"Where are you now?"
"Where are you today?"
Green wonders how long it will be until he calls and she names a place he doesn't know.
Then he wonders how long until he calls and she no longer answers.
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
Yes, he thinks. No. Only sometimes, when she's on the same continent as me, and when she gets reception, and when she remembers to send me postcards. I have a small collection of them underneath my bed. Look at all the places we've come from, they say, and none of them are places you have seen.
"Is she pretty?"
He thinks of her long hair spilling through his fingers. He thinks of legs that go on forever and a face that breaks hearts in three continents. "The most beautiful girl," he tells them. "The prettiest girl in the world," and they smile, thinking that he is only in love and being charitable, that he's not serious.
He is serious.
"Can I meet her?"
He smiles, then, a sad little thing. "She travels a lot," he says, herding them out the door. "Maybe next time."
He rarely takes off from work; his trainers think he's a workaholic, but that's only half true. It's so when she visits, he can take a week, a month of vacation and not feel too guilty.
He stayed up last night, waiting for her, and so when his alarm clock goes off the next morning he throws it against the wall and turns over, still sleeping. But Leaf wants the day to begin, so she dusts kisses across his skin until he stirs, confused—his room never smells like her, so this must be a dream.
"Wake up," she says, pushing him until they fall from the bed, cocooned in the sheets. "Wake up, it's a beautiful day. You have things to do."
"I definitely do," he says with a raised eyebrow. He tickles her until she can't breathe, and kisses her until she gasps for air.
"Tell me," he says. It's different every time; different towns, different people, different lives. Even when she visits the same place twice the stories are not the same.
Everywhere she goes, people love her. "Cynthia is very kind," she says the first day. "She showed me around Celestic Town." The next day, she tells him about Riley and his Lucario. "He's quite the gentleman," she tells him with a twinkle in her eye, "and he's probably rich." Green nods, wishing that he could find these people and shake them until their memories of Leaf roll from their heads like precious jewels, things he can scoop up and keep all for himself.
"Did you get my postcard?" she asks. "Did you get the souvenirs I sent you?" He nods absent-mindedly, refusing to tell her where he's put them. She finds them herself, scattered around his house like footprints.
"I love you," she tells him. Green smiles.
"I love you too," he says lightly, turning the page.
"No, really." She leans over and knocks the book from his hands. "Stop working for a second and listen to me."
He lifts his head and looks her in the eye.
"I love you," she says. "I love you more than anything or anyone."
"So if I asked you to stop," he says. "If I asked you to stop traveling and live with me, would you do it?"
She regards him somberly. Then, her sudden smile is like sunlight breaking through clouds.
"I love you because you won't ask," she says. "I love you because you care enough not to. But don't worry—I never really go anywhere."
The words rise in his throat, but Green swallows them down and nods instead.
"Where are you going?" he asks.
"Twinleaf town. It's a little place in Sinnoh. An amazing professor is there, they say he—"
But he does not want another story, so he interrupts.
"Can I go with you?"
She pauses in their evening walk, their interlaced hands swinging to a stop. "Do you want to?"
"I want to," he says.
"You can always come," she says, "But what about your gym?"
He looks away, biting his lip. "I—I'll—"
She takes his chin in her hand and turns him towards her. "That's why I love you," she says. "Because you're so responsible."
It's not like that, he wants to protest. I'm not good, I just can't let go of things that are mine. But Green's afraid that if he says this, she will understand too well.
"I'll come back quickly this time," she says. "I'll spend only two months there, and then I'll come home."
He closes his eyes.
"You've still got it," Leaf says with admiration and laughter, "But you'll never beat me, Green."
Green grins, shaking the hair from his eyes. "I just let you win," he says. "Wouldn't want my girlfriend to be mad at me."
They stand on opposite sides of the battlefield. For an instant, Leaf looks like just another challenger, just another girl, a stranger. The smile drops from his face.
"—Green? You okay?" She is striding towards him now, her footsteps leaving puffs of dust as she crosses the midline.
"I'm fine, fine," he says, waving a lazy hand. "Just tired, that's all." But he can't shake the feeling, and it keeps him awake all night.
"What are you doing, sitting in the dark?" Leaf asks. She climbs into the bed and settles on top of him, nudging and pushing until her arms snake under his back.
"Nothing," he says. "Just sitting."
She can feel his tension. "You feel nice," she says, but he doesn't relax.
"What are you thinking about?"
Green shrugs; she rests her head on his shoulder. His arms circle her loosely.
"Are you okay?" she asks.
"Just not in a cuddling mood right now," he says.
But when she nods and tries to pull away, he doesn't let her go.
"Stop," he finally says.
Leaf looks up. "Hm?"
"Just—" Green collapses against the counter. He feels like a knife is twisting in his chest; she's set to leave in two days. "—stay."
Leaf stands. The smile has vanished from her face. Her next sentence is unspoken: Do you understand what you are asking?
"I can't—I can't," he says. He brings a hand to his temple, trying not to beg.
"But there's so much more I've got to do," she says. "I'll call more, I'll visit more." She takes a step closer, but stops when he shakes his head.
"It's not enough." His words are bitter. Don't you get it? I need you.
She stares at him for another moment, and then turns. The front door shuts quietly behind her.
Green buries his head in his hands, and wonders how this is going to work. He whispers: Stay.
"I'm not stupid," she says from behind him. He turns slowly, dreading a fight.
"You're not," he agrees, not knowing where this is going.
"This is why I love you," she says. She tilts up her chin and folds her arms. "Because you don't take any crap."
Green blinks at her.
"I'll stay," she says, leaning over and placing a finger on his nose. Her hand trails over his lips, down his neck, to jab him in the chest. "But only if we travel twice a year."
He nods, swallowing hard. Her expression softens.
"Oh, come here," she says as she settles into his lap, and before he can say that she makes no sense, her lips are on his.
"Can you get that?" Leaf calls from the bathroom a few days later, turning the shower off. They'd ordered pizza, so Green gets up with a sigh and pulls the door open.
He stops short at the sight of his grandfather standing in the doorway. "Gramps?"
"I came as soon as I heard," Professor Oak says, beaming. "Congratulations!"
"Don't play coy, young man," the older man says, punching him lightly on the shoulder. He steps into the living room and looks around. "Nice place you've got here," he says. "Why haven't you ever asked me to visit?"
"I thought—I didn't—Gramps," he finally manages through his rising confusion, "What are you talking about?"
Leaf comes out of the bedroom just in time to hear Professor Oak say, "Your engagement, of course!"
Green pales. Leaf bursts into laughter. "I called your grandfather and told him we're getting married," she says in his ear.
"You asked me to stay," Leaf tells him. "Isn't that what you meant?"
"We're not getting married!" Green blurts desperately to his grandfather, whose eyebrows shoot up to his hairline.
Leaf pulls back. "Green," she says seriously, "Will you marry me?"
"What the hell are you—"
"It's a simple question," she interrupts. "Yes or no?"
He looks at her, then his grandfather, then back at her. His mouth opens and closes like a fish.
After a few seconds pass, Leaf's expression begins to wilt. Green's heart twists in a way he can't bear, and before he registers it, "Yes" has already tumbled from his mouth.
"See? I'm always right," she says triumphantly to his grandfather. "We're getting married." Green just shakes his head, his lips stretched into a stupid grin that he can't seem to stifle.
Oak looks bemused. "I'll never keep up with you kids," he says.
Green lifts Leaf up off the floor and laughs until he cries.
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
"A fianceé," he corrects, the word still new and fragile on his tongue. "She's the prettiest girl in the world." He leans close, his voice dropping low. "You know what that makes me?" They shake their heads.
He winks. "The luckiest guy in the world."