Everything Will Be Okay
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rating: +16+x


3T stood around with a cup of Dream Catcher Chamomile™, making small talk with the other Toy Tinkers before the big presentations. This month's were sure to be amazing. 3T was especially excited for Brainy's newest and zaniest invention yet. Today he was going to unveil his big, sugary, aquatic themed product, and 3T was positive the crowd — and, more importantly, the overseers — were going to love it.

The large, spiral splattered doors led to the naturally lit — well, as natural as you can get with a world where nigh everything, including the sun, was artificial — Business Theater, where today's presentations would happen. The seats were numerous enough to hold the entire company's employees, and each department got their own designated (and color coded) section. The Toy Tinkers, for obvious reasons, took the front seats when the Business Theater was used for the toy presentations. It was spectacular. It was theatrical. And more importantly, it was what determined the next month's batch of new projects. Every Toy Tinker spent every month preparing for these presentations, unless they were still working on producing an accepted toy model from the previous month.

The waiting room was ginormous, and shuddered as the Frite Lite Rollercoaster flew past. 3T was understandably a little bit nervous. He couldn't imagine his measly project, the Paint Wand, to stand up to the giants of the industry. I mean, he couldn't even have thought up a very good name for it. Paint Wand. It was just named what it was. Who cared if you could point to anything and change its color?

But someone caught his eye.

From across the excited crowd of aspiring Toy Tinkers, 3T saw Polly Gary Ashley looking absolutely miserable next to the hippo-shaped cold water dispenser. She looked like she had just learned of a death in her family. 3T, empathic as always, couldn't just let her sit there alone. 3T moseyed across the crowd, making it a point to avoid all the gag tiles that squeaked when you stepped on them. Polly seemed to notice him coming, and only began shaking more.

Finally, they were in distance to speak above the crowd's thrum of conversation.

"What's got you down, Polly?"

She avoided eye contact.

"Polly? I'm here to talk."

"It's the presentations."

"Oh, don't worry too much about the presentations. They're easy, Polly. People don't judge you so hard, even if you don't win you don't really lose. They're pretty easy, Polly. They're easy."

"No, that's not the problem."

3T frowned. "What's the problem?"

"The Piano Plant."

"What about it?"

Polly stared at her feet, and fondled the sweating glass of water in her left hand. "I promised you I'd change it."


No one had seen Polly since the day they heard that Brainy died, three weeks ago. They didn't even show up to Brainy's funeral, nor the funeral for the kids. After they found the burnt down Tourist Trap and the charred remains of children, Brainy, and… dolls. The day after Brainy had come to Thomas Timothy Thompson in a dream. Only Percy knew of that, because 3T didn't know the point in sharing. Either no one would believe him, or… or what? What could they possibly do with that information? In any case, 3T didn't want to share with everyone. It was his experience. It was his alone.

Except with Percy Pinwheel.

He shared everything with Pinwheel. He even moved in with her just recently. Currently, he was drafting up his next toy. Paint Wand had, understandably, not been accepted. He did have his own, and it was fun, but it just didn't have the grandeur that Wondertainment seemed to be looking for recently. Unfortunately, however, 3T expected this next presentation to be… low energy. Nothing had been the same since Brainy left.

The Toy Creation Department had been quieter.

Solemner.

Sulkier.

Worse.

Dull.

Some of the passion had been lost. All of Wonder World!™ had been taking a long time to get over it. Some people were quicker than others to be happy again. Some people still couldn't handle that something so… horrendous had ever happened. Especially not from here. Not birthed from the womb of Wondertainment. It was just wrong. 3T was one of those people. So any distraction was welcome.

And here came one now.

The apartment complex's soft buzzer sound came above the many fans and pinwheels that littered Percy's apartment. 3T sat up. The buzzer came again. 3T pushed the unfinished — perhaps unstarted was more accurate — toy blueprints off of his lap and onto the coffee table. He carefully dodged taut wires to make his way over to the elevator and pressed the button to establish two way communication with the person at the buzzer on the ground floor.

"This is Thomas Timothy Thompson, living with Percy Pinwheel in her apartment, who is this?"

"Ashley. Polly Gary Ashley."

The Polly Gary Ashley that hadn't been seen in three weeks.

"Ashley?!"

"Yeah, can… can I come in."

"Yes, oh my yes you can, come up now!"

3T quickly flipped the tiny blue switch that allowed the elevator to stop at their apartment, and then rushed to the nearby bathroom — nearly tripping — to run his hair under water.

"Who's there, Tee?"

"It's Ashley!"

"Polly Gary Ashley?"

"Yes!"

"Oh! My! I'll put on a pot of water!"

The elevator dinged. As the doors slid open, an unsightly mess was revealed. Ashley looked — and smelled — as if she hadn't changed clothes or bathed in… an indeterminate amount of time. Their soleless pajama slippers, grey lint-ridden sweatpants, and unnaturally brownish-pink tank top were almost enough to distract from their face. But, unfortunately, nothing could really do that. Their round red nose was noticeably dented, eyeliner had streaked down their cheeks at some point in the past week, bags under their eyes were like nothing 3T had ever seen (and that's saying something, seeing as 3T had insomnia), their lips were cracked like old pottery, their hair matted and unkempt.

When Percy saw them, she startled. "Dear me!" She rushed over to Ashley, and practically pulled them out of the elevator. "Sit on the couch, honey. And stay there. Do you need a bath?" Before Ashley could answer, "I'm going to draw you one. And your hair! We're going to comb that. Tee, get the brush?"

3T walked back into the bathroom and decided he'd do the noble thing and sacrifice his hair comb to the hell that awaited in Ashley's hair. He walked back out, and Percy had already gone into full mother mode. She couldn't help it, when people looked bad. After all, image was everything. Ashley just sat there as Pinwheel used a lint brush to freshen up their sweatpants, and by the time 3T had made it to the couch with the comb Percy had procured a new orange shirt for Ashley to wear. Percy handed 3T the old pink shirt and told him to go wash it. So 3T did.

He went through the kitchen and out the door onto the little balcony. They were only on the second floor, so the view wasn't great, but it was nice to be outside. Besides, the apartment complex was on a hill, and this balcony looked down the hill, so the height difference was noticeable. The streets were bustling with almost no one, seeing as it was a Snoozeday.

3T pulled out the tub that they kept under the small glass table on the balcony, filled it with hot water from the rainbow colored hose attached to the spigot with googly eyes, and began to soak the shirt. The fact that Polly Gary Ashley had showed up at their house still baffled him, but he knew that Percy wasn't going to let any discussion start until they were clean.

"We're getting Ashley unclothed and washed, don't come in for a bit!" Percy hollered from inside.


Ashley looked much better.

They looked normal.

Well, they still looked like they had been hit by a train.

But they didn't look homeless. So that was a step up.

Ashley and Percy sat on the couch, and 3T sat on the ground across the coffee table from them. Pinwheel had prepared them all tea and turned off the fans because Ashley had complained about it being too cold. The silence was uncomfortable, but 3T and Percy were okay waiting for Ashley to be comfortable speaking. 3T and Percy weren't talkers, anyways. There was a comfort about being able to go around and not needing to talk to each other, just enjoying each other's presence. This wasn't enjoyable, but it was more acceptable for them than Ashley probably knew.

"I…" Ashley began to croak out. Their voice had all the bumps and ridges of someone who had just woken up, but their exhaustion implied they had been awake for days. "I first… want to apologize for not… changing it."

Percy looked confused, but understood that Ashley was aimed at 3T, and chose not to interrupt.

"It's not that I didn't mean to, I… I forgot to. Or, I, didn't have the motivation to. I don't know. I don't know why I didn't." Ashley stared down into their tea. "I… I haven't… been able to tell anyone, because the first person I wanted to apologize to… was Brainy…" Ashley swallowed loudly, and then let out a small jet of air. "And I can't do that, so…"

Percy patted Ashley on the back, and Ashley mouthed "I'm okay" in response.

3T frowned. "Well… I'm conflicted, because… I can't say it's okay." Ashley nodded. "It wasn't an okay thing to do. I knew that in the moment but you convinced me of a way in which it would have been okay. But you didn't come through on that promise. And it was a big enough promise that an apology alone will not make things right. If anything will make things right."

3T breathed in sharply.

"But that is not to say that I hold it against you. I think that, in this sense, you are, in the derogatory sense of the word, immature. I think that maybe you got into the business world too early. That maybe you had more growing up to do. And that's unfortunate, Ashley. That's really unfortunate." 3T sipped his tea. "But the mistake was made. And you won't make it again. And you are apologizing, and you are acknowledging what you did wrong. And you're clearly really beating yourself up over it. None of this makes what you did okay. But I get it."

Ashley looked up and made eye contact.

"You will grow up, and you will become a better person, and that's life. There are things that you do, mistakes that you make in the course of life, some worse than others, and you will have to live with them. I don't think you're a bad person, Ashley." 3T reached across the table and touched Ashley's hand. "And I forgive you."

Ashley looked down at 3T's hand on theirs… and their eyes began to well up. "I… I'm just, I'm just so…" Tears began to fall into their tea. "This wouldn't have happened, if… if…" Ashley took their hand not holding tea and placed it on their face. "If I hadn't…"

3T quickly set down his tea and circled the table to kneel next to Ashley and put a hand on their knee. "It is not your fault that Brainy did what he did. That is nobody's fault but his own. You can't take responsibility for that. Don't take responsibility for that. You will only hurt yourself."

"But…"

"No buts. You are never responsible for what other people do outside of your influence. Brainy was in the middle of nowhere, on his own, doing what he did. You can't let yourself feel responsible for that, Ashley. That's the worstest worst thing you could ever do to yourself, Ashley. It's the worst."

Ashley nodded, and continued to spill tears. 3T looked to Percy, who then got up and cleared her and 3T's tea. 3T made his way to the side of the couch where Percy was just sitting, sat in her spot, and rubbed Ashley's knee. Ashley wiped their eyes, and in doing so looked up at 3T. In that moment, 3T opened his arms, and Ashley quickly came in for a hug. 3T rubbed their back, and gave them a shoulder to cry into. "Three weeks of this," he thought to himself. "Oh, gosh…"

Ashley's sobs filled the apartment, and Percy looked concerned at the two huggers. 3T looked up from the embrace for a second to mouth "more tea, please", to which Percy nodded and ducked behind a corner.

"I… I wish Brainy was here…" Ashley cracked out.

3T furrowed his brow. Ashley wished Brainy was here? Why? What would they stand to gain from that? Closure, 3T supposed. But that was it. There was no reason for Brainy to come back. Brainy had done a horrible thing. Brainy had done several horrible things. Brainy had acted irrationally, out of line, and he had abused Wondertainment's leniency. He had played them. A company that had only ever done good for him. A community of people who had done nothing but supported and loved him, and he took them for granted(?), and used their premises for… monstrous activities. He killed people. Kids. And for that, Brainy was unforgivable. Forsaken. Forbidden from ever coming back.

3T clenched Ashley's back, taken now with his own emotions.

"I don't."

And at that very moment the apartment complex's buzzer sounded again.




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