Hey guys :D And we're finally back. I know, I can't believe it either. I'd be surprised if any of you were still expecting me I'd update! But yeah, I am still here :D

Until recently, I'd hardly written anything. It was down to a blend of having too many other things to do and a severe case of writers block. I wrote a few things for other fandoms (none of which ever got read by anyone), but in general I'd pretty much given up for a bit, to the point where I was wondering if I could still do it. But now the holidays have rolled in, I have more time. Half of this chapter was written half a year ago, and the rest was all written up in about 4 days, so I really sped through this one :D Much faster than I normally would. I hope to complete the last few chapters in a similar fashion, but I'm probably being too ambitious again.

Anyway, I do hope you enjoy the chapter :3 It's a strange one, but I hope it has the desired effect.

I just wanted to say, before we begin. Thankyou so much for sticking with me so long. I can't really express how influential all you readers were, early in my writing development. Whether you're new or old to this fic, I offer you a complimentary hug of gratefulness!

Ichigo was shoved roughly into a dimly lit room, her hands finally free of handcuffs but her body bruised and battered by the assault.

Righting herself, she turned round just in time to see the iron door shut with a metallic clang. A small, post-box sized hole opened and she was greeted with a pair of uncaring eyes.

"You will stay here until we take you for further tests and questioning."

The flap shut unceremoniously and Ichigo was left alone.

Ichigo shuddered, rubbing her wrists where the handcuffs had dug in.

After the past few hours, she didn't want to think about what was going to happen next. The idea of more tests made her stomach knot. When she had got here, she had expected to be treated as a simple witness or, at worst, an accomplice to Kish's crime. She had fully expected long periods of officials questioning and persuading her to confess but, once again, she had forgotten to factor in one major fact in this whole situation.

She was a Mew.

Upon getting into the secure building, Ichigo had quickly found that these people not only saw her as key to unlocking the identity of the mysterious attacker, she was a scientific discovery. She was an oddity to be prodded and poked, a being to be gawped at. She was something that scared everyone, she knew it. They didn't know what she was or what side she was on or how she got there, so the staff were at loss on how to treat her. Should she be treated as alien? As a teenage girl? As a lab rat? She'd seen a great difference in how certain members of the military treated her. Some treated her coldly, as if she were simply a piece of meat, others with extreme caution and a choice few with sympathy, seeing her for the young girl she was. But, however they presented themselves to her, they were curious. Very curious. And they weren't going to pretend she was just a witness because they didn't know whether she was a mutant or an alien experiment.

Very quickly, the so-called 'tests' had begun. To Ichigo's relief, they were nothing too horrifying. A blood test, hair and saliva samples. The worst had been the bone marrow extraction, which was still relatively painful. They had wanted to do more but she wouldn't transform into her Mew self to allow them to, no matter how much they threatened her.

Ichigo shivered. They wouldn't let her get away with that next time. She didn't want to know how they'd get her to transform. Or what else they wanted to study.

As Ichigo thought about that, she found herself shaking uncontrollably. Her breath came in short, shallow pants as panic set in. The shock and horror she had been fending off throughout the physical examination finally came back to bite her, crushing her in the process.

She didn't want to be here. She didn't want to do this. She couldn't. She was terrified. She wanted to go, to plead for her freedom. But she was trapped. Trapped with no hope of escape. She might even die.

And what was worse was that very few people were going to care. Her parents thought she was a murderer, her friends thought she deserved all the trouble for her mistakes. No one would come for her. She'd die alone after being sliced to pieces in the operating theatre, or after a long life in juvenile prison.

Ichigo, despite knowing somewhere in her head that not all of this was true, couldn't help but believe it all. The shock, rejection and claustrophobia from the cell bought out her worst fears and presented them to her. Despite knowing Kish was still there and that those she cared about still cared back, she broke down.

Ichigo didn't know how long it took for her to stop trembling. After what felt like hours, her muscles relaxed and her all-consuming panic shrunk to a more manageable size. She found she was able to inhale properly again so, leaning back against the cold brick wall, she took in deep gulps of air.

As the fear dwindled, she found herself able to listen to reason again. And, sitting there regaining her mind, she found her mind screaming just one thought.

You have to get out of here. Desperately.

Ichigo, despite feeling like she was already at rock bottom, knew she still had a lot to lose. Her life was one thing, but her staying here could doom her friends too. If they did manage to get her to confess about the aliens, the government might start another war. From the comments she'd heard around this place, the police weren't happy about the attacks. If she said about the Mew Project, the rest of the mews might find themselves in the same situation as her. Captured, studied, treated like scientific curiosities. The idea chilled her. She could not let that happen. As horrible as her situation was, she had to be strong for their sake.

She would not make another mistake.

Ichigo took a deep breath.

Yes. That was right. She would either escape, or die trying, to protect her friends. The situation unfolding around her encompassed a vast amount of people, directly or indirectly, including the general population. It didn't matter what she was going through, all that mattered now was doing her bit to keep the world safe. Not just because she was a Mew, but because she was human, no matter what her DNA was made up of now.

Inspired by her revelation, Ichigo began to search for a way out of the cell. Standing up, she finally took note of her surroundings. She was being kept in a small room which was lit only by the light of a small rectangular window near the roof. It was a gloomy, sterile place with a sinister quality. The walls, made of white-washed brick, made up a vague square-like shape, leading up to a blank ceiling and painted white concrete. The only dash of colour in the room was the grey of the door, bars over the window and legless iron bench that jutted out of the wall, and Ichigo wasn't sure if grey qualified as a colour. Featureless and utterly artificial, the room had no redeeming features. However, Ichigo didn't dwell on the aesthetics of the room as that was unlikely to help her.

From what she could ascertain, there were two possible routes out of the place; the door and the window. The first of these options was easily ruled out. She only had to glance at the door to know it was an impossible escape route. There were no visible contraptions on her side of the door, as they were all on the other side to ensure prisoners didn't escape, which was a shame.

So, Ichigo turned her gaze to the window. Leaping up onto the iron bench, which was really a ledge since it was nailed into the wall and had no legs, she attempted to study the iron bars. Getting close to them, Ichigo realised the window was even smaller than she had first thought. To add to this, the window was just level with the top of her head and she had to tiptoe to see it at all. Despite all this, Ichigo still reached up to grasp the iron bars and touch the window frame. She discovered that, yes, the bars were iron; no, she didn't have the strength to bend them in any way and no, even if she did get rid of the bars, she wouldn't fit through anyway. No matter what way she looked at it, getting out via the window was impossible.

Ichigo's heart sunk. So, that was both options out. What now? Would she have to make a run for it when the door opened? Beat up the guard?

No. There has to be something in here I can use. Anything.

Ichigo began to scan the room more thoroughly, her hope dwindling every minute. Every last crack and hole was investigated, just in case it was a potential way out of the room. Anything was better than nothing. She studied the walls, the ceiling and the door yet again, to no avail. In one last desperate attempt to find something, she fell to the floor and searched it for imperfections, despair slowly wrapping its grasp around her. She studied every inch until her eyes ached but she found nothing.

Ichigo closed her eyes. It had been a long shot anyway. She would just have to endure being a captive and do her best not to give anything about her friends away when they came to 'question' her with their inevitable 'examination'.

She sighed and put her head in her hands for a moment, fending off the fear again. She'd have to be strong, for them. Strong.

She opened her eyes. Her heart skipped a beat.

Collapsed as she was on the floor, her head was level with the underneath of the iron bench. It was the only place she had neglected to search and, ironically, she could now see the escape route she had been asking for staring her in the face. Hidden in half-light was a small metallic vent that blew cold air at her face. Ichigo crawled under the bench and brushed her fingers over it, noting quickly that one of the bands of metal was broken and that one screw was missing. Judging by the coarse feel of the material, the iron was heavily rusted. It didn't feel like it would take much for it to perish.

Without a second thought, Ichigo drew in a deep breath and punched the grill with as much force as she could muster. Although most of the grate remained, some sharp shards buckled under the force and cut into her fist. Immediately, Ichigo felt a sharp pain travelling up her arm and had to bite her lip to keep from screaming.

She withdrew her hand and curled the other one around it, withdrawing it into her body. Shivering with the pain, it took her a few minutes to refocus her mind.

She couldn't pause to nurse her wounds. Time was something she did not have. She had to get out of here as quickly as possible, before they came back to find her.

Swinging her legs around, Ichigo kicked at the grate with her feet. With a few more thumps, it fell off the wall in more or less one piece.

Ichigo felt triumphant. She'd beaten the barrier between her and the outside! Now, it was all a question of...

Fitting in the vent.

Ichigo's face fell as she cleared the shards of metal away with her foot and put her face at the mouth of the hole in the wall. Now she could see it properly, she realised it was even smaller than she had first imagined. It was only slightly larger than a postcard so she would struggle to fit her face in sideways, let alone the whole of her body.

Now Ichigo knew why the architects here hadn't worried about making the vent more secure. Not even the smallest of humans could fit in there, let alone use it as an escape route.

Ichigo very nearly screamed with frustration. After all that, all she'd gained was a bloody hand. Now she knew there was absolutely no chance of escape, she would have to endure the torture ahead. She'd have to focus on keeping quiet for her friends and protect the world because she was a Mew.

Ichigo jumped, realising something that made her heart race.

That's right. I'm a Mew. I'm not just human...

I'm part human, part irimote cat!

She gasped. She might not be able to fit into the vent in her current form, but...

Ichigo sat up and closed her eyes, letting her mind wander back over memories and dreams.

She considered her care for her friends, allowing her fierce loyalty to take over her mind.

She forced herself to dwell upon her loves in turn. She thought of her adoration for Masaya and her ever-growing love for Kish, blushing over the things they had said and revelling in every kiss she had ever shared with both of them.

She allowed her consuming urge to protect the earth fill her as she relived her Mew Mew days and thought about her wish to save it now.

Slowly, she felt a bizarre sensation bubble through her veins, radiating from her chest. Her cheeks hot from blushing and her heart burning with determination, a warmth gushed through her limbs and mounted. She grew warmer and warmer and then she drew in a deep breath and the sensation exploded.

She gasped softly, opening her eyes.

She smiled.

The room had doubled in size. The bench, previously slightly too low to be sat on comfortably, now towered above her and she fit easily beneath it.

Although she was fully expecting it, she was still taken aback when she looked down at her hands and saw two furry black paws. No matter how many times she became a cat, it was still slightly unnerving realising that this feline body belonged to her. It was always an experience transforming into an entirely different animal. Her senses were heightened as a cat and she was always mesmerised by the extra detail and clarity of her vision and overwhelmed by the amount of scents about. This place, she now realised, smelt damp, mouldy and of her own blood.

She shook her head. She couldn't let these new sensations make her forget she had to get out of here. She turned her attention back to the hole in the wall, gently sticking her head in there to make sure that she really did fit. The good news was that her whiskers only just brushed the sides of the narrow tunnel, although it would be a little bit of a squeeze. The bad news was that the metal system was caked in grime and dust and, with her ears and body all touched the sides of the dusty vent, it would only take her a few seconds to get covered with fluff and only one breath to send her off on a sneezing fit. Although Ichigo was certainly able to use this route, she knew it was was not going to be a pleasant trip. However, now was not the time to get picky about her escape route. She had to go. Now. Before they realised she was about to disappear into thin air.

Taking a deep breath, Ichigo crouched as compactly as she could and climbed into the vent. Immediately, she felt the urge to cough and push herself back out again due to claustrophobia. Now she was blocking the vent entrance, the tunnel was steeped in darkness. Her body surrounded by steel on all sides, she could feel an eerie vibration running through the metal, making her shiver. To make things worse, the sound of air being chopped echoed in her sensitive ears, making her heart race. It was all very unnerving. If it were not for a steady stream of fresh air coming from somewhere ahead of her and the urgency of the situation, she would have felt desperately afraid.

Ichigo took another deep breath and started to crawl forward as quickly as she could. She halted almost immediately, her heart lurching as she realised that every footstep she took echoed around her in the form of a metallic clang. If she were not to draw attention to herself, she would have to be more careful. Moving onwards again, she made a great effort to step as lightly as she could so that she would not be caught before she'd made it a meter away from her cell.

After that brief false start, Ichigo soon figured out a way to move efficiently, while avoiding detection. However, the sound of her pawsteps wasn't her only, or worst, obstacle. Ventilation systems, it seemed, were not simple things to traverse. After just a small stretch, she had to struggle up a small slope, ruining her claws and exhausting herself in the process. Pipes split into smaller, impassible ones, propellers made some routes impossible to take and every tunnel looked exactly the same. Ichigo turned left and right, climbed up and slid down, and doubled back so many times, she began to fear that she would never find her way out. It was only through blind luck and use of her heightened sense of smell that she found herself in a large vent that carried the a slight hint of pollen and a faint sound of low male voices.

Ichigo froze immediately, suddenly deathly afraid of being captured. However, as she listened to the tone of the voices, she realised that the men producing them were a long way off. She could hardly distinguish between the voices, let alone make out any words.

Ichigo considered turning around and going back the other way for a brief moment, fearful that she might push her luck. However, as she gazed down the tunnel the voices were coming from, there was the unmistakable mark of daylight upon the walls of metal. It was the first time she'd seen any natural light in this system and Ichigo was grudgingly willing to bet that that pipe might just lead to an exit.

Moving tentatively through the vent, she saw that a grate in the vent's floor was the source of the light and, more importantly, a way for her to work out exactly where she was. Unfortunately, the sound of the men bantering away was very close now, so she had to be careful to look around without revealing herself.

Holding her breath, Ichigo crept forward and gazed through the cracks, thanking Ryou silently for making her cat form black. Below her, she could only just make out the outlines of 3 men in uniform. They were too far away to make out clearly, but from the sounds of things, they were very involved in a game of cards.

"... and I told the guy, 'Look, I know you enjoy being difficult, but if you keep up that chat you'll find that I can be just as tricky.' That shut the idiot up."

A murmur of congratulation rippled through the group.

"Got any fours?"

"Speaking of difficult prisoners, did you hear about... you know, that new... inmate?" One of them said, voice lowered to a whisper. "Threes?"

"Yeah... I think we've all heard about that. They tried to get her into a cell all secret-like, but you know... knowledge of these things spread like wildfire."

"I can't believe they caught one of them... I mean, they appeared on TV half a year ago and it's taken all this time for them to work out who they are. Still, who would have thought that, after saving all those people, they'd turn out to be working for the other side? Oh and Queens?"

"Go Fish. Well, I'm not surprised. Get the public on their side and then strike when the time was right was what they did. Smart idea working with that... whatever he was too. Give over your twos."

One of the men, probably the one in possession of the twos, growled.

"You mean with the Elf? That's what the media are calling him." He paused, "But why would they want to turn on the public anyway? Where's the motive?"

"I say she was created by a foreign government. Yah know, to infiltrate the country."

There was a loud thumping sound.

"How the hell is killing off some of Tokyo's population going to help another country get political control of Japan? There's no sense in it."

"Well, I didn't say it was a smart foreign government."

The men groaned.

The sound of a slamming door made Ichigo jump, knocking the wind out of her. Fighting for breath, she could only just hear the sound of the men welcoming a friend into their midst. Ichigo looked down again in time to see the man moving a chair from beneath the vent to go and join them. The man must have been prompted somehow to speak, because by the time she started listening, he'd already started speaking about her.

"They took the cat-girl to a cell about couple of hours ago. Couldn't get the silly thing to transform or tell them anything, apparently. A bit stupid if you ask me. If she just told them something vaguely useful about that... whatever it was up on the tower, she'd probably get her slate wiped clean anyway. But there ya go. Her brain is obviously frazzled from the alien abduction."

"Oh, you think the cat-girl was modified by aliens? That's a nice theory. We'll add it to the pile of obscure-and-improbable explanations us lads have already bet on."

The men snorted with laughter at this sarcastic remark.

"Hey, come on! It's possible! Why else would a teenage girl be working with an elf that attacks cities with mutated animals?"

"She fancies her chances with him?" A low-pitch voice snorted, "Teenage girls are known for their quirks, after all."

Ichigo, despite knowing that it was completely inappropriate to be feeling anything other than wariness towards the guards, felt indignant at that comment. If she were human, she would have blushed. It only made things worse that what he had said was partially true.

"Ah well, we'll know what she is soon enough." One of the men cut into her thoughts, "You can rely on our scientists to make sure she is examined to death. Probably quite literally."

Ichigo shuddered. She would hopefully get out of this place before they had a chance to start doing that.

The men went back to their game, giving Ichigo some time to breathe and stop her pelt from sticking out in all directions. However, just as she'd managed to calm her racing heart, she heard the door slam open a second time.

"BOYS! Here, now!" A rough voice barked. The sound of chairs being pushed backwards and a collection of hurried footsteps filled the room, the men asking all at once what they were needed for. The voices were so urgent and loud, Ichigo could not isolate one to understand what was going on. The men left the room in under a minute, leaving Ichigo alone and confused.

Then, the sirens started and it became utterly clear why they had scrambled.

They were looking for her.

Ichigo felt a rush of nausea. She couldn't linger any longer. She had to get out of here now.

She looked at the grate before her. She stood upon it, hoping it would collapse beneath her feet. No such luck. It opened inwards, not outwards. She growled despite herself. However, in that moment she realised that the screws, meant to hold the grate to the rest of the piping, were missing. If she were clever, she might be able to lift it.

She tried to get her claws beneath the edge of the grate, but found this painful and completely fruitless. She attempted to get her nose beneath it, but only succeeded in grazing it. In her growing desperation, she took out her teeth and, ignoring the bitter metallic taste and the sharp pain in her mouth, tried to get hold of it with her teeth. It took several attempts, but eventually she had a reasonable grasp upon it and, straining her young kitten body until it hurt, lifted and pulled simultaneously to make a gap large enough to get through. When the sunlight poured in through the gap, she felt a rush of relief and, without a moment's hesitation, leapt out of the piping, trusting her feline reflexes to help her land correctly.

Upon landing, it took her a moment to get her bearings. Luckily, no humans were in the immediate proximity, obviously preoccupied in hunting the escaped prisoner and imprisoning her again. She immediately scanned the room for an easy exit, but all the windows lacked catches and the only door led out into a corridor.

Frantic with fear, Ichigo knew quickly that she'd have to travel inside the complex to find the exit. That was the last thing she wanted to do, but she couldn't give in. Swallowing her terror, she reassured herself that this wing was likely to be empty and that they were looking for a young girl rather than a cat. She would not be noticed nipping in and out of rooms, or, at least, she hoped she wouldn't. Considering the how dangerous walking around in plain sight was going to be right now would only make her feel too scared to continue.

Moving as quickly and silently as possible, she dashed down the corridor. This area was obviously made for staff use only, and was a great deal more colourful and full of character than the wing she had entered into. The lilac walls were only broken up by doors and noticeboards holding posters and other vital information. All of the doors branching off the corridor were closed, which meant none of them were of use to her. She sped past them, praying that she wouldn't meet anyone coming the other way.

Eventually, the corridor took a sharp turn to the right. Ichigo followed it and found, to her surprise, that the corridor ended abruptly and that before her was a small but light and airy room. It was quite obviously the staff section of the reception area, so she could see all things the public normally didn't see; the filing system, the computer and attempts by the receptionist to personalise the area using photos of cats and pictures drawn by children. A large desk was directly ahead of her, and the wall in front of it only went part of the way up, leaving a huge gap connecting this room and the public area of the reception.

There was an exit here. With her cat senses, she could taste the fresh air. Unfortunately, she couldn't see the source of the draft; the breeze was obviously coming from the next room.

Ichigo was about to climb the desk and continue her flight, when a small cough reached her ears. Flinching, her eyes fell upon where the sound had come from and her ears went back.

A woman was sitting on the desk chair before her, her back turned to Ichigo. Oblivious to the kitten's presence, she was staring at her computer screen intently.

Ichigo grimaced (or she thought she was grimacing. Could cats grimace?). So close, yet so far. Continuing this way was obviously out of the question.

Ichigo turned round and padded back into the corridor, looking for another open door. However, it was very clear that there wasn't another way out of the building.

She would have to get past the receptionist.

Silently, she moved back to the reception and studied the space more intently. Unfortunately, the obvious way out, the gap above the desk, was unusable. If she went that way, she'd be seen immediately. So, she looked for another way out.

Beside the desk was a door, the staff entrance presumably. For a moment, she got her hopes up. However, when she crept over to study it, she realised that, like all the other doors in this place, it had a number pad and card swipe slot beside it. It wouldn't open for her unless she suddenly grew three times her current size and got herself a job here. This way was out of the question.

So, she concluded, she would have to go over the desk, but only after the woman had left her post.

Ichigo sat thinking for a few moments, considering all the ways she could lure the woman away so she could get away. However, whatever she did, she couldn't seem to hit upon an even vaguely useful idea. She could hide behind the door and wait for her to go away to fetch something? No, that could take hours. She could attack her and use the element of surprise to escape? No, she'd probably be captured and sent to an animal shelter. She coul-

"Hello. Aren't you a beautiful one?"

Oh crap.

Ichigo jolted out of her thoughts, her eyes focusing. Amidst her thoughts, she hadn't noticed the old, frizzy haired woman staring straight at her from her seat at the desk. She swirled round in the chair so she could sit and face the small, unusual visitor who had appeared in her workspace.

Ichigo's ears went back, her body instinctively recoiling from the woman. The lady looked at her with kind, affectionate eyes.

"Oh, don't be frightened!" she cooed, "I won't hurt you. It seems you managed to get into this place, huh? It's funny, we don't normally have people trying to break in."

She laughed loudly. Ichigo's ears twitched instinctively at the sound.

"How in heaven's name you got in here, I'll never know. It's quite the feat, little one. Climbing that fence, not many would have that dedication! Those careless officers must have left a window open again."

For the first time in that conversation, Ichigo's fur flattened and she felt her muscles begin to loosen.

She isn't suspicious of me at all! She just thinks I'm a lost pet.

The woman continued, tutting and shaking her head. "Those men aren't in their right mind today. You know, Kitty, I've no idea what they're up to right now. I haven't heard from any of them in hours. I think something bad happened in one of the cells, maybe a fight or something. With the way they've all disappeared, you'd think a prisoner had escaped."

She laughed again.

Ichigo relaxed slightly, her heart rate slowing as she realised the woman had no idea there was a missing prisoner and didn't think it was impossible for a random cat to get inside the facility. She'd expected that having a human see her would mean certain death, but it seemed that it might even work in her favour...

"Oh, gosh, Kitty! You're injured! I didn't realise!"


The woman frowned, "All this time I've been talking, you've been losing blood! You must have hurt your foot falling through the window!"

My foot...? OH! It was then that Ichigo looked down to see her paw. Her fur was sticky with blood, and now she thought about it, it was slightly painful to stand on. She was puzzled for a moment, wondering when she'd gained such an injury, and then she remembered how she had cut it when punching the grate in her cell. It seemed that injuries in her human form were not healed when she undertook her feline transformation. How great for her!

However, Ichigo realised that she could use it to her advantage. Judging by her taste in photos, this woman seemed rather fond of cats and she was sure to take pity on a lost kitten with a wounded paw. So, all Ichigo had to do was manipulate the situation to her advantage.

Ichigo purposely slouched her shoulders, putting her ears back. She mewed weakly and hobbled towards the woman on her three good paws. Licking her injured paw, she looked up at the lady with wide eyes, attempting to look as sorry for herself as she could.

"Oh, you poor thing!" The woman got off the chair and knelt down to her. Reaching her hand out slowly, she stroked Ichigo gently. Putting slight pressure on her side, she coaxed Ichigo into her arms and scooped her up. She made Ichigo was completely settled before picking her up and going back to her seat. She then turned back to the computer and smoothed her fur in a rhythmic manner that, should Ichigo not be scared for her life, would have been quite calming. Despite feeling slightly claustrophobic, Ichigo made a conscious effort not to move.

"What am I going to do with you?" she cooed quietly. "I'm not supposed to leave my post, so I guess the vets is out of the question. I could keep you around until my shift is over, but that's a long time to keep a little kitten like you entertained!"

Oh, please, no! I don't want to go to the vets! Or to stay here where the men can find me!

Ichigo wriggled slightly, keeping her claws sheaved, to show that she was restless and wanted to move.

"Ah, you want to go home, don't you, Kitty?" The woman said knowingly, "You look like a well-groomed animal, I suppose you have a family waiting for you out there. Maybe I should let you find your own way back?"

Ichigo's gaze connected with the woman, who looked genuinely concerned for her welfare. She couldn't help but thank her luck that she'd stumbled into her line of sight, rather than into the path of someone who wasn't fond of animals.

Eager to show she liked this idea, Ichigo mewed in agreement, giving the lady a few licks of encouragement.

The lady giggled, "Well, you've certainly brightened my day. It almost feels as if you've understood everything I've said. You're an intelligent ickle, cat, you are. Yes, you are. YES, YOU ARE!"

Her tone got higher and more painful with every word.

Note to self: Never talk to a cat like that again.

"I'd love to keep you here and take you home with me, but I suppose I'll have to let you go." The woman sighed sadly, tickling her chin. She got up, holding Ichigo tightly with one hand, and made her way over to the door. "I'll take you to the exit and make sure you're safe. You don't need any more injuries other than that paw of yours."

Ichigo thanked her luck as the woman punched in the door code. The woman was practically escorting her to the front door. For all the lady's faults, she couldn't help but feel genuinely affectionate towards the woman who had helped her so hugely. She was thoroughly in her debt, and she wished she had human vocal cords to tell her so.

The way out from the reception wasn't difficult, it was little more than a few paces towards another door with a keypad. The door, a back entrance, opened to the outdoors. The sight of grass and the feeling of genuine fresh air on her face, made Ichigo eager to get going again. Suddenly, the terror of the chase and the claustrophobia of the prison returned to her, and she wanted nothing more than to get away from the secure facility and never come back.

Wriggling subconsciously, the woman carefully placed her on the floor. Ichigo looked up at the lady and she smiled happily.

"There you go, Kitty. Go find your owners and take care of that paw!"

Ichigo purred. She went up to the lady's legs and brushed against them, showing her affection in the way she'd often seen cats do, as a sign of thanks. The woman laughed, but simply encouraged her to leave. So, with the woman's blessing, she turned round and, without a moment's hesitation, bolted off.

Setting off in a random direction, Ichigo felt pure elation. Ichigo was thankful for the soft earth beneath her feet and for the pleasing freedom she felt in the wide open space. It was such a contrast from her cell, she could scarcely believe it. If it wasn't for the faint siren from the facility behind her, she might have relaxed. However, the sound served as a constant reminder that she was not safe yet.

Before long, Ichigo reached the chain link fence the receptionist had mentioned. Staring up at it in awe, she could see now why the lady had thought that a cat getting over it was such a feat. The fence had to be three meters high, at least, with barbed wire along the top. Just a glance at the ground around it showed that the bottom of it was buried in the ground, probably at a depth an escaped prisoner could never dig to before getting caught.

Ichigo felt a jolt of panic. How was she supposed to get past that?

Dashing along the side of it, she followed it round to try a hole or a gap under the fence. However, it was clear that the fence was well looked after; there wasn't even a vague sign of weakness the weaving metal.

Ichigo, so deliriously happy a moment before, found her mood sinking. A feeling of desperation began to engulf her.

Well, there was only one thing for it...

Running at the fence, she leapt at it to begin her climb. Her first attempt was unsuccessful and she fell to the ground with a painful thump, losing one of her claws painfully in the process. Ichigo squeaked with the impact and gritted her teeth in response to the pain in her paw, but didn't dwell on the hurt before launching herself at the fence again. This time, she got firm grip on the wire with her front paws and hung there precariously. The wind and her weight made the fence swing dangerously, making it difficult to cling on. However, after putting her back paws in footholds further down, she found she was relatively stable. Ichigo was determined to move forward, and she slowly took out a paw and reached it upwards and placed it into a higher paw hold. Rebalancing her weight, she then picked up one of her back paws and moved it up. She then did the same with the other front and back paw and, in doing so, began to climb the fence at a medium pace.

It all went well for a while. However, the higher she got, the more the fence swung, making it more difficult for her to cling on. Her paws began to hurt from the pressure of the metal against her claws and her muscles to ache from the unnatural actions she asked of them. Her limbs shaking from excursion, her back feet slipped from their footholds and she found herself on the ground again before she knew what had happened.

Ichigo, hurting from head to foot, lay down, panting dreadfully. She hadn't even reached the three quarter mark and now she was too exhausted to give it another shot. She needed to rest a while.

And that's when she heard the footsteps. The voices. The barks.

Ichigo turned round to see two figures being dragged along by two large German Shepherds in the distance. Gripped by pure horror, she found herself running in the opposite direction at full pelt along the fence before she had thought about what do to. All she knew was that she had to get away. Part of her knew it was impossible, that the dogs would get her scent and track her until the ends of the earth. And then rip her to pieces. But that irrational, self-preserving part of her that lay deep within her subconscious made her run and helped her to keep up quite a speed despite her exhaustion.

Her thoughts were a blur. The grass looked strange at this speed. The sky was very blue, and cloudless. Fence, the fence was tall. Barking incessant. Fence impenetrable. Howling, there was a lot of howling they must have got her scent. Grass. Sky. Fence. Guard, avoid the guard. Fence. Alien. Gra-

Hang on, alien?

Ichigo halted, unable to believe her eyes. Hanging in the air just above the fence, floated a young alien with brown hair.


Ichigo felt a pang of relief. The boy hadn't spotted her yet when he did he would transport her away. They were both on the same side now.

Grasped by hope, Ichigo called out to him.

"TARUTO!" she called as loudly as she could.

However, unfortunately for her, the only sound that came out of her mouth was a rather loud meow, a kit-like mew blended with a dreadful yowling sound.

It was then that Ichigo remembered that she was a cat.

How the heck am I supposed to get his attention if I can't talk?

Ichigo briefly looked behind her to see where her pursuers were. They were rapidly approaching, and would soon get too close to her for comfort.

She looked up at the alien, who had still not spotted her.

Well, there's only one thing for it. I'll have to attract his attention like a cat would. I just hope he likes animals.

"Meow mrow meow mreooooowwwwww, meow maooo." Ichigo purred. Here, little midget. Hereeee. I promise I won't bite!

The alien either didn't hear her or he point-blank ignored her.

Ichigo felt a flush of panic.

"MEOW MAOOOOOOOOOOO MEOW" Ok, I'll stop calling you midget, if you just COME HERE.

The boy didn't even glance in her direction.

Ichigo, now both desperate and furious with the boy, decided that if now wasn't the time to lose all dignity for the sake of her life, there never would be a time.


Ichigo, in the process of yowling like she was being strangled, pounced and rolled about on the grass, attempting to attract his gaze with all the movement.

Finally, Taruto decided to look down. A look of confusion crossed his face as he saw the strange black cat before him. Ichigo wondered what he must think of her, she surely looked like a cat possessed. But at least she had his attention, and she could start to tempt him to closer.

This was where she realised that her 'Mad Cat' act, though brilliant in the short term, was perhaps not the best long term strategy. Taruto didn't look like he was about to fawn over how cute she was, he looked like he was going to avoid her at all costs, just in case she was diseased.

So, Ichigo decided to change tact. She stopped yowling and decided to sit facing him, looking up at him pleadingly. She mewed quietly, and attempted to look as cute as possible.

Taruto looked immensely puzzled, and for a moment Ichigo thought he was going to teleport himself away. Then he noticed the dogs in the distance and, looking back at the flustered Ichigo, it seemed to click that she wanted his help.

Swooping down, he grabbed her awkwardly in his arms. Ichigo's gratefulness was quickly dissolved into irritation, as the boy managed to half strangle her. She shifted to try and get a breath, and he groaned, refastening his grip and pulling out half her fur in the process. She yowled grumpily.

"Shut up, cat. I'm taking you over the fence like you want!" Taruto said exasperatedly.

Ichigo tensed. No, that won't help. I need you to take me to Kish. I have no where else to go! Gah! Why do you have to be so difficult!

Ichigo realised she needed to change tact. Purring as loudly as she could, she rubbed her face on the boy's chest, trying desperately to seem affectionate. The boy held her at arms length, his eyebrow raised.

"There's something really, really wrong with you." he said, now floating above the ground. And then, without another word, he began to loosen his grip.

Ichigo knew that if he put her on the floor, she was doomed. She clawed into the fabric of his top to put off the inevitable moment, but knew it would only be a temporary fix. She had to get him to take her with him or to tell him somehow that she was Ichigo. How was she going to do-

Then the thought hit her.

If she kissed him, she would transform back.

Despite her desperation, she recoiled at the very thought. Was she really considering doing... that to Taruto? The bratty little alien she couldn't stand?

However, as the alien unhooked her claws from his top, Ichigo knew she had no choice. Just as he yanked her last claw out of the fabric, she reached up and pressed her lips to his. In a flash, she found herself standing on the ground with Taruto grasping her waist. Their faces centimetres away from each other, their lips millimetres apart. Any person looking at them would think they were in a very romantic embrace.

Ichigo watched as Taruto's face changed from mild annoyance, to shock, to confusion, to outright disgust. He drew away swiftly, groaning and pawing at his lips as if trying to remove all essence of her. He then looked at her, eyes furrowed.

"Ewwww. Now I'm never going to be able to get rid of the thought of kissing a hag. EW. EW. EW." he cried mournfully.

Ichigo couldn't help but giggle, "Don't worry, Midget, I won't tell Pudding you cheated on her with me."

Taruto stopped groaning and looked at her pointedly, irritation clear on his face.

"No wonder that cat was insane! It was you all along, oldie." Taruto said angrily.

"You made me do it! You were going to put me down if I didn't transform and I had to kiss you to do that! You need to be more observant." Ichigo bit back.

"But I wasn't expecting you to be a cat, was I? Silly old woman." Taruto growled, crossing his arms.

Ichigo was about to continue the fight when the sound of barking reached her ears. The guards were close now, and if they spotted her with another alien, there would be trouble.

"Look, I know we hate each other but we need to call a temporary truce. If we don't go now, the police will find you. Hold on to me and take me back to your planet." she instructed urgently.

Taruto groaned, "Do I have to?"

"YES. We've already held eachother and kissed, so it's not like it's new to our relationship." Ichigo said flatly.

Taruto sighed, and grabbed her arm. "Ok, Hag. But if you dare mention that kiss to anyone, I will never do anything nice for you ever again."

With that, he clicked his fingers and, just as the dogs reached the fence, they both disappeared.

So, there we go :D I plan on getting the next chapter written as quickly as possible. As usual, constructive criticism is welcome :) Until next time :D!