The Doctor Is In
The little Gelert boy coughed again, even harder than before. Even through his not-quite-red, not-quite-pink fur, the Gelert had an unhealthy pallor to his skin. "He's getting worse," the boy's mother, a Yellow Acara, said. "It just never ends."
The boy's father, a White Lupe, paced nervously across the scarlet floor. "This is all our owner's fault," he grumbled angrily.
"John, don't say that," said the Acara.
"But it's true, Patricia!" exclaimed John, clenching his fists. "If she hadn't wasted all of our Neopoints on that Stealthy Paint Brush she'll never use, we wouldn't be having soup for every meal, and we would be able to afford some decent medicine for Adrian!" As if in response, the child broke into a coughing fit. While Patricia went over to try and comfort Adrian, John sighed heavily and fell onto a chair, putting his face in his hands.
"We could try the Healing Springs again," Patricia suggested.
"That Water Faerie has given us Sticky Snowballs the last twelve times we've gone," said John listlessly. "What makes you think it will be any different this time?"
For a minute, Patricia and John said nothing, the silence unbroken save for Adrian's coughing. Then, suddenly, there came a tapping sound. Someone was knocking on the front door. Everyone became quite still and tense; having lived in Neovia their whole lives, the family was wary of letting in those who came unannounced at night. The tapping resumed, slightly louder this time. Finally, after arming himself with a Scroll of Ultranova, John went carefully to the door.
John opened the door a crack. He took a quick glance through the crack and, after ensuring that his visitor was a Neopet and not a monster, he opened the door fully. Before John stood a rather eccentric-looking Lenny. The Lenny was painted Camouflage, and although his black hat, dark gloves, and brown suit coat were typical of Neovian attire, his pocket watch and boots appeared to be Moltaran in design, giving the distinct impression that he was a foreigner trying to blend in. He had long, unkempt brown hair, carried a large black leather bag, and, strangest of all, wore a metal mask that was shaped perfectly to his face. The mask obscured all expression, and even the Lenny's eyes were hidden behind thick, red glass lenses. The dim street lamps shining through the thick fog that had gathered that night gave the Lenny a strange, almost menacing atmosphere, and despite being twice the Lenny's height, John was somewhat intimidated by the strange Neopet.
"Good evening," the Lenny said in a polite, gentle voice.
"Good evening," John repeated, not entirely trusting the stranger.
"I have recently caught wind of the fact that your young son is ill," the Lenny said. "I have come to cure him."
"How do you know about my son?" John asked, his suspicion growing.
"My sources prefer to remain anonymous," said the Lenny, "but I simply cannot allow the suffering of innocent Neopets to continue unchecked."
John stood still and silent. "Come in," he said finally, stepping inside.
The Lenny followed John into the sitting room. "Would you care for some tea?" John asked. "Or would you prefer coffee?"
"Neither, thank you," the Lenny said. "The task at hand is much too important to spend time on pleasantries, although I appreciate the offer. Now, where is the boy?"
"He's in his room," the Lupe said. With that, he led the Lenny to Adrian's room.
Patricia was softly singing to Adrian in an attempt to help him fall asleep. It wasn't working, though; Adrian was still coughing much too vigorously for sleep. When Patricia looked up, she was quite shocked to see the strange Lenny. The lamp light shone on his mask, resulting in an unnerving glare made all the more frightening by the expressionless red lenses. "Who's he?" Patricia asked, not letting her eyes leave the stranger.
"Don't worry, Patricia," John said. "He's here to help Adrian."
"Here to help Adrian my foot!" exclaimed Patricia, here eyes wide with confusion and worry. "A stranger in a mask who claims to be helpful walks up to our door and you just let him in? What were you thinking, John? How can we be sure we can trust him?"
"Madame, I assure you, I have no ill will against you or your son," the Lenny said. "I promise that I will cure your son, and that no harm will come to him because of me."
Patricia narrowed her eyes. "Really?" she said, a deep seriousness filling her voice. "Swear on something important."
The Lenny hesitated, then slowly took out his pocket watch. "I swear upon this pocket watch that your son will be safe with me."
"A pocket watch?" Patricia said with a notable amount of skepticism. "You want me to have faith in you because of a pocket watch?"
The Lenny held the pocket watch close to his heart. "Answer me this," he said, "would you pawn your family heirlooms?"
Patricia's expression softened. "No," she said quietly. "We may be poor, but we aren't going to give up part of our history for a quick bit of money."
"Then certainly you will understand the significance of this pocket watch," the Lenny said. "This watch has been passed down in my family for countless generations, ever since my eldest ancestor first made it so long ago. To lose this pocket watch would be to lose part of myself. Do you understand?"
Patricia sighed. "Yes, I do now. Go ahead then." She paused, then added, "But if you mess up, that pocket watch of yours is going to be the least of your concerns."
The Lenny nodded and made his way to Adrian's bed. The little Gelert, who was just as frightened by the Lenny's mask as his mother, shied away, making a sound that was half whimper, half cough. The Lenny knelt down beside the boy's bed. "Don't worry," the Lenny said gently. "You're going to be alright." He placed his leather bag on the floor, opened it, and, after rummaging around for a bit, took out a small cardboard box. He took from the box what looked like a small, round, red hard candy. "Here, take this," the Lenny said, holding out the candy-like object. "It'll make you feel better."
Adrian hesitantly took the candy and placed it in his mouth. Instantly, Adrian regained a healthy glow, and his coughing stopped altogether. Adrian smiled. "Thank you," Adrian said.
The Lenny put the little box away, closed the bag, and stood up. "You're welcome."
John and Patricia stared at the Lenny in awe. "What did you give him?" John asked.
The Lenny took the box back out and showed it to John and Patricia. "It's just a Kikoughela Drop," he explained. "I figured that he would prefer the drop to the syrup. I know I always did."
"How can we ever thank you?" Patricia asked.
"You're doing that right now," the Lenny said. "It is good enough to know that you are grateful." He turned to leave.
"Wait," John said.
The Lenny stopped and turned back to the family.
"You've done so much for us, but we don't even know who you are."
Beneath his mask, the Lenny smiled. "I am simply a doctor."