All characters © Amano Akira
Summary: Hibari had seen Dino go through his array of cell phones over the years.
"I thought," Hibari Kyouya said, a vein pulsing just under the skin of his left temple, "you had said this was your fifth."
"Ah, you must have misunderstood me, Kyouya." Dino grinned sheepishly as they pushed open the double doors. "I said my fifteenth."
A cool, air-conditioned breeze greeted them as they walked into Verizon Wireless; a pleasant change from the merciless steamy discomfort summertime brought. Inside, everything was pristine, shiny, and organized neatly in red and gray.
"Unbelievable." Hibari growled as the glass doors swung behind them, more to himself than to anyone else. It was hard to believe that over the span of one year, Dino had gone through fifteen cellular devices. Dino was talented, unassuming, and quirky, but his downfall was that his gracefulness depended on crowds—something Hibari Kyouya simply could not tolerate. Summer was especially bad; the disgusting mass of body heat, sweat, and oils that humans excreted together sickened Hibari, and he made it perfectly clear that if Dino was going to show his face in his establishment, Namimori, no one else could be around. So without his subordinates, Dino was...clunky, and his possessions tended to meet unfortunate ends, like the cell phones. Four had gone over the roof of Namimori High School, one into the river, two crushed in a fight, and the rest had either been fallen on or tripped over.
After the fifteenth was lost over the George Washington Bridge (don't ask), Hibari announced that he was personally dragging Dino to the phone company so that there would be no chance of Dino screwing things up. With his kind of income, Dino could afford to repeatedly replace his phone, but Hibari, as well as the rest of the Cavallone Family, believed that the money could and should be spent elsewhere.
It was Verizon this month. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all knew Dino's face by now; Hibari had tersely informed him that those companies would try to finagle more money out of him if he went back. Now that they were actually inside, Dino ruffled his hair and breathed a sigh of relief at Verizon's favorable atmosphere. It was nearly empty and people weren't crowding around too much, which saved Dino the trouble of reigning Kyouya in. This was New York, which, coalescing with Hibari Kyouya, created one of the most lethal cocktails on the face of the planet. Set in front of him to drink. Dino had learned not to harbor bitter feelings toward Reborn for this, because in the end, the kid always knew best.
"You know Kyouya, every one out of three customers will lose or damage their phone within the first year," Dino quoted happily, turning over a phone that was labeled an LG 4871.6. "That's over sixty million cell phones per year in this country."
Hibari stared at the phone and its elaborate label that meant nothing to him. "Herbivores just don't know how to take care of their things," he said.
"Now that's not true," Dino protested.
"You're right," Hibari smirked, the corners of his mouth curling up like onion peels, "you just don't know how to take care of your things. If you break this phone I'll bite you to death."
"Excuse me, sirs. Can I help you with anything?"
Ah, they'd been spotted. Hibari's smirk immediately slid off to be replaced with the usual caustic glower. Dino mentally began to tally the costs of the man's life insurance in his head.
The salesman, who preferred to be addressed as Sir on the job though his name label read a simple "Oliver," was used to odd people. This was New York, after all; a place where people walked around with obscene hairdos, multiple piercings, and their pet cats on leashes. Implying the art of discretion, he initially took nothing of the two young customers who had just entered. He had seen stranger in the span of his middle-aged life.
The first one, the salesman noticed, was a slim Asian man of about eighteen or nineteen who was dressed in a suit and a scowl. The other could have been his complete opposite: older-looking, but with unruly sandy hair, skater clothes that hung on him, and a half-baked grin. A boy-child. As the salesman gave him a once-over he noticed that a full arm tattoo snaked its way down his left side. Definitely the delinquent type.
The young Asian man—a boy, really, was snapping something that sounded like Japanese to his companion, brandishing what the salesman could only describe as something that used to resemble a cellular device. The other man, though Caucasian, seemed to understand the language and twisted a piercing in his ear cartilage apologetically.
Other customers had started to clear a path for them nervously, just based upon the sheer malignity of the Asian man's glower. Some even left the store. On the contrary, the blonde man seemed unperturbed by such a gaze and merely smiled. The salesman wondered vaguely if the man was just oblivious or merely a half-wit.
"Excuse me, sirs," he said, approaching them with the distant warmness of the American businessman. "Can I help you with anything?"
The blonde man returned the greeting and smiled charismatically. "Ah yes," he answered, holding out his hand, "Dino Cavallone. I was hoping to get a new phone." He spoke English flawlessly, the salesman noted, but his faint accent was not Asiatic, strangely. It was Italian, and said in such a way that Cavallone and phone rhymed perfectly.
He met Cavallone's firm grip and pumped it once, business-style. The first thing he felt was that the man's hand was heavily ringed, and a quick glance to his right told him the Asian man's hand was too; with big ostentatious gems and oddly-shaped silver that probably held some significance unknown to him.
"Certainly. Have you used Verizon Wireless before?"
"What service were you using previously?"
"Uh..." Cavallone, incredibly, seemed to think about it for a moment. "AT&T, I think."
The salesman blinked back a frown, leading the two to the end of the store where his desk was. The young Japanese man remained silent but continued to glower, which made the salesman slightly anxious. He had dealt with troublesome customers before, so nothing unduly worried him, but this man looked as if someone had just scammed him a million dollars. His face was blackened, poisoned by murderous, pernicious glittering cat's eyes. It was the first time the salesman had truly witnessed where the expression "if looks could kill" came from. But, perhaps, this was the man's regular expression, though the salesman admittedly felt better now than he had before, with a layer of plaster between them.
"Their services weren't, ah, adequate," Cavallone was saying, in reference to his previous phone company. "I require something sturdier, since as you can see—" he held up the remains of his previous unlucky phone— "this one was rather flimsy."
The salesman realized that he had barely heard a word of Cavallone's complaints, too focused on the words themselves. His speech—Cavallone's—had lapsed into something more formal, curiously, with falling cadences and an air that suggested a citizen of the higher echelons. It didn't fit his unruly appearance at all, but the salesman said nothing and sat back in his chair, nodding. Perhaps it was just the language barrier. The man could still be a half-wit, despite his usage (probably taught) of such proper English.
"Don't you have insurance with AT&T?" he asked the man.
"I did," Cavallone answered, "but it became too expensive."
"What about your contract?"
"I've had to pay over four hundred dollars of termination fees," the man admitted.
The salesman tried to hide his surprise. "I don't understand, sir," he said, confused. "The only way for your insurance and termination fees to cost you that much would be if you repeatedly switched phones and companies."
The young man laughed but didn't answer. There was something in Cavallone's expression that wasn't quite right...almost suggesting that what the salesman had implied may or may not have hit the mark. Something about those brown eyes, abstruse and out of context juxtaposed against that smiling face, also told him he wouldn't get a response even if he pried.
"Anyway," the salesman cleared his throat, "if you want to save your money I can set you up with a corporate cell phone discount up to twenty-six percent."
The other beamed. "That would be nice, sir," he said. "How does it work?"
"Well I take it you're employed?"
"Ah—" the two customers shared a furtive glance, one looking somewhat uncomfortable and the other deadly patient. "I don't have, I mean, I don't think I'm on my company's carrier discount list," Cavallone informed the salesman with reluctance.
"I see," the salesman replied understandingly. What with that appearance, the man probably didn't have a steady job. "In that case, I can simply offer you a phone and set you up with Verizon Wireless. Do you have any preferences for your new phone, while we're here?" He gestured around him to the sample stands.
"Can you install a line block on it, sir?"
The salesman blinked. "A line block, eh? Those are permanent, you know," he replied.
"If that's what you want," the salesman shrugged. "I'll give you a number you can call."
Cavallone ran a hand through his sandy hair. It was a wonder all those rings on his fingers didn't get caught in it. "Thank you sir," he said, and opened his mouth as a new question rose forth. "Do you have any suggestions as to the, ah, payments and plan if my phone doesn't last two years?" he asked the salesman.
A delicate and mild frown crossed the salesman's features. "There's no reason the phone shouldn't last, but hypothetically, if you buy a phone for two hundred dollars and insurance for five dollars per month with a 75-dollar deductible, you would save cash if you file before the two-year mark."
Cavallone brightened. "Isn't that great, Kyouya?" he asked the other man, who merely harrumphed in response.
"Show him your most durable phone," the young Asian man said quietly, speaking for the first time. His voice was low, musical, and laced with a heavy Asian accent, but the assertion in it was universal. The salesman swallowed, suddenly aware of minute beads of sweat gathering at his temples. How ridiculous, he thought. Being intimidated by a kid.
"Certainly, I'll see what I can do," he said, rising and sparing another quick glance at the man named Kyouya.
"I like him," Dino remarked after the salesman had disappeared into the back rooms of the store. "He didn't ask as many questions as the others."
"He thinks you're an idiot."
"I know. It's an effective ruse, no?" Dino grinned. "No one would guess that I'm the leader of the third most influential mafia crime syndicate in the world." He looked around, but even if someone had been in eavesdropping range, it wouldn't have mattered. Over the last two or three years, probably as a product of Reborn's strive for international relations, Dino and Hibari had taken to conversing in an odd combination of Japanese, Italian, and sparse English, sometimes meshing parts of words together to create entirely new ones. Gokudera Hayato had once remarked on how similar it was to the cryptophasia identical twins shared in rare cases.
Hibari crossed his arms over his chest. "You are an idiot. And you're a pathetic liar. How have you tried explaining to the previous companies that you're your own employer?" he asked coolly.
"Well I usually lie better, of course," Dino replied, looking wounded. "That's why Romario usually comes with me. And the line block is always easier to explain anyway; some people just like their privacy. Actually, the hardest thing to explain was that one time I brought in a phone covered in blood..." he broke off, musing.
"I don't care," Hibari snapped. "The fact that you waste this much money is also pathetic. You singlehandedly solved all of your family's financial pinches, yet you end up spending four hundred dollars of termination fees over a cell phone."
"My my, you're awfully talkative today, Kyouya. Is it the heat?"
"Hn. Just make sure you don't demolish this phone before the contract expires this time," Hibari muttered, reaching out with lightning speed to steady a stack of pamphlets that Dino had almost upset with his hand. "And try not to break anything while you're here."
"That's why you're with me, Kyouya," Dino laughed, nonetheless he laced his hands together in his lap so they wouldn't knock anything else over. Just in case.
The salesman returned with a phone in a box, the box bearing some obscure label with too many letters and numbers that the phone companies liked to add to make their products look more sophisticated. "This one should do the trick," he announced, taking the phone out and placing a battery into the back of it.
"For the most part it's pretty sturdy, and the battery power is top notch," he continued, not noticing the Asian man's eyes as they narrowed to pinprick slits at the words "most part" and "pretty."
"Great!" Cavallone exclaimed, conviced, rubbing his hands together. "I'm not concerned with the battery power," he admitted, shaking his head, "but I'd like to make sure that the phone won't brea—"
"Can we guarantee this phone wouldn't break even if I smashed your face against it?"
The salesman blinked rapidly, trying to absorb the concept that he'd actually just been threatened by one of his customers. The young Asian man waited for a response, his expression stony. "E-excuse me?" the salesman managed after a moment's pause.
Cavallone floundered, waving his hand in a dismissive gesture in an attempt to make peace. "Ah, forgive him, sir, Kyouya's English isn't very good! He doesn't know what he's saying, really!"
With an awkward sound the salesman cleared his throat and smiled politely. To him, the young man looked as if he knew exactly what he had said.
"We just don't want the phone to break, you see," Cavallone reiterated, rubbing a finger under his nose good-naturedly. The salesman saw those odd rings on his hands again as they caught the fluorescent lighting, and wondered vaguely why the two wore such similar jewelry. He didn't put it past Cavallone to be in a gang for all he knew, with those extensive tattoos and piercings.
"I'm good at breaking things, unfortunately. So is Kyouya here—" Cavallone nodded at his partner—"though he's good at breaking, ah, different things."
"Well...unless you run over this model with a car, I think you should be fine, Mr. Cavallone," the salesman said reassuringly, trying to omit the tincture of reluctance from his tone. In his mind he was reevaluating who the delinquent of the pair really was. He was curious as to how this man Cavallone could stand to have someone like the cold Asian man as a companion, but he knew it was not his place to ask. Even if his customers' personal affairs were intriguing him to no end.
"Would you like to set up an insurance policy with us?" he asked, deciding to comfort himself with an explanation of the service's inner workings. "Our policy covers anything the warranty doesn't: physical or water damage, stolen phones, lost phones, ecetera. If something does happen all you have to pay is the fifty-dollar deductible..."
"Sir, you mean any physical damage, correct?"
"What kind of damage did you have in mind, Mr. Cavallone...? The salesman had looked up just in time to see the young Asian man give Cavallone a hard but discreet elbow. The question had been worded strangely, almost as if Cavallone had been implying inevitable damage to the phone—a not-so-nice kind of damage.
"Ah, nothing, sir," Cavallone replied quickly, wincing. "I'm sure the phone will be fine. Thank you for your services." He got up, looking for a moment as if he wanted to bow, thought better of it, and walked over to the payment clerk. The Japanese man's gaze lingered for a moment on the salesman, and for a moment the salesman saw something truly dangerous in there. His thoughts strayed again to gangs as those rings winked dully at him in the fluorescent store lights.
When they finally left, the salesman absently rubbed his name tag that read Oliver, sighed deeply, and hoped that the pair wouldn't be back for a long time.
It was a long time: five months, in fact. Longer than Dino had ever kept a single cell phone.
The salesman pretended not to notice them when they walked in. It worked for a few minutes, but Cavallone spotted him behind a bluetooth stand and made a doomed beeline for him.
"My good man," he exclaimed, holding out his hand and wringing the salesman's enthusiastically. "Hello again. I was hoping to get a new phone." Cavallone looked dreadful. Fading bruises colored his face and arms in a grotesque tie-dye, and gauze bandages covered other extremities that were too badly injured to even see the light of day.
"Mr. Cavallone," the salesman greeted, returning the handshake and feeling his heart sink as he did so. He looked to Cavallone's right, and blinked momentarily at the presence of the other man. A man of his own age stood in lieu of the Japanese boy, with delicate wire-spectacles and an austere beard. Like the boy, this man was also wearing a suit, but his expression was considerably less intimidating. Cavallone, like last time, was clad in some retro gangster garb but the season this time around called for a fur-tinged parka that matched his scuffed shoes.
"Ah, you remember me, sir! Fantastic," Cavallone smiled, looking impressed.
"That phone was not to your liking either, Mr. Cavallone?" the salesman asked disdainfully. He tried not to stare at how awful Cavallone looked, but the man seemed to read it on his face anyway.
"Hehe, Kyouya was none too pleased about it, I'm afraid. Not about the phone," he added, "but about me breaking it. He got angry."
The salesman frowned, though he couldn't deny the implications Cavallone was giving him as to the source of his extensive injuries."Where is, ah, Kyouya, may I ask?"
"He's at the police station," Cavallone said casually.
"Oh," the salesman answered, if a little lamely, deciding he shouldn't press the matter. "You seem to go through quite a lot of phones."
The man glanced at his companion, then turned to the salesman woefully. "Unfortunately," he said, pulling out nothing more than the phone's battery chip. It was cracked and peeling, with more wear and tear than something in the back of an antique shop. "This is all that's left, I'm sorry to say."
So they went through the same procedure again, this time with the older man (who introduced himself as Romario) delegating most of the process. Romario was amiable yet succinct, which the salesman admired. When all was said and done, they had established a contract with Verizon Wireless and Cavallone's company in which Verizon, if paid the right amount, would provide Cavallone with as many cellular devices as he required. Seeming satisfied, Cavallone and his partner rose gracefully, shaking the salesman's hand once more. Even though they were smiling, the salesman's eyes couldn't help but stray to Romario's coat pocket. It was bulging with a suggestive shape that the salesman had seen too many movies not to recognize.
"It's a good deal, really," Cavallone concluded, his eyes crinkling warmly. "I need to go overseas tomorrow, but I'll have an associate of mine come in tomorrow to take care of the finalizing papers."
The salesman stiffened. "Associate?"
Cavallone shrugged on his coat. "Not Kyouya, I assure you," he added sympathetically. "He's not fluent enough for the paperwork, nor does he have the, ah, people skills for it."
The salesman nodded, his shoulders drooping visibly in reprieve. He showed the two out, bidding them farewell and thanking them for doing business with Verizon Wireless.
"No, thank you, sir," Cavallone replied. "I'll have someone by tomorrow, and I'll certainly recommend your company's services to my establishment. You can expect to see more of us soon! Ciao!"
The salesman shut the glass doors behind them. Lucky me, he thought as he watched the red store lights cast shadows on the departing pair.