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Roommates - Ch. 38 (Honesty is the Best Policy)

Sep 8th, 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. 38 (Honesty is the Best Policy): http://i.imgur.com/I1VXSoh.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. The car ride home is spent largely in silence. Fred isn't much the type for conversation unless he has something he needs to say, which suits you fine. Right now you've got too much on your mind to really feel up to chatter anyway.
  13.  
  14. Nisha's revelation to you about Fred's condition came completely out of left field. Someone as stalwart and seemingly unflappable as Fred having a severe psychiatric disorder comes as such a shock, you're not even sure you fully understand the information you've been given about him. Bonnibel's myriad of crippling neuroses and Haddock's faltering, childlike personality make their issues easy enough to identify and respond to, but Fred being able to hide it so well feels like an entirely new level of unstable you weren't aware existed.
  15.  
  16. It's no wonder he was so quick to usher you out after your ordeal with hallucinating his dead brother. It probably set off some deep-seated psychological bomb he otherwise had been able to compartmentalize for years.
  17.  
  18. It's not until the car drives over the speedbumps at the front of the complex and the wrought iron gate is firmly in the rear-view mirror that Fred finally breaks the quiet.
  19.  
  20. "Thanks for coming along, Mike," Fred quietly ventures, looking at you with an almost optimistic expression. "Have to say, you look like you're doing better. Wasn't so bad, right?"
  21.  
  22. Your stomach turns; in spite of everything that's transpired from the moment you entered his household to the moment you left, he's still trying to help you out, even though he needs it more than you do. Taking a breath, you carefully measure your reply, formulating your words in advance.
  23.  
  24. "I appreciated our conversation today, especially you filling me in on some of the details," you finally manage as his car pulls up to Building 8. "And, um, lunch was really great, too. That was a really nice treat."
  25.  
  26. "Don't mention it," he grunts with an amiable wave of his hand. Even though you blatantly dodged his question, your answer seems to have placated him for now. "Hey, Mike."
  27.  
  28. Opening the door, you step outside onto the pavement after collecting your jacket from the back of his seat. "Yeah, Fred?"
  29.  
  30. "If..." He shrugs, exhaling heavily through his nose. "If you need a place to stay until things clear up with your old apartment..."
  31.  
  32. You watch as a cloud of your breath escapes your mouth, disappearing into the afternoon sky. "I really do appreciate the invitation, but these guys need me to stick around and give them a hand." You rub the back of your head sheepishly, winking at him. "Bonbon and Peanut aren't exactly the, uh, leadership types, you know."
  33.  
  34. Fred rests both paws on his steering wheel, shifting a little in his seat to look at you with a hint of a relief on his tired muzzle. You can't blame him for not really wanting you back, but it was big of him to offer. "Hah. Of course. Well then, I'm counting on you to teach them some responsibility."
  35.  
  36. "Hey, now. I never said I was a miracle worker," you immediately return. The two of you exchange a short, quiet chuckle before he puts his car into gear, driving across the street to his own home. Finally left to your own devices, you turn to Building 8 and begin climbing the stairs before remembering halfway up that 87-A is on the ground floor, not the upper level.
  37.  
  38. Old habits die hard.
  39.  
  40. Turning around, you trudge back down the stairs; there's still work yet to be done before you can finally head home.
  41.  
  42. "Hey guys, I'm back," you call out upon arriving at the correct apartment. Stepping into the foyer, you immediately strike your good shin against a half-filled bag of trash in the middle of the entryway, spilling soda cans and carryout containers onto the tile floor. "What the hell...?"
  43.  
  44. The apartment's almost as bad as it was the first day you arrived. Just in the short span of time that has elapsed since you left this morning, there are already small piles of dirty laundry and garbage accumulating in bizarre locations. You don't even want to know how a bra ended up hanging from the light sconce by the front door, though the familiar sequin pattern makes it easy enough to assume who put it there. A trail of glitter and fabric scraps litters the floor, stretching from Mango's bedroom to the common area -- as if she somehow emanates an aura of arts and crafts supplies like a slug secretes slime.
  45.  
  46. Frowning, you scrape the refuse back into the trash bag before tying it off and closing the front door behind yourself. The living room's no better than the rest of the apartment, with a mostly-eaten bag of potato chips and six or seven juice boxes strewn all over the carpet. Peanut must have surfaced for air long enough to consume all the junk food Bonbon likely doesn't let him eat on a regular basis, before returning for hibernation (or torpor, or whatever). Nobody's present to take responsibility for their messes, but it's not hard to piece together the evidence when you've got four viable culprits.
  47.  
  48. You hang your jacket up on the rack by the front door, glaring at the mound of coats on the floor in a graceless jumble directly underneath said rack. Peanut's tuxedo and Bonbon's windbreaker are present, and you're guessing by the garish shade of mauve that the thick wool overcoat with huge hand-sewn wooden buttons likely belongs to Goose. That leaves the equally hideous gingham coat to probably belong to Mango, who's proven that she's not even close to Mangle's level of fashion-savvy. Then again, teachers usually aren't snappy dressers, so maybe Mango's simply playing to type.
  49.  
  50. Regardless, there's no excuse for all of the coats to be on the floor -- it's not like any of the pegs are broken, and the rack is more than sturdy enough to support the weight of all of them considering it's bolted to the wall. The display is so completely typical of this apartment's collective mindset: do a job about a third of the way, and then move onto whatever the newest shiny, glistening distraction is.
  51.  
  52. This is ridiculous. Your first apartment was eclectic and mismatched, and it wasn't 100% spotless, but for the most part everything had a semblance of order. You wouldn't open the broom closet only to find a carton of milk, or have to pull a paperback book out of the VCR just to watch a movie. This place, on the other hand, stands as a monument to both coziness and chaos. While the atmosphere is warm and inviting, it's also badly lacking in discipline. And while you really don't relish the thought of having to take charge -- you're a natural follower, not a leader -- it's plain as day that these guys need a little tough love. You're not sure you're the type to believe in fate, but maybe the entire reason you were brought to this world was to teach these poor clods how to pick up after themselves.
  53.  
  54. Well, that's probably an overstatement.
  55.  
  56. Grimacing, you step over the countless hotspots of junk as you make your way over to the couch, picking up a few of Bonbon's random comic books along the way to serve as a timewaster until everyone's back home. If you're going to stay here, you'll need to have a little heart-to-heart with your new roomies -- for their own good, if nothing else.
  57.  
  58.  
  59.  
  60. About an hour and a half has passed when Bonbon finally bounces into the living room wearing a baggy tee and a pair of gym shorts. She must have just gotten out of the shower since her exercise mat is out in the middle of the floor and she's dabbing at her ears with a towel. "Oh, hey, Mike! When'd you get back?"
  61.  
  62. "Not too long ago," you respond tersely, setting issue #54 of Strange Humans aside. "Do you guys have work today?"
  63.  
  64. Bonbon checks the wall calendar hanging in the kitchen. "Nooope, we're not scheduled today! Good thing, too! Peanut's in the middle of one of his afternoon naps. But forget him, I was thinking we could finish up the rest of Legend of Bob this afternoon so that you'll be synced up with me!"
  65.  
  66. Frowning, you bring yourself to a proper sitting position as Bonbon eagerly bounds over to the living room, plopping down close enough to you that you can feel her slightly-damp fur bristling through your clothes. Surprisingly, she smells like blue raspberry candy -- probably her bodywash, if you had to guess. It's not a bad scent for her -- a bit juvenile, but let's be honest: that comes with the territory around here.
  67.  
  68. "So, roomie, what episode did we last leave off on--"
  69.  
  70. "Bonbon," you interrupt, looking at her with an austere expression. "You mind if I interject something serious real quick?"
  71.  
  72. "Oh, sorry! Not at all. What's up, Mike?" She pays you rapt attention, giving you a buck-toothed grin as she finishes toweling off her ears, before pulling them up into their usual style with a clean athletic band. She seems like she's in a good mood, so it's probably the best time to get the unpleasant "talk" out of the way so you can both enjoy the rest of the evening.
  73.  
  74. "I didn't want to have to have this conversation with you, but we really need to get some stuff straightened out if I'm going to stay here."
  75.  
  76. Her face falls as she pulls away from you abruptly, eyebrows turned upward. "No," she half-whispers, smiling incredulously. "No, Mike, not you too."
  77.  
  78. "Bonbon, I'm sorry, but this entire lifestyle's not healthy!" you reply a bit more firmly, waving an arm around the apartment. "I really don't mean to tell you your business, but it's causing problems for your other housemates. I mean, what about Goose?" You reach for her hand, but she jerks away like she's just been burned, scooting to the end of the couch.
  79.  
  80. "What ABOUT her? Mike, no! This happens every time we have someone new come in! And I just, I don't, you know, it's like -- um, I figured when you moved in you'd be cool with who I am! Chica's never given me a hard time about it, and Freddy and Mangle don't mind either!"
  81.  
  82. Of course they don't mind. They're the other three pieces of the four-piece puzzle. "Bonbon, I'm not saying this is all your fault. They're responsible for their share, too."
  83.  
  84. She stares at you in shock, her voice softening. "Mike, what changed? When we first met that day when I was walking Foxy, you were totally on board. We were joking about it and everything."
  85.  
  86. "Wait, what? Joking about Foxy?" you ask out loud, thrown off track before it clicks in your head that she thinks you're giving her shit about her human fetish. She's TOTALLY misinterpreted your meaning. You're suddenly struggling to keep a straight face, but you also know that if you start laughing right now, she's going to freak out.
  87.  
  88. "I thought, you and I, I thought we had something special, Mike!" She's beginning to tear up now, and suddenly the humor of the moment is gone. You feel a small pang of guilt as you realize how serious this is to her -- poor girl really is deep into this whole human thing. She's just as deluded as those lonely guys from your world that obsessed over that girls' cartoon about dancing, singing horses.
  89.  
  90. "Of course we do," you begin to reply, but she's in full panic now. Her pupils are beginning to dilate. Her breath's coming in quick, short bursts -- she's not hyperventilating, but damn if she isn't close. Running a nervous paw through her headfur, she laughs anxiously as she continues to ramble.
  91.  
  92. "I thought we could be like, friends, and I'm not going to apologize!!"
  93.  
  94. "Nobody's asking you to apologize!" you return hastily, leaning forward a little. Bonbon tucks her legs up underneath herself, grabbing a pillow and squeezing it close to her chest. "You completely misunderstand what I'm trying to tell you -- of course we're frien--"
  95.  
  96. "I'm a humie!" she blurts out. She's practically shrieking now. "So what?! I think humans are awesome, okay?! I want to rub my fur against their soft, smooth skin, Mike! I want humans to pet my feet with their fingers, and massage my ears! And I just assumed you were into them too!"
  97.  
  98. "Bonbon, listen." You look her in the eye, taking care to speak slowly and clearly so that there's no chance of her misinterpreting. "Let me just nip this in the bud here and now: I have no problem with you being a 'humie' or any of that, okay? Hell, I like humans myself. Probably not, uh, in quite the same way you do, but you know, I mean -- I don't mind them."
  99.  
  100. "Then why are you -- what's this whole thing about?" Bonbon asks guardedly, clearly hurt but wanting to understand.
  101.  
  102. "I was going to kind of try to ease you into it, but I can see now that wasn't the right idea." If you can at all avoid it, you really don't want a repeat of what happened with Mangle. "I'll cut to the chase. Your apartment's a mess, and you guys need to get your shit together before Goose slips on a soda can and breaks her neck."
  103.  
  104. If she was hooked up to a computer screen, you could almost see a loading bar next to her brain as she stops to parse what you're saying before finally arriving at the conclusion that you aren't, in fact, telling her she's a degenerate with an insane fetish.
  105.  
  106. "Wait, that's it?" she breathes, sniffing a little. "T-that's what you were trying to tell me about my 'unhealthy lifestyle'?"
  107.  
  108. "I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. Honest, I am, but that really was all I wanted to say. You know, I was going to say it more eloquently, kind of pitch it to you softball style, but uh..."
  109.  
  110. "Ohhh, wow," Bonbon says, a smile returning to her face as she slowly throttles down. "Mike, for a minute there you REALLY had me worried. But you're okay with the humie thing? Really? You don't -- you don't think I'm weird for it?" Honestly, you're not even sure that's the most bizarre thing about her.
  111.  
  112. "Everyone's at least a LITTLE weird in their own way. I'm weird. Chiclet's weird. Bonworth is SUPER weird. If human stuff's your thing, Bonbon, I ain't gonna judge you for it. I like you for who you are."
  113.  
  114. Without any provocation, Bonbon suddenly springs forward and wraps you in a hug, ruffling your hair with one of her paws. "Oh God, Mike, it means a lot to hear you say that. Really."
  115.  
  116. "I'm just sorry for making you think I was -- judging you...!" you grunt wincing as she presses herself against your sore chest. "I'm really not--"
  117.  
  118. The candy-scented blue bunny pulls back just enough to shove her mouth against your cheek, gripping your head in both hands as she kisses you breathlessly. Your heartbeat quickens as her lips tap against your skin, her eyelids squeezed shut as she trembles in excitement -- she's even an energetic, kinetic kisser. Speaking of which, what IS it with these rabbits suddenly smooching you out of nowhere?! Of course, unlike Bonnibel's heat-of-the-moment power kiss, this is more of a "just friends" type deal.
  119.  
  120. You hope.
  121.  
  122. Either that, or she's marking you as hers with her blue raspberry scent.
  123.  
  124. "Wow. Uh, like I was saying, I just wish you and the others were, y'know, a little bit better about cleaning your apartment," you shakily offer as she finally looses you, sliding back onto the couch.
  125.  
  126. Exhaling heavily, Bonbon lets out a stressed laugh -- it's a little shaky and kind of forced, but you can tell she's relieved to hear you don't hate her for her unusual fetish. "Alright, Mike. So we can still -- you'll still watch cartoons with me?"
  127.  
  128. "Absolutely, I promise I'll still be your cartoon buddy. I actually kind of enjoy it! But there's more to life than cartoons and exercise, Bonbon." Your expression turns slightly more serious. "Goose is blind. Nobody volunteered that information to me when I moved in, I had to figure it out on my own."
  129.  
  130. "Yeah. We, we don't really like to talk about it," she answers, sobering up a little.
  131.  
  132. "I understand, but it's still a reality. You guys can't leave stuff out in the middle of the floor. She could trip on something and get seriously hurt -- would you be able to live with yourself if she fell out a window because nobody wants to take their trash to the dumpster?" You fold your arms over your chest as she lowers her head in defeat, looking like a scolded child returning from the principal's office.
  133.  
  134. "No, you're -- you're right. I just -- you know, sometimes we get distracted, and Mangle's usually out of the house a lot, and then Freddy and I work and since Chica can't see, she can't really do a lot to help out, so her share kinda falls onto us..." Bonbon gazes at you apologetically; clearly these thoughts are a sore subject. Tugging at her ears, she continues in a bashful, lowered voice. "I just need a little help, Mike, and I'm glad you're calling us out on all this. This stuff's super important, and we've really dropped the ball."
  135.  
  136. Well, obviously she gets the picture, so you decide to let her off the hook gently. No sense in continuing to flagellate her over a what-if that hasn't even happened yet.
  137.  
  138. "Well, it's not too late, Bonbon. We can fix all this super easy. I've got a couple ideas if you want to hear 'em. Maybe even make a game out of it...?"
  139.  
  140. "Ooh, that sounds fun! I'm all ears!" she responds eagerly.
  141.  
  142. "Nah," you chuckle, leaning back. "More like maybe one-fifth, one-sixth ears at the most."
  143.  
  144. "Wow, rude," she giggles. "So, what've you got in mind?"
  145.  
  146.  
  147. "Alright, ladies and gents! Let me have your attention please," Bonbon announces exuberantly as everyone groups around the living room table, eyeing the vast spread of Chinese takeout. The scent of food was enough to rouse Goose, who's awake a little bit earlier tonight than she was last night, nestled in between Peanut and Mango. "Mike and I have a sort of presentation to give you guys!"
  148.  
  149. "Is there going to be a quiz?" Goose lazily cracks with a sleepy smile while Peanut hungrily side-eyes a container of wonton soup. "Because if so, can it wait until AFTER I've had some fried rice and pepper steak?"
  150.  
  151. "Um, no quiz," you answer, eyeing the easel you borrowed from Frederick. "But there'll be practical application of the knowledge you gain. This is very hands-on kind of stuff here. And yes, we can eat in just a second."
  152.  
  153. Mango takes a sip of her tea, beaming at you and Bonbon. "Ooooh. I'm all for hands-on learning," she says eagerly. "I prefer keeping the little ones very close to the vest and staying very, very involved in their education process. I'm all about show and tell."
  154.  
  155. "You know what, that's a good point, actually! Mango, you work with kids, right? So then you've probably got an idea of what this is." With a deliberately cheesy flourish, you flip over the thick slab you and Bonbon spent the better part of the last two hours designing while everyone else was either asleep or out of the house.
  156.  
  157. "Of course!" The vixen sets her teacup down on the coffee table, standing up from her overstuffed cushion. "I've seen those in just about every household I tutor at."
  158.  
  159. "Sure, I'll play." Snorting through her beak, Goose leans forward, wings clasped in a display of mock seriousness. "Is it an animal, vegetable, or mineral?"
  160.  
  161. "Ahaha. It's a chore chart, Chica!" Mango hastily shuffles over to the board with one paw clutched around her afghan, inspecting your workmanship. "And a very well-constructed one, too! Using premium craft supplies that I'm sure weren't at all lifted from my stash!"
  162.  
  163. "Well, we ARE on a budget, and we all have to make sacrifices, Mangle!" Bonbon winks at you. "I'm glad you approve."
  164.  
  165. "Hmm! Well, if it's for the good of the team," Mango giggles.
  166.  
  167. Peanut scratches one of his ears with the end of his chopsticks, head tilted quizzically. "Um, it's real nice and all, but -- what do we need a, uh, a chore chart for? Isn't that like, for little kids?" The irony of this statement coming out of the literal teddy bear in pajamas who just woke up from a nap after a juice box crash...
  168.  
  169. "Well, Mike raised some valid concerns, guys," Bonbon says nervously, wringing her hands as she looks to you for moral support. You flash her a thumbs-up, leaning against the TV set. "The way things are around here, you know, we've talked about being better about cleaning and dishes and chores and stuff, but uh, he's a little worried about, you know, messy things being in places that would be hard for someone to anticipate."
  170.  
  171. Goose shifts, seeming uncomfortable as she listens in on the conversation. Peanut and Mango exchange hesitant, guilty glances with each other.
  172.  
  173. "S-so a chore chart seemed like a fun and easy way to keep the place neat and orderly!" She taps her paws together, and you realize she's floundering.
  174.  
  175. "Alright, I'll go ahead and say it," you interrupt with an overly dramatic sigh. Tapping Goose's wing to get her attention (and also to alert her to your presence), you lean down next to her head. "I've already got one set of cracked ribs and a busted shin, I'd like to keep the rest to a minimum," you stage whisper.
  176.  
  177. Polite laughter fills the room, and Goose herself looks especially grateful for the clever misdirection. There's no need to say out loud what everybody's thinking, and a little humor can go a long way towards making an unpleasant situation more palatable. Besides, they're probably already feeling embarrassed enough as it is, having to have a relative stranger sort them out like a day care worker.
  178.  
  179. "So this isn't really your ordinary chore chart," you continue. "First of all, we're going to hang it right in the middle of the fridge to where everyone can get to it, and that'll also help because we've got these great magnets here that I made using some foam shapes from Mango's collection. Thank you, Mango."
  180.  
  181. "Oh, and you used my foam shapes too?" Mango folds her arms as she sits back down, playfully feigning irritation. "I'm going to be reimbursed for all of this, right?"
  182.  
  183. "Sure. You can have my fortune cookie," you joke.
  184.  
  185. She makes a show of considering it but quickly folds, her tail wagging. "Oooh. Deal."
  186.  
  187. "Perfect." You hold up the plastic bags full of shapes for the chore chart. "So these little magnets here, everyone gets some, and they're all different shapes -- let's see, we've got crescent moons, stars, plain old circles, squares, and triangles. You can pick whichever ones you guys want."
  188.  
  189. One of Goose's wings rockets towards the ceiling. "Dibs on the crescent moons, those sound awesome. What color are they?"
  190.  
  191. "Um, they're yellow," you respond, pulling out the zippered sandwich bag full of the twelve or so moon magnets you made. You press them into her wingertips, and she pops the pouch open, pulling them out to feel. "We picked shapes so they'd be easy for everyone to tell apart."
  192.  
  193. "Sweet."
  194.  
  195. "So on the board, everyone'll have certain chores they're expected to do and you'll put a shape in your box when you've done it," Bonbon says, pointing excitedly to the chore board. "Like laundry and emptying the garbage from your room, everyone has to do their own. Chica won't be expected to do Mangle's laundry and I won't be getting rid of Freddy's trash, you know?"
  196.  
  197. "Sounds reasonable," Peanut interjects hungrily, tugging at one of the takeout containers. "Alright, let's eat!"
  198.  
  199. "Hang tough, Peanut, we're almost done," you reply, causing him to let out a pained whimper. "Everyone's got their own individual chores, but certain tasks are going to be a single person's responsibility. We've split those up so that everyone has something that they'll be expected to do for the whole apartment. We'll go over them all after dinner."
  200.  
  201. "But guys, you haven't heard the best part!" Bonbon says as she sits down on the floor next to Mango. "Mike's talking about coming up with a reward system. Right, Mike?"
  202.  
  203. "Yeah, you know, just something small. Make a little competition out of it, treat yourselves when you've gotten all of your chores done. Doesn't have to be a big deal -- maybe cake and ice cream, or a pay-per-view movie night. I'm sure you guys can come up with ideas, right?"
  204.  
  205. "That IS a pretty good idea," Mango murmurs. "One family I know has a corkboard where they pin dollar bills up with a sticky note, and every time one of their children does a task written on the note, they get to pull a dollar off the board. It's a twist on the idea of an allowance, and it teaches them the importance of hard work."
  206.  
  207. You begin cracking open the takeout containers, scooping paper plates full of food for each of your roommates. "See? You could do something like that. It's kind of stupid to put your own money up on the board, but maybe little favor coupons for chores that benefit someone else."
  208.  
  209. "Obviously you've put a ton of thought into this, Mike," Goose responds as she accepts her plate from you, licking the tips of her beak. "I'm pretty impressed."
  210.  
  211. "I just have one question. Obviously we're not the most, you know, neat freak sorts, and I'll be the first to admit that bad habits are kind of hard to break." Mango glances around the room as if she's taking everything in for perhaps the first time. "How exactly are we going to, um, enforce all of this chore business?"
  212.  
  213. "Right?" Peanut adds skeptically. "I mean, we're all, uh, y'know, adults here, but it's so easy to get distracted, and we do work, Mike..."
  214.  
  215. "Yeah," Bonbon chips in as she pours herself a cup full of wonton soup before passing Peanut the rest of the container. "That's the one thing you and I didn't discuss earlier. How are we gonna, you know, turn over a new leaf and make sure it STAYS turned over?"
  216.  
  217. Sitting back with your own portion (admittedly a much smaller one than the others as you're still somewhat full from lunch), you grin knowingly, tapping the side of your head.
  218.  
  219. "I've got a surefire way to make sure the chore chart works flawlessly, and it'll be a great motivator for everyone here."
  220.  
  221. "Well don't go telling us all at once!" Bonbon laughs, popping the tab on her soda can. "What's your plan for keeping us delinquents on the straight and narrow, boss man?"
  222.  
  223. "Oh, that's the easiest part of all." You give her a mischievous smile as you spear a piece of your own pepper steak for emphasis. "I'll tell Fred on you."
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