It was too bad she didn't harness the patience to sit around and listen to Koko spout off his conspiracy theories about…well, everything. Otherwise, she would have had something else to do in that place other than sleep. An hour and a half after she had passed out a final time in the bed in which she was placed, Dot was constantly kept from deep sleep. The gadgets and the gizmos, the hum of the control room that was down the hallway, they all floated through her head and aggregated the pulp of her brain. The electromagnetic field of this place could have been compared to that of Norad.
That man's going to have a brain tumor the size of a football one day.
So she lied down in the bed staring meaninglessly at the brown textured ceiling, thinking about what events were ahead of her when she would finally met her older brother face to face, when the last time they had spoken was in the middle of an awkward argument/moment of comfort concerning her trying to get a job. Something was sullied during that weird and poorly communicated talk, and she still didn't completely understand what it was. She remembered wanting to hit Yakko, to try to beat it into him that she didn't want to suddenly lead the life of a fameless recluse. A faceless nobody who wasn't worth more than a pimple on the ass of God. She wanted her brothers to feel better about their situation, she truly did, and she wanted to feel better about it too. Because as out of place in the whole middle class scene as her brothers claimed they felt, she could guarantee she felt it twice as badly.
No matter what Yakko just kept running his mouth, kept on trying to chain her down with his words. Finally there was no way she could take it anymore, and so she went away to live her own life, one where she could act however she wanted, do whatever she wanted, and make her own mistakes. So she scratched her reasons for going away on a tiny little piece of paper, and went off into what was then a hopeful and fresh horizon to get away from the proletarian life that she had after Animaniacs had ended.
Looking at it now, it was pretty logical that the consequences of her choices would lead her back to her family once again.
Dot finally averted her eyes away from the crumbling ceiling and sat up, rubbing her forehead. Her hair was stringy and oily from having all of the sweat from her journey soaking the strands, and it looked like a stray black dog had died on her head instead of the wavy spider plant resemblance it usually had. Her skin was still on fire, and her lips felt that they would crack if she simply thought about smiling. It was like she was ill, but perhaps her body was still getting over the exhaustion. Sulkily, she recalled the short humorous segments toons would do where they would appear to travel at super speeds, reaching their destination in under ten seconds. Toons could be fast, sure. But when you had cheap camera tricks there to help you, it was a lot easier.
It was going on two days since the incident at the Mystique Bay. It was hard to shut Koko up when someone engaged him conversation, but since she didn't do that unless she needed to, they were mostly in separate parts of the house. As grateful as she truly was to him for taking her in and helping her get her strength back like this, Dot knew that the last thing she wanted was Koko for social company. Kooky as he was, what he did was a favor that she wasn't sure she could pay back. It was out of the goodness of his heart, regardless of how the functions in his misplaced brain seemed to interfere.
Barely able to hug her knees because of her stomach, she uncomfortably rested her chin on her knees, challenging her mind to relive the last long series of hours. The body and mind of a sentient being were very strange things indeed. Push them both hard enough to accomplish something, and they are likely to get done. She wanted to survive. No, she needed to survive. She needed to feel safe, a place where she knew that she wouldn't be found by the thugs who split her brother and her up right when things were finally starting to shape up a little bit. And according to Koko, he was coming for her. But he had company, both subjects she had difficulty deciding were welcome at this point.
Betty Boop was a friend, a very experienced friend who had tried to warn her of the repercussions of her decisions. Facing her again would make Dot bemoan being seen as an idiot for ignoring the wise toon's advice and breaking their friendship. But the more she thought about that, the more she thought she could handle it. Betty was not into drama. At least, not the kind that involved friends holding eternal grudges against each other. They would simply chat, and things would get straightened out.
Yakko, on the other hand…
Something with a lot more substance had to be carried out with him. She knew a simple 'sorry' and a hug wouldn't be enough. For either of them. There were so many things that she didn't understand about their situation back then, and on his part too. So many misunderstandings; before their show's cancellation they never had a problem with communication. And afterwards, when things were stagnant and money was tight, fights seemed to break out everywhere, like spontaneously manifested fires. Dot's heart clenched tightly when she would see her oldest brother sitting in their apartment's kitchen pondering over the bills and shaking his head dismally.
There were always times that Yakko was stern about his responsibilities; she saw nothing wrong with that. But multiply those obligations by about a hundred, and you got one stifled Yakko Warner. A very hard-to-be-around Yakko Warner. At first she tried to help. She tried to get work, which she supposed made him feel inadequate at the notion that the youngest member of the family had to help with the financial support.
"I'm not running a sweatshop here, Dot."
Fiscal sustenance wasn't the only thing on her mind when she went back to the Warner studio three years ago.
Backtrack three years
The CEO, now human, who had taken over for Thaddeus Plotz was said to sit even cozier in his position than old 'T.P' did. Plotz had retired only a year and a half before, and she was a little curious to see who was sitting comfortably in that familiar big red chair. Eric Quayle rose to the position with claims of reinventing the animation industry, when in fact many studios were downsized because of his proceedings, Warner Brothers especially.
Dot, seventeen, wanted to be in this line of work once more. Her family was struggling in more ways than Yakko could possibly handle on his own despite his stubborn will to keep on trying, and there was a good chance that they would turn her away, but at least after that no one could say that she didn't try. Besides, who could resist the insatiable Dot Warner? She had reasonable doubts; however they did little to impede her confident manner as she walked with a mission down the roads between the modules of the Warner Brothers studio. That morning she left even earlier than either of her brothers, putting on sleek black suit attire, applying the tiniest amount of blush to her chalk white cheeks, and tying back her shoulder length waves into a firm bun.
The building in which the 'big man on campus' resided hadn't changed at all. Before entering, she cast one look down the asphalt road at the old water tower with the large yellow letters 'WB' carved into the metal. The thing was their home at one point. They were children in their heyday, and although the revenue they pulled in from their show did an ample job of supporting them, they didn't have enough money to buy their way out of the Warner Brothers studio. Once they did though, Yakko wouldn't shut up about how proud he was of it for months. She liked their apartment a lot better, but the water tower had a certain nostalgic quality to it.
The lobby had the usual sparkling fountain in the center with scattered potted ferns. People were on their cell phones or reading their newspapers, eyes straying from their focus as Dot walked passed them. She smiled discreetly. A lot had changed since she was the two foot tall pink skirt wearing whipper snapper. But even though it had been years since she had set foot in the home of her old career, she was still just a teenager. If she was going to be taken seriously, she would have to act older than she was.
Of course, when was that ever a problem for her?
This was a challenge she was prepared to see through the end. Warner Brothers relinquished almost their entire animation studio with only a few sparse SB artists and animators creating nothing more than advertisements. It was an uncomfortable feeling for her to know that she might be seen on television not for her comedy, but for the simple ability to read some damn cue cards. Yeah, like that took any talent whatsoever.
But that's all that was left. And rumor had it they no longer took kindly to toons passed their prime. AKA, someone like her.
Oh well…she just had to see how hard she'd have to work over this new CEO. Let's just say she was not oblivious to her smarts or her looks, and the both were used to their full advantage when she wanted.
The elevator ride was typical enough. It wasn't like she didn't have to deal with men, human and toon, staring at her ass. She grinded her teeth together hard. On any other day she would've slapped every single one of them clear across the face, or in the least told them to take a picture to last them longer. But not today. Today, she had to suck it up and ignore the perverts and the jerks. The only thing that kept her from handing out a nice retort were the images of her brothers, both working like common slaves while she just sat around at home watching public access and waiting for them to come home.
Dot arrived at the top floor and walked out of the gratefully empty elevator. A toon-drawn-to-look-human secretary was checking her already faultless makeup in a foundation mirror behind a mahogany desk. Taking a deep breath, Dot approached her.
"Hi, Dot Warner." She said softly but shortly.
"Dot Warner…" The secretary put away the mirror, put her hand on a computer mouse, and looked over at her screen. "Ahhh yes…the 7:00?"
"Yes, Mr. Quayle should be with you shortly."
"Love your suit by the way." She added perkily, picking up the mirror to admire herself once again.
"Yyyeah." Dot said dismissively, but she doubted the bimbo heard her anyway. The chick was a lot like Hello Nurse, strangely enough. But at least she managed to make Dot laugh behind the scenes. This was behind the scenes, and stupid people like this lady just served to piss her off in numerous ways.
But it was good they agreed on something; this was a damn good looking suit.
"He'll see you now, Ms. Warner."
Taking a deep breath and making sure not a hair on her head was out of place, she walked with purpose into the man's office, coming face to face with the deciding factor that would tell whether she would be landed with work or not.
The first thing she noticed was the chair, not the man sitting in it. It wasn't red velvet anymore, but pure black leather. The room before was plain, but never…bleak. The man behind the desk was not vertically challenged like Plotz, and while T.P always had a tired look whenever the Warners ever entered his office, this guy looked downright unpleasant. So…this was Eric Quayle, the new CEO. In the future, Dot would decide that mean people were a lot easier to deal with than nice people, but right now this wasn't the case. She swallowed at his reproachful expression, and introduced herself clearly.
"I'm Dot Warner, but you probably already know that." Smooth.
He said nothing; just stared. She took a chance and sat down in the chair across from his desk.
"I was wondering if there was a possibility that you had space for me in your advertising program. You see, I used to work here a while back and-"
"You were in the cast of that hair-brained cartoon Animaniacs." He interrupted. His voice was like sand rubbing hard against a glass surface.
"Yes, I was. Which is why I wanted to come back and-"
"And it was canceled in '99 for being aimed at a demographic that wasn't approved of by the station it was airing new episodes under."
Dot narrowed her eyes just the slightest. "Yes, I suppose you are correct. The show was, after all, intended for everybody."
"How old are you, Ms. Warner?" He asked.
Lord, this guy was all over the place. And she didn't like it one bit. In fact, he strongly reminded her of Jamie Kellner, and anyone would know that was not a good sign. Heck, she wouldn't have been surprised if they were best friends.
She hesitated before answering. "I'm seventeen years old, why do you ask?"
Quayle made a noise that sounded like a snort. "I didn't know that toons aged. I must say, the years were kind to you."
The compliment did nothing to warm her. If anything, it was only making him out to be even more ignorant than she imagined. "My request, Mr. Quayle."
"I have more than enough of your kind working for me. Sorry for being so blunt, but there's no room for you here."
"What do you mean 'my kind'? I took you for an egotistical jerk, not a discriminatory one." Dot said, no longer able to hold her tongue for the likes of such a cretin.
"I'm going to be honest with you, little Miss. The only use I have for toons is pulling in money and making me look like I'm not the jackass I really am."
"Well that's obvious at this point. And I think that I'd rather starve to death than work for someone like you."
"Besides the fact that I'd rather see most toons ass up in their graves, I'd just like to make something clear." Quayle said. "I'd never hire you. I'd never hire anyone like you. The toons I keep around are chosen by me; they don't come in by their own free will asking for a job. They're all I got, and they're all I need. And if they want to keep eating everyday, which most of them do, they don't leave."
Inside her mind she wished that Wakko had kept the gag bag from their old sets. It was just a prop, but it worked perfectly, and she knew that there was a nice heavy mallet inside perfect for giving this bastard a concussion of a lifetime. Dot could have a temper, but she hadn't felt that kind of anger before. Her hands, gloved at the time, were threatening to tear because she was clenching her fists so tightly.
"People like you make me sick." She said lowly, in a feral voice that she didn't know she had. Only Wakko could ever get his voice into that deep growl, but somehow her barely contained rage was causing it. Dot stood up rapidly. "I hope you burn in hell."
Quayle laughed. And it was a disgusting sound. Her ears twitched in pain from hearing it. "Trust me baby, I can deal with that. Just as long as I don't have to worry about senseless toons messing up my system."
Dot stared at him in horror. So, it had come to this.
She stormed out of his office, the sound of her two inch black heels clicking angrily against the shiny marble floor. She fumed in the elevator, trembling and paying no attention to the other businessmen who were once again staring at her ass, and then she fumed some more in the lobby. Outside the building, she walked in a straight line, not even caring who she bumped into on the way out of the lot. The meeting only lasted about ten minutes. Ten minutes was all it took to ruin everything she had planned. She wanted to go home, run to Yakko (or even Wakko) and tell him everything that happened and what kind of horrid man was now licking his chops every time he thought about his position and what power it brought.
But she couldn't. That would mean telling Yakko that she had tried to get a job, tried to get work even though she was still a teenager. That would make him furious. But there was no way she could keep this a secret, even if she wanted to. The man trashed her hopes of helping out. So what if she had succeeded and her efforts would have only gotten them a smidgen farther; she tried, and that was what mattered. Her hope of feeling something other than resentment and worry…just ruined.
There was a bus she could've taken, but didn't. There were at least five cabs she could've hailed, but she didn't. She just kept walking and walking, strands of hair falling out of her loosened bun and hiding her face as she finally came to the complex that she called home. Taking the stairs up to her floor didn't calm her the slightest. She opened the door to the empty apartment. Both her brothers were out, and for that she was thankful, because she was in dire need of some time to herself.
The walk to her room at the other end of the apartment was short, and she kicked off her heels carelessly in the hallway on the way. She closed the door with a slam and forcefully pulled her hair out of the bun. The sun's rays shined through her window; it wasn't even midday yet, but it didn't matter. Everything went to hell in just six hundred seconds with that douchy CEO. Bigotry against toons was nothing unheard of. But she could handle the occasional stares and hurried whispers with wide suspicious and even frightened eyes.
It was ironic how many things the Warners could say they had been through yet there was always something out there that could surprise the hell out of them. Quayle's vomit-inducing words echoed in her ears like a boa constrictor with evil intentions rising just above simple reptilian instinct.
Dot collapsed on her bed face down, emitting bellowing sobs into the pink flowered comforter. Hadshe gotten the job, she knew that Yakko would have no choice but to deal. He could complain all he wanted about her going behind his back and committing herself back to the system when she 'didn't need to'. But whether he admitted it or not, he would inwardly be sighing in relief at the help she would provide.
And she would be basking in her proper place on the television screen, even if it was just commercials.
Well…all that was a thing of the past, now. The meeting with the CEO put several arrows through the buoyant part of her personality, the part that always seemed to stay afloat through everything.
Dot lied on her bed for hours crying until she fell asleep, still in her now wrinkled black suit.
In the front of their home the door opened, and a masculine but still quite nasally voice sounded through the apartment. One of her black ears twitched, but she didn't rise to greet him like she normally would. All she did was crack open an exhausted eye.
"Anyone home? Or did I accidentally break into David Copperfield's house?"
She heard everything he did. It was like clockwork. Yakko would hang up his coat, throw his car keys into the key jar, kick off his shoes that he always complained rubbed against his rabbit-like feet the wrong way but wore them anyway, and walk through the hallway to his room, just one door away from hers. Her lack of response must have prompted a more curious side of him, because he called out for her again.
"Where are ya, Dot? The disappearing act is weird."
"I'm in my room." Came her muffled reply. She still didn't raise her head off of her bed.
Her bedroom door opened. "Why're you lying down like that? You sick or something?"
The bed shifted as he sat down next to her.
"Here…" He said, taking one hand and rolling her onto her side, and using the other to gently cup her chin and turn her face towards him. "Well you don't look sick. A little stuffy maybe, and your eyes are red." Raising an eyebrow, he added, "Have you been smoking pot?"
Dot made a sound somewhere between a snort and a laugh, and gingerly moved her chin away from his palm. "Goodness, Yakko. I'm not in the mood."
"That's obvious." He quipped, but he kept a hand on her back and rubbed in firm comforting circles. "You wanna talk about it?"
No, not particularly. "I decided to play dress up and then I realized I didn't have my favorite strand of pearls."
"C'mon Dot, for once I'm serious." He paused. "And why are you so dressed up? I swear, you look ten years older in that suit. I don't remember ever buying you that."
She didn't answer right away, but her stalling was useless. It was impossible to prolong how pissed off he was probably going to be.
"I went to the Warner Brothers lot today."
"…Why did you do that?"
Dot sighed deeply. Already the tension was rising. "I met with the new CEO. I asked to be part of his advertising department."
"A job? You went to look for a job?"
Here it comes.
"God, Dot. How many times do I have to tell you, you don't have to work. I don't want you to work. I want you to be here when I come home so I don't have to be reminded that I can't give you guys everything I want you to have, and the youngest member of my family has to work to keep our porcelain pig from going dry."
"That's kind of selfish, don't you think?" Dot said, sitting up and looking him straight in the eye. "I wanted to get a job so we could make ends meet with a little less effort, but the only reason you don't want me doing that is so you can have a little fact to pat yourself on the back with."
Yakko rose from the bed. Now he would take on ultimate critical parent mode: raised voice, judicious choice of words, pointed finger, the works. It happened every time she started talking back.
"I'm not running a sweatshop here, Dot. You don't need all of this crap that Wakko and I are dealing with, you really don't. You may think you do, to satisfy this whole outlook you have of thinking it's going to be sunshine and candy."
"You have to stop assuming what I need! Of course I understand I don't need to work, I want to! I'm tired of seeing you guys working your fingers to the bone just so you can slide by with the bills and food, and then I have the nerve to complain when you don't buy the damn frozen dinner that I prefer, and I can't keep on going knowing that I could be doing what I was meant to do, what I was drawn to do, but instead I'm sitting around here just waiting for you and Wakko to come home."
There was an ugly expression on her face now, a scowl that didn't suit her typically delicate and adorable features. She glared up at her older brother with fire, angry that he was acting just like she predicted, and that she hated fighting with him like this. She could have just kept her mouth shut, and in turn it would've kept Yakko's quiet too. But now this was going to hell just like everything else that happened that day.
"So now we get to the real reason you want to work." Yakko said, crossing his arms. "And you're calling me selfish. Life in the fast lane is over, Dot. Get over it."
"I want to help, dammit. And you're saying I'm wrong for at least trying." She said through gritted teeth. It was becoming increasingly difficult for her to ignore the stinging of inauspicious tears collecting in the corners of her eyes. She was so close to crying again, she could practically taste the tear salt already.
Yakko rubbed his forehead in frustration. "You're not wrong, you're just…"
"I don't know why we're even talking about this. I didn't even get the damn job."
In the rarest of instances, Yakko simply stared, but did not speak.
"Eric Quayle may not have given me a spot in the ad division, but he did teach me one thing." Dot said, hastily trying to wipe away those tears that felt like needles against her eyelids, but they were already spilling anyway. "And that's that I can't seem to please anyone. Not even myself."
Tiny rivers streaked against her cheeks. Yakko wasn't angry anymore. He looked like he was in pain as he watched his sister burst into tears in front of him. It was moments like these that really recapped the fact that she wasn't a child anymore. She didn't cry like a hysterical baby to get what she wanted anymore; these days, she only cried for something decent, something that was really worth the temporary crack in the wall which shielded her contained emotions from the world. He sat down on the bed again and pulled her close to him as she reluctantly cried into his chest, all the while trying in vain to form sentences in between sobs.
"And do you know what he said? He told me that he didn't care if he went to hell for his goddamn ignorance, it would be worth it just so he wouldn't have senseless toons screwing up all of his great plans…I swear, I hate people, Yakko."
"I know you don't mean that." He said quietly. And after a few seconds, Dot shook his head and agreed with him.
"People like that just make me so angry." She whispered. "It should be emotionally illegal to feel that angry towards someone."
"I've probably seen worse fights between you and Wakko. You'll get over it…maybe." He said with uncertainty in his voice.
"No, I don't think I will."
"Well he's just another money hungry asshole working toons to death. What else is new?"
Dot didn't say anything, and Yakko sighed deeply. "Look Dot, I've dealt with jerks like that my whole life, and so have you, even though you might not have paid so much attention to them back then. They're everywhere. You can't hide from them, because one way or another they'll always seek you out."
What if I were to seek them out myself? Dot thought cryptically.
"Besides, this is a good reason why I don't want you working. You don't deserve to be bombarded with the crap that Wakko and I are."
She narrowed her eyes. "Why, don't think I can handle it?"
"It's not that, it's just-"
"I'm tired, Yakko. I think I'll go to bed." She said dismissively, promptly turning away from him and lying back down onto the comforter.
It was a few seconds before Yakko rose, but when he did, he went quickly with a muttered 'okay, whatever' as he left.
Dot laid there for a long time listening to her brother's footsteps audibly crease every corner of the apartment. Wakko came home too in time, and she could vaguely hear the second oldest ask where she was.
"She's in her room sleeping." Yakko replied.
"It's only the early evening, is she feeling alright?"
Most of the time their concern touched her, made her feel alive and wanted. Tonight, it just made her want to cry again.
"Yeah…she's fine. She just had a shitty day is all."
"How come?" Wakko's voice, ever so inquisitive, had care in its baritone depths.
"She tried getting a job at the Warner Brothers lot, and they turned her down." Yakko said.
"She tried to get a job? Wow…did you warn her about the jerk who works as the CEO there now?"
"I would've if I had known beforehand. And even then I would've chained her down and told her she couldn't go."
"Yakko, I can get why you don't want her dealing with the assholes who work over there these days, but honestly, I can't see the harm in letting her work at least a part time job. And she actually wants to, which is amazing. I'd totally be taking advantage of that. Because I sure as hell wouldn't have wanted to work at her age, but you made me anyway."
Yakko didn't seem to reply, and after a few seconds Wakko went to the kitchen to fix himself a meal; the silverware, milk glass, and plate being the actual meal, that is.
Dot, still back in her room, clutched her arms and pulled her legs up to her chest in a fetal position. She wanted out into the world. Into that big wide world where it was suddenly forbidden to tread. There was no doubt that she loved her family, but a selfish little worm wiggled into her mind and told her to break away. She didn't plan on listening to it, but for tonight, she could entertain it. Just for tonight.
"She just doesn't get it…" She heard Yakko say out in the other part of their home.
Maybe I don't, but neither do you.