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You hate kings and you think kings are really stupid. They are petty, bossy tyrants and are really full of themselves and are basically awful in every way.
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And she said yes. Well, of course she did. Thank you for accepting my protection, Claire. Now I can teach you the way of the samurai, which in Japanese is called "kawaii". And with that, the two of them set off skipping into the setting sun, holding hands. And before they knew it, they'd fallen in love, and the power of their love was so great that it turned their collars into dust (fairy dust, to be specific). And it was right about then that they realized they could fly (all they had to do was believe in themselves), so they took off soaring into the setting sun and zoomed their way back to Minnesota. And they got married and had seven babies and they lived happily ever after.

Or at least, that was what Claire obviously wanted. From the way she was checking Julian out, he could tell that she wanted at least four babies. But you could hardly blame her, especially considering- Wait, no. No no no. Shut up, be serious for a moment. Put on your serious face, Julian Avery. She actually was, maybe, just a little, just a teensy bit, checking him out. Which was appreciated, no doubt. But it was also... fuck. He had no idea whether she was actually starting to get attached to him, or how much, but that would not be a good thing. He'd help her find Aislyn to the best of his ability, sure. And he'd give her all the protection and emotional support she wanted on the way. But after that? Gone. Good luck, you two, but I've got some more worlds to save. More work to do. More people to reunite. More conflicts to defuse. And so he'd have to turn and leave. Gone. With a witty phrase and a charming smile, gone. Just like with Marybeth.

Well, no, not exactly. The key difference with Marybeth was that Marybeth was dumb as shit. And so messing with her head could only ever be a good thing, because the new mental course that your dickery nudged her towards was almost undoubtedly better than her previous one. Claire was... different. Claire was a good kid. Claire had, if Julian's memory of the grapevine served him well, had troubles with the wrong kind of boy in the past. And then a nice boy comes along and seems like he might be different, and then he turns around and leaves as soon as he's done with his obligation to her. Gone.

Julian didn't like it. But what the fuck else was he supposed to do?

"But you have to trust me a little more. I'm not planning on using this unless I really have to."

That was what she had told him, and it looked like she was expecting an answer. Something more substantial than the nod and the understanding look he'd given so far. "I gotcha, Claire. It's just... I dunno. When I seen your gun, something just came over me. I got a little crazy." He shrugged. "I ain't really used to it, y'know? So what you gotta do is pull your gun on me randomly while we're walking. Just point it at my face outta nowhere. Get me nice and conditioned to it."

There was more truth to Julian's confession than he would have liked to admit. What he'd done was nice and gallant, but it was also stupid and crazy and it wasn't even remotely necessary. If he'd stopped and thought about it a second more (what was that thought he'd been holding? Something about her being clever?), he'd have realized she wasn't going to shoot anyone. She pretty much had every opportunity to do it back at the church. Put a bullet in Teo's head while Julian was distracting him, pop Nick before he figured out what the fuck was going on. And then Julian himself would have been easy. Execution-style, maybe. She could have forced him onto his knees and snapped off a shitty one-liner of some sort.

But she hadn't.

So maybe he should trust her.

"Listen, though, Claire... I do trust you, a hundred percent. You tell me to stand down, I will. You tell me to watch your back, I will. Whatever you need. And I really mean it." Julian lifted his hand to cover his face and then lowered it again. "See? This is my serious face."

It was pretty much the same face as before.

He picked up his sword, picked up his bag, gave Claire a nod, and started to follow her. Wherever she would go.

(Julian Avery continued in Can't Fall Down)
Jeremy Franco is alive. You can write a better ending, goddammit.

Charlie DuClare is dead. And nothing was easy anymore except to smile.
Julian Avery is dead. Courage was the man with a gun in his hand.
JJ Sturn is dead. Fuck it, all good things gotta come to an end.
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Bump in the Night · The Felled Forest: South