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Old December 14th, 2006, 03:46 PM
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Saffire Persian
Feline of Light and Shadow
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Utah
Age: 26
Gender: Female
Nature: Adamant
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Ichapokemr: I do have more - plenty more - I just didn't want to double post here after I just posted the first part... But anyways, here's another installment for those who read it here.

A/N: Well, it's been a month later, and I actually have a few chapters almost done and over with past this. Nanowrimo went pretty well, if you want to know, though I didn't get to 50,000 words. I got just over 30. Anyway, this chapter turned out to be as long as heck, and if posted in its entirety, it would've broken the page barrier, so I'm splitting it into three for easier reading. Sorry for any inconvenience/annoyance this may cause.

Story beta read by Hanako Tabris. Lots of props goes to her for making this chapter as error free as it can possibly get.


Changing Skies PT. II

Childhood lasts only for a short time,
Little but one rung on the ladder we must climb.
Still, the memories of those days will never fade, no matter how high
you ascend deep into cloud and sky.


You're sitting soundly on the crest of the hill, in a patch of warm summer sunlight. The game has been over for a few minutes now - Uncle Todd had abruptly called the game to a halt after your near miss and declared that all four of you - yes, four - won. Because technically, as your uncle smoothly pointed out after removing Ian and the faux tales from his beloved work of art, that Ian, despite almost being "skewerfied" to use Stella's terms, made a pretty darn good tail. Albeit a green one.

No one argued on that point, and Ian was still too stunned at his near-death experience to so much as comment.

Stella, of course, demanded to see the prizes, nearly taking it upon herself to find out before what the prizes were before her dad could so much as open his mouth to spit out an answer. You were expecting something odd, because you had learned long ago that he preferred to do things that teetered on the edge of normalcy. Especially on Parents' Day, when he'd burst into the classroom with the flamboyance of an seasoned court jester - and in your classmates' eyes - just as much of a weird fool.

Of course, if any one dared to call him weird, they would earn themselves a one-way ticket to the top of the monkey's bars on the opposite side of the school's playground when Stella exacted her vengeance on those who would speak ill of her father.

You suppose if Stella was bigger she would chase the parents, too, but she's a little smarter than that.

Right now, Stella is attempting to sneak a glance into the blue cooler that her father's delving through, trying to squeeze through a gap in his arms, as his hands rummage through the sloshing water and ice. She's easily thwarted with a playful push every time.

Ian is watching the whole thing with nothing but apprehension and fear, watching you through narrowed eyes a few feet away, as if at any second you'd produce a giant tack and nail him on the spot like a ninja.

You've apologized a couple of times already, but he seems to take his close encounter to heart. He hasn't run away screaming though, so you know he doesn't hate you or anything. And, you think, if you were in his place, and Stella had almost nailed you in the head with a tack, you would probably want to stay away from her, too...

"Here we are!"

Stella tries to dart around her Dad to see, but he nudges her away. From the cooler, he produces four pouches of what looks to be Capri Sun. (You know because of the Caterpie logo).

"A free pouch of Berry Berry Blast! How's that for a prize?"

"How about twenty bucks instead, Dad?"

Todd ignores Diane and begins handing out the pouches of juice, giving the first to Stella, who looks disappointed, but nonetheless pleased, before proceeding to everyone else. "One for my little girl, one for my disgruntled teenage daughter who seems to have lost her sense of fun" - Diane snorts loudly -"One for the hostage" -You take the pouch offered you, sticking the light green straw into the silver hole - "And last but not least, one for the Caterpie who just about became a part of my nephew's bug collection."

You glare. Ian immediately backs away from his prize offered him, seemingly horrified -- perhaps at its Caterpie emblazoned cover... or perhaps at the mention that you might just have a bug collection.

"I don't have a bug collection!" you shout, allowing your anger to give your voice more power. You're not like one of those Bug Catchers in the Viridian Forest, who hunt bugs with their nets, and burn the smaller ones with magnifying glasses and watch them pop like over-cooked, butter-slathered popcorn. "I said I didn't mean to!"

Todd holds up his hands in defeat. "All right, all right. Calm down, kid. Don't be like your mother more than you have to." Todd laughs, sticking the yellow straw in the juice's opening. "It's 100% berry juice." He offers the drink to Ian again. "Well, mostly, anyway. The rest is sugar, but that won't do you any harm. Go on, take it."

"Crrrrrrr...pi."

Slowly, Ian creeps forward and opens his little mouth, taking the straw in his jaws, while letting the pouch drop on the ground. The hesitance written upon his features rapidly changes to joy, and he begins draining his Capri Sun as fast as water rushes through an unplugged drainpipe. Perhaps he'll be a little more forgiving with eight ounces of juice in his little stomach.

+++++

You stare with unparalleled awe and amazement.

You have never seen anyone drink anything that fast in your entire life. Heck, you'd reckon that he even beat the big-boned kids who have Moo-Moo milk chugging contests in the school lunchroom.

"Catrpri?"

"No."

"Catrpriiiiiiiiii?"

"NO."

Ian's black eyes become watery. "Catr...pri?"

Stella's are full of fire. "NO!" She clutches her treasure to her chest protectively, nearly squishing it. "Leave me alone!"

Ian looks absolutely heartbroken, like a busted jack-in-a-box that's lost its spring.

"Stella," Diane says, her words emphasized by a well-placed, gentle nudge to her sister's backside, "don't be greedy. Just give it to him."

Stella's glare could've melted through the earth's crust. "I'm not being greedy. I've only had one drink, Ian's had five!" Her index finger points accusingly at Ian, and his persistent, upright stance shrinks slightly at the accusation. "HE'S the one being greedy! He can't have mine!"

Ian looks around, lowering himself to the ground, inching a few paces towards his target. A sudden hiccup escapes him, and he zips back to his original spot as your cousin brings her spike-adorned glare down upon him, looking about ready to royally thwack him if he comes too close.

Your drink is almost gone. You hold the dark-green container in your hand. An idea comes to your mind.

"You can have mine, Ian."

Ian spins around, hiccupping again. You hold the packet out towards him, just out of his reach.

"You have'ta forgive me though," you tell him. "You forgive me?"

It takes but one second for Ian to respond with a joyous, rumbling chortle. "CAPRI!"

You relinquish your prize - though really, it's rather vacuumed from your possession -- and Ian proceeds to suck it dry with all the contentment of a newborn at his bottle. But one thing is for certain: all is forgiven. For the time being anyway.

"If only everyone was so forgiving..." Todd sighs. "Then what a world we would have..."

"We'd have a world run... by Capri Suns..." Diane mutters dully. "Sounds great."

The juice drained, Ian tilts his head to the side, black eyes glittering darkly. He's ogling at your uncle now, or... more specifically, his drink.

"Capr--"

Todd laughs, stuffing the straw into Ian's mouth before he can so much as lunge for it. "Just take it, you little vampire."

Ian doesn't object, latching onto it like a clamp.

Then, two unknown voices ring like the bells of Mt. Pyre.

"STELLA!" "Lookit! It's Stella!"

You turn around to scan the area where the voices originated. You spot two children around you and Stella's age running towards you. Both look exactly alike: jet black-haired and blue-eyed. Both are dressed in clothes of the same design, just a different color (one blue and one green) of which you recognize to be very fancy, expensive stuff.

Diane groans. "It's the brats..."

"The brats...?" Todd pauses; you turn your head a bit to hear. "Oh, you mean the kids who you baby-sat a couple of weeks ago because their parents hadn't hired all the staff yet? The ones who just moved in to that big mansion -- "

"Yes, Dad, those brats."

You observe the two children closely. You've never seen them before, but you did remember hearing that the old, abandoned mansion lot had been bought by some rich people -- the kind of people who your dad says have money growing on trees in their backyards. But what do they want with Stella? Your cousin doesn't seem to know who the two boys are.

"Twins, eh?" Todd comments offhandedly.

Diane nods. "Named Ga -"

"We told you not to call us by those names!"

The twin boys have reached the top of the hill. Ian and his drink dart behind your back in a lightning flash of green.

"Yeah!" the other twin adds. "Those aren't our commoner names."

"Oh, right," Diane says, sounding as dry and dull as a piece of sand paper. "I forgot. Sorry."

"And you guys are commoners --"

"Technically," Todd interjects, "we're middle class."

Inwardly, you can't help but imagine a diagram reminiscent of a food chain.

Both twins seem to consider this statement for a moment, before the boy in the green button-up shirt continues as if he had never been interrupted. "...Middle-class commoners, so you have to call us by our commoner names."

Todd smiles a bit, humoring the boy's despite Diane's rigid glares. "So, what should we call you then?"

Both boys smile, positioning themselves right in front of your cousin. They seem to be generally ignoring Todd's words, focusing solely on Stella, as if it had been her who asked for their names, not your uncle. "You can call me Guy!" the one in the dark blue says.

"And I'm Luke! We've seen your picture that our baby-sitter had of you."

--"They stole my wallet," you hear Diane mumble to her dad from the side. "They wanted to see how much money a commoner carries. The little brats."-

"And we just want to play!" both echo, stretching out their hands towards your cousin, who pauses only to blow a strand of blonde hair out of her face, and to sip at her drink, wrapping her arms around her knees as she brings them up.

Their expressions mirror that of a Growlithe waiting for praise from its master. Stella notices this, and, hands still curled around her knees, barely looks up from where her chin is resting atop her kneecaps, and says firmly, "I don't hold hands with boys."

Their happy, eager faces of glee drop like the silver, flashy ball does on New Year's Eve. Unlike the ball, however, they don't explode into pieces of brightly colored confetti.

"I told you were shouldn't've done that," the twin called Guy says, pointing accusingly at his double.

Luke shrugs his shoulders. "Not my fault commoner girls think funny."

...And all the while they act as if you can't hear a word they're saying...

Slowly, their eyes creep back towards Stella, who is watching them dubiously, unsure of what to think of them. Soon, however, their eyes wander over to your still form. Their eyes widen, as if they had never seen you before - like you had just poofled into existence.

There's a long, pregnant pause. They don't look happy. They stare at you. You stare rebelliously back.

Stella, who's sitting right by you, leans towards you. "I don't think they like you very much," she whispers in your ear.

You don't even bother to nod in agreement.

"Who're you?" one (you don't really care which one) asks as both of them crouch down onto the grass, no doubt in order to "interrogate" you better.

You fold your arms across you chest and shrug. "Nobody."

The twins rock back and forth on their toes. They turn to each other, and an almost invisible communication seems to take place instantly, even if there are no words. An instant later, something seems to be decided upon.

"You're..."

"-Nobody to Stella?"

You stare. Uncle Todd looks like he's figured out something -- and from the way he's smiling, he's rather amused by it. Your eyes allow your head to wander over to the playground, and you say off-handedly. "I'm her cousin--"

"Hostage!" Stella hisses.

"Oh!" Luke exclaims, apparently seeing you in a new, brighter light now, judging from the cheerier, non-threatening edge to his voice. "Well, I guess that's kinda okay then."

"Yeah, he's all right."

Uncle Todd, who's been spread-eagled across the grass for the past few minutes laughs. "Medieval times, boys, medieval times," he says, before being elbowed in the side by Diane, who looks very unamused at his comment, and decides to resign himself to silence.

From behind you, Ian hesitantly peeks around your side.

"Look, it's a Caterpie!"

Ian freezes. His eyes go wide as the two boys step towards him. He screams, and with a speed that would put a Pikachu being chased by a hungry Persian to shame, darts across your legs and under the bottom of your tie-dyed t-shirt to seek safety. Two very large, frightened eyes peer out from underneath the bottom of your t-shirt over to where Stella's pouch of Capri Sun is, just feet away.

You guess he really isn't mad at you anymore.

"It's a screaming Caterpie..." Guy corrects with awe.

"Leave Ian alone," you say gruffly. "He's mine. You can't catch him or anything."

"Oh," Luke says, disappointed. "He's your Caterpie..." Seconds later, his face lights up. "Well, then, we'll buy him from you!"

"You can't buy Ia -"

"Fifty dollars!"

"What?"

"Fif-ty do-llars," he repeats.

Stella blinks. Luke's holding out a very green, very authentic fifty-dollar bill. "Wow. You've got fifty dollars? That's a lot." Stella turns to you, a curious, greedy gleam spreading across her eyes to join her demonic smile. "Sell him," she demands, hissing it in your ear. "We can buy lots of candy and flowers with that!"

"I'm not selling Ian!" you hiss back, indignant.

Ian shifts a little more, emitting a strange sort of chattering sound.

Luke, paying little heed to your objections, circles his head towards Guy. Guy nods, shuffling through his right pocket, pulling a fifty-dollar bill from it, stretching out his hand so that his bill is now besides his brother's. "One hundred dollars then."

Stella's eyes enlarge even further. You think you can see the money reflected in their sapphire depths.

"No." You firmly stare the two twins and Stella down. All three are surprised.

"I don't have anymore..." Luke says despondently, looking pleadingly into his brother's matching eyes.

"That's okay... I think I got more money in my other pocket..."

Unable to contain herself any longer, Stella blurts out, "... I'll sell you Diane if you want!" Both look at her as if she's crazy. "She's a little more useful than a Caterpie."

No answer. Diane doesn't even seem to think it's worth it to retaliate.

"Awww, c'mon..."

Both boys shake their heads. They're staring at you again, greedily.

"I'm not selling Ian!" you repeat, with a heavier emphasis on 'not'.

If worse comes to worse, you can take Ian and run. You're a very fast runner, so you think you can get far enough away to escape. But seriously, what part of 'no' don't these two get? Maybe rich kids never learn the word 'no' in that particular context.

Both boys blink. Guy turns to Luke. "I guess we better call Brelindo to get more money..."

"But we're not supposed to be outsi -"

"I'M. NOT. SELLING. IAN!" you bellow, very, very loudly, drawing the attention of a few picnicking families nearby. Your face flushes red in embarrassment, but you don’t regret your actions.

"Don't be stupid," you-don't-care-who mumbles.

"Anything can be bought with money!" Both boys nod sagely. "Even friends if you really want."

Luke concludes his speech with a stately, dignified nod.

Guy, meanwhile, is playing with something silver colored in his hand. A cell phone.

Diane sighs, standing up. "Gimme that."

Diane snatches the cell phone out of Guy's hand. Both boys look like they've been hit hard with something... like a bowling ball that's gone awry. Both of them stare at Diane, utterly speechless. During the silence, Ian seizes the moment, darting out of your shirt, grabbing Stella's drink, and returning to his hiding place in less than five seconds. Everybody besides you is too busy to notice, and you don't care enough to say anything about it.

"Hey!"

"You can't do that!"

Diane barely looks up from the number pad on the cell phone. "Watch me." She punches the red button to end whatever call they were making, its silvery LCD screen holding a picture of a pretty fire-haired woman and a stern looking man with a red moustache in a fancy suit. "You brats are wayyy too young to have cell phones anyway... you probably burn a hole in your mom's and dad's wallets from sending too many picture text messages to each other...." she pauses. "Well, maybe you don't. But whatever."

Both boys look indignant.

"It's not like you have anyone to call anyway."

"Yeah we do!"

Diane looks unconvinced. "Uh huh."

"We have Mother and Father, Berlindo, Valintino, Mr. Vince from the bank..."

"Don't forget Antonia," Guy buts in.

"And Antonia, our governess, Christopher, Anna Marcia Guadianolazowa, Artemis Windfall the XIII, all the maids and butlers, our old friends from Hoenn..."

Luke's been nodding at each name the whole time. Suddenly, his hand shoots into the air. "Oh! Oh! And 911!"

They're about to continue on, but Diane holds her hands up in defeat, or maybe she just doesn't want to hear them talk anymore. "Okay, okay, touché."

Luke's blue eyes turn hopeful. "So you'll give us our cell phone back?"

"Yeah. After I call your parents."

"NO!" both boys shout, their whines nearly making you cover your ears.

"You're not even supposed to be here, are you? I don't see your maids, butlers, baby-sitters, or whatever people your rich mommy and daddy hire to watch over you brats."

"Well... umm .... er.... we... um... err..."

"I'll take that as a no."

Uncle Todd sits up, looking suddenly interested. “You escaped from home, did you?"

The pair nod. "Yeah."

"We went around the back through the garden. We pretended that we wanted to play hide-and-go seek with our new butler. We went and hid in a closet..."

"Yeah. And when Valintino went to look for us, 'cause he has to play with us or else he doesn't get any money, we locked him in the basement when he went down..."

"So..." Diane begins. Her finger on the numeric pad has lifted. "You ditched him?"

Now there are two very unnerving, but very proud, fond smiles, magically appearing across their pale skin. "Yeah."

Todd whistles.

You aren't very impressed.

"So you can't call home! We don't ever get to go outside of our property, because mom and dad won't let us, so we never get to see anything or meet anybody. So if you call our parents, we won't be able to get out as easy again."

"So?" Diane looks about as sympathetic as a vulture that just saw a rabbit get run over. Both boys' eyes tear up, but tears haven't ever easily moved Diane, as Stella tends to employ that tactic far too often for it still to have a potent effect. Diane crosses her arms, giving the two black-haired boys the 'I've seen this plenty of times before, and it ain't going to work' look.

You wonder why Uncle Todd hasn't stepped in, but then again, he looks pretty content just sitting back and watching the whole thing play out.

"You c-c-a-in't-" Guy sniffles, rubbing his nose with a Nosepass embroidered handkerchief he suddenly procured out of his slack's pocket, and wiping his eyes, clearing away the non-existent tear-drops in one fell swoop.

Diane rolls her eyes as Guy continues to sniffle, blowing his nose loudly into his handkerchief. "Okay, give me one reason why I shouldn't."

Without so much as a word, Guy and Luke hold up their fifty-dollar bills.


+++++



Exactly one minute later (and for Diane, one hundred dollars richer) you find yourself sitting besides Luke, who insists on sitting in between you and Stella, drinking down one of the Capri Suns Uncle Todd salvaged from the bottom of the ice-filled cooler. On the other side of him, and on the other side of his other, Stella glowers, watching Diane who is inspecting her hard-earned cash, sullenly.

Luke sets his Berry Berry Blast juice down on the ground. You feel Ian shift to the right, still hidden under your shirt.

"I guess we can't buy your Caterpie right now... we have no money."

"I told you," you growl, "I'm not sel -"

"But that's okay!" he continues, cutting you off, much to your eternal chagrin. "Because we have our own Pokémon anyway. We got one for Christmas last year." He turns to Stella, head resting on her knees once more, resembling a glum, cold grave keeper who's been stuck doing the midnight rounds during mid-winter for a few weeks. "Wanna see?"

Despite her morose, ired expression, she nods.

Luke smiles triumphantly, pulling an ordinary pokéball from his belt. He spins it on his finger (proof that the both of them have wayyy too much time on their hands in that mansion of theirs) and throws the red and white sphere into the air, shouting, "Go, Lavanya!" as the ball clatters to the grassy ground. It emits a fountain of white light, and from that haze comes a strange, alien creature.

It's a Pokémon you've never ever seen before.

It's a strange Pokémon, and no mistake. It has a green, gooey body with arms that really shouldn't count as arms, and no feet or any other appendages whatsoever. It seems almost ghostlike, with a strange, yellow feather sticking out of its bald head.

Blinking its beady, black, lethargic eyes, it yawns, opening up its jaws very wide, until it forms a near limitless red abyss. That alone makes you stare. "Gullllll..." -- it exhales, deflating like a balloon-- "piiiiinnn."

"A Gulpin, huh?" Uncle Todd nods in what seems to be approval. "Haven't seen one of those things since when I visited that Hoenn hippie town -- Fortree I think it was -- on my senior trip. Bunch of tree-huggers, the lot of them."

Stella blinks, looking awed by the new arrival. She faces Luke, tapping him on the shoulder. "Can I poke it?"

"It might explode into goo if you do, Stel," Diane interjects before Luke can answer.

Stella's gasps. "Really?! Wow! Can it really do that?" Both twins shrug at her questioning glance. "If it does," she ventures, "can I still poke it?"

Oddly enough, you have the strange desire to poke it as well.

With a bob of their heads that you interpret as a sign of consent, Stella slowly begins to crawl on all fours in the Gulpin's direction. The Gulpin, however, doesn't seem to notice Stella's approaching form, gazing blankly into the bright blue distance, like it doesn't care about anything in particular. It doesn't even swivel its eyes when Stella stretches her hand out. Gaining courage, Stella thrusts her index finger forward into the Gulpin's rubbery flesh.

You, Stella, and the twins brace for impact, but nothing happens. The Gulpin doesn't so much as blink... or explode for that matter.

You're strangely disappointed.

"Her name's Lavanya," Luke explains as he stands up and pats his Gulpin on the head until she finally grins in a dull way.

"That's not her commoner name though," Guy adds, ignoring the face-faults that are making their rounds, "so you can't call her that."

"What is her name then?" Diane asks while rolling her eyes in what seems to be annoyed expression.

"We call her Big Fat Lady-"

"-but you can call her Lady if you want."

"THAT'S MEAN!" Stella immediately yells, hands quivering. "You're not supposed to be calling girls fat! Because that gets them mad and hurts their self.... e-... Eh..."

Todd holds up a finger. "Esteem."

"Yeah!" Stella's face glows with righteous fury, speaking her next word with as much emphasis and finality as a Scyther about to decapitate someone's head. "Esteem."

Both boys blink. "So?" they speak up in unison.

"Lady doesn't care." Guy pats her again. "Do you, Lady?"

A grunt.

"See! See!" Both boys are grinning with triumph. "She doesn't care."

"Besides," Luke continues smoothly, "we dunno if she's a girl anyway."

...

What's worse, you wonder, being a girl and being called fat, or being a boy and being called a girl?

"Haven't... er... your parents looked?" Todd gestures to Lady with his hands, looking for once more than a bit ruffled.

"Well, yeah." Guy hesitates, his brows furrowing. "But they gave up. But we think we know how to tell, though."

"Tell?" Stella's eyes are wide.

Both twins exchange glances and smile, a very proud one that’s alike to someone who’s just found jackpot at the end of the rainbow. They lean towards Stella, slowly, deliberately, obviously savoring each passing second. You inch a little closer, trying to get into a better hearing range - as you're curious despite yourself. This sends Ian tumbling out from his hiding place. Squealing, he makes a near-flying grab for the surprisingly not yet empty Capri Sun that fell with him, before dragging himself and it onto your shoulder, then on top of your head. You suppose he does that because he fancies your hear good cover. He watches the twins from his perch suspiciously.

Guy's blue eyes dart furtively from left to right as he leans in further, closer to Stella's ear. He pauses a moment for dramatic effect, voice lowering in volume and tone. "You see, the secret is" --Both boys are ignoring everyone except Stella again, and she leans foward, listening intently-- "You have to look in a special place if you wanna check if it's a boy or girl."

Stella looks really curious now. Diane looks like she just wants to leave the premises and never come back.

"For Lady," Guy whispers, "we think it's her mouth."

Stella's head robotically snaps over to where Lady is. As if on cue, the Gulpin yawns. Stella's eyes are locked on Big Fat Lady's throat, and you can't help but try to get a look inside, too. Call it curiosity.

Stella scowls, craning her head to try to get a better look down Big Fat Lady's throat as another yawn ripples through the rotund creature like a sudden gust of wind. "I can't see anything special."

"That's because it's really far down."

"That's what we think anyway."

"We'd stick our head in with a flashlight to try and see for ourselves," Guy explains, poking Lady absently, "but I think she'd swallow us whole if we did."

"She'd eat you?"

"Yeah, accidentally, I guess. She likes to eat anything."

"Anything?" you ask gruffly, allowing your voice to carry your disbelief.

The twins nod. "Anything."

"Watch." Guy picks up his empty juice pouch, lying on the ground just behind him. He stretches out his hand. "Open up, Lady."

It takes the Gulpin a few moments to respond. Her eyes lazily drift upwards to the juice pack. She studies it for a few seconds, before slowly opening up her mouth, snapping it shut as Guy drops it (yellow straw and all) into her awaiting cavernous maw. She doesn't even chew. All you can hear is a strange bubbling sound followed by a deep, airy sigh of contentment.

From his spot on your right shoulder Ian whimpers at the loss, latching on to Stella's drink all the more fiercely, sucking at it only to find it empty two seconds later. In his distress, Ian starts beating the dilapidated container rapidly against your head. You fight the urge to grab it from him.

Thwap thwap thwap

You look up, annoyance breaking through your calm exterior.

He stops for a moment, his appearance as innocent as he can make it with a bright yellow straw stuck in his mouth.

"She eats plenty of other stuff too," one of the brothers tells you - though he's telling it more to Stella, and you're too busy trying to tear the Berry Blast away from Ian's covetous hold to care. "Because she's our house's garbage disposal. We fed her our mother's vase, once, even. We accidentally broke it when we were playing, so we had to get rid of it somehow, so we fed it to Lady. We mostly feed her nice smelling things, though, because she always smells like what she eats."

"Really?" Todd says. "How fascinating... Imagine the things I could do with one of those Gulpin!"

Stella's eyes brighten, but under the sparkle is a malicious, conniving darkness. "We could feed Lavender to it."

"Sorry, but I don't think Pokémon sacrifices are allowed in this day and age... as eh.. intriguing as that would undoubtedly be." He sounds sincerely wishful. "Say... how much would it cost to import one of those things from Hoenn?"

Both boys place their chins in their hands, pondering. You take the moment of quiet to finally seize Ian’s weapon away. "Umm..." Guy hesitates. "... not much."

Diane's green eyes constrict. "Define 'not much'."

You quickly find out that their definition of 'not much' is happens to be 'much', much more expensive than your definition.

+++++++

You open your eyes lazily as the August sun sends forth its gentle, warm waves of sunlight upon you. You're curled up under the shade of a tree (the big one that still has the Tauros pinned to it) allowing yourself to lounge in the patches of shade and sunlight, spread across the grass. You feel tired, and you think it's because of the sun. Although you began to feel rather lethargic after seeing Lady yawn so many times. You have no objections though. There's just something about drowsing your life away in the crisp sunlight that's so relaxing and lulling.

Ian has no objections either, curled up into a very tiny ball on top of your hair. His lust for Capri Sun has apparently been sated. (And only after he had gotten his little mouth on Luke's. And that was only after the person in question bribed him with it.) You think Ian's okay with the twins now.

Both Stella, Guy, and Luke are just a little less than ten feet away from you. Stella is trying to avoid being badgered by the two boys, as they ramble on about --in your very humble opinion -- nothing of any particular interest.

"Come on, Stella, play with me!"

"No, play with me! It'll be fun. I promise!"

Stella looks just about as thrilled as a Growlithe told to go and drown itself in a swimming pool. Both boys have taken hold of an arm, and they seem to be occupying themselves in a game of pseudo-tug-of-war... which you're glad you're not participating in.

With a growl of frustration, Stella rips her right hand away from Guy, stumbling at the effort. "I don't wanna play with you."

This sends Luke into a fit of boisterous, mad laughter, clutching Stella's wrist in his right hand tightly, while pointing at Guy with his other. "HAHAHA! See! She doesn't want to play with you, she wants to play with me!"

Stella turns on him, scowling all the more fiercely, giving Luke a look she usually reserves for crazy men. "Well, I don't want to play with you either!" With a tug, she pulls her wrist out of Luke's firm, but soft grip. "I wanna play with Daddy!"

Both boys look flabbergasted, looking at each other in bewilderment. Stella seizes the opportunity to take off running. It takes the twins a full five seconds to recover, before they dart off in rabid pursuit.

Uncle Todd and Diane are just off to the left of you, enjoying the other side of the tree. They seem to be having a far more interesting conversation that you've drifted in and out listening to.

"Rejected at the same time. Ouch." Uncle Todd winces sympathetically, though there is a certain quality of pride and fondness in his voice. "To think my little princess has two little rich kids on her hook already."

"I'd hate to date twins," Diane mumbles, looking quite sleepy herself, "because you'd have to choose one or the other sooner or later."

"Well..." Todd grins that scary grin again, though you're almost too drowsy to notice. "That's not quite true."

Diane's face turns sour. "Dad..."

"Technically," he begins, without so much as missing a beat. "It's called polyandry -"

"And technically, Dad," Diane snaps roughly back, "you're a moron."

"You're just jealous because Stella had a better love life than you," he counters in a good-natured, playful tone, obviously enjoying the banter... though perhaps a little too much.

Diane shakes her head. She looks everything but jealous. "Not really." Her dry, dull tone becomes more deep and bored by the second. "In fact, I intend to stay single for the rest of my life."

"And why would that be?"

Diane spares her father a very withering glance that tells him that he should know exactly why. "Because men" - she breathes in - "are stupid."

"And that's what's called a generalization! Not all men are ignorant bea-"

"Well, the men I've seen are," Diane growls, shooting a very pointed glance in her father's direction. "You don't help much in that respect, Dad."

Todd sighs dramatically, throwing his hands over his heart and assuming a very (fake looking) wounded expression. "I'm hurt. My dear teenage daughter wounds me!"

Diane's expression tells you that she could really care less. "I can tell. It's written all over your face."

"You're going to end regretting the things you say some day, you know." Again, Todd is acting a bit on the dramatic side. Your vision begins to blur in and out. You yawn.

"I highly doubt it." Diane's face is still an emotionless slate, but you know her well enough to doubt that Diane will ever regret anything. And if she ever did, she wouldn't admit it even after being interrogated by a horde of highly trained Aipom ninjas -- the ones that fight the Poké Rangers all the time.

"You will one day, mark my words," your uncle says, lifting up his arms until they behind his head as your eyes drift closed, and sleep takes its magnetic hold. "Why, what if something terrible happened to me the next day? Like... if I died --"

"Then I'd bury you."
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