Housepets: Pet Project12. Redux
Lupa's eyes eased open. She was home. She knew not how or why, but Lupa had found herself home. A massive yawn contorted her face for a moment. From her bed she could see the peach tinted horizon. Night had not been so long ago. She licked her chops and tried to piece her thoughts together.
Was it all a dream?
The wild goose chase for Jon. The magic fox creature. Her waking mind scoffed at such notions. I must have eaten too soon before bed or something, she rationalized to herself. Lupa tumbled towards her bedroom door. Her neck felt stiff from such a rough sleep. One foot in front of the other. Until one foot bumped into a mass of fur upon the ground.
“Don't look at me I'm innocent!”
Denver cried out as he jumped up from the ground. Every strand of hair stood on its end. One cursory glance about the room confused him further.
“This isn't my house.”
Denver looked into Lupas eyes. No words were exchanged. Lupa turned around while Denver followed her through her house to the front door. Of course it was not a dream. It was another mind trick. Or something of that nature Lupa threw open her front door.
A bright red convertible with a black stripe along the side pulled up to the curb. Sitting in the front seat was her Uncle Jack. He beamed with pride, a limp balaclava lay in the seat next to him. Lupa took one look at him and then at the car. She looked back into her house and saw his ankle bracelet resting on the coffee table. Right beside it was an empty bucket of margarine.
“Oh Lupa! Fancy seeing you up this early.” Jack said. “'sup Denver?”
“Um...nothing much.” Said Denver.
“I don't even want to know. I'm leaving again, and when I get back that car better be back where you found it.” Said Lupa.
“What are you? Two? Get that car out of here!” Lupa snapped.
The tires on the car squealed as Jack peeled out into the street and sped off. Lupa nodded and began running again. Denver took a deep breath and groaned, but tried his best to match her pace.
“So what's the plan?” Denver said, gasping for air every other word.
“Depends. Worst case scenario, we have to talk Snow into trying to fix this. And something tells me she's not going to listen.”
“Okay...wait whose house do you think they're at?”
“I don't know.”
Lupa made an abrupt stop. Her mind was doing back flips and cartwheels. She took one breath after another. Each second she spent was dedicated to reconfiguring her thoughts.
“You check your house since that's closer, I'll check Snow's house.”
Lupa bolted to the right at the next crossroads they reached. Denver didn't even have time to respond. He just kept running towards his own home. The thought that he was that much closer to no longer running excited him. Yet the possible chance that his brainwashed brother would await him pulled at his already frayed nerves. Sometimes he wondered what life would be like had he rejected Peanut's offer back at the shelter. No craziness. No wolves. No psychic powered cats with attitude issues.
“Jeez life would be boring wouldn't it?”
He said out loud, to no one in particular but himself.
Babylon Gardens glowed beneath the rays of the rising sun. Long shadows tailed behind tall trees and buildings. Lupa ran from patch of shad to patch of shade. Soon the summer heat would reach unbearable temperatures. Someday, she thought, I am going to live in the mountains where it's cold all the time. She cut through yards. Hopped over fences. Until she saw the front porch of the Byron household. The she-wolf stumbled to a halt in front of the door and paused to catch her breath. One clawed finger had jabbed the doorbell.
She tapped her foot and paced about. Her sensitive ears could pick up the gentle thud of paws on carpet. Then the faint brushing of paw pads against the hard tile floor of the entry way. The doorknob turned and there Fido stood.
“Is Jon here?” Lupa sputtered.
“Yeah I'll go get him.” Said Fido. “Is everything alright? You look like you just ran a marathon.”
Lupa just nodded her head. Fido's house leaked cold air-conditioned atmosphere onto the porch. Lupa savored the sweet repose from the mounting summer heat. Fido scratched his chin, turned on his heels, and strode off towards the kitchen. Lupa feared that everyone in the house had their minds altered. They would think Jon was never a dog. He was always a cat to them. Somehow she and Denver were alone in their resistance to the changes.
It was at that moment that, instead of Jon, Snow rounded the corner.
“Calm down.” Said Snow. “We're having breakfast.”
“Don't you get snide with me, I know what you did to him. I thought you were his friend!”
Snow looked a little hurt by the accusation. Lupa took a few steps towards her. A solid silence seized the room. Snow's eyes glimmered and for a moment it seemed that all of the air had been sucked out of the room.
“Let's keep this civil. We both know what we're capable of.” Said Snow. “Besides I just cleaned up in here.”
“Fine. Tell me what happened last night?”
Jon waved at her from behind Snow. It was regular old Jon. Floppy ears and all.
“He's fine.” Said Snow.
Lupa seemed shocked by the revelation. Had she not been flustered from running, both cat and dog would have seen her blush. Lupa wiped her forehead and shut the door behind her.
“I don't blame you for being mad at me.” Said Snow. “I'm a little mad at me too.”
“I'm not mad.” Lupa shrugged. “Anymore.”
“See told you she wouldn't stay mad.” Jon said.
“You don't seem too phased by all of this Jon.” Said Lupa. “You are aware of what happened right?”
“I'm just counting my blessings.” Said Jon. “It's not everyday you can say you were spared mental reconfiguration by cosmic forces beyond comprehension.”
“She almost took your free will away, and you're not at all upset?” Said Lupa.
Snow winced at the words.
“I was a little.” Jon nodded. “But no sense in bashing her for the decision she didn't make. She cared enough to leave my brain alone.”
Lupa smiled a little. That pup might have been a little too forgiving, but at least someone was happy The three of them sat in silence for a moment before Snow spoke up.
“How about we finish discussing this after breakfast. It's probably getting cold and Sab- I mean mom, will get on my case about it.” Said Snow.
“I don't know...”
“We were already expecting you.” Said Jon.
Lupa gave Jon a concerned look, but he just gave her his best smile. She chalked up the statement to Snow's tendency to read minds. Though she did not realize it was that powerful. The trio made their way through the house and to the kitchen. Pancakes were stacked on a plate and the succulent aroma of breakfast sausage wafted across Lupa's nose. Fido and Sabrina were chatting with each other, Fido was sliding on in his uniform and Sabrina had just barely sat down to fill her own plate. Already seated at the table was another familiar face.
“Denver?” Said Lupa. “How did you get here before me?”
“Funny story that. I decided to call Jon when I realized he wasn't at my house. He explained the whole situation to me and said I was welcome to come over. My grandpa, you know Earl, was on his way to work so I hitched a ride here.”
“When were you going to call me?” Said Lupa.
“I figured you would be here soon.”
Denver hid his head a little. His tail was stiff and his ears were low. Lupa smiled at him, took her seat between Snow and Denver, and ruffled the fur atop his head. He sighed with relief. Denver relaxed a little in his seat. Lupa had so many questions, but it was hard to deny her hunger. That sausage smelled heavenly. Maybe it would do her body good to get something to eat.
The four of them remained at the table after breakfast. Sabrina had left for Tarot's house, no doubt to address the previous night's incidents. Fido had left for work shortly before then. Leaving them all alone to talk amongst themselves.
“How did everyone get home if that wasn't a dream.” Said Lupa.
She took a liberal sip of orange juice. It was a little stronger than she would have liked. Maybe the milk was a better option.
“When everyone blanked out, the Kitsune, Arcana, and Tarot swooped by and picked us all up.” Said Jon. “I even got to chat with them a bit this morning before they went to Sabrina's old house.”
“Alright now if those guys are your friends, what's with the whole mind control thing.”
“It turns out that the Kitsune has some friends at F&M Inc.” Said Jon.
“Fables and Morals incorporated. You know, the guys who had Androcles and that lion cross paths. The guys who said the tortoise and the hare should race.” Said Snow.
“The Kitsune knew she wouldn't screw me over.” Jon said. “Even if she was tempted to.”
“It was scary how close it came to happening though.” Snow said, her voice drew to a hushed tone. “After all was said and done, I felt terrible. I still feel terrible.
“Well, if it means anything, I'm sorry I misjudged you Snow. You understand where I was coming from right?” Said Lupa.
“I understand.” Snow replied.
She frowned a little and looked down. Lupa took one look at the cat and decided that perhaps she had overstayed her welcome. Lupa stood from her seat.
“Good.” Said Lupa. “I better get home, I need to make sure Uncle Jack isn't getting into any more trouble.”
“Ah, see you later then.” Said Jon.
“Later you guys. And Snow, cheer up, if Jon can get over it. I think you can get over it too.”
Lupa waved her paw before she left the kitchen. The front door opened and then shut in rapid succession. Snow looked around to see if Denver was paying any attention. He was already in the living room, playing some video game. It was just her and the dog. She sniffled a little and stood up. Jon looked up at her, his cheerful demeanor marred by sudden concern.
“Hey...what's wrong?” Said Jon.
“I don't get you. Really, I think you fell from Mars and you just look like a dog.” Said Snow.
She tried to laugh, but it came out as a stifled sob.
“I'm not following you...”
“I nearly ruined your life!” Snow snapped. “I mean I nearly took your life, everything you cared for, everything you ever wanted and loved, and I nearly crushed it for some stupid girlish fantasy.”
“So?” Said Snow. “How can you be so calm about this!”
“Like I said, I'm not going to bash you for something you did not do.”
“You're acting like things are still the way they were before.”
“Aren't they?” Said Jon.
“No Jon, they aren't.” Snow sobbed. “I-I can't even look at your stupid puppy dog grin any more without feeling like I am the worst person in the world.”
“You're sorry? Why are you of all people sorry?”
The sheer silence between the two was deafening. Even Denver had paused his game to listen. Jon could see him peeking over the couch.
“But...we're friends right?” Jon managed to eek out.
“I don't think it would be right.”
Jon's face alternated between pain and confusion. Why was she yelling at him? Even when he wasn't wrong he felt like he was wrong. He took a few steps back and tried not to whimper. And, in an instant he realized, this was no time to back down and cry. Not if he could help it.
“I'm sorry, but I don't trust myself at all anymore. I've learned my lesson, okay? That fox showed me enough. At my core I'm no better than Alana and people like her.”
The dog took a deep breath and reached towards her cheek. She took a step back and glared at him through tears. He took a step closer.
“If that were the case then I would be your mindless slave right now.” Said Jon.“You know the Kitsune told me the whole story? Even what was going through your mind at the time.”
Snow said nothing. She looked away and sniffled. Jon tried to ease the situation with a smile.
“He told me every thing he said to me. How much better I seemed. How much you wanted to keep your new puppet. It was frightening at first, but there was a part near the end that made me forgive you in an instant. I would not have picked up on it had he never told me. But you know me...”
“Dumb dog to the end.” Snow said, a weak smile formed on her lips.
“I liked you better as the dumb dog that was my best friend, and not some silly puppet.”
“But you didn't use the word like.”
Jon eased in a little closer. Snow's face grew hot.
“You know you can only trust Kitsune about as far as you can throw him.” Snow replied.
“How about spirit dragons?” Said Jon.
Snow felt her words become lodged in the back of her throat. Her mind was a mess of mixed emotions. She wanted to be mad still. To scare off this dog before she really hurt him without ever meaning it. After she came so close the night before.
“Fine, but I might have been lost in the moment. Might have said something I didn't mean.” Said Snow.
“Okay. Then stop me.” Said Jon. The dog leaned his head a little closer to hers.
“I-I thought I took the charm off.” Snow said.
“This is all me.”
Jon smiled and tried to remember the way he did it under her influence. Other him had some pretty sweet moves. He fumbled a little trying to hug her. It felt awkward, but nice.
“I learned a bit of a lesson too.”
“And that would be?” Snow said.
She reached up to shove him off. She slipped a little and fell into his chest. A hot blush could be felt through her fur.
“That it's kind of fun having a bit of a backbone. Even if it wasn't me in charge the whole time, it was nice to feel...tough I guess.”
Jon gave Snow a toothy grin, to which she replied with a laugh. He noted the way her eyes actually lit up with the smile. He looked up and saw Denver trying to pretend like he wasn't watching.
“I can't promise you everything, it won't hurt to be a little more assertive. You know, like you.” Said Jon.
“And I think I could learn a thing or two from you.”
“I'll tell you when I think of something.”
Snow started to feel her shoulders relax. Her stomach churned and her face burned. She had felt this way once before. Not on her date, but in a place she never expected to feel it. Jon and Snow stood there in the kitchen for a moment longer.
“You're right about one thing.” Said Jon. “Don't think we can go back to the way we were. But one thing is still kind of nagging me.”
“When did you start feeling, you know, this way?”
“Oh jeez don't make me say it.” Said Snow.
“Awww come on Snow. If you don't tell me I'll just ask Kitsune.” Said Jon.
He winked at her and swayed a little. Just like his dad did when she hugged his mom. He figured it might help her relax.
“Alright fine. It was a little before you tried that first kiss.” Said Snow.
“That long? You mean that?”
Jon's eyes lit up with surprise. He laughed a little to himself. Snow just ignored him.
“Sure. You're kind of cute. Maybe a little annoying at times, but it's hard to stay mad at a teddy bear of a dog.”
Now Jon felt the blood rush to his face. He glanced up and down his body and noted the teddy bear comment. Jon could see Denver giggle from the corner of his eye.
“Didn't realize that aspect of me was all that attractive.”
“On you it is.”
Snow's eyes narrowed, a wry half smile lit up her lips. Jon knew that look all too well.
“But I'm not all about looks. I was more hooked on the sweet and sometimes smart guy up here...”
Snow poked Jon's forehead, and then his stomach.
“...than what any of this looks like.”
Jon and Snow held each other while time just peddled on. One thing led to another. They were out of things to say. Snow was done with fighting, Jon was done with defending. He made the first couple of moves, but this time Snow was more in touch with what was going on.
He placed his hand on the back of her head and pulled her close. Snow wrapped her arms around his neck. A day could have passed and he would not have known it. He would not have cared either. He made the first move. Snow followed suit. Their lips locked together when the met in the middle. The two of them stared at each other like lightning had shot up their spines. Jon's shaking paws refused to let go, and Snow found her own arms glued around Jon's neck. Snow broke the kiss first.
“Does that mean we can say...you know what.” Said Snow.
Her lips felt numb and her jaw felt limp.
“No, I don't.”
“I think I love you.”
“That's a strong word.”
Jon chuckled, but he felt so out of breath it just came out as a wheeze.
“We just did something strong.” Snow said.
“Good point.” Jon said. “Let's try this again later. We have an audience.”
“Let's not disappoint him.”
Jon gasped and felt his head pulled back into another kiss. He would have protested further. Would have, if it was not for how heavy his arms felt.
Sabrina tucked her legs beneath herself. It had been a long while since she had set foot in her old home. She had to admit it was nice to find herself in such a familiar locale. Tarot and Arcana sat next to each other on the sofa. Kitsune stood by the window with a cup in his hand.
“I would appreciate it if you told me what you were up to first.” Said Sabrina.
“Sorry to leave you out of the loop. Kitsune said it would be better.” Said Tarot.
“Can't have mom interfering with the match-maker can we now?' Said Kitsune.
The fox gave her a snide grin. Sabrina's eyes narrowed a little. Why did fox deities have to be so conniving?
“I wouldn't have interfered.”
“Says you.” Said Kitsune. “She's your only kid. The only one that lives with you and understands what its like to be you. And who else would teach her the proper way to use their powers if not you? You had every reason to interfere.”
“Just relax Sabrina. Snow's a good kid.” Said Arcana. “Kitsune was prepared to take this little experience further than need be had she chosen poorly.”
Sabrina turned back towards the fox and glared daggers.
“Did you have to tell mom that?” Said Kitsune. “I'm glad Snow didn't. A memory reconfiguration of that magnitude would have cost a ton of resources.”
Sabrina did not appreciate his demeanor. Silence pervaded the very aura around her. Had Kitsune been a mere mortal, his eyes might
“Relax mom, it would not have been permanent. It might have been like half a day's worth.” Said Kitsune. “Besides, both of them learned a valuable lesson in appreciating what is important.”
“You know you do have a point.” Said Sabrina.
Sabrina walked over to the fox. Kitsune chuckled at the sudden advance. The black cat balled up her fist and socked him in the cheek. His bemusement changed to pain in mere seconds.
“Curse this mortal flesh.” Said Kitsune.
“The next time you get it in that thick skull of yours to do anything to my kid – and my friends' kids – run the plan by me first. I would appreciate you not hurting them.”
“You're not helping your case by hitting me.”
Kitsune rubbed his cheek. Sabrina held up her fist again. He clenched his eyes shut and braced for another punch. When the pain did not come, he cracked his eyes open. It was just in time to see Sabrina's fingers rearing into the flicking position. He yelped when her finger made contact with his sensitive black nose.
“Okay I think he's been properly warned.” Said Sabrina. “Now what else did you guys want to talk to me about.”
“It's about Snow. Well you and Snow. Nothing terrible mind you.” Said Tarot.
“We think it might be fun for you guys to attend Psy-con with us.” Said Arcana.
Sabrina had never been too keen to attending conventions. Something about the atmosphere always bothered her. Too many weird people in one place. Tack on psychic powers to that setting and the weirdness levels pass beyond quantum horizons.
“I don't know...”
“Just think about it. Ask Snow what she thinks and then get back to us on it. We need to get passes this month.” Said Tarot.
“I'll think about it.”
Sabrina smiled at the two Pomeranians, then walked towards the door.
“Going so soon?” Said Tarot.
“I need to check up on Jon and Snow to see if they're okay.” Said Sabrina.
“Can we come with then? We haven't had a regular get-to-together in a long while.” Said Tarot.
Sabrina looked at her old friend and nodded. Tarot did have a point. Ever since she had moved out, life had been dedicated to building up her own family. She hoped that someday they could all live in their own home. Maybe an apartment or something. Fido's dad was kind for letting them stay in his house, but she did not want to mooch off his kindness forever.
“Just...no weird magic trinkets please.”
“You have my word.” Said Tarot.
Jon paced back and forth. His small blue cellphone tucked between his shoulder and ear while his hands fiddled around with a knot of yarn. Snow and Denver were in the front room playing one of Fido's video games. Some race car game. He forgot the name.
The dog sighed with relief. His parents had been unable to call him for days since they had landed in their little pet paradise. His dad's voice on the other line made him relax. Even if it sounded a little scratchy with static.
“Hey son. They just got the phone tower running up here. Sorry for not being able to stay in touch.”
“No, no it's fine. I just tried on a whim tonight.” Said Jon. “How's the island?”
“Fine. I can't say much about it on the phone though. I think all calls leaving the island are monitored.”
“Ah, well you can tell me all about it when you come home.”
“Of course. How are things back home? You burn down the house yet?”
“Been working on it. Turns out moms books make good kindling.” Said Jon.
There was a faint rustling on the other end of the phone. Peanut was sniggering and Grape was shouting something about how unfunny that was. Peanut rejoined the conversation shortly thereafter.
“Mom says she misses you.” Said Peanut. “What else is new?”
“I'm going on a date with Snow tonight.” Said Jon.
Or blurted, rather. If he could have seen his father's face, there would have been a simple smile. That was one thing he had expected. Had Jon called about marriage, then there would be trouble. Peanut shifted around a bit in his seat.
“Did she ask you, or you ask her?”
“I asked her.”
“Mom owes me ten bucks.” Said Peanut. “Well congrats son. I'd dispense advice, but I don't think you called just for that.”
“Actually...I was curious. What's something you and mom did when you first started going out.”
“Um...let's see. There's the mall. We went to movies. I'm sure we would have gone to Max's place had it existed back in the day. We attempted mini-golf once, but mom got a little too competitive.”
“I'm not allowed to say.” Said Peanut. “Not while she's listening at least.”
“Okay. Any other advice?”
“Don't stink. Open the door. Pull out her chair – before she sits in it, not while she is sitting in it. Make sure you don't have anything in your teeth. Oh, and most important. Be yourself.”
“Who else would I be?”
Jon chuckled uncomfortably, Snow and him decided keep quiet about his real first date.
“That's my boy.” Said Peanut. “I miss you guys by the way. It's too quiet here without you guys.”
“I miss you too dad.” Said Jon. “How is mom?”
“Asleep. It's kind of late here.”
“Ah, then maybe I should let you go.”
The line was quiet for a moment. Save for the static produced by the bad quality of the call. Peanut exhaled from the other end of the line. It sounded a little disappointed.
“You go get ready for your date then. Oh, let me talk to Denver while you do that.” Said Peanut.
“Will do dad.” Said Jon. “Love you, and tell mom I love her too.”
“You got it.” Said Peanut. “Bye son.”
Thousands of miles away, Peanut was sitting at the edge of his bed. Grape's breathing was quiet and even. There was a light scratching at the window. Peanut looked up. It might have been a tree branch. Or something else.
There was another scratching sound.
Peanut stood from his bed. He made quiet and deliberate footsteps towards the window. Something moved through the branches when he stood up. It was like the shadow of a shadow. His throat felt dry. His haunches were raised. There was a small plastic bag caught in the branches of the tree.
It caught the wind at just a right angle, so that when there was breeze, the branch would brush against the window. Peanut slid the window open and reached out to the bag. There was something at the bottom of the bag.
Peanut grasped the bag and pulled it from the branch. There was a piece of paper at the bottom. Three pieces of instructions were written on dirtied piece of paper.
MEET IN 1 HOUR
ASK FOR “MARIA ROSSLAN”
“Maria who?” Said Peanut.
He had a faint idea of who that just might be. He glanced over the name once more. Three As, an N, and one L.
Peanut set the paper down and held the phone to his ear. Meanwhile, he searched around the small desk he was provided. He needed to find a map of the city. There was one he got at the orientation. Now where did he keep it?
“Hey Denver. How's it going?”
“Just the same old, same old.” Said Denver. “Well, besides Jon and Snow. I bet he told you.”
Peanut shifted aside a few books. One book accidentally tumbled to the ground. There was a slight thud upon landing. He turned towards Grape to see if she had been jostled awake. All was silent. Peanut reached down to pick up the book, only to find that tucked between its pages was the map. He must have used it for a book mark.
“Yes he did. Can't say I'm surprised either.”
“Me neither...I guess.”
“You okay son?” Said Peanut.
“I'll be fine.”
“You can tell me anything. Remember that.” Said Peanut.
Though he was a little distracted at the moment. He glanced over the map in the cool moonlight. Calloway cafe was near that huge tower at the center of the city. Maybe the tram was still online. There had to be some way to accommodate animals living the night life. Grape probably would be out and about, had she not been exhausted by the day's events.
“Jon just gets weird around girls. That's all.”
“You'll understand someday. I don't think you'll be as bad as him. But you'll know what I mean when you get there.” Said Peanut.
Denver took his time before answering.
“Yeah. That's all.”
“Alright. Well I hope you don't mind, but something work related came up. I need to get going.” Said Peanut. “Take care Denver.”
“You too dad.” Said Denver.
There was a short pause.
“I miss you guys.”
“Miss you too son. You keep your brother's head on straight, okay?”
The phone went quiet. Peanut stuffed the phone in his pants pocket, along with his new wallet. He pulled a backpack out from under his desk and put it on. He was not sure if he needed his equipment. Just in case, he thought to himself.
Just in case.
Author's Note: Guess what, this dimwit finally decided to update his fanfic.
Sorry for the wait. I've been trying to improve my writing and spent way too much time on such things before I realized I had seemingly abandoned my fanfic. On a more personal note, I will be moving in with my girlfriend fairly soon. That's the good news! The slightly not so good news, that means another chapter might take some time.
On an unrelated note. I've found it easier to go back and edit my chapters for better cohesion. Plus I felt I could integrate ideas from my old rough draft better now that I'm a little better at this sort of thing. As of this writing, chapter 1 has been redone and includes a whole new scene that wasn't there before. It's like a directors cut!
Thanks for being patient and hanging around for this story for such a long while. Hope you enjoy this chapter.