It was with some trepidation that Jon hit the elevator button and started going down. Stephen had called from the lobby of their building, claiming he was having an issue with the doorman and needed Jon to come and help. As far as Jon was concerned the doorman was an extremely reasonable person, so anything he didn't want Stephen to bring in was probably worth the nerves.
At first he thought the low-slung, thick-limbed grey shape at Stephen's feet was a dog.
"Where on earth did you get that thing?" he demanded, once he processed the nubbly grey skin, flicking cowlike tail, and, oh yes, the stub of a horn.
"Shh!" hissed Stephen, sinking to his knees and massaging the folds of the baby rhino's neck. (He was using a stiff-bristled brush to do it, which Jon had never seen before and now suspected was also stolen.) "You'll hurt his feelings! Reginald is not a thing, Jon!"
Oh no. No no no. Stephen was not pulling the 'I named it, now I get to keep it forever' trick with an endangered and almost certainly illegal species. "Reginald needs to go back to his mother," said Jon, in his best Serious Voice.
Stephen's lip wobbled. "He doesn't have a mother. Don't you see, that's why he needs me! I'll take very good care of him, I swear. I'll brush him every day and raise him to be kind and respectful toward smaller animals. And once he's all grown up, I'll keep taking care of him even after I've cut off his horn and sold it on the black market!"
The two grey birds strutted across the windowsill on the inside of the closed glass, pecking at the piles of birdseed Stephen had laid out for them. He was thinking of naming them Max and Beethoven.
"You can't keep them," said Jon, very unreasonably. "They're pests, Stephen. What are you going to do, adopt a couple of roaches next?"
"How dare you compare these beautiful, majestic birds to a couple of common bugs?" demanded Stephen. "Besides, you go up to the studio roof and feed pigeons there all the time! How is that any different from this?"
"When I'm feeding pigeons outside," replied Jon, "they can't get into my bedroom and poop on my stuff."
Stephen shoved open the window and unhooked the screen. "On second thought, who am I to keep such beautiful creatures caged? Fly free, my lovelies!"
There was a basketball-sized lump of white fluff in Stephen's lap, an open laptop on the coffee table, and what looked like a genuine old-fashioned spinning wheel next to him on the carpet. "What did you do, rip out the insides of a pillow?" asked Jon when he came in.
The ball of fur twitched.
"Jon," said Stephen proudly, skritching a part of the puffball that Jon abruptly recognized as two long ears, "meet Greta Van Fluffteren, the softest, prettiest bunny in the whole wide world."
"Uh, wow," said Jon, kneeling next to them to get a closer look. From here, he managed to pick out the soft white face in the middle of the long fur: Greta had huge tufts of fluff falling down over her eyes, but when she twitched her nose at Jon, he could spot that. "She's seriously adorable."
Stephen beamed. "You want to pet her?"
Yes. Yes, Jon absolutely wanted to pet her. Stephen lifted the rabbit into Jon's arms, and he settled her into his lap, skritching up her back and down her sides. Much as it looked like Greta would be fur all the way through, she was surprisingly solid underneath it. "Where did she come from? Are you watching her for someone?"
"No, we're keeping her!" exclaimed Stephen.
Normally Jon would have objected to being left out of a decision like this, but Greta's nose was still twitching and she was perfectly docile under his hands, and who was Jon to object to a thing like that? "You did, ah, get her a cage and some chew toys and stuff, right?" he asked, just to be on the safe side.
"I'm still working on all the little details," said Stephen airily. "Got the spinning wheel, though!" He got to his feet and ran a hand along the curve of the wheel. "I'm going to teach myself how to spin Angora wool, and make us matching sweaters."
Jon glanced at the laptop. Sure enough, it had a couple of relevant windows open: a YouTube video of wool being spun off a rabbit, an eHow page explaining how to knit. And the sad thing was, that was leaps and bounds (heh) above the level of research Stephen usually did. "He at least fed you, right, Ms. Van Fluffteren?" cooed Jon. "Is 'oo a hungry bunny, hmm?"
Greta wiggled her nose in a noncommittal sort of way.
"They like hay and lettuce," Stephen informed him, still caressing the spinning wheel. "I volunteer to give her all my vegetables from — ow!"
"You okay?" asked Jon.
"Fine, fine," said Stephen distantly. "Just pricked my finger on...this pointy bit...here...."
He collapsed to the floor with a thump, eyes falling closed.
Jon sighed. "I'll kiss you in a minute," he assured Stephen's unconscious body, before gathering up Greta the way he'd seen Stephen do: one hand under the front legs, one hand under the hindquarters. "C'mon," he said, carrying her into the kitchen. "Let's get the pretty bunny some water and some noms."