A New Home
The rain was coming down in sheets. Flashes of lightning lit the night sky and rolls of thunder rattled the windows of the manor's sitting room. To be fair, it wasn’t all that usual. A dark and stormy night was a common occurrence for a manor set just outside of the Haunted Woods. Seryphus couldn’t help but think that perhaps the owner had built here for that very reason. The Doctor did have a flair for the dramatic.
The weather was so loud, in fact, that it was a wonder the mutant Hissi managed to hear the front-doorbell. The left head looked up from her book, the right from her crossword and, setting both aside, she made her way down the hall to the large oak door, being sure to grab an umbrella from the stand nearby.
The door opened upon a small, blue Bori, shivering in the cold and wet as he looked up at Seryphus with wide, terrified eyes. Not that she could blame him. The manor alone was an imposing structure. Black crumbling stone that was crawling with moss and ivy. Large curtained windows whose lights barely pierced the dark of the stormy evening. And then of course there was Seryphus herself. After all, a two-headed serpent wasn’t generally on people’s “to cuddle'' list.
“Hello little one,” the left head said, smiling gently as she opened the umbrella, holding it over the Bori’s wet and shivering form.
“What is your name?” asked the right with a smile of her own.
“I-I,” the Bori nervously shifted from paw to paw, “um… Freckle99. I… they told me to come here…”
Seryphus pulled a pair of reading glasses and a piece of paper from her shirt pocket, placed the glasses on the nose of her right head and nodded, looking down at the paper.
“Ah yes,” said the left head, “we’ve been expecting you.”
Didn’t even send someone along with him, Seryphus thought, grimly, Some people...
“Do not be afraid,” the Hissi continued, one head speaking after the other. “I am Seryphus. You are safe here. Come in.”
Freckle99 timidly followed her inside, looking around nervously as they entered the immense front hall. Elaborate tapestries hung on the walls and a large staircase with posts carved into Quilin heads adorned the center of it. It was everything one expected of a manor this close to Neovia. Seryphus had honestly been meaning to talk to the Doctor about redecorating as the ostentatiousness of it all wasn’t much help when it came to putting new pets at ease.
“Let’s start by showing you to your room,” the right head remarked as the Hissi started towards the stairs. She made it only a short distance before the Bori timidly spoke up.
“I’m not supposed to be here, you know.”
Seryphus closed both sets of eyes and sighed before applying her best smile to both mouths and turned to the Bori who immediately shrank back in discomfort.
“I-I mean to say,” he continued, “that there’s been a, um, a mistake. I tried to tell them but… you-you understand, right? I have to wait… I-I have to be there when they… when they get back.”
Ah, just as she’d thought. This sort of thing happened from time to time. It would be inconvenient, but Seryphus prided herself in her ability to help even the most stubborn pets to settle in.
“Well,” she said, left head cocking a bit to the side, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to go back outside right now. Why don’t you at least stay for the night, hm?”
The Bori shifted on his paws a bit again, then looked towards the front window just as another streak of lightning brightened the night sky. He bit his lip and nodded slowly.
“Excellent,” Seryphus replied, waving a hand up the staircase with a double smile. “We have your room all ready, so it certainly won’t be any trouble.”
The Bori followed her up the stairs quietly, the only sound being the soft shush of scales over carpet and the gentle tap of claws on each step until Seryphus finally broke the silence.
“What do you like to be called?” she asked as they neared the top of the steps.
“What do you mean?”
“Well…” the Hissi paused, looking down the hall as she tried to remember which room they’d prepared, “many pets, especially ones with numbers, have a nickname they prefer. Would you like to be called anything else?”
“I guess I never really thought about it…”
“Well, we’ll just call you by your given name for now,” Seryphus nodded, heading off down the hall on the right. As they moved along the hall a purple Ogrin poked its head out of one of the doors.
“Hey Sepheroni!” they said brightly, “‘zat the newbie?”
“This is Freckle99,” Seryphus replied, introducing the Bori before he could object. “Freckle99, this is 704.”
“Aw sweet! Number buddies!” 704 replied, grinning from ear to ear.
“Wait… did… did your owner only name you a number?” Freckle99 asked with some concern.
“Nah,” the purple Ogrin laughed. “He named me Trevor704 but, like, I don’t think we should be ashamed of our numbers. Besides, I think 704 sounds cooler than Trevor, y’know? My old owner said it was the page number from his favourite book, but I like to think it’d be my spy number or somethin’.”
“Old owner?” the Bori seemed a bit confused, “you mean were adopted too? I-I mean… you were adopted?”
“Eh, fostered’s more like it,” the Ogrin put a hoof to their chin in thought, “all of us were. Well, ‘cept Sephuccino here. I’m actually up for transfer pretty soon. Wanted to wait and see if I could go robot, but I got zapped purple and, well, it just suits me, y’know?”
“Oh sure, you’ll hear all about that later,” 704 waved a hoof dismissively. “Pretty scary at first, but you get used to it, eh?”
“Maybe I should finish showing Freckle99 to his room,” Seryphus interjected, “He probably wants to dry off and rest a bit.”
“Aww Sephodil, you ruin all my fun,” the purple Ogrin pouted, “Guess I’ll see you later, number buddy. Have to show you the cool clothes I got for my transfer!”
“Uh-huh,” Freckle99 replied with a slow, bemused nod. He gave a somewhat awkward wave at the chipper Ogrin before following Seryphus down the hall.
Seryphus opened a door about three rooms down. It was cosy with plush burgundy carpet and sky blue walls with a white cloud border painted at the top. A small wooden bed stood at the center of the back wall, draped with a quilt patterned with hearts. There was a desk and chair, and even a small washroom off to the side of it. The room smelled of clean laundry and the slight scent of rubber that indicated it had been recently vacuumed.
Ah, good, I was afraid Blossom wouldn’t get to it.
Seryphus watched the nervous Bori wander around the room. He tested his paws on the carpet and looked at the bed curiously before looking at her sheepishly.
“It’s… It’s just for… for one night.”
Seryphus did not confirm or deny the statement. It was late and the young pet was cold and tired, and hardly ready to have that conversation. No, it would be better to wait until tomorrow.
“Breakfast will be ready at eight,” the left head informed him. “Don’t worry about setting an alarm or anything.” continued the right, “Ms. Sugar Blossom will be around to make sure you’re awake for it.”
“Ms. Sugar Blossom?”
“A biscuit Uni. You’ll know when you see her. She used to be one of the fosters around here, but she took an interest in helping other pets, so she’s become a permanent resident.”
Freckle99 glanced back and forth as each head spoke. Seryphus knew her odd way of speaking could be a bit dizzying to some and was neither worried nor offended. The Bori would get used to it in a day or two.
“Is there anything else you need for the night?”
“Um.. no...no, I think I’ll be… be fine.”
Seryphus nodded both heads and smiled gently.
“Sweet dreams then, Freckle99.”
She slithered quietly out of the room and made her way back to the sitting room and to her crossword puzzle. The Bori’s shyness reminded her of her own when she had first arrived at the manor. The first of the Doctor’s charges. The first of the Doctor’s experiments. The only one who had been taken in with the express purpose of remaining at the manor.
She had been a frightened little Eyrie at the time. She well recalled how terrified she had been when the Doctor had spoken to her with that bright, ever-cheerful smile.
“I have plans for you, little one,” the Doctor had told her in a voice she now recognized was meant to be comforting. The Doctor, unfortunately, had underestimated how skittish Seryphus was, and it was some time before she would grow accustomed to her owner’s eccentricities.
It was just the two of them for a very long time. The Doctor had taken good care of her, making sure her room was nice and that she had food to eat. For a while, it was just omelettes and jellies (occasionally unappetizing ones) and Seryphus suspected that the Doctor had spent a little too much money on housing. Eventually, the food became more varied and life became more comfortable. The Doctor spent enough time with her when not focused on some mysterious project, and gave promises of things to come. Many friends, a chance to do something great for Neopia, and Seryphus, well, she was happy.
And she was still happy, even if things had changed a lot since then.
The Hissi sighed and looked down at her crossword.
How many chimneys are in Faerie City... Why would anyone know that?
The next morning was fairly normal for the household, new arrival notwithstanding. They were now a household of eight. Sugar Blossom, a pink-haired biscuit Uni, was setting the table; a feat which Seryphus marvelled she could do without breaking anything. A blue Lenny in a pink sweater stood over the stove cooking up pancakes and bacon. The Lenny insisted on simply being called “Jenny” or, on occasion “Jenny-Lenny” which she seemed to find fairly amusing.
704 made it to the table first, as was usual, followed by Tricky, a green Buzz who was immensely delighted to see that fresh sniddberries were a part of the day’s breakfast as had been promised. Tricky still had some trust issues from a couple of prior owners, but was slowly learning that the manor staff nearly always made good on their promises.
A blue Elephante and speckled Moehog -- named Buttercup and Plum respectively -- came in shortly after. Buttercup had her trunk stuck in a copy of “Mystery of the Kougra Paw” which she continued to read even as she sat at the table, nearly knocking into Plum.
“HEY!” the green speckled Moehog snapped, “watch where ya stick those tree trunks you call legs!”
“Oh! Sorry,” Buttercup mumbled quietly as she pulled out her chair and sat down.
“Well ya should be!” Plum snarled, “clumsy idiot!”
“That’s enough, Plum.”
“But Miss Seryphus, you saw-”
“It was an accident, and she apologized,” Seryphus replied, both heads looking sternly at the Moehog. “Let it go.”
Plum muttered something under her breath, but made no more fuss as she climbed into an empty chair. Seryphus would have to talk to Buttercup after breakfast about reading while walking. Someone was eventually going to get hurt. At the moment though, she had other things to deal with. Namely-
“Hey, where’s my number buddy?” 704 asked, looking towards the kitchen door.
“Who?” Tricky asked through a mouthful of berries.
“The newbie, stupid,” Plum said, rolling her eyes.
“Questions are never stupid,” Jenny admonished as she set down a platter of pancakes and bacon.
Jenny was, to Seryphus’s knowledge, one of the few people who actually believed that was true.
“I thought I was your number buddy,” Tricky pouted.
“I can have more than one number buddy.”
“Anyway, I’m sure he’ll be down soon,” Sugar Blossom added, “he just had a bit of a… slow start this morning.”
Jenny and Seryphus gave one-another a knowing look.
“Sephy, dear,” said the Lenny, “why don’t you go and bring him down?”
Seryphus nodded and made her way out of the kitchen without hesitation. As she ascended the grand staircase she found herself recalling a conversation she’d had with the Doctor long ago.
“What is it like?”
“What is what like?” Seryphus asked, more than a little surprised by the Doctor’s question.
“Having two heads… Sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing, letting you act as a test subject.”
Seryphus glanced at the Doctor with two frowns. It wasn’t like her owner to second guess.
“It’s not too bad, I guess. I miss flying sometimes but... I can think faster. No… that’s not right. I can think better with two brains, and taking care of the others isn’t so hard now that I can keep two sets of eyes open. Besides… it was my idea.”
“To save me…” the Doctor replied, grimly. “Still… if you ever changed your mind…”
“I’d rather not get zapped again,” Seryphus shook her head. “We know the thing works now, and without causing pain. Still, changing an entire species is… uncomfortable.”
“Alright Sephy… if you’re sure.”
Seryphus shook her heads. New arrivals often reminded her of those days. Especially the more… "troubled" ones. Those days in particular had been difficult. The doctor’s… condition, and Seryphus’s solution had made for some trying days for both of them. Still, she’d be lying if she said she regretted it. She loved this place and couldn’t fathom doing anything else.
Speaking of which…
Seryphus stopped at Freckle99’s door, unsurprised to hear sniffling from behind it. She knocked gently.
“Freckle99… may I come in?”
“Um… um… alright…”
The Hissi opened the door and made her way in. She looked into the Bori’s red-rimmed eyes with compassion, but remained silent, giving him time to compose himself.
“They’re not… not coming back… are they?”
The blue Bori burst into a renewed fit of sobs. Seryphus held out her arms and he gratefully collapsed against her, sobbing into her comforting embrace.
“I don’t know.”
“What did I... did I do wrong?”
“Do they… do they hate me?”
“Then… then why?”
Seryphus sighed and gently stroked the Bori’s head.
“Any number of reasons,” she replied. “Some owners find something new. Some go on long journeys, not knowing if they’ll return. Ms. Sugar Blossom’s owner wanted a fresh start and my owner… well, she wanted to give her pets a better life.”
“Your... your owner?”
Seryphus nodded. “She told me, long ago she was struggling to make ends meet. She had so many pets and didn’t know how to feed them all. They were hungry and crying and, well… she couldn’t bear it, so she gave them up in hopes that they would find a better life. She still looks out for them sometimes to see how they’re doing. That’s why she worked so hard to start this place; so that every pet would have a chance for something better.”
“Do you… do you think that’s why my… my owner gave me up?”
“It’s… possible,” Seryphus conceded.
The Bori seemed to consider this for a long moment.
“Then maybe they’ll come... come back once things are… are better then.”
Seryphus sighed. It wasn’t likely. It was very unlikely, but apparently, Freckle99 needed some more time.
“Would you like some breakfast?” she asked.
“I… I guess so.”
Back in the kitchen, the other Neopets had all finished eating. Buttercup was still reading, though Seryphus noticed a couple syrupy blotches on the cover of the book. The other three seemed to be having a little bit of a disagreement.
“Oh please Plummy!” 704 rolled their eyes, “Twisted Roses is just so… moody.”
“Yeah! Gruundo is ten times better!” insisted Tricky, his mouth covered in blue sniddberry juice
“I thought we agreed M*YNCI was the best!” whined 704.
“M*YNCI is for babies,” Plum snorted. “And no, you said M*YNCI was the best, and Tricky didn’t argue with ya cuz he ain’t got no spine!”
“Hey, that’s not-”
“Number buddy!” 704 grinned, noticing the blue Bori. “You gotta help me out man. These guys don’t know a thing about good music! You like M*YNCI, right?”
Freckle99 bit his lip, looking nervously from one pet to the next.
“I… um… I… not… not really,” he admitted.
704’s face fell.
“You gotta be kiddin’ me! Everyone’s against me today!”
“I… I’m sorry… I just…”
“What kind of music do you like?” asked Jenny, setting a plate of pancakes down in front of the Bori.
“Um… I like… Neopian Philharmonic…”
Buttercup looked up from her book and glanced at Freckle99 in surprise.
“Are you new?” she asked. “I haven’t seen you before…”
“Duh!” Plum replied, rolling her eyes. “Don’t you pay attention?” She held a hoof out towards Freckle99. “I’m Plum. Don’t worry about what these idiots think. Your taste in music is pretty lame, but it’s yours, huh? Just don’t say anything when I’m jammin’ to mine and I won’t complain when you’re playin’ yours, alright?”
“Oh… um… alright,” Freckle99 replied, shaking the Moehog’s hoof. “I’m… I’m Freckle99.”
“Yeah, yeah, we all heard.” Plum nodded. “Anyway, the big oaf with her face in the book is Buttercup and the bug-eyed-”
“Sorry Miss Seryphus…”
The Moehog sighed. “Sorry Buttercup and Tricky.”
“Tricky is me!” the green buzz said brightly, “I mean… is I… me is…”
“Don’t hurt yourself buddy,” 704 said, patting the buzz on the shoulder.
“And you can call me Jenny,” the blue Lenny said with a wide grin. “I believe you met 704 and Miss Sugar Blossom earlier. We’re all very happy to have you here.”
“It’s just… just for a little while.”
“Oh!” Jenny replied, looking surprised. “Well… I hope you’ll enjoy your stay while we have you then.”
Seryphus snapped both heads to look at Jenny in surprise. What was she driving at?! The blue Lenny winked at her in response and Seryphus looked to Freckle99 who she was surprised to see was… relaxed?
“I’ve got some philharmonic albums up in my room,” Buttercup remarked. “It’s good reading music, but if you wanted to listen with me that would be alright.”
“Um… yeah… I think… I think that’d be okay.” Freckle99 replied, picking up his fork to start in on his pancakes.
She’s playing along, Seryphus thought to herself, and it’s… working.
Sometimes Seryphus felt she still had so much to learn.
Freckle99 ate his breakfast and chatted with the other foster pets, seeming to grow more and more comfortable as the meal wore on. Eventually, the food was eaten, the plates cleared away, and the five residents made their way to various parts of the manor. Once they were out of earshot, Seryphus took the opportunity to confront Jenny.
“What was that about?”
“He’s in the early stages of grief,” the blue Lenny shrugged. “For now, I’m not denying him his denial. He’ll come around.”
“Well… I hope you're right.” Seryphus sighed.
“I usually am,” the Lenny replied with a grin.
“Which is why you’re a bird right now, right?”
“That’s hardly fair,” the Lenny scoffed. “But, I suppose you’re right… We’ll both have to keep an eye on his progress hm?”
“Six eyes,” Seryphus grinned.
“Ah, and that’s why you’re my right hand, Sephy dear.”
Seryphus gave a small chuckle and looked towards the kitchen door.
“I try, Doctor… I try.”
Sugar_Blossom as Ms. Sugar Blossom the Uni
Seryphus as herself
Jenny1989 as Jenny the Lenny
Buttercup_2300 as Buttercup the Elephante
trick_3 as Tricky the Buzz
Plum_202 as Plum the Moehog
Trevor704 - as 704 the Ogrin
Freckle99 as himself
All non-staff Neopets are currently stuck in the pound at the time of writing. All are as depicted in this fic except for Trevor704 who is green, not purple. Of course… you could change that.