CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

In the hopes that getting away from the pizzeria would clear her head, Ana gathered up her clothes and went to the laundromat. Lulled by the swish and thump of the washers and dryers around her, she even slept for a while, and that helped, too. She never quite lost the summer cold/painless hangover sensation stuffing up her skull, but at least it didn't feel as densely packed.

She drove back to Freddy's in a moderately good mood with clean clothes, a bag of ice, and a bucket of chicken from the gas station, mentally laying out the next steps of the roofing job and feeling like herself for the first time that day and not just some ghost possessing her own body. With any luck, she'd get the rest of the underdeck laid before dark and have a few good hours after that, with the cover of night and fireworks going off on every side, to nail everything down. If she could get the felt and fiberglass down too, she'd be ready to start applying the asphalt just as soon as she rolled out of bed tomorrow, which in turn meant everything should be stable enough by the next morning that she could spend the daylight hours fussing with the fucking self-stick thermoset membrane and all night hammering out her frustrations on the top-deck. She could do this. It would take all her time, energy and Adderall, but come Monday, she'd be back at her day-job on Shelly's crew and there would be a roof on this building.

Freddy was onstage in the middle of his magic act with Bonnie playing a silent soundtrack behind him when she came in, struggling to carry everything because she didn't want to make two trips. When it became inevitable that she was going to drop something, she went ahead and dropped the ice. That freed a hand, but apparently removed one of the essential supports for the chicken, which also fell. Oh well. Ana kicked it aside and continued on her way. She'd had two pieces in the car anyway; she still had ramen and jerky if she got hungry later. She put her laundry basket down on her table with a groan of relief, flexing her pinched fingers—the basket company must get its comfort handgrips from the same place her generator company got theirs—shrugged her day pack off her shoulder and tucked it under the table, then went back for the ice and dumped it in the cooler, her mind thirty feet above her physical body, hard at work on what was left of the underdeck.

She began to empty her laundry basket, shaking each item free of the tangle and putting it neatly away in the cardboard cubbies—shirts on the left, jeans on the right, panties, bras and socks in the middle—folding fast but not sloppy, anxious to get to work. Still, as the basket emptied and the cubbies did not fill, a nagging question resurfaced: Where the hell were all her shirts? She only owned five pairs of jeans, and they were all accounted for, but the stack of tees was half what it should be and she was fairly sure she was missing some panties, too.

Ana double-checked her day pack, but it held only the one spare set of clothes she always kept in it for emergencies—a ragged pair of jeans and her F U Athletic Department tee, the one she'd torn the morning after waking up in Freddy's for the first time, neither one of them really fit to be worn in public anymore. Had she just left the rest back at the house? She'd packed fast, but not carelessly; thinking back, she had a distinct memory of picking up all her laundry and throwing it in the box, and she'd just come back from the laundromat then, so it ought to all be here. If it was just a sock or a bra, that would be one thing, but this was way more than she could absent-mindedly misplace.

In growing frustration, Ana scouted out some of the other cardboard boxes that had accompanied her to the restaurant and eventually ended up in the kitchen, where, as she was futilely rummaging through tools and other supplies, she had a sudden recollection of Freddy going through her clothes. And folding her shirts. Into two stacks, one considerably larger than the other.

Immediately after this memory surfaced, Ana realized what all her missing clothes had in common.

Back went Ana to the dining room, shooting Freddy a glare as she yanked out the chair holding her shirts and pulled them all out one at a time, unfolding each to see which ones she still had. Velociraptor and Rubik's cube. Bitch, please. Mordor Fun-Run. Bacardi bat. Sugar skull. And the one she was wearing, the one with the rib cage on the front. Lick me, Stop staring at my boobs, Die doing what I love—all gone. In fact, every shirt that contained suggestive imagery or profanity was gone.

Ana fished through her panties next, but wasn't as sure which might be missing, apart from the one inviting onlookers to pet a certain kitty and one even more forthright, that had simply said All You Can Eat, $4.99. However, the absence of those two was certainly significant.

Throwing down a handful of boring undies, she turned and snapped, "All right, where are they?"

No response. The show went on.

Ana went down the hall to the security office, on the off-chance he'd put them in the Lost and Found box since the last time she'd checked. He had not. Nor were they in any of the lockers in the employee's lounge. Beyond that, she had no idea where he'd put them.

Ana stalked back to the dining room and stood unavoidably in front of the stage, close enough that she could feel the hot air puffing out of Freddy's knuckles when his arm swept out in a bow. "What did you do with my stuff?"

No answer, no acknowledgment.

"Look, damn it, I know you can hear me and I know you can stop whenever you want, so you better start talking. Where are my goddamned clothes?"

Freddy took his hat off, proving to the phantom audience that it was indeed empty, but before he could reach in and pull something out, Ana snatched it out of his hand.

Freddy's cheerful, slightly goofy expression changed in an instant to a scowl. He grabbed his hat back and held it out of her reach, pointing at her with his other hand. "DON'T INTERRUPT THE PERFORMANCE," he said, heartily enough, but with a real growl under his words.

"Well, then, don't fucking ignore me!"

Bonnie began to twitch.

"CALM. DOWN." Freddy glanced behind him. "BOTH. OF. YOU." He turned his glare on Ana again. "THE SHOW HAS STARTED. TAKE A SEAT, KIDS! WE'LL. TALK. ABOUT. THIS. LATER."

"I say the show is fucking over and if you turn your fucking back on me, I will knock you on your fucking face!"

"ALL. RIGHT. THAT'S. ENOUGH." Freddy put his hat on and aimed his pointing finger at the front lobby. "YOU'VE. BEEN. GIVING. ME. SAUCE. ALL. DAY. AND. I. AM. ALL. DONE. TAKING. IT. AS. OF. NOW. YOU. ARE. IN. A. TIME-OUT."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"IT. MEANS. WHAT. EVER. YOUR. PROBLEM. IS. YOU. GO. SOME. WHERE. ELSE. AND. SOLVE. IT. AND. DON'T. COME. BACK. UNTIL. YOU'RE. READY. TO. ACT. LIKE. AN. ADULT."

"I'm not leaving until I get an answer, bear."

"UNLESS. THE. QUESTION. IS. HOW. FAR. CAN. FREDDY. THROW. YOU. OUT. OF. THIS. BUILDING. YOU'RE. NOT. GOING. TO. LIKE. THE. ANSWER. I. GIVE. YOU," Freddy retorted, stomping over to put a hand on Bonnie's shoulder. "I. SAID. CALM. DOWN. EVERYTHING. IS. FINE. AND. STOP. CALLING. ME. BEAR."

"Everything is not fine, damn it. You remember when I first brought my stuff over and you were digging through my laundry?"

Freddy turned his attention to Bonnie. "OPEN. YOUR. EYES. BE. CALM. NOT. NOW. AN-N-A."

"Yes, now, Freddy!"

"WE ARE EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES."

"You're sure about to be. I'm missing, like, a dozen t-shirts and you took them, didn't you? Didn't you?!"

He fussed with Bonnie and didn't answer, but he knew. Freddy's ears were not as expressive as Bonnie's or even Foxy's, but they moved in ways that were instantly relatable to anyone who had gotten stoned and watched animal cartoons and right now, Freddy's ears said he knew exactly where her shirts were and he didn't want to tell her.

"Yeah, yeah, they're raunchy and you don't approve," she snapped. "I don't give a tin shit for your Puritan sensibilities. I want my goddamn shirts back, so where are they?"

Freddy took an extra pull of air, straightened his ears, and turned to face her. "GONE."

"Gone where?" she asked impatiently and then suddenly recalled walking in on Freddy on the loading dock, uncharacteristically helping out with the haul-away. She gaped at him a moment, then found her voice and shouted, "Did you fucking throw them away?"

"RULE NUMBER TWO, DON'T YELL."

"Rule number thirty-fucking-three! Leave Ana's shit alone! Did you or did you not throw my shirts in the fucking trailer with the trash? You did, didn't you? You wrapped them in that disgusting curtain and threw them away!"

"IS. IT. UNLAWFUL. TO. REMOVE. GARBAGE."

"I don't believe you said that," she said, almost calmly, then shouted, "You went through my fucking underwear and you have the goddamned gall to call me trashy?"

The West Hall door creaked open just wide enough to show one of Chica's wide purple eyes.

Freddy looked that way, then at Bonnie, still shaking his way through his part of the performance, and finally at Ana again. "I. DID. NOT. CALL. YOU—"

"Fuck you, you fascist fucking lunatic! My clothes are gone! Do you get that? Gone! That trailer got taken away weeks ago! Oh my God, if you had balls, I'd be kicking them so hard right now, they'd pop out your goddamned ear-holes!"

"WATCH. YOUR. LANGUAGE."

"Watch my tits, asshole! On the scale of bad behavior, swearing is way down the fucking rail from stealing! You don't get to tell me how to run my mouth when you're pitching out my goddamned clothes!"

"IS EVERYTHING OKAY IN HERE?" Chica ventured, pushing the door open a little wider.

"EVERYTHING. IS. FINE. GO. ON. BONNIE. OPEN. YOUR. EYES. AN-N-A. THAT'S. ENOUGH. YOU. DON'T. GET. TO. TALK. TO. ME. LIKE. THAT."

"I'll talk to you however the hell I want! Who the fuck do you think you are?"

"I'M FREDDY FAZBEAR. I'M THE LEADER OF THE BAND."

"That's right. Freddy fucking Fazbear, leader of the Fazbear fucking Band, not my father or commander in chief of the Fashion Police or the supreme court chancellor of the Intergalactic Modesty Council! You're a fucking prop in a fucking pizza parlor, and you're also a panty fetishist and a fucking thief!"

"TIME-OUT. AN-N-A. THAT'S ENOUGH."

"Fuck you! Get this through your fat plastic head: You don't tell me what to do! And you for goddamn sure don't tell me how to dress! I don't give a chicken-fried shit what you think about my clothes, just keep your fucking hands off them or I will personally buy all the cum-dumpster tees in the whole fucking state of Utah and pound them up your big bear ass!"

"I. SAID. TIME-OUT."

"And I said, fuck you!"

Freddy's features shifted, giving her a split-second glimpse of a textbook-perfect, 'Oh, I am done with this shit,' expression before he tossed his microphone behind him on the padded stage and seized her by the arm. He started walking, dragging her with him along the front of the stage until he reached the stairs and descended. There, he scooped her up like a tantruming toddler and carried her on his shoulder out of the room and into the kitchen.

Bonnie let out one of those electronic howls, but it was Chica who followed them, wringing her hands and pleading in her sunny, earnest way to come back, that everyone got mad sometimes, but it helped to say I'm sorry and let's just all be friends.

Freddy wasn't having it, but rather than carry her out of the restaurant and drop her on the stoop, he opened the freezer and set Ana with a thump in the doorway.

"IS THERE SOMETHING YOU WANT TO SAY TO ME?" he asked.

There certainly was.

"Kiss my ass, you panty-stealing, pompous pricklord! Take your precious fucking rulebook and ram it! You don't like the way I dress, huh? You don't like the way I talk, you don't like the way I act, you don't like the way I brush my fucking teeth in the morning! I can't believe I spent all those years looking up to you, like you were any kind of fucking role-model. You know what you are? You're nothing but another sanctimonious Mammon thundercunt, minding everybody's business but your own! Well let me tell you something, when I am tits-deep shoveling out the fucking filth you've been wallowing in for twelve fucking years, I'll wear whatever the fuck I want and you don't get a fucking vote, you uptight, broke-down, self-important shitgibbon!"

"WOW," said Chica, picking up a pizza tray and holding it in front of her like a shield.

"Vocabulary power!" spat Ana and slapped him on the nose.

Boop.

Freddy reared back, both hands clamped over his muzzle. Chica dropped the pizza tray with a clatter and grabbed her own beak, her eyes huge. In the dining room, Bonnie let out a shriek of static and crashed heavily to the stage floor.

Out in the quarry, someone lit a bottle rocket. It screamed as Freddy slowly lowered his arms, higher and higher, until, somehow still unexpectedly, it exploded and then there was silence.

"YOU," he said.

"Me, what?" Ana challenged, thrusting her own nose at him, daring him to slap. "Go on, say it. Loud and proud."

Freddy took several 'breaths', notes of the Toreador March dropping among the wheezing of his fan and whining of his servos. "YOU. CAN. COME. OUT. WHEN. YOU. ARE. READY. TO. APOLOGIZE."

And with that, he shoved Ana into the freezer and shut the door.

Ana threw herself against it at once, beating her palms all around its crusty, dented surface, but there was no latch on this side. None at all. Expanding her search in the blackness, she encountered wire racks along the walls—some dented, some entirely collapsed, none empty. When she walked, her feet crunched through several inches of desiccated residue that had once been the soup that formed when several hundred pounds of frozen food thawed and rotted and turned to dust. The smell, now that adrenaline had ebbed and allowed her to notice such things, was thankfully dried to a shadow of its potential, but still made a noxious fugue of rotten meat, sour milk, mildew and other smells, even worse, all of them so thick in the air that they left a slimy taint on the back of her throat.

Ana pulled the neck of her shirt (one of only six she now owned in the whole fucking world, thanks to Freddy) up over her mouth and nose, forcing herself to take shallow breaths as she tried to think. Escape wasn't really an option. Her blind explorations had revealed a number of massive fist-shaped impressions in the walls with short, bristly fibers imbedded in them. If she could see them, she knew those fibers would be purple. Maybe yellow and rust-red too, but mostly purple. These were Bonnie's footprints she was walking in, Bonnie's rage beaten into the walls, and if this freezer could hold Bonnie, it could hold her.

The freezer's insulated walls were thick, but not soundproofed. She could hear the rumble of Freddy's voice, even if she couldn't make out words, soon followed by the higher rise and fall of Chica resuming her routine. With effort, she could even hear Bonnie in the dining room, either trying to sing or trying not to, and she thought Freddy might be talking to him too, because there were times when his growling voice seemed further away, but there were also times Ana was sure she could hear his heavy footsteps directly in front of the freezer, so he never went far.

Staying close. Waiting for her to apologize.

And she'd better, she thought sourly. It was July in the Utahan desert and she was standing in a metal box that may or may not be airtight. Relying upon an animatronic to remember that humans could die of too much heat and too little oxygen was a hell of a risk. Furthermore, although the smell in here probably wouldn't kill her, the dust she was kicking up with every step might if she kept breathing it in, giving all this lovely rotted gunk a wet, warm place in her lungs to incubate.

She knew it and still couldn't bring herself to do it for a long time, long enough that Bonnie's faint song eventually ended and soon his stuttering, staticky voice was there in the kitchen, talking under and over Freddy's, neither of them close to the freezer. She could easily imagine Freddy blocking the doorway as Bonnie tried to get around him, to get at her. And that was what finally broke her down, because as pissed as she was, she didn't want Bonnie to get in trouble, too.

"Freddy?" she called.

Animatronic voices silenced.

"Freddy, open the door." Ana rolled her eyes. "Please."

Bonnie's voice. Freddy's gruff answer, mostly incoherent, but ending with, "STAY. BACK. BE. QUIET. KEEP. OUT. OF. THIS. THAT'S AN ORDER." Then, footsteps, coming right up to the door and stopping. "IS THERE SOMETHING YOU WANT TO SAY TO ME?"

"I'm sorry I called you a shitgibbon," said Ana.

"AND?"

"And a thundercunt and a pricklord and a douchenozzle."

A pause.

"YOU. DIDN'T. CALL. ME. THAT. LAST. ONE."

"Oh. Well, I meant to."

A grunt. "AND. THE. REST."

"I'm going to need a minute more on those, but I am sorry for the others. Also for the kiss my ass bit and I'm working on the ram it."

She waited.

He opened the door, but immediately stepped forward so that it was impossible for her to get out. "WE. NEED. TO. HAVE. AN. UNDERSTAND." He clicked a few times and finished, with obvious dissatisfaction, "THING."

"Okay."

"THIS. IS. MY. HOUSE. AND. IN. MY. HOUSE. YOU. MIND YOUR MANNERS. YOU. CAN. CUSS. IN. FRONT. OF ME. NOT. AT. ME. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? I. DON'T. CARE. HOW. MAD. YOU. ARE. YOU. SHOW. ME. SOME. RESPECT. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?"

"Yes," she said, quite calmly, all things considered. "Now how about the understanding about you keeping your grubby paws out of my damn things? I think I deserve an apology for you throwing my shirts out."

His ears moved, but his gaze never dropped and his tone held no apology when he said, "THOSE. THINGS. WERE. GARBAGE. I. THREW. THEM. OUT."

"No, they weren't garbage, Freddy! Regardless of what you thought of them, they were my clothes! All the fucking clothes I own are here and you threw out, like, half of them!"

"NAME. ONE."

"What?"

"NAME. ONE," he said again, this time tapping at his chest. "WHAT. IT. SAID."

Ana frowned, feeling heat in her cheeks, then lifted her chin and defiantly said, "Stop staring at my tits and touch them."

"WOULD. YOU. WEAR. THAT. TO. WORK."

That, she didn't answer. Of course she wouldn't.

Freddy was not placated by silence. Scowling, he leaned closer, lighting up his eyes and letting a few notes of the March play behind his growl: "WOULD. YOU."

"Hey, I wasn't at work! I was here!"

"YES. YOU. WERE. HERE. YOU. WERE. IN. MY. HOUSE. AND. WHEN. YOU. ARE. IN. MY. HOUSE. YOU. SHOW. ME. SOME. RESPECT." Again, with the pointing. His angry eyes got angrier. "YOU. SHOW. YOURSELF. SOME. RESPECT."

Ana clapped both hands to her face hard enough to sting, tore them away and shouted, "Stop pretending you care about me!"

In a flash, Freddy was right up in her face, bellowing, "START. PRETENDING. YOU. CARE. ABOUT. YOURSELF."

It shut her up as effectively as a slap. She looked at him, the heat of frustration and anger draining away, leaving her cold. Was that what she was doing? Was it? Just pretending? And if that was all it was, why the hell was she trying so hard?

So stop. Just stop. If she didn't care, for damn sure no one else needed to. Who would it really hurt if she just…stopped?

Over Freddy's shoulder, a cracked purple face watched her. Bonnie. Staying back, as ordered, but as close as he could come. Waiting for her.

Freddy glanced back, following her gaze. His fan revved once in a sigh. He straightened, stepped back and just looked at her, without anger. "I. PROBABLY. SHOULDN'T. HAVE. SAID. THAT. OR. MAYBE. I. SHOULD. HAVE. SAID. IT. A. LONG. TIME. AGO."

Ana shook her head and tried to go around him.

He put up his hand to stop her, sighed again, and dropped it. "I. KNOW. YOU'RE. NOT. A. CHILD. BUT. IF. I. TREAT. YOU. LIKE. ONE. SOMETIMES. IT'S. ONLY. BECAUSE." He cut his eyes away, but couldn't seem to find any one place to let them rest, and when he came back to her, something in them had changed. "I. CARE. ABOUT. YOU."

Ana rolled her eyes so savagely, they hurt. "Oh stop it, you do not. The only thing you've tried to do since I got here is get rid of me! Admit it, you don't give a damn what my t-shirts say! There's worse than that written on the side of the fucking building! No, you just wanted to piss me off enough so I'd leave on my own and spare you the fight with Bonnie when you threw me out!"

His mouth opened, but he didn't say anything, didn't even try to. After a moment, he looked back at Chica.

Chica folded her arms and simply stared back at him. "YOU MADE YOUR BED," she chirped, too happily for the stern look on her face. "LIE DOWN AND GO TO SLEEP."

Freddy glanced at Ana, then firmed up his shoulders slightly and faced her. "I. DIDN'T. KNOW. YOU. THEN. I. THOUGHT. IT. WAS. THE. RIGHT. THING. TO. DO. I. MADE. A. MISTAKE. I'M SORRY."

"Freddy, for real now." Ana took a deep, calming breath and then shouted, "Fuck off with that sorry horseshit! I would rather hear you call me a trampy piece of trespassing trash and mean it than have to listen to you say you're sorry just because that's what you think I want to hear!" Again, she tried to push past him, to leave on the last word while she could still talk.

Again, he put up his hand and this time, he actually touched her. There was strength in his grip, although he didn't use it against her and he soon lifted it entirely away. "YOU'RE. NOT. TRESPASSING. YOU. DID. ONCE. BUT. YOU'RE. FAMILY. NOW."

"Yeah, right. I remember how that goes. I'm the one you didn't choose and the one you don't have to love."

"AN-N-A. NO."

"What was that about anyway? What, was that your consolation speech when you thought I was finally out the fucking door? God, it must have killed you when I came back with good news!"

"NO." He tapped his chest. "THIS. IS. K-K-KILLING. ME. RIGHT. NOW. BECAUSE. I. KNOW. YOU. BELIEVE. WHAT. YOU'RE. SAYING. AND. I. KNOW. IT'S. BECAUSE. I. MADE. YOU. BELIEVE. IT."

Whatever savage thing sat in her heart pretending to be triumph shrank back. She looked at him, trying to see a giant toy she was yelling at, because that at least would let her be angry at herself…instead of ashamed. She backed up, then, for the third time, she muscled past him.

"AN-N-A. PLEASE." He didn't stop her, although he did turn to watch her go. "I. WANT. TO. MAKE. THIS. RIGHT. IF. I. CAN'T. SAY. I'M SORRY. THEN. TELL. ME. HOW."

She threw a laugh at him like a punch and kept going, one step, two, but at the door to the store room, with the loading dock in sight, she stopped. She turned around.

"Show me the basement," she said.

In the dining room, Bonnie let out some static and began to stutter too hard and fast for her to tell what he was trying to say. At the other end of the kitchen, Chica unfolded her arms so abruptly, she broke off a few feathers and a thumb. Freddy didn't look at either one of them. He tipped his head back slightly, eyes narrowing, and that was all.

"Show me the basement," she said again. "I know you have one. Let me see it."

"WHY?"

She'd been expecting a 'no'. She knew what to say to that, how to twist it around, blow it up into a bigger fight. Caught out by this unanticipated question, all she could manage was a weak, "I want to see it."

"WHY?"

"Because I want to! Because…" Her throat tightened. She gripped at it without thinking, like she could push her mother's punishing hand away fifteen years after her death, and hoarsely spat, "Because for once in my goddamn life, I need to know what I'm building all this on, if it's rock or if it's…just another big, black pit! I need to see it, Freddy!" His name broke in her mouth. She coughed, fighting in another breath, and turned away.

She'd had a lot of stupid arguments in her life, but this one really took the cupcake. She thought of her mother—her unavoidable, inexplicable rages—accepting without emotion that, despite all her whispered vows in the dark of the closet, she had grown up just like her. Or maybe not. At least her mother's anger had always been directed against people. The voice on the phone, faces on TV, the cops who were forever 'harassing' her, even her own daughter, but people all the same.

'I am really and truly fucked up, aren't I?' Ana thought stoically, still staring at the wall. 'I can only kiss bunnies and I can only yell at teddy bears.'

"ALL RIGHT," said Freddy.

She glanced at him, wiped her eyes and made sure they were dry—they were—and pushed herself off the counter. "Forget it," she said and headed for the door.

Freddy stopped her with one hand and pointed the other at Bonnie, glitching out like mad in the dining room. "GO. BACK. TO. THE. STAGE. THAT'S AN ORDER. IT'S ALL RIGHT. EVERY. THING. IS. ALL. RIGHT. JUST. GO." He looked back at Ana and lowered his arm so that he offered his hand. "GIVE. ME. YOUR. HAND."

And now she didn't want to go. Funny how that worked.

"Why?" she stalled.

"IT'S. DARK."

'And full of terrors,' Ana thought and had to suppress a shudder, cursing Rider for his Game of Thrones addiction.

She took his hand. He closed his—huge, hard, unfeeling—around her much smaller one, then turned and wordlessly led her away.