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Roommates - Ch. 32 (The Real Thing)

Jul 6th, 2016
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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. 32 (The Real Thing): http://i.imgur.com/gB5CHVj.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. Additionally, thanks to Systemeth (http://pastebin.com/u/Systemeth) for proofreading and editing this chapter.
  8. Questions or comments? Drop me an ask at http://roommatesau.tumblr.com/
  9.  
  10. ---
  11.  
  12. Lurching across the desk, you nearly put your fist through the wall in your panic to slam the right side door shut.
  13.  
  14. "Go! Get out!" you growl through the window at the bulky silhouette of a bear. He rebelliously loiters outside, eyes faintly glowing in the inky blackness. You wish you had something to throw at his head, but the broken displays are too heavy to lift and you've run fresh out of desk phones. "I said leave!"
  15.  
  16. "You're making this more difficult than it has to be, Schmidt," he sternly reprimands as he knocks at your window. "Get out here and we'll go over your behavior while we get you fitted for your new uniform."
  17.  
  18. Somehow you know exactly what "new uniform" really entails: a disused mascot costume loaded with razor-sharp mechanical components. Crossbeams, wires, and animatronic devices gouging out your eyeballs and teeth. Fine for an animatronic performer, certain death for any human unfortunate enough to be forced inside one.
  19.  
  20. Panting, you wildly search the room for anything you can use as a weapon, but all you're able to find is a coffee mug underneath the table. You anxiously pluck it from the ground, opening the right side door just long enough to hurl it as hard as you can at him. Unfortunately due to the pain in your chest, your arm seizes up and you airball your toss. The mug sails over his head to land somewhere out in the dining room with a dissatisfying thump.
  21.  
  22. "Seriously?" he mutters, seemingly awed at your brazenness.
  23.  
  24. Leaning back in your chair, you grab fistfuls of your hair in a delirious frenzy. There isn't shit you can do. Your resources are nil -- no weapons, no tools. Nothing but a flimsy door keeping that THING out there at bay. You reach for the light switch on the wall, pressing it much more gently than you did to shut the door. Even with the flickery bulb illuminating the corridor, you can't see him, but you know he's still out there.
  25.  
  26. He'll come back. He always does.
  27.  
  28. You can't risk opening the door again. It was a stupid decision the first time, and it only worked because you caught him off guard. He's not generous enough to give you a second chance. The power meter on the desktop is fluctuating wildly. You can't even read the numbers, they're draining so fast. You douse the lights to alleviate some of the burden on the system. With the door closed it's not like lighting the hallway does you any good now anyway.
  29.  
  30. "Shit," you hiss, taking a second to steady your breathing. As long as you keep an eye on the other side of the office, nothing's coming in through that door. They can't move when you're watching them, right? It's one of their rules.
  31.  
  32. And they always, ALWAYS follow their damn rules.
  33.  
  34. A sound like nails dragging down a chalkboard floods your ears. "Hi, Mr. Fazbear!" a girlish voice shrieks from behind you. "Is the night guard hiding in there again?"
  35.  
  36. You glance up at the window and wish you hadn't. Snapping against the dark glass is a orange avian beak, stuffed with not one but two full sets of gleaming teeth. Mustard-colored metal feathers swipe against the window, leaving scratches in the polished surface.
  37.  
  38. "Yay! There he is! I see him!"
  39.  
  40. Of course they know you're in here. You're not trying to hide, you're trying to stall for time. Wait the clock out, sit and survive. No more ballsy moves at this point.
  41.  
  42. You pull the camera screen closer to your face as if it'll somehow protect you. West hall's clear, nothing in the corner outside your office. You change views to the backstage and nearly fall out of your chair. Soulless eye sockets mounted in a lavender skull gaze at you through the security feed. Long, floppy purple ears twitch as a pair of LED lights focus on you from the other side of the camera.
  43.  
  44. "Not long now, Mike," the rabbit croons seductively into the camera's microphone before killing the feed.
  45.  
  46. Shoving away from the computer screen in hysteria, you hit the west side lights again, half-expecting her to have teleported all the way across the pizzeria.
  47.  
  48. Nothing.
  49.  
  50. "Gonna make it," you breathe, desperately trying to convince yourself. It's not working. With the door shut you can only use the camera in short bursts; you're already severely handicapped on your power allotment, and you've GOT to conserve power. Steeling your nerves, you force yourself to go back to browsing the feeds again.
  51.  
  52. The only occupants of the backstage are severed costume heads and spare parts; the rabbit that was in the room used the disabled camera as a distraction to relocate. You quickly mash buttons on the keyboard trying to track her down. There's three of them in all, right? You know where two are, you've just got to keep tabs on the last one and you're set.
  53.  
  54. Supply closet's empty. Dining room's a bust, show stage is a ghost town. In your hurry to track down the last of your would-be animatronic tormentors, you scroll one screen too far.
  55.  
  56. Situated in the middle of the monitor's static-filled display is a round, elevated stage. Curtains made of bright purple cloth embroidered with silver stars hang in a semicircle over the platform. You squint at the screen, trying to place where you've seen that fabric pattern before. Unfortunately you don't have the time to study it in detail right now. You tap one of the arrow keys to change feeds.
  57.  
  58. Switching to the west hallway, you manage to catch a glimpse of a rusty red canid hauling ass down the corridor, jaw flapping and arms flailing in a mad dash to get to your room. The thing's got to be doing close to sixty. Crying out in alarm, you jump up from your chair and throw yourself across the office at the door, only barely managing to slam it in the face of the rabid monster. It unleashes a pained wail as it crashes into the door's surface. Something metallic begins banging on the side of the frame in protest of your decision.
  59.  
  60. "Aaaaarrrrgghhh! Schmidt, ye ruined it all!" A single amber eye presses against the glass, looking in at you. The fox -- you can't believe you forgot about him.
  61.  
  62. "Nice job, you idiot," the rabbit drones from behind him, her already low voice nearly muted by the door. "I almost had him."
  63.  
  64. "Ye didn't have anything, lass! You were so focused on his--"
  65.  
  66. There's a muffled whud from the other side of the wall. "Shut the hell up, Foxy."
  67.  
  68. You wheeze, slumping to the tiled floor. You're surrounded on all sides. There's no reason to even look at the computer's power meter -- you know that leaving both doors shut is suicide, and THEY seem to know it as well.
  69.  
  70. "Listen up, Schmidt. Here's the deal," the bear calls out gruffly. His authoritative presence silences the squabbling on the other side of your office. "We've had it up to here with you. If you come out now, of your own free will instead of making us drag you out, it'll be mostly painless. Or you can wait out the last of your power, and at that point all bets are off."
  71.  
  72. Violet eyes peer in through the east window. "Awwwww! Won't you haven't a little mercy on him, Freddy?"
  73.  
  74. "It's business, Chica. Don't get involved."
  75.  
  76. The banging sound continues against the left door, causing you to jump in place.
  77.  
  78. "Hey, that's showing him, Foxy. You just keep beating your hook into a stump there," the rabbit continues, voicebox ruminating with disgust.
  79.  
  80. Dragging your hands down your face, you stifle a sob. "Leave me alone!" you shout. Fear grips your core, choking out any hope you might have left. "I'll leave! I promise, I'll leave, I'll never come back! I'll find somewhere new, just let me go!"
  81.  
  82. "Go? Go WHERE, Mike?" Freddy Fazbear asks, seemingly dumbfounded. "Nobody's asking you to leave."
  83.  
  84. "We're not about to let you walk out of here in the condition you're in!" Chica adds. Of course they won't. You already know what they're planning to do to you.
  85.  
  86. Trying not to vomit, you weigh your options and none of them look viable. Your only chance out is to throw one of the doors open and run for everything you're worth towards the pizza parlor's entrance. West side's not an option; the fox -- fox, Foxy -- Foxy's faster than you'll ever be. You've got to go out the east door and hope that side's slow enough that you can weave past them.
  87.  
  88. Standing up, you take a deep breath in preparation. Freddy peers in at you through the window, trying to figure out what you're up to.
  89.  
  90. "It LOOKS like he's coming around," he comments. "Mike, are you--"
  91.  
  92. You punch the door control. The second the right side door opens, you shoulder bash the first thing in your way. There's a surprised cry of pain as something soft and feathery collides with you, but you shake whatever it was off and jog down the hall towards the entrance.
  93.  
  94. "Ooof! Mike, WHY?!"
  95.  
  96. Foxy calls out from the other side of the office. "Chica!!"
  97.  
  98. "Forget me, just stop him before he hurts himself!"
  99.  
  100. Thirty feet from the entrance. You can do this. Sail out of here, no turning back.
  101.  
  102. "Foxy, you dumbass! Get going!" Bonnie screeches.
  103.  
  104. Twenty feet. Don't look back, just run. Run and forget.
  105.  
  106. "Damn it, lass, I'm trying! He's REALLY fast for a fat guy!"
  107.  
  108. Ten. You're home free. You reach for the handle, and as you go to pull the door open, it catches on the chain latch. A chill runs down your spine; you don't have time to close it and unlatch it. Horrified, you slowly turn in place to see the group of shadows have already cornered you.
  109.  
  110. Long ears.
  111. Broad shoulders.
  112. Sharp teeth.
  113. Glowing eyes.
  114. Lantern jaws.
  115. Torn fabric.
  116. Exposed beams.
  117. Frayed wires.
  118.  
  119. "Go easy on him, Fred," Bonnie the bunny grins, twirling a claw around her ribbon bowtie as she observes from a distance. "TRY to leave him in good condition."
  120.  
  121. Chica the chicken spreads her iron wings wide to prevent your escape, smiling. "We're just trying to help. It'll all be over soon, I promise."
  122.  
  123. "You're a real piece of work, Mike, you know that?" Foxy the pirate fox adds with a scowl as he hooks you by your collar.
  124.  
  125. Freddy Fazbear stomps forward past the other animatronics, the hydraulic motors in his stocky legs whirring as he clanks across the floor for you.
  126.  
  127. "Relax, Mike. Calm down, there's no reason to be afraid," Freddy ominously intones, blue eyes pulsing in time to a haunting music box melody. He wraps both arms around you, his decrepit face inches from your own.
  128.  
  129.  
  130. "It's me."
  131.  
  132.  
  133. You scream.
  134.  
  135. You scream even as the robots grab you, pulling you away from the exit.
  136. You scream even as they carry you kicking and thrashing through the entire length of the dark pizzeria.
  137. You scream even as they pin you to the table in the back, holding your arms and legs down while preparing your grave.
  138.  
  139. You shriek and wail and cry out, tears flowing in rivulets down your face. You jerk and spasm and twist and lurch and seize up, throwing your full weight against your captors in defiance. They squeeze you tightly enough to cut off the circulation to your limbs, but you don't stop struggling.
  140.  
  141. You scream bloody murder, because that's exactly what this is.
  142.  
  143. It's murder.
  144.  
  145. Tonight's the night you die.
  146.  
  147.  
  148.  
  149. "MIKE!!"
  150.  
  151. Fred looks down at you, an uncharacteristic fear in his eyes as he holds your struggling frame tight against his chest.
  152.  
  153. Fred? you try to ask, but no sound comes out of your mouth. You attempt again with a bit more effort, managing to finally squeak his name out. "Fred?"
  154.  
  155. "Mike," he repeats much more calmly, loosening his grip on your shoulders just enough to give you breathing room. "If I let you go, are you going to pull another stunt like that again?"
  156.  
  157. "Stunt?" you croak, going limp in his arms. "Wh-what stunt?"
  158.  
  159. You hear him sigh as he slowly lowers you onto your back. You try to sit up, but he places a firm hand on your chest, applying enough pressure to your damaged ribcage to make you whimper.
  160.  
  161. "Gentle, Mr. Fazbear," Chichi says from somewhere off to the side of the room. There's something wrong with her -- she sounds... tired? No, that's not the right word. Dizzy, maybe? "He's still, um-- fractured, remember?"
  162.  
  163. "I know," Fred staidly agrees. "I'm just trying to keep him from clobbering you again." Clobbering?
  164.  
  165. You reach a hand to your head to wipe some of the fluid out of your eyes and nose, but a rough paw grabs it and jerks it back.
  166.  
  167. "Foxy, let him go!" Chichi insists. "He's okay now, I think. It-- it was just a bad dream. Right, Mike?"
  168.  
  169. Tilting your head, you catch sight of Rackham standing above you. He's looking at you out of his good eye in anger. "Dream?" you manage to choke out. "I -- wh--"
  170.  
  171. "Must have been a HELL of a bad dream," Rackham snarls as he reluctantly lets you free. "You waylaid Chica in your dash to the front door. Where were you off to in such a hurry, you stupid asshole?"
  172.  
  173. "Foxy, shut your mouth," a new voice groans from the doorway. Beanie; nobody else in this house could pack that much vitriol into a sentence. "He might be an idiot but you don't know what we've been through."
  174.  
  175. "That's right. Don't hold it against him," Chichi shakily adds. "Let's -- everyone just calm down, okay?"
  176.  
  177. Once more you attempt to shift your weight to a sitting position, and this time both Fred and Rackham ease off of you enough so that you can. Dazed, you look around the room, trying to regain your bearings -- you're woozy, and your face is covered in tears, sweat, and snot. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror on Fred's dresser, and your heart sinks.
  178.  
  179. Whoever the trembling, nerve-wracked, red-eyed man is staring back at you, he's not the Mike Schmidt you know.
  180.  
  181. "Am -- am I, um," you stutter, disoriented and at a complete loss for rational thought. "My, uh -- what, what happened?"
  182.  
  183. "You went ballistic," Fred says plainly. "We heard you thumping around in your room, so we went to check on you. I thought you might have fallen out of bed and hurt yourself."
  184.  
  185. Chichi steps around in front of you, Rackham following her guardedly. He's staring at you stone-faced, as if he's defying you to try something. The second you turn to focus on Chichi, you realize why: blood is trickling from the top of her head.
  186.  
  187. "Chichi?" you gasp. "What hap--"
  188.  
  189. "You knocked her into the coffee table in your mad dash is what happened!" Rackham barks at you, teeth bared and eye bulging. "You damn near split her head open!"
  190.  
  191. "Foxy, it was clearly an accident," Chichi softly pleads as Beanie dabs at her face with a wet towel. "You didn't mean it, Mike."
  192.  
  193. "Of c-course not!" You sniffle, wiping your face with the back of your sleeve. Your throat's still hoarse, it's all you can do to get the words out. "I'm so sorry, Chichi -- hand to God, I'd never hurt you on purpose."
  194.  
  195. At Chichi's selfless urging, Rackham pulls back from you long enough to let you to your feet. He nevertheless remains positioned between her and you, growling quietly. You stumble off of the bed, wincing in pain as your leg protests your weight.
  196.  
  197. "Come on, let's take this out into the living room," Fred declares. "Mike, are you on any medication? Is there anything I need to get for you?"
  198.  
  199. You shake your head. "Carrol's starting me on some, um -- some painkillers tomorrow. Nothing else."
  200.  
  201. He seems unconvinced, but nods anyway as your group disbands from his bedroom. You follow them out into the common area, taking a seat on the couch. Rackham helps Chichi into her nest while Beanie wraps a bandage around her forehead.
  202.  
  203. "Whole place has gone to shit in just two days," Beanie dryly comments. It sounds like an attempt at levity, but there's no humor in her tone. "Pretty soon the entire house is going to look like an infirmary."
  204.  
  205. Fred declines to sit with the others, instead standing in front of you. "So Mike, why don't you fill us in on what happened back there?" he asks, arms folded.
  206.  
  207. You take a deep breath, trying to gather your thoughts. "I -- I had a nightmare," you begin. You're not quite sure that's the best wording for it, but you don't know how else to define the surreal experience you just endured.
  208.  
  209. Rackham sputters incredulously. "That much was obvious, you--" Without warning, Fred whirls and grabs him by his shirt collar, cutting him off mid-rant as he yanks him away from Chichi's side.
  210.  
  211. "Enough," Fred booms, breathing heavily as Rackham struggles underneath the larger bear's chokehold. Fred glares daggers at Rackham, and the fox instantly wilts under the intimidation of his bloodshot gaze.
  212.  
  213. "Right," Rackham squeaks. "Sorry, Fred, I was just --nnnghh! I'm just trying to--"
  214.  
  215. "Please, Foxy, we all know what you're trying to do," Beanie remarks acerbically as Fred drops Rackham on the seat next to you.
  216.  
  217. Chichi grimaces, forcing a confused smile as she presses a wing to her head. "Oww -- wait, we do? What?"
  218.  
  219. "Shh," Beanie replies. "I'm gonna go get some aspirin for you."
  220.  
  221. "Me too," you groan, holding your cramping leg. "Please."
  222.  
  223. Beanie nods as she heads to the kitchen. "Yeah, absolutely. Though I doubt it's gonna help much in your case, but anything's better than nothing."
  224.  
  225. "You were saying, Mike? Nightmare?" Fred asks, still keeping an eye on Rackham. The fox is suitably cowed, looking as skittish as Haddock in the middle of a thunderstorm.
  226.  
  227. "Nightmare," you repeat. "Um, bad -- I think I was just, after today -- you guys were in it, some robots, uh -- you know?" You wave your arms uselessly; you can't even think clearly enough to formulate a proper sentence.
  228.  
  229. "Not really, no," he replies carefully. "In your own time though, Mike."
  230.  
  231. Beanie returns with a pill bottle, doling out a round of over-the-counter pain tablets to you and Chichi before taking a pair for herself. You swallow yours dry, grimacing -- the aftertaste of cheese crackers lingers in your mouth from your earlier snack, and it's now mixed with the medication as well.
  232.  
  233. "I don't really remember much," you lie. You remember plenty -- being chased through an awful pizzeria that was somehow even worse than the one you were actually in today.
  234.  
  235. Freddy Fazbear's Pizza. The name feels hauntingly familiar. Everyone from this household was there -- in robot form, like strange counterparts to the animatronics at Jeremy Human's. They were trying to shove you into a deadly robot costume, right? You cast a tired eye over your housemates, studying their alien physiology. The parallels to the ones that were in your nightmare are striking -- even though these people are made of fur and flesh, you can still see the resemblance to the third-rate animal mascots that have been tormenting you in your hallucinations.
  236.  
  237. "I was at a restaurant like Jeremy's, and some of my friends had been turned into robots." That's close enough to the truth; can't have them thinking you've lost your mind. "And they were trying to turn me into one too."
  238.  
  239. Beanie's frown twists into a sympathetic smile as she downs her own pills. "Hah. After today, I'd say that was a pretty reasonable nightmare to have," she agrees.
  240.  
  241. "That's it?" Fred interjects softly. "Mmmm. So were you sleepwalking, then?"
  242.  
  243. "Yeah, I guess today really messed me up," you chuckle mirthlessly. "That's got to be what it was; I was just trying to get away to safety. A-again, Chichi, I'm -- I'm really sorry."
  244.  
  245. She takes a deep breath, puffing up her feathery chest before offering you a tearful smile. "At least nobody's seriously hurt -- I can handle a little bump on the head."
  246.  
  247. Rackham scratches his forearm idly. "I guess we all have bad days," he murmurs, raising his hook for emphasis.
  248.  
  249. "Tomorrow is another day," you agree, echoing Goldie's sentiment from earlier as you stand up. "Sorry for all the trou--"
  250.  
  251. "What did you just say?" Fred rumbles, moving in uncomfortably close. Unnerved, you look at him in confusion.
  252.  
  253. "I s-said 'tomorrow is another day'?" you cluelessly return.
  254.  
  255. "Where, uh, where did you hear that, Mike?" Beanie carefully asks, folding her arms around herself as she approaches you from behind Fred. The two of them exchange unreadable expressions, and instantly you know something's up.
  256.  
  257. "Is that a trick question?" Wincing, you try to retreat only to back into the couch -- you're pinned. Raising both hands, you respectfully attempt to signal your discomfort. "It's j-just a saying, isn't it?"
  258.  
  259. "No, you're right." Exhaling softly, Fred nods to Beanie as they both move out of your personal space. "Sorry, Mike. It's been -- well, you know."
  260.  
  261. "Yeah, I do," you concur, quickly slipping out into the open of the living room.
  262.  
  263. Rackham stands up, yawning and stretching in an almost exaggerated manner as he begins to trot towards his cove. "Well, this has all been a riot but I think I'm going to go crash now."
  264.  
  265. With a heavy sigh, you straighten out your shirt. You look at the tearstains and dried mucus on your sleeve in disgust before pulling your shirt off altogether. By now you've completely lost track of how many times you've changed clothes today. Might as well get a shower if nobody else is going to use the bathroom -- it'd probably feel heavenly on your exhausted, tortured body, and it might even help you get to sleep.
  266.  
  267. "Say, where's Goldie? I figured for sure I'd have woken him up with all that noise," you ask, wadding your dirty shirt up under your arm.
  268.  
  269. Silence falls over the room as everyone freezes mid-action. You're hypersensitive enough by this point to realize you've just said or done something wrong. Instinctively, you move into position to flee. Beanie hunches forward, mouth agape as if she's just been sucker-punched in the gut.
  270.  
  271. "He's seen him!" she shrieks. "He's seen him too! Oh, god!"
  272.  
  273. "Calm down!" Rackham yells at her uselessly as she begins to shake, yanking roughly at one of her own ears.
  274.  
  275. Fred somberly reaches into his pocket, pulling his cell phone out. He punches a number into it deliberately, holding it to his ear.
  276.  
  277. "Sorry to bother you so late," he murmurs into the mouthpiece. "Come get him."
  278.  
  279. "Wait, what? What's going on, Fred?" you manage from the end of the east hall. "Come get who? Me? Why, what did I say?!"
  280.  
  281. "Mike," he replies softly, lowering his phone to his side. "My brother is dead."
  282.  
  283. "What the shit -- no, of course he's not DEAD," you reply, flabbergasted. "I saw him with my own eyes, like -- just a few hours ago!"
  284.  
  285. Rackham and Chichi glare at you as Beanie slams against the couch's backrest. "I knew it," she half-laughs, half-sobs. "I knew it!"
  286.  
  287. "Just earlier, he was telling me to get my leg -- hell, Chichi, you were there! You were there with us!" you angrily snap, pointing an accusing finger in the hen's direction. "You stood right there -- you were talking with both of us while you bandaged my leg earlier! He told you to use gauze! Don't you remember?!"
  288.  
  289. "No, Chica. Not you," Fred nearly whispers as he and Rackham both stare at her in shock.
  290.  
  291. "Mike, I don't know what you're talking about," Chichi adamantly protests, taking great care to enunciate each word as if you're slow. "It was just you and me in that room -- nobody else was there. Certainly not -- not Goldie Fazbear, of all people...!"
  292.  
  293. A banging sound at the front door cuts you off before you can really let her have it. Rackham leaves Beanie's side, sprinting to the foyer to open the door. Chiclet and Mangle pour through almost simultaneously while Frederick brings up the rear. All three of them are in their nightclothes, though Mangle is double-layered with both a bathrobe and a blanket.
  294.  
  295. "Good heavens, it's indeed a shambles in here," Mangle remarks with a yawn, sleepily adjusting an eye mask.
  296.  
  297. Frederick tips his ever-present tiny hat as he closes the door. "Pardonnez l'intrusion," he babbles.
  298.  
  299. Mangle gently corrects him, patting his arm. "Not now dear -- read the mood."
  300.  
  301. "Mike?" Chiclet asks. "Mr. Fazbear, what's going on? Do we need to take him to the hospital?"
  302.  
  303. "Nothing like that," Fred says, shaking his head. "Carrol Rabbinson already looked him over earlier this evening."
  304.  
  305. Chiclet runs a wing through her messy headfeathers. "Then I don't understand. If he's fine, why -- did he do something offensive?"
  306.  
  307. "I have no idea why he called you either. I'm so sorry, Chiclet," you interject. She gives you an annoyed glance, but says nothing, waiting patiently for a reply.
  308.  
  309. "Mike had a panic attack earlier, I think," Chichi says defensively, avoiding eye contact with you. "He went to Jeremy Human's today -- Bonnie got trapped there. Long story."
  310.  
  311. Chiclet's face falls. "Oh, god. I was hoping he wouldn't get mixed up with them. Mangle, did you know about this when you came by earlier?"
  312.  
  313. "Not -- exactly?" Mangle lies, feigning innocence. "I mean, I'd heard some, ah, rumors...? Oh, but I was busy tending to Cheeky's special needs earlier--"
  314.  
  315. "Oh, am I ever gonna deal with you later," Chiclet seethes, waving Mangle off. "Damn it, I knew he'd gotten into some kind of trouble but I didn't know it was at Jeremy's. Nobody ever keeps me in the loop on anything -- I feel like we're an island unto ourselves over there. Mr. Fazbear?"
  316.  
  317. Fred motions to you. "I'm told he's been hallucinating vividly ever since he got home. Carrol believes he has some damage to his ribcage, and he sliced his leg crawling through an air vent at the restaurant."
  318.  
  319. Chiclet self-consciously tugs at her pajama pants, trying to ease them up over her hips a little more. "Unbelievable. Well, we can gather him up and be out in just a few minutes. Do you mind at least telling me why this couldn't have waited until morning, though?"
  320.  
  321. "It's personal. My brother," Fred mumbles.
  322.  
  323. "Oh." Chiclet replies, crestfallen. "Say no more, then."
  324.  
  325. You gawk at her. "Wait, WHAT? No! Say MORE, Fred! Look, if I said something inappropriate, or I crossed some kind of line, that's one thing -- but Goldie came to ME, he approached ME," you argue vehemently. "I saw him with my own eyes! We talked to each other -- we had a casual conversation, for God's sake! If he's off-limits, or I'm supposed to leave him alone -- it would have been damned nice to know that ahead of time, don't you think?!"
  326.  
  327. "Holy shit," she gasps, covering her scarred mouth with both wings. "You weren't kidding."
  328.  
  329. "Chichi, dear?" Mangle adds, eyes wide. "Is there any, um, juice in the refrigerator? Lemonade, or -- or such?"
  330.  
  331. "I think so," Chichi replies, rubbing Beanie's trembling shoulders. "You're welcome to go help yourself."
  332.  
  333. Mangle nods, briskly shuffling towards the kitchen. Chiclet walks over to you and leans down until she's at your eye level. Ordinarily you wouldn't take much offense -- you can't help being shorter than her -- but right now, it feels almost condescending, like you're a toddler getting a stern talking-to from mommy.
  334.  
  335. "Mike, I promise I'll explain everything to you later, but right now we need to get your things and get you home, okay?" she whispers.
  336.  
  337. "No! You should be more worried about them than me," you reply frustratedly, pulling away from her. "I knocked Chichi over earlier. She clonked her head on the coffee table because I was sleepwalking -- or sleeprunning, I guess. Whatever."
  338.  
  339. "Let's just go," Chiclet pleads. "Goldie's a -- taboo subject. We'll fill you in when we're home, but now's not the time."
  340.  
  341. Before you can make your case, Mangle hastily returns to the common area, toting a glass filled with fruit juice in both paws. "Here you go, Mike."
  342.  
  343. "I'm not really thirsty," you brusquely reply. "Thanks, though."
  344.  
  345. "I insist, sweetie," Mangle says, a tight-lipped smile in place. "Trust me, you'll feel better."
  346.  
  347. You're already prepping a firmer refusal when realization dawns on you. You've seen this before -- right after you first moved in a couple of weeks ago -- Bonnibel's panic attack when you asked her to go out with you and Chiclet that day. Angrily, you look up at both of them, hurt that they'd even think you're in the same category as her. You've just been through a traumatic experience, sure, but it's not like you're not mentally unstable.
  348.  
  349. There's a difference.
  350.  
  351. From the expressions on their faces, it's obvious both Chiclet and Mangle "know that you know". For his part, Frederick has already quietly gathered your bags from the office and is waiting patiently by the front door, arms folded neatly over his silk pajama shirt.
  352.  
  353. "Unbelievable," you snarl, indignant as you turn to survey the room. You're aware of your cheeks flushing, no doubt beet red with humiliation. "You think I'm crazy."
  354.  
  355. "N-nobody said that," Mangle chuckles a little shakily, forcing an increasingly strained smile. "Nobody said that at all. Right, Chica?"
  356.  
  357. "Oh, uh, absolutely," Chiclet nervously agrees with none of her trademark aplomb.
  358.  
  359. Shaking your head, you're practically mad enough to spit fire. "No. Y'know what? No, I'm gonna -- we're gonna settle this. I'm gonna go get him right now."
  360.  
  361. "Mike, that is a monumentally bad idea," Chiclet insists forcefully, moving in front of you. Mangle tries to grab your shoulder, but you wrench yourself away from both of them. Storming down the hall, you walk right up to Goldie's bedroom door. Chiclet and Mangle follow you along with a very plain-faced Fred; the others merely observe from the common area with the exception of Beanie who's more or less checked out.
  362.  
  363. "Let's just ask him ourselves, huh?" you whoop, banging twice at Goldie's door before gripping the handle. Without even waiting for him to answer, you throw his bedroom door open with a flourish. "What do you say, Goldie?!"
  364.  
  365. Chiclet presses a wing to her face while Mangle cringes. Fred very quietly stands off to the side, head lowered.
  366.  
  367.  
  368. Goldie Fazbear's "room" is a linen closet with little more than a few towels and some cleaning supplies.
  369.  
  370.  
  371. It's like something out of a dream -- no, even worse, it doesn't feel like a dream at all. This is really happening, here and now.
  372.  
  373. "No," you murmur, looking around the hallway as if you somehow opened the wrong door. "No, no -- I saw him go in here. This has got to be a mistake."
  374.  
  375. "Mike, we need to leave now," Chiclet says sternly, and it's obvious from her tone she means it. "Mr. Fazbear, I can't even begin to apologize enough. I had no idea he was going to be this much trouble for you guys."
  376.  
  377. "It's alright, Ms. Chiclet," Fred serenely replies.
  378.  
  379. "This isn't -- no, this isn't right," you laugh, slamming your fist against the wall. You're practically boring holes into the closet with your eyes as if that'll conjure the dandelion bear up all the faster. "Joke's over, Goldie! Get your ass out here! Don't you -- d-don't you hang me out to dry like this!"
  380.  
  381. "Darling, PLEASE!" Mangle protests, clearly embarrassed.
  382.  
  383. For once you're not in danger -- no robots real or perceived are trying to kill you, you're not staring down angry foxes or terrible bears, and yet -- this may somehow be the worst thing to happen to you all day. Perhaps even in your lifetime.
  384.  
  385. Chiclet and Mangle forcibly drag you away from the closet and down the hall as you begin to kick and shake.
  386.  
  387. "Freddy?!" Chiclet calls out as you struggle against them. "Could really use a hand here!"
  388.  
  389. Digging your feet into the carpet, you viciously glare at the closet door. You feel like you've been betrayed -- by yourself, if nothing else.
  390.  
  391. "I'm not crazy! I saw him! I'll draw you a PICTURE if I have to!"
  392.  
  393. Frederick swoops in, effortlessly pulling you off of your feet. Mangle motions to your ribcage, mimicking a pained expression. Frederick immediately catches the meaning, taking care as he pulls you close to his chest.
  394.  
  395. "I'm NOT! I'M NOT CRAZY!!" you shout at the top of your lungs, struggling and kicking against his impossible strength. You swear and thrash, but Frederick simply holds you down in place as he's likely done for Bonnibel countless times before.
  396.  
  397. Exactly like Bonnibel.
  398.  
  399. The very same Bonnibel, in fact, who assessed you as "broken". It makes too much sense now -- she could recognize it in you because she sees it every day in herself.
  400.  
  401. Confirmation of what you've been denying all this time finally knocks the last bit of wind out of your sails, and halfway through fighting against Frederick you simply collapse in his arms. Your voice gives out before you can launch into another anguished tirade.
  402.  
  403. Your vision's already beginning to blur, but the looks on the faces of every single person present will stay with you to the day you die. What bothers you most is that they're not mocking or judgmental -- you'd be able to handle it better if they were. They're not even overly sympathetic, nor are they condescending. No, their expressions are ones of understanding, and that's what really twists the knife in your heart. They simply know.
  404.  
  405. Perhaps they knew all along.
  406.  
  407. "Michael," Mangle coos softly as Frederick gently releases you, satisfied that you're no longer going to be a problem. You flop onto your knees, unable to make eye contact with anyone. "Why don't you have something to drink now, dear?"
  408.  
  409. You look at the glass of fruit juice being offered to you. At some point, Mangle even went and got a green paper umbrella, no doubt from Chichi's stash in the kitchen. It's holding a pair of orange slices together, floating next to a few ice cubes.
  410.  
  411. "See?" Mangle says gently, stroking the back of your head with a tender paw. "It's got one of those funny little umbrellas, you know?"
  412.  
  413. "I love those little drink decorations," Chiclet agrees, acting as if nothing's happened in spite of the blatant evidence otherwise. "I always get one whenever I'm at the bar."
  414.  
  415. You know what they're doing. It's your own trick you used the morning of Bonnibel's freakout. Your wounded ego wants to argue against it, to lash out at them for trying to turn your own game on you.
  416.  
  417. Settling into a familiar pattern, Mangle presses on. "Oh, and you have to have an olive, too -- it's just not a mixed drink without one. Say, what do you like in your drinks, Rackham?"
  418.  
  419. "W-well, I'm pretty partial to the pirate swords, obviously," Rackham replies, catching onto the ruse. "I'll ask the guy behind the counter for two and sometimes I'll have a 'sword fight' with a friend. Of course, I always win."
  420.  
  421. You wordlessly take the glass from Mangle. It's an obvious attempt at getting medication down you -- medication you know you don't need. But then again, you've been wrong on just about everything else by now. At this point you're hardly any judge of what's best for you.
  422.  
  423. With a sigh, you tip the glass back, letting the cold juice wash the last ashes of your pride away.
  424.  
  425.  
  426. Bottoms up.
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