“Jigglypuff!” Rachel announces.
Kurt, Quinn and Mercedes exchange exasperated glances, and then, in unison, put their hands over their ears.
“Rachel,” Kurt says, “you have to stop using Sing.”
“Oh, you don’t need to worry about her,” Rachel says. Her Jigglypuff, bedecked with ribbons, is wandering around nearby, exploring the deck; Mercedes’ Growlithe watches intently, ready to rush in if the Jigglypuff looks in danger of falling over the edge. “I’ve been giving her herbal drinks to keep her voice in prime condition.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
There is a silence. Rachel stares at him.
“Do you think I don’t know what’s going on here?” she asks, eventually. “You know you can’t compete with my Jigglypuff, so you’re trying to sabotage us by denying us her best move.”
“What we’re trying to do,” Mercedes says, “is stop you sending the judges to sleep for twenty minutes every contest we’re at. I gotta tell you, it’s getting boring.”
“And you realise they’re not going to give you more points if you duet with her, right?” Quinn asks. “It’s a Pokémon contest. It’s not about you.”
“Of course it’s about me! This is about my career. It’s my future. I have to succeed.”
Kurt looks at the other two in despair. They shrug back at him.
“But I won’t use Sing for the next contest,” Rachel says. “You know why? Because we don’t need Sing to beat all of you.”
“Great,” Kurt says, wearily. “Thanks.”
They get on well enough when she’s not being competitive, he reflects. Perhaps it wasn’t a great idea to travel together for, well, competitions.
He orders it anyway. Fortunately, it turns out to be a case of false advertising.
“Hey,” a voice says, during a lull in their conversation. Kurt looks up to see a guy grinning at them: dark-haired, good-looking, five Pokéballs on his belt. There’s something strangely familiar about him, but Kurt assumes they haven’t actually met from the next thing he says, which is, “Haven’t seen you guys around here before. You here to challenge the Gym Leader?”
Mercedes raises her eyebrows. “Is the island really that small?”
The guy shrugs, still smiling. “I pay attention.”
“Not surprising,” Kurt says, realising, to his amusement, where he’s seen this person before: evenings in front of the television, watching Pokémon Match of the Day with his dad. “You’re Blaine, aren’t you?”
“All right,” Blaine says, holding his hands up with a laugh, “you caught me.”
“You’re the Gym Leader?” Rachel demands. “And you come here to spy on your opponents? You should be ashamed.”
“I come here to talk to my opponents,” Blaine protests. “It’s nicer to fight someone who doesn’t just see you as some faceless Pokéball-thrower. There’s barely any spying involved at all.”
“Well, I’m afraid you’ve taken your espionage to the wrong table,” Kurt says. “We’re here for the Pokémon contest.”
“What, all of you?”
Rachel bristles. “Do you not think we all look capable?”
“So, wait,” Blaine says. “You guys travel around to Pokémon contests together, and then you compete against each other? Doesn’t that put kind of a strain on your friendship?”
Kurt glances at Rachel. So, he notices out of the corner of his eye, do Mercedes and Quinn.
“We get on pretty well,” he says.
“We’re not finished here,” Kurt says, warningly. “I am going to make you see that the Furaligatr range is far superior.”
Blaine makes a face. “Maybe, but it’d have to be some pretty amazing shampoo to make up for the pun.”
“It is,” Kurt assures him. “Some day I shall bring a bottle of it into your Gym and prove it to you.”
“Looking forward to it,” Blaine says. “Maybe not when I’m working, though. Do you have a Pokégear? I’ll give you my number.”
Giving out his number, as if he’s a normal person and Kurt isn’t a crazed fan who’ll call him every minute and demand to know what he’s wearing. Not that that’s what Kurt is, because he isn’t, obviously, but Blaine has no way of knowing that. And he still trusts Kurt enough to give him his number after meeting him in a café. Kurt takes out his Pokégear and tries to look as unlike a crazed fan as he possibly can, which isn’t easy because suddenly it seems he can’t stop smiling.
He wouldn’t call himself a fan of Blaine the Gym Leader, exactly, but from what he’s seen he quite likes Blaine the person.
“Why would I? I’ve never been here before.”
“I thought you used to follow that trainer around.”
“Oh, yeah,” she says, with a slight laugh. “Gary. I got sick of him, quit around Celadon City. Never saw this place.”
“Wait,” Mercedes says. “You were one of Gary’s Girls?”
“Oh, did she not tell you?” Kurt asks.
“It’s not really a proud moment in my life,” Quinn mutters, looking down at her coffee.
Mercedes frowns. “I thought they all went nuts and joined Team Rocket after he lost at the League.”
“That’s just a rumour,” Quinn says. “Although, you know, with people like Santana I wouldn’t be surprised.”
He doesn’t realise until he’s standing outside the Gym that he’s been kind of looking for it all along. He’s never been that into watching battles – he’s been to the Gym at home in Cerulean a few times, but mostly for the underwater theatre, and the one or two occasions on which he went to watch an actual fight were with his dad – but Blaine’s the only person he’s met on this island so far, and Kurt feels that he wouldn’t mind seeing him again. He seems nice enough. He’s also charming and has a great smile, which helps.
Which is how Kurt ends up sitting in the mostly-empty stands and watching Blaine absolutely pound the opponent’s Wartortle into the ground with his Rapidash, despite the type disadvantage.
It’s a little scary.
And then Blaine looks up into the stands and waves and says, “Oh, hey, Kurt!” He might actually be bouncing up and down a little. It completely ruins the intimidation effect, so it’s just as well the battle is already over. “What’re you doing here?”
Kurt’s a little surprised Blaine has remembered his name; if he makes a habit of checking out his opponents, surely he has more important things to remember than the guy who isn’t even going to fight him? “I was curious.”
“So you’re spying now?” Blaine asks, grinning. “Going to fight me after all?”
“Even if I had been planning to, I think watching that battle would have put me off.”
Blaine’s smile falls away; he winces. “Yeah, I was kind of hard on her, wasn’t I?” He turns to the trainer, who’s on her knees, spraying Potion on her unconscious Wartortle. “Hey, do you know where the Pokémon Center is around here?”
She looks up, shakes her head.
“C’mon,” Blaine says, offering a hand to help her up. “I’ll take you there.” He looks back. “I’ll see you some other time, okay, Kurt?”
“You’re terrible at being sinister,” Kurt informs him.
“Who says Gym Leaders have to be sinister?”
Going into the abandoned, fire-damaged mansion is almost definitely a terrible idea, but places like this are often a good place to find wild Pokémon, and, although they haven’t said it out loud, Kurt’s pretty sure that Quinn and Mercedes are thinking the same thing he is: find Rachel a new Pokémon, and maybe she’ll finally stop using that damn Jigglypuff.
The problem is that Rachel doesn’t seem too interested in the Pokémon they see; most of them are Poison-type, and she’s not a fan of Poison Pokémon. She would definitely be interested in a Ponyta, but the idea of trying to catch one seems kind of ambitious; Mercedes is the most experienced battler of their group, and even she isn’t totally comfortable with the concept of beating down a Pokémon that’s literally on fire, especially indoors, especially in a building that’s already proved itself to be flammable.
Well, that’s one of the problems. It’s dark, difficult to see; when they don’t have the glow of a nearby Ponyta to guide them, the only source of light is Mercedes’ Growlithe, walking ahead of them and breathing fire. Quinn’s uneasy, sticking too close to Mercedes, and it takes Kurt a while to realise it’s because all the Fire-types around here (they’ve seen wild Growlithe as well as Ponyta, and Mercedes swears she’s caught a glimpse of a Magmar) could easily burn her Roselia to ashes.
The biggest problem comes when they get to the third floor. The flame from the Growlithe’s mouth is starting to dwindle, but there’s still just about enough light to see by.
“Maybe we should head back,” Quinn suggests.
“Sounds like a good idea,” Kurt says. “Mercedes?” She’s wandered off to one side. “You found something?”
“Depends what you mean by ‘something’,” Mercedes says. “Watch your feet over here.”
Kurt walks up beside her to see what the danger is. The floor has burned through; the tiles become more and more blackened and warped and cracked as they come to the edge, and then there’s what looks like a sheer drop, although it’s too dark to make out how far they’d fall if they slipped.
“Um, guys,” Rachel says from behind them.
Kurt turns around.
There’s a Muk.
There’s a Muk right in front of him, and if it touches him he’s never going to get the smell out of his military jacket, which is new, and he takes a step backwards without thinking and Mercedes screams and a fraction of a second later, as he feels the ground falling away from beneath his feet, so does he.
He’s always kind of wanted a Vulpix, but he’s got bigger things to think about right now. First, he hurts all over. Second, he has no idea where he is. All he can really make out are two glowing red spots in the darkness.
The moment he remembers that he fell, he’s sitting up and checking his belt for Delcatty’s Pokéball. It’s still there. He releases Delcatty, just to make sure she’s okay, and discovers an unexpected benefit: the flash of light as the Pokéball opens illuminates the room he’s in for a moment, allowing him to see his situation.
He returns Delcatty, using the dimmer light of the recall to double-check said situation.
The situation is that he is trapped in a smallish room, with nothing but the Vulpix and a creepy statue for company – the statue’s eyes are the source of the glow – and no exits but a large, solid metal gate. They saw gates like this when they were walking around the mansion, and they weren’t able to open any of them.
This kind of sucks.
Kurt tries the gate, just to make certain that he is actually trapped in here, and then he sinks down with his back against it. He digs his Pokégear out of his pocket, hoping to call Mercedes, but it won’t turn on; must have been damaged by the fall. ‘Sit here and starve’ wouldn’t really be Kurt’s first choice for the top of his to-do list, but it looks like he’s already running out of options.
It occurs to him that the Vulpix was cowering against one of the walls when he recalled his Delcatty; probably thought he was going to use her to fight it. Well, if they’re going to be trapped here together, might as well try to make friends.
Speaking of friends: where are they? Have they gone to find help? Do they even know he’s still alive? Are they—
“Kurt!” Quinn’s voice, from the other side of the gate.
“Kurt?” Rachel calls. “Are you in there?”
“I’m here!” Kurt calls back. “How’d you guys find me?”
“We heard you singing,” Mercedes’ voice says. “How’d you think? Who else is gonna be performing ‘Roserade’s Turn’ in this creepy-ass place?”
He hadn’t even realised he’d been singing. Time Kurt Hummel can spend on his own in a dark room without losing his mind: less than five minutes, apparently. That’s pretty depressing.
“Are you okay? Don’t you ever frighten me like that again, boy.”
“I’ll be fine if you can get me out of here,” Kurt says. “That gate’s the only way out. I can’t open it.”
Mercedes curses quietly. There’s some clattering from the other side; Kurt feels the gate shaking against his back, but it doesn’t open.
“Okay,” Mercedes says, eventually, “we’re definitely getting you out. We just need to figure out how to do it.”
There’s a Vulpix in here, Kurt tells himself. It must have gotten in somehow. There has to be a way out.
“Maybe we could get some help,” Rachel suggests.
“That could work,” Mercedes says. “How about Blaine? He probably knows where to find the police around here. Didn’t Kurt have his number?”
“Not any more,” Kurt says. “My Pokégear’s not working.”
“Ah,” Mercedes says. “Yeah, that’s a problem.”
“The gym’s right next door,” Quinn says. “I’ll go.”
“What, on your own?” Mercedes asks. “This place ain’t safe; look what it’s done to Kurt. I’m going with you.” Then, raising her voice, “Kurt? You hear all that?”
“I think so,” Kurt says. “You’re abandoning me, right?”
“Don’t start with that. We’re saving your ungrateful ass.”
“I’m staying,” Rachel calls. “It’s going to be okay, Kurt.”
“I hope so,” Kurt says, and then, “Thanks.”
Eventually he hears the sound of someone approaching and then a muffled conversation, Rachel talking to someone else, and then more footsteps. They sound as if they’re going in the wrong direction.
Kurt, after a moment’s puzzled silence, calls, “Rachel?”
There’s no answer.
Realistically, Kurt’s pretty sure Rachel wouldn’t actually leave him to die here, but this is still kind of disconcerting. Delcatty’s been looking really good lately, yes, and Kurt’s been thinking she’s got a good chance of beating Jigglypuff in the contest tomorrow, and, yes, Rachel can be kind of weird about losing, but she still wouldn’t abandon him in a locked room in a burned-down mansion. Right?
His eyes fall on the statue standing against the wall, or at least what little he can make out of it from the dull red glow of its eyes in the darkness. They’ve been seeing these statues all over the building; they look like some kind of Pokémon, but it’s not a species that Kurt recognises. He decides to pretend that this is all its fault. Having something to blame makes him feel a little better.
He’s still glaring at the statue when he hears footsteps returning, and then an unexpected voice calls from the other side of the gate.
Kurt’s stomach twists, not unpleasantly. “I’m here,” he says. “Don’t you have battles you’re meant to be fighting or something?”
“Oh, that’s nice,” Blaine says, with a laugh. “I do the big hero thing and it turns out you don’t even want me here.”
“It’s not that. It’s just... you’re a Gym Leader. I figured you’d be busy.”
“I figured this was more important. Plus I couldn’t let your friends stay in here; it’s dangerous. I’ve taken Rachel out to wait for you with the others.”
So his friend isn’t actually trying to get him killed. That’s good news, at least. “Thanks, but I’m still in here, so you haven’t technically done the big hero thing yet. Do you think you can get me out?”
“I think I can probably manage,” Blaine says. It sounds more amused than dubious, which is reassuring. “You see a statue in there? Glowing eyes, kind of creepy?”
“I don’t know where you’re going with this, but yes.”
“Check the base. Around the back. There’ll be a secret switch.”
Kurt blinks, and then he gets up, ignoring the Vulpix’s protest at the sudden loss of its sleeping place, and walks over to the statue. It’s too dark to see, so he has to feel around the base, but he can’t find a switch; there’s nothing but smooth stone.
“Found it yet?”
“I’m sorry if my superpowers aren’t up to your standards, but I can’t actually see in the dark.”
And suddenly there’s a flame right in front of his face, and he jerks backward. It’s his Vulpix companion, and it takes him a moment to realise that it’s not attacking him; it’s helping him see what he’s doing.
“Um,” he says, “thanks,” and then he checks the base of the statue again. There is indeed a small switch, just beneath the Pokémon’s tail. He flips it.
There’s a clang, and the gate groans open. Blaine is standing on the other side, illuminated by the glow of the Fire Pokémon gathered around him, grinning broadly.
Kurt gives him an unimpressed look, although it’s probably wasted in the darkness. “You couldn’t have asked my friends to tell me that?”
“Hey, I don’t get to be a hero that often.”
“What you are is an idiot who abandoned his gym and then told me ‘oh, you can let yourself out’,” Kurt says. “Not that I don’t appreciate it.”
“Nothing like the glow of gratitude. Are you hurt?”
“I’m kind of bruised, I think, but I’ll be fine. Seriously, why did you come here?”
Blaine shrugs. “What, I’m not allowed to just want to see you again?”
Kurt forgets how to speak for a moment. Blaine is a Gym Leader. Everyone in Kanto knows his name. He can’t have heard that right. Or, if he did, he can’t be interpreting it correctly. He’s travelling with three gorgeous girls, after all, or at least two gorgeous girls and one girl who could potentially be gorgeous if she had any sense of fashion whatsoever; Blaine’s probably just trying to impress them.
But what if he’s not?
Blaine gives a slightly awkward laugh. “Yeah, okay, that was probably a weird thing to say when we haven’t known each other that long. Sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologise,” Kurt says, after a moment. Seriously, what is the conversation they’re having here?
“I guess we’ll just have to get to know each other better,” Blaine says. “How about you stick around a while after the contest? I can show you around the island. You know, the parts that aren’t burned down and incredibly dangerous.”
“I’d like that,” Kurt says, and as he says it he realises that he really, really would. Blaine actually grins, like for some unfathomable reason he’s just as excited about hanging out with Kurt. Kurt’s going to be so pissed if this turns out to be a dream. “But what I’d like even more right now is getting out of this place.”
“Oh, yeah, of course. Come on. I know a short-cut.”
They set off side-by-side, but a sharp pain sparks all the way up Kurt’s left leg after a few steps, and he stumbles. Blaine catches him by the arm, holds him steady.
“Hey,” Blaine says, “are you sure you’re okay?”
“I just need some rest. I’ll be fine.”
“Maybe,” Blaine says. He hasn’t let go of Kurt’s arm. “Don’t want to take any risks, though. C’mon, let’s get you to the Pokémon Center.”
Kurt looks flatly at him. “I’m not a Pokémon.”
There’s a tiny pause, and then Blaine cracks up laughing. “Sorry,” he says, when he’s recovered himself. “Kind of becomes force of habit when you’re a Gym Leader.”
They carry on through the mansion, Blaine with his arm around Kurt’s shoulders to support him. Kurt’s pretty certain he doesn’t actually need physical support – the twinge seems to have been a one-off – but somehow he forgets to mention that.
“Is that yours?” Blaine asks.
“What?” Kurt asks, before following Blaine’s line of sight down to the floor. A Vulpix – his partner in incarceration, perhaps? – is trotting along beside him. “No.”
“Well, it seems to like you. You might get a new Pokémon out of this whole ordeal, at least.”
Kurt smiles down at the Vulpix, and then casts a covert glance at Blaine.
It’s probably too soon to start hoping that he might get a new something else. It’s definitely too soon to start hoping that he might get a new something else.
“Just as friends,” Kurt says, which, at the moment, is probably true.
“He’s a Gym Leader, Kurt. He’s a figurehead of an institutionalised bloodsport, and you are not allowed to date him.”
He’s the smart, nice, good-looking figurehead of an institutionalised bloodsport, Kurt barely manages to keep himself from saying.
“I’m so going to keep using Sing if you go through with this,” Rachel says.
Kurt gives an apologetic look over Rachel’s shoulder to Quinn and Mercedes. Quinn rolls her eyes and Mercedes shakes her head, but they’re both smiling.
“I guess we’ll have to deal with that, then,” he says.