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Standard Disclaimers Apply.

A/N: If Ryoma was really that unemotional, maybe he'd be a bit like this.


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The First Karupin is not a fluffy, Himalayan cat with blue eyes. The First Karupin isn't even a cat. The First Karupin is a dead bird he brings home with him when he's six and too young to understand, and he leaves it in a shoebox under his bed, and takes it out to talk to every day for a week straight, until his mother walks in on a conversation they are having, shrieks in horror, and throws him away. He missed it a little, but he didn't cry, and he thought it was strange that she did so; the smell of rotting flesh was a little disgusting, and the flies were annoying, buzzing around all day, but he'd gotten used to it after the first day or so.

The Second Karupin is a fish, a nice average size with beautiful golden scales. This Karupin too, is gone in a little over two weeks and a half, because Ryoma realizes that he actually has to feed it. He wakes up that Tuesday morning to find that this Karupin has become too weak, and has been sucked into the aquarium filter. When he peers into the clear glass (he's been cleaning that aquarium all by himself since he's gotten Karupin), hands pressed curiously against it, but all he sees is little bits of fin and specks of pink meat, and the fish head that floats past his vision.

He doesn't scream, or cry. Instead, he takes the aquarium and dumps its contents into the garbage disposal, and doesn't flinch when he hears the whir of the blades grinding what's left of his pet's corpse to bits.

When Nanjiroh asks him what happened to Karupin when he wakes up, he's a little unnerved when Ryoma looks him square in the eye, calmly, and says, "He died, so I got rid of him."

He's eight years old when the Second Karupin dies.

He has a brief moment with the Third Karupin when he takes care of a wild, injured baby squirrel. He brings little bits of nuts and things to eat with him, visiting almost religiously every day. He understands that he has to feed his pets after the Second Karupin, just like he needs to be fed three times a day. Three weeks after taking care of it, the Third Karupin disappears.

There's a brief tryst with a Fourth Karupin, when he's nine-and-a-half and living in New York, a raccoon he finds digging in the trash can one night. Two days later, this Karupin is dead too, shot to death by a neighbor and picked apart by other hungry members of its species, and when he comes upon Karupin's corpse, he leaves it there for the other animals to eat. It's probably really tough being a stray.

The Fifth Karupin is the one he has now, bottle-brush tail, baby blue eyes, and fluffy cream colored fur. He's had this one since he was ten, and he loves this one the most, because this one has actually stayed with him. So he'll take extra good care of this one so it won't leave him so soon. He thinks this one is really Karupin, and when this one dies, he thinks the next one will be called Piyo instead.

He's talked to each of his pets, there's really no one else to talk to. This Karupin is the nicest, one he can hold to himself and pet and take care of. He learns responsibility from this Karupin, the kind he doesn't learn in school. Karupin is such a good friend to him, always lending an ear, and always lending a silent comfort and a steady, relaxing presence. There can't be another Karupin after this one. He can love only one Karupin at a time, but this one will leave eventually, so he'll call the next pet Piyo and love that one instead, and it'll be okay, because it won't be Karupin, it'll be Piyo, and Karupin and Piyo are two totally different things. If he's lucky, Piyo will stay with him.

But he hopes that this Karupin will stay as long as he can, and Karupin hasn't left him yet. He loves Karupin, as it is. He might even cry when the Fifth Karupin dies. There won't be another Karupin after him, after all.