stencilled: (kame_blackjacket)
[personal profile] stencilled
Title: Go Fetch
Pairing: KoKame
Word Count: 6,000
Rating: PG
Note: Written for my loveliest pushover, [livejournal.com profile] goldfreckled, who is hopefully sleeping right now and will wake up to yummy, yummy cake just as she rightfully deserves. I love you enough to give you a sucky bday fic, enjoy~ :D ♥♥ (dhsdjsk I know you don't like dogs but maybe fictional KoKame!dogs will be okay...) Virtual cookies for anyone who points out my many typos. ;)

Summary: Koki is a Dobermann and Kame, a Chihuahua. They learn to get along despite their differences.


The new collar Owner had bought for him bites into his neck. Too tight. With a gaping yawn, he stretches his hind leg to scratch at it. Mmm, much better.

The collar is a black strip embedded with silver spikes and dazzling jewels. It's his favourite. The more bling, the better.

His black fur has always been a bit too boring from him (granted, his world only consists of boring black and white, but shades are everything). Owner always says that a diamond necklace doesn't suit a dog of his size, but he could care less. It's unfair that only sickeningly cute dogs like poodles get the best of the doggy world. He carries it off better anyway, he thinks.

He gets back to business and continues gnawing at his bone. It's long and thick and he's been chewing away at it for about an hour now, waiting for Owner to get home and fill his food bowl again. He knows where the food bag is and while he could just rip it open and munch on all the savoury treats, the last time he had done that, Owner had gotten really upset at the mess and had refused to share bits of the steak Owner had for dinner. And Koki loved steak. Meat was his absolute favourite.

He continues chewing until the chime of keys flows to his ears and he perks up, barking a shout of delight and running to the door as it swings open. He's about to tackle Owner and get his pawprints all over Owner's sweater-vest as a punishment for being late when a sweet, cloying scent tickles his nose. He freezes.

A ball of fur sits comfortably in Owner's arms, its pair of wide eyes blinking at him ominously.

"Hey there, Koki," Owner says and swings the door shut behind him, trapping the flowery scent in the room. He shakes his head, trying to get the smell out of his nose; he doesn't know where it's coming from, but it's doing something funny to his head. "I got a new friend for you! His name is Kame - stupid name for a dog, I know, but it's what everyone at the shelter calls him. Play nice, okay? That'a boy."

At the sound of his name, Kame yips a loud, "Nice to meet you!"

The squeakiness already grates at his nerves.

-

"What?" Koki growls, dropping his bone on the hardwood floor where it lands in a puddle of drool.

"Nothing," Kame says and simply blinks at him from his spot on the couch, his wide eyes as big as his bat-wing ears. He's pretty ugly, Koki thinks. Big eyes and big ears with a tiny snout and even tinier body. Short fur the colour of dirty hay. He looks like one of those ugly marsupials Owner likes to watch on the Discovery Channel. He probably eats bugs, too.

Kame continues to silently stare at him and Koki can practically feel the smirk tugging at his little jaw. His fur standing on end, Koki flexes his paws and releases a low, rumbling growl that vibrates from the tip of his snout to the end of his tail. He bares his teeth when Kame skips down from the couch seat and trots to him on paws a quarter the size of his own. Koki's amazed that, with the disproportionate size of his head and big ears in comparison to his body, Kame doesn't topple over with the sheer weight.

"Does that usually work?" Kame says, coming to a stop right in front of him, Koki's bone the only divider.

"What?"

Kame rolls his enormous eyes, the size of them multiplying his exasperation tenfold. Koki grits his teeth and tries not to maul him. Owner would not approve, he tells himself.

"You know, all the roaring," Kame says and then mimics Koki's stance, palms spread and body pulled back to launch like a furry slingshot. A second later and he bares his tiny teeth - and more or less hisses. Koki is almost offended. And deeply amused. "Does it usually scare everyone away?"

"Not like that it doesn't. You sound like a kitty - I mean a cat."

"I wasn't trying," Kame says with an annoyed twitch of his nose and Koki barks out a snort. "Anyways, it doesn't scare me. I may look small, but I'm tougher than you think."

Koki stares. It's true, though. Koki's a big dog - heavy paws, powerful muscles and large canines. A breed that is reputed to be aggressive and not very docile. A growl and a quick flash of teeth usually have dogs Kame's size -and humans even- scurrying away with their tails between their legs. It was a marvel that Owner had even chosen him for his household in the first place, as skittish as he was.

Looking at Kame's stubborn face and the swish of his tail merrily whipping back and forth in the air, Koki decides then and there that as large as Kame's head may be, it's all just for show. There's nothing inside. Just hot air and hey, maybe that's why he doesn't topple over.

"I could crush you with a single paw," Koki saws slowly.

"But you won't," Kame yips back. "Do you know what I think?"

"I don't really care, thanks." Koki scratches at his ear and goes back to his bone. It's an obvious sign of dismissal - which Kame easily ignores.

"I think you're all bark and no bite."

Koki bristles. This is a first. While it's true that he has an impressive jaw, the only things he really uses his teeth for are his chew toys, delicious steak, and Owner's shoes (and sometimes his ties). It annoys him though, the way Kame looks at him as if he sees through him, past his sharp canines and mean stare and straight to his furry center. Koki is a big dog and so what if he doesn't go around attacking things like others expect him to? He's not a complete pushover either and he's not about to let a pint sized dog, one who has invaded his territory so rudely, treat him as such.

"Why don't you give it a try and see?" Koki growls and nudges at his bone in a dare.

Kame takes it up immediately, head full of hot air and all. He watches Kame lower his head through narrowed eyes and the second his tiny nose makes contact with his bone -his bone- Koki attacks. Only it's not much of an attack because all Koki really means to do is scare the little guy into obediance. Set the ground rules and teach him who's boss. Owner would be upset if he actually hurt him and, well... Koki has trouble hurting a fly.

He can't let Kame know this, of course and his scare tactic seems to have worked when Kame squirms away from where Koki has him pinned under his paws and skitters under the couch. He's a smart one; Koki won't be able to reach him from under there.

Huffing in satisfaction, Koki walks back to his favourite spot near the sliding glass doors that give a beautiful view of the backyard, dragging his bone along with him. He nestles down in a patch of sunlight and continues his daily routine of Gnaw the Bone. Every few minutes, he looks up to see round eyes blinking at him from underneath the couch. He may now know why they named him kame. He chuckles.

Lesson learned.

Or so he thinks.

-

The thing with Kame, Koki discovers very quickly, is that he never learns.

After the bone incident, he seems to have taken Koki's dare as a free pass to further invade his territory, including his favourite chew toys and lazing spots. It's like a sick game, or a lame inside joke that only Kame takes amusement in. Whenever Koki pounces, Kame slides underneath the couch and bides his time until Koki is distracted enough for him to make another move. And then the chase begins again.

Everytime Koki turns around, he's there. Stupid ugly face and big eyes looking at Koki as if he knows him. As if he isn't terrified of Koki at all. As if he's blind to the fact that Koki, very obviously, despises him.

It gets to the point where Koki is too tired to chase and eventually lets Kame get his paws all over his things. It wouldn't be too bad, considering Kame's pawprints are tiny enough to be overlooked (and okay, it's kind of fun to watch him fruitlessly nibble at his bone, his ears flattened in frustration) but the smell. The annoyingly sweet scent that follows Kame everywhere sticks to everything he touches and assaults his nose like a mass of tiny pin-pricks.

The smell slows him down, makes him sluggish and gives him the urge to do outrageous things like lick the small brown patch behind Kame's ears or nip at his tail.

Like all things Kame, it confuses him.

-

Today is Owner's off day. A day where he stays home and pampers Koki with head rubs and belly scratches and steak for dinner. It's the day Koki looks forward to the most.

He wakes up to the sound of the TV and the familiar drone of the pretty lady Owner likes to look at, even though he insists he's only purely interested in the news that's being read. It's a blatant lie, however; Owner's eyes never leave the screen even as Koki's drool soaks through his pajama pants.

Uncurling from his spot on the floor, he ambles to the couch and climbs on, resting his head on Owner's lap as per their usual routine. It's only a seconds wait before long fingers sink into his fur and begin to scratch at his ears. Koki gives a lazy bark of joy and behind him, he can feel his tail going wild.

This is what Sundays are made of; just him and Owner and the background sound of the TV - and something tugging at his tail.

Snarling, he whips his head around just as Kame lands on the armrest and jumps over him, pushing his way into Owner's lap. Which had already been taken.

"Get off," Koki growls dangerously. Toys are one thing; belly rubs are another. He's not about to give Owner up. Ever. It's the one thing he won't let Kame take away from him.

When Kame makes no move to get off and snuggles against Owner's chest, his paw resting below Owner's chin, Koki barks in outrage. He quiets down in disbelief when it's him that Owner scolds, his fingers leaving his fur.

"Calm down, Koki," Owner says sternly, his face stiff with a frown that makes Koki's ears droop. "What's gotten into you, boy? This is our quiet time. No more barking so early in the morning."

Snapping his jaw shut, Koki releases a long whine from deep within his throat but Owner is already tuned back to the TV. He nudges Owner's fingers with his snout, trying to coax them back to his ears. It breaks his heart when instead, the fingers move to Kame, travelling along his head in long strokes.

"We can share," Kame mumbles distractedly, his eyes squinting in the bliss of a good head rub. Owner really does give the best.

When Owner's hand finally moves to him, Koki feels triumphant - until the smell catches his nose. The smell of honey and flowers.

Owner carries Kame's scent.

Like he's been doing ever since the unfortunate day he arrived, Kame has marked Koki's territory as his own. Taken over yet again.

"What's wrong, boy?" Owner asks as he reaches out a hand and Koki ducks away, clambering off the couch.

"I don't share," he growls at Kame before walking away, his Sunday now ruined.

-

Any and all attempts at salvaging the day are shattered during dinner time.

Owner has been chasing after him the entire day, a frisbee in hand and an eager smile on his face, trying to get Koki to play around in the backyard like they usually do. Koki would be more than happy to play fetch, to dig around in Owner's poor attempt at a garden and chase around the squirrels that sometimes hop down from the trees - if only Kame didn't tag along like an annoying shadow, impossible to throw off.

By the time it is afternoon, Owner has given up and allows Koki to sulk in peace by the glass doors while he turns to play with Kame instead. Koki watches Kame skip after the frisbee as Owner shouts 'good boy!' and claps his hands in praise, and tries to tamp down his sullen jealousy. That frisbee was his. It probably reeks of Kame now, too.

His mood now turned completely sour, Koki comforts himself with the thought of dinner and steak. Delicious, delicious meat. His favourite. Kame can steal his toys and his head rubs and Owner's attention all he wants. As long as Koki has his meat, all can be overcome.

Meat is sacred.

Mouth watering in anticipation, he sits by the kitchen table and wags his tail impatiently, waiting for Owner to put their dinner together. The oven chimes and he can't help but bark in response, the smell of freshly cooked steak flooding his senses and for once, he can breathe without smelling yucky flowers.

Finally, owner turns around, a fork spearing a chunk of steak in his hand and Koki whimpers. At long last, it's here. He tracks the savoury juices trickling down the handle - and watches the steak land in Kame's food bowl. And not his own.

Koki goes ballistic.

The food bowl spills across the floor as he tackles Kame, ignoring Owner's pleas to calm down.

"I have an entire slice saved for you, boy! It's okay, I just gave him a little. You'll still get yours so let him go already. Koki! Sit, boy."

But all Koki can hear is a loud ringing in his ears that drowns everything out, everything except the fact that, no, it is not okay. Because this is Koki's house. Koki's territory and Koki's toys. Koki's bone and Koki's Owner. Koki's fucking meat.

And this pup sized dog -this intruder who is still looking up at Koki with big, fearless eyes even as Koki crushes him with his weight and roars thundering barks in his ugly face- this pup sized dog is a thief. Playing dumb as he systematically takes over everything Koki holds dear.

"I've had enough of this!" he shouts viciously and then coughs as Owner tugs him back with a rough jerk of his collar.

"Bad boy, Koki! Bad boy. You're staying out in the doghouse tonight," Owner says, his grip still firm on Koki's collar. Koki tries to dig in his heels and stay put as Owner begins to drag him away, but he gives up when he sees Owner's face. He looks more upset than angry and Koki hates making Owner upset. Whenever Owner gets into one of his moods, he'll spend the entire day cleaning the house, sweeping and spraying every nook and cranny, and then everything will smell like disinfectant for an entire week. Koki doesn't think it's possible, but the only smell more unpleasant than the sharp pinch of bleach is Kame's scent.

Being away from it, out in the fresh air, is the only perk of sleeping in the doghouse. Other than that, Koki loathes it; the house is small and cramps his legs and the old planks of wood that hold it up creak with every gust of wind. It's cold and scary and Koki lets out a sorrowful howl, much preferring the cozy heat of Owner's bed.

"Quiet, Koki. Don't howl all night and make the neighbours complain, okay?" Owner says as he nudges Koki into the doghouse. Before he turns to head back inside, he gives Koki a gentle pat on the head and mumbles, "I thought you were better than this, boy."

If there's anything he hates more than making Owner upset, it's making him disappointed.

Laying his head dolefully on his paws, Koki wishes Owner had never brought Kame home.

-

The next morning, Owner wakes up earlier than usual and lets Koki back in. Koki makes sure to keep quiet and nuzzles Owner behind the knee to get back in his good graces. It seems to have worked because Owner smiles down at him and gives him a fond pat.

He seems to be in a rush though and Koki doesn't understand why. He watches Owner gobble down his breakfast and pull on his tie. And then run back to his bedroom when he realizes the one he's pulled on had been used very briefly as Koki's chew toy a few days ago.

"Sorry!" Koki barks at his back and is met with an answering bark that is much squeakier.

"I'm sorry, too," Kame says from the couch and maybe he's finally learned not to get too close, Koki thinks, when he turns to the small dog and Kame doesn't come scampering down like usual.

"Get lost," Koki growls. "You take everything away from me."

"I don't mean to."

He sounds apologetic but his stare is still unnerving as ever and Koki doesn't want to forgive. Not when he can feel the soreness of his legs from being folded up inside the doghouse the entire night. Kame has probably stolen his place at the foot of Owner's bed, too, he thinks angrily. Just like him, the little thief.

"Yeah," Koki says. "Well if you really are sorry, then never show your face here again."

And with that, he pads away, feeling smug when Kame doesn't follow.

His smugness dissolves into guilt shortly afterwards when Owner, dressed sharply in his work suit and argyle socks, comes into the room to put on his shoes and Kame jumps down from his seat - and nearly topples over. Koki watches him limp a couple of steps until Owner picks him up and examines his front leg.

"We'll get the vet to look over that. You'll be fine in no time, little guy," Owner says and then whistles Koki a goodbye before disappearing behind the door, Kame in tow.

It's no secret to those who know him that Koki has trouble hurting a fly. That he walks on the tips of his paws to avoid crushing any ants or ladybugs crossing the sidewalks.

Even though Kame infuriates him, even though it was all an accident, the knowledge that he has hurt Kame hammers at Koki's heart like a rusty nail, splintering it into two.

-

The frisbee, the tug rope, the pink rubber ducky Owner had gotten him for Christmas, the fleecy blanket he naps on and Owner's striped tie. After a moment of hesitation, Koki adds his bone to the end of the line.

It's a fine collection, he thinks. All his favourite toys and knick-knacks lined up, ripe for the picking. No sane dog would turn them down, even an odd one like Kame. Tuthfully, even Koki thinks it's a bit sleazy to offer bribes for forgiveness, but it's all he can think of. He wants to apologize, but that wouldn't do much... would it?

He's been thinking over everything. Over the bone incident and then the fight over the steak. As much as it embarrasses him to admit it... maybe he had been overreacting. Just a tad bit. He would like to believe it, but Kame isn't some evil overlord out to take over his universe. He's just, well, Kame. Small and annoying and funny looking. Smelly, too.

Koki didn't mean to hurt him.

He's ready to call a truce now, though. Kame can stay and play with his toys and even share some of Koki's meat. It's how Koki intends to make up for everything.

When Owner returns, Koki waits for Kame to hop down and zip towards the selection of goods he has lined up. It's strange, but Koki feels shy, wondering anxiously whether Kame will reject his peace offering or accept it. Koki hopes it's the latter because even the thought of Kame rejecting him kind of hurts (in a way Koki will never ever admit).

He never really finds out, though, because a moment later, when no annoying yip breaks the silence, Owner says, "Kame ran away."

"I left him at the vets and when I went to pick him up...," Owner explains, his face distraught and a briefcase hanging loosely in his hand. "He wasn't there."

Koki's tail stills and silently flops down.

-

It's been five days of making posters and scavenging parks and alleys with no success.

Kame ran away and Koki knows it's his fault.

Owner tries to cheer him up, but all Koki can think of is Kame toppling over and limping across the hardwood floor, his front paw tucked close to his body.

A sudden bout of insanity prods at him and he scrambles to the couch, peering into the gap underneath. It's empty.

As expected.

Koki misses Kame's stupid, ugly face.

-

He's lying near the glass doors again, glumly watching the pattern of sunlight shift as it filters through the average-sized tree in the backyard. There's hardly a cloud in the sky and it would be the perfect Sunday to go outside and roll in the grass, but he's not in the mood.

It's been a week. Koki doesn't think Kame's coming back anymore, even though Koki leaves his bone out everynight, hoping that Kame will see it and somehow realize that Koki didn't mean it when he told him to never show his face again. It was all bark and no bite. He thought Kame saw through him, the little liar.

"Come on, boy," Owner says and pets the side of his belly. "Let's play for bit. You haven't run around for days." Koki rejects the offer with a small bark and Owner sighs. "I didn't think you'd miss him so much. I thought you hated him..."

Koki had thought that, too. Now he just wants him back.

Owner finally leaves him to his silent moping and Koki goes back to watching the rustling of the leaves, his tail lying heavily on the floor. He's watching a pair of robins quarrel over a twig when his eyes land upon something furry near the base of the backyard fence. At first, he thinks it's a squirrel just hunting for a nut - but then he sees the familiar round eyes.

He's up in an instant, barking madly as he launches himself out into the yard - only to smack into an invisible barrier. Right, the glass. He had forgotten it was there. For a moment, he lies on the floor in a painful daze, but he springs up a moment later, howling at the top of his lungs and scratching at the glass, urging Owner to open the door.

"What's gotten into you, Koki? I thought you didn't want to go outside," Owner says and then hastily slides open the doors. "What's making you so--"

Koki doesn't hear the rest of the question. He's zooming out like a bullet - and screeching to a halt when he realizes Kame's no longer standing where he was just a few seconds ago.

There's a hole dug underneath the fence.

His heart shrivelling like an old balloon, Koki wants to cry - and then he smells it, the sweet scent he hasn't encountered for days yet stays fresh in his memory.

He latches onto it and begins the chase. The hole is too small for Koki to fit through so he runs out to the front of the house and into the streets, following the trail that hangs in the air as obvious as a red thread, steadily reeling him towards Kame.

He runs past people, dodging bikes and strollers and for a moment he's thrown off, confused by the scent of the other dogs in the street. Cinnamon and charcoal and tangy citrus. He swipes at his nose impatiently and tells it to focus. Somehow, it works. None of the smells are strong enough to mask Kame's which lingers in the dips of his nostrils and travels up to fog his head.

He knows he's getting closer when his tail waves fanatically on its own accord.

Koki takes a sniff of the pavement and knows. He turns the corner and there is Kame, tail high up in the air as he digs another hole underneath someone's fence. Koki grins. Taking care to be silent, he softly treads up behind Kame - and chomps down on his tail. Kame releases a string of sharp barks as Koki, very literally, drags him back by the tail. He's missed hearing how squeaky Kame's barks can get.

Eventually, when they're far enough from the fence, Koki corners Kame against a tree, palms spread out wide along both sides to prevent any attempts at an escape, and finally lets him go.

"And where have you been?" he growls, slowly inspecting Kame from snout to paw. His leg seems to have healed and there are no extra injuries. The only cause to worry is his slight body, now even tinier than it was before. Still, nothing a large helping of food can't fix, Koki thinks optimistically.

"Around," Kame answers shortly and for once -for once- doesn't meet his eyes, as if he's scared. As if he thinks Koki will attack him again.

The erratic wagging of his tail instantly slows down.

"Come home," Koki says.

"I don't have a home," Kame returns and gently paws at the dirt near the base of the tree. "I never really did..."

And Koki suddenly remembers the day Owner brought Kame home... it's what everyone at the shelter calls him...

So Kame was a stray without a proper home - and when Owner had tried to give him one... Koki had taken it away, yanked it from under his paws like a loose rug.

Guilt is Koki's new best friend.

"You do!" Koki says insistently, trying to get Kame to look up at him. "We've been looking for you! Owner made all these ugly posters... I left my bone out for you."

It kills him to admit it, after all the fights they've had over the stupid thing, but it makes Kame perk up and Koki can already feel his tail picking up momentum.

"But I take everything away from you," Kame says and Koki wants to smack himself for how stupid he must have sounded. It was Koki who had taken everything away and had left Kame barren and alone, not the other way around. Irony now joins guilt in Koki's friendship circle. "You're happier without me--"

"I MISS YOU, OKAY," Koki shouts, chest heaving. And then blinks, dumbfounded. Kame blinks back at him, equally shocked. He hadn't meant to say that. Not so loud and... bluntly at least, he thinks with a wince.

"Damn you, this is what you wanted, wasn't it?" he grumbles, his eyes dodging to the sides to see if any dog was around to hear his outburst. He spies a dalmation watching them from a couple feet away and sighs. There goes his rep.

"You miss me?" Kame asks and Koki bets the twerp is repeating his words on purpose, just to further embarrass him. In that case, it definitely works. "But I thought you told me to go away and never--"

"--and I thought you told me that I was all bark and no bite?"

A moment and Kame grins. "So I was right, then?"

Koki tips him over with a shove of his snout.

"Just don't tell anyone. It's supposed to be a secret," Koki says as he watches Kame roll around in the dirt as he chokes out tiny barks of laughter. "Let's go home now. Owner is waiting for us."

Kame stills and looks up with wide eyes. "Are you sure?" he asks warily and this time it's Koki who rolls his eyes. It probably doesn't look as impressive as Kame's eyeroll but he can deal with that. Without a word, he uses his jaw to grab onto the soft fold of fur near the back of Kame's neck, and tosses him onto his back.

"This way, you can't run away again," Koki explains and begins the walk home, ignoring all the stares aimed their way. They must make an odd pair, like a wolf giving a piggyback to a lamb. Or vice versa.

At the moment though, Koki's mind is too fogged up to pay them any attention.

It's hard to, with Kame nibbling affectionately on his ears and all.

-

Koki's paws are sweaty.

He's prepared, though. He's watched the movie several times and he knows how it goes. How it's supposed to go. He doesn't have a fancy plate of spaghetti but he does have steak. The improvisation shouldn't change things too much, he hopes.

From inside, he can hear Owner's snoring from where he collapsed onto the couch after dinner. He was ecstatic to see Kame again and Koki surprised himself when he didn't feel even a prickle of jealousy at all the belly rubs and fawning attention that showered down on the other dog. Instead, all he felt was a surge of relief to have him back in the house again, right where he belonged.

Night has fallen now and Koki waits nervously for Kame to finish his business and meet him outside and a few minutes later, he does.

"What are you doing out here?" he asks curiously and Koki silently slides his food bowl over. Kame inspects it slowly and tilts his head in a puzzled manner. "Is this like the bone thing again?"

"Not everything's a dare," Koki says and then supposes that, for a dog of Kame's size, maybe it is. Everything's a challenge he has to face head on with his bold, fearless eyes. "This time I'm sharing. Dig in."

Koki dives in himself, trying to show Kame it's okay to take a bite, but mostly he just needs the distraction. He's chewing and he can hardly taste the steak in his mouth when he feels a tug on the other end. He lifts his eyes up and ends up staring straight into Kame's own. He snaps them back down hurriedly, feeling ridiculously shy and somewhat crazy, his brain piecing together sappy metaphors about Kame's eyes and the way the stars in the night sky reflect in them (like the tips of matches lit in a dark room, like the rhinestones embedded in his collar...).

It's the scent, Koki explains to himself. Kame's stupid, druggy scent.

Minutes pass by with the sounds of tearing and chewing and squelching and Owner's snoring. It's not as romantic as Koki would have liked, no orchestra or violins or harps pushing them towards the grand finale, but it's better than nothing.

Whenever Koki feels a burst of courage, he glances up from the steak to see Kame's tiny nose inching closer and closer with every bite. It does something funny to his stomach, and he knows its not the steak because Owner takes care to cook it just right.

At last, there's only a small chunk left and he eyes the narrow space between their snouts. He slowly lifts his gaze, his heart thudding loudly in his ribcage. Kame stares back at him for a long moment while Koki waits for him to make a move, to take a bite and close the gap between them.

It's the one dare Kame doesn't fall into.

Instead, he pulls back and tears away a small bite, munching and licking his lips in pleasure. Koki swallows his own piece, the steak going down cold and flavorless, and tries not to let his tail droop too obviously.

So much for the grand finale, he thinks--

--just as Kame moves forward and licks a slow strip along his jaw.

"You had some sauce on you," Kame says lightly, like he didn't just... just... do what he just did. "Thanks for the meal," he says -Koki swears that was a wink- before skipping away inside, leaving Koki out in the cold with his tail gone spastic.

For once, Koki feels fortunate to have an all black coat.

-

"Teach me how to roar," Kame says to him one day when they're lying outside under the shade of the backyard tree.

"I thought you weren't trying that day," Koki teases and barks when Kame nips at his tail in revenge. It doesn't hurt, not with Kame's jaw -but he knows Kame's not actually trying to hurt him, either- but Koki likes to indulge him nevertheless. Let him play the big, scary dog for once in his life.

"Teach me," Kame says stubbornly and Koki sighs. Either he gives in now or ten minutes later, when Kame has exhausted him into submission. Koki votes for now.

"Try taking a deep breath and focusing on something that makes you really scared or angry and just, I don't know... explode," Koki explains lamely, trying to put into words what he doesn't understand himself - doesn't need to understand because for him it comes naturally. He doesn't think it can be learnt anyway, but it's Kame and there's no telling him 'no'. (Koki has learned that from watching Owner repeatedly fall apart under Kame's puppy dog eyes. Shredded sweaters and torn shoes and muddy paw prints all over the breakfast table are nothing in the face of Kame's wide eyes and droopy ears. It'd be unfair if it wasn't so entertaining.)

Koki watches Kame follow his advice, his eyes closing in concentration -the folds of his fur wrinkling along his forehead- as he takes a deep breath and then flashes them open in a narrow-eyed glare that Koki, admittedly, finds a little intimidating. But then Kame opens his jaw and the resulting bark is more akin to a sharp whistle than anything else. In the ensuing silence, a single leaf drops down onto the grass.

"Look, you scared the tree," Koki says in good humour. Kame goes for his tail. "What were you thinking of anyway, before you, um, roared?" Koki asks when Kame has finally stopped chomping on his tail.

"Just the time when I was back at the shelter - nothing too bad," Kame answers and from the way he idly paws at the ground, Koki knows he's trying to avoid talking about it.

"Scared or angry?" Koki asks, urging him to continue on anyway.

"Both. It's really nothing too bad, though. Just. There were really big, scary dogs there..."

When Koki stares at him pointedly, Kame quickly shakes his head in a way Koki can't help but find cute. "Not like you," Kame explains. "You're different. You just look dangerous, but you're really just a big softie." Kame laughs as he ducks under the light swat of Koki's paw. "I know, I know. It's a secret~ I wish the dogs there were like you."

As he says this, Kame nestles to his side and tugs at his ear playfully. Koki fake growls in return and lets him get away with it, more than a little pleased. He tries not to link the newly discovered puzzle pieces together -Kame's tendency to retreat into small, cramped places and the big, scary dogs at his shelter- because the picture they create doesn't look so good and it makes Koki furious, but it's impossible not to.

He growls low in his belly and nuzzles against Kame's neck. "You're here now," Koki says fiercely. "I brought you back."

"You did," Kame agrees and then asks, "How did you catch me, anyway?"

"You're just really smelly."

Kame, predictably, latches onto his tail yet again.

"You really do smell, didn't you know?" Koki laughs. "Like flowers and honey. Every dog has a scent, but yours is the strongest. The sweetest," he admits quickly, ducking his head in embarrassment. He jolts up when he feels a cold snout digging into his fur.

"Are you sniffing me?" he asks and Kame bobs his head, his nose tickling along his neck. He finally pulls away and Koki nervously asks, "So, what do I smell like?"

"Like Koki," comes the verdict and while it's not what he's expecting, it certainly isn't as bad as it could be. A second later, Kame jumps onto his back and takes another large sniff.

"Like home," he says this time, his face pressing softly into Koki's fur. "My home."

"Our home," Koki corrects, because he really is just a big softie.


-End-
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