1. The Interview
When pressed for an explanation, Matthew always said he chose the Cornerstone Market because it was clean. After his parents’ ultimatum that he and his brother find jobs or else be forced to rent out the extra two bedrooms in the condo to his parents’ friends sons, the two drunkest, messiest, and most vulgar frat boys Matthew had ever met, he had scouted out all the stores he could comfortably walk to and found most of them to be lacking in basic cleanliness. Many of them were lacking in other aspects as well, but “basic cleanliness” had been number one on his list of desirable qualities in a place of employment, and most of the places he had gone to hadn’t even made it past that.
It had been appalling. Dust in the corners, spills only mopped up and not cleaned, carpets that had clearly only been vacuumed where customers would see them and not behind counters or in the back – he couldn’t imagine spending hours standing around in that kind of filth, working with the sort of people who produced it and the sort of managers who allowed it. The very thought made shivers go up his spine.
And so he had drawn line after line through almost all the stores on his list. His brother Luke had tried to convince him that he was being an obsessive-compulsive freak and that he should stop being so exacting in his standards, but he had told Luke exactly where to shove his lack of concern for hygiene and determinedly kept searching.
The Cornerstone Market was different. He even hadn’t been put off after he had managed to get a glimpse of the back room. The floors were vacuumed everywhere it was possible to vacuum. The counters sparkled. He had personally seen one of the employees get down on her hands and knees and use cleanser to clean up a milk spill. It would have been perfect if not for the lingering dust he could see at the backs of the shelves behind the wares, but he figured that that was only a minor problem. Especially if viewed in light of the fact that the Cornerstone Market was the last place he had looked, and Luke was starting to make fun of him because he had already gotten a job, the annoying little bastard.
That, in the end, was what really decided him.
“There are better places to work,” Luke protested, staring up the sign. “I mean, you could work in a video store. Or a game store. Or a comic book store. Or a bookstore, for Christ’s sake. If you would just drop this whole ‘OMG IT MUST BE CLEEEEEEEEEEAN!!!!’ thing—”
“I have an interview here.” Matthew’s tone brooked no argument.
Luke looked at his brother, then at the store, then pointedly at the straight sidewalk they were standing on. “Why would you want to work at a place called Cornerstone Market when it’s nowhere near a corner?”
Matthew pushed his glasses up on his nose. “Why should that matter?”
Luke shrugged. “It’s boring,” he said.
“It also sells food,” Matthew said, employing his favorite tone, which could best be described as withering. “You may consider movies and games essential to life, but I rather think food has a higher priority on my list, and if I work here I’ll get a discount on it. You go ahead and attempt to digest a DVD. I’m getting graham crackers for forty percent off whenever I want them.”
“It’s your boring job,” Luke muttered. “You have fun at that interview. I’m going to work. You know, the place with the fun stuff.” He made a rude gesture at Matthew and sauntered off in the direction of Campus Rentals, which was situated five stores down and across the street from the Cornerstone Market.
“Make sure you clean off all the returned videos and DVDs,” Matthew called after Luke’s retreating form. “You never know just what bodily fluid they’ll have all over them.”
Luke flipped him off from four stores away. Matthew considered returning the gesture, but remembered that he was standing in front of a store he hoped would employ him and decided against it. He did, however, file it away in the back of his mind so as to be brought up at home later when retribution was entirely permissible.
Squaring his shoulders, Matthew paused for a moment to check his reflection in the (highly polished and streak-free) glass on the doors, then reached out and pushed the door in. To his unceasing delight, a little tingling bell entirely failed to announce his presence. The lack of a bell on the door had been the second item on his list.
The third had been a lack of the discordant wailing often erroneously called soft rock – a blatant lie and an oxymoron as well – blasting over the speakers. In fact, he had yet to hear anything over any speakers in the Cornerstone Market, and he was starting to suspect that they simply didn’t have a music system. Approval welled within him, and he pushed his glasses up again, determined to look good. He would dazzle the manager with this interview. He had to get the job. After all, it had met all four of his criteria. Four was a reasonable number, he thought. He didn’t understand why Luke kept insisting on calling his list evidence of a clear mental disorder.
“Welcome to Cornerstone Market!” a cheerful voice rang out, and Matthew directed an automatic friendly nod of the head in its direction. Check, he thought to himself, allowing himself the smallest of smiles.
The fourth and last item on his list had been decent coworkers. He had only met two of them besides the manager, but both had seemed to be quite amendable to work with. One, a small dark-haired girl, had been the one he had seen clean the spill in the milk aisle. Her basic knowledge of cleansers couldn’t have failed to impress him, and the fact that she had been wearing latex gloves had cemented the impression. The other had been the boy behind the counter, who, aside from being extremely polite and possessing of a cheerful smile, had also been slender, dark-haired, and eminently fuckable. In a cute sort of way, of course.
That was the one who had just greeted him, and Matthew allowed himself a quick moment to scrutinize him again. A lock of the boy’s neat hair fell into his eyes in a way Matthew was convinced was designed to make him look, at that very second, even more appealing. As he watched, the boy flicked the hair out of his eyes and gave the customer he was helping a dazzling smile, and Matthew nearly melted through the floor.
Yes, he absolutely had to get this job.
“Could you stop that? I’m trying to work,” he heard behind him, and he started, realizing that his looking had degenerated into staring. He was fairly certain that no one behind him could have figured out exactly what he was thinking about. People looking at him face-on often had difficulty telling what he was thinking, which was exactly how he liked it.
Still, he thought it prudent to act as if absolutely nothing was wrong and that he had just been taking a quick look around, and by the way, where is the manager?
Reluctantly tearing his eyes from the counter boy, who had been touching his lips with one slender finger in a way Matthew thought should be illegal for anyone under the age of eighteen to see, he turned towards his admonisher.
The dark-haired girl he had seen cleaning up the spill last time was standing in the soup aisle behind him. But she hadn’t been talking to him. No, Matthew thought, she was probably talking to the rather tall blond who had draped himself all over her and was busy nibbling on the nape of her neck as she attempted to stock soup cans. She seemed utterly unperturbed, aside from a slight look of exasperation on her pixie-cute face.
“Say you’ll go out with me, and I will stop,” the blond murmured against her neck. His lips looked strangely devoid of color next to her skin, which was a dusky sort of olive tone that defied conclusive racial origin. His skin, barring his lips and a slight blush to his cheeks, was the pale sort that either meant the owner spent no time at all in the sun or had mostly Scandinavian blood. Matthew also couldn’t help but notice two other things about him: one, his hair was rather long and not tied back very neatly, allowing strands of it to brush the girl’s skin and raising Matthew’s concerns about hygiene, and two, the ass pointed at him was, he had to admit, rather spectacular.
“I’ve already said no at least a million times. Hand me that can.”
One hand snaked out from around the girl’s waist and grabbed one of the cans from the cart. She accepted it with nary a ruffle and placed it with its brethren.
“So you won’t go out with me then?” The blond had resumed his position.
“No. Not a chance. Not even if you’re the last man on earth.”
“You’re a lesbian, aren’t you? Just admit it.” The blond pulled back long enough to give her a wounded look that Matthew seriously hoped he didn’t think was sexy.
“Not every girl who rejects you is a lesbian, Aloysha,” the girl sighed, marking something down on a pad she was carrying. “Give me one of the tomato cans.”
“In my experience, they all are,” the newly-identified Aloysha (Aloysha? Matthew wondered) muttered, moving his mouth across her neck to smack at the skin of her shoulder. Yet, Matthew noted, his hand had broken contact with her long enough to deposit a can of the requested soup in hers. Clearly this was a well-rehearsed routine.
Matthew was beginning to revise his original impression of having all decent coworkers. Still, he thought, one testosterone-driven womanizer with bad hair habits wasn’t too bad. Aloysha would leave him alone, after all.
And the boy behind the counter worked here too.
“They are not all lesbians,” the girl was saying now. Aloysha had moved up and was licking – licking! – her exposed earlobe. (She had her hair firmly clipped back, Matthew noted with approval.) She swatted at him like one would at a mosquito. “Just because Amelia broke up with you to go out with Eva—”
“Don’t remind me!” Aloysha cried, actually breaking contact with the girl in order to slap his hands over his ears. “Even you have to admit that that was a low blow! Couldn’t she have waited until—”
“Until you ditched her for your next conquest?” The girl held out one of her hands. “Give me a can of clam chowder.”
“Chaaaaaaaanda,” the blond whined.
“It’s Matthew, isn’t it?” A deep voice broke into Matthew’s unexpected portrayal of improper workplace behavior. Starting again, he turned back to find the manager of the Cornerstone Market smiling benevolently at him. To his surprise, the man seemed utterly unconcerned by the tableau of impropriety occurring not five feet from him. Instead, he was holding out his hand and saying, “You’re right on time. My name is Nitish Shastri. Call me Nitish.”
“Matthew Hartman,” Matthew said, firmly wrenching his mind back to the impending interview. Despite the realization that his roster of coworkers would include one lecherous blond named Aloysha, he was still determined to get a job here. Cleanliness, no irritating bells, no jarring music, and (mostly) decent coworkers, including one polite, cheerful, and gorgeous counter boy, he reminded himself.
Nitish gave his hand a warm shake, then gestured toward the back room. “Let’s head on back there for the interview, all right?”
“That’s fine.” Matthew nodded his assent and, even though he knew it was stupid to divide his attention like this, tried to sneak a look around Nitish and catch a last glimpse of the counter boy.
“Good to hear,” Nitish said. “Damien!” he called, and Matthew’s heart gave a little skip when the boy behind the counter raised his dark-haired head. “I’ll be in the back interviewing Matthew, all right?”
“Fine,” Damien called back. Even his name was sexy. Damien. It went well with Matthew. Rapidly he amended his list. Basic cleanliness, no bell, no music, mostly decent coworkers, and Damien. Check, check, check, mostly check, and definitely check. Matthew almost licked his lips, but managed to remember that he was standing next to the manager just in time.
Nitish looked back at him. “Let’s head on back.”
Matthew followed him behind the counter, where his heart threatened to leap out of his chest when he came within five feet of Damien, who was cheerfully ringing up a middle-aged woman and chatting with her about how good homemade soup was. Matthew tried not to notice how full and kissable his lips were. He had to concentrate on the interview.
The back room was cramped and cluttered, but was just as clean as Matthew had thought it was after his brief glimpse of it on his earlier recon mission, and organized as well. A line of cupboards went around the perimeter of the room, most of them with the doors shut, although some hung open slightly. There was a small table with four chairs tucked into a corner, and Nitish led him there. “Have a seat,” the manager said, waving a hand at one of the chairs.
Matthew chose the one nearest to him and sat down, letting his eyes travel around the Cornerstone inner sanctum. This must be a sort of break room, he thought, spotting a small refrigerator, a partially open door that led to a (very clean, Matthew noted with approval) bathroom, and a series of small lockers that were presumably for the staff’s personal belongings. Other closed doors doubtless led to various closets, stock rooms, and refrigerated rooms and freezers where food was stored.
Nitish threw himself into the chair diagonal from Matthew’s and leaned back. “Let’s get this party started,” he enthused. Then he frowned. “Damn,” he muttered, then responded to Matthew’s inquisitive look, “I forgot the list of questions I had prepared for you. Hang on a sec.” He got back to his feet and strode over to the nearest cupboard. Opening the cupboard door, he frowned into it for a moment, then shut the door again, moving onto the next one. As Matthew watched, he opened the next cupboard door and smiled. Good, he found them, he thought, unprepared for what Nitish did next.
“Have you seen the list of questions for the interview? I know I left them in either this one or the next one,” Nitish addressed the cupboard matter of factly.
A hand clutching a notepad emerged from unseen depths behind the door. Nitish grinned at it. “Thanks,” he said, taking the notepad. “But shouldn’t you be in the back?”
“It’s still my break,” the cupboard said.
Nitish shrugged. “All right then,” he said. “Just keep track of time in there, all right?”
“Not a problem,” the cupboard responded, and Matthew, his mind reeling, watched the disembodied hand swing the door shut.
Nitish came back over to the table, all smiles. “All right, let’s get started,” he said, sitting back down and flipping open the notepad as if absolutely nothing strange at all had just happened.
Matthew stared at him.
“Tell me about your work experience,” Nitish read off the pad, then looked up at him expectantly. For a moment they stared at each other, then suddenly Nitish laughed. “That was Julian,” he said. “He does inventory and maintains the computers.”
“…Is the router in that cupboard or something?” Perhaps there was a rational explanation somewhere. Maybe. If he didn’t think too hard about it.
Nitish laughed again and shook his head. “No, Julian just likes to go somewhere private for his breaks so he can write. He’s working on the Great American Novel, you see.”
“In a cupboard?”
“He likes his privacy,” Nitish said. “Besides, he’s not always in that cupboard.”
Matthew relaxed slightly. “That’s good.”
“Yes, usually he’s in one of the closets,” Nitish continued. “Which actually brings me to question three on here, if you don’t mind me going out of order.”
“Not at all,” Matthew managed.
“Right, then. Do you have a habit of hiding in cupboards or closets?” Nitish asked with a perfectly straight face. “I ask because Julian can be kind of territorial, you see. You should have seen it when Aloysha had one of his girls back here in the bathroom supplies closet when Julian wanted it. We were cleaning up toilet paper for days.”
“…” Matthew said, then added, “No. I don’t hide in closets or cupboards.”
“Great!” Nitish scribbled something down on the pad. “Okay, back to question one. Work experience?”
Matthew admitted that his work history consisted mostly of acting as a tutor to his younger brothers and summers spent doing secretarial work for his father’s company. Nitish raised an eyebrow at him and said, “So why do you want to work here? Question two, by the way.”
“It’s clean,” Matthew said promptly, then added, “Plus it has a great environment. No annoying music or anything.”
Nitish grinned. “Thank Julian for all of that,” he said. “He keeps the place clean so he never gets dirty climbing on counters or in closets or whatnot. I have to admit it helps when inspectors come by. We always pass with flying colors.” He grinned proudly at Matthew, then continued, “Julian also disabled the music system after complaining that the music interrupted his creative flow. Seeing as he handles everything technical here, no one else can figure out how to turn it back on.”
Matthew nodded thoughtfully, mentally revising his opinion on the still unseen Julian. Sure, he may be a slightly insane recluse, but he was also directly responsible for two of the five items on Matthew’s newly revised list. Which meant that item number four was still holding almost completely true.
“Although,” Nitish continued, eyeing him, “You look like you might be the sort of guy who would know how to turn a music system back on.”
Matthew shook his head. “I’m in economics, not computers,” he said. “And though I may be able to, I wouldn’t want to. Not unless you were going to let me play classical music interspersed with heavy metal.”
“Interesting tastes,” Nitish remarked.
“I find the disparity fascinating,” Matthew remarked.
“Duly noted. Next question. Are you next in line to rule a country in Europe no one’s ever heard of?”
Matthew stared. Nitish waited patiently. “Not that I know of,” he finally responded.
“Great!” Nitish grinned again. “All right, next. Are you a serial killer or a former government assassin?”
“Neither,” Matthew said, but he couldn’t resist adding, “Although if I were, why would I tell you?”
“Point,” Nitish conceded. “But seeing as how you haven’t started talking about where you’re planning to bury me, I’ll let your answer stand for now.”
“Right,” Matthew said, eyeing the notepad. The whole interview experience was starting (starting?) to seem surreal. Just what sort of questions were these? Why was he being asked all of this? And, most of all, why did Nitish act as if all these questions were perfectly legitimate and, in fact, typical?
Then it hit him. It was all some sort of test. Nitish was clearly interested in having workers who could deal with insane and illogical customers, which were par for the course in any retail establishment, and so the manager had worked out an interview process designed to discombobulate and perturb any potential employees. If Matthew survived this without losing his cool, then he would score points with the manager and probably be offered the job.
He relaxed again. He was going to get the job. It was all a piece of a cake now that he knew the score. He had spent years perfecting his poker face as a defense mechanism against younger siblings eager to pass off the blame. People often told him that he looked as if his face never changed expressions. Nothing could visibly bother him if he didn’t want it to. Force of habit had kept his expressions intact so far; knowledge of the truth would get him through the rest of the interview. He had it made.
He was going to get the job.
“Next question,” Nitish said. Matthew nodded, smirking inwardly. Not a trace showed on his face. Nitish looked at the pad again. “Will you be inclined to drag customers back here and try to sex them up?”
Matthew shook his head. “That would be unprofessional. I have no plans to sex any customers up at all.” Coworkers are a different matter, he added silently to himself, picturing Damien’s sexy smile.
Nitish nodded. “Are you a sorcerer? Or perhaps some sort of magician?”
Matthew almost let his nonchalant veneer crack. “I am not actively practicing magic or sorcery, no.”
Nitish leaned back in the chair and gave him a lazy smile. “Good. Then you won’t be competition.”
Matthew blinked, but his poker face remained perfect. “No, I won’t.”
“And you’re all right with people who do practice magic?” Nitish leaned forward. “I mean, I really don’t need one my employees organizing a demonstration outside of the store protesting the satanic rituals going on in the back again. I still can’t believe she did that. I mean, I don’t practice anything remotely satanic. It’s obvious if you just take two seconds to research it instead of putting all your energies into some stupid religious protest.” He snorted. “I mean, come on!”
“I would never make that mistake, Nitish,” Matthew said without batting an eye. “I would thoroughly research any protests I planned to make before organizing them. Accuracy in action is the code I live by.”
Nitish winked at him. “I suppose that’s all I really can ask.” He didn’t bother to look at the pad before asking his next question. “Do you have any quirks I should know about?”
Matthew let himself frown slightly. “Quirks?” he repeated.
“You know,” Nitish said, “little tics. Things you do that might seem a little odd to other people. Like hiding in closets, for example. Or screaming that your ethnic heritage is the reason for everything bad happening to you ever, or making people think you’re planning to kill them, or liking to draw intricate designs in the bathroom with cake icing, or liking Britney Spears. That kind of thing.”
“Ah,” Matthew said. He considered for a moment. Luke’s voice shrieked something about anal retentive behavior in his head, but he ignored it. “No, not really.”
“Anything else I should know about you then?”
“Well.” Matthew decided to mention it. After all, it would become rapidly obvious anyway, and he wanted to know now if it would make him lose a job he had tried so hard to find. “I’m gay.”
“That’s all?” Nitish looked pleased. “That’s great! That’ll work out just fine.”
Matthew nodded slowly. Though he was glad that his sexuality seemed to be a nonissue with Nitish, it was also odd to have such a positive reaction from someone who was a civilian, so to speak. But then again, he thought, Nitish was either used to Julian’s antics or had put Julian up to acting deranged just to test Matthew. Either way, Nitish was clearly a bit off his rocker. Next to that, he mused, being gay would be a bit of a nonissue.
“Okay, last question. This one is the most important.” Nitish leaned close to Matthew, close enough that Matthew could see that his dark eyes were actually black, and not a variant of brown. His expression was uncharacteristically serious.
Nitish spoke with solemn deliberation. “Have you ever been, are you now, or will you ever be the Antichrist?”
“I was raised Presbyterian,” was all Matthew could think to say.
“That’s not a barrier to being the Antichrist, actually.” Nitish looked at him suspiciously. “Are you avoiding the question?”
“No,” Matthew said, pulling his facial expression back to complete inscrutability. “I am not the Antichrist. I never have been, and barring a great surprise in the future, I never will be.”
Nitish reached his hand across the table. After a second Matthew took it. “Just what I wanted to hear,” Nitish said, pumping his hand up and down. “Then you’re hired.”
Matthew decided to allow a small amount of his elation to cross his face. “That’s great,” he said with a tiny smile. “When do I start?”
Nitish pursed his lips. “Good question. Julian?”
The cupboard door creaked open again. “What?”
“When’s the soonest you can get him a cashier ID?”
There was a pause. Then the cupboard said, “Tomorrow. Maybe. Is he working here now?”
“Yep. He’s gay.” Nitish winked at Matthew, who raised his eyebrow.
“Is he? Hmm. I was wondering what to do with the guy who finds out that Sakuri has magical powers and is trying to figure out what she’s up to.”
“Think you can work it in?”
“I could. It could be an interesting plot twist,” Julian said thoughtfully. “I need to get this all down.” The hand appeared, and the door slammed shut again.
Nitish rolled his eyes at Matthew, who was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, Julian hadn’t been put up to his strange behavior. For a minute he started to rethink taking the job, but then he thought better of it. Julian disabled the music system and he cleans everything, he reminded himself. Reason enough to tolerate him, even if he was a bit – quirky.
And Damien. Remember Damien.
Nitish got to his feet, waving an arm in the general direction of the door back to the store’s main floor. “Feel free to let yourself out,” he said. “We can start you tomorrow on training. Even if Julian doesn’t get you an ID assigned, you’ll be working under Damien’s ID for awhile anyway. Damien is the guy out at the counter right now; he’ll be training you,” Nitish explained, and Matthew felt a little thrill run through his entire body.
Nitish started to turn away, then turned back. “Oh, and bring in either one item from this list, or two from this.” He handed Matthew a sheet of paper and pointed out the two lists in question. “We’ll also get your paperwork started tomorrow.”
“I have my passport with me—” Matthew started to say, but Nitish shook his head.
“No,” he said firmly, now making little shooing motions. Matthew took a few uncertain steps towards the door. “I’m not in the mood to deal with that right now. I’ve got a summoning to do. No one can be in here for that. Julian? Get out of here. Your break’s over anyway.”
“Understood,” was the muffled reply. The cupboard door creaked open again.
“See you tomorrow!” Nitish said cheerfully but firmly, and Matthew took the hint and left the back room.
For a second he stood behind the counter, momentarily caught up in confusion. He had the job, he thought. He had passed. So the test should have been over. All right, perhaps Julian really was exactly as strange as he seemed, but Nitish should have been done with the attempts to throw him off balance.
Then why the remark about summoning something?
The man is a little bit off his rocker, he reminded himself. Anyone who devises a test of this sort for potential employees is also the sort who may drag it on just a little too long. And in the end, did it really matter? After all, he had the job. He would have an appreciable income, which would shut his parents up, keep his home free of frat boys, and make his brother eat his words. He also had an suitable workplace and a source of discounted food.
And best of all, Matthew would be trained by him.
Matthew turned his head slightly, just enough to see that Damien, who didn’t have any customers right then, had leaned forward slightly to put his elbows on the counter, pulling the material of his trousers taut against the curve of his backside. Matthew stopped breathing.
As he watched, Damien turned one hand enough to check his watch, then closed his eyes for a moment. Entranced, Matthew stared at the shadows Damien’s eyelashes cast on his skin. He nearly died when Damien licked his lips.
Brain in a fog, Matthew stepped around the counter and grabbed the first item he laid his hand on, which turned out to be some sort of package of cookies. Digging in his pocket for the few bills he had, he stepped up to the counter.
Damien instantly snapped to attention, his lips curving into his patented smile. Matthew’s heart skipped a beat. “Afternoon,” Damien said cheerfully, holding out his hand. “Did you find everything all right?”
“Yes,” Matthew managed, but he didn’t even try to say anything else. His eyes were fixed on Damien’s proffered hand, lingering especially on the long, slender fingers, fingers he couldn’t stop from imagining all over him—
“That’s good.” Damien’s voice broke into Matthew’s thoughts, and with an internal slap to the face he jerked his eyes up from Damien’s hand and looked back at his face. Damien was smiling at him expectantly. With another mental slap, he deposited the package of cookies into Damien’s waiting hand and tried not to think too much about how cool and smooth his skin had felt, or how blue his eyes were.
“That’ll be a dollar sixty-five,” Damien said after scanning the package of cookies. “Do you really like this brand?”
Matthew didn’t have the faintest clue what brand it was. “Normally I like graham crackers,” he said, using every bit of control he had learned to sound casual as he forked the last of his cash over. “But I was kind of in a cookies mood today. Are they good, do you know?”
Damien lifted the package and scrutinized it a minute before slipping it in a bag. “No idea,” he said with a wink. “You’ll have to let me know.”
“I will,” Matthew said, and even managed a tiny smile before taking his cookies and his change. A tiny voice in his head reminded him that leaving the store, not staring at Damien like a slack jawed idiot, would be the proper course of action to take next. Clutching the bag, he turned and made for the doors, concentrating very hard on walking in a straight line.
“Have a nice day!” Damien called after him, and again he felt a thrill travel throughout his whole body.
Outside of the store, he moved out of the line of sight of the doors and leaned against the brick wall, letting himself grin like an idiot for a minute. All his reservations about taking this job were gone, absolutely gone. It didn’t even matter that items one through four on his list had been met. It wouldn’t have mattered if the store were crawling with filth, had a bell on the door that threatened to deafen anyone walking in, played soft rock at top volume all day, and all of his other coworkers had consisted of drunken frat boys and slutty cheerleaders with only ten brain cells between them. All that mattered now was reason five. All that mattered was that Damien worked here, and Matthew had got the job.
My favorite character is Julian, actually.