The Art of Being Okay

Chapter 8

IMDb: It's a Wonderful Life

Origin: A charming movie based off Phillip Van Doren Stern's 1939 short story. It's a Wonderful life is an American Christmas movie made in 1946.

Plot: An angel comes down from heaven to prevent a good man from taking his own life by showing him all the good he's done.

Rating: average of four-point-seven out of five stars.

Director: Frank Capra

Cast: James Stewart as George Bailey

Donna Reed as Mary Hatch Bailey

Henry Travers as Clarence Odbody

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Henry F. Potter

(see more)

...


...

The website Jack's reading the summary from has over a hundred views. It's a tab open on a stranger's computer that he can see from his corner in Starbucks. He's order a latte but he won't drink more than half of it.

He'll sit and swallow nothing and fret and avoid fretting about Babytooth and why she fainted and he'll count the people that come in.

Jack's always loved counting: calories, people, steps, bites. He'd liked the idea that something he did would have an effect.

More than that, he liked knowing what things would mean. How much was this worth, or that worth? How did he measure his love for Pippa? In calories he gave up? People he conned into giving him meds for her? Hours he talked to her?

But the thing Pippa always wanted was food, so Jack counted worth in times he didn't eat.

Now, Jack still counted, but he counted people walking into Starbucks and he counted people who ordered a coffee and pastry and people who just ordered a coffee.

Jack feels lonely, and he looks at the fat, old people, sitting alone, and the thin girl surrounded by friends and he thinks of It's a Wonderful Life and wonders if the only way to be loved is to be broken.

He doesn't drink anymore coffee and his fingers start trembling when he holds them up.

The hot summer sun seems a shade chillier and his hair a shade thinner, more brittle, and Jack feels a little less lonely every time Tooth jokes about feeding him and North tries to shove a fruitcake in his face.

It doesn't matter how much he wants to finish the coffee or how bad the headaches get, because anything is better than losing love once you've found it.

...


...

"Rise is," Tooth announced, bursting unannounced herself into North's house on Saturday morning, "officially down. Just got the paper today." She held it out to North. "Oh, god. Bunny! We've got to be there for him, North." Tooth's voice is softer now.

She rests a hand on North's. He doesn't speak, even as Tooth begins to ramble.

Tooth takes his silence as permission to ramble, though North's not exactly sure what she would have done if he hadn't given her permission to continue.

Truthfully, he was – is – worried about Tooth. Her hair hasn't perked up or been braided recently; it's still limp with small, sloppy, unfinished braids hanging down in Toothiana'a natural brown. Tooth expressed herself in smiles and hair; Tooth was a rainbow now old and saggy, North thought.

Furthermore, the undersides of Tooth's eyes looked red, almost as if she had been crying.

Finally, North spoke. "First thing we do, " he explained, "we find Bunny. We talk to Bunny. He will need us right now."

Tooth nods carefully, leaning against North. Even if it feels like Sandy's already dead and everything is collapsing inevitably around them, she likes that they have a plan. There's a lot that's comforting about having a plan, even an unsure one, because a plan gives you hope and something to do. "Absolutely. Mind if I freshen up in the bathroom really quick?"

That makes North smile.

It was ten in the morning when Tooth got there and nearly eleven thirty before she's ready to leave.

She doesn't cry, but as North fixes her braids and she laments the lack of good dye on her hair.

She's smiling.


"Bloody 'ell are you two doin' 'ere?" With that said, Bunnymund slams the door shut and slouches against it.

Bunnymund, in the brief glance that Tooth and North had gotten, did not look good.

"Are you drunk?" He looked drunk, which would mean their problems had just gotten a great deal worse.

"No!" Came Bunnymund's snappish retort.

North shrugs, even though Bunnymund can't see it through to door. "Had to check, Bunny."

"Bugger off."

Tooth chimes in. "Don't shut us out now, Bunny. Look, you're pissed at us. I get it. But it's not our fault! I'm sorry about Rise, you know, but it's not … not like we can control -"

Bunny opens the door and Tooth trails off. "It's not like you can … taken an bitsy little interest in Rise 'ere? That whatcha meant ta say, Tooth?"

Tooth doesn't say anything and as Bunnymund takes a large breath to continue, he doesn't. His sails droop. "Yeah," he says, softly. "'m a fair bit pissed. But I'm gonna take the night, if ya follow. You two stop your earbashing and I'll rest it off, no hard feeling tomorrow."

Tooth tries ineffectually to stop Bunny from closing the door.

Gently, North tugs her to the car, silently.

Later, when asked, they weren't crying.

...


...

Jack spends the night at The Cage, because Starbucks makes him guilty now, trying to type while his coffee gets cold and waiting for his bagel.

When it comes, Jack pays, tosses it, pops a few Advil and curls up on the comfortable couch in the corner.

He doesn't order anything else, and when Sandy texts him a reminder, he reassures him that he's stuffing his face, makes a joke, moves on, and saves the text, because that's the a (first) text that proves someone cares and he thinks this'll be a new thing to count.


...

Bunnymund shows up in North's office the next morning and he looks like shit.

Tooth walks out of North's backroom buzzing. It obvious she didn't sleep. "Alright, T minus four days until our budget is completely shot to hell. Show's this Wednesday. Let's work."

She throws down a series of papers and legal documents and offers a tentative "Bunny?" when she catches his eye.

He, as expected, brushes her off and Tooth drops it.

"Alright, guys. So, obviously, we are looking to settle here troops. We do not want to go to court. We cannot afford to go to court and we cannot afford a lawyer. Read up!" Tooth pauses for a second. "Where's Jack?"

"Is Sunday. Jack has his own life, sure?"

"I know," Tooth relented. "I just hoped he'd be here."

"Don't pin your hopes on Larrikin like him, Tooth. Not worth it."

"Aw, is Peter rabbit being a big Debbie downer?" Jack walks through the door and turns back towards the security guard that let him in. "Thanks, Phil." It took a five minutes for a hundred steps and last time he did this it only took three point two.

Jack's always late because he's counting the steps and timing it and then he clings in the shadows and waits to make an entrance. Jack loves entrances, because then there are five people looking at him, seeing him.

He grins back at the others. "Miss me?" Tooth thinks the circles under his eyes have gotten more prominent but she doesn't mention it because she has missed him.

Bunnymund glares angrily at Jack. "Like a cancer."

Crickets. A hullaballoo of an awkward silence descends for a couple of seconds before everyone moves back on.

They're working for somewhere nearing a third hour on legal documents – not about taxes, but about settling court cases involving taxes and the degree to how preferred that is to taxes themselves says a lot about how dull taxes are – before Bunnymund snaps.

Jack had been making these ridiculous, obnoxious legal puns instead of working, for the obvious reason that he was Jack and didn't work. Bunnymund had accepted this.

It was Jack's suggestion that they all take a break because "all that reading must be pretty taxing on the eyes" that really drove Bunnymund over.

Bunnymund roared and slammed the papers down. "Shut your gob, Frost!"

It takes Jack a second before he replies. "Or what?" Jack licked his lips. "You'll attax me?" At that, he grinned, delighted with his new pun.

Bunnymund didn't seem half as delighted, or even an eighth as delighted as Jack with his pun. "Alright, Jackie Boy. We get it. You don't want to be here, in it for the money, we should be fucking grateful … But if you at goin' to continue bein' an ass, get bloody out!"

Jack's expression hardens. "No, I don't think you get it Bunny. I don't want to be here. And you guys should be grateful. But I'm not in it for the money. Do I look like I'm in it for the money? Paychecks bounce. Since last week." Jack rubs his forehead. "You want me gone? Fine."

With those last few words of a short, vicious fight, Jack's out of there, dancing down the stairs.

"And I'm taking Phil!" They can hear Jack holler back.

Tooth kind of wants to ask North about Phil, but she notices that Jack's dropped something and pushes the whole Phil thing to the back of her mind.

North and Bunnymund are arguing in the background, Tooth knows that, and it's kind of ugly too, all harsh words and anger between two people who've known each other too long and too well, but Tooth is a smart girl and the manila folder Jack dropped seems to absorb her.

Swallowing something and feeling totally fucked at the sight of it, Tooth opens it.

She drops it.

Vaguely, she notices Bunny punching North.

Tooth picks up the file again. She closes it, turns it upside down, shakes it and opens it again.

Everything is still there. Rapidly, she flips through the pages, scanning names and dates and she mostly gets where the dread was coming from now.

Carefully, avoiding the flying chairs and champagne glasses, Tooth runs to the window just in time to catch Jack on the sidewalk with a giant Russian security guard that Tooth is forced to presume is Phil.

He's standing there and Tooth's not sure what he's doing, but he's not moving.

When Tooth, seconds later, is panting in the elevator, she curses North for choosing to work on the top floor.

As Jack sees her emerge from the building, he turns and staggers up against Phil worryingly before regaining his balance and storming away.

"I am your agent! Don't even think about walking away from me!"

"Back off, Tooth!"

Despite Jack's efforts, Tooth catches up to him. "Jack! Jack, stop. I'm sorry."

Jack tenses but doesn't turn around. "What do you want?"

"Forgot something." Tooth shoves the files at him. Jack turns around, groaning. "How long have you had these, Jack?"

"A while," Jack admits.

Tooth stares at him, speechless. "How long, Jack?" Not exactly speechless, then.

"A couple of days. But, I mean, it's not like I've been trying to hide them! Heck, I found them for you guys. There just wasn't a good moment."

"A good moment?! Jack, you don't wait for a good moment to tell us the bad guys are stalking us!"

"Look, I'm sorry. I-I-I – don't' know what to say. What you want me to say?" He runs a hand nervously through limp hair in a sort of a tell that Tooth ignores.

Tooth's face scrunches up painfully. "There's nothing you can say. This is big, Jack. I'm not doubting you, but what made you think that telling us about this was just something you could put off?"

"You mean I shouldn't put off telling you guys serious things?"

Tooth squints at Jack's slightly mocking tone. "Well – yeah."

"Like the fact the Sandy had cancer?"

That hurts and Tooth flinches away from the ugly look on Jack's face. "That was," she sneers, "entirely different circumstances and I told you guys eventually."

"Tooth, listen to yourself! You're being such a hypocrite, Tooth!"

"At least I'm not a lying sneak!"

Hurt clouds over Jack's eyes and he lashes out. "At least I don't think some files are more important than Sandy's life!"

Tooth opens her mouth to say something else when Phil, who Tooth suddenly remembers, speaks for the first time.

It's Russian, so Tooth has absolutely no idea what he's saying, but she thinks she gets the gist. It's something along the lines of back and distracting enough that she doesn't hear Jack tell her he's going to leave now and she doesn't notice him leaving until after he's gone.

"Wait, Jack - ! I'm –"

He takes off running already a block ahead. Tooth loses sight of him when he turns a corner to collapse against a wall, dizzy.

"It wasn't supposed to go like that," Tooth informs the air gloomily.

Tooth gets the inkling that that didn't go too well. Despondent, she patters back up to North's office wondering what had happened. She hadn't known Jack long, but they've never really fought before and she doesn't like that, or the way she thinks she might be at least a little wrong. It's a long walk up and she curses North's affinity for high places for the second time in a matter of minutes.


...

The weekend fails to improve, after that.



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