"I'd really like a tree this year, sister."
Lighting forced a smile over her cup of borovan. She breathed in the minty scent of the holiday-inspired drink and tried her best to calm her nervous heart. The two cups of holiday borovan had cost quite a penny each and with Lightning's attempts in the battledome not going as she'd planned, it would be the last food item she and her younger sister, Sarah, would see for a long while. She sighed at the thought.
Lightning was a basic Lupe with a stubborn yet tender composure, especially when it came to those younger then her. Sarah was an energetic and sweet baby Cybunny. They were not biologically related, no, but they thought of one another as their sibling and no difference in blood or biological makeup had them thinking differently.
"I'm sorry hun, but I don't think we can afford one this year," the Lupe tried, her tone uneasy.
"O-oh..." The baby bunny did her best to stifle the tears that threatened to come at her sister's response, "B-But we never have a tree." She hated how her response sounded more like a whine.
"I know baby, I know," Lightning replied, "But isn't good food and a warm place for the night more important?"
She thought Sarah would quiet as she usually did when reminded of their current situation, but this time she did not.
"But you don't understand," Sarah continued, her soft white cheeks blushing red, "We need a tree for the Day of Giving! It's important. We have to have one!"
"Baby, I understand. Please trust me on this. I would like to give a tree, but we just can't-"
"No!" Sarah cried out "You don't understand and you won't. You had a home once. I've never had one. I thought maybe if we h-had a t-tree maybe we could be like a real f-family." Sarah sniffed and wiped hastily at her eyes, but the tears continued to fall. "I h-hate that we have to live like this. I want to have a real Day of Giving."
Lightning opened her mouth to response, but Sarah wasn't through.
"I hate this. I hate that we can't have a real holiday. I hate that we aren't a real family!" the bunny cried, slamming her paws against the table that sat between them.
Lightning, taken aback by this sudden change in her sister said nothing. Her mouth lay open in surprise. Sarah was so quiet and so good. She was so gentle, so kind and happy. This was a side of her Lightning hadn't thought existed.
Sarah's quick movement caused her mug to tip, the remaining liquid coated the table with it's stick substance, but the bunny paid it no mind She hopped from her side of the booth and raced for the door. By the time Lighting came to, she was already out the door and out of sight.
Due to the holiday, for it was the eve before the Day of Giving, the café at which they'd be sitting was pretty empty. Still, the few others that were there turned to glare. Lightning sank down in her seat. Her eyes water watered and for the first time in a long time, she let the tears fall.
Lightning was an escapee and Sarah an orphan. Together they were quite a pair. They were so different, like the sun and the moon. Sarah was gentle and soft, yet Lighting was rugged and rude. Every word she said held a bite, whereas Sarah spoke in an almost whisper. The night they met, Lightning had made her third and final escape from the Pound where she'd been a permanent resident. She had seen her opening. A new human and her companion had approached her cage, scratched her head through the bars and then, as they undid the lock she'd bolted.
Lightning had long since given up on the idea of being adopted. Her real name was long and strange, her color basic. These differences left her isolated and ignored. The few humans that'd she come in contact with always said strange things. They tossed around words like "lab rat" and "species change." The words frightened her and she'd fought back by growling or just by turning her head and ignoring them completely. This tended to frighten the few that came to look at her. Those who looked at her growling with interest, she then turned to ignore. This bored them. There were others in the Pound who would work for them, who would battle, who would allow themselves to be zapped and drink the potions without any doubt. But she wouldn't be like that, she refused. Lightning saw herself as a companion. She didn't think of herself as perfect, no. She knew she was troublesome and slightly rotten. Still, she refused to be anyone's test subject. But with her name and her basic appearance it seemed that was all she was destined to be. And that angered her, because she wanted to be loved for who she was. She wanted to be seen as a friend, as a companion. She wasn't just a special species or a unique color. She was Lightning. There were other blue Lupes out there, but there were no other Lightnings. And with that mindset she knew she would never be adopted. There were few out there who accepted a neopet as she was. She wasn't angry with those who wanted beautiful or interesting pets. Heck, she knew many of the others were proud of their names or their stats or their colors. And good for them. But that just wasn't how she felt. She wanted to stay as she was. She was content with being plain. It was the only way she felt right. The only way she truly felt like herself.
So when that girl came she knew it was her only way out. She felt a bit of guilt when she rushed from her cage and knocked down that little girl. She still felt slightly bad today, but her eye has been on freedom, at a chance for a new life and a happy future. It was then as she scampered away from her prison and her cage that she came across Sarah. The little Cybunny had been standing alone beside the Rainbow Pool, her paw making small ripples in the pool's surface.
Lightning never understood why she stopped. She'd always thought her heart was made of nothing more than stone, yet when she saw that little Cybunny, shaking with the cold wind, her small white ears glistening beneath the holiday lights that some Neopian had strung across the branches of the Money Tree, her heart had softened. She remembered stopping and then trotting up to the smaller. She remembered the soft sound her paw prints made in the snow, light taps. The bunny turned and cowered for Lightning was much bigger than she was. Lighting supposed she must've looked rather frightening. The Pound wasn't the cleanest place that was for sure and a while back she had fought with another Lupe in a cage beside her, which in turn had left her with a rather nasty scar beneath her left eye. Her fur must've been disheveled, her smell much worse. Still, this didn't deter her. Part of her told her to keep running, that the Techo and the Uni would have some goons after her soon. But she refused to leave the bunny all alone.
She knew how it felt, for the reason she'd been in the Pound was that she'd been left all alone. She'd been forgotten by her owner, who she'd once thought of as her best friend. Cautiously, Lightning lowered her head so their eyes were at the same level.
In the softest voice she could muster, Lightning whispered, "I won't hurt you. I'm just here to say hello."
The Cybunny, startled by her strange approached, jumped back, startled. For a moment, Lighting was afraid she'd run. But she didn't. Ever so carefully she moved closer to the Lupe, her large eyes never leaving Lightning's face. Gently, she touched her small pick nose to Lightning's cheek. The Lupe smiled.
"I'm Lightning," she added, her voice low. "What's your name?"
The bunny shifted in the snow.
"I...I don't... I'm lost," the bun replied, "and... I'm alone."
"Alone?" Lightning asked. "No. You're not alone."
"I'm here," Lightning replied, the words came easy and felt right. "You aren't alone now."
Bringing herself back to the present with a light shake of her head, Lighting sat up in her seat. And then she waited.
Every being of her body asked her to move, to go out to look for her sister, but she knew better. Sarah would come back, she would look for her and if Lightning were to be gone she would panic.
The owner of the small café, an elderly Kau passed by with a soft, sad smile. "Stay as long as you'd like."
Lightning nodded, nervous to open her mouth for fear she would cry.
When morning finally came, Lightning awake with a start. Her head against the sticky table, her thoughts disorientated. She swept her head from side to side trying to clear her foggy thoughts. The café was empty, closed for the holiday she assumed.
The Kau, the sole occupant other than herself, stood behind the counter with a cloth in hand. He smiled to her and then went about his work cleaning off the reaming crumbs and foodstuffs.
"She isn't back, is she?" Lightning asked.
"The little Cybunny."
"And you're worried about her?"
The Kau smiled and tilted his head to the kitchen. Lighting, confused by this, got up and carefully made her way past the counter and into the room beyond. The kitchen was quite large with multiple stoves and fryers. In the back corner there lay a small wood stove that burned brightly. And before that stove lay her sister, cover in a thin blanket and nibbling a cookie shaped like a holiday tree. The tray, which stood full of similar cookies rested beside her. Her back was to Lightning, and it seemed she hadn't noticed her come in.
"S-Sarah?" Lighting whispered, afraid it was too good to be true.
Sarah turned quickly to face her sister. "Sister!" she cried, hopping up from her blanket and tripping over the tray of treats at the same time. The trees went flying, but Sarah paid them no mind.
"Sister, I'm sorry!" she cried rushing to nuzzle the Lupe.
"W-what are you doing here? I thought you ran away!"
"Mister Kau, he's the owner here, found me last night out by the bakeries, he took me here and you were sleeping and I was afraid to wake you 'cause I didn't want you to be mad." The words came fast and Lightning was barely able to keep up. Once complete with her story, Sarah's ears perked and her head swept form side to side as if just remembering something. Her expression crumbled as she saw her fallen tears.
"I-I made some for you," she whispered, "so we could have a tree, like a real family."
"I thought you wanted a real tree," was all Lightning could think to say. Her eyes were watering again and she refused to wipe the tears away.
"Mister Kau taught me something. He told me that I was lucky to have you and wouldn't I rather have you than a silly old tree for company. And besides, the Day of Giving isn't about trees or presents or any of that old stuff. It's about family and even though we're kind of a strange family, we're a family and that's what counts."
Lightning chuckled. "Sounds like you learned something there, but you were talking kind of fast so I think I missed most of it."
Sarah giggled. "Sorry. What I really wanted to ask was if we could be sisters again. You're really important to me Lightning and you were my family when I had none. I know I've been rotten, but I really hope we can be sisters again, pretty please with borovan on top?"
"Well... I don't know," the Lupe teased. She then smirked and pulled the baby Cybunny into an embrace. "Of course we can."
"Happy Day of Giving, Lightning."
"Happy Day of Giving."