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Stray Cat Blues

Stray Cat Blues
By: Memory Dragon
Summary: Watanuki starts to feel under-appreciated. Unfortunately, he voices his complaint out loud. Feline madness as only Yuuko could think up results as Watanuki learns just what the others think of him.
Warnings: Insane warm fuzziness. There is no real pairing in here, but... Oh, well, you'll see. Just don't say I didn't warn you.
Disclaimer: I do not own xxxHolic, nor do I make any claim to.
Author's Thanks: Many thanks to TheOptimisticPessimist for wading through this crazy sugary fic and making it better. It's because of her that I'm actually posting this... I've become far too wary of my own fluffy fics to decide if they're actually good or not.  But here it is... You guys can decide.
Timeline: Sometime during the 'dreaming' arcs.
Author's Notes: Tama is the stereotypical cat name in Japanese. Hana means "flower," which I thought was appropriate for Himawari's choice. XD It's also the name of a kitten in one of my Weiss fics, so I couldn't resist.

This was a fic spurred by a note I left in one of my other xxxHolic fics. It started as just a note to myself to add more description... and this somehow resulted instead. Of course, when the said note consisted solely of "Watanuki as a cat," it's a little more understandable...

~

Watanuki Kimihiro despised a great many things.

Bullies for one thing. The spirits that haunted him, for another. But the thing he hated the most at the moment was the slave driver who called herself his employer. It was one of those few days that he was actually awake through most of (as far as he could tell, anyway) and Yuuko goes and demands a highly unusual and hard to make dinner. This and all of the cleaning work that had piled up because of Watanuki’s current sleeping habits.

There had been no ‘Good Morning, Watanuki,’ or ‘How are you, today, Watanuki?’ No, of course not. Just orders for more sake. The witch didn’t even bother to get up from her couch to give the order! Then he had to look up how to make Yuuko’s latest craving, get the ingredients in the pouring rain (chancing that he should fall asleep on the way home), start preparing the dinner, and manage to complete some of his make up work from all the school he had missed lately.

“Completely ungrateful! No thanks for all the hard work I do! No, everyone just pushes me around while I slave away!” Watanuki tackled the dust bunnies on the top shelf with the vengeance of one thousand malevolent vacuum cleaners. The dust bunnies would feel the full force of his fury, since he was powerless to take out his frustrations on anything else.

“Yuuko and that black pork bun are the worst of the lot by far. That smug jerk Doumeki is almost as bad! He forces me to make insane meals and spending what little money I do earn on getting ingredients! Even Himawari-chan has been avoiding me lately...” He fell to the floor, dropping the feather duster. The over reacting teen proceed to weep and tear out his hair in a childish temper tantrum.

“So you wish to be appreciated?” A sly voice cut through his heart wrenching cries.

“Yes, I do,” he shouted automatically. It was bad enough that - Wait... Watanuki realized his mistake five seconds later and spun around to see Yuuko grinning evilly. She held a bright red ribbon in her hand with something attached to it hidden behind the cloth of her kimono. The red ribbon brilliantly contrasted against the dark blue fabric.

A look of horror crossed his face. Nothing good could come of that smile on Yuuko’s face. “No, wait a-”

“You know there’s no breaking out of the contract, Watanuki. Now, as for the manner of payment. You must wear this for the rest of the night until the spell wears off. And you won’t be able to speak to anyone to tell them of your predicament.” While she was talking, Yuuko moved closer and pinned Watanuki against the wall, putting a sensual finger to his lips to emphasize what she said. She was almost close enough to kiss him, though that was the last of Watanuki’s worries at the moment. Yuuko was in one of those moods.

“Y-Yuuko-san, what do you mean I can’t-” he stammered, trying to buy some time.

As if that would stop her. Yuuko had placed the ribbon around his neck, tying it in a big bow behind him. He could feel his body transforming. His body became more compact, his face contorted in any number of different ways and from the base of his spine Watanuki could feel something long and slender growing... The whole sensation was disturbing.

He kept his eyes closed as the terror of his mistake over came him. Watanuki didn’t open them again until the his body had stopped its sickening motion.

He found he was much closer to the ground than he had started, and on four legs. What shocked him the most was the black fur that covered his body. He yelped, but the sound that came out of his mouth was more like a meow and the bell (for that was the object tied to the ribbon that Yuuko had been hiding) around his neck jingled as he fell backwards. Watanuki struggled as Yuuko’s slender fingers reached around the middle of his body and placed him in front of a mirror.

Pausing, Watanuki found he was quite shocked at his new appearance. What he saw in the mirror was a black kitten with mismatched eyes. A golden bell hung by a red ribbon around his neck. The big floppy bow stuck out from behind him, he noticed with a growl. It looked too feminine. He did have to admit that it was less strange to see a cat with multicolored eyes than it was to see a human with them.

Regardless of that fact, Watanuki was still a cat of all things and this was not something he wanted to be. He turned to complain bitterly to Yuuko and demand that she turn him back but continued to find that only mews came from his throat. His alarm was accompanied by Yuuko’s gentle laughter. “I told you, you can’t talk!”

Her voice was much louder to his new cat ears and the noise scared him so much more than it usually did. Watanuki felt his tail puff out as his back arched. He quickly ran out the window, falling through the bush below and landing roughly. The plant sprinkled raindrops down on him as he fell, souring his already foul temper. As soon as his feet -no, paws- touched the ground, Watanuki raced off. The bell jingled faintly all the while.

Thankfully, it was no longer raining. After a few moments of running, his heart calmed enough that he could slow down. Noticing and disliking the feeling of the still wet concrete under his han- paws, he looked around for a place that wasn’t wet.

Watanuki found that he was under the cherry tree where he had first met Kohane. The branches were now bare, but it was also magically bare of water. For the first time, he noticed the cold air. He thought fur was supposed to keep a person warmer... Watanuki didn’t want to go back to that witch quite yet, even though it would be warm there. She had made him this way and he still had yet to forgive her.

He shook the remaining droplets from the bush out of his fur before miserably curling up on one of the tree’s roots. Noises of the street were so loud that he put his ears back in an attempt to block them. Shivering, Watanuki put his head on his paws wretchedly and wondered why Yuuko had done this to him.

Soft footsteps cause his ears to perk up. He was slowly getting used to the increased sounds and smells, but someone approaching put him on his guard. The last thing he needed was a couple of bullies who wanted to torment cats with two different colored eyes.

“A kitten,” a expressionless, but child-like voice said. The kitten looked up to see Kohane standing in front of the tree with the umbrella he had lent her on her arm. He stood up to greet her cheerfully, but ended up mewing instead. It was a cold reminder of how he couldn’t talk.

Kohane didn’t move from her spot, so Watanuki took initiative. After stretching, he walked towards the girl and rubbed his furry little head against her knee socks as he had seen many other cats do. He felt a hesitant pair of hands reach down and pick him up. This time, he didn’t squirm, but mewed encouragingly at the child. He had to concentrate to keep his claws from coming out and scratching the girl. Yuuko accidentally getting clawed, yes. Kohane, no.

She held the kitten up to her cheek, which he rubbed affectionately. Almost without noticing, Watanuki began to purr softly. He decidedly liked the vibration that came so willingly from his throat. It was a pleasant sensation.

“So warm,” Kohane said, as she held him gently. “Just like Kimihiro-kun’s smile.” The last statement startled him and he mewed uncertainly. Seeing as he was a kitten, he made his way up to her shoulder using his claws carefully. There, he licked her cheek this time.

Her expressionless eyes never altered, but he could sense a small change in her spirit. He did feel a little awkward, considering the position of his legs on her chest, but he was a kitten at the moment. There really was no other way to keep his balance.

Watanuki was very surprised, however, when a larger hand struck him. Instinctively, he dug his claws into Kohane’s blouse, but the force of the blow knocked him down to the concrete. He cried out, feeling pain in one of his front legs because of his ill fated landing.

“Don’t touch that thing! You have no idea where it’s been or what it’s been doing!” a high pitched voice nearly shrieked out at her daughter. Watanuki flattened his own ears at the sound, recognizing the woman in front of him as Kohane’s mother. He reacted by hissing, partially from the pain and partially out of protectiveness of Kohane. The child simply stared up at her mother, unforgiving.

“Come now,” her mother said nervously, trying to avoid her daughter’s unwavering gaze. “Let’s get back indoors before it starts to rain again. I don’t know why you insist on coming back to this tree when the spirit is already gone.”

Kohane moved around her mother, keeling down next to the kitten. She pet his head until he calmed and his wild fur realigned itself. The girl’s mother cried out again, but Kohane glared back, silently daring the woman to try to hurt the kitten again. She turned back to the kitten, petting him again and helping smooth down his fur. “It’s alright. I’ve found the person I’ve been waiting for.”

Then she walked off, leaving a very perplexed Watanuki behind. Her mother followed after her, scolding Kohane until they were out of hearing range.

The kitten mewed woefully again, because it had started to rain. Once again he was alone, cold, and this time wet. The tree wasn’t offering much in the way of cover, but he didn’t know where else to go. Shivering as the cold droplets battered his small body, Watanuki laid down again and cried pitifully.

“Are you lost, little kitten?” He knew that beautiful soprano voice! There was a sudden lack of rain as Watanuki looked up to see who held the umbrella over him. He was overjoyed at his luck, though if it was good or bad remained to be seen. Himawari-chan to the rescue!

Before he knew what he was doing, Watanuki was rubbing against her legs, purring happily. He no longer cared that he was wet and cold, or any of his miserable thoughts from before. Himawari’s dazzling smile was there to brighten his day. She certainly wouldn’t leave him out here all alone!

“So friendly,” she said with a laugh. She picked him up and pet him gently as Tanpopo chirped curiously from her shoulder. Watanuki was over come by how cute she was and began to proclaim his love with kittenish joy.

Himawari held him up and frowned slightly. The sight of her frown (though it certainly was adorable) caused him grief and he let her know he was willing to listen to whatever was bothering her. It came out as mildly loud meows, but he hoped the point got across. “Your eyes...” she said finally. “They remind me of someone.”

Did Himawari figure out that it was him? Of course! She was perfect and smart, Himawari would know right off the bat and- “You and Watanuki-kun would get along so well!” Dreams shattered by the a clap of lighting in the distance. He cried softly while she moved the kitten to the shoulder that didn’t already have a small animal on it.

“You know,” she mused thoughtfully as she started to walk down the path, “I can’t take you home with me.” Tanpopo chirped happily from her other shoulder, knowing it was the only pet in her heart. “But I’ll take you to a friend of mine. I could have given you bad luck, so he’ll make sure nothing bad happens to you.”

Watanuki paused in his purring. Tanpopo chirped cheerfully and Himawari seemed happy enough but... He nuzzled her cheek softly, mewing as the rain fell down around them.

Himawari stopped walking so she could genuinely smile down at the kitten. “It’s alright. There’s someone who knows but still said he was happy to meet me. I’m so glad that I was able to pay the price so that person could live. Because of him, I’ve gained courage!”

Tanpopo chirped in agreement. Watanuki mewed again, this time looking way. He watched the rain fall around them as he snuggled closer to Himawari’s neck for warmth. The desolate scenery didn’t slow down Himawari however, and she continued to walk cheerfully down the path.

“Here we are!” She said as she approached an all too familiar shrine.

Watanuki jumped down from her shoulder and hissed. Then he rolled around crying as he realized Himawari had called his rival a friend. For a few seconds he was joyful that Himawari had been worried about him, then back to hissing, crying, and restarting the cycle. He was just about to switch over to hissing when a calloused hand picked him up by the scruff of the neck.

“Oi,” was all the too familiar voice said. Watanuki was about to go into full out hissing, but was unnerved by Doumeki’s calm, golden stare gazing straight into his multicolored eyes. He did manage a miffed glare in return, but the staring contest didn’t end.

“Doumeki-kun! What are you doing out in the rain like this without an umbrella?”

Doumeki stared at the kitten a little while longer before giving an answer. Watanuki started to hiss softly in response. “I heard a loud noise and came to check it out,” he said, plugging his ear with his remaining free hand as Watanuki vocally let Doumeki know his feelings on the matter. “This is?”

“A kitten! I found him on the way to the store. Would you look after him for a bit?” Himawari looked away now as Tanpopo chirped encouragingly at her. “Just to be sure... nothing happens because it came to me.”

Watanuki grew silent, though he still glared at his rival. He did feel pleased, since Himawari was worried about him, even if she didn’t know it was really him... Though leaving him in the care of his rival wasn’t all that thrilling...

“What’s it called?” Watanuki bristled. He was not an it.

Himawari grew thoughtful. “I don’t know. It doesn’t have a name on its collar, just that bell. Why don’t you name it?” She clasped her hands together happily, though Watanuki was crying again. Even Himawari called him an ‘it.’

He would have much preferred it if Himawari was the one who named him. He stared at his rival in dread, not wanting to know what the jerk would come up with.

“Tama.”

And that was when he promptly clawed Doumeki’s hand as hard as he could. The unimaginative jerk let out a hiss of his own, one of pain. He dropped the kitten who landed on his feet gracefully.

“You’re getting along so well!”

Doumeki threw his class mate a side long glance before turning his gaze to the annoyed kitten. “What would you call it then?” he asked dryly, taking the kitten’s hint.

Himawari became thoughtful again. She was so cute like that! Watanuki purred softly as his tail flicked from side to side in anticipation. Himawari was going to give him a name! One that was sure to be better than the completely unoriginal name that the oaf in front of him just listed. Himawari had the best taste and-

“How about Hana-chan?” -would have come up with the perfect name if he had been a girl. Watanuki cried silently to himself as Himawari bid his rival a cheery good night.

Doumeki picked up the still grieving kitten and walked back to his room, grabbing two towels from a closet on his way. Once at their destination, he started to dry the kitten off. After being bitten a couple times in the process, he angrily told Watanuki to dry himself off. The archer started to run the second towel through his own hair, setting out to completely ignore the over-protesting house guest.

The kitten debated for a minute, than began to lick his fur clean. It actually wasn’t nearly as disgusting as Watanuki thought it would be. Or maybe he was just letting his cat instincts take over? It was rather soothing, however, and he quickly fell into the rhythm of cleaning himself.

It was then Watanuki noticed a small rumbling in his stomach. He tried desperately to ignore the churning sensation that reminded him he hadn’t eaten dinner yet. Cat food was the last thing he wanted to eat. But the noise soon became rather audible and his rival noticed.

Doumeki sighed softly and left the room. He was back a few minutes later, just before Watanuki’s curiosity had gotten the better of him. The archer set two plates on the floor, one with some warmed milk and the other with re-heated fried fish.

Watanuki walked over to the meal and sniffed it a few times before deciding that it wasn’t burnt and was actually edible. Though, fried fish was probably horrible for a kitten. He would have to tell Doumeki not to feed cats something like this when he could talk again. At the moment, he was so hungry that he didn’t pay it any mind. He lapped up the milk first and became contented with the rest of his meal.

His rival, on the other hand, worked quietly on some project for school. Sometimes he would be reading, sometimes taking notes, and other times just staring out the window with an almost lonely expression on his face. Though how that final notion had struck Watanuki, he couldn’t say for sure. Doumeki’s face remained just as expressionless as usual.

In the middle of one of the forlorn looks, a soft alto voice called out through the paper door. “Shizuka? Do you mind if I come in?”

The door slid open after Doumeki called an affirmative. A pretty, but not beautiful woman walked in. The wrinkles on her face became more evident as she saw her son. Watanuki gazed up at her curiously, having only met this person briefly before. “Shizuka, is everything alright? Lately you seem to be coming home a lot earlier. Did you have a fight with that friend of yours?”

Doumeki shook his head and his mother sighed. Curious about the exchange, Watanuki jumped up on to a near by shelf to get a better view. The jingle of the bell around his neck went unnoticed by Doumeki’s mother, though his rival did look over briefly.

I know you’ve been trying harder, but your father and I worry,” the woman said, her hand reaching out to brush through Doumeki’s hair. “We don’t want you to be lonely all the time. It’s partially our fault, sheltering you so much when you were sick. And after your grandfather died... You’ve had hard time interacting with people. I know we don’t understand your gift like he did, but we just want you to open up a little more.”

“Ah,” was all Doumeki said as he shifted uncomfortably. Watanuki’s internal sigh was echoed by Doumeki’s mother, though she never saw him. He could only assume it was part of Yuuko’s spell.

As the older woman kissed her son’s cheek and bid him good night, Watanuki came to realize that this sort of talk was something that happened often. Doumeki was hard to get along with, but with all of his ‘fans’ Watanuki had never thought that he archer would be, well, lonely.

He gauged the distance from the shelf to the desk as Doumeki resumed his gaze out the window. Watanuki had seen cats jump that far before, but... His body took over, preparing to jump anyway. He set his face with what he thought was a determined look and focused on the table ledge.

His main problem was, Watanuki reflected as he sprung and fell just a few inches short, was that cats have a little bit longer body span than kittens did. He had failed to take that into his calculations. The kitten crashed, head first, into one of Doumeki’s legs, completely missing the table top.

His rival reached down, carefully scooping up the now annoyed kitten. Doumeki put the kitten on the table and stared at him. Watanuki stared back, unapologetic. “I have homework. I can’t play with you.”

Homework that Doumeki wasn’t even working on, was what Watanuki wanted to say. All that came out was a forlorn mew that sounded gentler than he had intended. “You too?” Doumeki asked, a little annoyed. Watanuki wasn’t quite sure what the question meant. “You look just like that moron with that pathetic look.”

Much hissing and yowling, some blocking of Doumeki’s ears, and a little bit of gratefulness to Yuuko for not letting Doumeki’s parents see or hear him occurred at this point. Here he had been feeling sorry for the insensitive jerk and Doumeki goes and calls him a moron again! He bit down on Doumeki’s finger as hard as he could, earning him another glare.

Regardless, his rival tried again and somehow got around Watanuki’s teeth. He started to pet the kitten, which had a very calming affect. His ruffled fur soothed and Watanuki had to fight against the urge to automatically start purring.

“I’m not lonely anymore,” Doumeki offered a little while later. Watanuki’s ears perked up in surprise. “Someone... Someone cared enough to call me back, even after I hurt that person. He puts up with me, even though I’m not very good at dealing with people. So... I’m not lonely anymore.”

Watanuki mewed again, crawling into Doumeki’s lap as the archer continued to pet the kitten. A soft purr rumbled through his throat as those calloused fingers started to rub under his chin. It wasn’t because he was apologizing for not noticing before! He was simply allowing the antisocial lout to bask in Watanuki’s kitten-like glory. This time, he didn’t attempt to stop purring.

Doumeki stopped scratching the kitten’s ear a few seconds too soon as he reached for something. This resulted in another yowl, some digging in of his claws, and minor cursing on Doumeki’s part. His rival eventually produced one of his bow strings with a white feather tied to the end of it. He held the feather up to the kitten, dangling it.

Watanuki stared at it, unblinking from his position on the table. Doumeki moved it passed the kitten, whose eyes never left the feather. He was just about to give up and put the string away when the kitten finally pounced, the bell around his neck ringing as he moved.

They played like that for some time. Doumeki remained dead panned and expressionless. Watanuki was beginning to realize was a cat’s sixth sense was empathy, however, and it told him Doumeki was actually enjoying tormenting the poor kitten with a feather. He even thought one of the corners of Doumeki’s mouth was slightly turned upward at one point, reminding him of Haruka’s playful smile.

This isn’t to say that Doumeki didn’t earn a few more scratches on his hands before the archer decided to call it a night. Overall, his rival was in a much better mood, though Watanuki was a little grumpy. He sat and chewed on the now motionless feather in revenge. Once Doumeki was asleep, the kitten considered his options.

It was still raining out side, which meant leaving the warm bedroom was out of the question. He flat out refused to sleep at Doumeki’s feet. He wasn’t a dog and with his new found sense of smell he didn’t want to be that close to the big oaf’s feet. He would fit on Doumeki’s pillow, but being that close to his rival was hardly appealing. Finally, he found a spot on the floor where the moon peeked through the clouds at the window’s ledge. Watanuki curled up, falling into a contented sleep.

He awoke the next morning in his futon on Yuuko’s floor. Watanuki was surprised to find he had been curled up around his pillow. Had it all just been a dream? He looked down at his now human body and saw no trace of black fur.

“Did you have a pleasant dream?” Yuuko asked, startling him. He sat up and searched for his glasses. The sound of a bell that followed his movement was almost expected by this point and he paid it no heed. “My, what interesting accessories your sub-conscious wears.”

“Eh?” Yuuko pointed to her neck with a mischievous grin that told him where the ‘accessory’ could be found. His paw-er, hand, automatically flew up to his neck. The first thing he felt was a small round bell tied back with a ribbon.

Yuuko’s laughter could barely be heard over Watanuki’s own lung power. At least someone appreciated the humor of the situation...

~Fini~

On to the quote of the fic. Two of them, this time.

"The playful kitten, with its pretty little tigerish gambols, is infinitely more amusing than half the people one is obliged to live with in the world."
- Lady Sydney Morgan

"They say the test of literary power is whether a man can write an inscription. I say, "Can he name a kitten?'"
- Samuel Butler