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I don't remember what MK was saying. I just remember that when they started talking about their father, some of the boys on the other side of the room started laughing.

"That's not funny," they said defiantly.

"Dude, seriously," I added. "What about that is making you laugh?"

"Why do you care if they're laughing?"

My heart started pounding in my chest.

"Because it's disrespectful, dumbass."

"Chara-"

"Hey, what's wrong with you?"

My blood boiled.

"What's wrong with you?"

"Julien."

"You're an awful person."

"At least I'll acknowledge it, unlike some."

"Both of you-"

"Wow. You're disgusting."

"And you're not?"

He threw his hands above his head. "That," he said, pointing to me, "is what's wrong with this school."

"Wow, hey, thanks for referring to me, a human person, as if I'm an object."

"I wasn't talking about you, I was talking about what you did."

"While pointing right at them," MK pointed out.

"Seriously, I can't fucking believe you."

"Hey, you can't talk to me like that!"

"Clearly I can, y'fuckin' moron!"

"Chara," the teacher interjected. We all went silent. "Go take a walk."

I resisted the urge to crush the paper on my desk as I stood, shoving my stuff back into my bag and leaving the room. I slammed the door open as loudly as I could on my way out.

"Chara," MK said gently, "hey-"

"No!" My heart was racing in my chest. "I can't- I don't-"

"Hey, it's okay."

"No it isn't, I- I fucking-" I couldn't breathe. I couldn't breathe. The hallway was spinning and I couldn't fucking breathe so I gave in to my instincts and ran as quickly as I could down the hall, right out the door, and collapsed in the grass. The cool air almost felt nice as I took in heaving breaths and sobbed them out with so much force that it hurt my chest. I knelt down, frantically searching for my phone. I was shaking so badly I could barely open unlock it and open up my text messages.

come take me home i can't do this i can't do tis i can't dod thsi i can't doj jtrajjkkjjfkji'lkmjj sakkkjiing jsjooo bad i can't type i need tojjgo ii need you please get me please i cn't do it

Fuck, she wouldn't be able to understand that. A few minutes passed with no answer, so I took a deep breath and tried again.

i nneed to go home i cjan't do this i had a major breakdown in class i fucking hate them i need to elave please come take me home please i don't know where my phone is i'lm sorry i'm sorry please just come get me please i can't stay hehre they're awful he said i'm an awful person and i'm not going anywhere and ij hate him i wanna j fucking break his nose but instead i'lm just crying outside bc i'm fucking pathetic take me home

Still no answer.

"Chara?"

My head snapped up as I whirled around. MK was standing in the doorway. 

I turned away. "Hey," I whispered.

They sat down next to me in the grass and offered my pencil, sleek and black with a silver tip, held firmly in the crook of their elbow. "You left this in class," they said softly.

"Thanks." I took it from them, holding it in my hands. The rubbery grip was soothing beneath the pads of my fingers. "'M sorry I . . . Well, y'know."

"Hey, it's okay."

"It's not. I totally lost my cool."

"Yeah, because you don't take any shit. Not from anyone. 'Specially not that fuckin' incel."

I laughed a little. It made my chest feel a little less hollow.

"Thanks for standing up for me," they muttered. "You're a good friend."

"Shitty person, though."

"Are you really gonna take what that tiny-dicked dumb-ster fire said to you to heart?" They knocked their shoe against mine. "We both know he just said that to make you feel terrible."

"Well, it worked."

"Yeah, because you know you're not perfect. You've done bad things- don't gimme that look. Lemme finish."

I rolled my eyes.

"You're working hard to be better than you were before. With Frisk, with Azzy, and most importantly with yourself."

I let myself smile, just a tiny bit.

"See? You know it's true."

"You're just very convincing. You should join the debate team."

MK laughed. "Sure, and I'll get into shadow puppets while I'm at it."

"You could make a good Loch Ness Monster, if nothing else."

They raised their arm above their head, bending their elbow as if their tiny forearm was a head. "Oh, shit, you have a point."

"And Frisk's head can be Bigfoot, 'cause they're so frizzy."

"Well what'd you be?"

I shrugged. "Put my arms down my pants and become one of the Fresno Nightcrawlers?"

MK grinned. "Well, sounds like we have a plan for the talent show." They shifted to sit up a little straighter. "You okay now?"

I nodded. "Yeah," I muttered, "I think so." I wiped my nose and picked up my backpack. "Walk me down to the office? They're gonna send me there anyway."

"Sure." They linked their arm with mine.