What to do?

The neck of the bottle held tight between Riki's fingers, he moved it around slowly, absent-mindedly watching the remaining liquid splash against the glass.

It would be so easy...

The saké was a good drink; far better than the foul stout he drank in the slums. However, he had drank so much of it that its value was decreasing. He seriously considered pouring the rest of the drink down the drain.

It would cause such a scene.

Daryl knew nothing of what went on inside Riki's head as he typed furiously into the tiny computer. Completing the assignment at hand was easy enough: he knew perfectly well what he was doing on the small device. The real reason why he didn't choose to do anything else was merely to keep Riki company.

It wasn't that he had asked for it - God forbid Riki speak his mind – but Daryl felt it would do him some good to enjoy someone else's company, even if it was his own. He knew how much Riki hated him. Or at least, that's what he thought.

Strictly speaking, Riki didn't hate Daryl. It was more to do with what he did that he hated. The constant niggling and over-protectiveness that Riki had never been used to was now forced onto him, and because Daryl didn't berate Riki for any insults or rebelling, he was allowed to take his anger out on him.

A furniture's duty was to care for the pet. If taking his attitude with a pinch of salt was fulfilling his duty, then Daryl would do it wholeheartedly.

Riki didn't dwell too much on the class system that was enforced around him. He knew what went on in the minds of the other pets (not much, truthfully speaking), and he knew what went on in the minds of the Blondies (a whole lot more). But Daryl, like Riki himself, was wedged in between the two classes. Thus, he treated Daryl as he would with any other person.

Deep down, Daryl knew this. He had noticed the attitude Riki had when they were in each other's company. It wasn't the same as being with another pet, who would look down at a furniture as a mere servant. It pained Daryl that he had to treat the infamous Riki as a common pet.

Unbeknownst to Riki, Daryl had known him far longer than he knew. It was difficult to ignore the reputation Riki had built up. Rumours and stories spread like wildfire, and although Daryl was nowhere near Riki, despite being at Guardian at the same time as him, he still knew of him. The single glance that Daryl had managed to steal of Riki in that chance passing was something he could never forget.

The undying fire that burned within his eyes.

The stubborn storm that raged within his chest.

Riki had been untouchable. A burning desire was struck within a man whenever Riki passed, and it was partly due to the 'forbidden fruit' syndrome that drove them insane. Riki was only ever allowed to be treated specially by his pairing partner. Not even the other members of Bison had the luxury that others dreamt of.

And yet, Riki was sat on a sofa with a half finished bottle of saké in his hands, reducing to nothing more than a pet. What was worse, he was contemplating how to make life a little more interesting in this luxurious cell. Had Riki ever wanted a change of scenery, all he had to do was snap his fingers and the dogs would follow suit. Now, he had to fight for it.

Who knows how angry he would get if I actually did it...

It wouldn't be the first time that Riki had caused a riot. In fact, the only times when Riki was a 'good pet', as Iason would put it, was when he was thrown into the pit of passion, or in most cases, torture. When that fire engulfed him, he would realise the only way to get out was to grab the rope and pull himself out. Even if that took begging or kissing a boot. Somebody who hadn't encountered it before wouldn't understand how the leader of Bison could be dragged down to such a pathetic level. But until they experienced that pain themselves, the agonising bite that couldn't be ignored, they would never understand.

But say if he was to go through with it, what would the punishment be? A slap on the wrist? Highly unlikely. The worst possible punishment was being sold to a brothel or being completely disposed of. Riki didn't care about either of them: death was a great escape from most things, and being sent to a brothel would demand his mind to be tampered with. But he would have to do something seriously outrageous to warrant any punishment like that.

Most likely, the leash he wore would be activated. That was the worst punishment and he could barely take it.

So, he could warrant a lesser punishment by decreasing the shock value of his possible action.

But in all seriousness, what was the point? The leash was nothing but a mere training device. The true leash around his neck was Iason. If he were ever to make it back to Guy, how on Earth could he accept him over Iason? On a personality level, Guy came out on top. Guy had always protected him, always made sure he was happy. Guy could be stern on occasion: it was well known that Riki was only allowed to ride shotgun when Guy was around as Guy knew full well that Riki could get excited and quite possibly cause an accident if he were to take the wheel. But now, Riki was a changed man and Guy would never understand. As a result, he could hardly offer him the luxuries he had given him up to the point of his absence.

In place of Guy's friendship, Iason offered him an excellent bed. And now that Riki had tasted the delicious sugar, he couldn't refuse it, no matter how much he hated himself for it.

Had Riki known the full truth behind this whole mess, he would have been less likely to be sitting on the sofa musing over a bottle of saké. Perhaps that was why Iason kept his tongue and merely treated Riki to the facts that was necessary for him to know.

Had Riki known that his chance meeting with Iason on that fateful day was not, by any means, chance, he would be acting a lot differently.

Had Riki known the brewing desire Iason had for him, long before they even met, things would be different.

Riki knew that the world was a hard and unsavoury nut, hidden underneath a luxurious chocolate coating. He knew the harsh realities far better than anybody else. He thought he could never be taken by surprise.

But if somebody – anybody – were to tell Riki the whole truth that was hidden so carefully, he would be rendered speechless. He would have to reconsider and re-evaluate his perception of the world he thought he knew.

I should do it. Here and now.

And yet... what was the point?

Riki knew better than anyone that the chances of his escape were slim. One could say that this situation was similar to that in Guardian. Even to that in the slums. He hadn't chosen to live in either of them. A prisoner in a cell who knows he cannot escape must find a way to endure it. A patient who has a serious disease who knows it cannot be taken care of must find a way to accept it. Riki would never accept his role as a pet, but getting angry would serve no purpose.

Iason had allowed Riki to escape into his own little world by means of technological devices, be it music players or entertainment software. They were mediocre at best, but sometimes it was a better option than hopping down to the salon. Now that all those options were getting old, Riki would simply have to find something better to concentrate on.

Iason had seen Riki fly into a fit of rage many times. He could hardly forget the animalistic rage that had engulfed Riki when he aimed that defiant punch at Iason. A stupid move – and one that had left Riki unconscious until he awoke in his new home as a pet – but it was the best Riki could do at that time.

No. I won't do it.

Riki had matured enough in the last couple of years. Naturally, he would mature even more so in the years to come, but for now, causing a scene would gain him nothing. In fact, it would prove that he was nothing more than a child.

Riki couldn't save his pride when Iason was on top of him. If bottling up his anger and taking his dealt cards like a man was the only way to salvage his pride, then so be it.

He would not allow himself to be overcome by emotion.

He would not allow Iason to punish him like a pathetic dog.

No – this was his way of spitting in fate's face. It didn't mean he would embrace his position as a pet – that was something he knew he could never do – but a man is not a man until he learns to keep his poker face, even in the most crucial of moments.

This was Riki's pride, beaming through the cracks that his status as a pet tried to hide.

Not even Iason could take that away.