Chapter 1: Power Outage
Prompt #1: Even the League is not exempt from power outages...
The collective whine rose from the sofa where two of the Elite were sitting around the TV. A particularly nasty storm had pushed its way through the region, and as it headed east, Ever Grande was the last place in its path. The broadcast had been interrupted several times by weather reports of how severe the storm was, but so far the power had held. But as of a minute ago the broadcast had been reduced to nothing but static.
"Well this sucks..." Sidney grumbled as he clicked through several channels, revealing that it was indeed Ever Grande's cable and not the station that went out.
Glacia peeked up from the book she was quietly reading and smirked. Perhaps there might be peace and quiet after all. Except that hope was shattered as a brilliant bolt of lighting crashed outside and all of the lights instantly flickered out.
"Oh man, you had to jinx it didn't you!"
"I didn't jinx anything! Weren't you the one who said it couldn't get any worse when we had to cancel the yearly outing because of the storm?"
Glacia didn't even bother stopping Phoebe and Sidney's squabbling, since she couldn't see her book in the dark anyway. But a bobbing light appeared in the doorway, causing the two trainers to quiet down and turn to see who had joined their group.
"Is everyone okay in here? This is some storm," Steven peered around, causing the beam of light to dance across the room.
"Are you wearing a caving headlamp?"
"Yes, and?" His head flicked toward the sound of the voice, and Sidney winced as the light found his eyes.
"Steven, we're in the League building, not a cave."
"It was the first thing I could find in the dark. I think it serves its purpose."
"Well I think it's a great idea," chimed Phoebe, "But that still doesn't help us since there's nothing to do without electricity."
"It's a shame none of us have any electric pokemon," mused Glacia.
Without a word, Steven began to move, the bobbing of his headlamp giving away his position. He had already crossed the room and with a few small sparks, a fire crackled to life in the fireplace filling the room with a growing warm glow.
"Now why didn't I think of that," said Sidney, rubbing the side of his head with one hand.
"Because it's summer and it's plenty warm in here already," muttered Glacia as she put her book down on the table.
But Phoebe had already bounded over toward the fire and plopped down next to where Steven sat in one of the cozy armchairs. "Ohh! What a great idea, Steven! We should sit around and tell ghost stories!"
"Ahh, only if you promise not to let your pokemon reenact the scenes," Steven waved a nervous hand to indicate he wasn't the biggest fan of her mischievous partners, causing Phoebe to giggle.
"Sorry about that! They can't help themselves sometimes."
By now Sidney and Glacia had gravitated toward the fire, and everyone settled in for what promised to be a quiet night. But quickly the conversation picked up, and before too long, enthusiastic stories filled with laughter floated through the darkened rooms of the league. Hours passed without any sign of the power being restored, but no one seemed to mind.
Eventually, the conversation turned to the one Elite who was missing.
"Where is Drake anyway?" asked Phoebe.
"He was supposed to be on his way back from Meteor Falls this evening, but I'm sure the storm ended up delaying his plans," said Steven.
"I hope he didn't get caught out in it..."
"He sure didn't." As if on cue, the dragon master stepped into the room holding a small flashlight.
"Drake! You made it! And you're looking rather dry," Phoebe swept her gaze over his captain's coat that didn't have a drop of water on it.
"Storm's over. Been over for a while now."
"What, really?" Sidney was definitely surprised.
"I guess we were so caught up in our fireside tales that we hadn't noticed," said Glacia.
"But the power's still out," moaned Phoebe, dropping her chin into her hand.
"Well, you can always join us around the fire," offered Sidney, but Steven interjected.
"You said the storm's over? I may have a better idea." The Champion rose from his chair at the cryptic statement, and donned his headlamp once more. "It's one of my favorite places in the whole building."
The Elites shared a puzzled look but decided to follow after their eccentric leader.
A short walk later, the group found themselves standing on the roof of the League building, the cloudless post-storm sky spread before them with no electric lights to obstruct their view of the stars.
"Amazing," breathed Phoebe, "This view is even better than the one from Mt. Pyre."
"Aye, it certainly rivals the ones on the open ocean too."
"It's okay, I guess -ow!" Glacia elbowed Sidney.
"I think it's lovely, Steven. It was always cloudy where I grew up, so it was a treat when we got to see the stars."
Steven just smiled, face upturned towards the heavens. Silence settled over the group, letting the sound of the waves filter up through the air, unobstructed by the sounds of civilization. They remained that way for some time until the hum of the nearby air conditioning unit stirred to life.
"Power's back on," murmured Sidney.
And no one could have cared less.
Chapter 2: Fans
Prompt #2: Steven faces a truly intimidating challenge: fans...
"Wallace, what is that?"
Wallace didn't even have to look up to know that Steven was hesitantly peering out the window. He could hear the commotion outside from where he sat.
"Oh, it's just your fan club."
"My what club?"
"Fan club. You know, a horde of adoring followers that get together to stalk your every move."
Steven leaned back from the window and rolled his eyes.
"I know what a fan club is - wait, did you say stalk?" The tinge of alarm edging into his voice was not lost on the water-type trainer.
Wallace simply nodded. "Mmhmm. Not to mention their ultimate goal is to profess their everlasting and undying love for you. It's something that as a Master Coordinator and Gym Leader extraordinaire I deal with on a frequent basis." It was all so matter-of-fact.
"You do? Wait, what? Undying love?"
This was too much fun.
"Oh all the time, Steven. In fact I've signed so many body parts I can't even begin to tell you which one was my favorite."
"Body... parts...?" By now, the young heir had turned a sickly shade of pale.
"Sure! Hands, arms, cheeks," Wallace began to tick down on his fingers, "This one time there was a magnificent pair of... oh, and even the occasional baby!"
Steven was nearly shaking by the time the list was finished. "Wallace... I can't go out there."
"Of course you can! If you can stare down the most fearsome trainers in the region without breaking a sweat, surely you can handle a few excited admirers."
"That's different and you know it," Steven protested, albeit a bit weakly, and Wallace offered a sincere smile.
"You're going to have to get used to it at some point, you know."
"Ahh, you're right... It's just..." Steven ran a hand nervously through his hair, "I'm not really very good at talking to people."
"You talk to me all the time."
"You're my friend, Wallace. Of course I can talk to you."
But Wallace was having none of Steven's stalling. As the Champion leaned over to peer out the window once more, Wallace got to his feet and stealthily closed in on his friend. Once he was close enough, the Master Coordinator threw an arm snugly around Steven's shoulders and in one motion whisked the pair of them to the door.
"Then we'll face these fans together! Just think of me as your translator."
Stumbling a bit under the sudden movement, Steven barely had time to react before Wallace's hand was on the doorknob.
"Wallace, no, wait -"
The door was thrown open with fanfare, and Wallace dragged Steven out into the throng.
"Hello lovely citizens, behold, your Champion!"
Chapter 3: Running Late
Prompt #3: Someone is running late. Very, very late.
"Oh crap oh crap oh crap!"
Sidney muttered to the beat of his footsteps as he rushed through the halls of the Pokemon League.
"Oh, I'm so late," he moaned as he pushed past Phoebe's chamber.
"Late for what?"
Sidney ground to a halt at the innocent question, and Phoebe's head poked curiously out the door.
"There's no challengers today, so where are you off to in such a hurry?"
Sidney sighed heavily, "I promised I'd feed Drake's pokemon while he was away. He told me they had a very particular schedule, and of course I've gone and messed it up."
Phoebe rocked back and forth on her heels for a moment, pondering something, but Sidney was frantic and already was on the move before she could speak her mind.
"I gotta run, sorry Fee!"
He hurried off toward the next chamber, beginning to feel a stitch in his side when suddenly he felt a cold wind brush by.
"Oh I have to see this," said Phoebe as she floated along side the jogging Elite. Wait, floated?!
Shocked into stopping once more, Sidney gave Phoebe an incredulous look as she sat perched atop her Dusclops, giggling.
"That is so not fair..." he breathed out between gasps for air.
"Think Absol would let you ride him?"
"No way in he-" Sidney heaved another labored breath, "- who designed this place anyway?"
Phoebe shrugged, but a low rumble caught the pair's attention and they exchanged a glance before turning to look further up the corridor.
"That can't be good."
"Drake is gonna kill me."
"Not if his dragons get to you first."
Sidney suddenly looked a woozy. Phoebe noticed.
"How late are you in feeding them? Sidney?"
"...The whole day."
"Ohhhh, I'm definitely not missing this."
But Sidney was already gone, sprinting toward Glacia's domain. He didn't get very far before he came across the ice type specialist standing cooly at the center of her battlefield. Phoebe silently bobbed up behind where he stood frozen under Glacia's chilling glare.
"Hello, Sidney," her voice was sickly sweet and icy cold all at once. "Care to tell me why the back wall of my chamber is melting?"
"Would 'I'd rather not' be an acceptable answer?"
Phoebe leaned in close and whispered, "We should probably tell her." To which Sidney shook his head vehemently in the negative.
"Tell me what, exactly?"
"Ohh, she has good hearing," Phoebe unnecessarily whispered again, and Sidney brought a palm to his face.
"Tell you... that everything is totally under control and there's no reason to go into Drake's chamber whatsoever." Sidney grated out through a false smile.
"Well, not unless you want to become a dragon snack."
"Sidney forgot to feed Drake's pokemon and now they're grumpy."
Sidney shot Phoebe a nasty glare while Glacia gave a sarcastic round of applause.
"Marvelous. I've always wanted to see what a ravenous Salamence could do to a human." It didn't sound like Glacia was joking.
Phoebe chimed in too. "I'll tell Steven he should start looking for a new Elite."
"Guys, this isn't helping."
"I already told you I'm just here to watch. You're on your own Sid."
By now the two ladies had circled around behind Sidney, leaving nothing but air and melting ice between him and the door to his doom. His shoulders slumped and as he woefully trudged toward the door he made a silent promise; if he got out of this alive, for the rest of his life he'd never be late again. Ever.
Eyes squeezed shut, he gingerly pressed against the door, slowly nudging it open. The roars got louder and he swore he could feel the heat of an angry dragonbreath rushing through the gap. Taking a deep breath, Sidney steeled his nerve. In one mighty shove he threw the doors wide with a terrified shout and barreled into the room.
The sight that greeted him left his jaw hanging inches from the floor.
Salamence was sitting calmly on the floor of the arena along with the rest of Drake's pokemon, but they weren't alone. Steven stood at the center of the group, giving each dragon an affectionate head pat.
"Oh hey, Sidney. Great timing, it's nearly time for Altaria's grooming appointment. You can handle taking her to Lilycove for me, right?"
But Sidney hadn't moved, he stood lost in a stupor that only left him able to sputter incoherently.
Steven just smiled as Phoebe and Glacia giggled. "Drake called and said you'd volunteered to help me take care of these guys while he was away. I know you're sometimes the forgetful sort, so we couldn't pass up the opportunity to have a little fun at your expense."
"You... you... but... the dragons... and... the flamethrower...how..."
Phoebe gave him a playful nudge. "Maybe now you won't show up halfway through the next League meeting?"
"No," Sidney breathed, "Definitely not."
Chapter 4: Sniffles
Prompt #4: Someone catches a cold...
Wallace was all out of sorts. He sniffled and ached and his head felt like it was inflated larger than a Drifloon. This wasn't supposed to happen. Sootopolitans never got sick! So with a dramatic huff he collapsed back on the sofa and reached for another tissue.
He had nearly emptied half the box before Victoria found her way to his side, cooing worriedly at her trainer's condition. Her nuzzling at his face and neck was a relief; her scales were cool against his too-warm skin.
"Ahh, my darling," he paused as a sniffle assaulted his nose, "I'm afraid I cannot join you in the pool today. This dastardly illness has done a number on me."
Victoria's eyes shimmered with concern and she curled up at the foot of the sofa in support. It was natural for his pokemon to be concerned, but a malady such as this needed more human support.
Languidly he reached for his phone and dialed the all-too-familiar number.
One ring. Two rings. Three rings. Four rings.
"Oh Steven, finally! I was worried something terrible had happened to you too."
"Something terrible? What's going on, are you okay?"
"Steven, it's just awful! I have been bedridden with the most wicked illness. My nose will not stop running and my head feels like it is going to explode!"
To Wallace's surprise, the only thing that sounded through the receiver was a hearty laugh. After a moment, Steven composed himself.
"Sounds like you've caught yourself a head cold. Well make sure you get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids, it should pass in a few days."
Wallace was flabbergasted. "How could you make it sound so cavalier? I could be dying, Steven. Dying!"
But the Champion only laughed again. "You're not dying, Wallace. I can hear it in your voice, you're just congested."
"But I feel so weak. What if it takes days to regain the strength to rise from my sofa?"
"It won't get that bad. Phoebe had the same thing last week."
"But Steeeven," Wallace practically whined.
"Wallace. Trust me I'd come and check on you if I could, but I'm in Kalos right now. I know it's not going to be fun, but you're just going to have to manage on your own."
"Kalos!?" Wallace moaned as visions of romantic elegance danced through his head. What he would give to have the chance to see it with his own eyes.
"Yes, Kalos. It's for League business, I promise. I wouldn't dream of coming here otherwise without bringing you along."
Wallace simply uttered another pathetic moan to prove how much his heart ached, or was that his head?
"I'll be back in Hoenn in three days. You'll be my first stop when I return. I have to run now. I have faith you can make it until then." The hint of amusement in Steven's voice was lost on the moping Gym Leader.
"Do hurry, Steven. This could be the last time you speak to me before I waste away..."
Steven laughed again. "Feel better, Wallace." And the call ended.
It had been several hours since Wallace spoke with Steven, and still no one had called to offer their concern as to why the Gym Leader had yet to show his face around town. Victoria still hovered nearby, gently fanning him with her tail. Wallace was thankful that her heart was as beautiful as her scales, but he still felt utterly dreadful, and the tissue box was now completely empty. Throwing one arm over his eyes he let the other sag off the side of the couch. His head was almost too stuffy to hear the subtle sounds of a key turning in the lock of his front door.
"Wallace? Are you awake?"
His front door closed with a soft sound, and light click of heels moved their way across the room. Victoria cooed happily in recognition, causing Wallace to drag his arm aside and blearily look up at the visitor who now stood over him.
She smiled warmly in return. "Hello, dear. Steven called and told me all about your plight."
"Mmhmm. Growing up in Snowpoint, I learned a thing or two about cold remedies." She brandished a bag filled to the brim with supplies. "I brought a few of the essentials with me, I hope you don't mind."
Sitting up, Wallace suddenly was overwhelmed. He had spent all day just feeling sorry for himself and yet his friends had arranged for all of this without an ounce of pity; it was pure, genuine caring. It was humbling, to say the least.
"Thank you, Glacia."
She smiled again as she looked up from scratching Victoria under the chin.
"It's no problem at all, Wallace. That's what friends are for. Now how about a bowl of Sinnoh's famous noodle soup?"
Chapter 5: Baby Pokemon
Prompt #5: Looking after baby Pokémon is hard work.
Steven beamed with pride as he looked down on the five pristine eggs sitting on his kitchen table. He had overseen their delivery personally from the breeder he met in Alola. Each egg was the same, deep blue with flecks of silver, but each egg was different as well, with tiny grooves running along in unique spiderweb patterns. They would hatch soon, he could feel it.
The next several days were laced with excitement. Thankfully the League was on a short recess so Steven took the chance to remain at home all week to keep watch, waiting for the big day.
It only had been a few days when the eggs began to glow. He stood in wonder as four baby Beldum materialized before his eyes.
But as he looked to the last egg, still sitting whole at the end of the line, the first baby Beldum let loose a shriek, whether it was hunger, excitement, fright, or otherwise, Steven would never know, as immediately the other three Beldum joined in their litter mate's crying.
Now Steven was used to the metallic cries of the species, but the baby pokemon had no sense of self control, and as soon as they began to screech, their voices compounded into an ear-splitting cacophony that reverberated around the room. He needed to get them outside, and fast.
But the Beldum had other ideas, and now free from their shells, the little steel types quickly discovered their magnetic powers. Still shrieking in what must have been either joy or confusion they began to erratically hover about the space. Eyes wide with the wonder of discovering everything Steven's home had to offer, they tumbled about, bumping things from counters, dislodging items from shelves, and even latching onto things with their claws. As soon as Steven was able to pry one from the refrigerator door, another had stumbled upon his rock collection and he abandoned the first Beldum in an effort to keep the second from knocking over the glass casework.
In a frantic effort that had seen the majority of his furniture sustain some sort of damage, Steven finally wrangled all four Beldum into a manageable gaggle in his arms. No longer able to explore freely, the Beldum began to wail once more and Steven winced, unable to cover his ears lest he let the Beldum wander off again.
Their wailing cries continued as Steven wove his way through the disastrous state of his living room and out toward the yard. He could barely think straight with how badly his ears were ringing. Along the way, one of the babies decided that the human now cradling it in their arms must have been doing all of the work in keeping it above the floor, so it stopped its levitating. Of course, Steven was not prepared to hold the full weight of a steel pokemon, and the little one fell straight down to the floor, landing square on his foot. He yelled in pain; that had to be a broken toe, and his shout only served to make the Beldum cry louder in his arms.
Now hobbling to the back door, Steven roughly shoved it open, finally having managed to wrangle the four babies outside. He stumbled down the steps and the metallic cries of the baby pokemon in his arms served to startle a flock of Wingull into scattering into the air. In amazement, all four Beldum ceased their crying to watch the birds take flight, and then when the birds were out of view immediately began wailing once more.
Finally relinquishing his hold on the Beldum, Steven reached to his belt and grimaced as he felt the throb of his injured foot. In a flash, Metagross materialized by his side, flinching at the high-pitched cries echoing through the treetops. It quickly located the source of said noise and then spun to face its trainer with an uneasy look.
Steven sighed, "Yup, these are them."
Metagross rumbled a low note and Steven shot it a glare.
"No way, you and I are in this together. It's a joint responsibility."
Rumbling again, Metagross turned its gaze back to where the four babies had gathered in a cluster, still crying.
"Oh, I'm aware. Can you help me out?"
Rolling its eyes, Metagross nodded before letting out a deafening roar. Instantly the baby Beldum chirped in surprise, their crying now reduced to quiet chattering amongst themselves. With a low hum, Metagross lowered itself close to the ground, beckoning the babies near. Red eyes blinked at the metal monstrosity before them, looks of faint recognition dawning in their expression. Then hesitantly, the largest of the bunch floated over and nuzzled into Metagross's side. It hummed comfortingly, and when nothing bad befell their fellow hatchling, the rest follow suit.
Steven sighed in relief and sunk to the ground, leaning back against his partner and listening to the quiet chattering of the babies.
"Thanks, Metagross. I owe you big time."
It grated a rumbling reply, and Steven had to laugh.
"Don't worry, you were never that bad. Trust me, I'd remember if you were that much of a terror."
Satisfied, Metagross hummed again and settled around the baby Beldum in a protective embrace. Thankful for the peace and quiet, Steven was content to just lay there until the sun slipped below the horizon.
It was dark outside by the time Steven remembered about the last Beldum. He quickly and quietly got up and jogged inside as fast as his foot would allow. As he came back out to the yard, Metagross's red gaze followed him, fixated on the last egg tucked safely in his arms.
Steven smiled. "This one is being stubborn. Or lazy. I can't tell."
Metagross grated out a small chuckle as Steven settled back against its side.
"At least it can spend some quality time with its siblings now."
But just as he leaned back to look at the stars, the egg began to glow. Steven and Metagross both watched in silent amazement as the yard was cast in a soft white light. When the light finally faded, Steven thought his eyes might be playing tricks on him; the new hatchling seemed to still be glowing in the nighttime air. Blinking several times to convince himself otherwise, it slowly dawned on him. This Beldum wasn't glowing, it was reflecting the pale moonlight in its silvery hide. A shiny Beldum. Steven grinned as its red eye drifted open sleepily and its golden claws flexed cautiously against his shirt.
"Hello little one, you're quite the looker aren't you?"
The shiny Beldum chirped once as it processed Steven's soft question, its eye slowly scanning its caretaker's face. And then it broke into a loud wailing cry, loud enough to disturb the other four Beldum that were sleeping beneath Metagross's watch. Soon five tiny pokemon were all screeching in unison and Steven could only laugh at the incredulity of it all. Good thing he was used to functioning on so little sleep.
Chapter 6: Workout
Prompt #6: Someone asks Wallace to help them work on their fitness...
"I still can't believe you talked me into this..."
"And I can't believe Wallace agreed to do this."
Phoebe and Flannery exchanged nervous glances as they spoke in hushed tones. Wallace had been pacing at the edge of the pool for a while now, spouting off all the virtues of how water was the best way to hone a trainer's body.
"...So I hope you ladies are ready. My contest spectacular preparation regiment is not to be taken lightly."
Flannery felt the need to interject, "But we're not training for a contest!" Wallace gave her a sharp look, and she clammed up, muttering, "It's just it'll be summertime soon and... well... we're both single..."
Phoebe nodded in agreement, although the expression on the Master Coordinator's face remained unamused.
"No matter the reason, I have taken your request quite seriously, so I hope you two will do the same."
Both ladies nodded, but not without some apprehension. Why oh why had Phoebe listened to Steven when he casually mentioned Wallace's penchant for staying in shape? She had gone to Wallace looking for a few workout tips, but this was quickly turning into a boot camp.
"All right, hop in," he commanded as he slipped into the pool himself. "60 laps should be a nice warm up swim. Then we move on to calisthenics!"
Wallace had already taken off to start his own laps, and Phoebe and Flannery shared a glance again before arriving at the same conclusion. As Wallace disappeared down toward the far end of the pool, Phoebe beckoned to some of the nearby Gym pokemon. Flannery slipped a few treats from her bag and in no time both trainers had their very own workout partners. Phoebe kicked along behind an all too cheerful Spheal while Flannery found herself a friendly Whiscash that was willing to give her a ride. The 60 laps passed smoothly, and somehow Wallace was none the wiser.
When everyone had finished their laps, and Spheal and Whiscash slipped away under the water unnoticed with a quiet thank you from the ladies, Wallace ushered the group into his private weight room where they could continue to train. As Flannery nervously eyed the intimidating weight machines, Phoebe nudged her with a sly wink and palmed two pokeballs. As Wallace launched into an explanation on the optimal circuit for toning muscle, Mismagius and Duskull quietly slipped into the shadows. Every pull up, push up, and bench press was suddenly much lighter for the the pair, and on more than one occassion Phoebe had to remind her pokemon to keep their snickering to themselves, lest the water-type Leader become suspicious.
At the end of the day, Phoebe and Flannery gave Wallace their thanks and when he offered to meet them again bright and early the next morning, they enthusiastically agreed with the promise that they'd have one more member to add to the work out crew.
"So how mad do you think Steven is going to be when we drag him out of bed tomorrow morning?"
"Not nearly as mad as when he finds out he doesn't have any pokemon he can sneak into the workout without Wallace knowing!"
Both trainers laughed a bit too maniacally. Who said getting in shape wouldn't be fun?
Chapter 7: Here Be Dragons
Prompt #7: Some of the Elites encounter a trainer treating their Pokémon badly...
Sidney scowled as he looked over the bow of Drake's boat. The pair of Elites were docked in Slateport when they had come across an unpleasant sight.
"Should we do something?"
But Drake just remained silent, his captain's hat pulled low over his eyes, but aimed in a way that told Sidney he was staring at the same thing.
A trainer not much younger than Sidney was standing along the shoreline with his back turned to their ship. They couldn't see his face, but the Trapinch cowering on the sand in front of him told them all they needed to know. He was swearing and stomping and his voice carried over the quiet waters of the harbor.
"They told me you would grow up to be a dragon! Well you haven't, and I don't see how you even could! You're just some little bug thing. You don't even have wings! I can't believe that breeder lied to me... You're supposed to be a dragon, my dragon!"
Sidney winced and glanced at Drake.
"Even if we told him, do you think he'd treat it any better afterward?"
The only sign that Drake heard him was the way the brim of his hat dipped a little bit lower.
"I don't know if I can take much more of this. I might have to go down there..."
As Sidney shifted to move, Drake's arm shot out across his chest, freezing the younger man in place with a surprised look. His other hand produced two pokeballs from the pocket of his coat. With a heave, both balls opened to reveal their furious contents. The pair of Flygon could sense the fear of their fellow pokemon. With a mighty pump of their wings, both dragons soared high over the harbor until their presence was a mere shadow on the ground.
As the sun was blotted out, the incensed trainer paused in his tirade and glanced skyward, using a hand to shield against the bright light. Instead of a lazy Pelipper, he was greeted by two streaks of green and red that crashed to the ground in a cloud of sand. Eyes wide with shock, the trainer stumbled backward, pointing at the Flygon that now protectively flanked his pokemon.
The Flygon put on a fearsome display, arching their wings and whipping their tails before issuing a mighty roar with narrowed eyes and bared fangs.
"D-don't k-kill me please! Ahhhh!"
As the terrified trainer groveled in the sand, one Flygon marched up to him and plucked him from the earth by the back of his collar. Another scream cut through the harbor air as he was lifted to eye level with the prickly dragon. He could see the reflection of his terror-stricken features in its protective eye covering, and he chose to focus on that instead of the rage burning in its gaze.
Flygon leaned in close, its breath hot on the trainer's face and gave an indignant snort, causing the trainer to flinch out of fear.
"I-I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Please don't eat me!"
Flygon snarled and the trainer tried to curl into the fetal position as best he could.
"I believe that breeder now, I won't say those things to Trapinch again! I promise! Just please don't hurt me!"
The rumble in Flygon's throat still remained, but at the huff of its companion, it quieted down. Eyes still narrowed, it none-too-gently deposited the trainer back onto the sand on his backside. Immediately the trainer scrabbled for Trapinch's pokeball and recalled it before beating a hasty retreat.
Sidney turned wide-eyed to the old sailor at his side.
"Ten pokedollars says that kid goes back and asks the breeder if he can exchange Trapinch for a Skitty."
Drake just grinned. "He wasn't cut out to be a dragon trainer anyway."
Chapter 8: Kitchen Nightmares
Prompt #8: Steven has many talents, but cooking is not one of them.
He had meant for it to be a surprise, he really did. But when the front door opened causing the cloud of smoke to come rolling out of the kitchen and into the foyer, the Delcatty was out of the bag. Steven poked his head out of the kitchen with a nervous smile.
Joseph blinked in surprise as he gingerly set his briefcase down. He certainly hadn't expected to arrive home thinking his house was on fire, and he certainly didn't expect his son to be the reason why the smoke detectors were beeping up a storm.
"Steven? What are you doing here? Is everything okay?"
Steven wasn't one to just visit out of the blue. In fact, he rarely visited Rustboro at all. Joseph would always remind himself that it was the League duties that kept him away; the position of Champion wasn't only glitz and glamour, and he knew Steven took the responsibilities seriously. But somehow he also had a feeling there was another reason his son would avoid coming home... It's not like he had been a great role model in the first place, all those late nights at the office when Steven was young.
"Well..." Steven's voice trailed off into a nervous laugh, "Everything's fine, but I'm afraid my plan didn't quite work out like I had hoped."
Another sheepish laugh came from Steven, and it was then that Joseph really got a good look at his son. He had discarded his suit jacket in favor of a chef's apron, although it apparently did little to contain the mess. Splatters of grease, dots of tamato sauce and several other unrecognizable smears covered his arms where his shirt had been rolled back to the elbow. Puffs of flour dotted him from head to toe, including smudges all over one cheek. His hair was a mess, even more so than usual, and was it singed in a few spots?
"I guess it's not really a surprise any more but..." Steven beckoned him into the kitchen, and Joseph's eyes went wide. "Uhh, happy birthday, Dad. Sorry about the mess."
From the state of the room, it was impressive as to how Steven had escaped relatively unscathed. But sitting just beyond the carnage, ready to be served in the formal dining room, was a three course meal for two. It didn't look great, most of the dish was burned around the edges, and the appetizer had definitely seen better days, but Joseph recognized it as one of his favorites. Perched just beyond the plates was one of the saddest looking layer cakes he had ever seen, complete with lopsided hand-piped letters.
Steven had lingered back at the kitchen door, and he began to panic as he saw his father's shoulders begin to shake.
"Sorry Dad, I thought it would have been a nice treat to repay you for all the times you made me something special on my birthday, but I really screwed up-"
But his apology was cut short by his father's boisterous laughter.
"There's nothing to apologize for," he said in between more chuckling fits, "This was a wonderful surprise."
"Absolutely!" Joseph enveloped his son in a hug, messy apron and all. "I've finally found the one talent you didn't get from your old man!"
Joseph broke into another round of laughter, and when he finished wiping a tear from his eye, he caught Steven's genuine smile.
"Well then I guess this wasn't a total disaster then," he said, running a hand through his messy hair.
Joseph clapped a hand on Steven's back, "Son, just having you home is present enough for me. But the maid is going to kill you when she sees this, so let's get out of here and get some dinner. There's this little Johtonian place I've been wanting to try..."
Chapter 9: Diplomacy
Prompt #9: Someone has to break up a fight...
Sidney decided this was the first and last time he ever wanted to see a Garchomp with a confused expression on its face. But that's precisely what he saw when he walked into the practice arena. Cynthia's Garchomp and Glacia's Walrein sat on the battlefield side by side in bewildered silence as they watched the real combatants duke it out.
Both women had left their respective trainer's boxes and marched across to meet at the center of the field. Mere inches from one another, they yelled and gestured about something that left Sidney as baffled as their two pokemon.
"We should probably try to break that up," said Phoebe as she sidled up beside Sidney, eyes glued on the warring trainers.
"You couldn't pay me enough to stick my neck out there..."
Phoebe winced as a particularly nasty tone cut through the air.
"I don't think Cynthia's visit is off to a great start."
Sidney shook his head in agreement, "No one told me that a Sinnohan temper would put even my attitude to shame."
"What's this about a Sinnohan temper?"
The two Elites turned to find Steven standing behind them, looking on curiously.
"Oh, uh, it's nothing, really." Sidney tried to play it smooth, but Steven had already peered past the duo and spotted his Champion counterpart.
"Cynthia's here? Why didn't you say so earlier. I'll have to kindly ask Glacia to stop harassing our guest."
And with that, Steven casually strolled down to the arena floor and began to approach the two women.
Sidney gave Phoebe a worried glance and she returned the gesture, unable to figure out if Steven was foolish, brave, or equal parts of both.
It didn't take long for them to find out, as the shouting match intensified for a brief moment before quieting down, and after only a short while longer Steven returned to join the Elites looking frazzled, yet relieved. Sidney glanced down at the battlefield over Steven's shoulder and gaped when he saw the enraged trainers had already calmed down and were having a civil conversation.
Steven merely smiled as he straightened his lapels. "Let's just say I had a bit of diplomatic help."
Phoebe blinked in stunned surprise; she had never expected someone as quiet as the Hoenn Champion to be able to quell the hot-tempered trainers. But as Steven walked past the two stunned Elites, she saw exactly where his help had come from. Trailing behind the Champion was his Carbink, happily bobbing in his wake.
"Wait a minute..."
Steven paused for a moment and glanced over his shoulder with a sly smile, "Did you know that Confide works when used outside of battle too?" Carbink gave a happy squeal as it circled around Steven's feet. "This little one is quite a good listener."
Phoebe just stared at Steven in utter surprise, while Sidney's jaw hit the floor.
"Oh, and we'll be hosting Cynthia for a welcome dinner tonight at seven. Don't be late!" And with a wave, Steven slipped out the door.
Sidney leaned over to tap on Phoebe's shoulder, startling her from their stunned silence.
"Remind me to borrow that TM from Steven for the next time Glacia wants to kill me."
Phoebe simply nodded, but made a mental note to do the same.
Chapter 10: Dusk and Dawn
Prompt #10: Somone's pokémon really doesn't want to evolve yet...
Phoebe smiled as she draped the Reaper Cloth around Dusclops' shoulders. The ghost type gave a happy shudder as the spirit energy flowed through its frame and with a gleeful cry, its body began to glow. As the bright light faded away from Dusknoir, a pair of blue eyes that peeked through the doorway squeezed shut and fled with a muffled, heartbroken squeak.
Dusknoir quickly proved to be a strong addition to Phoebe's team, and it motivated the rest of the Elite on to work hard with their partners as well. Sidney's Vullaby finally kicked its disobedient streak and made progress in leaps and bounds. It evolved later that month. Drake's Fraxure was getting taller by the day and its tusks had begun to take on the wicked curve of their signature axe-like form. Dragon types were stubborn, but both trainer and pokemon knew it was only a matter of days before Fraxure would shed its juvenile armor. Even the Champion was spurred into action, and his progress was apparent in the green tinge that quickly began to show in Archen's growing plumage. One afternoon it burst into its first real flight, evolving into a full fledged Archeops.
But Glacia huffed in defeat as, yet again, after a fierce training session her two Snorunt still had not evolved. It wasn't as if they hadn't shown any improvement. Their omnipresent shivering had lessened; a sure sign that their bodies were harboring plenty of stored energy. One of the Snorunt even had tufts of thicker fur peeking out from beneath its cloak. It would become a Glalie soon, she could feel it.
And when the day came and a bright light engulfed her two partners, only one Glalie emerged in the end. It hovered proudly, getting used to the feeling of its new body, but its partner stood next to it, still clutching its cloak in two shivering hands, eyes dejected and downturned.
"What's the matter, little one?" Glacia asked as she kneeled down before her pokemon. It averted its eyes from its trainer, and Glacia gave a reassuring smile.
"There's no need to be ashamed. You'll evolve when it's your time. We'll keep working together until that time comes."
But the little Snorunt still seemed agitated, and it dashed out of the training chamber without another word. Glacia frowned as it fled, but she wouldn't chase it. If Snorunt needed time alone, then she was happy to let it be in peace.
It wasn't until later that night when the rest of the League was asleep that a pair of tiny footsteps pattered down the hallway toward Phoebe's chamber. As quietly as it could, Snorunt nudge the door ajar and peered into the darkness inside. Dusknoir floated peacefully, eye shut in slumber, and Snorunt let out a chattering sigh of longing. It hadn't kept its volume low, however, and a single red eye drifted open at the sound. As it took notice of the open door, the hallway stood empty with only the remnants of a nervous squeak echoing down the corridor.
For the next week, Snorunt made itself scarce around its trainer, but not around the other Elites. Every so often it would pass through the common area and brush by, seemingly looking for something or someone. When Phoebe finally asked it why it was running from Glacia, Snorunt panicked and took to hiding in one of the closets, only peeking out the door when it heard someone new come into the room.
Until, one day Glacia had been talking with Steven in the common room, and Snorunt peeked its head out into the room once more. It sniffed the air and trained its eyes onto the Champion. In one swift motion it burst from the closet and launched itself at the unsuspecting trainer. With one paw it batted at the man's jacket pocket, and as he stumbled backward in surprise, a small shiny item tumbled to the ground. It bounced with a couple of clatters, but before Glacia could admonish her pokemon for the uncharacteristic sneak attack, the little Snorut had gathered the gleaming stone in its paws. Turning its blue eyes up to meet its trainer's, a bright light surrounded the ice type and it closed its eyes peacefully as it felt its body change.
Things felt lighter all of a sudden. More airy. The ever present chill was still there, like a draft that snaked its way down an unprotected collar. But there was something else too. Something otherworldly. Something that sent a tingle up the spine, but not from the temperature.
Both Steven and Glacia looked on as Froslass took shape. Sharp blue eyes slowly opened and the dual type pokemon circled her trainer in an icy swirl. Glacia offered a polite curtsy to her new teammate, and Froslass trilled a happy cry in return. She smiled as she gently took one of Froslass's paws in her hand, she now understood.
When darkness once again settled over the League, Froslass floated down the hallway and silently drifted through the door. She paused nervously next to Dusknoir, the larger ghost already awake and waiting for her. Shyly, Froslass reached out with one hand and Dusknoir gently cupped it between its two larger ones. Leaning in, the pokemon met with a soft nuzzle, and the air sang as their spirits danced as one.
Chapter 11: Art
Prompt #11: There's a new art exhibit in town. Not everyone appreciates it...
The mood was tense as the two trainers left the Lilycove Art Museum. There was a traveling exhibition on display for only a short time, and it came highly recommended by the local critics. So of course Wallace was determined to go see it and Steven wouldn't have dreamed of turning down the invitation to join him, if only for the fact that if he did, he would've had to hear about his declination for weeks.
And yet in the end he feared he'd still be getting an earful for an entirely different reason.
"The nerve!" Wallace huffed as they strolled down one of the city's winding paths, practically stomping his feet as they went. "I can't believe they'd do such a thing!"
Steven ventured a nervous glance at the incensed Leader. He didn't find the exhibit to be of such great offense, but he knew to keep those thoughts to himself. Instead he chose his words carefully.
"It was an... odd choice."
Clearly he didn't choose them carefully enough.
"I could hardly call what we saw something as tame as 'odd'. More like 'garish'. Honestly, Steven, I have half a mind to write a strongly worded letter to the curator..."
It was time to talk his friend off the ledge.
"I don't think that's really necessary, Wallace. It was just the one piece in the collection, right?"
"You're missing the point, Steven. It only needed to be one piece to ruin the entire thing!"
"I mean, art is all a matter of taste, no?" Steven tried to defuse the situation with a lighthearted shrug. It didn't work.
"Are you saying I lack the intricacies of good taste?" Wallace's voice climbed a few notes higher, and Steven winced.
"No, no, not at all," he raised his hands defensively as Wallace's narrow gaze was now aimed at him. "I'm merely suggesting that the artist is the one who is lacking."
Wallace eyed him for a moment longer before looking away, content to simply sniff and hold his head high.
"You don't need to suggest what I am already aware of."
At this Steven sighed in relief, able to deflect Wallace's anger back at the initial target.
"Well, needless to say I won't be giving that particular exhibit a glowing review."
"Thankfully I don't think the papers will be asking any of us for our thoughts on the matter."
"Oh, I'd love to give them a piece of my thoughts..."
Steven sighed again. He was fighting a losing battle, and as much as he hated losing, this was one his friend would never concede. But that wouldn't stop him from trying one last time.
"Wallace, you can't be that surprised with an exhibit title like 'Pokemon: A Circus of Wonder'."
At this, Wallace wheeled around on his heel, practically sputtering, "Why not the charismatic ringleader, or the dazzling trapeze artist, or the mesmerizing contortionist?!"
Just the naming of the rest of the exhibit pieces began to recall the image in Steven's mind, and he found it more and more difficult to keep a straight face at the memory.
"Why? Why did they have to paint my darling Milotic as the clown?!"
The hand over his mouth did little to stifle the laugh that Steven could no longer contain.
"I'm sorry, Wallace," he tried to backpedal at the Master Coordinator's furious expression, but his eyes still twinkled with mirth. "But you have to admit, they did portray her as a magnificent juggler."
A flock of Wingull took to the sky at Wallace's cry of rage, and Steven found it too hard to hold in his laughter as he ran for what was quite possibly his life.
Chapter 12: The New Guy
Prompt #12: Sidney conducts his first official Gym inspection.
"So, uh, how are things going for you in Hoenn so far?"
But Norman was in no mood for small talk, and he didn't move from where he stood, arms crossed.
"You're the one here for the Gym inspection, you tell me."
Sidney shifted at the Gym Leader's forwardness before quickly consulting his clipboard.
"Uhh," his eyes scanned down the checklist, "H-how's your win loss ratio been? We can't go having the newest Gym in the region being thought of as the pushover."
Sidney's attempt at humor was lost on Norman, who just stared back impassively. "It's fair."
He scribbled a note down on the clipboard, not because it was important, but because he felt like he had to.
"Look," Norman started with a sigh, "I know you're just here to do your job -"
"So let me do it."
The younger man's tone had taken a firm edge, and he caught Norman's surprised expression. It was his turn to sigh.
"I know, it's gotta suck that the League has all these rules and regulations. If I'm totally honest, I don't really care how many trainers you give a badge to or not. But if I gotta do this kinda stuff to help out the Boss, then I'm gonna do it."
"What do you think of him?"
"The Champion, Steven Stone. What do you think of him?"
Sidney found himself blinking in confusion.
"What's that got to do with anything?"
"Just wondering. I'm new to Hoenn, but you have to admit, having the heir to the wealthiest corporation in the region as head of the Pokemon League sounds awfully convenient..." Norman's tone wasn't accusatory, in fact it held as neutral as if he was having a conversation about the weather, but it didn't stop Sidney from bristling with defensive energy.
"Now listen here," he practically hissed through bared teeth, "No matter what you've heard, Steven's gotten to where his all on his own. I've seen it myself. I'd have nothing if it weren't for him, and I won't stand for anyone spreading lies that say otherwise."
"Relax," Norman's posture eased into a slouch against the nearest door frame, "I was just checking."
"Checking what?" Sidney was still on edge.
"Checking to see what kind of people the Champion had in his Elite. And what they thought about him in return. From the sound of it, Hoenn is in good hands. Now," Norman held out a hand, "Let me see that checklist."
"Give it here, I filled out a million of these back in Johto. I'll walk you through everything as I go down the list."
Nodding, Sidney handed over the clipboard. As Norman gave the pages a cursory glance, Sidney froze and shook his head.
"Hey, wait a minute. I'm the one supposed to be doing the inspection!"
Norman just laughed and disappeared into the first chamber of the Gym with Sidney hot on his heels.
Chapter 13: Fun and Games
Prompt #13: A boring day at the League leads the Elites to look for a different kind of entertainment...
Glacia scowled across the table at Sidney as the Elites gathered in the lounge after another afternoon of challengers wrapped up sooner than expected.
"I'm getting rather tired of your winning streak, you know."
"Hey, I can't help it I'm so good," Sidney offered with a casual shrug.
"You're robbing me of potential matches."
"Look at it this way, if they couldn't beat me, would you really want to waste your time battling them?"
Glacia sat back in her chair in thought, "You have a good point..."
"Besides, now you have more time to sit back and read your book."
But Glacia was soon frowning again. "I finished that book already, and the library won't be open again until tomorrow."
"Oh..." Sidney found himself scowling now too, but Phoebe's bright tone cut through the doom and gloom of a boring weekend afternoon.
"Now that all the challengers are taken care of, why don't we all play a game?"
Drake tipped the brim of his hat back as he eyed the box cradled in Phoebe's arms. "Didn't have much else in mind for today. I'll bite."
Sidney quirked a brow at the Dragon Master's sudden interest, and he leaned back in his chair with both hands behind his head. "Sure, I'm down. That makes three players, so maybe we can convince the ice queen too..." he trailed off with a glance across the table. Glacia was already glaring daggers at him.
"Why not? I need someone to pulverize today since you hogged all of the usual targets."
Sidney quickly averted his eyes from Glacia's fierce stare. "What do you have for us, Fee?"
Phoebe giggled nervously at the heated exchange, but she wouldn't be deterred. This was a perfect four player game after all. "It's a game my Gran got for me, she said it was great to play with friends!"
"Mmhm, friends," said Glacia with perhaps a bit too much enthusiasm.
"So how do we play?" asked Drake as he pulled a chair up to the table next to Glacia, unfazed by her bristly demeanor.
"Well," Phoebe slid open the box and spread out its contents, "It's basically a race to the end, and you have to avoid traps from the board and from the other players too!"
"Oooh, I like this game already."
Sidney gulped as Glacia's gaze was locked back on him again. But as Phoebe passed out the pieces and set up the board and its respective cards, it wasn't long before tensions were running high between all four trainers.
"You've got to be kidding me," hissed Phoebe as Drake trapped her piece for a whopping two turns in a row.
The Dragon Master kept his cool though, at least until Glacia sent him backward three spaces. Sidney snickered at the sudden change of target of Glacia's ire, but it was short lived as he abruptly landed on a spot that forced him to discard a card from his hand.
As he sullenly laid his card down in the pile, a movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. It certainly looked like the golden glint of a zipper...
"Hey, Fee. What was that just now?"
Phoebe's gaze shot up innocently as she drew a card for her turn.
"What was what, Sid?" she asked a little too sweetly.
"Oh nothing. It's just I thought I might have seen Banette float by just now. You wouldn't be thinking of using your pokemon to cheat now would you?"
"That's a mighty strong accusation there..." muttered Drake, but he too turned his attention toward the ghost-type expert.
But Phoebe wasn't going to stand for such insinuations. At least not without making one of her own.
"Don't think I haven't seen you tap Absol's ball for some disaster prevention."
Sidney immediately looked flustered. "That's not the same thing as having Banette look at other people's cards for you!" he shot back.
Somehow Glacia remained the most calm during the exchange. "Might I point out that neither of you have denied said actions..."
As both trainers flushed different shades of indignation and embarrassment, they quickly clammed up as they watched Glacia's expression melt into simmering anger. "First I get cheated out of a challenger battle, and now I get cheated out of a relaxing board game?!"
"Now hold on..." cautioned Drake as he made to try to move the game forward. But as he reached out for his card, a ghostly hand slid up from the tabletop and slipped a new card in at the top of the deck. Phoebe paled at Banette's misstep, and Drake scowled down at the board. "Never mind."
Glacia was already on her feet, pokeball drawn, "Get back here you little sneak!"
In a flash, Glalie materialized and nearly overturned the table in an effort to chase after the now-fleeing Banette.
"Glacia, wait!" shouted Sidney, grabbing his own pokeball and releasing Absol just in time for it to block a haphazardly-aimed icy wind.
Phoebe yelped as she too had to duck out of Glalie's warpath. Peeking back up toward the table, she groaned as she discovered that the board game was now completely frozen into a block of ice.
Drake just chuckled at the mayhem, at least until Banette floated by and snatched the cap right from his head and used it to block another of Glalie's attacks. Eyes wide as his prized cap landed on the floor with a frozen thunk, an aggravated growl rose from the back of his throat.
It was right at that moment that the door to the lounge swung open, and the Champion strolled into the room. If the chaotic state of the room didn't immediately alarm him, the roar of the mighty dragon-type certainly did. Barely two steps through the door, Steven's eyes went wide and he quickly turned to beat a hasty retreat, slamming the door shut behind him.
During Phoebe's next visit to her Gran's house, the older woman was shocked to see her granddaughter handing the board game back. The cards were all warped and waterlogged, and it looked as if a portion of the board had been singed... She stared up at Phoebe with a silent question, and the ghost-type specialist could only offer a sheepish laugh in response.
"Sorry Gran, you really should have said to play with friends who aren't so competitive!"
Chapter 14: Technology
Prompt #14: Sometimes Drake feels like he's getting too old for this...
"...And all you have to do is tap here and it saves it for you automatically!"
Phoebe grinned up at Drake as she brandished her new PokeNav Plus for him to see.
"Plus it's got a new feature that lets us call each other too, so we don't have to use the old clunky League intercom any more."
Drake's mustache twitched, but he otherwise remained silent.
"Oh let me see it," sighed Phoebe as she held out her hand, and Drake complied, dropping the PokeNav he had been gripping in his pocket into her waiting palm.
She fiddled with the device for only a few moments before handing it back to the befuddled Dragon Master.
"All set! You should try it out for yourself though," Phoebe gave him a thumbs up of encouragement before she bounced out of the room.
Slowly, Drake glanced down at the PokeNav in his hand and as he quietly stared, he felt a hand gently clap down on his shoulder.
"Ah, you've finally upgraded to the newest model," Steven smiled down at Devon's latest gadget, "My dad really worked hard on that one, I think you'll find its features really slick."
Drake's gaze slid sideways to meet Steven's enthusiastic one, and the Elite's face remained stoic as he measured the Champion's words carefully.
But Steven didn't notice Drake's tight expression, and he gave his friend another pat on the back before slipping out the door. "Let me know how you like it!"
Drake watched him go and then jumped in surprise as the device in question began to buzz and blink. Staring hard at the screen, the song and dance quickly stopped and a face popped up on the display.
'Phoebe gave us your number!'
The Nav buzzed again, and a second face popped up.
'So now we can message you whenever!'
Drake scowled down at the twins' pictures staring back at him. Even the Gym Leaders were getting in on this, although he could hardly be surprised. They were young and plenty savvy to pick up the new Match Call system without much difficulty.
The PokeNav buzzed once again, finally not startling the veteran trainer so much, but what popped up on the screen gave Drake pause.
'Cant w8 2 chat ol sea buddy :-)'
With a groan, Drake was now staring at the device through the fingers of his other hand. He rubbed his brow and sighed. Somehow even old Briney had beaten him to the punch. He suddenly felt very weary, and he pocketed the PokeNav before shuffling back toward his chamber. Maybe Altaria could help him decipher exactly how to use this blasted thing.
"I'm getting too old for this shit."
Chapter 15: Moving Forward
Prompt #15: Wallace has a bad break-up. Steven doesn't completely understand, but he does his best to help.
Steven was only mildly worried when he hadn't heard from Wallace in several days. After all, the Gym Leader had his own life to live, and he was a busy man. But the silence of his phone was unnerving given the water-type master's penchant for contacting him out of the blue.
So when his text message was responded to with a single word reply, Steven really became worried. It wasn't long until he found himself standing outside Wallace's house with a box of his friend's favorite snack under one arm, quietly knocking on the door.
"Wallace? Are you home?"
He felt a bit silly was he waited for what felt like too long for a reply, and in a snap decision he simply slipped out the hidden key and let himself in. It was only fair after Wallace had done the same to him so many times. As he set his parcel down on the kitchen counter, he noticed the strange silence of the house. Wallace always had on some kind of soft music if he wasn't simply chatting up a storm. Something was wrong...
Steven quietly moved through the house, determined to find what had happened to his friend when he came upon a closed bedroom door. Steven paused as a muffled sound made its way through the wood. If he didn't know any better, he'd say that it sounded like someone doing a very poor job at stifling some tearful hiccups. He brought his hand to bear and softly tapped on the door.
"Wallace? It's me. Are you okay?"
A particularly loud hiccup sounded, and Steven winced. He hadn't meant to startle his friend.
"I-I'm fine. You can go."
Steven pulled back from the door, blinking in surprise. Something was definitely wrong.
"You don't sound fine."
"My, Steven, you're quite perceptive."
"Would you like to talk about it?"
"No, I would not like to talk about it. I doubt you would understand anyway..."
At this Steven frowned. Wallace never would turn down the opportunity to talk, let alone make an assumption that it was out of his friend's expertise.
"Well, I'm here and I brought your favorite..." he let the word trail off, and true to form he heard a rustling and the knob rattled as the door opened just a hair. Wallace's puffy, red eye poked through the crack.
"You brought cakes? For me?"
Steven nodded as he smiled, "I've been told I'm a good listener."
The door closed for a moment and Steven feared he'd pushed a bit too much, but when it swung open a moment later, letting the Leader shuffle out of the darkened room, he finally got a good look at the state of his friend. It was clear Wallace had been crying, for how long was unclear. His normally sharp attire was wrinkled and his shoulders sagged uncharacteristically.
With a gentle motion, Steven placed an arm around Wallace's shoulders and steered him to the couch. Without a word he stepped into the kitchen and quickly returned with two plates that bore the sweets in question. Wallace opened his mouth to begin, but Steven stopped him, thrusting the plate into his hands.
"Eat first, then we'll talk."
The two sat in silence as the treats were devoured, Wallace giving in at Steven's urging and having a second cake. It was as Steven was just finishing his first cake that Wallace set down his empty plate and sighed.
"She was seeing someone else on the side."
Steven's eyebrows shot up, but he remained quiet. Wallace continued.
"So, I broke it off. We're done. I just - I just feel so... empty," he sunk back into the cushions.
Steven's gaze never wavered and Wallace finally pried his eyes from the floor to meet his friend's. The lost expression on Wallace's face felt so foreign.
"What do I do now?"
Steven sat for a moment, pondering, before he answered. "You're going to sit right there, have another cake, and then figure out which pokemon you'd like to battle me with."
Whatever Wallace had been expecting, it hadn't been that. Steven smiled as he continued with a small shake of his head.
"You were right, you know. I don't understand, not to the level that would let me give you a helpful answer. I don't know what you should do from here. But what I do know is how to clear your head so you can think rationally about all this. So by the time we both finish another cake, I expect you to be able to tell me if you'll battle with Victoria or Phillip against Skarmory."
Wallace's mouth moved a bit in stunned silence at his friend's forwardness before his lips pressed into a determined line.
"I'm not getting you that cake either, so I'd hurry and get in here before I eat the rest of them," Steven called out from the kitchen.
The couch was empty in a flash and as Wallace snatched the box of sweets from Steven's hands and he had to admit; he hadn't gotten the answer he had wanted, but he did get the answer he needed.
Prompt #16: Someone spends a bit too long enjoying the sunshine...
"Ow ow ow ow."
Sidney gingerly sat up from the lounge chair and grimaced as his arm brushed against the side. The view from his room's balcony was too serene to pass up, but unfortunately the excitement of the previous day had caught up with him and he had fallen asleep, and now he was paying dearly for it. So far in their trip to Alola he'd been responsible, always wearing sunscreen, especially on his head, and finding some shade to rest in throughout the day. But his cat nap in the direct sun had proven to be too much. If only Absol had been by his side, it could have warned Sidney about his impending doom.
But instead, the entirety of Sidney's body was now almost the same color as his hair. Well... at least his front side.
He slipped inside his suite and flopped down onto the bed with a groan.
Mightyena's head perked up from its own nap and it stretched before slinking over to nudge its trainer's leg with its nose. Sidney didn't move. It hurt too much to move.
Mightyena's ears swiveled curiously and it nosed Sidney again, and he weakly tried to swat it away, his voice muffled by the comforter.
"Mph, stop. I'm alive, I think. Ow."
Upset at Sidney's obvious discomfort, Mightyena gave a concerned whine just as Absol strolled through the room. One look at Mightyena's expression confirmed its nagging suspicion, and it shook its head before sidling off into the bathroom to dig up the salve it knew was there for just this occasion.
It took Sidney significantly longer to get ready for the group dinner that night, and by the time he arrived, the meal was well underway. Everyone was seated around the table laughing and talking, but as he made his presence known, the table fell deathly silent. The only sound was Wallace's fork clattering against the table where he had dropped it.
Steven was the first to speak.
"Sidney. So, uh, glad you could join us. Help yourself to a plate, the buffet is over there."
"Um, thanks," Sidney nodded and moved as carefully as he could to where the food was waiting.
A few murmurs ran through the table as he was filling his plate and he rolled his eyes. He had a pretty good idea what they were whispering about. Shuffling his way back to the group, he eased into his seat, but not before brushing his leg against the tablecloth with a sharp hiss. As he glanced around the table, the reactions were mixed. Steven's expression held nothing but empathy, and Wallace, he presumed, hadn't moved out of pure shock since he'd entered the room. But Phoebe was a different story. Her cheeks puffed out merrily and her lips curled into a thinly veiled grin. He could tell she was bursting to say something, so he rolled his eyes in indulged his fellow Elite.
"What is it, Fee?"
"I just came up with the most brilliant idea for you, Sid."
Sidney's brow arched in confusion. That wasn't what he was expecting. Also, ow.
Phoebe nodded giddily.
"It really came to me just now, although I'm not sure how..." she trailed off as her eyes traveled over his bright red face. "You should get a Krookodile for your team."
A snort immediately sounded from the other side of the table where Steven was covering his mouth with his napkin and Wallace's eyes had nearly doubled in size, but still hadn't moved otherwise.
Sidney's gaze narrowed as he eyed Phoebe suspiciously. "What makes you say that, Phoebe?" he asked slowly.
"Oh, no reason in particular," she said sweetly as she dug her phone from her bag and swiftly snapped a picture right in Sidney's face. "Maybe this has something to do with it though."
Sidney's eyes grew ever larger than Wallace's as she spun the phone around for him to see the photo. He had completely forgotten he fell asleep with his sunglasses on, and the railing of the balcony was at just the right angle so that his sunburn was painted in nearly the same pattern as the dark type in question.
"Why me?" he moaned sinking his head into his hands as Phoebe giggled uncontrollably.
AN: If you're looking for more Alolan adventures from the Hoenn crew, I urge you to check out Izzyaro's fic 'Under the Alolan Sun'. Until next time, cheers! I mean, Alola!
Chapter 17: Caffeine and Alcohol
Prompt #17: Someone has a little too much to drink...
"I'm way too hungover to deal with this right now..."
Steven grimaced as a gleaming streak shot through the Ever Grande sky. The morning sunlight did little to help the searing headache he was currently battling. Last night was his five year mark of becoming Champion, so of course he and the Elites celebrated accordingly. He was first to wake, although not unscathed from the night's merriment, and now he had an even bigger issue on his hands.
Another flash of polished steel zipped by accompanied by an ear piercing shriek and Steven winced, not just because it made his head pound even more, but because his accidentally-caffinated Skarmory would wake the whole League at this rate.
"Skarmory," his voice was weak as he tried to flag down his hyperactive flyer, "You can fly around, but please stop screeching."
He winced again as the rebellious pokemon did exactly what it was told not to do, and it buzzed by its trainer again. Steven ducked out of the way just in time, and as Skarmory looped high on the follow through, another voice sounded from behind him.
"What in the world is going on out here?" Glacia was incredulous, although looking just as haggard as Steven.
"I'm sorry, Glacia. It's Skarmory. He got into my morning coffee..."
"I set the mug down for only a moment to look for the asprin, and when I turned back around, he had drunk the entire thing... I mean I knew he liked bitter berries, but this..." Steven hung his head in defeat. "I don't know how long it takes for caffeine to wear off in pokemon..."
Glacia gaped at Steven's explanation before both trainers had to duck out of the way of another over-enthusiastic dive bomb. As they picked themselves up off the ground, Glacia had a particularly nasty look aimed at the Champion.
"Well you better sober up in a hurry or else we're going to get cut to ribbons! Where's its pokeball? Just return it until it calms down."
"I... I don't know where his ball is... I think I misplaced it during the party last night, and I can't recall where I put it." Steven brought a hand to his aching head and did his best to look apologetic.
Skarmory gave another giddy screech as it did a loop-de-loop high overhead, and Glacia covered her eyes with her hand, trying to will away her hangover with sheer frustration. Unfortunately, it wasn't working.
"What's all the ruckus?" Drake arrived just as Glacia lost the battle of wills to keep her from strangling Steven on the spot. Instead she simply snapped a finger in the Champion's direction. Drake's gaze followed her point with a quirked brow.
"Ah, this is my fault. Skarmory's a bit wound up this morning. Sorry for disturbing you."
But Drake just chuckled and tipped his cap back with a finger so he could watch the energetic steel type barrel roll to its heart's content, cawing and cackling with joy. "It's no problem at all, lad."
Something in the older trainer's demeanor had Steven peering at him suspiciously, "You look awfully cheerful for such a rude awakening..."
Drake grinned and slipped his pipe out from his pocket, "What's the matter? Hurting a bit after last night?"
"And you're not? Sidney is dead to the world and probably will be for the better part of the day. He was trying to keep up with you." Glacia's voice was tight; her pride may have taken a bit of a blow seeing how well Drake was faring compared to the rest of them.
Striking a match and puffing his pipe to life, Drake simply shook his head with a twinkle in his eye, "I wouldn't be worth my salt if I couldn't drink you youngsters under the table."
Steven opened his mouth as if he was going to say something, but then thought better of it. Still shielding his eyes, he turned to head back into the building. "I'm going to lay down. Skarmory will tire itself out eventually."
"Hey, wait!" Glacia was hot on his heels, "It's your pokemon, don't just let it misbehave like this!"
Steven grumbled some kind of retort to that, but Drake didn't quite catch it. Instead he simply grinned and reached for his belt.
"You've finally got yourself a playmate, Flygon. Go have some fun."
His speedy dragon burst free from its ball with a happy cry and Skarmory joined in with a shriek of its own.
Drake called out to the two pokemon circling overhead, "Extra treats tonight if you manage to wake Sidney up in the process."
It felt good knowing he wasn't just a veteran at pokemon battling.
Chapter 18: Bad News
Prompt #18: Someone receives bad news from home.
The letter fluttered from Glacia's hand like a snowflake. Snaking its way to the floor from her shaky grasp, the letter wasn't quite like a snowflake when it landed; it didn't melt into oblivion. The words remained, still etched in her mother's crisp handwriting, and they wouldn't disappear no matter how hard she wished they would.
Her dress crinkled softly as she lowered herself into the closest chair to where she had opened the letter. From where she sat, she could still see the paper; black on white, although the contrast wasn't so clear from this distance. No, everything was becoming blurry, even the too-white knuckles that gripped the fabric in her lap. She blinked away the tears as swiftly as she could. Just like her mother, and her mother before that, the women of her family would remain strong. The ice queen of Snowpoint. What would they say if she was caught crying?
Phoebe, bless her heart, would probably share some words of comfort that her grandmother had passed down to her. Drake would probably just remain as impassive as ever. He of all people would know about keeping up appearances, the old softie. Sidney... Sidney would probably never let her hear the end of it, although it's not like she didn't have her own stockpile of ammunition to fire right back at him. Phoebe's Krookodile picture from their Alola trip came to mind... And Steven. The heir turned Champion, who had a youthful countenance but the eyes of a much more experienced man. He'd give her a quiet look that spoke volumes without ever uttering a word, and just like that, what she'd suspected for a while now would be abundantly clear. That she was not alone no matter how empty her heart felt with such a loss.
But the more she thought about it, the more she felt at ease. The four people she trusted the most, the four people who placed an equal amount of trust in her. Surely they would understand if the cracks in her icy facade were visible for one vulnerable moment...
A slight tug at the hem of her dress brought her back to the present, and she wiped away a few more tears before glancing down at her visitor. Her Cubchoo had wandered in from the training area and was staring up at her with wide, concerned eyes.
"Oh, my darling," she scooped the bear cub into her arms and cradled it gently against her chest, "I hope my mood isn't upsetting you."
But the Cubchoo shook its head and simply snuggled deeper into her arms as it wrapped its paws around her neck in a tiny hug. Its nose was startlingly damp against her skin, but its quiet chuffing sent warm breath down her neck, and try as she might to stop it, her pokemon's sympathy opened the flood gates once more. Tilting her head forward, she buried her face in Cubchoo's fur and sobbed. Just this once, the ice queen would melt.
Chapter 19: Haunted Gym
Prompt #19: Someone thinks their Gym is haunted, and calls Phoebe for assistance.
Never in her life did Phoebe expect to have someone cowering behind her as if she were a human shield, and never did she expect that someone to be the biggest, most physically imposing Gym Leader around.
Thankful that Brawly wasn't able to see her face, Phoebe rolled her eyes at how he tried to somehow get his whole body behind her petite form, gripping her shoulders with a level of terror that she didn't think was possible from the muscle-bound Leader.
With one shaking finger, Brawly pointed past Phoebe's ear over toward the far corner of his Gym. "It's over there. That's where I saw it."
"Brawly," she kept her tone gentle, "What exactly are you expecting me to do?"
His voice rose even higher in exasperation, "I dunno, talk to it or something? Tell it to stop haunting my Gym, man! I didn't do anything to make the spirits angry, I swear!"
Phoebe sighed, "The spirits aren't mad. In fact, I'm not sensing any ghostly activity here at all."
Brawly's shout was painful in her ear and she winced, but Brawly quickly realized how loud he'd been, and not wanting to rile up the spirits that weren't really there, he shrunk back down behind her again, voice in a strained whisper. "There's no way I can believe there's nothing there. I heard things... I saw things!"
Phoebe wrenched herself from the Leader's iron grip and spun to face him with a quirked brow.
"You called in one of the only people in Hoenn who can commune with ghosts, and you don't believe me when I say I can't find anything here?"
"Yes," Brawly squeaked out, sheepishly twiddling his fingers as he stared at anything that wasn't Phoebe or the cursed corner of the room.
Crossing her arms, Phoebe fixed Brawly with an expression that bordered between amused and frustrated. "What's it going to take to convince you that your Gym isn't actually haunted?"
"I mean, could you just perform an exorcism anyway? It'd make me feel a lot better."
Phoebe nearly sighed again, but an idea crossed her mind, and a sneaky grin flashed across her face. "Sure, we can do that for you."
"We?" Brawly gulped.
But Phoebe was already on the move, grabbing some chalk from the nearby free weights and drawing symbols on the floor before littering spell tags all along the lines. Of course, this wasn't actually an exorcism; she already had an idea of what might be causing Brawly's "hauntings". But that didn't mean she couldn't have fun with the skittish Leader in the meantime.
Brawly's eyes nearly bugged out of his head as he watched Phoebe work, and he paled while slowly backing himself up until he was pressed into the far wall of the Gym.
When she was finished she moved to the center of the symbol and sat cross legged on the floor, eyes closed, but not quite all the way. She didn't want to miss the expression on Brawly's face. Slowly, Phoebe began to chant and wave her arms in airy, rhythmic motions. She began to chant faster and faster, until she felt that she'd put on enough of a show...
In a flash, several ghost pokemon burst forth from where she had hidden their pokeballs, and Brawly screamed. The Gym lights flickered and dimmed as the pokemon circled overhead, and Phoebe nearly burst out laughing when her Banette flew right over to the panicked Leader and licked him in the face. After stifling her giggling fit, Phoebe finally noticed that all the excitement had done him in; Brawly had passed out on the floor from sheer terror. At least now she could test her suspicion in peace...
"Ughhh," Brawly groaned as he sat up from the floor, rubbing his head gingerly. "What happened?"
His question was soon answered as a cheerful Phoebe popped into his field of view.
"Morning, sleepy head!"
"You fainted," she said with a smile, "But I have good news. I've caught your spooky visitor!"
"Mmhmm! Want to meet them?"
"What, wait, no way man!" Brawly quickly tried to backpedal, but Phoebe swung her arms out from behind her back and Brawly screamed again, cowering away from the "ghost" behind his hands.
Brawly cracked open one eye and found himself staring at a jolly green blob of a pokemon happily nestled between Phoebe's hands. She giggled.
"This little guy was hiding in your vents watching you train. I think he wants to join you so he can be a strong Breloom when he grows up."
Dumbfounded, Brawly reached out with one shaky hand to pat the friendly Shroomish on its petals.
"So... so there wasn't a ghost after all?"
Phoebe shook her head and the Shroomish chirped as it wiggled in her grasp. "Well, not ones that were living here..."
Brawly looked surprised for a moment before his gaze narrowed suspiciously. But before he could interrogate her about the exorcism, she thrust the Shroomish in his arms and danced out the door.
"Bye, Brawly! I promise I won't tell Roxanne that you're afraid of a little ol' ghost!"
As the Gym door slid shut behind her, Brawly found he couldn't stay upset with the mischievous Elite, so he just looked down at Shroomish and shook his head with a small smile.
"Not cool, man. Not cool."
Chapter 20: Ice Cream
Prompt# 20: Someone is convinced it's the perfect time for ice cream...
Sidney let loose a sigh of relief as he plopped down on his backside and sprawled out on the floor, sweat sliding down his brow.
"That was an intense training session you guys," he beckoned to his teammates, and his pokemon gathered around their exhausted trainer looking nearly as overheated as him. "Good thing I came prepared."
He took a deep breath as he sat back up before jumping to his feet. Crossing the room quickly, he picked up an impressively sized ice chest and made his way back to his waiting partners.
"I come bearing gifts," he grinned as he tilted the lid open, and all eyes peered inside.
Mightyena gave a howl of excitement as Sidney slipped six generously sized ice cream sandwiches out of the cooler's depths.
"You guys worked hard, so let's celebrate with a treat to beat this summer heat!"
But whatever grin that graced Sidney's face quickly vanished as he caught sight of Absol's horrified expression. And then all hell broke loose.
His pokemon surged forward, eager to get at the sugary goodness, and Sidney disappeared under a barrage of fur, leaves, and feathers. Mightyena emerged victorious, grasping two bars in its jaws, but before he could make a clean escape, one of the sandwiches was speared through with one of Cacturne's needles. Shiftry chattered in dismay as another bar slipped out of its leafy grasp, plucked free by Mandibuzz's beak. A second Mightyena tried to slink away unnoticed with an extra portion as well, and Sidney did a double take as he spotted the imposter from his place at the bottom of the pile.
"Hey, Zoroark, I know that's you! You gotta share!"
Absol simply watched the chaos with a shake of his head, patiently waiting at the edge of the melee.
By the time Sidney scrambled to his feet, his pokemon had torn into their treats with varying degrees of success. The real Mightyena's coat was slathered in vanilla cream and it was happily trying to lap up the rest of the rogue treat with its tongue, all the while rolling on its back in delight. Cacturne was happily munching on its sandwich that was slowly leaving melting trails down the needle in its hands. Mandibuzz soon found that feathers and ice cream didn't mix, so it settled for picking at the melted puddle of stickiness that ended up beneath its talons. Shiftry had managed to claim Zoroark's extra treat, but had enjoyed it too quickly. Its ears twitched in distress as it fanned itself to try to rid the lingering brain freeze. Only Absol and Zoroark had managed to escape relatively unscathed, and they were contentedly enjoying their treat when the door to the chamber creaked open.
Sidney hastily tried to brush the dust and fur from his clothes as he scrambled to see who was paying him a visit, but he only succeeded in smearing more ice cream around, causing Mightyena to dash over and try to help clean him up too. Absol huffed a quiet chuckle as the rest of Cacturne's ice cream slid off its needle and plopped to the floor.
"Hey, Fee. Um, want some ice cream?"
Chapter 21: A Thoughtful Gift
Prompt #21: Steven told Liza and Tate that they were always welcome to ask for advice, and not just when it relates to Gym business...
"So that's why you have to help us."
"We don't even know where to start."
"What do you get a pokemon that's 300 years old?"
"I don't even know what it's like to be 30 years old, and that's really old, but nowhere near as old as 300!"
Steven winced as he did the mental calculation on how soon he'd be nearing the twin's definition of 'old'.
Of course, this was only after he found himself sitting in his living room with a pair of flustered Gym Leaders standing across from him. Tate and Liza had called him asking for his council, and he was happy to oblige, but he hadn't expected to be roped into helping choose a birthday gift for the twins' pokemon. He had known that Solrock and Lunatone were ancient creatures, having been with the psychic family of Leaders for many generations. But he, too, was stumped by the twins' request.
"You know," he began gently, "Perhaps your mom and dad might have better ideas than me. Solrock and Lunatone used to be their pokemon."
Liza huffed and Tate's face fell.
"We already asked them!"
"They just told us to do something special."
"But what does that mean?"
"What's left that's special after 300 years?"
"I bet Solrock has met every pokemon in existence."
"And Lunatone probably has tried every treat there ever was."
"We're stumped!" both twins cried simultaneously, and Steven nearly chucked at their predicament, but that would have been rude.
So instead he opted for a smile that he hid behind the hand he thoughtfully brought to his chin.
"What if instead of something new, you gave them something old instead?" he mused.
Steven nodded as he elaborated, "Maybe not something that actually is old, but something that they haven't seen in a while; something nostalgic."
"You mean like when mom and dad go through our baby pictures to embarrass us?"
At this Steven did laugh, his own mind going back to the way his own father would bring out the dusty family photo albums whenever Wallace would stop by. But his laughter quickly died down as he thought back to the other pages of the album; the ones at the very front that his father would skip when there was company over. The ones that held a smiling stranger's face tight within their pages. The woman whose face felt so warm and familiar, and yet so foreign at the same time. Steven felt the silence of the room hang heavy as the twins picked up on his stirring memories.
Two concerned gazes were locked onto his own, and he quickly recollected himself with a small smile, waving their worry away.
"Ah, forgive me. When you're as old as I am, those baby pictures are especially embarrassing to remember."
The twins shared an uneasy look between themselves, but didn't press the Champion's thin lie any further. Instead, Tate chose to bring it back to the matter at hand.
"But we don't have any baby pictures of our pokemon..."
"They're 300 years old, remember?"
"Did they even have pictures back then?"
Steven smiled, "It's not the pictures that are important. Lots of other things can trigger meaningful memories. Sights, sounds, smells..."
The twins' faces scrunched deep in thought.
"What did it smell like 300 years ago?"
"I bet it smelled all musty, like the books at Mt. Pyre, or the bottom of an old cave -"
"I may have an idea," Steven said, raising a finger as the thought came to him. He waved the twins in to a huddle as he brought out his PokeNav, calling a map up to the screen. "I'm willing to bet Lunatone and Solrock haven't been here in a long, long time..."
Tate and Liza had never seen their partners expressions light up like they did when they released them into the cavern. They had followed Steven's directions carefully, and armed with a picnic basket filled to the brim with treats, they had trekked deep into the cave before letting Lunatone and Solrock out of their balls.
Sunlight poured through the holes in the roof, carved by ancient meteors, and it danced through the shallow cascades of crystal clear water that fed the upper basin of Meteor Falls. The psychic pokemon's joyful calls echoed off the pale rocks as they spiraled slowly upward, taking in the sight of their birthplace. 300 years was a long time, and somehow the secluded area of the Falls had remained relatively untouched in all that time. Floating back down to their trainers, the ancient pokemon nestled happily into Tate and Liza's waiting arms, sharing 300 years worth of gratitude with their young partners.
Chapter 22: Nightmare
Note: This chapter is definitely horror themed. Originally written for Halloween, it is decidedly different than most of the entries in this collection.
Prompt #22: Someone has a nightmare.
The last time Steven could recall a day this peaceful, well in all honesty, he actually couldn't. At least not in recent memory. But here he was, alone with nothing but the sounds of the underground around him. A chisel in one hand and a hammer in the other, a small bag of spoils sat at his feet, and Steven sighed in contentment. The League had become stressful lately, what with the addition of a new Gym and the retirement of not one, but two Leaders, there was a fair amount of work to be done to ensure any ongoing League challenges would continue uninterrupted.
Which was why the situation struck him as odd. Shouldn't he be working right now? Steven's brow furrowed and he glanced at his watch. Strange, it was actually the middle of the night. Why was he still awake at this hour? Setting down his tools, he glanced around the cave and noticed his usual stash of supplies was absent. Perhaps he left them back at the surface, as it appeared this was only a small cave system. Dutifully, he picked up his meager equipment and headed out in search of his camp.
It was only as the mouth of the cave came into view that Steven noticed another oddity. His pokemon were conspicuously absent from his hip. A sudden tightness found its way across his chest. He could count on one hand the number of times Metagross had ever not been at his side, all the way back to when it was just a small Beldum. Where was his team?
Steven's pace quickened in time with his heartbeat as he neared the cave's exit.
But he never made it there.
The cavern floor suddenly began to shake beneath his feet, sending him stumbling. As he tried to pick himself up off the ground, a dull roar issued from the depths of the cave. Scrambling back to his feet he hazarded a glance backward to find the source of the noise, and his breath caught in his throat.
Somehow the omnipresent darkness of the cave had taken a more tangible form, crawling and scurrying along the walls and ceiling. The absence of light was curling and forming into pointed claws that raked at the stone leaving blackened gouges in their wake. Living, breathing darkness that threatened to swallow him whole.
As a paralyzing wash of terror flooded his senses, a small voice told him there was still a way out, all hope was not lost. He still had an escape route, and he willed himself begin to sprint toward the exit again, yet it never seemed to draw any nearer. The cave rumbled again, this time loosening bounders from the ceiling that came crashing down all around. Throwing his arms up to shield his face, Steven plunged forward; there was the daylight streaming in, he could still make it! Wait, wasn't it past midnight? What was going on...?
In his moment of confusion he had paused in his frantic escape, and when he went to resume his sprint, he found something stopping him. His leg was rooted in place, but it wasn't the falling rubble that trapped him. Something was holding him there, gripping his ankle with fearsome strength. Reaching down with both hands to free himself, he froze. Fingers made of stone had reached up from the cave floor and grabbed him in an unyielding hold. He kneeled down and pried at the lifeless grip, but it refused to budge. Panic began to rise in his throat, he was running out of time. The darkness was closing in, still roaring like an animal possessed.
As he gave another tug at the offending restraint, a second manacle circled his other leg, stony fingers digging into his calf. Wheeling around to try to free himself, something else grabbed at the back of his jacket and pulled, dragging him awkwardly to the ground where he was met with a cold embrace. Arms of stone reached up to snake around his waist and chest, and try as he might, he couldn't break free from their grasp as he was pinned helplessly to the earth.
And that's when the darkness caught him. Eyes wide with terror he watched the black beast descend, pouring in from all sides of the cave in a massive sickening wave. He tugged and writhed against the bonds that held him captive, anything to get away from this unknown enemy, but it was futile. The first inky knives sunk into the flesh of his leg and he cried out from the pain. Or at least he tried to. No sound would escape his lips as the creature dragged itself up his body, one searing, stabbing claw at a time until its deathly hands encircled his neck. He choked at the pressure, he could feel the breath leaving his lungs, unable to be replenished.
In one last terror fueled push, he tried desperately to shove the beast off him with the only hand that wasn't trapped by the very earth that betrayed him, but the shadows were as intangible as their normally benign counterparts. Grasping at the nothingness that was slowly squeezing the life from him, the stony hands finally caught his last flailing limb and anchored it to the ground with the rest of him. It was only then that the darkness decided to show its true face. Cruel teeth formed in a featureless visage that sneered down at its pathetic captive. A guttural growl mixed with an otherworldly screech emanated from the creature as it howled in his face, victorious.
Suddenly, the pair of hands around his neck loosened their hold. The long slender fingers reached up to gently caress his cheek as the faceless shadows leered down at him; the normally soothing gesture only served to panic him further and he tried to scream once more. Without warning, the shadowy hands forced their way into his mouth, prying it wide. He began to hyperventilate, but it didn't last long. Without warning the creature poured itself down his throat, the acrid darkness choking him. He was drowning in it now, his lungs filling with the nothingness. His body jerked involuntarily against the onslaught, and the edges of his vision began to swim in the inky blackness. This was the end, this is how he would die...
Metagross blinked one red eye open. It had been snoozing peacefully in its trainer's study, but a noise had disturbed its slumber. Slumped forward on the desk was its trainer, asleep on his paperwork. It wasn't a surprising sight. Metagross had seen its trainer push himself to exhaustion in that very chair countless times. But what was surprising this time was how he twitched and moaned ever so softly in his sleep. Metagross hadn't seen that sort of behavior very often. After the chair creaked from a particularly fierce shudder, it decided to keep a wary eye on its trainer. So when Steven gave a sudden jerk, toppling himself from the chair entirely, Metagross was quick to react.
Steven flailed for a moment, gasping for breath and blinking in confusion even as Metagross eased him gently to the ground with its psychic powers. He was quick to find his starter's concerned gaze, and he rubbed one shaking hand across his eyes.
The way the name left his lips, it was as if he hadn't seen his partner in years. The sort of gratitude in one's voice that came from the deepest longing, the most heartfelt sincerity. Metagross could feel the emotion pouring from its trainer, and it reverberated a soothing tone in reply. It was here. It would always be here.
Steven shook his head to clear the lingering visions. "I-I'm sorry, it was just a bad dream."
But Metagross had seen enough to know it wasn't as simple as that. Its trainer never looked that rattled. As gingerly as it could, Metagross picked its way across the study until it was able to nestle up against its trainer's side. Steven's skin was clammy when he leaned his head against Metagross's steel hide. It rumbled a quiet note and it could feel its trainer nod in return.
"I'd like that, if you don't mind."
As his suit jacket was lowered gently across his chest, Steven's eyes closed, and Metagross was more than happy let its trainer fall asleep in its arms, just as he did for it all those years ago.
Chapter 23: Challengers These Days
Prompt #23: A would-be Dragon Master, complete with costume, challenges the League
Phoebe was dutifully scrolling through the docket of challengers in preparation for any that might make it through Sidney's team. An Ace Trainer, those guys always came prepared. A Pokefan, they were one hit wonders, and most fizzed earlier rather than later. A Triathlete, interesting, since their pokemon were always well trained, but rarely had enough power to make it deep into the Elite. Flicking through the rest of the list, her eyes glazed over until one image popped up on the screen.
Immediately she bolted upright with a snort of laughter.
"Sidney, c'mere," she waved at the dark-type expert as she tried to hold in another laugh, "What is that?"
Only halfway interested at what Phoebe may have had to show him, Sidney leaned over with a casual glance. But when he caught sight of the screen, his eyes bugged out of his head before he too doubled over with laughter.
"Oh my god, Fee. I have no idea what that is! Maybe he's supposed to be a magician?"
Phoebe shook her head, still shaking with amusement. "I already read the brief, so I know. I just want to see if you can guess."
Sidney scratched at his ear in thought, but not without a ridiculous smile. "Gee, maybe he's one of those contest coordinator-turned-battlers, like Wallace?"
"Oh man, uhh, maybe he's..."
As Glacia strolled into the lounge, Phoebe cut Sidney off to wave her over.
"Let's see if Glacia knows!"
"Know what, exactly...?" the ice-type specialist trailed off, suspicious of the two younger trainer's antics.
"What this challenger is going for," Phoebe said with a grin, as she wheeled the tablet around for Glacia to see.
Her eyes went wide at the spectacle. "Oooh... I... Haven't the faintest idea."
Sidney laughed as Phoebe flung herself dramatically over the arm of the couch. "Someone go get Drake, he has to know," she moaned.
"We'd all know if you told us, Fee."
"Where's the fun in that?"
Sidney shrugged, but the gesture went unnoticed as the fourth and final Elite made his appearance.
"There shouldn't be any fun, we've got challengers coming today," he grated out, but not without a twinkle in his eye.
"Yeah, we know. Phoebe won't tell us who we're facing though."
"Really now?" Drake quirked an eyebrow.
"I'll tell everyone if you can't guess what this is on the first try," Phoebe said as she sat back up, holding the tablet out, and Drake plucked it from her grasp.
"This is what all the fuss is about?"
All eyes turned to the Dragon Master as he scanned the photo. Phoebe held her breath and latched onto Sidney's arm in anticipation. Even Glacia found herself leaning in, waiting for Drake's answer.
He remained silent for a beat longer before speaking up. "I have no clue what the heck that is."
Everyone deflated in defeat. "Fine, I guess I'll have to just tell you all..." began Phoebe, but in that moment, another voice sounded from over Drake's shoulder.
"Oh, looks like we're having a Dragon Master paying us a visit this afternoon."
Four pairs of eyes turned to meet the Champion as he glanced down at the tablet from behind his cup of coffee.
"A what now?" Drake's tone was dangerously low.
"A Dragon Master," said Steven matter-of-factly. "Or at least a self-proclaimed one. I've seen plenty of them when I train out at Meteor Falls."
Phoebe nodded dumbly, too shocked that of all people, Steven would be the one to recognize the outlandish outfit of too much spandex and gold piping, complete with a flowing cape.
No one spoke, so Steven offered a shrug, "When you're friends with Wallace for long enough, nothing really surprises you any more. Fashion-wise, I mean."
But Drake was still steaming. "I have half a mind to ask you lot to let him through so I can show him a thing or two about dragon training... But on the other hand, I wouldn't ask you to go through the embarrassment of losing to that."
"Hey Boss," Sidney piped up, "Maybe just this once Drake and I can switch places?"
"That's not a bad idea," chimed Glacia, "I'm kind of in the mood for a good old-fashioned humiliation match."
Steven's gaze narrowed as seriously considered it. "I'm willing to allow it just this once... Drake?"
Still muttering, Drake grumbled an affirmative before tossing the tablet down on the nearest table and stalking out of the room. "Only if you promise to let me call Lance about this. He's wearing tights for chrissakes."
"Well, I guess that settles it," Steven nodded, but not without a nervous glance at the retreating sea captain.
Phoebe grinned as she skipped out the door, "I'll bring the popcorn!"
Chapter 24: The Show Must Go On
Prompt #24: A sprained ankle isn't going to keep Wallace from a contest. Everyone else thinks it's a terrible idea.
"I really don't think this is a good idea..."
"Nonsense, The Lilycove Summer Spectacular only happens but once a year!"
Both Lisia and Juan had gathered in Wallace's room, and they frowned down at the Gym Leader sprawled out on his lounge chair with a foot propped on some pillows and a nasty purple bruise peeking out from beneath an ice pack.
"Don't give me that, it's not as bad as it looks," he protested, wincing as he tried to wiggle the injured foot.
"Uncle Wallace, you can't even put any weight on it. How are you going to perform?"
"I'll... I'll figure something out. I always do!"
"Perhaps I should go in your stead," suggested Juan with a wistful look. "I'm worried the strain of a contest might hinder your recovery."
Wallace was about to deliver his protest when the door to the room opened and Steven blustered in, slightly out of breath.
"I came as soon as I could," he breathed, holding the walking boot out toward the water-type trainer, but he froze when he saw Wallace was not alone as he was lead to believe. "Oh, Juan, Lisia, I'm sorry! I didn't realized you were here too."
Juan's eyes slid from the boot to Wallace's innocent expression before addressing the room's newest member. "And you agreed to this despite your best efforts to persuade him otherwise, I assume?"
"Actually -" Steven gave an apologetic smile.
"He stepped in a divot in a cave in Sinnoh a few months ago and didn't want to cut the trip short," said Wallace airily, "Can we move past how much you disapprove of the idea so I can put it on and get going to Lilycove?"
Steven shot Wallace a look for ratting him out so heartlessly, but Wallace ignored it as he wiggled his hand expectantly. Ducking under Juan's disapproving stare, Steven moved to the end of the lounge and cautiously began to slide Wallace's foot into the boot.
Wallace put on a brave face, but even for how gentle Steven tried to be, he still sucked in a pained breath with every adjustment.
"I still think this is a poor decision," Juan said, his frown deepening. "I won't cover your Gym duties for you if this contest injures your ankle further."
But Wallace casually waved him off, "I fully accept the consequences of my actions. You worry too much, Master. I'll be -" he jolted with discomfort as Steven secured the last strap in place, "-fine."
Juan's skeptical look remained as Wallace swung his legs to the floor and rose unsteadily to his feet. The boot did an admirable job, but Wallace couldn't hide a grimace as he hobbled toward his wardrobe.
"Uncle Wallace... You're not seriously going to perform with that boot?"
Lisia's quiet voice froze Wallace to the spot. For how many times he had told her to listen to her mother's words, he certainly wasn't setting the best of examples. He turned, ready to deliver a 'do as I say, not as I do' speech, but the determination in Lisia's gaze caused the words to freeze in his throat.
"It's so hideous! We need to dress it up if you're going to wear it to the performance!"
Wallace couldn't hide the grin that crept across his face. "You're absolutely right, my dear!"
"You're not going to be wanting this back, are you?" Wallace asked as he turned toward Steven.
Steven shook his head. "I certainly wasn't planning on it."
"Brilliant! Now shoo!" Wallace waved everyone who wasn't Lisia out of the room. "We've got work to do!"
The next morning, Steven found himself grinning over his morning coffee. Splashed across the front page was a photo of Wallace at the Lilycove Summer Spectacular, perched atop his Gyarados waving to his adoring fans. Even in black and white it was hard to miss the brilliant sparkle of the glitter encrusted walking boot. No, he definitely didn't need it back now.
Chapter 25: Dark and Stormy
Prompt #25: Sidney and Phoebe get caught in a thunderstorm.
Both Sidney and Absol wore the same scowl as the rain began to steadily increase. If Phoebe wasn't equally as soaking wet and miserable, she might have giggled at the way they both sulked as they helped load the last of the supplies onto the waiting ship.
A nasty storm was en route to Pacifidlog Town, and the two Elites had volunteered to aid in the evacuation of the floating settlement. It would surely weather the storm, but its occupants would be without power and food until the storm passed, and some of the more elderly residents might not be hardy enough to wait for the post-storm relief.
The storm wasn't supposed to pass through for another 24 hours, yet the wind had already picked up something fierce. "That's the last of 'em!" called Sidney, an arm raised to shield against the driving rain.
"Great!" Phoebe called back giving the ship's captain a thumbs up to signal he could push back from the dock. "Now let's get out of here too."
Dusclops had just released the last mooring of the ship when it froze in place, its red eye sliding over toward where Absol was standing, fur bristling with a low growl. Sidney already had noticed his partner's behavior and he cursed under his breath. Absol was sensing something, and it wasn't good. He turned to regard his fellow Elite with a nervous glance.
Just as her name left his lips, the sky was split with a brilliant bolt of lightning, surprising even the steadfast Dusclops. Somehow, the storm had intensified in only a matter of moments, hours ahead of the forecast.
The floating walkways they both were standing on lurched as larger and larger waves began to roll through Pacifidlog. Phoebe strained to see her friend through the deteriorating conditions.
"Sid, we have to go now! The storm's too strong!"
She could see enough in the dusky light to make out him shaking his head.
"No good! Sharpedo can't carry us both in seas this rough. We'd never make it!"
For the first time in a long time, the icy grip of fear found its way through Phoebe's veins. "Then what do we do?" Her question just made it out before another flash of lightning and a crash of thunder cut her off.
Discomfort all but forgotten, Sidney regarded Absol's stern expression for a moment before nodding. "We have to get to the sturdiest building in town and ride it out!"
By now Phoebe had picked her way across the unsteady planks and reached Sidney's side. She might have been worried if it wasn't for the determined set of his jaw. If Sidney was convinced of the plan, then so was she.
"There," he pointed through the sheets of rain, "The PokeCenter is close enough to the center of the town that it should be protected from the worst of it."
Phoebe nodded as she swallowed the unease in her throat. Living on Mt. Pyre, she'd never had to deal with the ocean's rage from up close. If the seas around her home were ever this angry, she'd retreat to higher ground with her grandma and grandpa. In Pacifidlog, there was no such luxury.
Absol had already begun to bound toward the Pokemon Center, eager to get to sturdier ground, and Dusclops clomped after him.
"C'mon," said Sidney, and without thinking he reached back to grab Phoebe's hand to guide her along the floating walkways.
Phoebe was glad the wind was howling, so Sidney couldn't hear the small squeak she let out when his hand found her own. Quickly, the two trainers made their way through the growing storm. It wasn't much further to the PokeCenter...
Suddenly, Absol's ears shot upright, and he wheeled around in alarm to find his trainer's wide-eyed stare.
"Oh crap -"
Sidney barely had time to brace himself before the wave swept over the walkway he'd been standing on. The wood lurched beneath his feet, bucking him backward from the force, and Sidney definitely cursed as the cold, grey water reached up to greet him. A sharp tug on his arm jolted him from his single minded panic. Phoebe.
Dusclops was already on the move as his trainer was bowled over and into the churning sea. Its red eye was frantically searching the murky water for any sign of where she'd been tossed, but it came up empty. With a harried glance at Absol, Dusclops whispered a low question. But Absol's gaze on the waves didn't falter, and Dusclops had no choice but to wait.
Sidney's head broke the surface with a loud gasp, followed by a hand wielding a pokeball. Teeth grit in effort, he released Sharpedo and reached for its fin with the same arm. Absol's claws dug into the logs of the PokeCenter's platform, hackles raised until it caught sight of a splash of pink against Sidney's chest.
Arm wrapped protectively around Phoebe's thin frame, Sidney struggled to keep his head above the waves as Sharpedo hauled the two of them to the platform's edge. He told himself he'd never let go, no matter what.
Finally within arm's reach, Sidney called out, but Dusclops was already reaching down to pluck Phoebe out of the water. Shivering, she clung to her pokemon and watched helplessly as Sidney tried to reach for the platform himself, but was dunked under again by another wave. Sharpedo dipped beneath the surface and bobbed up beneath his trainer, getting him within reach of the platform once again. With one final push he dragged himself out of the water and lay panting for a moment on the deck. Blinking saltwater from his eyes, he was met with a soggy hug from Absol.
"Heh, I could use a little more notice next time," he managed to chuckle, and Absol only headbutted him harder. His hand flopped over on the soaking wood to recall Sharpedo from the angry sea. He lay there for a moment longer, before propping himself up on one elbow just in time to see Phoebe staring at him, unblinking.
"Sidney..." She'd wiggled her way out of her pokemon's grasp, although it didn't stop Dusclops from hovering protectively behind her. "You..."
But Sidney was quickly on his feet and swiftly wrapped his arms around her to ward off the bone chilling cold. "It's what anyone would have done."
Phoebe let him guide her inside the Pokemon Center and out of the rain, their pokemon following behind.
It wasn't until the doors slid shut behind them, reducing the storm's blustering to background noise, that she finally pushed back against his chest to look him in the face once more.
"You're not just anyone." She couldn't bring herself to finish the thought, conjured up by the panicked flash of their own mortality. 'To me.'
Sidney stared hard at her before pulling her into a tight hug, dipping his head so his chin rested against her shoulder. His voice was tight, probably for the same reason she couldn't choke out her own words. "Neither are you."
Chapter 26: Snow Day
Prompt #26: Someone's Pokémon are bored. Very, very bored.
Glacia sighed as the notification flashed in her chamber. Sidney was victorious yet again. And yet again, another challenger fell short of giving her a decent battle that wasn't one against one of her colleagues.
She eyed her pokemon with a wistful glance before rising and sidling out of the room. Perhaps some fresh air would keep her from going stir crazy.
As the door clicked shut behind her, Glalie exhaled a frozen breath of disappointment as it floated around, leaving a small, frosted trail in its wake. Snorunt trailed in its wake, but not without slipping and sliding around on the frozen pathway. Finally losing its balance, Snorunt chattered in half-annoyance, half-amusement as it spun around on its backside before slowing to a stop at Sealeo's feet. The walrus pokemon looked down at its giggling visitor and its whiskers twitched in interest.
A loud bark of excitement cut through the chamber as Glacia's second Sealeo fired its icy wind on top of Glalie's ice path, reinforcing the structure before it dove head first, sliding past with surprising speed.
Snorunt chattered again and hopped back to its feet before launching itself behind Sealeo, snickering the whole way.
Glalie turned at the sound of the commotion, and it cried out as both Sealeo and Snorunt flew towards it, and all three pokemon landed in a giggling, dismayed heap.
Abomasnow looked up from where it sat and shook its furry head. If it joined in, one of its friends might end up as a pancake if it landed on top of them. But, it regarded the icy pathway with interest, perhaps it could participate in another way. Signaling to Vanilluxe and Walrein, Abomasnow stepped forward and began to concentrate its powers on the trail.
In the end, all of Glacia's pokemon got in on the construction action, and by the time they stepped back to admire their handiwork, the icy slide wound all around the chamber in a snaking, slippery path, complete with a loop-de-loop in the middle. Snorunt clapped its hands in glee and took off for the starting line with Sealeo hot on its heels. Abomasnow simply watched, hands on its hips.
The smaller pokemon slipped and spun all around the room, screeching and squealing with delight. It wasn't until Beartic tried to join in that the track finally gave way and shattered under its weight. With a dismayed rub of its head, Beartic immediately apologized and recruited Vanilluxe to help it repair the track.
Just as the track was back in working order, the door to the chamber creaked open, and every pokemon froze, afraid that perhaps their afternoon entertainment might have crossed the line. But Snorunt wasn't able to contain its momentum and Glacia soon found her arms full of a happy, squirming ice-type, and she couldn't help but smile herself.
"Have room for one more?"
Chapter 27: Sudoku
Prompt #27: Someone is stuck on a crossword/sudoku/puzzle. The others are helpful.
Steven leaned back in his chair and tapped his lip with his pen. Brow scrunched in concentration, he hardly noticed when a curious face peered over his shoulder.
"Whatcha thinkin' 'bout, Boss?"
"Sudoku," mumbled Steven, not tearing his eyes from the booklet in his hand.
"Su what now?" Sidney blinked as he looked at the jumbled mess of numbers on the page.
"Sudoku," Steven repeated, still not aware of Sidney's vacant look. "It's a number puzzle."
"Heh, numbers and puzzles," laughed Sidney as he straightened up, "Never been my strong suit. So good luck with that."
"Mmm," Steven mumbled again, now rolling the pen between his fingers.
Sidney paused as he opened the refrigerator door, "Y'know you could just ask Metagross to solve it for you if you're stuck. I bet it's great with numbers."
Finally breaking his gaze from the page, Steven rolled his head to the side to regard Sidney's bright idea. "That'd be cheating. Besides, I do these for the challenge, not just so I can get them all done as fast as possible."
But Sidney just shrugged as he closed the door, snack in hand. "Like I said, not my cup of tea."
"What's this about tea?" Glacia asked as she stepped into the lounge.
"It's not about tea, it's about..." Sidney pulled a face, "Soduku?"
Glacia narrowed her gaze, "You mean Sudoku? I never took you for one who liked number puzzles..."
"He's not," grumbled Steven, back at his staring match with the paper.
"Ah, I thought as much," she said, gliding over to the table and taking a seat across from the Champion. "You know, I'm impressed you're completing it in pen. I usually have too many solutions in my head to trust the first one I write down."
Steven's eyes flicked up above the top of his booklet only briefly before going back to scanning the puzzle before him. "Mmm."
Glacia studied him for a moment longer before rising, "Now that I think about it, I could go for some tea."
"Put on enough for a second cup too, Glacia!" Phoebe's voice preceded her arrival to the lounge. "Oh hey, Steven, what're you reading?"
"Sudoku," said Glacia, putting the full kettle on the stove.
"Oh, my grandma does those all the time. Only the easy ones though. She said if she wants that much frustration she'd just talk to my grandpa."
Glacia chuckled, but Phoebe already turned her attention back to Steven, "Ohh, that one looks harder than the ones Grandma does!"
Removing the end of the pen from between his teeth, Steven looked up at Phoebe's surprised expression, "I finished the easier puzzles already. Only the hard ones are left."
The hissing of the kettle punctuated Steven's comment, and Phoebe quickly skipped over to the cabinet to retrieve two mugs for the tea. "Well, good luck then!"
"Mmm." Steven's pen ticked a steady rhythm against the tabletop.
"Why're we wishing people luck now? You going somewhere, lad?" Drake asked as he shuffled into the room, puffing away on his pipe.
"Nobody's going anywhere," sighed Glacia, retrieving the kettle from the stove.
"Steven's working on a tough Sudoku!" chimed Phoebe, readying the mugs for their tea.
"Ah." The Dragon Master's pipe puffed thoughtfully. "I'm surprised you'd pick such a noisy place to concentrate. I tend to prefer a bit less noise if there's deep thinkin' involved."
"It used to be quiet in here..." Steven mumbled, bringing the pen back to his lips.
"You're gonna have to speak up, the kettle's whistling up a storm," said Drake, a hand to his ear.
"Nothing," called Steven, loud enough to be heard.
Drake harrumphed as the kettle was emptied into two steaming mugs.
"Well, we'll leave you to it," Glacia said, mug cradled in her hands.
"Yeah, you got this!" called Phoebe as she brushed out of the room.
A solemn nod from Drake meant the last of the visitors were taking their leave, and Steven sighed. Finally some peace and...
"Hey, did someone make me a cup too?"
Steven had to use every ounce of willpower not to throw his pen at Sidney's head.
Chapter 28: The Old Man and the Sea
Prompt #28: Someone finds out that a friend is at the hospital. They don't overreact at all.
The buzzing of Drake's PokeNav seemed to startle the Dragon Master less and less each time he got a call, although he scowled at the number a bit longer than usual this time. With a hesitant greeting, he answered.
"Yes, this is Drake."
"What'd the idiot do this time?"
"Yes...I mean - well, I can be there soon."
Drake felt several pairs of eyes on him as he hung up the call. The Elites that were privy to the one sided conversation were giving him a range of looks, but Drake just shrugged them off with a gruff response.
"I have to go. Don't wait up for me."
Not daring to stop their senior Elite, all eyes watched as Drake mounted Salamence and took off into the night without another word.
He was greeted by a flurry of feathers as he slid open the door to the Slateport hospital room.
"Briney, you old dog, why'd you call me here anyway?" Drake growled as he approached the bedside of his long-time friend and fellow sailor.
"Bah, you know hospitals. All protocol and no sense," Briney dismissed Drake's question with a wave of the hand that wasn't currently affixed with an IV. Peeko fluttered back to his side with a clack of her beak and a small squawk.
"You listed me as your emergency contact?" Drake quirked a brow.
"Purely formality, I assure you," muttered Briney as he caressed the nervous bird's crown. She nuzzled happily into his touch.
Drake's gaze drifted from Peeko to his friend. "Sure doesn't look like just formality. What kind of half-cocked scheme did you get yourself into this time?"
With a sigh, Briney gave in, "Right to the chase with you. I guess there's no hiding it. Capsized my boat in the Pacifidlog currents..."
Drake tipped his cap back and rubbed his brow, "Those damned mirages are gonna be the death of you, old man."
Briney offered a lopsided grin, "Well they haven't yet." His face fell as Drake's stony expression remained. "I washed ashore on a sandbar not too far from here. Peeko flew to get help. Otherwise..."
His voice trailed off at the thought, and Drake shook his head, "I always wondered how long your luck would hold out. Guess I'm still left wondering."
"You sound disappointed," quipped Briney, and Drake huffed a laugh.
"Not in the slightest. Only when I get that call that the sea handled the burial for me."
Both men lapsed into silence at the kind of humor a sailor was accustomed to.
"Anything left of her?"
Briney bowed his head. "Not a plank."
Drake sighed, "How much do you need this time?" and Briney just shrugged.
"However much you'd be able to spare."
Tipping his cap back down, Drake pushed off from the wall he'd been leaning against. "This time you better come back with something. I'm not going to keep funding your wild goose chases."
But Briney just grinned. "You know as well as I do that those islands exist. Whenever you're done playing around as the League's lapdog, just let me know and I'll let you join in the hunt."
"Yeah yeah," grunted Drake as he turned toward the door, "Rest up. I don't need a drowned Rattata for a friend."
The door closed behind him with a soft click, and Drake sighed. As exhausting as it was to be friends with Briney, he wouldn't have traded it for the world.
Chapter 29: Flare Up
Prompt #29: At their level, even friendly battles can get out of hand.
"Magcargo, Lava plume!"
The floor of Phoebe's chamber erupted in mini geysers of magma. The pattern of the attack was obvious; Magcargo was chasing its opponent down. But Banette was having none of the fire-type's attack, and she danced out of range just as each plume burst from the ground.
Flannery ground her heel into the floor in frustration. "C'mon Magcargo! You can do it!"
But as Banette tugged her mouth wide and waggled her tongue in a nasty taunt, Magcargo's shell began to crack and spurt flames. It was agitated, and its fiery disposition clearly matched that of its trainer's. Four simultaneous lava plumes formed in a bubbling circle around Banette, trapping the ghost-type in their midst. She cackled in surprise as the full force of the attack erupted, sending columns of fire dancing across the arena.
As the flames died down, all that was left were the smoldering remains of the fierce attack. Flannery was breathing heavy from the excitement of Magcargo's attack, and a confident smile crept across her face. She may have had a long way to go before she was as strong as her friend, but at least she could still throw the savvy ghost-type specialist for a loop.
Phoebe watched nervously as she waited for her partner to reappear. Banette was no slouch, and if anyone could have gotten out of that attack, it was her. Light danced around the arena as the remaining flames flickered with life, but another bit of movement caught Phoebe's eye, and she smiled.
The quivering shadow behind Magcargo shivered once before springing up from the arena floor. Two red eyes hungrily snapped open, and as the lava pokemon turned in surprise, a wave of shadows engulfed it in a wash of darkness.
Flannery gaped as her partner vanished beneath Banette's shadowy grasp, but she held steady, driving a fist skyward, "Don't give up, Magcargo! Overheat!"
The shadows began to expand, seemingly filling up from the inside. And like a fabric stretched to its breaking point, the shadows began to tear at the seams, flames licking out from the openings. In a brilliant flash, Banette's attack gave way to a broiling fireball that exploded in all directions that sent both trainers ducking for cover. Patches of fire sprung up all over, and Phoebe squinted through the brightness to see what had become of Banette.
Hunched over gripping a nasty burn on her chest, Banette floated a few paces away from Magcargo, who was panting heavily from the incredible power it threw into its last attack. The combatants were now hemmed in on all sides by fire, though neither pokemon seemed fazed by it in the slightest. Phoebe grinned; Flannery had really improved since their last match, but she had no plans on losing this battle.
As the air filled with the smell of smoke, Phoebe's hand flashed out, "Banette, Payback!"
Drawing in power, the air began to swirl around in Banette's outstretched palms. Flinging her hands wide, the swirl centered over Magcargo's head, drawing smoke and flame into the vortex. Banette's form thinned into a wisp that disappeared into the tempest, only to reappear as multiple versions that circled the terrified fire-type. One by one, the grudge copies launched themselves at Magcargo, striking swiftly before being sucked back into the vortex.
Cackling, Banette finally drew back, leaving Magcargo's head slumped from weathering the attack. But her glee was short lived, as her cackles turned into coughs, the smoke finally getting too thick for comfort.
Flannery's eyes glinted with a knowing light; Magcargo could withstand the fiery conditions, and it only fed into the strength of his attacks.
"Get her while she's stunned, Flamethrower!"
Inhaling a deep breath, Magcargo's head reared back and shot a stream of flames right at Banette. Startled, the ghost type hastily fired a shadow ball into the center of the flamethrower, splitting the attack in two. The remnants of the attack scattered, lighting more small fires around the arena.
It wasn't long before a thick blanket of smoke covered nearly the entirety of the chamber. Both trainers were having difficulty breathing, even though neither they nor their pokemon wanted to concede the match. But as the flames crept up one of the walls, Phoebe gave in. Waving frantically to her sparring partner, she shouted across the room for an intermission to the battle, and the two of them to beat a hasty retreat for some fresh air.
"You don't happen to have a water-type pokemon with you, do you?" asked Phoebe between coughs as she closed the door to her chamber behind them.
"No? Why would I?" questioned Flannery, seemingly taken aback, but also still coughing a bit.
"Don't you run into this kind of problem often? Y'know, being a fire-type Leader and all that?"
"No... I mean, the Gym has the hot springs built right in. And typically my aim is a bit better," Flannery admitted with a sheepish tug of her hair.
Phoebe giggled before giving in to another round of coughs. "We should probably find someone who does then... I don't think Steven will be very happy with me if we let my chamber burn down."
"If you'd just let Magcargo land a few hits, maybe we wouldn't have this problem," Flannery said with a playful wink.
"Try telling that to Banette."
As both trainers finally were able to straighten to their full heights, no longer coughing much, a voice called from down the hallway.
"Oi, are you two the ones throwing the barbecue? Smells awesome!"
Phoebe exchanged a side-eyed glance with Flannery before she put on her best innocent tone. "Oh hey Sidney. You don't happen to have Sharpedo with you, do you?"
Sidney's gaze scrunched in confusion. "Yeah, but why do you need Sharpedo for a barbeque... oh..." His eyes widened as smoke began to pour out from the jamb of the door.
He plucked the ball off his belt and readied to throw as Phoebe reached for the door. "Steven's gonna kill you y'know."
"If I take you out for actual barbecue, you'll promise you won't tell?"
Sidney nodded as Sharpedo materialized and began to hose down the inferno. "You better hope we don't have any challengers any time soon."
"Sorry!" squeaked Flannery, but Phoebe just waved her off with a sunny smile.
"This is nothing. You should have seen Drake's chamber after Salamence had that toothache."
"Oh ho, I had almost forgotten about that!" chimed Sidney. "I take it back then, I bet Steven won't even notice."
Although once Sharpedo had doused the last of the flames, the charred, soggy state of Phoebe's chamber begged to differ.
"Okay, maybe he'll notice... But he won't be that mad. Probably. Hopefully. How about that barbecue?"
"Yeah, let's get out of here," Phoebe hastily agreed, and all three trainers left the scene of the crime.
Chapter 30: Breaking Point
Just a small note that this chapter does have some strong language and implied verbal harassment.
Prompt #30: Steven doesn't often lose his temper. When he does, it makes an impression.
Steven was taken aback by the twins currently standing in his living room. Their visit itself wasn't out of the ordinary; the young Gym Leaders dropped by his Mossdeep home often enough. What was throwing him off was their demeanor. The normally shy and reserved Tate was silently fuming while a normally bubbly and upbeat Liza was shaking with quiet sobs.
Gently ushering the pair to sit down on his sofa, Steven gestured that he'd be right back. Quickly, he ducked into the kitchen to pour two glasses of the twins' favorite berry juice, which admittedly he had grown rather fond of as well. Glasses in hand, he returned back to the living room and set them on the table before kneeling down next to where they were seated.
Liza gripped her glass tightly with both hands, staring at the liquid sloshing within. Tate looked too distraught to even think of taking a sip, so instead it sat untouched on the coffee table, slowly forming a ring of condensation.
When neither twin said a word, Steven decided he should try to gently prod to find out what had happened. They had come to him after all, something had to be amiss.
"Tate, can you tell me what's wrong?"
Slowly the boy's stare found Steven's concerned gaze, and the Champion felt a chill in the air from the intensity of Tate's expression.
"It was a challenger. At the Gym."
At this, Steven's brow knit in confusion. It wasn't like the twins to get so worked up over a battle. But he didn't dare interrupt, so he nodded for Tate to continue.
"He... after he won, we went to present the badge... and..."
Tate paused, eyes falling to where his hands were clenching and unclenching in his lap.
"He... he grabbed Liza by the arm and... and he said... things..."
Liza seemed to curl in on herself at the word, and Steven felt himself tense at her reaction. He almost didn't even want to ask, but he had to.
"Tate," he said in nearly a whisper, "What kind of things did he say?"
"He said..." a tremble crept into Tate's voice, "He said he'd do things to Liza... Terrible things..."
The haunted look on Liza's face meant Tate didn't have to say any more. A cold flood of rage swept through Steven, and it took every ounce of strength to not let the twins see his reaction, they were scared enough as it was. But he also didn't care if they could sense the fury practically pouring from his thoughts.
"This challenger, did he say where he was headed next?"
Tate shook his head in the negative, but for the first time since arriving, Liza spoke up.
The meekness in her voice cooled Steven's thoughts for the moment, and he gave the twins a reassuring, albeit thin, smile.
"I'll take care of this. For the time being, you two can stay here. Would you like it if I left one of my pokemon with you?"
Wordlessly, both twins looked to him expectantly and nodded.
"Who's your favorite?" Steven asked, knowing fully well what the answer would be.
When the simultaneous chime of "Metagross!" came, Steven allowed himself another smile before unclicking the ball of said pokemon and leaving it on the table in front of them.
"I promise I won't tell Aggron you didn't pick him. It'll be our secret."
The twins nodded again, and Liza eagerly grabbed Metagross' ball, holding it tight in her hands.
Steven smiled again as he opened his front door. "I'll be back sometime later. Help yourself to anything in the fridge, and make sure Metagross behaves, okay?"
With another nod from the twins, Steven gently closed the door shut behind him. In two strides, Skarmory was out of its ball and waiting for their destination. Steven set his jaw and turned to regard his pokemon with an expression of thinly-veiled fury.
"Sootopolis, if you please, Skarmory."
There was business to be taken care of.
Wallace was on high alert as the door to his office closed behind them. The Champion had stormed into his Gym, met Wallace's gaze from across the chamber, and without breaking stride, jabbed a finger toward the office. Wallace knew what it meant; Steven wanted a word, and he wanted it now. He wasn't going to argue with his friend when he was silently seething like this, so trying to act casual, Wallace sat at the edge of his desk and looked to Steven for an explanation he knew was coming.
Producing his PokeNav from his pocket, Steven queued an image up and flipped the screen toward Wallace.
"Has anyone by this name come through here yet?"
Wallace peered at the name on the screen and shook his head. "No, not yet. Why do you -"
"They threatened to hurt Liza." Steven paused, but his icy gaze never faltered. "Wallace. When they do turn up, I need you to do something for me."
Wide eyed, Wallace nodded.
"I need you to crush him. Utterly humiliate him. I want him to slink out of your Gym with his tail between his legs. And when does leave, I want you to message me immediately."
Whatever desire Wallace had to protest was quickly squashed under the finality in Steven's tone. Eyes flashing, The Champion turned and opened the door.
"When this is over, we'll never speak of it again. Understood?"
Wallace nodded once more, and Steven stormed out of the room.
Thankfully, Steven only had to wait for another hour before the trainer turned up. He hovered at the entrance to the Gym, careful to stay out of view, only sparing a glance at the trainer has he brushed by so that he'd remember the man's face for later. Anger surged forth again when he caught the trainer's cocky expression. But before he did something stupid to blow his cover, Steven silently slipped out of the Gym and waited outside for Wallace's message.
A half hour later, Steven's PokeNav buzzed.
'He's leaving now'
Pocketing the device, Steven leaned against the exterior wall beside the Gym doors. He took a deep breath to calm his tumbling emotions. He had been carefully rehearsing what he'd say, but as soon as the doors slid open and the familiar face stepped out now sporting a thoroughly dejected look, whatever strategy Steven had been planning went out the window. He surged forward and snatched the trainer by his collar. Startled, the trainer let out a shout of surprise as his back was roughly slammed into the stucco wall.
"What the - hey, man, what gives?!"
"Shut up," Steven nearly snarled as he leaned into the trainer's face. "I know what you did to my Gym Leader. How dare you lay a hand on her."
"Whoa wait, I didn't hit nobody! Wait, what do you mean your Gym Leader?"
Steven gave an empty laugh at the trainer's confusion, "It doesn't matter. Just tell me one thing. Did you have the guts to say what you said to Flannery too? How about Winona? Roxanne? Or are you such a tough guy that you only prey on children?"
Suddenly, the trainer's attitude shifted. Realizing he couldn't play innocent any more, he shoved back against Steven's grip, but the Champion was too incensed to be budged.
"That bitch told on me?" the trainer practically spat back.
"'That bitch' is one of the finest Gym Leaders in the region, and she won't be intimidated by some lowlife like you."
"Huh, and who are you? Her knight in shining armor?"
"No," Steven sneered at the way the trainer was looking at him. The same way everyone looked at him when they thought he was just some rich snob who didn't know how to handle his pokemon. "I'm the Champion of the whole damn League, and if I ever hear your name come up again, I will personally see to it that your license is revoked and your pokemon are given to proper trainers who know how to treat others with respect."
With a heave, Steven spun the trainer away from the wall and deposited him on his backside in the dirt.
"Consider this your first and final warning. And for your pokemon's sake, I hope you heed my words. Now get out of my sight."
Panicked, the trainer scrabbled for a pokeball and released a Wailmer into Sootopolis' Crater Lake. Firing a nervous glance over his shoulder, the trainer scrambled aboard and together they disappeared under the surface to beat a hasty retreat.
Steven stood staring at the rippling water until the adrenaline faded from his system. Suddenly he felt so drained, and he nearly jumped when Wallace's hand came down on his shoulder.
"Think he learned his lesson?"
Shaking his head softly, Steven sighed, "I hope so Wallace, but I'm not holding my breath."
"You did what you could."
But Steven's expression clouded at what Wallace had hoped would be reassuring. "I just hope it's enough to make sure no one actually gets hurt."
"Let me just say I'm glad you didn't hurt anyone. After you told me to message you when he left the Gym, I thought for sure there'd be blood."
Steven blinked, startled, "Did you think I was going to hit the guy?"
"I mean, you basically had murder written across your face. So, I'd be lying if I said 'no'."
Nervously, Steven knitted his hands together, twisting one of his rings. "I'm sorry Wallace, I guess I got carried away."
But Wallace just shook his head, "You've got nothing to apologize for. I'm pretty sure you showed more restraint that I would have."
Steven gave him a startled look. "You would have gone after him?"
"I would have punched him right in the nose. I may be forward with my romantic endeavors, but people like him make me sick. But enough about that creep, what do you say we race back to Mossdeep? I know Skarmory won't be able to carry the both of us, and I heard there are two twins waiting there that could use the best sleepover party of their young lives tonight."
"Who told you that?"
Grinning, Wallace brought out his PokeNav and showed the picture to Steven. The twins had taken a selfie with Metagross, and the latter was covered with marker scribbles all over its steel hide.
Too drained to do much else, Steven brought a hand to his face in mock exasperation. "Well I'm glad they're feeling better at least."
"Shall we go rescue poor Metagross from its fate?"
Nodding, Steven brought out Skarmory's pokeball just as Wallace released his Gyarados.
"Just next time you get mad, a little warning would be nice. I almost forgot how scary you are when that happens."
Steven gave a sheepish smile as he tossed his pokeball, "I'll try."
Chapter 31: Snowfall
Originally written as the Christmas special of the series, hopefully posting this in the summertime will still work, given the nature of the featured region.
Prompt #31: Snowfall (Christmas Special)
Glacia sighed as she slid her traveling boots on and headed out to the cabin's small living room.
She wasn't sure how he'd done it, but Steven had somehow convinced her to join him on a visit to Fallarbor Town. Professor Cosmo had called and invited them for a short expedition to search for fallen meteorites.
The first day of their trip was uneventful, full of introductions and logistics. The tour around Fallarbor was just as dull, with everything from the houses, to the trees, to the soil being made up of the same ruddy red tones.
Except when Glacia glanced out the front window of the cabin that morning, something had changed.
Having grown up in Sinnoh, Glacia was no stranger to snow, unlike the rest of her native Hoennian Elites. The climate of the sub-tropical region meant that even at its highest elevations and coldest season, snow and ice were a foreign concept at best. Which was why when she spotted puffy white flakes tumbling down from the sky, she had to blink and rub her eyes in disbelief.
"It can't be…"
Cautiously opening the front door, she stepped out onto the porch and extended a hand out from beneath the cover of the roof.
She watched in wonder as her palm slowly filled with the light, fluffy substance. But when the flakes didn't melt and vanish from the latent heat of her fingers, her brow furrowed in confusion.
So focused on the puzzling nature of Hoenn's physics defying precipitation, she didn't notice her traveling companion had approached until he found himself unable to contain his laughter.
Glacia jumped, startled and more than a little embarrassed, and she gave Steven a sharp look of disapproval as she tried to hide her outstretched hand behind her back.
Steven simply grinned in reply, standing out in the offending flakes where they gently coated his jacket and hair.
"It's not the same thing, but I thought the ash might be an acceptable substitute."
Glacia could only hold her grumpy expression for a moment longer as Steven ran a hand through his hair, disrupting the ash that had gathered there. She smiled as she slipped her hand into the one he offered to guide her down he steps of the porch. Even though it really wasn't snow, she still coudn't help but look around in wonder as the red of Fallarbor disappaeared beneath the growing blanket of ash.
"Merry Christmas, Glacia."
Chapter 32: Spring Cleaning
Prompt #32: Its time for spring cleaning, but not everyone is feeling dutiful.
Sidney spared only a short glance toward the open office door as he hefted a box of recycling in his arms. The distinct noise, or lack thereof, caught his attention.
It was the yearly clean up day for the League, the time to get rid of all the things that collected dust for the past 365 days and make room for the new dust magnets. That also included outdated League records and files, which Glacia gleefully accepted, mumbling something about a Lampent as she took a bin of papers with her to the back.
But it seemed as if the flurry of activity around Ever Grande had skipped one particular room. Far be it for Sidney to pry, he had his own cleaning to do after all, his lingering glance at the door was not unnoticed.
Phoebe hesitated at his side, following Sidney's gaze toward the door in question.
"Looking for Steven?" she asked, nonchalant.
"Well, I might be," chimed Glacia as she stepped up to the duo, dusting her hands off against her dress's skirt. "I haven't collected any paper from him to, um, dispose of yet, and I know he's got to have piles of paperwork that we can clean up."
"That's odd..." mused Phoebe, bringing her hand up to her ear to scratch it with her feather duster's handle.
After a shared look, the group reached a silent decision. All three Elites quietly approached the open door and peeked their heads inside. What they found, they weren't quite sure what to make of.
Sitting cross legged in the middle of the room was Steven, surrounded on all sides by haphazard files overflowing with paper. He was meticulously thumbing through every sheet, brow furrowed in concentration.
A sheaf of paper took to the air as Steven jumped with a startled yelp. Watching the paper flutter down around him, the Champion rested a hand against his head in exasperation. Whether it was in embarrassment at being surprised, or the fact that now there was even more to clean up, no one could be sure.
Gathering himself quickly, Steven coughed once, but didn't bother to get up from his spot on the floor. "Ah, I'm sorry. Do you need my help with something?"
"You're throwing all that out, right?" Glacia went straight to the point.
Steven's eyes dropped to take in his handiwork. "Well, I'd be hesitant to throw everything out en mass. I though it might be best to go through these files and see what we should keep..."
"Ohhh no you don't," Phoebe was the first to move, striding forward and crumpling papers in her wake. She finally cut a path through to Steven before reaching down to grab his hands and attempted to haul him to his feet. "We're not having a repeat of last year!"
Sheepishly, Steven relented and let the ghost-type specialist lead him away from the pile.
Glacia laid a hand on Sidney's shoulder and shook her head. "It's better if you didn't know."
But Phoebe was not one for secrets. "Last year he did the same thing, except no one caught it in time, and before we knew it he'd stayed up for 36 hours straight going through every last document." She shot a disapproving look Steven's way, and he winced under her accusation.
"Ah, but it turned out okay in the end -" he tried to say, but Glacia cut him off.
"He's lucky Drake pulled off a last minute victory against the challenger that came the next day. When we opened the door to his chamber to tell him, he had fallen asleep on the platform."
Steven shrunk back even more. "It's true..." He nearly whispered the admission.
"So!" Phoebe began, "Sidney..." At this she handed Steven off to the newest Elite. "It's your job to keep him occupied while Glacia and I go through his office for him." Both women wore wicked looking smiles and Steven paled.
"W-wait!" he protested as Sidney turned and steered the both of them from the room. "Just please, don't touch my rock samples!"
"Wouldn't dream of it Steven, dear!" came Phoebe's singsong voice, and Sidney had to chuckle.
"Don't worry, Boss. If you promise to stay outta trouble, I'll go make sure your collection is safe."
Steven obediently sagged into a waiting lounge chair in the common area with a sigh. "Thank you, Sidney. I will behave."
"Hell hath no fury, am I right?" said Sidney with a wink, disappearing back down the hallway. Suddenly, Steven felt like Sidney might need some back up if he were to succeed in keeping his precious samples untouched.
Prompt #33: Sidney gets an unwelcome blast from the past.
The mood was light as the Elites scrolled through the newest batch of challengers to emerge from Victory Road. Some showed promise while Glacia huffed at others, saying there was absolutely no way they'd even get a sniff of her chamber.
Sidney had to agree as they casually flipped through the trainer information until one name popped up on the page.
"Gray Schofeld, Mauville City hmm?" muttered Glacia, "Looks like he'd do okay. Seems like he favors dark types just like you, Sidne-" she turned toward the Elite in question, but he wasn't there. "Sidney?"
A cold sweat prickling against his collar, Sidney was already down the hallway on his way to the Ever Grande Pokemon Center. He hoped his hasty retreat was well covered, since it was strictly forbidden to interact with the challengers once they'd reached the Center. He was no stranger to rule breaking in his earlier life, but after he'd fallen into this position at the League, he was determined to clean up his act. And yet here he was, back at it without a second thought, except this time there was a damned good reason.
Quietly he slipped up to the front desk, the lobby was thankfully empty, and put on his best fake smile.
"Hello Sidney, how may I help you today?" chimed the Nurse, none the wiser.
"Hey Nurse Joy, I need a favor. Could you tell me which room the trainer from Mauville City is staying in? Absol found a lost item in Victory Road, and we need to return it to its rightful owner."
"Oh!" she said with a smile, "You needn't bother yourself with that, Sidney. I can return the item for you."
Sidney backpedaled, trying to save his hastily made plan. "Ahh, it's a... rather personal item. I'd prefer to return it to them myself, y'know, just to make sure it's theirs."
The Nurse's smile faltered a bit, but quickly returned as she bought his shaky lie. "Of course, forgive me for suggesting otherwise. Let's see..." she tapped a few keys on her computer. "Looks like that trainer is in room eight. Gray Scho-"
But Sidney was already retreating back toward the rooms with a curt wave, "Thanks, Nurse Joy! You're a lifesaver!"
"O-okay, you're welcome! Have a nice day!"
Sidney's fingers drummed nervously at his belt, running a pattern up and down his pokeballs as he raised his other hand to rap quietly on the door to room number eight.
A shuffling inside the room made him jolt straight upright, and as the door clicked open, he quickly thrust a hand forward and barged his way into the room before slamming it shut behind him. The man who answered the door stumbled backwards as Sidney shoved his way in.
"Whoa, what's going on - wait, Sidney? It really is you!"
"What are you doing here, Gray?" he snapped.
Gray laughed as he sauntered over to the room's chair and lounged back against the cushion, hands behind his head. "What do you think I'm doing here? I'm here to see you, man. It's been a while."
A scowl had formed on Sidney's face. "Was kinda hoping it'd stay that way..."
"Aww, c'mon now. You can't be serious. You didn't miss me even a little bit?" Gray gave a fake pout, but his eyes were laced with something else.
"I got outta Mauville to leave that life behind, man."
The sneer that twinkled in Gray's expression melted to the rest of his face, lips upturning not unlike a Mightyena's snarl. "You oughta know better than that, Sid. You can take the punk outta Mauville, but you can't take the Mauville outta the punk."
"I'm done with your gang, Gray. I've made my own life here now."
"You ain't done with shit, Sid. You're mine. Always have been. Always will be." Gray's fingers dug into the armrests, as if he could squeeze the life out of them.
Sidney wasn't sure when he'd averted his gaze, but all of a sudden the pattern of the flooring was a lot more interesting.
"I don't know how you gave my guys the slip after you got that last badge, but you did. I almost gave up lookin' for ya too. Almost. And then what do I see? A big ol' headline of my boy walking out of the League like he's king o' the castle. This is a big step for us. We're in, big time."
"There is no 'us'!" The words ripped from Sidney's lips before he could stop himself, but he still couldn't stare Gray down. "You treated me about as well as that Poocheyna that ran away with me. And now you show up here thinkin' I owe you something. Well you're wrong." A sudden rush of courage blazed through his veins, and Sidney's eyes shot up, filled with fire. "The day I left Mauville was the day I was through with you."
"Sidney, Sidney, Sidney..." Gray tutted. "You've got it all wrong-"
"No, you're the one who has it wrong. Your gang was never my family. You didn't raise me, you didn't teach me, hell, you barely even fed me. I was just some dumb kid who thought anything had to have been better than my real family. And-" Sidney's breath hitched just for a second, and the pokeballs at his hip rocked in response. "-And now that I'm here, I know what it means to have a real family. So, I'm going to have to ask you to leave, and never come back."
"And if I don't?" the menace practically dripped from Gray's tone.
"If you don't," Sidney unclicked Mightyena's pokeball from his hip, "I'll make you leave."
Gray met Sidney's hard stare unwaveringly before bursting into laughter. "Ahahaha, what are you gonna do, attack me in my room? That's a good one."
Sidney's gaze fell before he placed Mightyena back at his belt with the others. "No..." his voice was quiet. "No, you're right."
Gray cackled again, "Aww, looks like things haven't changed after all. Little Sidney, giving up, just like you always do."
A soft exhale sounded as Sidney's hand found the doorknob. "Good luck in your League challenge, Gray." And he closed the door behind him with a soft click.
Glacia smirked as she watched the scoreboard tick down the last of Gray's pokemon. Not a single member of Sidney's team had fallen. In fact, it hadn't even been close. Turning to Steven, she gave the Champion a sly smile.
"And you're still not going to tell me where you found this kid?"
Steven shook his head with a mysterious grin, "Nope. He asked me not to share it with anyone, and if nothing else, I try to be a man of my word."
"Well, I can only hope a little bit of your influence might rub off on him."
Steven had to laugh, "He may be a bit rough around the edges, but if there was any doubt I'd have never extended the request. If I'd have known you'd be so sour after he nearly took out your whole-"
"Don't you say it!" warned Glacia.
"I wouldn't dare," said Steven with an apologetic wave. He let his gaze drift back down to the battlefield where Sidney stood triumphant with Mightyena at his side. He'd taken a gamble, inviting a rogue trainer into their midst. But he'd had a feeling back then in Victory Road... It didn't matter what led Sidney to that cave. All that mattered is what he brought with him when he stepped out of it.
AN: So this chapter is based on my own headcanon that Steven invited Sidney to become one of the Elite Four. If anyone is curious for more of this backstory, the circumstances under which they meet are covered in Chapter 7 of my other fic, The Long Road.
Chapter 34: Open Water
Prompt #34: Someone gets seasick the first time they go out on Drake's boat.
"So what's got you headed to Slateport?"
When his question was met with silence, Drake peered back toward his passenger from his place at the helm and cleared his throat.
"Hmm?" Clearly not paying attention earlier, the ice-type expert tipped her book to her chest and looked at Drake expectantly.
"I asked what yer doin' in Slateport. Y'don't leave Ever Grande much, so something special's got to be happening."
"Oh, I'm going to stop by the marketplace. There's a vendor there that specializes in goods from Sinnoh, and I wanted to restock my supplies. I'm finally beginning to run low, so I didn't want to miss her. Thank you for the ride, by the way."
Drake nodded as he growled a 'welcome', and Glacia smiled. She hadn't known the Dragon Master long, but she knew the last thing he wanted was to be seen as polite.
The engine revved to life as she took a seat on the deck, and as Drake hauled in the last of the moorings, he muttered something as he walked back to the helm.
Glacia had already buried her nose back in her book, but she knew he had said something. "Pardon?"
"I said, you might not want to do that."
"Do what, exactly?"
"And why not?" she looked mildly offended at the suggestion.
Drake pursed his lips and raised an eyebrow, "Y'haven't been on many boats, have you?"
Glacia huffed, "I've been on enough."
Both brows raised in resignation, Drake simply shrugged and tended to the wheel. "...Don't say I didn't warn ya."
As much as Drake's words sank in, Glacia was too irritated by the insinuation that she was just some clueless foreigner to pay them any mind, and as the boat left port, she settled back into her novel.
The sloping walls of Sootopolis barely had slipped over the horizon when a loud snap sounded from the deck. Drake craned his head and caught a glimpse of Glacia gently massaging her brow, book closed in her lap.
"Y'okay?" he called back to her.
"Hmm, oh yes, I'm fine. Just taking a break." She defiantly snatched the book back up and opened it again.
Drake turned back around before she could see the smile hiding beneath his mustache.
They had just passed through the slim shadow of the Sky Pillar when a groan issued from behind the captain's chair.
Drake chuckled as he plotted a clear course that would allow him to step away from the wheel. He was soon standing by Glacia's side, offering her his hand. She looked up at him as if he was handing her a Seviper, but the pallid color of her cheeks told him he was right.
"I told ya not to do that."
"Ugh, I... I'll be fine. Just..." one hand flew to clutch her chin, and Drake smiled.
"C'mon, it happens to the best of us."
Without further protest, Glacia placed her other hand in Drake's, and he gently guided her to the railing of the boat.
"Don't... don't watch," she stuttered, but Drake was having none of it. As she wobbled on her feet, he steadied her shoulders as she kneeled down at the rail. After a few minutes, it was over, although the color still hadn't returned to her face. She turned to regard the sea captain with a stony glare.
"This never leaves this boat, understand?"
She glared at him a moment longer before relenting, "I'm sorry, I should have listened. That... wasn't fun."
Drake gave an amused huff, "Don't have to apologize to me. Sure didn't hurt my feelings."
The sour look returned, but Drake ignored it. He offered his hand again, and helped Glacia back to her seat.
"I'll get y'something when we get to Slateport. But for now, how about y'leave that book alone?"
Nodding, Glacia sighed, "I guess the scenery is pretty nice."
Dejectedly, Glacia leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes.
"The Champ puked three times the first time we went through the Pacifidlog currents."
"What?" Glacia rolled her head to look at Drake, surprised.
"So yer doin' fine."
"Why would you tell me that? What about sailor's honor?"
But Drake just shrugged. "Steven never asked 'bout that."
Glacia managed a weak laugh. "Just... be gentle please."
"Already plotted a course 'round the nastiest ones," his eyes twinkled beneath his cap. "Can't have anyone settin' a new record just yet."
"It's very much appreciated," said Glacia with a smile. Perhaps the surly sea captain wasn't so surly after all.
Chapter 35: Same Trainer, New Look
Prompt #35: Steven needs a new suit. Wallace is only too happy to help.
"So Steven, I was thinking..."
"Were you now." Steven didn't bother trying to turn around to regard his friend while the tailor was taking the next measurement.
Wallace ignored him and kept going, "What if you were to try something different? More flashy."
"Well why not? You're the Champion, you need to reinvent yourself every so often, lest the people get bored."
"Bored?" This time Steven did find Wallace's gaze with a look of incredulity of his own.
"Yes, bored!" Wallace was unfazed as the tailor motioned for Steven to turn back around. "You're in the eye of the public constantly. What would they say if you were seen wearing the same old look day in and day out?"
"I do wear the same thing..."
"But it's what you told me to wear in the first place!"
"All the more reason to continue to listen to your official League stylist then."
Steven sighed as the tailor moved his arm to a new position, still dutifully working with his tape measure. "I am listening to you, I'm getting remeasured."
"That's only a matter of cut, Steven. What I'm talking about now is a matter of style. Fashion is always changing, and as the face of the region, people will be looking to you to lead the way!"
"I'm not wearing a cape," Steven grumbled.
"Heavens no! Capes are fringe fashion at best. Yours truly's not withstanding."
"What did you have in mind then," Steven's voice was defeated as the tailor tugged and pinned some of the fabric of his jacket.
Wallace instantly cheered up, "I'm so glad you asked!" And as soon as the tailor's tools were laid back on the table, he grabbed the man's hand and whisked away with him to the back room, leaving Steven standing alone in the fitting area.
When Wallace reemerged looking rather pleased with himself, Steven raised a finger to inquire about what sort of stylistic choices were made behind his back, but Wallace waved a hand and winked, "You'll see soon enough."
Shooting a disgruntled look at his friend's retreating back, Steven gave his thanks to the tailor and left with an appointment to pick up his suit in two weeks' time.
Steven was fairly sure he would be able to manage the feat of picking up a new suit on his own, but Wallace was insistent that he tag along. Steven wasn't sure if that gave him more or less confidence in what he was going to uncover once they arrived at the tailor.
"Ah, welcome back Mr. Stone, your suit is ready."
Steven gave a lopsided grin, "Please, Mr. Stone is -"
"Yes yes, 'Mr. Stone is my father', let's go see it shall we?" Wallace was quick to cut his friend off and drag him toward the back of the shop where the tailor waved them.
Frowning at his friend's rudeness, Steven followed the two men into the back room where the garment awaited. Wallace was practically beaming as Steven stepped through the door and spied their joint handiwork.
"That's... tamer than I was expecting, actually."
Neatly hanging from the lone stand at the center of the room was a pristine suit of charcoal black. The fabric had a soft sheen to it that seemed to soothe the crisp lines of the slim cut jacket. The sleeves bore a subtle purple hue that climbed nearly to the shoulder seam. Complementing deep violet lines hugged the side of the jacket before plunging behind the pockets on either side. As the tailor deftly swept the jacket from its perch, the matching light violet pinstripe vest peeked out from underneath, compete with delicate silver clasps that matched the shining embellishments at the end of the jacket cuffs.
"I'll take that as a compliment," said Wallace with a grin.
"You had me worried after you unveiled your latest Contest attire," Steven said as he slipped into the new jacket, giving a gentle tug to the comfortably weighted cuffs.
"Contest attire? Oh no, Steven. That outfit is part of my day to day rotation."
Steven froze mid-button. "You're joking..."
"I would never joke about fashion. You know that." Wallace looked hurt.
Steven gave a wary look toward the tailor who just shrugged. "Well, I appreciate you showing restraint for my new suit. I quite like the look of it."
"You're very welcome, my friend." Wallace bowed, "I'll let you two go through the final fitting then." And with that, he ducked from the room.
Steven sighed as he walked up to the mirror to regard his new look. "I appreciate you reeling Wallace in. He can be quite the handful when he gets to work on fashion."
But the tailor just shook his head. "I didn't have to do much. Leader Wallace has a great eye when it comes to style."
"Huh," Steven mused as he turned, admiring the rich materials and meticulous handiwork. "I just might have to stop caving in this if that's the case."
"Ah, it's nothing!" Steven quickly backpedaled, not wanting to offend the tailor with just how much abuse his formal attire had to put up with. "Just a figure of speech."
The tailor gave him an uncertain glance and began to inspect the final fitting. "Perhaps it's all the better that Wallace suggested our most durable fabric."
"Ahh, the Delcatty's out of the bag then, I guess?" Steven gave a nervous laugh.
"If you should ever need repairs, please don't hesitate to bring the suit back, I will be happy to mend it for you."
"Thank you very much. I'll take good care of it. I'm pretty sure Wallace would kill me if I did anything less."
The tailor simply nodded sagely as he made a few notes on his pad, and Steven made a mental note to thank Wallace for all his help. And for not putting him in a seafoam green cape.
Chapter 36: Comfort Food
Prompt #36: Sometimes, you just need some really unhealthy comfort food.
Glacia sat stiffly in the chair in the kitchen of Phoebe's childhood home. It wasn't that she was uncomfortable; the house was incredibly inviting and more homely than she thought possible for a dwelling on the slopes of Mt. Pyre. But even with welcoming chatter all around, Glacia still felt as if she was intruding somehow.
She knew it wasn't the case. Phoebe had been the one to invite her over for the League's short recess. Short enough that there wasn't time to make the trip back to Sinnoh, but long enough that the younger Elite felt it was important for Glacia to get out of the empty halls of Ever Grande for a spell.
"So, dear, how long have you been in Hoenn?"
It took Glacia a second to realize Phoebe's grandmother had asked her a question. The elderly woman was happily preparing the evening's meal at the nearby counter.
"Oh, um, about five years now."
"My, that's quite a while. Do you get much time to go back to see your family?"
A small frown flitted across Glacia's face. "Not as much as I would like."
"Mm," Phoebe's grandmother sagely nodded as she began kneading the dough of whatever dish she was currently working on. "Well, I know it won't be a true substitute, but hopefully we can be your home away from home, if you'd like."
Glacia felt a bit of heat rise in her cheeks at the woman's sincere smile. She hadn't really thought about feeling homesick. Her mother would chide her if she outright admitted to it. Sinnohan women were strong and able to stand on their own two feet. But admittedly, she was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the warmth of the kitchen and the sound of the matronly voices, and the smells of the food...
She quickly rose and excused herself. She needed to get some fresh air, lest her composure crack in such an inconvenient place.
Phoebe watched Glacia leave the kitchen with a worried expression, but her grandmother just chuckled and began to heat a pan on the stove. "She'll be fine, leilani. Your mother was just as proud when it came to her independence. Independent or not though, there's one thing no one can resist..."
Wide-eyed, Phoebe realized what her grandmother's cryptic words referred to, and the older woman gave a sly smile.
As Glacia stepped back into the house, she was met with the smell and sound of crackling oil wafting through the air. She poked her head cautiously into the kitchen just as Phoebe's grandmother was lifting the last batch of fried dough from the pot. Golden brown and puffy, the dough bites glistened with hot oil before they were patted dry and dusted with powdered sugar.
Phoebe giggled at how Glacia was unable to tear her eyes away from the sugary treat. "These were always my favorite growing up. Grandma's zeppoli are the best."
Glacia watched as the plate moved from stove to table, and the memories flooded back, unbidden. Except this time they were filled with warm fondness of cozy winter mornings gathered around the table, digging into her own mother's donuts, the familiar smell, the sweet taste of the icings, the sticky fingers that reached for another when her back was turned.
Her smile melted through, and Phoebe's grandmother returned it knowingly, offering her the plate.
Daintily picking one of the warm treats and bringing it to her lips, Glacia's eyes closed as she took a bite.
"It... it tastes just like home."
Chapter 37: Valentine's Day Mail
Prompt #37: Valentine's Day is much less fun when you're famous.
"Oh come on, Steven, it's all in good fun."
"Wallace," Steven regarded his friend from over the top of a pile of pink envelopes, "You know exactly why I don't like Luvdisc's Day."
"Because you don't like getting mail from your adoring fans?" said Wallace as he popped another piece of chocolate in his mouth.
Steven sighed and shook his head, "That's not it and you know it."
Wallace snapped the box of sweets shut. "You should be enjoying this day so I can live vicariously through you."
"Live vicariously? Wallace, you get hundreds of letters like this all the time!"
"I know," the Master Coordinator whined, "That prevents today from feeling as special as it ought to."
Steven just rolled his eyes. "Stop being ridiculous and help me clean this mess up."
"Fine," Wallace sighed as he picked an envelope off the pile. "But you don't see anyone else complaining about it. Phoebe was skipping down the hall earlier practically glowing with excitement."
But Steven had given up arguing with the water-type trainer, and simply began dumping the letters into a bin. He only paused when the sound of ripping paper filled the air.
"What are you doing?"
"Well if you're not going to read them, then someone has to."
"Think of the poor soul who wrote this letter to you. They could be sitting at home right this very moment, wondering if their words would ever reach the Champion's eyes!" The melodrama of Wallace's story was sickening, and Steven gave him a flat look before snatching the letter from his hands.
"You're not going to read my mail."
Wallace pouted at the snub. "Steven, you heartbreaker! And on Luvdisc's Day no less!"
"Don't you have fan mail of your own to be reading?"
"I do, but you always seem to get the better chocolates," grumbled Wallace as he reached for the box again.
Steven ignored him as the last of the letters found their way into the bin. He hefted the whole thing and began to head for the door.
"Wait, where are you going?"
"Outside. Skarmory needs plenty of space to spread out his wings."
Wallace's eyes widened with a gasp, "Steven Stone, you are not going to let Skarmory shred your Luvdisc's Day mail!"
"Who's going to stop me?"
And that's how Steven found himself stuck at his desk on St. Luvdisc's Day, sifting through a pile of pink envelopes under the watchful eye of a very angry Milotic.
Chapter 38: Primetime TV
Prompt #38: It's the grand finale of Phoebe's favorite ever TV show.
Phoebe's foot tapped nervously on the deck of Drake's boat as she leaned over the railing at the bow, as if she could get the boat to go faster with the force of sheer willpower. Rather than affecting the boat, her anxiousness was easily picked up by the ship's captain, and he poked his head out of the cabin.
"What's got you all wound up today, lass?
Phoebe jumped at the sound of his shout over the wind, and she quickly composed herself before answering, "Oh, I just have a lot to do when we get back to Ever Grande, that's all."
The casual flutter of her hand didn't really work on Drake, he simply quirked an inquisitive brow but decided to not press the issue any further.
"We're nearly there. 'Bout another half hour," he replied before ducking back into the cabin and out of the wind.
After a quick glance at her PokeNav, Phoebe seemed to deflate against the railing. She didn't really have any work to be doing once they got back. It was just that tonight was the last episode ever of 'Lovers in Lilycove' and she wasn't going to miss it for the world. Drake didn't need to know that though...
By the time they arrived in Ever Grande, Phoebe was practically hopping up and down on the deck waiting to disembark. As Drake eased them slowly into the dock, she'd had enough.
"Let's go, Dusknoir!"
In a flash, her pokemon was out and she was clambering onto one of its upturned palms.
"We gotta hurry!"
At his trainer's urging, Dusknoir swiftly carried the two of them from the dock as fast as it could float. Drake looked up from his moorings just in time to see a shadow slide up the staircase leading to the League.
As Dusknoir swept down the hallways toward her quarters, Phoebe checked her PokeNav again for the time.
"Oh man, we're so close."
They had already nearly run over Glacia who sputtered and fussed over the stack of papers that scattered as they rushed by. So this time it was sheer luck that Dusknoir managed to pivot out of the way just in time to avoid a collision with Sidney as they rounded the corner.
"Whoa there, sis, slow down!"
"Sorry Sid, talk later, it's about to start!"
"What now? What's starting?"
But Phoebe was already whizzing past and her shout of "I'll tell you later!" left Sidney looking on in puzzlement.
"...What could possibly be starting now? It's 7 at night on a Tuesday -" He froze as the realization set in. "Oh, this is too perfect."
He heard the door slam to Phoebe's room, and a grin spread across his face. In that moment Glacia huffed noisily as she stomped up behind him carrying a disheveled lump of paper under one arm.
"I swear that girl better have a damn good reason for running through the halls like that. Look at this paperwork!"
Sidney turned to her with a sly smile, "Want to get back at her?"
Glacia looked at him, suspicious, but not turned off to the idea, "What did you have in mind?"
"Meet me back here in an hour. Don't be late."
The final scene faded to black, and Phoebe drew the last tissue from its box. The finale had proven to be a roller coaster of emotion, and she hadn't been able to hold back the tears. Just as she crumpled the tissue and tossed it into the trash, a knock sounded at the door. Sniffling a giddy hiccup, she rose and headed to answer it, trying to compose herself. She'd never live it down if the rest of the Elites knew about her favorite show...
Sliding the door open, she was greeted with a flash and the snap of a camera shutter.
Eyes wide and blinking, Phoebe froze as she saw Sidney and Glacia peering over he shoulder at the closing titlecard that was scrolling by on the screen.
"Did you get it?" asked Glacia, ignoring Phoebe's stuttered protests.
"Oh yeah, it's right there in the background," said Sidney with a grin, before turning his attention to the stunned ghost-type trainer with tear streaked cheeks. "Just remember this moment the next time you want to bring up that sunburn picture."
And both Elites beat a hasty retreat down the hallway, blackmail safely in hand.
Chapter 39: Migraine
Prompt #39: Migraines are evil.
Steven squinted at the meeting agenda he held in his hand and wondered why it suddenly was so hard to make out the words. Concentrating on the blurry mess in front of him, he was vaguely aware that at some point his hand had balled tightly around the paper, and he quickly released his grip and smoothed the crinkled document flat against the tabletop.
"Uh, boss, you okay?"
His gaze shot up, embarrassed at his lapse, but he immediately regretted the action, the room beginning to lilt unsettlingly to the side. A hand flew up to brush at his temple with a wince.
"Ah, I'm terribly sorry everyone. Would you mind if we adjourned this meeting until tomorrow?"
A nervous shuffling of papers echoed through the room, and the scraping of a chair against the hardwood felt like someone had taken a rock pick to the backside of his eyeballs.
"Sure thing, boss... You don't look so good - ow!"
Phoebe hissed something inaudible as the group shuffled toward the door.
"I'll be fine. Thank you everyone, we'll see you tomorrow." Steven weakly waved them out.
As his hand pressed down over his eyes, he missed a lingering glance from Glacia as she hovered in the doorway, concern etched on her face. When Steven didn't move, she waited only a moment longer before silently drifting from the room.
Steven waited for the wave of nausea to pass before he dared open his eyes again. Rising from his own chair caused the room to spin once more, and he had to slam a palm flat to the table to steady himself. The resulting clatter as his chair skittered backward sent starbursts dancing across his vision. He'd never experienced an onset as fierce as this. He had to get out of there.
One hand clamped to the side of his face, he lurched for the door. The frame had somehow twisted itself clockwise, and he was left staggered as his shoulder made solid contact against the jamb. Stumbling into the opposite wall, his fingers snaked up to his scalp where they dug in, fighting back against the invisible ones trying to claw their way out of his skull. A shaking hand plucked one pokeball from his hip.
"Skarmory... Home... Now..."
Its trainer's weak voice sent alarm bells ringing, and Skarmory made good on his command, gently scooping the dazed Champion onto its back and beating a hasty retreat back to Mossdeep.
It had been over an hour since Glacia last saw Steven at the meeting, and when he hadn't turned up in his League office, or the study, or the infirmary, or even the rooftop, she began to grow worried. It wasn't her business to pry into their leader's health, but at the same time she felt obligated to check up on him. It was the least she could do given how far she knew he would go for one of them in the same circumstance.
Drake had been more than happy to lend her transport, although Altaria was slightly on edge given Glacia's preference for ice types. With extra reassurance that no frost would touch her cloudy wings, Glacia perched atop the dragon and set out for the only place she hadn't looked for the Champion.
She had only been to Steven's house once before, and thankfully her memory served her well as Altaria touched down on the secluded cliff side on the outskirts of Mossdeep. When she reached the door, Glacia frowned as she saw that all of the window shades had been drawn tight. Suspicions confirmed, she was hesitant to knock and instead tried the handle. Amazingly it was open, and she ushered Altaria inside with a finger to her lips.
The interior was shrouded in dusk, and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust from the sunlight outside. Altaria cooed a quiet tone of worry, but Glacia gave the dragon a reassuring look. This was expected. What wasn't expected was the low rumble that came from the back hallway. Two red eyes rimmed with a faint psychic hue peered through the twilight at the uninvited guests, softening in recognition.
Glacia swept forward and greeted Metagross with a gentle hand to its brow. The steel type hummed beneath her touch and turned its gaze toward the room it had been standing guard in front of. The door was ajar, and both Glacia and Altaria slipped inside at Metagross' urging.
Standing just inside the doorway, Glacia hesitated at the unspoken threshold of privacy she had just crossed. But when Metagross' unwavering gaze flicked back to her own, she realized she had already been granted permission; if it hadn't wanted her here, it would have been a simple matter to remove her from the house. Altaria ruffled her feathers nervously as both pokemon looked toward the figure curled up on the bed.
The room was just as dark as the rest of the house, but it didn't take much light to see a shock of silver hair intermingled with the messy sheets. Glacia approached the bedside, cautiously stepping over the blazer and cravat that had been haphazardly discarded on the floor. Steven lay on his side with his knees drawn tight to his chest. His shoulders shook with tension at every breath and even in the dim room she could see how white his knuckles were as he grasped at the fabric of his disheveled shirt. Every so often he would shift and squirm, one hand releasing its death grip on his arm and reaching up to tug on a lock of hair.
Glacia shivered as she took in the Champion's sorry state. She was no stranger to the feeling of having such a beast inside your head, trying to force its way out. There would be only minimal relief until the episode passed. At least she knew she could try to make him as comfortable as possible until then.
Beckoning Altaria near, she whispered, "My dear, can you sing our Champion a lullaby, quietly if you please?"
Eyes shimmering with sympathy, Altaria nodded. She waited until Glacia had slipped out the door before beginning her soft song.
Brushing past where Metagross was waiting in the hall, Glacia withdrew a small bottle from her pocket. Tapping two pills into her palm she recapped the bottle before placing the pills on the bathroom counter.
"When he stirs, have him take these," she directed the watchful pokemon, "I know you're doing your best, but the pills will help."
Metagross hummed in understanding before delivering another soothing pulse of psychic energy to its trainer.
Glacia smiled. She could only imagine how much better her migraines would have been if she had a psychic type pokemon by her side as well.
Satisfied she had done all she could, Glacia slipped a book out from her travel cloak and settled into the lounge chair in Steven's living room. She would wait it out, if only for the fact that when Steven was finally released from the demon's hold, he wouldn't be waking up alone. It was what her mother had done for her all those years ago, and Glacia knew it would make all the difference.
Chapter 40: The Pied Piper of Sootopolis
Prompt #40: Someone makes the mistake of doing their laundry while half asleep
Juan's eyebrow quirked as his mentee stepped through the doors of the Sootopolis Gym. Although, it wasn't fair to simply call him that. He had worked hard in his own right, becoming a Master Coordinator as well as a Gym Leader, and now he sat atop the Pokemon League as its Champion.
But today, Wallace wasn't exactly looking the part, although Juan wouldn't dare say so, not with Wallace looking determined as he strode through the doors. There had to be a good reason for Wallace to come see him all the way from Ever Grande, so instead of speaking the question that sat on the tip of his tongue, the recently un-retired Sootopolis Gym Leader simply waited as his star pupil gracefully crossed the Gym and headed his way.
Except it appeared to be more easily said than done. As Wallace stepped past the pools where the Gym's trainers were instructing their pokemon, he began to cause quite a stir. Gorebyss, Luvdisc, and Corsola quickly began to flock toward the water-type specialist, and to Juan's surprise, Wallace frowned at the attention he was attracting and quickened his pace.
Wallace spoke up once he was within earshot, "Master Juan, may I have a word with you in private?"
Juan eyed the growing menagerie that was trailing behind his former student and hastily nodded, beckoning Wallace to follow him into his office.
Shutting the door, Juan noted Wallace's nervous expression and as Juan settled into the chair behind his desk, Wallace began to nervously pace the space in front of it.
This time Juan chose to speak up first. "Where did you pick up that unsightly habit?"
Wallace paced another two steps before realizing what he was doing, and he froze in place sheepishly. "Ah, I'm sorry Master. I think I've been hanging around Steven for too long. His bad habits are starting to rub off on me when I get flustered."
Juan simply shook his head with a small smile. "Now what exactly has such an unflappable Coordinator such as yourself flustered?"
Wallace's expression fell, and he found himself staring at the ground in concentration as he recounted his troubles. "Well, it only started this morning, but I've been noticing the most odd pokemon behavior, and I've been wracking my brain all day to try to figure out why it's been happening."
"What exactly have you noticed?" Juan prodded gently, although he had a faint inkling of where this was headed...
"You see, I've always been a magnetic personality for water types. My team practically adores me, as do many of the water types I happen to meet in my travels. And yet for some reason today, I seem to be a little too magnetic..."
"Care to elaborate?"
"I mean, you saw it for yourself. The pokemon were following me. Not just following though, gathering around as if my pockets were full of treats!"
"Why on my way here I had to duck out of the way of a school of Luvdisc that were practically leaping into my lap!"
"As I surfed my way here, there was practically a trail of pokemon behind me, Master! For the life of me, I can't figure out why this could be happening!"
"Wallace, I may have a solution to your conundrum."
"You... you do?"
Juan nodded as he rummaged around in his desk drawer.
"By any chance, have you happened to glance in a mirror today?"
His Master's seemingly unrelated question caught the Champion by surprise.
"In the morning when I woke up, but not since then. What's that got to do with -"
But his protests were cut off as a mirror was thrust into his hands, and Wallace stared hard at his own reflection. "Master, this isn't making any sense, I don't look any different than I normally -"
His voice trailed off as Juan tilted the mirror down in his hands, revealing the clothing that peeked out from beneath the white Champion's cloak.
Wallace used his free hand to brush back the edges of the cloak, revealing an outfit of pink from head to toe. Somehow his normally pristine white attire had turned a ghastly shade of rosé.
"How did this...? Is this why...? Oh no..."
Juan gave a sympathetic smile as he took the mirror back and tucked it away in his desk. "You didn't happen to have anything red in your laundry basket, did you?"
"No, I mean the only thing I own that's red is the new contest outfit I'd been rehearsing in, but I don't remember washing... it... Oh dear..."
The memory came rushing back, how he'd been feeling lazy a few nights ago and simply reached into the dirty clothes pile without looking or even bothering to turn on the lights.
The sound of rustling fabric snapped Wallace from his daze, and he stared at the set of clothes Juan held out to him.
"Rule number five of a Contest Master: Always have a spare. Just don't wash these ones the same way, please."
Wallace nodded fervently and hurried off to change, wary of the flock of pokemon that still waited for him outside the office doors.
Chapter 41: Dethroned
Prompt #41: A lot of people expected to Drake to resent Steven for becoming Champion.
In the immediate aftermath of the Championship match, the interviews were coming hot and heavy. Drake could barely set foot outside without being accosted by some kind of reporter or news camera.
"Drake, what's it like to be a former Champion?"
"How does it feel to be bested by someone under half your age?"
"With Lance still the reigning Champion in Johto, you're the first Dragon Master to fall from the Championship position, what does it mean for the future generation of Dragon type trainers of Hoenn?"
"Now that you no longer hold the title, have you thought about retirement at all?"
"Your supporters are calling this loss a fluke. Are there any thoughts of a potential rematch in the future?"
You name it, Drake had heard it. And it was odd. For all of the constant prodding, not once did anyone stop to ask him if maybe losing was actually a good thing. Not one person thought to see if maybe part of being a Champion is knowing how to step down with grace. Not that Drake had ever considered himself to be a graceful person, but he was at least tactful enough to have enjoyed a comfortable reign atop the Hoenn League. No, he wasn't bitter, or disappointed, or past his prime. Well, maybe that third one, but he'd be the last person to actually admit it aloud. No, he decided, losing to the upstart Stone was probably the best thing that could have happened.
Pokemon training belonged to the young. He'd slowly watched the average age of the Elite begin to drop, and yet the talent never fell with it. New faces, new strategies, new fans; they all kept the region's dreams alive and burning, spurring the newest generations of trainers to pick their starters and strike forth into the world. It was his task to weed out all but the best of the best, and then pass the torch onto them with as much knowledge as he could impart.
It was kind of ironic, watching someone hoist such responsibility onto their young shoulders without knowing exactly how much the burden could weigh. Yet, at the same time, he'd barely felt a thing when he wrested the title free in his own two hands those many years ago. And with one handshake and an approving look at the eager young trainer, the weight had been lifted from him for one final time. Frankly, it was a relief.
But, he wouldn't just drop the burden and leave. Oh no, as cold-hearted as his battle persona was, Drake was no bastard. He may have been the saltiest of sailors back in his young and stupid days, but time had taught him well, and many times the hard way: the failings of a subordinate ultimately stem from the failings of their superior. He would not let the League fall into disarray at the hands of someone inexperienced, and he had no doubt that those hands were not really as inexperienced as they may have looked.
It was funny, he hadn't even made the connection until after the match concluded. The same determined gaze he'd known from his friend's brief time at sea. But for all the fierceness it held during battle, it melted away in an instant, almost too eager to please and more inquisitive than anyone had a right to be. If anyone could do the region proud, it would be Joseph's kid. Besides, he had a heck of an impressive team to boot. It wasn't often that a pokemon could stand up to his dragons in terms of sheer power... The kid would be fine.
Drake huffed as he silently pushed his way through the throng of journalists that stood between him and his ship. The papers might see it as shirking his post-Championship duties. The disgraced former Champ all too eager to run and hide from the public eye. Except, he wasn't running. Oh no, Dragon Masters run from nothing. It was just so damned noisy... Damned Vullaby, those reporters. And yet this was a small throng. For the number of newscasters that wanted to talk to the ex-Champion, he could only imagine how many more demanded an audience of the current one.
Thanking his lucky stars that social media wasn't really a thing back in his heyday, he clambered aboard his vessel and fired up the engine as camera shutters clicked left and right. He had to stifle a chuckle at how much worse that wide eyed kid from Rustboro must be having it right now. Gods, if the paper caught a picture of him smiling, that would truly be the end of things. Nah, Steven would be just fine.
Chapter 42: An Acquired Taste
Prompt #42: To be fair, Sidney wasn't really sure what he was ordering off the menu...
As soon as the steaming plate landed in front of him, Sidney started to sweat. The bowl of what undoubtedly had to be inedible made him want to squirm in his seat. Except that he was determined to be polite in his present company, and he returned Phoebe's beaming grin with a shaky smile of his own.
"...Looks... good..." he grated out as he watched the way the spoon slowly sank into the purple goo, and he felt his eyebrow twitch.
Mercifully, Phoebe hadn't noticed his thinly veiled disgust as she already had began to tuck into her own dish; 'poke', if he remembered correctly. The description hadn't sounded great at the time, but as he eyed the colorful cubes of raw fish and herbs in Phoebe's bowl, he suddenly became very jealous.
Sidney gave a listless poke at the slabs of what he assumed to be meat resting on a plate off to the side of his own bowl. It wasn't springy or tender in the slightest, and the nagging thought that perhaps this was all an elaborate prank wormed its way up in the back of his mind. But this was Phoebe's idea, and she said she had loved the food, and she was nearly done with her own plate, so there's no way it was all a prank... right?
He had just mustered the courage to scoop up a spoonful of the purple-gray gunk, silently thankful that it was so goopy it wouldn't slosh from the spoon in his rattling grip, when Phoebe suddenly leaned over to his side of the table with her chopsticks and plucked a slice of meat from his dish.
"I gotta have a piece of this before it gets cold. I love pipikaula!"
With a deft flick of her wrist, she dunked the pipi-whatever-it's-called in the purple gunk and popped it in her mouth. Still chewing, she talked around her mouthful.
"C'mon, you have to at least try the poi. It's a staple dish here!"
At Phoebe's urging, the spoon resumed its trek towards his mouth, slowly, so slowly... He couldn't chicken out now, not when he'd told her he was a casual fan of Alolan cuisine. It was a bald-faced lie, but he had really wanted to impress her... But it was just so slimy...
In a sudden burst of bravado, Sidney took the plunge, and shoved the spoon straight in.
This time, he did shiver, caught completely off guard by the poi's texture, even though he knew it was going to feel exactly how it looked. He sloshed the mixture around with his tongue, there was no way he could consider it "chewing", and felt his nose scrunch as the tangy, starchy sourness of the taro coated his tastebuds. With a concerted effort, he finally swallowed the stuff, and it took every ounce of willpower not to instantly dive for his glass of water.
Phoebe, who had been watching him with interest, suddenly burst into laughter. Chopsticks discarded, she wiped a tear from her eye.
"Sorry, Sid, your face was priceless!"
Too shocked to do much else, Sidney huffed and crossed his arms, but not before sliding the bowl of poi over to Phoebe's side of the table with a scowl.
Still giggling, Phoebe scooped up the bowl and began to eat it herself.
"I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you, I promise. I just had to see your reaction," she dipped another piece of the pipikaula in, "It's definitely an acquired taste. Although I can promise the luau roast will be more to your liking."
Slowly, Sidney nodded, recalling the delicious smells wafting from the resort's fire pit earlier that day. He still might not know how to pronounce it, but anything sounded better than the stuff he just ordered in an effort to impress Phoebe.
"Just, next time you invite me out for traditional Alolan food, warn me before I pick the weirdest things on the menu."
Phoebe simply giggled and finished off the last bit from Sidney's plate.
Chapter 43: Hell or High Water
Prompt #43: After much poking and prodding, someone agrees to try something well outside their comfort zone...
Standing on the deck of Drake's boat, Steven suddenly felt very, very naked. Not that he actually was naked, but the pair of swim trunks he was currently wearing covered a lot less of him than he was accustomed to. Unconsciously, he started to look around for a way out of the predicament, but Wallace was quick to spot his friend's desire for an escape route, and swiftly intervened.
"Steven, You can't back out now. Look, you're already ninety percent of the way there!"
Following the sweep of his friend's arm, Steven suppressed a shiver as he contemplated the way the water lapped at the boat's hull mere inches below his bare feet. Never in all his time on this earth could he recall a pleasant encounter with seawater, let alone one where he voluntarily offered to jump in.
The crystal clear waters certainly were a far cry from the dull, choppy waves he was used to avoiding. And even Wallace's earlier attempts at getting Steven to join him in the water off the shore of sandy beaches or tide pools deeper than mid-calf came up empty.
For all of Wallace's cheerleading about the merits and beauty of the ocean, his words fell flat, drowned out by the sensation of rushing, churning waves roaring over him and sweeping him under. Choking, suffocating, gasping...
"No, no. I can't do it." Steven brushed Wallace away a bit too forcefully and retreated from the railing of the boat, wrapping one arm around the other to ward off the memories threatening to resurface.
"Steven…" Wallace started, but stopped at the strangely haunted expression that flitted across his friend's face.
Shaking his head, Steven remained firm, a defensive edge creeping up in his tone. "No, it's quite alright."
"It'll be fine. I'll be right here the whole time. And Victoria, too."
The Milotic in question crooned softly from where she sat coiled on the deck. She and her trainer had already gone for a swim, but even their display of prowess in the water was not enough to convince Steven to join them himself.
He simply would not budge; the ocean was not for him.
But Wallace could be just as stubborn, and the water-type Leader was not ready to give up on his friend.
"Just try. Just this once. You won't regret it, I promise!"
"And how can you promise that?"
"Because nothing is going to go catastrophically wrong and you may end up enjoying yourself. Imagine that!"
"I enjoy myself plenty when I'm clothed, dry, and have both feet on solid ground."
"Well what about flying? You can't tell me you hate every second when you're on Skarmory or Metagross's back? You're not on solid ground then, and it's just as if not more dangerous than swimming!"
"I trust my pokemon."
"And you don't trust mine?!"
Victoria trilled a note of offense.
"I don't trust myself, Wallace!"
Their shouting match ended as Wallace blinked in surprise.
"You don't know how to swim."
It wasn't a question, and therefore Steven didn't feel obligated to provide an answer. Instead he settled for giving Wallace a guarded look that did all the talking for him.
"All this time I just assumed you didn't like it."
"I don't like it."
"Yes, but I thought surely you knew how."
"Well, if I go under, I can probably at least get back up. That counts, I'm sure."
Wallace hummed a non-committal tone, and Steven gave up.
"Okay, fine. I don't know how to swim. Now will you stop trying to get me to jump in the ocean?"
But the thoughtful expression on Wallace's face told Steven that he wouldn't.
"What if I teach you?"
"What if I teach you how to swim? Once you learn the basics, will you come swimming with me then?"
"Why are you so insistent on this?"
"Because you're my friend."
"You're my friend too, and after you told me once you don't like to go caving, I haven't asked you since."
"I already tried that argument."
Steven thought he might have lightened the mood with the sarcastic quip, but Wallace remained dead silent, staring hard at him with more intensity than he'd seen from the Master Coordinator in quite some time.
"Because, Steven, if something happened to you that could have been prevented with the simple knowledge of how to save yourself when in deep water, I'd never forgive myself."
The deck fell silent save for the lapping of the waves and the Wingull wheeling overhead.
But a harrumph cut off Steven's shaky apology.
"Count yourself lucky, lad." Drake sidled up to the pair, tipping his captains hat back by the brim. "He told me he was gonna just push you in this time."
Whatever sympathy Steven had held died right then and there, and he glared daggers at the Gym Leader in question.
With a nervous grin, Wallace backpedaled a bit, his hands up in surrender. "Yes, well — but I didn't."
"And here I was nearly ready to accept your offer."
"Would you perhaps reconsider if I promised to go on another caving trip with you?"
Steven crossed his arms. "...Maybe."
"It'd mean a lot to me."
Victoria slid up to her trainer's side and gave a quiet warble. Steven had been fully prepared to play stubborn again, but the look of concern that shimmered in her gaze melted through whatever anger was left.
Wallace immediately perked up, beaming with pride.
"But—!" Steven held up a finger to temper his friend's enthusiasm. "Can we have the lessons at the Gym's pool? I don't think I'm ready to take on the ocean just yet."
"Great. Now I'm going to go get changed."
Still grinning from ear to ear, Wallace watched as Steven turned to follow Drake back towards the boat's cabin.
Just as the duo passed a little nook in the bulwark opposite a conveniently placed opening in the boat's railing, Drake piped up.
"I wouldn't if I were you…"
Steven's eyes went wide as Sidney popped out of hiding with a dejected look on his face.
Perhaps he should schedule that swim lesson with Wallace sooner rather than later.
The sound of his name gave the Gym Leader pause, and he halted his gentle tugging of Steven's hand toward the far end of the pool. They were still standing, now chest deep, but he had promised he wouldn't force the issue.
Letting go, he pushed off the bottom and gracefully drifted away to the center of the pool. From where he treaded water, he could see the turmoil on his friend's face. They'd practiced in the shallows for a while, but he knew that trying the real thing wasn't the same.
"Whenever you're ready Steven, I'll be here."
Chapter 44: Seedlings
Prompt #44: The seeds planted long ago are finally beginning to sprout...
"Aggron? Aggron, where are you?"
Scratching his head as he continued to puzzle over exactly how one could lose a giant, metal-plated dinosaur, Steven poked his head into the last room of the house he hadn't checked.
When his search still came up empty, he sighed with a defeated shrug. He had been planning on training with Sidney that afternoon, and he knew Aggron wouldn't want to miss a chance to battle. But he certainly couldn't ask a pokemon that was nowhere to be found.
Very nearly ready to give up and ask Skarmory to be his sparring partner instead, Steven noticed Claydol had bobbed up to his side with a quiet whistle.
"You wouldn't happen to know where Aggron went, would you?"
He had been expecting an answer in the negative, so when Claydol's eyes slid toward the door leading to the backyard, Steven found himself nearly laughing as the realization dawned.
"Right, the garden! How could I forget?"
After thanking Claydol for its wisdom, Steven quickly made his way outside. The porch door swung wide, and the sight that greeted him was equal parts amusing and endearing.
Hunched over on all fours was Aggron, pressed so close to the ground that its snout was mere inches above the dirt. It was quietly rumbling to itself as it inspected the garden, sweeping its massive head side to side over the different patches of soil. The handwritten signs at the corner of each plot were purely for Steven's sake; Aggron would never forget which berry it had planted where with the utmost love and care.
Since they had moved to Mossdeep, Aggron had lamented the lack of rich soil in which to plant berries and trees. The island was simply too rocky to support more than the basic mosses from which it earned its name. Sure, there were the mangrove stands in the salty shallows at the south of the island, but Aggron was never that fond of the ocean, and berry trees didn't like the saltwater anyway. So to appease the gentle giant, Steven had carted nearly a ton of fresh, loamy topsoil to his house and arranged a private garden just for him.
It had been just over three weeks since Aggron planted the first berries, and it had checked on the garden nearly every day, like clockwork. Thus far, there hadn't been anything more to do than simple weeding and watering and waiting.
But as Steven watched Aggron's latest sweep, it gave a startled snort and froze in place, lowering its nose even tighter to the soil. At the comical motion, Steven raised a hand to his mouth to stifle the laugh that threatened to spill, lest it break Aggron's intense concentration on the object poking out from the dirt just in front of its snout.
A single slender shoot had found its way up from the ground, and it gently danced in the breath from Aggron's nostrils. The gigantic steel type was staring so intently at the seedling that Steven feared that it might instantly burst into flame even though Aggron didn't know any fire type moves.
Thankfully, he didn't need to have any water on hand, as Aggron quickly rose on its hind legs and plucked the watering can from its side. Gently dousing the soil and seedling alike, Aggron was back on all fours watching as the water soaked into the ground.
Steven watched for a moment longer to see if Aggron would grow tired, but it stayed transfixed on the small sprout, the tip of its tail twitching every now and again. With a smile, Steven shook his head and went back inside the house. He'd have to ask Skarmory after all; there was no way he would get the overprotective steel type to give up the watch over the precious new life sprouting up from its garden.
Chapter 45: An Unexpected Encounter
aka the "body swapping" prompt
Prompt #45: Somebody wakes up and discovers they are no longer themselves...
It had been over a week since Phoebe had a good night sleep; the spirits were too restless to allow it. It had also been just over a week since the new Champion had been crowned and took their place as a regular in the halls of the League.
Despite her fatigue, Phoebe had to smile. The spirits were too curious for their own good. So every night she sat awake, listening to them chatter and flit about, their excitement and nervousness so palpable that there was no way she could even dream of getting some shut eye. But she was watchful, just in case they ever got too adventurous. She already gave the new Champion a rude introduction to her ever-present companions, and she didn't want to risk another incident, especially since he'd been so forgiving of the first one, and that had nearly killed him…
But as vigilant as Phoebe tried to be, in the end it was unsustainable, and on the eighth night she finally fell asleep. She only realized she had nodded off when she awoke with a chill, a shiver running down her spine, and she sat up with a jolt.
Except that when she looked around, she was no longer in her own room. The flowing fabrics and scent of incense were gone, replaced by hardwoods and the musk of old tobacco and leather.
'How odd,' she mused, squinting through the nighttime darkness. Had she taken to somnambulism in her overtired state? But looking down, she saw she was tucked into a bed, sleeping in someone else's sheets.
Still puzzled that she'd have wandered somewhere else just to lay down, she reached out to slip out from beneath the covers and head back to her own quarters when a glint of metal caught her eye.
A thin, silver band sat around her right ring finger, and she marveled at how she might have acquired a new piece of jewelry before she froze with another realization.
Her fingers were decidedly longer, more calloused, and lacking the distinct tan of her natural color. This was most certainly not her hand, but it was definitely one she recognized.
It was the Champion's.
Panic rose in time with the color in her cheeks. The confusion of being in another place was replaced by the terror of being in someone else's body, and that body was Steven's.
With a squeak that came out much deeper than she expected, she curled up under the sheets, tucking her knees to her chest… his chest… No, she was definitely still herself, this was her mind, just inside another vessel. Suddenly the embarrassment of waking up as the opposite gender turned into a feeling of anger. Surely this had to be the doing of the spirits, but why were they picking on Steven again? And to involve her in their mischief too?
But before she could formulate a plan of just what to do next to not only get herself out of this predicament, but also prevent Steven from ever finding out, something in the shadows of the room shifted with a low rumble.
Blanket protectively tucked up to her chest, she turned her gaze to the source of the noise. Two red eyes blinked open, instantly finding her own, and the shadow spoke. Not aloud, the room still was as silent as when she awoke, but she heard it loud and clear nonetheless.
The voice was rough and tumble, rattling of bolts and gravel, yet somehow soothing, gentle, steady. It echoed through her mind, and Phoebe froze.
There was a pause, and she could feel the presence shift, even if the shadows stayed still. She hadn't meant to stutter, it felt so foreign in his voice, and she was sure the shadow knew because when it spoke again, the softness of its earlier question vanished with a surge of hostility. The voice knew; it knew she had replaced his consciousness, and she had only said a single word. The pressure in the room grew, and out from the corner of the room stepped Metagross, eyes alight with a threatening psychic glow.
'What have you done to him?'
Phoebe quickly backpedaled, shaking her head furiously.
"No, no, it's not what you think! It's me! Uh— " The words tumbled out and she realized how unhelpful that must have been coming from Steven's mouth. She recovered before Metagross's distrust could grow. "It's Phoebe!"
The psychic type faltered at her admission, a spike of confusion flitting through the air. It halted its advance, but its eyes remained wary.
"I… I don't know." She studied the hands in her lap again, her voice a whisper. "I'm sorry."
This time Metagross rumbled audibly, grating out what Phoebe could feel as a noise of frustration. For all of its knowledge, this was puzzling it as much as it was puzzling her. But then another realization struck, and Phoebe couldn't stop herself from blurting out.
"Wait, you can talk?!"
As soon as she said it, she felt silly to pose such a question to Metagross through its own trainer. But instead she sensed a pulse of surprise come from Steven's partner. It paused to regard her with its unblinking eyes before answering.
'Most psychic types can, to a degree.'
"So you and Steven…?"
'No. Not like this.'
'We do not need words to understand one another.'
When a look of confusion washed over Phoebe's expression, Metagross continued with a tilt of its head.
'He and I share an emotional bond. You are the first to clearly hear my words. Most likely because of your affinity for communing with others who have no voice.'
"The spirits…" Phoebe muttered, and she noticed how Metagross shifted uneasily, no doubt remembering the run in with her pokemon during the League challenge.
'This must be their doing.'
She nodded. "They had been rather restless since you two came here."
Another surge of hostility rose in her mind, and she found herself again scrambling to explain things to the powerful pokemon before her.
"Oh no, they're not upset! More like, curious. They don't like losing, but they do like you, I promise."
Metagross remained silent for a spell before it relaxed again, settling lower on its legs with a small hum.
'They have an unusual way of showing it.'
Phoebe laughed in agreement at the steel type's assessment. It came tumbling out not as her own airy timbre, but with Steven's rich tenor, and she quickly stopped, embarrassed.
'It is okay. Although I do wish for this conversation to be over. If you could please leave and allow Steven to return, that would be preferred.'
Swallowing thickly, Phoebe felt her hands tighten around the bedsheets. "I would prefer it too, but I don't know if I know how."
If Metagross's brow could furrow, Phoebe swore it would have as the steel type's gaze darted downward in thought.
'Can you not ask them to undo what they have done?'
Her own gaze fell at its question. "I could but, uh, they don't always listen…"
'Then perhaps I could persuade them.'
It had turned its attention back to her, and Phoebe felt her heart skip a beat at the intensity of Metagross's stare. The psychic glow in its eyes had returned, and the air around her began to shimmer with energy. She tensed as invisible fingers reached out, cupping themselves around her mind.
'I will be careful. This will not harm him. Or you.'
The sensation of Metagross's presence was all encompassing, and Phoebe could only muster a nod as it pressed forward. She was startled at just how warm it felt; quite unlike how she imagined a steel type's presence to be. It was firm, unyielding like its hide, but surprisingly gentle. She could sense it had located her presence within Steven's mind, but continued to reach out and search for the traces left by the spirits who had brought her here. It was meticulous, yet light with its touch, and Phoebe could practically feel the love and care it had for its trainer in its quest. They were definitely a perfect match.
Finally, Metagross's probing ceased, and its presence centered again in her mind.
'Speaking with you has been refreshing, but it is time. Goodbye for now, Phoe-be.'
As it spoke her name, haltingly, carefully, sounding it out in its mind, a rush of emotion poured forth, and in that single second she saw what Metagross had seen within Steven's mind. How worried he'd been during their battle. How scared he was for her when she collapsed. The madness he'd been swallowed by as her ghosts' curse took hold, and the light of his pokemon's bond that brought him back from his descent. And at the end, there was no anger, no hatred or ill will in her direction. The understanding and forgiveness that poured forth were overwhelming, and as Metagross echoed its trainers sentiment in her mind, she felt tears begin to well in her eyes. All was forgiven; now all she had to do was forgive herself.
The warm splash of tears fell against her hand, and she blinked. She was back in her own room, in her own bed, and as she inspected the pattern of teardrops against the bronze of her skin, she stifled a sob with her other hand. It was all going to be okay.
Steven awoke to the concerned stare of his partner from the foot of his bed.
"Metagross, I just had the weirdest dream..."
Chapter 46: When in Kalos
Prompt #46: Somebody gets immersed in a culture that's quite different from Hoenn's...
"Oh, Steven," Wallace was wide eyed as the pair strolled through the lively streets of Lumiose City,
"Kalos is everything I've dreamed of and more!"
Steven chuckled at his friend's boundless enthusiasm. "I'm glad. I've been a few times now, but this is probably the first time I've gotten to see it as a tourist."
Wallace's starry-eyed look vanished as he pulled a face. "Don't make it sound so drab. We're not some measly tourists."
"You're right, we're different. We're cultured."
Steven's emphasis on the word Wallace had repeated nearly ad-nauseam on their flight over garnered him a narrow glare.
"If you'd rather have your picture taken in front of Lumiose Tower and call it a day, be my guest."
"I didn't mean it like that, Wallace. I rather enjoyed the afternoon at Lumiose Museum. And lunch at the cafe just around the corner was excellent."
"See what I mean, then? Living life just like actual Kalosians."
"I suppose," Steven's hand found its way to his chin, "Although I was really hoping to stop by that Stone Emporium we saw on the way…"
Wallace rolled his eyes. "Can't you take a trip and not come back with some new rock or stone?"
Steven ignored the question with practiced ease. "Well, that would be the only way to pick up a souvenir since you didn't let me book a day trip to Glittering Cave. Which, honestly, I'm shocked you wouldn't agree to it with a name like that."
"You forget that after the word 'Glittering' still comes the word 'Cave'."
Steven sighed. "Not even after you dragged me to that Couture place yesterday?"
"It's Boutique Couture thank you, and no, not even after that."
It was Steven's turn to shoot his friend a disgruntled look, and after holding his ground for only a moment more, Wallace finally caved.
"Fine, we can head back toward the Stone Emporium. Besides, I heard there's another great little cafe nearby that we can try."
Steven's victory smile softened as the pair turned down the next avenue that would take them back toward the south end of the city. "Thanks, Wallace. And no, I can't take a trip without bringing something back to remember it by. Which is why I think this time I'm going to see if the water stones in Kalos have a different composition than those from Kanto…"
Chapter 47: Champion, interrupted
Prompt #47: There's a fascinating new geology article out, but a moment of peace is hard to find.
Steven sighed contentedly as he inhaled the scent of the freshly bound document in his hands. He had finally gotten a copy of the latest geological study of Unova's Chargestone Cave, and just in time before he was on his way there himself to participate in the Pokemon World Tournament.
There was only a week left before he boarded a plane for the tournament, and he had every intention of reading this paper before he set foot on Unovan soil. He had already read the abstract on the cover about fifteen times as it sat unopened on his desk. With so little time to prepare the League for his departure, he had told himself he'd only read it in its entirety once all his work was complete. It was good motivation to stay focused on the task at hand, and Steven allowed himself to read the abstract one more time before diving into his pile of paperwork.
It was well into the evening when Steven finally leaned back in his chair and admired the stack of papers he had gotten through that day. His eyes drifted to the cover once more, but the clock on the far wall caught his attention instead, and he dutifully pushed back from the desk and grabbed his jacket. He would be good tonight, there was a time change in Unova to accommodate to, after all. There was no big rush other than his own giddy excitement, and he still had plenty of time to spare before his trip...
"Hey Boss, ready for our training session today?"
Sidney's head poked through the door the next morning, and Steven jerked his hand back from the report in surprise.
"Ah, Sidney, you startled me. Is it that time already?"
"Yup, nice and early so we'll have time to rest up before the challenger arrives this afternoon, although I'll bet you won't have much to do," Sidney grinned, "Phoebe's on a vicious winning streak right now."
Steven smiled, although he couldn't stop his gaze from wandering back to the untouched document on his desk, and he gave Sidney a half-hearted nod.
"That sounds great, let's get started then."
Their training session passed without a hitch, and true to Sidney's word, Steven didn't have much to do with the afternoon's challenger, although they did put up a better fight than most expected. Their penchant for defensive poison types meant that the battles were all long drawn out affairs, and the remainder of the day had shrunk down to almost nothing. Steven sighed as he flicked off the light to his office, leaving the report sitting where he had left it the previous day...
Another round of paperwork had landed on Steven's desk the next morning, but he powered through it and was now faced with a wide open schedule for the rest of the afternoon. A grin crept over his face as he carefully lifted the report from its resting place, feeling the weight of it in his hands. His thumb flipped open the cover page, but instead of being greeted by the first of many paragraphs on the unique geological make up of Unova's most interesting cave, two beady red eyes stared back at him instead.
Steven blinked in surprise for only a moment before Banette's whole head popped out of the manuscript right into his face. With a yell he flailed at the rude introduction and Banette cackled as Steven had to pick himself and his chair up off the floor before fishing the report out from under the nearby table.
"Sorry!" Phoebe's cheeks flushed in embarrassment at her pokemon's antics as she peeked through the door of Steven's office. "She can't help herself sometimes."
Banette floated back to her trainer's side, still snickering as Steven gave it a nasty glare.
"What can I do for you, Phoebe," he said, straightening his cravat.
"Well, my grandmother called me this morning and said she wasn't feeling well, and I know you're busy, but I was wondering if you'd be able to cover my Gym inspection this afternoon so I could go see her..."
Steven's gaze softened at the way Phoebe's voice trailed off, and he gave her a smile. "Sure, Phoebe. Go visit your grandmother, and tell her I said 'hi'. Now, which Gym were you scheduled to visit?"
Phoebe beamed with happiness. "You're the best! I was supposed to go to Rustboro to see Roxanne. I bet she'll be thrilled to see you!"
Steven barely hid his grimace. Rustboro was not a short trip, and if there was one person in all of Hoenn that might have already read that report, it would have been Roxanne... "It's no problem at all."
"Thanks, Steven!" she chimed before bounding off down the hall.
After spending the rest of the afternoon flying to Rustboro and convincing Roxanne to not spoil the Chargestone Cave paper for him, Steven sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose as he left the Rustboro City Gym. As he palmed Skarmory's pokeball for the return trip, his phone rang.
"Hello, Steven! A little Pidgey told me you were in Rustboro, so I thought I'd call and see if we can't catch up this evening. Dinner's on me."
It took every ounce of self control to not groan audibly at the sound of his father's voice. "Not tonight Dad, I was on my way back to Ever Grande..."
"Nonsense, you can fly back in the morning. Let me see my son just for one night."
And that's how Steven found himself staying in Rustboro for the evening, an entire region away from the report that lay untouched on his desk.
It was nearly noon the next day when Steven finally made it back to the League. As he made his way toward his chamber, Glacia stepped around a corner and perked up when she caught sight of him.
"Oh, Steven, perfect! I was hoping I'd run into you today."
Glacia nodded. "Walrein and I came across an interesting rock formation in Shoal Cave recently and we were wondering if you could accompany us back there to study it. It seemed to have some sort of strange energy associated with it, but it just looked like an ordinary rock covered in ice."
Steven paused nervously, "Can it possibly wait until I get back from Unova? I've got quite a lot to do before I leave." It wasn't a complete lie...
But Glacia shook her head, "Unfortunately the seasonal tide is shifting and that means the room where it is will be inaccessible for several months. I'd hate to have missed our chance to study this formation, lest it only be something temporary."
Steven's shoulders fell as he glanced down the hallway in the direction of his office. The prospect was exciting, but he really wanted to read that report... "Sure, I'll go with you."
"Marvelous, thank you Steven."
And although the pair of them discovered that this mysterious ice covered rock shared a link with the evolutionary stones commonly found throughout the region, the thrill of such a discovery still didn't make up for Steven's longing to dig into the mysteries of Chargestone Cave.
The training session he had set up with Drake the following day went smoothly, after all he had to be prepared for Lance's dragons at the tournament, but it left Steven drained to the point that by the time he got through the new stack of paperwork on his desk, all he could do was collapse on his bed in exhaustion and fall asleep. He dreamed of blue caves that crackled with electricity.
An incessant beeping roused him the following morning, and Steven realized it wasn't his alarm, it was his phone. His voice was muddled with sleep as he answered.
"Steven, wonderful, you'll never believe what's happening!"
"What? Wallace? What's happening?"
"There's been a sighting of a new Mirage Island off the shore of the Sky Pillar. Preliminary reports say it might be home to a legendary pokemon!"
"You heard me. Get your lazy butt up and meet me in Sootopolis. We have to go verify these sightings before the island vanishes again."
Before long, Steven found himself standing side by side with the Gym Leader on the Pathless Plain, as it had been called, squinting into the sunlight that beat down on the apparently barren rock. Larger than its fellow Mirage Spots, the Pathless Plain proved to be sizable, and their thorough expedition took nearly the entire day.
As the sun began to slip down into the western sea, Steven sighed as he slumped to the ground underneath one of the rare trees that dotted the island. His flight was at 8 am the next morning, and he hadn't even packed yet. His head rolled back until it bumped into the rough bark of the tree and he let out a defeated groan. He had wanted to read that report so badly before he left, and he watched his chance of that happening slip beneath the waves along with the sun. Chest rising and falling with a deep breath, his mind drifted to the upcoming flight and his brow quirked as a thought struck him. Perhaps there was one last opportunity...
Steven boarded the plane with precious cargo tucked into his messenger bag. He never did find the time to read the report with all of the unexpected things that came up before his departure, but there was still time before he touched down in Unova, and he found the perfect location for him to read uninterrupted; on the plane itself.
He settled into his seat and tucked the report gently in the seat back pocket. As the pre-flight checks passed and the engines roared to life, Steven smiled. Once they reached cruising altitude he'd lean back in his seat and finally dive into that report. He closed his eyes for just a brief moment, finally feeling his body relax.
And he promptly fell asleep for the duration of the flight. It seemed as if the report would have to wait one more time.
Chapter 48: [Belated] Valentine's Day Special II: Date
This actually was written around Valentine's Day as a celebration to my fanfic anniversary, and for a multitude of reasons I haven't gotten around to posting it until now.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Prompt #48: Someone is painfully aware of the other side of the coin on Luvdisc's Day…
Today was the worst day ever.
Well, maybe the day Winona broke up him was the worst day ever, but today was a very close second. Sure, they had been on-again, off-again for months now, but the day she called him and said she'd had enough, it hurt. It had been about two weeks since then, and everyone had been nothing but supportive. Steven even had stopped by to coax him out of his doldrums. The cakes and subsequent battle had done wonders for his mood, but today it felt like he was right back to square one. All because of a silly date on the calendar.
Wallace was simply not used to the idea of being alone on Luvdisc's Day, and it showed.
Without any plans for the day, he was unsure how to fill the time. There were no challengers scheduled at the Gym, so he didn't have an excuse to leave home; not that he had anywhere to go even if he did. So rather than mope, he thought that it might be nice to tidy up. He got as far as the living room before he spotted an old picture of Winona and him on the side table, and he suddenly didn't feel like cleaning, or doing much of anything any more.
With the floodgates threatening to open once again, he grabbed his Milotic's pokeball and headed for the Sootopolis crater lake shore. A swim would do some good for both mind and body. The water was mild and the sky was clear, and Wallace had to admit, he did feel better afterward. Victoria's performance during their Contest practice had been one of her best yet, and the rush of adrenaline from their impromptu workout cleared his head and left him feeling light and airy as they headed back home.
Except as the door clicked shut behind them, the weight of his lonely heart came crashing down upon his shoulders once again. His gaze floated over the emptiness of each room, lingering on places where he'd shared something special with her. The back deck where they had sat for hours enjoying the mild Sootopolis weather, watching their pokemon play together outside. The living room where they had watched movies late into the night, falling asleep in each other's arms because it was too comfy to get up and move somewhere else. The kitchen where they'd made breakfast the next morning, chatting over the coffee and pancakes with warm smiles.
His stomach rumbled, interrupting his thoughts. The afternoon swim must have worked up an appetite he didn't feel like he had. Perhaps if he made a nice dinner for himself, it might make up for the disappointment of having no one to share it with. But instead of vanishing, the disappointment turned to distraction and by the time he realized, there was no salvaging the utter mess he'd made. Too frustrated to even deal with the burned remains left in the pan, Wallace finally resigned to ordering take-out and eating it alone on the couch when a knock sounded from the front door. Padding over, he swung it open only for his expression go to from downtrodden to downright confused.
The man in question stood outside on the doorstep, dressed to his usual nines, and flashed Wallace an easy smile. "Grab your hat and let's go."
"Go? Go where?"
"Out?" Wallace repeated. "What do you mean 'out'? Steven, you've never wanted to just go 'out' before. What's the catch?"
"No catch. Just grab your things and let's go. Maybe a clean shirt first, though."
Wallace blinked dumbly before realizing what Steven meant. In the confusion of his friend's surprise visit, he'd totally forgotten about the aftermath of his kitchen disaster. "Right, clean shirt." He fumbled for the words before gesturing he'd be right back. "One second."
Wallace ducked back inside for only a moment, and when he opened the door now wearing stain-free attire, he saw Steven had released Skarmory and was waiting patiently to board his steel-clad flyer. With a wave, he gestured for Wallace to join him, causing the water-type trainer to give Steven an odd look.
He was unfazed, though, only replying with another cryptic smile. "Skarmory will be fine with the both us, it's only a short flight."
The steel bird gave a prideful squawk in response, scoffing that Wallace would even doubt its capabilities in the first place.
"If you say so… Which, by the way, you haven't," said Wallace as he slid onto Skarmory's back behind Steven. "Where are we going?"
"It's a surprise," came the reply, and Wallace was thankful Steven hadn't bothered to turn around to answer, or else he would have caught his friend's incredulous eye-roll.
Whatever Steven had planned couldn't be that bad, really… Hopefully... Wallace at least held on to the hope that it wasn't a trip to some cave; Steven was wearing one of his nicer suits, after all. Although given his track record, that didn't mean much. Wallace's sigh was lost to the wind as he wondered how far he'd fallen that the prospect of ending up in a cave on Luvdisc's Day actually sounded better than what his night had promised to be. At this point, though, almost anything beat wallowing in misery at home over a box of take-out.
But whatever worry Wallace had over their final destination faded quickly as they flew over the open water toward Steven's mystery destination. The last remnants of the sunset still brushed the sky with a tinge of orange, and Wallace found that the view silenced his next question in a long line of questions. Skarmory warbled a quiet tone as its two passengers took in the view, soaring smoothly northward until the lights of Lilycove City sparkled on the horizon.
A million more questions bubbled up in Wallace's mind, but he held his tongue as Skarmory banked in a slow turn that circled the city's famous lighthouse before landing on the edge of the tall cliffs that framed Lilycove's quiet northern district. Both men dismounted, and after thanking his partner for its hard work, Steven finished straightening his windtrousled lapels when Wallace let out a gasp.
Too entranced by the ocean view from atop the bluffs, Wallace hadn't given a second glance at the building that sat behind them. Now that he had though, the historic sea-side manor that they'd landed in front of was easy to recognize. It was home to one of the most premier restaurants in all of Hoenn. Wallace could barely contain his shock.
"Steven, you can't be serious."
Steven gave an unconvincing cough, trying and failing to look innocent. "I know it's a little unorthodox to ask at this point, but would you care to join me for dinner tonight? The reservation is for two, after all."
"How… how did you even get a table?"
Steven's cryptic smile returned. "I have my ways. So, is that a yes?"
"You can't be asking me to go on a date with you."
"It's not a date. I'm simply asking my friend if they'd like to have dinner with me."
"It's Luvdisc's Day."
"You do realize how that looks, right?"
"If you'd prefer, we could go back to my place and I could cook something for us instead..." When Wallace pulled a face, Steven laughed. "I didn't think so. All I know is that my best friend needed a reminder tonight that he isn't as alone as he thinks. If that isn't worth putting up with a baseless tabloid headline for the next couple weeks, I don't know what is. So what do you say?"
Wallace paused for a breath before a genuine grin spread across his face. How Steven always seemed to know just what to say, he'd never know, but he certainly wasn't going to question it either. With dramatic flare, he looped his arm through the crook of Steven's elbow and turned toward the restaurant's doors.
"Well, if we're going to throw those Vullaby a bone, let's make sure it's a picture worthy of the front page."
I *will* finish this series. I promise. Thanks for being so patient with me.
Chapter 49: A Not-So Television Drama
Just a note that these stories don't necessarily happen in chronological order. I'm sure you all knew that already though :)
Prompt #49: Steven finds himself in the rare position of having no idea what to do.
Steven had been pacing back and forth in front of the same door for the past ten minutes. Every so often he'd pause, raising his hand to knock, and then decide against it. It really shouldn't have been this hard; it wasn't even his problem! It certainly was affecting him though. He'd been trying to play mediator between the two of them this time, and it wasn't going well.
Winona all but ran from him every time he tried to talk to her. The last time he found her, she was all the way on top of one of Mauville's new towers, staring off into the sunset, and he certainly wasn't going to climb up there to have a chat.
And Wallace… Wallace had taken this break up even harder than the first two. He locked himself in his study muttering something about a Contest tournament in Sinnoh so he didn't even have to be in the same region as her. No amount of cajoling or bribery was working; even Juan had tried and failed.
Steven was at his wit's end. Talking to the two of them independently wasn't working. And he had no idea how to get them to talk to one another. So he was down two Gym Leaders until one would stop hiding in the tallest spots in Hoenn, and the other would leave the confines of his home. At least Wallace hadn't up and left for Sinnoh yet...
Drawing a deep breath, Steven halted his pacing. He might as well get this over with… Tentatively, he knocked on the door to Phoebe's chamber, only opening it when he heard the sing-song "come in!" from the other side.
Phoebe's cheerful grin greeted him from where she sat on the couch. "Hi, Steven. What's on your mind?"
Taken aback momentarily by how she could know what he was thinking, Steven faltered. "Um, well…"
Phoebe giggled. "It's just you had this look on your face like you were concentrating."
"Oh." Steven scratched his cheek absentmindedly. "And here I was worried you were reading my mind."
"Nah," Phoebe said with a grin. "Ghost type trainer, not a psychic. So, what's up?"
"Well," he began, hand on his chin, "If someone tells you their relationship status is 'complicated'... What does that mean, exactly?"
Phoebe's grin widened at the implied air quotes. "Wallace?"
Steven sighed. "Wallace."
Patting the cushion next to her, Phoebe reached for the remote with her other hand. "I think a visual aid will be best."
As Steven rounded the corner of the couch, she toggled the tv on to reveal the title card for Lovers in Lilycove. He paused, eyeing the screen with a quirked brow. "Isn't this a…?"
"Yes, it's a soap opera," Phoebe finished for him before waving him over again. "Trust me. This will explain everything."
Prompt #50: Steven should probably have been in bed hours ago, but a Champion's work is never done.
The sound of rustling papers danced across the Champion's office, the quiet sound unsettlingly loud in the silent halls of the Pokemon League.
Nervously, Steven's gaze slid to where Aggron had curled itself around his favorite armchair. Its deep, powerful breaths held steady, and Steven softly exhaled in kind; he hadn't woken him. Why Aggron had decided to keep watch over him as he did paperwork was still a mystery, but the thrilling guard duty had taken its toll on the hulking steel type about an hour ago.
Drawing a hand slowly over the documents in front of him, Steven found his gaze becoming unfocused, hazy. His mind wandered to the irony of the situation. How he had poured himself into training and battling in order to escape the tedium of what Devon promised, and yet here he sat on the highest perch a trainer could attain and all he could see for miles was a sea of numbers in black and white. He was sure his dad would have a hearty laugh if he ever told him as much.
Steven blinked as he realized his pen had suddenly taken a mind of its own, trailing a blue streak haphazardly across the page. When had he dozed off? He leaned back in his chair, bringing a hand to his chin and silently berated himself. Trying to be efficient while working late into the night could hardly be called efficient if he barely got anything done. Focus renewed, he reached for the white out to try to salvage the budget review-turned art piece.
Finally the stack of papers in his outbox outweighed the one in his inbox, and Steven slumped forward onto his desk with a sigh. One arm outstretched, fingertips barely reaching the front edge of the wood, he laid his head on his arm and let his brain focus on the stark landscape of chestnut grain; a Wurmple's eye view.
As his eyes lazily combed the desk, one object stood out from the rest. A rough hewn lump of rock; but not just any rock. One that seemed to pulse with an inner light, as if it were breathing, alive. A raw Mega Stone, one he hadn't seen before, and one he was happy to horde all for himself. Even in the dim light of his desk lamp, the colors of the Aggronite swirled in a cool mercurial flow, its flecks of silver sparkled as he rocked the sample back and forth with his finger. A galaxy that fit within the palm of his hand.
His gaze slid from the powerful stone to his dozing companion, and he wondered if Aggron dreamed of the same starry sky that filled his own visions at night. The sky they journeyed beneath in their younger days. The sky his eyes would wander to whenever the clouds would part just right.
Steven leaned back against Aggron's side, feeling the rise and fall of his partner's breathing. He had finally given up on his paperwork and gone home, and yet he couldn't sleep. As the pair lay side by side in Steven's back yard, he couldn't tear his eyes away from the heavens above. All those stars were rocks he would never know, but he thought if he stared long enough, he might be able to visit them in his dreams.
AN: From stargazing to stargazing, I am sad to admit that the current installment of Hoenn Short Stories has reached its conclusion, despite it taking so long to reach the end. I will be marking the series "Complete" as of this chapter, and will be focusing my efforts on my other WIPs. But, I fully intend to add to this series should I pick up the prompt writing again.
For now, I must thank every one of you who has read, kudos'd, commented, or bookmarked. I'm so glad to have shared these stories with you, and I hope you all have enjoyed this series. It has been immensely fun to write.
See you all in the next story, be it here or some other work.