This story is very much about my version of Joey, but the song works for many of them, I believe.
Heavy and hard is the heart of the king
King of iron, king of steel
The heart of the king loves everything
Like the hammer loves the nail
Joey Drew had long since convinced himself that the world was against him. A lifetime of bullying and ostracization had told him that no one was ever going to support him. The school had never done anything to help him. His parents had brought up the subject time after time, and the administration had said they’d do something. But they never did. Because he was different. The administration couldn’t very well tell the students not to beat up the sickly Jewish kid, right? After quite a while of this, his older sister Esther just started beating up those who dared hurt her brother. Of course, most had been quick to demonize her for this, but it had made Joey feel better.
“You don’t need to beat them up,” Joey said as Esther cleaned off the fresh scrape on her knee. “Everybody just gets mad at you for it.” Their parents had told her off for getting into another fight, especially given she was about to go into high school. They were more worried about her than anything else, though, unlike the school administration. They didn’t know how much they could protect her.
“So?” Esther didn’t look up, wincing a bit as she applied the rubbing alcohol to her scrape. “They hurt you, so they deserve to be hurt back.”
“But Ma and Pa are always really mad when you beat them up.” Joey hugged his knees, trying to hide his smile.
“I don’t care.” Esther looked up, her eyes meeting his. “You’re my brother and I’m not going to let anyone hurt you.”
At the time, he’d felt comforted by her words. He felt better knowing that she was on his side. But then she’d gotten into high school, and she’d turned her back on him like everyone else. Suddenly she had responsibilities and expectations to uphold. Suddenly, she didn’t have time for him anymore. His parents weren’t much better, in his opinion. They too talked about expectations and responsibilities.
“A career in the arts is rather risky, don’t you think?” They’d say. “Are you sure you’d be able to get by?“ They were always talking about money, if he’d be able to make a living, if he’d be comfortable. Their families had had nothing when they’d come here. They knew what it was to be hungry. Their worry had nothing to do with his abilities. But to Joey, barely 18 and angry at everything, it felt as though they didn’t believe in him. So, he decided that he didn’t need friends nor family. Obviously, everyone would only abandon him in the end. They’d never believed in him anyway. If he wanted to be successful, he had to harden his heart. He couldn’t let anyone get in the way of his ambition.
After Henry had left, he’d hardened his heart once more. He’d thought Henry would stay. He’d thought Henry would support him, would share in his dreams and be by his side forever. But Henry too had abandoned him. Everyone left in the end. And so Joey’s talk of dreams grew hollow. Not even he believed himself anymore.
But the heart of a man is a simple one
Small and soft, flesh and blood
And all that it loves is a woman
A woman is all that it loves
He had moments of what he called weakness, of course. Moments where he missed his family, missed having friends, missed having people to support him. But he knew how to deal with those moments of weakness. He knew how to numb his feelings to make sure they didn’t bother him. Alcohol usually did the job well enough. He’d sit in his office, drinking until he couldn’t see or think straight.
“You shouldn’t drink so much, sir,” Grant told him whenever he found Joey doing this. “It’s bad for you.”
“Shut up,” Joey growled from behind his bottle. “Just give me the reports and get out.” There were very few who had seen him in this state. Grant was one of them because Joey knew Grant could keep his mouth shut. And so, Grant bowed his head, put the reports on the table, and left.
Alone once more, Joey cursed his heart. No matter how hard he tried, these moments always crept up on him. Some little thing would happen and remind him of better days, of what he’d once had. He’d gotten rid of any reminders of Henry in the years after his friend had left, and no one dared speak Henry’s name for fear of setting Joey off. For all his smiles and talk of dreams, Joey was a cruel and unforgiving person. Sammy was the only one who could talk back to him without getting fired.
“Are you fucking kidding me, Drew?!” Sammy yelled, slamming his hands on Joey’s desk.
“Is something wrong, Sammy?” Joey asked, trying to hide the slight slur in his words. That day hadn’t been a particularly good one. It was the anniversary of the founding of the studio, a reminder to Joey that the man he’d thought he could depend on had left him high and dry. Sure, Henry visited, he sent letters, but it did nothing to mend Joey’s broken heart. He’d coped with it the way he always did. By drinking.
“You’re giving me two days to write three songs,” Sammy growled. “That’s not enough time and you know it.”
“I’m sure you can do it,” Joey said dismissively. “If you can’t, I’ll find another music director.” Sammy was about to launch into a tirade but suddenly stopped. He leaned closer, eyes narrowed, and sniffed.
“Have you been drinking?” He asked, his voice softening. He looked genuinely concerned. Immediately, Joey felt rage well up in his chest.
“That’s none of your business, Lawrence.” He snapped. “Are you going to get me the songs or not?” But Sammy was undeterred.
“Are you alright?” He asked, leaning on the desk. “You can tell me if you’re not.”
“I’m fine.” Joey gritted his teeth, forcing himself to smile. “Don’t you have songs to write? We’re on a deadline. I won’t have you missing it.”
“You’re not alright.” Sammy insisted. “I can smell the alcohol on your breath, Joey. What happened?”
“Nothing happened. I’m fine.”
Sammy drew back a bit, eyes narrowing in thought. Then recognition passed over his face.
“Oh…” He stood up. “It’s the anniversary of the founding of the studio.”
“Yes, it is. But that’s not important.” Joey’s smile was so wide and so clearly forced it looked unnatural. “You should get back to work, Sammy.”
“You know you can talk to me if you need to.” Sammy moved to lean on the desk again, to get close to Joey. Joey shoved him as hard as he could, sending the music director stumbling backward.
“I don’t need your pity. I’m paying you to work, not to hold my hand and play shrink.” He growled, letting the facade drop. “If you can’t do your job, I’ll find someone who can. Do you understand?” For a moment, Sammy looked hurt. Then his face settled into a mask of irritated indifference.
“I understand.” His voice was monotone as he turned and left. Joey collapsed back into his chair, fishing out his nearly empty bottle of whatever booze he’d picked up from the liquor store. It didn’t matter what it was. Just so long as it got him drunk.
And Hades is King of the scythe and the sword
He covers the world in the color of rust
He scrapes the sky and scars the earth
And he comes down heavy and hard on us
He taught himself not to care about other people, to put his own success and happiness first. Nothing else mattered as long as he survived and his name was remembered. He wasn’t a good boss, he knew that full well. He pushed his employees further than they were able to go, demanded more of them than he should have. Sammy and Grant were perpetually on the verge of a nervous breakdown because of him, the animators were overworked and underpaid, the studio was hemorrhaging money, and that wasn’t even touching on the absolute mess with Bendy Land.
His employees talked behind his back, sure, saying that they didn’t understand what he was doing with the company. But when push came to shove, they were afraid of him. They’d do what he asked because he was the one with the power. He was king in this studio, holding their souls in the palms of his hands. Whether they liked it or not, they would give up their lives for the sake of his dream. Their lives were inconsequential. They didn’t matter. No one mattered but him.
He was justified he told himself as he sliced Norman’s neck, the blood soaking into his white shirt and staining his skin rust red. The projectionist had been poking around, snooping in on Joey’s plans. He’d gone looking and had found the grotesque version of Bendy that the GENT Ink Machine had produced.
“You should have left well enough alone.” He whispered as he watched the light fade from the older man’s eyes. He didn’t enjoy this. The killing. He liked having the power over other people, but the process of killing was…messy. It wasn’t a pleasurable experience for him. Some part of him was sickened by the killing. But it was necessary. No one would stop him.
He dragged Norman’s body to one of the coffins, setting it beside the one that held Susie’s body. She’d been one of the earliest sacrifices. So eager to reclaim Alice Angel. It still tickled him how easy it had been to manipulate her into giving up her life. Sammy had been furious with him, of course, but Joey had managed to talk him around to it.
“She’s happy. She’s embodying the role she loves. Besides, now she’ll be young and beautiful forever!” Joey had told him. “She’ll never have to worry about losing roles because she’s getting too old or she’s not pretty enough. Don’t you want her to have security?”
Susie was a sweet girl, but so terribly insecure. Both Joey and Sammy knew this. Her insecurity was what had driven her away from Sammy and into Joey’s arms. From what Joey could tell, she’d always been riddled with anxieties. Always afraid of not being good enough, not being pretty enough. She’d been voicing Alice Angel for years when Joey decided to replace her, so it was natural that she’d grow attached to the character. Of course, he didn’t really think Allison could do better. He just needed a reason to make Susie desperate.
Allison herself had been rather unaffected by Joey, but that was only because Thomas had stepped in and protected her. Joey wasn’t sure if she knew what he’d done. She was always polite and courteous to him, so he imagined she didn’t. Still, she was much more confident in herself than Susie was, and thus harder to manipulate. She could be flattered, yes, but that only went so far. He knew he couldn’t seduce her the way he had Susie, nor could he prey on her insecurities. Her only weakness was Thomas, and Joey wasn’t eager to take on the other man in a fight.
It was their fault for falling for his manipulation, he told himself. If they were smarter, they wouldn’t have gotten hurt. Of course, most weren’t fooled by his act. They could see through his bullshit smiles and fine words. But those who did believe him…Well, he didn’t let them get away.
But even that hardest of hearts unhardened
Suddenly, when he saw her there
Persephone in her mother’s garden
Sun on her shoulders, wind in her hair
Joey had known he was gay since he’d been very young. He’d learned quickly not to publicize his attraction to men, especially after he’d been mercilessly bullied for kissing another boy on the playground, but it was still there. No amount of suppression would make it just go away. When he’d been 18, his attempts to harden his heart were much less successful than he’d hoped, especially after he met Henry. The moment he’d laid eyes on Henry, his heart had melted. Henry had always been rather babyfaced, but as a fresh-faced college student, he’d been downright cherubic.
The two of them had run into each other on their first day of classes. Joey hadn’t been paying attention to where he was going, and neither had Henry apparently, so they’d run straight into each other. Joey wasn’t exactly in the best of moods, so he was prepared to scream at whoever had run into him. Until he saw Henry’s face. Henry was flat on his ass, his large glasses askew, his soft brown hair mussed in a way that was frankly adorable. He was wearing an oversized sweater, pants that were too big for him, and some beaten up loafers. He looked like just about every nerd Joey had gotten stuffed in lockers with, and yet infinitely cuter. His lips looked so soft and plush, and Joey just wanted to bury his face in the other boy’s fluffy hair.
“Oh no! I’m so sorry!” Henry looked distraught, trying desperately to gather up his and Joey’s books. “I wasn’t looking where I was going. I-”
“I-It’s okay.” Joey cleared his throat, helping to gather the books as well. “I wasn’t looking where I was going either.”
“I guess we were both lost in our own worlds, huh?” Henry smiled. And Joey’s heart melted.
“Yeah.” Joey smiled back, a tad awkwardly. “Um, I’m Joey. Joey Drew.” He held out a hand to the smaller boy. Henry stared at the offered hand for a moment before gingerly shaking it.
“Henry. Henry Stein.” His smile turned shy. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“So, um, which class are you headed to?” Joey withdrew his hand, shoving it in his pocket.
Henry fumbled his books a bit to pull out his schedule. “Umm…Introduction to Art History, room 406.”
“Me too!” Joey’s face lit up.
“Really?” Henry brightened as well. “What a coincidence!”
“Maybe we could sit together,” Joey suggested, a hopeful note in his voice. He hadn’t been able to make a lot of friends since he’d come to the college. It didn’t help that he was living in a ratty apartment a mile from campus because he couldn’t afford on-campus housing.
“I’d love that!” Henry gave him a big smile, and Joey’s heart melted.
The smell of the flowers she held in her hand
And the pollen that fell from her fingertips
And suddenly Hades was only a man
With a taste of nectar upon his lips, singing:
La la la la la la la…
Being Henry’s friend was the best thing that had ever happened to Joey. For what felt like the first time in his life, he had a friend. Henry was in his corner, no matter what happened. He was Jewish too, although Joey had long since abandoned his faith. Absolutely no one was allowed to know about that part of him. He wanted to make something of himself, and he’d seen how being open about their heritage and faith had affected his parents. Even his sister hadn’t publicized her faith. Sometimes Joey wished he could find the comfort in religion that Henry and his family did. It would have been nice to have something he could believe in.
Henry wasn’t ashamed of who he was. He had none of the persistent self-loathing that Joey did. When they’d met, Henry had admittedly still been figuring himself out. But even as the two of them grew into adulthood, Henry showed no signs of developing any kind of self-hatred. He proved to be easy-going and calm, reigning in Joey’s more manic tendencies. The two of them worked well together, especially once the studio was set up. Joey had the charisma and silver tongue to get through the business parts, as well as quite a lot of ideas, while Henry supplied the actual content.
Joey was never happier than when he was with Henry. Henry was such a genuinely good person, always polite and kind to everyone he met. Or at least, polite. There were some cases where he didn’t particularly want to be kind. He made Joey want to be a better person, always pushing him in the right direction or to do the right thing. He relied perhaps a bit too much on Henry to be his moral compass. Henry had never been one for confrontation, something Joey only really noticed in passing. He didn’t often speak out against Joey, tending instead to keep his grievances to himself. After all, his grievances were always rather small. Just little things. But as time went on, his grievances began to build. Still, he kept quiet, always telling himself he’d bring his complaints up at a later date.
Then they’d opened the studio together. Henry had been seeing Linda for nearly a year at this point. He’d met her when he and Joey were working odd jobs in order to get up enough money to start the studio. Joey hadn’t been all that fond of her at first but had relented his displeasure after seeing how happy she made Henry. He was also a little scared Linda would beat him up. She was a small woman, but she’d been working a factory job when they’d met her.
“This is it!” Joey said, wrapping an arm around Henry and pulling him closer. “Our own studio!”
“It is pretty exciting, huh?” Henry grinned, unable to stop himself from laughing.
“Come on! You have to see the inside!” Joey let go of him, fumbling out some keys and opening the door with a flourish. Joey’s expression was enough to send Henry into another wave of laughter. His friend very much resembled an excited child, eager to show their parent something they were proud of.
He stepped inside, looking curiously around. The hallways still smelled faintly of sawdust. Everything was new and fresh, completely untouched. Henry almost didn’t want to venture further in for fear of sullying this place with his presence.
“What do you think?” Joey asked, striding in behind him.
“Well, it’s great so far.” Henry glanced back at him with a smile. His excitement continued as he entered what seemed to be the main lobby. Until he saw the company name plastered onto three reels.
“Joey Drew…Studios?” His smile fell a bit. He turned to Joey, who was standing nearby with an eager look on his face. “Why is the studio named after you?”
“I thought you said you didn’t mind being out of the spotlight?” Joey’s eager expression dampened a bit.
“I don’t. It just…” Henry pursed his lips, then sighed and shook his head. “You know, nevermind. It’s not important.”
“Are…Are you sure?” Joey asked.
“I’m sure.” Henry nodded. “Now show me the rest of the studio.”
“Well, alright.” Joey gestured for him to follow.
The rest of the tour went well, but Joey couldn’t put that moment from his mind. Henry had seemed rather upset to see Joey’s name on the wall and not his own. But Henry had said that he didn’t mind being out of the spotlight. So what was the problem with it? He tried to put it from his mind and focus on getting the studio off the ground.
Norman, Sammy, and Wally were some of the first few to be hired. Both Henry and Joey had become friends with Sammy after working at a bar where he played music. He was responsible for bringing in most of the band, since he had more contacts in that field. Wally and Norman, meanwhile, had responded to ads put in the paper by the studio asking for a janitor and a projectionist.
At first, Henry was the only animator they had. Joey trusted no one else to draw Bendy and Boris. Henry had always had a tendency to work himself harder than he should, but with Joey relying on him like this he’d gotten even worse. The other employees would often come in to find that Henry hadn’t gone home, finding him asleep at his desk or drinking an ungodly amount of coffee in order to keep going. Everyone became rather worried about him, especially Linda.
She came by the studio a lot to check on Henry. Joey heard her talking to Henry in hushed tones whenever she visited. Occasionally, she’d stop in to say hello to Joey and ask how he was doing, but more often than not she just made a beeline for her husband’s desk. Joey mostly tried to stay out of her way, but he had a bad habit of eavesdropping when it came to Henry.
“I’m fine, Lin, really.” Henry’s words were slurred by his lack of sleep. “I just need to meet this deadline.”
“You say that every time.” Linda sighed. “You can’t keep going like this. You’ll end up killing yourself.”
“I’m not going to die.” Henry laughed, but the sound was hollow. Joey felt his heart sink at the sound of Henry’s voice. God, Henry sounded so tired. He wasn’t killing his best friend, was he? He quickly shook his head. That was ridiculous. If Henry felt he was being overworked, he would have told him. And so he walked away, failing to hear the rest of Linda and Henry’s conversation.
“Well, have you at least talked to Joey?” Linda asked, glancing down the hallway to the staircase that led to Joey’s office.
“Not…yet.” Henry hunched his shoulders, drawing into himself. “But I will. I promise, I will.”
“Henry…” Linda cupped her husband’s face in her hands. “You can’t keep putting it off.”
“I know…” Henry averted his gaze but lifted his hands to touch hers. “I just don’t want to bother him. The studio’s just getting off the ground, so we’ve all been busy. It wouldn’t be fair for me to dump my problems on him.”
“If he’s really your friend, he’ll understand.” Linda pulled away. “I hope you’ll be home for dinner tonight.” She knew full well he probably wouldn’t be. But she could hope.
As more time passed, Henry’s grievances began to build. He tried to push them down, but he was almost at his breaking point now. No matter how hard he tamped them down, they rose up again, constantly at the back of his mind.
Joey relied on him far too much to push him in the right direction.
Joey took credit for work Henry had done.
Joey expected far too much of him.
Joey took and took and took and never gave anything.
Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. When he entered Joey’s office, his friend was a little surprised. Henry had a rather grim look on his face, one Joey was rather sure he hadn’t seen before.
“Is something wrong?” Joey asked, quickly shuffling away his paperwork.
Henry took a deep breath, leaning on Joey’s desk. “We need to talk.”
“We…We do?” Joey felt his stomach begin to sink.
“I can’t do this anymore, Joey.” Henry continued, his eyes on the floor. “I haven’t seen Linda in weeks now, I’m working so hard I can’t remember what it’s like to sleep on an actual bed. It’s just…It’s too much.” Joey stared at him for a moment, licking his lips. Why did his mouth suddenly feel so dry?
“I…I understand.” He managed to force the words out, putting on a shaky smile. “I’m so sorry, Henry. I didn’t know how much pressure I was putting on you.”
Henry immediately relaxed, as though a weight had been taken off his shoulders. “I know this was supposed to be our dream, but I really need to find somewhere else. I can’t work for you. You’re my best friend. I can’t be strictly professional around you.”
“I understand.” Joey nodded again, his smile staying in place. But Henry could tell his friend was forcing himself to put up a happy front.
“I’m not leaving you, Joey.” He reached out and took Joey’s hand in his. “I’m still going to be here for you. I’ll visit. I just can’t work here anymore.” Joey looked down at Henry’s hands, admiring the callouses on Henry’s fingers and the ink that forever seemed to outline the ridges of his fingertips.
“I know.” His voice was soft as he lifted his gaze to meet Henry’s. “I hope you’ll be happier elsewhere.”
“Thank you.” Henry squeezed his hand. “And I hope you make this the most amazing studio the world has ever seen.”
Joey wished he could believe him.
And what has become of the heart of that man,
Now that the man is King?
What has become of the heart of that man,
Now that he has everything?
One could count on one hand the number of people who brought up how much Joey had changed. Wally was one, but that was only because he tended to just say whatever was on his mind without thinking. Sammy was the one who brought it up the most often. He was one of the original employees, after all. He’d seen Joey’s slow descent into madness and wasn’t afraid to call him out on it.
”What happened to your dream?!” He demanded after Joey had given him yet another impossible deadline.
“What does the deadline have to do with my ‘dream’?” Joey asked coolly. Grant had delivered that month’s expense reports, so Joey was already in a rather sour mood.
“You’re practically a slave driver now!” Sammy slammed his hands on the desk. “You’re working everyone too hard and expecting too much of us! You used to care about the employees here! Now you just treat them like machines!”
“I do care about my employees.” Joey looked the slightest bit offended. “I’m simply pushing you all so you can achieve your true potential.”
“Our true potential.” Sammy scoffed, drawing away and folding his arms. “That’s bullshit.”
“Well, it certainly worked for Susie.”
Sammy stiffened at the mention of Susie. He hadn’t been allowed to see her since her transformation into Alice. Joey had told him that Susie didn’t want to see him, which was partially true. He also didn’t want Sammy undoing all of his hard work and showing Susie how she’d been manipulated.
“Is she…She’s still alright, isn’t she?” His voice was much softer and he wouldn’t look at Joey. His fingers began to twitch as he fought the urge to start fidgeting.
“She’s fine.” Joey smiled, folding his hands on his desk. “Although, if you keep pushing me, she might not continue to be.”
“Don’t hurt her.” Sammy’s eyes snapped up.
“Then keep doing your work.” Joey’s smile widened.
“I can’t do it,” Sammy said, giving in to his desire to fidget. “There’s too much to be done and not enough time.”
“You just have to believe, Sammy.” Joey’s voice was soft and soothing. “Have faith in me.” A flash of annoyance passed across Sammy’s face, but he said nothing.
“If you do as I say, everything will be fine.” Joey continued. “Now go on. You have songs to complete.” He gestured to the door. Sammy gritted his teeth and hung his head. Without another word, he turned and left the office.
Joey sat back in his chair, satisfied by this outcome. Perhaps, though, he should pay a visit to Alice. It had been a bit since his last visit. She’d been a bit…emotional the last time. She was still upset about the whole debacle with Allison, not to mention that she hadn’t come out ‘perfect’ enough to earn Joey’s praise.
He filed away the rest of his paperwork and headed to where Susie was. She was a floor or two up, along with a few other transformed employees. It was a bit sad that no one had asked where Wally had gone. Perhaps they were all happier now that he wasn’t constantly chattering in their ears. He’d been a terrible mechanic too. Joey hummed to himself as the elevator screeched upwards. He saw Thomas talking to Allison on one of the floors and waved. Thomas gave him a poisonous glare.
“Hey, Mr. Drew.” The employee in charge of watching the ink creatures greeted him when he stepped off. They were a skinny kid of indeterminate race and gender who called themselves Adrien Amsel. They tended to blend into the background because everything about them was brown, from their hair to their clothes. Joey had just kind of found them on the street and decided they’d be a good person to hire since they didn’t ask any questions or care about much of anything. They had something that was like a reception desk or guard post. It was just a desk with a chair.
“Hello, Adrien.” Joey strode out of the elevator. “How is my angel doing today?”
Adrien shrugged, their gaze mostly on their book. “I mean, she hasn’t started screaming or anything.”
There was music coming from inside, which was probably a good sign. Joey moved to the door, looking over at Adrien. The teenager flipped a page. They were reading a copy of Grimm’s Fairytales.
“Fairytales, hm?” Joey paused with his hand on the doorknob.
“It was a present from my godfather,” Adrien said. “I thought it’d be rude if I didn’t read it.”
“Alright.” Joey turned back to the door. “You know what to do if things get out of hand.”
“Yep.” Adrien gestured vaguely what looked like a fire extinguisher at their side. It wasn’t really a fire extinguisher. It was filled with acetone. Susie’s body was made of ink now, so acetone was a good deterrent for…unwanted behavior.
Joey smiled and walked in, closing the door behind him. He was rather pleased with the scene he found before him. Alice was sitting in the middle of the room singing while the other ink creatures played instruments. They couldn’t play well, since most of them had malformed limbs, but they were playing all the same. A chorus for an angel. Boris was playing the clarinet, but it was wildly out of tune. Alice stopped, gently slapping Boris’ back.
“What happened to your musicality?” She asked. “You’re great at the clarinet!” Boris looked sheepish, hunching his shoulders.
“Don’t give him too hard of a time,” Joey said, entering the room with the pomp and circumstance he thought was necessary. “He’s still getting used to this new world.” Boris moved away from Joey, whimpering. Or at least, he was trying to whimper. Joey had made sure he couldn’t make any noise.
“Joey!” Alice immediately stood up. She was the perfect image of Alice. But without a halo. He needed to find some way to get her a halo.
“Hello, my darling angel.” Joey walked forward, cupping Alice’s face in his hands. “You’re as lovely as ever.”
“I thought…You said I wasn’t perfect.” Alice lowered her eyes shyly, her cheeks coloring.
“You’re not perfect yet, but we will make you perfect.” Joey rubbed his thumb across her cheek. “After all, you’re my angel.” Alice smile, but then quickly looked back at him.
“But what about Allison?” She demanded, taking Joey’s hands off of her. “You aren’t going to replace me again, are you? You haven’t come back in a while. How am I supposed to know that you didn’t just decide you could do better with her?!” The ink around her began to bubble, the ink making up her body began to dribble. Boris whimpered, backing up.
“I won’t replace you,” Joey assured her, keeping his cool. “In my eyes, you’re the only Alice. I only had Allison take the role to see if it would drive up sales. Obviously, the world wasn’t fooled.” He took her hand again. “You are the only Alice Angel.”
“…You better not be lying to me.” Alice stared at him. She hadn’t been a dangerous person as a human. But ink creatures had certain powers. And Alice was a very powerful ink creature.
“I would never lie to you.” Joey kissed her cheek. He was lucky Susie had always fallen for this sort of thing. Lucky that she’d never picked up on his unrequited crush on Henry. Boris watched him warily, holding the clarinet to his chest as though it would save him. Joey kept smiling.
Alice seemed satisfied by this, a smile returning to her face. She walked back to where she’d been sitting, arranging herself primly on her chair.
“So, what brings you here?” She asked. “You never visit anymore.”
“Things have been…busy,” Joey said slowly, sitting down next to her. “I’ve been dealing with quite a bit.”
“You’re always working so much nowadays.” Alice rested her head on his shoulder. Her horns dug into his shoulder a bit. “Always so serious.”
“I suppose you’re going to bring up how I’ve changed, hm?” Joey let the bitterness slip into his voice.
Alice pulled away, her brow furrowed. “Did someone else bring it up?”
“Sammy did.” Joey’s smile fell a bit as his irritation became plain. “Kept talking about how I’d forgotten my ‘dream’. All of this is for my dream! I push them so that they can achieve their true potential! So that we can all be better!” He slammed his fist down on the chair beside him. All the other ink creatures had shied away from him at this, especially Boris. But Alice stayed.
“You have changed. But it’s not a bad thing.” She said, smiling and taking his arm. “Sammy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He never did.” Her nose wrinkled in disgust for a moment. “You’re making dreams come true.”
“Yes, I am.” Joey smiled back. “And it’s all thanks to you.”
She was such a fool for trusting him. It would only bring her pain in the end.
The more he has, the more he holds,
The greater the weight of the world on his shoulders
See how he labors beneath that load
Afraid to look up, and afraid to let go
And he keeps his head low, and he keeps his back bending
He grows so afraid that he’ll lose what he owns
But what he doesn’t know is that what he’s defending
Is already gone
The bigger the studio got, the tighter Joey held to it. No one could say he didn’t love this studio. Everything he did was to ensure its success. But somewhere along the way, his love had become twisted. He loved the studio as a possession, something he could own, something he could use. He loved his workers not as people, but as tools. Everything within the studio walls was his, and woe to anyone who tried to take what was his. The employees could call him incompetent all they liked. He was in charge. He couldn’t let this studio fail. He couldn’t. If he failed, then those who had doubted him would be right. He wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction.
He became controlling, demanding perfection from everyone in the studio.
Bertrum and Lacie tried to take it away from him. Bertrum had threatened to quit, to take all his plans and go elsewhere. He and Joey had been having an argument about it near the elevator shaft on Level S. Bertrum had his plans and blueprints shoved in a bag and clutched to his chest.
“Bertie, please, you can’t leave.” Joey’s smile was forced and fragile. He felt he might snap at any moment. He knew he probably wasn’t going to get Bendyland off the ground. Not with Grant dead. They’d found the accountant hanging in his office. The pressure had gotten too much for him.
“Let me go, Mr. Drew!” Bertrum snapped. “There’s no point in me staying! This park clearly isn’t going to happen!”
“It will happen! It will!” Joey was practically begging now, trying to grab at Bertrum as the park architect dodged him.
“You’re deranged!” Bertrum yelled. “A fool! I never should have agreed to work for you!” For a moment, Joey saw red. A fool?! He’d show him a fool! Before he knew what he was doing, he’d shoved Bertrum into the elevator shaft. He stood there, staring into the darkness, listening as the architect’s body hit the bottom of the shaft. He felt…relieved. Bertrum had been so irritating! Always questioning him! But Bertrum was gone now.
“Bertie? I’ve got the rest of your….papers.” Lacie came walking up with another bundle of papers. She trailed off when she saw Joey standing in front of the shaft, Bertrum’s papers scattered about. She looked at Joey and she knew what he’d done. She dropped the papers and ran at him. All Joey had to do was step out of her way. Even then, she managed to grab one of his suspenders as she went by. If she was going down, she was taking him with her. Joey barely got a hold of the post on the edge of the shaft, and the jerk nearly sent him tumbling down. The only thing holding Lacie up was Joey’s suspender, and it wasn’t very strong. Lacie knew this.
“I hope you rot in Hell, Drew.” She growled. Then the suspender snapped. Joey managed to pull himself back onto the landing. He sat there for a little, composing himself, then he threw the rest of the papers into the shaft. Everything was going to be fine, he told himself. It was all going to be fine.
It wasn’t fine. He’d underestimated just how badly in debt they were. Esther was the one to give serve him the bankruptcy papers. Her firm wasn’t handling the case, but she’d wanted to serve it to him. She’d wanted to help him. Her eyes were tired and pleading and she promised she would help him. He didn’t want her help. He didn’t want anyone’s help. He had to find some way to fix this. He couldn’t lose everything he’d worked so hard for. So…He panicked. No one was going to take this away from him. No one. Everything here was his, everyone here was his. They would die for his dream. They had to.
On the last official day of operation, Joey locked the doors to the studio and went down to where they kept the twisted copy of Bendy. He wasn’t allowed near the other creatures as they’d found he tended to…dissolve other ink creatures. He opened his spellbook and began to chant. He’d held a goodbye party in the breakroom, with provided cake and coffee. Everyone had gotten something. They hadn’t even noticed the inky taste in everything. As Joey chanted, the employees began to feel strange. Soon enough, they began to vomit, shocked and horrified when they saw they were throwing up ink. The ink continued to pour out of them, starting to consume them. The employees screamed, scrambling for the doors. Their panic and fear spiked when they found the doors were locked. Joey could hear their screams even from where he was.
“This is my studio.” He said, closing the book. “No one is taking this away from me.” Bendy tilted its head to the side curiously.
“Tommy said you needed a soul.” Joey smiled. “So I’ll give you a soul.” He wrapped his arms around the demon, allowing the ink to spread over him, consuming him whole. He’d wanted to live forever. Now he would.
Where is the treasure inside your chest?
Where is your pleasure? Where is your youth?
Where is the man with his hat in his hands?
Who stands in the garden with nothing to lose, singing:
La la la la la la la…
It was all over now. The studio he’d worked so hard to build had crumbled, leaving him trapped in a hell of his mistakes, gazing out over his crooked empire and the people he’d destroyed. The dreams were gone. Had it been worth it? Had his actions been justified, in the end?
He’d brought his creations to life, hadn’t he? They walked and talked and breathed and thought, didn’t they? But…No. They didn’t. Bendy had been born without a soul, and Joey’s fusion with him had produced a twisted and horrifying monstrosity. He’d taken Boris’ voice, and all subsequent Borises lacked voices as well. Alice’s mind was fractured due to an ill-fated run-in with Joey himself. The Butcher Gang were twisted mockeries of their animated counterparts. None of it was right. None of it was the way it was supposed to be. And he knew it was his fault. He’d been so unwilling to let his studio go he’d turned it into a horror show.
“You just have to believe.” He’d said that before, in an audio log. He wondered if he’d ever actually believed that before he’d adopted that persona to manipulate his workers. Henry had believed. Henry had always believed. Henry had always pushed him to do the right thing. Without his family there, Henry had been his moral compass.
“He should have pushed harder.” He growled to himself, trapped within the ink, surrounded by the reminders of how he’d failed. Henry should have done something. Henry should have stopped him. Henry should never have left. If he could just get Henry back…Henry would fix things. Henry would put everything right! All he needed to do was get Henry back into the studio. Henry had the heart that Joey needed. Henry had always been the soul of the studio. If he could just get Henry back, then everything would be fine. It was Henry’s fault that this had happened, anyway.
But deep down, Joey knew that this was his fault. All of it was on him. He’d lost sight of what he and Henry had sought to create together. He’d lost sight of his dream, his happiness. He should have listened to the others, should have accepted their help, should have acknowledged his own shortcomings. He was in too deep, though. He’d become too wrapped up in his own ambition. He couldn’t just admit his mistakes now. And so, in the ink, he let his anger fuel him. The young man who’d stood side by side with Henry was gone. There was only a monster now.
La la la la la la la…
La la la la la la la…
La la la la la la la…