Mable: There is a VERY important author's note at the end of this chapter. Please read it, because everything you need to know about everything is going to be there. So, I won't dwell on this one. ^-^ One hundred chapters… I don't think I'd ever be ready, but let's try anyway. To my friends and readers, Enjoy!
Can't Go Home Again
Chapter One Hundred
It had been a few weeks since the confrontation with Golden Freddy and the trap at the false pizzeria. It had taken these weeks for Mike and Marionette to fully recover from the strain of that single day. They still went to work, and they still lived life like normal, but most evenings involved staying in and most plans were kept limited. Neither of them saw this as a bad thing.
Though the consistent quietness was interrupted in a single morning by Mike making an abrupt announcement. "We've got a party today," he forewarned as he started putting on his uniform. He would've already been getting ready for work, so his reveal was rather out of place.
"Don't we usually have a party every day?" Marionette playfully asked. He watched Mike with curious interest as he sat on the bed behind him. "How is this one different?"
"Bigger party. Fritz has the whole place closed up for this one," Mike explained. He sat down beside Marionette to put on his shoes. "Not really sure how much the birthday boy's folks had to pay for that one."
Having private parties during the week weren't too unusual. Having them at the beginning of the day and closing down the entire pizzeria though was a bit less usual. It certainly piqued Marionette's curiosity though and he wasn't against changing usual plans to make a child's party work. It didn't stop his mind from mulling through the reasons why a single party would shut down the entire pizzeria.
"Alright," Mike started as he stood from the bed. He stretched wearily and sent the Puppet a smile, "Let's get going. I think I've got enough time to smuggle you in before the party starts." There was something surprisingly eager in Mike's motions. Marionette could tell that he was in a good mood and it was rather contagious. He even considered suggesting their puppeteering routine, but then decided it was probably too much work for their limited amount of time.
"You're certain it's a boy?" Marionette inquired, to which Mike agreed. "Then I'll wrap him a Foxy before we leave. I can do that much."
"Just don't do too much. We should have most of this covered," Mike reassured him. He smiled just a slight bit wider, "All you really have to do is be there. You're the life of the party." Marionette chimed at the compliment and went to get one of the Foxy plushes he kept stored in the house. Indeed, Mike was in a very good mood, and so he would be too.
They arrived at the pizzeria a short time before when opening would be, but as predicted it didn't seem like anyone was preparing to open. Especially when Foxy greeted him at the back door, when he usually would be pacing around the stage at this time. Marionette teleported inside and was immediately blindsided by Foxy hooking an arm around him.
"There ya are, Marion! Ya had me worried that ya were gonna be late," Foxy greeted. He too also seemed to be rather happy, though Foxy was usually upbeat before a party. "Ya find the place alright?" he joked.
"I found the back of the car easily enough," Marionette responded. "I'm guessing that nobody's arrived yet?"
"Nah. All the partygoers be draggin' their feet like they got anchors tied to 'em," Foxy answered. He made a waving motion with his hand. "We're all just waitin' fer the birthday boy to show up. Got all our stuff in order already and the cake's almost done."
Marionette chimed happily and entered the dining room. One of the longer tables was set up for the party with utensils, napkins, and confetti sprinkled over the tablecloth. A few stringers hung from the roof and Marionette brushed past one as he sat down the wrapped gift on the edge of the table.
"What do ya think of all it?" Foxy almost startled Marionette by how he seemed to suddenly appear beside him. The Puppet recovered and looked to the captain who responded by hooking an arm around him.
"It's wonderful. I think he's going to love it," Marionette insisted. He then looked around the dining room where his eyes landed on Jeremy.
In the few weeks since the events, Jeremy had decided to get the Minireenas more involved in the pizzeria. This was largely to help work off their energy, as his home has now nearly overpacked with small animatronics. Jeremy, Natalie, and Fritz had worked together to build a small stage that was placed against the empty wall between the main stage and the front wall of the restaurant. It had been painted and given its own curtains but was still a work in progress. However, they had already started to use it.
For the last week, the Minireenas had come in with Jeremy and danced on their stage while the children watched or walked past. Any attempts to get them interested in engaging the children had so far been unsuccessful, but they would gladly dance and perform, and eagerly hid behind their curtains if any child made a grab for them. It meant that Jeremy would have to stay close by, but this wasn't a problem either. If anything, Foxy was too eager to keep Jeremy close. Even if it meant having to be in arm's length of the Minireenas.
Jeremy was currently fixing Rose's dress while Daisy and Forget-Me-Not twirled on the stage excitedly. Curiously interested, Marionette looked back to Foxy. "I'm going to see how Jeremy is holding up. Are you sure there is nothing that I need to do beforehand?"
"Nah, it's all covered, Lad!" Foxy assured as he nudged his sibling further. "Go get 'em away from those dolls. He spends too much time fussing on them."
"And not enough time fussing on you?" Marionette playfully asked.
"Yeah, so get over there an' bring 'em back." The fox watched as his sibling crossed over to the human and let his confidence slip just a bit. He twitched uncomfortably and rubbed over his head and ears to calm himself. "Keep it together. You're not going to be the one to tip him off." Mike noticed the gesture and reached out to pat him on the back.
"Hang in there, Foxy," Mike assured. "So far so good."
"I got it covered," Foxy answered. He pulled himself back together, "Don't worry 'bout me. If anyone, worry 'bout Mari findin' out. I ain't sure he's gonna take it too well."
"He can't take it any worse than some of the past stunts I've pulled. As long as he has some fun strangling me, then I still count it as a success," Mike remarked with a slight smirk. He patted Foxy on the back before drawing his hand back. "I'll go check on the cake." He then headed into the kitchen to see the progress and how Tabby was holding. Foxy just continued to watch his brother and his 'first mate'.
"Good morning, Jeremy," Marionette greeted. His tone was still just as upbeat and friendly, and he hoped to see whether or not Jeremy was in as pleasant of a mood as Mike and Foxy had been. From the smile, it seemed that he was. "How are your girls today?"
"Morning! Everyone's doing pretty well over here," Jeremy answered. He finished fussing with the Minireena's dress, which was much more ballerina-like than the doll dresses he usually put them in. "Still can't get Lilium to come down here. She doesn't want to leave Bonnie for that long." Lilium being the fourth Minireena and Bonnie being the name that he referred to the Plushtrap by. "Maybe by next week."
"I wouldn't push her before she's ready. She's bound to join in eventually." Marionette assured as he watched the small dolls dance. He waited until Jeremy stood before looking to him again. "Hey… Do you notice Foxy acting a bit odd? I suppose it could just be excitement from the party, but he seems a little on edge."
"Foxy? Uh… No, seems fine to me," Jeremy quickly excused. He sent a glance over to the animatronic captain, who was blatantly staring at them. It was a little peculiar, but Jeremy decided it was best not to tell the Puppet this. "Guess he's just… Excited for the party! It's going to be a big one." He noticed that for a second Marionette looked confused, to which Jeremy added, "Or so Foxy's said. H-He's been excited about it."
"Well, I'm glad," Marionette agreed. "I need to get ready, if you'll excuse me. Have a nice show, you three!" The Minireenas looked up at him and one, he thought it was probably Daisy, giggled in response. As Marionette headed towards the Prize Corner, he heard Foxy passing behind him and heading to Jeremy. The Puppet stopped at the Prize Corner door and looked back to see the two. He was starting to get the impression that something was just a little off around the pizzeria.
Foxy and Jeremy had a quick conversation. Foxy effectively asked if everything was 'good', to which Jeremy said that it was and to not worry about the party. The animatronic then hooked an arm around Jeremy's shoulders, pulled him flush against his chest, and nuzzled into his hair. Jeremy looked a little flustered but was still smiling and eagerly hugged him back. Now they were acting normal again; back to Captain Foxy and his first mate, as usual. Though perhaps a bit more affectionate recently, which Marionette was thrilled about.
Finally, he drew away from the door and approached his box to slip inside. There was the strange feeling that he was forgetting something, but in his rush out of the house Marionette hadn't had time to remember it. He propped himself up on the edge of the box and looked around the Prize Corner thoughtfully. His eyes landed on the stack of calendars themed after Foxy and himself and he wondered if it had something to do with the date. There was an open calendar in the office, so he would have to breeze through and check after the party.
He wasn't sure how long he was there trying to figure it out when he heard the front door opening. For a moment he braced himself for children, but then realized it was clearly two adults stepping in, and he recognized both. It was Fritz and Scott who had come into the pizzeria. The former looked exhausted as he passed by; possibly from another long night working on Baby. Fritz had become almost obsessed with finding a way to reprogram Baby and so far it was going slow, but was getting somewhere. The fact that he had gotten into the programming at all considering William's way of covering was a miracle.
Scott looked more pulled together than he had in a long time. It wasn't too surprising to see him either, as he had been stopping by the pizzeria a bit more. He just seemed livelier since his home had gotten back in order. While Fritz looked dead to the world, Marionette decided to vocally reach out to Scott.
"Scott, good morning," Marionette greeted. The man still twitched a bit in what was almost a jump, but not quite. He noticed the Puppet in the prize corner and came inside. The animatronic immediately spotted the small, wrapped gift in his hand. "I didn't expect to see you here. What is that?"
"This? Oh, it's Fritz's. He's probably not fit to drive right now, and I didn't have anywhere else to be, so I drove him over," Scott simply excused. It sounded like a plausible answer and Scott didn't sound too nervous, though his hands were trembling. Alas, Scott went through moments of trembling and stillness, so Marionette wouldn't be able to get a reading on if he was being honest through that.
"He shouldn't push himself so hard. Baby isn't going anywhere fast," Marionette said with concern. Part of him knew that Fritz was probably just throwing himself in because it was a project and he clung to those, more than his actual over-eagerness to appease Baby. As it was, Baby was still going to wake up thinking it had only been seconds, so there was no need to rush on her account. "How is Ennard?"
"Doing pretty well actually. He, uh, he wanted to come, but I can't really… Maybe if it was in the evening and this place was cleared out of any children and people. It's all been well so far, but we have to be careful. Especially with the neighbors. We just got new neighbors and they're friendly, but… It's a long story. It's not important," Scott waved off. "But yeah, he's okay… You don't… You wouldn't happen to know what to use to clean exposed wires-?"
"The cleaning pads in the supply closet," Marionette pointed out. "They work perfectly and there shouldn't be any lasting damage. They just might not work with anything too sticky."
"No, no. I won't make that mistake again. I took all the honey and jelly and hid it in the vegetable drawer where he can't get to it… I hope." Scott cleared his throat and gave a small wave. "I'm going to put this with the other gifts. Where are they?"
"Just on the end of the table. Here, I'll come with you," Marionette offered as he slipped out of the box. He noticed Scott watching and chimed. "Does it bring back memories?"
"Oh, uh, sort of," Scott fumbled with an embarrassed smile. He hadn't expected the Puppet to catch him staring. "It can't be the same box."
"It isn't. Boxes don't hold up that well," Marionette chimed as he headed to the door. "Follow me. The table is just over here." When Marionette arrived at the table, he didn't expect to see more than one gift beside the one that he had brought. Yet there were now a few of them stacked on the table. He looked over them in confusion. "Oh… I didn't realize that organizers brought their gifts in beforehand…" He looked around to see if anything else changed, but it hadn't. Everything else was right where it was left.
"They used to do that back at the old Freddy's," Scott assured. "Usually they brought in the gifts the day before and their job was just getting the children into the restaurant." He didn't seem concerned by the odd occurrence, so Marionette let it go. Besides, his focus now landed on the hallway.
Fritz looked exhausted and Natalie must have noticed, as she was looking concerned as she was talking to him. She reached out to take his cheek and raised his head, whispering something that looked like it was filled with worry. He couldn't see much of Fritz's expression, but he gave a weary smile and said something, to which Natalie looked a little relieved and leaned in to quickly kiss him. Marionette guessed that Fritz had agreed to take a break from his work. That really was for the best.
Natalie pointed Fritz to the office, guiding him with a gentle push, and made sure he had gotten into the office before coming down the hallway. She noticed Marionette watching and approached with a smile.
"Hey there, Mari! I didn't know you got here already," Natalie greeted happily. She then looked to Scott, "Thanks for driving him here. I haven't seen him like this since he got addicted to competitive crossword." She sighed tiredly and shook her head, but then perked a bit more. "But I think he's at his breaking point, and that's usually when he starts to sleep again."
"I know how that feels," Scott almost absentmindedly remarked. He then cleared his throat and started rearranging the gifts on the table. Natalie took this time to change topics back to the party.
"So… Any sign of the cake yet?" she asked curiously.
"No, but I would assume that we would spot children first before we saw any sign of the cake," Marionette playfully remarked.
"Well, sure, but I thought maybe-." Natalie cut off as the front door opened again. Marionette looked over to see a child coming through and was struck with dread for a moment, thinking he would be spotted off his track. These fears were quickly dashed when he realized that the girl who was taking off her helmet was none other than Chrissy. He perked with a chime of delight.
"Chrissy's here!" Marionette remarked. Though he then seemed a bit more confused and looked back to Natalie. "Chrissy's here?" The blond gave a casual shrug.
"Must be friends with the kid having the party," Natalie suggested. This seemed to make enough sense, but she then added in. "I'm sure she came early to get some one on one time with you." She patted him on the back and then sent him a slight smirk, "That's why Mike lives with you, right?" She then gave a playful wink. Of course, she couldn't have any idea, Marionette supposed. He doubted Mike could've told her and it wasn't like Fritz knew about their relationship.
Either way, now properly embarrassed and not wanting Scott to see it, Marionette headed over to greet Chrissy. The girl was carrying a present underneath her arm, so Natalie's idea seemed quite a bit more reasonable. He greeted her with a chime and the typical greeting.
"Hi, Mari!" Chrissy greeted back. She was smiling wider than ever before and seemed overeager about the party. Which somewhat surprised him since Chrissy had never been too social with the other children. Sure, she had friends and engaged with some of the children she didn't know, but she was rather shy. He decided to instead relish in it and happily accepted this change. Perhaps this child was one of her closest friends, in which case Marionette was even more eager to show them a good time.
"I brought a present!" Chrissy presented as she offered the gift to him. "I picked it out and wrapped it and bought it all on my own! No help at all!"
"It looks wonderful!" Marionette praised. Indeed, for a child she had managed to do a good job wrapping the gift, even in comparison to most adults he had seen. The wrapping paper was striped black and pink, and a red bow was stuck to the top. "It's going to be the star of the gift table!" Before he could start to turn to take it to the table, she stopped him.
"Wait, wait! I had another bow too," Chrissy revealed as she reached into her coat pocket and pulled it out. It looked to be stuck to a thicker ribbon, which was a very similar red color to the bow itself. "Here," she coaxed. She beckoned him to lean down, to which he did, and she tied the ribbon around his neck. She smiled at her work and clasped her hands together, in a way resembling how he did so. "And now you match."
"Why, thank you!" Marionette reached out and pulled her into a one-armed hug. After a few seconds he drew back. "Here, come with me," he guided as he led her to the table. He set the gift on the table and searched around before finding a party hat on one of the other tables. It was odd that they hadn't set those out on this one. Shrugging it off, he leaned down again to put the party hat on the girl. It set perfectly on her locks.
"There! Ready for the party!" Marionette assured. "Now you're a bit early, so why don't you play a few games while the others get here? I have plenty of free tokens that didn't get used today." She eagerly agreed to this and allowed herself to be effectively bought off by the promise of games and tickets. This would give Marionette time to help set up for the party.
Which led to the realization that Marionette really didn't have anything too do. As confusing as it was, it seemed like everyone was doing something and leaving him without anything to do. Not to mention that there was something peculiar about all of this. Becoming a bit more suspicious, he started to head towards the kitchen and pushed open the door.
Mike was talking with Tabby, who seemed to be working on the cake though he body blocked his view of it. The security guard looked back and noticed the new joiner, and almost immediately afterwards rushed over towards him. "Hey. Everyone get here yet?"
"Not quite. I came to see if there was anything I could help with," Marionette explained. Mike put an arm around him and guided them both back out of the kitchen. The motion was warm and affectionate, but it was also a little peculiar as well. Or it would've been if Mike wasn't acting perfectly normal. It didn't seem like he was purposefully trying to get Marionette out of the kitchen for a reason, unless it was just to not unease the still semi-distant Tabby.
"Tabby's got everything handled in there… Looks like everything out here's pretty much ready too," Mike pointed out as he looked around. "I guess as soon as everyone's here we'll go straight into the cake. Tabby's getting it ready now, so unless we want the icing to melt and the cake to sag we'll need to get to it."
"Are you sure? I thought you liked soggy, melted, generally ruined birthday cakes," Marionette offered playfully. He crossed his arms over his chest. "Though I doubt a cake's going to go that fast while sitting on a table. Maybe in the sun." A jingling signaled the front door and Marionette looked over towards the front, then blatantly stared at the door. "…Your mother's here."
"Of course she is," Mike said under his breath. He gave one last hug and then drew back. "I'm not here."
"She's already seen you and is coming this way," Marionette chimed. He didn't wait for the man and instead approached Isabelle, all while disguising his clear confusion as he did so. She smiled warmly and came in for an embrace. One of her arms was bent to trap a present underneath it, but she still pulled him into the hug. She was just as welcoming as he remembered.
"It's so good to see you again!" Isabelle said with clear joy. All the while she had Marionette trapped against her as though he was her son. She drew back to look over him. Her eyes caught the bow, "You look precious!"
"Oh this. This was a gift from Chrissy," Marionette explained to cover his slowly growing embarrassment. He gestured to the arcade where Chrissy was still playing on one of the arcade machines. It was while looking at her that he noticed Foxy watching from nearby. He seemed curious of Isabelle and Marionette made a mental not to introduce them after the party. "Mike's over by the kitchen finishing the final arrangements if you would like to see him."
"I'll do that, but don't go too far. I'll be right back," Isabelle assured as she headed over. On the way, she set her gift down on the table. It was this action, and this gift, that finally reassured Marionette that something was amiss. After all, why would Isabelle bring a gift? She couldn't know the birthday child. Then the Puppet realized that this elusive party of children had still yet to arrive and yet Jeremy was setting out plates for the cake.
Marionette had this nagging feeling that there was something he was forgetting. He mentally calculated the date and suddenly it all struck him at once. Marionette was staring over the table when he suddenly realized what was going on. He looked to Foxy, who was now staring back, and they locked eyes for a few moments. That concerned look was all he needed to confirm his suspicions.
Marionette hurriedly headed over to Mike and Isabelle where he grasped the security guard's shoulders from behind. "Isabelle, do you mind if I borrow Mike for a second?" Naturally she didn't, and instead turned her focus on Jeremy. While the others seemed distracted, Marionette steered Mike into the hallway and led him back until he was certain nobody would overhear. Only then did he let his panic appear on his face.
"This isn't a child's birthday party, is it?" Marionette choked out. He kept his horrified voice low as his eyes widened. "This is my birthday party."
"I was wondering how long it would take for that to sink in," Mike casually remarked. His smile turned into a playful smirk while Marionette frowned in response.
"This isn't funny, Mike! You know that I don't do well with my birthday! That's why we don't celebrate it!" Marionette insisted. He could already feel himself starting to get worked up.
"I knew something was up. I shouldn't have to check your birth certificate to find your birthdate," Mike pointed out. His amusement faltered and was replaced with quiet concern. "I just thought that maybe you deserve a party of your own for once. For years you've been doing parties and watching birthdays. It's about time that you actually had a good one; even if that means sharing it with Scott, Tabby, and my mom."
It was obvious that Mike was passionate about this. As playful and nonchalant as it all was, there was genuine concern now pouring through, along with guilt that the Puppet didn't want to hear.
"I just wanted to give you something nice, and I knew you weren't going to agree to it unless I at least got it here," Mike explained. He reached out and cupped his porcelain cheek affectionately. "But, look, now that you found out it's your decision. It you want, we can call this whole thing off. You already got your gifts and the cake's in the kitchen, so it's your choice."
As much as Marionette wanted to immediately turn down the party, there was a vocal part of him that didn't want to. As reluctant as he was, as content as he had been in giving up his birthday for so long, there was a part of him that always wanted to replace that disastrous birthday party of long ago. He wanted it almost as much as he feared it.
With a tired sigh, Marionette laid his hand on Mike's hand. "…I want to go ahead with the party," he admitted as he nuzzled his mask into the hand.
"You're sure?" Mike double checked. "I don't want to push you into this, and nobody's going to be upset if you decide not to."
"No, it's been long enough," Marionette reassured. His music box tightened at the thought of how long it had been since his last birthday party- since the last day he was human. So many years had passed and considering all that had happened recently it only made sense to finally face it head on. "Alright, let's- let's do this," Marionette said with shaky confidence. He straightened a bit more and returned to a natural smile. Mike seemed relieved by it- largely because it meant he hadn't made a terrible decision- and followed behind him.
Now looking at the party and the table felt so different for Marionette. The gifts were his own, the people were here for him, and it truly was a group of his closest friends and fellows. Save Ennard, but considering some of the others here that was probably a good decision. Here he was, finally getting his birthday party after ten long years.
It had been ten years. That meant he had now been an animatronic as long as he had been a human. What a terrible time to be hit with that realization.
That was when Marionette felt the horror return in full force. His music box tightened incredibly into his chest as he mind plummeted into fight or flight mode. His smile dropped as pinpricks of light appeared in his eyes, along with the dialing noise in his chest. "I…I can't," he choked out.
Then, before Mike could even react, Marionette turned and bolted. He couldn't even think of teleporting away and instead tried to look for other options. With the back door not being guaranteed in safety and Fritz being possibly asleep in the office, the only real option was the supply closet, which Marionette hurried into and shut the door behind him. He turned the flimsy lock and dropped limply onto the tiled floor. The frantic dread was still there, even though he was now locked in a tiny room.
He could hear Mike starting to follow when the sound was overtaken by rapid footsteps. Another being came speeding down the hallway and landed a few thumping knocks onto the door. "Marion?" Naturally, it was Foxy, who might've been the last person Marionette wanted to be seen by. "You alright in there? What happened? Lad?"
Marionette tried to say something dismissive, but only dial tone noises came out. He covered his mouth as though to block them off, embarrassed by his malfunction, and tugged his knees to his chest as he curled into a tight ball.
"…It's alright, Marion," Foxy tried to comfort through the door. "I- uh… I'm sure this all be hard on ya…" He then gave a huff and thumped his fist lightly on the doorframe, muttering under his breath with, "I knew this was a bad idea." Marionette wanted to disagree, but his voice was still probably just as distorted, so he didn't even dare to risk it.
Instead, Marionette locked himself into a dark, lonely supply closet as he hid from his own birthday party.
It was irony at its finest, really. As a child, Marionette had been stuck going to pizzeria where he didn't want to go and usually locked into tight rooms where he didn't want to be. Here he willingly did both, all to avoid the same birthday party that he avoided as a child. It seemed like every ten years Marionette would be doomed to repeat that day, that party, that fear, as here he was again. Yet he couldn't lie to himself and say it wasn't a little different from last time. As much as he wanted to resist it, there was one enormous difference.
Marionette wanted this birthday party.
There were humans treating him like another human. His brother was being friendly and supportive. He had gifts, a cake, was sure to have fun, and all orchestrated by Mike, who he knew was there to protect him. Mike wouldn't let anything go wrong during the party, and the others were there to support what should've been a momentous occasion. But when given the chance, Marionette had still ran away to hide, and had refused the party that he so desperately wanted, and he didn't know why.
Was it truly because of the revelation about the years? Yes, it was shocking to find out that he had been a human and an animatronic the same length of time, but that wasn't a bad thing. Marionette honestly loved his body and he adored the changes from his childhood years. He felt comfortable in his skin, or fabric, had a safe home, and never feared an animatronic again. It certainly couldn't be that. Even the memories of the bite had gotten less severe over the years. After more recent events, they seemed so minor in comparison, so distant.
Being bitten was the last thing Marionette would think about when home with Mike, or when performing for children. So, the odds of it effecting the party were slim. It had to be something else causing him to be pulled into himself. Fear of something else that was only showing itself as a fear of the bite, but a fear of what?
Certainly not the lovingly supportive humans who had eagerly treated him like one of them. Ignoring Mike alone, who had always treated Marionette better than anyone else, their coworkers had treated him as a friend since they had become more acquainted. Isabelle, who had been so frightened of him, was now becoming motherly. Chrissy, who was shy and meek at first, had learned to trust him in such a pure way. Scott, who had every reason to fear him, had become an open and honest friend. They made Marionette feel complete.
It wasn't Foxy either. Even though that birthday reminded them both of the worst day they ever shared, it didn't erase what came afterwards. Even as an animatronic, Foxy turned himself around into becoming a wonderful brother. He was supportive, he was concerned, and even now Marionette was sure that he was still waiting loyally outside of the door, wracked with guilt and fear. Marionette didn't want him to feel anymore of that, which was only more of a reason for the party: both needed to replace that old memory.
There was only one possibility that drifted to his mind. It came so suddenly, right after Marionette decided that the party would have to go on.
"And what if the party goes perfectly? What if that one party really is the only thing that allows me to stay?"
Goldie had always been vague on how one simply 'moved on'. So far, Marionette had witnessed him do it twice, and it seemed to only be a matter of letting go. The thought terrified him, that all he would need to do is feel happy and then suddenly he would move on. He never considered it before, but he worried now that maybe being too happy would somehow make him content enough to move on. He didn't want to leave his body, nor his life. It wasn't like when he was a child; he had a life that he wanted to get back to.
Goldie's words chose now to reappear in his mind, "Don't let what happened in the past do to you as it did to me. You can't change the past… But you do have a future." Marionette hoped he was right.
Marionette slowly raised his head and stared across the supply closet. At the time Goldie had said that, Marionette had not even considered what it had truly meant. He was too busy reeling from the bear moving on and his near loss of everything to really take in that single sentence. Yet here it was again, reminding him not to become a relic of his own past. Maybe he would never forget, but he needed to stop dwelling, and only through that would he be able to move on with the rest of his future. He needed to do this.
Marionette leaned back on the door and managed to get his voice to function enough to quietly called out to whomever was on the other side of the door, "Mike…?"
"Nah," Foxy murmured. He dragged his hook down the wall. "It's just me, is all… Got here first…" Yet even that seemed to be more than enough. The Puppet slowly rose off the ground and unlocked the door. Foxy's ears twitched at hearing the low click and he took a step back to watch as the closet door opened. Marionette peered out at him, Foxy started back expectantly, and then the striped male pushed the door open the rest of the way. Silently, Marionette reached out his arms and requested the comfort that he hoped the male would give.
Foxy caught on quickly. He rushed the few steps and pulled Marionette into a tight hug against him. His dread and remorse were evident in how tightly he held his sibling to him. The Puppet hugged back and pressed his face into his shoulder, silently asking for every reassurance while also giving what he could of his own. He wanted to show that all was forgiven while reminding himself that his brother truly did love him. Which he did; Foxy held him just as protectively as any older brother would.
Marionette drew back slowly and looked to Foxy again. He couldn't help but be slightly meek, being that he was honestly embarrassed at the small scene he had created. "Will you get Mike for me?"
"Course, Marion," Foxy agreed. He was still hesitant to leave his brother's side. "Ya sure you're okay?"
"Not exactly… But I will be very soon," Marionette encouraged. He forced his dread down and squeezed his brother's shoulders. "After I speak to Mike I-… I will be ready for the party." He noticed Foxy's surprise and insisted further. "I know you're going to say that I don't have to, but trust me in that I want to, and I… I won't let nervousness ruin this for us."
In response, Foxy yanked Marionette into another tight hug against him. It was a good thirty seconds before he loosened his grip again. As he drew back, Marionette forced down his concern and kept his voice as even as he could. "If you could, would you make sure the cake is ready? I… I would like to get that out of the way while I still have my nerve."
"Anything ya like, Marion. This be yer day," Foxy assured with a more upbeat tone. "Prob'ly fer the best. One of us be slicin' into that cake sooner than later. Rather it be you than me." Marionette chimed in amusement and watched as Foxy turned and headed down the hall once more. The Puppet noticed that his hands were shaking again. With an off-tone noise from his chest, he retreated into the supply closet and waited.
Out in the dining room, the topic of conversation had become Marionette's fleeing. As much as both Marionette and Mike hoped that it hadn't been noticed, everyone had noticed the animatronic's rapid retreat. With Mike being the only one out in the dining room who knew what was happening, he was now the one who everyone fell on with their questions.
"Is he okay? Should someone go back there?" Isabelle inquired. Mike could already tell that she was beginning to fuss. "I can go back there and check on him." Mike shot this down quickly.
"That's just going to make him more embarrassed. He'll be okay, he just needs a minute to adjust," Mike said. He was doing a form of damage control to cover for Marionette. "I'd be back there myself, but Foxy has it covered… I guess this was all a little sudden." He couldn't help but feel bad about all of this. Especially since he was the one who had pushed for this party.
"I understand being shy, but the way he hurried off was like he saw a ghost! What could've scared him so badly?" Mike knew that his mother was fishing for information and wasn't sure if he could give it.
"I'm… Not exactly surprised," Scott quietly added in. He rubbed over his scarred cheek tiredly. "That's one of those things you won't just forget. Especially not since it was on his birthday. Holidays around traumatic events always get tainted, and the next thing you know you're missing Thanksgiving- Yeah…" He trailed off while Isabelle looked confused. She was going to ask more, Mike knew it, so he decided to beat her to it. He made sure that Jeremy was still distracting Chrissy and quietly murmured to his mother, tenting his fingers together.
"Mari passed away on his birthday. He's not had a party since then," Mike explained. Isabelle covered her mouth in surprise. "I knew better than to push, but I still did anyway. This is all my fault… All we can do is sit here and wait until he's ready to talk." He cut off as he heard Foxy approaching.
"Alright Schmidt, you're up," Foxy announced abruptly. Mike's brows raised at the suggestion and he looked back to his mother with a shrug, who was staring at Foxy in bewilderment.
"He never was one to keep a party waiting," Mike said nonchalantly as he stood.
"I didn't even notice he was alive too," Isabelle whispered back. As though Foxy couldn't hear her, which he probably did but didn't seem to care.
"I don't consider what Foxy does living," Mike added with the slightest tinge of a smirk. He then headed into the hallway, believing that he had covered his concern well enough. Though it started to leak through as he approached the supply closet. He started to feel the worry creeping through as he got to the cracked door and nudged it open. "Mari?" He investigated the darkened closet and flicked the light on.
Marionette was sitting against the shelves to the right. His arms were folded in his lap and his head was slumped, but he looked up when Mike started to come into the room. He managed a small smile and patted the floor beside him. Mike sat down beside him and put a comforting arm around him, to which Marionette rested his head on his shoulder.
"I was thinking about some things. About why I've been avoiding my birthday for so long when the memories don't bother me as much, about why I am comfortable in my fabric with other parties but not my own, and I think I came to a sort of revelation. I think that it is less about the bite and more about my death," Marionette explained. He wrapped his arms around Mike's chest and pressed tighter into him. "It's been ten years… Maybe I'm just worried history will repeat."
Mike wanted to joke, wanted to point out that Fredbear was long gone, suggest that they muzzle Foxy; something other than return to the topic of 'moving on' once more. He petted over the striped animatronic's back. "What's the chances of that happening? I know why you're scared- it makes plenty of sense to me- but I don't think a date's going to force you to move on. You don't have an expiration date."
"It's not even the date, Mike. I just wonder if… If now that I know everything, that I've tied up most of my life, that I'm content, what if this is what keeps me here? What if I effectively become too content and just move on without control of it?" Marionette asked as he tightened his hand on Mike's shirt and slid from his shoulder to his chest, so that he could listen to the comforting sound of his heartbeat closer. "…I always imagined the Happiest Day being a party to let souls move free. A birthday for an afterlife… Could I die from happiness?"
"Only if your heart was on the fritz," Mike insisted. He exhaled slowly and reassured, "I don't know much about all of this, but from what I've seen about the others moving on it doesn't look like-…" It was when the Security Guard looked down at the Puppet and saw his worried and distant look that he suddenly changed tune. "…You know, forget it. Let's skip the party. Everyone out there is going to understand. Scott's already having traumatic flashbacks and Mom's probably following us home regardless, and Chrissy knows about wanting to escape a birthday party. They'll all understand."
"I know they will…" Marionette murmured. "…But I still want to have the party… Goldie was right; I can't let the past control me. I don't want to have a yearly reminder that I could lose everything."
"Mari…" Mike was divided down the middle. Again, he wanted to do what he could to make Marionette happy, but he also didn't want to risk his life. "…Okay, but only under one condition," Mike began. Noticing the vacantness, he lifted the Puppet's chin so that he would look directly at him. "If something goes wrong and you feel like you're slipping, I want you to signal me and we stop everything right then. Better safe than sorry." He kissed his porcelain forehead, "It's going to be alright. You're not alone in this."
Marionette warbled thankfully and silently agreed. They waited a few more minutes before Marionette rose off the floor and Mike followed. Seeing that the mood was still tense, Mike managed to find his humor returning. "And if you're really worried about being too happy, I can start telling horror stories from Freddy's and send Mom into a frenzy. That might be fun," he joked with a small smile.
"Oh, don't worry about that. I already have plenty of horror stories of my own," Marionette assured. "Do you realize that Scott recognized Fredrick as William because of the springlock scars he had under his clothing?" He chimed lightly as Mike stared at his back.
"…I did not need to know that," Mike answered. "…And knowing my luck, I'm never going to forget it."
With another light chime, one still strained by dread, Marionette reached out and took Mike's hand. He gave it a tight squeeze. "Whatever happens, don't let go. I don't care what anyone else says or thinks. I need you," Marionette quietly assured. Mike had no objections.
Jeremy noticed Marionette coming back first and nudged Foxy to alert him. The captain looked over, his eyes widened, and he immediately fell back into 'birthday' mode. He quickly leaned over the table and began to delegate. "He doesn't find out we were talkin' 'bout him, yeah? All of ya just act natural," Foxy instructed. There was silent agreement and Foxy nudged Jeremy back and whispered a low, "I'm puttin' ya in charge of getting the cake." Jeremy nodded silently and turned to head into the kitchen.
"I'll go get Fritz," Natalie announced as she headed to the hallway. She passed by Mike and Marionette on the way and gave them a smile. "Glad to see you back! We were getting a little worried." Marionette smiled back but didn't trust his voice enough to speak. She then headed into the office to rouse Fritz.
Mike guided Marionette to the opposite head of the table and he willingly lowered into a chair. At least that was a change from his last birthday party, in which he vaguely remembered his own father half dragging him into a chair. Mike dragged one of the other chairs closer and sat beside him. Their hands stayed conjoined under the table.
It was as though Marionette was in a sort of fog. He reacted to everything normally, but it was as though he was observing it all from a distance. Isabelle came over and gave him a tight hug as she checked him over, obviously concerned. They all seemed to be, but Chrissy was the only one to directly ask if he was alright. He had said that he was and managed to keep his voice sounding normal, which was an unexpected feat. It started to feel like it was all going well, but he could tell he wasn't the only one who was anxious. Not with how Foxy was pacing outside the kitchen door.
Right as Natalie entered the dining room with a half-asleep Fritz, the kitchen door started to open. Foxy turned to look and as soon as he saw the lit birthday cake started to twitch like he was having a malfunction. In the last second, he pulled out of it and hurried around the table to stand at Marionette's free side, standing over Chrissy who was seated there. Fritz and Natalie moved to sit down while Jeremy started to move up the table while carefully toting the tray. Tabby watched from the kitchen door; curious, but not enough so to come and stand beside the table.
"Happy Birthday to you~," Jeremy began. After that point Marionette could barely hear the song above his own internal mechanisms squealing and clanking together in reaction to it. He could see that the others were joining in through his growing tunnel vision at least. Everything felt so peculiar as a skipping chime started to echo through his voice as he tried to battle with his own music trying to start against the singing. He didn't want to ruin this moment, because beyond the dread he was enraptured by it.
No longer was it a matter of appeasing lost souls: he was getting his own party. No strings attached.
The cake was marvelous. It was frosted with vanilla icing and had the words "Happy Birthday Mari" written with piped red icing. Twenty candles circled in two loops and were all waiting to be blown out. While Marionette couldn't physically do that, he knew he could use his telekinesis, and raised his free hand. Slowly Marionette started to gain back control as the fear diminished. He could feel Mike squeeze his hand. He was too distracted to consider a wish beyond the single hope that his fear was misguided.
With that, Marionette waved his own hand, and the candles went out.
And then came the bright flash of light.
"GAH!" Foxy bellowed from beside him as he stumbled back from the table. His hand and hook raised to his face to shield it. "I told ya to turn off the bloody flash!"
"I thought I did! Sorry, Foxy!" Fritz blurted back as he lowered the camera. He sent a glance down at it before whispering to Natalie, "Oh geez, I hope he didn't scramble his servos…"
"Ya blinded me! That's what ya did!" Foxy choked back as he rubbed at his face and grumbled. Jeremy winced and started to head over to check on him. Foxy could be heard then muttering, "It's me eyes, Lad. I'll live, but I ain't gonna be seein' anytime soon."
"I bet that was an amazing picture," Mike murmured to the Puppet. He then looked down the table, "Hey Fritz, send me one of those, yeah?" He then reached for the cake knife before looking back to the striped animatronic, noticing how quiet he was. "Everything okay?"
Slowly Marionette started to come back down and took in what was happening around him. Everything was going on as it normally, nothing had ended, and he felt fine. Other than being in shock, his body felt just as it had before he had put out the candles. He stared blankly at the cake as he realized that he wasn't slipping away. He was here with Mike and their friends, and he wasn't going anywhere.
The Puppet gave a chime, then a vocal chortle, and then a mix of both in eager delight. He was almost laughing hysterically, which could've been concerning until the Puppet turned to Mike.
"I am much more than okay! I couldn't be better, in fact!" Marionette trilled in delight. Boldly, ignoring who was looking- though most everyone was still looking at Foxy- Marionette threw his arms around Mike and hugged him close. "Please do this for me every year from now on. I want this every single birthday." He hugged closer and nuzzled against Mike, who smiled in his own relief.
"Who am I to say no to that?" Mike quipped back, inwardly relieved. "It's about time something went right for us!" He noticed when Marionette moved to press his mask to his, cupping his face and brushing his fingers into his hair, and smiling with the same elation. The security guard became a little more aware that they were still in a room full of people. "Mari, it's your party and you're the center of attention. Someone's going to notice." Marionette responded with another chime of amusement.
"It's my party. I think I can get away with whatever I want," Marionette reminded. To punctuate this, he gave a low warble and brushed his porcelain lips over Mike's own, just quickly enough that the others wouldn't notice. He then moved to embrace him one more, still soaring over the thrill of being alive to receive a real birthday party.
Mike turned his head down to hide the reddening of his skin, but did manage to notice that nobody was paying attention. "You're really something, you know that?" he murmured. He had a feeling that this was all leading to the start of a new tradition. One that they would both willingly embrace. "Happy Birthday, Mari."
There was no going back, but neither Mike nor Marionette wanted to. It was their Happiest Day.
Mable: And that's the end… Two years are over and that's the last word… That would've been the end…
…But then about ten or so chapters back, I had one night of wild inspiration, and now I sit with the skeleton of Can't Go Home Again's sequel's plot.
And yes, I'm taking the plunge. Can't Go Home Again will be getting a sequel!
I'm sure there's a few questions, so I'm going to try and answer them now.
When is the sequel coming? It sort of depends. I would like to take a little break to work on some stuff, along with another FNAF fic, and I definitely want the big Pizzeria Simulator update to be out first. ^-^ When the sequel comes out, I will post an alert here and if I can will also edit this last author's note with an update.
What about in the meantime? In the meantime, I will be posting some FNAF oneshots and perhaps another FNAF fic or two, depending on how fast I get it flowing. Though if you'd like to look for more, there is a community of Can't Go Home Again fan stories that I run as well. I've also posted a short poem on the story 'Stories by Candlelight' and will probably contribute more to it now with my free time. My first FNAF oneshot should pop up next week to replace Can't Go Home Again's missing update.
What is the deal with the poll? As you can probably tell, the poll points to more than just fun questions, and involves a future story. I'll leave which one to a surprise, but this last question clearly reaches a little further than just a nameless story. ^-^ In short, do try to answer it.
What will the sequel be about? Mike and Mari, ha ha!... Okay, no, there's more than that. There's obviously story threads that aren't resolved, and they will be built upon in this second fic.
What about the Novel? Chapter eleven of my fourteen-chapter novel is being completed tonight. Chances are, the sequel will be posted before the novel is finished, and then I'll continue updating in those author's notes. If not, then I will mention that it's been published in the first chapter's author's notes. If curious, I update my profile every time I finish a chapter, so that's another place to look.
Now a few final words… Before I began this fic, I was in a bad state. My fics were getting virtually no attention, there was some darkness in my life that I won't go into details about, and I took the risk to start this fic thinking that it would be a oneshot story that nobody was going to read… But the amount of support and feedback I've gotten, the friends I've met and the joy I have had writing this, turned this into something wonderful! Writing this story has been amazing; I can't believe it's coming to an (albeit temporary) end.
But I must thank you. To everyone whose stuck around to read and whose given me the gift of your attention, I thank you so much. Your support, your reviews, just your views in general make all this time worthwhile! I won't lie, I did write this story originally for my enjoyment, but things have changed. I want to make it better, I want to reward you for reading, and I can't wait to get started on our next journey!
I don't think I've ever felt so conflicted on the end of a story… Because I'm happy. I'm actually, honestly happy. ^-^ (Or I will be until I publish this chapter and it all sinks in.)
I hope that you enjoyed this story as much as I did, and I hope to see you around when the sequel finally comes! Until then, tomorrow is another day!