It’s been a week since he’s been “back.” Since they found “him.” A week since Rex—no, it’s “Emmet” now, isn’t it?—back-to-the-futured all the way back to his own timeline. Trust him, he’s pretty confused about it too.
“Emmet, we made eggs and toast!” Lucy calls from down the hallway.
“And coffee with a touch of cream and twenty-five sugars!” Mayhem adds in a sickeningly cheerful voice.
He thinks about not replying for a moment, pretending to still be asleep. It just took to much effort. But then Lucy and (gag) Mayhem would come to “wake him up” and he’d have to endure their
adorable sickening heartbreaking ill hidden flirting and he would rather not.
“Be right there!” he (tries to) brightly reply, voice still rough from a tone he hasn’t used in years.
He pushes himself up from the bed and gets ready for the day. He brushes his hair into a respectable (goody-two-shoes) style that he has
n’t worn for years. He clears the stubble from his face. (He had been so proud of it when he drew it it finally grew in.) He puts on his orange safety vest that he burned when he realized nobody was coming back adored.
(The person staring back at him from the mirror is not in any way, shape, or form him. He’s too clean, too spotless, too innocent. The stranger smiles at him and he attempts to smile back.)
When he enters the kitchen, Lucy and Mayhem are standing conspicuously next to each other, conversing in soft whispers. He clears his throat but not rudely. (Emmet has never been rude a day in his life.
But he’s not Emmet.)
“Emmet!” Lucy squawks, quickly moving away from the Systar general. Mayhem gives him a strained awkward grin. He tries not to glare back.
“Good morning!” he greets, false cheer oozing out of his voice. He steps towards Lucy to pick up his plate and he pauses. This is the part where, years ago, he would stop and give her a kiss on the cheek. He just takes his plate, though, and goes to sit down at the table. Lucy and Mayhem relax and for one terrible
empowering moment he thinks about going back and kissing her. But he’s not that much of a dick (anymore).
(He doesn’t like thinking about how he still can’t stand black coffee. How the sugar filled sludge that they prepared is what he still likes. That he’s a bit too much like Emmet still in some places than he likes because he doesn’t get to be Emmet, no matter how hard he’s pretending to right now.)
He rambles on about that stupid catchphrase as he disappears piece by piece. He’s terrified but nobody else is allowed to know that, least of all himself. He makes on last joke before he’s gone for good, because he’s never been good at this emotional stuff, even back when he was Emmet.
And with a pop!, he’s gone.
Then he wakes up.
He looks over himself. While he is still five years old, none of the changes he made as Rex are there. No stubble, no messy hair, no danger vest. It’s like someone had hit the Reset button on him and turned him all the way back to when he was Emmet.
He wants to throw up.
A whirr of an engine has him looking up. He vaguely recognizes the ship as the one who stole
his friends companions enemies?—the people he knew years ago. He wonders what it’s come to steal now. (Wonders if it stole being Rex from him too.)
A shock of blue and pink hair is what he sees first as she bursts from the cockpit.
And then she’s in front of him, her arms wrap around him and—
“Lucy?” he whispers her name. A name that he hasn’t thought of directly in years, calling the woman in front of him she and her and that b—
He’s choking now, trying to repress to sobs that are coursing through his body. He hasn’t cried over anything, much less himself, in the past five years why did he start now? This must be hell, this has to be. Because if this is heaven, he doesn’t deserve it.
And Lucy’s muttering reassurances in his ear, telling him how worried she was, how she thought she would never find him but wouldn’t give up. And it’s the last one that catches his ear, that curdles in his stomach.
“I knew that if anyone could make it, it’s you.”
And he laughs and laughs and laughs, lets her think it’s because of relief and joy and not bitter irony. Because she had been so so wrong.
“Emmet, I—I wanted to talk to you about something.”
Lucy stands in the doorway, eyes on the floor and awkwardly shuffling her feet. Mayhem gives her a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder as she passes by to her (their) room. He plasters on that fake smile that she love
“I-It’s about Mayhem.” She doesn’t meet his eyes. (He doesn’t meet hers.)
He sits back and thinks How would Emmet react to this situation? Well, Emmet wouldn’t know what the situation even was for starters. Subtlety hadn’t been his forefront at all. (It still isn’t but he knows how people who are “in love” act. Finn, in between his bouts of “adult” movies like Back to the Future, had smuggled a many romcoms down to the basement too. Like it had been the boy’s dirty secret. He guesses it’s his dirty secret now too.)
He switches tactics. How would Rex react to this situation? He would probably say something about how it was okay, not everybody got the Rex charm and more stupid, probably offensive crap.
How would he react to this situation? He didn’t know. Was he hurt about it? Yes. No. Maybe. He didn’t know. (He was surprised to find that wasn’t a lie.)
“I know,” he settles on. Lucy’s eyes widen in surprise.
“That Mayhem and I are—?”
“And-and you’re okay with it?”
He gives her a genuine smile. “Yeah.”
It isn’t a lie.
Because she doesn’t know that he’s spent countless hours hating her, stewing over plots of revenge. She doesn’t know that he actually put those plots into motion. Doesn’t know that he kickstarted Ourmommageddon and threw her into storage, laughing all the way. Doesn’t want her to know. Needs her to know.
He thinks the grateful smile she wears, the beam of happiness on her face, the way her eyes crinkle in relief is the most beautiful sight he’s ever seen.
And he’s never wanted to break anything to pieces more.
“Hmmm.” Unikitty inspects him from head to toe, like some sort of equation that she’s never been able to solve.
“What?” he laughs. That’s gotten easier, mostly because he had done his share of (villainous) laughing as Rex.
“There’s something wrong about you!” she declares and his heart plummets.
“W-what?” he laughs again, except more strained. She levels him with her best glare she can while still in her happy place. (He’ll never tell her how much scarier it is than when she’s in her unhappy place.)
“You’re unhappy about something!” She’s circling around him now like a shark. “We need to fix that!”
“I’m not—” he begins but she’s already plowed onward. He sighs and follows her like
the good guy he’s not Emmet would. She’s already passed the city’s outskirts now, heading into the desert to some place only she knows.
When he finally catches up, he takes one too many seconds to recognize where he is. The remains of Octan Tower loom above them, still precise and orderly but undoubtedly decaying. They both stare at the tower (at what it represents) in silence for a moment.
“Sometimes,” Unikitty begins, her voice low. “I come out here and get angry and scream and break stuff until I don’t want to anymore.”
“What—I don’t want to—”
“It’s okay,” her voice is still low, still saddened by some painful regret. “I thought I didn’t want to either until I did and I couldn’t stop.”
“I’m not angry,” he tries for another laugh (he’s always laughing now, doesn’t understand why the others give each other concerned glances because wasn’t this how Emmet acted?) but can’t keep the edge out of his voice.
She looks at him with knowing eyes.
“I’m really not.”
She doesn’t say anything.
And like a spark in a powder keg, his fist slams against the side of the tower. It’s like watching dominos fall, a satisfying and irreversible end. How much anger and hurt and fear did he have inside him to cause this? (How much anger and hurt and fear does he still have inside him to not feel appalled or ashamed about it?)
He doesn’t really think after that, he just punches and kicks and screams until his throat is hoarse. He doesn’t realize when he’s slipped into his normal voice (doesn’t realize that it’s Emmet’s voice that’s alien, despite speaking with it for a month now). He doesn’t realize when he splays out on the ground and wheezes, not until Unikitty curls up beside him, her soft fur brushing against the side of his face.
He turns and buries his face in her fur and gives one last gut-wrenching scream. She doesn’t say anything, doesn’t make promises that it’ll be okay. He’s glad that she doesn’t.
He hates that she doesn’t because it makes it so much harder to hate her.
Benny’s whizzing around makes the headache he has even worse but he’ll never tell the astronaut that. The guy had just gotten a transmission from the spaceship planet from Lenny and had been talking about nonstop ever since. (He knows that the reason Benny’s here is for him and he doesn’t know how to feel about that.)
“And get this, you remember the Green Ninja from a couple of years ago? Well, Lenny found his homeworld and they have shark mechs there but more importantly—shark spaceships! How awesome is that?! Pretty awesome because you should have seen the way Lenny’s eyes lit up—have I talked about Lenny’s eyes?”
Only about fifty-seven times, I counted, he grumbles inwardly but outwardly repeats it in an Emmet-way. But he must not do a good job because Benny is deflating rapidly from where he’s floating.
“Oh, uh, sorry. I wasn’t really thinking about how you’d feel since the whole Wyldstyle-Mayhem thing.” The astronaut twiddles his clamps.
It takes him a moment to realize what Benny’s talking about. And when he does, he wishes he had control over gravity too, so he could just float away from this conversation. (Or fling himself into the sun, whichever works.)
“It’s okay.” He goes for a soft supportive tone that feels like pieces of glass sliding down his throat. “I don’t mind—”
“No, no,” Benny breaks in. “I didn’t mind. I know, we all know, that you haven’t been the same since you’ve got back—”
That startles a “what?” out of him.
“—But it’s okay to say when something makes is making you uncomfortable. Like how Wyldstyle and Mayhem do the laundry instead. We just want to make you feel safe. I-if it makes you feel any better, I totally get how sucky you must feel right now.”
And how exactly would you know that? A venomous part of him spits. Were you trapped underneath a dryer for five years, wondering when your so-called friends were coming while watching them play out happy little memories in front of you? How the person you think you might have seriously loved ripped your heart out and smashed it to pieces only to put it together and smash it all again?
He should hate them, he should hate her—he hated them, her, for so long. He can’t fall back in love this quickly, not with her, not with them. It wasn’t fair.
“I used to have a crush on Metalbeard,” the astronaut confesses, snapping him back to the present. “But, uh, it didn’t work out. He loved his crew and I loved my spaceships and we both weren’t willing to give something up. It was for the best but it still, um, hurt, you know?”
“Yeah,” he says, thinking about all the hurt he was still carrying inside him (that could still hurt him—hurt her). “I think so.”
Metalbeard doesn’t even beat around the bush when it’s just the two of them. “Argh, ye look awful.”
“An’ quit tha fake cheery act? Yer givin’ me the whillies.” And with that, the pirate climbs aboard his ship and starts fiddling with some contraption.
He blinks and doesn’t register as he slips back into his normal voice. “What?”
Metalbeard nods. “Aye, tha be it. Nice ta see tha ye finally droppin’ tha fake act.”
“How did you—”
“Know?” He nods at the pirate. “Ye don’t think this be my original voice, do ye?” He blushes a bit since he never really considered it at all.
Metalbeard tosses something to him and he fumbles to catch it. It’s a Fidget Cube with a cute little pirate motif to it. The pirate laughs at his bewildered expression.
“It’s fer when tha thoughts hit ye,” the pirate explains, pointing to his head. “It helps me when I hav’ something ta focus me mind on. Isolation is a hard mistress an’ one I know well. When ye thoughts start ta turn stormy, try ta focus on tha little cube instead. It’s not perfect but it’s not meant ta be a solution either.”
He stares at the Fidget Cube for longer than necessary before turning to stare at the pirate. “I… thanks.”
Metalbeard grins and ruffles his hair. “Don’t worry ‘bout it laddie.”
Strangely enough, it’s here when he’s talking in his normal voice with his normal personality and his normal hair that he feels most like the Emmet he was years ago.
Batman doesn’t beat around the bush either. “So Rex, care to tell me why my alternate self just rung up my Dimensional Batphone to tell me about your exploits?”
“You have a Dimensional Batphone?” He doesn’t even try to keep the Emmet voice. The vigilante is momentarily thrown before regaining his cool.
“Yes, I have a Dimensional Batphone, I have a Bat-everything. Now answer the quest—”
“Do you even have a Bat-Bruce-Wayne?” he teases. (Oh gosh, he’s teasing Batman of all people. What has he become?) “Or would you say a Bat…” He pauses for dramatic effect. “…man.”
The superhero in question looks three ways to uncomfortable and he doesn’t even hold in his laughter. Batman’s pride must sting worse than his paranoia because he’s rolling his eyes and continuing his interrogation.
“What’s this I hear about you causing Ourmommageddon? And more importantly, crashing my super cool wedding, in front of Super—lame—man no less?”
“What makes you think it was me?” But the tone he’s using paints the picture, along with the too sharp grin on his face.
“Yeah, yeah, Rex—or should I say, Radical Emmet Xtreme,” the superhero mocks childishly. He frowns at him and fails to suppress the blush.
“Oh, like you have any right to talk Mr. ‘I’m so dark and edgy and broody, I have a super tragic backstory that I don’t like to talk about because I don’t feel feelings.’” Okay, maybe he was being childish too.
“Listen, I—” Batman blows out a deep breath. “I gave that up. Sorta.”
That… pulls him up short. “What?” He narrows his eyes at the vigilante. “Are you messing with me?”
“No, I—” And Batman gives the deepest sigh, like whatever he’s about to say next is like pulling teeth. “I’m serious.”
He studies the superhero for a moment. And then he bursts out laughing. “Oh my god, you are serious, I can’t even—!”
“Don’t patronize my emotional fragility!” Batman squawks. “I have a son to take care of now and a wife who is the queen of an alien race—which, looking back, isn’t anything I’d thought I’d ever say but it isn’t the weirdest—and I have to take of Joker, my, uh—”
“It’s okay, you can say boyfriend,” he comments drily. The superhero glares at him but doesn’t protest the accusation.
“So yeah, I grew up. Still am, actually.”
And whatever mirth he had been feeling inside him died a miserable death. Batman must sense this because he turns to look at him.
“Like you are.”
“Nuh-uh,” he says, as if to prove a point. He half expects Batman to just huff and turn away, to bury this conversation into the back of his mind and never speak of it again. Instead, the vigilante just sighs and leans forward to unexpectedly ruffle his hair like Metalbeard did not too long ago.
“It’s okay,” and he’s never heard such an earnest and genuine tone from the superhero before (like how a real superhero sounds). “I didn’t get it either. But Robin and Watevra—they’ve been good for me. And Joker too, I guess, in whatever twisted way you want to look at it. I’m healing and I’m growing and that’s okay—and you are too.”
And it’s him who’s crossing his arms and huffing, not daring to look at the superhero or else his face might combust more than it already is and the tiny smile across his face grow any larger. “Geez, when did you become such a dad?”
“I’ve never become such a dad, I’m Batman.” It’s the cheeky tone that makes him laugh and not the joke itself and he swear that to his grave.
(He gets back at the superhero later through the intricacies of how exactly Watevra came about because if anything, he should be the dad in this picture.)
“Luce, we need to talk.” His mind is already unconsciously drawing up a parallel to the last time one of them spoke those words. Lucy must as well because her voice is nervous when she replies, “Okay.”
They sit down in his room and face each other. (He still lives with them. He doesn’t know why he does. Lucy says that this was their home together first, that they’re still Super Special Best Friends and he doesn’t know what to do about the gooey feeling that leaves inside him.)
He takes a deep breathe and starts to explain everything—from the five years he spent alone, wondering when somebody would come for him to the hardening realization that nobody would. To the hours he spent forging a new identity for himself, plotting revenge on the backstabbers who left him, to drowning the soft and weak parts of him in his uber macho persona. To setting his plan in motion and stringing Emmet along to causing Ourmommageddon and inflicting pain on the ones he thought betrayed him—and the one he was closest to. To seeing his plan crumble and burn and disappear piece by piece to waking up with a clean slate but knowing better.
He doesn’t want to see the horror and disgust in her eyes when he tells her. He’s a coward like that. But once he starts, he can’t look away. And it’s there in certain parts, that horror and disgust that he cowers from, but it’s not the worst. That’s reserved for the pain that blossoms in her eyes as the dirty truth unravels from his lips.
When he finally finishes, it’s in his Emmet-like voice that he’s coming to accept is also his. They sit there in silence and the gap between there has never felt wider, not even when Lucy had first realized the depths of his normalness. Then a sharp intake of breathe.
“Emmet, you didn’t really believe that I would leave you there, right?” There’s hurt and indignation and fear in her voice. He finally looks away from her.
“I was there for five years Luce. I… didn’t know what to think.”
Suddenly, she grips his shoulders and jerks him up to face her. Desperation that he’s only heard in his own broken voice colors hers. “But now you know, right? That I wouldn’t do that?”
“I…” He’s thrown but he does know. “Yeah, I know.”
She relaxes then, like the wind leaving a boat’s sails. “I—yeah, I’m happy that you know that Emmet—”
“Rex,” he blurts out. She looks back up at him with a question in her eyes. “That’s what I want to be called now. Rex.”
Because he wants to grow up now, the right way—but he doesn’t want to leave behind these things either. Rex may have been the one to start the plan but he was also the one who learned what was wrong with it. And, as much as he’s coming to terms that he was Emmet once upon a time, he will never be Emmet again. Because he liked his over-sugary coffee and pop music (yes, Everything is Awesome was still a bop) and the smiles across his friends’ (they were friends) faces but he also like blaring rock music and raptors and snarky teasing remarks that made everyone laugh too.
Emmet was a chapter in his life that he already closed. He just hoped Rex would be good one.
“Rex…” she mulled, feeling how the name sounded in her mouth. “It’s… interesting. Does it stand for something? It’s not Radical Emmet X-,” here she made an ‘X’ with her arms, “-treme, is it?”
“What—no!” he sputtered, a shaky grin on his face. “It’s not—pschaw, who would come up with that?”
“That’s,” she bit back laughter. It was clear that this meant a lot to Emmet—to Rex. “That’s… so you.” And, she found, it was.
He went to reply when there was a knock at the door. Mayhem poked her head inside and sent a hesitant smile his way. He found that it was surprisingly easy to return it.
“Ah, I just wanted to know if you guys wanted to come watch a movie?” Mayhem shyly asked. Lucy looked at him, silently asking if that was okay with him.
“Yeah, I think I’d like that,” Rex said. He still had his hangups about the Systarians, Watevra and Mayhem especially, but he thinks—no, he knows he’ll work though them.
After all, Rex was still growing.