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Roommates - Ch. 9 (Misstep)

Dec 7th, 2015
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  1. Roommates has moved! You can now read it at Archive of Our Own: http://archiveofourown.org/works/11250126/navigate
  2.  
  3. Roommates - Ch. 9 (Misstep): http://i.imgur.com/Ty2r23A.png
  4. Inspired by Weaver's Five Nights at Freddy's Apartment AU: http://i.imgur.com/LnDJVNL.png
  5. Part of an ongoing series written for the /5N@F/ General Discussion Thread at /vg/.
  6. Sincerest thanks to Weaver (http://tgweaver.tumblr.com/) for all of the invaluable assistance in writing, proofreading, and editing this story as well as for illustrating the chapter title cards.
  7. Questions or comments? Drop me an ask at http://roommatesau.tumblr.com/
  8.  
  9. ---
  10.  
  11. The sun's harsh rays inform you that it's once again time to rise from your slumber. With a yawn, you toss your blanket aside and begin climbing down out of the top bunk. As usual, Freddy's already up for the morning, likely in the kitchen preparing breakfast for everyone. As you eye his neatly-folded sheets on the lower bunk, you resolve to learn how to make up a bed as neatly as he does one of these days.
  12.  
  13. Today, however, is not that day. Reaching up to the top bunk, you lazily pull your blanket over until it's covering the front two-thirds of your mattress.
  14.  
  15. Yeah, good enough.
  16.  
  17. As you step out into the hallway, it would seem that your timing's perfect this morning -- for once, the bathroom's free and clear. A shower and a shave sound like just what you need to get your day started.
  18.  
  19. One hot, relaxing shower later, you wrap your towel around your waist and settle down in front of the mirror. It's been a few days since you last shaved, and the stubble that's been accumulating is starting to itch. However, before you can get started with your grooming, the vent overhead clicks open and your heart instantly rockets up into your throat. What's the point of even having a lock on the door?
  20.  
  21. "Mangle! Little indisposed here," you sputter, forcing yourself to calm down.
  22.  
  23. "Mike, dear, you're wrapped in a towel," your intruding roommate replies. "I can't see any, ah -- 'discreet bits'."
  24.  
  25. "Yeah, but I might NOT have been covered. Privacy, remember? Didn't we JUST have a conversation about this recently?"
  26.  
  27. "We're all adults here. It's nothing I haven't seen before, and certainly nothing for you to be ashamed of," Mangle smoothly replies, rewarding your frustration with a patronizing pat on the head. "Now would you please be so kind as to give me Bonnie's medicine from the counter?"
  28.  
  29. Your expression softens slightly. After Bonnie's panic attack, Chica insisted on switching her over to one of those calendar-shaped pill organizers, and it's made medicating the high-strung bunny a significantly easier process. Fetching the pill organizer from the counter, you pass it up to Mangle.
  30.  
  31. "Anything else?" you ask as you turn back to the mirror, fumbling with the cap on the shaving cream.
  32.  
  33. "Thank -- oh, for crying out..." Mangle groans theatrically. "Mike, you OBVIOUSLY don't know what you're doing! Here, let me."
  34.  
  35. Without waiting for an invitation, Mangle reaches down and swipes the razor from the counter.
  36.  
  37. "Yeah, no, I think I'm good here, Mangle." You furrow your brows, staring at the shaving cream lid. How the hell does this thing open? Is this a childproof cap? Who the hell puts a childproof cap on shaving cream? "Gimme my razor back so I can hurry up and shave -- someone else probably needs to use the bathroom by now."
  38.  
  39. "If you think you're just going to apply cold shaving cream to your face straight out of the shower without even properly lathering it, you've already proven you're a rank amateur," Mangle snorts. "Now pass me the canister before you hurt yourself, Foxy."
  40.  
  41. "I've been shaving myself for years," you grunt, yanking at the shaving cream can's lid.
  42.  
  43. Mangle plucks the shaving cream canister from your hand, twisting the cap off flawlessly with a condescending smirk.
  44.  
  45. "I loosened it for you," you weakly protest. "Really though, Mangle, give me my stuff back. I've got this."
  46.  
  47. "I'll do no such thing. Every morning at breakfast for the last three days, I've been staring at that unsightly mess you've made of your whiskers, and it's almost put me off your food. If you MUST waste the good gift of what little fur you possess, you will allow me to at the very LEAST ensure the job is thorough."
  48.  
  49. "I'm not bad at shaving," you croak as Mangle slumps forward out of the vent. "I bet I've got more experience at it than you do!"
  50.  
  51. "I very much doubt that, Chica. Now close your maw and quit moving around -- I am in NO humor for your shenanigans this morning."
  52.  
  53. Lathering up the cream, Mangle carefully begins to spread it on your face. Clutching your towel nervously, you try to distract yourself from the fact that you're being rubbed down in a confined space while half-naked.
  54.  
  55. Again.
  56.  
  57. By the same person.
  58.  
  59. Satisfied with the quality of the lather, Mangle holds your head steady with one paw while shaving your face with the other. You flinch slightly as the razor blade presses against your skin. Even though it doesn't hurt, something in you screams that this isn't okay. You're not sure what it is about it that's really bothering you -- it's nowhere near as intimate as a massage, and what's more, you're fully alert -- but you find yourself fighting the urge to take off running down the hallway.
  60.  
  61. "Mike, for goodness' sake, WHEN was the last time you moisturized your face with something OTHER than water? You're destroying your skin!"
  62.  
  63. You helplessly stare upward as Mangle deftly and expertly swipes the razor back and forth across your face and neck. You don't dare speak, let alone move for fear of being cut. The process is taking far too long to be comfortable, despite the fact that it's still faster than you could have managed even if you'd hurried.
  64.  
  65. "Rinse and dab," Mangle orders after finally having finished. "No, Mike, not with hot water. Now you use cold water to close your pores."
  66.  
  67. You hurriedly do as instructed, grateful for it to be over.
  68.  
  69. "Now -- apply some aftershave lotion! It's essential, unless you want ingrown hairs."
  70.  
  71. "Got it," you murmur, fumbling around in the cabinet for some. You hand it upwards to Mangle without even attempting to apply it yourself, lest you be chastised for going against the grain or forgetting the double Watusi method or something.
  72.  
  73. "Good, you're learning already," Mangle mutters, trading your razor back to you for the lotion. Popping the bottle open, the fox gently begins working the aftershave into your skin. You squeeze your eyes shut, trying to distract yourself from the odd, tingling sensation.
  74.  
  75. "This is incredibly awkward," you mutter. "How much longer?"
  76.  
  77. "I'm already done," Mangle huffs, capping off the aftershave. "Now -- look at your face in the mirror and tell me more about your so-called 'experience'."
  78.  
  79. Opening your eyes, you take a look at yourself -- and realize that the difference really is like night and day.
  80.  
  81. "Holy shit," you breathe, awed. Your skin's baby-smooth without a single cut or nick. "You weren't kidding, Mangle -- I've been to barber shops that couldn't come close to this level of quality. You're incredible."
  82.  
  83. "Tell me something I don't know," Mangle chuckles. "I take great pleasure in being able to say 'I told you so' -- your skin will thank me, even if you do not. Now, go put some trousers on while I take care of our dear Bonnibel."
  84.  
  85. "Thank you," you comment, reaching up and tapping Mangle's nose playfully. "Really, seriously, thank you. You've got to show me how to, uh, 'properly' shave sometime. Hopefully when I have some pants on."
  86.  
  87. "Trade secret. But, I might be willing to teach you some proper grooming lessons in exchange for, ah, a small favor."
  88.  
  89. Uh oh. Mangle wanting a favor? Your mind instantly begins to whirl attempting to process all of the different ways this could spell doom for you.
  90.  
  91. "What sort of favor?" you venture cautiously, alarm bells ringing in the back of your head.
  92.  
  93. "Nothing inappropriate," Mangle reassures you. "Perhaps we shall discuss it after breakfast?"
  94.  
  95.  
  96.  
  97. "Whoa, Mike! You look great today," Chica replies as you settle into your seat at the table. You glance down at your grease-stained tee and boxers, not having bothered to get fully dressed yet for the day in case you spilled food on your clothes.
  98.  
  99. "Mmm, what a surprise," Mangle dryly remarks in between bites of one of your waffles. Having recognized the pattern, Freddy's long since taken to just giving you a double portion of food. "What COULD be different about him?"
  100.  
  101. "Wasn't me. Mangle's one hell of a barber, that's for sure," you reply. "I mean, I thought the massage was good, but..."
  102.  
  103. Mangle's eyes light up, all pretense dropped. "Oh, you did? Oh, Freddy, that means the world to me!"
  104.  
  105. "Well, yeah. It was a fantastic massage. You know, for one that was totally unsolicited and incredibly invasive considering how long we'd known each other at that point," you reply with a smirk. "But I mean -- you know, I'd let you do it again. Like, when I'm awake. And only if Chica's watching so that you don't pull anything."
  106.  
  107. "No way in hell I'd be just sitting by, idly watching," Chica snickers as she forks into her food. "I'd be too busy enjoying one of my own and your ass would be off to the side fetching me a Mimosa. Mangle's massages are famous across the apartment complex -- you're lucky you got one at ALL, much less for free."
  108.  
  109. It's your turn to be surprised. "Whoa, seriously? Like, do you do it on the side for spending money, or...?"
  110.  
  111. "I'm actually a licensed physical therapist," Mangle sniffs, pivoting back to feigning offense. "They don't look it, but these are healing paws."
  112.  
  113. "No kidding," you remark. "That's kinda neat, actually."
  114.  
  115. Bonnie chooses this point in time to shuffle into the kitchen.
  116.  
  117. "Perfect timing," Mangle comments, beckoning the lop-eared bundle of nerves over to the table. "Come drink your go-go juice. Bottoms up, dear."
  118.  
  119. "Mrgagh," Bonnie mumbles, flopping down in her chair and letting out a huge yawn.
  120.  
  121. "You tell 'em, Bon," Chica replies as she pokes a straw in Bonnie's mouth.
  122.  
  123. After breakfast, Chica excuses herself to go take care of the household's monthly bills while Bonnie piles up on the couch to watch morning cartoons. You're halfway through helping Freddy neaten up the table when Mangle waves to you from the foyer duct.
  124.  
  125. "Oh, Chica? If you'd be so kind as to meet me in my room in just a few moments."
  126.  
  127. "Yeah, okay," you reply. "I'm going to go get dressed then I'll be right in."
  128.  
  129. "Err -- I suppose that's all right, but bring some of your best-looking shirts and tops," Mangle requests, head tilted as if pondering something. "Oh, and wipe the syrup from your chin, please. I need you at your best for this."
  130.  
  131. "Wait, multiple shirts? Why would--" you start to ask, but Mangle's already gone. With a shrug, you reach up and awkwardly wipe your mouth with a napkin before heading off in the direction of your room.
  132.  
  133. "Se méfier," Freddy murmurs as you leave.
  134.  
  135. Somehow, you have a feeling you know exactly what he means.
  136.  
  137.  
  138.  
  139. "You want me to what?" you ask again, a little dumbfounded.
  140.  
  141. Much like its owner, Mangle's room is dolled up in a truly eccentric combination of aggressive pink-and-white decor. Faux painting covers the walls, while hot fuchsia fringe pillows adorn an otherwise pristine white bed. Everything is neatly organized and all of the furniture is painted to coordinate and complement the rest of the room, albeit flamboyantly.
  142.  
  143. Racks of clothing, hats, and accessories of all varieties are mounted next to Mangle's bed. A sewing table is set up in the corner of the room next to a large plastic tub full of bolts of fabric. Trays full of sequins, spools of thread and other craft stuff litter the floor nearby. An entire wall is dedicated to nothing but shipping supplies with rolls of tape and cardboard boxes piled almost floor-to-ceiling.
  144.  
  145. Eyeing you from under the comfort of one of those bizarre half-bathrobe half-blanket eyesores you've seen on late-night television infomercials, Mangle grins.
  146.  
  147. "You'd be a natural at it," the fox purrs. "I also fashion my own collection of custom-made scarves and accessories which I market through my web store. You know, on the internet."
  148.  
  149. "I know what a web store is," you reply dubiously. "But scarves? Really? I thought you were a massage therapist. I didn't figure you for a, uh, clothing-making... person too. Is there anything you CAN'T do?"
  150.  
  151. "Growing up, my skulk was insistent on learning trades and sharing our skills with one another," Mangle replies proudly. "Mother was simply the most talented seamstress, and I inherited a little of her skill with the thimble."
  152.  
  153. "That's neat and all, but why do you need me to model?" you inquire. "Can't you just use like a mannequin or something? Wouldn't one of the girls be better suited for this than I would?"
  154.  
  155. "Oh, they have helped me in the past -- with the feminine fashions. That said, I've received too many inquiries from my clients asking for my mens' designs to be modeled on something living -- you know these eclectic types. They have to have the real flesh and blood, to wit, a live model. That's where you come in."
  156.  
  157. You try not to laugh out loud at the notion of Mangle of all people accusing someone else of being eclectic.
  158.  
  159. "As it is, I'm terribly, horribly swamped with the upcoming holiday rush. I have several dozen orders to get out by tomorrow morning," Mangle moans. "My store was just featured as the 'shop of the month' on the network I sell through."
  160.  
  161. "Whoa. That's pretty cool, actually." You have to admit -- you're impressed. "Man, no wonder you were going on and on about keeping busy. I take it all those boxes aren't just for show, then."
  162.  
  163. "Surely you see my dilemma. Why, I would model them myself, but it's just too difficult for me to set the timer on the camera and then hurry to strike a flattering pose and -- ohh, please, Freddy! Be a dear! Just a few photos."
  164.  
  165. "How many photos are we talking here?" you ask.
  166.  
  167. "No more than twenty. Maybe forty -- sixty at the absolute most." Mangle looks at you with watery eyes and a nervous, pleading smile. "And, er, perhaps help me with the mailing if it's not too much trouble. I'll gladly pay you for your time."
  168.  
  169. "You don't have to pay me anything," you huff, shaking your head at the magic inflating number. "Just show me what I need to do."
  170.  
  171. "I insist, Mike. I'm not some -- charity case. Allow me to at least repay your service with one of my own -- the workman is worthy of his wage, and all that."
  172.  
  173. "You gave me the best shave of my life this morning and a massage the other day -- isn't that enough?" you ask.
  174.  
  175. "Not in the slightest. The massage was just my way of trying to get you to loosen up, and the shave was FAR more for my benefit than yours, believe me," Mangle shudders. "For now, please -- if it's not too much to ask, help me with the task at hand. I'm falling behind. Then we'll discuss compensation."
  176.  
  177. You try not to grimace. "All right. What do I need to do first?"
  178.  
  179. "Well," Mangle glances you up and down before pulling out a camera, "you can start by taking your shirt off."
  180.  
  181.  
  182.  
  183. "That the last of them?" Chica asks as you wheel yet another hand truck loaded with boxes outside for the postal worker to collect.
  184.  
  185. "Yeah, but I'm not gonna complain," you reply, wiping your brow. "At least slinging boxes is pretty mindless compared to modeling. Mangle had me posing with scarves, gloves, and belts for over two hours, and it all had to be done 'just right'."
  186.  
  187. "Ahhh, the dreaded modeling session," she chuckles. "Yeah, I've gotten roped into those too. Bonnie was excited about it a while back -- until she realized that her pictures would be on the internet, so she asked Mangle to pull them down."
  188.  
  189. "She doesn't like being the center of attention, huh."
  190.  
  191. "That's certainly an understatement," Chica sighs, trotting into the kitchen. "You want a soda?"
  192.  
  193. "Man, that'd be awesome right about now."
  194.  
  195. You gently settle down into one of the living room chairs while Chica returns from the fridge with a couple cans of root beer, passing one off to you before lolling out on the couch.
  196.  
  197. "Wait a minute," you mutter as you pop open your can, a thought forming in your head. "Why'd Mangle need me to model guys' accessories? Wouldn't Freddy have worked too?"
  198.  
  199. "I was wondering when you'd ask, considering I know Freddy's modeled for Mangle before as well," Chica laughs. "Maybe you were more the 'type' Mangle's clients want to look at?"
  200.  
  201. "Or maybe I've been played."
  202.  
  203. "Oh, don't worry about it," she says with a flippant smirk, "and honestly, if I were you? I'd be flattered Mangle thinks so highly of you."
  204.  
  205. Flattered isn't quite the word you'd use, but before you have a chance to ruminate too much further on the matter, a knock at the front door interrupts your train of thought. Setting her root beer aside, Chica starts to get up to answer it but you wave her off.
  206.  
  207. "I've got it," you offer, heading for the foyer. Upon opening the door, you're greeted by an enthusiastic Bonbon.
  208.  
  209. "Oh -- it's you again! Wow, you look REALLY soft today," she applauds, eyes wide and grin wider. "Makeup -- or some new method?! Ooooh! Mind if I have a feel?"
  210.  
  211. "...I guess?" you reply warily.
  212.  
  213. "Yesssss!" Bonbon cheers before gently pinching each of your cheeks with her paws. Who does she think she is -- a grandma?! "Oooh, Mike -- this is SO realistic! I don't know how you pull it off! Dude, you GOTTA tell me your secret."
  214.  
  215. "Well actually, I just got home from the groomer," you deadpan.
  216.  
  217. "Uh huh?" she says, rubbing the sides of your neck.
  218.  
  219. "Yeah. My owner said if I was a good boy, I could have a root beer as a treat." You give your soda can a gentle shake for emphasis, but your sarcasm's clearly wasted on Bonbon -- she's far more interested in scrutinizing the rest of your "look".
  220.  
  221. "Awww. You didn't do anything with the rest today, though? I can see your arm fur's already starting to grow back -- you need to stay on top of that," she prattles on obliviously, already having worked her paws down from your neck to your hands. "Or are you trying to go for a more show-accurate thing, like some of the 'realistic' stuff? I mean, I GUESS some humans TECHNICALLY have arm hair and all, but it's usually just for like big burly characters? It's not at ALL what I'd consider 'standard'."
  222.  
  223. "Sure, show-accurate. That's it," you answer with a roll of your eyes.
  224.  
  225. "Oop! I got so distracted I almost forgot why I came up here in the first place," Bonbon suddenly declares, peeling loose from you and barging straight into the kitchen. "Hey, Chiclet! You busy?"
  226.  
  227. "Nah," Chica replies with a raised eyebrow, not having bothered getting up from the couch. "What's up, Bonbon?"
  228.  
  229. "Chiclet?" you silently mouth at Chica with an incredulous, shit-eating grin. The resulting scowl on her face tells you everything you need to know. You file this new information away in the back of your mind for later usage.
  230.  
  231. "Okay, so -- this afternoon, you'll never guess who paid us a surprise visit," Bonbon says, taking a seat in the chair you were sitting in before you got up to answer the door.
  232.  
  233. "Oooh. Go on," Chica excitedly props herself up on one arm, interest clearly piqued at the opportunity for fresh gossip.
  234.  
  235. "Mr. Fazbear," Bonbon returns with a flourish. Who?
  236.  
  237. "Wait, Mr. Fazbear?! What was HE doing at your place in the middle of the day? Shouldn't he have been downtown at the store?"
  238.  
  239. "I know, right?!" Bonbon throws her paws in the air, sloshing a little root beer onto the couch cushions. "Like, the guy's MARRIED to his job. He never misses a day of work."
  240.  
  241. "That IS pretty rare. Was he there to visit Peanut?" Also who?
  242.  
  243. "Actually, it's funny you mention him..."
  244.  
  245. The two of them continue conversing in what almost sounds like code, rambling on and on about people you don't know. You don't really have anything to add to the conversation so you quickly find yourself growing uncomfortable just standing around. After a few seconds of awkwardly lingering, you excuse yourself and wander down the hall toward your shared bedroom to indulge in a little peace and quiet.
  246.  
  247. Unfortunately, Freddy's inside your room, sketching away at his easel at a feverish pace. Seems he's really into it. As you enter, however, he abruptly stops what he's doing to greet you. So much for hanging out in here -- you just get the feeling you'd be cramping his style, too. At times like this, you REALLY wish you had your own room.
  248.  
  249. Once it becomes apparent that he's waiting for some kind of prompt from you, you shake your head to let him know you don't need anything. Nodding back at you, Freddy points to the clock, then moves his finger slightly -- a signal you've come to understand means he'll be starting on lunch soon. With a smile, you pat your belly appreciatively and wave back at him before leaving him to his work.
  250.  
  251. Since Bonnie's napping in her room and the rest of your roommates are otherwise occupied, you decide that now's as good a time as any to check in on Mangle and see if you can be of any further help.
  252.  
  253. Standing outside, you hear the sound of typing coming from Mangle's room. You gently knock at the door a few times -- after all, you've been chiding Mangle on respecting your personal space lately, so the least you can do is lead by example. A moment or two later you hear a muffled "Oh, of course!"
  254.  
  255. Guess that means you can enter.
  256.  
  257. Pushing the door open part-way, you see Mangle wearing a pair of earphones while perusing one of the racks full of clothes, back turned to you. Tail swishing, the fashion-minded fox is humming a familiar tune -- almost sounds like some kind of classical music. Thinking about it, this is your first time seeing Mangle out in the open -- usually your reclusive roommate is crawling around in one of the vents or is otherwise obscured under a blanket.
  258.  
  259. "Hey Mangle! Do you need any more help with modeling or packing orders?" you call out, raising your voice in order to make your presence known. "Everyone else is busy right now, and so I was wondering if I might give you a hand?"
  260.  
  261. It soon becomes evident that you're not going to receive a response. With a shrug, you walk inside and tap Mangle on the shoulder gently before stepping back with a polite smile.
  262.  
  263. "Hey, Mangle," you start again, "I just--"
  264.  
  265.  
  266. The words aren't even halfway out of your mouth before Mangle whirls, screaming aloud and dropping to the floor, back arched and eyes full of blind panic.
  267.  
  268.  
  269. "Mangle, you okay?!" Chica calls out from the living room.
  270.  
  271. "I -- I'm sorry, Mangle," you stammer, jumping back in surprise. "Didn't mean to startle you. Everything all right?"
  272.  
  273. Glaring at you in a mixture of horror and anger, Mangle scrambles around the bed, pulling down a blanket to cover up with.
  274.  
  275. "Don't look at me! Get out! Get out right now!"
  276.  
  277. "I didn't mean to scare you, I just wanted to know if I could help," you gawk, dumbfounded. Mangle wasn't dressed inappropriately, or at least you didn't think so. A loose-fitting pink chemise and a pair of cutoff denim shorts hardly qualify as indecent attire. Why the hysterics? "Don't worry, I didn't see anything, if that's what you're worried about?"
  278.  
  279. Still clutching the blanket close, Mangle slowly rises from the ground and stumbles forward, tearfully shoving you through the doorway. You nearly trip, almost spilling your root beer as you stumble backwards into the hall.
  280.  
  281. "'Didn't see anything'?! You've already seen EVERYTHING," Mangle sobs, mascara dripping like black waterfalls. You can't manage to get anything else out before the door is slammed abruptly in your face.
  282.  
  283. The last thing you hear from inside is the fairly distinct sound of a pillow being thrown at the wall -- followed by muffled, tortured weeping.
  284.  
  285. "What the hell was THAT all about?" Bonbon asks as Chica and Freddy help you to your feet.
  286.  
  287. "I don't know," you gasp, following everyone out into the foyer. "That was a Bonnie-level freakout!"
  288.  
  289. "Okay, Mike -- tell me what happened," Chica firmly demands. "Start from the beginning."
  290.  
  291. Leaning against a wall, you pause to let your heart rate slow back down as you try to formulate an answer.
  292.  
  293. "I mean, you know all those racks of clothes and sewing supplies, right?"
  294.  
  295. Chica nods, intently studying your face.
  296.  
  297. "Well, Mangle was just standing in front of one with earphones on, and I just said hello, and asked if I could help, and then -- boom." You whack your open palm with your fist for emphasis. "It was like someone flipped a switch. I know I haven't been here long, but I've NEVER seen Mangle act that way."
  298.  
  299. Freddy pats you on the shoulder gently while Chica folds her wings.
  300.  
  301. "Ce n'est pas la mort du petit cheval," he says with a sad smile before heading back to your room, presumably to return to his art project.
  302.  
  303. "Should I -- should I leave?" Bonbon asks, glancing down the hall at Mangle's bedroom door warily. "I mean, if you guys are going to get into something heated, I don't, uh -- I don't know if it's a good idea if I'm here. I don't want to get in the way."
  304.  
  305. "No, Bonbon, you're fine," you reply as the three of you take a seat at the kitchen table -- Bonbon to your left while Chica slumps down at your right. Something about this whole thing makes you feel uneasy, almost boxed in -- like you're being interrogated. Right now you're really wishing you'd just taken a walk instead.
  306.  
  307. "So you just went in there and Mangle freaked out? But you didn't see anything, uh, dirty -- right?" Bonbon asks.
  308.  
  309. "Mike, I told you the other day that Mangle has some -- 'issues' -- but considering how much you've gone on and on about privacy since you got here, I never figured this'd come up, so I've been putting it off..." Running her wings through her headfeathers, Chica seems to be struggling for a delicate way to phrase what she wants to say. "I've been waiting for an opportune time, but..."
  310.  
  311. "It's fine," you interrupt. "No need to hem and haw or get into anything you don't feel comfortable talking about. Give it to me straight, Chica. I can take it."
  312.  
  313. "Fair enough. I'll just make it simple, then," Chica says. "I don't really understand everything 'going on' with Mangle myself, but since we don't want this problem to come up again in the future -- remember the rule I instituted day one with Bonnie's room?"
  314.  
  315. "Yeah," you reply. "Nobody goes in with her, ever?"
  316.  
  317. "Right. I'm extending that one to Em as well now. Unless you're specifically invited in, stay out of Mangle's room."
  318.  
  319. "That's the thing -- I never would've forced my way in. I thought I WAS invited," you reply. "I knocked and I heard what sounded like Mangle telling me I could come in, but now I realize I was mistaken."
  320.  
  321. "Wow." Bonbon leans over and pats your hand, though you can't help but wonder if it's not just an excuse to make contact again. "That's horrible luck, Mike."
  322.  
  323. "Yeah, shit," Chica frowns. "I dunno what to tell you, then."
  324.  
  325. Hanging your head low, you can't help but feel ashamed and more than a touch hypocritical -- this is the exact sort of thing you wanted to avoid happening to you, and yet here you are feeling like you've just violated Mangle's trust.
  326.  
  327. "Buck up, Mikey," Bonbon says, nudging your shoulder. "Mangle's a bit thicker-skinned than you think. You two'll be best buds again in no time."
  328.  
  329. "Well, implying they were ever 'best buds' to begin with is a stretch," Chica laughs, ruffling your hair with an awkward smile, "but they have been getting along a lot better lately. It was really rough going between 'em at first."
  330.  
  331. "You know, I think I'm going to go for a walk," you finally manage, grabbing your coat.
  332.  
  333. "Ooh, that's a good idea. We'll come with you," Chica says. You start to protest that you just want to be left alone, but if you've learned anything from your time with Chica so far, it's that she doesn't sway easily once she's made her mind up on something. You got a good taste of how forceful she can be during your first pajama night.
  334.  
  335. "How about we go hit up the gym up front?" Bonbon suggests. "I think we could all use the exercise."
  336.  
  337. "Great idea!" Gesturing to your jeans and winter boots, Chica nods. "Mike, why don't you go slip into something more comfortable and put your running shoes on. We'll go blow off some steam for an hour or so, and then come back and eat later. Sound good?"
  338.  
  339. Casting one last glance in the direction of Mangle's bedroom, you turn back to them and force a smile.
  340.  
  341. "Sounds great," you lie.
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