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“I’m sorry, little one,” said her trainer, with what sounded like a genuine note of regret. “But your CP is pretty low, and your IVs aren’t great, and I really want to evolve one of my other eevees to see what I get.”

“Eevee?” asked Eevee, a little uncertain.

“The Professor will give me the last candy I need for it.”

Eevee flattened her ears, wishing that there was a handy rock nearby to hide behind.

“Come on. In your pokeball.”

They’d whispered to each other in the trainer’s backpack, from inside the safety and comfort of their pokeballs; sometimes, balls went out, and they never came back. They were transferred. Everyone knew it was a euphemism. Candy came from somewhere, that somewhere was wherever Pokemon never returned from, and it didn’t take a genius to connect the dots.

“Eevee?” Tears welled in Eevee’s eyes. She’d never thought she was so unsatisfactory — she’d never dreamed that she’d be one that her Trainer sent away. She’d tried her best in gym battles, but it seemed like every gym was full of dragonites and snorlax, and being sat on by a snorlax always made her faint.

“Oh hell, don’t make me feel bad about it,” said her trainer. “I’m sure the Professor is good to you guys. I mean, to the millions he gets from — oh, never mind.”

Eevee felt everything go swirly as the pokeball enveloped her, and then there was a rushing sound like water, and she knew she’d never see her trainer again.

_______________

 

The rushing stopped after a little while, and Eevee stood inside the ball, shook off her fur, and tried to determine what to do. The ball was safety and comfort — the extra-dimensional space inside had lots of fluffy pillows, and toys to play with, and nothing could breach the walls, not even a dragonite — but the ball was also traveling to an unknown destination, where she’d be chopped up for candy. The rushing had stopped, so she had to be somewhere.

She had to be somewhere, and therefore, she had to be brave and explore it. Sitting quietly, she suspected, would end poorly. She burst free of the ball, ready to use body slam if she had to, but all she saw was a huge room full of balls coming down chutes and into big wire baskets. No-one else had broken free of their pokeball, but she wasn’t about to get back into hers now. She was lucky, she supposed, that the ball had been near the top of the basket — otherwise she’d have had to squeeze her way through all the pokeballs to the top.

Eevee heard footsteps, and saw her chance — as the footsteps approached the main door, she fled out of a side door and into an office. It was orderly, neat, even: there were pictures of legendary Pokemon on the walls, and a huge bookshelf full of books, and a computer on the desk. Voices echoed in from the room of balls.

“Wow, there’s been a few come in overnight.”

Another voice. “Good thing we’re going on a run today.”

Eevee looked around desperately for somewhere to hide, and couldn’t help the squeak that forced its way out of her frightened lungs.

“Hey, what’s the Professor’s office doing open?”

She discounted the desk immediately — it was glass and chrome. There was a cupboard, though, and she bolted for it, unable to paw it open, so instead she tried to stuff herself behind the cupboard. Why couldn’t she shrink down, like it was a pokeball? Her tail was sticking out, and she looked behind herself to see a human looking at her. He was a trainer; well, he was dressed like one, with yellow and black clothes, and since he was part of whatever awful Pokemon-killing facility this was, she decided her assumption was right. He must be Team Instinct.

Her trainer had been part of Team Valor. She tried with all her might to tuck her tail into the narrow space behind the cupboard, and didn’t feel very valorous as she did so. She supposed she didn’t have a team anymore.

“Hey, little one,” said the yellow trainer. “Hi. You look very lost.”

She kept trying to make herself as small as possible; she hadn’t intended to be seen.

“What?” he asked. “What is it?”

“Eevee,” she said, hoping to convey please don’t chop me up, but knowing that humans were fairly hopeless at understanding pokemon.

“Don’t chop you up?” he asked. “Why would I chop you up?” She regarded him with suspicion; how was he so fluent? He knelt, extending a hand to her. “It’s okay, Eevee. I’m not going to hurt you.”

His fingers found the fur behind her ear, and scratched gently. Despite herself, she leant into the contact; he was warm, and his voice was kind, and she’d been feeling so lost.

“There we are,” he said, and before she could react, he reached into the gap and picked her up. “There we are. How did you end up here, thinking you were going to be chopped up?” She blinked at him, then whined. “Candy? But there’s—“

“It’s not the first time this has happened,” said a much cooler voice, from somewhere behind him. “It seems that there is a common belief that the primary constituent of Pokemon candy is the Pokemon itself. A misunderstanding of the manifestation process, I believe.”

“What?”

“You mean that people think that Pokemon candy is like — soylent green?” asked a third voice. “That’s barbaric! We need to go out there and—“

“And have rogue trainers trying to access the extra dimensional spaces?” asked the cool voice, not unkindly. “No, Candela. We don’t.”

Peeking out from her spot in in the arms of the yellow trainer, Eevee took in the other two trainers: red and blue. Both looked frighteningly intense. Her brain clicked into gear, and she realised that they were each from a different team — Instinct, Mystic and Valor.

“Still doesn’t answer how Eevee here ended up in the Professor’s office,” said the Instinct Trainer. “All right, little buddy. I’m Spark. That’s Candela, and Blanche.”

“Eevee,” she said, offering a paw. He shook it.

“We should take her with us,” said Spark. “We can show her the main extra-dimensional spaces, and how the candy is harvested—“

She wriggled free, then, because no way was she going to watch that, and for want of a better place to go, ended up under the desk. It was a dreadful hiding place. She could see them all peering at her through the glass top.

“Eevee!” Spark sounded... worried?

“She’s terrified, Spark,” said Candela. “You said it yourself. She thinks pokemon get chopped up to make candy.” Candela got under the desk with her. “Eevee, I swear to you on my honour that no harm will happen to you when you’re with us. Come on out; we’re meeting the Professor in a few minutes, and he’ll want to meet you too.”

She looked past Candela to see Blanche and Spark gazing in at both of them, twin expressions of concern on their faces. She realised that she didn’t have much choice, and let Candela coax her out from under the desk. Blanche ducked under the desk once Candela had drawn Eevee out.

“Interesting,” she heard Blanche say, but what was interesting was lost in following the three tall humans down the corridor on her tiny legs. It proved to be exhausting: it was Blanche who noticed, and Candela who scooped her up. Spark gave her a cookie out of his pocket when her stomach growled, and Candela gave her to him, laughing about cupboard love. Eevee sat on his shoulder, crunching her cookie, and looked at the place. Posters lined the walls, urging the teams on to victory, and it was only when she saw the yellow-garbed visage of Spark on one of the poster that she realised that these weren’t trainers. They were leaders. She’d somehow found the team leaders.

“Hello Blanche, Candela, Spark,” said a new voice. “And who have we got here?”

“Eevee was in your office, Professor,” said Spark.

“Was she, then? I’ll have to put a lock on the door.” The Professor’s eyes twinkled a bit as he said it, and he reached out to ruffle her ears. “Is she coming with us for today’s check-in?”

“We believe it would be optimal for her understanding of transferred Pokemon, Professor,” said Blanche. “Plus, she manifested a candy under your desk. I’m curious as to whether it was a one-time occurrence, or if it’s repeatable.”

“She what?” asked Spark, at the same time as Eevee asked, “Eevee?” The fear of being chopped up raced back into her, and she tried to scrabble into the back of Spark’s jacket.

“Eevee,” said the Professor, and he gently took her by the scruff of the neck before she tumbled out of Spark’s grasp, holding her weight in his other palm so that he could address her directly. “You must be very brave to have got this far into my laboratory. You’ll need to be brave a little longer, but only because we’re going somewhere unfamiliar. You’re in no danger.”

“That’s what I told her,” said Candela, as the Professor passed her back to Spark. “Blanche, are you sure she manifested a candy, and didn’t just find a stray one? I didn’t think Pokemon manifested under stress.”

Blanche shrugged. “I believe in Occam’s razor. It’s been a month since we collected candy from the eevee pack: the likelihood of a stray candy specifically being an eevee candy is not as great as Eevee manifesting one herself.”

“We shall see,” said the Professor. “Come along: Candela, did you want to begin?”

______________

 

They got into a skimmer, all white and shiny edges, and Eevee sat snuggled between Blanche and Spark as Candela and the Professor controlled the transport. It reminded Eevee of a pokeball, a little: hard on the outside, comfortable inside. She put her head on her paws, and to her immense shame, dozed off a little.

She woke to the scent of razz berries, and sleepily ate a few from the hand that proffered them. They were a real treat — her Trainer had used them to lure in other pokemon, but because Eevee had hatched from an egg, she’d only really tasted the fake razz berry flavour of healing potions. The real thing was delicious. She looked up at Spark, who grinned back at her.

“Better?” he asked.

“Eevee,” she agreed, and took little time climbing onto his shoulder. Blanche was waiting for them; Eevee could see that they’d really travelled, because the terrain had changed completely from her home. This was volcanic, with lots of glassy rock and a few hardy, spiky plants. Off the side of the rocks, she could see sweeping plains and small fissures in the ground that belched steam up into the air. Spark let her down, and she batted at a piece of rock with her paw; as it caught the light, it caught the colours of the rainbow, like oil dropped into a puddle.

“It’s the fire that does it,” said Candela, crouching to examine her rock. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

She was about to agree, when she was barrelled over by a huge arcanine. It found its feet, and then picked her up apologetically. She shivered a little, but it didn’t seem to be a guard dog — instead, it was followed by a flareon, which chirped delightedly when it saw Eevee.

They didn’t seem unhappy, wherever this was.

“All right, you two,” said Candela. “We’re here to see how everyone is faring.”

Flareon nudged her, and she felt a sudden wild joy in her heart. She ran after it a little way, but the ground was a bit too rocky and steep, so she eventually gave up and turned back to the skimmer.

Candela, Spark and Blanche were unloading some of the baskets of pokeballs. They had labels on them — GROWLITHE; VULPIX; PONYTA — and as she watched, the unloaded balls opened, releasing confused, blinking pokemon into the sunlight. Candela knelt to say something to a small huddle of vulpix kits; the ponyta shook out their manes and ran elegantly across the stony ground. Eevee could see them heading for tundra below the volcano; grasslands that seemed wild and free.

“Ninetails,” said a voice behind her, and she stepped out of the way of three majestic ninetails, who were clearly there to shepherd the vulpix; one of them picked up the smallest vulpix, letting it ride on his back. She padded over to Spark.

“Eevee?” she asked.

“There’s a whole lot of extra-dimensional spaces,” said Spark. “This is one that the fire pokemon usually prefer. It’s modelled on Hawaii.” He looked at her. “You know what Hawaii is?”

She didn’t. He smiled.

“Never mind. The ninetales are here so that the vulpix kits are cared for. We’ll check back in with them soon enough to see what their decision is.”

“Spark, are you gonna help us get the charmander candy, or not?” asked Candela.

“Coming!” he said. “Let me get a containment unit.”

Eevee rode on his shoulder as he hiked to the edge of what turned out to be a large crater. Charmander were playing on the hot rocks below; Spark handed off the bag he’d picked up to a charizard, who took it to the crater floor and held it there for the charmander, who scampered off to find — candy? — in the rocks.

It took three trips to get all the candy, and in the meantime, Eevee found a candy for her own species up close to the skimmer. Had Flareon brought it in? She offered it to Blanche, because Blanche had liked the last one. Blanche nodded thoughtfully.

“Fascinating. Thank you, Eevee.”

Eevee watched the last load of candy being flown up; Charizard lit on the ground nearby to them, and swished its tail straight into a passing magmar. Eevee had never seen so many fire types before, and she watched in amazement as Magmar quacked out something in annoyance, and Charizard turned to it, then deliberately swished its tail back into Magmar.

“Charizard!” Candela warned. “Careful with that tail, buddy!”

Magmar bit Charizard, and that turned into a bit of a tussle, which in turn became a rumble, and Candela laughed and ended up separating them herself. Well, trying to separate them. Somehow she got involved.

“Charizard and Magmar have a bit of a friendly rivalry,” said Spark, as Blanche went over to separate Candela from the Magmar-Charizard-Candela scuffle.

“All right!” called the Professor. “We’ve got a lot to do today, if you please!”

“Coming!” said Candela, and they piled back into the skimmer. Eevee looked over Spark’s shoulder to the cargo hold. There was more candy there than she’d ever envisaged seeing. She wondered how much more they could possibly collect. Candela’s voice came over the tannoy. “Okay, guys. We’re off to the mystical paradise of Blanche-land.”

______________

 

Blanche’s favourite place, it turned out, was a beach, with a freshwater lagoon right beside it. The water lapped gently at the soft, white sand, azure and clear like tinted glass. Spark put on sunglasses, and Eevee scrunched her paws in the sand, enjoying the feel of it beneath her toes.

“So,” said Spark. “There’s more than just the three spaces we’re going to today, but we all have our favourites. We try to get to most of the spaces once or twice a month. Today’s a favourite things day.”

“Not that I don’t like the bat cave…” said Candela, and Spark laughed.

“We believe the Professor chose us because of our proficiencies with different types of pokemon,” said Blanche. “There are overlaps in our areas of understanding — for example, I am proficient with understanding and aiding fire and fairy pokemon, but so are Candela and Spark. I am most proficient, however, with water and ice. It is unsurprising, therefore, that my favourite place has water and ice.” Blanche pointed across the treetops, to where a huge mountain towered into the sky. It was ice-capped.

“You should go explore,” said Spark. “Eevees are special — there’s a big pack of them who live in my favourite place, but because you can evolve into a specialised type, some of them choose to move between the spaces.”

“Agreed,” said Blanche. “You’ll make a choice, someday, as to how and whether to evolve. You should gather all the information that you can, so that your decision is wise.”

Eevee took that as permission, trotting off past some slowpokes who were sunning themselves on the shore. She’d never been this close to the sea before, and she wanted to investigate it.

Over by the lagoon, the leaders were releasing something into the water. She watched them for a while, scurrying backwards when the wash of a wave lapped at her feet. It was surprisingly warm, and she wondered if it was all that hard to swim. Maybe being a vaporeon would be right for her?

Eevee was just about to dip a deliberate paw in the water when a magikarp flipped out of the sea and onto the sand beside her. It gulped and flapped like it was struggling, and she panicked a little, because it didn’t have a trainer to put it into a pokeball, and it should be in the water, and—

With a sudden clarity, she realised that the magikarp hadn’t flipped too far from the lapping waves. She could just put it back into the water herself — she didn’t need a trainer, or a pokeball, or anything like that. Trying to avoid its flailing fins, she got her nose under it and shoved, rolling it back into the shallows. Water soaked her fur, and she felt her tail and her ruff start to weigh her down as a wave swept her off her feet. All right, so she couldn’t swim. Paddling furiously, she turned around, heart thudding as her paws made contact with the sand, shaking herself dry almost before she’d escaped the sucking drag of the waves as they scattered on the shoreline.

She turned, hoping that the poor stupid magikarp hadn’t flipped itself back out again. Bright light flared in her vision, and she — she hadn’t meant for anything to happen, but she knew the zing and fizz of energy that accompanied an evolution. The magikarp was twisting and roiling in the shallows, its fins turning into rolls of scales, its size increasing exponentially. Eevee was tiny next to Gyrados.

The gyrados at her old trainer’s favourite gym had had a good sense of humour, when it wasn’t in a rage. She just had to hope—

The huge sea serpent sat in the shallows, panting with the effort of evolving. He leaned down to her, the offer clear. She was wet and a bit shivery, but she still scrambled onto his back, and hoped he wouldn’t drown her.

He didn’t.

Gyrados told her about the wetlands, the space that Blanche kept in orderly harmony. Gyrados had come here some time ago, in the first wave of pokemon transferred by their trainers, and Blanche had given the magikarp he’d been a choice — go back to the human world, and do as you will, or stay here, and never know a trainer. Eevee clung onto his back with her paws as they skated over the azure water, shoals of magikarp passing below, a pair of horsea blowing bubbles at some seels. Even a vaporeon swum up beside them, sleek and blue, and Eevee considered her own soggy fur in comparison. Yes, it would be nice to evolve; nicer to evolve into the right shape for you. She didn’t think vaporeon was hers.

Staying here wasn’t a choice, Gyrados told her. Why stay in the human world, being caught and re-caught, learning the humans’ ways, but never certain that you’d evolve? Why not evolve into a vaporeon and stay here, where the sun shone and the beach was always warm? She demurred. Gyrados wasn’t pushy, but he was insistent. Why not stay here, where the sun shone, and there were others of your kind to play with, and the only thing asked of you was no trouble at all? The candy they gathered, bobbing on the waves as it met the shore, helped those who wanted it to evolve. Blanche had been clear about that. They got the first pick of the candy, and pokemon returning to the world got several, to give them a head start on their evolution if that’s what they wanted.

But where does candy come from? she asked.

Gyrados laughed. Us, he said. When we’re happy, it falls from the air around us.

But Eevee knew that Blanche thought she’d manifested one when she was unhappy. So had she made a candy fall from the air around her?

And if candy was so important, and there was no impetus to keep pokemon happy…?

She was still wondering when they returned to shore, and saw all of the leaders looking for her. Her fur was still a bit damp; she was happy to return to them, happy that they hadn’t moved on without her.

“Eevee!” said Candela, scooping her into a hug. “We weren’t worried — well, Spark was worried—“

“I was certain that the Pokemon here would not allow her to drown,” said Blanche, offering a towel.

“—But we didn’t know where you were!”

Eevee chirped and let Candela cuddle her and dry off her fur, and then there was a whooping noise and Spark took her from Candela. “Eevee!”

“We’re going to have to make sure you don’t wander off too far — you’re so tiny it’s easy to almost miss you,” said Candela, as Spark hugged her close.

“You’re going to get cold,” he chided, zipping her into his jacket. “We’re nearly done here but for the ice peaks, and I don’t want you to freeze your ears off.”

“Eevee,” she agreed, secretly delighted by his concern.

Gyrados might not want a trainer, but Eevee missed hers. She remembered her trainer’s excitement when she’d hatched — he’d only been at level three, and she was his first Eevee. And she missed being able to mingle with his other pokemon, hearing their stories, training with them to hone her abilities. And it was so comfortable riding on Spark’s shoulder, or bundled into his jacket. She wondered if her next trainer would let her do this all the time, or if it was a special leader thing.

Gyrados called his farewell, splashing off as they got back into the skimmer, ascending from the warm shores to the high mountain. A pair of vaporeon were tumbling through the snow, and a line of polywhirl teetered along, one after the other. Eevee shivered, snuggling into Spark’s warmth. She watched Blanche approach the two vaporeon, who had gracefully brought themselves up to their full height, swishing their tails majestically.

“Tell me how the results fare,” said Blanche, and Eevee started. She’d never seen a trainer ask a pokemon for knowledge.

“Cool, isn’t it?” asked Spark. “Candela works out how to make us all better through training. Blanche works it out through logic.”

“Eevee?” asked Eevee, because logic was all very well, but logic might get someone chopped up for candy if it were taken too far.

Spark chuckled. She felt it resonate through his chest. “And the Professor stresses honour, above all. Why do you think we agreed to work with him? Candela’s honour is through her valor. Blanche is intellectually honest. I’m true to myself. And all of us are kind, in our own ways; haven’t you seen that?”

She thought about it. Yes, she had. Candela had sworn to protect her; Blanche had reassured her with compassionate logic; and Spark had welcomed her without reserve. She pressed close to him where she could feel his heartbeat, and hoped that he felt hers.

“Guess what?” he said. “It’s my turn to show off the space where most of my favourite pokemon gather. You’re gonna love it, Eevee, I promise.”

_______________

 

On the way to the next place, the Professor quizzed Blanche and Eevee while Candela and Spark drove.

“Anything new to report?” he asked.

“No change to the rate of manifestation,” said Blanche. “And, interestingly, our new Eevee friend has been manifesting.”

“Even under stress?”

“Are you stressed, Eevee?” asked Blanche.

Eevee thought about it. If she answered in the affirmative, then would that mean that there was no reason to keep pokemon happy in their creation of candy? But no — Blanche, Candela and Spark had seemed to genuinely enjoy seeing the pokemon happy, and they’d been worried about her, earlier.

“Eevee,” she said, and Blanche smiled.

“Good.”

When she got out of the skimmer, she decided that this place was her favourite out of all the places. Tall trees reached to the sky, and flowers blanketed small clearings. A snorlax waddled between the trees, seemingly found a comfortable spot, and flopped down to sleep. Eevee pricked up an ear. She could hear something.

“Pika?!”

“Pika!”

“Pika-pi!”

She pressed close to Candela’s ankles as the pikachus descended. Spark ran for them, and they ran for him, both of them meeting in a grassy clearing.

“Pikachus!” Spark cried, and he was practically swarmed by a dozen of them. He didn’t seem to mind, though, rolling about with them on the ground, letting them climb on him and snuggle him.

“He’s always like this,” whispered Candela, crouching down to Eevee’s level. “Wait until one of them gets too excited and shocks him.”

Right on cue, there was a sizzling zort and Spark got a little fried. Candela grinned, and it was a bit infectious — Eevee giggled.

“Oi, I can hear you,” said Spark, without a trace of anger. “Hey, little buddy, it’s okay. I know you didn’t mean it.” He cuddled the errant Pikachu, and Eevee tried hard not to feel jealous.

“Pika-pi!” said the Pikachu, and Eevee failed completely at not feeling jealous when Spark rubbed their cheeks together.

“Jolteon!”

A wild jolteon arrived in the middle of the pika-pile, and Eevee watched him with fascination. He looked like the right kind of pokemon for Spark — all spiky edges and electricity, but still kind of fluffy. She could be a jolteon, maybe? He pounced on it, and the two of them tussled happily.

“Come on, Spark,” said Candela. “We’ve got to go get some candy from the bugs!”

Spark gave the pokemon one last pat, and then got up, Candela putting an arm around both him and Blanche.

“Eevee,” said a kindly voice behind her. “I’d like you to stay here with me. I think we should talk.”

“Eevee?” she asked, uncertainly.

“It’s all right,” the Professor said. “I just want to correct some misapprehensions you have about what we’re doing here. Come and have a look at the cargo hold.”

The cargo hold was full of candy. It gleamed in the big labelled baskets, and Eevee took it all in, wonderingly.

“Pokemon use the candy to get enough energy to evolve. Your bodies manifest it; at first we thought it was only if you were happy and well-cared for, but Blanche seems to think you manifested under stress. Candy is your body’s way of saving the energy you don’t need for when you will need it, or allowing you to share the energy you don’t need with others,” said the Professor. “But as trainers and leaders, we have a responsibility to safeguard you all. Once I realised what was going on, I didn’t want unscrupulous trainers deciding to keep sheds full of pokemon, just to harvest candy from them, so I set up an exchange system.” Eevee batted at a stray eevee candy on the floor. The Professor smiled, and picked it up. “It generally works. Sometimes people are found to be farming candy, but there are ways to deal with them. Often the Pokemon in question deal with them long before the authorities do.”

“Eevee?”

“Oh yes. You could do quite a bit of damage to a human, should you so wish,” he replied, placidly.

She’d never thought about it that way. She shook out her fur, and inspected the bins thoughtfully.

“We made these spaces as a refuge,” he said. “The candy was a side benefit. I initially assumed that the candy produced would be consumed by the pokemon in the space; my incorrect assumption would be that you’d use it to power yourselves up, and to evolve.”

He led her back out into the dappled afternoon sunlight, sitting on a large, warm rock.

“But I was wrong,” he said. “The pokemon who live here wanted to share what they have with the pokemon who live in the human world. So that’s what we do.”

Eevee thought about it. She’d been hatched, not caught — did all the candy she’d hatched with come from here? And if she had more than enough candy, would she share it? Yes, she decided. It was the right thing to do.

“The extraordinary thing,” said the Professor, “is that with different methodologies, the pokemon in each extra-dimensional space produce a consistent amount of candy. If Blanche’s hypothesis is correct, all we need is for you to not be confined to a pokeball, and then you’ll manifest candy. The simple energy of existence allows you to store what you don’t need as candy, ready for when you do need it.”

So there was some truth about candy being made from pokemon — but not in the way she’d expected. She shook her head, scanning over the fields and into the trees for the three team leaders. She didn’t see them.

“The extra-dimensional spaces are self-sustaining,” the Professor continued. “One day, we might experience overcrowding; if less pokemon want to return to the human world, or if there’s more pokemon born than usual. But we can work together to create more space. That’s what we’ve done with the Zubats. They weren’t happy in any of the primary spaces, so we made them a new one. There’s millions of them in there, I believe.” The Professor patted one knee. “Come here.”

Eevee obediently cuddled up, because she loved getting her ears scratched. He obliged.

“I know you’re scared about how we might use Pokemon for candy,” said the Professor. “But do you really think any of us could bring ourselves to do that? I selected Candela, Spark and Blanche for a reason.”

Eevee shook her head. She couldn’t believe it.

“This is one of my favourite places, you know,” said the Professor. “Watch what happens when the setting sun hits the tallest treetops.”

She watched from the safety of his lap, and out of the grasslands came a thundering of feet, and a group of brown furry creatures bounded into view. It was a whole pack of eevees. It took her breath away — they were tumbling and purring and playing with each other.

“All pokemon are special to me,” said the Professor. “But you eevees remind me of the potential that lies within each of us. Candela, Spark and Blanche share many similar traits, but they each made the choice to develop their potential down particular lines. Eventually, every one of these eevees will make a similar choice.”

“Eevee?” she asked. And me?

“You will make that choice, too,” he said. She saw Spark approaching with Candela and Blanche and her ears pricked up despite herself. “Perhaps sooner, rather than later.”

“Hey,” said Spark, hefting a bag of candy onto the ground in front of them. “The bugs tried out a new collection system this month. They were so organised we’re finished early. It’s just the geodudes and the eevees to go.”

“Excellent,” said the Professor. “I’ll supervise the loading. It’s time that you speak with Eevee.”

She trotted after Spark, who led her over near to the treeline, away from the skimmer. Candela and Blanche were helping with the loading, and some of the pika-pack were throwing candy to one another and into the skimmer. Spark crouched, and ran a big hand over her head. She leaned into his touch.

“Okay,” said Spark. “You’ve seen the main extra dimensional spaces. Well, the daylight ones. I think even Blanche finds the batcave a bit freaky. So you have a choice: stay in one of them, or go back to the world. Get picked up by a trainer, and start over again.” He seemed to be mulling something over. “Or maybe you could stick with me? It’s been cool having a buddy. Maybe we could talk to the Professor about letting trainers buddy up with their pokemon back in the human world, yeah?”

Eevee looked out at the woods. The eevee pack was settling in the roots of an enormous tree, nuzzling into hollows, curling up nose-to-tail, or on each other, grooming each other’s ears. One of them, a great big male, was patiently carrying candy from the tree to a bucket that seemed to have been set up for precisely that purpose. One by one, he ferreted out the hard balls of candy, and took them gently in his mouth.

“We don’t have to leave here until the sun goes right down,” said Spark. “You’ve got a few minutes to think.”

“Eevee,” she said, and then trotted over to the big male; if it were only him collecting, he’d be there for ages. Looking back, she saw Spark’s shoulders slump a bit.

She worked in silence, picking up the candy, realising that it wasn’t just the big male; there were others working in the fading light. Sometimes she accidentally bit down on a candy, and it would just fizz away in her mouth. So silly, she thought, to have believed that she’d be chopped up for candy. Spark, Blanche and Candela didn’t just train pokemon, study pokemon, battle pokemon. They loved them. They loved them even when they’d only just met.

Eevee knew what she needed to do. As the sky turned from gold to red to deepening blue-black, she trotted back to Spark. He was sitting on the big rock just near the transport skimmer, seemingly lost in thought. He looked at her when she pawed at his leg.

“So,” said Spark, with a wry smile. “What’s your decision?”

“Eevee?” she asked, hopeful. His smile broadened, became more genuine.

“Sticking with me’s a rough gig sometimes,” he said. “There’s always one or two jerks who think it’d be fun to take down a team leader.”

I could evolve, she tried to say. But he was a human, not a pokemon. He ruffled her ruff, scratching the itchy spot just above her neck.

“You don’t have to evolve for me,” he said, regardless of the barriers between them. “I mean it. You’ve got to do what’s right for you.”

She knew what was right for her, though. She’d thought about it, and she knew, and so she nudged his arm with her cheek.

“I didn’t mean to imply you didn’t know your own mind,” he said, and then — “Oh! What are — you’re doing it now? I don’t want to make you—”

“Eevee,” she said, wanting to wrap herself around him, shelter him like he had her. “Eee-“ With a rush that felt like a whole-body sneeze, she felt herself change. And then she was wrapped around him, holding tight to his wrist. “Sylveon,” she said, and he hugged her, holding her in turn.

“Oh wow,” he said. “Wow. Sylveon. It’s an honour.”

She twined herself around him, as he did her, and they didn’t move for a very long time. She looked at her paws, her pink paws, her long pale legs, the ribbons that wound from her to him as he pressed his cheek to her fur. Eventually Candela came and got them, and then Blanche wanted to catalogue Sylveon for the Pokedex, and the Professor had to congratulate her and examine her, and finally, the team leaders all wound up at Candela’s place, Sylveon curled up against Spark’s side, Candela curled up between Blanche and the tv, and all of them happy, happy, happy.

__________

 

Sylveon woke from her warm spot at the end of Spark’s bed to see that the sun was already peeking around the blinds. Stretching, she padded up the length of his body until she got to his shoulder, pawing at him.

“Mmmrph,” he said.

“Sylveon,” she replied.

“Fine, fine, I’m coming.”

They met Candela and Blanche after breakfast, and Candela emphatically still wasn’t sulking about Spark befriending a Sylveon before anyone else, and Sylveon spread herself across everyone’s knees as they traveled to the pickup point for the balls that had been transferred overnight. There was a big load for the Zubat cave, and one lone pidgey had wriggled out of her ball. Sylveon was looking forward to showing Pidgey that things weren’t as bad as was rumoured — she'd visited Pidgey City only a few days previously and it was amazing, all towering cathedral-like eyries, statues to perch on, and fountains where Pidgeys and Spearows could play.

“Pidgey?” the pokemon asked.

Sylveon looked up at Candela and Spark.

“Go on,” said Candela. “Let’s make this whole ‘tour’ thing a tradition.”

“Pidgey?” asked the Pidgey, again, and Sylveon answered, kindly as she could, promises that it was okay, and that they’d show Pidgey where candy really came from. Sylveon wrapped her ribbons around Spark’s wrist when he approached. She saw Pidgey’s reaction; all right, her eyes seemed to say, if you can trust your trainer like that, then maybe I can trust too.

“Come on,” Spark said, gesturing to Candela’s outstretched arm, the perfect place for a Pidgey to land.

With his other hand, he twined his fingers with Sylveon’s ribbons, and she felt a burst of joy suffuse her being. Spark started, like he’d felt it too, then laughed at himself, as Candela talked quietly somewhere behind them.

“It’s okay, Pidgey. Trust me, buddy. Have we got something to show you….”