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Curiosity Had Nothing to Do With It

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'This is all your fault, Yufuin.'

It wasn't an entirely fair accusation, but En couldn't bring himself to contradict it. Not while he was too busy fighting off the urge to burst out laughing at the extremely pissed-off student council president, who was glaring at him with narrowed green eyes -- and whose flattened ears and lashing tail were clear signs that he would launch himself at En, claws out for blood, at the first hint of mirth over his predicament.

The members of the Earth Defense Club had long ago stopped trying to figure out exactly how Wombat's so-called highly advanced scientific technology worked. Tawarayama-sensei was alive again, which was an indication that the science behind it wasn't completely made up, but beyond that it seemed like a better idea to not ask too many questions. Occasionally, however, they did find themselves wishing that they knew more about how the technology functioned, because when it failed to work properly the results ranged from inconvenient to downright humiliating. During Wombat's recent illness, the random censor-mosaic tiling and explosions of flowers out of nowhere had been annoying enough, but just when they'd all thought that Wombat had recovered and had everything under control again, one final glitch had made itself known. For some reason, the Lovracelets had now started shooting out sparkling beams of light that transformed random objects into other objects -- textbooks into tablets, umbrellas into ice cream sundaes -- whenever one of the Battle Lovers made a wish out loud for something they particularly wanted.

Wombat, chagrined, had mumbled incoherently about super-dimensional shapeshifting something something and had promised to fix everything as soon as possible. In the meantime, thankfully, the malfunction had not been too much of a hardship for those affected by it. Io was very pleased with his new tablet (even if he had to borrow Ryuu's mathematics textbook as a temporary substitute for his own) and Yumoto hadn't mourned the loss of his umbrella at all (though he had sulked, just a bit, when none of the upperclassmen would let him actually eat the longed-for sundae out of fear that it might change back into an umbrella without warning). And after a few days, when the initial surprise of the glitch had passed, it was understandable that they all might have forgotten just how powerful their idle wishes could be. It hadn't really been En's fault that Kinshirou had opened the door to the Defense Club's room just as En had drowsily remarked to Atsushi that he wished that he could have a pet cat...but no one, least of all En, could deny that Kinshirou had every reason to be upset over what had transpired because of it.

'Kin-chan, you know that En-chan didn't mean for this to happen.' And there was Atsushi, trying to sound as soothing as possible, which only made Kinshirou's silvery-white fur bristle in renewed outrage. 'Wombat's been working on fixing our Lovracelets all week -- I'm sure he'll have you back to normal in no time.'

Kinshirou's tail whipped back and forth in irritation. 'And what, praytell, am I supposed to do until then?' He stalked over to the club room table, and after a moment of intense calculation he gathered himself together and leapt up onto it so he could look Atsushi full in the face. 'I can't very well go home like this, can I?'

Atsushi's cheeks flushed alarmingly pink. 'I'll...I'll t-t-tell your parents that you're sp-spending the night at my house,' he stammered, not quite able to meet Kinshirou's eyes. 'And it's Friday, so at least there's n-no school tomorrow. I'm sure you'll be better by then!'

The thought of spending the evening with Atsushi, even as a cat, seemed to make Kinshirou calm down, because he stopped looking as if he were seconds away from mauling the first thing he could sink his fangs into. Instead, he straightened up, trying to pull together some of his usual dignity. 'We need to inform Arima about this,' he declared, twitching his ears in the direction of the door. 'I told him I'd be back in a few minutes, once I'd spoken to you -- he'll be wondering what's happened to me by now.'

'I'll go get him,' Atsushi said, almost too eagerly, before En could open his mouth to make the same offer. 'You two stay here.'

'Atsushi, you can't just -- ' En began to protest, at the same time that Kinshirou said, 'Atchan, wait -- '

Atsushi, however, was quick to make good his escape, bolting out of the room faster than En had ever seen him move when they weren't transformed. Kinshirou attempted to chase after him, but in his haste he neglected to remember that he was still standing on top of the table, and with a scrabbling of paws and a startled yelp he tumbled right over the edge.

Immediately, En was on his feet. His first concern was that Kinshirou might actually have hurt himself in the fall, but when he rounded the table he saw that whatever cat-like instincts the transformation had bestowed upon Kinshirou apparently had allowed him to land on the floor without injury. And just as En was about ask if he was all right, Kinshirou raised one of his front paws, and proceeded to lick the side of it and rub it across his face, grumbling to himself. 'Honestly, of all the foolish...idiotic....'

He was actually grooming himself out of embarrassment. En felt his heart do a flip -- why was that so goddamned cute? -- and another bubble of inappropriate laughter started to well up in his throat. He forced out a cough to stifle the laugh before it could get him into even more trouble.

The sound of the cough made Kinshirou freeze, his paw in mid-swipe across his whiskers. 'What on earth am I doing?' he murmured, half-dazed, and turned his head to look at En. 'And what are you doing standing there, staring at me like that?'

En leaned on the table, peering down at Kinshirou. 'Just wanted to be sure you'd landed on your feet, that's all,' he said, trying to keep his tone light. 'Looks like you've got that part figured out.'

Kinshirou glowered at him, his ears set at a belligerent angle. 'Very witty,' he snapped. 'I'm glad that you are still able to entertain yourself at my expense. Perhaps I should do the same to you?' He held up a paw, claws unsheathed and spread wide.

It was supposed to be a threatening gesture, but all that En could focus on were the tiny greyish-pink pads on Kinshirou's foot. His heart gave another, smaller flip -- that should not be cute, why was it so cute? -- and he gritted his teeth in frustration.

'All right, all right, I get it, I screwed up,' he said wearily, and dropped back into his chair. 'Look, I'm sorry about this, okay? I know it's a pain, but the other magic stuff wasn't permanent, and it's not like this will be, either.' He ran a hand through his hair, shoving it away from his face. 'When Atsushi gets back, we'll figure out what to do from here.'

Somewhat mollified by En's apology, Kinshirou lowered his paw and jumped back up onto the table again, gravitating towards the side that Atsushi had left vacant. He sat down opposite En, primly wrapping his tail around his front feet, and fixed En with a disconcerting stare.

The whole thing was so ridiculous that En felt like he should start laughing again, but this time he didn't feel at all amused. Kinshirou's cold standoffishness, so obnoxious in a human, suited his feline form as perfectly as if he'd always been a cat. For an insane half-second, En wanted nothing more than to pick Kinshirou up and rub his cheek against that soft-looking fur, scratching gently behind his ears and under his chin until the cat's green eyes narrowed in pleasure instead of anger and the growl in his voice turned into a purr. He was just the right size to be a warm, comfortable weight in En's lap, too. And it was all too easy to imagine him lying down on Atsushi's bed, curled up with his tail over his nose or stretched out to his full length in his sleep --

-- but why, En wondered with growing horror at himself, was he even thinking about such things? He had wished for a cat, true, but he hadn't wished for this cat.

(Suddenly, in that moment, he knew exactly why Atsushi had fled the room at the first available opportunity. Under the circumstances, he couldn't blame him. But then again, Atsushi would have been a lot less likely to lose a hand or an eye if he'd given into the temptation to pet his childhood friend. It wasn't fair.)

Kinshirou was still staring at him, as intent as a predator keeping watch on potential prey, and it was starting to make En uncomfortable. 'Would you mind not giving me that look?' he said, folding his arms across his chest in a vague effort to put some more distance between them, and to keep his hands out of danger.

'You are in no position to dictate what I can and cannot do, Yufuin.'

'Fine, okay, never mind, forget I said anything.' It was better to tilt his chair back and stare at the ceiling, and pretend that he was ignoring a normal human Kinshirou who was sitting in the chair opposite him, scowling his usual scowl. Better than thinking about Kinshirou as a cat with fur that he desperately wanted to ruffle; it would be suicidal to even attempt it.

Kinshirou huffed quietly, but a second later he got to his feet, ears pricked for sound. 'Ah, I think I hear Atchan -- '

Sure enough, the door opened a crack, and Atsushi poked his head around it. 'En-chan? Kin-chan?' When he saw them together at the table, almost exactly where they had been when he had left the room, he opened the door and quickly ushered Arima inside. 'Arima-san, er, wanted to see things for himself.'

En lowered his chair's front legs and half-turned in his seat, curious to see what Arima's reaction would be. Arima Ibushi wasn't the sort of person who was easily shocked or startled by anything -- or he was very adept at concealing it, if he was -- and Atsushi had obviously given him plenty of warning about what to expect, but his eyes nonetheless widened visibly at the sight of his president in feline shape. And when Kinshirou started to walk across the tabletop towards him -- this time, making sure to come to a halt at a safe distance from the edge -- Arima couldn't seem to stop himself from taking half a step back, nearly bumping into Atsushi in the process.

'Don't say a word, Arima,' Kinshirou ordered. He sat down, resuming his neat and compact position with his tail curled precisely around his feet. 'In light of the current situation, I hereby designate you as my proxy for any council business until this whole mess is sorted out. The files for the vice-principal's signature are in the top left-hand drawer of my desk, and you'll have to stamp the approval for the sports teams' proposed autumn budgets before you leave this afternoon.' He tilted his head, by all appearances calm and in control of everything. 'Was there anything else that we left unfinished?'

'I...don't think so,' Arima said slowly. Even though he still looked shaken by Kinshirou's transformation, he seemed to relax at the business-like approach that Kinshirou was taking with regard to it. If Kinshirou was acting like his usual imperious self, then whatever had happened to him couldn't be so terrible as it looked from the outside. 'But I'll take care of those items of business right away.'

The tip of Kinshirou's tail flicked once in what seemed like approval. 'Very well. Also, my schoolbag is in its usual spot -- would you please bring it here?'

En stared at him, baffled. 'You want your homework at a time like this?'

'Some of us,' Kinshirou said firmly, with a pointed sidelong glance at En, 'take our responsibilities seriously, no matter what the circumstances.' He turned back to Arima. 'What else am I missing...ah, yes, I'll need my shoes from the entry hall, and my personal name seal should still be on the desk in the council room.'

'I can get your shoes, Kin-chan,' Atsushi said, with a helpful if tentative smile. 'Did you want to wait to leave until everyone else goes home, or...?'

En spoke up again, not willing to be completely left out of the decision-making process. 'If we stay here much longer,' he pointed out, 'Ryuu or Io or someone else could show up, and it might get weird.' The look he received from both Atsushi and Arima made him roll his eyes. 'Or weirder, whatever, you know what I mean. And Wombat knows how to find us if he needs us, so it's better to leave now, right?'

To his surprise, Kinshirou nodded agreement. 'I for one would rather not wait around. Animals technically are not permitted on school grounds' -- his ears twitched at the hastily suppressed sounds of disbelief that all three of his fellow third-years made -- 'and it doubtless would lead to awkward questions if I were to be seen like this.'

'Give me two minutes to get your bag and your seal,' Arima said, already moving towards the door. 'I'll look after everything else here.'

'I appreciate it,' Kinshirou replied. His tail tip gave another approving flick, and then he stood up once more, looking between Atsushi and En. 'If you two need anything else,' he said to them, 'now would be the time to get it.'

En was more than ready to get moving. Better than staying here to be bossed around by a cat, he told himself. 'Look, I'll go pick up your shoes,' he said to Kinshirou, grabbing his bag as he got to his feet. 'I'll just meet you all downstairs by the front door, all right?'

Atsushi frowned slightly at En's unusual display of motivation. 'Are you sure, En-chan?'

'Let him go, Atchan.' Kinshirou jumped down to the floor, more confident of his footing this time. 'There's enough to do up here as it stands.'

En's thoughts were already racing ahead of him as he trudged down the stairs to the ground floor. He'd get the president's shoes and give them to Atsushi, and then make whatever excuse he could come up with and head straight for the Kurotama baths. If Wombat wasn't over there being cuddled to death by Yumoto, then En was going to hunt him down and sit on him or do whatever else it would take to make him repair their stupid Lovracelets today and change everything back to normal. Anything was preferable to giving in to his growing urge to treat Kusatsu Kinshirou like an actual cat. Atsushi might be able to survive the ordeal with all of his fingers intact, but En had no such expectations for himself.