Disclaimer: Animal Crossing is property of Nintendo.

Author's Note: Well, hello! This is my first Animal Crossing fanfiction. I'm not completely new to the fandom - I've played Wild World before, and this time, I've become addicted to City Folk. I know City Folk is mostly unchanged from Wild World - Tom Nook still wants your soul, neighbours still want you to solve all of their everyday problems, and occasionally a special visitor pops up here and there. But City Folk has one thing that the previous two titles lacked: Kicks. I love Kicks. I've befriended him over a couple of months now, and he has to be the sweetest skunk ever. xD He's so kind to you that you just have to love him even when he gives you the wrong colour shoes occasionally.

This is an oneshot that details one night in Kicks's busy, busy life. We all know that the city can't all be glamour - I mean, some non-playable characters in your town have a kind of dark past connected with the city. This story does contain an OC - she's roughly based off my character, but apart from the name and the fact that I go to the city every day just to see Kicks, there really isn't a lot of similarity. And there's one thing that you might find strange and new: this OC doesn't talk. It reflects the fact that in Animal Crossing, you can only play as yourself - you're the one who has the most to say - and yet you're the one who never talks. Strange.

Please excuse Kicks's accent disappearing and appearing at random moments. I'm not very good with accents. x.x (EDIT: blefghwsndkfmn this thing is OVER 7000 WORDS?)


"All done, little Miss!" Kicks announced as he slung the polish-stained cloth over his shoulders and stood back, admiring his handiwork. "and boy, do you ever look sharp in those shiners! Do you like them?"

The 'little Miss' stood up and gazed down at her shoes carefully, comparing the colour and design with her clothes, before a bright smile made its way onto her face. Her eyes softened, and a heart floated above her head briefly before she stepped down onto the pavement below. Kicks watched, feeling secretly pleased with himself.

"I'm glad you like them," the girl nodded energetically. "well, that'll be five hundred Bells, like the usual. No tip necessary," he added with a coy wink as 'little Miss' reached into her pockets and pulled out a bag of five hundred Bells, ready to sneak in a hundred more for his tip. She glanced up at him and sighed, drooping visibly; but she handed him the bag of five hundred Bells nonetheless, very reluctantly putting back the spare hundred in her pockets. It was Kicks' policy to not accept tips unless it was absolutely necessary. This rule he kept very well, never demanding more than the usual five hundred no matter whose shoes he was shining. Occasionally, very occasionally, a rich snooty animal would offer him a generous tip for his services - when this was the case, he accepted, simply because he didn't want to upset them. It wasn't much use refusing anything from snooty people, as he had learnt over the years.

However, this young girl was a different story. She had just turned up one day in the city, wearing soft citrus gingham and looking nervous. He'd watched her from that first day, everything from her posture, the shy way she approached the animals in the city, and how plain she had looked compared to the others. She didn't actually do anything that day, only looking here and there before getting back on the yellow bus that took her back to her town. Kicks had guessed that she was a country girl, possibly new even to her own townsfolk. But since then she had been back every day, looking more comfortable strolling around. Kicks waited every day for her to come, save for when it was raining or snowing (as it was winter); when she did grace the city with her presence, she wandered everywhere. The skunk had never seen such a curious, busy soul in his life before. She went to the Marquee, had her fortune read, and bought various things from GracieGrace as if it was the most natural thing in the world. She was now dressed in more elegant attire, and had acquired a new hairstyle that suited her well indeed.

All of this made obvious to him that she was fairly well off. If she could afford GracieGrace clothes, she would have enough Bells and probably even a shopping card. However, she always visited him for the longest, never letting the illusions of the bright city overwhelm her - every time the bus from her town dropped her off and drove away, she ran up to him first. Over time they had developed a friendship, although she never spoke and only made her emotions clear to him with gestures and expressions. She was a kind girl, and he always did his best to make her shoes the sparkliest ones in the city whenever she came. It was a shame she never talked - as a result of this, he didn't know her name or the town she came from. Instead of referring to her name, Kicks had taken to calling her 'little Miss', even though she was nearly tall as him and didn't look much younger than he was; she didn't seem to mind in the slightest. He thought her sweet and gentle, and this was why he couldn't take more money from her (even though she offered constantly). That would have been disgraceful in his opinion.

"Good day to you, little Miss!" he called, tipping his hat as she bowed politely and skipped towards the Marquee with a bright smile on her face. She waved to him just nearby the entrance; he waved back, and as she disappeared inside the theater he sat back down on the stairs, feeling a lot more lighter and happier than before. Somehow she made him feel like that, even though he'd never heard her say anything. It was good, he supposed, having a good listener at his side for around fifteen minutes a day - just having her there, listening to him as he told her various things, made Kicks feel so much better.

As he sat and contemplated this, the bells sounded; he looked up, startled. Seven o'clock. Two hours before he could close his 'business' and go home. It was also the time when many citygoers, feeling the need for one final touch to their day, went to him to have their shoes shined. Those two hours could make him a lot of Bells.

All those thoughts flew out of the window as he felt a drop of water fall on his nose.

"Oh... is it raining?" Kicks murmured to himself as he reached out a paw to catch another drop. Sure enough, raindrops were beginning to fall steadily from the sky; everyone in the city looked up in surprise at this sudden change of the weather. Kicks watched in fascination and glee as the usually-bright and happy animals began running for shelter, abandoning their dignity - this was probably the only time he could see through their outward poshness and see the relatively normal people inside. Even though the sight wasn't the prettiest thing in the world, he had to grin despite himself - he recognized some of the more posh, snooty animals dashing into any building available to shelter from the rain, and found the sight quite hilarious. He guessed none of them possessed an umbrella - common sense and money didn't seem to go well together, he thought wryly.

But the truth was that Kicks didn't have an umbrella either. And as he was out in the open, he was going to have to get back and stop business for the day. He sighed, adjusted his cap slightly to keep the rain away from his face, and folded up his polishing cloth carefully. He could have made much more that day had it not for the rain. And it was a long way back home, he was going to have to paddle back in the rain...

A small, dainty hand tapped on his shoulder. He turned around - it was the 'little Miss', holding a Leaf Umbrella in her hand, smiling at him as always.

"Miss?"

She just laughed, and held out her umbrella towards him, waiting for him to take it. Kicks did so after a few seconds, feeling bewildered; she then turned back in the direction of the bus stop.

"Wait!" he called softly after her. "are you... giving this to me?" she nodded coyly. "but... what about you?"

The girl giggled, and then rummaged in her pockets, soon bringing out a lavender umbrella with pink swirls on it. He then remembered - of course! She designed her own patterns, so she'd always have an umbrella handy. She waved at him, and began to run towards the bus station.

"Thank you!" he called after her, waving, and got a grin back in reply as she stepped inside the waiting yellow bus.


"Heheh... little Miss..." Kicks chuckled to himself as he clasped the umbrella close and skipped happily down the alleyway. She really was such a kind soul; Leaf Umbrellas weren't common, and he doubted that she had purchased more than one before. Yet she'd given it to him at the first sight of rain without any kind of hesitation whatsoever; did it mean that she really cared for him, then? He thought of the previous times when it had been raining or snowing and he'd had no choice but to stay at home; was it possible that she waited for him during those times? The thought brought a small blush to his face, and although he felt guilty for keeping her waiting (if she indeed had), he couldn't help but feel pleased.

Come to think of it... she was kind of cute. Not the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen - but her looks appealed more to him. She didn't disguise her face with various accessories that cluttered her complexion, and was always smiling. Certainly more attractive. Her clothes were always well-coordinated, and she was always happy with the shoes he gave her; when he merely buffed her shoes and didn't charge her for it, she would sometimes come back later in the day wearing another outfit so that she could get different shoes and pay him. Although she never spoke, she seemed to understand him well.

He was in such a good mood that he forgot about the fact that he could have made more money. That one umbrella was worth more to him than a million Bells, at that moment. He hoped that the rain wouldn't carry on until the next day; that would mean that he would be staying in, and he wouldn't be able to see her. He turned a corner, mentally noting to himself how shady and dark it was, and picked up his pace.

"Well, if it isn't that shoe-shiner kid," a voice sneered from the darkness. "so where do you think you're going then, you happy little runt?"

Before Kicks could say anything, he found his back being slammed into the hard brick walls; although his long, fluffy tail absorbed some impact, it still hurt and he only narrowly managed to avoid crying out. A chuckle sounded, and then three animals swaggered over to him, all wearing the same menacing grin on their faces.

"Now, now, you didn't have to be so hard on the kid," the tallest animal - a lion - drawled, his eyes glinting with malice. "after all, he's only a runt, isn't he? And you know runts aren't worth bothering with."

"This is different, boss," the gorilla next to him replied. "he makes a heck of a living just out of shoe-shining. Never knew that there was such a thing as a well-off shoeshine boy."

Kicks could hardly focus on what was being said. He grimaced as he tried to get up, his muscles aching; a part of his mind told him to flee, to run as far as possible, but how could he do that? He was now surrounded - and as much as he hated to admit it, he was too short and little compared to the gang. He tried to slip through as the gang whispered in hushed voices; but he had barely taken one step before his arm was grabbed roughly.

"Look, we don't want to make much of a fuss," the lion held on to the boy's arm, his voice seemingly lazy and relaxed; but Kicks could feel the other's claws digging in, drawing blood. "we're just peaceful folk, get me? We're not asking much. If you just do as you're told, we aren't going to smack you around like thugs."

"Could have fooled me," Kicks muttered, and was rewarded by being slammed into the wall again.

"You know what we want. Hand over your Bells like a good little boy and we might just let you go."

Any other city-dweller would have dropped everything and run for their lives. Even respectable, dignified or reasonably sturdy animals would have done the same, let alone a teenager like Kicks was; but he was an exception. Although usually sweet, charming and brimming with kindness, after six o'clock he was permanently on guard for situations like those. He wasn't about to lose his hard-earned Bells or the umbrella that 'little Miss' had given him; he had been beaten up too much, and had only too much experience with fighting when he was little to be intimidated by a small gang like this. If fighting was the only option, then fight he would. Kicks immediately assumed a defensive position, crouching on all fours and letting out a threatening hiss; the three all hesitated, having not expected the boy to react this way.

That second of hesitation was more than enough. Seizing his chance, the skunk quickly kicked some of the damp earth in the animals' eyes; as they flinched back in surprise, Kicks fled, picking up the Leaf Umbrella and folding it up to protect it from further harm. His boots skidded on the pavement, but he wasn't fazed - while he was running, he quickly hid all the Bells he had in the deepest inner pockets. The gang could always catch up to him, of course, but with his Bells hidden that would buy him a bit more time.

Kicks turned a corner, his breath hitching sharply as he grazed himself against the wall. If he'd run this far, he was just a few more blocks away from his home now, no doubt - but where was he exactly? Was it possible that he had only been going around in circles? He'd not paid much attention to his bearings, being too occupied with his urge to just get away. He pressed himself close to the wall and looked around, trying to calm himself down enough to think.

It took him just half a second too much.

Kicks could hear the gang snarling behind him as they finally caught up with him; the gorilla lunged at him, but he dodged that with relative ease and hopped back. His fur bristled, his claws brandished in warning, and even though he was hopelessly outnumbered, Kicks was willing to fight to the death.

"I tried to give you a chance," the lion snarled as he circled the skunk slowly. "but no, you wouldn't listen, would you? Well, perhaps it's better this way. At least it gives us an excuse to beat you until you wish you were dead-"

Before the lion was quite finished with his words, Kicks swiped at his face, leaving three shallow gashes just beneath the chin. He was promptly thrown backwards to the ground as the other members of the gang lashed at him with roars of fury; the skunk somehow managed to dodge the hardest blows aimed at his face, but couldn't keep them all away from his arms and torso.

"Enough!" the lion barked at the two others, who instantly got up - kicking the skunk on the sides for good measure - and silently made their way behind their leader. Kicks felt dazed as he stared up at the night sky, the stars twinkling innocently above him. He wasn't hurt badly, but he was certainly aching - those bruises were going to want to converse with him in the morning.

If morning ever came for him.

The lion raised one huge paw, claws gleaming in the moonlight. As he was about to bring it down on the boy - and possibly tear a large gash on his body - a dark shadow fell over them, and he looked up. What he saw made him gape stupidly and drop his paw.

A shadowy figure towered over them all; the gang all backed away with mouths wide open, knowing that they were now at a disadvantage. Although Kicks was little for his age, this stranger seemed strong and tall enough to take on all of them at once. As they stood frozen, Kicks stood up weakly, ready to make a run for it. But he ducked down for cover almost immediately afterwards; the figure was taking something from its back, bringing out a large, blunt-looking object with a handle - perhaps a club of some kind-

"Run!" the leader shouted, beginning to sprint away into the distance, abandoning the other two behind him. The two remaining members of the gang threw Kicks a fearful glance, and scuttled after their leader, shouting in frightened voices. Within seconds they were out of sight, and it was as if they had never been there at all. Kicks felt dizzy and disoriented as he stood up, supporting himself on the wall. The gang was gone, but he still had to deal with this figure somehow; he faced the now advancing stranger and hissed in warning, brandishing his claws.

"Whoa, whoa!" the towering figure backed away slightly, sounding nervous. "I'm not going to hurt you, kid! Calm down! They're gone. I'm just passing by."

Kicks lowered his guard at the words; although this person didn't remind him of anyone, he could quite clearly see that the stranger wouldn't harm him. He withdrew his claws and stood back, waiting for the other to come into the light. When the stranger had assured himself that Kicks wasn't going to attack him, he dared to approach closer. He was a surprisingly unthreatening figure once he stepped into the light, blinking - Kicks could see that he was a dog with snow-white fur, black eyes and thick black eyebrows that looked as if they had been drawn with a marker pen...

"... K.K. Slider!" he exclaimed in surprise; and as he did so, he immediately felt ashamed at himself. Here he was, a shoeshine boy with specks of dirt streaking across his boots, adrenaline still rushing through his veins - and there was the famous DJ in front of him, his rather battered guitar slung over his back (of course, that was what the 'club' had been). For all the skunk knew, he could have injured the other severely. His ears drooped and he hung his head - all the while the skunk contemplated just blurting out an apology and running away.

"... I know you. You're..." K.K. Slider frowned in thought. "... yes...! You're the boy who sits on that stoop in the city. I've seen you many times before."

Kicks didn't know what to say. He just stood there rather dumbly and stared, wondering how in the world had he actually missed K.K. Slider's presence in the city; he had never seen the dog in the main square before. However, the other seemed to want to go beyond just that.

"What's your name?"

"Kicks."

"I see," the white dog nodded. "and how old are you? You look barely over fourteen."

"I'm sixteen," Kicks corrected, but he couldn't help his words sounding shy and small nevertheless; he felt so little in front of K.K. Slider. "and... uh, I'm sorry... I just panicked for a moment..."

The dog let out a bark of laughter. "No problem, kid," he said, tilting his head to one side and smiling kindly. "I'm sorry I frightened you there. I heard those thugs as I was walking by, you see. I'm no fierce fighter myself," he paused slightly as he ran his eyes over the young boy's form. "say... what were you doing out so late on the streets? It's dark, and it was raining earlier, wasn't it?"

"I... I was going back to my place," Kicks answered meekly, his boots lightly scuffing the wet earth. Sure enough, the rain had stopped sometime during their encounter; when exactly he didn't know, but that was beside the point. "I'm a shoe-shiner, sir... I had to stop business today when it began raining. I don't have any parents, and I can't do much else for a living at the moment, because they say I'm too young. Anyway, I was just walking back when the gang threatened to attack me."

K.K. Slider nodded, not saying anything nor attempting to pry into his history any further, and Kicks was intensely grateful for that. He looked up and straight into the other's eyes.

"Thank you, Mr. K.K. Slider, for saving me. I would shine your shoes, sir, and it'd be on the house too..." Kicks trailed off, glancing down at the other's feet. "... if you... wore any. I could still pay you-"

The white dog laughed and scratched his head, looking rather flustered. "There's no need to pay me, Kicks. At least you're all right now," he said gently. "however, you could do me one small favour."

"Anything."

"Allow me to accompany you near your house. The streets aren't safe at this particular hour. I don't suppose the gang would have attacked you if you closed business any later - what time do you normally stop?"

"Nine P.M."

K.K. Slider nodded in thought. "It's just gone half past seven. There may be more of them around. Let me accompany you - just until we can see your place - and then I'll be on my way."

The skunk hesitated; he had walked those streets ever since he had begun his job as a shoe-shiner, and that had been years ago. He could defend himself reasonably well against gangs, although they were few and far between at the late hours from half past nine. However, they would be prowling around now and wouldn't be gone until at least two hours passed; what could he do? He didn't want to risk K.K. Slider's safety, but he wasn't too keen on being beaten up again either.

"Are you sure? Those gangs can be pretty ferocious, sir, and we're an easy target-"

The white dog laughed again, rubbing his head. "You're a thoughtful kid, Kicks. But it'll be all right. I insist that you let me accompany you. After all, if gangs are around, we'll stand a better chance than either of us on our own."

Kicks had to give in. He couldn't argue against that one.


"Say, Mr. K.K... do you travel around a lot?"

The white dog 'hmm'ed and hitched his guitar up slightly, thinking. "Well... I suppose so. Even as I run errands and help out people-" here he winked at Kicks. "-I'm always on the go. I was born to wander and share my music. It's a good life."

Kicks nodded, looking at the white dog with a kind of wonder. "You must meet with so many people."

"Too many to remember," the taller dog replied, drawing a paw over his eyes as if he were exhausted. "I sometimes come to one town, meet one animal, and then come back to find out that they've moved away to another place. I then go to that town and meet them again, but it never lasts too long, you see. They always move away. They never stay long. But I have to say, there are always exceptions..." K.K. Slider trailed off, his eyebrows furrowed in deep thought, momentarily forgetting that Kicks was walking next to him. "... yes, indeed. There's always at least one human in every town I go to. They never move away, and some of them are decent enough to attend every one of my performances. They make it all worthwhile. And what about you, Kicks?" he suddenly said, glancing at the skunk. Kicks looked up, surprised.

"Yes?"

"Do you have any human customers?"

The younger boy blinked, and quickly glanced down, unsure of what to say. Sure, he did have human customers - but what would that conversation lead to? Humans seemed rather fickle to him, prone to turning up one day and disappearing at another time. He didn't really have humans regularly visiting his services.

What was he thinking? He did have a human visiting him almost every single day. That soft brown hair - smooth, elegant clothes - the flowery perfume. None other than his nameless, anonymous customer - however, she was real, all too real, and he wasn't going to deny that.

"I do, sir," he finally answered. "as a matter of fact, my last customer for today was a human."

"Oh?"

"Yes, she..." the skunk thought for a second, trying not to give away much. "... she's a regular customer. I've seen her around for about two months and she comes nearly every day. I've never had somebody coming for a shoe-shine so often," he smiled. "but she's very kind. She's got brown hair, brown eyes... dresses nicely too. She was wearing GracieGrace clothes today - an Elegant Hat, I'm sure of that."

"She was wearing an Elegant Hat, you say?" K.K. Slider rubbed his chin in thought. "did she happen to be wearing a white shirt as well, along with a red rose in her mouth?"

Kicks looked up in surprise. "How... did you know that?"

The white dog laughed. "I performed a few songs for her yesterday at her town. It's a nice quiet place, you know? Cherry trees. Rivers. I perform every Saturday at the local cafe - it's the called the Roost - and she's attended every concert since her first week," he said somewhat proudly. "she's a nice girl. Charming, too. I've never heard her say much - I'm probably not around enough - but I know that she loves coffee and orange juice and she looks her best every time I see her. Even though," he added with a smile, "she doesn't change her outfit very often. That's how I could guess who she was from your description. I'm guessing that she isn't really shopping crazy like some women are. But hey, GracieGrace clothes... she must have a nice job back in her town or something..."

The skunk stared in awe, wondering how K.K. knew so much about the girl when he saw her less than he did. But then, he realized that the white dog probably had spent more time with her during his concerts, and he would have inevitably wandered all around her town, picking up bits of information. Kicks saw her almost every day, but their encounters were usually short, sometimes barely lasting ten minutes. He doubted that this girl had seen K.K. more than about seven or eight times, for eight weeks were how long it had been since her first appearence in the city; yet while Kicks didn't even know her name, the other knew just about everything from her personality to her interests. Although he was delighted that somebody else knew of her sweet, kind demeanor, Kicks couldn't help feeling a tad wistful - she was his 'little Miss' all the same and he didn't want to share her.

"Is she popular in her town?" the skunk asked, not sure if he wanted to know.

"Well, she is the only one of her kind in her town," K.K. Slider answered, as if he had been waiting for that very question. "so she's definitely more interesting to the townsfolk. She's indeed quite popular, I heard. The guys in her town absolutely adore her, I can see that - why, even the barista at the Roost (he's called Brewster) likes her, and he's famous for being indifferent to people. He never used to talk much, but nowadays all he ever asks when I'm tuning my guitar is 'do you think Miss Reina will come in this evening?'." he chuckled to himself, amused at the thoughts.

"Reina?" Kicks had to straighten up at this unexpected revelation. "she's called Reina?" he suddenly felt euphoric - after all those weeks, he finally had learnt her name! Now if he met her again soon, he could refer to her as 'Miss Reina' and give her a surprise-

"You mean you didn't know?" K.K. Slider looked surprised for a second or two, but then regained his composure, not wanting to offend the younger male. "... well, it's not completely unexpected - she doesn't really talk, does she?"

Kicks shuffled his feet uncomfortably, aware that he'd already given away too much with his sudden reaction. The boy knew all too well that he and 'Miss Reina' were different; what if K.K. Slider grasped the wrong end of the stick and didn't understand? There really wasn't any reason for that, of course, as K.K. Slider had mentioned that she was popular amongst the male townsfolk - who would be animals, much like he was - but it wasn't much of a boost, as Kicks really wasn't appreciating the competition. "Well... no, she doesn't. But she's so gentle... so kind..."

"What's this I see? Young love, eh?" K.K. Slider laughed, but quietened down as soon as the boy turned his head away. "Kicks, I didn't mean to upset you. I just... wanted to tease you a little. You did seem so very fond of her-"

Kicks sighed. "But it's just not going to work between me and Miss Reina, is it, sir? I'm a skunk... she's a human... it's not exactly like I'm rolling around in Bells either..."

K.K. Slider looked over silently at the brooding skunk. He felt bad; he really hadn't meant to upset the boy. Logic followed that as he was the one who had started up this conversation in the first place, he was going to have to fix what he'd done.

"Tell you what, Kicks... I saw her yesterday in the cafe while I played my songs for her. I told you that much. But when the concert finished and she went out, what do you think happened?" he did not wait for a reply. "the villagers crowded around her, commenting on how she looked. I heard them as I walked by, and do you know what her true selling point was?"

Kicks looked up, interested. "What was it?"

"Her shoes. They were commenting on her shoes and how shiny they were. She was looking so pleased with them as well - they were white shoes with a black ribbon in the middle, and they just had to be the prettiest shoes I've ever seen on a lady."

The young skunk was listening intently, his momentary depression gone; he'd never known that other animals loved the shoes he gave to 'little Miss' that much. All he'd ever known about those shoes consisted of her opinion alone. Was it possible that he was unknowingly making her much more attractive in the others' eyes? "I gave her those shoes last week and only polished them up yesterday! Did nobody notice?"

"I was thinking that those shoes had to be brand new, Kicks... they didn't look like anything from GracieGrace, so I was wondering. And now I know who made them, you really do deserve respect. If you put that much care into every pair of shoes you do, think of how many people you've made happy," K.K. Slider smiled at him gently, and Kicks felt considerably more lighthearted. "Reina probably thinks the same. She looked so happy yesterday, Kicks - she's probably likes you even more than you think."

The skunk mindlessly shuffled his feet, his boots kicking away loose gravel. "You really think so, sir?"

"I do indeed," whilst talking, they had made their way out of the labyrinth of streets, and were now standing on an open pavement. Kicks looked around carefully for his house that was nearby - and when he saw the roof, he pointed it out to K.K. Slider.

"There it is! That's where I live. I should be fine from here onwards, sir."

The white dog nodded. "Hurry on ahead, Kicks, before it gets darker. I enjoyed talking to you very much - hopefully we'll be able to see each other again sometime."

"Good night," Kicks bowed politely, and rubbed the back of his head. "and... thank you, Mr. K.K. For accompanying me. And... about Miss Reina and everything."

"No prob. You go for it, kiddo."


Another morning brightened. Kicks awoke in his small bed, stretched his lean body, and half-crawled out of his room to get himself sorted out for that day. He subconsciously picked up a new polishing-cloth, packed a small bag with shoe polish and a few Bells to get himself some food once he was in the city, dressed himself and went out of the door. It was the usual routine - he was glad that it wasn't raining outside anymore, and the sun was shining bright.

After half an hour, he walked out of the labyrinth that was the outer suburbs, and into the inner city. To his mild surprise, he found that he wasn't too bruised after all, and what little injury he had received the night before weren't hurting. It was a good thing his paws were completely undamaged - he had to take care of his paws as much as possible. Just about everything else he could risk, but not his paws. If something happened, that would put him out of his job for a time.

It was half-eight in the morning when he arrived in the main square. Only one or two animals were wandering around, waiting for the shops to open - Kicks figured that he could allow himself a small walk around the square, and get some breakfast before settling down on his stoop to get ready. He passed by Crazy Redd's store as he walked, and the sight of the blue metal door aroused his curiosity; he'd passed by this place many times, but he had never seen what it was like inside. From what he knew, nobody could enter without an invitation and plenty of money. He didn't really have either right now. He bent over to look at the note scrawled on the door: 'Aw, shoot! We're closed! Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m' - and smiled to himself before moving on. Perhaps he could check back later and see if the sly fox was willing to talk.

Kicks bit into an apple he had brought from home as he sat down on his stoop. He knew that a healthy breakfast was essential for him to work, but he usually couldn't stomach food in the morning. He was used to not having much, so often he just ate a piece of fruit for sustenance until he earned himself some Bells. After all, fruit was cheap.

"You're going to be seriously ill one day, Kicks, eating only fruit all day long," the elegant hedgehog Labelle called as she trotted outside GracieGrace in her heels and reversed the 'CLOSED' sign on the doors. "and when that happens I'm not carrying you to the hospital."

"Some of us can't exactly chew diamonds for breakfast, Miss Labelle," Kicks replied through a mouthful of apple, but he winked at her to show that he wasn't patronizing her. "don't you worry about me. I'll have a good lunch when I earn some money this afternoon."

Labelle sighed and knotted her scarf more tightly. "You worry me, Kicks."

Kicks merely grinned and tossed the apple core in a nearby bin. He then began sorting out his equipment, putting down the tins of shoe polish next to him and unfolding his polishing-cloth. He tucked the latter into his belt and sat there, waiting patiently for the first customers to arrive. It was a good thing that his stoop was surprisingly comfortable, he thought wryly - he could lean back and watch the various animals walk by, and not worry about anything. He stretched lightly once more, hearing his back creak, and winced - he must have had a bad night's sleep.

The bells rang nine o'clock just as he saw the familiar yellow bus pull up by the side of the road. Kicks sat up straight, craning his neck to get a better look - sure enough, it was the 'little Miss', now dressed in a lovely kimono, her hair tied up in an elegant bun. She pulled out a paper parasol as she stepped down from the bus, opened it, and strolled towards the city with feminine grace - she looked prettier than ever that morning. As expected, she entered the main square and made a beeline for Kicks.

"A lovely morning to you, Miss!" the skunk called, watching her tilt her head to one side and smile cutely. "if you're looking to have your shoes shined, have a seat on my stoop! I'll shine them to a sparkle for just five hundred Bells - no more, no less," he added with a cheeky grin as she sat down neatly on the stairs. She looked over at him and pouted slightly, but didn't do anything else. Kicks felt for his polishing-cloth and fiddled with it slightly, gazing down at her shoes - they were blue at the moment, which definitely clashed with her red kimono.

"How would you like your shoes, little Miss? Colour or style?"

The girl seemed to consider this for a second before smiling at him. Two months ago he'd have been clueless as to what she wanted, but Kicks now knew that a smile signified that she wanted her shoes done to match her style. Had she wanted colour, she'd have pointed at her clothes.

"Whatta choice! I've got just the finish to match your style..." he grinned up at her and whipped out his cloth with a flourish. "... this'll get your loafers glowing!"

He got to work straight away.


Kicks stepped back after a few minutes, admiring his handiwork. "All right, Miss, I'm all done here!"

They really were a pretty sight, he had to admit; he doubted he'd ever done a better pair of shoes before. They were now red patent-leather shoes with a beautiful jewel set in the middle - and they shone brightly in the morning sun. Not even Gracie herself could criticize this pair, he thought wryly; meanwhile, the girl was admiring her shoes, eyes shining with delight. "You like them, Miss?"

She hopped off the stoop and applauded him, in full view of the others, laughing and smiling.

Kicks could see some of the other animals turning around to look at him curiously at her applause - as shy as he was when it came to attention, he couldn't help enjoying it. The fact that he'd made his 'little Miss' happy was more than enough. He bowed slightly, a soft blush making its way to his cheeks, as she applauded. She grinned sweetly, and handed him his five hundred Bells.

However, she didn't leave straightaway - she lingered next to him as he sat down again, looking around the city and calmly observing the animals walking past them. Neither said anything for a while - Kicks did want to say something very badly, just to break the tension, but he simply had no idea what to say. He didn't want to say anything complicated or too sudden - how was she going to communicate her answer? - but he didn't want to ask her about the ambiguous either. Even if he started up a conversation about the weather, it wasn't going to get him anywhere.

As he contemplated this, he felt the young girl moving away from him. She gave him a quick nod and turned around, ready to go off and do something else in the city.

"Miss... Miss Reina!" Kicks called, reaching out subconsciously, and without thinking caught her hand.

The girl turned around at the sound of her name. She looked surprised - but not angry or shocked - both at the fact that Kicks knew her name and at the feeling of his soft warm paw grasping her hand. His grip was gentle and he hadn't harmed her in the slightest, but he could quite clearly see that he'd confused her with his unexpected behaviour.

"I - I... well, um..." Kicks stuttered, suddenly not knowing what to say. He quickly let go of her hand, feeling as if he'd committed a great sin. "I'm sorry if I offended you, Miss! I just... just thought that you were... well, uh, beautiful!" he gasped as soon he'd finished speaking; had he really just said that straight to her face?

For a while, Reina stood there, still looking confused. But then her face broke into a slow smile, a bright blush spreading on her cheeks. Giggling, she leaned forwards - and before Kicks could react, she had pressed a soft kiss on his cheek. Kicks gasped, his eyes widening, and he was blushing so fiercely that he thought he was going to spontaneously combust. Before he could say anything, however, Reina had already skipped away; she smiled and gave him a small wink and a wave before sauntering happily into the Happy Room Academy Headquarters.

He stood there for a long time.

"... See you around, Miss Reina..." he finally murmured to himself, and as much as he was shy to admit it, he felt a sense of warmth in his heart just thinking about her. He chuckled to himself, leaned back on the stoop, and closed his eyes. There weren't any customers this early in the morning - he might as well rest his body for a couple of hours.

It wouldn't hurt to think for a while.