Two weeks passed somewhat normally. Protoman, Wily noticed, was definitely acting strange trying to keep that cat.

"Protoman," Wily smirked, turning around from the computer, "Where did that toy mouse come from?"

"Eh?" Protoman looked down at the catnip-filled toy he was clutching. "Well, this is a long shot, but... I'm guessing a pet store."

"Right. And how'd it get into your hand?"

"I..." Protoman paused. "You know what, you've been working hard all night. How about some coffee?"

--------- . .oO(fish!!) ------------------

            "I'm back from the city." Protoman shut the door to his room. "Got more tuna... aaand I got you a present." He tossed the mouse onto his bed. The cat looked up from the pillow and strolled over, batting the mouse half-heartedly.

"Hey, come on, I know it's secondhand and all..." Proto sighed, flopping onto his bed in front of the cat. He snatched up the mouse and waved it in front of the cat's face. "Come on, I thought you liked stuff like this."

The cat meowed and burrowed its face into the sheets.

"...Are you okay?" Proto sat up and stroked the cat's fur. "Huh? Something wrong?"

The cat meowed again and stood up, wobbling over to Protoman and collapsing onto his lap.

"What's wrong?" Protoman asked softly, scratching the cat behind the ears. He half-wished that she could answer... but something told him that whatever the answer was, he didn't want to hear it. "...cat?"

-------------------- nn .oO(meow!!) ------

            "Protoman!" Wily shouted over the intercom. "Get in here!"

No answer.

Damn that robot! Wily growled mentally, jumping up and stomping in the direction of Protoman's room. Him and that flea-bitten animal! Wily thought up various nasty things to say to Protoman before he arrived to bang at Protoman's door. "Open up!" Wily snarled.

No answer.

"Protoman! Unlock this door, and forget about that damned cat!"

"It's open!!" Protoman shrieked back.

Wily paused, not sure how to react. Had he heard a sob? Opening the door, much more quietly than before, he looked inside. Protoman was huddled over something small, fuzzy, and black, cradling it in his arms. And... he was crying.

"Proto..."

The robot looked up at Wily. "She... I snuck her in. I'm sorry." He stared back at the cat. "And now she's gone."

Wily stared. Protoman was strong both physically and mentally, but he'd never had a chance to deal with death. Of course he knew the word... but Wily suddenly wasn't sure if Protoman had ever really understood the concept... before now.

"I tried." Protoman muttered, "I really did. I wanted her to live... What'd I do wrong?"

Silence.

"Why did she do this to me?"

"I..." How does one explain death to a suddenly emotionally unstable robot? "She had to."

"...You knew, didn't you?"

Wily nodded.

"How long?"

"Since you brought her in."

Protoman hugged the cat closer.

"...Proto, give me the cat."

"No." The robot shook his head. "I'm not letting her go."

"She's already gone." Wily growled, his voice getting a few decibels louder. "Give me the cat. There's no use in keeping a dead animal around!"

"Leave me alone!"

"GIVE ME THAT CAT!" Wily snarled, reaching down and grabbing the edge of Protoman's scarf, yanking it upwards and taking Protoman with it..

Protoman shook with sobs, and nodded, holding out the animal.

------- oo .oO(nyaa?) -------------------------

            The three months had dragged on slowly. Protoman spent his free time moping about and making coffee. The latter, however, was greatly needed – Wily was constantly off in the lab, working on what Protoman figured was the next "genius device" that Mega Man was going to blow up eventually.

            Protoman sighed. Whatever Wily was planning, he hoped the scientist would finish it up soon so they could go attack. He was itching for some action – this whole peace thing was boring beyond belief. Even making coffee was losing what little entertainment value it once held. Maybe later, he could take some chances and try TEA.

Protoman sighed even more deeply. Today was not going to be the best day of his life.

"Nyaa?"

"Hi, cat." Protoman muttered, thoughtlessly reaching down to pet the cat's head. She purred softly. "Wha... waiiiit a second." Protoman took his hand off the cat and stepped back to look at the feline. He could tell it was the same cat, even though it was now clad in a deep green-and-d white armor. All missing limbs had been replaced with mechanical replacements, like in a typical Sci-fi movie. "You're dead."

The cat blinked at him, then lifted its paw and inspected it. "Nyao?"

"Yes, you are.

"Myuu"

"I'm telling you, you are! Don't use that tone of... oh holy..." He paused, "Did you just... talk to me?"

"Don't be surprised. Her voice is encoded with radio waves transmitting binary. You can understand what she says, but I can't."

Protoman whirled. "Wily? You-"

"Created my first successful cyborg, yes. I'm a genius, moreso for decoding the cybernetic research than anything else." He paused. "I don't believe you've given her a name yet?"

"I get to--?"

"You found her."

Proto shakily reached down and lifted the cat into his arms. "Well, you've been through death and made it back. Good job."

She lifted her chin proudly, a smug grin evident on her feline face.

"Danced a little too close with the grim reaper for my taste." Protoman shrugged. "Dancing close... well, I guess I'll call you Tango, then."

The cat, Tango, mewed in agreement.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Happy Ending!

Happy Thoughts!

Happy REALLY LATE Birthday, Atreyu!