I know I haven't updated in a while, and I'm sorry, but I hope this makes up for that!
I was completely stuck on ideas, and then I looked through my reviews and I realized I had a couple of prompts!
By the way, I just found out a couple of days ago that How Bad Can I Be? took place over the span of five years. That should probably explain part of it.
This chapter was requested by justsomeguyyouknow. :)
He slowly stood up as the full realization of what he had done struck him.
What he'd destroyed.
What he'd ruined.
And what he'd become.
His blue eyes took in the destruction for the first time in five years, now seeing the land for what it actually was.
Not just a thing to make a profit of off, but a living, breathing place that had shaped many lives.
At least, it used to be living and breathing.
His family abandoned him the second they found out, the only thing they had to give was disappointment.
He turned, still drowning in a mix of emotions.
Looking up, he saw what he had feared: all the animals, gathered around The Lorax, together as one.
His voice came out in a scratchy tone.
"Look, I don't want any trouble..."
He trailed off, realizing that whatever they did to him; it would all be his fault.
"And you won't get any. Not from them. Thanks to your hacking and smogging and glumping, they can't live here anymore. So I'm sending them off. Hopefully they'll find a better place to live."
This came from The Lorax, surprising him. They weren't going to do anything?
Then he saw them marching, walking for miles for the small chance that they'd survive and find a place to settle down. He could already tell that at least half of them wouldn't make it.
He saw Pipsqueak among the crowd, trudging along with the other bar-ba-loots. Pipsqueak. He felt even worse now. He'd completely ruined the little animal's life, and after he had put so much trust into him too. He felt like he had to give one last gift, something small, to aid Pip in his travels. He frantically searched the pockets of his expensive custom-tailored suit.
What a waste.
He eventually came up with a marshmallow, the only things he had ever ventured to keep from his old life.
Pip liked those.
He held them out to the little bar-ba-loot.
But all he got was a backwards glance, a very very sad backwards glance. And then Pipsqueak continued to march.
He sighed, ready to turn away when he noticed something different.
The hurt in his voice was undeniable.
He had been with Melvin for as long as he could remember. They had gone through the toughest times together. And now...
He was gone.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw The Lorax, poised on the tips of his feet as if about to take flight.
Meeting his eye, the little orange furball hesitated. For one fleeting moment, it seemed like he had something to say.
Then the moment passed, and, with his very own eyes, he watched as The Lorax grabbed the seat of his pants and started rising up, past where the Truffula trees used to stand, past the point where the clean white clouds used to cover stand out against the beautiful blue sky.
He went up, up into the dazzling column of light that hadn't been there a second ago, and then, just like that, he disappeared.
The Once-ler sank to his knees. His whole life had changed in a minute. One second he was on top of the world.
Now, he was bearing the brunt of it.
He almost didn't notice the tiny figure in front of his face, padding towards him as fast as its little legs would take it.
It was Pipsqueak.
He had come back.
"No. Pipsqueak... go. Go find somewhere to live. You need to find somewhere better for you."
As much as it hurt him to say it, he didn't want to make the bar-ba-loot's life any worse than he already had.
But he refused to leave.
He stayed there, hanging onto the green-clad man's knee.
He tried to come up with a valid argument. Instead, he caved. He let it all out.
"Pip, I don't know what to do. I've ruined everything. Everyone's left me. My stupid thneed was a failure in the end anyways, my family deserted me, and I've let my ma down. Melvin's gone, all the trees are gone, and the world isn't beautiful anymore. I've held out this far only on optimism anyways, in hopes that maybe my mother would finally be proud of me when I was a success. I cut down every last tree just to keep myself rich for one more hour, and I didn't care about anyone or anything. I didn't even reseed the grounds, and these days the soil is about as nutrient rich as a sack of coal. Now, everything's dead or dying, and my half-full look at the world is slowly running out. Sure, I've realized what I did, but there's nothing I can do about it now. I can't change the past, and it's not like anyone cares about me, or you guys, or the environment. I used to think being rich would be the best feeling in the world, but I realize now that I never really enjoyed it, even when I was too blind to see the destruction outside. I changed from someone I loved being into a horrid monster that I can barely bring myself to look at anymore."
Tears streamed down his face as he completed what he was saying.
He didn't know if Pipsqueak understood; he didn't care. All he knew was that he had someone to tell everything to.
He brought himself to meet the bar-ba-loot's eyes, to see what disappointment was there, bracing himself for the worst.
Instead, he saw, a great sadness, yes, but further than that, he thought he felt a kind of forgiveness. And he sweeped the bar-ba-loot into his arms for his last hug for decades to come.
With a surge of relief, he vowed to find a way to bring back to valley. If not to right his past wrongs, for Pipsqueak.
After a while, he noticed something on the edge of his peripheral vision.
He stood up and walked over to a pile of stones.
He frowned. It hadn't been there not three minutes ago.
But then he saw it.
A small, brown, but perfect Truffula seed, perched on top of the "Unless" engraved into the biggest rock.
Leaning down, he gingerly took it into the palm of his gloved hand, as if it might cease to exist any second.
He pulled off his right glove, to be able to run his fingers over the smooth surface, to prove to himself that it was real.
He looked towards the clouds above him, willing for who or whatever was up there to see him, to hear him.