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Roommates - Ch. 43 (HumieCon, Part 1)

Nov 13th, 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. 43 (HumieCon, Part 1): http://i.imgur.com/29oNFWX.png
  4. Inspired by Weaver's Five Nights at Freddy's Apartment AU: http://i.imgur.com/LnDJVNL.png
  5. Part of an ongoing series written for the /5N@F/ General Discussion Thread at /vg/.
  6. Sincerest thanks to Weaver (http://tgweaver.tumblr.com/) for all of the invaluable assistance in writing, proofreading, and editing this story as well as for illustrating the chapter title cards.
  7. Additionally, thanks to Systemeth (http://pastebin.com/u/Systemeth) for proofreading and editing this chapter.
  8. Questions or comments? Drop me an ask at http://roommatesau.tumblr.com/
  9.  
  10. ---
  11.  
  12. Looks like there are more than just a few folks in this world who share Bonbon's eclectic taste. The downtown convention center (an ample venue in and of itself) is teeming with hundreds (or possibly even thousands) of human-crazed lunatics who showed up for HumieCon.
  13.  
  14. "Who knew our town was such a mecca for weirdness?" Beanie mutters as both of you plod along behind Bonbon, who's eagerly skipping past the line up to the front of the building, earning herself scorn and derision from the other congoers.
  15.  
  16. "Have you even BEEN to Jeremy Human's?" you answer with a good-natured roll of your eyes.
  17.  
  18. "Hah. Fair point."
  19.  
  20. You're not the only "hairless primate" here; simian cosplayers and enthusiasts sporting awful shave jobs flex, pose, and dance for awestruck bystanders. You recognize an alarming number of Bob Legendmann cosplayers milling around the crowd -- seems that's very much the "flavor of the month" when it comes to costume choices. Even more alarming are the clearly in-too-deep enthusiasts here wrapped up in rubbery "skinsuits" of varying quality. Unfortunately for them, the uncanny valley effect is in full force -- rather than resembling anything close to a human, most of these folks look like they cut open a blow-up doll and crammed themselves into it.
  21.  
  22. As a precaution to help avoid as much unwanted attention as possible (for your own safety, of course), you tore a page from the Bonita Rabbinson fashion catalog this morning, dressing in baggy jeans and a thick hooded sweatshirt which you've pulled over your head to cover most of your face. So far, so good. You're not sure what you're going to do when it comes time to actually put on your own costume and walk around amongst these "degenerates" as Fred might call them, but you figure you'll burn that bridge when you get there.
  23.  
  24. "Bonbon, you know the line starts at the other end of the block, right?" you call out, trying to avoid making direct eye contact with the throng of excited, jittery animals waiting their turn in the queue. "Why are we moving in the opposite direction?"
  25.  
  26. "You'll see!" she shouts back as the three of you begin dragging your luggage up the steps leading to convention center's entrance.
  27.  
  28. "Bonbon's not really about to cut in front of THIS crowd, is she?" you ask Beanie. "You know her better than I do, but that seriously seems like something she'd try to pull."
  29.  
  30. Beanie shakes her head. "Beats me, but if she ends up making me walk all the way back out to the end of that line so I can stand out in the freaking December cold for hours, I'm going to slap the shit out of her."
  31.  
  32. Without even so much as an "excuse me", Bonbon shoves her way up to the front of the line, slamming your trio of tickets down onto the counter and motioning to you and Beanie to come join her. The con-goers standing behind her look fit to be tied at the interruption, but before anyone has the chance to lose their cool and do something regrettable, the con staff quickly intervenes, opening the front doors and ushering your small group inside with a smile.
  33.  
  34. "Platinum VIP passes," the energetic blue rabbit gleefully boasts as you all head inside the building, much to the consternation of the kangaroo couple you skipped ahead of. "The Day Owl really came through for us!"
  35.  
  36. "Hey, I ain't complaining," you holler back over the din inside the lobby. "I'm just grateful to be out of the cold and in here where it's nice and warm."
  37.  
  38. While Bonbon's golden tickets were enough to get you past the hours-long queue outside, the three of you still have to obtain your actual con badges to move freely around the con proper. Fortunately, the line's far shorter and moving much more quickly, so it's only around fifteen minutes or so before your turn comes up at the desk.
  39.  
  40. As Bonbon and Beanie go ahead of you through the turnstile, you make your way forward to the counter. A bright-eyed, exuberant male squirrel sits behind a folding table labeled "Check-In". In one of his paws is a small yellow gadget that looks vaguely like a label maker, and in front of him in a large bin on the desk are lanyards and rows of blank plastic ID cards.
  41.  
  42. "Welcome to HumieCon," the squirrel shouts cheerfully over the noise as you sidle up to the table. "Can I get a name for your badge?"
  43.  
  44. "Mike Schmidt," you holler back.
  45.  
  46. "Gotcha!" He begins feverishly typing away. Once he's done, he plucks one of the slabs of plastic loose from his box, inserting it into a slot on the side of his handheld device. The machine beeps and whirrs for a few seconds before ejecting your newly-printed ID badge, which he then hands to you along with a complimentary lanyard emblazoned with HumieCon's logo. You accept both from him with a grateful nod, hooking your badge to the lanyard before slipping it around your neck.
  47.  
  48. "Next in line," he calls out, motioning you through the turnstile and into the main convention hall, where an amused Beanie and a very exuberant Bonbon await you.
  49.  
  50. "Alright, so let's--" Beanie stops mid-sentence, her eyebrows suddenly arching as she looks at your chest before breaking into a chuckle fit. Leaning around Beanie, Bonbon's face splits wide into an even bigger grin as she reads your badge.
  51.  
  52. "You, uh -- you actually LOOK at that thing before you put it on?" Beanie asks.
  53.  
  54. "Why? What's wrong?" you ask, turning it around so you can read the label. "HumieCon VIP Guest, name -- 'Eggs Benedict'? Oh, for cryin' out loud."
  55.  
  56. "Well obviously he must've misheard you," Bonbon giggles.
  57.  
  58. "How?! That doesn't even SOUND like 'Mike Schmidt'!"
  59.  
  60. "Actually, if you say it fast, it kinda does," Beanie says, wiping tears from one of her eyes.
  61.  
  62. Bonbon bites her lower lip in a desperate attempt to stave off more snickering. "Awww, don't look so glum. We're here to have a good time, Eggs."
  63.  
  64. You give her a withering look, and with a groan you flip your badge around to hide the name. Sure, you could go back through and get him to change it, but you're only here for a day or two. Besides, maybe it's a blessing in disguise; the last thing you want is any of the REALLY obsessive goofballs here tracking you back to where you live and stalking you.
  65.  
  66. "Anyway, enough of that! Let's go drop our luggage off in our suite, then hit up the dealers' room!" Rubbing her paws together excitedly, Bonbon slings her gym bag over her shoulder, setting off down the hall.
  67.  
  68. "Her con money's been burning a hole in her pocket for weeks," Beanie stage-whispers. "She's gonna blow it all at the first booth with Bob merch she sees."
  69.  
  70. "Oh, I'd guarantee it," you agree as the two of you begin half-sprinting to keep up with her.
  71.  
  72.  
  73.  
  74. The first thing you notice once you're actually in the hall amongst the con-goers is the surprisingly overpowering smell. It's not a horrible, rank stench -- you've long grown used to the way animal people smell -- but you're reminded of the smell of the pet supply shops whenever your mom would send you down to pick up food for the neighborhood strays. It's primal and more than a little bizarre, but then again, geeks aren't exactly known for their hygiene.
  75.  
  76. "Two hundred bucks? For THAT thing?" Beanie scoffs, sizing up a plastic Bobulator at a nearby vendor's table displayed prominently, like it's a high class work of art. "The one Mango made you looks ten times better, and she cobbled it together in her living room with some spray paint and acrylic scraps."
  77.  
  78. "Yeah, she's really talented," you agree, eyeballing the cheap consumer-grade toy. "That one just looks kind of sad, honestly."
  79.  
  80. The banners hanging from the ceiling of the convention hall proudly proclaim that HumieCon is home to the largest dealers' room of any humie enthusiast convention -- an overly narrow superlative if you've ever heard one. What they fail to mention is that the dealers' room also happens to be the majority of the convention itself. Nearly the entirety of the main hall seems to be dedicated exclusively to hosting booths for retailers and vendors to hawk their wares. Action figures, comic books, costume accessories, and other numerous pieces of humie-related paraphernalia clog the aisles, piled up on top of tables and hanging from display stands in veritable mountains of brightly-colored kitsch.
  81.  
  82. Cosplayers wander about snapping photos of themselves and each other. Most of the attendees are shopping to kill time while waiting for discussion panels, autograph signings, and other events of interest. Loud, colorful video games blare away on wall-mounted displays at the far end of the huge room; looks like some kind of competition or tech demo is going on. Several advertisers wander the crowd with bags and boxes of trinkets to pass out as freebies. Thinking quickly, Beanie grabs a pair of large plastic bags bearing cartoon logos from a nearby kiosk, handing one off to you.
  83.  
  84. "Swag bag, Eggs?"
  85.  
  86. You accept it from her with a roll of your eyes, sliding your arm through the handles.
  87.  
  88. "Don't mind if I do. If they're giving this crud away for free, I see no reason not to take it." You snag a couple of foam stress balls from a passing vendor's bowl, tossing one back to Beanie who dunks it into her bag with a flourish. "I'm not really interested in any of this stuff myself, I'm just here for the costume contest. But hey, since Bonbon shared her tickets with us, I figure the least we can do is pad her haul a bit. Right?"
  89.  
  90. "That's a pretty good idea. She'll be thrilled," Beanie replies. "Hell, why don't we make a game of it? Let's split up and get as much free shit as we can, then meet at the food court at noon. Whoever brings back the least swag buys lunch."
  91.  
  92. "A good old-fashioned treasure hunt, huh? Works for me."
  93.  
  94. You and Beanie exchange fistbumps before heading off in your separate directions to begin scavenging for loot.
  95.  
  96. Most of the advertisers are pretty friendly, and it's not long before you learn that you can wheedle extra freebies out of them if you're willing to spend the time to listen to their sales pitches. A short, chipper pig girl compliments your "look" as she hoofs over a comic book and a pair of 3D glasses, while an over-caffeinated coyote in a business suit enthusiastically coughs up three keychains in return for hearing out his startup's idea for a new online RPG. You're not the least bit picky about what you're taking, either. Sure, you doubt Bonbon'll be too thrilled about a package of crayons and a coloring pad, but the three Legend of Bob sticker sheets you swiped when nobody was looking should make up for it.
  97.  
  98. To your surprise, even some of the attendees in the crowd are pretty helpful -- con goodies are apparently serious business, and there are a number of collectors willing to trade well, just because the free keychain or penlight they wanted wasn't the one they got. You pawn off a mini poster to a rooster in a varsity jacket in exchange for two more comic books, which you then trade one of to a frazzled mother and her fox cub for a pencil bag and a figurine as thanks for completing the boy's comic set.
  99.  
  100. Within a half-hour you feel like you've begun mastering the art of swag hunting. Between shrewd trading and diligent scouring, you've already filled your first bag to maximum capacity and are close to finishing a second one. You've hit up just about everyone in the center of the room, but there's still a little time left before you have to meet back up with Beanie, so you decide to branch out and begin scouring the back aisles of the convention hall for any last-minute giveaways that might be off the beaten path.
  101.  
  102. Once you manage to break loose of the pack, you quickly realize that you should have started at the edge of the room and worked your way inward, rather than going about it the other way around. There's even MORE stuff to be had on the outskirts, and far less competition for it due to the masses gathering toward the center of the gigantic room.
  103.  
  104. "Mmmm -- Mr. Schmidt, is that you? Over here, when you have a moment!"
  105.  
  106. Hearing your name, you pause halfway through collecting a handful of small rubber pencil toppers from an unattended bowl, turning around to look for whoever's spotted you.
  107.  
  108. A tall, curvy lady bear with jet-black fur waves to you from a nearby booth loaded down with flyers and cheap, carnival-quality toys. Next to her is a portly individual wearing an ill-fitting marching band coat and a goofy, familiar-looking rubber human mask. You blanch as you recognize the gaudy yellow-and-purple marquee logo embellished with the cartoon version of Jeremy Human's smug, obnoxious face.
  109.  
  110. "Hi there, Nisha," you greet from across the aisle, discreetly stashing your latest conquests in your bag. Even though you know it's not the real thing, you're still at least a little unsettled by the Jeremy suit next to her -- if not for what it is, then at the very least for what it represents.
  111.  
  112. "Oooh, you were right! It was him," Nisha titters to her companion before turning her attention back to you. "Nice to see you! Ummm...! Are you having a good time, Mr. Schmidt?"
  113.  
  114. Scratching the back of your head with your free arm, you nod, keeping a wary eye on the mascot beside her. "We just got here not too long ago, but so far it's been alright -- and please, really, just Mike is fine."
  115.  
  116. "Sorry! Force of habit, you know. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying yourselves -- ahhm, speaking of which, why don't you come on over here and get some goodies for your bag? We've got all kinds of good stuff!"
  117.  
  118. As you make your way over to her booth, perhaps sensing your discomfort, the performer dressed as Jeremy quickly pops his mask off. You're surprised to see Peanut's tired, sweaty face underneath. Heavy bags hang under his watery eyes, and his cheeks are flushed red. The poor guy looks exhausted and miserable -- between his thick fur, the bright lights overhead, and the central heat in the building blazing away, he's got to be melting in that heavy costume.
  119.  
  120. "Hi, Mike," he chuckles, panting slightly as he reaches out to shake your hand. "I was wondering when I could expect to see one of you guys show up!"
  121.  
  122. "Oh, hey, Peanut! I wasn't expecting to see YOU at all!" you reply, returning the gesture.
  123.  
  124. "Awww, I'm just filling in for the guy who was supposed to come down here. He, uh, had to go to the hospital this morning, and ended up calling in short notice."
  125.  
  126. "Ouch. Come down with the flu or something?"
  127.  
  128. "Nah, he's just taking some time off for physical therapy," the pudgy bear remarks, fanning himself with one of the coupon sheets. "Shouldn't be too long, though. The doctors said he'd be back to work in a month or so."
  129.  
  130. Oh. Of course. This IS Jeremy Human's. You're not really sure what you were expecting.
  131.  
  132. "S-so, uh, what're you two doing here, anyway?" you ask, trying not to dwell on what you've just heard. "Does Fred have you guys acting on some kind of marketing idea he came up with or something?"
  133.  
  134. "Not Mr. Fazbear, no," Nisha replies. "Ahhhhmm... corporate's running an advertising campaign for our new line of holiday pizzas, you know? So Peanut -- or should I say 'Jeremy' -- and I are doing just that! It really is amazing how these folks sure do love the human thing."
  135.  
  136. Now that you think about it, they still are a human-themed restaurant after all. Hell, it's even part of the name.
  137.  
  138. "Have you guys been getting much interest?" you ask, looking their sparsely-decorated booth over.
  139.  
  140. "Two bites so far." Sighing, Peanut wipes the inside of the mask out with a paper towel. "We, uh, kind of got stuck clear at the end of the building, so there hasn't been a lotta traffic over here yet."
  141.  
  142. "Mmhmm. That's the problem with making last-minute reservations." Nisha helps Peanut tug his mask back on before turning back to you. "The prime real estate was reaaaally expensive. But oooh, please -- since you're here, Mike, why not take a coupon and a Jeremy mask?"
  143.  
  144. Glancing down at the table, you notice that this booth's giveaway items are a stack of plastic Jeremy masks, exactly like the ones that you and Beanie employed against the humanimatronics at the pizzeria. They didn't even bother having anything custom-made for the event -- it would figure that corporate would just cheap out and have them bring arcade prizes. They're roughly the same expendable, throwaway quality. With a sigh, you pluck one from the table and tuck it into your bag along with a coupon sheet so that you aren't rude.
  145.  
  146. "I guess I'd better get back to it then," Peanut sighs, picking up a stack of flyers from the table. "Kinda wish I was just wearing my usual clothes. I feel silly in this getup."
  147.  
  148. "Oh, hush! You look cute!" Nisha playfully huffs as she pats his shoulder. "Honestly, Mike, I've been trying to get him to live it up a little, but you know -- he's all business. I guess that's Fred Fazbear's star pupil for you, though!" You can practically see Peanut blushing even through the rubber mask.
  149.  
  150. "Well, it's nice to talk to you guys, but I really need to get moving myself since I'm kind of pressed for time today. I'll see you back home, Peanut."
  151.  
  152. "See ya, Mike," Peanut says as he trudges off.
  153.  
  154. With a polite nod to you, Nisha settles into her seat, straightening up the stack of coupons on her table as attendees begin to trickle down the aisle.
  155.  
  156. "Oooh! Mr. Schmi-- ahhhn, Mike! One more thing if you would," she suddenly calls out as you start to head to the next vendor's table. "If you don't mind, can you pass a message on to Ms. Rabbinson to let her know I'll be stopping by in the next few days to drop off some paperwork for her to sign? She is, ahhhn, staying with you, right?"
  157.  
  158. "Sure," you answer agreeably. "I'll let her know."
  159.  
  160. "Thank you! Enjoy the rest of the con, then!"
  161.  
  162. As soon as you're around the corner and out of eyesight, you fish out the Jeremy mask and advertising materials, tossing them into a wastebin without a second's hesitation.
  163.  
  164.  
  165.  
  166. "And this HumieCon memo pad makes one hundred and thirty-seven!" Beanie begins scooping her haul back into her bags. "I believe that's just barely enough to put me over the top."
  167.  
  168. "Sure enough," you reply, looking at the scrap of notebook paper that's served as your score sheet.
  169.  
  170. In the end, it was close, but you lost by one item. Both of you are loaded down with three huge plastic loot bags each -- the dealers on the outskirts of the hall were exceedingly generous. Prizes you would have had to work for early on were practically being thrown at you by comparison, but unfortunately for you, Beanie figured that angle out pretty quickly.
  171.  
  172. "Man, I even traded with people too, just to get ahead," you comment, conceding defeat with a grin. "Still, a deal's a deal."
  173.  
  174. "Ahh, shit! You did like a swap meet thing? Ugh, I didn't even think about doing that!" she groans, yanking at her ears in frustration. "I just played stupid with all the male vendors and they were foisting stuff on me like they were going out of business. I'm surprised you didn't use YOUR 'look' to milk these loonies."
  175.  
  176. "I won't lie, I really thought about it. There WAS an indie artist who thought I was kind of cute," you confess, thinking back to the pig girl who gave you one of her comic books. "But I didn't want to have an unfair advantage." Nor did you want a bunch of crazed fanboys and fangirls pawing at you, either.
  177.  
  178. "That's sporting of you. Anyway, I'm gonna text Bonbon to reel her in," Beanie comments, licking her lips. "They have some pretty good looking bulgogi hot dogs at that stand over there, and all this running around's worked up a mighty appetite in me."
  179.  
  180. "Fair enough. But if I'm paying, you're fetching," you reply, handing her a few bills from your wallet.
  181.  
  182. "I can live with that."
  183.  
  184. Eventually, Bonbon manages to find your table in the crowded dining area. She arrives loaded down with plenty of purchases, covered head-to-toe in convention exclusive merchandise, toting armfuls of stuffed toys and action figures. You can barely see her buried beneath everything she's carrying.
  185.  
  186. "You've been busy," Beanie remarks dryly as the blue rabbit flops onto the bench next to her, plushies spilling across the table.
  187.  
  188. "Oh my god, Beanie, there's so much great stuff here!" Bonbon chitters excitedly, eyeing your own loot bags. "I see you've been making out like bandits, too! How much did all that cost you guys?"
  189.  
  190. "Not a cent. Besides, it's all yours anyway," you reply, tossing your bags next to her spoils. "We figured we'd just go around and gather it up for you."
  191.  
  192. "Se-seriously? You're sharing your stuff with me?" she asks, her voice dropping to a hushed whisper. "Awwww, wow! You guys are the freakin' best!"
  193.  
  194. "Don't worry about it," Beanie says as she starts to slip out of her seat at the table to go stand in line for food. She doesn't make it half a step away before being tugged back by Bonbon, who enthusiastically draws the two of you into a rib-crackingly tight bear hug. You begin to see stars as she applies pressure to your still-sore chest, but you wince and bear it for the sake of her feelings. She's genuinely touched, and you don't want to ruin the moment over something as trivial as debilitating, crippling pain. Eventually, after what feels like an eternity of being squeezed like a ketchup bottle, the dynamo of a rabbit lets you two loose, grinning ear to ear.
  195.  
  196. "Man, guys, I don't know what to say!"
  197.  
  198. "Well, I do. And since Cheeky's not here, I'll say it for her -- let's eat," Beanie quips, giving you a sympathetic look as you struggle to regain your breath. You smile shakily as you reach into your pocket, furtively rummaging around for your pain pills. "Bonbon, why don't you set all that crap aside and come stand in line with me while Mike rests a bit? He can watch it for you."
  199.  
  200. "Oh, okay," Bonbon says as she stands up. "Really -- I can't thank you enough for everything, guys. I'm really glad you both tagged along with me."
  201.  
  202. "Not a problem," you respond as both girls head off to wait their turn in line. After downing your medication, you begin gathering all of Bonbon's stuff together to carry back to your suite. No sense dragging it all around in such a huge crowd.
  203.  
  204. Once you've got it all in a neat pile on the bench next to you, you relax and begin to let your meds work their magic on your tender chest. The queue outside must be beginning to trickle in, because the convention hall is really beginning to get busy. Attendees are bumping into each other, fighting for supremacy at displays and booths, crowding around points of interest. An army of hungry, thirsty fans in search of a hot lunch pour into the food court, sizing the kiosks up. More than a few pushy folks try to take seats at your table only for you to have to shoo them away, insisting to their chagrin that the spots are taken.
  205.  
  206. Beanie and Bonbon are still a few people away from being served, so to kill time (and avoid eye contact with interlopers trying to stake a claim at your table) you busy yourself with spectating some of the cosplayers. As you saw outside, a few Bob Legendmanns are roaming around in here now, all of which pale in comparison to your costume.
  207.  
  208. It's a rather uncanny feeling, seeing so many weird animal folks dressing up as -- well, like normal people. While observing the con-goer costumes, you notice several exotic and imaginative cosplay designs such as "ordinary businessman wearing a tie", "italian chef with a huge mustache", and "literally just some guy in an a-shirt".
  209.  
  210. Of course, they're not all mundane, either. More of the frightening "skinsuits" are beginning to show up, stumbling around like weird vinyl zombies. It's bizarre and more than a little terrifying seeing something with a mostly-humanoid face draped over the frame of an elephant or a zebra. The thought comes at an especially appropriate time, as another con-goer of indeterminate species shuffles past you in a grotesquely lumpy skinsuit and a party hat, making quiet, strained noises with every step.
  211.  
  212. Surprisingly, even for a convention devoted to "celebrating human culture", there are also a large assortment of animal-based costumes roving the halls. You suppose it never really occured to you that some of these cartoons and games would have animal people in them as well, even as supporting characters, but it makes sense that they would have to be somewhat grounded in reality.
  213.  
  214. Even if said reality is one where purple rabbits and orange hens are run-of-the-mill. And speaking of purple rabbits...
  215.  
  216. "Whew. This place sure filled up fast, didn't it," Beanie comments as she eyes the ever-widening influx of people, lowering a plastic tray full of hot dogs and chips onto the table.
  217.  
  218. "You ain't kidding," you respond, taking a hot dog from the tray as Bonbon settles in next to her, passing out soft drinks. "So what is this, like a chili dog or something?"
  219.  
  220. "Bulgogi. It's marinated beef that these guys draped over a hot dog. I think it's from Korea? So yeah, it's basically a chili dog, kinda," Beanie says, brushing her ears back as she picks one up for herself. "Shit's amazing, you gotta try it."
  221.  
  222. Sinking your teeth into it, you can't help but be inclined to agree. "Damn, this is tasty."
  223.  
  224. "Good, because they were like eight bucks each," Beanie cracks. "I hope you weren't expecting any change back."
  225.  
  226. Glancing down at your wallet, you realize your ribcage wasn't the only part of you that got squeezed. "Ah well. I'll make it back in spades later."
  227.  
  228. "That's the spirit!" she says. "Oh, and -- thanks for lunch, Mike."
  229.  
  230. "Yeah, thank you!" Bonbon pipes up. "So, funny story -- while I was out shopping I saw a Bobulator on one of the tables. You know how much they wanted for it?"
  231.  
  232. "Two hundred," you reply, cutting her off. "Beanie and I already saw that overpriced thing earlier."
  233.  
  234. "What a ripoff, am I right?! I mean, I love the show and all, but you could tell it was obviously a bootleg," she says, taking a sip of her soda through her commemorative HumieCon straw. "Some people will waste money on anything."
  235.  
  236.  
  237.  
  238. After lunch, it's Beanie's turn to part ways with the group, citing interest in attending a panel on tabletop gaming. You and Bonbon use the opportunity to haul all of the merch and freebies back to the suite, dumping it all next to your luggage.
  239.  
  240. "So, now what?" you ask, flipping your hood back and running your hands through your sweaty mohawk. "Surely you aren't going to buy any MORE stuff."
  241.  
  242. "Not until the end of the day when they start putting it on sale," she replies, washing her paws in the bathroom sink. "There are two times to buy -- as soon as you get to the convention so you have your pick of the rarest items, and then again at the end when the dealers are torn between taking a hit and hauling home all the stuff they couldn't sell!"
  243.  
  244. "Pretty smart. That still gives us a lot of time to kill, though. Heck, I might just take a nap."
  245.  
  246. "Ahahaha!! Oh, you kidder," Bonbon squeals, grabbing you by your arm and yanking you towards the door. "There's no way in heck I'd let you sleep through the best freakin' part of the convention!"
  247.  
  248. "The costume contest isn't until this afternoon, though. I've got plenty of time to snooze, shower, get dressed and fix my hair before--"
  249.  
  250. "Never mind all that! You and I are heading over to the Legend of Bob panel where they're going to live-screen the NEW EPISODE! Even some of the dub voice actors are gonna be there and you know I guess that's cool and all for the nerds who prefer the dub but I mean NEW EPISODE, MIKE!" she shrieks, half-dragging you out of the suite and slamming the door shut before you have a chance to protest. "It starts in twenty minutes so we'd better hurry if we want decent seats! Frickin' EVERYONE is gonna be there!"
  251.  
  252. "Bonbon, I--"
  253.  
  254. "NEW EPISODE!!"
  255.  
  256. Sighing, you take off with the cackling, gleeful march hare into the convention hall, hustling past the horde of guests to make it to the screening panel. Once Bonbon gets something in her head, she's pretty much unstoppable. She's charging ahead like a locomotive at full steam, nearly knocking several people over in her frenzied rush. Try as you might, you can't really keep up with her, and in no time at all Bonbon's disappeared into the crowd, leaving you behind.
  257.  
  258. With no other options, you decide to flag down a con staff member or someone who otherwise looks official to see where in the building the screening's supposed to take place. After a few minutes of wandering around in the crowd trying to spot someone with no luck, you figure you might have an easier time asking a Bob cosplayer -- after all, true fans wouldn't want to miss a new episode, would they? Unfortunately, the problem with your plan quickly makes itself apparent: most Bob cosplayers ARE "true fans", and thus they've already likely begun assembling at the screening panel. You don't see a single mohawk in the vicinity at all, neon blue OR otherwise.
  259.  
  260. Stepping over to the back wall of a booth selling tee shirts, you pause for a moment to catch your breath and massage your leg, which is starting to ache from so much walking around. It's been nice to get some exercise, but you're still recovering from your wounds inflicted upon you at Jeremy's. As you slump to the floor to rest, something yellow flickers at the very edge of your peripheral vision, causing you to jerk your head up involuntarily. You'd recognize that unsettling shade of yellow anywhere.
  261.  
  262. Or to be more precise, gold.
  263.  
  264. Suddenly focused, you catch a glimpse of a large, bulky golden-furred figure rounding the corner at the end of the vendors' aisle. Though you didn't get a good look at him from the front, you've got a sneaking suspicion you already know who it is. Forcing yourself to your feet, you stumble after him, panic rising in your chest. Seeing Goldie outside of his "natural habitat" of Fred's apartment doesn't bode well for you; up until now, these visions/hallucinations/whatever have remained thoroughly isolated. Today, however, it looks like the game has changed.
  265.  
  266. You have to find him.
  267.  
  268. You break out into a dead run to the end of the aisle in pursuit of your quarry, shoving past people with no regard for anything but chasing the truth. On approaching the edge of the walkway you overhear him musing to himself, giving you brief pause.
  269.  
  270. "Yeah, this'll work. Well, not looking like this, but I'll work something out," he states in an unfamiliar yet still chilling tone. As you cautiously turn the corner, your target comes into full view. Towering over most of the nearby attendees is indeed a yellow-furred bear sporting a top hat -- but not the one you're looking for. As you wander up, he turns to face you, and in so doing you realize that not only is he not who you were looking for, he's not even organic at all.
  271.  
  272. Or at least the shell he's wearing isn't, anyway.
  273.  
  274. You stare up at a vaguely bear-like costume, made out of metal plates covered in yellow fake fur with visible gaps to allow the wearer freedom of movement. A few stray strands of wire dangle limply from an exposed joint in the head -- looks like he lost one of his ears and had to do a hasty patch job, covering it over with a small black hat. Even still, the head has some impressive mechanical elements for something clearly cobbled together by an amateur in his garage. You can't even make out his eyes in the costume.
  275.  
  276. Stepping back, you exhale in relief. Not Goldie -- just another cosplayer with an unfortunate choice in attire. Your sanity lives to fight another day.
  277.  
  278. "Oh. You okay? You're not about to pass out on me now, are you?" he asks, straightening his necktie as you lean against a nearby supporting pillar to shift your weight off of your throbbing leg. "That'd be bad, and you're looking kinda--"
  279.  
  280. "I'm fine," you interrupt, shaking your head as the chill passes. "Sorry, you looked like someone I, uh -- kind of like someone I know."
  281.  
  282. "Oh, yeah, I get that a lot," he chuckles, waving you off. "Welp, I've got things to do, so -- have yourself a good time now."
  283.  
  284. "Thanks. You too."
  285.  
  286. Turning around, you begin limping back down the aisle the way you came, head low to the ground. Time to find Bonbon.
  287.  
  288.  
  289.  
  290. As soon as you make it to the screening room, Bonbon frantically motions you over. Looks like she's camped out in the front row.
  291.  
  292. "Where WERE you, Mike?" she asks, yanking you into your seat. "I never thought you were gonna show up!"
  293.  
  294. "Sorry. I got separated from you and ended up having to track con staff down for directions. Took me forever to find someone. Did I miss much?" you ask, side-eyeing the panel of guests, all of whom look like pretty average joes. Most of them are felines -- a snow leopard and a couple of other cats of indeterminate species -- but to your surprise there's a single primate at the end of the table with his name written on a placard in a language you can't hope to read. Apparently these people are really famous to the audience, though, since there are plenty of attendees in the room lined up to ask them questions and have autographs signed.
  295.  
  296. "Thankfully it hasn't started yet, they're running a bit behind. I came in during the tail end of the last panel and just never left, and I ended up getting the best spots in the house -- everyone's been fighting me for your seat!"
  297.  
  298. "Well, I'm here now," you reply. "You looking forward to this?"
  299.  
  300. "Oh, HELL yeah," she grins, throwing her arm around your shoulders and snuggling in close. You blush a little as she does -- more out of surprise than discomfort. You suppose you don't really mind, though -- it's not like she's really hurting anything. Wrapping your arm around her waist, you pull her close to you as she rests her head on your shoulder, her eartips brushing against the back of your hood.
  301.  
  302. "Thank you for your patience! The show will begin momentarily; everyone, please stay in your seats," one of the voice actresses at the panel announces over the microphone system. Everyone at the desk quickly disperses, heading back to where they were sitting.
  303.  
  304. Finally feeling some semblance of comfort, you settle in and prepare yourself for what's to come. Even though you're not some devoted humie the way apparently everyone else here is, you're kind of looking forward to this. If nothing else, watching a cartoon with a buddy will be a nice breather and a way to shake the constant nagging reminders of Jeremy's loose from your mind.
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