May has the key to Mr. Briney’s cottage in the front pocket of her shorts but there’s no reason to take it out. When she turns the doorknob, there’s no resistance. The door swings open easily, unlocked. It’s not a surprise, really. Mr. Briney had always liked getting visitors at any hour of the day.
Peeko flies off her shoulder once the door is open and May can see her zoom a circuit around the room once before coming to a faltering landing on the table. The Wingull glances around the room expectantly, then she looks at May and then at Brendan hovering over her shoulder before her wings droop in disappointment, and maybe in grief, too.
May wonders if Peeko understands that Mr. Briney is dead, if she can understand he’s gone for good and why, or if she just knows that he isn’t here right now. Some Pokemon have concepts of death, May knows, and mourning rituals to go with it but she doesn’t know if Wingulls are one of the species who do.
Brendan will know, she thinks, but now doesn’t seem the right time to ask – not in front of Peeko, at least, like she’s not even there. Mr. Briney had always talked to Peeko like a person who could understand him and from everything May had seen, she could. May won’t disrespect Peeko or Mr. Briney’s memory by doing anything less, not in the man’s own home, not now when she’s all that Peeko has.
May sighs, steadies herself, and crosses the threshold.
After a moment, she can hear Brendan’s soft footsteps following behind until he’s standing next to her, his shoulder brushing against hers just so, surveying the room just as May is – surveying all the signs of life Mr. Briney had left behind, signs of a life well lived.
“Thanks for coming with me,” she says to Brendan, watching him from the corner of her eye. “I know I’ve said that about a million times already, but I mean it. Really, I do.”
She can see the pink tinge spreading across Brendan’s cheekbones at the words and looks away before he can look at her and catch her staring.
“It’s fine,” Brendan reassures, another frequently repeated phrase lately. “I’m happy to help. Mr. Briney was always good to me, too, you know?”
May hums in agreement. She does know. She doesn’t think she’d have ever gotten farther than Rustboro City as a rookie trainer if it hadn’t been for Mr. Briney and she’s sure Brendan feels the same.
Brendan continues, “It’s funny, though – I kinda always thought he’d be around forever. These last few years, he’s seemed so happy to be sailing again, so energetic. I just never thought---”
He stops himself and clears his throat, uncomfortable.
May hesitates for only a second but then raises a hand to rest on his shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze before letting her touch slide away, not saying a word, not looking at him, knowing that talking it out will only make Brendan more uncomfortable and that the expression she knows is on his face will be one he’d be embarrassed for her to see.
She takes another step into the room instead, paying attention to the wardrobe and chest of drawers resting against the far wall and pointedly refusing to look at the mug of tea still sitting on the table or to the sad way Peeko, who sits beside of it, seems to be staring into its depths.
May wonders if there’s still tea in it, if Mr. Briney had been expecting to finish the cup before –
She stops that train of thought, her throat tight.
Focus on the task at hand, she tells herself and then realizes –
“I don’t know where to start,” she admits. “I know it’s what he asked for but it still feels wrong to go through his things without him here.”
She can hear Brendan sigh behind her. She imagines he’s looking at the room and wondering where to start, too.
“You have the list of things he wanted to be sent to people, right?” he asks and May nods, making a small sound of confirmation.
She pulls the crisp, carefully folded stationary paper out of her other front pocket – the one without the key – and turns around to hold it up for Brendan.
He’s biting his lip as he looks at it, his face calm but determined, a plan of action clearly in mind, and May can’t help the rush of gratitude she feels – again – at having him here with her. She doesn’t want to help it, she can’t imagine doing this thing alone.
“How about this,” he says. “You take the wardrobe on the left, I take the drawers on the right. We take everything out of them and lay it all out and deal with the things on the list – then we can just...figure out what to do with everything else. One thing at a time.”
“One thing at a time,” May repeats softly, thinking about it.
It’s a good plan, practical. Exactly the kind of plan Mr. Briney would suggest himself if he were here.
He’s not, though.
May wishes he were.
“Alright,” she sighs, nodding at Brendan. “Let’s do that, then.”
She goes to her side of the room and Brendan goes to his.
On the table, Peeko remains and like a sentry, watches their every move.