Why Not Spike?
"I want a new Petpet."
Those five words shattered the peaceful silence of the living room of the house at 494991 Bread Street, Neopia Central. Fang, a red Shoyru who had just sat down on the Straw Sofa with the newest copy of the Neopian Times—at the time, issue 259—looked up to see a Christmas Pteri by the name of Leven standing in the doorway with his wing over his head.
"What happened?" Fang asked, placing the 'Times aside on the sofa. She stood up and hurried over, her brow furrowed with concern.
"Spike threw a rock at me," Leven replied, and he moved his wing to show the lump that was already forming on the side of his head. Spike was Leven's current Petpet, a Pirate Faellie with an attitude problem. The critter had somehow gotten his paws on a toy cannon, and he used this to lob rocks at perceived invaders of his garden.
Fang winced at the sight of the wound. "Oh, Leven, you know how Spike gets when people go into his garden!" She, herself, had experienced this once or twice and it was not pretty. What had once been a peaceful garden was now pirate territory. Spike had even claimed the Wooden Birdhouse at the center of the garden as his home, and he slept there every night rather than in the actual Neohome on the property. "You can't just go walking out there or you'll alarm him!" concluded Fang, rubbing her head as if remembering the last time she had done just that.
"I don't care," huffed Leven, crossing his wings and turning his beak up. "He's just mean. I don't want Spike anymore. He's always like this and it scares away my friends. And besides, I'm Christmas and he's Pirate. We don't belong together anyway!"
Fang stood quite still at that, frozen with uncertainty and mixed feelings on the topic. Though Spike had always been just as Leven had described, Fang somehow had still grown fond of the little Faellie. She was torn at the thought of getting rid of him, but... Looking at Leven's head and the damage that had been done, she supposed she could understand why he was tired of it. "...Okay," she replied hesitantly.
Leven passed her and sat on the sofa where the Neopian Times had been left. "Good." He still had his wings crossed and seemed determined. He took a moment to brush one wing over the growing lump on his head, but avoided looking toward Fang all the while. She was staring at him and he knew it. He wasn't going to let her expression guilt him out of this! Noting his determination, the Shoyru sighed lightly and left him there, heading down the hall toward the door that led out to Spike's garden.
Moments passed and Leven's temper cooled. But Leven was stubborn, and he was already thinking of what new Petpet he wanted. As a matter of fact, he had made up his mind! Now, waiting for Fang's return, he sat on the edge of the couch and kicked his taloned feet impatiently. Hearing Fang's footsteps, he jumped down to the floor and grinned a beaky grin, his wings held wide for emphasis. "A Yooyu!"
Fang had just entered the room again to hear the exclamation. Spike was perched on her shoulder. "A Yooyu?" the Shoyru repeated questioningly. Spike crossed his arms and glowered toward Leven. Though one of his eyes was covered by an eyepatch, this look still caused Spike's current owner to hesitate.
"Uh... Yes. A Yooyu," Leven replied, though his voice was a bit weaker under Spike's gaze. "I mean, we all loved the Altador Cup, right? Wouldn't it be cool to have our own Yooyu?" This was the year that the Altador Cup had debuted. Leven hadn't been in shape and missed out on a lot of it, but with his own Yooyu, he would be able to practice and prepare for Altador Cup II! The more he thought about it, the more excited he got!
But his excitement faded upon seeing Spike's face. Leven had never seen him like that, looking glumly to the floor as if he had given up on his glowering glare. He was... defeated. Fang placed a gentle hand on the Faellie's side and nodded slowly to Leven. "Okay. I think we can afford a Yooyu." Her voice was a bit cold, and she raised a brow somewhat curiously as she studied Leven's expression. Patting Spike's side, she turned and left the room, leaving Leven there in stunned silence.
What had he done? Leven withdrew his wings, shuffling his primary feathers together and glancing to the floor. He heard the front door open, and then close. And then, he suddenly looked up toward the sound of that door. "Wait!"
Hurrying to the front door, he struggled briefly to open it, and then dashed out onto Bread Street. Fang was nowhere to be seen, Spike along with her. "I changed my mind..." Leven said, slowly and sadly. But he was too late.
Leven returned to the porch and sat for a while with his head in his wings. And as he sat, he thought of Spike. Spike was always grumpy. In the few months Leven had known him, Spike had had few days in which he was sociable. But those days... Leven managed a sad smile at the thought of them. Those were the days!
He remembered when Spike first arrived. Fang had been the one to suggest his name. Leven, who had been begging for a Petpet for weeks, had already disliked the Faellie, or so he had convinced himself, and was even more repelled by the thought of naming him Spike. "Why Spike?" he had asked in a disgusted tone.
"Why not Spike?" retorted Fang. "Besides, he looks like a Spike to me." She had said this with an adoring smile, looking down at the pirate Faellie who found the thought of belonging to Leven as abhorrent as Leven believed owning him would be. Leven could come up with no arguments to Fang's words, though, and so Spike was named.
Then there was the time not long after that that some bullies tried to steal Neopoints from Leven, and all Spike had to do was look cross to scare them off. Leven then used those points on ice cream, a treat that Spike had been reluctant to try. Leven remembered sitting on a bench outside the Neopian Food Shop in Neopia Central next to his best friend, Joizem the green Pteri, and his brother Yoshi, who had at the time been a mutant Korbat, all enjoying their ice creams. After a while, Spike did try the ice cream and he loved it. They spent the rest afternoon laughing and joking with one another, and Spike eventually warmed up to the others and joined in with the occasional grumble.
Another time, Joizem came over to play, and Spike had been so friendly with her that Leven was furious. Later that night, Leven was sitting gloomily in his room when Spike paid him a visit, and the two played Cheat until Fang came in to scold them for being up so late. Leven laughed at the memory, remembering that, though Spike had won most of Leven's allowance during the game, the two of them had had such fun like they hadn't had before. That was when their bond was really growing.
So why, now Leven wondered, had he let one little mishap destroy the friendship he had had with his Petpet? He sighed, eying the cement at his talons as it gradually darkened with the setting sun. The lump on his head didn't even hurt anymore—and it had only been a few hours! That certainly wasn't worth throwing Spike out for! He sighed again, not hearing the faint fluttering of webbed wings as Fang the Shoyru landed on the grass of their front lawn.
"Have you settled down now?" Fang asked, surprising Leven. He looked up as she approached, noting the sympathetic smile on her face.
Leven tried to hide a sniffle and nodded. "Yeah," he replied. "...And Spike?"
Fang frowned. "What about him? You didn't want him anymore, remember?" she pointed out, crossing her arms.
Another sniffle escaped Leven before he could disguise it. "But... But..." He looked down, quickly brushing a tear from his beak before it could be seen. "But I changed my mind..."
Fang could hold her façade no longer. Approaching the Pteri, she placed a hand on his shoulder and offered him a comforting smile. "I figured you would," she said calmly, "and that's why I didn't sell Spike." She grinned as Leven looked up abruptly, his beak hanging open.
"You didn't?" he gasped, his eyes wide.
"Of course not," Fang assured him. "We had some sodas and split a pizza over at Pizzaroo, and then he went on back to his garden. Don't worry, I talked him down," she added, giving Leven a knowing look.
Leven hesitated. "So can I go see him?" he asked hopefully, his eyes filled with relief.
Fang chuckled. "He's still your Petpet, Leven. Of course you can go see him!" She watched as Leven eagerly turned and hurried into the house.
Spike's garden connected through Leven's own room. Leven stopped there to look out the window into the garden, feeling a bit uncertain of what he was going to say once he went out there. He stared through the window for some long moments, watching the still birdhouse as if expecting it to do something. At last, Leven opened the door and headed out into the garden. Half way to the birdhouse, he paused, a bit surprised that Spike hadn't gone on the offensive yet. Closing the gap between himself and the birdhouse, Leven crouched by it—it had long since fallen to the ground—and peered inside. "Spike?"
Spike's general shape could be seen in the dimming evening light. He didn't move.
"Spike, it's me. It's Leven." A weak chuckle escaped the bird's beak. "Your owner."
Spike shifted a bit, then turned to face him. A questioning look was on his face, and Leven was sure if he could speak plain Neopian that he would have said, "What?!"
"Spike I, um, I'm sorry," Leven said quietly. "But you know, that really hurt when your rock hit me!" An accusing tone had come over his voice, and he had to take a moment to remove that tone before speaking further. "Listen, buddy, I thought about it and really, I never ever want you to go away. Okay?"
Spike snorted, climbing grumpily through the round opening of the birdhouse and fluttering up onto its roof. He crossed his arms, still looking angry, though that could have just been his normal expression.
"So," Leven said, falling quiet for a few seconds. "So can you forgive me?"
Spike eyed him contemptuously, and then rolled his eye, a feat of an expression for an eyepatched creature. Then, without warning, Spike fluttered up to Leven and patted him gently on the head. "Arr," the pirate Faellie said, as it was the one and only expression he could say. A smile crossed his muzzle. Though Spike was clearly not over the willy-nilly nature of his near-abandoning, he was forgiving of his owner. After all, who had more flaws than Leven?
Leven gave him a grateful look. "Thanks, buddy," he said quietly. He watched Spike land again, then grinned in a sheepish manner. "So, Fang gave me my allowance a couple days ago. Wanna play Cheat?"
And as the two began to squabble over what their minimum bet would be per round, neither noticed the red Shoyru who had been watching through the window the entire time. Fang left the window with a smile on her face, and headed to her own room with a story idea in mind...
The next issue of the Neopian Times, issue 260, featured a story entitled 'Why Not Spike?'. Nearly eight years later, a first edition copy of that Neopian Times issue still hung on Fang's bedroom wall. It was a proud accomplishment; Fang's very first published work in the 'Times. Every once in a while, Fang would take it down to reread it, and every time she would smile at the memory.
One evening, just after Spike's eighth birthday party at the beginning of the Month of Eating, Leven and Spike had gone up to Fang's room to get away from the crowded lower floor of the house. They didn't often go in Fang's room, for Spike's brother, a devilish Darigan Faellie named Dukkha, dwelled there. But Dukkha was downstairs enjoying the party with his owner, Fang, and Leven and Spike were longing for some peace to enjoy the anniversary of their meeting alone.
It was there that they saw the 260th edition of the Neopian Times lying on the arm of Fang's Writer's Arm Chair. Crossing the room together, they sat side by side in the large chair, and while Leven held up the paper, the two of them read a story with a strikingly familiar title. By the time Leven had finished reading it, Spike had fallen asleep in the chair beside him. Leven, not an overly sentimental bird, lay the newspaper down across his lap and looked over at his Petpet, a smile crossing his beak as that event from so many years ago played through his mind.
"Happy birthday, buddy," Leven murmured. His eyes were drooping with fatigue, and he yawned a great yawn, even putting his wing over his beak as he did. Laying the same wing over Spike afterward, he let his eyes fall shut and dozed off, the Neopian Times 260th issue scattering to the floor. His by-then-signature Winter Blechy Hat fell forward to cover his eyes, its top tassel swaying slowly as Leven's breaths swooped by it. Fang would find the two of them like this later, but for just that moment, Leven and Spike were together, just as they had been for eight years, and just as they would be for perhaps many, many more.