A Yurble stole my cinnamon roll! Circulation: 197,747,911 Issue: 1001 | 9th day of Awakening, Y26
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The L-Word


by quanticdreams

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Kanrik rounded the corner to see Hanso frantically doing the trick of stomping on the trash in a garbage can so you can fit more stuff in it. This was unusual because it was three in the morning and they were in an alleyway.

     “Oi. Lockpick.”

     Hanso jerked slightly. It was an improvement over the last time Kanrik had startled him, when he’d jumped a foot straight up in the air. “Huh? Yeah?”

     “Do I want to know what you’re doing here?”

     He scoffed. “Take a guess.”

     Kanrik pinched the bridge of his nose.

     The Thieves’ Guild was a massive operation, and he couldn’t be everywhere at once. Delegation was a necessary gamble. The Brightvale branch in particular used to be headed up by an old Hissi who called himself Grandfather. He’d had a particular interest in training thieves from childhood.

     Kanrik, despite himself having been recruited as a boy, was not convinced of the efficacy of this. Sure, it had worked out for him, but he was lucky enough to develop a level head. There was no way to predict how a child’s personality would turn out.

     Hanso was the nightmare scenario.

     Fyora help them all, they’d given an impulsive, chatty, lovesick teenage boy an education in how to steal anything that wasn’t nailed down and several things that were. For a minute during the whole Faerieland debacle, Kanrik had wondered if this was his cosmic punishment for allowing Hanso to exist.

     But against all odds, the world pulled through. Kanrik re-admitted Hanso to the Guild immediately. The last time they took their eyes off of this kid, he instigated-slash-stopped the apocalypse. They were not going to do that again.

     Hanso finally caved under his stare.

     “Ugh, fine, I live here,” he muttered, once again trying to jam the contents of the trash can further down. Off Kanrik’s concerned expression, he added quickly, “In that apartment building, I mean, not the alleyway.”

     Kanrik’s eyebrows lowered slightly, but not all the way. “Weren’t you bragging to the smugglers that Fyora gave you and your little guard friend a room in her castle?”

     “Heh, I wish. I was using a secret thief technique called ‘lying.’ Brynn and I are government employees. We get comped for travel, but other than that, the pay’s just kind of fine.”

     “Not the illustrious reward you were hoping for?”

     “I’m just happy I can afford to eat every day. What’re you doing here?”

     “You are not entitled to my business.”

     “You were gonna rob that apartment building, weren’t you?”

     “...Yes.”

     “Oh-ho, the king of thieves doing fieldwork? Color me—”

     The bottom of the trash can gave way and a flurry of pink stationery popped out.

     “Shoot!”

     “‘Shoot’ isn’t a paint brush color.”

     “Shut up,” Hanso muttered, and Kanrik would’ve gotten on him for telling his superior to shut up, but he was too distracted by what he was trying to shovel back into the trash can.

     “Pink envelopes?” said Kanrik, bemused. “Flowers? Candy?”

     Hanso turned red, his ears flattening, and continued trying to make use of the husk of the trash can. “Shut up, old man.”

     “You’ve discovered the curse of being found attractive by the public.” Apparently Kanrik also got fanmail, or at least, people tried to send him fanmail. The king of thieves didn’t exactly have a PO box. “I would think you’d be more enthusiastic about it. You can dish it out, but you can’t take it, then?”

     “No,” Hanso said miserably. “I just — it’s Valentine’s Day, and Brynn already gets so upset when people send me this stuff…”

     His tone of voice raised Kanrik’s hackles a bit. “She’s not hurting you, is she?”

     “What? No! It’s not like that, she just gets, like, closed off? She refuses to talk about it, which sucks because she’s kind of the only person I can talk to about this without feeling whiny. I mean, people love me! It’s great! I definitely don’t feel like a piece of meat, or unsettled by how many people know my home address!”

     Hanso kicked the trash can into the wall, sending pink envelopes flying.

     “You’re not going to get much mileage out of that. Here.” Kanrik produced a burlap sack.

     Hanso started gathering the debris — carefully. A bottle of expensive punch had shattered on impact. “Oh, you weren’t kidding about robbing the place, huh?”

     “Not in the slightest. Hannah’s shuttle back from Kreludor was delayed; I have to occupy myself…” Kanrik paused, an… article of feminine clothing in his hand. “...Somehow.”

     “You see? You see what I have to deal with? You tell me how I’m supposed to explain that to Brynn.”

     Kanrik grimaced and tossed it into the sack. “If she really cares about you, she’ll understand that you didn’t ask for this.”

     Hanso made a strained noise. He, like most teenage boys, tended to panic when asked to have a serious conversation about his feelings.

     “Is there a Snorkle farm around here?” Kanrik said.

     “An hour out,” said Hanso. A good criminal could always produce that information off the top of their head. If you needed something to disappear forever, a hungry Snorkle was your best bet.

     “Walk with me. Let’s make sure your friend never sees this.”

     City roads snaked between pale pink towers. Faerieland had a particular issue with flooding now that it was in a crater, necessitating the hasty construction of dams and floodgates. One such floodgate had a vulnerability in it that let them sneak in and out of the city walls with little issue.

     It was still dark. They were walking off the beaten path, their steps stirring flickering Lightmites from the grass.

     Kanrik figured that if he stayed quiet for long enough, the boy would voice his concerns unprompted. He was right.

     “So,” Hanso said. “Uh. How’d you tell Hannah… that you wanted to break out the L-word?”

     “Larceny?”

     “The other L-word.”

     “Larcenies?”

     “...Are you making a joke? Is the king of thieves making a joke at me right now?”

     “Yes. Don’t try to tell anyone about it; they’ll never believe you. Anyway,” Kanrik continued as Hanso gaped at him, “I did it with great difficulty. It isn’t easy to express affection towards someone you met once and then immediately dropped off a cliff. I’m lucky she had an open mind. You might have an easier time with Brynneth.”

     “That’s not what I asked.”

     “Is it?”

     Hanso’s ears lowered, because yes, it was what he asked.

     The first time Kanrik had visited Brightvale as the head of the Guild, Hanso was already extremely obnoxious. Kanrik was alarmed to find out that their heist on the royal vault largely hinged on a thirteen-year-old lockpick who kept prattling about a guard he thought was cute.

     By the end of the heist, Kanrik had learned that Hanso was completely terrifying — not just because of the speed with which he’d cracked the vault open, but because as this heist was in progress, a completely different robbery that the Guild hadn’t arranged for took place on the other side of town, conveniently drawing that cute guard away and preventing her from being fired for failing to stop the vault heist.

     Kanrik was glad that Brynn had no reason to want his head on a silver platter, because if she did, Hanso would certainly find a way to get it.

     They arrived at the Snorkle farm. Hanso upended the sack over the fence, a shower of pink into the mud.

     “It’s different for you,” Hanso muttered. “You’re actually, like, cool and stuff.”

     A few bulbous Snorkles waddled over to investigate. “People do love you,” Kanrik said, indicating the valentines as the snorkles snufflingly began to chew them.

     “Yeah, but nobody likes me. And you, you’re the guild head, you’re worth something. I’m just the dumb kid that gets on everybody’s nerves — including Brynn. Especially Brynn.”

     “She moved in with you.”

     “That could mean anything! The economy’s in shambles, Kanrik!”

     Kanrik sighed. He didn’t know what he’d be doing on Valentine’s Day, but it wasn’t trying to bolster a teenage boy’s fragile sense of self-worth. Still, a thief was nothing if not adaptable.

     “Lockpick, have you ever heard of a ‘manic pixie dream girl?’”

     “No.”

     “In a novel with a soulful, brooding protagonist, the manic pixie dream girl appears. She expands the protagonist’s horizons and gives new meaning to his life, pushing him to pursue happiness.”

     Hanso narrowed his eyes. “You’re saying Hannah’s a manic pixie dream girl?”

     “You are a manic pixie dream girl.”

     Kanrik gave it a moment to sink in.

     “Brynneth is a straight-laced soldier. You’re an energetic and wacky young person who’s taken an interest in her and forced her to reconsider her perspective and pursue greater adventure than she was previously content with. You care about her happiness, and if she deserves your attention, she’ll care about yours. You are her manic pixie dream girl, and she’s not going to leave you because you got a few pink letters in the mail. And if she does leave you, she isn’t right for you.”

     Hanso’s eyes were wide. “I… am a manic pixie dream girl.”

     “Yes.”

     “This is the best day of my life.”

     “That is concerning if true.”

     Getting back into the city was harder than sneaking out due to the sun starting to creep across the sky. In the end, they got seen, but Kanrik paid the guy off and they made it back to Hanso’s apartment block without further incident.

     “Uh, thanks for the pep talk, old man,” Hanso said, fiddling with the key to his mailbox. “You really didn’t have to do that.”

     “Again, I am simply biding my time until Hannah gets here. All I ask in return is that you stop calling me ‘old man.’”

     “Yes, ma’am, young lady.”

     Kanrik opened his mouth to snap at him, but was promptly cut off by the door to the mailbox popping open and an avalanche of pink stationery exploding out.

     “No!” cried Hanso, his head popping out of the pile like a daisy. “NOOO!”

     “‘No,’ what?” came a bleary voice.

     They turned to see Brynn emerging from the stairwell, holding a cup of coffee and apparently looking for her partner. Hanso frantically tried to scoop the offending fanmail back into the mailbox.

     “What are you doing? Is that Kanrik?”

     “Good morning, captain — I’d like to issue a friendly reminder that you cannot arrest me unless you can prove that I’ve committed a crime,” said Kanrik.

     Brynn grunted. “You don’t have to say that every time we see each other. Hanso, you still haven’t answered my question. What’re you doing with that fanmail?”

     “This could be anyone’s fanmail,” Hanso sputtered desperately. “I could be breaking into someone else’s mailbox! You don’t know what I’m doing!”

     Kanrik put a hand on Hanso’s shoulder. “Remember what we talked about.”

     Hanso took a deep breath.

     “I… fine. I’ve been getting valentines from random people all week. And I’m not, like, asking for it, it just happens. It’s actually really weird and upsetting to have a bunch of strangers talking about how hot I am, but you get mad when I talk about the fanmail, so I’ve just been hiding it.”

     “Hanso,” Brynn sighed. “I’m not mad about the fanmail. …Okay, I’m a little mad, but not at you. At first, I was jealous, but then it just kept getting creepier, and you stopped being happy about it and started feeling harassed, and now every time I see one of these things,” she said, kicking an envelope with lipstick marks on it, “I get angry on your behalf. These people are crossing your boundaries, and that’s not your fault.”

     Hanso smiled a slightly watery smile. “You think we could look into having our mail filtered somehow?”

     “I filed the paperwork last night.”

     “You’re the best.”

     “I know. You should probably sort out those valentines before someone slips on them.”

     “‘Sort out?’”

     “I mean, do what you want, but I like candy regardless of where it came from.”

     “Good point. Somebody keeps sending me expensive punch, too…”

     As the two sifted through the pink heap, a pair of hands covered Kanrik’s eyes.

     “Guess who?”

     “Can I have a hint?” Kanrik said, almost smiling.

     “She’s brave, she’s quick—” Hannah’s hands withdrew from his eyes as she yawned. “And she’s very, very jet-lagged.”

     She rubbed her eyes and looked curiously at the Ixi and Kougra on the floor rooting through a pile of unwanted valentines in search of candy and gift cards.

     “Do I want to know what happened back there?” she said as she walked out the door with Kanrik.

     “Oh, just a bit of the L-word.”

     “Larceny?”

     Kanrik held up Hanso’s belt. “Yes.”

     And then Hanso’s pants fell down, Brynn screamed with laughter, and Kanrik started running.

     The End.

 
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