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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 25th day of Awakening, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 100 > Short Stories > Only Pet

Only Pet

by tdyans

A triumphant smile curved Achilles81’s cloud-colored muzzle and his long, curling tail wagged excitedly as he approached the Air Faerie, the blue lipstick that she had requested clutched in his jaws. Next to Achilles, MaxKanine the green Lupe yawned, ready to go home after spending the day helping his brother search for the item. Behind them, Moeioe and Rooruon were playing an unbalanced game of tag, with the Faerie Moehog fluttering around his brother’s head and darting just out of reach every time that the mutant Cybunny tossed his oversized paws into the air to try to catch him. Moeioe giggled mischievously each time that Rooruon failed to tag him, but Rooruon didn’t seem to mind that he was perpetually “it.”

     Achilles’ long ears twitched at the distracting sounds of his brothers, but his eyes remained focused on the Faerie in front of him, who was holding the lipstick at arm’s length and watching drool drip off of it. “Er… I mean, Wow, thanks, you found my blue lipstick!” And with that less than convincing statement, she turned around, sweeping her flowing blue gown along with her and began to walk away. Achilles’ ears started to droop, but then she paused and looked over her shoulder again. “Oh yes, I’m almost forgot,” she said. “Your reward.” She waved one hand half-heartedly over her shoulder and continued on her way without a second glance.

     Achilles and Max watched as the ray of bright blue light that shot from her hand whooshed right by the Gelert’s head and hit Moeioe square in the chest. Moeioe let out an exuberant “Yippee!” at the feel of the Faerie power rushing through his body as he shot up out of Rooruon’s reach again, even faster than before.

     Achilles scowled and muttered, “Air Faerie’s pet.”

     Max looked from Moeioe to Achilles and back again. “Okay, Moeioe, come on down now. It’s time to go home—I’m sure Tdyans is expecting us.”

     Moeioe fluttered obediently back down to the ground, taking advantage of his newly-acquired speed to still stay just out of Rooruon’s clumsy reach as the two of them led the way back home. Max watched them for a few moments, chuckling, and then turned back to Achilles, who was still frowning. “Oh, come on, Achi, don’t let it get to you. You’ll get your turn to be blessed next time.”

     “Ha, that’s what you said last time, Max, and that time the Dark Faerie blessed Rooruon. The Dark Faerie always blesses Rooruon, because she figures from looking at him that he must be evil!”

     “That’s ridiculous!” Max said indignantly, and Achilles nodded. “Everyone knows that the evil one in the family is you.”

     “I kn—” Achilles stopped himself as Max’s words registered and turned to glare at the Lupe, who was grinning disarmingly at him. “Not funny, MaxKanine.”

     “Sorry,” Max laughed good-naturedly. “I couldn’t resist.” Achilles still did not smile back. “Aw, don’t dwell on it, Achilles. You’ve just had a long day. A good dinner and you’ll feel all better.” Max looked up at the familiar NeoHome that they were now approaching in the hazy light of dusk and lifted his long nose into the air, sniffing a couple of times. “Speaking of which, I smell…”

     “Pizza!” Moeioe and Rooruon exclaimed together, making a mad dash through the doorway of their NeoHome.

     “Hey, wait up!” Max called, running after them and seeming to forget all about cheering up Achilles. The Gelert sighed before trotting through the doorway after his brothers. As he entered the living room, he saw that they had already made their way into the dining room and he was, for once, alone, listening to the muffled sounds of their happiness. Achilles found himself smiling faintly in spite of himself at the smell of the pizza. Dinner did sound good.

     Taking a deep breath, he took a step toward the dining room. But instead of landing on soft, flat carpet as he’d expected, his paw touched down on something hard and oddly-shaped, and as he put his weight on it, it slid out from under him. Achilles went flying, landing hard — and nose-first — on the floor. “Ow!” he cried out in surprise and pain. Nothing happened. Achilles lay still where he had fallen for a few moments, and then called out even more loudly, “Ow-oooowww!” Once his cry had ended, however, the living room remained as still and quiet as ever, and the happy chatter from the next room persisted obliviously. Achilles frowned.

     Then his eyes locked on the reason for his fall: a blue toy car that sat a few feet away now, looking completely innocent. Growling, Achilles picked himself up off of the floor, grabbed the toy, and stormed into the dining room. “Moeioe,” he said, “how many times have I told you not to leave your toys lying around on the floor?” But Moeioe didn’t seem to hear him — none of his family did as they sat around the table eating pizza, talking and laughing about their day.

     Finally, his owner Tdyans looked up to see him glaring down at all of them. “Oh, Achilles,” she said, not seeming to notice his frustration, “where’ve you been?” Before he could answer, she spoke again, pointing over her shoulder at the pizza box sitting on the counter. “Help yourself.”

     Achilles opened his mouth to say something, but his owner had already turned back to her conversation with Max. Sighing, he dropped the toy car, watched it roll across the linoleum, and trudged over to the pizza box. He threw the lid open and then stood staring down at the inside of the box. “Where is it?”

     “Huh?” asked Max, who was walking over toward him with his plate, apparently ready for another slice. As he got closer, the Lupe noticed the wide expanse of empty cardboard that Achilles was staring down at in disbelief. “Oh, uh, we must have eaten it already, huh? Oh no, look, there’s one slice left — there you go.”

     Achilles picked up the piece of pizza in question and looked at it sceptically. “Slice? More like a sliver,” he grumbled. But he dropped the pathetic piece of pizza onto a plate and headed back over to the table, squeezing into a chair beside Tdyans.

     “What are we having pizza for anyway?” he asked her, picking up his pizza and watching as what little topping it had slid off of it and onto his plate with a squelching plop.

     “Well, I didn’t want there to be any leftovers to rot in the fridge or dirty dishes to deal with. I’m going away for a few days, so you guys are getting a short vacation — at the Mountain Lodge, like usual.”

     Achilles rested his head on his paws. “I could sure use a vacation.” He sighed again, looking around the table at his family. “I just don’t think I’m going to get one any time soon.”

     No one seemed to hear him.

***

Achilles sat on the living room couch, trying to read the morning Neopian Times before they had to set off. Moeioe was upstairs, doing last minute packing — having ignored both Tdyans’ and Achilles’ warnings to get it done the night before — and Max and Tdyans were helping him. Rooruon, on the other hand, was sprawled out on his belly on the living room floor, watching the television — loudly.

     “We are here today to see if we can get an exclusive interview with the… Chet Flash!...”

     Achilles’ears twitched with each word from the annoying Lenny hosting the television show. He lowered his newspaper and looked down at his brother, clearing his throat loudly. “Roory, do you think you could turn that down, please?”

     Rooruon looked up at him and then reached out with one large clumsy claw to turn the volume down, apparently happy to comply, as he always was. But Achilles still found himself muttering, “With ears like that, you’d think you’d have better hearing.”

     The mutant Cybunny turned back to look at him again. “What’s that, Achi?” Achilles just raised his newspaper again and said nothing more.

***

Tdyans’ pets lined up at the front door, their suitcases by their sides, ready to board the Uni taxi that waited for them outside. But first, of course, they had to say goodbye.

     Tdyans bent down and pulled Moeioe and Rooruon’s front paws off the ground in a big hug. “Be good, you two. Have fun!” Moeioe tried to look as if he was too grown up for such displays, Rooruon smiled from ear to ear, and once released they both waved goodbye and lugged their bags out to the taxi.

     “Bye, Max.” Tdyans reached down and ruffled the fur on the green Lupe’s head. Max smiled and licked her face goodbye, then followed the others outside.

     “Achi,” Tdyans said, finally approaching him. The cloud Gelert smiled up at her expectantly. But instead of a hug or a pat on the head, she dropped a heavy bag of Neopoints into one of his paws and stuffed some papers into the other. “Here’s some extra money, for emergencies — and a little bit for souvenirs, but don’t let them spend too much, okay? And here are the forms confirming your reservations that you’ll need to show at the front desk. Take good care of your brothers.”

     “As always,” Achilles said, his ears drooping as he followed Tdyans out the door.

***

The rustic lobby of the Mountain Lodge was bustling with visitors, Terror Mountain being an especially popular vacation spot whenever the rest of Neopia was suffering through the summer months. Achilles pushed his way through the crowds, dragging his suitcase along with him and clutching the reservation forms in one paw. Finally, he and the others reached the front desk, behind which was a large yellow Tuskaninny who had his back turned to them as he busily shuffled through papers. Achilles stared at the Monocerous head that hung on the wall over the desk for a few moments, waiting for the Tuskaninny to turn around. Finally, losing patience, the Gelert cleared his throat.

     The Tuskaninny whirled around, his blubber shaking, and Achilles found himself staring at the over-stretched white sweater that he wore with the words “Welcome to Terror Mountain” stitched onto it. “Yes?” the Tuskaninny asked.

     “Oh,” Achilles said, moving his eyes up to the manager’s wide face. “Er, my brothers and I have reservations for the weekend.” He handed over the slightly crumpled forms.

     The Tuskaninny took the papers with a smile and examined them one by one. “Yes; yes, that’s fine; yes…. oh dear, it seems there’s a slight problem, sir.”

     “Huh, what’s that?”

     “Well, these three reservations were all made here — that’s fine. But you see, this fourth one — for Achilles81, is that you? — wasn’t made with us. It’s for our sister Neolodge, the Presidential Palace.”

     “Presidential Palace?” Achilles stared in disbelief at the paper that the Tuskaninny held up for him. Of course, he was right. “Tdyans must have made a mistake when she was placing the reservations….”

     “Well, can’t you just switch Achi over to this hotel instead?” MaxKanine spoke up from beside the Gelert

     “Oh, I’m afraid not. Even if it wasn’t against our policy to change reservations, we’re all booked up here. But I assure you that the Presidential Palace, thanks to its, er… distinguished prices… has plenty of room for one more.”

     “But, but we always stay in the Mountain Lodge,” Moeioe protested.

     “Together!” Rooruon added.

     Achilles, meanwhile, had remained staring at the reservation form, his mouth slightly open, not knowing what to say. There was a part of him, of course, that was objecting right along with his brothers. But there was another part of him that was saying that this was distinctly… a good idea. And that side seemed to be slowly but surely winning him over.

     “Mr…. Achi, is it?” the Tuskaninny interrupted his thoughts.

     “Achilles,” the Gelert corrected with a frown.

     “Of course. Mr. Achilles, I’ve already signaled to one of my workers that we have a VIP guest in need of transportation. I’m sure that a premium Uni taxi is already waiting for you outside. May I fetch someone to take your bags?”

     Achilles looked from the Tuskaninny, then to his forlorn brothers, and back. “Well, I suppose there’s nothing to be done.”

     With that word, the Tuskaninny clapped his chubby paws together briskly, and somehow hearing him over the incessant noise of the lobby, a small blue Bruce came waddling quickly through the crowds. With a quick salute, he grabbed Achilles’ suitcase and bag of Neopoints from his paws. “Oh, wait a moment,” Achilles said suddenly, and instantly the Bruce spun around. Achilles took the bag of NP back from him and turned back around to face his brothers, who looked crestfallen.

     “You’re… leaving?” MaxKanine asked.

     “Well, I don’t have much choice do I? Oh, stop worrying, guys, it’ll be fine. Here, Max.” Achilles removed a pawful of NP from the bag and handed the rest over to the Lupe “Now, that’s for emergencies, and a little bit for souvenirs, but don’t let them spend too much, okay?” he said, wagging a paw at his brother and trying to keep from smiling at the thought that for once he was handing over these responsibilities rather than taking them.

     He turned and began walking toward the doorway of the lodge, where the small Bruce was waving at him. Once outside, he couldn’t help but marvel at the plush, roomy Uni taxi waiting for him. It was much nicer than the standard taxi that they had all crammed into together that morning, as were the Unis pulling it, who were both painted gold and didn’t look nearly as bedraggled as the average taxi Uni.

     “Goodbye!” Achilles called out to his brothers as his taxi took off into the sky, suddenly more cheerful than he’d been all week. “Max, don’t let Moeioe eat too much candy, and when you go out to play in the snow, make sure that Roory wears a scarf, and…” His voice faded away as the fancy carriage pulled out of earshot, and then out of sight, leaving MaxKanine, Moeioe, and Rooruon standing outside, staring up at the sky, alone.

***

There was a knock at MaxKanine’s hotel room door. Bleary-eyed, the Lupe got out of bed and opened his door to find Moeioe and Rooruon standing in the dim light of the hallway.

     Max looked at the room’s clock and winced at the hour that could either have been categorized as very early or very late. “You guys couldn’t sleep either, huh?”

     They shook their heads and shuffled into the room. “Nope,” Moeioe said. “I just can’t stop thinking about Achilles.”

     “Poor Achilles,” Rooruon said, ears drooping.

     Max sighed. He didn’t know what to do. Then suddenly, as if it had been looking for him all night, an idea flew into his furry head. “Hey, why don’t we go visit him tomorrow? He left us enough NP to make it there and back, I’ll bet!”

     Moeioe and Rooruon’s faces lit up, until the mutant Cybunny remembered something. “But he said that money was only for emergencies… and souvenirs.”

     “Well, this is an emergency!” Moeioe said. “Our brother’s out there somewhere all alone! What’ll he do without us?”

     “Yeah,” Max said, “and we can skip the souvenirs just this once — for Achi.”

     Moeioe and Rooruon both nodded, suddenly feeling much better. The three pets snuggled up together in Max’s bed and finally managed to fall asleep.

***

“Grape,” Achilles said. The yellow-colored, tuxedoed Acara who stood patiently beside his bed reached over to a plate of grapes on the nightstand, plucked one particularly juicy-looking one from the bunch, and plopped it into the Gelert’s waiting mouth. “Thank you, Jeeves. Page.” The Acara delicately licked one paw and then used it to turn the page of the book that rested on the pillow beside Achilles.

     Achilles read a few lines and then lay back lazily on his own pillow, luxuriating in the feeling of the smooth silk that covered the bed and staring up dreamily at the canopy overhead. “Ah, this is the life, Jeeves,” he said. “Plenty to eat, plenty of peace and quiet, Neopets to wait on you hand and foot, and best of all, nobody else around…. Well, almost nobody,” he amended hastily.

     “Please, sir,” the Acara said in his stately voice. “It would be my honor for you to forget my presence entirely. I am here only to serve.”

     “Thank you, Jeeves.”

     Just then, there was a knock at the door. Achilles’ brow creased, but Jeeves said, “I’ll get it, sir.” The Gelert smiled and lay back once again with a sigh of contentment, wondering if it was the extra large gourmet pizza he’d ordered. Jeeves’ voice broke into his daydream about the extra cheese he’d requested. “It’s for you, sir.”

     Achilles stuck his head curiously out through the curtains that hung around the bed, and his jaw dropped. “Surprise!” his brothers shouted as they came bustling into his room.

     “What are you guys doing here?” Achilles cried out, as Moeioe immediately leapt onto the bed and started jumping up and down, Rooruon went over to sniff at the complimentary fruit basket, and Max headed to the window to admire Achilles’ prime view of the hotel’s garden.

     When they didn’t answer, he looked to Jeeves, who stood straight and silent as ever beside the door, awaiting his next order. Achilles spun around again to face his brothers with a growl. “I repeat: What are you guys doing here?”

     At the tone of his voice, they stopped what they were doing and stared at him incredulously. “We came to keep you company,” MaxKanine said.

     “Yeah, we thought you’d be lonely without us,” Moeioe added.

     “Lonely?” Achilles exploded. “Lonely! Ha! For once I finally have something all to myself, with no one underpaw, no one being noisy, no one making messes, no one to eat all of my food, and no one to look after but myself… and you think I’d be lonely? I’m having the time of my life — or at least I was!”

     The others looked stricken. “Y-you didn’t miss us at all?” Rooruon asked.

     For a moment, Achilles wavered. But then he crossed his paws, turned up his nose and said resolutely, “No.”

     A moment of painful silence stretched across the room. Then finally, MaxKanine spoke. “Come on, you two. I guess we’re not wanted here. We’ll see you at home, Achilles… unless you plan to stay here forever, that is.”

     “Hmph, wish I could,” Achilles stated, still refusing to look at them as they filed out of the room. When the door finally slammed behind them, he called out, “Good riddance!” and thought that for once he’d actually been heard.

***

Achilles lay in bed that evening with the silk sheets pulled up over his head, feeling miserable. The room was filled with the odor of the congealing cheese from the pizza that he had managed to eat only one slice of before losing his appetite. “What’s the matter, sir?” Jeeves inquired in his distant tone.

     “It’s too quiet.”

     “Is there anything I can do, sir?”

     Achilles lifted his head to look at the Acara, sending the sheets sliding down his neck. “Er, yes. Yes! Run around and make noise, Jeeves! Play loud games and—and leave toys on the floor. Turn on the TV and, uh, and eat some of this food, for goodness sake. I can’t eat it all.”

     “I’m afraid that I’m not trained for any of those things, sir,” Jeeves replied, and Achilles’ ears drooped.

     “Well… do something,” the Gelert said, walking over to stare out the window and feeling his heart sink with guilt as he uttered the next words. “I-I’m lonely.”

     Suddenly, there was another knock at the door. “I’ll get it!” Achilles cried out before Jeeves could move. He dashed to the door and swung it open. “Tdyans! What are you doing here?”

     “I got home early,” his owner answered, looking around in awe as she stepped into the luxurious room. “I already picked up the other guys and took them home, and they told me you were here.”

     “Oh,” Achilles said. “Did they, er… say anything else?”

     “Why yes, they did mention something about a little incident this morning as a matter of fact….” The Gelert’s face fell in shame. “Oh, Achi,” Tdyans cajoled as she led him over to sit on the bed beside her, “you know your brothers. They’ll have already forgiven you by the time you get home. What I want to know is what led up to that outburst of yours. What’s wrong?”

     Achilles sighed. “I guess sometimes I just… miss the old days, when I was an only pet, you know? I miss being the only one there to get all the attention and the toys and books and food and… well, everything! Being the one taken care of instead of the one taking care of everyone else….” He paused, remembering the loneliness that he’d felt settling in after his brothers had stormed off, despite having all those things he thought he missed. And he realized something. “You know, I think it’s not so much being an only pet that I miss, so much as being… your only pet.”

     “Oh, Achi,” Tdyans said, pulling him into a hug.

     “Only sometimes, you know. I mean—”

     “Achilles, I know you love your brothers. It’s okay to feel jealous sometimes, even so. But Achilles,” she said, and he looked up at her expectantly, “you know, you’ll never be my only pet again.” He sighed and nodded, but she continued, “But you’ll always be my only Achilles81.” Achilles’ muzzle broke into a radiant smile. That was just what he had needed to hear.

     “So,” he said, “I guess it’s time to go home now, huh?”

     “Are you kidding?” Tdyans asked. “This place is expensive and I’ve already paid for one more night. What do you say we live it up while we can — just you and me?” Achilles laughed.

***

Achilles81 lay curled up in his owner’s lap, tail wagging lazily as she gently scratched his head, eyes slowly drooping further and further as she read to him from the book that she held out in front of them. He knew that tomorrow he’d go back to his messy, loud, underpaw brothers. And he was happy about that. But tonight, he felt like an only pet again… and for just a little while, it felt good.

The End

Author’s Note: Achilles81 was the main character of my very first Neopets story, way back in Issue 53 of the old style Neopian Times. Since then, a lot has happened and a lot has changed, but it’s been a great experience and I look forward to whatever the future holds.

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