Betrayed: Part Four
Seth blinked his eyes open at the sound of a cheerful voice. He shook his head and focused his eyes on Elou; immediately he felt surprised. This wasn't the tiny, fragile Xweetok, covered in dust and mud, which he had first encountered. Now she looked strong again, her green and brown coat gleaming, her huge green eyes shining.
"Hi!" she called as soon as he awoke, still dazed. "Julie gave me a shower. I'm much better now."
Her voice was strong, too, Seth realized. She was definitely recovering. In fact, she already looked in full recovery - except for the fact that she had not yet eaten. "Have you eaten?" he questioned, wondering if she had while he had been sleeping.
"Not yet," came the response.
While they were talking, Fang was roused from sleep. He uncurled from how he was lying in a tight ball and stretched his forelegs forward, swiping his tongue around his red muzzle. Then the Gelert noticed Elou, and his eyes widened. "Elou?"
The green Xweetok laughed at him; that was something Seth had not seen her do. He was bewildered by all this change. "Yeah, it's me. Julie showered me," she repeated to Seth's little brother.
The tiny Gelert blinked a few times as if he could not believe her change either. Then he sprang to his paws. "That's great!" he yowled.
Angel, Elou's pet Floud, bounced after her. Her pink fur shone; obviously they had given her a thorough wash as well, Seth realized. He smiled. "Yeah, that is great. Now we just have to have a word with Rosie."
Rosie was Fang and Seth's owner. When the two brothers had come to her with Elou, asking to bring her in, Rosie had rejected with such a cold hostility that Seth had been shocked beyond belief. He had guessed it was partly his fault; after all, earlier that day he had had a large argument with her and walked out in a strop. But even when she was mad, Rosie didn't usually turn down a pet in need. He reckoned that she had a problem with Xweetoks but he couldn't figure out why.
At the mention of Rosie, Elou ducked her head in worry. "B-but she doesn't... like me," she murmured, her nervous voice suddenly containing all the terror that it had first had when Seth first met her.
"Don't worry." It was Fang who answered; his big blue eyes were narrowed. "We will find a way to convince her that you should be allowed into our family." His determination was a surprise to Seth, but he felt proud of his little brother all the same.
"I agree." He added his own voice. "Let's talk to her now."
"Julie sent her a neomail asking why she had turned me down," Elou admitted quietly. "She responded saying it was a personal reason, but it said nothing more. Julie asked what it was and she still hasn't responded." She gazed at the floor.
Fang flicked his tail. "Then we should go talk to her now," he said confidently.
Seth rose to his paws and gave his fur a shake. He was hungry and confused, but he didn't complain. He guessed Elou was still hungry, too. Suddenly thinking the thought of food was an issue, he said, "How about getting something to eat first?"
Elou nodded, but Fang shook his head, looking excited. "I have a better idea," he said. "We can eat on the way. I have food in my backpack. Let's eat that!"
He was turning out to be so clever, Seth thought with a warm smile. He nodded. "Okay. Then let's head out."
They said good-bye to Julie and Blaze before exiting the house, each of them feeling refreshed and energetic. Fang had brought some food; Elou watched as they paused a little way away from Julie's house and he opened his green backpack.
"Let's eat now," the red Gelert said.
Seth nodded in agreement, his blue fur ruffling in the breeze. Elou reflected once again how much larger he was than her and Fang; he was older and wiser, and yet he seemed to let his brother make the decisions. The Lupe was strange, but in the same way, Elou respected him.
Fang pulled out a Chocolate Jetsam Mousse Cake, a Bacon Deluxe Hot Dog and a Meaty Lupe Treat. He handed Elou the hot dog. "I was going to give it to Rosie, but you can have it," he said.
"Thank you," Elou thanked him with a smile. The hot dog was warm, despite being in Fang's backpack for so long, and still tasted fresh. The bacon was juicy and gorgeous while the hot dog's flavour danced around Elou's tongue. She gave half to Angel, who bounced around with excited yelps while eating it at the same time.
Seth was chewing on the Lupe Treat, looking satisfied. Fang had eaten the Jetsam Mousse Cake in one huge bite; obviously he loved them, which made Elou amused.
Once they had eaten, they set off again. Elou felt so much better than before. By the look of her petpet, Angel was too. She had first met Fang feeling weak, tired and hungry; now she was stronger, healthier and clean. She walked with the same pride and dignity as Fang, her head held high and tail swishing from side to side.
"You look better," Seth commented, giving her a sidelong glance as they walked.
Elou beamed at him but didn't reply.
Finally they reached the house. Seth knocked on the door, but he was more hesitant than he had been yesterday. Elou waited in anticipation.
Then the door opened.
Rosie answered the door and Fang braced himself. She looked better than yesterday - her long blond hair was clean and brushed - but she still looked a state. Tired, thin and matted. When she saw Seth and Fang her blue eyes blazed with relief.
"You're home, you're home!" She hugged them close, and Fang was afraid he would suffocate in her arms. He struggled to regain his breath and at last managed to push his owner away, gulping in a huge breath of air.
"Yes, we're home," Seth said dryly. Fang shot him a sharp glance. They shouldn't be annoyed now; it would only make things worse.
Elou was holding back, looking nervous. When Rosie saw her, her eyes darkened, and she glared at Seth. "You brought the Xweetok back? Why?"
Fang felt his heart pound against his chest. But it wasn't fear that increased his pulse: it was fury. Lashing his tail, he answered before Seth, "Because she was weak! She needed our help. We couldn't just leave her like that, like you did! You were so nasty to her. I can't believe you."
Rosie gazed at him in bewilderment and for a moment Fang regretted his outburst of anger. But he couldn't hold it in any longer. Taking a few steps back that brought him to Elou's side, he said determinedly, "If you're kicking her out, you're kicking me out, too."
Even Seth looked surprised. Fang didn't care. He couldn't leave his friend now, not after all he had promised her. He lifted his head and defiantly stared into Rosie's blue eyes, waiting for her answer.
Elou was surprised when Fang declared he would not leave her side. She shot him a grateful look, before returning her gaze worriedly to his owner. She looked bewildered - but there seemed to be a faint pride in her eyes, too.
And then her tone softened. "It's alright, Fang. I'm not kicking you out." She looked Elou up and down. "The Xweetok can stay."
Elou let out the breath she was holding in, and smiled a thanks. "Thank you, so much!" she said, her ears twitching in excitement. Her first real, proper family that would actually care for her! That was an achievement.
Seth walked inside without a word, only glancing at Elou as if to say 'Welcome home' before walking away. She was confused, but didn't question him. Rosie watched him with a look of sorrow in her eyes before turning back to Fang and Elou.
"What's your name?" she asked softly. "I mean, I remember Fang calling you Elou, but surely that's just a nickname?"
Elou nodded. "My full name is Aelouro. But I prefer to be called Elou."
"Come in," Rosie said, making room for her and Fang to slip past. Fang went in first, flicking his tail for her to follow. Hesitating only slightly, Elou followed him with Angel sticking close beside her.
Rosie watched her Floud. "Is that your petpet?" she asked curiously.
"Yes, her name is Angel," Elou replied. "My dad gave her to me before he sent me to the Pound." She shivered and looked away. Thoughts of the Pound made her small body tremble.
Her new owner blinked in surprise and shot a glance at Fang. "She's like you, then," she murmured. Fang nodded and Rosie turned back to Elou. "Come into the kitchen; let's have a talk."
Elou followed Rosie into the kitchen uncomfortably. Seth was there; he turned as Rosie entered, and stopped. "Oh... hi."
"Hi, Seth," Rosie said quietly. She looked him in the eye. "I'm... I'm sorry about yesterday. I was being nasty. I'm just paranoid because we're running low on Neopoints."
Elou remembered Seth mentioning that he and Rosie had a fight the previous day, and watched the Lupe's reaction. It was one of relief and forgiveness. "It's okay. I'm sorry too. I didn't mean to snap at you - I just thought you were neglecting us."
Rosie crouched down and hugged him tight. Her eyes were watering with something like happiness. Elou watched them, amazed by how much care passed between owner and Neopet. She had never felt that with her previous owner.
Fang was watching her. "It's okay, you're a part of the family now," he told her warmly. Blue eyes were as friendly to her as ever, and Elou couldn't help but smile back at him.
Then Rosie stood up and turned to Elou again. "Have a seat, Elou," she told the Xweetok, gesturing to a chair beside a large table. She took out a seat herself and sat down on it. Elou sat on the chair next to her, still feeling a little uncomfortable.
"Why didn't you like me at first?" she blurted out suddenly, and then slapped her paw over her mouth. That wasn't meant to come out! Instantly she regretted asking and chose instead to stare blankly at the fridge opposite her.
Rosie, however, was calm when she replied. "Well..." She hesitated. "I used to have a Xweetok, before I even had Seth. Her name was Falynna, and she was a green Xweetok, like you."
There was a moment of silence. Elou gazed at Rosie curiously; out of the corner of her eye she saw Seth's ears perk in surprise, and Fang's eyes had widened. Obviously they didn't know all this.
"Falynna was my best friend," Rosie continued quietly. "I had her for more than three years. And then... then I had to give her away. She wanted to live in Faerieland, where I couldn't afford to go, with Jack and the yellow Xweetok Tommy. She wanted to be with them. So I put her in the Pound for Jack to get, telling her I would always visit her, but some other guy got her before Jack could get there."
Sympathy overwhelmed Elou when Rosie finished, her eyes watering again. "Oh... I'm so sorry," she said softly, stroking Angel when the Floud let out a little whine. She wasn't sure what to do. "I feel awful."
"It's not your fault." Suddenly Rosie's voice was firm, and she fixed Elou with an intent stare. "I had to get over Fal sooner or later, and I chose later. Why I didn't accept you at first was beyond me. I should be the one who is sorry."
She reached forward and grabbed Elou; for a moment Elou thought she was going to pick her up and chuck her out, but Rosie was hugging her. Her embrace was tight. Elou rested her head on Rosie's shoulder, glancing across at Seth and Fang - her new brothers - who both looked surprised and sympathetic at the same time.
"Welcome to the family, Elou and Angel," Rosie murmured.
Elou pulled away from her and gazed at her eyes, now sparkling with a care that she had always wanted. The moment when she had felt neglected and unloved had vanished. She was loved now; she was cared for.
She had a family again.