The kitchen smelled of meat and blood. That was normal. You were used to it. In your time at the house you’ve tried your hardest to clean the kitchen, organize everything and make it so you could actually cook in it. But by the end of every day, it would be the same. The family didn’t like change.
Your hand made a shaky cut into the thick flesh of the thigh sitting on the cutting board. Blood oozed out, following the cut, fingers digging in right after as you tried to separate the muscle from the skin. Your fingers were stained red; the blade was dulled from use so you had to work it in a little more. Sweat dribbled down the back of your neck and into the neckline of your shirt that you borrowed from Charlie, large and claustrophobic. He always insisted you wore his clothes.
Familiar arms wrapped around your torso, dirty skin of an old face nuzzling against your shoulder. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to ask Bubba to check on you, to make sure you were doing your job and that you hadn’t ran away. It was just lucky that you and Bubba had grown so close. He wouldn’t hurt you, you told yourself every time, he liked you too much.
“Everything okay?” you asked out of habit. He nodded his head; so it wasn’t one of those times where he seeked solace in you, away from the rest of the family. “That’s good.”
You breathed in and out deeply, almost gagging when you cut more into the flesh. You had to get this done. The family would be expecting dinner soon. Before them you had had no experience cooking meat of any sort- your dad always did the work during family barbecues -but now, you liked to think yourself decent at it.
Whether that was good or bad, in your case, was up for discussion.
Bubba put his chin on your head, staring down at your work. Despite your usual anxieties over being watched, you were fine with this; Bubba never judged you or your work, he just liked watching it.
Your hands started shaking more, forcing you to stop and put the knife down for a break. If you thought too hard about it, like now, you would usually slowly break down into hysterical crying for a minute or two. It was fine. You wouldn’t cry now, not with Bubba holding you in a bear hug from behind. Despite the rough, sandpaper feel of his mask, you felt comfort in the way he held you so close, nuzzling into your hair. Once upon a time you would be terrified of this exact moment. Now, though, you were fine.
“Dinner might be a little late tonight,” you mumbled, not caring if he caught it. Your hands continued to shake.
Bubba grunted and held you tighter; you never thought of him as an empathetic person until he essentially attached himself to you. It both surprised you and comforted you to know he cared, even if it was in his own unique way in which he would bring you items from the people he’s killed. He found out quite easily how you very much disliked being given dead things when you cried in the basement when he tried to hand you a skull, bloody and fresh.
You picked up the knife and tried again. Shaky, but not as bad as before. Bubba leaned over you with interest as the blood flow increased from the raw flesh. To distract yourself, you decided to attempt at small talk.
“Anything new out there? People coming through?”
He gave a negative sound and shake of his head. Communicating with him has gotten easier, but he still barely spoke, so this still proved to be at least a little bit of a challenge.
“I heard that Charlie is thinking about trying to find hitchhikers for some future dinners. Might even be an opportunity for a new mask, huh?”
This- the prospect of a new mask -got Bubba excited. He squeezed a little tighter, fingers digging in, an excited mini-howl at the back of his throat.
You smiled. “You must be really happy about that, huh?” He nodded. “That’s good. I’m glad.” You continued your work until it was ready to cook; you ended up throwing up just before you put the meat on the grill.
Washing blood off the knife at about midnight was a dull moment, time seemingly caught in a vacuum where it was just you, the knife, and the cicadas chirping at the moon. Everyone had already gone to bed. Bubba had been the last go since he was waiting for you(it was against the house rules for you to sleep in a bed, but you usually managed to sneak in with Bubba when you could) but your refusal was adamant, you insisting you needed to clean the dishes. That was fine; you were used to sleeping on the floors as it was.
Eventually, you got the knife cleaned enough to look decent. It wasn’t shiny, but it would do. With a deep sigh you put it back in its place.
The act was routine: clean, cook, and sleep like a dog. Do whatever you were told. That was the deal to letting you live. You realized how lucky you were when you witnessed the deaths of everyone after you, strung up on meathooks and stripped of humanity as they were fed to the family.
You slid down to the floor and covered your eyes with your hands. Thank god you were getting better at hiding your distaste for the food. Charlie had threatened to make you dessert last time you refused. Leaving wasn’t an option; they would find you. They knew the property better than you. You’ve seen all victims who tried to escape die before even the road. No, you would stay and live here until the day the Hewitts dropped dead.
As far as you knew, that wouldn’t be for a long, long time.
Without realizing it, you started sobbing quietly on the kitchen floor, shaking as though an earthquake was pounding in your very core. The thought of staying any longer than another day was distressing. You couldn’t go on like this; eating the flesh and meat of innocent people made you sick, images of rotting corpses in your stomach flashing through your head. There was a vice grip on your lungs causing you to wheeze, trying to just breathe but you couldn’t-
A distressed noise came from your right just before the larger form of Bubba slammed to his knees beside you, wrapping you in his arms and holding you close. You knew he never understood why you cried, why you would be unresponsive some days and snappy on others, but you knew that he hated it when you were like this. Usually it was you who held and comforted him, letting him feel the safety he never felt, but you appreciated when the roles were reversed. Ot gave you the false sense safety, you knew, but it was something you would never take for granted.
You curled up in his arms, face shoved into the crook of his neck and tears streaming down to soak his shirt. You held back your pleads for him to take you outside and run free, or to kill you to get the punishment for even considering running away. At least then you wouldn’t be giving useless hope to those who’ve stumbled down to the basement, seeing you as the outsider to try to escape to become.
You tried to ignore the time Charlie asked you what he should make Bubba do to one of them: kill them, or let them leave. You chose for them to die.
“I’m sorry,” you croaked between sobs. He just pressed his face against the top of your head to shush you; the way he would try to recreate the kisses you gave him from time to time was downright adorable, so of course you smiled. A few moments passed as you calmed down, letting yourself melt into his warm embrace. He then picked you up and began carrying you to his room. You made a mental note to get out of there at the first sight of dawn so you wouldn’t be caught.
As he laid the both of you down simultaneously on the bed, with him cradling you tight, he gave a small whimper, one that you recognized from the countless times you’ve cuddled together. When he made that sound you would always assign it a new meaning: “I love you”, “you’re safe now”, “you’re cafed for”, etc etc. For this moment you decided to not apply any meaning and just lay there wrapped in the warmth and scent of Bubba.