Oboebandgeek99 Xii

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This is a tab view.

This is a
responsive table
You probably
don't know
how to make this
(because its confusing)

Oakley looked at the document, hands slightly shaking. They steeled themself, taking a closer look. Surely, they'd read it wrong. Surely, their eyes watering in anger the fifth time they read it was obscuring their vision, and the seventh time would reveal the words were a misprint, or just a phrase that looked familiar, or anomalously changing, or… something.

But there was no misprint. No misreading or misunderstanding, no anomaly. It was written there in boring, normal, everyday paper and ink. And it wasn't going to change.

"Everything alright there?"

Oakley jumped at Willow's voice. She could only chuckle in response, sitting down across from the researcher.

"You're staring at that paper so hard, it's like you're trying to burn a hole in it," she continued. "What's so interesting about it?"

Oakley put the document face down on the table, sighing and covering their face. "Nothing. Nothing whatsoever." Willow raised an eyebrow at this statement.

"Do you mind if I take a look?" She asked. Oakley gestured that the document was free to read. She picked up the document, looking it over. "Seems pretty standard to me." She kept reading. Oakley waited in anticipation of her realization. "Oh shit." And there it was.

"It seems Manny is with the Hand now." Oakley tried to say this normally, but their words came out coated in frost.

"Damn… I mean, I guess it makes sense, but still." Willow put the document down. "Are you okay?"

Oakley shrugged. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"I don't know." Willow waited in silence for a few seconds. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Oakley shrugged yet again. They didn't really want to talk about it, but it seemed inevitable.

"It's just," Willow continued, "I don't know, it's strange. I understand it sucks he changed allegiance but like… when was the last time you talked to him?" Willow asked, prodding.

"I guess it must've been like… three years ago? And I would occasionally hear about him from others." They rested their chin on the table. "It's weird."

"I just didn't peg you as being that close," Willow admitted.

"We weren't," Oakley said curtly.

"Okay," Willow said, backing off. "You just seem to be having a rather strong reaction to this. I know you joined the Foundation around the same time—"

"Actually I don't think that's true," Oakley admitted. "I'm pretty sure I joined, like two years before him? Just when he joined we started getting put on the same projects and… shit, I don't know." Willow frowned at this admission.

"So you were friends that drifted?"

"No, we were…" Oakley wasn't sure how to describe it. They'd always been awful at figuring out and describing their relationships. They never knew where they stood with others. They weren't friends, but they weren't just acquaintances either. "…coworkers. Like, Foundation coworkers, you know? Like, we weren't friends at all but… I dunno, if shit was about to hit the fan, I trusted him." Oakley took a deep breath, running their hand through their hair. "I think that's what gets me. I trusted him. He supported me, but he called me on my shit, and I trusted him. We talked and joked and laughed and checked each others spelling, and I trusted him. We dealt with some weird shit together, and I trusted him, and I trusted him, and I…" Oakley shook their head and stuck out their tongue. "Blegh! Semantic satiation." Willow stared at them, concerned. "I trusted him," they mumbled.

"And him being Hand now feels like a betrayal of that trust?" Willow asked. "That's why you're taking this so hard? If so, believe me, I get it, but it's not—"

"No, it's not that- It's not just that. I don't think," Oakley interrupted.

"Then… what is it?"

"I don't just feel bad, I feel… guilty. Like," They tried to gather their thoughts, "like we could've done something."


"We're supposed- we're supposed to have resources," they put their hand on the table, tapping rhythmically with the words they said, "We're supposed to have resources for this kind of thing."

"You mean the ones he never used?" Willow asked.

"We should've been able to do something."

"He could've done literally anything."

"Dammit, Willow, he needed help!"

"He needed to learn how this world works," Willow shot back.

"Bullshit!" Oakley said, standing up and banging the table.

"Oakley," Willow said sternly. "I'm not against you here. Take a deep breath." Oakley did as asked, then sat back down. After giving Oakley a moment, Willow continued. "He needed a therapist, Oakley, something he routinely refused to get." Willow sighed, taking off her glasses. "Look, I was there, too. This is hitting me, too. But it's not blindsiding me. Because Manny attached so much of who he was to this. The Foundation. And yeah, we're here for each other, and we trust each other. But we can't be all you have. You have to detach at least a part of yourself and keep it somewhere else."

Oakley stared pensively at Willow. "Why?"

"Because… that's just how you live. That's not just a Foundation thing, that goes for everyone. You can't attach too much of your identity just to one thing, or else you have a real precarious sense of self. If you attach yourself to your job and you lose that job, then who are you?"

"…He just wanted a community," Oakley whispered

"He wanted too much from them. And we weren't prepared to handle it, and he refused to get help elsewhere." Oakley wiped their eyes, trying to stop their eyes from watering. "Oakley," Willow leaned over and grabbed their hands. "There's nothing you could've done. I know it's hard, but it's not your fault. He wanted too much from us. From you." The two sat in silence for a while.

"I know the feeling, is all," they mumbled. "That's why it's hitting so hard."

"Me too," Willow admitted. "You can lead a horse to water but…"

"…you can't force him to be psychoanalyzed," Oakley finished. "You're right. Of course. I can't make him get help." Willow nodded as she stood up. "And who knows? Maybe he's doing better with the Hand. Maybe they can do what we couldn't."

Willow sighed sadly. "Maybe. I trust you'll keep an eye on the situation?" Oakley nodded. "Good."

As Willow walked away, Oakley grabbed the paper again. They looked at the sentence one last time.

And then they read on.

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