“Kitani, I want that one.”

Kitani looks down when he feels a hand grab at his jacket. Zenya points a finger at a cage in the very back of the store, crammed so tightly into a corner that Kitani didn’t even notice it when they came in. Whatever’s in there, he’s already against buying it on principle - caged animals tend to need a lot more personal care than something that can roam around, like a dog or cat. He already knows that he’s going to be in charge of this creature once Zenya gets sick of it, and the last thing he wants to do is add more tedium to his already frankly exhausting routine of chores.

“Why don’t you pick out one of these little fellas instead?” he suggests, speaking in a soft voice to make the idea sound more appealing. He kneels down and scoops up a soft, golden little puppy, its fur like velvet against his palm. The old cliche existed for a reason; there was no greater bond than the one between a boy and his dog.

Zenya stares at the small creature. There’s no love there, not even the smallest bit of excitement in his dark eyes. Zenya averts his gaze after a few moments, bored, and scratches at his right eye - Kitani gently pulls his hand away, reminding him not to touch it no matter how itchy it gets. He hoped that redness would go away soon.

Kitani lowers the puppy back into its enclosure, snatching up another with a darker coat and big, floppy ears, too big for its little head. He offers it to Zenya, perhaps a bit too insistently, and the boy raises his fist as if to strike at it - Kitani hurriedly straightens up, avoiding the blow, and apologizes to the owner before he can step in.

“I already found the one I want,” Zenya says again, his brows furrowed and his mouth twisted into a grimace. Kitani scratches uncomfortably at the back of his head. The shopkeeper is staring at them, his hand hovering over his desk. No doubt he’s got a phone back there, ready to call the police in case something happens. He was already wary when the two of them came in. Maybe it would be best to just grab something and get out before they got kicked out.

“Okay, little boss,” he says with resignation, “show me.”

Zenya turns on his heel, walking wordlessly to the back of the store, and Kitani follows helplessly behind him. Well, whatever; while he had no burning desire to add a mouse or rabbit’s care to his list of daily chores, it wouldn’t be too big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. When Kitani arrives at Zenya’s side, the boy has his palms and face pressed hard against the glass, staring intently at the creature inside. Kitani’s heart sinks.

“A lizard?” he asks, uncertain. More than just a little lizard; it’s an iguana. It must be a young one, judging by its size, but Kitani knows they can get big. Not only that, but they can have a mean temper if they aren’t taken care of correctly.

“Her name is Kristi,” Zenya corrects him. “It says so on her cage.”

He’s right; there’s a small little label plastered on the corner of the glass. Kitani wonders how long an animal like this could keep Zenya amused, and he wonders if one day he might enter the boy’s room to feed it, only to find the poor thing crushed to death in its cage. But Zenya can’t seem to take his eyes off the creature, despite the fact that it’s simply lazing around on a pile of dirty wood chips.

Kitani waves the owner over. “Can you take it out of the cage?” he requests.

Warily, he does as Kitani asks, clearly uncomfortable wrangling the creature. It wriggles in his arms as if trying to get away from him. Zenya’s eyes are wide, focused, watching Kristi with intensity. He opens his arms wide. “I want to hold her.”

“I don’t know about --”

“Let him,” Kitani interjects.

He’s worried that Zenya might choke the poor thing, but to his genuine surprise, he holds it gently in his arms, like he’s worried about hurting it. He’s not smiling, but his eyes glimmer.

“Kitani,” he says, but then seems to forget to say anything else, still just looking at her as if he can’t believe what he’s seeing.

Kitani squats down. “Well?” he asks. “Is this the one?”

Zenya nods, and then nods again, more vigorously. He tightens his grip on Kristi slightly, like he’s worried that Kitani will change his mind and take her away.

Kitani, despite himself, can’t help but smile slightly. “Alright. If you want her, we’ll get her.”

Zenya wants to carry her out of the store, but Kitani barely manages to convince him that Kristi will be more comfortable in the cage that she’s already used to. He loads the large glass case into the car, double checking the lid multiple times to make sure it’s on tight. Kitani’s not sure how Kunihito will react to them coming home with a lizard, but then again, the old man might not even care enough to come see what pet his son decided on.

Kitani exhales. Zenya can barely keep his hands off of the cage during the drive home, and Kitani keeps his eye warily on him in the rearview mirror, making sure he doesn’t hit the glass or try to shake the lizard around. To Zenya’s credit, he’s much more careful than Kitani would have expected of him.


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