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Territory: Search & Rescue

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“Trey, do you have the numbers on the nesting population surveys yet? Sector five?”

Trey scrubbed his hand over his face and smeared wet-erase marker through his hair for his trouble. “They’re in your e-mail, Leader Vanessa, which you’d know if you bothered to check it more than once a day.”

“If someone needs to get hold of me that badly, there are more efficient ways to do it than e-mail.” Vanessa reached over him and scribbled notations on the whiteboard he’d been attempting to edit. “Have teams 8 and 3 reported in yet?”

“Team 8 is due back later today, team 3 sent a notice that they’ll be out in the field.”

“Hmm.” She flipped through a few pages on the clipboard in her hand. “Team 7 reported something interesting. Can we have Lucan do a statistical analysis?”

“Maybe after he finishes with Armilla’s. Here. Nesting Surveys. Go read them and quit hovering.” Trey flapped a stack of freshly printed datasheets in Vanessa’s general direction. “In your office , Van. Not the control room.”

“Phh. You’re no fun.”

“I’m busy advancing science. You’re just supervising. Go back to Sinnoh if you want to have fun.”

“I’m only in Opal for a conference. Let me play for a few more days and I’ll be out of your hair again,” she teased, already scanning the overview he’d handed her and wandering towards a chair.

“You’ll make a mess of my command board. Shoo.

“I will not—”

The intercom beeped. “Leader Vanessa, the Leader of Team Instinct is here to see you.”

Trey crooked an eyebrow.

“Don’t give me that look,” she scolded and fluttered the report at him. “He’s here for these.”

“Fine, fine.” He paused. “Do you want an escort?”

She twisted her lip. “Yes. This is a professional meeting on our turf.”

“Lab coat or suit jacket?”

“Lab coat. We want to be friendly.”

`*`

Spark was making friends with a Nomad’s Absol when Vanessa walked into the lobby with Trey and Wander at her heels. Go was with him, chatting up the receptionist while keeping a wary half-eye on his leader. “Good to see you, Spark.”

Spark looked up from the Absol and Vanessa made sure her smile was neutral and pleasant. “Hi, ‘Nessa. Long time no see.”

“It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to stop by our main office. Spark, this is Trey, my second-in-command.”

Spark held out his hand. “Nice to meetcha. This is Go. He’s my Instinct two.”

“Oh? The Go who wrote that fascinating report on hatching conditions in ground types? Very good work. I’m looking forward to hearing more.”

Go mumbled something about preliminary data still being rough at this point, but Vanessa shook his hand anyway.

“Well!” She said, all business, “you’re here for the nesting surveys. Come with us, gentlemen, we have a conference room set up down the hall.” She caught Spark’s grimace out of the corner of her eye and grinned slyly.

The door to the conference room opened out into a wall of windows. The Atrium, as the Nomads were wont to call it, snaked through the building under a glass roof, and all of the rooms that bordered it had floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors. Their pokemon frolicked through the carefully maintained garden without a care in the world, and Nomads strolled the walking path when they needed a break or just wanted to take the scenic route. Spark and Go, like every visitor to Team Nomad’s official headquarters, immediately plastered themselves to the view. “Damn, ‘Nessa. I didn’t realize your HQ was this posh.”

“It takes something extraordinary to tempt a Nomad to wander home,” she said with a smile. “So that’s what we built. There’s coffee if you want,” she clicked the projection map on. “But for now, science!”

`*`

The meeting took an hour and a half. Spark ate all of the peanuts out of the bowl of trail mix (even after Vanessa had lunch brought in) and Go had a handy map for where to continue his research. Vanessa, as Go put it later, ‘finally pulled the stick out of her butt,’ and quit being the aloof, in control Team Leader in favor of the friendly nerd excited about Pokemon Science she really was. They even hammered out a promising research collaboration for the next summer. Eventually, though, they ran out of steam, and Vanessa offered to give them a tour before they left. The Instinct leaders were eager to get out of the meeting and explore the Atrium.

Vanessa let Trey take the lead. The building was his project, after all. Vanessa’s offices were in Sinnoh, and as she’d told him before, he could do better justice to what they’d built in Opal City than she ever could. She hung back instead, feeling restless.

“Leader Vanessa?” One of her Nomads held a clipboard out to her. “Are you okay?”

The small group turned back to her. “I’m fine, River. What was it yo- aghhhh!” Pain! PAIN! She felt a deep wrench in her gut, like someone had twisted a phantom knife. Vanessa went to her knees, her arms wrapped around her stomach, and Uxie spiraled through her skin like a hurricane. Her claws came out, her harsh rasping bared sharp fangs, twin tails manifested at the base of her spine. Her bondmark shone through the sleeves of her lab coat, and when Uxie opened her eyes, they glowed gold. Uxie keened, cat claws digging into the soft dirt of the path.

“Don’t look!” Trey shouted. He yanked the Nomad back, throwing her bodily towards Spark and Go. Go had his arms full- Uxie’s manifestation had gotten Zapdos’ full attention. She landed on Spark and bounced off. Nomads were sturdy.

Trey landed on his knees in front of the pokemon possessing his leader as he shoved a pair of shades over his eyes. “Uxie! Uxie. You’re safe. Please close your eyes. We’ll fix whatever is wrong, just close your eyes.”

A soft rustle next to him told Trey that Go had lost the wrestling match with his leader. Uxie hissed at the interloper and shied to the right, further away. Trey moved with it to block its line of sight, but Spark reached out and spoke softly.

“Uxie. Tell me what’s happened.”

Sharp claws dug into his hand and Trey’s shoulder as Uxie turned Vanessa’s face to look between them, at the floor. The light behind its eyes guttered sharply and Vanessa’s face twisted in a mask of pain and panic.

Alex,” she croaked, and then her eyes flared again. There was light, and she vanished- and the two men vanished with her.

`*`

Spark landed on his back in the middle of a kitchen that smelled like Sӧren and the sharp, sour scent of panic. He felt more than saw how strong arms dragged Vanessa away from him, and for that half an instant he was too stunned to cling. He bolted to his feet and snarled, trying to get his bearings. He was in a kitchen. Vanessa was a yard away, keening into the arms of Azelf’s bonded, who looked like she’d walked through hell and now faced the walk back. A tall, lean red-headed woman stood between them and him.

“Move,” he snarled.

“No.”

“Get out of my way.”

Spark!

Sӧren’s voice cut through him like lightning. His cousin was on the other side of the kitchen, pale as a sheet with steel winding through his long braid. Palkia’s bonded stood next to him. “Leave Mina alone.”

Spark shook himself, and took two big steps back. “Soree,” he croaked. “What’s happened?”

Azelf’s bonded looked at him over her sobbing packmate’s shoulder. “Alex- Mesprit’s bonded- was taken .”

All of the bonded in the kitchen at the side of Lake Valor snarled in unison. Molly wrapped her arms tighter around Uxie’s shoulders for a moment. “Uxie,” she murmured, and turned her bondmates’ face up towards her own. She met Uxie’s glowing eyes without fear. “We’re scared. We’re scared, but I need you to give this body back to your bonded. Your bonded is canny. She can find Mesprit, but you must let her back in. I know it hurts. It hurts us too. Please. Let Vanessa come back so we can hunt the ones who stole our packmate.”

Uxie growled, but it laid it’s face against Molly’s and closed its eyes.

They knew Vanessa had regained control when she jerked her head up with a snarl. “Molly, I can’t feel them.” Uxie manifested in its own body and perched on her shoulder, chittering.

“I know,” Molly snarled back. “Neither can I. Whoever it is has blocked us.”

Vanessa squeezed Molly’s hand in hers. “We will get them back,” she swore, and then she stood. “Trey,” she growled at her second, “alert all teams. I want a status update on every single project we’re involved in immediately. Someone knows something, and we are going to find it.” She held out her hand to her second. “We’re going to HQ.”

Spark stepped forward. “I—”

“Spark,” she barked. “Go home. You’re not a part of this.”

Then she and Trey vanished. Spark pointed at his cousin. “ No. I’m helping. That’s final.”

Sӧren assessed him. “Fine,” he said at last. “We could use another battler.”

Molly got to her feet, and Spark had an insane moment where he wondered who would win in an arm wrestling match- Candela or Molly. He shook himself.

“Mina,” Molly said. “I’ll take the boys to Lake Acuity. I want you and Freyja to stay here and initiate siege protocol.”

Her wife nodded, cool and regal. “Be safe,” she ordered. “Bring Alex back.”

Molly clapped her hands on Spark’s shoulder as she grabbed Sӧren by the sleeve. “I love you,” she said, and then her bonded teleported them all into a large room full of computer screens and barked orders.

Spark landed better this time, on his feet, and he caught Vanessa’s eye as she turned away from the screen in front of her, a bluetooth headset in her ear. She just nodded and turned back to the screen. Her tails whipped back and forth in agitation. “Team Eight, this is Nomad One. Report in.”

“No suspicious activity, Nomad One.”

“Stand by for further instructions, Team Eight.”

“Team Eight, acknowledged. Will stand by.”

Trey was barking into his own headset. Slight gestures highlighted areas of the map of Sinnoh on a digital display to the left, and a shaky video feed bounced around what appeared to be a battle arena locker room. It looked like a tornado had been through it. Molly trotted to Vanessa’s side and put a bluetooth in her own ear. Vanessa held out her hand without looking, and Molly grabbed it and gripped it tight. They continued to bark orders and confirmations to disparate Nomad teams.

“I thought the Nomads were just a bunch of nerd scientists,” Spark murmured to his cousin. “What the hell is this?”

Sӧren snorted. “That’s what she wants you to think,” he said quietly. “Welcome to Lake Acuity Command Center, Sparky. The real headquarters of Team Nomad.” He clapped Spark on the shoulder and pushed him out of the room. “Come on, we’ll just be in the way. Let’s go suit up. Don’t want to get any blood on that fancy jacket, do we?”

`*`

Sӧren made his cousin call Willow and his second in command before he let Spark into the armory. (“Hey, Uncle Willow. I’m at Lake Acuity. What kind of research center needs an armory?!” “For fuck’s sake, Spark, give me the phone!”) He took one look at the body armor Sӧren wanted him to wear and snorted. “Wear it,” his cousin had ordered. “I don’t want to have another lecture from Vanessa because I let your dumb ass get shot.”

They were still bickering over it when Vanessa walked in. A black blindfold had been tied over her eyes. “If you’re coming,” she said, “you better be prepared to work in a team. Wear the fucking armor.” Then she turned on her heel and left.

“What’s with the blindfold?”

Sӧren grimaced. “It’s because of Uxie.”

Spark glared at his cousin. “Yeah, and?”

“If Uxie meets your eyes, it can wipe your memories. Vanessa tries to be careful about it when Uxie is likely to be out of control.”

“... well that’s… awesome.”

Sӧren pulled a face. “Look, Spark, just… don’t be like you always are this time. The cats are already almost out of control. Don’t push them. They won’t play. Trust me on this one, Sparky.”

“...Fine.” Spark grabbed the body armor out of Sӧren’s hand. “I don’t see what’s supposed to be so scary about a bunch of lake cats anyway,” he grumbled to himself.

Sӧren paused. “You… really don’t know?”

“It’s never come up!”

Sӧren snorted.

“Oh, shut up.” He paused. “For real, though..?”

Sӧren swallowed. “The red chain,” he almost whispered it.

Spark frowned. “Like what Rocket has.”

“No. No, coz, nothing like what Rocket has.”

`*`

Sӧren kept his cousin out of the control room until Molly came and got them. She’d changed into armor herself- kevlar and conductive steel, enough to stop a bullet or Zapdos’ bolts. Her arms were bare- Spark supposed there was no armor that could accommodate a bodybuilder’s biceps- and her bondmark, a copy of Azelf’s tail and nearly the same as Vanessa’s, traveled from her palms all the way up the inside of her arms. “‘Nessa thinks she’s found them,” she said with a jerk of her head, “come on.”

They piled back into the command room and Vanessa was there, strapping herself into body armor without the benefit of eyesight. Trent was grumbling at her and fixing it.

“You found them?” Sӧren asked.

She gestured at the map. “Team fifteen reported a high level of activity at their research base and then being given the day off, along with the rest of the researchers. We got lucky; our surveillance team managed to find Alex’ sylveon. She snuck out of the base and provided corroboration. Alex is there, about twenty miles away from the gym their exhibition battle was supposed to be in.” She bared her teeth. “We don’t know why they took Alex. The facillity was researching teleportation, but it’s not an obscure move…” she shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. We’re going to teleport outside of the fence and cut our way through. Teleporting in is too much of a risk. Spark,” she looked at him- and it was a little weird to be looked at through a blindfold- “can you fry their security cameras?”

“Easy-peasy, Danger Kitten. I can fry any circuit you want.”

Sӧren snorted. “Yeah, he fried every single one of my gaming consoles when we were kids.”

“Hey! I was ten!”

Molly rolled her eyes. “Focus, boys.”

“You’ve got a four-man strike team.” Trey recited. “Spark, you’re with Sӧren. Molly and Van will alternate taking point. We’ve got people watching the place, so try not to fry any Nomads. I don’t want to have to pay for any ridiculous medical bills.”

“Why do you two take point?”

“Because,” Molly said as she attached pokeballs to her utility belt, “we kick better ass than you.”

“...I find that hard to believe.”

“Believe it, coz.”

Vanessa swiped her blindfold off and finished adjusting her body armor. “Shut up and get in the helicopter,” she growled. “Or I’ll throw your asses in the lake.”

They did.

`*`

Alex glared at the asshole in front of them. He was pudgy, and balding, and seemed to know his way around a lab.

Something was wrong with the way he moved. And he hadn’t monologued yet.

That was usually a bad sign. He and his minions just… scurried around, like they were trained rats, and ignored anything Alex tried to bait them with. But Alex was a Lake Guardian. They knew what team those ridiculous space-suit uniforms belonged to, and they recognized the feeling of the aura building between the giant twinned arrays at the end of the room.

“It’s not going to work!”

No response.

Hurry up, sis.

`*`

Vanessa and Molly had the helicopter land half a mile away from the lab. Carter and Melanie materialized out of the bushes, a frightened Sylveon at their heels.

“Nali!” Vanessa went to her knees. “Are you okay? Alex is in there?” She held out her hands and let the Sylveon climb into her lap. Wander came out of his ball and chirped at his friend, his paws up to pat at Nali’s ribbons. He looked twice as big in the sleek tactical vest Vanessa had strapped to him.

“Syl!” The sylveon’s ribbons flailed unhappily.

“Sӧren, get Nali a vest! Don’t worry, sweetheart, we’re gonna get Alex back, okay?”

“Veon!”

“Team Fifteen.” Vanessa’s voice snapped like a whip. “Report.”

Carter swallowed. “We were out in the training field with one of the research pokemon—” he gestured to the left— “and a convoy of four vehicles drove up. They parked in the indoor training arena. Half an hour later, someone comes up and says the facility was closing for the day and we had the weekend off.” He held out a tablet. “I got pictures of the guards driving the vehicles before they closed the arena bay doors.”

Vanessa took the tablet and zoomed in. “That’s impossible ,” she snarled it.

Molly looked over her shoulder. Her dark curly hair turned blue at the ends. “ Galactic,” Azelf snarled.

Vanessa took her blindfold out of her pocket. “Do you two have a vehicle?”

“We have a jeep parked in those trees.”

“Good. I need you to get as far away from here as you can. Evac now.”

They bolted. Vanessa tied the blindfold back around her eyes and went back to the helicopter. She came back with a couple percussion grenades strapped to her belt.

“‘Nessa… there could be more ‘mons in there.”

She ignored him. “This facility is three parts: the arena and training fields, the stables, and the laboratory attached to the arena. The stables run on a different circuit than the labs. Spark, you and Azelf can go in and get the ‘mons out of the stables- most of them should be in balls, so it should be fast. Hopefully the rest of Alex’s team is there. Evac them to the helicopter. Try to download any keeper’s data before you fry the system.”

“Got it.”

“Sӧren, you’re with me. We’ll take out the guards and scout where they’re keeping Alex. Rendezvous at the bay doors in ten.”

“Right.”

She looked at her sister bonded. “We’re going to get Mesprit back,” she snarled.

“And make sure Galactic never crawls out of their graves again.” Azelf snarled back.

“Let’s go.”

Spark paused next to his cousin. “Is anyone else concerned that we’re following orders from an irate cat?”

“You get used to it,” Sӧren said with a shrug. “See you in a bit, birdbrain.”

Spark shook his head and followed the cat in Molly’s body.

`*`

Azelf, as it turned out, had a decent grasp on reality and a healthy amount of respect for other bonded. It also recognized which pokemon belonged to Alex. Those, it stuck in its vest. “Is that all of them?”

“All of them that I could find. Teleport isn’t exactly a common move.”

It held a datachip up between its claws. “Uxie-girl’s data.”

He grimaced. “You better keep it. I might fry it.”

The card disappeared into a vest pocket. They crept back through the hallway and past a corpse in a galactic uniform. Azelf sniffed. “Uxie’s work. My sibling is the most bloodthirsty.”

“...okay.”

“I hear you’ve met.”

He inhaled wrong. “Something like that.”

Azelf shrugged. “We have two minutes until the rendezvous.” It tilted its head. “I like that word. Ren-dez-vous.”

“...it’s a nice word?”

“Yes. Let’s go. The way is clear.” It paused. “You may want to stay back when we find Mesprit.”

“‘Nessa said you’d take point,” he said.

It shook its head. “Most legendaries are not fond of us after they learn what we are.”

“Well…” he scratched his head. “I like you just fine?”

“Just stay behind us.”

“Ookay.” Zapdos was bristling under his skin. He fried the circuits from outside the door.

`*`

The portal was open. Alex’s hair stuck to the back of their neck from sweat.

Alex heard screams and bared their sharp teeth at the Galactic grunts restraining them. “My sisters are here. You won’t survive twice,” they promised. “Let me go.”

Charon, whose voice was not what Mesprit remembered it to be, bared his blunt teeth at them and finally spoke. “Our leader wanted you here to witness his return, abomination! He crowed. “You and your ilk will fall before Team Galactic’s return!”

Someone’s been taking drama classes.”

Alex jerked as far as their bonds would let them. “Sӧren!” They cried. Vanessa- no, Uxie stood with him. Azelf was there with Zapdos’ bonded. Their pokemon were at their heels. “Nali,” Alex breathed. “You got out.”  

“Smells like ghosts in here,” Sӧren commented. Alex’s sister cats just snarled.

Charon snarled back. “Protect the beacon! Cyrus will return!”

The Galactic grunts called their pokemon. The Bonded called theirs.

“Furret! Use scratch on Alex’s cuffs!”

“Wander! Use Dark pulse on those arrays!”

“Frost, Ice beam!”

“Donglord, use thundershock!”

Team Galactic’s pokemon did their best to block. Only Furret got through- but Alex was free. “Good job, you giant noodle!”

The portal pulsed. A boot stepped through the portal.

No. Mesprit howled in Alex’s head. No!

“Cyrus,” Charon hissed, triumphant. Cyrus stepped through the portal and smiled. Mesprit tore through all of Alex’s defenses. The cats bared their fangs and their tails whipped the air. Red chains clattered from their palms. Mesprit heard Zapdos step back to the door with a snarl. Electricity licked the air.

It still smelled like ghosts. Charon walked to Cyrus, his body glowing with a dark aura.

Impossible!

Charon opened his mouth. ARCEUS’ SPAWN!

Giratina!” they snarled in one voice.

Dialga spoke through Sӧren’s mouth. “ Giratina. Have you chosen a bonded from our enemies?”

Giratina exploded into existence in the middle of the array. Its wings knocked Charon to the floor. The towers broke to make room for its bulk, and the portal died. I BOND WITH NO HUMAN. HE HAS BEEN USEFUL IN GATHERING YOU, THAT IS ALL. It pushed Cyrus down the stairs. Charon crawled to him.

DIALGA. I HAVE TIRED OF THIS HUMAN. TAKE IT BACK.

Dialga examined his steel claws. “I did not want it in the first place. Give it to the Guardians. They will dispose of it, I am sure.”

IT IS ANNOYING.

“It wrapped me and our other bonded in chains stolen from the guardians. I don’t know why you kept it, honestly. It smells bad.”

Cyrus sputtered and stood.

A new portal to the distortion world opened behind Giratina. DO WITH IT WHAT YOU WILL, Giratina grumbled. I AM DONE WITH IT. GOODBYE. It turned back to the portal it had called.

Chains whipped towards it. The galactic grunts were back on their feet, their pokemon anchoring the ends of the synthetic, ruby-colored chains.

Dialga bellowed. Six true chains snapped them away from the dragon, shattering the poor copies like they were glass. Giratina disappeared into the portal, undisturbed.

Uxie smiled and its covered eyes stared its old enemy down. “Hello, Cyrus.” It showed him it’s bonded palms, how the links disappeared into her skin. “You could only ever make poor copies of us. You lack the knowledge of Arceus to make them again. I advise you not to try your tricks twice.”

Cyrus raised his hand towards one of his grunts, who put a shining coil of red into his hand. A red whip uncurled with a flick of his wrist to drag on the floor. “As you can see,” he said, “my scientists have been busy upgrading.”

Lightning whipped over their heads. Cyrus snapped the whip and it died. “I see you there, Zapdos!”

Uxie held out a hand. “This one is ours, Zapdos!”

“Then kill it. It smells!”

“How dare you!” Charon shouted. “Kill them! Kill them all!”

The grunts attacked. “Light screen!” Mesprit called to Nali. The Sylveon pounced between the two teams, light unfolding from it, but it couldn’t block everything. Two golbats broke through and met Azelf’s chains, wielded like sledgehammers.

Nali dodged a crack from the red whip with a panicked cry. “No!” Alex screamed, their voice breaking through Mesprit’s control. “Nali, get back!”

Uxie’s Thunder cracked at the same time as Zapdos’ lightning, and two of the grunts went down for good. Cyrus laughed and snapped his whip at Wander next. Wander dodged and vomited a dark pulse at the hand that held the weapon. Molly’s glaceon iced Charon’s legs to the floor, and he screamed, pounding at it with his fists in panic. A glameow tried to go toe-to-toe with Frost and fell to Mesprit’s chain.

Cyrus’ whip bit at them again and again, and Uxie, blinded, blocked it, over and over, dodging moves and claw strikes, lithe and fierce, Wander with it, sowing confusion with quick attack and spitting dark pulse whenever he could.

A toxicroak got in a lucky suckerpunch, and Wander fell back to their line. “Wander!” Uxie cried as it dodged, “use Payback!”

The toxicroak, and the grunt that tried to save it, went down. “Running out of allies, Cyrus!”

He grunted as Uxie’s chain lashed his shoulder. “I don’t need them!” He snarled, and flicked the whip again. He didn’t see the faces of his remaining team members- not until they recalled their pokemon and backed up to the wall, away from the man who had betrayed them once already. “GET UP!” he screeched, and aimed his whip at a grunt.

It was all the opening Uxie needed. Its chains wrapped around his throat and it yanked. His face met an armored knee with a resounding crack, and the fight was over.

NO!” Charon screeched. His feet were still pinned to the floor, but the gun he pulled out of his coat didn’t need him to move as he pointed it straight at Uxie’s face.

CRACK.

Spark’s eyes glowed as the lightning danced around him. “ Mine,” he snarled at the charred corpse.

Uxie wrinkled its nose at the smell. “Gross,” it said in Vanessa’s voice. “You get to clean that up, Zapdos.”

Cyrus groaned through his broken nose. Mesprit and Azelf wrapped their chains around his torso and pulled. Uxie kicked the whip out of his hands. “Get rid of that,” it snapped at Dialga, and Dialga’s steel toes crushed the red whip into shards.

Uxie yanked Cyrus upright by his hair. Its fangs lengthened to needle-sharp points, and it hissed, too angry for human words.

Cyrus grinned at it through broken teeth. “Kill me already, you fucking abomination.”

Uxie sneered. “No,” it growled. “You are too pathetic to kill.” Then it slipped Vanessa’s blindfold off of its face and opened its eyes.

Cyrus screamed. Cyrus screamed for a long time before Uxie closed its eyes and he collapsed into a gibbering ball at its feet, and his old teammates cried with him. “It’s done,” Uxie told them, and threw their broken team leader into their arms. “You will never strike against us again. Take what’s left of your leader to a hospital. He will never remember who he is or what he’s done, and neither will you. Go!

They bolted. Uxie waited until their footsteps faded and then it staggered.

Molly and Alex caught Vanessa before she fell. “Alex,” she croaked.

Alex wiped their happy tears off their cheeks. “‘Nessie. You came.”

“Of course we came, you idiot.”

Molly held them both close. “We would never abandon you,” she said. “Let’s go home.”

Alex nodded. “Okay.”

`*`

Jubilation waited long enough for them to get back to the helicopter. “Van,” Sӧren asked. “Where are the grenades you grabbed?”

The arena exploded.

Vanessa smirked. “Back there.”

“...”

“Uxie doesn’t have enough energy left to use future sight,” she said with a shrug.

“You are a menace.

“I dunno,” Spark said. “It seems like an efficient way to get rid of the bodies.”

You do not get an opinion. You’re worse than she is.”

Molly rolled her eyes. “Get in the chopper, Sӧren. I’m tired and I want a nice hot bath with my wife.”

He pouted. “Only if I get to pilot this time.”

Sӧren.”

`*`

Spark stomped out to the deck of the lake house and threw his phone in the lake.

“You know my wife is going to make you fish that back out come morning,” Mina said behind him. She was wrapped in a fluffy wool sweater and sipped tea from a cute surskit mug. She had fuzzy mareep slippers on her feet.

“My bondmates are fussing,” he grumbled. “Cute slippers.”

“They were worried,” she said. “Vanessa will probably have to send them extravagant apologies.” She sipped her tea. “I am sorry Vanessa dragged you into their crisis.”

“She didn’t intend to bring me here ,” he corrected. “I decided to help on my own.”

She joined him at the rail. “Well, thank you. You probably saved her life. Again, from what I’ve heard.”

“I don’t like losing people.”

“Nobody does. Thank you anyway.”

He stared out over the lake. “My plane leaves in the morning.”

“Nomad will cover your expenses.”

He dug his nails into his palms. “... do you think would she stay with me tonight?”

She sighed. “Spark…”

“Not for anything! Just… I don’t want to sleep alone tonight.”

She glanced back through the picture window into the living room. People and pokemon were piled around Vanessa, Alex, and Molly on the small ocean of pillows in the corner. “You can join them if you want,” she said. “It’s okay to need company once in awhile. But here, it’s better when you share.” She went back inside.

When Mina turned the lights down later that night, Spark was sandwiched between Vanessa and Alex, who had gleefully yanked him into the pillows and declared him their hero. Molly followed her wife to bed.