((This fic is a cross-post from AO3. If you want to see illustrations for this fic, read it on there. I also have an ask blog based on this AU. look up Ask-bendy-the-little-demon on tumblr and you'll find it.))
Henry knew something was wrong the moment he opened that letter. The paper looked old and yellow, as if it had been torn from an ancient book. When he flipped it over, his suspicions were confirmed. Only a few lines of text were on the back, seeming to be the final page of whatever book it was ripped from, but Henry couldn't read them under the smears of pitch black. The page was splattered with splotches of ink, but the writing on the front was as clear as day, if a bit shaky.
It seems like a lifetime since we worked on a cartoon together. 30 years really slips away, doesn't it?
You're back in town, come visit the old workshop. There's something I need to show you.
Your best pal, Joey Drew
Henry stared at the paper in his hands for what felt like hours, his thoughts swirling in his head. Back in town? He wasn't anywhere near that studio. He'd moved hundreds of miles away not long after it was closed down.
And the handwriting, it looked similar to Joey's, but it was off, as if whoever wrote it was struggling to not only copy the style perfectly, but also hold the pen steady.
And the ink...
Henry let the paper fall from his suddenly numb fingers. He stared unblinkingly down at his empty hands with wide eyes. It felt like time had frozen, but as he watched his hands begin to shake, Henry knew that wasn't the case.
"Oh, god..." He whispered.
He remembered well what went down weeks before Joey announced the closing of the workshop. While waiting in the head animator's office for the man to return to their meeting after being called away, Henry caught sight of a paper on the floor under Joey's desk. When he picked it up, Henry was met with diagrams of Boris' anatomy, with notes and observations in the margins. But what was written on the bottom of the page was what really got to Henry.
"Can't get enough data from outside observations. more invasive actions will be needed."
Henry of course knew about the two living, breathing cartoon characters that lived in the studio. He was one of the few people who worked there that knew about them. They seemed to like him, so Joey allowed Henry to interact with the toons. He liked to think that they were good friends, so the thought that Joey might hurt them made his blood boil.
When Joey came back to the office, Henry confronted him. Joey said that he was just studying his creations just in case something went wrong. He assured his employee that the note at the bottom was just an afterthought, and he didn't plan to go through with it. Henry wasn't convinced, nor was he surprised. Being the youngest animator in the studio, he often got brushed aside.
Then, only two weeks after the incident, Joey fired all of his employees and closed the workshop doors. After that, there was no contacting Joey, no matter how hard Henry tried. He was worried about Bendy and Boris, but after a few years he decided that Joey wouldn't hurt his beloved creations. They were practically his children.
Or so Henry thought.
But this letter... it changed everything. Because it wasn't written by Joey Drew. It was written by Bendy.
"Oh, Joey... please tell me you didn't..."
Henry was out the door with his car keys not a moment later.
The drive to the old workshop was a long one, and Henry narrowly avoided being pulled over by the police several times, but the image of his dear friends, those lovable toons, being tortured by their own creator's hands drove Henry to his limit.
When he finally arrived in the familiar town where the workshop was located, Henry almost broke several laws to cross the final stretch. He drove through the trees on the outskirts of town, and parked his car in the brush a ways away from the old building where it wouldn't be seen. Henry crept through the bushes toward the workshop, and froze at the sound of a car starting up.
The rumbling of an old pickup truck roared past his hiding spot, heading away from the studio, and into town. Henry heaved the breath he had been holding in relief. That must've been Joey leaving. Perfect timing.
Standing up from his crouched position, Henry ran the rest of the way to the building. As he stared up at the familiar structure, he felt a pang of sorrow to see what it had become. Windows were shattered and boarded shut, graffiti marred the walls, and the roof seemed to be in the beginning stages of caving in. This used to be Henry's home. It used to be a safe haven where he could do what he loved. Animate.
But now it was a prison. A prison that held two of Henry's closest friends. Bendy and Boris. He hoped to god that they were okay. Though the sinking feeling in his stomach told him otherwise.
The front door creaked eerily as it opened, letting sunlight bathe the entrance hall. Dust floated in the rays, but the light didn't seem to pierce the darkness that lay within. With a deep breath, Henry stepped into the dilapidated structure.