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Roommates - Ch. 42 (Ladies' Night)

Oct 24th, 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. 42 (Ladies' Night): http://i.imgur.com/4xmEkG6.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. "Wow, Foxglove. It's just a simple overlocking seam," Mango condescendingly chides, sipping at her coffee mug with a pompous expression written all over her face. "You HAVE used a serger before, haven't you?"
  13.  
  14. "Oh, many times," Mangle retorts, both eyes narrowed to slits. "Why, I know this is difficult for you to comprehend, but since I'm an adult, I'm allowed to purchase and use my very own equipment. Of course, I'm sure someone such as yourself would be flabbergasted at such a foreign concept when the only experience she's had operating a sewing machine is under strict supervision at the community college."
  15.  
  16. "Then explain to me, oh great fabricmancer, why Mike's arm weapon doesn't properly attach to the sleeve using the measurements YOU gave me?" Mango tilts her head sweetly, paws clasped. "Or is it just that you've never learned HOW to measure since every one of the muumuus in your Itsy store is 'one-size-fits-some'?"
  17.  
  18. "I'm not surprised someone with such atrocious taste in clothing would associate high fashion with a 'muumuu'."
  19.  
  20. "Oh, 'high' fashion? Is it called that because that was what you were when you came up with half of those designs?" Mango heatedly returns.
  21.  
  22. "Well, darling, not all of us can pull off the brilliance of coordinating paisley and GINGHAM!" Mangle screeches, jabbing a finger at Mango's admittedly ugly coat hanging on the rack by the front door.
  23.  
  24. Mango's jaw goes slack all at once, looking up at her taller counterpart like she's just been slapped. "Hey, I happen to get plenty of compliments on my clothes!"
  25.  
  26. "I don't doubt it! I'm certain you're the envy of every picnic table in town!"
  27.  
  28. Raising a handful of popcorn to her mouth, Bonbon excitedly leans closer to the TV, bouncing up and down in her seat.
  29.  
  30. "I LOVE this episode," she grins.
  31.  
  32. "Me too," you and Beanie reply in near-perfect sync as you both continue to spectate the trainwreck that is Mangle 1 and Mangle 2 trying not to kill each other. This is the third or fourth such outburst from them, and your Mangle hasn't even been here for half an hour. Any assumption you might have made about their feud being played up or exaggerated for laughs is completely out of the question now. Watching them interact, it's a wonder one of them hasn't flipped the table by now.
  33.  
  34. Scooting closer to you on the couch, Beanie nudges your side. "So, five bucks on Foxglove?"
  35.  
  36. "That's a sucker's bet," you chortle as she raids your popcorn bowl. "I figure Mangle's gonna lose it any second now and jab Mango with a hatpin if we don't get involved."
  37.  
  38. Chewing thoughtfully on one of the buttery popped kernels, Beanie looks over her shoulder at you.
  39.  
  40. "Hey, Mike," she murmurs, voice lowered.
  41.  
  42. "Yeah?"
  43.  
  44. "Thanks for getting me out of there earlier." Between the bickering vulpines and Legend of Bob on full blast, you have to strain to make her out over the din. "I've actually kind of had fun today."
  45.  
  46. "Hey, no problem." You set the nearly-empty bowl in her lap for her to finish off, wiping the excess butter from your hands onto your jeans. "We both needed a break from, y'know -- all of that."
  47.  
  48. "Yeah. Yeah, absolutely."
  49.  
  50. Turning your attention back to the squabbling duo, you notice Mangle's blush looking several shades redder than usual.
  51.  
  52. "--have the unmitigated gall to dare accuse ME of not understanding basic design sense, when, when -- everything in your closet looks like a TEST PATTERN!"
  53.  
  54. "Function over FORM!" Mango snarls, fangs bared as she shoves the nearly-completed Bobulator aside to glare up into Mangle's face. "At least I fill out everything I wear without needing padding!"
  55.  
  56. Reeling, Mangle gasps loudly and theatrically so as to make sure everyone in the room's heard this accusation. "Pa-- padding! Y-you think I have to, to -- pad my ensembles! Hah!"
  57.  
  58. "Ouch," Beanie mutters sympathetically. "That burn was so bad even I felt it."
  59.  
  60. Puffing up her chest for emphasis, Mango smugly folds her arms. "You deny it, Foxglove?"
  61.  
  62. "Why, I categorically deny it, you, you -- wanton STRUMPET!"
  63.  
  64. "'Strumpet'? Who even TALKS that way?!"
  65.  
  66. "People capable of reading at a higher level than an elementary school student!"
  67.  
  68. At once, both of them lunge for each other across the table, sending sewing notions and costume components scattering in all directions. You choose this moment as your cue to leap into action, hurriedly squeezing between them before they have the chance to destroy weeks of hard work in a fit of rage.
  69.  
  70. "Am I gonna have to separate you two?!" you grunt as Beanie joins in to help you pull apart the tangle of Mangles. "Geez! We don't, nngh -- we don't need to go breaking everything to settle our differences. Why don't you two hotheads just cool off and start over?"
  71.  
  72. "Yeah, maybe switch to decaf?" Beanie adds, wrapping her arms around Mangle's torso. "That's like your fourth or fifth cup tonight, Mango."
  73.  
  74. "I want you to know that I hold my caffeine very well, Bonita!" Mango whines, thrashing furiously as you forcibly drag her back to her seat.
  75.  
  76. Beanie cuts her eyes at the surly vixen, clearly in total disbelief. "Your TAIL is shaking."
  77.  
  78. "It -- it does that. Sometimes."
  79.  
  80. "Uh huh."
  81.  
  82. "Well as long as we're all being honest with each other, I'LL have you know that I, for one, think this entire thing is silly," Mangle huffs in a transparent and frankly shameless bid for the high ground. "I don't see why you can't just act like a mature, responsi--"
  83.  
  84. "Don't," Beanie interrupts. "Just don't."
  85.  
  86. "But you didn't let even me finish!"
  87.  
  88. Shaking her head, the lilac rabbit shoves Foxglove down into one of the kitchen chairs. "Nope."
  89.  
  90. Both foxes reluctantly slink down into their seats with a pout, arms crossed like spoiled children. Beanie hovers over both of them with a smirk; she especially seems to be enjoying the role reversal considering that she was on the receiving end of it from Mango right before dinner.
  91.  
  92. "Now then, how're we gonna fix all this?" Beanie asks, settling into the teacher's role. Judging by the dour look on Mango's face, the irony of the situation isn't even remotely lost on the actual teacher herself.
  93.  
  94. "I -- well, I suppose I can redo the seam," Mangle finally manages, sniffing haughtily. "At this point, I fail to see what sort of difference a little extra effort will make. After all, we want to, err, ensure a proper fit."
  95.  
  96. "And, um... if I have to adjust the strap fittings, I guess I can," Mango adds warily, side-eyeing Beanie. "Be kind of pointless to get this far in the race only to break down before the finish line, right?"
  97.  
  98. "Thank you both," you interject, dipping your head apologetically as Mangle begins working on one of the sleeves with a seam ripper. "I can tell you guys have a hard time working together, and -- I don't really know what your history entails, but I appreciate you trying to put your differences aside to make sure this whole costume thing's accurate. When I win the prize money -- and I WILL win the prize money -- I'm paying both of you guys back and then some."
  99.  
  100. Mangle looks up at you with tired, half-lidded eyes and a gentle smile. "Oh, no need to be so generous. For you, Chica, I'd move the world. Besides, with your boyishly good looks, I'm sure you'll be the belle of the ball. Err, so to speak."
  101.  
  102. "Hey, actually, that's a good point," Mango mutters, chewing on a pencil as she turns the Bobulator over in her paws, comparing it to the back of the DVD box for reference. "Mike, we're going out of our way for accuracy, but, um -- what're you going to do about your headfur?"
  103.  
  104. "Oh, we figured we'd get him a wig or something," Beanie says, picking up a few stray pieces of popcorn off of the floor.
  105.  
  106. Mango skeptically raises both eyebrows at the rabbit. "Wait, a wig? For a mohawk? You can't be serious. Why wouldn't he just shave his head?"
  107.  
  108. "Not happening," you interrupt bluntly. "I refuse to dye or shave my hair. That's over the line."
  109.  
  110. "It WOULD be a shame to butcher such exquisite headfur," Mangle agrees. "Especially with regards to his condition. Poor dear needs to keep all he's got."
  111.  
  112. "Yeah, exactly. Besides, they make bald wigs, so I'm sure a mohawk wig wouldn't be that hard to find -- they sell those kinds of things at the conventions for the cosplayers," Beanie replies, seemingly puzzled. "Why, what's the problem?"
  113.  
  114. "Well, one problem I foresee is that specialty costume wigs ARE dreadfully expensive." Mangle reaches a paw up to your head, carefully feeling one of your thick locks. "Especially if you plan on picking one up at the convention, where you're probably going to pay exorbitant scalper prices. Err, if you'll pardon the unintended pun."
  115.  
  116. "Not to mention there's the matter of it having elements of a bald wig," Mango adds with a disapproving frown. "If the goal is to do this for a contest, accuracy is key. You'd need a talented makeup artist and hours of preparation to make the bald 'skin' portion of the wig match your actual skin tone, and it would have to be done on the day of the contest. It's not the sort of thing you could do the night before and then sleep on it."
  117.  
  118. "That's... aggh, I didn't think about any of that," you mutter.
  119.  
  120. "I suppose that's ultimately your call to make though, Mike," Mango says. "But in this case, the most painless option would be to just go all in on the trim."
  121.  
  122. Glancing over at Bonbon, you notice that she's still glued to the television set, obliviously humming along with the theme song to Legend of Bob as if nothing's happened. With a flustered sigh, you run your hands through your hair. In all of the recent chaos and the resulting drama, the mohawk dilemma has been on your mental back burner. Unfortunately, you're out of time. The convention's in just a couple of days, and now you've got to pay the piper. Either you gamble on all of the conditions being right for you to find the perfect costume wig at an affordable price AND somehow manage to make it look good (all in one day, no less), OR you bite the bullet and ask Mangle to shave and dye your hair.
  123.  
  124. Considering how much effort Mangle, Mango, and even Bonbon have put into making a custom-tailored costume for a relative stranger to wear, free of charge, you can't help but feel the woefully selfish option would be to hold onto your hair just to appease your dignity. Besides, it's not like you'll look any less stupid in a wig. If anything, you'd look worse.
  125.  
  126. "Mike! Beanie!" Bonbon calls out, finally realizing she's been abandoned. "Get over here, you're missing the drama!"
  127.  
  128. Somehow, you doubt that.
  129.  
  130.  
  131.  
  132. "And that's all of it that's out so far," Bonbon says with a tired yawn as the credits begin to roll on the last episode. "What'd you guys think?"
  133.  
  134. "I haven't really been following this Bob thing as devotedly as you have, but it's alright," Beanie replies. "But you know me, I've never been much into the whole import cartoon scene the way you are."
  135.  
  136. "It's pretty interesting," you add, trying to stifle your inner film snob long enough to offer a layman's 'critique'. "The main character's pretty likeable and the animation's really good. Not too big on the sidekick, though."
  137.  
  138. "That makes two of us," Bonbon says, tiredly pumping her fist into the air as she slowly flops off of the couch. This is probably the lowest energy you've ever seen her -- she must've had a long day at work, or maybe burning the candle at both ends has finally caught up with her. "Whenever you're ready, Beanie, you can just come crawl in bed with me."
  139.  
  140. "Alrighty. I'll be up for a little while longer, since that nap gave me my second wind," Beanie says, standing up to hug her friend goodnight. "Thanks for letting me stay over."
  141.  
  142. Chuckling, Bonbon embraces her right back. "No problem. Do it more often, like all the time."
  143.  
  144. "Now that your house isn't a Class III biohazard? Yeah, absolutely."
  145.  
  146. After Bonbon heads off to bed, Beanie sets about neatening up the living room, gathering up the empty snack bowls and discarded soda cans. Meanwhile, you decide to wander over to the kitchen table to see if there's anything you can do to help the foxes, both of whom have been eerily quiet ever since you and Beanie "scolded" them earlier.
  147.  
  148. "How's everything going over here?" you ask, eyeing what appears to be the completed Bobulator properly attached to the sleeve. "You two've been awful quiet."
  149.  
  150. "Well, we're just about finished," Mango murmurs, holding a length of fabric while Mangle finishes neatening up a seam by hand. "We've been aiming to keep conversation neutral for the last hour or two, and so far, it's working."
  151.  
  152. "That'd explain why I haven't heard anyone scream the word 'strumpet' recently," Beanie snorts as she trots by with a sack full of trash, depositing it by the front door to be put out in the morning.
  153.  
  154. "So, have you put any more thought into this latest dilemma, Mike?" Mangle asks, shooting a glare at the back of the smug rabbit's head.
  155.  
  156. "Yeah," you sigh. "I don't want to, but I'm going to bite the bullet and go for the shave. It's the only way we're gonna make any of this work."
  157.  
  158. Nodding, Mangle lowers the top half of the costume to the table before pivoting to look up at you. "Wise choice, though I can't say I blame you for your hesitancy. It feels so -- alien, I suppose. To COMPLETELY shave your fur off, I mean. I can understand a little trim here and there, of course, and as you said you prefer not to keep a beard -- which I can respect, considering. But still..."
  159.  
  160. "Sure," Mango says, nodding her agreement. "I think you'll be better off for it, Mike, even if it's not what you want to do. Plus I'm guessing your condition doesn't spread to your head, so it'll grow back soon enough, right?"
  161.  
  162. You chuckle awkwardly, looking down at the faint hair on your arms. "Yeah, my head'll be fine. My pride? Not so much. But as long as I'm being a pain in the ass, would you be willing to take care of it tonight before you head back upstairs, Mangle?"
  163.  
  164. Nodding, Mangle scoots away from the table to stand up. "No trouble at all. Worried about getting cold feet, as it were?"
  165.  
  166. "You got me," you admit with a wry grin. "I don't think I'll have the nerve to do it first thing in the morning if I sleep on it."
  167.  
  168. "Oh man, this I gotta see," Beanie pipes up from the kitchen, leaning over the counter excitedly. "Need me to run upstairs and get anything, Foxglove? Clippers? Razor? Shave cream?"
  169.  
  170. Throwing her a look, you start to feel an uneasiness in the pit of your stomach. "You're way, way too hyped for this."
  171.  
  172. Mango grins, quickly poking your hair with her clawtip before yanking her paw back like a child surprised by popping a bubble. "Well, it IS a little exciting," she giggles. "You have to promise me you'll let me feel it. I've never known any men who are shavers."
  173.  
  174. "Alright." Mangle sighs, putting away some of the loose sewing tools scattered about the table. "I can see we're not going to get any more work done on this outfit tonight, since everyone's too excited to watch me destroy your beautiful headfur. Might as well get this over with, shall we?"
  175.  
  176. Cringing, you steel yourself as you follow the small group towards the hall bathroom. "Let's."
  177.  
  178.  
  179.  
  180. "All finished, dear. Haircut and a shave, that'll be two bits," Mangle jokes, spinning your chair around with a flourish. "What a shame to see so much of that beautiful fur vamoose, but alas -- the suffering we undergo for our art."
  181.  
  182. "I can't believe you actually had the guts to go through with it," Beanie says, clearly impressed.
  183.  
  184. "I can't believe he didn't run out of here screaming," Mango titters, smothering her girlish laughter with the tip of her tail.
  185.  
  186. "I can't believe both of you felt the need to cram into this tiny bathroom to spectate," you groan as Mangle unhooks the salon cape from your shoulders. "It's just a haircut."
  187.  
  188. Mango leans forward from her perch on the edge of the bathtub, poking and prodding your freshly-shorn scalp with her paws. Her fur tickles the bald sides of your head, producing a bizarre sensation against your skin; she clearly wasn't kidding about wanting to feel it.
  189.  
  190. "Just a haircut, huh?" Beanie asks as you squirm in your chair. "I dunno, Mike. This seems like devotion on another level entirely. I never expected you to develop the hots THIS bad for Bonbon. When she sees this she's gonna flip out."
  191.  
  192. Mango rolls her eyes, clicking her tongue in a disapproving manner while continuing to rub both sides of your scalp. "Oh, stop, you. I think it's cute, in a punkish sort of way. Only Mike could pull something like this off, though -- imagine how bizarre poor Freddy would look."
  193.  
  194. "To say nothing of our own Freddy," Mangle adds with a wry smile. "Or even your brother for that matter, Beanie."
  195.  
  196. "Oh geez, THERE'S a thought." Choking back a laugh, Beanie curiously presses the back of her paw against your skin as well. "Bonworth's as old-fashioned as they come. He still uses that waxy pomade stuff and everything."
  197.  
  198. "Hmm! I think it suits him, though," Mangle comments, brushing a bit of excess hair off of your neck. "There's nothing wrong with being a little old-fashioned here and there. It's refreshing, actually."
  199.  
  200. Politely prying yourself loose from everyone's clutches, you stand up from your seat to examine yourself in the mirror. Running your fingers along the sides of your scalp, you're left to marvel once again at Mangle's talents. Your new hairstyle is such a clean, smooth razor cut you can barely feel the stubble at all. Even though you look like a doofus, you can't help but be impressed.
  201.  
  202. "I'm afraid I won't be able to help you much on the color, dear," Mangle sighs, putting the electric clippers away in their carrying case. "Fur color's messy business, and I'm afraid I might ruin what little you've got left by attempting permanent dye. I suspect you might be better off using temporary color gel, which you should be able to obtain inexpensively from any beauty supply store."
  203.  
  204. "Yeah, definitely the way to go. Back towards the end of high school, I went through a really rebellious phase and thought I could get away with dying my fur," Beanie says, grimacing a little. "Mom never let me hear the end of it when I came home looking like I'd been covered in tar."
  205.  
  206. Bobbing her head sympathetically, Mango pushes herself to her feet, ducking past the three of you to head out into the hallway.
  207.  
  208. "Oh, don't feel bad, Beanie." Dusting some towel lint from the seat of her skirt, the shorter fox smiles. "We all did silly things we regret at that age. Just recently one of the boys I tutor in this very complex decided to do some 'artistic' experimentation with indelible markers and his own fur as the canvas. Let's just say THAT was fun trying to explain to his mother."
  209.  
  210. "Hmmph. I don't at all envy you on that," Mangle groans.
  211.  
  212. "Thank you for everything as always, Mangle." Chuckling, you tilt your head back and forth to look at yourself from all angles in the mirror. "Can't say this is my cup of tea, but you did a great job. I'll be the best-looking Bob Legendmann in the convention hall."
  213.  
  214. "Well, the best-looking overweight, underheight simian dressed up as Bob Legendmann anyway," Beanie cracks, prodding your gut. "At least Bonbon didn't saddle you with having to go as that stupid balloon guy."
  215.  
  216. You wince at Beanie's assessment, looking down at your stomach self-consciously. "Ouch. On all counts."
  217.  
  218. "How cruel!" Mango declares, cheeks flushing. "Attacking a man on his height -- are you trying to give him a complex? He's plenty tall enough -- certainly taller than you or I, Beanie!"
  219.  
  220. "For once, I agree with Mango. Besides, Michael's not overweight, he's, ah, pleasantly chubby." Mangle leans across your shoulders, playfully swatting Beanie on the nose with the tip of the gel bottle. "So hush, you rabblerouser."
  221.  
  222. Raising her paws in mock surrender, Beanie steps back. "I'm sorry, Mike. Didn't mean anything by it."
  223.  
  224. "It's cool. I think just about everyone here has said things they didn't mean tonight," you chuckle. "Might be something in the air."
  225.  
  226. "Indeed. Must be cabin fever's already begun to set in," Mangle agrees amicably. "Now all of you skedaddle while I neaten up in here. Mind the loose fur shavings on the floor; you don't want to track them through the house -- like Mango is doing this VERY moment."
  227.  
  228. "Oh, whoops," Mango chuckles sheepishly from the kitchen.
  229.  
  230. "I swear, she'd forget her own tail if it weren't attached," the fox grumbles, hefting a broom and dust pan to sweep up the mess as Beanie tiptoes out of the bathroom. Instead of immediately following her out, however, you stick around while Mangle begins the cleanup.
  231.  
  232. "No need to stay on my account, dear. I've got this under control."
  233.  
  234. "Ah, I don't mind," you reply, taking the dust pan from Mangle and kneeling down to the ground. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to talk for a bit -- it's been a while since you and I really had a serious one-on-one conversation. How's everything going back home?"
  235.  
  236. Sweeping lock after lock of your erstwhile hair into the pan, Mangle carefully shuffles around the bathroom while formulating a reply to your question.
  237.  
  238. "Business as usual, I suppose," the fox quietly says at length. "Most everyone is doing well, though I think Bonnie seems a bit more melancholy than usual these days. She's expressed to me that she's beginning to miss a certain someone."
  239.  
  240. "I'm not surprised. I'm told rabbits mate for life," you joke as you dump a panful of hair clippings into the wastebin.
  241.  
  242. "Foxes too, supposedly," Mangle grins, blowing you a kiss. "I've yet to see any proof of it, though. And how about yourself, Freddy? I take it you're managing as well as you can considering the harsh, unforgiving environment of 87-A?"
  243.  
  244. "Y'know, it's not all that bad here. These guys are pretty easy to get along with -- yes, even Mango -- and the place is pretty cozy, though I will admit the lack of gourmet breakfasts does sting. Frederick's really spoiled me."
  245.  
  246. Chuckling, Mangle stashes the broom back in the linen closet before turning back to you. "I can assure you that he has that effect on ALL of us, Michael. It's all I can do to keep my slender figure on that kind of diet."
  247.  
  248. "You'll have to teach me your secrets. I'm willing to try anything as long as it doesn't involve crawling through any more vents." Standing up from the floor, you brush your knees off, leaning against the counter to face Mangle. "But yeah, other than missing out on his unbeatable 5,000 calorie meals, I'd say I'm doing really well all things considered."
  249.  
  250. "No more, ahhh, 'episodes'?" Mangle asks warily, gauging your face for a reaction. "Any recent developments we should be made aware of?"
  251.  
  252. You force a smile, shaking your head emphatically. "Nothing worth mentioning," you lie.
  253.  
  254. It's obvious from Mangle's expression your half-truth isn't fooling anyone. "I've spent the majority of my life lying through my teeth. I lie about damned near everything, so I've grown very good at spotting it in others. Now, when and where?"
  255.  
  256. "Today," you sigh. "At Fred's apartment, in the kitchen. I was putting some stuff up for Chichi and he was standing right in the center of the room."
  257.  
  258. "And just how bad was it this time?"
  259.  
  260. You lower your head, avoiding eye contact with the fox. "It was pretty real. He talked to me for a bit -- and I could feel him. I guess I screamed and passed out, and Rackham came running from across the house to check on me."
  261.  
  262. "...I see."
  263.  
  264. "Please don't tell anyone," you murmur, your stomach twisting into knots. "I don't want to have to go to some head doctor and get a psych eval. I don't want to be put on medicine or get shipped off to a nuthouse, Mangle. I just -- I just want to get on with life."
  265.  
  266. "Goodness, Mike, you're a functional adult!" Mangle laughs incredulously like you've just told the most bizarre joke ever. "First of all, that's not how anything works, and secondly even if it was, we wouldn't have you committed over -- over a handful of isolated hallucinations, all of which take place in the exact same apartment."
  267.  
  268. You look up at Mangle in realization at what you're hearing. "So you -- you don't think I'm crazy."
  269.  
  270. "Of course not. I think you're haunted, troubled maybe -- but I definitely don't believe you're unhinged at all. To be honest, I don't think Bonnie is either, and she's seen more than her fair share of spectres and boogeymen. We haven't had her sent away to the loony bin, so why would we do that to you?"
  271.  
  272. "Because I'm broken," you reply. "Bonnie told me herself, right after we first met."
  273.  
  274. "Really? Beanie told you that you were 'broken'?"
  275.  
  276. You shake your head with a tired smile in spite of the situation. "N-no, sorry. I meant Bonnibel."
  277.  
  278. "Wait, so you're saying the hyperactive girl with the frankly bizarre human fetish had the audacity to tell you that YOU were 'broken'?"
  279.  
  280. Burying your face in your palms, you try not to break out laughing in Mangle's face. "Bonnibel is the one YOU live with. Short little sleepy bunny girl with no indoor voice?"
  281.  
  282. "Chica, darling, of course I know who my own roommate is!"
  283.  
  284. "Chica?! Mangle, I'm Mike! I'm literally the ONLY Mike! I'm the unique one here -- if anything, my name should be the easiest to remember!"
  285.  
  286. The fox groans in frustration. "How can you possibly expect me to keep all of their names straight?!"
  287.  
  288. "Ugh, I guess I see where you're coming from," you begrudgingly admit. "It still throws me hearing someone say 'Bonnie' or 'Freddy' and not immediately knowing who they're referring to. It's a little difficult remembering whose Chica is whose, and so on."
  289.  
  290. "You don't know the half of it, Foxglove," Mangle says letting loose a long, operatic sigh.
  291.  
  292. "Foxgl-- you did that on purpose," you snap, much to Mangle's amusement.
  293.  
  294. "Pfft -- w-well, regardless, we're all broken in some way or another, Mike," Mangle replies, face shifting to a more serious expression. "But broken can still be beautiful, you know."
  295.  
  296. "Man, you're one to talk." You gently stroke Mangle's arm, your hand brushing against the thick robed blanket. "You're beautiful yourself, but you hide away from the world, like, like -- a pristine car, or fancy sailboat kept under a tarp in some rich guy's garage."
  297.  
  298. Huffing, Mangle pulls away from you. "Oh, quit trying to flatter me. I'm not someone to be ogled."
  299.  
  300. There's that same exposed nerve again. "You think Chiclet likes people 'ogling' her scars?" Shifting your weight off of your sore leg, you turn to stare Mangle in the eye. "You think Bonworth feels good hobbling around on stilts, knowing everyone's watching him?"
  301.  
  302. "Michael! Where is this coming from?!" Mangle blurts. "How could you make fun of them like that? They can't help their conditions!"
  303.  
  304. "But I'm not," you insist firmly. "And that's the point I'm trying to make -- Chiclet's still pretty, beak or no beak. And while he's not my type, Bonworth's still a handsome guy, regardless of his legs. Look, you might be comfortable lying, but you're not going to guilt me into saying it's anything other than a damn shame that someone as cute as you doesn't, y'know -- share the view with everyone else a little more often."
  305.  
  306. "That-- you-- ooohhh!!" Blushing furiously, Mangle stumbles around for words. "You really are an oaf, Mike!"
  307.  
  308. "You say that like I don't already know. Like I said, I'm not gonna lie. I enjoy a good set of hips."
  309.  
  310. Sucking in a breath, Mangle lightly bats at your cheek. "Michael! How could you?!"
  311.  
  312. "It's your own fault for giving a man in the middle of the desert a sip and expecting that to quench his thirst!"
  313.  
  314. "Well, I suppose I'll think about it," the fox mutters, fighting the beginnings of a smile. "Tell you the truth, with the heater cranked up now that we're solidly into winter, I do tend to, ah, perspire under these thick blankets."
  315.  
  316. "See, there you go. Baby steps. Switch to a bathrobe or loose pajamas first; the sling bikini can wait until you're comfortable."
  317.  
  318. "Oh, that's incredibly vulgar! There's no way I could EVER pull off something so, so daring..." Mangle breathes, stifling a laugh with one paw while looking at you with wide eyes and bright red cheeks.
  319.  
  320. "Oh, so you're more into the two-piece swimsuits then? Hey, I won't judge you."
  321.  
  322. "Freddy, it's December and my winter coat's running behind this year! You simply HAVE to be reasonable here."
  323.  
  324. "Just thinking ahead to the future," you grin, folding your arms. "Don't worry, though; I'm a gentleman -- your secrets are safe with me. I promise I won't tell ANYONE about those long, slender legs of yours."
  325.  
  326. "Okay, now you're pushing it," Mangle scoffs. "Besides, you've got it backwards. A gentleman's not supposed to ask; it's the lady who isn't supposed to tell."
  327.  
  328. "And which one are you?"
  329.  
  330. Winking, Mangle opens the bathroom door and steps out into the hallway. "Oh, please. A lady has to have SOME secrets, Mike."
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