Sing Like a Canary

"You ICE guys, you take this bird shit real seriously."

"Really Johnny? Right now? You want to talk about this right now?"

Jakes swirls his hands around the air in front of him in a silent look at where we are right now. They're alone in the living room, but the guys they're trying to buy a (hopefully) smuggled parrot from aren't far away, negotiating a price in the kitchen.

Grinning, Johnny stands to pace a little, inevitably ending up in front of the grey parrot sitting on a stand by the window. "What about this guy?" he asks, bending to get a better look at the bird. "You gonna ask him for his green card or something?"

"Johnny," Dale hisses at an appropriate volume, demonstrating what that should sound like to his partner, who's speaking far too loudly for their current situation.

"Relax," Johnny says, laughing under his breath. "What, you think they're gonna come back in here and the bird's gonna tattle on us? 'Hey guys, Johnny's a Fed!'"

"Johnny's a Fed."

Johnny blinks. "Fuck."

"What did it just say?" Jakes moans, voice muffled by his knees where his head immediately sank with his hands clasped behind it.

"Johnny's a Fed," the bird repeats.

"Yeah," he sighs. "That's what I thought. I mean, I wasn't asking you, but yeah."

"Johnny's a Fed."

"I still think we could have left him there," Johnny tries, holding a slice of banana to the parrot's beak to see if he'll eat it. "You can't even tell what he's saying. He could be saying Johnny's dead."

"He'd be right too, once Briggs finds out you brought him to the house," Paige says, grinning a little too smugly.

Johnny hisses and points at her, urging the bird in her direction. "Get her, birdman! Get her!"

The parrot preens its wing and hops back, away from the banana that Johnny was holding too close to its face.

"I'm terrified," Paige snorts.

"No one's going to be dead," Charlie says sternly. "Except maybe…"

She makes some vague but violent gestures towards the bird and the others recoil in surprise.



Johnny claps his hands over the parrot's head, approximately but not definitely where his ears should be.

"It's not like I want to," Charlie defends. "Do I look like a freakin' bird killer to you?"

"You sure sound like one," Mike mutters.

Rolling her eyes, Charlie steps closer to the parrot and refrains from smacking the nearest housemate when they all crowd protectively around it. "I don't like it any more than you do, but snitches get stitches and wind up in ditches. That's the DeMarco way."

There's some awkward shuffling, and somehow Paige gets pushed to the front.

"I think I speak for everyone when I say we're going to pass on killing the bird," she starts patiently. "And also when I say that if you have something you need to get off your chest, I guess, we're here…you know, for that…"

Jakes whistles lowly. "Nicely handled."

There's sound coming from the front entrance, and they hear Briggs call for them as he makes his way into the kitchen.

"Think he'd believe it just…flew in? Like through the window?" Johnny moans.

"Johnny's a Fed," the bird squawks, oblivious.

"You brought," Briggs says slowly, "literally the only pet in the world that can spill its owner's secrets into a house of undercover federal agents."

"Well, if you wanna say it like that," Johnny mutters.

"How should you say it?" Mike asks, fingers slowly hovering towards the parrot's head, lingering a few inches in front of its beak.

"It's not a dog," Charlie snaps, grabbing his hand and guiding it to stroke the feathers on the back of its neck. "It doesn't have to smell you first."

No one can confirm that, so Mike backs up a little, rightfully respectful of how hard a bird like that can bite. But the parrot follows his hand as it retreats, nuzzling its head into his palm. Before he can swat her away, Paige snaps a picture with her phone, smiling at the contented cooing sound the bird is making now.

"See?" Johnny demands, throwing a hand their way. "It likes Mike. How many living things who aren't us can say that? It'll, I don't know, improve his self-esteem or some shit."

"Johnny's frequently concerned about my feelings," Mike deadpans.

"And listen! We can like, leave a message with the parrot when we're going out. No more sticky notes all over the freakin' place."

"I don't think it works like that," Paige frowns. "And we have an answering machine. And phones that make the answering machine only slightly less obsolete than the bird."

Technically they're deadlocked, three against three on the issue. But since Charlie and Briggs are strongly against keeping the bird, with Jakes definitely on their side but not too passionate about the cause, and Paige and Mike for keeping the bird but truthfully not caring that much either way, Johnny is left as the parrot's only strong supporter.

"Sorry man," Briggs says, patting him on the back on the way to his room. "The bird needs to get gone by the morning."

Morning can't come soon enough.

It's 1:34 when the wailing starts, and by 1:40 it's more or less become background noise that can be drowned out with a pillow held tightly over a head. But at a quarter till two, the siren starts.

"Why?" Charlie yells, hands over her ears to muffle the noise of the police siren that the bird is imitating. "Why is it doing that?!"

"It's not his fault!" Johnny screams over the noise. The other housemates are shuffling out of their own rooms now, and he'd really like to speed this up and get them back to bed before they wake up enough to look as pissed as Charlie does. "He's scared! Jakes threw a shirt over his head and birdnapped him to get him here!"

"I did," Jakes confirms, throwing his hands in the air. "Arrest me."

He retreats to his room and slams the door, just as the bird starts to mimic the sound of a truck backing up.

"Johnny, get it to shut up or get it the hell out!"

Charlie disappears too, dragging Briggs, who waves awkwardly at them, behind her.

Johnny frowns and gently runs his fingers over the bird's folded wing.

"Sorry, little dude."

Smiling softly, Paige sighs at her herself and what she's about to do and steps on Mike's foot to jerk him awake.

"Come on," she says, wrapping an arm around Johnny's shoulders. "Let's take him downstairs. Mike and I will help you look after him."

"We will?" Mike mutters sleepily.

It's a long night, but at least by the end of it, no one is too disappointed to see the parrot go. Paige is asleep on the couch, unable to stay up quite as long as the parrot, who watched old movies with her all night and has been quoting Singing in the Rain all morning. Johnny and Mike have an elaborate bowl system spread out on the table, trying to figure out which breakfast cereal the bird prefers, until Jakes blows it all to hell by skipping straight to the Fruit Loops. ("Because the damned toucan likes it.")

He's right.

Charlie and Paul come down at the same time and refuse to look Johnny in the eye, knowing they'll soften their resolve. Like it has some kind of homing radar that attracts it to the person that least likes it, the bird lands on Charlie's shoulder as she makes a call to the cable guy, who was supposed to show up the day before and fix one of the zillion problems that tends to go hand in hand with having the ridiculous number of phone lines that they do.

She spits the address at the phone through gritted teeth and swats at the parrot to get it off her shoulder so she can put the phone down and make breakfast.

"Get off me," Charlie scowls, shrugging furiously as she tries to pull the eggs out of the fridge with a giant bird on her shoulder.

In reply, the parrot repeats their full address, zip code and all, before flying back to its perch between Johnny and Mike.

Stunned silence.

"Jesus Christ," Charlie whispers, horrified. "It can never leave."

"Johnny's a Fed," the parrot says smugly.