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A Single Soul

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Joey Drew.

A thinker.

An entrepreneur.

A dreamer.

He was renowned by all for his imagination, for his wit and charm, for his determination and confidence in his company and his peers. Always, always, he pushed others to do and be their best. Told them that their dreams and aspirations were possible if they just worked hard at getting there, worked hard for him, worked hard for the company. Anything was possible.

He’d always been real good at putting on a show. He was a genius.

But his company crumbled. Profits tanked, dreams were destroyed, plans cut short.

And it all came back to Henry.

Henry, Henry, Henry.

He was supposed to have been there through it all, from start to finish. Henry had been his partner! Instead, he’d left the studio high and dry, left Joey scrambling alone, and built himself up a fairytale life with a beautiful wife while Joey’s life fell apart.

The Machine was all that he had left, now.

Shoved into a corner in his modest little house.

It was a masterpiece of ingenuity and magic. Running on the pure, unadulterated energy of human life. Human souls. It held an entire world inside of it; a black, inky hell that looped and looped and looped, on and on. And it would do so for eternity.

The story he’d set the world to run through was infinite. The souls always did what they were supposed to do, easy to string along as cattle. And with each loop finished, the Machine would purr and bubble. With each grisly death in the confines of that hell, the Machine ran smoother and churned hotter.

And Joey would find he had strength in his failing body again.

He felt energized! He could get up out of that wheelchair and walk again! Wasn’t that just grand? Didn’t that make everything else worth it?

They have a contract. Joey and the Machine. Sealed with blood and promises and sacrifice. Or, several sacrifices, actually. Dozens of sacrifices. Including that Henry. Why, he was the hero of the story, after all! The loop wouldn’t be able to finish and restart without him! The Machine wouldn’t get its fill! And it was quite the upgrade. From traitorous bastard, to savior and hero, wasn’t it?

So Henry had gone ‘missing’, and wasn’t that a tragedy though? Disappeared without a trace to all of us out here, while he’s saving a whole world and being a hero in there. But he had to leave a wife and daughter behind too, didn’t he?

And good ol’ Uncle Joey Drew took it upon himself to look after the sweetest little sugarpea every day while her dear mother Linda worked and worked. With a mysteriously ‘absent’ father, and a mother who worked so hard she hadn’t even come home for weeks now, Uncle Joey had been nothing but the best caretaker a child could ever ask for or need! Watched her grow, told her stories, drew her cartoons, gave her everything she’d wanted!

And Joey felt like maybe he understood why Henry had left him all those years ago. Maybe. If anything, he’d be able to say he happily stole away from him the happy years of raising his own daughter. No, no, Joey Drew did that. Joey Drew raised Penny Stein, and did so better than Henry could have ever.

 

...But the Machine is hungry again.

 

There’s a flaw, somewhere in the ink. With each loop its surge of renewed strength has been lessening, bit by bit, rather than growing stronger.

One more soul. It just needs one more soul.

Joey can hear it groaning in the middle of the night sometimes.

One more tiny soul.

With everything Joey Drew had been through, wasn’t he owed at least this much? Wasn’t it selfish to do anything but help?

Just one more soul. That’s all.

“Do you understand?” Joey Drew said, moving backwards with some difficulty, dragging the weakly struggling girl by her arms. He held them carefully behind her back, but she was nearly limp in his hold. The tea he’d given her had done a swell job in weakening her, and hopefully she’d be dead asleep in a few minutes.

He’d have no chance with this otherwise. Not with his frail legs and weakening body.

The Machine bubbled and rumbled as he pulled her into the room, as if sensing what she was there for now.

“You’re the last piece of the puzzle, Penny!” Joey grinned a proud grin. As if he wasn’t about to cast the little girl into a fate far worse than death. “This is a really important job that I’m trusting you with. You’re just as big of a hero as your Pa! With you, not one more soul will have to be fed into the Machine after this! It’ll be like you’re saving lives, Penny! And I’ll never spend another day in that wheelchair!”

He laughed, and set the little girl on the floor, letting her lean against the wall beside the Machine as he pulled open an old metal panel that was sticky with congealed ink. He never stopped grinning as he pushed a single button, flipped a tiny switch, and pulled a lever to the side.

The Machine lurched, and let out a noise that anyone else would have called a growl.

The sound of it made Penny wince, fighting to keep her eyes open. Her sky blue dress was crumbled, stained with tea she’d spilled on the front of the ruffled skirt, and her short sandy brown hair was mussed and ruffled.

“I don’t want to go in the machine,” she breathed, and it was a struggle to keep her head from bobbing. “I don’t-- y-you said it was make-believe.” She was sobbing then, terrified, exhausted, thoughts fading fast. “All that scary stuff--you said...you said it was just--”

“Just a story!” Joey grinned down at her, closing the panel with a loud clang that made Penny wince. “And it is just a story! But I never said it wasn’t a true story.”

“...When Mama comes back,” Penny said, and despite the terror in her there was defiance and bravery as well. “She’ll get me out. She’ll save me and everybody.” Her eyelids were so heavy, but she knew if she closed them she might not ever open them again. “And Papa will too.”

Joey crouched down in front of the girl he’d practically helped raise over the last few years. He rested his elbows on his knees, looking down at her. Her ninth birthday was just a month away, and while he was sorry she wasn’t going to be able to have her party, he couldn’t wait any longer. “I think you’ll be seeing your Mama a lot sooner than you may think,” he smiled, and it was supposed to be a kind expression, but it only made Penny shrink back against the wall.

“...Like she’s coming home soon…? From work?”

“...My dearest little sugarpea,” Joey reached out and ruffled her hair affectionately. “You’ll see.”

He straightened, turning to the Machine again. “Now, go to sleep. It’ll be so much easier for you if you aren’t awake.”

“S’it gonna hurt?” she asked slowly.

Joey laughed lightly, like someone had just told him a cute joke. “No, no, Penny. You won’t feel a thing.”

Penny felt her eyes close, and she wished she could be strong like the cool characters from movies and books and cartoons. She wished she could be smart and clever like… like Bendy. Not the scary one that Uncle Joey liked to tell her stories of. She wanted to be like the old Bendy. The one her Papa drew. The one who could play all the instruments, and dance, and sing, and always had the greatest escape plans.

“The ink is far too hot,” Joey went on, almost talking to himself. “So hot you might feel cold for a moment. Nerves won’t know what to do!” he laughed again. “But by then you’ll already be melting down. It’ll be very fast, sugarpea. And for what it’s worth, I’ll miss you.”

Penny felt herself hiccup. A mix of terror and sorrow. She didn’t want to die…! It was almost her birthday and… and…

and…

Joey Drew glanced back at her in the same moment her head bobbed down heavily to her chest, body going limp as cooked spaghetti.

The man chuckled as he turned and gently scooped her up in his arms, just as he’d done when he’d told her stories until she fell asleep, and he’d carry her to the guest room’s bed that had practically become all her own.

He turned to the ink machine as it growled and bubbled and shook.

And he didn’t feel a shred of remorse as he fed the little girl, Penny Stein, spelling bee extraordinaire and dodgeball whiz with a soft spot for animals and the color purple… into the Ink Machine.

Almost immediately he felt the strength in his legs return. The contract between him and the magic of this monstrous Machine strengthened, and Joey Drew let out a proud, happy laugh.

He walked back into his kitchen, cleaning up the spilled tea and the broken cup Penny had dropped onto the floor.

And then Joey Drew began to make dinner.

And he whistled happily to himself the entire time.

Chapter Text

The floor was...a mess. Black ink covered every floorboard, and looked as if it had very recently been so high up that a good portion of the walls all around her were coated in the stuff as well. Like the whole place had been flooded!

She stayed where she was, sitting on the slick, sticky floor as she peered around the long hallway she was in. When she looked over her shoulder, she nearly screamed, scrambling back a few feet. A big, deep hole in the floor had been just behind her, dipping so far down that she couldn’t even see the bottom!

And, of course, right on the other side of the hole, was a big door labeled ‘EXIT’.

Penny frowned, and leaned back on her hands for a moment, letting the weight of what she was seeing wash over her like all this gross ink must have done to this place sometime earlier.

She reached up and touched her head, wincing as her whole brain seemed to throb inside her skull, and didn’t notice as she left a trail of ink in her hair.

“...Mum?” she called quietly, the first name to make its way out of her throat.

What had happened? Where was she?

The last thing she could remember was… tea? Uncle Joey had made her a cup of tea, yeah… and then…

Another wave of pain struck at her and she whimpered, curling her knees up to her chest, her little pair of bright yellow rain boots sliding over the slippery floor.

She couldn’t remember. Her heart was pounding in her chest, but she couldn’t remember!

“Okay,” she mumbled, and laced her fingers into her hair, closing her eyes. “Let’s be smart about this, Penny girl!” she said. “Let’s think! Use your noggin!”

She took in a few deep breaths and dared to open her eyes again. The dim lights and the black ink made everything a little tough to see, but she pushed herself up onto her feet, reaching out to touch one hand to the wall beside her to keep herself steady. Her knees were a little wobbly, and she didn’t want to get even messier than she already was.

“Aw...lookit me, I’m a mess,” she murmured absently, noting the ink on her knees, hands, and smudged across her clothes. “Mama’ll be so mad, she loved this dress…”

Penny took one more calming breath and walked carefully down the hall, keeping an eye on the floor just in case any more holes showed up. The hall opened into a larger room, half of all the walls still stained with ink, but… she recognized the logo up on the wall.

Joey Drew Studios, it read, and she felt herself smile despite the confusion and fear in her little heart.

She was in the old Studio? The one she’d heard so many stories about? The one her Dad and her Uncle built together?

Her eyes scanned the rest of the room, and she couldn’t help the laugh that left her at the sight of a giant cutout of none other than Bendy himself, leaning against a wall beside a projector that flickered from dim to bright as it shone a blank square of light against the wall.

She crossed the room at a clip, boots clonking against the wet boards, and slipped a bit as she neared the cutout.

“I really am here!” she grinned, and beamed up at the familiar face of the Dancing Demon. She turned away to look over the rest of the room. “Sheesh, I wonder what happened? What’s got this place so messy? It’s really gone down the tubes,” she said, resting her hands on her hips as she tapped a foot.

Her eyes darted back to the hall with the exit she couldn’t reach, biting at her lower lip.

“...And there’s gotta be another way outta here, right?”

She moved away from the cutout, despite the odd sense of comfort the familiar, happy face gave her when everything else was so weird and scary. She gripped at the front of her dress as she crept across the floor, peeking around corners as she moved along slowly.

She kind of felt like she was being watched, and...she didn’t like it very much. She kept glancing quickly over her shoulder, as if hoping to (or maybe to not) spot whoever might be following her.

Penny couldn’t hear anyone, though. No footprints, no nothing. All she heard was the distant, weird churning of a machine, and the drippy, sticky, gross sound the black ink made as it moved through pipes and squished under her boots.

She passed another Bendy cutout, touching at it absently as she walked by, muttering out a soft “Heya, Bendy,” as she did, keeping her hand to the cutout as she peered around another corner.

She honestly wasn’t sure what she’d prefer here; for her to see somebody, or for her to find out she was completely alone?

If there was somebody, would they be nice? Would they help her? Uncle Joey liked to talk up and down about Stranger Danger, and so did her Mum. And she remembered, before he’d disappeared, her Papa giving her the same kind of talks, too. To always be safe, and prepared for anything!

She swallowed a bit thickly, and she didn’t feel very brave.

Especially when she came upon a large room that seemed to be a dead end. It was filled with animator’s desks, the tops slanted to make it easier to draw on--Uncle Joey used one a lot. And her Dad used to use one too.

Penny sniffled as she walked a little further into this new room, just looking around quietly at the desks. One of them was illuminated by a spotlight overhead, and she could see a drawing of Bendy on the paper. He was sitting on the ground, and she could have sworn the drawing was looking right at her, leaning back on his hands as he peered at her curiously.

She moved closer to it, stepping down off of a platform onto the lowered floor of the art room.

“Heya again, Bendy,” she mumbled, and then turned her head to look at the rest of the room. She could see what looked like a bathroom that was blocked off, and cocked her head a little bit to the side at the sight.

“Man, something must’ve gone reeeal wrong for them to wanna do that to a bathroom,” she said to herself with a giggle. “Bleh, I don’t wanna know.”

When she turned to look back at the Bendy drawing, she gasped and hopped back a step.

The pose he had been in had changed! He’d gone from sitting down to standing up, his hands on his hips as he cocked his head to one side, just as she had been doing a second ago while appraising the boarded up bathroom.

Her eyes narrowed quizzically, and she looked away again. She whistled a few bars of her favorite song, and then whirled back around to look at the desk one more time.

He’d changed again!

Penny laughed and moved closer, pressing her hands to the desk on either side of the little Bendy that seemed to be waving right at her.

“How’s it doing that?” she laughed and peeked under the desk, like there might be some weird mechanism underneath. When she found nothing but incredibly stained sheets of ink-logged paper, she looked back up. And she laughed again at the sight of Bendy, bent at the waist and bowing to her, a wide grin on his cheerful face.

There was a sudden, loud, squelching thud from outside the room. It made her jump and gasp, whirling around and pushing her back to the desk.

“Hello?” she called, but couldn’t find it in her to check on the noise.

Memories of all the scary stories Uncle Joey liked to tell her about the Studio began to filter up through her headache. Stories about monsters and teeth and axes and--

There was another sound, like a big, heavy footstep, and then another, and another.

Very, very quietly, Penny lowered herself to the floor, hunkering down beside the desk and pushing against the wall, all but hiding away. The risk that whatever had made that sound--whatever was right outside the room--was something dangerous and scary was enough for her to lose any shreds of bravery she had left.

She lifted her knees to her chest buried her face in her arms, sniffling as she tried to muffle a soft, terrified sob.

She just wanted to go home. She wanted her Mom. She wanted her Dad. She--

Y-yello, kiddo,” a raspy, rough voice called, sounding like it hadn’t been used in years and years and years. It was soft, and a little high pitched. She didn’t recognize it, and her first reaction was to burrow a bit deeper against the wall, to lift one of her hands to cover her head with a weak whimper.

M’not...gonna hurtchya,” the voice went on. It had a bit of a funny accent. It reminded her a little of those mobster shows Uncle Joey liked to watch. “Whatchya cryin’ for, kid? You’re not scared, are ya?

Penny swallowed, and a bit of that fear was beginning to ebb away since the stranger was talking to her rather than trying to hurt her.

When she looked up though, she didn’t see anyone in the room with her. She looked around, brows furrowed in confusion.

“...Hello?” she called.

M’right h-here,” the voice said, and sounded closer despite the fact that she still couldn’t...see anyone at all.

“Where? I don’t see you?” she leaned forward away from her little hiding corner, arms still held tightly around her knees.

M’hidin’. I’m not a real pretty sight,” the voice grumbled. “Don’t wanna scare ya or nothin’.

“Oh…” Penny felt herself relax a little. “...You wouldn’t scare me. I was taught t’not judge books by their covers, you know. Otherwise it’s just rude,” she said as she gave the room another once-over. “Are you sick? Your voice sounds like it hurts.”

There was a pause, and then a little, odd, raspy laugh. “Don’t have much reason t’talk much these days, y’lil Bunny.

“I’m not a bunny,” Penny huffed, but she felt herself smile. “My name’s Penny.”

Penny, Bunny, same t’ing,” the voice huffed right back, and she could hear the smile in their words as well.

“...What’s your name?” she asked, and pushed herself up to her knees, no longer caring how dirty she or her clothes were getting.

Eh, I g-gotta lotta names, Bun,” the voice chuckled, but it sounded almost...sad. “I t’ink y’might recognize one of ‘em though. Name’s Bendy. Dancin’ Demon, at your soyvice,” the voice said.

Penny blinked, and then leaned back and laughed. “Like the real Bendy? Are you his voice actor? Bendy never talked in the old cartoons!” She rested her hands on her lap, her smile brightening. “Are there gonna be new cartoons? ‘Cause I like your voice for him, I think it’d be great!”

Aw, t’anks, kid! But naw, there ain’t gonna be nothin’ new from this Studio, s’far as I know,” Bendy hummed. “And I ain’t a voice acta’. I’m the real deal!

“Is your name really Bendy, then?” She kept looking back and forth across the room, like she might catch her new friend from his hiding spot, her fingers gently holding onto the skirt of her messy dress.

Posilutely!

“Can I see?” Penny smiled, and she couldn’t keep the excitement from her voice if she tried. She practically bounced where she sat, almost giggling. Maybe this wasn’t the worst day ever after all…? Even if she was lost and confused, making a new friend was always neat. And if that new friend was Bendy? Hot dog!

Bendy was silent for a long moment.

I, ah… M’a lil’ bigga’ than I used t’be, Bun. And I don’t really look like my old self anymore.

“So like you grew up?”

...Yeah, I guess y’could say that.

“Well here, c’mon!” Penny pushed herself up to her feet, brushing the ink off her knees (only to grumble and wipe her hands off on her dress), and moving away from the desk a few steps. “Let’s both meet each other, face to face! I’m really different than from when I was a kid, too! I used to have no hair at all, and now I have lots!”

You humans are a weird bunch,” Bendy laughed again, but his tone was teasing, not mean at all. “I really don’t wanna scare ya. Promise ya won’t scream or nothin’?

“Cross my heart!” Penny grinned, and drew an X over her chest. “And hope to die!”

Don’t say that,” Bendy clicked, but she heard him sigh. “Ah...a-awright, kiddo. Come on out into th’hall. I’ll be waitin’ for ya.

Penny smiled as she moved away from the desk, crossing the art room and stepping back up onto the platform. She paused just for a moment before turning the corner back into the hall, but…

She blinked, confused, as all she saw waiting for her was a little plush toy of Bendy, sitting on the inky floor.

“...Bendy?” she called, and moved closer to the little toy, reaching down to gently pick it up.

M’sorry, I panicked!” came Bendy’s voice from even further down the hall. “I scare everyone else, an’ all they gotta do is just look at me,” he said. “I know it’s my fault though-- I’m a real frightnin’ fella.

Penny gave the little Bendy toy a squeeze, hugging it to her chest, and smiled when it let out a gentle squeak. “I promise I won’t be scared! Not even a little! I’m...I’m lost, and alone, and I dunno what to do. You’re the nicest person I’ve met so far today!”

I t’ink I’m the only poyson y’met so far today,” Bendy drawled, amusement in his voice.

“Yeah, but this is a real good start!”

She heard him laugh again, and it was stronger this time. “Awright, awright! Just...stay there, okay, Bunny? An’...just rememba’ that I ain’t gonna hurtchya. Okay?

Penny nodded, then remembered he probably couldn’t see her and cleared her throat. “Okay! Promise.”

She heard him take a slow, deep, raspy breath...and then a tall, terrible shape stepped into view from around the corner. At first, she really did feel afraid. The horns on his head almost touched the ceiling, and his whole, gangly, thin body looked like it was made out of the same black ink that was all over the floor and walls.

Penny squeezed the toy harder to her chest, and for a moment she felt...frozen. Ink dripped down over his face, over a familiar grin, and down over the bowtie around his neck as well.

“...Bendy?” she heard herself whisper.

S’me, kiddo,” Bendy said, voice very soft, and held up his hands--one was gloved in a large four-fingered, white glove just like in his cartoons, while the other looked alarmingly human. “An’ I promise, I’m a friend. Okay?

Penny only swallowed, and managed a very weak nod, but didn’t move an inch otherwise.

He...was nothing like how she’d thought. Even with his warnings that he’d look different.

And more stories her Uncle Joey told her came back in an unhappy rush. About a scary Bendy that would hurt you on sight, chase you around the studio, try to eat you with his sharp teeth--

Y’wanna see a magic trick?” Bendy suddenly asked, startling her out of her panicking thoughts. When the little girl nodded, Bendy’s smile widened a little. “Awright, lemme just…” he patted his hands over his chest, and then frowned, looking down. “Where did I put my handkerchief? Hold on a tick, Bun, I know it’s gotta be here somewhere,” he grunted. He stuck a few fingers of his thin, human hand into the edge of the large white glove, and his face lit up.

Ah-ha! Here it is! Now I just--” he gave the bright little cloth a tug. And another tug. And another. And no matter what he did, or how much he pulled, the handkerchief just kept coming and coming and coming, dozens of little squares attached to each other until they pooled around his feet on the floor.

Penny felt herself begin to smile, holding her Bendy plush beneath her chin. A giggle began to build in her chest as she watched the tall Bendy struggle. By that point there was so much cloth around him that he was half buried!

Aw, applesauce, what’s goin’ on wit’ ‘dis crazy t’ing?!” he cried, his frustration thickening his strange accent. When Penny suddenly burst out laughing though, his feigned frown immediately softened.

Finally, the last square of the little handkerchief popped free from his glove, and he stared at it for a moment before letting it fall to the floor as well. “Y’know, now that I got it, I don’t even rememba’ what I needed it for,” he hummed, and Penny laughed even harder.

He lifted his gloved hand and tapped his chin in thought, before jumping as an idea struck him. “Oh! I know!” He reached behind himself, and from out of thin air produced a top hat.

“Whoa!” Penny gasped, and Bendy’s smile widened even more.

Now, lessee here…” he hummed and stuck his hand into the hat. His arm disappeared into it much further than it should have possibly been able to, and when he pulled it back out he held an entire bowling ball in his hand. “...Nope,” he grunted, and tossed it over his shoulder.

The ball landed with a heavy thud and rolled down the hall, and Penny beamed in utter delight.

Bendy dug his hand into the hat again, and an odd, black, inky tongue stuck out from between his teeth as he rummaged around. He pulled out a rubber chicken, an entire anvil, what looked like a giant machine gear, a toothbrush, and…

Here we are!” he grinned, a pleased expression lighting up his ink covered face before he swept into a low bow towards Penny. And from his hat he pulled a bouquet of bright flowers, offering them to the little girl in front of him with a well practiced flourish. “From me t’you!

Penny giggled and reached out, stepping closer and letting her fingers brush against his odd inky ones without a care in the world as she took the flowers he offered. She brought them closer to herself when he let them go, smiling down at the yellow blooms. When she buried her face in them and breathed, she laughed again. “They smell like lemons!”

You slay me, Bun! Flowa’s don’t smell like lemons!” Bendy chided playfully, and put his hands on his hips.

“These ones do!” she insisted, and held them out for him. “Smell ‘em yourself!”

Now, Bunny, I dunno if ya noticed or not, but I don’t gotta nose,” Bendy grinned down at her, and tapped the front of his face.

Penny blinked, and then a flush crawled up across her cheeks. “Oh! Sorry, I didn’t mean--”

But that don’t mean I can’t smell nothin’! I’m a Demon of many hidden talents, y’see!” he grinned and tipped forward, and gave the yellow flowers a nuzzle. “Well hot dog, they do smell like lemons!

“I told you!” Penny giggled, and when he straightened up to his full height, she wasn’t afraid of him in the least.

“...I’m sorry I got scared,” she said after a moment, and held her flowers and her little plush to her chest. “Even though I promised I wouldn’t.”

Bendy chuckled, and crouched down, resting his gangly arms on his gangly knees. “Aw, Bun. Don’t feel bad! Didja know that youre the foyst poyson t’not run away screamin’?

Penny frowned at that, hugging her gifts. “...That’s rude.”

Bendy snorted and shrugged. “In their defense, I mighta been chasin’ ‘em,” he admitted.

Penny huffed. “That’s also rude!”

Bendy laughed again even louder, throwing his horned head back as he did so, and Penny couldn’t help the giggle that left her as well, like his laugh was contagious.

There was a...sound, suddenly. It bubbled up from behind her with a breathy, desperate groan.

It made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end, and when she turned her head every so slightly to peek over her shoulder, she saw the shape of half of a melting, goopy person rise up out of the ink with another moan.

The ink man reached his hands out for her, swiping through the air to snatch her up--

A pair of gangly arms suddenly looped around her and yanked her away from the melting man, and Penny blinked when Bendy stood to his full height again, holding her tight to his odd, bumpy chest.

Bendy let out a low, terrible snarl that had Penny wincing and burying her face into her soft plush and the flowers, body tensing as she felt Bendy hold her even closer. She closed her eyes tightly and felt the Dancing Demon move back, turning on his heel as he began to move away from the melting man.

There were more groans and moans rising up from around them, but she didn’t dare open her eyes to see. She didn’t want to see.

“Bendy?” she called, voice high and cracking.

Don’t worry ‘bout a t’ing, Pens!” he said, using some form of her real name for the first time. “Usually they listen when I tell ‘em to shove off, but maybe they t’ink you’re just as cute as I do!

“I’m not cute!” Penny huffed, and despite the fear in her, the fact that Bendy laughed put her at ease. Like maybe it wasn’t a big deal or as scary as she thought after all.

Cute as a button! Cute as a Bunny!” he laughed, but there was an odd edge to his voice. Like he was very, very angry, but doing his best to hide the fact.

He was silent for a few moments as he moved, and Penny kept her face buried in her plush toy.

All the while, she kept hearing that terrible groaning, the sound surrounding them. And she didn’t know what was worse; the sound of all the melting men, or the angry, disgusted growl that rose up from Bendy’s chest in response.

Y’gotta do me a solid an’ close your eyes for me, okay? An’ hold your breath!” he said suddenly, and Penny nodded.

“Th-they’re closed!”

Not a second later, there was an odd...pushing sensation. Across her entire body, it felt like she was moving through a weird, goopy wall made out of jello. She held her breath before the sensation reached her head, body tensing and focused on the feeling of Bendy’s arms, and the feel of the flowers and toy still held tightly to her chest.

It wasn’t a good feeling, and she immediately decided that she didn’t like it at all.

Panic began to flare in her yet again, feeling that weird, gooey pressure pushing at her from all sides. Without meaning to, she sucked in a desperate breath, and immediately began to choke. Her mouth and throat filled with something thicker than water, viscous like half set jello, and she began to struggle in ernest.

She coughed and kicked and writhed, reaching up and gripping at her throat, eyes still shut tight.

And as suddenly as the goopy sensation came, it stopped, easing off of her. She felt cool, open air against her skin, but continued to choke and heave, tears streaming down her face.

Shit-- Penny, I gotcha,” came Bendy’s voice, but he sounded far, far away. She felt him set her down, felt his hands carefully pry her own away from her neck. “I gotcha, Pens, hold on.

She felt whatever liquid she’d sucked into her lungs ease out of her with a gentle, quick pull, and she rolled onto her side, coughing violently and sucking in deep, gasping breaths of air. Had she been drowning? It felt like it. When she cracked open her eyes, her blurred vision let her know that, yes, she was hacking up ink. And she spit it out of her mouth weakly, muscles trembling.

Her mind began to fade out, and it felt like all she could hear was static, growing louder with each passing second as she struggled to catch her breath.

And all the while she felt a careful, gentle, concerned hand on her arm, the big white glove holding onto her as if she were made of glass.

Bun? Penny? Pens? Are you okay? Y’can breathe, yeah? Wait--” his voice cracked a little as she felt herself drift further off. “Don’t close your eyes, y’gotta tell me you’re okay foyst, you gotta--

Penny felt her entire body go limp as an overcooked noodle, and her mind went as black as the ink she’d almost drowned in.

Chapter Text

Bendy hadn’t known what to do when he’d first seen her.

This tiny little dot of a girl, wandering through the Studio, lost and alone.

Henry had already fallen, the bastard crawling his way through the music department somewhere below, and Bendy had been prepping to follow, to chase down the one who’d abandoned them all to this place to suffer alone, but…

He’d seen her through his cutout first. The eyes of his image focusing on her clear as day. She was a kid--she couldn’t be over ten years old! What was she doing in a place like this? If he hadn’t already known that there was no way to get through that Exit door, he’d have plucked her up and tossed her right back outside.

Unlike the grown souls that skulked through this place, the little girl deserved, and would receive, none of his ire or hatred.

Bendy had looked down at his gloved hand, quiet. He was a toon, after all. Or, he was supposed to be a toon. And toons were created to make children happy. To make them laugh. To make them feel safe.

It was what he was born to do. Kids like her are who he was born for. Not to try to survive day by day in this rotting, ink soaked hell. Fighting and maiming to keep his place as top dog. Dealing with the looping experience of his own death over and over and--

He followed after her, feeling just as lost as she had, watching her make her way into the art room. It delighted him to see her reaction when he changed his pose on the paper for her, and for the first time in...in decades, he felt himself truly smile, listening to her laugh.

Bendy the Dancing Demon decided right then and there that he’d do whatever it took to keep this kid safe. He wouldn’t abandon her like he himself had been abandoned.

His throat had been sore, and his voice was raspy when he spoke for the first time in...he didn’t know how long. But she was patient, and kind, and he pushed through it.

It hurt a lot more than he was even aware he could feel anymore when she’d frozen up at the sight of him. He’d built this form up out of his desire to be frightening--to be strong and violent and willing to do whatever he needed to survive. But seeing her, the little lost Bunny, squeeze the toy he’d offered her and only stare made his non existent heart stutter.

But then he got her to laugh again!

He got her to smile, and giggle, and she hadn’t even flinched when she took the flowers from his hand, thanks to his clever little magic trick. He’d almost wanted to burst into a song and dance number for her right then and there! He still had it!

When the Searchers had come, he hadn’t expected them to lash out at her like they had with Henry. Couldn’t they see what he did? That she was a young, innocent Soul, trapped in a place she didn’t belong? Just like them? Just like them, but...better? She needed their protection, not their anger! But then again, there really was nothing toon about the Searchers, was there? They were just an awful amalgamation of ink and torment. Souls that couldn’t recognize anything but the fact that they were suffering.

Or maybe they were just blind.

He’d pulled her into his arms, careful and gentle and everything he wasn’t used to being. He’d raced through the Studio as quickly as he could, his limp slowing him down considerably, but at least he was quicker than the Searchers could ever hope to be, even as more of them popped up from the ink saturating the floor and walls as if they could sense the little girl’s presence.

They weren’t going to give up though, he’d quickly realized, and settled then and there on ‘flipping’ to a different room.

It was what he liked to call it when he stepped through the walls, opening up his ink portals to different parts of the massive, sprawling Studio. That was a big ol’ mouthful, so he’d always referred to it as simply flipping, like turning a page to get to the next scene in a story.

Bendy hadn’t expected her to panic like she had when he stepped through the black abyss, holding her tightly to his chest as he set the portal to spit them out somewhere specific. He felt her thrash and seize, and real panic of his own had clamped over his soulless husk of a body when he realized she was choking. Drowning on the ink he’d just pressed her through.

With a pull of one hand, the ink followed his command and left her lungs and throat, but he hadn’t a single clue on what he was supposed to do next. She was breathing? Yes. She wasn’t dead? Right. She was...okay?

He fretted and begged as she passed out on the floor, reaching up to grip at his horns in a nervous, frightened panic. “Awright, t’ink, Bendy, t’ink! Use your noggin!” he scolded himself.

Eventually he settled, especially when her tense expression relaxed and little Penny looked almost peaceful as she rested.

Bendy finally let his stiff shoulders droop a little, and hesitantly reached out for her again.

The Demon stood, cradling her in his arms as he glanced around the space he’d brought them to. It was an old office, crammed full of his own memorabilia and merchandise. Dozens of plush toys, several cutouts, animation cels framed on the walls, stacks of rough doodles on the desk shoved in the corner.

The door was boarded up from both sides. Nothing got in, and nothing was getting out--at least, not without his own personal help. And even the Searchers knew not to tread here.

Bendy moved over to the giant pile of plush toys, pausing for just a moment before he set the little girl down on them, having nothing else to offer her that would come anywhere close to comfortable for her to rest on.

Ah...blanket, blanket, kid could use a blanket…” he grumbled as he tilted his ink covered gaze back and forth, using the eyes of his cutouts to scan the room more than the nearly useless eyes in his head. When he didn’t find anything he could use to help keep her warm, he grumbled and stood, already heading towards another wall to flip to somewhere he knew he could find what she needed.

He pressed through and stepped into a new room, limping as he staggered for a moment to catch his bearings. Bendy hadn’t been in this particular space for a while, and it took him a moment for him to find what he was looking for.

There was a coat rack at the corner of this new room, and he reached out to grab a thick parka with a fluffy hood, a pleased rumble leaving his chest as he brushed a gloved thumb over the fluff. Bendy took one more glance around the space before he swiped a can of bacon soup from the old desk and flipped back to his little sanctuary.

Penny hadn’t moved, and he let out a little breath he didn’t honestly need. He crossed the room slowly, his staggered steps careful, and set the can of soup down on the desk before he draped the old, newly ink stained coat over her. His permanent grin softened when she immediately curled up a little more, nuzzling into the fluff of the hood.

There ya go, kiddo. Rest up,” he mumbled, and stepped back.

Bendy sat down beside the desk, leaning back against it heavily, his black gaze drifting to the boarded up door.

When he focused, he could see Henry. His cutouts and images dotting the music department and beyond watched his every move. The slimy, conniving bastard made his way through the studio, solving that nut Sammy’s puzzles as he went.

Ha. ‘Prophet’. If he was what he said he was, he’d know that Henry was his to catch and kill and do whatever he deemed justice. But no matter how many times this hell reset, Sammy never seemed to remember his slight, and Bendy always took out his anger real damn harshly against the old musician.

Nothing ever changed. And nothing could change, even if he tried. Like the lot of them were forced on a singular track, unable to move even to the next lane over. And so he knew he’d soon feel his temper snap, just like he’d puncture one hand straight through Sammy’s ink body, snapping through the congealed ink of his insides like brittle, dry wood.

Penny made a noise in her sleep, and his thoughts suddenly jumped off the violent track they’d been on, and he winced as his head began to ache. A thought suddenly came to him that...maybe with the kid here, things didn’t have to be like that anymore. Just as it was true that things never changed in regards to Sammy Lawrence, nothing changed in regards to anything else either.

No matter how hard he tried, Henry would, eventually, always kill him. The ‘story’ would end, and he’d melt away into a painful oblivion, only for everything to restart.

He didn’t want to die. It hurt. Everything hurt, and no matter how hard he tried to pretend that it didn’t, it scared him. Terrified him. Each and every time was just as bad as the first, and he didn’t want…

He didn’t want to do it anymore.

Bendy looked down at his misshapen hands and body, and not for the first time felt disgust curl through him. This wasn’t how he was supposed to be. This wasn’t how any of this was supposed to be. Everything was wrong, and corrupted, and rotten, and painful, and…

The Demon closed his pie-cut eyes, the ink dripping over his face quicker as his broken body began to tremble. He tensed as he felt himself begin to melt. To change.

He just had to focus. He could fix this. Maybe he could fix everything.

No matter what, he wasn’t gonna let anything happen to the kid.

No matter what, he was gonna see to it that Penny was happy.

It was what he was born to do.

And he’d cling to his new purpose with all he had.



Penny Stein woke up slowly, grumbling and mumbling and overall just not having a great time. She was sore, and hungry, and when she pushed herself up and rubbed her eyes she grew confused on top of everything else.

Where was she? Why was she sleeping on a pile of stuffed--

Bendy’s familiar, smiling face grinned up at her from dozens of soft toys she was perched on, and immediately her memories came back. Her heart began to hammer, eyes widening as she looked around. She remembered waking up in the Studio, remembered being scared and lost, remembered…

“Bendy?” she called, voice almost cracking. “Bendy, where are you? Are you here?”

“H-heya, Pens!” his familiar voice called, and she jumped as she heard it. It sounded like he was behind the other side of the desk, hidden away out of sight in the corner. “How...how ya feelin’?”

“Um...okay,” she said slowly. “My throat kinda hurts.”

“M’sorry about t’at, Bun. I didn’t know ya’d panic so bad.”

“...Your voice sounds a little different?” she said curiously, tilting her head. It didn’t sound as rough or painful anymore. There was no strange...echo to it. “Are you okay?”

“I’m… I’m great, Pens! In fact, I have a surprise for ya!”

Penny sat up a bit straighter and rested her hands in her lap. She noticed the jacket that had been draped over her, and hugged it over her shoulders, letting the giant garment practically swallow her up. “You do?” she grinned.

“Yeah! Y’ready? Well, ready or not, here I come!”

Bendy hopped out from behind the desk with a little bounce, landing on one brightly polished shoe.

He looked completely and utterly different. And a the same time he looked so familiar that Penny immediately burst out laughing in sheer delight. He looked like his old self! So much smaller, with fun, noodly arms and legs, and his smile was wide as ever. He looked just like he had in his old cartoons.

“You look like you!” she grinned. The only difference was that thick ink that still gooped over his eyes, and she wondered for a moment if that hurt.

“Yeah! I figyud, since y’know, I was pretty scary before, I might try an’ look how I used ta! How I’m supposed ta!” He twirled on his shoe, and threw his arms out to his sides, his grin widening. “D’ya like it?”

Penny laughed again and nodded vehemently. “Yeah! Yeah, I do! But--c’mere real fast for a sec!” she motioned him to move close, reaching out for the Demon.

Bendy paused but did as she asked, stepping closer. “Whassup, Pens?” he grinned, and then his voice caught and died in his throat when she reached out.

With the sleeves of the coat, she gently wiped at the congealed ink plastered over his eyes, which he closed tight at her ministrations. He clenched his fists at his sides, shoulders hunching as she cleaned off his face, so startled at the treatment that even though he didn’t need to, he couldn’t breathe.

Finally, she leaned back, but brushed one of her thumbs over his forehead to clear away one last splotch of stray ink.

“There! Can you see okay?”

Bendy blinked his eyes open. Truthfully...yes. He really could. He’d grown so used to his larger, broken self with its equally broken pair of eyes, that he hadn’t even thought…

“I, uh…” Bendy blinked a few times. “...Yeah. Yeah, I can see okay.”

Penny smiled at sat back, looking pleased as punch. “You look really cute like that!” she told him.

Bendy crossed his arms behind his back, and scuffed the tip of his shiny shoe on the floor. “Aw, shucks, Bun! Maybe now we can match! Dunno if I’ll ever hold a candle ta you though!” he grinned.

Her stomach suddenly growled, big and loud, and Bendy actually hopped back a good three feet, throwing his arms up like he was trying to defend himself.

“...What was that?!” he yelped, those big, newly clear pie-cut eyes wide.

Penny looked down at her belly and frowned. “That means I’m hungry.”

Bendy blinked. “What?! That was your guts? That’s crackers!”

“Crackers’d be nice,” Penny looked up at him, and laced her fingers together over her lap. “D’you have any?”

Bendy paused for just a moment before his grin widened again. “Oh! Yeah, hold on,” he turned and grabbed the can of bacon soup, sitting down on the floor in front of her and setting the can on the floor. “I mean, no, I don’t got any crackers, but I got the next best thing!” With a shake of one of his hands, the ink moulded beneath his glove, morphing into the shape of a can opener before he got to work cutting at the tin.

“Boy, Pens, if you made that sound all th’time, you’d scare off those Searchers without liftin’ a finger!”

“Searcher?” Penny asked absently, watching his newest trick with awe. He’d changed his whole hand! That was amazing! What else could he do?

“Y’know, the fella that…” Bendy trailed off, and he paused his work opening the can. “...The fella that...took a swipe at ya…?”

“...Oh.” Penny reached up and tugged the coat around her shoulders a little tighter, keeping her eyes on the half open can of soup. “Yeah, I remember. I, um…” she frowned in thought. Uncle Joey’s story made it seem like they were everywhere. “Are there lots of those guys?”

“I mean, yeah,” Bendy said with a shrug, and went back to opening the can. “But you don’t gotta worry about a t’ing, Bun! I’ll protect ya!”

She smiled at that and hunched her shoulders. His voice was like magic to listen to; but maybe that was because he was her favorite character in the whole wide world, come to life. But sometimes, she noticed, his voice would change a little. Like a little switch for his accent would be pressed back and forth, thickening and easing it up. It made Penny imagine someone who was trying to figure themselves out as they went, and…

If Uncle Joey’s stories were true, he’d been here alone with no one to talk to for a long time, right? Bendy never talked in any of the stories Uncle Joey told. Not even once.

She took in a slow breath and puffed out her little chest. Well, that was gonna change! From here on out, she’d… She’d…!

“I’ll protect you too!” she exclaimed suddenly.

Bendy looked up at her with a jolt, looking as startled as if she’d just smacked him across the face with a sledgehammer. He blinked several times in quick succession, before shaking his head and looking back down at the can. “...You’re a sweet kid, Bun.”

His grip tightened slightly around the can, but after the metal creaked just once, like his hold on the can threatened to crush it, he loosened up. Calmed himself a bit.

“Ya don’t gotta worry about me though, awright?”

He laughed as he popped the top of the can off, shaking his hand back to its usual shape and tossing the lid over one shoulder absently, holding the can out for her to take.

“Bendy Bacon Soup!” he practically sang, remembering the jingle the commercials used to sell the product so, so long ago. “Just th’way the lil’ devil likes it!”

She took the can eagerly, pausing to look at its contents. Whatever was inside was dark and chunky, but...when she took a sniff, at least it smelled like bacon. She tipped the can back, took a sip...and the sheer amount of salt in that one single mouthful had her coughing, sputtering after she managed to swallow the first bite.

“W-wow!” she said through a cough, and looked down at the soup again. “That’s...that sure is salty!”

“Oh, is it?” Bendy cocked his head and peered into the can as well. “Truth be told, I ain’t neva tried it before.”

“You wanna try some?” she offered, and wiggled the can at him.

Bendy laughed and shook his head, crossing his little noodle legs and resting his hands in his lap. “Nah, you’re th’one who’s hungry! I don’t get hungry like ya do!”

“Your loss!” Penny hummed, and took another drink, shuddering as the chunky soup all but bludgeoned her with her daily salt intake in one single sip. But she was hungry enough to keep going, and before long she had downed the entire can of soup. She set it down on the floor and flumped back into her little makeshift bed of plush toys once she was done.

A loud burp left her a moment later, and Bendy, who had been watching her curiously, burst out laughing.

The Demon rocked back, gripping his ankles with his gloved hands.

Penny though, smacked her hands over her mouth. “S-sorry!” she sputtered--she remembered Uncle Joey and her parents both scolding her for her lack of table manners, and…

Suddenly the fear that Bendy might think less of her flew out the window, especially as she watched him roll onto his belly and pound the creaky wooden floorboards with his fists as he continued to laugh.

“...Wanna hear a trick?” Penny grinned.

“Wh-what?” Bendy looked up, reaching up and wiping a big bubble of a tear from the corner of one eye. “What kinda trick?”

“I can burp my ABCs. Wanna hear?”

Bendy gasped and sat up straight, eyes wide. “Aw, go tell it ta Sweeney! You cannot!” he grinned. And his delight only seemed to grow when Penny sat up and pressed a hand to her chest like she was about to burst into an operatic epic.

And instead proceeded to burp the ABCs, letter by letter, one by one.

And each letter had Bendy laughing harder and harder. So hard he thought at one point he might pop. Like a big bubble made out of ink. At another point he wondered if he actually did have lungs in his ink body somewhere, because he sure as hell was having trouble finding his breath.

By the time she finally reached Z, he was curled up on his side, arms looped around his belly as he wheezed and giggled.

For the first time in thirty years, he forgot about the rest of Joey Drew Studios. Forgot about the sprawling hell choked around them.

There was just laughter, safety, and a bright spark of something he...didn’t know what to call, welling up in his empty chest. It was how it was always supposed to be, right?

Penny was out of breath when she finished, leaning back heavily against a rather large Bendy plush as she caught her breath, laughing along with the Demon as she reached up and wiped her own giggly tears from her face.

“Pa--P-Pens!” Bendy wheezed. “Yer killin’ me! Slayin’ me! I don’t t’ink I’ll eva’ recova’!”

“Sorry!” Penny laughed, but she was anything but. She felt proud of herself, and just like Bendy felt as if the rest of the world melted away, Penny wasn’t scared of anything at all in that moment either.

And then, all at once, Bendy changed.

The laughter stopped as suddenly as if someone had reached inside his throat and pulled his voicebox (or whatever he had) out of his body. His pie-cut eyes went wide and he stilled, freezing in his spot still curled on the floor.

Penny’s lingering giggles faded, and nerves began to bite at her insides again. Softly at first, little sparks of anxiety, but...she knew something was wrong. “...Bendy?”

The Demon sat up, moving as if a string tugged at the front of his chest, body jerking unnaturally. From the black ‘hairline’ at the top of his head, ink began to drip and thicken, and after only a few short seconds, his eyes were covered. It dripped over his teeth as well, a wide grimace that stretched into that iconic grin.

Sammy was calling him.

Sammy had tied Henry to the post, above the pentagram.

Henry struggled, and Sammy…

He was being summoned.

Penny scrambled back with a ragged breath when Bendy’s entire form began to rip. Like his cartoon, small self had been nothing but a suit that tore away, melting into the rest of his body as the first form of the Demon she’d seen emerged.

Tall, gangly, misshapen.

He straightened as he stood, and his head swiveled like it hung loose on his neck.

The walls began to crawl with black shadows and marks, rolling over the floor and ceiling and everything like a terrible fog while a deafening, oppressive sound like a heartbeat drummed through the room like thunder.

Penny pressed her hands over her ears, trying to push back the dread as she stared up at the monster.

He was silent as he turned from her, facing an empty wall, and a black hole spread across the wall like a door. A door that looked so dark it could swallow you whole if you just looked at it. And Bendy began to limp towards it.

His fury had rolled back into his chest, clouding everything else.

The memory, the knowledge, of exactly how it would all play out didn’t matter. At the moment, it didn’t matter at all. There was just what he wanted--

No, what he needed to do that mattered. And he needed his damned revenge. He was going to rip Sammy to pieces. He was going to crush him between his hands so hard he’d feel the ink that made up his body ooze between his fingers. And then he was going to catch Henry.

He’d catch Henry, and he’d do the same thing to the bastard. Watch his blood mix with the black ink.

The heartbeat grew louder as he began to push through the wall, his rage and hatred coming to a screaming head. He could hear Sammy’s voice, summoning him, could hear Henry growl as he struggled.

The traitor.

The liar.

The--

Something very small, and very weak, tugged at his arm.

And for whatever reason, he didn’t lash out.

The Demon stopped short, an odd sound breaking through the drum-like heartbeat that filled his head.

Something tugged at his arm again, and he felt… like a string was going taut between him and the portal. Trying to lead him--pull him--into it. And the tighter it got, the more difficult it was for him not to ignore the tug at his arm and simply step through ink. He knew exactly what waited for him if he did.

He would maim Sammy. Leave him for dead.

And then he would chase after Henry, desperate for his blood; for his life.

Henry would escape. Henry always escaped.

And it would all lead to the fight that would always, without fail, end in his death. The End of him, and The End of the story, signaling the start of the new loop, and everything would happen again, and he would die again, and again, and--

“BENDY!”

He froze, halfway submerged into the portal. The string at his chest pulled harder, but he grit his teeth, and ignored it. Pain bloomed in his being as he did, like he was fighting against something with more teeth than even he had. He heard the odd sound again, and cocked his head as he listened.

“Bendy, stop! Please don’t go in there!”

Penny was crying.

His head tilted, and through the eyes of the dozens of plushes, cutouts, and pictures of himself in the little room, he saw nearly every angle of the thick tears that poured down her pale cheeks.

The string at his chest snapped, and he turned.

The heartbeat faded, soothing away into silence, and the rolling, pulsing black ink faded from the walls and floor and ceiling. The portal closed as he stepped backwards and out of it.

“Bendy, what are you doing?” she was sobbing, gripping his spindly, ink black wrist with both of her hands, her heels digging into the wooden floorboards as she continued to try to pull him away from the wall. “What’s wrong? Are you okay? What are you doing?”

The Dancing Demon turned to face her, and not knowing what else to do, sat down.

He didn’t move when the little girl threw her arms around his dripping neck, his grin vibrating across the white of his ink covered face.

...D-don’t. ...Cry. ...Penny,” he croaked, voice rough, like something had dragged its claws across his neck before he spoke. “I’m…

He stared at the floor unblinkingly while Penny held onto him, bawling in her fear and confusion.

He didn’t know what to do.

He didn’t know what he was supposed to do.

Bendy didn’t know what came next anymore.

Penny had broken the script.

Chapter Text

Henry blinked, and automatically he knew something was...off.

Where was Bendy?

How many times had he had to sit and listen to the Ink Demon rip Sammy Lawrence to pieces on the other side of that door? How many times did he have to run for his life from the same Demon not a moment later?

Countless times. So many, that the fact that the Demon was just short of a minute late was something that stood out like a drop of ink on a pristine canvas.

He broke free of his restraints as Sammy continued to call for his ‘Lord’, begging for release and mercy and saving.

“What...the hell is going on here?” he muttered, brows bunching together as he grabbed the axe from where Sammy left it leaning against the pillar.

Bendy still wasn’t showing up.

Something was wrong. Like a scratch in a vinyl record, the needle skipping and--

Henry took in a soft gasp, and immediately began to run down the hall. There was no Bendy chasing him this time, but he didn’t slow down.

If something was different, if this loop was off kilter, then maybe--maybe he had a shot at saving Boris this time? Maybe he could--

Henry slowed to a stop once again, his grip tightening on the axe.

...He could do anything.

Once he focused on it, it felt as if a set of shackles had been lifted from him. A leash had been removed, and he was… free?

No, no, that was the wrong word. He wasn’t free. He doubted he’d ever be free again.

But something was so utterly different that he felt the ripples of change already in the air. The possibilities. The potential. He wasn’t going to be forced into keeping to the same story, over and over and over again anymore. He could feel his control over himself, as solid as iron, and now that he had that back he’d die before he gave it up.

“Don’t worry, Boris,” he growled under his breath, and lifted his axe to start to remove obstacles from his path. “I’ll save you this time, buddy.”



He wasn’t sure how long had passed before he was finally able to lift his arms. The ugly, spindly, misshapen things looped around her gently as he held the little girl as carefully as he could. He’d scared her real bad, hadn’t he? He wanted to apologize again, wanted to assure her everything was fine, but his voice had died in his throat. Nothing but a low, rough, crooning noise left his chest when he tried to speak, and so all he could do was hold her a little tighter.

Big fat tears dripped down her cheeks, and he could see every one of them from the posters on the walls. Could count them as they fell onto his shining, ink black shoulder.

And all the while she hiccupped and sobbed and let her relief and fear bubble out of her.

Bendy held and hugged and listened. On some level he almost felt like she was the one comforting him. He felt...lost. The weight of what she’d managed to do cracked through him like a bolt of lightning, and his blind eyes slipped closed tightly.

What was going to happen now…?

It felt like she’d reached into the book that was this place’s never-changing story and ripped out almost every chapter. The rest of the story was an unknown mystery now, with now pages to follow along to.

By the time his voice came back, she had worn herself out to the point where she leaned against him completely, practically hanging off his neck and shoulder. She only had the energy to sniffle and breathe, and he supported her easily.

...I’m sorry for scaring you,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry, Pens. I won’t… I… I’ll t-try not to do that again.

He was careful not to promise anything he wasn’t sure of, but… he did mean it. He wanted to try. For the little girl in his hold, he felt like he’d try to do anything. She sawed through the shackles around his throat and wrists, and so he’d give her the damn world if he could figure out how.

The Demon heard her sniffle again and felt he nod against his shoulder. And then, all at once, she was out like an old light. Her little body suddenly went lax, and a little surprised chirp left him when he felt her begin to slide a bit. But he caught her and adjusted her in his arms, all but cradling her as he looked around the little boarded up office again.

Sleep. Sleep, she needed more sleep.

He lifted her gently and brought her back to the pile of stuffed Bendys, setting her down carefully. But the Demon couldn’t bear to part with her just yet, and he found himself curling up around her tiny form, draping the oversized coat over her before he let himself drift off as well.

...When was the last time he’d actually slept…?


Penny woke up with a snort, eyes itchy and crusted over with tear-salt. She mumbled something quietly under her breath and lifted a hand, rubbing the dried salt off her eyelashes and blinking a few times to clear her vision.

The first thing she noticed was that she was surrounded by a giant lump of solid ink. The second thing she noticed was that the lump of solid ink was actually Bendy. His monstrous, gangly form was curled around her like some kind of big cat, his great, curved head resting on her lap while he slept.

The third thing she noticed was that, while he was asleep, the Demon actually said ‘Zzz’ out loud as he snoozed. Every exhale created a string of physical, actual letter Zs that popped into the air and drifted into smoke over his head.

She reached up and poked at one curiously, watching it spin gently as she leaned back against Bendy’s side again.

He was shockingly comfortable, for someone so bumpy. It might have also been because he seemed to have curled up with her on that pile of stuffed Bendys, too, though.

Penny didn’t really know how long they’d been asleep for, but she felt that maybe they both really needed it? Even though she had only just woke up earlier, she felt much more rested and… and Bendy… Bendy seemed like he’d been so exhausted. After that really scary...thing he did. With the heartbeat and the wall and the black shapes everywhere and--

The girl shook her head and breathed out a shaky sigh.

She reached out and tapped a gentle hand over the top of his head, between the curve of his two horns. Penny smiled when all he did was snort and nuzzle his permanent grin against her stomach, grumbling as the Zs continued to drift up towards the ceiling. It made her giggle--he was like a really big kitten!

That was when she noticed the goopy, tendril-like thing reaching beneath the door. The black ink shifted and formed a sloppy looking hand, the fingers of it scraping along the floor, poking around the space it could reach curiously. Like it was looking for something.

She shrieked at the sight of it, reminded of some creepy, crawly, dread inducing spider, and jerked back against Bendy’s side.

The Demon was awake in an instant, and she could only yelp when she felt one of his spindly arms curl around her while Bendy snarled, pushing himself up and glaring blindly at the room. His head whipped to the side in time to ‘see’ the arm slip back under the door through the eyes of his posters and cutouts.

With another animalistic, monstrous noise, he lurched up, leaving Penny and moving closer to the door, body arched and tensed. A low, scraping rumble left his chest, and before Penny could say anything he was already moving through the door, slipping into the space just on the other side of it after melting into a splotch of ink.

The sight of it had Penny panicking in an instant, remembering when he’d tried to disappear into a similar black splotch on the wall when he’d been… When he’d been different.

“B-Bendy?” she squeaked, but held her breath when she heard him just on the other side of the door. It sounded like he was fighting something. Wet, squelching thuds and heavy slams mixed with breathy, moaning groans she recognized. Was it another one of those melting men? Bendy had called them Searchers, right?

She pressed her hands over her mouth, not wanting to make a sound.

By the sounds of all that groaning, she had to guess there was way more than just one of them! What did they want?

“A-are you okay?” she called, inching closer to the door as she heard another slam, and she yelped and scooted back when the door shook, the boards that bolted it shut rattling.

Something goopy began to ooze under the floor again, and she moved herself back even further until she was pressed against the wall opposite the door. Another arm emerged...and then a second...and as the pool grew in size, a Searcher rose up out of the puddle.

It focused on her in an instant, and her breath froze in her chest while she held her hands over her mouth like maybe if she was quite it would look right by her.

The melting man shifted closer, crawling across the floor, and she scrambled, holding he knees to her chest. “Nononono--!”

The girl closed her eyes tightly, bracing for some kind of strike, some kind of pain--

A wet, goopy hand patted her on the head.

Penny cracked an eye open, and watched the Searcher as he gave her another pat, and then settled back, resting with his gloopy hands pressed to the floor, watching her silently.

“...Hello?” she whispered, voice cracking a little in confused fright and curiosity.

The Searcher bobbed his head slightly.

Had the weird melty men just been trying to be nice the whole time? That made her feel really bad--

Bendy’s tall form suddenly leapt from the ink splotch still on the door and crushed the Searcher beneath his large, gloved hand, a silent grimace on his face.

“B-Bendy!” Penny yelped, and suddenly the Demon was scooping her up again. “Bendy wait, I think they’re just tryin’ to be nice!”

Sure, Bun, and my name’s Pauline th’ Pacifist,” he grunted, and took another glance around the little room. “I dunno what’s gotten into these bozos, why’re they suddenly actin’ so bold?

Bendy twisted, and a different, larger inkblot stretched across the wall at his command.

“...Wait, no,” Penny stiffened. “I don’t--”

Pens, y’gotta trust me,” Bendy told her, and when he glanced back at the door there were more Searchers trying to ooze their way inside. Damn things were like swarming rats out there. “All this is, is me takin’ ya from one place t’another. Like walkin’ through a door made outta ink. Jus’ don’t breathe it in this time, ‘kay?

Penny stared at the rolling, dripping blackness of the inkblot. “But--”

On three,” he began.

“But I really think they--!”

One.

“Bendy, he was being nice--!”

Two,” he warned, and relief flooded the Demon when Penny finally closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath. “Three,” he growled, and ducked into the inky portal.

He had a lot on his plate to figure out now. Searchers were usually cowed and obedient at his very presence. The fact that they seemed to have been trying to ignore him completely, just to bypass him to get to Penny? He immediately imagined the worst, and thoughts of them trying to steal her little life away had him terrified.

Bendy needed to figure out somewhere safe to keep her. He’d thought that little room was just fine, and for a little while it had been. But she was like a damn beacon, apparently. Drew the things right to her. Maybe he needed to be a little extra rough with them again. Teach them what real fear was so they didn’t dare try to cross him again like this.

But he couldn’t bear the thought of acting that way in front of Penny. Especially not if she was in any risk of being snatched away while he was busy trying to fend them off--

A thought occurred to him as he flipped to a new destination, adjusting his path through the Studio. He glanced down as he heard Penny take in a smooth, clear breath once they were in open air, and gave her an encouraging, proud squeeze when she made it out just fine.

Sammy.

Sammy Lawrence.

One of the only other beings in the entire Studio that could keep Searchers at bay by pure intimidation alone. With the added perk of wanting to bend and twist to Bendy’s every whim if he’d had the mind to actually humor the madman.

The guy was a nut, but he was confident that if he told the weirdo not to hurt the kid, then Sammy would all but get himself killed keeping her safe.

Which was fine by him.

Okay, Pens, new plan,” he grumbled as he limped through the hall. The music department stretched out around them, and he tilted his head as he tried to track down the old musician’s whereabouts through the eyes of his cutouts. “I got this friend here I wantchya t’stick with for just a tick, okay?

When the little girl didn’t respond, he glanced down at her again. Through the eyes of a nearby poster, he saw that she had her arms crossed over her chest, looking away from him with her lower lip jutting out.

...Pens?

“You weren’t listening to me,” she grumbled.

It took a few moments for her words to register, and the Demon groaned. If his eyes had been visible, she’d have seen him roll them. “Bunny, those things ain’t nice! Trust me, they ain’t ever been nice t’anyone in the whole Studio!

“You weren’t there!” she huffed. “The one you squished gave me a pat on the head!”

Then he was probably just tenderizin’ ya! Buns, trust me on this!” he paused for a moment to double check a hall when he thought he’d spotted movement, but grumbled as it offered up nothing and he continued to limp. “I been down here a long time! I know a thing or two ‘bout what they’re like.

Penny grumbled in his arms. “I can walk, y’know,” she said.

Yep, I know,” he grumbled back, but didn’t put her down.

One of his cutouts caught sight of just the man he was looking for, his steps sluggish and heavy, dragging himself along pitifully. Without hesitation, he began to limp in the right direction, taking the long way rather than asking Penny to hold her breath again. She was upset with him and he didn’t want to press those buttons any more than he’d apparently already had.

Sammy!” he barked after turning a corner, just as Lawrence had slinked out of sight.

Bendy had to admit, watching the man scramble and backtrack so fast he fell nearly flat on his back would have been amusing as all hell if he wasn’t already in a sour mood.

“M-my Lord!” Sammy Lawrence babbled. “I-- I called for you! I summoned you with an offering of--”

Yeah yeah, I was busy!” Bendy huffed. “And you’re lucky I was,” he tacked on almost under his breath.

Sammy was stumbling closer, which let Bendy stop his limping and simply glare as the fallen one reached him. “There hasn’t been a moment I’ve been unfaithful to you, My Lord, and that won’t stop now! I did not mean to doubt, I only--”

Yer gettin’ on my nerves, Sammy,” Bendy grunted.

“Be nice,” Penny admonished with a pointed prod to his bumpy chest.

Bendy heaved a sigh while Sammy seemed to take notice of the little girl for the first time, finally stumbling to a stop.

“...Is...that a child, My Lord?”

What else would she be? A plucked chicken?

“Bendy!” Penny scolded, but giggled and gave him another poke.

Yeah, it’s a kid! An’ I need you t’watch her!” Bendy huffed, and finally, albeit with some hesitance on his part, gently set her down on her feet. He tried not to burst out into a cheerful, proud whistle when she grabbed onto one of his hands almost automatically, like she felt safest with him.

“W-watch her? My Lord?” Sammy stammered. “I--”

I need to teach a few mooks a lesson or two about whose terf this is,” Bendy grumbled, and let his gaze continually flick between cutouts and posters, keeping an eye on their surroundings constantly, his head tilting to the side slightly, almost peering back over his shoulder. “An’ you’re the only other fella in this place that can keep the Searchers away from her ‘til I get back. Capiche?

Sammy, despite having no facial features to speak of, even beneath the Bendy mask strapped to his face, had begun to look increasingly uncomfortable.

“...I don’t think that’s the best idea--” he had begun to stay, but immediately took a step back and threw up his hands in surrender when Bendy’s wicked grimace of a grin snapped in his direction. “N-not that I don’t appreciate your faith in me, My Lord! I-- I just-- I don’t-- know how to take care of children,” he admitted shakily.

She’s a kid, not a baby,” Bendy huffed. “Just keep her safe.” He took a small step closer to the old musician, and noted with no small amount of satisfaction that Sammy was practically trembling the closer Bendy got. “An’ if I come back and she’s got even the tiniest lil’ scratch on her…?

Penny squeezed his hand, and whatever vividly detailed threat he’d been about to say out loud caught in his inky throat. So his grin only widened and he tipped back. “Let’s just say it won’t be fun for ya, eh, Sammy ol’ pal?

“Of course, My Lord,” Sammy nodded. “I will of course heed your wishes and protect this sheep with--”

Bendy leaned forward with a quick, inhuman, unnatural tilt to his body, his face stopping mere inches from Sammy’s, the musician’s voice halting cold.

She ain’t a sheep. Y’call her a sheep again, I’ll treat ya like y’treat them,” Bendy said, voice soft. “Tied to a pole and left t--

“Bendy, you keep scaring him!” Penny gave the hand she was still holding a stronger tug, and even if it was barely enough to tilt his shoulder back, he still drew away with a rumbly growl. “If you’re gonna ask him a favor, the least you could do is say please and thank you!”

Despite his fear, Sammy Lawrence still clenched his fists at his sides in quiet outrage. “You should not speak to Our Lord like that!”

I ain’t her damn Lord!” Bendy snapped, and his patience, already thin, was about ready to snap. Maybe he could just kill Sammy and carry Penny around with him while he made his rounds with the Searchers. He pushed the idea aside after a few moments of honest consideration and grumbled, resting his gloved hand over the top of Penny’s head. “She gets a free pass seein’ as how she ain’t a nut like you! Now you’re gonna keep her safe, an’ keep the Searchers away from her, and I’ll leave ya in one piece when I come back,” he snarled.

Penny cleared her throat loudly.

...Please and thank you.

Penny huffed and crossed her arms, glaring down at the floor. Obviously displeased with this turn of events, but also with her friend’s attitude.

Sammy couldn’t do much else but nod. And even if he could, refusal didn’t seem to be in his best interests.

“I...of course, My Lord,” Sammy nodded. “I swear to you, I will keep this...this child safe.”

Uh huh, you’d better,” Bendy grumbled, and took his hand away from Penny. “I’ll be back real quick, okay Pens? Don’t go gettin’ into any trouble!” he grinned, and his tone shifted completely as he spoke to her, like he was pretending Sammy wasn’t even in the same universe, let alone room.

“‘Kay,” Penny said a little flatly, her arms still crossed.

Aw, don’t be mad at me, Bunny! I’ll make it up to ya when I come back! ...Hey! How wouldja like some dance lessons from the Dancin’ Demon himself?” he grinned, and his grin widened when that seemed to perk up her interests. “Y’like that idea?

“...Yeah, okay,” Penny grinned, and her tense, unhappy shoulders uncoiled a bit, nodding up at him.

Good! See ya soon, Bun!” he said cheerfully, and then turned, but not before shooting one last warning of a snarling grimace towards Sammy Lawrence. He knew if the man had been capable of sweating, he’d have been sweating bullets.

With that, Bendy disappeared, flipping to a different part of the studio as he stepped into a black splotch that bloomed on a nearby wall.

He left the two, Sammy and Penny, standing beneath a heavy blanket of awkward silence.

Sammy was the first to break it, muttering something unintelligible under his breath before looking down at once of his hands, opening and closing his inky black fist a few times.

Penny had no idea what he said, but it was enough to at least nudge her into introducing herself.

The girl cleared her throat and held out her hand, drawing his attention, that Bendy mask twisting to face her as he peered down at her with some kind of expression she couldn’t even begin to guess at.

“Hi!” she began. “I’m Penny!”

Sammy’s head tilted from looking at her face to looking down at her hand.

Very slowly he reached out, and gave her hand a single shake.

“...Call me Sammy,” he offered, his voice a little rough. “...I don’t know what you did to gain the Lord’s favor, but you are a lucky soul indeed,” he said.

Penny shrugged her shoulders and took her hand back, smoothing out her ink stained dress. “I dunno what I might’ve done either, I just woke up and he’s been looking out for me.”

Sammy Lawrence grunted.

“...Yes,” he said after a long moment. “Very lucky indeed.”