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Hanna liked her job.

Her official title was "intake counselor," but it was usually a little less neat than that crisp phrase suggested. Not many of the intakees were in any shape to talk, at first; or else, euphoric and delirious with relief, they did nothing but talk, and she didn't get a word in edgewise for days. Some of them were belligerent and pointlessly hostile; some, clingy and pointlessly grateful, as if she'd rescued them herself. Some of them sat curled into the tiniest possible space on the couch in her office, blinking at her with huge, frightened eyes, seeming to view her as a new owner, someone they were going to have to figure out how to please in order to survive; some, uncomfortable with furniture, actually knelt on the floor, and with those she sat down on the floor, too, to talk or listen, or sometimes just to put her hand on their backs (though you had to be careful with their backs) and be nearby. Some came in with lists of things they needed from her, information and resources (how much did a phone cost, was there anyone who could teach them to drive) and refused to sit down at all while they read them off. Some of them flinched when she picked up a pen from her desk. Some tried to sit in her lap.

She didn't mind any of it, not really, not even the one who'd threatened to slit his wrists with Hanna's letter opener (grabbing it off her desk, brandishing it wildly) if she didn't find him a job right now. She liked them, really, liked them all; she was glad they were here, and that she was, too. She liked having a whole organization full of people doing the same work she was doing; she also liked that they mostly left her alone to do her work in peace. She lived alone, except when they ran out of resources and somebody needed a place to crash, and then she liked bringing them into her neat, spare little space, rummaging up extra blankets and cooking better food than she usually bothered to contrive for herself, sitting up late and talking about whatever they needed to talk about.

She didn't go out at night; she didn't have time, and she didn't feel the need. Sex was something she'd never been particularly enthusiastic about, and now it was something to fend off, occasionally, from her counselees; her co-workers mostly didn't bother her with advances, and if they did, they were always graceful about rejection.

She was on the phone with a better job prospect for Devon-- who was far too intelligent and creative to be working construction-- when Jesse walked into her office without knocking. She held up a finger, finished persuading the editor to give Devon a trial run (yes he had the skills, no not all ex-slaves were illiterate, all I'm asking is give him a chance, thank you sir you won't regret it) and hung up, and looked up.

"Got a new client for you," Jesse said; he always said client, not patient, which Hanna appreciated, since she wasn't a doctor and these people weren't sick or injured. Well, some of them were, but that wasn't part of her job. "Kind of an interesting case."

She pointed him at the couch. "I thought you were out of the country."

"Just got back," he answered as he sat down, leaning back and spreading his arms along the back of the couch, as always, as if he owned the place. "Brought her with me. Kind of an interesting case, actually. We had to do a little lawbreaking. Housebreaking, too. Unlawful seizing of human property, the whole bit."

"What?" Hanna sat up straight. "Jesse--"

"Don't worry," said Jesse. "I don't think her owner's going to tear up the pea patch trying to get her back. He's sympathetic."

Hanna was puzzled. "Then why'd you have to kidnap her?"

"Long story," said Jesse, "and she's out in pre-eval right now, getting her vitals checked, so she should be here in a minute to tell you herself."

"She's here now?" Hanna glanced at the door. "You couldn't call first? What if I'd been busy?"

"You're always busy," said Jesse. "I wanted her in your capable hands as soon as possible. She's been through some interesting shit, here lately."

"Haven't they all?"

"True," said Jesse, "but this might interest you, in particular. Professionally, I mean. The owner was Holden Larssen."

Hanna blinked. "You kidnapped her from Larssen?"

"Had to," said Jesse. "Tricky situation. Oh--" he took his arms down, shifting a little to occupy less space, as he looked at the door, "here she is now. Hey, Gwen."

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maculategiraffe

May 2011

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