Pazi made haste to cross the street, but her brother's hold prevented it.
"Whoa there, Buckaroo!" he warned. "Watch for cars!"
Pazi stepped back onto the curb, as a white Camaro went on its way across the pavement. She started to giggle, and eventually burst out laughing. Bernard looked down at her, a sly grin on his face. "What?" he asked, though it seemed he knew exactly what. "What's so funny?"
Pazi turned to the figure which held her hand. "Did you say Buckaroo?" she questioned, and then continued her hysterical chortling.
Bernard nodded his head. "Uh huh, yeah, I said it," he admitted, unashamedly. "Now c'mon, Buckaroo. I'm starving."
He began to cross the street, being as there was no vehicle in sight. Pazi joined her brother's stroll, still holding his hand. "I'm not Buckaroo!" she corrected. "I'm Pazi!"
They soon reached the opposite sidewalk. "Nuh uh," Bernard opposed. "I don't think so..."
Pazi giggled again. "Yes I am!" she pressed, trying with no avail to conceal her laughter.
Bernard shook his head. He wanted to see how long he could keep this going. "No, that sounds like something I would know," he insisted. "I don't know any Pazis..."
If his sister's smile had gotten any bigger, her face wouldn't have been large enough to contain it. "No! I'm Pazi!" she shouted, loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear. "That's my name!"
Bernard peered through squinted eyelids. "Are you sure your name isn't Buckaroo?" he asked, using the might of his entire being to keep his cool composure. Pazi's might, on the other hand, wasn't nearly as strong, and she could not stop laughing.
And yet sure enough Bernard's gave way as well, as he let out a hearty chuckle. "Yeah, I know you're Pazi," he finally gave in. "The cutest little kid I know."
The girl gazed up at her brother, her wide smile still up there. "Really?" she asked. "You mean it?"
Bernard propped his hand upon his hip, and threw a look of disbelief on his face. "Of course I mean it!" he said.
And he needn't say any more. Pazi suddenly let go of his hand, and instead wrapped her arms around his waist. "You're the bestest!" she shrilled.
The two continued to awkwardly waddle, but Bernard rolled with it. He placed his now-free hand upon Pazi's head, and tussled her vibrant blonde hair. "Thanks kid," he said. He didn't know why she found his statement so flattering though; he told her how cute she was practically every day.
However as his mind mulled over this question, he noticed a yard or two ahead of them that they were coming upon a crosswalk. "Okay, you're gonna have to let go," he alerted, gently prying at his sister's hug.
Although he didn't need to try very hard. Pazi in time let go on her own accord, and dashed behind her brother. "Can you give me a piggy-back ride?" she begged, jumping in attempt to grab onto his shoulders. "Please, please?!"
Bernard stopped at the corner, where the sidewalk met with the street. He took a knee and hunched over. "Hop on," he offered, to Pazi's blatant joy. The girl grasped onto his shoulders, as she had wanted to do before. And holding her up upon his back Bernard made his way across the street, with Pazi squealing in amusement—as fate would have it, straight into his ear.
And so the amusement continued, until the happy siblings would reach their destination.
The gigantic sign loomed above them, as the two kids sprinted across the parking lot. Although, only one of them was sprinting. Bernard panted like a dog, while Pazi howled like one.
"We're here!" she cheered, pumping a tiny fist into the air.
Her brother struggled to advance. "Yes," he breathed. "I can *huff* see that."
Pazi peered up at the title overhead. She was still learning to read, but she knew what the sign said. An image of the smiling mascot made an appearance above those three words, holding up a microphone to its hinged mouth.
"What's a 'Fazbear'?" Pazi asked her cabby, as that was one of the words upon the building.
Bernard slowed to a crawl. "You've asked me already," he spewed, speaking in between pants. "And I still don't know."
The girl scrunched her nose. "Aww," she said. "We should look it up."
Her brother indeed made note of that, but suddenly stopped, which surprised Pazi. He knelt down on the pavement and let go of his sister. "Okay, you need to get off," he ordered, his breath slowly returning to him.
"Whaaat?" Pazi whined, not yet releasing his shoulders. "Whyyy?"
Bernard was not in the current mood to put up with her complaining. He pulled her hands off of him, which were surprisingly tough to pry. "Because I've been running through our neighborhood with a munchkin latched to my back," he explained, standing up from the parking lot. "And I am pooped."
Pazi was certainly disappointed, but giggled nonetheless. And as tired as Bernard was, he walked nonetheless. "C'mon, Pazi," he said, his arm at his side, but his hand motioning for her to follow. The girl hurried after him, and she grabbed his gesturing hand. The building grew nearer and nearer as they traveled, until the restaurant's title towered above their little heads.
Freddy Fazbear's Pizza
"Hey, you two!"
Bernard and Pazi froze right before the entryway. And to their very left against the wall they found a pair of kids, two extremely familiar kids.
"Vixen!" Pazi screamed, letting go of her brother's hand and dashing to his friend.
"Hey, Pazi!" the girl greeted, returning the little one's hug with her own. "How's it going?"
Pazi beamed up at Vixen. "I'm good!" she responded. "You're coming with us, right?"
The older of the two nodded. "Of course!" she said. "Both me and Lev."
The young child turned to the other figure standing near the entrance. A figure much shorter than Vixen. "You made Bernie mad," she spoke, her content smile seeming to disappear.
The boy scratched the back of his neck, finding this situation much too uncomfortable. "Well," he started to say, "I, uh—"
"Yeah," Vixen interrupted. "'Cause he's a big jerk!" In perfect synchronization with her words, her fist whacked her buddy in the shoulder.
"Hey!" he shouted, grabbing his pained right arm. "Watch it, muscleman!"
Bernard found this the appropriate moment to join the reunion. "I thought you weren't coming," he said, eyeing his self-absorbed friend.
Leveret looked at him, but seemed to find that hard. "Yeah, I know," he confessed, but then grinned. "But you know what? Someone seeing me here isn't half that bad. I mean, what're they gonna think, right?"
Vixen looked as if she were about to burst into flames. Suddenly she raised a clenched fist above her head, aimed straight for Leveret. He noticed that, however, and leaned back in terror. "Okay! Okay! I'm sorry!" he spat. "I was being stupid!"
Seeming satisfied with that, Vixen lowered her arm. Leveret raised himself back up, pulling his Letterman Jacket into a better position on his shoulders. "Yo, Bernie, sorry about earlier," he said, shoving his hands into his jean pockets. "You were right, and I checked myself. We cool?"
Bernard smiled. It was barely a sincere apology, but for Leveret it was like confessing his every sin. The stuck-up bully he and Vixen had befriended last year was a work in progress, and this right here was a big hurdle. "Sure," Bernard responded, as he put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "We're cool." Leveret grinned slyly, which was as close to a smile he was going to get.
"So, like, are we gonna go in?" Vixen said, already holding Pazi's hand. "Or do we have anything else to apologize for?"
The two guys glanced over at the girls, and Bernard chuckled a little. "Um, nope. I'm good," he said.
Leveret put his hands in the air. "I've apologized enough today." And that was valid. Bernard was sure that if he said "Sorry" one more time he would spontaneously combust. Once was enough for now.
"C'mooon! Let's goooo!" the six year old screamed in anguish, trying to drag Vixen along with her. And so the four children made their way into the pizzeria, unaware of what misfortune lay ahead of them.
"By the way, you should not say 'stupid'. It's a bad word."
The three friends laughed. For the time being, misfortune could wait.
The atmosphere was unlike anywhere they had ever been.
For Pazi, it was wonderful.
For Bernard, it was whatever.
For Leveret, it was childish.
But for Vixen, it was terrifying.
The four stepped atop the black and white checkered tile, gazing out into the restaurant. From what they could see, around five or six rows of tables lay at the center, and a stage sat even beyond that. However, it wasn't the layout, nor the many posters and decorations on the wall, nor the dozens of children and adults chomping and chatting away at their tables that set off Vixen's nerves.
It was the mascots.
She didn't know what it was about them, but something about those animatronics put her long past unsettled. Among a few things she could come up with, it was mostly just the way they looked, as if they couldn't make up their minds whether they were human or animal. They were neither in fact! They seemed more like beasts than bear or bunny or duck...or chicken...or...whatever the yellow one was! What was with the bib around its neck anyway? Let's Eat!—yeah, more like Let's Eat Children! Yet no one else shared Vixen's hysteria, or even found them the slightest bit unnerving. Perhaps the animal robots weren't of any worry at all, but she wasn't going to take any chances. She had gotten through those doors; that was a feat in and of itself. Vixen was doing this for her friend, and for Pazi. If this wasn't love, she wasn't sure what was.
"Ow! Vixen!" Pazi shouted. Vixen gasped, and let go of the young girl's hand. Pazi flailed her fingers. "You're squeezing my hand!"
The older child's eyes widened. "Oh my gosh," she said. "I'm so sorry, Pazi!" She hadn't realized that she had tightened her grip. Just the thought of those animatronics made her tense.
"Hey, Vix, there's nothing to be afraid of," Leveret informed smoothly and snidely, his hands secretly placed out before himself. "It's just a few little robots..."
He saw this as his time to strike. Bernard saw it too, but he wasn't quick enough to stop him. "...that might EAT YA!" Leveret suddenly clamped his hands down on Vixen's shoulders, and anyone could see that she hadn't expected it.
And Leveret hadn't expected this either.
Yes, he had succeeded in his intentions, and Vixen had squealed in fear. But what Leveret didn't anticipate her to do was turn around and fight her assailant. In the moment she didn't know who had touched her, and she also didn't care. But poor Leveret would receive recompense for his actions. A slap in the face.
The attacked boy recoiled, cradling his cheek in his hands. Vixen held her own hands to her mouth, in complete shock at who she hit. However as astonished as she was, Bernard and Pazi were cracking up. They didn't even try to hide it. "Oh my gosh, Lev!" Bernard wheezed in between laughs. "You totally deserved that!"
In fact in time, Vixen was on the verge of giggles as well. "Dude," she chuckled, a smile appearing on her face. "I'm not even gonna apologize for that."
Slowly Leveret looked back up at his victim—or perhaps he had become the victim—one hand still to his face. "Yeah, I know," he admitted. "That's what I get for scaring a jock." He pointed at Vixen with his free hand. "But it was so worth it! You should've seen the look on your face!"
Before any of the three could tell him how not funny that was, a man strode up to them. He was clad in a striped uniform, and looked like he really didn't want to be there.
"Welcome to Freddy Fazbear's Pizza," he recited. "A magical place for kids and grown-ups alike where fantasy and fun come to life, let me show you to your seats..." The slumped employee turned around and walked toward the tables, and the group knew to follow. They found the guy standing by an area that contained four chairs, and the children promptly sat in them.
"What can I get for you guys?" the man asked, just as lifeless as before. He seemed as if he were about to die of boredom.
"Um, I think we'll get a cheese pizza," Bernard started, taking his seat. He knew that cheese was Pazi's choice topping—or rather, her choice absence-of-topping. "And, uh..."
He looked over at Vixen and Leveret. "Um, how about pepperoni?" Vixen suggested, sitting beside her friend, who's palm was still to his cheek.
Bernard nodded. "Yeah. So, a cheese and pepperoni, please?"
The employee finished scrawling his notes on his pad, and just...walked away. Without so much as a farewell, or a guarantee that they would even get their food.
So the four sat there, individually shrugging off the strange order.
"That's a cool jacket," Pazi suddenly spoke. The other three awoke from their trances, figuring out what she was trying to say. But eventually they realized the person she was looking at, and the only one of them who was wearing a jacket.
Leveret glanced down at his garment, perhaps examining how "cool" it was. "It is, isn't it?" he boasted, again shifting it to a better position, as if this way it were even more stylish.
Pazi smiled at the red jacket; she really did like it. But Bernard leaned down to her, as if he wished to tell her a secret. "Don't praise him too much; it's not his."
Vixen caught herself before she howled. Leveret went pale in an instant. "What?" he spewed. "Y—yeah it is!"
His friend beside him struggled to stay calm, but she was about to blow. Pazi had no idea what was so funny, but she acted like she did. "Who's is it?" she asked, giggling along with the others.
Leveret went as white as a vampire. "It's mine, guys, I swear!" he tried to convince them.
Bernard shook his head. "Dude, that's totally your sister's jacket."
And Leveret kept quiet.
Pazi went googly-eyed. "It is?!" she shouted, about ready to burst laughing. Vixen was doing a very good job at concealing herself, but who knew how long she could keep it up?
"...Um...no it's not..." the humiliated boy attempted.
Bernard chuckled; he was terrible at lying. "Um, yes it is," he opposed. "We all know it, Lev."
Leveret finally gave up, as his face went from embarrassed to pained. "How many people know?" he reluctantly asked.
That's when Vixen shot her head up from the table. "Everybody!" And then she returned to her crossed arms upon the tabletop.
Leveret suddenly became horrified. "Everybody?" he repeated, as if unable to believe it. "H—how?"
He didn't want to show it, but Bernard felt a little bad for his friend. "Scarlett kinda told everyone," he said ruefully. "The first day you wore it she made sure everyone knew."
The boy leaned back in his chair and stared off into space. He seemed to be recalling, although he looked like he had slipped into a coma. "Huh," he verbalized, gazing at the ceiling. "So that's why they laughed..."
The three stared at him in awe. He was taking this superbly well. Leveret was usually the first one to crumble at the tiniest insult, but here he barely batted an eye (which was a little creepy...).
"Who's Scarlett?" Pazi asked quite out of place, not at all inferring from the conversation. Everyone sort of ignored her, however. Vixen, who had composed herself finally, leaned forward to look at him.
"Hey, Lev," she called. "You alright?"
Leveret turned his head at snail's pace, but looked back at his friend. "Actually...yeah," he concluded.
Bernard knitted his brow. This was certainly new.
"I'm barely surprised too," he continued. "She was bound to find it missing. I should'a known that she knew when she didn't say anything about it being gone." And all of a sudden, he laughed. "I'm such a ditz! Oh my God."
Vixen's jaw dropped to the ground. "Who are you and what happened to Leveret?!" she demanded.
Bernard wanted to ask the same thing; Leveret didn't laugh. That was the one thing he couldn't do. Or, so they had thought.
He turned to them with a smile—not just a grin, but a smile. "You guys happened to me," he answered, as shocked as they. "I don't even get it; I'm not upset at all."
Bernard and Vixen looked at each other victoriously. "I say we have done most triumphantly, my friend," she said, arm extended across the table.
"Uh huh," he agreed, grabbing her held-out hand. "Big time."
They both shook hands, and Leveret rolled his eyes. When out of the blue, a pizza flew into their line of sight. The pizza wasn't what had scared Vixen, but what was holding it. The purple animatronic set the food on the table, and the girl nearly jumped from her chair. It seemed not to notice, it being merely a soulless robot, and placed the other pizza before the children. Vixen placed a hand on her chest to slow her breathing, but a smile plastered itself upon Pazi's face. "Thank you!" she yelled, already grabbing a slice of the cheese.
As soon as the bunny-animatronic lumbered away, and as the frightened girl calmed herself down, Leveret looked at Pazi. "You know it's not real, right?" he told.
But Pazi nodded. "Yeah, I know," she said, and then stuffed her face with pizza. The boy stared a moment, but then shrugged. He didn't understand that kid one bit. But that was what made her Pazi.
Bernard instinctively smiled, taking a slice of cheese pizza for himself. Yet as soon as he did something caught his eye. It wasn't anything that stood out per se, just someone that he thought he recognized. He raised his head up to see, looking past the tranquil Vixen. And he was right; he did recognize him. A little kid with dark brown hair, peering down at something underneath the table. Bernard couldn't figure exactly what, but that was no matter. The point was he knew that kid, and he was...all alone.
He nudged his sister with his elbow. "Hey Pazi," he spoke.
She looked up at him, her mouth full of pizza. "What?" she tried to say, but came out as a mumble instead.
Bernard pointed at the kid across the room. "Isn't that one of your friends?" he asked.
The young girl raised her head to scan the room, until she eventually found what her brother was gesturing at. Her eyes grew wide.
"That's Albert!" she shouted, not yet swallowing the food in her mouth.
Suddenly the child burst from her seat and ran across the room, before anyone could have reacted to stop her. Bernard watched as his sister dashed up to the downcast Albert, one of her friends from school. She could draw his attention only by way of shaking his shoulder. Bernard covered his face with his hand; Pazi had no concept of personal space. The boy looked up from whatever he had been glowering at under the table, acknowledging the little girl's presence. As she babbled and babbled on and on about something Bernard couldn't translate, he only stared at her. Soon she had finished with everything she had to say, and Albert was about to gaze back at whatever whatchamacallit he possessed. Though before he had the chance Pazi took hold of his arm, and tugged him out of his seat and down towards her three compadres. Bernard ran his fingers through his hair and huffed. That poor little boy...
The two reached the table quickly, Pazi overjoyed at finding a friend. "Guys!" she blurted, and everyone at the table turned their heads. She gestured to the timid boy. "It's Albert!"
Bernard could spot the multicolored object in the young man's hand, which he identified as a Rubix Cube. "Hey, Al," he greeted. "How's it goin'?"
Albert held his hands behind his back, along with his Rubix Cube. He didn't dare make eye-contact. "Good," he muttered, just barely audibly.
Leveret put his hand out. "Al, my man!" he said. "'Sup?" After a second or two, seeing that the child wasn't high-fiving as intended, he set his arm back on the table.
Now was Vixen's turn. "Dude, are you sitting by yourself?" she asked, hoping to get at least something out of him.
And she did, even if it was only a nod. The three were at a loss. What else were they supposed to say?
"Um," Bernard tried, "would you...like to sit with us?"
Pazi jumped at the idea. "Yeah!" she yelled. "That would be fun!" She grabbed Albert by the arm once again and pulled him toward her seat. "C'mon! Sit by me!"
Her brother was about to scold her, but stopped himself. He was going to recommend actually hearing from Albert whether he wanted to stay. But seeing as the child made no argument, it seemed that he didn't really care. Perhaps it was best anyway; at least now he wasn't alone.
"Would you like some pizza, Albert?" Pazi asked, maybe a bit too loudly, as her friend got onto his designated seat. Though as soon as he did, he slowly shook his head. "No thank you," he mumbled, and then gazed back at his cube of many colors.
Vixen took a gander at the puzzle. "You can do those things?" she inquired.
Albert looked up at the girl, and yet again, shook his head. "I—I'm trying though..." he spoke, as quietly as a mouse.
She smiled brightly. "Hey, that's pretty sweet!" she said. "You know what they say: practice makes perfect, right?"
This time he didn't even tear his eyes away. Vixen gave up right there, and turned to the boys, glaring at them desperately. But they were already brainstorming dialogue starters. Leveret was the first to think of something.
"So, Al," he started, leaning forward on the tabletop. "How's the family?" He cringed as the words escaped his lips; he sounded like his dad.
Albert flipped a few columns of his cube before he spoke. "They're good," he answered.
Leveret nodded. "Well, um, that's good," he said, thinking of how to expand on that. "Uh, is life treating you okay?" Now he wanted to kick himself. He sounded so stupid!
"...yeah," the boy responded.
And there he quit. Leveret was done. He glanced over at Bernard; it was his turn to try. But Bernard knew exactly what he was going to say. Something of concern to him.
"So why are you here by yourself?" he asked.
Suddenly the boy ceased attempting his puzzle, and stayed perfectly still. That very question seemed to hook his attention. "To get away from Damian..." he whispered, in a voice that sounded like he was about to cry.
Bernard grimaced; not directed toward Albert, however. "Oh come on," he said in exasperation. "What did he do this time?"
Albert let go of the Rubix Cube finally, wiping an inevitable tear from his eye. "He...he said I was a crybaby," he explained. "An—and called me the 'I' word."
Everyone at the table suddenly wore looks of rage, even Pazi. "God, what a hoser," Vixen insulted Albert's twelve-year-old brother.
Leveret jutted out his chin. "Look, Al," he advised, "don't listen to Damian, hear me? He's just a big jerk."
"Yeah!" Pazi exclaimed, deciding against correcting Leveret's vulgar name-calling. "He's nothing but a do-do-head!"
The other three kids chuckled, yet Albert stayed somber. None of them could tell if he was listening to what they had said. All of a sudden the boy hopped from his seat Rubix Cube in hand, and made his way back to his original table.
Though before he made it far, Bernard called him. "Hey Al?"
He stopped where he was on the tile, and turned to his friend's brother. "Hey, uh, you know if you ever wanna talk about anything," he offered, "I mean, if you don't want to that's fine—but you can always come talk to us."
The boy stared, as he seemed to do quite often. Yet, he looked like he was taking this all in.
"Yeah, dude," Vixen added. "We'll always be here if you need to talk, okay?"
Surprisingly to see, Albert actually nodded. And that was all they were going to get from him, as he made his way past the numerous tables and back to his own.
The three friends plus sister looked back at one another. "Jeez, poor kid," Bernard remarked. "I just feel bad for him, you know?"
The other three nodded in agreement. "Man, if I were him," Leveret said through gritted teeth, "I'd just give that punk a piece of my mind."
Bernard felt something brush up against him, and turned to see that it was obviously Pazi. "I'm glad you're my brother," she said. "And that you're nice to me."
Her brother smiled, and hugged her back. "Thanks, kid," he said.
As he was indeed thankful that he and Pazi were siblings, he couldn't stop thinking about the boy. Albert was a good kid; he didn't deserve to be taunted like that. It seemed the only friends he had were they. Pazi believed that she could be friends with anyone she met; so when one day she actually discovered someone that didn't have a friend—well, she certainly hired herself for the job. And although Bernard and his own friends didn't know him super well, the three considered him like a sort of little brother. Bernard wished Albert had an actual sibling that loved him, and didn't torment him every day. The way Bernard thought it, Pazi had a brother that loved her and cared about her, and she was a bubbly little ball of joy. Maybe if Albert was given that same kind of love, he would be at least a little happier. And maybe Bernard wouldn't find the little boy sad and shy every time the two crossed paths.