"Family" - by regalwizard

The day started out like any other. I woke up Ken, Kyry, and Zapo, got them fed, and myself ready for work. I was volunteering at the pound, as always. Ken was going to visit his friends in the Haunted Woods, Kyry was off to the Fairieland petpet shop, and Zapo was going to Neopia Central to continue his perusal of the Neopedia. As they headed out the door, I grabbed my purse, threw my cloak on, and headed to the pound.

On my way there, I met up with Cleo and her blue Kougra, Mona_Lisa, or Lisa for short. Now, Cleo wasn't a newbie, by any means. She and Lisa had been in Neopia for over a year, and enjoyed every minute of it. However, Cleo was never able to make much money. Oh, she had several jobs, and Lisa was always at the employment agency, but it never seemed to help. I could never figure out why. They didn't have a Neohome, and never bought anything major (i.e. faeries, codestones, paintbrushes, etc). But whatever the reason, they always had very little, and certainly never had enough to adopt another Neopet. Which was a shame, for although Lisa loved being with Cleo, and had lots of Neofriends, she'd always wanted a sibling.

We got to the pound, and Cleo and Lisa went into the back to help take care of the pets that were awaiting adoption. I worked more in the front, with the people looking to adopt (or disown). I've never figured out why I was assigned to the front. After all, with my lock of near-white hair against a head of dark brown, and my red cloak and black clothes, many have said that I look scarier then Dr Death! But, there I was, dealing with hopeful Neopians looking to find their newest best friend (or family member), and distraught people having to give up their pets, for innumerable reasons. My job in this whole mess was to comfort the distraught, and guide the hopefuls into making a wise decision. (You'd be amazed at the number of people that pick a pet based purely on stats, colour, species, and/or gender). There was a fairly steady flow of pets going out and pets coming in, so no one pet was ever in for more then a month at anyone time. Except for Derek. Poor Derek was a brown Eyrie, who, for some strange reason, nobody wanted; for all that he was an excellent Neopet, with a great personality. He had been in the pound for over three months, and not one person had even considered adopting him.

'But today will be different.' I thought to myself. 'Today, he's coming home with me.'

I knew the others would be thrilled to have him join our family. It would take some adjusting, but nothing that we couldn't handle. Things went smoothly, as always, for most of the day. Then, as my shift was approaching its end, a snobby woman with a very snobby Aisha came in, looking to adopt. They went up and down the rows, looking at the various pets, consulting with each other every step of the way. Perfectly normal. Then, they came to Derek's run. And they stopped. As one, they stared at Derek, stared at each other, and then turned to me.

"We'll take him." The woman said.

Something in her voice grated my nerves. And Derek's, it seemed, for his hackles went up, and he backed up in a defensive position. I looked at her and the Aisha, and then looked at Derek.

"Alright. Would you like to take a few minutes to see how he feels about you? Maybe get to know each other a bit first?"

"No. There's no need to do that."

"Why not?"

"Well, not that it's any of your concern, but I'm going to make that ugly brown Eyrie into a beautiful red Aisha, just like my Precious here."

She beamed at the Aisha next to her, who smirked smugly. Upon hearing this, Derek let out a tremendous roar of fury and fright, causing all the workers to come rushing in to see what was wrong. I, in the mean time, lost my cool. Now, to work in the pound with the myriad of people that come thru there every day, one must have massive amounts of patience, which I did. However, when it ran out, I had a temper worse then anything in all of Neopia. While the woman and I got into an extremely heated argument, Cleo, being the first one there, quickly got Derek out of his run, to take him to safety in the back. But, with the number of people and Neopets crowded into the room, it was impossible for them to move.

Soon, the argument was about a hairs-width from turning physical, and people were already calling the Chia Police. But then, just when I thought I was going to flatten the arrogant woman, I heard a laugh. Not an angry laugh, not sad, nor was it malicious. More like the laugh of two siblings playing together. Looking around, I saw Derek and Lisa, oblivious to everyone else, playing with a blue Poogle Plushie, and having a great time. I looked at Cleo, then at the woman, who had also noticed this.

"He's playing with a Kougra?!" she exclaimed in disgust. "No amount of morphing potions is going to fix that! Come Precious, we're leaving this filthy place."

And with that, she turned on her heel and left, the Aisha in tow. Looking back at Cleo, Lisa, and Derek, I saw a family. One that, sadly, would never be. Unless…

"Cleo, Lisa, Derek." I called. "Come with me."

Puzzled, they followed me up to the front desk, where Rosie sat, calm and poised as ever. I leaned over the desk and spoke with Rosie for a minute, and told her my idea. Her eyes lit up with delight at the thought. Within minutes, the small stack of papers was filled out, and the 90NP needed was passed across, traded for a green collar. I turned to the still puzzled trio. Walking over, I carefully fastened the collar around Derek's neck, and handed Cleo a sheet of paper.

"It is my honour, and privilege, to inform you, Cleo, that you are now the sole owner of one Derek329. Derek, you now have a new owner. I trust that the two of you will get along quite well, and I sincerely hope that we never see you within our runs ever again."

As one, Cleo, Lisa, and Derek gaped at me, unable to speak. Swallowing quickly, Cleo looked at Rosie, who nodded her head reassuringly with a smile. The next thing I knew, I was in a three-way tackle/hug. As they walked home, I heard Lisa say:

"Cleo, can we go to Mystery Island tomorrow?"

Followed quickly by Derek's:

"Mystery Island? But I wanna go to Terror Mountain."

With a quiet smile, I grabbed my purse, threw on my cloak, and headed home to my family.

Author's note: All characters named here are purely fictional. Any similarities with real pets and/or owners is entirely coincidental. And no, I do not dislike Aishas, so please don't flame me.