A small, brown, ratty-looking dog sat in the middle of a soaked cardboard box. Its tongue poked out slightly from its mouth, perhaps with the intention of catching raindrops to relieve its thirst. It being in its abandoned state meant it likely didn't have any access to clean water, and its scrawny-looking body told him it obviously wasn't eating well, either. But what really grabbed Kaiji's attention was the evidence of physical abuse on the dog's body. A scar ran down on one cheek and, on the same side, an ear appeared to have been half-bitten off, perhaps from a dog fight.

Just like... Kaiji shook his head before he could finish the thought. It's just a coincidence. People can see themselves in everything.

Still, Kaiji felt unable to tear his gaze away from it, and the mutt seemed to feel the same way. Its frail body shivered and shook but its head refused to turn or look away from him. There was something this dog saw in him that had it absolutely transfixed - did it notice his scars too, maybe saw a kindred spirit in him?

Idiot. You're doing again, he scolded himself, Projecting yourself onto this worthless mutt...are you just that desperate and lonely?

Kaiji swallowed and crouched down at the box's height, wincing slightly at the feeling of his cold, damp jeans clinging to his skin. He wasn't sure what he intended to do now, apart from resuming their stare-off at a level where the dog wouldn't have to crane its small neck upward to meet his gaze. Then, Kaiji took one of his gloved hands - his scarred hand - out from his jacket pocket, pulled the glove off and, ignoring the raindrops coupled with cold air nipping at his exposed skin, reached out over to pet the dog's head. The dog responded to the hovering hand by shrinking back and giving a low growl. Startled by the negative response, Kaiji retreated his hand back and stuffed it into the warmth of his pocket.

This mutt was abandoned for a reason, he thought bitterly to himself, It probably rejected any attention given to it, the ungrateful little bastard!

Kaiji's stare turned into glare. What would I even do with a dog? I'd have to feed and look after it...if it's not bathroom-trained, I'll have to clean up after it too. And what will I get rewarded with? Nothing but growling! Fuck that!

Kaiji angrily rose to his feet and turned, walking away from the dog. He wasn't going to take pity on it, he wasn't going to be suckered into another friendship just because it looked pathetic - he already paid the price of that harshly on the Espoir. If there was one good thing about this dog, it was that it at least had the decency to let him know it didn't want him around.

Then again, he stopped in his tracks, Maybe it has a problem with trusting people, too.

Kaiji couldn't feign aloofness any longer. He returned to the dog, now no longer in its cowering, growling state, and crouched down to meet its stare once again.

"Listen..." he began, "You've been hurt by a lot of people, haven't you? You probably can't trust anyone, don't want to deal with anyone...you probably don't know what to do with your life, either..."

Kaiji scratched at the back of his head. "Ahh, what the hell am I doing, talking to a dog!" He grabbed at the front of the box with his bare hand, unaware of how dangerously close his grip was to causing the front to crumble from the weight and pressure. "You probably don't understand a word I'm saying...!"

He brought his other gloved hand to his face and buried it in the wet, wool cloth of his palm. Fucking embarrassing, just what did he hope to gain from talking to a dog? Some inner peace? He might as well be talking to a wall!

Something cold and slippery touched his fingers, causing Kaiji to jump in surprise and remove his hand from his face. He looked down to see the dog had its nose pressed against his fingers, sniffing at them. When it appeared to have satisfied its sense of smell, the dog gave them a lick with its warm, lightly rough tongue. Kaiji released his grasp on the box and flexed his fingers out, silently giving the dog permission to lick at his hand some more.

"You were probably just afraid I was going to hurt you too, huh..." he said softly.

Kaiji gently brought his hand over the dog's head once again. The dog gave a small flinch at the hand touching the top of its scruffy head, but neither growled nor tried to pull away at it. As Kaiji pet and scratched its head, he saw the dog's trembling body begin to relax and its tail wag weakly. A powerful sensation swelled in his chest at the dog's reactions. It had must have been abused and deprived of affection for so long, yet it regained its trust in others so easily - what a foolish, naive animal!

Just like me.

Kaiji drew back his hand. There was no way he could leave this poor mutt here in the rain to starve or freeze to death, but...

"I have no idea what to do with you," Kaiji sighed, "Hell, I'm not even sure what to do with myself...but maybe...we can figure it out together...?"

He knew there was no way the dog could understand him, yet, as silly as it sounded, he sensed a feeling of mutual agreement and understanding from it. This suspicion was confirmed as he picked up the small animal from the box, to which it didn't protest or struggle at the sudden gesture. Kaiji unzipped his jacket and tucked the dog into the chest area of it.

"Sorry it's kinda wet," he said, as he zipped his jacket back up and hugged at the area below where the dog's head poked out from the opening, "But it should be warmer than that box."

The dog yawned and rested its head against Kaiji's chest. A small grin tugging at his lips, Kaiji walked away with his new companion.