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Roommates - Ch. 23 (Bake Sale)

Feb 22nd, 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. 23 (Bake Sale): http://i.imgur.com/JHOoxfe.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. After assisting Chiclet with some household chores, helping Mangle pack no fewer than two dozen webstore orders for cold weather accessories, and enjoying another of Freddy's trademark lunches to the fullest possible extent, you figure you've dragged your feet long enough. As much fun as you've had being back home, there's no sense in stalling the inevitable, and so you say your goodbyes and depart Chiclet's at half past twelve. As you step outside onto the walkway, you offer up a silent prayer in the hopes that your welcome hasn't been completely overstayed at Beanie's place before setting off across the street for Building 9.
  12.  
  13. Passing by the staircase that would ordinarily take you upstairs to Bonworth's apartment, you pause halfway down the lower hall as you hear two sets of heavy footfalls clanging down the steps overhead. Your heart begins a rapid ascent up your throat as you overhear said rabbit himself conversing with none other than Fred Fazbear.
  14.  
  15. "Well, I sure do appreciate you takin' the time to come all the way back here on your lunch break, Fred." You clamp a hand over your mouth as you press your body against the doorway of the nearest apartment.
  16.  
  17. "It's no trouble," Fred replies. "I'll respect your position even if I don't personally agree with it."
  18.  
  19. Bonworth sighs heavily as he finishes limping down the stairs. "Thanks, Fred. Ol' Faz really was a sight to behold last night. Whole thing got him so riled up, you know? Haven't seen him so animated in a while."
  20.  
  21. "Yeah. I really don't know what it is you see in the bastard," Fred grumbles. "I'd just as soon put the freak out on his ass."
  22.  
  23. "Now, Fred, that's a mighty uncharitable thing to say," Bonworth says with a hurt tone. "I know he's kind of funny-turned and his personality's a bit peculiar, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't tear him down like that. Lord knows he's hurting something fierce as it is, he doesn't need our help twistin' the knife."
  24.  
  25. You glare disapprovingly at Fred through the slats in the staircase. That's a horrible statement to make about someone like Faz. Even after him jumping in your face last night you can't possibly bring yourself to be upset with the tattered bear -- he was only trying to protect Cheeky. If anything, you've GAINED respect for him.
  26.  
  27. Oblivious to your presence, Fred claps Bonworth on the shoulder, causing the slender rabbit to nearly tumble out of his prosthetic braces.
  28.  
  29. "Be that as it may, I need to get back to work," he rumbles. "You have my word I'll have things sorted out tonight."
  30.  
  31. "I can't thank you enough, pal. We're all kind of beside ourselves right now." You hang your head, silently vowing to do whatever you can to make amends before long.
  32.  
  33. Bonworth and Fred shake paws, and you hear the rabbit begin the task of clattering back up the stairs while Fred continues his descent. Once the stocky bear reaches the bottom of the stairs, he stops abruptly instead of heading forward to the parking lot. You watch anxiously as he pats the pockets of his trousers, seemingly having forgotten something. With a frustrated huff, he trudges back toward his apartment -- in other words, directly towards where you're lurking.
  34.  
  35. You frantically look around for a place to hide, but the hallway's too narrow. You accept the reality that you're busted, choosing to step out into the middle of the walkway so he can see you. Sure enough, he looks up and sees you awkwardly holding your luggage while standing two doors down from his apartment. Narrowing his eyelids to thin slats, he continues stomping toward you.
  36.  
  37. "What the hell are you doing here? Were you eavesdropping on my conversation just now?" he growls.
  38.  
  39. You nervously stand your ground, shaking your head. "Not intentionally," you reply. "I was coming by to ask if I could stay a couple more nights, and I arrived right as you and Bonworth were coming down the stairs."
  40.  
  41. Fred studies your expression for several seconds to see if you're being honest, scowling all the while. "How much did you hear?" he barks. "I'll know if you're lying, so answer truthfully."
  42.  
  43. "Just the tail end of it, something about respecting his position," you say quietly. "And also, that pretty harsh comment about Faz. That's an awful thing to say about someone in his shape."
  44.  
  45. "Faz?" Confusion crosses his face. "What the hell are you talking about?"
  46.  
  47. You grip the shoulder strap of your duffel bag tight enough to leave a permanent crease in the fabric. "About him being a 'bastard' and a 'freak', for one thing," you snap, righteous fury fueling your words.
  48.  
  49. "Hah! Oh, wow, you really DIDN'T hear anything!" he guffaws, eyes wide and mouth wider. "If you had, you'd know I wasn't referring to Faz -- I was talking about YOU."
  50.  
  51. Fred leans forward, looking directly down at you. You find yourself instinctively backing up a few inches, both hands raised in defeat.
  52.  
  53. "Fred, I get the feeling we got off on the wrong foot," you reply, dipping your head timidly.
  54.  
  55. "You think."
  56.  
  57. "I really don't intend any disrespect by you or anyone else, and I'm sorry if I'm coming across that way. Believe me when I say I'd prefer to be at peace with everyone here." You jab a finger overhead. "Including them. I plan to make things right, I'm just... waiting for the right opportunity."
  58.  
  59. "I can't peg you, Mike," he finally says, rubbing his chin. "You can't stop apologizing for your stupidity, but you can't seem to stop being stupid in the first place either. So either you're a manipulating freeloader who's never heard the phrase 'fool me once', or you're just a genuine idiot."
  60.  
  61. "Can it be neither? Believe me, Fred, I'd have preferred to stay across the street and not have ever bothered any of you, but circumstances dictated otherwise. If it's money you want, I'll gladly give you a down payment for rent, and the rest when my next check arrives."
  62.  
  63. "I don't need your money," he scoffs, brushing past you towards his door. "I'm gainfully employed."
  64.  
  65. "But I need you," you plead. "At least, I need a room for a few nights until I can go back to my own bed. If you want, I'll go across the street to do my laundry and eat meals, you won't even notice I'm here. Fred, I'm trying to get it together -- throw me a rope, will you?"
  66.  
  67. He pauses, paw on the doorknob. "Word travels fast around here," he says calmly. "Ms. Chiclet called Bonworth this morning, and he called me this afternoon. And you know what both of them had to say?"
  68.  
  69. You run a hand through your hair, exhaling softly. "I don't."
  70.  
  71. "They both said you need help."
  72.  
  73. He opens the door, motioning for you to follow him in. Hefting your luggage, you file inside just behind Fred. You briefly consider challenging him on the definition of "needing help", but right now you're not in the market to push your luck. Considering how welcoming and jovial both Chiclet's and Bonworth's households were to you, you're still trying to figure out where you stand with Fazbear and his crew.
  74.  
  75. So far, it's not looking too good for you.
  76.  
  77. "I've got to get back to work, since my lunch break's almost over," Fred says, collecting a set of car keys from a rack in the entry foyer. "I trust you were paying attention when I laid out my house rules last night."
  78.  
  79. You mock salute. "I was, and I promise I won't be any trouble. Chiclet'll vouch for me."
  80.  
  81. "She already has," he remarks over his shoulder. "What do you think got you in the door a second time?"
  82.  
  83. Before you can say anything else, Fred Fazbear forcefully shuts the front door behind himself, leaving you standing alone in the foyer.
  84.  
  85. "Really appreciate it," you holler uselessly after him.
  86.  
  87.  
  88.  
  89. Dumping your bags by the front door for now, you head into the common area to let the other tenants know of your presence. The television's blaring some daytime talk show, but nobody's in the living room watching the screen.
  90.  
  91. "Sorry to intrude!" you shout over the TV set. "Anyone in here?"
  92.  
  93. The double doors to the kitchen swing open and Chichi leans out from the kitchen, waving to you. "Hi Mike! I didn't expect you to take me so literally when I said 'visit us again soon'," she chirps. "I just got a big rush order! Can you shut the TV off for me?"
  94.  
  95. "Not a problem," you reply, pressing the power button on the front of the television. "If it's any consolation, I didn't really expect to take you so literally either."
  96.  
  97. She trots out into the middle of the hallway, wiping her wings on her apron. "Well, I certainly don't mind guests! It can be kind of sleepy here during the days with Mr. Fazbear and Beanie's work schedules. Why don't you come on back to the kitchen so we can chat?"
  98.  
  99. "All righty."
  100.  
  101. If there's one constant between apartments, it seems that every chicken you've met has been nothing but friendly and outgoing. You fold your jacket up and gently drape it over the couch's armrest for now before following her into the kitchen. Chichi appears to be in full production mode with mixing bowls and kitchen appliances spread all over the countertops in various states of use.
  102.  
  103. "So what brings you back around so soon, Mike?" she asks before tearing into a sack of flour with her beak with practiced ease.
  104.  
  105. "Uh, if it's all right with you, I was hoping I could stay here for a few days. I already cleared it with Fred, but I'd like to make sure that you're fine with it as well."
  106.  
  107. "Oh, how exciting!" Chichi says, dunking a measuring cup into the flour bag. "I love having company over, and I'm kind of disappointed we didn't get to talk more last night. Do you mind if I ask why, though? Um, why you're staying here, I mean."
  108.  
  109. "I don't mind. It's a fair question," you reply, pulling one of the barstools away from the counter to take a seat. "I live across the street over in 87-B, but as you heard a new tenant had to be temporarily placed over there, and with six people staying in one apartment it's just a little too cramped."
  110.  
  111. "I can imagine," she replies. "While our place is real roomy, we still get cabin fever from time to time ourselves, you know?"
  112.  
  113. You nod. "Exactly. I was staying upstairs with Bonworth until just yesterday, but like I said last night, I screwed up pretty bad."
  114.  
  115. She begins scooping flour into a heavy-duty stand mixer. "Hopefully nothing that can't be fixed, though?"
  116.  
  117. You mull over the scrap of dialogue you managed to overhear between Fred and Bonworth earlier, weighing their words in your mind. You can't help but feel relieved at the thought that Bonworth still seems to care about you. Maybe you haven't completely burned your bridges upstairs.
  118.  
  119. "I think so. I mouthed off at them, and in the heat of the moment I ended up really hurting Cheeky with my words by accident." You shake your head in disgust. "Everything I've been told and everything I've seen firsthand about them -- they're good people. And to be honest, I want to make things right with all of them before I can go back home. Besides, my usual roommates have their hands kind of full right now, so they could use some space anyway."
  120.  
  121. Chichi props herself up on the counter, nodding. "I think it's big of you to be willing to apologize. A lot of people have difficulty putting their pride aside in the first place, so that says something about your character."
  122.  
  123. "It's like -- I just got so mad when I started putting the pieces together in my head, you know? It'd be one thing if they were honest accidents for a really high-risk job -- like if this was some kind of... I dunno, coal town or something," you sigh. "These guys worked at a pizza arcade, though. Corporate incompetence can only go so far as an excuse."
  124.  
  125. You realize you're clenching your fists, your palms stinging from where your fingernails have been digging into your flesh. "It isn't right, Chichi, and the thought of them just... letting it slide? I know I'm wrong to butt in, but it pissed me off."
  126.  
  127. She smoothes her blouse out a little as she resumes pouring ingredients into the mixer. "I'll be honest with you, Mike, I've never really cared for the way that restaurant does business, but you're right -- it's NOT our place to butt into other peoples' affairs." The corners of her mouth turn up slightly. "Still, that doesn't mean we can't be there for our friends when they need us."
  128.  
  129. "Yeah. Yeah, definitely!" you enthuse. "I want to be the reliable guy, you know? I mean, I try to help out around the house wherever I'm at -- it makes me feel useful, productive. I don't EVER want to be accused of being a layabout."
  130.  
  131. "That's what I like to hear," she giggles. "In that case, would you be willing to give me some help baking today?"
  132.  
  133. "Sure, but I don't know how much use I'll be. Freddy's such an amazing cook, I'll confess I feel kind of inadequate. All I know how to do is boil hot dogs and eggs."
  134.  
  135. "Oh, I bet you can do more than that. Beanie said you made a really good seafood chowder the other night. Cooking's actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it." She frowns a little as a few of her yellow feathers flutter down onto the counter. "Uh oh."
  136.  
  137. "Yikes," you observe, hopping to your feet. "It's started, huh?"
  138.  
  139. "Well, that explains the cravings for protein this morning," she sighs, collecting her discarded down.
  140.  
  141. "Craving proteins? Is that a thing like, uh... the cravings expectant moms have, or...?"
  142.  
  143. Tucking the feathers into a pocket on her apron, she taps her beak thoughtfully. "Hmmm! I suppose it's sort of like that. Feathers are actually mostly protein, so when a hen starts to molt, her body's going to want to replenish the missing nutrients."
  144.  
  145. "Huh. Learn something new every day." After washing your hands in the sink, you turn to face her. "So how can I help you with baking? If you need someone to taste test, I'm your man."
  146.  
  147. "Oh, don't worry -- there'll be plenty of that between the two of us," she grins, patting her belly. "Actually, I was asked to bake a huge order of cupcakes for a wedding reception later tonight, but the thing is, they want them individually wrapped and boxed to be sent home with the guests as party favors."
  148.  
  149. "Aha. So between icing and wrapping and all that..."
  150.  
  151. "Yup, you get it," she says. "It's a fairly big job since the reception's in about five or so hours, but the pay's spectacular. I'm getting almost four dollars per cupcake."
  152.  
  153. Your jaw nearly hits the floor. Even with the wrapping supplies and the cost of the cake ingredients, she can't have that much in overhead. "Damn," you hiss, jealous. "That's a sweet gig! Err -- no pun intended."
  154.  
  155. She giggles appreciatively. "Well, if you'll help me out, I'll gladly pay you for your time."
  156.  
  157. "I won't take your money, Chichi, but I'm more than happy to give you a hand."
  158.  
  159. "If you've worked for it, you're not 'taking' anything," she huffs. "I can't get it all done by myself in time, and while Rackham was supposed to help me, he's not very good with his-- err, oh dear."
  160.  
  161. She covers her mouth, looking up worriedly. Remembering the face you saw at the end of the hall last night, you glance behind yourself. Fortunately, nobody seems to lurking there.
  162.  
  163. "How about you pay me in trade?" you ask, ignoring it and turning back to Chichi. "I'll help you get your orders wrapped and ready to go for tonight, and maybe you can show me a few cooking tips tomorrow. I've always wanted to learn how to bake."
  164.  
  165. Chichi's eyes light up. "Oh, Mike, that's a brilliant idea! I've got the perfect recipe in mind that's absolutely delicious, and it's so simple a toddler could make it."
  166.  
  167. "Sounds like it's about my speed then," you crack. "All right, so what do you need me to do?"
  168.  
  169. The plump little hen begins pouring her mixture into cupcake wrappers for her tray. "Well, you can start by unpacking the cake boxes from the closet so that they're ready for when we need them later. There's a little instruction card inside that shows you how to fold them," she instructs. "Make sure you follow it exactly, since if they're not folded juuuust right the cupcakes could fall out, and that's the last thing we want to happen at a wedding."
  170.  
  171. "No kidding," you mutter. "I don't want to be the guy responsible for getting you run out of town because the bride's dress got coated in buttercream frosting due to a packaging malfunction."
  172.  
  173. "Now that I'm starting to molt, at least if I get tarred and feathered it might actually be beneficial," she says with a goofy grin.
  174.  
  175. The cupcake packaging is simple enough once you get the hang of it. The directions aren't terribly clear and you do end up ruining a couple of the boxes at first by accidentally folding the tabs the wrong way, but fortunately she's got literally hundreds of the things. Once you get the rhythm down, it's an easy task.
  176.  
  177. "So who's, uh, Rodham?" you ask.
  178.  
  179. "Rackham," she gently corrects, having since moved on to mixing up frosting to use. "He's an old childhood friend of ours -- well, Bonnie and me. We went to high school together. Of course, we usually just call him Foxy."
  180.  
  181. "Ah, that must be the other Foxy that Beanie was referring to," you muse as you scratch the back of your head.
  182.  
  183. Hmm... yet another household with one bear, one chicken, one rabbit, and one fox. If you didn't know better -- and at this point you really don't -- you'd assume Marion is some high-functioning obsessive compulsive who feels the crippling need to group apartments together with this exact arrangement of tenants. What's weirder is that they all have similar names or variations thereof -- and none of them appear to find it strange or remarkable in any way.
  184.  
  185. Remembering something Beanie said a few days ago, a sudden thought strikes you. "Say, does Rackham like poker?" you ask.
  186.  
  187. Chichi nods, smiling. "Foxy loves poker! He's always watching poker tournaments on TV -- apparently it really fascinates him. His poker face is really good, too, but he could stand to work on his poker tail."
  188.  
  189. "His poker tail?!" You fight back a laugh. "That's a thing?"
  190.  
  191. "Sure, why wouldn't it be? I don't really have a tail -- just tailfeathers -- so I don't fully understand it myself, but apparently it's an instinctive thing in canines, you know? Foxy's tail wags whenever he has good cards and twitches whenever he has bad ones, so we call it his poker tail."
  192.  
  193. "Interesting. Well, I guess I'm in no position to judge," you shrug. "I'm such an amateur that when we played poker the other day, Bonworth would have taken me to the cleaners had we been gambling for real money. Apparently he had aces up his sleeve, and I mean that literally. Didn't even notice."
  194.  
  195. "No way!" she gasps. "Bonworth, cheating?"
  196.  
  197. "Oh, it was only for a joke," you answer amiably. "The others were in on it, too. I think he just wanted to tease me a little." You neglect to tell her about the aftermath of the poker game that culminated in Bonworth's literal downfall.
  198.  
  199. "Well, I'm glad to hear you're okay with it," Chichi remarks, going back to work. "It's nice that you're a good sport, Mike. I think you'll fit in fine here with that kind of attitude."
  200.  
  201. Of that much, you're not quite sure. Fred hasn't exactly been warm and inviting, and while Beanie seems all right, she's very low-energy and impersonal. You haven't had the pleasure of meeting Rackham yet but if he's the owner of the gleaming teeth and eye you saw leering out from behind the curtain at you last night...
  202.  
  203. "Well, I certainly hope so," you finally manage.
  204.  
  205.  
  206.  
  207. Thanks to Chichi's skill and experience ­(not to mention having two gigantic commercial ovens) she's able to get two hundred large, fluffy cupcakes baked in the span of a few hours. After letting them cool, the two of you are able to get them frosted, decorated, and packed away with time to spare before they're to be delivered to the wedding.
  208.  
  209. "So how are you going to get all of these to where they need to go?" you ask between bites of one of the leftover cupcakes given to you as part of your reward.
  210.  
  211. Chichi finishes her third cupcake before starting in on her fourth. "That's the easiest part, actually," she says. "Mr. Marion has a small delivery van up at the leasing office that he lets me use as long as I bring it back with a full tank."
  212.  
  213. "Hey, nice. You've got a ton of boxes here, though. Do you want me to ride over there with you to help offload them?"
  214.  
  215. "Sure!" she replies eagerly. "That's nice of you, Mike. Thanks!"
  216.  
  217. "No problem," you respond, finishing up your own cupcake before washing it down with a cold glass of fruit punch. "Oh, looks like you've got a little, um... uh, well, everything on your shirt there."
  218.  
  219. Chichi looks down at her blouse, suddenly self-conscious. It's smeared in chocolate and cake batter. She huffs in frustration as she hops off the barstool. "Oh, shoot! I guess I'd better run to the bathroom and clean myself up before I head out."
  220.  
  221. "Anything you need me to do here?" you ask, brushing a few stray crumbs off your own clothes. "I can help clean the kitchen or load the truck if you want."
  222.  
  223. "That won't be necessary," a husky voice interjects from the hallway outside the kitchen. The doors swing wide as a shaggy fox with rust-colored fur barges inside. "I'm more than happy to assist you, lass."
  224.  
  225. Chichi smiles as she dabs a little of the chocolate sauce off of one of her sleeves. "Hi, Foxy. You're up a little late, aren't you?"
  226.  
  227. Not unlike the Foxy you're more familiar with, Rackham's also kind of a battered mess. He does, however, appear to be much more focused and alert than his upstairs counterpart. A thick cotton pad covers Rackham's right eye, held to his head by a loose elastic band. His neck is wrapped in a tight-fitting foam brace, presumably due to a recent injury. His chest and torso fur is mostly thick and bushy, but a couple of spots have been noticeably shaved, one of which appears to accommodate for a recent surgical scar. His paws are stuffed in the pockets of his frayed, baggy khaki shorts which appear to be the only article of clothing he's wearing.
  228.  
  229. You turn in your seat, politely offering your hand to Rackham for a shake.
  230.  
  231. "Hey, I'm Mike," you greet. "I'll be staying here for a couple of days. Long story."
  232.  
  233. Rackham looks at your proffered hand in disgust, withdrawing his paws from his pockets and pointedly folding his arms. In place of his right paw is a modern prosthetic hook -- less pirate-like than the one Haddock has, but still a hook just the same. You sheepishly lower your hand as he turns back to Chichi without further acknowledgement.
  234.  
  235. You suppose that explains why she seemed so uncomfortable earlier.
  236.  
  237. "Why didn't you come wake me up if you had a big order?" he asks, sounding almost offended. "I don't know why I overslept again, anyway..."
  238.  
  239. "Hmm, could be because you skipped dinner last night," Chichi replies. "How about I go get cleaned up and fix you something to eat before I leave?"
  240.  
  241. "I can grab a bite on the way," Rackham says dismissively. "Don't need to go to any trouble on my account, Chica."
  242.  
  243. "Um, well, I'll just be a moment then," Chichi announces. "I need to go call Mr. Marion and change my clothes before we leave. Why don't you and Mike chat for a bit? I think you two will get along great. Actually -- we can all ride together to drop off my order, and then maybe pick up takeout for dinner? Bonnie's going to be hungry when she wakes up."
  244.  
  245. "Sounds good," you reply.
  246.  
  247. She turns to Rackham who gives a shrug, taking a seat at the barstool directly next to yours.
  248.  
  249. "It's settled, then!" She claps her wings together cheerfully, and a little puff of flour erupts from her feathers as she does, causing her to giggle. "I'll be back in just a few minutes, and we can go get the van and start loading."
  250.  
  251. Chichi trots out of the kitchen, humming to herself as she goes. As soon as she's out of earshot, Rackham swivels his seat around to look at you. "So what's your game?" he snarls.
  252.  
  253. You lean back, wide-eyed. "Uh, what do you mean? About me staying here, or...?"
  254.  
  255. He prods you in the chest with the curve of his hook. "About everything. Your little hat-in-hand routine coming over here so you can cozy up to the lasses? You think I didn't see the way you were looking at Chica last night?"
  256.  
  257. Your nervous smile turns to a decided frown. "Wait, you think I've got designs on the girls here?" you gawk.
  258.  
  259. He audibly scoffs, leaning close enough that you can feel the hot breath coming off of his muzzle.
  260.  
  261. "Play innocent all you want. You're going to have to get past me first, ape," he seethes as he slides off the barstool. Throwing one last glare at you over his shoulder, he stomps off down the hallway toward his bedroom.
  262.  
  263. You can already tell that you're in for a very pleasant stay.
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