Home's where the heart is
Satoshi finished adding the new Pokémon to the Pokédex. He had searched for it for four days, but it was worth it. He had known that sooner or later he would succeed; Satoshi was not a guy capable of accepting defeat.
With twenty-three years, blacks and tousled hair and dark hazel eyes, Satoshi was one of the leading Pokémon trainers in the continent.
He had been the famous Pokémon Master for three years, but he had not been content with remaining at the League, challenging young trainers and waiting to sign autographs for little girls or handsome boys. After some time, he gave the title up and started training again. Simply because he loved to raise his Pokémon and especially loved to discover and capture new ones.
Right at the moment, Satoshi was near Touk City. Haruka, his old friend and traveling companion, had called him last week to inform him about that new Pokémon and maybe even to challenge and defeat him.
'Well, she always tries to defeat me.' thought Satoshi putting his bag back on and walked towards the city, along with his beloved Pikachu. It was remarkable how many adventures he and the little yellow mouse had spent together! Sometimes he terribly longed to travel without worries and responsibilities again. It was something fascinating but also childish.
"Would you like to travel again Pikachu?" the boy asked. The Pokémon smiled and with a cheerful 'Pikapika' jumped on his shoulder. Even he knew that his master had changed. Now there was always something that prevented him from leaving. Something that kept him in Masara Town.
And that something was not exactly a thing. It was a person: Shigeru Ookido.
They used to be best childhood friends. Then he became his strongest rival. And now?
Now he and Shigeru were … something.
Shigeru worked at the 'university of Pokémon' of Masara Town and currently lived with his grandfather, Professor Ookido, hoping to find a suitable apartment of his own
Shigeru had done a lot of researching around the continent, but three years ago, he had accepted the job offered by the prestigious university. He always said that in the future he would love to travel again, but he needed the money.
When Satoshi had come home and had discovered that Shigeru was staying in Masara Town, he had been happy, but he had also been endlessly worried. Meeting him like that had been different than the brief meetings they had had along the years of their friendship.
And when Shigeru had started visiting Satoshi's house, (because of the strong friendship between Satoshi's mother and the professor's family) the things had slowly improved and their ancient relationship had returned in a more adult and a certainly less grumpy way.
The two had also worked together for several months because of a project for the university. And Satoshi had forgotten about his plans to leave Masara Town again.
In town he had his mother and there was the Professor as well. Nearby there were also his friends Kasumi, Kenji and Takeshi. And there was Shigeru.
He did not like to admit it to himself, but he was terribly addicted to the constant sight of Shigeru either at Shigeru's home, at his home or at the university.
It was nice to talk with him, to tease, fight or debate with him or to just remain silent. Wasn't it nice and comfortable?
And surely even Shigeru thought so; otherwise he would have left a long time ago. Shigeru was not really the type of person who helps others simply for their own good.
Satoshi sighed and rubbed his cheek against Pikachu's. He and Shigeru ... it was difficult to explain… They had not even spoken to each other about it. It was two weeks ago when it had happened… A kiss, a simple kiss, but it was not a kiss out of pure adolescent curiosity or experimentation.
It seemed so natural, like the flow of water in a waterfall. Shigeru had one day asked him what was happening between the two and why. What exactly were the two of them?
He had seemed embarrassed to ask these questions, but did not appear angry or unhappy, just curious and full of expectations.
Satoshi had diverted the conversation. He did not know what was happening; he didn't have all the answers.
And the week after that they had drank a few glasses too many, to celebrate a fund given to the university, and they had ended up sleeping together. It had been so cliché, that it hurt.
The next morning, they had laughed. Of all the things they could have done, being disgusted, screaming, they had chosen to laugh. Of course there also was a moment of terrible and embarrassed exchange of looks.
"Pikachu, do you think I'm in love with Shigeru?"
Satoshi shrugged and continued walking. He'd love to be able to read the mind of Pikachu, so he could know what his beloved yellow mouse was thinking.
"I do not have time to find out... I'm so busy and I don't have tell him now, do I? I can wait." the trainer continued talking.
Pikachu looked at him sternly. His dear master had a tendency to put off things he was afraid of.
"PikaPika," insisted the Pokémon, trying to transmit to his friend what he thought and felt.
"We are almost there. Haruka will host us for the night and tomorrow we return to Masara Town." Satoshi reassured him, misinterpreting his impatience.
The city of Touka was slightly smaller than Masara Town. Everyone knew each other and everyone knew Satoshi and not only because of its reputation as Pokémon Master. They were friendly and definitely hoped Satoshi would fall in love with Haruka.
The sun was setting and Satoshi started to feel his belly growl, indicating that he was hungry.
A pidgey passed noisily over him.
"Oh, dear," an elderly woman with gray hair greeted him. It was Mrs. Otori, a woman in her sixties who run a small shop of medicines made by herself with herbs and berries in the woods near town.
"Hello Mrs. Otori, how are you?" "Fine, thanks dear. Did you already meet Haruka?" "Not yet, but I'm going to her home. I'll sleep at her place tonight." A small Mareep, which belonged to Otori, trotted by, bleating softly and sitting on the floor, his head leaning against the woman's knee. "A dear girl Haruka, yes. Before I forget to tell you; her brother was looking for you and he was so rushed but he didn't want to tell me what had happened."
The lady was a great gossip and people tried not to tell her great secrets. "He was looking for me?" Satoshi asked unnecessarily. He did not need confirmation; he had already heard the woman very well. "Better to go then, dear," advised Otori, pointing the way to the girl's house with a wave of her left hand.
'Perhaps they had found a new Pokémon' thought the optimistic part of his soul and perhaps they wanted him to capture it.
Satoshi thanked her and began to walk up to Haruka's house, eventually finding himself running the last couple of yards.
The girl's house was large and painted in warm and welcoming red colour. It was surrounded by a large garden with a few Pokémon belonging to Haruka's family playing in the grass.
In the garden, Haruka was feeding a baby Ponyta with what appeared to be fresh hay.
"Haruka!" Ash called almost breathless, running through the open gate. Once he arrived Pikachu quickly jumped from his to the girl's shoulder to say hello.
"Pikachu! Satoshi!" she exclaimed. "You've been away a long time." "Yes, but I caught it," Satoshi said, referring to the rare Pokémon he had come here for and smiled proudly.
Haruka nodded but did not smile back. Her face had a pained expression.
"Oh, Satoshi, I've looked for you everywhere, but I just could not find you..." she began heatedly. "…your mother called and told me to tell you to call her but you were not here!" she continued, dropping the bag of hay.
Ponyta took the opportunity to eat as much hay as she wanted to. "I heard. What happened?" Satoshi questioned, feeling with every breath the appearance of an icy hands, caressing his lungs.
"Your friend at the university has had an accident. I do not know exactly what-" "An accident? How?" Satoshi whispered, while a cold liquid of anxiety and fear went down his spine, slippery and sinuous.
Haruka looked at him surprised, perhaps affected by the sudden pallor on the face of her friend. "I do not know, perhaps you should call your mother," she advised.
"Yes, yes, maybe..." Satoshi said, suddenly feeling tired and without energy. He began to walk towards the entrance of the house but suddenly turned towards Haruka. "Can I use the phone?" "Sure, no problem."
Satoshi nodded and Pikachu jumped back onto his shoulder. Haruka's house was very large. It was a house with two floors. There was a small study to the right. It was where Haruka's father worked and where he sometimes kept the Pokémon stuff.
He wasted no time in greeting Haruka's parents, he had not seen them, but went straight to the phone and quickly dialled the number of his mother. The phone began to ring, vacuum for interminable seconds but the screen remained stubbornly black. Haruka walked silently up behind him. She did not want to disturb him but to make sure he was okay.
Pikachu rubbed his yellow nose against his master's cheek. "Pika, pika."
"It's nothing, do not worry, Pikachu, it's nothing. They're all well, you'll see," Satoshi said, softly, with a shaky voice.
The screen suddenly flashed and Satoshi startled, almost biting his own tongue because of his anxiety. Pikachu's ears stood up in the air and with a sharp click, the image of Satoshi's mother appeared in front of them.
"Satoshi! Here at last, where were you?" asked the woman immediately. She wore a long blue robe and a dark blue scarf she had made herself some years ago. Her hair was slightly dishevelled and poorly collected in a ponytail.
"Mom, what happened?" 'Something had happened to Shigeru', he suddenly realized for the first time. It seemed so real. And his mother seemed so tired. "This is-" "Shigeru?" Satoshi asked so quietly that he was astonished that his mother had heard him. "Yes there was an explosion at the university's laboratory with the electrodes," she said, clutching her scarf. "Oh, I'm sorry, honey, I look horrible but I could not sleep and-" "What does this mean? How is he?" Where? Where is Shigeru?" 'Please say he is all right', he wanted to beg her, 'please tell me.'
"Do not worry, he is quite fine. Don't do that face, he has a concussion and burned his arm a bit but he will not die from that. He's just a bit bruised and needs antibiotics. I did not want to leave the hospital. You know that his grandfather is at Takeshi's for that Onyx ... " Satoshi closed his own eyes for a moment. 'Oh thank god', was the only thing his brain could record. 'Oh God, thanks.' "I have to go come home." "And your Pokémon?" "I caught it," said Satoshi, without the usual pride. "But I would come back even if I hadn't caught it. I'll be there soon... Are you sure he is fine? What do you mean he hit his head?"
"It's just a slight head injury. -They decided to keep him in the hospital to be on the safe side and-" "Okay," Satoshi said curtly, though in reality he wanted to scream, because he did not like at all that hospital talk to be combined with Shigeru.
"I'm coming home. I'll ask Haruka if I can borrow a Pidgeot or... somehow I'll be at home. Bye mom." He hung up when his mother sent him a kiss.
Haruka coughed a little, embarrassed by the personal conversation she had witnessed. Satoshi turned around and quickly walked towards her. He looked at her for a moment, undecided what to do. "Can I ..?" His friend and past traveling companion nodded. "You can take Nyana, I'm sure Dad will agree. It's our Pidegot."
"Thank you, Haruka," Satoshi finally smiled. She quickly returned the smile, then ran into the other room, the kitchen, and hurried upstairs, probably to get Nyana's Pokéball.
Feeling terrible without energy, the young Pokémon Master dragged himself out the door and sat, or rather dropped, on the marble steps leading to the garden. The flames of the small Ponyta shone beside the gate in the sunset. "Pika Pika," whispered his trusty Pikachu, leaping from his shoulder to the master's lap. "Pikachu, if it had really happened...? If-if-I wouldn't know if he was dead…" "Pika!" scolded the Pokémon. His master had become very pessimistic and his imagination worked a bit too much when he was worried.
"He had asked me if he and I were something and I diverted the conversation. He could have died with the idea that I made fun of him, that for me he was only one night or… he could have really been hurt."
Pikachu bit one of his master's fingers and Satoshi jumped at the sharp pain. "You're right, I'm worrying too much. It's just that…" It was just that he had thought of having all the time in the world for talking to Shigeru. That he was always there, whenever Satoshi needed him. That Shigeru would have been okay, that he wouldn't have looked for someone else or getting tired. And he had always postponed the very important conversation.
Nyana was an excellent Pidgeot, well trained and at a high level. She knew the direction despite the darkness, because Haruka sometimes used her to visit Satoshi in Masara Town. Satoshi, Pikachu and Nyana flew for nearly one hour and a half, taking a break at the shore of an unnamed lake. The stop lasted only an hour or less, and they immediately left for the last bit of distance leading to the birthplace of Satoshi.
After another hour they arrived and Nyana gave a sharp cry of joy. Masara Town was not a metropolis, in fact it was little more than a village, but it was certainly larger than that old country city Satoshi remembered from his childhood.
From where Satoshi stood, he could see the harbour, the supermarket and the hospital, close to the Pokémon center. The hospital... Professor Ookido, Shigeru's grandfather, had certainly asked the hospital to treat the
mother of Satoshi as a relative of Shigeru and therefore she could visit him. But the professor had probably been too worried to tell the nurses about Satoshi too.
The Pidgeot continued flying till they could see the little hill with the professor's house and close to that, Satoshi's house.
"Come down here, Nyana, please," he whispered to the Pokémon and Pikachu, who was asleep in his coat, straightened his ears. "Pika?" "We are at home." The big bird Pokémon landed with two powerful beats of her wings right in the backyard. "Nyana, thanks, I'll take you home soon," promised the Pokémon Master, putting her back in the Pokéball.
The boy walked past the rushing yards that separated him from the door and Pikachu woke up. But before he could knock, the door opened and his beloved mother hugged him. "Satoshi! Oh, finally!" said the woman. "Mom, I was only six days away!" "Are you okay? Do you want to rest or eat?" Satoshi broke away from her embrace, thus saving himself from a possible suffocation. "I want to see Shigeru." "But it's night now and I don't think the hospital will accept visits at this hour. And you have travelled a lot and…" she began to protest, but then her face brightened and smiled, "Ok, I understand. Very well then."
She tousled his hair and Mr. Mime gave her the keys of the car. She had had the license for only a year and she had never loved to drive but this was an emergency. "Who knows, perhaps if you use a bit of your charm they'll let you in, Mr. famous Pokémon Master." she suggested, almost gaily. In almost ten minutes they arrived at the small hospital. "Shigeru Ookido? But you can't visit him now," replied a young nurse with short black hair and clear blues eyes.
'It's important!" Satoshi tried, but his mother interrupted him with one hand. "Please!" exclaimed the woman, putting her son in front of her, "He is the famous Satoshi, the Pokémon Master!" Satoshi glanced at her angrily and so did the nurse. "Using such a frivolous fame to circumvent the rules is very inappropriate."
Satoshi's mother chuckled awkwardly. "Shigeru is a good guy. He has helped my son at university," the nurse suddenly said. "Yeah?" Satoshi intervened, hopefully. "Yes, I'm sorry for the incident. I spoke to him yesterday," she added, although the two statements had no logical connection between them. "I think if you would like to go, you could. He talked about you."
Satoshi almost thought to embrace her. Almost. He opted for a smile and a thank you very much and ran to the room 112.
"Satoshi!" called the nurse. "You can't run in the corridors." "Oh. Oh, I'm sorry." "And no Pokémon!" Satoshi turned back toward the woman and looked at the little Pikachu who was sitting comfortably on his head. "Excuse me." she whispered again and Pikachu, intelligent and caring, jumped on his shoulder and rubbed his nose against the cheek of the young man before running into Satoshi's mother's open arms. He would stay with her.
The room 112 was one of the last in the hallway and the door was open. "Shi…" whispered Satoshi, but stopped immediately. Shigeru was probably sleeping. The young man went on tiptoes into the room pointed out by the nurse.
It was an ordinary hospital room with three beds, all three with inhabitants, a huge window on the right wall and a small table and a cupboard, above which there was an old TV.
Everything would have been completely dark, if not for the light of the corridor and the lamplight outside the window. Someone had forgotten to draw the curtains. Shigeru was lying in the bed by the window, but he seemed to be asleep despite the light.
Satoshi passed the other two beds occupied by a child and a middle-aged man, careful not to stumble into anything and to not make an unnecessary noise. Then he quietly took the chair at the table and sat down near Shigeru's bed.
Now everything was all right, because he was where he wanted to be.
Shigeru lied motionless, oblivious to the loving presence beside him. The brown hair was dishevelled and he was covered in dark bruises and some scratches that were on the left side of his face. He was wearing long sleeved blue pyjamas with the left sleeve a bit rolled up to give space to the tube of a drip. It was probably the antibiotic his mother had mentioned.
Satoshi took Shigeru's hand into his own and felt that the man's right wrist was bandaged. 'Does it hurt?' He had the urgent need to ask, to wake him. 'Does it hurt? I'm here!' As if this could change something, in fact it was absurd. If it hurts, it hurts. "Shi-ge-ru," he sang softly.
He knew that he could leave and return when the other one was awake, but something told him that he was to remain there. Probably something that was close to guilt for not arriving sooner, not being there when he was needed.
"I think I love my ex-best friend and former rival and now... I'm also talking to himself like an idiot while everyone is asleep." Satoshi leaned into Shigeru's bed and fell asleep.
The morning sun and the child in the first bed sneezing suddenly woke Satoshi from his light sleep. He sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes. His back replied with a twinge of pain in protest to the ridiculous and uncomfortable position he had slept in. Shigeru was in exactly the same position, his face paler than what could be considered normal. "Shi-ge-ru," he enjoyed singing and spelling his name. "Sa-to-shi," smiled the faking man, opening his own eyes and turning towards him.
"You're awake! How are you? I'm sorry for not coming yesterday... does it hurt?" he ended, pointing to the other one's head. "You're destroying my hand," complained Shigeru, referring to their hands still holding each other.
"Sorry." whispered the Pokémon Master, loosening his hold, "How are you?" "I've just got a little headache, the rest feels okay." smiled the injured man. Satoshi looked worried at the bandages around Shigeru's arm. "Are you thirsty? Hungry? You can eat, right? Do you need something?"
"No," said Shigeru firmly but with a laugh, taking Satoshi's hand again. "Satoshi, don't worry. If I need something I'll let you know, okay?" "Ok."
An old nurse entered in the room and stopped to exchange a few words with the man in the second bad, glancing briefly to Satoshi. "She probably saw us…" said Shigeru, when she was gone, and raised their hands to clarify the statement. "Maybe... does it bother you?" "No," said Shigeru surprised, implying that he would have expected Satoshi to be the annoyed one. Satoshi watched him in silence for some minutes. Has he been so stupid?
"I want this thing off from my arm," groaned the victim, looking carefully to his own left wrist. "Iloveyou." "What?" asked Shigeru widening his own eyes in a highly comical way and sounding confused. "What?" Satoshi said, blushing foolishly. "You said..." Shigeru tried. The Pokémon Master sighed. He had promised to make things clear between them, he could not hold back right now just because he saw that Shigeru was physically fine and it was possible to postpone again.
"I love you..." Satoshi repeated, uncertain, "I love you?" he said with a shrug, as if asking forgiveness. "I'm late, I know, but you asked me what was happening."
Shigeru looked at him and Satoshi almost blushed even more under his inquisitive and almost angry eyes. "Are you saying that because I'm hurt? To make me happy?" "Are you kidding? No, I'm serious!" replied Satoshi slowly.
Shigeru looked irritated. He never lowered his eyes or looked away and neither did Satoshi. What was it? Has this become some kind of a contest?
"Maybe I misunderstood…" replied Satoshi. Maybe Shigeru was really not interested in something more. "No!" Shigeru stopped him subtly, "Kiss me."
Satoshi raised an eyebrow. He was confused but he decided to go along with the test and he leaned towards the young man lying on the bed and kissed him. "This is not a kiss, if you…" Shigeru started to argue, but Satoshi put one hand behind Shigeru's neck and bent down to kiss him again.
'Ok, that was a kiss. You happy 'Geru?' "Ah, I see," Satoshi whispered suddenly, interrupting the kiss and startling poor Shigeru. "What?" "You pretend to be angry because you're embarrassed! Or you really are angry, just because you're embarrassed." Shigeru, who was putting his own blankets in place, turned abruptly to the former rival and Satoshi swore he saw him blush.
"Do not psychoanalyze me, 'Toshi." "As you wish," Satoshi kept smiling, with the air of someone who has just unveiled a great mystery.
A Pidgey fluttered to the window, stopping on the windowsill and analysed the glass. Shigeru turned to observe it and returned the Pidgey's curious eyes. He was almost completely lost in thought, or so it seemed. Satoshi then slowly leaned against him, to allow Shigeru to pull back if he wanted to. "And what about you?" "Hmm?" Me too," said Shigeru.
"You do not know what I'm talking about." complained the Pokémon Master. "Yes I do. And my answer is… I… loveyoutoo." "You said it rather quickly; can you repeat it, please?" "I'll let my Arcanine roast you for this!" threatened the other, crossing his arms over his chest. "Then repeat after me…"
Shigeru never managed to repeat anything, because in that moment Satoshi's mother entered the room. She had a big and bright smile on her face and she seemed to have a good long sleep.
"Hello, boys. Shigeru, how do you feel today?" asked the woman. She had come with a bunch of various fruits in her hands. She set it on the bedside table of the patient and patted Satoshi's shoulder. "Better, thanks," smiled Shigeru.
The woman raised her hand to her cheek and smiled. "Well, I'm happy. So I'd better go back home and this afternoon I'll go get Professor Ookido." "He is back already?" Shigeru inquired. "Yes. And they decided to release you today, so Satoshi can take you home. You can take a taxi." continued the mother of the Pokémon Master, smiling in a very bright and a bit euphoric way, "I'll leave you the money, Satoshi, okay?"
The woman rummaged in a little bag and pulled out some bills which she gave to her son. "You have the house keys, right?" the mother said solemnly. "I'll be away for a while." "Mom what's between the money?" Satoshi noticed at that time. "It's a rubber?" he whispered after recognising the object and then blushed brightly. "Mom!"
But the woman was already walking towards the door and walked away. 'How did she know?' Fortunately Shigeru was too busy going over the fruits and choosing a red apple. "So you'll take me home?" "Yes, I think so."