There she was, cute as a kitten, with her big brown eyes and that misty look on her face.
He could feel a mouth leaning in to kiss her, and there was Baron, the perfect cat gentleman. Of course he was perfect, he wasn't flesh and blood and hormones and urges, just fired clay and paint. No one could stand up to him.
Muta wanted to growl at Baron – wanted to hit him for taking advantage of Haru in her terrified state.
"I love you Baron," she said, her words quiet, but reaching him all the same.
"Good," answered the doll, a very pleased expression on his face as he closed the last few centimetres and pressed his furred mouth to her soft lips.
Muta wanted to cry, to scream, to wake up. With a gasp, he opened his eyes and saw the sky, paling in readiness for dawn. It was just a dream.
"Muta?" called the Baron, poking his head out the door of the Cat Bureau. "Are you alright? I thought I heard you scream," he said, leaving the door to check on his friend.
"It was just a dream," answered the fat cat, turning from his friend, not wanting to discuss it.
"Must have been a real nightmare," Toto quipped, swooping down from his perch. "Want to talk about it?"
"No," Muta said flatly, glaring at the large bird from where he had woken up – lying on the cobbled courtyard of the refuge.
"Are you sure? It might make you feel better," cajoled the Baron gently.
"It really, really wouldn't," promised the obese feline, getting grouchier.
He rolled off his back onto his paws and left, not wanting them to keep on prodding to know what the matter was.
He'd visited Haru once since he'd helped her escape from the Cat Kingdom with Baron and Toto. He'd even admitted that he really cared about her – it had been a mumbled admission, but she'd caught the gist all the same.
"Muta, I really like you a lot, but it's more like how a girl feels about her big brother than her boyfriend," she had told him, scratching him just right behind the ears.
"Baron, huh?" he remembered asking, unable to stop his mouth. He needed to work on that, it got him quite scratched up by Toto sometimes; Baron hadn't done any more than give him a withering glance.
Haru smiled a sad, crooked smile.
"He's a great guy," she told him, non-committal in her tone. "Muta, let me show you something," asked the young woman, grabbing her coat and heading out into the street.
Muta had followed Haru around the streets and been shown girls all over the place swooning over people they saw in movies, handsome men they would probably never meet and certainly didn't have a chance with.
Most of them, Haru informed Muta, felt the same way about five other guys, one of whom probably would like them back if the girl ever told him how she felt.
"It's the same with how I feel about the Baron, and how you feel about me," she said, sitting down on a park bench and giving him an ice cream. "It's nice to think about what it would be like if it were possible, but it isn't possible."
Muta sighed, remembering that day. Now he was having nightmares about Haru being happy with Baron, and him being left out in the cold. It was painful and infuriating.
He couldn't tell Toto, the bird would only laugh, and he definitely couldn't tell Baron. Who knew how the statuette might react?
"Have you seen him Miss Haru? He left the refuge in a hurry early this morning and didn't say where he was going. We're both worried about him."
Muta knew that voice; of course he knew that voice. The fat cat hadn't realised he'd come so far, and in this direction. He thought about turning around, heading back up the street, but it was more appealing to sneak up to the window and listen to what they were saying.
"No, I haven't seen him, I hope he's all right," that was Haru. Muta felt even more depressed; he'd caused the three people he cared about most to worry about him.
"Perhaps if we just wait, he'll turn up," he heard the girl suggest. "After all, he's his own cat, and perfectly able to take care of himself."
"I can't just sit and wait," Toto said. "I'm going to search the city." Muta ducked into some bushes just in time to avoid being spotted. He still didn't want to be found just yet.
"Miss Haru, there's something I want to ask you," said the Baron. Muta suppressed a growl when he heard the statuette, still in there with Haru.
"It's hard to put into words…" Baron was floundering.
Muta smiled, imagining with relish the idea of Baron uncomfortable, simply because he knew exactly how it felt. Haru, he knew, had become very straightforward about how she felt, even when it took a lot of explaining. In this, Baron was at last surpassed, bettered. Muta's smile turned into a grin.
"Do I still have a crush on you?" Haru suggested, finding the words for Baron.
Muta felt like the ground had moved underneath him. He liked how forward she was, but this exceeded his expectations of her.
"Why? It doesn't matter how I feel, even if it were mutual, it still couldn't work out. Oh, Baron…" Haru's tone changed.
Muta slid over to the window and peeked in. Baron looked embarrassed and shy, like he'd been caught out.
"It is mutual," the statuette said, looking up at Haru.
He wanted to cry. They were in love, wonderful. They both cared about each other and had admitted it. That left him, once and for all, out in the cold.
Muta went to hide in the bushes again, and sniffled.
"Hey, what's the matter?" asked a low voice from just beyond the bush.
He jerked his head up in surprise. It was a cat, a female by the smell of her.
"The girl I like is nuts for someone else," he said simply, curling up where he was.
"So find another girl," said the cat, slipping between the fence to join him under the bush. She was quite pretty; with short, peach-coloured fur and hazel eyes. "My name's Roam," she offered, lying down beside him.
Muta looked down at Roam, she wasn't nearly as big as he was, but few cats were, and she had dark brown mitten-markings on her paws.
"Muta," he said. Her forwardness didn't surprise him, in fact, he barely noticed it. It was the way cats were. "Also known as Renaldo Moon," he added, deciding that he would, for once, be honest about the whole thing.
"The famous criminal?" asked Roam, impressed rather than frightened. The girl-cat rolled a little closer to him. "Well what do you think of that? I am impressed."
Muta was impressed too. "Walk with me?" he asked, standing up.
"Love to," answered she, slipping under his low belly before falling into step with him.
They had been walking, and talking, for about three blocks when Muta heard his name called. That was surprising, that it came from the sky just told him who it was.
"Looks like lunch on the wing," Roam said, eyeing Toto as the crow circled lower.
"Unfortunately, he's made of granite," Muta said, watching his friend come in to land.
"Where have you been? We've been so worried about you!" Toto said, hopping closer. He was a cat's length away when he noticed that Muta had company. "I've been –"
" – searching the city, I know Toto. Haru's right you know, I can take care of myself," interrupted the fat cat. "Roam, this is Toto, Toto, Roam."
"You sure he's inedible?" she asked, stalking slowly closer. "He looks tasty to me."
"I'd give you a pile of broken teeth and be nothing but weight in your gut," Toto promised, looking evilly at the female.
"Come on, Baron and Haru –" Muta nearly choked, but kept going when Roam rubbed her head under his chin. "– are probably still worrying, unless they're kissing." It didn't hurt so much to say it now, as it would have earlier in the day.
Roam smiled at him, and he smiled back. Haru's words to him made sense now: it was nice to entertain impossible crushes, but you had to know that there wasn't anything that was ever going to change, and have someone real that you could love.
Muta curled his tail around Roam's, just a little, and smiled when she purred.
Toto, Muta and Roam arrived at Haru's door in time to see a bright light flash through the window. Inside, Haru was kissing a guy dressed just like Baron.
Muta smiled when he figured it out. It didn't matter any more. Everything was all right. Toto was the only one left without a happily ever after, at least for now.