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Don't Quit Your Day Job (F, Secret Santa for Paws)


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Hey there @Paws! I feel like it always takes me forever to do this stuff, so posting this early feels like a miracle. Once I had an idea, I just got in the groove and I could hardly take a break until I was done. I had a lot of fun with these characters, and I might even like to do some more with them in the future, but that's neither here nor there. For the time being, I hope you enjoy!


Frankie Hayes opened her eyes and stared groggily at the plain walls of her apartment. She took a deep breath through her nose and let it out as a soft moan as she stretched her arms. Less than a minute later, her phone began to buzz as her morning alarm chimed. Somehow, the thought of not having any work to do only made Frankie more eager to get up, so she calmly dismissed the alarm.


After a nice hot shower, Frankie pulled on a t-shirt and jeans, and then she returned to the bathroom to continue freshening up. She smiled at herself in the mirror as she pulled her damp brown hair into a ponytail, but her happiness didn’t last long. Frankie’s teardrop-shaped nostrils flared into a pair of wide ovals as a sudden tickle crept up her large, freckled nose. Her eyelids fluttered and she removed one hand from her hair to rub back and forth under her nostrils. She knew she wouldn’t last much longer, and surely enough, her eyes clenched shut and she gasped for breath.


“Hhh-! Heh… Eht’schhh!”


Frankie flipped her hand upside-down and cupped it under her nose just in time to cover her sneeze. Unfortunately, just as she began to relax, another “Hht’sheew!” snuck up on her, causing her to lightly spray her mirror with a fine mist. The young woman groaned, gently rubbing her tickly nose with her left hand and using the other to wipe her mirror down with a hand towel.


Once she finished, she opened the mirror and reached for her allergy medication. The bottle looked empty, but a wave of relief washed over her as she heard a single pill clatter around inside. Naturally she would need to get more, but one would get her through the day. Frankie removed the lid from the bottle, but just as she was about to drop the pill into her hand, she felt another sneeze coming on.


“Nn… Nuh-! Eht’SCHEW!”


Frankie doubled over with a big sneeze, sending her allergy pill tumbling out of the bottle. She scrambled to catch it in mid air, and then she furiously grabbed for it as it skittered toward the bottom of the sink, but the pill fell out of sight just before she could reach it.


“No!” she gasped as her fingers bumped against the drain. Frankie leaned against the sink and hung her head in defeat. She closed her eyes and sighed, trying to keep calm, but it wasn’t long before she again felt the urge to scrunch up her nose and rub underneath it.


“Darn allergies,” Frankie complained under her breath as she straightened up. She puckered her lips and wrinkled the base of her nose around in a circle, and then she dejectedly grabbed a tissue from beside the sink and gave her nostrils a gentle, upward wipe. Letting out another sigh, Frankie cradled her nose with the tissue and sofly blew into it as she returned to her bedroom.


After disposing of her used tissue, Frankie sat on the edge of her bed and retrieved her phone. She had hoped to spend the whole day relaxing, but a quick trip out for more allergy medication wouldn’t kill her. Still, a creeping paranoia tugged at the back of her mind, prompting to check her bank account. Frankie closed her eyes and took a deep breath, mustering her resolve before logging in. When she saw her balance, her heart sank. She barely had enough money for a single meal, let alone allergy medication, or worse, rent. Throwing her arms out to her sides, Frankie fell back onto her bed and stared up at the ceiling.


Eventually, some of Frankie’s willpower returned. She didn’t have to be happy about it, but all she needed to do was take a job. Even the simplest, lowest-paying contract would get her more than enough for medication and some food.


“Okay,” Frankie sighed to herself, holding out her phone. “Let’s get something quick, easy and indoors.”


After logging in to BountyBoard™ on her phone, Frankie began to scroll through the various open contracts nearby. While she was most experienced with escort and delivery jobs, at the moment she wasn’t too keen on taking anything that might get her into trouble. She knew she certainly wouldn’t want to hire a bodyguard with a case of the sneezes.


“Oh, come… Ah... Aah… Ht’Chshh! Ugh.”


Frankie removed a hand from her phone to rub her nose, momentarily more annoyed by her itchy nostrils than her intermittent sneezing. She rubbed quickly back and forth a few times, and then she gave her nose a firm, upward wipe with the palm of her hand. Once she finally stopped, her other hand lost its grip on her phone, dropping it squarely on her face.


“Ow! Dammit!” Frankie swore, swatting the device away before quickly retrieving it. When she looked back at her phone, however, she was pleasantly surprised to finally find something worthwhile.


“Okay, here we go,” she mumbled to herself as she sat up, resting an elbow on her knee. “Alchemist requires laboratory assistant for experiment. That sounds like something I can… Something I caah… S-something I… Aht’Sheew! I mean… It’s a lab, right? It should be clean. Probably.”


Frankie accepted the job, and then she completed her outfit with a pair of combat boots, a belt, and a black leather jacket. After making sure she had a packet of tissues, she grabbed another from the box in the bathroom and thoroughly blew her nose before leaving her apartment. The air in the corridor outside was stale, but Frankie breathed deep. Once she was outside, she’d have no protection from the pollen at least until she reached the subway.


Pollen had been tickling Frankie’s nostrils since before she’d even woken up, but the effect multiplied the moment she stepped out of her apartment building. She doubled over with an immediate “Eht’CHEEW!” before the door could even close behind her, and she took a moment to firmly rub her nose before beginning her walk. Frankie managed to keep from sneezing again, but her tickly nose continued to bother her the whole way.


Thankfully, Frankie’s journey to the subway station was otherwise uneventful. A trio of teenage elves nearly collided with her as they burst out of a clothing store, and she almost walked into a lamp post as she fumbled with a tissue, but she managed to reach the staircase down to the station without issue. Holding a partially-used tissue to her nose with one hand, Frankie blew softly as she fished out her wallet. She swallowed nervously as she realized she wasn’t sure if she could afford a ticket, but to her relief, her metrocard still had at least one credit remaining.


The subway itself wasn’t a particularly clean place. Its air was laced with almost as much pollen as on the surface, giving Frankie little relief. To make matters worse, despite her initial plans to take the day off, it was still rush hour. Every seat was taken, and the door to the next car was blocked by a particularly large troll who didn’t seem to be in the mood to step aside. Sighing quietly to herself, Frankie stood in the center of the car, grabbed the overhead rail with one hand and stuffed the other into her jacket pocket.


“Ehh… Hehh-! Eht’Chsh!”


Halfway between stations, Frankie bobbed forward with yet another sneeze. She pressed the underside of her nose against the back of her hand to smother the sound, but it still managed to catch someone’s attention.


“Bless you!” said the woman in the seat to Frankie’s right. The bounty hunter briefly made eye contact with her before scrambling to squelch another “Ht’Scheew!”


“Bless you!” the woman repeated, smiling pleasantly as Frankie rubbed her nose with her middle and index fingers.


“Thanks,” Frankie sniffed, feeling a bit embarrassed. Both she and the woman remained silent until the next stop, at which point Frankie released the handrail and stepped off the train.


The alchemist’s lab was only a block away from the subway station, a fact Frankie was thankful for. She rubbed her nose as she jogged, her nostrils flaring in anticipation of cool, sterile air. When she arrived at the address, however, Frankie was surprised to find a building not so different from her own apartment complex. The main lobby was empty, and she kept her wits about her as she made her way to the elevator. Frankie blew her nose as she rode up to the seventh floor, hoping to clear her head before meeting her client, but when she arrived, she realized she probably wasn’t the one who needed to worry about making a bad first impression.


“Okay…” Frankie mumbled, gazing down a hallway lined with numbered doors. She couldn’t help but roll her eyes as she stepped out of the elevator. At this point she half expected “suite 710” to simply be a regular apartment. Frankie stopped short of the door, wondering if the job would turn out to be a scam. Before she could turn away, however, a sudden tickle shot through her left nostril, making her sniff harshly and reminding her why she’d come all this way in the first place. Briefly squeezing her left eye shut, Frankie gently rubbed her nose as she knocked on the door.


After a moment passed with no response, Frankie knocked again.


“Hello?” she called, leaning closer to the door. The entire floor remained silent. Frankie tried the door handle, and upon finding it locked, she produced her phone and called her client through the BountyBoard™ app. To her surprise, someone answered.


“Hello? Hi. Yes? Who’s there?”


It was a somewhat impatient but mostly energetic female voice. Frankie blinked, not expecting to actually get a response. She shook her head to clear her thoughts, and then she introduced herself as professionally as she could.


“Hello, Doctor Perdan? This is Frankie Hayes. I accepted your contract for a lab assistant, and, uh...” Frankie paused to sniff and rub her nose. “I just got here.”


“Oh. Oh! Yes! Perfect, come in!”


Frankie tried the door handle once again, unsurprised that it was still locked.


“Could you, um, unlock the front door?”


“Of course, how silly of me. The passcode is eight-four-seven-two.”


Feeling a bit perplexed, Frankie wrinkled her nose and gave an aside glance at her phone. She shrugged and decided not to worry about it, and after keying in the numbers on the panel below the door handle, she was free to enter.


Despite her accurate expectations, Frankie was still disappointed to find that her client’s laboratory was little more than an apartment. In fact, it was a studio, even smaller than her own suite. And it was a complete mess. An unmade bed stood crookedly to her right, and a shelf full of spellbooks was the most organized fixture in the room. The far wall was lined with tables that wouldn’t have been out of place in a high school, each one covered with test tube racks and mountains of papers.


“Does your landlord know about all this?” Frankie asked, cautiously glancing around the room. Doctor Perdan snorted.


“Don’t be ridiculous. This is a democracy, we don’t have a lord. Now, come! Come in!”


Frankie shrugged again and finally stepped through the door. She slipped her phone back into her jacket pocket, continuing the call through a small earpiece. There appeared to be no sign of her client, so she remained prepared to retreat back to the door at the first hint of trouble.


“Are you… Watching me?” muttered the bounty hunter, taking another look around the room.


“Indeed,” replied Doctor Perdan.


“Is this part of your experiment?”


“Of course it is. Now, please-”


“H-hang on,” Frankie breathed, holding up a finger despite being alone. “Gonna… Gonna sneee-! Eht’scheew!”


“Bless you, dear,” said Doctor Perdan as Frankie straightened up and rubbed her nose. “Are you alright?”


“Allergies,” Frankie replied, giving her nostrils an upward wipe with her fingers.


“Pollen? Feathers? Fairy dust?”


“Pollen. Flowers, grass, the works. Ugh, hang on. Do you mind if I blow my nose?”


“Go right ahead. Soothe your stuffy sinuses.”




Giving the combination lab-bedroom another once-over, Frankie grabbed a tissue from her jacket and blew her nose. Afterward, she folded the paper over and gently wiped back and forth under her nostrils. Not wanting to add to the mess, Frankie crumpled up the tissue once she finished and stuffed it into an unused pocket.


“Good girl,” chirped Doctor Perdan. “Now, please have a seat at the center table.”


Frankie did as she was told and sat down on the stool in front of the table closest to the middle of the wall.


“Wonderful. See the test tubes in front of you?”


“Um, yes.”


“Be a dear and grab the one containing a red powder. Hold it tight. But don’t squeeze it! Just don’t drop it.”


“Okay,” Frankie obliged, reaching toward the nearest test tube rack. Each glass tube contained a substance of a different color, but luckily the red powder stood out among them.


“Alright, I’ve got it.”


“Does the label read ‘one-four-seven-dash-B’?”


Frankie turned the tube around in her hand.


“Yes, it does.”


Doctor Perdan paused.


“I actually can’t quite remember if that’s right, but it’ll have to do. Now, please place your free hand on the table.”


Furrowing her brow, Frankie laid her left hand on top of the table. A moment passed in silence, and Frankie felt a slight tickle on the back of her hand. She unconsciously flicked her wrist, and the moment she did, a shriek suddenly exploded through her earpiece, making her jump in her seat.


“Miss Hayes! Please sit perfectly still! It is vital to my work!”


Frankie blinked.


“Okay. Sorry.”


Again Frankie felt a tickle on the back of her hand, and this time she managed to keep from reacting to it. No further instructions came from Doctor Perdan, though Frankie could have sworn she heard her client struggling with something over the phone once or twice. A few minutes later, she felt another tickle, this time on her neck. Frankie resisted the urge to scratch it, and after another minute, the alchemist gave a sigh of relief.


“Ah, here we are. Perfect.”


Frankie made a face somewhere between amusement and confusion.


“If you don’t mind me asking, where are you anyway?”


Doctor Perdan clucked her tongue.


“Sometimes, the things we seek are right under our noses.”


Pursing her lips, Frankie began to ponder her client’s statement. Deciding to indulge her curiosity, she crossed her eyes and stared down the freckled bridge of her nose. She saw nothing out of the ordinary, and she gave a quiet chuckle at her own whimsy. Then, she took a deep breath through her nose, unexpectedly prompting another scream through her earpiece. This time Frankie shot up from the stool, glancing wildly around the room.


“Doctor Perdan? Are you alright? What’s going on?” the bounty hunter asked, absently rubbing her nose as she turned back to the apartment’s front door. At first Perdan gave no response, and Frankie could only feel a growing tickle somewhere in her right nostril. As she continued to rub her nose, her client finally answered.


“Miss Hayes, I’m afraid you’ve given me no other choice.”


Before Frankie could utter a single syllable, the tickle in her nose surged to an unbearable level. She gasped for breath, her shoulders tensing her head rearing back. Predicting an especially powerful sneeze, Frankie scrambled for a fresh tissue, but she could barely slip a hand into her pocket before she doubled over with an enormous “Eht’CHEEEEW!!!”


As large as her sneeze had been, it wasn’t quite powerful enough to knock Frankie off her feet. Still, she felt strangely dizzy, and as she opened her eyes, she found herself falling clumsily onto her back. The bounty hunter sat up and firmly rubbed her nose back and forth. She didn’t feel another sneeze coming on, but it was almost as if some tiny interloper was flitting about inside her right nostril, aimlessly bouncing off the walls. Fortunately the irritation was eventually driven away by her rubbing fingers, and then Frankie gave a harsh sniff and rose to her feet.


Finally taking in her surroundings, she saw the door of the apartment straight ahead, only it appeared to be much farther away. Frankie rubbed her eyes and shook her head, thinking she might still be disoriented, but when she looked again, the room still seemed oddly stretched. Turning around, Frankie nearly fell over again when she saw a massive stool looming above her, reaching hundreds of meters into the air. Just as she began to piece her situation together, a voice from behind caught her attention.


“Look out below!”


Frankie whirled around to face toward the door again just in time to see a strange figure parachute down and land on the floor. She rolled onto her back to clumsily absorb the impact, kicking her high-heeled feet into the air. Frankie could only stare incredulously as the woman thrashed around in her parachute for a minute before cutting herself loose and springing to her feet. Revealing herself to be an unkempt, black-haired elf in a lab coat, she skipped forward and began to energetically shake Frankie’s free hand.


“Oh, it’s so good to finally meet you! I’m Doctor Aenwyn Perdan, alchemist extraordinaire!”


Frankie blinked, separating her hand from her client’s.


“Where… Were you all this time?”


Aenwyn beamed and nodded eagerly.


“Well, first I was there,” she said, pointing somewhere behind and above Frankie. The bounty hunter didn’t bother to look.


“Then I was there,” Aenwyn continued, pointing to Frankie’s hand.


“And then I was right here!” she concluded, placing a finger on the tip of Frankie’s large nose. The young woman didn’t react even as Aenwyn pushed her nose up, stretching her nostrils uncomfortably. After the alchemist released her, Frankie’s eyes widened and she stared down her nose again, gently squeezing it just above the tip. Once she got a hold of herself, she scrunched up her face and frantically shook her head.


“Okay, first of all, what!?” she demanded, turning to face the giant stool and gesturing wildly at it. Aenwyn giggled and stepped up beside Frankie, placing her hands on her hips.


“It’s exactly what it looks like, my friend,” Aenwyn explained. “I’m tiny, and now you’re tiny too. All thanks to this, and that great big sneeze of yours.”


The alchemist reached into her coat and produced a mostly-empty vial of green powder.


“Oh! Gesundheit, by the way!”


Frankie stared vacantly at the vial, and then her eyes slowly turned to meet Aenwyn’s.


“But what for?”


Aenwyn’s smile widened, and her long, pointed ears briefly wiggled up and down.


“I ask myself that question every day. It’s a mystery I don’t know if science will ever truly solve. Now, do you still have the vial I asked you to get? One-four-seven-whatever?”


Spotting her prize in Frankie’s hand, Aenwyn immediately snatched it away. She uncorked the vial, held it under her nose and inhaled deeply, filling her small, thin nostrils with the fumes. The alchemist smiled, and her face simultaneously began to contort.


“Oh, y-yeah… Th-that’s… Thaahh… Heii’KNT!”


Pressing a finger firmly under her nose, Aenwyn stifled a sneeze. It didn’t sound particularly powerful, but she still bent over with the force and quickly flung herself back up. Placing a hand on her chest, the alchemist shook her head and smiled.


“Whew! Excuse me! That’s the stuff. Now, let’s get back to normal, shall we?”


Frankie watched as Aenwyn poured some of the red powder into her hand, and her eyes widened when she realized what was about to happen. She began to back away, but the alchemist stepped forward to follow her, effortlessly matching her pace.


“Alright, you know what to do!”


“What!? I-”


With no further explanation, Aenwyn took a deep breath and blew the powder in Frankie’s face. The bounty hunter reflexively held her breath, but it was already too late. Much of the powder found its way right up her nose, and before she knew it, she felt a sneeze coming on.


“Wha… Wh-what did you… Hhh-! Heeh… Heh! Hht’SHEEEW!!!”


For the second time that day, Frankie sneezed powerfully, stumbled and fell over. Sitting up but keeping her eyes clenched shut, she coughed once, pressed the underside of her nose to her sleeve, and began to furiously scrub back and forth. Once she finally dared to open her eyes, she was relieved to find the room, or rather herself, back to normal. Letting out a sigh of relief, Frankie threw her arms out to her sides and fell onto her back in exhaustion. After a moment the bounty hunter mustered her strength and stood up, and then…




Aenwyn suddenly sprang up in front of Frankie with a loud sneeze of her own. The bounty hunter liked to think she usually kept her cool while on the job. This time, however, she screamed unflattering and fell back to the floor again. Frankie stared incredulously up at Aenwyn as she rubbed her nose, and then the alchemist took a step toward her and extended a hand.


“Excellent work! You’ve been a wonderful assistant,” she said, pulling Frankie back to her feet. Frankie furrowed her brow.


“Wait, that’s all?”


“That’s all.”


“What did you even need me for?” Frankie asked, slapping a palm to her forehead. Aenwyn hopped in place before putting her hands on her hips and leaning toward her assistant.


“I needed your help to miniaturize this stuff!” she said, holding up the vial of red powder. “Have you seen how granulated it is? If I tried using it when it was this size, it would be like sniffing up a handful of gravel! I don’t know if you’ve ever tried that, but trust me, it doesn’t work as well as you’d expect.”


Frankie opened her mouth and held up a finger, but she thought better of herself before she could utter a word. She held her tongue as Aenwyn logged into BountyBoard™ and marked the job as completed, and once she confirmed that she had received her payment, she immediately began to head for the door.


“I’m just not going to ask about any of this and go home.”


“Okay!” Aenwyn chirped, standing up on her toes as Frankie departed.


Just as she was about to reach the front door, Frankie slowed to a stop. Her nostrils flared involuntarily, briefly returned to their normal teardrop shape, and then flared again. Even after all that, Frankie still had pollen to contend with.


“Ehh… Heh! Eht’Chshh!”


Frankie rubbed her nose, slowly but firmly, until the tickly sensation in her nasal passages was mostly gone. As she regained her senses, she could very nearly feel Doctor Perdan’s presence right behind her.


“Aww, bless you! You know what? Give me a minute and I bet I can put something together for you. Should clear those allergies right up,” said Aenwyn, patting Frankie on the back with a confident smile.


“Actually…” Frankie mumbled, glancing over the chaotic lab one last time, “I think I’m okay.”


And there you have it! Happy holidays, and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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Ahh!! What a cool surprise! This was a really fun read, for sure. And a neat concept -- Aenwyn and Frankie's interactions were really entertaining. Thanks so much, and happy holidays!! ^_^ :heart:

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  • 2 weeks later...

You did a great story here! The characters are very likeable and I think the quirky attitude of Aenwyn plays off of the more serious nature of Frankie in a cool way. It is interesting to read about the experiment too! 

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