Chapter 1: 2:35 ?M - Both Worlds
Stormy weather wasn't that common to have over the town, so the backup generator that was meant to activate in the event of a blackout was sometimes temperamental from lack of regular maintenance. Mike wasn't surprised; it was the same power supply used in the old pizzeria, a massive battery that barely lasted six hours with the kind of use he had put it through. He didn't much care for the dark, finding it brought up too many old memories and flashbacks. But he could cope with it far better than Jeremy, who would go stiff in the dark, eyes huge and fingers twitching with the need to touch walls, muttering his mantra at a faster than normal speed.
So when lightning flashed and the building powered down and the stupid generator failed to come on, Jeremy whimpered and pulled his makeshift Chicacoo mask down over his face while Mike went out with the flashlight and the Freddy mask. He would have taken his time, considering the freedom the mask gave him, but Jeremy reminded him of the music box and Mike hurried along.
The generator was still positioned behind the building, the same place as before the remodeling. Mike headed there at a brisk pace, listening for any sounds that could warn him of danger headed his way. Ever since those crazy robbers tried to hit up the place, he made it a point to patrol the old pizzeria rooms.
Thanks to that, Mike was able to slowly remember the layout of the old pizzeria and get through it more quickly.
-Thud Thud Thud!-
"What the fuck?!" Mike exclaimed in alarm, turning to look back at the hall he just ran down. That sound, that rapid, heavy thudding; it couldn't be!
He stared, listening in disbelief, until he saw Foxy the Pirate run straight into the wall at the far end of the hall. "Ohhh, fuck me sideways!" Mike exclaimed, stepping back as Foxy picked himself up, shook himself off, then turned to face him and start running again. "Gaah! You're not even supposed to come this way!" he yelled as he spun on his heel and took off, running as fast as he could to stay ahead of Foxy.
There were still two turns to take to reach the generator; Foxy couldn't stop himself at full speed unless he hit an obstacle. That would slow him down a little, hopefully enough for Mike to get into a room and shut the door. He flicked the flashlight over his shoulder, trying to trigger the glitch. "God fucking damn it! What else can go wrong?!" Mike yelled in frustration.
"Is it really such a good idea to film during a storm?" Mike asked, pushing the bill of his hat up as he looked towards the ceiling in concern. The sound of thunder and rumbling clouds was loud overhead, almost overwhelming the insulation that was hastily built into the building. "I mean, we just got the budget increase to move into this place for the new season, but there wasn't enough to finish the soundproofing."
"We're expected to have at least the season premiere filmed for the fall opening of 'Five Nights at Freddy's'," Foxy told him, even as he glanced up in equal concern.
"Yeah! And besides, it's really awesome to film the show in a real pizzeria!" Jeremy piped up from the studio buffet with a smile as Vincent passed him a plate of muffins.
Milling around the cameras and the main dining area of the abandoned pizzeria were the two sets of animatronics for the 'Five Nights at Freddy's' series and the various actors playing guards and children. The show was a fairly innovative horror-survival series that was quickly gaining popularity, enough to have earned a made-for-TV movie to transition them to a new season and introduce new characters and give some new actors a foothold in the industry.
With the popularity came an increased budget, which allowed the crew and cast to move out of the cramped little studio they started in to something bigger. To save money, they bought an old pizzeria and began converting it to a studio. Only, episodes needed to be filmed right away to make the deadline for the TV lineup. So, with the pizzeria still in shambles from renovations and a nasty storm moving into the area, the cast and crew gathered to start filming their season premiere episode.
"I'm just a bit concerned for the animatronics," Mike muttered, picking up his script to look over one last time. "Last thing we need is to have them all get shorted by some lightning bolt hitting a transformer or something."
"Aww, see how much he cares about us?" Chirp trilled and giggled next to her sister animatronic, who only rolled her eyes and shook her head in exasperation.
"The chances of lightning striking are one in a million, so to speak," Vincent added absently, waving tongs in one hand as he held out a bowl of salad to Fritz, the plump little actor making a face at the dish. "There haven't been any recorded lightning strikes like what you're thinking of in over a decade. We'll be fine!"
Mike still didn't look convinced but shook it off as just nerves. This was the new season; he was a veteran at it, the star of the show practically. He had to pull it together, get his head in the game! "Okay, so we take another shot at the race to the generator scene for future editing?" he asked, refreshing his lines and the path with the script's help. The director nodded, busy with helping the cameramen get their equipment ready for a mad dash after the two actors important to the scene. "Foxy, ready for a run?" Mike called out with a grin, grabbing the props for the scene: a Freddy mask and a flashlight.
"Aye! Always ready and willin', laddie!" Foxy declared with a salute and hurried along after him with a smile.
They took position in a hall that would lead to the generator room. One of the bonuses of filming in a real pizzeria was having most of the real equipment for such a business already in place. For this scene, Mike was to run for the generator and flip it on, but he would be chased by Foxy. The generator would be activated just as Foxy leaped at Mike, ending the first half of the show with a cliffhanger.
"Okay, we start with Mike running down the hall! Foxy, follow after at the signal!" the director shouted, raising a hand, "And three, two, one... action!"
Mike took off running, expression of fear-touched determination on his face as he clutched the flashlight in his hand, Freddy mask strapped to the top of his head. After a moment, the director dropped his hand, and Foxy took off running after Mike, eyes flicking over to black for his part. Cameras rolling, the pirate animatronic hounded the day guard as he raced on to reach the generator.
Mike skidded across the floor to a stop in front of the door to the generator room. Gotta hurry; he could hear the music box start to go off melody from losing power. The thudding steps of Foxy were not far behind either. Any minute now, he'd catch up, even with the crashing into things.
He shoved the door open, flicked on the flashlight again and shoved the mask onto his head for a better look as he swept the light over the room. There! Across the way was the massive generator, impressive to look at but shit for making and containing power overnight.
The thunder was unbearably loud now, booming and clapping overhead and drowning out all other sounds. Mike bit his lip as he ran a hand over the generator, searching for the right switch to flip to transfer the battery power over to the building. With the storm like this, he and Jeremy wouldn't be able to hear the movements in the walls and hall that often alerted them to the animatronics seconds in advance of their attacks.
"Where is it? Where the fuck is it?" Mike muttered just as his hand hit the switch, "There!" He grabbed on and pulled, forcing the old thing loose and wishing Chris had been told to come by and scrape some of the rust off. Through a small window in the room, the light from flashing lightning streamed in at flickers, enough that he shouldn't need the flashlight anymore.
Enough to show the shadow of a tall, tall robotic fox standing at the doorway.
Mike ran into the generator room, swept the light over it swiftly and spotted the massive machine. With lightning flashing through the window and thunder rumbling overhead, he hesitated for only a moment before rushing in to the generator. It was the old one installed for the pizzeria, cleaned a little but otherwise left in poor-looking condition to be in line with the show's theme. A new backup power supply had been installed in another location so this one was removed from the grid for the pizzeria. Just another prop now, but one that still made Mike a bit nervous to handle.
But they'd rehearsed this scene a dozen times, him and Foxy, joking and acting out various shock reactions to help them both get over their nerves. Everything should be fine.
He made a show of frantically looking for the right lever and grabbing on just as those lightning flashes showed him that Foxy had arrived and was standing at the door. His audio cue! Had he missed it?
As Mike turned to face his friend and fellow actor, hand still on the lever, he faintly noticed his own shadow on the wall had the arm with the flashlight raised to protect his head in a meager defensive gesture, already facing Foxy.
Mike heard the faint scrap of metal on tile and turned to see Foxy looming at the door, jaws open and ready to attack. He lifted an arm defensively, a lame attempt at shielding his head. Cold, cold, he felt so cold.
But he was already turning, facing Foxy, and he was also lifting his arm to match his shadow, breaking from script which had told him to flash the light at the pirate to buy himself time to run around him and escape.
The director noticed something, signalled frantically for him to stop as the thunder grew louder, more intense. Foxy's expression changed to one of alarm, a sudden realization, the black of his eyes flicking off to his normal color as he ran forward, good hand stretching out to grab him.
"I'v͜e̢ ̵got̴ yo͘u̴ ͡ņow,͘ M͞i͡ke͝y ͠bo͢y!" Foxy snarled and leaped at him, hand reaching out to grab, hook ready to slash.
'Foxy, help me!'
His inner voice but not the thoughts he would ever think. The thoughts he should be thinking now were....
'Flip it on, stupid! For Jeremy!'
Not his thoughts, but same mental voice, the character's voice, frightened but determined to help his best friend.
Mike pulled the lever as lightning struck the building and surged into the generator, screaming as electricity rushed over him and turned the world blinding white.
Mike pulled the switch as lightning struck the building and surged into the generator, screaming as electricity rushed over him and turned the world blinding white.
There was a crash of metal hitting metal, and then all was still and silent.
Chapter 2: 2:43 AM - Original World
In the world where Freddy's Pizzeria houses killer haunted animatronics and killer malfunctioning animatronics, Mike Schmidt awakens to find his dream life has become a nightmare. Nothing is as it seems and all he wants now is to find his best friend and make sure he's okay. Not easy to do when all his friends are now foes. At least Jeremy is normal... right?
Foxy stood in place at the generator, looking down at the day guard slumped back against the machine. His eyes were closed in a faint expression of unease, breathing hitching every now and then, as if he was still running for his life in his sleep. The electric surge had shocked Mike badly, but he was still very much alive. Surprising.
And yet, something didn't seem quite right.
But whatever else Foxy was thinking, he couldn't act on his instinct to help his best buddy, his first mate, first-rate pirate pal from old. The child was in control now, and he could only whine in his own head, begging for mercy for his best friend. But of course, none would come.
He knelt down, nudged the prone figure, and Mike slumped forward over his shoulder without a sound, the flashlight dropping to the floor. As Foxy stood, he spotted the lass that protected Mike now perched on the generator, glaring at him. She grew darker than the shadows itself, eyes blazing in fury.
He wanted to drop Mike, just put him down and run, but the child within stood her ground. She called out, gloated, talked about how much pain she would inflict and how much she would enjoy it.
And then the 5th Child screamed, but her voice was silent.
Mike didn't scream with her.
The 5th looked shocked; the child within Foxy paused in momentary surprise, then began laughing as the 5th Child leaped forward, tried to dive into Mike's body and exert her power. But she simply bounced off. Mike's body rejected her, refused her. Why?
Foxy turned, left the room with its active generator, and began walking back to the main pizzeria layout. The 5th Child flew past them, determined look on her face. The other guard, Jeremy; she was probably going to get him to face them.
Good. Foxy welcomed the brief minutes of control that came with facing the little night watch. But was this the right time for that ability?
He stepped into the main hall and came face to face with the night watch. Jeremy had his flashlight aimed at him, Shadow Freddy Mask on but Foxy could see past it to the glare on his young face, red glasses firmly in place.
"Sorry, but I want him back," the guard said firmly and flicked the light rapidly in Foxy's eyes.
'Daylight approaching. Systems reset. Prepare for Showtime.'
And the 4th Child howled in a fury at being thwarted while Foxy sighed in relief.
Carrying Mike back to the office was a bit hard when the day guard was so much taller and heavier, but Jeremy kept quiet and moved as carefully and quickly as possible. Mike's arms were pulled over his shoulders, legs pulled up to Jeremy's waist so he could better support them, and his body was pressed against Jeremy's back. This much weight was unsteady, and his legs shook, but at least he could walk in slow steps back to safety.
The Little One explained what had happened as he walked. The lightning struck the pizzeria, overloaded the generator, and channeled the excess power outward. Mike had been hit by the brunt of it, Foxy pushed back by the force, and she was flung out of Mike's body. The world shimmered, and when everything cleared, Foxy had taken Mike and his body wouldn't let her possess him.
"That's strange. Has that ever happened before?" Jeremy asked between puffs for air as he approached the office. Little One shook her head as she floated alongside him.
"He c͏a̛n͢ ͠f͞igh̢t ̛off ̡m͢y ͜i̴nfl̸u̵eņce ̡i͠f ̸his̴ e̵m͘o͝tions a͘r͏e҉ ͝s͠trong̢ ̨eno̡ugh͘, bu̧t̡ h͢e'̨s͢ n͟e͟v͞er̕ been ͢ab͘le̡ to j̴u͠st͠ b̴l̢oc̸k̵ m͏e ͟e͞nti͏r͠el͢y,̡" she replied and looked at her hands sadly. "͘I̸t̵ f̡e҉lt͟ lik̴e ̨he̢ d͠ơe͟sn'ţ ͝ne͘e͟d ̨m̧e a͜t a͘l͢l͢.҉"
"C'mon, you know that's not true!" Jeremy told her with a smile that took effort thanks to his struggles to carry Mike. "We both need your help and even if Mike doesn't understand it all, I bet he appreciates your help as much as I do!" He waited until he got a smile back, small but happy, and grinned more genuinely himself. "There we go! Now let's hurry to charge the music box again!"
Once in the office, Jeremy carefully rolled Mike off onto the sofa and arranged him carefully to lay on his back, head turned aside to keep his breathing clear. He checked for a pulse -strong, good- and for any injuries Foxy may have caused -just a bump on the head where he fell back against the generator after the surge- before pulling up a thick black blanket over him to his shoulders. The same blanket that Jeremy had brought with him during the attempted robbery had been washed and left in the office for emergencies.
"There you go, Mike," Jeremy murmured, patting his shoulder comfortingly before pulling up the desk chair to sit by him and watch the cameras. Little One sat on his chest, still worried as she pushed her hand over his heart.
"͘W̶hy̵ ͏w͏on't yo̷u̴ ̕l͢e̢t m͜e̴ in?"͠ she whispered, "I'm̸ ̶t҉ryi̕n͜g͡ ͝to͢ ͏hel͏p ͘y̧o͝u."
Jeremy gave her a concerned look before returning to his work.
It wasn't until he noticed the clock said 3:00 AM that he started to wonder if he should have called for an ambulance.
"Nn-nngh," Mike groaned softly, shifting in place. Jeremy looked over in relief. So he was okay, that's good. He watched, expecting the older guard to get up and grumble over nearly getting stuffed.
Instead, Mike sighed, settled into a more comfortable position and drifted back into a deeper sleep, blanket pulled more securely around his shoulders. Jeremy gave him a look of disbelief. That was not normal. Maybe he should have called for that ambulance.
"Mi͢key d̸oes̶n̵'͟t̢ ͜s҉l҉ee̷p͠ that de͟ep͞l̶y ͜a͜ny͞mo͝re,̴"̸ Little One whispered in shock. "̶E͜s̵pe̛c̡i̵al҉ly ̛n̛o͜t̶ h̷e̸re!̕ What'̛s̴ wron̸g ̢w̸it̡h̕ him̛?̨ ̵I̶ ͝don͝'͘t ̷k̡no̧w̡ how ͏to͜ f͟ix this!"͞
Jeremy opened his mouth, ready to respond, when the klaxxon of alarms went off. Mike bolted upright with a cry of surprise, hands flying up to his ears. "Okay, okay! I'm up! Turn it off! I'll be on set!" he yelled. He curled up into a ball, groaning miserably, while Jeremy flashed his light into each entrance, trying to pinpoint who was coming and from what direction.
BonBon, from the right vent.
"Ugh, I said turn it off! Cut already! I'm not ready for action!" Mike complained, uncurling and getting to his feet unsteadily. "Ungh... what hit me... Foxy?"
Jeremy turned on his heel and snatched up the Freddy mask, holding it up as the Little One leaped into his body. Heat surged through his veins, -'Severo admin goto command.'- his mind calmed, and he breathed out as the Shadow Freddy Mask swirled into shape over his face.
The other mask was still in his hand. He looked up at Mike in confusion. Why hadn't he taken it yet?
Mike had somehow moved from at his side to the wall next to the left vent, back pressed to it as he stared at Jeremy in equal parts awe and shock. "In-action, live special effects?!" he squeaked before breaking into a creepily wide smile, "That's so cool! I didn't know we got the budget upgrade to include holo-CGI!"
"Mike? The mask?" Jeremy questioned, confusion growing, "And what are you talking about?" His own mask flickered and Jeremy yelped before clearing his mind again, reinforcing the Shadow Freddy image. Mike took the Freddy mask, still smiling.
"That's so cool," he whispered, practically vibrating in place. "Hey, can we stop filming for a few minutes? I want to see how you guys got that set up."
Okay, maybe Mike got hit on the head a bit harder than he thought. Jeremy stood in front of him, glaring at the right vent as he pointed the flashlight at it. "Mike, put the mask on! BonBon's about to come in!" he called, "You feeling okay?"
"Wait, what? I'm not ready! I just passed out during the generator scene!" Mike exclaimed behind him. "What happened to me? I thought I was electrocuted... and what about Foxy?! Is he okay?! Hey! Director! Cut! I'm not saying a line until I see Foxy!"
"͞Th̡a̶t ͢įs so̶ n͟ot҉ no҉r̡mal,̴" the Little One commented close to his ear. Jeremy nodded, concern for his father-figure rapidly growing to full on worry with a side of panic. Not now, not now, he had to keep calm and hold the Mask steady.
BonBon's head and arms appeared as they prepared to climb out of the vent and Jeremy flashed the light into their face. The rabbit's pupils shrank and they screamed, covering their eyes. "̶A͘a̶aagh̸!͡ ̕What ̨th͏e͜ fuck̢?͏!͏ Wh͡a̢t͜ w̵as t̵h̡at̴ f̧or, yo̢u͘ l̶itt҉le t̵i̴n t̴u̵r̸d̸?̡!
"Go back!" Jeremy told them, "Mike's not here!" BonBon stayed hanging halfway out of the vent, rubbing at their eyes and grumbling.
"Yea̡h, I͟ c̕o͟u̢ld ͡see ͏t͠h͠at͏ ͞be͞for͜e ̶y͠o҉u fr̴e͠aki̢ng̷ b͢l̴in̷de͞d ͟m͠e wit͏h th̡a̧t͝ ̷f̸las̷h͏l̨i͏ght͢ ͠bu͢llshiţ!̡" they snapped. "͡W̧h̵a͞t̶ ̴i̡s ͢yo̸u̡r ḑam̡a͝g̨e?͠! Gah,҉ ̴fuc̴k̶!̵ Y̧ou̷ ̵b͞e͏tt͜er͢ n͠ot͠ ̸have͝ sh͘orte̛d m̵y͠ ͏n̡ight ͟v̡is͘įon!̛ ̡P̨r͘ick.̨"
"͠J͞u͢s͝t go ̕wit͘h t̨he͞y/̛t͝h̨em͟,͏ I'm ̶n̵ot feel͟i͞ng̡ i̵t ͠for͝ ̛any ͜o͜f͏ ̛t͘he ̕o͟t͡h͘ers͠. God,҉ ͠h̶ow͘ c͡an ̶yo̷u̢ ̨b͠e d͡ece̕n̕t w͢i͝tḩ t͝h̛at a̸n̡d b͏e̛ a fuck̕ing t͘u͜rd wi͡t͞h the͡ ̴l̡i͠ght̨s?!͢" BonBon growled and fell out of the vent. Jeremy sighed, debating whether or not to help them up. In the end he did, and dodged a smack to the head. "Be͞sid̸e͝s̡,͞ ҉ol'͞ ̴Fr̶e̴d̶d̷y͘ ̶alrea͡dy̧ ̧g̢o͏t͠ ̷M̵ik̶e.͢ ͞We͞'r̨e lơoki͡n҉g f̨o̸r th̵e͟ ̴lit̷t̵le ͘o̕n͡e."͝
Jeremy whirled around and gaped. It was true; the office was severely lacking in Mike Schmidts. "How did Freddy get him and he didn't even yell once?!" he cried as BonBon continued complaining.
As cool as the special effects were, Mike was far more interested in finding Foxy and making sure he was okay. Why didn't Jeremy call off the shoot? It wasn't like him to keep it going when the lead was down. And if he'd been zapped hardcore -Mike still saw weird sparks and shadows, even after blinking a few times-, then why didn't they have the studio medic tend to him? Hell, even Vincent knew some basic first aid from hanging around the child actors, whenever he wasn't busy turning magenta over something Scott whispered into his ear.
So when Freddy leaned into the doorway from the main office entry while Jeremy did improv with BonBon, Mike lit up and moved towards him, raising a hand in greeting. "Freddy! Man, I'm glad to see ya. Where's Foxy? Is he okay?" he asked. The bear blinked in surprise, the black eyes of his Haunted Mode switching off to reveal his normal blues.
"Uh... what?" Freddy questioned, looking baffled.
A strange smell wafted around Freddy; Mike noticed it once he was close enough and wrinkled his nose, one hand rising to cover it. "Ergh, seriously? What did you get into? You smell like a dead animal," he complained, then flapped a hand dismissively. "Nevermind. The stagehands can get you the spare suit in a bit. I need to see Foxy, make sure he's okay after that power surge. It's freakin' dark in here; did our regular generator short out?"
Freddy just stared at him, like he didn't get what he was saying. Mike sighed. The mic wasn't on them, right? He glanced around, but didn't see any of the modifications to the building for hiding cameras and sound equipment. Then again, low visibility was the point. So, not the focus, which meant free speaking. "Freddy, man, throw a dog a bone," he quipped with a half-hearted laugh.
"You... want to see Foxy?" Freddy asked, sounding like that was the strangest thing he'd ever heard. Mike scowled, drawing himself up rigidly. He'd let it slide that he didn't get any treatment and actually felt like he'd been manhandled while knocked out -his bodyguard was gonna get an earful for that, that's for damn sure-, but he drew the line at being easy to push aside when it came to his best friends.
"Take me to Foxy. Now," he growled. Freddy stared a moment longer, then seemed to deflate, reaching out to take Mike's arm in his hand and tugging him into motion. On reflex, he resisted the pull -too many attempted kidnappings by crazed fans, hence bodyguard- before catching himself and falling into step beside the animatronic bear.
As they walked away from the office, Mike tried getting more details from Freddy on what had happened. "Did anyone call for repairs? How far are we set back for shooting? Where's everyone else?" But Freddy just kept silent even as his expression grew more confused. Had there been software damage?
Wait... was Freddy's grip getting tighter?
"Freddy, loosen up, you're squeezing my arm too tight. You know how I am about bruises." Mike tugged at the massive furry hand wrapped around his upper arm, trying to pry open those fingers with his free hand. "Freddy... Freddy!"
The bear looked down at him, blue eyes replaced with the creepy black with white pupils of Haunted Mode. Had to be a malfunction, had to be!
"Freddy! Cut! Cut! Stop record! C'mon, Freddy, snap out of it!" Mike shouted in growing alarm. The show codes weren't working! He dug in his heels, pulled at his arm, and stumbled forward when Freddy turned the corner towards the largest room in the pizzeria and yanked him along. "Gngh!" Pain shot up his arm, like it would have been pulled out of the socket if he resisted more. Mike unwillingly went along, blinking back tears as he kept his struggles to a minimum. What was going on?!
"That hurt," he mumbled, shaken by the violent reaction. "F-Freddy, let go, please! Something's wrong with you. Just let me go, I'll find one of the tech guys, we'll repair you; I'll pretend this never happened! Just let go!"
They entered the large room and Mike went still in shock. This wasn't the main room of the pizzeria/studio. Where were the video and audio equipment and systems? Where was the studio break area? Where was the little green room for the kids? The cast, the crew, the other animatronics?! All that was here was a massive dining area in front of a stage where Frederick and Chirp stood, a small game and ride corner, and a prize corner with Marionette's giant present box pushed against the wall. Windows lining the walls showed a purple-black sky in patches through the massive storm, lightning flashing bright against the checkered floor.
"It was afternoon earlier...." Mike whispered in confusion, wincing as Freddy moved again and dragged him along. "Hey! Stop! I don't understand what's going on! Where's everyone?!" he blurted out, struggling again and flinching when the grip tightened further, "S-stop! You're gonna b-break my a-arm! Aaah!"
"Freddy! Severo admin Freddy!" Jeremy's voice called out, and Freddy grew still, grip growing slack as his eyes dulled. Mike quickly pulled free, stumbling back until he hit the giant present, holding his arm close and shaking, eyes wide. Oh god, what now? This was completely off script and, on top of that, everyone but Jeremy and a few animatronics was gone! "Mike! What are you doing?! Get away from them!"
"I-I-!" Mike stammered, mind going blank as Jeremy ran up to him, the smoke-black Freddy mask covering his face.
"Let's go! That won't hold him for long since it isn't a complete command!" the young man told him, grabbing his wrist and pulling him away from the present. At least he got the good hand. "I should have called Miss M to get you; something's definitely wrong if you let yourself get captured and taken all the way to the Marionette without a fight."
He ran after Jeremy, trying to make sense of things and failing. Everything was wrong. It was like he was trapped in an episode of Five Nights at Freddy's, but there were no commercial breaks to let him have a chance to think. Was this a nightmare? It had to be. But the pain in his arm, the soreness of his chest and the throbbing in the back of his head... they all felt real.
No, this had to be a horrible dream! He got zapped and right now he was probably lying on that stupid cot in the medic station in the converted pizzeria-to-studio, the one with the one spring that kept squeaking no matter how much oil it got and it drove everyone crazy to hear it so they worked really hard to avoid getting hurt and Mike could feel tears running down his face as he begged to wake up, just wake up, 'Please, let me wake up!'...
He was in the brightly lit office again, Jeremy pulling him to the sofa as the mask vanished and left behind a concerned expression on the young and friendly face.
"Mike, are you okay? What happened? Why are you crying?" he asked, eyes wide and innocent and so, so worried and it was just all too much.
'This is all wrong! This is all wrong! I want to wake up! Please let me wake up!'
And Mike collapsed on the spot in a dead faint.
Chapter 3: 2:43 PM - Scripted World
In the world of lights, camera, action, Foxy is beyond confused to find his best friend, Mike Schmidt, has woken up terribly violent and angry from that electric shock.
Mike himself is too dazed and disoriented to do anything but react in the way he's always known to keep himself and Jeremy safe from the animatronics. Will that and the face of an old foe be what undoes him in this strange dream world?
Foxy whined in worry, looking down at his friend slumped back against the generator. His hand and hook were both pressed against the machine under Mike's arms, holding him up as the man remained slack with unconsciousness. Odd, there seemed to be an expression of faint anger on his face that was fading in his sleep... and were those dark circles under his eyes? Mike never complained of lack of sleep; in fact, Foxy lost track of the number of times they took naps together during their times off the set, curled on the green room floor while Mike leaned against him comfortably. So why the suddenly paler skin tone and faintly sunken eyes of fatigue?
"Cut! Foxy, is he okay?" the director yelled, leaning forward to try and see better. The pizzeria walls had been hollowed to provide space for the crew to move through for filming, but made it harder for them to get out once inside. Foxy gave them an uncertain look before turning back to Mike, ears pricking forward.
"...nngh...." Mike uttered a soft groan, flinching a little in his sleep. When one especially violent shudder nearly made him fall, Foxy quickly scooped Mike up and away from the slightly smoking generator.
"I'll be taking him to the medic station, iffin ye don't mind, Mr. Director, sir," he told the hidden man and began walking out of the small maze of rooms and halls towards the main room. It didn't take Foxy more than a few seconds into that walk to realize Mike felt differently in his grip compared to the last time he carried the actor away from a wrecked shoot.
He felt lighter than usual, lighter but denser, like he'd traded the softness of luxury food for the leanness of muscle made tough. 'Has he been doing secret pirate trainin'?' He wouldn't put it past Mike to try new things to get a better feel for his role in the show since Jeremy had exploded into popularity with the younger audiences.
Foxy had just reached the main hallway when he felt those same lean muscles suddenly grow tense, coiled up and ready to spring into movement.
"Ghk!" There was the brief little snort of surprise Mike always made when caught off guard, right before breaking into wheezing laughs that shook him from head to toe and livened up his surroundings. Only this time there was no joke made or laughter; Mike suddenly snarled and lashed out, lifting one leg close to his body and then thrusting it up and out while twisting in Foxy's arms. In that one fluid motion, not only did Mike slam his heel into the underside of Foxy's jaw, snapping his head up and back in shock and from surprisingly powerful force, but he also slipped free and tumbled across the floor before bouncing back to his feet, one arm lifted defensively while his other hand gripped at his head.
"God fucking damn it, that shit hurt! But you're not stuffing me in a Fazfuck suit tonight!" Mike snapped furiously, carefully sliding backwards as his own unsteadiness made it obvious he couldn't walk yet, far less run.
Foxy rubbed at his mouth, startled to hear that language from his friend and hurt by the sudden attack. What was going on? Why was he acting that way? The filming had stopped; Mike could stop playing the part of angry guard now!
"Mikey, lad, calm down," he tried to placate the man, gesturing with his hook. Mike slid back another step, teeth bared fiercely as his shoulders lifted, looking all the world like an angry, injured dog ready to bite whatever came near. "It be yer old pal, Foxy, remember? Ye had a nasty shock from the generator, to be sure."
"No, we're not 'pals', ya mangy coyote," Mike growled and took another step back, eyes squinting and blinking rapidly, as though trying to clear something from his sight in that manner. "...Can't... remember... what happened to me."
"Let me help ye," Foxy offered, stepping forward and halting in surprise when his friend shuffled back, throwing out an arm to press against the wall for support. It was starting to hurt, hearing and seeing Mike reject him like this. Why was he doing this?!
"Stay back! Jeremy didn't reset you, so you're just trying to fuck with my head," Mike spat out, reaching for something small and black at his waist. "Don't come any closer."
Foxy felt torn between listening to him and staying put, and ignoring him and pressing on to get him help. The decision was made for him when Mike's eyes widened and he gasped softly.
"Music box! It's not playing!" he yelped and spun on his heel, bolting down the hall and screaming Jeremy's name in fear.
"Miiiike! I'm over heeeeeere!" Jeremy yelled out from the main room, "Are you dooooone?!"
Maybe it was the storm and the thunder, the lightning flashes making the room at the far end look spooky and haunted; whatever the cause was, it had Mike racing there in a force of fury, roaring at the top of his lungs. "You piece of shit puppet, you'd better let Jeremy go by the time I get there!" he shrieked as Foxy gave chase, alarmed by the sheer amount of utter rage in his friend. What did that electrocution do to him?! "You touch one hair on my kid's head, and I'm gonna fucking strangle you with your own goddamn wires, you spindly-ass psycho machine!"
Foxy leaped into the room just in time to witness Mike barge through the place, kicking aside equipment and sending kids and crew scattering. His eyes were wide and wild, the man practically foamed at the mouth, and he gunned straight for the giant present that Marionette liked to curl up inside for his naps.
At that moment, Marionette had been holding a conversation with Jeremy, but now both of them were staring at Mike in shock and alarm.
"What did he-?" the Marionette began, but never finished. Mike whipped out the black device, screamed in a fury, and leaped to slam it into his face. A blast of electricity surged into the Marionette, the animatronic shrieking once in convulsions before collapsing into the box.
"Mike! What the hell was that for?!" Jeremy yelled in a mix of shock and anger before he yelped at getting his wrist grabbed. Mike pulled him from the box, turning the device to point at the rest of the room.
"Wha-? What is this?" Mike questioned in alarm, looking at each of the cast and crew like they were strangers. Foxy pushed his way forward, holding up a hand for peace when Mike pointed the device -taser- at him. "Who the hell are all you people and what the fuck did you do to this place? Boss didn't say shit about renovators comin' back to work on Freddy's overnight."
"Uh, Mike? You okay? Whatever beef you got with Marionette, you're supposed to take it up with the director," Chris told him and Mike just couldn't understand it. What was he talking about? Why were Fritz and Chris here with the animatronics fully awake in the middle of the night?! They were all gonna get stuffed!
But none of the robots were moving, just stared at him like he had fucking lost it.
He felt Jeremy twist out of his grip and looked back to check on him, blinking when the younger guard shot him a glare and ran past him to stand by Foxy. What? But... did he use a command after all? Had he screwed up something?
Or was this just some weird dream he was having? He remembered getting zapped... was he knocked out? Then was he on his way to getting stuffed? Or did Jeremy save him and drag his ass back to the office?
Mike didn't know, couldn't figure it out. This was too strange to be real, but his taser worked and he felt sore from hitting the floor after escaping Foxy so it had to be real. But it couldn't be real, the Fazfucks weren't stuffing anyone and it was too bright to be the middle of the night shift, like it was daylight.
What was going on? What was happening?
"Am I awake? Am I asleep?" Mike asked himself, one hand rising to hold his head as a heavy weariness crept over him, threatening to pull him under.
Foxy crept closer, scooting along with ears pulled back and hand reaching out and Mike backed away, sidestepping to reach an entrance to the pizzeria that he knew hadn't been in the prize corner area just hours earlier. Damn, even the layout of the place was different, all of it fucking with his head.
"Stay away... stay away from me!" he yelled, shaking as he tried to make sense of all the changes. All of it was wrong; no one was acting normally, people and stupid machines alike. Even Jeremy wasn't himself!
He had to get to Doll.
Mike turned and bolted for the door just as a large figure stepped through. He collided with them, bounced off the other guy with a grunt, and rubbed his nose, growling. What the fuck?! It was like hitting a brick wall!
"And where does my pretty bird think he's going?"
...No. It couldn't be!
Mike froze, lifted his eyes to stare at the face of a man that was supposed to be dead, ripped apart in the parking lot of Freddy's Pizza weeks ago.
Big and broad and sporting that fucking amused little grin, Panther squinted his eyes at him and laughed, a low rumbling sound. "It wouldn't do to have the pretty bird fly away blind," he purred.
"You're supposed to be dead!" Mike screamed in a mix of terror and rage, leaping back to raise his fists defensively, "Don't you fucking come near me, you psycho fuck!"
"Mike! Calm down! What are you talking about?" Jeremy called out from behind him. Mike shook his head, eyes focused entirely on making sure the behemoth was always in his sights. All wrong! This was all wrong!
"You're dead! I saw you die! I was fucking out of it from surgery, but I know you got ripped to fucking pieces by Freddy and his fuckboys!" he yelled and jumped back when Panther took a step towards him. "Don't come near me! Don't touch me! Stay the fuck back! What the fuck is going on?!"
"Why is Michael acting so crazy? What happened?!"
"Director, Mike's completely losing it! He attacked Marionette and now he's screaming that his bodyguard's a zombie or something!"
"He's finally cracked. I knew it would happen one day. Scott, you owe me ten bucks."
Too many voices, too many things being said that didn't make sense to him; Mike covered his ears with his hands, shaking in place and breathing hard and fast. All wrong. All wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Had to find Doll. Doll would make it all right again.
"Get away. Get away! Get the fuck away from me!" he finally screamed aloud and lunged, a desperate motion to get past the hulking dead man walking that wasn't supposed to be there, trying to reach the door.
"Stay down," Panther growled, turning in place and grabbing him in mid-stride. Mike struggled, lashing out in a fury, only to be slammed into the floor and pinned in place roughly.
Dazed and battered by that one body slam, he managed to grab onto Panther's wrist, digging nails in to try and force the other man to let go and glaring up at him through dimming vision.
'No... not again...!'
"Sleep, my pretty bird."
But between the shock of the drastically different pizzeria, the wrongness of everyone in it, and the return of a man who should be dead after trying to kidnap him so many times in a single night, Mike's own brain simply gave up on trying to make sense of it and quit.
And the world faded to dark as Mike finally went slack.
Chapter 4: 6:00 AM - Original World
In the world where Freddy Fazbear and the band try to murder the night watch every night, Mike finds himself swaying back and forth in his thoughts on whether he is living in a nightmare he can't wake up from or mistakenly fallen into an alternate reality that makes him yearn to go home to his own world. Until he finds someone that only exists as a memory in his heart....
Jeremy punched out with a tired sigh. That had been an exhausting shift what with the storm and the power outage and Mike getting zapped hard enough that he wasn't acting like himself at all....
He looked back at the sofa, gazing over the figure still asleep there under the thick blanket. It had startled and frightened Jeremy when Mike just collapsed on the spot, but a quick check over let him know the day guard wasn't injured. Trying to wake him up only got Jeremy small whimpers and shivers, so he simply pulled him onto the sofa again, covered him up snugly, and slipped the Freddy Mask onto his face.
The rest of the night passed with the usual amount of terror, so not bad at all. Now came the hard part; getting Mike to go home for some rest in a proper bed.
"Mike, c'mon, shift's over," Jeremy called out, shaking him by the shoulder and taking the mask away. Mike scrunched up his face and buried himself deeper into the blanket. "C'mon. I'll walk you home, all right?"
"Am I awake yet?" Mike's voice finally mumbled out. Jeremy smiled in relief. The Little One still couldn't possess him and lingered worriedly around the night guard, but in the light of dawn it was hard to think of danger.
Jeremy nudged and prodded until Mike was sitting up, looking up at him like he hadn't slept at all. The older man blinked slowly and let out a breath in a slow exhale.
"I'm really stuck here, huh?" he mumbled. "Stupid nightmare... I'm pretty sure I didn't eat bad catering to get this." Jeremy blinked -catering?- and shook his head.
"Miss M's lunches are really good. I don't think she could make anything that could give you nightmares," he said and reached out to him. "C'mon, I'll help you home."
Mike gave him a strange look, almost dismayed, but then it was gone and he was standing up, readjusting his hat on his head. "Fine. Let's see where home is here," he decided. "So... Jeremy. What do we do after work?"
He said his name like he wasn't sure of it? 'Please tell me this isn't going to be like that episode of Sailor Moon where Tuxedo Mask loses his memory,' Jeremy thought with a sinking feeling, 'because that sure as hell did not end well for the Scouts!'
"I dunno about you, but I just go home and do some other work before getting rest for my next shift," he said instead. He picked up his backpack and placed his flashlight in his locker. "Are you okay? You took a pretty nasty shock and almost got carried off by Foxy to be stuffed, and then you walked with Freddy, of all people, straight to the Marionette!" Jeremy threw his hands up in exasperation when Mike just stared blankly at him. "I ought to get you to a hospital, but you'll just complain about the cost and walk right out in half an hour."
"You lost me back where you said Foxy was gonna stuff me. Like, for real? Off script?!" Mike exclaimed, startled expression on his face, "Why?! He's one of my best friends!"
'Oh yeah. He's losin' it.'
"Now there's a phrase I never imagined you capable of saying without sarcasm," Jeremy sighed and gestured as he headed out. "C'mon, let me get you to Miss M in one piece before she drives here and bangs on the doors again."
He kept an eye on Mike as they walked out, watching him look around with mild confusion on his face. Had the shock done internal damage? Mike's confusion and disorientation was worrisome but at the same time he had clear eyes, a much healthier appearance, and a strangely bright look to him. Like he had more control of himself mentally and emotionally. Jeremy thought back to how quickly and smoothly Mike had cleared his expression when he was facing him. If that was because of an electric surge, maybe it was good that it happened.
Maybe not, if it made him walk off with killer animatronics on a whim.
"...different," Mike muttered under his breath, glaring around himself like the building had offended him. That was more like the Mike Jeremy knew. "Not the studio. What the hell's going on?"
Jeremy unlocked the front door to let Fritz and Chris in. "Good morning, guys. The Fazbands moved around a lot during the outage, but I sent them back to position about fifteen minutes ago, so they should be good until show time," he greeted with a tired smile. "I'm taking Mike home; think he might have gotten a jolt or something."
"I'm right here, y'know," Mike grumbled before speaking up. "Hey, Fritz, Chris, why did you and the rest of the cast bail on me?!"
"What? Okay, yeah, he's acting off," Chris remarked with an incredulous lift of an eyebrow while Fritz pouted beside him. "All those double shifts must have finally scrambled his brain." Jeremy snorted, hands flying up to hold back laughter -that was mean but funny- and Mike just threw his arms up with an aggravated sigh.
"You're all out to get me!" he declared.
Walking beside Jeremy while he coasted on a bike, Mike thought over all that he could remember happening. The shoot for the generator scene had gone perfectly up until that electric surge. He had blacked out and woke up in the office setting from that awful alarm, feeling like he'd been manhandled and carted around like a sack of potatoes. Definitely not how one should treat a popular tv star.
Only Mike woke up in some bizarre reality where the animatronics that had always been his friends were now out to get him, Jeremy had a strangely darker air to him, no one took him seriously and even the city was all wrong! And his car was gone! He had pulled out his keys when he and Jeremy left the pizzeria and triggered the alarm to let him locate it, but nothing happened. Jeremy just gave him a blank look, like he thought Mike was stupid for saying he had a car.
'Damn, and I had five payments left on it too!'
So now Mike walked by Jeremy, fiddling with his phone. He tried calling the director, Scott, and Vincent, but every number registered as not in service. A faint flutter of unease began rising in his gut, so Mike went straight for the one thing that always helped calm him during these times. He flicked through his phone's media library, touched a file, and lifted it to his ear to listen.
"Hey, Mikey, it's me, Doll! Heheh! Who else would it be? I hope you're doing good on your shift. Can't wait to see you in the morning! I love you! ...Was that a good audition?"
Her voice was soothing, like a warm shower over sore muscles after a long leisurely jog. Immediately, Mike was relaxing again, breathing a sigh of relief that, even in this nightmare world, her file was safe. He could keep hearing her voice.
He slipped the phone back into his pocket as Jeremy led him up to an apartment building. Where was this? Is this where his not-quite other best friend lived? But didn't Jeremy say that they'd be going to Mike's home? This was not the nice house he lived in with his two collies. What the hell was this?
They went up a flight of stairs to a door where Jeremy stopped and looked at him expectantly.
'Crap.' So he was supposed to be living in this tiny place? Mike felt his heart sink further into his gut. This had to be a hell of a nightmare, he didn't think he could stomach the idea of this being a real alternate reality world. Though how he could have wound up in one was still a mystery; Mike knew he should have watched some of those sci-fi shows Jeremy and Fritz kept going on and on about. If not for the competition in the lineup then at least for crap like this happening to him.
He lifted his hands helplessly as Jeremy continued staring at him. He didn't have keys to this place. Hell, he had keys to a car that didn't exist now. The kid sighed, shaking his head, then rang the doorbell. "Miss M! Mike lost his key and he got kinda shaken up last night! Could you let us in, please?!" he called out.
'Wait, I live with someone named Miss M.? Oh, god, please don't be a dominatrix. I'm gonna run if I see black leather and chains.' Mike could already feel himself preparing to bolt for the stairs. 'I don't wanna have to go through that again....'
The door opened and, as the mysterious Miss M appeared with a puzzled smile, Mike felt time slow to a crawl, his heart dropping to the floor and then rocketing back up to his throat, pounding loud and insistent. His vision tunneled, blacking everything until only the woman remained, standing there with her beautiful smile and hand reaching out to him.
He couldn't speak, couldn't think, couldn't hear or see anything else but her. Her. The little sparkle in her eyes that came when she smiled or laughed; the way her hair fell just a little over her face when she giggled, tempting him to brush it back whenever he saw it; the delicate way she nibbled at her lower lip, just a tiny bit, when she grew shy or flirty... there was no doubt. This was her.
This was Doll, the first woman to ever take that title in the show, and as far as Mike was concerned she would forever be 'the' Doll. His Doll.
He reached back out, trembling. Took her hand and let her pull him into the tiny little heaven from whence she came. The door closed behind him somehow -he didn't care- and Mike stepped closer to the bewitching angel that looked him over so carefully, so tenderly.
"You don't look hurt, and your eyes are still yours. Do you feel okay, Mikey?" she asked him and her voice was music to him, washing over him and the file on his phone was a pale and poor quality imitation of the real thing. Her hand in his, smooth skin and solid and warm. He reached out with his free hand, slowly and carefully sliding it around her waist, watching her face for any sign that he was dreaming, wasn't welcome, was acting on wrong instinct.
Her face flushed and her smile widened, grew warm, her eyes darkening, lidding, perfect little tongue flicking out to lick her lips. "Was the night rough on my poor Mikey? Do you want to be rough back?" she purred in that beautifully husky voice and he was lost to her.
His Doll. His Doll.
She was alive.
Mike caught her close, tangled hands in her hair and his mouth pressed to hers, drinking her in as though she were a fountain of the purest, sweetest water and he came to her a parched and haggard man.
Just as he remembered. Just as he remembered and so much more. Vibrant and warm and soft and pliant in his arms and so very alive, very real. Not a picture on his phone, not a media file in his playlist, not a memorial in the studio with her photo and a rose and a candle and the word 'Deceased' stamped in blood-red over her bright and shining smile she was here so warm kissing him feverishly hands loosening his tie his shirt-
But not her Mike. Not the one who belongs to this world of terror in the night.
And he gasped and broke away, shoved himself back and breathing hard, hands clutching his head as a sob tore through him. Not his Doll, not at all; he was a bastard for touching another Mike's Doll like that, how could he?
"I can't... I can't!" And as she reached out to him, confusion on her face, lips lightly bruised and eyes burning with passion, Mike stepped further away. Agony, it was agony; his very being screamed to go back to her, but he wasn't hers, and she wasn't his, and he had to get out, get out, get out now! "I'm sorry... I'm not... I'm not the right one. I am, but I'm not, and I can't... can't explain-!"
If she touched him again, he wouldn't have the strength to break free of the seductive illusion. So Mike did the only thing he could think of.
He ran. From the woman who could have been his Doll if he hadn't known full well she was dead in his world, Mike ran. He had a taste of heaven and he had to turn away, turn away from the angel whose loved one he had stupidly replaced. And his heart felt shattered all over again, tears burning trails down his face as he fled the apartment for the streets beyond the quaint wooden door.
Chapter 5: 4:36 PM - Scripted World
In the world of actors and spotlights, Mike Schmidt awakens to find nothing makes sense and some weird blind purple guy sounds like he's the craziest of the bunch. But when he discovers his whole world has been destroyed, it may just be Mike himself who has finally fallen over the edge to insanity.
It was the careful and delicate touch of fingertips over his face that jolted Mike back to consciousness, eyes snapping open and looking around wildly, taking in as much as he could. The hands pulled away from him swiftly, but not so fast that Mike didn't catch a flash of purple.
Touch on his back, a line of yellow, 'Do not'....
"Nngh!" Mike pressed a hand to his head, shivering as a sharp pain stabbed through his skull. Hadn't had one of those broken flashbacks in a while now, not since the night of the break-in.
"May wanna stay down a bit longer. Panther tends to be rough if he thinks you're going to be troublesome." A voice spoke up, quiet, dark, almost rough; Mike thought of birthday cake for some reason. Why did he get that connection? "You were moved to the med station. The others are talking, since you gave them a shock. I decided to 'see' for myself what the trouble was while they're freaking out, so to speak."
He turned his head -oh, hey, he was lying down on a cot with a squeaky spring, fun- and stared at the strangest man he'd ever seen in his life.
Purple from head to toe, hair, skin, clothes -well, not the whole thing, he dressed casual but that was still a shitload of purple-, and eyes solid white, almost glowing blank; the guy looked like some bizarre cartoon come to life. He was also sitting by the cot, hands neatly folded and resting on one knee. "I can feel you staring at me. I'm told I have a very strange skin color. Purple, they say. Doesn't mean shit to me; everything I see is black." He smiled, wide and sharp, and Mike gave another involuntary shiver. "I'm blind, in case you couldn't tell. Name's Vincent."
"Mike Schmidt. You're freakin' me out, man. What the hell was with touchin' my face like that? I don't know you!" Mike growled. Vincent held up his hands, smile softening to something more human and less maniacal.
"I was checking on things. You certainly have the facial structure for Mike Schmidt, but I can feel what the others couldn't see. Your nose has been broken a couple times, there's a change in your skull from bone to plate, and a stiffness in your jawline from clenching your teeth on a regular basis," the purple guy told him. "That tells me that you appear to be a Mike Schmidt, but not the one we know. It would explain you racing through the studio like someone set your ass on fire."
Mike glared at him for a minute before remembering he couldn't see, then carefully sat up, rubbing at his sore shoulder. "You're not making any sense," he grumbled. Vincent reached out towards him and he growled again; he really didn't like being touched. But the other man just waited, one eyebrow raised as if to silently ask permission, and Mike eventually allowed it, leading Vincent's hand to his shoulder.
"Ah, I feel the problem," the strange man murmured and suddenly pressed in hard and twisted his fingertips. Mike's vision went black and he leaned aside, sharp flash of pain racing across his shoulder and down his arm before a relaxing feeling swept over him. He sighed in relief and Vincent laughed softly, a light and pleasant sound. "Your muscles had knotted and trapped a nerve, so it would pinch on occasion and cause you pain. You were whimpering in your sleep." The man tapped on his own shoulder. "I just hit the source of the knot and opened it up. It will take time, but you should heal and get full mobility of your arm back."
"Uh... thanks," Mike told him in surprise. That was good news, something he was genuinely grateful for; with both arms in action, he had a better chance of using his full strength to help Jeremy out. His leg was still a whole other issue, but he'd take what he could get at this point. "So, Vincent, right? What'd ya mean that I'm a Mike Schmidt? Like, you have another one around?"
Vincent tugged at a few loose strands of hair hanging over his eyes, gaze lidding as he pursed his lips thinly. "Mmm, this may sound crazy, but after listening to Jeremy and Fritz argue sci-fi logistics for hours in the backstage between shoots, I'm fairly sure I've got a good understanding of what happened." He lowered his hand, a concerned expression on his face. "There had been an electric storm earlier this afternoon-"
"Noon?! It was the fucking middle of the night! I missed the rest of night shift?!" Mike interrupted in horror, scrambling to get up. Nothing else Vincent was saying made sense, nor did the strangeness of the reworked Freddy's Pizza layout, but first in his mind was making sure Jeremy was safe -and sane again, since he was acting weird- and then finding Doll so he could get his head on straight. She always made things clear for him.
"Mike, listen!" Vincent snapped sharply, and he barely gave the man a glance as he searched for his shoes. "It was night for you in your world, but it was day for us in this one!"
His 'world'? "Wha-?" He nearly stumbled over the cot, one found dress shoe in hand. He reared back slightly when Vincent lifted a slender white cane, clicked his tongue a few times, then pointed the cane at him directly.
"Two worlds, two Mike Schmidts; it's the most insane theory ever spoken but it's the only explanation I can offer," the purple man explained gruffly. "Our Mike Schmidt is an actor, the lead in our show. I have no idea who the fuck you are in your world but that storm set something off and swapped the two of you. You've got Mike's face and voice, but there are scars and injuries on your body that sure as hell didn't exist on his."
Mike held up his hands, dry and disbelieving laughter bubbling out of him. Just his luck to wake up in the loony bin; maybe the double shifts and recent lack of sleep finally scrambled his brain. "Yeah, sure. Whatever, Purple Guy." He slipped on his shoes and straightened his clothes, checking around to be sure he wasn't noticed by anyone else, especially the hulk that reminded him of Panther. Had to be another dude; Panther was dead, had to be, Mike saw Freddy drag the asshole's remains all over the parking lot like a kid with a toy. "I'm gonna leave now, take a peek at Jeremy to be sure he's still alive and speaking to me, and then head home to kiss my Doll good morning. Cuz it's fucking morning. Don't gimme any anime bullshit." Mike gave a little wave at the blind man and promptly walked off.
This was all insanity, yep. Just walk off the crazy, it'll all be fine. Head home, get some rest, let Fritz deal with the bratty hordes for the day, and take comfort in Doll's hugs before she headed off for work. Or maybe he'll ask for some extra love, for the sake of closeness and joy in each other. But a simple hug and kiss was nice and welcome, too.
Mike darted past equipment he didn't recognize and through hiding spots as he skirted around the animatronics walking freely. It may be day, but he still didn't trust a single fucking one of them. He had been getting a little soft towards Chicacoo, but then she pulled that shit on him with Golden Freddy and he bumped her straight back to 'fucking Japanese bird needs to be shot' status. He firmly ignored her attempts at getting attention from him, when she wasn't flashing her pink color all over the place at least. Damned distracting.
Like now, now he was distracted with thinking about that damned pink part and he ended up tripping over a case of something and falling over, hitting the floor with a grunt.
Something jostled nearby, like a wooden table, rattling as a dried out rose fell and landed in front of him. Mike rubbed his head through his hat, eyeing the dead flower. What the hell was that? He reached out and picked it up, rolling the stem between his fingers as he stood. It seemed to have fallen from the table. Mike looked over to see what else he might have knocked off and almost immediately cringed. Some picture frames had been knocked over, facing down beside candles and flower petals. Some kind of memorial?
Mike placed the rose on the table and carefully walked away. Not gonna risk getting caught by sticking around to clean up. At least he put the rose back.
He ran for the door; Doll was waiting for him and he didn't feel up to facing Jeremy after the glare the kid gave him over tazing the stupid Marionette.
His apartment wasn't there.
Or rather, the apartment building where he and Doll lived wasn't there. It was just an empty lot with some building material piled in the corner. What the fuck was this shit? Mike stared in shock, wondering if he was dreaming. What was he going to do now? They were homeless! He put so much time and effort to provide a home for him and Doll, cheap as it was, and now it was gone.
And where was Doll? Where could she be? Back home to her dad?
Mike pulled out his phone, dialing her number. She should be awake by now, right? Had to be. Can't knock down a building with people in it.
'The number you have dialed is not in service.'
He let his arm drop, breath catching in his throat as his eyes burned with tears. Not in service? Did she change numbers? But... that can't be right. He had proposed, she said yes, now he was working to save up for the wedding, and then....
So where was she? Where was she? Where was Doll? Where was she?
The question kept spinning in his mind as Mike pressed the heels of his hands to his head, breath quickening as the world hazed in front of him. Had to find her. Where is she? Think, think! Maybe she was at her dad's, like he first thought. He had the big guy's number, too.
'The number you have dialed is not in service.'
Mike was struck with a feeling not unlike his high school days, where he got into fights with others constantly over stuff like his grades and his scars; the sensation of being beaten senseless, pain coursing through his body. He sagged in place, eyes wide but not seeing anything before him, vision distorted by tears and the numbness that sank into him.
She was missing. His precious Doll was missing. This was worse than when Freddy Fazfuck claimed he had her hostage, worse than when he watched Jeremy bleed nearly to death in his arms. He had to find her. But where to start? Where?
Jeremy. He'd know, right? Ever since that night during Jeremy's second week at Freddy's got Doll more aware of what was going on with the Toys, she and Jeremy got to talking to each other more and Mike was pleased with how motherly she got with the kid. Made it feel more like they were a family, and lord knew Jeremy needed that.
So, Jeremy would know if Doll had moved someplace and why her number was disconnected, right? She'd have told him, right?
Mike tried not to think about why she wouldn't have told him.
Okay, so back to Fuckboy's place. He could handle this. He could focus on getting to Freddy's, talking to Jeremy, getting to Doll, and holding her tight. All of this... this was getting to be too much for him.
He turned on his heel and fled the lot, racing back to the pizzeria. He had to find Doll. She had to be okay.
'Doll, please be okay!'
When Mike stepped into the pizzeria he very nearly stepped back out. Foxy bounded in front of him, ears pulled back and faintly panicked expression on his face. "Ye left the studio?! Why?! Everyone be worried for ye, lad!" the pirate exclaimed.
"Doll," Mike mumbled, pushing past him. Whatever else the stupid fox said meant nothing. He had to find Doll. Where was Jeremy?
There. Near that table of stuff he had messed up when he fell. Mike staggered over, reaching out to catch the night guard's attention since Jeremy was picking up the photos. "Jeremy, hey, where's Doll?" he asked, and his own voice sounded so distant and lost to him. He was lost without her, without Doll.
Jeremy gave him a puzzled look. "What? Which actor?" he returned and looked alarmed when Mike gripped his shoulders.
"Jere, buddy, don't joke with me. My Doll, your Miss M, I can't find her," he growled, anger sparking and that was good, that was feeling something other than confusion and unease and dread. "I tried to call her, but her number's disconnected. You gotta know where she is. Tell me!"
"Mike, seriously, I don't know which Doll you mean!" Jeremy cried, and he felt just a little bad that he looked scared, didn't want to ever make Jeremy feel like that again, but dammit he was scared, too, why couldn't he see that?! "Lots of people play the role of Doll in the show-!"
"Don't fucking joke with me! I'm talking about Doll! Where is she?! Where is my fiancée?!" Mike demanded, voice raising in volume as his dread soared to full on panic. He shook the young man. "My fucking apartment's been destroyed! I've lost my home, Jeremy, I can't lose her too!"
That must have set something off because Jeremy's eyes suddenly shot to the side before refocusing on him, the freckled face paling more than usual. The side?
Mike turned his gaze to that direction and spotted the memorial table thing again. There was no one else there and nothing else in that general direction. What had Jeremy looked at?
"Scott! Vincent! Hey! Mike's back! He's talking crazy again!" Jeremy suddenly yelled and the flash of anger flared back up in Mike again. Why the hell was Jeremy acting like such a dickwad all of a sudden?!
"I am not crazy! I feel like I'm going crazy working for this fucking hellhole pizza place and waking up to find my home and girlfriend gone," he ranted, storming over to the memorial, "and you're supposed to have my back in this shit and instead you're fucking around with this stupid table of dead shit-!"
He froze once he was in front of it, staring down at the placed photos with his arms still in the air.
Doll's face beamed up at him, radiant and happy, from within a simply decorated frame. Flowers and roses were placed around it, petals scattered around other smaller frames with more photos of Doll doing things he knew she'd never done because his sweet Doll was a librarian, not this movie star type. And there were newspaper articles with headlines that clamored for his attention but Mike's eyes were locked on one red word stamped over Doll's face.
Doll was dead.
And it felt like something just snapped inside him. Mike let his arms drop and laughed, slow and hiccuping, tears spilling from his eyes as his body shuddered. His legs gave out and he was sitting on the floor, head tilting back as he laughed again, shaky huffs and wheezes that made his chest ache and didn't drown out the rapid steps of multiple people and robots coming towards him.
She was gone. His Doll was gone. His hope, his dreams, his love, his everything... all gone.
It was over. He was done.
Mike sighed and let a deep weariness settle over him. He was so tired of this. He turned his gaze on the animatronic that crept up to him with that same concerned expression as before. 'Just get it over with, then.'
"Go ahead, Foxy," Mike mumbled flatly, "you've got your chance.
Chapter 6: 6:40 AM - Original World
In the world of five missing children and a night watch harboring secrets of the past, Mike the actor begins a search for a place to rest while looking for a way home. But just following a script he remembers doesn’t mean he’ll blend in so easily, as he discovers new twists that shake him.
Jeremy walked by his bike as he headed home. Every so often a tear would follow the trail laid by others down his cheek before dropping off to hit pavement. It happened so often now he barely paid it any thought now, just let the sadness and loneliness wash over him as always. Ever since getting to know Mike and Doll better outside of work, Jeremy had the sensation of being welcomed, wanted... loved. He barely remembered the feeling of family, so he hadn't recognized it until he caught himself calling Mike 'Dad' during a round of gaming. The older man just grinned, called him 'son', and promptly kicked his character into oblivion in the street fighting video game.
He didn't care about losing. Jeremy had a dad now, and things began clicking together in his head, growing more stable.
But he was still an outsider. He could visit, but he couldn't stay, no matter how much he yearned for it. He'd be a burden, tiny broken Jeremy; and so he held in his tears until he was away from the cozy apartment.
That's what he did now too, after closing the door on Mike and Doll before they gave him too much to see -'I can live a happy life not thinking about Mike and Miss M having fun'- and heading off. Hold in the tears until he broke again, peaceful thoughts cracking and drowning under the deep loneliness.
And then he heard footsteps running after him, rapid and unsteady, almost stumbling. 'Huh?' Jeremy rubbed at his eyes and turned in place to see who was in such a rush. His eyes widened. 'What the-?!'
Mike, shirt half opened and tie flapping loose, staggered up to him and practically collapsed on him, hugging him tightly as he sobbed. "I can't stay there! I can't! I don't belong here it's all wrong I'm not the one she loves don't take me back-!" the day guard wailed and babbled, words spilling out in a mess worse than his appearance. Jeremy struggled to keep upright, staring blankly into space as he lifted his arms and slowly hugged him back. Okay, so his dad wasn't done being crazy. Wonderful.
"Mike, what are you talking about?" Jeremy asked once his senses settled back in place. This was getting weird, and he talked to ghosts on a regular basis.
"I'm sorry, I can't stay with her, too much, it's too much," the other man kept saying, shaking as he made an effort to contain his sobbing and squeezing Jeremy just that much more for it.
What the hell was happening? Did something happen with him and Doll in the ten minutes he left them alone?! But how?! They were doing the whole lovestruck eyes thing at each other! For all the stupid stuff he and Mike get into at times, there was nothing Mike could do to get kicked out of his own home by Doll!
"Mike... Mike! Okay, let go, you're squeezing too tight!" Jeremy wheezed, eyes nearly bulging as Mike hugged him tighter and muffled another anguished wail into his shoulder. The sound was so achingly haunted and miserable, it echoed through Jeremy's body and tugged at his own earlier feelings of unbearable loneliness.
Why? Why would Mike feel that way?
He sighed as best he could, decided to wait until the day guard got it out of his system, and braced himself a bit better to support Mike's weight.
Ten minutes later, Jeremy was walking home again with Mike walking beside him in somber silence, fixing his clothes slowly. He had tried to talk to him about what happened, but the older man just bowed his head, hiding his eyes with the shadow cast by his hat, and bit his lip. Must've been bad. How could Mike have gotten chased out of his apartment when Doll was the sweetest and most forgiving person ever?
Loneliness knew loneliness, though, so Jeremy used one hand to keep his bike steady beside him as they walked and reached out with the other to grip the sleeve of Mike's shirt. It took several more yards to his aunt's house before he was rewarded with the feel of shaking fingers resting over his hand, an acceptance of sorts.
Jeremy allowed himself a small smile, feeling warm inside.
The door to the room over his aunt's garage opened after Jeremy jiggled his key in the lock. He sighed softly as he walked in with his bike. "Home, sweet home," he murmured with a dry chuckle, tossing his keyring onto his dresser while Mike stepped in almost shyly. "It's not much, but it's a roof over my head. I'm grateful for that."
He was, really. After his mother left him on her sister's doorstep and then took off without a glance back, his aunt had every reason in the world to drop him off at a children's center or, worse, some street corner far from here. But she plastered on a smile, took him in, tried to get him 'help', and walked on eggshells around him until Jeremy was sure she would crack sooner than he did.
His aunt and uncle made an effort to accept him, but he was too much of a memory to them, he supposed; a reminder of the events of 1987 and the whisper of 'murderer' floating in his shadow. But they were family on his mother's side, not his father's, so Jeremy living there was mostly out of obligation.
Didn't make the knowledge of it hurt any less.
"Different... it's... different," Mike whispered, sounding like he'd been beaten close to the edge of giving up and all it would take was one more solid whack to push him over. He made his way towards Jeremy's bed, then turned his head a little, hat brim still low and shielding his eyes. "May I-?" he asked softly.
So not like himself. "Yeah." Jeremy was too worn out for much else, and he couldn't work on the 1987 Incident notes with Mike here. May as well sleep. "Save me some space."
He didn't have spare clothes for Mike, but then the day guard crawled under the blankets and just lay there, facing one of the bedside tables and trembling. Whatever had happened, Mike was avoiding talking about it and Jeremy didn't believe it his place to pry. So he changed quickly into home clothes, slipped under the blankets and was asleep almost as soon as his eyes closed.
Mike woke slowly, rising from the fading memory of police lights, yellow tape, and paparazzi to stare blankly at the bedside table in front of his face. He hadn't dreamed about that day in over a year now, why did he-?
And then the events of earlier rushed back to him and Mike clenched his teeth to hold back his groan of shame and agony. He couldn't see her again, he made that promise to himself. If they met again, he didn't know if he could stop himself from taking her for his own, find a way to his own world and pull her with him.
His world; funny how easily he accepted the crazy idea that he was somehow in a world where Five Nights at Freddy's was more than a show. How was the Mike from this world doing? He hoped the animatronics were safe.
Behind his back was the weight of the other Jeremy. Mike couldn't picture his cheerful and excitable friend being this morose, this gloomy. Why were they so different? Even the Jeremy the Night Watch role was more adorkable nervousness than dark and secretive. Was the other Mike Schmidt different too?
He listened to the young man's soft breathing for a few minutes before feeling safe enough to get out of bed. A nap had helped him settle down much of his emotional turmoil, not enough to banish them but enough to let him function again. A shower would help with the rest. Mike searched the room carefully and quietly, finding a small bathroom he could use with a shower just large enough for him to use without feeling cramped.
He missed the luxurious bath he had back home. Oh well.
With no other clothes but his costume from filming, Mike had little choice but to redress in the uniform, running a hand over his head as he looked in the mirror. He regretted removing the hard work Chris put into his appearance, but there was little choice for the makeup used in creating his scars and the dark circles under his eyes, which had smudged and run when he cried his heart out and forced him to keep his eyes hidden from Jeremy. The synthetic pieces on his head were peeled off and tossed, ruined by his panic sweat from overnight and earlier. He washed away the rest of the makeup and glue in the shower. Now Mike could see his true appearance looking back at him; bright and alert eyes, smooth scalp from where he'd shaved to fit the scar pieces better.
Not good. Mike had a small makeup kit in his pocket for emergency touch-ups between takes, so he could use that to reapply the tired look of this world's recovering former night watch. He fished it out and opened the little compact, frowning at the limited amount of cool and dark toned powder. He'd have to buy more if he was stuck in this place longer than a couple days. But without the synthetic skin with crafted scarring that was custom made for his 'Bite of '87 Survivor' role, there was no way he could pass for the other Mike without his hat.
Even if he had the pieces, he didn't know how to put them on. Chris was the artist in charge of his makeup when he didn't fill in as the janitor on the show. Why would an actor need to know more than minor touch-up work when there was someone better trained and qualified on set?
With a sigh of dread that he was already thinking of long-term needs, Mike began applying the makeup to his eyes to get the sleep-deprived look. "Maybe it's Maybelline~," he sang under his breath with a wry smirk as he blended the color.
There; one Mike Schmidt, sleepily irritable security guard, ready for action. He tugged his hat back on, smiled weakly at his reflection, then left the bathroom.
The mirror flickered for a moment, a dim ghostly figure appearing within it. And then it was gone.
Mike prided himself on having the basics for adapting to various situations at any moment. An actor had to be prepared for anything and he tended to improv at random just to keep his friends on their toes. So, along with the little makeup kit, he also had his wallet with two IDs, one for Mike Schmidt the actor and one for Mike Schmidt the character. He hid his real card behind all the other assorted credit cards and moved the character card to the front.
There was petty cash, too, three hundred dollars; not much to work with but he was resourceful. And if he got desperate, he could borrow funds from the other Mike's account. He had a keyring with his car key, car alarm remote, and the 'keys' to the pizzeria-studio doors in his own world. His phone had numbers for his castmates, but since a few didn't connect he could safely assume the contact list was useless.
Be best to start collecting the numbers from this world's versions of his friends before he went out shopping....
Mike quietly unzipped Jeremy's backpack and searched for his phone. He ended up pulling out the phone and a glasses case. He looked at the case in curiosity. Did this Jeremy have bad vision? He opened it to peek, a slight smile tugging at his lips when he saw the red tinted lenses. Must be a fashion thing.
Back to his original task. Mike opened both phones and added Jeremy's number to his list, with the letters FNAF appended to the name so it wouldn't overwrite the original contact. When he went to add his own number, however, he froze in shock, heart dropping and blood running cold. The contact entry for this world's Mike... this Jeremy had added as a nickname... 'Dad'.
He was a worse asshole than the character he played.
Jeremy woke up to hear his room's door open and then close. Faintly puzzled by why his door would do that, it took him a moment before he remembered that Mike was in the room with him. Not the kind of impression he wanted to give his father-figure coworker. He began to get up, pausing at the feel of a large hand coming to rest on his shoulder.
"It's just me. I just left for a bit to grab some things from a store. Go back to sleep." Mike's voice was warm and soothing, but there was a tremor in his hand, like something had spooked him and he was trying to hold it in. Jeremy took another mental checklist of where he placed incriminating objects. His father's journal was in his desk drawer and his glasses were in his backpack. Things should be safe.
"̵M̴-͢mm̴m, ti̕red҉.͡ He͝'̛s ͘o̡ka҉y͝, I̧ sa̷w h͝im̛ ̨go̡ ̡t̢o̧ ̸th̴e ̡bat̛hroom̢ b҉ef͟ore̸ ̨I ̶t͟ook͡ ͟m͢y͠ ͠na͜p.̸ B͞ut more ̛rest soun̸d͟s̢ ̡go͟od̵.̴"͘ The Little One sounded drowsy and Jeremy couldn't blame her; she used much of her power with Mike, then after the surge evicted her from Mike's body she attached to him and had just enough strength to give him the Shadow Freddy Mask so he could rescue Mike. Failing to transfer back wore her out and she drifted in and out of wakefulness.
Okay, rest sounded ideal. Jeremy managed a sleepy smile up at Mike and closed his eyes again, dreaming of video games and anime marathons with the older man.
Mike waited until Jeremy was deep asleep, carefully withdrawing his hand and pressing it to his heart in hopes it would stop shaking. A son; dear god, the Mike of this world treated this Jeremy like a son. And stupid him, he ended up replacing someone who was so intensely loved. A spike of envy flashed through him, hot and fierce. This Mike had it all, had everything he could ever dream of; Doll to hold and love, and a son who admired and loved him.
For a tiny moment, Mike thought of letting the swap stay permanent, put his acting skills on for the pizzeria and then be himself with Doll and Jeremy off the clock.
But no, that was selfish and he had to go back somehow, switch them back before the other Mike ruined the show with his violent tendencies. Even if it meant being personally alone, he would continue being the centerpiece of the show, letting its popularity benefit his friends and improve their lives.
So, after the exchange of numbers and adjustment of contact entries, Mike headed out and walked the neighborhood until he had a general idea of the layout and asked directions to a nearby mini mall to buy clothes and necessities. He hoped Jeremy let him stay around; he didn't have the spare cash for a hotel and he couldn't go back to Doll.
Once he had supplies, he headed back to Jeremy's place, changed into the fresh casuals, pulled a beanie down over his head and prepared to head out again after putting Jeremy back to bed. Poor kid looked exhausted.
Mike had a mission. The switch happened in the pizzeria so he would go back and see if there were any clues to reverse it.
Freddy's Pizza, the real thing, looked fairly innocent by day. Mike looked up at the smiling bear, suppressing a shudder as he remembered seeing haunted black eyes staring at him, a mechanical grip strong enough to break bone. He rubbed his arm as he went inside, ready to search.
The noise level was amazing. Children ran all over, laughing, screaming in joy, playing around. Mike looked down the hall into the main dining area and stage room, watching Fritz's red hair move about as the other guard patrolled the place, lecturing and scolding unruly guests. Further away, in the prize corner, the giant present popped open after enough tickets were fed into it and the Marionette tossed confetti before offering a small prize wrapped in a gift box.
Mike smiled at the sight before looking to the other end of the hall. He'd been unconscious for most of his trip away from the generator room to the main portion of the pizzeria, but logic said that the room would be furthest away from the bustle of customers for safety reasons. So going down that way, past the hall entrance to all the party rooms, should lead him in the right direction. Since the switch happened in the generator room, his best chance of finding a way to undo it all would be there. With that, Mike turned away and headed down the main hall, unaware of the Fazband on stage turning their heads mid-song to watch him.
He absently shooed some kids away from the parts and service door, gave it a wary look, then headed down the adjoining hall towards the old pizzeria layout. There was an almost abrupt drop in sound level, like stepping out of the lifebeat of Freddy's into a tomb. It was so quiet and chill. Mike rubbed his arms as he stopped in the old dining room. Had he taken a wrong turn somewhere?
-Tap tap tap tap!-
Rapid footsteps caught his attention, startling him. Mike turned back, mouth dropping in shock as Chirp lunged at him from behind, a smile splitting her face.
Mike landed on his back with a grunt, arms reflexively wrapping around the slight frame of the shorter animatronic chicken. She cooed and rubbed her cheek against his shoulder, giggling. "I got you~! Even though you have the day off, you came back here!" Chirp exclaimed happily before sitting up on top of him. She kept just enough of her weight on him to keep Mike pinned without crushing him. He wheezed, grateful for that much. "Aww, I knew you liked us! See, we're not so bad!" Chirp went on, clasping her hands together and batting her eyes at him. "Ooh, does this mean you'll give us your data now?"
"Wh-what?" Mike didn't understand a single thing Chirp was talking about. She was far more physical compared to the Chirp of his world, who often sent him fan-mail and pressed flowers to show affection and appreciation. How would the Mike of this world respond? Aggressive rebuff? But it was day, the animatronics wouldn't be switched to hostile programming. Begrudging tolerance? She was way in his personal space and-
Was she playing with his shirt?
"Ch-Chirp? What are you doing?" Mike asked, wide-eyed and alarm making his voice end on a squeak. The animatronic chicken paused in her action of tugging at his collar to give him a strange look.
"What did you call me?" she returned in a low tone, smile falling more to a frown. She clacked her beak softly. "That's not my name." Her voice seemed thoughtful, eyes narrowing as she turned her head, looking at him askance. Mike froze in place, swallowing hard as he held his hands up by his head in a pacifying gesture.
Crap, he blew it already. Why was her name different? BonBon had the same name! Why not the others?!
"Ohhh! It's a pet name! Like how I call you Michael!" Chirp gasped in surprise, a pleased expression on her face as her hands flew up to her cheeks, "Aaah! Sugoi, Michael-senpai! It's so cute! I love it!" She wiggled in place, oblivious to Mike's growing discomfort, his face flushing red as he began to panic.
"Could you please get off of me?! You're going to fall and crush my ribs!" he cried and the animatronic yelped, fanning herself wildly.
"Aaa-aaaah! Gomen nasai~!"
A few minutes later, Mike walked the halls again in his search for the generator room, this time with Chirp as company. She promptly looped her arm around his, leaned close to him and hummed contentedly, making the search feel like some strangely surreal date. 'I did not just think that about a robot chicken in pink hot pants,' Mike sighed in silent exasperation. And she didn't answer him when he asked what she meant by taking his 'data'. He really hoped that wasn't a euphemism.
The sound of static hung in the air, growing louder or fainter as Mike walked around the halls and rooms. Chirp lifted her head from his shoulder, puzzled look on her face. At some point she had removed her beak, letting her endo teeth show in her smile. Now it was pulled down in confusion. "Mangle? What's she doing away from Kid's Cove at this time?" she murmured. "She's not due for a break for another five minutes."
"Maybe she just needed a little more time to herself and got loose early?" Mike wondered aloud, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. Chirp hummed, like she wasn't so sure, and hugged his arm a little more closely.
Louder, fainter, louder, fainter, until Mike came across a familiar looking hallway. He stopped with a cry, blinking rapidly. "Ah! This looks like the back hall of the studio! When I did my run with Foxy!" he exclaimed to Chirp, pointing down the hall. She raised an eyebrow at him, confused. He pulled his arm free, grabbed her hand and pointed again. "I have to go that way! C'mon! The generator must be there!" Mike told her and ran down the hallway with Chirp running alongside him.
"I don't know what you're talking about, but running with you is fun! Wheeee~!" she cheered.
The static now grew steadily louder without falling, until Mike burst into the generator room he'd been searching for, wide smile on his face that fell almost instantly into a shocked look. Chirp gasped and clutched Mike's arm again.
Sitting on the generator, or rather, crouched on it like a nesting spider, The Mangled stared at Mike with distant eyes, her jaws opened wide. And in between the bursts of static were voices that echoed into the room, voices that Mike knew so very well.
"Kkksssshhhhkkkssshcrkle... he doing, Vincent? ...Kksshh... -eeping now. Mike's still in shock- ...sshhkkkKrKrKrrccrkllee... -laddie begged me to kill him! Why wou- ...kkksssh...."
Chapter 7: 5:00 PM - Scripted World
In the world of glitter and glamour, Mike feels completely lost and broken. No Doll, a distant Jeremy, no home, nothing as it should be. Vincent tries to help make sense of it all, but his explanations seem far more crazy... up until a few dark truths start coming to light.
Vincent clicked his tongue, mostly out of distaste than anything else, as he leaned back against the prize box. The Marionette had recovered from his zapped state and hung over the edge of the box, rubbing his head with grumbled complaints. After the stunning declaration Mike had made telling Foxy to kill him, hell broke out in the studio.
Foxy refused the demand, of course; the two were best friends and Foxy was also programmed not to harm people, same as all the animatronics. Mike flipped out, flying from anguish to rage in an instant as he leapt up at the fox, screaming unintelligibly. The others reacted, Scott rushing forward with Boss to grab Mike and hold him back. The man had grabbed fistfuls of Foxy's fur between punches and ripped them free when he was finally pulled off. Vincent winced at the enraged screaming, hands covering his ears protectively and rendering further clicks useless.
There was something about Golden Freddy mentioned, and then more scuffling sounds. He lowered his hands to grab his cane, ready to move in case the fighting got close to his area. A strange smell wafted through the air past him, along with a strangely electric feeling that made his skin crawl. Vincent tensed, gripping his cane tightly, and jumped slightly when a hand came to rest against his back.
"It's me," a soft voice told him. Ah, Goldie, Freddy's special events episodes counterpart. Vincent relaxed; while he was good friends with Freddy, it was Goldie that developed an oddly protective streak towards him. It was strangely comforting to hear 'It's me' off script.
The screaming began to fade, muffled now, until the struggling ceased and only murmurs remained. "Panther put him to sleep. His hands are bleeding, likely cracked a few knuckles. They'll probably ask you to do a deep search," Goldie reported in his calm manner, as though merely observing an act on a stage and just recounting parts of the scene that were plot relevant. Vincent nodded, frowning thoughtfully.
"Vincent, come. We need you to examine Mike's hands after the medic tends to them." Panther's voice drew close and Vincent found himself with his heart racing, ready to fight or flee. Why? What was triggering this response?
Goldie snorted lightly and Vincent reached out, groping air a few times before his fingers found plush fur covering sturdy metal. He petted it a bit for comfort before nodding. Scott took his hand -he knew it was him because Scott tangled their fingers together with nearly indecent fondling that never failed to make his ears burn from a surge of emotions- and tugged him along. He had overlooked him, in a manner of speaking, too focused on his sudden adverse reaction to Panther's presence to register Scott approaching.
He examined Mike's hands some time later, listening to Jeremy outside the med station babbling in a panic to Foxy and Chirp. They were the closest to Mike, emotionally, so this turn of events shook them badly.
Fingertips traced lightly over knuckles and down wrapped fingers. Imperfections and varying thickness in bone and joints told him a story. Many punches against materials meant to shatter bone but only cracked or dislocated these; bone that did break set hastily and healed quickly enough to leave only slight changes of density; calluses and chipped nails from gripping various items and digging fingertips into materials that didn't give. Further proof this Mike was not the actor the others believed him to be.
"Such beautiful hands the pretty bird has. I never truly noticed until he attacked Foxy," Panther murmured quietly, and Vincent froze in alarm. His skin crawled again and he carefully set Mike's hand down, listening to his subdued breathing to calm himself. "Such wanton violence. If only you could have seen it. Heheh."
"Mike is safe. You can leave." Vincent growled out between his teeth, baring them in a grimace as he narrowed his eyes, subconsciously taking on the expressions of his killer role.
"Fine, fine. I'm going. ...Interesting how you react, however." And now the voice was too close for comfort. "You default to The Killer's look for strength. It's a good look on you. Heheheh."
By the time Vincent could lash out with his cane, the bodyguard's presence was gone, his heart was pounding, and he had grabbed onto Mike's arm to assure himself the man was still there. Like part of him feared he wouldn't be....
That brought him to now, leaning against the box as the director asked him how Mike was doing. He wanted to demand Panther's termination of employment, but he'd been hired for Mike's protection and did a good job of it so oddities were allowed to slide. "He's sleeping now. Mike's still in shock from whatever took place, so it'll be some time before he can perform for the cameras," he replied carefully. Maybe he could buy time to figure out what to do by stalling the show's filming for a few days.
"Shock?! The laddie begged me to kill him! Why would he ask for that?! What be so despairing that it would drive me first mate to seek Davy Jones' locker on land?!" Foxy cried, wounded expression on his face.
"It all started when he saw the memorial!" Jeremy chipped in, and Vincent lifted his head, puzzled for a moment before gaping in realization. "What?"
"She's alive! Fucking hell, she's alive in that world!" he exclaimed, grabbing his head, "He even told me that he was going home to her! How the hell did I not catch that?!" Now it made sense why Mike flew into such a storm of rage and grief.
"You're not making any sense, Vince," Scott told him, confusion in his voice as he drew closer. Vincent blinked at the feel of a hand resting on his forehead. "You're burning up. Are you ok?"
"I'm fine," he muttered, "but Mike won't be until we can convince him that this isn't his world."
"You're supposed to pretend to be a crazy man, not actually be one," BonBon snarked, Fritz snickering and failing badly at smothering behind his hands. "Mike's just cracked from all the extra work we put in for the new season and getting zapped by like a bajillion volts. Sorta like Marionette."
"Not funny, Rabbit." Marionette grumbled.
They didn't believe him. Vincent sighed, reaching up to lightly grip the hand still pressed comfortingly against his forehead. If only there was some way to prove it.
Static crackled nearby and Vincent reached down to run his fingers over Mangle's smooth shell. The nightmarish animatronic liked hanging around him as much as Goldie, and often acted as a seeing eye dog for him. He could hear her click her jaws together, her soft voice transmitting in broken intervals with her white noise. Strangely soothing.
"May as well call it a day and let Mike get some rest," Freddy sighed, exasperation and irritation in his tone. His scene was supposed to have been filmed next and he disliked not being in front of the camera without good reason. Mike having a breakdown didn't qualify. Vincent had one when his ex-wife divorced him and proceeded to undermine his attempts to have shared custody of their daughter. Freddy pulled him backstage, goaded him into a screaming match, then pushed him back out in front of the camera and declared that he use that rage to make The Killer number one in the list of scary fictional serial killers.
Anything for the camera.
"Rest seems to be a good idea. I'm going to stay here with Mike; make sure he's got a familiar face to keep him from flying off the handle again," Vincent agreed.
"Panther can stay behind. Mike'll be fine," the director commented, voice trailing as he left. Vincent tensed, a feeling of dread twisting his stomach and making him feel sick. No, not a good idea. For reasons he couldn't understand Panther no longer had that air of stalwart guard about him. He'd always been a bit intense when it came to looking after Mike, but everyone shrugged it off. Now there was a wrongness added to his intensity. Mike should not be left alone with that man.
"I'm staying," he repeated weakly, turning to go back into the med station. He was just about to close the curtain when a hand -warm, familiar, safe- touched on his wrist.
"Hey, I'll stay with you, okay?" Scott told him, concern in his tone, "Something's bothering you, and I'd be a piss-poor friend if I didn't stick around to help you through it."
Vincent managed a small smile at the words.
Mike struggled to pull himself from the dark and back to waking. Memories were jumbled, strange, and connected by the sickly sweet smell of something that had covered his face....
Fucking damn it!
"...hhhnnnngh!" Mike's attempt at a furious growl came out a weakened groan as he turned in place, trying to get his limbs to work with him. Hands grabbed his arms and he bared his teeth, cracking open one eye in a squint to see how bad of a situation he got himself into. His hands hurt, bad idea to bust knuckles on Foxy's stupid shell, but if he could get his legs working, kick a few soft spots, maybe he could get loose and get to Doll....
Blood red letters over her face.
And all the fight left him, left him sagging in place and closing his eyes again. Why keep going? His precious Doll; she was why he struggled to survive Freddy's, and now she was gone. What was the point?
"...up, Mike. Wake up! Scott, where's that adrenaline shot?"
"Um, in the med kit. But I don't know how to use it!"
"Get it anyway!"
Voices he didn't know, didn't trust. For a moment, Mike felt the urge to lash out, get free, run from them. And then it faded, and sleep called for him again, the memory of Panther's hand over his mouth and nose, arm around his waist and lifting him off the floor, room spinning as he clawed at the wet glove, trying to breathe and only sinking deeper into black....
"Here!" The hands on his arms tightened their grip almost painfully, a fingertip circling a spot on his skin. He tried to lift a leg, knee the guy and push him off. And then he felt the sting of a needle, a rush of fluids, heart jolted, racing, eyes snapping open and then shutting tight again as Mike gasped, hand reaching up to grab at the injection site once his arms were freed.
"What the fuck did you do to me?!" he yelled, blood rushing through his body, waking his limbs with the tingle-pain that let him know to wait a moment, they'll recover, and there'll be hell to pay.
"Helped you metabolize whatever it was that Panther used on you," Vincent told him. Mike struggled to sit up, jerking his hand away from the sudden contact with another person before allowing the help. Fingertips ran lightly over his face and down his closed eyes, setting him to shiver in discomfort. "Hm, sorry about that. Just checking to be sure nothing more damaging was done. How are your eyes? Can you open them? Scott, check his vision."
Scott... the phone guy? Mike opened his eyes slowly, cracking open one, then the other, squinting as he reached up to grip Vincent's hands on his shoulders, steadying himself as the world continued to tilt and sway. Light flashed into them and he cursed sharply, pitching forward as his stomach protested the entire day.
"Oh, for the love of god, Scott, please tell me he did not just vomit on my casuals!"
The room with the squeaky cot and the medical supplies was called a 'med station', as Vincent and the guy called Scott who didn't look at all like the Scott Mike knew and hated said. It also had a small shower area set aside with curtains as a flimsy barrier.
Once Mike's head stopped pounding painfully and his vision cleared a decent amount, and Vincent finished using it to clean himself off, Mike took his turn at the shower. He hoped running water would wake him up, get him out of this nightmare where Doll was gone and Jeremy looked at him like he was insane and a man who should be dead was given free reign to manhandle him.
But while it washed him clean of the mess he'd made, it didn't wash away the world surrounding him, the memory of that bastard bodily lifting him like he weighed nothing, whispering weird words to him while he struggled, the blood red letters burned into his brain.
He sat on the floor, letting the water pound down on him, and buried his face in his arms and knees, weeping. She was gone. She was gone, and he was lost and he was tired and why couldn't he just die now? Why wouldn't those stupid fuckboy animatronics just finish him off and stuff him in a suit like they've always fucking wanted to do?
The water slowed, then stopped, and Mike registered the tail end of a set of odd clicking noises as he lifted his head. A purple arm withdrew from the shower faucet, the shadow of the taller man cast through the thin plastic curtain; Vincent stood outside the shower.
"A lil privacy?" Mike grumbled.
"What part of 'I am blind' do you not understand?" Vincent sighed in exasperation. His shadow shifted in place. "Scott brought some casuals from our Mike's wardrobe. They should fit you."
Oh. Mike glanced away, hugging himself a bit tighter. "Thanks, I guess. Still don't get what the fuck you're going on about," he muttered, "but I guess it doesn't matter. Nothing matters."
"Get dressed. I have a few things to show you." Vincent told him curtly.
The clothes were nice, like money-nice. Mike almost felt bad putting them on, but hey, Vincent said they were technically his and possession was nine-tenths of the law, right? Comfy jeans -though they hung a bit low at the waist, resting barely on his hips, he'd have to get a belt for that-, nice running shoes -Mike was appreciative of running shoes-, soft sweater in a shade of blue that made him puff up his chest and smirk at a mirror....
Yeah, lookin' nice, lookin' verrry nice.
The only thing missing was a cap to cover his head. He grabbed his security hat, pulled it on, and blinked as the mirror seemed to fog for a second. A dim shadowy figure appeared to be leaning forward, looking out of the mirror at him. Then the figure moved away, out of sight, and the mirror cleared to show Mike's reflection again.
"I switched to decaf way too soon," Mike sighed in irritation.
He came out of the shower room into the rest of the med station, pausing at the sight of an unfamiliar man sitting in a plastic chair next to Vincent, who now wore something that looked like a Freddy Fazbear security uniform but completely purple as well, and sifting through several photographs. The newcomer raised a hand from the photos with a somber smile. "Hey, Mike," he greeted, "feeling better?"
"I'll feel better when someone tells me Doll's not dead, Panther's a smear on the asphalt, why Vincent looks like a grape jelly security guard, and who the fuck you are," Mike growled back, stalking over to sit on the cot and make it squeak again, "'cause I'm this close to saying 'Fuck it!' to all of ya and shoving myself into that goddamned suit in the back!"
"It was the only clean outfit left in my wardrobe," Vincent muttered sourly.
The other man looked at Mike like he was insane -and to be honest, he felt like he was one good reason away from it- and pointed at himself. "Mike, dude, it's me," -and Mike felt his eye twitch at those words- "Scott, man. Did that shock mess up your memory? Need a trip to the ER?"
"The hell you are! I've seen that lying asshole and you don't look anything like him!" Mike snapped, jumping to his feet and ready to walk out on them both. Vincent reached out to grab a photo from Not-Scott and held it out in Mike's general direction.
"Hush, and take a look at this. Maybe then you'll believe me when I say you are not the Mike that belongs in this world," the purple man told him sternly.
Mike raised an eyebrow, still dubious of anything told to him by two complete strangers. He reached out, took the photo, and brought it up to look at curiously.
He saw himself, grinning as he held up a small golden statuette, with Jeremy to one side of him with a thumb's up and Foxy on the other with a wide smile. A beautiful woman stood by him, microphone in her hand and professionally cheerful smile plastered on.
"What the fuck-?" Mike breathed in shock, bringing the photo closer to study more intently. That couldn't be right! Was this fake? It had to be, right? But that was definitely him on that stage with Jeremy, Foxy, and the nameless woman. Those were his blue eyes, his smile that he only ever got around Doll or Jeremy or when he had a day off to spend with them; how the hell could this picture exist? "This can't be me!" he blurted out, waving the picture in the air and gesturing at it.
Vincent groped around until the man called Scott grabbed his hand, squeezed it a little, and held a couple more photos out to Mike. He took those as well, staring between them in stunned silence. In one photo his mirror image grinned out at him, standing on red carpet with other richly dressed people while dressed in a tuxedo. Next to him was a slender person also dressed in a tux with shiny black high heels, long black hair curled and styled and pale face neatly made up to accent lovely almond-shaped eyes.
Not Doll. He pointed at the picture accusingly, turning it to show the two other men with a scowl.
"Tracy Lang. They played Doll for Series One, Season Two," the man called Scott told him. "Showed in person for about five episodes, voiced five others, left at the end of the season to go into acting on a detective drama. They're doing well."
The other picture Mike looked at was -again- of himself sitting on the floor and half slumped over a Foxy that was laying beside him like a giant dog. Both of them had their eyes closed, like they were having a peaceful nap together. The sight made Mike's head hurt, conflicting with all his memories of the robot either being a depressed creature, an overly affectionate idiot, or straight up murderous. The way he kept flipping through the three modes didn't leave any reason for Mike to trust the animatronic pirate in any way.
"And this shit? This is completely not me," Mike growled, pointing at the photo.
"Of course it isn't. Because that's our Mike Schmidt, not you," Vincent agreed, gesturing around the room. "Look around. It's still day, if nearing evening. If this is supposed to be your Freddy's, where are the punters? The customers, I mean. Where is the actual hustle and bustle of a pizzeria business?" Mike straightened, looking around himself and seeing, truly seeing, that the building was empty, quiet and still. "It's not here because it doesn't exist here. Freddy Fazbear's Pizza is simply a fictional business for a program about an angry, mentally damaged security guard trying to survive his job at a pizzeria full of deadly animatronics to purchase a ring for his beloved."
"Hey!" Mike protested, "What the hell?! Don't be turning my life into some fucking trash TV show! At least not without cutting me a check too!"
"Okay, I'm completely lost here. Mind filling me in, Vince?" the man called Scott asked in confusion, raising his hand.
"This man before us is the Mike Schmidt of another world, who was accidentally exchanged for our Mike," Vincent told him flatly. "Seems that electrical storm we had during filming was somehow responsible, given that Mike was electrocuted and hasn't been himself since waking from it." He turned his face towards Mike's direction again. "You don't understand; we didn't turn your life into a television program. It just happens to mirror your life in your world. There are differences as well as similarities." He gestured aimlessly.
"You said that you didn't know who this man beside me is; he's Scott, the man who plays the Phone Guy in our production." Vincent went on. Mike looked over at the tawny-haired man in clear disbelief. The man called Scott rolled his eyes, coughed into one fist, then spoke through cupped hands.
"Uh, hello? Hello, hello? I wanted to record a message for you-"
Mike flipped him off, glowering at him. "Stop talking before I come over there and knock your teeth into the back of your fucking throat," he growled. Scott dropped his hands, eyes wide, face paling, and he gave an audible gulp. "You don't look anything like the lying asshole I know, but I'd recognize that fucking voice anywhere."
Vincent nodded, tapping his cane against the floor to get Mike's attention back to him. "See? Different appearance but same name and voice." He leaned forward on the cane. "As for the woman you know as Doll; in this world, she died a year ago, a tragic and deeply-felt loss for all of us. Our Mike was in just as much anguish as you displayed."
Mike staggered back, like the words were a physical blow that sent real pain through his chest. "A y-year?!" The world got spinny again; he didn't like the spinny.
"Hey, hey! Steady now, easy," Scott exclaimed, jumping up to grab his arms and keep him upright. Mike tried to push him away, dizzy but still wanting nothing to do with this world's version of the Phone Guy.
Shit, now he was thinking of his situation in terms of 'worlds'.
"Get off! A year...! Fuck me sideways, then what... who....?" Mike tried to gather his thoughts. He knew Doll was alive, she had been the last he heard of her, which was in a late night call just before the power went out. But now these people he'd never seen before but stood around in the building like they belonged were saying the Doll he knew had been dead for a year. But not his Doll, just a woman who looked like her, pretending to be Doll for TV. That lady was dead and had been dead for a whole year.
So if this was really another world, with another Mike who had a way different life, then did that mean his Doll, the real Doll, was still safe and sound at home?
She had to be. She must be! And Mike laughed brokenly as hope surged back into him. He was in the wrong world; Doll was alive and waiting for him to come home!
"She's okay! She's okay...!" he breathed, flopping back down on the squeaky cot. He held his head in his hands, shaking in place from relief. Now he had a goal, something to put in front of himself so he could focus properly. He didn't belong here. He was gonna find a way home, get that other Mike and throw his ass back here to deal with that psycho....
"Wait. Panther. He's supposed to be dead." Mike said flatly, gears slowly grinding away in his mind as he pieced together something very wrong.
"Yes, we've heard you scream that before. Why would you say that?" Vincent asked in a strange tone. Like he also smelled a rat but didn't know enough to see it.
"Because in my world he is. So is it flipped? My Doll lives and Panther dies, but here it's the other way around?" Mike turned a faint shade of green as a sudden insight flashed through his mind. "Your Mike ain't with that maniac... right?"
Both Vincent and Scott shook their heads, grimacing. "No way! After that Doll actor's death, our Mike refused to get involved with anyone else." Scott told him, "A few months after, in fact, he was forced to hire Panther for his protection."
Forced to? Mike tilted his head, puzzled, and Vincent continued the explanation in a somber tone, eyes cast downward in grief. "For the sake of simplicity, let's refer to her as 'Doll'. As for the reason our Mike was pressured into taking a bodyguard? It is because Doll didn't just die; she was murdered, by someone who saw her as an obstacle to their own pursuit of him." His lips thinned for a moment, a glower on his face for a brief moment. "That was when the network pushed for him to hire protection, and Mike ended up with Panther as his shadow. There were no further attempts made against him, so everyone thought Panther was a blessing. Now... now I'm not so sure."
Scott gave Vincent a startled look, making an audible 'Bweh?' that Mike figured was just to let the blind guy know what he was thinking. "Whaddya mean?! Yeah the guy can be intense, but isn't that the point of a big, beefy bodyguard?!" he blurted out. Vincent just gave him a sidelong glare.
"You weren't here when he snuck in and creeped me the hell out," he grumbled.
Murdered.... Mike couldn't stop the chill that ran through him at the word. The Doll for this world had been murdered, by someone trying to get close to their Mike. He couldn't think of how he'd go on if anything happened to his sweet Doll; actually, he already knew. For the few hours he thought she was dead, he wanted his own life to end as well. But this world's Mike kept going, smiled for the fucking cameras and put on a show.
He was either stronger than Mike gave him credit for, or the guy was a helluva lot more broken than anyone knew.
"I remember... Panther said something," he began slowly, trying to pull memories from the haze of rage, despair, and panic. He rubbed his head, feeling a faint headache from the effort. "He said he was wondering when the woman's death would finally break me... but he doesn't know I'm not that actor guy, right?" Vincent nodded, frowning thoughtfully. "So he was waiting for that other Mike to snap like I did?"
"But he never did. Our Mike just went... quiet." Scott rubbed an arm with a restless shrug, "Used to be the laugh of the party, pulling pranks and shit with Jeremy and Foxy during downtime. Now he just hangs out in a corner, sippin' beers. If we're lucky, he'll talk to Chirp about her beak fallin' off all the time. She's the only chick he'll talk to, no pun intended."
"Really? Fucking Japanese bird," Mike growled, folding his arms over his chest to hide another shiver. Why did he feel like he was being watched?
"He called you 'pretty bird'," Vincent said suddenly, and Mike grimaced, one hand dropping to press to his left side, the memory of a gun barrel pressed to his jaw sending another stream of shivers down his back. "Scott... do you remember that note that was left in Doll's apartment? The one the police found and let us know that she'd been killed as a threat to our Mike?" He groped air again and the other man grabbed on, squeezing gently again. "Those words were in it, too, weren't they?"
"Something about setting their pretty bird free?" Scott questioned, alarm on his face, "Oh shit...."
"You assholes let Doll's murderer get exactly what he wanted?!" Mike exclaimed in furious disbelief, "Could you be any more stupid?!! He kills her to spook your show into getting your Mike some protection, and fucking Panther shows up and is practically handed your Mike in a prize box! Might as well have tied a fucking bow around his ass!"
"But he's been following Mike for a year and never did anything!" Scott pointed out, "Why is he being all crazy stalker now?!"
"Because Panther wasn't interested in a meek and quiet Mike," Vincent realized, clutching his cane tightly. "He wanted the Mike from the show; the aggressive and angry Mike Schmidt!"
"He wanted to get his hands on me," Mike muttered bitterly, shoulders slumping. This was that nightmare shift all over again. "Fuck me sideways, what the hell is his obsession with me?"
Before anyone could answer, a small metal canister rolled into the room and stopped at their feet, catching them all by surprise. "The smell of old blood; ah, it's sweet on you, my pretty bird," Panther's voice purred as the canister hissed and spun, spraying forth a thick fog of something that blinded the three men, displacing air and making them choke.
"D-Don't breath it!" Scott coughed, reaching out to grab Vincent and getting a solid blow to the head by a black-gloved fist instead. He went down heavily, crashing against a mobile tray and laying sprawled and still on the floor.
"Scott!" Vincent cried, staggering in place as the gas made it harder to stay conscious. Mike reached out, trying to grab his sleeve to pull him to safety as he coughed into one hand. Another hand reached through the fog, looped around and covered his face with that sickly sweet smell in fabric.
'No! God fucking dammit, not again!'
"Don't worry, pretty bird," the low voice crooned close to him, breaths hot against his neck, "I'll be taking a precious gem to keep you company."
A blur of black lashed out, Vincent's surprised grunt of pain, and Mike could just about make out the purple guy slumped over Panther's arm. 'No... dammit....'
Was this it? Was this how it all ends? Him and that Vincent guy, dragged off by a nutcase who was supposed to be dead, for reasons Mike didn't want to think about? And all in a world that wasn't even his?!
A familiar crackle of static suddenly burst into the air as Panther began dragging him and Vincent out of the room, Mike weakly digging in his heels to slow him down. The rapid thud-thud-thud of heavy footsteps joined them.
As Mike began finally sinking into the shadows calling to him, brought on by the sweet aroma of the glove and the choking gas from the canister, two mechanical foxes leaped at them from the shadows and ceiling, roaring in a fury and eyes gleaming black.
A flicker, a burst of pain.
And then all was dark.
Chapter 8: 3:50 PM - Original World
In the world of ghosts and shadows, Mike discovers secrets best left lost for the guard that belongs. His confidence shaken and doubt creeping in, could his wild plan to 'set things right' only set up the motions that will bring about his downfall?
Mike frowned slightly as he thought hard on the words that made it through Mangle's mouth. He sat on the floor in front of the generator, alone now that both animatronics had left. One of the words that came through clearly was the name of his bodyguard, Panther, which set off a small explosion of fury from Chirp.
"That's impossible! Police database records clearly state that horrible man is dead! He's the one who killed Michael in the process of abducting him and nearly cost us his data!" Chirp screeched, hands tensed into clawed position as her eyes turned black with gleaming white pupils. "And when Jeremy-chan gave up his life force to revive Michael, Panther went after him again! Freddy killed him as punishment for messing with our guards and our pizzeria! Mangle, why is he alive?!"
"Wait, what?!" Mike exclaimed in shock. What the hell?! Panther was his hired protection, why would he be so different on this side? And what did she mean by their Mike getting killed?! "Chirp, what are you talking about?!" She turned to him, hopping angrily in place while Mangle clapped her jaws shut and slithered away into a vent.
"You don't remember? When those burglars broke in here and tried to steal us? Panther was the big guy who wanted to kidnap you for himself!" the chicken covered her face, trembling as she began sobbing. "He shot you, Michael, it was horrible! I saw it when you ran by me. So much blood, and when I got to your side again, you were already bleeding to death. There wasn't anything we could do except preserve your body and soul in Golden Freddy until Jeremy-chan could share his life with you. That night was awful; he wouldn't shut up about wanting his pretty bird all to himself!"
Pretty bird... pretty bird?!
He stumbled back, face paling as the events of that single day a year past rushed forward. The murder notice left beside Doll's lifeless body, gloating that her death set the murderer's 'pretty bird free'. If the Panther here called their Mike his pretty bird and would stop at nothing to get to him, then was his bodyguard the same way?!
Did Panther kill Doll to get to him? And stupid him, he practically walked right into Panther's grasp!
He collapsed, stunned, and only managed to stay on his feet because Chirp caught him, held him firmly as she whimpered. "I can't believe it. It's not fair. I just hope he doesn't come for you again. We can't lose you again!"
He hugged her back, shaking and wide-eyed. What had Panther planned to do to him? He'd been around for months; what had he been after? Mike hoped his accidental replacement didn't get caught up in whatever plans he had. And here, in this world, Jeremy could bring the dead to life?
Could he bring Doll back...?
Eventually Chirp had to leave; the band needed her on stage. Mike assured her he would be okay and stayed in the room to search for clues. The machine was on standby, humming quietly as it slowly stored power. Skid marks on the floor from Foxy's feet left substantial damage a few yards from the generator. Mike ran his fingers through the grooves, quietly awed by the force that must have been used to gouge out tile in a flying leap. Foxy was a heavy animatronic; while Mike was able to lift him easily enough, everyone else seemed to need teams or special equipment to budge him. Jeremy often poked at him about his 'super-strength' and compared him to whatever anime of the week he was watching that had a similarly strong character.
A closer look at the generator showed him scratches and marks where claws had speared into the machine and completed a circuit, leaving burns around each hole. Foxy's claws had sunk into the machine after the leap. Mike carefully drew close and measured the claw marks with his hands, noticing after a moment how perfectly level they were with his shoulders. He let his fingers fall, shifting in place, and his foot nudged something on the floor. Dropping to one knee, Mike searched around and found the flashlight he had been holding for his scene.
Had this world's Foxy and Mike been mirroring the scene he and Foxy were shooting that day? Was that what caused the switch? Or did that electric burst that went off have some part in it too?
Mike thought about it as he sat there, up until his phone began ringing. He flipped it up to his ear absently. "No autographs for sale, photos for charity only, and you can't prove that's my DNA. Wassup?" he greeted by habit.
"Do I want to know why you said any of that?" Jeremy asked flatly and Mike winced, reminded rudely that here he wasn't a famous actor, just a schmuck working security for shit pay. "Miss M called me when she couldn't reach you, wanting to know what the hell's going on, why'd you run on her, and if you're being controlled by the Fazband again." Controlled? Wha-? "Also why is your number different? I mean, it's cool you entered it to my phone at least, um... yeah. ....Actually, where are you?"
"At Freddy's. I needed time to think. Don't worry about the number; I'll change it back when I sort things out." Mike sighed, rubbing his face tiredly. He still needed to find Foxy. They had both been in the room during the switch, so had he been swapped too?
"Sort things out? Did something happen between you and Mo- ah, Miss M?" Mike caught the tiny slip in Jeremy's words, heart twisting at the implication. He saw this world's Mike as his dad and Doll as his mom; oh, man, what happened to this Jeremy to have him bond like that to the two of them?
"No, it's nothing bad. I just...."
"You told me that you didn't belong. Doesn't sound like 'nothing bad' to me."
Crap, this Jeremy was a lot sneakier than his best bud back home. "I can't really explain it over the phone," he hedged, getting up to leave the room. He'd come back to it another time, during a shift if he took the other Mike's job for a while. As long as he wore the mask and let Jeremy do the checking, he'll be okay, right?
'Wait, if this place is the real version of the show, shouldn't Faith be with me for protection?'
"What?" Jeremy questioned, "Faith? Didn't know you were religious."
Ah crap, he spoke aloud. "No, the little girl that stays with me," Mike clarified before clapping a hand over his mouth. Wait, in the show, Mike the guard had no idea he was haunted. Oh shit, did he blow it again?!
"Little girl-? ...WHAT?!" Jeremy's shriek was sharp enough that Mike flung the phone away from himself on reflex, one hand pressed to his ear in pain. "Nononono, wait a second, that's... that's actually your name? How did he know and you only talk to me? No, he can't have remembered that or he'd be dead already. That's what you said!" Was he crazy or did it sound like Jeremy was in a yelling match with no one? "How am I supposed to know?! No, I didn't tell him, I didn't even know your name! How was I supposed to know which of them you are?! I was three when you died! Don't give me that look!"
He was... arguing with Faith? Oh god, she was real. Mike felt horribly sick. She was real, which meant she was really murdered and stuffed and her ghost possessed the Mike of this world to help him survive the Bite and there were four or five more dead kids' ghosts lingering and oh my god that wasn't Freddy who tried to rip his arm out it was Fredrick and if they were all dead-!
"Oh god, Vincent, no, please, your own daughter-!" Mike gasped, backing away from the phone that had now gone silent. He knew Vincent, knew how he adored his little girl, was playful and gentle with all the child actors who played the ghost kids. But here? No, he couldn't be like that! But Mike couldn't stop replaying scenes in his mind, the ease in which prim and calm Vincent took on the sadistic smiles and carefree knife twirls of The Killler, tracing blade tips lightly over skin in designs that left trails of bright red bleeding in their wake.
And one of the 'victims' had been The Killer's own daughter, little Violet, Mikey's rival as biggest Foxy fan.
He wanted to be sick. Wanted to scream and cry and throw up and tell himself over and over this wasn't how Vincent is, not the one he knows, not the soft-spoken blind actor that Scott flirted with shamelessly.
Instead Mike slumped against the wall, slid down to the floor, and curled up in a ball, sobbing for those poor children trapped in torment since 1987 in a pizzeria that hid the truth in the shadows of the night.
It wasn't easy escaping Parts and Service during dinner service since Fritz was almost neurotic in keeping the door shut. But Foxy had seen Mike walk past and wanted the chance to see him, if just from a distance, during the day. During the time the old glitch didn't weaken his will and let the 4th Child take control of him. She was fuming now, perched on his back and seething as he slipped from the room and into the old pizzeria attached to the new one. Chicacoo passed him by with a wink, promising to guide Mike deeper into the old building so he could have more time to watch over him. She really was a sweet little lass. Chatty, but sweet.
He lurked after them a good distance, felt fearful when she pinned him to the floor, and was surprised that Mike didn't rage or kick her, just asked that she didn't jump him like that for his own safety and let her hold his arm as they walked. Like the laddie had somehow gotten a change of heart towards her. This seemed promising.
Freddy had told him how Mike wanted to see him, had thrown a proper childish fit and demanded to be taken to him. Freddy tried, but the 1st Child wanted Mike's strength to himself and took over to pull him to the Marionette.
Would Mike still want to see him?
Foxy watched from inside a vent as the day guard explored the generator room after Mangle and Chicacoo left, listened with confusion and anger at the reveal that Panther still lived. Impossible; Freddy smeared that lily-livered land slug across the pavement and Mike had stared with hollow eyes at the remains before slumping aside in sleep. Recovering from death was probably exhausting, but his old friend was strong.
And now... now Mike was curled up on the floor, trembling, after crying himself to sleep over realizing spirits haunted the five of them, him and the Fazband. Fortune be favorable; 4th Child had long ago grown bored of being ignored and watching romantic strolls, and had fallen asleep within Foxy's body to prepare for night. So, she knew nothing about Mike learning the truth. Good; she would have flown into a storm of hate and rage otherwise.
He was still trembling, eyes closed and odd black smudges under his eyes like smeared paint or powder mixed with tears. Foxy crept closer, afraid to wake him and afraid to leave him asleep. The floor was tile, cold and hard. Mike could catch chills sleeping there.
Should he? Could he? Dare he?
Foxy slunk closer, whining softly and ears flat as he carefully reached with his hand to lay oh so very carefully on his shoulder. Mike twitched, but nothing more. One ear perked up; how strange, Foxy knew Mike wasn't a deep sleeper. He'd have to be knocked out to not react to a metal limb on his body.
Maybe this would work after all?
He retrieved the phone that had been thrown and slid it into the pocket of Mike's pants, gingerly tapping it into position so it couldn't fall out easily. Now that it was dealt with, Foxy could start the hard part. He only had the one hand, after all.
It took a bit of talking to himself but Foxy eventually pulled his hook off and stowed it in his shell, cringing as his fingertips brushed against fragments of old bone. 4th Child stirred at the touch, making him freeze, but she sunk back to sleep and he breathed a sigh of relief. Safe.
With the sharp, pointy thing out of the way, Foxy carefully slid hand and stump under Mike's body and gently lifted him from the cold floor. He nearly panicked and threw the guard off when Mike rolled in place and curled against his chest, wrinkling his nose for a bit before settling down and continuing to sleep.
For several minutes Foxy just stood there, frozen in shock and disbelief. Was this real? Or had he been scrapped and this was his piece of the Good Hereafter before the Final Shutdown?
Mike shivered again, tensing all over before relaxing. That was enough to get Foxy rebooted, in a manner of speaking. His ears swiveled, listening for noises that didn't belong in Freddy's, then slowly walked the halls towards the old dining room. He couldn't get the lad out to Fritz; the walking whirlpool would get the wrong idea and set the whole place to panic for nothin'.
Ah, but Pirate Cove was still all his own, a warm little place where scraps of the past reminded him of kinder days. Reminded him of another day guard who smiled at him and called him friend, until that awful day in 1987.
His tail flicked, ears spun to pick up a sound and isolate it, his programming working to identify it. Footsteps... ah, the younger Jeremy. Foxy paused for a moment, considering.
Then he flicked his tail once more and slipped behind the curtains with hardly a whisper of movement, hiding Mike away in the shadows. Just for a little while. Just for a little while Foxy wanted to be with an old friend and dream of a happy birthday that could have been.
"͞He͏ c҉an'̴t͜ ̷have ͏rem̕emb͜ered͡, he ca̡n't, ̧he ͘c͡a͠n'͟t!̢"͠ Little One... no, Faith, exclaimed in a panic as Jeremy ran through the halls of the old building. Fritz had stopped him at the entrance, wondered why he looked so panicked and why he was up so early when he had the night shift in just a few hours. After explaining that Mike had come to the pizzeria and could possibly be in trouble, Fritz let him head to the back areas to check them out.
"I know! I know! If he remembers, he'll face Foxy. If he faces Foxy... he'll die," Jeremy recalled and shivered. Not ready. He wasn't ready yet to let Mike know without triggering that chain reaction!
He brought out his phone and dialed again, listening for the sound of his father-figure's ringtone.
Faintly, the sound of bell chimes echoed in the empty halls.
Jeremy blinked as he followed the direction of the sound, jogging towards it as Faith perched on his shoulders. He wore his glasses to see her so he wouldn't be disoriented by her voice. In this situation, that wouldn't be of help to any of them.
The chimes led him to the old dining area, and Jeremy paused before dialing again to restart the ringing. This time the chimes sounded near Pirate Cove and dread coiled in his stomach. "N-no, please," he whispered, eyes tearing up. He couldn't be too late. He couldn't! "Faith, can you-?"
"̨I ca͡n̕'t f͟e͝e̴l͝ ̢h͝i͡s̷ li̸f͝e̸.͜ I̷ h̴av͏e͡n't͏ ̸be̷ęn̛ ͏a̧b̵le to sin҉ce͟ the̡ a͡cçi͏dent th̢a̢t ̛n͞ight͡."
Jeremy glanced aside, alarmed. That wasn't right. Faith could feel their lives; that was how she knew if they were in trouble and could swap back and forth between them. If she was at full strength, she could help them right away. If she was tired, she took up to an hour to give them her strength.
If she couldn't feel Mike, there wouldn't be any way of knowing he was still okay but to actually go in and look.
There was a click and then a voice from the phone. Jeremy jumped at getting an actual response.
"Hello?" Mike's voice sounded groggy, slow.
"Mike! Are you okay?! Are you in Pirate Cove?! What happened?!" Jeremy fired back question after question, desperate to know his condition as he hurried towards the curtained stage area.
"I'm... what? ....Nngh! H-Hey, Foxy?! Foxy, god, get off me!"
Panic. Jeremy could feel his vision narrow, focused just on the curtains and what lay beyond as he grabbed the fabric and tore it aside. Part of him wanted to scream, use that shriek that Faith and Mike had together, but that wouldn't work for long term. He need to save him and keep him safe until they were out.
His heart pounded in his ears as he took in the sight of the animatronic fox curled on the floor, staring up at him with gleaming yellow eyes while Mike struggled to get the leverage to push Foxy's arm and leg off his body. A girl-shaped shadow sat on the pirate's back, snarling at Mike in silence and thrashing in place. Was that the spirit possessing Foxy? The one who hated Mike the most? Jeremy took a breath, ready to issue the string of words that seemed to take control of the Fazband away from the spirits, when Mike spoke again.
"C'mon, buddy! I can't spend all day with ya, but I'll be back tonight! Promise! Just lemme up so I can breathe something not so funky!" the day guard yelled. Foxy blinked, looking as surprised as Jeremy felt.
"Ye mean that, laddie?" Foxy asked in the softest voice Jeremy had ever heard. His eyes gleamed brighter, almost shining with what looked like hope. "Ye really mean...I be yer 'buddy'?"
Mike went still at that, a strange expression on his face that seemed caught between disbelief and sorrow. Finally, he looked up at Jeremy, and the brunet saw resignation in those sad blue eyes. What was going on?
"̸I d̛on'͟t ̕unde͘r͘stand͞..."̨ Faith murmured in shock. "̢I knǫw Mikey͞. If҉ ̶h҉e re̕m̵ember̷e̶d Foxy҉ bi͞t h̡i͘m, ̵he ͠wou͜l͞d̵ n̷ev͏e͘r͢ be͟ ̢so̴ ͝f̸or̨giv͞i͝n͡g; ͏th̴e̵ dam̛a̶ge d̶one t̡o̕ him̢ i̷s ҉to̧o ̶m̕u͝ch ҉t̡o wa̶s̕h a҉w͠ay͏ w͢ith wor̴ds͏.̕ S͞o why..̴.?"̧
The day guard reached out with a free hand to gently scratch and ruffle the fur covering Foxy's head, the pirate wagging his tail in joy. "Yeah, for now. While the me that's here right now stays, you'll be my best friend." Mike sighed almost regretfully, "I'm sorry it won't last forever, Foxy. I have something to do to set things the way they were."
Foxy's tail stopped wagging, the angry ghost child continued her unrelenting screams, and Faith looked annoyed by her. "....Aye, laddie. Fer the moment, this will be enough," the pirate murmured and lifted his limbs, pushing himself to sitting as Mike got up and dusted himself off. "Good luck to ye both fer t'night." Foxy gave a jerky nod, jaws clacking together lightly.
"Th-thank you." Jeremy replied reflexively, blinking in surprise. How easy it was to forget that, despite them being so terrifying and murderous at night, neither Fazband really wanted to hurt the guards. They were victims, too, just like the children possessing them and the previous guards who failed to survive the nights. All because of the Vincent File and its chaotic coding....
Foxy managed a weak smile, then closed the curtain on them, shutting them out.
Jeremy breathed a sigh of relief and looked up at Mike to see his reaction, only to pause in confusion. What was that around his eyes? It looked like makeup, run and smudged from tears and inadvertant rubbing. "Mike? Why are you wearing makeup?" he asked warily. More and more things weren't jiving, and he hated this feeling of suspicion towards his father-figure coworker.
He hated the idea there was something to be suspicious about when Mike just groaned and wilted in place, one hand rising to his forehead.
"God fucking dammit. I should have bought the waterproof stuff like Chris told me to do." The older man pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, gave him a rueful smile, then wiped his face clean. Jeremy stared in shock as the tired shadows he was used to seeing on Mike vanished, leaving behind a clear face and bright blue eyes free of any bitter history. "Hey, kid. Name's Mike Schmidt, and I'm not exactly from around here," he greeted.
"Wh̴a͟t th͟e̸ ͞fu̴ck?̴" Faith breathed, stunned by the change in how Mike held himself, far more confident and light.
"Don't..." Jeremy told him, backing away in confusion and alarm, "Mike, that's not funny. Whatever the Fazband did to you, we can help. Faith can... she can-!"
"Jeremy, listen to me," the day guard told him, reaching to grab his wrist and hurry away from the dining area. Jeremy jerked and twisted himself free once they were in one of the halls leading back to the newer pizzeria area. Mike gave him a surprised look, reaching out to him and then retreating his hand. "Jeremy, I know it sounds crazy, but you've got to believe me," he urged, "I'm not the Mike that belongs here but I don't know how to get back!"
He had to be losing it. Or the band did some serious work on screwing with his memories. One of those.
"They did something to you, Mike, but we can undo it," Jeremy said firmly. "If you remember Faith, then...." He stopped, a sudden thought coming to mind. The surviving victim. If he remembered Faith, then he could remember the killer. He could describe what things were like that day and help prove his father had nothing to do with the killings of the children!
"But the Bite of '87, you'd still remember that, and it would still-" Jeremy held his head in his hands. Why didn't the chain reaction happen? What was going on?!
'Still what?' Mike didn't understand half of what this Jeremy was saying or doing. What was with the glances to one side, talking like someone was there? ...The ghost, Faith? Was he talking to the real 5th Child?
Those red glasses really did look trippy on him.
Mike shook his head hard. "The Bite of '87? Wait, what are you talking about?" he asked in confusion before putting a hand to his mouth. 'Crap, I get it now! The story of Five Nights at Freddy's really happened here! So their Mike was the victim of Vincent's plot who survived and if the story holds until our future arc....
'The Mike Schmidt from this world will die once he learns Foxy bit him and destroyed his future!'
"No! That's not me!" Mike blurted out, waving his hands. "Don't worry! That arc won't start with me; I'm not your Mike!" Jeremy just gave him a stare that looked on the verge of either bursting into tears or going crazier than Vincent's character on the show. "Look, I can prove it!" He could; if the Bite took place, then there would be a very telling difference between the two of them. Mike yanked his beanie off and pointed at his head. "No scars! I was never bit! I'm just an actor!" he cried.
Jeremy stared at his head, then at his eyes. Then he made a strange little squeak.
And then he collapsed in place, eyes rolling up into his head.
Mike stared down at the teen in shock before groaning in exasperation, shoulders slumping. "Fuck me sideways," he sighed. The line seemed oddly appropriate.
Getting out of Freddy's with an unconscious Jeremy in his arms was surprisingly easy. Fritz noticed him carrying the boy and just rolled his eyes, shooing them away like they were errant children. It made Mike wonder about the relationships between the guards here. He was about to ask for Vincent's phone number, but cut himself off in time. He had to keep that in mind; in this world, Vincent was no one's friend, haunting the pizzeria and awaiting his chances to wake and attempt to continue killing innocent people.
He walked back to Jeremy's house, unable to take his bike along. At several points, Jeremy's phone would ring, the tinny notes of Cherry Bomb playing each time. Mike couldn't reach the phone, so he let the calls drop. Jeremy twitched at the sound but simply snuggled closer to him and sighed contently. It gave Mike the oddest feeling, a warmth he couldn't identify even as he adjusted his grip to be more secure, tucked the boy's head under his chin.
Such soft hair....
Getting into the room over the garage was a little tough, but Mike was soon inside and setting Jeremy down on the bed to finish sleeping. He had the night watch, after all.
Night watch. That's right. Mike had to get on night shift with Jeremy, which meant convincing the boy to let him stay. He'd already given the kid a shock; he really didn't look forward to giving him more by recreating an electrical accident. He crouched by the sleeping teen, one hand absently running over his hair in gentle ruffling, a soothing gesture that Jeremy leaned into. He managed a faltering smile at the sight before letting it fade.
"Sorry, kid, but I gotta get home. I don't belong here and I think your Mike is gonna completely freak out in my world," Mike muttered, reaching out to pluck Jeremy's glasses off. They really were strange, blood-red lenses and silver frames. They had an odd shimmer to them. Almost unearthly.
He looked them over curiously before hesitantly slipping them on, just to try them out.
A shadowy girl floated in front of his gaze, glaring furiously at him with her teeth exposed and eyes blazing.
Mike screamed in terror, throwing himself back and crashing against the desk nearby, knocking over pens and papers as he flailed. The noise startled Jeremy awake, the teen sitting up abruptly with a shout.
"What is that?! What is that?! Oh my god!" Mike cried out, scooting further back from the angry-looking shadow and hitting his back against the desk each time.
"What are you doing with my glasses?! Take those off!" Jeremy yelled, scrambling and falling off the bed towards him.
The ghost floated closer to him, reaching out, and for a split second Mike found himself back on set for the first episode of Five Nights at Freddy's, greeting a little dark-haired girl in a golden yellow dress. That girl would gain fame for her role as the 5th Child.... "Faith! Stop!" Mike yelled, clutching his head protectively. The girl reared back, startled, eyes wide and mouth opening. "Faith... it's really you, isn't it?" he asked shakily, gaze moving from her to a stunned Jeremy still laying flat on the floor, legs tangled in sheets.
Faith looked at him, then to Jeremy, mouth moving silently. Speaking? Jeremy seemed to be able to hear her, a considering look on his face before he nodded. The shadow looked to Mike one last time, then dove into Jeremy's body as the teen closed his eyes. For a minute nothing happened, and Mike was about to ask what was going on when tendrils of black looped around Jeremy's head, the teen slipping free of the sheets and getting to his knees. Once settled, he opened his eyes to stare at Mike.
They were solid black, white pupils gleaming bright from possession.
"Y̕ou͜ know m̵y͞ na͏m͢e͢, ͡bu͡t͜ ̢y̷o͏u̢ say̢ you'̨re n͝ot̨ ̴Mi͏k̡ey̕. How d̢o ̷y͝o͜u k͘now͟ ͠m͠e?"͝ Faith's voice came out of Jeremy's mouth, dominating and overlaying the soft tones of the teen's own voice.
'Oh god, this is weird and I don't like it! It was fine when it was all pretend but this is fucking real!' Mike swallowed hard and pulled out his phone. "In my world, Faith is an actor, like me. She plays the voice of the 5th Child and provides her body model for the special effects." He flicked through his album, skipped past a photo of Faith and Vincent, and selected one of her and Violet smiling at the camera and holding hands. He turned it to show the possessed teen. "See?"
Faith gasped, hands flying up to Jeremy's mouth as she leaned him forward to look at the photo. "Th͟a̢t̡'s m̷e.͠.̧.̛ an̴d V͜i͟ol͝et͟..̢.." she whispered in awe. She looked sad for a moment, then looked up at him sternly. "̴W҉her̵e̵'s ̨Mikey̷,̨ th͟en͏?͠ Įf̢ y̢ou're not͟ ̨fro͠m͝ thi͘s̡ ̵w̕o͏rl͟d,͞ d͘id͝ ͜M̛i͏k̴e go̵ tǫ ̶y̕o̕ưr҉ş?"͜
"Yes, but he should be okay." Mike flicked through his album again to find a photo of himself and Foxy. He showed that off as well. "In my world, the animatronics are friendly and peaceful all the time," he explained.
Faith gave the photo an unimpressed look. "He'͜ll͡ d̶e͜stro͡y ͡t̡h͠em̢ ̧i̷n͠ a d̛a̷y,"̕ she remarked flatly. Mike gaped at the possessed teen. "͟Mi͝key do̢es͏n͢'̢t͠ tr͏ust ͟the̛ Fa͢zb҉a͞nds,͢ eve̵n th͞o̷u̧gh J͜ere͜my͢ k̷e͢eps trying to ̷e̷xplai̕n̷ th̡ey ͠do̕n't m͘ean̴ ̡to͞ ki͘l̨l ̡t͏he̷ ̶nigh͢t̢ ̨w̕atch.͝ B͜u̷t the҉y k͡now̡ ̛ho̴w͞ ̨to ̨d͏e̛al ͟w̸i̡th͏ each͘ ͟ơther ̨i̛n̛ ̡ą f̵i͠g̴ht e̸nou̧gh͝ to ͡w̢alk̢ a̕way a̷f͡tȩr.̵ ̸Yours?͟ ͝Ḩę'̷l̨l ̴r̨ip̢ them apa͠r̢t."
"Even more reason to switch us back," Mike sighed and paused with a frown. But maybe he could leave this place in better shape than before, especially when it came to the other Mike's fate concerning Foxy. "However, I think I can help you, Jeremy, and the other me," he added as a plan started shaping in his mind. "Would it be alright if I held on to these glasses a little longer?"
The suspicious look on Jeremy's face reminded him so much of Vincent's expression anytime Scott put something in his hands it made his gut twist. How could such an evil character like The Killer exist as a real person, wearing the face of his friend? Mike was sorely tempted to tell them the scripted arc for them and their future involving Vincent, but he was causing enough damage to the timeline. Besides, maybe things would be different since this Jeremy wasn't exactly like his Jeremy.
"̨What ͘ar͝e̴ y҉ou t̴hinkiņg?" Faith asked in a low tone. Mike forced a smile, all charm and guile and bright blue eyes full of cheer.
"Tonight, I'm going to have a talk with the other four spirits, especially little Violet. Maybe I can help get one Fazband back to normal!" he declared and laughed as Faith scowled through Jeremy.
"For͜ ̛havin͞g͡ ̸a ͝w̸hǫle̢ ̛b̧rain̴, ͝you̵ g̴et͘ ̡i͠dȩas̨ ̡li̢k̡e̷ y̧oư'v̛e ͏go͜t ͏a̧ ch̕un͜k̢ m̧is̢si̴n͠g̷, ͜tơo͏,̡"̧ she snarked. "̴Id͟iot̵.͠"̕
Chapter 9: 9:00 PM - Scripted World
In the world of camera magic, Mike and Vincent awaken in strange company. But while they are safe for the moment, things are coming to light and will soon come to light that could change Mike’s view of the Scripted world and his own life...
That was Mike's first observation once he pulled himself out of the blackness. His body felt too battered to justify facing the world, one giant ache from head to toe. 'Fuck it, I'll kick Panther's ass later.' In the meantime, he let himself remain where he was, limp and carefully held in strangely furry arms, tucked against a hard body that felt familiar.
'Fuck me sideways... I know this feel of fur... god fucking damn it.'
Foxy had him. He had him and Mike had to get loose or get stuffed and knowing Doll was waiting was plenty incentive to struggle for consciousness. Hands flexing, twitching, testing; shoulders rolling, loosening, preparing to move. He put his all into opening his eyes, mentally clawing for sight, for rising up out of the sluggish feeling. 'C'mon, Mike, move your ass! Get the fuck up!' He clenched his teeth lightly, pulled muscle into motion, and regretted it as he overtaxed his reduced strength and let out a soft groan as he sagged back in place.
Foxy growled in warning. At least he didn't seem to be in a hurry to take him to the Marionette. Small fucking miracles, yeah?
But wait; if Foxy had him, then what of Panther? And Vincent? Did Panther get control of the animatronics, like Jeremy had told him about the little guy called Router? Then for all Mike knew he was still in that man's clutches. He shivered at the thought.
'One more time. C'mon, fucking move, open your eyes, open your mouth, scream or something!'
On second thought, with the freaky obsession Panther had with him, opening his mouth would probably be a bad idea.
It felt like forever and a half had passed by in a crawl before Mike finally opened his eyes by a small amount, just a crack. Just enough to still look unconscious as he peeked out from under the concealing brim of his hat. The world was a smear of colors, but he recognized several already.
Pink and white and silver in a mess. That was Mangle. The mess was wrapped around a long streak of purple. Vincent. The purple was touched with a bit of rust-red.
Fuck conserving strength; Vincent was bleeding and he didn't know how bad. Mike struggled to get out of Foxy's grip, twisting in place against the animatronic's efforts to hold him still. "Let me go!" he rasped, kicking weakly until hands grabbed his ankles and held them still. The memory of Panther holding his feet that way rushed to mind. "No! Let me go!" Mike roared in a panic, eyes widening as he thrashed against arms and hands, nearly deaf to calls of his name.
He had him. He had him! There was nothing Mike could do; Panther had him and would pick his mind apart with dark words and cruel memories, pulling up every failure, every dead guard, stripping away all his defenses until there was nothing left of him but whatever Panther saw, whatever he wanted. "Noooo!"
"Michael!" Chicacoo snapped and a sharp slap to his face sent Mike reeling, slumping forward and breathing hard, eyes wide with fading fear. He stared at a smudge of denim blue without really seeing it. It wasn't until he recognized the color as jeans that he realized he had moved, that he was able to move. Hand and hook still gripped his arms, holding him upright and steady. Mike was actually grateful for that. He lifted his head, blinking dumbly at the chicken animatronic kneeling before him with a firm look on her face. "Do you know what happened to you?" she asked him, one hand curled over her bib as she leaned forward. "Do you remember?"
"Panther," he answered in a hoarse voice. Water, he wanted water so bad. "Attacked us. Vincent." He looked past her at Mangle, the messed up fox coiled around Vincent in such a way that she was cradling him, head resting on his shoulder lightly. Vincent was just as limp as Mike had felt earlier, dried blood crusted in a trail down the side of his face from a cut on his forehead. Probably wouldn't be waking up anytime soon. "He... wanted us..." Guilt settled over him. Panther had gone after Vincent because of him, because he fought back. In his own world, if he'd kept fighting, would Panther have tried to take Jeremy?
"Foxy and Mangle saw what he was doing. He betrayed us all. They saved you and Goldie ran him off." Chicacoo reached into a bag by her side and brought out a bottle of water. "Here. They fought with Panther to rescue you, but Vincent got hurt and you were mumbling about the generator room in your sleep," she went on as she opened the bottle and held it to him. "So they called me and we hid here, in the generator room. Can you drink on your own?"
Foxy let one of his arms go and Mike lifted a hand to grab the bottle. His fingers shook and his grip was weak, the bottle nearly slipping out. "Fuck...what did he...?" he muttered in irritation. Chicacoo frowned, clacking her beak lightly as she ran her fingertips down the back of his hand and along his arm.
"Paralytic. Something in the gas to mess with your muscles, maybe. Here," she remarked and put the bottle to his mouth, "I'll help hold it. Just drink. You sound all crappy and junk."
Mike didn't answer. He couldn't, too busy guzzling water and trying to tighten his grip on the plastic container, firmly ignoring the chicken still too close for comfort. Creepy ass animatronic no matter what world he was in. But the water definitely helped soothe his dry throat and pounding headache. "What about him?" Mike asked once he had emptied the bottle, nodding towards Vincent.
"Goldie's got him," she replied, gesturing behind herself as Golden Freddy appeared from the shadows. Mike pulled back in reflex, staring wide-eyed at the bear animatronic. Undamaged and with blue eyes of his own, the yellow bear gave him an unimpressed look before moving to crouch by Vincent, holding out his arms. Mangle shifted around, carefully depositing the purple man into Golden Freddy's hands. That snapped Mike out of his stupor.
"Hey! Let him go! You've got an endo; don't stuff the guy!" he yelled in alarm. Golden Freddy gave him another flat glare before getting up. He moved over, bringing Vincent closer to Mike and holding him in position for Chicacoo to turn in place and pull out a cloth square from her bag along with more water. She dabbed at the cut, cleaning it off carefully. Mike watched in confusion before looking up at the bear. "The hell is going on? I've seen a Golden Freddy. It looked like shit, smelled like shit, and the Fuckboys keep trying to stuff me and Jeremy into that thing," he grumbled. "You actually look decent, and that's fucking creeping me out."
"Would you rather I look like this?" Golden Freddy rumbled softly, blue eyes flickering to solid black with gleaming white pupils. Mike reared back again, fear spiking briefly. The eyes switched back. "Didn't think so." The bear looked down at the unconscious actor now flinching slightly at Chicacoo's dabbing. "Vincent. Wake up." Golden Freddy muttered.
"...'m dizzy...." Vincent mumbled in protest.
"Even more reason to get up." Golden Freddy's constant flat tone seemed pretty calming. Even Mike was hard pressed to stay freaked out with that unwavering voice speaking.
Eventually, Vincent opened his eyes, blinked a few times, then left them at a lidded gaze. "You were right, Mike. Panther wanted you, or rather our Mike in your personality," he said quietly. "Any reason you know why?"
Mike frowned, unable to suppress the tiny shudder that went through him. Foxy whined and hugged closer, prompting him to struggle again. "Hey! Get off me, fucking coyote!" he snapped, pushing himself away once Foxy let go in surprise. "I ain't your happy little cuddle buddy, so stay the hell away from me!" he added, crouching on one knee in an effort to keep his own balance. Chicacoo looked at him in surprise as well, her beak falling off as her eyes widened.
"You're dodging the question, Mike," Vincent growled softly, sitting up with Golden Freddy's help. He glared with unseeing eyes, and his face was heavily shadowed by his hair and the bill of his guard cap, making the white gleam pearl bright. Mike blinked at the sight-
'Cross the line... join his crew~.' Black and yellow. Green eyes flickering gold. A man's howl of anguish, shifting to rage.
-and cried out in pain, clutching his head.
"God fucking damn it! What the hell?!" What was bringing him these weird mental images? Like pieces of memories....
"Mike!" Vincent yelled in a mix of exasperation and concern.
"Killers!" Mike finally declared, throwing his hands up with a snarl, "He fucking wanted me to be his little junior 'cause he thought I'd make a good killer!" Vincent reared back, looking like he'd just been slapped with a wet rubber chicken. Mike lowered his arms, hugging himself with a grimace. The smell of old blood; he could still feel the fading warmth of all those night guards on his hands. Maybe he'll never stop feeling it.
"...me?" Vincent was mumbling. Mike tilted his head and raised an eyebrow before remembering the man was blind.
"Then why did he take me?!" Vincent yelled in a voice bordering hysteria, facing him in a panic, arms pulled close to his body, over his heart, like he was trying to make himself smaller, more invisible. "I'm not actually a killer! I just play one on TV! I don't want to be typecast so literally!"
"Calm the fuck down! Look, we're okay. Golden Freddy chased the psycho away." Mike gestured carelessly, dismissing Panther in the hopes of containing the storm of emotions that had reduced his normally level-headed companion to a nervous wreck. "We need to find Scott. He took a helluva hit. If it were up to me, I'd say 'fuck him' but he's not exactly the asshole I know back home." He tried to get up, carefully standing bit by bit to test his balance and check if he was still weakened by whatever was in the gas. His limbs seemed to behaving themselves so he pitched in to help Vincent get to his feet.
The actor wobbled, leaning heavily against him as Mike pulled one of Vincent's arms across his shoulders and hooked fingers through a belt loop on his slacks, holding him steady. Vincent mumbled his thanks and Mike nodded, about to move forward when a loud burst of static caught his attention. His head whipped around, eyes seeking out Mangle and focusing intently on her. The other animatronics gave her curious glances as well, Chicacoo even paused in the middle of reattaching her beak.
Mangle huddled in place, shock on her face as her mouth opened wider, voice box crackling, until....
"Kkksshzzzzeewww... didn't mean to let it get to that point... zzsshhSSHHvvVvv... certain of that? Forgiving or not, he is the most... keeesssshhheewww... -ngle, you ok? Forget Jeremy Junior. If Mike is remembering... fssshhhh... threat. And we'll need his body to bring back...fessshhhzzzz..."
Mike stared at her for a long minute, Vincent pressing against him and shivering. "What the fuck was that? It sounded like the other animatronics talking through her," he finally muttered.
"Did ye hear that? Another me! That be my voice that spoke first!" Foxy exclaimed, pointing at himself. Chicacoo nodded.
"Mine too! Just for a tiny bit but that was me!" she added, "And Marionette! What do you suppose they were talking about?"
"Me," Mike growled, turning away from them and walking on with Vincent hobbling beside him. "Fuck my life, the animatronics of my world are plotting shit about me. Which means your softie actor boy is gonna get his ass stuffed into a Fazfuck suit." He growled. "What the hell is going on?! Why is everyone after me?! I'm not that fucking special!"
Except he kind of was, wasn't he? The Marionette seemed to have a boner for going after him and Jeremy, something about needing their power to restore the children? Whatever the fuck that meant.... Either way, he was valuable enough for some reason that he had a psycho killer and psycho animatronics fighting over him in two worlds. He was so not being paid enough for this shit.
The animatronics followed him and Vincent down the halls, sometimes stepping up to help balance the weight of the purple guy leaning heavily on him. Golden Freddy and Foxy both led and followed them, looking around with grim expressions, ready to defend them on the off chance Panther returned. Mangle skittered back and forth, scouting ahead for them while Chicacoo fussed over them both as best she could with water and napkins.
The silence was making him itchy, despite being surrounded in the ‘safety’ of their robotic escorts. Too many nights alone, in the dark dingy office of that hell hole. Too many nights spent fighting for his life alone against four -no, five- demons in the dark that he could hardly see, barely hear, and never, ever hurt. It made him... twitchy. Mike supposed he should be thankful to it in some small way. The lonely nights in the old pizzeria had made his hearing ten times better in his opinion, having to strain to hear the soft footfalls on the tile floor as his impending doom edged ever closer to him. But this? God, it was like waiting for a damn bomb to fall, and it was driving him crazy!
Wait... silence? But Mangle was with them and she constantly spewed static back at Freddy's. So why not here? Mike watched as she scurried back to them, listening for the distorted radio chatter. Mangle moved alongside him and Vincent for a bit, looking up at the actor with her one good eye. She opened her mouth slightly and....
"Ksshhhh..." White noise, soft and almost pleasant. Different.
"The static," his voice seemed to bounce off the walls of the seemingly empty building, and the sudden break in silence caused everyone, even the damn robots, to jump a little bit in surprise.
Vincent lifted his head, tired but still managing to look exasperated. "If you mean that horrid noise in the generator room, yes, that was static. We'll have some technicians take a look-"
"That was Mangle's noise."
The expression on Vincent's face went from exasperated to confused. "No, it's not. Mangle makes white noise. It's less grating on the ears and easier to broadcast without damaging equipment," he returned as Golden Freddy gestured for them to turn down another hall. Mike gave him a faintly suspicious look but followed, keeping a slow pace for the recovering actor.
"Your Mangle sounds like that. Mine makes static noise and shit," Mike corrected with a grumble. "Jeremy says it's police static." When the purple man tilted his head in confusion, he continued. "I know it sounds fucked up, but I trust the kid when he says shit. He knows the fuckboys in ways I don't. Mangle sounds like a police radio gone bad. Garbled up words and phrases and shit, but mostly just static. Never heard the others through her voice box. Get where I'm going with this?"
Vincent turned away, going silent as he processed the information. "...If what you say is true... then I suppose we can safely assume that it was your Mangle we were hearing all that from. It would explain the static sounds coming through... but then...." He stopped, one hand pressing to Mike's chest to halt him as well. "Why did we hear your Mangle's noises and the voices of the other Fazbands through our Mangle?"
Mike shrugged at the question as Vincent pulled away and clicked his tongue, reaching out to steady himself against the wall. He only spoke what had been bothering him for the past, what, half hour? Maybe? It had nagged at him ever since they left that room, but now that it was out there it stopped tickling the back of his mind like a feather and the annoyance was gone.
"Walkie-talkies, maybe? Fuck if I know...."
"What did you say?"
Mike blinked and looked over at the purple man, who had snapped his head up to 'stare' at him, white eyes wide with shock. "Uh... walkie-talkies?" he repeated with a bit more uncertainty.
"What made you say that?" Vincent pressed, one hand rising to his chin as he took on a more considering look.
"I dunno. They just kinda sounded like they became walkie-talkies." Mike shrugged; it was just a stupid joke. "But only... through worlds... instead of rooms? Fuck you, I thought it was clever."
"No, no, you may be right!" the purple guy exclaimed, pounding a fist into his hand. "The switch between you and our Mike must have left a small rift here, just enough that our Mangles, the only animatronics who can broadcast other sounds beyond their voices, connected and passed sound back and forth!"
Mike gave him a look, remembered he was blind, and sighed in exasperation. "Fucking speak English, Vincent. I don't understand half the shit you just said," he demanded. Vincent smiled, wide and pleased, and Mike blinked. The smell of birthday cake, dirty blonde hair tied back, a glint of gold.... He pressed the heel of one hand to his head, stifling a groan at the images that made his head hurt. What the fuck was going on?
"The Mangles are sending signals back and forth. We hear what's happening on your world through our Mangle," Vincent kept talking, oblivious to Mike's reaction to his expression. "If that's the case, our voices must be sent over to your world's Mangle!" He clicked his tongue a few times, then began pacing. "We can use this. Mangle, dear, stay by us from now on. We need to find out how to trigger your broadcasting."
"Can we get back to fucking civilization first?" Mike complained, "I got a hell of a headache."
They walked on, emerging into the wide open room with the studio equipment and med station. Not far from them was the rest of the cast and animatronics, looking worried until Jeremy looked over and spotted them. He shouted happily, running up to the two men as the others caught on and rushed towards them.
"You're okay! Oh my god! You're safe!" Multiple voices cried out joyfully and Mike found himself in the center of a storm of hugs by people who mistook him for their friend and animatronics he'd rather trash first chance. It was the weirdest thing. Just on the edge of his vision, he could see Scott -head bandaged- scoop Vincent up and spin in place with the startled purple actor, beaming in joy.
Out of all of the people there, he held onto Jeremy most, clutching the taller version of his son in an attempt to comfort himself. He really had been terrified that Panther would take him away from the family he'd worked so hard to create. Even if that family didn't exist here the same way... or at all.
"Mr. Scmiiiiiiidt!" Mike cringed at hearing his name screamed in the high pitched ranges only kids and brats could reach. Not The Kid; Mike knew The Kid's voice anywhere, and they put a tone of respect in his name that still baffled him. No, this was the screeching of kids who recovered a lost toy.
'Fuck my life; I'm a goddamn toy.'
A bunch of elementary kids -fucking great- clustered around him, hopping in place, tugging at his borrowed clothes, chattering over how glad they were to see him, crying their eyes out in joy. He couldn't stay mad or even annoyed with them, not with the obvious relief shining in their tear-streaked faces. The other Mike must've been hella good with kids. Mike finally let Jeremy out of his grasp to reach out and let the kids grab his hands. It was something he learned on the day shift. Young kids tended to place trust in him if he let them decide to grab his hand on their own. Giving them a choice rather than grab and drag earned him respect from most children. The screaming and wailing still gave him headaches.
One especially loud girl ran in, late to the party, but instead of running for Mike she ran straight for Vincent. "Daddy! Daddy!" she screamed, arms outstretched and tears running down her face. Surprised, Mike looked over at the purple actor, blinking as Vincent pulled himself from Scott and bent to one knee, holding out his arms to catch the little girl in her Foxy shirt and shorts. She buried her face into his neck, sobbing, while Vincent hugged her tightly, milk-white eyes watering even as he put on a small and gentle smile of comfort.
'He's got a kid... holy shit, Panther almost took that kid's dad away... and it would've been my fault....'
Mike didn't have the time to dwell on that budding guilt, feeling his hands get tugged on again by the small crowd of children. He looked them over, stammering out simple comforting words, telling them he was fine, everything was okay, up until he got a niggling sense of familiarity from a couple of the kids. Like he should know them from his own world. But, none of these kids looked like regulars... wait. One of the boys, short black hair tucked up under a spotted red bandana, a pirate eyepatch strapped on and flipped up, pulled at his thoughts and fragmented memories. He knew this kid... somehow....
"These are the children who play the ghosts haunting Freddy's," Vincent whispered to him, standing by him with his daughter carefully held in his arms, the girl still hiding her face in the purple guard shirt. "Well, most of them. I thought I heard little Rufus in there; he plays the young you."
"Young me?" Mike echoed, giving the broadly smiling boy a strange look. This happy kid? How'd they fuck up the casting? He was rarely that happy as a kid, always in and out of hospitals, headaches, mood swings, fits of anger and frustration. "He's too da-arn... bright...." he whispered back to the smirking purple guy, glancing over at the girl in time to censor himself. Rufus? What did the kid do to deserve that name? Besides smile like he was a poster boy for toothpaste....
"Oh, that's right. You don't know," Vincent murmured, eyebrows raised in thought, "or rather, you don't remember." He smiled a little. "Well then. While I speak with Jeremy and Scott about what happened and our discovery of Mangle's ability, why not look after the children with a marathon of episodes from our first season?" he suggested. Mike huffed in annoyance.
"After the shi-shivers we went through, you want me to sit on my butt and watch TV?" he hissed out, gesturing outward, "What about Panther?! He's still out there and I know da-arn well he's not gonna give up on me!"
"Leave him to us," Vincent told him. "Go. Relax." Raising his voice, he called to the crowd, "Mikey says he wants to unwind by watching some classic Five Nights at Freddy's, so who wants to help him set up the break room TV and pop in some tapes?"
Mike winced at the cheers that rang up, little hands already pulling and leading him away from the smugly smiling actor. "Let's watch the pilot episode! No, let's start with the lost episode! You always wanna start with the lost episode!"
'Fuck me sideways! How'd I get suckered into watching a goddamn show about my fucked up job?!'
Chapter 10: 9:30 PM - Original World
In the world of horrors and jump scares, Mike hopes to use what’s normal for this universe to change the rules and help his other self. But just because he has inside knowledge, doesn’t mean things will be any easier for him.
"How is it a stupid idea?!" Mike exclaimed in exasperation, throwing up his arms. Jeremy, now that Faith had said her piece and just floated by his shoulder in annoyance, shook his head with an exasperated sigh.
"You said your world has our lives as a tv show, right? Well, the other spirits here really don't like Mike. And here you are, looking just like him." The boy gestured at him, mouth twisting downwards. "And you want to go meet them? With no protection and them ready to stuff you in a suit? Do you not see how bad this is gonna go?"
"I can talk really fast," Mike assured him. More than that, he was trying to reassure himself. For a few moments he'd forgotten that this place was real, that the ghost kids were truly murderous. He'd had the idea that they were because of the show, but part of him still believed they'd never actually go that far. That he could still yell 'Cut!' and the animatronics would freeze in place like they'd been programmed to.
But that didn't work on Freddy, did it? And Mike had the bruises on his arm to confirm that.
Faith murmured something to Jeremy and the young man's gaze went flat. "Do I have to?" he muttered in a whine. She nodded and Jeremy sighed harshly, rubbing his head. "I'm gonna waste the commands in the first hour thanks to you."
"So I get to keep the glasses for a while?" Mike asked with a grin, pointing at the lenses he still wore. He couldn't help but laugh at the glare he got in return.
Another song played as the two of them got ready to head to Freddy's for the night shift. Jeremy twitched and picked out his phone, opening it to send a message. "Sorry, Miss M, but you can't get involved this time," he muttered under his breath. Not with this other Mike running around and liable to get himself killed and hurt her deeply. He would never forgive himself.
"Was that... Doll?" The oddly weak and longing sound in the other Mike's voice made him look up. Why did he sound like that? Didn't he have his own Doll back in that other world?
"Yeah. She wanted to know what was up, why you ran off on her. So I told her not to worry, it was just a work thing and I'd figure out what was wrong." Jeremy sighed, looking down at his phone. "I'm pretty sure she's not buying it. Miss M will do anything for Mike, even try to drive a truck through the front doors of Freddy's Pizza to help rescue him." He smiled a little at that memory.
"She sounds like a hell of a fighter," Mike mumbled, rubbing at an eye. "Darn... I can't afford to keep messing up my makeup. Chris is gonna kill me for wasting foundation." Jeremy gave him an odd look before remembering that the man used professional makeup to emulate the appearance of a sleep-deprived security guard. He watched the other Mike get up and go back to the bathroom to reapply the stuff, then turned his attention to Faith.
"I really hope this doesn't end with somebody getting stuffed in a suit," he whispered. "I don't think Miss M can handle that and we won't have any hope of getting our Mike back from that other world."
"̵W̡el̷l̨,̡ if ̶h̶e̢ re͜a͞lly̴ wants to̸ ͝try ̷t͏al̛k̢i͜n̸g t͢o̴ one͘ of my o̸ld ̢fr͢ie͜nds, ̡ou͡r b̡es͟t͘ chanc̢e͠ ͜w͜o̧ul̡d͜ ̶b͏e w̕ith ҉S̕oph̨ie ̷a͞nd ͞Bo̶n͠nie,͘" the eerie girl's voice returned from near his right side. "I͟ still th̛i̡n̨k h͡e'̡s͠ a fu̵ck̸in'͝ ͡id͏io͠t͡.̷"̕
"So̴ŗry̶, n͜o͞t sorr̕y҉.̕"̨
Doll. She had involved herself in the horrors of Freddy's Pizza to stand by her boyfriend's side and help him survive. She really was the most wonderful and special person in the world. Mike felt a hard pang in his chest as he recalled her dazzling smile when she opened the door to that little apartment that was 'home' in this world. How she greeted him when he walked in and how she threw her arms around him, thinking he was her Mike after another long night. Her face when he left her, fleeing from the temptation of taking her for himself....
Mike shook his head, clearing the visual from his mind as he followed Jeremy's lead. Now wasn’t the time to hesitate. This wasn’t his world. He didn’t belong here and no matter how much he wished he could stay, he had to set things right. The thought of her staying in such a devastated state.... He knew that if he had been in her position, he, too, would feel heartbroken and confused. He couldn’t have that. His grip tightened on the glasses in his hand as they stepped out of the house, only pausing long enough for Jeremy to lock the door behind them. His mind was made up, there was no swaying him now, that was for sure. One way or another, he was going back, and he would get her boyfriend, her real boyfriend, back home to her safe and sound. He could only hope the man was all right wherever he was, and that this plan would work.
The walk to the pizzeria was a quiet one, the silence broken every now and then by Jeremy muttering something that he couldn’t hear. Something that sounded like code or commands. Maybe he was rehearsing for the confrontation they were soon to have? Mike didn’t know, but he had to put his trust in this kid if he wanted this to work.
Stepping into Freddy Fazbear's Pizza, he saw the young man beside him take a deep breath and let it out slowly, his hands flexing at his sides. Slipping the glasses back on, he saw Faith giving him a look that was hard to place, a mix between hope and disbelief, and a pit began to grow in his stomach. What if this didn't work? This wasn't his world, the bruises on his arm proved it, so anything was liable to happen once the clock struck 12 AM. Mike balled his hands into fists at his sides, swallowing the fear like a bad cookie baked by a questionable fan. Jeremy wouldn’t let anything happen to him. He, too, knew how important it was to get his Mike back and if he died, that wouldn’t happen. It wasn’t the greatest way to suppress the fear, but it did the trick for the moment.
"So now what?" Mike asked, checking his watch for the time. 10:00 PM; a full two hours ahead of the glitching hour. Jeremy glanced at him and then pointed down a nearby hallway.
"We head to the office and get a few things for the night shift. Fritz should be on duty still, so we don't need to clock in yet." The boy began walking, leading Mike to the security office. "Usually I get here at about eleven o'clock for final patrol with Mike, just to make sure everything's secure and no one's trying to sneak in or break out," he went on, looking around almost nervously. Mike glanced at his surroundings but, other than the creepy children's drawings, nothing seemed unusual. "But we'll need the extra time to try your crazy plan of talking to the other spirits. Which means we need to get to one without them having control of the Fazband so they can't just suddenly kill us."
It wasn't long until they reached the office, but walking by the open doorways of the slowly emptying party rooms gave Mike a few chills. This was real. He had to keep reminding himself of that. In just a few short hours the Toys he had always thought of as amusing cast-mates would be traveling this same building in a relentless search for anyone left behind to kill them. Why would Vincent do that here? In the script for the show, it said the motives for The Killer were purely for the enjoyment of causing death and pain.
Did that really hold true here?
"You're here really early," Fritz's voice commented. Mike looked up to see the chubby guard give him a puzzled look before turning to Jeremy with a faintly disgruntled pout. "Well, are you feeling okay? You raced in here like you left some body rotting somewhere and then Mike carried you out. Sure you're up for the night shift? I could just call Scott to fill in."
Jeremy shook his head. "No, I'm alright. Sorry for the trouble. I really need to do my shift and Mike said he'd help out since it's getting close to the weekend." He managed a smile. "Thanks for asking, though!"
Fritz blinked at him before glancing away with a huff, stepping aside to let them further into the office. "Yeah, well. Weekend shifts are tough, so good luck on that," he agreed. He then headed out with a wave, a slight waddle to his steps as he moved with the dwindling crowd of people on their way home from birthday parties and fun.
Mike watched him go, then turned around in time to see Jeremy hold up a Freddy Fazbear mask and a flashlight. "Here. You're going to need these." The teen held the mask before his face, peeking at him through the eyeholes. "Once midnight strikes, this is the only thing that can make most of the animatronics ignore you," he explained.
He took the mask and looked it over. It was just like the one he wore for the scene in his own world, but much older in appearance. And the muzzle seemed shaped wrong for Freddy's face, like it was another animatronic's face, just painted over to resemble Freddy. Some of the fur was hard and stiff in patches, bits of faded color barely seen through the brown hue. Mike frowned thoughtfully. Where did this mask come from?
"C'mon," Jeremy murmured, gesturing as he headed back out of the office. "We should get to Parts and Service. If we're lucky we can single out Bonnie and you can talk to his spirit. They're the least aggressive." He paused, eyes rolling up as if recalling something. "Well, at least until something messes with the pizzeria. The Fazbands both get really pissed about break-ins." His expression went flat, mouth thin. "We can blame my father's software and the Vincent File for that."
Mike blinked. That was new to him. "Vincent File?" he echoed in confusion, "And your father's software?" Jeremy just shook his head.
"Not your problem, so not your business," he retorted as they drew close to the door leading into the parts room. Mike reached out, gripping his shoulder and startling the teen.
"It is if you want me to stay alive long enough to switch us back," he pointed out. Jeremy looked up at him in surprise, then glanced away with a soft huff.
"From what I can tell about things, my father created something called Active Security Mode for the Toys back in 1985. The Killer managed to corrupt it in 1987 with something called the Vincent File, so my father wrote a counter software called Fazband Control and installed it into both the Toys and the Fazband." Jeremy shifted on his feet, clearly uncomfortable with talking about it, and Mike felt a small twinge of regret for pressing for information, but he needed to know how the animatronics worked if the show commands didn't affect them. "He forced me to learn how to command the software... and then he died."
"!" Mike gasped sharply, eyes wide. "Oh my god, Jeremy, I'm so sorry to hear that." The teen waved the words away, dull glare still on his face.
"He was an asshole. I gave up crying for him, but I'm still gonna do my best to clear his name. More for my sake, really." He looked up at the ghost girl floating by him, her face oddly unreadable in expression. "And for Faith and the other kids, too. And for Mike."
"You mean he doesn't know?" Jeremy gave him a confused look before Mike pointed to his head. "About the...?" The boy's gaze softened and he shook his head.
"No. He doesn't. And Faith says that's what's best. If he were to realize, or find out about the Bite, he would go confront Foxy about it. And if what Faith says about that spirit is true...." Jeremy shuddered, color draining from his face.
"She'll make sure to finish the job?" The boy weakly nodded at the statement. Mike sighed softly, rubbing the back of his neck. "Damn.... Why would she do something like that? I would think they'd be happy for their friend since he managed to survive...."
"All the more reason why this plan is so stupid," Jeremy growled with annoyance as he opened the door to Parts and Service. "If she finds out that you know what happened there won’t be anything to stop her from taking a bite out of you after the command's timer runs out. You know what that means, don't you?"
'Taking a bite out of him'. The figure of speech was far too literal in this world, and Mike had to remind himself of that. But he couldn't stop here, not when he could actually do some good in this world. If he could make life easier for his counterpart, make it so he could fully enjoy his life and enjoy being with the ones he loves, and not have to worry about the chance of dying or losing a loved one every night of his life, that he could finally be of use for once....
"Finally seeing how dumb it is, now that we're here?" He was snapped out of his inner monologue at the tone in the teen's voice. Jeremy raised an eyebrow at the man, his hand still on the door knob, ready to close it and leave everything as it was. Mike shook his head and steeled his nerves.
"No. I mean, yeah, it's stupid, but I'm still not backing down from this," he returned, taking on the more steadfast and nearly aggressive stance of the security guard role he played so well.
His determination was met with a groan of annoyance as Jeremy dropped his face into his palm with a heavy sigh.
"I only hope you can run faster than your mouth does," the teen muttered and took a deep breath, mask swirling into shape in front of his face. Mike quickly caught on and pulled his own mask down, peering around Jeremy as the door was slowly opened.
Together, they peeked into Parts and Service, half-expecting a jump scare from an animatronic or two.
Instead they found the room completely empty, not a single animatronic to be found.
Chapter 11: 6:00 AM - Scripted World
In the world of celebrity and starshine, Mike learns how a TV show can reveal so many unknown things in the past, but there were episodes skipped and information glossed over. In one particular case, a fact that Mike had always known to be ‘true’ could be contradicting.
What’s the motive of The Killer and his identity? And what is the truth of the day guard that failed his duty?
Mike opened his eyes bit by bit, grimacing slightly as he took stock of his situation again. A lot of small bundles of weight on him; that would be all the children clustered around and on him, sleeping through another taped recording of that god-damned show mocking his life. He was on a sofa, large and comfortable, and while he wished for his bed at home with Doll, at least this cushy sofa didn't leave him with a crick in the neck. The television screen was showing one of those cheesy after show public service announcements for education or crap. What did they call it on this show? ‘Schmidt Says’? Fucking stupid. Schmidt Says, stay the fuck away from Freddy's if ya wanna live. Best advice he could ever give.
He picked up the sound of soft snoring and looked around for the source. First thing he spotted was Foxy, which made Mike tense up and go very still until he realized the animatronic was dozing, curled up on the floor with Rufus using him like a pillow. But no snoring, so he moved on with his search.
Ah, there. Slumped back on a nearby recliner that looked like it had seen better days was Vincent, dressed now in a simple turtleneck of pale green and faded jeans, bandages wrapped around his head. Curled against his side was the strangely familiar girl that was his daughter, messy hair spilling all over as she hugged him tight in her sleep, like she refused to let anyone take her father away. It was the blind actor that was softly snoring, legs propped up on Mangle's curled up form, her glowing eyes scanning their surroundings. She smiled at him and Mike just raised an eyebrow.
His life just kept getting weirder.
Working himself free of the children was a small feat but Mike was able to get loose and stretch his arms over his head, working out kinks and letting the soreness from yesterday ease out into a dull ache. Eh, that would do. The TV was still playing, so he looked around for the remote to turn it off. One of the kids wanted to start from some random list of episodes, some of things he remembered happening, and some with stuff that was just too weird to be real. Seriously, there was no way Vincent could play a piano fast enough to catch it on fire, right? The manic smile he sported during his scenes kept tugging at broken memories, making Mike flinch every time an episode with the guy played.
He couldn't find the remote so he just went over to stop the player. Just as he pressed the button, Mike caught sight of a character, an actor, he didn't recognize as a guard. Well, maybe he did. Mike pressed play again, watching curiously as the supposed day guard walked the set. He couldn't see the face, the actor wasn't facing the camera, but he could pick out long tawny hair, dirty blonde, pulled into a ponytail. If not for that, with the way his hair was styled, Mike could have sworn that he was looking at Jeremy.
But this guy was taller, Mike could tell from the patterns on the wall beside the guy. Hair was the wrong color and too long.
And yet, he had the odd feeling that he had seen him before, in his own world.
Didn't he get the same feeling from Vincent? So weird.
Mike turned the player off and headed for the chair, reaching out to pat the guy's shoulder. He had questions that needed answering, thanks to the marathon of episodes he'd been forced to sit through. As soon as his hand made contact, Vincent's own hand snapped up to grip his wrist tightly, the actor freezing in place, tense and with an expression of sudden terror on his face. Mike held still, didn't move, didn't speak, didn't dare breathe out. He'd seen this reaction before, from other newbie night guards that barely survived the shift and went into that rabbit-in-the-headlights trance when grabbed by the shoulder. Best to let the victim realize on their own that it was a human hand, a friendly hand.
Eventually, Vincent calmed down and relaxed his hand, pulling it away to rub over his eyes. "Sorry. I thought... never mind. It's too ridiculous to consider," he muttered. Mike pulled his hand away, flexing it to check for injury. Strong grip; for being kind of lanky, Vincent was surprisingly strong.
"Man, I deal with real killer animatronics in a haunted pizza place every fuckin' day and night. Try me." Mike folded his arms over his chest, forgetting yet again that the purple actor wouldn't be able to see him.
"I thought Panther had come after me again." There was nothing Mike could say to that. So he just stood there, feeling guilty and hating it, until Vincent slipped himself free of his daughter's hug. "We need to talk, don't we?" he asked quietly and gestured with a hand, "This way."
"I'm fucking possessed by some dead kid?!"
"Not so loud!" Vincent waved his hands in attempts to shush him, but Mike was too wrapped up in fear and anger and a slew of emotions he didn't have names for to listen. They had moved away from the green room, walking back to the generator room with Mangle to try and see if she would pick up anything else from the rift.
"Your stupid ass show copies my life, right?! So I'm possessed by some kid you killed in my world?! What the hell, Vincent?!" he shouted in disbelief. How could this guy do that?! After seeing how freaked he'd been about Panther, how could he possibly be able to pull off those creepy yet familiar smiles in the show, knife in one hand, toast in the other?
-lollipop, lollipop, juicy red, pools on the floor-
"I did not kill those children! That's what my character did in the show but that is not me!" Vincent protested. "Didn't you pay attention at all?! One of those ghost children is being played by my own daughter!"
Mike rubbed his forehead. The fragments of memory rubbed wrong with the events in the show. Some felt right, and some felt wrong, and all of it made his head hurt. What was going on? If the Vincent in the show was the Killer, and it showed the same things that had happened or will happen in his own life, then wouldn't it mean that in his world there was also a Vincent and he killed a bunch of kids too? But the Killer in the show had toast always showing up around him, like a calling card.
Why did Mike think of lollipops instead?
"Okay, so maybe the you of my world has a thing for lollipops and didn't give two shits that he killed his own kid," he began, holding up a hand as Vincent took on a despairing look, groaning "I don't believe this!" in misery, "but I'm thinkin' there's shit that ain't matching up. Killer you likes toast-"
"I hate you so much right now."
"-here, but in my world you like lollipops? That don't jive right." Mike squinted his eyes, scowling as he tried to piece things together. The idea that some dead girl was holed up in his body was just all kinds of wrong. The same went for this depressed looking purple guy; he put on a pretty convincing show as some nutcase serial murderer, but did that mean it was also an act in his own world? The way the girl -Violet, if he remembered the name from the show right- clung to him with all her might; no way someone who really hated their dad would....
Wait. Why did he think that? Violet in the show acted like she had no clue Vincent was her father. So why did Mike get this nagging feeling Violet in his world absolutely despised the man? Far too many things didn't add up, and even his stupid self could see that something wasn't right.
"Ok, forget that shit. There's somethin' else," he added slowly, pushing thoughts of Violets and Vincents and wicked smiles in fading light out of mind for now. "There was a guy in one of the episodes that looked like Jeremy from behind. He wore a day shift uniform, but nobody like him works at Fuckboy's with me and Fritz."
"Ah? Let me list the guard characters. Tell me if there's a name you don't recognize." Vincent returned, looking relieved that he was no longer the subject. "The show is divided by past and present. Present guards are Mike, Jeremy, Scott, and Fritz." Mike nodded his head, more for his own benefit than Vincent's. "The past guards are The Killer, Scott, and Jonathan."
Mike snapped his fingers, grim smile on his face. "That one. Jonathan. Don't have him in my world. What's up with that? If your show copies my life, why ain't there a Jonathan in my world?"
They turned a corner in silence, thinking over that difference and several others. Even in the day, sunlight didn't reach the deeper parts of the pizzeria, and the shadows remained as deep and murky as ever. The air was musty, deathly still. Somewhere in the distance, metal clinked against metal, a tiny plink that made the hairs on the back of Mike's neck rise.
"I remember now. There are two Jonathans, the current one who isn't actually named in show but on script only, and the real Jonathan. He appears in only one episode, the lost episode of Five Nights at Freddy's. It was the original pilot episode to introduce young Mikey Schmidt and debut the show." Vincent began quietly, hands shoved in his pockets as Mangle skittered ahead, scanned the connecting halls, then doubled back to stay close to him. "Jonathan played the day guard who was demoted to night shift after The Killer murdered a child outside the pizzeria, breaking Jonathan's promise that no child would ever be killed while he was on duty. He played the part of devoted guard beautifully. When I listened to him say his lines, I truly believed he could protect every child." He laughed, grinning over at Mike. "I wanted to just throw down that stupid prop knife and walk off set. It was the hardest thing to play my part and hear him cry. I guess that was when I realized I could play The Killer, but it will never be in my heart to truly enjoy the role."
"If he was kickass at bein' the day guard for the past bits," Mike asked in confusion, "why's he only in that one episode? And why is it 'lost'?"
"Because we ran the tape for a test audience and they loved Jonathan too much. His acting, his part in the story, he completely overshadowed Mikey. When Jonathan realized he was going to outshine the main character, he abandoned the role." Vincent shrugged. "Just put the hat and shield on the director's desk and walked out. We never saw him again." He smiled a bit as he went on, "For this season, we needed a new night guard, a young face to attract a younger audience."
"Jeremy," Mike guessed, frowning. The boy was taller than the Jeremy he knew, more filled out and confident. Why were they different?
"Jeremy turned out to be related to Jonathan. My guess is he sent his younger cousin our way when we put out a call for a night guard." Vincent shrugged again, kicking a piece of debris that sent Mangle scrambling to chase it and clear the hall of similar pieces. "We asked him about Jonathan, but Jeremy just grins about him. Secrets, I suppose. Don't much like them, but what can we do?"
Mike sighed, annoyed by the extra questions that popped up instead of getting answered. "This ain't helpin'. Let's head back to the main dining room," he told the actor, jerking a thumb over his shoulder. He didn't add that he was starting to feel like he was being watched again. That sort of thing meant either the animatronics were on the hunt, or a certain psycho stalker was nearby.
And Vincent looked a bit green after getting yelled at about his role in the show. Mike felt just a little bad about that. After all, the asshole killer he should be pissed at was in his own world; not fair to take it out on an innocent guy.
"So if he quit here, does that mean the Jonathan of my world also quit his job?" Mike asked as he reached out to help guide Vincent along, Mangle scurrying back to watch over them. Vincent shook his head.
"I don't believe so. If your world is following the original script, before we had to hire a new Jonathan and rewrite his character, then their fates should be the same," he replied, lifting his head as if registering the fact that they were turning around and heading back. "Jonathan dies and leaves his son in the hands of an emotionally distant mother."
Mike squinted; that sounded familiar. Wasn't that what Jeremy said happened to him? His father committed suicide and he was stuck with his mom who didn't give two shits about him and dumped him at his aunt's place before taking off. "Lemme guess. Jonathan's actually Jeremy's dad and he hung himself in 1989 after getting blamed for what happened with the kids," he drawled out.
Vincent 'looked' over at him in surprise. "That's... not possible. That's what happens to him in the new script...." Mike gave him a sharp look but it didn’t seem that the actor was lying. He swallowed hard, his voice slightly unsteady as he asked his next question.
"Then... what happened to Jonathan in the original one? The one you think my world's followin'?"
The purple man's face took on an expression of disturbed confusion, like he still didn't get why Mike believed Jeremy's story of his father's suicide. His next words didn't help either.
"In the original telling of the story, Jonathan died in 1987 while on the night shift, the first victim of the animatronics. There's no way he could have killed himself two years later; he was already dead by then."
Chapter 12: 10:30 PM - Original World
In the world of shadows and memories, Actor Mike and Jeremy plan their strategy to single out Bonnie and try conversing with the ghost children in hopes of preventing Mike’s future death. Things don’t go well as the animatronics, and the Marionette, have plans of their own!
"Well, this isn't going to get us all in trouble," Chica grumbled under her breath, arms folded over her chest as she sat on the floor, legs stretched out in front of her. She halfway wished for hands again, if only to flip off the Marionette leaning over the edge of his prize box with his usual smile on. Settled in a messy half circle around the prize box, the two sets of animatronics had gathered together again. It was a violation of the rules the Fazbands followed for years, but there didn't seem to be a punishment coming just yet.
"͞S͡o,͡ we ͝know̶ ͝wha̢t͏ t͏o ḑo ab̵out͢ M͝i͜ķe̡ aņd̡ hi͟s̷ ͞'̧r̵em̨ember͡i̵ng̵', ͠r̶ig͢h̕t͝?" Marionette questioned them all, delicately scratching the tips of his fingers over the outside of his box. "We ̧can̨'t ḩa͞v͠e̴ th҉at.҉ He'll ͡ge͠t h͟i̡m̸self ̢ki̢l͏le͘d ͟t̶he ̢wr͢ong̨ way a̛n҉d I ͠şt͏il̴l̸ ͠need ͠hiş body͝ in͡tact͟.̛"
"You tried to strangle him!" Chicacoo pointed out angrily. The Marionette shrugged. "What's wrong with letting him remember us? If anything, we'll do our best to protect Michael. It's what we were made for! It's in our software!"
"͢S̨o'̕s ͠t̶he͝ b̧i͟t̵ tha͢t̛ mak͘es you̸ ri̢p ͞guards ͞t͘o͟ pi̧e͢c̵es,̢ ̷but ̴w͡h҉atev͞e̸r. Sunsh̷in͜ȩ ͠a̧nd̛ Gol̡d c͘a̡n͠ fix͢ ͜tha̛t͜ ̵o̵nce h̶e͝'҉s ͠b̕a̧ck.͝" The Marionette wiggled his fingers in the air, cackling. "P̕la҉ces! ͜Let's ͝g̡et ̡t̸h͞is ̢tr͜a͘d̵e͞ ͞u͢nde̶rw̸a̸y!"
"Your ‘trades’ got us into this mess with the guy in charge!" BonBon sneered, "It's way before midnight, meaning we don't have to do what you say or what that stupid glitch forces us to do! If he was still alive-!"
"B͘u҉t ͟he̷'͏s ̡no͠t̷,͠" the Marionette cut him off in a flat tone that sent chills through the blue bunny. The puppet's wide and void-black smile, gleaming white pinpricks for eyes, made it all the more disturbing. "͢A̵l͏l t̛hąt̨'s͞ left ǫf ͞h̛im is҉ t҉he infl҉uen̡c̴e͠ h͡e͠ l̕e̸ft w̸i͠th͝i͏n͢ t͏h̸e̵s̷e͡ ̧wa̕ll̢s̡.͠ ̶Bu͠t w̵i̛th s҉o͞m̴ȩone ͠c͘o̴m͘pa̧tible.̧.."͢ He left the sentence hanging, his steady gaze pinning BonBon in place.
The animatronics sat there in silence. Chica gave Freddy a worried glance, but the bear had returned it with a faintly guilty one.
"I don't like it," Fred grumbled, folding his arms over his chest and jutting out his lower lip in a pout.
"͟B҉u̕t ̕you҉'ll do i̢t̵ ̢any̨wa͝y," the Marionette purred, resting his chin on his hands. And the Fazbands couldn't help but agree.
"We've spent half an hour looking at cameras and I make a living avoiding looking like I'm looking at cameras," Mike grumbled in a faintly irritated drawl that almost fooled Jeremy into believing this really was Mike, the one that belonged here. But one glance at him wearing his red lens glasses and squinting at the Freddy mask suspiciously let the young man know he wasn't 'Dad'.
"Maybe it's no big deal if the animatronics wander off on your world, but it's a hell of a lot more serious for us," Jeremy returned curtly, switching back to the prize corner to wind the box. He strained his ears to listen for the usual noises as well, Mangle's static, the thumps in the walls, the klaxxon of bells from the proximity alert sensors. Nothing.
Mike sat back in his seat and sighed almost in boredom, arms folded over his chest as he tilted his chin up thoughtfully. "Well, this pizzeria is just built on and extending the smaller budget version of Freddy's, right?" he wondered aloud. "So what're the odds that they all just went over to that old section?"
Jeremy paused in flicking through the cameras to process that, face paling as he realized that yes, there was nothing to prevent the Toys and Fazband from just moving into the old pizzeria section. It seemed counterproductive -there were no guards on that side- but he couldn't just let them all be over there anyway. They could be planning something.
But rules were different for both sides of the pizzeria.
On a level that Jeremy didn't fully understand, he knew the rules for facing the Fazbands changed once they crossed from the newer building to the old establishment, but wasn't sure how he knew. The flashlight and mask worked here for certain; he knew how the animatronics moved and reacted on this side.
But only Mike could handle them on the other side. Not this Mike; the real Mike Schmidt.
"̢T͏hi͜s ̷co͠u͞ld ̧be͏ ̧a̷ ̵p̕r̴ob͠l̴em͜,̛" Faith murmured near his shoulder. "̷The҉ ̡r̸ule ͝c͢h̷a̕n̸gęd ̸fo҉r͏ the musi̧c ̨b̡ox ҉on ͡the ̢ot͏he͘r ͢si̷d͟e̵; ͜if̢ ͞we t͞ake ͢yo͘ur̴ tab̶l̛e̴t͡ ther̴e͝,͞ t̷h̴e͝ ̵l͢in̡k̢ ͘t͏o̕ ̛t͠h҉e҉ box͢ ̛įs͞ c͡ut.͜"̵
"What?! Why?!" Jeremy blurted out in confusion. Mike just looked over at him in wary concern before catching on that he was probably talking to the ghost and resumed his look of frustrated boredom.
There was a bit of silence that Jeremy could picture being from the girl shrugging her shoulders. "͢Ţheŗe҉'s̴ an i̷nflueņce͠ ̸i̷n t͞h̵i̵s̨ ̛p̡la̶ce ҉th͝at̷ ̧sets ͠th͜e̛ r͟ul̵es̡ f҉or ever̸y͏body. Gues̴s̨ t͞h҉ȩy̷ ̴th͠ou͘g̡ht ̵h̷a̷v̕in͠g a͠ r̷emote link̷ ͝t̸o ͘t͡ḩe̡ ͠m̧u̷s̶i̶c box͞ f̷rom th͝e sm̶al͝l̕er͜ ҉F͏re͠dd̶y's͡ w̶a̢s ̨c̷h̶eatin͟g͘?" Another small pause and then she went on. "B̢uţ ̵t̶hat̵'͞s ͏f͢or͢ ͢the̵ tabl҉et͟.̸.. I̡ ͟wo̵n͡de҉r i̕f͞ ̵it̷ co̶u̶nts̶ i̶f̨ ̴y̛o̡u ͞ţa͟k̢e th͘a͝t ba̶c̛k͟u͡p m̡usi͟c b͘o҉x̕?͝"
Huh, that was new. Or was it that he'd always sort of known that, even from the beginning of his first week? Jeremy shook his head hard. "Okay, we need to find the Fazbands and get Bonnie separated so you can talk to their spirit," he summed up for Mike's benefit. "If they've gone over to the old section, I'll have to go in and see where they've positioned themselves. Between the two of us, I've got more experience handling the animatronics... and trust me, that's not much."
Mike gave him a weak grin at that. "Sorry, kid. If my show commands could work on them, I'd be a hell of a lot more useful." He gestured towards Jeremy. "So, if you're going over there, what do you want me to do?"
The teen considered that. His tablet couldn't pick up the cameras in the old section of the pizzeria; he'd tried that back during the break-in and it didn't show him as connected. But Mike's tablet was old, used before the renovation. Could that still connect?
"Hold this." Jeremy ordered, shoving his tablet over to the actor before he made a dash for Mike's locker. The night the switch happened Jeremy had put the other man's tablet in his locker, intent on getting him home quickly. He pulled it out now and turned it on, flipping through the options until the old camera system appeared. Selecting it made the newer system fade out, but the cameras in the old section of Freddy's suddenly came on.
"Oh hey! Season one!" Mike exclaimed, leaning over to take a look himself. "That's right; you guys built around the old location to hide it." Jeremy looked up at him in confusion. "I don't know much more than that. The script writers kept that a secret for the next arc. All I know is there's supposed to be something important hidden within Freddy's that affects it."
"Something hidden here?" Jeremy echoed quietly before shaking his head and returning to the tablet. "Um, okay, how good are you at keeping track of stuff in the new Freddy's building?" Mike shook his head. "Really?"
"I didn't do much rehearsal with the new animatronics since they're Jeremy's... my Jeremy's supporting actors. I can get by but they have to purposely miss or slow down for me without looking like they're helping me out." Mike rubbed at his face. "Sorry, but I'm only decent with the first four."
And the Fazband of the actor's world would hold back and not actually hurt him. Jeremy sighed in dismay. That wasn't going to be much help. He sighed and returned to his seat, tapping the cameras to search. Bonnie and Bon-Bon in the old dining room, the loud clatter in the old kitchen from the two Chicas, Mangle curled up on the table in the back room, Fred and Freddy arguing on stage... where was Foxy? In Pirate Cove?
Beside him, Mike was also poking at cameras, a small frown on his face. "The Marionette shares the prize corner with Golden Freddy? That's different."
The hairs on the back of Jeremy's neck rose, his eyes lifting from the tablet to the open entrance in front of them. He reached over to his flashlight and clicked it on, pointing it down the hall.
But he was out there. He was out there and he could come and this wasn't good, not good at all.
Could he take a look? Could he see and check without falling apart?
He wished Mike was there to be close by. Jeremy always felt stronger with his father-figure by his side.
He took a deep breath and held out his hand to the actor. "Let me see," Jeremy told him shakily. Mike gave him an odd expression but passed over the tablet.
Okay. Just a quick peek.
Jeremy flipped the tablet and took a look at the screen.
The dingy yellow animatronic bear sat on the floor in front of the prize box, empty eyes looking up at the camera.
I̡t͢͝'͝s͘͞ m͢͠e̡.͏ ͡i̢͜T͢͝'͢͞s͟ ҉m͜E̶.̷ ͠I̸̡͝T'̸̛͜s͞͝ ̕͘͟M͝-̶E͠.
With a scream, Jeremy flung the tablet away from himself and covered his ears, eyes squeezing shut. There was a muffled noise and some movement, and then a warm hand was on his shoulder. He twitched, a sob coming loose, and the hand was replaced with an uncertain hug, light but genuine.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know Goldie scares you here. I forgot he was supposed to be one of the more terrifying animatronics. He's usually a really nice guy, real quiet but helpful." Mike's voice was soft, almost soothing, but Jeremy wished for his dad's voice, gruff and hard but in that way that let him know hell would freeze over before the day guard let anything through to hurt him.
There was a bit of silence before the actor continued. "If I may ask... why does he scare you? Isn't he tricked by the mask too?"
Jeremy didn't answer, only shook his head as he struggled to push away the fear and panic. "Severo admin goto command," he murmured softly, clinging to the words for comfort, "auxiliary override goto default...." He sighed, relaxing bit by bit as Mike pulled away and gave him space. "Golden Freddy can be fooled by the mask. My reasons for why he scares me are my own," Jeremy finally replied, rubbing at his eyes before looking for the tablet to the old Freddy's Pizza.
It was on the desk so he grabbed it and got up. "Okay. The Marionette tends to keep Golden Freddy in check, so I just need to keep the music box wound and maybe he won't show up." Jeremy glanced at his watch to check the time, 11:15. "I'm going to the old section and see if I can find Bonnie and bring him over here for you to talk to and do whatever it is you're planning. The file shouldn't trigger until midnight, so you can stand near the entrace to the old Freddy's and wait for me and Bonnie to get to you. Okay?"
Mike nodded and Jeremy took a deep breath to calm himself more. "Right then. Let's go."
Mike gave a small wave at the boy as Jeremy jogged down the hall towards the older section of the pizzeria, tablet in hand. It wasn't until Jeremy was gone that Mike looked at the tablet he held in his own hands. Something about it didn't seem right.
He held a hand over the screen, ready to wake it up and check.
A faint sound played in the air, familiar, the sound of pipes clanging that signaled an animatronic was approaching the office. Mike frowned, eyes squinting in confusion. None of the Fazband members had come by, so who was going to the office?
Mike gave the hallway behind him an uncertain look, then looked back to the hall leading to the office. Should he go and see who was going there? Or stay put here to wait for Jeremy and Bonnie?
The pipe clanging went on, insistent and ringing. Mike set his expression, pulling up the role of angry security guard and sliding into it as he made his decision. With sure steps, he marched for the hall to the office, glancing around furtively as he headed down the path.
"Okay, fuckboys! Ya got my attention! What the hell are you up to?!" he snarled out, stepping into the office, mask at the ready to pull down over his face.
He stopped, startled, at the sight of Foxy the pirate standing there, watching him with a hopeful expression.
"M-Mikey, d'ye r-remember?" the animatronic asked brokenly.
Mike opened his mouth to reply, stopping himself just in time. 'If I say I do, it might set off Violet. But I have to talk to her!' He closed his mouth and stepped back, wary. Through the red lenses of the glasses he borrowed, he could see her. The black shadowy figure of a young girl loomed over Foxy's shoulders, glaring at him hatefully. He had to play this carefully.
"These," Mike began, tapping the frames of the glasses, "let me see there's something with you. A child. Am I right?"
Foxy's ears perked up as Violet's eyes widened, expression changing to one of surprise. Her eyes moved around him, searching, and Mike guessed who it was she was looking for.
"There's someone with me, too. But they're with Jeremy right now." He was right; Violet's eyes went back to him in a snap. "I only know some stuff, not everything. So, I wanted to talk to you." Mike went on, shifting the tablet to tuck under one arm securely. "About... the one who killed you."
Violet's face darkened further, if that was possible for a shadow. Her lips pulled back, teeth bared in a vicious snarl. Mike noted the sharp points of her canines, the almost feral look in her eyes. Okay, okay, time to lay the act on and hope it works.
"I remember... a few things... not much... scattered shit... flashes... nothin' that really means anythin' to me. Not that I can really tell anyway." Careful, Mike, careful. What did that scene look like again? He had to wrack his mind to remember the episode that it happened in; it had been too long since he read that script, experienced the setting and sounds. What could he use? He brought a hand to his hat, scratching at his head through the fabric. It was something his character always did when trying to remember. He was supposed to hurt when he did it, and the stitches were supposed to ache. Make it look good.
"I remember a yellow and black line... and a creepy smile." He watched Violet lean forward, eyes squinting as she listened, and went a bit further. "Somethin' purple... and a lot of screamin'." He made a soft groan, as if he was getting a headache trying to remember. Foxy looked guilty, glancing away from him, but Violet went very still, entirely focused on him. "I think... was it him? Was it him that killed you and everyone?"
Violet nodded, the angry glare on her face as her gaze lowered in memory. Okay, time to confirm it. As much as Mike hated the thought that one of his friends was so cruel and evil in this world, he had to know. Then he could help Violet come to terms with her death and maybe stop the He Remembers arc from ever happening here.
"Urgh... it's fuckin' painful to remember...." Mike groaned again. "But... you had a dad... right?"
She raised her eyes to him, and this time it was a sorrowful look. She nodded again. Her mouth moved, but Mike couldn't hear her voice.
'Crap, I can't hear her! The glasses don't let me hear her!'
"I'm sorry... that he killed you." Mike offered a condolence, his heart feeling heavy and so, so sad. Violet froze, a look of disbelief on her face. Huh. Why did she look like that? "It must be hard?" he went on uncertainly. "Existin' like this, knowing your father murdered you?"
Foxy blinked at him.
Violet blinked at him.
Mike wondered if he had made a terrible mistake.
"Vincent killed you and the other children, right?" he finally asked in confusion.
Violet's eye twitched. Then she snarled viciously, her shadows growing deeper, lashing out in tendrils over Foxy as the animatronic shook in place.
"R-Run, l-laddie! Sh-she's breakin' the r͠-͝r͜-͡r̷ule͜s!" Foxy cried out as the light in his eyes was swallowed up by black, pinpricks of white gleaming from the center as he became possessed.
Mike stepped back again, alarmed. What was happening?!
"LI̧A͞R! L͢IE͘S!" The enraged scream of a little girl wove through the broken voice box of the pirate, overlayed in a horrific echo of how Faith's voice overlayed Jeremy's. "͞NOT MY ҉FA̧T̕ḨER͢!͟ ͠D̸AD͏DY͞'S ̶NǪT̨ MY̴ MU̷R̕D͠ER͟ER҉!͞ DAD̵DY ͠LOVED͞ ME! I'L̷L ̷K̶I҉LL͡ ͢YO̵U̴!"
"Fuck my life," Mike whispered before screaming and bolting from the office, running as fast as he could to stay ahead of the animatronic fox gunning for him, electronic screeches bouncing off the walls. Where to go? Where to go?!
He swerved and skidded, turning away from the hall leading to the old Freddy's and making his way through the main hall. Couldn't lead Foxy to Jeremy, but where could he go to hide?!
Behind him was the sound of Foxy crashing into the wall. Mike huffed, daring a glance back. That's right, Foxy couldn't turn once he hit full speed and Violet couldn't change that. That gave him time. He flipped the tablet, hoping the map could tell him where to go to hide, and gaped in shock at the old Freddy's layout shining up at him.
He had the wrong tablet!
"Jeremy's not gonna be able to see where the Fazbands are on the other side if I've got this!" he exclaimed and hugged the tablet to his chest, racing through the dining area. A place to hide, a place to hide; Foxy's pounding footsteps were getting ever closer!
Prize corner? That's where the Marionette was, and Golden Freddy! But where else could he go? The vents?
Mike looked around, panic rising as he tried to think of the pizzeria's layout from memory. Skittering sounds overhead made him look up on reflex, his gaze meeting that of the smiling face of the puppet from the box, the Marionette.
"A̷n̵d̡ h̕e̸re ̕I̸ ̨t͏hought ͟send̨ing ̵t̡he ơt͘h͢er͞s̕ to ̧the ol͟d͡ ̴se͝cti͢on̡ ̵to̕ ͢ha̶ve t̨he͏m̕ ̛cat͜c̕h you̴ wou͠ld͞ be t̵he҉ p̛l̕an̕ ͜t̡hat ͏w̨ork̶s͜.̢ T̢hi͏s i͘s mu͢ch e͜as̨i͏er͟!͘"̧ Marionette purred, and Mike screamed again as the spindly body dropped down on him, thin wires following in a silvery cascade.
When Violet and Foxy arrived in the dining area, they could only look around in frustrated confusion. Mike was nowhere to be seen.
Chapter 13: 10:05 AM - Scripted World
In the world of cameras and deceptions, things are coming to a head as Panther remains on the loose and Mike slowly realizes that The Killer of his world is far too different from the one Vincent portrays to be truly the same man. But as the way home is finally discovered, the madman makes his move to lure Mike into a trap.
They were alone.
There was Mangle with them, but she would be inconsequential once the grenade went off.
He rolled the rounded ball of metal in one hand, feeling its weight through the fabric of his gloves. He licked his lips, felt them curl up in a sinister smile.
The change had been abrupt but very pleasing to him. That fire, that anger, the strength of rage he had seen on the screen from his pretty bird, it had returned and in greater force. This was true power, this anger, and following that was the happy revelation that the other actor was hiding a depth of darkness as well.
A gem in the rough that required polish to smooth away fear and give rise to the rage beneath. Perhaps then those knife skills would be more useful with a real blade than silly set props.
Earlier, he had tried to get close, to use the smoke and gas to disable his prey and take them at last. But his pretty bird was far more alert and wary than he gave the man credit for, seeming to sense his presence and redirect them both back towards the main room.
This wouldn't do.
With Mangle there, even disabled, he couldn't risk getting both of them without being injured again. The first crossing of blades with the two fox animatronics had been educational. Foxy was dangerous, Mangle more so. But she was more limited in the amount of damage she could take. Not enough could be done to her right now to put her down permanently, but stalling her? He could do that, and it would give him time to grab one of the actors.
Now. He had to do it now, before they reached the others.
He threw the grenade.
"So in your world, the version of me that killed the children... had different mannerisms?"
Mike gave the man beside him a sidelong look before remembering Vincent was unable to see it and sighed. "Man, I don't remember a lot of shit from when I was a kid. Up until I watched this stupid TV show of my life, I didn't even know I went to Freddy's as a kid," he grumbled. "And I don't know much about the other you." He shrugged, hands jammed in his pockets as he watched Mangle skitter about like a happy dog. "You sure you don't like-?"
"I don't like lollipops." Vincent interrupted with a note of finality, expression one of irritation on the verge of snapping. "I chipped a tooth on one when I was a kid and I've hated them since."
"Well, aren't you a ball of sunshine?" Mike drawled out, raising an eyebrow at him.
"Says the guy who probably forgot how to smile on a regular basis," Vincent retorted. Mike shot him a look, puzzled to see a smirk growing on the blind man's face before he caught on that he'd been joking. He huffed, cracking a grin of his own.
"Y'know, hangin' with ya and all while your pals are trying to get me home... you're not such a bad guy, after all."
"Nah. I'm just good at pretending to be one." Mike grinned wider at the actor giving him a friendly wink and smile, "But I think I'll retire after the next series and try my hand at just being a voice actor."
The back and forth banter made Mike relax, feeling better about the company he kept, and for days after he would wonder if that was what brought down his guard. Not a moment after the two laughed over a shared quip, a small metal tink! sounded nearby, followed by a sharp bang, and Mangle seized up with a cut-off cry of alarm. There was a crackle, and then she collapsed, clattering to the floor in a jumbled heap of parts.
"Mangle!" Mike barked out in alarm before whirling around to search behind them. For something like that to happen, an attack was probably on its way to follow up. He was right; a smoke grenade was lobbed towards them from an open panel in the ceiling. A vent?
"What's happening?!" Vincent called out just as the grenade exploded, flooding the hallway with thick, oily smoke.
Through the murk, Mike could see a large figure drop out of the opening. 'Fuck my life, he's after me again?!' Coughing on the smoke, he took on a stance, ready to fight off the man's attempt to grab him head-on. He was better rested now, had eaten a good meal from the studio buffet while he and the kids watched the parodies of his life; he could take this asshole on and beat him now!
"Just you try it, you mother-!" Mike roared out at the former bodyguard rushing him with a manic smile, only to get interrupted by being shoved aside, slamming into the wall hard enough to be dazed. 'Wha-?'
"Hey! Let me go! Get your hands off me! Mike! Help!" Vincent's panicked voice brought him out of it, the sight of Panther lifting the blind actor off the floor in a bear hug jarring him to action. Mike rushed forward, fists up to punch the man.
Panther twisted in place, the thick smoke and fog clouding his movements in Mike's vision. The punch landed, but it was Vincent who grunted in pain. "Oh, shit! Sor-!" Mike began just as Panther spun and kicked him back against the far wall.
"It's not you I'm here for now, pretty bird," Panther crooned at him through the murk, his outline growing fuzzy and indistinct, even with Vincent struggling wildly against him. "You are someone who's there for your friends, you love too much... so I'll be taking the precious gem to polish and shine here in this place, a place destined to be bathed in blood."
"What?!" Mike snapped, "What the hell are ya talkin’ about?!" He rubbed at his ribs, wincing in pain from the solid kick. "Vincent! Hang on! I'm gettin' ya back!" He stepped forward, squinting through the murk to try and pick out the other man.
"You'll come to me yourself, pretty bird, to save your friend. There's no escaping it; you're gonna be mine!" There was Panther's laughter, booming loud and arrogant over the sudden muffling of the actor's yells. Footsteps sounded, heavy but fast, and Mike raced after them, rushing through the thick smoke in desperation to keep up.
By the time the smoke thinned enough to let him see, Mike found himself alone at a crossing of several hallways and party rooms, all of them empty. How big was this pizzeria? He stood there, breathing hard and glancing around quickly, hoping to catch a glimpse of where to go to find them.
"Fffff-!" Mike bit off the curse in favor of turning to punch a wall with the force of his frustration and anger. The plaster cracked, flaking off, and he kept his fist pressed there, letting the stinging wave of pain rush over him without any thought to it. One job; he had one job, and that was to keep Panther away from these actor people who couldn't handle what the man was capable of until they could find a way to get rid of him and send Mike home. And he completely blew it.
Now Panther had Vincent, and the man already had issues with being compared to his role on the show. Mike shuddered, remembering how easily the thief had dragged his mind and will down to nearly nothing with just a few words and eerie insight on all the deaths that Mike had to hide at Freddy's. He had Doll and Jeremy to help fight back against that; would Vincent's daughter be enough to shield him?
"Dammit, I'm gonna need help to get him back." Mike gave the cracked wall a glare, cast one last look at the empty halls, then turned and ran. He had to get back to the rest of the actors and let them know what happened. Maybe the other Jeremy and Scott had come up with some answers?
Rushing into the main recording room of the pizzeria-turned-studio, Mike caught sight of the cast members moving around hurriedly, carrying rolls of insulation that were then tossed over equipment and animatronics alike. For a fleeting moment, Mike thought he spotted that little thief that had also broken into Freddy's long ago, the guy with the black hair that glinted purple in light. But when he looked again all he saw was somebody's ass in the air and legs kicking madly as they rushed to pack down sound equipment into large containers padded with insulation.
"What the hell is going on here?" he muttered, turning his head to see Fritz, Scott, and Jeremy all running up to him breathlessly.
"Mike! We've been talkin' and Jere thinks he's got it figured out!" Scott blurted out, waving to the young man beside him.
"You wha-?" Mike began in confusion, looking between them all. Jeremy pointed at him.
"The day of the storm! You ended up here about the time the building was struck by lightning and a surge hit the old generator, right?" the young man explained in a rush, eyes bright with the glee of having figured out the mystery. Mike nodded and Fritz picked up the train of thought.
"It's like the plot to half our anime collection; lightning strike or major electric shock rips open a hole in reality and swaps the protagonists. That's what happened to you and our Mike!" the redhead summed up. "If we can get a big enough jolt of electricity into the generator, like from your taser, maybe it'll happen again!"
"That's fan-fucking-tastic but it's gonna have to wait. That stalker nutjob Panther just kidnapped Vincent while we were walking back here!" Mike declared, throwing his arms up. "I thought you guys had the cops looking for him!" The three actors stepped back in a collection of shock, horror, and fear.
"What?! He's here?! We thought he'd do the smart thing and run as far from here as possible! The police are scouring the city for him!" they exclaimed in a rush, words running over one another as each of them tried to be heard more. Mike pinched the bridge of his nose, hissing under his breath.
"If they're running around out there," he growled at them, "then it means they ain't lookin' for him here! And he's probably got Vincent holed out somewhere in here too! What the fuck kind of pizza place is this?! It's fuckin' huge!"
"We live in a huge city; bigger gets more attention," Fritz pointed out flatly, squinting behind his glasses. Mike rolled his eyes and looked around at the buzz of activity.
"So what do we do to get Vincent back? 'Cuz you don't want him in Panther's hands; guy likes fucking with people's minds to mess 'em up," he growled. Every moment that passed with the madman was one moment closer to having the actor's mind broken. That couldn't happen; the guy had issues enough and he shouldn't even have been involved in all this. If it hadn't been for Mike being his usual stupidly angry self, none of this would have happened.
If he hadn't wound up switching with their depressed Mike....
"I'll get the animatronics to search the building and see if they can track them down," Jeremy told the group before darting off, waving a hand to catch attention. Mike watched him run off, then turned back to the other two already whipping out phones to make calls.
"I'm gonna need my uniform back," he told them flatly. "I'm going after the bastard myself and I can't kick his ass in clothes that ain't mine."
Scott covered the mouthpiece of his phone and stared at him in horror. "You can't do that! He's crazy! What if he kills you?!" he blurted out, color draining from his face. "How are we supposed to get our Mike back if you end up dead?!" Mike just shook his head.
"The guy wants me alive to do his mindfuckery. But I dealt with him once in my world, so he don't know I can fight it here." He folded his arms over his chest and glared at the actor. "My uniform. Now."
Scott held his gaze only a few moments longer before slowly nodding. "...Okay. Please, Mike... bring him back to us, okay? He doesn't... he doesn't deserve what could happen to him," he begged softly.
"Let's just hope his kid's enough to keep him sane through all this shit," Mike grumbled, following as Scott ran for the changing room.
The room was cold, that much Vincent knew for sure. It was cold when he woke up and testing the walls told him they were all solid, tiled, and dusty. The door was locked and refused to budge when he tried to ram it. His shoulder ached and that was all he got for his trouble. He ran his fingers over the walls again. The tile was smooth and cool to the touch, dusty and the size of the grout space between the squares was familiar. This was the same tile and pattern used in the main rooms of the pizzeria where the crew filmed the show. Vincent had spent days touching everything to familiarize himself to the new surroundings, with many a bruised hip and collar gained in learning distances, placements, patterns. His clicks only went so far and he often lost track of his white cane, relying on Goldie or Mangle to fetch it for him between shoots or guiding him in place of it.
So he was still in 'Freddy's Pizza' but the thickness of the dust told him this room hadn't been visited in a long while, so it was in an unexplored part of the two-level building. The second level then? He vaguely remembered being hauled upstairs, kicking heels against steps and clawing at carpet when he slipped out of Panther's grasp for a few moments. Was there a vent he could escape through to reach ground level?
Vincent dropped to his knees, running his hands over the lower part of the wall and clicking his tongue. Circling the room in his search, he stopped when the echo changed and his fingertips hit painfully against the edges of metal. Was it loose? Could he get this open? He checked the corners for loose screws, then tried gripping the sides of the cover as best he could, jiggling in the hopes of prying it out of place just enough to give him something to work with. When that didn't give, Vincent tried pushing on the register itself, gritting his teeth against the bite of metal digging into his palms. Right, right, pushing wouldn't work; the covers were designed to protect against that. He tried slipping fingertips through the spaces in the grille to grip and pull, but they were too narrow.
"Hey~! Is anyone able to hear me?! I'm up here!" Vincent yelled into the vent. Maybe the sound would carry down to someone? It was a long shot but at this point he'd jump on anything to find a way of escaping. He didn't know where Panther was or what the madman was planning to do. It had been obvious he was going to use him as a hostage to lure Mike into willingly handing himself over but that still left the question of how he was going to actually convince the guard to become a murderer like him. Maybe that's something to ask about once the cops got the guy. "Hey~! Help me! Anybody!"
There was a click and the air changed as he heard the door open. Vincent spun around, pressing his back to the vent cover and baring his teeth at the sound of low chuckling. "Well, well, the precious gem is awake and ready for refinement." Panther's voice sent chills running over his skin in a way the cold air didn't and he glared harder in the direction of that voice. "And there's that beautiful look. It fits you so well, as if you were born to the role."
"Shut up! You're insane if you think I'm anything like you or that character!" Vincent spat out, "I'm an actor! I play my part and I do it well! That's all it is!" The door creaked again, another click, locked. 'Dammit!'
"Really? Is that all it is? Or is it practice for a victim who truly deserves that blade you wield?"
Vincent froze, breath caught in his throat. "Wh-what?" For a moment, one damnable moment, a tangible memory flickered in his mind; the scent of her skin and hair, the promise of forever broken, a voice that demanded custody of their daughter and called his blindness a disability that kept him from being a good father. "N-No! What the hell are you talking about?! It's a stupid role in a programme; it doesn't reflect on me as a person!"
"Perhaps the mirror works the other way; the role reflects the person you wish to be, the person deep inside, yearning to go after someone who didn't hesitate to cut you to your core."
It was childish, but Vincent clapped his hands over his ears, trying to block out the silk-soft voice that was drawing closer, dark and smooth and too much like the voice he would use in his role. "No, no, no; I know what you're trying to do. It's not gonna work. It's not going to work!" His heart raced. 'Don't listen, don't listen!'
Something traced a path over the back of one hand and Vincent jerked away, clicking his tongue to track Panther's movements. He'd gotten close, too close, and the actor scooted away over the carpet to gain distance. "Keep away from me!"
"I'm only trying to return something that belongs to you," the former bodyguard purred. "Don't you want it back? I think you're going to need it, if you ever plan on getting your daughter back."
A surge of rage and protectiveness welled up, and Vincent all but snarled at the man. "You bastard! Leave my daughter out of this! She's got nothing to do with-!"
"But she has everything to do with this! You've been trying to get more freedoms to be with her, but someone keeps getting in your way." Panther countered, low and soft and closer and closer, always closer no matter how much Vincent moved back and away from the source of that voice. "You know who it is that stands between you and your dear little girl. You know how to get rid of that obstacle too. Even as you are, you have such skill with a blade. No one would ever suspect you."
"It's just an act! It's just an act and you can fake so much on TV!" Vincent protested, trembling even as his memory betrayed him, bringing up hours of practice with the prop knife, following the guiding arms that showed him where in space certain body parts lay. "It's just an act!"
"And yet you practiced diligently to learn where to run a knife along an adult-sized body."
"That's for the next event! It doesn't mean anything!"
"But it could mean something." And Panther's voice was so, so close, breath warm as it ghosted past his ear and Vincent could only freeze in place, shaking as he wondered frantically how it was the man had gotten so close so fast and without a sound to warn him. "I could teach you more than what the stunt coordinators did. Where to slice to cut vital arteries, where to stab to ensure maximum pain and suffering, where to draw your lines so you can feel the life fade."
"Haven't you ever wondered, Vincent, what it would feel like to have real blood on your hands?" The voice was in his head now, and he tried so hard to block it out, clung to the memory of holding his daughter and loving their times together, only to remember having her pulled out of his arms too soon after by a woman who promised to him, for better or worse.
"No....!" Wetness on his cheeks, he couldn't stop the tears.
"You make it an art, on that little screen. Let me in and I'll show you the strength you need to create your magnum opus." For richer or poorer. Violet crying for him, wanting to stay with 'Daddy' but 'Mommy' kept taking her away. If only 'Mommy' was gone....
"Stop... stop it...."
Something hard and familiar was pressed into his hand, his trembling fingers forced to wrap around and grip it tight. A hand cupped his cheek, held his head in place as the voice wove through his ears, through his mind. In sickness and in health.
"Just a little polish, a little refinement; you would be so perfect for this role. You already know what to do. Let me guide you on how to do it."
He tried to take a breath, tried to keep his head above water, drowning in the words washing over him. Vincent heard his own voice, distant and shaky, a nearly broken sob escaping him as he gripped the knife handle tighter, trembling from the force. "P-Please... no... not me... not me...."
"Think of your daughter. Do it for her." Panther's voice ghosted over him, whisper soft and gentle. He felt cold, so cold and so faint, all defiance fleeing him when he needed it most. "Just one little errand to run here, and then you can get your daughter. The two of you, sweet freedom; you only need to accept the part to play and shine, my precious gem. I even brought your uniform for you."
'It's not me... it's not me... it's not... it's....'
"Soon you'll be free, you and dear little Violet." 'Help her.' "I can help you save your daughter." 'Save her.' "All I ask is for you to help me capture a pretty little bird." 'Help him.' "No harm in that." 'No harm.' "Now... are you ready?" 'Til death do we part. 'Save them.'
Vincent's hand stilled.
Mike gave the taser in his hand a hard look. The electricity in it could jumpstart the generator and send him home, according to Fritz and Jeremy. The cheap little thing had enough juice for three strong bursts and he'd used one on the Marionette in his panic. So he just had to make sure he kept at least one burst in reserve or he'd be stuck here. Should be easy, right?
He slipped the device back into its holster on his belt, looking up as Foxy and Golden Freddy approached him. "We're coming with you," the bear told him flatly.
"Nah, you two fuckboys can ship yourselves to a scrapyard. I'm taking Panther on myself." Mike snorted, turning on his heel to stalk away from them. The rest of the cast was already pairing up and going on small searches of their own with animatronics scouting ahead. Police would be coming but with how fast Panther worked it could be too late by the time they arrived. Mike growled at the sound of mechanical feet trotting after him.
"We're still comin', lad. A captain doesn't desert his first mate." Foxy told him firmly.
"Already told ya. I ain't your pal, your buddy, and definitely not your 'first mate'. Goddamned ratty-ass coyote...." He didn't have time to deal with them, not with his fragmented memories coming back in more pieces that made his head hurt.
"You shouldn't be facing a madman alone, and without a guide Vincent won't be able to make his way back to the others safely." Golden Freddy huffed. "We are coming."
"Fine, but stay out of my way."
Mike had been given a radio to stay in touch with the rest of the cast and crew. Their voices chimed out now and then, letting everyone know that no sign was found of Panther or Vincent on the first floor. Mangle, Jeremy, and Fritz were in the generator room, hoping to make use of the rift to get attention from their Mike on the other side and let him know the plan. Mike walked on, looking up suspiciously as he came across a flight of stairs. Why this pizzeria was so big he still didn't understand, but if the actor wasn't on the first floor, then maybe he was up there.
"We haven't had time to clean up there. Didn't think we'd need to, since the show only focuses on the one floor," Foxy murmured as Mike grabbed the rail and began climbing.
He glanced at something that caught his eye, scratches in the carpet where fibers were torn or scuffed, dust disturbed in a trail. So he had been dragged up here, but where was he being kept?
Mike reached the top and walked out onto the spacious second floor, looking around the area. A walled off section of the upper floor had replaced the carpet with tile and an old animatronic dog lay on its side in the center, fur suit tattered and moth-eaten.
"Muttsky," Golden Freddy's voice made Mike jump away in alarm but the bear only stood near him and looked over at the animatronic. "Odd how he was left to rot with the building." Foxy bounded over and stood by Muttsky, poking at him a bit before looking up at them.
"The mutt be sleepin' with the fishes now. Tragedy." He poked a bit more, then dragged the animatronic off the tile and onto the carpet, patting him on the shoulder once he was rested on softer material. "Here. More comfortable now."
There were corridors branching off to rooms, party rooms that were private and the real money-makers of a family oriented pizzeria. Maybe he was in one of those? "Foxy, you head that way," Mike began, pointing towards one hall. "Golden Freddy, you go that way," and he pointed to another hall. Both animatronics nodded and split away, intent on their search. Mike took a deep breath and looked down the last branching hallway.
What were the odds this was the right one to take?
He walked on, on edge and hands clenched into fists as he listened carefully. Panther had gotten the jump on him too many times before. This time he was gonna be ready. This time....
A door opened just down the hall.
Mike blinked, then ground his teeth together. He was ready for this. He could use a charge on Panther and that would bring him down and the cops would deal with him and-
Vincent stepped out, dressed in the same purple uniform Mike had poked fun at so many hours ago.
"Wha-?" He just stared, shocked. Those were not the clothes he'd been wearing when Panther snatched him up.
The bill of his cap shadowed Vincent's face, making the white of his eyes all the more luminous in the dim hall. There was a puffiness to them, as though he'd been crying, but the tears were no longer there. He didn't hold himself up as usual; Mike took in the leaning slouch, arms draping down carelessly, a knife held loose in one hand.
"Vincent, I know it looks bad, but you gotta get his voice out of your head," Mike began uncertainly, reaching out towards the man. "C'mon, pal, you got a little girl waiting for you downstairs. C'mon and I'll get you to her." The actor didn't move and Mike swallowed hard. He couldn't have been taken over so fast, right? There still had to be a chance to snap him out of this!
Slowly, shakily, but very deliberately, Vincent raised his arm, bit by bit, until the blade of the knife pointed at Mike.
"C'mon, man. Don't do this," Mike pleaded. "We're friends, remember?" And in a strange way, admitting that was all right. In this crazy world of TV shows and lives that weren't real, when Mike thought he'd lose his mind, Vincent had kept him grounded and gave him hope he'd go home to Doll and Jeremy and his life that made more sense than this. So yeah; he was Mike’s friend. And Panther was screwing it all up like the sadistic bastard he was!
"...them.... Save...." The actor was murmuring something over and over, repeating a mantra that Mike could barely make out. "Help him. Save her. Save them. Help him."
"Y-Yeah. Help you. That's what I'm tryin' to do." Mike nodded, taking a step forward with his hand still stretched out. "Put the knife down, Vincent. I can help you." He froze when a wide, broken smile suddenly flashed across Vincent's face, wide and bright and eerily familiar yet not the same as the one in his fragmented memory. There was laughter, unsteady and echoing and wrong, and then a dark, almost sultry tone to Vincent's voice carried through the chill, dead air.
Chapter 14: 11:55 PM - Original World
In a world where the 5 Missing Children haunt Freddy’s Pizza and the night shift guards, Mike finds that his knowledge of the show isn’t as directly accurate as he thought. There’s more to the story than anyone suspects and another player in the game....
Cobwebs hung torn by thin metal wires, laying in loops and careless lines on the floor, over boxes, over forgotten extra parts and pieces of endoskeletons. Dust was disturbed here and there, swept haphazardly by the same wires that had been moving wildly some time ago. The room had not been kept as clean as it should be, a duty the janitor of Freddy's often had an excuse to avoid doing as often as he could.
In the back of the room, past a table covered in still more abandoned parts and extra suit pieces, past shelves of Freddy, Bonnie, and Chica heads all staring ahead with empty eyeholes, the Marionette scowled as he crouched in place, balanced perfectly on the blunt tips that made up his 'feet'.
"W͘hy͝ ̡a҉r͟e͏n̛'t yo͞u͞ ̴acc͝ep̶tiņg h̡i̢s ͢b̶o͡dy?"̢ he muttered under his breath. "҉He's͝ got ̛ev̨er̷y҉thin͏g y̶o̷u ͡useḑ ̵to̧ ҉ha͜ve,͞ s͟o̴ wh͜y?"͟
Nearby, Mike Schmidt, the lead actor for the hit show Five Nights at Freddy's, struggled to get out of the tangle of wires he'd been bound with. Every now and then, he gasped as the temperature around him dropped to a chill, then faded.
"M-Marionette, please! L-Let me out of th-this!" Mike pleaded with the frowning puppet. "Jeremy's in the old section and h-he doesn't have the t-tablet! I have t-to call him! Or g-get it to him!"
"̛Yo͏u҉'̡ve al͞so ͘bee͠n̶ act̕i͡ng̶ s͜tran̨gely͢," the puppet added, eyes narrowing further. "Is t̡hat̛ why ̧h̸ę'̨s̕ not a҉c͞cept͘i͢ng̢ yo͡u̧?͡"̸ Mike didn't understand what the Marionette was talking about. Who was 'he'? What did it matter if that person accepted him or not? The only thing that Mike caught on was that he was acting out of character, his worry for Jeremy making him drop his role for a moment. He really should keep a better grip on that.
"Listen here, ya scrawny lil fuckboy! You get me out of this pile of trash so I can help Jeremy, or I'm gonna lay here and tell ya every pun I know until you bash your own head in!" Mike snapped, slipping back into his angry day guard role in hopes of saving face.
The Marionette scowled further, ready to snap back, when his face suddenly cleared to show confusion. He stood, head tilting as if to listen to something in the distance, then flicked one hand absently. The wires around Mike's body loosened, surprising him with their slackness. A moment later, the Marionette leaped upwards, caught hold of a wire, then skittered away into the darkness. Only a few hollow thumps let Mike know the puppet had gone into the ventilation system.
'Wonder what just happened there?' he thought briefly, then shook his head hard and began wriggling himself free of the loops of wire. As he got to his feet, he checked his watch with a small curse. Twenty minutes out; if he hurried, maybe he could still find Jeremy and swap tablets. He scooped up the tablet where it lay on the floor nearby and turned to leave.
Something made him pause.
He reached up to his hat -it felt so much heavier than normal- and pulled it down to look at it. "What the hell?" At some point between getting kidnapped by the Marionette and waking up in the room of abandoned parts, a hefty golden shield in the shape of cut gem had been pinned to his hat. What was this for? Mike carefully removed the shield and bounced it in his hand. It was heavy -was the gold real?- and in the dim light a shimmer of blue seemed to pass over the surface.
With a shrug, Mike set the shield down on the table with the spare parts and looked around the room. Breathing in this place felt almost wrong to do, as if the act of it would disturb the dust gathered on forgotten surfaces. His nose twitched with the temptation to sneeze and he rubbed furiously to prevent that, squinting as the placement of shelves and parts prodded at his memory. This was familiar. Wait, wasn't this the back room? From the old Freddy's location?
"I'm already here?" he whispered and grabbed for the tablet again, flipping it and clearing the screen to bring up the cameras. Foxy wasn't anywhere to be seen, but Freddy was on the stage as usual, Chica was making noises in the kitchen and Bonnie....
Bonnie was in the old janitor's closet. Didn't Jeremy say to talk to the spirit with Bonnie, Sophie, since she was the least aggressive?
"But I can't hear them. What's the point of talking to them if I can't hear them?" Mike grumbled, dragging one hand over his face. And Violet's reaction to his initial attempt to get her to accept her death and move on was a complete disaster. She refused to believe her father killed her. Mike didn't blame her; Vincent wasn't exactly a close friend, but he chatted enough with the guy and watched him with his daughter plenty of times. He genuinely loved his little girl and was friendly with the child actors. In the show, he played a very convincing and creepy killer, and the 4th Child knew full well who killed her and her friends.
So why was it different here? Why did Violet deny that Vincent had anything to do with their murders?
"Jeremy's not like the character I know, and he said his dad created the software that makes the Toys security robots, which isn't in the show at all," Mike muttered to himself, picking up a spare Freddy head from the parts shelf on his way out of the back room. "Maybe not everything about the show is the same here?"
Which means it could be possible that Vincent here wasn't the same as the character of The Killer in the show. But, how could Mike know that for sure?
"I gotta find Jeremy!" Mike growled, slipping the head on and running into the old dining room, shoes kicking up dust that had settled into the worn carpet. Freddy swiveled his head to stare at him, but Mike gave him a fleeting glance as he turned down the hall towards where the security office would be. He had to beat Bonnie to the door and he had to find a way to talk sense into Violet!
"Check the lights, check the doors, listen close, gotta conserve power," Jeremy muttered under his breath as he stood in the office, his tablet laying almost forgotten on the old desk. In his hands he kept the small music box that connected to the giant gift box over the Fazband Control network. Every now and then, the music tinkling from it would start to slow down and Jeremy would hurriedly crank the little lever to wind it back up.
Turns out the box was the only way to keep the Marionette at bay once the newer tablet's connection dropped.
"S̸e̷ri̶oųsl͠y̵, ho̶w̛ did y͜ou t̢w͢o͢ ͞swi͠tc͞h ̴ta͟ble̷ts ͠l҉ik̢e̢ ̧th͜is͞? N̸ow͢ t̛h̕e id̸i͘ot͢'͏s ͠go̢ing͢ t̸o͏ ͢g̨et ͢h̶i͘ms͘elf̡ ̕k͝il͜led, we'̨re͜ n̢o͏t͠ ̸g̸oing҉ t̡o be a҉bl̛e ̴t͡o̶ ̡rescu͘e ҉M͘i҉k̵e̵y,͜ ̶a̕n͟d͘ t̢he o͘ne ̡pu̵l͟ling ̛striņg̛s͠ h̴er͜e ̡i̶s go͜n͘na ͜g̷et mad!͘"͏ Faith vented somewhere near the right hand door. She stayed in that area, explaining that it was where Freddy would often come in from if not watched. Without the right tablet to check the cameras and keep the animatronics at bay, lasting six hours would be impossible, let alone however long it took for the actor Mike to show up with Bonnie.
Assuming Bonnie wandered back over to the newer side of Freddy's Pizza and wasn't followed by the others.
Jeremy sighed, rubbing his head as he reached out to check the light on the left hand door. So far no animatronic had reached the office, though he suspected it was because the midnight shift had only just begun and so the glitchy software was still switching on. He could only hope that having the Fazband in the old section of the pizzeria would mean they'd return to their original patterns for the smaller building. That would have Bonnie move first and reach the left hand door, and with Sophie the least dangerous spirit of the bunch, maybe Jeremy could take control of Bonnie more easily. He could only hope.
The light flickered on, and Jeremy found himself staring up into the bright blue eyes of Freddy Fazbear.
Freddy Fazbear... at the door that was the opposite of where Faith said he would come.
Jeremy screamed in horror, all plans and preparations flown from his mind. This wasn't happening! He wasn't supposed to move this fast! This couldn't be how everything was going to-!
The bear flailed backwards, then the head popped off to reveal the face of Mike Schmidt staring at him in a mix of shock and horror. "What the hell?! Jeremy! It's me!" he exclaimed, which only made Jeremy scream that much louder. "Oh for the love of god, I mean I'm not Freddy Fazbear!!"
"S҉top s̡cre̢am͟ing,͟ y̷o͟u̕'͢r̢e̴ g͏on͠na̕ ge҉t e͠v̶e͝r͡y͡o̶ne̷'s at҉t͏e̶n̛t͏io͏n̴!"͢ Faith snapped and that shut him up more quickly than the actor's attempts. Jeremy snapped his mouth closed and threw a hand over it to block any further tries at screaming.
'Can I just faint now? This whole night is starting off h-horrible and I just want to sleep it all away and try again tomorrow.'
Mike muscled his way into the office and hit the door button with his knuckles, slamming it closed behind him. "Bonnie's in the closet, which means he's almost here, kid. Better safe than sorry," he explained roughly, setting the Freddy head down on the desk by the rickety old fan. With his other hand, he thrust the tablet he held in Jeremy's direction, making him jump a bit in surprise. "Here. Accidentally switched these at some point."
Jeremy took the tablet, flipping through the cameras quickly to take note of everyone's positions. "Thanks, but if you knew where Bonnie was, why didn't you go talk to Sophie?" He noted that Foxy didn't seem to be in Pirates' Cove or in the hall on his mad dash that Mike often told him about. Where was he then? Still in the newer building?
"I ran into Foxy in the office," the actor sighed heavily, leaning against the desk and rubbing at his face. Jeremy snapped his head up to stare at him in horror, the sound of Faith's sharp gasp faint in his ears. "So I got to talk to Violet." Mike let out a self-deprecating laugh, arms folded over his chest and looking so much like the man Jeremy called 'Dad' that it made his gut twist more. "Turns out I can't hear anything she says unless she's controlling Foxy and she's pretty pissed at me."
"What?!" Jeremy blurted out in shock to the sharp curse that Faith bit out nearby. "You confronted her and you didn't get bit?!" Mike bit his lip, rubbing the back of his neck.
"I sort of... ran for my life," he replied sheepishly. There was silence for a few moments, enough time for Jeremy to process Mike's words. "Yeah, but I wound up in a dead end and probably wouldn't be standing here if the Marionette hadn't pulled me out of there."
Jeremy narrowed his eyes. The puppet never did anything unless there was something in it for him, some way of making a 'trade'. What was he after? Mike's 'strength to survive' or something, like last time?
"But since I can't hear Violet, I think I made a mistake somewhere in talking to her," Mike went on. He gave Jeremy a grim look. "There are things different here from the script back home. So I need to ask Faith a couple questions to find out just how different."
Jeremy tilted his head as the ghost spoke up, "͜M͠e?̡ A͠ns̡wer̷ q͞u͜est̛i͞o͜ns?" A warmth moved through his limbs as he felt Faith settle into his body and mentally stepped back to give her control. "Mr.͡ S͘çhmid͞t?͢ ͜W̸ha̴t͢ i͝s ̕it you̧ w̷a҉nt ̵to k̨n̷o͢w?̧"̸
Mike took a deep breath and pulled out his phone, thumbing through his photo album until it settled on the picture of Vincent and Violet. He held it out to the black-eyed teenager, showing the possessed boy the screen. "Do you recognize the man in this photo?" he asked slowly, uncertain of what reaction he would get.
Faith squinted, leaning forward to study the photo carefully. Mike braced himself for another potential explosion of rage, slowly cringing in a preemptive reaction. "Th͜at҉'s͡ Vio͢l̵eţ... ̛is ̡that̴ ̛man͜ ҉her͡ dad͜? His ̨skin̡'̡s͝ all purp̕l̷e, ͠tha͢t's ̛we͢ird.̴ I̷ rem̢em͞be̡r ̧h͟er ̴dad̴ ̕being ̢dark͟-s̛k̨in͝ned͏." Mike blinked, looking over in surprise as Faith took the phone from his hand and tilted Jeremy's head in thought. "͘Like͝ his̢ h̸ai̵r w͝as a̸ pret҉ty͞ dark colo͝r ̡too ̕a̷n̨d it ̴l͟o̡ok̶e͝d̵ ͞kind͡a ͘p͏u̧rp̧le͟ ͏s̶om̵e͞ti̸m̢e̶s͞ i̷n҉ ̡t͜h͏e̶ ̸l͠i͞g͜ht̛, ̷bu̶t̨ ̸yeah.͟ Th͝i̢s guy̵ ̧l̸ook͏s̛ ͟a͝ ̷lot͠ ̷l͏ike Vi̡o͘let'̧s͟ ̷d̛ad ̷di͜d.͞"̢
Her expression changed to a faint sadness. "̛He ̕was r̸eally̶ ̵nic̷e̵. I̕ ͞r͏e͝me̶mber he ̸l̡ike҉d̷ to lauģh ͟a lot ̶an͟d pla͘ye̢d w͡i͝t͏h us̨ wheņe̸ver͜ ̸he ͝visi͘t̶e͜d̴ Fred͞d͝y͡'s ̡o̢n t̴he w҉ee̸kends̢.͠" She handed the phone back to a startled Mike. "̸I̡s he s͘til͡l̡ a̛l̵i͞ve̷ in y̡our ͡w̸o͢rld̨? L͏ucky."̨
"Wait, what? What are you saying?" Mike asked in confusion. "Vincent wasn't the one who killed you and your friends? He was nice?" Faith gave him an expression he was pretty sure mirrored his own.
"M͞r. Helio͡tro̶pe͝ w͝as m͟ųr͡d̢e͟red̡ ͏too̴. H͏e̕ ͡died ̕wa͝y̧ b̶efo̕re we͢ g̨o͟t̵ kil̢l͠eḑ." She frowned suspiciously at him. "Wha̢t d̡i̵d̛ you͞ sa̧y͘ t͏o Viơle͞t ͝th̴at̵ go̵t her mąd?"
Mike shrank in on himself, grimacing at the information and remembering how he had confronted the 4th Child on the assumption her father had killed her. If only there was an option to redo that scene! "I kinda sorta maybe askedVioletifherdadmurderedyouguys," he said, words spilling out in a rush.
"Well, what else was I supposed to think?! The script said-!" Mike exclaimed.
"Our ͏l̕i͠ve̢s҉ ͠a͘r̸e̛ ͠not t̕h̶e͠ ҉s̢ame ̛as͢ ̶so̶me҉ ̴c͞h͠aract͏er͝s in a͢ ̧s҉c͘r͞i͝p̷t!"̢ Faith screamed at him, eyes blazing furiously. "͞Whąt͜ ̴w̨i̢ll̢ i̢t taķe f̸o̡r̴ ͞y͝o̴u̴ ̸to̕ ̧st̕op ͝tr̕eatin̶g a̴l͠l̕ of ̧this li͞ke ͠some fu̡ck҉i͘n͝g ̛TV s̡h͠ow?̕! ͟W̶e w̶er͢e͝ ͞mu̧rd͡er̛ed! Al̡l s̸e͝ven͘ of ͏us ͘and Vi͜ol͏et's da͠d!"
"I'm sorry!" Mike snapped and leaned back against the desk, rubbing at his eyes. His makeup would be ruined, but he could care less about it. The weight of the past few days was so heavy to bear, knowing he didn't belong here and thoroughly wrecking things for the Mike that did.
He wanted to make things better, easier; instead he probably made everything worse. He couldn't save Doll using Jeremy's power after his explanation in how things worked, he couldn't admit he needed help coping with her death, and he couldn't talk Violet out of being aggressive towards the Mike that belonged. "I just want to go home," he whimpered. "I shouldn't have tried to change anything."
"To̢l҉d ̸yo͏u i͞t ̷wa͠s̢ a b̸a͏d i͞de҉a̡," Faith said with a huff, and then Jeremy's body shuddered and black eyes returned to normal, the hazel color bright with alarm.
"What do we do now?" the boy asked, checking the tablet. One hand lifted to bury into his hair, shaking nervously as his face paled in the office light. "The power's going down, but it shouldn't be doing that... unless the generator is online and draining." He flicked fingers over the screen. "Freddy on stage, Chica at the bathrooms, Bonnie in the back room now, Foxy's nowhere he's supposed to be... wait." Jeremy looked up at Mike in confusion. "Weren't the Toys supposed to be on this side too?"
Mike just shrugged helplessly. Neither set of animatronics acted like what he was familiar with, just another sign of how badly he didn't fit in, how his ignorance with this world's pizzeria could have gotten him killed if not for pure dumb luck. "I don't know. Maybe they went back to the newer side?" he replied.
Now that he thought on it, hadn't the Marionette run off too? And then upon checking the tablet, Mike had found Freddy, Chica, and Bonnie, but not the Toys or Foxy. Would the Toys have moved back to the newer side? And why? The Marionette had directed them all to the old Freddy's layout, so what called them back?
"We-we need to get back over there. We n-need to find Foxy an-and Violet and explain th-that this is all a misunderstanding!" Jeremy stammered, gathering up his tablet and the music box. "She's g-gotta understand... this was all just a mistake and... we'll tell her and it'll all go back to normal-!"
The generator was running. He was swapped at the generator. Mike reached out and put a hand on Jeremy's shoulder to stop him. "Wait. The switch between me and the other Mike; that happened in the generator room, and that's on this side, right?" he asked, thoughts and memories coming together bit by bit. "This is okay, this is good. Before I screw up anything else, why don't we go there?"
Jeremy gave him an odd look. "Why?" he asked, thoroughly confused. "We'd be vu-vulnerable there; we won't l-last the shift in a dead end! And Foxy! We gotta talk to Violet and fix this too!"
"Jeremy, I'm not here to 'last five nights at Freddy's', I'm trying to get home and get your Mike back," Mike told him. He looked out at the window to the right. "Are we clear to run to the generator room?"
He heard the sound of the tablet being flipped and cameras being checked over. "-min goto command.... Okay, Chica's in the kitchen, Bonnie's still in the closet, Freddy looks like he's going to move off stage in a while. Foxy's still missing." Jeremy came up beside him with a worried look. "If we're gonna go, this is the best time to do it."
Mike gave him a nod, then slipped out the door into the hallway, pulling his hat more firmly down onto his head. 'I'm gonna make it home. I'm gonna fix this mess. I just hope that I didn't make it harder for these guys to survive Foxy from now on.'
And if Foxy managed to show up, maybe he could still talk Violet out of trying to kill the Mike that belonged. That would be good. He could at least undo his mistake to some degree if that happened.
Jeremy followed after the other Mike, tablets tucked under his arm for safekeeping. Repeating his mantra of the Fazband commands had helped settle his racing thoughts and now he could think back over the conversation, specifically the ghost child's half of it.
Something Faith had said still bothered him. 'All seven'? The notes his father left said that six children had been murdered by someone whose name had been violently scratched out, one outside the pizzeria and the five during the birthday party. Who was the seventh?
"Faith? I thought there were only six kids that died here," he said aloud as he ran down the halls towards the generator room.
"̧Y̡eah.̛ ͜M͘e̶, V͟iolȩt, Fred͢e̵ric̛k̡, T͡a͢n̴n̨e̶r͟,͏ So͠phie͝, ̶and t͠h͟ąt͡ k͜i͟ḑ your̨ da̡d͞ ̢used͡ t̡o ta͘ke ̵pi̶zz̵a͝ ͏t͟o ͜out͞s͝ide͢ Freddy's ͏cu͢z̢ ͠th̸e̴y co̶uldn't̵ ͏com͏e ͘insid̷e͞.̢" Faith confirmed.
"Then... who's the seventh murdered child?"
There was a disturbingly long silence filled only with the clacking of his and Mike's shoes against the tile floor. Not long till they reached the generator room. Hopefully no other animatronics would be there, and the patterns of the night shift would take hold and keep them away. Hopefully.
"̛N̶ot͢ a҉ ͟ch̨ild͘.̷.̷. ̷a ͞gu͘ar̕d͠,"̢ Faith finally replied, her voice quiet and hesitant. "The̕ se̕v͝e͏nth͞ ͞m҉urde̶red͢ per̶s҉on̷ is a ͝g̛uar̸d, ͠th͡e ̶on̷e ͟who͞ ̵s̕ets̷ t̨he҉ rul̕e̛s̸ ͡f͘or ̵wh̶at̢ ha͜pp͢en̷s h͢e̕re͜ at ̧n̢i͡g̡ht."̢
Jeremy blinked in surprise. A guard? But his father's notes didn't say anything about an adult being a victim of The Killer in Freddy's Pizza. But then, some pages had been torn out. Did his father know more than he left behind? What other secrets were still lurking in the building?
"Aaaagh! It's The Mangled!" Mike yelled from up ahead, standing at the entrance to the generator room. "What's she doing here?!" Jeremy rushed the last few feet to join him, looking inside fearfully and ready to use his father's commands.
Mangle perched on the generator, squinting at them both as her mouth hung open. Her voice box still gave off that awful racket of radio noise and scrambled chatter, but in between bursts of that came other voices, clear as day.
"Hey! If you can hear this... we can fix this!"
Chapter 15: 1:03 PM - Scripted World
In the world where truth and deception is woven and unraveled, Mike faces off with his mind-broken friend, forced into the role of The Killer by Panther’s manipulations. Even if he somehow manages to shake Vincent free, that still leaves the problem of the madman lurking in the shadows...
The whistling and clicking seemed weirdly out of place. This was a thought that Mike had for a moment before dodging slashes from the knife in Vincent's hand became more important. Muttering curses between huffs for air, he backed away several steps, watching for the actor's movements. As dangerous as the blade was, and it had come a bit close to his body a few times, Mike could see that Vincent kept pausing and reorienting himself. He would pant for breath, click his tongue a few times, then raise his arm to lunge.
But he'd hesitate before moving.
"You don't gotta do this for that asshole! Just drop the knife! I can get you to your kid!" Mike yelled, risking a quick glance over his shoulder just in case said asshole wasn't trying to sneak up behind him. He already suffered through getting grabbed from behind enough times; not about to leave himself open for another again.
Sometimes it looked like Vincent would just stop, but then that scared look would come over him and he'd move again, stabbing outward and missing as his blindness meant he couldn't see that Mike would move well before he did.
Didn't make the whole thing any less stressful.
"Stop! Seriously!" Sweat running down his face and neck as it looked less like he'd be able to really get through to his friend, Mike kept backing away. Maybe Golden Freddy would show up and help out.
Good lord, when did his life get so fucked up he was actually hoping that scary ass mechanical bear would show to bail him out of trouble?
"Gotta save her... save her...." And there was the muttering that Mike could hear Vincent repeating over and over, his hand shaking as his lunges grew more desperate. The clicking had stopped at some point, Mike wasn't sure when but then avoiding being stabbed was more important than paying attention to clicking noises.
Or maybe it was also important. Without the sounds, the actor was now even more blind, lashing out wildly, panicked expression on his face as his free hand waved around as if to try and grab Mike.
"Hey, buddy, whatever that dipshit told you isn't gonna help you or your kid at all! Stop, please!" Mike yelled, backing away more quickly and waving a hand behind himself. It wasn't anywhere as reliable as looking back to make sure Panther wasn't coming up behind him, but if he took his eyes off Vincent now, there probably wouldn't be time for him to get out of the way of the knife.
Wasn't there anything else he could do to get him to stop?
"Save her... help her... help him...." Vincent's broken mantra sent chills down Mike's back, skin crawling as he thought of Jeremy's nervous chanting of code whenever he was unable to focus. Was this mantra like that? Something the actor was repeating to focus on so he wouldn't think of what he was doing?
Only way to snap Jeremy out of his mantra was to either let him finish what he was doing or -and Mike didn't like this method- startle him with something else to force him to break his focus. Usually a sharp, loud noise would do the trick, like a sudden clap of the hands or banging a book against the desk. He couldn't afford to let Vincent finish whatever task he'd been brainwashed to do, not if he wanted to take down Panther for good and try and get back home. So he had to scare the man. But with what? He didn't know much about the guy.
...Or maybe he did.
A deep breath to steady his nerves, and then, "So tell me again how this isn't who you are?!"
Mike didn't think it'd take so fast, but already Vincent faltered, the hand gripping the knife shaking as a confusion flickered over his unfocused expression.
"The Vincent I know's an actor, he loves his kid and just wants to do a good job to care for her," Mike growled, stepping back and aside to dodge a trembling swipe in his direction. "Panther has this thing for breakin' people, puttin' the pieces together in what he wants them to be, like some sick puzzle."
"S-save her, help him, help them, save her." The chant was unsteady but still going. Not enough, not shocking enough.
"He's not after you, Vincent, he doesn't want you," Mike pressed even as he stepped further and further back, leading the other man to follow his voice and head down the hall. "He wants the you he thinks you can be after he breaks ya and puts your head back together the way he wants!"
If he could just get back onto the main floor, he'd have space to move around or call for help from Foxy and Golden Freddy. Now or never; it would hurt, but better that than turned into one of Panther's puppets.
"I'm tryin' to get you to come back to your senses but if you can't even shake off an asshole's voice, then maybe you really are meant to be The Killer!" Mike yelled furiously at Vincent. The other man stumbled, unseeing eyes widening as he scrambled to his feet again, knife still pointing in Mike's general direction. "I don't see ya puttin' any effort into this! Is killin' people the easy way out and you're goin' for it?! You sunuvabitch, ya had me buyin' your 'I don't want to be thought of as my role' bullshit but it looks like Panther brought out the real you!"
"No... no this isn't..." Vincent muttered and whimpered, shaking his head slowly. The mantra had broken and Mike cringed internally at everything he lashed out with. "This isn't... this isn't me! I swear, it's not me! I just...!" Vincent uttered a soft sob, dropping to his knees and holding his hands to his head, narrowly missing nicking himself with the blade of his knife. "I just want to save my daughter! This isn't who I am! It's not! IT'S NOT ME!" His voice raised to a full on scream. "HELP ME!"
Thumping sounded behind Mike, loud and heavy and semi-familiar. Mike immediately flattened himself against one of the walls of the hallway, back pressed up against the dingy tile. A moment later, Golden Freddy came rushing down the hall, a glaring expression on his fuzzy face. He scooped up the sobbing actor, cradling him close as he knelt in place, then gave Mike a flat look over his shoulder.
"Explain," was all the bear said.
"Panther," Mike bit out, lips curling back at the name.
Golden Freddy seemed to accept that as all the answer he needed, moving limbs about until he was set in a position to get to his feet. He rose from the floor, ears flicking and swiveling, faint mechanical whirs sounding as they moved. "I can't detect Panther and Vincent isn't in the condition to remain here safely." Glowing blue eyes met Mike's own, making the guard stiffen just a little on instinct. "We should return to the others and let the police know to hurry here and apprehend Panther."
There was a sensation of a chill, clammy and uncomfortable, that spread up Mike's back to his neck. A familiar warning; he knew better than to ignore that. He nodded. "You take him back. I'm still gonna find and kick his ass," he replied as the two of them headed out of the hallway.
Passing through the main room, the feeling Mike had been getting strengthened. He glanced towards the hallway where Foxy had run down in the search, eyes passing over Muttsky just on a reflexive check. Almost immediately, his eyes snapped back to the abandoned animatronic, widening in realization. Foxy had dragged the dog to the carpet but didn't mess with it any further.
Muttsky was now standing on its feet, still awkwardly positioned with the head angled to accommodate the opened jaws.
"Take him downstairs. Now." Mike growled at Golden Freddy, slipping his taser free from his holster. The bear's eyes scanned over the room, ears swiveling again.
"Foxy is still here," he reminded before hugging the sniffling actor closer to himself. "Call him if you need him. Do not get killed." With those last words, Golden Freddy headed down the stairs, faint sounds of hydraulics firing drifting in his wake.
With Golden Freddy and Vincent now out of danger, Mike counted that as one less source of stress on his head. He glanced around as he moved forward into the large room, listening for anything out of place. Thunder rumbled in the distance, sending shivers down his spine as he searched the shadows carefully for movement.
A wide smile in the darkness was the first thing he recognized before the rest of Panther's towering form seemed to materialize from the shadows. "Hello, my Pretty Bird," the man greeted, the smile growing even wider as Mike shuddered slightly at the nickname. Panther glanced around casually, the grin dimming down to less manic extremes. "Hm. I expected the Precious Gem to be the one to bring you to me."
"Fuck your mind games. I snapped him out of that shit. Vincent's not gonna be one of your human toys and ya ain't doin' that to me either!" Mike snapped. Panther's smile returned to its wider state.
"You can't tell that I've already started. Why else would you be coming to me?" he purred, circling towards him so the pillars in the room hid him from sight at odd intervals. Mike turned in place, trying to keep eyes on the bigger man and wondering how Panther could vanish so much bulk behind those pillars.
"Not to go with you, that's for fucking sure," he growled. Panther's laugh sounded suddenly, too close for comfort.
"Why not? There's nothing here that can truly fulfill you," he replied knowingly. A brief movement, dark on dark, but just enough that Mike picked it up; too many nights at Freddy's taught him well to stay far from tiny movements like that. The bodyguard loomed from the nearby shadows, smile wide and sharp. "After all, what hope do you have left, when all your dreams died with your precious 'Doll'?"
If it were possible to have laser vision that could burn a man to cinders, Mike's withering glare would have qualified. 'There he goes. Fucker was gonna hit head on with that, 'specially since he's the one that killed her!' And no doubt the other Mike would have crumpled like a freshly stuffed rookie on the night shift.
"Yeah, that shit ain't workin' on me, ya maniac," he snarked. "I've got my Doll; you're the dumbass who can't tell he's fuckin' with the wrong Mike."
The smile in the shadows wavered just a bit, and if Mike hadn't been paying so much attention he would have missed it. He smiled back in answer, just as sharp and malevolent.
"Ya thought I'd fall over and cry? Fuck that. I'm gettin' home where I belong. But first, I'm gonna kick your ass straight to the cops so you don't hurt anyone else ever again."
"And you think that'll make up for what happened to Vincent? His breaking a result of getting in the way of you; do you really think you showing balls now will absolve you of that guilt?" Panther returned in a low growl.
"You say you have your 'Doll'? Do you mean that little recording of her voice you play when the guilt is too heavy to bear?" The man's voice washed over him, strange and familiar all at once. "That you continue to live while an innocent does not, and all because of a link to you. The Precious Gem, Vincent, he would not have been involved in all this were it not for you as well. You may not have blood on your hands, but you reek of the guilt for their pain."
Mike stood still, teeth clenched, shoulders shaking from tension as his head bowed.
Guilt, guilt, survivor's guilt.
Guilty, guilty, the Guilt of the Sixth.
Was that going to always be on him? That weight, that pressure, knowing he lived while others didn't?
"The weight of guilt is heavy to bear alone, but I can lift that burden. You're under pressure, anyone can see that, but none can help you. None of them tried," Panther's voice washed over him, a familiar and poisonous caressing of his mind. "Come with me, we'll recover your friend, my Precious Gem, and together we'll teach you how to reduce that weight, so you no longer feel guilt. Grow distant with me, rise above them with me.
Breathing getting harder to do. Cold, cold, he could feel cold and pressure building on him. Could he...? Could he...?
Panther's hand came to rest on his shoulder, grip possessive in the pressure of fingertips through his clothes.
Mike whipped his arm around, jabbing the taser into Panther's side and firing a burst. His eyes shut tight at the crackle of electricity, the flash of light from the contact. There was a reflexive jerking of his own arm, as the current passed through Panther back to himself via the hand on his shoulder, and just that convulsion broke the contact. He stumbled back in a daze, eyes opening to see the madman fall back as well.
Was that enough? Would that keep him down enough for the police to arrive and get him?
His breaths came in hard, shallow huffs as he glared at the bulky figure leaning against a pillar, twitching sporadically. "Foxy! Get your mangy ass over here!" Mike turned his attention away to yell into the other hallway, calling the animatronic. It was only as he was looking away that he remembered he really shouldn't do that around Panther.
Mike spun around in time to see Panther lunge at him from the pillar, crossing the distance in seconds. He tried to lift the taser, hesitating for a fraction as part of him railed against using it again. Just enough delay to give Panther the advantage as his fist slammed against Mike's jaw.
Pain exploded from the impact, dizzying stars flooding his vision as he was thrown by the force, landing hard against the carpeted floor. Panther's laughter danced over him, dripping malevolent glee.
"I knew you had it in you, my Pretty Bird," the mad bodyguard crooned. "You see? My lessons are already taking hold. Next time, aim higher. Go for the kill."
The sounds of thudding footsteps, familiar in their rapid-fire metal stomps, filled the air as Mike crawled over the carpet to get away from the maniac behind him. His vision took a moment to clear while he fumbled around for the taser that flew out of his hand. Where was it?
His hand knocked against the familiar hard casing of the taser, then quickly closed around it. Mike turned once the device was secure in his grip, catching sight of Panther side-stepping Foxy to let the animatronic crash into one of the support pillars. The bulky man laughed derisively, shaking his head at Foxy scrabbling to reorient himself.
"What was that fault you take advantage of in the show? Seems like it's not only confined to being used in front of a camera," Panther crooned, prowling around the heap of metal and drawing closer to Mike. "Now where were we, my Pretty Bird? Ready to go and be mine?"
Mike scrambled backwards, kicking frantically to put distance between himself and the psychotic bodyguard. When were the cops gonna show up? "Shit, shit, shit! Foxy, get up!" he yelled, the feel of carpet under his hands giving way to the smoothness of tile from the square in the center of the room. He glanced around, spotting the low-lying walls and remembering the layout from earlier. This was where Muttsky had been, and he'd been dragged off so he would be....
A hand closed over one of his ankles in frighteningly familiar form. Mike yelped and immediately began kicking, turning his attention back to the grinning man pulling his leg to drag him over the smooth tile. His free hand clawed at the surface, desperate to gain some sort of grip. "Get off me! Let go, you fucking psycho-maniac!"
His other leg was grabbed and Mike slid over the tile in one yank, eyes widening as the movement brought him face to face with Panther looming over him. The smile the other man gave him was thin but toothy. "I've indulged you long enough, Pretty Bird. You will come now, and when you're secured I'll come back for Precious Gem." Panther grabbed at his wrist and jerked his arm up painfully. Mike yelped again, struggling to hold on as the crazed bodyguard pried the taser from his grip and tossed it forward, sending it skittering along the tile again.
"No! God fucking damn it!" Mike yelled in frustration, hot tears stinging his eyes while Panther yanked him up from the floor and hauled him over one shoulder. He struggled more, pounding fists against Panther's back. He paused in shock once he spotted Foxy stumble back to his feet, shaking himself off and rattling mechanical parts in the process. "Foxy!" Desperation painted his voice as he cried out the words he never thought he'd say, "Help me!"
The animatronic blinked, then lunged, curled inwards to keep the sharp points of his teeth and hook away from Mike. Panther managed to turn just enough to see him coming before the collision of bodies threw him and Mike forward, skidding over the tile and coming to a stop in front of Muttsky and near the taser.
Mike coughed, feeling sandwiched between the floor and the heavy form of Panther sprawled over him. He reached out an arm, grabbing for the taser once more. The temptation to use it again on the bodyguard rose but he needed that last burst on the generator in whatever crazy plan Jeremy and Fritz cooked up that could get him home. Maybe he could just squirm out from under-
"You're starting to make me question the value of keeping you sane, Pretty Bird. I very much recommend not making me question your value, ever." Panther growled, picking himself up to a kneeling position and clenching a fistful of fabric from Mike's collar. He dragged Mike up, grinning widely as the guard gasped for air, both hands scrabbling at his fist despite one still clutching the taser. At the sound of Foxy gearing up for another run, Panther reached for a pouch on his belt, loaded a small grenade into his hand, keyed it on, then tossed it over his shoulder.
The familiar bang of the grenade clued Mike into what had just happened. An EMP bomb, the same kind that knocked Mangle offline, brought Foxy down hard. He uttered another gasp, struggling weakly as frustration and despair wore at him.
"You keep coming back to this stupid little toy. Thinking of using it on me?" Panther crooned at him, gripping Mike's wrist and pulling it away to eye the taser in his clutches. "Let's remove that little temptation, shall we, Pretty Bird?"
"NO!" Mike yelled in horror, eyes wide as Panther pressed onto his fingers and forced him to activate the taser, then jerked his arm down to jab the electrified prongs to Muttsky's foot. In an instant, the burst fired and shot through the dead animatronic, electrical charge dancing over the dog before fading away, taking Mike's hopes of getting home with it. "No," he echoed faintly, staring up at the animatronic that stood over them both, silent and slack-jawed as before.
His life, his Doll, his Jeremy, his home, all of it ripped away by the madman obsessed with possessing him.
If Mike was honest with himself, he would admit that giving up and letting Panther drag him away sounded like it would be a relief. Fighting so hard and losing anyway was unfair and tiring. But he latched onto that feeling of unfairness and let it spark anger. Mike struggled more, growling at Panther's amused chuckles.
"There's my sweet Pretty Bird. Gonna enjoy putting that fire to work for me," he purred. "Let's go now. We're going to be spending a lot of time together. I can't wait." He made to get up, just as the sound of metal creaking caught the attentions of both men.
Mike blinked in confusion as Panther raised his head, and the two of them watched Muttsky's head twitch erratically, jerky and unnatural movements that reminded Mike of the eerie twitches of the Fazband he saw on camera so very many nights ago when he was on night watch. The dog's eyes were still dead-looking, the animatronic joints at the shoulders and waist twisting with shrill screeches of metal on metal. What was happening?
"The fuck is this?" Panther muttered, squinting suspiciously. There was a sharp crack, as if something gave way, and Muttsky suddenly pitched forward, bending at the waist as if his spine completely dislocated itself. Mike threw his arms up to shield himself while Panther uttered a startled shriek before his head was engulfed by the opened mouth of the mangy dog. He dropped his grip on Mike's shirt, hands flying up to try pushing it off of himself.
Familiarity flickered painfully through Mike's mind. "Hey! Stop! Don't move!" he cried in warning.
There was a sickening snap and crunch, and Panther's movements became less conscious effort to escape and more involuntary spasms that slowed bit by bit. Mike shuddered, eyes shut tight and face turned away, as a hot liquid dripped down onto his arms and dotted his cheek, the scent of iron he was all too familiar with filling his nostrils. He cracked open one eye, just long enough to glance over the situation, then shut it to focus on what he had seen.
Muttsky didn't seem to move anymore, as if the last of the electric charge had been used purely to shut his jaws like a bear-trap onto the mad bodyguard's head.
Eventually, Panther's hands fell away from the animatronic's jaws and dangled loosely at his sides. He remained on his knees, held in place by Muttsky's locked up state. Mike didn't dare move at first, trembling and breathing in short, terrified gasps. Once the blood on his cheek dribbled across his face and dried to a tacky thickness, he cracked open one eye to check the situation again. Both Muttsky and Panther showed no signs of moving any time soon.
Swallowing down a sob, Mike turned in place and reached out, beginning the slow process of carefully twisting and squirming his way free from where he'd been pinned to the floor, held in place between Panther's legs. Once he was freed, he picked up the dead taser and slipped it into its holster on his hip, then used the low walls bordering the tile flooring to support himself as he got to his feet.
In a daze, Mike walked forward, absently passing a hand over the fallen Foxy's head in a weak pat of thanks as he moved past him.
One step, then another. One foot after another. He focused on those movements and let his surroundings pull away. It didn't matter. What mattered was lifting each foot and putting it down, moving him away from....
He stopped at the top of the steps that would lead to the lower floor, then turned to look back. He let his gaze linger on the bodyguard kneeling before the instrument of his demise, shook his head slightly, then turned back. Slowly and steadily, Mike headed downstairs.