I received more stares than usual that morning as I walked down to the bathing stream. Some of the stares were nervous, others curious, and a pawful of males seemed unable to look away. I ignored them all. I don't think anyone was sure who I was, since white fur as an Eevee and blue Umbreon rings didn't really seem to be connected. The ring color wasn't even that obvious unless someone was looking carefully or if the rings were glowing.

When I reached the stream, I was relieved to see that almost no one was there this morning. I wandered over to the edge of the water and studied my reflection for a few minutes. As much as I had liked the look of me as an Eevee, I absolutely adored my present look. My eyes had retained the softness they had as an Eevee, even if the eyes were red in color. It wasn't quite the terrifying red shade of the Umbreon patroller in the clan, but instead shone with a subtle allure. I giggled to myself, shaking my head. Was I vain for admiring myself? Mhm...did it matter? I had evolved last night, I should be given the chance to look myself over and admire the finer features of my new form. Alister had called me beautiful, but to build my confidence, I should be able to agree with him.

Bathing took me a little longer than normal, due to being larger than an Eevee, but grooming was much easier. My Umbreon fur is a bit shorter than an Eevee's, and lacks the collar of fluffy fur around my neck. However, I don't like that an Umbreon secretes some sort of thin layer of sweat. I'm going to blame that on courting season, because that's what the scent of it reminded me of. Admittedly, it wasn't greasy or sticky like regular sweat, and it added a bit of a shine to my fur, but the scent was bugging me. Umbreon senses are way stronger than I was used to. I could hear someone approaching before I could even see them, and smell them too. Hmm...I'd say it was definitely male and most likely a Flareon.

"Ahem." Sure enough, there was the sound of a throat being cleared. I looked up briefly and saw the Flareon clan leader. I only gave a nod of acknowledgement and continued grooming. I could feel his eyes on me, but chose to ignore him. He was probably just confused by my lack of attention, but he wouldn't start talking. Finally, I growled and looked up again.

"Don't stare at me while I'm grooming!" I snapped. His eyes narrowed.

"Who are you?"

"Darkness," I growled. The Flareon frowned for a moment.

"You evolved?"

"Last night."

"I see. Into an Umbreon, hmm..." he walked around me, looking me over critically on all sides. If I didn't know he was already mated to the Espeon clan leader, I'd have bitten him for being in my personal space and eyeing me like that. As it was, I chose to only glare at him. I'd never get away with that look if I was still an Eevee, but the Flareon ignored it.

"Take two paces back!" I snapped finally, when the fire Eon showed no sign of giving me more personal space. To my surprise, he complied without argument, and even apologized. What the hell was going on?

"Please come find me when you are finished here," he said calmly, turning and walking away. I stared at his back, but shrugged. Eevee that recently evolved were often called to meet with the clan leaders and given some additional responsibility or some form of social promotion. That's probably what he wanted me for. I sighed and stretched, my blue rings glowing gently as I did so. I looked at the glowing bands for a moment. Why had they glowed now, rather than earlier this morning? Was it because I had stretched? I tested this theory, but the rings didn't react to the motions this time. Eh, whatever. Maybe the glowing didn't mean anything.

It wasn't hard to find the Flareon again, because he was among the small assembly of other Eons that made up the higher ranked Pokémon in the clan. Not sure what an Eevee's doing with them, but whatever. Maybe some Eevee are given higher status, but no one really notices them compared to the evolved Eons. I don't care about the clan's political side, anyway.

"You wanted to see me?" I asked, sighing softly. The Flareon nodded, clearing his throat to gain the attention of the other Eons and the Eevee.

"I'm sure we all remember Darkness," he said to them, gesturing a paw towards me. Several of the clan leaders blinked at me, the Espeon speaking first.

"Congratulations." Her sentiments were echoed by several of the others, until the Flareon coughed into his paw, silencing them.

"I suppose we also know how rare it is for many Eevee to become an Espeon or an Umbreon."

"What are you implying?" I interrupted, glaring at the fire type.

"Such an evolution does not come out of the blue," the Flareon answered.

"No pun intended, no doubt," the Umbreon patroller commented, studying my rings. There was a fair amount of appreciative laughter and chuckling at this. The Flareon scowled, calming when the Espeon shot him a look. She didn't speak, but the red gemstone on her forehead glowed subtly in the sunlight. He nodded to her and she smiled, stepping to the front of the group.

"What he means is that we're very happy for your evolution, but would like to know who has played a role in your change," the Espeon said, her tone soft and casual. "Most often it's a close friend, a sibling, or a mate that prompts this change." She looked down at herself for a moment, her gaze flicking towards the Flareon.

"Your behavior in recent weeks has not gone unnoticed," the Eevee said. I frowned at him. "You spend an inordinate amount of time alone, have refused nearly every suitor without much consideration, have shown general disregard for authority and rules, and have questioned our practices. Your evolution in these conditions is unusual at best and suspicious at worst."

I narrowed my eyes to slits, the Eevee flinching and falling silent. "And these are BAD things that make it impossible to evolve without being interrogated?"

"What they mean," a Vaporeon leader sighed. "Is that you have showed little inclination towards a mate during the courting season. You don't spend time with others and your demeanor is overall closed. How you underwent an evolution to Umbreon makes no sense against these observations. We are not attacking you for evolving, on the contrary we're happy for you, but we would like some insight into how it happened."

"I was an Eevee one minute, then the next minute, I wasn't," I growled. I don't know what has me this agitated; I knew this would come up and I had been expecting it, but their smug tones pissed me off. What did they know? They acted like they had been tailing me or keeping tabs on me for the last month. So what if I didn't accept the first male who looked at me? So what if I wasn't very sociable lately? I had things on my mind.

"What were you doing last night?" the Jolteon patroller inquired sharply. I flinched. Suddenly, all of them were watching me. I fidgeted under their gaze. "Last night, you evolved, right? What were you doing at the time? Who were you with? Where were you?"

"None of your business," I muttered.

"You bathed this morning?

"Yeah?" I raised an eyebrow at that question.

"Didn't you bathe last night?"

"Are you stalking me? It's none of your business what my grooming habits are!"

"Why would you need to bathe at both night and morning?" the Jolteon pressed. I snapped and bit at the electric type, only to get pounced upon by the Vaporeon and Umbreon, the two of them pinning me easily before I could do any damage. I flailed, trying to get up and actually bite the opposing Jolteon, whose fur had bristled with a growl.

"Hey, hey, hey!" the Espeon said, her fur bristling a little. "Everyone calm down!"

"You can't attack a clan leader or patroller!" the Flareon snapped at me.

"He's being a jerk!" I protested, snarling indignantly. My blue rings had lit up and were glowing brightly, but I didn't pay much attention to that.

"This doesn't count as calming down!" the Espeon said, raising her voice. "Now..." she said, calming as the other quieted down. "Let it go. The rest of you, be on your way. I'll talk to her. Now go."

The others muttered amongst themselves, but obediently departed to their own separate things. The Flareon leader hesitated. "She's a dark type..."

"I can handle it," the Espeon countered promptly. I grunted as the two Eons pinning me walked away, letting me climb to my feet. Jerks. The Flareon still hadn't left. The Espeon frowned. "I can handle you, I'll be fine," she told him. He grunted and walked away. Once they were all gone, the Espeon sat down beside me. "You okay?"

"Hmph," I grunted, grooming irritably.

"Sorry about the rude questioning," she said. I was silent. There's nothing really to say to that. "I respect that you want to keep your mate secret. Heck, my mate and I kept it a secret for a month, even after I evolved."

"What makes you think I have a mate?" I asked, in spite of myself. The Espeon giggled quietly.

"Let's just say it's pretty obvious. Have a good day," she said, turning and walking after the Flareon. I blinked, frowning to myself. How was it 'obvious'? Whatever, they wouldn't find out about Alister, so long as I was careful.

As I predicted, sneaking out of the clan as an Umbreon turned out to be exceedingly easy. The shadows hid my body almost flawlessly from sight and with some practice and patience, I could make my movements almost silent. My increased sense of smell tipped me off about so many things: Pokémon that had passed the area, how long ago they had been there, what direction they were going, and even a few clues about what they were doing. I didn't have to think about most of the signs; they just clicked in my mind. For example, the Umbreon patroller had passed this spot nearly a half-hour ago, moving in the opposite direction that I was. A Rattata had run past less than five minutes ago. Two Eevee...skip that one. And someone, most likely the Rattata, had dropped a Rawst berry not far from this spot.

When I arrived at the hill, I immediately caught a whiff of the Growlithe's scent, the smell causing my heart to pound more rapidly. Ever since I had evolved, Alister's scent had been fixed in my memory. At the peak of the hill, sure enough, I found Alister waiting. I greeted him by playfully tackling him before he was even aware I was there.

"Holy Entei, don't do that, Darkness," he complained once he realized who I was. I nibbled his neck affectionately, prompting a small blush from him. "How've you been?" he asked, relaxing.

"Good. But I was thinking we should meet other places, since I can get around easier," I said. Indeed, I had been thinking about this over the past two nights. My sleep schedule had been disrupted by my evolution and the excitement of my birthday. Sleeping while it was dark was increasingly difficult and my mind was far too alert or overexcited to try. In an attempt to soothe my active mind, I had started daydreaming about Alister, and was thrilled to discover that my stomach didn't feel sick or anxious whenever I thought about him, although my stomach still fluttered at the thought of him, especially the memory of his shiny brown eyes. Was it because I finally knew how he felt about me? I wasn't afraid of him rejecting me because he had already accepted me?

I snapped out of my daze when I realized Alister was talking. "...could meet there, if you want."

"Er...I'm sorry, where?"

"Further from your clan territory, but closer to that human city," Alister said, seeming unbothered by my lack of attentiveness. "It's closer to my pack's location, so I guess we can meet more often if you're going to push for that," he added with a chuckle. I grinned and pecked his cheek. The corners of his mouth twitched. "I'm going to take that as a yes."

"Good idea," I said. The warm fluttering sensation had returned to my stomach and was expanding within me, filling me with the same pleasant warmth I had experienced before I evolved. The Growlithe was so kind and caring when it came to me and I couldn't imagine anyone I'd rather be spending time with.

"Come, let's go take a walk," he suggested, getting up and stretching. My ears perked up. We almost never strayed from this hill, so I pounced on the opportunity to go somewhere else. I followed after Alister, noticing the path around us was lit with a luminous blue glow. After wondering about it for several seconds, I realized that my rings were glowing. I stared at the glowing bands for a few puzzled seconds. Did Umbreon rings glow randomly or did something set them off? They hadn't really been glowing until Alister suggested taking a walk. I could see perfectly in darkness, so it wasn't to light my path. Actually, if Umbreon were traditionally nocturnal predators, wouldn't the glowing be counterproductive?

"What are an Umbreon's rings for?" I blurted aloud. Alister choked on his laughter...somehow. I patted his back until he settled down.

"Thanks...I'm sorry, but...I've never actually heard anyone ask that before," he explained, wiping his eyes.

"I'm guessing you don't know?"

Alister shook his head, chuckling softly, "Not a clue. We're almost there."

"Where are we going?"

"Well, human cities are nice hangouts at night, when it's less crowded," the Growlithe explained. I blinked at him. A human city? I haven't had any close contact with humans, although I knew them on sight. The sight of a location with towering structures immediately felt intimidating, yet the presence of Alister kept me at ease. The closer we drew to the human city, the harder my heart pounded.

"There won't be a lot of humans around, right?" I asked, my voice barely above a whimper. Alister nuzzled me reassuringly.

"You'll be just fine. You're a tough girl, very strong and beautiful," he whispered. I flushed, pleased that my black fur and the darkness hid that fact. The sincerity in his voice was just too good to be anything but straight from a dream, yet somehow I knew it was real. The warmth of his fur, the gentleness in his shimmering eyes...dreamlike, but so real. Only with him have I ever felt so happy, so at ease. It was a feeling that I had lacked for most of my life, but never knew it wasn't there until I found it. How had I gotten so lucky to find such a handsome, caring Growlithe?

The streets of the city were barren, the light of the moon shining down upon the buildings, yet keeping plenty of the city covered in the comforting darkness that I craved in the unsettling circumstances. Alister led me through the streets as if he owned the alleys, his confidence allowing me to slowly relax. He occasionally changed direction and went a different way, as if he was searching for something and had abruptly remembered it was somewhere else. I asked him once or twice where he was going, but he only grinned and said he'd tell me later. If he doesn't tell me soon, I'm biting him.

Luckily for his chances of remaining bite-free, he finally located his destination. "Here we are!"

"And that is?" I asked. Nothing here seems different from the other dozen roads we had walked along. Alister blinked and pointed a paw towards the nearest building. I looked at the building, then at him, then back at the building. "I don't get it," I told him blankly.

"Come on in," Alister insisted and walked through the entranceway. I followed hesitantly, immediately getting the sense that this shouldn't be allowed. Alister grinned at my expression. "A buddy of mine watches the place at night. Don't worry about it."

"Easy for you to say," I muttered, my rings flashing. We seemed to be inside some sort of...junk filled building. "THIS is what you wanted me to see? I'm so biting you." I stepped towards him.

"You're what?" Alister asked, backing away nervously. I kept walking towards him and he laughed nervously, backing away quickly, knocking a few items of junk from their positions as he scrambled to create some distance between us. I could no longer keep a straight face as I pursued him, the chase quickly becoming a game that ended when I knocked the Growlithe into a shelf, sending the contents onto his head. "Ow," he muttered, looking rather dazed.

"Ooh, what's this?" I asked, studying a small object that had bounced off his head.

"I'm just having a concussion, don't worry," Alister muttered.

"Good to know," I said distantly, poking the object curiously. It was blue in color, a brighter shade than my rings, and rectangular in shape. I sniffed it curiously, and the most amazing scent bombarded my senses. It was fragrant and powerful, but not overpowering. I inhaled deeply, my attention to the object drawing Alister's curiosity.

"What is this?" he asked, picking it up and turning it over. "Some kind of soap," he muttered.


"Yeah, soap. People use it to get clean when they bathe," Alister said with a shrug. "I usually use fire. Works better."

"For you, it would," I muttered. He's a fire type. "What would I use for the same effect? Umbreon sweat."

"I think the sweat's poisonous, so it kills gunk for you?" Alister suggested.

"But it feels greasy and smells weird," I complained, swiping the soap from him and smelling it. A purr left my throat as I inhaled the scent. "Not like this...I'd kill to smell like this," I murmured, growling for absolutely no reason.

Alister quickly backed up, hitting the shelf again. "Fine, keep the soap."

"I think I will," I said, scooping the bar into the small package it had fallen out of. I then picked up the package with my teeth. I growled playfully at the Growlithe, grinning when he flinched. Shaking my head, I quickly left the building, Alister a few paces behind me.

Over the course of next few days, I caught myself almost constantly dreaming about Alister, both at night and during the day. Unlike the days before he confessed his feelings for me, these dreams soothed me, rather than upset me. Kira often complained that my rings were keeping her awake at night and that if I didn't turn them off, she was going to sleep somewhere else. I shut her up by asking about her cuddling buddies. She was still covering for my nightly meetings with Alister, or at least claiming she was still covering for me. I'm not sure if anyone's questioning her, or even if anyone has noticed my absences.

I don't really care. Everything was so dream-like and almost perfect, really.

But every so often, dreams end badly.

It was the morning following one of my outings with Alister, some three weeks or so after I had evolved. It was a bright morning, the sun shining brightly in a cloudless sky. Such a treacherous weather condition. I had gone down to the bathing stream, as per my routine. I was, however, quite alarmed to find no less than four of the clan leaders waiting for me. I know it was me they were after because I was immediately approached by the Umbreon patroller, but the real warning sign was the fact the Umbreon started sniffing me suspiciously. The yellow ringed canine's fur bristled when I tried to swat him away and a low, threatening growl rose from his throat.

"What the hell is going on?" I demanded, shoving the Umbreon away from me, ignoring his snarl. Let him try something, I'll kick his stupid tail.

"We finally put two and two together," the Flareon leader said, his tone unnecessarily smug.

"Congratulations, you're geniuses," I said sarcastically.

"If you think it's slipped our notice that you've been sneaking out every few nights, you're wrong. Couldn't be wronger, actually," the Jolteon patroller said from behind me. He and the Umbreon were blocking my path from behind.

"So what?" I growled, praying desperately that my fear wasn't as evident as I felt it was.

"So we've been keeping tabs on you, found a pattern in your bathing habits on the nights you'd sneak out of the clan grounds," the Flareon said, smirking. He glanced at the Umbreon. "The scent of a Growlithe, right?" My heart sank.

"Clear as day," the Umbreon responded.

"Hmm...what would you be doing with a Growlithe's scent in your fur, Darkness?" the Flareon asked in mock wonder. "This isn't the first time you've had this scent, is it?" I was far too stunned to respond, or even come up with an excuse. How had this happened?

"We talked to your Eevee friend last night," the Jolteon added. My heart sank even further. I hadn't had the chance to talk to Kira that morning, in part because she wasn't there when I came back. I assumed she was with her cuddling buddy, but that may not have been the case now. "We asked about your whereabouts and she fed us some Tauros crap."

"Hey, be fair. It was very convincing, but since we already knew most of your activities, it didn't add up and she insisted she was telling the truth. Until we revealed the extent of our knowledge."

"Most amusing look of horror ever," the Umbreon smirked. I glared at them all.

"Why were you watching me?" I demanded, shaking with anger.

"We weren't really, at first, but Jolteon there noticed that any time you took baths at night, no one had seen you for the rest of the night," the Flareon admitted.

"Then we noticed that we could never find you UNLESS you hadn't taken a nightly bath," the Vaporeon said. "So...Umbreon watched you."

"Sicko," I spat.

"Watched you leave, not watched you bathe," the Umbreon rolled his eyes. Not much better.

"We were very displeased to hear you were meeting a Growlithe, Darkness. And that's when the connections started clicking. Sneaking out at night to meet a male of a different specie. You have no known mate and refuse to reveal the identity of the mate we suspect you have, and you evolved one night," the Flareon interrupted.

"You have one chance to answer this question," the Jolteon told me. "What is the HONEST extent of your interaction with this Growlithe?" I narrowed my eyes. This had to be a trick question. If I said we were mates, I'd most likely get exiled. But would admitting it potentially redeem me? If I said we were friends...and if they didn't know otherwise, I'd probably get off the hook. But the real question is...how much DID they know? They said they followed me, but there's no way they could have followed me every time and Alister and I spent most of our time as little more than friends. Most of the time.

"We don't have all day, Darkness. We'll make you this offer. If you are mates with the Growlithe, you're out of here. If you are and you lie, your friend gets her tail kicked out too. If you tell the truth, her lying tail is pardoned. You have fifteen seconds to answer."

"Where's Kira?" I blurted. The Flareon rolled his eyes, but waved a paw vaguely at a spot behind me. I turned and saw Kira sitting beside the Espeon leader, her eyes on the ground. I fidgeted. What did they know? Could I bluff them? No, the Espeon could have read Kira's mind and Kira knew I was mates with Alister, or at least as good as mates. They had to know already. I couldn't let her take the fall for my carelessness. "I...I'm his mate," I muttered inaudibly.

"We couldn't hear that," the Vaporeon said snidely.

"SHUT UP!" I snapped, losing my cool entirely. The Eons tensed, ready to fight. I growled, my rings glowing brightly. "I said I'm his mate, happy?!"

"No," the Flareon said gleefully. Bastard. "You are a disgrace to our clan and a violator of our way of life. You have two hours to say your goodbyes and get your disgraceful tail the hell out of our territory." With this announcement, the Eons turned and walked away, leaving me alone with Kira, who was determinedly staring at the ground.

"I'm s-sorry, D-darkness," Kira whispered, a single tear rolling down her cheek.

"Not your fault," I growled, storming away. I hate this clan. I hate those leaders. I hate them all. Them and their ridiculous rules, their cheap methods of spying on their members. Ugh, I hate them so much. Didn't I deserve enough privacy in my life that they didn't have the right to spy on me?! No, this was a stupid clan, where loving someone results in being thrown out of the only home you know and if you don't accept it, they'll condemn your friend to the same fate. There wasn't anyone here I wanted to say good-bye to. Good riddance to them all. Good-freaking-riddance.

I walked out of the clan grounds, my rings pulsing in my agitation, my mind racing. My life was going to hell; I could feel it with every step I took. I knew the risks, but I never thought it would actually happen. Damn it! I was losing everything and only now did the severity and seriousness of it all fall upon me. I had no home. I had no friends. I had no protectors, no clan to back me up. I was going to be alone, abandoned by my 'family' of Eevee and Eons. Alister would be all I have. Was it worth it, to be rid of those stupid, overbearing rules?

One of the perimeter patrollers gave me an apologetic look as I passed her. The look in her eyes told me she knew what had happened. She muttered a 'good luck' before continuing on her way. I scowled, but didn't reply. This whole clan sucked. I'll be happy once I'm gone. No more sneaking around, no more rules, just freedom to live my life the way I wanted to. But was the cost worth it? I don't know. It doesn't matter; it's too late for that now.

I stopped at the abrupt sound of my name. My ears twitched, trying to find the source of the call, but I couldn't hear anything. Wishful thinking, that's all it was, that someone cared that I was leaving. I started walking again. I needed to find Alister and see what could happen from this point. Images of our possible conversations flashed through my mind, many of them ending with us cuddling together as he tried to reassure me. Even in the aftermath of my simmering anger, I had a flicker of hope burning in my heart.

"Darkness! Wait up!" My ear twitched at the call. Okay, that wasn't wishful thinking, someone really was calling me. I stopped walking, looking around. I grunted when something collided with my side, nearly knocking me over. It took me several seconds to separate myself from the Eevee and see who it actually was.


"Yay, you remembered me," Kira giggled, hugging my leg for some reason.

"What...what are you doing here?"

"Coming with you," Kira answered, looking up at me, her tail swishing.

"What do you mean? You weren't kicked out," I said, frowning. Kira smiled.

"I rather be with you out here than in the clan without you," she told me. I blinked, looking away, my eyes tearing up. That's...so sweet of her. I wiped my eyes hastily, but the tears returned. It was a long time before I could speak again, the Eevee's gesture was just so sweet and touching that I couldn't resist hugging Kira close to me, letting go only when she squirmed.

"Why would you do that for me?" I asked finally. "I mean, you have cuddling buddies and other friends there. It wasn't your fault what happened to me."

Kira's happy expression faltered and she sniffled, looking up at me with shining eyes, "Because...you're my friend, Darkness. What you did back there...you gave yourself up for me. If you lied, you maybe wouldn't have been exiled, but you didn't risk me for that gamble. No one else would ever have done that for me. I know it." She broke down and hugged me, sobbing into my fur. "You shouldn't be alone."

"Kira..." I whispered. Something needed to be said, some sign of gratitude, to show her how I felt, but words failed me. Her name was I could manage, but somehow I felt everything I wanted to say was present in that one word. Kira looked up at me through teary eyes. My throat closed up at the look in her eyes and my heart felt warm. She knew how I felt. We had a connection no one else had with us. Words didn't need to be spoken to convey our feelings.

It was mid-afternoon by the time Kira and I found our way closer to Alister's pack territory. My heightened sense of smell stopped us from getting lost roughly a half dozen times along the way. The smell of Growlithe was very strong, but there wasn't any in sight.

"Maybe they were just hunting in this area?" Kira suggested timidly. I shook my head. Alister told me the general location his pack was living at, and my nose was telling me there was definitely a Growlithe pack in the area. Kira had picked up the scent as well, but her senses were nowhere near as powerful as mine. I had grown accustomed to the smell of a Growlithe and it was still too new to her. Another perfect example of how stupid our clan had been about other species. Without learning various scents, it'd be so easy for an Eevee to wander into a Houndour pack's territory or something and be torn to pieces. Oh wait, the clan never wanted Eevee to leave the clan grounds, so I guess there's not supposed to be that risk.

I looked up at the sound of a growl. Kira whimpered and hid behind me as a pair of orange furred canines stepped into sight. At a quick glance, neither of them were Alister and one of them was female. "Hey! This is our territory!" the male said, baring his teeth threateningly. I growled right back, exposing my own fangs.

"I'm looking for someone!" I retorted. The Growlithe exchanged looks, the male not relaxing even by a hair.

"What would you be looking for in another specie's territory, oh prude but magnificent Umbreon?" the male sneered. I scowled. I wasn't prude. "I doubt an Eevee kit ran off this far, which is the only reason any of your arrogant kind come near us."

"I'm not looking for an Eevee. I'm looking for a Growlithe. Alister?" I answered. The Growlithe exchanged looks again.

"Why?" the female asked suspiciously.

"What's it to you?"

"It wouldn't surprise us if your kind came to assassinate one of us if we went too close to your clan," the male snorted. I stared at them.

"I don't think I'm planning to hurt him."

"I hope not. You'd have a whole pack attacking your tail," the female chuckled. She gestured with a paw for me to follow her as she turned around and began walking. Kira hesitated before following. We walked in nervous silence for a few minutes, passing a few Growlithe of various ages and gender, earning curious glances in the process. One of the kits squealed when it saw Kira and began loudly asking its parents if she was an angel. Kira's blush remained for several minutes following that scene.

My heart thumped loudly in my chest and I had to focus to maintain my breathing pace. After being thrown out of my clan, Alister was the only one left in my life that I cared about. Well, except Kira, of course. The female Growlithe startled me by barking loudly.

"Oy! Alister!"

"What?" Alister's voice called back, my stomach doing a somersault at the sound.

"There's someone who wants to see you!" the female shouted back. She paused and added a teasing tone to her voice. "It's a female!"

"Great," Alister replied, the sarcasm in his voice evident even at a distance. A few seconds later, the familiar male Growlithe stepped into my line of sight. He froze at the sight of me, his expression surprised and confused. Kira twitched nervously. Alister just stared at me, slowly regaining his composure. "Oh...uh, hey..." he said awkwardly, looking around at the other Growlithe, most of which were staring at us curiously. "Don't you all have anything better to do?" Alister complained to the onlookers.

A chorus of negatives followed his statement, the Growlithe face pawing. "Here's an idea, go somewhere else and not hold a conversation in the middle of our territory," the Growlithe escort suggested, rolling her eyes.

"Right..." Alister muttered, jerking his head to the side and walking in that direction. Kira and I followed, my friend walking so close to my side I could swear we were tied together. Alister stopped abruptly and turned back towards us, his eyes flicking to Kira uncertainly. "Uh...what do you want?" he asked.

"I kind of expected a better greeting," I grumbled, rubbing against the fire type. Again his eyes flicked to Kira. "This is Kira, my friend. Kira, this is Alister," I said, realizing what he was unsure about.

"Nice to meet you," the Growlithe said politely. Kira giggled. Alister glanced at me again, looking at me a bit worriedly. "So what's up? You've never come here before. It must have been a bit of a walk from the looks of you...didn't your clan..." he trailed off, taking note of my expression. "...notice." he finished, sighing.

"They kicked me out this morning," I grumbled. "They were following me. They asked about us. I don't know how much they actually knew, but they said they'd kick Kira out if I lied."

Alister's gaze focused on Kira again, then up at me. "Wait...so..." his attention flicked to Kira again and I could practically see the wheels turning in his mind.

"No, I didn't lie. Kira left to be with me," I answered hastily.

"That's sweet of her," Alister said. Kira giggled. "So...why are you here?"

"I have nowhere else to be, Alister," I explained. "If I'm out of the clan, I don't have to sneak around to be with you."

"That's true," the Growlithe agreed. He frowned for a moment. "It might take a bit of time to convince the pack to let you hang around here, and we're a bit busy at the moment. Tell you what, I'll have a word with the alpha, and I'll meet you later tonight, okay?"

"Later tonight?" I repeated, frowning. I didn't want to be separated from him until then. My rings glowed softly, as if sharing my unhappy thoughts. Alister licked my neck reassuringly.

"Meet you near the city, on the west side. Promise, okay?"

"Which side is the west?" I asked blankly. Alister blinked, but gave me directions to find the side, insisting he'd circle the city if he didn't find me on the proper side. "Okay," I sighed.

"I've got to get back now," he said. I nodded and kissed his cheek. His mouth twitched and he hurried back in the direction of the rest of the pack. My ears drooped. The experience itself didn't match my fantasy, but maybe he'd make it up when we met tonight. Kira nudged me reassuringly, but I knew she was intent on leaving the pack territory. Delaying no further, I led her towards the city.

I paced back and forth, looking up every few paces to see if the Growlithe had come yet, only to sigh in disappointment and resume pacing. Kira was napping a few feet away, her tail curled around herself cutely. I wonder if she misses her cuddling buddies. Having two male Eevee cuddling with you every night for a few weeks must have been great.

Minutes seemed to trickle for hours and the later into the night it got, the more agitated I became. Where was he? He promised he'd be here later, but how much later? Okay, I need to keep calm. He's been late before. He's always showed up, though. Even the times I thought he wouldn't, he had. I just needed to be patient. But I don't want to be patient! I want to feel the Growlithe's warm fur again, see the shine in his eyes, hear his gentle compliments, and taste his loving kisses again. When would he come?

It wasn't until sunlight hit my eyes that my heart sank. He hadn't come. The sun was coming up now and he still hadn't come. I had waited all night, waited awake for hours in the hopes that he would come like he said he would. His eyes had shined so sincerely when he said that he'd meet me here...when he promised to meet me here. How could those caring eyes have deceived me? Why hadn't he come? All my hopes and anticipation had been for nothing. All for nothing.

All my misplaced hope flared up into anger. How could he tell me he'd come and then not show up?! He was even specific when he'd meet me and where, but he didn't show up! My blue rings flashed brightly, even in the light of the rising sun. As if aware of my change in mood, Kira jerked awake and stared at me nervously, stifling a yawn.

"D-darkness? Wh-what is it?" she asked.

"He didn't come," I growled. Kira fidgeted.

"Maybe he couldn't get away from his pack responsibilities? Don't get mad yet...go talk to him again. Find out..." she suggested. I scowled. "I'll go with you," the Eevee insisted, coming over and rubbing against me.

"Fine, whatever. But he better have a damn good excuse," I grumbled.


"They're gone. The pack moved away. It's been in the works for days now," the unfortunate Oddish muttered. I had come to find the territory empty with the scent of Growlithe vastly diminished. I demanded answers from the first Pokémon I came across.

"All of them?" I practically shrieked.

"All of them," the Oddish agreed.

"But...but why?" I pleaded. The plant type seemed confused by my shift from angry to desperate.

"Packs are nomadic."

"Do you know where they're going?"

"No. I'm sorry, I don't know anymore. They didn't share their travel plans with a random Oddish," the plant answered.

"When did they leave?" I asked weakly, my heart sinking further than I thought possible for a heart to sink.

"Yesterday afternoon."

"Damn it..." I whined. How could this be happening to me? I turned and walked away, too distraught to even thank the Oddish for the information.

"Darkness?" Kira asked tentatively, catching a glimpse at my expression. "Are you going to be okay?"

"I'll be fine," I growled, roughly pushing past the Eevee. Kira flinched.

"D-darkness? What's wrong?"

"Nothing!" I snapped, lashing out my claws and beheading a flower. That didn't do a thing for me. I struck a second one, then a third. None of them helped my mood in the slightest. Kira whimpered quietly.


"I don't want to talk about it!" I snapped in reply. I knew what she wanted to say. She wanted me to tell her what happened. I growled. It hurt too much. My chest ached, my eyes burned with the makings of tears, tears I wouldn't let fall. How dare that Growlithe come into my life and then leave it without as much as a good-bye! How could he leave my life at all?! Was his pack so important to him that he'd leave me behind? Couldn't he at least have arranged to meet them later?

No, I see it now. He planned to leave me behind all along. He knew his pack was moving on, so he told me to wait for him and meet him later. Then I'd be out of his way and he could take off without me knowing. I seethed. Damn him. How could he do this to me? I thought he cared about me, thought he loved me like I loved him. I trusted him and he stabbed me in the back, left me to bleed until my heart died.

I flopped down on my stomach with a heavy sigh, my rings pulsing almost sadly. My moods kept changing. From hopeful to angry and now to sad. It's like the moods couldn't make up their mind. Yet even with the stress upon my mind, I noticed an odd pattern with my rings. They glowed differently based on my mood, the rapid and unpredictable change in my moods making the differences more obvious. Ugh, what did it matter? My life sucks. I thought I had something left when the clan dismissed me, thought there would be one thing, just one thing I'd never lose. I was right in thinking that, but I guess it wasn't Alister that I wouldn't lose, for even he was gone now. All that remained was Kira.

I buried my face in my paws. My heart felt like it was being torn in two. The ache was so intense...the feeling of longing, my silent pleas for everything to be a dream, all of it causing me unbearable agony. If I couldn't have Alister, I'd take the clan, and if I couldn't have the clan, I'd take Alister, but to have neither...why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve the taste of happiness and to have it ripped from me just when things started to turn out well? I never thought I could feel like this, like there was some gaping hole inside me.

Kira wandered over to me and burrowed under my forelegs, startling me into raising my head. She looked up into my teary eyes, her expression sweetly sympathetic. "It's okay, Darkness," the Eevee whispered, licking my cheek. I didn't answer. Kira smiled weakly and licked away the tears spilling from my eyes. She's so sweet to me...she risked her own clan life to cover up for me, and even when she was pardoned, she still took the punishment so I wouldn't be alone. And now she was giving me the comfort I so desperately craved, the comfort I had wanted Alister to give me.

She was a true friend. I owe her everything.

Kira's tentative suggestion that Alister would turn up later with an explanation turned out to be wrong. Even after two or three days, I never saw any sign of the male Growlithe and my heart ached with longing. I wanted to see him again, to believe that he hadn't left me behind; I wanted to hear his gentle voice and feel his soft, warm fur against me again. It was no good.

Kira and I had wandered around the human city a few times. I had crept into the building Alister had shown me one of the last nights and swiped a replacement bar of that amazing soap. What I had left from a previous venture had been left behind when the clan kicked me out. Kira clearly didn't really like the idea of me thieving from the human city, but I didn't care. I loved that soap. Even with the memories of Alister attached to it, the fragrance was incredible and more than enough to dispel the memories I so desperately wished to be rid of. The Growlithe I thought had loved me needed to be banished from my mind, but there was no ridding him from my heart. The spot where he had resided was replaced by a feeling of empty loneliness.

"Why do your rings glow like that?" Kira complained one night, shielding her eyes from the blue glow of my rings. I glanced at the dark blue bands, noting their gentle, rhythmic pulse, the sight carrying a vague sense of allure. They glowed so similarly once or twice before, the night I evolved and the night before my exile.

"I don't know," I muttered.

"Are you thinking of him again?" Kira asked bluntly.


"What are you thinking about?"

I frowned. I hadn't thought I had been thinking of anything. I had been on the verge of going to sleep. Kira tilted her head at my silence and cuddled a little against my side, abruptly recoiling with a puzzled look. "What's wrong?" I asked.

Kira stared at me. "You purred. Are you feeling better at all?"

I shrugged. "Not really. Sort of lonely, but not depressed."

"Anything else?"

I frowned at her, thinking about it for a few moments. "I don't know. I miss him, but that'll never go away. No matter how much I want to hate him, I miss him."


"It's nothing. Try to get some sleep, I'll go for a walk, take a quick bath" I grumbled, getting up abruptly and walking along the bank of the river we were temporarily settling near. I took my soap from its hiding spot near a deformed tree and wandered over to the shallower area of the water, where Kira and I bathed. The scent of my fur was bugging me again, much like it had the night after I evolved, and soaking in the water might improve my mood a little.

I stared out over the water for a few moments, gazing at the reflection of the almost full moon overhead. The luminous orb reminded me so much of my evolution...and of Alister. Damn it. Would I ever get this out of my mind? No, how could I? An Umbreon carried a connection with the moon and being an Umbreon was a connection to Alister. I spent nearly all of the past two months thinking and dreaming of the Growlithe, taking risks to be with him, to love him...

I growled, dipping the soap into the water and rubbing a paw over the surface of the bar until it foamed. I then scooped the foam from the bar and rubbed it over myself, almost immediately dispelling the irritating scent that had been clinging to my fur. My focus on the task offered relief from my loneliness aching in my chest.

A sudden cough brought my focus back to the water, the sound alerting me to the presence of a blue quadruped floating lazily near the surface of the water, a long elegant tail trailed behind it, ending in a type of fin. Just from a glance, I could tell it was a male, but not the same Vaporeon from the clan. "Pardon me," the Vaporeon said, looking embarrassed. "I just realized you were there and I think you'd prefer if I made my presence known and then let you be. I doubt you'd like if someone was watching you..."

I glared at the Vaporeon as he swam towards the shore. He's damn right I wouldn't like someone watching me! He stepped from the water daintily, a faint blush still on his face. Somehow his embarrassment just fueled my aggression towards him. How long had he been watching from under the water before he decided to let me know he was there? Was it some sort of trick so that he could show himself without backlash for watching me? Is that why he didn't just stay below water? Out of fear I'd discover him later? Ugh, such a stupid moron. I'd show him.

I turned and slammed a paw into his leg. He let out a startled yelp and struggled to maintain his balance. I slammed my weight into his side, throwing him off-balance entirely, and then I pounced on him aggressively, easily pinning him on his back before he could squirm away. I growled and bit his leg. "Jerk," I growled. He looked rather alarmed by my aggression.

"No, really...I'm sorry," he insisted.

"What, getting a kick out of spying on me?" I snapped. His look of bewilderment increased and I felt a stab of guilt at behaving so aggressively. Maybe it wasn't anything...maybe he was just being polite...ugh, this whole damn situation just pissed me off. "Who are you?"

"N-neptune," the Vaporeon muttered.

"From a clan?"

"No...nomadic wild," he answered. I tilted my head, then softly nibbled his neck, my anger disappearing almost instantly. I don't know why I did that, I just felt like it. I was lonely and he was a male that wasn't tied to a clan or pack. "Uh...and who are you?"

"Darkness," I said, rubbing against him experimentally. He wasn't as warm as Alister was, but it still felt nice to be so close.

"You are so mood-swingy it's ridiculous," Kira told me the following morning, looking rather put out. I think she's just envious I fell asleep with the Vaporeon instead of with her. She found the two of us sleeping snuggled together near the shore of the water. "And how did you pick up a date so fast?" she demanded. Yup, definitely jealous.

"It's not a date," I muttered.

"Random fling, then, whatever."

"You're rather bitter."

"Only because you've been sulking for the last three days and this morning you're all chipper," Kira complained.

"If she's that mood-swingy, it won't last," Neptune said dryly.

I glared at him. "Shut up, you don't know me."

The Vaporeon flinched, "Sorry...I...wasn't thinking."

"Duh," I growled.

"Calm down," Kira urged soothingly. I scowled, shooting Neptune another glare. He twitched, watching me warily. "Huh, you are mood-swingy," Kira noted.

"STOP SAYING MOOD-SWINGY!" I shouted, my rings flashing dangerously. Both of them flinched.

"Okay, please, just calm down," Neptune pleaded.

"Why? Am I too much of a hassle if I'm angry?" I snapped. Neptune gave me a weird look.

"Truth be told, I'm not comfortable being threatened a lot."

I glared at him, "I'm not threatening you."

"Actions speak louder than words, Darkness," Neptune said. "Your aggression is being directed at me no matter what I do. I'm not an emotional scapegoat just because you're in heat."

"Uh...courting season was last month," Kira said brightly. I blinked.

"I'm what?"

Neptune shrugged, "Scent and behavior told me that."

"That doesn't make sense!" I insisted. Kira nodded in agreement.

"She's..." Kira paused and sniffed my fur, blinking. "Huh...you were fine two days ago."

"I used the soap two days ago!"

"You were fine before then, too."

"How do you know?" I demanded.

Kira giggled, "For one, you weren't being excessively cuddly with a male Vaporeon you're simultaneously chewing out every few sentences."

"Lucky me," Neptune said, smiling briefly. Huh, I hadn't even noticed how close I was sitting to him. He smells nice. Kind of polite and patient too. Why am I thinking of this? Now wasn't a good time to pursue another relationship! I just lost my only relationship. Was I moving on too fast? Did it matter, so long as my heart was able to heal? Could it heal from something like this?

That night, I stared up the moon, as if it would give me answers. The sphere glowed so brightly in the vast blanket of darkness. Why did I feel so odd? Could I heal from the damage, the pain that I had to endure? Why did I feel so lonely, even with two patient Pokémon beside me? Would anyone else ever make me feel the way Alister did? Neptune was kind of cute and definitely nice, but it wasn't quite the same. I didn't feel the same connection from him that the Growlithe had formed with me. Of course it couldn't be the same; he wasn't Alister. No one was Alister but Alister.

I lay back to watch the moon, dimly aware a quiet whine of longing was rising from me. I want to know so many things. Why had Alister left? Did he miss me the way I missed him? Could my heart withstand the blows the event had on me? My ear twitched. The moon...when it was full and large like this, one could easily see indentations upon its surface. Did that mean the moon experienced batterings in the past, but yet shone as brightly as it did now? My mouth twitched at the thought. Pain...a natural part of life, yes. My heart could survive, like the moon survived. The moon and I had a history. Under the light of the moon, I first tasted love. Under the light of the moon, I evolved. My rings glowed most consistently under the moon's rays. It was so beautiful, like Alister said I was. But this beautiful symbol came with a curse attached. The moon reminded me of Alister, of what I could no longer see or have, of the night I evolved into what I will always be, because of his feelings for me. I did not hate my Umbreon body; I was happy when I evolved, I didn't need Alister to be happy to exist.

My rings pulsed with the subtle allure it had when I first evolved. I frowned at the bands. They had done that before, the other night when I impulsively wanted to snuggle with Neptune, like I had snuggled with Alister. Both times were during the full moon. Last month was Eevee courting season, and Neptune's earlier comment made me wonder. Was I experiencing the courting season instincts almost a month later? Was it a coincidence that the only times I remembered feeling those instincts after evolution was during the full moon? What did that mean? An Umbreon had an instinctual connection to the moon, but I never heard of such a thing happening to other Umbreon. No, it had to be a coincidence. Missing Alister triggered the instincts when an available male was around. That was it...right?

I shook myself and returned my focus to the luminous orb overhead. My rings pulsed brightly, shining the dark blue glow over the grass I lay upon, my attention wandering. What was I going to do with my life? Without the clan and without a stable mate, I don't know what I'll do in the future. I should talk to Kira about that later. I tilted my head towards the moon. Even a full moon has one half hidden completely from the earth. Is that why half the full moon is referred to as a quarter moon?

I sighed and got up to my feet. I could endure. That's what I had been doing since I met the Growlithe. I endured the long waits to see him, endured loneliness as I began to alienate the single males intent on courting me, and endured the stupid rules and restrictions. But this time, there was nothing concrete waiting on the other side, nothing to motivate me to continue enduring. What if I endured all the troubles and found nothing worthwhile? Was that just another unfortunate twist on life, adding to the insult that things don't always turn out the way someone wants them to?

I found a quiet spot and lay down, closing my eyes. If Neptune wanted, he might patter over and lie with me, and if he didn't, oh well. Like Alister and the clan, I couldn't control the decisions others make. I can rage about how unfair things are or I could accept the cruel irony of the world. That's all anyone could really do.

Where one thing ended and disappeared, it marked the start of something else. Like how the moon cycle ended with the New Moon, disappearing at first, but then starting the cycle back to the full moon. My life was at a new starting point and it may expand, sliver by sliver, until I can find the meaning behind everything. I'd aim for contentment before happiness. Because as Alister proved, what you think makes you happy might not actually be worth it in the end. The sacrifices and risks may backfire and cost you everything. Thank you, cruel lesson of life.

If I ever see the Growlithe again, I'll only want to know why he did what he did. It was his decision to make; he didn't have to consider my feelings when he left my life with deception and cowardice. It's not like he ever told me he loved me. No one had ever told me whether they loved me. He didn't owe me his life because I had loved him. Is it truly better to love and lose than never to love? Were my feelings for Alister really love?

When I finally slept, one final unanswerable question crossed my mind:

Would I ever find anyone else that special?

Wow, this was the single longest chapter of anything I've ever written. Well, that wraps up the story. Would really appreciate reviews, especially if you can spare the time and effort to share your thoughts and comments about the story or if you feel like discussing a few things more in-depth. The words "foregone conclusion" pop into mind when I consider the love story aspect in general.