Robin sat in his favorite place, halfway down the stairs. Here, at the Muppet Boarding House, the stairs were usually a pretty crowded place to be, with everyone running up and down. Sitting here, he was usually surrounded by noise, looking out over a bustling living room where everyone was laughing and singing and playing poker and fighting over the remote.
But not now. Now, everyone was in bed, like he was supposed to be. Robin had woken up and hadn’t been able to fall back asleep… and somehow, like a sixth sense, he knew exactly why. So now he was here, waiting.
It was a strange thing to wait for. It was a painful thing to wait for.
It hadn’t been long since he had seen Jerry. They had all gone to visit him a few days ago. Robin had talked with him and even laughed a little. For a minute, it had felt like the old days again… but even Robin had understood that it wasn’t like the old days, and it never really would be.
Did that have to be… it? The end? Did that have to be the last time?
Robin hugged his knees and let his chin rest against them. He was hardly the first Muppet to go through this, and he wouldn’t be the last. Even right now, there were others who were probably awake—or who would be, soon—and were just waiting, just like him. Knowing.
It was hard to explain that bond. His relationship with Jerry was more than just a friendship. It was like… family, sort of, but not exactly that either. It was a closeness that didn’t have any real explanation; just the simple knowledge that Jerry would always be able to lend him a hand, whenever he had reason to ask. And more than that, too. It was like there was some invisible string between them, that strange connection like twins sometimes have. That was the reason Robin knew, and was awake, and was waiting.
He wasn’t the first to lose that… someone. He remembered all too clearly what it had been like for Uncle Kermit and Rowlf, and later for Sweetums… but what felt so strange was that Robin—like so many others who were waiting and knowing right now—already had that connection with someone else. He had worked and played with Matt many times already. Would that… make it easier, somehow? Or could anything make it any—
And then he felt it.
Like everything else he connected with Jerry, it was hard to explain, but he recognized it immediately. He had heard whispers from those who had been through this before that it made you feel empty, completely empty, and now… It was like something had slipped out from inside of him, vanished, fallen away. He looked down at himself, almost expecting to see that he had become a limp, shapeless lump of green—but no, he was still frog-shaped.
And he knew that Jerry was gone.
He wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. He pressed himself back against the stairs and huddled into a tiny ball. He was only five, but somehow, now, he felt… old. And he didn’t want anyone else anywhere near him, and he certainly didn’t want to run to anyone… but at the same time, the last thing he wanted was to be alone.
Floyd was not alone when he snapped awake in his bed, immediately knowing the change. He felt empty, empty, empty, so full of empty that he ached. He groggily sat up and blinked a few times, trying to fight that emptiness away.
He needed help. Dr. Teeth and Janice—they would both understand. They would know what to do. And fortunately, like all of his band mates, they were in the room. He slid his feet to the floor. Janice’s bed was closest, so he went to her first, lightly touched her shoulder, and said… nothing. His voice didn’t come.
No. No, he had a voice. He had a voice! He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, because the hippest of the hip did not panic, and he cleared his throat.
He immediately felt calmer. He had spoken. He could speak, and he could sing. He still was, and always would be, Sgt. Floyd Pepper.
And while his first instinct had been to turn to his band mates, something was tugging him out of the room. A hunch, maybe. A gut feeling—which was ironic, because all his gut really felt right now was empty. Whatever that tug was, though, he followed it, because… well, he couldn’t explain it. Somehow, it felt… not like Jerry, exactly, but it felt like the connection he had with Jerry. That meant he could trust it.
He eased the bedroom door shut and looked up and down the hall, and in an instant he understood the tug.
Robin’s door was open, and he never slept with the door open. Robin, tiny little Robin, was one of very few Muppets who had his own bedroom in this house, and he was also—now, as far as Floyd knew—the youngest Muppet to have to face this, ever.
Floyd had never been overly close with Robin, exactly, but they did share a connection with Jerry. Maybe it was somehow through Jerry, or just their connection to him, or even their connection to Matt… For some reason, Floyd knew not to even glance inside the little frog’s bedroom and to go straight down the stairs—or, more specifically, down half of them. He settled on the middle step.
Robin was right beside him. The little frog looked up now and opened his mouth to speak. No sound came out, and his expression turned to panic—the same panic Floyd had felt just a moment ago. He tapped his elbow against Robin’s and, once the frog was looking at him, gave him a reassuring nod.
Robin stared up at him for a moment—big, innocent eyes, scared and lonely and looking to him for help. Then he hesitantly cleared his little throat and carefully tried again. “I…” And that was all it took for his entire six-ounce body to flood with relief. He let out a breath that was bigger than he was and pushed himself against Floyd to hug him tight.
Floyd put his hand on the frog’s back. Generally speaking, hugging was a gesture he avoided… but maybe this was worth an exception. He scooped Robin into his lap and wrapped his arms around him.
“We… We’re gonna be okay,” Robin whispered shakily, and he looked up. “Right, Floyd?”
Floyd nodded. “That’s right,” he whispered.
Robin settled against him. “I’ll miss him,” he whispered.
“Me too,” Floyd whispered. “We all will.”
Robin finally felt the tears starting to fill his eyes, but not quite escaping—not yet. “Why does everyone have to go away?”
Floyd closed his eyes. He had never considered himself a fountain of wisdom. That was a question for Kermit, or maybe Rowlf, or Robin’s parents, or… pretty much anyone except for him, it felt like, but he was the only one there to try to answer. “They’re never gone completely,” he said. “Everybody we meet… Especially somebody like Jerry. They all… they change us, a little. Sometimes they change a lot.” He let his eyes open and gently rubbed Robin’s back. “We’ve all got a little bit of everyone we know inside of us. So even when the person goes away… the piece inside of us doesn’t.” It was a philosophy he’d developed for himself over the years, and it served him well enough, but maybe it was too deep for a frog so small. “You get what I’m saying?”
Robin thought about it. “…Like… we still remember them?”
Close enough. “Yeah, something like that,” Floyd said.
Robin shifted uneasily. “It still isn’t the same… when they go away.”
How was he supposed to answer that? What was he supposed to say? “…I know,” he said. “Nothing we can do to change it, though. We’ve gotta work with what we got.” He closed his eyes again. “Play the notes we have, and make ‘em sound good.” Again, his own philosophy was probably beyond the little one’s reach, but… he had to play the notes he could. “Jerry gave us lots of notes. You and me… we got a lot of his notes. We’ve just gotta keep playing them.”
“…And make ‘em good?” Robin asked quietly, with the uncertainty of someone who didn’t completely understand.
Floyd nodded. “Make ‘em sound good.”
For a few minutes, they left it at that. And then—well, it was another of those things Floyd couldn’t quite explain. But Robin got out of his lap and took his hand, and the little frog led him—or maybe he led Robin, or maybe something else led them both… One way or another, they ended up outside, on the front lawn, looking up at the night sky.
This close to LA, there were never many stars to see, but there were a few. Tonight, there were maybe a few more than usual. And as they stared up at the night… Floyd saw it with his own eyes and still didn’t quite believe it. Maybe a cloud had shifted or something… but it looked like a new star appeared, right above them.
Robin didn’t question it. He just raised his hand and waved at the star. “Hi Jerry,” he said.
Thank you for that. It's such a wonderful reminder that even with Jerry gone, Jerry's Muppets will still live on, maintaining that piece of him inside of them, one that will never leave. And also a wonderful reminder that the piece of Jerry in us will never leave.
Beautiful. You did the Man proud o ye of three minds. Would make a joke about that, but my heart's not in it today. And yes, I have to write something too, maybe on Monday when I can get it into words I'm comfortable with. Thank you for this vonderful fic.