Roanan unzipped the top of the purse, and Custard gave him a distinctly unfriendly glare. Roanan went immediately on the defensive.

"Don't look at me like that! I had to smuggle you in. Getting a pet approved for down here is a nightmare and a half! And what was I supposed to do if Seth said no, huh?"

He scooped the little pom up, cradling him close and running a soothing hand over his fur. At least, he hoped it was soothing. His hand practically covered the whole dog in one go.

"So I'm sorry, buddy, but that's just the way it had to be, okay? I'll see about maybe bunking with you at Calvin's, or Kaylee's tonight, alright? But first I've got a shift to get through."

His phone buzzed, and he shifted Custard around to cradle him like a football. When he fished his phone out of his pocket, though, there were no notifications. And the buzzing sound persisted. He looked to Custard, who seemed to be giving him "what do you expect from me?" look. Finally, Roanan spotted the flashing light in Custard's bag. Afternoon selfies filled the screen when he flipped it open. Custard wiggled in anticipation, and made a single poof of sound that Roanan supposed passed as his bark. Could he ever remember the little dog barking? He'd watched him before with Val, why did he not remember any of this stuff?

Custard squirmed his way down onto the bed, prancing a happy little circle and making that puff noise again. Roanan raised an eyebrow, but Custard kept up his act until Roanan shrugged and pointed the phone at him. Immediately, Custard dropped to his side, rolling until his tiny feet were straight up, little black toe beans clearly visible in the sea of ginger fluff. Obediently, Roanan snapped the pic, and Custard reposed himself. This went on for about five poses, then Custard sat up and puffed again. Roanan sat down on the bed and patted his lap.

"C'mon, my dude. You wanna see?"

Custard wiggled his way up between Roanan and the phone, sitting on his hind legs with his back pressed against Roanan. Roanan flipped through the pics, discarding any that didn't receive that little puff, then posted the rest.

"There ya go, bud. Can I go to work now?"

Custard hopped back into his bag and laid his head down to sleep.

Roanan knew now the sounds Custards had been making before were definitely not barks, because what he was doing now definitely was. It was a high pitched little rattle of machine-gun fire, and every sound made Roanan wince. Even with the sound dampening spells on each room, someone was gonna hear this.

"Custard! For the love of the Mothers, please stop my dude!"

He cradled the angry little ball of fluff close to his chest, turning away from Mikey, and bounced him in those dumb little jiggles that moms all seemed to do with babies.

"Come on, Cus, cut it out. It's only Mikey."

Custard seemed to settle in Roanan's arms for a moment, considering. Then he scaled up Roanan's chest to continue barking at Mikey, perched on his shoulder like the world's softest gargoyle.

"Damn it, Custard!" He pulled the pom back, holding him face to face. Those tiny dark eyes had never seemed so hateful. "What the hell has gotten into you my dude?"

Custard wuffed, a more disgruntled version of his photo shoot puff, then licked Roanan's nose. Roanan didn't dare move. The dog was quiet. This might be the best he would get.

He saw Donnie out of the corner of his eye, looking his usual placid, put together self. Only those who knew him—and Roanan and Mikey knew him better than he knew himself—could see that the eyes were too wide, the lips pressed too tight, the hands neatly clasped when they were usually possessed of elegant, fluid motions. Roanan could imagine the wide-eyed horror on Mikey's face. Something didn't like him, and that something was cute and adorable on top of it? Yeah, Mikey was probably in full meltdown.

"So I guess staying at Kaylee's is out," Roanan said as lightly as he could. "Should I stay in one of the outbuidling's at Calvin's?"

"Too cold," Donnie said immediately, breaking from serpent stillness now that there was work to be done. Donnie was good like that. Freeze, until someone got the ball rolling. Then he would keep pushing it til it got wherever it was going. Mikey stayed an eerie empty spot at his back.

"You can stay at Kaylee's," Mikey said quietly. Roanan wanted to turn around, to see the face that went with that voice, to help soothe his brother. Just because Donnie was the priority didn't mean Mikey wasn't important. But he couldn't risk setting off Custard. He knew the l'eija would be understanding, but they couldn't bend their "no unauthorized pets" rule for anyone, without having to bend it for everyone. Roanan got that. He understood rules only worked if they always worked. He also understood that it was up to each individual to follow the rules or not according their own lives. And, he understood that it was perfectly fair if that came back to bite him in the ass. He wouldn't whine about it being "not fair", or try to pretend it wasn't somehow his fault if he got caught. It would absolutely be his fault for breaking the rules and not doing so with enough dexterity to avoid being caught.

None of that solved his current problems, though.

He shifted unconsciously towards Mikey, only become aware of it when the little dog tensed in his arms. Damn it. Stupid little fluff ball. This was so stupid.

"I'm not gonna do that, Mike," he said slowly, carefully. He felt like his eyes were gonna split to either side of his head, trying to focus on both his brother and the dog. "That's not fair to you, or Kit. It's your home and I won't kick you out just cause I took on a responsibility I was unprepared for."

"It's your home, too," Mikey muttered, and Roanan was relieved to hear a hint of pout creeping into his tone. Gods, he couldn't believe he was relieved to hear a pout. How had this day gone so wrong?

"What about Cam's?"

They both turned to look at Donnie, Roanan could feel it. Even Custard seemed to focus on him—and what the hell was up with the little dog anyways? Why did he hate Mikey but not Donnie? Distractions, focus on solutions.

"What about Cam's?" Roanan asked, echoing back the words with an entirely different inflection.

"I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you bunked over," Donnie continued, ignoring Roanan's suspicious tone. "She's helped us out in a pinch before, and she likes animals."

Roanan could not believe this.

"I am not staying with my brothers' mutual girlfriend with my not-girlfriend's best friend's dog!"