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A Wolf Among Men

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Heels stopped clacking down stark white halls at one door. A tall woman looks down at the door with a stare of deep concern. "Should we really be locking them up like this? They are alive, just like us. It's been tested and proven that they're intelligent, am I wrong?" A short, lanky man standing next to her nodded grimly. "Yes, Madame, but they're also volatile and powerful. You created them yourself, you should know. This one has been found to spit venom."

The taller woman sighed remorsefully and took the folder from a plastic box bolted to the door. "You kept the name I gave him?"

"Yes, it responds well to it." The smaller man emphasised the pronoun he used, as if determined to dehumanize whatever was behind the door. "Almost as if it enjoys having a name. The other one is the same way."

"Faba, let me in to see him. I have good news for him!" The woman told him in a singsong voice. She tucked the folder back into the box and clapped her hands excitedly. Faba, as the man was called, pressed in a code on the keys by the doorframe and the door clicked open. Faba watched cautiously as the woman walked inside and shut the door behind her.

"Gladiolus~?" She called. From the shaded corner of the room, a figure perked up. Tall black ears folded upwards from the top of its head as six emerald eyes locked onto her. The figure seemed to recognize her as it crept from the shadows, nosing into her arms and purring. It was vaguely humanoid in shape, covered in short black fur save for the plumes of platinum blonde hair on its head and the end of its long tail. The fur was a bit longer along its spine, spiking upwards into a coarse mane that hid serrated spines along its back. Its feet held a digitigrade stance and each toe was tipped with a long claw. A long tail extended from its spine, twitching and lined with the same serrated spines as its back and neck. The woman held its cheeks and swayed its head gently. "How's my most beautiful son today?" She cooed, stroking his head and earning a loud purr in response. She wagged a finger teasingly. "Ah, ah, ah! Use your words, Gladiolus." The beast growled and choked out a word in a soft, raspy voice.

Good..." He squirmed out of her arms and pawed at the wall, which he knew his counterpart was behind. "Sis...Sister...?" He rasped, looking to the woman with curiosity. She walked over and swept him up in her arms, carrying him out of his cramped cell in the lab. He whined, pawing over her shoulder.

"Oh!" She yelped. "How could I forget?" She walked back inside and leaned cautiously over to grab the little beaten up cleffa plush that she had given him to play with. She handed it over her shoulder to him and the creature chirped happily. He snatched it in his claws and chewed affectionately on it, his tail twitching with content. The man who had been waiting outside's eyes widened as she left the room with Gladiolus in her arms. She entered the other lab to retrieve her daughter. The female was much smaller. Her fur was pure white; the same spikes that ran down her brother's back marked her spine as well, running all the way down her tail and tipping the wrists of all four of her feathered wings. The woman lifted her up, putting the male down to walk on his own.

"Madame! President! Lusamine!" Called Faba, waving his arms frantically. Lusamine stopped in her tracks, turning to stare at Faba.

"What?"

"What are you doing?!"

"Bringing my children home, Faba," she stated firmly, as if this was an irrefutable fact. Faba simply nodded shakily and scampered off, leaving Lusamine to bring the two little beasts back to the Aether House. Their new home.

The first day the young ones were there was full of exploration and questions. Lusamine was patient with them, answering every inquiry and explaining everything they wanted to know. She discovered many new things in just the first few hours, such as their favorite food (pomegranate seeds, or, in Gladiolus's case, the whole pomegranate), their favorite colors (Gladiolus's black and Lillian's purple), and their favorite places to sleep (Gladiolus favored the pile of spare blankets in the linen closet while Lillian slept curled up next to Lusamine). She adored them and spoiled them so, enriching them with new lives outside of a stark and cramped lab. She taught them to speak, to read and write, to sing and dance, and pursue whatever they wanted to learn. Most importantly, she taught them their ability to shapeshift, to become more human to blend in. This confused them and they asked why they would need it, to whoch Lusamine always responded "Better safe than sorry!" However, as much as Lusamine would have loved it to be, all was not well with the world. Her employees grew suspicious of the creatures' power as they grew older. The body of her foundation didn't believe they were the sweet, loving little things she knew them to be. So, in a flash of idiotic brilliance, they decided to test it themselves.

 

A scream-snarl from one of her children startled Lusamine awake late that night. Lillian wasn't in the bed with her and Gladiolus was nowhere to be found. She sprang out of bed and bolted into the main room, where the commotion had come from. She stifled a gasp at what she saw. Gladiolus stood on all fours, fur bristling, his face bent into a horrific snarl as venom dripped from between his teeth. He let out that awful sound again as an employee scrambled backwards, a hole burned through his uniform and his flesh from the beast's venom. Gladiolus' claws clicked on the tile as he stepped forward. Lusamine lunged. "Gladiolus! Gladiolus, my son!" She scooped him up in her arms, earning a startled growl but nothing more. He purred and settled into her grip and Lillian weaved between her ankles. "Out! Out all of you! I don't want to see your shameful faces!" She barked, sending the employees scrambling away. She huffed and looked with concern to her children. She knew she what she had to do.

 

Early that morning, Lusamine gifted them both a pokeball and a loving kiss. "You must leave. It is too dangerous for you to stay, you'll be safer in Alola." Gladiolus whimpered as she held his face lovingly, her gentle grip filled with sadnees that seeped into his skin. "Use that ability I showed you to look more like me. Be safe, assimilate. A ferry is leaving soon, go on, go catch it." She shooed them away. They both glanced back to her as they were herded towards the docks. She stroked a tear from her cheek as they cried the last words she would hear from them for years:

"Bye, Mother!" In perfect unison.

Chapter Text

Thunder cracked over the open sea. Two siblings nestled close to each other, whining as the ferry rocked with the waves. The smaller hugged her brother tightly, who watched anxiously out the window at the violent storm. It had been steadily stalking them across the horizon and had hit as soon as their old home left their view. The pair had scrambled quickly to the lower deck to stay dry, but now that didn't seem like such a good idea. They were cold and hungry and alone, stranded in an unknown ocean going to an unknown place they might never make it to. Suddenly, the boat lurched. The smaller yelped and the larger held her close. There was a trickling sound that quickly burst into an alarming torrent as frigid water lapped at their paws. The male lept into action, snatching his sister by her nape and bounding up the stairs to the higher decks. The boat's only movements now were steadily downwards into the furious grey water. The soaked creature whined. He looked around and saw the one thing that would keep his little sister safe: A single, small raft. With a surge of strength, he tossed her into the raft and sprang after her, kicking out with strong hind legs to shove it off. She yelped and cried for him as she drifted away. He held his mother's gift in his mouth and leaped into the waves to follow. The white female pawed too far out and fell, crying loudly for help as she hit the waves. Gladiolus let out a frail, shaky roar as a gust of wind sent waves propelling them apart. Tears and rain began to cloud Gladiolus's eyes as his sister faded from view among the torrent. He tried to power forward, but his legs were exhausted enough trying to keep him afloat. He tucked his gift into the pocket of the shirt his mother had given him. His heart hurt as he heard his sister's cries fading away, but the ache somehow didn't reach him. He felt numb to everything as he lost feeling in his legs. He whined weakly one last time before his vision blurred. The world swayed as he was thrown upwards and into the air, and went black as he fell against the water.

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A sharp ringing noise blotted out everything. Voices, blurry voices he couldn't make out were all he could hear. Slowly, the words became intelligible.

"Is it dead?"

"No, you numskull! Look, it's breathin'!"

"Shut up, the both of ya! Poor thing's probably freezing out here in the rain! C'mon, lets get it back to HQ."

"Are you nutso!? We don't even know what the hell that thing is and you wanna take it home with us?! No way, not in my house."

"Well, too bad, 'cause it's my house too and I ain't havin' dead monsters on my beach!"

Gladiolus groaned as his vision returned. Three pairs of eyes were trained on him. Pink, purple, and blue. Two terrified, one looking sympathetic. He let out a tired growl and tried to haul himself up to crawl out of the water, but collapsed instantly. Two streaks of warmth spread slowly out across his chest and made him purr as he settled into the welcome comfort.

"Hey, little guy. You must be exhausted. Poor thing..." cooed a gruff-sounding female voice as he was lifted from the ground gently. "Lookit! It's friendly," the voice told her companions. He lifted his eyes weakly to see the other two humans approaching them. He was too weak to do anything more than let a weak growl rise from his throat. The purple pair of eyes softened at his pitiful condition.

"Ah, alright. Let's take it back, its pretty pathetic."

Gladiolus whined thankfully as the woman carried him away from the water and towards a towering wall. He leaned into the woman's firm but careful grip, his body still numb from being tossed in the freezing sea. They entered the wall and took him into a huge house at the end of a long pathway. He let out a curious purr-growl as he was walked into an empty room and placed on the bed. The woman and the man the purple pair of eyes belonged to left, eliciting a small whine from the creature. He didn't want to be cold and alone again. They returned a moment later with blankets and made quick work of wrapping him up in them. His tail twitched happily and he purred at the warmth.

"Alright," The woman pointed to herself. "I'm Plumeria, but you can call me Plums or Big Sis, yeah?"

"Big Sis..." Gladiolus rasped, suddenly reminded of Lillian. "Sis..." he purred. The woman patted him gently.

"Yeah, that's right." She jabbed a thumb at the white-haired man beside her. "This here is Guzma. Most of the Grunts call him Boss or G."

Gladiolus pawed for his hair. "Fluffy... Like..." he purred. Guzma seemed charmed and gave a vain smile, fluffing him hair.

"Ah, don't flatter him, kid," Plumeria laughed, giving Guzma a light shove. "You got a name?" She cocked her head to one side with a gentle, prodding smile.

"G... Gladiolus...." he murmured, nervous to share his name with them.

"Gladiolus is a bit of a mouthful, eh? How'd you feel about a nickname, kid?" She asked grinning broadly.

"Oh.. Okay..."

"How's.... Gladion sound?"

He liked the sound of that! Gladion. It rang a pleasant bell in his ears. He spoke it a few times to get his tongue used to it. "Gladion! Gladion, Gladion, Gladion!" He shimmied happily in his blanket wrap, finally eased out of his weakness. His tongue peered out from between his lips and his tail wagged excitedly.

Plumeria stood up and looked down at him. She stroked his head affectionately and gave him a smile that was just as loving. "You're probably hungry, huh?"

Gladion nodded sheepishly.

"Whatcha want, kiddo? Whaddya eat?"

Gladiolus, no, Gladion, remembered his favorite food before he had left and the one food Lusamine had instructed to him to eat as much as he could of. "Meat," he told her, very sure of himself. He remembered the meat Lusamine used to give them; tender and juicy and always perfectly done so it nearly fell apart in his mouth, he had always been so excited to eat because of it and he was always the first to the table at mealtimes. He had noted it always smelled of the employees at the Paradise, but he had never complained or inquired and always simply dug in. Now he wondered if they would have it around, because the Paradise employees seemed scarce around here. He saw Plumeria's eyes widen.

"Meat, huh? What kind?" She asked, trying to hide the sneaking nervousness in her voice.

He thought for a moment. He had never thought he would have to tell anyone what he ate. The person who fed him always knew. How do you tell a human you eat her kind? He spoke softly, but his words were much more fluent than before as he had risen from his daze. "Mother used to make us this meat that smelled like the people that worked at the place she owned, so.... human meat, I guess...?" His voice was unsure and he looked away from her. He heard her muttering to herself in a shocked sounding voice, something about him eating people. She shook her head and smiled back at him.

"Okay. Alright, I'll make it work. Don't you worry about it, Gladion."

He decided to surprise her. He placed all his willpower into changing. He felt his fur retract into his pores, little by little. He felt his ears shorten out but still remain long for a human, the silver rings in one of them awkwardly heavy. He twitched that ear a few times to get used to it. He shook himself thoroughly to rid of excess fur and sighed as his mane shortened, revealing the spikes down his spine. He plucked at the shreds of his torn up shirt, scowling at being able to see his now pale and human chest. The only thing that wasn't gone were his extra eyes and his tail. He smiled as he petted it. He noticed his teeth hadn't changed either and that his canines still jutted over his bottom lip. He paid himself a toothy grin before being startled out of it by a sudden commotion outside his door. There was yelling, one voice he recognized as Plumeria and the other a voice he didn't know. The stranger seemed distraught, and he assumed to commotion to be from their struggling. Plumeria swung open the door and tossed the stranger inside.

"Eat up!" She called, slamming the door before the new arrival could run away.

Gladion grumbled quietly as he approached, sniffing and giving little nuzzles and licks to the terrified human's exposed skin. He supposed this person was his food. As soon as this clicked in his head, he was on his meal in a second. He was ravenous in ripping his prey to shreds and ate with a feral, uncontained hunger that he had never felt before. His stranding had drained him dry and every bite of warm, tender flesh he ate and every drop of thick, red blood that came with each bite felt like it was rejuvenating him. He could feel himself getting stronger with every bite and this kept him digging in ravenously until he couldn't eat anymore. Only then did he flop down next to the corpse, purring and so full and happy he couldn't bother to notice the pool of blood lapping at his chin. His stomach felt pleasantly full and warm, spreading a divine warmth over his whole body. He felt like he would like it here.

He spent his next few years growing up here, among the strangers he came to know were called Team Skull. He learned people around that lived on the islands that made up the region, called Alola, were scared of them. Gladion couldn't fathom why, because he knew them as idiots. Loving, caring idiots, but idiots nonetheless. He knew they were physically strong but not very resilient, as he had beaten many a grunt in a wrestling match. Mostly because he had claws and teeth, and venom and spikes, as he wasn't the strongest of the bunch. He learned the ways of people, how they worked and how they socialized and the like. Every so often, a snippet of a memory of his old life would crawl into his head, but he shooed them away as fast as they came. He liked being free to roam and play much more than he would ever like being cooped up in a lab, only to get a fleeting moment of freedom before he was swept away. The one thing he never disregarded was his sister. Lillian, sweet, loving, intelligent Lillian. Even into his teen years, years after he had seen her last, he still remembered her. He wondered how she was doing, what her life was like. On this particular day, he had been drfting off after a good meal and gnawing lazily on one of the bones when a welcomely familiar voice called out for him.

"Glaaaadion!" Called his big sister. Gladion jumped up and loped downstairs. Plumeria was waiting for him, sitting with Guzma on a displaced couch. He plopped down next to her, looking up at her with six curious eyes. One of the things he had never bothered to hide in his humanoid appearance. "Hey kid. Big, bad news," she sighed. Her face looked sad, remorseful even. He cocked his head. "We... we gotta let you go. You can't spend your whole life hangin' around with a bunch of broke-ass hoodlums like us. You gotta go live, lil bro!" She shook him gently with the last sentence, bearing a forced smile. She handed him a slip of paper.

"You're off to Melemele tomorrow."

 

He ate a quick breakfast and was shooed out the door and to the ferry station in town faster than he could process. Gladion arrived on Melemele nervous, hot, and hungry. It had never been this hot in Po Town! He growled and stalked off to find somewhere to buckle down before hunting. He found a motel not far from the city and checked in, set down his things and left to hunt. The jungle near a small village was thick, which made keeping his sleek black form hidden easy. He had changed into his true looks and crept into the jungle to wait and pounce on whoever happened to be there at the wrong time. He watched and listened, his eyes eventually tracking a dark-skinned boy down the trail through the thick forest. He growled slightly and readied to pounce, asjusting his hips, straightening his tail...

And leaping.

The poor boy gasped and jumped away right before Gladion could land on him, giving the beast a mouthful of sand. He sprang to his feet, spitting out dust and rocks and snarling at the boy. He roared and snapped his teeth, lunging forward and sending the poor human boy toppling to the ground, the contents of his shoulder bag spilling over the trail. A paper bag, what looked like incense, a notebook, and a familiar magenta fruit. A pomegranate! Gladion disregarded his former prey in favor of an old favorite food, sinking his teeth in to rip off the skin and lapping the seeds from inside with a sandpapery tongue. He purred and paid little mind to the boy behind him picking up the spilled contents of his bag nervously. He chuckled and moved slowly, talking to Gladion like he had any intention of eating him still.

"Haha... That's right... Nice monster... just let me have my pomegranate back and I-" He reached for the fruit and Gladion snapped and snarled at him again, letting venom drip from his teeth and down his chin. The boy yelped and retracted his hand. "Sorry! You can keep it then!" He laughed nervously, backing away a bit. Gladion growled, picked up his prize and stalked off back into the brush to eat. He felt something of a warm flush rising in his cheeks. He supressed it quickly and kept eating. He'd find that boy again, he knew it.