pokemaniacal

Roommates - Ch. 31 (Spiraling)

Jun 28th, 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. 31 (Spiraling): http://i.imgur.com/T2gFr04.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. Dr. Rabbinson, or Carrol as she insists on being called, turns out to be completely different from any mental image you could have possibly had in mind. Even though she's shorter than both of her children, and her fur is as white as the driven snow, there's still a hint of family resemblance. Carrol is as fastidious and detail-oriented as Bonworth is, and you can definitely see where Beanie inherited her dry personality (and her cup size) from.
  13.  
  14. "As best as I can tell, Cheeky, his ribs are at least bruised. Maybe a couple of mild fractures," Carrol remarks, pulling her stethoscope from her ears.
  15.  
  16. You, Cheeky, and Carrol are gathered in the master bedroom -- Fred's own room -- due to its large size and isolation from the rest of the apartment. Cheeky's seated next to you on the bed for both moral support and your own personal comfort; even though Carrol offered to examine your wounds privately, you insisted on having someone else in the room with you at all times.
  17.  
  18. Chichi and the others are in the kitchen preparing dinner while Beanie rests outside in the living room, having seen her mother ahead of you. According to Carrol, Beanie came out of your mutual encounter at Jeremy's in better physical condition than you did, the most serious injuries she sustained being a sprained wrist and a black eye.
  19.  
  20. Of course, the damage to both her psyche and your own remains to be seen.
  21.  
  22. "What all are we looking at, then?" Cheeky asks as Dr. Rabbinson finishes re-bandaging your leg. "Any possibility it's more serious than a fracture?"
  23.  
  24. "I don't think so. He's in pain, but it's not excruciating and he can take deep breaths without much trouble, both of which are good signs. Of course, with my limited tools, that's about the best I can tell you short of me taking him downtown and running x-rays." You open your mouth to protest, but she raises a gloved paw to silence you before you can say anything. "And yes, he's made it abundantly clear how he feels about THAT particular plan. Just from a cursory inspection, I can't find anything else wrong with him apart from the leg."
  25.  
  26. Patting your thigh in an attempt to calm you down, Cheeky turns her attention back to Carrol. "Will he need stitches?"
  27.  
  28. "No, the laceration isn't deep at all. Just keep the wound clean so that it doesn't get infected, and it'll be fine -- whoever wrapped this before I got here did a really good job." Standing up, Carrol discards her rubber gloves in Fred's wastebasket. "Michael? Or do you prefer Mike?"
  29.  
  30. "Just Mike's fine," you murmur, reluctantly forcing yourself to divert your gaze from the dark spot on the carpet you've been fixated on for the last several minutes.
  31.  
  32. "Alright, Mike. You don't have to get into graphic detail if you don't want to," Carrol says softly. "But if you think you're up to it, can you at least go over the basics of what happened today? Bonita's not saying anything, and I need to know what I'm dealing with when I get her home."
  33.  
  34. You give her a shaky nod as Carrol begins returning her medical supplies to her bag. "Take it from me, Mike. I know you're kind of rattled after today, but talking about it will prevent you from going into shock -- even if it's the very last thing you feel like doing."
  35.  
  36. "I think he's already past that point," Cheeky sighs from beside you on the bed. "He hasn't left my side once since he woke up this evening."
  37.  
  38. You take a deep breath before looking up at both of them. "You don't have to talk about me like I'm not here, you know," you rasp, struggling to smile.
  39.  
  40. Cheeky gives you a strained grin of her own, clearly trying her hardest to encourage you without being smothering. "Look at you, gettin' all snarky. There's the Mike we know."
  41.  
  42. "If his sense of sarcasm's still intact, he'll be fine," Carrol teasingly chimes in.
  43.  
  44. You take a second to massage your temples. Reluctantly, you dredge the day's events back to the forefront of your mind even though you'd much rather leave them buried.
  45.  
  46. "This, ah, this morning -- I guess it was about six, seven AM?" you begin, looking at Cheeky for confirmation. She nods.
  47.  
  48. "Close enough."
  49.  
  50. "Right, um -- Beanie didn't call to check in with Bonworth after work, and apparently that's something she always does. Jeremy's was closed, and I guess nobody was there to turn the robots off or whatever? Cheeky's probably got a better idea of how all of that works than I do."
  51.  
  52. Bobbing her head, Cheeky counts off on her wingertips. "Protocol is that the morning maintenance crew shows up at six sharp to disable them, but since the store was closed for remodeling, the animatronics stayed in free-roam mode."
  53.  
  54. "That sounds about right," you agree, thinking back to Fritzine's words when you were in-character as Safety Schmidt. "Um, so we drove over to check on Beanie, but the building was locked, and we didn't have the key so I had to climb in through an air duct. That's how I, uh, sliced my leg -- the vent gave out on me once I was inside the building."
  55.  
  56. Eyebrows raised, Carrol nods. "I see. That explains the unusual pattern of the cut."
  57.  
  58. "Once I got inside, Cheeky and Faz gave me instructions on where to look for Beanie. I found her in Bot Bay--"
  59.  
  60. "Bot Bay?" Carrol interrupts.
  61.  
  62. "I think it's supposed to be an attraction, but really it's just a horrible back room workshop where one of the animatronics does 'experiments'," you answer, trying to force the image of Fritzine's collection of confiscated "parts" out of your mind. "On, uh, live subjects. Like us."
  63.  
  64. "I'm familiar with the type," Carrol replies with a heavy sigh. "Wish I wasn't. I'm willing to bet you feel the same."
  65.  
  66. "Beanie was, um -- she was tied up with electrical tape," you continue, hurrying along through your recounting of the events. The less you have to dwell on it, the easier it'll be to put everything behind you. "We tried to book it out of there, but one of the animatronics, Fritzine, she -- she just showed up out of nowhere. I tried to, uh, 'disable' her. Didn't work, but then she got all excited and gave me a 'hug'."
  67.  
  68. Wincing out of sympathy, Cheeky pipes up again. "And THAT explains the ribs. I guess she thought you were one of the other mascots."
  69.  
  70. "I can see how that would happen," Carrol muses. "Between your 'unique look' and their long-running history of mechanical failure, it's actually quite believable that they would identify you as one of their own."
  71.  
  72. "Easily. No offense, Mike, but you even look like a human, too," Cheeky sheepishly adds. Your heart skips two full beats as she slaps a verbal red flag over what you've been trying to play low; eyeing Carrol nervously, you try to gauge her reaction but fortunately she doesn't seem to have put two and two together. "Besides that, their facial scanning system was buggy as hell when it was new. I can't imagine they've made many improvements to it in the time I've been gone."
  73.  
  74. "And there's also no telling what kind of condition they've been kept in since my son and Cheeky stopped working there," Carrol says as she stands up on the tips of her toes, reaching up high to ruffle Cheeky's head feathers. "I'm pretty good at fixing people up, but this gal here's the best robot doctor in the business."
  75.  
  76. "Awww! Thanks, doc," Cheeky says, tearing up a little. She presses her free wing to her face, dabbing at her runny makeup. "Dr. Rabbinson's been looking out for all of us for years, Mike. Y'know, she pulled all kinds of strings so that I could see the best oncologist in the state."
  77.  
  78. You're exceedingly grateful for the focus to be off of you for the moment. "That's really cool, Cheeky," you breathe, wincing as you tug your shirt back on over your head.
  79.  
  80. "Speaking of which," Carrol interrupts, gently tapping Cheeky's belly. "Any...?"
  81.  
  82. "Still NED as of the first of this month," Cheeky proudly replies. "Just a few aches and pains here and there, but otherwise I've been very lucky."
  83.  
  84. "Good. Stay that way; my son would be lost without you."
  85.  
  86. "He's not the only one," you admit, causing Cheeky to blush a little. "Um, what is, uh -- what does NED...?"
  87.  
  88. "No Evidence of Disease," both of them say in unison. "So remission, basically," Carrol helpfully adds.
  89.  
  90. You carefully slide off the bed, taking special care as you put weight on your leg. "That's awesome. I'm legit happy for you."
  91.  
  92. Raising a paw, Carrol attempts to steer the conversation back on course. "So I have to know, how the hell did you get out of there with Bonita? Did you just grab her and run, or...?"
  93.  
  94. You don't reply immediately, instead taking a moment to catch your breath and gather your thoughts. Less really is more; it's not to your advantage to go too much into detail on your escape, especially the part about impersonating a humanlike robot. You really don't want to draw any unwanted attention to yourself -- not just because of the nature of your species, but also because you really, REALLY need some down time right now just to decompress and clear your head.
  95.  
  96. A knock at Fred's bedroom door serves as a perfectly-timed distraction, saving you from having to answer Carrol's line of inquiry.
  97.  
  98. "Dinner's ready, everyone," Chichi calls from outside, coming to your rescue.
  99.  
  100. "Thank you, Chica," Carrol cordially responds, refusing to break eye contact with you. "We'll be there in a moment." It's obvious she still wants more information, but she backs off for now, seemingly having recognized your discomfort.
  101.  
  102. "Mike, believe me, if there's anyone who understands what you're going through, I do." You genuinely doubt that.
  103.  
  104. Cheeky pats your shoulder. "Likewise. Every single one of us has taken our turn at the grinder at some point."
  105.  
  106. "As long as there isn't anything too pressing I need to know about Bonita, why don't you just take the night and rest? Doctor's orders." Carrol presses both fingertips to her cheeks, turning them up in a smile.
  107.  
  108. "Sounds good," you agree, thankful for the reprieve. "It's been a very long, very, uh -- rough couple of days. So I just need to take it easy because of the -- um, the fractures...?"
  109.  
  110. "And in case there's any lasting effects, I'll kill you," she remarks flippantly. "Painfully."
  111.  
  112. Your jaw drops. "S-sorry?" You shoot Cheeky a worried look, but she doesn't seem the least bit fazed at all as she holds the door open for you.
  113.  
  114. "I said, 'in case of any lasting effects I'll get you some painkillers'," Carrol repeats, cocking her head at you quizzically. "Don't look so surprised -- that's literally my job description. Unless you're worried about money, in which case don't be. I'll take care of it."
  115.  
  116. You exhale the breath you've been holding as your heart rate begins to slow back down. "O-oh, right. Um, th-- thank you."
  117.  
  118. "It's the least I can do. The pills will help dull the pain so you'll be able to sleep and breathe easily -- and more importantly, so you don't get pneumonia. If you just take it easy, your ribs will heal themselves on their own in a month or two. I'll swing by to check on you weekly, or more often if need be."
  119.  
  120. "Wow. Okay, thank you very much," you reply as you practically sprint towards the door, ready for this conversation to be over. "I hope you guys don't mind, but I'm just going to go, y'know, take a breather? I-if that's alright?"
  121.  
  122. "Absolutely. Oh, and Mike?" Carrol adds, placing a firm paw on your shoulder.
  123.  
  124. You pause mid-stride, grudgingly turning back to look at her. "What?" you ask. "What is it?"
  125.  
  126. "These words don't feel like they have any meaning no matter how I express them, but please, please believe me when I say this," she whispers, tearing up. You can barely make out her whisper-quiet voice over the din outside Fred's room. "They might be all grown up, but our kids mean everything to me and my husband. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for bringing my daughter home safely."
  127.  
  128. A wave of mixed emotions washes over you. All at once you want to hug her and tell her you're just happy to help, but at the same time you've got the sudden urge to berate her for such gross parental negligence. You resist the temptation to scream at her, to shake her like a ragdoll for allowing her children to throw themselves into the maw of death for minimum wage.
  129.  
  130. Instead you end up settling on a wan smile and an unenthusiastic nod. Satisfied, Carrol follows you and Cheeky out of Fred's room and out into the apartment's common area where everyone else is eagerly awaiting the news. While Carrol announces your condition to exuberant cheering from most of your friends, you stifle the compulsion to run and hide under a piece of furniture.
  131.  
  132. Just gotta get through the night and this'll all be behind you.
  133.  
  134.  
  135.  
  136. Fred, Carrol, Faz, and Cheeky are gathered around the dining room table, while you're piled in the living room with Beanie, Bonbon, and both Foxys. Bonworth and Chichi are busily serving plates and filling drinks, assuring those concerned that they'll eat soon enough. You suspect that both of them are still too wound up over everything to sit still.
  137.  
  138. The television's blaring some benign comedy movie that nobody's the least bit interested in watching, serving purely to be background noise in an already noisy atmosphere. Haddock and Bonbon are seated on the floor at the coffee table, the latter chattering away in a one-sided conversation with Beanie and Rackham. Considering the unusually large number of houseguests tonight, one could be forgiven for assuming this was a big family gathering for Thanksgiving. Indeed, it's getting to be late into November -- just about that time of year, too.
  139.  
  140. Seems like it wasn't that long ago that you still could remember what your own family looked like.
  141.  
  142. Chichi gently places a tray of food in your lap, jarring you from your thoughts. You look down at it -- hot dogs and fries. You stare at the dinner apathetically; despite having eaten almost nothing all day as well as emptying the contents of your stomach last night, your appetite eludes you.
  143.  
  144. "Thanks, Chichi. Looks good," you manage.
  145.  
  146. "It's no big deal, I just wanted to throw something together quick so we could all eat," Chichi replies quietly, leaning over your shoulder. "What would you like to drink? Cola or root beer?"
  147.  
  148. You turn to answer her, only to be caught off-guard by how sharp her beak is as she's leaning in. Her mandibles gleam like polished blades in the light of the living room chandelier. You haven't really gotten an up-close look before, and it wasn't an issue with the other birds you've grown familiar with; Cheeky's beak is round and dull, and Chiclet doesn't even have one -- but Chichi's glossy, razor-sharp beak looks like it could really do some serious damage.
  149.  
  150. For that matter, don't birds peck out eyes when they're threatened or panicked -- or was that just something Hitchcock came up with?
  151.  
  152. "Uh, Mike?"
  153.  
  154. You jerk back suddenly, realizing you're quivering. "Huh? No, no, -- um, I mean yes. Whatever -- whatever's fine," you sputter dismissively, unable to take your eyes off of her mouth.
  155.  
  156. Chichi nervously looks to Bonworth, who gives her a sympathetic shake of his head; the two of them ultimately decide on root beer for you.
  157.  
  158. You fumble with the tab on your can of soda for the longest time, nervously clawing at it in your shaky hands as if you were trying to pick a lock. Beanie watches you disinterestedly through one half-lidded eye before abruptly getting up in the middle of Bonbon's diatribe, carrying her plate over to one of the dining room chairs, as if she's purposefully avoiding you.
  159.  
  160. You can't say you blame her; right now, you'd avoid yourself if that was somehow possible.
  161.  
  162. "Sooooo, Mike," Bonbon asks from her seat at the floor. "I was talking to Mango about your costume and maybe you could--"
  163.  
  164. Bonworth places a hand on her shoulder. "Now really ain't a good time, Bonbon," he stage-whispers. "Let Mike have some time to himself, okay?"
  165.  
  166. The smaller rabbit's muzzle twitches out of annoyance. "Geez! I'm just trying to take his mind off of--"
  167.  
  168. "Not now," he repeats, a bit more firmly. "Just -- be at peace, alright?"
  169.  
  170. Bonbon glares at him before shoving her food aside in disgust. Slipping out from under Bonworth's grasp, she begins army-crawling under the coffee table to get closer to you.
  171.  
  172. "Damn it, Mike, don't pull a Beanie! Talk to us here!" she exasperatedly demands, springing up from underneath the table to hover directly in front of your face. Gripping both of your shoulders, she pans slowly from your right to your left, scrutinizing your face with her vibrant green eyes. Feeling very thoroughly attacked, you shove her away with a grunt, having had enough scans for one day -- mechanical, organic, or otherwise.
  173.  
  174. Bonworth's on her in seconds. "Heavens! What is the matter with you? Are you tryin' to give him a fit?!" He grabs her by her shirt collar, pulling her off of you. "That's it, you're going over here where the grown-ups can keep an eye on you."
  175.  
  176. "What?! But I am an adult!" she whines as he half-drags her over to the dining room table.
  177.  
  178. "Oh, you're very decidedly not acting like one," Carrol rigidly argues, directing her to sit between Fred and Faz. "Now hush and eat your food, or else I'm going to call your mother."
  179.  
  180. Bonbon slumps dejectedly as her plate is placed in front of her. "You're kidding, Mrs. Rabbinson. A-aren't you?"
  181.  
  182. "You know she's not," Beanie states flatly, pinching off a piece of her hot dog bun.
  183.  
  184. Haddock's long since lost interest in eating his dinner and has now begun to construct what appears to be a boat out of fries. He systematically dunks each of his fries in ketchup one at a time, using the condiment as a mortar for his project. Eventually, Haddock runs out of ketchup before he runs out of fries, so he goes for another bottle to top up his makeshift glue. As he grapples with the glass bottle, it's clearly taking too long to pour for his liking so he begins to bang on the bottle's side with his hook while staring at the mouth from below.
  185.  
  186. After the third or fourth tap, the inevitable happens; ketchup erupts from the bottle at once like an upside-down tomato sauce volcano, drenching Haddock.
  187.  
  188. "He's at it again," Rackham groans, rolling his eye at the display as he gets up from the couch. "Hang on, I'll go get a towel."
  189.  
  190. "Nah, I got it. You okay, Haddock?" you venture nervously, pulling your napkin from your lap to help clean him up. Hearing his name, Haddock whips his head back to look at you, his muzzle splitting into a manic ear-to-ear grin. With a throaty cackle, he stands up and begins shambling towards you.
  191.  
  192. "Soorrrry, l-la-laaad-ad," he warbles, almost musically. Crimson fluid drips off of his face and paw, dribbling onto the carpet with each faltering step. His glazed, glassy eyes are focused in two different directions as he lurches forward to snatch the proffered cloth from your hand with his bloody hook. "A-a-a-prr-ppreciate iiiit."
  193.  
  194. You set your untouched plate on the coffee table as he obliviously dabs the stains from his mouth with your napkin. Food no longer holds any appeal to you at all.
  195.  
  196.  
  197.  
  198. "Thank you for the lovely dinner, Chica," Carrol says. "Are you sure you don't want any help cleaning up?"
  199.  
  200. "I'm positive, doctor," Chichi replies with a tired smile as she and Fred begin gathering up the dinner dishes. "When is Mr. Rabbinson supposed to come pick you up?"
  201.  
  202. Reaching into the pocket of her skirt, Carrol checks the time on her smartphone. "Looks like I have a text from him; he finished up at the radio station a little while ago so he's on his way here now. Shouldn't be but a few minutes."
  203.  
  204. As Beanie gets up from her chair to carry her plate off to the kitchen, she's stopped by both Bonworth and Carrol.
  205.  
  206. "Hey now, you're not going anywhere, lil bunny," Bonworth chuckles as he fences her in. "Let mama and I fend for you tonight."
  207.  
  208. "I'm fine, Bonworth," Beanie irritably replies. "Look, it's over. I don't want to talk about it. I don't need you pampering me, I just want to get back to standard operating procedure; or at least whatever passes for it around here, anyway."
  209.  
  210. "Bonita, you're going home with us tonight and that's final," Carrol says firmly, looking up at Beanie as if daring her to be defiant. "Now that we're done with dinner, you and I are going to go into your room and pack up everything you'll need for at least a week's stay, maybe longer. Clothes, medication, the whole lot. I'm not letting you out of my sight for--"
  211.  
  212. "Mom," Beanie interrupts, ice in her tone. "I'm staying here, and THAT'S final."
  213.  
  214. "Absolutely not." Carrol gently takes her daughter's hand in a move that's clearly intended to look authoritative, but with her height disadvantage, it looks more like parent and child have swapped roles. "You need to be at home, with family, so that we can protect you."
  215.  
  216. Beanie slams her foot against the floor, sending Haddock scurrying and causing Chichi to jump backwards in alarm.
  217.  
  218. "This IS my home! This IS my family!" Beanie shrieks. "YOU weren't anywhere to be found this morning while my ass was being dragged off to the -- the TORTURE chamber!!"
  219.  
  220. "Because I was at work, saving lives! Besides, nobody ever forced you to work there; your father and I make plenty of money to support you!"
  221.  
  222. Beanie flinches but quickly recovers. "I already quit the damn job, mom! What more do you want from me?!"
  223.  
  224. "There's no reason for you or your brother to have ever worked at that hellhole of a restaurant in the first place, though! Was him losing his legs not enough for you?!" Carrol thrusts her paws in the air as if she's trying to appeal to the heavens themselves. "I'm just struggling to figure out what your thought process was this entire time!"
  225.  
  226. "Mama, please," Bonworth desperately pleads, nervously fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. Beanie's good eye widens as she foists her plate into Chichi's trembling wings.
  227.  
  228. "You REALLY want to know what I think?!" Beanie's shaking with rage as she draws an infuriated, ragged breath. Her muzzle flares as she leans down into her mother's face, and you and everyone else can see that what she's about to say is going to be impossible to take back as soon as it's out of her mouth.
  229.  
  230. After all, you've had firsthand experience in that department recently.
  231.  
  232. "Whoa, whoa! Time out, everybody," Bonbon yelps, hopping to her feet and leaping between them like she's taking a bullet. "Beanie, you're mad, you're upset. That's fine, of course you are! Who wouldn't be? But let's just all take a chill pill, okay?"
  233.  
  234. Carrol's tensed shoulders slump visibly and she sighs, ears folding back against her fluffy white head.
  235.  
  236. "You too, doc," Bonbon adds. "We're all a little tired and a lot emotional, so how about we all just calm down before someone says something they don't mean. And c'mon, after everything we've all been through? Beanie's as much our family as she is yours! She's like the little sister I never had!"
  237.  
  238. The blue bunny is beaming with an earnest smile; for having been treated so childishly just moments ago, it's strange to see her playing the adult in this conflict.
  239.  
  240. "But you're younger than me," Beanie blinks, successfully distracted.
  241.  
  242. "By what, like two months?" Giggling to herself, Bonbon intentionally shrugs dismissively. "No need to split hairs."
  243.  
  244. Turning back to Carrol, Beanie forces herself to calm down. "She's got a point, mom. If these guys hadn't been there for me -- if Mike hadn't risked his life for me -- we wouldn't be having this conversation. Everything leading up to it is irrelevant." She gestures to the apartment in a sweeping motion. "My stuff is here, my friends are here. I'd feel a lot more comfortable and safe sleeping in my own house than in a bedroom I haven't stayed in since I moved out."
  245.  
  246. Brushing past Bonbon, Beanie tearfully wraps her arms around her mother's petite, trembling form. "I love you, mom, and I always will. But despite what you, or, or what Bonworth thinks? I'm not a 'lil bunny' anymore; I'm a big rabbit now. If you and daddy want to stay here for the night, that's fine; you guys can sleep in my room and I'll crash on the couch or something. But I'm staying here."
  247.  
  248. "Bonnie, you're more than welcome to sleep with me in my room," Chichi adds.
  249.  
  250. Taking a deep breath, Carrol seems to gather her thoughts for a moment before finally admitting defeat. "No, that's -- that'll be alright. I, I'll respect your wishes."
  251.  
  252. Pulling Carrol into her embrace, Beanie squeezes her tightly. Mother and daughter hold each other in silence as Carrol quietly expends her stress and grief into her daughter's chest. For her own part, Beanie manages to keep it mostly together until Bonworth joins in, but soon all three of them are overrun with emotion. Out of respect, the others begin to busy themselves with gathering dishes and cleaning the table to give the Rabbinson family a moment to work through their feelings.
  253.  
  254. "And they said I wasn't capable of being an adult," Bonbon giggles as she retreats to observe them from a safe distance next to you. In spite of everything that's happened today, you indulge in a cathartic chuckle with her.
  255.  
  256. "Nice work defusing that one," you offer as she stoops to gather the dishes piled up on the coffee table.
  257.  
  258. "Thanks! I'm going to go help clean up real quick," she says before picking up your own plate. "Geez, Mike, you didn't eat anything at all."
  259.  
  260. Looking down at the untouched hot dogs, you give her a grudging nod. "Yeah, I -- I don't know what's wrong with me today. Earlier I was hungry when I got up from my nap, but it passed really quickly. Sorry."
  261.  
  262. Bonbon shakes her head, stacking the plates to make them easier to carry. "No need to apologize," she says with a smile as she trots toward the kitchen.
  263.  
  264. A cold hand presses against your shoulder. Before you can see who it is, an electronic voice buzzes dully in your ear.
  265.  
  266. "Hello, Mike."
  267.  
  268. Chills run down your spine; the noise in the room grinds to a halt. Bonbon mindlessly continues on her path to the kitchen, completely unaware of your plight. Somehow, Jeremy Human or one of his cronies has followed you home to finish the job. Your wobbly legs nearly give way as you're slowly spun in place, fear shaking you to your core. This is it, this is how you die -- in the arms of a giant bear looking at you with visible concern on his tattered face.
  269.  
  270. "Nice work today," Faz says approvingly, one finger still on his voicebox control.
  271.  
  272. "Th-thanks," you manage as a wave of relief crashes over you. "Man, you gave me a fright." You try to laugh it off, but instead your voice comes out sounding like a strangled squeak.
  273.  
  274. Strangely, Faz seems to completely understand. "Better?" he asks using his real voice; without the electrolarynx it doesn't carry far, but the room's quiet enough with everyone distracted that you can hear him.
  275.  
  276. "Much," you admit, shame and embarassment thick in your tone. "I'm sorry, Faz. I heard your speaker and I just -- I didn't mean to--"
  277.  
  278. "Don't," he says empathetically, lowering his weighty paw from your shoulder. "There's a reason I don't use it much."
  279.  
  280. With nothing else to say, you simply nod appreciatively as you sit back down. Faz graciously steps away to give you space, making a show of checking up on Haddock.
  281.  
  282.  
  283.  
  284. It's not until the dining room and kitchen are cleaned that the hug party finally disbands. Running contrary to Cheeky's earlier prediction, Carrol very reluctantly leaves both of her children in the care of their respective households, but not before giving Beanie a laundry list of "doctor's orders" and making everyone present promise to call if anything happens. Bonworth and Bonbon use Carrol's departure as their own excuse to leave for the night, collecting Faz and a dozing, ketchup-stained Haddock on their way out.
  285.  
  286. "You coming, Chica?" Bonworth asks halfway out the door.
  287.  
  288. "I'll be along later," she replies, side-eyeing you. "I'll stick it out here and keep an eye on things for a while. You don't mind, do you, Mike?"
  289.  
  290. You give her a gentle shake of your head in reply as you force yourself to unwind.
  291.  
  292. "Good, because I was gonna sit here even if you did raise a protest." She snuggles up next to you on the couch, enveloping you once more in a warm, comforting wing.
  293.  
  294. "Certainly glad to know I had a choice," you weakly joke.
  295.  
  296. Puffing up her chest, she kicks her feet up on the coffee table much to Fred's bemusement. "Tough love, Mikey."
  297.  
  298. Trotting over with a blanket in tow, Beanie plops down at Cheeky's other side. "Sign me up for some of that tough love too, then. Sorry, Foxy, but you're sitting on the floor next to Chica. Hopefully you're not too put out."
  299.  
  300. "Y'know what? I'll live," Rackham coyly responds as he curls up beside Chichi's blanket nest, fighting to hide his grin. The smaller of the two chickens gives him an apologetic smile, heedless of the fact that he couldn't be happier as he lays his head on her lap.
  301.  
  302. "Awww, I wish I had my camera right now!" Bonbon lets out a frustrated moan, bouncing in place behind Bonworth. "Everyone looks so cute together!"
  303.  
  304. "Yep, sure is a comfy lookin' scene. Puts my own mind at ease, anyhow," Bonworth concurs. "Well, g'night everyone! See you first thing tomorrow mornin', lil-- sorry, BIG bunny."
  305.  
  306. "Night, Bonworth." Beanie's already half-asleep, a smile playing at her mouth as she nestles into Cheeky's soft feathers for a much-earned nap.
  307.  
  308. Once he's seen everyone out, Fred takes a seat in his easy chair. He surveys the living room with an approving gaze as he turns the television set on.
  309.  
  310. "Any preference as to what we watch?" he asks cordially. You're mildly taken aback by how pleasant he's being, but it's certainly a welcome change from his usual gruff demeanor.
  311.  
  312. "How about something lighthearted and calm, Fred?" Cheeky proposes, a wingtip pressed to her chin. "None of that rough-and-tumble stuff, I don't think these two could take it."
  313.  
  314. "Anything with robots or humans and I'm torching the place myself," Beanie mumbles, her voice muffled by a mouthful of feathers.
  315.  
  316. Checking the listings, Fred nods. "History channel coming right up."
  317.  
  318. An hour and a half passes, and Fred's selection of documentaries on Malaysian basket weaving proves to have been too much for Chichi and Rackham, both of whom have long fallen asleep due to boredom. Beanie's conked-out as well, and even Fred himself looks like he's not long for consciousness. Only Cheeky remains fully alert alongside you, watching over you and Beanie like a mother bear defending her cubs -- or a hen defending her nest.
  319.  
  320. For your part, you're still unable to sleep, but at least stimulus has died down enough that you've stopped hallucinating for the moment.
  321.  
  322. Gentle, rhythmic knocking at the front door causes Fred to snap to. "Hmmm? Yes, of course," he says, acting as if he wasn't nodding off. "Nobody move, I'm on it."
  323.  
  324. On the doorstep is a bright-eyed and very familiar white fox bundled up in a floral-pattern kimono.
  325.  
  326. "Foxy!" Mangle says by way of greeting, trotting past Fred and into the room with a wicker basket loaded with lotions, fragrances, towels, and other spa supplies.
  327.  
  328. Opening his eye, Rackham bolts up mid-snore. "Zzznnor-- huh?! Wha -- what?!"
  329.  
  330. "Not you, dear," Mangle whispers upon realizing half the room's asleep, ignoring Rackham and turning to you. "Mr. Fazbear called earlier and informed Chica that you were involved in some unsavory business downtown today. Are you alright?"
  331.  
  332. "I've been better," you mumble, standing up to greet your roommate. Mangle engulfs you in a tight hug, clearly uninformed about your rib damage -- you sharply inhale, but grin and bear it just the same knowing how thin-skinned Mangle can be. "I'll fill you guys in later. How's everything back h-- back at the apartment?"
  333.  
  334. "Oh, fine," Mangle replies cheerfully, brandishing a row of gleaming teeth at your forehead causing you to instinctively pull away. "Bonnie and April are a handful as always, but we're managing."
  335.  
  336. "April?" Fred chimes in curiously. "Would that be the name of the new tenant that put Mike out?"
  337.  
  338. "Inadvertently, but yes," Mangle replies, stopping to shake Fred's paw. "Thank you again for hosting him for us on such short notice, Mr. Fazbear."
  339.  
  340. "Don't worry about it. What brings you by, Foxglove? It's kind of rare to see you out and about."
  341.  
  342. Foxglove?
  343.  
  344. You raise a curious eyebrow at Mangle, who winks at you. "I came to repay a debt I owed dearest Michael here. He's been kind enough to do some modeling for me as well as assist with my mail-order business, so I've come to compensate." Rummaging through the basket, Mangle produces a pumice stone. "Mike dropped by yesterday afternoon at lunchtime to put in a request for a favor."
  345.  
  346. Turning to Cheeky, Mangle pats her head. "I'm told you're a girl in need of a therapeutic massage," Mangle grins. "Is there somewhere private we could tend to your needs?"
  347.  
  348. Cheeky cocks her head at you. "Was this the surprise you had in mind, Mike?"
  349.  
  350. "Hey, you said tired and achy. Don't knock it until you've tried it," you respond. "I got an unexpected massage myself, and after the initial shock wore off, I felt better than I have in years."
  351.  
  352. "I told you, Mike; healing paws," Mangle beams. "I may not look it, Ms. Cheeky, but I'm every bit a licensed massage therapist."
  353.  
  354. "I'll take your word for it," Cheeky admits with a dubious smirk. "I'm afraid tonight's bad timing, though."
  355.  
  356. Mangle's lower lip juts out in frustration. "How disappointing. When would work for you then so I can reschedule?"
  357.  
  358. "Cheeky, go on," you insist, waving her off. "I'm alright, really."
  359.  
  360. Sighing, Cheeky looks you over in dismay. "You know you're not, Mike. It took you an hour just to stop shaking."
  361.  
  362. "He's been shaking?" Mangle gasps. "Wh-what on earth happened today?!"
  363.  
  364. "Jeremy Human happened," Cheeky bluntly answers. Mangle's tail stiffens like it's been pressed flat on an ironing board. Eyes wide, the snow-white fox exhales heavily.
  365.  
  366. "I see."
  367.  
  368. Drawing a deep breath, you nod to Cheeky. "Really, Cheeky, I'd feel better if you let Mangle take care of you. Mangle, Cheeky suffers from some -- uh, nerve damage? So if you could please account for that...?"
  369.  
  370. "Certainly," Mangle purrs. "Come along, honey. I promise you'll feel like a new hatchling when it's all said and done."
  371.  
  372. Torn between not wanting to be rude and being willing to be rude, Cheeky hesitantly decides to disembark for her massage date after a little more prodding from both you and Mangle.
  373.  
  374. "I'll be back later," Cheeky insists as she toddles out behind your fashionista roommate.
  375.  
  376. "No you won't," you snort as you hold the door open for her. "You'll be out like a light, I guarantee it. Go on, Cheeky, you deserve a reprieve too."
  377.  
  378. She exhales heavily through her beak. "Just gotta be the most selfless little shit, don't you. Well, thanks, Mike -- I really do appreciate it."
  379.  
  380. As you let Cheeky and Mangle out, a muted cough draws your attention on your return to the living room; at the end of the west hall near the door to Fred's office stands Goldie. He gives you a polite smile and a wave, signaling to you that he'd like your attention. You turn back to the living room where Chichi, Rackham and Beanie are all still slumbering. Fred nods to you, so with a shrug, you head down the hall to see what Goldie needs.
  381.  
  382. "Hey, Goldie," you reply by way of greeting as you amble into Fred's workspace. "What's up?"
  383.  
  384. "You looked like you could use a reprieve of your own," he replies as he sits down at Fred's desk, a photo in one of his paws.
  385.  
  386. Warily, you take a seat on the futon across from him. "Today's been a long day. For everyone."
  387.  
  388. Goldie replaces the polaroid on the corkboard before turning back to you. "And how about you? How are you feeling?"
  389.  
  390. "Well, the doctor -- uh, Carrol, I guess -- says my ribs are probably fractured. She recommended that I take it easy and she'll get me some painki--"
  391.  
  392. "That's not what I mean," Goldie pointedly interrupts. "You said yourself to Chica that your head's not in a good place right now."
  393.  
  394. "Oh, you overheard that, huh." Chica? You could have sworn you told Cheeky that, not Chichi.
  395.  
  396. Smiling, he clasps his paws carefully as you lean against the futon's backrest. "Carrol's right about one thing; you're going into shock."
  397.  
  398. "Okay, now I know you've been eavesdropping," you grumble, cheeks flushing with embarrassment. "She said that while we were in Fred's room."
  399.  
  400. "I was passing through," Goldie replies innocently. "Besides, the walls are thin. You understand."
  401.  
  402. You let out a heavy sigh. "I guess. To be honest with you, Goldie? Today's the worst I've felt in my entire life."
  403.  
  404. The dandelion-furred bear gives you a thin smile as he leans forward. "I can tell. You're spiraling, Mike."
  405.  
  406. You grimace at his matter-of-fact assessment of your psyche. You're not sure what makes him so qualified to make a snap judgment about someone he barely even knows, but the way he says it -- the way he lays it out so plainly makes him seem almost authoritative.
  407.  
  408. "Is it that obvious?" you ask.
  409.  
  410. "Yes, and it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. You need to get it off your chest before it gets to be too much for you."
  411.  
  412. Closing your eyes, you decide to be honest with him. "You're right. I've been seeing things all day ever since we got home -- little things I haven't noticed that are just, uh, getting to me. I'm like ninety percent sure I'm hallucinating."
  413.  
  414. "Sure," Goldie agrees amiably -- almost too amiably considering the somber tone of your conversation. "You've just had a traumatic ordeal and you're still trying to fit into new surroundings. I understand why you'd feel discomfited."
  415.  
  416. "I take it you've seen your fair share of near-death experiences, then?" you return, sounding more caustic than you intended. If he notices, he pays it no mind.
  417.  
  418. "Tomorrow's another day, Mike," he replies, pushing back from the desk. "Rest up so that you can get on with the mending process."
  419.  
  420. He politely excuses himself from Fred's study, retreating out the eastern doorway. You defiantly follow him out into the hall, watching him retire to his bedroom. He lingers just long enough to give you an affable wave before closing the door to his room behind himself.
  421.  
  422. Truthfully, you're far too high-strung to be tired especially now that Cheeky's gone for the night, but you're also just tormented enough that you should probably heed his advice anyway. Even though you don't feel like it, you decide to return to your futon. Fluffing your pillow, you gently ease down onto your back so that you don't aggravate your injuries until Carrol can get you some painkillers. Might as well get some sleep.
  423.  
  424.  
  425.  
  426. Or not.
  427.  
  428. Hours have passed and while everyone's gone their separate ways for the night (indeed, Cheeky is probably still passed out upstairs after Mangle working that massage magic), you're no closer to sleep now than you were earlier. Your decision not to eat dinner has finally come back to haunt you; your stomach growling in protest of your unintentional hunger strike.
  429.  
  430. Nothing for it -- you've simply got to go hunt down a snack in the kitchen.
  431.  
  432. Checking the clock, it's only a quarter until midnight. You quietly scurry down the hall towards the now-empty common area, taking care to not make too much noise as you move past Goldie's bedroom. It's so dark with all the lights out that you nearly bang your injured leg against the coffee table as you cut across the floor; fortunately you catch yourself just in the nick of time, saving yourself even more undue pain.
  433.  
  434. Chichi's kitchen is well-stocked as always, but you're not in the market for a gourmet meal -- some chips or a piece of fruit will more than meet your needs. Hopefully getting something on your stomach will help you get back to bed; your sleeping schedule's been all but obliterated ever since your first trip out to Jeremy's. Rummaging around in the pantry, you spot a box full of individually packaged cheese crackers. Hoping nobody will miss them, you help yourself to two packages before turning to the refrigerator for something cold to drink.
  435.  
  436. Despite not wanting to gorge yourself, you're unable to resist the call of some delicious-looking applesauce in the middle of the fridge. You pour a generous amount into a bowl before grabbing a glass of cold milk to wash everything down with. Hurriedly carrying your ill-gotten gains back to your room, you click the overhead light on and take your seat at Fred's desk.
  437.  
  438. The ice-cold applesauce and milk are soothing to your raw throat, and while your purloined cheese crackers aren't particularly noteworthy, you're so hungry you'd eat shoe leather if it'd fill you up. Vanquishing your snacks in record time, you contentedly lean back in Fred's desk chair.
  439.  
  440. The sound of softly-whirring machinery catches your ear; Fred's computer idly hums away in front of you. You can't remember the last time you've had a clean shot at browsing the internet or playing a computer game. Maybe you can find something entertaining to tire yourself out with -- surely Rackham has some kind of card game loaded onto this machine considering his poker obsession, right?
  441.  
  442. You feel around on the monitor for the power switch before realizing you just have to shake the mouse to wake it from standby mode. A login screen appears with portrait icons and usernames for each of the apartment's residents: "01_freddyfazbear", "02_bonnie", "03_chica", and "04_foxy". You can't help but wonder if that's representative of the pecking order too.
  443.  
  444. Poor Rackham.
  445.  
  446. All four user accounts are password-protected -- a tiny padlock icon rests over them. You're half-tempted to try guessing their passwords for fun, but knowing how stern and controlling Fred is, you don't want to upset him by accidentally setting off any kind of silent alarm or computer security measure. With a huff you go to shut the monitor off, but as you reach for the switch, the screen scrolls over to the right revealing a familiar face and an equally familiar name.
  447.  
  448. Directly underneath a photograph of you is "05_mikeschmidt" in bold letters.
  449.  
  450. Curiosity ignited, you squint at the screen, rubbing your eyes to make sure you're reading it correctly. Fred must have set you up a user account and just forgot to tell you. Intrigued, you move the mouse over to click on your portrait -- it's not password protected at all, and so the computer logs you in without protest.
  451.  
  452. The display goes dim as the hard drive cranks away -- it's clearly a much older model. You can practically count the individual pixels once it enters desktop mode. A plain sky-blue background greets you, three icons lined up in a uniform column on the upper left of the screen. One's a globe, the second a trash can, and the last an envelope.
  453.  
  454. Simple enough.
  455.  
  456. You click on the globe to load the web browser. After a few seconds, an error screen labeled "Connection not available" pops up. Does this thing really use dial-up? With a grimace, you close the browser to instead search around for some games, but after a few minutes of snooping through the task menu there don't appear to be any pre-loaded. Of course -- whatever game software the machine has would be on the other user accounts, not yours.
  457.  
  458. Frustrated, you sit back in the office chair. No games, no 'net. The trash can doesn't have any files in it, so you click on the envelope out of boredom. Maybe you can at least set up a personal e-mail account for later use in case you need one.
  459.  
  460. The mail program takes half a minute to load before greeting you with a prompt.
  461.  
  462. [Check mail?]
  463.  
  464. Rolling your eyes, you click "Yes" knowing full well that you won't have any since you don't even have an account yet. To your surprise, however, one brand new message appears in your inbox. You blink for a second, not fully believing its existence -- Fred really went the extra mile. With a shrug, you skim the subject line. It's probably spam anyway.
  465.  
  466.  
  467. To: Mike Schmidt
  468. Re: Employment Opportunity
  469. From: Fazbear Entertainment
  470. Date: 11-07-XX
  471.  
  472.  
  473. "Employment?" you mutter, eyes lighting up as you read the sender's name -- it's Fred, apparently. Or rather, "Fazbear Entertainment"? His last name IS Fazbear, though.
  474.  
  475. Is he trying to get you a job?
  476.  
  477. "Hopefully not at Jeremy's," you shiver as you cautiously open the message.
  478.  
  479.  
  480. Mr. Mike Schmidt,
  481.  
  482. Thank you for your interest in Freddy Fazbear's Pizza, a Fazbear Entertainment-owned and operated subsidiary.
  483. We've received your application and are able to inform you we have an opening available.
  484. We believe this opportunity would be a perfect match given your skillset of: [NONE]
  485.  
  486.  
  487. You narrow your eyes. "Asshole," you mutter. And here you were starting to think you were getting along with him. If this is a joke, it's a cruel one.
  488.  
  489.  
  490. Effective midnight tonight, you will be installed in the role of: [NIGHT SECURITY DETAIL]
  491. Your non-negotiable salary will be: [$120.00] per week, made payable via cashier's check.
  492.  
  493. Your effective start date is: [TONIGHT] at [MIDNIGHT] hours and [RIGHT NOW] minutes.
  494. Please dress appropriately. On-site training will be available either in-person or via pre-recorded phone message.
  495. (Whichever is more cost-effective.)
  496.  
  497. There is no need to reply to this automated message.
  498.  
  499. Remember to smile,
  500. Freddy Fazbear's Pizza, LLC
  501. A Fazbear Entertainment Subsidiary
  502.  
  503.  
  504. You lean back in your chair. "Freddy Fazbear's Pizza?" you wonder aloud. "Is he doing some kind of like, startup business?" The date on the e-mail has already come and gone -- in fact, it seems to have been sent before you ever even arrived at this apartment. How would Fred have known about you?
  505.  
  506. As you're mulling it over, the grandfather clock out in the west hallway begins to chime; you'd recognize the infamous Westminster Quarters anywhere. Without warning, the computer screen flickers and wavers as if the monitor has been degaussed. After the picture resets, you're greeted with a simple black screen featuring a power meter bar in the lower left corner and a grid-styled map layout in the right.
  507.  
  508. "No," you mumble in consternation. "No, no -- I know this. What is -- what is this?" You reach up to run your hands through your hairline, only for your fingers to bump into something foreign. Taking a hold of the object, you realize you've been wearing a hat this entire time. Yanking it off your skull, you examine it under the dingy overhead bulb. It's a peaked cap like the kind a police officer might wear, only dark green in color, with the word "SECURITY" embroidered across its front.
  509.  
  510. "What the shit," you breathe before realization strikes you. "No, no!" You hurl it away from yourself as if you've just been bitten by a snake. "No, this isn't right! What's -- what the hell's going on?!"
  511.  
  512. You're no longer in Fred's familiar study, but rather a cold, drab office. The carpet's gone, replaced with a checkerboard-pattern tiled floor. Fred's desk is no longer present; in its place is an oily black table covered in cobwebs and disused CCTV monitors. The corkboard photo collection is mysteriously absent, swapped out for a collage of faded coloring-book pages and childish stick-figure drawings. If you didn't know better, you'd assume Haddock and Bonnibel had a field day with a box of crayons.
  513.  
  514. "Where am I?" you call out into the void, standing up from your office chair.
  515.  
  516. As if in answer to your question, the desk phone lights up. Turning to look at it, you hesitate to pick up the handset. After just two and a half rings, however, it decides you don't get a say in the matter, answering itself instead. A familiar, pleasant voice with an inoffensive midwestern accent comes on over the speakerphone option.
  517.  
  518.  
  519. "Hello? Hello? Uh, I wanted to record a message for you--"
  520.  
  521.  
  522. You waste no time in ripping the phone off of the desk, hurling it out of the office. It disintegrates on impact with the east hallway wall, shattering into thousands of fragments across the black-and-white tile.
  523.  
  524. "No," you insist firmly, clutching your achy ribs as you collapse in the desk chair. "No, hell no. I'm not playing this game. Never again."
  525.  
  526.  
  527. A dark, haunting laugh echoes out through the pizzeria in response. "You know that counts as destruction of company property, don't you, Mr. Schmidt?"
  528.  
  529.  
  530. Your heart's in your throat as you white-knuckle the table. Looking out the east-side doorway, you catch sight of a pair of glowing white eyes observing you from the darkness.
  531.  
  532.  
  533. "That'll be coming out of your livelihood, one way or another."
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