Sweet felt her bottom lip trembling. “But... Rex,” she said, a hint of a whine creeping into her voice. “Why do you have to go?” Her owner ran across the room, throwing on a disheveled jacket and heading towards the door.
“Look, Sweet, I'm sorry.” Rex panted slightly, diving into an open closet and dragging out a heavy purse. “I have to go to this meeting.” The young Xweetok shuffled her paws, her eyes welling with water.
“But why? You said you'd play a game with me tonight!”
Rex paused in her mad scurry, taking the time to smooth back Sweet's sea-colored hair.
“I know, Sweety,” she said, her usually gruff voice going soft. “I'm sorry.” She stood back up, cupping her hands around her mouth and bellowing into the depths of the large house. “MARBS! SNOWDROP! SUNNY!”
An Acara, the only male pet in the household, came slinking down the stairs. Sweet let out a squeal, running to him and bouncing up and down on his back.
“Hi, Sunny,” she squeaked.
Marbs, a brown Wocky, came trotting from the kitchen. A heavily stained apron was wrapped around her waist, and in one white paw she held a mixing spoon. She smiled gently at the others gathering by the front door.
Rex's gray eyes swept the scene, the slightest hint of a frown flickering about her eyebrows. “Where's Snowdrop?”
A Kougra dropped out of nowhere, landing lightly by Rex's side. The girl let out a shriek, jumping several feet off the ground. Snowdrop snickered to herself, as everyone in the room rolled their eyes. Snowdrop just loved to scare people. And, being painted camouflage didn't help at all.
“Alright, guys, so here's the deal.” Rex straightened her back, smoothing down her ruffled shirt. “I have to go to a meeting that I can't miss. I neomailed the babysitter service... your babysitter should be around any minute, now.” She turned to each of her pets, issuing orders. “Marbs, make sure that no one gets into any trouble, alright? Snowdrop, please don't try to scare the babysitter off, or throw a mud balloon at her face. Sunny, could you play with your little sister? She needs someone to play a game with. And Sweet?”
The young Xweetok bounded over, nearly tripping herself in the process.
“Be a good girl, alright?”
Sweet nodded, the tears spilling over and forming twin rivulets down her golden face.
Rex blew a kiss to the crowd, offering a tired, apologetic smile before disappearing into the shadowy world of night.
The neopets looked at each other for a brief second. Then they shrugged, moving off to their separate places in the house, Marbs to the kitchen, Snowdrop to the window (waiting to ambush the unfortunate babysitter) and Sunny to his room, with Sweet trailing behind.
“Sunny?” she asked, quietly. She went inside, picking up a set of cards in her teeth and dropping them by his feet. “Want to play?”
He looked down at her, attempting a smile but not quite succeeding. A look of pain flashed across his face.
“I have a... bit of a headache, Sweet.” He rubbed at his forehead, biting his lip so hard she wondered if it would start to bleed.
Sweet nodded, trying to be understanding. Her Acara brother often got headaches. He was a weak, sickly sort of fellow.
Her face lit up with a sudden idea. “Hey! Can we play doctor? You can be my patient.”
He let out a quiet sigh, wincing briefly. “... alright. Sure.”
Sweet pushed him into bed, rushing off to the medicine cabinet to find everything she needed to become a fully-certified doctor. At least, for the night.
It was a fun game. Sweet desperately tried to stifle her giggles, wearing a serious expression as she poked the Acara, stuck flat pieces of wood on his tongue to look down his throat, listened to his heart with a stethoscope, and hit his knee with a hammer (a bit harder than necessary, in her eagerness).
She got an ice pack, adjusting it on his forehead. He let out a small noise of contentment, closing his eyes. Sweet tucked him into bed, running down and getting a fresh negg from the kitchens... one of his favorite snacks. “I like this game,” he murmured softly.
The doorbell rang.
Sunny bolted upright, tearing the covers out of their positions. “Hey!” Sweet put her hands on her hips. But she stopped, looking warily at her brother's face. It was etched in complete and undiluted terror.
“Oh... oh no. Lock the door, Sweet!” he yelled, his voice gaining a high-pitched, hysterical edge as he burrowed under his blankets and shivered violently. Sweet backed away. Was he going crazy or something? Maybe she had doctored him too much.
She walked out into the hall, closing the door behind her. There was a splatting noise, and howls of laughter. Sweet winced. Snowdrop must've dropped a handful of dung on their new babysitter. It was one of her sister's favorite pranks. Sweet waited for the usual scream, and the stomping of feet that meant the babysitter had left the house.
It never came.
The door slammed shut, and there was the sinister click of a lock.
Sweet crept over to the stairs, peering through the railing and down at the front door. The babysitter was standing there. Only...
“Who threw that dung at me?”
Sweet found a shiver creeping up her spine. The voice was as sharp and cold as an icicle. Looking down, the young Xweetok found herself looking at a pale face, with locks of green and purple hair framing the eyes, dark as shadow and not nearly as beautiful.
She looked, quite uncannily so, like a dark faerie. But it was just makeup. Right?
The babysitter looked around with narrowed eyes. Suddenly, she lunged at an empty corner, her long-nailed hand grasping something invisible in the air. With a screech, Snowdrop appeared, thrashing about and looking scared for the first time in her short life.
The babysitter shook the young Kougra, hissing in her ear. “You will respect me. And you will keep quiet. Otherwise...” The dark faerie let the sentence hang in the silence.
Marbs appeared from the kitchen, staring at the strange pair. The babysitter set Snowdrop down, who quickly ran behind Marbs, her tail between her legs and a whimper coming from her throat. Marbs cocked her head at the babysitter. It seemed if she wasn't sure what to think.
“You may call me Miss J.” Miss J smiled, revealing a row of pointed teeth.
There was a pause in time. Miss J shifted the weight in her body, crouching down.
Sweet watched in horror as she leaped at the Wocky, pinning her to the floor. Marbs let out a small gasp. But then she smiled. Her image faded like smoke in the air. Like she was nothing but a ghost.
Miss J let out a stream of burning curses, which sizzled in the air. They molded together into a misty arrow. It pointed directly at Sweet.
She let out a squeal, chittering with fear and dashing into her own room where her petpet, Flutter, was roosting. “What's wrong?” he asked.
“There's a dark faerie in the house!” she hollered, crashing into her closet and hiding in a messy pile of clothes. Flutter paused from preening his feathers, letting out a small groan.
There was a crash, as Jhudora broke into the room. The closet door crumpled, as if it were made out of tin foil. She grabbed Sweet by the neck, hoisting her into the air. “You'll do as a hostage,” she sneered.
Flutter landed on her shoulder, aiming a sharp peck to the faerie's unprotected neck. Jhudora screamed, letting Sweet go. The young Xweetok scrambled away, running blindly down the stairs and crashing through a window. It splintered apart, and she fell, escaping from Jhudora...
...and landing on the surprised head of Rex. “Sweet?!” she stuttered. “What on earth is going on here?!? I come back for a set of papers I forgot, to find you throwing yourself out the window!”
Sweet gulped down the cool night air, fighting to hold back a set of frightened tears. “Our babysitter... was... Jhudora...”
Rex shook her head from side to side. “I leave you guys for ten minutes. Ten minutes!” The girl cracked her knuckles, rolling up her sleeves. Sweet scrambled off her back, shuddering. Anger was flaring in her owner's eyes. And when that happened... well... it was best to get out of the way.
Rex crouched down, running forward and slamming her shoulder into the locked door. It burst open.
“JHUDORA!!!” Rex screeched, loud enough so that Sweet's ears rang. Her owner catapulted herself up the stairs, to where the dark faerie was attempting to drag Sunny out of his room. A floating lamp was thwacking against the side of her head, glowing gold as Sunny tried to fight off his attacker. Jhudora didn't seem to notice this.
But as soon as she saw Rex, her face went white, and she set the flame-colored Acara down. She held up her hands, attempting a smile. “Er.... hi, Rex. Look, this is just a big misunderstanding...”
Sunny ran to his owner's side, glaring at the dark faerie. “She wanted to use me as a hostage!”
Rex's foot began to tap. She was waiting for an explanation. But Jhudora looked as if she were panicking.
She vaulted over the stairs, zooming out of the door and into the night.
Sweet came back in, her shoulders sagging with relief.
“There's one thing I don't get,” she said, after a moment of awkward silence. “Why did she want us as hostages in the first place?”
Rex rolled her eyes, smiling crookedly.
“Because the meeting I was going to was a meeting of artists. We were supposed to review her design, tonight.” Rex brought out her papers. They were sketches, scribbled onto bits of lined school paper. “I was going to suggest we add some pink into her design.”
Sunny stared off into space for a moment. And then understanding seemed to come into his face. “Oh! I get it! She was going to threaten you, if you tried to make her wear pink. It all makes sense now!”
Sweet put a hand to her forehead. It didn't make much sense to her. What was so bad about pink? Then again, if she was a dark faerie...
Marbs came from the kitchen, whistling a small tune. Sweet's mouth opened to ask how she had just disappeared, but thought better of it, swallowing the question. The Wocky held out a plate of cookies in the shape of ice cream cones. “For you, Rex,” she grinned. “Since I know how much you love ice cream.”
Rex stared at the cookies, a dribble of drool coming from one corner of her mouth. She was on them in a second, greedily shoveling them into her mouth, crumbs spraying onto her neopets' faces.
A pile of dung splattered onto the plate. There was a snicker from the direction of the stairs.
Sweet sighed. What a weird family she had.