The Art of Being Okay

Chapter 12

Writing: Chapter 1

Ever the non-conformist, the smallish star known as the sun to the primitive ape-beings on earth refused to rise at the correct time.

It crouched, a belligerent child, beneath the mountains for several hours, roaring into the sky at half past five in the evening, all rage and moodiness.

The sun brightly scored tracks across the dry ground and burned the earth that night.

I was asleep and I was dreaming of the stars. In my dream, the stars were cold and the sun rose at the right time, every time and people lived past their thirty, forties, fifties, even sixties, and spent the entirety of it being mean and sad and then mean again in equal measure. The stars were dark and I was cold looking up at them; they were galaxies away and never popped down for bite.

I had always wanted to die in my sleep and that night, I was glad I had.

...


...

A loud crash startled Jack from the computer Tooth had brought him yesterday, five days after the show and three days before Jack is released. While he appreciated the gesture, Jack didn't really consider "typing" a "thing". His point and poke method wasn't going very well either and Jack had almost been ready to give it up as a bad job.

CRASH!

Gratefully, Jack turned to face his distraction.

From the look of irritation on Sandy's face, he appeared to have been trying to get Jack's attention for some time. Jack laughs silently. Sandy had never been the most patient of people.

Abruptly, Jack stopped that line of thinking short.

He felt his was missing something. He rewound.

Sandy is trying to communicate – stop. Sandy had been trying to communicate with Jack for a while – stop.

Sandy.

Sandy! Jack feels his eyelids springing apart as he connects the dots. "Sandy!" He cries, overjoyed. Finally he takes note of the sign in Sandy's hand.

I'm back.

"And … the cancer and stuff?"

Sandy looks affronted but, nonetheless, holds up another sign.

I told them my name. They rethought their position on operable and called in a specialist. Obviously.

Jack comes to the instantaneous conclusion that Sandy is a badass.

When Sandy holds up a sign asking,

I used to be a lawyer.

Jack realizes that a) he spoke out loud and b) did he mention that Sandy was a badass?

Sandy looks paler and gaunter and a great deal less hairy, but he is smiling down at Jack, bittersweet.

Why?

Sandy's paper enquires Jack. Why is Jack in the hospital? Why the eating disorder? Sandy doesn't speak much because every single word he says means something important.

And Jack almost tries to explain himself. Almost tries to start with Pippa and food and how the relationships there had never been healthy.

He doesn't, at the last he second. He remembers that they don't really know anything about Pippa, that Sandy still thinks she's fine. Or maybe they know now. Maybe Babtooth told them; and if she had, Jack can't begrudge her because it saves him from telling them.

But Sandy has lowered the note and is sitting next to Jack on the bed, not talking.

Sandy isn't talking, so Jack does. Jack explains how bad it has gotten with Guardian and what Tooth had told him about how the show didn't work at all. Then, a childlike happiness illuminates his face, complete transforming it. The blue that serves as a fragile, washed up barrier becomes again sparkling irises; the dead, sunken cheeks are pale and elegant again with teeth shinier than pearls and his body angling itself around to protect the joy.

"Am I the first one who knows you're back?"

Yes.

Jack beams. "I'll tell you why now."

Tooth is running around like a normal psychotic bride. It's the day before the show and everyone is run ragged and worried.

Pitch Black, of course, hasn't been helping any, constantly putting up posters that are against their show, attempting legal maneuvering that was thankfully ineffective because none of them had the time to fight it or fix it or do anything but watch as their worries wrestled with each other in their minds.

Tooth snapped rudely at several small children and made a young girl before North reprimands her. In response, Tooth drags a hand over her head and through her hair.

"Right, right. I know. It's just – and we're – and this is – and it's not like it's supposed to be!" Tooth's frenzied excited voice dips at the end into something low and soft.

For once, North does not have anything to say. Instead, he claps a hand on Tooth's shoulder and goes to help out with the bar.

All the while the children are doing what children typically do when confronted with work: running around doing copious amounts of the least useful work and going pee in packs every five minutes.

Tooth can tell already, the entire thing is just going to go great, in a slanted, sarcastic way.

Five hours later and that's exactly how it went. All the kids and parents and assorted authors are there, along with a handful of tentative guests and three or four terrifying lumps of squealing fangirls from all around the US in various states of collapsing on the ground.

Tooth has been giving this aforementioned group a wide berth.

Most of them, thankfully, leave when Tooth is forced to inform them that Ja – that Mr. Frost is not there and will not be there and yes, it is for important reasons that no, she can't disclose. Several, however, still remain, crowding around and pestering North and Tooth for the most part, though Bunnymund receives his own, particularly dedicated bunch.

At the end of the day the kids are euphoric and they've made enough money to pay off everyone who came and a couple more days in Guardian. Six, Tooth thinks on Wednesday, which isn't bad because they need ten days for two weeks.

But they wanted fifteen for three weeks and they got six and when you think about it like that, it doesn't seem all that great.

It's Wednesday and they have the rest of the week and then Monday and Friday of the following week before their out.

It's right after Jack is supposed to be released and Tooth wonders if he'll come as she packs up the tables.

Awkward situations have never really been Jack's forte and they've never really been a good thing.

But the synopsis of everything that Sandy has missed makes the cheery little guy upset and awkward and unsure of what to feel. Sandy is too badass to look at his feet but he does looks around the room nervously.

That's when he sees the files that Jack and everyone else had long since forgotten about.

Pointing at a stack of papers, Sandy leans towards Jack shrugging. Jack frowns and crawls across his mountain of blankets to Sandy. "I'm not sure … wait, those are the files that Pitch has on us!"

Sandy's eyes open in apparent alarm.

He picks up his I'm a lawyer sign again and looks meaningfully between the sign and Jack, which Jack absolutely does not get.

Ducking his head, Jack tries to justify it, thinking Sandy was upset of the illegality. "I had Night – my buddy at Man In Moon Publications get them for me. Honestly, I was going to show you guys, really. They just, y'know, slipped my mind. With the whole passing out and almost dying thing." It's the first time he's come close to admitting the truth of his condition to himself, let alone someone else.

Not mad.

Sandy grinned, wide and feral, before bending down and scribbling another word.

Excited.

The words to ask about it were right on Jack's tongue but Sandy, anticipating the question, simply raises another note.

We'll talk about it when you are better.

Sandy pats Jack's head in a way that is more quietly amused than patronizing and the two sit in companionable silence for several hours after.


...

Tooth is wearing a striped shirt, hair pulled into its usual cornrows. From a distance, she is as she always is. But up close, the shirt is wrinkled because she wore it yesterday and the humid air is already teasing the small little wisps and pieces, frizzy, off her scalp.

Tooth sighs mentally, a new a doubtfully healthy habit she has recently begun indulging in, and starts shutting down for the night. She hasn't seen Sandy in a day or two days and she's planning on stopping by tonight.

Groaning, she grabs her bag – a wild, patterned cloth sack with bits of string trailing off in the middle of a design or entire designs slipping off the bag – and stuffs several important papers and a folder in there haphazardly.

Tooth never worries about forgetting papers or assignments or losing anything, because Tooth has always had a near perfect memory. Some psychologist that foster mom number three had made her see had clapped her hands delightedly and told Tooth she had an eidetic memory and wasn't that cool?

Even then, jaded teenage Tooth had been utterly fascinated with this new bit of information and she had placed it carefully in the 'me' section of her brain. Afterwards, she proceeded to ask her psychologist dozens of questions about it, hoping between the couch and the desk to emphasis her points.

With one last check on her iPhone, Tooth snapped it off, wishes phones still allowed you to snap them shut and dropped that, too, into the bag.

Quickly maneuvering herself from around her desk, bumping her knee painfully in the process, Tooth found herself spilling onto a small boulder and knocking it over.

Closer inspection revealed that the ground was hard and the small boulder was just a tiny person.

After Tooth got up, performing the perfunctory glance around to make sure nothing had fallen out of her bag as she did so, thus revealing that everything had, she turned to help the little person up.

"Sandy?!"

She lets go of his hand and Sandy plummets back down to the ground. "Sandy, oh my God, Sandy!" Tooth, horrified and surprised at her own shock and lack of forethought helps Sandy up while sputtering. "Jesus, Sandy! Are you okay? I haven't killed you?" Once Sandy is steadier on his feet, Tooth begins paces between shoveling her stuff back into the large bag and patting Sandy in a way reminiscent of a small child who is unsure how to treat the large dog that mom has just brought home.

"I can't honestly believe I did that," Tooth informs the floor breathlessly. " You just got out of the hospital Apparently." Tooth turned back to Sandy, "- how did you do that, by the way? –" Sandy hears this from Tooth's butt, which is wiggling around in the air as she searches for her lucky gold pen. "And," reverting back to her original idea and standing position without a breath, Tooth continues. "I put you back in!" She exclaims dramatically.

Sandy, had he not been regaining his balance, would have undoubtedly replied with something sassy and clever.

Instead, Sandy balls his hands into tiny fist and places them jokingly onto his hips. He mock glares at Tooth while she flutters around him, an army wife who can't believe her husband is actually there, constantly touching his face, arms and legs, reassuring herself that he is okay.

After a time, Tooth does back off and Sandy smiles silently and waves at her while Tooth whispers hi back.

In between Tooth's gasps and Sandy's flashcards, the story of Sandy's recovery begins to unravel and Tooth takes out her ever present smart phone and orders it to let North and Bunnymund know.

And Babytooth.

"Who?" Tooth asks, momentarily puzzled.

Jack's friend,

Sandy clarifies, looking slightly irritated.

The one that got him hospitalized and looks like you.

"My sister?" Tooth's mouth is flat. She is too shocked to even open her mouth or drop her jaw to the floor. "And Jack calls her … Baby Tooth! Jack calls her Babytooth!" Tooth repeats this phrase several times, looking progressively more delighted as she snorts with random giggles and prances around the room.

Sandy shrugs, as if to concede Tooth's point.

"That's brilliant, Sandy! And you're back! We've got to tell the others, this is fantastic!" Tooth flings herself at Sandy, hugging him tightly. Something strange happen during that hug: as Tooth's hands closed around Sandy, they didn't want to let go. Letting go would mean letting everything that happened crash back over Tooth again.

Sandy was a fairytale. A jolly little midget who didn't speak and brought you happy thoughts and good dreams. Sandy could see the world in shapes; more than that, he could shape the world, twist it into something other than the mess of ugly and pain and suffering it was. When you were with Sandy, you could twist the world to.

The strength in Tooth's arms redoubles as she clings to Sandy waves of emotion rolling through her body and into his. In Sandy's arms, things can be okay and so Tooth stays there, waiting, hoping, and desperately believing things will be okay.


...

Everyone – Tooth, Sandy, North, Bunnymund and Babytooth show up on Thursday morning when Jack is supposed to be released from the hospital.

The expressions are layered with fear and hope and everything in between and their gestures are stilted, awkward with the change to the status quo.

It's alarming when Jack comes out looking little better than he went in. He is still thinner than a rod, but the circles under his eyes are receding a bit and he is walking around with his stick as opposed to leaning on it.

In this way, this hopeful, fearful way, Jack is reflected in their eyes, their expressions.

"Hope we never experience a timequake. I'd hate to relive this." Jack, throws a thumb over his shoulder, uncaring and remarkably unchanged.

Everyone shifts around, looking at each other suitably confused. Jack opens his mouth and makes a slight, hesitant sound before snapping it shut again. Instead, he waves the book in his left hand around a bit with a sort of a half laugh. It takes Tooth one glance at the author – Kurt Vonnegut – before her confusion recedes.

North simply claps a large hand down onto Jack's shoulder. "Ah, you have been inside too long my friend." It breaks right then, the tension. Together, the party makes its way to the checkout desk, ready to take Jack home.

Jack stumbles but doesn't fall. It feels symbolic.



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