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Chapter Text

 

 

Or I could say empty chairs, unread letters, and
presents that remain unopened in one's hands.

Nina Suba

 

 

"You don't understand, do you?" Green whispers. "It's always been you."

But it doesn't matter in the end.

--

Ten years later, Green retires from the gym and moves back to Pallet Town. They're opening a lighthouse there and they need someone to run it. They're looking for someone intelligent, reliable, adaptable—someone who is used to being alone. Luckily, Green has all these qualities, and when he applies for the position he's accepted almost immediately.

His goodbye party is loud and merry, but over and over he finds himself in one of the corners of the gym, offering tissues and cracking jokes until one of his trainers gives him a tearful smile. "It's not so bad," he says. "You guys are going to be great."

When he hands the gym keys over to Silver the next day, the crowded gym is full of expectant silence. Lance looks on approvingly, cutting an impressive figure as the two gym leaders—one former, one future—sign the official League documentation. The press is everywhere, and Silver's mouth is pressed into a thin, nervous line until Green slaps him hard on the back and winks at him.

"Don't worry about it," Green laughs later, when Silver is drunk and leaning on his shoulder, trying to apologize. "It's always been your gym, really. I was just keeping an eye on it for a while."

Green isn't upset when he loses things because he realized long ago that he's never owned anything in the first place.

--

Eevee's eyes are bright and curious over Green's shoulder as he adjusts the weight of the box in his hands. He's whistling a tune that carries over the sound of the surf far below as he carries box after box up the winding dirt path, up the looming hill to the gleaming white tower that stands on the edge of the cliff. The top of the lighthouse is crowned with glass and a narrow balcony, the railing newly painted black.

Pallet is still at heart a sleepy fisherman's town, with its harbor lined in small handcrafted boats in a bright array of colors. But the nearby ocean, once guarded by generations of wizened sailors, is now crowded with the boats of outsiders: rival researchers who have finally realized why Oak placed his lab here and commercial fishers who want to capitalize on the bounty of the unspoiled seashore. The increased traffic to the area has brought a welcome boost to the economy, but it also means that—for the sake of those navigators unfamiliar with Pallet Town's rocky coastline—a lighthouse has become a necessity.

Green puts the last box down and fiddles with his new keys for a moment before opening the front door, his fingers clumsy from the new autumn cold. He's greeted by a billow of warm air and the smell of new construction, the sight of new paint and freshly-laid carpeting, and light spilling through the double-paned windows. They told him the place would come fully decorated, but he stops when he sees the furnishings. The simple wooden furniture is exactly like the ones found everywhere else in Pallet town, including the house where he grew up.

"Yeah," Green breathes, moving into the room to rest a hand tentatively on the sofa. "I guess I can get used to this."

He turns to see his pokémon sniffing at the banister. "Eevee, do you remember?" he says, waving her closer. When Green sits down on the couch, she jumps into his lap and offers her chin for a scratch. "It's similar to Gramps's lab, isn't it?" he says, obliging her. "I wonder if he designed this place."

Eevee gives the room a cursory glance but shows no signs of recognition; she's much more interested in Green's hands. Green sighs, tilting his head back to rest on the pillows. "Nah," he says, "Gramps would never do something like that."

--

He stays up for the entirety of the first night, sitting beside the ampharos as her tail blinks, blinks, blinks. Her name is Lucy, and she's Amphy's youngest daughter, a present from Olivine Town.

Lucy is a patient, stolid pokémon. Her expression says that Green's presence in the beacon room is acceptable, but not necessary. Green stays anyway; they're going to be working together for a long time, he tells her, so they should get to know each other. She bows her head in acquiescence, but she still turns away.

Eevee befriends Lucy more quickly than Green does, but Eevee's not as young as she used to be, and she falls asleep curled against the ampharos's side. Lucy carries her to Green, deposits her gently in Green's arms, and retreats to her dais. The room falls into silence.

Green stares at his reflection in the polished windowpanes, brightening and dimming with the flickering light. He thinks about the past ten years, the people he knew back in Viridian, the small things he's accomplished, the challengers he's beaten and lost to. He feels a little nostalgic, but he can't say he misses any of it.

After a while, he steps out onto the small balcony that surrounds the glass room. The wind is strong here, and it brings him the rich smell of the sea as he listens to the easy rhythm of the waves. He leans against the railing, feeling silhouetted by the warm light behind him, and stares at the stars and the weak ripples of silver that mark where the ocean is.

"I'm home," he whispers to himself. It sounds as foreign as it always has.

--

There's someone in town who he doesn't know, a girl who moved in after he left for his journey. She drops by twice a week: once to ask him what he needs and once to drop off the supplies he's asked for. He invites her in for tea but she never stays long—everyone in the town loves her and she does her best to divide her time evenly.

"Daisy told me to ask you if you wanted to come over this Saturday," she says. Then she frowns. "Why don't you come into town more often?"

"Pallet only needs one social butterfly, Leaf," he says, ducking when she swats at him.

She fills him in on the town's goings-on, but there's never enough to warrant pouring her a second cup of tea.

"Everyone talks about you, you know," she tells him as he sees her out. "I still see your face in the newspapers sometimes. You're one of the most eligible bachelors in Kanto."

"You interested?" Green says, raising a self-conscious eyebrow, and she laughs at him.

"They'll forget about me soon enough," he says with a shrug. And eventually, they do. But Leaf never does.

--

The only other person who spends time with him is one of Professor Elm's aides, staying with Professor Oak for an internship through the slow months of the autumn and winter. When she hears that Oak’s famous grandson is living just outside the city limits she immediately pays him a visit.

"I'm Kris," she says when he opens the door, extending a hand. Her handshake is firm and cool; her eyes are a deep blue, like the ocean in the afternoon, and he finds that he likes her almost immediately. She comes over a few times a week, a thick folder always underneath one arm. She splays out her research across the floor and works, the tip of one pen in her mouth and a second pen stuck behind her ear. Green cooks dinner and they discuss her doctoral thesis, her aborted pokémon journey, his time as a gym leader, the tiny insignificant moments in their lives that don't seem to matter until they look back and realize what they've lost.

"I don't know why I gave up," she whispers into the candle-lit dark, the glass of wine warming in her cupped palms. "Professor Elm says I could have gotten all the way to the Elite Four, maybe even become Champion. But now I'll never know."

Green sits beside her on the couch, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He turns to look back at her. "Let me tell you," he says quietly. "You didn't miss much."

Kris searches his face. "Do you really mean that?"

"You're doing something you love. What's better than that?"

Kris's hand finds his; their fingers tangle together. "What about you?" she says. "Is this what you really want?"

No, Green wants to say. I've never known what I want. Then, No. There's nothing worth wanting.

"Yes," he says.

--

Professor Oak visits only once.

Green steps back from the door and moves towards the kitchen. "Make yourself at home," he says. "Do you want anything to drink?"

Despite his words, he doesn't offer to take his grandfather's jacket or scarf. His grandfather is forced to wait, his shoes sinking into the rug, until Green comes back with two glasses of water. Professor Oak doesn't seem to notice, though. He takes the glass absent-mindedly, his eyes roving around the walls and windows. Green stands beside him and takes a long sip of water, waiting until Professor Oak's eyes return to him.

"Hi," he says.

His grandfather looks taken aback, and then cracks a smile. "It's good to have you home," Oak says, and Green can hear how the words tread that fine line between truth and lies. Green's smile turns brittle.

"It's good to be back," Green says, bending to set his glass down on the table. "How's the lab?"

"Fine," Oak murmurs, staring at the ocean outside the window. "How are...things? Are you settling in well?"

"Well, it's not the gym," Green says carefully, watching Oak turn at the last word, "but it'll do."

His grandfather looks at him, his question unasked but obvious. Green's smile disappears.

"I wanted to do this," Green says softly. "And if you don't like it, you can fuck off."

Hurt flashes across Professor Oak's face. "I didn't—there's nothing wrong with being here, Green," he says, and the sincerity in his voice makes Green pause.

"You should come visit the lab," his grandfather presses in the sudden silence. "Kris has brought some fascinating new pokémon from Johto, you might—"

Green shakes his head. "Gramps," he murmurs, "I stopped playing this game a long time ago. It's about time you did, too."

Professor Oak shakes his head as Green takes the glass from his hand and escorts him to the door. "Green, I—"

"I'm just the kid you didn't want," Green whispers. "And you know what? I forgive you. But that doesn't mean we're friends."

Green leans against the closed door, holding his breath until he hears his grandfather's shuffling step retreating down the hill.

--

"Sometimes I think you stay over just to see Lucy," Green says. Once again he has woken up to find Kris already bringing Lucy breakfast.

Kris turns to him with a smile, arms around Lucy's neck. "I like her," she says. "She's a Johto girl, like me. Isn't that right?" she says, cuddling the ampharos, who gives a little burble of contentment.

Green picks a dirty plate up off the floor and hands Kris a brush. She takes it with a smile and begins to comb the sparks off of Lucy's rubbery hide. "Silver's from Johto too, isn't he?" Green asks. "Do you know him?"

The brush slips from her hand, but she manages to grab it before it clatters to the floor. "—You know Silver?"

"Yeah," Green says, eyebrow raised. "He runs my old gym now."

"He—" Kris blinks. "I used to know him when we were kids—that's how I met Professor Elm." Kris gets to her feet. She's looking at Green, but her mind is obviously somewhere else. "Where did you say he was?"

"Viridian City Gym," Green says, not sure if he's amused or dismayed by the sudden intensity of her expression. "But he's probably not awake yet."

"Perfect," Kris mutters under her breath. She bids him a quick goodbye and clatters down the steps.

Lucy gives him a bemused look. Green sighs and follows Kris downstairs, the empty plate in his hands.

--

He keeps the schedule he had when he was a gym leader except for a few necessary modifications.

He wakes up before dawn, takes care of Lucy after her long night of hard work, and then lures Eevee awake with bits of breakfast. After they're both dressed and fed and ready for the day, Green pulls on his old bomber jacket and they make their way down the slender trail cut into the cliff and onto the beach.

At dawn, everything is colored in shades of gray. There's never anyone else on this part of the shore: everyone sticks to the beaches closer to town, where it's safer. The lighthouse shore is studded with jagged, volcanic rock and the waves break too hard for anyone to swim here.

Pallet is a southern town, but even at the height of summer the ocean is so cold that it cuts right to the bone. In the winter, the water is brutal. It took Green years as a child to work up resistance, and now he spends months regaining what he's lost. He takes off his shoes, rolls up his pant legs despite the winter wind, and wades into the surf. His path traces a weaving line across the beach as he plays casual tag with the waves, in and out.

His other pokémon like to wander far up and down the beach, almost out of earshot. Eevee, his constant and only companion, jumps and splashes beside him, too well-insulated to mind the cold. She paddles out and surfs back in on the waves, her cheerful cry almost drowned out by the roar of the ocean. Green occasionally worries when he loses sight of her amidst the rocks, but eventually he learns to trust her to her own devices.

Sometimes he brings a ball with him, and throws it so Eevee can chase it into the surf; sometimes he brings an extra bit of breakfast, or a book. But usually he just puts his empty hands in his pockets and walks until his calves go numb. Every day he finds that he can go in a little bit deeper, that he stays on the beach a little bit longer.

Winter settles in around Pallet, and outside of their morning walks Green spends most of his time indoors, gazing out the window with one hand stroking Eevee's fur. Both she and Lucy upstairs are dozing, and combined with the muted ever-present sound of the ocean, it feels as if he's the only one awake in the world.

He hasn't really relaxed since he took over the gym ten years ago—maybe even longer than that, maybe not since he was a child. It feels strange. He doesn't know if he enjoys it, but he can't deny that he's grateful for the rest.

He takes a deep breath, slow and weighted with the quiet of the house, and allows himself to do nothing.

--

He's standing on the high balcony with Kris, with the late-night sky above speckled with winter constellations. She turns to him with the light reflecting in her ocean-blue eyes and he kisses her, and kisses her, and closes his eyes when her mouth opens beneath his.

Green's hands curl around her back to pull her up against him, the kiss deepening until her breaths turn shallow and her fingers tangle in his hair. The heat of her body is a welcome respite from the cold air. His mouth searches out more of it, moving to her jaw, her neck, nipping down to her collarbone, her familiar sweet scent rising from her jacket as he noses beneath it.

"Silver," she breathes, and then her eyes fly open. They both freeze, staring at each other for a moment before Green bursts out laughing.

He pulls away, shaking his head. His hands fall away from her sides and he settles one awkwardly on the railing. "Sorry," Kris murmurs, her deep blush spreading all the way down to her shoulders.

Green shakes his head, reaching out to pull her jacket back into place. "Don't worry about it," he says. "Is that why you haven't come around as much lately?"

Kris nods, head still bowed. The smile fades from his face, and he sighs as he loops an arm around her shoulders and tilts his head to bump hers, lightly. "First girl I've liked in over a year," he says conversationally to the ocean, "And I lose her to Silver."

"There's nothing wrong with Silver," she protests.

"Silver's a great guy," Green says, "But he's not someone I ever expected to compete with." His chuckle fades. "Oh well," he murmurs. "You find rivals everywhere."

--

Kris leaves a few weeks after that. She stops by the lighthouse to say goodbye, saying she'll be back to finish her research next autumn.

"Have a safe trip," Green says, giving her a hug. "Keep in touch, all right?"

Green watches until she vanishes down the hill, then heads back inside. He feels like he should think something trite now—like how it will be quieter without her, or how much he'll miss her—but nothing comes to mind. He's always known she was going to leave.

--

Leaf arrives a few days later with two milkshakes in her hands. "Let's go for a walk," she says. Green takes the cup she offers him and escorts her to the dusty nature path that threads along the edge of the cliff. The edges of the trail are starting to blossom with new spring green, and Leaf kicks at stray stones as they walk, her straw tucked between her lips.

"So Kris is gone," Leaf says.

Green looks away, out over the ocean. "Yeah."

She watches him for a moment. "Well, you've still got me," she says, "So don't worry about it."

Leaf fills in the conversation with chatter: the massage techniques she's learning from Daisy, the towns she's visited while running errands for Professor Oak, the terrible jokes she's picked up along the way until Green finds himself chiming in just to minimize the damage. Soon they're swapping stories until his sides hurt from laughing and the milkshakes are gone.

When the trail ends, Leaf stops him before they can turn back. "Gimme your phone," she says.

"What?"

"Just give it," she says, plucking it off of his belt and punching in her number. As she returns it to him, she says, "You know...if you ever need someone to talk to, I'm always around."

Green's quiet as he takes his phone back from her. His silence lasts so long that she turns away, biting her lip, but Green lifts his head and gives her a small smile. "Hey," he says. "Thanks."

She smiles at him, relieved.

"But if you give away my phone number like my sister did," he says, "I will seriously hurt you."

"I would never—"

"Seriously."

She laughs, slipping an arm around his shoulders. "Your secret's safe with me," she says.

--

A storm has passed during the night. The morning arrives bleaker-looking than usual, the air heavy with the promise of more rain later that day.

Eevee's acting a little different this morning, too. She's walking ahead of him, her fluffy tail lifted up out of the water. Green keeps an eye on her as she pulls further away, but he stops every now and then to pick up the pieces of driftwood scattered on the beach and hurl them back into the surf.

This storm was the first of many, he thinks, as they draw closer to monsoon season. In a few months the lighthouse will be even more important than before, guiding storm-hurled ships away from danger. He might have to spend a few more late nights with Lucy to making sure nothing goes wrong, but overall, nothing will probably change.

Suddenly, Eevee freezes, and Green looks up. Then before he can say anything she breaks into a run—crying, shrieking in a way Green hasn't heard in over ten years, and before he realizes it he's sprinting after her.

As he gains on her, bare feet pounding against the packed sand, he sees a gray shape that he's never seen on the beach before. His pace quickens. The shape comes into focus—it's a pokémon. A pokémon and a person. A lapras, and a man sprawled half across its back, unmoving. Green's breaths come harder as he flies across the beach, passing Eevee, until he sees a tattered red vest and his heart stutters and feels like it stops.

Green finally reaches him, skids on his knees in the sand and rolls him onto his back, pressing his ear to his mouth to listen for breathing. When he feels it, he jerks back to see if it's really true or if he's just hallucinating.

It's true. His cap is gone, his face is thirteen years older and weathered with lines that weren't there before, but he's real.

Green scoops his body up, cold and limp but undeniably alive, and presses him to his chest. He curls over him as Eevee finally catches up—burying his face into Red's neck and breathing in the overwhelming smell of the ocean, taking in great deep gasps until he feels like he's dissolving into it.

 

illustration by iggiesca-asdy

Chapter Text

 

 

Tell me how do you undo these years of bone knowledge,
these ways I loved you without even knowing it?

Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz

 

 

"I came as soon as I heard—"

"Good, so I don't have to go over it again," Green interrupts, turning away from the door. Leaf follows him into his house, eyes widening: Green has flung every drawer in his house open. "I have to go for a while," he says, not looking at her. "Can you look after Lucy and watch things here for a day or two?"

He walks toward his bedroom, turning to grab his jacket from the hallway closet as he goes. Eevee follows without getting underfoot, and Leaf trails behind them both.

"What do I need to know?" she says.

"Not much; Lucy knows what to do. You can stay in the spare bedroom. The ocean forecast looks good, so it should be fine...but if Lucy gives you an alert, gimme a call and Alakazam can teleport me back."

Green turns to shove some clothes into a battered suitcase. Leaf murmurs, "It's him, isn't it? The champion who vanished years ago."

Green pauses, his hands clutching a black shirt. He realizes that he's shaking—that he hasn't stopped since he burst into Gramps' lab on his arcanine's back, screaming for help with Red a slumped and unmoving weight in his arms.

"I don't expect you to understand," he says quietly. "But I can't lose him again."

Leaf doesn't say anything. Green shoves the shirt into the suitcase and slams it closed, half-sitting on it to get it to shut. He blinks when Leaf comes over to help, pressing both her hands against the hard leather top.

"It's not hard to understand, really," Leaf says. "I'll take care of Lucy."

Green flicks the clasps shut and turns to her. She gives him a half-smile and he leans his head against her shoulder, letting someone else take his weight for just a moment. Then he pulls away.

"Thank you," he says, his tone artless with gratitude, his eyes full of fear. "I hope I'll be back soon."

"Safe trip," she replies, and follows Green outside. He calls out Pidgeot and she waves until Green is a speck in the sky.

--

Red is hospitalized at Saffron General. Green visits near-constantly, wearing himself thin on high altitude trips and convenience store meals. He regrets giving up the gym leader position more than ever; if he were in Viridian he could close the gym and no one would care, and he'd be closer to Saffron besides.

But if he weren't the lighthouse keeper, would anyone have been on the beach that day? Green paces outside the ICU door, eyes downcast, one hand resting on the foreign poké ball at his waist.

(He explained to Eevee that pokémon weren't allowed in the hospital, would she mind staying at the hotel? She cocked her head for a moment before vanishing into her poké ball without protest; Green hadn't even thought to ask.)

He's not the only visitor. When Red's mom first sees him, she opens her arms without saying a word. Green is shocked by how fiercely he hugs her, and by how tightly the embrace is returned.

"I'm sorry," he whispers.

"Thank you for finding him," she whispers back. She releases him, her cheeks wet with tears and her mouth set in a firm line. She was always strong-willed: even as a kid, Green never dared to cross her. Red had the same unflappable demeanor, the same unyielding core.

They sit in the waiting room, shoulders touching. Warm yellow light glows from the shaded lamp in the corner, and the chairs are well-upholstered. Green's insides feel like a tangled mess, and his throat is tight from crying.

"I'm scared," he admits.

The hand that rests on his is more wrinkled than he remembers but still just as soft. "Me too," she says, and knowing he's not alone makes him feel better, somehow.

"You're a good child," she says after a minute. "You always wrote home while you were traveling. Daisy would tell me when you said hello."

Green reddens. "That was a long time ago," he says.

She nods. "It was, wasn't it? You've grown up," she says. "You and Red both. I don't know what happened...to either of you, really." She takes a deep breath. "But you're both home now. That's all that matters."

--

The ICU only allows two visitors to a patient's room at a time. Green is sitting by the window, reading, when he hears a knock on the sliding door. He looks up and Professor Oak steps inside.

Green puts his tablet down.

His grandfather glances at him and then away again. He lifts a hand in greeting, a halting, awkward gesture, before turning towards Red. Green watches his eyes rake over the multiple IV lines, then the numbers and waveforms on the monitor above Red's bed. Professor Oak's brow crumples in thought, making his profile look grave and impressive. It's a look Green associates with peeking through a crack in the door into his grandfather's study, watching him pore over research data. It turns his stomach to think of him looking at Red that way.

"He's doing better today," Green blurts. His grandfather startles and turns towards him slowly, as if he forgot he was there. He's shocked by the raw pain on his grandfather's face before his expression smoothes over.

"Is he?" Professor Oak says, and his voice cracks a little. He turns away, a fist to his mouth as he clears his throat. Green stares at the wrinkles around his eyes and the shape of his shoulders beneath the worn lab coat. He realizes for the first time how old his grandfather is. His hair has gone from salt-and-pepper to almost totally white.

"The nurse said his vital signs are looking better," he says. "They've been giving him antibiotics, and stuff to keep his blood pressure stable. He still has a long way to go, though."

Professor Oak nods, but now that they're looking directly at each other, Green sees a flicker of confusion in his eyes. "What's wrong? This not your area of expertise?" Green says, unable to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

His grandfather ducks his head. "You started helping me with my research when you were just a boy," he says. "I think you would know better than anyone that I don't know everything."

Part of him wants to avoid his grandfather like he's been doing for years and walk out of the room. But Professor Oak stands between him and the door and besides, Red is here—it would take more than his grandfather to shake Green from his place beside him. So Green folds his arms and leans back in his chair, a familiar irritation winding itself up inside of him like a spring. His grandfather's back straightens at the look on Green's face, and Green smiles without mirth.

"Be honest," he says. "You're not happy to see me here, are you? You wanted to see the kid you really wanted as your grandson, instead of me."

There's a long pause.

"I'm aware that you're not happy with me," his grandfather says carefully. "But Red was your rival. Your friend. You..." he clears his throat, and tries again. "The grandson I have is someone who cares about those who are close to him. I'm glad to see you here."

Green rolls his eyes. "You don't have to praise me," he says. "What the hell."

Professor Oak frowns at the language but doesn't reproach him for it. Green feels a little disappointed.

"I knew you were the one who recommended me for the Viridian Gym," Green presses. "Lance told me. You know what he said? 'You should accept your grandfather's peace offering.' I guess that's how it looked to other people." He gives a sharp bark of a laugh. "After Red beat me, you shuttled me off to your researcher friends in the Sevii Islands, but they didn't want me either. Viridian's close to Pallet and I knew you just wanted me close by, to make sure I didn't embarrass you any more. But I did pretty well all by myself, didn't I? I turned that shitty, run-down gym into the strongest gym in Kanto. I made the Earth Badge worth something again.

"So what if I decided I didn't want to live inside your handout anymore," Green spits, his breath coming fast. He doesn't remember standing but his hands are balled into fists at his sides and his grandfather is approaching him slowly with his palms up, as if he's a wild pokémon. "So what if I decided to give up my position and run a goddamn lighthouse. You don't have to pretend that you're proud of me. It's just us here, right? Red's unconscious anyway. There's no one to keep up appearances for. So just tell me the truth, Gramps," he says, and his voice shakes so badly that it's hard to get the words out. His grandfather is still coming closer and he doesn't know what he wants, he's never known what his grandfather wants, and he's tired of trying to figure it out. "You were never afraid to tell me how disappointed you were when I was a kid. Go on, Gramps, tell me what you really think."

There's only a step of space between them now. Professor Oak's hands hover in the middle distance between them, fingers outstretched but not touching. "I have only ever wanted what's best for you," he says. His voice is thin and trembling. "For God's sake, Green, you're my grandson. You and Daisy were the only family I had left after your mother died. Don't you think I care about you?"

"No," Green whispers, "I don't."

He flinches, but continues. "I know how much the championship meant to you. I wanted to shield you from the media and the pressure—I sent you to the Sevii Islands to recover from that. But I also wanted to show you battling wasn't all there was to pokémon."

"You thought I deserved to lose the championship," Green snarls. "You thought Red deserved to beat me."

Professor Oak's mouth tightens. "I won't lie to you," he says. "I did. But it was because you still had so much to learn. There's so much more to life than winning or losing a title. Both you and your pokémon deserve more. Red's a natural genius with pokémon, but he couldn't have restored the Viridian Gym like you did. I nominated you because I knew what you were capable of. You're intelligent and passionate, and I've always known life had great things in store for you. No one has worked harder or loves pokémon now more than you, Green," Professor Oak says, "and I am so proud of you for that."

"When I lost the championship, I just wanted to come home," Green says, unable to stop the hitch in his voice. "I wanted to come home and you didn't even want me there."

Professor Oak's expression crumbles. He steps forward and pulls Green into his arms, squeezing him so tightly it hurts. Green just lets him, vision blurring as he stares straight ahead at the empty doorway. They're in a hospital, he thinks. They're in public. He shouldn't be acting like this. But he can't bring himself to push his grandfather away. He can't stop himself from shaking.

"I'm sorry," his grandfather whispers in his ear, his voice low and urgent and fierce. "I'm so sorry."

 

art by thehauntedboy

 

Sometimes Green looks in the mirror and sees the lines of his grandfather's face in his own. It used to infuriate him; now it just makes him feel tired. He thinks he sees some of that exhaustion mirrored in his grandfather's expression. It was the same when he woke up on the three year anniversary of Red's disappearance and realized he was the only one keeping track. When he realized there was no witness to his grudge but his own ego.

He thinks again of Red half-buried in the surf. When he first saw Red after he was transferred to the ICU, he was barely recognizable. Green reached out to touch him and it felt so strange, his hand swollen with IV fluids, a limp weight in his palms; but still, there was a flicker of motion at the touch.

He had been waiting for him, Green thinks. He had been waiting all this time.

Green takes a deep, shuddering breath, and then another. "Please let go of me," he says.

His grandfather immediately steps back. "I'm sorry."

"No, no." Green can't look at him anymore. "I...wanted to hear that. I just...it's a lot to process."

Professor Oak glances down, a hand rubbing over his face. "Yes. That's true. But I meant every word, Green." He sighs, looking up at him again. "My only regret is that I never said these things to you sooner."

Green shakes his head. It's too much, he's too emotionally raw to handle any more input right now. "I'm gonna go," he says. "You'll stay with Red, right?"

His grandfather's brow is furrowing again. "You're pale," he says. "Will you be all right?"

"I'll be fine," he says. "I'm gonna lie down, though. I didn't sleep much last night."

After a pause his grandfather nods, still watching his face. "Make sure you eat something first," he says. "You have to take care of yourself."

"I always take care of myself," Green sighs. "See you later, Gramps."

The nurse ignores him when he steps out of the room. He doesn't know if they overheard, or if they even cared if they had. They probably see all kinds of family drama, anyway.

He gets outside and calls out Eevee, who takes one look at his face and leaps into his arms, covering his cheeks in tiny kisses until he gives an exhausted chuckle. "Thanks," he says. "I needed that. Keep me awake until we get to the hotel, okay? I feel like I'm gonna fall asleep just standing here...jeez. Gramps didn't have to spring that on me."

His voice is annoyed, but his steps feel lighter than they have in years.

--

The news of Red's return breaks eventually, of course. Green notified the League once Red was admitted to the hospital so they could prepare. Indigo Plateau responded by releasing a carefully crafted statement, ...recently returned from an overseas trip, critical but stable condition, please respect his family's wishes for privacy at this time.

Leaf sends him a selfie with her back to the lighthouse's window balcony, a few curious reporters on the ground below. don't say anything you'll make it worse, Green replies as fast as his fingers will type. Then, belatedly: Sorry about this.

lol nice to know you put me first, Leaf says. don't worry tho. I got it under control.

Meanwhile, Silver complains that the gym's voicemail is full of reporters asking for Green's contact information. I don't want to be in anyone's shadow, he sends in an e-mail.

Just tell them to get off your lawn, Green responds. You're an old man now, just like the rest of us gym leaders. He's a little stung that being Red's biggest rival doesn't seem to count as family, but he can't say he's surprised, either.

Lance calls to ask how Red is doing. "Of course you'd want to know, huh," Green says. "You don't need to worry, though. He's not going to be challenging Ethan for a while."

Lance chuckles. It's a soft sound, and it surprises Green every time he hears it. "That's the least of my concerns, Green. Red is important to all of Kanto, of course, but more than that, I have always considered him a friend. Of course I want to know how he's doing."

Green's mouth pulls to the side in a flat line, feeling chastised somehow. "The nurse says Red's doing better today. They took him off some of the drips he was on. Hey, how are Red's pokémon? I haven't heard about them since…"

"Oh," Lance replies, "pokémon are hardier than us humans—they've made a full recovery. Your grandfather offered to house them at his ranch until Red is feeling better."

Green's voice lowers. "What about Pikachu?"

"Pikachu too," Lance reassures him. "And don't worry, I'll update everyone else on Red's status. Thank you for doing this, by the way."

"Doing what?"

"Acting as the contact point for Red's loved ones."

Suddenly self-conscious, he shrugs even though Lance can't see it. "It's nothing," he adds dryly. "You know me, I love being the center of attention anyway."

Lance's voice softens. "Speaking of you...how are you doing?"

"I'm fine."

"This must all be quite hard on you," he says, so gently that Green feels his throat tighten. "I understand that you're the one who found him."

"I'm fine," Green repeats, but his voice gives him away. He pulls the phone away to grimace at it before returning it to the cradle of his shoulder.

Lance waits another moment, but Green doesn't say anything. After the silence goes on for long enough to become awkward, Lance clears his throat and continues. "We've worked together for the last decade," he says. "I would not forget the time we spent together so easily. Of course I'm interested in your welfare as well."

"You always get so formal when you don't know what to say," Green says.

"Yes," Lance replies dryly, "as you've pointed out to me many times in the past."

Green laughs. "I'm glad you've lightened up some over the years," he says. "Thanks for asking about me."

"It is nothing," Lance says, the warmth of his voice clear through the phone. "Please let us know if there is anything we can do for you all."

--

The last message of the day is the first to make him stop short. Are you okay? -Kris

In a moment he's dialed her number and pressed the phone to his ear. It takes longer than expected for Kris to pick up, considering she texted him moments before. He hears the rustle of papers, a distant "oh!" as if the phone has nearly been dropped, before Kris's voice rings out. "Elm Labratory, Kris speaking!"

"Hey," he says, suddenly nervous.

He hears a quick intake of breath as she recognizes his voice. "Oh! Hey," she replies, sounding just as out-of-place. "It's so weird to hear your voice."

Green snorts. "Thanks a lot."

"Oh come on, stop it, I don't mean it like that! It's just like...it feels like I've gotten a letter from far away, or something. It's kind of exciting."

"Oh yeah? Was my voice so sexy that it made your heart pound?" he says, grinning.

She just laughs at him. "But seriously, though! We haven't spoken since I was in Pallet, right?"

Green swallows. "Yeah. Long time no chat."

"I'm sorry," Kris says. "I should have called—"

"No, no," Green interrupts. "It takes two to talk, right? I didn't call either. How are you?"

"I should be asking you that," Kris says.

Green sighs, glancing out the window at the twinkling Saffron skyline. It never really gets dark here, and while Green is somewhat used to that from living in a lighthouse, the steady sweep of Lucy's light is different from the LED brilliance that lances in through the hotel room's parted curtains. "I don't know," he says. "It's...it's hard to explain."

"I've got time," she says.

Suddenly reminded, Green looks at the clock and winces. "Oh man, it's like three in the morning. I'm sorry."

"I'm the one who texted you," she retorts. "Besides, did you already forget that I'm a noctowl? I'm keeping an eye on some of Elm's projects overnight, so I was kind of bored, honestly. What's up?"

It helps, somehow, that Kris is being a little flippant about it. It's easier to talk if he knows the other person isn't worried about him or worse, pitying him.

"I really can't complain," Green says, "I mean like, Red's mom, god, she stays with Red in the hospital every night and only sleeps for a few hours a day when Gramps and I force her to. But she's still so calm somehow, listening to everything the doctors say, thanking everybody for taking care of her son. We're covering her hotel costs and stuff while she's here, and Daisy's minding the house, but it's nothing compared to what she must be going through. I...kind of like spending so much time with her, though. I mean, I wish it was under different circumstances, and I guess it's a bit weird since we're not even related, but I think I missed her. But sometimes she catches me—"

Green stops, biting his lip. After a long pause, Kris says, "She catches what?"

His teeth worry at his lower lip and then sink in, hard and suddenly, trying to curtail his racing thoughts. Catches me looking, he doesn't say. Catches me thinking about how I— "He was gone for thirteen years," Green says. "He wasn't into letters or phone calls, and besides, I didn't have a lot to say to him after...well. I didn't want to talk to him. And it's not like it was a big deal...just one day I looked up and realized I hadn't heard from Red in six months. I tried to call him and couldn't. I asked Daisy and she hadn't heard from him either. He just...vanished.

"Ethan mentioned seeing an amazing trainer on Mt. Silver but when I went, I didn't find anything. But I figured, whatever, Red gets in my way all the time, of course he'll show up again. I thought he would come knocking when I became gym leader, you know? Show up and challenge me for it, or something. But he didn't."

Green realizes that he's rubbing at where his neck meets his shoulders, subconsciously trying to soothe himself. He forces himself to stop. Kris is still silent, so he swallows once and continues.

"It's not like I haven't been busy myself, you know," he says. "I'm pretty awesome. Staying the top gym leader in Kanto isn't easy. Team Rocket tried starting something in Viridian three years after Giovanni disbanded the whole thing, and I kicked them out of town. I did a lot of regional tours, too—goodwill trips and stuff...but still. It didn't feel right.

"I never told anyone, but they offered me a position in the Elite Four," he says. "I told them I didn't want it. I actually yelled at Lance for offering it to me. 'I wasn't good enough to be champion, so you want me to sit around and pick who's gonna be champion instead?' I said. 'Are you going to rub that in my face forever?' You know what Lance said to me? He said, 'Green, the only one who's still thinking about that is you.'

"And he was right. To everyone else, that stuff was ancient history. But then...then I realized, I'd…" Green stops to take a shaking breath. "I'd never gotten over Red. It was like I was still 14 inside, waiting for him to show up at my gym, waiting for him to come after me again. I wanted him to. I didn't know what to do without Red following me. That's what I realized. I was sitting around, waiting for some asshole who was never going to show.

"So I quit the gym."

His voice is wobbly, so he stops talking for a minute. He can hear Kris breathing on the other end, slow and even.

He could imagine what she'd be doing if she were here next to him. She'd be staring at some scientific journal in her lap, one hand fiddling with a highlighter. It would look like she wasn't paying attention. But slowly, if he let the silence go long enough, her free hand would sneak out and settle over his. She'd tilt her head to rest on his shoulder. She'd never turn toward him, not once, because she knew if she did he'd stop talking. She'd never look up from her paper. But he'd have all of her attention.

Right now Kris is probably watching test tubes bubble in Elm's lab and writing down numbers, or something. But she's listening. And because he knows she'll stay on the line until morning if that's how long it takes, he opens his mouth again.

His voice is small.

"I knew he was out there somewhere," he says. "So I never worried about it. I just figured he didn't want to put up with some loser who couldn't accept that he was always gonna be second best. I mean, who has time for someone like that, right? But Red—when I found him—he was—" his voice breaks again and he forces it louder, to drown the shaking out. "He was just lying there. He could have died. He could have died and if I wasn't there, if the lighthouse hadn't been placed just where it was—if nobody was there to find him, I could have lost him, just like that.

"How could that happen? How could he—I ignored him because I thought nothing would happen if I did. But I could have lost him. I would have spent the rest of my life not even knowing he was dead. That scares the shit out of me. I didn't even—I didn't even think he was something I could lose. I didn't realize I thought of him as something I had in the first place. I just wanted—I want Red to wake up," he whispers into the phone. "I want him to wake up, and I want him to look at me, and I never want him to leave ever again."

Green is tired of crying. At least this time there's no one around, and he knows the person on the other end of the line would never look up until his tears were dry. Just as he expects, Kris doesn't say anything until the last of his hiccups subside.

"You love him, don't you?" Kris says.

"I don't know," Green says miserably. "I think I still hate him."

Kris laughs. "I don't think you hate him, Green."

"I hate him!" Green snaps but it sounds like he's whining, even to his own ears. "What kind of idiot tries to surf across the Hoenn Ocean? I can't believe he's still this stupid and irresponsible, always taking risks, always—I want to shake him—he could've stayed where he was and out of my life—"

"But you're glad he's home, right?"

"It was easier when he was gone," Green says, sniffling. "God, this is awful. I can't even think straight."

"Drink some water?" Kris suggests.

"Yeah, you're right," he mutters. "Okay. Hold on."

He puts the phone down for a few minutes. When he comes back, he sounds a little better. "Okay," he says again. "Sorry."

"Feeling better?"

"I'm used to well water," Green grumbles. "City water tastes weird."

"Okay, good," she replies.

Green sits down on the bed, his free hand rubbing at his temple. He can tell that he's going to have a headache in a minute.

"Do you remember Leaf?" he says.

"Yeah, I do. I like her. How's she doing?"

"She takes care of Lucy for me while I'm in Saffron. The lighthouse seems to be doing fine. But she lives with Red's mom. She took over the room Red used to have when he was a kid. So when Red's well enough to leave the hospital…I mean, Leaf offered to find a new place, but it's kind of short notice, and Red's mom doesn't want to kick her out, anyway—"

"I see," Kris says. "What are you planning to do?"

"Who says I'm planning anything?" Green snaps. Kris doesn't bother replying, and Green sighs. "I was thinking about asking Red to stay with me in the lighthouse while he gets better. The doctors said he's going to need a lot of physical therapy after he gets out. But it would be weird of me to offer, right? I mean, he's not my family or anything. That's probably weird."

"I don't think it's weird," Kris says. "He's your childhood friend, right?"

"It's weird when you put it that way," Green mutters.

"You grew up together," she says. "It makes sense that you'd want him to get better. You have the extra space, so why not? It'd be easier than asking Leaf to move out all of her stuff, and I know she helps Red's mom around the house a lot too. I think it's a good idea, actually."

"Really? You don't think it's...I don't know. Desperate," he says, wincing.

Kris laughs. "You think way too much," she says. "It's a good solution to an important problem. You might as well give it a shot. Besides, it'll give you time to admit that you love him."

He can't help but flinch. "Now you're just making fun of me," he grumbles.

"Are you feeling better?" she asks, not denying it. He can hear the smile in her voice.

Green sighs. "Yeah, I am," he says. "Thanks, Kris."

"Any time," she says. "You're important to me too, you know." For the first time in the conversation, her voice sounds awkward. "I get so caught up in research...I don't really have a lot of friends. So I think about you a lot. You can call or text any time, okay?"

Green takes a deep breath. "Okay," he says. "I'll text you more often. And I guess I'll ask Red's mom tomorrow and see what she thinks about Red staying with me. It'll still be a little while until he's ready to leave, anyway."

"Sounds like a good plan," Kris says. "You should get some rest."

"Yeah. Good night."

"Good night, Green."

After she hangs up, Green flops back across the bed, one fist pressed against his forehead. His mind is already turning with all the preparation he has to make if he wants to fix up the spare room for Red.

Red living in his house. The thought feels like a soap bubble, too new and fragile to hold, and he closes his eyes against an irrational wave of fright.

"You're not a kid anymore," he tells himself. "You're an adult. Fucking act like it."

He gets ready for bed and buries himself under the covers, but it takes a while before sleep comes.

Chapter Text

 

 

When I hesitate to hold your hand,
it is because to know is to be responsible for knowing.

Mindy Nettifee

 

 

No one is waiting for Red in Pallet. They didn't announce his discharge date, and their families are returning from Saffron at a more sedate pace. When Green and Red teleport into the center of town, it's empty.

Red looks around from his seat in the wheelchair, squinting from the sun. After a moment, he lifts his hand to cast shade across his face.

"Miss your hat, huh," Green says.

Red doesn't reply.

Green is standing ready behind the wheelchair, but Red's in no hurry, so Green supposes he isn't either. Instead he watches Red as he looks around, surveying thirteen years of change. Viridian is close enough to Pallet that Green kept up with the modifications: new paint on the window shutters, the mailbox Daisy put up three years ago, the bench that was installed after the lighthouse was built. The heart of town is largely untouched, but Pallet is larger than even two years ago, swelling with new construction that has pushed the town limits outward. As children, the tall grass brushed their ankles as they played in their backyards, but now trainers have a much longer walk to reach Route 1.

"Well," Green tries again, "welcome home."

Red is still silent. He looks toward the lighthouse, its white paint brilliant in the mid-afternoon sunlight, interrupting the clear line of sight to the ocean that Green remembered as a child.

"Yeah, that's where I live," he says, pointing. "You too I guess, at least for now. Do you wanna check it out?"

Red stares at the lighthouse without answering. The humidity creeps beneath Green's collar, and he drums his fingers against the wheelchair's plastic handles. Patiently, Green waits a full sixty seconds before he sighs and nudges the wheelchair a bit. The brakes are locked so it only rocks forward a little, but it's enough to make Red jump and turn to stare at Green.

"Yeah, hi," Green says, "it's me, the person you've been ignoring for the last five minutes. Can we go inside? Teleporting always takes it out of me and I'd like to go home."

Red frowns, his hand falling from his forehead to pinch at the brim of a hat that isn't there; then he catches himself. He twists in his chair until he finds and unlocks the brakes.

"Great," Green sighs. "All aboard the lighthouse express."

He pushes Red up the long hill. Green's not out of shape, and Red's underweight from his hospital stay, but Green is still panting by the time they reach the front door. He swings it open and nudges Red inside, hissing as the wheels catch on the carpet.

"I should've asked for hardwood," he grumbles, shoving at the wheelchair until it's parked next to the sofa. "You thirsty?"

Red shakes his head no but Green brings him a glass of water anyway, remembering that Red always wanted ice. He sets the glasses on the coffee table and flops onto the sofa with a sigh.

"So..." he says, pausing to clear his throat. "This is the living room, kitchen's over there, bathroom's there, your bedroom's over there with mine right next to it," he says, pointing. "The beacon room's upstairs. I set up your room, though it's not like you had much."

The room slips into strained silence until Green's restless hands brush the strange poké ball at his belt. "Oh," he says, letting Eevee out. Immediately she licks Green's nose and then bounds off the sofa to greet Red, hopping into his lap and nuzzling his cheek.

He smiles, and it's his first real expression since they arrived. Red pets her in all her favorite spots, and Green wonders if it's because he remembers or because he's so good at reading pokémon.

"You'll be able to see Pikachu later, too," Green says. "Gramps says he'll bring him over."

Red's hands twitch in Eevee's fur. He gives Green the same look he's been casting ever since he woke up: something between suspicion and confusion, as if trying to suss out an ulterior motive. Green bristles when he sees it but refuses, this time, to be the one to break the truce.

"I'm gonna tell Lucy we're back. Holler if you need me, I guess," he says, but Red doesn't respond. He only nods and returns to petting Eevee.

Green sighs and climbs the staircase, whistling for Lucy.

--

Physical therapy works with Red three hours a day, six days a week. Red is always out of breath, and he wears Green's clothes until his mother buys things that fit—when he came home, all she had were boxes full of an eleven-year-old's things. When Green does the laundry those first few weeks, he's disoriented by the foreign scent that clings to familiar fabric.

Red works at tossing large inflatable balls back and forth, or trying to hold his arms in place as the therapist's nidorina gently pulls against them. Sometimes all he does is stand up, wobbling as his trunk muscles relearn how to hold his own weight, while the physical therapist and Nidorina form a protective ring around him. It's hard to notice progress from day to day, but as weeks pass, he does get stronger.

The air turns humid as the rainy season looms. The physical therapist takes advantage of the last few days of good weather to work with Red outside when possible, saying the ocean air is invigorating. When Green heads into town, Eevee always knows when to turn back and help take Red inside, which makes Green wonder just how good her vision really is.

"It's Nidorina," the therapist tells him, grinning, when Green asks. "She waves at your eevee and the sun flashes off her poison barbs." After that, Green squints when Eevee starts running back to the lighthouse and sees a scattered gleaming in the distance.

Nidorina gets along well with their pokémon: play-wrestling with Pikachu, combing claws through Eevee's fur, high-fiving Green's machamp. But Green built his life around pokémon and their body language, and he sees how carefully she restrains herself. He looks at her more closely and finds faint scars all across her hide.

"She's a rescue pokémon," the physical therapist explains when ze catches Green staring for the fifth or sixth time. "She was part of a fighting ring the police busted. I work with pokémon, too—that's how we met. I wasn't looking for a partner, but life has a strange way, you know?" Ze presses a kind hand against Nidorina's head and she lifts her chin to nose against it, whuffling. "She only knew how to fight, but now she knows lots of other things, too. I like bringing her to work with patients because she reminds them anything can be overcome. You just have to work hard."

Nidorina teaches Green how to help Red move from place to place: bracing Red's knees with his own so he can't fall forward and slinging Red's forearms over his shoulders. The position brings them close together, as if they're dancing. Red's eyes rake across his face before they both look down at the floor to stay balanced. The position allows Green to take some of Red's weight and they pivot together, feet shuffling, until Red can sink down onto the sofa, or his bed, or a kitchen chair for breakfast. The touch is purely functional, the two of them focused on the effort of moving. Green grows accustomed to the sudden grip of Red's hand on his bicep, its strength slowly increasing as the days of physical therapy pass.

When he helps Red into bed, the hardest part is maneuvering him from a sitting position to a supine one. The first night it takes half an hour; Green ends up climbing into Red's bed close to the headboard and dragging him up the mattress until his head is roughly where the pillows should go, and the effort makes his back hurt for two days. The next day Machamp places him in bed, but Red looks so annoyed (and Pikachu sparks with such obvious jealousy) that they never do it again. When the therapist visits for the first time, ze teaches them the proper way to get someone into bed: Green swings Red's legs onto the mattress while Red turns his upper body, hands flailing as he tries to catch his weight against the bed and push himself. Pikachu jumps onto his chest as soon as he's settled, and both of them watch Green as he tucks a pillow under Red's head. Green always stares back; he's still not good at backing down, not really.

Green has never touched someone as much as this. The closest experience he has is when they wrestled as children, and even those memories were papered over with anger as they got older and the tussling changed to all-out fighting. Thinking back, he finds he can't remember many details. He remembers pushing with all his strength against what felt like an immovable object. He remembers that sometimes it hurt. But he doesn't remember what Red's skin felt like or how Red sounded when he laughed. He has no idea what to expect now, and no way to reconcile those memories with the new ease with which he enters Red's personal space and is never rebuffed.

Red whispers "Thank you" every time he's settled in a new position, his voice thin with exhaustion. "Don't mention it," Green replies. Still, Red continues thanking him until Green looks him in the eye and says, "No, seriously. Don't mention it."

Red lapses into his accustomed silence after that, but sometimes he holds onto Green for a moment longer than he has to. Green wonders if he remembers too, if he also feels the sensation of new exploration across once-familiar terrain.

Red graduates from the wheelchair and starts using a cane instead. Green starts being alert any time Red is on his feet, waiting for signs indicating he needs a shoulder to lean on or help to sit down. Red often overestimates himself and sometimes it leads to Green sliding him right onto the floor. He trembles as he grips Green's forearms, face flushed. He won't look at Green, keeping his narrowed eyes fixed on the kitchen tiles.

Green wiggles his arms until Red lets go. "Red," he says, "you've got to take it easy sometimes. This isn't a race."

Red's eyes flick up to his and Green recoils from the fury he sees there. But after a moment he realizes that he's mistaken—it's frustration, not anger. Green blows out a short surprised exhale.

"You're not used to this, are you?" he says. "You've never had to learn something from scratch before."

Red gives a jerky shrug. "Pikachu wouldn't talk to me for the first three months," he says. "This is faster."

"But not easier," Green presses.

Red is silent for a moment and then sighs, irritated. "No."

"This is what everything felt like for me."

Red looks at him, leaning his weight back against his hands. There's a twist to his mouth, the dismissal that Green's so used to. He feels a flare of temper but stomps it back down.

"I was a gym leader for a year before I could talk to my pokémon like you. You could talk to Pikachu after you'd had him for three months." Red's eyes soften, and the lack of resistance makes Green pause. "I just...I've loved pokémon my whole life," he says. "Pokémon were all I thought about, and then here comes my best friend who just gets them, without studying, without even trying...I don't know. It's just weird to have our roles reversed."

Red doesn't say anything for a long moment. Green scratches at his cheek, trying not to frown.

"Are you happy that you can do something I can't?" Red asks.

Green stares at him. "Of course not."

"I wasn't either."

Green blinks rapidly. He tries to turn away but Red cranes around to follow him, maintaining eye contact.

"Am I really your best friend?" Red asks next.

"Who else would it be!" Green snaps, and now he really is blushing. He covers his face, but he still feels the heat of Red's gaze on his skin, like sunlight.

When he speaks again, Red's voice is softer. "Even after all this time?"

"Who else would it be," Green repeats, barely louder than a mumble. He doesn't resist when Red reaches out to pull his hand away from his mouth, one finger at a time.

"Me too," Red says, and the surprise in his voice can't mask its honesty.

--

Leaf visits like always, though it's two weeks before she comes in like usual. "I don't want to, you know. Intrude," she says, her eyes flicking over Green's shoulder when she hears Nidorina's short bark of approval.

Green raises an unimpressed eyebrow. "You always barged in before."

"Yeah...but Red's, you know. Famous."

"So am I," Green points out.

"For your horrible fashion sense, maybe," she retorts, but she's too distracted for her words to have any bite.

Green sighs and reaches for her wrist. "Just think of him as your roommate," he says. "I mean, you live in his old room now, don't you?"

"That's even worse," Leaf complains, but she doesn't resist when Green pulls her inside. He herds her toward the kitchen and she leans against the counter, arm folded across her body to tap her nails against the opposite elbow. Green grabs the kettle off the stove and fills it with water from the sink. "Hey, Red," he calls, "this is my friend Leaf."

Red looks up from the weights he's lifting and Leaf cracks a smile, giving him a little wave.

"It's, uh, nice to meet you!" Leaf says. "Your mom's told me a lot about you."

Red's forehead shines with sweat, and his breath is a little fast as he hands the weights to Nidorina and gets to his feet. "Hi," he says. "Do you like pokémon?"

"I love pokémon," Leaf says, eyes lighting up. "I help Professor Oak with his PokéDex sometimes. I heard you came from Hoenn? Did you find any new pokémon there?"

Red nods and breaks into a smile, a genuine one that makes him look ten years younger. He leaves the living room with an unusual hurry in his step and returns with a battered PokéDex in his hands, the only possession that survived his ocean trek.

Red's physical therapist looks at Nidorina and then at Green before bursting into laughter. "Maybe we should come back tomorrow?"

"Yeah, probably," Green agrees.

Leaf shakes her head. "Wait, no, I didn't want to interrupt anything—" but then Red shoves his PokéDex into her hands and turns it on.

Green walks the physical therapist to the door, giving Nidorina a pat on the head before they go. "Sorry," he says.

"No, don't be," ze says, grinning. "Friendship is an important part of recovery, too."

Green returns to the living room and finds Leaf scrolling through the map on her own PokéDex, showing Red the pokémon spawn locations that have changed over the last thirteen years. Green fetches his old, battered town map and spreads it across the floor so they won't have to squint at such a small screen. The three of them hover over it, pointing out various places and talking about the pokémon they've seen there.

Red points at Mt. Silver, half-obscured at the side of the Kanto-only map. "I trained there," he says. Green looks at him, startled, remembering when Ethan told him about a powerful trainer years ago.

"Ooh, we don't know too much about the mountain," Leaf says, not noticing the look on Green's face. "The pokémon there are too strong! What was it like?"

Red nods. "Quiet," he says. "I liked it. Blastoise had trouble with the cold at first."

"You were that close by?" Green says.

Red looks up, frowning at the sharpness in his voice. He shrugs. "Not for long."

"Did your mom know?"

"I told Professor Oak." He looks at Green without flinching, watching the expressions play across his face. "He wanted to know about the diamond dust. I asked him not to tell anyone."

Leaf glances back and forth, frowning at the sudden tension. "Um. I'm going to make some more tea," she says, and retreats to the kitchen.

"You could have visited while you were there," Green says once Leaf is gone. "Or did that not even occur to you?"

Red's eyes flick down. "You didn't want to see me."

"Sure, make it my fault," Green snaps. He starts to get up but is stopped by Red's hand on his arm. He freezes in place, thigh muscles protesting, before he settles back onto the ground.

Red licks his lips and bites the tip of his tongue, his eyes scanning back and forth as he searches for the right words. "You were angry," he says. "I was angry too. But I didn't want to fight anymore." Red's last words are a low mumble. "I didn't want to make you cry again."

Green scrubs a hand across his face, making a low frustrated sound. "I thought you hated me," he says. "I thought you'd finally had enough of me."

Red's grip slackens until his hand falls back into his lap. "Me too," Red whispers.

In the kitchen, the kettle begins a plaintive whistle. Green hesitates, then sways sideways to rest his shoulder against Red's. Unlike the weeks of rehabilitation, this touch has no excuse to hide behind. Red breathes sharply but doesn't pull away.

"I still want to yell at you," Green mumbles. "But what's the point? I...I'm tired of being angry."

Red nods. He tilts his head towards Green until their temples are touching, his eyes focused on the middle distance—his listening look.

"I'm glad you came back.”

"I wanted to," Red says.

Green's voice softens even more. "I missed you."

He can hear the tiny, quiet noise as Red swallows. "Yeah."

"What kind of tea do you want?" Leaf calls too-loudly from the kitchen, and they break apart. There's a look on Red's face that he’s never seen before, soft and knowing, and it makes Green's heart pound.

"Um, the usual," Green answers, his voice only wavering a little. "Red likes apple."

Red follows Green to the kitchen. The conversation returns to lighter topics—changes to the Safari Zone, the newly christened S.S. Anne II. Halfway through the conversation Red's fingers migrate across the counter to tap on the back of Green's hand, a deliberate arrhythmic pattern. Green doesn't try to pull away.

Leaf notices and catches Green's eye for a long moment. Green inclines his head—half acknowledgement, half challenge—and his shoulders relax when she smiles.

--

According to the physical therapist, Red gets better at an alarming rate. It takes less than the month the doctors predicted before Red is training with his pokémon again, though their exercises have been modified by the physical therapist.

Red doesn't need to use the cane anymore. He steps outside under his own power, tugging his cap straight on his head. The air is humid and hot, the sky overcast. Green follows a moment later, not bothering to lock the door behind them.

His awareness of Red's body hasn't faded, even though Red doesn't need much support anymore. "How're you feeling?" he asks.

"I want to see where you found me," Red replies.

Green's smile drops but Red keeps staring, his face as calm and serious as always. Green's eyes flicker toward the cliff face and the glimpse of the ocean beyond it.

"The way down is narrow and kind of rough," Green says. "You'll have to be careful."

It takes twice as long as usual to get to the isolated beach. Red goes first so Green can pull him back if he slips, but he finds his caution baseless. Red has become accustomed to his current stamina and paces himself well. Pikachu and Eevee reach the bottom far ahead of them and Red pauses often to watch them play, as if the sight encourages him to continue.

Green watches him take careful handholds of the rock face. He recognizes a few of the grips from rock climbing, but it’s clear that Red knows way more than Green ever learned on his hiking trips with Brock.

"You traveled a lot, huh?"

Red casts him a flat look over his shoulder.

"I don't know, I mean," Green amends. "I knew you were in Hoenn and that you visited Johto but I never really...I guess it didn't hit me until just now. Were you traveling the whole time? All thirteen years?"

Red pauses, knees bent for stability with one hand gripping the rock wall. "It didn't seem that long," he murmurs.

When they reach the beach, their leisurely pace lingers. Green hasn't visited the shore since he found Red, and he can't stop glancing over his shoulder as the lighthouse dwindles into the distance.

"Where else did you go?" Green asks. The question roils his stomach with nerves, but he wants Red’s answer more than the comfort of ignorance.

Red hunches his shoulders. The wind whips off the ocean, making his collar flutter around his neck. "All over," he says. "Sinnoh. Faraway Island. Orre." Ahead of them Eevee leaps into the surf, going under briefly before popping up again. She shakes her head and mane with a happy cry. Pikachu lingers on the shore, looking back at Red.

"I learned a lot," Red adds.

They pause so Green can kneel down and take off his shoes and socks. Like Eevee, he feels better once the shock of cold water splashes against his skin. "I traveled too, you know," Green says.

Red nods. "I heard about you sometimes. I was glad you got to visit Kalos. You were always trying to speak French when we were kids."

Green groans. "Don't remind me. My accent’s terrible, but at least I can kind of speak it now."

Now Red looks interested. "Yeah?"

Green rolls his eyes. "Oui," he says, "and that's all the French you're getting out of me, so don't fish for any more."

Red's eyelids droop with mock disappointment, but he's smiling.

They slip into silence, listening to the ocean rush across the beach. Eevee rides the surf back in and runs to Green, shaking water in sheets from her fur. Pikachu, still dry, hops into Red's arms, and the three of them follow as Eevee leads the way.

After another five minutes of walking, Eevee sits down at Green's feet. Green stops and clears his throat.

"It was here," he says, looking down at the ground.

Red pauses beside him. It takes Green a few moments to sift through the bone-deep fear that rattles him like a passing train. The memories flood back: the cold weight in his hands, the soaked and tattered cloth. But he takes a deep breath, and the moment passes.

He feels Eevee leaning against his ankles, purring, still damp. He looks up to find Red gazing across the water, mouth pressed into a thin line. Red looks down at the sand, where Eevee is, before turning to the weathered cliff at their back. Nothing differentiates this place from the rest of the beach, except...

Red walks forward until the ocean soaks into his sneakers, though he doesn't seem to mind. Pikachu flicks his long ears once before huddling further into Red's arms, one eye peeking warily at the ocean. Green doesn't move beside Red this time. The sight of him silhouetted against the sea makes fear close his throat, but he only straightens his shoulders in response.

After a few minutes Red turns to him and nods. "Let's go back."

"Yeah," Green answers, voice catching halfway through.

Red's expression flickers from concern to realization. He walks towards Green until Pikachu takes up the only space between them, until they're breathing each other's air.

"Red," Green starts, but he doesn't know what to say. He's still not used to the intensity of Red's gaze. It used to anger him, but now it makes him blush.

They maintain eye contact, awkwardly in each other's space, until Green says, "Hey, wait. Are you taller than me now?"

Red leans back, blinking. He shifts Pikachu to one arm and raises a hand to the top of his head, then brings it across towards Green. It barely brushes Green's spiky hair.

"Oh my god," Green hisses, "you are."

Green slaps Red's hand away and lunges forward, chasing him down the beach, shouting incoherent threats as Red grins. They slow when Red stops to catch his breath and Green pulls up beside him, his last swing changed to a heavy thump against his back.

"Let's go home," Green says, echoing Red. "It's hot and I could use some water."

"Yeah," Red agrees, hands braced against his knees and his shoulders heaving. He looks up at Green, bright-eyed and smiling, and Green can't help but grin back.

--

"This is about business," Professor Oak's phone call begins. The statement abates Green's nerves some, but not much.

"Sure," he replies, then clears his throat. "What's up, Gramps?"

"I don't know how up to date you are with the latest research, but several studies indicate that many pokémon’s migration patterns are shifting due to climate change." His voice adopts the dry lecturer's tone that always makes Green sleepy. "We're seeing some pokémon here we've never seen before. In particular, the tynamo spawning grounds have moved just offshore of Pallet Town."

Green blinks. "Yeah, I heard the fishermen in town talking about that. Eelektross are pretty cool; I mean, a pokémon with no type weaknesses? I've always thought about training one."

"That dovetails nicely with my question, actually," Professor Oak says, voice brightening. "We're gathering a research team to survey the surrounding ocean and I thought, well, you're the lighthouse keeper now, which makes you a leading expert on the Pallet shoreline. I was hoping you’d join me on this project, to protect my research team. You'd be able to get a closer look at the eelektross you're interested in, as well."

Green doesn't respond for a long moment.

"Green? You still there?"

"Yeah! Yeah, I'm here. I just...well, honestly, I'm kind of surprised you'd ask me at all."

"Of course I'd ask you, Green," Professor Oak says. He sounds surprised and a little sad. "You're one of the top trainers in Kanto."

There's an uncomfortable pause until Green clears his throat. "Eelektross are pretty territorial, right? Monsoon season's coming, too—the weather will boost their power and give them an advantage."

"Yes, it’s dangerous, but researchers have been trying to understand the eelektross life cycle for two hundred and fifty years!" Professor Oak insists. "It’s the chance of a lifetime. We're collaborating with several research teams but my team is heading the project, of course."

"Of course," Green repeats, voice dry.

"We know the risks," Professor Oak says soberly. "That's why I'm asking for your help, Green. I know I can count on you to keep my researchers safe." Green doesn't say anything, so he continues, "I know your first duty is to the lighthouse, and you’d be doing this as a favor. If you don't want to, I understand."

Green bristles. "Hey, I never said I wouldn't."

"Really?" Professor Oak's voice softens. "You'll think about it?"

Green realizes what he's considering—helping his grandfather with a major project, when two months before he couldn't even look at him. He blows a disbelieving breath into the phone. "Yeah, Gramps. I mean, there’s not much I can do about a typhoon, but I'll think about it. Sounds like a hell of a trip, if nothing else."

"All right, then," Professor Oak replies. "I'd appreciate it, Green. Thank you."

"...I have to go cook dinner. Say hi to Daisy for me, all right?"

"I will. Talk to you soon?"

"Yeah. Talk to you soon, Gramps," he says, surprised he means it.

--

"You know," Green says, "you and Red look kind of similar."

A box of homemade pork buns sits on the bench between them. Leaf makes a face before she takes another bite.

"Please," she says. "I'm way cuter."

Green rolls his eyes. "No, it's—I don't know. Something about how you hold yourself. And you both like traveling."

"If I could look like anyone who liked traveling, I'd pick Cynthia," Leaf retorts. "Speaking of, did you see her photoshoot in Trainer’s Weekly? Her swimsuit is so cute."

"Do I look like the kind of person who reads gossip magazines?"

"Trainer's Weekly isn't a gossip magazine! They've even had articles about you, you know."

"Like I said," Green huffs. "Gossip."

Leaf rolls her eyes and bumps his shoulder with hers. "I'll ask Daisy to show you the photos later," she says. "Anyway, tell me more about Red. I guess you think he's as cute as me?"

Green snorts. "Cute isn't the first word I would think of, no."

"Handsome? Super hot?"

Halcyon illustration for part 3

Green chokes on his next bite. Leaf helpfully pounds him on the back. When he can breathe again, he looks up to find Leaf grinning at him. In revenge, he swipes her drink and takes a few slurps to clear his throat, ignoring her protests.

"I don't know why you keep harping on this," he mutters.

"You're childhood friends, he's living in your house, Pikachu let you pet him yesterday—"

Green hisses at her to be quiet, glancing around to see if anyone is watching. No one is, of course; Green is a common sight in town these days. "It's fine like this," Green says with a tone of forced patience, the same tone he uses on himself when he feels his temper fraying. "Red's not going anywhere for a while, anyway."

Leaf looks at him. There's pity in her gaze now, and Green looks away, drumming his foot against the ground. "You think he's going to leave again?"

"Look, I don't want to think about it," Green sighs. "Can we talk about something else?"

Leaf gives him a knowing look and almost does what he wants. "You should come by the house," she says. "It must be hard for Red's mom, walking to the lighthouse all the time."

"Red goes to visit her sometimes now."

"I didn't say Red," she answers. "I said you should visit. Daisy comes on Thursdays for dinner. Red can come too, if he wants."

Green shuffles his feet. "Well, it's not like I can say no when you put it that way," he grumbles.

Leaf beams. "Bring dessert," she says, and gets to her feet. "Tell Red I said hi, okay?"

"Tell him yourself," he says, but Leaf just waves over her shoulder as she walks away.

--

Red leaves most of his food untouched again.

Green's hands hover for a beat before he picks up Red's plate. He doesn't look at Red, turning to set the dishes by the sink before returning for the glasses. In response, Red shoos Pikachu from his lap and stands to fetch the towel looped around the refrigerator handle.

"So do you just not like my cooking?" Green blurts out, pausing with a half-washed dish in his hands. "I mean, I'm not the most amazing cook or whatever, but I've never had any complaints from—" He pauses mid-sentence, realizing that the only people he's ever cooked for are people he was dating.

He clears his throat. "Just give it to me straight," he says instead. "You've never pulled your punches before."

Their backs are to each other, Green at the sink and Red standing over the kitchen table, wiping it down with slow, sure strokes. Lucy's light is already spearing through the twilight outside, and Green counts the time by its measured blinks. Eevee is up there with her, paws against the glass as she watches the sunset; it's her favorite place in the evening.

The silence feels like a weight on Green's shoulders. He drops a handful of clean silverware onto the drying mat, and the chiming of metal cuts through the room.

"It doesn't taste bad," Red murmurs. "I can't eat a lot of it."

"What's wrong with it?"

Red falls quiet again. Green closes his eyes and takes a deep breath before picking up another plate.

"Mom invited us for dinner," Red says. It's not exactly a deflection; Red is talking around the topic, as he does when searching for the right words. "I don't know if I can eat that either."

"Huh." Green sets the plate on the drying mat with much more care than the silverware. He remembers Red was a picky eater when they were young. "Is it your stomach?"

Green turns from the sink in time to see Red's quick shrug and the uncertain twist of his mouth.

"But my food tastes okay?" Green presses.

Red rolls his eyes. "It's fine."

It's faint praise, but Green feels better anyway.

--

"Oh, Green," Red's mother says, voice tinged with laughter. "You made pasta with cream sauce? There's no way Red could eat that. It's too heavy. Here, I'll teach you something he can eat."

She hands him rough-skinned taro, calls it bongkukan, and teaches him to peel it under warm running water so the stinging oxalate crystals don't stick to his skin. She simmers a fish head to make the broth and drops in heaping handfuls of bok choy, diced onions and chunks of ginger, chopped-up green beans that were once as long as his forearm, narrow eggplants and lemon slices. "It's not quite authentic, but Red likes it anyway," she says.

"How'd you learn to make this?" Green asks, his mouth watering from the amazing smell that wafts from the pot. Red's mother gives him an amused look.

"Everyone back home knows how to make sinigang," she says. "It's what the poor people eat. But it's healthy, and the fish we get here is fresh from the ocean, so that makes it taste very good."

The stew is sour and savory all at once, perfectly matched by the rice it's poured over. Red eats two bowls, but Green doesn't feel slighted because he does too. He's sitting by Daisy and Red is beside his mom, and their eyes lock over the table. Red's eyes are bright, his cheeks flushed from the heat of the food. He picks out pieces of fish and slips them to Pikachu under the table, and it's such an old habit that no one mentions it. (In polite company, Eevee is too well-mannered to beg for scraps, as Pikachu does; she sniffs in the direction of Green's bowl and then waits for her meal later in the kitchen.)

"You know," Green says, "You came here so long ago I forgot you're not from here."

Daisy shoots him a look as if he's said something rude, which, upon second thought, he...kind of did. He winces, but Red's mom is already answering him.

"I always thought it was such good luck when we moved here and found another boy Red's age," she says. "You and your family always went out of your way to make my son feel welcome. It made me feel welcome, too." She beams at him. "I may not have been born in Kanto, but it's my home now. I'm sure Red feels the same."

Green looks at Red, thinking about thirteen years of travel. Red pops another bite of sinigang into his mouth and reaches for Pikachu, running his fingers between his large ears, not flinching at the hello spark Pikachu sends in return. Red traveled the world, yes, but his pokémon are all from Kanto; he took them with him everywhere he went. He nearly killed himself trying to get back to Pallet. He's shown no sign of restlessness in the time he's been here.

"Do you think you're going to stay for a while?" Green asks. The table falls into a hush, but Red doesn't notice. He finishes chewing, swallows, and then meets Green's gaze.

He nods once, sharply, then goes back to eating. Green lets out a surprised breath, feeling his fists unclench.

Chapter Text

 

 

What can you learn from your opponent? More than you think. ...
Let's admit, without apology, what we do to each other.

Richard Siken

 

 

There's a wingull on the balcony.

Green approaches her with a slow step, learned over years of walking through tall grass. The wingull watches with measured caution, but shows no sign of flying away.

"You're quite the visitor, aren't you?" he murmurs, extending a hand. It's the wrong time of year for the wingull migration, but she doesn't seem to be a trained pokémon here on business, either.

The wingull eyes him for another moment before stepping onto his arm, webbed feet gentle on his skin. Not wild, then; not quite wild, anyway.

Green presses light fingertips against her breastbone. The muscle there is withered, a sign of starvation. "Did you come all the way from Hoenn?" he asks.

She clacks her beak once, tiredly.

Green reaches up to scratch the base of her skull, watching as her eyes droop with pleasure. "You followed him, didn't you?" His pitch drops to a lower register; "You did what I couldn't."

Wingull doesn't move, even after Green pulls his hand away. "You're welcome to stay a while," he says. "Seems like everyone else is these days." The wingull peeps softly, then turns to preen Green's hair.

--

Green and Red go to the docks to help the fishermen pull in the day's catch. It's hard, repetitive work, and the songs and shouts ring in Green's ears as he hauls the nets hand over hand to the shore. They're both welcome: Green is called embarrassing nicknames and caught in headlocks as often as he's praised for how quickly he picks up the work. If anyone else were around he'd die of embarrassment, but these people watched over him as a child, snuck him sweets when Daisy wasn't looking, and encouraged his boastful dream to be the best trainer in Kanto.

Red gets the same treatment, almost. Green senses restrained consideration in how they catch Red around the shoulders and ask if he's really feeling better, is he sure, shouldn't he take a break for a few minutes.

"It's good to have you back, kid," they both hear over and over.

The wingull blends in with the cacophonous crowd of pokémon—spearows and starmies, even an old magikarp. Wingull pecks at the pokéblocks the fishermen scatter on the wooden slats, but hops away to follow Red when he leaves to grab the next haul. When Red kneels down to inspect her, his eyes widen.

"She a friend of yours?" Green says, unable to hide a lopsided grin.

Red blinks, then nods, his smile small and disbelieving. The wingull flaps hard, kicking up a sudden breeze that makes Green flinch, and perches on Red's cap. Green snorts at the sight, but Red seems used to it, reaching up to make sure the wingull won't slip. She nibbles on his fingers and settles down, tucking her long wings against her body with a contented caw.

At the end of the day Green staggers home, laden with gifts for Lucy from the sailors who rely on her. Red follows, stopping periodically to wave at the fishermen below.

"You could offer to help, you know," Green grouses as he struggles up the long hill.

"You've got it," Red murmurs. He can't hide the twitch in the corner of his mouth when Green turns to glare at him.

"You're not an invalid anymore. Stop acting like it," Green says, but they're already at the front door. Green shoves some gifts into Red's arms anyway so he can fish out his keys. Red takes them with a grunt, but doesn't otherwise protest.

It's sunset, so Lucy is just waking up. Pikachu is tucked into the curl of her body and she noses at him, her expression more gentle than Green has ever seen. Pikachu greets her good morning with a cascade of tiny sparks before bounding over to Red. He stops short, though, and gives a happy cry when he sees the wingull, who leaves her roost to say hello. Lucy follows at a more stately pace, eyes widening as she sees the gifts in Green's hands.

He offers a sour poffin and she takes it with both paws, munching with her usual seriousness. "You really like Pikachu, huh," he says. She shoots him a look too well-mannered to be an eyeroll.

Red has never tried to touch Lucy, unlike Kris, who would run to hug her every time she came upstairs. Green usually doesn't either, but her coat looks a little dull, so he fetches an anti-static cloth. She endures the rubdown stoically while finishing her poffin, then reaches for another.

"They're from the sailors," he tells her. Lucy blinks, then smiles a little. Wingull is still full from the sailors' treats and only eyes the food with cursory interest, but Pikachu reaches for the poffin in her hands.

"They're not for you," Green snaps.

Lucy glares at him as she hands it to Pikachu, then reaches for a sitrus berry from the pile. When he starts to brush her again she turns her head, ignoring him.

He glances at Red, who's watching him with amusement and zero sympathy, and then at Pikachu, who's happily eating his new poffin. "Okay, whatever, he can eat all your food, sorry for trying to look out for you," he grumbles, and Red's shoulders shake with quiet laughter. "Turn this way for a second, I have to clean your gem."

She closes her eyes serenely, allowing Green to wipe the red stone on her forehead until it gleams. He finishes with a scratch behind her ears. She allows it for a moment, accepting this more sincere nonverbal apology, before turning toward the windows and the sea.

The sun has almost set, and she selects a few more berries from the pile before moving toward the center dais. Her tail glows with increasing brightness until its light blazes through the windows, then fades. Unlike the usual steady on and off, today's blinks form a pattern. It takes a moment for Green to recognize it as Morse code, and then longer until he translates it as Thank you.

Red and Green head back downstairs. After a few minutes, the lighthouse dims for longer than usual before flooding with a searing flash of light. It's so powerful that only Pikachu could have produced it. Green, dreamily staring out the window and waiting for the miso soup to reheat, curses as his vision sparkles with afterspots.

"Keep it down up there!" he shouts up the stairs, then hesitates. Red glances up at his sudden stillness.

"Gramps used to yell that from downstairs when my music got too loud," Green says, rubbing at his neck. "Ugh, whatever, let's eat."

--

"Oh, what a cutie!" Leaf says when she sees Wingull on Green's shoulder.

"She's lazy," Green says, tone full of begrudging affection. "She hitches rides everywhere instead of flying."

"That's not lazy," Leaf protests, "that's smart." She extends a hand and the wingull examines it for a moment, then hops over to perch on her forearm. "You should come with me for a while," she says. "I'm way more fun than either of them."

Wingull glances at Green, who shrugs. "Red likes her," he says. At that, she peeps and sidesteps her way up to Leaf's shoulder.

"Where are you headed today?" he asks.

"Fuchsia," Leaf replies. "Picking up some supplies for Daisy, visiting some friends. How about you?"

"Going to see Gramps," he says, trying to sound flippant.

Leaf stares at him.

"He asked me to help with this tynamo thing," Green elaborates, shoulders hunching. "He wanted to go over some stuff."

A worried look crosses her face. "At least you're not going alone. Eevee's with you, right?"

"No thanks to Gramps," he mutters. Her eyes turn pitying and Green winces. "Don't worry about it," he rushes to add. "I wanted to help. He's not forcing me."

"You can still back out."

Green shakes his head. "I already made up my mind." His voice softens. "Besides...it's important. Not the research stuff—I mean. Trying. With Gramps."

Leaf nods as if his broken sentences make sense. Maybe they do; they've been friends long enough. "Good luck," she says, patting him on the shoulder.

--

Green hasn't been inside his grandfather's lab in over ten years.

The air is the same as he remembers, a little too dry and a little too cold. His skin crawls as he stands there, surrounded by scenery he thought he'd never see again. Nothing has changed: the dim fluorescent tubes hanging from the vaulted ceiling, the bookshelves dusty in the corners and worn with heavy use. He doesn't know the newest batch of research aides, but he'd recognize the thick glasses and perpetual frowns anywhere. They recognize him the same way, by definition if not by detail: the Professor's grandson, let him pass.

Eevee sniffs the air but seems neither excited nor curious, sticking close to his side. Out of habit he walks straight to the back, where his grandfather's outdated CRT screens vie for space between sheaves of grant proposals and assorted technological odds and ends. A collection of first-gen PokéDexes gather dust, siblings to the one he still carries in his pocket. He swallows hard against a wave of irrational nerves.

"Green!" Professor Oak calls out, making him jump. He's beaming, beckoning Green over to the long table where he first met Eevee years ago. She hops up on the table, her paws wrinkling papers as she peers at the treat in Professor Oak's hands. He offers it to her but she doesn't move, glancing at Green instead.

"What'd you wanna show me, Gramps?" Green says.

He remembers saying that years ago, and he instinctively glances at the door, half-expecting to see Red's silhouette looming in the doorway. Even as a child, the shadow Red cast was larger than the boy himself.

He turns back at the sound of a pokémon being released from its ball.

"Thanks for coming. I want you to meet one of the key research associates on this project. This is Golduck, our resident monsoon expert."

"You look kinda familiar," Green says, extending a hand for a fistbump. "Oh! Yeah, I remember now. Daisy's been working with you to predict the rainy season, right?" It was Gramps' and Daisy's pet project to breed pokémon that could give seaside towns a way to plan for the monsoon floods. Golduck was the natural choice: water-types with an affinity for precognition, thanks to the red gems on their foreheads.

"Some of Golduck's relatives are better at telling how much rain we're going to receive, but he's the best at storm prediction," Professor Oak says. "He'll be on the ship to help give advance warning, and buy us time to get back to shore before any storms hit."

Still looking at Golduck, Green nods. “Good to be working with you."

The golduck nods back, narrow eyes speculative over his yellow beak. Then he turns away and vanishes back into his poké ball in a flash of light.

"Doesn't talk much, huh," Green asks, unsettled by the brusque once-over.

Professor Oak has moved away to rifle through the mountain of paperwork on his desk, and chuckles at Green's comment. It was easier when he was distracted by Golduck, but now that it's just him and his grandfather, he feels the familiar tension rising in his throat. "No, he's never been good with people. Amazing once he's in the water, though. Fastest swimmer in his group. Ah, found it!" He turns back towards Green, holding a USB stick in one hand. "You brought your tablet, didn't you? Hand it over."

Green stares at him. There's a pause. Then his grandfather says, "What's wrong, Green? You didn't forget it, did you?"

"You didn’t tell me to bring anything," Green says. Suddenly aware of his hunched shoulders and balled fists, he straightens his back and shoves his hands into his pockets.

When he looks up again, he finds his grandfather frowning at him. "Well, I suppose it can't be helped," he sighs. Green's jaw clenches. "Here, I'll lend you one of my tablets instead." He turns to call over a research aide.

Green closes his eyes and takes a hard breath in through his nose and out through his mouth. He's faced down countless trainers, he tells himself. A building that crowds him in with childhood memories isn't a challenge at all.

He realizes, then, that he is lying. Even standing in the champion's room waiting for Red was nothing compared to this.

"You couldn't just e-mail this stuff to me?" he says. His voice snaps out of him, too loud for the lab's library-like hush. He’s taller than his grandfather, but not by much. He pulls himself straighter to maximize the difference and to stop himself from glancing around, remembering how as a child Professor Oak always told him to pay attention.

His grandfather turns back to him, smiling. "We're using the research vessel Professor Pax brought," he says, "and I wanted to show you the blueprints so you'd know your way around. I'll probably spend most of my time in the ship's lab, but you should stay closer to the deck. That's where you'll be the most useful."

"Is that what I am?" Green says, mouth on autopilot. "Useful?"

Professor Oak shoots him an odd look. "Of course you are, Green. We're not expecting smooth sailing out there. Your skills will come in handy." He claps a hand on Green's shoulder and it takes all of Green's willpower not to flinch away.

He feels a rising static fill the inside of his skull, drowning out his thoughts. "I need to go," he hears himself say.

Distantly he registers Eevee's low growl and feels her leap toward his chest. He catches her reflexively.

Professor Oak looks at Eevee, surprised. "You're upset. What's wrong?"

"I need to go," he repeats, "just e-mail me," and then he's striding toward the door.

If his grandfather calls after him, he can't hear it through the buzzing in his ears. He launches himself outside and hurries toward his grandfather's house with long, ground-eating strides. He's reaching to open the door before he freezes, realizing he doesn't live here anymore—his home is a fifteen minute walk in the opposite direction.

Before he can do anything else, the door swings open beneath his hand. Daisy stands there, frowning.

"Come here," she says, and seizes his wrist before he can speak. He barely sees the house before she pulls him into the backyard, where she sits him down in a wrought iron chair beside a similarly-styled table. An umbrella shades him from the afternoon sun. "Don't move," she says, and leaves for a moment.

It takes a moment of blank staring before his eyes refocus. He blinks, feeling disoriented. Eevee’s low growls rumble through his chest.

Daisy returns with a cup of hot tea. She sets it on the table and pulls his hands around it, and the temperature rouses him a little. He pulls back to huddle around Eevee, his eyes tracking the ripples on the tea's surface. "This is—"

"Take some deep breaths," she instructs, sitting next to him in the other chair.

Along with her quiet counting he breathes in for four beats, holds it for four, then breathes out for six. After a few rounds the roaring white noise starts to recede. His final exhale is shaky but a little relieved, and his tight hold on Eevee relaxes. In response, she stretches up a little to furiously groom his face.

"What," he says, wincing back, then: "Oh man, that hasn't happened since I was a kid." He pets Eevee until she bundles down into his arms again, her eyes watchful over the curve of his forearm. Daisy is still searching his face, her brow furrowed. "I'm okay," Green reassures her. "Well. I'm better. Thanks."

Whatever she sees in his expression seems to satisfy her. She nods to herself before asking, "What happened? You haven't visited once since you moved in, and now you show up looking like that..."

Green grimaces. "I went to the lab," he says. "I don't really know what happened. It just...it was like I was eleven and Gramps was disappointed in me all over again. I kept waiting for, I don't know, for him to ask what my name was. He never forgot your name," he mutters.

"I look just like mom," Daisy says. She glances at the ground.

Green rakes a hand through his hair, suddenly disgusted with himself. "Sorry."

"It's not your fault," Daisy says. "It's not anyone's fault, really. Grandfather works too hard, so he doesn't have any room in his brain left for details." It's the same thing she's always said.

Green's eyes narrow. "Don't you get tired of sticking up for him? What has he ever done to deserve it?"

"He took us in," Daisy replies. Her hands are folded in her lap and her expression is forcefully serene. "He took us in and shared what he had with us. He taught us everything he knows about pokémon. He gave me the money to start my business, and helped establish you in the Viridian Gym. He's not a bad man, Green."

"I know he’s not," Green snaps. "But that doesn't mean he's good."

"He's family," Daisy persists.

"So what?" Green mutters, hunching in his chair.

"Drink your tea," she says, ending the argument. They've had it before, and neither wins it. Still grumbling, he lifts the mug to his mouth and slurps a sip to dispel the water's heat.

Daisy watches for a moment before squaring her shoulders, as if making up her mind. "Well, no matter the reason, I'm really glad you visited," she says. "I wanted to show you what I've done while you were away. Doesn't it look different?"

Green blinks, looking around. He remembers the backyard as unremarkable expanse of overgrown grass, tufted with seed in the spring and beaten down by rain after the monsoons. Now, it's a field of variegated flowers with a stone walkway woven through, dotted here and there with beautifully groomed pokémon he doesn't recognize. There's a small pool in the middle, too: he can hear the soft rush of a decorative waterfall.

"Wow," he breathes. "You did all this? It's awesome." Daisy beams.

"Come on," she says, taking his hand and coaxing him to his feet. She leads him across the flagstone path—a gift from Brock, she says—and points at the decorative goldeen in the pond, metallic scales shimmering in the uncertain light—gifts from Misty. Erika helped design the garden and procured the flower seeds, but Daisy grew them all herself.

"I had no idea you knew so many League members," he says.

"You kept bringing me as your plus one to all those fancy parties," she says, smiling. "I had to talk to someone."

She brings him inside the house, which has also changed. The downstairs area is dedicated to her growing business, which is now a full spa and beauty salon: massages are only one of the many services she offers, and the pokémon lounging outside are some of her customers. She even has an employee, a friendly girl from Johto whose grandparents run the daycare in Goldenrod City. She winks at Green but doesn't stop grooming a snubbull's coat to a lustrous sheen.

"Are twintails, like, a Johto thing?" Green says, staring at her brown hair.

"You should ask her sometime," Daisy replies.

The tour finishes upstairs, passing Daisy's room to stop at the closed door that was once Green's. He can't stop himself from tensing, but Daisy opens it and—the place is unrecognizable. The walls are unadorned, the space filled with stacks of boxes and supplies.

"It’s my storeroom now," she says, and he remembers moving all of his stuff out a few months after becoming gym leader. He got rid of almost everything over the years, but a few things are still in storage. He blinks, realizing he has enough room in the lighthouse now: he should check if any of it is worth keeping.

"You've got a nice setup, huh?" he says, looking around.

Daisy is looking straight at him, and he recognizes his own stubbornness in the set of her mouth. "I do," she says. "Green, we're not kids anymore. Things aren't how they used to be. So visit more often, okay?"

Green shuffles his feet against the carpet. "Okay," he says. "Sorry."

Daisy sighs and pulls him into a hug, careful to leave room for Eevee, still in Green's arms. She tucks his face into the crook of her neck, cradling the back of his head with one hand. "I love you," she says. "Don't ever forget that."

"I never forget," he says, and it's mostly the truth.

--

While Green is out, Red takes Pikachu to the beach.

Once Pikachu realizes where they're going, he hesitates. Red takes a few more steps before looking over his shoulder, waiting for Pikachu.

Just a walk, Red says. Like last time, with Green and Eevee.

Pikachu's ears twitch, considering, before he shakes his head no. Red nods and turns back, the ocean glimmering behind him.

He extends his hand, and with the familiar cue, Pikachu leaps up to his usual perch on Red's shoulder. He's started to regain the weight he lost, and his fur is soft and full of new static. Red pets Pikachu's neck, reassuring and steadying him simultaneously, before turning to the narrow trail near the cliff's edge.

Red is in no real hurry. He tilts his face up to the sun and takes deep breaths of the salt-tinged air, before kneeling to watch the rattata play by the side of the path. The rattata living near Pallet have always been half-tame, unbothered by humans as long as they don't get too close. Pikachu ignores them with a huff and clambers across Red's shoulders instead. Red winces as Pikachu's claws catch on the tender skin of his nape, but Pikachu doesn't notice as he usually would. His attention is wholly focused on the beach, even as his tail lashes back and forth.

Do you want to go to the beach?

Pikachu hesitates, and then shakes his head slowly. His tail taps Red's head, and when Red turns to look he points across the water.

Obliging Pikachu, Red sits at the cliff's edge. Pikachu hops down beside him and lets Red run reassuring fingers through his fur. Satisfied by the viewpoint, he doesn't strain to see like before; instead, he leans against Red and watches the advancing tide.

This isn't Pikachu's first challenge while at Red's side, though Red can't forget he's responsible. But the two of them have overcome everything together. Pikachu always looks forward, away from what happened and toward what can be done. They look out across the ocean together, quiet.

Red thinks, We can do this, too.

--

After the ill-fated visit to his grandfather's lab, Green spends the rest of the week meeting with the other two professors involved in the project. They assume he's been sent by Professor Oak as a liaison, a more personal touch than the business e-mails and phone calls of the past few months. Green bristles at the assumption but doesn't correct it, either.

Elm, the second professor, sends one of his many research aides as a proxy. When Green visits, the poor man is so sleep deprived that he struggles to form full sentences; he admires Professor Oak deeply, which isn't offensive as much as it is boring. The third professor, however, comes in person. She's a lively woman whose area of expertise is Unovan marine biology, and Green first finds her on the docks at dawn, asking the fishermen about ocean conditions.

"Practically a local, huh," he says, grin lopsided.

"As if,” she says with an honest smile. “They wouldn't even talk to me until I proved I knew my stuff. You must be Green? Call me Pax."

Green learns more about marine life in the next two hours than he had his entire life. "No one understands tynamo's migration pattern," she says. "For a long time, we didn't even know they were a fish pokémon. We classified them as something else totally—for a while we thought they were worm pokémon. You can find tynamo and eelektrik in secluded caves in Unova, but we didn't know where they spawned until we tracked one A. electrum all the way to the warm waters off the coast of Vermillion. We've found both marine and freshwater tynamo species, but they all come right here to breed. Even the east and west sea varieties of gastrodon breed in different places, so tynamo are quite unique!"

He texts Kris that evening: Did you know eelektross are catadromous?

You've been talking to Professor Pax, Kris immediately replies. Isn't she amazing? She teaches at Humilau University. I'd love to take one of her classes.

You should come visit. I'll introduce you.

I can't. My thesis defense is really soon. But I wouldn't mind you putting in a good word for me! ^_~

A few days later, he sends her the professor's contact information and her reply is just !!!. He snorts, thinking Kris and Red would probably get along.

--

Red sits on the couch with his feet tucked beneath him, watching Green stuff a fanny pack with small but necessary things: water, sunscreen, a few pokeblocks.

"I don't think we'll get pokégear reception out there," Green says, "but we'll be in radio contact with the lab...there's leftovers in the fridge." He snags sunglasses from the table and tucks them into his shirt collar, before glancing at Red and seeing the tension around his mouth. "What?"

"I want to go," Red mumbles.

Green raises an eyebrow. "It's not exactly a pleasure cruise." He whistles and Eevee comes bounding up onto his shoulder. He scratches her chin before turning back to Red, who's still staring. Green sighs. "Besides, Pikachu still doesn't like the ocean, does he?"

Red blinks and looks at Pikachu, who's curled up in his lap. Pikachu shakes his head once and noses beneath Red's hand until his eyes are covered, making a soft frustrated noise. Red pets him before looking back at Green, his expression less stubborn.

"So that's that," Green says, confirming. "Listen, someone needs to stay here anyway.” Green gives a crooked smile and a small two-fingered salute. "Keep an eye on me out there, okay?"

Red's expression flattens, unimpressed, as always, by Green's posturing. "Take Wingull," he persists.

Green recognizes the mulish set of his mouth and the clear challenge in his gaze. Something inside of him rises up, an instinctual desire to argue—before he shakes his head a little, and squashes it.

"Sure, why not?" he says, shrugging. "Wingull are supposed to be good luck on fishing trips, anyway."

Red's expression clears and he nods.

Green pats his pockets and fanny pack, making sure he hasn't forgotten anything, before he turns to the door. "Well, see you later," he says.

The moment they step outside he hears a piercing cry overhead, and Wingull swoops down in front of them. Green only jumps a little, he swears, but he glances around anyway to make sure no one saw.

Of course he finds Red by the window, one hand lifted to push the curtain out of the way. The corner of his mouth twitches with poorly concealed amusement.

Green glares at him and turns in a huff to march down the hill. He feels Red's gaze on his back, and the weight of the attention makes him lift his chin a little higher and pull his back a little straighter. "We're gonna find so many tynamo," he grumbles to Eevee. "We'll show him."

Wingull gives another cry, then soars into the hazy sky. Green whistles again, just to hear Eevee chirp in response, and heads toward the docks.

--

They start a few weeks before the rainy season begins. It's too early for tynamo, but it gives them time to fine-tune their equipment and establish a baseline for their measurements. Golduck comes too, but he seems bored, drowsing in the heat.

The Unovan ship RV Sea Ruby is huge, its red and white sides gleaming in the sun. Instead of sweltering on deck he opts to ride on the back of his pidgeot, one eye always on the ship. Wingull keeps pace in the air, soaring over and under them as they fly, and a headset keeps him connected to the boat. Teams of search pokémon help with their echolocation: Elm's team brought graceful mantines, and Oak's lab puts the tentacruel overcrowding the local waters to good use, but the Unovan team is the most striking. When a horde of seismitoad erupt from their poké balls and plop onto the deck, even Green flinches away.

"They're cute, aren't they?" Professor Pax says, slapping one on their shoulder. It gives a croaky giggle, covering its mouth with one huge hand. "Best search-and-find pokémon in the water, hands down."

"Seismitoad take work to evolve," Green says, admiring. The professor beams.

Silver is in the sky too, upon Green's invitation and Kris's insistence. It's not exactly a day off, but Silver wouldn't have accepted a less stressful excuse to leave the gym. He answers Green's questions as they fly, voice dry and terse over the headset: the gym is fine. He's realized most League paperwork is pointless but does it anyway, just to make someone else waste their time processing it. He texts Kris sometimes. Their conversation is periodically interrupted by the appearance of wild pokémon, with Green and Silver swooping down to help chase them off.

As the sun sets, Silver flies home and Green lands with Pidgeot and Wingull on the deck of the Sea Ruby. The return trip lets Green experience the lighthouse beacon from the open water. He stands beside Wingull at the railing, wind ruffling his hair as he watches Lucy’s light cut through the evening, illuminating the black water around them with flash after flash.

He's too far to tell, but he wonders if Red is standing on the lighthouse balcony, watching the ship lights approach, just as Green is watching him.

Home, he thinks.

--

Pikachu spends a lot of time staring out the window, even though they go to the beach every day. At first Red wonders if he misses Eevee, but then realizes he's looking at the ocean. Pikachu has never been good at accepting setbacks.

After a few days, he trots to the back door and looks expectantly over his shoulder. Red puts down his game controller and opens the door.

Pikachu stays close as they walk to the beach. Red's path drifts closer to the ocean, half his attention on Pikachu, half focused on syncing his breath with the waves. His mind drifts: training regimens, new attack techniques, the humidity that weighs down the air. It's reminiscent of Hoenn, how the entire region moved slower in deference to the relentless heat.

Pikachu chirps a warning and Red pauses. He looks down to find the ocean soaking into his sneakers. He looks at Pikachu, who grumbles.

On a hunch, Red calls out another pokémon. Lapras charges into the ocean without a backwards glance, and Pikachu watches him go with a mix of worry and frustration. He calls out to Lapras, who responds with a musical cry and turns back toward shore, shell rising out of the water like an island.

Pikachu dips a paw into the water and flinches at the sensation. He shivers from the cold, lifts his paw, then slams it back into the water, making a small splash. He calls to Lapras again, his voice louder, more strident.

Red remembers—when Lapras learned Surf it was Pikachu, not Red, who was his first rider.

Pikachu rises onto his hind legs and takes a hesitant step into the water, getting used to the pull of the surf on his body, and then another. His cheeks spark with nervous lightning before he tamps it down, not wanting to hurt Lapras, who hums encouragement and lowers his head toward Pikachu. Pikachu calls back and takes a few more steps, ears pressed back, until he rests his paw on Lapras's muzzle.

Lapras pushes his head forward against Pikachu's stomach, flipping him over to land between his ears. It's a familiar move, and Pikachu runs down his neck and onto his shell before sitting up on his haunches blinking, surprised by his own daring.

Red listens to Pikachu's happy cry, Lapras’s sonorous hum, and remembers Green and his mom laughing together in the kitchen as they worked on some new recipe. Red is content anywhere, as long as he's with his pokémon, but Pallet is more comfortable than anywhere else. Living in Pallet isn't quiet, but maybe he doesn't need the quiet anymore.

--

Green is woken by his cell phone going off beside his ear. He slaps at it, sending it clattering and ringing off the mattress, then hauls himself to the edge of the bed to flail around for it. He's missed the call by the time he finds it and he squints at the screen, eyes protesting the artificial brightness.

"Ugh, Gramps," he croaks, but he only hesitates a moment before he calls back.

"Green!" Professor Oak sounds disgustingly awake, considering the sun hasn't risen. "It's rude not to answer when someone calls, you know. What if it was important?"

"If it was important you'd be getting to the point instead of talking my ear off right now," Green snarls.

Professor Oak pauses for a long second, long enough for Green to realize what he just said. "Oh. Uh. Sorry, I—"

"You know, Green," his grandfather interrupts, "I know we don't have the easiest relationship, but that's no reason to speak disrespectfully to—"

"I'm sorry," Green practically bawls into the phone. His grandfather falls into a brittle silence and Green groans, rolling onto his back and slapping a palm against his forehead. "I didn't mean—"

"I am trying, Green!" Oak says, tone wavering. Green has never heard him sound like that before. "I would appreciate a little patience and understanding."

"Are you—crying?"

"Of course not!" Professor Oak snaps. "This is ridiculous. I was calling to tell you that Golduck says the monsoon will start today, so we're not going out. Stay home!"

His grandfather hangs up before he can respond.

Green stares at his phone for a second before growling, "Ugh, it's too early for this," and burying his face into the pillow.

--

Later that morning, with Pikachu a sleepy bundle on his shoulder, Red wanders into the kitchen and stops dead in his tracks, staring at Green.

Since they started living together, Red has redeveloped his habit of noticing Green whenever he's near. It's worsened over the last month until Green pulls his gaze wherever he goes, leaving a prickling, nervous feeling that builds in his chest the longer he looks. Usually Green calls him on it with teasing or self-aggrandizing praise; today, though, he doesn't notice, distracted by the music playing through his earbuds.

Red faintly hears the audio leaking through, some kind of upbeat boyband tune. Green's cooking something in a pan and bopping along, singing under his breath as he works. His slippered feet are doing a little sidestep shuffle. Red doesn't need to see his face to know he's smiling.

It's Eevee who notices them first. She sits up from her bed on the windowsill and Green turns to see what she's looking at. His eyes brighten when he sees Red before his smile turns cockily self-conscious. He rests a hand on one hip, the other holding the sizzling pan. Green is happy to see him, he realizes, caught off-guard but not embarrassed, as if Red’s welcome here.

"About time you woke up," Green says, while Red continues to stare. "Hungry?"

Green's hair is growing out a little, but it looks no less ridiculous when backlit by the dim morning light. Red walks toward him, one deliberate step after another, watching Green's grin fade into something nervous, almost shy.

"You made me breakfast," Red murmurs.

Green snorts. "I've been making you breakfast since you moved in," he says. "You just noticed?"

Red takes another step, close enough to pull the pan from Green's hand and set it back onto the glass top stove to finish cooking. Reaching past Green brings their bodies flush, brings Green so near their cheeks are nearly touching.

Green takes a surprised breath and even that small movement makes their clothes brush. Red pulls back just enough to look Green in the eye and sees the want that he's only caught in glimpses made plain.

Green licks his lips. Red doesn't hide how he watches the quick peek of his tongue. "Um, Red, I—"

Red kisses him without fanfare: a slight lean forward, a gentle press of his mouth to Green's. Green doesn't move, doesn't even breathe, until Red pulls away.

"Thanks for breakfast," he whispers.

"Pikachu is on your shoulder," Green hisses, color rising high in his cheeks.

Pikachu and Red glance at each other, then shrug at the same time.

"Move, move," Green says, shooing Pikachu until he hops onto the table with a huff. Then he hurries to kiss Red again, clumsy with eagerness, sliding his mouth over Red's until they’re breathing heavily and Green is laughing with disbelief and slight hysteria, tangling his fingers in Red's shirt collar.

"You're welcome," he breathes against Red's lips, and fumbles behind him to turn the stove off before breakfast burns.

--

After a week, Golduck decides it's safe to go out again. Wingull soars up to land on a high railing at the top of the boat while the crew boards, the strong wind ruffling her feathers. She ignores Green when he beckons her inside.

"You’re the lookout, huh?" he calls. She fluffs up in reply, never taking her eyes from the churning water.

The heat inside the ship's cabin is oppressive, and the air is thick with discussion of the latest studies and theories. Professor Oak often solicits Green's opinions and listens to his responses, but soon the academic talk turns stale, becoming so theoretical that Green's independent research can't help him understand it. He fidgets, finding his dislike of being overlooked is as strong as ever, and tries not to look at his grandfather too much.

Eventually he wanders out with Eevee on his shoulders, the heated discussion about gorebyss patterns still droning in his headset, and climbs ladders and stairs until he reaches the deck. The wind pushes him back immediately and he crouches to keep balance, ears full of the roaring ocean. He clings to the railing and looks around until he sees Wingull, her wings and head hunkered down against the wind.

The rough conditions make their mission seem urgent, less like an ocean jaunt and more like the dangerous research that it is. It's hard for him to forget he's responsible for protecting the crew if they find the dangerous pokémon they're hunting for. You're one of the top trainers in Kanto, he remembers his grandfather saying.

"You're not the only lookout," he shouts to her. "We've all got jobs to do."

Wingull glances over but doesn't answer. Green grins, feeling his senses slowly awaken, feeling the itch for battle beneath his skin.

A few pokémon make things interesting: a swarm of tentacruel, who bypass their researcher brethren to try to heave themselves onto the deck, and a pod of kingdra who assault the boat with a barrage of Bubblebeams. Green takes to leaving Gyarados out of his ball and standing in the center of his loose coils, one hand resting on the smooth scales of his body as the pokémon arches upward. Gyarados's head blocks out the sky above and he breathes out warm puffs of air that stir Green's hair, the two of them watchful as they scan the sea. Wingull, with her higher vantage point, gives him a crucial few seconds of warning, and he learns to listen for her raspy cry.

After a few hours, the only excitement left is the uneven tossing of the ship. The squawk of conversation in his ear doesn't carry any pertinent updates, and his excitement dims to a wary alertness.

Hours pass and still nothing. Eventually Golduck gives a wary bark, and at his signal they turn back toward shore. Green retreats to the covered observation deck at the boat’s crown and presses his hands to the glass as the ship rocks; the ocean is slate-gray and white with foam, its color reflecting the clouds, and—boring.

He thinks of Red. He imagines him sitting cross-legged on the sofa with a sweating glass of iced green tea in his hands, gazing out the window at the ocean. If he closes his eyes he can hear distant thunder rumble and he imagines how it sounds to Red, far-off enough to only be a whisper.

Longing hits him like a knife to the chest. He's glad, suddenly so glad, that Red is safe at home and not trapped out here, but he also misses him in some bone-deep way that makes it hard to breathe. Without thought his hand pulls back into a loose fist against his chest, eyes fixed on the wingull just outside the glass.

--

Lucy's light blazes more fiercely the thicker the stormclouds grow.

Electric-types grow stronger during monsoon season, and Pikachu is no exception. He grows restless, unused to the indoors after years of traveling. After a week, even Lucy can't bear it any longer and she kicks him out of the beacon room, leaving Pikachu to grumble and pace the floor. Green is out visiting Daisy, so he can't depend on Eevee to distract Pikachu, either.

Let's go, Red says.

This time, Pikachu runs ahead of him to the beach.

Red tries to borrow Green's raincoat and finds it small in the shoulders and short in the wrists. The rain stopped a few hours ago, so he wanders out in his usual shirt and hat. They’re greeted by a peal of thunder when they reach the beach, and Pikachu shouts back, delighted as he sprints down the shore.

Red runs after him until fighting the wind drains his strength. He stops to catch his breath, watching Pikachu's dwindling figure, then takes a sharp inhale when his path careens toward the water. His hand darts toward Blastoise's poké ball as Pikachu dives in—only to freeze when he's tossed back onto the sand seconds later, tumbling and sparking with indignation.

Pikachu leaps to his feet, shaking his head to clear his ears before he diving back in. Red sprints toward him, exhaustion forgotten, one hand trembling as it hovers over the poké balls at his belt.

Pikachu repeats the process again and again with no change—a yelling charge into the high waves, only to be spat right back out again. But Pikachu seems unharmed by it, and his cries shift from challenge to excitement as Red nears. Pikachu's stride changes from quick steps to bounding leaps, trying to clear the tall waves. Red slows to a jog, his eyes fixed on the yellow dot bobbing in the sea, telling himself to trust him, trust him.

He realizes Pikachu is not the only one afraid of the ocean.

Pikachu's voice is faint over the roar of thunder, but Red still hears him. He drifts further out, luring Red to wade in after him until he's angled sideways and half-crouching, pummeled by wave after wave.

It's not pleasant. The fright coursing through him mirrors the cold water dragging against his legs. But a full minute passes and he can still hear Pikachu and he's still standing, still breathing, still here.

Pikachu! he calls, afraid but no longer overwhelmed.

Many people asked Red why he kept traveling, why he would vanish into the deep wild for months at a time. He could never explain it was the pursuit of greater context, a hunt for this exact sensation: being alone with his pokémon in the churning tide, surrounded by nature's ferocity, so overwhelmed by its magnitude it feels like not existing at all. Red's concerns dwindle to nothing in the face of the sublime.

Pikachu comes tumbling back in with the next wave and Red plucks him from the water, cradling him to his chest. His chirruping laughter rings in Red's ears as he walks toward land, pulling them both free from the tide. Pikachu lunges up to bump his nose against Red's, trilling with savage joy. Red smiles, silent but no less happy, before they turn toward home.

Red has scaled mountains and fought legendary pokémon, and he has always survived. In the end, the ocean is no different.

Chapter Text

 

 

The lighthouse on the far point
still sweeps away the darkness with the brush of an arm.
The tides inside your heart still pull me towards you.

Richard Jackson

 

 

"Wait wait wait," interrupts a voice on the radio, "Jimmy found something."

There's a beat of silence before the channel fills with a dozen eager voices asking questions. Professor Oak shouts, "Everyone, please!"

The channel falls quiet, and Oak chuckles. "We're all excited, so let's focus on what we came here for! Joanna, you said? What team is she on?"

"Jimmy, sir," corrects the voice, "one of my mantines, about three kilometers at two o'clock."

"Let's follow him, then!" Professor Oak replies. "All ships turn, ah, starboard!"

"Turning starboard," shouts the navigator. The ship's engines roar as it accelerates, and Green tenses with anticipation.

They're slowed by rough water, but palpable energy runs through the ship and time passes quickly. Gyarados and Green stand near the center of the deck, keeping a lookout. Soon they're joined by a collection of researchers and fishermen. Their patience is rewarded half an hour later when a mantine breaches the surface, graceful fins waving in the air.

Elm's researchers crowd by the side of the heaving boat, heedless of the danger, and watch the entire mantine fleet surface. "Good job!" one of the researchers calls; Green recognizes her voice from the headset. She tosses the first mantine a treat and then shouts, "Just like we practiced, okay? Go!"

As one, the mantines dive. For a few minutes there's nothing, just the restless shifting of the ocean. Then the surface breaks with streams of bubbles: a few at first, then more and more until it looks like part of the sea is boiling. Dazed pokémon start floating to the surface, half-translucent bodies nearly invisible in the foam.

"Tynamo!" the researchers shout. "We've got tynamo! Place the nets, hurry, be careful—"

The fishermen loop a huge net beneath the school of tynamo and heave them out of the water. Many of them fall back into the ocean and flee with a quick flick of their tails, but the net still contains dozens when it hits the deck. The researchers send up a ragged cheer.

Green reaches for a poké ball, then pauses. These tynamo are weak, already confused from being pulled from the water; he'd probably blow them off the deck with one hit. The researchers, however, show no hesitation. They call their personal pokémon, species not usually seen on the competitive circuit—furret, farfetch'd, girafarig. One researcher even uses a pair of unown.

One by one, the tynamo are paralyzed, charmed, or False Slashed until the researchers can throw ultra balls to capture them. The deck becomes a battlefield: pokémon skid every which way and half the tynamo flop back into the ocean before the rest are captured. Green ducks behind several large boxes to avoid poorly-aimed Hidden Powers and Supersonics and casts a jealous glance at Wingull, safe at the ship's crown.

Eventually, there are no more tynamo to capture. Green helps gather the poké balls rolling all over the deck, and they hustle back to the lab to start analysis. The lab is cacophonous with people taking measurements and photos, entering data into their computers, and tagging as many tynamo as they can to follow their long, inter-regional trek home. Some researchers pull on thick rubber gloves to hold the pokémon, while others take notes. Despite the thick humidity and the boat’s relentless rocking, the lab is festive, dissipating the grim tension of weeks of endless waiting.

Eevee winds through the crowd to place her paws on the glass of a tynamo tank, but Green hovers near the periphery, one eye on the windows just in case. When he looks back, he catches Professor Pax's gaze. She's beaming, hands clasped around a tynamo whose skin glitters with sparks. "C'mere, look," she calls, and when Green obliges she orders him to don a pair of gloves and take the pokémon she's holding.

"Smile!" she says, whipping out her Xtransceiver and snapping a photo. When Green complains he wasn't ready, she waits until he smiles at the camera before taking another one.

He leans over to see the photo and laughs. "Send it to me," he says. "No, wait! Send it to Red, too, here—" as Pax types, he rattles off Red's e-mail address along with his own.

"We really did it, huh?" he says. Message Sent! rolls across the screen.

"Of course we did!" Pax declares, clapping him on the back. "We've got the best team in the world, don't we?"

He looks at her, a complicated feeling unlocking in his chest. The gym didn't feel like a team—everyone looked to him for answers, separating him by the distance of authority. But here, among the milling researchers, he's just another pair of hands. It's the same feeling as helping the fishermen unload their boats, a feeling of welcome camaraderie, his presence so ordinary that it goes unremarked.

The tynamo in his hands is thrashing, and Green can see the research tag glinting against its scales. "Is this guy done?" Green asks. Professor Pax nods once before recalling it to its poké ball, soon to be released back to the ocean.

Green feels eyes on his back and glances around until he catches his grandfather staring. Professor Oak coughs into his fist and turns away, suddenly interested in a nearby pile of papers.

"You need something?" Green asks.

"No, no," Oak stammers. He glances at the Xtranceiver in Professor Pax’s hand before forcing his gaze away. Green’s lips curve in a disbelieving smile.

"Do you wanna take a selfie?"

Professor Oak blinks. "A selfie? What's that?"

"Of course you don't know what a selfie is, I don't know what I expected," he sighs, walking over to his grandfather and fishing his PokéGear out of his pocket. He flicks it over to the front camera and holds it out, laughing a little at Oak’s perplexed expression. "We're taking a photo together," he explains. "Say 'Eevee.'"

"Ah, Ee—"

Green flashes a peace sign and takes a few photos, just in case. He flips through them, then shows the best one to his grandfather. Well, the best one of him, anyway. Professor Oak is caught mid-consonant, looking vaguely confused.

Professor Oak tries frowning, but the corners of his mouth betray him. "I look ridiculous," he complains.

"Wanna try again?" Green says. They take a few more before his grandfather is satisfied—Green comes by his vanity honestly. He e-mails it to his grandfather too, and Daisy just because.

Green keeps the first photo, though, and glances at it every so often with a secret grin. All the photos of him and his grandfather are from when he was fourteen, the both of them stiff and not touching, Green’s expression just this side of mutinous. But he likes this one. It's nice. He'll keep it.

--

They head back long before Golduck says they need to; everyone agrees that's enough work for one day. Green, Wingull, and Eevee all tumble through the front door, laughing and making a racket, until Red appears in the doorway to the living room.

"Did you get Pax's e-mail?" Green asks as Wingull hops over to Red and squalls, demanding to be picked up.

Red shakes his head no before lifting Wingull and settling her on his hat.

"Ugh, would it kill you to check your inbox more than once a year? Anyway, we did it!" he says, tossing a poké ball at him. Red catches it with surprise, blinking at it. "Gramps said I could have one if I wanted. I picked a girl—I'll give her to Daisy and her new assistant, and see if they can start a breeding line of out it."

Red twists the ball in his hands, a small smile on his face. "Congratulations," he says.

He looks up to find Green peeling his damp shirt off with a grimace. "Ugh, the humidity is awful," he grumbles. When the collar pops over his head, Red is staring at him with an odd expression. Their gazes hold a beat too long before Red looks down, gaze settling somewhere below Green's chin. Wingull meets Green's gaze instead, half-dozing already in her favorite place.

"What?" Green says suspiciously, kneeling to pet Eevee. Red shakes his head, fingers tightening around the poké ball. Green has felt the calluses that match the easy way the ball fits into his hand. He remembers the crazed battle on the deck, the effort it took to catch this one small pokémon, and realizes in all the months he and Red have spent together, he hasn't seen him fight once.

As if reading his mind, Red says, "We'll go with you tomorrow."

Eevee looks up at that, identical surprise on both their faces. Green's expression sobers when he realizes Red is, as always, dead serious.

"Yeah?" he says.

Red nods. "Pikachu's not afraid anymore. He says—" he pauses, translating. "He says he wants to help. Like Lucy and Wingull."

Green is perched on the balls of his feet, but at Red's words he settles back onto his heels, flashing Red a contemplative look. "It's not fun," he says. "And to be honest, I don't do much. Mostly we find tentacruel, and even then the Unovan seismitoads handle most of the fighting."

"I want to go," he insists.

"You'll just stand around bored and wet, listening to researchers nerd out on the radio."

Red holds his gaze. "I want to go with you."

Green breathes sharply. He ducks his head and scratches behind his ear. "It's not quite what I imagined for a first date, but you have terrible taste, so..." He tries to sound breezy and flippant, but instead his voice is quiet with nerves.

"Are we dating?" Red asks.

"You're the one who kissed me," Green grumbles. Eevee gives an irritated chirp. "Oh, sorry," Green says, and continues scratching behind her ears. She arches her back, pleased.

Red watches Green's hands move over her fur. "It's not a date," Red says. "But I still want to go."

"Oh," Green says, voice flat. "Okay."

Red's eyes dart to the side. "Another time," he murmurs. "Take me somewhere."

Eevee has to lick his fingers before he stops staring, mouth ajar. He jumps, then digs in his fingers a little too hard, trying to excise the butterflies from his stomach. She nips him to make him stop and flounces off to his bedroom, tail held high in the air. Green wouldn't be surprised to find an Eevee-shaped dent in his favorite pillow later.

Green swallows. "Yeah," he manages. "Yeah, okay. Cool." He looks down, trying to hide the huge grin overtaking his face. Red kneels down in front of him, eyes thoughtful.

"You should apologize to Eevee," he says.

In a rush, Green leans forward and pecks Red on the cheek, making Wingull squawk. When he pulls away he's not sure who looks more surprised.

"Okay," he says, and flees to his bedroom.

Red reaches up and touches gentle fingers to his cheek. Slowly, he smiles.

(Later that evening, Red opens his e-mail and ignores 800 new messages in favor of opening the e-mail from Professor Pax. The first attached photo captures Green mid-word, hands clasped around a blurry tynamo. The second is in-focus: Red can see the crinkles around his eyes when he grins, and the excited light in his eye.

He saves the photos to his computer before sending a one-word reply: Thanks.)

--

Professor Oak beams when he sees Red coming up the gangplank. He rests a hand on Red's shoulder, steering him inside as Green follows, trying to stop the familiar jealousy from rising in his chest. His grandfather takes Red around the Sea Ruby, showing off their research tools. Red nods along, his expression serious and attentive even though Green knows it must all be going over his head, until Green can't take it anymore. He storms off to the deck with Gyarados and stays there until they're in deeper waters.

Wingull joins him soon after they push off, taking her usual weatherbeaten perch on the upper deck’s railing, and Red and Pikachu show up an hour or so later.

"Have fun?" Green says. He tries not to sound bitter, but Red steps closer anyway. After a moment he reaches out to brush the outer edges of their hands together, pinkies touching, and Green's sullenness evaporates.

Red is quiet company, content to watch the rolling waves. He's more fair-skinned than Green, though, and eventually he retreats out of the sun to the observation deck, opening the glass door connecting the stairs to the lower deck, and sits in the entranceway. Eevee follows to play with Pikachu, but the sensation of Red's gaze on the back of Green's neck never fades. At first it's unsettling, then flattering, and finally familiar. He grounds himself by it, much like Gyarados's presence as they pace the deck together, scales hissing across the steel.

Green pauses when he hears his grandfather over the headset.

"We're here, gang," Professor Oak says. "Just like the other day, so make your preparations."

Green grins and rubs his hands together, then turns to wave at Red.

"Tynamo like hiding places," Green explains over the headset, "and there's a shipwreck below us. We had good luck last time we were here, so—" Red scrambles to his feet and Green laughs. "So you were bored, huh. Don't bother coming down, there won't be much to see until we get some tynamo."

He sees Red nod and settle in beside Wingull. Then, the golduck on the far side of the deck barks a hoarse warning.

"What, now?" Green shouts. Golduck meets his gaze and barks again, his red gem flashing. He groans and calls over the headset, "Gramps, Golduck says we gotta head back. Storm's coming."

"But we're already here!" someone protests.

"Monsoon storms are serious!" Professor Pax scolds them. "It's not worth it."

"Can't we stay ten minutes?" Oak asks. "We've had good luck here before, so it shouldn't take too long."

"Lemme ask," Green says. "Golduck, ten more minutes?"

The golduck closes his eyes, his gem settling into a continuous red gleam. After a few moments he grimaces, snaps his beak, and then turns his back.

Green has no idea what to make of it. He glances up at Red, who nods. "Golduck says it will be close," Red whispers. It's the first time he's spoken all day, and the channel hushes at the sound of his voice. "Hurry."

The tynamo in this spot haven't learned better. The search pokémon quickly fish some up, even as the wind and waves intensify. The researchers catch them with grim efficiency, the deck covered in flashes of light as one tynamo after another is caught. Golduck paces, casting nervous glances at the darkening horizon.

"Five minutes," Professor Pax warns.

"Yeah, we’re good, boss!" one of her researchers calls back. "This is all we'll need for—"

Then the search pokémon scatter from the Sea Ruby, tentacruel and mantine and seismitoad united in a wild dash to the depths. Within seconds the waters around the ship are deserted.

"Um, guys?" Green shouts over the radio channel, fighting to be heard over the worsening weather. "You seeing this?"

Wingull shrieks, louder and more frightened than he has ever heard. He glances back and sees her hopping on the railing, wings flapping. Distant thunder cracks, and then—as if summoned by the sound—a monstrous black shape heaves itself onto the deck, a horrifying creature with slippery skin and eyes as brilliant as searchlights.

"Oh, shit," Green breathes, and in a second he's sprinting forward with Gyarados. "Run! Get inside! It's an eelek—"

Her shriek drowns him out, echoing across the channel as crackling feedback. The eelektross rears up to her full height and screams again. Bioluminescent warning patches of red and yellow flash across her hide, highlighting her menacing claws and endless rows of teeth.

The researchers and their pokémon sprint past him toward safety, a flood of white charging for belowdecks, but he barely notices. Gyarados leaps into the fight ahead of him, responding with his own battle cry.

Green's mind empties and years of experience take over, his field of vision narrowing to the pokémon in front of him. His lips peel back into more of a snarl than a grin, eyes wild. Throwing a hand out before him, he yells, "Outrage!"

Gyarados lunges forward with a shriek of fury, shooting across the deck to bite down on Eelektross's neck. She wails, the volume making the air tremble, and throws him off with a violent lurch.

Gyarados lands poorly, slamming into the deck and skidding backwards, coming to a stop centimeters from Green’s feet. But Green doesn't budge. He's about to call another command when two things happen simultaneously: the eelektross's jaws open to reveal a mouthful of lightning—

And Green realizes that Gyarados is flying- and water- type.

The Zap Cannon that roars across the deck is so brilliant that the rest of the world seems darker. There's no time to dodge, no time for anything except for Green to flinch and throw his hands up before him. Gyarados takes the hit full-on and flies backwards, knocking both of them overboard into the roiling waves below.

The shock of the impact blows the air from his lungs, and the sound cuts out as he goes under. He watches the air bubbles vanish up through the green-blue water, becoming smaller and smaller as he sinks. Gyarados's body loops around him in a loose spiral, limp with unconsciousness and dropping just as quickly as Green.

 

halcyon chapter 5 illustration by untamablecosmos. Green and Gyarados sinking through the water.

 

Icy panic clutches his insides as he realizes the attack paralyzed both him and Gyarados. He can't move, can't even scream, can't do anything but stare at the shimmering surface dwindling rapidly away—

Until the water's surface whites out with a blast of power. In its wake, Green thinks he can make out a darker smudge sent flying, though it vanishes so quickly he can't be sure.

His lungs burn and he wants to clutch at his throat but can't, he wants to recall his gyarados but he can't even save one of them from this—

The water ripples as something lances into the ocean, and he sees Red clutching the back of Blastoise's shell, the pair of them darting towards Green and his gyarados. His vision sparkles from the lack of air and he can't reach out, but he feels Red's hand close urgently around his. He fumbles for a second until he finds the button on Gyarados's poké ball and presses it, pulling him back to safety.

Red wraps a strong arm around Green's waist and Blastoise surges up and out of the water, flinging them all back onto the deck. They tumble across the surface, collecting more bruises and scrapes until friction pulls them to a stop.

Red rifles through his pockets and pulls out a rage candy bar, rips the plastic packaging open with his teeth, and forces it past Green's lips. The flavor floods his tongue, chokingly sweet and a little stale, and then Green can move again. He rips himself out of Red's arms as he heaves upright, coughing and coughing until water floods from his mouth and nose and he collapses onto his side.

His lungs feel like they're on fire. He groans, unable to resist when Red pulls him into his arms again. He blinks his eyes open to see Red's trembling mouth and furrowed brow. His grip is so tight his knuckles are turning white.

"You're hurting me," Green croaks, but Red doesn't let go.

With the last of his strength, Green reaches up to press a cold hand to the side of Red's face, and only then does some of the wildness fade from Red's eyes.

He slings Green's arm over his shoulders and drags them both to their feet, limping to the interior of the ship. At their backs the storm chases them across the sea, the ship plunging through the waves at top speed as it races back to shore.

--

It's quiet.

The sun has set and Lucy works upstairs, her light so brilliant even the closed bedroom blinds can't shut it out. Red watches the striped pattern oscillate on the far wall, lines vanishing and appearing as steady as a heartbeat.

Sometimes in the wild Red would spend hours like this: watching, breathing, observing every detail. Now his eyes trace the mussed spill of Green's hair, ends curling from the last traces of sea salt, and the soft part of his lips. His eyes are closed and his breath catches before easing again, following the pace of his dreams.

Red drifts, lost in thought, until Green stirs beneath the weight of his arm. He doesn't move and Green hesitates, trying to see through the heavy shadows.

"Eevee?" he murmurs.

Red squeezes a little tighter.

"Oh," he says, his voice a soft rasp. He turns his head and their noses brush. "How long was I out?"

Red answers him with a kiss. Green's eyes widen and then flutter shut, mouth going pliant beneath the pressure. Red pulls back and watches Green shake off the last vestiges of sleep, his focus returning.

He shifts closer until he's half-draped across Green's chest, his weight sinking Green into the mattress. His eyelashes brush against Green's cheek. He's not wearing a shirt, and the nearness makes Green turn his head, suddenly shy.

"Don't go," Red mumbles in his ear, so soft the words are almost entirely air. "I won't lose you again."

"You're the one who left, not me," Green mumbles, but Red isn't listening. He hugs Green a little tighter, forearms awkwardly braced against the mattress. He wonders if Green hears the rush of his breath, how it hitches slightly with every shallow inhale. After a moment Green hugs him back, and Red sags into it.

"It's okay," Green murmurs. "I'm fine."

Red burrows his face against Green's neck, and Green jumps at the clumsy kiss he presses there. He pulls back and lets Green consider, looking up at the dim spots his bedside alarm clock casts on the ceiling.

"I have you to thank for that, don't I?" Green says, voice wavering. His hand moves to the back of Red's neck, their eyes meeting in the next flash of Lucy's light.

Red's kisses are soft. His lips brush over Green's larynx, lingering when he swallows. He moves over the rise of Green's jawline the same way he crossed oceans and continents, in no hurry and yet inorexable.

When he reaches Green's mouth, he finds it half-parted with longing. The touch of Red's lips draws a sigh from him, and Green’s shoulders loosen with relief.

Green spreads his legs as Red settles between them, hands weaving themselves through Red's hair and pulling him against his mouth. Red wonders if Green is uncomfortable beneath his weight; Red is all planes of muscle and knobs of bone, hard-won strength in every line. Instead of complaining Green pushes into his hands, fingers exploring the loosening tension in Red's neck and shoulders. He traces the wings of Red's scapulae, then down the stepladder of his spine, fanning out across his ribs. Red breathes deep just to feel Green's hands around him, holding the core of him.

Their eyes meet. Green rolls his hips forward once, experimentally, biting his lip as he moves. Red feels him drag against the inside of his thigh and desire closes his throat. He leans forward to catch Green's lower lip in his mouth, tongue curling against it as he draws it free. Green shudders against him and the second twitch of his hips is sharper, more involuntary.

He's never felt so unfocused, distracted by the sweep of Green's hands across his waist; the peek of his tongue over kiss-red lips is too much of a lure. Their kisses blur together, delicious soft sensation against his lips and tongue, the warmth of Green's mouth making it hard to track where he ends and where Green begins.

Green surges forward, flipping Red over and pushing him back until he's pressed against the headboard and Green is kneeling in his lap. Green's fingers fumble for the hem of his own shirt and he strips it over his head, getting tangled in the cloth as much as the sensation of Red nipping hungrily at his collarbones. Red catches the chain around his neck with his teeth, and it glints in the dim light when he lets go.

Red reads his body like a map, memorizing him with every sense. His touches are gentle over Green's ribs and hips and the tension of his thighs. Green flings his shirt to a corner of the room and backs away to strip off his boxer briefs, then leans forward to pull Red's pants off. Red chases him as he moves, distracting him with kisses to his cheeks and neck. Green is trembling by the time he straddles Red's lap again and cradles his jaw in his hands. He pushes closer, caging Red in with his body, making a soft noise of relief when he feels Red’s bare skin against his own. He nips at Red’s lower lip until their breaths grow heavy.

Time loses meaning against the heat of Green's mouth. He gives himself over to it, drinking in the sounds Green makes. He's senseless to anything that isn't the variable texture of Green's skin, softer on the ticklish undersides of his arms, smooth over the expanse of his back, organic tension as he pulls them flush.

How long has he wanted this? Red doesn't know. It feels longer than their friendship, a roughened fault line finally wearing smooth. Green curls a hand around him and Red makes a tiny desperate noise in the back of his throat.

He's never felt like this, restless and shifting between Green's spread knees, lunging forward to nip at his skin until bruises bloom. His hands clutch at Green's shoulders and chest, greedy. Green catches one of his hands and pulls it down, placing it where he wants. Red's eyes flutter upon feeling the soft skin beneath his fingers, watching half-lidded as Green tips his head back. He strokes once, too light.

Green reaches back to brace himself, his hands bracketing either side of Red's thighs, and pushes up into Red's loose grip. The sheets crumple in his hands, his eyes fixed on Red's with a mixture of challenge and desperation that Red's oddly familiar with.

Red meets his gaze before looking down again, brow creasing with concentration. His free hand braces against the crease of Green's hip, pinning him against Red's thighs when he tries to move again. He starts a snarl before Red slides his hand down, slow with intent, and watches Green’s mouth slacken as his train of thought derails.

Under Red's patient, steady hands, Green's eyes grow hazy and his breathing ragged. He can't stop his hips from trying to push forward, greedy for more than the slow inexorable pace Red keeps, forcing Red to push harder until his fingers press indentations into Green's skin. Still, Green's spine arches and bends, trying to work himself between the restraint and the building sensation. The head peeks out every time Red pushes his hand down and the sight is as intimate as it is obscene, making arousal curl into a lead weight inside him. He can feel Green's foreskin slide against his fingers, the gathering wetness at his fingertips. His eyes drag upward, over the shivering tension of Green's stomach, up to the flash of his throat. He feels the heat of Green's skin, hears the harsh scrape of his inhale as he chokes on air. Red's pace inches faster until Green can't stop the sound spilling past his teeth, until he groans and shudders and finally falls still.

The hand on Green’s hip smooths up until it rests between his shoulder blades, steadying him as he flops forward. Green’s arms wind around Red's shoulders and he sways in for another kiss, biting at his lips like an afterthought. He's breathing hard, eyes soft and unfocused, but that changes when Red wipes his hand on the sheets.

"I just washed these," Green complains, voice still thready. His eyes flick down to where he's left traces on Red's stomach. Red follows his line of sight and frowns, then starts to push Green off of him so he can go clean up. Green seizes his shoulders and pushes him back against the headboard.

He blinks up at Green, startled by the sudden intensity of the gesture.

"Do you think I'm done with you?" Green whispers. His hands tremble and his eyes are wide, a strange counterpoint to the aggressive pressure of his fingers against Red's skin. His voice shakes. "I'll never be done with you."

Red's eyes rove across Green's face, reading his tells. Green knows he's overreacting, but Red knows him—knows that his temper only flares like this when there's something at risk. Red tips his chin up, a minute challenge, and Green can't stop the shudder that runs through him in response, the sheer want that streaks down his spine.

“I'm not satisfied with just this,” Green grits out. “You can't just touch me like that, and expect me to—”

Red's expression shifts from wary confusion to cautious understanding. "You want more."

I want everything, he can't make himself say. He nods instead, settling back a little.

Red glances down as if just remembering himself, then looks up with an arched eyebrow. Green's answering grin is sharp, and he licks his lips as he pushes himself out of Red's lap. Before Red can do anything, he bends forward to lick Red clean, his tongue flicking over the cuts of Red's abs.

Red's muscles jump beneath his mouth; he's always been surprisingly ticklish for how quiet he otherwise is. Green grins and runs a lingering path from Red's ribcage down to his navel. The clean smell of his skin is undercut with the heavy scent of sex, and Green feels dizzy from it as he mouths at Red's hip. He's been half-jealous, half-dying-of-thirst since he first saw Red shirtless at the beach months ago. It's a relief to work his mouth over Red's shivering muscles, to feel the coiled strength beneath his lips as bitterness spreads across his tongue.

Red seizes his shoulders, torn between pushing him away and pushing him lower. The tension in his hands relaxes into a full-body shudder as Green moves back, satisfied, and pulls him into his mouth.

The taste of him makes Green's mouth water. Unlike him, Red is circumcised, which makes it easy to lave over the crown with his tongue. Red inhales sharply, the loudest that Green's ever heard him. He sucks once, feeling his cheeks hollow, then pulls back to lap at the underside, savoring the feeling of smooth skin.

He takes his time, feeling Red twitch as he mouths down the sides. It takes effort to take in more, a pleasant ache already settling into his jaw, feeling the head bump along the back of his mouth as he swallows it down. Red's voice has shifted from an occasional gasp to heavy panting, and Green's eyelids droop with accomplishment. He's hard again but barely notices, too busy pushing himself to take a little more, then a little more, a little more, until he feels Red nudging against the tightness of his throat.

Red's hands sink into his hair, one hand cradling the back of his head, the other pushing his bangs back so he can see Green's face. He glances up to find Red watching with a wondering expression, wild color on his cheeks. A fine tremor is running through his body and Green feels the half-restrained twitches of his hips as he tries not to buck up into his mouth. He's leaking and Green chases the taste, pushing forward while Red shudders.

"Green," he gasps. "Green, I, ah—"

His hands tighten in Green's hair as he comes and Green is glad to be pinned there, focused on the splash of him across his tongue. He looks up at Red before swallowing, just so he can see how blatantly Red watches the movement of his throat.

He drags himself up to flop against Red's chest, and for a moment they lie panting. As their breathing slows, Green begins to shiver until Red's warm arms curl around his shoulders. He reaches for the sheet before he winces, thinking about how dirty they must be now.

He drops it and opts for a better heat source. "Thank God," Green mumbles, mashing his face against Red's neck to hide his belated embarrassment. He's not sure Red can understand him, blurred as his words must be, but Red settles anyway as if he's listening. "I've been dying to touch you for, I don't even know."

"Even when you hated me?"

"Especially when I hated you," Green mumbles. Red's shoulders shake silently. "Hey, don't laugh. Why do you think I kept trying to battle you?"

"To prove you were better?"

"To make you look at me," Green says. "I didn't want you to look at anyone else. It took me years to figure that out." He makes an agonized little noise into Red's shoulder. "God, I was so stupid."

"Yeah."

"Don't agree with me, jerk!" he says, banging a loose fist against Red's chest, but he's laughing.

"I'm here now," Red says through Green's protests. "I am looking at you."

Green falls still. Red wonders if he's offended him somehow, before he clears his throat.

"Yeah," he says, voice rough. He fumbles for Red's hand and squeezes it—an old habit he spurned once their ages reached the double digits, saying it was childish. There's no hesitation now, and his grip is steady. "It's true, isn't it? You really are."

Red tilts his head until his cheek rests against Green's hair, and squeezes back.

--

The monsoons recede in July, leaving calm seas and clear skies. Green visits the lab often to see how things are going, not exactly helpful but trying not to get underfoot. The first time Professor Oak sees him after the disastrous expedition, he rushes over then hesitates, looking Green up and down. He pats Green a little too hard on the shoulder, and turns away with a cough. Green breathes a sigh of relief, for once grateful for his grandfather’s emotional reticence.

Red tags along sometimes, watching with rapt attention as Professor Pax shows them the Unovan PokéDex and talks about the different training niches Unovan pokémon occupy. “You might like one of my colleagues, Kukui,” she tells him. “He's a researcher from Alola who specializes in pokémon moves. I bet you'd have much to talk about."

Eventually Red starts visiting Professor Oak by himself while Green visits Daisy, and one day joins them in the garden with a receipt saying he's enrolled in a class.

"You want to turn Pikachu into a defibrillator?" Green says as Daisy pours them tea.

Pikachu nods, front paws resting on the table. Daisy shoos him into Red's lap before setting down Red's teacup. Red glances at Pikachu before saying, "He wants to help."

Green slumps against the table, one hand cushioning his cheek as he considers, the other stirring sugar into his tea. "I guess I can see it," he says slowly. "Pikachu's sensitive to electrical impulses, right? I guess he could feel someone’s heartbeat and shock somebody like a defibrillator. But what about you, Red? You want to become a doctor or something?"

Red shakes his head no. "But if there are trainers in trouble by the lighthouse, or when we're traveling." He gestures between Green and himself, making Green blink.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," Daisy says, returning with a plate of cookies for the three of them and poffins for Pikachu and Eevee. “There’s no such thing as useless knowledge, after all.”

"You want us to go traveling?" Green says, mind still stuck on Red's last statement. "I mean you like to travel, obviously, but it didn't go well last time we tried it."

"We were eleven," Red reminds him. He fiddles with the brim of his cap before mumbling, "It's worse without you."

"When was the last time you took a vacation, anyway?" Daisy says.

"I used to travel for work," Green retorts.

"When was the last time you went somewhere just to see what it was like?" Daisy tries again, gentler. "It sounds fun. And the lighthouse isn't a gym—it wouldn't be hard for us to help Lucy while you're away."

Green glances at Eevee, who isn't paying any attention, too busy stealing bites of Pikachu's poffin. "Maybe," he says.

--

After weeks of being cooped up by the rain and dense humidity, it's weird to be alone when Red and Pikachu go to class in the afternoons. So when Leaf shows up and demands a "long walk on the beach, you know, like people always say on their dating profiles," he doesn't even pretend to be busy.

Leaf hops from rock to rock, light as a bird, as Wingull soars overhead. Green whistles a tune he picked up from the fishermen, more unearthed childhood memory than something newly learned.

"Where did you learn to whistle?" Leaf says, turning her head to ask over her shoulder.

Green stops whistling as he considers. He gives a jerky shrug. "My dad, I guess," he says. "Can't you whistle?"

"I can't! Teach me, sensei."

"Ugh, people only call Gramps that," he groans. But he teaches her how to purse her lips and blow out a gentle stream of air, laughing when her tongue gets tangled, whistling complex melodies to goad her whenever she’s about to give up.

After half an hour a shrill note slides out of Leaf's mouth and she leaps to her feet in shock. "I did it!" she yells.

"Congrats, you can whistle one note."

"No, no, I can do more, look—" she whistles again, cutting across the noise of the ocean, then sends it soaring up an octave. Wingull cries back in approval, and Green claps as he stands up beside her.

"See? It wasn't hard," he says, and lets out a little oof when Leaf pulls him into a fierce hug.

--

By August, he has difficulty recognizing his reflection as he cleans the beacon room windows. His eyes blaze beneath hair grown long enough to pull into a short ponytail and his shoulders are bare, golden from the sun.

"Looking good," he says to himself. He turns to Eevee; "Don't you think so?"

"Vui," she says, rubbing against his ankles.

Though the temperature climbs and the sun beats down on the last days of summer, Green's strip of beach remains empty. It's his beach, though, and Green isn't afraid of the strong wave break or the currents just offshore. He pulls on a wetsuit, summons Gyarados, and clings to his serpentine body as they hurtle through the surf. Gyarados doesn't stop until they are far, far out, the lighthouse their only landmark.

Gyarados ducks underwater and rears back up, sending water cascading down his scales, splashing Green in the process. He rattles a self-satisfied growl. Green laughs and rubs along his sides in thanks, using the rough pressure he likes best, before sliding into the water. He rests his folded arms on Gyarados's smooth back, letting his legs dangle, kicking just to feel the silkiness of the water against his feet. This far out the ocean is frigid, and Green sighs in relief.

Gyarados is a sleek and watchful presence as Green swims and floats. He practices all the strokes he knows, even those like the sidestroke that are mostly for emergency response. A lighthouse keeper is not a lifeguard, but there's a pleasure in the longer, slower pace of lifesaving strokes. He pauses breathless underwater for a long beat and listens to the heavy silence of the ocean around him, before rising for air and filling his lungs without urgency. He floats on his back and lets his arms spread away from his body, savoring the water washing against his sides. Just drifting.

After some time, he paddles back to Gyarados and drapes himself on his back, one foot dangling off the side to skim the surface of the water. He doesn't ask to head back, instead content to feel the smooth ripple of Gyarados's muscles beneath his scales as he shifts and twists through the water.

He did this last when he was fourteen and angry, slamming through the front door of his grandfather’s house and storming out to the ocean, pushing Gyarados to swim as hard as possible until they reached Cinnabar and spilled exhausted across its golden beach. But all he wants to do now is lie here and soak in the sunlight, content and aimless.

Wingull comes to find them eventually, her squeaky cries equally worried and scolding. They head back. Pushing through the current and the crashing waves is a challenge, but Green revels in it, eyes flashing as he shifts his weight to help Gyarados navigate and laughing when they make it to shore.

He rinses in the outdoor shower before heading inside, peeling off the wetsuit and letting fresh water sluice his skin clean. He's not surprised when Red joins him a few minutes later, two towels around his neck and a smile warming his eyes. He flicks the towels over the door and then steps into Green's waiting embrace, forearms resting on Green's shoulders. Red kisses him beneath the spray and tastes the lingering tang of seawater, salt-sweet.

--

"Our visas expire next week," Professor Pax says, "but this has been amazing. We got far more data than we ever thought possible. I can't wait to publish this! Let's stay in touch, all right?"

"Yeah, of course," Green says. "You know Gramps, he'll never update you on his own."

"Not for work," she says. "Just because we're friends."

Green blinks, then grins. "Yeah. I'll be sure to write."

--

He's sitting with Lucy, legs dangling through the gaps in the balcony railing and watching the last scraps of sunset fade into the water, when she makes a startled noise. He peers at the ground below and sees Kris walking up the long hill to the lighthouse.

"Green, is that you?" she yells.

"Kris!" he shouts back, and sprints downstairs to fling the front door open. He pulls her into a ferocious hug, kissing her on the cheek in greeting before holding her at arm's length to look her over. Kris is laughing, looking better for her time away, and she kisses his other cheek in return.

"You didn't tell me you were coming," Green says. "When did you get here?"

"Oh, it's been awful," she groans as they head inside. "I was supposed to be here three weeks ago! But Professor Elm needed me to help with a project that was really behind, and then there was a mixup with the plane tickets. Sorry I didn't text, but at times I was afraid I'd never make it! So, um, surprise!"

"Lucy saw you first," he says, "you should go say hi, she'll be so happy to see you."

"As happy as you?" Kris says, eyes sparkling.

"Probably more," he replies with a grin. "But not as happy as Silver. He know you're here?"

"I saw him first," she says, flushing a little. She bursts into laughter when Green gives her a knowing nudge, and the two of them chatter as they head up the stairs.

Lucy waddles forward, stubby arms spread open wide, and Kris hugs her too. "How's my girl doing?" she murmurs. "How's my Johto girl? Has Green been good to you?"

"The town loves her," he says, kneeling beside them. "I have to ration the gifts they send or she'll get fat."

Lucy glares at him. Kris laughs and kisses the tip of her nose. "I'll be here all winter, so I'll spend lots of time with you."

Pikachu wakes from his nap, roused by the commotion, and Kris blinks at him when his head pops out of Lucy's sleeping spot. "Oh, who's this?" she says. "Lucy, did you make a new friend?"

"He's Red's," Green says, and Kris swivels to look at him. He glances down, suddenly self-conscious.

"He's still here?" she says.

"Yeah." Green swallows. "He—uh. He and I, are."

Kris stares for another moment, then breaks into a smile. "So you two worked it out?"

"Yeah," he says with a disbelieving laugh. "We did."

Kris leans against his shoulder. "I'm really glad," she says. "You seem so much happier than you were a year ago."

It occurs to Green that more than Leaf, more than Daisy, Kris best understands the unbelievable odds through which Green's current happiness emerged. He thinks back a year to the long nights spent with Eevee looking out at the endless black of the ocean, the secrets he whispered to Kris in the dark.

"You deserve to be happy," Kris murmurs, watching his face.

Green blinks hard. "That's not true," he says, working to steady his voice. "But I think it means more to me because of that."

They sit for another few moments, wordless understanding settling between them, before Green clears his throat and gets up. "Come on," he says, "let me introduce you to Red."

--

The next week finds Red, Green, Leaf, and Kris on the beach, arms overflowing with blankets and baskets. They spread a picnic on the weathered black rocks scattered away from the tide. Green remembers the bedsheet they're sitting on; it's faded now, with small holes from when Pikachu was learning to control his electricity. The food, too, has the hallmarks of Red's mother's cooking.

"You know, when I visited last year you were the only one without an accent," Kris says to him. "Now you sound just like everyone else."

"Don't tell Erika," Green replies with a wry twist of his mouth. "She's the one who helped me get rid of it in the first place."

"Why, though?" Leaf asks. "It's kinda hot." Green snorts and leans back on his hands, thinking.

"I thought I sounded weird," he says. "I thought people wouldn't, y'know, take me seriously or something. But it doesn't matter now."

Kris chatters with Red and Leaf through bites of food, only pausing to giggle at Pikachu and Eevee cavorting on the sand. She learns to translate Red's silences with a speed that doesn't surprise Green. There's always been something similar about the two of them.

She cracks a joke and Red starts laughing, an odd nearly-silent sound punctuated by puffs of air. He leans against Leaf's shoulder to keep his balance, eyes bright, fingers tangled with Green's on top of the sheet. Green grins and drapes an arm around Red's shoulders, just to see Kris's reaction—her eyes flicking to Red, then Green, before smiling.

--

He follows Kris back to Viridian in the fall. First, he takes her on an extended tour of Viridian Forest, showing her the secret places where he would practice when he was a gym leader, or go fishing on his rare days off. The light filters through changing leaves, dappling Eevee's coat in shades of red and gold.

"Oh," he says when they reach a small clearing, "my berry trees are still here." He plucks a sitrus berry and pops it into his mouth, then passes one to Kris. The flavor bursts across his tongue and he licks his lips. "I figured I wouldn't need these, but Red wants to travel, so maybe…"

"You can sell them, at least," she says. "Or Daisy can use them for her business."

Kris and Eevee dig up the weeds that sprouted, while Green treks to the river to fill his old watering can. The two of them gather the meager harvest before heading to Viridian City.

Neither of them need to discuss that the Gym is their next stop. Green flings both doors open like always and grins when all activity screeches to a halt.

"Miss me?" he calls.

Silver straightens from where he's slouching against the wall, but he only has eyes for Kris. Bonita and the other ace trainers, though, run towards him, pounding him on the back and ruffling his grown-out hair, barraging him with a thousand questions. He ends up taking them out to lunch, casting a significant look over his shoulder at Kris and Silver as he leaves. Kris doesn't notice, absorbed by whatever story she's telling, but Silver catches his eye and nods quietly.

Being back in Viridian feels more like a homecoming than returning to Pallet did. Word spreads quickly, and the restaurant they choose is soon overrun with eager visitors. It feels like no time passed: he laughs at stories of his ex-neighbor's feud with the old man from the Weedle Fancier's Society, and he's comforted by Bonita's familiar presence at his right hand. Eevee gets as much attention as Green, receiving belly rubs from all sides.

The supervisor of the Training House asks if he's still willing to present now and again, one of a dozen requests Green gets for advice or assistance. He says yes, as always, but there’s a different weight behind it. He likes helping, he missed these people; instead of doing favors to maintain the gym’s reputation, like he always told himself, now he does it because he wants to.

Silver closed the gym for the day but Green leads the ace trainers there anyway, asking them to share their progress. As Ida and Elan face each other, and as Arabella's new Miltank shows off, he feels an old itch in his fingertips.

"Anyone want to battle me?" he says.

They quiet, looking at him. Then Salma cracks a grin.

"Two on two," she says. "You're so out of practice, it'll be a cakewalk. Try to keep it interesting, okay?"

Green shifts his weight onto the balls of his feet, one hand reaching for his first pokémon. "Big words for someone who never beat me once!"

Battling wild pokémon on the deck of a ship is nothing like the game of wits that defines a battle against a strong trainer. He knows Salma's fighting style like the back of his hand, but she can say the same for him.

They open with Exeggutor and Slowking, as always. Her slowking sets up Trick Room on her first turn and Green laughs, because of course they have to use Viridian Gym's strategy. Green's always favored offense; Exeggutor floods the field with Leaf Storm, but Slowking still stands when the arena clears, which he didn't expect. Curious, he tells Exeggutor to use Hypnosis but it fails, and his hesitation costs him the match when her Slowking uses Ice Beam.

"She didn't have that before!" Green shouts as he recalls his fainted pokémon.

"Silver's advice!" she shouts back. "You've been away a year, Green!"

Green rolls his eyes as he sends out Rhyperior, who flexes his huge arms and roars loud enough to shake the rafters, as much a showoff as his trainer. "Teaches me for going easy on you, then!" he calls, grin growing dangerous. Rhyperior's Megahorn sends Salma's slowking flying; she recalls her back to her ball before she hits the ground.

"That's more like it," she says. "It looked like you lost your touch."

"You wish," he says, spinning Rhyperior's poké ball on the tip of his index finger. "How's that lickilicky doing, Salma?"

"Why don't you come find out?" Lickilicky waggles her tongue at Rhyperior, who snarls in response.

Both are slow, tanky pokémon, and Salma's so used to battling Green that she knows exactly when to Protect and when to hit hard with Return. It's a closer fight than Green would like, and when Rhyperior deals the final blow they're both sweating. The other trainers burst into applause as they recall their pokémon and Bonita fetches healing items from the back.

"That was good," Green says, and Selma preens; from him that's high praise. "You've started taking more risks, and they're paying off. Return is always a strong choice for normal-types, but consider switching it for Dragon Tail or something, to give you more type coverage and force some switches."

"You are out of practice," Salma replies, because he's always told them to be as hard on him as he is on them. "But you've still got it. You should come train with us some time!"

"It's all right," Green says with a lazy smirk. "You can just say you miss me."

"We do miss you," Arabella says quietly, and the smile slips off Green's face. Bonita nods in agreement. "Silver's really great, but you recruited us. You believed in me when no one else would. You can't get rid of us that easily."

Green pauses, caught in the motion of hooking his poké balls back onto his belt, and looks at them—really looks at them, the team of trainers he lived with, dawn to dusk, for over ten years. When he moved to Pallet Town he thought he took care of all loose ends, but a gym is more than four walls and a roof. It's the people who are the gym's beating heart, and he left them without a second glance.

He straightens, expression serious. The ace trainers all straighten up too, their attention trained on him. "I'm sorry I fell out of touch," he says. "It's...been a hell of a year. Yeah, I—I'll visit you guys. Honestly, I'm grateful you still want to train with me."

"Aw, come on, you're making it weird," Salma says, striding across the arena to hug him. "You're gonna run twice as many laps as punishment." The others surround him, a too-warm, too-close dogpile of affection. Green tucks his chin against Salma's shoulder, arms around Elan and Ida, with Arabella and Bonita's hands steady on his back. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes.

--

"Why'd you come back?" Green asks, weeks later.

He whispers it, really. At first he's not sure Red hears, continuing to watch the ocean and dig his toes into the sand. Green's defense against the cutting breeze is a light sweater, but Red seems fine as always in his short-sleeved shirt.

The only sound for a long time is the steady rush of the ocean. The tide is low and the waves keep their distance, and the moon has yet to rise.

"You did everything first," Red says. "I hated it. I wanted something you hadn't seen."

Green's gaze pulls away from the horizon and toward Red's face. The way Red props his chin up on his knees pushes his mouth into a soft, thoughtless moue.

"Mt. Silver was good," Red says. "Quiet." His gaze wanders to the sand. "But you never came, so I left.”

Green’s eyes narrow, but he doesn’t interrupt.

“I met lots of pokémon. People, too."

Green breathes in, familiar jealousy twisting in his chest.

"They were hard to talk to," Red admits. Green snorts.

A tenuous and tense silence falls between them. Green looks up at the sky, where the stars would be if not for light pollution. Beside him, Red sighs.

"I found all these cool places and couldn't tell you."

"Isn't that what you wanted?" Green says, voice dry. "To have stuff I never had?"

"What kind of rival would I be if you never had a chance to catch up?" Red murmurs.

Green tenses beside him, his fingers leaving furrows in the sand.

Red shakes his head. "I was lonely. It was always quiet if I walked far enough."

"You had Pikachu."

"Yeah," Red agrees. "I wanted you, too."

Green looks away. He leans sideways, harder and harder until Red's supporting most of his weight. Red lets him.

"Do you still want to show me?" he says, his voice softly hoarse. "All those places?"

Red nods. "But right here is better than any place I found out there."

--

In the spring, Green gets an e-mail from Professor Pax. My friend in the league sent me this and I thought of you. If you're interested, I'll pass your name along. Hope to see you soon!

Attached to the e-mail is what seems like a building project proposal, written on the stationery of Driftveil City. POKÉMON WORLD TOURNAMENT, it proclaims.

Green skims the document and a slow grin spreads across his face. He's suddenly grateful for training at Viridian Gym the past few months.

"Hey, Red," he calls. "Wanna go to Unova?"

Red pokes his head out of the bathroom, hair still wet from the shower. Green walks over to show him the e-mail while he towels his hair dry.

He looks up, his eyes shining with the same excitement building in Green's stomach. Slowly, he smiles.

"Let's go," he says.

 

--
The End
--