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Roommates - Ch. 20 (Blow Out)

Jan 26th, 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. 20 (Blow Out): http://i.imgur.com/XoO1kj0.png
  4. Inspired by Weaver's Five Nights at Freddy's Apartment AU: http://i.imgur.com/LnDJVNL.png
  5. Part of an ongoing series written for the /5N@F/ General Discussion Thread at /vg/.
  6. Sincerest thanks to Weaver (http://tgweaver.tumblr.com/) for all of the invaluable assistance in writing, proofreading, and editing this story as well as for illustrating the chapter title cards.
  7. Questions or comments? Drop me an ask at http://roommatesau.tumblr.com/
  8.  
  9. ---
  10.  
  11. The front door swings open and Bonworth pads inside, arms loaded down with two large paper sacks full of food.
  12.  
  13. "Hey, fellas! I'm finally back," he announces. "How's tricks?"
  14.  
  15. "Never thought you'd get home, Bon," Cheeky gripes good-naturedly from beside you on the sofa. "We've been waiting on you to start dinner."
  16.  
  17. "Well, I'm sure sorry to keep everyone waitin', but the good news is I've got dinner wrapped up -- quite literally, I might add! Mike, can you give me a bit of help here?"
  18.  
  19. "Sure!" you reply as you haul yourself to your feet, sneaking a look up at the wall clock hanging above the television -- it's half past six. "Marion ended up keeping you late after all, huh?"
  20.  
  21. "Had an awful mess in one of the other buildings today," he says, probably referring to the emergency text Marion got while you were talking to him. "He ended up having to put another family outta house and home, so if it's any consolation you're not the only one out of your comfort zone at the moment."
  22.  
  23. "Honestly, I feel like I rolled and won. I'd so much rather be here hanging out with you guys than freezing my ass off in a cardboard box," you quip, helping him with his payload so he can close the front door.
  24.  
  25. Bonworth grins bashfully. "Whillikers! I'm just happy to help out a friend, Mike. I sure can't thank you enough for holdin' down the fort while I'm away." Eyeing his crew in the living room, he follows you into the kitchen. "Say, gang, has ol' Mike here been makin' the cut as a caretaker?"
  26.  
  27. Faz grunts noncommittally, still fixated on a wildlife documentary on the television, while Foxy jerks his head up and down in an almost avian fashion.
  28.  
  29. "The lad be doooiiinn' a f-fine job. I can't recall when th' last t'was I saw th' c-c-cabin in suuuuuch a staaate." He fumbles his hook around, lost in thought. "And there don't even be any b-barnacles on th' latriiinne."
  30.  
  31. "Thank heavens for that," Cheeky deadpans, "because if I see any barnacles on the porcelain throne I'm out. That'll be it -- that's where Cheeky draws the line."
  32.  
  33. "Fortunately this is, in fact, a barnacle-free environment," you declare. "I'm at least 90% certain of it."
  34.  
  35. "I don't like those odds," she mumbles, brow furrowed.
  36.  
  37. Setting the paper bags on the kitchen counter, you nod to Bonworth, who begins unpacking what appears to be your group's dinner.
  38.  
  39. "So while I was out on a walk this afternoon, I bumped into our landlord today," you comment.
  40.  
  41. "Is that a fact? What'd ol' Marion have to say?" Bonworth asks jovially, pulling several wrapped sub sandwiches out of one of the bags. "Oh, can you pop these in the toaster oven to crisp 'em up right quick?"
  42.  
  43. "Sure thing," you answer, doing as instructed. "But, uh, yeah -- he apologized for the inconvenience of moving April in on Chiclet, which was big of him. He also sounds like he's pretty grateful to have someone, y'know, competent helping out up front."
  44.  
  45. "He said that?" Bonworth says, blushing as he discards the crumpled-up sandwich wrappers in the kitchen bin. "I'll be. It's nice to be appreciated, I suppose!"
  46.  
  47. "Hey, you must be doing something right, since he seems really impressed with you. He mentioned you were trained well for managerial work by, uh, what was his name..." Oh, it's on the tip of your tongue. "Gerald, Jermaine...? Johnny? Something like that. Name ring any bells?"
  48.  
  49. Bonworth doesn't reply immediately, instead turning his attention to the refrigerator for condiments.
  50.  
  51. "Hello? Earth to Bonworth?" you prompt. "Oh, geez, that's a terrible rhyme. Sorry."
  52.  
  53. "Was that all he said?" Bonworth asks flatly.
  54.  
  55. "Um, yeah, mostly," you reply, scratching your head. "We just made a little small talk and then he got a text about having to go check on a pipe bursting--"
  56.  
  57. "Good," he interrupts with a tight-lipped smile. "I mean, y'know, that's good an' all that you two got to talk cordial-like, and not, y'know, good about the pipe."
  58.  
  59. "I'm glad I got the chance to talk with him again. To be honest, I think I've kind of had Marion pegged wrong this entire time, you know?" You smile wistfully, thinking back to your first day here and Marion's blatant discomfort around you. "Something I, uh, seem to be making a habit of."
  60.  
  61. "C'mon now, Mike," he chuckles.
  62.  
  63. "But yeah, that's a real shame about the burst pipe," you continue, "both for Marion AND for the family that got run out. Right here at the start of winter and with the holidays not far off."
  64.  
  65. At least you're only a single guy with a couple of pieces of luggage to your name, so in the long run you suppose you haven't really been all that inconvenienced. Your heart sinks a little at the thought of multiple people being ushered into a foreign apartment, potentially even having lost some of their meager possessions to water damage. This isn't exactly an affluent neighborhood.
  66.  
  67. "For sure. Those poor folks. I should probably go check up on 'em again tomorrow, maybe take them some cookies or something," Bonworth replies, ears drooping a little. Before you can answer, the toaster oven beeps. "Oop, looks like it's suppertime. Cole slaw or potato salad, Mike?"
  68.  
  69. You gather an armful of soda cans from the refrigerator while Bonworth slides the tray of sandwiches out of the oven to begin plating.
  70.  
  71. "Surprise me," you answer.
  72.  
  73.  
  74.  
  75. "Cole slaw, huh?" you observe as you eye your plate. "My favorite."
  76.  
  77. "Y'know, I could just tell you were a cole slaw man," Bonworth says, winking.
  78.  
  79. Cheeky takes a whiff of the toasted sandwich on her plate, eyelashes fluttering girlishly. "Oh, these look great. Let's--"
  80.  
  81. "Right then, let's eat!" Bonworth announces, clapping his paws.
  82.  
  83. The hefty hen gives her roommate a glare, seething quietly. "Damn it, Bonnie, you did that on purpose."
  84.  
  85. "Oops! Sorry, Chica."
  86.  
  87. Cheeky tears into her plastic container of potato salad. "So how was work, Bonnie?" she asks, apparently already over her catchphrase having been yanked away from her; at least she's the type to forgive quickly. "Wow, it's been a while since I've gotten to ask you that, huh?"
  88.  
  89. Shrugging, Bonworth helps Foxy with the pop tab on his root beer.
  90.  
  91. "About as fascinating as filin' paperwork and fieldin' calls can be, but I don't mind. It's easy labor I can do while sittin' on my behind, and Marion's the real mellow type which makes for a good manager. How about you, what'd you guys do today?"
  92.  
  93. "The usual," she replies through a mouthful of food. "Lazed around. Watched TV, saved the world through the eyes of movie superheroes and drugstore cowboys."
  94.  
  95. "Yeah, I've gotten quite a taste for your world's-- err, for uh... your local programming," you stammer, catching yourself quickly.
  96.  
  97. "Local programming? I'll have you know this household indulges in PREMIUM cable channels -- only the finest in reruns and B movies," Cheeky boasts. "Believe me, they don't air stuff half this decent on the local stations anymore."
  98.  
  99. "I-is that so?" you cough. Fumbling for a topic change in an attempt to divert the weird look she's giving you, your eyes light up. "Oh! I think I might have made a new 'friend' today!"
  100.  
  101. "Oh, swell! Look at you, you're fitting right into our little community," Bonworth enthuses. "Who's your new pal?"
  102.  
  103. "Uh... Mango, Bonbon's roommate. Or one of them, I guess. Nice enough girl, I'm guessing she's 'the other Mangle' I've heard tell of," you reply.
  104.  
  105. Cheeky rolls her eyes. "Ah, yeah, that loon."
  106.  
  107. You give her a dubious smirk. "Hey now, that's mean, Cheeky! She's a little peculiar, but she seems nice enough."
  108.  
  109. "I dunno, what little contact with her I've had she seems kind of... sleazy." Cheeky wipes some potato salad off the edge of her beak with the back of her wing, then licks it off her feathers.
  110.  
  111. "I'll take that under advisement," you chuckle. "So Faz, what's this wildlife documentary about?"
  112.  
  113. "Salmon. Fascinating creatures," he utters, swiping at his dry, chapped lips with his mottled tongue as he speaks. "Also delicious."
  114.  
  115. For some reason, the thought of Faz fishing near a river amuses you, and you can't help but crack a smile. He might be careworn and in poor condition, but at the end of the day he's still a bear.
  116.  
  117. The documentary cuts to a commercial break, and a too-enthusiastic male announcer's voice starts blaring through the speakers. At the mere sound of the voice, Foxy's tail fluffs out like a startled cat. He leaps from his chair, rocketing off in the direction of his bedroom.
  118.  
  119. "Heeeeeeey, kids! Are you hungry for some delicious pizza?" the voice booms as Foxy rounds the corner at the end of the hallway.
  120.  
  121. "Whoa! Is he all right?" you ask.
  122.  
  123. "Shit!" Cheeky hisses, whirling to look at Bonworth. "Bonnie, where's the remote?"
  124.  
  125. Dropping his half-eaten plate on the floor, Bonworth stumbles to a half-standing position, his prosthetic legs almost going out from under him as he tries to prop himself up.
  126.  
  127. "Workin' on it!" he says as he begins rummaging through his chair's cushions. "Faz, did you have it last?"
  128.  
  129. "Off," Faz rasps, barely audible over the television.
  130.  
  131. You quickly stoop to collect the spilled food, your back to the screen. "Don't worry, I got it. Ugh, this mustard might stain..." you mutter as Cheeky flips the pillows off the sofa.
  132.  
  133. "That's right, it's me, Jeremy! I've got all the best classic and new arcade games like Quack-Man, Legend of Bob, and the brand-new Dinosaur Laser Adventures racing game, so tell your parents to bring you downtown to Jeremy Human's and we'll--"
  134.  
  135. The television clicks off right as you stand up to look at it. "Wait, what? What'd that say about humans there at the end?"
  136.  
  137. "Not now, Mike," Cheeky says, wings shaking ever so slightly as she clutches the remote.
  138.  
  139. "Don't worry, I'm not like Bonbon. I was just -- oh, no, hold on! THAT was his name, too! Jeremy! It was on the tip of my tongue."
  140.  
  141. "I said not now," she reiterates a bit more adamantly. "Please, Mike."
  142.  
  143. You blink a few times, taken aback at her curt reaction. You begin to ask what's got her so flustered, but Bonworth cuts you off.
  144.  
  145. "A-anyway! How about a movie, what've we got on DVD? Mike, can you make any suggestions?" he asks.
  146.  
  147. "What was wrong with the documentary we just had on?" you ask pointedly. "Weren't you watching that, Faz?"
  148.  
  149. "Changed my mind," Faz whispers, not even bothering with his voice controls. "Put on a movie."
  150.  
  151. You look at the stacks of DVDs on the floor from Foxy's failed attempt at a play fort, then back at your roommates. Bonworth harriedly yanks at his tie while Cheeky slumps onto the sofa, rubbing at her belly. Even Faz's rattling breaths sound a bit more labored than usual.
  152.  
  153. "What's the matter with all of you?" you ask, setting the plate in your hands aside. "You're acting like you've seen a ghost. Was it me? Did I do something?"
  154.  
  155. Bonworth softly squeezes your forearm. "No, Mike, could you please just--"
  156.  
  157. You gently but firmly pry your arm loose from his grip. "No, I can't 'please just'. Mangle pulled this trick on me before I left 87-B, and I didn't get a chance to properly apologize. If I've said or done something to offend you, I want you to tell..." You trail off as something begins to dawn on you.
  158.  
  159.  
  160. Pizzeria, arcade... "dinner and a show"?
  161.  
  162.  
  163. Bonworth and Cheeky both stare at you hesitantly, and even Faz has craned his head up for a better look at your eyes.
  164.  
  165. "Wait. Wait a minute," you mumble.
  166.  
  167. Bonworth's words from this morning echo in your mind -- a little food, a little entertainment. For the kids.
  168.  
  169. You snap your fingers as the pieces begin to fall into place for you. "That commercial that was on the television just now, Jeremy's... that was where you guys all worked together, wasn't it."
  170.  
  171. "Pcheeeeeeeewww," Cheeky mouths, wingtips spread wide in a mock explosion.
  172.  
  173. Bonworth collapses backward into his chair with a groan. "Darn it all."
  174.  
  175. "Congrats, Mike, you figured it out," Cheeky says with no small amount of exasperation in her tone. "So can you please just drop it and let's watch a video or talk about anything that isn't -- that's not that place?"
  176.  
  177. You raise your hands defensively. "Why the hostility towards me all of a sudden? I'm not asking about your accidents, or your..." You gesture to Cheeky's stomach. In response, she grabs a pillow off the floor and covers her belly with it self-consciously.
  178.  
  179. You feel a pang in your own chest -- guilt? fear? -- but you're determined to stand your ground anyway.
  180.  
  181. "Look, I'm not going to walk around on eggshells around you guys, guessing at what may be offensive and may not be," you continue, trying your best to regulate your tone. You reposition yourself sitting at the opposite end of the sofa from Cheeky, shifting so that you can better make eye contact with the group. "I went through it at the other apartment, and I'd like to know what the 'off the table' topics are here so I don't screw up again like I did with Mangle. I don't think that's unreasonable."
  182.  
  183. "Oh, now he's worried about being reasonable," Cheeky sighs.
  184.  
  185. "You didn't have to hide something of this magnitude from me," you implore, jabbing a finger at the television screen.
  186.  
  187. "Well gee whillikers, Mike, don't you think it'd be a little darn obvious how we felt about it from our reaction?" Bonworth replies, unusually flustered.
  188.  
  189. "Don't you think you've been a 'little darn' cryptic?" you shoot back.
  190.  
  191. "What's cryptic about wanting a shot at somethin' resembling a normal life?" he shouts, clutching his metal knees with his paws. "Do you introduce yourself to everyone with a laundry list of your deepest fears an' regrets?"
  192.  
  193. "I'm not asking for an autobiography, here! I want to AVOID making you guys feel uncomfortable!" you argue.
  194.  
  195. "Damn fine job so far," Faz deadpans, clenching his electrolarynx with a rickety paw.
  196.  
  197. You turn to say something to him, but Cheeky interrupts you before you can get the words out.
  198.  
  199. "What more do you want, Mike? We got screwed by a company that built itself up on our backs," Cheeky interjects, fire in her eyes. "Corporate neglect. Unsafe working conditions that didn't meet code. It cost Bonnie his legs and Faz a hell of a lot more. I can barely feel half my torso and Foxy's missing a chunk of his brain."
  200.  
  201. "Cheeky--"
  202.  
  203. "Do you really think we want to just..." She leans forward, drawing a heavy, trembling breath. "I don't know, parade every skeleton in our closet around for someone we haven't even known a week?"
  204.  
  205. "For God's sake, Cheeky! It's because I haven't known you guys a week that I'd even ask!" Why don't they get it? "I've been trying to AVOID this situation!"
  206.  
  207. "So you avoid it by diving headlong into it?" Bonworth snaps.
  208.  
  209. Growling, you lean forward off the edge of the sofa, staring him down.
  210.  
  211. "Oh, I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry, Bonworth! I forgot I was just the dancing monkey whose sole purpose in life is to entertain you every time you want a laugh!"
  212.  
  213. Narrowing his eyes, Bonworth leans forward to match you, wagging a pointed finger in your face. "Now that ain't fair, Mike, and you know it!"
  214.  
  215. You take a breath, raising both hands to collect yourself for a moment.
  216.  
  217. "No, you're right. I'm sorry. I'm not -- I wasn't trying to make it out like that. I'm not attacking you guys. You've been good to me. But that's why this whole thing stinks."
  218.  
  219. Your righteous fury rekindles a little as you lock eyes with Bonworth.
  220.  
  221. "But you want to talk about what's not fair, Bonworth? What's not fair is the fact that some two-bit arcade cost some of the nicest friends I've ever had everything! What's not fair is they stuck you in a pair of metal stilts that you don't get to escape from, all for some stupid low-level manager who was too cheap to have his new toy professionally moved!"
  222.  
  223. "That ain't quite accurate," Bonworth grumbles. "Besides, that ain't your burden to bear."
  224.  
  225. Ignoring him, you stand up from the sofa and point to Faz. "What's not fair is you being forced to shamble around the house like a zombie because you were turned into a pincushion by some 'temperamental' piece of equipment this know-nothing company couldn't be bothered to put some safety guards on!"
  226.  
  227. You're so worked up you're practically screaming by now. The thought of these four having to spend the rest of their lives in this misery is burning in your head. The injustice of it paints a scowl on your face as you thrust an accusing hand in the direction of the foyer.
  228.  
  229. "What isn't fair is watching poor Foxy bounce off a wall because he's so addled he can't even think straight! I got to see him -- the REAL Foxy -- last night, and it was the most heartbreaking thing I've ever witnessed. Look at what they turned him into, and you won't even do me the decency of a straight answer as to how it happened!"
  230.  
  231. "Shut your mouth," Faz snarls. You can hear the plastic casing of his volume control cracking in his paw. "You don't know anything about us."
  232.  
  233. "I know you're a bunch of martyrs," you return, exasperated, arms plaintively at your side as he glares at you. "Faz, how can you want to -- protect this crummy place? The company that betrayed you? Don't you want justice? Don't you want to fix this?"
  234.  
  235. You point to Cheeky, whose days-old makeup is running in streams down her face.
  236.  
  237. "I'd bet dollars to donuts Cheeky's cancer wasn't just some unrelated fluke either. What was it, lead? Asbestos?"
  238.  
  239. "It ain't worth it, Mike," Bonworth warns grimly.
  240.  
  241. Cheeky mumbles something but it's completely inaudible.
  242.  
  243. You throw your hands in the air. "Oh, so she's not worth it?! Right, let's just let them get away with it then! All hail Jeremy Human, the faceless corporate monster who sacrificed honest people in pursuit of the almighty dollar!"
  244.  
  245. "What're we gonna do about it, Mike?!" Bonworth says, struggling to stand up. "What're YOU gonna do about it?! We managed just fine until you showed up and now you're throwin' the whole dynamic into a tizzy!"
  246.  
  247. You shake your head, incredulous. "I'm not saying this just to piss you off or anything! I'm on your side here, but you're just acting like it never happened! You're just gonna lie down and let them get away with it? And what if they do it again? Don't you want them to fix what they broke?"
  248.  
  249. Faz slams his enormous fist into the arm of his chair. His voice is cut with static. "Fix?! Look at us! You can't FIX us, you stupid--"
  250.  
  251. "Faz ol' pal, please, your blood pressure," Bonworth shakily urges, latching onto his shoulder.
  252.  
  253. Cheeky tugs your arm gently with one wing while placing the other on Faz's leg. "Come on, boys, everyone just take a breath. Mike, we're not all broke anyway--"
  254.  
  255. There's another perfect example.
  256.  
  257. "I am looking, Faz!" you insist. "I'm looking at all the things they have to answer for! How can you just want to let bygones be bygones after all the damage they did to you? After they took Bonworth's legs? Foxy's mind? After they turned Cheeky into -- THAT? She could have been beautif--"
  258.  
  259. The words catch in your throat and everything grinds to a halt, your brain having caught up to your mouth just a fraction of a second too late. Frozen mid-gesture and stuck in a choke, you slowly turn to Cheeky. She sits in her chair, eyes wide, jaw slack as she stares at you like she's just been shot and you're the one holding the gun. She slowly lowers her wing to her side, slumping against the sofa.
  260.  
  261. "Cheeky, I... I'm sorry. Look, please, I didn't mean--"
  262.  
  263. You take a step forward to comfort her, but all at once Faz is there, standing at his full and very intimidating height as he moves between the two of you. The ramshackle bear bores down into your skull with his eyes, and you realize how very, very small you are in comparison to him right now. Even though you were standing up to him defiantly just moments before, you find yourself wilting underneath his furious gaze.
  264.  
  265. "I... I just..." You struggle for something to say, looking back and forth between their faces.
  266.  
  267. Cheeky's eyes are glossy and unfocused, beak still hanging open. Faz looks like he's seriously contemplating tossing you out the window, and even Bonworth is giving you an uncharacteristic frown, the impact of which isn't lessened even by his normally goofy buck teeth.
  268.  
  269. Without a word, you slowly turn and trudge toward the foyer, stumbling a little as you go. You're vaguely aware of someone saying something as you make to leave, but the words aren't even registering in your head. Opening the door wide, you step out into the cool mid-November air without so much as a goodbye.
  270.  
  271.  
  272.  
  273. There's mustard on your shirt.
  274.  
  275. You look down at it and realize that in the process of trying to clean up the spilled sandwich earlier, you got mustard all over your shirt. Or maybe it was from your own sandwich. You hope it doesn't stain. Mustard's pretty hard to get out of clothes. You wonder if it was once used as a dye. Seems like you remember something like that from a movie. It's a pretty strong yellow, so you can see it working for that purpose.
  276.  
  277. Also, it's really cold outside. The temperature's dropped at least fifteen degrees since you went on your walk this afternoon, and you had your coat then. You don't have your coat now, and you're really beginning to feel the difference. It's reminding you too much of what life was like before all of this. But no, you just had to go and stick your foot in your mouth and get yourself kicked out of two apartments in a row.
  278.  
  279. You count the money in your billfold -- you're down to less than a hundred dollars and you're not even halfway to your next check. A hotel isn't an option. You could go ask Marion to put you up in one of the empty apartments for the night until you figure out where to go, but for all you know he's not even at the leasing office since the working day is over. You don't have his number to call him, much less a phone to dial it on.
  280.  
  281. Looking across the street, you see the light flickering in the window of what you're certain is 87-B. Isn't tonight pajama movie night? You can't even remember. A party night in your PJs sounds nice right about now, though. You close your eyes and imagine the scents of a cup of hot cocoa, Mangle's lotion, and even that sticky feather shampoo of Chiclet's.
  282.  
  283.  
  284. It's only been a few days, and after how well things have been going you didn't figure you'd be saying it to yourself so soon, but you miss your home.
  285.  
  286. Your real home.
  287.  
  288.  
  289. You can't go back, though. You can't walk in and admit defeat. You can already hear the lecture in your mind from Chiclet, and you're sure Mangle's still upset after feeling violated. Bonnie wouldn't even come to the door last time you knocked. They probably don't want anything to do with you. On the other hand, there's no way you can march back upstairs and face Bonworth and his crew again, either. Hell, you may never be able to even talk to them after the way you lashed out.
  290.  
  291. With no moves left, you find yourself curling up slowly into the fetal position.
  292.  
  293. It's really, really cold outside.
  294.  
  295. Footsteps click down the sidewalk from behind, and seconds later, there's a soft whump on the concrete beside you as a flurry of familiar-looking golden feathers enters your peripheral vision. Not expecting such instant forgiveness, you smile softly in spite of the tears flowing down your face, mixing with the yellow stain on your shirt.
  296.  
  297. "I sure did screw it up this time, didn't I, Chica?" you start, your voice straining to get the words out.
  298.  
  299. "Everybody screws up sometimes. Don't beat yourself up about it," an unfamiliar voice replies. You lift your head, wiping your eyes.
  300.  
  301. It's like a younger, almost childlike Cheeky is staring back at you, her beak turned upwards in a curious half-smile. She's notably shorter and neater than Cheeky (and more than a bit less wide), her eyes bright and full of exuberance.
  302.  
  303. "Sorry, I thought you were someone else," you sigh.
  304.  
  305. "Really? But you called me Chica," she ponders, cocking her head to one side.
  306.  
  307. You blink. "Your name's Chica too."
  308.  
  309. She nods, smiling.
  310.  
  311. "Of course it is," you lean back, sniffling to stifle your runny nose. "Why wouldn't it be?"
  312.  
  313. The small chicken reaches her free wing out and pats your leg. "Hey, c'mon. Don't be sad, huh?" Her worried look slowly melts into one of eager anticipation, like a kid with a secret to share. "I got something that might cheer you uuup," she sing-songs.
  314.  
  315. She raises her wing with a flourish, revealing a paper plate with a single chocolate cupcake covered in pink frosting. A pair of silly-looking white gumdrops with black icing on the tips serve as "eyes". Rings of crumbs are all that remain of its fallen brethren.
  316.  
  317. "One left!" she tempts.
  318.  
  319. You stare at the googly-eyed pastry and all the hairs on your neck start to prick up. The last thing you want in your agitated state is a mouthful of frosting, but you manage a smile. "I-I'm not hungry right now," you reply. "Just ate dinner and all."
  320.  
  321. She frowns. "But did you have dessert?"
  322.  
  323. "Well, no," you admit, wiping your eyes and nose on your shirt sleeve.
  324.  
  325. "Then have a bite," the chicken huffs authoritatively, unwrapping the cupcake and poking it toward your mouth. She's not even going to hand it over, it seems. A cold, painful shiver runs up your spine, but with great reluctance you humor her, hesitantly forcing your mouth open. She manages to get frosting all over your lips, but the cupcake is surprisingly tasty. Before even realizing what you're doing, you're wolfing it down, gumdrops and all.
  326.  
  327. "Shgood," you manage through a mouthful of chocolate.
  328.  
  329. Dusting the crumbs off her wingertips, the chicken hauls herself to her feet.
  330.  
  331. "Of course it is, it's my secret recipe," she boasts. "And now, you'll need some milk to wash all that cupcake down with. Come on."
  332.  
  333. She proudly struts down the sidewalk towards the lower level of Building 9, half-dragging you behind her like a little girl carrying a toy. You dig in your heels a little, but the shortstack of a hen is surprisingly strong. You find yourself tumbling along the pavement with her, trying your best to keep from flopping over on the ground.
  334.  
  335. "Wait, wait, I can't just barge into your place like--"
  336.  
  337. Without even slowing down to look back at you, the chicken shakes her head.
  338.  
  339. "It's all right, Mike," she trills softly. "We all have down days."
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