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Roommates - Not-So-Mini (Guys' Night Out)

May 11th, 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 - Not-So-Mini (Guys' Night Out): http://i.imgur.com/PaInwFx.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. "I still say we should have gone to the soda shoppe downtown," I mumble.
  12.  
  13. "What was that, Bonworth?" Mike hollers over the noisy din of the bar. Heavens to Betsy, I sure do wish I'd never let him talk me into this. We could have had a wonderful night at a picture show with ice cream sodas from Leo's place for dessert, but for whatever blasted reason we're here at this seedy little saloon getting sloshed off our tails. Well, okay, I'm not, but that ain't the point. I've never been one for strong drink -- don't have the stomach for it, can't see the appeal. (Plus, I got enough trouble keeping upright as it is.)
  14.  
  15. Taking a sip of my flat cola, I turn to avoid making eye contact with the gal in the too-tight blouse three seats over who keeps flashing her baby blues at me. And if we're bein' honest with ourselves here, she might end up flashing more than that if she isn't careful. When on earth did girls start to dress this way? I can only imagine what Chica'd be saying if she could see me blushing right now!
  16.  
  17. The stupidest thing about all of this is that nobody really seems to be having a rip-roarin' time here. Mike and I are just sitting here at the bar, Foxy's watching television, and Faz is just sitting quietly by himself in a booth nursin' a beer. Heck, we have beer at home -- what'd we get all gussied up and go out for? It isn't even happy hour yet!
  18.  
  19. Even Mike seems like he's regretting the suggestion to go out for drinks. I'd ask him now if we could all leave and salvage some of our evening, but I don't want to hurt the poor feller's feelings. If this is what he wanted to do for our "guys' night out", then I suppose I shouldn't be the one to spoil it for him. Last thing he needs is another shot to his confidence while still feeling the damage from our recent blow-up.
  20.  
  21. "So, Mike, how're you, uh--"
  22.  
  23. "This was a bad idea, wasn't it," he moans, slumping against the bar. I choke down the last of my soda, shoving my empty mug aside as I scoot my barstool a little closer to him (and a little further away from my unwanted admirer).
  24.  
  25. "Aw, don't be hard on yourself," I offer, slapping him on the back. He wheezes a little under the blow, and I wince apologetically -- keep forgetting about how this darned tin in my hands must feel to someone else. "You just wanted everyone to have a good time, right?"
  26.  
  27. Twirling his stein around by the handle, he sighs. "Well, Faz specifically," he says.
  28.  
  29. "Er, run that by me again, pal?" I ask, curious. You mean to tell me we came out here just for Faz? "If you don't mind my asking, what's ol' Faz got to do with a, um..."
  30.  
  31. "A crappy dive bar?" he smirks.
  32.  
  33. I give him a sheepish grin. "Wasn't EXACTLY how I was gonna phrase it."
  34.  
  35. "Yeah, probably wasn't the best of ideas I had," Mike admits. "I was trying to think of something that'd give him the noise effect that wouldn't be too close to the original for comfort."
  36.  
  37. "Noise effect? The original?" I ask, bewildered. "I don't rightly follow, Mike. What're you talking about?"
  38.  
  39. "Oh, uh, it's just something Faz told me when he and I first met," he answers. "He was talking about missing the 'sound of life', I think is how he put it. I figured he was referring to the kids and the games and stuff at the restaurant."
  40.  
  41. Ah. The decision to go out to someplace with a ton of music and racket suddenly makes a lot more sense. "So that's what it's all about," I reply, glancing back at Faz over my shoulder. Poor galoot's staring off into space, his glass having run dry. I'm not sure if all this is helping or hurting, but I'm not about to interfere with the process unless he grows visibly uncomfortable.
  42.  
  43. "Well, I sure appreciate you trying to perk the big lug up. What, uh, prompted this whole shebang though?" I ask. Motioning the bartender over, I palm him another fiver while gesturing to Faz's booth. He nods quietly, grabbing a new mug and filling it full of the frothy stuff in response.
  44.  
  45. "I ran into Cheeky today," Mike says. "She was on her way out of the apartment, but we caught up for a few minutes. She mentioned that Faz had seemed kind of restless, and I remembered what he'd told me. I just thought a guys' night would, I dunno, maybe pull him out of the doldrums? It's gotta be horrible being cooped up all the time at home, right?"
  46.  
  47. I nod. "If I'm being honest, going down and helping Marion out lately has been kind of liberating, you know? We don't really need the extra bread, but it sure doesn't hurt, and I've missed that feeling of comin' home achy and tired after a long day. If I'm restless, I can't imagine how poor Faz feels."
  48.  
  49. "Definitely," Mike agrees. "I mean, hell, we're all still young. I gotta be honest, I'm almost desperate enough for a job to go work at Je-- er, you know, fast food or something."
  50.  
  51. The fur on the back of my neck bristles as I realize what he's saying. "Please tell me you're not serious."
  52.  
  53. "O-of course I'm not serious," he stammers unconvincingly.
  54.  
  55. I grab his arm and give it a firm squeeze. "I mean it, Mike," I tell him, my voice low. "Not there, not ever." I'm not much of one for intimidating someone to make a point, but this once I'm letting him know in no uncertain terms that place ain't an option. He looks at me with eyes wide as pies, but nevertheless he nods a hasty affirmative.
  56.  
  57. "Believe me, I'd rather work anywhere else. One night's all I needed to get an eyeful," he says, rubbing his arm as soon as I release him. "Geez, Bonworth. How do you put up with Beanie spending so much time there? I mean, if you're that concerned about me and I'm just a stranger, how do you feel about your own sister?"
  58.  
  59. My ears flop flat against the back of my head. "Ain't that the million dollar question. If there was anything I could do to make sure she never set foot in that madhouse again, Mike, I'd do it, but my sister's so dad-blamed strong-willed."
  60.  
  61. "Hah, I've noticed," Mike comments.
  62.  
  63. "Ever since she was a kit," I sigh, leaning against the counter. "She was always the brainy introvert -- didn't stop her from being the dominant one and me being the follow-along even if I am her older brother. If you can believe it, I was the jock in our family -- well, what passes for one in a burrow of rabbits, anyway."
  64.  
  65. "No kidding?" he asks. "I dunno, I can kinda see it. You do look like the athletic type."
  66.  
  67. Puffing up my chest, I smile sadly. "Track and field champ back in high school." Mike's face falls a little as he considers the impact of what those words entail.
  68.  
  69. "Shit, Bonworth."
  70.  
  71. "Haha, I know, right? What are the odds?" I shrug. "Anyway, I wish I could talk her out of it, but she lives in her head. Maybe some personal vendetta, like her noble sacrifice'll fix things. Maybe she's tryin' to prove a point, maybe it's sibling rivalry. Shoot, maybe it's the challenge. I couldn't really tell you; half the time I don't know what's going on in that mind of hers."
  72.  
  73. Mike nods patiently as he listens to me rant. You'd think I was the one who was drunk, the way I'm pouring my heart out in a place like this to a guy I barely know.
  74.  
  75. "If our parents knew she was workin' at Jeremy Human's, they'd drive over tonight and drag both of us home by our cotton tails after they saw what happened to me." I can't fight the smile playing at my lips, imagining one of my mom's infamous lectures. In my mind's eye, me and lil' Beanpole are both kids and it's the Fight of '97 all over again.
  76.  
  77. "So why don't you tell them, then?" Mike asks. "I mean, for her own good."
  78.  
  79. "It'd be the easy way out, sure," I reply. "But Beanie's been holding her own for a while now, an' she is an adult in the eyes of the court and such. I can't just go nosin' in where I don't have business to do so."
  80.  
  81. He doesn't seem convinced, but he graciously spares my tortured conscience even further strain by not pressing me on the subject. "I notice a lot of the tenants I've met have employment history with Jeremy's. How big of a circle IS this?"
  82.  
  83. "Well, that's kind of what banded us together, Mike," I reply. "Most of us are friends, a few of us are family; but the one thing we all have in common is we were co-workers. The settlement checks being what they are, we all sort of gravitated to cheap housing. Marion's apartments ain't much to look at but you've seen yourself what rent prices are like out there."
  84.  
  85. "Oh, sure; they're astronomical," he replies. "I'm in the same boat; I'd never be able to afford a place on my own. I'm just deeply concerned that everyone I know has been put through the grinder at the hands of those butchers. How many of 'us' are still employed by Jeremy's?"
  86.  
  87. "Bonbon, Beanie, Peanut, and Mr. Fazbear are still working there; all of 'em but my sister on afternoon duty. Checkin' kids in and cleaning up, nothing too dangerous. I wish she'd put in to move over to the day shift, but for whatever reason she won't."
  88.  
  89. "Yeah, but Rackham was on the day shift too," Mike argues. "And we see where that got him."
  90.  
  91. I nod somberly. "Yeah. Poor kid."
  92.  
  93. "Hey, you're one to talk, you goofball," he says.
  94.  
  95. "Aw, that's just the alcohol puttin' words in your mouth," I joke weakly.
  96.  
  97. He rolls his eyes, leaning back on his barstool. "One beer! I've had one beer, Bonworth; I'm not exactly tanked here." Still, we both can't help but indulge in a chuckle, and I know in my heart we're both glad to be on jovial terms again.
  98.  
  99. During the lull in our conversation, Foxy gets up from the far end of the bar where he's been sitting by himself. The little guy wanders over to the pool table to observe a game in progress. His tail's swaying back and forth slightly; the colorful billiard balls must have caught his attention. I shift nervously in my seat, ready to pounce at the first sign of somebody messing with him. I'm not sure even the three of us working together could take some of these surly-faced types in a fight, but I sure as shootin' don't plan to sit by idly.
  100.  
  101. "Hey, Bonworth," Mike says. I tilt my head in his direction, keeping an eye on Foxy as I do. "About the other night..."
  102.  
  103. "Nope," I interrupt, rapping my fist on the counter. "We're not going over that song and dance anymore, you paid your dues."
  104.  
  105. "Actually, that's not what I was going to say, but thank you just the same," he says, smiling awkwardly. "I know you guys are under all kinds of clauses not to talk about things right now so you don't have to answer this question at all, but -- Faz sustained his injuries at the arcade, right?"
  106.  
  107. Warily, I bob my head in affirmation. "That's right."
  108.  
  109. "Did -- was he attacked by one of the, um -- the animatronics?" Mike raises a hand defensively, cutting me off before I can answer. "Like I said, you don't have to tell me if you can't."
  110.  
  111. "Kind of a hard question to answer. No, not really." I clasp my hands over my chest, forcing myself to remember things I'd just as soon have forgotten. "He was inside one that had a, uh, I guess you could call it a 'system failure'."
  112.  
  113. "Wait, INSIDE one?" Mike blurts, bewildered. "How?! Even the largest character I saw wouldn't have been big enough for a huge guy like Faz, and they've got to have parts and stuff inside, right? Are they -- are they hollow?"
  114.  
  115. "The ones you're familiar with aren't, no," I reply. "But there was a specialty line we discontinued. They were called 'turnkey' suits. They had this big ol' 'key' in their back like those real old-fashioned wind-up toys, you know?"
  116.  
  117. Mike nods, grabbing a napkin from a stack off the counter. Fishing around in his pocket, he pulls out a pen. "Sure," he answers, scribbling something down. I lean past him, eyes glued to Foxy as he grabs a cue off the rack much to the amusement of the crowd gathered around the pool table.
  118.  
  119. "Like this?" Mike says, holding up a picture of a cartoony Jeremy Human with a key poking out of his shoulders. Curiously, I see this version of the mascot has large, evil-lookin' horns and a pitchfork tail, which I don't recall being present anywhere on the original.
  120.  
  121. "Looks like you took some 'artistic liberties' with Mr. Human," I chuckle. "But yes sir, that's about the size of it. These turnkey jobs were much bigger than the ones you're used to. The key acted as a crank; it could open up the suit and as it did, it'd retract the metal parts into compartments so a person could get inside and wear it around."
  122.  
  123. "No shit," Mike breathes in awe. "So what was the point of the robot parts if it was just a suit? Wouldn't a regular old costume be cheaper and easier?"
  124.  
  125. "You'd think that, wouldn't you?" I ask rhetorically. "I think the idea was to somehow save the company money -- if nobody was around to dress up in one, they could move about on their own but they were a lot more stiff than even the standalone ones we have now. Honestly, Chica hated the blasted things and I don't say as I blame her; they were prone to all sorts of glitches and problems."
  126.  
  127. Putting two and two together, Mike blanches. "So Faz was inside one and there was a 'glitch'?"
  128.  
  129. "That's about all I can really tell you, Mike; anything else and I'd be violating court orders." I dip my head apologetically, and he backs off in kind.
  130.  
  131. "I understand. I honestly didn't expect to get even that much out of you," he says. "And for what it's worth, I'm sorry for bringing something painful up yet again. It's no excuse, but still..."
  132.  
  133. "It's fine, Mike." The sound of billiard balls cracking draws my attention back over to Foxy, who I've plum forgotten about in our discussion. He's now surrounded by a couple of particularly rowdy-looking customers who seem less than enthralled with his presence at their game. Sensing that I'm distracted, Mike swivels around, processes what I'm looking at, and as one we're both up on our feet ready to move in.
  134.  
  135. "That's not good," Mike hisses. "Are they trying to hustle him? Those guys'll cream Foxy!"
  136.  
  137. "Your guess is as good as mine," I groan. "Whatever they're up to I want no part of, though. Let's grab him and split."
  138.  
  139. To Foxy's left is a middle-aged beagle with brown and cream fur dressed up in off-the-rack western duds, and to his right, a scrawny young punk of a rat with a grey pelt sporting a skater's tee and jeans. Foxy's chattering away to them obliviously, clearly happy to have met new "friends". He's got his pool cue lined up in his hook, and to my horror, I see a worryingly large sum of money on the table; they've talked him into betting on a game. I have no idea where he got that much scratch from, and right now I don't want to know -- all I want to do is extradite him from the situation before things surely go south.
  140.  
  141. "What's our play, Bonworth?" Mike asks, rolling his sleeves up. I glance back at Faz, who hasn't moved once from where he's been at. His second beer's completely untouched.
  142.  
  143. "All four of us getting out safe," I reply. "His cash too, if we can -- if not, it's a small price to pay. Can't be more than his monthly check, tops. 'Course, I don't want to humiliate the kid either, but..."
  144.  
  145. "No, I get you," he says. Mike starts towards the table and I do my best to follow along through the crowd of folks -- it's well into evening now and the bar's filling up. It's all I can do just to keep my balance on these rickety floorboards with so many people dancing and tossing about.
  146.  
  147. As soon as Mike makes it to the table, the beagle and the rat instantly go on the defensive before he can even open his mouth.
  148.  
  149. "We're inna middle of a game here, podner," the beagle drawls, tipping his hat in the direction of his rodent ally. "Ain't that so, Charlie."
  150.  
  151. "Sure is, Jasper," Charlie agrees as he grips his pool cue ever-so-tighter. Foxy looks up at us, all smiles; due to his shorter stature, he seems to be having a little difficulty getting his cue angled the way he wants it. Noticing his plight (or perhaps aware of it the whole time), the rat grabs a milk crate from a nearby stack, "generously" setting it down on the floor for Foxy to stand on.
  152.  
  153. "Here you go, pal. Let me help you with that."
  154.  
  155. "Ah, thank ye, lad," Foxy says as he steps up onto the crate, nodding intently. He begins lining his shot (with the cue facing backwards, no less). "Mmmm, so I'm t'see to it these cannonballs'll be put away in their proper sockets?"
  156.  
  157. "That's the idea!" Charlie slaps him on the back sending poor Foxy stumbling. I bury the urge to slug this hooligan right in his snout.
  158.  
  159. "And you guys are playing by normal pool rules?" Mike asks. Even over the loud music and the revelry and such going on behind us, I can hear the edge to his voice, the intensity behind his words. I notice he's already shifted his weight a little forward, both of his hands balled into fists pre-emptively. Mike's sharper than he lets on and I know he ain't angling for a fight, but at least I can rest confident in the fact he'll give 'em one if he has to.
  160.  
  161. Seething, Charlie makes a grandiose display of chalking his cue. "Course we are!" he snaps. "Proper billiards. As if we were some kind of two-bit cons trying to run a game on him -- what do you take us for?"
  162.  
  163. I can already see the words forming on Mike's lips and I know I'll never be fast enough to stop him in time. "THREE-bit cons trying to run a game on him?" he snarks back with a grin.
  164.  
  165. To my surprise, neither of them gets suckered in by his obvious goading. "Got us a real funny man," Jasper croons. "Now how 'bout y'git, funny man, and leave us be."
  166.  
  167. "Well, there's one problem with that, Ernie Ford," Mike says, hefting a cue of his own. "Foxy's one of ours, and that money's not his to bet."
  168.  
  169. "Hold yer tongue, lad! I'm no Abraham man, it's me money," Foxy interjects hotly. "Th' cap'n gave me my Caesar's penny just this morn'. Morn, mourn. Who's mournin'? Don't see what's t'cry o'er."
  170.  
  171. The punks exchange quizzical looks with each other before turning back to us. "See? It's his money, 'lad'," Charlie snaps, recovering quickly. "So why don't you piss off."
  172.  
  173. "No need for infightin'," Foxy says agreeably. Satisfied he's got his shot ready to go, he draws the cue back, breaking the rack. It's a decent break -- nothing amazing, but certainly respectable for a fella his size. Pool balls go bouncin' across the felt every which way, and he even manages to sink one. Looks to have the makings of a game, anyhow, but I'm no expert.
  174.  
  175. Unfortunately, neither is he.
  176.  
  177. Knowing we don't have any real recourse at the moment, Mike falls back to me for now. We're out of the way but staying well within view of the table. "Great," he grumbles. "We can't just drag him out. What do we do?"
  178.  
  179. "Best idea I've got is we wait and see if anything underhanded's goin' on," I whisper back. "Poor ol' Foxy prob'ly thinks this is just a nice game with new buddies."
  180.  
  181. "How'd he get so much money?" Mike asks. "I mean, obviously some of it's theirs too, but still..."
  182.  
  183. Thanks to my unnatural height advantage, I can just barely see the top of Faz's head at his table across the bar, where he hasn't budged this entire time. "I reckon it must've been Faz since he's the 'captain'," I sigh. "I have no idea what would possess him to hand Foxy a wad of greenbacks, though. Chica or I usually deposit everyone's checks at the bank and we get actual cash out only if it's necessary."
  184.  
  185. My primate pal runs a hand through his headfur in thought. "I guess it doesn't matter where he got it from right now, let's just limit the damage that can be done here."
  186.  
  187. "Sounds jake to me," I reply grimly.
  188.  
  189. After just a minute or two of watching Foxy stare at the balls on the table, it's obvious to both of us that he has no idea how to play bar pool. Charlie asks him to call his color.
  190.  
  191. "Red," Foxy says cheerfully, pointing to a patch of his fur. "Can't ye see? The scurvy ain't taken yer eyes as well, has it?"
  192.  
  193. "Oh god," Mike mutters, and I can't help but share in his grief. For those of you not followin' along at home, "red" isn't an option when you're asked to call your color; the answer Charlie was looking for was "stripes" or "solids". Rather than correcting him on his mistake, Charlie just smiles and nods, letting Foxy believe whatever he wants.
  194.  
  195. "Foxy, you have to pick either solids or stripes," I gently prod. "See how some of them are solid, and some have a little strip, all fancy like?"
  196.  
  197. Charlie cuts his eyes at me, but says nothing. In return, Foxy slowly tilts his head up to meet my gaze, and I can already tell he's beginning to lose focus. It was bound to happen eventually -- too much stimulus, too much noise. I'm surprised he's held on as long as he has.
  198.  
  199. "We'll just go ahead and play more casually then," Charlie says magnanimously. In other words, no holds barred. Foxy takes his cue, misses his shot, and play passes to the beagle, Jasper, who lines up a shot without even bothering to call the ball.
  200.  
  201. "Well of course the dang game's a lot easier when you aren't playing legit, and he knows it," I seethe quietly to Mike.
  202.  
  203. "Ugh, I know. I've seen kids play better than this," he replies, hiding his frustration even worse than I am.
  204.  
  205. Jasper sinks two balls in a row before missing his third. Grabbing his cue, Charlie wastes no time in running the table before eventually failing to pocket with just the eight ball and two leftovers remaining on the felt.
  206.  
  207. "Damn it!" Reluctantly, he turns to Foxy. Foxy's gaze has already drifted to one of the televisions. "C'mon, kid, you're up."
  208.  
  209. "Up?" Foxy slurs. It's clear that Charlie and his accomplice (yes, "accomplice" -- darn it, let's call it what it is) are beginning to get frustrated with him.
  210.  
  211. Stepping forward, I raise my hands. "We could just call it a tie," I reason. "Split the pot?"
  212.  
  213. "You serious? That'd be a net loss! It's a three-man game!" Charlie responds hotly. "Besides, I don't remember asking you for your opinion, so get lost."
  214.  
  215. Foxy eventually parses that he needs to do something and so he clambers back up on top of his crate. He lines up another shot (with his cue facing correctly this time), but he loses his footing as he fires, sending the cue ball into a spin. It misses his intended target and instead slams into the eight ball, sending it careening wildly off the edge of the table.
  216.  
  217. "Of all the rotten luck," I groan.
  218.  
  219. "And I do believe that's the game," Charlie smugly boasts as he scoops the cash up off the table. My stomach sinks as I watch a small fortune disappear, but at least Foxy's safe from these thugs.
  220.  
  221. "Alright, Foxy," Mike says disarmingly, gently taking Foxy by his hand. "It was a nice try, but you lost, buddy. Come on, let's go find Faz and go home."
  222.  
  223. Foxy nods obliviously as both punks begin counting their money. "Come on, pal," I agree, giving them a dirty look. "Let's get out of here and go get some ice cream. It ain't too late to head over to Leo's."
  224.  
  225. As the three of us start to walk away, Charlie yells out in anger, shaking the money in the air. "What the hell're you trying to pull here?!"
  226.  
  227. "What do you mean?" I fire back. "If you think you're gettin' a rematch, you're sorely misinformed. Foxy's done with you two."
  228.  
  229. "What're you, his keeper? I just want to see clear that yer friend's coughed up what he owes before he turns tail," he says. "Count out th' money one more time, Charlie."
  230.  
  231. Charlie shakes his head. "No, the amount's correct. That ain't the issue," he mutters, squinting at the cash fanned out across the felt. Holding one of the bills up to the light, he sneers in disgust. "What's the issue is, it's funny money."
  232.  
  233. "Is that a fact," Jasper grumbles, jabbing his pool cue against Mike's throat in retaliation. The color drains from Mike's face and I imagine my own as well as the revelation of what they're saying hits us.
  234.  
  235. "Foxy, you have counterfeit money?" Mike croaks. "WHY do you have counterfeit money?!"
  236.  
  237. Foxy tilts his head up in his general direction. "Like I said, got it from th' cap'n."
  238.  
  239. "I didn't take you for the swindling type, fox," Charlie snarls, swatting the fake cash off the table with a huff. "Well, why don't you go find 'the cap'n' so I can have a talk with him?"
  240.  
  241. "That won't be necessary," a tinny voice thrums from behind us. The surrounding racket dies down significantly as heavy footsteps creak across the ramshackle floor. "I'm right here."
  242.  
  243. "Hullo, skipper," Foxy beams, saluting Faz with his good paw. I use the diversion as an opportunity to wrench Jasper's cue away from Mike's neck, giving him the much-needed space to back up.
  244.  
  245. "Starboard, sailor. Captain's orders," Faz barks through his speaker. Instantly Foxy pulls away from Mike, scampering around to Faz's side obediently.
  246.  
  247. Even in the condition he's in, Faz is still one of the scariest guys I know. He's got a heart of gold, but heaven help you if you ever make him angry. I've gotten on his bad side a couple of times (unintentionally, of course) and honestly, I'd rather stare down a firin' squad than tick this fella off.
  248.  
  249. "You're in for it now," Mike boasts as Faz looms over the table. All eyes in the room have now shifted to our dispute, and it's near quiet enough you could hear a pin drop.
  250.  
  251. "Who's this clod?" Charlie asks, not at all realizing the plight he's suddenly mired himself in.
  252.  
  253. "A friend in a high place," Faz returns quietly. "You knocked Haddock off of his perch."
  254.  
  255. "Who's Haddock?" the rat refutes. "I ain't see no Haddock here, pal."
  256.  
  257. Innocently, Foxy waves his hook from behind Faz's greatcoat, sniffing at the air. "Present."
  258.  
  259. Jasper wisely keeps his mouth shut during this endeavor, I notice, though I can't help but also observe the knuckles of his paws whitening as he tightly grips his makeshift javelin.
  260.  
  261. "You accusing me of foul play? I never laid a hand on the kid. He's the one who tried to swindle us with this FAKE-ASS MONEY!" he shouts for the benefit of the patrons nearby. "And I got witnesses, too!"
  262.  
  263. Hushed murmurs wave through the crowd at this accusation, but Faz isn't about to be cowed. "So do I," he replies. "I warned you when you walked in that this one was off limits, but you didn't listen."
  264.  
  265. "It's a free country, he can make up his own mind," Charlie protests. "I want to know what you're gonna do to settle his tab!"
  266.  
  267. Faz draws a deep, choppy breath, trembling paw firmly on his speaker. He's gripping it hard enough I can hear the plastic protesting under his fingers. "I'll show you. Mike, stand on the box."
  268.  
  269. Turning his attention away from the punks to look at Faz, Mike jabs his own chest in surprise. "You want me to hop up there, Faz? I know I'm not as tall as you are, but I can at least handle a pool table," he replies. Faz doesn't say anything, and Mike nevertheless walks around the table to step up on top of the crate. "Alright, um, I'm up here now. Now what?"
  270.  
  271. "Bonnie, walk forward three steps," Faz whispers to me without the aid of his electrolarynx. I know darned better than to ask questions at this point, so I gently ease my weight forward on my prosthetics, ambling the requested number of paces. As soon as I take my last step, Mike loses his balance without warning and stumbles off the crate, flopping against the table's side with a grunt.
  272.  
  273. Hurriedly, I extend a hand to help him to his feet. "You okay, Mike?"
  274.  
  275. "Ow! What the hell was that?!" Mike cries. "The crate just jumped out from under me!"
  276.  
  277. "Loose board in the floor," Faz rasps. "See the curve right there?" Sure enough, there's a series of curved boards right underneath the milk crate Foxy was using to see over the table. They're all just so slightly elevated at either end, and as I press down on one end, the other goes up.
  278.  
  279. "Why you cheating piece of shit!" declares one of the nearby patrons, a hog trussed up in biking leathers. He roughly yanks Charlie's cue from his hands and pointedly throws it across the room, where it bounces off of a jukebox.
  280.  
  281. "Get this guy out of here!" a female antelope drunkenly screeches. "You tried to cheat him and now you're the one crying foul? I bet your blind ass can't even tell the difference between real money and fake, you filthy vermin!"
  282.  
  283. Charlie and the beagle flash eyes at each other. Realizing their scam's been found out, they instantly bolt for the exit, barrelling past the other bar customers who had gathered around to see what the hubbub was about. Mike vaults over the table to give chase but before he can make it far at all, Faz grabs him by his shoulder.
  284.  
  285. "Let it go, Mike," Faz says.
  286.  
  287. Turning around, Mike looks up at him. "Like hell! There's no way I'm going to let those guys get away with it! Right, Bonworth?"
  288.  
  289. "Mike, I think Faz is right on this one," I agree, brushing my vest off. "We've got the bar on our side right now, but cheating at pool's trumped by possession of counterfeit money in the eyes of the law. Besides, Foxy said he got it from you, Faz. What're you doin' with it, anyway?"
  290.  
  291. "Play money," Faz corrects. "Prop money to be more accurate."
  292.  
  293. Mike and I exchange bewildered looks. "Wait, what?"
  294.  
  295. "It's not really counterfeit; Bonbon gave Foxy some play money for his treasure hoard today. Something about costume props for a convention that her roommate made."
  296.  
  297. "Ugh, don't remind me," Mike groans, slumping over. "I'm still not looking forward to that whole ordeal. Frickin' blue hair..."
  298.  
  299. "She dropped it off this afternoon," Faz continues. "I told him he couldn't spend it at a store. I guess he didn't mind wagering it in a game."
  300.  
  301. Foxy happily rolls the eight ball along the groove in the floor. "That makes sense," I say. "So they were fooled at first glance until they started looking it over?"
  302.  
  303. "Ms. Mango made it," Faz says. "She's talented, but it was produced on a home printer and it doesn't say 'legal tender' anywher on the bill."
  304.  
  305. Mike's eyebrows arch up in surprise. "Mango made fake cash that's good enough to pass for real at a glance? Oh man, that's totally gonna get her put on a list."
  306.  
  307. I straighten my tie and smooth my coif a little now that my blood pressure's dropped back down to acceptable levels. "Exactly why we're not givin' pursuit. Faz, what I don't get is how'd you figure out what was going on, let alone how they were snookering Foxy? You looked like you were three sheets to the wind over there earlier."
  308.  
  309. "The CCTV monitor was on behind the bar," Faz replies.
  310.  
  311. I nod quietly. "Old habits die hard, huh."
  312.  
  313. "What a bust," Mike interrupts with a frustrated moan. "They got away, AND they'll just screw someone else over."
  314.  
  315. "They only stalled the inevitable," Faz replies. "They won't be able to show their faces in here, at any rate."
  316.  
  317. "Ugh. I guess you're right." Mike ruffles Foxy's headfur. "Should we get going, then?"
  318.  
  319. Satisfied we're all on the same page, Faz gestures to the bar. "I don't know. How about one more for the road?" he asks. I look worriedly at Mike, who nods.
  320.  
  321. "Um, alright, but just one. We still have to walk home," he agrees.
  322.  
  323.  
  324.  
  325. "Well, well. Look at you lightweights," Chica yawns.
  326.  
  327. "Hey, most of us were good," I protest as she and I help Faz and Mike inside to the living room. "Mike here just couldn't resist the siren call of half-price snacks and drinks. How many was it you put away, buddy? Six beers? Seven?"
  328.  
  329. "Not now," Mike groans, turning a rather unfortunate shade of green as he stumbles to the kitchen. To his credit, he manages to make it all the way to the tile before vomiting on the floor. The noise of Mike retching sends Foxy scampering off to his bedroom, frizzy tail and all.
  330.  
  331. "Well, at least it wasn't the carpet," Chica observes dryly. "Faz, how are you feeling?"
  332.  
  333. "Tired, but I enjoyed myself." Faz says. "I believe I need new bandages, though."
  334.  
  335. I nod grimly, rolling my sleeves up. "Alright, I've got Mike if you've got Faz, Chica."
  336.  
  337. "Of course. C'mon, you big lug," she says, helping Faz over to the couch.
  338.  
  339. Fortunately Mike managed to collapse outside of his blast radius, so he's easily enough dealt with. I help the inebriated goon into the living room, depositing him on one end of the sofa to pass out for now before returning to the kitchen to clean the floor. My expertise with a mop gained from years of working at a kiddie diner makes short work of the yuckiness.
  340.  
  341. "Alright, what's next?"
  342.  
  343. Chica trots by with Faz's coat and shirt in her wings. "Get the first aid kit," she says. "He's oozing, and some of his sutures need to come out."
  344.  
  345. "Uh oh," I utter, reversing course towards the cabinet. She muscles past me, depositing Faz's soiled shirt in the hamper before ducking into his room for fresh clothes.
  346.  
  347. "Mistakes have been made," Mike slurs, hand pressed to his forehead. "I should NOT have had those quesadillas."
  348.  
  349. "We've all been there, Mikey," Chica empathizes as she returns with a pair of pajamas in her wings. "At least it's better now that they're out of you instead of still in you."
  350.  
  351. I hand Chica the box full of first aid stuff before turning away; Faz likely doesn't need a spectator, and if I'm being honest blood and pus and that makes me real squeamish. Last thing anyone needs is me setting off some kind of vomit chain reaction with Mike.
  352.  
  353. "Looks like you did a number on yourself, big guy," Chica playfully scolds as she sets to work on Faz's chest. "Did you do anything strenuous tonight?"
  354.  
  355. "Played billiards, had some drinks -- no alcohol, though," he says.
  356.  
  357. "So I was the only one actually drinking?" Mike mutters. "Worst guys' night out ever."
  358.  
  359. Chica snorts. "Hah! Maybe next time go to a movie then?"
  360.  
  361. "That's what I said!" I grin. "We could have had chili dogs and root beer floats and it woulda been terrific."
  362.  
  363. "Leave no good dead unpunished," Mike kicks in. "Oh, and we chased off some thugs that tried to con Foxy, too. Don't forget that."
  364.  
  365. She looks up at me, eyes wide. "Wait, Foxy? He didn't get hurt, did he?" she asks, her voice lightly laced with panic and anger. "What did they do to him?"
  366.  
  367. "Oh, nothin'," I answer quickly. "He had a hard time with the pool table so these two scrawny no-goods had him stand on a box, then they bumped it so he missed his shot and took off with the play money he'd bet."
  368.  
  369. "They were bullying him over play money?" she echoes, her wings shaking. "Oh, it's a DAMNED good thing I wasn't there; you'd be bailing my ass out of county lockup tonight."
  370.  
  371. "Wouldn't be the first time," I murmur. She rolls her eyes, and Mike leans forward with eyebrows raised.
  372.  
  373. "That sounds like a story," he says woozily.
  374.  
  375. "One you're never gonna hear," Chica retorts as she plucks some of Faz's stitches loose. He grits his teeth as they come out, clearly in a world of hurt. "Just a few more, Faz. Hang in there, we're almost done with the painful part."
  376.  
  377. "Oooh! You should be wearing your nurse's costume," Mike says. "Everybody loves a cute nurse."
  378.  
  379. "Darn it!" She snaps her wingtips with a light click, her normal smile back in place. "Aww, I knew I forgot something!" Mike flops back in his chair with a silly smile on his face, and I can't help but roll my eyes.
  380.  
  381. "Don't enable her, Mike," I chuckle. "She'll have me in a lab coat and you in scrubs and all of us'll be playin' doctor."
  382.  
  383. Chica finishes bandaging Faz before closing up the first aid kit. "Yeah? That'll be the theme of our next party," she declares.
  384.  
  385. "Sounds good. I'm in as long as there's no quesadillas," Mike mumbles.
  386.  
  387. Faz reluctantly climbs out of his chair, gratefully accepting the clean pajamas Chica got him as he shambles off to his room to get some sleep. Satisfied that our little home is in order for now, Chica walks to the kitchen to wash her feathers off while I put the first aid kit back in the cabinet.
  388.  
  389. "Thanks for taking care of all that for him," I murmur softly. "That sort of stuff just needs a woman's touch, you know?"
  390.  
  391. "Your ass needs a woman's touch with a wooden spoon right about now," she whispers. "I'm not gonna let you guys go out for another night if Foxy's going to get roughed around by thugs."
  392.  
  393. "It wasn't that bad, Chica, and we had our eye on him the whole time," I argue. "We were trying to defuse the situation, not escalate it."
  394.  
  395. She studies my face, opening and closing her beak as she tries to figure out what to say. I know she's not really frustrated with me, just concerned for our little family, as it were. "Well, do something mellow next time. Someplace safe, where you're not around a bunch of crazy drunks."
  396.  
  397. "Preachin' to the choir," I answer with a soft smile.
  398.  
  399. "Good. And I'm going too, since I'm one of the guys anyway," she says.
  400.  
  401. I nod. "Yes'm. Wouldn't have it any other way."
  402.  
  403. Toddling back over to the sofa, she takes a seat next to Mike, turning the television on low volume. I shut the kitchen lights off before pushing myself back into the living room.
  404.  
  405. "Hey, Chica," Mike mumbles. "Remember that, uh -- offer? The one you made me from before?"
  406.  
  407. "Mmm?" she asks.
  408.  
  409. "I was just thinking, uh -- maybe we could, um..." He makes some kind of strange clapping motion with his hands, causing both Chica and I to raise our eyebrows.
  410.  
  411. She pats him on his forehead, causing him to giggle as her feathers stroke his face. "Tell you what, sweetie. Ask me again when you're sober, and it's absolutely a deal," Chica says, wrapping a wing around his head and pulling him onto her lap. "Now shush and close your eyes."
  412.  
  413. "'Kay," he says, flopping against her thighs. "I'm just gonna rest my eyes. Only for a few minutes."
  414.  
  415. "Sure, Mike," she says soothingly, winking at me. "Just a few minutes."
  416.  
  417. I give her a curious look. "Offer?" I whisper.
  418.  
  419. "You can go ahead and go crash, Bonnie," she says, waving me off. "I'll stay up with him for a little bit before turning in."
  420.  
  421. "Oh, uh. You sure? I don't mind," I reply, rubbing my eyes.
  422.  
  423. "He'll be fine," she says. "Take it easy one night. Nurse's orders."
  424.  
  425. "You know I hate goin' to bed before everybody, but if it's nurse's orders, who'm I to argue with a trained professional?" I crack. "Hopefully Marion won't mind if I'm a little late tomorrow; I think I might just sleep in a little."
  426.  
  427. "Eh, I think he'll survive without you for a couple hours."
  428.  
  429. With a smile, I excuse myself for my room. "Alright then. G'night, Chica."
  430.  
  431. "Night, Bon."
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