You don't have to know the Petshop fandom to read this, but if you'd like some info you can go here or here. (And yes, the petshop does carry plants as well.)
Tezuka didn't know what made him walk into the petshop on that particular day. His mother had made a passing remark about the possibility of a pet. Tezuka knew that she meant some kind of quiet and decorative fish. The thought appealed to him, though he wasn't as interested in fish as Oishi was. In any case, he'd entered the petshop, and had been greeted promptly by the owner, a man by the name of Count D.
The man made Tezuka uneasy in a way he couldn't quite define, except that he made Tezuka think of Fuji. That didn't make sense, because Fuji very rarely wore dresses or anything resembling them, and was lighter in coloring, but the comparison was still there in Tezuka's head. Count D's manners were flawless, his clothing and his hair and his skin exquisite, and his Japanese perfect and without accent though he wore a traditional Chinese robe.
The pervasive scent of the shop was also unsettling. Tezuka knew the smell of incense, but there was something subtly different about the incense here. Some underlying aftertaste seemed to be causing him to lose his focus. He controlled his breathing carefully so that he would inhale only a little of it at a time.
"What is it you would like, then, Tezuka-san?" D inquired, spreading his arms as if to display the contents of the shop.
"I don't know," said Tezuka, looking around. An unusual goatlike animal gave him a challenging stare. Various other animals, including some that would normally be counted as exotics and wouldn’t be sold at pet stores, peered at him from behind sofas, or pointedly ignored him. He didn't see any fish, and he'd begun to doubt that he wanted a fish at all.
"Hm." Count D nodded and tapped his chin with a slender finger. His nails were at least half an inch long. "If you would be willing, I can show you around the shop. You may find something to your liking." He smiled and turned around with a sweeping movement that made Tezuka simultaneously think of Fuji and Atobe. Count D didn't seem to think there was any doubt that Tezuka would follow. In the interest of politeness, Tezuka stepped after him, toward a door at the back of the shop. Evidently there was a back room.
The moment D opened the door, something came streaking out of it. Tezuka caught a flash of blue and white, and an even briefer flash of gold eyes. He stepped back, startled. Something leapt into Count D's arms, something Tezuka would have sworn was human. But the next second, he saw that it was only a Himalayan cat, one that surveyed him with bright golden eyes.
Count D glanced at him and gave him a knowing smile. "Anything wrong, Tezuka-san?" he asked mildly.
"No," said Tezuka. "I'm sorry. I thought I saw...something familiar."
"People see many things here," D remarked cryptically. He leaned down and set the cat on the floor. It sauntered away, back into the dark corridor, giving Tezuka one final, disdainful look. "You know, I think I have an idea of what might suit your tastes." He led Tezuka through the door. They passed by other doorways, too many for a shop so small. Something brushed against Tezuka's leg, and he studiously kept his eyes facing straight ahead.
D stopped in front of a wooden door ornamented with bronze-colored ivy branches. "Through here, please." He opened the door and bowed Tezuka into the room. Tezuka stepped through the doorway and found himself in a virtual conservatory. The top of the room was open, with daylight streaming through the enormous windows. The sun wasn't positioned correctly for the time of day, but then, the back of the shop should have been connected to a ramen stand, with no space for a room like this one. Tezuka accepted it, and wondered if the incense had affected him.
Count D made his gliding way over to one of the many shelves, selecting a particular plant from it. The plant's leaves had jagged edges to them, and a faint purple tinge to them. Tezuka couldn't immediately identify it as a plant he'd seen before, which was unusual given the number of plant guides he owned. "Generally we’re not in the business of selling plants," said Count D. "However, I think you'll find it more than satisfactory."
Tezuka hadn't meant to buy a plant. He found himself taking it anyway, and Count D ushered him back into the front of the shop and pulled out a piece of paper.
"If you would please read and sign this contract before making your purchase." Count D handed him the piece of paper. Tezuka set the plant on the front counter and accepted it. "Firstly, keep the plant in a sunny place in your house." Count D stated the rules in the contract aloud even as Tezuka read them. "Secondly, keep it near an open window. Thirdly, water it with a half-and-half combination of water and Ponta."
"Ponta?" Tezuka was surprised, but he managed to hide his reaction.
Count D raised an eyebrow. "Yes, the soda. Will that be a problem?"
"No," said Tezuka. "No, it won't be a problem." He would have to buy a case on his way home. His parents didn't keep soda of any type in the house.
"Before you sign the contract, I must warn you that if you do breach one of the clauses, we cannot be held responsible if for any reason the desired effect is not achieved." Here Count D smiled. "Generally we give a disclaimer regarding slightly more severe consequences, but I don't think those should be a problem in this case."
"I see," said Tezuka, for lack of anything better to say. "Thank you very much."
D smiled again and gave a small bow. "It's been my pleasure, Tezuka-san."
That night, Tezuka watered his plant dutifully with a mixture of water and Ponta, and he left it on the windowsill of his room. It would get enough light and a breeze there, if that was what it needed.
The plant itself had an unusual scent. This one didn’t bother Tezuka as much as the incense at the petshop. It smelled slightly of artificial grape, which was understandable. The unusual part came from the faint scent of tennis court. He couldn’t describe it any other way.
In any case, by the end of the day he’d become fond of the plant, despite his misgivings about the petshop and its owner.
“Your raccoon’s gone again?”
Momo said it teasingly, but Ryoma was serious. He took a step away from the courts, standing on his toes to better search the area. “He’s not at school this time?” Ryoma asked. “Has anyone told you they’ve seen him?”
“Hey, don’t worry about it,” said Momo. “I’m sure he’ll find his way back home. Doesn’t he usually?”
Ryoma nodded distractedly, still glancing around. “Buchou? Have you seen him?”
“No, I haven’t,” said Tezuka. He’d been close enough to hear the entire thing. “I’m sorry, Echizen.”
“That’s okay.” Ryoma stared dismally at the ground.
When Tezuka returned to his house that afternoon, it took him a moment to realize that the Himalayan cat outside the door was not the one from the petshop. The cat was scratching frantically at the doorframe, meowing loudly.
“Is that your cat, Kunimitsu-kun?” Their next door neighbor, a woman recently married, called to him from her front porch. “He’s been at it for awhile now.”
“He belongs to someone I know,” said Tezuka, suddenly knowing whose cat it was.
“You should take him inside and feed him, the poor thing.”
“I will.” Tezuka had already picked up the protesting cat and turned the key in the door. As soon as he set the cat on the floor, Karupin raced up the stairs. Before following, Tezuka pulled out his cell phone to call Ryoma.
“Yes. I found your cat,” he said.
There was a quick rustle on the other end of the line. “You did? Where is he?”
“He’s at my house,” Tezuka replied.
“Can I come and pick him up? Is he all right?” Tezuka almost smiled at the concern in Ryoma’s voice.
“He’s fine, Echizen. I can bring him to you tomorrow, if you’re busy now.”
“No, it’s okay. Can I come over, buchou? I wouldn’t mind.”
“That would be fine.”
Tezuka hung up the phone and went upstairs. Karupin was in his room, chewing on a leaf from Tezuka’s new plant. The cat looked up at him and meowed. Tezuka picked him up again. The cat struggled, batting at the plant as he was lifted. Tezuka carried him out of the room and shut the door.
No matter how much Tezuka coaxed him with fish and milk, Ryoma’s cat stubbornly refused to leave the doorway to Tezuka’s room.
“Karupin!” Ryoma stopped in front of Tezuka’s doorway. Karupin stopped scratching at the door for a moment and rubbed against Ryoma’s legs. Then he went right back to scratching.
“He usually doesn’t act like this,” said Ryoma. “Sorry, buchou.”
“That’s all right,” said Tezuka. “He hasn’t harmed anything.” One leaf off of the plant shouldn’t make a difference to its overall health.
Ryoma, looking puzzled, lifted Karupin off the floor. Karupin lashed his tail and tried to squirm his way out of Ryoma’s grip. “Do you have catnip in there or something, buchou?” Ryoma asked.
“I don’t think so,” said Tezuka, but he wondered.
“Do I have to go home now?” Ryoma looked up at Tezuka. Karupin flailed.
“No,” said Tezuka. “You don’t.”
“I like your room.” Ryoma sat down on the bed and looked around.
“I see.” Tezuka moved the plant from the windowsill to the desk, where he could watch it. Karupin immediately jumped onto the desk. Tezuka set him on the floor again.
“That doesn’t look like catnip,” Ryoma observed.
“I don’t think it is,” said Tezuka.
“I’d scratch to get into your room, too,” Ryoma said.
“Thank you for taking care of him.” Ryoma scooted over and glanced up at Tezuka again. Tezuka sat down on the bed next to him.
“You’re welcome, Echizen,” Tezuka replied. “Would you like something to drink?”
“No, thanks,” said Ryoma, then gave Tezuka a look. “Not unless you have Ponta.”
Tezuka silently got up and opened his closet. He brought out a can of grape Ponta. Ryoma’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry. It’s not refrigerated,” said Tezuka.
“That’s fine.” Ryoma took the can, but he didn’t open it right away. “Buchou?”
“Why do you have Ponta in your closet?”
“In case I ever found your cat outside my house.”
“Che.” Ryoma looked at the floor and grinned. He put the can on the edge of the desk, then suddenly scrambled to his feet. “Karupin!” He lunged and grabbed for the cat. Karupin leaped off the desk, dashing for the door. Ryoma darted after him, and ended up sprawled on the floor, Karupin clutched tightly to his chest. Karupin let out a garbled “Mroawr!” of protest.
Ryoma stood up slowly, petting Karupin to calm him down. He let out a breath. A leaf floated from Karupin’s mouth to the floor. “Buchou,” he said solemnly. He pointed to the desk. “Karupin ate your plant.”
“…I see.” The plant was little more than a stem and a few, chewed leaves. The cat had worked quickly. “It’s fine.”
“I’m sorry, buchou.”
“It’s fine,” Tezuka repeated, meaning it.
That night, Tezuka found that Ryoma had emailed him.
I'm sorry that Karupin ate your plant. He doesn't eat my mother's plants. Yours must have tasted better. I bought you another one, if you want it. Can I come over and give it to you tomorrow?
If you bring it to school, I'll take it home from practice. You shouldn't inconvenience yourself.
I don't want to carry it around at school all day. That would be more inconvenient.
I could stop by your classroom at the beginning of the day.
Maybe I want to be inconvenienced, buchou.
I'll be home after dinner tomorrow if you want to bring it then.
“Again, I apologize.”
“It really isn’t a problem, Tezuka-san,” Count D assured him. He smiled a little. “Nowhere in the contract did it mention that you weren’t to let a cat eat your plant, if I remember correctly.”
Tezuka nodded. The plant had withered completely overnight, reduced to nothing but a stem in a pot. He’d brought it back to the petshop to explain what had happened. Count D was surprisingly unfazed by the sight of the newly purchased plant that was now dead.
“Is there anything else you would like?” D inquired, taking the pot and putting it out of sight behind the counter.
Tezuka didn’t look around to catch a glimpse of what he’d seen the last time. “No,” he said. “Thank you.”
Count D bowed to him once more. “Again, the pleasure is all mine.”
"Here." Ryoma presented Tezuka with a potted philodendron. "I didn't bring Karupin. I thought he might eat this plant, too."
Tezuka nodded, but privately he suspected that Ryoma's cat would have little to no interest in the new plant. "Thank you, Echizen."
Ryoma handed over the plant, but he didn't leave. "Can I come in?"
Tezuka hesitated. He looked down at the philodendron. It looked very healthy, and he couldn't see a single yellowed leaf. Someone had taken great care in picking out this particular plant. "Yes," he said finally. Ryoma grinned up at him and walked into the house.
In the end, Tezuka realized that he'd never gotten a pet. He found, though, that he didn't really need one.
At the petshop downtown, Count D glanced at an empty clay pot and smiled to himself.