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On The Outside

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He had worried a lot about Anne- mostly in the beginning.

Of course, most of that had come from not knowing her very well. At the time, his primary concern had been finding out if the creature he had brought into his home was dangerous. It hadn’t taken him long to realise that she was not- at least, not to them.

Truth be told, he still worried from time to time- but now for different reasons altogether.

She had been with them for a little over two months (Frog, that long already?) and at this point she was considered a member of the family, every bit as much as Sprig or Polly.
It became almost difficult to remember their life before her; before photos and movie nights and conversations peppered with references to things he had no hope of understanding.

Still, Hop Pop took it upon himself to remember that while she was undoubtedly one of them, physically speaking she was a completely different creature; the likes of which had never been seen in their world.
He hung onto this knowledge not out of fear, or reservation, but rather out of concern. What would happen, he wondered, if Anne contracted some strange human illness they couldn’t recognise, and died before he or anyone else realised what was wrong? What if something rather innocuous and harmless to them (a plant maybe) proved to be horribly toxic to her?

No, it would do no good to forget that Anne was human- not that he thought he ever would.

This is why he was worried about her food habits.

It wasn’t that she wasn’t eating, but he knew they couldn’t exactly afford the largest variety in that regard. This had never been an issue before- running the farm had ensured they always had something to eat, and Sprig and Polly could always go hunting for bugs in the forest if they really needed to- but he had to remind himself that Anne was different. He couldn’t help but wonder if she was doing all right.
She certainly seemed to be in good health, but how would he know if he had no experience with what a healthy human looked like? The very air of this place could be killing her, for all he knew.

Part of him rationalised that Anne would simply tell him if something was wrong, but even that couldn’t really be counted on. She was undoubtedly a bright and good-hearted child, but he knew there wasn’t an ounce of common sense in that big head of hers.

He remembered a conversation he had had with her early on- before she had caved and begun eating bugs for the first time. As usual, she had refused most of what she had been given at suppertime, and afterward, in a state of half-irritation, half-concern, he had asked her about it.

“What exactly were you eatin’ back home, Anne? Were you just as picky there? Or does no one eat bugs where you come from?”

“First of all, I’m not picky; bugs are just gross. For the record, though, some humans do eat bugs. It just wasn’t exactly common where I lived.”

“Oh yeah? What about the rest of you, hmm? What were you makin’ food from, sawdust?”

“Uhhhh…. Animals, obviously? Plants too. I feel like you should have at least figured out the part about plants- you are a vegetable farmer.”

Vegetables they had in abundance, but animals weren’t exactly common fare, as most were too large or too dangerous to catch or kill- not remotely easy to obtain as a regular food source.
Really, insects were all they could offer in that regard- but did that mean Anne was going without something vital? Was he failing to provide the child with the basic nutrition her kind needed?

He would have to ask her, he decided. He needed to make sure all his children were healthy and cared for.

Anne was sitting on the couch, feet up on the living room table (something which he had told her many times not to do) and playing with her phone.
Whatever mindless game she was invested in seemed to take all her attention; it was a good few minutes before she glanced up and noticed him. Despite having her attention, he stayed quiet for a bit, trying to work out how to ask his question without sounding intrusive.

Apparently his prolonged silence did not go unnoticed by Anne, who watched him a bit warily.

“...Everything alright, HP?”

He struggled for a moment, feeling almost frightened to verbalise his fears- as if that would somehow make them more real.

 

“Anne, are… are you gettin’ enough to eat?”

She blinked in surprise, and carefully set her phone down on the arm of the couch.

“Uh, yeah, I think so?” She paused for a moment. “Why?”

He floundered for a moment, trying to put into words what, exactly, he had been worried about.
“It’s just- I know food here is different from your world, Anne- and it’s not made for you the same way it likely was back home. I just wanted to make sure that you… that you were getting enough.”

“Oh,” she said, and paused for a minute. “I honestly hadn’t even thought about it before.”

That was good, he thought to himself. She shouldn’t have to think about these things.

“...I don’t think there’s any sort of problem, though. I mean- I feel fine- that’s good, right?”

“Well, yes- but I just wanted to make sure. I know you don’t always like what I make much-”

“HP, even if I never ate anything you made ever again, I’m pretty sure I would still be fine. You know I can cook for myself- even if I have to use bugs and stuff.”

“I do know- I just want to make sure I’m providin’ for you.”

“You already are, though! Seriously- me, Sprig and Polly couldn’t ask for a better Hop Pop.”

At this point, her tone of voice had gone from confusion to something more genuine, which made it easier to believe that there really was nothing to worry about. He took a deep breath. His anxieties still wouldn’t allow him to fully rest, but at the very least it seemed Anne was not harbouring any secrets about being malnourished.

“ ‘M sorry Anne. This old frog just worries a bit too much sometimes, is all.”

The human shook her head. “Nah, it’s okay. It’s kinda nice to have someone worry about me.”

“...Well, in that case, I’ll have to remember to worry more in the future- oof!”

Anne had been glancing him over rather fondly as he spoke, and before he realised what was happening, he was suddenly caught up in one of her weird, warm, lanky-limbed hugs. Anne-hugs were always strange- there had never been a hug less like a frog’s- but Hop Pop had always appreciated them.

The human held tight, though taking care to only slightly squeeze the breath out of him.

“Thanks, Hop Pop. I’m really lucky to have someone like you around.”

“Yer welcome, Anne... But if yer only sayin’ that to butter me up and get extra dessert at dinner, you can forget about it.”

The eldest Plantar child mock-gasped, her hug loosening and turning into a playful shove.

“Whoa, whoa. That is a heavy accusation, HP. Frankly, I’m offended.”

“Hmph. Guilty is more like it.”

“You’re seriously doubting me and my words of kindness?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

“...Fair.”