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Diseased and Going to Kill Us

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Bran isn’t entirely sure that what he is doing is right. This is mostly because Arya has decided it’s a brilliant plan, and Arya’s plans have a history of tanking dramatically, but also partly because he has absolutely no idea what his mother’s reaction is going to be.

“Come on, Brandon, hurry up!” Arya calls. She’s wearing his backpack across her front in addition to her own on her back, and has got Rickon by the hand. She skips back to where he is standing, struggling to hold on to the big box in his hands.

“If you want me to go faster, why don’t you carry them?” Bran snaps. The cardboard box he is holding is about as big as Rickon is, and its ungainly cargo won’t stop running in circles and yipping at him.

See, the box that his sister convinced him to tow home is full of puppies.

There were only six of them, and there are seven kids at the Stark house, but Bran couldn’t just leave them there. He’d heard them barking and snapping and howling in the alleyway behind the school, and dragged his siblings over to investigate. Someone had just left them sitting there, in the dark shade of the alley, all alone, in a box. They didn’t even have a towel or anything to lay on like you see on TV; Bran immediately peeled off his overshirt and shoved it in the bottom to make up for it.

“Arya, look,” Bran had said. “They’re puppies. We should take them home.”

Arya didn’t even hesitate for a moment.

“Okay, but you’re carrying them,” she said. “Hand over your backpack. I call the little grey one!”

And now, here they are, half a block from home and struggling. He sets the box down at his feet to rest for a moment, and Arya and Rickon lean down to look in.

“Arry,” Rickon says, pulling on her hand and pointing. “Can I hold that one?”

He, much like his sister, doesn’t wait for an answer. Instead he reaches in and picks up the biggest one he can see, who is pitch black and howling incessantly. As soon as the pup is settled in Rickon’s arms, though, he quiets down and starts placidly licking at his hands.

“That settles it,” Arya says, picking up her tiny grey one and balancing her on Bran’s backpack. The dog bites at her hand before slipping through the open zipper with a yelp. “We are keeping these, no matter what Mum says.”

They make it the last few lengths home, where their four older siblings are already snacking and doing homework.

Arya parades in to the kitchen, shedding both backpacks but managing to hold on to her puppy. She sets her on the counter in front of a studying Theon, and waits for him to look up. She doesn’t stop to help Bran with the door, he notes resentfully.

“Hey, Theon,” she says, barely suppressing a grin.

“Hello, Squirt, how’s-” This is all Theon gets out before he looks up, and sees the puppy wandering around the counter. “Is that a dog?”

“Yes, six of them actually. Bran found them.” Rickon pipes up, and stands up on his tiptoes to place his on the counter too. “This one is Shaggydog, and he is mine.”

“Yes, and this little cutie is Nymeria.” Arya laughs. Theon’s got an incredibly skeptical look on his face. Bran sets down the box of the remaining four by the kitchen table, and gets a bowl of water for them to drink out of.

“Those things are probably diseased, you know. If you just found them on the side of the road…” Theon trails off, staring concernedly as the newly-christened Nymeria gnaws heartily at Arya’s hand.

“Well, guess that you don’t get one then!” Arya says, scooping Nymeria up and cradling her protectively.

“That’s okay, I don’t want one,” Theon replies, and Bran doesn’t miss the fervor in his voice. He wonders idly if Theon is afraid of dogs. Good thing there are only six, then. Theon gets up, closing his textbook, and walks toward the staircase.

“What’s going on down here?” Robb asks, followed closely by Jon and Sansa. They must have heard the barking, which is high pitched but still loud. Theon shrugs and moves past them.

“I found these puppies in a box outside of school and I couldn’t just leave them there, so I brought them home for us to have.” Bran says sheepishly. He really doesn’t want anyone to be mad about it. “They would have died if I didn’t do something.”

Robb and Jon kneel down to look into the box. Bran takes the opportunity to claim the puppy he wants.

“Aw,” Jon says, smiling. “They are pretty cute. Look at this little white guy, he’s an albino.”

Robb looks up at Bran and the grey fluff ball he is cradling.

“You know, they probably wouldn’t have died. Someone would have taken them to the pound.” Robb says. He furrows his brow for a second, thinking.

“Have you thought about how we are going to pay for these guys?” Robb asks after a moment.

“What do you mean, pay for them?” Arya asks. She pulls Nymeria in to her chest once more. Bran wants to know, too. “They were just in a box, left for anyone to take.”

“Well, not only do they need dog food, but they need tags, and toys, and leashes, and they all need to go to a veterinarian and have their shots. We’ll have to make sure Theon isn’t right about being diseased.” Sansa says, obviously agreeing with Robb. She is kneeling down at the box too, staring in at the two matching grey puppies that are left. She picks one up for herself, and hands the other to their oldest brother. “I’ll put up some of my own money, but I can’t pay for everyone’s dogs.”

Robb nods sensibly. “I’ll help out too. We should call someone and see what these shots will cost us.”

Jon agrees, saying that he will put in some of his money as well. He is still smiling at his little white pup, but the thing hasn’t made a sound.

Bran is awash with relief. They’re all okay with this, they all want to work it out and keep these pups. Everyone goes their separate ways with a pup in tow; Robb to find the yellow pages and call a veterinarian, Arya, Jon, and Rickon to the backyard to play around, Sansa to the computer to search “at-home puppy training.” Her dog is sitting patiently on her lap, its little paws folded one over the other.

“Ok, Summer, to me,” Bran says. Summer, yeah, he thinks. That sounds right. “Come on, boy, let’s go look around upstairs.”

Up in the room he shares with Rickon, Summer begins nosing around and exploring Bran’s things immediately. Bran lays down some newspaper on top of a couple rag towels as a makeshift dog bed, but Summer isn’t having any of it. Finally, Bran picks Summer up and sets him on the his chest, laying down on the bed. As he begins to doze off, Bran has one last thought. Just wait till Mum and Dad get home.