The steam and mist swirled around Percy's wheels as he was prepared for the day's work. It had been a cold and bitter winter, and he and the other engines on the Ffarquhar line were all wishing that the snow and ice would soon melt, giving way to a glorious and spectacular summer show of light and warmth around them all. However, with one or two more months of the weather they were to simply make the best of things.
At that moment, however, Percy could not have cared less about the wintry weather outside and around him. He was in a deep depression, after having gotten into trouble at the Search and Rescue Centre the day before. After shunting a truck of pipes too close to the pier, he had made the foolish error of thinking Harold could lift the truck to the correct place, which had resulted in the pipes and truck being lost. The Fat Controller, the Search and Rescue Centre Manager, and Harold were all cross with him.
why do I do those things
"Do what things, Percy?" Percy had to jump, as Thomas rolled up alongside him; he had just been steamed and was ready for work. "What are you talking about?"
Percy flushed. "
n-nothing, Thomas, nothing at all
The look on his friend's face, however, told him that he was not fooling anyone, not even himself. "Percy, out with it. What's bothering you? You've been rather distant lately
you haven't been yourself
"What? What d-do you mean, Thomas?" Now Percy was getting worried, hoping against hope that Thomas would stop pushing the issue and simply leave him alone like always
he had no desire to talk about it at that moment, had no wish to be belittled and made to feel like the failure he knew he was again.
But his hopes were to be dashed. "You've been quite quiet lately, Percy
getting into more trouble lately, and all because of a lot of silly mistakes
Percy could say nothing; he was desperately trying to hold his emotions in as always, though this was proving much more difficult than before. Thomas, his best friend, always had the uncanny knack of drawing out his real feelings and emotions when no one else could or would
it seemed like it was a blessing and a curse of his, depending on the situation; at that moment, it felt like an evil curse. "
you what, Percy?" Thomas spoke gently, aware of his friend's discomfort but wanting to gently coax his friend into being honest and truthful with him and, more importantly, himself.
" Percy anxiously looked towards the shed, where Toby and Stanley were resting; he looked at the carriage sheds where Daisy and the coaches were being awakened; Rosie was starting to stir in her and Thomas' private shed
p-please, Thomas, not here
Once Rosie had said something similar to him, and Thomas had made the foolish mistake of letting it go; he had soon realized the gravity of his error when it had reared its ugly head once more and caught them all unawares. He had vowed then not to make that same mistake again; he would NOT let this go. He did, however, understand his friend's worries. "We'll find a siding out of the way
and talk privately
Percy closed his eyes in deep despair and upset; Thomas took this to mean he accepted this compromise. Gently asking Rosie to leave them be (and asking her to tell the others the same), he carefully led Percy to a small siding out of the way. The goods shed there was silent and empty, and the few old trucks rusting away in the shadowy siding were asleep still.
talk to me. Please?" Thomas waited patiently for Percy to speak, very concerned about his old friend.
The small green engine closed his eyes, trying to compel himself to speak. When he opened his eyes, however, and saw Thomas' kind and concerned face looking back at him, he found it was impossible. He would think the same thing
he would be like the rest of them
gently, Percy began to cry; softly at first, then louder and more painfully, until he was at last sobbing from the sheer weight and pain of his troubles.
Thomas did the only thing he could do; he moved closer to Percy, and held him as much as he could, in an embrace. It was not a loving embrace like what he shared with Rosie, but it was still full of the love and care that he had for his dear friend. It was not romantic, but it was comforting and gentle, and it made Percy cry even harder as the two of them simply held each other close in the cold siding.
After a while, Percy finally began to settle down, calming enough to focus upon Thomas once more. "
just that I've been f-feeling
a bit down lately
At that point, Thomas knew better than to try to make Percy smile or gently joke with him this was very serious. "How so, Percy? What's been the matter?"
a-am I stupid?"
Thomas was about to laugh, but the look on his friend's face made him stop instantly. Percy was filled with deep fear and worry over this; he was desperate, aching to know the truth that he was or was not, indeed, as stupid and foolish as he feared. "Percy "
"Thomas, am I really s-stupid? Am I an idiot? H-Have I become really s-so stupid over the y-years? Please, be h-honest with me
I h-have to know, I just have to
"Percy, why would you think that? That you're stupid? You're not stupid at all!"
"I a-am! I really am! I've been so silly lately
I've d-done such stupid things
"That doesn't mean you're stupid, Percy. Think about this, please. What sorts of things do you think you've done that are stupid?"
Percy trembled, before speaking. "
I always mix up simple words nowadays
even if I've just heard them
r-remember when I said, 'Call to Acton?' Remember?"
Thomas thought deeply; he had indeed remembered that mix-up and thought it very strange at the time, as he corrected his friend. "That wasn't like you, Percy
"No, it w-wasn't! And w-what about the time I t-thought we could take a balloon on an open truck?"
Again, Thomas was hard-pressed to come up with a response for this. "Well
t-that was an
an interesting idea
"It was s-stupid, Thomas; you know it
"All right, it was," huffed Thomas, growing cross that his friend was so abusive towards himself and upset that he apparently could not help. "What should I say, then? That you're really stupid for saying and doing those types of things on a regular basis? That you're losing your mind? That your mind is coming apart and there's no way to fix it?"
Then he realized what he had just said, and quickly regretted it. The look on his friend's face was one that tore him to pieces inside; it was one of deep darkness, despair and upset. Percy was traumatized by this. "
Thomas tried to think of a way to backtrack, to say it was not true, to get out of the awkward and very unfortunate situation he had just put himself into. But Percy deserved better than that; he was his friend and deserved the truth. Besides, he knew that his friend had seen the painful truth in his eyes; there was no going back at this point. Percy would learn the truth. "
remember when the boulder crashed into the quarry site years ago? When it was dislodged, and rolled down from the hills?"
Percy blinked back his tears, remembering it all too well: that fateful day, when the new digging machine in the high hills of Sodor had accidentally knocked a giant boulder down from its perch, which in turn chased the small engines down the mountain and destroyed the base site for the mining operations. "
but, I d-don't understand
it didn't hit me
you didn't remember, then
" Thomas steeled himself for what he was about to say next. "
part of the shrapnel from the building caught your smokebox
no one noticed until much later
and by then it was too late
Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion for Percy at that moment. The world suddenly seemed to stop, then start, then stop again, as he tried to comprehend what his best friend was trying to tell him. "
you were hit, Percy
and you suffered an illness
it was bad, Percy
"-Retrograde amnesia, Percy
once in a while, your mind slips
it's like, travelling on Gordon's Hill with a heavy load, okay? A-And you slip, once in a while, and you t-try to keep going, but you slip and stall, before you can g-go again
" The tears were starting to well in his eyes as he spoke; desperately he willed himself to keep from crying, from hurting his friend far worse than he already was.
It wasn't going to work, however.
" Percy was now sobbing, bawling at this newfound discovery. "
b-been years since t-that
since that h-happened
I k-know, Percy
I'm so sorry
w-why didn't you tell me?"
Thomas gaped, shocked into silence as he looked at his best friend. Now that he thought about it, he hadn't ever said anything to him about this
he had never thought to tell him before now
had never considered telling him about this condition, had never even considered the possibility that his friend would even want to know if something was wrong with him, or what had happened, though it was long ago
In that instant, he realized why his friend was crying. It was not because he was slightly simpler now, though it was a big part
it was rather because his best friend had not been honest with him, as he should have been. Percy, his best friend through thick and thin, had deserved the truth
and was denied it for years.
It took a few moments, but eventually his friend stopped crying enough to look up at him.
I'm so sorry, Percy
so, so sorry
I should have told you before
Trembling heavily, Percy looked at him with a deep glare. "
you should have
but I can help you now
like I have for years
Percy hiccoughed slightly. "
"By being there for you. By helping you as much as I can. For sticking up for you and defending you when you need it. By being at your side forever." Thomas was working up steam now, getting more passionate with his speech. "You're my friend, Percy my best friend and I should have been one years ago, and told you. I won't do that to you again."
"No, Percy! I won't let it happen again! I'll be there for you like I should have been! I "
He was cut off suddenly, however, as Percy bumped him. "THOMAS! I
" He then started to cry once more, trying to speak. Thomas, understanding instantly, moved close to him and held him close. The little tank engine cried softly into him, shivering.
Through his tears, Thomas heard him whisper: "
my best f-friend
Once more, Thomas was pushed to tears, crying heavily as they held each other close. In Thomas' closeness, Percy shivered; opening his eyes slightly, he noticed the Fat Controller nearby, Trying to calm down (and failing), he watched as the man simply nodded. A small smile told him that he was forgiven instantly, and that nothing more needed to be said he understood completely and respected him for it. Sobbing anew, the tank engine redoubled his efforts to hold Thomas close, crying as the stout gentleman left to make arrangements for their trains for the day.
They were best friends, and would continue to be friends forever. The difference now, however, was that they were now completely honest with each other, and knew the deep, dark secret that had been concealed, buried between them, until that instant. From now on, their friendship would be completely transparent no more secrets, no more keeping things in the dark to protect each other.
Now, it would all be in the open, and nothing would come between them or cloud them again.