Mom's got, like, five bottles of the stuff at home."

You had been surprised to hear that Susie didn't actually smoke or drink, as much as anyone would have you believe (or maybe you had just decided she did anyway, it made sense to you). Though it wasn't out of not wanting to.

"Smoking looks kinda cool, yeah, and I did try it once, but the next morning I breathed like shit and I really don't wanna give up, like, running and stuff just so I could look cool. Apparently, I can breath fire when I get older anyway so who knows."

Drinking was another thing however.

"Do I look like the type of person who gets drunk alone? I ain't got a drinking buddy."

You pondered that thought after she had said it one day, wondering if it was an invitation, though you pushed it off. Getting drunk with Susie didn't sound exactly safe.

Not that you would believe she would hurt you, it was just that you, more than ever, knew not being in control of your own body wasn't a fun experience.

"We're still hanging out after school today, right?" She asked after a bit, small-talk over your Mom's baked good fully waking you both up finally. You nodded promptly. "Alright, I just need to stop by the co-op then."

The co-op. You knew it well. Hometown just so happened to host the only goodwill donation store within that area of the state, and so stuff from the surrounding towns did funnel through. Mom always partook in it, both in giving, and in having. New toys and books for her younger students were always in supply there, and then when Asriel outgrew their own clothing or bedsheets and the like, she returned the favor and gave it up.

The co-op wasn't an unknown location to you both in your afterschool hanging out. Not at all. You had an allowance, as meager as it was, bolstered by summer jobs, winter shoveling, and fall raking. When you wanted a new part for a particularly intricate prank, the co-op usually had the solution. With Susie, you often made trips of it, seeing the random doohickeys and badly rendered tee-shirts of someone's yesteryear.

Susie huffed once, that signature grit and huskiness to her voice, like gravel almost, returning to her. That was the voice you knew of her; the one you were comfortable with. "I'll make this breakfast up to you if we see something there. My treat, I guess."

There was a heat in your cheeks.

Thank you, you said.

"You're welcome dude."

She wasn't like this often, and in the most strict interpretation of that term, but when she was, you wouldn't give it up for the world.

Maybe it wasn't in your best interest to so blatantly imply immediately after (okay you just outright said) if her Aunt Flo visited, thus ruining her sheets.

Like so many times before, you saw that spark in her eye, the fire as they sunk back into her sharp irises and she drew her fangs. It was just, just barely the fact you had been treating her to breakfast she didn't snap at you. Though she was close. She did treat you to a kick in the shin.

Like so many doctor's visits before, the feel of something tapping your shin (beyond tapping), had made you give a yelp in pain, sending your knee up into the table and-

Pain. You were well acquainted with pain. In your nightmares, Kris hadn't been there to jump in front of you. You felt the spade of theirs cut right into your heart, breaking your scales like glass, and piercing your SOUL as your entire body dissolved into stardust. What it felt like to have your very essence, life, ripped out from your lungs; you never knew it in reality, but you just imagined it and it left a ghost of pain on you when you woke up from it. Often times your hand had gone to your phone, half-way about to start texting Kris, something so primal inside of you wanting to thank them, again and again, so long after that day in the Dark.

Thank you, Kris. I'm serious. Thank you so much.

You didn't need to take that hit for me. I would've been okay.

Why me?

I'm going to make it up to you.

Vague impressions of what you would've told them floated in your post-sleep haze before you shook that out of you. They deserved so much.

Not you, at least, as your annoyed kick at them under the table sent the new cup of hot coco up, toward them. In slow motion you saw the brown gush hop right into their lap and you saw the contortion of pain on their face as, almost like a cartoon, steam came from the impact sight as again Kris's legs twitched up again and banged the table. Even their jeans couldn't stop their scalding.

They was always quiet. Even in pain, but yet their mouth opened as if to let out a yelp, a scream. You saw their teeth, their tongue, pearly white and clean, but they had shut it almost immediately as they moved themselves horizontal of you, laying their legs over the side of the booth as Julie had already been there with a cloth.

"Clumsy, clumsy baby. What happened?" Her eyes had been darting between you and them, and you held your breath.

This was always the part when you were blamed. Where you were accused of wrongdoing and people thought they were acting out justice by turning you in. Sometimes rightfully, sometimes wrong.

This time though, you knew. It had been wrong. Well, okay, maybe not totally unfounded, but it was wrong. You did this to them, you felt bad, you felt wrong, you felt whatever was coming to you was inevitable and right and-

Kris said they accidentally kicked up, nothing happened. They was just being an idiot.

"Oh, ah." Julie seemed surprised, giving one last look to you. "Tori's been feeding you butterscotch pies in the morning again? Azzie himself was always uppity like that after those breakfasts. God knows little ole you can't take the same punishment."

"Kris." You had said it so quietly, so involuntarily, you barely heard it yourself. Julie had that motherly quality to her. Children of her own, her customers she treated like children, it all seemed so foreign to you. It was nice, even if it wasn't directed at you, living that feeling through Kris.

What was it like? To have this kind of…


What was love to you? What was that definition you knew? Mom would put on those soap operas on off-days, when she wanted to be alone and yet, with someone again. To feel her heart and to feel love. What was warmth when she was shoveling a pint of ice cream into her?

You heard it defined by one of those characters, spoken first by a writer whose vocabulary was probably far, far beyond your own with all the eloquence that you couldn't even dare emulate.

What was love as you knew it?

A way of measuring someone's capacity to hurt. The less of it you have, the easier it becomes to distance yourself. The more you distance yourself, the less you will hurt. The more easily you can bring yourself to hurt others.

You hurt Kris this morning. They still winced, but forced a smile at Julia as she gave them the rag to work over the spill on their pants. They winced every second they passed over it on their pants, and you winced too.

If you had no love for Kris, then why did you feel bad?

Why would you be in love with them?

They offered to clean up for themselves, but Julie had seemed almost offended, glancing at her watch and making you aware of when school was about to start. "Oh, no no no. You have school to get to young man. Tori will certainly give me hell if she knew I stopped you from."

Where did love come from?

You knew that smile; the one Kris put on as Julie started gathering plates, even yours, and whisking it back to the kitchen. They once gave it you, in the first few days after the Dark. The way you'd hurl digs at them, insults, playful, they really were, but… Somedays you didn't feel right with them around, somedays you upped the knowing hurt factor on them a bit higher. Those were the days they gave you that polite smile after you insulted, in your more dangerous excursions they came along with, whether they'd feel better if their Mom was there to hold their hand, or, perhaps better, Asriel's?

You stopped doing it after a while.

You stopped doing it after they came back, time and time again, after the days you came to school.

You stopped doing it after they showed up to walk with you to school, before you realized they had to walk further for just ten minutes of time with you.

You stopped doing it when they did show up to your house to see how you were doing on the days you didn't go to school, and brought some of their mom's cooking.

You stopped doing it when you noticed the days they hadn't been there more than the days they had been.

You stopped doing it when you realized being the terror of Hometown with them had felt better than doing it alone.

When Julie stepped away the words erupted from your mouth. "S-sorry." Kris had seemed to not hear as they tried to wipe away the pain. "You had it coming though, idiot."

That had gotten a small sound out of them, a laugh as they turned toward you, their eyes behind shuffled bangs seen and, for some stupid reason, beaming with amusement that bounced between that and pain.

Fair, they said.

They had moved off the seating, revealing the extent of your damage: Just a brown, damp splotch over their right thigh. It was fine until they took a step and winced again.

You remember how you knew what 2nd degree burns were like?

Apparently priming a homemade rocket barrage ala Katyusha at the menace known as Berdly hadn't been the best plan you ever had, and the resulting burns on your palms had been probably the most excruciating physical pain you had until-

Well, I guess you knew better what it meant to pull at your heart strings, don't you?

But that's besides the case.

It didn't surprise you the immense pain of your burned skin rubbing up against your pants had been the outcome of the spill, even as you dried it off. Yeah, this sucked.

Still, at least it was a breakfast, thumbing out your wallet and the cash with tip. Julie deserved it.

You limped your way out of the diner with Susie following a good distance behind, and in the glass windows of the shops you passed by, you saw her biting her lower lip, in turmoil as you walked toward school, the morning light finally here.

"Dude, you can't go to school like that."

You shook your head at the voice behind you, continuing to cramp along. It was fine, you've felt worse.

There was annoyance in her voice. "I'm serious. It looked like you pissed your pants and you got like, a spider up your butt. It's not cool."

Again, you shook your head. You're gonna be sitting all day anyway.

"Yeah? And are you going to be limping like this all the way to the co-op? Give me a break." You wouldn't be able to do anything about her claws around your midsection if you tried, you feeling your feet leave the ground and suddenly your entire world inverted. Even through your two layers you could feel her grip, struggling with a short shout.

"Shut up, dude. Just let me do this." She didn't throw you over her shoulder with as much abandon as you thought, you basically laying across her back as you settled. There was more technique to it than you would've though, calculated. You would've asked her the particulars of it, but, of all things, the answer revealed itself to you as many things did for you nowadays: in hindsight.

Career day, years and year ago. Hometown hadn't been big enough to warrant its own fire department, so it shared with the towns around. Though that had meant that, on that day, the big red fire truck had come out to the yard as the firefighters there gave all the young kids like you some one-on-one time with the loudest vehicle anyone would probably hear in that sleepy town.

You remembered that day well enough on its own, but the particular details eluded you until you thought of Susie more in your past, growing up together, never interacting, but always somewhere around. You remembered on that day, off to the corner of your eye as you looked at one of the yellow jacketed firefighters hook up the fire hydrant to their hose, another firefighter idly sitting on the side of the truck:

A dragon.

Sitting on their knees as they bounced her up and down (you were no more than eight or so, and you actually were older than Susie by about half a year) had been Susie in her overalls, a bow in her hair as you could faintly her laughter before the hose started spewing dirty water.

Susie's father had been a firefighter, and the way she manhandled you some days had made sense now. There was more control to her than you thought, obviously taught down, father to daughter.

She carefully hooked her arm through your legs as her other arm took your arm, you allowed a view forward as you took the role of Susie's backpack that day as you headed over to the hospital.

Honestly you would've said this was a new experience to you but…

It wasn't. Azzie had done this to you, from time to time, their dominance over your physically on display loving you as they hoisted you up and onto their back and, in your younger years, you were fond of it. It'd been years since you'd done it, but you felt as comfortable on Susie's shoulders as you had been on their. So, you did relax, going limp as you pretty much ragdolled.

"You're lucky I know how to do this."

Be strong…? You asked.

She shook her head and you felt her hair tickle her midsection. You would never tell her to her face but you loved her hair that one day she did wash it down. There was a certain voluminous quality to it that was a shame she didn't take as good care of herself as she should've. It was a deeper, almost auburn compared to your own chestnut. It's not like you had much interest in hair care, but you learned a few things, adopted as you were. Turns out goat hair care hadn't applied to humans, and so you had to self-apply. Susie had very human-like hair, for what it was worth.

"No, dumbass. Haul fools like you up."

You don't quite remember the last time she ever got physical with her classmates. You don't remember if she even did so at all, but that threat had always been present with her it seemed, and it was never a matter of bluff. Days when Susie came in without her purple coat, during field days, the entire school had seen the obvious benefits of being a dragon written along her muscles.

Like a lot of things about her, you personally thought them nice.

"Hey, that thing you do, you know, how you ACT and stuff when we were down there," You remembered, a few days after the Dark World. You had climbed up a tree by the apartment buildings in town and were tossing acorns at each other in a tricky, albeit dangerous, game of dodge, moving from branch to branch testing even your dexterity. "Why do you do it all natural and stuff."

She had poked her head around the trunk of the tree, a few stories up with you, and you had paused before you sent a handful of acorns her way, letting them simply drop to the ground as you two found stronger branches to sit on, backs against the trunk.

You shrugged. It just was natural to you.

"I can't believe their standards were that low though-"

You furrowed your eyebrows at her as she sat at a branch slightly higher than your own, otherwise you'd be shoulder to shoulder.

You liked to think you were a very good flirt, if anything.

"Don't ever remember you having a girlfriend, freak." She asked with only a hint of suspicion in her voice, blunt as always, but she seemed to reel back the moment she said it. She didn't mean it. Not when it was just you two. Not anymore recently at least. She seemed to dwell further on it, and you didn't want to intrude, simply looking up at her as you picked bark skin off of your hand-me-down sweater. "Do you have a girlfriend? I, uh, really don't keep up with the rest of the class."

You pursed your lips. There was that one time you and Noelle played Dad and Mom in kindergarten.

That had gotten a chuckle out of Susie. When you both were in Kindergarten that had naturally meant that your actual Mom had been your teacher as well, and she had, unsurprisingly, been mortified with you and Noelle sharing make-believe kisses during playtime as you played House.

"You guys dating then?"

You recoiled yourself. No, you shook your head. Noelle is nice, really nice if anything, but she was a little too… polite for your taste. Not like her; the girl that you were hanging out with now.

The way you had explained had been a bit too smooth however, a bit too natural, as you had just established. Susie paused. Just like her.

"Ah, well-" She spit through the branches and leaves, watching the glob go down to the ground, "I guess I've got plenty of that… I mean, plenty of not that."

You told her not to get any funny ideas, you had been doing good with her not to burn down the town with a new partner in crime you had been.

"For a trickster and creep, you're no fun, you know that?"

Well, to be fair, she made up for it. That explanation left your lips so easily, and you had immediately beat down the reasons on why there had been that ease, you looking away from her for some unknown reason as if you were afraid of her reaction.

"Oh yeah?" A tease, then, maybe appealing to her ego. "How?" She asked.

You looked back up to her, the heavenly visage of light, filtering through leaves as Susie sat so at peace for once, albeit with that mischievous glint in her eye. It was a nice image, one for your memory.

There was a reason why you never did flirt with her in the Dark World. It might've felt a little… on the nose? She didn't seem the sort to have been affected by it. Same reason why you probably didn't try it on that Jester, or the King himself, it just didn't seem practical. Though that Susie had been different than the Susie of today, as small of a difference that time had been. Though that didn't mean you couldn't.

You felt carefree around her. She was a freespirit contending with the world, and, more often than not, she had lost for it. Though she didn't deserve that. Far from it.

Sure, maybe it struck your chord as a contrarian, but you did enjoy the fact, in some guilty sense, that she had been that rough and gritty figure at school. Life wasn't always as soft and rosy and melodramatic as school would have you believe, you knew. Homelife had proved that.

Her confidence in just, singularly, being her had been enthralling to you. She knew who she was, and maybe it was in that you understood that desire was more for yourself.

You knew it was easy to flirt with her because you did say all of this, minus that very, very last part, and what had been a smirk, a grin, cocksure that she was going to elicit a stuttering response out of you falling away as her bangs shifted in front of her eyes and she, in a rare, feminine charge, drifted her hair behind her ears with her claws as, after a moment, as if realizing something, she snapped back at you.

"Dude, you're supposed to like, compliment my body or someshit- Isn't that how it works?"

You shook your head with a roll of your eyes, any tension that was there melted away mercifully. Maybe you would've explained your radical flirting theory you picked up from late-night reading indulgent shipping stories on AO3 to her; but you were always more pragmatic, more praxis-oriented, than most people would believe. If someone needed to eat moss in order to find their way out of a cell, you'd be first to do so, after all.

So, if anything, you just indulged her, and you couldn't help notice how gratifying it felt to do.

You wished she would wear her hair back, just a little more. She had very kind eyes.

You didn't notice that Susie had taken a right when she did, but sooner rather than later you knew you had been heading to the hospital. There had been a walk-in clinic for the lesser emergencies. Hometown's Hospital had been a pride of the town, not that, at least by Undyne's account, much in the way of injury. Still, it was good that Mayor Holiday invested as much into the hospital as she did. Her husband had still been there on account of their… sickness.

You half-expected, being carried through those sliding doors, to see Noelle today, saying hi to her Dad before school, but she hadn't been there and you missed the opening bell by about five minutes.

Though it was fine, as far as reasons to be late to school today, this would've been an okay one if you had gotten a note.

At the receptionist desk had been one of the canine nurses today, the nametag on them reading it clear as day: Matthew. You knew them, their white fur almost blending in with the glassy, sterile aesthetic of the hospital's waiting room. Susie had the most color there, which had been saying something.

You slid off her shoulder as she folded her arm, not too keen on going much further.

It was unsaid what the plan was, but it had been rather simple anyway: get that burn on your leg checked out. The sleepy nurse had risen in their chair behind the counter as the electronic door chime went, their ears standing perky, on guard, their scrubs fresh.

"Oh, hey there, Piano Man." They said, immediately noticing the limp you had and the stain on your pants. "Coffee?"

You nodded. No need for the specifics.

"Yep, we get that a bit in the mornings, just follow me."

Kris had disappeared with the nurse behind the doors leading into the hospital's offices, leaving you alone in that lobby. Your mind had hovered over what Matthew had said, addressing Kris. Off to the corner of that shiny room had been a similarly colored piano. Was Kris talented?

Well, yeah, they was. In class, when you did bother to listen at all, you did catch them one day able to read a music sheet that Alphys had passed out. Apparently, it was the theme song to some stupid romcom she was watching and wanted to see if she could teach some music theory by way of that. You didn't think much of it at the time that Kris had easily been able to notate the sheet. You just thought you had missed that lesson in class, but no, they had done it naturally.

Sure, they was smart, smarter than you, and they had an actually impressive, almost engineer like mental dictation when it came to their pranks (don't even get them started on problem solving, you learned), but they never made it a point to flaunt it. Unlike you and your strength that is.

Music was something else. Something you would've surely have picked up on. You out of all people had been exposed to music all your life. You would've caught it, right?

You didn't know when you slumped back into one of the cushy sofas along the side of the wall, but you couldn't stop thinking about that piano or why you were hung up on the idea that Kris was a musician. Not that you had a problem with it, nor could you find one, it was just… a little extra depth than you were anticipating this morning.

You had heard roughly that Asriel was in choir, and you think, maybe, Kris, but you didn't go to church so who cared?

"So, with your insurance, it'll be 15 bucks for the cream," Matthew explained as he turned away for you to put back on your pants after applying. You had handed them the cash and they had written out a receipt as you walked out of their office. "And if you feel as if it keeps getting rubbed off just wrap a bandage around it."

Cool. Emerging back to the lobby, Susie had been there, catching a few extra lazy minutes of shut eye, standing up to see you again, not limping. Modern medicine was soothing, certainly.

Matthew had been back behind the counter as they waved both of you over. "You're a great friend to be hauling my guy here over. So let me just write you both a note excusing your lateness."

"You know it'd be really cool if you wrote us a note so we didn't have to school at all."

"Hah. No. Don't put that evil on me Miss…?"

"Tanis." It was always so odd to hear Susie say her last name. It was always just Susie to you.

"Stay in school, or else you're gonna end up like Burgerpants down the road."

Staying home all your life didn't sound that bad, truthfully to you, but Susie took that advice to heart somewhat, taking her written note from Matthew as you did for your own.

Before you left however, an old friend caught itself at the corner of your eye.

You paused. This piano had been donated to the hospital years ago, even before Mrs. Holiday became the mayor, before you were born, and, perhaps, before your own parents had moved to town. It remained here more decoration than anything, save for the few curious presses on its keys, eliciting sounds. That had changed when you came, and, more importantly perhaps, you gave it new life.

Susie turned, not seeing you in the reflection the glass doors as she was already half-way out. "Hey, freak, what're ya-"

Like serene peace. A single chord of the piano rang out through the lobby of the office. Once, and then again, gauging its sound and tune. This single note had made it known to you that something was completely and utterly wrong with you, as your hands bashed against these keys when you came out of the Dark World.

You were better than that, and if you hadn't been, you really hadn't been you anymore.

Growing up, Mom and Dad had listened to this one album over and over. It was music from their time as young lovers, and, even now, you had heard Mom play that same record over and over to reminisce. Perhaps not on who they used to be, but rather, happier times in general. You had memorized that album by heart, and, as you came of age, it manifested in part to a talent not many people had known you had. Fostered by tutors, plain old understanding of sheet music and improv, and maybe a little natural DETERMINATION, you knew how to play a melody to make people feel alright.

The piano smelt like a hospital, and your flesh had just been freshly seared, however once, long ago, you sat at this bar while hospital visitors put bread in your jar, and said "Kris, since when did you play here?"

You were never good at singing anyway, that's why you were the piano man.

But the words were a guide, so they were in your head as the piano traced them.

It all came back to you as you closed your eyes and the familiar muscle memory came back to you, each stroke of your finger putting a note down where it needed to be as the tune of a melancholic, yet deceivingly ballet-like song. There had always been a certain grace to the type of music that came from this album that you didn't mind articulating in the piano.

What did this song make you feel? Don't forget. Never forget what had been your past. Never forget where you came from. In English class it had been so easy to write off the allusions of writers as some hokey, romantic BS you never really played into. True art, in your opinion, and all the meaning, was derived better in music. You were better at music than you cared to admit. Thus, you had to play.

You looked to Susie, her mouth slightly parted and her guard down as you ended just on that verse. You just needed to see if it was really you, and it had been. Susie hadn't been convinced now that she had heard that musical outburst from you. No longer than a minute, and yet filled with more sound than you had ever cared to make.

"Wow." It came out of her mouth like a mistake, she almost short of clamping her hand over it by reaction. You were bashful about it at least, playing it off as you turned away back to the piano, hoping that she couldn't see the heat rise to your cheeks again. You hadn't practiced in weeks you said to her, so if you sounded like crap-

"No! Uh- That was alright, I guess." She was holding herself back, she gripping the edges of her jean pockets. Why?

Matthew gave you a very polite smattering of clapping. "That's the Kris I know!" They cheered, and, in one flair, a cascade of keys had rushed from high to low as you gave it one last ring, your fingers gliding all the way across in one smooth motion, hitting each key. That was your version of a bow as you finally took your leave and walked back out to the street, the cars of Hometown going out on their way with a day started.

Now it was Susie that kept you from going to school. You turned to her, not so forceful as she was as she found your gaze, locking on the sidewalk, hands in her pocket.

"I know that song, you know." She admitted after a while, walking up to you. Your eyebrow rose as she kept holding herself back, she looking over her shoulders, once or twice, before letting you have this:

"To a room with some lace and paper flowers

Back to the gypsy that I was

To the gypsy that I was"

People's voices were different when they were singing. You knew this because of Azzie. You knew the highs and lows they could reach when belting out hymns in church.

Though for Susie, as she sang in an almost hushed tone, her range was in breadth.

Her voice was soft, her eyes closed as her head slowly bobbed left and right as if keeping a beat, slightly held back as if letting her throat air out.

"And it all comes down to you

Well, you know that it does, well

Lightning strikes maybe once, maybe twice

Oh and it lights up the night

And you see your gypsy

You see your gypsy"

Just as you played a small part of it. So too did she sing that part.

It wasn't as if you doubted her, with your mouth open like an idiot and your eyes wide, though she opened her own and saw you staring up at her. She answered:

"Fleetwood Mac, Gypsy. Yeah. I know it." The more you looked at her, the more she got annoyed. "Dude, don't like, make this weird. We all had to sing in first grade, remember?"

Bullshit, you coughed up, that wasn't the voice of someone who didn't know more.

Her hands went back into her pockets, shoulder slumped. "My Mom thought it would be cute if she like, played her violin and I sang. Was really the only time we got the spend time together, back when I was young and stupid and thought I needed my Mom, so I kinda like, did it, you know?"

Did you know? Did you know to do things just so your Mom could approve of you? Like you? Maybe, perhaps. Yeah, you did. Though Susie never had a sibling to overshadow her. The shadow that had been over her had been her mother herself.

You thought, for a moment, rushing back into that hospital, spinning up another song, coaxing her to play along with you because the thought of playing music with someone it seemed all so wonderful to you that you couldn't hardly believe it but-

She didn't seem comfortable doing it, after the fact. She didn't want people to know that she did sing.

But why?

You told her she was good, better than you.

"It's not really a compliment when it's coming from your quiet ass."

If it wasn't for your burn you wanted to kick Susie's shin right back, but you settled. Just take the compliment, you implored.

She moved some of her loose strands of hair back behind her eyes, showing you them. Not angry, or even aggravated, but they were complacent with just a hint of urgency to keep moving along. "Agh, fine, alright. Let's just go. Sooner we can get the class, the sooner I can doze off."

That you understood.

You both walked back to school in silence, but the ghost of her voice was in your head, going over those lyrics again and again. You often didn't get to talk about performance, about music, but now that you knew Susie did the way she did, maybe not today, or tomorrow, but someday, yeah, you could make a time of it.

It'd been a long time since you ever sang for anyone. Not that you ever had anyone to sing to, but then and there, right in front of that hospital, it was coaxed out of you, as if that music had been one of Ralsei's spells. That music had been missing half of itself, and you held it within you, so you shared, and it had come back to you so naturally you wondered if Kris really was telling the truth that you were good.

"Oh wow, you actually have notes." Alphys had been surprised as you both walked into class with excuses written, Berdly shifting back and whispering to the other classmates something obviously salacious as Noelle simply looked at you two with a smile and a wave.

Kris returned it.

"Don't get used to it." You said, going to your chair as you started the arduous task of ignoring the next few hours.

Still, at least Kris sat next to you nowadays, you could trade notes in the meantime.

Maybe today was the day the closet opened back up to you two and you just so happened to be called upon to get more chalk again. That being said, the Dark World hadn't seemed so enticing if it meant that it robbed you of a chill day with Kris.