Title: Loss

Author: Sybil Rowan

Pairing(s)/Characters: No pairings/ friendship story with Joe and Chang

Rating: K

Summary: Joe has a hard time with Kubikuro's death, but Chang gets him to face it.

Warnings: None.

Author's Notes: Mainly a story for the pet lovers out there. This happened to me yesterday. WingedPanther73 told me I need to write this to get some of my sadness.

Disclaimer: Cyborg 009 is owned by Shotaro Ishinomori.

Beta Reader: My wonderful hubby, WingedPanther73. Thanks for this one, sweety.

Date: November 1, 2009 (10:12pm)

Word Count: 1,015

Joe wasn't fine the first two weeks after Kubikuro's death. He had fought hard and suppressed every thought of Kubikuro down to once or twice a day. The time of day when Kubikuro would bark at him and nuzzle his hand for a walk, right before dinner, was the most difficult to ignore.

Almost three weeks after Joe's loss, he had managed to get rid of all reminders of the shaggy-coated dog. The collar and leash, the dog food, and the pillow he had set on the floor had been thrown away two day's after Kubikuro's death. Frances, GB, and Chang had been so considerate and removed them when Joe had went for a walk. At dinner he awkwardly thanked them and left his food untouched at the table.

It was on the eighteenth day he had agreed to help Chang clean the kitchen cabinets. Joe had managed to not think of Kubikuro for three whole days. He was arranging the dishes in an upper cabinet when Chang called to him, "Joe, what would you like me to do with this?"

Joe turned, disturbed by Chang's unusual dower tone. His smile fell when he saw the water dish in Chang's beefy hands. Frances had painted 'Kubikuro' in bright, red letters against the white porcelain.

Joe felt his throat tighten, all he could do was stare at the bowl. He vividly remembered Kubikuro gulping down water after their playful walks on the beach. Kubikuro would then prance through the rest of the kitchen, eliciting Chang's ire as water was dribbled everywhere.

Joe felt his face clench. His vision blurred. "Joe? What would you like me to do?" Chang gently prodded.

"I don't care! Throw it away! Smash! I don't want to see it again!"

"Joe! Please, come sit down," Chang ordered. The Chinese man tugged Joe's elbow and had him sit at the table. Moisture was running down Joe's cheeks as Chang pressed a cup of hot tea in Joe's shaky hands.

Joe shook his head and swiped away his tears. "Awww... this is so silly. He was just a dog. Everyone must think I'm idiot."

"No! Not at all. Kubikuro was your friend. Pets can mean a lot to people because they're so unconditional in their loyalty."

"I know. Frances suggested I get a new puppy, but I told her there wasn't ever going to be another like Kubikuro." Joe suddenly flushed, and he gave Chang a lopsided smile. "It wasn't just his cyborg enchantments, it was also his personality. He always seemed to know how I was feeling and the right thing to do to cheer me up." Joe took a deep breath, while Chang lit his pipe and gave him full attention. "I just feel guilty. I should have known. I should have seen what was wrong with him. I kept wondering what I did wrong. What could I have done differently to save his life?"

"Joe, there was nothing you could have done. He was on a path that couldn't change. You must start accepting that."

"I miss him. I keep wanting to see him run around on the beach... But he's gone! I feel it was my fault. That I didn't do enough."

"You did what you knew how to do. Even when you reached out to Kubikuro, he chose differently. It'll take time to let that sink in, but one day it will. One day you'll be able to look beyond his death and remember the good times you had with him."

Joe felt tears start again as his nose became stuffy. Joe said, "I've been afraid of those memories." Chang chuckled slightly and offered Joe a linen handkerchief. Joe took it, blew his nose, and steadied his breathing.

"Don't be afraid. That joy is what you need to look towards. For example, you remember when you brought Kubikuro to the restaruant and he stole that mackerel from me?"

They both started chuckling slightly. Joe busted out laughing suddenly. "I remember the customers looking shocked when he ran from you into the dining room. I'm so sorry. You were sure mad at him."

Chang shook his head and waved his hand. "I think he spiced things up that night. Besides, a lot of customers thought he was cute and came back in hopes of seeing him."

"Really?"

"Truly," Chang said with a nod and earnest expression. "He did add adventure to our lives. And he was your friend." Chang stood and patted Joe on the shoulder. "Live those memories of your friendship and put aside your guilt. I'm sure he understood you made the best decision... the most humane decision.... for the end of his life."

"You're right, Chang. Thanks so much." Joe stood up and walked over to the cabinets again.

"Joe?" He turned to see Chang hold up Kubikuro's water dish. Joe took it in both his hands and stared at the red letters.

"I'll keep this. He used to nudge it around the kitchen and give me a sad look when he wanted to some attention."

"Good idea. I'll finish the cabinets. Why don't you go put it away?"

"Thanks so much." Joe jogged out of the kitchen and upstair to his bedroom. He set the dish on a bookshelf full of nick-nacks, comics, and games. "I'm so sorry I couldn't help you, boy. I do hope you're at peace now."

Joe turned, flopped on his bed, and let out a deep sigh. He smiled as he remembered Kubikuro as a puppy sitting beside his parents.

END