Of Sand and Shadows @helloyellow
Chapter 13: Evolution Origins

NOTE:

Some of you may have noticed that this poor old site has been wheezing again. I'm just going to remind all my readers that, should FFN collapse, this story is posted on AO3 under the same title and username. The link to AO3 is posted in my profile, and you do not need an account to read and/or comment! Hopefully FFN can keep kicking for a while longer, but if not, you know where to find me. :)


Chapter 13: Evolution Origin

Ten Years Earlier

Neo loved the outdoors.

There was just something about the way the sun warmed his brown and tan pelt and gleamed off every surface. There was something about the way the desert winds tickled his ears pleasantly and carried with it all kinds of smells from faraway places, tingling his Eevee senses. The sand beneath his little paws was soft, and it was sosatisfying to swipe at it and watch it blow to dust.

He didn't just like being outdoors. He relished in it.

And so it was that, on this particular day as he, his brother, and his Trainer sat outside a short distance from the Snagem base in the shade of a large desert shrub, he pranced about with glee.

The young boy watched him from under the shrub as he and Novo ate their lunch. "Lunch" was probably a generous term, as there was only a handful of kibble for the two Eevee and a bare-bones sandwich for Wes. But food was food, and none of them would complain about that.

Neo frolicked in the sun and batted at the wind as though it were a tangible enemy he could ward off with only his paws. He rolled in the sands, then leapt to his feet and shook it all off in a cloud of dust. He blinked happily at his Trainer, who watched with a small smile on his face.

Neo loved seeing his Trainer smile. It wasn't a common sight, so when it occurred, he relished it as much as he did the sun.

Novo sat beside Wes with a dignified air. He always sat up straight and stiff, like some sort of sentry. Playing and rolling around in the dirt was beneath him - or so it was indicated, what with his head held high and the way he watched his brother with a disdainful gaze.

Neo snorted at him. Killjoy.

The wind kicked up a bit, causing the branches of the shrub overhead to creak as they rubbed against one another. Neo pricked up his ears at the sound; he had an idea.

"Vee!" he barked, and bolted straight at the shrub's base.

"Neo!" he heard Wes call his name in surprise as the Eevee clawed his way up the brittle branches. "What are you...?"

Neo climbed farther up into the shrub, claws scratching at the rough bark as he ascended. He would get to the very top of this thing, and then he would be the tallest he'd ever been-!

Crack.

The branches gave way beneath his paws as they snapped in two, too fragile to bear his weight. Neo squeaked in surprise and scrabbled frantically for a foothold, but to no avail; the branches showered down to the ground, and the Eevee came tumbling down with them.

He landed in the sand with a solid whump! He heard his Trainer shout his name and his brother give a surprised yap. Dazed, he sat up and shook bits of leaves and bark from his fur.

Neo felt branches sticking out of his fur from all angles, so he promptly busied himself with trying to pull them from his pelt. He was tugging at a particularly stubborn one when a strange, unfamiliar sound reached his ears. He looked up in alarm.

His Trainer was laughing.

Neo stared. He'd never heard the boy make this sound before. He'd heard laughs from the bigger humans at the base, but those sounds were harsh, cruel, and unpleasant. This was...entirely different.

Something warm bubbled up in his chest. Neo kneaded the ground with his paws and gave a pleased yip. "Vee!"

His Trainer wiped tears from his eyes and looked at the Eevee with a wide smile - a real smile! - before bursting into another fit of laughter. The warmth in Neo's chest grew and he couldn't help but purr. Seeing his Trainer like this made him so...so...

Happy.

The sun's rays seemed to suddenly intensify. Neo was now warm all over, and everything around him was bright and glowing...

Wait. Glowing?

Bright white light filled his vision. Neo caught a glimpse of Wes' shocked expression before the light overtook him completely. He wanted to cry out in fear, but he couldn't make a sound, couldn't do anything except wait as the light and the heat threatened to swallow him whole -

It stopped.

Neo blinked open his eyes. The light was back to normal now, and the heat had faded from his body. He saw Novo and his Trainer staring at him in alarm.

Novo barked. "Vee!"

Neo flicked his tail. What was the matter with - huh?

His tail felt...different. Longer. Narrower. Neo glanced over his shoulder, and a slender, forked tail was now where his bushy one should have been. The sun glinted off the fur on his back; his coat was now sleek and light purple in color, and when he moved, he could feel a new sense of power in his now slender legs. He was bigger now. Taller. Stronger.

He was fabulous.

Neo turned back to his family with excitement. He chirped at his Trainer, but the sound was different, more melodious than before. "Espi?"

"Neo..." Wes broke into yet another wide smile. "Neo, you evolved!"

He rushed forward and scooped him up into his arms. Neo blinked. The boy was so much smaller now...or was Neo just bigger?

That new, wonderful sound reached his ears. Wes was laughing again.

Neo closed his eyes and rubbed against his Trainer with a hearty purr. He would do anything, be anything, go anywhere, if he could hear that sound more often. The warmth returned to his chest again, and he embraced it.

Happy.


Novo didn't quite know why he hadn't evolved yet.

He sat next to his Trainer as the boy worked on his bike, the setting sun casting a faint glow on the two of them. The dark-haired man been working alongside him earlier, but he'd had to leave a few hours ago. He'd left his tools with the boy and cheerfully told him he was sure he was getting the hang of it.

Novo didn't like many humans at the base, but this dark-haired man was an exception.

There was a distinct clank, and he heard the boy curse from under the hood. Novo twitched his ears and rubbed up against his Trainer's leg. Surely they would go inside soon? They'd been out here working on this old hunk of metal all day, and it was getting late.

His brother Neo had been returned to his ball about an hour earlier; since evolving into an Espeon, he now quite literally rose and slept with the sun. As soon as the sunset had started to fade from the sky, he'd fallen asleep in the sidecar. Wes had returned him so he could get some proper rest.

Now it was just the two of them in the fading light. Wes had a flashlight clenched between his teeth as he continued to work on the massive engine. Despite Novo's desire to return indoors before it got cold, he couldn't blame the boy for staying out here as long as he could. They all preferred to stay away from the base, and the people inside, as much as possible.

Novo watched the last of the sunset ebb from the sky as he pondered. His brother had been a fully evolved Espeon for a few months now, so what was keeping him from evolving? He knew closeness with his Trainer wasn't the issue; he felt a rush of joy every time he looked at the boy, and he loved him just as much as he loved his brother. And while it only hurt his pride just a little that he now got totally steamrolled by his brother in all of their play-fights, here he was. Still an Eevee.

He could evolve, so why didn't he? Novo wished he had an answer.

The sound of boots crunching on sand made him prick up his ears; he turned his head and saw three figures walking towards them. He brushed against his Trainer again and alerted him with a low growl.

Wes pulled his head out from under the hood and tugged the flashlight from his mouth. He gave the Eevee a questioning look until he, too, noticed that they had company. He turned to face them with a glare.

The three visitors came to a stop a few paces in front of them. Novo felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck as he recognized the one at the forefront of the group. The humans called him "Sage", or something equally stupid, to match the sickly green color of his hair. He was young, still a teenager, but he still had several years on Wes, and he had just as much savage viciousness as any Snagem adult. His friends on either side of him were roughly the same age as he, and the three of them stared Wes down with a menacing air.

"How's it goin', Leo?" Sage sneered. His words were amicable enough, but his tone suggested otherwise.

Novo felt his Trainer tense beside him. "What do you want?" he snapped.

Novo couldn't sense emotions as acutely as his brother could, but he didn't need to, at least not with his Trainer. Two years with the boy had taught him everything about his mannerisms and emotions; he knew exactly how he was feeling at any given moment just by observing his body language, his voice, the changes in his eyes.

Right now, Wes was afraid.

He hid it well, and his emotions were usually indecipherable to anyone that wasn't his Pokémon. But Novo knew, from his tense posture and narrowed eyes and the tiniest quiver in his voice. He was afraid. And, given who was standing in front of him, he had every right to be.

Sage laughed, but it wasn't a nice sound. It was cold and cruel and smacked of barely restrained rage, nothing at all like the way Wes sometimes - well, rarely - laughed.

"You hear that, boys?" Sage called to his companions, still leering at Wes with a chilling glare. "He wants to know what we want."

His cronies chuckled darkly. They all stepped closer.

"You're playing a dangerous game, Leo," Sage said in a low growl. "Trying to one-up everybody else by snatching missions out from under our noses? Now that's ballsy. Or maybe you're just stupid."

Wes folded his arms and leaned his head back. "Or maybe you're all just incompetent," he said coldly.

"What did you just say to me?"

Sage stepped forward again with a hiss. He was now frighteningly close to the boy, looming over him.

Wes tensed further, but kept his voice steady. "You heard me."

A terrifying, predatory gleam entered Sage's eyes. Novo stepped in front of his Trainer, baring his teeth and fluffing out his fur as far as he could. "Veeeee!"

The teen scowled down at the Eevee and curled his lip in disgust. "So that's it, huh? You think you're better than everyone else just because you've got two fancy Pokémon?"

"I don't have anything to prove to you," Wes bit back. His hands were curled into fists at his sides now as he openly glared at Sage. "You're just a bunch of low-lives who pick on smaller, younger targets to make yourselves feel better. You're pathetic."

WHAM.

The older boy's fist was so fast it seemed to have come out of nowhere. Wes staggered backward into the motorbike, and Novo flew into a rage. "EE-VEE!"

His teeth ripped into Sage's calf. The teen screamed in pain and lashed out at the Eevee, his fists berating every inch of Novo's small body. Novo simply sank his fangs deeper, bracing himself against the painful blows -

He was suddenly wrenched from his foe as Sage was sent careening into the sand. Novo shook himself and looked up to find his Trainer standing over him, eyes burning furiously, fist still raised from the devastating punch he had landed on Sage's jaw.

The other two boys roared in fury, and before either Wes or Novo could react, they lunged forward.

To face even one of the boys would have been difficult for his Trainer, given the significant size difference, but two on one made it an impossible fight. Novo lunged into the fray, biting down wherever he could, tearing with his claws. One of the boys landed a solid kick in the Eevee's ribs and sent him rolling across the dirt.

"Wait!"

Sage staggered to his feet, wiping blood from his mouth. His friends froze at the command. One of them held Wes by the collar of his shirt, the other hand raised in a fist to continue the beating. Wes coughed weakly, a dribble of blood going down his chin. More blood was streaming from his nose, which appeared to be broken. He glared at Sage with seething fury.

Sage leered at him with a bloody grin. "Hold him." The boys did as commanded, each one taking an arm and wrenching them behind Wes' back. Sage stepped forward, his face twisted with sickening glee.

"I'm about to really enjoy this, Leo," he said. He raised a fist.

"VEE!"

Novo staggered to his paws and lunged forward, ready to tear into Sage's other leg. This time, however, the teen was ready for him. His boot connected with Novo's rib cage, followed by a resounding crack.

Wes choked out a cry as his Eevee was sent rolling through the sands again, yelping in pain. "N-N-Novo!"

"Right. Where were we?" Sage returned his attention to his victim.

"You bastard!" Wes bellowed, struggling vainly to break free. "Too big of a coward to face me by yourself?"

"Well, I didn't want your little pets to get in my way, did I? Speaking of which..." Sage's eyes flicked to the Pokeball on Wes' belt where Neo was contained. He addressed his lackeys.

"Take it."

Wes thrashed and cursed, but could do nothing as Neo's Pokeball was ripped away from him. Sage's friend tossed the ball to him, and he caught it with a smirk.

"You know, an Espeon would really boost my credibility around these parts, don't you think?" Sage grinned at Wes again. "And you even did all the hard work of evolving it for me. Thanks, Leo!"

Wes spat an insult at him that wiped the smirk right off the teen's face.

"You just never learn, huh?" Sage snarled. His gaze then rested on the open toolbox that sat a pace behind the boys, and his eyes gleamed. "I know something that'll fix that foul mouth of yours."

The conversation hummed in Novo's ears as he tried and failed to rise from where he lay. His chest was on fire, and it hurt to breathe, let alone move, but his Trainer was in danger, he needed him...

Through a haze of pain, Novo saw Sage step up to Wes with a wrench in his raised hand.

He struggled to his paws and lurched forward with a wail, but he was too slow, too late.

Blood sprayed across the rusty surface of the motorbike. Red spattered onto the sand. Novo heard his Trainer scream in agony, heard the boys' raucous laughter, heard Sage howl, "Let's go again, shall we?"

And something inside him erupted.

He wasn't aware of the flash of light or the heat emanating through his body. He wasn't aware of his high pitched howl of rage morph into something deeper, louder, more sinister. All he knew was that he was lunging forward, his paws barely grazing the ground as he flew at Wes' attackers, at these creatures that could barely call themselves human, ready to tear into them with wild abandon.

His fangs flashed. His claws shredded. A strange dark energy was pulsing from him, knocking the thugs backward just before he ripped into each of them with savage pleasure. Their screams turned from ones of rage, to ones of pain, and then to ones of absolute terror.

"Novo, STOP!"

His Trainer's shout pulled him back to his senses, and Novo halted his assault. The three boys were huddled in the sand in front of him, shaking, bloodied, crying in fear, all bravado completely forgotten. Novo advanced a step, snarling, and in an instant all three of them were pelting back to the base as fast as their injured legs could carry them.

Novo spat at their retreating figures in disgust, and that's when he noticed that the pain in his ribs had vanished. Next, he noticed a strange light emanating around him - no, from him - in pulses. He blinked down at his sides, and where a fluffy brown coat used to be, there was now a sleek black pelt with glowing yellow rings.

He was no longer an Eevee, but an Umbreon.

Wes' ragged voice tugged him from his daze. "Novo..."

Novo turned his head to find his Trainer slumped in the sand, his face almost completely slathered in scarlet. Blood was streaming from his mouth and nose, but most concerning was the horrifying gash across the boy's face that ran from one cheekbone to the other.

Novo bounded up to him with a worried rumble in his throat. "Umbri?"

Wes gave him a shaky grin and rubbed his now significantly longer ears. "You...finally evolved..." His words came in painful gasps.

"Briii?" Novo whined and nuzzled his Trainer's face. He heard a tiny, pained sob escape from the boy. A hand gripped the fur tightly around the Umbreon's shoulders.

"Are...are they...are they gone?" Wes' voice was little more than a shaky whisper. Novo nodded, and the boy's eyes clouded with fear. "Neo...N-Neo-"

Novo glanced around for any sign of his brother's Pokeball. He found it resting in the sand just a pace away, having been forgotten in the ensuing chaos. He bounded over and nosed it back to his Trainer.

Wes grabbed the ball in a shaky hand and pulled it close to his chest. Another sob escaped him as he curled into a ball in a vain attempt to escape the pain.

Novo quietly bowed his head and licked the blood from his Trainer's face. Those boys would never bother him again; he'd made sure of that. As Wes wrapped an arm around the Umbreon and cried, Novo came to one very solid, very clear conclusion.

He would do anything, be anything, go anywhere to make sure his Trainer never cried, never hurt like this again.


Author's Notes:

SURPRISE!

Aw, come on, admit it. You were surprised by this. I got you, didn't I? ;)

Before anybody asks, no: This does not mean I am returning to weekly updates just yet. I've had this evolution backstory written for quite some time now - it's one of the first chapters I've ever written, if you can believe it! - and I was struggling with where to place it in the story.

I finally decided to just give it it's own chapter, so here we are! Consider this a bonus chapter, of sorts. A mini-sode. An interlude. A special. I could go on.

This update will not affect the current schedule, so yes, there will be another update next week! :)

Thanks again for all your support, and I hope you enjoyed this random update!

Responses to reviews:

Dabber2121: Not to worry, the pieces will fall into place fairly soon. :) I don't intend to drag out the mystery forever.

Wyldclaw and Tower of Babel: Thank you so much for your comments! I hope you stay tuned and continue to enjoy the story!

I.D.'s Fantasy: What a kind comment, thank you!

Number13teen: It made me very happy to hear that you enjoyed the scene with Lon, as that was probably the scene I was most uncertain about in terms of "is this coming across the way I want it to?". Lots of parallels between him and Wes, for sure. :)

Shocker789: Once again, thanks for the review! I'm glad the flashback scene stood out to you - it was one that I wanted to do properly, given the sensitive topic, and your comment helped me feel that I did it tastefully enough.

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