Chapter 1

"That'll be seventy five-sixty, ma'am."

The woman blinked and stared at her hand. "Sixty," she repeated and glanced at the small red purse in her hand.

"Can I pay by credit card?"

Kanda tiredly stared at her. It was late. It was ridiculously late and she was asking to pay by credit card when clearly there was a clear and short "WE DO NOT ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS" sign right in front of her. Was she stupid or just pretended to be?

"No ma'am."

"What?" She blinked again, fluttering her long and obviously fake eyelashes. Kanda fisted his hand under the counter.

"You can't use credit cards here, ma'am. We only accept cash and debit," Kanda deadpanned. The woman reddened. Good, she had some conscience.

"But that's ridiculous! Every store accepts credit cards! Every effin' store!"

No conscience whatsoever. That stupid old cow.

Kanda grated his teeth. He could barely hold himself from screaming. It was just fifteen minutes before closing and this old bat was exasperating.

"Ma'am, we do not accept credit cards," he hissed, glaring at her. "Is that so hard to understand?"

The woman smiled venomously. "Listen here, pretty boy, I always pay by credit card. Always!"

"Good night, ma'am." Kanda tiredly placed a "Closed" sign and went to another line composed of two rabid customers. The woman started cursing loudly and threw her package down. She slammed the door and the bell rang shrilly, killing three more nerve threads in Kanda's ears.

Dealing with customers was Lavi's job.

Screw Lavi. That bastard took off with his girl, Lenasomething, to a cheap hotel while her brother wasn't in town, thus leaving Kanda with everything: cleaning the bird cages, keeping the store clean, feeding the animals. And that was ok. That was his job, anyway. But not this.Not working with the customers.

"Hello, how are you…" he mumbled robotically, putting a hamster wheel and hamster food into a paper bag.

He hated paper bags. They were cheap and showy.

As a response to his dead greeting, the customer mumbled something obscure and Kanda just huh-ed back. His hellos were a formality, an annoying one on top of that. He never cared about the loud people in front of him; he just was pretending they weren't there. He wouldn't have cared even if some idiot decided to hang himself in front of him.

People were exchangeable, just like paper bags.

What's more, he hated unreasonable costumers. The ones who weren't paying attention to buy and pay details. He had already been fired four times for kicking those kinds of people. And he surely couldn't afford to be fired again.

Or he'd be in a deep, deep trouble.

"Can I pay by credit card?"

Kanda slowly lifted his eyes and stared at the customer with quiet hatred.

There's the trouble.

"Are you messing with me?" he asked quietly, feeling his fingers twitching with rage. "Are you fucking messing with me?"

The customer, a small boy with huge dark sunglasses that hid his face till the tip of his nose, smiled candidly.

"No such thing, sir. I am just asking if I can use my credit card," he pronounced with the brightest British accent possible.

Kanda bit his lip. He bit it hard, feeling the flesh turning sour.

"You are messing with me, you shithead," he whispered and plunged ahead, grabbing the boy by the collar, pulling him over the counter. The two other people behind him started screaming for the security or something, throwing the bags and baskets on the floor.

Kanda paid no heed.

"Are you screwing with me, little shit? Don't you see the "NO fucking CREDIT CARD" sign? Are you freaking blind or you just want to die?"

The boy didn't even react. Well, actually he did, but in a very unorthodox way. He smiled. That little shit was smiling when death was in his face.

"I'm sorry for misunderstanding, sir. I am blind."

The whole store (three people and a clerk) shut up immediately as if someone turned off the volume. Kanda mutely stared into that little face. He felt prickly glanced that plunged into him like cacti. The boy still smiled; too serene and innocent considering the circumstances.

Oh shit.

Kanda softly let go and silently pulled the boy's basket onto the counter, checking the hamster items out. His very brain was burning with shame, and the only hint to that were the reddened tips of his ears.

"You could at least apologize, jerk," a tall woman huffed, smothering Kanda with a hateful look. She smirked, seeing his jaws tighten and knuckles whiten. "You should go to anger management classes or someth—"

"It's ok, really. I get that a lot," the boy stopped her softly, showering her with a generous smile. He seemed to enjoy the whole situation. He reached his pocket and Kanda blinked, seeing how fast and sure his fingers opened the little black wallet. He had a whole bunch of cards on the left side, and banknotes on the other, arranged in descending order.

"Will that do?" he asked, putting a green card on the counter. Kanda picked it up. A debit card. It had cats on it. Why the hell did he need cats if he couldn't s—

"Yes. Nine forty-six," Kanda murmured, placing the packet on the counter. The boy put carefully his palm on it, touching it slightly. Immediately as he felt the brown paper under his hands he grabbed it, putting the hamster food vertically, bottoms down. He seemed to have previous experience with such things before.

Kanda ripped the receipt and hesitated. He had no idea whether to put it on the counter or hold it in the air, hoping that the boy will somehow…get it.

"Oh, I don't need the receipt!" The boy smiled –guessing his thoughts— and paced to the automatic doors. "Good night!"

He took a thick tube out of his pocket and started twisting it. In less than two second he was holding a white cane with a red tip in his hands. He held it in front of him and slightly touched the floor, pacing calculatedly, like a cat. The doors closed and the bell rang again, sending another soul out.

"Poor child! Blind at his age? Where the hell's God?"

"Who knows? I heard that blind folks are quite talented at many things, so who knows—"

Kanda silently tightened his jaw. That was another 'why' he hated working with the customers. They were brainless creatures who exchanged unneeded information, just to keep the friendly façade with complete strangers. And that- knowing they won't ever meet again. How useless.

The door closed and Kanda stared at the person in front of him. The last customer.

"We don't accept credit cards, so scram," he turned away and took off his cap. He could go home now. It was ten sharp.

"Nah, I just wanted to exchange two twenties…"

"Do I look like a bank to you?" Kanda murderously hissed and threw four fives on the waiting palm.

88888

The air was cold, too cold to walk with a bare head. March was not in full power now, so the city didn't even realize that spring was here as of last week. Kanda lifted the furred hood of his jacket and cursed. His apartment was a few blocks away, so he played a strangely morbid military march in his head, hoping to fool himself into walking faster.

He liked his apartment. It was a small thing with wooden floors and big windows. And it wasn't too expensive— Kanda's paycheck from the pet store somehow covered it all. Even so, working fulltime and studying fulltime wasn't as easy as it sounded.

Crossing the empty street Kanda shuddered and blinked, feeling the snowflakes melt on his nose. He wiped his cheek, pulling the hood even lower. He was sure spring was here. Then why the snow?

Kanda stopped and lit a cigarette. He hated the smoke; he hated the bitter taste in his mouth, but for some unknown reason continued to do it. A red car zoomed past him and the man cursed, spitting sideways. The rings of gray rose up and froze in the crispy air.

"Sir, could you help me cross the street?"

Kanda felt the tips of his ear burn. The blind kid from before was behind him, with the cane extended, looking into nothing. The man's lips thinned, almost disappearing. He curtly nodded and a second later regretted it. That kid couldn't see his nods.

"Which one," he half asked, half stated, even though there was only one street.

"I think there's only one," the kid replied with a hint of laughter in his voice. And that made Kanda want to shut up and die, or at least strangle someone before he divorced his own body.

A light touch on his sleeve and Kanda snapped out of his daze. He silently grabbed the kid's hand and led him across the street, glaring at the car that stopped carelessly a foot away. The boy's hand was thin and small and Kanda gulped, shifting his fingers. Just a bit more and that little arm would break off, like a sugar wing.

"Thank you, sir."

Kanda dropped that hand immediately, as if it burned his fingers. The kid smiled and whipped his cane around, walking away lightly.

"We have delivery services," Kanda suddenly blurted out. He stood in the middle of the street, ignoring some car's honking. The kid stopped and turned around, facing Kanda with a strange expression.

"Really? How unusual. Do you want me to spread the word?"

"Huh?" was the only thing Kanda could muster, gawking at the kid who mocked his good intentions. Three second later, when the kid was gone, Kanda made a big, fat vow to never (try to) be considerate towards another human being.

It's not like it will ever pay off,Kanda mused entering his shortcut between two buildings with no windows. He lifted his foot exactly in the place where the broken bottle lay, and ducked three paces later, avoiding the hanging cable.

They were always here. They were familiar to him, even more than his obsessive manner to put his socks into the third drawer- not the second one.

Kanda knew his way around. He knew what tomorrow would bring. He was sure of his future and his wants. His future was a straight black line, and he followed it without questioning. There was nothing to question.

"The hell?"

He gawked at the person sleeping on his welcome mat. The same big glasses, hamster food, and a fluffy white head were snoring at his feet.

And Kanda questioned himself for the first time in his life.