Disclaimer: The characters in this story are the property of Disney and are only used for fan related purposes.

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Sarsaparilla for a Dandelion

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Some people you just can't forget.

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It's December 6th again, and Hayden Moore can't believe it's been another year already.

The aches in his bones and the weight on his mind tell him that the calendar isn't lying but it's hard for him to come to terms and admit that he's another year older—and another year lonelier.

How many years has it been anyhow? He fools himself that he's lost track, that he can't be bothered to remember. Deep down, though, he knows exactly how much time has passed: eleven years now, down to the day. And it hasn't gotten any easier…

You would have thought that, in time, the memories would fade, blurring ever so slightly around the edges until they were difficult to grasp. Perhaps he would forget the little things first, like his old friend's favorite color or the place he'd been born, and push aside it all until the pain finally started to just disappear.

But it doesn't.

Eleven years and he can still remember his laughing smile and the thick untameable curls barely masked by a worn cap. He can still remember the feel of his firm yet gentle hand on his shoulder, or the way his brown eyes would get all big and wide when he was confused. He remembers the innocence that was his old pal, the naïveté and the loyalty… he remembers it all, so vividly that it hurts.

No matter how hard he tries, the memories strengthen with every year that pass—until, in a bid to save his present, he banishes his past.

No matter how hard he tries, some people refuse to be forgotten.

So he doesn't, but he pretends to. He goes about his every day: working down at the factory, stopping for a drink, coming home to his empty one room apartment. Sometimes he'll see one of the fellas but they know better by now not to bring up that old nickname anymore.

In their own way, they've forgotten too.

But how do you forget your best friend?

He can't.

Then, just when he can keep the old grief out of sight, out of mind—hidden away where he can pretend that he's able to forget him for one second in eleven years—it's December 6th again.

And, on December 6th, he can't help but remember.

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It's December 6th again, and Kid Blink isn't a kid anymore.

His fingers are crippled and callused from working far too long and hard on a factory line; if you stare hard enough, there's even a trace of old newsprint staining the fingertips. There's a small tremble to them he can't quite deny as he reaches out for the bottle.

The lid is sticky and it opens with a small pop but barely any fizz. The distinctly licorice scent is strong though the bottle is not fresh. The aroma hits his nose and his heart pulls. It's been a year since the last time he smelled it; it's been eleven since he enjoyed it.

There's one glass set before him, resting at the edge of the stained, cluttered counter. Pushing aside old newspapers and whatever else that are no use to him, he steadies the glass and he steadies his hand. The bottle clinks softly against the counter but none of the rich brown liquid splashes out, wasted.

He takes his time pouring out the drink, only stopping when the glass is filled to the brim. Setting it back down, the bottle is immediately forgotten in a way that he would have thought himself incapable of. His eyes—eye—on the glass alone, he grabs it and places it against frowning lips.

Slowly, deliberately, he takes sip after sip until precisely half of the glass had been emptied. The drink is flat and too sweet of taste for him but that doesn't stop him. He checks the amount left once, twice and continues to swallow the liquid until half of the contents remain.

Satisfied, he tightens his hold on the glass, managing to shrug on his old, moth-eaten coat with the use of one arm. He doesn't put the glass down, preferring to hold it close to him as he pulls the coat closed and opens his apartment door.

In eleven years he truly has lost count of how many times he'd made this same trek. While the intent may not have been the same each time, or the reasons either, he's visited the place so often in his youth that it's no wonder that he shies away from it now. No matter how out of the way his path may take him, he refused to go there—except, of course, on December 6th.

There's nothing to mark the exact spot that he's in search of save for a crudely carved wooden cross and a patch of dirt. A lone weed, nothing more than a simple dandelion, grew at the head of the grave. He doesn't question the presence of the sunshine-colored plant in the New York anymore. For as long as the place had been a grave, the dandelion flourished there.

He likes to think that the weed is his old friend sometimes. The sunny yellow almost as bright as a smile, every time the plant trembles in the early winter wind, it's as if he's being told 'hello'—

—the dandelion is waving now.

"Hey," he murmurs back. Clearing his throat, he adds, "So, uh, you never showed up."

There's no response, no sound at all—but the dandelion has stopped moving.

Taking that as a sign that he's being heard, he pulls his coat open and reveals the half-filled glass in his hand. He bends down, squatting carefully so that he's hovering over the dirt. Carefully, he sets the glass down right beside the still flower before pulling back and rising.

"I waited for ya," he says. It's the same thing he always says on this day—the same thing he would have said if he'd ever had the chance. "Sat at Tibby's, sat there with your drink. I'd finished mine, 'course, and I sat with your's. I bought it, so it was only fair's I got to take a sip before ya came. You was late…" His voice trails off, as if he suddenly hears the gruff age in the tone. Hears it and wonders whatever happened to him…

It has been eleven years, after all.

"But, uh, yeah. Ya never came, but that's alright. I bought you your drink and I brought it for ya. Didn't think you'd mind if we shared, huh?"

Whether it's his imagination or something else entirely, he swears that the dandelion has swayed again. It's leaning against the glass as if huddling against the stale drink for warmth—or, perhaps, leaning into it as if in search of the drink long denied.

He lifts the old fabric covering up and away from his face then before wiping at the nothing tear his bum eye will never shed. His haggard face twists into a wistful boyish smile, a smile altogether tinged with a decade of grief, sorrow and regret. Shrugging, he lets his hands fall to his side as he turns his back on the grave for another year.

"One of these days, Mush, I swear. You're buyin'."


Author's Note: Since this week is dedicated to Mush, and there are already some really awesome fics written for it, I thought I would try my hand at submitting something too. I haven't written about Mush in so long that I thought it would be interesting -- and, obviously, I ended up veering in the direction where he wasn't exactly the main character, but he was pretty darn important for this friendship piece. I just hope it makes some sense!