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"Beep beep beep..."

Karkat mumbled a little in his sleep, slapping the alarm and cutting off its insistent ring.  

Kankri peered into the room and sighed.  It was nearly eight o' clock, and he didn't want to trigger his little brother, but... it would be embarrassing if he missed the Pokémon pickings and got whatever was left over!  His colleagues at the lab would never let him live it down.   A clicking sound jolted him out of his thoughts.  He looked down, and saw his Kingler.   "Good morning, Kingler." Kingler looked up, and clicked his large claw once, then his smaller claw twice as a greeting.   "Can you do me a favor and help me wake up Karkat? Try not to trigger him though.  The last thing we need is him yelling and disturbing the neighbors." Kingler perked up at the mention of Karkat's name, clicked his claws happily, and scuttled into the room, jumping onto his bed.   Kankri sighed again, not knowing why he bothered mentioning the last part. Kingler's brain would just process part of what he said (in this case, 'wake up Karkat') and he'd dive right into it, even if it mean knocking down a wall.  Or two. Or an entire building.  

Perhaps that was why him and I meshed so well.  Kankri mused.  

Meanwhile, in the unsuspecting juvenile’s bedroom, Kingler clicked his claws twice, before hitting Karkat in the face with a Bubble.  Karkat bolted up. 

"GAH! WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!"   He could see something large and orange in front of him. Karkat blinked, and Kingler's face came into view.  

"KINGLER, JUST WHAT ARE YOU DOING - AGH!" Karkat was cut off by the oblivious Pincer Pokémon hugging him happily.   After several minutes of struggling and squirming, Karkat managed to wrestle out of the orange crab's pincers and away from his grip.  

By now, Kankri was having a hard time not laughing.  Kingler used to do that to him back when he was Karkat's size, but now that he towered over Karkat by at least a head or two, he was way too large to fit in the Water Type's often-unwelcome embrace.   "Kingler, return." Happy that it had completed its objective, Kingler jumped up a little, clicking his claws, before vanishing in a blob of red as a cranky Karkat rounded on him.

"KANKRI, WHAT THE FUCK MADE YOU THINK SETTING THAT HYPERACTIVE CRUSTACEAN ON ME WAS A GOOD IDEA?!" 

"First off, my apologies that he triggered you.  Secondly, it's time to choose your starter.  Or did you forget already?" Kankri smiled a little near the end, amused as  Karkat's anger evaporated instantly.  "Oh shit, oh shit, shit shit fucking SHIT!" he mumbled, ending in a yell as he ran out of the room and got ready faster than Kankri thought could be possible. 

"Hmm, who would be faster? Karkat running at top speed or a Ponyta's gallop?" Kankri allowed himself a grin, before drawing a notepad out of his pocket and writing the question down.  He would bring that up for discussion later in the day.  Perhaps it would alleviate the tedium of searching for alternative ways to treat Arbok bites.  

~

"How the fuck could I have forgotten?  Might as well as glue a fucking Amulet Coin on my head and call me a Meowth. I'm such a forgetful fuckwad." He muttered to himself as he hurriedly threw on a black shirt printed with a grey, stylized Pokéball in the center and jumped into his trousers.  As he brushed his teeth, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, and winced, looking away.  With pale skin, white hair, red eyes and a lean build, Karkat Vantas looked like a stereotypical albino, straight out of an anime.  Although living in a small-knit town where everyone knew each other meant that it was no big deal to residents, Karkat had seen visitors to Vaniville stare at him, and even caught one or two hostile glares thrown his way.  

"Karkat, would you like some breakfast?" Kankri called from the kitchen. 

"NO WAY! I'M GOING TO BE LATE!" 

"In case you forgot, the distribution starts at 8:45.  Right now, the clock points to 8:15 on the dot. You've got around half an hour to eat breakfast and get to the lab outpost. "  There was a moment of silence before the words sunk in. 

"KANKRI, WHY THE HELL DIDN'T YOU TELL ME?!" 

"In case you didn't know, the road to the lab takes around fifteen minutes to navigate.  Also, I feel rather triggered by your refusal to eat breakfast and your liberal usage of swear words. "

"Geez Kankri, ok ok! I'll have some breakfast if it shuts you up." Karkat grumbled.  

After scarfing down his bowl of cereal, Karkat haphazardly pulled on his jacket, bid Kankri farewell ("Stay out of the grass, you don't have a Pokémon yet, and don't forget to call me after you choo-" "Alright Kankri, I REMEMBER!") and ran out the door.  Pausing to check that his running shoes were secure, he proceeded to turn them on and sprint away.   

As the large, white building loomed into view, Karkat could not help but wonder how a modern, almost clinically cold building could exude such an earthly feeling.  Perhaps it had something to do with the glass dome extending out of the building, like a diamond sticking out of a cave wall?  Or perhaps it was the sight of the children, grouped together in front of the doors?  

A honey-brown haired boy with one red and one blue eye approached him, grinning.  "Karkat, you thteaming pile of vomit!" He clapped Karkat on the back.  Karkat rolled his eyes, and returned the favor with a tiny grin.  "Sollux, you pompous ass of a douchebag.  So, how's it been?"

Sollux shrugged.   "Meh, it'th kinda boring, ethpecially with that project Profethor Thcratch hath them working on.  Mituna'th almotht never home, and there'th only tho many timeth I can thtand Latula athking me to 'do thome rad trickth' with her.  I mean, how many timeth do I have to tell her that I can't thkate?! I'd rather be hacking into databatheth. " 

"Well, what else would you want to do other than sit all day at your computer? It's so typical of you, I could practically use it as an indicator of if anything goes to hell.  The day your eyes aren't glued to that monitor is the day Mamoswine learn to fly. ”

"Ugh Karkat, not you too. I thwear, you're jutht like Dad."

"You have a dad?"

"Well of courthe thithead, what did you expect?"

Karkat's face fell as he remembered the powerful psychic, who could single-handedly levitate a gigantic boulder even a Machoke had problems lifting.  But before he could say anything, the door slid open, and the crowd of children surged in.  

~

The first thing John saw was a white room come into view.  At the end of one room,  there were several chairs laid out, while an assortment of Pokéballs were on the table at the other end.  

"Welcome to the Laboratory.  I am Professor Scratch, Professor Sycamore's colleague.  Normally, he would be the one to hand out new Pokémon, but today, he has business to attend, so I came out of the research centre I usually work at to give you your starters and send you on your way.  Any questions before we start? "

A solitary hand shot into the air. 

"Yes, young lady?"

"What do you study?" 

"Well, Miss Maryam-"

"Kanaya if you will, it makes me feel old being referred to by my surname. " Several snickers were heard, which Professor Scratch ignored. 

"To answer your question Kanaya, I study Mega Evolution in general, like the amount of energy released, how it can be harnessed, and to what degree the physiology of Mega-Evolved Pokémon is affected." Kanaya nodded. 

"Interesting.  Maybe I should pay attention during Porrim's lectures on Mega Evolution..."

Scratch chuckled. 

"Alright everyone, please take one of the Pokéballs on the table there, then line up.  Do not send out the Pokémon inside until I tell you to. "  There was a shuffling of chairs, followed by a miniature stampede as everyone rushed to get a Pokéball, lest they be left with the dregs.  From the corner of his eye, John could see Vriska slapping Tavros' hand out of the way, before grabbing a Pokéball with an abject look of glee.  

"Has everyone got a Pokéball?" There were a round of nods.  

"Good.  Who wants to go first?" Vriska's hand shot in the air.  

"Alright then young lady.  Send out the Pokémon inside. " The blue-eyed blackette smirked, tossed the Pokéball in the air, and was rewarded with a orange, flopping fish.  

Vriska curled up her lip in disgust. "What?! A-a MAGIKARP?!" 

The other children looked around uneasily.  

"But how-"  she looked around. "Wait a minute... Guys, send out the Pokémon in the balls!"

Soon, there were sixteen Magikarp flopping around. 

"Guessed it." Vriska's expression was a cross between 'I want to smash in someone's face' and 'Oh man, you got me good'. 

"IS THIS SOME SORT OF SICK JOKE?!" Someone (Carcat, wasn't it?  Beep beep, meow.) yelled angrily.   Professor Scratch ignored the query. 

"Now, return the Magikarp." 

"Wait, what?"

"You can choose not to return it if you don't want to meet your future partners."

"But I thought-"

"Like Karkat said, it was just a joke.  The staff had a few... complications getting the Pokémon ready to meet you, so I had to buy time without giving the game away.  My apologies. "  

"Well are they ready yet?"  A vaguely familiar boy with a bright violet highlight in his hair spoke up, sounding annoyed.  

"They are, but we still have to wait for two more guests before I can allow you to pick your Pokémon. A chorus of groans came from the preteens.  

"Don't fret, they should be here by... now." Sure enough, voices could be heard form beyond the door, necks craning and heads turning at the sudden sound. 

"Oh dear... I sure do hope we aren't late!"

"Ugh, Calliope, would you stop being such a fucking worrywart?!  We'll make it in time for sure."

"But Caliborn, we should make a good impression! What will the others think of us if we turned up late?"

"That's if we turned up late.  And look, the door is just ahead!" 

Muffled footsteps were heard.  Then, the door flew open, and two more children burst in.

Chapter Text

The new arrivals were twins, John was sure of that.  One had long, white hair and bright green eyes that shone with uncertainty, while the other had black hair and red eyes that glittered darkly as they scanned the room.   John noticed that the male (Caliborn judging by their exchange before entering the room) had a streak of white in his otherwise black hair, while Calliope had a streak of black in her hair.  

"Well now that everyone's here, we really ought to get going."  Scratch turned his head a little, calling to the back of the lab.  "Porrim!  Can you wheel in the tray?"  

A tall, tanned girl in a black dress with green trimmings appeared.  Black, ivy-like markings trailed around her arms, and her lips were pierced with a gold ring, as well as her eyebrows.  

"Hello everyone, I'm Porrim Maryam, Professor Scratch's assistant. "  Kanaya smiled a little as she waved, and Porrim winked in return.  

"Now, as I'm sure Professor Scratch has done, he pretended you would all receive a Magikarp." Porrim added, shooting a little glare at the professor, who merely smirked and inclined his head.  

"Anyways, we have eighteen starters prepared, flown in from six seperate regions.  This normally wouldn't have happened, but somebody made an anonymous donation that covered all the expenses, including handling, Pokédexes and flight. "  At this, Feferi giggled a little.  Porrim looked at her oddly, but didn't cut off her speech.  She could ask the fuchsia-eyed brunette what she found so amusing later on.    Moving the trays apart from their rectangular arrangement, Porrim then arranged the boxes by region, from Kanto to Kalos.  Porrim lifted the box on the first tray, revealing three Pokéballs nestled on velvety cushions.  

"Firstly, we have Bulbasaur, the grass type from Kanto."  Porrim picked up the Pokéball on the left, and sent out a green frog-like Pokémon with a large bulb on its back.  

"Bulba.  Bulbasaur!" 

"Anyone else think that Karkat looks like it?" Vriska whispered, several kids giggling as well.  Karkat turned around and flashed everyone a glare, as did the Bulbasaur. 

"Next, we have Charmander, the Fire Type!"  Porrim picked up the Pokéball from the middle tray and sent out an orange lizard-like Pokémon.  

"Char! Chaaaaaaaarrrr-mander!" Charmander spun around, showing off its tail flame.  

"Tch, it might be all showy, but would it actually be able to deal damage?" Caliborn snorted, whispering dismissively to his sister. 

"Who knows? And damage isn't everything Caliborn, you need to be able to withstand hits too!" Calliope whispered back. 

"Yeah yeah, just hit them and knock them out before they do that to you."  Caliborn hissed between his teeth. 

"And finally Squirtle, the water type. " Porrim picked up the last Pokéball, sending out a small, blue turtle Pokémon with a brown shell and beige underside.  

Squirtle took one look at the crowd staring at it, and quickly hid in his shell.  

"Awwww! It's so CUTE!"  Feferi squealed. 

"Fef I have to agree with you, it is cute indeed.  But what use is cowardice in battle?" The purple haired boy spoke up again, stuttering on the w. 

"Eridan! That's not cowardice, it's called getting defensive!" ‘Fef’ protested, indignant. 

"Fine Fef, whatever you say. " Eridan huffed, rolling his eyes.  

Porrim moved onto the Johto starters.  From Johto came Chikorita, an adorable little grass type, Cyndaquil, a fire type rodent Pokémon and Totodile, a blue crocodilian that began dancing the moment it was sent out.  Hoenn brought a calm and collected Treecko, a Torchic who glared at everyone present, and a Mudkip who looked around, blinked blearily, and fell asleep almost immediately.  

John wasn't paying much attention by the time Porrim got to Sinnoh, so he was surprised when he looked up to see several more starters having been sent out.  He recognized the familiar Kalos starters, but had no idea what the other six Pokémon were.  

"Uh, Rose?" John poked the blonde girl next to him. 

"Hmm?" 

"Any idea what starter you're choosing?" 

"Yes, definitely.  Are you stuck on deciding which starter your choice will be?"

"Uhh, yeah, haha." John scratched the back of his head nervously.  "Say, what're you choosing?"

"I'm choosing Snivy." 

"Sni-what?"

"Snivy, the Unovan Grass type."

"Which one is it?"

"See that serpentine Pokémon?" Rose pointed at a green Pokémon with a maple-leaf shaped tail and an upturned nose, coldly disregarding the hullabaloo around them.  "That's Snivy.  It has an erudite gleam in its eye and a wellspring of untapped potential, if you will.”  

“Alright then..." John trailed off, opting to abort the conversation before Rose launched into more sentences laden with purple prose. 

Porrim picked up the Pokéballs and returned the Pokémon, placing them back in their boxes.

"Now that you know what choices there are, I'd like you to start interacting with the Pokémon so that you can make up your mind.  You have fifteen minutes before you need to decide.  Any questions?"  

After a moment of silence, a hand hesitantly rose into the air.  

'What if we, uhh, already know who we're picking?"  John noticed a boy sitting in a wheelchair, crutches by his side. 

"That's no problem, you can come up and talk to me.  Now, let's get started!"  

And with that, a wave of excited preteens surged forward. 

~

Tavros was currently hiding in a corner, away from the knot of preteens that had gathered at the table.  Years of having to avoid Vriska as well as the punks that lurked around his neighborhood meant that he was skilled in remaining inconspicuous.  As soon as everyone swarmed over, Tavros let the crowd carry him to the table, then swiped a Pokéball and legged it.  

"Ok Torchic, come on out!" An orange, fluffy little chick appeared along with a flash of white light.  

"Torchic Tor!" Torchic looked around, taking in its surroundings.

"Chic?" It turned to Tavros, with a questioning tilt of the head.  

"Uhh hi Torchic, I'm Tavros, your, uh, new trainer.  Let's go on a journey together and, uh, get stronger! Yeah, get stronger!"  Torchic decided to ignore the glaringly obvious hesitation in its new trainer's speech, and gave him a little 'Tor' as affirmative.  

"That's great!  Now, do you want a nickname?" Torchic nodded, noticeably perking up.  

"How about Suzaku?"

Torchic shook its head, before turning around and wiggling its rear.  Tavros blinked, and then saw the lack of a black spot. 

"Wait... you're a girl?"

Torchic nodded affirmatively. "Chic!"

"Uhh, then how about-"

"Hey Mistakeros, how are you going to fight with that fluffy little chick, huh?  It doesn't look very strong..."  Vriska butted in. 

The Torchic, having overheard, marched right up to Vriska, looking indignant as could be.  

"Awwwwwwww, aren't you such a cutie pie? What'cha gonna do in battle, smother your opponent with your cuteeeeeeeeness?" At this, Vriska picked up Torchic, and put its face right up to her own.  

"Uhhhh, Vriska? You might not want to, uhh, stare at Kapura like t-that..." Tavros started, stuttering a little near the end as he noticed his starter's eyes narrowing with every passing second.  

"So you named him Kapura?"

"Kapura's a girl..." 

"Whatever, you named her Kapura? It's a cute name for a cute widdle Torchic."  At this, Kapura proceeded to peck her nose, hard.  

"Ow! What the f-" Vriska was promptly cut off by Kapura unleashing an Ember on her face.  

"Tor!" Kapura hopped out of the shell-shocked girl's arms and back to her trainer, nuzzling him.  Then, she stuck her tongue out as her trainer returned her and ran over to Porrim as quick as he could, eager to confirm his choice.  

~

"Equihiss, are you done choosing yet?" 

Equius did not reply, busy inspecting the starters.  He was currently focused on Oshawott, who was flexing his arms, trying to show off his muscles. 

"No thank you Oshawott, I don't think you're strong enough."

Oshawott frowned, looking rather disenhearted.  

"Don't worry Oshawott, I'm sure you'll find a trainer!" Nepeta's words of encouragement caused the Otter Pokémon to perk up.  

"Osha?"

"Sorry, but I already know which Pokémon I'm choosing.  I think Callie will be purrfectly happy to be with you though." Nepeta smiled, pointing to where the white-haired girl was engaged in a discussion with her black-haired twin. 

The Oshawott had frowned a little, but upon hearing about Calliope, its smile returned. 

"Wott! Oshawott!" And with that, it ran over to the whitette, who looked surprised to see a Pokémon pulling at her socks.  Nepeta chuckled at its adorable actions, before going back to rejoin Equius.  By now, Equius was chatting with Tepig. 

"Alright then, so you think you're strong? Lift this up for me!" He placed a small weight down.  Tepig trotted over, sniffed it and lifted it up with his nose.  

Equius' mouth dropped open.  "Y-you actually did it!" 

Tepig looked up at him, tail wagging.  "Tep!"

"Very well.  I'll be your trainer." Equius smiled, patting Tepig.  Instead of shying away, the Tepig jumped up and down happily. 

"Tepig!"

Nepeta walked over and crouched down, hazelnut hair framing her shining olive eyes and rounded face.  

"Hello!" The Tepig stopped and looked up abruptly, seeing someone new join in.  

"I hereby christen you Sir Francis Baconston!" Nepeta giggled, tapping Tepig lightly on the nose.  Tepig merely looked confused. 

"Actually Nepeta, that's a good name.  But 'Sir Francis Baconston' is quite a mouthful... how about Francis?" 

Tepig nodded. "Tepig!" 

"Then Francis it is." 

Seeing the enthusiastic look on the little fire type's face, Nepeta decided not to tell Equius that she had actually been joking.  

~

"Awww Eridan, look at them! They're all shoal adorabubble!”  Feferi let out another excited 'squee', hands cupped over her face as she gushed  over the water type starters, while Eridan sighed and fiddled with an empty Pokéball.  

"Fef, have you made up your mind yet?" 

"Of course! It was hard, but I'd like to go with Squirtle!" And with that, the Tiny Turtle Pokémon suddenly found himself being picked up.  

“Squirtle?!" Squirtle tucked itself into its shell, then fired off a Water Gun from its orifices, soaking Feferi and Eridan.  Eridan blew a strand of wet violet hair out of his face, while Feferi giggled.  

"It's ok Squirtle, I won't hurt you!"  Squirtle peeked out cautiously, before withdrawing into his shell again.  

Feferi began rubbing his shell gently, moving her fist in slow circles.  Soon enough, Squirtle's head slowly emerged.  

"Squir..."   A lazy look of content spread over his face

"I see you managed to convince Squirtle to... come out of his shell." Porrim's voice sounded, and Squirtle, startled, shrunk back in at her chuckle.  "It's rather tricky to do so, and as you can see, even I had problems with gaining his trust. "

"That's because he has a Timid nature.  Also because my mom works with Water Types a lot, and I get to tag along, so I know a bit or two." Feferi grinned, revealing rather sharp teeth.  

"Does your mother happen to be Corraine Peixes?" Porrim asked. Feferi nodded.

"Eyup!  Her Pokémon are reely nice!  Gyarados loves telling jokes, and he often gets whacked over the head by Milotic for some reason afterwards.  Whenever she's busy, we either go over to the Amporas or she leaves Gyarados and Milotic in charge!" 

"I see... I know her too.  Mother keeps on going on about how she was friends with her back in secondary school, and told me a lot of stories about how Corraine - or as most of us know her, the Condesce - loved to cause chaos in school. "  Porrim smiled.  "Anyways, would you like to choose Squirtle?" 

Feferi nodded. "Oh, yes please!"

Porrim took the Pokéball, then handed it back along with a red and black rectangular device.  Feferi tucked her Pokéball into a slot on her belt. 

"Thank you! And what's that?" 

"That's a Pokédex.  It automatically records Pokémon that you encounter, and it won't yield to anyone except you, because it belongs to you.  You can look up information on Pokémon you've already scanned." 

"Does everyone get one too?"

"Yes, they'll receive theirs once they choose their starter.  We’ve taken some liberties and scanned all known starters on there, so that's eighteen down, seven hundred and three more to go." 

"That's how many Pokémon there are in the full dex?!" Feferi gaped, shocked. 

"Yes, that's how many there are Fef, perhaps even more.”  Eridan's voice sounded.  Feferi jumped.

"Erifish! You scared me!"

"Sorry about that Fef.  Anyways, I chose my starter too.  Come on out Royal!" Eridan threw his Pokéball in the air, and a penguin-like Pokémon emerged.  

"Pip!" It looked around, before turning it's head up.  "Pip-plup!" 

"See? He actually has a sense of pride.  The perfect starter for me, don't you think?" 

"Yeah it matcheth you alright, it'th jutht ath thnooty ath you are Eridan!" Sollux's voice rang out.  

"You wanna battle it out, buzzy boy?" Eridan retorted. 

"Thay that again, you creepy athhat!" 

"What's the matter?  Can't back up your claim?  I'm sure Royal is perfectly willing to battle whatever weak starter you've chosen."

"Oh, weak?  Let'th thee you thay that again! Go, Treecko!" 

Sollux tossed a Pokéball, and a green gecko-like Pokémon with a red underbelly emerged.  The Treecko coolly regarded Eridan and his starter, before smirking.   "Tree."

"Royal, let's start with Tackle!"

"Dodge it and use Tail Whip!" 

The little Penguin Pokémon charged towards Treecko, who dodged aside and rapped his tail against Royal’s backside.  

"Now, Pound!" 

"Royal, avoid it and go for another Tackle!" 

Treecko jumped off a wall and down at Piplup, tail glowing white.  Piplup jumped aside, and Treecko crashed tail-first into the ground, springing back up in time to avoid Piplup's tackle.  

"GUYS! STOP!" Aradia and Feferi both yelled at the same time.  Four pairs of eyes stared at them, two Pokémon and two human.  

"In case you haven't noticed, you're making cracks in the wall and floor.  Professor Scratch won't be happy if you destroy the outpost." Aradia deadpanned.  

"Also, I think it's time we confirmed our choices!" Feferi added, cheering a little near the end. 

"Thith ithn't over, dickbag.  We'll continue thith in a week. Fair?" Sollux spat. 

"Fair enough, athwad." Eridan sneered, putting emphasis on the last word and making sure to imitate Sollux's lisp. "Return, Royal." And with that, Eridan went over to Porrim, Sollux glaring daggers at him.  

“Ugh, he'th thuch a thnob. " Sollux muttered to Aradia.  "I thtill don't get how you can put up with him every day, Dia." 

"Sollux, he might be snooty, but he still has his strengths, so don't forget that. " Aradia giggled a little, poking Sollux on the nose.  Sollux shrugged, let out a little 'hmph' and went to join the line.  

~

As all the children walked out of the lab, everyone was tense and nervous at the thought of what lay ahead.  

"So Joooooooohn, where are you going next?" Vriska sidled up to John, grinning.

"Uhh, I'm not sure actually!  I'm probably going home first to pick up Liv and a few supplies, as well as say bye to Dad!” John laughed, goofy grin on his face like usual. 

"Oh psh.  I'm going to go into Santalune Forest! I heard there's a few Poison types in there... " Vriska trailed off, grinning.  

"Uhh, alright then.  Be careful of the bugs, Vriska!"  

At this, Vriska's grin widened, looking very much like a Drapion about to strike. 

"Oh, I don't think you should say that to me.  Say that to the bugs, because I'm going to ensnare them with my web.  Right Froakie?"  Vriska turned to the blue frog Pokémon sitting on her shoulder.  

"Fro!" The Froakie nodded, determination shining in its eyes. 

"Well then, catch ya later John!"  With that, Vriska was off.  

"Bye!" John waved, then sighed, looking at the Pokéball in his belt, before unhooking it.  

"Alright Chompers, come on out!" John tossed the red and white spherical device into the air, which emitted a flash of light as a Totodile appeared.  

"Toto!"

"Hey there Chompers! I'm John, your new trainer. "

"Toto?" Chompers looked up with curious red eyes.  

"Dile!" Chompers then bit John on the arm, as Totodile are wont to do.  

"Oww! Chompers!  That hurts!"  

The Totodile let go with a sheepish grin.  "Totodile!" 

"Hey Chompers, I know you like biting.  But not everybody likes being bitten, ok?"  

Chompers nodded.  "Toto!" 

"Now let's go!  I think dad will like to see you, and Liv will too.  Then when we're done, it's off to Santalune we go!" 

"Toto-to!" The blue water type jumped up in agreement, snapping his jaws eagerly. 

Chapter Text

“Fletchling, Tackle!" 

"Gander, duck and get him with a Tackle too!"

"Bulba!" 

The Fletchling charged at Gander, who dodged and allowed it to crash into a tree, where it then slid to the ground. Then, Gander ran over and jumped on top of the Fletchling before it could recover, flattening it.

"I SAID 'TACKLE', NOT 'SQUASH IT WITH YOUR ASS'!" Karkat screeched.  

"Bulba! Bulbasaur!" Gander retorted angrily. 

“Fine then, have it your damn way.  Finish off with Leech Seed!" 

Gander nodded, and fired a small brown seed with small tendrils extending from it.  It hit the Fletchling, who gave a little cry and slumped over, knocked out.  

"At least you listened this time instead of being a stubborn ass." Karkat grumbled as he returned Gander to his Pokeball and continued on through Santalune Forest.

~

"Hey runt, what'cha gonna do with that weak looking chicken huh?  Use it to make other Trainers die of laughter?" A skinhead hollered as the rest of his friends hooted with laughter.  

"H-hey, don't call Kapura weak! She's perfectly able to, uh, handle herself in a battle!" Tavros retorted, secretly cursing his stutter.  

"Even if that little chick is strong, what about you? H-hello, I-i-i-I’m Tavros, uh, Nitr-tram!  A-and I'm going to, uh, kick your a-ass!” Another punk with an aqua-colored mohawk mockingly imitated him, arousing a fresh round of laughter from his friends.  

"Torchic! Torchic chic!"  Throughly fed up, Kapura hopped over, jumped upwards, and blasted him in the face with an Ember.  The punks stopped laughing. 

"You wanna fight little boy?  One on one. Or are you too scared and wet your panties? "  The punk who was hit sneered, tossing a Pokéball up and down menacingly.  

"F-fine.  Karrablast, charge!" Tavros tossed a Pokéball, and a blue bug-type emerged.  

"Karra!" 

"Scraggy, go!" A Scraggy emerged, glaring at Karrablast.  Karrablast responded in kind with a glare of his own, causing the Dark type to wilt slightly.  

"Hey hey hey man, why you hatin' on my motherfuckin' bro?" A new voice sounded.  Tavros whipped around, and saw a boy with tousled black hair, a grey hoodie and black tattered-looking jeans.  His feet were clad in purple tennis shoes.

"Who are you?" The punk sneered.  

"Motherfucker, my name's Gamzee, and Tavros here is my best fuckin' bro." 

Best bro? Tavros had never seen him before, let alone spoken to him.  

"What, you wanna fight too? Fine then, but don't go crying to your dad if you get beat!" The punk smirked.  

The skinhead however looked pale.  

"Sid, you idiot, don't you know who he is?"

"As far as I'm concerned, he's just some little clownish wannabe hardass who came in and tried to save this runt," at this, 'Sid' jabbed a finger at Tavros, "from a beating I was about to give him."  

"No, you dipshit, didn't you hear his name?"

"Yeah, Gamzee. What about i-oh. Oh, shit." They looked at Gamzee, eyes wide and fearful.  

Tavros looked back towards where Gamzee was, and saw him... taking off his hoodie? What was he planning to do, strip?

Gamzee was intending to strip indeed, but just his jacket.  Gamzee dumped the hoodie on the floor, revealing a black T-shirt underneath with a weird squiggle emblazoned on in bright purple.  

"T-that's the Grand High Biker's sigil.  You can't be wearing it, unless you're a high rank, or- oh no.  Oh fuck.  We're so screwed, Sid, you hear me? And all because you just had to pick on the wrong kid. " 

"Yeah, like I said, my name's Gamzee Makara, and he's my motherfuckin' dad alright.  You got a problem with it, motherfuckers?” 

At this, Tavros swore that they turned whiter than humanly possible.  

"N-no." 

"W-we'll just be going now."

"I don't think so..." Gamzee rasped.  "Apologize to my motherfuckin' bro."

"W-we're sorry we bothered you... we didn't know he was your friend." The punk quivered, with a look in his eyes that said 'The sooner we can get out of here the better". 

"We'll be leaving now..." And with that, the punks ran as fast as they could. 

"Motherfuckin' gangster wannabe trash." Gamzee chuckled darkly, loud enough for them to hear.  Tavros was scared that they would come back and actually instigate a fight, but apparently, it had only increased their desire to leg it before they embarrassed themselves.  Soon, they were entirely out of sight. 

Tavros then looked at Gamzee.  Surprisingly, he was giggling in the general direction of where the punks had run off.  Soon, it had turned into a full-out laughing fit. 

"All I gotta do is imitate my dad's motherfuckin’ way of speaking and they're already scared as a bunch of Scatterbug! Ahahaha!" Gamzee was laughing so hard, tears of mirth were rolling down his face.  

"U-uh, thanks buddy.  But I don't remember, uh, meeting you..." Tavros stuttered.  

Gamzee stopped laughing, and grinned goofily at Tavros.  

"I was there back at the motherfuckin' lab, when we were choosing our new partners.  I saw what your Torchic did to Vriska by the way.  That Pokémon of yours has guts."  Gamzee shuddered a little when saying Vriska.  

"I don't mean to seem, uh, rude, but why did you, uh, choose me to be your bro? Why not anyone else?"

"You're my bro because you're a nice guy, end of motherfuckin' story." 

Tavros nodded, unsure.  

"Aww, you're just like a cute lil' Deerling.  Chill dude, it's not like I'm gonna hurt ya!  If anyone bothers you, you just give me a call and I'll sort something out."  Tavros looked up, and saw that Gamzee was recording his number in the Holo Caster.  Handing it back, Tavros looked at the number.  

"Well, I best be off now.  Bye Tavbro!" 

Tavros smiled a little, somewhat reassured.  

"Bye... Gambro." 

~

"Inspector Berrybreath, I choose you!" The redheaded girl grinned as she tossed her Pokéball in the air.  

“Char!" An orange lizard-like Pokémon appeared, proudly showing off the flame on its tail.  

Her opponent stopped, stared, and started laughing.  

"Berrybreath?! What a ridiculous name! Who names Pokémon like that?”

The redheaded girl smirked.  "Go on Berrybreath, show them." 

One Metal Claw later, the Lass was no longer laughing. 

“Wha-?!"

Terezi grinned. 

"Berrybreath doesn't like people laughing at his name.  Now finish off with Tackle!" 

Berrybreath obeyed, and the Jigglypuff was sent flying into its trainer.   Terezi smirked, returned Berrybreath, and walked off laughing.  

~

"AGH FUCK!"

Karkat was currently crashing through the undergrowth, being pursued by an angry swarm of Weedle.  Gander could take down a Weedle or two, but a dozen? All at once? He had to get out of here, lest more hear the commotion and- 

More angry Weedle streamed out from the undergrowth, ready and eager to sting something.   Namely, a certain white-haired trainer.  

Oh great.  This is how I die.  In Santalune Forest, being stung to death by a bunch of angry, low-levelled Weedle. 

"Treecko, Pound!" A green blur came crashing down on top of two Weedle, causing the rest to scatter in panic. 

"What the fu-?!"

"I came to thave your ath and all you have to thay ith 'What the fuck'? I think my heart jutht broke." Sollux snickered, putting his hand over his chest melodramatically.  

"Stuff it down your windpipe, Sollux.  Gander, let's go!" 

"Bulba bul!" Gander landed, glaring angrily at the Weedle.  

"Gander, Tackle on the closest Weedle!" 

Gander jumped backwards and looked at him, as if to say Are you fucking kidding me trainer guy? 

"ARGH!  FINE THEN, WHAT'S YOUR BRIGHT IDEA?!" 

As a reply, Gander drew out his vines, and knocked back several Weedle,  Grabbing one with each vine, Gander then bashed their heads together, and dropped them.  They fell to the forest floor, dazed. 

"Oh... I didn't know you could use Vine Whip." 

"Bulba..." Gander looked on, unimpressed.  

"Hey Karkleth, can you help me get rid of all the other Weedle?" 

"What do you mean, 'the other Weedle'?  And if you call me that one more time, I swear I'll backhand you into the closest bush."

"Fine, Thparkleth."  Sollux snickered. 

"GOD DAMMIT SOLLUX!" Karkat dove at the laughing psionic, who simply teleported to the side, still laughing.  Karkat ended up sprawled on the forest floor, mouth full of soil. 

"Doeth Thantalune Foretht thoil tathte nithe?" Sollux smirked.  

"YOUR TEARS TASTE NICER, YOU LISPING FUCKWAD!" Karkat yelled up from the forest floor. 

"Tut tut KK, even your Bulbathaur ith tired of your bullthit." Sollux snickered, wagging a finger.  Karkat scrambled to his feet, and sure enough, Gander had a look on his face that made him look like a Purugly. 

"Yeah, yeah whatever.  Why do you even want to catch one of those little fuckers in the first place? They do jack shit but wriggle around on the pathetic little nubs they call legs and make feeble attempts to sting."

"I want a Beedrill, and Weedle end up evolving into one." Sollux stated matter-of-factly.   "Or did you not remember?"

"I remember the shit they kept drilling into us back in trainer school with perfectly unwanted clarity, thank you very much.  Now tell me which one you want to catch!" 

"That one." Sollux pointed to the middle of the Weedle horde. 

"Which one? Be more fucking specific for Arceus' sake!" 

"Look at the middle, dumbath.”  Karkat looked in the direction Sollux was pointing.  Sure enough, there was a Weedle that was a little larger than the rest, with a longer, slightly curved barb that ended in a wicked, sharp-looking point.  Unlike most of its fellow bug types, it looked as though it had barely taken any damage.  

"I see it alright... Gander, Tackle all the Weedle away! Leave the one in the middle alone though." 

"Bulba?"

"Yes that's what I'm telling you to do, now do it!"

Reluctantly, Gander picked himself up and rammed into the two closest Weedle. 

Meanwhile, Treecko had dispatched of three more Weedle, two of who had slinked away as fast as their stubby purple legs could carry them.  The last one laid on the floor, the swirls that had replaced its eyes betraying its condition of having fainted.  

Three Weedle remained, one of which was Sollux's target.  Treecko and Gander looked at each other, before pouncing on one of the two unwanted Weedle. Gander pinned the Weedle he went for to the floor, barely avoiding the two stingers located conveniently at both its ends.  Meanwhile, Treecko whacked the Weedle's head, wincing as the head stinger pricked it.  Apparently, this was enough to send the Bug/Poison types scurrying away into the undergrowth, leaving the Weedle with the curved stinger on its own.  

Upon noticing its compatriots had all either fled or fainted, the Weedle attempted to make its escape too, only to be cut off by Gander leaping adroitly in front of it, cutting off its escape route.  

"Bul!" Gander gave the Weedle a look that said 'Nope, don't even think about it buddy'.  The Weedle turned in the other direction, only to find Treecko staring at it, arms crossed and feet tapping on the floor.  Weedle's eyes narrowed, and it charged towards Treecko, catching it off-guard.  

"Tree!" Treecko looked surprised as Weedle stung him.  

"Bul-ba!" Next thing Weedle knew, it had been dislodged and was flying through the air.  

"Gander, just what do you think you're doing?" 

"Bulba! Bulba saur bul!  Bulba!" 

"Bulbathaur, thankth for helping Treecko there, but thith ith Treecko'th fight.  I'll athk you for help if I need it, but for now, Treecko's doing alright.  Tho jutht thit at the thide for now, ok?"

Surprisingly enough, Gander obeyed, walking off to the side and parking his green reptilian rear on the soil, albeit somewhat reluctantly.   Karkat opened his mouth to ask Sollux just how he managed to convince Gander to listen to him, but shut it again upon seeing the look of determination cross his friend's face.  

"Treecko, are you alright?"  Treecko nodded as it got up, glaring angrily at the Weedle.  

"Tree!" 

"Treecko, use Tail Whip to lure it over!" 

Treecko started wagging his tail like a matador would with a cloth, complete with finger-baiting and an asshole-worthy smirk.  Sure enough, it seemed to be working, as the Weedle charged furiously at Treecko, who jumped aside at the last moment.  Unable to stop itself, the Weedle rammed into the tree.  As Weedle struggled to extricate it's horn from its wooden prison, Sollux threw a Pokéball. 

"Go Pokéball!" The red and white spherical device sailed towards its target, encapsulating the still-struggling Weedle.  Thus, it came as no surprise to Karkat when the Pokéball exploded right after in a burst of light, freeing a no longer stuck Weedle.  

"Wee!" 

"Treecko, quick! Thlap it with your tail!"

Before it could take any further action, Treecko darted forward and hit Weedle across its face.  Weedle was sent flying, and fell to the floor, dazed.  Before it could recover, Sollux had tossed another Pokéball at it, capturing it again.  

One shake. 

Two shakes. 

A third, smaller shake.  Then, a ping.  

"I... I did it..." Sollux stood there, unable to comprehend what just happened. Karkat stood there as well, with his mouth wide open.  This ended as Treecko and Gander simultaneously hit their owners.  

"GANDER WHAT THE NOOKSNIFFING FUCK?!" 

"Treecko what the hell?!"

Their replies were synchronized as well, and Gander fell over laughing while Treecko facepalmed.  

"Treecko." Treecko pointed his tail towards the Pokéball sitting on the forest floor. 

"Oh. Right.  The Pokéball."  Sollux almost stumbled as he went over and picked it up from the leafy forest floor, slotting it into his belt.  

"So, what now fuckass? Any bright ideas from that tech-obssessed mind of yours?" Karkat snapped. 

"Get the hell outta thith foretht, that'th what.  The exit ith jutht that way."  With that, the two boys ran towards the gap in the trees that signified the exit.   

~

The first thing that came into view was a long, sprawling route.  Karkat could faintly see buildings at the end.  Then, he scanned the route.  It looked like a relatively straightforward route, with a curve or two and a section partitioned off by ledges.  Several trainers could be seen, idly waiting around. 

"Oh, you have GOT to be fucking kidding me!" What did those trainers everyday? Stand there all day waiting for people to pass by and challenge them to a battle?  Did they even bother doing anything like eating, sleeping and sh- actually, he didn't really know.  Nor, for the matter, did he want to know. 

"Come on KK, Thantalune is jutht up ahead! I gotta get back home thoon, or Latula will nag me about wandering around." 

"Sollux Captor, can you even see how many trainers there are?"

"Of courthe I do!  Jutht run patht them and you thould be fine."  

“Can’t you just teleport us?”

"Where'th the fun in that?” Sollux grinned cheekily. 

Sollux had barely finished before Karkat was off like an arrow, leaving an elegant 'fuck you' behind.  He hadn't gotten very far though before a voice rang out. 

"Excuse me!" Karkat felt someone tug on his shirt, and he groaned.  

"Just my fucking luck." He muttered, turning around to face whoever it was.  A small little girl came into view.  She couldn't have been older than five, and was holding out a Pokéball with an eager look on her face.  

"What now? I'm busy! I need to get to Santalune real quick." 

"Can you battle me please?" Her childish voice piped.   

"Kid, I don't have time right now."  

"So you're saying you won't battle me?" Her voice wavered a little near the end, like she was about to cry.  

Karkat groaned angrily.  Think, think, think... what do you do when a kid's about to cry? 

"What's your name?"

"Ella!" She proudly pointed to her name tag, decorated with a picture of a Pokéball.  

"Alright Ella.  Listen, I'm busy, so I can't battle you.  The guy behind me though has plenty of time, and I'm sure he won't mind battling you."  Karkat said, pointing to Sollux, who was laughing until he saw Ella run over to him eagerly.  

"What the hell KK?"

"Don't you fucking dare back out of it. " Karkat growled so that Ella wouldn’t overhear.  "Besides, you're a psychic.  You can teleport away afterwards, can't you?"

"Thcrew you KK!" Was the last thing Sollux yelled before he took out his Pokéball and started battling.  

Karkat chuckled as he ran.  A turn to the left, a short run... Karkat could see the turn to the right that signified the short stretch to Santalune.  He was close now.  He just had to-

"Excuse me sir, can you please battle me?"

"FUCK!!"

~

Twenty minutes.  That was how long the battle took.  It was easy taking down the schoolkid’s Panpour, and Gander managed to deal with the Pansage too.  But the Pansear? It gave him a few problems.  Hell, at least half the battle was spent trying to pin down the Pansear, who preferred avoiding attacks more than anything.  

By the time Karkat got to Santalune, Gander had almost collapsed from exhaustion.  Luckily, the Pokémon centre was right in front of the exit, and Karkat ran towards it like a Poochyena half-crazed with hunger spotting prey.  

"Hello, and welcome to the Pokémon centre.  Trainer ID please?" 

"Look, can't you just heal my Pokémon? I'll show you my ID after you stick the Pokéball in, I'm in a hurry.”

"Alright then, just this once.  But be sure to have your ID ready the next time you go in a Pokémon centre, alright?"  Nurse Joy took the Pokéball, smiling as she sent out Gander and returned the Pokéball to Karkat.  

"Ugh, fine..." Karkat rifled around in the pocket of his jeans, and produced a small, electronic ID card, which he handed over to Nurse Joy before receiving the Pokéball.  

"Oh, so you're Karkat Vantas?  A delivery came for you from a Kankri Vantas over the teleporter.  I take it that you're related?" 

"What do you think? Of course! Why else would we both have Vantas as our last name?" 

"Well, here's your package! It's rather heavy, so do be careful with it." With that, Karkat was handed a box.  "Wigglytuff! Is the young gentleman done yet?" 

"Wiggly!" A Wigglytuff wearing a nurse hat and an apron wheeled out a tray, with a surly-looking Gander sitting right on top of it.

"Bulba." 

"Return, Gander."  Gander become a blob of red energy, and was drawn into the Pokéball. 

"Come back again soon!" Nurse Joy smiled, handing the card back to Karkat.  

"Uhh... thanks?" Karkat quickly absconded, feelung more than unnerved by Nurse Jiy's prrpetually sunny disposition.  With that, Karkat lugged the cardboard box onto the table.  He was about to open the box, when he noticed an envelope taped to the top of the box.  Grumbling angrily, he detached it, slit it open and began reading.  

Dear Karkat,

First off, let me begin by saying I feel highly triggered by you forgetting to call me.  I only found out of your departure from the lab outpost thanks to Porrim.  Secondly, I would like to wish you good luck in your journey.  I heard that you chose a Bulbasaur, and Viola happens to be a Bug-Type specialist.  Therefore, I advise you to catch a Fletchling to help - they can be found in Santalune Forest. 

"Yeah yeah Kankri, like I didn't know that." Karkat grumbled, before continuing on. 

And lastly, as a gift, I sent you something to help you on your way.  Take a look in the box.  

"What useless bullshit have I become the unfortunate recipient of now?" Karkat growled, tearing off the tap.  His grumpiness almost evaporated as he saw what lay inside. 

Nestled inside on several layers of serrated packaging paper was an egg, locked in an egg case.  

"Ohh yes... this might be good after all!" Karkat grinned a little, before reading on.  

However, due to an incident in which several trainers ended up with the wrong Pokéballs, the transfer of Pokéballs over teleporter has been forbidden.  As such, I'm afraid you'll have to come home to get the egg case's Pokéball.  

From, 

Kankri Vantas.  

Karkat's smile vanished.  "Fucking called it. "  His anger spiked at the thought of the walk back home through Santalune Forest and Route 3, finally culminating in an angry yell of 'GOD DAMMIT KANKRI!" 

Chapter Text

Karkat ran all the way back to Vaniville.  Or at least, ran as well as he could with a highly irate Bulbasaur jiggling around in its Pokéball, threatening to just roll away into the shrubs.  

With an egg case cradled in his hand, trying hard not to let the egg slip out, fall to the ground and break into a dozen pieces of eggshell framing an ungracious splat of yolk. 

All the while ignoring the shouts of trainers to ‘battle them’, or some variation thereof.  

By the time he got to Vaniville, Karkat was worn-out and far angrier than he usually was.  He stormed up to his house, and yanked open the door.  Slamming the egg case down on the dining table, Karkat marched up to Kankri's room.  

Kankri was sitting at his desk with a pair of glasses perched on his nose when Karkat stomped in.  

"KANKRI, WHAT IN ZYGARDE'S SCALES WERE YOU THINKING MAKING ME RUN BACK HERE ALL THE WAY FROM SANTALUNE?!" 

Unruffled, Kankri looked up from his desk. 

“Oh, hello Karkat.  I see you got my note. "

"I DAMN WELL GOT IT ALRIGHT! EGG CASE POKÉBALLS ARE EXEMPT FROM THE RULE, DUMBASS!" 

"Karkat, there is always a risk that it could be teleported away, and it's a risk I don't want to take." Kankri stated, handing the Pokéball to the fuming albino. "How's the egg doing?"

"I put it on the dining table, didn't take it out of the fucking case, yada yada yada.”  It gave Karkat some small satisfaction to watch his brother wince at his liberal usage of cuss words. 

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" 

"It's not like whatever's inside would just come out and wreck havoc on everything.  Not every Pokémon is like your Kingler you know.” 

"You have a point there." Karkat looked at the Kingler-themed clock on the wall.  "It's getting late now, and goodness knows how long you've been running around in Santalune Forest.  It's already hard to navigate in the day, what with the trees blocking out most light, and I'm most certainly not going to expose you to Ghost types before you are prepared to deal with them. "

"BUT I NEED TO TRAIN!"

"You can train when you get to Santalune.  Or alternatively, you could always battle the other trainers." Karkat stiffened, blanching and seething with annoyance as Kankri smiled. "I thought not.  Now, come downstairs to have dinner, and we can talk about the path you wish to take as a trainer.”

"Fine."

~

Karkat had left an egg in an egg case on the table when he went to sleep.  He woke up to an egg case that had a heavily-chipped lid, a Pokémon that went poof, and at least two dozen eggshell fragments scattered everywhere.  All over the table, in the case, on the floor... 

Karkat gaped.  

"HOLY SHITLICKING HELL!" 

"Karkat? Did something happen?" Kankri asked, coming down the steps. 

"It... it's fucking gone, that's what!" Then, Karkat noticed the door was wide open. 

"Oh, fucknuts." Karkat ran out the garden, and let out a loud yell. 

"WHAT IN THE FUCK?!"

There were holes all over the garden bed, upended flowerpots spilling dirt everywhere, and a Krabby in the midst of it all, clicking his claws happily on top of the one-tonne fountain that he somehow managed to tip over.  

“Great, just fucking great.  Now my team is made of a stubborn as balls Grass Type who follows his own damned agenda half the time and a Water type who wants to do nothing but wreak havoc every-fucking-where it goes.  Krabby, why do you have to be such a fucking asswaffle?  Couldn't I have had a nicer Pokémon for a change?" 

Krabby looked up at the mention of his name and jumped up once, scuttling around in circles. 

Letting out an angry groan, he removed his phone from his pocket. 

"Hello? Sollux? Yeah, could you do me a favor? My Krabby managed to destroy half the fucking garden. Yes, he hatched a while ago.  Don't 'Ahahaaha that'th tho funny' me, just get over to Vaniville, you ungrateful shitstain. And yes, I'm making you come over and help me patch it up, or I'll tell Mituna about how you painted his Combee's red spot over to make him think she changed genders.  Yes I'm fucking threatening you Captor, just get your miserable ass over and we can talk about it later, ok?" There was a muffled 'On my way douchenozzle', and a beep as the phone hung up. 

“Fucking fetid facial stinkhole.”  Karkat muttered as he slid his phone back into the back pocket of his jeans. He looked at Krabby (who was currently preoccupied with examining an uprooted petunia) and sighed. 

“What the fuck am I going to do with you?” 

~

At Cyllage City, two children were by the ocean.  One of them was swimming in the clear azure water, while the other was seated on the pier, brows furrowed and a look of intense concentration etched on his face.  

Feferi propped herself up on the deck of the wooden walkway with her elbows.  

"Eridan! You've been sitting here for over an hour now!  Aren't you feeling sore?"

"Fef, can't you see I'm busy?  I'd like a new Pokémon and nothing's better than a Water Type.  I smashed Viola utterly with Royal, but he ended up very exhausted, and I can't have my Pokémon faintin’ on me now, right?  Better safe than sorry after all. " 

"Erifish, loosen up a little!  The weather is perfect for swimming, and look how beautiful the sea is!  Right, Shelley?" Feferi called to the Squirtle, who was floating leisurely on his back nearby and playing with a small jet of water.  

"Squir!"

"See?  Even Shelley thinks you should take a dip!" 

"I'll swim after I catch a Pokémon, ok?" 

"Eridan don't you make me drag you in!" 

"Alright alright Fef, just let me put my rod away." With that, Eridan pressed a button on his rod, and it shrunk back into a pen.  Stowing it carefully in a specialized compartment in his bag, Eridan then took off his shirt, before diving in with barely a splash.  Royal let himself out and dove in as well, swimming after his trainer.  

"Pip!" Royal put on a little burst of speed, and jumped onto Eridan's back. 

“What the fuck?!" Eridan, surprised, straightened up. 

"Pip!" Royal fell off and landed in the water with a splash. 

"Hee hee hee hee! Eridan, Royal just used you as a surfboard!" Feferi giggled. 

"Royal! That was not funny!  It was also very undignified!" Eridan declared to a resurfacing Royal.  

"Piplup..." Royal pouted, frowning.  Eridan sighed. 

"Fine then.  But warn me next time you do that, alright?"

"Pip pip!" 

"Wait for it..." Eridan started swimming again, building up speed.  

"Now!"

Royal swam after him, and jumped right onto Eridan's back. 

"Pip!" Eridan swam around, Royal attempting to keep his balance and striking the occasional pose.   At this, Feferi giggled and clapped.  

"Bravo! Bravo!" 

Seeing this, Shelley got on his belly and used Water Gun to propel himself around.  Eridan and Royal dove underwater, resurfacing next to Feferi.  

"Wow Eridan, look at him go!" 

"He looks like a torpedo indeed.  It would be an effective tactic in battle, and compass both attack and defense at once. If only I could adapt this with Royal too..."

"Oh, but I won't be worrying about that!  It would make a really nice contest move though!" At this, Eridan nearly choked on seawater. 

"W-what?! But I thought you were a competitive trainer?"

"Of course not, shelly! I'd much rather be a Coordinator working with my Pokémon instead of just telling them what to do!" 

"Well then, that's be a pity, because I'd love to exchange battle tips and- GET AWAY FROM MY BAG YOU FUCKIN’ RASCAL!" Eridan yelled, catching sight of a blue Pokémon nosing through his bag. 

"Huh? Who are you talking about?" Feferi spoke up, confused. 

"That Pokémon on the pier! It's poking about in-" Eridan was cut off by a stream of ink, hitting him square in the face.  

"What the hell?!"

Feferi looked up, and saw a Horsea diving hurriedly into the sea, Royal hot in pursuit.  However, Royal surfaced soon after he hit the water, having dove beak-first into the now-expanding cloud of billowing ink that the Horsea had squirted for his getaway.  

“Lup-lip pip!" Royal squawked indignantly, trying frantically to wash off the ink.  Eridan was flailing around as well, attempting to get rid of the slightly sticky Horsea ink from his face.  

"Shelley, Water Gun!" Shelley produced a generous amount of water, washing away the ink and completely drenching Eridan and Royal.  Scowling, Eridan grabbed his towel and wiped away the water. 

"Let's leave this spot and find another one along the shore before that Horsea comes back.  Who knows what it'll make off with if given the chance?" 

Feferi opened her mouth to object at the last part, but closed it.  "Alright, but I'm not leaving the water. Ok?"

"I know how much you like to swim Fef, just keep up and don't get dragged off by a wild Tentacruel.”

"Hee hee hee Eridan, you make me laugh!  There aren't any Tentacruel around Cyllage!"

“…You get the point." 

~

Eridan found another spot, and sat down.  Drawing out his rod once more, he cast it into the sea, staring intently at the lure.  It wasn't long before it started bobbing up and down, the tell-tale sign that he had hooked something. 

"Ah-ha!" Eridan shouted triumphantly as he yanked on the fishing rod, sending the Pokémon attached to the hook flying into the air.  

"Hor? Horsea?" It looked about curiously.  

"Isn't that the Horsea who was looking through your bags earlier on?" 

In one swift move, Eridan picked up the Horsea and threw it back into the ocean.  

"I'm not going to have a pickpocket on my team." That was all he said before he cast the hook back into the ocean and resumed fishing.  

~

Twenty times.  That was how persistent the Horsea was.  

After the first three times of catching the Horsea, Eridan was starting to get annoyed.  It only got worse, until finally, Eridan lost it.  

"IF I CATCH THAT HORSEA ONE MORE TIME, I SWEAR I WILL GET ROYAL TO BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF IT."  He snarled angrily, ignoring the horrified ‘Eridan!’ from Feferi. 

"Pip!" Royal perked up at the mention of his name.  "Piplup pip?"

"Yes Royal, I'm giving you the chance to completely pummel that little turd."  

"Pip!" 

With that, Eridan chucked the hook back in, determination on his face. Sure enough, Horsea bit down again, and was yanked out of the ocean.

"Hor!" It waited to be chucked back into the water again, but this time, Eridan drew out a Pokéball.  

"Royal, battle stations!" Royal jumped off Eridan's shoulder, doing a flip and landing adroitly on the pier.  

"Hor? Horsea?" Horsea then spotted Eridan's bag. 

"Sea!" Horsea darted towards it.  

"Oh, no you don't!  Royal, stop him!"

Royal ran towards Horsea, who deftly ducked aside and zipped towards the bag.  Then, faster than what Eridan and Feferi thought was possible, Horsea dove into the bag, retrieving a Pokéball.  With a tiny grin, Horsea jumped in.  The Pokéball shook once, before a familiar 'ding' was heard.  

"W-what?!" 

"Did it just... catch itself?" Feferi was very surprised.  Most Pokémon put up a fight upon being captured, but for a Pokémon to willingly enter a Pokéball? That was certainly unusual. 

"Either we're dreamin', or a Pokémon literally dove into my Pokéball."  Eridan mumbled. 

Feferi pinched herself, wincing.  "Well, we're de-fin-netly not dreaming."  

By now, Eridan seemed to have recovered from the shock. 

"Oh, hell no! I am NOT trainin’ a thief!" Eridan yelled, sending out the Horsea.  

"Hor?" Horsea looked up, and saw an angry-looking youth, glaring down at him with his equally angered Piplup. 

"Sea!"

Next thing Eridan knew, Horsea had jumped into his arms and was nuzzling him.  Eridan froze up in surprise.  

"..." 

"Aww, that's so cute!  Eridan, I think he must've really liked you!" 

"...alright then." Still somewhat shocked, Eridan picked up the Pokéball and returned Horsea, clipping it to his belt.  

"Pip?"

"Apparently not." 

"Pip..."

"But hey! He can be a sparring partner!"

"Pip!"

"Eridan! Don't even think about using it as an excuse to hurt Horsea badly! He's your Pokémon after all!" 

"Don't worry Fef. I won't do that.  You'd probably krill- I mean kill me if I did." 

"Hee hee, hooked ya!"

Eridan raised an eyebrow, before realizing what he had said. 

"Fef I swear your fish puns are catching." At this, Feferi laughed even harder.  

"Gotcha again!" At this, Eridan facepalmed. 

~

"Francis, Ember!" 

"Tep!"

Upon being hit with the burst of flames, Vivillon keeled over, defeated. 

"Well done! Your Tepig must've been really strong to knock Vivillon out so easily!  For this, you've earned the Bug Badge."  Viola handed a badge over to Equius as he returned his Pokémon, but a girl in an olive shirt took it instead. 

"Excuse me, are you the challenger?" Viola said, hands on a Pokéball in case things got nasty.

"Oh no, Miss Viola!"

"Then why did you take the badge instead of Equius?"

"That's to put it away for him.  He, erm, can't really control his strength, and it would be bad if he broke his badges..." Nepeta chuckled a little nervously.  "He's got Uncle Dominic's strength."  The hazel-haired girl added a little more softly. 

Viola nodded as she let go of the Pokeball containing her other, high-tiered Vivillon, relieved she wouldn't have to use him.  "Blackbelt Darkleer, right?"  

Nepeta nodded as well, before raising her voice.  "Equihiss, where's the badge case?" 

"In my bag, main compartment.  Put it in there please." The pale youth in a black tank top, matching black shorts and cracked sunglasses stated, pointing to a dark indigo gym bag. 

"Gotcha!" Nepeta ran over to it, unzipping the bag and retrieving a small, black oblong.  Sliding it open, she ran her finger along the holes, until she found the appropriate niche.  She stuck the mud-brown and green-spotted badge into its slot, and the embedded speakers blared to life with an electronic coolness.  

"Registration complete.  The Bug Badge has been awarded to Equius Elijah Zahaak on the Fourteenth of April, year Two-thousand and Nine."  

Replacing the lid, Nepeta put the badge case back into the bag. 

"There you go!" 

"Thank you Nepeta.  Whew, that was an intense battle.  I'm feeling rather moist."

"Are you alright, young man?" Viola asked.  

"I will be fine. " Equius stated in a monotone voice, drying himself off with a towel. 

"...He has a gland disorder that makes him sweat a lot too." Nepeta whispered. Viola nodded absent-mindedly, before turning to Nepeta and raising her voice.  

"Say Nepeta, would you like to challenge me?” Viola was a little disturbed by just how quickly her eyes lit up. 

"Oh, yes please!" 

"Alright then.  How about three o' clock? My Pokémon need to rest, and I need to eat lunch, as well as run to Lumiose and drop off a few pictures." Here, Viola looked rather peeved. "They never use the proper resolution for printing photos... you'd think they'd have learnt by now."   Nepeta giggled, and Viola smiled again.

"Ok, Miss Viola!  I'll get in some training in the meantime!" 

"Good luck, and see you in two hours!" With that, Nepeta ran happily out of the gym, Equius in tow.  

"Congrats Equihiss! You did it!" Nepeta yelled as soon as they were clear of the gym, jumping right on top of Equius.  

"Thank you Nepeta, now kindly stop squashing me. " Nepeta giggled and got off, landing adroitly on the ground.  

"Say, can we go visit mum? Purrity please?” Nepeta looked up, eyes shining.  Equius nodded, smiling a little. 

"Very well Nepeta.  Lead the way."  

Nepeta grinned, and took off along the cobblestone roads.  Still smiling, Equius shook his head resignedly and followed, easily keeping up with his best friend.  

Soon, they stopped at a large, two-story house.  It was white, with splashes of paint dotting the walls like it had been pelted with balloons filled with colored water. The roof was painted a dark earthy red, and the door was green, with a purple stripe running across the sides.  

"Equihiss, be careful! Try not to break anything!" Nepeta warned.  Equius nodded. 

"It would not do at all to damage your mother's works, she'd be apopleptic." Equius paused, and started again.  "Could you get me those destrengthening bracers?"

"They're right here!" Nepeta held up a pair of steel fingerless devices that resembled gloves.  Equius cautiously slipped them on, before pressing the button that activated the destrengtheners, wincing as he felt his muscles relax a little.  He was accustomed to them being tense all the time, and knowing that he could access the power locked within them was reassuring.  Seeing the subtle shift in Equius' stance from at ease to wary, Nepeta put her hand on his arm reassuringly, sighing in relief as she felt him relax a little.  

"Mom! I'm home!" Nepeta yelled upon reaching and opening the door. 

A reply of “Coming honey!" could be heard, followed by the soft footfalls of feet on wood.  

The woman who descended the stairs was tall, with slightly tanned skin, a darker shade of hazelnut hair than her daughter and the same bright olive eyes.  Her warm smile was marred by her lithe, sinewy frame reinforcing the predatory aura around her, like a female Pyroar keeping watch over her cubs.  

"Nepeta, sweetie, you came back early! And- oh my! Equius, look at how you've grown!  Why, you were just a wee little thing when I saw you last time!" 

"Why thank you, Mrs Leijon- "

"It's alright dear, Diana will do.  You're here as a guest after all!  Of course, if it makes you feel comfortable, you can continue calling me Mrs Leijon."

“Very well then, Mrs Leijon." 

"Mom, look!  I have a new partner!"

"Oh?  Mind showing me?” 

Nepeta grinned, taking out her Pokéball.  "Showtime, Simba!" 

The Pokéball opened, and a confused-looking Chikorita appeared. 

"Chiko? Chikorita?" 

"Nepeta, are you sure you didn't you mix up the Pokéballs?" 

Nepeta looked momentarily confused, before looking at her belt and laughing sheepishly. 

"Oops! I took the wrong Pokéball!  Sorry Chiko!” With that, Nepeta returned Chiko, and took the other Pokéball from its slot.  "Let's go, Simba!" 

The Pokéball burst open, and a Litleo appeared.

"Litleo Lit!"  Simba looked around, curious as to how he had gotten from the grassy plains he called home to the unfamiliar surroundings he now found himself in.   

"Lit?" Padding over to the wooden table, Simba began licking the leg, only to taste varnish.

"Lit!" He declared, disgusted.  

"Hee hee, silly Simba! You don't lick tables!" Nepeta gigged as Equius looked on with a deadpan expression.  

"Lit?" Simba looked extremely confused. 

"You caught a Litleo? Ahh, he reminds me of Luxray..." with that, Diana drew out a Pokéball.  Painted on was a thunderbolt in various hues of yellow and blue, accompanied by a grayish-black background. 

"LUXRAY!" The large feline roared his name upon landing.  

"Litleo!" Simba let out a little roar as well.  

"Ray?" Luxray looked down, and saw Simba happily shouting his name.  

"Lux!" Incidentally, Luxray yawned, showing off his rather large canines. 

“Lit?" Litleo looked up, coming face to face with a large felid Pokémon baring his teeth. 

“LITLEO!" Simba skittered under the sofa, shaking with fright.  

"Luxray?" Luxray looked around, confused as to where the little lion Pokémon went.  

"Simba, it's alright! He won't hurt you!" Nepeta called.  

The little Litleo poked his head out cautiously, before shrinking in further.  "Liiit..." 

Luxray facepawed.  "Ray."

Simba stuck his head out again, and started laughing.  "Litleo lit! Lit Litleo Lit..."

At this, Luxray facepawed again.  

~

"So you don't like sweet?" 

Litleo shook his head.  "Lit!" He stuck his tongue out.  

"Don't get your tail in a twist!  How about spicy?" Nepeta asked, offering up a Cheri berry.  

Litleo ate it.  “Leo, lit."

"So and so?" Litleo nodded in confirmation.  

"How about dry?" Litleo eagerly ate the offered Chesto Berry.  

"Lit!"

"You like dry?"

"Lit-leo!" 

"Mom! Litleo likes dry and spicy, but mainly dry!"

"'Right then, one dry berry salad with spicy undertones coming up!  Equius, can you do me a favor and start cutting the two Babiri berries into quarters?  Then when you're done, give them to Nepeta so that she can mix them with the diced Charti berries."  

"Alright." 

~

After half an hour of training, followed by a refreshing lunch, Nepeta set off one again for Santalune Gym, feeling ready to defeat Viola.  Equius tagged along for moral support. They returned to the gym, only to find Viola engaged by an angry-looking girl. 

"What do you mean I can't battle? I WANT to battle, NOW!" She shouted, stamping her foot to punctuate her words. 

"I'm sorry, but I already agreed to battle someone else at this time. "

"I DON'T CARE! YOU'RE NOT BUSY, SO BATTLE ME, NOW!" 

"As I said, you could always come again when I'm done." Viola looked up, seeing Equius and Nepeta.  

"Hello Nepeta, should we begin?  I'd like to finish as soon as possible. " The little girl turned around, saw Nepeta, and marched right up to her. 

"And just what makes YOU so special that YOU DON'T HAVE TO WAIT, HUH? WHY DO YOU GET TO BATTLE, BUT I DON'T?!  IT'S NO FAIR!"

"Because-"

"I DON'T CARE, NOW LET ME GO FIRST!"

"I'm afuraid I can't - maybe you should have come earlier next time!" 

"SEE? SHE CAN'T EVEN SPEAK RIGHT! IT'S AFRAID, DO YOU HEAR ME? A-F-R-A-I-D! NOT 'AFURAID'! WHAT ARE YOU, A FREAK?" 

"Excuse me, but I'm afraid that I cannot allow you to keep insulting Nepeta in such a way.  You will show her respect like any other person, or I will personally see to it that you-" 

"SHUT UP! I'LL TALK TO ANYONE ANY WAY I WANT! DADDY SAID I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT!" 

Silence rang throughout the gym.  Finally, Viola spoke up, trembling angrily. 

"Get out.  Get out of my gym.  Discrimination has no place here, or any establishment under the jurdiscation of the Pokémon League for that matter.  Consider yourself banned from here for the next month.  No wait, make that for the rest of the year. "

"B-BUT-"

"No buts.  Now, leave before I make you. "  Viola's voice was deadly calm, but the anger behind it was apparent.  

Angrily, the girl whirled around, facing Nepeta. 

"THIS ALL YOUR FAULT!  I'LL GET YOU!  I'LL GET YOU FOR THIS!" 

"If you keep threatening her, then I will have no choice but to use the force I deem necessary to prevent her from being harmed. "Equius stated in a warning tone, stepping forward as he cracked his knuckles.  

"HUMPH!  WE'LL SEE!" And with that, she turned her nose up, slamming the door shut behind her.  

Viola breathed out heavily.   "Right then, now that that poisonous little brat has left, shall we get started Nepeta?"

Nepeta was shaking a little.  "Y-yes please." 

~

"Equihiss, look! I did it! I did it!" Nepeta grinned, jumping up and down as Viola returned Vivillon. 

"Well done Nepeta! I'm very impressed by your tactic of asking Litleo to use Ember on its claws before scratching Vivillon to turn her Powder against her.  You've earned the Bug Badge, fair and square." 

Nepeta grinned as she received the badge, slotting it proudly into her Badge case.  

"Wait until Mom hears!  I think she'll like how I used one of her tactics!" Equius smiled slightly, shaking his head at his best friend’s joy. 

"Come along now Nepeta, the sun's starting to set and I'd like to make it past Route 4 before night falls." 

"And stay in Lumiose?"

"Well, I know you've always wanted to try the Lumiose Gateau." 

"Thank you so much Equihiss!" Nepeta skipped joyfully out of the gym, and right into a man dressed in a forest green shirt and dark blue trousers.  

"Sorry mister!" Nepeta picked herself up, and was about to continue the trip back home when she felt a hand on her shoulder.  She turned around to see the man's face twisted into an ugly sneer. 

"Well well well, if it isn't the brat who we were told to find.  I heard you had a nice Litleo.  Can we borrow it? " He reached for the Pokéball containing what he thought was the Lion Cub Pokémon. 

"Chiko, Razor Leaf!" Chiko popped out and sent a barrage of sharp leaves into the man's face, sending him reeling.  At the same time, Equius reached Nepeta, and swept her up into a protective embrace. 

"Nepeta, thank goodness! Did they do anything to you?" He asked, letting go and removing the destrengthening bracer from his right hand.  

"No, not yet.  But I think they want to take Simba." 

Equius' expression darkened fractionally, failing to reflect the sudden upsurge of rage coursing through him. 

"They what?  Well then, let me change their minds." 

The other goon was advancing menacingly on the duo.  Chiko held out her vines, and starting smacking him.  

"Rita chi!”

"Argh! Poochyena, Bite on that stupid grass type!" The other goon shouted, blocking the onslaught of vines with one arm while sending out a black and grey-furred canine.  Chiko replied by hitting the Poochyena right over the head as soon as it materialized, causing the goon to growl as he returned his Pokémon.  

Meanwhile, the man had recovered, and was running towards Nepeta.  Equius sidestepped, blocking his way. 

"Take one step further, and I will make sure you sorely regret it.”  He snarled, pointing a finger at him.  

Perhaps it had something to do with how Equius was sweating very badly as he stated this, but the goon simply laughed it off and continued his advance.  

"You're going to stop me? You and who's army?" With that, he leapt at Nepeta.  Equius held out a hand, easily stopping the goon from going any further.  

"Wha-?!" He looked up, fear evident on his face.  Equius grabbed his shirt, then quickly lifted him up and turned around, throwing him right into his compatriot.  They were sent flying into the wall of a house, cracking it.  Nepeta ran over and started scratching them, hissing all the while.  

"Nepeta, get off!"

"Equihiss, let me at them!"

"No Nepeta, look!" Equius wrenched Nepeta off with his left hand and picked her up, before whirling her around as he ran back a few steps.  

A furious Diana Leijon and an equally incensed Flash Pokémon were currently standing over the two goons, who were cowering with fear. 

"You'll never lay a hand on them again!  Luxray, Thunder!" 

Luxray roared, sparks flying off his fur as he started glowing a brilliant yellow.  Equius and Nepeta looked away, averting their eyes from the bright flash as Luxray unleashed volts upon volts of supercharged electricity.  When the dust settled, the goons were crumpled in a heap, unconcious.  Looking on, Diana nodded approvingly, before turning to Equius and Nepeta.  

"Are you alright?"

"Yes Mom, I think I'm fine.  Chiko did quite a bit to the goons." 

The little grass-type preened happily. 

"I would prefer it if you stayed the night.  This way, you'll have more time to get to Lumiose tomorrow, and I'll be able to ensure your safety. "

"But Equihiss-"

"Nepeta, if your mother wishes that we stay for the night, then I suppose we ought to.  We can always catch up on any lost progress tomorrow."  Nepeta pouted a little, but nodded in agreement.  

"Alright.  I think we should leave now, or Phoenix is going to start on how I should 'let the officers handle it and not worry too much' again.  Last thing I need is to put you through one of her lengthy ramblings."   Equius and Nepeta looked at each other as they remembered Terezi’s mother, a stern, no-nonsense Pokémon Police official known for her signature red cat-eye glasses and being a stickler for rules.  Equius's face was a look of exasperation, while Nepeta had a hint of amusement dancing in her eyes.  

"Chiko-rita!"

Chiko broke the silence by bounding down the road towards the Pokémart, in the exact opposite direction of where the Leijon household was located.  

"Chiko, wait up! You're going the wrong way!" Nepeta shouted as she broke off into a jog to keep up with the speedy little Pokémon, Equius following closely behind.  Diana sighed, shaking her head and chuckling before she followed them as well.  

~

"Jones, Ember!" 

"Cyn!"

The little quadrupedal Fire Mouse Pokémon shot a volley of small flames at the Zigzagoon. 

"Zigzagoon, duck!" The Zigzagoon made to run out of the way, but it was too late.  The normal type was engulfed by a cloud of fire.  "Zagoooo!" 

"End it with Tackle!" 

Cyndaquil ran over, ramming into Zigzagoon.  Zigzagoon was sent flying, where it landed in a heap at its trainer's feet.  

"Ziiiiig..." 

"Aww man! You beat me!" 

"You did great too!"

"Yeah... too bad you didn't beat AA." Sollux drawled, playing around with a Pokéball as he looked on in boredom. 

"Sollux! Don't be such a spoilsport!" 

"Yeah, whatever AA.  Thometimeth I really with you wouldn't object to me teleporting you to Coumarine City and getting over with.  "

"That wouldn't be in the spirit of things now, would it Sol?"

Sollux sighed, sticking out his tongue and showing off the split end he had since toddlerhood.  

"Ughh, fiiiiine."  

“Sollux Captor, just because I can't levitate things and teleport around doesn't mean I can't handle things on my own. Besides, Jones and Missy are coming along as well. " Sollux opened his mouth to say something, but decided against it, not wanting to make things worse.  If there was one thing Aradia could be, it was being more stubborn than a Tauros.  Sometimes, Sollux found that rather chafing and wished that Aradia wasn't so blunt.  

But then again, her honesty means there's one less source of crap I need to deal with daily.  Smiling a little, Sollux ran to catch up with Aradia.  They'd have to get a move on if they wanted to get to Coumarine before nightfall.  

Chapter Text

"Jones, there's just two left! Flame Wheel!"  

"Quil!" Cyndaquil jumped up into the air, doing a flip and being engulfed in flames, before whizzing towards the two remaining Zubat.  One of them did not react in time and was hit full-on, while the other barely managed to avoid the fiery attack.   

Aradia grinned.  "Now! Em-" 

Before she could finish, the remaining Zubat charged at Cyndaquil. 

"Treecko, Bullet Theed!" Treecko jumped up and opened its mouth, unleashing a volley of glowing green seeds and peppering Zubat.  The Zubat screeched, and fell to the floor, exhausted.  

"Now finithh with-" 

"Go Pokéball!"  Aradia tossed a Pokéball at the Zubat, hitting it mid-air and encapsulating it.  Without waiting for the ping to ring out, Aradia ran over, and grabbed the Pokéball.  

"It'th probably going to attack you ath soon ath you send it out."  Sollux remarked, lisping like usual.  

"Sollux, I'm friends with it now! I caught it, remember?" 

"Yeah you did alright, with my help." Sollux pointed out drily. 

"Jones and I were perfectly ready to deal with it!" 

"Then why didn't you do anything when it zipped towardth you?" Sollux asked.  

"Well, it was really fast, and Jones was about to do it before you stepped in!  What do you think you are, a knight in shining armor?" 

"I-I don't want you to get hurt AA! My thionicth aren't going to teleport uth ath far ath the Pokémon Centre. " Sollux stuttered a little, cursing his speech impediment.  It got worse when he was flustered. 

"Ugh, here you go again Sollux.  So what if I encounter a few losses along the way?  So what if I have a few scrapes and bruises?  Isn't that what journeys are about?  Where's the fun in teleporting to the Pokémon centre after every other battle?  Geez, I swear you're just as overprotective as Eridan." Aradia groaned.  

Sollux stiffened, tensing.  "Do NOT compare me with that pathetic, whiny douthebag."  he hissed.  

"Eridan is NOT a douchebag! Well alright, he can be a piece of work at times, but that still doesn't warrant you calling him that!" 

"Tho you're choothing to defend him over me? Oh wait, of courthe you would, he'th your family after all." 

"What- no I'm not! I just don't want you dragging other people into this!" 

At this, Sollux panicked, knowing that he had struck a nerve.  

"AA, calm down!  You're making a mountain out of a Diglett hole!" Sollux attempted to defuse the situation. 

"I'm not overreacting, you're being ridiculous as well!" Aradia shouted angrily. 

"Oh, tho being worried about my friend'th thafety ith being ridiculouth?" Sollux retorted.  In a normal situation, he would never have said that to his best friend.  But the cocktail of hormones, pride and stubborn anger coursing through him made him think irrationally, and before he knew it, he had blurted out something that he came to regret.  

"Well if you're tho tough and throng, then I'm thure you can make it through the rest of the cave jutht fine!" With that, Sollux had teleported away in a flash of red and blue.  

"IF THAT'S HOW YOU'RE GOING TO PLAY IT, THEN FINE! I'LL MAKE IT THROUGH THIS CAVE, HELP OR NO HELP!" Aradia yelled at where her traveling companion had been standing, biting back furious tears.  Taking a moment to regain her bearings, she angrily stormed towards the exit.  She was sick and fed up of being mollycoddled like some newborn baby, and all the times her older brother had patted her head patronizingly, saying in that damned nasally voice that she was too young and inexperienced, all the times she wasn’t allowed to try something just because she was seen as vulnerable and weak and someone who needed to be protected.  

She scowled as she stomped out of the cave and into the other route.  Seething with anger, she took out her tent and began setting up for the night.   

~ 

For the third time in the span of twenty-four hours, Sollux was beating himself up yet again.  

How could he have been so stupid?  How could he have even said what he said?  Two minutes into leaving Aradia in Connecting Cave, he attempted to teleport back, only to feel something pressing against his psionics and stopping him from doing so.  Sollux groaned, cursing quietly.  It usually meant that there was a force-field specifically designed to suppress psychic powers.  Of course, if the psychic in question was strong enough, they’d be able to pass through, but not without expending much effort.   Sollux however was not one of ‘those’ psychics.  

Other psychics were able to do the teleportaion suppression thing.  With a bit of practice, Sollux had ben able to master said technique within two weeks (this was handy in keeping Mituna from making unwanted intrusions into his room).  But Aradia wasn’t a psychic, she was just a normal girl.  

No, not a normal girl.  The girl that you care for, more than you’d like to admit.  

"Thut up." Sollux muttered under his breath.  

Well it’s true, isn't it?  You know it is.

"Thut up thut up thut up THUT UP!" Sollux yelled, clutching his head.   Damn the migraines that came with his powers, damn those voices in his head, damn him and his idiocy, damn it all!

Mercifully, the voices in his head fell silent, and he was left to consider his next step.  Looking around, he found that, much to his dismay, he had teleported all the way back to Route 3.  Without being able to teleport, it would take around half a day to get back to Connecting Cave, and that wasn't counting the time he'd have to spend camping out, because there was no way in hell he'd be allowed to travel alone at night.  Fortunately, Santalune City was just nearby, so he wouldn't have to sleep in the wild, he could just walk back home and he'd be f-

Sollux stumbled.  Wincing, he muttered a curse, frowning as he looked down.  He knew this route by heart, and from what he clearly remembered, there weren't any rocks to hit his feet against.  He was also pretty sure that the floor beneath him wasn't supposed to be mossy. 

Then it hit him.  When he had teleported back, he hadn't checked to see which way he was facing.  Diverting his gaze from the grassy floor, he then noticed for the first time that where sloping, grassy-topped land should be were trees instead.  

"Oh, thit."  He had walked smack dab into that patch of trees in Santalune Forest which, growing up, he had always been warned to never approach. 

He remembered his father sitting down on the beige couch at home, talking sternly to a sheepish-looking Mituna, who was covered in dirt from a session of spelunking in Santalune Forest with his Jigglypuff, Mr. Biggles.  "There's some really dangerous stuff in there.  You shouldn't be going in there." His father had said. 

And yet here he was, having allowed his emotions to get the better of him and lead him astray, into the very place that he had been told not to go, over and over again. 

Well, at least he didn't go too far in.  He could just back out and hope that he hadn't-

Sollux stepped on a stray branch, producing a sharp crack.  Angry, narrowed white eyes appeared, surrounding him.  Although he was a psychic, the sheer amount of Pokémon would have easily overwhelmed him.  He was perfectly aware of how he could simply levitate out of the forest and propel himself back towards Santalune.  Unfortunately, at this precise moment, Fletchling were roosting in the trees, and they were nortoriously territorial.  Sollux wasn't in the mood to be pecked at and scratched, so he did what any sensible person would have done: turn tail and run, red and blue psionics sparking as they boosted his speed.  

Unable to resist glancing back at the swarm, Sollux immediately wished he hadn't: much to his horror, the crowd of bug types seemed to have increased fourfold.  Knowing he couldn’t run forever (lest he engulfed and devoured by so many angry bug types), he decided upon a change of plans: he quickly put up a forcefield, keeping the angry Pokémon at bay as he whipped out his Pokégear and dialed the first number that came up.  

A moment later, incoherent grumbling could be heard over the speaker before it became clear who the receiver was. 

"Hello? Who's this fuckass I'm talking to?" 

"Who do you think, dumbath?" 

"It's Sollux, isn't it? There's only one person who'd call at such an Arceus-forsaken time. "

"Right on the first time, Sherlock. Want a medal?"

"Oh, fucking shut it, smartass.  What is it now? Had night terrors? Couldn't find mummy to kiss you better?"

"Fuck you, KK." Sollux sighed.  Karkat'd never let him live down the next part.  "Look, I hate to admit it, but I'm in big trouble. I'm thtuck in Thantalune Foretht, there'th a bunch of angry Bug typeth chathing me around-" 

Karkat's glass-shattering yell produced tinny grating sounds, amplified by the speaker.  

"WHAT THE FUCK?! JUST WHAT IN THAT TINY NERDASS MIND OF YOURS MADE YOU THINK IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO GO SAUNTERING INTO SANTALUNE FOREST AT NIGHT?!" 

"Look, it's a long thtory.  Jutht get over here quickly, ok? You owe me ath much, ethpecially after how I helped you." 

"Yeah? Well you teleported out halfway through.  I wouldn't call that a job well fucking done, mithter." Karkat put emphasis on the way he mocked Sollux's lisp.  

Sollux growled.  "Get your ath out here, or Kankri'th going to know how you hit Kingler upthide the head while I helped you clean up that miserable patch of grass you call a front lawn garden." Then he hung up, grinning.  Kankri would give him an earful on triggers, which were certain to include Pokémon abuse and temper management, two subjects that Sollux knew Kankri was very passionate about, meaning that he'd ramble on and on for ages.  Snickering, he sat down on the floor, occasionally looking out of the field he had erected and sticking out his tongue.  

Yeah, come and get me if you can!

Minutes later, Sollux grinned as he heard the sounds of someone crashing through the undergrowth, followed by a familiar voice spouting a litany of expletive-laden ranting that got louder with every passing second. 

"Just WHAT in the name of Arceus is this crazy madhouse of a clusterfuck you've gotten yourself into now!? ” 

~

Karkat grumpily stomped through the undergrowth, kicking up clods of dirt as he went.  It would serve as a gift to whoever was the poor sod so bored that he spent his days with his nose to the ground following footsteps through forests like a lost Lillipup, but he didn't care.  His idiotic friend had made an equally stupid decison, which meant that he was forced to wake up at three in the fucking morning and traipse down from Route 4 all the way down to Santalune Forest to rescue him from whatever he had gotten his miserable bifurcated self into.  

Up ahead, Karkat could faintly see red and blue sparks of psionics crackling and fading into the night.  There were only two (Two? Three? Karkat wasn't too sure) psychics in the world that had bi-colored psionics: his best friend, Sollux Captor, and Sollux's father, Kestor 'Psi Onyx' Captor.  Technically, Sollux's older brother Mituna would count too, but an accident involving a medium who became possesed by a particularly malevolent Spiritomb changed that.  It had scrambled his powers, meaning that Mituna would lose control over them whenever he tried to use them, along with painful migraines that sent him into a frenzy of screaming.  It had also cost him his coherence and his personality, reducing the once-brilliant and charming boy to a stuttering, incoherent, bipolar wreck, a shadow of who he once was.  Last Karkat had seen him, Mituna had ambled to the door, waving and saying hello in his typically slurred voice, before tripping over his feet and face-planting into the floor.  Amazingly enough, Mituna managed to fall asleep right there, causing Latula to laugh, exasperatedly amused as she helped Sollux carry his brother up to his room and put him to bed. That was where he had stayed for the duration of Karkat's visit.  

As Karkat neared the source of the sparks, he felt his body tingle with static electricity.   Then, he rounded a corner and- wait, was that tree glowing?  

Karkat couldn't help but utter a 'holy shit' at the sight before him.  In front of him was a crackling purple sphere around four feet in diameter, giving off red and blue sparks like someone had rigged up a bunch of sparklers around the construct and pointed them every which way.   Not that pretty lightshows would have helped.  Karkat then noticed the reason why Sollux had called for help in the first place.  A swarm of angry-looking Bug Pokémon were throwing themselves against the forcefield like an endless wave, albeit one writhing and seething with so much blind rage.  

"Just WHAT in the name of Arceus is this crazy madhouse of a clusterfuck you've gotten yourself into now?!" Karkat yelled, sending droves of startled Fletchling flying into the air.  The moron sitting in the forcefield turned to him, an equally idiotic slouch in his posture.  Lazily raising his arm, Sollux held out a hand and snapped his fingers, sending more sparks spiraling up from his red-blue covered body. With a little crackle, Karkat found himself next to Sollux, who was grinning sheepishly, showing off his sharp teeth.  

"Alright. Mind telling me just why the fuck your pitifully shrunken brain decided it would be a good idea to take a midnight stroll in Santalune Forest? Was it to clear your head from the fog of idiocy that you seem to be perpetually living in?  Because unfortunately for you, it doesn't seem to have worked. "

"...Actually, you're not that far off." With that, Sollux launched into his story.  How he had watched with increasing worry during Aradia's encounter with a horde of Zubat, how he had interfered just when Aradia was about to defeat the last Zubat, how Sollux had needled her when she caught the Zubat to prevent injuring it too badly, how Aradia was understandably annoyed, how she made a snarky remark of her own that rubbed Sollux the wrong way, and how, from there on, it deteriorated into a full-out shouting match that culminated in Sollux teleporting away in a fit of anger.  

As Sollux spoke, Karkat's face slowly shifted from grumpy, to disbelieving, and finally to shock.  By the time Sollux concluded his story, Karkat's mouth was wide open, eyes bulging.  Finally, he spoke. 

"Damn Sollux, even for your abysmally low standards of what counts as smart, that was absolutely fucking stupid."  

Aradia had finished setting up her tent, and dinner had long since wormed its way down her throat.  In an attempt to cheer herself up, she had made her favorite food - sizzling sausages roasted to perfection (courtesy of Jones) and a garnish of Sitrus Berry salad. But the food tasted bland to her, and did little to cheer her up.  Instead, it just made her miss everyone - her older brother Cronus and his cocky swagger; her older sister, Damara, who spoke little but imparted her brand of cynical wisdom to her (as well as Cronus, albeit in the form of sharp whacks upside the head whenever her younger twin got too out of hand); Eridan, who she went on adventures with in their backyard during their youth and shared a love for history with- 

And Sollux, her travelling companion and best friend.

Aradia couldn't help but wonder where he was right now.  Was he pitching his tent as well, having eaten dinner?  Did he feel any regret for what he said?  Or did he sleep peacefully, uncaring and unaware of what he had said?  

Aradia was aware of a tear trickling down her cheek. Biting back tears, she entered her tent, zipped it behind her, crawling into her sleeping bag and closing her eyes.  

She never noticed the slight increase in the darkness around her tent.    

Karkat inhaled sharply, breathing in crisp spring nighttime air and breathing out musty warm air, somewhat stripped of oxygen.  Normally, said oxygen would have been used to fuel yet another of his rage-filled rants (in this case, on how stupid Sollux had been).  But today, the boys walked in silence, with only the occasional rustle of dead leaves underfoot.  Finally, Sollux broke the ice.  

"Tho, you're not going to thtart berating me for being a 'dumbath who thpendth way too much time with hith computerth and can't interact properly'?" 

"Well, you do spend way too much time cooped up in that festering shithive of a tangled bunch of wires and electronics that you call your room.  I'm surprised you can even sleep.  What's so fascinating about electronic doodads anyways?" 

"Ith a pity your little brain failth to grathp jutht what I can do with my coding.  Hell, I could read motht of the fileth thored on the International Pokémon Police'th databatheth, maybe bring it down if I wath in the mood."  

Karkat knew this was no idle threat - despite his age, Sollux was a digital mage.  He could crack most security systems found on computers or cook up a virus that, when unleashed, dealt more damage than a Hyper Beam to whatever devices were unlucky enough to be targeted.  He wrote his own programs with so many loops and dead-ends incorporated the coding, the average code jockey would burst into tears of frustration trying to pick it apart.  

 "Well, at least you and your big tech-obssessed brain can laugh at the stinking shitpile that others would refer to as 'failed coding mishaps by Karkat fucking Vantas', if that makes you feel any better."

Sollux snickered at Karkat's angry little diatribe.  "And I thought you weren't planning to ramble.  Gueth I thaid that too early." Sollux laughed.  Karkat was about to fire back with a snappy retort, when a sharp pain made itself known in his head.  

"Gah!" Karkat fell over, clutching his head.  It was like someone had taken a swing at his head with an ice-pack, except without the rapid loss of consciousness and inevitable death that followed. 

"Shit! What the fuck was that?!" 

"What wath wha- AUGH!" Sollux broke off in a blood-curdling scream, falling to the floor as he twitched with agony.  Red and blue sparks flew off from his body, glowing purple with psionics as his eyes crackled dangerously and he yelled in one continuous shout, rising to a crescendo with his suffering.   

Aradia was curled into a ball, silently screaming as the voices whispered to her, whispered, wormed their way into her head.  She felt nauseous, sick, angerpaindespair.  They spoke incessantly, voices of poisoned honey drilling, boring into her skull.  They forced their way in, digging claws into her mind, dripping sweetened venom from their fangs as they hissed, hissed relentlessly.  

...COme oN, liTLe oNE, they beckoned, disjointed voices crooning and hissing.  

...coMe On nOw, BE a GoOd lIttlE Maid aND leT us IN...
...wE kNOw faR MorE THan yOU CaN iMagInE in yOuR wILDeSt dReaMS...
...wE CAn mAKe iT aLl yOurS...
...jUSt LEt uS In...oPEn yoUr eArS to uS... 
ANd we'Ll tELl yOU AlL Of iT...

Aradia felt crushed, like her mind was being encased in talons -  talons that squeezed, squeezing, another unreleting wall in the cage she was trapped in, physically and mentally.  

...wHaT'S WRoNg?  ScaREd?...
...YOu sHOulDn't bE... 
wE wOn't HURT yOu... 

A harsh, guttural laugh like thousands of nails grating on a blackboard rang out, echoing through her.  

Aradia screamed.  It intermingled, echoed, mixed until it had blurred beyond recognition, until all that she heard was the awful harmony it formed.  She thought she could someone shouting her name.  But it sounded so faraway, like she was submerged, drowning in her thoughts.  Or was it the shouter who was drowning?  

Aradia scarcely had time to ponder before she blacked out.  

Sollux's synapses felt like they were on fire, like the power flowing through him was being forcefully diverted away and stolen from his body.  He felt hollow, empty and scalded, like someone had carved out part of him and replaced it with fiery magma.  

"Holy fuck Sollux, what in the name of Giratina's toenails is going on? Another one of your double-sided psychic freakout fits?”

Sollux almost laughed. Good ol' Karkat, still continuing as usual.  What does he do when he's feeling pissed?  Swear and shout, or cook up angry rants with extra-strength creatively-vulgar insult filling.  What does he do when he's talking normally? Be a condescending asshole and go off-tangent a lot just to try and get his point across with metaphors at top volume.  What does he do when he's feeling crabby? Rant in the same way, because he's in a crabby mood so often, it's abnormal for him to not be pissy, let alone smile, the latter of which was few and far in between.  What does he do when he's scared? Put his wide range of cussing combinations to use and spew them like a raving lunatic while trying to disguise his fear, which often failed spectacularly.  

"Doeth Giratina even have toenailth?" 

"No, and I don't want to fucking find out, dipshit.  Ever heard of a rhetorical question?” 

Sollux chuckled, then immediately regretted it as his chest flared with pain.  It was typical of Karkat to mean one thing and shout another, but the worry beneath layers of bristling grouchiness was obvious to one who knew where to look.   Unfortunately, that wasn't many, so it made an effective people-deterrent.   

By now, the pain had faded somewhat, but came back with a vengeance whenever sudden movements were made.  Sollux stumbled to his feet, one hand placed against a tree trunk for support. 

"Ready to move your sorry ass now?  Or would you rather stay here and do a perpetual faceplant into the soil?" 

"...I'll move."

Karkat reached out and pulled him up onto his feet, grimacing at the amount of grime on his shirt.  

"You look like you got used as a chew toy by some rabid oversized Arcanine and then got thrown into a pile of its shit.  Or, to better reach your half-fried neurons, you look like a fucking haystack matted in Mareep dung." 

"I thought you wanted to get out of thith route?"

"That wasn't so fucking hard now, was it, Therlock?"

"Yeah yeah, whatever. Now let'th get out of here already." With that, Sollux and Karkat dashed through the now deserted route, Sollux occasionally wincing.  

"Which way now?" Karkat huffed, looking at the rows of houses and shops.  

"Follow me, and try not to get lotht or dithtracted." 

"As if!" Karkat retorted.  

~

In the end, Sollux had to double back twice to fetch Karkat. He also had to psychically grab an excited Krabby, who had let himself out of his Pokéball and promptly scuttled down the first alley he saw.  After much cursing and chasing, Sollux finally cornered him and kept him still long enough to grab him with his psionics.  Karkat quickly returned him, shrinking the Pokéball to keep him in.  

"And you thaid you wouldn't be dithtracted?"

"Yeah? Well that's diff - OH FUCK NO I REFUSE TO HAVE ANOTHER VOICE IN MY HEAD SO FUCK YOU AND FUCK YOUR SORRY ASS OFF RIGHT NOW OR SO HELP ME ARCEUS!"

"What- "

Sollux didn't bother finishing his sentence, because at that moment, a certain someone's screams rang through his head.  A certain someone, who happened to be...

"Aradia." Both horrified whispers broke the air at the same time. 

Sollux's first reaction was to try and teleport over again.  This had the same effect as headbutting a wall - painful and useless.  Ignoring Karkat's angry harpy screeches, Sollux pushed back, scowling.  Finally, he felt it give ever so slightly, and he drove more power in, shoving the block away and appearing in front of what he recognized to be his friend's tent, Karkat in tow.  Her Cyndaquil was running around in front of the tent, panicking.  

"Cyn! Cyndaquil quil!" He gestured frantically to the tent, before running around again.  Sollux unzipped the tent, nearly blowing it up in shock.  

Aradia was sprawled on the floor, out cold.  But what made it alarming was the field of black, pulsating energy around her that he recognized to be the mark of a spirit communing with someone.  From what he could see, so many spirits had descended down onto her, she was completely overwhelmed and fainted.  

 It was hardly astonishing really.  Being a medium wasn't for the faint of heart, and even if you had the bravery, it would still take many controlled sessions with a seasoned medium before an apprentice was allowed to summon a spirit of their own.  Considering Aradia didn't even know she was a medium, let alone received any formal training, it was no surprise this has happened.  

The black aura around her had faded somewhat upon his entry into the tent.  Sollux could feel them, hissing and trying to claw his way in.  These ghosts were enough to creep psychics out, and they were supposed to be better equipped to deal with them.  He could only imagine what they would do to a normal person like Aradia.  

Alright, show's over.  Now get the fuck out of my head before-

...wHAt aRE yoU gOinG to DO?  BLAthT uth?...

Annoyed, Sollux let his power flare up, filling his mind with the familiar hum of psionics charged up and ready to be released.  He smirked as he heard hisses of pain, and the rest of the malevolent aura around Aradia faded.  For a moment, Sollux felt like he had been frozen, but then that sensation came to pass. He ran over to Aradia, tapping her.  

"Aradia?  Aradia?”

He had hoped for some response, even if it was just a tiny moan.  But there was none.  This was not good.  Who knew how long the ghosts had been there for?  Who knew what damage they could have done? 

And all of this is your fault. 

Sollux sank to his knees, crying.   He could remember when he had last cried - when he was five, Mituna had decided to levitate him up onto the roof of the house and not bring him back down after Sollux kept destroying Mituna's homework.  He spent half the day stuck up there, and Mituna got in very, very big trouble, as did Sollux.   That had been one of the few times Sollux had seen his dad so angry. 

 Shaking his head to clear those thoughts, Sollux gingerly reached out with a small tendril of power, wrapping it around Aradia's limp form and levitating her into the air.  Stepping out of the tent, he was met with Karkat's incredulous face.  He hissed ‘thut up’ in lieu of a reply and returned Jones to his Pokéball, before teleporting himself, Aradia and Karkat back to Santalune, reappearing in his bedroom.  

Karkat took a look around.  "Yep.  Still as much of an electronic shit-hive as it was."  Sollux bit back an angry snarl, too tired to bicker.  But his friend had a point; with all the plastic scattered and wires snaking around, there was hardly enough room for him to manoeuvre.  He was amazed that he had managed to get in without toppling or stepping on anything.  

With another crackle and brief flare of psionics, he teleported himself and his two passengers into a considerably more spacious spare room.  Giving Aradia a gentle jolt of psychic energy to get rid of most of the grime on her, he then slowly placed Aradia down onto the bed and rearranged her limbs so that she could sleep comfortably, before teleporting out of the room and landing as quietly as he could.  A moment later, Sollux heard the door creak open slightly, and Karkat emerged, shutting the door.  Sollux muted any noise with a small nudge of psionics.  

"So... what now?"  Karkat looked uncharacteristically subdued, and hesitated, before opening his mouth to speak.  Or at least, he would have, if a third, deeper voice hadn't cut in first.   "Sollux Captor, why do you think it was even a good idea to run around in the middle of the night with no one but your friend for company?"

Two heads whipped towards the voice.  Four eyes took in the tall, thin man clad in a mustard yellow shirt with two black stripes running across horizontally and black jeans, noting the look of disapproval that shone from the mismatched eyes. 

"Dad?  I thought you were-"

"We were supposed to leave later, but the project got finished faster than we thought." There was a brief pause, then he resumed.  "Why didn't you teleport her back to her home?" 

"Are you theriouth?  Aradia and her family live in Anithtar Thity, there'th no way I could teleport her all the way acroth the region without rithking burning out!" 

"Maybe this wouldn't happen if you practiced more!" 

"That'th all you ever tell me to do! Besides, I'm only thirteen, not a thychic who's had over thirty yearth of experienth like you!" By now, Sollux was almost shouting.  Both Captors were emitting red and blue sparks from their body that stung upon touch.  

Karkat's voice suddenly broke over the din.  "Ok look, I don't know what the fuck resolving heated exchanges between two psychics entail, and I don't want my ears to indulge in the pleasure of listening to two angry Captors have a whisper-shouting match either, but maybe if you stopped bickering like Starly over an Oran Berry and took a look at the fucking door, you'd notice it's shaking like an Ursaring's trapped inside and is trying to get out so that it can wreck the shit out of every single thing it comes across!" 

The sparks and anger on the faces of the two psychics fizzled out as both heads turned towards the wooden doorway, which was glowing burgundy and rattling in a way that normal doors were definitely not supposed to behave.  

"...We'll talk later, Sollux.  For now, I think we should deal with the situation on hand.  I’m going to go and get help.  Make sure she doesn’t injure herself. "  With that, the Psiioniic teleported away with a faint crackle. 

“Wow, thankth tho much dad, teleporting away’th totally going to help.” Sollux muttered, rolling his eyes.  “By the way KK, Thankth for thaving me from a chewing out.  Now what?" 

"In your fucking dreams, asshole.  I was only pointing out something that both of you were too engaged in squawking at each other to fucking notice happening right in front of your damn eyes.“ 

"Fuck you KK."  Sollux looked up, feeling unusually calm.  "Aradia might be pothethed, or it might be her powerth overloading her thythtem... KK, get the hell away from me.  Go ath far ath you can without lothing thight of me.  Thith way, if I do become pothethed, thomeone can at leatht call for help."

"...Are you sure?  I'm not about to lose one of my few friends in this miserable hellhole that is this world to some batshit-crazy vengeful spirit from beyond the grave." 

"Yeth, I'm thure.  Now thtop rambling and go!"

After a moment's hesitation, Karkat nodded and walked away from Sollux, looking back once or twice.  Then, his pace sped up into a jog, until only Karkat's vague silhouette could be seen on the other side of the room.  

Here's to hoping there isn't a rabid... whatever it is that's possessing AA. With that, Sollux opened the door, and gasped.  Aradia was still unconscious, but there was a difference between 'lying unconscious on a bed' and 'levitating two feet off a bed glowing burgundy with a mini Hurricane blowing everywhere'.  On the upside (if it could even be called that), Sollux couldn't sense any vengeful otherworldy spirits hungering for his body to use as a vessel, but he could hear hesitant footfalls.  No doubt it was Karkat approaching the room, curious to see what was taking so long.  He idly held up a hand, motioning for him to stay well away.   

His father had once told him that when using psychic powers, the hardest part was gauging how much power to start with.  Too little, and nothing would happen.  Too much, and there was a risk of frying your target or dealing further damage.  After a few second's worth of hesitation, Sollux diverted enough power to levitate a wooden table and wrapped it around Aradia.   Initially, the maelstrom howled on regardless - in fact, it seemed to increase in ferocity regardless of his efforts.  But then slowly, the winds died down bit by bit, until nothing but a light breeze whipping his face remained.  The distance between Aradia and the bed also decreased, until there was less than two centimetres between her back and the mattress.  Relieved, Sollux let out a breath that he didn't know he'd been holding, and promptly fainted.  

~

"Hello? Hello? Any fuckasses home?" 

Sollux blinked, groaning at the harsh, grating voice.  It took him a moment before his battered brain recognized Karkat's voice.  

"KK, did you take a clath in 'how to be a creeper' while I wath out?  Thpeaking of which, how long wath I even out for?"

"Hmm... sixteen fucking hours, and I haven't even counted the times when I thought you were awake, only for it to turn out to be just another false alarm. Did you break the world record for 'longest self-induced period of unconsciousness'?  Because it feels like you've managed to do something as opposed to just squawking like a moron and taking a dump into the communal toilet that is this fucking society. " 

"I think you've got a toilet fetith or thomething KK. I'm not taking a pith into a toilet that you've jerked off on KK."

"I WAS JUST JOKING!  DID UXIE TAKE THE REST OF YOUR ALREADY MEAGER INTELLIGENCE FROM YOUR MISERABLE SPONGE WHILE YOU SLEPT OR SOMETHING?!"

"KK don't flip your thit yet, or I might accidentally blatht you.  Double-thided thychic fitth, remember?" Sollux grinned a little near the end, which was met by Karkat flipping him the double bird.  

"Thit, I'm hungry.  Ith there anything to eat?"

"Your dad made some chicken and noodle soup.  Hurry up, it's getting colder than a Blizzard from Articuno." Sollux nodded, dazed.  He descended the stairs, feeling somewhat woozy from his long nap.  He was halfway done with his soup when a thought struck him.  

"Aradia.  Is she alright?"

"Well, she's woken up alright, and she's as fine as someone can be when they've had... something come over them."

"What do you mean, 'thomething'?"

"I have no fucking idea, do I look like I'm an expert?  I only know as much as your dad told me."

"Wait... Dad wath here?"

"No shit, he teleported in just to tell me what happened and then teleported away before I could even get a fucking word in." 

"Typical dad..." Sollux muttered.  He finished off the rest of his meal in two gulps, then ran up the stairs. 

"Slow the fuck down, you brainless idiot!  Do you want to faint again from overexertion or some equally asinine reason?”  Sollux did not reply, and instead quickened his pace, mentally cut-and-pasting his words over with a video he once saw of a cranky Kingler online.  In two psionic-fuelled strides, he reached the door of the guest room and flung it open.  

Aradia stood with her back facing to the door, motionless save for the wind that blew in through the window at her billowing hair.  

"...AA?"

Sollux swore he saw Aradia stiffen ever so slightly, before slowly, she turned to face Sollux, and alarm bells started ringing in his mind.  For one, Aradia always had a gleam in her eye, but that was gone, replaced by something else Sollux couldn't quite discern.  

Her voice sent yet another wave of sirens racing in his head. "Hello Sollux."  For some reason, the way she said those words made it sound hollow and terse.  

"AA, do you feel fine?"

"Yes."  Again with the clipped hollowness.  

"Look, I know I thcrewed up, and I'm thorry about that, and fuck, I methed up tho badly, how could I-"

"Don't be.  I'm ok now.  I'm here, am I not?"  And without waiting for a reply, Aradia moved past a dumbstruck Karkat and out into the corridor.  

"...what the fuck Captor, do you keep Pokémon transmutation serums in here or something?  Because it's like Aradia's part ghost type now.  She was floating like a Chandelure going to a date or something." 

"Doeth it look like the piethe of thit I call my brain have any idea either?  Nope, it'th empty like alwayth.”

 

"Karkat Vantas, please kindly get down here right now.  I am feeling very much triggered by your sudden lack of contact with me and your midnight foray into Santalune Forest, especially after you let out a yell loud enough to wake up everyone else in the house as well as our neighbors within a three-house radius.”  Kankri's voice rang out from the landing of the stairs.  Karkat groaned and clopped down the stairs as slowly as he could, flipping the double bird before he entered Kankri's line of sight.  Soon, the sounds of Kankri's lectures and Karkat's irritated snapping floated up to the room, Sollux giggling a little as he stood near the top of the stairs and savoured Karkat's increasingly annoyed replies from the safety of his spot.  As soon as Kankri was done, Karkat ran out the door as fast as he could, Kankri following behind while running his mouth like a broken tap about how Karkat should stay out of certain routes and unsolicited advice on what Pokémon to catch.  Sollux ran to his room's window and was just in time to catch Karkat turning on his running shoes, engulfing Kankri in a cloud of dust as he absconded. 

"Well, thee you later I thuppothe..." Sollux murmured.  "Tho rude of him to not thay goodbye though." Sollux grinned as he began to think of the tricks he could play on Karkat the next time they met.  Perhaps he could levitate him?  Or secretly switch his Pokéballs around?  Or - turn his running shoes on and off at inopportune moments!  

It would have to wait though.  Sollux yawned, exhaustion flooding him yet again.  He'd have to continue tomorrow.  Wrapping his thoughts in tendrils of energy and storing them away, Sollux lifted the covers of his blanket, slipped in and soon fell into a deep slumber. 

~

Several hours later, Sollux awoke to frantic knocking on his door.  "Unngggh...  Who ith it?" Sollux grumbled, shuffling to the door while trying not to knock anything over.  He toppled a stack of CDs by accident, but quickly caught and re-stacked them, reaching for the door and yanking it inward.  

"Sollukthff!  Heeellppthft!" Mituna's shrill, hissing voice pierced his eardrums.  Like always, his speech was garbled and sounded like he was perpetually whistling through a gap in his teeth.  

"Mituna?  What in the name of Artheuth are you doing up at night?"

“G-g-g-g-ghofthtftfh!”  

Sollux sighed.  Ever since his accident, Mituna became easily spooked and developed a fear of Ghost types as well as anything even remotely resembling a ghost.  This included but wasn’t limited to pieces of tissue paper dancing to the wind, and sudden breezes. 

"It's just a nightmare, go back to sleep Mituna."

"Ift and acktualp ghoofthfthf!”  Sollux was up in an instant, racing down the hall to where Aradia slept.  He yanked open the door, letting it hit the wall with a bang, muffled by a half-hearted shot of psionics.  What he saw rendered him agape with silent horror.  

 

Aradia was gone.  The only trace of her that remained were the fluttering curtains, dancing to the wind.  

Chapter Text

"Eridan, come on!  You're slower than a Magcargo!"

"That can't be helped when you're in a crowd Fef.  Especially considerin’ your mother's relationship with the paparazzi." Eridan spat out the last word like a bad whelk.  

"They can be annoying sometimes, but at least Gyarados scares them off when they go too far! "

"Ahh yes.  Their reaction when they find there's an angry Water type roarin' in their trespassin’ faces is always funny to watch." Feferi couldn't help but giggle, nodding as Eridan cracked one of his rare smiles.  They were both recalling the time they got to watch Gyarados play 'Whack-a-Diglett' with several unwelcome intruders of a snooping kind.  The subsequent charges filed had been refuted on the grounds that they had been trespassing with ill intent and the Pokémon had merely been taking whatever action it saw fit to defend his trainer's property.  "It may have to do with how I occasionally use 'em for target practice too."  At this, Feferi started laughing and Eridan chuckled.  

Over the heads of the crowd surrounding her mother, Feferi spotted a Growlithe running through the crowd, easily dodging around the tangles of limbs and clamouring fans eager for one last glimpse at their idol.  A few meters behind the Puppy Pokémon was a girl wearing rounded glasses, forest green shorts and a white shirt with an atom printed dead centre and lime green sleeves. Feferi then looked around, and noticed two things. 

One, her mother was suddenly far easier to see.  Feferi caught sight of her head bobbing up and down as she clacked along the red carpet, her hair bouncing to a rhythm marked by her high-heels.  They added unneeded height to her already tall build, and there was a small hint of a sneer on her face as she waved at the eager photographers snapping away from beyond red velvet lines.  

Two, the girl pursuing her Growlithe was about to crash right into her.

 

~

 

“Bec, wait up!” Jade panted, eyes trained on the orange blur she knew to be her overexcited Growlithe.  Said Growlithe simply barked and continued his game of ‘duck and weave through a large crowd to avoid the Jade human for as long as I can’.  From the corner of her eye, she saw a blurry fuchsia figure which she realised was another girl, going in a direction that put her on a collision course with said other girl.  Yelping, Jade attempted to backpedal.  But she was a second too late, and the two girls met with a thud and loud ‘oof’ from both parties. 

"Ohmygosh, I'm so sorry!  I really didn't mean to crash into you! Are you alright?" The words tumbled out of Jade's mouth as she frantically looked around, trying to spot her Pokémon.  She found him bouncing around with a camera in his mouth, having jumped on top of a cameraman and taken the electronic device from him.  This was also when she noticed that the girl wasn't alone - she was accompanied by a surly-looking boy with dark purple hair (save for a streak highlighted in bright violet) and rounded glasses.  He was dressed in a white tee-shirt,  a pair of khaki shorts and had a scarf wound around his neck with alternating light and dark blue segments. 

"Haha, it's ok!  I saw your Growlithe.  He seemed reely excited!" The girl exclaimed, Jade wincing a little at the high-pitched, drawn-out 'e's.  "I'm Feferi, and mister grumpygills here is Eridan."  She grinned, showing off sharp teeth as she dragged her companion over. "Eridan, don't be rude, say hi!" Feferi pointed to Jade.  "Whatever Fef." Eridan grumbled with a roll of his eyes, stuttered ‘w’s and ‘v’s catching Jade’s attention.  Feferi mock-sighed, and Jade looked at the two of them, feeling like she should break the silence but unsure how.  Just as she was about to say something, Feferi beat her to the chase.  "Say, what's your name?"  Jade quietly cleared her throat, a tad bit annoyed at being cut off.   "I'm Jade, Jade Harley.  You've both met Becquerel, although he prefers Bec."  Jade paused, then turned around and shouted loud enough to be heard over the din of the crowd.  "C'mere, Bec!" 

The Growlithe stopped, perked up, and was back in front of Jade before she could say 'good boy'.  He dropped the collection of items in his mouth (which now consisted of no less than one microphone, three cameras, a tangled clump of half-fried wires and scraps of spongy microphone covering) at Jade's feet and barked, tail wagging expectantly.  

“…Thanks?"  

Bec let out another happy bark, and promptly jumped on Feferi.  Feferi looked surprised, before she started laughing. 

"Aww!  Aren't you such a cutie pie?" She smiled, giggling as Bec gave her face a once-over with his tongue before jumping off and returning to Jade's side.  "Yep! He's rather hyperactive.  Grandpa always joked that if he didn't know any better, he'd think Bec was a stray atom from a poorly-calibrated collider."  Jade smiled, still feeling a tad bit uneasy.  Jade noticed that Eridan seemed to perk up at the physics analogy, and the corners of his mouth quirked into a smile as Feferi laughed.  

"It's no problem at all!  I've grown up getting hugs from a Gyarados almost every day, so I don't really mind Bec actually!" 

"Ugh.  Shouldn't we go talk somewhere else before your mother's lapdogs clutter up the place?" Eridan interjected, smile vanishing like the ghost it had been and being replaced with a deadpan expression. 

"Eridan! If it's not lapdogs, it's batfish-crazy obsessed fans or whatebber you came up with.  No need to be that glubbing rude!"  Although Feferi sounded indignant, she betrayed her true intentions with a smile and a light tap of Eridan's head, which was received with a huff and a roll of the eyes. 

"Feferi! Eridan!" A loud, clear voice was audible above the babbling of many fractured voices mixed together like an incestuous slurry.  Jade looked up, and saw a tall woman on three-inch heels facing in their direction.  From what Jade could see over the throng of people surrounding her, she was dressed in a fuchsia colored bodysuit with black accents and bedecked in entwined golden necklaces.  Her wide grin revealed teeth that bore an alarming resemblance to a Sharpedo's maw.  “What’re you waiting for?  Hop in!”

Jade then turned back and got a good look at Feferi.  She wore a fuchsia tank top with gold trimming, a skirt made of bright green and cyan material, black sneakers with fuchsia and gold accents (It took Jade some time to realise that they weren't just sneakers - they were perfect for land and water based activities) and two thin bracelets around each wrist, as well as a golden bangle on each.  Fuchsia goggles hung limply around her neck, and a golden necklace along with two other thinner necklaces matching the colours of her bracelets completed the ensemble.  Despite the differences in clothing, the resemblance was clear to see.  The same bright fuchsia eyes, the way their faces crinkled as they grinned, the accessories they wore, down to the identical shades of fuchsia on their clothing.  Before she could make anything of that observation however, Jade felt something jab roughly into her back.   "Outta the way, girly," a voice snarled as hands gripped her roughly.  This was followed by a yell of pain as Bec bit down with an indignant ‘rarf!’.  Jade took the opportunity to wriggle free, spin around and uppercut her would-be assailant, before moving in the opposite direction as fast as she could.  This brought her right next to Feferi and Eridan yet again.  

"Feferi!  Miss Peixes! Look this way please!"  Feferi complied, waving and smiling at the camera while moving towards her mother as quickly as she could.  Even with all her experience in navigating massive crowds, Feferi would be going through them at a Slugma’s pace judging by the reluctance with which the crowd parted - that is, were it not for the fact that Eridan had sent out a Piplup and Horsea to clear the way.  "Fuckin' hell, it won't hurt ya idiotic hicks ta give us some fuckin' space for once!"  Eridan snarled, the irritated Piplup pecking as hard as he could and Horsea gleefully firing off shots of ink and water every which way.  At the same time, Bec had decided to run around barking at and biting everything in reach with Fire Fang, although Jade couldn't help but wince at how her Turtwig fell flat to the floor as soon as she sent him out.  The fact that he stayed asleep despite the worsening fracas around them was a testament to how deeply the Sapling Pokémon slept.  

Her grandfather had taught her to be prepared for many things, from rabid Pokémon to an experiment going wrong.  However, getting mobbed by a lovestruck crowd was not one of those things, and Jade found herself unsure of how to approach the situation.  Seeing no viable way to extricate herself from the throng, Jade  returned her Turtwig, and  reluctantly followed behind after a few tugs from Feferi, occasionally darting away from anyone that got too close.  She had no desire to give anyone a taste of her martial prowess.  

"Feferi! Feferi! Feferi!"  By now, the crowd had devolved into a battle between the legion of fans chanting Feferi's name and photographers vying for a spot as close to Feferi as they could without being hit, bit or pecked at.  Suddenly, there was a loud squeal of "FEFERI!", and an olive blur landed neatly on the teenaged celebrity, causing the crowd to recede a little.  

"Haha, hi Nepeta!" Feferi smiled as she brushed herself off and got back up.  The blur focused into a girl wearing olive, black and a blue Skitty hat.  Nepeta grinned right back, bouncing on the balls of her olive-sneaker clad feet. 

"Equihiss told me mew were in town, so I furrought I should come to see mew!"

"Oh?  Where is he?" 

"He's waiting with Mister Ampurra near the car." 

“It’s good to see you too Nep, but I think we should leave the chatting to when we're on the car.  The crowd's getting bigger if you haven't noticed," Eridan interjected.  

"Alrighty!  Chiko, Simba, let's lend a paw!" Nepeta declared, tossing two Pokéballs into the air.  The two Pokemon manifested with separate exclamations of “Chikori-ta!" and “Litleo!”.  The Chikorita extended her vines (Jade knew this because the Chikorita had a slightly larger head leaf) and gave anyone that got close enough a lashing, while the Litleo fired Embers that singed shoes, further convincing the crowd that moving away was the best option.  

As the ragtag group of adolescents got closer and closer to the car, Jade could see more of the woman.  She was wearing black and gold high heels that added to her already ridiculous height, as well as a pendant set with twelve stones.  Jade then noticed that in addition to the necklaces draped around her neck, she also wore bangles along each arm that clinked with her every move.  

"Oh hey Jade, you made it!  Mom is pretty popular."  Feferi's smile didn't waver as Jade's eyes narrowed.   

"I can see that.  Also, if I remember correctly, I didn't exactly tag along of my own will.  Besides, I'd much rather not be stuck with that crazy crowd any longer, thank you very much.  Last thing I need is to be arrested for assault - Grandpa wouldn't be too happy even if it was self defence.” Jade deadpanned.  

”Well you don't need to 'tag along' any more, because I'd much rather you came with me!" Feferi snickered.  

"Isn't that pretty much the same thing?"

For the second time in half as many minutes, Jade raised an eyebrow as Feferi giggled again.  

"Tagging along is like you're uninvited, but you aren't - you're my friend!"  Jade was surprised.  

"...Wait, since when?"  

"Since now!" Feferi declared, breaking out into a grin.  

"I'd rather you asked me first next time, but sure, I guess I wouldn't mind giving it a shot." Jade smiled near the end, and was promptly hugged by an enthusiastic Feferi.   "Thanks Feferi, but you're crushing- ack!" Jade yelped as Bec jumped on with a 'Rowl!' and her vision was obscured by orange fur.  By the time Jade managed to get Bec off and return him to his Pokéball (thus cutting his session of 'lick the Jade human's glasses even though they are already very clean and I'm making them more blurry than anything else' short), Feferi had already moved away and was getting into the limousine, joining Eridan (who fiddled with a Pokéball) and Nepeta, who was literally bouncing in her seat with an ecstatic look on her face, occasionally elbowing another boy sitting next to her by accident.  He had on an indigo tank top, black gym shorts, metal bracers on each arm and a pair of cracked shades simultaneously framing and obscuring his eyes.  Judging from Nepeta and Feferi's prior exchange, Jade deduced he was Equius.  As she got closer, she noticed that Equius seemed to be sweating profusely despite the blast of comparatively cold air that rushed out to greet her approach.  

"Excuse me, where do you think you're going?" Jade looked up, and saw a tall man dressed in an immaculate suit, with a violet tie and a lapel pin holding a stone that shimmered with rainbow colours.  His similarly coloured eyes glittered darkly.  "So, another fan who managed to sneak through, eh?  I'm honestly surprised you lot keep trying.  Though, I do have to give you credit - I thought the Light Screen went up quick enough." 

"What do you mean, 'another fan’?  I don't even have the slightest clue what happened back there!  Bec ran around like he was trying to learn ExtremeSpeed, and while trying to catch up with him I crashed into her," at this, she pointed to Feferi, who was buckling up like it was a perfectly ordinary outing, "then a woman who apparently turns out to be her mother calls her name and the crowd goes nuts, next thing I know I've been shepherded here and you're glaring down at me!" 

"Uncle Argent, that's Jade, a friend of mine."  Feferi quickly interjected.  Jade felt a pang of annoyance at being cut off again, but then something else registered in her mind.  "Wait a minute... were you mentored by a Joseph Harley at the University of Kalos?" 

The man sputtered.  "What?!  How'd you know that!? The only ones who do are Corraine and my family!  That, and he hasn't been teaching for years - he moved to a remote island, and I'm one of the few people still in contact with him!" 

Jade's annoyed expression vanished, replaced by a sheepish grin.   "Well, he’s my grandpa.  I remember he once mentioned a few of the students he had back in his day.  You were one of them, and probably the only one who loved shooting as much as him." 

Argent’s expression softened.  "So you're the granddaughter he mentioned..." He looked back at the crowd, who had sent out their Pokémon and were straining to break through the Light Screen barrier.  "Sorry about the mistake, but I think it'll be in your best interest to get on quickly.  I'm not sure how long Kismissile can hold on for." He gestured to a Sharpedo currently using Mean Look on the assorted Pokémon to hold them back.  Jade was about to take a leaf out of her friend's book and snark at him, but he continued on.   “You really don't want to be around when they get past the barrier.  We can catch up later."  Jade shut her mouth, nodded, and quickly sat down in the empty seat next to Feferi.  

No sooner had she sat down and yanked the door shut, the Light Screen flickered.  Immediately, the Sharpedo fired off a Hydro Pump which knocked back most of the fans and Pokémon that surged forward, eager for one last glimpse at their idol.  Meanwhile, Argent yanked the front left door open and took the driver's seat, sliding in and closing the door behind him with practiced smoothness.  Then, he took out a dark navy Pokéball with a stylised yellow X painted on the top.   Sticking his arm out the open window, he returned the Sharpedo and then pressed a button on the dashboard in front of him.   Tinted windows slid up, effectively cutting off any sound from the outside.  Jade noticed the shift on the faces outside from excited to disappointed.  One-way reflective glass, probably soundproofed and reinforced too, she mused.  It was certainly superior to her failed experiment (which ended up being a blob of melted silicon), one of the many which her grandpa had her do so that she could find the branch or branches of science she preferred the most.  She wound up going with physics - specifically, nuclear and quantum physics, but she still had a soft spot for biology.  Her cousin Jake preferred archaeology, although he did dabble in biology when he wasn't too busy going spelunking around the island they lived on.  

When they were voting on a name for the Island five years ago, Jake had suggested Hellmurder Island, while Jade wanted to name it The Exotic Garden.  Their grandpa decided to compromise and named it Hell's Garden.  The name was appropriate really; most of the plants that grew there were nigh-unheard of on the mainland, but it was also home to many Pokémon that were ridiculously strong compared to their mainland counterparts.  There were also the relatively difficult-to-navigate rocks scattered around the island to contend with - their presence meant that there was only one route in.  Even one small misstep like turning the boat half a degree too much or too little was costly, and the unfortunate soul who made the mistake paid in the form of sharp rocks tearing flesh and metal alike into pieces.  That was why Sharpedo's Reef was cordoned off as a forbidden area for seafarers and trainers alike, with several members of the Kalosian Marine Patrol surfing around the surrounding stretch of water daily, looking for and halting anyone foolish enough to try and challenge the ban.

"Hello? Hello? Earth to Jade!  Are you alright?"  She was snapped out of her reverie by the sudden sight of someone waving in her face.  Her reply was preceded by an annoyed look.  

"Yes?" Jade mentally cursed herself for making it sound more acidic than she intended.  

"We were talking about our partners just now!  Nepeta's positively bouncing off the walls here - she heard you had chosen a Grass Type starter as well!" 

Jade's eyes narrowed.

"Wait... how did you know?” Feferi merely laughed.  

"I was at the laboratory as well!  And of course I'd know - I helped mother with the invitation letters!" 

"...So you mean your mother was the source of the 'anonymous donation'?"

"Of course, guppy."  The woman in the front passenger seat turned around, showing off even sharper teeth between fuchsia-painted lips.  Before Jade could ask another question, she grinned widely.  

"Your gramps taught a bunch of us back when we were wee lil' minnows determined ta wreck some shit.”

"Corrine, please don't swear in front of the kids."  Argent sighed, exasperation bleeding into his tone. 

"Psh, it ain't like ya don't!" 

As their exchange devolved into a lighthearted mixture of bickering and banter, Jade looked at the other four kids sitting around them.  She noticed that Equius was now wrapped in a large white towel, looking for all the world like a Dwebble sitting on the side of its shell.  His hands gripped the towel tightly, and the contrast of what little could be seen of his hands against the metal covering most of it was prominent.  His obscured eyes stared firmly ahead, face betraying no emotion save for a slight tenseness in his temple.  A muscle or two twitched every time another piece of profanity was mentioned.  Jade also noticed that Nepeta had tilted herself so as to face Equius, a concerned look on her face.

"Equihiss, if you're uncomfortable with the purrofanity then you could always ask them to 'please refurain from swearing'!"  She made air quotes with her fingers.  

"...It would be improper to overstep any social boundaries. " He finally stated in a monotone voice.  

“Silly Equihiss, here’s a diffurrence between 'social boundaries' and speaking up beclaws you feel uncomfurtable!" The brunette spoke up, hazelnut curls bouncing to the sway of her head as she sighed.  Equius did not reply, apparently having gone back to staring at the interior of the car blankly.  Nepeta sighed again as she turned away, before abruptly looking up as she noticing Jade.  "Oh, hi there Jade!  I'm Nepeta - it's nice to meet mew!” Realising she had zoned out again (it was perhaps the third time this happened today), Jade squeezed her face into a smile.  "Nice to meet you Nepeta!  I heard you chose a grass type starter as well?” 

Jade swore Nepeta's grin showed far too many teeth than humanly possible.  "Yep!  Say hi, Chiko!" With that, Nepeta held up her Chikorita, who sat on her trainer's lap. 

"Chiko! Chikorita!" The little grass type waved her vines enthusiastically.  

"Terrapine, let's go!" Jade tossed a Pokéball, smiling a little at her own pun.  There was a brief flash of light, before he landed on her lap.  

"Turtwig!" Terrapine looked around, before spotting Chiko.  "Turt turtwig?" 

"Rita korita!" 

"Turtwig!" 

"Chikorita!" 

Chiko extended one vine towards Terrapine, who hesitated a little before bringing up one of his forelegs to meet it. 

"Twig!"

For a while, the two girls sat, watching their starters in contented silence.  Finally, Nepeta spoke up.  

"Have you caught any Pokémon yet?" 

"No, I haven't had a chance to.  What about you?" Nepeta perked up almost instantly.  

"Oh, of paws I did!" 

"Paws?"

Nepeta's face fell, an expression that blended 'sheepish' and 'mentally kicking oneself' seamlessly. 

"Course... oh dear.  I keep furgetting about the puns." Jade felt a bit disturbed by how quickly the smile reappeared.  "Anyways, meet Simba!" Nepeta tossed a tan Pokéball with red-orange accents between her hands, before throwing it upwards.  A Litleo emerged, looking around curiously.  

"Awww! He's adorabubble!" Feferi cooed, briefly looking up and away from Eridan.  She gave Simba a quick scratch behind the ears, before resuming what seemed to be an intense discussion of different trainer classes.

"Lit! Litleo! Lit Litleo leo!" Simba had gotten over his initial confusion, and was now eagerly showing off his Ember, breathing puffs of fiery sparks that faded away just before touching the roof of the limousine.  A familiar chime rang out, heralding a Pokémon's exit from their Pokéball. 

Grrrrowl!  Rrowllll lithe!" Bec barked, doing a few happy flips at finally breaking out of his Pokéball.  

"Becquerel, no!"  Jade's warning came a second too late.  Bec landed on all four paws, displaying a mastery of balance that implied acrobatics were a regular feature.  Then, he locked eyes with Simba (who was already startled by the sudden appearance of a canine) and barked again, wagging his tail as he grinned at the hapless Lion Cub Pokémon.

"LITLEO!"  And with a loud shriek, Simba returned to his Pokéball so quickly, Jade couldn't even see the red blob of plasma withdraw into the two-colored sphere.  Bec briefly looked around in confusion, before shrugging it off with a 'Rrrowl' and taking in his surroundings.  In the end, he decided Equius looked rather interesting, and started sniffing him all over, licking him once or twice but drawing away each time with a disgusted expression on his face.  After the third lick, Bec aborted his efforts and moved on to giving everyone else an efficient once-over with his nose instead, before turning to the front row and leaping towards Corrine like a furry rocket.  However, he bounced off something invisible, producing a 'bonk' as he traced a curve through the air, landed back in his trainer's lap, and was promptly returned.  Corrine turned around, looking slightly annoyed. 

"Eridan, Feferi, haven't I told you to stop throwing Pokéballs in the car?”

"It was practice so that we could throw Pokéballs accurately and develop faster reflexes!  And, that wasn't us - that was Harley's Growlithe, who acts like he's downed way too many X Speeds!"  Not in the mood for her ears to suffer more punishment, Jade tuned out the bickering that ensued.  Reaching into her bag, she rummaged around before remembering that her phone was in a hidden compartment.  Shaking her head at her forgetfulness, she extricated the device and powered it on.  As soon as the device came to life however, Jade was suddenly flooded with a deluge of notifications.  Swiping at the screen to expand the notifications, Jade was greeted by the yellow icon that set Pesterchum apart from other messaging systems like Pidgey, Diggersby and Linoone.  Smiling, Jade tapped on the notification twice, and mustard orange filled the screen.  Looking at her list of contacts, she tapped  ectoBiologist , which was flashing red.  

ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering gardeningGnostic [GG] at 10:25am

EB: hey jade!

GG: hi john!

GG: how’s your journey so far?

EB: it was great!

GG: did you catch any pokemon?

EB: nope!

EB: you?

GG: same here actually :P

EB: i had a couple of battles

EB: i won most of them

EB: liv fainted though :(

GG: oh noooo :(

EB: dont worry, she's fine now

EB: she put up a good fight! 

EB: it took three pokemon to take her down

GG: wow!

GG: i had no idea liv was that strong

GG: you should battle with her more often!

EB: haha thanks!

EB: liv doesn’t like to battle though

EB: chompers on the other hand is a bit different

GG: chompers?

EB: hes my totodile!

GG: oh, haha!

GG: does he bite a lot?

EB: yep!

EB: hes really energetic

GG: thats good to hear!

GG: terrapine is active sometimes

GG: but he likes to sleep most of the time

EB: terrapine?

GG: hes my turtwig :P

EB: thats a funny name

GG: :/

EB: sorry jade

GG: its alright

GG: although i do wish you got the joke :/

GG: anyways!

GG: where are you planning to go next?

EB: i havent really decided yet

EB: maybe ill go to cyllage city!

GG: be careful when you go through the zubat cave!

EB: what zubat cave?

GG: youll see when you get there ;)

GG: just remember to stock up on potions!

EB: uhhhhh...

EB: thanks for the tip i guess?

GG: youre welcome!

GG: just be careful

EB: i will!

EB: talk to you later!

GG: see ya!!! :)

ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering gardeningGnostic [GG] at 10:35am  

Jade closed the chat window with a smile, before selecting golgothasTerror , which was flashing rapidly.   Jake must be dying to know how her journey was so far.     

 

~ 

 

tipsyGnostic [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 11:11am

TG: heeeey roise

TG: *rosie

TG: whoops

TT: Please don’t call me that. 

TT: I presume you come bearing more news from our dear, sweet mother?

TT: Would it happen to be more drunken attempts at reconciliation with her estranged daughter?

TG: damn rose

TG: aigan wiht the psikoanalias stuff

TG: *again

TG: *with

TG: *sichoanalisas

TG: **saichoanaliesis

TG: ***psikoanalypiss

TG: ****hehe

TT: Really Roxy, why don’t you turn on your autocorrect?

TG: cuz i cant fihd it

TG: *find

TT: Let’s not stray much further from the topic on hand.

TT: What does Mother wish to know from me?

TG: nothing much

TG: she wanted to ask what sarhter u chose

TG: *startar

TG: *starter fuck

TT: I suppose that’s a more palatable topic than what I envisioned. 

TT: Tell her that a Snivy is currently ensconced comfortably in a Pokéball in my bag. 

TG: okey

TG: *okayh

TG: **k

TG: hows ur journey?

TT: It’s going smoothly. 

TT: I’ve already beaten Grant and Viola, and am making plans to defeat Korrina.

TT: Hopefully I can acquire and add an Inkay to my growing collection of Pokémon.

TT: They are quite intriguing - even more so than how she managed to remain a functional, productive member of society despite being, as Dave so eloquently put it, ‘hella drunker than a stunky hit with the dizziest of dizzy punches’. 

TG: dayum gurl

TG: ur gonna be just liek tat handmade

TG: *like *that

TG: *handmaid

TG: *wink*

TT: Really Roxy?

TT: But then again, it’s to be expected when talking to you.

TG: *le sign*

TG: and u always kebep being so sirius and stoic

TG: even when talkign to ur daer sweet sipster

TG: *talking *dear *tipster

TG: **sister

TG: fahk

TT: Please don’t get started on an extended metaphor.

TT: I’ve already gotten my daily dose courtesy of a certain Mister Strider.

TG: no sanks

TG: long extended metataphores = not my ting

TT: Ahh yes, how could I forget.  It seems that I often give you far less credit than deserved. 

TG: dont u do tat to everyboby abot?

TG: *alot *everybody

TT: Honestly, if you’d refrain from consuming alcoholic substances every now and then, you’d discover your mental faculties are actually rather impressive. 

TT: Take care, Roxy.

tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering tipsyGnostic [TG] at 11:28am