Blue had to admit that he wasn't exactly ready to jump up and down with excitement when his grandfather called to tell him that Alola finally had a champion and an established Pokémon league. Blue wasn't quite as competitive as he was in his younger days (ugh, he felt old), but there was still something a little frustrating about being constantly surpassed as a trainer to this day. There was still always a feeling that he was letting himself down, and his Pokémon too, and it wasn't fair. Nowadays though, Blue found himself quite content in filling his Pokédex and traveling round the world to become as strong as he could. He'd come to accept that perhaps he'd never quite feel a satisfactory amount of self worth when it came to being a trainer (and especially a Gym Leader) and while it stung, Blue recognized that he was still a well respected figure in Kanto and was somewhat content with that.
Even so, upon his return to Kanto from Kalos, Blue couldn't help but grimace as he was greeted by a band of giggling girls raving about the great Pokémon Master whom had hailed from the quaint little town of Pallet, Blue didn't even have to guess who they were talking about.
“Did you hear? He's finally back! Do you think we'll see him?“
“Huh? No way? I heard he was back training at Mount Silver, y'know, in Johto?"
“No! I totally saw him at Oaks lab! He's so handsome and grown up now!"
“Seriously? No way!"
Blue sighed, stalking past the girls and down the path to town, Ratata's scattering from his feet. It was amazing how little Pallet had changed over the years, though it wasn't like he never visited or anything. He checked in on Daisy, who fussed over all of his party, gifting Jolteon with some Pokéblocks she'd ordered from Hoenn. She was engaged to some guy from Vermilion it seemed, and he promised to try and make it to the wedding, but after Daisy started chiming about if Blue had a special someone in his life, he made his excuses to leave.
Blue would usually check in on Red's mother too, who was always fretting about her son. He would always assure her that there was no need, he was the longest running champion in the world for goodness sake, but he supposed that mothers couldn't help it. Not that he'd know. This time, he left it, since if Red was home like the girls said, they were probably having some family time. It was probably best to head straight for the lab. He'd visit... later, since he'd not seen Red since he'd left for Kalos. Blue... wanted to see him.
It turned out though, that Blue didn't have to wait long. At the door of the lab, he was greeted by a rather grating and familiar sound.
Red's Pikachu bounded over the lab floor, greeting Blue by licking it's paw delicately. Blue wasn't fooled, he knew this small rodent was a savage beast, fooling the world with it's sickly sweet cuteness. He swore he could feel Gyarados tremble within the Pokeball at his belt. Blue smiled down at Pikachu with a smile that was just as sickeningly sweet.
“Hi, ya rat. I know you're like, level one hundred, but it's not too late. I got a Thunderstone right here in my bag, you could become significantly more likeable in seconds, if you like.“
Over by the PC, Professor Oak tutted, and sitting by him... was Red, a rare smile faintly dusting his usually hardened features. Blue felt his hit points rapidly decreasing by the second. He waved it off and tutted right back, sloping over to sit with them. He gave Red a vague wave, as if they'd only seen each other yesterday.
“Hey Gramps. Hey Red, long time no see. Mount Silver just not remote enough anymore?“
Red shrugged, and idly stroked Pikachu's head as it leapt into his lap. Oak, rolled his eyes, but there was a trace of fondness in his expression now. He handed Blue some tea, not wasting any time in cutting to the chase.
“I'm amazed you both turned up when I summoned you. Lance is at an absolute loss with the challengers at the league, Red."
There was a trace of guilt that flashed over Red's features as he glanced away. Blue smirked at him, but it didn't last long.
“And as for you!“ Oak pointed at Blue with such vigor, that it actually made him jump. “Viridian Gym has been locked for nearly a year now!"
“I was studying in Kalos!" Blue protested, practically pouting.
“And you gave no notification at all! Honestly, Blue. It's hire Gym trainers, or run your damn Gym!"
Red and Blue just shuffled, determined to not look embarrassed. Blue didn't quite manage it. Oak sighed, shaking his head.
“Anyway, I didn't ask you both all the way here to lecture you. There's an opportunity to spread some good publicity out there for both of you, and I don't want you to miss out on it."
Oak clicked a window on the PC, and an article flashed up. Blue recognized it as the news story about the first champion of Alola, and the Aether Foundation there, and how there'd been a secret branch uncovered that had been cruelly testing on Pokémon. What Blue didn't realize, is that they'd been creating Pokémon too. His eyes speedily read ahead, before swiveling to look at Red, who was clearly reading through it more slowly. His expression became stricken when he reached the part about Aether, and the allusive Type: Null that had been rescued by the presidents son.
Blue didn't have to guess what he was thinking about. All those years ago, when he'd still been only been a child, Red had discovered discarded files about the Mew clone operation at Cinnabar Lab, and he'd recklessly charged into Cerulean Cave, determined to find the Pokemon that had been so cruelly sewn together from the experiments. Mewtwo remained the only Pokemon at Red's arsenal that remained distant and broken. It still troubled Red greatly that he couldn't help it. Blue's brow furrowed in concern, and he suddenly piped up.
“Hey man, it's okay. Some kids stopped them, right? They'll always be someone like you there to stop people like that."
Red look surprised at Blue's words, but he seemed to appreciate them, even if there was still doubt etched into his expression. He nodded slowly, and went to read the rest of the article. While he did, Oak pressed on.
“With the league being established over there, I'd like you both go over to Alola and help set up the Battle Tree. Take part in a few tournaments there, there's nothing like a Champion and a former Champion to show them how it's done, hm?"
Blue groaned. “Are you serious? Gramps, I know your memory isn't great, but I was Champion for all of two minutes before Mr Sunshine here came and knocked me off my high horse."
He could see Red smiling smugly slightly out of the corner of his eye. Ugh! Oak at least had the decency to look a little sheepish this time, so he should. Perhaps back then, Blue had been an extremely thoughtless trainer, but he knew much better now, and still he was no match for Red.
“Now Blue, being Champion at all is a great honor. It doesn't tarnish your place in the hall of fame at all. Besides, this won't involve you and Red competing against each other. The Battle Tree specializes in double battles, rotation battles... All sorts. Need I say more?"
Blue sipped at his tea, giving Red a sly side glance. As usual, it was pretty hard to tell what he was thinking, though Blue thought that maybe he had a better idea than most people. Red wasn't really known for working with other trainers, aside from when a Pokemon's well being was at stake. A tournament didn't really seem like his bag. He surprised Blue though, and nodded after a long pause. Oak seemed just as surprised, but he didn't question it, moving on quickly, as though worried that Red would change his mind.
“Very good, in that case, I will arrange a ferry from Verm-"
“Um, hang on! I never said that I would yet!“ Blue whined, almost spitting out his tea. Oak shook his head, already back at the PC booking the ferry.
“Blue, we both know that this isn't the kind of opportunity that you'd turn down."
Blue furiously pouted, but said nothing, because his Grandfather was right. Pikachu clambered on to Red's shoulder, cooing at him tauntingly.
Alola was very bright, the sky was bright, the flowers were bright, the people wore bright clothes... Even the water seemed to shine a brighter blue than it did in Kanto. Even though the summers in their homeland were hot, there was something fresh and tropical about this kind of heat. Blue quite liked it, and it gave him the excuse to wear all the really cool summer clothes he'd bought from Kalos again.
Red on the other hand, seemed to be struggling a little, which was no surprise really, considering he spent most of his time training in a freezing cold mountain. He kept his hand at his red cap, as if doing this would shield his face from the sun better. At least Pikachu was enjoying himself, nearly everyone in Alola wanted to make a fuss of it. The electric rodent seemed to be even more popular here than most places, and that was saying something. There was also the factor that Red's Pikachu was debatably the Pikachu that started the whole Pikachu craze in the first place. His fight against LT Surge's Raichu had made headlines and the whole world seemed to fall in love with the underdog that refused to use a Thunderstone.
Then when Red vanquished Team Rocket and became Champion with Pikachu at his side, it became the Pokemon everyone wanted. Red had obviously worked very hard to train Pikachu into a Pokemon that could stand on it's own, without even the use of an evolite. It was quite an astounding feat, Blue couldn't deny. His own Pokemon were nearly all at their final stages of evolution. They were just much stronger that way, but Pikachu was a beast. Blue felt he knew that better than anyone.
Red turned to him with a slightly irritated expression, and Blue realized that he'd been glaring at Pikachu for the last five minutes. Blue held up his hands in dismissal, before glancing away just as moodily. He'd never really traveled with Red like this before, usually he was the one seeking Red out, and when it was just the both of them in Mount Silver, things... were good. Red even spoke once or twice, and Blue sometimes felt as if he lived for moments like that. It was... a weird feeling, but it was a nice one. It didn't really matter regardless, even when Blue was a bratty child, he still somehow always knew what Red was thinking. Perhaps it was that telepathic rival sense. Though he supposed that right now, they weren't rivals at all, and maybe they hadn't been for a long while.
“I know you only came here to check out Aether," Blue suddenly said, “But we've got to do this Battle Tree thing for at least a month, okay? Up until they find some replacements. With the league in place, it shouldn't take too long..."
Red nodded, but then he looked at Blue thoughtfully, eyes boring into him. Then he smiled and gave Blue a light punch to the shoulder. Blue's face turned as red as a Charmeleon, and he rubbed his shoulder defensively, as though Red had laid a massive karate chop to it.
“You can't play that game with me, if I was part of the reason you were doing this, you'd had come home to Pallet years ago."
Blue hadn't meant for this to come out so sharply, bickering like this was always their game, but Red seemed to take it personally, a wave of regret overcoming his features. Pikachu whined a little sadly, as if emoting for him. Blue rubbed the back of his head, feeling awkward.
“C'mon. You know I was joking, you're the longest running champion. You got a big destiny and all that. I'm... I'm just saying it'd be nice for you to visit your Mom once in a while. Sometimes I think I'm the only one that gets to see you, and even then, it's not much. Eh, forget about it. I seriously was just kidding around.“
Red stared for a little longer, and nodded again. Neither of them said a word for the rest of the walk, and it wasn't in their usual companionable silence.
The trainers at the Battle Tree were a spirited bunch, but it was clear that serious battle wasn't really a massive thing in Alola yet. They were greeted enthusiastically by the hosts, who as always, seemed much more interested in Red, who as always, was not very interested in them. Blue did most of the talking, and it didn't take long for arrangements to be made. As night fell upon them, Red disappeared somewhere quiet, and Blue decided to take advantage of the stadium. It reminded Blue lots of Fortree City in Hoenn, and after a few warm up battles with other members of the tournament, he let Exeggutor loose for a wander. One of the trainers gasped in delight, and Blue turned his head, wondering why Exeggutor had piked her interest of all things. Alright, Exeggutor was awesome, but usually it didn't get much attention from girls. None the less, she bounded over, reaching out to stroke it's leaves delicately, Exeggutor grunted with appreciation, all three of it's faces baring a docile grin.
“Wow... They're so soft and shiny! I never thought I'd be be able to touch the head of an Exeggutor like this...!"
Blue couldn't help preening, patting Exeggutor proudly. “He's a big softy really, better watch out for him in battle tomorrow though. He's a tank, but he can sweep up a team anytime, especially when he uses Psychic."
The girl gawped. “Psychic? Your Exeggutor knows Psychic? That's so cool! I wanna go to Kanto so bad, all the Pokemon there sound so amazing..."
Blue looked a little perplexed, there was something he didn't know here, but he didn't really want to let on. “Well. Yeah. There's a Psychic specialist in Fuchsia City. That's where I caught him too."
“Oh! At the Safari Zone? I heard that's one of the best places for catching Pokemon in Kanto! Though it's so funny that over there Exeggutor are considered rare. Though I suppose in a way, your Exeggutors are!" A man called the girl over, and she sighed, reluctantly giving Exeggutor one last pat. “I better go, but I'm super excited to see you battle tomorrow Mr Oak. Goodbye!“
As the night stretched on even further, Red reappeared in time for them both to be greeted by Oak's cousin, Samson. A man that looked more like his brother than his cousin. When Blue pointed this out, he let out a loud laugh that made Red shift a little uncertainly.
“Hah! I get that all the time! I suppose you could say I'm his Alolan form!“
“So that's it! Pokemon take on different forms here?“ Blue said accusingly, as if Samson had intentionally kept the information for him. Red cleared his throat, and Blue whipped around to look, just in time to see Red toss a Pokéball in the air to reveal the strangest looking Raichu he'd ever seen. Pikachu clapped it's little paws together in delight, and Samson joined him.
“Oho! This one already has it figured out I see!“
Blue was seething. “We've been here a day and you're already caught that thing? That can't be a Raichu, surely not."
Raichu puffed up it's cheeks, small sparks leaping from them as it balanced on it's tail.
Samson chucked. “It certainly is. It seems that in Alola, Kanto Pokemon have grown to have different forms, just like this little fellow here. He's a Psychic type too.“
Blue grimaced. It wasn't like he didn't know about forms, he'd learnt about most types of strange Poképhenomenon over the years, but sometimes it felt like he couldn't keep up with it all. His specialty was always the hard hitting simplicity of his beloved Kanto Pokemon. To learn something about them like this was troubling. He supposed he'd have to take this trip as an opportunity to learn more. Red withdrew the strange Raichu and gave Blue a gentle pat on the shoulder, a faint smile over his features. Blue couldn't help but awkwardly smile back, thinking that maybe learning all these new things with Red would make the experience all the more memorable.
The next morning, Blue expected that Red would have shaken off his difficulties with the bright sun, but it was quite the contrary. Dark circles were under his eyes, and he was more silent than ever. It didn't look like he'd slept much. Blue frowned, they were due to meet the Alolan Champion today and Red wasn't the best at giving first impressions at the best of times. The new Alolan champion was a kid, sure, but the two of them knew better than most that it certainly wouldn't mean that she wasn't clever or perceptive. Even Pikachu looked concerned, it kept pawing at Red's cheek, as if it were willing him to smile. Blue sighed, finishing up his breakfast before heading over to him.
“You gonna eat something? I think Pikabrat here has eaten more food this morning than you have over the last entire week.“
Pikachu growled, but it seemed too concerned with Red to bother with Blue much, especially when Red just shook his head. Blue raised an eyebrow.
“What's up? Are you sick?"
Red shook his head again, looking away this time. Blue just tutted.
“Fine, be that way. I better go practice my tonsil waggin', since I'm the only one that's going to be talking to the press today. Smell ya later.“
Once again, something that Blue had intended to come out a light and teasing, came out more than a little bitterly, but there was no time to dwell on it now. He left Red to it, before getting ready for the day ahead, carefully selecting an extremely slick outfit for showing off to the public. Blue always put the highest amount of effort into making both him and his Pokemon look cool as possible when battling. When he battled the Alolan Champion today, whether he won or lost, he'd look damn good doing either. He selected his favorite party, with Alakazam at the helm, and was ready to set off.
When Red finally appeared, he at least looked more put together, wearing a more summery variation on his usual outfit. It was almost strange seeing him look more casual, but it was kind of nice too. He looked a great deal older in a T-shirt that clung perhaps a little too tightly to his muscles, though his everyday red cap still kept him looking familiar. Blue caught himself staring a few more times than he'd have liked. Red didn't look back once, he didn't even keep in step with Blue and he obviously didn't say a word, but Blue hadn't been expecting that anyway. When they arrived at the Battle Tree, he stalked off again and Blue sighed, looking vaguely apologetic at the trainers there to greet them.
“Don't mind him. He's uh. Stomach ache.“
The woman hosting the tournament vaguely nodded, looking at the door that Red at stormed through, but then she smiled back at Blue, shaking his hand.
“It's an honor to have you both here. We never thought so many Champions would turn up to our little set up, especially two such prestiged Champions of Kanto.“
Blue preened proudly, since it wasn't often that he was acknowledged as anything higher than Gym Leader these days. Perhaps the people of Alola were a little more easily impressed due to the league being newly established, but it was still nice to be admired. It wasn't long before he was weaving a long story about to a growing group of people about how he'd singled-handedly stopped Team Rocket at the age of only nine, before becoming the youngest Gym Leader in at the time, and while he was embellishing a lot of details (It had obviously been Red that stopped Team Rocket, and he was actually eleven at the time, but the part about the youngest Gym Leader was true) it was still a lot of fun to be happily boasting to a willing audience again.
After the crowd cleared, the girl who'd been admiring Exeggutor yesterday appeared. She looked like she'd dressed for the occasion, wearing a pretty, floaty dress that was decorated with hibiscus flowers. Gold bangles went up and down her slim, brown arms and her hair waved prettily at her shoulders.
“Blue! It's so good to see you again! I realized I didn't introduce myself yesterday. I'm Alani. I'm going to be one of the competitors here. I'm a bit nervous, but it's exciting." She then winked, tapping her nose coyly. “Am I going to get to see the wonderful Exeggutor unleash his amazing Psychic powers?“
Blue smirked, picking Exeggutor's Pokéball from his belt, tossing it up and down in his palm. “I should think so. He's ready for a good battle. We're going up against the Champion today.“
Alani squealed with delight, but then the man from yesterday called her over again, sounding a bit sharper than he previously had. Alani huffed, but then she smiled again.
“That's my boyfriend, I should... probably go. But I'll have my eye on you Mr Oak!" With that, she giggled and daintily ran off to join said boyfriend. Blue couldn't help but sigh wistfully, but he wasn't really all that bothered.
When he turned though, someone seemed much more bothered. Red had apparently been behind them the whole time, giving Blue such a icy stare, that Blue thought he'd turn to stone. There was a stretching awkward silence between them, even Pikachu looked uncomfortable.
“...Um. Red...? What's your problem?“
Red just tutted furiously, about to storm off again, but then the woman from reception spoke over an intercom, announcing that the Champion had arrived. Of all the times. This wasn't a good enough reason for Red to stay, but Blue caught his arm, hissing to him furiously.
“Look. I'm sorry I can't tell what's up with you, but we're going to go out there, and put on a good show, alright? Everyone's here to see the great Champion of Kanto.“ Blue spat this out, bitterly as ever. This time Red didn't flinch or look sad. He just glared and glared, fist clenching at his side. Then the moment passed, and he composed himself, walking towards the Battle Tree's entrance. Blue tutted quietly, feeling incredibly churned up, but he followed all the same.
Alola's Champion was a small, skinny girl with a slightly unnerving smile. She seemed vaguely dazed upon becoming Champion, as if it had all happened at once, beyond her expectations. Blue couldn't say he recognized the feeling. He'd been a child Champion too, but it hadn't made him nervous or confused, it had filled him with nothing but raw drive, but even that hadn't been enough against Red. Blue teased him cheekily in front of the Champion, but he still said nothing. No congratulations, or even a greeting. He wasn't glaring anymore, but his expression was still stony. The Champion didn't look particularly bothered by this though, and when Blue asked who she wanted to battle, she immediately chose Red. Typical. Despite his foul mood, Red accepted, letting Pikachu leap from his shoulder, light ball clutched tightly in it's paws.
After an explosive battle, Red came through victorious and the crowd went wild, delighted to see Red's famous Pikachu in action. Alola's Champion looked a little pained, but accepted her defeat gracefully. After all, losing to Red was probably the smallest dishonor a trainer could face when it came to losing. That's what Blue told himself anyway.
After a full day of battling at the Tree, Red and Blue retired at Samson's place once more. More famous trainers from around the world had shown up, and tomorrow, Sinnoh's former Champion Cynthia would be taking the stage. Blue decided to take the opportunity to explore the islands a little more. He saw to Pidgeot, rubbing some massage oil he'd bought from Johto on it's wings, before feeding it a Masala he'd bought earlier in the day. It stretched contently, squawking quietly in confirmation when Blue quietly explained their route for tomorrow. As it settled down to sleep, Blue withdrew it into it's Pokéball, feeling a gentle sense of pride of how far he'd come in this department at least.
Feeling his good mood on the brisk of returning, Blue went to find Red, with the intent of asking him if he wanted to join him tomorrow. He found him out in the garden, petting Pikachu's sleeping head as he looked up at the moon.
Red turned, only looking vaguely surprised before turning to look back up at the sky. Blue blew his fringe out of his eyes in exasperation, walking down the garden steps to go sit with him.
“Your silent treatment feels colder than usual.“
Red of course said nothing, but his brow furrowed slightly. Blue rolled his eyes, and let them sit in the quiet for longer, the silence only punctuated by the sound of fluttering Ledybas and Pikachu's soft snoring.
“So, are you going back after this? To Mount Silver, I mean.“
Blue expected Red to nod immediately, but instead, after another long pause, he shrugged. Blue couldn't help but feel a twinge of hopefulness somewhere in his heart. Red looked up, before glancing pointedly at the Pokéballs at Blue's belt and Blue was gently brought back to his page.
“I thought she was going to choose me, to battle I mean... But thinking about it now, they always choose you, don't they? The great Red. I'm just the kid who lost to Red because he didn't look after his Pokemon properly.“ Blue laughed hollowly, and looked straight ahead. “People love a silent hero, y'know? Not some mouthy brat like me.“
Blue didn't see Red vehemently shaking his head, but his ears didn't miss what came next. Red's lips parted and croaked out a slightly raspy voice that obviously hadn't been used for a long time. His strong, tall frame and broad jaw didn't exactly fit well with the stuttered sound that came out.
“Yy-you've come... f-ffar."
Blue felt stupid for suddenly wanting to cry. He clenched his fist and took a shaky breath, entirely unsure of how to feel. Having Red back had all the feelings of inadequacy he thought he'd buried come bubbling to the surface, but at the same time, he didn't want Red to leave again either. The thought made his heart hurt. Blue suddenly clenched his teeth, grabbing a Pokéball from his belt to brandish it, almost wildly.
“Let's battle. Now. For old times sake."
Red suddenly looked very tired, and simply shook his head, Blue felt infuriated.
“C'mon, you're the Champion, right? You're obligated to accept any challenge that comes your way.“
Red shook his head again, looking away this time. Pikachu stirred in his arms and he stroked it's head, trying to quieten it like a child. Blue just felt more annoyed, letting out a strangled cry of frustration.
“You don't respect me at all, do you? I get that you're Mr Soft Touch when it comes to Pokemon but... but... couldn't you think about the humans in your life for once...?“
This time, it was Blue's turn to storm off, furiously slamming the backdoor behind him in a tantrum reminiscent of his ten year old self.
It was going to be a long trip.