"Empath, you do be smurfing a bit distracted today," Farmer commented by the middle of the following day as Empath helped him out with his vegetable crops.
Empath hadn't realized until Farmer caught his attention that he had been hoeing in the same spot for more than a single minute. It was yet another thing that he wasn't used to -- letting his mind actually ponder on something while not paying attention to what he was doing.
"This smurf apologizes for not keeping his mind on the task, Farmer," Empath responded. "This smurf was still thinking about Hefty and why he treated Grouchy as if he was worse than what every other Smurf claimed him to be."
"I don't pretend to smurf whatever it is Grouchy's smurfing through," Farmer said, shrugging his shoulders, "but Hefty does a pretty smurfy job keeping every Smurf at their tasks. He do be smurfing a little rough with some of them at times, but Papa Smurf doesn't hear a lot of complaints about it, so he must be smurfing something right."
Empath also wasn't used to the other thing he was experiencing right now -- having a gut feeling that something in the way Hefty was doing his job just wasn't right somehow. He felt like he should have told Papa Smurf about Hefty's encounter with Grouchy, but somehow he didn't. There had to be something more to what was going on. But he barely had much command of his telepathic abilities at that point to really find out.
"Does Papa Smurf care for all his 'little Smurfs' equally or does he care for some Smurfs more than others?" Empath asked Farmer as he continued on with his hoeing.
"Papa Smurf do be the hardest-smurfing Smurf in the entire village, Empath," Farmer answered. "Whatever he smurfs, I believe he smurfs it for all of us and not just himsmurf. He do be smurfing trouble with some of his little Smurfs, like Brainy at times, but he wouldn't want to smurf without any of us. And I be certain those Smurfs and mysmurf wouldn't want to smurf without him, either!"
Both of them had finished up their work, and Empath had excused himself afterward for he had felt sweaty and dirty from doing his task. He had cleaned himself off at the village well with some soap and water when Grouchy approached him. He looked as if he had a secret that he couldn't tell any Smurf except for Empath.
"Salutations, fellow Grouchy," Empath greeted as he towel-dried himself off. "Is there anything this smurf can do for you today?"
"Just follow me," Grouchy replied, directing Empath to do so.
Empath was uncertain, but he followed Grouchy until he found himself leaving the village and heading into the forest. "You're certain that Papa Smurf would mind you venturing into the forest by yourself without letting him know where you're going?" he asked.
Grouchy didn't say anything. He just led Empath to an abandoned hole at the base of a tree that was a good short distance away from the village, unseen by anybody.
Both of them entered the hole, and Empath saw Grouchy light a candle, revealing a passageway that wound itself around the inside of the tree. Empath followed Grouchy up the passageway until he found himself in what was an empty squirrel's nest, somewhat decorated like a child's treehouse.
"This is all very interesting, Grouchy," Empath noted as Grouchy looked outside to see if anybody else had followed him. "But this smurf does not see the point of you leading this smurf here to this place."
"Good…there's no other Smurf around," Grouchy said, exhaling. He then turned to Empath, the tone of his voice lightening up a bit. "This is the only place in the forest that I feel comfortable in, Empath. None of those other Smurfs can ever bother me here, especially Hefty!"
"Why do you wish to not be with your fellow Smurfs, Grouchy?" Empath asked. "Do you truly hate them so much that you would rather be out here instead of in the village?"
"I don't hate them, Empath!" Grouchy shouted. He paused for a bit, then continued in a lower voice. "I just hate having to smurf what everybody else is smurfing when I don't feel like it. And I hate it when that creep Hefty smurfs me around like that!"
"Hefty bullies you into doing things you don't want to do?" Empath asked. "Then why won't you tell Papa Smurf about it?"
"Hefty is Papa Smurf's assistant leader," Grouchy answered. "Besides, why would Papa Smurf take my word over his on what he smurfs to me?"
"This smurf hasn't lived in your village long enough to have an understanding of why, Grouchy," Empath explained. "All this smurf knows is that Papa Smurf cares for every Smurf equally, not just for those who are like Hefty…or this smurf, for that matter. This smurf would believe he would wish to know just what is wrong with you from you personally, and he would do whatever he can do to control Hefty's behavior as his assistant leader."
Grouchy looked down to the floor, feeling sad. "I'm just too afraid to tell Papa Smurf because I'm not comfortable telling any Smurf anything," he confessed.
"You are not the only Smurf here who has that difficulty, Grouchy," Empath said, feeling his heart going out to him. "As a Smurf raised in Psychelia who is just learning the ways of being a Smurf, this smurf shares the discomfort of expressing what this smurf feels to anybody. Perhaps together we can encourage each other enough so that we do not need to feel alone or too weak to do anything. This smurf will stand beside you in case you need the strength of another."
"You're saying that you want to be my friend?" Grouchy asked.
Empath nodded, though he had very little idea of what being a "friend" meant.
"Well, just don't tell any other Smurf about this, okay?" Grouchy reminded Empath. "I sure hate this smurfing out to everybody in the village. There's just one thing I want to ask you."
"Oh?" Empath asked, sounding puzzled. "What is it you need to ask this smurf?"
Grouchy found himself feeling embarrassed to ask. "Just why is it you're the only Smurf around here who has a star mark on your foresmurf?"
Empath found himself unable to answer that. "This smurfs believes it is something that Papa Smurf has not revealed to this smurf yet, Grouchy! Do you not like it?"
"I don't hate it," Grouchy replied. "It's just…unusual."
Sometime later in the village, Empath was walking around when he heard another Smurf's voice call out to him, a voice he recognized from his first day in the village. "Aye, Empath, come and smurf a spell for a bit of sarsaparilla ale, would you?"
Empath saw that Tapper was running a refreshment stand on the outskirts of the village. At this point, Empath barely knew Tapper, but could see that he sounded very friendly speaking through his Irish brogue.
"This smurf does not understand the point of ingesting liquids that do not provide any nutritional value, Tapper," Empath said.
"Why should everything you do as a Smurf have to have a point, eh?" Tapper asked. "You're only about the second Smurf in this village that I have smurfed who doesn't wear a smile on his face. You could smurf a little something to widen your smile up a bit!"
"You believe that this smurf drinking this sarsaparilla ale of yours will help 'widen my smile'?" Empath asked.
"Well, I never had a customer who didn't smurf away from drinking sarsaparilla ale without one!" Tapper answered. "Come and try out the very thing if you don't believe me!"
Empath decided to do just that as Tapper poured him a small glass of the brown liquid. He took a sip and noticed its unique sweetness compared to anything else he had tasted before. Somehow he felt his spirits elevated while it also relaxed him.
"See, now, that bit of ale didn't smurf anything bad to you," Tapper said, grinning. "Of course, it isn't quite as potent as I would want it to be because Papa Smurf believes we are much too young to be smurfing ourselves silly with that kind of ale, but all good things do smurf in good time eventually."
"This smurf does appreciate your effort in trying to make this smurf feel more like a Smurf, Tapper," Empath commented, finishing his glass of sarsaparilla ale.
"Anything for you, my fellow Empath! Where is your friend Grouchy?"
Empath was suddenly taken aback by Tapper's question. "How were you able to find out about the relationship between this smurf and Grouchy?" he asked.
"You think that a normal Smurf like mysmurf would be blind not to notice it, Empath," Tapper replied. "But there are things I can smurf that you have yet begun to smurf with those fancy powers of yours, if what I'm smurfing about you is true. Like the fact that you and Grouchy have barely been smurfed in group activities, and you and Grouchy are now late for meals. Did you even know that Grouchy had tried out his first taste of sarsaparilla ale yesterday? Before you smurfed here, I couldn't even get Grouchy to smurf a whiff of my ale…and now he just can't seem to smurf enough of it. A change sure has happened in him…and I think it's all because you shared smurfthing of yoursmurf with him."
"You are very observant for a Smurf not born with a minds-eye, Tapper," Empath commented, trying not to seem offended. "However, this smurf does not wish for these observations of yours to be made public to every Smurf. Grouchy has a hard enough time dealing with his fellow Smurfs to be exposed like that."
"Aye, Empath, I am no snitch like that Reporter fellow," Tapper stated. "I guard such private things that I smurf with my very life. I just hope for the best with you and Grouchy, and since you also seem to like my sarsaparilla ale, I can only hope that you two will smurf my refreshment stand often."
"This smurf will accept your invitation, Tapper," Empath said, agreeing. He started to leave but Tapper called him back.
"Just to satisfy my curiosity…I could wonder why you were smurfed the name of Empath," he queried.
"This smurf was given that name by the Psyche Master, though in his presence, this smurf is identified as designation 1137-K," Empath answered. "It is not this smurf's place to question the origin of such names the Psyches are given."
"Do you ever wonder at times what your destiny is?" Tapper asked.
Empath looked puzzled. "This smurf does not understand what you are trying to ask, Tapper."
"Why, it's simple, really," Tapper explained. "The Psyche Master smurfs you the name Empath, right? Well, what if by the very nature of that name you were meant to smurf more with your life than you or that Psyche Master thought?"
"This smurf is meant to follow the directed path that the Psyche Master has chosen, whatever that is," Empath insisted. "To question that direction is to violate the order of things for all Psyches."
"Aye, but look at yoursmurf now and try saying that, Empath," Tapper pointed out. "By the very fact that you are a Smurf, you are no longer bound to smurf what it is that you might think this Psyche Master has in mind for you. And by the fact that you may also possess abilities that no other Smurf has, you are no longer bound to the same type of destiny that Father Time or Mother Nature has in smurf for any other Smurf. Put those two together and then you'll realize something about yoursmurf that you don't already smurf."
Empath couldn't believe what he was hearing from Tapper. It sounded like he was destined to stand apart from both other Psyches and other Smurfs -- for what purpose, he had no idea.
"It is something this smurf has never considered before, Tapper," he finally said. "For now, though, this smurf would rather be content with becoming more familiar in the ways of both the Smurf and the Psyche."
"Well, if you say so," Tapper sighed. "It just doesn't hurt to smurf at where you're going in the future with your life, whether it's here or anyplace else. May the luck of the Smurfish always be with you."
Just then Grouchy came by Tapper's refreshment stand, wearing his usual frown of discontent. "Smurf me up a glass of sarsaparilla, please," he requested.
"Smurfing one right up, Grouchy," Tapper answered, smiling as he fetched a glass to serve it in. To Empath, he said, "I don't suppose you'd want to smurf around and give Grouchy some company, take your mind off your worries and take his mind off his?"
Empath could feel Tapper literally begging him to stay, for Grouchy's sake. And he could also sense that from Grouchy as well. Somehow it felt like another place that they could safely get together in without worrying about onlookers.
Finally, he gave in. "You can smurf this smurf up another glass of sarsaparilla ale as well, Tapper!"
Tapper felt triumphant, seeing how he managed to bring two Smurfs together at his place. "Now you've got the Smurfish in you, my fellow Empath!"
At that moment, Duncan passed by the refreshment stand. "Michty me, laddies, there's something I haven't seen...Grouchy smurfing by your place to smurf your sarsaparilla ale," Duncan said.
"There's always room for one more, my friend," Duncan said. "I was just entertaining Empath with a glass of the ale, and he smurfs to enjoy it just as much as anyone else here."
"The newcomer Smurf enjoying your ale?" Duncan said, sounding a bit incredulous. "Well, I'm sure he's going to enjoy it more when he smurfs to be a bigger Smurf. What do you say, laddie?"
"This smurf is rather curious to explore that kind of experience when this smurf is old enough to handle it, fellow Duncan," Empath said.
"I'm sure you will," Duncan said with a knowing smile as he grabbed the glass of ale that Tapper poured for him and started to drink it. "There's something about you that smurfs to me that you have the spirit of the McSmurf in you."
"Hello, Duncan," Grouchy said in a noncommittal manner.
"You don't need to be afraid of me, Grouchy," Duncan said. "I'm not going to smurf anything to hurt you. In fact, anyone tries to hurt you when I'm around, that will be the last thing they smurf."
Meanwhile, from a distance, Hefty saw Empath and Grouchy sitting together at Tapper's refreshment stand, the both of them enjoying a glass of sarsaparilla ale and talking with each other. It was the first time he ever really saw Grouchy doing something with another Smurf for a change without being angry about it. But what galled Hefty was that Grouchy was being friendly with this newcomer Smurf, the only Smurf who would dare to step in between him and any other Smurf instead of minding his own business like he should be doing. Whatever it was those three were talking about, Hefty had a feeling that it was about him.
Hefty knew one thing -- he wasn't going to let any star-marked blue-skinned freak that called himself a Smurf stand in his way of running the village.
From then on, Empath and Grouchy were constantly seen with each other, doing things together that neither of them would normally do alone. Some of the other Smurfs thought this was funny, for they knew Grouchy never really liked being around any Smurf for too long, and Empath was just too new and too inexperienced in the ways of being a Smurf. They even teased the both of them whenever either was without the other, playfully asking whether either had broken off his leash. Empath was hardly affected by their humorous comments since he had little understanding of humor in its many forms. Grouchy tried his best not to show his displeasure for their comments, but Empath could tell that they were "smurfing under his skin", as Brainy had once put it.
The day of Grouchy's birthday was when things got worse. Since Empath had very little understanding of what birthday celebrations were like, this was to be his first. Papa Smurf told Empath that celebrating a birthday -- what he called a smurfday -- was about celebrating the anniversary of a living being and the life that was lived. For the Smurfs, it was about letting others treat the Smurf whose birthday was celebrated like he was the most important Smurf of all for one day. Empath couldn't see how most of the other Smurfs would want to treat Grouchy like he was somebody very special since they didn't seem to particularly care for his supposedly nasty manners. Papa Smurf reminded Empath that every Smurf could still care for another Smurf no matter how nasty or ill-tempered that Smurf happens to be most of the time, because every Smurf is always someone very special to someone else.
Fortunately for Grouchy, it seemed that every Smurf had put aside their bad feelings for him as they gathered around the dining house to sing "Happy Smurfday To You" and to watch Grouchy blow out the candles and open his presents. Even Hefty seemed to be a bit friendlier at this celebration than he normally was, though Empath wasn't sure if that was just done to mask his true feelings. But Empath could tell that Papa Smurf and Tapper weren't hiding how they felt for Grouchy at all, even if Grouchy did feel somewhat embarrassed by all the attention he was getting from the closest Smurfs he had ever known.
"Don't you smurf a whole lot better now, Grouchy?" Tapper asked as they settled down to enjoy their slice of birthday cake with some sarsaparilla ale. "You're only a year older, and the world hasn't smurfed to an end yet because your fellow Smurfs still care for you."
Grouchy didn't know what to say to Tapper. He just nodded as he shoveled a large chunk of cake into his mouth. "Smurfy frosting," he commented as he digested it.
"See, even your good fellow Greedy wouldn't smurf up the worst-tasting smurfday cake for a Smurf like you," Tapper said, smiling as he watched Grouchy.
After the party was over, Empath and Grouchy took a walk around the village, feeling more comfortable now that they were alone with each other.
"Do you ever have smurfday parties over in Psychelia?" Grouchy asked.
"The Psyche Master forbids such celebrations like the ones that the Smurfs engage in because he believes that such interactions are too emotionally reckless," Empath answered. "However, Grouchy, the Psyches do honor the anniversary of their 'day of emergence' by performing a ritual of physical, mental, and spiritual trials to prove their worthiness as Psyches. The successful completion of this ritual is often rewarded with the most reverent blessing personally given to the Psyche by the Psyche Master."
"Day of emergence?" Grouchy commented. "Whatever it is, it doesn't smurf like something I'd want to smurf through, even on my smurfday."
"This smurf does see that you have successfully completed what may seem to be a ritual in the sense of having to endure the presence of your fellow Smurfs in the celebration of your 'day of emergence', which is what Psyches would call a birthday," Empath observed. "This smurf hopes that you would find such future celebrations to be less trying and more enjoyable on your part."
"But you won't be here for my next smurfday?" Grouchy asked. "I just hate that you're only here for one year and then you're smurfed away from us."
"Now that this smurf has come to know a good deal about the Smurfs, Grouchy, this smurf is a bit more uncomfortable about the possibility of never remembering any of this when this smurf goes back to Psychelia," Empath admitted. "Even this relationship between us may be erased from this smurf's memory upon his return."
Grouchy sighed. "I just wish you didn't have to smurf back there, Empath! I'd hate it if you smurfed back here someday and you didn't even remember me."
"Then perhaps you can remember it for the both of us," Empath suggested.
"Hey, smurfday boy, where you smurfing off to this time with that star-smurfed bodyguard of yours?" a familiar voice called out.
Both of them turned to see that Hefty had somehow found them. And here he didn't seem to be holding back his feelings. He was sounding spiteful and nasty.
"Hey, I'm smurfing to you, smurfday boy!" he continued. "Can't wait to smurf with your new toy Smurf friend of yours? You too afraid to smurf him with anybody?"
Empath could see Grouchy starting to get angry. "Pay no attention to Hefty's comment," Empath advised. "He is only trying to intimidate you."
"Whatever you smurf, don't smurf with that freak anything I wouldn't smurf," Hefty taunted, speaking loud enough for the both of them to hear. "He just might enjoy it a bit too much…unless you happen to like what he smurfs to you! I bet that's why you two are such a smurfy pair, isn't it?" He laughed at his own comment, seeing Grouchy getting more irritated by the second, then he decided to push it a bit further. "'Grouchy and Empath smurfing in a tree, S-M-U-R-F-I-N-G,…!'"
"Why don't you eat smurf and croak, you big blue jerk?" Grouchy finally shouted, ready to let Hefty have it.
Empath pulled on Grouchy's arm, preventing him from getting into a fight with Hefty. "Let's walk away from this scene before it gets out of control, Grouchy," he recommended.
Hefty thought this was very amusing. "Go walk off with that star-smurfed friend of yours, Grouchy. It only smurfs how much of a loser you really are!" he called out as he watched Empath and Grouchy walk away from him.
"I hate Hefty!" Grouchy yelled as soon as he and Empath were far enough away from Hefty. "I hate how he smurfs he's so big around here! I hate how he smurfs me around! I hate his stupid comments! I HATE HIM! I HATE HIM! I HATE HIM! I want to smurf him into the middle of the next century and smurf him there for good!"
Empath could feel Grouchy's temper flaring beyond control, unable to tolerate being teased and taunted any further. He had a sense that this feeling was worse than how he originally perceived Grouchy to be. But he had to do something to protect Grouchy.
"You must learn to rein in your bad emotions, Grouchy," Empath suggested. "Allowing them to consume you like that isn't going to help you. It will only let Smurfs like Hefty know that you are a very desirable target for further abuse."
"Smurfs so easy for you to do," Grouchy spat. "Why don't you smurf something to Hefty?"
"This smurf is raised as a Psyche, Grouchy," Empath answered, "and Psyches do not allow emotions to govern their actions, whether those actions are to help others or to hurt others. As one of this smurf's Psychelian teachers had told every Psyche, temper is the fire that must allow the wind to cool down it before it destroys everything in its path."
"Right now, I just want him to smurf me alone!" Grouchy shouted before he broke down into tears. "Is that too hard for them to undersmurf?"
Empath sighed. "Perhaps it is because he like most of the other Smurfs are jealous of you and this smurf being able to share our thoughts with each other so easily. They fear this friendship between ourselves because they are not able to engage either of us in this fashion. But whatever happens to you, this smurf wants you to know that this smurf will do nothing that will destroy this friendship."
Grouchy wiped away his tears as he heard everything Empath had told him.
He simply nodded afterward, feeling a little better about himself.