"Fang? Are you in there?"
Hearing his owner's voice made Fang look up from his photo. It was a picture of his old family. There was a faerie Eyrie, a Shadow Xweetok and a Fire Kougra. And there, in the middle, was a tiny red Gelert with its eyes closed, curled up in a tight ball. Standing over them all was a young girl with long brunette hair, a smile on her face.
The red Gelert hid the picture quickly back under his pillow. "Yes, Rosie. Come in."
His owner stepped through the door. Her blue eyes were troubled. "Your brother went out earlier this morning, before you woke up," she said worriedly. "He hasn't come back yet. Could you go and find him?" Her gaze travelled to the window. "I would, but... I have to sort out my neomail."
Was there a hint of reluctance in his owner's voice? But Fang shook the feeling away. "Of course I will." He stood up, his small body stretching carefully, before running past Rosie and out of the room. Down the stairs, out the front door, and out into Neopia Central.
Seth was his brother. A large, older blue Lupe who had first not liked Fang when he joined the family. But as time went on, a bond was beginning to grow between them, even though they still fought and argued.
Fang paused as he approached the food shop and glanced around. There was Seth - he was sitting down, his fluffy tail curled neatly around his front paws, and a surprisingly content expression in his eyes. But the Neopet whom he was talking to, Fang did not recognize. Quite the large and bulky yellow Kacheek, wearing ragged clothing but with a friendly sparkle in his eyes.
"So your name is Seth_Brightfire?" questioned the Kacheek as Fang drew closer, ears pricked with curiosity.
Seth flinched, narrowing his eyes. "Yes. But please, just call me Seth." His eyes darkened. "I can't stand it when others call me by my full name." Shaking his head, he added, "And your name is Kealog?"
"Yeah. But you can call me Kea." The Kacheek smiled, and suddenly his eyes flicked over to Fang. "Well, lookie here! Who's this?"
Before Fang could make a move or respond, his brother smirked and said, "That's my little brother, Fang_Shadowflame."
"It's Fang," Fang growled, coming to sit beside Seth. He glanced at Kea and gave a nod of greeting. "Nice to meet you."
But the Kacheek's eyes looked distracted. "You know... I think my sister would make a good friend to you, Fang." He paused and his eyes glimmered briefly. "Sierra! Come and meet my new friends."
His voice echoed around. A couple of moments later, a pink figure trotted up to the yellow Kacheek. Fang watched her curiously; she was a Gelert, like him, except pink. She was about his size - small and slender - with big, innocent eyes. "Yes, Kea?"
"This is Fang, and this is Seth." Kealog pointed to each Neopet as he spoke their name. "And guys, this is my little sister, Sierra."
"Nice to meet you Fang, Seth," the little Gelert said politely. Fang twitched his tail and looked at Seth.
"Seth, Rosie was looking for you," he told his brother. "She's worried because you were out so long."
Seth snorted. "She's a paranoid idiot," he said, although Fang knew he was joking. "I only made a new friend. That's why I'm taking longer. I'll be back soon." The big blue Lupe shrugged simply and blinked.
"Can we go and play?" Sierra asked excitedly, the question directed to nobody in particular.
Kea glanced at Fang. "Perhaps you should play with her," he said, exasperation filling his eyes. "After all, I get too much of it nowadays. And you seem the type." Seth nodded in agreement but Fang was bewildered. What did they mean, 'the type'?
But before he could protest, Sierra had already rushed over to him. "Great! What should we do first?" Her blue eyes were round with excited mischief. Fang realised that he was just the same when he first met Seth. But hadn't he grown - at least a little - since then?
Seth stood up. "I'd best be getting back," he declared. "I'll tell Rosie where you are, Fang, so no need to worry about returning home so soon." He said his good-bye to Kea and Sierra before turning to leave, back in the direction of their house.
Meanwhile Sierra was bouncing on her paws again. "Let's go and play Ice Cream Machine!" she yelled suddenly. Her eyes met Fang's. "Please?"
The look she gave him made Fang unable to say no. He gave a deep sigh. "Alright, let's go," he grumbled reluctantly.
"Had a good day, Fang? You look tired."
The red Gelert had entered his home, covered in mud and feeling absolutely exhausted. He hadn't even eaten yet and all he wanted to do was curl up in bed to sleep. Fang was met immediately by Rosie, who had come to the door just as he had entered.
Sierra had been pestering him all day long. She was so talkative, so... annoying. And yet she was fun to be around, playful and always joyous. But she really annoyed Fang so that he almost couldn't bear it. They had played about thirteen games and visited the Marketplace, where Sierra had dragged him through half the many shops there.
Now he hardly had the strength to respond to Rosie's question as he dragged his small legs toward the dinner table. Seth was already there, eating calmly. He looked up as Fang settled down on his high char - much as he didn't like it - and his eyes sparkled.
"Have fun with Sierra?" the Lupe asked.
Though it was a friendly question, Fang bared his teeth with annoyance and didn't reply. Instead he ate his dinner, which was more pasta. Rosie had been buying too much of this lately.
After dinner Fang didn't pester his brother to play with him, unlike usual. Instead he pulled himself up the stairs, crawled into his bedroom and curled up in his bed. His eyes shut and immediately sent him into a deep, dreamless sleep.
The next morning was cold with a drizzly rain. Fang awoke feeling refreshed and energetic, like his usual self. He jumped out of bed and raced over to the window, knocking over two plushies as he did so, and looked outside.
For a few moments Fang watched the horizon. There was a bright orange glow where the sun was just beginning to appear. The sky was a gorgeous pale pink colour, lightening slowly as the sun carefully began to rise.
Then the red Gelert turned and raced out of his room, down the stairs. Seth wasn't awake yet and Rosie was going through her neomail. With nothing else to do - and not feeling hungry at all - Fang went outside, calling to Rosie as he did so, "I'm going to the shops!"
That was exactly what he did. Although he didn't intend to do much, Fang often went to the shops each morning to have a look around. Sometimes he bought one or two snacks to eat or give to Seth or Rosie, and sometimes he just pondered, lingering outside the shops and watching Neopets and their owners rush around to buy things.
But today luck was not so much on his side. While hanging around outside the Post Office, Fang caught sight of a pink flash of fur. Instantly he recognised the large blue eyes of Sierra and looked away, not in the mood to be dragged around again.
"Fang?" Great. She had spotted him. Fang turned slowly to see her approaching; but instead of her usually lively eyes, he saw only sadness and misery in them.
Suddenly his reluctance turned to curiosity. "Sierra? What's wrong?" he asked as she came up, her tail drooping and ears low.
She looked up at him. There was no light of joy in her eyes, and her fur was ruffled and ungroomed. "I have bad news," she murmured. "I think my owner is going to abandon me."
Fang felt an odd rush of alarm and dismay surge through him. He blinked, bewildered. "What? Why?"
"He... doesn't spend time with me anymore." The words were so simple, and yet they seemed to cause Sierra much pain. She sat down beside Fang, her head low. "He spends more time with Kea and doesn't look at me. And yesterday I caught him talking to that nasty Techo from the Pound." A soft sigh escaped her lips and she said no more.
"That's impossible!" Fang growled, sounding more angry than he intended. "He can't just abandon you like this. He wouldn't. And if he does, he'll have me to face. I won't let him do this to you, even if it is true." And he blinked, surprised at himself, as he finished.
Sierra was gazing at him. "Really? You'd do that for me?"
Fang shifted uncomfortably. "I guess I would," he replied.
The pink Gelert smiled and rested her head on his shoulder. "You're a true friend, Fang," she said. Her eyes contained that sparkle again, the one that Fang was beginning to get used to.
"We'll be friends forever," Fang declared, and realised that he meant every word.