Putunia was getting bored.
She was still doing a lot better than she had been back at home. Obviously. But it turned out that the Habitat could still get boring. It had been great at the start! There were so many new people, and they were all nice to her, and she was allowed to have as much soda as she wanted, and nobody yelled at her. But then Habit stopped coming around, and people got sadder and sadder and blocked off the stairway and the carnival entrance, so she was confined to her space in the carnival and in her room. And she was confined to the same people every day, which, believe it or not, got old at some point. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Gerry or Parsley. It was just that she had only them to talk to for at least a week. She did not count the carnival attendants.
That also wasn’t mentioning the other changes. Like the PSA’s.
And the nighttime ones. But she didn’t like talking about those much.
She missed a lot of people. She missed the other kids. And a lot of the adults. And she missed Habit.
She’d decided that this must all be the work of some evil villain. After all, she hadn’t even seen Habit’s face for weeks! He was probably being held hostage! Someone had to go help him! But she couldn’t, because she was stuck in a carnival. Surely someone had been working on it! Trevor probably knew, he was smart. And he wasn’t stuck with her, so maybe he was doing something. And if he was working on it, surely the other kids would help!
She rested her chin in her hands with a great sigh. Hopefully they were doing something, and hopefully they’d fix it all soon.
Putunia definitely wasn’t expecting it when she heard the screechy creak of the carnival doors. She’d instantly perked up, got to her feet, and watched. In walked another kid. She barely even processed what they looked like before she was running at them.
“Hi! Hi!” She waved her arms wildly, wide grin on her face. “I’m Putunia! What’s your name? Did someone rescue Habit?” The kid seemed instantly overwhelmed. By her loud voice or by her many questions was anyone’s guess. “Sorry! I’ve just never seen you before so you must be new and it’s been like a week since the carnival was open!" She rocked back and forth on her heels to try to get out her excess energy. "What's your name?"
The new kid gave her a bit of a weary look. Not really upset or angry, just a little bit tired. And they didn't answer her question.
"...What's the matter? Can't you talk?" She questioned, a little concerned. The kid shook their head. "Oh. That's okay, then, uh… " She quickly adapted her line of questioning to accommodate. "Did you get the carnival doors open?" A nod and a smile. "Thanks! We've been kinda stuck here for a few days. Mm…"
Now that she was a bit calmer, she gave them a once-over. They couldn't be much older than her. They were dark-skinned, and they had fluffy dark brown hair and green eyes. They were wearing a light green t-shirt and dark green, slightly scuffed up overalls. And they had a very kind looking face, which was probably one of the reasons she felt she could trust them.
"Have you seen Habit?" She asked. The kid frowned and shook their head. Putunia hummed thoughtfully. "Then he's still hostage…" The kid blinked twice, tilted their head, and furrowed their eyebrows. To their credit, it was the clearest "you've lost me" look she'd seen on a person. "Well, uh," she stammered slightly. She cleared her throat, trying again with new confidence. "Habit would never be so mean to anyone, so the guy on the PSA's has gotta be a fake! He was always nice to everyone before he stopped showing up, so someone must be keeping him prisoner and pretending to be him!"
The kid kept their expression fairly neutral, tapping their fingers against their arm. "You believe me, right?" She asked, smile wavering slightly. It had to be a fake. Habit was her friend. The kid seemed a little startled. They thought a moment, then nodded, looking away from her. "Yes!" She cheered. The kid flinched slightly, which was enough to convince her to lower her voice a little. "You don't like yelling?" A nod. "Oh, okay, I'm sorry."
She was already starting to wish she had an easier method of communication. And also that she didn't have to be calling them "the kid" in her head. Oh well. The kid shuffled in place a bit, then waved and started heading into the carnival. They seemed a bit surprised when Putunia just decided to walk after them, following at their heels like a lost puppy. She struggled to think of yes or no questions as she walked. It was harder than one might think. And as they went, the kid stopped to talk to Parsley, silently listening to his problems with some nods and head shakes. They bit their inner cheek, then started heading back to the courtyard. Putunia followed behind.
The kid paused, looked back at her with an inquisitive stare. "Oh, I was just gonna… stick with you awhile. Do you mind?" They considered it for a moment, then shook their head with a small smile and walked into the courtyard.
Millie and Ronbo were both smiling. How did that happen?
Gillis was still stuck by the lounge, though. "Hi, Gill!" Putunia chirped. He gave her a wave, momentarily distracted by the open carnival door.
"Did Ronbo open the carnival back up?" He questioned, seeming a bit surprised.
"Yeah! Just a little while ago!" She rocked on her heels.
"And who's this runt?" He turned his attention to the kid. They raised their brows.
"I, uh. Don't really know their name. They can't talk."
With that awkward chat out of the way, Gillis "asked" for the kid's help with the security camera. With a bit of posturing and tough-guy act, of course. The kid hummed thoughtfully, then pulled out a bouquet full of items, digging through it and pulling out a camera. They took a photo of Gillis, then walked up to the camera and reached up for it.
They were a little too short. The kid screwed up their face, lowering their arm and considering their options.
Putunia grabbed the photo from their hand, which immediately got their attention. "Give me a boost," she said, lifting her arms. The kid's eyes lit up in recognition, and they carefully, very carefully, lifted Putunia onto their shoulders. It was a precarious spot, as obviously the kid wasn't the strongest, but she managed to slap the picture onto the camera before they had to set her back down.
The kid let out a relieved sigh, then smiled down at Putunia with a thankful nod. They headed back over to Gillis, gesturing over to the carnival with an extravagant bow. Once he had left to the carnival, Putunia gave them an awed look. "You're helping people!" She gasped, grin growing on her face. They nodded with a smile, though it wasn't really a question. "Can I help? Please please please? I can be your sidekick! Every hero needs a sidekick!" They seemed a little surprised, and they thought about it for a moment. And they nodded.
Putunia grinned wide, but then they both realized what time it was. It was getting late. "I'll come find you tomorrow, you live in the apartments, right?" A nod, and they split up. Putunia closed the door to her room behind her, flopping into her bed. She was going to be helping people! From now on, she'd get people to smile.
The TV turned on that night with one of not-Habit's PSA's. This one was more than a little aggressive, and it seemed to be directed towards someone. "That's not how it's supposed to work here!" The puppet was saying. " Flower kid. "
The bouquet, their outfit, the flowers she'd seen planted around the courtyard…
Oh, no. The villain was after their new friend! She gripped her blanket tight, frowning. She'd just have to protect them.
Apparently Ronbo wasn't supposed to open the carnival door. She hoped he wasn't in trouble.
Putunia went to sleep.
The next day, she waited patiently outside the kid-- Flower Kid? Flower Kid's door, chatting a bit with Nat, who was walking around the apartments.
"So what're you doing up here?" She'd asked. "Looked like you were waiting for something."
"Oh! I'm waiting for Flower Kid," Putunia replied easily. "I'm their sidekick now!"
Nat gave her a fond, slightly exasperated smile. "That's cool. Just try to stay out of trouble, yeah?" She ruffled Putunia's hair. Putunia let out a laugh, grinning.
"I will, I will!" She agreed, giggling. One of the apartment doors opened, and she whipped her head around to see Flower Kid walking out, rubbing their eyes. "Gotta go, Nat! Duty calls," she giggled, ruining over towards Flower Kid. Nat snorted.
"Godspeed, soldier," she called. She seemed a lot happier. Putunia wondered if it was because of Flower Kid.
Either way, she rushed up to her new friend, bouncing energetically. “Good morning!” She called. They seemed a little surprised, and then they gave her a friendly smile and a wave.
Putunia was being a good sidekick, in her own humble opinion.
Whack-a-molar was something she excelled at. It was reflex and punching, both of which she considered herself adept at. All she needed was a boost from Flower Kid, which they were willing to deal with. She got a perfect score first try, naturally, and the attendant gave Flower Kid their prize.
“A piece of paper?” Putunia questioned, standing on tip-toes and trying to see it. Flower Kid bit their inner cheek and stuffed it into their bouquet. “You’re not gonna read it?” She furrowed her brows. They shook their head silently. Putunia screwed up her face, but didn’t push it.
Gerry was also something she was good at dealing with. She didn’t even need Flower Kid’s help with that bit. Spending a week in Gerry’s proximity made sure she knew how to deal with him, and threatening to “take her business elsewhere” a couple times had him handing over whatever he had for free. Flower Kid seemed half impressed, half baffled. She ran back up to them with a grin. “It’s a magnet on a stick!” They tilted their head, but still took it off her hands. They seemed a little surprised when it actually pointed somewhere. They made eye contact.
“Treasure tracker!” She gasped with a wide smile, which they returned. And that was how they ended up going through the ground floor, Putunia with the tracker and Flower Kid with the trowel. It didn’t take long for them to have everything. dug up and grabbed. A quarter, a quiktranslate, and a pocket mirror.
Next was the other carnival game. Putunia gave it a try first, with another lift from Flower Kid. No luck, she couldn’t even get more than two. Flower Kid set her back down, thinking. “This game’s totally rigged,” she complained. They nodded, humming in thought. Then their face lit up, and they slid the pocket mirror out of their bouquet. Putunia quickly realized what they meant, backed up, and let them do their thing. At least the attendant didn’t care. It wasn’t like they were very discrete about it.
It did work, though. The attendant passed a stuffed bear to her while Flower Kid put their stuff away and got off the play area. “I know who’d want this!” She said with a grin. “Gillis loves this stuff! He’s a softie.” She passed the bear to them, and they nodded happily, leading the way over to Gillis.
He loved it.
One more Habitician happy, and he told them the code for the lounge!
They called in for the day and went their separate ways for the night.
There was another night PSA now that the lounge had been opened up. “Thanks to our… flower kids.” That was a lot of disdain in his tone. She tilted her head. Was he… talking about both of them now?
“Everyone… will… smile for me.”
She didn’t sleep that well that night.
And that was how it went for a few days. They cheered up some people in the lounge, some in the courtyard (including a scheme that involved embarrassing poor Nat within an inch of her life), Trevor, Gerry, and after a little while, they convinced Lulia to move out of their way with a good fortune. There was another PSA that night.
“It’s hip, it’s happening, it’s you!” There was a long pause as the puppet turned to the side. “ You . You know who I’m talking to. You’re like a little nasty virus of happiness! Both of you.” Putunia gripped her blanket tight, shuddering. “You remind me of myself! And I hate it! The Habiticians are lost causes. Let them frown their days away. To make an omelette, you must break a few eggs.” Another pause as he turned forward. “Anyways!”
“Everything’s in order! Everything seems to be ready! Yeah!” The puppet leaned towards the camera. “ Are you? ” And with that, the PSA ended.
Putunia scowled, filled with a new determination. She wouldn’t let this fake hurt Flower Kid. She was going to save Habit, and she was going to protect her friends. No matter what it took.
The next morning, when she tried to follow Flower Kid, they silently put a hand in front of her to stop her. Putunia blinked, confused. “...What?” Flower Kid sighed, tapping their fingers on their arm as they thought about how to explain without speaking. It was something she was used to. “...You don’t want me following you?” She inferred, frowning. Flower Kid nodded slowly, guilt in their expression, and her eyes narrowed. “Because of the PSA?” They hesitated. It told Putunia all she needed to know. “No. Nope. I’m not letting you go off on your own because of some spooky night TV. You’re stuck with me.” She crossed her arms stubbornly. Flower Kid bit their inner cheek. “I will not be argued against. I’m gonna help you. You won’t stop me.”
Flower Kid sighed, and they nodded, exasperatedly running a hand through their hair. And they turned around and kept walking, Putunia at their heels as always.
She wouldn’t be gotten rid of so easily. Not while she was on a mission.
They stopped by Randy on their way down. He was struggling to open a pickle jar. He gave it to Flower Kid. Putunia silently took it from them and opened it, handing it back to them, and they gave Randy a look that read “are you sure about this”. He nodded solemnly, opening his arms and closing his eyes. Flower Kid let out a long-suffering sigh, then splashed the pickle juice on him. At least it made him happy.
“We. We don’t have to talk about that one,” Putunia decided, rubbing her eyes. Flower Kid nodded in agreement.
“Oh my god. Oh my god . It’s you. No way.”
Putunia stood behind Flower Kid, tipping her head to one side as Kamal spoke.
“You’re doin’ God’s work here, little pal. And littler pal. Hi, Putunia.”
“Hi, Kamal,” she replied with a wave.
“Okay, okay, let me back up a bit.” He waved his hands. “I’m Kamal. Obviously.” He gestured to Putunia. “I used to work for Habit, until… well, not important. I’ve been keeping tabs on you guys. And by that, I mean literally everyone won’t shut up about you. Do you like… know what you’re doing here?” Flower Kid gave a small nod. “Yeah. Do you think Habit is… Creepy?” Putunia held her tongue. Most people didn’t agree with her theory, so it was best not to interrupt. Flower Kid hesitated, then nodded. “You got that right,” Kamal huffed, crossing his arms. “Dr. Habit-- he’s bad news. Not only did he…” And that was the point where she started tuning it out a bit. She still got the gist. Habit stole toothbrushes and broke them. For Martha. And then he… made fun of Kamal. And Kamal said he had “months of dirt” on Habit. So… he’d been replaced way back then? No. That couldn’t be right. What was going on here?
Flower Kid lightly tapped her when they were ready to head off.
It was a bit later in the day when Putunia started putting things together.
“...Flower Kid?” She asked. She sounded small. She kind of hated that. “...You don’t really think Habit was replaced, do you.” It wasn’t really a question. Flower Kid stopped walking at the bottom of the stairwell, turning to give her a sympathetic look. And they… shook their head. “It’s been him this whole time, right? He isn’t a fake. He just… just…” She clenched her fists, blinking hard to keep the tears from her eyes. Flower Kid winced, looking worried. “If it’s not a fake… Then… Then why is he being so mean?!”
She span on her heel, making the intelligent decision of decking the Habit poster on the wall with her punching glove. Flower Kid made a shocked sort of squawk, reaching out to stop her, but they didn’t really react fast enough. Putunia yelped as her fist didn’t find the solid wall she thought she was about to hit. Instead, there was a sharp rip of paper and her glove was lodged into a small hole in the wall. She sniffed, rubbing her eyes before tugging it out.
And then they both stared mutely at the hole in the wall with matching baffled expressions.
“...Are those teeth.”
Flower Kid nodded.
“And a toothbrush.”
Another nod. They paused, looked at her, and saw the growing idea on her face. They shook their head furiously. Putunia nodded just as aggressively. “It’s like, the only toothbrush in the building! Kamal doesn’t have to know!”
Flower Kid grimaced. They had to do what must be done.
Kamal was, unfortunately, very relieved to have a toothbrush, along with the toothpaste they’d found in the sink drain in the lounge. At least it made him happy. And he’d asked for them-- for Flower Kid -- to talk to Habit. And they agreed.
They had to do a few more things first. Cheer up Borbra, Tim Tam, Questionette, Jerafina. Go get Wallus’s photo ID. Make Marv happy, make Mirphy happy, and Tiff, get Wallus’s actual photo. And then they were done.
Flower Kid passed the photo to Kamal. “Ah, you’ve pulled it off, ayy!” He grinned. He could unlock the tunnel tomorrow if they were ready. Kamal paused, glancing at Putunia. “Hey, Flower Kid, could I talk to you for a sec?” They blinked back at Putunia, then nodded at Kamal, nudging her back a bit. She sighed, but backed up.
Flower Kid came back to get her once they were done talking. They looked… Putunia honestly couldn’t tell. They tapped their fingers against their arm.
What had they talked about?
Putunia chose not to ask.
“...Am I live…?”
At the very start of the PSA, there was a knock on her room’s door. She glanced at the TV and back, and then pushed herself up, opening the door.
“Kamal?” She questioned, confused.
“Sorry, kiddo, we’ve gotta go,” he said, sounding genuinely apologetic. “The Big Event is happening soon, and we can’t be here for it.”
“What about Flower Kid?” They argued.
“They’re…” He paused, considering his options. “They wanted to stay and talk to Habit.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “But I asked them, and they told me they wanted you out tonight.
Putunia was flooded with a lot of emotions that she couldn’t quite compartmentalize. “What?! But I’m their sidekick! I can’t just leave them!”
“I’m really sorry, kid. But you can see them once they’re done here. This is what they wanted.”
She planted her feet. “No! I won’t go!” She raised her voice, and Kamal sighed deeply.
“Yeah, thought it might go like this. Come on, kiddo.” He lifted Putunia by her armpits like a cat, holding her at a bit of a distance so she couldn’t punch him as easy. Which she did try, but only a couple times before she gave up. She didn’t really want to hurt Kamal. She was just so frustrated . “Nat and the other kids are outside. Nobody’s left yet, last I saw.” Now that she wasn’t trying to deck him, he held her closer, in a more comfortable way.
She took her chance while they were in the courtyard to slip off her glove and toss it onto the ground. Flower Kid might need it.
She was a little bit out of it while the adults talked about the whole situation. After a little while, Nat came and sat by her. “Hey, ‘Tunia. You alright?” Putunia let out a hum of acknowledgement, resting her chin in her hands. “Look, if anyone can talk Habit down, it’d be them. You don’t have to worry. And… Dad says you can come stay with us for a little while, if you want to.”
Putunia stared at the ground for a few minutes, heaving out a sigh. Nat waited patiently. “...Yeah. Okay. Thanks, Nat.” The older girl nodded softly.
Living with the Varnnias for a few days certainly wasn’t bad. It had a sense of normalcy to it, and Nat spent a lot of time with her. It really did cheer her up.
Not to mention that a few hours into the first night, Trencil came in with news that Flower Kid was still kicking and out of the Habitat, and so was Habit. She didn’t really know how to feel about that bit yet. But Flower Kid was okay, and that was what she was really worried about. And a couple days after that, they got a text from an unknown number.
???: it’s flower kid
???: kamal gave me yr number, hope thats ok
???: oh n my actual names clover!
???: late introduction, haha
She really couldn’t help but grin.
Everything was going to be okay.