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Skinned Knees and Hollow Trees

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"Poor, wretched girl. You are there but they cannot see you. You were meant to shine, but now your light is dimming. So empty, so empty. The vultures flock as they wait to consume your voice. Hungry, hungry, taking everything from you, until you are nothing but a hollow shell."

Fran tilts her head as she watches its massive body hunch over Vanya. It clings to her, whispering to her words she doesn't hear, but rather feels. It's particularly vicious today, more persistent as it tears into her psyche and feasts on her fear.

It's always such a shame to see the way they seem to hang off their bodies, clinging tighter than the shadows at all times. Vanya curls in on herself, subconsciously reacting to the cruelty of its words without knowing they're being said.

Fran makes her way out of the library, the creature's disparaging comments disappearing behind her. As she makes her way to her room, she passes more siblings with more shades at their sides, their incessant hisses making the children's eyes darken and shoulders slump by the slightest fraction.

She sees as the darkness is drawn to them like magnets, twisting and building and growing. It's quite the shame, she thinks, because she knows they're meant for so much more than this. They're worth so much more than a lifetime of being ensconced in the shadows, served up on a silver platter as fodder for the beasts.

She keeps walking.

She passes a portrait of Reginald, and knows without a single doubt that this is all his fault. For him, she has no pity. For him, she has no sympathy. She knows with no uncertainty that this man, this foul, cruel beast in human skin, is the sole reason these halls are stained with blood and sin, why these children are bound to Horrible Awfuls. He is so deeply entrenched in the words and whisperings of his own Horrible Awfuls that they're nearly melded together.

She sees it all around him, the darkness, the way his Horrible Awfuls have become so deeply entrenched into his mind and soul that they needn't attack him any longer. Rather, they've become him, shrieking and snarling at everyone else, endeavoring to siphon off their pain and sorrow in the way they no longer can with Reginald.

She isn't sure who mirrors who, but understands that it no longer makes a difference. Reginald has never overcome his Horrible Awfuls. He chose to join them instead, and that is a point past returning from.

Fran makes it to her room, taking in everything around her. It's so terribly bland, nothing but a bed, nightstand, and desk, and she can't help the sigh she lets out. She closes her eyes for a moment, letting everything fade around her.

Immediately, she feels the change in the very air. She smiles without even looking, not needing sight to confirm what she already knows.

"Fran," comes the call of a familiar voice.

She opens her eyes.

"Klaus, my dear, whatever is the matter?" Morticia brushes her fingers through her son's hair delicately. Her son has been sighing since he got home, staring off into space and leaning dramatically against various pieces of furniture. Her other son, Benedict, groans from across the room. She turns to him.

"Benedict, darling, do you know what's putting your brother in such a state?" If her son was any less of a properly raised Addams, or even any less of himself, perhaps he would've rolled his eyes. Alas, Benedict is a well-mannered young boy who tries his best to be as sophisticated as possible at all times, and as such resorts instead to simply huffing once more.

"He's being dramatic as usual," he tells her, shifting to cross his legs and straighten his posture. Klaus sighs even louder than before, rolling onto his back so he can throw a hand theatrically over his forehead. "Apparently, he can't handle seeing one decent-looking person without losing his mind, and now he refuses to stop with his theatrics because I pointed out how little of a deal it is."

As if to prove his point, Klaus shoots up in his seat to throw him what is likely the most exaggerated glare he's thrown to date. Benedict thus remains entirely unfazed.

"I can't help it," Klaus insists, gazing up at his mother with the most woeful of eyes. "He's just so lovely mother, he really is!" It's at this point that Gomez enters the room, planning on getting himself a fresh cup of coffee. He smiles when he sees his wife and sons there, and comes to join the conversation.

"Mia cara," he greets, kissing her on the cheek. She hums as she accepts it, though they're soon interrupted by Klaus' put-upon, woe-is-me sigh, one that he's probably been practicing for quite some time.

"What's wrong, son?" Gomez chuckles, cupping the side of his son's head and comfortingly rubbing his thumb against his cheekbone. Klaus leans into the affection as he continues to pout and whine.

"He's lovesick," Benedict says with a mild amount of disgust. He is, after all, still a child, and while not all of them are adverse to the idea of romance, there are definitely still a substantial amount of them that are less than enthused by the idea. "This boy just moved in, and today was his first day in our class."

Gomez freezes, unwilling to accept the words he hears. "Klaus? Is- is that true, son?" At the lack of denial from anyone in the room, Gomez's smile completely wipes off his face. "I- Klaus?" He sounds absolutely lost, and perhaps a little betrayed. His Klaus, his little devil? In love?

"It- with who?" Who would possibly try to take away his precious boy?

Klaus sits up to meet his father's gaze properly. He grasps both of the older man's hands with his own as he does, commanding Gomez's attention. "His name is Dave, and he's the prettiest boy I've ever seen." The confirmation shatters his father's heart, and the man sits down to relieve his shaky knees.

"Oh, Dio mio," he breathes, mind racing a mile a minute. "This is truly happening." Ben finally gives up on any sense of propriety and rolls his eyes, deciding to call it quits for the day. Morticia rests both hands on her husband's shoulders in an attempt to console him.

"Oh, mon cher, we knew this day would come," she tells him.

"But so soon, mia cara? He's so young- I'm not ready to give him away!" He cries. Perhaps one might be aghast at the blatant disregard the Addams seem to have at the reveal of their son's interest in boys, considering it is, after all, 1999, but the Addams have never been concerned with such trivial matters such as that. Their little boy is in love, and that is the only thing that matters.

Meanwhile, Klaus remains unperturbed by them talking about him, as he continues to sigh and stare out the window in what they now knew to be a lovesick manner.

Wednesday chooses this moment to emerge from her own room, perhaps to find an afternoon snack for herself. She takes in the scene around her, before turning as Ben approaches her. "No one here is sane." She quirks a single brow at his words.

"And you've just discovered this now?" Her voice is as monotone and unwavering as ever, and yet it's laced with a lilt of humor Ben is attuned to at this point.

"No, just incredulously reconfirming the truth." She hums in understanding, and then they part ways.

"Oh, what does it matter? My love is doomed, anyways! Star-crossed! Ill-fated! We can never be together!" Klaus wails, and Morticia moves to comfort her son.

"What makes you say such a thing, darling? You like him, do you not?"

"Oh mother, of course I do! He's so pretty, and sweet, and smart, and he's just perfect! But it's obvious it'll never work out- he goes to Sunday school! His last school was a Catholic school, and he even has a little cross necklace! And if that isn't bad enough, he looks absolutely adorable in it too! Almost cuter than I do! Even his little khaki shorts and polo shirts look good on him, mother! How is this possible? I don't even look good in khaki shorts and polo shirts!"

At every compliment he gives Dave, Gomez looks more and more terrified. Morticia decides Klaus is more of a priority than consoling her husband, who is a fully grown adult, and resolves to handle her son's dilemma first.

"Oh, Klaus, my sweet boy, you needn't worry so much. Love cannot be so easily defeated by such a thing. It is still possible that it will all turn out well in the end. And what better way to find out, than by trying?" She strokes his cheek adoringly. "Come now, your eyes watering. Save those lovely tears of yours." Klaus vigorously rubs his eyes, before giving Morticia a blinding smile.

"You're right, mother," he says, already sounding several times more enthusiastic than before. "I can't let something as dumb as khakis or Catholic school get in the way of me marrying the prettiest, nicest boy in the world! I'm gonna go scheme!"

Completely re-energized, Klaus leaps off the sofa and sprints up the stairs, mind racing with the possibilities. Morticia smiles softly at the sight. Ah, to be young and in love.

She turns to her husband when he emits a noise akin to a punch to the gut. She sighs at the dazed look he gives her. This isn't going to be a good time for him.

There's a knock on Ben's door, roughly an hour or so after he escapes the live-action soap opera in the family room. He goes to open it, only to come face-to-face with his father, who stares at him with puppy dog eyes that no grown adult should be capable of possessing.

"Yes, father?" As if this in itself is an invitation, Gomez shuffles into his son's room and sits himself down on the boy's bed.

"Benedict, my son, you'd tell me if anything was happening in your life, yes?" Ben raises an eyebrow.

"Yes?" It comes out as a question, asking just where he's trying to take this. Gomez nods fervently.

"Good, good," he says. There's an awkward, uncomfortable silence, before his father speaks up again. "You- please, be honest with me, my son. You haven't... found anyone, have you?" Ben groans, and upon seeing his father still staring at him with wide, worried eyes, he sighs heavily.

"No, Dad, I'm not in love with anybody. No, Dad, no one's going to steal me away. No, Dad, I'm not going to run off with an 'unworthy choice' that you despise. No, I'm not going to elope in the middle of the night and not tell you where I'm going."

His drawl sounds quite monotone, making it clear that they've had a similar conversation many times before, and that he's not even remotely amused by this.

Gomez nods silently, somewhat cowed by his son's irritation, before smiling brightly. "That's all I need to know, little devil." He pats Ben's cheek, and the boy gives him a wry smile in return. The older man takes his leave, his steps significantly lighter than before.

It's a cold Tuesday morning, and David Katz is nervous.

He just moved to a new town on Saturday, and he knows not a single person here. It's scary, considering he's only lived in one place his entire life, and all of his friends came from the same school and used to all live close by, and now he's in a completely different place halfway across the country with not a single familiar thing in sight.

Still, he doesn't complain, because he knows Momma and Daddy are doing this because it's a good opportunity for the family, a job with better pay in a place with a bigger house and better schools and safer neighborhoods.

But it doesn't stop him from wishing his Daddy never got that offer, nor does it stop his Momma from noticing how little he wants to be here, in this town with perfect trees and nicely-mowed lawns and freshly-painted, perfect houses.

He knows she knows, because instead of driving straight home after his first day of school, she surprises him by stopping by an ice cream store and getting him a triple-scoop double fudge with all his favorite toppings at once, something she's never let him do before, and when he gets home she lets him watch three episodes of the Rugrats- he's not allowed to watch T.V on weeknights, you see- and doesn't even bat an eye when he stays up thirty minutes past his bed time.

She still makes him shower and brush his teeth and pray, but that doesn't bother him in the slightest. How could it, when Momma let him have as many toppings on his ice cream as he wanted, and watch T.V. on a day that he isn't supposed to, and stay up later than she's ever let him?

That doesn't stop the encroaching feelings of anxiety and discomfort that threaten to overwhelm him that next Tuesday morning at the thought of going back to his new school where he doesn't know anybody. But it helps, knowing that Momma's always gonna be there to make it better.

When he goes to school, his heart is pounding and he can't seem to make himself meet anyone's gaze. When the teacher pauses the lesson for recess, he can't help but feel both terrified and sad, because everyone else immediately splits off to do their own thing outside, and Dave can't seem to do anything other than fidget nervously at his seat on the furthest bench from the playground.

He's spiraling again, dwelling entirely too long on thoughts too negative, when he hears the crunching of mulch only a few feet ahead of him. His gaze is still trained on the ground when a pair of shoes appear in his line of sight, and Dave follows them up until he finds a face and-

Oh, wow.

Are boys supposed to be this pretty? At least, he thinks this person's a boy. He looks like one, but his green eyes are so round and clear and bright, and his cheeks and nose are the brightest, loveliest shade of red from the winter cold, and he's got the largest, sweetest smile on his perfect face. Dave thinks instead that this boy might actually be an angel, like the ones in the books and paintings and bedtime stories Momma reads him at night.

Before he can embarrass himself any further with his prolonged staring, the angel boy holds out a delicate hand for him to shake. "Hello there," he greets, and oh dear, did his voice have to be so pretty too? "I'm Klaus. It's very lovely to meet you." Dave tentatively shakes the boy's hand, still caught off guard by his appearance.

"I- uh, Dave." Inwardly, he winces at the splutter. Can he truly be any more of an embarrassment? Klaus doesn't seem to mind, though, since he simply giggles and invites himself to sit beside Dave- not, of course, that Dave minds at all.

"I noticed that you just moved here," Klaus begins. "Which means you probably don't have any friends." Dave shrinks in on himself a little, but before he can begin to feel bad about himself, Klaus continues. "Do you wanna be my friend?" Dave looks up at him with what's probably too much hope in eyes too wide, because Klaus looks just a little sad.

Finally, his lips split in a large smile that, unbeknownst to him, goes straight to Klaus' heart and sets it afire.


When Wednesday kicks down the door to Klaus' room, the boy merely quirks a brow. His sister crosses her arms over her chest and storms inside. "You broke Father," she says, without any form of greeting or explanation. "Again." She adds.

"Well, hello to you too," Klaus chooses to say. Wednesday remains stone-faced. "I'm glad to see you this fine morning, sister dear."

"He's bothering the rest of us because he's under the impression that it won't be long before his other children 'leave the nest' and 'elope with ordinary folk'. He's inconsolable, and Mother's on her last bit of patience." Klaus sighs heavily.

"Well, it's not my fault he's reacting this way. I can't help my undying love! I've met my soulmate, Wednesday! We connected! The spark is there! Nay, the flames are already burning, and they'll never be put out!" Wednesday stares at him blankly.

"I'm telling Mother to stop letting you watch romance movies."

Klaus ignores his sister's jab, opting to wax poetic about his crush. Admittedly, this is the first time Klaus has ever expressed genuine romantic interest in anyone, so it isn't as if he's the type to have a new 'flame' every day. However, this point can be contested with the fact that he's also ten years old, which barely gives him much time to gain crushes on people in the first place.

For an Addams, however, this is still considered quite sudden, as Addams' are notoriously difficult to earn the heart of, but also just as difficult to lose. (Wednesday isn't sure if it's truly a trait passed down for generations, or merely the way they are raised, but most Addams' can count on one hand the amount of times they've fallen for someone, and even less of those times were they mere fleeting infatuations.)

Grandmama explained to her and Pugsley once that until her husband, she hadn't loved anyone, and that it's quite a common pattern among their family. For Klaus to have met Dave and become interested in him immediately is quite an odd thing for them. But then, the Addams family is nothing if not odd.

Hopefully, this boy will prove to be worth it all, because otherwise Wednesday will have to nail dead forest creatures to his front door.