Rock Climb to an old Friend
“You know, I was thinking you could move your sorry ass out of my house for once and go on a hike with me.
Some exploring on your good old friend Mt. Shirogane, some exercise… fresh air, you know, everything that could… fix this.” Green gestures towards the lump of human body on his couch, sunken deeply into the cushions on the verge of melting into the fabric and leans against the counter of the kitchen island bordering between kitchen and living-room.
It gains him a quick glare—well, not really a glare, just as much of a glance that can be spared as the rest of the attention is focused on the screen. After all, it seems, you can get the lazy ass out of his house but not the laziness out of him. And so, Green might have freed Red out of the clutches of his bed but shoved him right into the arms of his own couch.
Green continues, pulling all the strings he has, “Don’t you wanna have some fun with me? Some unpredictable adventure? Like in the good ol’ times?” He leans over and nudges the other man’s shoulder sincerely, the way he has never done anything like that before.
At least, it rewards him with more attention and even a paused game on the screen, while the thumb is still hovering over the controller button. A stern facial expression, maybe some frown there too, followed by a raised eyebrow—
“Hey don’t look at me like I’ve hit my head on a Bronzor,” Green blurts out.
“It’s not like you would remember if you had.”
Then, as if he hasn’t spent days almost stiff as a rock on the couch, the speaker takes off his cap to brush through his tousled black hair and puts the worn down excuse for a hat back on. “Sounds more like you want me to run an errand for you.”
“I said we should go on a hike together—”
“Uh-uh, you said I could move my ass out of your house and go on a hike with you. So you either need some company to compensate the boring whatever you gotta do or you need me to do something for you.” Red turns to look at the silent Green, “Right?”
Arms folded in defence and a snort breaking his silence, Green admits, “Fine—but what’s wrong with wanting some company? And yeah, I might want some help.”
“Yeah you got pokemon for that.” Red unpauses the game.
“So? I need human hands to help and you have two of them.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t your Machamp have four human-like hands? But you know I’ve never been good at counting…” His eyes are still fixed on the screen however he could drive these routes blindfolded.
“You know, instead of smartassing me, you could just accept or decline my offer.” At some point, somewhere between empty pizza boxes and a stinky Red, the ever so patient and rational Green lost it. The willpower to keep on talking down that his partner’s state of mind and hygiene wouldn’t affect him at all, let alone their life together. Hasn’t he tried hard enough all these past months and even before his return, hasn’t he been enough of a support to him?
Not even pausing the game, Red throws the controller to the other side of the couch and sits up, puts on his shoes and rises to his feet. There’s screeching and a crash to be heard, a fierce ‘gameover’ pops up on the TV screen but fails to reclaim the player’s attention. That is directed towards the puzzled Green who isn’t quite following as he’s stuck in the surprise that is Red moving up from the couch.
“Don’t pull a face. As if you’d let me have peace after if I wouldn’t go out with you.” Red closes in on him but keeps an unpolluted distance. “You’re very demanding and stubborn.”
In order to mask the blush crawling onto his cheeks, Green waves his hand before his face and counters, “And you reek. Get a shower, please. We don’t have to get going right away.”
Unusual for this time of year—for Red’s poor standards—there are a lot of hikers around Mt. Shirogane. Actually, he doesn’t recall any frequent hikers around any time of year but those who lose themselves in Victory Road more or less purposefully. Only those few trainers who bother to explore the area for rare pokemon or more efficient training spots come to the higher paths of the joint mountain range of Kanto and Johto. He has never climbed very low during his stay at the mountain top, has always kept a safe distance to the League plaza and Victory Road. But these crowds of people chattering, clicking their cameras, clapping their hands and stomping on the freshly carved paths would definitely not have passed him by unseen or unheard.
Of course, as locals and experienced trainers they have their own route to take but unfortunately at one point it crosses the new touristic route. Red tries to figure out what the group of travellers in awe is so amazed by but can’t see anything extraordinary. The rocks are the same, the path was artificially expanded obviously but the layout of the mountain’s walls haven’t changed at all. He frowns at the guide wildly gesturing towards an exposed boulder near the edge of the path, then squints in case its a pokemon in disguise but finds no evidence for anything unusual.
“Don’t worry, they’re making things up,” Green explains when they are almost out of earshot, “Mt. Shirogane itself hasn’t changed a bit but the League has changed its methods of collecting money.”
Red feels irritated and shoots another glance to the people looking through their camera lenses at dead rocks. “By sending tourists up a dangerous mountain? I thought this was a declared conservation area.”
Green chuckles but his words sound bitter, “Declared by the League. No one has owned Mt. Shirogane, at least not the parts above the plaza and Victory Road. And while no one was paying attention, the League officials sealed a deal with the government. They agreed to keep some areas—the higher parts—as wild as they are but only because they haven’t figured out yet how to use them commercially.”
“They better keep their fucking hands off it,” Red grumbles, “Mt. Shirogane isn’t just a lump of gravel or some stupid tourist attraction.”
Resentment is clearly overshadowing the resigned Champion’s mood now, and Green can relate to him so well. While it was the other man to live up the frozen top, Green spent a lot of days and nights there as well and some of their memories even echo from their preteen years to their present whenever he is up on Mt. Shirogane. Not only they are deeply connected to the mountain range but also the mountain is deeply rooted within Kanto’s and mostly Viridian’s history and landscape.
Haven’t they relied on the League for too long? Aren’t they guilty of bringing this dilemma upon themselves? Green has spent too many nights thinking about it, and how Red would react. Maybe coming here hasn’t been a wise idea after all.
“Hey, you think old Moltres lets them have all of it? They wouldn’t want to mess with it when it gets mad,” Green jokes halfheartedly and awkwardly wraps an arm around Red’s shoulders.
“You know better than me how easily they can get rid of Moltres.” He doesn’t break out of Green’s hold but his words have a similar effect on their embrace.
The gym leader pulls away, searching for anything to say where there are only lies to find. Red is right about it all, about Moltres, about being resentful, and there’s nothing Green can say to make it better. Not without whitewashing it. And as part of the League system, his hands aren’t even clean enough in the first place.
“Stop that face, you get wrinkles,” Red grins and reaches to ruffle the pale brown hair of his partner, “This isn’t your fault. You accepted to be the gym leader because someone had to and Viridian needed someone to clean up after them.” His hand doesn’t get as far when those greenish eyes look at him in remorse and shame, and settles for the other’s shoulder. He brushes through the shorter hair at the nape of neck, as he has ever had when it was his turn to say the brave words. They share a moment of eye contact but Green can’t hold it for too long, giving into the heaviness of the thoughts in his head.
“You’re stupid,” Red frowns and rests his bare hand against the side of his partner’s head, gently nudging the shell of his ear. “This is really not your League and I mean it in every way. You don’t run this fuckup of an organisation. Even that you worry too much about this makes you a way better person than any of them working in the top ranks. This isn’t your load to carry, Green.”
The adressed breaks free from the speaker and sets a few steps towards their destination, then halts abruptly and counters hoarsely, “You don’t see the failed ones. You don’t meet those who have so much potential but their appearance doesn’t sell or their choice of team doesn’t match the current trends. And then they come back down the mountain and… I’m the first one to see them. Beaten down, all of their motivation wiped off and… what am I supposed to tell them? There’s no words of wisdom or whatever I could give to prepare them for that. I wish I could, I wish I could just tell them the truth—and I have so many times tried—but I cannot face them, Red.
Those fourteen–year–old’s who have travelled so far, grown so much, with the same hope we had back in the days and… how am I going to tell them that the League will let them lose? That most battles are decided beforehand? And I don’t even want to get to Mt. Shirogane…”
Without much hesitation Red moves forward to pull his friend into a close hug, allowing the younger man to bed his chin on his shoulder. “And there’s you too. I wish I could help you better but I don’t know what to do anymore. You sit about on your ass all day and you seem so numb. I don’t even know what’s wrong with you…”
“Why does something have to be wrong with me? Maybe I enjoy ruining your couch with my stink. And annoying the fuck out of you,” Red chuckles, instantly getting kicked in the chin, “Really, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”
“I know…” Green sighs into the other man’s shoulder, “but I wish I would live to see it.”