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From Enemy to Brethren: Part Two


by rainbow_lover852

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Over the next few weeks, Rat and I grew more and more close. We were becoming friends, the last thing anyone would expect from us.

     Now, as Mimi and I headed to school, with Rat trailing behind us, I let him tease me. Every time he leaped for my tail I'd manage to flick it away in the last minute, and he'd go sprawling. I'd give him a wink and swish my tail just in his reach, daring him to leap for it again. He'd grin, and then we'd both laugh and chase each other all the way to school.

     When he'd make faces at me through the window during class, I'd make faces back and then resist bursting into laughter.

     He stopped jeering during lunch and didn't pull at Mimi's tail. In fact, he'd wait calmly for me until the end of school and then he'd escort me home while we talked. I found myself telling him things I'd never told anyone else, not even my owner. I told him my love for school, and how I wished that my owner would be with us more often. In turn he'd tell me about his life and what he planned to do with it.

     "I plan to become an astronaut," he informed me once, careful to keep his grammar correct. I'd recently begun giving him lessons. He was a good learner, though he refused to give up saying "ain't."

     "Cool," I said. "You like astronomy?"

     "What's that?"

     "Never mind. I meant do you like the stars?"

     A dreamy look came over his face. I no longer thought any of his expressions disgusting. In fact, I didn't really care at all about his appearance anymore.

     "I love the stars," Rat breathed. "Any time I look at them..."

     "Every time," I corrected.

     "Right. Every time I look at them, I forget all about being lonely and sad. I feel that if I was up there, instead of down here, nothing would bother me. I spoke okay, right?" he added.

     I nodded, glad that he could say so much without a single grammar mistake. I now wanted more than ever to help get a starry paintbrush. It'd long been obvious that he'd always wanted one. I already had a hundred and fifty thousand Neopoints stored, but I needed three hundred thousand. Could Rat perhaps have some money saved up?

     "Rat," I started, "have you ever thought of buying a paint brush?"

     Rat scowled and looked down at his paws. "They don't let me play games," he said darkly. "They say I ain't healthy, and should stay away from the other pets."

     I stopped and stared at him, forgetting to correct his grammar for once. "What?! But you're not unhealthy! You're just... different."

     He gave me a grin. "I guess I'se..."

     "I'm," I interrupted.

     Obediently he tried again. "I guess I'm the wrong kind of different."

     It was my turn to scowl. How could people be so unfair towards mutants, just because they weren't very attractive?

     ~*~

     About a month after our friendship began, I was counting my paintbrush fund in my room on a hot Saturday afternoon. Mimi was playing at day care, while my owner was away from home on business. It was the kind of day that made you tired just by heating up. I thought of Rat, wandering somewhere in the jungle, probably looking for some shade.

     I dumped my jar of checks and coins out on the bed. There was so much that it caused a deep depression in the mattress. It took me a full half hour to count it all.

     "200,950, 200,975, 300,000!" I crowed, letting the coins rain down from my paws and plunk onto my head and arms.

     I quickly gathered it all up and ran all the way to the trading post. It took me an hour to finally purchase the brush, haggling and trying to find traders that were ready to trade then and there. But finally, after weeks of saving, I had my starry paintbrush.

     I wanted to find Rat that very day and drag him to the Rainbow Pool. But I didn't know where he lived in that vast jungle land, and I wasn't about to lose myself in it looking for him. I'd just have to wait till Monday.

     So on Monday morning, when I saw the mutant scramble out from the trees with his usual mischievous grin (I no longer thought of it as malicious), I didn't let him tease me, or even let him try.

     "Come on, let's go!" I said as I took his paw and headed in a direction opposite the school. I needed to reach the docks in thirty minutes if I was to catch the next ferry.

     Rat was completely shocked. "What?! But I thought you liked school!" he panted as we dashed by Tiki Tours.

     "I do!" I called back. "But there's something more important needing to be done!"

     Rat didn't speak up again until the beach was in sight. I only had two minutes to get on board! I began to pick up the pace when Rat suddenly jerked his paw out of my grasp.

     "I'm not going," he said clearly and flatly. His grammar wasn't a problem now.

     "But this is the last boat for an hour! We have to go!" I said breathlessly, reaching for his paw again.

     "No!" Rat shouted.

     I stared at him, my trip to Neopia Central temporarily forgotten. "Why?"

     His defiance subsided, and all he could do was look down at his feet, "I'm too scared," he mumbled. "I've never left the island before."

     "Not ever?" I asked in disbelief.

     "No," was the gloomy reply.

     I heard the ferryman call out, "All aboard!" and turned to desperately watch the last passenger board. I walked over to Rat and gently took his paw.

     "We're leaving together," I said softly. "You won't be alone. I want you to come. You need to come."

     When he asked why I only said it was a surprise. He grinned at that, and said, "Let's give it a shot!"

     It's a miracle that we managed to catch the boat. We practically had to leap on board, and it was only under my insistence that the ferryman let Rat stay. I brought my companion to the edge of the ferry and showed him the land beyond and the sea below. I really shouldn't have done that, because from then on Rat's expression was rather green and he kept moaning about the waves.

     ~*~

     He was very glad to reach Neopia Central at last, and asked whether or not we could travel by different means of transport on the way back. But I didn't take time to answer. I was too eager to reach the Rainbow Pool.

     Unfortunately, Rat was just as eager to go sight-seeing, "I want to see everything!" he proclaimed excitedly.

     "Fine!" I agreed impatiently. "We'll see the Rainbow Pool first."

     "What's that?"

     "You'll see in a minute."

     We finally reached the plaza, and were soon bounding across the meadow to a landmark I'd been to once before; a glistening pool with a faint rainbow arching into it.

     "Wow," Rat murmured, awestruck.

     "You still don't know the best of it," I hinted with a smile. "Let's get a closer look."

     I led him to the edge of the pool and urged him to look into it. As he gazed at his reflection, I quietly pulled the starry paintbrush from my school bag.

     Rat was scowling at the pool. "I'm so hideous," he said with a shudder.

     I couldn't hold back my excitement any longer. "Not for long!" I cried and then I gave his back a swift stroke with the brush, feeling it evaporate from my paw almost at once. Before Rat could ask what had happened, I shoved him hard and he fell with a yelp into the pool.

     Bubbles surfaced where he'd fallen in, and for a split second my vision was blinded by a blue and yellow flash! When I at last lowered my arms to see again, I saw Rat standing in the pool before me. At least, I saw a Xweetok.

     The Xweetok's shining blue coat was splashed with yellow stars, and his stripe was a brilliant gold. Stars seemed to shine in his eyes as he looked at me. I couldn't believe that this was Rat staring at me. And yet...

     "Rat?" I asked hesitantly.

     The Xweetok gave me a cocky grin that I knew too well. With a laugh I pulled him out of the pool, and we scrambled about in the grass for the next few minutes. Rat began to talk even as we played.

     "How... did... you manage... to... get... the brush?" he panted between struggles.

     I extricated myself from the tussle and lay breathing hard on the grass beside him, "I just worked really hard," I explained. "It took me weeks, you know. I've been working ever since... since..."

     "Since I shaped up?" Rat prompted.

     "Yeah, pretty much," I answered with a smile.

     We were silent for a moment, with me still trying to absorb this new Rat. He looked so different, so completely unrecognizable. Rat meanwhile seemed to be thinking.

     "It won't be the same, living on my own now," he said quietly. "Now that I fit in, I don't really want to stay out of things."

     "But you have no owner," I said, pointing out the obvious.

     "I probably have to go to the pound," Rat mumbled.

     "No, you don't!" I said fiercely. "I won't let you!"

     He stared at me, and it took me a second to register him as Rat. "You mean..." he started.

     "Yes!" I said defiantly. "I want... I want you..." Why was it so hard to admit it?

     "You want me to be with you?" Rat asked. His voice was full of hope.

     I looked at him. "Rat," I laughed, "I never thought I'd have you for a brother!"

     ~*~

     My owner was certainly surprised to see not one, but two Xweetoks come prancing up her walkway.

     "Well, Bethany, this is certainly a surprise."

     "Mom," I proclaimed proudly, "This is..."

     "Seth," Rat interrupted.

     I gave him a confused look. "Seth?" I repeated.

     He nodded. "I've always liked that name, and I think it fits."

     I grinned. He was right. It did fit his new flashy look.

     "Nice to meet you Seth," my owner greeted him warmly. "Are you here to stay for long?"

     "Well," Seth began shyly, "I don't really have anywhere else to stay."

     "What about your owner?"

     "I don't have one."

     "So I thought we could take him in," I blurted.

     My owner's eyes widened but she didn't say anything. She only looked from Seth to me, and from me to Seth. Then a slow smile spread over her lips, and my heart soared.

     "Welcome to the family, Seth," she said.

     And that's how Seth the starry Xweetok, once my arch enemy, then my best friend, became my loving brother.

The End

 
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