9: Kitten
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If Luca hadn’t been so excited about his new acquisitions, maybe he would have noticed the strange silence that persisted on the way home.  Happily hugging his books as he rushed home in-front of his parents, he completely missed Galen's worried frown and the meaningful looks his parents kept passing each other.

As soon as they got home Donovan and Galen pounced on the unprepared Luca. His silent father’s eyes stared with the intensity of a predator waiting for that brief moment of carelessness that would spell doom for his intended prey. His dad’s desperate questions tore directly though his feeble attempts at deception like armour piercing rounds. The mounting panic seized Luca’s throat as the two-pronged attack overwhelmed his paper-thin defences.

The excitement and wonder that bubbled from his encounter with the strange creature in the bookstore was popped by anxiety as he belatedly recalled all the strange behaviour he’d carelessly displayed. Without even knowing whether being able to see spirits was a good or bad thing. The extreme see-saw of emotions finally breached his unconscious self-control. The trembling angle faced child transformed into a whimpering, white kitten!

Shocked out of his tirade Galen quickly dove to the pile of clothes and dug out the struggling kitten before he suffocated.

An adorable, fluffy, white kitten was now sitting on his father’s lap trying, and failing, to not play with that sleek, black tail that kept swishing back and forth in front of him.

*Swish swish*, the tiny fluff ball with two fluttering wings, pounced on Donovan's tail.  While holding on with all four paws, to the tip of his father’s tail, he was inexorably pulled along as the tail pulled him towards his father’s waiting hands.

Luca’s rational mind was slowly being melted into a puddle of pleasure by the finger stroking him under his chin. A purr threatening to erupt from his throat, Luca desperately tried to plead for mercy.  However in his anima form he was unable to utter anything but a soft kitten noises. In desperation, Luca bit down on the unrelenting finger, mindless chewing the knuckle with his kitten teeth.

Donovan's hands were extremely tough.  Feeling no pain at all, Donovan's doting mind turned the resentful bites into adorably playful, nips.  Luca’s last ditch effort only served to encourage his father, and gave him minor toothache.

Standing to the side, watching the pair play together, a helpless smile adorned Galen’s face.  The smile slowly stiffened and turned into a worried frown as Galen reflected on the day’s mishaps. Luca had clearly been behaving strangely in the bookstore, but this wasn’t Galen’s only concern.

He turned towards the kitchen area to hide his tight expression.  Distractedly going through the motions of preparing dinner, Galen's unfocused eyes stared through the leaf-platter in his hands. That attendant should mind his own business.  My Luca is far more mature than any regular hatchling he's been doing great so far! Other than Luca talking to a random spirit there was barely any problem, just cause his anima got upset and he...started crying...

Galen paused, the hands holding the leaf platter he’d been fiddling with trembled. He hung his head clenching his teeth so hard they hurt. No I was careless, this is my fault. Luca is definitely mature for his age but that isn’t an excuse. No one else brings their hatchlings out so early. I just thought he was handling everything so well, I should have known better. It’s common knowledge that new hatchlings can be very sensitive. Wh-what have I done, I’m a terrible parent. It was such a surprise when I got pregnant let alone that Luca even hatched. How could I be so irresponsible, when Methorma gifted us with such a treasure?

Wallowing in misery and self-recrimination Gale’s fingers clenched so hard on the leaf platter it left dents. No, I can’t let this go on. Raising a cub isn't something that can be taken lightly.

Galen glared at the unoffending, and slightly dented leaf-platter in his hands, I won’t let Luca suffer from my ignorance anymore. Yes, Luca's easy to care for so I let my guard down, but that isn’t an excuse. Luca’s going to get the care he deserves starting now.

Galen squeezed the platter with newfound determination, its last shred of resistance failed and Galen’s fingers directly pierced through the platter.

Donovan turned at the sound of the leaf platter breaking in Galen’s hands. “…Galen?”

“Ah, flimsy thing broke for no reason,” jumping at Donovan's voice Galen quickly tried to pull his hands free from the abused leaf platter. One hand came free while almost tearing the platter in half. Aggravated, he tried to shake off the remains of the platter from his hand. The platter remained attached, its partly dismembered body flopping around in the air.

The end of Donovan's tail was being stuffed into the wide open mouth of a kitten.  The kittens emerald eyes couldn’t help but follow the flapping leaf appendage.

Donovan critically eyed the flopping leaf-platter, “dead.”

The leaf-platter paused mid-air. Galen turned, face frozen in the scowl he had aimed at the leaf-platter.  Two pairs of emerald eyes gazed back at him. One pair of eyes, unnecessarily judging the expiration date of the unfortunate utensil, the other just observing his dad in consternation.

Seeing the shocked eyes in that fluffy, white face, Galen forces his scowl into something resembling a smile.  Dragging up the corners of his mouth and gaining control of his twitching eyebrow, Galen uses his free hand to remove the remains of what used to be a leaf-platter.  Closing his eyes he took several long, deep breaths. After some meditation Galen opens his eyes, his smile looking much more genuine. If it weren’t for how he scrunched the leaf platter into a ball and viciously hurled it into a corner you could almost believe the smile.

Both pairs of emerald eyes follow the leafy ball as it hurtles through the air and ricochets off of the wall. Luca bites down hard on the tail in his mouth resisting the urge to chase the green ball.  The chill he could feel coming from kitchen, suggests that action would not be a good idea right now.

The chill gradually faded and Luca took his eyes off the green ball of mush, only to have his heart almost jump out of his chest as Galen’s face is now enlarged and encompassing his much smaller field of vision.

Galen knelt in front of Donovan, matching his eye level to Luca’s. He raised his hand as if to stroke Luca’s head but aborts the movement part way and places his hand back down. His jaw tightens, and he looks Luca straight in the eye.

“Luca I’m sorry, I haven’t been doing this parenting thing properly. I can’t promise to not make any more mistakes but I’m going to try my best to look after you properly from now on.”

Galen paused and looked at the floor. The resolution and love overflowing from his eyes shook Luca to his core.

“I know it’s partly our fault for not explaining things to you but there are a lot of dangers in the world. We’ll do our very best to keep you safe, but we can’t protect you if you don’t tell us when something strange happens.” Galen's worried eye's met Luca's guilty one's. “So from now on, if some strange being starts talking to you, don’t talk back okay? At least, not until you’ve told us about it first.”

Still gnawing on his father’s tail, Luca pondered over Galen's words. In retrospect talking to some strange floating ball of gas, and just doing everything it said, may not have been the smartest decision he ever made.  Staring at the floor in contemplation, Luca mulled over his mistakes today, and why he felt the need to keep everything secret from the people, who in this life, were his parents. Would it really be such a bad thing to trust these people? Why hadn’t he been more cautious? Was it all just too exciting and new so he threw away any and all rational behaviour?

Firming his resolve Luca looked up at Galen and opened his mouth “Meow.”

Luca “…”

Galen “…”

Donovan's brain got smothered by fluffy clouds of cuteness.

Internal Luca rolled around in embarrassment.  How could I have forgotten I can’t speak right now? Wait how do I even turn back?!

“Meow mrow roew,” a teary, fluffy kitten made increasingly distressed noises. His claws unconsciously flexing on his father’s knees.

Donovan, his brain still non-functional, thought the tickling sensation was Luca’s way of asking to play. He grabbed Lucas two front paws and started pressing the soft paw pads.

Galen slapped away Donovan's hands and picked up the distressed Luca.

“shh, it’s okay don’t worry, just relax and I’ll help you change back.”

Luca took a deep breath and calmed his beating heart. Galen’s soothing voice washed over him like the smooth voice of a meditation guru, unwinding his worries one by one.

“That’s it just relax, listen to my voice, breathe. Now look inside and calm your anima, breath, visualise your anima form slowly melting back into yourself and your human form surfacing, that’s it just breathe, your rising to the surface now , your safe no one will harm you.” 

Luca lost himself in the soothing sound of his dad’s voice. As his consciousness swam towards the surface he slowly opened his eyes, peacefully looking around at his parents, and himself. His naked self, sitting on his father’s knees “ahh!” Luca dove for his clothes that were neatly folded on the dining table.

A slightly red cheeked Luca emerged from his clothes, sheepishly looking at the reassuring smiles on his parents' faces.

Luca clenched his trousers in his hands and stared at the floor.  He mused over what to tell his parents. If he stopped and thought about it, he really should have consulted them sooner. Probably as soon as he noticed the strange talking gas ball.

Breathing deeply, Luca went to tell them everything. The focused gaze of his parents' faces was suddenly replaced with another pair of worried faces and the words froze in Luca’s throat.

...

His clenched hands, hidden under the hospital sheets, trembled as he took in his parents exhausted expressions. They all knew he didn’t have long, but after the doctor’s diagnosis on his most recent episode. The emptiness emanating from his parents scared him more than his impending death.

Blocking out the doctor, he did the only thing that he felt could help. Swallowing down his own fears he plastered on a mask of acceptance.  Anything to ease the burden he’d become to his family.

...

Breathing away the memory, Luca’s distant eyes focused to find Galen holding his shoulders and calling his name.

“Luca what happened? Are you alright, you just stopped responding.” Seeming to suddenly think of something, Galen glanced around warily at the brightly lit room

“Is there one here now? Is it bothering you?” Galen whispered in a strained voice.

Briefly the faces of both sets of parents overlapped until the old parents faded away, leaving his current parents.

Tears threatened to fall from Luca’s eyes, but with those old memories so near, he repressed them. After a few deep breaths, Luca plastered a smile on his face. “No I’m f-fine, I just reme-thought of something that made me sad.”

Galen gazed steadily at Luca “There’s no need to hide things from us Luca. We’re your parents, we’ll always support you no matter what happens.” Luca was pulled into his lap and rocked back and forth, Donovan stroked his head.

Luca’s fake smile slipped, but a small genuine one soon replaced it. The soothing murmurs of his parents broke apart Lucas fears like the sun shining through storm clouds.

While being comforted by his parents, Luca gave some serious thought to what he could and couldn’t tell them. Obviously he should talk about the thing he saw in the book shop, but what about other things.  Should he mention the memories he has from his previous life? Luca paused to admire that thought. His previous life, he really was living a completely different life. As new and interesting as it was, had he really just accepted that so simply? Why was he sure he was actually reborn and not just suffering from some prolonged near-death hallucination? Luca breathed deeply taking in the comforting scent of his parents and pondered on his previous parents. Recalling their tired, worn faces as they listened to still more bad news.

Maybe, just maybe, he could talk to Galena and Donovan in a way he couldn’t bring himself to confide in his old parents. Luca opened his mouth to tell them everything but the words caught in his throat again.

What if they didn’t believe me, or think I'm crazy? What if they do believe me but reincarnated individuals are considered some kind of demonic beings or something? What if they think I killed their real child and stole his place? The fear froze Luca’s tongue, the small amount of courage he managed to work up withered under his constant worries.

Instead, to cover his hesitation, he carefully explained all that had happened in the book store. Subconsciously smothering his fears of rejection under a blanket of denial. 

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