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Challenge 6 entry

Author: Deborah
Rating: PG… maybe G
Pairing: none
Summary: Collins needs a job.
Disclaimer: Rent is Jonathan Larson’s. Mildred Hubble is also someone else’s.

Collins arrived at the president of Columbia University’s office looking like someone who had been hauled off the couch and shoved out the front door by a friend who didn’t believe him one bit about being hung over. And Collins wasn’t hung over. Still, he wouldn’t have minded a chance to change out of the jeans and flannel shirt he had been wearing for at least thirty-six hours, or a chance to shave and brush his teeth. Roger had thrown him his skull cap from the fire escape, and Collins caught it and gave Roger the finger, to which Roger responded by blowing a kiss and going back inside. So he brought himself to Columbia for his meeting with the president.

“I have an appointment,” was the greeting Collins received as he dropped himself into one of the padded chairs on the wrong side of the desk. He was used to this. He had been dropping into the padded chairs on the wrong side of the desk since he was five years old and brought wirecutters to school to cut his way out of the kindergarten play area.

He shifted and settled back in the chair. It actually felt nice. The office was heated, a welcome change from the chilly February outside. Glass-encased degrees grinned at him from the opposite wall. It looked like something out of a cartoon or a bad movie. The difference was the smell. This office smelled of leather bindings and a bit of sour milk.

Collins’ offices never looked like this. They were always messy from the first second he stepped into them to the second he was asked to leave. But then, Collins had never been a university president, just a lowly professor. Only students came to visit him, and they already respected him so what did it matter how his office looked?

Straightening up a bit, he admitted, “I know. Mildred Hubble?”

The president settled himself behind the desk, gave Collins a long look, then sighed. “I should have known,” he murmured. He was a tall man with soft brown eyes and close-cropped hair, who managed to seem more benevolent than intimidating. Running into him was a bit like running into Santa Claus in a dark alley. “Well, you finally responded to my letters.”

Collins laughed. “Yeah… finally.” He leaned across the desk, shifted a few papers, and grabbed a little bag of peanuts. “Ta,” he added, munching a few.

“Thomas, you aren’t living on the streets, are you?”

Collins shook his head. “Just depressed,” he said. He realized the room didn’t smell like sour milk: he did. “I lost someone,” he added for an explanation.

The president reached across the desk and took Collins’ hand. “I’m so sorry, Thomas. I thought you wanted a job, but—”

“I do,” Collins interrupted. “The last letter was less than a month ago. If that job’s still open, I’m your man.” He didn’t want to be anyone’s man, but he didn’t want to be the gelatinous blob on Mark and Roger’s duct-taped couch, either. At least he was good at teaching. Students loved him. They came to office hours grinning and nervous and hiding their faces. They cared what he thought of them.

“Then you start on Monday. And Thomas, if you pull another stunt like that with the computers—”

“It comes out of my allowance?” Collins guessed.

And the president of Columbia University laughed. “I am so proud of you,” he said.

Collins smiled. “I love you, too, Dad.”

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