Ryou crept nervously into the room, his ears back and his eyes all pupil as he glanced back the doorway where the man and woman who had bought him, were urging him on towards the big bed and the small figure curled up under the lace edged, light purple bedding.
The tiger humanoid child looked to be about six, his hair was long for his age and a snow-white color, just like the fine fur that covered his nearly bare-save for a loincloth-form. A long black and white, round ended tail poked out from a designed for it hole in the covering he wore and his back had similar stripes of black. His eyes were a strange mix of blue and brown and the color often changed a little with his moods, though right now the color almost couldn't be seen because of how large his normally feline slit pupils were. The older humans had tied a beautiful red bow around his neck, the bow part to the right where it could be seen, and instructed him to go in and wake their child in the bed on this Christmas morning. Ryou was her present.
Using his claws for a little help, Ryou climbed up onto the end of the bed, his tail tucked between his legs out of nervousness as he crawled over up next to the little girl.
She was a pretty little thing with long golden brown curly hair spread out on the pillow, soft bangs hanging down nearly to her eyes, she was of healthy color and her cupid's bow lips were slightly parted as she slept with one little hand curled up on the pillow. She couldn't have been much older than Ryou himself and she looked angelic lying in the wide bar of sunlight coming in from a window near her bed.
Stretching, Ryou sniffed a little at her and her hair, hesitating slightly before licking her cheek and nuzzling at it a bit. When she made a quiet noise and stirred, Ryou backed off behind the section of sunlight and crouched down in the shadow, his ears pinned back still.
"Hmm?" The little girl stretched then rubbed at her eyes with her hands in tiny fists before sitting up. The comforter fell down, showing the cute matching nightgown with a chibi picture of a white tiger on the front. "Oh! Christmas!"
Ryou jumped slightly at the exclamation and the girl turned wide and pretty bright green eyes in his direction at the movement. Remembering what the older humans had said about being good, Ryou crept forwards into the sunlight where she could see him.
The girl stared for a moment before giving a happy squeal, "Oh! You're so cute! Are you mine?"
Ryou jumped again then nodded, his ears perking forwards when she crawled out from under the covers and held out her arms to him. After a short moment he edged closer and then into her arms. She giggled and reached up to touch his ears, petting them after a moment. Ryou immediately started purring, relaxing completely and nuzzling her cheek.
She hugged him, "What's your name?"
"Ryou." She squealed a little again when she heard his soft accented voice, making him jump again.
"Aw! You even sound cute! I'm Lillian!" Her voice lowered in a conspiratorial manner, "But you can call me Lilly if you want." Ryou smiled hesitantly and licked her cheek again, getting more giggles from Lillian as she sat back to look him over, brushing a hand over his furred arm with a delighted look at how soft he was. Ryou looked at her with as much curiosity as she looked at him with, absently pawing at the bow around his neck, it was starting to itch, and Lillian tilted her head, "Is that bothering you?" He nodded so she reached forwards and looked at the bow, tugging on it after a moment and pulling it off, "There you go!"
"Thanks." Ryou smiled and nuzzled her cheek affectionately as her parents came into the room, taking a picture of them-without the flash- and smiling at her.
Her mother sat on the bed, "Do you like your present dear?"
"Yes! Thank you so much Mommy and Daddy! Ryou's perfect!" The affectionate child hugged them both at the same time before hugging Ryou again.
They laughed and her mother stood up again, "Well, come on sweety, you have more presents waiting downstairs under the tree."
Her father smiled as he lifted her down from the bed, watching Ryou use his claws to help him thump down to the floor behind her, "There might even be a present down there for Ryou too."
Lillian blinked then gave an excited smile and grabbed Ryou's hand, pulling him along out of her room. The tiger cub blinked in surprise before catching up, easily keeping pace with the human girl as they ran downstairs to the living room.
"I love Christmas! It's so much fun!" She pulled him into the living room and paused to hug him while he stared at the huge tree-they'd taken him straight upstairs so he hadn't seen anywhere else in the house. "But nothing could be a better present than you!" She giggled when she could barely see him blush under the fine white fur on his cheeks.
Her parents were right behind them and gently ushered them into the room and over to the tree, taking seats on the couch where they had a good view. A butler was running a camera to capture every moment as Lillian took Ryou over and plopped down with him by the presents.
Ryou watched in amazement as she pulled out present after present and tore the wrapping off, tossing it behind her in an ever-growing pile. He blinked in surprise when she set a present in front of him, "This one's yours! It has your name on the tag!" She pointed and he tilted his head as he looked at the letters making up his name before he took off the wrapping with growing sense of delight and tossed it to the pile behind Lilly.
She helped him open the box and clapped her hands in delight when she saw the toy inside, though Ryou only looked confused. Lilly smiled as she lifted the bright blue ball out and held it, "It's a ball! We can play catch and you can bounce it!" She got to her feet and carried it over to the brick fireplace and let it drop, giggling when Ryou's eyes lit up at the way it hit the ground then went back up.
"Wow!" The exclamation was quiet, but it was there as he watched the ball, holding his hands up when Lilly brought it back. Both paused and looked over at her mother when she spoke.
"Careful of your claws Ryou, they could break the ball and pop it so it's no good any more, so keep them in when you're playing with it." Ryou nodded then carefully took the ball from Lilly, running his hands over the strange feeling surface with a wonder filled look on his face while Lilly smiled and went back to opening presents. Ryou hugged the ball to his chest as he watched her, looking surprised when she set another, much smaller present in front of him.
"This one's for you too, Ryou!" After carefully setting the ball aside, Ryou opened this present, pulling off the shiny green wrapping paper and throwing it to the pile, opening the plain white box and tilting his head at what was inside before picking it up.
Lilly smiled, "It's a ribbon, so you can tie your hair back out of your way!" Ryou blinked at the 'ribbon' it was white and felt nice when he rubbed it with his fingers.
The girl's mother smiled and beckoned to the cub, "If you come here I'll tie it for you."
Ryou blinked then nodded and got up, going over to her. She took the ribbon and laid it over her leg before gently turning him around. Though he was a little nervous, Ryou didn't pull away as she gathered up his hair then tied the ribbon around it before patting him on the head and sending him back to Lilly.
The girl giggled a little, "You look really cute with your hair tied back." She giggled some more when she noticed him blushing before going back to presents, picking up one that had both their names on it. "This is for both of us, Ryou!"
Ryou blinked then helped her open it and she looked ecstatic when she saw the matching necklaces inside. They looked a bit like collars; both a purple velvet strip that would fit close around their necks and they each had a silver bell attached to the center. Ryou touched one, jumping when it jingled.
Lilly laughed, "It's okay. They're matching so people know we belong together!" She beckoned him closer and showed him how they fastened before putting his on for him and after a little fumbling, he put hers on for her, giving a tiny giggle when he batted at the bell just as she did to his and they both jingled.
That was the last present and Lilly reached for one of her new toys to play with it, not seeing the way Ryou crouched and eyed the pile of colorful paper. With a bright jingle of the bell around his neck and a tremendous rustling noise, Ryou leapt into the pile, making the adult humans laugh and Lilly turn around and giggle when she saw him disappear into the middle of the paper.
Giggling happily, Lilly crawled into the pile with him and the bells around their necks jingled faintly from the center of the pile as they played.
Lillian's father went to get up and take them out so it could be cleaned up, but his wife stopped him with an amused shake of her head, "Let them play dear."
He sat back down with a chuckle, "All those toys and they'd rather play with wrapping paper…"
Ryou had never been happier than he was now being with Lilly, they had so much fun together and he went everywhere with her, even sleeping in her bed at night.
A few weeks after Christmas, Ryou found himself being woke up by Lilly shaking him a little and he stretched and yawned as he sat up, rubbing at his eyes with a hand curled in a paw like manner as the girl smiled at him.
"We have lessons today! Mommy said the teacher said it was okay that you come, and he'll teach you too!" She smiled brightly and got off the bed, the cub blinking for a moment before following after her, helping her pick out clothes and put them on like he always did. She brushed her own hair, then his and helped him tie it back with the ribbon before they went out hand in hand, their necklaces jingling softly with every step they took.
"Breakfast first, then we can go to lessons." Lilly smiled at him and Ryou nodded, smiling back with a cute display of his sharp little eyeteeth peeking over his lower lip, making her giggle a little.
After big breakfast, Ryou and Lilly headed for the large two-story library towards the center of the mansion they called home.
A tall man with dark hair and blue eyes was waiting for them in the library and greeted them with smile, looking a little amused at how Ryou hid behind Lilly, just peeking at him over her shoulder.
He lightly clapped his hands, "All right, sit down, we're starting with English today."
"Yay!" Lilly climbed up into a chair, scooting over when Ryou followed so there was room for both of them as the teacher put two work booklets in front of them.
"Here you go, just ask if you need help with something, this is just a review for you Lillian."
"Okay, Mr. Mana!" Lilly handed Ryou a pencil and picked up one of her own, opening her workbook and watching as the tiger mimicked her.
Ryou looked fascinated at the words, he knew the alphabet of course, and his name, but only knew how to read a little. He looked at Lilly and spoke up softly, "What am I supposed to do?"
It was the teacher who answered, pointing to the book as he spoke, "This is for practicing. You copy these letters onto these lines so you may get better at writing."
"Oh. Thank you." Ryou's voice was soft and he started obediently copying the letters, just like Lilly was doing.
His round ears twitched a little as he listened to what the teacher was doing, and when he was sure the man was distracted elsewhere, he snuck his tail up under Lilly's top and tickled her side, sending her into a fit of giggles. He kept his head down and tried not to giggle himself when the teacher looked up.
"Something funny about letters, Lilian?"
"No, Sir." She shook her head rapidly back and forth, the giggles tapering off as Ryou's tail stopped. She waited until Mr. Mana looked down to lean over and poke Ryou, hissing in his ear with a small giggle, "You're trying to get me in trouble!"
Ryou blinked his wide bluish brown eyes innocently at her, then grinned and licked the tip of her nose, making her jerk back, "Hey!"
"Lilian!" The teacher's stern voice was ignored as she tackled the cub off of the chair, the two giggling as they rolled around on the floor at the very annoyed man's feet.
Suffice it to say they got in trouble, but neither looked very abashed even though they were sent to her room without a snack as punishment. After all, if they had each other they could easily entertain themselves.
Everything was going wonderfully for them and Ryou had never been happier or more carefree, at least until Lillian's seventh birthday came around in August.
Her parents had thrown a large party for Lilly and Ryou had been nervous about meeting all of her friends and was holding on to her arm as they walked. He'd half hidden behind her, his eyes wide and ears pinned back, when the cheerful clown they'd hired for the party had come over to greet the birthday girl and make her a balloon hat.
Ryou had been all right until one of the balloons had popped and he jumped with a startled growl, accidentally pushing his claws out and scratching Lilly's arm when she jumped and they moved away from each other, leaving ten lines that immediately started bleeding heavily.
"Ah!" Lilly started crying and her parents rushed over to tend to her, her father so furious that he swatted at a horrified looking Ryou, catching him upside the head as he tried to get away, then again on the butt as he ran.
"Bad! Look what you did! Bad!" Lilly's mom was crying along with the little girl as they hurried her inside to take care of the scratches while a terrified Ryou hid in some of the bushes in the garden and cried into his hands, crouching down instead of sitting because his bottom hurt from the swat from Lilly's father.
It was a half hour later that he heard Lilly calling for him, but Ryou didn't answer, just stayed where he was in the bushes, face hidden as he sniffled.
"Ryou? Is that you?" Lilly bent over to look then found the through spot in the bushes that they always used when they played, though Ryou hadn't earlier, "It's okay, Ryou, it doesn't hurt anymore and they fixed my arm up, see?" She held out her bandaged arm, then the other when Ryou looked up, hugging him when he crept over, crying again.
"I'm sorry, Lilly! I didn't mean to! I just got scared!"
"I know, Ryou, it's okay, I'll be okay, I'm not mad at you." Lilly hugged him tight and he sniffled, feeling better when she started petting him, pulling out the leaves and things he got stuck in his hair while trying to hide.
"Your mommy and daddy were so mad!"
"Mommy said they were just scared 'cause I was hurt." Lilly smiled a little and scratched behind his ears like he liked, smiling brighter when he started purring faintly. "Come on, let's go back to my party, k?"
"Okay." Ryou scrubbed at his wet cheeks with his hands curled like paws, then took one of Lilly's in his own and followed her out, his ears pinning against his head and his tail tucking between his legs when all of the other children shied away or their parents moved them away from him.
The tiger cub's lower lip trembled and he tried to pull away from Lilly, "I'm going to go inside."
Lilly firmly shook her head though, still holding tight to his hand, "Nuh uh, it was only an accident and I want you here more than anyone else, so they can leave if they don't like it!" Her voice had rose in volume as she spoke and she sent a stubborn glare at all of the other children and adults. Ryou hid his face in Lilly's arm when everyone turned to stare at them, trembling softly and trying to keep in tears. "You're upsetting him! Stop it! It was only an accident!" She turned and hugged the cub, scratching behind his ears and getting them to perk up again and a just audible purr to come from Ryou.
A nearby girl giggled a little and pulled away from her mother to go over, asking shyly, "Can I pet him?"
Lilly blinked then looked at Ryou, who looked up with his odd colored eyes, "Is it okay if she pets you?" The tiger cub nodded and the girl reached, scratching behind his ear like Lilly had done and giggling when he purred. That broke the ice and the party continued on from there, Ryou playing games and eating cake with the human kids.
It was a week later that their world was really turned upside down.
Even after the incident at the party had blown over, Lillian's parents hadn't quite trusted Ryou since and after a long discussion, had decided he needed to go and that a more suitable pet could be gotten for Lillian.
They hadn't told either of them until right when the man from the shop they sold him to, came to pick him up and no matter how much they begged and pleaded, they were pulled away from each other, both crying as they were separated and Ryou was taken away to be completely miserable for the next year of his life.
It was then that a man Ryou would grow to love over the next eight years in more ways than one bought him. Though he never forgot Lilly and always wore his necklace, even getting it fixed so it would fit him still as he got older. That little girl would always hold a special place in his heart.
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Wish He Was Mine