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Roommates - Ch. 18 (Hooked)

Jan 9th, 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. 18 (Hooked): http://i.imgur.com/orYunTB.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. "Mornin', Mike," Cheeky yawns as she waddles into the living room.
  12.  
  13. You yawn as well, immediately frustrated at your subconscious for falling prey to the same trick you used to get Bonworth to go to bed early last night. What goes around, comes around.
  14.  
  15. "Good morning? It's almost four in the afternoon," you grumble. "I was beginning to think you'd slipped into a coma."
  16.  
  17. "Awww, sounds like someone needs a nap," Cheeky coos in the tone of voice that would ordinarily be reserved for a fussy infant. She ruffles your hair with her wingtips, beak twisted into a smirk. "Trust me, it'll do wonders for that sour mood of yours."
  18.  
  19. "I'm NOT in a sour mood."
  20.  
  21. "Whatever you say, hon." Glancing over at Faz's chair, she softens her expression slightly. "It's rare to see you still up, Faz."
  22.  
  23. Faz tilts his head up to make eye contact with her, clicking his electrolarynx on. "It's rare to have guests."
  24.  
  25. "And how's our guest been treating you?" she asks, side-eyeing you.
  26.  
  27. "Well. Cleaned my wounds, took care of medication. Bonnie would be proud," Faz rumbles.
  28.  
  29. "Hell, I'm proud," she chortles, flouncing into the kitchen to grab a cold drink. "If I'd known Mike was going to play doctor this afternoon, I'd have slipped on my nurse's uniform."
  30.  
  31. You can't help bursting out laughing in spite of your melancholy, and even Faz snorts a little.
  32.  
  33. "I knew it," you finally manage, wiping tears from your eyes. "I knew she had one."
  34.  
  35. "Hmm? You say somethin', Mikey?" Cheeky hollers, plucking a beer from the refrigerator. You wink at Faz.
  36.  
  37. "Yeah, I was just mentioning to Faz that Bonworth will be home soon," you answer. "What should I do about dinner?"
  38.  
  39. She makes a show of thinking. "How about you go hunt down that guy from your apartment and drag him over here to cook for us?"
  40.  
  41. "Yeah, I wish," you reply. "It's only been a couple days, but I've already got cravings for some of his stuff. I imagine he's probably got his hands full helping out the new tenant, though."
  42.  
  43. "Shame," Cheeky mumbles, popping the top on her beer. "We could do takeout again. You don't HAVE to cook, y'know."
  44.  
  45. You get up from the sofa, stretching a little. "Yeah, but takeout's expensive. Can't eat every meal out on our budget."
  46.  
  47. "Well, we get a lot more for financial aid than the drapes -- or lack thereof -- would imply," she jokes, waving a wing in the direction of the worn-out miniblinds. "There's plenty of money in our till, so to speak. I know for a fact Bonnie's down at the front desk just because Marion's ass is in a sling, not because we need a break on the rent."
  48.  
  49. "He said as much," you sigh, still a little bitter that your hands are largely tied until you get paid again. "Still, waste not, want not. I imagine Bonworth's going to come in hungry, and Foxy probably needs to eat something as well after his ordeal earlier."
  50.  
  51. Cheeky tilts her head. "What's up with Foxy?"
  52.  
  53. You snap your fingers in realization. "Oh, that's right. You were asleep when he got back. Apparently, he had kind of a -- like an episode, I guess, while he was over at Bonbon's. He stumbled in like a zombie. Wasn't talking, ran into the wall. Looked really bad."
  54.  
  55. "Shit. He was doing so well this week, too," she mutters sadly. "Faz, were you here when it happened?"
  56.  
  57. Faz nods, coughing a little into his paw. "He was... twitchy. I put him in bed."
  58.  
  59. "Poor kid," Cheeky laments.
  60.  
  61. You squeeze your eyes shut, trying to put the image of Foxy writhing on the floor out of your mind. After a few moments, an idea begins to form in your head.
  62.  
  63. "Say, what does Foxy like to eat? How about we make his favorite food for dinner?" you ask. "You know, maybe cheer him up a bit?"
  64.  
  65. Cheeky perks up a little. "Ooh. That's a great idea. He loves seafood, but that might be a bit tricky since I doubt we've got anything like that here."
  66.  
  67. "Seafood? I bet I can come up with something," you reply, checking the kitchen pantry. If you can find some canned seafood, you can at least make a tuna salad or clam chowder. Shouldn't be too hard, and someone likely has a computer if you need to look up a recipe.
  68.  
  69. The doorknocker interrupts your train of thought. "Mike, can you get that?" Cheeky asks, kicking her feet up on the sofa. "I would, but I'm lazy."
  70.  
  71. You chuckle. "At least you're honest." Opening the front door, you see Beanie staring up at you, fumbling with her phone in one paw. "Ah, hello again. You aren't gonna slam the door on me again, are you?"
  72.  
  73. She flashes you a smirk that's made ever so slightly goofier by her adorably oversized buck teeth. "You aren't letting me live that one down, are you."
  74.  
  75. You grin. "Nope. Come on inside."
  76.  
  77. "Thanks."
  78.  
  79. Trotting into the apartment, she unzips her hoodie, revealing a pink and white-striped spaghetti-strap top that shows off just a tiny bit of her fuzzy purple midriff. She tosses her hoodie carelessly on the floor, heading straight for the kitchen to help herself to a soda from the fridge.
  80.  
  81. "Hi, Cheeky," Beanie greets, popping the top. Glancing over, she notices Faz. Standing up straight, her eyes widen ever so slightly as she nods respectfully to him. "Oh! Hey, Chief. You're looking good today."
  82.  
  83. "Evening, Bonita," Faz rasps. "Here to see Bonnie?"
  84.  
  85. "Yup," she replies, sipping at her soft drink. "Where IS my brother, anyway?"
  86.  
  87. "Down at the front desk with Marion," you answer. "He'll be home really soon, though."
  88.  
  89. "Oh, okay." Beanie scratches one of her ears absently. "You guys mind if I hang out here until he's back?"
  90.  
  91. "Why would we? More the merrier," Cheeky replies. "Mike was just about to make dinner anyway. Wanna stay and eat with us?"
  92.  
  93. "Do I ever," Beanie says with genuine enthusiasm you've not yet seen from her. "Fred's making his liver sausage casserole tonight, and Chichi used Bonbon as an excuse to get out of it before I could."
  94.  
  95. Wincing, Cheeky shakes her head. "Oof."
  96.  
  97. "Another cramp?" you ask with a sympathetic nod.
  98.  
  99. Cheeky smirks. "Thankfully, no. Just thinking about that casserole. Fred makes it once a month -- some family recipe or something passed down in the Fazbear family line for generations. It's an... acquired taste."
  100.  
  101. "FAZ-bear family...?" you ask.
  102.  
  103. Faz clicks the button on his throat again and responds flatly without even looking up. "No relation."
  104.  
  105. "An acquired taste that none of us have actually acquired," Beanie deadpans. "I'd rather clean the deep fryer's grease pan at work with my tongue than eat that casserole one more time. And he always makes us have the leftovers at lunch the next day, too."
  106.  
  107. "I feel for ya, kid. Text Fred and let him know you got invited to dinner," Cheeky offers.
  108.  
  109. Beanie wastes no time in tapping out a text message. "Sounds good. Sorry, Foxy, but every bun for herself. So what're we having?"
  110.  
  111. It takes you a second to process that she's referring to her Foxy, not yours. You briefly wonder what a book of baby names looks like here in the land of the clones.
  112.  
  113. "Foxy -- err, our Foxy -- isn't feeling well today, so I was thinking we might make him something he'd like for dinner. We were thinking seafood, but..."
  114.  
  115. "But?" Beanie asks, licking her lips. "Seafood DOES sound good now that you mention it."
  116.  
  117. "Shoe polish would sound good considering your alternative," Cheeky cracks.
  118.  
  119. "Well, I'm not sure we've got anything in," you mutter, tapping your fingers on the kitchen counter. "There's not enough time to run to the store before Bonworth gets home, and I really don't want to make everyone wait to eat."
  120.  
  121. "Not a problem. I'll go raid the pantry and fridge downstairs. I'm sure we've got something even if it's just one of those huge bags of fried fish cutlets in the freezer," Beanie says, sprinting towards the door.
  122.  
  123. "Beanie, you're pretty eager to get out of that casserole, huh," you dryly remark.
  124.  
  125. "You have no idea," she answers, closing the door behind herself.
  126.  
  127.  
  128.  
  129. About fifteen minutes later, you hear a thump at the door. Opening it up, you see a shivering Beanie standing outside, holding a large cardboard box full of foodstuffs. You accept the hefty box from her, carrying it into the kitchen. Sure enough, there's plenty of canned seafood as well as an oversized package of frozen popcorn shrimp.
  130.  
  131. "What do you need me to do to help?" she asks, rubbing her paws to warm them up. You turn to answer her, blush, and immediately turn your gaze back to the stove.
  132.  
  133. "Uh, could you look up a uh, recipe..."
  134.  
  135. Cheeky shuffles into the kitchen, tossing her beer bottle in the trash. "Cold outside, Bean?" she remarks.
  136.  
  137. "Er, yeah, I forgot my hoodie when I went downstairs. Why do you ask?" Beanie asks, teeth chattering.
  138.  
  139. Enveloping Beanie in a hug, Cheeky leans in close to the rabbit's ears and stage-whispers loudly enough for you to easily hear.
  140.  
  141. "You're pokin' through and Mike's too much of a gentleman to say anything."
  142.  
  143. Beanie's cheeks turn roughly the same shade as Foxy's fur with embarrassment, and seconds later you join her. "You're awful, Cheeky," you mumble.
  144.  
  145. "Don't I know it!" the hen cackles, playfully popping you on the rear with her wing as she heads back to the living room. "Now whip us up some dinner, you two. It's seafood night!"
  146.  
  147. Sighing, you turn back to Beanie, who's busy zipping her hoodie back up.
  148.  
  149. "Anyway, like I was saying -- can you grab me a recipe for some clam chowder or something so I know if we have enough ingredients? I don't trust my cooking skills enough to make anything too fancy, but a pot of soup shouldn't be that hard."
  150.  
  151. "S-sure," Beanie mumbles awkwardly, pulling her cell phone out of her pocket.
  152.  
  153. Cooking proceeds smoothly enough. The shrimp are already pre-cooked and just require some crisping in the oven. You mix up some dipping sauce with horseradish and ketchup -- nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. The chowder requires considerably more effort, but thankfully it's an "all in one pot" type meal which is easy enough for you to manage, and the recipe Beanie provides you with comes highly-rated. Towards the tail end of your dinner preparations, Bonworth arrives home with a tired but cheerful expression.
  154.  
  155. "Ol' Bonnie's home, gang," he announces, hanging his coat at the door. "Oh, my goodness -- what IS that heavenly aroma? Smells like an old-fashioned fish fry in here!"
  156.  
  157. "That's the idea," you reply, tasting your chowder. It's rich and creamy, and the potatoes only need another minute or two before they're perfect. At the risk of sounding like you're patting your own ass, it's probably one of the best things you've ever cooked.
  158.  
  159. Gently limping into the kitchen, Bonworth catches sight of his sister standing near the oven. "Hey, little bunny! Joining us for dinner?"
  160.  
  161. "Casserole night," she mutters.
  162.  
  163. "Can't say as I blame you." He mock shudders, causing his "knees" to knock together with a light clang. "Mr. Fred Fazbear's a wonderful soul, but he's better with calculations than cooking."
  164.  
  165. Embracing her brother, Beanie murmurs low and even into his ear. "Also, payday isn't for another week and I'm broke."
  166.  
  167. "And the other shoe drops! Shoulda known my own family wouldn't want nothin' to do with me unless compensation was involved," he wails melodramatically.
  168.  
  169. She lightly punches his bicep before immediately yanking her paw back. "Ow."
  170.  
  171. Chuckling, Bonworth turns back to you. "So what's the special occasion, Mike?"
  172.  
  173. Wiping your hands on a towel, you begin pulling bowls out of one of the kitchen cupboards. "Well, I kind of wanted to treat Foxy since he's having a 'down' day."
  174.  
  175. "That's right kind of you," Bonworth says, tone a little more subdued. "Bonbon called me and filled me in a little while ago. How's the little feller doing?"
  176.  
  177. "Faz put him down for a nap when he came in this afternoon," you report. "I didn't want to wake him because I thought someone familiar would probably be for the best considering how rough he looked. You want to go get him up and see if he's ready for some dinner?"
  178.  
  179. Bonworth nods, happily surveying the kitchen. "Sounds like a plan. Back in a jiff!"
  180.  
  181. Squeezing past you with her brother's comically oversized oven mitts on either paw, Beanie slides the shrimp tray out of the oven along with a foil-lined cooking sheet loaded with buttery garlic toast -- a last-minute addition to make sure nobody leaves hungry. She sniffs at the tray with her tiny rabbit nose, whiskers twitching ever so slightly.
  182.  
  183. "Ooh, these came out nice. How's yours looking?"
  184.  
  185. Another taste test confirms that the chowder is ready. "Just had to wait for the potatoes to soften up. We're good to go here, if you want to get the plating going," you reply.
  186.  
  187. "On it."
  188.  
  189.  
  190.  
  191. You set up the TV tables in the living room while Beanie begins spooning up portions for everyone. Foxy limps out into the living room with a yawn, eyes a little more focused than when you saw him earlier.
  192.  
  193. "C-captain on deck," he announces, tapping his hook to the side of his head in a salute to Faz.
  194.  
  195. "At ease, sailor," Faz drones. "You're on light duty tonight."
  196.  
  197. Foxy lowers his arm. "Aye, s-s-skipperrr." Turning to Bonworth, he sniffs at the air. "When's l-l-lunch, bosun?"
  198.  
  199. "Oh, it's dinnertime now, fella. Pull up a seat, we'll have the, er, cabin girl serve your rations," Bonworth replies with a wink.
  200.  
  201. Foxy nods, shakily clambering up onto one of the easy chairs next to Faz. Rolling her eyes, Beanie begins helping you carry plates into the living room. With a hesitant smile, she sets Foxy's plate down in front of him along with a plastic cup in the shape of a barrel, filled to the brim with root beer. The pirate fox eyes his meal approvingly, giving her a toothy grin.
  202.  
  203. "Mmmm. H-haaaven't had a chowder that appeared this fine since... since, since Oskar's, t'was at least... ten moons afore. No takers, no takers, none till we used better bait, th-though it be m-more costly."
  204.  
  205. "I'll take that as a sign of approval," you chuckle. "Eat well, captain, there's plenty more where that came from."
  206.  
  207. Foxy's face falls, and you instantly correct yourself. "Whoops. Sorry."
  208.  
  209. He grunts dismissively, batting at one of his ears with his hook. You try not to take it too personally -- looks like he's still not back up to 100% yet. Once everyone's gotten set up with their dinner, you politely let the girls take the sofa while you sit on the floor with your plate.
  210.  
  211. "Great-looking dinner," Cheeky grins. "Garlic bread, too? You're spoiling us. The way to a girl's heart is with liberal application of carbs, Mike."
  212.  
  213. "Hey, that was Beanie's idea," you reply. "All credit due there. They look great, too."
  214.  
  215. "Oh, thanks. I got sick of the crappy all-you-can-eat breadsticks at work a month or so ago that we're 'entitled' to," she grumbles, quote fingers and all. "I figured, hey, be the change you want to see in the world."
  216.  
  217. "Those monstrosities," Cheeky groans.
  218.  
  219. "Bad, huh?" you ask.
  220.  
  221. "That's putting it mildly. I remember them, and not fondly. Nobody likes a limp breadstick," she says with a wink in your direction. You shake your head good-naturedly.
  222.  
  223. "I know, right? They're always doughy, undercooked AND underseasoned, so I learned how to make garlic toast out of sheer spite, I guess. But hey, it's been kind of a hit at our place lately," Beanie adds.
  224.  
  225. "Well, I for one couldn't be more grateful for such a delectable-lookin' platter. Let's eat!" Bonworth announces, catching an irate glance from Cheeky. She huffs at him, crunching into her toast.
  226.  
  227. "Stole my line, Bon."
  228.  
  229. Chuckling sheepishly, Bonworth starts to reach for the television remote, but Foxy interrupts him by raising his drink with his good paw. Wordlessly, he slowly looks around the room. Everyone -- Faz included -- turns and offers Foxy their full attention.
  230.  
  231. "Oh, a toast!" Cheeky gasps, raising her glass after a few seconds of polite, but confused silence.
  232.  
  233. Everyone quickly follows suit, drinks held high. Apparently pleased, Foxy nods, opening and closing his jaw a few times. He squeezes his eyes shut as if desperately trying to remember something. Your group watches with reverence, patiently waiting for him to say what he needs to, in his own time. After a few false starts of muttering and frustrated grunts, he slowly eases his eyes open, finally satisfied that he's found the right words.
  234.  
  235. "T-to th' best companions... a s-salty dog like me could ask for," he manages, eyes brimming with tears.
  236.  
  237. "Hear hear," Bonworth whoops, clapping his paws together.
  238.  
  239. Clinking your glass to Foxy's, you smile as everyone cheers for him. "Couldn't agree with you more, sailor," you add, patting his shoulder.
  240.  
  241.  
  242.  
  243. One dinner later, Faz retires to his bedroom for the evening to rest. Not too long afterward, Beanie also begs off following an impromptu private discussion with her brother. After putting the dishes away, you spend time in the living room watching primetime television -- mostly inane "reality" shows with contestants who can't sing or dance attempting to win prize money.
  244.  
  245. "You know, Mike," Cheeky says, plopping down on the sofa beside you, "you're welcome to lay your head on my lap. I'm QUITE fluffy."
  246.  
  247. Grabbing a throw pillow off the floor, you lay it across your legs. "How about I extend the same offer to you?" you joke.
  248.  
  249. "Hot damn. Ain't gotta tell me twice," she answers enthusiastically, flopping back onto your lap while kicking her feet up over the armrest. Staring down at her smug face, you fight the urge but eventually cave, running your hand through her headfeathers.
  250.  
  251. "Oh man, these ARE fluffy. Do you use that, uh... special feather shampoo stuff that's real gooey?"
  252.  
  253. Her eyes widen ever so slightly. "Heh, yeah. Why?"
  254.  
  255. "That shit almost ripped my hair out when I tried it at Chica's."
  256.  
  257. She cackles, stomach rising and falling in time to her laughter. "Oh, wow, you poor thing," she sputters. "Didn't she warn you?"
  258.  
  259. "Nah. I guess it's -- well, it's probably not anything she'd really think about, y'know?" You smile in spite of yourself, remembering your shower escapade. "Since everyone had like, their own bottle. I used hers because she offered it to me after I first moved in."
  260.  
  261. Foxy gets up from his chair and shuffles over to the DVD rack, pulling titles off the shelf seemingly at random. You ponder asking him if he wants to watch a movie until you realize he's using the cases like building blocks. Cheeky glances over at him, then turns her head back to meet your gaze with a sigh.
  262.  
  263. "Sorry, Mike," she whispers. "He gets like this some days."
  264.  
  265. "It's fine. Nothing that can't be sorted again."
  266.  
  267. Bonworth interrupts your conversation with a guffaw as yet another contestant attempts singing off-key only to be vetoed by the entire panel of judges instantaneously.
  268.  
  269. "Goodness sakes," he chuckles after composing himself, rubbing tears from his baggy eyes. "Based on the quality of these folks, we should try out for this show. I bet one of us would become quite the star."
  270.  
  271. You briefly consider calling in and attempting to bill yourself out as a real human to see if the concept would sell before ultimately deciding against it, realizing the ramifications would far outweigh any potential benefits you'd receive.
  272.  
  273. "No way anybody would buy me being up there," you laugh. "They'd be like 'who's this dancing monkey trying to fool?' and boo me off the stage."
  274.  
  275. "Awwww. Don't let what I said yesterday get to ya!" Bonworth pats your shoulder. "You're a swell feller, and you've got some real hidden depths to you, Mike."
  276.  
  277. "I thought we weren't talking about that business again?" you quip.
  278.  
  279. "Well, fair enough."
  280.  
  281. "Yeah, Mikey. I had you all pegged wrong at first," Cheeky affirms. "Now that I've gotten to know you better, I'm gonna have to redouble my efforts."
  282.  
  283. Blushing, you fiddle with the fringe on the throw pillow Cheeky's currently occupying. "Nah, you probably had me pegged pretty well. I'm sorry for coming across as, you know, an ass. I appreciate you taking me in spur-of-the-moment, too."
  284.  
  285. "It's what friends do. 'Course, if you're really broken up about it, I'll let you make it up to me."
  286.  
  287. You snort. "I'll bet you will."
  288.  
  289. The three of you watch TV together for a while, giggling at the talentless glory seekers and marveling at the rare performers who are clearly destined for bigger things. Eventually fatigue gets the better of you, however, so you gently ease out from under Cheeky's head and haul yourself to your feet. She doesn't look far off from needing to sleep herself, seemingly drifting between consciousness and slumber.
  290.  
  291. "Takin' off for the night, Mike?" Bonworth quietly asks.
  292.  
  293. "Probably so. I only ended up getting a few hours of sleep last night, and I think my body's trying to protest."
  294.  
  295. "Wager that's a good idea," he replies. "I'll make the rounds with the last of Faz's pills for the evenin' and call it quits too."
  296.  
  297. "You sure? I don't mind taking them to him," you offer.
  298.  
  299. He scratches one of his ears. "Naw. You've done so much already for today. Thanks for stepping up, Mike."
  300.  
  301. You start to reply, but the sound of plastic crashing behind you causes you both to turn back and look at Foxy, who's currently half-buried under a pile of movies.
  302.  
  303. Cheeky yelps, eyes snapping open. "What? Whoa, what? Everything good?" she inquires, looking around for the source of the noise.
  304.  
  305. Foxy's muzzle pokes out from underneath a stack of spaghetti westerns.
  306.  
  307. "Fire on the mains. Looks like a... drop," he rambles, equally disoriented. "High noon."
  308.  
  309. You carefully free him from his self-inflicted prison. "All right, sailor. You feel like escorting me back to the, er... barracks?"
  310.  
  311. "That's for soldiers," Bonworth corrects. "You want a berth."
  312.  
  313. "Ah," you reply. Foxy seems to get most of your meaning, though, and nods sleepily, clutching at your sleeve with his good paw.
  314.  
  315. "Aye, mate. C'mon, let's get to it."
  316.  
  317. "He takes armed escort duty seriously, I see," you call over your shoulder to Cheeky and Bonworth, who watch from the living room with bemused grins as Foxy half-drags you towards the hall. "Night, guys."
  318.  
  319. "G'night, Mike," they reply in almost perfect unison before sharing a tired laugh.
  320.  
  321.  
  322.  
  323. After reminding Foxy twice to brush his teeth, you slip on your flannels in preparation for some much-needed shuteye. Rather uncharacteristically, Foxy drags his blanket from his closet and carefully climbs into the bed next to the one you've claimed. You help Foxy spread his blanket out neatly over himself, taking great caution to not snag his hook on the delicate fabric.
  324.  
  325. "Sleeping out here tonight?" you ask.
  326.  
  327. Propping his chin up with his good paw, he considers you thoughtfully. "Aye. How 'bout a tale before lights-out?"
  328.  
  329. "Sure." You figure you'll humor him. "Got any good pirate stories?"
  330.  
  331. "All th' best tales got pirates in them," he insists earnestly.
  332.  
  333. Sitting up in bed a little, you snort. "Ah, what was I thinking," you dryly reply. "What've you got for me, then?"
  334.  
  335. "I remember it as if t'were yesterday," he begins, paw and hook spread apart in front of his face as if to frame a scene. "The waters were clear, clear an' still, like a new mirror. Nary a ripple from our vessel as it coasted along in the calm o' the night. Bosun saw fit for us to pack it in for the night, but the skipper's orders were resolute. We'd earn our wage proper an' see our cargo delivered before th' morn, an' so we pressed ahead thusly."
  336.  
  337. "What kind of cargo were you guys running?" you ask with a smile.
  338.  
  339. Foxy balls up his fist, and even his hook twitches a little under the tightening of his muscles. He ponders your question for a moment, and you fear you've already sidetracked him. After a few seconds, he replies evenly.
  340.  
  341. "Th' cargo itself be fragile an' delicate; a mysterious, small box with a spider's web of deftly-woven bits o' metal strings, blown glass an' other such. Couldn't rightly say, I wasn't th' wench who knew how it'd all be fit together. To a sailor like me, it was but one more crate t'be ferried along." He clenches his teeth, growling. "Our buyer now, the wretched bilge rat, be temperamental an' fickle as a woman scorned, with eyes of black coal an' a smile as scary as the devil himself. A fiend's fiend, no friend of mine nor anyone's."
  342.  
  343. You put on an angry face for his benefit. "This guy sounds like a real piece of work."
  344.  
  345. "Aye," Foxy replies animatedly. "He be no more than th' trash who paid our wage and kept our pint glasses topped up. Skipper saw somethin' in him, though, an' t'this day I still wonder what it be."
  346.  
  347. Slamming his hook down on the bed next to him, he swallows loudly before continuing.
  348.  
  349. "They said to me, they said 'Haddock, ye're the best man for this job,' an' I knew in my heart it was right and true. Only I was capable o' sailin' the ship through th' waters, them still waters that every man aboard knew were lyin' to us. Well, that stillness was as deceitful as th' man what paid us to sail across it."
  350.  
  351. "The calm before the storm?" you ask.
  352.  
  353. "Tha's right, lad. We all knew it well to be th' calm afore th' storm."
  354.  
  355. Foxy breathes deeply. You look down at yourself, realizing you're clutching your blanket, eager for his next words. When'd you get so into this?
  356.  
  357. "Th' shark appeared, and a hungry shark he was. Discontent in his bones, an' malice in his lifeblood. Those cold, dead eyes piercin' your very soul. Teeth sharper than any blade, well-hewn in their construct. Set in rows o' two like crescent moons. They were a demon's teeth, fittin' in the benefit of hindsight."
  358.  
  359. You've never seen him this together, this... alive. Ordinarily, his pirate stories branch off whenever he gets distracted, but this, this almost seems practiced. Rehearsed, as if he's reading from a script. No stuttering, no faltering of speech or rambling segues. You're silently kicking yourself for not owning a smartphone so that you could film this moment.
  360.  
  361. He smooths his blanket out with his paw. "Still as a statue, th' demon shark did lay. Fin of his pokin' out of every nook and cranny. But ol' Haddock had a job t'see done, an' no shark could get in me way." Closing his eyes, he exhales softly. "Fingers quick as quick could be, I moved t'plant th' cargo in the agreed-upon drop spot for our finicky client, seein' fit to swiftly retreat before I became that shark's supper."
  362.  
  363. "And then what happened?" you eagerly reply, instantly kicking yourself even as you do for potentially derailing his train of thought. He slowly turns, staring at you with his mouth wide open. You hold your breath, wondering if he's already "reset". With a terrific loud crunch, he snaps his maw shut like a mousetrap. You leap back, startled. Foxy chuckles at your plight, seemingly quite pleased with himself.
  364.  
  365. "What happened was, I learned it ain't th' shark you have to keep a lookout for, lad. It's the one pourin' blood out on the water in th' first place."
  366.  
  367. Blinking a few times, you laugh, pulling your blanket close to your chest. "Okay, so were you able to sail the ship on through or did you get eaten up by the shark?"
  368.  
  369. Foxy grins wryly. "If I were a bad sailor, I wouldn' be sittin' here discussin' it with ye now, would I?"
  370.  
  371. "I suppose not. Pretty tall tale," you muse.
  372.  
  373. "Aye, indeed. Maybe not as tall as ye think, lad."
  374.  
  375. You lay back in your bed, and a few seconds later, you hear Foxy shuffling around in his own. "G'night, Foxy," you murmur, succumbing to slumber.
  376.  
  377.  
  378. "It was about six years ago, I think."
  379.  
  380.  
  381. Snapping back to a coherent state, you glance around the room. "Hmmm?" you sleepily inquire. "Did you say something, Foxy?"
  382.  
  383. In the dim illumination from the rum-barrel clock, you see a tiny metal hook raised toward the ceiling.
  384.  
  385. Foxy's tone is dull and low. Even his pirate-esque lilt's gone -- all that's left is his natural speaking voice, plain as your own.
  386.  
  387. "My first day at sea was... it changed my life. It was a tiny little merchant vessel, a real rust-bucket. Cramped quarters, real tight. You had to keep your head tucked down low -- even someone my size. And everything smelled like brine and iron and dead fish. But when I stepped out into the misty, morning air, and the salt hit my nose for the first time, I knew right then and there in my heart that it was the life I'd always wanted."
  388.  
  389. By now you're fully alert, watching him with quiet, rapt attention.
  390.  
  391. "But it was the night that really changed me. The sheets were threadbare and the mattress wasn't much more than a piece of cheap foam. It was mid-spring, and cool, but me, I still had my winter coat. The waters were quiet outside, swaying our little tin can. My bed was by a porthole. That time of night, I couldn't see much -- just the moonlight, pale as bone, shimmering on the waters."
  392.  
  393. He shifts a little in his bed, spreading his arms wide as if waiting for an embrace. You listen with bated breath, hanging on his every word. You aren't sure if it's a dream or reality but right now, you couldn't care less. This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
  394.  
  395. "I was there for a long time. Not sleeping. Not even thinking much. Just feeling the waves roll gently along under me, cradling the boat. Right then, I was a part of the sea. Held in the arms of the ocean. Real calm. And then I just felt myself drifting off, rocked to sleep by the world itself."
  396.  
  397. Soft rustling. Foxy rolls over in his bed, muzzle pointed towards the door. You're glad he can't see you from here.
  398.  
  399.  
  400. "They say that's what it's like to die, and I hope they're right. Makes it easier to think about."
  401.  
  402.  
  403. You can't quite seem to swallow. You're aware of something wet on your cheeks and a burning sensation in your nose.
  404.  
  405.  
  406. "I miss it, Mike."
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