Standing Out and Fitting In
It was early morning in Terror Mountain, and snow was falling, as it so often did. It coated the already snow-covered landscape in a thicker white cloak, obscuring the view of anything else in sight. Max watched the scene from his window, the soft whiteness so different from his bright fiery fur.
Max had thought that becoming Magma would solve all his problems, but that hadn't quite been the case. It was true that the Xweetok felt so much more like himself than he did back when he was painted Cloud, but he now felt out of place in his own home. Terror Mountain was a land of eternal snow and ice, and he was a pet of eternal heat and fire. Since returning home from the Magma Pool, Max had already managed to set fire to three books, two chairs, and an entire loaf of bread before starting to learn how to control the temperature of his body. It could be done, because Moltaran magma had magical properties, but it didn't come naturally to him.
As he made his way down the stairs, carefully concentrating on the temperature of his paws so he wouldn't burn holes in the wood, Max spotted a brown and teal blur through the window. He smiled as his sister Winter spun around joyfully in the snow, her Faerie Xweetok fur fluffed up against the cold morning air.
Back when Winter had been painted Snow, she had always loved going outside in storms, dancing around and never feeling the chill. Her love for cold weather had never changed (which was a good thing, as they all still lived on Terror Mountain), but her new colour meant that she was no longer immune to cold and blizzards. Max figured it seemed like a pretty good exchange, as Winter could now fly and also not have to worry about melting when visiting warm climates.
Winter's name definitely still fit her, despite having lost her Snow colouring. Max had always thought that she was like a soft snowfall: quiet, gentle, and beautiful. He, on the other hand, was loud and intense like a crackling fire, and now he had the colouring to match. Although the two Xweetoks were very different, they got along quite well. Because they were so close in age, people often thought Max and Winter were twins. Although Max was adopted, the two had started to think of themselves as twins anyway.
Max's family was a perfect Terror Mountain family. His owner collected snow globes, went skating every day, and cheered louder than the Techo Fanatic when Terror Mountain played in the Altador Cup. His brother Six, being a Camouflage Lupe, had fur in a patriotic blue and white pattern. Also being a huge nerd, Six could tell you every possible Terror Mountain-related fact you ever wanted to know, and a lot that you didn't. His sister Patches was a Christmas Bori who specialized in ice magic, which was about as Terror Mountain-y as you could get. And Winter, who was no longer Snow, was still named Winter.
The door closed quietly behind Max as he headed outside into the snowy weather. The snowflakes landed on his Magma fur and immediately melted with soft sizzling noises. He concentrated on lowering his temperature, and the flakes started to pile up on him instead, which was a more normal feeling.
Winter had noticed Max's bright red glow and stopped spinning around, coming over to join her brother. "Up early, aren't you?" she greeted him with a smile.
Max shrugged. "Not as early as you."
"I can't sleep when there's snow outside! I may be Faerie now, but I'm not going to stop loving the cold weather."
"Well, at least you still belong here," Max muttered, sounding grumpier than he intended.
The smile fell from Winter's face. "Is this about your magma colour?" she asked softly. "You're part of this family no matter what you look like, Max."
"But all I can do is melt snow and set things on fire! Terror Mountain is no place for someone like me."
"That's not all you can do! Think of all the money we save on heating now. And your fur is great for roasting marshmallows," Winter added, trying to brighten his mood.
"But that's not what normal Terror Mountain pets are like!" Max insisted.
Winter paused to gather her thoughts before continuing. "You know, when I became Faerie, I thought I would have to change my name. How could I be called Winter if I didn't look wintry anymore? Everything was so different. I actually had to worry about getting cold, and I could no longer win every time we played hide-and-seek outside in the snow. I felt like I had lost an important part of who I was."
"Really?" Max replied in astonishment. "I thought being painted Faerie was your ultimate dream. You seem so much happier now."
Winter smiled softly. "And that's true! Flying is incredible, and I love the way I look now, but that doesn't mean I can't miss what I had before. It's okay to feel conflicted about such a significant change! It took me a while to realize that."
"Yeah, but I don't miss being Cloud at all!" Max retorted. "Except that I don't look Terror Mountain-y anymore, I guess."
"You look Max-y, and that's what's important!" his sister insisted. "You should be proud of the work it took to get that colour."
"Proud of what?" Max scoffed. "That I tried so hard to get into the Magma Pool, but all my plans failed and I just got lucky? At least you can be genuinely proud that the faeries rewarded you with a paintbrush for helping out when Faerieland fell!"
"Well, you should at least be proud that you're happy with who you are! Not everyone is lucky enough to feel that way."
"Well, that's something," Max admitted. "But who I am isn't suited for life here."
"So are you unhappy here?" Winter asked. "Would you rather not live on Terror Mountain anymore?"
Of course Max still loved living on Terror Mountain. He wouldn't want to be anywhere other than with his family, in their cozy log cabin, watching the sun set over the mountain every evening. He loved walking over to the somehow never-ending garage sale to find new things he could use in his tinkering. And it just wouldn't be right to experience the month of Celebrating without the daily brief walk to the Advent Calendar, and the daily nervous tiptoe to the Snowager's cave.
Max hadn't even said anything out loud, but Winter smiled and responded "I thought not. It doesn't matter what you look like now. If you're happy with who you are, and you're happy being here, why should you worry? I don't think anyone but you feels that you don't belong here."
"Even though I stand out like a Koi in the Lost Desert?"
"Well, I think Terror Mountain would be a pretty boring place if we were all the same few species and colours! Would you tell the entire family of Grundos down the street or that nice Mutant girl that they don't belong here?"
"Of course I wouldn't!" Max exclaimed, beginning to see his sister's point.
"Exactly. The important thing isn't how much we match the scenery, it's how much we love living here. And I think we should get out there and enjoy the day! Race you to the Slushie Shop!"
Max barely heard Winter's last sentence, as the Faerie Xweetok had turned around and started leaping through the snowdrifts. Smiling, he took off after her, concentrating on his body temperature so he wouldn't melt holes in the snow. The siblings ran together, laughing, sometimes stopping to throw snowballs at each other. They were out of breath by the time they arrived at the Slushie Shop, but bright with happiness.
Max looked around at all the customers. Yes, there were a Bori and a Bruce, as well as Snow, Ice, and Christmas pets. But there were also two Royal pets who were happily chatting to a Tyrannian pet. The shopkeeper, a striped Eyrie, handed a slushie to a Pteri with a smile. Max paused, then stepped into the shop to join them.
Maybe he did belong here, after all.