You wondered if Alphys had at all concentrated on what she was supposed to teach in class, you would've then known that not all apples were made as they were in grocery stores or markets: Perfectly red and round, prim and proper and fit for sale. Of all the things you had to find out on that moody, misty Saturday morning, it was that apples in nature weren't that beautiful uniform, turning it over in the palm of your hand, picked up from the dirt beneath you.

"Should I eat this?"

It was very disconcerting to Kris, the first few times you had hung out proper, that you had to ask them that question. Moreso from the fact that with them they had become the first time you ever had to ask someone whether or not it was okay or not to eat X. You had an impressive gullet, for as long as you had known. It was something that just came around with being a dragon, and quite frankly, it was a plus. Chalk, chopsticks, leftovers of dubious age, your own picked off scales, you could very much eat anything and come away, nine times out of ten, okay.

Kris had pressed upon you that nine times out of ten meant that there was that one time out of ten. They had been there when you found the first one out of ten.

It was one of those leftover snappers from the previous summer, the type you threw against the sidewalk and they'd pop like mini fireworks.

"You think they'd taste like Pop-Rocks?" You offered them during lunch. They were theirs, leftover from a prank months back. They had hardly the time to consider before you had thrown one in your mouth and promptly burned the roof of it.

Not one of your best moments, but it was a learning experience.

Kris had been in their usual hand-me down sweater again, and, for all of its puffiness and wool, it had still been lighter than what you had on. Cold-blooded as you were, you had just layered three band tee-shirts on top of each other for the added warmth and padding that morning in the forests around Hometown.

It's an apple, isn't it?

Their observations had been dry and expecting of you as you both kneeled at it.

It was hard to say.

This one was lumpy, bruised, uneven. If you saw it at the market you would've been offended if the seller was selling it at… whatever they sold apples at usually. And yet, here it was, beneath an apple tree. It was an apple indeed. Apples were meant to be eaten, if you knew anything about the purpose of fruit. So you shrugged, swallowing it whole and feeling the mush of an apple that you probably should've picked fresh from its still-hanging brethren just above you.

Kris had that idea as they silently grimaced at the mush of it in your jaws, looking at the apple tree above. Of all the things you had learned of Kris in your month and a half-long friendship at this point, it was that they were rather limber. You don't know if it was because of you and how much you had man-handled them at this point, or if it came with just being human, but they had stripped their green sweater, folding it neatly at the base of the tree, and climbed up.

It made sense then why their hands had been the way they were, with scars and scratches, stabs and scabs. They had grabbed bark for handhold without regard, and you knew how soft Humans were, didn't that hurt?

Perhaps not as Kris found their way up that tree, onto a branch that was able to hold their weight, and plucked a fresher example, tossing it down to you.

"Mm. Thanks." You spit out the mushy rest as Kris cringed at the sight, but they had been used to you being you at this point to simply take another apple and turn it over in their hands in their own consideration.

Weekends were when you hung out the most about town. No school to distract, no one who would otherwise bat an eye at you being out midday, out of school. It was a relative peace, a relative chill that you had been looking forward, more and more to. With the way your attendance was, it hadn't been as if you lived perpetually on a weekend, coming to school some days and disappearing the next. However, the air was just that much less heavy, and you felt that much freer.

It was nice, eating apples with this dweeb in the tree that morning.

Sweet things were always their forte.

This apple was better, apparently, than the ones their mom used in their apple pies apparently, according to them.

Slow on the chew, on the exploration, but they had gotten into it soon enough, coring it out and tossing it your way.

You had ducked in short order. Your experiences in the Dark had justified a lot of what you knew about dodging from the townsfolk you've pissed off in the past and the bottles they'd throw at you, running away. An apple from your favorite (favorite?) idiot was no trouble as you had promptly returned the favor and threw your half-eaten apple their way.

It blunted against their neck with a pop.

Was it escalation that a simple toss at you had been met with a baseball throw?

Sure, but they started it.


Falling ten feet or so isn't something you haven't known.

Then again, who am I to comment about people who fall into things with you?

You didn't feel the pain, only the initial hit of wet apples smashed against your undershirt and the force of it, sending you to the ground and feeling mushy apples and leaves pin into your back. Opening your eyes, you only saw up, through branches and a young woman staring back down at you, hands in her pockets and an eyebrow raised expectantly. "You good?" She asked.

You only breathed in response, a huff, very knowingly keeping yourself somewhat still as you waited for the pain that you thought was coming.

. . .

Nope, nothing.

Nothing broken today but- you stood up and Susie tilted her head to get a look. "Gross."

The fallen examples of apples. Halfway to a slushie, really, and you hadn't been able to even look as Susie grabbed one shoulder of yours to steady you, passing her other hand down your back and getting the worst of it off in a wet swish.

"Dude, you reek enough of apples without this shit."

Of course, you did. It's that smell that always got you caught, but it was either use that shampoo or use no shampoo at all, and truth be told you liked your hair the way it was: clean. That being said, you noticed she noticed.

You inquired bluntly.

She stepped back, rubbing some of the goo on her jeans as she blew a breath of air at some outstanding bangs, pushing them asides.

"Asriel's blanket, that's all I could smell last night. You Dreemurrs really are fruity."

It was an apt description by your count, even with a choice selection of that final word.

You've never really noticed your fruitiness.

"No shit, dude." She shrugged. "Kinda your smell."

Your smell. You sniffed at the thought, wondered about it. Smell often gave you away. Not that you smelled bad or anything, there was, apparently, that whiff of sweetness around you. From the combination of apples to Mom's fresh baking. Vanilla, cinnamon, all the flaky homemade goodness in the world couldn't exactly dissuade the character of you, but, at the very least, no one ever complained that you had smelled bad.

"What do I smell like?" Susie had asked with an air of awkwardness, hands pocketed into her purple jacket. "You know it always gives you away, I just wonder if it's the same for me."

It's a rather animal thought, isn't it? To put down what Susie's aura was down into a scent. That was only something monsters really cared about.

Still you had an answer, looking off into the woods and the mist yet to disappear in the day. She smelled like rain. Like an old denim jacket. Like, you gestured vaguely around you, this.

She spent her days outside mostly, so it wasn't an odd thing to know that she did leave a trace of it. Dirt ate away at the bottom of her jeans and the bits and pieces of leaves caught onto the hard fabric of her purple coat. Not exactly civilized, but she hadn't been.

She smelled like the street, the woods, the dark places of Hometown. She smelled like the world you loved to be in.

She was okay with that answer in a nod, taking in the quietness in nature same as you had. It was very rare to see her at peace like this, not grating against the world around her, and it brought you peace as well.

"I mean, it ain't a bad smell, you know. Apples are pretty good." She shrugged again continuing, looking off to a cloudy sky. "Makes it easy to hang out with ya."

You were slightly, playfully offended. You thought it was your obvious charm and good looks.

Your wink and finger guns had been met with a scrunch of her face of obvious distaste, ushering her forward on the dirt trail.

The trails and hiking paths on her side of town had been hardly used, at least for as long as you had been old enough to go off alone. It was a generational thing, perhaps, and Susie's influence no doubt had played a part on why they had mostly stayed open. For she had been out here, if not in downtown raising hell.

It was a place to exist. No one would, usually, question why she was out here.

It was a bliss. You'd understand. A thousand things from the world pressing down on you, forcing themselves upon you, ushering your attention far and away and into a future that was scary and unknown.

I know. I've been there.

So, it's nice, isn't it? Being out here.

The path is wide enough for the both of you to walk in shaded paths besides each other, the patterns of shadow and still leaves above you all.

The Dark World is in your memory, and you try to remember the grass as it was beneath your feet as you traveled across fields of hopes and dreams. It was no such replacement however.

Adventure was tasted, and you longed for it still. You dreamed for that great journey ever since then, and being with Susie, it was the closest you had gotten since.

"Hold up." She had stopped both of you, coming to the side of the trail, an outcropping of vines around a bush had popped out to her, and she had kneeled beside it, reaching in, pulling out a leaf. You knew that look in her eye. Well enough for her to chew upon it. The leaf was like a dinosaur's claw mark, a sheen to it that glowed. That was all you could tell before Susie had taken it into her mouth and chewed it with a familiarity that told you that this hadn't been her first time. "Here." She reached in again, taking out another handful.

You trusted her, no thought taken as you taken a bite as if it had been a salad part and-

Root beer? You pocket the rest of the greenery.

She saw the look on your face and her eyes seemed satisfied.

"Eh, it's sassafras. My Pa, he puts this stuff in his tea sometimes. He asks me sometimes to gather some of this stuff."

She speaks of her father in casual tones. Far more casual than her mother. Divorced, it was a story you understood. It kept him away from her, as custody was gifted to Agatha, her mother. However, he had taken it in stride. He was only a town over in its fire department.

You asked if her father had the same sort of green thumb as Asgore, however she had pushed that off immediately.

"Not a green thumb. More like a green… tongue." She settled on, not exactly satisfied herself with that answer. "I get my tastes from him, I mean."

You scrunched your face in turn. She didn't talk of her parents much. Not that they needed to be talked about. You knew of Agatha.

Her mother and your mother had been friends in some past life it seemed, before she settled into the domestic life of a mother and of a school teacher. College days perhaps. The metamorphosis of what happened in that great university campus changed people it seemed.

Hopefully Asriel didn't change too much…

In either case, the Agatha that your mother knew hadn't been the Agatha that, you generally think, is the one that exists now. You hadn't seen her at all about town really, if at all, though Susie had revealed the answer soon enough, the first time you had been to her house.

She was a travelling musician, going with her orchestra.

To think of a life where you lived alone. Susie had beamed of pride for it, but you wondered if that had been a front. A lot of her was, you knew.

When do you see him? You asked earnestly, palming a few leaves in your hand, absent-mindedly getting another petal into your mouth.

It beat moss, I can tell you that.

Susie was a bit reflective gathering a bushel into her jacket's inner pocket. She shrugged. "When we can."

Susie actually liking someone had been rare. You always had the nag in your head (that wasn't me of course) about whether or not she did actually like you, though you silenced that. She liked you, and she loved her father. She was capable of feeling, unlike you sometimes.

It was the only time she seemed like a normal kid. Not that you could define what that was onto yourself, but you knew normal. Asriel was normal, with all the comfortable pep that it entailed. When Susie thought of her father, she did it with a humbled look of content. She seemed happy.


Meandering.

It's a fun word. Flows through your snout rather smooth like, and it's a good descriptor about what you do on weekends.

You meander. No one would stop you, out here in the sticks of Hometown. But even then, you always usually return home. So that's what you and Kris do that day, still just shy of noon. They've been there before. Not that you were particularly averse to having him see your home. It's just a double wide. Not like you lived in a trailer or anything. You might've been a bumpkin, but you were a bumpkin by culture, not class. The leaves from the trees that surround your house have started to give their annual load, deposition the golden browns and reds onto a lawn still recovering from the last stack of disattended to leaf falls. It's not like you had neighbors. There were other spaces for other double wides to be brought in, though Hometown wasn't popping as far as new residents were concerned. It was suburban heaven; or Hell. Depends on what type of person you were.

You knew what type of person you were.

You had never been to Kris's house, but as you opened the door and you two went through the new old motions of each other, you trusted them when they noted it was newer than your home. It always impressed them as you two walked in. Only Kris wiped his shoes before proceeding on carpeted floor in a home that was about 20% used.

Your room, Mom's room, the kitchen, the bathroom, and the laundry. The rest had been in disuse since Dad had moved out.

Kris had thrown themselves on the couch in your dust-filled living room as they usually did after much meandering, and you had joined him in a more dignified sit in front of a TV long unused. Didn't pay for cable anymore.

"Yo." You looked down, and the top of Kris's head had touched your jeaned thigh.

Kris parroted back as you both breathed bored.

There really wasn't much to do around town, and you two could only clown so much.

Hijinks had to be spread out, not too concentrated.

Anything REALLY exciting, such as starting fires, were pretty risky and even you two paled to attempt.

You two had known this, anticipated this, and so you had been more than comfortable with a silence you both just existed in. There was no guide on what friends did; the milquetoast ideas of what these young years were supposed to be when company was had.

You two were too old to truly have time to take it from the ground up, and yet, you were still young enough to know that you had quite a bit of time like this, as you were, to keep going forward. A year or two or three at most; time enough to feel out what was going on.

There are normal things you two can do. But who the hell wants to do normal? Normal was boring and boring you weren't.

You were both stubborn though as you sat on your couch with Kris, back laid and head almost in your lap as you both looked up at your same old ceiling.

Do you ever wonder if we're just wasting time?

Kris poses the question to you and you look down. Their hair, laying down like this part, and you see their eyes clearly for perhaps the very first time. Blue. Baby blues surrounded by a young white. It's not the normal you know, so you feel uncomfortable as you lock eyes.

You mulled the question over in your head for a few moments before deciding rightly. "It's not wasting time. Other people waste my time. This is my decision."

It was your decision to just sit on a couch during the weekend with nothing to do.

"You bet your ass."

Kris was alright with it as they looked up at an unfamiliar ceiling. The heat of their head is awfully, awfully close to your thigh, and you can't help but feel it pool from there, even if a placebo. It really shouldn't be anything you should be concentrating on, but it's there, and it's picking at you like bugs by the crick that you can't help but notice as you two blankly try to force time to move forward: to a day where there was something to do.

Even the lake was cold and musty this time of year, leaves accumulating on its surface and bringing mud. It was a shame. You preferred the lake. It was from that admittance a few days ago that you had revealed that you knew that Kris and Asriel had matching swim trunks. Yes, you had seen him in summers before together.

Cold blooded was an insult hurled at you occasionally, but you don't think too much of it. You are literally cold blooded. It's like being insulted by someone saying your name. It's stupid and you don't need to think too much past that.

Eventually you shift to make yourself a little more comfortable, and they do the same, however the sticky sound of organic mush is as loud as a car horn as you two realize that your apple conundrum was a little more drastic than you once thought.

"Aw. Shit." You let slip from your mouth.

They're not wearing their entire getup today: the black button up beneath their green sweater has been forgone for some reason, and if they were to take it off…

It's an issue, they point out, trying to reach behind their back as bits of apple come off, the stain left on the couch wet and fragrant.

"Dude quit it. Come on, I've got like, something you can borrow."


Susie's room it's… not what you expect. In truth, it doesn't look too different than your own room, or rather, a combination of Azzie's and yours. It is dusty, and mistaken care of, but there is love beneath that dusty veneer as olden decorations of paper flowers and lace line the wallpaper that is peeling off. The carpet beneath your feet bears the mark of tugged out fibers where Susie's hooked claws on her feet have probably picked it out. There's not much in her room save for her bed and a desk: a white folding table you've seen more at picnics than inside at all. It's not trashed, but trash does accumulate in neat piles or in trash cans.

Azzie's sheets are unkept, but very much in use on her bed. In a sliding closet she ducks her head in, going through misfolded clothes that have no rhyme or reason to their organization.

Shirts come out: Paramonster. My Chemical Romance. Petrubator. Vasudeva. Fleetwood Mac. Fire Station 39.

Designs and letterings are known in her shirts as they are kicked out of the closet.

"Hah, here!" She holds out a white tee-shirt, your sized. "This was what I wore back when I was in seventh grade, dude… Do you know if you get any bigger?" Two thoughts completely unrelated.

You reach out to grab it as you shrug. You're not sure. It's a plain one, crinkled and worn, but having not seen much use recently you imagine seeing how you remember Susie's growth spurt. She grew much bigger than the rest of the class very quickly, and it only drew people away from her.

You never minded her for that reason however. You were used to growing up with those bigger than you anyway.

"That's a shame. Maybe you could take some of my clothes off of me. I've got way too many shirts from Dad."

Here you are, together with Susie alone in her room.

I'm not thinking anything, but you? Of course, the thought is natural. You're at that age where you definitely do think of it. As Susie is turned, still embroiled in her closet. you make your move for decency, immediately after that preceding not-thought you had.

They don't have such a bad figure; you admit as you catch their unclothed back in the mirror of your closet. You will definitely not turn around to see if there's anything else you'd be interested in seeing. It would only add into your mental dictionary of those moments where you've seen the ghost of their forearm or abdomen, bare to the world.

Kris was fit. Fit enough to keep up with you. Their body obviously showed of it. To what extent, hopefully, you'd never know until next summer when, presumably, you two go to the beach. There is no reason to be curious, right?

Your sweater is over your head and tossed behind you as automatically, the white shirt that Susie handed you is threaded over as you try to do it in the hall instead of risking the chance of her seeing you shirtless.

Putting on your shirt, in the middle of leaving Susie's room, you had only realized in hindsight how that looked about a second you locked eyes with a figure down the hall in the living room. You think it Susie, but in the dim, cloudy lighting, you realize it could be no one else her mother down the hall. Your lungs drop into your stomach.

No great roar came as her eyes sunk deep with realization that hadn't been true. Instead she looked away, and in a familiar move, brought her hand up to her head. "God dammit."


"Susanne, I have given you so much liberty because I am busy trying to keep up above poverty level. However, you should know that this, us- our entire situation was because we had you when we weren't ready."

"God dammit Mom, I wasn't fucking Kris!"

"Language god dammit!"

Sat down in front of Susie's mother, the two of you on the couch being spoken down on wasn't something that you weren't unfamiliar with. These were good ole times you were recounting for as Agatha made known that she very much was Susie's mother. Basically, just an older version of your friend. Greyed scales, hair a bit darker, more taken care of, taller, a bit more grace to her… She dressed like a musician in an orchestra, classy and black.

Her voice was of an Atlantic sort, which was strange because the ocean had been about a few thousand miles away. It was that haughty voice, one of olden times, or, at least, a different era that her profession had come from: a professional orchestra member. She had Susie's tired look all the same, you saw it in her eyes. Urgently you had thought if when people saw you, they saw Toriel, or Asgore in you. They knew that when Azzie was around, he had radiated his father's essence.

With her sharp words, you saw Susie in her mother.

She was a duller-scaled compared to Susie's younger vibrance, frills along her neck and face that Susie barely had. She was, indeed, a dragon, and her mouth looked of fire.

Though you had dared it, explaining that you were only changing out your shirt because you had ruined it out in the woods.

She had looked at you with familiar eyes, glaring; a weird cross between your own mother's and Susie's. She glanced down at the folded-up sweater, various greens. She recognized it.

"You're Toriel's child, aren't you?" She said with a raised eyebrow.

The second child. The adopted one.

You nodded.

"I don't suppose Asriel is in town anymore?" She huffed. You shook your head. "Oh that's a shame. He had a great pair of lungs. He might've done well in our chorus." She was distracted for a second, thinking of her job as you and Susie sat on the couch, deflated, bearing the indignation of being brow-beaten by a parent. Crossing her legs, another huff, her dragon eyes look both of you over with the glare of monsters. You knew that look from Susie very well. You knew Susie's brand, but with her mother's it was harsher, filled with that motherly fear that all young children have. "You're not fooling around, are you? Answer me straight."

It's such a dead stupid question that the answer is almost too obvious. Which is why Susie answers the same way you would've.

"No?"

"No?!" Susie's mom parrots the odd way Susie says it. "What do you mean no?!"

"No!" Susie goes again. "We don't do shit!"

"Language!"

At a certain point it's like hearing Susie yell at herself as the two bicker back and forth to the point that it very much is clear that you two were not fooling around at all, and instead that they're just retreading old territory: the only way that they can communicate.

You know the trend. It's why Mom still babies you. It's the only way she knows how to treat you.

"And that stain is just "apples"?" Susie's mom makes air quotes with her fingers, gesturing to the couch and the damp stain on it. Susie pops up, and the rage of red on her face makes her storm off to her room to grab evidence to the contrary before this line of thinking goes any further, leaving just you and her mother for a moment alone. She is swearing at herself, not knowing where your sweater went.

It is. Swear on your life, you promise her. You have no designs of that nature within you for Susie.


*...Really?

*...

*Is that a lie on your part? Who knows at this point. All I know is what I can see.


She looks at you with eyes you can't help but shrink under, but she relents eventually as Susie is obviously running into issues finding a sweater amongst her room's disorganization.

"I was very young when I had her, as you should know." She doesn't look that old at all. She looks of the age she would be to start having children in the traditional sense, but you aren't one to judge. Not every family can be as "perfect" as your own, and you had hardly known Susie to be perfect. Though that's why you hung out with her, right? Between you and her, it wasn't an apples-to-apples comparison. Though that's just a common theme of your life at this point: You find your place in places you're not supposed to belong. "I would hate for you two to be… put off by what plans you have for your life by taking care of a child."

You make a joke because you have to, because you're quite obviously uncomfortable about this topic at all. You tell her that it's not like you had a plan in the first place.

She looks at you with eyes you've seen on Susie before: the eyes of a monster, seeing deeper into you than you could possibly do as a human. She brings out this: "Aren't you a musician of sorts?"

You ease a little, nodding. Yes, you are. Pianist. Self-trained. Those facts about you leave your mouth as confidently as your name.

"Not planning to do anything with it, or just… Is it something you like to do?"

You're not quite sure why it comes to you as easily as it did, or why you preferred the piano over anything. Maybe it's the idea of a piano roll, of notes coming down and you doing your best to hit them all in sequence that makes it attractive to you. It's not too different than dipping and dodging all those attacks down in the Dark, isn't it?

You have no answer for Susie's mother. None that comes easily that is. So you shrug. It was just one of those things about you like green sweaters, the fact Asriel was your brother, and the fact you knew your mischief.

As if loathe to do anything but sit there in silence, she disappears into the hallway, opening up a closet, bringing out a fiber bag and getting what looks like a mat inside of it with a plastic machine tapered on one side.

"I keep this around just in case our pianist has to come practice with me here. It's not the best, but I don't exactly have room for a full-on Steinbeck." It was a roll up piano. You know the type. An electronic thing meant for first timers or musicians who really, really need the space. There's no give on the keys, it's like typing on a plastic mat, but it still is a piano at heart. "Do you mind playing something for me? It might help your case if you really weren't fooling around with my daughter."

Anything to make sure Susie doesn't have too much of a headache later. A switch turns the piano on, and you find your hands reaching up and going to their resting position.

As you raise your index finger and press down upon middle C, Susie's mother appears with something else in her hands.

"You lead. I'll follow. Something classical maybe?"

Like daughter, like mother, you once again have a lizard woman following your steps.

Something classical is in your mind as you hear the tinny, electronic note reach out. It's not the worst synth. It's something workable.

You remember a tune for a Mrs. Applebaum. She was an older monster woman, grey in fur and years. Among your first "audience" when you started playing at the hospital. Her eye sight was gone, but her ears were still there. With that, she asked of you a request:

"Claire de lune." It was her wife's favorite song. Beautiful in such a way that only a piano and string piece could be. An impossibly graceful song meant for slow dancing and class that couldn't be quite found in Hometown.

You learned it anyway.

You played it now.

The best way you can describe it: A dance, truly. The piano the floor which you provided as, catching you by surprise, the single pull of a violin note accentuates. You know it's Susie's mom playing.

She's a career musician. Of course she sounds good.

Of course she sounds amazing, her eyes closed as her head and neck flow with the tune in subtle sways, and as you press down upon the shortest keystrokes you've ever played, you look up and see her and you wonder what Susie came from.

All the grace, all the study of an artform like music, it is within her mother, and not herself.

You wonder what Susie in grace would be like, and it settles your mind as you remember seeing Susie enthralled by your music earlier in the hospital.

Every fall, every high of the silvery string is only met by your full piano tones, matching with a practice you have long been comfortable with. You think you hear Susie emerge from her room again but you can't help but focus instead on the keys and the rhythm. This isn't the keys your used to, but you feel at home behind a piano.

It's… it's not something I can replicate, so I'll give you that.

Four minutes feel like an hour, and as the final notes are played the two of you open your eyes. Susie's mom is content, that is not to say the same with Susie herself as she stands there at the mouth of the hallway, your apple'd shirt in her hands as she stands unsure of what to do.

Her face twists in annoyance through confusion, but eventually her bangs shift to cover her eyes and, wordlessly, she huffs and goes outside, the screen door of their doublewide roughly locking in place.

Silence after the music. The callouses on your fingers are barely there on the soft keys, and you pick at them as her mom lets out a tired gasp, laying her violin against her chair. You see the mark of her claws on them and they are so much like the ones that Susie leaves behind.

"My Susanne," she started, glancing down the hall at Susie's empty room. "She really didn't have much of a choice in her life. She couldn't decide who she got to stay with, when me and her father got divorced. She couldn't decide how far away from town she lived, or what clothes we could afford or… what mother she could have." Agatha seemed distant for but a moment, tightening her hand around her bow. "Though if there's one thing I know she can choose: It's what she does with her life; who she is and will become. She holds onto that so clearly that it put her at odds with me when I tried to push her toward this." She gestures toward your musical instruments.

She didn't seem okay, you infer. Her mom agrees. "To see you enjoy it? With me? It must pain her, dear." She paused again before looking at you. "I'm sorry."

Huh?

"For putting you in this position."

Hey Kris:

Every mother has their doubts about their child. I'm telling you that. Though it is much easier to confide in anyone who isn't their child than their actual child themselves, as is the curse of being a parent, so I presume.

Who says I don't give good input?

You rise, wanting to go off, to find Susie, but her mother stops you for one last thing.

"How is your mother, Kris? Is she doing well, I hope?" She is. Divorce and all. There is always tension in the house, but she loves her children, and that is enough for her at the end of the day. "Oh, well, I do know how divorces go, and I suppose it must be harder since Asgore is still in town. At least Lucas is far enough away."

Lucas is the name of Susie's father, you discover. She had never said his name when she spoke of him, because to her, "Dad" was enough. It was about the only thing that she did speak of with a certain amount of softness about, not that you really assumed she was a daddy's girl type of person. Though that was the thing with Susie: There was always more to her that you can't help but discover through this tricky thing called your friendship.

You stand up to leave, giving your thanks and apologies again to Susie's mom, assuring her that you two aren't like that. She yawns, then chuckles, then breaths out all the same. It was okay.

"Hey, if you're ever interested, if you want perhaps, an opportunity, feel free to ask. We're always in need of musicians."

A future unfurls before you in that moment, a thought; but you beat it down as you nod, thanking her, chasing Susie out the door.


It takes you two hours to find her out on the path again, back where you started the day: sitting in the tree you once were with apples beneath her.

"Took you long enough, freak." She says, and based on the trunk of a nearby tree she has been pelting it with apples she can grab. "What you and Mom done with your little performance?"

You shrug. You simply got distracted, and it got her mind off of the idea that you two were- You stop at finishing that thought to her outloud, but, like her mother, she breaths in preparation of speech that is heavy on her mind.

"…It's fine. Really. You just seemed really into it." There is something unsaid by her moodiness, and you know better to press upon it, although today you want to. She deserves someone to press back upon her.

What's up?

"Me, idiot."

Technically yes, but not the real answer.

She takes another apple from the tree tossing it at her target: a well apple-sauced tree, landing it dead center. "Nothing."

Oh come on.

"I'm serious. Nothing dude."

And you were your mother's favorite child.

That gets a laugh out of her, but she puts back on her face and you hate to see it as, finally, you climb up with her. You're not sharing a branch because you doubt you two would be able to stay on it without breaking, but you find one, close enough. Close enough that you can talk eye-level, and you can smell the apple on her breath which she more than likely ate.

Thinking for a moment, you reach into your pocket, your hand providing what you drew for her: Sassafras.

The consideration on her face is palpable, and it's better than the dourness otherwise.

No words need to be exchanged as she takes some and chews on it, as she gives you an apple and, even at risk of ruining her shirt, you bite into its less than crisp exterior.

"I didn't want to get in the way, is all." Her eyes are still hidden by her hair, and you beat back the instinct to reach out, to shift them asides so you can see her. You keep it to yourself however.

You would never, you respond. She shifts her head a little, and her bangs come free just a little, the golden color of her eyes shimmering back at you.

An old teasing rhyme is in your head:

Kris and Susie, sitting in a tree.

K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Like so many things in your life, you cage it up, put it in a box in the corner of your head, and you simply smile at her as she smiles back.


Dinner is out on the table when you get back several hours later after another day with Kris: Mom is out again at her recitals. It's pizza. Stuffed crust and meat lovers. Lukewarm by the time you discover it as the sun has set and you have the house to yourself. Before you slide off your pants for the day and do the joyous thing of walking around the house half-naked, you feel a lump of cloth in your large coat pocket: Kris's sweater, stuffed in there. You kept it, forgot to get it back.

You're even, you guess, because they're still wearing yours last you checked.

You'll ask for it back… at some point.

You throw Kris's sweater on top of Asriel's sheets on your pull out bed, and as you lay there, for another night, despite the plate of pizzas in your hands, all you can do is smell the apples of them and Asriel. There is a distinction with Kris's scent however. It is an indescribable difference, one that you've always known from him. Apples, still the same, but with a layer of… him, that you can't put a word on. It calms you, and before you know it the hand that was dedicated to holding a slice of pizza is instead dedicated to holding out his shirt near your face as you lay on your back on that new blanket.

You could get used to this.

In fact, as your hands betray you and your snout is buried in his shirt, you think you might've the mistake of already having done so.


She smells like the comfiest of campfires, of nature, of sweat, and of herself.

You've realized that you've come home wearing Susie's shirt, and so with nowhere else to put it, you instead, for a reason that far eludes you (but not me) bring it to bed to lay your head on.

No rhyme or reason, but it's there.

Maybe you put it there so in the morning you would immediately remember to grab it and give it back to her. Maybe you put it there because it kept it close to you, not liable to be lost amidst your room. Maybe you put it there because…

Well.

You came home and your mother, using the weekends for rest, was sleeping in her recliner with her stories on the television running. With a blanket drawn over her and your dinner out for consumption, anticipating that you were going to be home late (she has a note on the chowder bowl: Don't make this a habit my child!) you were able to slink into your room still wearing that white tee-shirt.

You dream of music that night, as far as I can tell. You dream of violins and pianos and a better life for yourself.

You dream, not of the dark, but the light of a stage.

You dream of Susie in a dress, singing, sharing the limelight with you.

When you wake up the next morning, you smell of her, and so as you two wordless exchange shirts when you meet for lunch, you make sure to cake on the deodorant and order the greasiest meal you can to cover up what may remain.

It's fine. There's no need to smell like her if you see her every day.