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War Sketches

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It had been almost a month since the escape from Sillyvision Studios, a month since Henry had returned to those once familiar halls and Bendy had first stepped out of that Hell of a building for the first time, and a new normal had begun to appear in their lives. Most days Henry would be at home, helping Bendy to slowly learn about this new world around him, explaining what he could, taking Bendy on trips to places like museums and libraries and supermarkets, and even the cinema! Bendy had become completely fascinated by the colour cartoons, and sometimes wondered what it would have been like to be drawn like this Disney person had done.

But then, on some days, Henry would have to leave, to go to work at a construction company, and he would come back, hours later, completely exhausted. Bendy had asked him once - or maybe a few times - why he hadn't just gone back to animating again, why he hadn't just gone back to Sillyvision, but Henry would always wave him off, saying "war changes people."

That didn't really make much sense to him though. Henry could still draw, he'd seen him doodling on the corner of newspapers and on napkins, so what was stopping him? It was a question that wouldn't stop bothering him, until one day, when Henry was at work, Bendy decided to do a bit of snooping.

The neighbour's kids were at school, and the TV had lost it's draw last week (except for those Tom and Jerry cartoons, but those wouldn't be on until much later). He didn't want to read, and drawing felt weird, but as he stared at the pad of paper on the desk Henry had given him, Bendy decided it was time to find out what was going on.

He'd only really been in Henry's bedroom a few times before, and it was usually when he had a nightmare... or when Henry had one. This was the first time the toon would enter the room without Henry already inside, and he couldn't help but squirm nervously as he stared at the doorknob.

"You can do this Bendy," he muttered to himself, trying to find the courage to go through with his plan. "It's just a stinkin' door. You've opened hundreds of 'em!" Slowly but surely, he brought his hand up to the knob. "Just a door."

With a twist of his wrist, the door swung open before him, and Bendy froze, waiting for the gag to hit.

Except it didn't. This wasn't a cartoon, this was the human world now, and gags didn't happen without a lot of planning. And Henry wasn't like that anyway.

Shaking his head, Bendy stepped into the familiar room, almost scoffing at how neat his bed was, at the ordered desk, the drawers that were sure to have neatly folded clothes in. There were photos on the dressing table and the walls, most of them in faded black and white, of people Bendy didn't recognise, or perhaps groups with Henry in all looking out at him. One or two of them looked like they had been taken in a hurry, and a few seemed to have been taken during the war, as Henry was wearing one of those uniforms Bendy had seen in the museums and in pictures. He always looked happy in those pictures, but Bendy knew he wasn't always.

But what was it that had kept Henry away?

Perhaps he kept his secrets under his bed? Boris used to do that. He always kept his clarinet there, though Bendy could never find it - toon logic after all. Kneeling down next to the mattress, Bendy looked underneath, but could only find a shoebox full of laces and a few blankets and extra pillows. No luck there then.

The dressing table was next, but once again all Bendy could find was a few handkerchiefs, a lot of socks and underwear and a few ties. The drawers, of course, only brought a similar outcome of clothes, towels and bed sheets.

"Aw come on Henry!" the little toon cried, growing frustrated. "Why don'cha hide things in ya sock drawer, like a normal person?" He shoved the drawer closed and headed over to the closet, yanking the door open with a glare, only for his eyes to fall on the conspicuous looking box hidden under an old coat. "Now that's what I'm talking about!"

Pushing the coat away, Bendy pulled the box out into the room to get a better look at it. It was surprisingly well cared for leather covered thing, about a foot tall and two wide with a hinged lid and a polished brass lock in the centre of the front. There were a few scratches on it, but overall it looked brand new. When Bendy tried to open it though, it became clear that it was locked.

"Seriously?" Bendy exclaimed, and drew his leg back to give the case a good ol' boot, but then he remembered; he was a toon! He could open this no problem. Sure, subtlety had never really been his forte, but he knew how it worked. lowering his foot, Bendy pointed a finger and pressed it to the lock, the ink transmuting the digit into just the right shape, and the lock was soon opened.

With a cry of triumph Bendy threw open the lid and beamed at what he'd found, only for it to fall flat in confusion.

What looked like Henry's army uniform sat inside; some trousers, a shirt and a folded up hat, along with a small box. Pulling them out of the way, Bendy found what had to have been at least a dozen books, all slotted into the space, and only just leaving room for the clothes.

"What would you want to hide in these books?" the toon muttered, and carefully pulled the one sat on the top out.

Opening it to the first page, he smirked at the images he found; ink sketches of himself, Boris and Alice, ideas for different sketches and gags, just random design ideas, different sets and the like. He thought some were familiar, and found himself wondering if this was from before Henry had left Sillyvision, but then, as he continued to flick through the pages, he noticed that things started to change. The sketches started to migrate from ink to pencil, and doodles of things like boots or hands or human world things started to mix in with the Bendy doodles. By the time the toon had reached the end of the book it was clear that this was the book Henry had been using when he'd been drafted.

Closing the book, Bendy looked at it with a frown. If this was in the box, did that mean that these books were his sketch books from his work as an animator?

Curiosity pulled at him like wind at a kite, and he pulled out another at random, letting it fall open in his hands.

The double page spread was almost black from the charcoal and lead, misshapen forms screamed out at him from the page, reaching hands lying too far away from the bodies they must have come from, chunks of rock and building loomed over, looking ready to collapse on top of them.

Sickened by the image, Bendy quickly turned to another page, hoping to escape the horror he found there, only to find another gruesome image, this time of tiny forms staring blankly up at the sky as mothers and fathers and siblings sobbed by their sides, dark stains across their faces and clothes.

A shrivelled head still wearing a helmet cried silently, looking like those mummies in the Egyptian section at the museum.

A man carrying his own arm as he walked down a blitzed road.

A woman who'd had half her face blown off, and Bendy could see her tongue through the hole, her brain splattered across the muddy ground beside her.

Brown stains on torn pages, bodies shredded up by shrapnel and things which clearly belonged inside a human scattered across page after page after page. Dead eyes stared out at him, thin bodies that reminded him of Sammy, but worse, barbed wire was both sharp and blurred as shapes became darker, silhouettes, shadows, resembling people made of tar. Of ink.

Resembling Searchers.

The faceless creatures clutched at themselves as blank eyes and mouths screamed in terror and pain, reaching out of the page, trying to escape the Hell inside. Landscapes devolving into scribbles and blackness. All the joy and pure things being sucked out of the world.

Bendy didn't even realise he was shaking, that he was crying, that he was dripping onto the floor, until a pair of familiar arms encircled him, pulling him into a sweaty chest.

"Oh Bendy," Henry soothed, rocking him from side to side as he pulled him close, turning Bendy's streaming eyes away from the books strewn across the floor. "It's okay. I'm here."

The toon sobbed, tucking himself into Henry's chest. Had he really seen those things? Had it really happened? How could anyone do that? Those things... He felt like he was going to be sick.

Bendy found himself moving a few moments later but dared not turn away from Henry's chest, never wanting to see those images again. He heard Henry's heavy footsteps as he walked across his room, over the carpeted floor on the hallway and then into the tiled bathroom. Only then did Bendy pull back, looking up into the man's strained, tired, but sympathetic gaze. "I-I'm sorry!"

"I know," Henry replied, brushing the tears from his eyes.

"I... I didn't know!"

"It's alright Bendy."

"No it's not! It's not alright!" Bendy exclaimed, pushing against Henry's chest, only to fall onto the tiled floor. "All those things... they're horrible! How can you...? How can you...?"

For a moment Henry just stood there, looking down at him with a deep frown, but then he lowered himself down onto his knees. "I don't," he said. "That's why I have nightmares. It's why I have a box full of sketches that I never look at. Before you came home, I didn't have someone to comfort me, so I used to draw what I saw, to lock them away." He smiled, eyes watering slightly as Bendy stared at him in awe. "But now you're here. You chase the bad memories away, you wake me before things get too bad. You're helping me Bendy. More than you know."

Bendy stared at him, unable to think, to breathe, to feel anything other than a deep sorrow that ached in his chest, and awe, and with and almighty push, he launched himself back into Henry's arms. "You're helping me too Henry," he said. "More than you know."