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What you leave behind

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1

 

Harvest wasn't prepared for Alola. They expected a lot of comfy tourist spots and points of interest, not a full blown boy's life adventure. Every town and landmark they visited whisked them off into some new episode in their own serial. One involved a rogue Elekid causing trouble at the power plant; they and their Electabuzz set the little guy straight. Then they got roped into tracking down a missing Lillipup at the resort. And taming a wild Aerodactyl rampaging around the Lush Jungle. And digging out a massive cave-in caused by a distressed Dugtrio colony — the list went on. It almost felt like someone else's life. Harvest spent their life finding the strongest trainers, battling all comers, winning by chance and barely scraping by unscathed, but for once they were happy to follow their whims instead of their instincts. Each day in Alola seemed to have a happy ending; every crisis resolved, every last loose end tied up. Though fulfilling, the non-stop adventure quickly exhausted them and they were ready to move on.

Their last day on the islands started out slow (especially compared to the wild ride that was Akala Island) and they were fine with the relaxed lull, ready to crawl back into the lap of civilization. Their quick and dirty circuit around Melemele Island ended at Hau’oli City, which was just beginning to light up against the dimming sky when they made it to the beach. It was almost picturesque enough for a few hysterical tears, maybe some grovelling and kissing the asphalt like a lunatic.

They unlaced their trail boots and left them somewhere near the access stairs. Although the air coming off the sea was still balmy from the day's sun, the temperature dropped everywhere else. They didn't pay much notice to the shivers running up their bare legs as they padded across the sand; the first time they saw water this beautiful, they were ten years old, still fresh in their league challenge and naïve in their world view. Even though they were far from it in time and space, Alola was something like their own childish vision of home.

They slipped out of their camping pack's tight embrace and plopped down on the sand. They stretched and heard a few pops and snaps in random parts of their body, parts they brutalized without realizing it: shoulders, hips, knees, elbows. What they needed was a good place to sleep but that would have to wait. This was their last sunset on the islands. Yesterday's sunset, though equally breathtaking, went unappreciated as they waited stuffed between a couple of seaside boulders. It had to have been about six hours they spent out there exposed to the elements but their catch was worth it.

They let their new partner out to sit with them. It was still a little shy and, if their understanding of its pokedex entry was correct, would need extra attention if it was going to survive traveling with them. They knew very little about Wimpod, and most people they asked knew about as much. They were head over heels for the little bug, though. The surf ebbed up to their bare feet and gave them a fresh chill. Once the sun sets, they thought, I'll go find a bed somewhere when it’s over. A little wave followed and splashed down on Wimpod's tail. It chittered a distressed cry and scuttled behind Harvest to shield itself from any further assault.

They chuckled and rubbed its smooth, silver shell. “There, there. You're water type, too, right? That's nothing to be scared of—”

Wimpod blinked up at them with its wide yellow eyes and they felt a warmth in their chest. It stared back at them for a moment, then closed its eyes, almost like the wave sounds were lulling it to sleep. They observed this behavior in the wild and, in a strange way, saw a bit of themself in it. They loved each of their pokemon, of course, but their pure fondness for it was instant. It was the same feeling they had the moment they first held Cyndaquil — the moment they knew they had a friend for life. They would be that friend for this little bug, they decided.

“Maybe we should come up with a name for you."

Wimpod seemed unconcerned with names and began rooting around in the sand next to their bare feet.

“Aah!” They kicked their legs up. “No, don’t!” Wimpod shuddered at their outburst and they tried to stifle their own giggling. “I'm sorry, I'm not mad at you. It’s okay...”

Wimpod watched them for a moment then seemed to whisper or giggle itself. It went back to snuffing through the wet sand. It headbutted a little pile left, nuzzled right, turned around to dig at something with its tail. They looked on with fascinated amusement. They had only raised a handful of bug types in their lifetime, and even though it had been actual hell to catch, Wimpod was proving itself to be agreeable and eager to please. The bar wasn't high, though. Heracross wasn't much of a people pleaser and Anorith was just weird. (Most pokemon resurrected from fossils tended to be eccentrics, though.)

A small, shiny object flipped into their lap. They held it up to the waning light and turned it over. “A bottlecap?”

Wimpod looked quite proud of itself — and the huge mound of sand it had kicked up while digging.

“This is for me?”

It seemed to smile, then skittered forward to nudge against their thigh. They were expecting its shell to be chilly from the wet sand but it was soothing in its warmth, almost like a heat pack.

They laughed and tucked the bottlecap into their front pocket. “Thanks, little dude. I'll keep it forever.” They rubbed a spot right behind its antennae. It seemed pleased, either from their praise or because they found its favorite place to be petted. “Here, hold on. I’ve got something for you—” They leaned back and rifled through the side pockets on their camping pack. “Nothing fabulous but the others seemed to like ‘em, let me know what you think…”

Wimpod, they noticed, was no longer shuffling around and playing. It had turned its wide-eyed gaze away from them, now staring just past their side. A prickly feeling crept up their spine like they were about to be jumped. Had they been of weaker stock, they would have gathered their stuff and made a break for it but Harvest (with a nervous gulp) peeked over their shoulder instead.

A tall, sinister-looking guy stood a few yards behind them. He would have been more imposing if his clothes actually fit him, or if he didn't slouch so damn much. Still, he had been surprisingly quiet for someone his size and that bugged them more than anything. People usually couldn't get too close without them noticing.

“Can I help you?”

“Where'd you get him?”

It was a simple enough (albeit abrupt) question. His voice was rough like he had just screamed himself hoarse or smoked an entire pack of Torko Lites — possibly both. But there wasn't enough conviction backing that voice to truly intimidate them. If anything, they found him a little captivating. That in itself was more dangerous to them than he could be. Probably.

They turned and gave him a proper once-over. He didn't dress like other Alolans, not even the gutter punks they noticed squatting in the alleyways here and there. There was something disheveled and manic about him that seemed to contradict everything they understood about the region.

The man, tired of their gawking, crossed his arms over his chest. The gesture reminded them of a faded police station poster they had seen on another island. Fluffy white hair like his and cartoony sunglasses like his — dead giveaways. What grabbed them at the time, though, was the severe “fuck you” look in his eyes. Those eyes were now tired and sunken in the high contrast of sunset but there was no mistaking him. Or who he used to be.

Either way, they could tell he had a temper so it was best to tread carefully.

“I caught...him?" They replied slowly, only then registering his ability to identify the sex of a little flat bug from yards away in low light. How long had he been watching them?

The man's dark eyebrows shot up in mock surprise. “No shit!” His expression fell flat again. “I'm askin’ how.”

Rather than recounting their entire night spent crouching behind a rock next to the ocean, they went for something far less eloquent. “With a ball.”

The man rolled his darkened eyes and grumbled, nudging the sand with the toe of his sneaker. Their replies were terse but he seemed put off at himself more than them, charmingly sheepish in a way. In spite of his reputation, they could tell he wasn't an immediate threat. They almost felt bad for the guy seeing him now. His awkward attempt at conversation and closed body language told them he had been by himself for quite a while. They realized they had been kind of short with him. It was always “battle first, talk later” in their world and they had a shameful urge to get a look at his chops, judge him based on his strength.

They sighed and looked down at their lap. Wimpod had dozed off next to them. One of the most cautious pokemon they had ever encountered was napping yards away from a notorious crime boss. The slightest crunch of a blade of grass sent it bolting for cover a day ago; now it was curled up in the sand like a Meowth in a basket.

Maybe he was one of those rare misunderstood lawbreakers. Harvest would know. They grew up with one — fell in love with one.

“I can't really explain it without drawing a diagram. I'll say I'd have an easier time catchin' a stinkin’ Abra gagged and blindfolded.” The man didn't look amused. “So, you come here for a reason?”

He half-shrugged. “This is a public beach last time I checked.”

“Fair enough. Got a name?”

A thin, bitter smile cut his stony expression. “Never heard of me, huh.”

“Nope. Saw your mugshots, though.” They stood and swiped wet sand off the seat of their shorts.

“Guzma.”

Not as flashy as they were expecting — he came off as someone who’d call himself an “agent of destruction” or something. He sounded kind of embarrassed instead.

“I'm Harvest. How's a 3 on 3 sound?”

He looked bewildered for a moment, then he grinned. There was something predatory about him, his eyes, his stance, his voice. “Damn, you get to it.”

The sight of him seemingly possessed by his own competitive spirit had their heart pounding and they weren't sure why. They licked their lips. It was like all of their common sense had run dry. Their mouth certainly had. Pre-battle jitters were a hell of a throwback.

They patted at their lower back, finding their belt. If it hadn’t been for their first pokemon in the starting spot, they probably would have choked, but its ball's composite shell had grown hot enough to burn. It always brought them back to the now — to the one thing they still had going for them. Their encounter with this guy was finally getting interesting.

They watched him squatting on the beach, trying to remain cool and not goggle at the sight of the creature they sent forth. Typhlosion was particularly large for its kind, about as tall as Guzma looked. It stood with severe poise, flashing its quills, sharing with Harvest a composure they only ever showed in battle.

Golisopod's first impression broke that composure right away.

It towered over Typhlosion and, seconds out of its ball gave their partner a sharp whack from above like a guillotine. They groped around in their backpack at their feet for their old Pokedex, hoping it wasn't too dark to get a good shot of it. Their hands shook as they framed up Golisopod and squinted at the pixelated text ticking across their dim screen. The pokemon's entry was bewildering — they couldn't imagine what it would take to get a Wimpod to fight and grow and evolve into that. Harvest's Wimpod, currently stuffed down the front of their overalls, shivered and clung to their shirt as tight as it could.

“The hell are you doing over there?” Guzma squawked.

“Fuck— sorry! Old habit.”

Their nerves were getting the better of them, either because they had never seen one up close or they couldn't believe Wimpod was capable of becoming so enormous. They could only be certain of one thing: this particular Golisopod shared a deep bond with Guzma. There was no time for awe and nerves and secretly picturing the man down the beach as a boy along with his pokemon. Losing wasn't an option.

Harvest and Typhlosion both managed to dodge a boiling hot jet of water, mere inches from a staggering loss and some brutal burns.

“Holy shit! Watch where you’re firing that thing!”

Guzma threw his hands up at them. It was hilarious to them in spite of their near-brush with injury.

Typhlosion gave a spirited roar and its quills exploded with heat as it bolted forward. The connection it shared with its trainer was unshakable, such that they fought together in perfect silence, always running with the same crazy impulsive strategies. They would need one to take this absolute tank down. Typhlosion curled into a fiery ball and hurled itself into Golisopod, again and again, striking faster and harder each time. Even with its high defense, Typhlosion's assault was mounting, its fire blazing hotter, and who knew how long the poor thing would hold up.

The smug confidence on Guzma's face melted away. Golisopod, its shell now covered in charred stripes, retreated the moment Typhlosion ricocheted back.

The switch that followed was seamless, such a perfect feint that Harvest and their dizzied pokemon didn't have time to react. Its forward momentum broke against a Pinsir which, after a brief struggle, clamped down on Typhlosion with its enormous claws. It cried out, scrabbling at the spiked horns closing tighter and tighter around its mid-section — slow, agonizing. It was never easy to watch a pokemon struggle like that, especially their closest partner.

One-for-one.

They called Typholsion back just before the sickening crunch of broken ribs or, god forbid, a spine. The burns and scrapes on Golisopod would gradually soothe inside its ball and clear up at a Pokemon Center no problem. Healing internal damage was much more difficult. Guzma wasn't screwing around.

Steelix was next on their belt — another old stand-by. They met it as an Onix while lost in a cave not far from their hometown. They met the day Cyndaquil was poisoned for the first time and Harvest, then an impressionable new trainer, was afraid it would die. Blinded by tears and pitch darkness, they wandered the cave until they stumbled into an Onix nest. The enormous pokemon that charged at them and nearly scared them to death did so to herd them out of the cave. Onix recognized young Harvest's love for their partner and, having lost its eggs to a pack of Sneasel, sympathized with their fear. It waited at the mouth of the cave, hoping for their return. Now after years of battling and strength training, Onix had become Steelix. And it was very protective of Typhlosion.

Guzma yelped — half startled, half indignant — when it knocked Pinsir out with one swing of its massive tail.

They gave Steelix a pat and recalled it while he cursed his own judgment.

“Last one, dude!” They called to him. “Doin’ alright?”

“Yeah, I ain’t asleep over here!” His gravelly voice snapped from down the beach.

He thought for a moment, then released a Scizor. It was clear he led with intimidation tactics and direct attacks but he also demonstrated a deep understanding of his team's strengths and limits. The fact that he didn't take unnecessary risks with his offense pokemon impressed the hell out of Harvest. But they could deal with these unexpected feelings later. 

Once more, they reached back and felt along their belt. Their final pick made such a ruckus in its pokeball hearing the sounds of battle that they couldn’t deny its enthusiasm. They hoped its type advantage would compensate for its lack of battle experience.

“Let’s go, boy!”

“What?!” Guzma shouted, voice cracking. “Are you fucking joking??”

They shrugged, smiling behind their hand while their Rockruff dropped into a play stance and wagged his fluffy tail. Even Guzma busted up a little at the sight of the eager puppy flopping around in front of his Scizor. He went back to squatting and scowling a moment later. The man was a cocktail of emotions.

The last few ribbons of sunlight glinted across Scizor's exoskeleton as it prepared to attack. It was lining up a bullet punch. There was only one way to save Rockruff from getting bopped into next year.

“Dig!”

Rockruff barked and jumped for joy before diving into the hardened wet sand beneath its paws. Scizor’s punch connected with air right before the ground beneath it collapsed into a seething sand pit. It didn't come out.

Maybe Rockruff wasn’t as underleveled as they thought.

Guzma began shouting obscenities and tossing handfuls of sand into the air. Scizor dragged itself back to its net ball on its own.

An equally sandy Rockruff bounded up to Harvest, lavishing them with slobbery kisses and pressing wet paw prints all over their clothes. “What a good boy!” They cooed, patting dust and sand out of its coat. “Yes, you are!”

Rockruff was back in its ball by the time Guzma got his shit together and made his way back over to them. Good thing, because he looked ready to murder their puppy a second ago. His posture was rigid and adolescent, hands shoved deep in his pockets. To their surprise, he seemed put off more at himself than at them. Despite his constant air of intensity, their mild curiosity had grown stronger.

Only now that he was standing nearer to them did they realize how tall he was. They instinctively straightened their posture, unaccustomed to craning their neck back to have a conversation. They didn’t consider themself short but they felt vulnerable standing close to him. Deeper down, it gave them a little rush.

He seemed to notice this as well and leaned back away from them.

Things were getting awkward quick.

They bent at the waist in a short bow, as they would to any other trainer from the northern regions. “Thank you for the battle.”

He looked a bit startled by the gesture, blinking in uncertainty.

It would have been too much to say it was the liveliest battle they’d had in a while. Had they been back home, they probably would have whooped something goofy at him like “Whoo! You're on fire!” They went for something easier.

“That was really good,” they said, smiling a little. He relaxed out of his hard posture and everything was fine until they let slip, “my heart was pounding.”

Guzma’s hand fluttered up to fiddle with his messy hair. “Uh…yeah, you too. Good job."

The sun had set during their quick bout. Street lamps were humming to life and the glow of soft light pollution did little to illuminate the dark beach. Even though the city proper was well-lit, Harvest had no idea how districts were laid out or where they were, to begin with. It didn't help that they were hungry and exhausted, either.

“Say, are you local?”

They couldn't make out his finer details in the low light but his heavy, tired gaze seemed to drift away from them before he nodded.

“Know any decent places to get a bed?”

Even though he was twice their size, he shrunk back at the question. At first, they weren't sure why he was acting so bashful and rubbing at his undercut again. They wanted to scream a moment later. 

“There's a motel up Route 2. Nothin’ fancy, but it's got a shower and stuff.”

“What, do I smell?”

He opened his mouth to say something then paused. “A little.” He smirked and Harvest grinned. “Guessin’ you're a tourist. You had malasada yet?”

“A what?”

“For real?”

“What is that?”

“I can buy you some before you go, alright?”

“It’s food?”

He laughed. “Yeah, it's food! Goddamn, that's hilarious.”

Their eyes narrowed, heart skipping a little. To him, they probably seemed cowed by his laughter. What really snagged them was the idea of someone like him buying them food. It was a stupid thing to get embarrassed about — hell, for all they knew it was probably normal to just treat someone to whatever a malasada was. They were thinking too hard about nothing. Still, it was jarring being their age and suddenly feeling like a boy crazy ten-year-old again. 

This uncertainty came so easily and they wondered if their unsatiated curiosity was really worth it. Had it not been for their amiable small talk and dear little Wimpod jumping into Guzma's arms, they probably would have run off.

 

 

2

 

They weren’t sure what to expect from a foreign term they didn’t understand but, in Harvest’s opinion, malasadas only counted as dinner to a little kid or a teenager. But food was food and they had survived on doctored up mushrooms and berries long enough that they’d eat a warmed-up shoe. (Who were they kidding? The smell was incredible.)

Acquiring the food was a different matter altogether.

It might have been Guzma feeling weird in public after his stint as a criminal, or perhaps the tiny child cashier, but the task of ordering malasadas was getting the better of him. The paper menu crumpled in his hands while he stood at the counter pretending to read it. His lips had flattened into a perfectly straight line and there may have been a bit of an eye twitch going on. Harvest hung back, trying to be polite and give him space even though the whines and growls in their stomach had reached an obnoxious volume. The two were getting enough odd looks to begin with.

“Take your time!” The little boy chirped.

“I am,” Guzma said through gritted teeth. “Thanks.” He threw a glance back at them and whispered, “c’mon whaddya want?” No one was waiting in line behind them but he sounded rushed and a little desperate.

They sidled up beside him and, in an attempt to get a closer look at the near-pulverized menu, pressed their face against his arm. The contact triggered something. Whatever it was made both of them jolt. He tensed and they felt his biceps firm up against their cheek. Harvest made an odd little noise in the back of their throat. They liked how it felt. They wanted to lean into him, feel a connection with him, even though he was a stranger and normal people didn't do weird shit like that. It didn’t occur to them that they were touch starved or that such a thing was even possible.

He rolled his shoulders, not pushing them away but squirming enough for them to get the hint. “Just pick already,” he muttered, then added, “can't really go wrong, anyway.”

“Alright, alright. Sweet malasada?” They said it more to the boy behind the counter, who gave them a bright smile and pressed several buttons before refocusing his eager face on Guzma.

“You're gonna want more than that,” he said, not breaking eye contact with the boy.

“Then...two?”

He made a skeptical noise.

“Three?”

“Three!” The child cashier parroted, poking a button with gusto. “How about you, mister?”

At that point, it made sense to go find a place to sit rather than watch a grown man stare down a child.

They found a free table in the corner of the shop. They worked their backpack straps off, lowered the heavy pack to the floor, then hopped up on a red stool. After such a long time on the road, it was nice to spend time with another person even if they had done questionable things. Who hadn't, anyway? It almost made them feel nostalgic.

They shook their head, trying to lose the bad thought. Awful thought

This wouldn’t be a problem as long as they kept it short and went their separate ways. They were miles ahead of themself for starters but, way in the back of their mind, they admitted they were attracted to him and that it was partly motivating their curiosity.

And maybe they saw someone else in him.

That's enough.

They let Wimpod out. It scuttled onto the table, first in circles, then back to rub his shell against their elbow as thanks for letting it out of its ball. They couldn't blame it for wanting a little freedom after spending most of its life hiding.

Guzma, though he was grumbling something about “leaving a fucking three year old to handle cash transactions”, appeared calmer when he sat down across from them. They were about to crack a joke and maybe get a little more info about the area from him but he slid them a tall glass of ice water, perfectly casual as if he'd done it hundreds of times before.

“O-oh, thanks.” They were dehydrated and probably looked it, but the gesture was enough to knock the conversation out of them. Something as small as passing someone a drink felt volumes thick — what kind of dork would get that excited about water? They were in no position to process any of this emotionally.

He shrugged a little, fiddling with the straw paper they dropped.

A teenage girl swept over to their table with a couple of paper bowls. “Heeeere you g—” Her cheery voice died with a squeak.

Harvest smiled up at her (more so at what she had brought them) but she didn't notice. Her eyes were no longer sparkling and lovely but wide with terror and fixed on Guzma. She inched toward their table, placed two paper baskets in front of them, then backed away like she just lit the fuse on a stick of dynamite.

He continued staring down at the straw paper, now folding it up into little squares.

They took a long sip of water, watching his hands. He'd bitten his nails down and had a mess of thin scars crisscrossed over his knuckles — anxious and angry. Their eyes wandered up to his forearms. The purple ink almost matched the dark circles around his eyes. “What are those?”

“Tats I need to get rid of.”

They hummed, still watching him futzing with the straw paper. Thick, corded muscle worked beneath his pale skin. He used to be tan. “Dunno...I think they look pretty cool.”

He let out a humorless laugh. “Wish I still did.”

They looked away and hummed again. It was better to loudly sip water and pat their dozing Wimpod than continue making pointless comments.

His sharp eyes flicked up to check their space for any other nervous gawkers, then met theirs. “So where the hell are you from, anyway?”

“Small town in Johto.”

“Why’re you all the way down here?”

“I battle for a living.”

“No shit,” he scoffed. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-five.”

He seemed to consider it for a moment, rubbing at his jaw with the palm of his hand. A silence settled over them.

Harvest crammed half a malasada into their mouth.

“Sounds like a fuckton of work,” he finally said.

They managed a garbled, “being twenty-five?”

Guzma graced them with a short, low giggle. “Nah, doin’ battles all the time.”

“It's not for everyone. I mean—” They swallowed. “I can go wherever the fuck I want whenever I want. And I've got good travel partners.”

A ghost of a sneer tugged at his lips. “I can see that. What kinda training you do?”

“Type resistance, and, uh, just surviving out in the wild for a few weeks on and off...lame as it sounds.”

He laughed at that; a raspy, deep laugh that gave them a gratifying little shiver. “That ain't lame, sis, that's hardcore. I'd be the one scared of you out there...with that huge fuckin’ snake...thing—” He then gestured to Wimpod. “And the second this little dude grows up, you've got more defense than you know what to do with. Nothing can break that shell, trust.” He looked them in the face for a moment then went back to fiddling with trash (their empty malasada wrapper this time).

There was something real in his voice that stood out to them, some pure enthusiasm for the bonds formed between trainers and their partners. They couldn't help their fixating on that moment of honesty. What an idiot they were, becoming attached to one little facet of a complete stranger.

He continued, avoiding eye contact. “Guess you're sick of fuckin’ around in the grass by now.”

“Kinda. People around here are real cool, though.” He glared down at the table. They must have said it to the wrong guy. “I like it here.”

He smiled thinly. “Good. Alola’s a nice place.”

They didn't talk much after that. He hadn't touched his food before but now seemed as hungry as they were. Harvest hit their wall at about two and a half malasadas. Two weeks of their wilderness regimen left them with a lower capacity stomach. Two weeks was a long time. It never felt like a long time until they remembered what they had been missing.

They tried sharing a piece of soft fried dough with Wimpod but it was far more interested in the piece Guzma placed in front of it. Before they could ask why, he jumped into a detailed explanation of flavor preferences in bug pokemon, assuring them they like sweet things just fine, but always favor sour stuff because gives them a fizzy feeling.

“They go nuts for it— check it.”

A little shudder traveled down the ridge of Wimpod’s shell and then, after a few seconds, it hissed and nuzzled against Guzma's arm. He smiled to himself and fed the little bug the rest of his malasada. It was brief but they knew they had witnessed something rarer than a solar eclipse. He noticed them staring and began rattling off which types of berries Wimpod preferred and why the species is one of the hardest to please, let alone capture.

Reputations never held much weight in Harvest's mind when choosing who to associate with. It must have been a side effect of growing up and realizing how corrupt and small the world was. Team Rocket was notorious for abusing and exploiting pokemon and seemed to set the standard for most criminal outfits. That line of work didn’t seem to fit this guy. It seemed he liked pokemon more than people and the more they talked, the harder it was to imagine him as a villain. They knew asking about Team Skull would piss him off, but they wanted their gut feeling about him to be right. Even if they'd never see him again. 

Wimpod chirped while Guzma pointed out its favorite places to be scratched and rubbed. The wary bug and the tired, surly-looking man were at ease, both completely different from the moment they met them. They watched him, not pondering who he had been two months or five years ago, but what the world had expected him to become. Perhaps Alola had its own dividing line between winners and losers among young trainers, driving children down predetermined paths in life.

People didn’t want to think about how easy it was for a young trainer — a child — to break. Taking the title of Champion in Johto and Kanto made Harvest an idol, a symbol of goodness and innocence — a perfect foil to a troubled thief like their rival. Silver was mean to people and pokemon alike. The kid had issues. Nobody knew or cared that he had been abandoned and hurt by people who were supposed to love him. But young and stupid Harvest couldn't bring themself to cut ties with him, even after he passed that hurt to them. That they could love someone with so much anger, so many flaws, so many unforgivable actions — maybe that was why they gave everything up.

 

 

3

 

They didn't part ways afterward as they should have. Traveling in the dark wasn't an issue for someone who grew up walking through the woods making friends with Hoothoots and Venonats on their way to get groceries. Still, they asked Guzma to walk them to the motel since it was already late.

They didn’t expect he’d agree to it.

Harvest couldn't help but steal glances at him as they strolled beneath the street lamps. They studied him spotlight to spotlight as he pointed out buildings and points of interest (still with an air of annoyance). They were probably walking too close but the weird sparky feeling from before was back — a low humming tension like an electrical wire between them. He went on in his growl of a voice, ignoring or oblivious to their small moves to push against him. It felt strange and kind of pathetic but they wanted to feel the fabric of their clothes brush together, maybe find out what his body felt like beneath his baggy clothing, even if it was only for a second.

“So are you gonna be around for a while?”

They looked up at him and noticed Wimpod curled up in his hood, dozing off again. There was a familiar, heavy feeling in their heart now. It was dangerous. It made them do stupid, stupid things. “I was gonna catch a boat to Unova tomorrow.”

Guzma stopped walking. “What?

“I’ve been here a couple weeks. I usually move on about now.”

He squinted at them. “You've been to every stinkin’ island?” They nodded and he looked plain offended. “The hell kinda bullshit is that?”

“Well, gosh, I didn’t know you cared.”

He sputtered for a moment, cheeks flushed. “So what if I do? Maybe I want another shot at that wicked strong team of yours.”

His reaction had them blushing as well, so endearing they almost entertained the idea of staying. Almost. “I wouldn’t say no to a 6 on 6 with you. Especially if Wimpod grows up. That’d be cool.”

“It would.” He sounded disappointed. “Tch.” They walked a bit further before he said, “this little guy likes you. I hope you can remember your time here while you travel with him.”

“That's extremely nice of you.” They stopped to pull one of their socks up, trying to hide the stupid grin on their face. He mumbled something about needing to shut his damn mouth. “Why are you being so extremely nice to me, anyway?”

He put his hands on his hips, not bothering to look back at them. “I need a reason?”

The slipshod red X painted on the back of his jacket caught their attention then. What remained of the old Team Skull brand beneath it seemed to grin at them. “Just curious.”

He was quiet for a moment. “I’d want someone to be cool to me if I was doin’ what you are.”

They smiled softly. “Thinking about heading off yourself one day?”

“Hell if I know...”

The two resumed their hike, leaving the lights of the city for a quiet, grassy road. The sounds of nighttime traffic faded out to the squawks of wild pokemon off in the trees and coarse dirt crunching beneath their shoes. Normally, Harvest would be looking around trying to identify pokemon based on their bleating patterns and breathing in lungfuls of tall grass smell. Not tonight. Thoughts were burning through their mind faster than they could handle. It wasn't often someone went out of their way for them.

Guzma walked ahead of them, keeping his head down.

They jogged to catch up with him, still watching his back.

 

 

4

 

The motel sat further up the hill. It would have looked lovely during the daytime, with its pure white paint and deep blue accents — pretty enough for a brochure. The dark made it seem eerie, empty and poorly lit. The lonely street lamps in the parking lot hummed away beneath a thick coating of sea salt, providing little more than spooky mood-lighting. Harvest was thoroughly sketched out — had been since they passed a sign for a cemetery a ways back — but too tired to let it deter them. Guzma didn't seem bothered. He never looked up from the ground, in fact.

They stopped at the steps in front of the motel office, hesitating for longer than was appropriate.

If they both went in they would look like a couple. Why the hell would they do that, anyway? It was time to say farewell and go about their lives. What the hell were they doing? Their brief eye contact confirmed he was thinking the same thing.

They dragged this out long enough; there was no reason not to split.

“So, uh, you got a place?” Harvest muttered.

He looked away, rubbed his roughed up knuckles against the palm of his hand. “Yeah, I got places to crash.”

Good, they thought. He’s fine. I’m gone tomorrow and none of this will matter anyway. I’ll jack off and go to sleep like I always do. Only now I’ll never stop thinking about this dude. I'll drive myself nuts trying to remember how good his voice sounds and forget how badly I wanted to touch him. Their resolve broke like a thin sheet of ice. Whatever half-logic there was to being with him won out. Fuck it.

“It's pretty late. I...you can share the room with me. I don't mind.”

He held up a hand. “Ya don't need to do that. Ain't safe for someone traveling alone.”

“You need a place to stay as much as I do.”

The corner of his wide mouth twitched. “You got no idea what I need, sis.”

The man was haunted and their meeting him, even with the awful timing, began to make sense. Whatever he did, whatever he'd been through, was a mystery to them. There were no goalposts to move, no bad blood between them. All they knew was they wouldn't sit by and let someone who had been kind to them be alone. Even if it was for a single night.

They frowned. “You’re staying with.” Guzma opened his mouth to argue. “No— wait right there,” they said. “And don't even think about bailing on me!”

They disappeared inside the motel office leaving him frozen at the bottom of the concrete steps behind them. Their cheeks burned while they exchanged cash for a room. They may as well have handed over the last of their sanity as well.

He was still there when they returned, sitting at the bottom of the steps. The big red X on his back glared up at them. He could have run off while they were inside. But he didn’t.

Wimpod stretched and nuzzled deeper into his hood.

“Last room on the end.”

They tossed him the key.

 

 

5

 

Tension flooded the room the moment the door thudded shut.

A mixture of regret, fear and anticipation surged through Harvest's already exhausted mind. The sight of the bed, however, spoke to a deeper desire to rest their aching body after a long day of walking. They dropped their heavy backpack where they stood and went straight for the bathroom. Part of their urgency stemmed from the dried sweat caked all over their body, the rest had to do with the ex-gang boss they insisted spend the night with them.

There’s a couch, they told themself. It’s not a big deal. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.

Their hands shook as they peeled their clothing off. They caught a glimpse of their tan lines in the mirror, suddenly feeling self-conscious. From an objective standpoint, they looked pretty good even though their body was a patchwork of skin tones, scrapes, scars, and bruises. Most people would never see these flaws. They made sure of it. Yet they wondered how Guzma would react if he did.

A heavy spray of cold, brackish water jerked them out of their uneasiness and plunged them into a freezing, wet hell. They shivered and gasped. It was familiar — harsh but still better than thinking about their current situation. They scrubbed harder than was necessary but the physical overwhelmed the emotional and they'd take whatever distraction they could manage at this point.

“Fuck,” they grumbled, toweling their hair. Guzma, having heard them, grunted curiously. “I, uh...I left my clothes out there.”

An awkward pause. “I won't look.”

So what if he does? “I'm coming out, then.”

They found him lying on the sofa, staring up at the ceiling fan with his tattooed arms folded beneath his head. He looked pretty relaxed, half-dozing like he hadn't slept something that cushy in a while. The past couple of hours hadn't been tension-free for him, either — physically or emotionally.

“Sorry I shouted at you earlier.” They pulled a soft white t-shirt over their head.

“Do I look like I'm complainin’?” He huffed a laugh, not budging from his reclined pose. “I would'a left if I really wanted to.”

“Fair enough,” they muttered, rifling through their backpack for shorts. “Not trying to be nosy, here, but what do you usually do for the night?”

“Like I said, I got places to crash.”

They expected he'd be cagey. “Sorry, to keep asking dumb questions.”

“Eh. No one asks me much. Mostly get dirty looks or ignored.”

“Geez.” They pulled their shorts on and made their way over to perch on the coffee table next to the couch. “I don’t wanna sound rude but you seem different from most of the, uh...criminals I’ve seen.”

While resting, he'd slipped his glasses off and his hair had fallen over his eyes in a surprisingly flattering way. He looked them up and down. They noticed his eyes linger on their chest for a moment, then their thighs, before he looked away. “What's up with you? Got a thing for bad guys or somethin’?”

“No! I mean, well—” Their throat went dry. There was no reasonable way to answer that question without diving into the darker parts of their life. So they kept tabs on people and obsessed over certain criminal organizations — why would they waste this guy's time with that information if they were never going to see him again? It wasn’t his business, anyway. But the rest tumbled out. The truth. “It’s a fixation.” 

He sat bolt upright, fixing them with a piercing look. Their stomach jerked. “Fixation? Man, that's...” He stood up and skulked away from them. “Fuck me, that's a new one.”

“I didn't mean it like that—”

He was pacing now. “What did you mean, then?” He threw a disgusted look their way. “I ain't a fetish? You didn't just pick me up for some kinda pity fuck?"

“What? No.”

He spread his arms wide, gesturing down at himself. “My beaten down ass don't do it for ya?! C’mon, some invincible, lonely chick like you? Fuckin’ PLEASE!” He screwed his face up. “Are you into dudes in uniforms tying you up and shit? What kind of fucking dark-sided baggage do you have?”

They said nothing, stunned. He didn’t know about what they went through with Team Rocket. He couldn’t have known about adults bullying them as a kid — actually tying them up, getting rough with them when they’d lose, sometimes getting too close. Always just enough to put fear into their stupid, innocent little heart. Harvest was half-aware of their trembling hands and crawling skin. Those memories didn't resurface too often.

Guzma then spoke with no slang, no affectation, like someone he used to be or would have been. “Did they take turns or do you all at once?”

The distance between them closed in an instant. Their fist connected with his jaw, bone smacking against bone. It knocked him back a step. Their hand thrummed with hot pain but they could cry about it later. He was breathing heavy now, jaw set, eyes feral when he faced them again. He looked ready to hit them back. They knew he wouldn’t but their blood was on fire and some awful little part of them hoped he would, hoped for a reason to get high on their anger. If they were digging back into their fucked up past now, why not?

He dipped a finger into his mouth, finding a bit of blood where they hit him. “What the fuck?”

They found their voice. “I don't see you as a criminal. But you're definitely a fuckin’ asshole.”

Harvest yelped as he grabbed the collar of their shirt and shoved them back toward the bed. They landed on their ass, and he was on top of them as quick as they had clocked him, pinning their wrists above their head. The two fell into a silent scuffle. The closeness made them hyper-aware of the warmth of his body. And how strong he really was. And the heat between their legs.

His intense eyes didn't leave theirs for a second.

“You're not a criminal,” they whispered.

He took their chin roughly. “Anymore.”

They nudged upward, licking right into his mouth and tasting malasada. Guzma caught their lips in a hard kiss before they could pull away. The slick pressure of his mouth against theirs seemed to kill any loneliness they had ever felt. A faint, familiar warmth swelled in their gut as their rage wavered; it became hard to breathe. All that remained of their rational self was ways and places to touch him, to make him touch them back. Anything to forget what had exploded between them moments before.

The trouble was wriggling free of his grip — he still hadn't let them go. He seemed to realize this when they grazed him right between his legs with their hip. He froze, then released them. There was a pattern with him, they noticed. He was assertive yet unsure of himself in the way he kept starting and stopping. He was deep in thought now, guilty-looking, even. They circled their arms around his neck and pulled him in closer. Now that he was sure they weren't about to fight him again, he responded to their embrace. Neither wanted to talk about what they were doing; their movements escalated instead. Harvest was all about technique and teasing while he was an incredibly rough and sloppy kisser. The barbell in his over-long tongue kept clacking against their teeth when he kissed them and they tasted a faint tang of blood in his saliva. Everything about him was overwhelming, dominant now in spite of his initial hesitation.

There was no going back, not with the deep ache they felt at their core and the increasing likelihood that he would relieve it.

They felt him stiff against their thigh and hummed in amusement, trying to mask their mild anxiety at how big he was.

“Shut up,” he grumbled.

“I’m not makin’ fun of you.” They reached up to shove his hoodie off over his shoulders. Their anxieties and tensions had been driving them insane for a long, long time and right then, they only wanted him to destroy them. They would love every second of it.

“Fuck’s sake—” He slid a rough hand beneath the light fabric of their shirt. “‘Course I’m hard, the hell’d you take me back here for?”

“This, I guess." Harvest combed their fingers through his hair, apologetic in the way they touched him.

“You guess?” Guzma’s outrage was muffled against their shoulder. He popped up to give them a disbelieving look, pressing them harder into the mattress. “What’s your deal, Johto?”

They cut him off with a gentle kiss. “I want you to quit holding back and fuck me.”

His cheeks flushed redder. “Man, you’re weird.” They shrugged and he gave them a sympathetic little smile. “Not like I ain't.”

He jerked their shirt up to their neckline and they made to do the same to him. There was a moment of resistance but he let them. He was working on a gut — the guy had obviously been in good shape before but let himself go enough to be soft. He seemed a little embarrassed but whipped his shirt off the rest of the way and tossed it. He moved on to feeling them up, now more confident and not as careful — not that he was especially gentle before. He knew what he was doing, though; grinding his cock between their legs, squeezing their thighs, daring to kiss and lick their bare skin.

They felt up to his chest and realized he had both nipples pierced. A short whine escaped him as they brushed their fingertips around the barbells. Even though he was much larger than they were, he had cute sensitivities and weaknesses. They were beginning to love certain things about him, things that they would miss tomorrow or two months from now. It was a scary thought but they could worry about it later. Right now they were aching to get rid of their briefs. A dull wanting pain was driving them crazy, angrily reminding them that they hadn't been properly fucked in years.

They stroked down over his hip bones and fiddled with the waistband of his sweats. A soft groan rumbled in his chest and they wanted nothing more than to reach down between his legs and play with his cock, make him a desperate, panting mess.

The way their run-in was escalating had their head swimming with impulses and hormones and even the way his skin smelled like he'd been out in the sun.

The briefest memory of watching him walk ahead of them, of staring at the big red x stamped on the back of his hoodie, invaded their thoughts. In that moment, vulnerable on their back, they thought of the people who had left them, who walked ahead and never waited for them to catch up. That one image could make them burst into tears if they let it. He had been right about them having baggage. Painfully right.

“You ok?”

They blinked, refocusing on Guzma with a tent in his briefs, licking once between their breasts where he'd been a little messy. They propped their elbow on his shoulder and lifted his absurd glasses from where they'd fallen over his eyes. “You pulled some shit on these islands, didn't you?”

Their words were an obvious blow to his enthusiasm. “Yeah. Shit happened.” He didn't sound too upset by it, though. He had a thicker skin than most when it came to certain things, they supposed.

“I'm your safe lay, then, huh?” They snorted, flicking the tip of his nose. “Typical.” They chuckled in response to his insulted yelp.

He rubbed his nose. “Safe my ass, ya fuckin’ decked me.”

“Yeah, that wasn't cool.”

“It wasn't.” He went back to feeling them up, pressing kisses and soft bite marks from their neck down to their chest. “I’m fine, though,” he muttered against their skin. “I can be an asshole. I’m a real defensive asshole.” Guilt lurked somewhere in the deep tension between them and he only seemed encouraged by it now. What a dysfunctional thing to be turned on by woe and aggression. Or maybe it was just human. “‘Specially when I’m nervous.”

“Nervous?” They repeated, voice hazy.

“Mhm.” He licked a messy stripe up one of their breasts, swiping the tip of his tongue against their nipple. He half-smiled at their pleased whine. “Never seen someone who looks like you and talks to bugs like you do.”

“Sure.”

“No joke.” He stopped abruptly and swiped his glasses off, regarding them with his sharp gaze. “You're kinda my type.”

What was it about rare sincerity that got to them so easy? The men Harvest had been with would always posture until they got fed up and then spring a confession like “I always liked you” or “I was staring at you the whole time we were battling”. Those guys never turned out to be reliable.

They hadn’t scrapped with any of them, though.

“I don't think I'm anyone's type.”

He kissed their forehead. It was quick, casual — their heart jumped. “I fuckin’ like you. Chill.”

They laughed. To think they were planning to leave the next day.

They tilted their head to kiss him again and he met them with renewed enthusiasm. His tongue darted into their mouth and they wanted more of him. They may never have the chance to kiss him again and it made their chest hurt, but every time his lips crashed against theirs they were closer to forgetting. All of this was temporary and they were high on finality.

“Been with a guy before?”

“Duh.”

“Girl?”

“Yup.”

“So you—”

“You want me to walk my ass right out of this room, boss?”

He lowered his voice and he leaned in close. “Fuck no. You're gonna lay right there and I'm gonna eat you out ‘til you're begging for my cock.”

They gave an exaggerated sigh. “Alright, big guy. Show me what you got.” It wasn't every day a man would so willingly go down on them. It was a testament to the company they'd kept that they couldn't name more than three people who gave them head (two of them being women). Now this man was helping them out of their underwear and pushing their knees apart like he was on a timer.

The second Guzma flicked his tongue stud against their clit, they knew he had them. Their sigh of approval made him grin a little before he adjusted his position between their legs. He used his thumbs to spread them apart, carefully, before licking at them. It was the lazy, bottom-to-top strokes that really got them off, and he was the type to rely on his long, deft tongue.

He placed a gentle kiss against their thigh before looking up at them and snickering. “You don't just gotta lay there, ya know.”

Harvest averted their gaze. What, did he want them yowling and moaning like a porn star?

“Hey.” They stared back at him, his wide pupils standing out stark against his tired eyes. “Do what you normally do. Don't be shy.”

They tugged on a fistful of his fluffy white hair. “Quit telling me how to get eaten out, bug boy.” He gave a sharp laugh. “Get back to it.”

“Fuck yeah, that's what I like to hear.” His lips and tongue and teeth were sliding over them again. They gasped, hips jerking upward to meet him. “Like to hear that, too,” came his smug, muffled voice.

They slid one hand down their torso, feeling their stomach muscles tense while he hummed happily between their legs. Their fingers worked through his hair, scratching him gently, twirling a few white locks while he absently nudged into their palm. Their other hand cupped one of their breasts — gentle then rough, trying to imitate the way he touched them before.

It almost felt like Silver again. He sucked them off a few times and they would have one hand in his silky red hair and the other shoved up the front of their shirt. He wasn't as big as Guzma, though. Way less of a weirdo, too.

“You always this quiet when you fuck?”

They glanced down to find him staring up at them again, rubbing circles against their clit with the pad of his thumb.

They whimpered a little. “Sorry.”

“No good?”

Their eyebrows shot up, “No! No, I was just…spacing out. I didn't mean to…” His mouth stretched into a wry smile. “This is— you're…” He dipped his head down to push his tongue against them in a long, wet lick. “So much better. I've never—” They cried out when he repeated the motion. He then slid his tongue all the way into their slit. They could feel his gold barbell rubbing against their insides. “Oh, fuck,” they whimpered throatily. Guzma pulled out and slicked his tongue all the way up and over their clit before darting it back in. They were practically twisting their nipples raw, feeling every muscle below the belt tensing, waiting for him to do it again. “Please don't stop,” they keened. “Fuck, it feels amazing—”

Their entire body writhed under him, heated. His hands had to have been pressing bruises against their thighs in his effort to hold them still. The sick, wet sounds coming from his mouth were driving them crazy. This guy they barely knew was devouring them like they were the best thing he'd never had. They gasped and rutted down on his tongue, trying to match his speed and rhythm before they burnt out. He gripped them tighter. Tighter, almost painful, until the full rush hit and they let out a strangled, ecstatic gasp. Their back arched, their hips snapped forward, and the entire world seemed to blur out.

They were half-aware of him still holding their thighs against his shoulders while they came down. They felt him lapping up their cum and fuck why was he doing that and why did they love it.

He finally sat up, panting and rubbing at his jaw. “Goddamn.” The sight of his angular, tough-looking face covered in their slick was strangely endearing.

“C’mere.”

He obeyed and made a confused little noise when they began licking their cum off his chin. He was kind of cute when they caught him off guard. He caught their lips, teasing them apart with that tongue of his, letting them taste their cum in his soft mouth. Harvest wanted him closer, high on having someone so intimate, not missing a beat with the weird shit that turned them on.

They broke apart and he nuzzled into the crook of their neck, wrapping his thick arms loosely around their waist. At any other time, the gesture would have been touching, knowing who he was and that he wanted to be close to them but now they were driven by the urge to get pounded while they still had a few sweet aftershocks left. They had never come so hard in their life and they wanted more.

They struggled to splay their knees open underneath him, angling their wet cunt upward, hoping he'd get the hint. “You need to cut this cuddling shit out,” they growled.

“Aw.”

They replied only with a frustrated grunt.

“Lemme try and practice some fuckin’ restraint for a minute."

“Not now.”

“Geez. Never been with someone so demanding.” He kissed the skin over their collarbones, flexing his grip against their ass. “Serious fuckin’ turn-on—” His hard length slid against them, only driving them madder. They were miserably slick, still sensitive and wanting. “Well ...all wet for me, ain'tcha?”

Guzma thrust against them, unable to hide his smug grin, and Harvest was ready to lose it. “Just fuck me, Guzma.”

His voice was rough, rimmed with need. “Sure ya want it?”

They could have burst into tears. “Yes!”

He lined himself up with them, brushing the swollen tip against their over-sensitive slit. They were suffering and he knew it. “Say my name again.”

“Guzma…please.”

He kissed them deep before pushing himself in. They gasped as he filled and stretched them, so close to cumming again that they almost missed him hide his face in the sheets next to them. Cute . They circled their arms around his neck, slipping their fingers through his hair and over his stiff shoulders. He seemed to relax at their touch and gave them a few gentle thrusts. His technique got sloppy quick and he made a weak, needy sound in the back of his throat.

“You feel so fucking good,” he breathed hot against their cheek. “Can I...” They nodded their head yes to whatever he was about to ask and felt his mouth move against their shoulder as a wolfish grin split his face. “Stop me if it hurts.”

Every thrust hit straight to their bones — he could have broken them in half if he wanted. They clung to his chest, curled up and baring down against his hips as hard as they could, dragging out every last pulse of their orgasm.

“Gimme more,” they panted into his shoulder, half dizzy. “Fuck me as hard as you want—” They gasped and whined nonsense as he pounded into them with abandon. “Yes! Guzma, th-that’s—”

They came again, hit harder this time, so hard they almost whited out.

He eased up for a moment, watching their face. He then sat up and pushed their knees apart. They felt vulnerable, even in their euphoric haze, unaccustomed to such attention.

That’s what you get for sleeping with emotionally unavailable people your whole life, Harvest, you dumbshit.

Guzma responded to their every shift and moan, still thrusting into them as they came down. They could feel his gaze on them, fixated. He was relentless, savage in the way he fucked them, watched them arching back into the mattress. They knew he could see them penetrated, filled with his cock. Every jolt of their muscles, every bounce of their tits, all on display for him.

He groaned something unintelligible, trying like hell to maintain whatever composure he had left. “I'm gonna— ah, fuck—”

He pulled out, spilling his thick cum all over their stomach.

They didn't say a word; they were staring up at him instead. The faint glow from the street lamps outside caught the sheen of sweat he'd worked up; locks of his white hair clung to his forehead and cheeks — and his face was gentle, younger than he looked before. It was then that Harvest finally admitted they felt something more complicated than lust and curiosity.

A beat.

The two shifted away from each other, catching their breath and trying to process what they had done. Whatever eye contact they dared hold before broke immediately.

They rolled out of bed from beneath him and zipped into the bathroom. The way they were pleading and moaning while the ex-Team Skull Boss nearly fucked them raw caught up with them and they panicked. There was a bit of a mess on their hands, too, and the idea of facing the person who made that mess was mortifying.

There was a minute or so of silence before Guzma said, “yo, Harvest.”

They paused, standing aimless and naked in the shower, heart still going wild in their chest. “Yeah?”

“You ok?”

“Yeah. I, uh...thanks.” He fumbled with the faucet. He said their name. Their stupid nickname their hippie parents gave them. Names meant attachment. Attachment that may not have been one-sided for once in their life. But as nice as it may have felt, it didn't matter. This wasn't going to last. It really had been nice, though. “Thanks.”

“Are you thanking me for sex?”

They faltered, almost tipping over in the shower. “No!” A cold blast of water hit them and they scrambled for the hot water handle. “I mean, I would if that was something normal people did—”

He laughed. “You're welcome.”

They snorted in spite of themself. “Goddamnit.”

His rough laugh petered out. “Fuck, I'm beat.”

He was dozing on his side when they returned. That he was comfortable enough to do so made them happy — they felt safety in it, a familiarity that no one else had given them so easily. Alola was different for sure.

Harvest fluffed their still-damp hair before ditching their towel on an armchair. With some soft nonsense mumble, a bare-ass naked Guzma shuffled to his feet and wandered into the bathroom. Too tired to feel ashamed, they stared after him. They hadn't expected such a perfect ass. (It must have been the constant squatting.)

Exhaustion caught up with them the second their own ass touched the bed. They could have fallen asleep sitting upright, and almost did, but Guzma sliding back in next to them startled them awake. He kept his distance now and, to their disappointment, had half-dressed himself.

There was an unusual clarity to his voice when he spoke. “Sorry about the shit I said earlier.”

“Sorry I hit you,” they said softly, tipping back to lay on their side. They felt like there was an explanation in order — one seemed to be perched right on the edge of their tongue — but they said no more.

He was quiet, nodding his head in thought. “Well...” He ran his hands through his shock of white hair.

They hesitated, then leaned over and stroked his cheek. He closed his eyes, brows knit together as if he were trying to memorize how it felt. “You okay?”

“Just trying to figure out if this was a big mistake or—” He trailed off. "Nevermind."

They slung an arm across his chest, scooting closer to him. “Nah, y'know what? I think I needed it.”

He froze at the contact but seemed to settled down when they didn't move away. “Me too,” he finally murmured.

“Wanna go to sleep?”

The corner of his mouth twitched. “Yeah, I think the fuck so.”

“We'll both stay, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Thanks.”

“Quit fuckin’ thanking me.”

 

 

6

 

Reality rushed in when they woke the next morning.

The distant cries of Wingulls out over the cliffs.

The faint light of dawn splashed across the floor.

Their aching body.

The clock on the nightstand — 6:20 am, it read.

They had a boat to catch.

Harvest threw the motel's clingy white bed sheets to the side and rushed into a clumsy, half-cocked morning routine.

As they stepped into clean clothes and stashed their dirties, they noticed a huge pile of crumpled papers in the corner next to an armchair. The leftover cardboard from a stripped notepad lay twisted nearby.

They had almost forgotten he stayed, that they had met him to begin with.

Now he was gone. They couldn't help their disappointment even though they had made it clear they were leaving, to him and themself.

They bent to pick up one of the wadded-up papers. They smoothed out the creases and took a stab at reading it. The writing was messy but legible.

 

Yo. Had a good time- (Something was scribbled out.) Take care of yourself. (There was an even larger, angrier scribble.)

Ya boi,

Guzma

 

Each of the previous papers had been downright attacked with a pen. It seemed he kept writing more than he meant to over and over. They couldn't stop wondering what he kept trying to say, if it was filthy or awkward or incredibly sweet. They giggled to themself, somehow charmed by the mess he left them. 

Harvest found the cleanest copy and, before they could think about it, folded it into a neat square. They slid it into their pocket as they stepped outside.