Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 186,992,754 Issue: 513 | 23rd day of Gathering, Y13
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Learning Curve


by maraqua_berry

--------

With thanks to Joel, who kick-started me into finishing this. :)

It's still early when a fist knocks loudly on the door to Jenna's house. She groans and rolls out of bed, landing on the floor with a thump that is probably audible through the rest of the building. Downstairs, she can hear her mother open the front door and greet whoever is there, a smile evident in her voice.

     Her mum is always smiling, even at this abominable hour of the morning.

     “JENNA!” she bellows up the stairs, making Jenna wince because now she has to get up and move, and it's much too early for that. “BENJI'S HERE!”

     Jenna sighs. Benji is her best friend, an electric coloured Lupe who remains unhindered by the boundaries of time, neomailing her at any minute of the day or night. This is the first time he's actually come to her house this early in the morning, though, so he's either becoming more irritating as they age or he has something important to tell Jenna.

     She sincerely hopes, for Benji's sake, that the answer is the latter. She'd hate to have to feed her friend to a hoard of rabid Meepits.

     “Just go on up, dear,” Jenna hears her mother say.

     There are footsteps on the steps, after that, and then Jenna's door swings open. Jenna gives the Lupe her best unimpressed face. “Benji, it is quarter to eight on a Saturday morning,” she says flatly. “You'd better have a good reason for disturbing my slumber.”

     “Oh, I do. Check this out,” Benji says, too used to Jenna's mannerisms to be upset by them, and he pulls a small bottle out from behind his back. He tosses it to Jenna, who just barely catches it, and slides to the floor to sit next to her.

     “It's a bottled faerie!” he exclaims, clearly too excited to wait for Jenna to realise this herself. Jenna looks a little closer, her yellow paw clutching it tightly. There is a distinctly purple glow emanating from the container and if Jenna looks closer still she can see a tiny little faerie inside, slumped against the glass looking utterly bored but otherwise unruffled by Jenna's inspection.

     “Benji,” Jenna says slowly, because Benji obviously has a death wish. “This is a dark faerie.”

     Her friend blinks. “So?”

     “So, they're evil. Hence the name 'dark' faeries.”

     Benji snatches the bottle back, looking as though Jenna has dealt him some kind of mortal blow. “That's an unfair stereotype!”

     “It's the truth.” Just because Jenna is able to form articulate sentences before eleven o' clock, doesn't mean she's in the mood to argue with Benji.

     “Well, I'll just let her out, then you'll see how un-evil she is!” And before Jenna can stop him, Benji has uncorked the bottle and shielded his eyes against the blinding purple light that bursts from it.

     Jenna raises a hand to her eyes, but the explosion of light is over just as suddenly as it starts and now there is just a faerie hovering in the centre of her room, steadily growing until she is a couple of inches taller than Jenna – who, as a Cybunny, is not very tall, but it's still unnerving.

     “Oh, great,” the faerie drawls. “Another couple of stupid kids who can't seem to keep a faerie in a bottle. All I wanted was some peace and quiet...”

     Jenna gives Benji a look that clearly says I told you so, which he responds to by asking the faerie pointedly, “What's your name? I'm Benji, this is Jenna.”

     “I don't want your life story, kid.” When it becomes apparent that Benji, hopeless optimistic that he is, is still awaiting her answer, the faerie sighs dramatically, folds her arms across her chest. “I'm Nero, Queen of Darkness.”

     Benji stares at her in awe. He really is an idiot, Jenna thinks to herself. “Really?” he breathes, eyes wide.

     The faerie looks a little sheepish. “No, actually. My name's Nina. Sorry to disappoint ya, kid.”

     Jenna raises her eyebrows. “Nina? That's not a very evil name,” she states, leaping rather stupidly into the conversation.

     Nina fixes her with a fiery look. “You want me to smite you? 'Cause I'll do it.”

     “...No thanks.” There's a pause in which Jenna shifts nervously and Nina looks rather satisfied. “So, uh, aren't you just meant to bless us and flit off back to Faerieland?” Jenna asks at length, seeing no one else plans to break the silence.

     The dark faerie huffs a little unamused laugh. “Typical. Everybody wants something for nothing these days.” She throws her hands out, exasperated. “Look, toots, I can't go back to Faerieland. Why d'you think I left in the first place?”

     Silence.

     Nina sighs again. “Because I'm a wanted criminal.”

     “Cool!” blurts Benji, grinning wildly.

     This obviously isn't the response Nina wants. She huffs angrily. “Not cool at all. I can't go back there now. In fact, they're probably looking for me all over Neopia,” she adds, suddenly looking very bored as she pretends to examine her purple talon-like nails.

     “Oh.”

     There's another silence. Jenna's not sure whether she prefers it to talking to the faerie.

     “What will you do now, then?” Benji asks, because it has become apparent that Nina doesn't plan on leaving of her own accord and Benji knows Jenna well enough to know that she won't take kindly to a dark faerie living in her room.

     Nina shrugs but doesn't move to leave. No one speaks for several more long, awkward moments.

     “We could help you!” Benji cries finally, desperately, in a last-ditch attempt to get the faerie moving, and Jenna gives him one of her looks, a look that clearly asks what in Fyora's name he thinks he's doing.

     The faerie raises a delicate purple eyebrow, looking distinctly unimpressed. “Help me?” she repeats.

     “Yeah, you know, help you go, like, undercover or something! Disguise you so nobody finds you,” Benji adds, grinning, clearly growing more excited by this idea with each word that passes from his mouth. Jenna wonders if it's possible to melt Benji if she stares at him hard enough.

     Nina looks thoughtful. Eventually, she replies. “Alright, then. I'm in.”

     ***

     “I don't like this,” Jenna whispers to Benji.

     “Relax,” the Lupe replies soothingly. “It'll be fine.”

     Jenna looks doubtfully behind her, where Nina is walking several steps behind as if trying to pretend she doesn't know them. The faerie is wearing a pair of Jenna's enormous sunglasses and has a large purple feather boa wound around her neck, also Jenna's.

     They are on the way to Uni's Clothing, to retrieve some less conspicuous clothing for Nina. Preferably a Neopet costume, the better to disguise the faerie, although Jenna would be much happier if Nina would just get caught already, get dragged back to Faerieland.

     It doesn't seem to be happening any time soon.

     ***

     “Not that one.”

     Jenna gives an exasperated sigh, turning to face Nina. “You've said that about every single costume we've looked at! Just pick something, will you?”

     Nina narrows her eyes. “I will smite you, kid.”

     Jenna merely throws her hands up in a long-suffering gesture and snaps, “Good! Maybe then I won't have to listen to your whining!”

     Benji, on the other side of the shop, looks at her with wide eyes. Jenna shrugs back at him helplessly and turns back to the clothes rack. Nina seems to have been rendered mute by Jenna's outburst, which is just fine by her.

     “How about this?” Jenna pulls out a blue Wocky costume, waving it in Nina's face a little desperately.

     Nina looks at it thoughtfully. Then she nods, almost to herself. It seems to have passed her inspection. “That one,” she agrees. Jenna breathes a sigh of relief and walks over to the counter to pay for it.

     “Hey Jenna,” Mandy, a tall green Nimmo who works as a shop assistant here greets her. “How's it goin'?”

     Jenna isn't quite sure how to answer that. She puts the costume on the counter, eliciting a strange look from Mandy, and gives a little half-shrug. “Could be better.” She glances over her shoulder. Nina is shouting at Benji, who has managed to knock an entire rack of clothes on top of the faerie. “Could be a lot better,” she amends.

     Mandy raises an eyebrow. “What's goin' on? One thousand and nine neopoints,” she adds as an afterthought. Jenna hands her the money and sighs.

     “That's... er, my cousin. She's from... Tyrannia,” Jenna invents. “You know what they're like. Not exactly civilised. We try not to take her out in public too much.” With that, she grabs the costume and hurries from the store, Benji and Nina hot on her heels.

     ***

     “This is undignified.”

     “I told you, Wockies don't walk on two legs. You're the one who got yourself kicked out of Faerieland... just deal with it already,” snaps Jenna. This is definitely the strangest thing she has ever done.

     Benji has disappeared, called home by his mother for lunch (is it that time already? Apparently disguising faeries takes more time than Jenna realised), which leaves Jenna and Nina to drop snide comments and pretend like they don't think the other is a waste of oxygen.

     “This costume itches.”

     Jenna groans quietly. Nina's clumsy walk and constant complaints are attracting a little more attention than she's comfortable with.

     “Come on, I'll take you back to my house. You're clearly useless at all normal social activities.”

     “That's it! I'm so smiting you! You are totally smitten!”

     ***

     The days pass in a crazy sort of blur. Jenna's mother raises an eyebrow but greets Jenna's funny-looking 'friend' Nina with a smile and doesn't ask any questions.

     Benji is patient and Jenna is rude and together they teach Nina not to shout at people who stare, not to declare them 'a foul accumulation of limbs' and not to threaten to turn them into piles of sludge. Nina learns to walk like a Wocky with a minimal amount of complaints (and if Jenna is bribing her with a cherry pie her mother made, well, no one mentions it) and a week and a half later Benji decides they're ready to take it to the next level.

     “Neoschool?” Jenna repeats incredulously. Up until this point, they have been locking Nina in Jenna's room while they are at Neoschool, which isn't ideal but at least no one has been turned into sludge yet. Benji nods.

     “I think Nina's ready,” he replies earnestly.

     “Do I get a say in this?” Nina asks from where she is lounging on Jenna's bed, firing purple sparks at a Moquot as it desperately tries to fly away from her wrath.

     “No,” Jenna and Benji snap simultaneously. They have become much more accustomed to the faerie's presence over the past few days, which also means they are perfectly comfortable shouting at her – Jenna especially.

     Jenna turns back to Benji. “Are you sure about this?” she asks dubiously.

     “Definitely,” he replies with a grin. “She'll be fine.”

     Jenna glances back at Nina. The faerie is hanging half-way out of the window, still firing sparks at the Moquot and shrieking unintelligibly.

     “Alright,” the Cybunny says grimly. “On your own head be it.”

     ***

     They take Nina shopping for school supplies, then, watching as she sneers at all the light faerie pens and erasers, the water faerie pencils, the pink-and-blue faerie notebooks.

     “Why,” she says, “is there no stationery dedicated to dark faeries?” And Jenna and Benji exchange looks, shrug in unison and steer Nina towards the Sloth-related supplies.

     ***

     The next day, the trio are standing at the gates of the Neoschool, staring up at the building in trepidation. Nina looks at the passing students and sneers, strides purposefully towards the school and doesn't look back. Jenna watches as she slams a purple Uni (who seems to be trying to comb her mane) into a wall and feels a sense of impending doom.

     She turns to Benji. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

     The Lupe nods. “Definitely.”

     Jenna wonders when, exactly, it was that her life became an absolute shambles and eventually deduces that it has been that way ever since she met Benji. Of course, throwing a dark faerie into the mix has definitely complicated things a little.

     There is a muffled shrieking noise from inside the school, then several loud thumps. An awed hush follows. Jenna glares accusingly at a horrified Benji, and they both turn and pelt full-force into the school.

     In the hallway, a starry Poogle is splayed on the floor, books and pens scattered haphazardly around her. Nina is dusting her hands off and preparing to walk away when Jenna dives at her, very nearly tackling her to the ground.

     “What did you do?” she hisses, spinning Nina around to face her as Benji helps the Poogle collect her things.

     “What?” Nina manages to look utterly outraged. “She was trying to attack me!”

     “I was going to shake her hand!” blurts the Poogle a tad hysterically, looking on the brink of tears. Everyone turns to give her a strange look because really, who shakes hands in this school?

     “Well, really now,” Nina says as if the Poogle is being utterly unreasonable, “how was I supposed to know that? You should try and look less... threatening.” She utterly fails to keep the sarcasm out of her voice.

     “Come on,” mutters Jenna grimly, grasping the faerie-in-disguise's shoulder tightly and leading her off down the corridor, students now swerving to avoid them.

     It's going to be a long day.

     ***

     It is a long day indeed.

     Jenna has to sweet-talk her teacher into letting Nina sit next to her, because she 'thinks they could be really good friends'. In reality, she just wants to keep an eye on the incognito faerie who is currently flicking little fragments of an eraser with Jhudora's face proudly displayed upon it at the unsuspecting Kyrii sitting in front of her.

     None of the lessons go particularly well. Nina is particularly adept at Chemistry, it seems, and her skill prompts the labcoat-clad Grarrl of a teacher to question how she knows so much about it. Nina begins to explain about mixing potions in enormous cauldrons and Jenna steps on her foot, hard. The teacher moves along and the faerie and the Cybunny exchange murderous looks.

     Art is a disaster right from the beginning. Nina, Jenna learns, is not an arty person, and trying to make her so results in a faceful of paint, as Mr Lupid discovers when she tosses an entire pot of purple paint at him.

     The day only goes downhill from there, and Jenna is relieved when she, Benji and Nina finally step outside of the school building.

     ***

     Gradually, the 'Wanted' signs with Nina's face plastered across them start to disappear. There's still the occasional one dotted around, though, and Nina refuses to leave yet. “I'll stick around a couple more days,” she says, leaning back on Benji's bed (they have regrouped at his house, wisely avoiding Jenna's mum who has recently discovered her missing cherry pie). “Just to be safe.”

     Jenna groans and drops her head onto Benji's shoulder. Absently, he pats it as if trying to console her. “Kill me now,” mutters the Cybunny.

     Nina sits up, only too happy to oblige. Jenna shoves her back down while Benji smiles blithely. “This is nice,” he says. Two heads turn to look at him.

     “Is it?”

     ***

     The next few days pass just as eventfully as the last. Nina gets into several fights – mostly with students, although the occasional brawl with the P.E teacher has been known to happen too – and steals a cherry pie from Jenna's kitchen, which the Cybunny then gets the blame for.

     Jenna is only too relieved when Nina decides to leave.

     “I think I'll be safe,” she tells them after removing the hated Wocky costume. “I mean, they seem to have stopped looking for me.”

     Jenna nods slowly. “Well,” she says, “it's been... interesting.”

     Benji nods enthusiastically. Nina snorts. “I hate to admit it, kid, but you two have grown on me. I suppose I owe you something,” she admits grudgingly. The faerie raises a hand to her mouth, as if blowing a kiss, and breathes lightly. A small pile of purple dust appears in her palm. Faerie dust. She tosses it at Benji and Jenna and winks at them.

     “There's your blessing,” she says, and pulls herself onto the windowsill of Jenna's bedroom. She kicks off from the wall and in a flutter of wings she is airborne, off back to Faerieland.

     Jenna isn't quite sure how to feel about that, now.

     ***

     A week later, there is a knock at the door.

     Jenna opens it, Benji standing at her shoulder (he has taken up a near-permanent residence at Jenna's house, declaring that his mum is currently on a 'health-food hype'). Standing at the door is a blue Wocky, looking slightly sheepish.

     “Hey,” says the Wocky, who Jenna quickly realises is not a Wocky at all. “I think you might be stuck with me a little longer.”

     Jenna raises an eyebrow. “What happened this time?”

     “I turned Fyora's hair green.”

     There is a stunned pause before Jenna and Benji laugh, long and loud. Nina shoulders past them into the house, snaps that “It was an accident!” and sticks her chin into the air defiantly.

     Jenna follows her, grinning. Maybe dark faeries aren't so bad after all.

The End

 
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