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[personal profile] acubens
Originally posted in [livejournal.com profile] litsares's journal. And written for her, in fact.



James Bryan, age 22, is jobless.

It's not that bad of a thing, he reflects, as he walks down the street, past glossy dislay windows and cafes with cute umbrellas. It's just that... well, now he'll be awfully bored, won't he?

He can always paint, sure, fold paper, stare at a clear night sky. But there's something about staying confined to one building that makes life a little less real. It's all interesting stuff, stars, paint, and it's not like he's going to get bored of it. But being so isolated, with no job to draw him away from home... he's not sure he wants that.

In the quiet part of town, a doorbell buzzes. Bryan pulls his finger back and waits. There's a crashing sound from within the house, a shout of "Hang on, be right there!", and then the door opens to reveal a man probably in his late 30s or early 40s, but with wrinkles like someone's grandfather. A little girl comes up behind him, wrapping her arms around one of his legs and peering curiously outside.

"Good morning," Bryan says pleasantly. "I'm, ah, James Bryan. I'm here to look at the house?"

"Nice to meet you! I'm Frank, this is my daughter Julia. Say hi, Julia!"

"Hi," says Julia.

"Hi there," Bryan returns.

"Please come in!" Frank continues, pulling back from the door, Julia still attached to his leg. "As you can see, this is my house. It's in a great neighborhood, really quiet. It has an open foyer, which is nice. Closet, bathroom, stairs..."

Bryan follows his host around the first floor, then up to the second, trailing a few steps behind and feeling like an intruder. He tries not to breathe too much, lest he contaminate the air.

"The second floor isn't all that big. There's a bathroom here and two bedrooms..."

"Mr. Bryan?" Julia, who's been following quietly the entire time, suddenly asks. "Are you going to buy this house?"

Bryan raises an eyebrow. Children make him extremely nervous. People are always telling him he treats them too much like adults, they're only kids, they don't understand...

"I might," he says, cautiously.

"If you do, will you take care of Hunter for me?"

Bryan exchanges looks with Frank, who's making frantic don't-listen-to-her signals with his open palms and petrified fingers.

"Hunter?" Bryan repeats, bending his knees into the classic position for talking to young children, or for breaking your ankles. "Is that your...?"

"He's my dog," Julia says. "He's big. And he's got black fur. With ears like this." Julia demonstrates with her fingers. "And his tail wags when he's happy. He's really friendly when you get to know him. He likes to lick people with his tongue."

"You're leaving him behind?" Bryan asks.

"He can't come with us." Julia shakes her head. "He lives in the walls."

Bryan shoots the nearest wall an alarmed look, as if a huge slavering beast might suddenly jump out of it.

"There's no dog," Frank says, laughing nervously. "Kids and their imaginary friends, you know how it is..."

The eyebrows rise even higher.

"You have to take care of Hunter," Julia insists. "If you don't talk to him, he gets lonely. And you have to feed him."

"And what do you feed him?"

"Flowers. But he doesn't like the stems."

"I'll be sure to remember that," Bryan says, seriously. "If I wind up buying the house, Julia, I'll be sure to take care of your dog. Okay?"

And Bryan does.

A week later, the same doorbell rings. This time it is Bryan on the inside of the door, and someone from T.H.E.Y. on the outside.

"Good news," she says, "We're hiring you again."

Bryan has a square of black paper, and underneath his hands ears are appearing, and a snout. He doesn't appear to have heard.

"Bryan? We're... hiring you again," she repeats. "You're leaving within the week. We can take care of re-selling the house for you."

"Really?" Bryan asks, pinching a corner into a friendly, lolling tongue. "But what about my dog?"

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June 2012

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