The Gift of Choice

Chapter 2

New Developments

When Haru woke up, the clock on the her wall informed her she'd been out for quite some time. It was now four o' clock. She slowly rolled onto her stomach, then to her knees. What on Earth had hit her? She'd been opening her mother's gift- - which was a few feet away from her on the floor. From her position she could tell quite easily that there was nothing inside it but a note. WAIT - A - MINUTE. She could have sworn when she'd opened that box that there had been nothing inside of it! She crawled over to it and opened the note finding herself even more confused.

May this allow you to find your happiness.

Eh?

She flipped the piece of paper over but there was nothing on the back- Her eyes bugged out and her gaze shifted from the piece of paper to her hands. Instead of their normal peach color... they were covered with fur. Not very long, but rather short indeed. Not more then a centimeter in length, but it wasn't the length that was the problem. It was the amount. "I look like a shaved cat!" she squeaked. Something hissed beside her. It was Kyo. He was not looking happy at all. His ears were flattened back and he was staring at the box, which she had noticed had sustained a bit more damage since when she'd last seen it.

"How did this happen?" Gathering herself to her trembling legs she rushed to the bathroom and turned on the overhead light. The mirror before her gave her quite a start, and a searching hand told her, yes, it was on her face, neck, shoulders... even her chest. And her ears had taken on the most delicate of- - "NOT AGAIN!" she wailed. "Who could have done this!.? Who WOULD have done this?.!" she bemoaned running from her bathroom. She had to get out of there! She had to get help! She had to get human! She had work and a tea party with her mother- - not necessarily in that order or that soon, but still!

And she had thought herself done with the supernatural business that was of the cat world.

She went to her bedroom and grabbed clothing from her closet as well as a small bag. This might take some time to fix- just some clothes for one nights change. The Baron would be able to fix it!

The Baron. Even if she'd never forgotten him... And once or twice had some unusual dreams... she had pretty much resigned herself to the fact she'd never see him again. Was he still there? Was Muta still alive? Had Muta been alive when she met him? If a cat was in the cat kingdom, that means that it had died. No if's, ands, or buts. She'd remembered that heartbreaking moment when her little Yuki had looked at her- and it had clicked. Why Yuki had never come back home. So if Muta was dead, how did he still wander about the humans? Maybe he never was seen by them? She groaned and tugged on a pair of jeans. If she wanted to even TRY to squeeze into the Baron's house, she'd have less problems of exposing herself if she were wearing breeches instead of skirts. A tank top, a button overshirt, a jacket, and two more minutes of packing her bag, she found herself at the door of her apartment.

"Kyo I'll be back as soon as possible." she informed him slipping on her shoes. "I've left you a heap of food, don't over eat!" she warned him, "And a larger bowl of water. I promise to try and be back real soon!" she unlocked her door. Kyo just sat their looking mournfully at her. "I'm sure the Baron will be able to help me!" she assured him. She turned to the door and gave a start. Had the top lock always been at eye level? She felt her heart pound faster and a nervous hand fled to her ear. It was more pointed. "I have to go!" she cried and shut the door behind her, fumbling with locking it. She ran down the stairs, not even bothering with the elevator. She was only on the third floor after all.

It was a ten minute jog, and instead of being absolutely breathless, she was only slightly winded. Her stamina had improved. But the cafe table tobs were now at chest level. She'd shrunk. Just perfect! "MUTA!" she cried in absolute misery. But no, he was nowhere to be found. "OH PLEASE!" she wailed. She looked around hopelessly and felt tears well up in her eyes. This just wasn't her day! She slumped down into a chair and buried her head into her hands. Passerby stared at the unhappy child in confusion but only one old couple asked if she was lost, and where her parents were. Feeling even worse she had spouted a lie of great proportions off to them about an elaborate tale of a sleep over, a forgotten item, and that her parents were inside, before they took their leave.

"You know, you shouldn't lie."

Haru whipped around, that had been a boys voice.

"Excuse me?" she asked. She still wasn't sure who had spoken. The people around her weren't even looking at her.

"Down here, Haru - chan."

She gasped. "KYO! How did you get here?" The thought of her kitten wandering about brough a chill to her. "You could have died!" she reprimanded. "Wait- - you're talking."

"Of course I'm talking. Mot- Queen Yuki sent me to watch over you. But I've failed." he added miserably, his ears lowered and he bowed his head. "She really didn't believe you would need it, but she felt that you could use the companion. Just as you can feel Queen Yuki, she feels you, and she said that she believed the companionship would help stay it."

Haru blinked. "Oh." she finally said, a bit weakly. "I don't remember how to get to the Baron's. I need to find him if I want to be cured."

Kyo nodded. "Well, I can take you to him," he said a bit grudgingly.

Haru wondered at his grumpiness but decided perhaps it was just his personality. Oh dear lord. He been with her for three months. She'd changed in front of him, amongst a flurry of other embarrassing things (like breaking dishes, tripping over her own two feet or what meager furniture was in there), exploding a pot pie in the microwave had been won of the worst. She'd pulled it out, and for some reason it had exploded once it had escaped the microwave, there'd been an explosion of scalding bits. She'd escaped major harm, but things had still been a mess. She could even recall Kyo sitting there at the edge of the kitchen... and if she hadn't known better, she was pretty sure he'd been highly amused.

"Please." she encouraged. With a sigh he sprang off and she ran after him. She groaned. The table top had been at eye level. Kyo didn't take her the way Muta went. He took a much simpler direction, but it wasn't too long before she recognized the area where the Baron's little secluded housing was. Ducking out of the archway (though honestly it wasn't that hard now) she found the her head was just even with the rooftops. And the ravens perch was only slightly shorter then her, but it seemed the Toto wasn't there. She sighed and turned towards Baron's house. Kyo stalked up to it and going onto his hindfeet, and just as he was about to knock on the door it opened. Muta stepped out. "How did you know someone was coming?" Muta snapped grumpilly over his shoulder, glaring behind him and into the lit house. The sun had been down for quite a few minutes. Kyo was looking a bit non plussed at this turn of events.

"We wish to speak with Baron Von-"

"Yeah, yeah, so whats the prob- HARU!" Muta gaped and pushed past the now irate Kyo. "I thought humans grew! Not shrank!"

Haru felt her lips tug up into a smile, "I guess I'm a new breed." she said with a sigh.

"I do quite agree." Haru felt her heart speed up quite a bit and the houses seemed to grow- - no, wait, she had shurnk again. "You've changed quite a bit, though I must say you're still as lovely as ever, Miss Haru."

At the sight of him her breath caught in her chest, forcing herself past it she breathed his name out, her cheeks turning a gentle rosy color. "Baron." She couldn't help but smile as his figure came into view. Still as striking as ever, even without his top hat or over coat. "It's- - it's been a while."

"Indeed. And who is this young cat you've brought with you?" he asked turning to Kyo, who's fur was looking slightly puffed out.

"I'm her watcher!" he hissed in annoyance.

"Well you obviously weren't doing a very good job of it, were you?" Muta smuggly shot. Kyo hissed out and Haru felt indignant.

"At least he's kept me company and been a friend to me." she defended. "And he did do his best to protect me, I just didn't understand."

Kyo blushed at her words but his ears were no longer flat. He walked over to her, standing between Haru and the other two cats defensively. For some reason Baron seemed quite a bit amused by this. "Well Haru, why don't you come inside and have some tea? I dare say you will fit inside much more easily. You can leave your bag outside the house." he suggested, gesturing to his door. Haru smiled and set it down outside the house. She paused. The bag had shrunk with her. Strange. Shrugging she crawled inside first (though she felt awkward because they were waiting until she was in) and they came in after. Baron went about to pouring her a cup of tea and Kyo stood by her, (she was once again sitting on the chest she'd first sat on when she'd met him). Being smaller did indeed help quite a bit. Muta plopped down onto the couch and grabbed a tea cup that was full of milk.

"Too bad you missed the feather head, he left about five minutes ago to get some berries or worms... who knows." he shrugged and Haru smiled a bit sadly.

"Now Haru," the Baron handed her a cup and Kyo bristled, Baron smiled and corrected himself for her protector, "Miss Haru." Kyo bristled even more but no longer looked as if he were about verbally snap at him, "How did you come to find yourself in this position?"

Haru took a sip of her tea, it was delicious, but of course, not the same flavor as it had been the first time she'd had some. Sighing she told her story, by the end of it, the cup was bigger in her hand, and the ceiling much higher. Her fur strangely enough was now no longer then two centimeters, was the palest brown she'd ever seen, and she could feel something hurting her rear. "Um, would you excuse me?" she asked awkwardly. She opened the doors and scooted herself, rear first, out. Then dove for her bag. Which was still the same size it had been when she'd left it. "GREAT." she fought it open and grabbed her skirt. Which she pulled up and over her hips. Great. It was a few inches too big around the waist. Oh well. Kyo and Baron had come to the door way and watched as she pulled the drawstring shut on the skirt. She then hiked it up and began undoing her pants. Both cats turned around, heard the rustle of clothing and a screach of horror. "I have a tail !" She kicked the pants from around her ankles and sank to her knees. "It won't stop! I'm not even thinking cat thoughts!" she put her head into her hands and felt tears build up. Why was this happening?

She sat huddled on the ground for not even more then a minute, Baron and Kyo looked at her sadly then at each other and watched as the last of her humanity shrunk and faded away. Where a very lovely human had been, was a very lovely cat. Though not exactly a cat persay. Her hair was still long, her fingers still there, her figure there. And when she dropped her hands to her lap they could see the changed even more. She had fur, whiskers, pointed ears, and while her face was a bit more cat like, her nose and her lips were combined, and blended in feline and human mixtures. Kyo could tell quite easily that if someone were to have to choose between himself or the Baron who she had the most similarity to, they would point at the Baron. For she wasn't a cat. But a mix.

Arms came around her and she realized with dismay that they were perfect for holding someone her size. But she knew the arms, and her newly renewed senses had come back, she knew it was Baron holding her, even when she'd lost her cat smell, she'd still remembered his scent. Turning in his arms she hugged him tightly. "What am I going to do, Baron?" she whispered.

"I'm not sure yet, Haru, but we'll work this out." He assured.

Haru nodded and pulled back from him. She could see Kyo looking at her and Baron, but she couldn't understand the expression on his face.

"Well, she's napping now." Baron came out of his room with a quiet sigh and shut the door behind him. Kyo who was sitting on his couch sipping tea frowned.

"She can't undo this, can she?" he asked quietly. Baron's bright green eyes went to him and Kyo felt his fur stand on end.

"I don't know." Baron said hesitantly, "The only way we will ever know is if we confront the ones who might have done this. She told me what happened, and both of us are of the mind that that present was responsible. She said you tried to stop her from opening it, so can I assume you believe it was the present as well?"

Kyo nodded, "I could smell grandfather on it. Grandpa's never been really stable, and mother told me of what he did to Haru... So I figured it was him trying something again... I didn't know what though. And at the time I was still trying to pretend to be a normal cat... So I couldn't exactly just shout at her to not touch it- -" he broke off and once again his temper rose, "But it's none of your business about that so I'll go back to the cat kingdom and tell mother and father about what has happened, though with her bond between Haru - San, she probably already knows. We can give grandpa the interrogation. Haru stays here though, seeing as we don't know what his plans are." His paw curled and his tail fluffed out, his ears also looking a bit flattened. So I expect you to watch over her." he stormed over to the door and Kyo didn't have to see Baron's smile, he could practically feel it when Baron spoke.

"You must care about her very much, Kyo - sama."

Kyo huffed, wrenched the door open, and slammed it behind him.

Author Notes: You know, I didn't originally plan to make Kyo a cat from the cat kingdom... but with a name like Kyo, I just couldn't resist making him a speaking character... and you know the superstition that cats take on the personality of their names...