The last few weeks had been quite unusual for Neo—though, they were unusual for his brother and his trainer, too, he was sure. Still, it wasn't every day that he could say he had his own mission to fulfill.
"Look, guys," Wes had quietly said to him and his brother one afternoon, "I don't want to put too much pressure on you, but I'm gonna need your help with your new teammates for…" he'd paused, as if unsure of what specific words to choose next. "A little while," he finished.
Neo looked at Novo and back at Wes, tilting his head to the side. Help? Help how?
"I need you two to keep a close eye on them whenever they're out of their balls, okay?" Wes rubbed the back of his head—something he often did whenever he felt uncertain about something. "I don't like the idea of having them out all the time, but Rui insists it's the only way they'll improve, and, well. They've gotta get used to us somehow, I guess. So just watch out for them and make sure they behave. And...try to make friends with them whenever you can. Let them know we aren't a threat." His face darkened, and Neo sensed crisp waves of apprehension rolling off of him. "I hope it doesn't have to come to it, but if any of them snap, don't hesitate to knock them out. Got it?"
Novo immediately answered with an affirmative bark. Neo shuffled his paws and hesitated before nodding. He didn't like the idea of having to fight his teammates like that. As a team, weren't they all supposed to be friends? And friends wouldn't attack each other...right?
Then, all at once, a solution came to him: if he could convince Maku, Kohna and Nani that they were friends, then they wouldn't ever have to fight! And it just so happened that Neo was an expert at making friends. This would be easy. Why, there was no reason why they wouldn't all be the very best of friends by the end of the day.
He would very quickly learn how wrong he was.
Nani made it abundantly clear right from the start that she wanted nothing to do with him—or Novo, or Wes, or anybody else, for that matter. Even when Rui tried to join Neo's efforts by offering the Croconaw one of Duking's homemade treats, Nani took personal offense at the gesture and likely would have removed Rui's hand if Neo hadn't summoned a Protect just in time.
Maku was hardly any easier. Every attempt to engage him in play was met with a blank stare or, if Neo was lucky, a grunt and a shake of his head. "No fight," he'd said once with a frown.
Neo huffed. "Not fight! Play! Play is fun! Fun is happy!"
Maku growled at him. "No fight! No play!"
At least things weren't a total loss—Kohna was much more receptive than the other two, and even liked to take her afternoon naps curled up beside Novo. Though she'd originally been extremely quiet, the Quilava had gradually been opening up to Neo and Novo as the days went by, and one afternoon, to Neo's soaring delight, she finally agreed to play with him.
"Play! Play! Play!" Neo bounced all around her, his yaps echoing off the walls of the cave inside Duking's home. He heard Nani growl at him from her usual place under the waterfall, but he'd long since learned to drown out her griping.
"Don't overwhelm her, bud," Wes said. He sat at a table with Rui and Silva, and while the latter two had been chatting with each other, he'd been watching each of the Pokemons' interactions like a wary Skarmory.
Neo chuffed at him. He knew his trainer meant well, but that didn't mean he had to be a killjoy...
Kohna shuffled her paws nervously. "Play…"
"Play!" Neo snapped his attention back to her and lunged forward. He nipped lightly at her flank, psychic energy sparking from the jewel on his forehead.
Kohna stumbled backwards with a yelp. Her flames flared, almost singeing Neo's fur with their heat. She stared at him, then at her flank, then back at him.
"No hurt! Only play!"
"...only play," she repeated slowly. A glimmer of understanding appeared in her eyes. "Only play. No hurt. Play...play!"
She rocketed forward and headbutted Neo in his side. The sudden movement caught him off-guard and sent him sprawling across the floor as he squawked in surprise.
Novo rose to his feet with a bark, hackles raised, but quickly relaxed once Neo scrambled to his feet with a yap of excitement. Maku, who had been dozing in a corner, was now wide awake and watching the display with a keen interest he'd never shown before.
Neo and Kohna pranced about the cave, exchanging lighthearted barks and growls as they dove at one another. Neo was careful to warn Kohna if she got too rough or her flames too bright, and Kohna was quick to adapt, her eyes brighter than Neo had ever seen them.
He was so caught up in the fun, he didn't notice Maku step up to Novo and sheepishly tap his fists together.
"...Play?" Maku asked.
Novo blinked and twitched his ears. He regarded the Makuhita for a moment, then nodded with a friendly purr. "Play."
They stepped away from the wall and out into the open space, careful to give Neo and Kohna their space. Maku shifted his weight from one foot to the other, watching Novo closely. The Umbreon skirted around him, light on his paws, and sprang forward to give him a nudge when—
Novo's yowl broke Neo from his playful frenzy. He snapped his head up just in time to see his brother flying across the cavern before crashing into a bookcase on the other side. Kohna squeaked in alarm and immediately scampered to his side to inspect him for injuries, but Novo was already back on his feet and shaking dust from his pelt, apparently unharmed.
"No fight!" he barked at Maku, who had covered his face with his fists and looked faintly horror-struck. "NO FIGHT, ONLY PLAY!"
"Novo!" Wes rose to his feet and swept across the floor to his Umbreon, looking shaken.
"Dear Mew!" Neo heard Rui gasp from the table. "Where did that come from?"
Maku began rumbling something that sounded like an apology, but he didn't get very far before Wes rounded on him. "The hell was that, Maku!"
"It doesn't look like he meant to," Silva said hesitantly, "but damn, he can pack a punch…"
"Play! Not hurt! Not fight!" Neo sprang to Maku's side and appealed to his angry trainer. "Bad at play, but not fight!"
Wes' face softened just a little. He huffed and ran a hand through his hair. "Gods, what am I going to do with all of you?"
Nani grated out a laugh from her pool. "Stupid!"
"NOT STUPID!" Novo, clearly still upset from getting launched across the room, spun around and yowled at her. Nani leaped from her pool with a snarl.
They were all quickly returned to their balls after that.
Neo spent the next few days stewing over what to do. They'd been doing so well, making so much progress...Kohna had played with him! And Maku, well...he'd at least tried to play…
After the incident, however, things had gone back to square one. Maku kept to himself and was more adamant than ever in his refusals to play, and Kohna had quickly lost interest, perhaps out of fear of injuring Neo or Novo. Nani remained as distant and smug as ever.
The one good thing to come of this setback was that, after a handful of very quiet and uneventful days, Wes finally allowed himself to relax again and eased up on his hovering. Neo would never tell him, but he was like a smothering mother Pidgey with the way he fretted over them. Even Rui had to occasionally step in to calm his nerves.
And then, one morning as Neo ate his breakfast and smelled the tantalizing aroma of bacon wafting from the kitchen, he had an idea.
Perhaps playing wouldn't work, at least not for a while. But food...everybody needed food. Even Nani. And what better way to make friends than to introduce them to the best food that ever existed?
It was a perfect plan, one that absolutely guaranteed good results—and delicious treats for Neo himself, but of course that wasn't the reason why he was planning this. Not at all. The only problem with this plan was his trainer.
Wes had been especially watchful ever since Neo and Novo's first bacon-snatching escapade. Neo couldn't for the life of him understand why, though. Who wouldn't gorge themselves on the best food in the world? And why in Mew's name was he expected to restrain himself? It was utter nonsense.
Still, though, there was no underestimating the glare Wes gave him whenever Neo so much as looked at the White Box in the kitchen where the food was held. Arceus above, if looks could kill…
Neo was undaunted, however. This plan was perfect. He just needed to find a way around Wes' watchful gaze. And, as luck would have it, the opportunity presented itself a day later.
Wes was preoccupied with yet another meeting with Duking, Rui, and the tired looking man called Sherles. He had been but prepared to keep the entire team in their Pokéballs when Silva convinced him to let them stay out in the living room, promising he would keep an eye on them. Neo hadn't thought much of this—until, as the late afternoon sun filtered through the window and clouded the entire room with its drowsy warmth, Silva nodded off in the armchair where he sat.
It was as if it was meant to be.
It took a moment to gather everyone together—Maku from his perch looking out the window, Kohna and Novo from their nap on a cushion in the corner, and Nani...well, Nani was snoozing in the other armchair. She cracked open one eye and warned Neo away with a growl and a curled lip.
Her loss, then.
The plan was simple. The kitchen was just the next room over, and as long as everyone remained quiet, sneaking into the White Box to pilfer this morning's leftover bacon would be no problem at all. All they had to do was follow his lead.
Kohna and Maku listened along with intrigued, if somewhat confused, expressions. To Neo's horror, it seemed that neither of them even knew what bacon was.
"Ba...con?" Kohna cocked her head to one side as Maku leveled Neo with a blank stare.
"Bacon!" Neo purred and kneaded the carpet, barely able to contain his excitement. All the bacon they could ever want was just around the corner and through that doorway—
Novo's soft growl felt like an Electrike's Thundershock. Neo stared at him, utterly betrayed. "No...bacon?"
"No," Novo growled again. "Not allowed."
Kohna shifted anxiously. "Don't...want trouble…"
"No trouble!" Neo rose to his paws from a sitting position, his tail held defiantly in the air. "Only bacon!"
In the corner of his eye, he saw Nani raise her head, her eyes fixated on the team.
Novo hissed. "No bacon!" He lashed his tail. "Obedient. Listen. No bacon. Wes says."
Neo felt a growl of his own rumble in his throat, but before he could protest further, Nani slunk from her chair and tottered over. He bristled. Nani had never once approached them—at least, not like this. She'd always come at them in a raging frenzy of snapping jaws…but this time was different. She held a swagger in her step, exuding massive overconfidence that only a proven fighter could. She stepped up to Novo with a gleam in her eye.
"Want bacon," she rumbled.
Novo, to his everlasting credit, was unfazed despite her intimidating presence. Neo could see the muscles rippling under scales, scales that were torn and tattered from countless scars. Nani was close enough that she could easily tear into the Umbreon in half a second, and Neo couldn't help but wonder if his brother would be able to raise a Protect quickly enough if he had to.
Novo met her predatory gaze dead on. "No."
Nani curled her lip. "Want bacon. Get what I want." She leaned in so close her breath ruffled Novo's fur. "Not stop me."
Kohna squirmed. Neo tensed. They were seconds away from what could only be a brutal fight—
"Won't stop you." Novo stepped back, though his stance was not one of submission, only calm acceptance. He knew what battles to pick, and this would not be one of them.
Nani snorted at him. "Good. Coward."
Novo's rings flared at the insult, but he remained still, his crimson eyes boring into her blue ones.
Eager to pull her attention away from his brother, Neo hopped over to the door with a quiet chirp. "Follow!"
The kitchen tile was pleasantly cool beneath his pads. Neo strutted confidently to the White Box, and with a glow from his forehead jewel, the door popped open, if a little too forcefully from his excitement. The contents inside the door rattled, swayed—and then a container rocked free from its place and plummeted to the floor with a SPLAT.
Red liquid burst everywhere. Neo barely restrained a startled yip. Kohna squeaked in alarm and skittered back, her paws sliding all over the smooth floor. Maku tensed and growled, and even Nani showed her fangs—but then, after a tense pause, all was still.
Neo stared at the red stuff. It looked like blood—blood!—but no, this wasn't that. It was thick and smelled strangely sweet...familiar, even. It reminded him of the train car diner, of the foods Wes would sometimes order, of the fries he would share with Neo and Novo. He couldn't remember what this substance was called, but he remembered liking the taste. To confirm his suspicions, he leaned over the broken bottle and licked at the oozing substance. Yes, this was the same stuff all right, and it was good.
But, tasty as it was, this wasn't what he'd come for. He chirped at his fellow teammates—no, his friends!—to soothe their fears. Kohna, somewhat reassured, sniffed at a red splotch near her paws and began lapping at it. Maku and Nani soon followed suit and tentatively tasted it for themselves.
Neo turned back to the White Box. Rising to his hind legs and placing his forepaws on a lower shelf, he nosed and sniffed his way through the contents until he found what he was looking for: his treasure. His one true love. His bacon.
He lovingly wrapped the container with his telekinesis and lowered it to the floor as if it were a newborn kit. He struggled with the lid until Nani shoved past Maku and used her claws to shred it open. All four of them stared at the meat with awe.
Neo chirped triumphantly. "Bacon!" His jewel glowed as he distributed the bacon between the four of them as evenly as possible. Then, "Eat!"
None of them had to be told twice. Nani immediately tore into it, rumbling with delight. Kohna sniffed at it, then nibbled, then began chomping in earnest.
Maku, however...merely nibbled, then wrinkled his face. He placed the bacon back on the floor. "Don't like."
What? What? Neo had never even considered the possibility that anyone could dislike bacon. He stared at Maku in horror. How was this possible? How could this be? How could they possibly be friends like this?
He was still wallowing in his shock when a voice made them all jump.
"Neo, I swear to Arceus, I'm gonna ship you overseas."
There was no mistaking that voice. Slinking low to the floor, Neo slowly raised his head until he was looking Wes in the eyes.
In the corner of his eye he saw Novo sitting primly at his feet. Traitor. Rui stepped into the kitchen beside Wes, her eyes widening at the mess, and over Wes' shoulder, Silva was rubbing the back of his head and apologizing profusely.
"Swear I only dozed off for a second, gods, I'm so sorry—!"
The next few moments were a blur. Nani puffed herself up and immediately began snapping her jaws at Wes, which resulted in her prompt return to her Pokéball. Kohna and Maku, both thoroughly ashamed, stared at the floor and wouldn't meet his eyes—but Wes wasn't looking at them, anyway. He stared at Neo, then at the shredded container, then at the red splotches splattered all over the kitchen. He slowly raised a hand and ran his fingers through his hair, looking as though he were at an utter loss for words.
"Well," Rui said with a feeble smile, "at least they were working together. That's a first."
Neo always did like that redhead.
Wes sighed and looked at Maku and Kohna, who were still cowering slightly. "You're not in trouble, okay? I know who's responsible for this." He narrowed his eyes at Neo, and the Espeon flattened his ears and sank even lower into the floor.
The other two Pokémon nodded, and Wes returned them to their balls. He crouched down to level with Neo, who braced himself for a scolding...but, to his surprise, Wes reached out and rubbed him under his chin, then cupped his head in his hands and looked into his eyes.
"You," he said tiredly, "are the biggest damn brat I've ever had to deal with."
Neo picked up on the note of amusement mixed in with Wes' exasperation. He flicked his tail and responded with a sheepish mew. Did this mean...he might not be in trouble…?
"The next time I catch you stealing bacon, I'm turning you into a rug."
Wes gave him a hard stare. "And until I can trust you again, you're not allowed anywhere without my supervision, moron."
Well...he supposed things could be worse.
Wes pulled out Neo's Pokeball, saying something about how he was going in timeout until they got the kitchen cleaned up. As the red light washed over him, Neo had a sudden, horrifying realization:
All that work, and he didn't even get to eat his bacon.
So, as you can guess...this isn't really an OFFICIAL chapter, uh, whoops! This is a (late) April Fool's installment, and even though it's a bunch of shenanigans with a side of bacon and a dash of crime, I hope you still enjoyed the wholesomeness!
That being said: Keep your eyes peeled! OSAS Ch. 16 will be published later this month, and it's a doozy! ;)
Happy late April Fools, y'all!