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Roommates - Ch. 33 (Breathing Smoke)

Jul 15th, 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. 33 (Breathing Smoke): http://i.imgur.com/Nqp8H2Z.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. After consuming whatever Mangle dosed you with, you slept like a rock. You're guessing it's sometime in the early morning, but it's too dark to really tell. Based on the familiar texture of the fabric underneath you, however, you're guessing you're finally back at 87-B. Looks like you spent the remainder of the night on the living room couch. You shift a little in your makeshift bed to ease your aching chest; Dr. Rabbinson can't get here fast enough with those pain meds.
  13.  
  14. Drawing a ragged breath, you realize the air smells like rain. It's a familiar scent, one that dates all the way back to childhood, when you'd stand out on the porch and breathe in a gutful of moist air after a springtime sunshower. The sensation of dampness even now recalls happier days. Long-buried memories of your childhood surge back to the forefront of your mind. Hiding behind the hem of Mom's favorite jean skirt while watching Dad drive off to work. Cheesy Saturday afternoon movies on public access channels. School lunches and games of tetherball with classmates. Life before the burdens and responsibilities of adulthood.
  15.  
  16. You inhale deeply, wistfully embracing the smell. It's almost like rain mixed with smoke, now that you think about it.
  17.  
  18. Smoke.
  19.  
  20. You remember the controlled fires not far from home, when the mesquite trees got to be too unruly and their branches would be gathered and burned. Mesquite was pretty popular for outdoor cookouts; Dad sure loved it. He never could quite wait for summer to come around; he'd always jump the gun, pulling the barbecue grill out at the first sign of spring. After being rained out enough times, he finally ponied up for a patio cover so that he could grill even in the middle of a downpour.
  21.  
  22. You miss Mom's too-sweet potato salad and Dad's overdone burgers. They never really tasted all that good to you as a kid, and they were certainly nothing compared to the five-star breakfasts that Frederick prepares on a whim now -- but there's just something about the thought of home cooking that causes your heart to catch in your throat.
  23.  
  24. On some TV documentary you heard about this phenomenon years ago -- the "Proust effect", if you're remembering the name right. Senses linking to memories. Little bits of the past that somehow come back to life, made more real by a familiar taste or a memorable smell. Admittedly, you haven't thought much about home since you wound up here. You can remember things from your childhood all the way through to high school just fine, but it feels like there's a door you just can't unlock once you try to recall the last two or three years of your life.
  25.  
  26. And if your nightmares are anything to go by, maybe it's for the best that you can't.
  27.  
  28. Unfortunately, the events of last night sure won't be leaving your consciousness any time soon. Your sinuses begin to burn as you replay the previous evening's highlight reel.
  29.  
  30. Beanie in danger. Busted leg. Fritzine. "Safety Schmidt". Restless sleep. Nightmares. Haunting imagery all evening long. The night shift at "Freddy Fazbear's Pizza". An animal band chasing you, cornering you. Waking up. Chichi being hurt. Chiclet's disappointment. Frederick's tight grip. Mangle's sleepytime cocktail.
  31.  
  32. Goldie.
  33.  
  34. He was so real, you STILL can't believe you hallucinated the whole thing. You've never seen anything like that, not ever. You've never really had an opportunity to do so. No drugs -- the D.A.R.E. guys scared you straight on that one as a kid. For better or for worse, your mind's always been your own. Until now, anyway.
  35.  
  36. The worst part about last night's cavalcade of misery, the absolute final straw that you just couldn't get past? The expressions on their faces. The looks that said they'd seen it all before. As if you throwing the biggest freakout fit of your life was just an average evening. Maybe it was -- for them. For you, it was hell on earth.
  37.  
  38. Your cheeks are warm. Reaching a shaky hand to your face, you realize they're wet, too. You don't even know when you started crying. Anger and frustration begin to wash over you in waves, and the madder you get the more you start to sob. You hate the feeling of weakness -- you were put here to help these people out, to help carry their load. Not to become one yourself. Yeah, you've had some setbacks here and there, but you can still work. You can still be useful.
  39.  
  40. You're still normal, right?
  41.  
  42. Well, no. You know that's really not the case. There's no going back; you crossed a line last night when you mentioned Goldie, and any reputation you might have here went up in flames. You know everyone talks behind your back. Even if Fred and Chiclet keep it internalized to just their households, that's still almost ten people that know about your nervous breakdown, and that's to say nothing of nearby neighbors who likely heard the commotion as well. Word travels fast around here; before sunset, you'll be fully branded as the newest lunatic to move into the complex.
  43.  
  44. It's getting harder to stop crying now. Fear, shame, and humiliation swirl around in your tormented mind. Right now you want to bury yourself under a rock and never come out. Even homelessness was preferable to blowing the one good thing to happen to you in years.
  45.  
  46.  
  47. And you were so close to feeling like you were finally home, too.
  48.  
  49.  
  50. A pair of furry paws slip around your chest, gently easing you away from your tear-soaked pillow and up into a sitting position on the couch. It's still dark and your vision's blurry, and in a panic you lurch forward only to be pulled into a hug. Strangely, the smell of rain and smoke is stronger than ever as your face brushes against coarse fur and fabric.
  51.  
  52. "No shame in crying," a soft, maternal voice mumbles into your ear. "...done a lot of it lately, myself."
  53.  
  54. Without a word, you bury your face in April's chest and give into your anguish. She patiently holds you as you slough your melancholy off one sob at a time, expending feelings you hadn't even realized you'd been bottling up. At this point you don't care who sees you. You don't care if everyone thinks you've lost your mind. Maybe you have.
  55.  
  56. Maybe this is what you need to do to get it back.
  57.  
  58. April soothes you gently as you weep, like a mother comforting a frightened child. It's obvious this is territory she's well experienced in; she patiently whispers calming words to you, her paws tenderly running the length of your spine as you pour your heart out.
  59.  
  60. Eventually, you've cried all you can cry, your emotional tank having run empty. Slowly, steadily you pull yourself away from April. You lost track of how much time you spent in her arms, but it was dark when she made her presence known to you, and now the sun's just beginning to peek out over the horizon.
  61.  
  62. "Better?" she asks, handing you a tissue box. You numbly nod, wiping the last of the tears from your eyes, only for your jaw to nearly hit the floor when you're finally able to see the living room clearly.
  63.  
  64. Frederick's reclining in his chair, politely pretending not to notice you as Bonnibel dozes in his arms, wrapped up in a thick comforter. Chiclet's sprawled across the carpet, half-covered in a sheet from her bed. Her impressive wingspan drapes across the living room floor, her orange feathers warmly reflecting the morning light. To your surprise, even Bonbon's here as well, curled up in the other stuffed chair under a patchwork quilt. Her leg warmers and exercise clothes are in a sloppy pile on the floor next to her bare feet.
  65.  
  66. "Wh-what's everyone doing here?" you whisper to April.
  67.  
  68. "Protecting their wounded," the battered rabbit comments, absently dabbing at the moisture in her dewlap with a tissue.
  69.  
  70. Dumbfounded, you realize the commonality -- every single one of them is surrounding your couch in an almost strategic fashion. Bonbon to your left. Frederick and Bonnibel to your right. April right next to you. Chiclet in the center of it all. They could have slept in the comfort of their own rooms, bundled up safely in their own warm beds -- but they didn't.
  71.  
  72. In your time of need, they chose to be here for you.
  73.  
  74. "...zzz..."
  75.  
  76. The sound of faint, whistling snoring draws your attention -- you look around the room in bewilderment trying to locate the source of the noise. April points lethargically toward the ceiling, and as you look up, you notice a tiny white snout covered in messy pink lipstick poking out of the overhead vent. A paw with lacquered nails drapes out, twitching gingerly.
  77.  
  78. "Of course," you half-chuckle.
  79.  
  80. Leaning back, you observe the scene in quiet, reverent awe. Based on the way everyone appears to be in some state of slumber, they've been here for the entire night -- or what of it was left by the time you were walked back home from across the street. Frederick's gaze meets yours, and the two of you exchange quiet waves.
  81.  
  82. "Mmmmgh." Chiclet mumbles to herself, rolling over in her sleep. Her foot brushes against your leg, and apparently the foreign sensation is enough to rouse her. "Oh, hey, Mike," she yawns casually before realization kicks in, causing her to suddenly bolt upright.
  83.  
  84. "'Morning," you whisper.
  85.  
  86. "Good morning," she warily answers, tossing her sheet aside and standing up to pad over to you. "How, um -- how're we doing today?"
  87.  
  88. You close your eyes, genuinely contemplating her question. "Better," you finally reply after several seconds of consideration. "I'm sorry about everything that happened."
  89.  
  90. Chiclet nods, patting your leg. "Don't be, Mike. I'm the one who should be apologizing to you. You've really had a rough go of it."
  91.  
  92. "Hey, you don't have to front on my behalf." You lower your head self-consciously. "I know you've got your hands full here; you don't need me being a burden too."
  93.  
  94. "What, you think that's how I see you? As a burden?" she asks as indignantly as she can while still keeping her voice low, leaning in close to you.
  95.  
  96. Frowning, you pull back, avoiding her gaze. "How else would you see it? I humiliated you guys in front of Fred last night."
  97.  
  98. She takes a deep breath before responding. "Mike, listen to me. You're not in any way a burden, an embarrassment, or any other form of inconvenience to me or anyone else in this house. Do you understand?"
  99.  
  100. You say nothing; in your heart, you don't agree with her.
  101.  
  102. "My fault, actually," April murmurs. "Mike wouldn't have--"
  103.  
  104. "No, don't you go throwing yourself on the grenade either," Chiclet says, heading April off with a gentle wingtip pressed to her forehead. "You had no idea what you were coming into, and besides, I had options. I could've put you in my room and taken the couch. I could have put Bonnie in my room with me and you in hers, but I did what I thought was best. It just so happened that I ended up entrusting Mike to people I only barely know, and it went as well as could be expected."
  105.  
  106. "Oh, that's enough of that now!" Flamboyant, soft giggling echoes from the air vent overhead. "Let's just enjoy the happy moment, shall we? No need for melodrama."
  107.  
  108. "You're one to talk," Chiclet grumbles in annoyance as the candy-colored fox emerges from the aluminum cocoon. "Besides, you're still in trouble after not giving me a heads-up last night."
  109.  
  110. Yawning, Mangle offers her a sleepy smile. "Learn to let go, Freddy."
  111.  
  112. "Maybe I should let you go -- off of the balcony outside," Chiclet snarks back. There's just enough of a smile at her battered lips that you know she doesn't mean it, but you imagine Mangle's not even close to being off the hook.
  113.  
  114. "Aheh! Heh, mmm. So, how are you f-feeling this morning, Mike?" Mangle nervously stammers, abruptly switching gears back to you.
  115.  
  116. You scratch the back of your head. "Still sore, but I guess I'm alright," you respond. Well, sort of. You're still humiliated after your fit, and you have no idea how long it'll be before you can show your face around Fred and the others, but you're at least beginning to feel some emotional catharsis. "I'll talk to Marion today about relocating."
  117.  
  118. "Why?" Chiclet furrows her brow. "Nobody needs to relocate. Not you, not April. You're both staying right here."
  119.  
  120. "That's magnanimous of you and all, but we still have the space issues of being six adults in a four-bedroom apartment," you reply. "I'm sure he can stick me somewhere for a week or two. I'm not about to go inconvenience Bonworth and Cheeky again."
  121.  
  122. "If he had somewhere for you..." April hoarsely whispers, trailing off as she points to herself.
  123.  
  124. Shaking a couple of orange feathers loose from her camisole, Chiclet yawns. "April's right; if Marion had anywhere else to shove someone, she wouldn't be here in the first place. Besides, I'm not letting you out of my sight again. We'll make it work somehow."
  125.  
  126. "Actually, I had an idea about that!" Bonbon's up and all smiles, paw raised as if she's a student asking a question in junior high. She tosses her quilt aside, and with a blush you can't help but notice she's wearing a long neon orange tee-shirt and not terribly much else. As she slowly slips her tights on over her well-toned legs, you can definitely see that all of that exercise hasn't been for nothing.
  127.  
  128. Without turning her attention from you, Chiclet gives Bonbon a quick dismissive flap of her wing. "Morning, Bonbon. Hold that thought for a sec, we're kind of in the middle of it here."
  129.  
  130. "Oh, lighten up. I've been listening to the two of you have some kind of martyr-off," Bonbon chides, switching from student to teacher in one easy swoop.
  131.  
  132. Mangle drops down a little from the overhead duct, grinning mischievously. "My sentiments exactly! Mike's home. Why ruin the moment with this heavy-hearted nonsense?"
  133.  
  134. "He's more than safe, Mike's a hero," Bonbon declares. "He saved my best friend's life yesterday, and he couldn't have done that if you hadn't put him out, Chiclet. So far as I'm concerned, you're both okay in my book."
  135.  
  136. "Saved your best-- Mike, is that what Chichi meant by Beanie getting 'trapped'?" Chiclet asks, jerking her head back and forth between the two of you in an avian manner.
  137.  
  138. Frowning, Bonbon ties her floppy ears up with her sweatband. "Geez, Chiclet! What the hell did you think it meant?"
  139.  
  140. Instantly, Chiclet's on the defensive with narrowed eyes and a flustered huff. "I saw she had a black eye, but I kind of had a lot on my mind last night. I didn't think to ask in the middle of everything else that was going on."
  141.  
  142. "Okay, but didn't Mr. Fazbear call you and fill you in?"
  143.  
  144. "Yes, but both he and Mangle neglected to mention anything about Jeremy Human's being involved," Chiclet answers, side-eyeing an innocent-looking Mangle. "And you know, I really just didn't think to put two and two together."
  145.  
  146. April visibly tenses up, but to her credit doesn't say anything. Both Bonbon and Chiclet seem to notice her visible discomfort, lowering their voices accordingly.
  147.  
  148. "Yesterday morning the restaurant was closed for remodeling," Bonbon murmurs with a wary glance in April's direction. "Beanie didn't know when she went in for work. You were one of the engineers there, right?"
  149.  
  150. "Oh, shit," Chiclet groans. "Maintenance wasn't there to reset the custom night mode? They'd have -- ohh, I don't even want to think about what would have happened to Beanie."
  151.  
  152. "Yeah, but Mike totally swooped in and Legend of Bob'd the shit outta 'em," Bonbon cheers as she bounds over to the couch, plopping next to you.
  153.  
  154. "Legend?" April quietly asks with a curious tilt of her ear-and-a-half. "...Bob?"
  155.  
  156. Gasping theatrically, Bonbon raises both paws to her mouth. "You haven't heard?! Only like, the best thing on television right now! I'll bring my season one box set up later for you to check out," she enthuses before turning back to Chiclet. "But yeah, Mike saved Beanie's tail last night. Isn't that right, Mike?"
  157.  
  158. You shrug, not wanting to relive too much of it. "I was in the right place at the right time."
  159.  
  160. Snorting, Bonbon throws an arm around your chest obliviously, causing you to wince in pain. "Pfffft, you are so stinkin' humble! He army-crawled through the air vents, Chiclet! The freakin' VENTS to get to Beanie!"
  161.  
  162. "A boy after my own heart," Mangle beams from overhead. "I couldn't be prouder. Aren't you ever the little war hero!"
  163.  
  164. "Geez, Mike," Chiclet says, nonchalantly prying Bonbon's arm loose from you. "No wonder you were having such a rough night. I gotta hand it to you, that's amazing."
  165.  
  166. "Um, thanks," you reply. Despite everything, you can't help but feel a little proud of yourself. It's nice to be appreciated, and more importantly, you're glad nobody's rubbing your faux pas in. You sneak a glance over at Frederick who smiles and tips his tiny hat to you.
  167.  
  168. "Je suis heureux de voir que vous vous sentez bien," he says. You're not sure of what he said, but it seems well-intentioned. He's probably just trying to tell you he's glad to see you're doing better or something, in his own way.
  169.  
  170. "Thanks, man," you reply, nodding back to him. Pleased, he gently eases Bonnibel out of his lap and onto his chair before heading to the kitchen.
  171.  
  172. "Anyway, I was saying I got an idea," Bonbon continues, retaking the reins of the conversation. "It's simple and nobody gets put out by it. Mike, come stay with me until April gets a place of her own."
  173.  
  174. Chiclet shakes her head. "That's really sweet of you to offer, Bonbon, but he'll be fine up here."
  175.  
  176. The electric blue bunny leans forward, eyebrows raised. "Whaaaat? You don't have room for him, I do! What's the problem?"
  177.  
  178. "Mike, I don't know how I feel about this," Chiclet muses. "I don't feel like I can protect you if you venture too far out of my view."
  179.  
  180. "What is he, your egg?!" Scoffing, Bonbon elbows you in the shoulder. "He'll be right underneath you. Literally. Our apartment is LITERALLY underneath yours. Look, I'll give you a key and you can come visit him anytime you want."
  181.  
  182. "You already gave me a key before, you dork," Chiclet chuckles, folding her wings. "Remember when you were out of town and asked me to water your plants?"
  183.  
  184. Scratching the top of her head, Bonbon frowns. "I did?"
  185.  
  186. "Yes, and your plants had already been dead for months when I went downstairs the very same day."
  187.  
  188. "Huh. Guess I forgot," Bonbon laughs sheepishly. "Look, Mike, I know it's a lot to take in and all, but I know you'd sleep better in your own bed. Besides, it'd just be for a couple weeks and Chiclet would be right overhead to check on you. Heck, I spend so much time here you probably wouldn't even notice a difference!"
  189.  
  190. You ponder the decision for a few moments. On the one hand, you really don't feel like trying to move apartments again despite your earlier bluff of mentioning relocation. On the other, you'd be helping Chiclet out, and Bonbon seems really keen to bring you in for some reason. Probably because she feels obligated to you for rescuing Beanie. Worst case scenario, you can always politely beg off after a few days, or just spend enough time visiting friends that it won't be too much of an inconvenience for you until April gets moved into a more permanent residence.
  191.  
  192. "I guess I can give it a try," you finally manage. "Would I be staying with Peanut in his room?"
  193.  
  194. "Nah," Bonbon grins, hopping up from the couch. "You can bunk with me."
  195.  
  196. "No good," April murmurs disapprovingly.
  197.  
  198. Chiclet joins in, shaking her head. "Not happening, bunny girl."
  199.  
  200. "Over my dead body," Mangle adamantly agrees from the ceiling, sniffing in offense. "I won't let you soil Michael's virginity with your -- your disgraceful fetishes!"
  201.  
  202. "I'm not a virgin," you state flatly.
  203.  
  204. Mangle reaches down and pats your head condescendingly with one paw while pinching your cheek with the other. "Of course you aren't, dear! You're the manliest little man."
  205.  
  206. "Bonbon, you either put him in with Peanut or no deal," Chiclet intones. "End of story."
  207.  
  208. "Awww, come on!" Bonbon pleads, wringing her paws. "Have you seen his hands?! They're so -- so human-like! Look at his fingers!"
  209.  
  210. "That's it, I'm staying here," you chuckle.
  211.  
  212. Moaning, Bonbon throws her arms in the air, conceding defeat. "Fiiiiine! You can stay with Peanut, just -- please? Just try it for a week?"
  213.  
  214. Chiclet turns to you, eyebrows raised. "I'm not gonna tell you what to do, Mike, but I think you know how I feel."
  215.  
  216. Sighing, you look Bonbon over, watching her feet work overtime as they rapidly thump up and down on the carpeted floor in excitement. If you didn't know better you'd assume she was trying to send a telegraph with her fuzzy toes.
  217.  
  218. "Sure," you finally answer, taking pity on the energetic exercise bunny. "I'll bring my stuff down after breakfast. Thanks for having me, Bonbon."
  219.  
  220. Satisfied she's gotten her way, Bonbon whoops out in delight, causing Bonnibel to nearly jump out of Frederick's chair.
  221.  
  222. "Huh?! What?!" the tinier of the two blue rabbits shrieks, teeth chattering as she jerks her head around in confusion. "Is -- is everything okay? The sky's not falling again, is it?!"
  223.  
  224. "Everything's just fine," Bonbon cheers, snatching her petite counterpart up in a hug. "I got me a new humie roomie!"
  225.  
  226. "I may suddenly be regretting my decision," you mutter to Chiclet with a wry grin.
  227.  
  228. "Hey, don't look at me. I warned you," she smirks before walking into the kitchen to help Frederick prepare breakfast.
  229.  
  230.  
  231.  
  232. Slightly to your chagrin, it seems like everyone's going out of their way to make you feel more comfortable. At breakfast, your appetite's back in full force just in time for another one of Frederick's stellar meals. Realizing how famished you were after watching you attack your first plate, Frederick continues serving you seconds until you've overeaten to the point of misery and are begging him to stop.
  233.  
  234. After helping clean up the dishes, Bonbon heads downstairs to make preparations for your stay. The rest of your housemates offer you first use of the shower, and even though you repeatedly decline they make it clear they want to pamper you in whatever way they can. In response, you try to be conscientious and make your shower as quick as possible, even though the warm water feels amazing on your tortured skin. After you're finished washing up, you step out in front of the mirror to survey your torso. The bruises are now fully visible -- you look like you've been assaulted with a baseball bat thanks to Fritzine. On the plus side, your leg's in far better shape this morning.
  235.  
  236. Once you're out, Chiclet changes your bandages while Mangle insists on treating you to a hot towel shave and shoulder massage. Out of respect for your fellow roommates you ask Mangle to shave you in the kitchen so that the hall bathroom can free up for everyone else's use. As you've witnessed before, Mangle's claim of possessing "healing paws" is no joke. You feel like a new man after letting the foppish fox tend to you, and you suspect that it's a way of apologizing for humbling you last night. Even if it was for your own good.
  237.  
  238. "I've gotta know, what exactly DID you drug me with when we were at Fred's?" you ask as Mangle helps you to your feet. You run a hand over your face, surprised at how smooth your skin feels.
  239.  
  240. "Anti-histamines," Mangle replies casually. "Don't worry, I wouldn't give you anything too strong."
  241.  
  242. "So not something like, say, Bonnibel's medication then?" you ask, feeling foolish for even considering the notion.
  243.  
  244. Frowning, Mangle dries off a stray dollop of shaving cream that managed to make it to your eyebrow. "You're not Bonnie, so no. Besides, do you really think I ran across the street at, what, two in the morning with a dozen pill bottles tucked into the folds of my robe -- just so I could give you a one-way trip to the emergency room for a stomach pumping?"
  245.  
  246. You scratch the back of your head. "Point taken."
  247.  
  248. Mangle gives you a cheeky little nod, patting your rear as you leave the kitchen. "Besides, that wasn't the first time I've had to do so."
  249.  
  250. "Hold up," you reply, whirling in place. "So you have--"
  251.  
  252. "Oooohhh, my! Just look at the time. You'd better be on your way then, Mike!"
  253.  
  254. Mangle bustles past you with an armful of shaving supplies, retreating down the hall before you can continue your interrogation. With a sigh, you accept defeat for now, walking out of the kitchen. Still creepy as ever -- it's nice to know some things, at the very least, haven't changed.
  255.  
  256. In the common area, Bonnibel's piled up next to a freshly-laundered April, Chiclet having just finished helping her out of the shower and changing her wrappings. As the orange bird disappears for her turn at the bathroom, you realize this is as good an opportunity as any to take care of something genuinely important. Walking across the living room, you tap Bonnibel on the shoulder.
  257.  
  258. "Can I borrow you a minute?" you ask with a hopeful smile.
  259.  
  260. "Sure, Mike," Bonnibel replies, matching your smile with one of her own. April gives the two of you a wary look as you follow Bonnibel to her bedroom.
  261.  
  262. "Door stays open," she whispers to you. You give her an incredulous laugh, but even with three quarters of her face bandaged it's clear from her expression she's serious.
  263.  
  264. "Yes ma'am. Say, you, uh, you're not upset about me getting snot in your fur earlier, are you?" you joke, hoping to lighten the mood a little. To your satisfaction April laughs; it's a dry giggle laced with pain, but one that you can tell she needed just the same.
  265.  
  266. "Just looking out for the little one," the matronly rabbit coughs once she's regained her composure. "Rabbit thing."
  267.  
  268. Ah. That makes sense. "I'll keep it real fast, then."
  269.  
  270. It occurs to you that you haven't really gotten to see the inside of Bonnibel's room until now. Between April's order and Chiclet's own words to you when you first moved in about how "nobody goes in with Bonnie at all", you make sure the door is wide open as you walk inside to avoid any appearance of impropriety. Much like Bonnibel herself, it's childish and girly. You can tell the best furniture has been reserved for her. Her dresser is covered in handmade dolls and toys, and frilly outfits hang from a wire rack by her closet door -- most likely gifts from Mangle. A four-poster canopy bed is in the center of the room, a lacy pink sheet hanging over the top.
  271.  
  272. "I sure am glad you're back," Bonnibel warmly offers as you take a seat next to her at the edge of her bed. Her speech is a little slurred -- you can tell she's already had her pills for the day, and based on the way her eyelids seem to be flickering, she'll probably be out like a light before too long.
  273.  
  274. "About that -- you heard I'm headed downstairs to stay with Bonbon, right?" you answer. "It's just for a few days, though-- I'll be right underneath you if you want to come visit."
  275.  
  276. "I meant from Jeremy's, but it's good that you're back over here, too," Bonnibel says, surprising you. "What, um, what was it you wanted to...?"
  277.  
  278. You nod, trying to piece together what exactly it is that you want to say. She patiently waits, watching as you struggle to form the words in your head before you give voice to them. With Bonnibel, you've got to be especially careful -- the slightest misstep could send her bawling and you're really not up for damage control.
  279.  
  280. "Do you remember when I first moved in a couple weeks ago, and we were talking over -- gosh, I guess it was our first breakfast together?" you begin carefully, tone even and measured as you recall the event.
  281.  
  282. She tilts her head, scrunching up her face. "Maybe," she says. "What about it?"
  283.  
  284. Exhaling, you continue. "We were talking about my, uh, skin. And lack of fur? Remember?"
  285.  
  286. "Ohhh, right," she says, perking up a little. "I still think you're really cute, if that helps."
  287.  
  288. You chuckle awkardly. "Um, thanks. I think you're cute too -- actually, no, I know you're cute." She titters affectionately, leaning her head into your lap as you ruffle her headfur.
  289.  
  290. "So, um, you made a comment about -- me being, uh, 'broken'. Like the rest of -- well, like every -- uh..." Squeezing your eyes shut, you will yourself to get the words out as delicately as you can manage. "I really got mad when you said I was 'broken', because at the time, I didn't really think I was. No, I didn't KNOW I was."
  291.  
  292. She looks up at you wordlessly, pressing a paw to your fingers still entwined in her soft blue hair.
  293.  
  294. "I guess I just wanted to say that I'm sorry," you admit. "I'm sorry that I thought I was better than you, and everyone else. It's just, um, I'm realizing now that I've got a lot of problems I still -- I still need to deal with."
  295.  
  296. "Mike, I don't know if you've noticed or not," she says, pulling away from your hand to look you in the eye. Her entire demeanor has changed. Her usually childish nature has been replaced with a more demure, adult air. "This place is basically where -- well, it's where broken people come to live."
  297.  
  298. At a loss for any way to tactfully reply, you opt to hold your tongue.
  299.  
  300. "When you moved in, I think we all assumed there had to be something that you suffered from. That's just how everybody is here; Chica, Freddy, Mangle, and especially me. We're all sorta messed up, Mike. But you know what?" Sitting up, she beams. "That's okay."
  301.  
  302. You wait for her to continue, but it becomes apparent when she doesn't that she's said all she needed to say. After taking a moment to mull it over, you get up from her bed, nodding gratefully to her as you make your way out of her room.
  303.  
  304. "Thanks, Bonnibel."
  305.  
  306. "Sure. Oh, and Mike?"
  307.  
  308. You turn around only for her to embrace you, planting her velvety-soft muzzle against your lips. Before you even realize it, your lips are locked together as she stands on her tip-toes, both paws wrapped around the back of your head to pull you to her height. The kiss lasts only for a few moments, and yet somehow it's long enough for April to have seen everything, peering in with a look of disapproval on her face. Your eyes like dinner plates, you stick your arms out to either side, flailing to signal your duress. Bonnibel continues to nuzzle obliviously against your cheek, her smile as bright as the midday sun.
  309.  
  310. "Well, have a good time at Bonbon's," she finally remarks, waving you off as you stumble out her bedroom door. You gently click it shut behind you before turning to face April's wrath. The older rabbit folds her arms, squinting at you through her good eye as if demanding an explanation.
  311.  
  312. "In fairness," you croak, tugging at your collar, "I did leave the door open like you asked me to."
  313.  
  314.  
  315.  
  316. "Not too late to change your mind," Chiclet grins as she towels off her wet headfeathers.
  317.  
  318. You shrug before picking up the lighter of your two pieces of luggage. "How bad can it be? Bonbon's pretty nice if not a bit hyper, Peanut seems like a big fuzzy teddy bear. Mango was friendly from what little of her I got to see."
  319.  
  320. "Sure, until you get to know her," Mangle replies from the couch, voice dripping with disdain.
  321.  
  322. You raise an eyebrow. "They have a bit of a, uh, rivalry," Chiclet stage whispers.
  323.  
  324. "Heavens! I DO hope you aren't implying she's even close to being my rival," the fashionista sputters, changing the television channel with extreme prejudice. "Hah! I'm only working with the drama queen on Mike's costume as a, a -- why, it's nothing more than a marriage of convenience!"
  325.  
  326. "Drama queen. Right," you answer with a wink at Chiclet, who covers her mouth to hide her grin. Mangle catches both your look and tone, turning a furious eye in your direction.
  327.  
  328. "Something you'd like to say, Michael?" Growling like a mad dog, Mangle swats at one of the couch's throw pillows in frustration.
  329.  
  330. "Nope! No, I'm good," you hurriedly protest. "I guess I'll be going then?"
  331.  
  332. "Good luck, Mike. Bonbon can be a handful," Chiclet adds as you shuffle towards the front door with all of your worldly possessions. "Any time you want to bail, our door's open."
  333.  
  334. Tossing a glance over your shoulder at Chiclet, you give her a salute with your free arm. "Message received. I'll probably be taking you up on it before too long."
  335.  
  336. After saying your goodbyes, you head out the door and down the stairs to 87-A, where Bonbon is standing outside on her front doormat with a manic smile.
  337.  
  338. "About time! What took you so long?" she says, grabbing you by the arm and yanking you inside. "C'mon, roomie!"
  339.  
  340. You're whisked into the apartment, nearly spilling the contents of your luggage as you trip over the threshold. Already your heart's pounding in your chest -- maybe Chiclet was right, and maybe you really are biting off more than you can chew. But hey, you've parted ways with three completely different apartments full of three completely different sets of strangers -- all on amazingly awesome terms, right?
  341.  
  342. What could go wrong?
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