A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden
Chapter 31: (M)eeting
Tony stopped recording again and ran his hands over his face. Shine in turn rose up, staring attentively at his trainer.
“Oh, dear, Shine. I’m sorry to hear about this.”
Shine cocked his head. “Whatever do you mean?”
“I mean, Bolt, of course.”
“Well, this isn’t your first time hearing about this. You knew how he treated me before then.”
“Yes, I know, at least in general terms. Here, though, it’s… never mind.” He sighed. “No wonder you feel the way you do.”
Shine took a moment to consider this. How did he feel? A part of his heart ached at the very thought of Bolt, sure. But that was his own doing entirely. For being so difficult to his tutor. For being weak when everyone else was strong. He rather he didn’t draw attention to it.
“That was in the past.” He stared at the floor. “Besides, there were much worse things that happened to the both of us. This is nothing.”
“That doesn’t make your feelings any less valid.”
Shine said nothing. His feelings were true, but what would the world see of him? Of this Pokemon that should not have been?
“Okay, look.” Tony got out of his chair and hugged Shine, holding him tight. He didn’t even seem to notice his own hair spiking up. “It’s not healthy to bottle up your emotions like that. Bolt wasn’t there for you, and he didn’t understand the sort of Pokemon you were. I know he wasn’t your real father, but he should’ve acted like one while you still needed it. That would have an effect on anyone.”
“Preach,” Curio said, standing on the sidelines. “Seriously, screw Bolt. He really didn’t do you any favours.”
“I know. B-but...” Shine trailed off, trying to process this moment. It was hard to deny the impact Bolt had on him, but at the same time, he felt very little in retrospect. Or at least, he told himself that he felt very little, even though his heart was still in his throat. Finally, he shook his head and sat up, trying to budge away form his trainer’s grasp. “Let’s get a move on.”
“Are you sure?”
Tony held him for one last moment before patting his back. From there, it was back to work.
(What happened on the first night in?)
Well, nothing. Bolt told us to eat, then turn in for the night for an early start the next day. That meant being alone in the room with M, the Marowak that always set me on edge. There was something about the way he sat and stared at others as if he was about to descend on his prey. That much was true when Bolt chucked him a glob of raw meat, which he immediately tore into with his sharp teeth. Bolt laid down my bowl in front of me, which was filled with kibble, prepackaged meat and other morsels fit for my kind. That would’ve been it, and we would’ve been expected to settle down not long after, but before Bolt let us be, he licked the blood off of M’s face. M closed his eyes, gently grunting as if he was being pet. It was surreal to see M look so pacified for the first time, but eventually, our tutor left for real, leaving me to eat my dinner in silence. Awkward silence.
The sounds around me were as clear as day. Water faintly rushed through the pipes, and footsteps, both soft and hard, pitter pattered through the floors outside. At that point, you could’ve cut the atmosphere in the room with a claw. Even more so as M stared at me the whole time I ate. That way, I got a good look at his maskless face. He had a bit of a stubby snout and broken horns at the top of his head, not to mention the splotches he bore as a Cubone. From what I saw in the Pokedex, if he was a usual Marowak, it would’ve looked like the skull and his face had merged into one. That was certainly an unpleasant image. But for M, even without it, he still got under my skin. Those orange eyes stared into mine with a great intensity, as if he was judging me, right then and there on the spot. If it wasn’t for the fact he had just eaten, he probably would’ve confused me for fresh meat. That Teddiursa doll on the side offset things somewhat, but regardless, it’s not something I like to remember that much.
Thankfully, he must’ve gotten bored and curled up in the corner of the room, falling asleep with his teddy bear in tow. So I finished my dinner in peace, a little grateful I didn’t have to gaze at him any longer.
(I do have to wonder why the Pokedex commonly associates the Cubone line with the skull, if you don’t mind me interrupting.)
That’s fine, Tony.
(Okay then. So, tangent time. The Pokedex entries in general are complete Taur. They don’t have much of a basis in reality, and it’s only used to boil down the proper encyclopedic entries to their barest essentials. So nobody in my field even takes them seriously. Even so, that entry’s theory about the Cubone always wearing their mother’s skull on their heads is complete bunk. My professors bitched about it enough in the biology classes we took, and it just doesn’t make sense for every Cubone to wear their dead relative’s bones from a logistical standpoint.
Think about it. If every mother of a Cubone is supposed to be dead, then that means nothing else is replacing their species. They’re gradually losing more numbers, and since that would mean the only one that can reproduce ends up commonly dying, their species would go extinct quickly. But what’s a regular Cubone supposed to be without the skull, according to the Pokedex? How do they get the skull in the first place if the mother dies? Do they wait for it to decompose?
None of this seems likely. Again, the Pokedex is meant to just be there as a basic guideline, but it kind of insults the intelligence of all the trainers involved. If they wanted to lie about it, then they should’ve at least come up with a convincing one and not have caused so many misconceptions about Pokemon everywhere.
Okay, tangent over. Sorry about that, but that drives me insane. I guess we’re too alike.)
I don’t mind your interruptions, so that’s fine. Besides, I always found it a bit farfetched.
(Jeez, you guys are a bunch of dorks.)
Look at the Sneasel calling the Scraggy a dark type. But in any case, the following morning, I woke up after M, so we had a bit of time alone together. Not that I exactly yearned for it, but still. He sat away from me, holding his bone club in his paws as he turned it around, running his claw over the marrow like he was studying it. Once he noticed I was awake, he approached me, getting so close that I could even smell his breath. The stench of the meat he ate last night lingered, so I recoiled, wanting to get away from it. Hopefully, the staff at GeL would come soon and brush his teeth, like they did with us every morning. Then M sniffed me down from head to paw. I thought he was doing it as a joke at first, so I chuckled, however half-heartedly, but he didn’t find any of it amusing. He growled, making me flinch and curl up into a ball. Then he poked at me with his bone club, while I did nothing but wallowed in my own fear. Then he stopped after a while. When I came out of my personal bubble, he sat there, eyes wide, as he observed me. From there, I sat up straight, staring at him as well. There was a hint of loneliness in his eyes. Not only that, but curiosity as well, as if he didn’t know what he was looking at. I think my behaviour threw him off a bit; if he was used to being in the wild and learning instinctual cues instead of language, then I must’ve been a bit of a freak.
After a while, his gaze softened, making him look sorrowful. Even though I was still scared of him, I couldn’t help but feel for M, and my own curiosity got the better of me.
“Um, M?” I asked, ignoring the shaky feeling in my paws. “W-what was it like, in the wild?”
He grunted and took a deep breath. “Don’t want to say.”
At least I got something from him. Then, there was another question that danced on the tip of my tongue. “Um, d-different question. I-is it true? D-do most Cubone wear their mom’s skull?”
His eyes widened and he raised his club. That wasn’t the response I was hoping for. I thought he was going to take that start beating me up with it. Instead, he struck himself. I stood up, trying to get him to stop, but he pointed the club to me, stopping me in my tracks. He beat a second time, and then the third time. Even though it rang through the room with a resounding knock knock knock, he didn’t flinch, or seem to feel pain. It wasn’t the first time I saw him do that, but it unnerved me every time I caught him in the act.
Finally, after all that, his eyes dilated and he shook his head.
“Ah,” I said. “S-so, the Pokedex lies, then?”
He didn’t respond to that. I repeated the phrase, then when that didn’t get a reaction, I said the word ‘Pokedex’ over and over again, trying to get him to remember. We went over that in our classes several times, so the thought of that going over his head just baffled me. Finally, I asked:
“Do you know what a Pokedex is?”
Another tap and a shake. “Confuses me.”
I shrugged it off, not thinking much of it, and went back to the other question. “W-why don’t they wear skulls?”
M snorted. “Some do. Take the skulls of our prey and wear them. Sign of power. Power is hurting. But not all. Have to wait for head to become bones.”
My stomach lurched as the image of a decomposing Pokemon flashed in my head.
“I-I guess it wouldn’t smell nice either.”
M chuckled. I couldn’t believe I actually got him to laugh at first, but he just kept chuckling until it became a hollow laugh. “Doesn’t.”
Before I could linger on that any longer, he stood up and pointed the club at me again. “Let’s spar.”
As he swung, I dodged just in time as it whooshed past my nose.
“H-h-hey!” I said, “t-training hasn’t started yet!”
He lunged and swung again, this time, clocking me on the forehead. As you can imagine, I hit the floor, crying out in pain. My head felt like a slab of ice.
“Get up. Spar. Will heal after finish.”
Tears started welling up, but I didn’t cry that time. The whole thing was embarrassing, not only for myself, but for him as well, and everyone else. I hated that. Instead of crying as usual, I roared; the loudest I had heard myself roar up until that point. I stood up, charging my static field, until it surged through my whole body. It was a new move of mine: a Volt Tackle. Even though I knew my attacks would be weak against his, I didn’t care, and just sprinted towards him, screaming through the pain. I managed to slam into him, tackling his belly with my head, but he didn’t even flinch. As soon as he saw that opportunity, he took it, grabbing my ears and punching my face. That knocked me on my back that time. I tried to move, but then, he pinned me down to the ground, pummelling me, one fist after the other. His face looked the same when he punched that Munchlax’s lights out ages ago. After taking so much punishment at once, my face just felt numb. I wondered if I was going to die there.
Then, it happened.
M shrieked in pain as my fangs dug into his flesh, not unlike how I did with Tom, but this time, I didn’t stop. I clamped hard, pressing my maw down further. I would get him to stop hitting me that time. I had that power. I wasn’t going to take it.
“You two, enough.”
We both stopped. I opened my eyes soon after. Through the tears, I saw M walking towards Bolt, dragging the club across the floor like a rattle while his bleeding arm limply dangled.
“I’d rather you wait until we started our sessions to fight. Do you understand?”
M looked at me, then back to his tutor, but he didn’t nod back.
“In any case, come, Shine. After we heal you up, we can wash you and give you your breakfast. Then, we can start training today.”
I didn’t even know if I could’ve in my state, but I tried anyway. Despite wobbling to my hindpaws, I managed to stand up. My face stung like a Beedrill, but at least I could walk. I got closer to my tutor and looked at what he was doing. Not that I wanted to look him in the eye; in fact, whenever I saw that yellow glow of his in them, my gut churned. But he was licking M’s face, like one would do to their Electrike cub, and the Marowak growled affectionately as if Bolt was his parent. Part of me wanted to take M’s place, but I knew that would never happen. But Bolt took me in regardless and went through our morning routine together. He didn’t speak to us, even as he watched the staff bathe me and M. Nor did he speak to us when we shared our berry bunch with each other. But once we had finished, the first detention session started for real, in a more organised fight this time with Bolt watching over us. M ran towards me, swiping with his bone club, and I ran and dodged to no avail, while M’s more aggressive attitude always gave him the advantage.
“Come on!” Bolt shouted. “Don’t back away when he’s exposed!”
“But! But!” I shrieked, in between thrusts and strikes from M, “he’s too fast!”
“Look for one, for the white god’s sake! Find a spot where he isn’t protected, and strike it!”
So I looked, while M ran towards me with that bone club of his. I wasn’t so much focused on attacking as I was dodging a possible blow to my weak little head. I kept on doing it, and managed to continuously shake him off, but every time, he’d keep swiping, not running out of energy at all. The more and more he advanced, the angrier and angrier I got, to the point I started growling; not that it did much good for someone like him. Then, he raised his club, exposing that soft belly of his. So that was the opening. I dove in at the first opportunity and chomped down at his tummy, hard. My teeth were regularly brushed by GeL’s staff and were well looked after, so keep that in mind. M screamed, toppling to the floor as I tore into him, and for the first time in a battle ever, I actually had the upper hand, or paw. That moment of victory was short lived. He hit back just as hard with his club, launching me against a nearby wall, head first.
Needless to say, the battle didn’t end in my favour. But something did happen. Once the staff healed me up in the infirmary, Bolt came to visit with M, though I dreaded it at first, especially with the way I hurt that poor Marowak. The teeth marks still looked fresh on his body as the nurse tried to apply the potion.
“Em-M,” I said, struggling to keep my cool in front of them. “I’m sorry. I-I didn’t mean to—”
“Quiet, Shine,” Bolt said. To my surprise though, he smiled at me, the first time I ever saw him do it out of generosity. “But you did well out there. You’re starting to defend yourself more, although you still need practise.”
“B-but,” I asked, “w-what if I really hurt someone?”
“Like what M’s been doing to you? That’s the point of a battle; to fight until one side can’t stand anymore. That’s how it is in the League, and that’s how it is training as a Pokemon. But we’re strong. We can take on a lot of punishment humans can’t. I went through the same trials and tribulations, and even more. Don’t forget that when you think back to what your ancestors went through.”
I didn’t say anything else, but I couldn’t exactly argue with him.
“But, if you want your chance to shine in the spotlight in some other way, you’ll have the chance to do so soon.” He glanced at M, who struggled in the human nurse’s grasp.
“Please, hold still,” she said while M thrashed about. “It’s alright, just relax. Think about a fun thing you did in the past, or a good memory or something. That’s what I tell the other students here, anyway.”
Her words fell on deaf ears, since M still squirmed in her grasp.
“That’s pointless, I’m afraid,” Bolt said. “The only way you’ll calm him down is if you heal him in the charging station.”
“Right,” she said, nonplussed by the talking Manectric beside her. “I’ll get the Pokeball.”
I turned to Bolt, puzzled by the whole scene.
“Um, s-sorry if this is a stupid question, but does M not understand humans?”
Bolt grunted and looked back at me. “Not when he’s in fight or flight mode. When he’s cooled off, well, you’ll see. Azzy will tell you more about it when he gives you your briefing, I expect.”
“B-briefing?” My eyes shot up. “What do you mean?”
“Just as you have something to learn from M, M has something to learn from you. Again, you’ll see.”
I took his word for it. I looked at him again, expecting him to do something next, like embrace me or give me a bit more of a pep talk. But I backed away, knowing better than to expect anything else from him.
We were in the detention room again, except this time, the blue rabbit came with a few toys in a wheelie tray.
“Oh, hello Shine,” he said with a sad smile. “Are you hanging in there?”
“J-just barely,” I admitted.
“Ah, well.” He leaned in to whisper in my ear. “I’ll give you your briefing later, but I just want you to watch this first.”
Standing on the sidelines, I observed as M played about with one of those wooden ‘connect the shapes’ toys. I don’t know what I expected, but he fit all of them in. When he was given more complex toys to play with, like a sorting puzzle with many tiny blocks, he managed to do all of that without skipping a beat. The last thing he was given was a crayon and a piece of paper to draw on. Curio had set the bar rather high, relatively speaking for a Pokemon anyway, so how would M handle it?
He just sat and stared at the paper, unsure of what to do with it. Eventually, the Marowak just crumpled up the paper and tore it into pieces with his teeth, growling as he did so.
“Well done, M,” he said. “You did your best.”
He blinked, then continued to rip up the paper and scatter them over the floor like snowflakes. After he was satisfied, he turned to his familiar Teddiursa doll and mumbled into it. Its head hung upside down, with the stitches barely holding it together.
“U-um, why does he do that?” I asked.
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Azzy said. “Now, I want you to start teaching him.”
“B-but,” I said, “I’ve never taught before.”
“Just ask him what he knows about the human tongue for now. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can just be on the spot.”
“But what if he—”
“If he tries to hit you, I’ll step in.” He winked. “I’m not Bolt, after all.”
That gave me enough encouragement to walk over to the mobile paper shredder. There isn’t much to say about the teaching session. I mumbled and stuttered my way through it, but even if I spoke confidently, I don’t think that would’ve made a difference. M was a strange case, or perhaps not so strange, as you’ll see soon enough. He didn’t recognise most of the human vocalisations I made, except for a few select words such as ‘hello’ and very common phrases. There was some understanding, but not enough for him to be caught up with anyone in the wild group, or anyone else. Pressing him to try harder didn’t work either, as he growled and threatened to strike me with his bone club. True to his word, Azzy pulled me away before it could escalate.
“Shine,” he whispered as he led me to a corner, “you must’ve picked up on his learning difficulties by now.”
“Yes,” I said.
“You see—” he glanced at M far away as he stared off into space again-- “he’s an example of a pure feral. A Pokemon so attached to the wild, that’s permanently impacted their development.”
My mouth hung agape. That brought a lot of questions to mind, some of which I expressed to Azzy. “Why is he here then?”
He looked to the floor, expression shifting from concerned to saddened. “I don’t know. To be honest, I think GeL made a mistake bringing him to this place. He is smart in places like visual processing and battling, but he simply doesn’t retain most, if any of the information he gets.”
“So none of the classes he’s been taking has had any impact on him?”
“Well, barely. He can learn certain things with repetition, but that only shows from his feral background.”
Aside from the occasional chattering from M into his doll, the room was silent. The Marowak’s vacant stare and tensed up body language said it all. Then, out of nowhere, Azzy hugged me, pulling my electric body towards his.
“I’m sorry about all of this. If what Patches said is true, the way Bolt has treated you is disgusting.”
I didn’t expect that from another member of staff, of all people. Before I could answer back or linger in the moment any more, Azzy pulled away. Probably a blessing too as his fur stuck up from the static, even more so from being a water type.
“I’m going to make a formal complaint to the higher ups. Whether or not they’ll listen to me is up in the air, but this can’t go on. Not with you or M. It won’t happen right away, but just know that you’re not alone in this.”
For lack of anything better to say, I nodded in gratitude. After that, the tutor picked up all of the spare toys lying on the floor and carted them back outside. M looked on, unfazed by the whole thing.
The rest of the day went on in a similar fashion. We sparred. We healed up. Sparred. Healed up. Rinse and repeat. While I still hated it all, gradually, I got used to M’s moveset and started defending myself more. I still got hurt a lot, but with the hope that Azzy was trying to sort this out, as well as the sense that I was learning from this, I got more immersed in each subsequent fight.
Then, I thought about what Curio was doing up there, and how she was managing with her lessons. But I also thought back to that argument we had before. I had it blocked out of my mind for quite a while, but right before dinner, that moment had come back to me. I accused her of being a pushover when she wasn’t. I took out my own frustrations about my lack of progress on her. I was solely the one at fault.
When my meal came, I didn’t have the energy to eat. The food was still as good as ever, yet, I felt like I didn’t deserved it. I just wanted to be alone, so I buried myself in one of the beds, hoping not to be bothered by anyone. I’d probably be in trouble anyway for skipping out on a meal, but I doubt they would’ve cared. I didn’t think anybody cared about me at all in that state.
M entered though, noticing my presence immediately and lifting the beanbags off of me. I was completely exposed then. I thought he was going to fight me again, so I curled up in my safe little zone, hoping he would go away. But he patted my side, drawing my attention to him, and there, he handed me a chuck of red meat.
“Eat,” he said, holding his blood-stained paw out.
I didn’t know what to make of it at first, just staring blankly at the glob of what used to be a Miltank. He nudged it towards me, and kept doing so until I backed down and took the morsel straight from his paw. It was tough and bland, but it was filling, and I didn’t mind how it wasn’t cooked. They made sure to feed it to us semi-regularly anyway so our stomachs could get used to digesting it easily. The same couldn’t be said for the more human-like Pokemon, so it only applied to us wild descendants.
Even after I ate, M was still there, staring off into space, but I got the impression he was waiting for something. I got to my feet, meeting his gaze.
“Why did you come after me? I thought you didn’t like me.”
He shook his head.
“I know.” I looked to the side. “Sorry.”
“Sorry is a sign of weakness too.”
He grunted and tapped my shoulder.
“I can make you stronger.”
“Yes, I know you can. You’re fast and fierce and, well, everything I’m not. I wasn’t raised like you were.”
He squeezed my shoulder, then threw a fist at my face. That time, I reacted and jolted awake, cancelling his punch with a claw swipe.
“E-enough!” I stood on all fours, teeth bared. “You can’t keep doing that!”
“Won’t. Do not talk about past. Talk about present.”
“Alright, I won’t.” I relaxed my posture, but still kept my guard up in case he struck again. I didn’t want to leave it like that, so to show my gratitude, I bowed to him. In turn, he went up and patted my head.
“Mate will come.”
That threw me off guard. “M-mate? What do you mean?”
“O-oh!” I squeaked in surprise. “Y-you mean…”
What M meant went without saying.
(Well, he wasn’t wrong, yanno.)
Um, excuse me, Curio?
Ah, well then. Still, when he said that, that got me thinking. Curio, or rather, you, were the closest person I got to know aside from Patches. I confided in you when I needed it, and you did the same when you went through certain hardships of your own. I wanted to know whatever you were drawing, and you wanted to know whatever I was reading. So it wasn’t a stretch of imagination for others to see us that way.
From there, that steeled my resolve. The next time I would see her, I would apologise and admit my own mistakes. My appetite came back to me and I wolfed down the rest of my meal in no time.
A few days passed. I bled. I cried. I tried my hardest to get through to M. But while progress was slow, and the endless strings of fights were daunting, I improved over time. I was able to dodge most of M’s moves. And when I couldn’t dodge, I didn’t cower like a hatchling, but instead, braced myself, withstanding more of his attacks. Even though I was greatly outmatched by his move typing, once I picked out his weaknesses in other places, such as how he’d forget to shield his stomach sometimes, I learned to compensate for that.
Bolt watched, but instead of silently eyeing me with scorn, he looked with interest. Of course, whenever I made a mistake, he was quick to point it out, but whenever I learned from said mistake, he did the same as well. Each bit of praise from him was like a drop of water in a desert of sincerity, meaning I savoured every positive comment he made.
This all culminated in one battle where I changed for the first time. It started in a typical fashion where M mercilessly rushed forward. However, when I saw an opening, I bit down on the club, pulling away with so much force that I flung it across the room out of his reach.
“Good, Shine!” Bolt called. “Keep going!”
I didn’t have time to digest that bit of praise before M lunged forward with his fists. I didn’t have time to dodge that one, but I braced myself. The pain was dull, but nothing I couldn’t recover from. When I heard footsteps rushing away from me, I knew to run after him, pouncing on him before he even had the chance to get his bone club back. He flailed and screamed, but I wasn’t deterred. I bit into his side, soft enough to not make any lasting wounds, but hard enough for it to have some sort of impact.
He escaped, but not long after, we were neck and neck, trading blows and claw swipes. There, we fought each other as equals now instead of student and master. After a while, we had to catch our breath. We were exhausted, but not overwhelmed. For the first time ever, I was glad to actually hold my own in a fight.
White light enveloped me. I can’t quite describe the sensation, but similar to what Curio said, it was like someone moulding your body from clay. Something grew around my head. My tail got bigger. The muscles in my arms felt stronger. My claws felt sharper. And when the light disappeared and the two in the detention room stared in fascination, I realised what I had finally become: a Luxio.
“Well, congratulations, Shine,” Bolt said, sounding pleased this time. “How do you feel?”
“Certainly different.” That time, I felt confident to speak.
“Excellent. You’ve made good progress lately.” He grinned. “I expect you’ll be a fine and noble Luxray in no time.”
I mumbled a word of thanks, not knowing how to feel about the compliment.
He then sniffed loudly at the air, purposely hinting at something going on somewhere else. “I smell Basil’s cooking. I will let you off the hook for now, so you two are free to enjoy whatever he’s offering for today. Still, I expect you to come back after he’s finished. Have fun.”
Before he left to god knows where,he playfully licked my face. I held my paw to my chin, which dripped with saliva. He actually did that. Him. I thought I was supposed to be happy when that happened. I finally gained his approval. I finally got some positive attention. But it didn’t conjure up anything inside me. Thinking about that made me forget the presence of M in the room until he prodded at me with the club again.
“You’re stronger,” he said.
“Thank you.” I approached M, not afraid to be near him after that scuffle, and licked at his wounds. “Sorry again for that.”
He grunted. “Sorry is a sign of weakness.”
“I know, I can’t help it. I guess you’re going to have to get used to that.” I sniffed at the air, and indeed, the pleasant aroma of the cafeteria wafted through the air. I started walking towards the door, expecting M to follow me, but he just stood there, still unmoving. Before, I would’ve just left him to it, but here, I felt I had to reach out to him. So I went back to his side and turned him around.
“C’mon,” I said, “aren’t you looking forward to it? Don’t worry, I’ve heard Basil’s a good cook from what Tom told me. He hasn’t poisoned him yet, so…” I trailed off, expecting M to put two and two together, but still, he stood there, unsure of what to do.
“Not hungry,” he said, looking at his paw. “We hunt only when needed. Why eat when not hungry?”
“I—” I was about to call him out on it, but then I realised he might not’ve understood the social situation. “You know Basil, the Lickitung, right?”
“And you know he’s been training to cook all this time? He wants us all to try it for him. Since he started his focus, he needs people to judge his cooking.”
“Pokemon…” He paused. “Pokemon cook? Not out there.”
“Well, they do here!” I raised my voice, getting a little frustrated, when M’s eyes widened again. He must’ve been shocked by that outburst. I was about to apologise again, then remembered it wouldn’t have done any good, and simply tugged at his paw with my maw. “C’mon, M, it’ll be fun. Trust me.”
He opened his mouth, trying to say something else, but stopped. Then, he turned to his bed where the doll was and picked it up, cupping the Teddiursa in his paws. He nuzzled his cheek against it, then said: “Be back.”