Henry was a lot of things, he considered himself a resilient and strong man. But after being dropped down a elevator shaft, chased, beaten, and possibly subjected to food poisoning.... Well there were certainly limits to any poor soul, and by how he felt now, his own limit was getting close most likely. Fighting was quickly becoming a last ditch effort, it always was but now even the idea of it made his tired limbs ache dully.
After nearly being obliterated by a carnival ride possessed by a livid architect, Henry was just about ready to give up..just about. Boris was still waiting for him to come save him from Alice, and as tired as he was, he wasn't about to leave the poor toon to his fate at her hands. Catching his breath he headed down the last corridor to find the final switch, nothing as far as he was concerned could beat what he had been forced to deal with.
Looking down the staircase leading to the ink flooded room being patrolled by none other than the Projectionist himself, he fully regretted his words. The Projectionist, or once known as Norman Polk, was by far one of the more terrifying beings Henry had ran into on his trip through Joey's self made slice of Hell. His first introduction to the poor man's new life had nearly made him faint, being chased through knee deep congealing ink while being screeched at by a angry projector was not a high priority for him..But if he wanted to ever see Boris alive again, he'd have to make due. Thankfully he remembered Norman wasn't able to hear much, but his sight was as sharp as ever..
Hiding in the stairwell nearby the miracle station, he waited for the man to pass so he could sneak down behind him and try to find that last switch. Trudging through ink normally was hell on his legs, but with the added threat of being seen if he didn't duck behind something fast enough only made it worse somehow. Scouting his path out ahead as he trailed behind Normans path he spotted a blocked stairwell, and several moments later a switch. Throwing it somehow set Norman off, did he see him while turning the corner? Was his hearing not as bad as he thought? Not bothering to try and run for the miracle station, he ran for the newly cleared stairwell, hoping being on dry land would allow him to put some distance between him and Norman. Rushing up the stairwell and onto the second floor he pushed himself onwards, knowing the other was just behind him as he turned the first corner and spyed the tell tale light glaring from behind him. Not wanting to be caught he turned to keep a eye on where he was going, Henry's heart pounding in his ears as he finally spotted the last switch a few scant feet away. If he could just throw it and keep on running, maybe he could survive long enough to get to the miracle station and wait for Norman to leave.
The second the switch was thrown, the lights went out alongside Norman's own projector spotlight...Of course Henry didn't stop until he failed to hear Norman's pounding footsteps behind him. Only then did he finally stop to look back..and see that the other had vanished without a trace. While he greatly appreciated the chance to catch his breath, something didn't seem right now..Silence down here never spelled anything good for him, but as he ventured downstairs and found no trace of the other, he let himself have some relief.
Walking back towards the stairwell back to the storage room, he sighed and wondered what the hell had happened here for what was possibly the hundredth time. He had found a forgotten tape from Joey himself..quickly realizing from the audios contents that not even Mr. "If you believe, anything is possible!" in fact didn't believe anything he said half the time. He had known from personal experience that Joey Drew was a human vacuum of inspiration and creativity, and his trip down here only proved that further.. Half of his staff had been drained dry for his own needs, only to be tossed aside..or worse yet "repurposed" for his grand schemes or driven mad. No one down here deserved the fate Joey had handed them, so much talent and creativity...and it had all been taken to leave them empty and angry. He didn't blame most of them for their actions, seeing his old coworkers reduced to lifeless shells or outright monsters hurt his heart greatly. It didn't help that they all tried to take it out on him, they had long since lost themselves most likely..If there was anything he could do to help them remember, or even to help at all he'd be more than willing to offer it..But what that was was Henry's best guess.
Lost in his own thoughts, he had finally made it back to the stairwell at long last, but the second his foot touched the bottom most stair..that familiar screech rang up behind him. Turning around quickly he easily spotted Norman rushing at him, where he had been lurking was anyones guess, Henry wasn't about to stick around and ask. Scrambling up the stairwell with Norman right on his heels he practically dove at the miracle station, slamming the door shut behind him just as his pursuer reached the top of the stairs.
Henry had always hated these so called miracle stations, being in such a cramped space while waiting for who or whatever that had chased him into one lost interest was horrible. The only source of light was a tiny view slit so he could tell when danger had passed, and right now the only thing he could see was Norman....not leaving. A pit opened in Henry's stomach as he quickly realized something, Norman wasn't leaving..but getting closer. He had clearly seen Henry climb frantically into the miracle station, and this time instead of being a saving grace it had more or less become his coffin now as the Projectionist drew closer
"oh god.. no no no.."
Henry was slowly beginning to panic watching Norman stand mere inches from the door, he had already pressed himself tight against the back of the damn thing as if that was going to do him any good. He was trapped watching the other stare almost curiously at the door, like a confused cat that had cornered a mouse and now had no idea what to do..Of course Norman was quick to figure things out after a moment or two of head tilting and reached out to grab at the door. The few seconds it took for Norman to wrench the door open felt like hours on Henry's end, crawling by almost as if to drag out the soon to be death he'd likely experience at the others hands.. Henry couldn't do anything else besides throw his arms up to shield himself as the small space was flooded with light and static.
"W-wait Norman don't do this please!"
The words echoed out as Henry's eyes clenched shut, expecting the worst and not wanting to see what was coming next... Only nothing came? Seconds ticked by and with them came no pain or noise, it was enough to confuse the poor animator enough to risk cracking a eye open to see what was going on. He was blinded briefly by Normans light, the Projectionist was just staring down at him, both arms braced on either side of the stations walls as if to trap Henry there and give himself something to hold onto. Both sides seemed to be stunned, one over the fact that they were still even alive, and the other..well Henry could only guess.
"...Norman? Norman it's me..it's me Henry, you remember me right? We were friends a long time ago.."
It was true they were on good terms when Henry still worked at the studios, he was on good terms with most of the staff he had hoped. Watching the other intensely for any signs of aggression..he noticed the blinding light had slowly begun to dim down, the static had softened as well? Maybe they were signs that Norman was calming down perhaps? This was all foreign territory for Henry, he hadn't ever dreamed of surviving this long being this close to the other..
" . . .n ry?"
Henry blinked, was he hearing things now? The static coming from Normans...chest speaker had gone down to a almost white noise level by now, but he could of sworn he heard the other say something just now.
"Norman? Can you...can you talk? Can you even hear me like this?"
" ..Hh...ry.. H hhhehnry? yh.."
"Yeah..it's me..it's Henry, you do remember me Norman don't you? I'm a friend..I'm your friend Norman.."
The other tilted his head listening to Henry talk, his voice having taken on a softer tone towards the Projectionist as he listened for the others reply..He was scared of anything that could possibly ruin this strange moment going on.as if any harshness might send Norman back into his livid and murderous state against him.
"...Hhh...Hen..ry.. Henry? th..hh uh?"
The other seemed dazed, a inky hand finally detaching itself from the wall to press itself against the side of Henry's face, as if making sure they were even real. Henry let out a soft laugh and gently patted the arm the hand was attached to, his own heart was still pounding away frantically in his ears. The physical touch seemed to do some good as Norman finally backed off from the station, moving their hand some at Henry as if to beckon him to follow. Not wanting to upset Norman, Henry climbed out at last, looking up at the other with a weak smile.
"It's good to see you again Norman after all this time but...wh?"
Norman had stepped forwards to almost gently cup Henrys face in both his hands, as if he were being looked over. The blub in what served as Normans head now had all but dimmed down to a dull glow, if he stared long enough he could almost swear it was shifting about like a functioning eye..It was a strange concept but, honestly at this point Henry considered the other outrageous shit he had seen first hand, this was the least of his worries right now. At least it seemed like Norman wasn't hostile anymore, just..very grabby? Henry patted his shoulder and risked a smile, hoping Norman would release his face soon.
"Is there something on my face? I can't really clean up down here Norman, I'm sure you've noticed how everything's soaked in ink..water's pretty hard to come by to wash up with.."
"...hy hhre Hhhenry?"
"...why am I here?"
"...Let's just say I got fooled by Joey Drew..just like everyone else down here. But, I'm gonna try and fix things Norman..I'm gonna try and undo whatever the hell he's done."
At the mention of Joey, Norman seemed to tense up in anger..before his shoulders slumped back down. Finally Norman release Henry's face, though on hand rested itself on his shoulder now..it was strange, like Norman was afraid that Henry would go somewhere if he wasn't holding onto him.
"Something wrong Norman?"
"Hhhck...c..an't go...th..too ..dan..erous..Henry"
"Dangerous? ..I know that, but I can't just stop now Norman..not after seeing what's happened to you and everyone else..I can't let him get away with this. He's taken everything from you all..it's not fair, it's not right for him to do that."
Norman released the other fully now, arms instead simply wrapping around his own chest, as if hugging himself while the projector slumped to stare at the floor dejectedly..It was strange seeing a being that moments ago scared him to death now looking scared themselves. Monsters or not..at their cores they were still people who had been gravely wronged..it made his chest ache honestly as those thoughts from earlier came flooding back.
"Norman...Norman look at me buddy..."
At the sound of his name, Norman looked up to see Henry with both arms wide open.
"I promise you, I'll do whatever it takes to get you back to normal...Or at least sock Joey Drew in the jaw a few dozen times...but until then, this is the best I can offer you...You kinda look like you could use a hug big guy.."
A soft staticy laugh whispered through the speaker as Norman briefly stared at Henry before finally giving in and moving to accept the offered hug at long last. Henry gave the other a good squeeze, while being mindful of the strange cables coming out of the others back. The speaker, now muffled against Henry let out a contented humming noise as its owner relaxed into the more than needed embrace. It was now that Henry realized this was the first time he'd hugged....well anyone down here, not even Boris got a hug..something he'd be more than sure to remedy once they reunited.
"Feeling any better Norman?"
"No probem buddy..sometimes a hug can do wonders.."
Norman kept the hug going for a few seconds more...before a strange and unwelcomingly familiar sensation started to creep up Henry's spine. Norman seemed to sense it too as he quickly released Henry to investigate. Watching the walls and floor slowly become coated in ink, Henry grimaced at the bad timing here.. Norman's speaker was quickly crackling into life as none other than Bendy himself appeared in the doorway behind them both. Like a switch had been thrown, Norman's light flared into life as angry static quickly followed. It seemed neither one cared for the others presence as another more raspy hiss answered Norman's own noise, before Henry could try and turn around he felt himself being quickly shifted to stand behind the Projectionist and getting a full view of the fight that was likely about to happen.
Wait, they couldn't fight right here..Norman was powerful on his own, the copious dead bodies littering his own territory was testament enough to that..But could he stand a chance against Bendy himself? He had just gotten through to Norman, what had brought the Demon here so suddenly then? ...Bendy had no real reason to attack, hell he had only seen him once the entire time he had been running about in the warehouse, every other time before that..Henry had made the mistake of listening to Alice and deliberately instigated the Demon into attacking him.. So why now?
The two didn't seem to be quite ready to lash out at one another, though that didn't stop them from constantly hissing like angry cats at one another..Norman seemed more intent on shielding Henry from the Ink Demon, one arm poised to keep him behind him in case something did happen..But Bendy himself seemed to just be aggravated in general, staring a hole at the poor animator as if this was solely his fault. But...he hadn't done anything to warrant such anger, the only thing he had done was....
The realization made him blink a bit in self made confusion, that couldn't be the reason...could it? There was only one way to really find out, and well if it failed he wouldn't have to worry about messing up, or anything else afterwards. Fortune favored the bold, and so Henry gently nudged Norman's arm to get the others attention, it took a few tries but he knew he succeeded when the light dimmed just a bit to risk a glance down at him.
"Norman..it's alright, calm down a moment...I think I know why he's here..Lemme try something."
Norman was clearly confused but, it didn't take much to let him step back and let Henry take his position in front..Being so keenly aware that he was standing between the two more alarming beings he had met down here didn't make what he was about to do any easier, but for a moment it seemed as if Bendy had also quieted down to see what he was about to do. Ignoring the pounding in his chest he did the one thing he'd never thought he'd ever do, both arms spread open wide in invitation to the Ink Demon to receive a hug.
"Was this what you wanted big guy? If so then, c'mon over here and get it.."
For what felt like far to long to be comfortable, no one moved..Henry was suddenly very aware that both parties had gone dead silent at his words and only his own ragged breath was the sole source of noise in the tiny corridor. Time suddenly resumed its march when he felt a pair of arms wrap themselves around his waist...but it wasn't Bendys. Looking up as he felt himself being dragged back a short distance he found it was Norman who had reacted first...by grabbing him in another protective embrace. Another hiss from Bendy tore his confused gaze from the Projectionist holding him back to the Ink Demon he had offered the hug originally to. Something had changed, Bendy looked upset clearly..but unable to quite figure out what to do now, it was clear though that what Norman did wasn't what he wanted.
The Projectionist himself seemed unwilling to let Henry get close to the other, now pinning Henry to his chest with a soft staticy noise of his own..Henry was reminded now how short he was in comparison to both as Normans "chin" rested itself lightly on the crown of his head. Neither wished to move now he noticed, as another almost silly realization kicked in..He was being fought over, like two children fighting over a favorite toy neither wanted to share.. Well this was a odd development, least he knew he wasn't going to die right? But he'd have to pacify both if anything was going to happen, he still had to save Boris after all.
"Norman, Norman it's alright he's not gonna hurt me..You can let me go now buddy."
The embrace tightened a bit as Norman's speaker hissed out something unintelligible, the other staring Bendy down for a moment or two longer before finally releasing Henry at last. Henry looked up at the other to give him a comforting smile, glad to see that glaring light had died back down once more to study the other..almost worringly now. The sudden over protectiveness was just about enough to make Henry laugh, but instead he patted the others shoulder before turning back to face Bendy once again.
"Don't worry Norman it'll be okay..you won't hurt me right big guy?''
Arms outstretched once more he slowly eased himself closer towards the Ink Demon, not sure what to expect now but willing to take the risk more than ever. Up close and in the open he was able to see how outright gaunt and twisted the other looked, how could something that looked so frail be so damned powerful? Henry was now close enough that one possible hit would kill him, it was here he waited for the other to act freely.. If he was going to be killed then it'd happen right here, being close enough to Bendy to be able to count the ribs jutting out of his chest and asking for a hug like some madman.
Thankfully he wasn't going to die just yet down here it seemed. Bendy's hissing had turned to something more akin to hoarse whispering, what he was trying to say was anyones guess as the tall Demon stared down at Henry. A moment of consideration was taken before long spindly arms wrapped themselves around Henry's waist, so he was right about the other wanting a hug too..who would of guessed. Henry shifted his own arms to return the warm gesture, inwardly grimacing as his fingers brushed the exposed spine briefly..
"There..see? Wasn't that hard..if you wanted a hug too you just needed to ask."
They stayed like that for a few more seconds before Henry felt Bendy hug him tighter still...and lift him clear from the ground much to Norman's apparent disapproval. As Henry felt himself being situated in the Demons hug, Norman let out a angry hiss of static...seems they were still fighting over him..Bendy wasn't making matters any better as they made a strange watery huffing noise towards Norman..it sounded almost like laughter this close. This was almost surreal now..he sighed and gently papped the Demon's shoulder to get his attention.
"Hey now, no need to get each other riled up..You both can get a hug from me..there's no need to fight like two overgrown kids over it you two..."
Norman looked outright offended when Henry managed to twist a bit to see their reactions, the static coming from had come out in a short squawk of noise..Bendy wasn't much better, making a whining sort of hiss at the idea. Henry could only laugh now watching all this..for such big things they acted childish still, Henry felt himself being set back down before Bendy leaned into view to harshly whisper and hiss more at him.. Strangely enough the way the Demon was holding himself made it look like he was scolding Henry now for saying such things..Norman looked no better, arms crossed and dim light almost narrowed into a slit. Both didn't apparently like the idea of being called out it looked like. Henry could only grin at this nonsense, a great turn of events from what he had feared would happen.
"C'mon now you two, nothing to get haughty over..I'm more than happy to hug the both of you if you behave."
Both seemed to consider it, eyeing the other for a time before Henry moved to gently hug Bendy first, earning a surprised noise from the Demon..quickly followed by Norman when he shifted to give the other another hug as well. The action seemed to be having a good calming effect on both sides, the overall hostility in the air slowly dwindling with each new hug.
"See? We can get along now right? No fighting over who does what now yeah?"
Norman slowly nodded while Bendy let out a long huff before doing the same, it was strange how something as little as a hug could do so much..Maybe it'd continue to work said wonders if he tried it more often..Looking around he figured he might as well get on with saving Boris, maybe with his new friends Alice might be more prone to listen to him rather than play her games.
"Well Bendy..care to lead the way? I still gotta save Boris...and deal with Alice, you're both more than welcomed to come along if you want..I sure don't mind the company."
Bendy's grin seemed to stretch wider at the mention of dealing with Alice, something the Ink Demon seemed keen to do as he turned to head back out the doorway. Henry moved to follow suit before looking back at Norman..
"Norman you coming? You don't have to stay down there..you can come too with me and Bendy.."
A firm nod was given by the Projectionist, making Henry smile all the more as he turned to leave and catch up with Bendy..Or he would if He didn't feel Norman suddenly wrap his arms around his waist once more..Just as Bendy did earlier, Norman lifted the smaller Animator up and proceeded to walk out with Henry in tow in his embrace.
"You're doing this to get back at Bendy for earlier aren't you Norman."
"Mhm..yh got it HhhHenry.."
"I figured as much.."
He could almost hear the grin in Normans broken static filled voice, even like this the man still had a sense of humor it seemed. Letting out a long sigh he let himself be carried off, least until Bendy bothered looking back and most likely starting the whole spat up anew.