Kaku hates being assigned missions with Jyabura.

"I still think the giraffe thing is funny as hell."

Hate.

"It's really not that funny, Jyabura."

"Like hell it's not. You're a giraffe. Think of an animal goofier than that."

"A duck-billed platypus."

Jyabura pauses. Admittedly, Kaku has him with that one. Still, not to be deterred, he forges ahead. "Long skinny legs and a long skinny neck and a square head and spots..."

"Jyabura–"

"Deformed little horns."

"Jyabura, please, we need to go over the mission plan again."

"I honestly can't think of anything dumber than being a giraffe."

"How about not being able to get an unattractive waitress to date you?"

There is a long and burdened pause in which Kaku keeps his eyes riveted to the mission plan in order to avoid Jyabura's eyes. He feels the stinging glare on the side of his face like a slap.

"...I'm sorry. That was uncalled for."

"You're damn right it was."

"Can you at least stop making fun of me and read this?"

"...fine."

"You know..." Kaku pauses. This probably– no, this definitely isn't a good idea. "She just...doesn't see your better qualities."

Jyabura perks up a little at this. "Yeah?"

"Yes. Like..." Kaku thinks desperately. "Well, your Devil Fruit ability. Very impressive. And the fact that you can move while using Tekkai. You're a skilled fighter."

"You really think so?" Jyabura asks, a bit suspiciously, as he peers over Kaku's shoulder at the mission plan.

"Of course, or else I wouldn't have said it. Shipwrights never lie."

Jyabura chuckles. "You use that line often?"

"When I can get away with it." He doesn't smile, but his amusement is evident enough anyway. Jyabura can tell. Still, he hesitates.

"You know why she turned me down?"

"Because you came onto her like a she was a dog in heat?"

Jyabura pauses long enough to allow Kaku to realize that this is time that can be spent hitting him. "She's in love with Lucci."

Kaku doesn't laugh. It doesn't matter. Jyabura knows he wants to.

"Shut up, ugulate."

"I think you mean 'ungulate'."

"It's a combination of the words 'ugly' and 'ungulate', moron."

"Is that honestly the best you could come up with?" Kaku asks, smiling blithely, as he flips to the next page.

"On short notice. I wasn't done with that." He grabs Kaku's hand mid-turn and flips the page back.

"Well, I was. Perhaps you need to learn to read faster."

"Maybe you need to learn to be patient."

"Maybe you need to learn tolerance."

"Maybe you need to shut up."

"And maybe you do. Are we through, here?"

"Lemme finish the damn page."

"Fine."

There is silence as Jyabura dutifully skims the page and finally lets go of Kaku's hand so that he can flip to the next one. He leaves his arm crossed around Kaku's back so that he is leaning over his shoulder.

"Is she really in love with Lucci?"

"That's what she told me. Don't know what she sees in him. The guy's a psychopath."

"And you aren't?"

"I still have human qualities."

"Jyabura, you're technically a murderer. And you're a compulsive liar, by the way."

"Am not."

"See?"

"Shut up."

This silence lasts longer; both of them finish reading the page and Kaku actually glances back at Jyabura, who nods, before flipping to the next. For a split second, Kaku glances down at the fingers gripped into the edge of the table he is sitting at; Jyabura has possibly the most ragged nails he has ever seen in his life, and that includes those of hardworking carpenters. Also, there are scars all over his hands, and the skin is rough. He wonders why he notices.

Eventually, Jyabura laughs shortly, and Kaku looks back at him and raises an eyebrow. He grins a wolf grin; mean and predatory. "Thing about being a wolf zoan?"

Kaku sighs. "Yes?"

"I can smell every damn thing. You've been eating salad."

"I had some for lunch…" Kaku sincerely hopes this isn't going to open another giraffe argument.

"Giraffes eat salad."

Kaku suspects that Jyabura is the most predictable person on the planet, and finds this oddly refreshing.

"You have absolutely nothing in common with Lucci."

"Thank you," Jyabura deadpans, and snorts. "Although if I did maybe I could get a date…"

"You don't have to be like Lucci to get a date. You just have to find a person who likes you for who you are."

"Oh, aren't we the keeper of good advice?" Jyabura snorts again. "What are you, my mother?"

"I'm sincerely glad that I am not," Kaku says, turning another page, "Because if I was it would mean that I have not only spent more time with you than any human being should ever have to, but also that I have the gods to answer to for your existence."

There is another I-could-be-injuring-you-right-now break in the conversation. Jyabura's nails dig deeper into the table, so hard that the wood creaks slightly. Kaku gives him credit for realizing that a physical fight would only be detrimental to their mission. Try as he might, Kaku can't accuse the man of being bad at his job. Also, try as he might, he can't quite help but respect that.

"You're really a pain in the ass, you know that?" Jyabura eventually snaps.

"No more than you," Kaku replies. "It's all subjective."

Jyabura snorts. "You can find a way around anything, can't you?"

"Why do you make it a personal mission to irritate me as much as possible?"

The heavy silence that follows is due to the sudden and random nature of the question; Jyabura is bidden against his will to actually consider the answer. For longer than he would like. And, as always, he doesn't like what he finds, and jams it into an unused corner of his brain.

"Because you make it so easy."

The answer lacks conviction. Kaku tells himself that it shouldn't actually concern him as much as it does; he asked it only to throw Jyabura off. Or at least, that's the reason he's going with.

"Do you insist upon antagonizing Lucci because he makes it easy, or because you envy him?"

"What?!" Jyabura snaps, outraged, and jumps back from the table as if burned. Kaku calmly turns in his seat to look at him.

"You already told me that you wish you could be more like him in order to win that waitress's affections, in so many words. There's no point in hiding it now."

Jyabura's fists clench and release repeatedly, as if he wishes they were doing so around Kaku's neck. "Yeah, so maybe I do. What's it matter?" he spits, furious and uncertain.

"It doesn't." Kaku still looks at him, though, gaze level and maddening. Jyabura's angry stance relaxes somewhat as the seconds tick by, until he is standing somewhat normally, and his expression is reduced from irate to grumpy.

"Finish reading the damn report, will you?" he says uncomfortably, looking away from Kaku's eyes.

"I admire him a lot, you know."

"…I know."

"But I don't…have feelings for him."

"Yeah?"

"Yes."

"Oh."

"Do you want to finish reading this now, or after I'm done with it?"

"…I'll read it now."

Kaku turns back in his chair, and Jyabura comes up behind him, palms flat on the table on either side.

"Are you done with this page?"

"No."

"Do you want me to–"

"Nah, turn it."

"Okay."

All things considered, it is an uneventful mission that follows.

Except, well, maybe Kaku and Jyabura cooperate just a little bit better.