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Roommates - Ch. 24 (Fries and Barbecue Sauce)

Mar 2nd, 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. 24 (Fries and Barbecue Sauce): http://i.imgur.com/v0n2x10.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. Rackham insists on staying inside the van upon arrival, only helping to offload the cupcake boxes onto a push cart to be wheeled inside the reception hall.
  12.  
  13. "The last thing Chica needs is two sideshow acts putting everyone off their dinner," he grumbles quietly. "You'd better keep your distance. Try not to look like you're with her."
  14.  
  15. You resist the temptation to flip him off as you exit the van, instead choosing to take the high road. The entire ride over to the dropoff was nothing short of uncomfortable, with Rackham having demanded that you ride in the cargo hold with the cupcake packages even though there was plenty of room up front in the cab for all three of you. Your legs are sore from not having a proper seat while being jostled around down winding, twisty back roads.
  16.  
  17. Pushing the cart behind Chichi, you follow her through the reception hall's parking lot. The client gave instructions to meet in a back room to drop the order off. You suppress a grin as a Seagal-esque scene plays out in your mind of you and Chichi having to fight your way out of a botched black market cupcake deal. Fortunately for yourself and your new friend, there are no cronies in the facility -- unless you count the catering team in the process of setting up under the supervision of a matronly female beagle in formal attire.
  18.  
  19. Upon noticing the two of you walking up, the person you're assuming is the mother of the bride hastily trundles over to Chichi. You can practically feel Rackham boring a hole into the back of your head with his good eye, so you politely take a few steps back from the cart full of packages so that Chichi can have some space to conduct her transaction.
  20.  
  21. "You must be Ms. Chica. Goodness, you got them here so quickly and the wrapping is just beautiful! What do I owe you?"
  22.  
  23. "Um, 200 at $3.75 each is $750, plus the ten dollar delivery fee but I'd be willing to waive that since you bought so much," Chichi says as she presents the client with a wing-written receipt.
  24.  
  25. "Psh, absolutely unacceptable. You rushed the order over on such short notice, I couldn't possibly do that to you. What do you say we make it a nice, even $800?" the beagle replies, handing Chichi several crisp bills.
  26.  
  27. "Thank you so much! Oh, it's very generous of you," Chichi replies, pressing the money into the pocket of her denim skirt with a grateful smile. "And no, it was no trouble at all. If you're pleased with your order, I'd really appreciate it if you would tell your friends and family about me. Tell them to mention you and I'll gladly give them a discount on their orders."
  28.  
  29. "I absolutely will," the beagle chuckles, patting her ample belly. "Oh, these certainly do look delicious. I suppose I should be watching my weight a bit better now that grandpuppies are no doubt on the way, but... oh, I must be sampling one of these cupcakes. Perhaps two or three, even -- if they're a fraction as good as I've been informed they are, somebody's probably going home shortchanged tonight!"
  30.  
  31. Chichi giggles. "Well, I hope everyone enjoys them, and I hope your daughter has a wonderful reception." After exchanging a few more brief pleasantries, she excuses herself and the two of you retreat to the van.
  32.  
  33. "That went smoothly," Chichi says as you slide in through the passenger's side door, forcing Rackham into the middle of the bench between Chichi and yourself. He fixes you with a flustered glare as you buckle in next to him.
  34.  
  35. "Pretty tight fit," he mumbles.
  36.  
  37. You shift a little in your seat under his gaze. "I'm sorry, Rackham. Would you be more comfortable if I sat in the middle?"
  38.  
  39. Because of the location of his eyepatch, he has to turn his entire head to look at you -- ah. That must be what's bothering him. "I guess it's fine," he mutters.
  40.  
  41. "I'd ride in the back again, but I got nauseated on the way up here and I'm sure Marion doesn't want me heaving on his carpets," you joke.
  42.  
  43. Chichi leans past Rackham with a sympathetic look. "Oh no, I'm sorry, Mike! Was my driving too rough?"
  44.  
  45. "Not at all!" you hastily answer. "The back roads were kinda, you know, a little rough. That's it, I promise."
  46.  
  47. Rackham flops back in his seat with a disapproving huff, but he doesn't say anything else. He doesn't need to -- the expression on his face is more than enough. You suddenly regret your decision to force your way up front, but before you can do anything about it Chichi drives out of the parking lot.
  48.  
  49. "Well, hopefully the return trip will be a little smoother since we won't be as rushed," she says apologetically.
  50.  
  51. "He'll be fine, lass," Rackham interjects. "More importantly, what are we going to do about dinner?"
  52.  
  53. Chichi presses a feather tip to her beak in thought. "Um, well, Mike, you're our guest. How about you pick?"
  54.  
  55. "I'm still kind of new to the area, so I don't really know what's around here," you reply. Looking at Rackham, you decide to throw him an olive branch in hopes that it might quell some of his latent distrust. "Rackham, can you suggest anything?"
  56.  
  57. "Oh, I can suggest plenty."
  58.  
  59. Well, so much for that plan.
  60.  
  61. "What are you hungry for then, Foxy?" Chichi asks obliviously as she turns out onto the frontage road. "We'll pass all sorts of stuff on the way home."
  62.  
  63. "Burgers," he says with a dismissive wave of his hook. "Burgers are fine. That is, if our 'guest' is okay with it."
  64.  
  65. You nod, shifting in your seat a little so that you're not pressed up so close to Rackham. You can feel his bristly fur against your skin, poking through the fabric of your clothes.
  66.  
  67. "Works for me," you reply. "Feels like it's been so long since I've had a decent burger that even something from McDonald's would be fine."
  68.  
  69. "McDonald's?" they both echo simultaneously.
  70.  
  71. "Err... a cheap fast food place near where I grew up," you answer evasively. Hey, it's technically the truth. "Probably out of business now for all I know."
  72.  
  73. Chichi glances over at you, eyebrow raised. "Oh, I see. Where'd you grow up?"
  74.  
  75. "You know, I guess I've lived all over when I think about it," you respond at length. That much, at least, is the truth. "But I'm originally from a little suburban neighborhood up in Colorado."
  76.  
  77. "Colorado? Hmm! It's a good thing you're used to cold weather then, since I imagine winter's going to be rough if last year was any indication."
  78.  
  79. "Oh, the 'big freeze'?" you ask. "I've heard so much about it, I could probably recount the stories like I'd been there myself."
  80.  
  81. "Well, you weren't, so let's not talk about it," Rackham mutters, scratching his side with his good paw.
  82.  
  83. You start to say something in reply, but you realize his expression isn't the suspicious scowl you're rapidly becoming accustomed to. Instead, his demeanor is almost... wistful?
  84.  
  85. "All right," you respond gently, dropping the subject. After last night, you're not going to push anybody to talk about anything that they seem uncomfortable with.
  86.  
  87. Conversation awkwardly drifts off due to Chichi largely focused on driving and Rackham purposefully avoiding eye contact with you. There's not much else you can do at the moment, so you turn your attention to looking out the window in an attempt to get the lay of the land. Unfortunately, the three of you are driving down back roads at night, so the only businesses or landmarks to begin with are just a few neon signs in storefronts here and there. The cargo hold of the van didn't have windows, so you really don't have much of a point of reference for where you're at anyway.
  88.  
  89. Your thoughts turn to the alien setting you find yourself in. While the contrast was pretty steep between Chiclet's and Bonworth's respective households, both apartments had a fair bit in common as well. From the laid-back demeanor to identical floor plans, you didn't feel nearly as displaced jumping from 87-B to 93-B as you do at this moment. Like the last two apartments, you're having to get used to a completely new dynamic all over again, but now you have the added challenge of having to get a read on entirely new personalities.
  90.  
  91. Beanie seems all right, if not a bit dry and low-energy. From the way she acts, you'd assume she stays heavily medicated. You wouldn't be surprised if that's the case -- seems like everyone here has issues of some kind. Apart from the very limited interaction you had with her at Bonworth's, she feels as much like a stranger to you as the others do. Combining that with her opposite schedule, you're wondering how much you'll even see of her.
  92.  
  93. While Rackham doesn't seem that inherently hostile, you can definitely tell he doesn't like you at all. He's very protective of Chichi to the point of almost being possessive of her. He's pretty shifty, and clearly has trust issues -- a far cry from the "Foxy" you're more familiar with. Compared to Haddock, Rackham is one of the starkest contrasts in personality out of this bizarre land of animals with similar names.
  94.  
  95. As usual, it feels like your only true ally in the apartment is once again the resident "Chica". Chichi's flocked to you almost immediately, and considering her tone-deaf bummer housemates you can see why. Maybe she's looking for a friend? Maybe she's insecure. You're not really sure what her deal is, but you're grateful to have someone around that seems to enjoy your company.
  96.  
  97. Fred's mention of word traveling fast through the complex makes you question just how much misinformation he's been given about you, since he seemed convinced you were a "hothead". And maybe he's right, and maybe you do have a temper, but you're at least aware of it and you're trying to reign it in. Even moreso than Rackham, you intend to prove to Fred that you're not the screwup he thinks you are.
  98.  
  99. Fred's earlier words about "apologizing for your stupidity" while being "unable to stop being stupid" echo in your head. You can't help but be a little offended -- you certainly don't regard yourself as a genius, but you're a long way off from stupid. You received reasonably good grades in school and grew up in a relatively average household. Sure, you dropped out of high school in your senior year, but you were only a couple of months from graduating anyway. It's not like the first eighteen years of your life are invalidated by your lack of a diploma.
  100.  
  101. Then again, after winding up over here, maybe they were. Maybe nothing matters anymore. After all, does this world even have a record of Mike Schmidt? Your head starts to ache just thinking about it -- it's like the chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Actually, is it really? A smile plays at your lips as you realize you have the privilege of knowing actual sentient chickens now. Maybe one of them has an interesting take on the great philosophical dilemma.
  102.  
  103. Still, you're pretty sure you're not a complete idiot. There's a difference between being a stupid person, and being a person who makes the occasional stupid decision. You've done a fair bit of the latter recently, but you're also making strides to correct it, and Bonworth's concern for you this afternoon even after everything that happened has filled your heart up with hope.
  104.  
  105. No, not just hope. Purpose, too. You're going to prove Fred, Faz, and Rackham wrong, and you're going to do it by being the friend you'd want to have.
  106.  
  107. A bump in the road jostles you from your thoughts. You look up, realizing you've arrived at an old-fashioned fast food restaurant. A bright neon sign with a cartoon hummingbird mascot waves to you with a quirky smile. Colorfully-dressed animal carhops dart back and forth on rollerskates from vehicle to vehicle, toting trays full of brown-bagged fast food.
  108.  
  109. "You're gonna love Humburger, Mike!" Chichi announces as she pulls into the line for the drive-thru, all smiles. "This place has the absolute best burgers and fries in town. Oh, and onion rings, too. And milkshakes, and fried pies, and--"
  110.  
  111. "Everything here's good," Rackham interjects amiably. "Chica, I'll have a double. Frings, cola with no ice."
  112.  
  113. "Ooh! Changing it up today with frings?" Chichi comments. Rackham smiles back at her, seemingly pleased she noticed.
  114.  
  115. "Ah, well, felt like trying something different."
  116.  
  117. Chichi eyes the queue of cars in front of you as she fishes a cheap cell phone out of her pocket. "Can you call home and see if Mr. Fazbear's in yet?" she asks, handing it over to Rackham. "I imagine he's going to be hungry after getting home from work. Oh, Bonnie too, since she's probably going to wake up soon."
  118.  
  119. "Sure thing," he says, taking the phone and awkwardly cradling in his hook. He carefully uses his good paw to dial the house number, but halfway through pressing the buttons his paw slips, causing the bulky phone to clatter across the floorboards.
  120.  
  121. "Damn it," he mumbles, trying to pick the phone up with his foot and succeeding only in kicking it underneath the bench. "Oh, come on!"
  122.  
  123. "Hang on, I got it," you calmly answer. Unfastening your seat belt, you reach under the seat, pulling the phone out from a small crevice it's stuck in. "Here you are."
  124.  
  125. Rackham wordlessly takes it from your hands, clearly embarrassed. Nestling it in his hook again, he painstakingly dials the number once more.
  126.  
  127. "Hey, boss, it's Foxy. Yeah, we're picking up dinner... right, Humburger. Got it. Is Bonnie awake yet? ...oh, I forgot that was supposed to be tonight. What does she want? No lettuce?" Frowning, he exchanges glances with Chichi. "Oh, I misheard. Extra lettuce. Right, over and out."
  128.  
  129. Ending the call, he returns the phone to Chichi. "Bonbon is going to be joining us for dinner tonight. Number three with extra lettuce and a lemonade, and Fred and Bonnie will have their usual order."
  130.  
  131. "Oh, that sounds like fun!" Chichi replies. "Maybe we could play some cards or something after dinner?"
  132.  
  133. "I'm game," you add. "I don't know her too well yet, but from what I've seen of her, Bonbon seems cool -- as long as she's not making me jog laps around the apartment complex."
  134.  
  135. "Yeah, I figured you'd be her type," Rackham replies with a smug grin. You narrow your eyes at him, and he quickly turns away, stifling a laugh.
  136.  
  137. "Foxy!" Chichi huffs as he continues to snicker. "Now that's not fair at all. Mike can't help it!"
  138.  
  139. After a half minute or so of trying to suppress his giggle fit, Rackham finally composes himself. "Yeah, yeah, all right. Mango's got a tutoring job tonight, and Goose and Peanut are across town at the doctor, so Bonbon's home alone and bored."
  140.  
  141. "Well, of course she's welcome to join us," Chichi insists, pulling the van forward to the speaker. "The more the merrier!"
  142.  
  143.  
  144.  
  145. Chichi and Rackham drop you off outside the apartment building before returning the van to the front desk. Claiming that he doesn't want Chichi walking across the complex alone at night, Rackham leaves you loaded down like a pack mule with several paper sacks stuffed full of fast food (at least two or three of which are exclusively for Chichi). You can barely see over your hefty payload of dinner as you stumble down the building's lower hallway in the direction of the apartment proper. You nearly roll your ankle twice on the uneven sidewalk slabs, but you soldier on.
  146.  
  147. Eventually you arrive at the apartment door, having taken far longer than if you'd had a little help. You can't set the bags down for fear of causing a chain reaction and spilling the food on the ground, so you awkwardly knock on the door with the tip of your boot, hoping someone inside will hear you.
  148.  
  149. After a moment's wait, the front door slowly creaks open, and a familiar shadow falls across the entryway, one paw on the doorknob.
  150.  
  151. "Hello, Mike."
  152.  
  153. "Hey, Fred," you reply, voice muffled by a faceful of brown paper. "We got dinner, Chichi and Rackham will be in shortly. They had to return the van back to the front desk."
  154.  
  155. You hear him turn and trudge down the hall to his office without so much as a reply.
  156.  
  157. "Yeah, I'm good, thanks," you call out after him exasperatedly.
  158.  
  159. Padding into the living room, you notice Bonbon hasn't arrived yet. Beanie, meanwhile is draped across the couch, apparently having just woken up since she's still in her tank top and pajama pants. Strangely, Fred's already taken his seat in his leather chair, but he stands back up upon seeing you round the corner into the living room.
  160.  
  161. "Good, you're finally home," he says. "Wait, where are Chica and Foxy?"
  162.  
  163. You stare at him dubiously -- didn't you just have this conversation?
  164.  
  165. "Uh, up at the front desk?" you reply slowly, enunciating carefully in case he didn't understand you the first time. "With Marion's van they had to return from the delivery earlier?" You worriedly glance over at Beanie to gauge her reaction, but she's still half-asleep.
  166.  
  167. "Oh, I see," he mutters with a frown, reaching to help you with the food bags. "Well, let's go get some plates and start crisping up the fries, then."
  168.  
  169. Shaking your head, you follow Fred into the kitchen. "When's Bonbon going to get here?"
  170.  
  171. "She WAS here, but just left a few minutes ago. Forgot something at home," Fred mutters. "By the way, you guys left the kitchen a mess this afternoon and I don't feel like doing the dishes a third time today, so pull some paper plates out of the pantry. Oh, and some foil. I don't want to get grease all over Chica's oven, since it's a pain in the neck to clean."
  172.  
  173. "Sorry about that. Chichi was in a hurry to get her order down to the wedding hall when we left, and we didn't have time to clean up since I went with her and Rackham."
  174.  
  175. You do as instructed, handing him a large roll of commercial aluminum foil from Chichi's stash of baking supplies. Fred begins pulling a few sheets of foil off the roll while you search the pantry for paper plates. Glancing back at Fazbear, you decide you might as well address the elephant in the room from this morning while nobody's around to overhear you.
  176.  
  177. "Hey, Fred?" you venture hesitantly.
  178.  
  179. "Yeah," he grunts, distracted with the oven's controls.
  180.  
  181. You swallow, throat suddenly dry. "As long as I'm apologizing, there's something else I need to tell you," you begin, heaving a large bulk bag of paper plates out of the pantry.
  182.  
  183. Warily, he looks down at you. "And that'd be?" he asks, tone laced with suspicion.
  184.  
  185. "I, uh, I wanted to let you know that I really am sorry for what I said to you this afternoon," you answer. "I didn't mean to be disrespectful or... presumptuous, or anything like that. I just... I thought you were talking about Faz when I came walking up, and, well, he's a good guy. Him and everyone else upstairs."
  186.  
  187. You untie the bag of paper plates, counting out a stack of them to use for the evening's dinner. "I'm not trying to be a kiss-ass or anything, so please don't think that. It's your house and you don't have to put up with me, but you have anyway," you continue. "I appreciate it, and I also want to at least be of help while I'm here. Even if it's just pitching in with chores or errands."
  188.  
  189. Fred sighs, rubbing the bridge of his muzzle. "I understand you wanting to defend your friends, Mike. That's respectable of you." You start to reply, but he raises a paw to silence you. "Like I told you this afternoon, I've already been made aware of your situation. You can stay here for the week while you wait for the new tenant at your apartment to get squared away, on one condition."
  190.  
  191. You nod. "All right. What's the condition?"
  192.  
  193. Fred empties the packets of fries onto a foil-lined cookie sheet before sliding it into the oven. "You're a grown man, so I'm not going to coddle your feelings. Tomorrow you are going to go upstairs and make amends with Bonworth's household. Understood?"
  194.  
  195. Your stomach flops. "Tomorrow...? It still feels a little soon, Fred. B-besides, I already made plans with Chichi to--"
  196.  
  197. He shuts the oven door forcefully, causing you to flinch. "I gave Bonworth my word I'd get things sorted out with you tonight."
  198.  
  199. "And how exactly were you planning on doing that?" you croak. "You seemed surprised to see me when I showed up this afternoon to ask if I could stay here."
  200.  
  201. "I knew you were coming over because Ms. Chiclet called Bonworth, and Bonworth called me," Fred replies. "That wasn't what surprised me. I just didn't expect you to be standing under the stairs listening in on a private conversation."
  202.  
  203. Crumpling up the last of the paper bags, he dumps them unceremoniously in the kitchen trash can. "Besides, even if you hadn't come knocking, I'd have figured something out."
  204.  
  205. A shiver runs down your spine at the thought of what that could have entailed.
  206.  
  207. "Point is, Mike, you're putting your affairs in order tomorrow, and that's final."
  208.  
  209. "I suppose I don't have a choice, then," you grouse. You begin aimlessly distributing condiment packets onto each plate in an effort to distract yourself.
  210.  
  211. "You really don't," Fred answers flippantly, wiping his paws on a paper towel. "I had to drive all the way over here from downtown on my lunch break this afternoon to speak to Bonworth because his entire household was whipped into a frenzy after last night. He asked me to intervene, and you'd better damn well believe that's exactly what I'm doing."
  212.  
  213. "He asked you to... mediate?" you reply quizzically, glancing back up at Fred.
  214.  
  215. "They still see something in you. What that is, I couldn't say, but Bonworth always was a good judge of character," he says, scowl softening slightly. "Be a man and rip the bandage off now, Mike. You'll feel better for it, and they will too."
  216.  
  217. You hold his gaze for a moment before lowering your head solemnly.
  218.  
  219. "Tomorrow it is," you finally manage, taking a sip of your soft drink.
  220.  
  221.  
  222.  
  223. "All right, Bonbon, what's the big news?" you ask as your group settles down for dinner.
  224.  
  225. The energetic blue rabbit makes quite the contrast to her sleepy lavender counterpart in the next seat over -- so much so that they almost look like before-and-after pictures for some kind of TV commercial for a fitness plan.
  226.  
  227. "Okay, so! This morning I got up at five like I always do, and I started off my routine with my daily exercises," she begins. "Let's see, was it squats first or pilates today? I think it was pilates -- no, no, definitely squats. Wait, shoot."
  228.  
  229. "Skip to the interesting part," Rackham says as he fumbles with unwrapping his own burger.
  230.  
  231. Sticking her tongue out at him, Bonbon pinches a chunk of her sandwich off with her fingers.
  232.  
  233. "Foxy, she's right in the middle of a story! Be polite," Chichi says, shaking her head at Rackham disapprovingly from behind her own mountain of food.
  234.  
  235. "Yeah, you're sho impashent, Foxshy," Bonbon mutters between bites of lettuce. "Anyway, when I'm not doing one of my workout shows, I like to listen to the radio, you know? And there was the BEST program on this morning -- a call-in talk show. 1030 AM's Day Owl, you know? You've heard him, right?"
  236.  
  237. The others exchange shrugs.
  238.  
  239. "I usually just listen to the news in my car on the way to work," Fred says.
  240.  
  241. Beanie snorts, downing her soda in just a few gulps. "Do I look like a 'day owl' to you?"
  242.  
  243. "Can't say I know him either," you reply, dunking your own fries in your ketchup.
  244.  
  245. "Ketchup, Mike? For fries? Are you for real with that?" Bonbon blurts out, leaning forward with her paws pressed to her cheeks. "This so isn't like, what humans do! It's barbecue sauce, man! Barbecue sauce all the way!"
  246.  
  247. You consider questioning where she's getting her knowledge of human behavior from, since you're pretty sure her source could use some serious revisions. Still, the last thing you want is to draw more attention to yourself, so you just shrug.
  248.  
  249. "What can I say? I like ketchup," you reply.
  250.  
  251. Leaning forward in her chair, Bonbon studies your face like a furry blue lie detector. For a few seconds you start to sweat -- is she onto you? Ironically, it's Rackham who ends up coming to your defense.
  252.  
  253. "Mike's not a human, he's a monkey," he scoffs, poking her forehead and pushing her back into her seat. "I mean, look. If I shaved my fur off would that make me a human?"
  254.  
  255. Bonbon's ears twitch in excitement. "Hey now, that's an idea," she says. "But, what I mean is, it's a shame he's so dedicated to the look and then he gets such a crucial detail wrong!"
  256.  
  257. "Look, Bonbon, normal people eat fries with ketchup," Rackham argues as if he's explaining elementary information to a recalcitrant toddler. "I eat fries with ketchup. Chica eats fries with ketchup. Humans eat fries with barbecue sauce because they're weird made-up cartoon characters."
  258.  
  259. You bite your tongue, trying not to break out laughing. Even Fred seems amused by the exchange, but wisely keeps his mouth shut as well.
  260.  
  261. "Well, way to take the wind out of my sails, pirate boy," Bonbon snaps, leaning back in her seat. "Just for that, you aren't invited."
  262.  
  263. "Invited? To what?" Rackham asks. "Your birthday was last month."
  264.  
  265. Bonbon rolls her eyes, producing three thick pieces of embossed paper -- tickets or passes of some kind, upon closer examination. "The fourth annual HumieCon is coming up, and look who's got two paws and three tickets. That's right, it's THIS girl!" She grins widely, basking in the thunderous waves of applause she's surely hearing in her head right now.
  266.  
  267. "Oh god," Fred mutters, "THAT was your big news?"
  268.  
  269. "Uh huh! I won 'em on the Day Owl's show for being able to answer a human trivia contest!"
  270.  
  271. "Interesting," Beanie yawns as she pulls one of the tickets from Bonbon's paw. "A whole convention for this stuff. Who's going with you?"
  272.  
  273. "These are HOT in demand right now!" Radiating the maximum possible amount of smugness, Bonbon leans against the table, coolly buffing her pawnails against her shirt. "I was thinking of scalping the extra tickets on my SkinAffinity journal but I mean, this is way too good of an opportunity to pass up, you know? So I GUESS I could be persuaded to take a ride-along or two."
  274.  
  275. "Your own housemates didn't want to go?" Fred asks with the faintest hint of a smirk, wiping a dab of excess horseradish from his paw. One of Bonbon's ears flops slightly as her smile becomes visibly more forced.
  276.  
  277. "Well, Goose didn't want to go and I don't blame her since she's all partied out these days, and Peanut can't take off work to go. Mango's too busy with her side jobs and I don't think this is her cup of tea anyway, and I mean, it's such an awesome opportunity--"
  278.  
  279. "Fine, I'll go with you," Beanie deadpans. "Chica, you game?"
  280.  
  281. "Oh, I'm afraid I can't, it's too close to the holidays and it's usually my busiest time with cookies and pastries. How about you, Foxy?"
  282.  
  283. Rackham chuckles. "I'm not invited, remember?"
  284.  
  285. Bonbon looks at you eagerly. If there's anywhere in this world you'd blend in, it'd probably be at a convention of human-obsessed animals. Still, it sounds like a hassle and you're mildly terrified at the thought of being trapped in a building full of Bonbons. Probably best to let someone actually interested have the opportunity.
  286.  
  287. "I think I'll have to decline as well," you reply. "It's a really generous offer and I do appreciate it, but you're probably better off selling the extra ticket off for the money."
  288.  
  289. Her other ear flops down. "That's a shame, Mike. There's a cosplay contest they do every year for Most Realistic Human," Bonbon says, pouting. "I bet you'd be a shoo-in to win, too."
  290.  
  291. You pause mid-bite. "Sh'there a prishze?"
  292.  
  293. "Thousand big ones," she says with a hopeful smile.
  294.  
  295. You try not to gawk, but based on her widening grin it's obvious to her that she's got your attention, and for good reason -- there's a hell of a lot you could do with that kind of cash. Besides, no shaved rat, dog or iguana is going to be able to pull off your "distinctive" look. If the object of the contest is to look human, you're pretty sure you've got this one in the bag.
  296.  
  297. "All right, you've convinced me," you reply. "When's this convention again?"
  298.  
  299. Bonbon's face lights up at your answer. "Next month at a convention center downtown," she gushes. "We're really going to have to start in on your regimen so that you'll look good in your costume."
  300.  
  301. "Hang on, what kind of costume are we talking about here?" you ask, suddenly wary.
  302.  
  303. A cool grand would be nice but you're not about to sacrifice your dignity if it means you have to waddle around in something too demeaning. Rackham and Fred are both visibly attempting to contain laughter as Bonbon whips out her smartphone.
  304.  
  305. "There's no more iconic human costume than this," she squeals, shoving the phone in your face. You squint at the screen and nearly drop your food in your lap.
  306.  
  307. "No. I'm not wearing that," you insist. "Not happening. Pick something else."
  308.  
  309. "Come on, Mike," Bonbon pleads. "Legend of Bob is in right now and you could TOTALLY rock this look!"
  310.  
  311. You roll your eyes. "Bonbon, I'm not gonna shave my hair into a mohawk and dye it electric friggin' blue. Pick something else."
  312.  
  313. The table goes quiet as Bonbon's countenance suddenly pivots from energetically enthusiastic to deadly serious.
  314.  
  315. "What's wrong with blue?" she asks, tone low and chillingly even.
  316.  
  317. Oh, shit. You've stepped in it now. Your mind's whirling as all eyes are watching you attempt to figure a way out of your downward spiral. Even Beanie's perked up considerably, leaned forward with interest.
  318.  
  319. "Yeah, Mike, what's wrong with blue?" she adds, a goading smile plastered across her face.
  320.  
  321. "What I mean is, it's not gonna work because my hair's too short for a mohawk, and if we dye it that shade of blue it won't look right," you stammer, tugging at a lock of your dark hair for emphasis. "I might as well -- like, get a wig so that it, uh, looks more, uh... authentic that way."
  322.  
  323. "Nice save," Beanie mouths as Fred and Rackham finally lose it laughing.
  324.  
  325. "Oh, that makes sense! I bet we can figure something out," Bonbon says, grinning like nothing ever happened. "Don't worry. We'll find a way to make it work, Mike!"
  326.  
  327. Sighing, you try to smile as you finish your burger. Maybe you won't look THAT bad in tights.
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