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counting all the ways i've failed you

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The Informant had never felt more useless.

He’d done everything he could, tried as hard as he could, and look at all the good it had done.  He was still here, still in the Happy Dream, with Russell. Russell, who wouldn’t be waking up, who had chosen to stay here knowing how it would end.

He’d failed in his mission, and there was nothing left for him but to wait for the world to crumble and disappear.

The door clicked shut, pulling him out of his thoughts, and he turned to see Russell standing in front of him. Speak of the devil. The Informant quickly plastered his usual smile on his face, doing his best to hide all of the bitterness he was feeling.

“What are you doing here?” he asked. “I have no more information for you.”

Russell was silent for a few moments, just watching the Informant, before speaking. “I’m not here for information.”

“What, then?”

“There’s a party down at the beach. The others organized it to celebrate since it’s been a week that I’ve been here.” Russell’s voice was as quiet as always, but the Informant could still hear hints of the emotions that had begun to blossom over the past week. He couldn’t help but be a bit proud in the part he’d played in that happening, however small it might have been.

“And why are you telling me this? I hope you aren’t expecting me to tell you what to do there or something. I told you, I can’t help you anymore.”

“You should go.”

The Informant blinked. Russell had to be joking, right?

“Why should I? I’m not even real. None of this is, he wanted to add, but what was the point? Russell had already made his choice. The Informant knew there was nothing he could say to convince the boy otherwise, and it was too late for him to wake up now, even if he wanted to. “And it’s not like anyone would want me there, anyway.”

“Gardenia suggested I ask you, actually.” Of course she did. Gardenia was nice to everyone. She’d invited Russell’s whole class to her birthday party, after all. It didn’t mean anything.

As if he’d read his doppelganger’s mind, Russell continued. “Everyone else agreed. And I think so, too. You should go.”

“Did you miss the ‘not real’ part? I’m just a construct of this dream. Trying to be nice to me won’t accomplish anything.”

“You’re real enough,” Russell shrugged. “You have your own thoughts completely separate from mine. And you have your own feelings, too, right?”

… What?

“Of course not.” The Informant winced, fully aware of how unsure he sounded. “My sole purpose is - was - to provide you with information on how to succeed in this experiment. I don’t need emotions for that.”

“Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have them. I thought I didn’t need emotions either. Technically I don’t need them. But that doesn’t mean… well. You’re allowed to feel things. And besides, everyone else was here to help me succeed too. But the experiment is over now, so they don’t have that purpose anymore. They don’t need one. They can just exist. And so can you.”

Russell looked away, clearly embarrassed by how much he’d said, and all the Informant could do was stare. He couldn’t really argue about that, but… when had Russell gotten so… wise?

He realized after… he didn’t know how long… that he still hadn’t said anything in response, and Russell looked like he was about ready to bolt like a scared rabbit. Okay, maybe not the most tasteful comparison, but it wasn’t like he was going to say it to Russell’s face.

“...I’ll think about it,” he said finally. That was the best he could manage, but it looked to be enough for the other boy, who nodded and started edging towards the door.

“It’s tomorrow at 3:00. Try to at least come for some of it,” was all he said before leaving the Informant alone once again.

It was only after the room had returned to silence and the Informant had begun tidying up his bookshelves that he realized that for the first time since he had come into existence a week ago, he didn’t feel like he was going to be crushed with self-loathing.

… Maybe he would go to the party after all.