Chapter 22: Bonded
The tower. They were hiding the DIP in the water tower.
This thought and "what are we going to do about it?" were running circles in Yakko's head. Outside of him, the toon brawl continued, though the weasels and their relentless DIP supply were making the fight rather one-sided. Even Bugs and Daffy were on the defensive now as the Blot surged around them.
Inside him or outside him, it didn't matter, it was all chaos. He needed to think, he needed to concentrate, he needed to do something besides stand here but he couldn't focus –
Dot and Wakko's voices came simultaneously. And then Yakko looked at them, and everything was quiet again. They were his center. They made everything clear.
"You three," Yakko said, pointing to Babs, Buster, and Oswald, "hold off the weasels while we go for the DIP. Help Bugs if you can. Watch yourselves, alright?"
"Only if you do," Babs said.
Oswald gave a mock salute, but Buster seemed to be stuck halfway between being angry at him and being worried for him. He compromised by giving Yakko a stiff nod.
Yakko turned to his siblings. "Wakko and Dot, you're coming with me. I need your help."
Wakko and Dot shared a stunned look.
"Really?" Dot asked. Beside her, a small smile had crept up on Wakko's face.
Dot beamed and opened her mouth to say something, but a loud rushing sound cut her off. The Blot had whipped violently upwards, sending Bugs and Daffy flying off the stage and into the shadowy seating area. The plan abruptly dropped from Yakko's mind and he started after Bugs, but Babs grabbed his arm.
"We're roadkill if you guys don't do something about the DIP," she said with a reassuring squeeze, "We'll take care of Bugs. I mean, c'mon, you've got three rabbits on the job!"
"Go! Go go go!" Oswald cried and pushed Yakko from behind.
Yakko, Wakko, and Dot dashed toward the stage exit. Darting and ducking, they weaved through the melee, eyes always on the door. When Wakko tripped, Dot already had an arm out to catch him. Before a stream of DIP could catch them, Yakko was pushing their heads down. But when a circle of rope snaked under their feet, none of them saw it coming. The lasso tightened around their ankles and they tipped forward and hit the floor at the same time. Reaching into his hammerspace, Yakko turned blindly and whipped a banana peel at the ground in one movement. Bosko was storming after them, holding the other end of the rope. He couldn't have stepped more squarely on the peel if he'd tried, and his feet slipped out from under him. He crashed to the floor, snarling and cursing. His face was bent in such hatred that he looked downright demented. Yakko had never seen that look on himself or either of his siblings, and doubted that he ever would. Father or not, they were not like Bosko. He was sure of it.
"You little rats," Bosko seethed, "just because your dimwit mother didn't drown you freaks the second you were born doesn't mean I won't finish the job."
Wakko and Dot, who were jointly using a band saw to cut through the rope, looked up at him in surprise. Growling, Bosko raised his DIP gun. Yakko slung his brother and sister behind him. Bosko laughed. "You can't protect them both, Warner, I'll DIP whoever you don't save. So go on then, pick your favorite and I'll give you one less kid to worry about!"
Yakko shook his head. "I have no more a favorite than you have comedic timing. Besides, unlike you, I don't take orders from delusional toons."
"So then it's older brother first while the other two watch. Suit yourself."
But Yakko was no longer looking at him. He and his siblings' attention was now focused on a spot above and behind Bosko. Bosko frowned when he realized this, and turned around. He let out a cowardly shriek when he saw the Blot, towering above, staring down at him like a disgusting insect.
"You kept the truth from me," the Blot said. His voice had dropped an octave to something low and sinister.
Bosko sunk to his knees. "N-n-no...I d-didn't - it w-w-was Os - it was Oswald - "
"You kept the truth hidden inside. Now I will do the same to you."
Transfixed, Yakko looked on in horror as the Blot's mouth stretched wide, like a snake unhinging his jaw. Bosko screamed and scrambled to his feet. He'd barely taken a step when the Blot's head swooped down, his mouth engulfing Bosko completely, cutting off his scream like the slice of a knife. Yakko grabbed his siblings and sprinted for the door, trying and failing to tune out the terrible sounds of gulping and chewing. It wasn't until they were outside that his siblings spoke.
"I think I'm going to be ill," Dot said delicately.
"They never covered what the Blot ate in the comics," Wakko said, looking slightly green.
"I'd think that Disney usually tries to avoid depicting cannibalism," Yakko replied.
Dot's brow furrowed. "Are you okay?"
Yakko frowned at her. Then he realized he was shivering slightly, though he was not remotely cold. Yakko didn't think it was the appropriate time to tell them that it was their father they'd just watched get the dinner treatment. Instead, he urged them forward. "I'm fine. Look sibs, this nightmare isn't ending until we get to the tower. Let's move!"
They ran together as a unit. No one was filming them now, no one was encouraging them to be silly and gleeful and wild. They were running through the Warner lot because their friends and their town depended on it. Remembering how Bugs had taught him to sprint, Yakko shared a few tips between breaths, encouraging them to go faster. It was as if it was only yesterday that they'd been filming Animaniacs!, and they followed the familiar shortcuts to the tower effortlessly. Finally, they came to a skidding halt at the base of the tower.
"Ugh, the DIP's here alright," Dot groaned, pinching her nose shut and waving away the overpowering stench.
Now that he was looking at it properly, Yakko noticed two hoses coming out of the manhole that led to the tower's water ducts. One for pumping the DIP in, and one for pumping it out. This could only mean that the tank was so full the weasels could no longer use the tower door. It would spill everywhere.
Unfortunate for the weasels, but perfect for the Warners, Yakko thought.
"Okay guys, listen up: we need to dump that DIP from our tower," Yakko said, catching his breath, "Dot, when we get to the top, I need you to climb on the roof and watch out for toons. We don't want anyone getting doused. Wakko, you need to help me open the door. With all that DIP in there, it's not going to be like opening a jar of peanut butter – "
They froze when they heard it: the sloshing sound of liquid – of ink – rapidly approaching.
"The Blot! He's coming!" Wakko cried.
"Guy doesn't quit, does he?" Yakko muttered. He turned to his wide-eyed siblings. "Climb!"
Wakko followed Dot up the ladder with Yakko bringing up the rear. They'd scaled the tower ladder countless times when they'd been shooting; years of practice had given them climbing abilities that would put a monkey to shame. But when Yakko threw a look over his shoulder he saw that the Blot was nearly at the foot of the tower. They locked eyes, and Yakko nearly lost his grip on the rungs. A strange feeling of light-headedness had come over him. He pulled his gaze away and shook his head. He didn't know what that was about, but now was certainly not the time for going faint. Above him Dot had already hoisted herself onto the landing and was pulling Wakko up as well. Yakko was about to join them when the tower swayed, throwing off his balance. Yakko yelped as his body pitched off the side of the ladder. He swiped at the air and caught the edge of the landing by the tips of his fingers. Now he was dangling over the lot by one hand, his feet swaying below him as the Blot was now churning his way up the ladder. The Blot was struggling though. His inky tentacles kept slipping.
Two pairs of hands grabbed Yakko beneath the shoulders and heaved him up. He collapsed next to Wakko and Dot.
"Geez Yakko, you need to eat a burger or something," Wakko said, frowning and poking him in the ribs.
"I appreciate your concern but eehhhh, maybe later," Yakko said as the tower shuddered again.
They peered over the edge of the landing. The Blot's eyes met theirs. Yakko realized what was happening much too late: the same light-headedness as when the Blot had used blurring on him at the Compound. I can control your mind...
And then suddenly the tower was dizzyingly high, so high that the lot was nothing but a speck below. Yakko gulped and tried to will away his panic as the wind whipped his ears. It wasn't real, it wasn't real –
Two frightened gasps made him turn. Dot and Wakko had pinned themselves to the wall of the tower. They looked beside themselves with fear. Yakko realized with thrills of relief and dismay that they were trapped in the hallucination with him.
"How'd we get so high?" Dot cried.
"Don't worry, it's not real, it's just a trick – "
"A trick? Are you sure of that?" came the Blot's voice.
Tentacles snaked around the railings, surrounding them in a ring of ink. The Blot was level with them now. His face was alive with predatory glee. Yakko joined his siblings at the wall and tried to usher them behind him, but they forced themselves to his side instead.
"Born toons. You are a blight. What it must be like to be born I do not know...disgusting and dirty and without purpose..." the Blot seethed, ink churning angrily in his throat.
"At least we get a birthday," Dot snapped.
"Yeah, every year. With cake," Wakko added.
Yakko stared at them incredulously for a moment before it dawned on him: they were stalling for time. Presumably for the nonexistent plan that his brain was going to gift him with.
"That foul human invention? Your devotion to those bloodthirsty simpletons is pathetic. That's why I've written them out as middlemen for drawn toons. They've been purged. We don't need them anymore."
"Yeah, you can make as many toons as you want with your Machine – oh wait, I broke it. Oops," Yakko said with a smirk.
Bubbles were popping all over the Blot's body, as though he was boiling with anger. "It does not matter. With the time I will save from no longer pursuing your filthy hides, I will build a newer, stronger Machine."
"But what are you going to do after that? You don't have your business model anymore," Yakko said.
All the ink in the Blot's body seemed to still, and his pale eyes narrowed to slits of light. Clutching his sibling's shoulders to still his trembling hands, Yakko continued, "I mean, that's why you've been after us this whole time, right? You thought it was all true...you thought we were drawn and locked away in the thirties, that we'd busted out of the tower after sixty years. But the kicker is that you thought three drawn toon kids figured out how to have their own cartoon show in the nineties. And you wanted us to show you how we did it. Isn't that right?"
A snarl gurgled up from the Blot's throat. It started out low and grew in intensity, like an oncoming storm. Yakko needed no further confirmation.
"You must've thought we were pretty good if you've chased us for so long," Wakko said quietly.
Yakko nodded, not taking eyes off the Blot. "Yeah Blot, you're our biggest fan."
"Want our autograph?" offered Dot.
"Never," the Blot spat, "now that I know you stole the show from a drawn toon who deserved it – "
Yakko gripped his siblings tighter. "Who says we didn't deserve it? It doesn't matter if we were born or drawn. It doesn't matter where we came from. Do you know why we got those parts, had our show? Because we never quit. Not when we were with our mother, not when we were at the orphanage, not even when we got the parts and signed the contracts. We were always working and practicing, always giving it our all and trying to get better at what we wanted to do. Every day I see Wakko and Dot wake up and learn, they still go to school, they never stop trying."
"And Yakko's still learning from Bugs all the time," Dot chimed in.
"Right. No one's born with talent and TV show and fame. It takes work. Years of it. And what have you done? Gotten mad because you weren't handed fame and fortune just because you came out of an inkwell? Instead of working and earning it, you tore toon's lives apart and forced them to watch you. Those aren't fans, Blot - those are hostages. Maybe if you hadn't spent so much time making machines and DIP, you might've made something of yourself!"
The Blot's body rolled and boiled with ink and the sheer force of it was causing the tower to sway back and forth. Dot and Wakko staggered much too close to the edge of the landing for his comfort and Yakko dragged them back. Behind him he could hear the DIP sloshing about in the belly of the tower.
An idea hit Yakko so forcefully he almost lost his grip on his siblings.
"I am a drawn toon!" the Blot roared, "Cartoons are my purpose, and it's your ilk that's taken that away from me! I am reclaiming what is rightfully mine!"
"Yeah, we get it," Dot drawled.
Yakko shook his head. "No Blot, you're a scribbled toon. Cartoons weren't written in the stars for you." With each word he inched closer to the tower door. Any slower and it would be agony. "But that's just an excuse you're using, isn't it? You know, when I was in your Compound, I didn't miss being on stage. I didn't miss my show. I missed my family. They were they only things that got me out of that hellhole. Fame and fortune are nothing - you can't come home to them." He was so close now...just a hair more and he could reach the handle..."None of it matters if you don't have people you care about, and people who care about you. And that's what makes you weak, Blot - you don't understand that one bit. Find your own purpose. I found mine."
Yakko's hand was a fraction from the giant wheel that served as the tower door handle when the Blot let out an unnatural shriek of rage. It startled him and made his insides feel like ice. The Blot reared back and the tower lurched violently with him. Yakko, Wakko, and Dot were thrown forward, clean over the railing. Yakko made a grab for the wheel but his fingers only swept through air. Though impossibly, they weren't falling. If anything they were floating. Yakko looked for the tower but it wasn't there. The Blot had blurred them again and the tower was gone - in fact, everything was gone. They were suspended in black emptiness, nothing below them or above them for as far as the eye could see. Beside him Yakko could only make out his siblings' white faces, gloves and feet; their black bodies and dirty clothes blended in with their surroundings.
"Um...where'd the tower go?" Wakko asked in a shaky voice.
Yakko frowned. "Eeehhhh..."
Then, as though an invisible floor had given way beneath them, they were falling. All three of them let out startled yells as they plummeted downward, rolling and pitching uncontrollably through space. Yakko's ears and clothing were rippling along his body as he fell; Wakko was clawing at the air as though he could latch onto something, while Dot simply had her hands splayed at her sides as she shrieked.
"Sibs! Sibs!" Yakko cried, swimming through the air in an attempt to reach them.
"What are you going to do for them, Warner? Grow wings? You are worthless to them!"
The Blot's voice surrounded them like a fog. It was as though he was coming from all sides, so much so that Yakko wondered if it was the Blot himself they were falling into.
But were they falling? It was only the sensation of falling - was he really falling if there was no ground, or no sky? Knowing the Blot, he was sure the ground would feel very real once he splattered against it like a water balloon. No, mind over matter, this wasn't real, this wasn't real, he needed to find what was real and cling to that.
But Yakko was exhausted, and frightened, and so confused, and for one despairing moment he felt he'd never determine what was real at all.
His brother's voice.
"Yakko!" His sister's.
His siblings. God, his siblings. They were the most real things in his world.
Yakko looked at them, and they looked back, and something strange happened. For a moment, he could have sworn he saw the tower, like the disjointed image of a mixed television signal flickering on a screen. A tear in the illusion. Yakko heaved himself through the air with the equivalent of a swimmer's butterfly stroke and grabbed Wakko and Dot's hands. At their touch, the tower spasmed into view again.
"What are you doing?" the Blot asked shrilly.
Yakko could see his own face reflected in Wakko and Dot's eyes. He felt Dot lace her fingers in his as Wakko squeezed his hand so tightly.
"Stop that!" came the Blot again.
Even now, in the nightmarish clutches of the Blot's twisted mind, Yakko knew that everything would be okay, because they were with him. They were his everything, his rock, his reason for being. They were his home. He knew that they loved him, as they'd showed him that time and time again. And he'd never gone a second in his life where he didn't love them with everything he had. His love for them was so real he was certain it was a physical thing he could hold in his hands.
No sooner had Yakko thought this when the blackness shredded to pieces. It dissolved around them in tatters, and the falling sensation came to a sudden stop. Yakko was laying flat on his back against cool metal, staring up at the night sky. He was shaky and weak, like he'd just gotten over a fever. He pushed himself into a sitting position - his head spun - and looked around. Wakko and Dot were sprawled out on either side of him, sitting up and looking as bemused as he felt. They were back on the landing of the tower. They'd never left it.
"Remind me never to go skydiving," Dot said, clutching her head while Wakko nodded. Catching his eye, they both looked up at Yakko and smiled. He smiled back. He had a feeling they'd felt it too - absolute and unconditional love. It was no wonder the Blot had released them. The Blot could not control what he could not understand.
Their moment was short-lived. The sound of ink swishing heavily along with a terrible growl drowned out the noise around them. They gasped as the Blot emerged from the base of the landing, massive and menacing and alight with murderous intent. His face had swelled to nearly the size of the tower tank itself, blocking Yakko's view of the lot completely. There was nothing, toon or human or otherwise, in the Blot's eyes. They were twin torches of nothing except the need to destroy, and they were focused directly on Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. His - no, not his, its - mouth opened wide into a hideously gaping crevasse, tendrils of ink clinging at the corners.
Yakko's heart began to race and the ink in his veins was replaced with sheer adrenaline. His body was positively buzzing. It was survival instinct, gripping him more powerfully than it ever had in the Compound, because now he had his siblings' lives to defend as well. He was on his feet without conscious will. Wakko and Dot mirrored him, they were perfectly in sync with one another. This was it. If they were going to live, then they were going to have to act. Yakko looked to the tower door, then back to his siblings. Their eyes locked, and knew by the looks on their faces that they understood. Yakko turned to face the Blot square on.
"Alright Blot, you want to learn how to be star? Fine. Consider this your first lesson. It's something I learned my first day on Animaniacs," Yakko shouted above the Blot's animal growl. His eyes were hard and defiant. "This door is not a prop."
All three Warners lunged forward, grabbed the wheel, twisted, and pulled. Metal grinded on metal and the door exploded open as hundreds of gallons of DIP came gushing out in torrents. Yakko caught a brief glimpse of the Blot's shocked face before he and his siblings were thrown backwards by the force of the door. The Blot had no time to react; DIP poured straight into his open mouth. Wedged behind the door, Yakko used one arm to cling to the wheel and one to hold his brother and sister, with the great WB Shield living up to its name and blocking them from the DIP. He squeezed his eyes shut as the door shuddered against the chemicals, pinning them to the tower wall. The sound was tremendous, like standing next to a waterfall, but even its roar could not drown out the dying screams of the Blot. They seemed to drag on, terrible and piercing so deeply they may as well have been echoing inside his skull. The tower lurched again as a great weight fell off of it.
The DIP slowed and the pressure on the door subsided. The lot was quiet again. Yakko held himself still until he could only hear the drip, drip, drip of the last of the DIP. He opened his eyes. Dot and Wakko were still clutching him and burying their heads into his side. Slowly, he pried his arm away from around their shoulders. They raised their heads, looking at him with curious eyes. Yakko was not sure who was shaking more – them or him.
"You two okay?" he croaked.
Wakko and Dot nodded, too stunned to find their voices.
Yakko inched the door away from them carefully. There was no sign of the Blot. Not even a splatter of ink. He took a ginger step forward on his toes, making sure to avoid any DIP puddles. Wakko and Dot followed him to the edge of the landing. Glancing at them, Yakko peered over the railing.
At the base of the tower was large pool of DIP that was gathering slowly into a sag in the asphalt. Streaked throughout it like a scar was a splash of black ink. The Blot was finished.
Yakko exhaled. He was overcome with a sense of release. It was like waking up from a year-long nightmare.
Wakko and Dot stood on either side of him, silently observing the remains of the Blot. Yakko wasn't sure how long they stood there. Words were not needed at the moment. They simply took comfort in each other's presence. After having gone so long without it, it was a balm for invisible wounds.
Taking one final look at the ink below, Yakko walked to the tower wall. He collapsed against it and slid down so he was sitting on the landing. Wakko and Dot joined him, and he forgot about the aches and pains in his body. They pressed their backs against the water tower, the symbol of their rise to success, of what they'd overcome together. Yakko put his arms around his siblings and they rested against him.
"Mickey made it look way easier in the comic," Wakko said, breaking the silence.
Dot snorted. Even her snort sounded exhausted. "Pssh, you thought that was hard? Please."
"Yeah, that was so easy that I think we need a long, long vacation to recover from it," Yakko said. After a pause, he added, "Preferably somewhere north of the border."
Grinning from ear to ear, Wakko jumped into the passenger seat of Scratchensniff's car. He couldn't wait for Scratchy to see it - they'd gotten all the dents taken out, fixed the broken taillights, and even gave it a paint job. It looked as good as new.
Yakko buckled up in the driver's seat before turning to him with a large, goofy smile. Even though it had barely been over a month since they'd faced the Blot on the water tower, his older brother looked much better. The shine was coming back to his fur, he was putting weight back on, and his eyes no longer had that feral, empty quality to them. "Where to, Mr. Official Class A Candidate?" Yakko asked.
Wakko smirked, his tongue sticking out one side. "The lot. Definitely the lot."
They pulled out of the parking lot of the Los Angeles Toon Testing Center. Remembering how worried he'd been last year when he'd been preparing for his Class A Candidacy test, Wakko had to laugh a bit. It hadn't been nearly as bad as he'd expected. If anything, it had actually been a bit fun. And, as Yakko had pointed out that morning, after all they'd been through, what was the big deal about a silly little test?
As it was, he'd passed with flying colors, and in roughly a year he'd be back for his final test: the Class A. Then he'd join the ranks of his brother and Bugs and Daffy as an official Class A toon. But he could wait though, he was patient. If the last year was any proof, he had no idea what the future would bring.
"So how does it feel?" Yakko asked.
Yakko hadn't gone into great detail about his experiences from the last two months. He and Dot had peppered Yakko with questions until they realized that it may be the rare occasion where Yakko didn't want to talk about it. Wakko knew the gist of the whole thing: that he'd been captured and imprisoned, that he was forced to work on the Machine that made the weasels, that he'd eventually found Babs, that he'd broken the Machine, freed the toons, and escaped. Though he had a feeling that his brother was leaving a lot of details out, Wakko couldn't help but in even more awe of him. It sounded like he'd been smart and brave, things that he thought were worth looking up to. Above all, he was thankful that his brother hadn't given up. They might have never seen each other again if he had.
"Feels good," Wakko said, still grinning, "wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but I'm glad it's over with though. I can't wait to tell Dot and Scratchy. I mean, I can't wait to see Scratchy either."
Yakko snorted. "Explaining it to him is gonna be a trip. 'Yay Scratchy, you're back! Oh, what happened, you ask? You've been a mutant weasel for a few weeks. No harm done. You won't remember a thing.'"
After they'd emptied the DIP from the water tower, the weasels had been quickly subdued. Currently they were being held in one of the sound stages on the lot. In the meantime, Brain - along with a throng of armed security - had been escorted to the Compound at Yakko and Babs' direction. While the Compound was dismantled and arrests were being made, Brain had examined what was left of the Machine. In days he had developed a prototype to reverse the effects of the transformation, and it had gone into beta testing two weeks ago. He named it "The Tool." Yesterday, he'd "fixed" his first weasel volunteer, who'd turned out to be none other than Launchpad McQuack. Today, several more toons were scheduled to be fixed, including Scratchensniff and Plucky.
"It's kind of lame that they can't remember anything after they got turned into weasels. Scratchy'll never remember helping me kick Pete's butt," Wakko said.
"His finest hour. You'll have to relive it for him."
Wakko watched his brother cautiously go through a green light. He'd almost fallen over when Yakko asked him for driving tips. Yakko, asking him for advice? The planets must have aligned. But it wasn't the first time Yakko had surprised him since his return. In turn, Yakko had dozens of questions for him and Dot, about what had happened, about how they'd felt, about what they'd done. At all of their answers, he'd practically gone into fits of elder brotherly pride.
"There's so much I have to tell him. I don't think he'll believe half of it."
"I still don't, and I was there for most of it," Yakko said.
After the encounter on the lot, dozens of toons – many Wakko had never even met – had approached them and told them how brave they were. How they were an inspiration. Thanking them for saving their families.
Wakko had confided in Yakko that he wished they wouldn't do that. After all, it was undeserved, and he felt like he was tricking them. While Wakko had wanted to be brave, most of the time he'd just felt scared and unsure. When Dot was on the diving board, he'd had no idea he could feel so terrified. When the Blot had cornered them on the tower, he didn't know what they'd do. Yakko had been the brave one.
Yakko had looked at him for a moment before taking him by the chin and holding his gaze. "You were scared and you never caved in," Yakko had said, "You never gave up, never stopped protecting our sister and you never changed yourself. Sib, I really can't think of anything braver than that."
Wakko watched palm trees whiz past his window. "Do you think Scratchy will be okay? When Brain turns him back to normal, I mean?"
"That implies you'd consider Scratchy 'normal' under the best circumstances," Yakko answered. But at Wakko's look his face softened. "I can only hope so, sib. If Brain's work saved me from a DIP bath, I'm pretty sure there isn't anything he can't do. But no matter what happens, it sounds like Scratchy's got a pretty good friend in you that he can count on. If that's the case, then you already know he's going to be fine."
Wakko nodded. Yakko always had a way of untangling his confused thoughts and laying them out in front of him so he could see them clearly.
He was glad to have his brother back.
Yakko slowed down as he prepared to turn onto the lot. "Besides, he's got all three Warners to watch his back now. Or drive him crazy. Or both. I give it three days before he asks Brain to turn him back into a weasel."
All three Warners. The thought of it made Wakko feel lighter. He remembered a time not too long ago when he'd wanted nothing to do with his brother and sister. How could that have been possible? His world was so much brighter when both of them were in it.
His phone buzzed in his pocket. Wakko pulled it out and saw, with a swooping feeling in his gut that wasn't entirely unpleasant, that it was Berry.
"One sec, I uh, need to take this," Wakko said. He tried to discreetly angle his head so Yakko couldn't see him talking, as if this would somehow also prevent him from hearing it.
A huge grin spread across Yakko's face. "Tell Berry I say hi," he said, waggling his eyebrows.
"I will. And you need to put your turn signal on," Wakko pointed out.
Yakko's grin faltered and his eyes narrowed a bit, but he did as he was told.
Yup, it was good to have his brother back.
Dot ran a finger down the tattered cover of Wakko's comic. Well, it wasn't exactly Wakko's anymore. It was hers. He'd given it to her this morning. Apparently he thought it was time to "pass it down." Squinting in the Burbank sun, she slid it into her hammerspace.
Brain's Tool was situated in the middle of the WB lot in an open space between the soundstages. It most closely resembled a giant egg with a lot of tubes and cables hooked up to it, with a circular door in the middle. Dot and dozens of other toons had formed a perimeter around it as Brain's latest "fixing" session was about to begin. To her far right, a line of weasels was forming, waiting to be returned to their normal state. Many toons were smiling, others seemed nervous. Dot understood how they felt - there was no telling if their missing friend or family member would turn up as one of the weasels, or if they'd simply gotten DIPped and no one knew.
And then she spotted him; Skippy was sitting alone on a bench a good distance from the crowd. Grinning, Dot weaved her way to him.
"Mind if I join?"
Skippy looked up at her and a large smile split his face. It was the same smile she remembered, the one that was always on his face before he lost Slappy. He patted the space next to him, and Dot sat down.
"You look really good, Skip."
"No, I mean it. I haven't seen you look this happy in...well, a really long time."
Skippy shrugged. It was light and breezy and confident. "Well, what's there not to be happy about? My best friend has her family back, Toontown is going back to normal, and Scratchensniff will be here any minute. With all that good stuff happening, I know my aunt Slappy, wherever she is, must be really happy too."
"Not to mention she has a nephew who's a total ace," Dot added.
Skippy's cheeks turned slightly pink and he seemed very interested in his feet. "Aw, come off it..."
"I'm serious! You showed Minerva up, I'll never forget that as long as I live. And I bet you she won't either. I hear jail gives you a lot of free time to think about stuff like that. You hear she's stuck in a cell across from Mortimer? I can't think of any worse punishment than that!"
Skippy shuffled his feet for a moment, then asked, "Where are Wakko and Yakko?"
"At Wakko's test. They should be back soon. If Yakko's driving it'll take twenty minutes. If Wakko is, it'll take fifteen."
Honestly, you lose your brothers for two months and both of them learn how to drive. Go fig. She was totally jealous, but she knew her time would come. Maybe she'd get Wakko to teach her, he seemed to be the expert of the family. Or maybe she'd ask Babs, since she evidently taught Yakko.
But she wouldn't ask Yakko about Babs. She wasn't touching that subject with a fifty-foot pole. Not yet, anyway.
Besides, she didn't need to be asking him those questions just yet, as she was still reveling in the feeling of having him back. Both brothers, for that matter. It hadn't gotten old yet, and she had a feeling it never would. Now that she knew what it was to lose them, their relationship had taken on a different meaning. She was sure they would have disagreements in the future – they were still siblings, after all – there was something that seemed to ground them when they were in each other's presence. Perhaps it was the knowledge of how much they meant to each other. She'd known it before, in her gut, but now she'd seen it completely exposed, stripped of pretense and pride. Or perhaps it was something else entirely, she couldn't be sure.
Besides, it didn't seem like Yakko was ready for too many questions. He'd answered some of hers, but not all. What had happened to him while he was gone had changed him in small ways. He was still Yakko, still her brother, but there was something more reflective about him now. She couldn't put her finger on it. They were all different now though. Wakko had a self-assured spring in his step that he'd been sorely lacking before this whole escapade had begun. And she…well, she knew so much more now. What it was to lose. To want to live. To give and gain. To love two certain boys more than anything.
But then, there was also a third boy.
She did have questions for Yakko, sillier ones that didn't seem appropriate at the moment. Or any moment, really. But they burned her…did boys feel the same way girls did when they looked at that special someone? How should she know if a boy liked her, what were the clues? How did she know if what she was feeling was more than like and more like love? She saw the way Yakko looked at Babs, she was sure he must know.
Boys were the most unholy of topics with Yakko, but she was sure he'd answer her if she asked. He'd do anything for her, she knew that now. He'd come back from the desert for her, jumped into DIP for her, stood in front of the Blot for her. Later, he'd held her as she tearfully recounted Yosemite's death.
"I think Brain's starting," Skippy said.
The toons had formed a tighter circle now. Some were clutching at each other in anticipation. Dot scanned the crowd for her brothers, since she wanted to watch the fixes with them. Brain had specifically requested their attendance or, as he put it, he wanted them to "reap the fruits of their labor." She had to admit, it was pretty moving to watch toons reunite after a transformation.
She felt as though she'd been transformed too. There was something different now, something new and bright and strong. The knowledge of who she was, and who she was bound to become: someone who would choose to be good like Yosemite, to stay resilient like Wakko, and to give all of herself like Yakko.
Giving her a curious look, Skippy eased back into his seat next to her. His wide-eyed expression was just so adorable, she just had to –
"You can't leave without your girlfriend," she said.
Unable to stop herself, Dot leaned forward and kissed him. When she pulled away, Skippy was an impressive shade of scarlet. "G-girlfriend?" he stuttered, trying not to look overly pleased with himself.
"I didn't think you'd mind," she said, "but...let me be the one to tell Yakko. He just went to all the trouble of saving my life, so I think I have a much better chance of not getting strangled. He's slightly protective, if you haven't noticed."
Yakko was still parking when Wakko flung off his seatbelt and bolted out of the car.
"I hear it's healthier to wait until the vehicle stops before you get out of it," Yakko called after him as he put on the emergency brake.
Wakko was already halfway around the soundstages. "Park faster next time! I don't wanna miss Scratchy!"
"I wonder if it's too late to return him," Yakko murmured to himself. Then he shrugged, smirking. He'd missed his brother, manic energy and all. Besides, after sixteen years, he'd probably lost the receipt.
He followed Wakko's path through the lot where the large crowd of toons had gathered. Brain and his contraption were somewhere in the middle of it, as well the weasel-toons. Wakko was trying to push his way through the throng, but he kept getting stopped by toons wanting to thank him, or apologize, and point out something fantastic they'd seen him do during the fight. Yakko grinned – he was a distance away and he could still spot Wakko blushing.
Someone waved to him and his heart gave a funny jump – it was Babs. Her arm was flung around Shirley, who looked understandably nervous; Plucky was due to be fixed today as well. But Babs was smiling at him, and he smiled back.
She'd been one of the first on the scene after the Blot fell; from the tower landing Yakko had watched her skid to a stop in front of the pool of DIP, her jaw dropping as her eyes traveled along the ink stain. Then her eyes were moving up the ladder, to the tower and, at last, to Yakko's. She practically melted with relief at the sight of all three Warners waving at her.
There was a fake town square on the WB lot. It had been used in several films, from Bonnie and Clyde to Gremlins, and it was as Americana as Los Angeles would ever get. In the middle of the square was a white gazebo surrounded by trees. After a week of toons and police and news and tears and reunions and exhaustion and joy, Yakko and Babs had found themselves sitting together in the gazebo. Perhaps it was an after effect of being locked underground for so long, but Yakko found he could breath easier in the open air.
"I don't know if I ever really said thank you," Babs said after their quiet chatter had lulled to a stop.
Yakko shook his head. "That's because you don't have to. I'm the one that owes you. If it wasn't for you I'd be twiddling my thumbs in the Compound right now."
"Oh please. Getting out of there was like a tango, Yakko: it took two. And besides, I'm not thanking you for that. It's for a lot of things. You helped me in more ways than one."
Again, he should be the one thanking her. For giving him hope when he had none. For showing him what he'd been missing. For making him want to be a better toon.
He noticed that she was sitting a chaste distance away from him. There would be no molding against his body like she had done in the van. While this didn't surprise him, it didn't stop him from feeling a small ache in his chest.
She didn't elaborate, but she didn't need to. After what they'd been through, something unspoken seemed to pass through them at all times. There were so few toons who would understand what he, what they, had endured. And he'd always appreciate her for that.
"You're a special bunny, Babs," he said.
"And you're a special…" her ears twisted in a comical manner, "what are you now? Half-rabbit, or something?"
Yakko shrugged. "Feel free to make something up. I still have no idea."
"Fine, you're a real special whatever-you-are," she finished with a grin.
Yakko snorted, then sighed. Staring at point in the distance, he said, "It's a shame these two special toons won't be going on a date anytime soon."
The grin slowly faded from her face, and he knew that she was looking at him fully now. "How'd you know?" she asked. Her voice sounded so small and pained.
He smirked, knowing that it must look very ironic. "A lot of things. Being back here, after all that…the desert feels like a whole other lifetime. And now we're back, and everything's trying to be normal again and we're both not. I know I'm not exactly the resident guru on healthy relationships but eehhhh, starting something when we're both messed up kind screams major red flag to me. That and…well, you know what."
"Yeah, Buster. I heard you when the weasels almost got him."
"Yakko, I – "
"Don't worry about it. I've known both of you since you were in braces. Really, I understand."
"I don't think you do. Yakko, I'm not going back to Buster. I'm not going to anybody. I'm taking my hat out of the ring for a while, if that makes you feel any better."
"That doesn't make me feel better." He thought for a moment. "Okay, it makes me feel a tiny bit better." A smirk tugged on his mouth and he cut his eyes to her. "That whole career thing is calling your number?"
And there it was, as if his words were a spark to light the flame – that confidence, filling her to the brim. His heart broke just a little bit more. "You got it, bub. I figured I was gonna have all this free time now that I'm not escaping from prison and fighting off mutated toons, so I'm going to give it a shot."
He laughed, and he was so glad it wasn't forced. "You're gonna be great."
"So are you," she said.
"Present tense, Babs. I am great."
"And I'm not? I was just being nice."
"Will we still be able to joke around like this?" he asked. He was keeping the smirk on his face, but on through sheer will; it must be a grimace by now.
"Hey," she said, softly. She steered his face towards hers with a finger beneath his chin. "Yakko, sometimes your jokes were the only thing that kept me going. And I hope you'll still joke with me, I mean, haven't you done this before?"
"Still talked to a girl after you broke up with her."
"We're breaking up? Doesn't that imply we were dating?"
"This is kind of an unusual circumstance."
"It was the closest thing I could come up with."
"Gee Babs, I didn't know you moved so fast. Next thing you know you'll be moving into my apartment – "
"Ha ha Yakko."
"We'll get a dog, then you'll be proposing to me – "
"I'll be proposing to you? I thought that was the guy's job."
"You're a modern woman, remember? I saw you mallet your way out of a prison, hopefully you can handle a little proposing here and there. And look, I may be half-rabbit but we're gonna have to talk if you want carrot cake at our wedding – "
She tried to roll her eyes, but the effect was lost with her snickering. Could she tell that he was stalling?
"And then our half-rabbit, half-whatever-I-am progeny will be scurrying around the house."
Still laughing, she pointed out, "I thought we were living in an apartment."
"Give me some credit Babs, I would've gotten you a house by that point."
"Oh good. If you let me have the whole closet, I'll let you have a whole drawer for your Bugs Bunny boxers."
"What do I need to do to make you forget about that? Saving Toontown wasn't enough?" Yakkko yelped, his voice jumping up a pitch.
She giggled. "I'll never tell!"
He still got the same thrill out of making her laugh.
"I hope I was a good boyfriend," he said quietly.
Babs gave him a sad smile. "Award worthy."
"Is there a chance you'll give me another shot at it? Someday?"
"I'd like that. Someday."
It would have to do for now. He'd already dragged out the moment speculating about their fictitious wedding, but he just didn't want it to end. He never wanted things to not end before. Then again he'd never been rejected before either. There really was a first for everything.
Red…I feel my soul on fire…black…my world when she's not there…
"Thank you for saving me, Yakko."
He met her eyes. They'd seen so much. They'd seen him in trouble, and they'd gone to rescue him. They brought him back to his family, which was debt he could never repay. And they'd watched him learn that he could be liked, loved even, by an equal, by someone he could respect, and be respected by in return. Those eyes had broken his heart, and he knew now that he had one to be broken. And for that, he owed her everything.
"And thank you, Babs."
She kissed him, a soft peck on the lips, and he closed his eyes as she'd rested her forehead against his.
But as he looked at her now, in the bright light of the Burbank sun – she looked so good in the light, she should never be forced underground again – he remembered he couldn't talk to her just yet. Later, yes, but now, he had another rabbit to find.
Yakko weaved his way around toons, pausing every few seconds for a well-wisher ("I hope you three are doing alright after all that!"), an apologizer ("I'm sorry I thought you were a criminal, but we just didn't know what to believe!"), a thanker ("You saved my brother, you know! Good on you!"), or a disbeliever ("I heard you throttled the Blot with just your pinky and a toothpick. Is that true?"). But then, he spotted him: Buster was standing just outside the circle, leaning against the wall of a soundstage and observing the excitement with a subdued look on his face.
He and Buster had not spoken since their exchange at the stage. At first, Yakko had hoped that, like himself, Buster was busy and overwhelmed with his post-trauma life. When Yakko had called, there was no answer. No one answered at his door. But when Wakko had casually mentioned that he'd chatted with Buster on the lot, Yakko realized that he was being ignored. He didn't know who was more upset: him, or Wakko upon realization.
Steeling himself, Yakko gave Buster with a small wave. Buster raised an eyebrow at him. The fact that he had neither ignored Yakko nor punched him in the face was an encouraging sign. Approaching him cautiously like a wild animal, Yakko said, "Hey Buster."
That was progress. But now the speeches and words Yakko had prepared to fix everything had dissipated. And Buster was clearly waiting for him to speak.
"Listen, Buster," Yakko said, running a hand through his ears, "there's no excuse for what I did and if you don't ever forgive me that's fine - eh, well, not really, but I mean, what can I expect after what I - look, the point is that you probably won't forgive me, but I want to say I'm really - "
"You don't have to say you're sorry."
Yakko blinked. "Ex-squeeze - er, excuse me?"
Buster looked at him again. "We both screwed up. Babs did too. None of us came out of this smelling like a rose."
"You can say that again," Yakko muttered darkly. It had taken three showers to get the stink of ink, sweat, and body odor out of his fur.
"Besides, you suck at apologizing. Spare me the agony."
"Then I just need practice."
"This doesn't mean I've decided if I'm speaking to you or not."
"You speaking to me right now," Yakko blurted before he could stop himself. Wow, he really hadn't learned, hadn't he?
Buster gave him a long-suffering stare from the corner of his eye. "I knew that was coming." There was a pause, and then Buster reeled on him. "Damn it dude, why did you do it? I should be hating your guts right now, hell, I shouldn't even be talking to you! You took my girl, you broke the number one rule in the Guy Code of Ethics!"
"The guy code of –"
"So why am I not hating you as much as I should? I mean, aside from the fact that you did break out of a prison, wander through the desert, and come back and help save the whole freaking town."
Yakko stared at him. His first impulse was to fling back a snide remark, but it would only be covering his deeper urge to throw himself at Buster's feet and beg for forgiveness. The uncomfortable and nearly unfathomable knowledge that things would never be the same between them had nestled itself in his mind, and the full reality of what he'd done was filling the air around them, making it hard for him to breath.
Of all the girls he'd had to fall for…
Buster seemed to appreciate that Yakko hadn't said anything, and continued, "You know, I probably wouldn't be talking to you now if it wasn't for Bugs."
Yakko blinked, his ears perking up. "Bugs?"
"He took me aside at the Toon Hall meeting the other day, and started babbling on about how he and Daffy used to not get along and did all kinds of horrible things to each and crap, and how they had someone come between them but in the end Daffy had his back. Then he started talking about how much he'd missed carrots during this whole fiasco –"
Barely hearing Buster over his own pounding heart, Yakko suppressed a smile. He had another rabbit to talk to today.
Buster sighed. "But this is different. I still don't know if we'll ever be okay."
Yakko nodded. It was funny how something he'd been expecting could still come as a shock.
Buster glanced up at him. "But thanks for…thanks for stopping me from doing something stupid. Back on the stage. You might've saved my life."
Yakko smiled softly. "Anytime, Ears. It was nothing compared to what you did for me. You kept an eye out on my sibs when I couldn't. There aren't many toons I'd trust them with."
"I didn't have to do much. I don't know if you've noticed, but they're pretty self-sufficient," Buster said, shrugging, "But I mean, that's all your doing. I guess that's why you grew up and I didn't. And you have a lot to show for it, Warner – they're pretty amazing kids. It's a hell of a lot more than I've made for myself. "
"I can't take all the credit," Yakko said quietly, watching his friend. He couldn't ever remember having such an adult conversation as this with him. And from what he'd been told, Buster hadn't abandoned his siblings in their hour of need. And there was no denying the way he'd fought for his life against those weasels. "You haven't quit, Ears. Not by a longshot. That's got to count for a lot more than you think."
Buster quirked an ear in his direction. "Is this going to turn into a Disney movie?"
"If it is, they're going to have to seriously edit that Blot part to get a G rating," Yakko said.
"Stop being funny, I'm really pissed at you right now."
Buster watched as Daisy Duck rushed forward to be reunited with a newly-transformed Donald. "Look, Yakko," Buster said, his voice low and raspy. He wasn't meeting his eyes. "We've all been through a lot. And, I know this isn't…it won't be like it was…I know that…look, in the end, I just want you guys to be happy, and if that means…"
Buster trailed off. Stunned into silence by this sudden bout of selflessness, Yakko gaped at him for a moment before shaking his head. "We're going to be fine, Ears. All of us. You'll see."
Letting this sink in for a moment, Buster finally nodded. The last scraps of the man-child Buster formally was seemed to be slipping away. Returning the nod, Yakko left Buster and slid back into the crowd. He still had to find a few very important toons.
Cries of joy and happy sobs were all around him. Toons mingled freely together regardless of Class, happy just to see another happy face. To Yakko's left, Shirley was sprinkling kisses all over Plucky's now-recognizable beak. The duck seemed unable to decide whether he should be confused or pleased. "I had the weirdest dream...I was pretending I was Batduck again..." Yakko heard him tell Shirley. Behind them was Montana Max, who was hanging away from the crowd and looking uncertain, but still managing to hold up a conversation with Fowlmouth. Foghorn had engulfed an unwilling Sylvester into a bear hug, while Plotz was rattling off orders to his construction crew regarded the damaged theater. Wile E was chatting with the Roadrunner - apparently Wile E had used his own border connections to get their van into the US. Skippy and Nutsy were on the other side of the circle; with Skippy trying to explain why there were "so many dang weasels about" to Nutsy. When he glanced back, he noticed that Buster had found Babs. They were chatting, and it seemed amicable.
While he watched them he felt a hand on his shoulder. "Fancy seeing you here," said a familiar voice.
Grinning, Yakko turned around. Bugs was there, smiling back at him. He was leaning on a crutch as his foot was encased in a heavy-looking cast. A souvenir from his fight with the Blot.
But a broken leg hadn't stopped Bugs from rushing to the tower that night after they'd DIPped the Blot. Despite a serious limp, Bugs had been the next to arrive after Babs. Miraculously he'd managed to tug a full-blown mattress from his hammerspace for Yakko and his siblings to land on - using the the DIP-covered ladder to get down from the tower was out of the question. Yakko and his siblings leapt off the landing and to the mattresss below. As Yakko fell, he readied his apology, the one where he was so sorry for the things he'd said, how he hadn't meant it, and maybe, if Bugs could forgive him -
He'd bounced to his feet to find Bugs giving him an inscrutable look. Shaking and tired and overwhelmed, Yakko began spluttering words at him. But he'd barely formed a coherent sentence when Bugs yanked him into a fierce hug. Apparently he was forgiven.
Yakko glanced down at Bugs' cast guiltily. "Does it hurt?" he asked.
Bugs waved his hand. "I've had worse. Besides, I couldn't sit back and let you kids have all the fun now, could I?"
"Sorry I couldn't pick you up today…how'd you get here, anyway?"
"I eh, have help," Bugs said with a smirk, jerking his head toward the crowd. Yakko looked up and saw Daffy, who raised a suspicious eyebrow upon being stared at by both of them. In the days that followed the attack on the lot, Bugs had demanded a full funeral for Yosemite. Nearly all of Toontown had shown up. Daffy had stood by Bugs' side, and, to Yakko's astonishment, had actually burst into tears.
Still grinning, Bugs added serenely, "He's a good friend."
Yakko looked down at his hands. "Speaking of which...I heard you talked to Buster. You didn't have to do that but...I'm glad you did. Thanks."
Bugs shrugged and chucked him on the arm. "Don't mention it. I've been around the block a few times, and most of those times a certain duck has been in the passenger seat. Wouldn't have it any other way. I hope the same can go for you."
"Me too," Yakko said, "but you can keep the duck though, he's all yours."
"Trust me, I know a few things – you'll be fine. Whatever mistakes that were made will be fixed, you three are too good for anything less."
Wanting to believe him, Yakko nodded. He watched the crowd milling and laughing about with a distant feeling. Since the Compound, every now and again it was disorienting to be around so many people.
"What's on your mind, doc?"
Yakko jumped at the question. To his absolute horror, his throat started to tighten, though he had no idea why. Shaking it off, he was moments from responding with a brusque "Nothing," but instead, he found different words tumbling from his mouth. "Why did this happen?" he asked.
Sadness spread across Bugs' face. Laying a hand on his shoulder, Bugs said, "It happened because a few people made a few bad decisions. They chose to act selfishly and to hurt, and that's all there is to it. As to why it happened to you, I don't have an answer. But…look around you, kiddo. All these toons wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for you and your brother and sister. With everything that happened, this is the kind of good you three are capable of. You should be proud. I know I am."
Yakko couldn't hold down a small smile. Had anyone ever told him that before?
"You know, you had a birthday during all this," Bugs said with a chuckle, "I guess I can't call you 'kiddo' anymore, huh?"
"Nah, of course you can, old man. It fits."
Now it was Bugs' turn to smile. "Glad to hear it. C'mon then kiddo, let's find Wakko and Dot. I think Scratchensniff's – oh, wait a sec…that reminds me, I got somethin' for ya."
Bugs pulled a phone from his hammerspace and handed it to him. "Is this Dot's?" Yakko asked.
"Yup. She wanted me to give it to your brother, but Rocky got his miniature hands on me and I never got that far. According to her she left messages for both of you."
Quirking an eyebrow, Yakko dialed in to the recorded messages and held the phone up to his ear. "Yakko, it's Dot. If you're listening to this - and you'd better be listening to it, because we're gonna find you if my name isn't Angelina Contessa...you get the point - look, if you're listening to this, I didn't mean to be a brat. You and Wakko are the best brothers a girl could ask for. Really, I mean it. But I'll tell you more when I see you. I miss you Yakko, I miss you so much, just come back from wherever you are, okay? It's not polite to keep a girl waiting, you know. You're the one who told me that…"
While he listened to her talk, that hard knot grew in his throat again. Feeling Bugs' hand tighten on his shoulder, Yakko turned away for a moment until he'd managed to get himself under control. God, he hadn't been weepy in the Compound and someone was usually trying to murder him every five minutes there. And yet here he was, listening to his sister's recorded voice.
"Thanks," Yakko croaked, still looking at the phone.
"Thought you should know what it felt like to have great kids too."
Surprised, Yakko smiled at him. He said nothing because he didn't think he had to.
Bugs continued, "C'mon, let's go find them. They wanted us there when Brain takes care of Scratchensniff. They only mentioned it to me two or thirty times."
Helping Bugs get into a steady hobble, Yakko strode slowly beside him. In the middle of the circle, Brain was readying the Tool. He sat in a tiny wheelchair of his own creation, perched on top of a massive switchboard. As he called out commands, Speedy would zip back and forth, flipping switches and pressing buttons. Pinky and Farfignewton were behind them for "moral support." Brain wouldn't let either of them come within so much as hoof's distance to the Tool. But Pinky was all smiles as he cheered words of encouragement to his friend.
Yakko found Wakko and Dot standing at the base of the tower. They were talking with Oswald, gesturing and laughing as they did so. It had only been a month, but Oswald was a new toon. He smiled more. He held himself taller when he walked, and he kept himself well groomed. In a few months he'd be back in the courtrooms to face his charges, but he was very optimistic about it. Unlike human law, the toon court system relied heavily on public opinion. And, for the first time in Oswald's life, Toontown was on his side.
As it was with Bugs, it would be a long road until Oswald was loved and trusted as a member of the family. Given Oswald's past dealings Yakko still held his reservations, but he had saved him and Babs, after all. And Wakko and Dot seemed to be getting attached to him. Oswald seemed to be over-the-moon to have any semblance of family again, so Yakko chose not to rock the boat and just let time write the story for them.
"That's right, you're part rabbit now," Bugs mused, "Knew I liked ya for a reason."
Yakko shook his head. "I have more rabbits in my life now than I know what to do with. It's true what they say about rabbits – you guys do multiply."
Bugs snorted while Yakko glanced up at the tower. He felt a sudden gush of affection for it – he would never look at the WB shield the same way again.
Oswald welcomed them with a broad smile. "These two just told me you're a bit lyrical when it come to geography, Yakko," he said, raising a curious eyebrow.
"I know my way around a map," Yakko replied.
Wakko and Dot looked up at him with twin grins. It felt as though they were filling him with warm air, making him feel lighter just by the sight of them. "
"Dr. Scratchensniff, will you please step forward," Brain called out.
Their attention snapped to the center of the circle. Weasel-Scratchensniff regarded Brain with a blank stare until Farfignewton nudged him into the Tool with her head. The door shut and Speedy darted around the various switches. Brain pressed a large red button, and the Tool began to whizz and churn. Dot was standing on her toes to get a better look.
"It's like a big washing machine," Wakko commented.
"I think that's what's it's doing, essentially: washing off the over-drawing," Yakko said, then shrugged. "But what do I know, I just beat the old Machine with a flamingo until it broke."
His siblings turned slowly to stare at him; Dot opened her mouth, paused, then finally flung up her hands and muttered, "Not gonna ask."
The churning had reached such a zeal that the Tool was positively bouncing now. The muffled, metallic thuds they heard could only be Scratchensniff ricocheting off its insides like a pinball. Yakko grimaced, thinking they probably should have brought him an ice pack. Then Brain lifted his hand, and Speedy used his entire body to flip the main switch. The Tool shuddered to a stop, and all was quiet. Yakko sucked in a breath as Dot clutched his hand like a vice. Wakko was tugging on his own ears so hard he might very well rip them off.
The circular door swung open and steam billowed out of it in clouds. And for a moment, nothing else happened. The entire crowd seemed to be collectively holding its breath, and Yakko was certain Dot was breaking several bones in his hand. But then a figure, shrouded in steam, stumbled out of the Tool. Wakko released an ear to cling to Yakko's forearm.
The figure shakily rose to its feet. In the dissipating steam Yakko noticed Speedy run forward and slap a towel around the figure's waist. "Scratchy?" all three Warners called out, unable to contain themselves. Yakko glanced at Wakko and Dot, who shrugged back and muttered, "Freaky sibling thing," in perfect unison.
The lasts wisps of steam floated away to reveal Scratchensniff, pink-skinned and confused, the sun glinting off his bald head. He squinted, trying to see without his glasses, but jumped in surprise when toons cheered and clapped. When he looked down and realized he was wearing nothing but a towel, he yelped (nearly dropping the towel, causing Dot to flinch) and hunched down as though to cover himself. Yakko wondered if there was a less embarrassing way of going about this whole situation, but his thoughts were interrupted by a happy cry from his brother. Wakko burst from the crowd and jumped into Scratchensniff's arms, effectively tackling him to the ground.
"Scratchy! You're back!" Wakko cried, beaming down at him.
"Yes Wakko, yes," Scratchensniff laughed. Then he frowned and scratched his head. "But, ehm, where did I go? And what did you do with my clothes?"
"Oh, don't worry about clothes," Wakko scoffed, waving his hand.
Yakko glanced down at Dot. "Says the boy who didn't where pants on national television," he muttered.
Catching this, Wakko grabbed Scratchensniff by the hand and yanked him upright. "C'mon, c'mon, say hi to everybody!"
Completely bewildered, Scratchensniff allowed himself to be half-dragged by Wakko. Brain waved at him as they passed. Scratchensniff stumbled into their little group and Bugs clapped him on the back. "Good to see ya, doc!"
Wakko pushed him forward. "Scratchy, this is Oswald, he's our grandfather - "
Oswald bowed and his ears flopped against the ground.
"W-what?" Scratchensniff stuttered.
"Don't worry, it was news to us too," Dot said, "I'm happy you're back Scratchy, but I gotta admit, you pulled off fur pretty well."
Scratchensniff's eyes nearly bugged out of his head. "Fur?"
"We'll explain later."
"Guys, give him some space, it's not every day that you change species," Yakko said.
Scratchensniff squinted at him. "Yakko?" he breathed. His eyes widened as the memories spread across his face. Looking from face to face he stammered, "You are here...all of you, you are all here, together! How did this happen? Did you - the weasels - the DIP - how did you figure out - oh my...this is astounding!" First he pulled Yakko and Dot into a hug, only to release them and lunge for a startled Bugs and Oswald. Then he seemed to remember he was only wearing a towel and let go. Finally, he turned to Wakko and said, "You know Wakko, I do not remember much, but I do remember that you were very dear and brave friend to me. And look, you found your brother and sister, just like I knew you would!"
Reddening slightly, Wakko nodded and shook Scratchensniff's hand. As Scratchensniff turned to talk to Bugs and Oswald and several other approaching toons, Wakko joined Yakko and Dot.
"I'm a pretty lucky guy, you know," Yakko said. At their questioning faces, he continued, "I've got several rabbits who I adore, a psychiatrist, a grandfather, and two pretty incredible sibs."
But as he watched them smile, he finally voiced something that had been nagging him for weeks.
"So Bosko...he is - eh, he was - our father. I know he's gone, but I thought you guys deserved to know."
He thought about elaborating, but instead chose to be quiet and let them process it for themselves.
Rightfully, this seemed to unsettle them more than the revelation about Oswald had. After all, Oswald hadn't tried to kill them. Wakko developed a heavy frown while Dot appeared particularly revolted. They were quiet for a long time, breaking only to occasionally glace at and whisper to each other. Finally, after a brief, hushed conversation, both of his siblings straightened up and regarded him calmly.
"Well, I mean...just because he's our father...that doesn't mean he's our father," Wakko said slowly.
Yakko quirked an eyebrow at him, but Dot stepped forward. "Let me rephrase," she said, "we're glad you told us, but it doesn't make a difference. As far as we're concerned, we're still nix in the dad department. And I like it that way."
They shared identical grins and Wakko nodded. "Yeah, because we have something way better."
"We've got somebody who totally busted out of prison and crossed a desert for us."
"Someone who can get up on stage and jump into a tub of DIP so we wouldn't have to."
"Someone who taught us to do the right thing, even when we're scared."
"Besides, what dad would let us mallet a bunch of toons who were shooting at us? That was awesome, by the way."
"So who needs a father when we have an older brother like you?" Dot asked simply. Beside her, Wakko grinned with his tongue hanging from his mouth.
Yakko stared at them, stunned and moved, and every last little thing seemed to slip into place. The three of them together here, in Burbank, with all their friends exuding relief and hope, felt just right; they were his family, his home, his life. Everything would be for them, forever and always. Whatever the future held in store, it would be alright, because he had them.
"Would you look at that," Dot said, nudging Wakko, "we've made Yakko speechless. The planets must've aligned."
Wakko pulled a calendar from his hammerspace. "Wait, let me write this down. Is today Saturday?"
"Next thing you know, asteroids are going to be falling from the sky..."
"Plotz will give all his money to charity..."
"Schwarzenegger will be governor..."
Laughing, Yakko shook his head. "Let's not go crazy."
He caught a sibling in each arm and pulled them to his sides. Together they watched as toons celebrated and laughed.
"Remember when we used to be on a show about us running around and destroying the lot?" Dot asked quietly.
"They never wrote an episode where we saved it instead," Wakko said.
"It's too bad they didn't," Yakko said. He looked at both of them and held them just the smallest bit closer. "I think it would have been our best one."
Well, it took me almost two years, but it's done. As always, please feel free to send me questions or suggestions on what worked or what could have been improved.
I would like to thank every person who took the time to read this fic, and especially those who reviewed. You all are without a doubt the best reviewers on this site - I never expected to receive such thought-provoking, interesting, and insightful comments. I really appreciate it and your advice and encouragement has been invaluable. I'll be messaging personal thanks to you all in the next few weeks. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. While I plan to take a bit of a break, I've been entertaining the idea of writing oneshots here and there. If you're not sick of me yet I might post them.
One thing I wanted to mention before I go...early on, several people had speculated that a certain character had faked her death. While this is unfortunately not the case, I just wanted to point out that this was an extremely clever observation and I only wish that I had thought of it first.