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The Missing Lesson

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Sweetheart watches as Pocky adjusts his stray strand of hair at the front, forcing a curly slope back into it. He sneezes and punches himself in the face in the process. Pathetic. Undynamic. Entirely harmless.

“This man?” he asks then. “Into a dangerous villain?”

Baddy shrugs, with a telling grin, then offers a drag of his cigarette for tasting. He accepts, but he is still very much in doubt about Pocky.

“Did you know me when I was his age?”

Sweetheart shakes his head. For one, he is absolutely unsure how age worked on Earth compared to where they come from. How old is Pocky? How old was Baddy when he was his age? Does he mean his actual age or his development…?

Instead of asking all this, he simply answers. “No.”

“People called me a puppy trying to growl,” Baddy wrinkles his nose in disgust. “I fucking hated that.”

Spite, huh? Sweetheart does not remember ever being driven by that: he was always some sort of a follower, rather than a leader. So, if he was driven by spite, he would always be driven by the spite of someone else, spite he decided to absorb. Which does not necessarily mean that Sweetheart does not have thoughts of his own. He very much has them. His philosophy is to attach himself to the most powerful, dangerous, and dynamic man of his era, and assume his place next to him as his number one. (If the most dangerous, dynamic person in the world was to be a woman, of course, he would find a way to adjust to that, too. It doesn’t matter.) 

“Pocky is a stray cat. I mean, lobster. Stray lobster-cat,” he thinks. Then, grins with recognition. “You think he is like you?”

Baddy looks into the distance ahead of them, but he does not answer. There is something close enough to warmth in his eyes when he sees Pocky trip in his own leg, as he tries to pick up a cigarette butt from the sidewalk. Sweetheart feels a pang in his chest.

“Was that you?” he asks, trying to mock him.

Pocky throws the cigarette butt in the trash, then shakes the dirt off of his hand too. “No. I would have tried to have the last drag and feel cool.”

Baddy says something more, about the power of becoming cool and bad, after people had lost the faith in you ever living up to your name. His parents must have been disappointed with him. A hundred and three years ago, people with an inclination to be bad get banished to the Moon. They breed the worst of worst, and among them, apparently, nothing more than an innocent puppy dog, trying to growl. Thankfully, they did not leave him by the side of the road to starve. Otherwise, Sweetheart would need to act as the second in command for a whole another dangerous villain, now.

Maybe they would be still only on the Moon, contented with whatever it had to offer them. He probably would not even love that man, at all. (It is not that he ever planned to love Baddy, but things turned out in ways he did not expect in the beginning. Not that he would complain.)

Pocky spots them from afar and waves, with one hand at first, then with both, lifted high above his head. His necktie is crocheted, which, after the pastels, is the second most puzzling thing about him. Sweetheart shakes his head, instead of returning the gesture. 

“Fuck Pocky.” He throws the cigarette on the ground. “Kiss me.”

Baddy grins at him then pulls him closer by the waist before leaning in. They are only disrupted by Pocky, who trots over to them, and picks up that cigarette butt, too.

“Littering is illegal,” he tells them and patiently waits it out until they separate. His face is red (from anger, supposedly) and adjusts his glasses.

Sweetheart gives him a slow, bothered look. “I thought you wanted to be bad.”

His hands clasped before himself, Pocky mumbles something that sounds a lot like a no, then quickly a yes, then something else that he really cannot make out anymore. Baddy perhaps speaks this stutter-mutter dialect, because he nods along knowingly.

“Hey, Pocky. What lessons have you had already?”

“Failed ones. Being cool and charming, armed robbery...”

Baddy thinks for a while, his eyes moving from Pocky to Sweetheart, then from Sweetheart to Pocky, back and forth. Then, he brings Pocky closer, so he can throw his arms around both of them at the same time.

“Oh, let’s try something very bad, then.”

He slides his fingers between Sweetheart’s, and, with his arm still around Pocky’s shoulder, starts leading them off. Pocky breathes in with a whimper, begging to stop.

“It is not murder, is it!” he screeches. “I can’t murder. That’s a no-no. Murder definitely is illegal.”

Baddy shakes his head and presses a quick peck on Sweetheart’s temple, which is well received. Well, by Sweetheart. Pocky’s face is about to explode.

“No murder. We are going back to the Blue Lagoon.”

Pocky starts going on about not putting on a lobster costume again, but he gets shushed. No. They will have wine, a nice dinner, a smoke, and fun. Pocky won’t have to be a food tonight. Well, he will not have to dress for it.

Baddy leads Pocky to a table outside, then makes him take his jacket off. “Relax,” he murmurs.

Sweetheart decides to sit next to his man, leaving him in the centre, then he gets scolded. Let Pocky feel welcome among the bad boys, Baddy says. Be more welcoming to him. He half listens to his man, and stands up from his seat, to move over. Instead of sitting on Pocky’s other side, he plops down on Baddy’s lap, between the two of them. Pocky stops looking when he thinks the other two can see him. Baddy gives him a kiss of approval, below his earlobe.

“Do you think this feels welcoming to the poor Pocky at all?” he asks, in a low voice.

Sweetheart waits until Pocky is ready to look up from his hands he is staring at, clasped in front of himself on his lap. He nods towards him, offering to sit. “Well?”

“We … we haven’t even exchanged business cards, this is really not proper.”

Prompted by that, Sweetheart and Baddy start discussing business cards. Should they make one? They never needed it on the Moon, because everyone knew who they were, just by a single look, or a single bad deed. It proves to be different, down on Earth, though. Maybe a business card would really be useful. Just imagine the next scene between a police officer and a villain: Smoking is illegal! Oh, didn’t you know? Hand over business card, saying BADDY with big, bold letters, and that’s it. There’s your explanation. Tell your friends.

After this discussion, Baddy lets them order whatever they want. “As long as your drinks are alcoholic,” he insists when Pocky tries to go for sparkling water for the eleventh time. “Sparkling water is bad, but not the sort of bad we are trying to be.”

Sweetheart sucks on some pink cocktail a few minutes later, offering it up to his man every now and then, even though he also ordered something for himself.

“Let Pocky have some instead,” Baddy nudges him, by the waist. “Police Officer, my Sweetheart has something nice to give you.”

Pocky is struggling to finish his gin and tonic (which ended up being Baddy’s choice, after he really tried to press the sparkling water business), but he grabs after the pink beverage quite curiously as soon as Baddy says he can do so. Nice, he says. Fruity. Sweetheart rolls his eyes.

“So, let’s get to know each other a little better.” Baddy offers a cigarette to each of them. Pocky accepts, although not without some heavy blinking.

“Is getting to know each other bad?” His words are almost completely obscured by coughing.

“Well, on this wretched Peaceful Planet Earth, where absolutely everything seems illegal, yes. Getting to know each other is very bad.”

Pocky wonders out loud, something about truly not knowing much, even about his colleagues or neighbours, if it comes to that. He stares into the distance for a while, then snaps out of it, and has another drag. When Baddy prompts, he starts talking about his hobbies. Volunteering. Picking up rubbish from the street. Baking. Cooking at soup kitchens for those in need. Stargazing.

“Oh, you look at the Moon?”

Pocky makes a face. “Of course not. There are only ugly villains on the Moon, we do not look at them if we can help it.”

Sweetheart turns away, offended, and buries his face in his man’s neck, so he would not even have to look at Pocky. Baddy only laughs as a response, finding his wording adorable. He warms a hand on Sweetheart’s back.

“You did well,” he praises Pocky. “Mischief is infectious. Even a look at the Moon could have started something horrendous.”

Pocky grows pale. “Like pickpocketing?!”

It is nothing like that, Sweetheart wants to tell him, but even before he could open his mouth, Baddy already assures the other that he could not be more right. Pickpocketing is vicious. He must find his cluelessness entirely endearing to play along that way.

Pocky decides that he likes Sweetheart’s cocktail more than his own drink, so he practically steals it from the man, taking huge sips from the pink straw every now and then. No matter how much Sweetheart glares at him, he just would not take the hint. So, he orders another one for himself. (And then Baddy, one more for Pocky.)

“Will this get me drunk?” He spins the pink cocktail umbrella that he also stole from Sweetheart’s drink between his fingers. “Last time I got drunk, it was a riot. Things have happened.”

He gives a pointed look to Sweetheart, who remains confused for a while. Baddy comes to his rescue, whispering in his ear.

“The Bank President’s wife caught him by the mouth.”

Sweetheart makes gagging noises in response. The Bank President’s wife is at least a thousand years old if not two. Then, he thinks about it, and gives a slow kiss to Baddy, after shooting a grin towards Pocky, who is trying very hard not to watch.

“Like this?” he asks, for confirmation.

Pocky’s colouring starts becoming close to a lobster’s once again, as soon as Sweetheart looks at him again. He nods. “And we didn’t … we didn’t even ex-exchange business…” The rest is unintelligible.  

Baddy, seeing that their police officer is still less than confident or cheerful, orders another round, and shoves a cigarette in his mouth, too. He says it is to “help him,” but does not really say with what. Pocky’s mouth is too full to ask any questions, even though he makes a futile attempt.

He leans close, and whispers in his man’s ear, so others could not hear them: asking what exactly he is planning, after all. Baddy’s amused laughter comes deep from his throat. His breath tickles the hair on Sweetheart’s neck.

“Didn’t you say yourself?” he breathes, and no matter how much Pocky is trying to pry, he cannot hear anything. Sweetheart can barely hear the words. “Fuck Pocky.”

He is distraught. “No. Pocky is everything I don’t care about.”

The police officer can definitely hear that, and he is not impressed. He purses his lips up as he stares at Sweetheart, then sips from his drink, defeated. Sparkly black eyes don’t work on him, though. He is the cute one, and he is looking for danger. Which, Pocky, again, is not. He explains himself.

“Undynamic. And harmless.”

Disheartened, Pocky stands up and announces that he “needs the loo,” before trying to navigate away from the table, without having his legs all tangled up with each other. It does not work. He trips three times before he would disappear.

“It sure made him tipsy.”

Sweetheart shakes his head and adjusts himself in Baddy’s lap. “Then, it cannot be done.”

“I thought we were the world’s worst villains…”

Baddy plays with his hair for a while, curling a golden lock around his index finger, as he speaks. It sounds like he has already decided on it. The last time he decided on something, their little vacation on this Peaceful Planet Earth came out of it.

“We are. But he is not one of us. In fact, he is nothing like us. If anything, he is… the purest.”

Baddy grins. “And what would it say about us, collectively, if we could make the purest person on Earth turn very-very bad?”

Sweetheart opens his mouth, then closes it. Right. Right! What could be a better triumph than turning the best, purest, most innocent person the world has ever seen into one of the worse ones…Goody might be the best, but she is making a clear, conscious effort to act in such a way. Pocky, on the other hand, was most likely born this way. Corrupting the incorruptible… that surely sounds plenty of fun. Baddy is still the most dynamic, brilliant man in the entire world, after all. Nothing has changed. Or at least not permanently. He places a kiss on the man’s jaw, then trails down on his neck.

“If you say so.”

Pocky’s slightly inebriated, confused voice. “Say what?”

“We will take you home now,” Baddy says as he stands up, after easing Sweetheart out of his lap. “You had enough for today, you can barely keep up, Officer.”

They find Pocky’s jacket, and he diligently puts it back on. The air is getting chilly at this time of the evening, he claims, as he tries to straighten it, with shaky hands.

Still, Pocky insists that he is good. Fine. In the end, he takes his half-finished cocktail out of the Blue Lagoon (even though that means stealing the glass, which is quite illegal), and sips from it every now and then, as he tries to walk in a straight line between the other two. He links an arm with Baddy, while Sweetheart keeps bickering.

“He cannot even walk straight.”

Pocky stops, suddenly seeming sober for a moment’s worth. Then the illusion is gone. “It is true. I do walk curly. … but Sweetheart! There isn’t a single thing straight about me. Not even my hair. Look!”

He unlinks his arm to pat at his own head. That slope, to be precise. The worst, most unpardonable crime Sweetheart has ever seen being done to one’s hair – and he is from a globe of assorted villains. Then, soon enough Pocky starts singing some ballad as they walk side by side, only to make matters worse.

“You guys… are the most fun,” he declares, as he tries to get into his own home. After a few minutes of yanking the door, he slaps his own brows. “My keys!”

He slumps down on his – pastel blue – sofa as soon as he bolts into the room, counting the corners in his room as if this was the first time he saw it. Baddy gives a nod to Sweetheart, who prepares a glass of water for the poor fool. Pocky couldn’t have drunk himself absolutely useless. Apart from the fact that he was already absolutely useless to begin with, when sober. He puts it down on the coffee table next to him.

“Drink up.” Another gesture towards Sweetheart, before Baddy would stand up and open the window slightly. A gentle breeze. “You need some air. You must be quite hot in all that.”

Sweetheart understands what he means, and sits down next to him on the sofa, fingers undoing the tie around his neck. Pocky blinks at him, confusion mixed with curiosity in his eyes. He sits up and waits it out as Sweetheart slowly slips him out of his jacket as well. When he asks what exactly he is doing, Baddy comes back from the window, and plops down between them, squeezing in.

“Look, I am hot as well,” he tells Pocky as he fans himself with both hands, but it probably does not sound too soothing, because his blinking only turns more rapid. “My Sweetheart can help us both.”

He tucks on Sweetheart’s sleeve, for attention, who attentively turns towards his man, and helps him with the bold pink jacket before throwing it on the carpet (which is pastel… blue…), next to the other one. He undoes a few more buttons on the man’s shirt. An odd, panicked sound breaks out of Pocky’s throat, one perhaps he never meant to sound, but could not control.  

“What do you mean help us both?” he breathes, almost inaudibly. Even his intoxicated state won’t help him relax, as the answer ominously hangs in the air between them.

Baddy brings Sweetheart on his lap, grinning the panic away. “Well, you know… To be bad.”

With his index finger, he tilts Sweetheart’s chin slightly, before kissing him – to provide a perfect view for their spectator. Pocky continues wailing, which is, by the way, very disrespectful. And off-putting.

“I… I don’t think… that is … we haven’t even exchanged business… I’m…”

Blindly, Sweetheart tries to reach out for his shirt, and bring him closer to them. Or at least, make him silent. He slips his hand into his. Pocky has none of it.

“I barely just had my first k… I don’t think this is… Are you listening to me? Alrighty!” he jumps up, and the next thing Sweetheart knows is that his face is drenched in icy tap water. He separates from Baddy to meet Pocky’s pale face. “… I have a better idea!”

Baddy lifts his eyebrows, while Sweetheart is planning murder. You see, Baddy already had an idea, to which Sweetheart just barely agreed to, only to have some water poured into his face and down his shirt.

Pocky takes a deep breath. “You already gave me lessons on how to be bad but what if the approach is wrong… What if this time, you took a class on how to be good? With your host…” He adjusts his glasses. “Me.”

Sweetheart tries to decline the same time as Baddy agrees. It feels like getting another load of cold water thrown into his face.

“Humour him, will you,” Baddy whispers, half amused. “He is drunk, and clearly out of it. Just go along with it.”

Sweetheart sighs and helps him adjust his glasses. “What good deeds are we going to do, Officer?”

That gives him a hard time, he perhaps did not think he would get this far with his escape plan. Then, he claps his hands.

“We are going to bake muffins for the poor stray animals at the shelter and take it to them!”

He darts out to his kitchen, waving at the other two to follow him. Baddy laughs, genuinely so, and does as he is prompted.

“I don’t think animals can eat that rubbish and … it is almost one in the a.m.,” Sweetheart tries to protest.

Pocky comes back for him and holds him by both of his hands. “Shh. We are going to learn lots about being good tonight. Come with me. Choose an apron.”

Baddy chooses the pinkest, fluffiest apron for him (once he refuses to try any of them on) and tells Pocky that everything is fine, as long as he gets to open a bottle of wine while they are baking. Possibly, Sweetheart thinks, to cope. Miraculously enough, Pocky can provide with a bottle, but he does not have a wine glass, so he is forced to drink from a pastel orange mug. Baddy presses his hips to the counter, and watches them from afar, having little to no interest in actually involving himself in the baking part.

They both compliment Sweetheart on his looks. Aprons suit him. Sweetheart wonders if one can kill with his mind, because if he could… Then, he looks at his reflection in the window and decides that they are right.

Pocky chatters away, relieved, and still tipsy. “You will see that being good is lovely. It is not as stressful as being bad because to be bad, you have to be … cool and attractive and elegant. To be good? You don’t need any of that. You only need to follow the rules. Like this.”

He points Sweetheart to the recipe, and starts mixing the ingredients together, cheerfully swaying with the spatula. Sweetheart holds the paper and gives death glares to Baddy above it, who raises his mug to the beautiful domestic scene. Cheers.

“The rules might be so-so sometimes, but that is what you learn from an early age and… and! It is lovely to help stray puppies and kittens.” He licks some batter off of the spatula, to give it a taste.

“Oh, that must illegal!” Sweetheart quickly protests, teasing him. “Raw cookie batter. Awful.”

“Is it?” he asks, with his mouth full, after another spoonful. “It must be rubbing off on me after all… All the bad.”

Sweetheart stares at the wall, with a confused expression, unsure how to respond to that. Is that the worst offence Pocky can think of? The next minute, they are joined by Baddy and all three of them are filling muffin papers with the batter, trying to make them as even as possible. When Pocky is not paying attention, Baddy pours some wine into the mixing bowl and playfully bumps into him as he does so.

Pocky sits down in front of the oven cross-legged, and watches the muffins slowly gain their final form. To humour him, Baddy joins in, allowing him to rest his head on his shoulder. (“Oh, my glasses poked me in the eye!” Pocky exclaims.) Sweetheart watches them from a distance, sipping from the mug of wine. It really is not going the way Baddy planned it, does it… But when he looks at the two of them, there is a warm feeling in his chest, and even if for a moment, he decides to allow it to happen. The all-good experience.

Even though they try to convince Pocky that the shelter would not be open at this hour, he won’t listen to them. He packs up the still steaming muffins in paper boxes after giving one to Sweetheart and Baddy each, to taste. Baddy inhales it immediately, without any care for how hot it is.

“See?” Pocky giggles. “Being good can be supremely delicious sometimes.”

Baddy raises his mug. “I will drink to that.”

They leave Pocky’s house in a three, equipped with two boxes, and a note. Pocky inserts himself between the two of them, reserving one hand from each, which means that Baddy and Sweetheart end up carrying the boxes since his hands are full of more important things. He swings them as they walk, ecstatic about the good deed they are just about to do. At such an hour at night, they are the only ones out and about, and the peace of the neighbourhood is disturbed by Pocky trying to sing a song (emphasis on trying), and urging the other two to join in.

As expected, the shelter is not open, of course. After some long and hard thinking, Pocky decides to leave the muffins behind on the doormat with a lovely note to accompany it. Baddy takes charge of writing the note. (He later tells Sweetheart that it is to make sure that nobody is stupid enough around here to really give vanilla and coconut muffins spiked with wine to actual animals. They might be bad, but they are not complete idiots.)

“Let’s show a good time to the shelter’s workers, instead.”

After they are done, Pocky suddenly feels even more awake and excited, so he drags them around in the town, for some late-night sightseeing. He explains everything to his best abilities, which means in slurred words, and incomplete sentences. And a lot of enthusiasm. Too much enthusiasm.

“Oh boy!” he sighs, when they arrive at the river, and he slumps down by the bank of it, feeling the grass under his fingers. “Oh boy, look at the Moon!”

He pats the ground next to himself, inviting the two of them to sit as well. Trapped between the two of them again, he adjusts his glasses with both hands and marvels at the full moon for long minutes. (Even though he should not even be looking at it, right.) Sweetheart props himself up and looks back at home as well. Behind Pocky’s back, Baddy’s hand finds his, and interlaces their fingers.

“Is the Blue Lagoon still open?” Pocky suddenly asks. “Let’s have a drink and dance! Oh, Sweetheart do you dance?”

Maybe looking at the Moon really makes earthlings a little wicked and naughty, Sweetheart thinks. What is this need for getting even drunker all of a sudden? It catches him off-guard, so for a moment he even thinks that Pocky is adorable this way. He adjusts his glasses as he scrambles to his feet, and already starts finding his way back to the restaurant. Baddy grabs him by the collar before he could run off unsupervised.

They take him home instead and let him finish the bottle of wine he opened for Baddy. Pocky pours his mug full and plays some cheesy song from his gramophone. (Who on earth uses a gramophone anymore?!) He takes a huge gulp before grabbing Sweetheart by the hand, then Baddy too, and trying to dance them at the same time. Sweetheart is almost frothing at the mouth, but the others seem to think this is peak fun. Even though it ends up in messy laughter, this is not the dangerous and dynamic adventure he signed up for. No matter how much he has to drink, it will never be the adventure he signed up for.

“I love being good, don’t you!” Pocky laughs, pressing a clumsy kiss on Sweetheart’s brows, then going to get a warm hug from Baddy.

Sweetheart does not have the patience to tell him that drunkenly annoying others has the least to do with being good. At the same time, Baddy tries to peel the glasses off of him, and direct him towards his bedroom.

Pocky proves to be heavier than he seems. “We do, Officer, but it is time to have some rest now. Come, Sweetheart, help me.”

He giggles as the two villains try to put him to bed but get rid of his shoes and jacket before they would do that at least. Seemingly, he recognizes nothing of their struggle. Even worse, he pulls the two of them down with himself and traps Sweetheart in a vicious embrace. Baddy comes willingly and wraps his arms around the both of them. They wrestle on the bed for a while, Pocky snorting and whimpering from ugly, unattractive laughter. Once they are completely exhausted, they all pile up on top of each other, unable to move.

“It’s time for bed, bads!” Pocky announces. He kisses Baddy on the cheek and turns to kiss Sweetheart on his temple. “Goodnight. Goodnight. I love you.”

The rays of the morning sun wake Sweetheart up, who gets startled by all the pale blue colours that surround him. His chin is planted into Pocky’s chest, their legs are all tangled up together, and someone (Baddy) is holding his left hand. When he tries to silently leave the scene behind, Pocky stirs under him.

“My, my…” he mutters and tries to get his glasses from the bedside table. “Sweetheart, is that you? For some reason, my head feels like it’s been hammered in.”