Oh, how nice it was out here… The sand on his bare feet, the sun warming his tentacles… His eyes were closed, but he could hear others around him, chatting, laughing, having fun. Yes, it was a great time to -
Inkley woke with a start as something slapped against the side of his head. He leapt up to his feet, his cheeks flushed and his tentacles rippling.
"Wh-what?!" Inkley sputtered, blinking the sleep from his eyes and casting about worriedly. All he saw, however, was a taller form looming over him.
Jet smirked down at Inkley, her arms crossed. "Have a nice nap, Squirt?"
Inkley frowned at the nickname, his cheeks burning brighter and the flash of colors atop his head only intensifying. He looked up at his sister expectantly. Jet was eighteen, and much taller than Inkley, even taller than other inklings her age. Her tentacles were a deep shade of purple, and her clothing matched. She wore a purple hoodie, black, skin-tight shorts, a pair of white sneakers, and a blue headband that kept her tentacles tucked close to her head. Her bangs hung over the left side of her face, hiding one of her dark blue eyes.
"What?" Inkley asked, rubbing at the spot where he had been slapped.
Jet shook her head, her smirk only seeming to grow. "C'mon, kid. It's one in the afternoon. No time for napping."
Inkley mimicked Jet's posture, crossing his arms and glaring up at her. "I can do what I want. I'm not just a squid anymore!"
Jet's smirk shifted into a grin, and she reached out and rustled Inkley's tentacles. "Yeah. Squirt's all grown up now, eh? A big boy, ready to take on the world?"
Inkley's cheeks burned, and he huffed indignantly. "Quit makin' fun of me."
"Oh, chill out, Squirt." Jet said with a laugh and a shrug. "C'mon, we're going out for lunch." Without waiting for a response, Jet turned and walked towards the door of her apartment.
Inkley blinked the surprise away. "What?"
Jet stopped, and looked over her shoulder. "Lunch, dweeb. You know. Second meal of the day? Some friends are having lunch at Fishy Frank's, and they invited us."
"Well, hang on, I gotta ink!" Inkley called, rushing to the bathroom.
"All you do is ink! Your eyes are bigger than your bladder!"
After relieving himself, Inkley washed his hands and splashed his face with cold water. With a deep sigh, he dried his face with a nearby towel, and looked into the mirror. Scrunching his features up, Inkley made a face at his reflection and grinned into his own blue eyes.
Inkley blinked when he realized his tentacles were discolored. Furrowing his brow, Inkley watched as his tentacles turned their usual yellow-green with a thought. Smiling, Inkley reached into his pocket, took out a small band, and busied himself with tying his longest tentacles up and behind his head as he walked back to Jet.
"Lookin' good, Squirt." Jet told him, shooting him a thumbs-up and opening the door. "All the girls will be head-over-heels for ya." She added with a slap on the back.
Inkley felt a little bit of heat rise in his cheeks and knew his tentacles were rippling, but for once in his life, felt a little more confident. Inkley hadn't spent much time out and about in Inkopolis, especially in his new body. But a growling stomach and a grinning sister simply had a way of persuading him.
Inkley's gait was somewhat awkward as he followed Jet, and on more than one occasion, Jet had to stop and help her brother up onto his feet. She didn't poke at him like usual while they walked, instead offering quiet reassurance. The first time Inkley had tripped, he was sure the whole city was watching him, but after a moment he realized no one seemed to even glance in his general direction. Still, he was thankful his shoes were black, or else they'd be covered in scuffs already.
I guess everyone's as wobbly as I am when they first start out. Inkley shrugged the thought away, and hopped after Jet, nearly stumbling again but catching himself for the first time. "Hey! Wait up!" he called after her as she slipped inside an open door.
Inkley rushed after Jet, suddenly very scared of getting lost. Rounding the corner, Inkley expected to see Jet in the distance, but was instead greeted by a face-full of neon pink. Bouncing off of someone, the young inkling tumbled backwards, falling right onto his rear. Inkley tried to blink away a daze, looking up to see who he just ran into.
Yet, before he could focus, he was hauled off his feet by a surprisingly strong set of hands. He heard a delighted squeal, and was pressed back into the same pink he had just rebounded off of. "Inkley! Oh my gosh, you're soooo cute now!"
Finally released, Inkley took a step back and looked up. Synthia's beaming face looked down to greet him. Once more, Inkley felt himself blush and his tentacles ripple in color. Synthia reached down and pinched Inkley's cheek.
Synthia was a bright and bubbly Inkling, just a year younger than Jet, but a few inches shorter. Her tentacles, tied into a fairly complicated braid behind her head, were bright pink. Her eyes, a striking orange, contrasted strongly with the colors she wore. A pink jacket, open at the front to show a white shirt beneath, covered her torso, while a pair of purple shorts hugged her legs, and pink hi-tops were snug on her feet, which never seemed to sit still.
Inkley endured Synthia's treatment like he always did, though he was always a squid before. It was much easier to hide his embarrassment as a squid. Mumbling a half-hearted greeting, Inkley had his eyes firmly fixed on his shoelaces while Jet's best friend fawned over him.
"You know, Jet told me you turned fourteen, but I didn't want to believe it! I thought, oh no, my sweet little Inkley won't be cute like he was when he's all squidy!" Synthia said, finally releasing Inkley's cheek. "But you're even cuter, with your pinchable cheeks, and your adorable little arms and legs."
Jet chuckled at Synthia's exuberance, but shook her head and gave her friend a playful swat on the shoulder. "Alright Synth, leave Squirt alone for a bit. He can barely stand up yet."
Synthia made her disappointment clear with an extended "aww", but shuffled out of the way as yet another figure approached.
The next inkling was tall like Jet, but had a much more masculine frame. His tentacles were dark blue, and hung loosely around his head. He wore a matching zip-up hoodie, and, despite current fashions - and the recent heat-wave - black pants. He also wore a pair of heavy, dark red boots that resounded loudly with each step he took. He sent a quick glance at Inkley with his dark green eyes, and adjusted the black backpack that was casually slung over one shoulder.
"Hey babe," Zoom said, casually pecking Jet on the lips. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and looked at Inkley. "Hey, little man. Lookin' fresh for how new you are."
Inkley scrunched up his face and made a disgusted sound. "Do you have to do that in front of me? It's gross! I don't need to see some dude sucking my sister's face."
Zoom laughed and shrugged. "You should - oomph!" He was cut off as Jet delivered a swift elbow to his stomach.
"You," Jet hissed, "should go sit down before you say something dumb." Rubbing his stomach, Zoom rolled his eyes and turned to walk away. Jet shook her head, and patted Inkley's shoulder. "You know Zoom, Squirt. He's an idiot." She leaned down and smirked. "I only keep him around because he's pretty."
Inkley snorted at Jet, and looked past her. "Where are we?" He wondered aloud.
Jet blinked, looking very confused for a moment, before slapping her palm against her forehead! "Oh, crap! Right! You've never been out before, Squirt. C'mere, you should meet someone."
Looking around for the first time since he entered, Inkley realized this was some kind of restaurant. Booths lined the outside wall, while the middle of the room was dominated by a large counter with several stools sitting in front of it. Behind the counter was an older, friendly-looking jellyfish. Jet was standing at the counter, and waved for Inkley to approach.
Inkley approached, unabashedly staring at the jellyfish. Jet gave her brother a slap on the back to break him out of his haze.
"Fishy Frank, this is Inkley." Jet said, motioning to her brother. "Squirt, this is Fishy Frank."
The jellyfish peered over the counter at Inkley. "Hey, bud. Your sister's talked a lot about you." When Inkley cast an unsure glare at Jet, the jellyfish just laughed and shook his head. "Nothing that bad, kiddo. She's been comin' here since she's had legs, and she's always had a few good words to say about you. What was it..?" Apparently having forgotten, Frank shrugged. "A lot of it would sound better comin' out of Synthia's mouth."
Inkley blinked, and looked at Jet. His older sister's cheeks were flushed, and her hair just barely rippled from purple to pink.
"Riiight…" Jet said quickly. "So, Frank, let's just get the usual, yeah?"
Fishy Frank gave a nod. "You got it." He waved to the siblings as they left the counter.
"Fishy Frank makes the best pizza this side of Inkopolis, Squirt." Jet said, giving Inkley a nudge for emphasis. "You won't be disappointed."
The siblings approached the booth where Zoom and Synthia had taken a seat. Jet slid into the seat beside Zoom, and he immediately slipped an arm around her waist. Inkley was pulled into the seat beside Synthia, once again having his cheek mangled by the bubbly inkgirl. After a few moments passed and the group settled in, the three older inklings got to talking about the kinds of things Inkley was always told he wouldn't understand. Resting his cheek on his fist, Inkley settled into a haze, counting the specks on the table and listening to the Squid Sisters song Fishy Frank had playing over a radio on his counter.
Inkley didn't quite know how long he sat like that, but he was startled enough to jump when a pretty inkgirl with striking green eyes set down a steaming pizza on their table. The girl simply smiled at him and walked away. Inkley took his hand away from his face, and realized that he undoubtedly left a mark. He placed his open palm over the red spot in hopes of hiding it while it went away.
While Inkley was busy contemplating his own face, the others had already begun eating. Five slices were gone by the time Inkley realized his folly, and he pulled a slice out while he still could. It was loaded with a thick layer of cheese, and covered in anchovies. Inkley gave it a quick sniff, before testing the waters with a small bite. And another. Before Inkley knew it, he had polished off the whole slice and was reaching for another.
"So, Inkley," Zoom said, finishing his third slice of pizza. "Now that you're all grown up, what're you gonna do with yourself?"
Inkley looked at Zoom blankly, his mouth hanging slightly open. "What?" He asked, his mouth still half-full.
"Well, you can't just spend all your time loitering, silly." Synthia added. "Now that you can move without inking everywhere, you've got to go out and do things!"
Inkley swallowed, and realized he didn't quite know what to say. "I… I dunno." He said quietly. "I haven't thought about it."
Zoom looked as if he were about to reply, but something seemed to catch his eye. A grin broke out on his face, and he nudged Jet with his elbow. "Hey, look who it is!"
All three of the older Inklings seemed firmly fixed on something outside. Inkley leaned over the table to get a better view, and only saw a group of inklings all wearing orange.
"Is that Cherry?" Jet asked. Without waiting for an answer, Jet jumped to her feet and rushed towards the door. "We'll pay the bill in a few, Frank!" Jet called as an afterthought.
Zoom was next, following after Jet with his bag slung over his shoulder.
Synthia just giggled and nudged Inkley out of the booth. "Well, get a move on, silly!"
With little choice, Inkley followed Zoom, exiting the restaurant, with Synthia on his heels. Jet was tightly hugging the one inkgirl in the group that wasn't wearing orange. Her tentacles were a deep crimson, and she wore a bright red hoodie and black pants.
"Cherry, I haven't seen you in, like, a week!" Jet said, grinning curiously. "Where have you been?"
Cherry suddenly looked guilty. "Oh… You know. Around. I had the ink-flu for a few days, too. I just got over it a few days ago." She motioned to the group of orange-clad inklings she was with. There were five, not counting Cherry, all around the same age, seeming to be fifteen or sixteen. "You've heard of the Tentacled Tangerines, right?"
Jet paused, looking cautiously at the group. "The Turf-War team? Yeah…"
"W-well, I'm kinda-sorta dating one of their members now…"
Jet smiled at Cherry. "Really? That's great!" Jet wrapped an arm around Cherry's shoulder in an almost possessive manner. "Maybe our teams can practice together sometime! That'd be great for us."
Cherry smiled nervously. "Y-yeah, that'd be fun!" Changing the topic quick, she motioned to the gathered, orange-clad inklings. "Here, let me introduce everyone!"
Zoom stood off to the side, arms crossed, looking a little annoyed at being left out. Synthia moved to join Jet and Cherry, and was welcomed into their cluster without delay. Inkley stood away from the ground, hands stuffed into his pockets as he awkwardly watched the group. Their shirts weren't just matching, Inkley realized after a moment, they were stylish, too. In the center of each shirt was the group's namesake, a tangerine with a duo of tentacles sticking out from either side. Seeing their coordination and style suddenly made Inkley very aware of his lack of either of those traits. Removing his hands from his pockets, he crossed his arms over his plain white shirt, hoping dearly to keep eyes off of himself.
Glancing over the group, one particular inkgirl caught Inkley's eye. Seeming to be just an inch or two taller than Inkley himself, the girl had bright orange tentacles that matched her shirt, and hung loosely around her head. At a glance, Inkley assumed she was just a little older than he was, maybe by a year or so. She wore a pair of the black, skin-tight shorts that were so popular in Inkopolis lately, as well as a pair of white and black sneakers. A duffel bag sat at her feet, looking quite full. What struck Inkley the most, however, were her eyes, which were some of the darkest he had ever seen, almost pure black.
Inkley couldn't help but gawk at the girl. He was suddenly very glad that Jet and Synthia were distracting Cherry, who was, in-turn, distracting the whole team, lest someone catch him staring at her. She's really pretty, was the only thought Inkley could manage for nearly half a minute.
Inkley tuned into Cherry's words as she approached the girl he had just been staring at. "-and this here is, uh…. Their newest member, Luma."
Luma gave Jet and Synthia a half-hearted wave.
Five minutes later, Jet had ushered her group back into Fishy Frank's, while the Tentacled Tangerines and Cherry remained outside, loitering for reasons unknown. Inkley had taken the seat closest to the window, so he could steal glances at Luma while her team was still outside. Once again, Inkley settled into a haze, taking every opportunity to glance out the window while the older inklings talked about whatever it was they were talking about.
But then something happened outside that forever changed Inkley's life. Luma appeared as if she had just had some kind of revelation, and looked down at her duffel bag. Inkley lost sight of everything else as Luma turned around, and the world seemed to slow down as she stooped over to rifle through her bag, leaving her rear sticking up in the air.
Ink me, those shorts…
Time seemed to go on forever as Inkley watched. Until he felt a thump on the side of his head.
Inkley turned back to the table with a start, and realized, with more than a little shame, that Jet, Zoom, and Synthia were staring at him.
"Wipe the drool from your mouth," Jet told him. Absentmindedly, Inkley reached up to wipe his mouth, and only when Zoom and Jet roared with laughter did he realize he wasn't actually drooling. "Holy crap! You were so checking her out!"
"Oh, Inkley's got a crush!" Synthia said, somehow restraining herself from pinching. "How adorable."
Inkley crossed his arms and looked down at his own lap, very aware that his cheeks were burning and his tentacles were undoubtedly rippling madly in color. After a minute of uproarious laughter, Jet seemed to calm down.
"Look, Squirt. If you're done looking at that girl's butt, I've got a surprise for you." Jet said finally, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. Inkley blinked at her. Jet nudged Zoom, who took his bag from beneath the table and dug through it for a moment. He pulled out a familiar shape, the kind of thing anyone in all of Inkopolis would recognize.
"Is that…?" Inkley began, but the words died on his lips.
Jet nodded, a smirk forming on her lips. "It's my old Splattershot." She said. After a moment, she shrugged. "Well, technically, it's a Splattershot Junior. But that doesn't matter right now. What matters is, I'm giving this to you, Squirt." Jet took it from Zoom's hands, and turned it over in her own. She looked quite nostalgic looking at the old piece of equipment. After a moment, she set it down on the table and slid it over to Inkley.
Inkley took it, almost reverently. Mimicking Jet's movements, he turned it over and over in his hands, running his fingers over every nook and cranny. "Thanks, sis." He said quietly.
Jet smiled softly, reaching over the table and patting Inkley's shoulder. "No prob, Squirt." After a long, quiet moment filled only by staticky music, Jet yawned and stretched. "Well, I'm beat. I think I could go for a nap." Jet glanced at Inkley. "And I bet he wants to fiddle with that thing." Leaning over, Jet gave Zoom a peck on the lips, and stood.
Synthia slid out of her seat to let Inkley out, and she and Jet embraced in a quick hug. "Stay in touch, 'kay?" As Inkley stood and stretched, Synthia rustled his hair and grinned at him. "You too, cutie."
Inkley mumbled a response and nodded absently. Jet ushered her brother towards the door, and just as she was about to leave, a thought occurred to her. She gave Inkley a gentle push out the door, and turned back to her friends.
Locking eyes with Zoom, she smirked. "Hey, babe! Could you get the bill for me? Thanks!" And then she was gone.
For the few seconds Inkley was left alone outside, he felt incredibly uncomfortable. Scanning the street, he realized that Luma was staring right at him. Inkley's mouth suddenly went dry, and he tightened his grip on the Splattershot Jr. he had just been given, as if it would help him feel better. It didn't.
Jet bumped into Inkley as she exited the building, and gave him an encouraging pat on the back as she ushered him down the street. Even walking away, Inkley swore he could feel eyes boring a hole into the back of his head.
Hello! I'm going to try and not make a habit of making author's notes like this. First of all, thanks for reading, and please excuse (and correct) any inaccuracies. I don't actually own a copy Splatoon (or a Wii-U… heh), but I'm working on getting it. I just couldn't help writing this, because it looks fantastic! Secondly, since I'm trying to cover the topic of growing up, this story will have a lot of puberty-related content, so, uh… Look out for that. Thanks again!