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Roommates - Ch. 17 (The Big Pinch)

Jan 4th, 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. 17 (The Big Pinch): http://i.imgur.com/nJQpaop.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. In response to your weak attempt at making conversation, you expected to be met with a blank stare. So far, you're not disappointed.
  12.  
  13. It comes as no real surprise that Faz isn't much of a talker, if the inconvenient-looking device buried in his neck is anything to go by. Even if that wasn't an issue, it makes sense he wouldn't be keen to expend significant amounts of energy based on the visible evidence of recent surgeries. For all you know, he could very well be on doctor's orders to move as little as possible until he gets better.
  14.  
  15. Nevertheless, you remain convinced that you can get Faz to open up in some small way. As you stretch out on the sofa, you begin thinking of a way to engage him. You misjudged Bonworth and Cheeky at first, and even Foxy won you over quickly once you got to know him. You've yet to meet anyone truly hostile in this apartment complex, and in your heart you know Faz is no exception. As long as you're going to be living here, you might as well try to make friends with as many people as you possibly can.
  16.  
  17. The morning news has given way to daytime programming, and right now some asinine children's show is blasting through the speakers. You idly wonder how Cheeky's able to sleep with the sound up so high.
  18.  
  19. "All right, so you're not into movies. What about TV? You sure seem interested in, uh--" You squint at the screen, making sure you're reading the title card correctly. "--Laser Dinosaur Adventures?"
  20.  
  21. From what you've managed to glean between commercial breaks, the show itself seems to be little more than a glorified 20-minute vehicle to sell toys, the eponymous characters bringing out some new gadget, vehicle, or playset every few minutes. At least it can't be any weirder than whatever the hell Legend of Bob is.
  22.  
  23. It's been a long time since you've seen commercials aimed at kids. Overly excited boys smash action figures through walls of stacked plastic blocks while girls fawn over "adorable" dolls with creepy hair and creepier eyes. Slew after slew of strange products and toys that look as though their entertainment value would run the gamut of no more than five minutes parade across the screen, selling themselves on how little your parents seem to understand or how quickly your big sister would get grossed out.
  24.  
  25. Faz slowly glances over his shoulder at you with his sunken, vacant eyes, and after a long and very uncomfortable moment, he returns his attention to the television, switching the channel to some local news report.
  26.  
  27. "Well, you didn't have to change it," you insist, wondering if you've offended him. "Watch whatever you like, I don't mind one bit."
  28.  
  29. He draws a deep, pained breath before reaching one of his battered paws to the voice controller on his neck. You strain a little to better hear whatever he might have to say.
  30.  
  31. "Some days, I miss the sound," he rasps.
  32.  
  33. "The sound?" You glance at the screen, then back at him. "Of a TV, or...?"
  34.  
  35. He shakes his head, wincing slightly as he does.
  36.  
  37. "Life."
  38.  
  39. The sound of life?
  40.  
  41. What does THAT mean?
  42.  
  43. You aren't immediately sure of how you should answer, and apparently, he doesn't expect you to at all. Reclining in his chair, Faz changes the channel yet again. After several minutes of non-conversation, you eventually conclude that you won't get anything else out of him for now. Kicking your feet up on the sofa's armrest, you fold your arms across your chest in groggy annoyance. Because you didn't end up getting much sleep last night, you're too tired to be productive, yet too alert to go back to bed.
  44.  
  45. Seeing no real options, you resign yourself to zoning out to the television for now.
  46.  
  47.  
  48.  
  49. A couple of hours pass. You make it a point to check on Faz every so often, even if it's just to offer him something to drink. On the rare occasions you do receive a reply, it's usually in the form of a dismissive wave or grunt. Eye contact is seldom, and fleeting.
  50.  
  51. Apart from a call from Bonworth to remind you to give Faz his medicine, which you repeatedly assure him you didn't forget, the home front remains quiet until sometime around half past eleven when a knock at the door announces Foxy's return from a morning spent playing over at Bonbon's.
  52.  
  53. To your surprise, Bonbon herself is more subdued than usual as she trots into the entryway, her expression bordering on one of worry.
  54.  
  55. "What's up?" you ask as Foxy staggers in behind her.
  56.  
  57. "Oh -- hey, Mike," Bonbon replies deflatedly. "See for yourself."
  58.  
  59. Foxy slowly shuffles down the hallway past you and Bonbon, harness and leash still firmly attached to his torso. He scratches awkwardly at one of his ears with his hook, seemingly addled.
  60.  
  61. "You okay, buddy?" you ask gently, leaning down a little as he passes by.
  62.  
  63. Foxy seems to be chewing something, but there's nothing in his maw -- it's as if he's simply biting slowly at the air itself, tongue flopping in and out of his mouth between the gaps in his teeth. His eyes seem focused in two different directions as he bumbles forward, eventually knocking his head into the wall near his bedroom door. He continues to walk against it, but it obviously refuses to sway despite his best efforts.
  64.  
  65. After half a minute or so, Foxy literally drives himself up the wall until he tumbles onto his back, legs and arms still softly paddling away all the while.
  66.  
  67. "He's been like this for the last hour or so," Bonbon murmurs. "I've only ever seen him this bad once before, and it was..." She trails off, tugging at one of her wristbands with an awkward expression.
  68.  
  69. "Oh man, poor guy." You watch as Foxy rolls on the carpet. "Do we have any idea what's wrong with him? Does he need some pills, or like a sedative or something?"
  70.  
  71. "I wish I knew," Bonbon laments, ears drooping. "He was right in the middle of watching cartoons with Peanut and Goose when he just sort of, uh, flopped over. Peanut looked up his symptoms on the internet, and we thought maybe his blood sugar had dropped out or something, so we rubbed a little honey on his gums. When that didn't work, I knew I had to get him over here."
  72.  
  73. Glancing behind you into the common area, Bonbon squints.
  74.  
  75. "Where IS Bonworth, anyway?" she asks. "He'll probably know what to do."
  76.  
  77. "At work," you reply distractedly, watching as a little foam builds up around the edges of Foxy's muzzle.
  78.  
  79. "He works? Since WHEN?" Bonbon asks, face awash with confusion.
  80.  
  81. "Marion needs him for the next couple days, something about clerical work. Shit, I'd better call him."
  82.  
  83. Stooping next to Foxy, you gingerly tilt his head up so that he doesn't put too much strain on his neck as he kicks around. Fortunately, he's not so far gone that he's in danger of biting his tongue or choking on his own saliva, but it doesn't look like there's much you can do for him right now. You turn to head toward the kitchen, almost bumping into something. Looking up, you realize with alarm that Faz is standing directly behind you.
  84.  
  85. "Whoa!" you yelp as you abruptly leap backwards to give yourself some distance, nearly knocking over an end table in the process. If he notices at all, he doesn't comment, instead lumbering towards Foxy. Bonbon spares you a bewildered glance, but it's clear from her face that her sole focus is on Foxy at the moment.
  86.  
  87. Faz inhales deeply as he leans down to the ground. With a grimace, he hefts Foxy like a father would an exhausted child, dutifully carrying him into your shared room. He deposits Foxy on one of the two beds before covering him with the purple blanket from the closet.
  88.  
  89. "At ease, sailor," Faz drones. Foxy thrashes a little before settling down, turning to look at Faz.
  90.  
  91. "Aye," Foxy answers, straining to focus. "Aye, skipper-r-r-rrr. Fff-ffour... tea winkssss."
  92.  
  93. Faz shuts the light off and closes the door behind him, stepping out into the hall to face you and Bonbon. Looking up, Bonbon meets his blank gaze with a smile.
  94.  
  95. "Hey, big bear," she coos softly. "It's been a while. How're your battle scars?"
  96.  
  97. As if to answer, Faz looks down at his chest and scratches at one of his incisions a little. Some less-than-clear liquid clings to his paw, almost causing you to gag.
  98.  
  99. "That's no good," Bonbon gasps. "Mike, you know how to clean a wound, right?"
  100.  
  101. "I know a little basic first aid," you comment, rubbing your chin. "It was required as part of my training at my old job."
  102.  
  103. "Good to know," she replies. "What did you do before coming here, if you don't mind my asking?"
  104.  
  105. You start to answer, then stop abruptly. "I, uh... hold on a second," you mutter, drawing a blank.
  106.  
  107. "Oh, wait, sorry -- we should probably get him taken care of. Do you know where Bonworth keeps first aid stuff, Faz?"
  108.  
  109. Faz nods, tapping his voicebox with his clean paw. "Kitchen. Top left cabinet."
  110.  
  111. "Great. So, Mike, you need me to stick around?" Bonbon asks hesitantly, making no effort to leave the entryway. It's obvious that when she said "we" should get him taken care of, she really meant "you". Of course, you can't really blame her -- she already seems rattled enough as it is because of Foxy.
  112.  
  113. "Nah, I got this," you affirm, taking pity on her. "Go take care of what you need to. Tell Peanut I said hello."
  114.  
  115. "Will do," she replies. With one last, furtive look in the direction of Foxy's room, she lets herself out.
  116.  
  117.  
  118.  
  119. "Come on, Faz. Let's get you cleaned up," you declare with false bravado in an attempt to psych yourself up.
  120.  
  121. After a moment of digging through the kitchen cabinet, you realize Faz hasn't joined you yet, so you lean around the kitchen wall to check on him. He stares back at you from the hallway, standing perfectly still like some kind of terrible statue. He doesn't seem to have taken one step since Bonbon left. Clearly, he's not the type to expend unnecessary energy. You shrug and resume your search, quickly finding a box with some basic first aid supplies next to a bottle of saline wound wash.
  122.  
  123. "Perfect," you announce, closing the cabinet.
  124.  
  125. You turn back to the hall only to find Faz now quite suddenly standing a mere foot away at the kitchen's entrance, staring down at you. You nearly jump out of your skin, dropping the first aid box onto the floor. It pops open, spilling bandages and ointment tubes everywhere. Damn, he's surprisingly fast for a bear that looks like he picked a fight with a train and lost. You didn't even hear so much as a creak in the floorboards.
  126.  
  127. With a nervous chuckle, you motion for him to sit down in his easy chair while you pick up the mess you've just made.
  128.  
  129. Faz slowly unbuttons his shirt as he ambles over to the living room. Once you've gathered everything up, you follow him to his chair. You carefully begin to peel away his bandages, all the while making sure not to rip out what little fur he's got left. He winces as you do so, and you offer him an apologetic smile.
  130.  
  131. "Sorry you're stuck with me and not a cute nurse," you joke. "But you know, I bet Cheeky might have a costume in her closet if you want the full effect."
  132.  
  133. To your surprise, a twitch of a smile plays at his battered lips.
  134.  
  135. "Heh, yeah," you continue, cringing a little as you dab at the ooze on his chest. "Probably wouldn't have to twist her arm, right -- or would it be wing?"
  136.  
  137. "I know what you mean," he murmurs.
  138.  
  139. "Right, of course. Oh, hey, this is probably gonna sting a bit. There's enough alcohol in this shit to launch a missile."
  140.  
  141. While Faz doesn't emote in the same manner that you do, you get the feeling he's at least grateful for the service rendered. After applying some fresh bandages, you clean his paws with hand sanitizer, then pack the rest of the kit up and return it to its rightful place in the kitchen.
  142.  
  143. "Thank you," Faz whispers.
  144.  
  145. "Friends are what keep us going, right? Now that we've got that taken care of, I'm gonna call Bonworth and let him know what's going on with Foxy," you announce, picking up the phone from the kitchen countertop.
  146.  
  147. With a subtle shake of his head, Faz taps his voicebox. "Not necessary."
  148.  
  149. "What, really?" you gawk, incredulous. "He looked pretty rough back there. What was that, anyway?"
  150.  
  151. Faz motions for you to come back to the living room. Eyeing the clock, you make sure to grab his noontime medication and a glass of cold water before you do so. Pouring the pills Bonworth designated into a little plastic cup, you hand Faz his medication and water, which he accepts gratefully.
  152.  
  153. "So what's going on with Foxy then?" you ask carefully.
  154.  
  155. He pats the easy chair next to him where Bonworth would normally sit, and you reluctantly take a seat, craning your head a little to better look at him. With a heavy breath, Faz begins to speak unassisted. His voice is low and quiet, yet intense; a strange kind of brutal whisper.
  156.  
  157. "Easier to talk without the electrolarynx. Just not as loud."
  158.  
  159. "Electrolar-- oh, that's what that's called," you reply. "I've seen people use those on TV before in those anti-smoking PSAs. Did you have cancer like Cheeky as well?"
  160.  
  161. He shakes his head gently. "No. My throat was punctured."
  162.  
  163. You wince. "Oh man, that's horrible. If you don't mind my asking, what happened to you?"
  164.  
  165. Staring off into the distance, Faz absently rubs his neck.
  166.  
  167. "I got the Big Pinch," he rumbles, rough and almost inaudible.
  168.  
  169. "Sorry?"
  170.  
  171. "Work-related accident. A very temperamental piece of equipment malfunctioned. I happened to be inside it at the time," he wheezes, coughing wetly against his fist. "Everything came in on me. Throat's from a metal strut that went into my neck. It wasn't the only one."
  172.  
  173. "That-- how are you even still moving?" You scrunch up your eyebrows, shake your head in disbelief. "That sounds less like a machine malfunction and more like you were in one of those, uh, the torture coffins with the nails you see in dungeons. What's it called, a--"
  174.  
  175. "Iron maiden. And yes... it was a lot like that." He sits up with some effort, resting his heavy, scarred paw on the arm of the chair. "But I believe you wanted to talk about Foxy."
  176.  
  177. "Are you kidding?!" you blurt, a little too loudly. "I'm like, critically worried about you right now!"
  178.  
  179. "It was years ago. Ancient history."
  180.  
  181. Your jaw hangs loose as you try to process what you've just been told.
  182.  
  183. "Foxy does this sometimes," Faz continues, extending a crooked finger in the direction of the hallway. "He can't help it. It's the brain damage talking, not him."
  184.  
  185. "Brain damage? I just assumed he was kind of loopy like our Bonnie, just a little unstable and immature." You hang your head, feeling ashamed at not having put the pieces together sooner. "I never had any idea it was this sort of thing. How'd it happen?"
  186.  
  187. "Been trying to find out for years. Doctor said he's missing some... something from his cerebrum. Up here." He gently motions to the front portion of his head. "Motor skills are shot now. Sometimes he can move great. Sings, dances, plays around. Other times..."
  188.  
  189. He weakly paws at the air, mimicking Foxy from earlier.
  190.  
  191. Your heart sinks as you sit back in your seat, your eyes beginning to burn.
  192.  
  193. "Bonbon said something about him being hit by a car back when we first met. I just assumed she was... joking..." you mumble, trailing off as Faz nods.
  194.  
  195. "Sure. It's why he has a hook now. Why Bonnie makes him wear a leash. Happened after his accident," Faz answers. "Poor kid may be the unluckiest person in the world."
  196.  
  197. You find yourself furiously resisting the urge to tell Faz he's one to talk. "Holy shit. Bonworth lost his legs and most of his arms, Cheeky with the cancer, and, and... you and Foxy are..."
  198.  
  199. Faz starts to reply, but is cut off by a sudden onslaught of coughing. Raising his empty water glass to his muzzle, he spits mucus into it. A little dribbles from his mouth down his chin. You quickly head to the kitchen to grab some paper towels for him.
  200.  
  201. "So that's it then," you utter as you hand him the paper towels. "That's just how it is?"
  202.  
  203. He dabs at his mouth, staring blankly at you.
  204.  
  205. "You just..." Throwing your hands in the air, you flop onto the sofa. "You're done?"
  206.  
  207. Faz doesn't respond.
  208.  
  209. Brain damage, amputation, cancer, and... whatever "the Big Pinch" entailed? You thought your first set of roommates were messed up -- everyone in 93-B is borderline terminal.
  210.  
  211. With time and therapy, Bonnibel might be able to adjust to normal society. You wager Mangle's strong-willed enough to eventually overcome the whole body image thing. Chica could probably have a prosthetic beak made, though heaven knows she's pretty enough without it.
  212.  
  213. Heck, there may even be hope for Freddy to someday lead a normal life.
  214.  
  215. Everyone here, though? These guys are barely hanging on.
  216.  
  217. You fight to swallow the lump building in your throat as the vision of Foxy thrashing limply on the floor replays over and over again in your mind's eye. It's too hauntingly similar to watching Bonworth struggle to pick himself up off the sidewalk.
  218.  
  219. The worst part is, they don't seem angry or even all that upset about their circumstances. Cheeky might have been the most bitter of everyone in this apartment, and even then she expressed having made peace with her situation. Foxy's cheerful as the day is long -- when he can hold a conversation with you, anyway. Faz is mellow and a little creepy -- but talking to him, you don't detect even the faintest hint of suppressed rage. Misery, sure, but no anger. And knowing Bonworth, he probably apologized to the damn safe.
  220.  
  221. How? How can they just accept it? How can they just... accept defeat?
  222.  
  223. You run your hands through your hair, choking back your own righteous indignation. They've given up. Everyone here just accepts their lot in life. The lack of feng shui finally clicks with you. The common area in this apartment is more like a waiting room in a hospital.
  224.  
  225.  
  226. ...actually, it's closer to hospice. Palliative care; making it comfortable for those who've been sent home to die.
  227.  
  228.  
  229. The telephone in the kitchen rings, drawing your attention. You shakily head over and fumble with the handset, eventually answering it before the recorder picks up.
  230.  
  231. "Hey, Mike," Bonworth's voice crackles across the line. "Got a lunch break and thought I'd take a second to check in on ya. Everything goin' all right over there? Faz isn't giving you any trouble, is he?"
  232.  
  233. You force a smile even though it's mostly just for your own benefit. There's just something about a phone call -- you always feel like the person on the other end can sense what's going on, even if they can't see you.
  234.  
  235. "No problems here," you finally manage. "Everything's just fine."
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