Skylines Part 2
Scratch felt her heart beating hard against her chest as she walked up the stairs. She still had trouble truly accepting this potential future Maniko had offered her, and part of her was waiting for some kind of stipulation or trap. Being raised on the streets had kept her from easily accepting something that seemed too good to be true and everything Maniko offered fell right into that category. Still...if he was being honest she knew this could be her chance. A bed to sleep in? How comfortable that must be, better than the streets, where she had to sleep with one eye open least some creepy guy tried to take advantage of her.
Maniko walked slowly behind her, his own head filled with so many thoughts. The potential for this young cat to have a new life was obviously not his only concern. Though the option to really show someone on the streets that he meant what he said, and that life could be improved for those in less fortunate positions was too important to just let slip through his fingers. Still, despite all of this, what #167 could do...that concerned him more than anything! It didn’t take long though, before he had guided Scratch back to the bathroom turning to look at her.
“Towels are in the cabinets, umm...while you shower, I’ll go out and get you a fur brush, that won't take long. I can trust you to not run away yes?” he asked.
Scratch just smirked, “What, you don’t think I would just ditch you now? You made a promise, and I’ll see you live up to it. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere!” she said as she made an exaggerated fist pump to show her seriousness! Though the way she twisted caused a loud rip as she suddenly grasped at her chest, feeling the cloth of her shirt become alarmingly loose. Her top finally had had enough, not that there was much left of it in the first place “Ummm...well, that’s…” she muttered.
Maniko had seen the fabric as it ripped and turned away to afford Scratch what dignity he could, “Don’t worry, don’t worry, I’ll give you an old sweater or something, and after you get clean, we’ll go shopping. You need some real clothes, these...have seen better days.” he said, his words a rambling rush as he tried not to blush, “And yeah...you need a wardrobe, we’ll figure it out!” he said as he held open the shower door, “I’ll hand the sweater to you when you’re done okay?” he asked as Scratch stepped into the bathroom; the same room this whole adventure had started in. She sighed as she looked at the water, nodding, “Yeah...but um, how do I turn on the hot water?” she asked.
Maniko blinked, it hadn’t occurred to him that Scratch may not know how to, and he cleared his throat, “There are two levers in the shower, one with an H and the other with C, that’s hot and cold. The water heats up fast, so don’t turn on just the hot. The water flows just by turning those levers, the more you turn it, the hotter or colder it gets so just adjust it until it’s comfortable to you.”
“Okay, but...how long can I stay in?”
“As long as you want, just make sure to get your fur all cleaned, or the brush will really snag on those knots in your fur and it’ll be uncomfortable clearing them all okay?”
“Oh, as long as I want? Well...alright, I’m going in now,” she said a bit shyly, slipping into the bathroom and closing the door. She let her arms down and watched as her tattered shirt fell in a heap on the floor. She shook her head gently and looked herself over in the mirror. She was, to put a point on it, a mess, her fur knotted and mangled, dirt in her fur and streaked on the white. How could this ever get out...could it? Still, she didn’t want to wait for long now, and shimmied out of her pants, and unfastened her undergarments. Those were the only things still in good standing, even her pants were held together by hope and bare threads!
Scratch stepped into the shower, and looked over at the levers. She took a deep breath, and reached for the cold first, she could always adjust it later right? She cranked the lever, and let out a surprised yelp as the water immediately sprang to life, cascading over her like ice on her fur! She certainly wasn’t expecting it to come out so soon, or be so cold! She heard Maniko call out, “You alright in there?” he called to her in concern.
“I’m fine! I’m fine!” she cried out, turning the hot water on and looking up to the shower head, “So...THAT is where the water comes out,” she muttered as she finally felt the water begin to heat up, sighing as the water worked its magic, creating small rivers of gunk throughout her fur. She stood there as the temperature finally leveled out, her eyes closing as it struck her finally that she was able to bathe and that it would be okay to do so. The warm water washing over her fur, it felt good too, even in part, feel like she could get clean. She had been filthy so long..she had forgotten if she ever was clean!
She reached over, picking up the shampoo bottle and reading the label. She was glad that at least she could read the the words on it. She also knew they were expensive. Part of her felt bad using such an expensive shampoo, but at the same time, she wanted to get used to it. She poured a generous amount in her hands, lathering up before she begins to work her fingers through her fur, trying to work free the gunk and grime from years of neglect, feeling the fur matted under her fingers threaten to rip out in clumps. Still..better to get that out of the way now than try and handle it with the brush.
She clenched her teeth as she works her claws under some of those matts, working them free, feeling the fur give way with a dull pop as she felt the pressure of the knotted fur suddenly fee up. It didn’t take long before the drain was clogged with white clumps of fur. Feeling the water pooling at her feet, Scratch knelt down, looking over all that was coming off of her and gathers up the fur to discard later.
She took her time, enjoying the water, washing herself over and over again as she worked out more and more dirt from her fur, ripping out mats to help herself later. Even her tail was full of those nasty knots, but slowly and surely, she finally works out each and every thing she can reach, including rinsing that nasty carrot smelling vial from earlier from her hair, along with the glass shards that had stuck in the thick knots.
Scratch closed her eyes, taking in the smell that hits her nose, and that smell, was of clean, wet fur. She had been very diligent, and thorough, as she stepped out of the shower, reaching for the towel to start drying herself off, she’s was struck by how white her fur was. Had..she always been this white? Or had she been so dirty for so long she’d forgotten? She couldn’t help but admire herself, even with the fur matted down from the water. But soon, the brush would handle that! She poked her head out of the bathroom, keeping the door mostly closed, “Um, Maniko?” she called out. She wasn’t sure if he was back yet, but hopefully he wouldn’t be too far away!
Maniko’s voice came from the kitchen, “Be right there!” he called out. When he arrived, he was holding a folded sweater, easily too many sizes too big for her, and a pair of...were those boxer shorts? Well, anything in a pinch right? On the top of the folded clothes was a brand new brush, with a thick plastic grip and two kinds of bristles to help anthros get those knots out. But what stood out to her was the color. Orange, carrot orange. She narrowed her eyes at the brush for a moment, and just sighed in resignation, “Thank you,” she said, taking the bundle and closing the door, “I’ll be out...well, when I’m done!” she called as the door clicked closed.
Scratch looked at the clothes a bit incredulously, but it wasn’t like she could get back into her old ones. They were so bad off, she wasn’t sure her pants would have even survived her slipping back into them. More, now that her fur was so clean, the dirty clothes just seemed...wrong to her somehow. She sighs, picking up the brush, “Orange...really?” she mumbled as she starts to brush her fur out.
It took some time, and she was only interrupted once, with Maniko knocking on the door to check in on her, but...a half an hour later, and several grunts as she tugged the brush from her matted fur only to need to clean it off, and she was ready! She looked herself over again, her stark white fur was a nice contrast to her blue eyes. In fact, now that she was clean, her fur really let her eyes stand out!
She looked over the new clothes, not quite knowing what to make of the boxer shorts. The slit in them must be for the tail, so she slips them on, and her tail out that hole in the front, while sliding the sweater over her. She had to roll up the sleeves quite a bit, and the hem of it reaches almost to the floor. It looks like an oversized dress and worse, as she looked into the mirror, is the knitted carrot on the chest. Well, more her stomach in this case, but still!
She finally stepped out of the bathroom, carrying the trashcan. She looked clumsy, almost tripping over the sweater, “What do I do with all the old fur? It’s kind of nasty,” she asked as she held the can up to Maniko.
“Oh..my, that all came from you? Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it later. That looks adorable on you, just saying. The sweater I mean.” he said chuckling. He stopped when he saw her glaring at him, “Well, it is.” he said as he turned his face away, to hide him struggling to not laugh. He really was struck by her white fur, seems Scratch would be very pretty once she was dressed up properly!
Scratch just grumbled to herself. She didn’t WANT to look cute..or well, she did, but not in an outfit with a carrot on it! She couldn’t help but feel humiliated, but by the same token, the sensation of her fur being clean was just...too big a trade off for her to stay mad. She finally looked up to Maniko, “So...you said something about new clothes right?” she asked.
Maniko nodded, “Well yes, you can’t very well just wear my old sweaters, it would get far too hot, so, once you are ready, we’ll go shopping. Besides, I need to pick up some other things for you, like a toothbrush for instance. But, would you like to eat before we go?” he asked.
Scratch looked bashful for a moment, clasping her hands together as she tapped her fingers anxiously, “Well...I already raided your refrigerator earlier. You had some chicken in there, and well, you don’t anymore. I figured while I was at it that I may as well eat you know? I never really know if I’ll be able to get enough for a meal from day to day. But yeah, I’m good for now. Sorry about the chicken.” she said, shuffling her feet.
Maniko scratched his head, this kid really was a piece of work. Stealing from him, on top of acting like she’s ashamed of it now that she’d been caught. He wasn’t sure what to think, but he couldn’t hold it against her, not if she had been raised on the streets the way it seemed she had. So instead he sighed, “It’s alright, and I know you probably don’t like salads much, so we’ll figure something out and make meals to help put some meat on your bones later okay?” he said chuckling, “but now, let’s take this one step at a time. Clothes, since...I should probably burn what came off of you before.” he said as he shrugged.
Scratch just nodded, “Well alright, lead the way. I’ve never had to buy clothes, I always just, well, I just took them. I mean, not like I could pay for it right? I didn’t do it often and held onto what I had taken until it fell apart.”
Maniko couldn’t blame her really, but things would be different now. He led her to the front door and outside. He paused in fact, reaching into his pocket for a moment as she stepped outside. He pulled a single key from his pocket on a small string necklace, “Here, it’s a house key. You aren’t a prisoner, you’re my guest, and now, a member of my household, I made a copy while I was out getting your fur brush. I hope this proves I mean to take this seriously.” he said, holding the key out to her.
Of all the things Scratch was expecting, getting a key to the house was far from one of them! Maybe Maniko truly was serious after all and he did mean to help her? She felt hope for the first time in a long time as she took the key, slipping the necklace over her head. She just nodded, unable to really think of much she could say about all of this!
The whole trip there, she was quiet, taking the key out time and time again, as if glancing at it to make sure it was real. She got curious glances, given her oversized ‘dress’ but she hardly noticed as she just kept waiting for the dream she had to be in to end! Maniko gently places a hand on her shoulder as they board the tram, both to support her, and to wordlessly let her know, he was here for her.
Sector 4 was the part of the city where all the commerce took place, at least all of the legal commerce. Sector 2 still had quite a bit going for it, though quite a bit was questionable, or just open food stands. Sector 4 though was where one went to pick up food, clothing, tools, appliances, anything one needed to live in the modern era!
Tall clean buildings marked the skylines with Magitek lighting humming merrily along. People walked from building to building, sometimes on a series of sky bridges that connected the high rise department stores far up into the sky! Scratch had never been to this part of the city, and obviously, every step made her feel more and more out of place. She shrunk next to Maniko, not wanting to lose him in the crowd.
Luckily she had nothing to worry about, even as Maniko led her to one of the high rise buildings, with a brightly lit blouse glowing in the midday sun with a bright turquoise and cast a pale light over the clean streets. Scratch looked up at the building, listening to the hum of the magitek whirring behind the scenes, she knew what was inside, but part of her was afraid to step inside. She finally does though, with a nudge from Maniko.
The doors open with a soft hiss. Scratch was met by a blast of cool, conditioned air and a sight that flooded her vision with colors! She paused after she stepped inside, looking on intimidated by the hundreds of blouses, skirts, pants and yes, even undergarments that met her gaze, in all shapes and sizes! She..didn’t even know her measurements! How could she pick out something she wanted?
Scratch stooped down, rubbing at her legs for a moment. She suddenly just felt sore, like her bones hurt. Yet nothing seemed different, she hadn’t been injured, so she didn’t understand why that may be causing that pain! As she walked towards the nearest rack of clothing, Maniko caught an odd sight, could he see her ankles? Well, maybe she had hiked up the sweater a bit more as they walked so it wouldn’t drag on the floor. He shook his head to clear his mind and walked in after her, “Pick whatever you want okay? I get a nice discount here, my work did all their magitek.”
The first thing Scratch starts to look over was undergarments, she knew she was wearing boxers at the moment, but quite frankly, they were uncomfortable and itchy. She had to stop herself from scratching and knew that she should at least pick out something she wanted to wear. Maniko just turns to look away as she rifles through the selection of panties on the racks, looking for some that seemed like they may fit her. After all, she didn’t know what her size was, so she held them up to her waist, “Maniko? Can I try this stuff on?” she asks, “I never had the chance to learn what these letters mean, so I don’t know what to pick.”
Maniko had never picked female clothing either, so, after looking for a brief moment, he gives up, calling instead over to a clerk, who was waiting patiently if someone needed help. He looked the young human woman up and down for a moment, taking in how young she is, which is perfect, “Excuse me, I decided to bring a new friend to get some clothes. Thing is, I don’t know what her sizes are, and she doesn’t either, she doesn’t often go shopping. Can you help her?” he asked.
The young girl nodded, “Of course, I am here to serve,” she says as she pulls out a tape measure and motions for Scratch to follow her into the changing room, “Let’s get some measurements on you okay? Then you can take your pick on anything in your size!” she said cheerfully.
Scratch looked back to Maniko, she didn’t know what to make of this odd human girl telling her she was getting her measurements. What measurements, how would she get them? Did she need to strip in front of this stranger? All of these thoughts rushed through Scratch’s head as she is taken into a nearby changing room, and yet, all of them were answered just as quickly! She didn’t need to get undressed, and the stranger was kind and explained what she was doing. It was a different experience for Scratch, simply having someone...help her in something so trivial.
Still, it was a quick thing, and soon, Scratch was handed a small paper that the clerk had written down on, “Here are your measurements,” she said, “You can use the changing room whenever you like, just please limit it to 6 items at a time!” she says as she turns to walk away, pausing only to call over her shoulder, “If you need me for anything, don’t hesitate to ask!”
Scratch was dumbfounded, people could be this nice? was she paid to be like this, or was she just naturally this kind of person? She resolved to ask Maniko later. She’d never been inside a proper store before, and thus had no reference. Out on the streets, the kinder someone was to you...the more you had to worry what they were really after, and yet here, here was someone helping freely, without looking for anything in return. Part of her mind just couldn’t understand.
She held the paper up to Maniko, who looked over the writing and nodded, “Alright, let’s get shopping!” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder. Scratch couldn’t help but tense at the touch, but still...he had been so genuine with her that she didn’t see the need to yell. Soon, the two had gathered some things for her to try on.
As Scratch walked into the changing room, Maniko had to rub his eyes as he noticed her calves exposed. His sweater surely wasn’t that short before, she was almost tripping on it when they left! It didn’t look bunched up, so she couldn’t be holding it. Whatever was happening, either Maniko was slowly going crazy, or perhaps, more to the point, it was so subtle and slow, he couldn’t process it. This warranted further study to be sure!
Scratch took a deep breath, rubbing at her arms and legs for a moment as she sat on the little shelf she laid her clothing on. She sighed, still wondering why her bones felt like they were being stretched and ground against something, but still, she needed to focus on one thing at a time. Right now, she needed to focus on her new clothes, one thing at a time after all! She slipped out of that ridiculous oversized sweater, looking at herself in the mirror. She noticed her arms, were they always that long? Were her legs that long too? She looked taller, but maybe that’s because she didn’t always have a mirror to look into?
She looked to one of the shirts, when she picked it out, it still would have draped down towards her knees, but that was fine! She starts to slip on the top, looking surprised as it stopped well above the hem of the boxers she was borrowing. “That’s not right,” she said confused as she looks at her exposed midriff, “This should have been like a small nightshirt.” she mutters, trying on another, and another, they were all short! I mean...she liked how they looked to be fair, but still! She slips back into the sweater, rubbing at her shoulders as she noticed how far up it’s riding, more...her hands fit through the sleeves now?
Scratch paused, looking into the mirror again. There’s no doubt that the sweater is either shrinking...or she had a major growth spurt. It was always a possibility, but she didn’t know if a spurt could hit that fast. She was still growing of course, but this fast was crazy! She swallowed, feeling a knot form in her throat as nervousness gripped her. Finally, she opened the door to look out, “M...maniko? I think there’s a problem.” she called out as the rabbit hopped up from the seat he was taking, gawking in shock as he almost needed to look up at her!
His head began to rush through so many thoughts, it was intimidating. He knew that he wasn’t sure of the potion’s effect, this HAD to be from it though, but...it was supposed to be a strengthening potion. But maybe he didn’t take into account how it would affect felines? Or maybe the carrot extract was having a different reaction all together? He had only included it because the potion had such a nauseating smell without it and it would be a challenge to choke down otherwise. He wasn’t sure, but her sudden spurt of growth was unnatural and unusual!
“Oh, woah woah!” he called out in surprise, “Well, I mean...you grow up fast?” he said trying to make a sheepish smile, “I think..that’s what #167 is doing. I can’t imagine it’ll keep going much longer.” he says biting at his lip, “I hope not at least.” he said nervously.
Scratch just looked out at Maniko, was he serious? Was this really from that crazy potion she spilled all over herself? Whatever it was, she knew one thing, it was nice not having to crane her neck to look so far up, “Think...I need new measurements?” she asked.
Maniko shook his head, “Probably not, just add a few sizes is all we should need to do.” he said as he started to wonder what he has gotten himself into. Still, despite the effect not at all being what he had thought it would be, that there had been such a drastic one was still impressive, impressive and fascinating! He watched as she began to lean into the changing room, suddenly blushing and covering his eyes as he noticed his boxers as the sweater rides up, her new angle not allowing him to miss that at all, of the fact she was wearing them backwards! “Scratch, you...um...you need to...you’re taller now and I can see,” he muttered out entirely unhelpfully.
Scratch turned to look back, not quite grasping what what Maniko was trying to say, until she feels the cool breeze from the air against the base of her tail, “Oh!” she called out in surprise, rushing back into the changing room, and slamming the door, “Pervert!” she called out to him, “But...I didn’t, hey! That’s not fair at all! You were the one flashing them!” he called back.
Maniko just sat back down nervously. He had gotten more than a few odd glances and looks, but he couldn’t do anything about it, other than sit down with his cheeks burning bright red with embarrassment. Did she HAVE to call him out like that, he was just trying to help! Still...that she had grown so much, had his mind running through so many possibilities. If she had grown, maybe that was how making someone stronger worked? It was a stretch, but it was the best guess he had. After all, someone getting larger would make their ability to lift increase...at least in theory!
Scratch stayed in long enough to cool herself off. Maniko calling that out she thought...he was so embarrassing! Why couldn’t he just come out and say it, instead he just stammered on and on, so that others would notice! The nerve! Still...after she cleared her head, she managed to try on her new clothes. Surprisingly, most still fit, despite her growth, though she’d need to get new pants that were a bit longer. A few of the jeans looked as if they could work at shorts, granted, long shorts that went past her knees, but she felt that would be neat! Who else would have such long shorts?
The two stayed, in all, for about three hours, looking over clothes, picking things out, with Scratch occasionally calling Maniko out as a pervert for having looked up that sweater, but, it was a peaceful and fun trip, and the two left with arms laden with bags full of a whole new wardrobe. Scratch couldn’t help but feel proud, knowing that these things, all of them, were for her! She allowed herself more than just a glimmer of hope, clutching those bags to her like they were the most precious things in the world as they rode the tram back to sector 2.
Part of her felt nervous, stepping back into the slums she had grown up in. She looked at all the people, some of whom she knew personally. She looked on at the sunken eyes that watched them, nervously staying near Maniko as if each of those eyes were judging her somehow, accusing her of abandoning them like the rest of the city had already done. But she resolved, she could do something, but she had to make sure she herself would be alright first!
She followed along, nervously watching, worried about pickpockets. Heck, just a little while ago she was one of them. In a way it helped protect Maniko, as her eyes would catch people who came too close, only to see them slink off into the crowd again, knowing they were watched! A pickpocket after all, can’t risk someone watching them do their craft!
Soon though, Sector 2 faded back behind them as they approached Sector 3, and the house she would be sharing with Maniko. Emotions flooded the young kitten as she tried to brace herself for the life she knew she would be living now, one so very different with new challenges to await her.
Maniko as well was thinking about how life would change in the coming days, needing to worry about the well being of another creature in his home, making sure there would be enough food, as well as enough variety for them both to be happy and healthy, it was more than a simple gesture of kindness, he had taken on a new burden, and in that way, taken a new path in his own life. He couldn’t just live for himself with the lofty ideal of helping others when he could, he now had to live that conviction and...to be honest, it frightened him, just a bit.
He turned the key and carefully opened the door, the two walking into the house side by side. Neither knew what the future would bring, each apprehensive and hopeful for the future, and knowing that, at least in some way, it wouldn’t be boring!