It's dark when they finally land, but they're back now.
In Green's professional opinion, navigating an airport is unquestionably hell. While he knows that the boat ride home would've taken significantly more time, he almost wishes they did just catch the same boat back to Kanto that they took into Unova. It's less of a disaster getting into and out of the ports, and honestly, Green gets a little antsy on flights. He'd rather fly his own Charizard, if only he could fly across an ocean safely. Getting through customs is definitely the worst part of it for him, though, even on a good day, even when he has nothing else to worry about.
He had Red to worry about this time, though, and that made things a bit trickier.
The thing about Red is this; he doesn't like crowds. That's a given, that's always been a trait he has, and it's something Green has always been able to help him navigate. Getting through the airport with him is a rougher time, though, because there is at least some mandatory social interaction, and some moments where Red has to answer for himself (still in sign language, at least), so by the time they left the airport, Red was ready to run, and some part of Green feared he would disappear into the night all over again.
Green still sees the light from Red's Charizard up ahead of him, though, so he's okay for now. They're flying from Saffron's airport to Viridian City, and everything is okay for now.
It's funny. He remembers really having to race after Red all those years ago, and he remembers losing, and he remembers that being the worst mistake of his life. Maybe losing to Red at the Indigo League was the real mistake, though, that's where it all began, and that's where it all came undone. It's a softer chase tonight, though, Red is slow enough to keep up with, their destination is agreed upon, and every so often Red looks back to make sure Green is still there. It's okay. It's over.
Everything is over, and Green is so, so relieved.
...Red is steering a bit off course, though.
Green whistles to get Red's attention; hey, look at me. He's too far away to call out to over the wind. He'd fly closer, but that would result in their Charizard's wings smacking into each other.
Red glances back and veers a bit off to the side, to get a better look at Green. What?, he asks in a single sharp whistle.
Green waves for Red to follow him, and Red lets himself fall behind Green. Green can't erase the pang of fear in the back of his chest, something about if I can't see him I don't know if he's still here, but he'd rather lead Red home on time than get turned around up ahead. He just needs to ignore the fear for now, that's all.
The wind on his face feels nice. He can't see Red, though.
He looks back, and yes, Red is still there - maybe even a bit closer than he needs to be, but that's fine, that's better than being too far away. Green looks ahead again, then back at Red a few minutes later, then ahead, back, he's gonna break his neck at this rate but he can't shake the fear that Red left for more than three minutes, at best.
Years ago, many years ago, Green used to use Mount Silver as a landmark without a second thought. He would use it as a gauge for when he was above Viridian City. When it comes clearly into his line of view, more of a mountain and less of a triangular blob, that means the city below is just a few minutes ahead of him. It used to be such an innocuous place, a simple mountain, nothing more. It used to just be a part of the horizon.
Well, it still is, but there's more memories in those peaks now, more screaming and crying and begging hiding in the caverns, and Green suddenly feels sick living so close by.
Red, Green whistles, and Red whistles back, I'm here. They don't truly have a system of whistles set up between each other, it's not a real language, but they both - they just know, they're intuitive enough with one another to know what means what. That's what happens when you've been best friends with someone for over a decade.
Green wonders what happens when you start to really love your best friend.
It's only been a week. It was a week ago that Red said it first, and Green answered on pure instinct, pure desire. And I love that you're here, and I love you, and Green answered with a simple I love you too, and his mind reeled between I love you and this is real for the rest of the night. It's only been a week, and yet it's also been years, almost a decade of waiting, a decade of figuring his heart out, denying it and accepting it over and over until it was safe - until it was possible - to even entertain this idea. Yes, Red came home, and it was possible for Green to flirt, to drop hints, and yet Red beat him to the punch, and - well, Green isn't about to complain.
Red loves him, and he loves Red, and that's all that matters (even if he is a little jealous that Red "won" their flirting game).
Red, Green whistles again, and Red whistles back. He can still hear him, he's still close, everything is fine - safe, even. He motions for Red to get ready to land, and gives a ready? whistle over the wind.
No answer. Green looks back.
They've both slowed down enough that they can land, but Red has that look about him, dubious of the world below him - dubious at best, terrified at worst. The only time he handled being in a proper city particularly well since he came down from that stupid mountain was when he was heat exhausted and delirious from their desert excursion. He wonders how much Red even remembers of that.
(It's okay,) Green signs to him - easier to sign that shout over the flapping wings, especially when Red looks this anxious. (It's late. No one's awake anyway.)
No answer. Red looks at the world below, then back at Green. They... They kinda can't keep waiting, though. Green is sure their Charizard are getting tired, and hovering is going to eventually cause a scene. (Ready?)
Finally, Red nods, one definitive motion. Green's Charizard makes his landing, a slight spiral around the Viridian City gym, before landing gracefully (as graceful as a two meter dragon can be) in a patch of worn earth. This has been Charizard's landing strip for years, now.
Red lands beside him, and Green wonders how long it'll take for Red's Charizard to leave his own mark on the earth.
"Well," Green breathes, stretching after hours of flight, hours of travel, "welcome to Viridian City. It's a bit cooler than I expected it to be for this time of year, but... eh. It's late, maybe that's it." Pause. "Or early, I guess."
Red is quiet, of course. The sound of crickets fills the air.
"So, um..." Green's eyes dart from Red to the direction of Pallet Town, back toward Red's home. They didn't actually discuss this, but, "you want me to walk you home?"
Red's lips move as if to speak, but still, he's silent. The words come from his hands instead. (I wanna stay with you.)
"Oh! Cool, uh, let's - lemme, um..." Green stutters through a sentence he didn't plan out while he calls Charizard back into his pokéball. He can't stifle the excitement in his voice, but he's kinda short-circuiting. He didn't expect Red to just say that point-blank. He's definitely not complaining, though. The more time he gets to spend with Red, the better.
(Should I not?)
"No, you should," even though it's less of you should stay with me and more of you should do what you want, but again, Green is jet-lagged, weary, and he just wants to stay with his boyfriend, that's - this is his boyfriend now, wow, he can say that and it's not a dream or an elaborate conversation in his imagination. "Let's head inside. Follow me."
Red recalls his Charizard, and he holds Green's hand as they begin the last little leg of their journey home. Green wishes his apartment wasn't directly above his gym, now, if only he could hold Red's hand for a few more minutes - oh, but he can, this is his boyfriend, and he's sure Red wouldn't mind if he held on a little longer and a little tighter.
Green notices Red's double take between the gym below them and the apartment they're walking up to, and yeah, yeah this probably needs a little explanation.
"So, uh, most gym leaders live pretty close to their gyms, y'know, 'cause of travel times and all," wow, eloquent, "and the original Viridian gym leader basically set up shop upstairs from the gym. I guess he used to come in the gym through the back in the mornings, and head back up the stairs to the apartment at the end of the day, or whatever. It's a good system, actually. I don't think Giovanni ever used it," and he's careful to coast past the former leader for Red's sake, "but I needed to get outta Pallet after awhile, so I settled in here."
Red nods, nothing more. He's probably just tired, and he doesn't often talk out in the open anyway, but a part of Green still fears the worst. A part of him still fears that this is going to be too much for Red, that he's going to run, he definitely could run because they're closer to Mount Silver when they're here instead of in Unova, he could easily sneak off he has the capacity to leave if he wants -
"Is that okay?" He can't tell if his voice is shaking or not. He's tired and his thoughts are reeling.
Red looks perplexed at him for a second, then nods. (Why not?) Why wouldn't it be okay?, rather, but that's a lot to sign with only one free hand.
"Just, um," fuck he's losing his thoughts faster than he's making them, "you seem off." Red shrugs. "Are you okay?" He nods, more definitively. "Okay." Okay. It's - no, nothing is wrong with Red. Green is just... having a time. Maybe it's some kind of reverse homesickness. Maybe coming home is making him more anxious, somehow.
It's pure muscle memory that allows Green to get the door unlocked without dropping his keys down four meters of stairs to the ground below. Sometimes he used to sit out here and bask in the serenity of these spring evenings, looking out onto Viridian Forest, sometimes wandering to the end of the balcony and looking out at Mount Silver and wishing it would spit Red back out - but Red is here, Red is with him, everything is okay now.
Red darts inside ahead of Green. Maybe that's what was bothering him. He probably needed to be inside somewhere.
Green gives his two knocks to the doorframe as he enters, a habit he has upon walking into a room, one he hasn't been fully conscious of until now, now that it's almost four in the morning, silent, and with Red. He... he hasn't ever been self conscious of his compulsive habits until now, until he realizes that Red doesn't know about any of them. It's - it's probably fine, though. Probably.
Holy hell Green is so fucking tired.
"Welcome home." The words almost don't leave his mouth, that's how quiet he is, how quiet the world feels around him. Red is already wandering through his living room. "What're you finding over there?"
"Stuff." He sounds content, albeit tired. Red tends to poke around new places when he feels easy, though. He was actually pretty satisfied to explore Undella for awhile during their Unova visit.
"What kind of stuff?"
"Your stuff, presumably."
"You can keep putzing around if you want, then," Green laughs sleepily. "I'm gonna unpack real quick, then get some sleep."
It feels quiet. It feels nice.
The quiet energy in the room is nice, Green realizes, light and soft. It's a different sort of silence to the one he became accustomed to on his Mount Silver visits. It's not a painful absence of sound here, no, it's actually tranquil, it's safe, this kind of peace is easy to breathe in. He can leave Red in the other room, and while there's always a part of him that's whispering about the worst, a more rational part of him swears up and down that everything is over now, this is the epilogue to Red's disappearance, this is Red's quiet, triumphant return to the land of the living. He can leave Red in the other room, and he can come back out and still see Red, Red will still be here, it's okay, everything is okay.
Green smiles sleepily and basks in that feeling for a moment. Everything is okay.
He shifts into autopilot, shuffling through clothes and toiletries and setting them away in his neatly organized drawers and shelves. He likes having everything sit just so, meaning he's probably going to have to make sure Red isn't digging through too much of the living room, or he won't be able to sleep. He'll have time to snoop tomorrow though, while Green is - actually, is he even going into the gym tomorrow?
"Red?" Green calls, and a part of him swears he won't hear an answer. "What's today?"
There's no answer for a moment, and Green almost sinks into the floor.
"Sunday?" Red answers - asks, rather. "Is it still Saturday night, or is it Sunday morning?"
"Well like - in calendar days, we're on Sunday?"
Fuck it. He's not going in tomorrow - or today, whatever. He's taking a few days to get rid of the jet lag and be with Red.
"Why?" Red asks, his voice bouncing off the apartment walls, and god that feels so good, it feels amazing to know Red is still here even when he's out of Green's frame of view.
"Trying to figure out what my gym schedule is for tomorrow, but uh," he adds quickly, "I'm gonna take the next couple've days off. Jet lag."
Everything is put away now, somehow. He still feels the need to organize something, or maybe he's tired and just moving to move. He should really sleep soon, or maybe help Red get his stuff unpacked, so that -
Wait is Red actually living with me now or -
He... He didn't fully process what Red may have meant when he signed I wanna stay with you, unless he's reading too much into it, but... Does he intend to live here now, or did he just want to stay the night? Is he okay with living away from home for - well, no, it wouldn't be the first time. The first time he lived away from home was when he was on Mount Silver. Did he ask him mom about this? He doesn't really need to ask, Red is twenty, but... Green should ask what he meant. That would be the smart way to figure this out.
Green goes to find Red, but Red is sitting right next to him, and Green stumbles back because fuck when you did come in here -
"How do you move so quietly?" Green asks, still startled. Red shrugs with an amused grin. "I didn't even hear you come in."
"I kinda thought you didn't, since I scared you."
"You didn't scare me, you dork," said affectionally.
"Startled you, whatever." Red puts his hat in his lap. "What're you doing?"
"I just finished unpacking stuff, is all. Also, uh, Red..." Green struggles to make words - say words, whatever, they've been traveling for twelve hours and he's doing his best here, okay? "Um... are you, uh," wait, how does he ask this without making Red feel like he should leave, "are you staying here for like... awhile?"
Red's smile drops. "Can I?"
"Of course," Green answers, maybe too fast, too eager. "I want - I mean - I wanna make sure I'm not like, y'know, making you feel like you need to stay here - but I also don't wanna make you feel like I'm kicking you out, 'cause I'm not, I-I just, um... I wanna know where you'll be."
"With you. Right?"
"Right." It's such a simple answer, so distinctly Red, and it melts the pile of worry that was building in Green's half-coherent rambling. "I'm glad. I just don't want you to disappear on me ag - "
Again, but Red kisses him, steals his words off his lips for five seconds, too short but too - not too long, no, this isn't what just friends do but it doesn't have to be what friends do, he - fuck, he's in love, he just wants to drown in Red.
"I'm here," Red breathes, smiles, and Green does drown in him for a moment.
"Thank you." That's all he can think to say.
Red is the one who moves in to hug him, but Green hugs him back in the same breath, leaning on Red just enough to feel his hair on his cheeks, still unkempt and yet still so soft, still Red, Red is here and so is Green and they're not on a mountain and he isn't going to ask are you coming home because they are home, this is home, Red is home you are my home -
Red hugs him a little tighter. That's all the answer he needs.
Rain starts falling outside. Green feels like he could almost fall asleep on Red.
"...you should unpack, y'know," he says, just to keep himself awake for a few more minutes. No answer, though. "Red?"
"Hm..." Poor thing, he's already half asleep himself.
Green kisses the back of his head. "You awake?"
"Mm..." That's a firm not really.
"Go lay down. We'll sort your stuff tomorrow." He doesn't think he can focus on trying to shuffle his things around again tonight, anyway. Green moves to pull away, to get Red in his bed (not like that - not yet, anyway - or - ugh, never mind, he's just tired, that's all), but Red clings to him. "C'mon, we gotta get up."
"'t's fine," Red mumbles. "We c'n sleep like this."
"Honey, no." Red just groans quietly. Green manages to pull both of them to their feet somehow. Green sways with Red in his arms for a moment, just to feel his heat against him, just to know that he's real, he's here, Red is home and so is Green. "...you should get in pajamas."
"Come on, you can't sleep in jeans."
"Yeah I can."
"Well, you shouldn't." Red whines at him, and Green can't help but laugh. "You're so fussy."
"I know." He kisses the top of Red's head, then finally pulls away to look at him. "Just lay down. I'm gonna make sure the door's locked, then I'll be right back in here, okay?"
Red nods, yawning. He'll probably be out light a light by the time Green comes back.
There's five windows in the front room of Green's apartment, which means six locks to check, including the door. It's not like he left the windows open while he was abroad, but he just... he needs to be sure. He needs to make sure everything is the way it should be, and he can't focus on anything other than the state of the apartment until he's sure all is well. At least he's damn quick about it, or else he'd lose a lot more time to this little ritual.
Green taps his fingers along the window sills as he goes along; locked, locked, locked, door is locked, locked, locked, good, they're fine, it's - mostly. He checks the apartment's little maintenance closet on the far side of the living room, checks the electrical box, checks the water heater, double checks the electrical box, because he's not about to let the place burn down, not now, not ever, especially not with Red here is Red still here -
He does one last check around the room, counting locks, checking wires, and everything is fine. The rain comes down a little harder.
"Okay," he breathes. "Okay, okay, okay..." He sighs deeply. His brain is short-circuiting. Literally all he needs is sleep right now - sleep, and Red.
Speaking of which, Red is fast asleep by the time Green comes back into his (their?) bedroom. This window is locked, too. Everything is fine.
Green spaces out for a minute, falls into the sound of the rain and the sight of his friend - his boyfriend - asleep on his - their - bed. It feels like a dream - but it isn't, he knows this, because dream Red never changed his clothes, and it seems like this Red, this very real Red, did actually slip into something more comfortable. Green wonders if that feels even more comfortable after living on Mount Silver for so long. That certainly looks comfortable - actually, he can get changed too, and then sleep, and he can stop making sentences in his head that never really know where they're going to end.
He takes his change of clothes into the bathroom, brushes his teeth, then changes, that's the order he always does this in. He wonders if Red... no, he doesn't wonder, he just thinks Red, Red is on his mind and he needs him in his arms right now and forever and always always always -
Green slips into bed next to Red, and as if on cue, Red rolls over to face him - eyes open, apparently he wasn't asleep.
"Did I wake you up?" Green asks, and Red shakes his head. "Okay, good."
The rain is letting up already. Red cuddles as close as he can, and Green holds him there.
"I love you."
"I love you too, Red."
Either the rain stops, or Green passes out in less than a minute. It's easier to sleep with Red here.