Roommates - Ch. 36 (Family Business)

Aug 16th, 2016
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  1. Roommates has moved! You can now read it at Archive of Our Own:
  3. Roommates - Ch. 36 (Family Business):
  4. Inspired by Weaver's Five Nights at Freddy's Apartment AU:
  5. Part of an ongoing series written for the /5N@F/ General Discussion Thread at /vg/.
  6. Sincerest thanks to Weaver ( 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 Bud ( for proofreading and editing this chapter.
  8. Questions or comments? Drop me an ask at
  10. ---
  12. Having finished her midnight snack, Goose has since retreated to the comfort of the living room couch. For your own part, you're pretty fatigued after a full day of work cleaning the apartment, but you don't feel right ditching the poor girl after just having met her. So for now, you've taken up a seat in the living room to keep her company.
  14. Of all the "Chicas" you've met so far, nothing would have convinced you that Cheeky wasn't the most casual and mellow of the bunch. Having made Goose's acquaintance, however, Cheeky seems practically high-strung by comparison. Not that you're complaining, of course. Some chill sounds plenty good right about now. Being honest with yourself, you know you spent most of the day keeping busy in an attempt to allow your tortured nerves to chase down that elusive and fleeting sense of normalcy.
  16. You wonder if your less fortunate neighbors and friends don't wake up every morning feeling the exact same way. Your confrontation with Bonworth, Faz, and Cheeky has taken on an entirely different light. The non-disclosure agreements were just an excuse to ignore delving into their own uncomfortable truths.
  18. Shame washes over you anew. No, not shame, exactly...
  20. Rather, empathy?
  22. The fact of the matter is, you don't really want to talk about what happened at Fred's any more than Faz wants to talk about the "turnkey" animatronic costume that put him in permanent hospice. If you never see Jeremy Human or his house of horrors again, it'll still be too soon -- and that's to say nothing of Goldie Fazbear.
  24. Right now, more than anything else, you just want to forget everything that's happened this last week and get back to status quo. Indulging Bonnibel as she frets over simple concerns, watching Frederick cook delicious food, listening to Haddock's pirate yarns that never quite go anywhere. Exchanging risque jokes with Cheeky, going shopping for mundane items with Beanie. Trussing yourself up in flannel pajamas and settling in for awful romantic comedies under the playfully stern direction of Chiclet.
  26. Knowing what you know now, you envy the days when your biggest hurdles to overcome were Mangle's disregard for your personal space and Bonworth's graceless jokes at your expense.
  28. Unfortunately for your pride, in for a penny, in for a pound. For whatever reason, you've been shipwrecked on the island of misfit toys, and in the process you've become one of them. The one thing you've got going for you is that you know they're not going to judge you for your recent dive off the deep end; the hardest part is figuring out how not to judge yourself.
  30. "Listen, new guy." Goose rolls over on her side to "look" in your direction. "You seem nice and all, but I'm gonna have to ask you to shut up. You talk way too much."
  32. Jarred from your thoughts, you jerk your head up, chuckling awkwardly.
  34. "Oh man, I did kind of blank out there for a minute."
  36. "It's fine," she says with a sleepy grin. "I was like, 'uh oh, he didn't get up and leave, did he?' You'd be surprised how often Bonbon does that without warning me."
  38. "She DOES seem like the kind that's, uh, easily distracted. Case in point, she's been holed up in her room since dinner -- which was hours ago."
  40. "That makes sense." Goose seems to count something off on her feathers before nodding. "It's her roleplaying night. She sits around in a chat room with her buddies online and they pretend to be humans or something. You into that kind of thing too?"
  42. "Who, me?" You smirk and roll your eyes only to remember that such expression is lost on her. "Nah, Goose, I can't say I'm in the habit of hanging out online with other lonely animals, pretending to be something I'm not." You decline to mention that you do enough of that in real life.
  44. "Shame. I think I'd have a lot of fun in one of those groups. Not the humie thing, but like, I could see myself as some mystic Egyptian queen or something. I always thought those old Arabian Night kinda stories were interesting, and admit it -- I could totally rock a pair of harem pants." She wiggles her hips coyly for emphasis, and you clap appreciatively.
  46. "Absolutely. Just have one of our resident artisans whip you up a silk pair with some sequins, and you'd be good to go."
  48. Goose laughs a particularly avian-sounding trill as she reclines on the couch. "Yep, that's me alright."
  50. "I was going to ask, actually. What's up with the sequin thing?" you inquire, idly scratching at your leg's bandages.
  52. "Eh. I just like the way they feel." Goose runs a feathertip lazily along the carpet, perking up as she seems to realize something. "Oh, wow -- the floor. I knew something felt different."
  54. "Oh yeah?"
  56. "Yeah. I can actually FEEL the carpet for the first time in, um -- wow, I've lost track." She sniffs at the air before turning to you. "Smells better in here, too. Did Bonnie spruce up?"
  58. You cast a glance around the entirety of the apartment, chest swelling with pride as you gaze upon the fruit of your labor.
  60. "N-no, not -- not exactly. I might've, uh, pitched in a bit and done some spring cleaning. In November."
  62. Stretching a little, Goose cocks her head in your general direction. "I was gonna say, I'd have been surprised. She's not much of one for keeping our place, y'know..."
  64. "Orderly?" you offer.
  66. Laughing out loud, the orange hen reaches behind her head to adjust the throw pillow she's propped against. "I was going to say 'inhabitable' but I think yours sounds nicer."
  68. Considering how much garbage was piled up everywhere -- clumps of unread mail, piles of laundry, sack after sack full of trash -- apartment 87-A wouldn't exactly make for a very hospitable or accessible place for a blind person to roam. You're imagining Goose stumbling over junk trying to get to anywhere she'd need to go within the apartment, and suddenly your cheeks begin to burn with righteous indignation. Bonbon and the others are way past innocent irresponsibility and are instead straight-up neglecting the needs of their fellow housemate.
  70. At this point, it's bordering on cruelty.
  72. "Is it always like that here?" you ask quietly. She notices the shift in your tone, and her own smile falters.
  74. "Not -- you know, it's not so bad." She's obviously attempting damage control to cover for her friends. "Bonnie's a good roommate, she just stays so busy taking care of everything here. Gotta keep them plates spinning."
  76. "Busy, right."
  78. Yeah, Bonbon's busy. Every day she's got a full schedule of playing and watching cartoons while her roommates are preoccupied with the mission-critical tasks of napping and finger painting.
  80. Catching yourself, you raise a hand to your forehead, exhaling deeply as you will yourself to not lose your temper.
  82. You've only been here for less than a day and they are doing you a favor, regardless of the fact that it was unsolicited. You're in no position to pass railing judgment on these folks. For all you know, Bonbon and company really do have a very good excuse for letting their house go completely to shit, all the while their disabled friend suffers in silence. You can't possibly think of what such an excuse might be, but you acknowledge the fact that it could exist. Hypothetically.
  84. "Yeah, exactly," Goose says, seemingly content that you're not going to press the issue. "So like, that's super big of you to just come in and get started helping out. I know I appreciate it."
  86. "It's my pleasure," you politely return. "Glad I could be of some use. Um, I'll be here for a few days while the whole, y'know, tenant overflow situation gets straightened out upstairs."
  88. "Sounds like fun. Whose room are you staying in while you're here?"
  90. "Oh, uh, I'm staying with Peanut." You scratch your head, trying to figure out why she'd even bother asking such a question. Clucking slightly as she reclines, Goose's beak twists into a saucy smile. Uh oh. You can feel this one coming.
  92. "Well, that's very progressive of you to sleep with another guy, Mike," she says coolly, closing her eyes and tucking her wings across her stomach. Aaaand there it is.
  94. You're halfway through thinking up a counter-zinger when a noise like a wood chipper malfunctioning tears through the quiet of the apartment, causing you to nearly leap out of your seat in a panic. Goose, on the other hand, doesn't so much as twitch.
  96. "The hell was that?!" you pant, looking around in bewilderment.
  98. "Oh, did I mention that when he's in a REAL deep sleep, he snores?" She giggles a little. "I mean, it's kinda cute once you get used to it."
  100. That was a snore?! How the hell did you never hear that during your stay overhead?! Casting a hesitant look in the direction of Peanut's room, you swallow nervously. They say you don't appreciate what you've got until you lose it. Compared to whatever's waiting for you behind that door, the futon in Fred's cramped office seems like the executive suite at a five star hotel.
  102. "Well, I guess I'd better go try to, um, get some rest." Rubbing your achy sides, you slowly slide out of the chair and onto your feet. "Will you be alright out here by yourself?"
  104. "Sure. I'm just gonna chill out -- it's nice to have some 'me time' if you know what I mean," she says. "Have a good rest, Mike."
  106. Nodding mostly to yourself, you gently pat one of her wings as you pass by her on your way to Peanut's room.
  108. "Thanks, Goose. Take it easy."
  112. "Morning, Mike! How did you sleep?" Bonbon asks as she fiddles with the coffee maker. "I trust you're all good and well-rested?"
  114. For once, you're not up at six on the dot; it's half past ten as you tumble into your seat at the breakfast table. You gaze over at an oblivious Peanut mindlessly chewing through his cereal. He looks up, sees you staring, and gives you a timid smile and wave before resuming his breakfast. All you can muster up is a grunt in response.
  116. Your first night's stay in Peanut's room was interesting. At least Bonbon wasn't lying when she said you'd have your own bed. Fortunately for you, Peanut also has a set of bunk beds similar to Frederick's setup -- unfortunately for you, he was already asleep in the top bunk, having apparently gotten home from work while you were trapped in laundry purgatory. As a result, you spent the majority of the night alternating between worrying about the creaking noises the bed frame was making as it struggled under his weight, and being shocked awake by his chainsaw snoring every twenty minutes or so.
  118. "Good to hear!" Bonbon burbles obliviously, pulling a set of mismatched mugs out of the cupboards. "Ohhh! I almost forgot to tell you. Fred called this morning and wanted to let you know he'd be right on time for your lunch appointment!"
  120. "Oh, you're goin' to have lunch with the big bear?" Peanut whispers, awed. "That's so cool. Where are you guys going?"
  122. "Couldn't tell you," you mutter as you accept your coffee from Bonbon. Looking down at the contents of the cup, it's full of what appears to be milk with maybe just a teaspoon or two of coffee for color. Taking a sip, you feel your face contorting against your will. Correction: half milk, half sugar.
  124. "Fixed it just the way I like mine," Bonbon grins as she plops into her own chair. "Bottoms up!" You watch with an awkward grimace as she chugs her mug full of fauxfee.
  126. "So, Peanut -- you're up a little earlier than yesterday," you comment. "How was work? Did they give you a hard time for showing up late?"
  128. "Nah, I got off easy," Peanut replies bashfully, smiling at you from behind his cereal bowl. "Mr. Fazbear sorted things out for me. Well, I guess you did, actually. Um, thanks for taking care of that."
  130. "No pair of socks is worth losing your job over," you reply with a tired smile of your own, lifting your mug of sugary cream in a mock toast. "Speaking of which..."
  132. You trail off as you look around the room, noticing that little messes are already beginning to pile up here and there -- discarded clothes, more unopened mail, a half-full garbage bag nestled next to the television set. It's like they have no interest in maintenance whatsoever.
  134. "Lemme just stop you there, Mike," Bonbon says with a completely serious expression, holding up a paw. "I already know what you're gonna ask -- and the answer is yes, I've got plenty of shows to keep us entertained after we're done with the first season of Legend of Bob. There are a few fansubbed episodes of season two which is airing right now, and man, let me just tell you, the first episode's a REAL shocker. The new season's off to a bang already!"
  136. Shaking your head, you set your sugar milk aside. How she managed to make the mental leap from Peanut's socks to Legend of Bob shows where her priorities lie.
  138. "Not quite what I had in mind -- nnngh." You wince at a sudden shooting pain in your chest. Placing a hand on your side, you force a pained smile; you can't wait for lunch so you can take another round of painkillers. "I was just going to mention that I did most of the laundry last night, but you guys are going to have to collect your clothes yourselves since I wasn't quite sure of who owned what."
  140. "Oh, that won't be a problem at all, Mike!" Bonbon enthuses. "We'll prolly just shop out of the baskets for whatever we need."
  142. Ah, of course. That's clearly the easier and far less responsible option. You're not sure why you even expected otherwise.
  144. A sing-song, flighty voice from down the hallway announces the arrival of Mango. "Mike! Good morning," she titters as she shuffles out of her room and into the hall. "I'm glad you're finally awake! I need you for just a few moments if you can spare some... personal time." She's wrapped in her duvet, another box of craft supplies in her free paw and a pair of scissors dangling from her tail.
  146. "Sure, why not," you return. "What do you need me for?"
  148. "Well, Foxglove is having some difficulty with where your costume and props merge -- bless the little ragamuffin's heart, at least now we all know who slept through Armscyes 101." Mango clicks her tongue in a condescending manner. "Basically, I need to borrow your arm to make a mockup so that I don't have to spend the rest of the day arguing with a certain SOMEONE over measurements."
  150. She settles down onto her chair next to you, dumping her supplies onto the table. Pulling out a patchy roll of felt, she begins wrapping it around your arm.
  152. "Felt? Is this what the prop will be made out of?" you ask, curiously pinching a portion of it between your thumb and index finger to get a feel for the texture.
  154. "Gosh, no," Mango replies as she leans in, pulling a few straight pins from her box. "Maybe some of the jointing might be fabric, but I plan on making the entire thing out of molded acrylic. This is just flexible material so we can get a rough idea of the size of the Bobulator."
  156. Squinting, you try to figure out what the hell she's talking about. "The Bobula-- oohhh, that's the silver thing on his arm that doesn't seem to do anything, right?"
  158. "Yet," Bonbon says with a cryptic smile. "But in episode three of--"
  160. "Three!" Peanut interrupts. "That reminds me! It's Three for Three Thursday over at Candy's today! We should totally go get ice cream later tonight, Bonnie!"
  162. Bonbon shakes her head in disgust. "Already? But you're so close to your goal weight for the week, Freddy -- you just need to lose fifteen pounds by Sunday! Ice cream would TOTALLY kick you out of keto."
  164. "He's eating cereal," Mango interjects with a smile as she begins wrapping a strip of grey felt around your right forearm. "I'm pretty sure ketosis is long off the table."
  166. "That's not true, Mangle," Peanut argues as he shovels another lump of Crispy-Sweet Marshmallow Party Poppers into his mouth. "I just need to, you know, take a break from all the kale every once in a while."
  168. Something sharp suddenly pinches your elbow, and you instinctively yelp in pain.
  170. "Ow! Easy, Mango!"
  172. "Sorry, my paws slipped," Mango frustratedly returns, pulling a hatpin out of your arm. "Oooh -- it's not as bad as it looks. Just give me a minute here." She tugs the coarse fabric loose from your arm, sighing as a tiny dollop of blood begins to form around your elbow from where you were just punctured.
  174. "Sit tight. I'll go grab you a bandage, Mike." Bonbon hops up from her chair, scooting into the kitchen. While she's busy rummaging around in the cabinets for first aid supplies, the doorbell chimes.
  176. "Oh, that must be Fred," she announces. Bonbon quickly reverses course out of the kitchen, skipping down the hallway to answer the front door. Sure enough, Fred Fazbear waits on the porch outside, dressed in formal wear. His usual porkpie has been swapped out for an elegant top hat, and accentuating his typical dress shirt is a black bow tie and a matching tailor-made silk vest, complete with a gold pocketwatch chain. If you didn't know better, you'd assume you were off to the opera instead of having lunch out.
  178. Then again, nothing around here surprises you anymore -- you very well could be headed to the opera.
  180. "Good morning." Fred waves politely to everyone inside, tipping his hat. Peanut instantly sets his cereal bowl down on the table, wiping his mouth on the back of his shirt sleeve.
  182. "Mornin', sir," the smaller of the two bears calls out, suddenly all-business. His hands are clasped in front of his chest and his gaze is steeled, as if he's being interviewed for a job. "Thanks for, um, for bailing me out yesterday."
  184. "It's fine," Fred says dismissively. "Just don't make a habit of it. Mike, get your coat; we're going."
  186. You nod apologetically to Mango. "Sorry, I know Mangle can be a handful," you chuckle as you pull away from the shorter fox and head for the front door.
  188. "Oooohh, it's fine. I'll figure something out."
  190. Grabbing your pills from the kitchen counter, you head for the front door coat rack to retrieve your jacket. As you're reaching for it, Bonbon hastily applies a children's bandage to your arm. You spare a glance at the cartoonish piece of latex adhered to your flesh, raising an eyebrow at her.
  192. "Hot pink hearts and smiley faces?"
  194. "Pffft. You'll be fine, tough guy," she says with a toothy grin. "You boys have fun today, alright?"
  196. "We will," Fred chuckles. "I'm all about fun. In fact, I'm practically the face of family fun."
  198. With a sigh, you give the others a parting wave as you follow him outside. You'd be lying if you said you shared any of his optimism.
  202. The sun's especially bright today, making for pleasant contrast with the chill of the late November cold. Fred's car is a far more comfortable ride as well now that you're not crammed into the back of the vehicle. The front seats are soft and plush, far more soothing on your sore chest than the last time you were inside.
  204. "So, Mike." Fred awkwardly tilts his head towards you while keeping his eyes on the road. "How are you fitting in?"
  206. "Oh, thank god. I thought you'd never ask. I'm trapped in an apartment with Bonbon -- send help," you reply with a dry smile.
  208. Clearly that must have struck him as humorous; he lets loose a bark of a laugh, a smirk flashing across his lips so quickly you almost question whether it was there at all.
  210. "Seriously though, they're not that bad," you continue, massaging your leg. "You weren't kidding when you said their household was lacking in discipline, though."
  212. Side-eyeing you, Fazbear nods. "Sure. Peanut seems to handle guidance well, but he lacks ambition. Bonbon's the exact opposite; I never could tell her anything."
  214. "Chiclet described them as 'free spirits' -- you think that's a fair assessment?"
  216. "More like a generous assessment," Fred replies without hesitation.
  218. Considering the filthy state of the apartment when you arrived, for once this is one of those times where Fred's not exaggerating or leaping to conclusions. Bonbon and the others are slobs. Lovable, friendly, comfy slobs -- but slobs nonetheless. Their cozy, inviting atmosphere is a double-edged sword; without clear leadership or direction, nothing's ever going to get done.
  220. Conversation peters off afterwards. Fred seems slightly preoccupied this morning, his expression distant as he skillfully navigates along back roads and winding lanes. Based on what little you know of the surrounding area, you're likely headed downtown. A knot begins to form in the pit of your stomach -- surely he wouldn't be taking you back THERE of all places, right? Not after what happened yesterday?
  222. "Fred, where are we going for lunch?" you ask, your voice strained.
  224. Without taking his eyes off the road, Fred exhales deeply through his nose. He doesn't say anything; he doesn't need to.
  226. "You know what, I don't -- I don't think I'm up to going out today. Turn around and take me back, please."
  228. "Settle down, Mike."
  230. "I -- what?! Settle down?! Fred, no! I'm not going back to Jeremy Human's!" You look up at him in shock, your face like that of a deer caught in the headlights. "Look, I've had it with that place! Take me back to Bonbon's! Please!"
  232. Your pleas fall on deaf ears. Fred continues to drive on, patently ignoring you as the car weaves through a wooded section of town before turning onto the all-too familiar main street that leads to Jeremy's. Your heart's pumping overtime as the unwelcome yellow and purple marquee fades into view. Instead of stopping on the street in front of the pizzeria like you're expecting him to, however, Fred continues on for now, sparing it only a passing glance.
  234. Turning the corner, Fred parks the car in front of a small teahouse. As he shifts in his seat to face you, you're already bracing yourself for a glare and sharp words to put you in your place -- but against all expectations, he looks at you with the same placid features he had the other night when you bared your soul and let loose in front of his linen closet. He draws a deep breath, drumming his fingers against the steering wheel as he considers what he wants to say.
  236. "This is probably a better place to talk, now that I think about it. I'll go get us a table; come on inside when you've stopped shaking."
  238. Indeed, you hadn't even noticed but your knees are knocking and you're gripping the door handle strongly enough that the plastic's showing signs of fatigue. Forcing yourself to calm down, you slowly open the passenger door and stumble to your feet, traipsing into the cafe behind Fred.
  240. It's dead as a doornail inside, which is good because there are maybe seven or eight tables in the entire restaurant. It's warm and cozy, though, and anything's better than the alternative. The waitress, a mauve-furred, middle-aged vixen with caked-on makeup seats the two of you at a table before handing you each a menu. As you read over the specials, you're inwardly glad Fred's treating; the price for appetizers alone is more than you'd spend on an entire dinner. For two.
  242. If he's bothered by the hefty price tags, however, he doesn't seem to show it. Out of courtesy to his wallet, you resolve to order whatever the cheapest thing is on the menu, regardless of how appealing it might actually sound. You can eat your fill later on your own dime.
  244. Doffing his hat, Fred skims the menu before folding it up and placing it on the table.
  246. "Sixteen ounce sirloin, medium-rare," he remarks rapid-fire to the waitress. "Loaded baked potato. Seasonal vegetables. And yes, I'm fine with the extra charge. My friend will have the same -- Mike, how do you take your steak?"
  248. You blink. So much for the cheapest thing on the menu. "I-- whoa, no, Fred, I'm fine with just a salad, or--"
  250. "No you're not," Fred gruffly interrupts. "You're living with those degenerates and all they eat is literal rabbit food. Tell the lady how you want your steak cooked."
  252. Pressing the back of the palm to your cheeks, you only just now realize the reason you're so warm is that the heater's on full blast in here and you haven't even taken your coat off. Oh, and also, Fred just ordered you half a cow to eat.
  254. "Medium-well?" you manage to reply as you strip off your jacket, laying it across the back of your chair. "Really, though, sixteen ounces is way too much steak, Fred."
  256. "Fine. The eight ounce for him, then. Oh, and we'll have an order of the mussels in white wine sauce to start," Fred adds, smirking at you. You're not even sure you know what mussels are, but you nod appreciatively. The vixen jots everything down in her notepad with a pleasant smile before retreating to the kitchen.
  258. "Fred, I don't know what to say." You tug your coat loose, draping it over the back of your chair. You feel vastly underdressed sitting across from the bear in formal clothes ordering up an expensive lunch. Fred simply nods in response, taking his hat in his paws as the two of you relax at your table. He holds it for a long while, tracing his finger along the brim thoughtfully. It's not until your appetizer's served that he finally sets it aside on the seat of one of the unused chairs.
  260. The two of you eat in silence. The mussels are delicious, albeit a little tricky to figure out at first; you could see Frederick preparing a fancy dish like this with ease. The steaks are served not long after, and you gratefully set to work polishing your plate off both out of hunger as well as a desire to not offend your benefactor. Eventually all that's left of your plates is a handful of crumbs. Satisfied, Fred reclines in his chair.
  262. "Dessert?"
  264. "Please, god, no," you chuckle. "I already feel like I've gained two full pants sizes."
  266. Snorting, Fred settles the check with the server before clasping his paws in an imitation of Peanut's pose at the breakfast table. Actually, it's more likely Peanut was imitating Fred, now that you think about it. The air's taken on a heavy tone, and after a couple of false starts, Fred finally seems to find the words he wants to say.
  268. "He'd just finished college," Fred begins softly. "I was too busy with more... hedonistic pursuits to even consider higher education. Cares of the world, the stupidity of rebellious youth. Distractions."
  270. Your expression turns somber as you listen to him speak; it's only until your chest begins to ache that you realize you've been holding in your breath in for fear of throwing him off of his stride. Exhaling gently, you lean in, paying rapt attention to whatever he has to say. This is a rare side of Fred Fazbear and you don't intend to squander the opportunity.
  272. "It was around summer, I think, when he and his business partner came into our parents' home to lay out their plan for a restaurant with an old-fashioned arcade and good food, and a stage for live music and performances." He laughs a raspy, dry laugh, and for a moment he looks decades older than he actually is. His eyebrows furrow upwards in a mix of recalled emotions. "The mascots would be added later on; my father's 401k wasn't a sizable enough loan to spring for such state-of-the-art equipment."
  274. Stiffening, you realize what this means. Before you can give voice to inquiry, though, Fred presses on.
  276. "My brother put his heart and his soul into building that pizzeria from the ground up. Some of our mutual friends -- even a few faces you'd know -- were part of the operation from as far back as pouring the foundation."
  278. Your sinuses are beginning to burn -- reaching up to your face, you realize your eyes are starting to water. "A family business," you murmur. No wonder damn near everyone you've met has worked there.
  280. "In the truest sense of the words." Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Fred sighs. "Listen -- I asked you to lunch for two reasons, Mike. The first of which was to apologize to you for asking you to exit my home."
  282. "Fred--"
  284. "Let me finish," he interrupts. "You did my household -- my family a service. You were not asked, but you rose to the occasion and put your wellbeing on the line for someone who wasn't your own. And in your hour of need, when it came time to repay the favor, I threw you out on your ass. Believe me when I say that ALL of my housemates had words for me yesterday morning."
  286. Rackham coming to your defense? You maintain a neutral expression, but internally you wish you could have been a fly on the wall for that conversation. Beanie and Chichi sticking up for you isn't too surprising, but the idea of Fred being outnumbered three to one is an amusing and also frightening thought.
  288. Coughing awkwardly, he rubs the back of his head. "No lunch can repay what you did for Bonnie. I've never misjudged the character of a man's heart in my life until I met you. For that and more, I'm sorry, Mike."
  290. You extend your hand across the table, grasping his own and shaking it firmly.
  292. "I've got a lot to be sorry about, myself. I wasn't in a good place mentally, and I inadvertently stirred a lot of shit up that you'd just as soon have left alone. Besides, you still took in a stranger into your home and for all you know I could have been a threat. So we're a little more even than you might think."
  294. "I appreciate you being gracious about it." Fred nods his head toward you as the two of you break contact. "The second reason I called you here today is what I'd started to mention when we were on the phone last night. I do want to show you something." Warily, he gauges your face.
  296. "It's... it's important to me that you see the business that my brother built as it was intended to be seen."
  298. Gazing down the street, you swallow; suddenly your food feels like it might be ready to come back up.
  300. "I'm not ready to go back, Fred," you hoarsely whisper. It's an appeal from primal fear; more of an entreaty than an actual statement.
  302. "And you'll never be," Fred says simply. "But I've watched too many good people -- friends and family alike -- fall victim to this imaginary curse that hangs over our family's work. Jeremy Human's pizzeria, for better or for worse, is Goldie's legacy. It's too late for Bonworth and Faz, but it's not too late for you, Mike."
  304. Standing up from the table, Fred collects his hat and places it upon his head. You shakily push yourself to your legs, collecting your coat from the back of your chair as you follow Fred to his car.
  306. "I'll be with you every step of the way, Mike," Fred says as he starts the engine. "And if you're still too uncomfortable, then I'll have someone come pick you up. But you're going to go conquer your fears. Understand?"
  308. "Yeah," you glumly respond as he backs out of his parking space and turns down the street. "Let's go get this over with."
  310. "That's the spirit."
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