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A Certain Darkness is Needed to See the Brightest Stars

Chapter Text

                “So I have your memories.”

                “What?”

                “I really don’t know how to better explain it than that.” The man shakes his head and shifts in his chair. “No one’s been able to figure out yet.”

                “I don’t understand.”

                “Well it’s…” The man sighs and runs his hands down his face, the action knocking the cap off his head. “I don’t know why I have them. You had my memories when you came here, too, and no one figured it out then either.”

                “What do you mean? I don’t have your memories!” Her hands smack at the bed she’s sitting on as she wildly shakes her head.

                “Well you don’t now, obviously.”

                “I don’t understand!” She cries, tears building in her eyes.

                “Hmm… I suppose I could tell you them. Your memories, I mean. I could tell you your story.”

                “My story? What do you mean?” She looks him in the eye, desperate to understand what’s going on.

                “Maybe it’ll help you remember. I know everything that happened to you during those 10 months, I could recount your journey here.” He looks off into the distance and continues quietly, more to himself than his bedridden companion. “Maybe it’ll help me figure out who I am, too.”

                She nods. “You think it’ll help me remember? Can I even remember if you have my memories?”

                “Well it certainly can’t do much harm,” he laughs, “and I still had my memories when you had mine, so I don’t see why you couldn’t also remember your own memories. Just don’t go remembering mine too, you hear?”

                She smiles slightly at this. “Why not? Didn’t I have them before? How do you even know they’re yours and not mine?”

                “Well if ya stop buggin’ me with questions-“ he cuts himself off as he suddenly stands. He grabs a chair from across the room, and drags it back to the comfy armchair he had just been seated in. He throws himself back into the chair with an exaggerated sound, throwing his feet up on the second chair and swiping his previously fallen hat from the floor in a graceless gesture. He plunks the hat back on his head before leaning back against his arms. “Get comfy, we’re gonna be here a while.”

                “I’m gonna start where this all began for you, in the Slumbering Weald.”

Chapter Text

                You wake up in a foggy forest. You’re not sure why, you went to bed in your bed last night, not out here. Wherever out here was. You attempt to sit up, finding yourself dizzy and sore. Standing isn’t an option right now, so you take a moment to get your bearings. You don’t immediately recognize this place, not like every forest you’ve ever been in is super recognizable though. You don’t immediately feel fear, and this you do notice, because you should definitely be afraid, waking up somewhere you don’t recognize. Yet, you aren’t. You feel oddly calm, like this is exactly where you’re supposed to be right now. It’s a strange feeling, and it unsettles you, as you aren’t feeling this way at all. You take yourself in, you’re wearing the loose shirt and boxers you went to bed in, but…

                “Was this shirt always this loose?” You say out loud. This startles you, your voice sounds funny. It cracked weirdly, like you were pitching it too low, and sounded much higher than you remember. You start looking closer at yourself, and you look different too. Your limbs are smaller, this shirt could almost be a dress on you, and are those boobs?!

                “I’M A GIRL?!” You shout, before cursing loudly. This seems to get the attention of whatever creatures are nearby, as you hear the underbrush around you begin rustling. Locating the direction of the sound, you turn around on your ass and try to get away, but you find you still can’t stand.

                Out of the bushes comes a right formidable beast. It’s probably taller than you’d be standing, but you’re not sure how tall you are now. With the fog, the details are a bit hard to make out, but you think it may have blue fur. It’s covered in scars, and will likely eat you here. Your back hits a tree and this thing is still coming towards you. You have nowhere to go, and can’t do much but stare into its eyes. However, you find nothing but peace there, and feel that this beast has no ill will towards you. It stops less than a metre away and you just stare at it for a while. Eventually, it turns its back and begins walking away. It doesn’t get far before it turns its head to look at you.

                “Oh, do you want me to follow you?” You ask, feeling kind of silly trying to talk to it. When it nods, however, you feel less silly. You heavily lean on the tree as you begin trying to stand. You feel so weak, everything hurts, but you can’t see any injuries on yourself and nothing particularly feels injured. You try to take a step forward and lose your balance, falling forward. At least you’re able to catch yourself on the next tree, and you use the trees as support as you walk. It takes you time, but with the help of the trees around you, you’re able to catch up to the beast.

                Although you’re not sure where it’s taking you, you figure anything is better than sitting in this dense forest. As you have no idea where you are, you also have no idea how to get back to, well, anywhere. Home? You’re not sure where you’d like to go. Anywhere familiar would be nice at this point, you think. Which is why, when a weird looking squirrel trots past you, you don’t initially think much of it. Unfamiliar place, unfamiliar animals, it all checks out.

                It’s when you hear it that you realize something truly weird is going on. He’s apparently hunting for berries, if the weird feeling of communication you have with it is something to be trusted. It’s less something you hear and more something you feel, and your mind tells you that you must be dreaming in order to cope. Because surely, that’s the only logical explanation, right?

                While following this beast, you see more weird animals, and you get the feeling that animals might not be the right word for it. You’re not sure the word though, this is all still very strange and most of your focus is still going to keeping you upright as you try to slowly walk after this beast. Who is being very patient, mind you, waiting for you at times as you fall behind. You see more light coming from ahead, and you sigh in relief at the thought of being out of this forest. The beast stops, and throws his head in the direction of the streaming sunlight. There’s a path, you notice, and you get the feeling that following it will finally lead you out.

                “Thank you,” you offer to it as you pass it, and continue stumbling out into the light. There are less animals here on the path, but you still notice them as you walk. As you get closer to what you assume is the exit, you hear what sounds like a sheep baah-ing, and a voice. A human voice. You try to pick up the pace, maybe they can help you.

                “… the matter … don’t see anything…” you hear the voice say. A male? At least he speaks English, you think, as you continue to make your way out of the woods. You see a gate before you see him, leaning heavily over it with his hand brimming his eyes. He’s clearly looking for something, and he looks down at the funny looking sheep at his side before talking again. “Are you sure something is out there? I can’t see anything from here.”

                He’s talking to the sheep, you realize, and the sheep baas back at him. It seems to look right at you and you feel it again, you understand the sheep is trying to tell this man that you are out there.

                “Alright, I’ll keep looking, relax Wooloo,” he gestures to the sheep before looking out again. This time, as he swings his head around, he finds you, and as your eyes meet, you get a good look at him. He’s got short, dark purple hair, and warm honey gold eyes that go wide with shock when they meet yours. He’s wearing a warm looking jean jacket with a soft looking lining, and it makes you realize how cold you feel out here in basically nothing. “Hey! Are you ok?!” He calls before easily jumping the fence. He’s running over to you before you’re even fully out of the forest, and he holds out his hands as he gets a good look at you.

                He frowns, and you’re not sure why until he asks “Who even are you?”

Chapter Text

                You’re not sure how to answer his question. He makes it sound like the weird thing is that he doesn’t recognize you, not that you can barely stand and are dangerously close to falling into his open arms. He looks like he’s not sure if he should reach out and help you or not, as he clearly intended to do so before he realized he didn’t know who you are.

                “Me? Who are you?” You shoot back, but your voice sounds quiet and rough, even to your own ears. It doesn’t surprise you when this man winces at the sound.

                “I’m Hop, and you’re clearly poorly. Let me help you back to my place, get you looked over.” Hop says, and then he seems to take a better look at you. His cheeks go red when he realizes the state you’re in, and he quickly scrambles to remove his jacket. He steps closer to toss it over your shoulders, looking up and away from you while he does. His hands remain on your shoulders once the jacket has covered you, and you tug it around you properly to cover yourself. It’s warm, and the whole inside is made of that same soft looking lining and it’s really as soft as it feels and you’re wholly distracted by this, so much so, that you quite literally fall.

                Hop catches you, righting you quickly, and either he’s stronger than he looks, which is not very strong, or you’re much lighter than you used to be. A glance down at yourself reminds you that the latter is very much the case, and you mumble an apology to Hop for falling into him. He’s got a solid grip on you, and you do still have to lean into him as you walk, but he successfully gets you all the way out of the forest.

                “What were you doing in there, anyway? Don’t you know this place is off limits for a reason? You could have gotten seriously hurt.” Hop sounds concerned, and you have to consider his question for a moment, and how to answer it.

                “I… Don’t really know. I woke up in there.” You decide on the truth. He didn’t seem dangerous, and he seemed like he wanted to help.

                “Wait, woke up in there? You don’t know how you got there? Did you lose your memories or something?” This guy asks way too many questions, you think, and you’re still trying to focus on walking through all this pain and dizziness, it’s hard to focus on the questions he’s asking you.

                “No, I remember perfectly fine who I am,” you reply, but he’s pushing you against the gate that he jumped earlier.

                “Hang on, lemme see if I can get this open,” and he’s hopping the gate once more, his funny looking sheep baaing in happiness at his return. And you feel this sheep’s happiness in a way you really can’t explain. You’re distracted thinking about the implications of that when Hop’s voice pulls you from your thoughts, “Nope, locked up on this side. Gonna have to help you over the gate. Think you can do it?”

                His accent suddenly hits you. British, or something, you think, and you suddenly get the weird sensation that you are much farther from home than you originally thought. How did you get here? Where even is here? Overwhelmed, it’s all you can do but nod as Hop helps you over the gate. He mostly has to pull you over it, and he's once again blushing and looking away as he grabs you around the waist to lift you over.

                Safely on the ground on the other side of the gate, Hop recomposes himself and launches into questions once more. “So who are you then?” He looks at you like he’s trying to figure out where he might know you from, but he gives you room to answer his question this time.

                You give him your name. He nods, “Can’t say I’ve heard of you then, which means you’re not from around here. Where you from then? Wedgehurst?” Hop is once again launching ahead without you in this conversation, and you’re left trying to process. Wedgehurst? Was that somewhere near here? You’d never heard of it before, which means it’s not near your home.

                When you try to describe where you’re from, Hop doesn’t even recognize the continent. “You’re not even from Galar?! How did you get here then?” Hop is shocked, and he moves around too much when he talks, it knocks you off balance and he has to catch you and right you once more.

                You try to take in what’s around you. Galar? You’ve never heard of such a place. You notice there were mostly fields around you, and you were on a small trail through them. The two of you were walking past a rustic looking cottage, grown over by various plants. It didn’t look like anyone had lived there in a while. “Where’s Galar?” You finally ask.

                Hop stops walking all together at this. He turns to face you, both his hands on your shoulders to keep you upright. “Mate,” he sounds exasperated. He screws up his face, he was likely trying to think of how to explain this.

                “Are you from the Mainland then? Or somewhere farther like Unova or Kalos? Actually, you’ve got a Unovan accent there kind of,” Hop trails off and looks at you, waiting for an answer.

                Unova. Kalos. You knew those. Those were places in a made up video game about monsters you could battle with and there was no way that was real. You were dreaming. That was it. This is a dream that you are going to wake up from and tell your friends about and laugh about and they’re going to tease you about how you’re so excited about the new games that you’re dreaming about them which is not true at all you really aren’t even all that interested in them these days and you’ll all find this so silly and everything is going to be fine-

                You don’t realize you’re hyperventilating until your knees hit the dirt. Hop is rubbing your back and is trying to get you to breathe with him, you realize, but more than hear him try to talk you through breathing as he is clearly also not quite sure what to do about this, you feel his weird sheep wanting you to calm down, you feel it’s worry. That grounds you, in a weird way, and you’re able to calm down and follow Hop’s slightly panicked breathing instructions.

                Calming down helps you realize something. That weird sheep could be a Pokémon. You had to know. Is this all real? “What is that” you finally ask, pointing to the sheep.

                “Have you never seen a Wooloo before?” Hop asks, a small smile creeping onto his face as humour dances in his eyes.

                “A Wooloo? What’s a Wooloo?” You didn’t know any Pokémon called Wooloo, but then again, you stopped playing the video games years ago, and you know you’d missed a few.

                Hop looks confused by your question though. “It’s a Pokémon native to Galar, I’m guessing you don’t know much about Galar Pokémon then?”

                “Pokémon?!” You couldn’t help how loud that ripped out of you. Then it was true. Was it? How could it be? “Pokémon aren’t real!” It’s more a whisper than a shout, your voice giving out.

                “Mate, what are you on about? Of course they’re real. Are you sure you remember everything?” Hop sounds teasing, but he looks genuinely worried about you.

                “Hop. I don’t know how to explain this. It’s going to sound weird to you, I think, but where I’m from? Pokémon aren’t real. Pokémon don’t exist. They’re all made up by some company in a foreign country. I don’t know how I got here. I just woke up here, in that forest. I went to bed in my home, in a world without Pokémon, and I woke up here.” You finish, glad you were already on the ground because this was all so overwhelming and you probably wouldn’t be able to stand anyways.

                Hop nods. “Ok, you’re right, you sound like a right nutter, but I think you’re telling the truth. Let’s get you back to my place, my mum’ll know what to do.” You nod, and let him help you up. He points out his home, down the lane, you can barely make it out over the hills, and leads you off, still helping you walk. He uses this time to talk excitedly about Pokémon, and you lap up this knowledge in earnest, because if this was real, you needed to know what information you knew about Pokémon was relevant and what wasn’t.

                Reaching his home, he helps you inside, and you’re laid down on a couch while Hop’s mother, Margret is what she tells you to call her, fusses over you. You and Hop fill her in while she assesses you for injuries. When she finishes, she instructs Hop to lend you some of his clothes while she went off to call someone named Leon.

                You follow Hop up to his room, and he mumbles complaints about why it has to be his clothes while he digs through his closet. “Who’s Leon?” You ask as he pulls out a shirt and pants for you.

                Hop grins wide, “Lee? He’s my older brother, and the undefeated champion of Galar! You’ve never heard of him?!” Hop is surprised, but he looks ready to fill you in on this. Champion? That term was familiar. You knew what a champion was, the greatest trainer in a region. Did that mean Pokémon Trainers, and Pokémon battles, were real? You couldn’t help the grin that split your face at this realization. You had to know! This was too cool!

                “Champion? Does that mean he’s the best Pokémon Trainer? Do people really battle with Pokémon?” Now you’re the one overly excited with too many questions. Hop’s grin only gets wider, however, and he spins you around and begins leading you down the hall.

                “Yep! Get changed and I’ll throw one of his matches on the telly!” He pushes you into a bathroom, and closes the door behind you. A match? You couldn’t wait. You were about to throw off your shirt and change when you caught a look of yourself in the mirror. You looked vastly different than before, with brown hair that landed just past your jaw, and warm brown eyes. You were short, slight, and pale as a ghost. You looked like hell, but you were also way more attractive than you’d ever been before. Why was your body different though? You shook your head, and ran some water, wiping at your face in an attempt to feel better.

                You finish changing, bringing your old shirt back with you. You walk back to Hop’s room, leaning on the wall for support as you go. You take in the pictures, and realize the other male, with long purple hair, must be Hop’s older brother Leon. You wonder why Margret had to call Leon. As you enter Hop’s room, however, you’re distracted by the fact that there is a Charizard on his television screen, battling a Pokémon you didn’t recognize immediately.

                Hop turns to look at you as you come in. “This was his match yesterday, let me restart it!”

                Everything else could wait. You were about to watch a real Pokémon battle, and that was way more important.

Chapter Text

                There were a few key things you pick up on while watching Leon fight a man named Raihan. The first being how showy battles are. Perhaps that was more to the fact that these were giant beasts with crazy powers who ran all over a giant field with their trainers while trying to take each other down.

                “Don’t the Pokémon get hurt though?” You ask, the implications of battling in a real life setting concern you.

                “Yeah, but nothing they can’t heal off in a few hours. The goal is to knock out your opponent, not maim them.” Hop answers, his eyes still on the tv while he talks.

                “But you’re making them fight for your enjoyment, doesn’t that seem unfair?” You fire back, thinking of the adorable Wooloo Hop had, and wonder how he could make a creature like that do things like you see on screen. Hop mentioned he was a trainer as he was walking you over here, so you know he does this too. You don’t think you could do it.

                “Huh? No, forcing them is against the rules. Pokémon want to fight, at least most of them do. Your Pokémon has to want to fight for you to be successful in battle. That’s what it takes to be a trainer, a partner who trusts their trainer fully. You can’t have that if you’re forcing your Pokémon to fight.” He’s very passionate about this, as it’s pulled his attention from the screen. He’s looking right at you as he explains, and you can see the passion in his eyes.

                “You either really love Pokémon, or you really love battling, I can’t tell. But I’m glad to hear you can’t force them to battle.” You smile at him before returning to watch the match.

                The next thing you learn is that type match ups are a thing, and are accurate to everything you can recall of the type match up chart. Your firing off of match ups and their effectiveness, and how many you get correct, impresses Hop. “You sure you don’t have Pokémon where you’re from mate?” He teases, but you explain that you just really love Pokémon and speculate that you only remember so much because you used to play the games so much.

                This launches Hop into a discussion about video games, and you’re excited to learn this world has video games too. You wonder what those will be like before Hop is pulling up another match to talk more about battling again.

                Watching Leon fight is amazing. He banters with his opponents before the match starts, and then he’s bringing out Charizard, who will take down multiple Pokémon before his opponent can knock the powerful Pokémon out. You notice Charizard sometimes goes in for hits, but mostly fights from a distance, forcing his opponent to chase him around the massive stadium. Your lungs ache just watching the grey haired woman run after her Pokémon while they chase Charizard down.

                This prompts you to ask Hop about the effectiveness of physical moves versus moves from a distance, which Hop tries to explain but doesn’t seem to grasp well. He knows it, and he knows his brother has books on it, and he’s running out of the room to grab them before you can stop him. He’s quickly back, dumping the books in your lap as he sits back on his bed once more.

                You flip through the book and Hop turns down the volume while he tries to point to what you should be looking for from his position above you on the bed. After reading about it, you realize it works similarly to the games, and that different Pokémon were stronger physically than they were with special abilities. And there you found the magic words that made sense to you, physical moves and special moves. Physical defense and special defense were also mentioned, as well as speed. You didn’t see anything about HP, but came across something called stamina that sounded like it could refer to HP.

                “A lot of that stuff goes over my head, that’s the really advanced battling techniques.” Hop explains, “I don’t know if that helps explain what you were asking about, hope it does.”

                You nod, “It does, actually. It answers it exactly. Thanks.” You hand the book back to him, satisfied with what you’d learned. Hop had put another match on, this one against a bigger man with cool sunglasses. “Who are all these people Leon’s fighting, by the way? Other top trainers?”

                “Uh, yeah. Oh! You wouldn’t know about All Stars! The top 32 trainers compete in a round robin tournament to determine who the best in Galar is. It’s only the second most important competition in Galar, as it determines who gets to enter the Champion Cup! Only the top 16 make it, and the Champion Cup is the most important, as it determines who the Champion of Galar is! Winner gets a chance to take down the current Champion, those matches are high stakes as it’s a single elimination tournament!” Hop doesn’t even seem out of breath by the time he’s done. There’s a wide grin on his face and a light in his eyes that tells you how important all this is to him. Makes sense, his brother is pretty wrapped up in it.

                “So are all these matches ones from this All Stars tournament?” You ask, returning your focus to the match as Leon dynamaxes his Charizard on screen. As his opponent dynamaxes a Pokémon you also don’t recognize, you realize this whole Pokémon getting giant thing looks really silly and also seems really familiar.

                “Yep!” Hop’s voice brings your attention back to him. “These are some of the better ones he’s had so far. More exciting when it’s against people who take down more of his Pokémon, I think. Leon’s in the lead, of course. There’s still two weeks left of the tournament, but he’s gonna win it, because no one can beat him!” Hop mimics the pose Leon takes when he lets Charizard onto the field, and you find a laugh bubbling out without meaning it to.

                “He’s lucky to have you to support him,” you offer before turning back to the match. Leon’s down to a Haxorus now, his Charizard getting taken down early. You missed how, but a guess comes to you. “Is that a rock type he’s fighting?” You ask.

                “Coalossal? He’s rock fire type,” Hop replies, watching the match.

                “Ah, Charizard’s double weakness,” you muse.

                “Whoa, you know about that too? You’re really something! How do you know about all this stuff if you don’t have Pokémon over there?” He’s looking at you again, and he’s got his eyebrows bunched together as he tries to make out your deal.

                “I told you earlier, they’re made up where I’m from. I don’t know what’s true and what isn’t, I’m just spouting off stuff I know. I’m as concerned as you are that I keep getting as much right as I do. What is going on, why am I here, how did I get here?” Hop only looks more concerned as you admit this, however, “Sorry, didn’t mean to freak out, but I don’t understand what’s going on and the longer I’m here, the more I realize this is real and I have no logical way to explain how it’s happening or why.” Tears are suddenly there in your eyes, and it dawns on you how scared you really are, and how you’d been able to ignore it for a while but it was now too much to keep back. Suddenly, you’re having a full on meltdown on the floor in front of Hop’s bed.

                You’re vaguely aware of Hop’s mum coming in and she’s rubbing your back as you calm down. “Sorry, I got overwhelmed” you apologize as you dry your eyes on the sleeves of Hop’s shirt.

                “Not my shirt!” Hop calls from his place on the bed, and you roll your eyes at him.

                Margret explains what happened in her call with Leon. Since you’re not from Galar, and you have no form of ID, someone is going to have to get that set up for you. Leon will, apparently, but he can’t until this tournament is over. For the next two weeks, Margret and Hop will be taking care of you. Margret tells you that you can stay in Leon’s old room, and she’ll go pick some clothes up for you.

                Bringing up the ID prompts Hop to ask for your full name and birthday. When you reveal your age, Hop jolts in surprise. “You don’t look that old!” He shouts as he throws his arms up in the air.

                “What do you mean? I’m going to take that as a compliment,” you grumble back at Hop.

                “Are you really that old? Perhaps you’d prefer to stay somewhere on your own, then?” Margret asks, and you’re a little frustrated they don’t believe you.

                “Well I looked older where I’m from. I don’t know, I look different here, I don’t understand why,” you reply, shaking your head as you shrug your shoulders. You think over Margret’s actual question, and it would be nice to have your own space. “I’m not sure I know enough about this place to stay on my own, but I’d appreciate the space,” you answer honestly.

                Margret nods, “There’s an old cottage down the lane, no one’s lived in it for a while though,” you’re pretty sure you know the one she’s talking about, “We’ll get it cleaned up for you and you can stay there. Tomorrow though, you’ve had quite a day already.” Margret gets up and brushes her pants off. “I’ll go get dinner going, you come let me know if you need anything.”

                “Thank you very much. I appreciate all you’ve both done for me.” You smile at her as she leaves, and Hop is grinning ear to ear when you turn back to him.

                “Sleepover! We can play video games and I can tell you about Pokémon all night! This is gonna be ace!” Hop right bounces on the bed while he gestures wildly with his hands. You laugh at his antics, watching more battles with Hop until dinner.

                You meet Hop’s grandparents at dinner, who also live here. They’ve been filled in, and you hear quiet comments from them later when they think you’ve left the room about a prophecy, and the words “Land Without Pokémon” are brought up repeatedly. It’s better not to eavesdrop, you decide, and before you know it, you’re getting ready for bed. Hop lets you into Leon’s room, putting back the book he grabbed earlier, before wishing you a reluctant good night and leaving. He wanted to play more video games, but Margret had sent you both to bed.

                Laying alone in the room, it’s the first time you’ve been alone with your thoughts since you got here. You wonder what’s going to happen when you wake up, and you find the anxiety of the situation keeps you from falling asleep despite how tired you are. You take in the posters on the walls, the pictures, the trophies and awards, and try to distract yourself with your surroundings. You get up and grab some of the books and try reading, finding none of what you read really sticks with you despite how interested you are in the subject manner.

                At some point you give up and realize sleep isn’t going to come without some form of comfort. Leon’s room has nothing like a stuffed toy, or anything you could really use to cuddle. There’s only one pillow on the bed too. You’re up and knocking on Hop’s door before you’ve even fully decided if you should bug the boy who has been nothing but helpful to you this whole time.

Hop’s tired face opens to your knocking, and he quickly looks concerned when he sees you. “Everything ok?” he asks, rubbing at his eyes.

                You shake your head. “I can’t sleep. Do you have anything like a stuffed toy or something?” You ask, hugging your arms around yourself to keep from shivering in the cold hallway air. You’re back in that threadbare shirt you arrived here in, after all, because it’s comfy to sleep in.

                Hop nods, wandering back into his room. You stay at the door, leaning on the door frame. You’re still a little dizzy, but it’s not nearly as bad as it was earlier. Food, water, and time to process what was going on really helped solve that. Hop’s bumbling around his room, looking for something in the mess. He opens a large chest, and finally seems to find what he’s looking for there, as he pulls out a large looking stuffed Charmander.

                He walks back to the door and hands it to you. “This work?” It’s easily half your size, and you wrap your arms around it and pull it to your chest.

                “Perfectly,” you reply, “thank you.” He smiles and rubs the back of his neck. He wishes you a goodnight before you head back to your room. Crawling back into the unfamiliar bed, this time equipped with something to cuddle, you finally find sleep as the sun begins to shine through the curtains.

Chapter Text

                No one wakes you, either. It’s past noon by the time you pull yourself out of bed. Hop had explained your late night trip to his room, and the family had thankfully let you get your sleep. Margret and her parents had already gone to start tidying that cottage, and Hop had been left in charge of getting you fed. He wasn’t horrible, but you had to step in and help, and together you two managed to cook pancakes for you. You’re glad your cooking skills transferred here.

                The cottage is quaint, a cute kitchen, a cozy sitting room, a cramped bathroom, and a single bedroom that had been separated into two with a room divider. The last people to live here had been a mother and her young daughter, Margret had explained, but they’d left long ago. It was still bigger than the place you had back home, that you shared with another person even. You could easily adapt to this.

                After testing if everything worked, Margret and her mom went to go pick up food and clothes of your own in Wedgehurst, the nearest town. You and Hop rearranged things until their return, and Hop spent most of the day helping you make the place feel like home.

                You spent the next two weeks learning all you could about this weird world you were stuck in. You could safely say you were stuck here now, as you couldn’t really go anywhere until Leon could deal with things. You’d been given vague explanations for this, for why you couldn’t tell other people where you were from, but you think it might have to do with what you heard whispered by Hop’s grandparents that first night.

                You spend a lot of time at Hop’s. Not like you have anywhere else to go. Postwick is more a farming community than a town, and there’s really nothing interesting here. Hop teaches you a lot about Pokémon, and when he’s sent on errands to Wedgehurst, you accompany him just to see him and Wooloo fight off the wild Pokémon that attack your little group. It’s an hour and a half walk to Wedgehurst from your place, plenty of time to see him and Wooloo in action. It really is so much more impressive to see in person, and to witness the connection between trainer and Pokémon required to battle well.

                You catch all of Leon’s matches, and lots of matches from other impressive trainers too. A week in, Margret buys you your own Rotom Phone so you can watch the matches from home, and so she can get a hold of you without having to come all the way over. The more you watch, however, the more you want to be out there on that pitch battling too.

                You help Hop with his chores too. Hop’s family owns a farm, and Hop has responsibilities there. You help him and the family out as a way to repay that they still have to buy your food and help support you.

                You learn more about how to communicate with Pokémon. No one does a very good job of explaining it to you, more talking about the sounds they make or their body language queues, but you eventually figure out how feeling their thoughts works. You’re getting really good at reading what Wooloo and the family’s Purrloin are thinking, so much so that family is shocked at your connection with them.

                The two weeks until Leon can deal with things flies by, and the day is upon you that Hop is bugging you to come with him to Wedgehurst to pick Leon up at the station.

                You’ve heard so much about Leon at this point that you’re excited to meet him in person, and see what a Champion is really like. Hop keeps running ahead, too excited to finally see his brother again. You follow slower, still not quite used to your improved athletic abilities here, as years of illness and poor health have left you careful of conserving energy. You want to rush ahead with him, so you occasionally let Hop grab you by the arm to drag you faster, grumbling about it to hide your excitement. You think Hop sees through you, though, with the way he grins at you and rolls his eyes.

                Leon’s won first place in All Stars, of course, and Hop is sure he’s bringing presents. He won’t stop talking about this, in fact, as well as how excited he is for the barbeque tonight for Leon. Hop thinks he’s bringing Pokémon, and it’s his implication that he’s bringing Pokémon plural that has you speeding up a bit.

                “You really think he’ll have one for me too?” You ask, afraid to hope. Your own Pokémon? That would be so cool. You wanted one, and you hadn’t been very good at hiding that fact. Hop has been teasing you about it the last few days.

                “I’m sure of it, his hints are so obvious!” Hop responds, turning around and walking backwards to talk with you. He doesn’t make it far before tripping over his Wooloo, your warning coming too late as he tumbles over. Wooloo bleats and you feel his concern and exasperation for his human partner. You laugh, as you’ve seen exactly this happen many times already.

                By the time the two of you make it to Wedgehurst a crowd has gathered around in the plaza. You see wings that could only belong to Charizard, and can already guess what this is about before Hop is grabbing your arm and tugging you along at a run to the crowd gathered.

                You can’t really see Leon from back here in the crowd, and Hop makes no move to get any closer for now. So you wait beside him, and try to stand on the balls of your toes to catch Leon. You see his hand stick up in that Charizard pose, before a crowd of hands went up in front of you, mimicking the gesture, and cutting off your view.

                “Hello, hello, Wedgehurst! Your Champion, Leon, is back! I promise I’ll keep doing my best to deliver the greatest battles for you all to watch!” You hear Leon’s booming voice, even if you can’t see him, and you realize he’s addressing his fans. You’re not sure if you think this is polite or if the Champion is just that incredibly full of himself. You realize it’s likely the former, judging by the crowd and how they react to him, and how comfortably they talk to him, calling him Lee like Hop does.

                “Well, thank you for that! I hope you’ll all carry on training up your Pokémon and never shy from battle. Then come challenge me for the Champion title!” Leon is speaking again, and you can tell he’s serious about this wish even from back here. In fact, you feel it, and you’re not sure who you’re feeling it from. This is a strange feeling, you can’t actually see the Pokémon whose feelings you’re picking up. It’s not Wooloo, when you look at him and he looks back at you and you feel his confusion on why you’re grabbing his attention. You look around, someone is talking about how Charizard is too strong, and it’s the word Charizard that grabs your attention, because that grabs the attention of the Pokémon who you can still feel apparently and you realize it must be Leon’s own Charizard.

                Charizard finally makes eye contact with you, and you feel his surprise at realizing you’re reading his mind. You’re reading his mind. Before you can think further on that, Leon is speaking again. “Too true that Charizard is blazingly strong. But other Pokémon can be strong as well! That’s why I want the strongest challengers to fill the gym challenge and come battle me!”

                Hop’s mentioned the gym challenge to you before, and his desire to enter it this year. His explanations line up with what you know from the video games, with a few differences. Badges were important, as they acted as a symbol of your connection with Pokémon, and the more you had, the more opportunities were available to you in the world. It was sort of like post-secondary, from what you understood, as a lot of the learning in this world was on how to live with and get along with Pokémon. Hop had graduated, but from what he told you about school, it sounded like it was more about practical knowledge and life skills than science and algebra. The gym challenge was something you took on if you were interested in working with Pokémon at all. Hop had explained how it was hard work, and a lot of travelling and training, as you had to beat 8 gym leaders in battle in order to complete it. If you wanted to be a competitive trainer, and to enter that All Stars tournament that just wrapped up, you have to complete the gym challenge.

                “My wish is for Galar’s Trainers to work together to become the strongest in all the world!” Leon’s voice brings you back to the present, and you try to catch Charizard’s attention again to find out more about what just happened there but Hop’s got his arm raised in the air and he’s trying to get Leon’s attention.

                “Lee!” He shouts, waving his arm back and forth to get Leon’s attention through the crowd. He falls against you in his enthusiasm, and you have to reach out and right him to avoid you both falling over.

                “Hop!” Leon calls back, and the crowd parts at this, and finally you get a view of Leon in person. Your first struck by how ridiculous his get up actually looks in person. On tv, it’s different, and he’s usually in the stadium where it’s required to wear it. Here? In Wedgehurst? Is this what he wears even casually? You’d think, when he’s spent the whole day travelling across the region, he’s want to wear something comfy. Maybe it is comfy? It still looks ridiculous to you, and you have to cover your mouth to stop the snicker that comes out.

                Leon walks over to the two of you, “So, my number-one fan in all the world has come out of his way to pick me up!” He says, coming to a stop in front of the two of you, Charizard following slowly behind him. “Look at you, Hop,” he’s continuing, “I reckon you’ve grown…exactly an inch and a quarter since the last time I saw you!” Both brothers have large grins on their faces as they embrace in what looks like a bone crushing hug.

                Hop laughs, “Bingo! That’s the sort of sharp eye that’s kept you undefeated so long, eh, Lee?” You’re not sure if it’s true, or if this is just a bit they’re doing, but as they separate you can see the happiness they’re both feeling at being reunited. You smile at them, you’ve heard Hop complain about how much he misses his big brother a lot over the last two weeks, and you’re happy they’re finally reunited.

                “And these bright eyes over here…” Leon finally turns to look at you. “You must be the one I’ve been hearing so much about over these last two weeks, am I right?” You nod, and extend your hand and offer your name in greeting. “Nice to finally meet you!” He shakes your hand, and you’re kind of shocked at how strong his grip is. Looking him over, he could probably bench you, that hug with Hop probably was bone crushing.

                “I’m the Galar region’s greatest-ever Pokémon Champion, and a massive Charizard fan, too.” Leon replies, and you wonder how someone can be so overly confident and so charming at the same time. It didn’t even feel like he was bragging, just that he’s stating a fact.

                “I’ve always been a bigger Blastoise fan, myself,” you shoot back, and he laughs.

                “Really? Too bad they aren’t native here in Galar,” Leon replies, and you feel your face drop. No Blastoise here? But Charizard lived here? You feel ripped off.

                “What? No! That’s terrible news!” A smile comes to your face as you shake your head, and Leon and Hop both laugh. Though, this brings something to your attention, Pokémon aren’t the same across all regions. You wonder how similarly that lines up with the games.

                “Come on, you two, let’s get back to Postwick! Bet I can beat the both of you back home!” Hop shouts before taking off at a run back out of Wedgehurst, back towards Postwick.

                Leon shakes his head and sighs, “That Hop… Always wanting to be the best, isn’t he?” You nod and laugh, used to Hop’s antics by this point.

                “He does this all the time,” you muse back, watching him still as he gets his head start. You have no intention of trying to chase him, you don’t want to risk it.

                “With a proper rival of his own, I bet he’d push himself to become something truly special…” Leon was still standing beside you watching Hop, who had turned around down the road and was waiting for his Wooloo to catch up. Leon’s words make you realize you hadn’t seen Hop hang out with anyone else these last two weeks, you weren’t sure if he had other friends, or someone who could push him like that. You hadn’t heard him mention any other friends, and there weren’t any others his age in Postwick anyways.

                You start walking towards Hop, as he’s gesturing for you two to start actually moving, but Leon turns around and addresses the crowd still hanging around one last time, “Well, everyone! I bid you farewell for today! But don’t you fret…” He strikes that Charizard pose one more time beside you, and it looks so much more ridiculous in person, here in the middle of the town plaza, that you can’t stop the snort of laughter that shoots out of you in time.

                “I’ll always be around to make sure everyone in Galar can have a champion time!” He says, if he’s heard your laugh, he’s ignoring it. He rights himself out of his pose with a flourish of his cape, and when you realize the crowd around him had mimicked his pose, you feel a bit bad about laughing. This is clearly just A Thing people do and is normal and acceptable here and you’re gonna have to get used to that.

                And then Leon is charging off after Hop, yelling about how he’s not going to let Hop win that easily. Charizard marches up beside you, and you’re reminded that you connected with him earlier as you once again feel his exasperation with Leon and Hop racing off. But then he looks at you, and you don’t just feel now but hear him express his interest in you.

                So this is what the strongest Pokémon in Galar is like, you think, and you’re mildly surprised when you feel Charizard understand that. I suppose I am the strongest Pokémon in Galar you hear back, and already you can tell this Charizard is much more modest than his partner. Charizard snorts with your though, you feel his amusement and his agreement, and he’s pushing off the ground to fly after Leon. You begin walking too, not wanting to be left behind. You know the way back at this point, if you fall behind you at least won’t get lost. You might have to run from any wild Pokémon, as Hop has run off with his Wooloo and therefore can’t offer the protection from them he normally would, but Charizard assures you he will follow you and keep you safe. You feel his exasperation once more at his partner and Hop just running off and leaving you here.

                You explain to Charizard about your asthma. You speak out loud, it feels less weird when you talk and he responds than when you just think something in your head and he responds to that. You think with such a stronger connection with Charizard that he must know how this works, that he must be used to this with Leon, but he explains he doesn’t even have this strong of a connection with Leon, and has no answers for why this is happening either. He’s just as confused about it as you.

                You spend the next 15 minutes walking with Charizard. You ask a lot about what Leon is like, and fill Charizard in on how the family he’s missed has been doing. This way of communication comes so easily and naturally to you that by the time you see Leon up ahead you’re surprised how far you’ve come, and how quickly time passed.

                Leon is staring at the fork in the road, scratching his head like he’s trying to remember which way to go, like it isn’t immediately obvious with the sign. He turns around as he hears your voice coming up the trail, and he calls out to you and Charizard and runs over.

                “There you two are!” Leon says, and you think maybe he was just looking for you and Charizard, until you feel Charizard correct you, Nope, he’s just lost, and you’re reminded Hop has told you about Leon’s horrible sense of direction.

                “You both ran ahead and left me behind, Charizard flew with me to keep me safe from the wild Pokémon” you explain as Leon runs up.

                “Thank you, my friend,” Leon says to Charizard as he reaches up to pet the still flying Pokémon on the head. “That’s right, you still don’t have a Pokémon of your own to protect you, Hop and I shouldn’t have run off. I’ll walk back with you.” Leon announces, and a laugh comes out of you before you can stop yourself.

                “You sure you aren’t just coming because you forgot the way back?” You tease, gesturing to the fork in the road ahead. Leon looks shocked for a moment before rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.

                “Was it that obvious I was lost?” He asks, the smile on his face tells you he’s used to being teased about this. You nod and laugh with him, and you point out the correct way home to him.

As the three of you head back together, you answer, “Nah, Charizard told me,” you decide to be honest, because as much as you’d like to tease him, you’ve just met and this is the Champion, and your mother raised you to be polite and respectful.

                “Charizard told you? How could you do me like that, my friend?” Leon calls out to Charizard, whose amusement you feel, and you can’t help but laugh. And I’d do it again, you feel Charizard’s reply, and when you repeat this out loud to Leon, it’s sort of an accident that you do, Leon’s face morphs into shock, and he stops walking to look at you.

                “You can tell that?” He asks, and you nod, “How?”

                You tap your chest, right over your heart, “I feel it” is all you say, because you’re not sure how else to explain it.

                Leon looks like he’s in thought for a moment, “Hmm, Hop told me you could communicate well with Pokémon, I had no idea you’d be able to communicate with someone like Charizard! He’s very picky about his company, so if he likes you enough to communicate with you, you must be pretty good with Pokémon!” Leon smiles at you, and turns to continue walking again. “That’s surprising, if you come from somewhere without Pokémon, that already you understand Pokémon so well.” Leon muses quieter, and you agree, you’re not sure where this has come from, or why you’re able to do it so easily.

                You spend the rest of the walk back talking to Leon and Charizard. You have so many questions, about what it must be like being Champion and what battling feels like at that level, but you try to be respectful and not overwhelm this man, who is being kind enough to walk you home down the dangerous trail with dangerous monsters that do want to hurt you for fun, because you’d rather not have to deal with that on your own. You don’t want to chase Leon off, but Leon opens up rather easily about this, and talks at length about battling. You ask him more about some of the more complicated battling things that Hop didn’t have answers to, and the answers you get compare well with how things worked in the Pokémon video games where you’re from.

                “How do you know so much about battling, anyways? Hop fill you in?” Leon asks after a while. He’s been surprised at your extensive knowledge, of course he’d want to know where you learned so much in so little time.

                “A bit, but he didn’t have answers to a lot of the more advanced things. I didn’t realize some physical moves could be used from a distance in some instances, and Hop didn’t really know how to answer me when I asked him about that. He told me they were special moves!” You laugh, “But Hop’s been really helpful with confirming things with me too, so I have learned a lot from him.”

                Leon nods, thinking for a moment, “How did you know about that, though? And I’m not just talking about physical moves and special moves here, you know a lot that Hop couldn’t have told you,” Leon asks, and you have to think about how to explain the video games where you’re from to him.

                You eventually do, by the time you can see Hop and Leon’s house over the next hill, and you’re a little sad that you’re almost home again, as this walk with Leon and Charizard was nice.

                “And most of what’s in those video games is accurate to reality?” Leon is still trying to wrap his head around this, and you understand, you’re still trying to wrap your head around this too. “How bizarre. Yet you had no idea they were even real? How does that work…?” Leon’s looking off into the distance as he thinks, and you shrug even though he’s not looking at you.

                “If I knew, I’d tell you,” you say aloud, since he’s missed your shrug. You’ve kind of accepted this at this point, even if it made no sense to you. You weren’t going to be able to make sense of it, at least not now, not on your own, so you’ve put it aside and stopped worrying about it.

                Leon nods, still in thought, but doesn’t say anything more about it. The remainder of the walk is silent, until you reach the top of the hill and Hop spots you, bolting over to the three of you, shouting about how long you all took and by how much he’s beat you by. Leon laughs good naturedly, reminding Hop that someone had to walk with you, and Hop begins apologizing to you profusely for leaving you behind.

                Heading through the gate, your group noisily enters the family garden, heading immediately to the battle pitch near the garage. “Come on, Lee! You promised us a present! So out with it!” Hop shouts, spinning to face Leon. The four of you gather around the pitch, Charizard landing behind Leon with a surprisingly soft sound for such a large creature. “You brought Kieran and I Pokémon. You did, didn’t you? I know you must have!” Hop continues badgering Leon, and you shake your head at his impatience. He at least waited until you all arrived home, you justify, as you watch a big grin spread across Leon’s face.

                “Right then! The greatest gift from the greatest Champion…” You stop yourself from rolling your eyes, but you can feel Charizard agrees with you, and you can feel his amusement at you being just as exasperated with his partner as he is.

                “It’s show time, everyone!” Leon shouts.

Chapter Text

                “Take a good look, you two!” Leon stands with his hands on his hips, a wide grin splitting his face as he talks. Suddenly, he throws three Pokeballs he’d had hidden in his left hand out onto the battle pitch. Out pop three Pokémon, none of which you recognized. The three Pokémon immediately split off to explore this new place they’re in.

                Leon, ever helpful, introduces each one to you and Hop. “The grass-type Pokémon, Grookey! He’s soothing, like a nice, long walk in the woods.” Leon points to the green monkey who shoots off to the tree on the other side of the pitch, climbing it and playing. When hearing his name, his eyes shoot over to your direction. You catch his eyes, and feel this Pokémon’s sense of curiosity and you could feel he had a more easy going nature.

                “The water-type Pokémon, Sobble! He adapts to anything, as surely as water flows.” Your attention broken, you look over to the blue Pokémon heading to the pond beside the tree. He dives in gracefully, and looks out at the three of you when he surfaces. When his eyes meet yours, you feel his scared, more timid nature, as well as his cry-baby tendencies.

                “And the fire-type Pokémon, Scorbunny! He’s filled to bursting with fiery passion!” Looking over to the white and red bunny hopping from foot to foot all over the pitch, you’re a little surprised to notice him leaving small puffs of fire with every step. He cries out with a squeal when Leon calls his name, and then he looks at you.

                And you feel so much.

                All at once, you feel so much from this Pokémon, his desire to be the strongest Pokémon, to beat that Charizard that barely tried and almost knocked him out, to be the best.

                He’s energetic and excitable, and has a tendency to show off, like he is doing now as he prances around the field, doing the fire thing on purpose.

                Your smile is so wide, it hurts.

                Ruining the moment, however, is Sobble, as he carelessly squirts out a stream of water, hitting Scorbunny on the back of the head. Scorbunny loudly smacks his foot against the ground, as he springs in large leaps around the pitch. “Thump!” you shout out of instinct, an old verbal quirk making itself known. Scorbunny hops so high, he hits the branch Grookey is sitting on, causing the berry Grookey had been playing with to fall, though Grookey remained unfazed by the shaking. The berry landed in the water, causing Sobble to panic, hop out of the water, and begin crying. Grookey hopped down and comforted him, and Scorbunny calmed down enough to hop over and help. You could feel the three Pokémon knew each other and had spent previous time together, and are friends.

                “All right! Line up, everyone!” Leon shouts, and your attention is brought back to you, and it feels weird to snap out of such a strong connection with the Pokémon like that. You’re momentarily dizzy from it. As the three Pokémon line up in the center of the pitch, you’re reminded that Leon brought these Pokémon for you and Hop. You were going to get a Pokémon! “Which will you choose?” Leon asks, and indeed, which one would you pick? Which one would Hop pick? You looked over at him, trying to see which one he was looking at, but you couldn’t tell. Hop should pick first, right? This is his brother, after all.

                Hop looks over at you and smiles. “Go on, you pick first. I’ve already got my Wooloo, after all.” You could almost hug him, but you refrain, instead smiling wide and thanking him.

                You walk up to the three Pokémon waiting on the pitch. Kneeling down, you look each one in the eye once more, feeling the connection you had with each before making your decision. You and Grookey would get along well, you gather, his easy going nature would match well with your own. You and Sobble, you don’t see getting along as well. He’s too in need of nurturing and care, you reckon that might exhaust you. You and Scorbunny, however…

                That connection is powerful. A smile settles on your face as your eyes come to rest on him. He wants to go far, he wants to be the best, and when you remember watching Leon’s matches, and your desire to be out there battling like that, you think you do too. Scorbunny picks up on these feelings of yours, and he’s decided he wants you too. You both want to stand on that pitch and be the very best. Your childhood dream. He instructs you to raise your fist, and you do, and he runs over and bumps his own. A laugh erupts out of you as you pick him up into a hug.

                “Ace pick, mate! Seems he more picked you though,” Hop teases as he squats down next to you, smiling. “Hmm, now it’s my turn,” He looks over both Sobble and Grookey, before nodding. “Grookey, I pick you!” Hop extends his hand, and you think Hop was going for a high five, but Grookey instead jumps up and grabs onto Hop’s arm, climbing it like a branch. You both laugh as Grookey scampers up and nuzzles into Hop’s neck.

                Hop’s next words tear your heart out. “I’m aiming to be the next Champion, so be ready! You and I’ll be doing some serious training!”

                Oh no, have you taken the wrong Pokémon? Should you have gone with Grookey, so Hop could take Scorbunny? Scorbunny wants that too, and now you want it, but you wouldn’t have if you had just gone with Grookey. You don’t want to get in Hop’s way, he’s wanted this for a long time. How could you forget? How could you be so careless?

                Wooloo comes over to Hop, and he’s introducing them already, and it’s too late. You look on with sadness, though you also feel Sobble’s sadness from behind you at getting left behind, so you’re not sure if this sadness is actually your own.

                “I bet you will, Hop. That’s why I brought along these Pokémon for you two.” Leon and Charizard are watching you two, both grinning widely, “So the two of you can battle and train and grow stronger together, to try to reach me!” He brought these Pokémon specifically so we could train and battle with them? How much had Hop told Leon about you? How had he known you wanted this too?

                Leon begins walking towards you, and your attention returns to the remaining Sobble. “What’ll happen to him?” You ask Leon as he comes near.

                Leon just laughs, coming to stand beside Sobble, as he looks down directly at him, “And you’ll come with me!” Leon announces, and you feel relief flood you, though you’re not sure if it’s your own or Sobble’s. Your connection with Sobble wanes after that, as you noticed it did with Grookey when Hop picked him, so it no longer matters, as Sobble’s overpowering feelings are now Leon’s problem to deal with. Charizard has walked up beside Leon now, and Leon glances over at his partner quickly before returning to Sobble. “Charizard will show you the ropes. He’s strict, but real strong and real kind, too!”

                Sobble crawled over to Charizard, and the two began bonding. You looked down at Scorbunny, still in your arms, and he’s decided he wants you to let go so he can explore more. You set him down and he hops off, and as you feel him begin to want to battle Charizard, you tell Scorbunny to leave him alone, that the two of you still have a long ways to go before you’re ready to take him on.

                “All right, enough of all this trainer nonsense for one night,” a voice interrupts you all, and you turn to see Margret walking towards you all. “Dinner is almost ready, you lot get the tables out here set.” She instructs, though she walks over to Leon and embraces him. Hop gestures you over and you follow him to the tables Margret was talking about. You two give mother and son time to reunite while you help Hop drag the tables out onto the pitch.

                After a moment, Leon is joining you with Charizard, and set up goes quicker still when he brings out his remaining Pokémon. “All right everyone! Time to come out and relax! We’re home!” He shouts, as he tosses multiple Pokeballs out into the field behind the home.

                The first that comes out is one you recognize, but don’t remember the name of. You know it’s from one of the games you never played. Aegislash, you think might be the name, you’ve seen him battle with this one. The next is one you know you don’t know, but you know the third, Haxorus. A Seismitoad is next, followed by what looks like a Mr. Mime, but different, so you’re not sure what that one is either. Rhyperior is the final Pokémon he tosses out.

                You don’t realize why Leon is staring at you and giving you a funny look until you realize you’d been pointing at each one and were speaking your thoughts. “Never seen a Dragapult or a Mr. Rime before?” Leon asks with a smirk, and you feel a bit embarrassed.

                “It’s not like I’ve seen you battle with them,” you defend, which is true, you haven’t seen him use either of them in battle. He has a lot more Pokémon than you thought, given that you only ever saw him use a few of these ones in battle.

                “Would you like to meet them?” He asks, and you nod your head vigorously. Leon walks over to a gate, and unlatches it, allowing you access to the field behind it. You turn to look back at Scorbunny, making sure he wasn’t getting into any trouble, but he was having fun playing with Grookey and Wooloo by the garage.

                Leon walks out into the field and you follow, stopping shortly in as Leon introduces you to each of his Pokémon. You’re overwhelmed by how powerful they all feel, and how well they listen to Leon. As he pets each one as he introduces them to you, you can tell that he loves them all very much, and they love him. You connect with each one individually, and it’s just as intense to connect with them as it was to connect with Charizard.

                Leon’s Pokémon help set up the tables and chairs, and you’re done with plenty of time to then help set the table. You and Hop are inside handing things through the door to Pokémon, as Leon sets them on the tables. Margret comes outside to get the barbeque going, and before you know it, dinner is ready, and everyone is gathering around to get food. The food is amazing, and you have quite the fun time. You spend a lot of time with Scorbunny, getting to know him as he gets to know you. He sits on your lap as you eat, and you feed him.

                “You’re gonna spoil him,” Hop warns, and you just laugh.

                “But he’s so cute!” You shoot back, and Scorbunny squeals in reply. You feel his agreement and his appreciation of being spoiled like this. It’s nice, and as Hop tries to wrangle his Grookey into eating and not playing with the food, you tease him back, “at least Scorbunny is eating!”

                Hop scoffs at you as he returns to trying to get Grookey to eat. You spend most of dinner listening to Leon catch up with his family, as everyone’s focus is on him tonight. You don’t have much to chime in on, so you idly listen while watching Scorbunny. Once he’d finished eating, he wanted down so he could run more. You watch him chase Wooloo around for a bit, at least they seem to be getting along.

                Dinner wraps up, and you help clean up before heading home for the night. You’re tired, it’s been a long day, and you’re sure the family would like some time together. As you wish everyone good night, you’re excited to spend some time alone with just Scorbunny. You pick him up, letting him know through your connection that the two of you are heading home. Leon hands you his Pokeball as he wishes you good night, and Hop gives you a quick hug before he’s running off trying to get Grookey down from somewhere he’s not supposed to be.

                As Scorbunny trots up to your home, you’re briefly worried about that fire thing he does with his feet, and if it’s safe to let him inside on the wooden floors of the cottage. The thought barely finishes before you feel Scorbunny tell you he can choose not to do it, and will not indoors for you.

                “Thank you,” you reply out loud, because speaking makes this feel more normal and like you have control over this bond.

                You spend the rest of the evening with Scorbunny. You show him around your place, and go over some rules. He’s eager to make you happy, so teaching him how to behave is easy. The bond really helps, it’s so easy to instruct him when he can tell exactly what you mean, and you can feel what he needs. Getting house rules out of the way, Scorbunny wants to show off what he can do for you, so you take him outside. There’s a farm behind your cottage, with lots of space, much more than the tiny garden in front of your cottage, so you hope the family who owns it won’t mind you out there. There’s no crops right now, and you’ve met the family that owns it, so you’re pretty sure they won’t mind.

                You hop the gate, and Scorbunny hops over it after you. He mostly performs tricks, though he shows you a few things you think could be used in battle. Your thought of battle gets Scorbunny excited, and he wants to learn more moves to impress you. You know he’s a fire type, so you think about the fire moves you know that low level Pokémon can learn. Scorbunny can’t seem to figure out how to make any work, however, and you think maybe you both need more practice before you can get that one. Scorbunny refuses to give up, however, and the two of you stay out in that field long after the sun has set and the stars come out.

                Scorbunny is practicing hitting one of the fence posts, trying to get a fire attack to work, as you sit down in the grass and watch him. Your eyes are drawn to the stars, how bright and beautiful they are, and you’re struck with a pang of homesickness. You’re reminded of nights spent under the stars, singing and dancing with family and friends, and naturally songs begin filling your head as you sing aloud, tears falling freely as you allow yourself to miss home. Scorbunny takes a break, wanting to comfort you, and you hold him close to your chest while you let yourself have a good cry. He’s confused, as there isn’t anything he can really do to help, but you assure him that holding him like this is enough, and that you have to feel this way for a bit to get better.

                Eventually, the feeling passes, and you decide it’s time for bed. You head back inside, unaware of the eyes that have been watching you all night.

                You barely get ready for bed at all, only going as far as changing before you let yourself fall into your bed, Scorbunny hopping up beside you. He curls up next to you and lets you hold him, still concerned about you, and you fall asleep easily.

                The next morning, you’re awoken by a screeching bunny demanding food. Scorbunny is hopping on the bed, tugging on your arm, and you let him drag you up and out of bed. You’re not actually sure what he’s supposed to eat, you had been handing him food he wanted to eat last night, but now that you’re in your kitchen, looking in your fridge, you’re not actually sure what Pokémon eat. Thinking about it, you’ve mostly seen Hop feed Wooloo similar things humans could eat, and Leon had fed all his Pokémon food from the barbeque as well. Nothing had been specially prepared for the Pokémon, and Scorbunny helpfully points out food in the fridge he finds appealing, and you decide it’s probably fine. You’ll ask Leon about what food to feed Scorbunny later.

                You spend more time getting ready this morning, as you went straight to bed last night. Scorbunny follows you around as you do, and when you go to get in the shower, he tries to follow you. Too late you warn him about the water, not seeing him follow you in on time, and he panics. You quickly shut the water off, grabbing a towel and catching him as he hops up in the air. You explain to him what happened, and apologize repeatedly, trying to calm him down. He’s knocked a few things over and made quite the mess in his panic, but you hold him and dry him and worry about the mess later. He calms down quickly in your arms, and eventually agrees to wait outside the shower for you.

                You finish getting ready without incident after that, Scorbunny ever helpfully wanting to do whatever he could to help. You found it so endearing, and you realized as he helped you put away your morning’s dishes, that you were absolutely in love with him, and you would do anything for him. It hits you so powerfully, it feels like it reverberates back at you through the bond, and it takes you a moment to realize that’s because Scorbunny feels the same. He tackles you in an attempt to hug you, and you nearly lose your balance with the force, turning his momentum into a spin as you hug him tight to your chest. You don’t know how or why, but you’re so thankful you have this bond with him.

                Once ready to start the day, you and Scorbunny head out. You’ve remembered to grab his Pokeball and put it in your bag, though you haven’t yet put him back in it. You haven’t felt the need to, and you’re not immediately sure why you would. Perhaps for large Pokémon like Leon owned, it would be unrealistic for them to be out of their balls indoors, but Scorbunny was rather small, and happily let you carry him in your arms, so you only brought it in case you needed it in an emergency or something.

                You’re barely out the door when your Rotom phone buzzes and pops out in front of you, indicating a text from Hop telling you to come over. You smile and reply “on my way!” before heading over there.

                Crossing the hill, you see Hop and Leon out in the yard, Leon’s Pokémon out playing in the fields behind the home while Hop’s play near him. Scorbunny lets out a shrill cry of joy at seeing his friends, and he hops off ahead of you, alerting Leon and Hop to you in the process. You smile and wave, and Hop waves back while Leon smiles brightly.

                “Morning! How are you and Scorbunny doing?” Hop greets you as you come through the gate, Grookey climbing up him to greet you as well.

                Scorbunny has run off to greet Sobble and tell him about the shower, and you laugh, “Great, though he learned the hard way this morning that showers are wet,” Scorbunny turns around and cries out at you, upset you told everyone about that, but he’s over it quickly when Sobble comes to comfort him. Hop and Leon both laugh too, as Grookey hops off Hop’s arm to go say hi to Scorbunny. “Got a better handle on Grookey today?” You tease.

                “He better, he was up all night training with him!” Leon chimes in, “I noticed you were too,” Leon looks at you with a knowing grin, and you briefly worry how much he’d seen last night if he knew about that. “I’m glad I was right to trust you both with these Pokémon, and I’m sure you’re both going to become amazing trainers one day!” Leon boasts, that wide grin he wears so often around family splitting his face once more. You realize you’ve never seen him smile like this on tv, and you wonder if being home is what brings out this smile in him. It makes you smile back without even meaning to.

                Hop looks surprised, however, “You too mate? Guess I’m in for a real rival with you then, eh?” Hop recovers quickly and a light dances in his eyes that you’ve only ever noticed when he’s battling with Wooloo.

                Rivals? But weren’t the two of you friends? Before you can reply, Leon cuts in, “Then listen up, new trainers! Believe in yourself and your Pokémon! If you trust in one another and carry on battling side by side long enough, then someday…you even become worthy rivals for me, the unbeatable Champion!” Leon looks directly at you as he says this, a serious look on his face, and you feel like he knows something you don’t. It’s not unlike the look he gets before taking on an opponent in battle, and you wonder if he really thinks you could become a rival to him. You hoped so, Scorbunny had a score to settle against that Charizard, and the idea of taking on the Champion in battle filled you with such drive and passion. Maybe that was more what Scorbunny was feeling, you were still getting used to sorting out your own feelings from his when they got powerful, but you knew in your heart you felt it. You wanted to be Leon’s rival.

                “What are you looking at her for, Lee? I’m the one who’ll be coming to challenge you!” Hop’s voice breaks you out of your thoughts. If Hop wants to take on the Champion too, then that does make you rivals, doesn’t it? That feels strange to you, you’ve come to consider Hop such a good friend these past two weeks. You feel guilty at the thought that chasing your dream could mean crushing his. You don’t want to lose his friendship. “If you think she might be able to challenge you, then I guess she’s my first rival!” Hop reinforces your thoughts with that, and you glance over at him to find him grinning at you. You feel the nervous grin crawl onto your face, but if Hop notices, he doesn’t mention it, “But I’m not planning to lose to her and miss out on my chance to beat the unbeatable Champion!”

                Hop turns to you fully and takes a step closer to you, “Just having a Pokémon with you doesn’t make you a real trainer, you know.” You feel a little insulted at Hop’s words, of course you know, but he has a weird look in his eyes that you don’t recognize so you don’t push it. “Proper trainers raise their Pokémon up to be first-rate in battle, too!” Hop continues as he crosses his arms across his chest.

                “Oh, and you think you’re worthy of calling yourself such a proper trainer already, Hop?” Leon cuts in, and you snicker at the startled reaction Leon’s words pull out of Hop. “Guess I’ll be the judge of that! Let’s see how you handle yourself in a battle against your newly declared rival, if she’s up for it.” Leon winks at you, and you feel a flush come to your cheeks. Again, you’re reminded of your worry of how much he had seen, and you really hope he didn’t catch that breakdown you had. “What do you say? Willing and ready to take Hop on in the first ever Pokémon battle of your life?” Leon asks you, and your heart thumps loudly in your chest. Your first ever Pokémon battle!

                Scorbunny is running over, circling around you as he cries, and he’s as excited as you are, possibly more so, you can’t tell. You’re probably going to have your ass handed to you, Hop’s had battle experience already and has two Pokémon on you. You might have stood a chance if Scorbunny had learned a fire move, and you feel his disappointment before you register you’ve thought such a thing. You remind him that you’ll both do your best, that’s all the both of you can do, the rest will come with practice, and this seems to cheer him up once more.

                Finally, you look up and meet Leon’s eyes once more before nodding. A grin splits Leon’s face, “Believe in your partner Pokémon! And care for them, too, with all your heart. Do those two things, and I’m certain you’ll learn to choose the moves that suit your Pokémon.” Leon was looking at you again, and you feel like that was a dig at you. Could he tell you doubted yourself and Scorbunny briefly there? “And more importantly,” he’s continuing, looking to Hop now, “to have a champion time battling with them!”

                Hop turns to face you, “Alright! Bring it on! I won’t lose to you!” He shouts, grinning before running to the battle pitch in their yard. He digs in his pockets and pulls out his Pokeballs, recalling both his Pokémon. You walk out to the other side of the pitch, and Scorbunny follows you. You instruct him to the center of the ring, and he stands there ready. “Not gonna recall your Pokémon?” Hop asks, raising an eyebrow at you. Leon’s walked over near the garage, and is holding Sobble, while the rest of Leon’s Pokémon gather in from the field to watch as well. Charizard comes right into the yard and comes to stand near Leon.

                “Why bother? You know exactly who I’m going to send out.” You reply to Hop, shrugging your shoulders.

                “It’s good practice for throwing out a Pokeball!” Hop counters, and he punches one into his fist, before winding back and tossing it.

                As Wooloo appears on the pitch, it fully sinks in.

                You have no idea how to battle.

Chapter Text

                “Listen, Raihan, I need help,” Leon cuts in immediately once the line picks up.

                “Mmm, always interesting when the undefeatable Champion himself needs help,” though it takes Raihan a moment to recover, his voice has a teasing tone to it. Leon imagines he’s got his full grin on, but he hasn’t set this to be a video call for a reason. Leon’s looking rough, he’s been up most of the night for the last several nights. He doesn’t want Raihan to see him like this, not yet, not before he explains what’s going on.

                Leon lets out a sigh, “It’s… Ah, this is going to be complicated to explain, but I need help getting someone registered as a citizen in Galar…” Leon’s trying to figure out how to word this, how to explain what he needs help with.

                “Why would you need help with that? Just ask Rose, unless this is something you can’t ask Rose about?” Raihan’s voice becomes serious, and Leon’s glad he’s catching on quick.

                “Rose can’t know about her. He can’t think she came from…anywhere but a region with Pokémon.” Leon tries to explain.

                “That’s kind of vague, and it depends a lot how old she is, mate,” Leon’s sure Raihan’s teasing by his tone, but he’s not sure what about.

                “Mum said she looks Hop’s age, so 18 I’m assuming,” Leon replies regardless, and he hears Raihan chuckle over the line. “This is serious, please,” Leon begs, he’s too tired for Raihan’s games tonight.

                “Ok, so what, you need a fake ID? Again, why come to me? I’m not the one with the ties to that.” Raihan sounds like he’s getting up and doing something as he talks, and Leon sighs and takes a moment to figure out how to reply to that.

                He runs a hand over his face, knocking his cap off his head in the process, “I don’t know how to ask him,” Leon answers.

                “So you’re going to blather to me and expect me to ask him?” Raihan’s still teasing and Leon’s tempted to turn the camera on, but that’ll get Raihan concerned for the wrong reasons.

                “That is why I’m asking for help,” Leon’s voice has lost all tone at this point, he’s tired.

                “Alright,” Raihan agrees softly, and Leon’s glad he’s got the teasing done. “So what’s her story then? Why can’t Rose know?” Raihan continues after a moment, sounding like he’s getting comfy on his couch. He’s taking this seriously now, Leon’s relieved.

                “Rose told me about a prophecy, it’s from Johto but it’s rang true in other regions as well. Rose’s been watching out for it to happen here.” Leon explains, shifting forward in his chair and resting his elbows on his legs.

                Raihan hums in understanding, “What’s it got to do with this girl?” He asks, intrigued now.

                Leon thinks for a moment, “Well, I don’t remember exactly how the prophecy goes, but it had something to do with desperate times, and a hero will emerge from a Land Without Pokémon or something, I don’t remember word for word.” He’s trying to recall that conversation with Rose about this, and he wishes he paid more attention then.

                “Again, what’s it got to do with the girl,” Raihan’s trying to get Leon to get to the point, but Leon’s still figuring out what the point is.

                “I’m getting to that,” Leon shoots back, “the important bit here is that Rose is looking for someone who’s come from somewhere that doesn’t have Pokémon. This girl says she’s from somewhere without Pokémon. Rose cannot find out.”

                “This a ‘just a precaution’ thing or is there more you’re not telling me,” Raihan pries, and Leon takes a moment to answer.

                “I really hope it’s just a precaution thing, Rai. I really do. I don’t want to take any chances though. You know why.” Leon’s voice has gone quiet and strained, and he’s shaking before he fully realizes it. He takes a deep breath and tries to shake the feeling of dread from him.

                Raihan’s quiet for a moment on the other end of the line, before he lets out a heavy sigh. “Yeah, I’ll help,” his voice has taken on a similar tone to Leon’s, and he sounds suddenly very tired.

                They lapse into silence on the line for a while, though it’s comfortable, and Leon uses the time to compose himself. “I miss you,” it comes out without him really thinking about it, and Leon feels it so genuinely in his heart in this moment that it almost brings him to tears.

                “I miss you too, it’s All Stars though, we still got three more days until we’re both in the same city.” So Raihan’s been counting down the days too.

                Leon knows well, he’s counting on that time to get some proper sleep so Raihan won’t be so worried about him when they do finally see each other. “Can’t come soon enough,” he says instead, he doesn’t want Raihan to know how much stress this has been causing him.

                “I’ll talk to Piers tonight,” as if reading his mind, Raihan replies.

                “You’re still in Hammerlocke? You’re battling in Wyndon tomorrow.” It’s Leon’s turn to be worried about Raihan now.

                “Can’t a guy stay an extra night in his own home? I’m going to sleep better here anyways. My match is later anyways, plenty of time to get there. If I’m up by 7 I can catch the 8 AM train and I’ll still have at least an hour before my match.” Raihan sounds like he’s got this planned out, so this wasn’t a sudden decision.

                Leon glances at the clock. It’s nearly midnight, Raihan should be sleeping. “Sorry for keeping you up then,” Leon apologizes softly.

                Raihan makes a noncommittal noise that usually goes along with a shrug, but Leon can’t see him so he can only assume. “’s fine, I was already up. Couldn’t sleep. Don’t think Piers can either, I heard him pacing earlier.”

                “Dunno why he finds your guest room comfier than the hotel there,” Leon teases, he already knows why Piers stays there, but it’s nice to have some ammunition to get back at Raihan for earlier.

                Raihan just laughs, though, “Hey, you stay here too. So does Nessa. My place is way more fun.”

                Leon laughs along with him, because it’s true, Raihan’s place is way more fun to stay at than the hotel, but he has different reasons for thinking so than Nessa and Piers do. Raihan is also a pretty good cook, and is good at making others feel at home and cared for in his home. During All Stars, when he’s got a tough match against one of the best trainers in Galar every day, and he’s travelling to a different city nearly every day to do them, having a familiar and comfortable place to crash is way better than living out of a suitcase in a different hotel room each night. Raihan’s also got a spacious yard where his Pokémon can be, so they too can relax. There’s little room for all Leon’s large Pokémon in the hotels. The Budew Drop Inn where he’s staying here in Motostoke has enough room for him to let out only one of his Pokémon at a time.

                “I’ll let you go then, have your talk and get some sleep. I should try to get some myself,” Leon finally replies, feeling more tired and relaxed now than when he first thought to call Raihan. He’s sure he can get some proper sleep now.

                “Mmm, I’ll text you in the morning what I find out, now go get some sleep so you don’t look so bloody knackered for the cameras again,” Leon can hear the grin in Raihan’s voice, and of course Raihan noticed he looked exhausted even with the makeup.

                “Yeah yeah, sod off you arse, I’m going to bed. ‘Night.” Leon barely waits for Raihan to wish him a good night in return before he’s cutting the line, a little miffed Raihan had figured him out so easily. Raihan knows him better than anyone, so he’s hoping no one else has caught on to his state and that it’s just Raihan. Leon knows Raihan’s teasing is only because he cares, and he’s sure he’ll hear an earful about taking care of himself in a few days when they can spend time together in person.

                Leon quickly gets ready for bed, finding sleep comes to him easily now that he’s not dealing with this alone.

Chapter Text

                “I’ve watched every one of Lee’s matches, I’ve read all the books he’s left at home, and I know the perfect strategy to win! Alright Wooloo, let’s do this! Hit him with tackle!” Hop calls out to Wooloo as he appears on the pitch. You’ve never seen Hop battle with another trainer so far, all you’ve seen him do is fight off wild Pokémon. This is not only the first Pokémon battle you’ll be having, it’s the first one you’ll be seeing in person. You’ve watched a bunch of Leon’s, and other strong trainers, matches on your phone or Hop’s tv, but you’ve never seen one in person.

                You can only think to dodge or get out of the way of the tackle, but your thought doesn’t come quick enough for Scorbunny to react, and he’s hit with the tackle as he tries to dodge. “Hit him again!” Hop is calling, and this time you think of jumping out of the way. Scorbunny follows this and easily jumps out of the way. Wooloo circles around to try again, and Scorbunny jumps right over him once more.

                “You can’t dodge us forever! Growl at him and go for another tackle!” Hop’s shouting commands to Wooloo expertly, and you’re still trying to figure out what to do. Attacking back seems like a good decision, and you think of all the training you and Scorbunny did last night. The growl does momentarily distract Scorbunny, but he is still able to easily jump out of the way of the tackle. You think about how you want Scorbunny to attack, by kicking Wooloo, you know Scorbunny’s feet are strong, and he does exactly what you think.

                The kick sends Wooloo tumbling towards Hop, “Good hit, mate! That’s not going to stop us though!” Hop and Wooloo share a look before Wooloo is once again rolling up and coming after Scorbunny. Scorbunny is quick to react, but you tell him through the bond to wait, to try to land a kick as Wooloo is coming. He follows your orders, and when you think now! Scorbunny attacks, landing a perfectly timed kick to send Wooloo rolling away.

                “Good counter!” Leon shouts from the sidelines with a wide grin on his face.

                “Gah! Wooloo!” Hop calls as Wooloo rolls right past him. Wooloo recovers and rolls back onto the field, waiting for further instructions. “You got one more in ya bud?” Hop asks his Wooloo, and it baas back an affirmation before rolling up and coming at Scorbunny once more. This time as Scorbunny goes to hop over Wooloo, you think he could maybe land a kick on the way down, and Scorbunny attempts this, narrowly missing Wooloo as it rolls by. “Close one!” Hop shouts as Wooloo turns around.

                You tell Scorbunny to charge in and kick as Wooloo goes in for another tackle. Scorbunny’s hit lands first, sending Wooloo tumbling away. “Wooloo!” Hop calls, and when Wooloo doesn’t respond, he returns Wooloo to his Pokeball. “Not bad, taking out Wooloo, but I’ve still got one more!” Hop winds up and tosses out another Pokeball, summoning Grookey to the middle of the field.

                You’re beginning to feel like you may have got the hang of this when Hop commands Grookey to hit Scorbunny. Grookey isn’t as easily dodged with a nice high jump, and soon Grookey’s got Scorbunny chased right up into the tree. He hits the branch Scorbunny is on and Scorbunny is barely able to land on his feet, needing a moment to catch his balance. “Now! Jump down and hit him into the pond!” Hop shouts. Oh shit move is the thought you send to Scorbunny as he’s barely able to hop out of the way.

                “Hey! That’s cheating! You can’t knock him into the water!” You yell out to Hop, still trying to get Scorbunny away from that pond without him getting hit.

                Leon laughs, before responding for Hop. “Using your environment to your advantage in a match is always allowed! You gotta be aware of all your surroundings as a trainer.” Leon sounds like he’s proud of Hop for thinking of such a strategy.

                Running isn’t getting you and Scorbunny anywhere, you have to fight back, but Grookey is quick and Scorbunny is already hurting from battling Wooloo. The fire move you hear Scorbunny think, and if he wants to try that, this is the perfect time. As Scorbunny hops out of the way of another swing of Grookey’s stick, he tries to spit fire at the monkey, barely missing as it lands just short. This gives Grookey an opportunity to land a good hit on Scorbunny, knocking him over. Try again you’ve got this you think, and Scorbunny tries again and successfully hits Grookey.

                “A fire move? We’re in trouble Grookey, don’t let him hit you with that one!” Hop calls out, and you’re beginning to think that maybe you and Scorbunny really could win this. One more good hit from Grookey and Scorbunny will likely be done, however, so you and Scorbunny have to hit Grookey before he can hit Scorbunny. As Grookey charges in, you instruct Scorbunny to blindly hop backwards, watching out for him to make sure he doesn’t hit anything, so that he can focus on aiming that fire attack. Grookey is doing his best to dodge, but gets hit by one before he can land another hit on Scorbunny. The hit knocks him over, but he gets back up. He looks about as close to being knocked out as Scorbunny is now, but you think you might have given Grookey a burn.

                Status effects weren’t something you thought to ask about before now, so you’re not sure. You’re not even sure it would work the same as in the games. Can you and Scorbunny stall out and let the burn take care of Grookey? Would that even work? Scorbunny is trying it anyways, he seems pretty sure he’s given Grookey a burn.

                Hopping up into the tree, then back down again, Scorbunny continues to evade Grookey. As Grookey jumps down from the tree after following Scorbunny, he falls over and doesn’t get back up.

                “Grookey! I’m gutted, I should have figured you’d use the type advantage, you know so much about them. That was a great battle, but I won’t lose to you again!” Hop looks disappointed in himself as he recalls Grookey to his ball.

                That’s it, you won. You and Scorbunny did it. Scorbunny leaps into your arms while you’re stunned, knocking you both over. You laugh, and then hold him above you, “We won!” you shout.

                “What a great battle! Charizard and I almost wanted to join in!” Leon congratulates, coming over to you and Hop. He offers his hand to you to help you up, and then begins digging in his pockets. “Now, I’ve got some potions, let’s get your Pokémon all healed up.” Hop lets his Pokémon back out of their balls, and Leon sprays potions on all three. Hop’s Pokémon both come to shortly after, and Hop is petting them both and thanking them for battling hard.

                Leon tugs you aside while Hop is consoling his Pokémon. “Hey, I’ve got a favour to ask you,” he speaks quietly so Hop won’t overhear. “You’ve got real promise, so please, be a real rival to Hop, would you? Push him, help him reach his potential, and make the both of you stronger. After all, there’s nothing quite like the rush of beating your rival to drive you on to greater heights!” Leon can’t keep his voice quiet for long, however, Hop hasn’t seemed to notice yet.

                You look over to Hop, “But… He’s my friend. I don’t want to be rivals.” You answer Leon. “I want to cheer him on and support him, not stand in his way.”

                Leon looks confused for a moment, “You don’t want to continue battling with Pokémon?” He asks, and you shake your head.

                “No, that’s not what I meant, I want to be a trainer too. I just want to support Hop at the same time.” You reply.

                Leon nods, seeming to understand. “You can be both, you know. You can be his biggest supporter and his fiercest rival at the same time. The difference is knowing what to take on the pitch, and what to leave behind. If you want to win, if you want to do well as a trainer too, then you’ll bring everything into every match you have, regardless of the outcome. You can go back to being friends when the battle is done.”

                “What if, if I beat him, he doesn’t want to be friends anymore?” You’re still watching Hop as you speak.

                “Who, Hop? He’s be more disappointed in you if you held back on his account. He wouldn’t dislike you for winning. Don’t… Don’t hold back on him, alright? That’s… That’s how you lose friendships.” Leon is looking off into the distance as he talks, and there’s a weight to his words that feels like he’s speaking from experience.

                You nod, understanding. “Alright. I’ll be his rival then.” Hop seems to have finished with his Pokémon, as he looks over at the two of you before coming over.

                “What are you two talking about?” He asks, looking between you two suspiciously.

                “Getting stronger!” Leon quickly states before you can answer. “And how, uh,” he looks at you and seems to quickly think of a topic, “you two battled! I was pointing out that Scorbunny would do even better with more direction from his trainer.” Leon winks at you before looking to Hop. You feel your cheeks heat up, in on this little secret with Leon.

                “Hey, I was giving him commands,” you mumble back, and Hop seems to have bought the story.

                “That training you and Scorbunny were up to last night sure paid off today, huh? Guess I still have a ways to go.” Hop looks down as he talks, but then he claps his hands to both his cheeks, a move you’ve seen both brothers do frequently. “Lee, you’ve seen me battle now, so come on! You’ve gotta let me take on the gym challenge!” He’s looking up at Leon hopefully.

                Leon puts his hands on his hips as his head tilts, “You? Join the gym challenge? Think you’re ready for that? Not putting the cart before the Rapidash there, little brother?” Hop nods once, and Leon continues, “If that’s really what you want to do, you two have a whole lot you need to learn about Pokémon. Especially you,” he looks to you, and there’s a hard look in his eyes. “The gym challenge is not easy, the two of you will have to huff it all the way across the Galar region. If you want to be a professional trainer, you’ll have to beat all 8 gyms and do well in the finals. You really think you’re ready for that?”

                “I’m going to be the finalist that makes it into the Champion Cup, and I’m going to take you down!” Hop sounds so sure of himself, you’re a little intimidated. Leon’s implying you’ll both do the gym challenge together, and that makes sense if you’re going to be rivals, but are you really ready for it?

                “Won’t it be dangerous?” You ask. You’re not really sure what the whole gym challenge entails, other than beating the gyms.

                “It can be, if you’re unprepared,” Leon answers. “You’ll be walking on foot from town to town, camping out in the wilderness a lot. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could get hurt.” Ah, so it is like the games. “A Pokedex will help, they contain all known information about every species of Pokémon in Galar. You two should make that your goal first.”

                “Where would we get one?” You ask. Pokedexes are real too? Leon makes it sound like they already have all the information in them, rather than tasking you to fill them out on your own. It sounds incredibly useful for such a journey, and you really want one now.

                Hop turns to you and grins, “In Wedgehurst, you know that big purple building? That’s the Pokémon research lab. Professor Magnolia will give them to us. She, uh, had a big hand in making it, I think?” Hop looks at Leon for clarification, and Leon nods.

                “That’s right, she’s the primary author of most of the information included in them. You two go get Pokedexes, and then we’ll talk more about the gym challenge, alright?” Leon crosses his arms, and you can tell he’s not going to move further on this, not that you can blame him. You don’t want to go running out there unprepared either.

                Hop rolls his eyes but agrees. “Opening ceremonies are in a fortnight, you better not be planning to delay us past then,” Hop grumbles. So soon? A fortnight is two weeks, right? Can you even get prepared properly in time? “Come on, then, let’s head over to Wedgehurst, shall we?” Hop looks to you with a grin.

                “Only if you don’t run ahead like always,” You reply.

                Hop is bolting off anyways, “Ha! You have a Pokémon to defend yourself with now, mate! I can run ahead all I want!” Hop shouts as he’s running off, both his Pokémon following behind him. He stops just outside the gate though, and allows Grookey to climb up onto his shoulder.

                “That’s the spirit! I’ll let the professor know to expect you both.” Leon has a bright smile on his face once more.

                “At least let me grab my bag first, I left it at home,” you walk up to Hop, who also grins, and agrees to accompany you on your trip home.

                “I’m still totally going to beat you to Wedgehurst once you’ve got your bag,” he jabs his elbow into your side lightly as you two walk back to your cottage.

                You swat at him back playfully, hitting his shoulder, “Not everything is a competition, you know.”

                “But it can be!” Hop grins and you can’t help the smile that comes to your face. His energy and positivity are contagious, and you’re beginning to look forward to your journey with him. It can’t be so bad if you do it together, right?

                As you near your cottage, you both hear loud banging coming from the direction of the thick forest you woke up in. “What’s that?” You turn to Hop to ask, but he shrugs.

                “Beats me, let’s check it out though,” Hop jogs ahead a bit, and you follow slower. You’ve still got a walk to Wedgehurst to go through, you don’t know your limits in this body and are still a bit scared of chancing it.

                A loud crash then echoes out, and Hop calls out from father ahead. “A Wooloo! No, you can’t go in there, it’s dangerous!” You speed up to a jog and make it over the hill just in time to see a Wooloo rolling into the forest.

                Hop is standing by the remains of the gate, knocked apart on the ground. As you run up to him, panting heavily already, Hop fills you in on what you had already assumed. “The forest is off-limits, it’s dangerous; you’ve seen it. I remember the professor’s granddaughter went in once, and she came back in a real state too. And that was nothing compared to the earful she got from the professor afterward!”

                You glance back at the forest once more, no longer able to see the Wooloo. “I didn’t see any Wooloo in there, so I’m guessing they aren’t meant for that forest. What do we do?” You look back at Hop as you ask. Should the two of you go get Leon?

                “We’ve got to go save it, don’t you think?” Hop responds, “I don’t think there’s time to run back and get help.” Hop’s right, even if you run, it’s going to take at least 20 minutes to run to Hop’s place and back to get Leon. “Even if we’re not supposed to… This is the kind of scene where you simply have to do what’s needed! Hope you’re ready for anything, cuz we’re going in!”

                Hop turns to face the forest, but doesn’t run ahead this time. He begins walking, and you follow behind. Scorbunny seems concerned about this, as do Hop’s Pokémon, so you pick him up and carry him.

                The forest is just as dense as you remember it. Hop takes a deep breath before pushing branches out of the way of the path and heading in.

Chapter Text

                You and Hop make your way through the thick, foggy forest. You stay close behind Hop, you don’t want to get separated here. Hop’s recalled his Pokémon, not wanting them to get separated from him in the forest, though you’re still hugging Scorbunny tightly to your chest. Even though there’s a trail, it’s not well used and there’s a lot of branches and roots in your path. You both trip and stumble into each other often.

                There are some wild Pokémon here, but between Scorbunny, Wooloo, and Grookey, they don’t give you much trouble. Hop occasionally calls out for the missing Wooloo, though it doesn’t seem to help.

                “This place is eerie, let’s quickly find that Wooloo and get out of here, before any strong Pokémon find us,” Hop states, turning his head to look at you as he does, partly to check to make sure you’re still behind him.

                “There are strong Pokémon here?” You ask, and find yourself clutching Hop’s jacket with one hand.

                “Yeah, and they’re dangerous. There’s a reason this place is off-limits, you know. People get hurt here.” Hop continues forward as he talks, carefully pushing low hanging branches aside for both of you.

                “You said as much earlier…” You trail off, remembering him mentioning someone who came in and got hurt.

                “The fog is getting thicker, if we don’t find that Wooloo soon, we could be in trouble.” Hop stops and looks around. You only avoid bumping into him because you’re still clutching his jacket. He cups both his hands around his mouth and shouts once more for the Wooloo, but instead of hearing the Wooloo cry, you hear something that sounds far more dangerous roar back. “Oh man, that Wooloo could be in real trouble!” Hop looks worried.

                “We have to help it,” You remind him.

                Hop nods, and brushes your hand from his jacket, only to take it in his own a moment later. “Come on, we’ve gotta stay close together,” Hop speaks quietly as he tugs you forward by the hand. You feel a blush rising on your cheeks, and have to remind yourself now is not the time for such things. This is only so the two of you aren’t separated.

                Walking into thicker and thicker fog, you can barely make out Hop in front of you now. You’re glad the two of you are holding hands, it’d be too easy to get separated now.

                “We haven’t seen any Pokémon for a while, have we?” Hop pipes up suddenly, and you’re now very aware of the fact that things are eerily quiet around you, no sounds of scurrying Pokémon in the undergrowth around you or in the trees above you.

                “That’s a bad sign, right? That means we’re in the territory of something strong, doesn’t it?” You ask with a tremor to your voice.

                Hop doesn’t reply, and you think that’s almost worse, because now you can only imagine what the two of you have gotten yourself into. The fog only gets thicker as you go, and you can’t see Hop in front of you at all anymore. You only know you’re following him still by the tug on your hand, which you also cannot see. Scorbunny shifts nervously in your free arm, clinging to your shoulder as he has a bad feeling about things.

                “This is mad, I can’t even see my own hand in front of my face!” Hop shouts suddenly, coming to a stop. You step next to him, close enough that you can barely make each other out now, and Hop turns to face you. He looks frightened, and you’re sure you do too.

                “We’re in over our heads, aren’t we?” You ask, and Hop looks around before nodding slowly.

                “I don’t see that Wooloo anywhere, and now we’re completely lost!” Hop squeezes your hand in his, and you can feel the tremor in his hand as he does. He’s just as scared as you are, but he’s trying not to show it.

                You hear the sound of something approaching before you see it, and you gesture with your head to avoid making any noise. Hop gets the idea and looks in that direction, huddling ever so slightly closer to you.

                You see a beast similar to the one who guided you out of the forest originally approach you. This one looks different, it appears red instead of blue, though looks just as scarred as the one who helped you. This doesn’t feel like this one is here to help, so you’re on guard in case it tries to attack you.

                “What in the-“ Hop doesn’t finish his sentence, cutting himself off as he jumps, startled by the sudden appearance of this massive beast. It roars loudly, and Scorbunny hops from your arms, ready to fight. Hop reaches for a Pokeball and throws out Wooloo to aid you.

                Scorbunny tries to hit it with his fire move, and Wooloo rolls in for a tackle, but both moves seem to have no effect. The mysterious beast’s gaze is fixed on you and Hop, but it makes no move to attack back. You cling to Hop’s arm regardless, terrified of what might happen to you.

                “Wha-?! The moves had no effect on it?!” Hop clings back, and it’s beginning to sink in to you both that you could get seriously hurt from this.

                “Try again!” You call out, refusing to give up just yet. The fog rolls in deeper as the beast howls, and you lose sight of Scorbunny. You can still feel him though, so you know where he is and you know he’s ok as he tries to go in for a kick, but it still has no effect.

                “Wooloo! Shit, I can’t see him!” Hop’s lost sight of his partner too. “Where are you buddy?!” Hop shouts, and Wooloo baas from further into the fog, though it’s hard to hear.

                “Call him back, it’s too dangerous! We need to get out of here!” You cry out as you shake Hop roughly. You’re carefully keeping track of where Scorbunny is in the fog through your bond, and he’s ready to make a run for it when you are.

                The beast has other ideas, however, and you hear one more roar before-

                Well, you can’t really remember what happened next. You’re suddenly on the ground and someone is shaking you awake while calling your name. It takes you a moment to focus, but you recognize Leon’s face after a moment. Hop is groaning and struggling to sit up, and you see Scorbunny still collapsed a few feet away.

                “Lee? How did you manage to find us out here? You’re pants with directions. You always get lost.” Hop’s voice sounds rough, but he looks unharmed. You feel unharmed as well, but you examine yourself anyways after you get to your feet.

                Leon sighs, and he walks over to pick up Scorbunny, giving him a potion before handing him back to you. He’s coming to as well, and you cuddle him close, thankful for him trying his best. Leon has a hard look on his face as he looks you both over. “Oh, that’s real nice to hear from the little brother who had me worried sick!” He sounds mad, not that you can blame him.

                “I’d been waiting ages for you two in Wedgehurst, and you never showed! Of course I came looking for the both of you!” Leon continues, hands on his hips as he glares at you both.

                “Wait, the Wooloo! We came out here trying to rescue a Wooloo!” Hop begins looking around like it’ll magically appear.

                Leon sighs, gesturing behind him. Further away is Charizard, with the missing Wooloo. “The little chap’s just fine. Though all of you had fainted by the time I found you here. You know this place is out of bounds, Hop… There are dangerous Pokémon here. You both could have gotten seriously injured! You’re lucky you’ve only got a few scratches.” Leon tilts his head down for a moment, taking a deep breath before continuing. “But it took courage to come in here all the same, and I can understand why you did it. Next time, come get help, or at least tell someone where you ran off to! I spent all day searching for you two!” Leon’s wearing a small smile now, clearly relieved you’re both alright.

                “Wait, all day? What time is it?” You ask, in this dark and foggy forest it’s nearly impossible to tell the time of day. Leon indicates it’s evening now, and Hop’s stomach lets out a growl as if in affirmation.

                “Come on, let’s get back and eat,” Leon sounds tired, and he probably is after running around looking for you both all day. You all follow Charizard out of the forest, because Hop doesn’t trust Leon to lead. “Hey, Charizard has a great sense of direction, even if I don’t!” Leon had argued.

                As you walk, Hop pipes up beside you. “At least the Wooloo is ok, but man, I thought we’d had it when that weird fog started rolling in and that mad Pokémon attacked.” You agree with him, you’d thought you were done for too.

                “I don’t even remember what happened after that, where did that strange beast go?” You reply, tilting your head to the side.

                Hop shrugs, “Dunno mate, I don’t remember anything past that either.”

                “Mad Pokémon? What kind of Pokémon attacked you?” Leon asks, turning his head back to look at you both as he continues walking.

                “I’m not sure, it’s not one I’ve ever seen before,” he launches into a vague description of the beast that you find you can’t really add to. “And it seemed a lot stronger than any Pokémon I’ve ever seen. And it just had this sort of intense presence…” Hop finishes up his description by trailing off.

                “That doesn’t sound familiar to me, either,” Leon speaks after a moment of silence.

                “It looked like the beast that led me out of the forest when I first showed up here, but slightly different.” You chime in.

                “You’ve encountered something like this before?” Leon asks, “What happened?”

                “It led me out of the forest, that’s all. It didn’t attack me or anything. Actually, the one Hop and I saw didn’t attack us either. And our Pokémon couldn’t seem to hurt it, too.” You reply, thinking back on the day you arrived for any other similarities.

                “It was like our moves passed right through it!” Hop agreed, shaking his head.

                “Your moves passed right through it? Hmm… So, the fearsome Pokémon they say live in the Slumbering Weald…” Leon seems to be more talking to himself than to the two of you. “Are they actually illusions or something? How strange, maybe the two of you will figure it out one day!” Leon shoots a grin back at the two of you before turning forward again.

                Hop is grinning too, and he looks over to you, “Even if we did get an earful from Lee, what an experience! This’ll make a pretty fine first page in the tale of my legend!” You can’t help but laugh at Hop’s antics, glad he’s able to find the positives from this.

                You all successfully make it out of the forest not long after that, heading back to Hop’s place for supper. You and Scorbunny are invited to stay too, after you and Hop get another earful from his mother.

                After supper ends, it’s just you, Leon, and Hop who are left sitting around the kitchen table. You and Hop have agreed to go get your Pokedexes tomorrow, as it’s too late to go tonight.

                “Well, I guess now is as good a time as any, I gotta get some information from you to fill out your ID,” Leon looks at you, pulling out a notebook and pen to write things down.

                “What do you need to know?” You ask, and Leon hands you the notebook. It’s got a few basic questions down, such as your full name and birth date, and you begin filling them out. The birth date stumps you though, as they use a different calendar here. After getting a rough idea of what year you’d be born here and writing that down, you hand the notebook back to Leon.

                “Wait, you’re how old?” Leon asks, looking at your answers. “You barely look 18, how can you be that old?”

                “She said the same thing to me and Mum,” Hop teases, and you fight the urge to roll your eyes.

                “I look different here, but I promise I really am that old!” You argue, frowning.

                “That’d make you older than me! No one’s going to believe that, looking at you. I’m just gonna mark you down as 18, that’s at least believable.” Leon decided, scribbling out your answer and changing it. Try as you might to fight it, Leon has no intention of changing it, either.

                You suppose this isn’t the end of the world, it’s not terrible to be 18 again, and Leon’s right, you don’t look older than he does. “Hmm, I was going to mark down that you were from Sinnoh, but after hearing your accent, I think Unova would be more believable.” Leon continues, writing down something else.

                You hadn’t thought about your accent, but everyone here that you’d met so far all had, in the terms of where you’re from, British accents. You suppose your western accent would stand out as from somewhere else. Did that mean people in Unova had the same accent as you?

                You ask Leon as much, “Do people in Unova have the same accent as I do?”

                “Well, not exactly, but it’s close enough that most people aren’t going to know the difference. If anyone does, you can just tell them you’re from some rural town with a different accent or something.” Leon explains.

                You figure now is as good a time as any to ask a question that’s been nagging you for the last two weeks, since you’re on the topic anyways. “No one’s explained this to me, but I was told not to tell people where I’m actually from. Why can’t I?”

                Leon freezes at this, and a strange look crosses his face before he recovers. “Uh, well, who would believe you, right?” He doesn’t sound convincing at all, and you have the feeling this isn’t the actual reason.

                “You did. And Hop did.” You want answers, why are they hiding you? But Leon laughs it off and changes the topic, and you realize you’re not going to get your answer tonight.

                After gathering all the information he needs to fill out your ID, Leon has you stand against a bare part of the wall and he takes a photo of you on his phone, for what you’re assuming is the ID, but this is starting to feel rather casual for an ID card. Shouldn’t that be done in some sort of government center?

                You don’t press about it though, perhaps things are done differently here, and Leon is the champion. He may have powers you don’t know about, as you really don’t know much about how this world works, or even what kind of government they have. When he’s done, Leon leaves to go make some calls, and it’s just you and Hop left at the table.

                The two of you watch your Pokémon play together and chat for a bit. Your dodged conversation with Leon is still weighing on you, however, and it’s hard for you to pay full attention to the conversation. Hop just thinks you’re tired, and sends you home to get some rest.

                As you and Scorbunny walk down the path lit only by the moon and the stars, fear and dread begin to set in you, and you can’t stop thinking about how little you know about what’s going on. Scorbunny can tell you’re dealing with things he doesn’t understand, but he’s trying his best to comfort you regardless.

                You pet him, thanking him for staying by your side. “What do I even do, bud?” You muse out loud. Be the best! Comes an answer from Scorbunny, though that had been a rhetorical question, you suppose he wouldn’t understand that.

                A small smile graces your face at his answer. Be the best, huh? If this is the hand you’re dealt, might as well play the game, right? You can’t help but feel like you’re in over your head, and that there’s too much you don’t know still. You hope playing along is the right choice, as you don’t see other options.

Chapter Text

                The next morning, you meet Hop at his place to head to Wedgehurst together. Hop walks with you for a bit, before getting too impatient with your speed and rushing off ahead. That leaves you and Scorbunny alone, and you get some training in before you hit Wedgehurst.

                When you reach Wedgehurst, you see Charizard out in the plaza by himself. There’s a small crowd admiring him from a distance, but he mostly seems to be doing his own thing. You greet Charizard and he lets you pet him, and you’re able to connect with him. You wonder if that means Leon is nearby. He’s likely lost, he was heading for the research lab is what Charizard tells you. You thank him and start heading off in that direction yourself.

                Reaching the research lab, you nearly bump into Leon as it seems he’s finally found his way here as well. “Well hey, glad to see you made it here!” Leon greets you.

                You laugh, “Shouldn’t I be the one saying that? Charizard was sure you were lost.” You tease him, and Leon looks momentarily surprised before he begins laughing.

                “I suppose so! I’m hopeless with directions. Charizard is obviously quite fond of you if he keeps telling you things like that!” As if Leon saying his name is what summons him, you hear Charizard’s stomping footsteps come up behind you. “Ah, there he is! Charizard is my saving grace, he keeps me from getting lost all the time.”

                Well someone has to take care of him you hear Charizard through your connection, and you can’t help but laugh at that. “Can’t say I can relate, I have a rather impressive sense of direction myself.” You declared rather proudly. It was one of the few talents you had, you think it’s fair to boast a little bit.

                “Guess I know who to call for help then!” Leon grins at you widely, before turning to the door. “Now, let’s head in, shall we?” He holds open the door for you like a right proper gentleman.

                You walk inside and are greeted with walls covered in bookshelves crammed right full with books, as well as plants growing from all over the place. There’s various research equipment that you can’t really identify as well, and while it wasn’t exactly what you were expecting, it certainly feels like a Pokémon research lab.

                Leon leads you further in, “I love coming here, it always looks so fascinating.” He gushes as he looks around and takes everything in. A barking sound startles you, and you both turn to see a dog shaped Pokémon that you don’t recognize run up to greet you. Leon crouches down, petting him, “Yamper! Good to see you!”

                “What are you here for today? Looking for more info on another never-before-seen, superstring Pokémon? I wish you’d stop with these outlandish requests.” A female voice calls from somewhere above you, and you look up to see a young woman with curly orange hair standing on the walkway above you. She comes down the stairs, and you’re momentarily stunned by how graceful she walks.

                “Good to see you too, Sonia,” Leon greets the woman as she comes to stand near the two of you. Leon introduces you to her, and she shakes your hand with a smile. “Sonia’s Yamper here came to my rescue plenty of times back in the day, when I got lost on the road.” Leon launches into a story that probably seems related to the introductions to Leon, but to you, you’re just confused.

                “Tsk, what kind of introduction is that? Did you even mention we used to be rivals during our gym challenge?” Sonia chastises Leon while shaking her head. “It wasn’t just Yamper coming to your rescue, I had to come find you plenty of times too.”

                “You two did your gym challenge together?” You ask, looking between the two.

                “Yep! It’s nice to meet you, I’m the professor’s assistant.” Sonia smiles kindly, and you wonder what kind of trainer she must be if she was once Leon’s rival.

                “This is the girl I was telling you about yesterday. She’s just starting her journey as a Pokémon trainer. Set her on the right path, and take care of her, would you?” Leon asks Sonia with a rather serious look on his face.

                “Of course. Come on, I’ll get you set up with a Pokedex.” Sonia gestures for you to follow her, and Leon turns around and seems to be leaving. Sonia sighs when he’s gone, and shakes her head. “What does he think I am? He’s always got his head in the clouds. It’s no wonder he gets lost all the time.”

                You laugh nervously, as you feel bad for burdening her. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be a bother.”

                “Oh no, you’re not, I’m just venting about Leon. He does this a lot, comes in here, makes some demand, and then leaves without even staying for tea. Honestly, you’d think he’d have the time to come sit and chat for a bit with an old friend, especially when he’s on a break.” She sighs, and you’re relieved it’s not you she’s frustrated about.

                Sonia is rooting through a desk drawer, looking for something. “You have a Rotom phone, correct?” You nod to her question, as she straightens up, holding something in her hand. “Great, that makes this easier. Hand it here for a moment.”

                You dig into your bag and pull out your phone, handing it over. She pops open a slot on the side, and puts the small card she was holding in her hand inside your phone. “Do you know a lot about Pokémon?” She asks as she taps away at your phone.

                “Uh, kind of? I’m not sure what of it is true or not,” You answer honestly.

                “Well in that case, this will really come in handy. I’m adding a Pokedex to your Rotom phone, so when you need to look things up, it’s all readily accessible for you.” She seems to finish, as she removes the card she put in. “Here, let me show you how it works,” She opens the new Pokedex app she added, and points the phone at Scorbunny. It takes a second, but then it registers which Pokémon it’s looking at, and the screen fills with information about Scorbunny.

                “Cool! This will be really handy! Thank you!” You take the phone back and tuck it in your pocket.

                “Just so you know, that Pokedex is a gift from my Gran. She’s the one you should be thanking for it.” Sonia twirls a strand of her hair around her finger. “She’s not here today though, you’ll have to come by another time if you’d like to thank her. She dedicated years of her life gathering all that information, you know!”

                “I’ll be sure to thank her sometime for it then.” You thank Sonia for her time once more before she sees you off. Once outside the lab, you’re not sure what to do now. You weren’t sure where Hop or Leon had run off to, and checking your phone reveals no new text messages from Hop either. Perhaps you and Scorbunny could train more, or maybe you could play around with your new Pokedex.

                You muse about what to do as you head further into town. Before you can land on a plan, you run into Hop. “Hey, finished getting your Pokedex too?” He asks as he runs over.

                “Yep! What’s the plan now?” You ask him with a smile on your face.

                “Now we have to convince Leon to sponsor us for the gym challenge! I’m thinking we head over to the Professor’s house and get her help in convincing Leon.” Hop has a glint in his eyes that you recognize from battling with him. He’s got his mind set on this, so you agree to his plan.

                Hop informs you she lives out by the lake north of town, and that it’s quite the walk. “Lots more wild Pokémon out there, so we might want to grab some potions and stop by the Center before we go.”

                “Center?” You ask, this isn’t a term you’ve heard before. Could that mean Pokémon Center?

                “Oh, I suppose you’ve never been to one yet. They treat injured Pokémon and people, and can make sure your Pokémon are in the best condition to battle. Best of all, they’re free! They’re really handy for a trainer, there’s one in every major town.” Hop explains, and you’re somehow not surprised your guess was right. It’s like a hospital and Pokémon Center in one, you assume.

                Hop leads you over to a large, red roofed building. Inside, he shows you how it works, setting his Pokeballs on a tray on the counter and handing the tray to a nurse. Scorbunny hops up onto the counter himself, and a nurse there looks him over and heals him. It hardly takes long at all, and you’re pleasantly shocked at how quick the whole thing goes. You’re used to ridiculously long hospital wait times where you’re from, the ability to come in and just get seen immediately boggles your mind a bit.

                You share as much with Hop while you wait, and he can barely seem to imagine what that would be like. Your Pokémon are soon returned to you, and Hop leads you over to a side counter in the Center. “Here’s where you can buy potions, and other such healing items,” He buys several potions, doling out half of them to you. You thank him as you both pack them in your bags, and then the two of you set out to the Professor’s.

                As the two of you set out along a winding dirt path, Hop begins digging in his bag. “Alright mate, it’s about time we start filling up our team with more Pokémon, don’t you think?”

                “Like… Catching wild Pokémon?” You ask. This wasn’t something you’d thought about before, how people actually get Pokémon to join their team. It couldn’t be as simple as just throwing a ball at a Pokémon and then it magically listens to you and likes you, right?

                “Exactly! And I-“ Hop’s voice is cut off by a louder, deeper voice.

                “And I’m here to teach you how!” Leon shouts as he runs to catch up with the two of you. You and Hop both startle, neither of you had seen him coming. “You’ll need to catch Pokémon to build up your teams, and it’s not as easy as it looks. The Pokémon has to want to join you, you have to convince it to be a part of your team.”

                “How do you do that?” You question while Hop is still recovering, and Leon cracks a wide grin.

                “Watch,” Leon quietly states, tossing out a Pokeball to reveal Sobble. Him and Sobble head into the tall grass around you, and Leon gestures for the two of you to follow him.

                Hop rolls his eyes, “Show off, I coulda taught you too,” he grumbles quietly as he turns to follow Leon. You snicker as you follow as well.

                Leon comes across a Wooloo, and he has Sobble challenge it. “Now, some Pokémon are going to be more likely to join you than others. A lot of Pokémon really do want to find a trainer, but not all of them do, so you have to find one that’s willing to challenge you and stick around. Your goal is to try to convince the Pokémon that you want to be partners. Pokémon who aren’t interested in staying with you will likely flee when they realize they’re overmatched, but Pokémon who are interested will keep trying to fight until they collapse. Uh, try not to actually let them collapse if you can, that makes it a bit harder.”

                The Wooloo and Sobble are still scrapping it out, Leon has been making gestures to Sobble for some basic instructions while he talks. It seems he’s using this to train Sobble at the same time. The Wooloo is looking weak though, it’s teetering on its feet as it moves. “Alright, seems this Wooloo wants to stick around, so now’s when you try to catch it!” Leon pulls an empty Pokeball out of his pocket, and tosses it at the Wooloo. It connects, and the Wooloo disappears inside the ball. The light on the outside of the ball glows yellow while the ball shakes.

                “Now you wait, if the Pokémon wants to stay with you, it’ll stay in the ball. If it doesn’t, it’ll break free. You leave it alone if it breaks free, don’t go antagonizing a Pokémon who doesn’t want to join you.” While Leon continues his lecture, the light on the ball glows green and you hear a click. “And that’s it! I’ve now got a Wooloo. Then you have to train it, of course,” Leon walks over and picks up the Pokeball. He lets the Wooloo out, petting it and giving it a potion.

                “I don’t plan on keeping this Wooloo, though, I just wanted to demonstrate.” Leon turns to look at you and Hop, then opens the Pokeball the Wooloo was caught in and cracks it in half right along the hinge. “There you go bud, you’re free to go. Thank you for your help!” Leon pats the Wooloo once more, and it runs off.

                You lap up Leon’s lecture, fascinated to learn how taming Pokémon works in reality. “That is so cool,” you quietly sigh as Leon comes back over to you and Hop.

                Leon laughs, “I’m glad you thought so! Here,” he pulls out 5 more empty Pokeballs. “Should do you for a bit.” He hands them to you. “You still have some, Hop?”

                “Yep, I still have the ones you gave me this morning, I haven’t had a chance to catch anything yet.” Hop shakes an empty Pokeball he’s holding in his hand.

                “Good! If you have bad aim and lose them all and need more, let me know!” Leon grins at him, and Hop groans at the teasing.

                “What if I lose them? I actually do have really bad aim.” You run a hand through your hair, a little embarrassed to have to admit that.

                Leon just laughs lightly though, “I’ll give you more too then,” he says kindly.

                “Yeah, but how do I tell you I’ve run out?” You don’t currently have a way to contact Leon, other than through Hop.

                “Oh! Of course, here, hand me your Rotom phone. I’ll add my contact information to it so you can get a hold of me if you need to,” Leon holds out his hand and you pass him your phone. He pulls out his, and taps away at both of them, before handing yours back. “So where are the two of you off to now, anyways?”

                “We’re heading to the Professor’s house!” Hop explains.

                “Ah, I suppose I will see you there, then!” Leon grins.

                “Why don’t you come with us?” You offer to Leon. It’d be nice to get to chat with him more, he knows so much about Pokémon and battling.

                “I would if I had the time, but there’s something I have to discuss with the Professor before the two of you get there.” Leon responds, putting Sobble back in his Pokeball.

                “Oh yeah, and you think you’re going to beat us there with your terrible sense of direction?” Hop chimes in, crossing his arms.

                Leon only laughs, and calls out for Charizard. “Oh, I’m not walking, but have fun you two!” Moments later, Charizard flies in from somewhere above, you didn’t catch which direction he came from. He lands, and Leon climbs onto his back. Charizard takes off, towards the Professor’s house you assume, and they make quite the majestic pair with Leon’s cape billowing out in the wind behind him, on the back of such a large Pokémon. You watch them fly off until you can’t see them past the trees any longer, because that looks so cool and you absolutely want to fly on the back of a Pokémon like that someday.

                “Cheater,” Hop grunts, shaking his head.

                “But that looks so cool!” You gush, and Hop’s eyes light up.

                “I know, doesn’t it? I want to be able to do that! It’d make getting to Wedgehurst so much quicker. Which is why I plan to catch a flying type!” Hop exclaims, and you’re both grinning ear to ear at the idea.

                “I guess I’ll have to catch one too! What kinds of cool flying type Pokémon exist here, anyways?” You’re pulling up the Pokedex on your phone and searching by flying types as you ask, and you and Hop talk about which Pokémon would be coolest to fly on while you walk to the Professor’s.

                It’s a long walk, about 3 hours Hop informs you, he’s walked it before, and he splits off from you eventually to go do some training with Grookey and Wooloo. He also hopes to catch a Pokémon on the way, he seems to have one in mind, but he tells you it’s a surprise and that you’ll have to wait until you reach the Professor’s place to find out.

                Scorbunny hops along beside you as the two of you make your way there, occasionally fighting wild Pokémon. You’re trying to catch a second partner too, you don’t want to fall behind Hop, but none of the Pokémon you fight seem to want to stick around. Scorbunny’s overwhelming desire to be the best scares them off, a reason you learn when you manage to connect with a few of the wild Pokémon you fight. Scorbunny only wants teammates who also want to become the very best, and since he’s your partner, you feel obliged to find him teammates that he will get along with.

                You don’t let it get you down, you don’t have to build the perfect team today. You’ll find the perfect Pokémon for your team over time, there’s no need to rush it. Besides, training one Pokémon already is quite a bit harder than you thought it would be, even if you can communicate so easily with Scorbunny. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with so many Pokémon that you have difficulty controlling them all.

                These trails are gorgeously scenic, so you’re not surprised when you come across another trainer as you go. She seems a bit younger than Hop, but mentions Hop beat her already earlier. She’s eager to get a victory after her loss, and challenges you to a battle. You and Scorbunny are happy to have the chance to practice more together, and you accept. Having a battle out here on a trail is much different than battling on the open pitch of Hop’s back yard, but you still win easily enough.

                You both heal up your Pokémon after the battle, and she congratulates you on your victory. She doesn’t offer you money or anything, so you figure that whole getting reward money for battles thing isn’t actually something that happens. So, how exactly do you get money then? You suppose you’ll have to ask Hop and his family about that later.

                You run into two more trainers on your way, and win each battle rather easily. You and Scorbunny are getting better at this now, he’s picking up on your strategies and tactics, and you’re picking up on his natural abilities and how you can make use of them. Instructing him through the bond you share certainly helps, as there’s next to no delay between when you think of what to do next, and him acting out on it.

                It begins to sink in that this might not be normal when one of the trainers you win against mentions how good Scorbunny is without instructions. Leon had mentioned something similar after you fought Hop, so when you mention to this trainer that you were giving him commands, and he presses for how, you’re not sure how to explain it. “He just kinda feels what I want him to do, I guess?”

                The trainer seems to think this comes from the two of you spending years together, and you know Hop and Wooloo fight like that sometimes. You’ve seen him use Wooloo against wild Pokémon and not once give Wooloo a command, but that’s because of years of practicing together and Wooloo just knowing Hop’s strategies and what to do in an easy battle. You don’t have those years of practice, but you don’t mention that to the trainer, letting him believe what’s more convenient. You wouldn’t be able to explain it anyways.

                Eventually, you see the house with the purple roof that Hop told you to look out for. You can see him leaning against the fence around the property, while Wooloo and Grookey roll around together in front of him. Hop’s watching the two of them play, but as you crest the hill, Hop looks up and catches sight of you. He waves over-exaggeratedly at you, as he tends to do every time he catches you at a distance, so you wave back.

                Then he’s holding up a Pokeball, grinning madly, and you can’t help the smile that splits your face too. He did it, he caught a third Pokémon. You couldn’t wait to see what he got, he was going to be a right menace to beat now.

Chapter Text

                Hop greets you as you and Scorbunny lightly jog down the hill to meet him. “I got one, mate!” Hop pulls you into a hug in his excitement, and you return it, sharing in his happiness.

                “Congrats! Who is it? Are you going to show me?” You ask when Hop releases you.

                Hop only grins cheekily, “You ready to see my new partner?” He holds the Pokeball containing it up and you nod. Tossing it, out pops a bird Pokémon, you’ve seen them flying around but don’t recall their name, but Hop fixes this when he announces “This is my new Rookidee!”

                The blue and black bird hops around on the ground, and you bend down to get a better look at her. She lets you pet her, and you’re unsurprised when you can connect with her as easily as you can with Hop’s other Pokémon. She seems excited to be with Hop now, and you’re happy for the two of them. Scorbunny wants to meet the new friend too, and soon all four Pokémon are playing around you and Hop’s feet.

                The two of you let them while Hop tells you all about how he caught his new partner. You’re sure he’s exaggerating the tale, but it only makes you smile and laugh more. He’s a very good story teller, after all. You’ve both forgotten why you originally came here, when the door to the house behind you opens. Leon and an old woman, who you’re assuming is the professor, walk out.

                “Ah, and here they are,” the woman states to Leon, and it seems like they were talking about the two of you. She walks up to the gate and opens it for you, ushering you, Hop, and your Pokémon inside. “Welcome to my home, it’s lovely to see you again, Hop. And you must be Kieran, I’ve been hearing much about you these past two weeks. My name is Magnolia. Please, come inside, I’ll put on some tea.”

                She leads the group of you into her home, Hop recalling all his Pokémon before entering as they’re beginning to get rambunctious. You pick Scorbunny up and he settles down in your arms. Her house is beautiful, and upon entering you can see there’s just as many, if not more, plants here as there are in the research lab. You see the house connects with the greenhouse that you saw from outside as you’re lead to the kitchen.

                Leon is the one who actually begins making the tea, as the professor has a seat at the table and gestures you and Hop to do the same. Magnolia catches up with Hop, congratulating him on his two new Pokémon, before turning to you. “So, I hear you’re from a place that doesn’t have Pokémon. Must have been quite the shock to meet them.”

                “It was, mostly because I knew what they were, I just never would have believed they were real!” Magnolia asks you more questions about where you’re from, and how you’re doing here, before Leon is putting a tray with the tea down in the middle of the table.

                You’re enjoying your tea, though Magnolia chastises Leon for using too hot of water and burning the tea leaves. “Now then, I’m sure you two came all the way out here for a reason, and I doubt it was just to thank me for those new Pokedexes of yours.” Magnolia looks between you and Hop, waiting for one of you to answer.

                “That’s right, though thank you again for the Pokedexes! But we came out here to ask for your help,” Hop is the one who explains. “Help me convince Leon he should endorse us for the gym challenge!”

                “Oh, Leon, why wouldn’t you?” Magnolia turns on Leon, and he sheepishly scratches the back of his head.

                “Uh, well, they’ve both only just started out as Pokémon trainers, they still have a long ways to go. There’s loads they don’t know yet, especially you,” Leon turns his gaze to look at you.

                “Dearie, I thought your dream was to have everyone in the Galar region become strong trainers. Isn’t that right?” Magnolia twirls the chain of her glasses around her finger as she gives Leon a stern look.

                “Well, yeah…you’re not wrong,” Leon crosses his arms and tilts his head to the side. “That goal’s precisely the reason I gave them both Pokémon, in fact.” Leon closes his eyes and seems to be thinking about something.

                “If you gave us Pokémon so we could become stronger trainers, and the gym challenge is coming up, which is the test of your skills as a trainer, wouldn’t endorsing us for it help us become stronger? And help us learn all that stuff we don’t know yet?” You chime in. You know how much this means to Hop, and you do want to try it too, even if you don’t get far. You’re not sure how else to get an endorsement, so getting one from Leon is important. You don’t think Hop would want to get an endorsement from someone else, anyway.

                Leon opens his eyes and looks at you for a moment, and seems to be contemplating your words. “Right, then,” he says after a moment. “In that case…how about this? Let’s see if the two of you can show me such a brilliant battle that I’m left with no choice but to endorse you. And don’t worry, I’ll make sure both your teams are in good shape before the battle starts.” Leon grins, putting his hands on his hips. He stands from the table then, and gestures for you and Hop to get up too.

                Hop grins, and looks at you before getting up and hurrying after Leon. You get up and follow too, hearing Magnolia get up behind you. “Well, I haven’t seen a battle happen out on that field since Sonia and Leon were your age. I hope you two show Leon and I a great battle.” She smiles warmly at you as the two of you head outside.

                You see the field she was talking about immediately, as Leon and Hop are already standing on it. It’s just outside the gate, and much bigger than the pitch back at Hop’s. Leon is spraying Hop’s Pokémon with potions, and you join the two of them as Magnolia walks over to the side to watch.

                “Alright, are you ready?” Leon asks, pulling out another potion and spraying Scorbunny with it. It makes him feel better immediately, and he cries out in excitement over being ready. You nod, and Hop grins, recalling his Pokémon and turning to face you.

                “Come on, mate, I need to earn this endorsement! I’m not going to lose this time, so come at me with everything you’ve got! We need to prove to Leon just how great we really are!” Hop is gesturing wildly with his arms, and you feel excitement surge through you. You look over to Scorbunny, asking him if he’s ok with being recalled, to make this a real battle. He nods, this is the first time you’ve put him back in his Pokeball since receiving him, and you recall him to his Pokeball. It feels weird for a moment, as this cuts the connection between the two of you. The silence it brings in your head is almost unsettling, you’ve grown used to constantly feeling Scorbunny there, and his sudden absence feels wrong.

                “Scorbunny and I don’t plan on losing either, even if we are outnumbered! Bring it, Hop!” You taunt back, a wide smile cracking your face. Hop grins too, and you both walk to the edges of the pitch.

                “Listen, you two,” Leon cuts in before you can begin. “The reason I’m unbeatable is because I learn from every battle I see or take part in. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am today. So show me something good in this battle!” Leon’s got his hands on his hips, and he looks oddly serious before breaking into a smile as he finishes.

                It’s advice you plan to take to heart, as it seems like sound advice. Leon wouldn’t steer you both wrong in this, and a great way to learn more strategies is to watch what other people are doing. You nod at Leon, thankful that he imparted one of his strategies to you both. Hop, however, is looking at you, a grin on his face as he crosses his arms over his chest.

                “It’s time for my legend to begin!” Hop shouts as he throws his first Pokémon out onto the pitch. “Come on out, Wooloo!”

                As Wooloo appears on Hop’s side of the field, you throw your own Pokeball. You have zero practice with this, and it lands wide of where you meant to throw it. Out comes Scorbunny, and that connection is immediately re-established. He doesn’t even have to look back at you, and you barely have to look at him before you both know exactly what to do.

                You and Scorbunny barely made it through your last match, but Scorbunny has gotten much better at using Ember now, and you’re more confident you can get through his Pokémon taking less hits. You’ll have to, Scorbunny has to beat three Pokémon this time. You let yourself believe you two can do this, because your confidence becomes Scorbunny’s confidence.

                “Growl, lower his attack!” Hop shouts, and Wooloo carries out the request. That’s ok, Ember doesn’t use attack, it uses special attack you tell Scorbunny, and he goes in for the Ember. It’s a good hit, it knocks Wooloo right over, but the round Pokémon easily rights himself.

                “Now Tackle!” Hop instructs, and Wooloo rolls up and charges at Scorbunny. It’s much easier to keep distance on this larger field, making it even easier to use Ember from a distance and keep Scorbunny completely safe. “Come on, bud, aim for where he’s going to land!” Hop cries out, and Wooloo baas back. He adjusts his strategy, and hits Scorbunny as he lands.

                Scorbunny tumbles back a bit, but doesn’t let it discourage him. Wooloo is looking much worse, as he seems to stumble out of the hit and struggle to keep his balance. Scorbunny doesn’t even fully stand before shooting another Ember at Wooloo, using your vision to figure out where to aim. The hit connects as Scorbunny hops up fully, and Wooloo falls over.

                “Ah crap, Wooloo!” Hop wails, recalling Wooloo to his Pokeball when he doesn’t get back up. “Scorbunny’s gotten better! Not sure I can say the same for you, though. You still don’t give him any instructions!” Hop’s clearly trying to rile you up, he’s got a teasing grin on his face. “Time for Grookey! Let’s get him this time!” Hop throws out another Pokeball, and out pops Grookey, who charges into battle immediately.

                As Scorbunny attempts to hop out of the way of Grookey swinging his stick at him, Hop shouts “Good job, Grookey! Hit him with Branch Poke!” Hop punches his fist into the air, a smile on his face. Grookey is fast, though, and manages to get Scorbunny before he can get out of the way. Grookey charges in again, but Scorbunny is prepared this time, and manages to jump cleanly out of the way. He doesn’t hesitate to hop blindly in any direction, as he can see where he’s going through your eyes.

                “We gotta stop Scorbunny from dodging, Taunt him!” Hop shouts, and Grookey quickly follows the command. What did Taunt do in the video games again? You soon get your answer when you feel Scorbunny react to this, as he’s helpless to charge into battle against his and your better senses. He goes in and lands a good kick to the unprepared Grookey, who tumbles backwards a ways. Now please back off so you can use Ember you try to convince Scorbunny, but he doesn’t stop. He charges forward after Grookey instead.

                Grookey recovers just as Scorbunny closes in, and Grookey gets one swing of his branch that glances off Scorbunny. Fire move kick you hear from Scorbunny, and you barely have time to think what that meant before Scorbunny’s whole foot is on fire, and he kicks Grookey. Grookey rolls further back, though he takes a moment to stand. Is Fire Kick even a move? You’re unaware you’ve asked the question before Scorbunny responds It is now.

                Scorbunny is still helpless to charge in, but at least he has a fire move he can use now. Grookey attempts to swing his stick at Scorbunny, but Scorbunny is easily able to dodge it. He lands another fire kick, and this hit sends Grookey tumbling onto his back, knocked out. We gotta call it something cooler than Fire Kick, though you tell Scorbunny as Hop flinches back with the hit Grookey took.

                “Grookey!” Hop quickly recalls him. “Didn’t think my strategy would backfire so badly on me,” Hop admits sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head with his free hand. “That’s alright, I’ve still got Rookidee!” Hop tosses out his last Pokeball, and his newest caught partner appears on the field. “Scorbunny is looking weak, you’ve got this pal!” Hop cheers on his Rookidee, who takes flight slightly off the ground.

                What’s wrong with Fire Kick? Scorbunny asks you as he shakes off the effects of the taunt. He’s able to jump away easily from Rookidee as she charges in to hit Scorbunny. You think on it for a moment, while Rookidee banks a turn and comes back around to try to hit Scorbunny again. Blaze Kick you decide, and Scorbunny crouches down in preparation for Rookidee to get close. As soon as she’s in the right range, Scorbunny leaps up, his foot once again catching fire as he flips in the air and nails a kick down into Rookidee as she flies helplessly underneath Scorbunny.

                The hit knocks her into the ground hard, and she lets out a trill of pain, but makes no move to get back up. Scorbunny lands nearby, ready to strike again if she recovers, but Hop makes the decision for her. “Rookidee! You gave it your best shot, girl.” Hop calls her back, then slaps his hand to his head as he frowns. “Gutted I lost, but I expect nothing less from my rival,” Hop is trying take this loss well, but you can see he’s rather upset by it.

                “Wow, impressive victory!” A female voice sounds from your right, and you turn to look for who the source could be. “Taking down three Pokémon with only one,” Sonia is standing just off the pitch, opposite Leon and Magnolia. You hadn’t even noticed her until now, you were so engrossed in your battle with Hop. She’s not looking at you as she talks, though, she’s staring straight at Leon. “Reminds me of a battle just like this one,” She sounds wistful, but Leon visibly flinches at the remark.

                Odd, you think, but Hop’s interrupting before you can question it. “Ah, I can’t believe I lost, I even got my Pokeball throw perfect too!” Hop collapses over on himself in an over exaggerated act of his anguish.

                “I can’t believe we won!” You shout, and run over to Scorbunny, lifting him off the ground and twirling him around. He’s worn out, and hurting from the hits he’s taken, but he’s just as excited about this victory as you are.

                “The sting of defeat, the joy of victory…” Hop recovers, and looks at you. “I guess going through both is the key to the two of us getting stronger, right?” He walks over to you from the edge of the field, and by the time he reaches you, a small smile is back on his face. You nod to him, smiling back.

                It seems Leon has recovered, as he walks up to the two of you. “Well, after seeing a match like that one,” Leon looks at Hop, then looks at you, a wide smile on his face. “I suppose I have no choice but to give you both an endorsement as Champion!” Leon booms, reaching into his pocket and pulling out two letters. He hands each of you one, and you open it up to see that it is indeed a letter of endorsement.

                Hop leaps up into the air, punching his fist up in excitement, then tackles his brother into a hug. “Thanks, Lee! You’re the best!” You’re glad for how easy it is to shift his mood back positively, you didn’t like to see him so upset. Hop releases Leon, and both boys are grinning. “I swear I’m going to win my way through the gym challenge to reach you!”

                “Hop, you’ve always tended to get caught up in things like how you throw your Pokeball out,” Leon counters, “Things that have nothing to do with real strength.” Hop looks like he’s about to argue, but Leon continues without letting him butt in, “Honestly, I’d been worried about you still obsessing over that sort of nonsense, but it seems you really have grown a bit, little brother!”

                Hop scratches the back of his head, “Thanks, Lee.” He says quietly, a small smile gracing his face.

                “You may both be young still, and plenty rough around the edges, but it was a proper battle.” Leon rests his hands on his hips, looking at you both proudly.

                “Young? Leon, we took on the gym challenge younger than they are!” Sonia challenges as she walks up to the group of you.

                “Well, we weren’t that much younger,” Leon counters quietly, “Nevermind that, it was a great battle!” Leon picks up his composure and his voice rises again. “Charizard and I were both feeling the excitement in every last cell in our bodies!” Charizard was watching? You hadn’t noticed him, but when you looked around, you see him in Professor Magnolia’s yard. He’s leaning against the brick fence, and once you’re aware of him, you can connect with him. He’s not exaggerating much this time, it was a good battle you hear Charizard through the connection.

                “I’m glad Scorbunny was able to pull through, and he learned a new move too!” You hug Scorbunny, and he rests his head against your shoulder, wanting to take a nap.

                “Oh, let me heal him up for you. Yours too, Hop.” Leon pulls more potions out of his bag, spraying Scorbunny and all of Hop’s Pokémon. Hop recalls his Pokémon immediately after, as they’re still tired from the battle and want to rest.

                “You should recall Scorbunny and let him rest too,” Hop instructs you, but Scorbunny immediately rejects that idea, crying out at the suggestion.

                “He’d rather stay out,” you inform Hop, petting Scorbunny and assuring him that you’re not going to put him back in his ball. Hop nods, though he looks skeptical.

                Leon calls your name, getting your attention. “Yes, Scorbunny did do really well today. His battle intuition is incredible. Yet you don’t command him at all in battle.” Leon is looking over you with his head tilted to the side, like he’s trying to figure something out.

                “I do so,” you huff, glancing at Scorbunny.

                Leon raises an eyebrow, “Oh? Perhaps I have more to learn from that battle than I thought.” He looks contemplative for a moment, before smiling wide again.

                “You’ll have to teach me your trick then!” Hop cuts in, more wild gestures with his hands. “You and me are going to train up against one another to aim for that Champion’s title!”

                “Against each other?” You ask, concerned. You still want to be friends, after all. You don’t want to be rivals all the time.

                “The more we keep battling against one another, the more our Pokémon will grow.” Hop explained, crossing his arms. You suppose that is true, every time you’ve fought Hop so far, Scorbunny has learned a new move.

                There’s suddenly two objects streaking through the sky, towards the lake. They land just shy of it, falling into the grass near a bench looking out onto the lake.

                “Huh? What’s that?” Hop calls out, startled. Everyone turns to look at where the objects fell, then Hop runs towards them. You follow behind him, and peer over his shoulder as he picks the objects up. “Well, would you look at this! They’re Wishing Stars!” Hop cheers, standing up and handing you one. “There’s two, so we can both have one! With one of these, our Pokémon can Dynamax! They’re gonna be massive! YES!” Hop is once again so overcome with excitement that he punches the air.

                Leon, Sonia, and Magnolia all walk up behind the two of you. “Trust you to pull something like this, Hop!” Leon boasts, swinging his arm around Hop’s shoulders and clapping him on the back hard enough to knock Hop forward slightly. “They say Wishing Stars fall down for those who have a true wish in their heart, you know.”

                “I will be the greatest trainer ever! I WILL be the greatest trainer ever! I WILL BE THE GREATEST TRAINER EVER!!!” Hop yells, fists tightly clenched and dancing in front of him as he chants. You have to cover your ears as his voice raises in volume, but you laugh regardless. You understand his excitement. “There! I said it three times, so surely my wish will come true now, right?”

                “Don’t be silly, Hop” Magnolia warns, “Those Wishing Stars are composed of a curious sort of rock containing unknown power. They are one of the most precious resources we have here in the Galar region. But they won’t do a thing for you in that state. At least, not anything you want them doing. Give them here, and I’ll have you sorted.” She gestures for the two of you to hand over your Wishing Stars.

                Hop hands over his right away, so you follow. “Gran has done most of the research on the Dynamax phenomenon, she knows how to turn these Wishing Stars into something you can Dynamax your Pokémon with.” Sonia explains while she looks at you, so you assume she’s doing this for your benefit.

                “First we get to battle against that mad Pokémon in the Slumbering Weald, and now we get Wishing Stars,” Hop muses, grinning at you. “It really feels like we’re getting caught up in the adventure of a lifetime!”

                “It really does,” you answer honestly. Everything really is happening so fast, it feels like quite the adventure indeed.

                You hope it stays that way. You hope it doesn’t become a nightmare.

                “It’s almost dinner time, did you lot want to stay for dinner?” Sonia asks, looking over you, Hop, and Leon. “You must all be hungry.”

                “I can always stay for your cooking, Sonia,” Leon grins, letting go of Hop to turn and face Sonia.

                “I’ve been wanting to try out this new curry recipe, it sounds delicious!” Sonia turns to head back towards the house.

                “Yes, and I’d love to hear more about this mad Pokémon in the Weald,” Magnolia states, looking at you and Hop before following her granddaughter.

                Leon follows the two women as well, and Hop turns to you. “Sonia’s cooking really is something else, mate. I can’t wait! I wonder what kind of curry it’ll be?” Hop tugs you along by the arm as he follows everyone else. You let yourself be pulled along, laughing.

Chapter Text

                Hop is right, Sonia’s cooking is really good. It’s much better than anything you’ve managed to make during your stay here. It’s nice to get to know Sonia and Magnolia better over dinner, and Magnolia is even kind enough to bring out tea and cookies for desert.

                “Ah crap, I forgot to watch the time, it’s dark out already!” Leon calls from near the window as he stares outside.

                “Too late to be walking all the way back at this hour now,” Magnolia responds from her seat at the table.

                “Yeah, and Charizard can only really safely carry two people on his back at a time. I can’t get all three of us home.” Leon looks between you and Hop, tilting his head to the side as he thinks.

                “You guys could always stay here, we’ve got the spare room and two extra futons somewhere. I think they were in the basement, I’ll go check,” Sonia offers as she gets up to go look.

                Leon sighs and shakes his head. “Can’t be helped, I’ll call Mum and let her know we’re all staying here so she doesn’t worry.” He pulls out his phone and walks into the next room to make his call.

                “Too bad about that Corviknight Taxi strike in the area, hope that’s solved soon,” Magnolia muses from the table as she grabs another cookie off the plate.

                Hop murmurs his agreement before turning to you and tugging you off to help Sonia. The three of you find the futons and spare bedding and drag them all upstairs. “We can fit one in the spare room and one in my room,” Sonia turns to look at you, “assuming you’re ok with staying in my room, that is.” She offers a kind smile, and you’re glad you’ve at least got the option.

                “That’s fine,” you tell her anyways, and you drag the futon up the next flight of stairs with her while Hop runs off to excitedly tell his brother about sharing a room. Sonia lends you some pajamas and shows you to the bathroom. You hear Leon and Hop loudly fighting over who gets the actual bed, before you hear Hop loudly challenge Leon to something as Sonia rolls her eyes.

                “Those two never change,” she mumbles while she rolls her eyes, and you laugh.

                “They certainly keep things lively,” you reply. You and Sonia go back downstairs after getting ready for bed, watching Leon and Hop’s card game. Leon wins, and Hop grumbles about getting the futon. You all wish each other a good night before heading to bed.

                You’re getting comfy on the futon with Scorbunny when Sonia gets your attention. “So where did you really come from, anyways? Leon and Gran know, but they won’t tell me about it.” Sonia’s looking at you, her eyes filled with curiosity. You’re not sure how much you’re allowed to tell her, but you figure she must be safe to talk to, as she’s Leon’s friend and the granddaughter of the professor.

                She finds your explanation strange but entertaining, and asks a lot of questions. “So these video games have Pokémon in them? But Pokémon don’t exist there?”

                “That’s right! And the stuff in the games has been pretty accurate to how things really work here. It’s weird, but some of the things are wrong, so it’s been a challenge figuring out what information is true and what isn’t.” Sonia finds this all interesting, and she keeps you up for a few hours with questions about your world, and talks about her own world.

                She, like everyone else you’ve talked to about this, doesn’t find it all that weird that you’re from a different world. At least, not as weird as you think she should find it. Having creatures with strange magical powers must really distort a person’s conception of what’s possible, you think. You confirm some new facts though, and Sonia has given you her phone number by the end of it with the offer to help answer any other questions you may have. She also wants to know more, as she’s impressed with the battle knowledge the games have gifted you with.

                You learn a bit about Sonia too. She did her gym challenge with Leon, and completed it, though lost to Leon in the finals. She doesn’t battle anymore, she tells you as she pets her Yamper. Seems it’s a touchy subject, as when you ask her about why, she changes the topic. You both fall asleep eventually, exhausted after a long day and a lot of conversation.

                In the morning, Sonia cooks breakfast while you help Hop and Leon clean up and put the bedding and futons away. Breakfast is just as delicious as dinner was, but you don’t stay long after that. Leon wants to head back as soon as he’s finished feeding his Pokémon, so you and Hop say your goodbyes.

                “Thanks again for letting us stay the night,” Hop grins, leaning against the door frame.

                “Anytime, dearie. It’s always nice to have company.” Magnolia replies. “Oh, and you’ll have to come back in a few days for your Wishing Stars. I’ll let you know when they’re ready.” She pats Hop on the shoulder before shooing him out the door. She points to Leon, who’s recalled all his Pokémon.

                “Ok, ready to go you two?” Leon calls out from the yard.

                You wave to Sonia and Magnolia, “Thank you both, again! See you!” You turn towards Leon and start walking over. When Hop doesn’t immediately shoot past you, you turn around to see him trying to struggle out of a hug from Sonia. You’re still laughing when Hop runs past you, but his glare feels harmless when he’s still got a grin on his face.

                Hop decides he’s running off ahead after he releases his Pokemon, he has some serious training to put in now that he’s got his endorsement. Leon encourages Hop to go on ahead, grabbing you by your sleeve before you try to follow Hop. You look up at Leon questioningly, and he gives you a serious look that you’re not sure the meaning of. Hop and his Pokémon run off up the hill, and Leon waits for him to be completely out of sight before he lets go of your sleeve and speaks.

                “I was hoping to talk to you about something, privately. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.” Leon begins walking, gesturing for you to follow.

                “What about?” You ask, looking away from Leon to spot where Scorbunny has run off to.

                “Yesterday, you told me you were commanding Scorbunny in battle. I want you to explain to me how.” You look back at Leon, and he’s staring at you with that same serious expression. It reminds you of how he looks when battling.

                “Uh…” You’re not sure how to answer him. How do you put words to that connection you share with him? With all Pokémon? Would Leon even understand it? It’s clear to you now that whatever it is, it isn’t normal here. Scorbunny pops back out of the woods and runs over to you, sensing your inner turmoil.

                “I didn’t see you make any physical gestures, and you were silent the whole battle. At first, I wrote it off as you training Scorbunny on what to do without commands, or Scorbunny being naturally talented. But you told me you were commanding him. I couldn’t see how at first, but now I think I might. I want to know if you’re doing what I think you’re doing.” Leon crosses his arms over his chest. He’s still staring at you, though his intense golden gaze has caused you to drop your eyes to Scorbunny.

                “Well, what do you think I’m doing?” You look up to Leon briefly before dropping your eyes to Scorbunny once more. “I really don’t know how to explain it, so if you know it, then maybe I don’t have to try to find the words for this.” You fidget with your hands in front of you while watching Scorbunny.

                This seems to have stumped Leon too, as he tilts his head and brings his hand up to his chin, his gaze no longer on you. “Hmm, perhaps it would be better if I showed you.” Leon mumbles while digging his phone out of his pocket. He stops walking as he begins searching for something on it. You help Scorbunny fight a few wild Pokémon before Leon finds whatever he was searching for.

                “Ok, this is a battle from the World Championships two years ago. Pay attention to this guy,” Leon points to the man with a red and white cap. “He’s one of the few people who can do it.”

                He looks oddly familiar, with his short sleeve red jacket. “Who is he?” Leon doesn’t answer, and instead presses play.

                “This will be an exciting match today folks!” The announcer’s voice picks up mid-sentence. “Two incredible trainers will be facing off today! We have Sinnoh’s own beloved Champion, Cynthia, fighting off against the legendary man who’s yet to lose a match this tournament, Trainer Red!”

                You audibly gasp. Red was real? And Cynthia too? You lean in closer, your shoulder bumping into Leon as you try to get a better view on the small screen. The two trainers walk up to their respective sides of the field, the announcer talking about their respective battle styles. It’s something he says while talking about Red that catches your attention, “Of course, it’s hard to know what Red will do next! With no commands, he makes sure his opponents have no idea what’s coming!”

                “What? Red can do it too?” You exclaim a little louder than you intend, looking up at Leon for an explanation.

                “Watch” Leon chastises, and you frown before turning back to the phone. Red has sent out a Venosaur, and Cynthia has sent out a Lucario, and the two Pokémon immediately begin to clash. The announcer is explaining everything that’s going on, but you can still hear Cynthia calling out commands to her Pokémon over him. Red, however, is completely silent, just watching the battle.

                “The way he communicates with his Pokémon so effortlessly without words really is impressive!” The announcer’s voice catches your attention again as Venosaur knocks Lucario out. “It’s like his Pokémon read his thoughts and know what to do way ahead of his opponent’s Pokémon. Such an impressive bond he has with his Pokémon!”

                “That’s it!” You shout, looking up at Leon again. “It’s like we’re reading each other’s thoughts, that’s it!” You can’t help the way you try to point at the phone like Leon wouldn’t know what you were talking about.

                “I thought so,” Leon smiles widely at you. “Want to finish watching this match? It’s one of my favourites.” Leon rubs the back of his neck with one hand.

                You nod, smiling back at him. You lean against him to get a good view of the intense match, picking up Scorbunny partway in when he wants to watch too. You don’t notice the way Leon blushes at the contact. The match ends with an impressive victory from Red, Cynthia only managing to knock out 3 of his Pokémon.

                “Ah, what a cool battle!” You exclaim when it’s over. It’s so cool to see this legendary trainer turn out to be a real person. “I wanna be that good some day,” you sigh.

                Leon laughs. “You could be, one day. You’ll have to work hard. I wish I could battle with him, I want to know which one of us is stronger!” Leon tucks his phone away and the two of you begin walking again.

                “Why can’t you?” You look at him, but he’s looking off into the distance.

                “Ah, I suppose you wouldn’t know. Galar is surrounded by this wall of intense weather, way out to sea. We knew there were other regions out there, but people rarely left Galar to try to find them, and fewer returned. Few from other regions would occasionally make it here as well. We discovered a few years back that Pokémon could pass through it unharmed, so about a year and a half ago, we worked with Kanto to get Galar on the same network as the rest of the regions, so we could freely communicate with each other. We used Pokémon to communicate and get this set up.” Leon has the same habit of gesturing with his hands a lot while he speaks, and you suspect Hop picked it up from Leon.

                “But people still can’t get through it?” You frown, it’s a little worrying to find that this region you’re on is completely isolated.

                “Not safely, no. People are free to try, but we haven’t found a way to get people through safely. Boats and planes don’t work, and even if you’re on the back of a Pokémon, that Pokémon may be safe but you certainly aren’t. I don’t believe it’s worth risking my life over, personally.” Though Leon speaks with a bitter tone, he looks oddly defeated. You wonder if he’s tried to cross it in the past, or knows someone who has.

                “Oh,” you’re not sure what else to say to that. You don’t know Leon well enough to feel comfortable prying into this further than you have, and you don’t want to cross a boundary. Silence lingers for a while, and you eventually think of something to talk about to end how uncomfortable it feels to you. “So what is that thing Red can do, anyway? Is there a name for it or something?”

                “Uh, no, I don’t think so. It’s an incredibly close bond with Pokémon, few people are known to be capable of it. Red is one of them, but there are a few others as well. They’re all incredibly strong trainers as well. Actually, the reason I got to find out about all of them, was because the World Championship was going on in Unova when we got the communication set up between Galar and the rest of the world. We got to watch all the matches here live on television. I’d stay up late into the night to be able to watch them all.” Leon laughs at this admission, and you smile as well, glad the mood has lightened up again.

                “Seems like good timing,” You reply. Scorbunny is beginning to get tired of being held, so you set him down so he can go where he pleases.

                “It wasn’t! The Champion Cup was coming up, and happening, during it. I may have defended my title, but it certainly wasn’t my most impressive match. Raihan sure got a kick out of that battle.” Leon looks a little embarrassed, but he’s still smiling.

                You laugh at his admission, “Even the champion doesn’t have his priorities in order,” you tease.

                “Hey, I never claimed to be the champion of time management skills,” Leon shoots back, and you can’t help the laugh that bubbles out of you. Leon grins at this, and you both turn to watch Scorbunny take down a Rookidee.

                You’re half paying attention to Scorbunny, half to Leon. Scorbunny is trying to take on anything that will fight him, and you guide him through battle when he finds a Pokémon to challenge. Part of you is still paying attention to your conversation with Leon, though, and you want to know more about this bond. “Does anyone else in Galar have this bond thing?”

                “Not that I’m aware of.” Leon shakes his head. “Can you do that with any Pokémon? Is that how you were communicating with Charizard?” Leon looks at you now, a hand on his chin.

                “Any Pokémon that wants to, yeah. With some it’s easier than others. Like it’s really easy with Scorbunny, and Hop’s Pokémon, and Charizard too. That was how I was talking to him.” You offer back, and Leon laughs at this.

                “No wonder he likes you so much then! He’s so picky about the people he likes, I was wondering how you got on his good side so quickly.” Leon’s got his hand back on his chin again and he looks off into the distance.

                “I keep hearing this but really, he just likes kind people only, he’s not that picky,” You bring up this tidbit of knowledge you learned on your walk with Charizard when Leon first got back.

                Leon, however, doesn’t reply. It seems he’s lost in thought now, as he’s still staring off into the distance. When he starts heading off the path, you realize he’s not paying attention to his surroundings at all, and you’re beginning to understand how this man gets so lost all the time. You tug on his cape, turning him back to the path. He does not react to you at all, and you have to do this multiple times with him.

                You don’t try to interrupt him though, you know what it’s like to want to be lost in your head for a while. You guide him up the path, back to Wedgehurst, while Scorbunny fights off random wild Pokémon.

                In fact, he’s fighting a- wait, what is he fighting right now? Something yellow? You turn over to look.

                He’s a Rookidee. You’ve never seen a yellow one before. In fact, you knew both male and female Rookidee were blue. The Rookidee spread his wings and briefly took flight, the light reflecting off him making him look shiny- could he be a shiny? He lands in front of Scorbunny, ready to fight. Scorbunny is getting ready to attack, so you instruct Wait!

                He pauses at your command, and looks back at you. He understands without you having to explain more. You can feel the Rookidee, and you can tell he wants a fight. You don’t, so you crouch down low and try to push your feelings to him.

                Please like me I mean you no harm you are beautiful and special please like me. You might be coming on a little strong, but you can’t exactly control your honest feelings over this bond thing yet.

                He responds positively to this regardless, and comes over to you. You are the first creature he’s come across that thinks he’s beautiful. Other Pokémon think he’s an abomination, and avoid him as he’s an easy target for prey. Your heart melts for him, and you open your arms, inviting him in. You want to take care of him and love him, and he looks so happy to learn this. He hops right up into your arms, and you hug him to your chest.

                Scorbunny, feeling a little jealous and left out, comes over and butts his head against your arm. What about me? He looks up at you with a pathetically sad look. You welcome him into your arms too, “I’m going to love and take care of both of you.” You state it out loud to affirm it. But I’ll take care of you, you feel from Scorbunny. And Rookidee agrees, I’m really strong, so I can take care of you too.

                “Then we’ll all take care of each other. We’re a family now, us three. We’re gonna look after each other.” You respond out loud again, it’s more for your own benefit at this point. And be the best! You feel from Scorbunny.

                You laugh, “That’s right, bud. You’re gonna take down Charizard, and together we’re going to beat Leon.” You promise them, and Scorbunny trills in excitement while Rookidee chirps loudly in agreement. You feel his willingness to join you and Scorbunny on your quest to be the best. You pull a Pokeball out of your bag and offer it to the Rookidee.

                He sniffs at it, but doesn’t pull away. “It’s how you can join me and Scorbunny, officially.” You explain, and he chirps softly before butting his head against the ball. The light clicks green immediately, and you release him out of it right away. He doesn’t mind the ball as much as Scorbunny does, but you’d rather be able to build that connection with him, so you keep him out of the ball. You tuck it away in your bag.

                You’re still crouched on the ground when you hear a familiar voice that startles you. “Great catch there!” Leon calls, and you turn to see him walking towards you through the tall grass. You’re glad he didn’t get himself lost while you turned away from him, but now you were worried about how much he’d overheard. Again.

                You see the surprise on his face when he gets close enough to see the new Pokémon you’ve caught. “A Rookidee, huh? I’ve never seen one that colour before!” His face splits into a wide grin and he sounds excited.

                “You have any idea what that means?” You ask him as you stand up. Scorbunny is happy to remain in your arms, and Rookidee flies up to land on your shoulder.

                Leon shakes his head. “No, I’ve never seen anything like this. You should show the professor when we go to pick up your Wishing Stars later. She’ll be interested in this, I imagine. She might know what it means, or at least she might know someone who does.” Leon stops and looks around, looking a little lost. “Uh, which way were we going again?” He asks quietly.

                You point back to the trail and up the hill. “We can’t go back today?”

                “We really should get back, I imagine Hop is at least at Wedgehurst by now.” Leon puts a hand on your back and begins guiding you back up the hill.

                Ah, right, Hop ran off ahead. Margret was likely waiting for you all as well. You had to return for the Wishing Stars anyways, he had a point. You sigh, but nod, looking back over your shoulder. You could just see the purple roof of the house peeking through the trees, and the lake as it stretched behind a hill. Finding out more about if shinies are a thing will have to wait.

                You talk with Rookidee as you all head back home, finding out what he knows how to do. Scorbunny wants down at this talk, and he’s ready to show off what he knows to Rookidee. He tries to show Rookidee moves, but Rookidee isn’t sure how to copy them. You instruct both in battle, and you’re proud of how well they work together already. They get along great, you’re glad you were able to find a good partner for your team.

                Leon offers tips occasionally, and even lets Sobble out to train him as well. You miss the smile he’s been giving you this whole time, your focus instead placed solely on your Pokémon.

                You don’t know he’s overheard your confession, your plan to beat him. You don’t know he’s more excited to fight you than any other opponent he’s ever had to face before. You don’t know he can’t wait to see what you can really do.

Chapter Text

                He leans against the wall, waiting for Raihan to get off the phone. He hears Raihan wrap up the call, and then a sigh as Raihan leans further into the couch. He rounds the corner into the room, and sees Raihan sprawled across the couch with his feet hanging over the arm. “That Leon?” He asks as he leans against the door frame.

                “Yeah,” is all Raihan offers. Piers watches him for a minute, until Raihan sits up and drags a hand down his face. “Found out what’s been going on with him,” Raihan starts cautiously, and Piers keeps quiet while Raihan finishes. “What are you doing up still, anyways?” He changes the subject, and Piers scoffs.

                “Nightmare. Can’t get back to sleep.” Piers replies, looking down to the floor to avoid Raihan’s gaze.

                “Wanna talk about it?” Raihan offers, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his legs.

                Piers fidgets with his necklace, “No.”

                “That bad huh? You going to get high?” Raihan asks, eyes still on Piers.

                Piers is still avoiding Raihan’s gaze, “I was gonna ask if I can smoke in here. It’s fuckin’ cold out.”

                Raihan shrugs, “Sure, just air this place out tomorrow will you? Nessa is coming and you know how she gets about the smell.”

                Piers nods, and pulls out a joint, lighting it as he moves into the living room. Raihan pats the couch beside him, and Piers sinks into it. He leans back into Raihan’s side, bringing his legs up onto the couch. Raihan hands him an ashtray from the side table. They lapse into silence while Piers gets high. After a couple drags, Piers speaks up, “It was about Rose.”

                “I figured,” Raihan wraps an arm loosely around him for comfort. Piers can tell Raihan wants to ask him something, he’s bouncing his leg and glancing over at Piers repeatedly, but is refraining. “What do you want? You’re doing that thing again.”

                Raihan chuckles, “I can’t keep anything from you. You’re too perceptive.” He takes a deep breath. “Leon… Needs a favour,” Raihan starts.

                “What does he want?” Piers asks, as he blows smoke out. He offers the joint to Raihan, but he waves it off.

                “A fake ID for this girl who showed up in the Slumbering Weald,” Raihan explains, and Piers snorts.

                “Leon? Goody goody Leon needs a fake?” Piers can’t help the laugh that leaves him. He takes another hit from his joint. “No way,” He says it more out of disbelief than to reject it, but he goes quiet. When Raihan doesn’t say anything immediately either, Piers lets his mind wander as he tries to imagine what Leon could want a fake for.

                “You owe him, you know,” Raihan’s voice interrupts his thoughts, and Piers looks up to see Raihan watching him.

                “I’m aware,” Piers takes another hit from his joint and leans further into Raihan. He looks away from Raihan again before continuing. “I’m just confused why him of all people would need somethin’ like this. Why not go the legit way? He’s in Rose’s good books right now.”

                Raihan sighs, “Rose wants her for something. Leon is trying to keep her safe.”

                “Fuck.” Piers flinches involuntarily. “’Course I’ll do it then. I’ll text him what I need from him. Fuck.” A shudder runs through his body, and Raihan wraps his other arm around him. Piers takes the last hit from his joint before snuffing it out in the ashtray on his lap. “He better do a damn good job keeping her from Rose, or we’re both going to be in for it.”

                Raihan makes a small “yeah” while he continues to rub Piers’ back. He knows well the kind of punishments both could receive if Rose ever found out. “I’ll help cover her up, I’m sure our friends will help too. Leon’s family is helping also. We’ll keep this from Rose, for your sakes and hers.”

                Conversation ends after that, both men too tired to talk about this more tonight. Piers ends up falling asleep against Raihan, and Raihan carries him to bed. He’s too tired to be bothered with putting Piers back in his own bed, so Raihan brings Piers to his room. He tucks Piers into his own bed and falls asleep beside him.

                Raihan doesn’t sleep well that night.

Chapter Text

                By the time you and Leon reach Wedgehurst, both your Pokémon are exhausted. Leon’s Sobble is too, but Leon has recalled him. You are carrying both of your tired partners in your arms, despite Leon’s objections. Leon attempts to lead the two of you to the Center, which ends up you leading him using a combination of the undetailed map on your phone and your memory.

                When you get to the Center, Hop is already inside. He’s on his phone on a waiting bench, likely waiting for his Pokémon to be healed. You notice he’s got his sleeve rolled up and a bandage wrapped around his left arm. “Hop!” Leon calls, and he looks up before grinning and waving.

                “I was beginning to think you guys got lost,” Hop calls as he gets up. Leon’s still walking up to the counter, so you follow as Hop joins you there.

                “We almost did,” You reply as a nurse sets a tray down on the counter for you to put your Pokémon on. Leon adds Sobble’s Pokeball in one of the indents for Pokeballs.

                “Woah, you got a second Pokémon?” Hop seems to finally notice your Rookidee.

                “Yep! I found him on the way back. He’s so pretty, and he gets along well with Scorbunny.” You pat his head once before the nurse takes the tray with a promise to take good care of your Pokémon.

                “What happened to your arm there?” Leon cuts in, and he sounds amused.

                “Oh, right, my Rookidee tried to land on my arm in the middle of a fight with another Pokémon. My arm was the tragic victim of that clash.” Hop grimaces, holding out his arm and looking at it.

                Leon tries to contain the spurt of laughter that comes out of him using his hand, but it hardly works. You’d seen Hop get injured a few times while fighting wild Pokémon with Wooloo earlier in your stay, Wooloo often missing what he was aiming for and rolling into Hop. You guessed injuries like this were a regular occurrence.

                “Sounds painful,” you offer sympathetically, patting his arm gently, well above the bandages. You turn to Leon, “And you find it funny.”

                “Hop was bragging to me last night about how these injuries totally didn’t happen anymore because his Pokémon were so well trained. After the fuss he made about it last night, I’m finding it entertaining to see this,” Leon gestures to Hop’s arm, and Hop casts his brother a glare. You also can’t help the spurt of laughter that comes out of you now, and Hop’s glare is turned your way.

                “My dude, I’ve seen you get tackled by Wooloo how many times? No one was gonna buy that tale.” You side with Leon, and Hop groans. Leon laughs more before straightening himself out when a fan comes over to ask for an autograph.

                After that, Leon gestures for you and Hop to follow him, and he heads behind a door marked `Employees Only’. “Are we allowed to be back here?” You ask as Leon turns back and forth likes he’s lost.

                “Lee, it’s left,” Hop says as he pushes forward to lead. “And yeah, there’s a waiting room back here where people can stay if they want some peace and quiet.”

                “And as Champion, I’m allowed to use it,” Leon finishes, and you roll your eyes. You’re still not used to his boasting. Hop leads you all through the correct door, and crashes on one of the couches. Leon leans against a wall. “Centers are great. You two should use them as often as you can on your journey, they’re free to access.” Leon explains, looking at you, so you’re assuming this is for your benefit.

                “I know, Hop explained it to me yesterday.” You laugh at the small “oh” Leon offers at that as he deflates slightly. A nurse comes into the room with yours and Leon’s Pokémon. Scorbunny hops around the room while Rookidee lands on your shoulder. Leon takes his Pokeball back, tucking it into his pocket.

                The nurse turns to Hop, “We’re still treating your Pokémon. I’ll bring her here when we’re done.” She explains before turning and leaving. Hop sighs, and Leon turns to look at Hop with a worried expression.

                “What happened?” He asks, and you move to sit down on the couch beside Hop.

                “Well, when that wild Pokémon hit Rookidee when she was trying to land on my arm, it kinda crushed her wing, it hurt her pretty badly. The doctor explained earlier to me that it could take them a while to heal her up.” Hop explains, and now both you and Leon feel bad for laughing earlier.

                “I’m sorry to hear that, Hop,” you offer, but Hop waves his hand at you.

                “No, it was entirely my fault. I should have recalled her. She was scared and just trying to get away, and I was pushing her to keep fighting.” Hop pulls his knees up to his chest and wraps his arms around them, looking down into his lap.

                Leon sighs and shakes his head, “At least she’ll be alright. I hope this is a lesson to you to listen to your Pokémon and respect their limits.” Leon sounds more disappointed than angry, and you think that might almost be worse on Hop.

                Hop just nods. Silence lapses as no one is sure what to say now, until Hop is pulled out of his misery by his curiosity for your new Pokémon. “So how did you get him? You gotta tell me the whole tale. And why’s he yellow and glittery?” Hop sits up, reaching out to let your Rookidee see his hand.

                Rookidee lets Hop pet him as you begin your tale. “He just let you hug him? Just like that? Friendly bugger ain’t he?” Hop asks when you’re finished, petting Rookidee again as he chirps happily.

                You laugh, “Yeah, he could sense that I really wanted him to join me.” Hop nods at your conclusion, and before he can comment further, the door opens and the nurse returns. Hop is quickly up and in front of the nurse before she’s fully through the door.

                “Your Rookidee is all healed up, thank you for your patience.” The nurse hands Hop a Pokeball, and Hop thanks her. You and Leon stand and join Hop.

                “Come on, let’s go get some lunch, I’m starving.” Leon squeezes Hop’s shoulder comfortingly, and Hop grins. You all agree to go eat lunch, and you all head to the one of the restaurants Hop and Leon like.

                Three days later, Leon tells you and Hop that your Wishing Stars are ready. You all head out with the intention of being home just after sundown. When the group of you arrives at Professor Magnolia’s house, she’s outside watering plants. “Welcome, come inside and I’ll go fetch those bands.” You all follow her inside, and you’re wondering what she meant by bands.

                Sonia is in the kitchen cooking something, and she greets you all when you come in. “Am I making enough for everyone?” She asks, and Leon enthusiastically agrees. “Oh, Hop and Kieran, is it true you really met some Pokémon you didn’t recognize? Is there anything more you can tell me about it?”

                “Er, well, there was this weird heavy fog, and then this even weirder Pokémon appeared… Kieran and I both tried to fight it off, but then I think we both passed out or something. It’s all pretty hazy.” Hop puts his arms behind his head as he tries to explain what he remembers.

                “A right fount of information you are.” Sonia retorts, turning back to the stove to continue cooking.

                “When we were fighting it, our attacks passed right through it. And I saw one that looked similar when I first woke up here in the Slumbering Weald. It lead me out of the forest then.” You try to fill in more for her. “They looked like tall, four legged beasts.” Hop nods along with your description.

                “Two? You sure it wasn’t the same one?” Sonia asks, and you nod.

                “The one I saw first was blue, then one Hop and I saw was red.”

                “Huh, I wonder what Pokémon they are. I’ll have to go investigate it one of these days.” Sonia replied, getting dishes ready for the food.

                “I’ve gone in and looked around for Pokémon like that, but I couldn’t find any,” Leon explained, moving to help Sonia get enough dishes for all the people and Pokémon.

                “I bet you only managed to walk in circles near the entrance, I don’t trust your investigation skills at all.” Sonia points a spatula at Leon as she talks, and the two begin to bicker as Magnolia enters the room holding a box.

                “Kieran, Hop, these are for you.” She sets the box on the table and lifts the lid. Inside are two bands that look like the one Leon wears. Magnolia shows you two how to put them on as she explains what they are. “These are Dynamax bands. I made them by fitting the Wishing Stars you found the other day into those bands.”

                “Thank you,” you politely reply.

                “Thanks, Professor. This is brilliant! It’s just like the one Lee has on him, too. Now we can Dynamax out Pokémon like he does!” Hop is gesturing wildly, as usual, and you can’t help but be filled with excitement at the idea of your Pokémon becoming so big and powerful. You look to your two Pokémon and also feel slight fear of what it would really be like to be near such giant, strong creatures.

                “My word, you don’t waste any time, do you?” Magnolia shakes her head gently. “I think you’ll find it’s not so simple as that. There are a number of conditions you must meet if you hope to have your Pokémon Dynamax and take on that gigantic form. I encourage you both to make sure you understand it before you go attempting anything.”

                You nod, and Hop grins and crosses his arms. “The legend of my reign is finally about to begin!” Hop looks like he’s about to charge off before Sonia cuts in.

                “Not without some food it’s not!” Sonia shouts, and Hop jumps, a guilty look on his face.

                Lunch is delicious, and as you bring Rookidee out of his ball to enjoy some lunch too, you’re reminded to ask the Professor about him. “Oh, Professor, I have a question. Do you know why my Rookidee looks like this?” You hold your Rookidee up for her to see, and she gasps.

                “Oh my, I’ve never seen a Rookidee like that before! I believe you might have just found a rare colour variant! I don’t know much about them myself, but I believe Professor Elm from Johto has done a lot of research into them. I’ll get a hold of him and see what he thinks. Sonia, dear, take a photo of him for me, would you?” Magnolia gets up to come get a better look at him, and Sonia pulls out her phone to oblige her grandmother. Magnolia also plucks one feather from him, apologizing to him when he cries out.

                So shinies do exist? “Do these colour variants exist for other types of Pokémon?” You ask, and Magnolia nods.

                “That’s right. There’s many Pokémon with documented colour variants, and there’s a database that’s kept up by someone online. I once saw an Arrokuda with a colour variant in that very lake out there, that was many years ago, before I knew anything about them.” Magnolia gestures out the window to point at the lake. “I’m sure you can find more online, as well.”

                “And they’re called colour variants?” You ask, so you can search for information.

                “Oh, I’m not sure their official name, I’m afraid I don’t remember it.” Magnolia moves to sit back down, and lunch resumes. You search up these colour variants, and indeed, they’re called Shiny Pokémon. You were right, shinies exist. The database is easily enough found, and it’s maintained by someone named Bill. You wonder if it’s the same Bill from the Pokémon games.

                Lunch wraps up as you take a picture of Rookidee yourself to submit to this database. Magnolia is excited to get in touch with Professor Elm about Shiny Pokémon, now that you’ve reminded her the name. Leon insists you all head out once you’ve helped clean up so you can make it home in time.

                You and Hop train your Pokémon, along with Leon’s Sobble, on the way back home. You and Hop spend the next few days preparing for the opening ceremonies of the gym challenge. There’s a lot you need to pack, and you’re not sure how you’re possibly going to fit it all into your bag.

                Margret offers you Leon’s old camping set from when he did his gym challenge, as she hadn’t had the chance to go pick up a new set for you. “It should last you, but if it doesn’t, you let me know and I’ll send you some money so you can buy a new set.” She offers as she hands you a kit of camping equipment.

                When you go to put all the things you need into your bag, you find they magically all fit, with room to spare. The bag is heavy, though, so it still weighs like everything is in there. You’re not sure how this weird bag magic works, and when you bring it up with Hop, he seems confused. “Don’t your bags do that where you come from?”

                “No. You can only put as much in them as their size allows, because my world has rules that make sense.” You complain while the two of you shop for your groceries.

                Hop laughs, and it’s only a couple days before you two are ready to take off. Leon leaves a day before the two of you, as he has work to do as Champion to prepare for the gym challenge, and your fake ID to pick up. You and Hop see him off at the station in Wedgehurst, and he hugs both of you goodbye.

                There are 5 days until opening ceremonies start in Motostoke when you and Hop set out at the station. Margret comes to see you off, and do a final check to make sure Hop packed everything. She checks yours too at your request, which makes Hop feel less embarrassed about it. The goal is to get to Motostoke and register, then get some training in where there will be many more trainers to battle against. It’s Hop’s idea, and it’s Leon approved as he’ll be in Motostoke the entire time.

                “There’s no need to worry Mum, I’m going to become the next Champion! You’ll be the first mother of two champions.” Hop brags, and you shake your head at him.

                “I worry about Leon all the time, whether you become Champion or not I will always worry about you too.” Margret replies, hugging her son goodbye.

                Hop’s chattering on about how excited he is as the two of you board the train. You’re heading straight to Motostoke, and it’s going to be a few hours on the train. You’re beginning to see why Leon rarely makes it home. Hop talks about Motostoke and the area and all the things there are to do, showing you pictures from his phone occasionally. The ride seems awfully short, and the train pulls to a stop in a station.

                An announcement plays as you and Hop walk into the station with other passengers, “Attention passengers, the train is currently halted due to a flock of Wooloo on the tracks. Please be patient, train service will resume as soon as possible.”

                “That means we’re at the Wild Area stop. This is brilliant!” Hop exclaims, turning to you.

                “Brilliant? Why?” You ask, adjusting Scorbunny in your arms as he wants to hop around but there are too many people milling about.

                “Well the Wild Area is massive! There are tons of Pokémon out there, we can put together a great, strong team for the gym challenge! Plus, tons of opportunity to practice. Come on!” Hop grabs your arm, and leads you out of the station. Scorbunny cheers at the prospect of adventure.

                Arriving outside, you let Scorbunny down and take a look around you. In front of you is a vast expanse of fields, forests, and a large lake you can just make out over a hill in the distance. Way far out, just over the horizon, you can see what appears to be the top of a clock tower.

                “That’s Motostoke’s clock tower you can see in the distance,” Hop points at the clock. “All we have to do is head straight north to make it to Motostoke. We’ll have to camp out, of course, it’s too far to walk in one day.” Hop explains, and you nod as you take in the scenery. It oddly reminds you of home, the kind of terrain you’re used to spending all summer seeing. You feel a pang of homesickness hit you at the reminder of your family and the trips you’d take.

                “Good thing I have a lot of experience,” you don’t mean for it to sound as monotone as it comes out, and Hop gives you a look.

                “You alright mate?” He asks, crossing his arms. You nod, not wanting to worry him unnecessarily. “Then are you ready to head off on the adventure of a lifetime? Oh yeah, my tale is just getting started! Let’s go!”

                As Hop charges towards the gate, you can’t help the bad feeling in your stomach you get about this.

Chapter Text

                There’s an immediate problem to Hop’s plan: you can’t enter the Wild Area until you have 3 gym badges, or you’re accompanied by someone who’s completed the gym challenge.

                “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do. You’ll have to wait for the train like everyone else.” The attendant manning the gate has explained to you both this upsetting news, and Hop is clearly bummed out.

                “Aw man, I was really looking forward to this! Nothing to be done about it, I suppose.” Hop grumbles as the two of you begin the short walk back to the station.

                “Why is that a rule?” You ask as you get Scorbunny back in your arms in preparation for entering the station.

                “The Wild Area is full of wild Pokémon, strong ones, so if you go out there unprepared you can get hurt. That’s probably why, anyways.” Hop tries his best to explain, and you chuckle at his attempt.

                “I guess that would make sense,” you reply as the two of you look for seating in the station.

                “Well if it isn’t Hop and Kieran!” You hear a familiar voice call and the two of you turn to see Sonia walking up to you, Yamper at her heels.

                “Sonia! What are you doing here?” Hop asks as she joins the two of you.

                Sonia twirls a lock of her hair in her fingers, “Well, my gran gave me a proper earful, in her own way…” Sonia starts, looking frustrated. She pitches her voice to mimic her grandmother, “Those two young trainers are setting out on a journey, but what are you doing with your life?” Her voice sounds nothing like Magnolia’s, but it’s a funny attempt despite the painful message.

                “Ouch, Sonia.” Hop offers.

                “That sounds rough,” you frown.

                Sonia sighs. “I still haven’t picked a thesis, and I’ve been her assistant for years now. I know she just wants to see me succeed, but she’s not a very gentle coach. So I’m doing some research of my own now. I’m looking into those mysterious Pokémon you two mentioned, but I didn’t have any luck finding them on my trips to the Slumbering Weald. So I’m off to find some clues, and who knows? If I discover something really huge, then maybe even Gran’ll admit I’ve got some talent!”

                “Yikes, that still sounds rough,” Hop replies. “Where are you off to then?”

                “Motostoke, then I’m not sure from there. Honestly, I’m using this as an excuse to get some time away from Gran too. And it’s been a while since I’ve gone to see some of my friends, maybe I’ll even stop by Turffield and Hulbury.” Sonia continues.

                “It sounds like you need the break,” you give her a sympathetic look.

                “I really do. Honestly, it’s been ages since I’ve been on the road. I’m actually looking forward to it. I haven’t gone camping in ages. Enough about me though, are you two off to opening ceremonies?” Sonia taps a finger against her chin while looking between you two.

                “You bet! But the train’s delayed. We were going to go through the Wild Area, but you need 3 badges now to enter.” Hop explains remorsefully, looking towards the door.

                “They changed that a few years ago after that group of kids died out there, don’t you remember?” Sonia shakes her head. “No matter, I could take you both.”

                “You could?!” Hop’s earlier disappointment is gone completely to be replaced by his usual excitement.

                “I did finish my gym challenge, or did you forget that too?” Sonia teases dryly, and Hop lets out an embarrassed laugh.

                “Alright, the tale of my legend can continue!” Hop exclaims, and you and Sonia share a look of amusement between yourselves.

                “Yes yes mister future champ, let’s go get us sorted then.” Sonia leads the three of you outside. “This is called the meeting area. If anything bad happens to you out there I want you to try to head back here, as there’s cell service here. Once you’re out in the Wild Area, you’re going to lose service. It’s about a two days trip to walk to Motostoke, but there’s a store here we can stock up on some food at.” Sonia is pointing things out as she explains, and you’re paying close attention. “You both have camping gear?”

                “Yep!” Hop speaks for both of you, and you nod.

                “Good. We shouldn’t need much if it’s just two days. But I always get extra, just in case.” You all get some food for your trip through the Wild Area, and Sonia is granted permission to bring the two of you with her into the Wild Area.

                “Oh yeah, I’m so pumped! I want to fight a Dynamax Pokémon out here!” Hop can hardly keep still, and it’s clear he wants to run ahead.

                “Well don’t, not alone. You couldn’t take one on your own. The three of us can try to take one on together, I should be able to keep both of you safe.” Sonia attempts to grab the back of the collar of Hop’s jacket to keep him from tearing off, but Hop still manages to tear out of her grip.

                “Then I’m going to go train and explore! Come on, Wooloo!” Hop tosses a Pokeball out, and Wooloo appears in front of him. The two go charging off, despite Sonia’s protests.

                “Wait! Hop! Get back here! Kieran, don’t go too far, I’ll be back!” Sonia looks panicked, so you just nod as she and Yamper run after Hop. You figure if you keep the meeting area nearby that should be fine. You let Rookidee out and he joins you and Scorbunny as you wander into the Wild Area.

                It feels so massive out here, and there are so many different kinds of Pokémon. You recognize a few bug Pokémon, like Combee and Metapod, and a few others as well, like Bunnelby and Minccino. Most leave you alone as you walk through, though a few brave ones come up and challenge you as you walk by. Scorbunny and Rookidee have a bit more trouble with the Pokémon you encounter here, but all your training together over the last few days leaving you all with a strong idea of what to do in most situations. These wild Pokémon are clearly stronger than the ones around Postwick and Wedgehurst, but Scorbunny and Rookidee still seem to be handling them fine, so you aren’t too worried. Well, you’re less worried. You’ve still got what Sonia mentioned, kids dying out here, in the back of your mind.

                The weather is clear, and it’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of the nature surrounding you. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine being home. You’re heading northwest, and you make sure to double check this before heading that way. You want to be sure you always know where the meeting area is so you don’t get lost before Sonia gets back.

                You hear a loud roar of a Pokémon from ahead, and it sounds big. As you pass some trees, you manage to get a glimpse of what made the sound through a gap in the foliage. It’s an Onix, and it’s massive. Pokémon have a much different scale in real life compared to the video games, so encountering a Pokémon like Onix for the first time is something else. You’re a little intimidated as you walk out into the clearing ahead. Onix is still a ways off, you could turn back and head in a different direction, it hasn’t noticed you yet.

                Scorbunny and Rookidee are both ready for the challenge though, and you nod to them. You’re pretty confident you three can do this. So you walk up to the Onix, and when it sees you, it starts coming towards you. You instruct Rookidee to distract it while Scorbunny runs around behind it to try to climb its body. It’s a rock ground type, so no fire or flying moves. Stick with- wait, normal moves won’t work either. Scorbunny only knows normal and fire moves, and Rookidee only knows flying and normal moves. None of them are going to do much damage, and you’re suddenly worried about how this will go. This Onix likely knows rock moves, and those are going to hurt both your partners.

                Ok, new plan, use the fire and flying moves regardless. You instruct when both Pokémon are unsure what to do. Rookidee lands a peck on the Onix’s face, but the Onix counters this with slamming its head into Rookidee’s tiny body, sending him down into the ground. Scorbunny has managed to climb the Onix, and gets a good kick on his head.

                The Onix barely seems to feel it.

                You realize you’re in trouble the same time Scorbunny is thrown from the Onix when it slams its head into the ground. Rookidee barely manages to fly out of the way before the Onix hits him.

                You’re looking for an exit strategy, the Onix moves faster than you can run. You’re trying to stay out of the way too, the Onix keeps coming after you with its tail.

                Genuine fear fills you, and you are beginning to understand why you and Hop were not allowed here. You are not ready for this. And you may die.

                You’re focused on dodging and defense right now, there’s no point to offense. Your moves glance right off it, all it does is get your Pokémon in range to be hit by the Onix. However, even with your bond, your Pokémon can’t dodge every attack, and your Pokémon continue to lose strength while you try to edge closer to the trees to attempt an escape.

                Rookidee is the first to go down after a particularly nasty hit by a large rock the Onix flings at him. There was no way he could have dodged it, so you quickly dig out his Pokeball and recall the unconscious Pokémon, hoping he’s ok. Even Scorbunny is afraid, for your sake, and he tries to distract Onix while you get a head start running.

                It barely works, but the Onix manages to follow Scorbunny as he catches up to you. Scorbunny feels horrible for messing up, and you forgive him while the two of you run. The Onix is throwing rocks at you both as you turn into a mass of trees to try to lose it. One hits you, and you go tumbling over. It hurts like hell, and you’re momentarily stunned before Scorbunny is pulling on you and the adrenaline kicks back in and you’re standing up and running through the pain.

                It’s not long before your lungs start to ache.

                Soon after, even in the cover of trees with the Onix gaining on you, you feel your throat begin to clench. It’s hard to breathe. Scorbunny decides to take action, and turns around against your orders to try to buy you time. He heads right at the Onix and leaps up high, landing two kicks to the Onix about half way up its body.

                This actually seems to do some damage, as the Onix reels back and roars in pain. A normal move should not have done that much damage, and you quickly wrack your brain for a move type that would. Fighting? Is that Double Kick? Keep using it, whatever it is! You instruct Scorbunny, but the Onix is angry after that and with a swing of his tail, sends Scorbunny flying clear past you.

                “Scorbunny!” A screech leaves your throat as you run to his direction. He’s barely conscious, and you quickly scoop him in your arms as the Onix continues to give chase. It’s even harder to run while carrying Scorbunny, but you don’t have the hands to dig out his ball even if you wanted to put him in it. With the Onix so close, you’re beginning to believe you’re not going to make it through this.

                “Yamper, use Dig!” You hear the voice of the exact person you were hoping would come find you. Yamper springs out of the ground directly below the Onix, toppling it over. “Now send him packing with Play Rough!” Yamper launches himself at the downed Onix, and it wails in pain. Yamper then leaps off and lands near Sonia. You barely make it to Sonia before collapsing over, Sonia catching you as you fall. The Onix gets up and runs off, Yamper standing guard to make sure it leaves.

                “What were you thinking?!” Sonia shouts at you, and you immediately begin sobbing. Relief floods you as you realize you’re safe, Sonia holding you tightly to her despite the absolute berating she’s giving you. You see Hop standing a ways off when you look over Sonia’s shoulder. “You could have been killed! Your Pokémon could have been killed! I told you not to wander off and you go do this?! Are either of you two capable of listening at all?!” Sonia sounds livid, and you can feel her shaking.

                She turns to glare at Hop, who looks away guiltily. “You see Hop, this is what I was talking about! This is what can happen out here! There are dangerous Pokémon out here that you two aren’t capable of handling on your own yet!” Sonia takes a deep breath. “And you!” She turns back to you. “Really, what in the world were you thinking? Why would you think you could take on an Onix?!”

                Your sobbing, mixed with this asthma attack you’re having, is not making it easier to breathe. “I’m sorry,” you barely manage to choke out, but there’s hardly any sound behind it. You keep repeating it as best you can through the sobs and gasps.

                Sonia sighs, “You’ve been through enough, let’s get your injuries treated now.” Sonia’s tone is incredibly gentle now, and she rubs your back. “Come on, breathe with me, in… and out…” She instructs, and you do your best to follow. She rubs your back in the pattern she sets, and this helps calm you down. Hop has braved coming closer, and has taken Scorbunny from you to spray with a potion.

                Once you’ve calmed down enough, your breathing returns to a semi normal state. You’re still wheezing, but you feel like you are at least getting air again. Sonia pulls out her first aid kid and begins to clean and bandage your injuries. You’ve got a blow to the head from the tumble you took that’s bleeding down the side of your face, and that rock had hit you from your back down to your left leg. You had a big gash down your right leg that you’d got while running through the forest. Once finished, she helped you to your feet and wrapped an arm around your torso, instructing you to wrap your arm around her shoulders so she could aid you in walking.

                “Let’s go find a safe place to rest, and I’ll cook us some lunch. Yamper, scout ahead for me, please.” Yamper barked in acknowledgement before running off. Hop carried Scorbunny for you, as even in his injured and tired state, Scorbunny did not want to go back in his ball. You slowly limped along, but Sonia and Hop stayed at your pace.

                Yamper found a nice clearing for you all, and Sonia gently lowered you to the ground in the middle of it. “Now, I think you and your Pokémon should set up camp here and get some rest to recover from what happened. I’ll handle the curry, I know a few good recipes using berries that will heal you up and help you feel better.” Sonia begins rummaging in her bag for her cooking supplies. “Hop, help her out, will you?”

                “Right,” Hop says and he helps you dig the camping gear out of your bag. In the end, he’s the one trying to set it up alone, as you can’t really stand up to help him. “Uh, Sonia, a little help?” Hop calls as he tries to get that rickety old set to stand properly.

                “Is that Leon’s old camping gear? Wow it’s just as bad as I remembered. Here- you’re doing it wrong, you have to put the poles up after or the tarp won’t fit over them,” Sonia instructs, and you pay careful attention so you can remember how to properly set up this well used set.

                With Sonia’s help, the tent doesn’t take long to set up at all. Sonia begins cooking while Hop lets his Pokémon out. Sonia’s set up the pot near you, so you’re able to watch her cook and see what she does. You let Rookidee out when lunch is ready, and he’s recovered enough that he can be fed, but he’s too weak to move on his own. Sonia takes care of feeding him while you help Scorbunny eat his food. The curry really does make you feel better, and you notice it makes Scorbunny and Rookidee feel better as well.

                You and your Pokémon are incredibly tired after the meal, however, just as Sonia thought you would be. Sonia helps all three of you into your tent, and lowers you onto the bedroll. “Are we going to set up camp here too Sonia?” Hop asks from outside.

                “No, it’s still early. You wanted to go fight a Dynamax Pokémon, didn’t you? We can go do that while Kieran rests, and then come back here when we’re done.” Sonia replies. “Would you be ok with that? You’re in a safe area here, and wild Pokémon generally leave tents alone when they aren’t in their way. You’ll be fine here.”

                You nod, “Yeah, if I’m safe, then I’ll just sleep. Thank you, Sonia. I’m so sorry about the Onix. I thought- well, all three of us thought that we could take it, because the other wild Pokémon in the area hadn’t really been a problem. I didn’t realize it would be so much stronger.”

                Sonia sighed, “Wild Pokémon the size of your Pokémon are one thing, what made you think you could take on something as big and powerful as an Onix?”

                You wanted to tell her about the games, and how they never threw anything at you that you couldn’t handle. You hadn’t expected to not be able to handle it, really. You’d at least thought you’d be able to get away safely, and you hadn’t prepared for reality at all. But instead, “Overconfidence,” is the simple explanation you offer her.

                “At least this lesson wasn’t too costly, none of you got seriously injured. Some rest and you and your Pokémon should be fine.” Sonia stated gently, climbing out of the tent. “Ready to go, Hop?”

                They left, and you sank into the bedroll, Scorbunny crawling into your arms as soon as you were settled. Rookidee had fallen asleep at the end of the bedroll already, so you carefully adjusted your feet around him. It didn’t take long for sleep to claim you.

                By the time you wake up, the sun is setting. You use it to get a sense of your directions. Sonia and Hop aren’t back yet it seems, but your stomach can’t wait for them. It growls loudly as you pull your cooking supplies out and start preparing a supper for you and your Pokémon. Scorbunny helps you get the fire going, and you manage to cook up a passable curry following Sonia’s earlier instructions.

                When you’re all finished and cleaned up, the stars are out, and there’s still no sign of Sonia or Hop. You pull out your Rotom phone to see if they’ve left any messages, only for the ‘No Service’ message on your screen to remind you that you don’t currently have a way to contact them.

                You look around, noting in the dark which way Motostoke is. You wonder if you can catch up to them in the dark, you don’t happen to have a torch in your kit, but Scorbunny is able to hold a small flame between his hands to help light the way. You carefully pack your tent back up, getting a ton of help from Rookidee and Scorbunny, as the whole thing feels like it could break if you do anything wrong.

                You’ve made the decision to catch up to them in the dark. You’ve always had great eye sight in the dark, there’s not a cloud in the sky and the moon is bright. With Scorbunny’s extra aid, you feel confident you can avoid the strong Pokémon and find Sonia and Hop. Besides, most Pokémon should be sleeping right now, right?

                It’s not long into your journey that you discover this is false. Even more Pokémon are awake at night it seems, and you’re mad at yourself for not figuring that out. The three of you travel more carefully, trying to evade Pokémon wherever possible. You still encounter some, and they’re strong, but your Pokémon are pulling through.

                Things go wrong when Scorbunny steps on the tail of a sleeping Minccino as you’re walking next to a lake. The Minccino squeals in pain, and this attracts a lot of unwanted Pokémon attention. A group of Meowths, strange looking ones but you’re pretty sure they’re Meowths, attempts to surround you and your Pokémon. You instruct Scorbunny and Rookidee on attacking while dodging claw swipes the odd Meowth that breaks through Scorbunny and Rookidee.

                You’re holding out ok, but the noise of the battle is drawing other Pokémon in. Now you’ve got other Pokémon joining in, and it’s beginning to get too much for your Pokémon to handle. You get them to clear a gap north, you know if you run towards Motostoke you can at least hopefully find Hop and Sonia. The three of you are now on the run once more as you’re chased by a swarm of Pokémon. This was a stupid idea, how could you not have learned your lesson from earlier? Projectiles occasionally hit you, as you’re the bigger target, but you try not to let the pain slow you down. There’s enough Pokémon chasing you at this point that the three of you would be killed if you stopped.

                Scorbunny and Rookidee are still fighting off the ones that get too close, Rookidee making good use of diving down in front of his opponents and digging his feet hard into the ground, spraying up sand and dirt that causes the Pokémon hit to lose accuracy in their aim. We’ll call that one Sand Attack, good job Rookidee! You cheer your Pokémon on despite the fear you feel. You’re trying to remain positive that you’ll make it out of this, so your Pokémon remain positive and don’t give up.

                Your lungs are holding out this time, but your Pokémon are getting tired. There’s a small forest ahead, and it may not have worked to lose the Onix but you’re hoping this time it works to lose the wild Pokémon swarm. It does help thin out the heard, but Rookidee has a harder time dodging with the extra foliage around. He gets nailed by a Stufful, tumbling to the ground. He doesn’t recover quickly enough before more Pokémon are on him, and you have to recall him.

                It’s just you and Scorbunny now, and Scorbunny is keeping Pokémon off you both as best as he can. You manage to catch a small break when you fall painfully into a small nook between some tree roots. Your ankle hurts, but as Scorbunny hops down with you, no Pokémon immediately follow. You use the moment to dig a potion out of your bag for Scorbunny, and after you finish spraying him with it, he begins glowing.

                He glows bright white, and it seems like his shape is changing. You wonder if this is what Pokémon evolution is, it looks like it could be. As the light dies down, you’re met with a completely different looking Pokémon. Scorbunny has doubled in height, his body is now black and red instead of white, and his ears have flopped over. There’s no time to pull out your phone and find out what his new evolution is called, however, as the light from his evolution has revealed your hiding spot. Your newly evolved partner jumps up out of the nook, his entire body becoming cloaked in flames as he charges into a group of Pokémon. Flame Charge? You question, and your partner agrees with the move’s name.

                You climb out carefully, as your ankle struggles to bear your weight. Your partner is buying you some time with this new move, but it’s costing him. Charging in like that means he’s taking a lot of hits. You manage to gain some distance, but it’s at a high price. Your partner takes a blow that knocks him unconscious, and you have to turn back to rescue him.

                You manage to sneak close enough that you can just make him out through the trees, and you aim the ball’s laser at him. I’m sorry, my friend you apologize as you’re forced to recall him to save him. You hope he’ll forgive you later. You crouch down immediately after and slowly crawl further behind a tree. It seems the wild Pokémon aren’t sure where you went, as you hear them begin to scatter in search of you. Using the tree to aid you, you manage to stand and try to sneak away.

                A snapped twig draws the attention of a Meowth that was close by, and you mentally curse as you realize you’ve not been watching where you’re stepping close enough. It charges at you, and you begin to limp run away. He catches up to you easily enough, and rakes his claws down your left leg. You scream in pain, and collapse on the ground. You look back to assess the damage to your leg, and the Meowth has badly torn up most of the back of your leg. There’s a lot of blood. Your minimal knowledge of first aid tells you this is bad enough you could bleed out from, and time seems to slow down. The Meowth seems to have been scared off by your scream, as it’s retreating.

                You need to hide. You need to call for help. You need to make a tourniquet for your leg. Or you will die.

Chapter Text

                First is the tourniquet before you lose more blood. You pull your bag off, and grab the first piece of clothing your hand touches. You don’t even look at it before you’re tearing it into strips. You quickly tie them around your leg as tightly as you can. You barely register it above the pain of those cuts, anyways. Your hands are shaking as you tie the knots tight, you’re beginning to feel incredibly weak. It looks like that Meowth caught an artery behind your knee, and the cuts down your calf are so deep that it causes your leg to cave in a bit. The sight of it makes you want to vomit, so you quickly look away.

                A wave of dizziness hits you, and you fight it. You can’t pass out yet, there are still things you need to do. You still need to hide. No Pokémon have found you yet, but you hear them. You drag yourself behind a nearby tree, tucking yourself into a large root and trying to make yourself as small as possible. This will have to do, as you don’t have the energy to move further.

                You still have one more step. You reach into your pocket to pull out your phone before you realize, you won’t have service. You’re in the Wild Area still. A trembling hand with your phone clutched weakly in it slips out of your pocket and onto the ground, and you stare forlornly ahead. You don’t have the energy to drag yourself further. You’re going to pass out from blood loss eventually.

                You’re not even sure which way north is now anyways. You’re dizzy and disoriented, and you can only see a small sliver of the sky through the trees. What you can see doesn’t help you pinpoint anything useful either. You’re thoroughly turned around in here. And it’s where you’re going to die, because Sonia and Hop don’t even know to be looking for you. How long have you been running? How far have you travelled? Would they even know where to look?

                You take out your two Pokeballs and tuck them under the root; that should keep them safe if they stay in there until morning. Hopefully someone finds them, or they find Sonia and Hop. As long as they make it out of this, you think you can rest easily.

                It sounds like the Pokémon chasing you aren’t getting much closer at least. Perhaps you’ll die from blood loss after all, and not from the large group of Pokémon angry with you. Your hand brushes against your fallen phone, and you pick it up off the ground. You’re not sure what you’re hoping to find, maybe look through the few photos and messages you’ve taken since you got here. You aren’t sure what to do with the time you have left, and you don’t know how you can save yourself now.

                That adrenaline rush is gone, and you can barely keep your head up. You rest your phone against your still good knee and unlock it. Your eyes flick up to the corner with a silent prayer, hoping that ‘No Service’ message is gone.

                Someone must have been listening, because there’s one tiny bar up there, indicating you have service. You must be just close enough to Motostoke to be within range. A single sob leaves you in relief.

                You call the only person you can think to in this moment. Hop and Sonia won’t have service, after all. Leon doesn’t pick up, and it goes to voicemail, so you try again. You’re not sure if there’s an emergency number you could call either, and in your panicked state of mind, you’re not sure how to find out either.

                Leon picks up the second time you call. “What? What time is it? Who is this?” Leon’s low, raspy voice answers.

                “I need help. I-it’s real bad. I,” you hiccup, “I think I m-might die out here.” Your voice is unsteady and weak, and you try to keep quiet enough to not attract the attention of the Pokémon still searching for you.

                “Kieran? What’s going on? Where are you?” Leon sounds immediately more awake, and you can hear background noise like he’s suddenly gotten up.

                “I-I’m in the Wild Area, outside Mo-Motostoke. I’m in a f-f-forest south of Motostoke, n-not far from a l-lake.” You try your best to describe where you are for Leon. “Both my Pokémon are un,” another hiccup “unconscious, and I’m r-really badly injured. I think I might b-bleed out.”

                “What are you doing in the- nevermind that’s not important right now. I’m on my way. Stay on the line for me, alright?” Leon instructs.

                “Ok” you whisper into your phone, feeling exhaustion sink into your bones. Help was on the way. You could make it out of here. You just had to hang in there until Leon found you.

                “Try to stay conscious for me, have you applied pressure to the wound?” Leon asks, then it sounds like he covers the mic and yells, “Charizard, let’s go! We have an emergency!”

                “I made a t-tourniquet,” you softly reply, your voice straining.

                “Good,” Leon’s reply sounds washed out, and you begin hearing a lot of loud background noise that you think might be wind. Leon’s likely in the air on Charizard’s back. You can partly make out the instructions Leon’s giving Charizard on where to go, but the loud background noise washes out a lot of it. You just focus on breathing and keeping the phone to your ear as your head collapses to your shoulder in exhaustion.

                It feels like several minutes before you hear Leon clearly over the phone again, “Are you still there?” He asks loudly, and you make a weak grunt of confirmation, too little energy to form words. “I think I see the forest you were talking about, at least I hope it’s the right one. Which lake were you walking by?”

                Which lake? There were multiple? You had no idea, and you struggled to reply, “Dunno.”

                You think you hear what might have been a curse come from Leon, but the wind has drowned it out too much to truly tell. “Charizard, let’s find…..land, get every…..for her,” you hear through the speaker, and you look up like you might be able to see Leon pass by overhead.

                You’re reminded of the bond when you feel Charizard as he gets closer, and you hear his roar of happiness to have located you so quickly, both in the distance, and slightly delayed over the phone. Charizard is heading straight to where you are now, and you hear Leon shout, “You know where she is? Brilliant!”

                Charizard lands heavily not far from you, and you hear Leon call out your name. “I can hear you,” you rasp over the phone, and you hear Leon and Charizard begin to search for you. Your instructions to them feel like a game of hot and cold, as you can’t raise your voice loud enough to grab their attention.

                You see Leon come around the tree you’re hiding against, and he misses you at first glance. “Leon,” you call out weakly, and his head shoots back over to you. You notice he’s only in a pair of sweat pants, and he’s missing a shirt and shoes. He likely ran out the door immediately without getting dressed properly in his rush to get to you on time.

                He rushes over and kneels in front of you. “Shit,” he curses when he sees the amount of blood. “I got you,” he carefully lifts you, cradling you with both arms. He’s careful to avoid the backs of your legs, and wraps one arm under the tops of your thighs, and the other around your back.

                “Wait,” You weakly point to the Pokeballs you’d tucked under the root, and Leon seems to get what you mean, because he wordlessly lets you go and grabs them both, tucking them into his pocket. Leon wraps his arms back around you, and lifts you like you weigh nothing. He tucks you against his chest as he calls Charizard over.

                Relief floods you. Everything is going to be ok. With this, you stop fighting the exhaustion and let it claim you. You’re only aware of Leon climbing onto the back of Charizard with you, and Charizard taking off, before you completely black out.

               When you wake up, you don’t recognize where you are. White walls, the soft beeping of machines, and a strong chemical smell are what greet you, and it doesn’t take you long to assume you’re likely in a hospital. Sitting up slightly, you look around. There’s no window outside or anything, so you’re not sure the time, but the lights in the room are dim. Your bag is sitting on a chair next to the bed, and your bed is the only one in the room. There’s machines to your left with wires and tubes attached to you, and to your right at the far side of the room is the door. The whole right wall has windows into the rest of the hospital, but you can’t make out much through the slits in the blinds. You do notice what looks like Leon standing against one of them, it looks like he’s on the phone.

                You begin looking yourself over. You feel funny, you’ve likely got heavy pain meds in you, because you don’t hurt at all. You remember clearly everything that happened, so the first place you look is your legs. You lift up the blanket and look at your legs. Your poor battered left leg is heavily bandaged, so you’re not sure the damages there. You find you can move it when you attempt to do so, but you’re careful about it, because you don’t want to hurt anything while you can’t really feel the pain. Your right ankle is wrapped up as well, and there’s a brace around it keeping you from moving it. You wonder what damage you caused it when you fell and then tried to run on it.

                       The door opens suddenly, and you look up to see who it is. Leon tired looking head pops through the door, “You’re up,” he states, and he looks both angry and relieved to see you.

                “How are my Pokémon?” It’s the first thing you can think to ask, and your voice sounds raspy but is otherwise stronger than it was before.

                “They’re fine. They’re resting right now.” Leon comes in and walks up to the bed, moving your bag to the floor and collapsing into the chair. “I have a lot of questions. First, how are you feeling?” Leon’s fists are clenched in his lap, and his voice sounds strained. It isn’t hard for you to tell he’s upset and trying to control himself.

                “Groggy? My head feels all stuffy. I’m not in pain though.” You answer, and he lets out a sigh.

                “Are you up to answering some questions?” He’s not looking at you, he stares off to the wall in front of him. It’s hard to tell his facial expression from the side like this.

                “I’ll do my best,” you collapse back into the bed, finding sitting up getting to be too tiring.

                “Where’s Hop?”

                It’s not the question you were expecting, so it takes you a minute to think. “He’s with Sonia.”

                Leon sighs loudly and collapses in on himself. “Thank Arceus,” he cries out as he takes a few deep breaths. He pulls out his phone and sends a few text messages. “Where’s Sonia, then?”

                “Probably still in the Wild Area? I don’t know, how long have I been unconscious for?” You’re not sure where they could be about now, not without knowing the time.

                Leon pauses a moment while he checks something on his phone, “About 4 hours.”

                That doesn’t help you as much as you want it to, “Uh, then yeah they’re in the Wild Area. They’re probably looking for me? We sort of got split up.” You imagine they must be searching for you by now. “Um, I got hurt and needed to rest, so Sonia and Hop went off and were going to come back later. But by nightfall they still hadn’t come back so I went looking for them.”

                Leon takes a deep breath. “What were you doing in the Wild Area?” He looks outright angry now, but he’s keeping his voice controlled.

                “Well, the train got delayed at the meeting spot station, so Hop wanted to do some training in the Wild Area. We ran into Sonia at the station, and she offered to chaperone us.” You explain. Your voice starts to mumble a bit at the end, and you’re trying to fight off the drowsy feeling that has washed over you. You still want to know where you are, but you know you should answer Leon’s questions first. He looks so upset, he deserves to know what’s going on after you woke him up.

                “I see. And you got split off. In that case, what the hell were you thinking?! Going out at night like that, it’s incredibly dangerous! Sonia told you she would be back, she would have set you up in a safe area where you could have stayed all night until she returned! Why didn’t you stay?!” Leon loses his composure and raises his voice. It’s frighteningly loud, and guilt begins consuming you. This was the same thing Sonia told you about. The same thing that you were supposed to have learned your lesson from.

                Embarrassed and afraid, you can’t help but lash out back. “How was I supposed to know it was more dangerous at night? No one told me that! No one told me anything about the Wild Area, how was I supposed to know there would be so many Pokémon I couldn’t take on?”

                “So you went into the Wild Area without knowing anything about it?!” Seems you didn’t make the point you thought you were making, if this is Leon’s take.

                “I was supposed to learn from Sonia and Hop while we were there!” You shout back. Your shout isn’t nearly as loud or as powerful as Leon’s is, and in your ears just sounds whiny.

                “Then why didn’t you stay with them?!” You know Leon is trying to cut through your excuses, but you just can’t see yourself fully at fault here. The medication you’ve been given, and the state of mind you’re in, might be messing with your perception of this, which you’re vaguely aware of in the back of your mind.

                “Because my Pokémon and I got injured and we needed to rest! Sonia and Hop were the ones who left me behind!” Now, in the back of your mind, you’re aware you’re twisting the truth here, but it’s hard to care right now when you still feel you need to defend yourself.

                “You got injured previously?! How?!” Uh oh, you shouldn’t have admitted that. This argument is not going your way.

                “Uh,” you deflate. Leon’s managed to circle it back to what you were trying to avoid, that you’d already learned this lesson and still made the same stupid mistake. “Overconfidence,” you reply at a normal volume.

                Leon seems to deflate a bit at this as well. “Over- What? What happened?” His voice has returned to a normal level as well. He doesn’t look as angry now, more worried.

                “My Pokémon and I thought we could take on an Onix,” you admit softly, and Leon looks like he’s about to launch into something, “Don’t,” you hold up your hand. “Sonia already gave me hell over it. I was supposed to stay nearby while she went after Hop. Instead I wandered off and tried to fight an Onix. We all got injured, and I thought I was going to die then too. But Sonia saved me, and gave me shit for not listening to her and staying there. That was supposed to be my lesson, no one got seriously injured. Why didn’t I stay, Leon? Why did I think I could find them, after everything that had already happened? It was night time, what was I thinking?” You begin to sob, and you roll to burry your face in the pillow.

                Leon sighs, but doesn’t say anything for a while. He doesn’t rub your back like Sonia did, so you try to calm yourself down on your own. “I’m so sorry,” you cough out between sobs, while you wrap your arms around yourself. Your face is buried in the pillow, you’re not sure Leon even heard you. But next you know, you feel a hand run through your hair. Leon repeats this, and the petting motion calms you down.

                “Overconfidence indeed,” Leon mutters as your breathing begins to even out and your sobs die down. “Did you and your team decide together you could handle finding Sonia and Hop too?”

                You pause and think for a moment, remembering Scorbunny offering to light the way, and Rookidee flying above to see farther. “Yeah, we did.”

                Leon snorts. “I see the problem, then. You’re not making rational decisions because of that bond you share with your Pokémon. You’re able to convince each other that you can handle things you ordinarily would know you couldn’t. They want to please you and prove their strength, when you’re picking up that, of course you’re going to run into things you shouldn’t. Why do you think wild Pokémon pick on trainers way beyond their skill? Pokémon naturally want to prove themselves and get stronger, and those feelings convince you to ignore your common sense.” Leon explains, and you’re hit with the realization that he’s right.

                “You should not be left on your own out in the wild, not until you can get that sorted.” Leon finishes, crossing his arms. A sympathetic look is on his face, however.

                “What do you mean?” You’re not sure how you would get that sorted.

                “You’ll have to learn to separate your Pokémon’s feelings from your own, so you don’t continue making this same mistake. Humans aren’t as strong as Pokémon. Blows that they can take cause serious harm to us. You have to learn to remember your own limits, so you can avoid situations where your life is in danger. That’s part of being a trainer.” You feel like you’re getting an earful from Leon, but his voice and words are kind.

                “Thank you. You’ve done so much for me. I’m sorry this is how I repay you.” You respond after a moment.

                Leon nods, “Well we’re not going to let this happen again. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make some calls. I’ll let the nurse know you’re awake.” Leon pats you on the shoulder, before getting up and leaving. It isn’t long until the nurse comes in to check on you, checking all your vitals and confirming that you’re on some strong pain killers. She explains your injuries to you, but it’s hard to pay attention to what she says. You’re already tired from your talk with Leon.

                You manage to make out terms like “nerve damage” and “recovery therapy” and your mind is already clocking out. Not again, you didn’t want this to be happening again. You were healthy here!

                She wraps up by giving you some more medication through your IV drip, and lifting up the back of your bed so you can sit up. You doze in and out of sleep while watching some cartoon on the small tv near your bed. You’re not sure how much time passes before Leon returns, you’re not paying much attention.

                Leon sinks back into the seat he was in before, and looks at you. “Kabu managed to locate Sonia and Hop, they were out looking for you, you were right. They’re on their way into town.” Leon begins, and you nod.

                “They’re both ok?” You were a little worried after they didn’t show up last night when they said they would.

                “Sounds like they got injured fighting a Dynamax Pokémon, but nothing serious to either of them. Apparently Sonia has words for you,” Leon says with a shit eating grin on his face, and you groan. “Don’t worry, I’ll talk to her, but I imagine she’ll still have words for you after.” Leon’s still grinning, and you glare at him half-heartedly.

                “Guess I deserve it though, I clearly can’t follow instructions.” You don’t mean to sound so bitter, but this whole thing has been a lot and you’re tired, and your brain is still playing catch up.

                “You doing alright?” Leon asks, and you shrug.

                “I don’t know. Leon… Am I going to be ok?” You look over to him and he looks concerned.

                “The doctor seemed confident you’d recover fully with time,” Leon explained, and you nodded.

                “How long will that take?” You ask, looking over to the lump under the blanket that was your injured leg.

                “Uh, I don’t believe he said,” Leon looks like he’s trying to remember the conversation he had with your doctor.

                “Oh,” is all you can manage. “Do you think I’ll still be able to take part in the gym challenge?” You can’t look at him when you ask, you’re too afraid of the answer. It’s the question you’ve been most wanting to ask, because you desperately still want to participate. You made a promise to your Pokémon, after all.

                Leon’s quiet for a moment. “I’m not sure. It depends how well you’re able to walk on it.” It’s crushing to hear, but there’s at least hope. You’re not sure what to say, so you end up staring off into space. Leon stays quiet as well, leaving you to your thoughts. You see him pull out his phone out of the corner of your eye.

                There’s a knock on the door, and a nurse opens the door. As soon as it’s opened, you hear a cry that sounds like your Pokémon, followed up by your Pokémon running in and jumping up onto the bed. Rookidee enters after him, and the nurse apologizes. “I’m sorry, they were getting too rambunctious, they really wanted to come see you,” she explains while bowing slightly from her place at the door.

                “Oh, that’s just fine! I wanted to see them!” You explain as your evolved partner gently climbs onto you to hug you. Rookidee lands above your head on the frame of the upright bed, and chirps happily. They’re both so happy to see you, and know that you’re ok. They were worried about you.

                “Oh, congrats on your new Raboot!” Leon comments as he sees your new Pokémon for the first time. You’ve got his name now, at least. The nurse leaves when everything seems fine, as your Pokémon don’t seem to be at any risk of causing you further injury.

                “He evolved while we were trying to escape the Pokémon chasing us.” You explain, patting his head. You can get a better look at him now in the brighter hospital room, noting how adorable he is.

                Leon’s phone goes off, and he checks it. “Sonia and Hop are almost at Motostoke, are you up for visitors? They both want to come see you.”

                “Yeah, I’ll manage.” You’ll have to see them eventually, after all. You’re not feeling as heavily medicated now, just tired, so you’ll at least be more up for conversation.

                “I’m going to go head out so I can meet them at the gate and fill them in, you try to get some rest. You look tired.” Leon moves to stand, and you’re tempted to call him out, because he also looks exhausted. He has bags under his eyes, and he’s wearing the same pants that he was wearing when he picked you up. He’s got a shirt now, but it’s a scrub top he likely was given from here. He’s been given a pair of slippers as well, so his feet are no longer bare. He looks like hell himself, and you imagine he’s likely been up this entire time dealing with your mess. A pang of guilt passes through you.

                “Are you at least going to go change into some real clothes?” You tease softly instead, and Leon chuckles.

                “That’s part of the plan, yes.” He shoots back, and you give him a small smile as he waves goodbye when he leaves.

                You’re still cuddling with Raboot when the doctor comes in. He introduces himself stiffly, and explains that he’s here to examine your injuries. Raboot has to climb off you while the doctor checks your leg. He explains a bit more about the nerve damage, how it might make you have little feeling below your knee, and that your leg might be weaker. He rewraps your left leg, satisfied with how it’s healing. “You should try using it now and see how it feels.”

                The doctor instructs you to move it in certain ways while you’re on the bed. Some hurt, some don’t, and the lack of range of movement in your leg bothers you a bit. After those, he wants you to try standing on it. He brings a walker over, and instructs you to hang on to it for support while you stand. You’re able to stand easy enough, but when you go to take a step and your left leg has to hold all your weight, it bucks under the pressure. You catch yourself with the walker, and get your right leg under you to get you standing again. This doesn’t bode well.

                “Keep going,” the doctor encourages, so you take a deep breath and try another step. This one hurts less, you’re prepared for it, but you still have to catch yourself. You begin to feel the pattern, and by the time you’ve reached the other end of the room, you’ve got a solid limp walk going on and you’re barely needing the walker.

                The doctor nods, looking quite please. “Excellent, you’re recovering nicely. I’m quite confident you’ll make a full recovery in time. It may never be as strong as it once was, but you’ll be able to walk on it just fine with time.” It’s the ‘time’ part that bothers you, but you suppose that’s not the worst diagnosis. It could be permanent. You’re quite glad you don’t have to deal with that again.

                He leaves after writing down some notes, and you’re able to try to get some rest in the time you have until Hop and Sonia get here. You really don’t want to be yelled at again, you’re just so tired. You are excited to hear how the Dynamax battle went, you’re sure Hop is going to have quite the retelling for that one.

                The nurse comes in after the doctor is done to give you more medication. She lowers the bed for you when you ask, and Raboot snuggles up with you under the covers. Sleep takes you quickly with the warm body of Raboot between your arms, and the comforting weight of Rookidee perching on your shoulder.

Chapter Text

                Hushed voices making quiet conversation is what wakes you, presumably, as it’s what you hear when you wake up. You open your eyes slowly, making out a few people sitting in chairs to your right. A few blinks and the three come into focus, and you can see Leon, who’s in some normal clothes for once, Sonia, who’s left arm is bandaged up, and Hop, who’s got a cut across his cheek and bandages around both hands and up his arms, but you’re not sure how far up his arms they go under the jacket.

                “Oh hey, she’s waking up,” you hear Hop say louder, and all three heads turn to you. You blink a few more times before fully opening your eyes. “How’re you feelin’, mate?” Hop looks incredibly concerned, and you silently curse his expressive face as it makes you feel guilty immediately.

                Your leg hurts, not so much you want to scream yet, but you can tell the pain killers are wearing off. Your stomach hurts, and you remember you haven’t eaten since last night. “In pain. Hungry,” is how you choose to communicate these feelings.

                “I’ll let the nurse know,” Leon says as he jumps up from his seat. He seems in a hurry to escape, and you’re about to find out why.

                Your eyes fall to Sonia, who has an unreadable expression on her face. She’s still looking right at you, and there’s something in her eyes that makes you fear for your life. “I’d like to start by saying, I’m glad you survived. But do you have any idea how stupid that was?!” Her voice raises, and even Hop jumps in his seat at the sudden change.

                “And I’m not just talking to you, I’m talking to both your Pokémon too. All of you,” she glares at each one of you individually as she speaks, “should have known better! What will it take to teach you?”

                “I’m so sorry, and so are my Pokémon. We didn’t mean for this to happen. I don’t know why we thought we could find you.” Raboot and Rookidee nod with your words, as they both feel bad for what happened too.

                Sonia just shakes her head. “I don’t want to hear apologies. I just don’t want this to happen again. Please, be more cautious in the future.” Sonia isn’t yelling anymore, but her voice still has a hard edge to it that lets you know just how angry she is.

                You nod, “I’ll do my best.” You can’t meet her eyes as tears stream down your face. Disappointing these people who’ve done so much to help you hurts, and you really do want to do better.

                “Now, I promised Leon I wouldn’t be too hard on you. But I really am disappointed in you, I thought you would have learned your lesson after the Onix. I thought you were brighter than that.” Her words hurt, but it’s the sadness in her eyes that hurts worse.

                Hop coughs, and you look over to him. He seems uncomfortable, so he changes the topic. “It’s too bad you couldn’t come fight a Dynamax battle with us. We fought a Pidove! And I got to Dynamax Wooloo! Oh mate, it was such a cool fight!” Hop begins gushing, and it brings a smile to your face.

                “Until you told your Wooloo to attack when you were in the way and got knocked over. Scraped up both his arms, and I had to pick rocks out of them for half an hour by the river. In the dark!” Sonia complains, wagging her finger at Hop. “After I warned you about how big an area those moves hit, too. You’re both terrible at this listening to directions thing, you know.”

                Hop holds his hands up defensively, and you can’t help but laugh, “I thought you meant an area around my opponent, I didn’t know Wooloo could hit me when I was standing near him!” Hop argues, and Sonia vocally groans while she rolls her eyes.

                Leon pops back in then, cautiously opening the door and looking in before entering. “Oh I’m done now you oaf, you can come back in.” Sonia teases him when he doesn’t immediately enter, and he goes red as he comes in. “You’re just in time to hear Hop retell his battle with the Dynamax Pidove.” Sonia explains to Leon as he sits down in his chair.

                Leon laughs, and Hop launches into it. “Well first, it was quite the journey to even find a den with a Dynamax Pokémon in it! Sonia had to chase off a Mudsdale my Wooloo got too close to when he rolled off, I made a Butterfree angry and Sonia had to chase it off,” Hop’s tale already brings a laugh out of you.

                “Sounds like Sonia had to save your ass multiple times,” you tease, and Hop looks absolutely scandalized by your casual use of a swear word. Come to think of it, you’ve never heard Hop curse. Leon snickers and Sonia raises an eyebrow, but no one comments on it.

                “He had a warning about each one too,” Sonia adds dryly, and Hop deflates and folds over on himself in his chair.

                “Can you just let me tell the story?” Hop wails, and the three of you laugh before encouraging him to go on. “After we finally find one that has a Dynamax Pokémon in it, Sonia and I go in to fight it. This Pidove was massive! It was right terrifying up close like that. But Sonia and Yamper really are a force! Sonia let me Dynamax Wooloo for the fight, and that’s when the fight really began! Of course, when I ordered my Wooloo to use Max Strike, I was too close and got flung forward. Sonia helped me up and got me out of the way after that. Wooloo and Pidove were trading off these massive hits, and the Pidove was still standing when the Dynamax effect wore off Wooloo. Sonia had Yamper try to distract the Pidove from Wooloo so he could recover, but it made the Pidove corner Sonia and Yamper! I had to send out Rookidee and recall Wooloo, and that’s where Sonia got thrown into the wall and cut her arm. But Rookidee succeeded in getting the Pidove’s attention, and then Yamper was able to get a good hit in from behind and bring it down!” Hop is making wild arm gestures while he talks, wincing in pain every once in a while when a particular movement hurts. You smile the whole way through his story, and even Sonia and Leon have amused looks on their faces while they listen. His voice is so animated and expressive, you could probably listen to him rattle off stories for hours without getting bored.

                The nurse comes in then, and Hop pauses his story for the nurse to ask you some questions and check your vitals. She writes some things down in your chart, gives you more pain medication through your IV, and brings some food in for you. It’s an ordinary, bland hospital meal of bread with jam spread on it, a small bowl of peas, a bland piece of chicken, and an apple. She sits the bed up so you can eat, and you dig in regardless of how unappealing it looks and tastes. You’re hungry enough to eat anything.

                Hop continues his story, about finding water to clean out their injuries at and setting up camp nearby, and setting out to find you in the morning. He wraps up when they run into Kabu, and conversation turns to the gym challenge after that. You stay quiet during this, Hop sounds so excited for it, and it seems like he doesn’t know you might not be joining him yet.

                The pain meds are making you feel sluggish again, and conversation gets hard to keep up with anyway. At some point, the doctor comes in and kicks everyone out so he can check on you again. It feels to you like it hasn’t been that long since he’s come see you, but he informs you of how late it actually is, and that he’s checking on you once more before going home for the night. You had no idea it was so late, you must have slept for hours. You wonder how long your three friends waited around for you in that waiting room. It’s a nice feeling, knowing these people were willing to do that for you.

                The doctor looks at your leg again, commenting on how it’s healing. He makes you do the same movements as earlier, and you have the same troubles as before. He looks less optimistic this time when he tells you to get up and try walking. He brings the walker over, and once again you try to make it to the far wall. Knowing that you have to limp prepares you a bit more this time, but it’s still incredibly difficult to make it. You’re able to make it without leaning on the walker too much at all this time, at least.

                You reach the far wall, and the doctor is looking at you with a frown. “You’re favouring it too much, you’re going to harm your other ankle. Try walking back to the bed.” So he makes you do it again. You try walking more normally this time, which is much more difficult. You have to catch yourself with the walker multiple times, a curse leaving your lips each time your leg gives out. You eventually make it back to the bed, and fall into it. The doctor does help you climb back in, praising your progress. “I want you to try to walk like that every time you get up to walk. It will be hard, but that’s the only way you’re going to build the strength to walk on it normally. You’ll give yourself a permanent limp if you let yourself favour it.” He warns as he tucks you in and returns the walker to the corner.

                Visiting hours are over for the night, but it seems being with the champion gives you special privileges, as your friends are allowed to come back in when the doctor is done. Leon and Sonia don’t stay long after, they can tell you’re groggy and that you’re not up for conversation, but Hop stays. He moves to the comfier chair Leon was in earlier, and quietly sits with you while your Pokémon play together on the floor. Raboot and Rookidee are a little stir crazy from being here all day, but Hop’s Pokémon help them spend that energy without getting into any trouble.

                It’s in this quiet, when they’re turning out all the lights for nighttime, when you and Hop are in that certain kind of darkness where you can only barely make each other out, that you finally brave telling Hop. “I might not be able to do the gym challenge.” It’s barely a whisper, but you know Hop heard.

                He was watching the Pokémon still rolling together on the floor, but his head snaps up and he looks at you. “What?” His reply sounds strangled.

                “Did Leon tell you how bad it was? My leg?” You can make out Hop shaking his head no, so you continue, “There’s nerve damage, so I can’t walk properly. If I can’t walk unaided by the time the gym challenge starts, I can’t take part.” Your voice chokes up on you without your permission, and you have to stop and take a deep breath to try to force the ball of emotion back down.

                “What do you mean?” Hop asks, and he sounds completely crestfallen.

                “There’s a walker over there in the corner,” you gesture vaguely at the opposite corner of the room, “that I have to use to walk with right now. If I can’t walk without it, without any mobility aids, then I can’t do the gym challenge. Which, by the way,” you begin launching into something before Hop can interject, “is complete bullshit. And ableist. I can still battle with a bum leg, what the hell.”

                You can’t make out Hop’s face well enough in the limited light from the beeping machines around you to know what facial expression he’s making, but he takes a while to respond. “Does that mean you only have until opening ceremonies to recover?” Hop’s voice is small, and you reach over to take the hand that’s sitting on the armrest near you.

                “I don’t know. Leon didn’t say.” Hop squeezes your hand back and nods.

                “I guess I can see why, you can’t run around and battle on the pitch with a walker,” Hop’s voice is monotone, and it’s strange to hear his voice so lacking in emotion.

                “Still dumb, I’ve seen people fight without really moving around on the pitch much. It could be done. I’m just saying, it wouldn’t really be that hard to make the gym challenge more accessible.” You’re venting for the sake of it now, though maybe you can bring it up to Leon, as champion he might be able to do something about it.

                Hop doesn’t respond though, even though he’s still looking at you. “I’m sorry. If I hadn’t run off, none of this would have happened. I’m so sorry, I-” you have to cut Hop off before the waterworks start, as you can already hear that he’s about to cry.

                “Hop, no. That’s not true. If I had stayed still and listened to Sonia, none of this would have happened. You can’t blame yourself for that, you can’t blame yourself for my choices. You didn’t force me to go fight that Onix, you didn’t force me to pack up my campsite in the dead of night to try to come find you. I did those things. Well, me and my Pokémon did. We decided we could fight an Onix, we decided we could make it through the dark just fine. It was never anyone’s faults but our own. Please don’t blame yourself.” You can see the tears in his eyes as you watch him, your own eyes filling up with tears as you talk.

                Hop sniffs, wiping his eyes with the back of his free hand. He squeezes your hand again, and you squeeze back in return. He goes quiet again after nodding to you, he has a lot to think about now. Your Pokémon all get tired eventually, and Hop recalls his while yours join you on the bed. “I should go. Leon got a room for me at the Budew Drop Inn. You should try to get some more rest. I’ll come see you again tomorrow.”

                You nod, and wish him goodnight. He gives you a brief, gentle hug, careful not to hurt you. He lowers you bed back down and makes sure you’re comfy before leaving. Sleep doesn’t come to you immediately, so your thoughts circle around about your situation until you’re exhausted enough to sleep.

                Hop indeed comes back the next day, as do Leon and Sonia. Leon is busy with preparations for opening ceremonies, so you don’t see him much, but Hop and Sonia spend quite a lot of time with you. You’re doing much better the next day, to the point that you’re able to take a few steps without the walker. You’re practicing pretty often, with Sonia and Hop helping you. You’re able to get yourself to the bathroom on your own, and even down to the cafeteria for some lunch, with the walker’s aid.

                The gym challenge is a topic that is avoided throughout the day. Even when Leon joins your group for lunch, he keeps away from the gym challenge. You don’t question it, you imagine it must be difficult for them to talk about too. As he’s wearing his full Champion get-up, a few people do come up to your table to speak to Leon. He’s kind about dealing with them quickly and without mentioning the reason he’s here, and you’re thankful he’s so good at dealing with the public.

                You’re doing so well by the evening, in fact, that the doctor discharges you. You’re shown how to change your bandages by the nurse, with instructions to change them twice a day. She packs a bag of bandages and cleaning wipes in your bag for you, as well. The doctor gives you a small bottle of pills, and you’re told you can take a max of 3 a day for your pain. You do still need the walker to walk correctly, but you can get by without it if you limp. They give you the walker regardless, with strict instructions to continue using it until you can walk correctly unaided.

                It’s when you’re being shown how to change your bandages that you get the first good look at how bad your leg is. It’s surprisingly not nearly as bad as you thought it would be, as it’s all stitched up and beginning to heal. It seems too early for it to be beginning to heal already, but when you point that out, the nurse seems confused, and tells you this is the normal rate. You don’t push it further, opting instead to talk to someone who knows your situation later.

                Finally, the IV is removed, and you’re detached from the machines. You’re allowed to change back into real clothes, not this hospital gown you’ve been in since waking up. You pull your last outfit out of you bag with a sigh, having torn up one and lost the other to the damage it sustained when you were attacked. Hop and Sonia leave and allow you to change, though come back in to help you leave when you’re done. Hop carries your bag for you, and Sonia leads the way to the Budew Drop Inn.

                Leon meets you there, and he hands you what looks like an ID card and a key when you arrive in the lobby. “Here, this is your ID, and this is your room key. I got you a room here, and you can stay until you decide what you’d like to do. We can talk about it later though, you should go and get some rest for now.” Leon offers a sympathetic look, and you tuck the items in your pocket.

                “Your room is right beside mine, want me to take you up there?” Hop pipes up, and you nod mutely at him. Hop turns to head further into the lobby, heading up the stairs. The immediate problem here is the stairs.

                You hadn’t run into any problems so far in Motostoke yet. The lift to the upper level that you’d taken to get here had been fine to use with the walker, there was a ramp up to it and everything. It moved a little fast, and Hop had to hold onto you to keep you from falling over, but you’d still been able to do it. Knowing how fast it goes now, you could brace yourself on the rails to keep yourself upright. Point is, you could do it alone.

                Stairs, those you could not. A strangled noise leaves your throat, and a quick glance around confirms there’s no ramp. And you thought accessibility options were bad where you came from. Hop turns back around at the sound you make, and his face drops when he realizes the problem.

                “Uh, let me help you, mate,” he says weakly as he comes back down the stairs. Raboot wants to help too, but he’s not tall enough to offer you any sort of physical support. Hop leads you over to the railing and slips an arm under yours and wraps it around your back. Sandwiched between him and the railing, you’re able to start up the stairs slowly.

                You think of your walker left behind, and Raboot decides that’s how he can help. He picks it up, and Rookidee flies over to grab the top to help Raboot hold it steady. Together the two of them bring it up to the top before you make it there, and you thank them both for their help.

                The rest is fine, as Leon’s ensured you’re already checked in, and there’s elevators to your floor. Hop helps you into your room, and stays long enough to make sure you’re settled. He hugs you goodnight again, a bit tighter and a bit longer this time, and you feel him take in a shuddering breath before he lets go, like he’s trying to keep from crying. He won’t look at you when he lets go, and that all but confirms it to you. You’re sure he’s feeling guilty and blaming himself again, but you don’t have the words right now to comfort him. You don’t even have the words to comfort yourself.

                You really don’t have words at all right now.

                Hop leaves, and you slowly get ready for bed. Raboot and Rookidee do their best to help, grabbing things for you and moving things as needed. You’re incredibly thankful for both of them. There’s a window in your room that you open; it’s a cold night, but the walk here hadn’t really given you enough fresh air yet. You’ve always liked sleeping with the window open anyways.

                Rookidee perches in the open window and decides to sleep there, while Raboot climbs into your arms as he always does. Sleep is the last thing on your mind, however. You need to think of how to get into the gym challenge.

                You need the walker to walk properly, but you can limp around a bit without it. You can also stand if you keep most of your weight on your right leg, but you have to be careful about that as your twisted ankle still needs to heal too. You have to confirm what Leon meant about being able to walk on it before you’ll know if you can get in on the technicality that you can limp.

                You decide to text Leon. He may still be up, and if he’s not, he can answer you in the morning.

( You up? ) You

Leon ( Yep, what did you need? )

( About the gym challenge, you said I had to be able to walk ) You

( What did you mean by that? ) You

Leon ( You have to be able to walk without any mobility aids. )

( Do I have to walk properly or can I limp? ) You

Leon ( Depends, does it hold you back in battle? )

Leon ( If so, you’ll have a tough time in the gym challenge. )

( So I have to be able to walk by opening ceremonies? ) You

Leon ( Yes )

( But if I make it through opening ceremonies, I’m good, right? ) You

( I can do the gyms at my own pace so I have time to heal? ) You

Leon ( You have 6 months to beat the 8 gyms. )

Leon ( You can take your time a bit, if you have enough time to finish. )

                You won’t just be able to wait around to heal completely then, but if you have 6 months to complete the gym challenge, you should be able to rest a bit if you manage your time well. You have your loophole at least, you can get out there on the pitch by limping. If that’s all you have to do for opening ceremonies, you’ll be ok.

                At least, you hope you will.

                You’re going to at least give this a try. But you have one more question for Leon.

( If I don’t finish, can I try again next year? ) You

Leon ( You’ll need another endorsement, but yes. )

Leon ( And you can pick up where you left off the previous year. )

                Sounds like this wasn’t an unusual occurrence at least. You decide to do your best, you’re going to go out there and do opening ceremonies, and hopefully you’ll heal quickly and you can finish the gym challenge this year. You aren’t going to risk permanently disfiguring yourself for it, though, so you aren’t going to push yourself. With a plan in mind for how to tackle this, you fall asleep at last.

Chapter Text

                Morning comes with the sound of people bustling around outside your window. It doesn’t take you long for you and your Pokémon to get ready in the morning. Raboot helps you change your bandages, and you put back on yesterday’s outfit you’d worn to get here, and make a mental note that you’d have to go get some new clothes today. You run into Sonia in the lobby, and she’s able to help you out of the inn.

                “Want to come get breakfast with Yamper and me?” She asks when you’re outside in the fresh air.

                “Sure, I’d love to!” Sonia smiles at your response, and walks patiently with you to a nearby café. Sonia pays for everything, and you’re sure to thank her profusely.

                “So, what’s your plan for the day?” Sonia asks while you help your Rookidee eat a pancake.

                You think for a minute. You hadn’t really made one yet, aside from getting some new clothes. “Clothes shopping, this is the only outfit I’ve got left now. Other than that, I’m not sure. I’m going to practice walking without the walker a bit today, so I can go register for the gym challenge.”

                Sonia looks taken aback. “You’re still going to do it?” Her voice is quiet and nervous sounding.

                You nod, and Raboot and Rookidee both cheer. “Leon told me I need to be able to walk without and aids. So if I can limp my way into opening ceremonies, I can still at least give the gym challenge a try. I’m not going to push myself too hard though, I don’t want to ruin my leg. But I am going to try to get as far as I can this year.” Though your voice starts out weak, by the end you’re able to speak with conviction. Sonia smiles warmly at you when you finish.

                “I’m proud of you for not letting this stop you. I’ll be cheering for you! If you’re this determined, I think you’ll be able to go pretty far.” Sonia twirls her hair and takes a sip of her tea, a fond look on her face. “But you better take care of yourself! I’ll always come bail you out of trouble if you need, but I better not have to!” She flips between scolding and caring so quickly, you can’t help the spurt of laughter that comes out of you.

                “I’m going to do my best. I don’t want this,” you gesture to your leg, “happening again either. It hurts a lot, even with the pain meds.”

                Sonia nods sadly. “I’m sure Leon and Hop have offered to help you too, but I’m out here researching. I can take a break whenever I need. Please call me if you need help.”

                You’re pleasantly surprised at her offer, as it isn’t something you were expecting. “I really appreciate that. You hardly know me, and you’re willing to help. I don’t really get why, to be honest, but I appreciate it a lot.”

                Sonia looks away. “To be honest as well? I feel guilty. I feel partially responsible, that I didn’t make it clear enough to you that you should wait, or for how long. I’m so sorry, I feel like I failed you. I want to make it up to you, in any way I can.” Her voice chokes up a bit as she speaks, and she rubs her sleeve across her eyes and sniffs before looking back at you.

                “Sonia… Thank you. I’m sorry too.” Sonia reaches across the table and takes both your hands in hers, and squeezes them.

                “The opening ceremonies, huh?” Sonia muses after a moment. “Let me know if you need any help with that. I get a bit worked up when I think how exciting and moving it was to actually stand on a stadium’s pitch for the first time!”

                Excitement fills you too. You want to stand on that pitch so much. “I really hope I can do it. What was doing the gym challenge with Leon like? Obviously Mr. Undefeated won, but what was the actual gym challenge like?” You ask, curious to hear about her own gym challenge experience.

                Her face falls, and she pulls her hands back. “It was… It was hard, but also a lot of fun. I was glad I gave it a try.”

                “Did you finish it?” You’re not sure if this is rude to ask, but she nods.

                “Yes. I even faced off against Leon in the finals, and lost. After something that happened in that battle, I quit competitive battling. Then I became Gran’s assistant.” Sonia looks down at her Yamper resting in her lap, petting him while she talks.

                You’re not sure what to say. You want to know what thing happened during the battle, but she wouldn’t have referred to it so vaguely if she wanted to talk about it, you think. You don’t want to pry further than you already have.

                “Ugh!” Sonia lets out a loud sigh. “This is too depressing to talk about this early in the morning. You mentioned clothes shopping?” Sonia’s eyes light up and she smiles, “Would you like help with that?”

                You grin back, “I’d love help!” You’ve seen a few of Sonia’s outfits now, and you’ve seen her closet briefly when you stayed the night at her place. You know she has a good sense of style, and you have not had to do that whole women’s clothes shopping thing since you were little. You could use all the help you could get for this.

                Sonia takes you to a boutique nearby, eager to get you some new clothes. She picks out a bunch of cute things for you, and you genuinely enjoying trying them on and showing them to Sonia, even if it takes a while to change each time with your leg. Hop calls you while you’re shopping, wondering where you are. You agree to meet up with him when you’re done shopping.

                The clothes come out to much more than you can afford, so Sonia insists on buying them for you. When you complain, she raises an eyebrow at you and points out the obvious, “With what money? You don’t have any source of income right now.”

                You’re forced to accept the gift, even if you feel bad about it. You tuck the new outfits neatly into your bag, opting to keep on the last one you tried on. Sonia continues brushing you off about it as she walks with you to where you’re meeting Hop, refusing to let you feel bad about it.

                She’s getting good at changing the topic when you bring it up. “Thanks for always tagging along with Hop.”

                “What?” You’re confused where this is coming from though.

                “I hope you can keep it up, I know he’s a real handful. Leon really worries about him, too. He practically raised him, after all.” Sonia explains, and you nod.

                “I don’t mind, he’s fun to spend time with.” You wonder what she means by Leon raising him, but you’re not sure how to ask.

                “You’re so much more grounded than he is. It’s really good he has someone like you to look out for him.” Sonia concludes as she gives you a caring look. “It’s a tough job, but someone has to look after those boys. I looked after Leon, I’m passing the torch to you now for Hop.” She has a grin on her face as she pats your shoulder sympathetically, and you laugh.

                “I think I’ll manage just fine,” you grin back, and she raises her eyebrows at you, but doesn’t continue the topic. You’re almost to where you’ll be meeting Hop, anyways.

                Hop’s happy to see you when you run into him. He greets both you and Sonia, offering his previous seat on the bench to you.

                “Well I’m off then,” Sonia announces immediately.

                “Where are you off to so soon?” Hop asks, crossing his arms.

                “To do my actual work. I’m heading to the library here to do some research on some old Galar legends. You two have fun though,” Sonia waves as she walks off.

                “You’re getting lamer as you get older, Sonia!” Hop calls after her, and her wave turns into a middle finger. You snort in laughter as Hop shouts, “Hey! Rude!”

                Sonia doesn’t further acknowledge him though, not giving into his taunting. When she’s gone, Hop turns to you with a sad look on his face and plops down on the bench beside you. It’s a quieter area here, and Hop’s Pokémon are playing with your Raboot, your Rookidee choosing to stay out of it. It seems like Hop wants to say something, as he keeps looking at you and then looking away. You wait patiently for him to find what he wants to say.

                “Mate, listen…” Hop finally begins. “If you can’t do the gym challenge this year, I’ll put it off for a year too. I don’t want to do it by myself, it won’t be the same. So if you can’t come with me, then I’m not going.” Hop looks at you with a sad kind of conviction in his eyes, and you reach over and pull him into a hug.

                “Hop, I’m really glad you’d do that for me, but you don’t have to. I’m going to try to enter it this year.” You explain to him, and he wraps his arms back around you.

                “Really?!” He pushes you away from him to see your face, and you nod. He pulls you back into a tight hug again with a large grin on his face. “Alright! That’s ace! We can still be rivals!”

                “I’ll do my best to keep up, but I’m going to have to hold off on any gyms until I can battle without having to use the walker. I’ll try to catch up but I may not finish it this year.” You squeeze Hop back, and pull away from the hug slightly so you can see his face.

                He’s back to looking sad again, “Then I’ll wait with you.”

                “No you don’t, you better finish this year if I can’t. For me.” You argue, you’re not going to let him sabotage his dream of becoming Champion just to help you out.

                Hop frowns, but nods anyways. “I’m still going to wait for you, at least for a bit. But I’ll finish it this year, no matter what, and become Champion. And next year, you can come challenge me!” Hop’s voice has its usual cheer in it, though he’s still frowning.

                “I like that,” you reply with a soft smile, and it brings Hop to stop frowning. “Want to go register for the gym challenge together then?” You ask, and this is what brings the bright smile back to Hop’s face.

                “Absolutely! I’m so stoked for this! Let’s go!” Hop jumps up from the bench, and begins wrangling his Pokémon back into their balls as you get up and call Raboot over. Hop walks slowly with you over to the stadium, talking excitedly about the gym challenge once more now that it wasn’t a topic he had to avoid.

                You both come to a stop outside the doors of the stadium, just taking a look at it. “Motostoke Stadium… This is where the opening ceremonies will be held. Everyone’ll be watching the opening ceremonies for the gym challenge… My mum… All of Galar… The whole world! It’s getting me a bit nervous, really…” Hop says as he looks at you from the corner of his eye while he’s still facing the massive building.

                “I can tell, you’re shaking,” you point out the noticeable tremble in his arms.

                “Naw, this isn’t nerves… I’m only trembling because I’m so excited!” Hop shoots back, turning to face you fully.

                “Sure you are,” you grin teasingly at him, and he makes a face at you.

                “Come on, it’s time the world learned our names!” Hop begins walking towards the doors, and you follow behind him.

                Inside the stadium is pretty busy, there are lots of people walking around and talking. Some are dressed in uniforms, some aren’t. There are lots of Pokémon around as well, hanging out near their trainers. You see some strong ones as well.

                “Would you take a look at this… This place is packed with gym challengers!” Hop cries out, and keeps closer to you. “Every one of these folks is another rival!” He loudly whispers as he leans towards you like this is a secret.

                A lot of them are looking at you. You hate this already, and it seems Hop’s noticing it too. “Ok, what do we do now Hop?” You ask, and he points to the counter with a man behind it.

                “Let’s get signed up!” He leads you over to the counter. People politely move out of the way as you walk past, but the way they stare at you feels uncomfortable. Though from looking at you right now, a stranger wouldn’t be able to tell you were injured. You’re in pants, no one can see how covered in bandages you are.

                There’s currently someone else being helped at the counter, a man in a pink jacket. Hop stands beside you as the two of you wait your turn. When the man is done, he turns around and runs a hand through his hair before heading back towards the doors. As he passes, he bumps harshly into Hop, knocking Hop back into you a bit. The man doesn’t apologize either, he just keeps going.

                “Seriously? What a piece of work…” Hop mutters as he watches the man go. “You ok, mate?” His eyes flick to you to make sure you’re alright.

                “I’m fine, come on,” you walk up to the counter and Hop follows behind.

                “If you’re here to register for the gym challenge, I’ll need to see your endorsement, please.” The man behind the counter greets as you get near. You begin digging through your bag, and pull out the endorsement letter, handing it to the man. “You know, you can’t use that on the pitch,” he points to your walker as he takes the letter from you.

                “I’m aware. I won’t be using it on the pitch. It’s just temporary.” You explain, hoping that’s true. You really want this to just be temporary.

                “If that’s the case, then that should be fine.” You sigh at the answer as he opens your letter. “Fancy that… This is the first time we’ve had a challenger endorsed by the Champion!”

                “Well, now you’ve had two, because I am as well!” Hop hands his letter to the man as well.

                “What?! Two of you at once?!” He shouts as he opens Hop’s letter, confirming it for himself. “I wonder what’s come over Leon this year…” He moves to his computer to begin typing things in. “The two of you must be something special.”

                “I’m Hop!” Hop’s got that cocky look on his face that reminds you too much of the look his brother wears on tv, and you fight the groan that wants to escape you. “I’m Leon’s little brother, in fact. And the next Champion. Get me all signed up, would you?”

                “W-well, yes, I am trying to… If you’ll just give me a moment…” The man stammers, and you glare at Hop.

                “Hop! Just let him do his job,” you whisper to Hop angrily, and he rubs the back of his head.

                The man asks you both a few questions, and you have to show him your ID cards, and then you’re done. “There! You two have been successfully registered as gym challengers. You can now choose your preferred number for your uniform. It’ll be displayed on the back of the uniform you must wear for any official match.”

                Hop gestures for you to go first, so you give the man your favourite number. Hop asks for the number 189. After getting your uniform sizes, he tells you that you can come pick up your uniforms later.

                Hop, as excited as ever, is ready to charge off on an adventure. “I’m off to go train up! There’s some seriously strong competition here. I’ll catch up with you later!” Hop calls before dashing off. You barely get to wave bye as he leaves.

                You’re already tired, and it’s barely the afternoon. Raboot encourages you to go sit down, people aren’t staring anymore, so you don’t feel as uncomfortable now in the lobby. You sit beside a girl with black hair in pigtails, a black coat, and a cute pink dress. She has a Pokémon you don’t recognize in her arms, though it looks cute.

                When you sit down beside her, she looks up at you. “You’re lookin’ a bit gobsmacked by all this.” She states, looking right at you with piercing teal eyes.

                “Uh, yeah, guess you could say I am,” you reply as Raboot hops up beside you on the bench.

                “You must be from some small country town, is that it? I’m quite the same myself.” She seems oddly perceptive, having been able to guess that so easily.

                “How could you tell?” You ask, wondering what about you gave it away.

                “Your accent. You don’t talk like the city folk do.” You notice the different twang in her words, her accent is different too. “I’m also the same, my accent sticks out too.”

                “I like yours though, because it’s different. It’s cool.” You smile at her, and her eyes light up a little.

                “You think? I dunno, I think yours is pretty neat. I’ve never heard somethin’ like that.” She seems kind, and you have just as much trouble taking the compliment as she does.

                “Ah, thank you, I think,” you scratch the side of your face nervously. The Pokémon sitting in her lap catches your attention, and you remember to ask, “Oh, what kind of Pokémon is that?”

                “This is Morpeko,” she picks him up so you can see him. “He’s been my partner for a long time. How long have you been a trainer?”

                “Um, a couple weeks? Not very long at all.” You answer, and her eyes widen slightly in surprise.

                “Your Pokémon are pretty well behaved for that, you must be somethin’. Guess I’ll have to keep my eye out for you.” She sounds impressed, and you let out a small laugh nervously.

                “Maybe we’ll have to battle sometime,” You offer, and she nods as she stands.

                “I’d like that. I gotta be off, I’ll see you around,” She waves briefly with her free arm, the other holding her Morpeko to her.

                “Good luck in the gym challenge!” You wave as well, and nods to you.

                “You too,” She responds before leaving. You sit in the stadium for a while longer, taking in the people and the atmosphere. Raboot and Rookidee want to battle all the different Pokémon in here, and you can’t help but grin at their enthusiasm.

                Eventually you head out. You go hunt for lunch, and find yourself in a battle café. You have no energy to battle, so you just order some food for you and your Pokémon, and watch the battles other customers have. A lot of the people who come in to battle are gym challengers, and you and your Pokémon pay attention to the battles to learn as much as you can from them.

                It’s late before you head back to the hotel. You’ve managed to get some practice walking without the walker, though it’s hard and you can’t do it long. You’ve got less than 2 days now, you hope you can make it. Sonia is in the lobby, staring at the statue between the sets of stairs.

                “Hey Sonia, what are you doing?” You ask as you come up to her.

                “I was looking into mysterious Pokémon that are said to be living in the Slumbering Weald today, among other legends, and I came across one about this guy,” she gestures to the statue. “So I decided to come take a look at him.”

                Hop comes jogging in as Sonia’s talking, and comes up to the two of you. “What are you guys looking at?” He asks as he catches the last bit of Sonia’s explanation.

                “This is a statue of the hero who once saved the Galar region. I could run through the legend right quick, if you fancy?” Sonia turns to look at both you and Hop.

                “Yes please, I’d love to hear about some Galar legends!” You exclaim, and Hop sighs.

                “Well I’m here, and I’ve got nothing much better to do, so I guess I could listen too,” Hop crosses his arms and is trying to look bored, but he seems mildly interested.

                “Long ago,” Sonia begins, “a great dark storm covered the Galar region. People called it ‘The Darkest Day’. The land was assaulted by gigantic Pokémon, but they were defeated by a single young hero bearing a sword and a shield. This statue here is meant to depict the young hero of that legend. We still don’t understand what kind of sword and shield the hero actually had. And what this ‘dark storm’ is supposed to be is just another mystery… Whatever is was, it blotted out the skies all across Galar. I suppose that tracks with it being called the Darkest Day, but still…” Sonia trails off, turning back to the statue and holding her chin like she’s thinking.

                “Huh, I suppose that hero must’ve been about as strong as Lee, then!” Hop concludes, and you nod.

                “You’d have to be pretty strong to stop something like that all on your own. I wonder if he had some kind of help?” You ponder, and Hop continues your thought.

                “You mean like Pokémon help?” He asks, and you shrug. “Looks like you’re going to have your hands full with plenty to research, though, Sonia. Dark storms and swords and shields and all…” Hop shoots Sonia a concerned glance, and you turn to her too.

                “Will you be alright, Sonia?” You ask, it sounds like it’ll be difficult to look into, like it’s not well documented. Like Sonia will be the first to put this all together if she figures it out.

                “Course I will. I’ll muddle through somehow, don’t you worry!” She smiles at you and Hop kindly. “I don’t mind a challenge, and I’ve got lots of friends who I can rely on too.”

                “And we’ll look out for you, too, Sonia. If we hear anything about any hero or whatever, we’ll tell you!” Hop offers, and Sonia reaches over to squeeze his shoulder.

                She’s about to respond to that when the commotion going on up the stairs gets loud enough that you begin to hear it. Sonia and Hop turn towards the yelling at the same time you do. “Should we go check that out?” You ask, and Hop nods. He and Sonia help you up the stairs so you all can see what’s going on.

                As you get up the stairs, you’re met with a group of punk looking hooligans with face paint. They’re causing a big scene at the desk as a line of gym challengers waits at the side to try to check in. Raboot gets a little too close to one, and it seems to catch their attention as they turn to face you.

                “You lookin’ to get in our way? There’ll be a battle in it for you if you do,” One of the men says, and that gets Raboot excited.

                “I think those people want to check in though, you should move out of the way so they can,” It’s likely Raboot’s feelings that are making you this confrontational, but the man takes a step towards you at your words.

                “Didn’t we tell you, mate? You get in our way, and you’re in for a battle!” A female says as she joins the guy who’s stepped away. Hop takes a step up beside you when she does.

                “Two on one seems hardly fair though,” Hop’s got your back it seems, and you shoot him a smile.

                “Team Yell’s all about helpin’… Helpin’ one very special trainer win the gym challenge, that is! We wanna make sure she gets cheered on nice and proper… And now you’re gonna help us make some noise!” The man yells, and he throws out a Pokeball. His female companion throws one out as well, and Raboot isn’t alone long, Hop quickly throws out his Wooloo to join the fight.

                The man sends out a Zigzagoon, though it looks much different than you’re used to seeing. The woman sends out a Nickit, you’ve seen a couple from your time back in Postwick. You know the Nickit is a dark type for sure, so you tell Raboot to hit him with Double Kick. Hop looks over to you and you share a look, and he commands his Wooloo to tackle Zigzagoon. The Nickit gets a quick hit in first against Raboot, that the trainer calls a Quick Attack, but Raboot’s kicks still connect and send the Nickit flying.

                The Zigzagoon retaliates against Hop’s Wooloo, but Wooloo is easily able to roll out of the way of the attack. This leaves the Zigzagoon open, and Raboot is able to land a kick on the Zigzagoon before it can fully recover, knocking it onto it’s back.

                “Roll into the Nickit!” Hop commands his Wooloo as Raboot keeps Zigzagoon off him. The Nickit is fast, and lands another quick hit on Wooloo before he hits the Nickit. That last hit is all it takes for Nickit to be down for the count, and the female returns her Pokémon.

                Another one of the Team Yell members steps up to join the battle, throwing out another Nickit. They’ve surrounded Raboot, but this doesn’t faze you or Raboot like it does Hop.

                “Wooloo! Quick, turn around!” Hop commands, but Raboot hops out of the way of a swipe from the Nickit and lands the finishing blow on the Zigzagoon. It topples over and doesn’t recover, and its trainer recalls it while Raboot does a complete 180 with his kick and smacks the Nickit as well. He knocks the Nickit right into the path of Hop’s Wooloo, and the Nickit gets nailed again.

                A fourth trainer joins the battle, throwing in another Zigzagoon. “Nice teamwork!” You shout to Hop, and he grins back at you.

                That Nickit is charging back to hit Wooloo though, so Hop shouts “Defense Curl!” just in time for Wooloo to curl into a tight ball and deflect part of the hit. Raboot becomes covered in flames as he uses Flame Charge on the newly sent out Zigzagoon, and it tumbles back towards its trainer’s feet. The Zigzagoon recovers and launches itself at Raboot, who’s fully prepared for him. You snap your fingers at Hop and point out the line between the charging Zigzagoon, and Raboot, who’s lined himself up in front of Wooloo and Nickit.

                You’re glad Hop’s clever, as he sees what you mean immediately, and tells Wooloo to roll out of the way just in time, as Raboot hops clear over the Zigzagoon, and it charges right into the Nickit.

                “No!” The trainer screams as they recall their unconscious Nickit. It’s just the Zigzagoon left now, and Hop grins at you and points out another line.

                “Wooloo, roll a quarter turn towards me and Tackle!” Hop commands, and you get his play. Wooloo collides with the Zigzagoon, knocking him back, and right into Raboot’s waiting feet. Raboot kicks the Zigzagoon right back, and it tumbles to the floor in front of Raboot, struggling to get back up to its feet.

                “What are you lot doin’ here?” A soft voice interrupts, and you recognize it from earlier in the day. All heads turn to look at the girl with the pigtails who’s just joined you all.

                “Marnie?!” The group of Team Yell members shouts at once.

                “N-n-nothin’… We was just…” The one who first challenged you stutters out.

                “I know you all are terribly curious ‘bout the other gym challengers, but you gotta show a bit of restraint.” Marnie lectures them, and you now have a name to tie to the face. “Sorry ‘bout them! They’re just a bunch of my fans. Call themselves Team Yell and follow me around, cheerin’ for me.” Marnie comes over to you and Hop and bows her head slightly. “I think they’ve let it all go to their heads a bit…” She turns back to the group. “Come on, you lot! Back home with you now!” She orders, and they all quietly do as they’re told and leave.

                The other gym challengers who were just trying to check in cheer, and the hotel employee behind the desk sighs in relief. “Well they sure do go all out cheerin’ for you,” you give Marnie a sympathetic look, and she sighs.

                “They’re so caught up with wantin’ to support me and all that they tend to get a bit shirty with other gym challengers. Sorry if they caused you any trouble.” Marnie apologizes again to the two of you once Team Yell has left.

                “So you’re a gym challenger, too? Team Yell, was it? Pretty impressive that you already have a set of fans to call your own!” Hop’s got a wide grin on his face as he throws both his arms behind his head.

                Marnie nods and a small smile appears on her face. “I s’pose so,” she muses.

                “I’m Hop! And I’m going to be the next Champion!” Hop’s able to launch into what has become his normal introduction at this point, and you suppress another groan.

                “I’m Marnie, and I’m afraid you’re mistaken, because I’m gonna be the next Champion!” She argues back, and now you’re tempted to join in on this.

                “Whoa whoa whoa, you’re both wrong, because I’m Kieran and I’M going to be the next Champion!” You add in as your greeting, and you and Hop both laugh while Marnie lets out a small chuckle.

                Marnie excuses herself after, as she wants to get to her room. Marnie mentioning bed has reminded you how tired you are, and you’re ready to turn in for the night as well. Hop and Sonia join you, and you all head to your rooms together.

                When you arrive in your own room, you take your time getting ready for bed. You have a bath, with Raboot sitting up on the counter, far away from the bath water, but still close enough to be near you. Rookidee perches on the edge of the tub, and you spend a while enjoying the hot water and their company. You carefully massage your sore muscles while you’re in there, especially the sore ankle on your good leg.

                After drying off, wrapping your wound back up, and getting into your comfy pajamas, you sink into your bed with Raboot, Rookidee choosing the window again tonight, and fall asleep easily.

Chapter Text

                “Thanks for meeting me here, Hop,” Leon begins as Hop takes a seat at the table across from his brother.

                “Of course, I just want to know what’s so important that you’re dragging me off to breakfast this early to talk about,” Hop complains as he rubs his eyes. The sun isn’t even up yet, and looking at Leon, Hop gets the suspicion Leon hasn’t slept yet. Knowing Leon and the crazy hours he has to pull in preparation for the gym challenge every year, Hop knows this is likely Leon’s supper, and that he’ll be going to bed for a few short hours before getting up and getting back to work.

                Whatever it is that Leon wants to tell him, it’s important enough that it’s cutting into Leon’s sleep. “It’s about Kieran,” Leon begins. Of course it is, Hop thinks, she’s been badly injured.

                When Leon doesn’t immediately continue, Hop grabs some of the food Leon’s had sitting at the table when Hop arrived. He finishes a few bites before he realizes he’s going to have to encourage Leon to go on. “What about her?”

                “Hop, she almost died! I…” Leon’s voice cracks, and he takes a deep breath. “I need you to do a huge favour for me.”

                Hop nods, “Sure, what is it?” Hop watches Leon rub his face with his hands and take another deep breath. “Have you slept at all since you rescued her?” Hop’s voice fills with worry at the state his brother seems to be in.

                “No,” Leon’s honest with him, at least. “Hop… You can’t let her go alone out there, alright? I need you to travel with her. She doesn’t have the common sense we do from living here, and her Pokémon encourage her to be reckless. I need you to stay by her side and keep her safe.” Leon looks directly at Hop as he speaks, his voice pleading.

                Hop’s taken by surprise, this wasn’t what he was expecting. “You want me to keep her safe?” He asks hesitantly.

                “Yes, I would if I could, but we both know I don’t have that kind of luxury.” Leon sighs, leaning his head into his hands and resting his elbows on the table. He closes his eyes tiredly for a moment. “Please, no running off and leaving her behind. Actually travel with her.” Leon emphasizes, and Hop grimaces.

                “Ok, ok, I get it. I’ll stay with her.” Hop goes back to eating, and Leon lets the conversation end there as he begins to eat as well. Leon’s words begin to sink in with Hop after a while, though, and Hop has a new question. “You think she’s still going to be able to do the gym challenge?”

                Leon grins and chuckles lightly at that. “I’m sure she’s going to figure out a way how.” When Hop looks confused, Leon continues. “She’s determined, I doubt she’ll let this stop her.”

                Hop grins at this as well, trusting Leon’s confidence. “I’ll go with her, then.” Hop answers as he grabs a muffin off the table.

                “You might have to wait with her for a bit while she recovers, are you willing to do that? It might set you back in the gym challenge.” Leon warns, but Hop waves off his concern.

                “Lee, I could have started the gym challenge two years ago. If I have to wait a little longer, so what? I… I would rather wait and do this with a friend, than do it alone.” Hop looks determined, and Leon smiles in relief.

                “Thank you, Hop. You have no idea how much of a favour this is to me.” Leon collapses a little in relief, and begins digging into the food in earnest. Hop watches him for a moment before returning to eating as well.

                He knows his brother tells him a lot, but he also knows there’s a lot his brother keeps from him. He’s worried this has to do with one of those things Leon’s hiding, but Hop knows this isn’t the time to be prying. He can pry later, when the gym challenge is underway and Leon has a bit more time. And more rest, Leon looks so tired.

                The two brothers eat in silence, Leon excusing himself when he’s done. Hop stays and gets some more food from the front counter and feeds his Pokémon, if he’s up this early he might as well get in some training. Hop’s sure there’s going to be tons of strong trainers doing the gym challenge, and if his rival is still up for entering it this year, Hop wants to make sure his team is in good shape to take them on.

----------------------------------------------------------

                “Wait, you make it sound like I- or you I guess, were injured before?” The girl on the bed pipes up for the first time in a while, she’d been listening quietly to the story so far.

                “That’s right,” The man in the chair says, and he reaches behind the chair to grab a cane leaning against the wall. He holds it up and wiggles it in the air. “Since I was a kid. Sure would have made doing the gym challenge here a real bitch if they made me do it the right way.”

                The girl on the bed nods. “So they gave you accommodations?”

                “What? No, I was able to take advantage of a rule you weren’t. I’ve done a gym challenge before, so I didn't have to redo Galar’s. YOU still had a hell of a time of it.” He explains. “I’m still fighting the fight you started, to make Galar’s league more accessible. Could always use the help, when you get out of here.”

                She nods again and is quiet for a moment, fiddling with her hands. “So that scar on my leg… That’s from the Wild Area? Is that why it’s still weak?”

                “Yeah, I know the doctor said it was damage caused from the way you’ve been living these last two years, but he doesn’t know who you are. I haven’t told anyone else yet. He doesn’t know about your previous injury.” The man sat up and looked at the girl, waiting for her to meet his eyes. “It’ll be your decision, when I’m done telling your story, who you want knowing about your past.”

                The girl looks confused. “Why wouldn’t I want people knowing who I am?”

                “You’ll understand once I’m done,” he sits back and gets comfy once more. “Now, shall I continue? Or would you like a break?”

                “Continue, please.”

Chapter Text

                You run into Hop in the lobby in the morning. He’s practicing throwing his Pokeball, and you’re reminded of what Leon said to Hop about his obsession with this. A laugh bubbles out of you before you can stop it, and this brings Hop’s attention to you. He looks slightly embarrassed, so you shake your head.

                “No, no, I just remembered what Leon told you about worrying about how you throw your Pokeball.” This seems to bring a smile back to Hop’s face as he walks over to you.

                “That’s easy for him to say, he’s already so cool! I have to be at least as cool as him before I become the next Champion!” Hop’s launched into his ever-exaggerated movements, and you laugh at his exuberance.

                “I think you’re already very cool, how about we go get some breakfast? Raboot is starving!” You switch the topic when Raboot begins feeling antsy about his hunger being ignored.

                Hop laughs as he scratches the back of his head. “Sure! There’s this café Lee took me to yesterday that had really good food, I’ll take you there!” Hop helps you down the stairs, and leads you and your Pokémon out into Motostoke in search of food.

                The café is a quaint little thing tucked away by some warehouses, and it’s pretty empty this morning. You let Hop order for you and your Pokémon, as he’s had the food, so he’ll know what’s good. There’s enough food to require multiple trays, so Raboot helps carry one for Hop. You’d offer, but you have to hang on to your walker.

                You pick a table near the window, and Hop lets his Pokémon out to feed them while you begin feeding yours. Hop launches into talking about your team battle last night, recapping his favourite moments. “Oh, and when you pointed out that line? Ace, mate. They just took each other right out, it was such a brilliant move!”

                “Double battles offer so much more strategy, I think they’re even better than single battles. And working together too, being on a team; that just made it even better!” You’re just as excited about it as he is, and you share in the glory of such a satisfying victory.

                “Yeah! Lee’s always complained about them, but I think you’re right. I’d like to try a double battle on my own to see if it’s just as fun as when we worked together.” Hop’s teasing of Leon causes you to laugh, though you wonder why he doesn’t like double battles.

                You’re both grinning ear to ear as you talk. You’d had such a good time in that battle, it really felt like you and Hop were on the same page and battling as one. “That was the most fun I’ve ever had in a battle. I can’t wait to battle on your team again!” You say as much when Hop has finished his recap.

                Hop blushes a bit, “Me too, mate! We make the best team! We’d be unstoppable together!” Hop begins coming up with some battle strategies for the next time you’re on a team, and you both lose track of time talking about it.

                It’s when your Pokémon begin getting into mischief in their boredom that you and Hop realize you should probably get going and get on with your day. Hop wants to get some battle practice in against all the Gym Challengers that are hanging around, and you want to practice walking some more without your walker.

                It’s easy enough to find Gym Challengers, and you and Hop both get in plenty of battling experience while you wander around Motostoke. You’re nervous about your first battle with the walker, but it turns out that it’s pretty easy to stand and focus on battling when you can use the walker for support. You both win every battle, but some are pretty close. It’s a nice ego boost to know you’re both already ahead of the competition. You know you can’t use the walker on the pitch though, so you get in some practice walking without the walker too. It’s difficult and exhausting, so you and Hop have to take breaks for you when you do.

                You’re both sitting on a bench for a break while your Pokémon run around. “Hey, think anyone would notice if I’m helping you stand up during Opening Ceremonies?” Hop asks suddenly, and you have to think for a moment.

                “I’m not sure, I don’t even know what Opening Ceremonies are like. I’ve never seen one.” You reply honestly, and Hop purses his lips in thought for a moment.

                “I think we’d be ok. Most people’s attention is going to be on the Gym Leaders and Rose, not really on us. We can try, right?” Hop looks at you with a small smile, and you nod.

                “It’s worth a shot, sure.” Hop gets a determined look on his face at your confirmation, and he stands up and grabs your hands, pulling you up quickly. You barely have time to register what’s just happened before Hop’s thrown your left arm around his shoulders, and wrapped his right arm around your waist. He holds you tight so you don’t fall over, and a blush rises to your cheeks against your will.

                You must be shaking or something, because Hop speaks softly right next to your ear, “Don’t worry, I got you, mate.” You’re not used to hearing his voice so soft and quiet like this, and it makes your heart thud in your chest. You’re sure your face is noticeably red at this point, but if Hop notices, he doesn’t say anything.

                Hop lets you set the pace. It’s harder to walk with Hop than it is with the walker, but it’s still much easier than walking on your own. Every time you hop from your better right leg to your injured left leg, Hop tightens his grip on you and tries to take on more of your weight. It’s a big help, and you have a minimal limp with his aide.

                You make it quite far, and Raboot brings over your walker when you’re ready to take a break. When you separate from Hop, you notice he’s blushing too, and you at least feel better that you weren’t the only one. Raboot and Grookey make their hunger known then, so Hop begins searching for good places to get lunch on his phone while you sit and recover.

                Sonia texts the two of you to see what you’re up to while Hop is searching, so you agree to meet with her for lunch. Leon is too busy to join the three of you, but Hop explains that he’s got a lot on his plate putting on Opening Ceremonies. You find the restaurant Sonia told you to meet her at easily enough, and Hop kindly holds the door open for you.

                Sonia is sitting at the back, and she waves you over. After you all order food, Hop begins telling Sonia about your plans on how to enter the Gym Challenge together. “Hmm, that sounds like it would work to me,” Sonia affirms when Hop has finished, and this causes him to grin. “Not a lot of people are going to be paying attention to you two specifically when there’s lots of other Gym Challengers. Besides, you two are friends, if anyone said anything, you could pass it off as comforting each other or something.” Hop turns to look at you and only grins wider, and you can’t fight the grin that spreads across your face in return.

                “See? This is really happening! We’re really going to make it through Opening Ceremonies!” Hop sounds so excited, and you laugh softly in joy at the prospect of it. You’re really going to be able to do this with Hop!

                The topic turns to Sonia’s research after that. “It’s so frustrating! There’s next to nothing about the relics, and there’s so many different ones across Galar. So everything is spread out in bits and pieces in different books. Ugh, my head hurts from all the reading I did this morning.” Sonia rubs her temples as she leans her elbows on the table. You give her a sympathetic look.

                “Sounds like you need a break,” you offer, and she smiles and nods.

                “I do. I’m gonna spend some time with Nessa later, so I do have a break planned.” Sonia twirls a strand of her hair in her fingers and her smile takes on an almost fuzzy feeling as she spaces out for a moment.

                “But it sounds like you’re onto something big, Sonia!” Hop says after a moment when it becomes clear Sonia isn’t continuing.

                “I don’t know, I sure hope so. Would make a bloody convenient thesis, that’s for sure.” You can’t tell if she’s being sarcastic about that or not with her tone. “Sure would be a pain in the arse to research… Ugh…” She sighs, and you think she was probably not being sarcastic.

                “Does Motostoke have the best library in Galar, or are there others that might have more of what you’re looking for?” You ask, and she looks surprised for a moment, before her face lights up like she has an idea.

                “No, actually. Hammerlocke’s library is the largest in Galar, and has most of the older text works found in Galar. I should call Raihan, he’d know if there’s anything there that could help me.” Sonia looks happier now that she has a plan of action, and lunch wraps up with everyone leaving in high spirits.

                Sonia pays for everyone’s meals, and takes no complaints. When Hop begins whining about how Leon gave him money for things like this, Sonia just waves her hand flippantly in front of his face and ignores him. You remember to thank her, though, and she heads off to call Raihan while you and Hop wander off into Motostoke.

                “So what do you want to do now, mate?” Hop asks as he throws his hands behind his head. You’ve both got all your Pokémon out still, so you’re walking slowly so Hop can keep an eye on all three of his.

                You shrug. “No idea. I’m normally just getting up, like, now. And we already did all the things I wanted to do today. I don’t know what normal people do with their days.” You respond, and Hop laughs. “Besides, I’ve never been to Motostoke before, I don’t know what fun things there are to see and do around here.”

                You’re hoping Hop will offer to take you on a tour or something, but he just sighs. “Me neither. I’ve only been a few times, and it’s always to go see Lee’s matches. I’ve never really seen more of Motostoke until now, either.” You nod at the explanation and frown.

                “So then what do we do?” You ask, and it’s Hop’s turn to shrug. You both stop and look at each other for a moment, before bursting into laughter at this. You decide to just explore Motostoke together, and see what you find. The map on your phones is practically useless for navigating around, and it makes you miss the complex, detailed map apps on phones from where you’re from.

                It’s hard to get truly lost, though. You can always see the clock tower, no matter where you are, so you keep that as a landmark to navigate around. Hop is impressed by your sense of direction and navigation skills, and he trusts you to lead. You’re reminded he’s had to deal with Leon’s poor sense of direction his whole life, no wonder your skills seem impressive next to that.

                You two manage to find some interesting stores, and your Pokémon all have a great time exploring the city with you. You do more battling as well, though not as much, as your main focus is on exploring this city.

                “It’s so much bigger than Wedgehurst, and everything’s on different levels. It’s so cool here.” You’re explaining to Hop during dinner. You two managed to find a restaurant that serves one of your favourite dishes, so naturally you had to drag Hop into it.

                All the slow walking around the city has been great practice for your leg, but it has left you completely exhausted. Hop suggests turning in early for the night, so that you can rest up for Opening Ceremonies tomorrow. You begin navigating back to the hotel, and you and Hop run into Leon, who’s completely lost, on the way back.

                “Hey Lee, they let you off early tonight?” Hop calls out to his brother when you see him. He jogs over with a tired grin, and up close you can see the bags under his eyes.

                “Yeah, everything’s ready now. I’m just trying to get back to the hotel to sleep.” He closes his eyes and sighs, and Hop rubs his arm comfortingly.

                “Good thing we know the way back, eh?” Hop teases lightly, and Leon offers him a small smile. Though Leon walks with you, he remains quiet, and Hop has to keep grabbing him as he spaces out and begins wandering off. Hop gets a worried look on his face every time, but when you look at him and quirk your eyebrow to get an explanation, Hop just mouths the word “later” to you.

                At the hotel, Leon wishes you both a good night, and immediately heads off to his room. Hop invites you to hang out in his room for a few hours, and you happily accept his offer. You crash onto his bed as soon as you get in, the exhaustion leaving you sprawled there even as Hop begins bumbling around his room. Hop just laughs, and eventually comes to join you on the bed. He has to push and pull your limbs to make room for himself, but he eventually tugs you into a more comfortable position.

                As your Pokémon all begin to join the two of you on the bed, you and Hop have to cuddle closer to make room for them. Hop puts the tv on for them, but has no interest in watching it himself. Neither do you, so you and Hop talk about battling and the Opening Ceremonies, and whatever else comes to mind for hours. You may be exhausted physically, but you’re really not ready for sleep, so the conversation helps you grow tired enough to fall asleep.

                There’s some slower paced fantasy movie on, and most of your Pokémon have fallen asleep around you. Wooloo is the only one left awake, and Hop absentmindedly pets him while the two of you quietly talk. You’re both growing more tired, so your voices are hushed. You’re both pressed up against each other, and Hop has one arm around you as you lean back into his side.

                Your eyes begin feeling heavy, and you close them as some princess dances with a Pokémon on the tv. Soft waltz music plays, and you don’t even realize when sleep has taken you, your dreams filled with soft music and princes and princesses and dancing. Hop, Leon, and even Sonia all make appearances in a dream you can barely remember when you wake up.

                And waking up is quite interesting too. Your face is smooshed into Hop’s shoulder, and your arms are both wrapped around each other. Your legs are all tangled together under the sheets, and the Pokémon surrounding you keep you trapped in this position. When it sinks in, your face goes beet red, and you’re glad that even if Hop was awake he would not be able to see from his position. He’s still softly snoring though, so even though your instincts shout at you to get up and away, you enjoy this warmth and the safe feeling of being wrapped in his arms for a little longer.

                When Hop wakes up though, he immediately jolts away from you when he’s realized. You catch how red his face is before he bolts off to the washroom with a quietly squeaked “sorry”. Embarrassment begins to sink in now that it’s over, and you quickly collect your belongings and wake your Pokémon. You’re out of the room before Hop is up. You text him that you’re going to shower and get ready so he at least knows where you are when you’re back in your room.

                You change your bandages after your shower, and you realize you forgot to change them last night. You hope it'll be fine, you were sure to clean your wound well in the shower to make up for it, despite how much it still hurt to wash. You quickly finish getting ready quickly, and head down to the lobby to meet Hop.

                “Morning!” You call to him as you get out of the elevator. He turns around, and you catch a faint blush on his cheeks as he looks momentarily caught off guard. He quickly recovers and his face cracks into a bright grin.

                “So this is it… Now my legend really begins!” Hop crosses his arms over his chest, and there’s that light swimming in his eyes that he gets before a battle.

                “Opening Ceremonies… I’m so excited!” You smile back at Hop, and Raboot and Rookidee both trill in agreement with you.

                “Watch out, mate! I’ll beat you to Motostoke Stadium!” Hop shouts, before turning around and bolting out of the hotel.

                “Hop, wait!” You call after him, but he doesn’t turn around. It’s not completely unlike him to just run off, but he’s left you here stranded at the top of the stairs at the hotel. You sigh, and your shoulders sag. Hop ditching you hurts, and you have to blink repeatedly to chase off the tears that threaten to fall. You wonder if he’s acting strange because of this morning.

                “Need a hand?” A quiet voice says right beside you while you’re lost in thought, and it causes you to jump. Marnie’s managed to sneak up right beside you while you weren’t paying attention, and upon realizing who it is, your face relaxes into a relieved smile.

                “Yes, thank you, I’d really appreciate that!” She nods and takes your arm, and helps you down the stairs.

                Marnie continues walking with you once you’re both outside the hotel. She could probably walk much faster, but she keeps your slow pace beside you. “So the Gym Challenge is finally startin’.” She breaks the silence after a while.

                “Yeah, I’m kind of nervous, I hope I’ll do well.” You tell her your honest feelings, as you don’t quite have that bravery you used to brag about yourself the other night when you introduced yourselves.

                She gives you a sympathetic look, but her words are much less sympathetic. “I’d wish you luck, but I’m afraid I’m goin’ to be the one to win.” You admire her confidence, she seems so cool.

                “I can’t wait to face you in the finals, I’m sure you’ll be a tough opponent to beat!” It’s the closest you can get to a brag this morning, it’s definitely something you need to work on.

                “You, too,” she responds, and the two of you lapse into silence. Her Morpeko is walking with Raboot, and it sounds like they’re having a lively discussion on food. You and Marnie both listen to them on the way to the stadium. “It’s nice to see Morpeko make a friend,” you almost don’t catch it, she speaks it so softly. You only offer her a warm smile, as you’re not sure what to say.

                The lobby is packed with Gym Challengers and Pokémon, and there’s a ton of people filing into doors up to the stands. You’re not able to get very far in, as a man with a bright purple jacket is standing in the middle of the way, and you can’t get your walker past him. “Excuse me,” you call out to him, but he doesn’t move.

                Marnie the steps up to him and taps him on the shoulder to get his attention. “Uh, ‘scuse us,” she says, and the man startles.

                When he whirls around, you recognize him as the man who rudely pushed past Hop when you were signing up for the Gym Challenge. “I was endorsed by the chairman himself,” he immediately launches into a speech. “In other words, among those elite enough to get an endorsement, I’m the most elite of all. So why don’t you clear off and not try talking to me again, would you? It’s positively criminal of you, wasting the time of someone as important as I am.”

                “Ok, I just need ya to take two steps thata way. No need to make an arse of yourself.” Marnie responds bluntly, and you can’t stifle the laugh that spurts out of you in time. The man looks positively offended, but then runs a hand through his hair and stalks off. Marnie covers her mouth with her hands and you see her shoulders shake in what might be a laugh, you can’t really hear over all the noise of the lobby. She recovers and parts ways with you as she heads to the front desk, and you go searching for Hop.

                Hop is easy enough to find, as he comes charging over to you. “Took you long enough,” he teases with a grin, and you frown.

                “You left me stranded at the top of the stairs, Hop! You just ran off and left me there!” It comes out a little more emotionally than you intend it to, and Hop throws his arms up and looks alarmed.

                “Oh, mate, I’m so sorry. I wasn’t thinking, and I forgot about the walker.” He’s quick to launch into an apology, and he looks genuinely sorry. His expressive face quickly changes as the smile falls from his face and guilt fills his eyes.

                You sigh, your shoulders sagging again. “I forgive you. But it better not happen again, ok? I need your help until I can walk properly again. Please don’t abandon me.”

                Hop steps up and wraps you in a hug. “It won’t. I told you I’d wait with you, and I intend to keep that promise.” He lets go quickly, and steps back again, and you briefly catch the blush on his face before he ducks away.

                “What promise?” You don’t remember Hop making you a promise about waiting, but about finishing the Gym Challenge this year no matter what.

                Hop changes the topic though. “Have you got your uniform from the front desk yet? We should go get changed for Opening Ceremonies soon.”

                “Oh, no, I haven’t yet.” You shake your head, and Hop gestures for you to follow him up to the counter.

                The attendant at the desk is quick to point out your walker. “I thought you said that was temporary.” It’s the same one who registered you and Hop, but thankfully Hop launches into the explanation for you.

                “It is, she won’t use it on the pitch today, don’t worry.” He crosses his arms, and the attendant takes a deep breath like he’s already tired of his job. You recognize that weary customer service look, and you feel a pang of sympathy for him. Gym Challengers have probably been giving him a hard time all morning.

                “I’m here to collect my uniform,” you tell him. He’s quick to retrieve it and waves you off so he can deal with the next person behind you. “Thank god for done with this shit customer service representatives,” you mutter as you tuck your uniform into your bag. Hop raises his eyebrow at you, and you try your best to explain what you meant on the way to the change rooms.

                You’re initially surprised there’s only one, and that there are no gendered change rooms. It’s a nice change though, you’re certainly not going to complain, as there are individual stalls to change in for privacy. Hop has to help you navigate the walker through the narrow corridors of the change room, so you’re glad you didn’t have to split up and try to do this alone in a separate change room from him.

                Hop helps you into a stall, as there isn’t enough room for the walker in it, and he takes the stall beside yours. He changes much quicker than you do, as you’re fighting with an injury. You pull your uniform out of your bag, and run your hands over your embossed name and number on the back of the jersey. It’s a nice material, and as you pull it on it feels perfectly comfortable against your skin. Ok, you’re beginning to see how Leon can wear these so often.

                The shorts, however… They’re very short, and combined with the socks they give you that only go up to your mid-calf when you pull them up as much as they can go, they show off a lot of leg. And a lot of bandages. You feel incredibly self-conscious, as it looks pretty bad. You tug on the shorts in an attempt to get them to hide more as you open the stall door.

                Hop’s pretty quick to push your walker to you, and he catches you when you stumble into it. “Looking good, mate!” Hop exclaims with a grin as he rights you. You take a look at him, and immediately notice that he has significantly longer shorts.

                “How come you get the longer shorts?” A pang of jealousy surges through you, and you can’t help that the first thing out of your mouth is that.

                “Oh, I think they always give the girls the shorter ones. You could probably trade, would you like me to ask?” Hop looks concerned again, and you can imagine he’s figured out why you’re upset. You nod to him, and he jogs off. You sit down on a bench while you wait, running your fingers through Rookidee’s feathers absentmindedly.

                Hop comes dashing back after a few minutes. “I have good news, and bad news,” he begins, and you sigh and gesture for him to continue. “Good news is they can totally get you a long pair. Bad news is you’re gonna have to wait, they can’t get it ready in time for Opening Ceremonies. They have to print your number on the shorts and they can’t do that today.”

                Well, it’s not the worst. You just have to survive Opening Ceremonies. Hopefully with all the other Gym Challengers, no one really pays any attention to your leg. You take a deep breath, “Thanks Hop, I appreciate it. By the way, you look good too. I meant to say so before.” You feel bad for reacting jealously earlier, and Hop really does look good in that uniform.

                Hop blushes, and ducks his head as he scratches the back of his head with his hand. “Uh, thanks mate,” he coughs abruptly into his hand and straightens up. “I can’t wait for the first match! Pretty soon I’ll have so many fans, I’ll have to fight them off like Lee does!”

                “Whoa there, we haven’t even gone through Opening Ceremonies, and you’re already imagining your first match?” You tease, and he laughs with you. Things feel normal again for the first time since waking up wrapped up in each other’s arms, and you’re glad the awkwardness of the situation has dissipated.

                Hop stashes both your belongings in one of the lockers. You’re only allowed to take your Pokémon in their Pokeballs out onto the pitch, so you both have to leave your bags behind. You’re sure to take your Pokémon’s Pokeballs out of your bag before you hand it to Hop. You tuck them in your pocket, as you don’t have to put your Pokémon into them just yet.

                You and Hop head back to the lobby to wait until the start of Opening Ceremonies. Hop manages to find a space on a bench where you can both sit, and he lets his Pokémon out of their Pokeballs to play until Opening Ceremonies start. With the amount of Pokémon around, there’s lots of other Pokémon for yours and Hop’s Pokémon to play with. You end up watching them, and talking with the trainers who own them. Some of them you battled against yesterday, and it’s a nice experience for the Pokémon to get to play together after having battled each other.

                Marnie joins you at some point, and you get to meet her Scraggy and Croagunk as well. You find watching them incredibly amusing, as it’s interesting to be able to feel how yours and Hop’s Pokémon feel about other Pokémon. It’s even more interesting when you can connect with other Pokémon, and feel how they feel about your own Pokémon. This leads you to tuning out a lot of the actual conversation going on around you, as finding out more about these incredible creatures has you totally enraptured right now.

                The time flies before they start letting Gym Challengers into the back. As everyone begins recalling their Pokémon, you’re stuck with trying to get Raboot to cooperate. He doesn’t want to go in his ball, so he’s jumping around and dodging the laser. Hop only gives you a look that lets you know he wants to rub this in your face.

                “Oh don’t, don’t start, just help me,” you glare at him, and he cracks into laughter at your expense. You don’t find this situation funny at all, in fact it’s quite distressing to have to force Raboot into his ball when you can feel just how much he hates it.

                Nonetheless, he grabs Raboot and helps you calm him down enough to get back into his ball. Most of the Gym Challengers have left by now, so you and Hop are some of the last challengers through the doors. The staff stop you at the doors and ask you to leave your walker at the desk.

                It’s frustrating, you had hoped you could hang onto it until you actually had to step out onto the pitch. Before you can make any complaints, however, Hop’s stepped up beside you and wrapped his arm around your waist. He leans towards you and whispers into your ear, “Don’t worry, I got you, mate.” Once again, his words make your heart leap in your chest, and you can feel the blush on your cheeks as you hand the staffer your walker. You wrap an arm around Hop’s shoulders, and the two of you walk through the doors.

Chapter Text

                Hop keeps a slow pace for you as he helps you down the long hallway out to the pitch. The closer you get to the end, the more you can make out what’s going on in the mass gathering of people further down the hall. It seems the Gym Challengers are all bundled up behind some league staff, and past them, closer to the pitch, you can see the Gym Leaders, Leon, a man in a grey suit, and a tall woman with blond hair.

                There’s a big screen on the left wall, and it’s showing a view of the pitch and the stands. You can hear faint music coming from what you’re guessing are the speakers out on the pitch, but you can also hear the crowd, even from back here. It makes you excited, and you and Hop come to a stop at the back of the group of Gym Challengers.

                You hear the screams of the crowd pick up, and you notice that the man in the suit and the tall woman have walked out onto the pitch. You can see their small figures on the screen, so you turn your attention to that. The man is walking leisurely, waving to the crowd as he goes. The woman reaches the middle of the pitch long before he does. When he arrives in the middle, he begins speaking.

                “Ladies and gentlemen!” You hear his voice through the speakers out on the pitch, and it’s just loud enough for you to make out what he’s saying over all the other noise. “I am Rose, chairman of the Pokémon League!” The camera pans in close so you can see his face clearly on the screen. “I know that everyone gathered here, and everyone watching from home have all been waiting for this big moment!” He gestures rather grandly while he speaks, though you can’t catch every action due to how close the camera is on him.

                “It is my pleasure to announce that finally, the Galar region Gym Challenge will now begin!” The camera pans back so you can see Rose raise his arms in the air, and the crowd screams. “Yes, the Gym Challenge! Participants must defeat the eight Gym Leaders,” you’re beginning to get tired from standing, and your leg is getting weak. “And gather the eight Gym Badges to prove their skills as a Trainer!” You sag against Hop as your leg gives out, and Hop tightens his grip around your waist and pulls you closer. He gives you a concerned look as he takes on more of your weight to help you, but you give him a small smile to reassure him you’re ok.

                Hop doesn’t look convinced, but you both turn back to the screen regardless. “Only the most worthy will have the honor of challenging the greatest Champion in history!” You’re beginning to see where Leon gets his ego from, when people talk about him like this all the time. “Now, I would like to invite the Gym Leaders to show themselves!” Rose gestures grandly to the entrance, and the camera pans to the entrance just as all the gym leaders step out.

                They all look so cool, and strong too. Most of them have 6 Pokeballs on their belts or on hip holsters. Those you don’t see with any must keep them in their pockets. The camera then zooms up close to one of the gym leaders, and Rose begins speaking again.

                “The fighting farmer! Here’s the Grass-type expert, Milo!” A buff man with a large hat waves to the crowd as his name is called out.

                “The raging wave! It’s the master of Water types, Nessa!” A woman whose dark hair has bright blue streaks in it blows a kiss to the crowd, and you hear the screams of some adoring fans.

                “The ever-burning man of fire! Here comes the Fire-type veteran, Kabu!” An older man with grey hair wears a towel around his neck as he walks confidently forward.

                “The Galar karate prodigy! Nobody’s better with Fighting types than Bea!” The grey eyed woman doesn’t react when her name is called, though she wears a serious expression on her face.

                “The master of a fantastic theater! It’s the charming Fairy-type user, Opal!” An old woman walks out onto the pitch with the aide of what you at first think is a cane, but when the camera pulls away you’re able to see it’s actually a parasol.

                “The hard-rock crusher! Please welcome the Rock-type master, Gordie!” A man with large shades and even larger bling salutes the crowd with a quirk of a smile, and you hear fan girls screaming.

                “And last but not least, the tamer of dragons… It’s Raihan, the top Gym Leader!” A very tall man in an oversized hoodie waves to the crowd, occasionally pulling his phone out and taking a few selfies as he walks.

                Wait, last but not least? You only counted seven, weren’t there eight Gym Leaders? “Unfortunately, we’re missing one, but…” Ah, so that answers your question. “These are the Gym Leaders that we in the Galar region are proud to call our own!” The camera pans back as all the Gym Leaders file into a line in the middle of the pitch. Suddenly, the people ahead of you and Hop are moving, and that must mean it’s time for you to step out onto the pitch.

                “Now, I would like to invite the Gym Challengers to join us!” Hop keeps a tight grip on you as you walk, and the light ahead gets brighter and brighter until you take that first step onto the turf. It’s massive, much bigger than you were expecting. You’re taken aback by it all, the stands are packed full, the massive screens at either end of the field showing the camera panning out to show all the Gym Challengers. You can see the beautiful blue sky above you, and you trip over your own feet while you’re distracted with looking around. You almost take you and Hop both out, but he manages to keep you both upright.

                “You ok?” He whispers in your ear, and you nod with a blush raising to your cheeks. It’s more from embarrassment that people totally saw that than the fact that Hop’s got his arms around you basically. At least, that’s what you tell yourself.

                Rose continues to talk, but you’re paying no attention, your focus split between keeping yourself from falling over, trying to take everything in, and Hop’s arms wrapped around you to keep you upright. By the time you come to stand with the rest of the Gym Challengers behind the Gym Leaders, your attention is split further by how much pain you’re in. Tripping like that had really hurt, and you try to keep your face from grimacing at the pain.

                You’re probably not very successful, because Hop looks very concerned for you. He’s not paying attention to Opening Ceremonies either, it seems, as his focus is on keeping you upright. You have to lean pretty heavily against him at this point, and you hope this ends soon.

                You and the other Gym Challengers are finally sent off the pitch, and you couldn’t be more thankful. You and Hop are significantly slower than the rest, and you trail off as one of the last ones off the pitch. It takes you a while to hobble down the hallway, but Hop stops as often as you need to lean against the wall, or even sit down in the middle of the hall.

                “Do you have any pain medication?” Hop asks, and you nod.

                “It’s in my bag though,” you respond, and Hop frowns, but nods. He helps you back up and you begin slowly hobbling to the lobby. As soon as you’re through the doors, a league staffer is bringing you your walker. You almost fall into it, and you even struggle to hold yourself up with it. Hop keeps an arm around you to help you get to a bench, before running off as soon as you’re sitting. You let Raboot and Rookidee back out now that it’s safe to do so, and Raboot is only angry for a moment before he registers how much pain you’re in, and then both your Pokémon are trying to comfort you.

                Hop comes back quickly with your bag, and you fish out your medication and swallow a pill with a swig of water. You both sit there and wait, Hop rubbing your back every so often, until you have enough strength to make it to the change room. Hop keeps an arm around you still, and you thank him. He only offers you a small smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. You can still see the worry swimming in them.

                Hop helps you into a stall again, and Raboot and Rookidee both help you change back into your normal clothes. You forgo pants in favour of a skirt, because your legs hurt too much to fight with pants right now. Hop helps you back out to the lobby, and you sink into the nearest bench. “How are you feeling?” Hop asks quietly, and you shoot him a pained expression.

                “How do you think?” You don’t mean to be rude or sarcastic, but it hurts too much to care about that right now. Hop only looks more concerned though. “At least it’s over now. I can rest the rest of the day.” You offer to Hop, and this finally eases some of the worry from his honey gold eyes.

                “Yeah… But standing there on the pitch, in the stadium, in front of everyone!” Hop’s voice finally picks back up some of its usual enthusiasm as he changes topics. “There’s really no words for it, but… I can barely contain myself! My heart’s racing!”

                You offer Hop a smile. “I know, it really was exciting to be out there! I can’t wait to be out there battling!” You try to push some enthusiasm into your voice for Hop’s benefit, and the smile he offers you in return makes it worth the effort.

                “Ah, there you two are!” You hear a familiar booming voice from your right, and you and Hop both turn to see Leon and Rose walking towards you. Leon’s got a pained expression on his face as he comes to stand in front of you, and Rose joins him.

                “So you’re the two Trainers our Champion endorsed himself! Welcome, and it’s a delight to meet you! I’m Rose, of course.” He offers his hand first to Hop, who bolts up standing to not seem rude as he introduces himself. Rose then offers his hand to you, and you hope he isn’t offended that you can’t stand right now. You shake his hand and introduce yourself as well.

                “Oh, and what’s this?! I see you both already possess Dynamax Bands! How wonderful! It seems you two have been led here by the guiding light of the Wishing Stars.” Rose talks a lot, that’s your first real impression of this man. Leon looks visibly uncomfortable next to him, he’s shifting his weight and scratching at his arms. “By the way, it was my wonderful company that invented those Dynamax Bands, you know!” That you did not know, you thought Professor Magnolia had invented them. Perhaps she worked for his company?

                “I daresay this year’s Gym Challenge is looking to be an absolute blast!” Rose smiles warmly at you and Hop, but it puts a weird feeling in your stomach. There’s something about it that seems… Well, you can’t quite put it into words, and you realize it’s because it’s not your feeling. It’s Raboot’s, and you’re not sure what about this man puts him off, but something does.

                “Very good, very good indeed! That means the whole Galar region is in for some excitement!” He’s still going, and Leon’s only looking more uncomfortable by the moment. “The Gym Challenge is an excellent opportunity to show off your Dynamax Pokémon! I can’t wait to see your battles in Turffield, to see what kind of trainers the Champion himself would endorse!” Putting Leon’s demeanor together with Raboot’s feelings gives you the impression you should be wary of this man.

                “Now, I’m terribly sorry, but there is some urgent business I need to attend to, so I must be on my way.” Leon’s shoulders sag in relief at Rose’s words. “The best of luck to both of you!” Rose departs with a wave of his hand. Leon sighs as soon as Rose is out of earshot, and you can see the stress leave his body as he turns back to face you and Hop.

                “The chairman certainly seems to be in high spirits,” Leon mutters, and you can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic or not.

                “Everything alright?” You ask him, and his eyebrows shoot up in surprise.

                “I could ask the same of you, you don’t look well,” Leon turns it around back on you, and his attempt to dodge your question does not go unnoticed by you. Hop helpfully explains for you, and Leon frowns. “I hope you haven’t injured yourself further by doing this.”

                “I hope so too,” you reply, and Leon looks more sympathetic.

                “Now, listen closely, you two. You’ve both only just started on your path as Trainers. If you want to win, you need to do more than just train your Pokémon. You need to train yourselves, too. That means listening to your body’s limits and taking care of yourself, because you can’t battle if you’re injured or ill.” Leon imparts another of his life lessons, and even though it’s one you know, you’re sure there’s a good reason he’s stressing it.

                “More than that, you can’t battle if you’re dead. It’s dangerous out there, and you’ll have to trek all across Galar to complete the Gym Challenge. Take care of yourselves out there, or you’ll find yourselves in more trouble than you can handle.” Leon’s looking at you specifically as he says all this, and it makes you want to roll your eyes because you know, you get it. But you deserve it, you were the one who did the dumb thing, so you refrain and just nod instead.

                Hop, however, does roll his eyes. “Come on, Lee. You’ve given us this lecture already. We will take care of ourselves out there. And we’re not even going to start off to Turffield until she’s well enough.”

                Leon smiles and nods at Hop. “That puts my mind at ease. I’d still suggest heading to the center from here to get that looked at, to make sure you haven’t done any more damage. You shouldn’t be walking there though, I can take you over there on Charizard if you’d like.”

                You nod to this, and Hop says he’ll meet you over there. Leon picks you up, and you’re not really prepared for it so you can’t help the blush that spreads across your cheeks. Leon is strong, and it’s nice that you’re actually conscious enough to appreciate how wonderful it feels to be held like this. You wonder how many of Leon’s fan girls would hate you over this kind of treatment.

                Raboot and Rookidee follow you out, and once outside the Stadium, Leon releases Charizard from his ball. Leon shifts you to one arm to do this, and you’re stunned this man can just hold you in one arm like this. Granted, he instructs you to hold on tight, so you’re also clinging to his neck and shoulder, but it impresses you, which is not at all helpful for fighting the blush that’s on your cheeks. That Leon has graciously not pointed out. You’re sure he knows, though.

                Leon helps you climb onto Charizard’s back, and Raboot hops up in front of you. Leon climbs on behind you and wraps his arms around you and instructs you to lean down and wrap your arms around Charizard’s neck. Leon’s soft voice in your ear like that causes your heart to jump familiarly in your chest. Charizard shifts down in preparation, and you audibly gasp at the feeling of the powerful Pokémon taking off.

                Rookidee trails behind Charizard in the sky, and you look past Charizard’s neck to see the city fly by below you. It’s both terrifying and thrilling at once, and vaguely reminds you of the kind of feeling you get on a rollercoaster.

                “This is your first time flying on a Pokémon, isn’t it?” Leon’s voice has taken on an almost reverent tone up here in the air, and you nod in response. “There’s nothing quite like it. Always my preferred method of travel.” You can hear the smile in Leon’s voice, it sounds like he truly loves flying.

                You can see why. You can’t wait to ride on Rookidee’s back when he evolves, and even he’s excited at the prospect of it. “This is amazing, I can’t wait to be able to do this with Rookidee!” You speak louder so Leon can hear you over the wind, as your mouth isn’t right next to his ear.

                Leon laughs, “I’m glad you enjoy it! It’s not for everyone, I was worried you might panic. One of our favourite things to do is race, I hope you and Rookidee can become skilled enough to race against us one day!” That sounds absolutely thrilling, and Rookidee chirps excitedly at the idea.

                The ride to the Center is amazing, and you’re so glad you got to experience it. It’s not a very long ride, however, only a few minutes at Charizard’s speed to get from the Stadium to the Center. Leon carries you in, and thankfully you’re taken into a room quickly.

                Hop gets to the Center before you’re seen by a doctor, and judging by the way he’s slightly out of breath, he likely ran the entire way here. With your walker, which you thank him profusely for bringing, as you’d kind of just forgot it there when Leon picked you up and your brain short circuited. He pulls it out of his bag, and Leon packs it into yours for when you next need it again.

                You’re fine with Leon and Hop staying in the room when the doctor comes to examine you. He confirms you haven’t made anything worse, but recommends keeping off it for the rest of the day. Leon explains that he has the rest of the day off now, and offers to spend the rest of the afternoon with you and Hop in the hotel so you can get some rest.

                “I’m hanging out with my friends later in the evening though, so I will have to ditch you at some point.” Leon finishes as he carries you out into the lobby of the Center, with Hop close on his heels.

                “Oh yeah, all the Gym Leaders are here, guess this would be a good time to see them.” Hop grumbles, he says more, though it’s too quiet for you to hear. Hop groans about being left behind again when Leon suggests taking Charizard to the hotel.

                “Charizard can only carry two people, Hop. You’ve got two functioning legs, you make use of those.” Leon teases, and Hop pulls a face at Leon.

                “Alright, bet I’ll make it to the hotel before you!” He charges off without a second thought, and Leon only smiles and shakes his head.

                “He never changes. Come on, let’s get you back to the hotel.” Leon speaks softly, and helps you onto Charizard’s back once more. “Let’s go a little slower, give Hop a fighting chance against us, my friend,” Leon smiles as he pets Charizard, and the large beast nods his understanding. Leon hops up behind you, once again wrapping his arms around you.

                It’s another too short ride that Leon spends the whole time gushing about flying. His soft voice in your ear keeps your heart hammering the whole way, and Charizard has no trouble hassling you over it teasingly through the bond you share. You’re glad Leon can’t see you blush from back there at least.

                You beat Hop back, but only barely, which you know was intentional. “I was so close though! If I hadn’t taken a wrong turn back there I would have won!” Hop still somehow has the energy to keep up his over-exaggerated movements even after running all the way here.

                “Yes, you’ve gotten quite quick on your feet! It was very close!” Leon congratulates Hop with a wink to you, and you giggle and nod, agreeing to keep this little secret. He helps you off Charizard once more, recalling him to go inside the hotel.

                Leon takes you and Hop up to his room, it’s much bigger than yours and Hop’s, and you realize why when he lets Charizard out into the open space. Hop crashes onto the bed, and Leon sets you down beside him. There’s some discussion about what to do, so a game is pulled out while Leon orders food up to the hotel room for everyone.

                It’s a multiplayer video game, and you’re surprised when Leon hands Charizard a controller too. Asking about this causes Hop and Leon to launch into how Leon taught Charizard to play video games back when he was a kid, and Charizard was a Charmander.

                “Well, back then, out in Postwick, there wasn’t much else to do. I’d studied all the books, watched many matches, there wasn’t anyone else to battle or train against really. Well, I had Sonia, but she lived quite a ways, so I didn’t get to see her that often. I had a lot of free time, so video games were a fun way to pass the time.” Leon recounted, and the three of you got comfy on Leon’s bed while you waited for food.

                “I was too young then, but Leon tried to get me to learn.” Hop cuts in, and Leon laughs.

                “That’s right. I wanted someone to play with, so first I tried teaching Hop. He was useless, however, but I noticed Charizard was picking things up as I tried to teach Hop. I’d have Hop in my lap, and Charizard would be sitting in front of me, watching what I was showing Hop. You have to remember, he was only a Charmander back then, so he was only this big,” Leon gestures to show the size of a Charmander.

                You feel through your bond as Charizard listens to the story, Charizard’s nostalgic feelings for those days. Leon continues, “So when I noticed Charizard was catching on faster than Hop, I started teaching him instead! I’ve been playing video games with him since! We did eventually manage to teach Hop, somehow.” Leon teases Hop and reaches over and ruffles his hair. Hop of course fights back, and you laugh with the brothers.

                The video game reminds you of Super Smash Brothers, so you at least have a vague idea how to play. The skill level seems to be pretty equal between you all, so everyone wins a few matches. The food arrives, and Leon and Charizard have to take a break, as there’s only enough room in the hotel room for one of Leon’s big Pokémon, and he has several to feed.

                You and Hop take this time to begin trying to teach your Pokémon with hands how to play. Raboot proves to be half decent at it, and Grookey beats everyone repeatedly, causing Hop to bemoan how his teaching was no longer needed.

                You spend the afternoon playing various video games with Hop, Leon, and your Pokémon. You’ve all lost track of time completely, so it’s takes someone calling Leon bugging him about where he is for you all to realize the time. Leon kicks you and Hop out to get ready, and Hop has to piggy back you to your room.

                He offers it up willingly to give Leon more time to get ready, though you’re sad at the missed opportunity to be in Leon’s strong arms again. However, being carried by Hop is nice too, and you are really enjoying being pampered like this. You remind yourself to thank Leon later for everything today, and you’re sure to thank Hop when you get back to your room.

                “Want to hang out here?” You ask Hop when it seems apparent he wants to stay, as he sort of dawdles near the door.

                He beams and hops onto the bed next to you. “Sure! Want to order dinner to the room?” You and Hop work out what to order, and after placing the order, you bug him to tell you more childhood stories about himself and Leon.

                This launches the two of you into trading stories all night over food. You make no effort to kick Hop out, and Hop doesn’t ever get up to leave, either. You’re really not sure if it’s accidental or intentional that you both end up falling asleep cuddled up together for the second night in a row.

Chapter Text

                Hop wakes up before you it seems, because you blink awake to his golden eyes staring into yours. He seems to panic, and quickly bolts up. You’re still waking up fully, so this is all taking a bit longer to process than it normally would.

                Hop’s speaking, but the words don’t hit you until after he’s jumped out of bed. “I’m so sorry, I lost track of time again, I didn’t mean to fall asleep in your room!” He’s not exactly making a move to leave, but he looks conflicted and unsure what to do.

                “Hop, wait, it’s ok. I had a good sleep, there’s nothing to really apologize for.” You respond after a moment, and Hop seems to relax. You catch the blush on his face as he looks back at you briefly before looking away again.

                “How’s your leg feeling today?” He asks as he comes to sit back down on the bed. You sit up fully, and test moving it. It feels significantly better now, and you let Hop know. “Wanna try putting weight on it?” He stands up and holds his arms out for support.

                “Ok,” you nod, and grab onto his arms. You pull yourself up, and try to place your weight evenly between both legs to test out your strength. You’re able to stand, and you and Hop share a grin.

                “That’s ace, mate! Here, try walking on it!” Hop shifts and wraps his arms around you like he had yesterday, and you feel like you should be getting used to the way this makes your heart thud and your cheeks tingle. You aren’t though, the feeling catches you off guard every time.

                You’re able to walk on it well with Hop’s support, so Hop pulls your walker out of your bag for you when he deposits you back on the bed. Hop eventually heads back to his room to get ready for the day, and once he’s gone, you begin getting ready too.

                You spend some of the day wandering more around Motostoke. It’s quieter today, most of the Gym Challengers have already left to begin their Gym Challenge. You run into a couple still getting ready to go, which makes both of you feel better about being stuck behind. The man in the purple jacket is one of the ones staying behind, and you wonder what’s keeping him here after the scene he made yesterday. He made it sound like he was a very good trainer, it seemed odd to you that he wasn’t one of the first ones off.

                Neither you nor Hop stop to talk to him though, and after you’ve seen him for the second time, you tell Hop about the encounter you and Marnie had with him yesterday. Hop snorts at the tale, and shakes his head. “Why am I not surprised?” Hop remarks when you’re done speaking.

                One of the things the two of you encounter today is the battle café you found earlier in the week. Hop is excited when you explain it to him, so he drags you into it with a grin. You pick a table and let him battle first, as he seems more excited about this than you are.

                Watching Hop battle is still impressive to you, even after being here over a month now. He wears a smile the whole battle, and his Pokémon have just as much fun as he does. You watch as Hop tosses a Pokeball into the center of the arena in the middle of the café, and Wooloo appears opposite the café owner’s Milcery.

                “Alright Wooloo! Hit her with tackle!” Hop instructs, and Wooloo rolls into the Milcery. The Milcery retaliates with a tackle back that Wooloo isn’t quite able to dodge in time. “That’s ok bud, circle around and come back for another tackle!”

                “Milcery, use Sweet Kiss!” The café owner calls out, and the Milcery blows an exaggerated kiss at Wooloo. Wooloo seems confused after, as he tackles in the wrong direction and crashes into the counter when Hop instructs him. “Now Draining Kiss!” You’ve seen this move used on the other Gym Challengers when you were here last, so you know it heals the Milcery while damaging Wooloo.

                Hop only grins though, “Wooloo, Copycat!” Wooloo baas and then mimics the move the Milcery just used, healing himself back. It’s a move you saw Wooloo learn a couple days ago, and you’re happy to see Wooloo successfully use it. His success rate the day he’d learned it had been pretty low.

                Hop’s gotten better, he and his Pokémon have begun to pick up the way you and your Pokémon battle, and Hop’s developed a lot of wordless queues for his Pokémon. He doesn’t say anything at all as Wooloo rolls out of the way of the Milcery just in time, and you see him do a gesture with his hand that Wooloo catches.

                You know this one means fall back, you suspect Hop’s waiting for Wooloo to snap out of his confusion instead of risking Wooloo hurting himself again. The Milcery gives chase at her partner’s orders, but that was exactly what Hop wanted. “Now!” He shouts, and Wooloo charges and collides with the Milcery head on.

                Both Pokémon tumble back, but Wooloo simply rolls onto his feet while the Milcery struggles to get back up. It looks like Hop just about has this! You hadn’t seen many people be able to take down that Milcery with just one Pokémon the last time you were here, so you and your Pokémon cheer for Hop and Wooloo.

                Hop and Wooloo share a look, and Wooloo rolls across the small arena towards the Milcery. Part way there, Wooloo suddenly changes course, and is able to dodge the Sweet Kiss blown at him. “Circle around and get her from the back!” Hop throws his first in the air as he shouts.

                “Dodge!” The café owner yells, but Milcery isn’t able to get out of the way in time. She tumbles from the hit into the center of the arena and doesn’t get back up. The owner recalls her, and you and your Pokémon cheer.

                “Congrats Hop!” You call out as you clap, and Hop grins at you. He bends down to pet Wooloo and praise him, pulling a potion out of his bag and spraying it on Wooloo. He collects his free treat, and comes and joins you at your table. He immediately cuts it in half, and offers half to Wooloo, who baas appreciatively before digging in.

                The gesture brings a smile to your face. Hop really loves his Pokémon. You hear your name called, and the café owner gestures for you to come up. He must be ready to battle you now, so you look between your Pokémon. Raboot has had more battle experience, so you look to Rookidee to let him know you’ll be using him first.

                Raboot naturally complains about being stuck back in his ball for the battle. “Seems both your Pokémon want to battle, would you like to try a double battle?” The café owner asks from his place behind the counter.

                You haven’t tried a double battle before, but all three of you are excited at the idea. “Yes please!” You call back, getting up with the aide of your walker and walking to the far side of the arena. Your Pokémon line up in the middle, and the café owner tosses out two Pokémon.

                One is the Milcery he had just used with Hop, healed up and ready for round two. The other is a Swirlix that you saw him use in battle the other day you were here. “Sweet Scent and Play Nice!” The owner shouts, and his Pokémon spring into action.

                He’s lowering your Pokémon’s accuracy and attack, and you tell your partners to dodge. Rookidee successfully flies over both moves, but Raboot gets hit by Play Nice. You feel his disposition change when he’s hit, it’s like a feeling that he has to hold back. It unnerves you, but you shake off the feeling to focus on the battle.

                You get Rookidee to use Leer to lower their defences in retaliation, as both your Pokémon are stronger physical attackers. Raboot uses Flame Charge, and knocks the Milcery back. Swirlix uses Fairy Wind at the command of her trainer, and Raboot is too close to dodge in time. Milcery takes aim at Rookidee, but being airborne gives him more maneuverability, and he’s easily able to dodge.

                You get a good strategy going of using Raboot as bait, for Rookidee to be able to swoop in and use Peck while the two Fairy-types try to land hits on Raboot. The narrow size of this arena makes great practice for Raboot’s dodging skills, as he doesn’t have a large area to run around in.

                Besides, this was meant for practice for Rookidee. You’re already pretty confident in Raboot’s attacking capabilities, as you’ve spent more time training with him. Rookidee learns how to sharpen his claws to improve his attack and accuracy, and you feel a swell of pride as the new move helps him take out the Milcery.

                You label the move Hone Claws in your head for him, and focus your attention on the remaining Swirlix. Now outnumbered, the owner shouts for his Swirlix to fight more recklessly to try and take your Pokémon out. Raboot is hurting from being bait, and it only takes one hit of Draining Kiss to cause him to stumble over, your connection with him cut as he loses consciousness.

                It makes you feel sick for a moment, and it enrages Rookidee. He cries out loudly, declaring his revenge, as he dive bombs in for a hit.

                It’s devastating. Rookidee is completely unfazed by this massive hit that slams Swirlix hard into the counter, knocking her out immediately. Holy shit, what did you do? You’re stunned, and so is Hop when you look over to him.

                Retaliation comes Rookidee’s reply over the bond. You wrack your brain for what move he could have possibly just used, and Hop bounds up and comes over to you.

                “Do you know what move that was?” You ask him, and he scratches his head.

                “Looked like Retaliate? Only thing I can think of that would hit with that much power without hurting your Rookidee.” Hop answers. He hands you a potion for Raboot, and you notice the café owner is healing up his Pokémon behind the counter after recalling his knocked out Swirlix.

                Raboot comes to a bit after the potion is sprayed on him, but he’s exhausted. You can’t pick him up and carry him while you need the walker, but he begins to panic when he realizes he’ll have to go in his ball. “Hop, can you carry Raboot to a chair? He doesn’t want to go back in his ball.” You turn to Hop hopefully.

                He nods with a chuckle. “I warned you about this,” is all he says as he hoists Raboot into his arms. Rookidee retrieves your rewarded treat for winning the battle, and flies over to the table to carefully set it down for you. When Hop sets Raboot down in a chair, you push the treat towards him and let him and Rookidee know they can share it over the bond. They worked hard, you think they deserve it.

                “So how was your first double battle? Looked like you were having a tad of trouble there.” Hop asks as he props his elbows on the table. He raises his eyebrows with you with a smile like he’s teasing you, and you scrunch up your face at him.

                “I was not, that went almost exactly to plan. Until Raboot fainted. But other than that, everything was going well.” You reply, and Hop just laughs.

                “Oh really? Seemed like Raboot couldn’t even get a hit in, and Rookidee wasn’t really helping get the other Pokémon off his back.” You can tell Hop is actually teasing you now, and you fight the childish urge to make another face at him.

                “That was intentional though. It was good for Raboot to practice evading in such a tight area. And Rookidee needs more fighting experience. He learned two new moves, so I’d say that was pretty successful.” Raboot glares at you when you say that, as he doesn’t deem him fainting as being very successful.

                You have to remind him that fainting is a part of battling, and that he’s not going to be able to win every single battle. There’s no way one Pokémon could take on a whole team, he would faint eventually. Then I have to get stronger so that doesn’t happen. You feel his determination through your bond, and you just sigh. You’re not sure how you’re going to convince him that’s unrealistic.

                Hop purses his lips and looks away for a minute, like he’s thinking. “I still don’t get how your Pokémon know your strategies so well, I never see you talk to them before battle or during battle. You’re really good, obviously, but how do you get your Pokémon to follow your strategies so well?”

                You weren’t expecting Hop to ask about that, so you have to take a moment to figure out how to explain it. “Uh, the short answer is, I can sort of… Talk to them, I guess? I… I feel what they’re feeling,” you place your hand over your heart, “in here. I don’t know how better to explain than that.”

                Hop looks confused, “I don’t really get it.” He shakes his head before leaning it back into one of his hands.

                “Oh, Leon showed me a match, and that kind of explained it. Let me see if I can find it.” This only makes Hop look more confused, though.

                “Wait, Lee knows?” Hop asks as you pull your phone out and begin trying to search for that match.

                “Yeah, he was the one who figured it out. He showed me a match between Red and Cynthia, I’m trying to find it.” You’re still tapping away at your phone, it’s a bit harder to find the matches from the World Championship than it is to find matches that have happened in Galar.

                “I know that match, it’s one of Lee’s favourites. He’s always talked about how Red- wait, can you do what World Champion Red does? That kind of communicating with Pokémon?” Hop’s voice takes on an incredulous tone when he realizes what you’re talking about.

                You nod, “Leon seems to think so, anyways. The announcer said something about how it’s like he and his Pokémon can read each other’s thoughts. That’s what it feels like, it’s like my Pokémon and I can read each other’s thoughts. It’s not right, I can’t tell what they’re thinking all the time, more like what they’re feeling.” You finish your explanation, and Hop looks thoughtful.

                “That’s really something, mate! No wonder you keep beating me. Now that I know your secret, I can prepare for it! Watch out, I’m going to kick your arse in our next battle!” That familiar passion dances in his golden eyes, and you can’t help but grin.

                “We’ll see about that, Hop. I’m not slacking off either.”

                The next few days pass quickly, as there’s quite a lot to do in Motostoke. You and Hop certainly aren’t falling behind on your training while you’re here, as you learn the Stadium is open during the times there are no matches scheduled. As Gym Challengers, you and Hop are allowed inside to use the facilities.

                This allows you to meet Kabu. He’s surprisingly sympathetic to your plight, as he’s heard much about both of you through Leon. He encourages the two of you to make use of the Stadium while it’s empty, even coming out and offering tips occasionally while the two of you train with your Pokémon.

                He seems more impressed with Hop than he is with you, and you’re kind of relieved, as you think Hop deserves it more. He’s worked way harder than you have to get to the level you both are at, you’re happy that someone else can see how dedicated he is.

                It’s Hop’s loyalty to you, and the fact that he’s basically sabotaging himself to help you, that impresses Kabu. You only know this as you overhear the two of them during training one day. “Being capable of that kind of loyalty will take you and your partner Pokémon far,” he imparts to Hop. “Don’t lose sight of that for strength. Many trainers do, to their downfall.”

                Training and exploring Motostoke leave you and your Pokémon exhausted early on each day, causing Hop to suggest retiring early to the hotel each time. You two condense into one hotel room after the third night in a row of falling asleep in the same room. It’s still a bit awkward, but it makes the most practical sense. It also saves Leon money, as he’s the one footing the bill for you two. Hop can help you out this way, too. It’s just all around more convenient.

                At least, that’s what the two of you tell each other. It may be a bit more for you, as you really do enjoy sleeping next to him. You get a good night’s sleep every time, and you really appreciate the warmth and safety it provides. Waking up in his arms every morning and watching his beautiful golden eyes slowly blink open is a sight you can’t imagine getting sick of.

                You’ve got a massive crush, not that you’re ready to admit that or anything.

                When you get the go-ahead from the doctor that it would be safe for you to travel on foot to Turffield, you and Hop begin preparing immediately. You’re both thrilled to finally be able to set off. You and Hop go shopping, and Leon sends you a list of all the things you two should have before setting out, as well as some money to buy them. You feel like you’re never going to be able to repay the kindness this family continues to show you, so you thank Leon profusely.

                “Just check Hop’s bag before you set off, make sure he’s got everything. I’d come see you two off and do it myself, but I’m busy here in Wyndon.” Leon tells you over the phone when you’ve called to thank him. You agree to look after Hop for Leon, it’s the least you can do.

                Hop groans at this, but lets you check his bag anyways. You ask him to check yours for you to make him feel less embarrassed, which seems to work, as he’s all smiles as he digs through your bag. You confirm you both have everything off Leon’s list, which Hop still thinks is excessive but you remind him Leon has a reason to be worried about the two of you. Your heavily bandaged leg is all it takes to show what you mean.

                The two of you have just stepped outside the large wall surrounding Motostoke, onto the grassy path that will eventually lead you two to Turffield, when Hop whirls around and challenges you to a battle. “Come on, mate! Let’s see how much better we’ve got from all this training in Motostoke!” You can tell from the look in his eyes that there’s no way you’re talking him down from this.

                You nod and smile. “Ok, but you better not complain when you lose!” You dig out Rookidee’s Pokeball and recall him, and Hop jogs a decent distance away to give your Pokémon enough space to battle.

                Hop’s got a confident grin on his face as he warms up his arm and punches a Pokeball into his fist, his usual pre-battle routine. With a well-aimed toss, Hop launches the ball to land just in front of Raboot, and Wooloo pops out. “Wooloo, go!” Hop shouts, and Wooloo launches into a tackle that Raboot can’t prepare for.

                Raboot recovers from it quickly, aiming a Blaze Kick at Wooloo, who rolls out of the way just in time. Hop crosses his arms and taunts, “Keep up, mate! Wooloo, like we practiced!” You and Hop had been training separately a lot in the Stadium, so you’re actually not sure what ‘like we practiced’ is. Wooloo curls into a ball, and you see something almost reflective cover him for a brief moment.

                You suggest Double Kick to Raboot to take advantage of Wooloo’s weakness, but the move seems to bounce harmlessly off Wooloo without causing any damage. Raboot is confused, and you are for a moment as well. Protect possibly? It’s more likely to fail if used multiple times in a row, I think. Try again. You tell Raboot, and he charges in once more.

                “Now!” Hop shouts, and Wooloo shoots off an electric wave that Raboot is unable to dodge. It knocks him to the ground, paralyzed. When did Hop learn that one? Wooloo rolls towards Raboot, and hits him again. Raboot struggles to get back up, but he does.

                Neither of you are ready to give up, though. You haven’t even landed a hit yet! You tell Raboot to let Wooloo come to him, and just be ready to land a kick before he hits. It’s hard for Raboot to run and jump after being hit with the electric move, so staying still and counting on timing is the only option.

                Hop tells Wooloo to circle around and come in for a hit again, he seems to think Raboot is fully paralyzed. Little does he know, Raboot is just waiting. When Wooloo is close enough, Raboot unleashes two powerful kicks on Wooloo, causing him to tumble off the path the two of you are fighting on.

                Hop grimaces at the hit, “Wooloo! Hang in there! One more hit should do it!” His words encourage Wooloo, as he baas confidently before charging towards Raboot once more. One more Double Kick shout knock Wooloo out too, so it’s all on who hits first, or if the paralysis keeps Raboot from moving in time.

                You bite your lip as Wooloo gets closer, and Raboot bravely fights through the twinge of being paralyzed to successfully land a hit. Hop gasps as Wooloo tumbles away. “You did you best!” He calls out as he recalls Wooloo. “It’s not over yet, Grookey let’s finish him!” Hop tosses another Pokeball onto the path, and Grookey appears.

                Grookey is ordinarily pretty fast, so with Raboot slowed by the paralysis, Grookey is easily able to hit Raboot with Branch Poke, slamming his stick into Raboot’s side and knocking him down. Raboot faints from the hit, and you have to recall him into his Pokeball. You hope he won’t mind. The feeling of him losing consciousness still makes you feel sick for a moment, and you clutch your stomach as you dig out Rookidee’s Pokeball.

                Rookidee appears with a trill, and is able to fly out of the way of Grookey’s swinging club. “Use taunt!” Hop calls out to Grookey. Grookey proceeds to Taunt Rookidee into flying down.

                This strategy once again proves to be Hop’s downfall, as this only serves to fuel Rookidee’s anger. He’s realized by now that Grookey took out Raboot, and dives down to use Retaliate. Once again, the hit is devastating, and horror washes over Hop’s face as Grookey tumbles back into him, unconscious from one hit.

                “I walked right into that one…” Hop murmurs as he recalls Grookey. Rookidee trills in happiness, proud of himself for taking out Grookey. “That one’s a right force, I’ll tell you. Come on, Rookidee, we can do this!” Hop summons his last Pokémon into battle, and the two of you are completely even.

                The battle is quickly carried into the air, as each Rookidee tries to swoop in and hit the other. Neither of you are landing any hits this way, however, as both Pokémon are able to dodge out of the way too quickly. You get your Rookidee to fly lower, and use Sand Attack when she comes close enough. You’re hoping lowering her accuracy will allow your Rookidee to get in closer and land a hit.

                “Argh, use Fury Attack! One of them will hit!” Hop instructs, and his Rookidee launches into multiple quick attacks. Some hit, some don’t, but you have your Rookidee retaliate by using Revenge. It’s a move you’d managed to teach him while training in Motostoke Stadium. The hit knocks her back, and your Rookidee charges in after her.

                “Protect!” Hop shouts, and the same sort of barrier you saw cover Wooloo before covers Rookidee. You’re able to get your Rookidee to switch gears and change from attacking to using Hone Claws while you wait for the barrier to wear off. Hop looks momentarily irritated that his strategy didn’t work a second time.

                “Try using Swift!” Hop calls out, and the moves collides with Rookidee even when he tries to dodge. You remember from the games that Swift always hits, and you’re guessing the same must be true here, as the star shaped projectiles follow Rookidee up into the air and collide with him. Your Rookidee chases after his opponent, determined to get her back.

                He charges in with Revenge once more, but Hop’s Rookidee dodges out of the way. “Swift again! We’ve almost got him!” Hop isn’t kidding, as your Rookidee is hurting after the second hit from Swift. One more and he’ll lose consciousness, so you know he’s got to land this hit if you want to win.

                Hop’s Rookidee flies up to dodge, and you catch the hand signal Hop makes for her. She’s going to dive back down out of the way when your Rookidee gets close, as you’ll be aiming up, where she’s going, and miss. Your Rookidee prepares for this, and charges dead on. As you get close, Hop’s Rookidee flips, and starts flying straight down.

                And flies directly into the path of your attacking Rookidee. She’s knocked to the ground from the hit, and Hop jumps in surprise. “No! How did you predict that?!” He recalls Rookidee with a frown. “Just what I’d expect from my rival.” His voice doesn’t sound too put out, but he sure looks devastated.

                “You’ve gotten way better since the last time we battled!” You compliment as you begin digging potions out of your bag for your Pokémon. Hop sighs, but a small smile reappears on his face.

                “Not good enough to beat you yet! Guess we still have more work to do.” Hop comes over to you, and you catch the sadness in his amber eyes, as that small smile doesn’t quite reach them.

                You attention is quickly pulled away when the Pokeball you stuffed in your pocket, that contains Raboot, begins violently shaking. When you pull it out of your pocket, it immediately breaks open, and Raboot appears. He’s shaking, and as soon as he’s out, he thumps his foot against the ground in distress and screams.

                You’re overwhelmed by his terror, he’s panicking after coming to inside his Pokeball. You collapse to the ground and wrap him in a hug, doing your best to soothe him. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” you keep repeating as Hop kneels down next to you.

                “I thought you were just spoiling him, I didn’t realize he hates his Pokeball.” Hop assented, releasing his own Pokémon from their balls and digging through his bag for potions.

                “I didn’t know he was so afraid of it, either. Waking up inside it when he didn’t remember being put in there really freaked him out.” You sigh, rubbing Raboot’s head as he tucks himself into the crook of your neck. “I don’t know what that means for battling going forward. How do I recall him if he’ll only panic like this? I don’t want to put him through this over and over again.” You look to Hop pleadingly, like he’ll have some sort of answer.

                Evidently, he does. “Recall him when he’s getting weak, before he faints. That way he knows he’s going back inside the ball.” Hop offers, and Raboot seems to be ok with this idea, but only because he knows you can’t battle without putting him back in his Pokeball. He doesn’t like it, and he wants you to know that, but he likes battling enough to deal with being inside his Pokeball.

                “He seems ok with that idea.” You tell Hop, and he offers you a grin as he pets Raboot.

                “I’ve heard of Pokémon who hate their Pokeballs, but it’s pretty rare. At least he’s not a Pokémon that has a really big evolution, he doesn’t have to go back inside his ball for much.” Hop offers as a condolence, and Raboot seems to perk up at this. It takes a while for him to calm down, long after you and Hop have healed all your Pokémon. Hop doesn’t rush him though, and sits down with the two of you at the edge of the trail until he’s ready to go again.

                Hop leaps up, raring to go immediately. “Our Gym Challenge finally starts right now, from right here outside Motostoke! Although the first Gym is in Turffield, still, this trek from Motostoke to Turffield is just as much a part of the Gym Challenge as any battle against a Gym Leader is! And you’d better believe I’m going to keep on winning my way to that Championship Match!” Hop’s excitement is contagious, as always, and you share a beaming grin with him as he helps you to your feet.

                “If anyone can do it, Hop, it’s you. Look at how much you’ve already improved since I met you!” You gush to him, and he blushes briefly before throwing his fists up in the air triumphantly.

                “Hello, Galar! Meet your next Champion! From the sleepy town of Postwick, it’s me, Hop!” Hop’s overconfidence brings a giggle out of you, and you smile warmly at Hop.

                “We still have to get to Turffield before that, Mr. Next Champion. Come on,” you tug at his arm, and he laughs good naturedly. He turns around and points out the way you’re heading.

                “That’s the path to Turffield. Well, technically there’s a few paths there, but the shortcut through the mines is this way.” You and Hop had agreed to take the short path there to both save time and in hopes that being on the road for a shorter time would be better for your leg. The terrain in the mines is more difficult, however, and you hope you can handle it.

                With a shared smile and a nod, you, Hop, and the five Pokémon you have between you, head off towards the mines.

Chapter Text

                It’s the second day along the route to Turffield, and you and Hop have split off to train by yourselves for a bit. You’re due to hit the mines today, so you agreed to meet in front of the tunnel entrance.

                You’re tired today, and so are your Pokémon is seems. You and Hop had stayed up way too late last night. After failing to set up your tent, you’d had a bit of a break down. You were tired and in pain from walking all day, and you just wanted to sleep. Hop quietly grabbed your bedroll and sleeping bag and set them up in his own tent. He then led you in, where you had cried about many things.

                Hop managed to get you to talk about home, your family and friends, the things you enjoyed, and even managed to get you to sing a few songs you remembered the words to that you liked. All this to cheer you up, but it kept you both up for hours.

                Evidently, it also kept your Pokémon up. Raboot was still in the habit of sleeping near you, so he stayed in the tent, and your talking kept him up. Rookidee had slept fine outside, he’s simply being lazy today since Raboot is. He seems to like to do whatever Raboot is doing, you’re beginning to notice.

                Training is going basically nowhere for you today, and you wish Hop had let you stay with him. You’re bored. The walk is lonely and boring without him, and you realize you’ve basically spent the last several days attached at the hip. It’s a little weird to be alone now.

                You’re wandering along the trail when you see a familiar tangle of orange hair ahead of you, leaning against a large rock. “Sonia?” You call out.

                She’s looking down at a book, a pen in her mouth and her sunglasses sitting low on her nose. She gasps when she hears her name, pen falling to the ground, and quickly shoves the glasses up into her hair. “A-ah! I didn’t expect to run into you here!” She looks a little mortified, and you wonder if she’s embarrassed about needing to wear glasses to read.

                You know better than to mention something like that, however. “I got the go-ahead to walk to Turffield, so Hop and are finally on our way to take on our first Gym.”

                “Oh, but where’s Hop?” She asks, looking around.

                “He went off ahead to train.” You reply, and Sonia shrugs her shoulders and shakes her head.

                “Can’t sit still at all, can he?” She frowns, looking away. “Always racing ahead to catch up to his brother…” She mutters so quietly you barely catch it.

                “We’re meeting up at the mines later, it’s not like he’s off and ditched me here.” You wave to placate her, and Sonia’s frown turns into a smile.

                “Oh! Let me tell you something interesting about the mines then!” She exclaims, and you nod excitedly. It’s nice of Sonia to always offer you knowledge about this world, she was well educated on so many things. You trusted the information she shared with you.

                Sonia turns and gestures for you to follow her. She stops at the fork in the road ahead, and she points down the road that does not lead to the mines. “You see that building over there?” You look further down the road to catch sight of the buildings blowing large clouds out of tall towers. “It’s a company owned by Chairman Rose. This building processes the ore dug up in the mines into energy. In other words, the Chairman is responsible for providing the Galar region with its energy, too.”

                There’s something about this that strikes you as odd. It sounds like Rose has his hands in a lot of pots in Galar. You know from your own world how people like that are, and you’re suddenly more aware of why Leon was acting so anxious around the Chairman days ago. Your face contorts into worry about what this might mean.

                “Can’t say I really like him, but he seems like a pretty brilliant guy, right?” She sounds sarcastic, and she offers you a sly smirk. Seems she feels similarly about Rose, and you can only nod.

                “The more I learn about him, the more he concerns me.” You sigh, and Sonia’s lips draw into a tight line.

                There’s a long moment of silence between you two while you both stare out at the towers. “Well!” Sonia exclaims after a moment. “It’s still a ways down that way,” she gestures to the other path, “to the mines, you should be heading off. And I should be getting back to work.”

                “Yeah, you never know with Hop, he could already be there waiting for me.” You reply with a smile, and Sonia giggles softly. You say your goodbyes, and head down towards the mines.

                Turns out you reach the tunnel early and have to sit down to wait for Hop. You’re halfway through making a semi-decent curry for you and your Pokémon when Hop shows up. He offers his help, and you’re thankful because even though the two of you are complete shit at this, together somehow you and Hop’s cooking comes out better.

                The mines turn out to be incredibly difficult to navigate. The ground is often too uneven for your walker, but Hop is determined to make it through this way to save time.

                “What are we going to do then? I can’t hobble the whole way through here.” You explain to Hop, and he grins.

                “Well, I recon I can carry you through the uneven parts.” You stare at Hop incredulously and raise your eyebrows. He blushes and stutters, “H-hey, don’t look at me like that. I can totally do it.”

                You give him the opportunity to prove himself, it’s not like turning back would save you any time over this anyways. He doesn’t seem to have much trouble giving you piggy-back rides through the mines, as his Pokémon expertly deal with the various Rock and Ground-type Pokémon that charge into your path. Raboot and Rookidee hang back, wary of all the Rock moves after that run in with the Onix. It’s not like they were training today anyways, but at least it gives you a good excuse to explain your Pokémon’s laziness to Hop.

                You come to appreciate the uneven ground. It’s nice being carried by Hop, he’s stronger than he looks. He hardly seems to struggle to keep up a regular walking pace, but he keeps his pace even for you so you’re not jostled around too much. He informs you about the various Pokémon you don’t recognize around you as you rest your chin on his shoulder. You can see bright red spread across his cheeks from this angle, as well as the wide smile he wears as he talks.

                In fact, your group makes such good pace, you get through in a couple hours. You can see the light ahead at the end of the tunnel Hop is currently carrying you down, and you’re disappointed. It looks like the ground is smooth enough for you to walk the rest of the way, so Hop sets you down and Raboot helpfully pulls your walker out of your bag for you. You glare at it, saddened that your lovely trip had come to an end so soon.

                The tunnel has been empty so far, so you’re mildly surprised to see a figure ahead of you and Hop. As you get closer, you’re even more surprised to see it’s the man in the pink jacket. He turns to face the two of you as you get closer, and raises a single eyebrow.

                “Coming this way? Any Trainers with a Wishing Star are in for a beating from me and my Pokémon!” The man shouts, and Hop jumps.

                “Whoa, what do you want with our Wishing Stars?” Hop asks, wrapping a protective hand around his Dynamax band.

                He runs a hand through his platinum blond hair and smirks. “You two, you’re the Gym Challengers endorsed by the Champion, aren’t you?”

                He’s completely ignored Hop’s question, “We are, and we’re not giving you our Wishing Stars?” It ends up coming out more as a question when you say it, nervousness overtaking you as he walks closer, stopping directly in front of your walker and putting a hand on the front. He’s a decent bit taller than you, so you have to look up to meet his violet eyes.

                “Ha! What a joke. Like you’d be strong enough to stop me from taking them from you.” He smirks annoyingly at you, and Hop gets mad.

                “Hey, what’s your deal?” Hop demands, “Let go of her walker.” He steps up next to you, putting himself between you and this blond man. Hop puts a protective arm across you and grabs your walker next to where the man’s holding it.

                He snorts with a roll of his eyes. “What authority do you have? You are aware that the Chairman is more important than the Champion, right?” The jacketed man teases, and Hop absolutely bristles.

                You have to put a hand on Hop to keep him from escalating this. Your Pokémon are all getting anxious about this situation behind you. “Why does that matter?” You ask, and the man looks back to you.

                “I was chosen by the Chairman himself, so that makes me more amazing than you!” He sounds so cocky, you notice Hop clenching his fists beside you. You keep your hand on his chest, it still seems like he wants to punch the smirk off the taller man’s face.

                You laugh fakely, “Wow, what a bold statement.” You hope the sarcasm comes through in your voice.

                “I suppose I should prove beyond doubt just how pathetic you are and just how strong I am.” He sounds like he’s being put out by this. You have to take a deep breath to keep yourself calm.

                “My mate here’s never lost a battle yet, she’ll kick your arse!” Hop hypes you up, and you balk. Hop’s just thrown you under the bus here as this man fancifully pulls out a Pokeball and holds it in his left hand.

                “Well? Recall your Pokémon then and take me on proper.” The purple eyed man demands as he stalks several metres away.

                Hop rubs your back supportingly. “Kick his arse, mate.” Hop looks dead angry and determined still.

                You have to hold in the laugh. Hop can’t even swear when he’s pissed off. “Hoppy, you can say ass in this situation.” You tease, and Hop’s face goes scarlet as he turns away. You turn and recall Raboot and Rookidee, and face the unknown man.

                The Pokeball he tosses out contains a Solosis. You toss Rookidee out first, preferring to leave Raboot to last to potentially avoid him fainting. The man calls out attacks to his Pokémon, and you send Rookidee in to attack. You know Solosis is a Psychic-type, so you know the Dark-type move Power Trip will be more effective. Rookidee skillfully dodges out of the way and hits the Solosis, raising his own attack at the same time.

                The Solosis barely looks fazed however, and hits back with Confusion. Rookidee can’t dodge the wider attack and gets blown back. You encourage Rookidee to keep using Power Trip, as it gets stronger the stronger he gets. When the Solosis is looking weak, the man commands “Now! Endeavour!”

                You don’t immediately remember what Endeavour does, but you soon find out when your Rookidee is hit with an attack that knocks him back, and he barely recovers from it. It took him down to the same amount of Stamina left. You grimace in pain on behalf of Rookidee, and the man is shouting more instructions. “Recover! Then finish it with Psybeam!”

                “Ack! That’s bad! Who even are you?!” Hop shouts at the man.

                You’ve raised your attack almost high as it can go, Power Trip should be a really strong move now, one hit should knock him out! Hit him first! You encourage Rookidee, and he trills as he speeds into the Solosis. Despite recovering, the hit indeed knocks him out.

                The man grimaces as he recalls his Pokémon. “My name is Bede. And I’m just giving your Pokémon a chance to shine. That’s all. He looks so weak.” Bede taunts, and both you and Rookidee bristle in anger. It’s Hop’s turn to set a hand on your shoulder and give you a concerned look.

                Bede throws out his next Pokémon, a Gothita. You have to snort into your hand, this isn’t going to go well for that poor Gothita. As long as Rookidee can get a hit in first, that is. “Psybeam!” Bede shouts, and you clench your teeth as Rookidee swoops carefully beneath the beam and collides harshly with Gothita. She tumbles back, rolling all the way to Bede’s feet, and doesn’t get up.

                Bede shuffles in his coat and grumbles as he pulls out the Pokeball to recover Gothita. “Oh dear, what have I been doing? Well, whatever. Let’s just get this over with.” He takes another Pokeball out and summons a Pokémon you don’t recognize.

                You’re hoping it’s a Psychic type as you tell Rookidee to attack again, and turn to Hop. “What’s that Pokémon?” You ask as quietly as you can.

                Hop launches into an explanation for you. “That’s Hatenna, a Psychic-type Pokémon. Guess Bede here is a one trick Ponyta.” Bede snarls at this.

                “Protect then Disarming Voice!” Bede commands and Hatenna manages to block Rookidee’s attack just in time. Stunned, he stumbles back a bit, and Hatenna’s next move hits him, even as he tries to dodge.

                You shudder as you feel you connection with him disappear as he faints, and you recall him with a sad smile. “You did so well, my friend,” you whisper to the Pokeball as you tuck it away. You pull Raboot’s out and toss it onto the ground in front of you.

                Raboot is immediately ready to go, your connection with him sharing all he needs to know quickly. Bede orders more attacks, and Raboot carefully dodges around the rays of Confusion. Raboot alights himself in flame and charges into Hatenna. She rolls back, but recovers quickly.

                “Play Nice then Life Dew!” Bede commands, and Hatenna gives Raboot this look that makes him want to go easy on her. You feel like his Attack was lowered, but you’re not totally sure. Raboot charges into her once more before she’s able to use her next move, which recovers her. “Protect!” Is Bede’s next order, coming too late for you to stop Raboot from crashing into the barrier. “Now Confusion!”

                Up so close, Raboot can’t get out of the way of the wide attack. It knocks him back, and he hits his head hard. You feel his dizziness as you stumble into your walker. Hop is quick to reach out and steady you, with a concerned “You ok, mate?”

                You try to order Raboot to use Blaze Kick. It’s a stronger move, but you’ve noticed it takes longer for Raboot to use, leaving him open briefly. Raboot thumps against the ground as he doesn’t like the feel of the confusion through the bond, but his foot lights on fire as instructed by the move. It hurts him, and he cries out in pain. You clench your teeth and try to steady yourself for Raboot’s sake.

                “Hey, mate?” Hop’s voice is whispered quietly, but right next to your ear. The feel of his breath against your ear sends a shiver down your spine.

                “’M dizzy,” you don’t mean to slur your words like that. Hop clutches you tighter at this, a worried look plastered across his face.

                You get a good look at Hatenna as Hop steadies you, and Raboot is able to jump out of the way of the next move in time. He lands directly in front of Hatenna, and you swell with pride at his jumping abilities even when so confused. Finally, he lands the kick before Hatenna can hit Raboot with another Confusion, and as the hit connects, Raboot snaps out of the confusion.

                You jolt at this, suddenly not dizzy anymore. Hop seems to sense your steadiness, “Feeling better now?” He asks.

                “Yeah, sorry,” you nod, and Hop’s arms slowly slide away from you, as if he’s afraid you’ll fall still if he lets go too quickly. Raboot is charging in once more to finish off Hatenna, but Hatenna prepares once more with Protect.

                “Disarming Voice!” Bede shouts, and Hatenna lets out a harsh squeal. Raboot tumbles back, but carefully bounds himself off his hands and back onto his feet. Bede gives more orders, but Raboot is quicker this time. With a final, fiery tackle, Hatenna tumbles over. She briefly struggles to get up, before falling back down once more.

                “Ace! You’re incredible, mate!” Raboot turns around and perks at Hop’s words. Hop wraps his arms around you in a tight hug, and you giggle. You pick up over your connection with Raboot that he thought Hop was talking to him for a moment.

                What, do you like the word ace? You ask him, and he nods. You feel him remember the times Hop’s said the word around him, and he’s formed some sort of connection to it. It means something good, so he likes it, simple as that. You smile at Raboot, ruffling his fur as he comes over.

                “I see…” Bede is quiet, but you still hear him. “Well, that’s fine. I wasn’t really trying all that hard anyway.” He speaks louder, and you and Hop both erupt in laughter.

                “’Wasn’t trying all that hard’? ‘What a joke!’” Hop mimics Bede’s earlier line teasingly, and Bede fumes for a moment, his shoulders raising as his fists clench. He suddenly sighs, pulling a potion out of one of his many pockets to heal his Hatenna.

                “’I suppose I should show you how pathetic you are and how strong I am’. And the man lost Hop. Devastating.” You mock with him, and Hop shoves a fist to his mouth to try to – but utterly fail to – stifle his laughter. He grips your walker as he doubles over with the effort of containing his laughter.

                “Well, that was unexpected. I suppose you’re more able than I thought.” Bede responds after a moment, but he’s looking away from you both. He recalls his healed Hatenna and shoves a hand through his blond curls. “Naturally, I’ll remember your battle style and strategies now.”

                “Why you little-“ Hop starts, and you raise your hand against his mouth to stop him, your knuckles brushing his lips as the back of your hand reaches his face.

                “And we both have learned yours, so I think you took two losses here today, fam.” You taunt back, and Bede snarls briefly.

                “I’ll surely defeat either of you if we face each other in an official match, if you even make it that far.” Bede smirks. Hop is about to get angry again, but you look at him and raise your hand back to his face.

                “Evidence suggests otherwise, my guy. Good luck getting to the finals with all Psychic-types, by the way.” The audacity of this man, you’re not usually this good at responding to these situations. You realize you feel Raboot riled up over this, and your confidence and quick remarks are likely aided by him. Those shared powerful feelings are sure coming in handy right now.

                You want to tell Leon to suck it, these powerful feelings that overcome your own could be useful too.

                “I won’t waste any more time on you.” Bede growls, crossing his arms. “I’ve already gathered every Wishing Star in this area.” He quickly turns and stalks off towards the exit.

                You drop your hand from Hop’s mouth, and exchange looks. “Didn’t he want our Wishing Stars?” You ask rhetorically, and Hop shrugs.

                “What a nutter,” Hop replies, shaking his head.

                You summon Rookidee out of his ball and pull potions out, healing both your Pokémon as Hop awkwardly shifts around beside you. You can see the blush on his face, and you’re trying to ignore the matching one on yours.

                He’s just embarrassed I shut him up, you think, and Raboot looks at you curiously. He’s beginning to understand this stuff, you just hope he won’t use this new-found knowledge to tease you.

                “Ok, ready to go?” You ask Hop after you’ve got your Pokémon healed up.

                Hop jolts, throwing his arms up in the air and stumbling back a bit. “Y-yup!” He stutters, and you’re unsure why he’s acting weird.

                You walk out of the mines quietly. Your battle had scared off any wild Pokémon in the area, so the rest of your journey out goes by uneventfully. You breathe in the open air as you walk into the sunlight, and your lungs sigh in relief without you really meaning to. That stale air in the mines was really starting to bother your lungs, frustratingly enough. It was another reason you appreciated Hop carrying you so much.

                As the path winds away from the large mountain containing the mines, you catch sight of the wide expanse of fields ahead of you. All sorts of crops dot them, and they spread across the various hills, the trail winding between them. It’s gorgeous, and you see wild Pokémon playing in between the various stalks of crops. Occasionally you see people or Pokémon out working on fields, but it’s mostly just empty expanse for as far as the eye can see.

                You take another deep breath, and Hop laughs. “Really like the fresh air, eh mate?” He gently jabs his elbow into your side, and you swat back at him just as casually.

                “You don’t?” You shoot back, and he just shakes his head at you.

                “Not enough to make such a show of it!” You glare half-heartedly at him, and this only makes him laugh more.

                You find a family who is fine with you setting your tents up on an empty part of their field as the sun begins to dip. You two have more time to set up your tent tonight, so with the added time and all the extra hands, and claws, you’re able to get the rickety tent set up.

                Tonight’s fireside conversation is more jovial than the previous. When you begin to nod off, your head falling onto Hop’s shoulder, Hop sends you off to bed. The sun is barely setting, but you do feel exhausted. Raboot curls up in your arms as you tuck in for the night.

                You hear the quiet conversation Hop is having with his Pokémon outside, but you can only make out bits and pieces. The sound of Hop’s voice lulls you to sleep regardless, and you sleep peacefully.

                Morning still comes too soon, as Hop pokes his head into your tent to wake you. You groan at him, but at his threat, “I’ll drag you out of there if I have to. Raboot will help me, won’t you?” Raboot trills in agreement, and you throw your arms up in surrender and agree to come out.

                You and Hop continue on your way to Turffield after an edible breakfast. “We really need to ask Sonia for cooking lessons,” you complain to Hop while you both swallow the food down. He nods his agreement sullenly.

                You can see Turffield in the distance, Hop trotting ahead excitedly, when a Wooloo comes rolling down a hill. Your shouted warning comes too late for Hop, and the Wooloo nails right into him. Hop’s knocked over, and you bite your lip so you don’t laugh, in case he actually got hurt.

                An incredibly buff man in a large sunhat that you recognize as the Gym Leader Milo comes running after the Wooloo. “My, are you ok? You took that tackle head on.” Milo stops near Hop, offering him a hand. Hop grabs it and groans.

                “Yeah, I’m good,” Hop answers as he’s pulled to his feet, and you finally let out a laugh.

                “Yeah, he’s got lots of practice being tackled by Wooloo,” you tease, and Hop shoots you a glare.

                Milo laughs at this. “Ah, you’re the Gym Challengers Leon endorsed, aren’t you? I’ve heard all about your Wooloo wrangling skills from your brother, Hop. I look forward to seeing how you do in the Gym Mission!” Milo smiles kindly at Hop, and it seems this is enough for Hop to forget about you throwing him under the bus.

                “It’s going to be easy peasy!” Hop declares, crossing his arms in determination.

                Milo nods, looking you both over. “I’m surprised you’re both so late, I thought the Trainers endorsed by the Champion would be the first through my doors!” Milo scratches his chin, and you and Hop share a sad look.

                “I, well,” you gesture vaguely at your leg, “I got injured, so we had to take some time off.” You answer honestly, and Milo nods, a sad look filling his eyes.

                “I’m afraid you won’t be able to use the walker in the Gym Mission. Are you going to be able to handle it?” He asks you directly, and it frustrates you to learn this. Why was the League so inaccessible? It wasn’t fair.

                “Well, I’ll check in with the doctors at the Center in Turffield to find out,” you shrug, and look away. You catch the look of distress on Hop’s face before you drop your eyes.

                “Why can’t she use it? It’s not like on the pitch, that hardly seems fair,” Hop complains on your behalf, and you want to hug him. He’s such a great friend.

                “Part of the Gym Challenge is proving your skills outside of battle. You have to be able to do that with just your own skills.” Milo tries to explain.

                “But it would be my own skills. This just helps me make up for a lack of something else. It helps bring me closer to the same level as everyone else.” You speak up, growing confidence from Hop’s defence.

                “I’m afraid that’s just not how it works.” Milo shakes his head sadly, and anger burns in you. You’ve had to deal with this bullshit most of your life, and now you have to deal with it here too? “As soon as you can do it without needing the walker, I encourage you to sign up at the Gym. I’ve been itching to see just how good the Champion-endorsed Gym Challengers are.” He gives you a sympathetic look, and you sigh.

                Arguing further isn’t going to change anything, so you simply nod. Hop rubs your back, but he still looks angry. “We’ll sign up as soon as she’s ready,” Hop answers. You want to scold him, but he’s got that look in his eyes, the one that tells you there’s nothing you can say to change his mind on this. You’re not going to convince him to go on ahead without you. You don’t really want to, you find.

                Milo frowns, but nods. “Come on, Wooloo. Back to the Stadium with you. There’s still plenty of Gym Challengers waiting!” Milo pats the Wooloo’s head and begins walking back to Turffield. He waves at the two of you before turning ahead. Wooloo follows along behind him.

                Hop keeps a hand on your back as you make your way to Turffield together. Neither of you speak, but you’re glad for the comfort the contact with him provides. You both make your way to the Center once inside the town, thankful it’s near the entrance. You’re tired, and drained from learning of yet another hurdle, so it’s a relief to not have to travel far to find it. You’re less surprised by now by how fast you get seen in these Centers, and Hop follows you as a nurse leads you to a room.

                A check-over and a few tests later, you and Hop are offered shelter as Trainers at the Center. It isn’t like either of you can afford an inn, and camping out again really doesn’t sound that appealing. A comfy bed and the promise of breakfast is enough to have you both drooling.

                The room contains bunk beds, a single desk with a chair, and a lone dresser. “Bagsy!” Hop shouts as he darts up the ladder of the bunk beds.

                “Go right ahead, I prefer the bottom anyways.” You reply, crashing onto the bottom bunk. Hop erupts into snorts of laughter, and it takes you a moment to realize why. You groan, and you’d throw the pillow beside you at him if you could see him. Raboot helpfully offers to do it for you, but you decline his offer. “You’re gross,” you respond instead.

                “Takes one to know one,” he teases back, and he’s lucky he’s on the top bunk. You both get ready for bed, and talk long into the night once more. You’ll hear back more tomorrow from the doctors, so for tonight you and Hop can just take it easy.

                It’s nice to be in a real bed once more, and it’s even nicer to have a bath. You manage to steal the bath first, so Hop spends a while at the door complaining about how long you spend. He takes even longer, however, and you make sure to bug him about it when he’s out.

                You, Hop, and all your Pokémon eventually settle down for bed. You’re so relaxed from being clean and comfy that sleep takes you quickly. Hop is in your dreams, but by morning you can’t remember anything more than that.

Chapter Text

                The doctor, as it turns out, does not recommend tackling the Gym yet. Your leg is healing well, but such strenuous actions without a mobility aid could do permanent damage. You and Hop both frown upon hearing this news.

                When the doctor has left, Hop turns to you with a sad smile. “Guess we’re waiting a bit longer,” he says softly, and tears well up in your eyes.

                “No, Hoppy,” you grab one of his hands, “you should go do it. You don’t have to wait for me.” The fact that he’s still hanging by your side through all this, despite his dream, means a lot to you.

                Hop blushes brightly, and squeezes your hand back. “What’s the point? Then I’d just be waiting around in Turffield for you. Might as well wait for the Gym too.” His smile is less sad now, a light dancing in his eyes as he watches you.

                “I meant you should do the Gym and go ahead to the next town.” It hurts to say it, you feel a harsh pang in your heart. You don’t want him to leave, you really don’t, but this is his dream, and it hurts more knowing you’re the one keeping him from it.

                He smiles but looks confused. “What would be the point of that? I already delayed, what are a few more days going to mean, really?” He shakes his head at you. “Stop feeling guilty about this, ok? I already made up my mind that I’m staying with you, so you’re stuck with me. Got it?”

                You sigh, but nod. Hop gets ridiculously stubborn when he puts his mind to something, and he’s clearly put his mind to staying with you. There isn’t anything you’re going to be able to say to convince him. “Fine. No promises, though.” You reply after a moment, and he chuckles.

                “Besides, it’d be pretty boring to go without you.” Hop speaks quieter than before, and doesn’t meet your eyes, but you still smile at him.

                “I can’t argue with that, it really would.” You run your thumb over his knuckles, and he looks up to meet your eyes. He grins brightly, and launches into things the two of you can do in Turffield.

                He eventually drags you out to go do these things, after you two take advantage of that breakfast in the cafeteria this morning. It’s nice to have some good food, and even your Pokémon are appreciative after the few days you spent on the road.

                “Have you ever been to Turffield before?” You ask Hop as he leads you down a road, trying to explain some things you see to you. He’s not doing a very good job, which has prompted the question.

                “Er, once? I was young though, there was some big market event here that Sonia’s Gran took her, Lee, and I to. I don’t really remember much about it, aside from clinging to Lee the whole time.” Hop scratches the back of his head, slightly embarrassed.

                You giggle lightly at the image this brings in your head. “So you have no idea what’s really here, do you?” You ask him with a light hearted glare. You can’t wipe the smile from your face as you talk though, so Hop just grins back.

                “Nope! Not a clue! Oh, but I bet I know who would.” Hop says, suddenly straightening up and looking ahead. You tilt your head questioningly and look where he’s looking.

                “Who?” You ask, not seeing anyone specific ahead, just a few people milling about and some Pokémon. A Yamper bounds through the crowd, and when Hop crouches down to meet the speeding dog, you realize you recognize him.

                “Figure it out?” Hop asks you with a teasing lilt to his voice. You roll your eyes at him.

                “Sonia’s Yamper, yes, Sonia is smart, I get it,” you wave a hand dismissively to him, and he rolls his eyes back at you.

                “Wanna lead us to Sonia, Yamper?” Hop asks him as he scratches behind his ears, and Yamper barks enthusiastically. You and Hop follow Yamper for a while, he leads you around the edge of town towards the big hill with the pattern in the grass.

                You’d been curious about it, but Hop had also had no clue about it, so he’d been useless. You hope Sonia knows more about it. As Yamper leads you and Hop up a sloped path, Hop has to help you as the walker catches on the planks of wood meant to help walk up the slanted path. You and Hop see Sonia sitting on a bench, staring off at the hill, when you reach the top. She’s facing away, so she doesn’t immediately see you two.

                Hop looks at you with a mischievous glint in his amber eyes, and lifts a finger to his lips. You smile and nod, not sure what he’s planning yet. Yamper looks at Hop curiously also but remains quiet. Hop slowly walks over to Sonia, you and Yamper following a bit behind, and positions himself behind her. He leans down and blows on her neck, and the next thing you hear is a loud scream.

                Hop doubles over in laughter, and even you cannot contain the laughter than comes out of you as Sonia jumps off the bench and whirls around. She glares at Hop, then at you and Yamper. “How dare you betray me, Yamper! You’re supposed to be on my side! And you!” She grabs Hop by the ear and he yelps. “Try that again, I dare you,” she threatens, pinching harder as Hop begins to beg.

                “Ow! Ok, ok! Truce, please stop!” Hop swats at her hand and she eventually lets go when she deems Hop has suffered enough. Yamper runs over and also tries to beg for forgiveness.

                “Oh, my sweet, how can I even remain mad at you with such a cute little face?” She baby-talks to Yamper as she scratches his cheeks, and he barks happily.

                “Oh he gets off easy,” Hop complains, and Sonia makes another swipe for his ear, but Hop jumps out of the way quicker. “No!” He shouts, and then he darts behind you. “Hide me from the scary lady!” He says it loud on purpose, and Sonia glares at him.

                You had managed to calm down from laughing, but this only sends you going again. Watching these two bicker like family brings a smile to your face. You miss your own family, and bickering like that with them. The tears that leak from your eyes are both from laughter and from the pang of homesickness that hits you while you watch.

                Eventually an actual truce is reached, and Sonia turns the conversation back to her research. “I was hoping to hear what you two think, I’m beginning to get so consumed by this. An outsider’s opinion will help, I think. I tried asking Milo but he’s pretty busy with the Gym Challenge.” Sonia taps the end of her pen against her notebook as she speaks.

                “Sure Sonia, how can we help?” You ask, and she waves you over. You and Hop sit down beside her on the bench.

                She points up towards the patterns in the grass on the side of the hill. “What do you think of that geoglyph?” She turns to look at both of you, and you think for a moment.

                “Uh, I’ve no idea, we were kind of hoping you could tell us what it was.” Hop answers, to which Sonia sighs.

                If this had something to do with Sonia’s research, you thought about what you knew and how this might fit into it. It looked like a big creature was causing mayhem. “Dynamax maybe? Or the Darkest Day? That part kinda looks like a storm.” You point to a swirl in the pattern.

                “Right perceptive of you. Especially since the portion depicting the black storm has mostly disappeared.” Sonia declares with a smile, and you feel proud of yourself for getting it right.

                “That’s no fair, there was missing information!” Hop sputters, and you turn to him and stick out your tongue.

                “I don’t even live here and I didn’t need it to figure it out.” You tease, and he shoves at you lightly.

                “Are you two here to help, or not?” Sonia asks with a frustrated sigh. You and Hop both nod politely, and Sonia shakes her head. “A long time ago, a great black storm covered the Galar region. Giant Pokémon ran rampant… But what was that black storm they called the Darkest Day? What connection does it have to Dynamax?”

                “Were you hoping this geoglyph might have some answers?” You look to Sonia, and she nods with a heavy sigh.

                “Certainly more answers than it did.” She shrugs and purses her lips petulantly.

                “How are you going to find the answers to those questions, Sonia?” Hop asks, a concerned look on his face.

                “I’m the lucky lady who gets to put those answers together herself. Gran sure gives me a lot to do.” Sonia mumbles the last bit as she looks down to the ground.

                “You going to head off to the next town for some answers?” Sonia looks up at your question and shakes her head.

                “No, not yet. I’m going to spend some time with Milo later, when he’s free from Gym Challengers. Are you two heading planning on heading over there next?” You and Hop look to each other and share a sad look at her words. “Ah, it’s like that.” Sonia seems to understand without you having to further explain, at least.

                “It’s not fair! Milo said she had to do the Gym Mission without her walker too. She should be allowed to use her walker for that part, at least!” Hop looks angry, and you don’t blame him, you share his feelings.

                Sonia bites her lip. “No one ever said it would be easy,” her words sound hollow even to you, and she can’t meet either of your eyes.

                “Neither of us expected this to be easy, but this is just cruel! It’s punishing her! You’re friends with Milo, right? Talk to him! Convince him this is wrong!” Hop is really riled up about this, and you set a hand over his knee and squeeze it to thank him. He catches your small smile with a sad one of his own.

                “I don’t think it’s something Milo can change, Hop. Those kind of rules come down from the League itself.” Sonia’s speaking funny, like she’s specifically choosing her words and being careful about what she says.

                If Hop notices, he doesn’t say anything. “Then it’s something Lee could change?”

                Sonia shakes her head sadly. “Don’t you think that he would have done that if he could? You’d have to go above him, even. To the Chairman.”

                Hop frowns, and so do you. There’s not much luck of that happening, you doubt he’s the sympathetic type somehow. Things fall into an awkward silence after that. Sonia returns to her work after a bit, and Hop keeps shooting you glances.

                You’re not sure what he wants, but he finally leans into you and whispers in your ear “Wanna go get lunch?” The feeling of his breath on your ear makes you jump slightly, but you nod. Lunch sounds nice, and getting away from this heavy atmosphere also sounds nice.

                Sonia politely waves at you as you leave, but she’s quiet otherwise. Seems she’s absorbed by her work now, so you and Hop leave her be. You let Hop lead, but he’s not really sure where he’s going, so the two of you wander around in search of something appealing.

                You pass the Stadium on your travels, it’s quite busy, with lots of people filing in and out of the doors. You see several Gym Challenger uniforms among the crowd of people, so there still must be lots of people at this Gym today. You had thought that after so many days, there would be less Gym Challengers stuck at the first Gym.

                You bring this up to Hop, and he nods. “Yeah, the Gym Challenge is tough. A lot of people don’t even make it past one Gym. It’s not unusual for Milo’s Gym to be busy for a while.” You hope you and Hop are able to make it past without much trouble, once you can challenge it, that is.

                Lunch brings smiles back to everyone’s faces. Hop and the Pokémon have a ton of energy after, so he suggests you all go train. There are a lot of Gym Challengers training outside town, so Hop leads you over there in hopes that the two of you can get some practice in. It’s different training against other trainers than it is against wild Pokémon, yet neither of you lose a match.

                “If we keep this up, Milo will be a piece of cake!” Hop grins as you head back to the Center to get some well-deserved rest for the night. You nod along, feeling more confident in your battle skills after some victories.

                You’re back to feeling pretty down though. A lot of the people you’d faced had made comments about the walker, and it left you feeling incredibly self-conscious. You know Hop overheard some, as he’s been making it his job to try and cheer you up.

                You try to smile for him, you really do, but it’s hard when you keep hearing their words in your head.

                “How do you expect to do anything with that?”

                “Pfft, can you even battle with that?”

                “Should I even battle you? I’m not going to hurt you, am I?”

                The taunts, the laughter, it circles in your head even as you try to concentrate on the words Hop is saying. They seep into your dreams at night, and follow you into your morning. Hop buzzes around you all day to cheer you up.

                One of the things that you spend a lot of time doing is practicing walking and moving without the walker. You’re going to have to be able to run and twist and jump if you want to get any Gym Badges. The doctor at the Center here in Turffield is very helpful though, and gives you exercises to do that will help with your range of movement. Hop eagerly helps you with these every day.

                While you and Hop train with your Pokémon, Hop’s Grookey evolves. After another battle that Hop wins, Hop is in the middle of throwing his fist up in the air in celebration when Grookey begins to glow white. Hop gasps, and positively beams as the light fades and reveals Hop’s newly evolved Pokémon.

                “Thwackey! Look at you!” Hop exclaims as he wraps his newly evolved Thwackey up in a hug. “Now we’re really set for the Gym!”

                You congratulate both, as do your Pokémon, who are very excited to play with their friend. You watch on while Hop works out the new move Thwackey has just learned. Raboot helpfully offers to train with his friend to help Hop and Thwackey out.

                You’ve spent a few days here in Turffield, and you and Hop are both getting a little bored. There isn’t that much to do, and you’ve both beat every trainer in town by now. There’s only so much time you can spend on your exercises every day too, or you’ll injure yourself. You’re both relieved to hear from the doctor that you can finally take on the Gym Mission, for multiple reasons.

                After breakfast, it’s the first place you go for the day. Hop wants to get there early enough to put your names down so you don’t have to wait long. He keeps dashing ahead, only to dash back to you. You can tell from the way he keeps jerking his hand towards you, only to quickly pull it back, that he really wants to pull you along with him like he used to do. You’re glad he has the self-restraint to not, but it still makes you a bit sad. You miss those days, too.

                “Yes, the first Gym Mission! Time to wrangle some Wooloo!” Hop shouts as he comes out of the change room in his uniform. You’re not allowed to watch him do the Mission, as you have not done it yet, but Hop has promised to tell you all about it so you can prepare.

                Hop is done incredibly fast. In fact, he’s done so fast, it causes a commotion. You manage to overhear that Hop’s broken the previous record for fastest time, and your heart swells with pride. You wish you could have watched, though!

                When Hop comes out with the widest grin on his face, you throw your arms around him in a hug. “Congratulations Hop! You’re incredible!” You gush to him, and he wraps his arms back around you just as tight.

                “I was on fire, you should have seen me!” Hop launches into his story, and you lap it up, both for the information that will be relevant to you when you go to do it in a minute, and because Hop is just such a good story teller. You love listening to him spin tales.

                When Hop’s finished, and he’s given you some helpful tips, you head to the change room to get ready yourself. You’re thankful you picked up the longer shorts and some thigh high socks. You can’t see any bandages now. Everyone’s eyes are going to be on you in your match with Milo, now you don’t have to be as self-conscious about it. Hop is going to watch you and cheer you on, both during the Mission and when you face Milo, and you’re glad for the support. You hope you can do it without the walker.

                Hop keeps your walker for you as you’re lead through the doors to where the Gym Mission is held. You have to limp, but thankfully the League Staff who takes you there keeps a slow pace for you. When she opens the door, you’re met with a large room with multiple fields, and obstacles in those fields. You can see where the Wooloo are, and your eyes follow the path you’ll have to lead them down to the finish.

                Another League Staff walks up to you and launches into an explanation about how the Gym Mission works. You have to herd Wooloo to the end of the course within the time limit. You can use your Pokémon to help, thankfully, so you let Raboot and Rookidee out of their Pokeballs.

                There are Gym Trainers who get in your way and try to sabotage you, but your Pokémon help make quick work of them. Raboot frequently lets you lean against him as well, and helps you up every time you fall over.

                The Wooloo are truly unruly. They go every which way when you try to wrangle them, and you want to wail every time one runs off in the completely opposite direction. Raboot is better at this than you are, so he helps you chase the Wooloo. Rookidee focuses on the Trainers and their Pokémon, who keep trying to chase off the Wooloo.

                You trip a lot while trying to move quickly, and sometimes a Wooloo rolls into you and knocks you over. It’s painful, and incredibly difficult. But you get up every time, because Hop is watching. You can hear him cheer for you every time you fall over or make a mistake, and every time it reminds you why you’re here and why you’re doing this.

                Raboot helpfully reminds you, too, to be the best! And you nod to him. You can’t get to Leon without doing this first. You take a deep breath as the Wooloo roll into the last field. It’s almost over.

                The clock is running down though, you don’t have a whole lot of time left to finish this. You bite your lip as you send Rookidee after the Yamper that comes charging towards the Wooloo. Raboot splits off from you when a couple of Wooloo roll off in a different direction. Less than a minute left now, and you can see the goal.

                You chase your group of Wooloo along the wall, and they file into the goal. 30 seconds left. Raboot comes running with his group, and you step out of the way to let him herd the Wooloo into the goal. 15 seconds left. The counter stops at 19/20 Wooloo, and sheer panic courses through your veins.

                You see the Wooloo through Rookidee’s eyes. You can’t run there fast enough, Raboot might be able to but likely wouldn’t be able to run back in time with it. Rookidee flies low and pecks at the back of the Wooloo, and tries to guide it to the goal.

                You’re mentally counting down, ten, nine, eight, as Rookidee and the Wooloo come closer. Six, five, four, it’s going to be close, Rookidee is keeping the Wooloo rolling in a straight line. Three, two, you and Raboot both stay to the side as the Wooloo rolls in on one and the timer stops. You collapse in relief, you’ve done it.

                Rookidee and Raboot come and hug you while you let yourself sob for a moment. You’re in so much pain, but you’re relieved it’s over. Raboot helps you up, and leads you to the exit. Once through the doors, you’re surprised to find Hop right there waiting for you. He wraps you up in a tight hug, and you collapse against him as your leg gives out.

                “You did it, mate! You really did it!” Hop shouts right in your ear, and you hug him and cry. He rubs your back, eventually pulling away to hand you your walker. He helps you back down the hallway and out to the lobby. Even with the walker, it’s difficult to walk with how much pain you’re in, and Hop has to keep a strong grip on you to keep you from falling over. “You ready to battle Milo now?” Hop asks you with a concerned frown as he helps you sit on a bench.

                You shake your head sadly. “I can barely move, Hop. My leg hurts so much. I’m not going to be able to do it today.” Hop frowns further at your words, but nods.

                “You look like you’re in a lot of pain, mate. Come on, let’s let the staff know we’ll be back tomorrow to fight Milo and get changed.” Hop helps you up, and keeps a supporting arm around your waist as you inform the staff.

                Your names are taken off the schedule for today, and Hop leads you to the change room. Raboot and Rookidee once again have to help you get changed, as with last time, you’re in too much pain to do it alone. When you go to pull off your socks, you notice you’ve bled through your bandages. Worry seeps into the pit of your stomach. This can’t be good, you just hope you haven’t done permanent damage or anything.

                “Hop?” You call out weakly, and he comes over. “I’m bleeding through my bandages,” you tell him through the door of the stall.

                “That’s bad, we’ll get you to the Center, ok?” Hop sounds concerned, and you chew the skin off your lip as you carefully finish getting dressed again. You hate worrying him like this.

                You’ve just gone back into the lobby when Milo runs up to the two of you. “I’ve just been informed you two removed your names from the schedule today, is everything ok?” He asks as he comes to a stop in front of you.

                You shake your head, but Hop explains for you. “She’s reopened her wound, I’m taking her to the Center now.” Hop hardly stops to talk with Milo, still urging you on to get you to the Center.

                Milo’s face falls in concern, but he nods. “Now that you’ve done the Gym Mission, you can come back any time to challenge me. I hope to see you both soon!” Milo calls after you as Hop leads you out.

                “That was a bit rude,” you speak when you’re out the front doors.

                “What?” Hop asks incredulously.

                “We could have at least stopped to talk to him, he seemed worried.” You answer, and Hop’s lips pull into a line.

                “If he was really concerned, he would have let you do the Mission with your walker,” Hop is determinedly looking forward as he declares. You know he’s blaming Milo for your pain, but you’re not really sure how to change his attitude on this. Sonia and you had already tried.

                The rest of the walk continues in silence. It’s a slow walk with how much pain you’re in, but thankfully you’re brought back into a room nearly as soon as you arrive. You’re given pain medication and the doctor comes in immediately. It’s still weird to be seen soon, but today you’re especially thankful you don’t have to spend the hours waiting in the waiting room in pain.

                Whether you’ve damaged it or not remains to be seen, but the doctor stitches it back up for you and re-bandages it. Your wound doesn’t actually look that bad once it’s sewn back up, so you hope everything is fine and it was just the strenuous activity that opened it up.

                You really don’t want to be waiting even longer. You don’t want to keep holding Hop back.

                Hop cuddles with you on the bottom bunk that night, more for mutual comfort at this point because you’re both upset by this development. He keeps his arms around you all night as the two of you talk idly about whatever comes to mind. You two end up falling asleep that way, and it’s nice to fall asleep in Hop’s arms again.

Chapter Text

                You’re in some sort of ballroom, you think. It’s like something out of a castle, with gorgeous archways and ornate detailing on the walls and vaulted ceiling. Lush curtains frame beautiful balconies that overlook a scenic garden illuminated by moonlight. A soft waltz plays, and people in fancy outfits dance and mingle with one another. You are in an equally elegant ball gown, and you feel like you’re in a fairy tale.

                A hand rests on your shoulder, and you gasp as it startles you. You spin around to see who’s there, and are surprised to see Leon, dressed up with a fancy red jacket and jabot. He offers his hand to you like he’s asking you to dance, and you take it.

                He pulls you into his arms, and spins the two of you out onto the dance floor. You don’t remember learning to dance, but somehow with Leon, you flawlessly waltz around the floor. He says something that makes you laugh, and neither of you call out the blush you wear across your cheeks.

                The two of you are suddenly out on a balcony, and Leon whispers something in your ear that makes you gasp and tears well up in your eyes. When you rub them dry, you’re surprised to find Hop is the one standing beside you now, and he grins at you as he holds your hand.

                He’s dressed like a prince, and you notice that you’re in a matching outfit of a complimentary                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         colour. He gestures with his head and eyes like you should be paying attention ahead of you, so you look away from him to see what’s there.

                You’re not on that balcony anymore, you’re on some kind of altar, and there’s two men standing before you and Hop. They both place crowns on your heads at the same time, and you hear a crowd cheering behind you. Hop squeezes your hand, and when you look out the corner of your eyes, you can see him still smiling at you.

                But his hand is suddenly ripped from yours as the roar of a beast sounds behind you. You feel yourself blown over, and tumble forward onto the hard ground. You see Hop’s been blown away similarly, he’s back in his jean jacket now though. You look behind you to see a massive beast hovering against a dark sky.

                Hop shouts to you, he’s gotten back up, so you stand back up as well. You try to run over to him, but the massive beast swings down just ahead of you, right where Hop’s standing. A scream rips out of your throat, and the beast lashes its limb toward you, knocking you flat on your back.

                You feel woozy, almost drugged, and when you blink, it feels like it takes significant effort to open your eyes. Everything is dark now, but the figure of a man looms over you, and it’s the only thing you can make out. It hurts, but you can’t move to fight back.

                Icy fear grips you, and you just need to get up-

                ……………

                She wakes with a jolt, sitting upright quickly in her bed. She shoves forward, at an imaginary man that isn’t there, crying and gasping as the realization that it’s just a dream sinks in.

                “Ugh, that dream again?” Her voice sounds strained even to her own ears. The room is dark, so it must still be night. She wipes at her face, and contemplates going back to sleep.

                The feeling of the nightmare sticks with her though, so she opts to get up and wash up. It’s a struggle to the washroom still, her strength isn’t returning as quickly as the doctors had hoped it would. She flicks on the light and washes her face in the sink. When she’s done, she looks up at the mirror.

                Her own tired reflection stares back, damaged brown hair and weary brown eyes, and she sighs. She wanders back into her room and sits on her bed. Her eyes fall to the ‘call nurse’ button by the bed. If she pressed it, would the nurse that came let her get up and walk around? Maybe let her go see her child?

Pressing it brings a nurse, and evidently the answer is still no. Frustrated by her situation and bothered by her nightmare, the brunette throws herself back into her bed. She doesn’t go back to sleep though, instead opting to go over her nightmare and process it.

                She had names to the faces in her dreams now, thanks to what that man had told her… Yesterday? Earlier today? She wasn’t sure what time of night it was, there were no clocks in here. Rubbing at her eyes, she tries to piece together what it could all mean. Are those memories?

                She imagined they could be, he’d only managed to impart about a month’s worth of memories today before he had to leave. He had said he had ten months’ worth of them, maybe they were from a part he hadn’t got to yet.

                That, or they’re just things her fragmented mind is putting together in confusion. She shakes her head to dispel this, as it’s not getting her anywhere. The man said he would be back again to continue, so she knew she should try and get more sleep. They’re just dreams, after all, and she has no idea what they truly mean.

                Try as she might, sleep would not take her. Her thoughts kept her up the rest of the night. Who was she?

----------------------------------------------------------

                “You know, it’s been a long time since you last invited me out with you,” Sonia speaks up as she stirs the curry. She looks over her shoulder to see Leon still fighting with his tent. “That’s how you wrecked your last kit, dummy, just follow the instructions.” She shakes her head with a smile and turns back to her curry.

                “I, uh, lost them,” Leon mumbles, and Sonia snorts.

                “Of course you did. Here, come stir this, I’ll get it.” Sonia gestures him over, and as soon as Leon lets go of the poles he was holding, his half of the tent falls over. The half that Charizard was helping hold still stands, and Charizard grunts at Leon about it.

                Sonia next interrupts the silence when they’re sitting around a nice fire, enjoying the curry that Leon only burnt a little with his stirring. “So remind me what ultra-rare Pokémon we’re hunting for out here?” She prompts as she wipes Yamper’s face clean, he’s quite the messy eater.

                “A Grookey, a Scorbunny, or a Sobble. Ideally, all three, but I know my chances of that are pretty low.” Leon answers after a moment, finishing his mouthful of food first.

                Sonia nods, “And what do you want them for? You were pretty vague about it on the phone.”

                Leon frowns, “Well… They’re strong Pokémon. I really want Hop to do the Gym Challenge this year, and I don’t know how else to encourage him to go. He’s ready, he’s been ready since he was 16; I don’t know why he hasn’t wanted to go yet. I’m hoping that getting a strong Pokémon will be the encouragement he needs to want to sign up this year.” Leon looks down at his food while he speaks, and Sonia knows Leon’s been worried about this for a while now.

                She’s heard him vent about this in the past. Hop talks a big game, but when the Gym Challenge rolls around each year, he makes up some excuse about being unable to do it. Last year, Hop pretended to be sick, and even though Leon knew Hop was faking, he went along with it for Hop. Sonia smiles sympathetically at Leon, and pats his leg.

                “I think that’s a good idea. But why all three then? That would be too much for Hop to handle at once, don’t you think?” Sonia asks, and Leon lets out a sudden laugh.

                “Oh, they’re not all for Hop! I was hoping he’d get to pick his favourite, the one that fit with him the best.” Leon explains with a wave of his hand, but at least he’s back to smiling again.

                “So what will you do with the other two, then?” Sonia prods with a raised eyebrow, and Leon only laughs again.

                “Train them myself, of course! They’re strong Pokémon!” Sonia rolls her eyes at Leon’s words, but smiles with him anyways.

                “Figures,” Sonia mutters. Conversation flows easier after that, the two of them talking until the stars are out, catching up and reminiscing about their days in the Gym Challenge themselves. They pack up quickly when morning comes, as Leon wants to start his search early.

                Their trip is planned to last five days, and with All Stars approaching, Leon makes use of this time training his Pokémon as well. Multiple times, Leon tries to prod Sonia into battling with him one more time, but she blows him off each time.

                It’s beginning to feel like they’re not going to find any of them at all, they’ve searched all the known habitats for those species of Pokémon. It’s on their last day that, by some stroke of luck, Sonia manages to find a Scorbunny sunbathing on a rock in a small clearing.

                As Leon and Charizard approach, Charizard steps on a twig, alerting the small Pokémon. He leaps up, and seems ready for a fight. Leon and Charizard share a look as the Scorbunny charges toward Charizard. He tackles into one of Charizard’s legs, and it looks like Charizard didn’t even feel it at all. Leon flashes an excited grin to Sonia, he’s clearly thrilled that not only did she find one, but that it stayed to battle.

                The Scorbunny tackles into Charizard’s legs a few more times, while Charizard watches on in amusement at this Pokémon’s attempts to take him down. “Careful now, my friend, he’s weak,” Leon calls out to Charizard, and Charizard snorts in affirmation. The Scorbunny looks like he understood, because he looks offended, and charges into Charizard so hard that he sends himself recoiling away from the impact.

                This gets a grunt out of Charizard, and Leon lets out a laugh that this little Pokémon was able to actually hurt Charizard. “Tough little guy!” Leon’s grin has his eyes in slits it’s so wide, and he’s already pulled out an empty Pokeball in preparation.

                As the Scorbunny recovers, he charges again at Charizard. This time, Charizard simply bats the Scorbunny away with a swing of his tail, and the Scorbunny tumbles backwards, hitting a tree. He gets back up, but staggers. He doesn’t give up, though, and charges at Charizard once more.

                Leon tosses the Pokeball at him before he can connect. The ball shakes for a while, and Sonia doesn’t realize she was holding her breath until the light on the ball clicks green, and she sighs in relief.

                “Yes! We did it!” Leon and Charizard high-five, and then Leon strikes his Charizard pose before picking up the Pokeball. Sonia grins at him as we walks back over.

                “Congrats! You got one!” She beams, and he wraps her up in a hug she was not expecting, “Oh!”

                “Thank you,” he says quietly before letting her go. “I couldn’t have done this without your help.” They both share a sad look, the hug a reminder of what never worked out, before Leon gestures. “Come on, we were lucky enough to find one, and there’s still daylight left. You up for hunting for more?”

                Sonia smiles softly, “Of course!”

----------------------------------------------------------

                Leon knocks on the hotel room door, double checking the number before doing so. He’s been looking for this room for about half an hour, and wandering around Motostoke for another hour before that. He’s sure Raihan is getting impatient. He’d got to Motostoke hours ago, and after meeting with Rose to go over some plans for Opening Ceremonies, he’d finally been released to go hunt down his boyfriend.

                Sure enough, the door flies open immediately, and Leon is bodily pulled into the room, and into a deep hug. Leon quickly returns the hug, hearing the door swing shut behind him. He buries his head into Raihan’s shoulder and sighs deeply.

                “I missed you,” Raihan whispers after a moment, running his long fingers through Leon’s thick hair.

                “I can tell,” Leon tilts his head to gain access to Raihan’s neck, and plants a kiss against his pulse. “I missed you too.” He whispers when he feels Raihan shiver against him.

                Raihan moans when Leon sucks against his pulse point, and Leon grins when he gets the reaction he wants out of his partner. Not to be outdone, Raihan leans down to sweep Leon off his feet, literally, to carry him to the bed. Leon grunts as he crashes into Raihan’s arms, only to be tossed to the bed as Raihan climbs on top of him.

                “I see, we’re skipping right to the main course, eh?” Leon taunts from his back before Raihan claims his mouth in a searing kiss. Tongues dance as clothes begin flying off, only pulling away from each other to pull their shirts off. Clothes are tossed wherever, both men too engrossed in each other to care particularly about the mess.

                Once fully naked, Leon takes advantage of Raihan’s momentarily distracted state. Leon knows what he does to Raihan, it isn’t like he’s unaffected by Raihan himself, but he has a mission. There’s always a fight for dominance between the two of them when they get passionate like this, and Leon’s not about to let himself lose this early on.

                Leon uses his legs to trap Raihan’s between them, and pushes on Raihan’s left shoulder to topple him. Leon quickly uses his superior strength to flip himself on top of the dragon tamer.

                “Playing dirty already, huh? Two can play this,” Raihan gives Leon a shit eating grin before slipping himself off the bed between Leon’s legs. He grabs Leon’s hips on the way down, and licks a strip up Leon’s half hard cock. Leon moans deliciously, and Raihan flips Leon when he climbs out from under Leon while he’s distracted.

                “Oof, fuck,” Leon grunts as he flips back onto his back. He sits up and meets Raihan in another passionate kiss, but he resists Raihan trying to push him back onto the bed. When Raihan tries to climb onto the bed to use more of his weight in the struggle to get Leon on his back, Leon flips him right over his shoulders, and Raihan lands in the pile of pillows at the head of the bed.

                Now completely vulnerable like this, Leon quickly leaps on top of his prey, pinning Raihan to the mountain of pillows. Raihan struggles briefly before realizing he’s properly pinned this time. “Damn, and I was-” Leon cuts Raihan off with his mouth as he shoves his tongue into Raihan’s mouth.

                They make out while shifting into a more comfortable position. Raihan stops struggling, and lets Leon have his victory. He lays back while Leon’s mouth begins making its way down Raihan’s body. He leaves trails of kisses down Raihan’s neck, his collar bones, paying special attention to his nipples as Raihan’s chest arches into Leon’s touch.

                Leon continues his way down Raihan’s body, avoiding the hard cock and instead opting to kiss down Raihan’s hip, to his thighs, leaving teasing nips as Raihan groans. “You’re such a fucking tease,” he complains breathlessly, hands coming to tangle into Leon’s hair. He tries to pull Leon towards his painfully hard cock, but Leon ignores his tugs.

                A finger pokes at his entrance at the same time Leon finally licks up Raihan’s cock. He’s not sure when Leon got the lube out, but at this point in their relationship he knows better than to ask. Leon has his tricks he won’t share, both on the battle field and off. The finger enters him just as Leon takes Raihan’s cock into his mouth. Raihan moans loudly, throwing an arm over his face as he tightens his grip on Leon’s hair with the other.

                Leon skillfully takes Raihan’s massive cock down. He’s not able to swallow all of it, but he does a rather impressive job. Raihan would never complain regardless, Leon’s skill alone with his tongue would forgive him if he could not also swallow like a god. Raihan knows he won’t last long like this, so he’s glad Leon is preparing him quickly. He feels a second finger enter him and he groans at the feeling.

                There’s quickly a third as Leon begins bobbing on his cock, and Raihan has to give Leon’s hair a warning tug to get him to stop before he cums. Leon pulls off him with a pop, saliva and precum mixing and leaving a trail between Leon’s lips and Raihan’s cock.

                Leon fingers Raihan a bit more, before Raihan is writhing. “Ready, fuck, fill me already,” Raihan begs, and Leon’s fingers disappear from his ass. He’s only momentarily disappointed at being empty before Leon’s cock is lining up with his entrance.

                Leon climbs up over top of Raihan and plants a gentle kiss over his lips. Raihan wants to roll his eyes, Leon gets so sappy in bed, but he wouldn’t dare because he knows it would hurt Leon’s feelings. Instead, he kisses back just as softly, wrapping his arms around Leon and running his hands down Leon’s back.

                “I love you,” Leon whispers with that look in his molten gold eyes that makes Raihan’s body go to jelly and his heart race.

                “I love you too,” Raihan answers, and then Leon is pushing in. Raihan groans as he’s filled with Leon. The man is on the bigger side, but Raihan is well used to Leon’s size by this point. It isn’t hard to take him.

                Leon moans sinfully as he bottoms out inside Raihan. “Let me know when,” he grunts as he lays some of his weight into Raihan. Raihan takes only a moment to adjust.

                “Go,” he urges with a light smack to Leon’s ass. Leon lets out a gasp at the contact, and then grins wickedly. Go he does, he begins a rough pace that has Raihan crying out and grasping at the headboard for some stability.

                Neither of them last long. They’re both too worked up, it’s been a few weeks since they’ve seen each other. Raihan cums first, moaning deeply as his cum lands on his and Leon’s stomachs. Leon is only a few thrusts behind, groaning into Raihan’s neck as he empties his load deep inside Raihan.

                Both men lay there for a while, enjoying the afterglow, and too tired to move. Eventually, Leon becomes too heavy for Raihan, and he has to shove at the younger man to get him off. “Come on, let’s get cleaned up,” Raihan prompts with a shove at Leon’s shoulder.

                Leon rolls over and off the bed, turning to offer Raihan help up. He doesn’t really need it, but Raihan takes Leon’s hand anyways. The two men have another round in the shower, before finally getting tired enough to actually settle down.

                They’re cuddled on the bed, music playing softly from Raihan’s phone. Leon thinks it’s some of Piers’ stuff, but he doesn’t bother asking. He sits with his head on Raihan’s shoulder, his arms wrapped protectively around Raihan’s middle. Raihan has one hand tangled in Leon’s hair, and another trailing absentmindedly up and down Leon’s thigh.

                “So how’s your little project from another world going?” Raihan speaks after a while, and Leon has to blink and ask Raihan to repeat himself, as he was dozing off.

                “Oh, she’s good. She’s got some real talent as a trainer, I can see her going far. You know that little trick Red can do?” Raihan nods in confirmation, “she can do it too. She stands there silently, and her Pokémon battle without vocal or somatic commands.”

                Raihan whistles in appreciation. “Haven’t you always wanted to fight a trainer like that?” Leon nods, and Raihan continues. “Sounds like someone I’d enjoy battling too. With you boasting like that, she better make it to my Gym.” Raihan looks off into the distance as he pictures a battle with someone who you can’t tell what they’re doing, or what their strategy is. They give nothing away, the ultimate opponent.

                “I’m sure she will. I can’t see what could possibly stop her from completing the Gym Challenge.” Leon agrees, closing his eyes and snuggling further into Raihan. The larger man chuckles, and shifts the two into a more comfortable position, pulling the blankets up around them.

                It’s already past midnight by the time they fall asleep. They don’t get much sleep, either, as Leon’s phone goes off a few hours later. Leon doesn’t stop to explain to Raihan as he throws on a pair of sweat pants, grabs Charizard’s Pokeball, and dashes out of the room.

----------------------------------------------------------

                “Rose is pissed,” Raihan speaks as soon as the line connects.

                “I am well fuckin’ aware, Raihan,” Piers sounds rough, his voice is hoarse.

                “You got the lurgy?” Raihan is immediately concerned at the sound of Piers’ voice.

                “Uh,” is the affirmation Raihan gets. “Everythin’ fuckin’ hurts. And Rose already called about my absence at Openin’ Ceremonies. I’m to be at Rose Tower tomorrow or else. Rai, he threatened Marnie.” Piers sobs, and Raihan has to take a moment to go back over that.

                “What? What do you mean, what did he say?” Raihan is worried, Piers sounds scared.

                “He said… He’ll do it to her too…” Piers speaks softly, the mic on his phone barely catching it.

                Raihan gasps, “Fuck. Fuck, Piers, none of us will let that happen, ok? We’ll all keep an eye on her. And she’s got Team Yell here, too.” Raihan runs a hand through his dreadlocks, cold dread seeping up his spine.

                “Thanks, mate. Lookin’ forward to tomorrow,” Piers throws out sarcastically, and Raihan grimaces.

                “Did he say…?” Raihan doesn’t want to ask, doesn’t even want to know, but if Piers needs someone to talk to, he long ago promised his oldest friend that he would always be there for him.

                Piers laughs bitterly. “He doesn’t have to. I know what he’s implyin’ by threatenin’ Marnie. It’s gonna be a right fuckin’ party for me, mate,” Piers’ sarcasm ends in a fit of coughs, and Raihan sighs deeply.

                He already knows there’s nothing he can do. He’s tried. It only got him in the same shit as Piers. That same shit went so much deeper than he thought, and the fear of what could happen to him if he ever spoke up against Rose was enough to keep his mouth shut. It wouldn’t be only him who would be punished, after all.

                Raihan swallows thickly. “Want me to come pick you up when it’s over?” He always offers, as awful as it is to see Piers like that, he wants to help.

                “Please.” Piers’ single word is enough of a knife through his heart that it brings tears to his eyes.

                “I wish there was more I could do.” Raihan sighs, planting his face into his hand.

                “I got myself in this mess, this is my own fault.” Piers croaks back, and Raihan balks.

                “No, no it’s fucking not, Piers. You never asked for this.” Raihan hates it when he blames himself.

                “I’m the one who stepped up. I’m the one who put a target on my back. Fuck, Spikemuth needed it, needs it still, and I was the one who stepped up to play the bloody game.” Piers sounds bitter, ending in another fit of coughs.

                “That doesn’t make it your fault! You’re trying to make the entire fucking League a better place for everyone, especially for those who are forced to move to Spikemuth. You’re doing something important, dammit Piers, it’s not your fault!” Raihan and Piers get into this argument a lot, but Raihan knows he’ll never stop trying to convince Piers of his wrongfully placed guilt.

                “But I stepped up. I asked for this by steppin’ up.” There’s some shuffling on Piers’ end while he does something, but Raihan isn’t sure what he’s doing.

                “No, you never would have had to step up if Rose wasn’t an arse. This is Rose’s fault, not yours.” Raihan tries, pinching the bridge of his nose.

                “Hmmm,” is the only thing Raihan gets in response.

                “Just… I’ll see you tomorrow night, ok?” Raihan decides dropping the argument is the best for now, it’s not going anywhere else tonight.

                “More like mornin’ after, knowin’ Rose…” Piers mutters, and Raihan groans.

                “I love you. I’m sorry.” Raihan says into the line, and waits for a reply, but it never comes. “Piers?”

                “You too,” is all he says, and he sounds so defeated that Raihan doesn’t push the issue. The line goes dead after that, and Raihan sighs, sinking down into the bench. He’s glad he’s alone, he needs a few moments to go over everything that just happened.

Chapter Text

                You feel much better when you wake up. Your leg still hurts, but the pain meds you take with breakfast make quick work of the pain. It’s hard to walk normally though, but you try to avoid limping as much as you can, you remember what the first doctor had told you about that.

                The doctor recommends against doing the Gym today, but does mention that if you’re careful it should be ok. He knows how much you want to do this. You’re not letting your leg stop you today. Hop is beyond thrilled, if not a tad concerned about you, but he can’t wait to finally get a badge.

                “We’ve been training so hard, we’re sure to each beat it on our first try!” Hop exclaims while you’re signing up. Despite being here early, your position is still not the first on the list. There are still lots of Challengers making attempts to beat Milo. All these Trainers were pretty easily beaten by you and Hop, so there being so many of them stuck isn’t really the best indicator of how hard it is to beat Milo.

                “I sure hope so. I don’t want to be stuck here longer!” You complain as Hop finishes getting you both time slots and starts heading to the change room.

                “Me neither. I’m ready to move on with the tale of my legend! There’s still more pages to fill!” Hop is, of course, talking about the notebook he picked up back in Motostoke. He’d gotten you one as well, and the goal had been to keep track of your adventure, or legend as Hop put it. You’d been filling yours out too, more with information about your Pokémon and battling than what you actually did during the day. Hop seems to have that more than covered with his.

                After getting ready, you and Hop mill about the lobby until it’s your turn. Hop is going first, so you head up to the stands to watch him. “Good luck,” you wrap him in a hug and whisper in his ear before leaving.

                You’re able to get a good seat right in the middle. There’s a few spots reserved for those cheering on the Challenger fighting Milo, so you and your Pokémon are able to make use of it as Hop’s only cheerleaders.

                Or so you thought. Sonia’s there already when you get up there, and she smiles at you when you sit next to her. “How did you know we were having matches?” You ask her after saying hello.

                “Hop texted me. I wanted to come and cheer for you both, I know you’re been waiting a long time for this.” She replies with a sad look in her eyes. You offer a small smile and nod.

                “I hope it goes well. I’m glad Hop is going first so I can see what to expect.” You look out to the pitch, and Sonia nods at you.

                “A solid idea, really. I’m confident you’re both going to win today.” Sonia flashes you a blinding smile when you look back at her, and the two of you continue chatting idly until the announcer comes on to introduce Hop.

                “And now, facing our dear Milo, is number 189, Hop!” Her voice blasts out the speakers, drawing yours and Sonia’s attention back to the pitch. There on the opposite side, you see Hop come out of the entrance. He looks determined as he marches confidently across the pitch. You, Sonia, and Raboot all wave to him, and he shoots you all a large grin before looking ahead of him again.

                Hop and Milo reach the center of the pitch at the same time. Milo’s voice comes through over the speakers as his mic picks up his voice. “About time one of the Champion-endorsed trainers made it here! I’ve been looking forward to battling with you, Hop. Especially after you set a new record yesterday in the Gym Mission! I’m sure you’re going to impress me today.” Milo’s voice is kind, and he smiles gently as he speaks. You can see his face blown up on the big screens at the ends of the pitch.

                “You bet! I’m going to win and get my first badge!” You’re glad Hop stops himself there, as he’s got a mic too. If he kept going on like he normally does, he likely would have said something embarrassing that would get broadcasted all over the region.

                They both turn and walk to the edges of the large Pokeball symbol in the middle of the pitch. You’re taking note of this for when you go to do your battle. Some music begins playing over the speakers, and you have to admit it’s a bit of a banger. Milo and Hop both toss out their first Pokémon.

                Milo sends out a Gossifleur, and Hop sends out his Thwackey. You don’t immediately recognize what Pokémon Milo sends out, but Sonia helpfully informs you. You can hear the commands they issue their Pokémon over the speakers, so you’re able to follow along with the battle easily. Hop starts off with Thwackey charging in to hit Gossifleur with that new move he’d just learned, Double Hit. The two hits knock Gossifleur back a bit, but he retaliates with Rapid Spin.

                They’re pretty even on exchanging blow for blow. Hop instructs Thwackey to use Work Up to get stronger when Gossifleur uses Sweet Scent to lower his evasiveness. Milo instructs his Pokémon to use Sing, but it fails to cause Thwackey to fall asleep. This leaves Gossifleur open, and Hop has Thwackey run in and try to take him out. Gossifleur hangs in there by just a bit, however.

                Thwackey closes in to finish his opponent off, when Gossifleur uses Round. The wide attack is too hard for Thwackey to dodge, especially so close, so the hit knocks him over. He gets back up, but he’s not looking good. Both Pokémon are likely a single hit away from fainting. Luckily, Thwackey gets in close before Gossifleur can retaliate, and knocks him out.

                You and Sonia cheer loudly at Hop’s success. He looks over at you two and grins brightly before turning back to the battle. You’ve been mostly paying attention to the battle, but you get a good look at him now with the pause. He looks really good out there. He has a confidence in battle, and this determined set of his brows, that make him look really cool. You realize he looks a lot like his brother when the cameras capture his face and you see it up on the big screens.

                Milo has recalled Gossifleur, and turns to face Hop. “You’re as much of a challenge as I thought you’d be! But we’re not done yet!” He tosses out his next Pokémon, another one you don’t know. Sonia explains this one is Eldegoss.

                Eldegoss launches into a Razor Leaf attack before Hop can direct Thwackey, and Thwackey goes down when he’s unable to dodge in time. Hop pulls a face before recalling his Pokémon. “We’re just getting warmed up! I’m not about to lose!” Hop shouts as he launches his next Pokeball out.

                Rookidee emerges, a good choice. At this, Milo recalls his Eldegoss and taps at his Dynamax band. As the ball begins to grow in size, Hop recalls Rookidee to do the same thing. Milo launches the large ball behind him easily with one hand, despite how heavy it looks. Hop has a bit harder time slinging it over his shoulders, but he manages.

                This is the first time you’ve seen a Dynamaxed Pokémon. They’re positively massive and you have to look way up to see the top of Rookidee. Eldegoss is equally massive on the other side of the field. You see Hop and Milo both run to the side of the pitch to get out of the way of the massive attacks their Pokémon were about to unleash. The crowd begins to chant and cheer in a sing-song sort of way, and it makes this whole thing feel even more exciting.

                Eldegoss goes first, as he was ready first, and launches a powerful blast Milo calls Max Strike. Rookidee recoils from the attack, but recovers. Hop shouts “Max Airstream!” And Rookidee launches a powerful vortex of air at Eldegoss. The hit seems to really hurt him, as he cries out. Milo has him use that powerful blow from before once more, and Rookidee looks like he’s barely hanging in there now.

                One more use of Max Airstream has Eldegoss exploding as the Dynamax effect comes to a forced conclusion. Sonia explains it that way, anyways, you’re not really sure what’s happening. When you expressed worry over the exploding Pokémon, Sonia had offered up explanations.

                “I forgot you haven’t Dynamaxed any of your Pokémon yet, you haven’t learned much about it. Are you planning on Dynamaxing today?” You nod in answer to Sonia’s question, but your attention is on the pitch.

                “Gym Leader Milo is out of useable Pokémon, Challenger Hop is the winner!” The announcer from earlier declares after Milo recalls his fainted Eldegoss. You jump up and cheer, despite your better judgement, and your leg instantly protests with a jolt of pain.

                Hop looks over to you momentarily, giving you a thumbs up, before recalling Rookidee once he’s shrank back down. He walks back towards the center of the pitch after that, meeting Milo in the middle.

                “The power of grass has wilted… What an incredible Gym Challenger! That battle had me on my toes the whole time! Now I see why the Champion endorsed you. I hope to see you keep winning right to the finals, Hop!” Milo’s kind words only serve to split Hop’s face wider with his grin.

                “I won’t just win to the finals, I’m winning right up to my brother! Then I’m going to win against him too!” Hop brags, and Milo chuckles lightly.

                “Here, as proof you defeated me today,” Milo reaches into his pocket and pulls something out. Hop sticks out his hand, and Milo drops whatever it was into it. “The Grass Badge! Congratulations on obtaining your first Badge.” Hop clutches it tightly to his chest, grin still splitting his face.

                They both shake hands, and then turn and walk off the pitch. The announcer tells everyone there’s a 15 minute break before the next match, and you realize you have to get down there, because the next match is yours. Sonia wishes you good luck with a pat on the back before you go.

                “Oh wait!” Sonia calls out before you’re totally gone. “Go speak to Milo before your match and let him know you’ve never Dynamaxed before!” You nod in understanding before leaving. You’re not sure where to find Milo, but when you tell a League Staff what Sonia said, she’s able to point you in the right direction.

                She allows you to take your walker back with you, “just as long as you don’t take it on the pitch!” As she holds opens the door for you. You’re thankful not all League Staff are ableist assholes, and you’re going to remember this going forward and demand this from every Stadium. Well, every Stadium you’ll still need the walker at. You’re hoping won’t be needed for much longer.

                You run into Hop in the hallway. “Hop! Congrats on your victory! I knew you could do it!” You gush, and Hop beams at you.

                He wraps you in a tight hug that you quickly return. “Mate! That was incredible! Wow, I can’t wait for the next one! There’s really nothing like battling on the pitch like that!” Hop’s voice is loud ordinarily, but right next to your ear like this it borders on painful. You don’t dare tell him to quiet down though, he deserves this excitement.

                “I’m so happy for you! You looked so cool out there!” It’s easy to say more embarrassing things like this when you don’t have to see his face, and you know he can’t see your blush. You can feel it, the blush climbing your cheeks and reaching for the tips of your ears.

                “R-really?” Hop stutters, and you nod exaggeratedly enough in the hug that Hop can tell you’re nodding. “Ah, uh, well of course I am! The next Champion has to look cool in his battles!”

                You snort at Hop’s usual antics, and he flicks your back in retaliation. It doesn’t hurt, but you say ow anyways. You can feel Hop roll his eyes at you, likely because he’s doing it exaggeratedly enough for you to catch in the hug.

                “I have to go find Milo before my battle,” you say after a moment. You don’t really want to let go, but Hop begins unwinding his arms from you.

                “Good luck, mate. If I could do it? You’ll have no trouble with a Fire-type and a Flying-type! And you always beat me. This will be cake for you!” You nod at his confidence. You sure hope it will be, you are really thankful for the great type coverage you have for this Gym.

                Hop gives you one more quick squeeze before letting you go completely. “You better be out there cheering for me!” You declare, and Hop nods. He waves before dashing off back the way you came. You start heading down the way he came from, looking for Milo.

                Milo is exactly where the League Staff said he would be, in a small prep room. There’s no door or anything, so you call out before walking in, in case you’re disturbing Milo.

                “Hmm? Ah, Kieran. Brilliant, I was hoping to speak with you before our match.” Milo turns to face you with a smile. He gestures for you to sit on the bench along the wall, and you’re thankful.

                “What did you want to speak to me about?” You ask as you take a seat. He sits down a comfortable distance away from you, and takes a sip from a water bottle.

                “It’s about your leg. I don’t want to push you too hard out there and injure you. Now, I’m not going to take it easy on you by any means, but I do want to know what I can do to adjust my strategy to keep you from getting injured. At least, I’d like to reduce the chance of it.” Milo explains, and you’re taken aback. After how he was about the Mission, you’re surprised he’s willing to make concessions for you in battle.

                “Uh, well, I’m not really supposed to be running on it, or jumping, or anything really strenuous like that.” You offer. “But… You wouldn’t let me use my walker for the Mission. Why do this now?” Your curiosity gets the better of you and you have to ask.

                “I feel bad, I personally would have been fine with it. The rules are rules, though, and I have to enforce them. And I feel awful that resulted in you getting injured. Battle… There’s more ways I can bend the rules. I can’t let you use your walker out there, but I can at least keep you from needing to run around too much.” Milo gazes out across the room as he speaks.

                “I do have to use Dynamax, that is a requirement of the Gym Challenge, so you will have to get out of the way for that. I won’t attack until you’re out of the way, but I will call a foul if you take advantage of that.” Milo warns, and you nod.

                “Thank you. I appreciate that. Oh, speaking of Dynamax, Sonia told me to tell you that I’ve never Dynamaxed before.” You look over at Milo, and he looks a bit shocked.

                “Really? No matter, I can explain the key points. When there’s Dynamax Pokémon on the pitch, you want to stay to the side to stay out of the way of those attacks. Getting hit by one of those could cause serious injury, they’re very strong. Your Dynamax band has enough energy in it to power uour Pokemon for three strong moves before it’ll run dry. Your pokemon returns to normal after that, or if enough time has gone by. I believe it can last for five minutes without using any moves. You’ll have to ask Sonia to be sure.” You nod along to Milo’s explanation.

                “Oh, and when you’re tossing your Pokeball after it’s been Dynamaxed, make sure you toss it high enough in the air. If it doesn’t go high enough, the Dynamax effect will just fail. I don’t really know why, you could probably ask Sonia for the specifics of why that happens.” You’ll have to remember to ask her about it later.

                “Thank you, Milo. I appreciate all of this.” You express with a smile, and Milo scratches the back of his head.

                “As long as you can beat me with your skills as a trainer, that’s what I’m here to test. I can’t promise any other Gym Leaders will be as lenient. In fact, I’d be more inclined to say they may even be harder on you for it. I’ll let them decide how they want to handle that, but I just care about your battle skills.” Milo’s words make you frown, you don’t like the sound of that.

                “Good to know…” You murmur. Milo looks at you sympathetically.

                “Milo, here are your Pokémon, healed up and ready to go!” A young woman in a Gym Trainer outfit comes in with two Pokeballs in her hands. She hands them to Milo, and he thanks her.

                “You should go get ready for our battle now. Not much longer now, and it’s a bit of a walk to the other side of the pitch.” You thank Milo for his kind warning, and you make your way over to your entrance to the pitch.

                You’re left with a new impression of the shorter Gym Leader. He seems very kind, you’re grateful for his considerations. You’ll have to mention this to Hop after, it’ll make him happy to hear. You reach your side of the pitch by following the signs along the hallway, and wait just inside the entrance.

                A League Staff comes up to you and clips a mic around your ear. He has you speak to test it, and listen to make sure you can hear through the earpiece, and once everything seems good, he leaves. Of course, not without mentioning the walker, and you have to tell him you got permission. He doesn’t push it, but it doesn’t look like he believes you. It doesn’t matter to you, if he checks with anyone he’ll only find out you told him the truth.

                Speaking of your walker, you’re going to have to leave it behind for the pitch. You take a test step away from it, grimacing in pain when you have to immediately take your weight off it. This is going to be a real awkward limp out to the pitch. You grit your teeth, it’s not like you have a choice. You touch the Pokeballs in your pocket, you’re doing this for them. And for Hop.

                And for yourself. Haven’t you always wanted to prove what you can do? You wanted this opportunity so much before. People will stare, and make comments, and judge. You take a deep breath. You can handle that. You can handle this. You can do this.

                Another step. It hurts just as much as the first. But you can do this. You’re determined. This is not where you are letting your story end. Another step. It’s getting easier now. You’ve got a rhythm.

                You hear the announcer call out your name and number, and you begin hobbling out into the light. For a moment, you’re caught off guard. It’s bright, and loud, there’s so much cheering. Your heart pounds in your chest at the excitement, as well as the nervousness.

                Across the pitch you can spot Hop and Sonia in the stands, waving wilding at you. You smile, straighten your back, and begin limping out to the center of the pitch with as much confidence as you can muster. If people are going to say anything, you’re not going to let it look like it affects you.

                Milo smiles patiently at you while he waits for you at the middle of the pitch. You come to a stop in front of him, and he nods at you. “You made it out here! I’m glad, I’ve heard rumours you haven’t lost a battle yet. I’m excited to fight someone like that!” He winks at you as he speaks. You wonder where he heard that from.

                “Uh, that’s right, I haven’t lost yet. And I’m not about to start here, either.” You speak up, remembering you have a mic on. You remind yourself not to say anything embarrassing.

                “You know, my Gym’s the first one people face, so we get a lot of Challengers. That’s why I try to keep the Gym Mission challenging, but… That sure didn’t stop you! With one second left, at that! Proper job! I’m impressed at the spirit and determination you and your Pokémon show. I’m sure this will be another doozy of a battle for me!” Milo brings up your Gym Mission too, and you bite your lip as it’s now forever public knowledge that you did so poorly. Hopefully this battle goes better than that.

                He nods to you then, and turns around to begin walking to the edge of the circle. You follow suit, getting to the edge of the large ring. The music starts again as Milo pulls out a Pokeball and tosses it into the ring. You grab Rookidee’s ball, and toss him out. Rookidee appears shortly after Gossifleur does, and Milo immediately instructs his Pokémon to attack.

                Gossifleur aims a Razor Leaf at Rookidee, who is unable to fully dodge it. Rookidee flies in with a Peck, knocking the Grass-type Pokémon back a ways as he swoops away. “Use Round!” Milo shouts, and Gossifleur uses the wide range attack. It knocks Rookidee out of the air, and he tumbles painfully along the ground briefly.

                He shakes it off and gets back up, as he knows a single good hit should take the Gossifleur down. Rookidee slams into Gossifleur, tumbling back with him briefly. Gossifleur tumbles to a stop, struggles briefly, before collapsing into the ground. Rookidee gets up and coos, and then begins glowing white.

                “Oh!” Milo gasps as he pulls out Gossifleur’s Pokeball. He returns his fainted Pokémon, and holds off on sending out another until your Pokémon has finished evolving.

                Rookidee’s shape changes and grows, until the white light dissipates, and you’re left with a beautiful, glittering, silver bird. He stretches his wings and caws, and tears fill your eyes at how overwhelmed you get with pride and joy. He’s beautiful, and going by the gasps and hoots from the crowd, you’re not the only one who thinks that.

                “I’ve never seen a Corvisquire like that! He sure is pretty!” Milo compliments, and your new Corvisquire caws appreciatively. “Are you ready to continue now?” You nod in affirmation, and Milo throws out his last Pokémon, Eldegoss.

                Milo taps at his Dynamax band in warning for you, and you nod. He then recalls his Eldegoss, and you turn to Corvisquire. Are you ready to try to Dynamax? You ask him, and he’s immediately for this idea. You recall him, and tap his Pokeball to your Dynamax band. Milo has already thrown his Eldegoss back out, and the crowd screams and begins their same chants and cheers from before.

                Corvisquire’s Pokeball is heavy when it’s so big, and the sudden weight of it almost knocks you over. You twist with it, remembering Milo’s words, and use the momentum to fling it as hard as you can up into the air behind you. It breaks open, and out pops a gigantic version of your Corvisquire.

                If you thought they were massive from the stands, standing in front of one is a totally different story. Not only that, but you can feel through him, and those massive feelings are strange to say the least. You can see him, massive as he is, but you can also see you, a tiny spec in front of Corvisquire. It’s momentarily disorienting.

                As he spreads his wings and caws loudly as he lands, you’re reminded you need to get the fuck out of the way before you get hit with something. You begin to hobble towards the side, seeing Milo already there. As he promised, he waits until you’re all the way out of the way before calling out an attack.

                So you do the polite thing and instruct Corvisquire after you’ve heard Milo give his orders. You remember the move Hop used, Max Airstream, and tell Corvisquire to use that one. Eldegoss’ attack hits first, but Corvisquire’s attack seems more devastating. Corvisquire is hurting though, it was still a powerful move, and he’d already been hurt previously in battle.

                Milo is instructing Eldegoss again, and you get Corvisquire to use the same move again. You just hope he hits first. Both Pokémon use their moves at the same time, and both moves hit at the same time. Two simultaneous explosions happen, and the feeling of the bond breaking over that hurts. You clutch your heart as your legs give out.

                “Gym Leader Milo is out of useable Pokémon, Challenger Kieran is the winner!” The announcer’s voice rings hollowly in your ears. You have to get up to recall Corvisquire, but you feel momentarily rooted to the ground. Milo walks over and offers you a hand.

                “You made it through the battle, I can offer help now.” Milo offers by way of explanation as you grab his hand with a raised eyebrow. He helps you into range to recall Corvisquire from. His large hand is warm on your back, and you’re thankful to be able to lean into him as you walk.

                Once you’ve both recalled your Pokémon, Milo turns to face you. Well, as much as he can while he’s also still supporting you. “That must have been a fulfilling battle for you! You made it through! It sure was something to watch you and your Pokémon battle together. You’re really on the same wavelength!” Milo’s congratulatory words are just as kind to you as he was to Hop.

                “Thank you, that was an incredible battle.” You weren’t lying. Hop hadn’t been lying. It was really something else to be fighting on the pitch, with the screaming of the crowd and the buzzing of the cameras as they fly by. It feels like such a spectacle. You just wish you looked the part better. Collapsing like that probably looked bad for you.

                “As sign of your victory today, here’s a Grass Badge of your very own. Congrats! This is just the first of many, I hope you’ll manage to get them all!” His words are kind, but you can’t help but notice the difference between what he says for you and what he said for Hop. He doesn’t think you’ll make it.

                Given your leg, he might be right.

                He shakes your hand, which is a little awkward when he’s still holding you up with his other arm, but you go along with it. He helps you off the pitch as well, and as the two of you head under the overhang of the entrance, you’re able to catch that there’s voices playing over his earpiece. He grimaces as he leads you over to your walker.

                “Apparently I’m in trouble for my little stunt,” Milo wraps his hand around the mic and pulls it away from his face as he speaks. “I don’t regret it, you look like you’re in a ton of pain.”

                You nod, you are. You can barely hold yourself up on the walker. Sure, you just had to mostly stand there, but the pain meds had worn off, and your leg was still hurting from yesterday. Your heart was still aching hollowly after Corvisquire had fainted too. It had felt so painful. You want to get your Pokémon healed up as soon as you can.

                Milo walks away after he gets you to your walker, obviously to deal with whatever he was in trouble with. You wonder who has the authority to decide a Gym Leader is in trouble. The Chairman? Wouldn’t surprise you.

                You can’t even hold yourself up against the walker. You collapse to the ground with a grunt, and sob silently into your hands.

Chapter Text

                It takes a long time for you to find the strength to move from the floor. By the time you’re starting to pull yourself up, Hop has already come to find you.

                “Mate! I was worried when you didn’t come out right away, are you ok?!” Hop is by your side as soon as he sees the state you’re in. You shake your head, and Hop silently helps you up to your feet. You’re barely even using the walker as you walk, Hop is mostly the one supporting you so you don’t have to put weight on your left leg.

                “I need to get Corvisquire healed,” you tell Hop as you slowly make your way into the lobby. As soon as you’re through the doors, you let Raboot out of his Pokeball. He grimaces at you and thumps the floor with his foot in agitation for being in the ball for so long.

                “And yourself! Look at you!” A high pitched female voice sounds from somewhere beside you, and you turn just in time to see Sonia walk up next to you and Hop.

                You try to smile at Sonia, but it comes out as more of a grimace. “When the Dynamax effect ended like that, it really hurt him. I want to get him to the Center as soon as possible,” you try to explain why you’re worried. You know you need medical attention, you can feel that.

                “And I’m taking you to the Center, mate, don’t worry.” Hop appeases, and you nod as Hop continues to help you. Sonia walks with the two of you, though she’s mostly on her phone texting. The walk is silent anyways – you don’t really have the energy to talk – and Hop isn’t sure what to say in this situation.

                A nurse takes the Pokeball containing your Corvisquire when you get to the Center, and another nurse leads you back to a room. This is becoming pretty routine to you now, but only Hop follows you into the room. Sonia stays out in the lobby, stating that she’d “just be a moment,” before joining you.

                You hadn’t even bothered to change out of your uniform this time, so your bag is still back at the Gym. Hop offers to go get both your stuff, as he hasn’t changed yet either, while the doctor looks you over.

                Peeling back your socks reveals bad news; you’re bleeding again. You hadn’t even been moving that much, so a wail escapes you despite your efforts to stop it. The doctor stitches you back up once more with a pinched face. He tests your range of movement with it once it’s bandaged again, and his frown only deepens when movements you used to be able to do now cause you extreme pain.

                “I’m afraid I have some bad news. You’ve caused further damage to the nerves, the chances of your leg healing properly have gone down considerably. There’s still a chance, but the only way I see that happening is if you quit the Gym Challenge and focus all your efforts on recovery.” The doctor’s words make you dizzy. Quit the Gym Challenge?

                Your mind reels as you go over his words. He’s basically given you two choices, continue the Gym Challenge and fuck your leg up forever, or quit for the year and focus on recovery. You concentrate on breathing deeply so you don’t begin to hyperventilate, but it’s hard. You’re spinning into an absolute panic, this is exactly what you had wanted to avoid.

                What will you tell Hop? You’re glad he’s not here, but also not, because now you have to find a way to tell him this news. How is he going to react to this? What will he say? It’s going to crush him, no doubt about it, because it’s crushing you. You take a shuddering breath as you feel yourself struggle under the weight of it.

                “Miss, I’m leaving now, but if you need anything, please use the call button there,” the doctor gestures to the button on the rail of your bed. “Your nurse is going to bring you some pain medication, try to get some rest for today.” He finishes, and you nod to him as he leaves. You’re now alone in the room with Raboot.

                He climbs up onto the bed and cuddles with you. You have a lot to think about. Your mind goes over and processes your fate until the nurse comes with your pain medication. It requires an IV, so she sets one up in your arm. You can guess by this action that this is something stronger, and that they’re going to be keeping you longer today. It doesn’t take long for the meds to take effect, and by the time Hop has returned, you’re in much less pain and also very woozy.

                You have indeed been given something more powerful than before. It could be whatever you’d been given back when you’d first been hospitalized with this injury, as you feel similarly to then. “How are you feeling, mate?” Hop’s voice sounds strained, and he won’t meet your eyes.

                “They gave me s’me pain meds” you slur. Your tongue feels too thick in your mouth, and you find you can’t sit up even if you want to. You try to lift your arms, and they feel incredibly heavy, but you’re able to do it. Hop grabs the hand that doesn’t have an IV in it, and holds it.

                “They drug you up again?” He says with a small smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes.

                You nod, sort of, but Hop gets the idea as his smile widens. “’M sorry for worr’in’ you,” it’s hard to speak.

                Hop’s face falls at your words. “Don’t apologize for that, mate. I… Did the doctor say anything about your leg?” You grimace at Hop’s words, even though you try not to.

                Hop still isn’t meeting your eyes though, and his voice still had that strained sound to it. You dodge his question by asking about that. “Why you actin’ funny?”

                “Ah, um, well… Sonia… I ran into her in the lobby. She seemed upset, so I asked her what was wrong. She told me Milo got in trouble for helping you out.” Hop scratched the back of his head as he struggled to get his words together.

                “Oh, tha’. Yeah, Mi’o tol’ me af’er our ba’le.” It’s only getting harder to speak, so you decide to give up at that point and let your head fall back and your eyes close. You’re feeling so tired.

                “Hey, mate, you doing ok?” Hop leans over you, you can tell because the light behind your eyelids dims. He’s still holding your hand, and his grip tightens.

                “Ugh,” is really all you can manage. Hop says something, but it sounds like you’re underwater, so you can’t understand him. You’re pretty sure you’re losing consciousness, and you hope Hop understands you’re ok.

                There’s sort of a blur of time, you hear voices you aren’t quite able to fully make out. You recognize Hop’s voice, then Sonia’s some time later, but not what they’re saying. Hop’s hand doesn’t let go of yours, however. Another female voice you don’t know, possibly your nurse, something brushing hair out of your face, something resting on your leg. Things begin blurring together, and then there’s darkness and silence.

                Something stands out to you, though. Something soft brushes against your forehead while it’s so dark and quiet.

                Hop is still holding your hand.

                You’re sure these things are important, but your drug addled brain can’t really make sense of why. You try to hang onto them for when you can think clearly.

                The next thing you know, you’re blinking awake to your dark room. There is a heavy weight across your stomach, and a hand is still holding yours. You look down to see Hop is asleep half on top of you, sitting in a chair next to your bed. His face is turned away from you, so all you can see is his mass of unruly spiky hair. You raise your free hand, slightly sore from the IV, and run it through his hair.

                You’re not really sure what tempts you to do the action, but he’s asleep, so he’ll never know, right? His hair is soft, and you find yourself trailing your fingers through it repeatedly, almost absentmindedly. It’s such a soothing action, and you feel it lull you. Eventually, it lulls you back to sleep again.

                Hop is still there when you wake up again, but he’s no longer sleeping on you. The lights are back on, and he’s sitting upright in his chair. He’s still holding your hand, though, and you give his a squeeze to let him know you’re awake. He looks up from his phone and grins at you when he meets your eyes.

                “How are you feeling today, mate?” Hop asks, his voice soft.

                You take a moment to assess. Your leg hurts, not as much as yesterday, but enough that you can tell the pain meds have worn off. You don’t feel as drugged up, either. What the doctor told you yesterday flashes back in your mind, and you resist grimacing at the thought.

                “Much better! I’m not in as much pain today.” It’s not a total lie, but a huge omission of the truth. So you’re basically lying to him, and it hurts. You’ve never lied to him about anything so far – you usually avoid it. You’ve got a horrible tell. A massive grin. In this instance, the grin that splits your face completely against your will only aids in selling the lie.

                “Glad to hear it, mate! Think you’ll be up for heading out to Hulbury today?” Hop asks, and you nod.

                “It’ll depend what the doctor says, though,” you remind him, and he nods.

                “Want me to go get us some breakfast? I’m starving! I’m sure our Pokémon are, too.” Hop’s words remind you about Corvisquire. You try to push yourself up to see if you can see him, but Raboot helpfully lets you know that he’s in his Pokeball, and that Hop has tucked it into your bag. You thank him through your bond, before turning to Hop.

                “Yes, I’d love breakfast. Could you let Corvisquire out before you go?” You ask, and Hop nods as he reaches into your bag and digs out his ball. He hands it to you, before turning to leave.

                He pauses before turning back to you, “I’ll be right back!” He says, and you wave awkwardly as he sort of hesitates to leave. He finally decides to, and you toss Corvisquire’s Pokeball out towards the empty space Hop had once inhabited.

                Corvisquire comes out with a yawn and a stretch of his wings. You smile as the bond between you two is re-established, and you’re relieved to feel he’s not in any pain. What happened in the battle? It felt like you were in a lot of pain when the Dynamax effect ended. You ask him over the bond.

                I don’t know. It hurt a lot. You frown at his response, but it doesn’t help you figure out what caused it to be so painful. I don’t want to do it again. That surprises you, but you nod. You would never force your Pokémon to do anything they don’t want to, so you won’t Dynamax him again if that’s what he wishes.

                The doctor opens the door and comes in then. “I saw your friend leave, he mentioned you were awake. I wanted to talk to you alone, if that’s alright.” He closes the door behind him, and you nod when he finishes talking.

                “About my leg?” You ask, and he nods at you.

                “I’d like to take a look at it and do some movement tests with you first, if that’s alright.” You let him do what he needs to, and it’s disappointing to learn your movement is just as restricted by pain as it was yesterday.

                He sits in the chair Hop was sitting in earlier. “Do you plan to stay here and work towards your recovery, or do you plan to continue the Gym Challenge? I can’t stop you from going, but I advise against it. You will permanently damage your leg if you continue.” You see now why he wanted to talk to you alone.

                You bite your lip. “I don’t want to wreck my leg, but the Gym Challenge is really important to me, to my Pokémon, and to my best friend, Hop. I can’t sit it out. I’m going to try, and I’m going to be as careful as I can so that I don’t ruin my leg.” You’ve made up your mind. You are doing this, and you are going to get to the finals.

                The doctor nods sadly, “I feared as much. If you waited until next year to do it, your leg would be healed. But if you do it now and ruin your leg, you’ve ruined your leg forever. You won’t be able to wait until next year for it to be better anymore.” He’s trying to talk you out of it, but you know Hop would drop out the moment you did.

                You shake your head. “I’m sorry, sir. I can’t do that.”

                “Then at least let me give you some tips so you can reduce the damage you do to it, as much as possible.” He proceeds to give you a list of tips, including how to travel and for how long, which roads you should take to Hulbury and then back to Motostoke, and how to walk to reduce the damage.

                Walking properly is not something that is going to happen in your future, now. “If you do this, you will have a permanent limp,” he warns. He gives you a brace to reduce how much you move it as well, which will only further cause the limp.

                “It’s fine. Physiotherapy can correct a limp later.” It’s not like you haven’t dealt with this before. You didn’t want to deal with it again, but doing the Gym Challenge is more important to you. Doing the Gym Challenge for Hop is even more important than that. Even if you can’t become the next Champion, you can help him get there.

                He shows you what exercises you should be doing for strength and stability. “I wish I could say this was the first Gym Challenger I’ve had who is too stubborn to stop, but the Gym Challenge really seems to draw in a certain type. I know I’m not going to talk you out of this, as much as I wish I could. Please take care, and remember to check in to the Center at Hulbury. They’ll be expecting you.” He disconnects your IV from your arm before wishing you farewell. He leaves just as Hop is coming in.

                “What did he have to say?” Hop asks as he sets a tray loaded up with food on the edge of the bed, by your feet.

                “That I’m free to go. Showed me what I should be doing while we’re travelling to make sure I don’t hurt myself.” The grin that splits your face against your will is back, and it must look strange, because Hop gives you a strange look.

                “That really it?” Oh no, he’s not on to you, is he? You nod, and try reaching for the food to distract him. “Oh, let me hand you that.” It works, he drops it to start doling out food. He lets his Pokémon out as well to feed them, and the two of you finish eating in the room. Hop helps you collect your things, and leaves while you change out of the hospital gown.

                It’s hard to walk. Really hard. You can’t hide the pain from your face, you can tell by the way Hop looks at you. He’s got that concerned look that makes him look like a wounded puppy. You hate that you’re the one making him feel this way, you’d rather he be smiling and telling stories.

                A nurse gives you more pain medication on your way out, and reminds you to check in at Hulbury’s Center again. Hop promises to get you there, and then he leaves you sitting at a bench while he goes and gets all the supplies the two of you will need for your trip to Hulbury. Hop comes back and packs everything into your bags, double checking you both have everything you’ll need.

                It’s while he’s going this that someone comes up to the two of you, claiming to be a reporter. She has a cameraman behind her and a microphone, so she likely is. You’re not really sure what to do, so you say ok as Hop shrugs to you.

                “You’re the Gym Challenger who Milo helped up, correct?” She asks, and you nod. “What was it like to be held in his arms? You have women all over the region dying to be you, how does that make you feel?” She talks so fast, you’re not sure when you’re supposed to answer.

                “Uh,” you stall when she tilts the mic to you. “I don’t know, I wasn’t really focused on that, to be honest.” You decide honestly is probably the best here.

                “Did you fall on purpose so he’d pick you up? Are you faking the injury for the attention?” Her words fill you with hurt. How could anyone think you’d fake this?

                Hop gets angry though, his eyebrows taking a dive down his face as he glares at the woman. “What?! Faking it?! No, she’s not faking it! I think that’s enough questions for now!” Hop gets between you and the woman protectively, and she seems to get the hint.

                “Well, thank you for your time!” She says as her and her cameraman walk away. Hop sighs and deflates, then turns to you.

                “What a load of crap, reporters are always the worst.” Hop groans. “Lee deals with stuff like this all the time, I don’t know how he remains so calm in front of the cameras every time. Guess I have to work on that if I want to be the next Champion.” Hop rubs the back of his head sheepishly.

                “I think you handled that fine. Thank you for defending me.” You reach out and squeeze his hand. He blushes darkly, and looks away.

                “Yeah, sure mate, no big,” he mutters, scratching the back of his head now.

                The two of you head off after lunch. Hop’s aware of your shorter limits on walking, so you’ve prepared accordingly. It’s going to take you both a few more days than it normally would to travel between Turffield and Hulbury, but Hop promises it’s worth it.

                “It’s a real scenic route, mate. There’s this massive bridge that crosses over the Wild Area, and on clear days you can see all the way to Hammerlocke from it. It’s really cool! Hammerlocke looks like this dragon sitting amongst the mountains from such a distance.” Hop gushes, “At least, that’s what Lee told me.” He finishes with a shrug and a grin, and you laugh.

                “Sounds amazing, Hop. I’m sure we’ll make a good time of it.” The two of you are going at a slower pace, you’re just hitting the outskirts of Turffield now. Hop is walking beside you, an arm tight around your waist to help you take some weight off your left leg. You appreciate his help – this would be a lot more painful without it.

                You’re also not about to complain about getting to spend so much time glued to Hop’s side. Even if it leaves a permanent blush across your face.

                Hop is good about letting you take breaks often. You spend a lot of time sitting on the edge of the route, letting your Pokémon play. The slower pace allows Hop to keep all three of his Pokémon out with yours, as he can keep a better eye on them.

                They’re getting better behaved, as well. They aren’t as tempted to wander off and get into mischief. They’re taking cues from your Pokémon, in addition to listening to you through your bond with them. Your bond may not be as strong with them as it is with your own Pokémon, but it’s still pretty strong. Certainly strong enough to help Hop keep control of his playful Pokémon.

                The two of you set up camp early, as you’re really not able to go very far. Your leg hurts like hell. Hop carries you on his back for a bit, but even he gets tired eventually. You two set up camp when he has to set you down. He refuses to let you help, and refuses to set up your tent, as well.

                “We can just both stay in mine, it’ll be way easier.” You don’t complain at his suggestion, you’re quite happy to stay in the same tent as him.

                You work on cooking with Raboot and Thwackey while Hop sets up the tent. You can’t take your pain meds on an empty stomach, and you really need to take more, so you’re eager to get food going.

                “I’m envious you can get them to help you like that,” Hop says as he takes a seat next to you when he’s done. “I wish I could just… Understand them like you can.” His voice doesn’t quite sound bitter or jealous, it’s close, but you’re not really sure how to classify his tone.

                You give him a soft smile, “Well, if there’s anything you ever wanted to know from them, I can tell you.” You offer, but you know that’s not what he’s talking about.

                He gives you a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “Thanks, mate.” Things fall into an awkward silence after that as the two of you and your Pokémon eat dinner.

                “Hey Hop,” you can’t stand the awkward silence any longer. “Tell me about some music you like. I haven’t really heard any music from here in Galar yet.” It’s the first thing that pops into your mind, music. Mostly because you miss it, you used to listen to music all the time. You miss your music.

                “Eh, I don’t really listen to a lot of music. Can’t really say I know much.” Hop shrugs, and you can only smile awkwardly. So much for your attempt at conversation. “I really liked that song you sang to me the other day. The one about being together forever.” Your smile turns genuine at Hop’s words; this is something you can talk about.

                “It’s literally called Together Forever, Hoppy. And I taught you that one.” He grins sheepishly. He’s talking about a song that, unfortunately, refuses to leave your head even years later. It’s from the Pokémon anime, and Hop had really liked it. You’re fond of it in the way only nostalgia makes you fond of things. It’s not a particularly good song, but it reminds you of home now.

                “Can you sing it again?” He asks, though he looks down at the ground as he does. You can see the way his ears turn red in the light of the dying sun.

                “Sure,” you reply, and begin singing. Hop sings with you, and his hand finds yours partway through the song.

                When it’s over, he turns to you. “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had, mate. I hope we can stay together forever, just like in that song.”

                The sentiment of it brings a massive grin to your face while simultaneously breaking your heart. “You’re my best friend too, Hop. I’d like to stay together forever too.” You squeeze his hand, but can’t quite meet his eyes. You mean what you say, you see him as your best friend now. You’ve spent so much time with him.

                But you have a massive crush on him. And if he only sees you as a friend, it means you’re doomed to live with your crush unrequited.

                “We’re going to finish the Gym Challenge together, and no matter who wins in the finals, we’re going to be best friends forever. Promise?” Hop sticks out his pinky finger towards you, and you’re glad they do pinky swears here too. You link your pinky with his.

                “Promise.” It brings relief to you, you’re glad to know that even if you win and crush his dream, he still wants to be your friend. You pull him into a hug, and he laughs.

                It’s comfortable, sitting with him like this, arms wrapped around each other. Your pain meds are kicking in; you feel drowsy as the sun sets. Silence settles in, but it isn’t awkward this time. The two of you sit there, in front of the fire, your Pokémon out playing with each other. Your head begins to feel heavy, so you let it fall onto Hop’s shoulder. Hop’s hand comes up and begins stroking through your hair.

                It lulls you right to sleep, and the only reason you know this is because when Hop picks you up to transfer you to the tent, it wakes you up. He clearly doesn’t mean to, he’s being careful and gentle, but his arm touches your injured leg in a way that hurts enough to wake you. You keep your eyes closed, though, letting Hop tuck you in.

                He hesitates above you for a moment, hand brushing your hair behind your ear. He absentmindedly continues to do the gesture even once your hair is behind your ear. He suddenly stops, and you can tell he leans in close, you feel his breath on your face. After a few moments, he carefully leans closer, and you feel his lips press gently against your forehead.

                He pulls away quickly, and you’re careful to control your breathing and continue to pretend to be asleep. It’s hard – your heart is now racing a mile a minute. What does this mean? Does he possibly have feelings for you? Why did he do that? You have so many questions, but you’re afraid that if you give away that you are awake, it would cause Hop to panic.

                Hop gets ready for bed after that, letting Raboot in when he’s ready for sleep. Raboot comes and curls up near you, and Hop lays down on your other side. He set your bedrolls up side-by-side again, and he throws an arm over you as he gets comfortable.

                As tired as you are, sleep is harder to find now. Hop seems to fall asleep quickly, as he’s soon snoring softly beside you. You have to take deep breaths and focus on sleep, and not on Hop, because he’s filling your mind and making it incredibly difficult to sleep.

Chapter Text

                Sleep does eventually find you, as you wake up to the feeling of Hop shifting around beside you. Sunlight is streaming in through the open tent door, and you can tell through your bond with your Pokémon that Raboot has gone outside to do his morning business. You stretch as you wake, Hop grinning at you as he rouses.

                “Morning, mate. How you feeling today?” You want to tell him how tired you are – you didn’t sleep much last night. But you don’t want him to think that he caused it.

                “I’m still tired, I woke up in the night at some point.” You decide that partially telling the truth is best, and when you meet his eyes you’re reminded of him kissing your forehead last night. The more you think about it, you remember something similar happening in the hospital too. How long has Hop been doing that? You don’t want him to stop, exactly, but you’d like to know why.

                “I’ll get breakfast going if you’d like to rest more,” Hop offers, and you rub his arm under the sleeping bag.

                “Thank you, Hop.” He moves to get up, and you roll over. You close your eyes and listen as he bumbles around the tent for a bit, getting ready for the day. You don’t really get more rest, but at least you’re slightly more awake when Hop comes to get you for breakfast.

                Hop packs everything up with the help of your Pokémon. You sit and watch, as Hop’s being pretty strict about you taking it easy as much as possible. At least your Pokémon can help out in your stead. You feel a little bad, but Hop doesn’t mind. He quite enjoys taking care of you.

                You travel similarly to yesterday – lots of breaks to sit when the pain becomes too much, with Hop occasionally carrying you on his back when he has the energy to. You can’t walk for very long, so you aren’t able to make that much distance during the day. Hop tells you repeatedly that he doesn’t mind the slow pace; that it’s nice to be able to walk with all his Pokémon out.

                You pass by a Pokémon nursery when the two of you are beginning to think about calling it a day. Hop points it out to you and stops to explain, “I don’t know very much about Pokémon breeding, it’s pretty complicated from what I do understand. Do you want to go inside and check it out?”

                “Sure, it sounds interesting.” Hop leads you through the doors. Inside a kind old woman explains a bit more about it to you. She takes you and Hop back to see a few baby Pokémon, and you coo at how cute they are.

                There’s a Toxel that’s ready to leave, however. “Oh she’s such a little handful, this one. So curious! It’s impossible to keep her in her enclosure. She’s ready to go home with someone though, I just need to find the right person for her.”

                The old woman lets you and Hop hold Toxel. The Pokémon doesn’t really want to stay in your arms, but she climbs all over Hop. She butts her head up against Hop’s cheek, and he jolts as she shocks him slightly, then breaks into a laugh. “She’s so cute!” He scratches under her chin and she trills happily.

                You can vaguely bond with her, so you’re able to feel that she’s already become quite attached to Hop. “Oh ho, seems she quite likes you, young man,” the woman says with a twinkle in her eyes. “Would you like to keep her?”

                Hop lights up at this and nods enthusiastically. “Yes! She’ll fit right in with my team – won’t you?” She makes a sound of affirmation, and Hop scratches her head. “I’ll introduce you to them!” Hop heads back to the lobby where you’d left all your Pokémon. You and the old woman follow behind him as he talks to her, telling her all about the legends they’re going to become.

                You can’t help but smile, Hop is always going on about his dream. You know you’ll do anything you can to help him realize it. Hop’s new Toxel gets along well with his other Pokémon, and they all play together.

                “Are there any good places to camp out around here? We were looking to set up camp soon,” Hop asks the old woman, and she shakes her head.

                “Nonsense, there are beds here. You kids can stay here tonight, if you’d like.” You both thank her for her kindness, and she shows you the room with the beds. It looks like a room at a children’s camp, with 4 sets of bunk beds. You wonder what the purpose of it is, but the woman leaves after she explains where everything is, so you don’t get a chance to ask her.

                You and Hop both claim bunk beds, and get your stuff set out for the night. You and Hop help the old woman make some dinner for all of you, and help her feed all the Pokémon living here. You’re finally able to ask her what the beds are for while helping out.

                “Oh, for people like the two of you. Trainers, volunteers, any staff that have to stay. When summer rolls around, we’ll be busier and have staff staying here again. Right now, breeding season has only started for a few Pokémon, so I can mostly manage on my own. My staff just come in for the day right now. I get a lot of help from Gym Challengers like you too.” She explains while you hand Raboot the bag of food as he jumps up into an enclosure to fill the food trays.

                She has other Pokémon helpers as well, so it isn’t only you and Hop helping. It’s mostly Hop and your Pokémon, though – you can’t stand long enough to be of any real assistance to anyone. You mostly hand people things while you sit.

                Eventually, all the chores are done, and the old woman wishes you a good night as she heads to bed. “It’s pretty cool that you can get room and board from so many places here, and often for free. Stuff like that doesn’t happen where I’m from.” You explain to Hop as the two of you get ready for bed.

                “Oh yeah? How do people get by when they’re travelling?” Hop asks.

                “Money. You save up a whole lot of money before you can do any travelling. You buy hotel rooms everywhere. And camping out on the road like what we’ve been doing? You’d be thrown in jail for that. It’s really different here,” you clarify, and Hop looks at you funny.

                “You know, from all the things I’ve heard you say about your home world, it sounds like hell.” You let out a bitter laugh at Hop’s words.

                “It is. That’s accurate. I don’t miss it. I miss my friends, my family, my pet…but not the world itself. If I’m stuck here forever, it’s really not that bad.” You look over at Hop as you sit on your bunk. He meets your eyes, sadness passing across his face for a moment, before nodding.

                “I can’t say I understand. I’d want to get back home no matter what if I wound up in a different world.” He packs his clothes from the day into his bag as he speaks.

                “I don’t blame you, I’d want to get back here too,” you reply quietly. If Hop hears you, he doesn’t continue the conversation. He comes and sits with you when he’s done getting ready for bed.

                “You just showed up here one day. What if you just…disappear one day too?” Hop asks sadly, looking down at the floor.

                “I don’t know, Hop. I hope that doesn’t happen. We’re supposed to be together forever, right?” You look at him, but he won’t look up to meet your eyes. He does nod, though.

                “Maybe I’d have to go to your world and find you,” Hop finally looks up with a small smile, and you smile back.

                “Hmm, you’d have a tough time of that. I’ve told you about how I had a different body in my world, right?” Hop nods at your words, so you continue. “I haven’t told you much more than that, though, have I?”

                “No, you mentioned you looked different, and that you were poorly, but that’s it.” Hop confirms, and you nod.

                “Well, I look nothing like this. I’m not even really a girl.” Hop’s jaw nearly hits the floor.

                “What?! What do you mean?!” His voice raises several octaves, and he looks thoroughly bewildered. His arms fly up and his eyes widen.

                “I mean, I’m a guy. Like you are. In the world without Pokémon, I am a man.” You clarify, but Hop doesn’t look any less confused.

                “Then why do you look like this?!” Hop asks incredulously, gesturing wildly to you, and you shrug.

                “If I knew, I’d tell you. You don’t think I was surprised to wake up with boobs?” You raise your eyebrows at Hop, and he looks like he doesn’t quite believe you.

                “That seems… I just can’t picture it, at all. What do you look like, then?” You launch into a basic description of yourself, and Hop nods, though he still doesn’t look like he believes you.

                “How can I make you believe me?” You ask with a smile and shake of your head, and he laughs.

                “I do believe you, mate. It just sounds…ridiculous, you know? I can’t believe you’re really a guy… Are you uncomfortable in that body at all?” Hop scratches his head and looks to you.

                “At first, yeah. I’m used to it now, though. I wouldn’t want to try to change my gender, that’s far too much of a hassle. I’m used to being a girl now. I don’t mind it. This world isn’t nearly as sexist as mine is.” You explain, and Hop sighs.

                “Your world sucks.” Is all Hop says to that. He gets up and goes back to his bed, wishing you good night. Things feel a little awkward, and you wonder if maybe you shouldn’t have told Hop about that. Sleep finds you quickly tonight, you’re incredibly tired after a long and busy day, as well as having little sleep last night. Raboot’s warm body in your arms helps you drift off into a peaceful sleep.

                The old woman makes you and Hop breakfast in the morning, and wishes you well when you leave to head to Hulbury once more. You’re both feeling well rested and ready to make some distance. “We should reach Tower Bridge, though I doubt we’ll have the time to cross it today. We might, guess it’ll depend when we get there.” Hop explains, and you nod.

                “Will we camp out near it if we don’t have the time to cross it?” It sounds like it’s a really long bridge, and you guess it must have to be to cross the Wild Area.

                Hop nods. “Yep, there’s plenty of space around it where we can set up a tent. You can’t set up a tent on the bridge, obviously.” Hop is correct, you two do reach the bridge today. The sun hasn’t hit its peak yet, so Hop suggests trying to cross it.

                Hop wasn’t kidding, it’s massive. It’s about as wide as a freeway, and it’s so high above the Wild Area below. You can make out the landscape below, and the Pokémon you see look like ants from this distance. There are some flying Pokémon closer in the air around the bridge that you can make out. The tall railing that comes up to your shoulders blocks you from tumbling over, and you’re thankful for it. It makes you feel safer.

                Raboot clings to your leg, he hates the height. He doesn’t want to go back in his ball to avoid it, though, he hates that more. Corvisquire thinks it’s cool, and he flies around, diving under and swooping over the bridge as he does tricks.

                “What a show off,” Hop comments, though his words are light. He’s got a smile on his face as he watches. His own Rookidee tries to match the tricks, but isn’t as capable as the larger bird is with her smaller wings.

                Hop is carrying Toxel, as she got tired after training while you and Hop were walking. Hop’s managed to teach her a few moves, but she’s got no battle experience yet. Raboot, always willing to help out, offered to be the training dummy for Toxel. He likes the extra practice, it helps him understand different Pokémon and how they fight better. He’s got a strategic brain, and he’s always looking for ways he can make small improvements to his battle tactics.

                “Hey mate, let’s have a battle!” Hop demands, turning to face you. You and Raboot are both immediately against this.

                “Absolutely not! Not on a bridge! Are you insane?!” You shout incredulously. “What if one of our Pokémon gets knocked off the bridge, then what? Don’t be a fool, Hop. We can have a battle once we’re on the other side.” You don’t like being so harsh with him, and Hop throws up one of his hands defensively.

                “Whoa, whoa, ok, bad idea, my bad.” Hop placates, and you shake your head.

                “Really, what were you thinking? Look at the gaps between the bars of the railing. Wooloo could roll right through those if he missed.” You look at him with a slight glare. You’re more disappointed in him than anything, and Hop’s face falls.

                “I really wasn’t, I hadn’t even thought of that. You’re right, it’s a bad idea. We’ll have a battle later.” Hop looks down, and he looks crestfallen. Silence falls over you two as you let Hop think about the implications of his suggestion. You do try to start conversation up a few more times, but Hop barely responds.

                “I’m not mad at you, you know. I’m just disappointed.” You state, and Hop looks up at you quickly.

                “You’re not?” You shake your head, and Hop looks more relieved. “I’m sorry, mate.” Hop sighs and looks up at the cloudy sky. “Guess I left my head up in the clouds again.”

                “That’s what I’m here for, isn’t it?” You tease lightly, and this brings a small smile back to Hop’s face.

                “Yeah. Thanks mate, you’re always looking out for me.” Hop offers, and you snort.

                “Me? You’re the one always helping me out, I should be thanking you!” You retort, and Hop laughs.

                “We’d be in right shambles without each other,” Hop gives you one of his larger grins, and you can’t help but grin back.

                “We really would,” you agree. “I need a break, can we sit for a bit?” Hop nods, and the two of you lean against the railing as you sit to the side of the bridge.

                Hop asks you more about your world, and you pass the time by sharing some of the stranger things from your world to give Hop a laugh. “I can’t believe you guys use cars so much. Your world is so strange.” Hop blurts out as he helps you to your feet.

                “Well, we don’t have Pokémon to ride around on like you guys!” You shoot back, and Hop laughs.

                “I thought you said you guys had animals? Can’t you use them?” Hop’s question is honest, but his voice is teasing.

                “Our animals aren’t nearly as smart as Pokémon! It’s really hard to train animals like that. Also we used to, but then cars just became easier. We used horses, they’re kinda like Ponyta or Rapidash.” You try to explain, and Hop just shrugs.

                “Why not walk? Or bike? You said you knew how to ride one,” Hop asks, and you nod.

                “We do, but a lot of my world is so spread out that most people just use cars.” Hop still looks confused, so you give up. “Nevermind, it’s dumb, you’re right. My world is very strange.”

                Hop frowns, “I didn’t mean to discourage you from explaining, I just don’t really get it.” You try explaining other things to him, but his opinion remains the same. Your world is strange to him.

                There comes a point where the two of you can see Hammerlocke off in the distance. Hop wasn’t kidding, the city really looks like a dragon crouched in the mountains off on the horizon. “Wow, that’s incredible! That’s really a city?” You ask Hop, leaning against the railing to get a better view, as well as some rest. Hop has a tight grip on your jacket, clearly worried about you going over.

                “The second biggest in Galar! Also the oldest. Lots of museums and history and culture stuff there. It all bores me, but the city looks really cool. The whole place is made out of that dark brick, it feels like the entire city is a castle.” Hop explains, and you nod along.

                “Are there any castles in Galar?” You ask, and Hop nods.

                “There’s the Wyndon Castle, there’s an actual castle in Hammerlocke, called Dragon Castle. Oh, and there’s ruins of a castle in the Wild Area, and there’s a small castle in Circhester too, I think. Those are the only ones I know about, though.” Hop gestures with his hands while talking.

                “Oh wow! Cool! I’ve never seen a castle before.” You venture, and Hop looks at you with wide eyes.

                “Really? Do they not have castles where you’re from or something?” Hop looks like he can’t believe that.

                “There’s castles, just not where I’m from in particular. I never saved up enough to do any travelling, so I’ve never gone to see any castles or anything cool.” You look out at the Wild Area as you speak, and sigh.

                “Lee’s taken me inside Wyndon Castle before. If you’re even in Wyndon, you’ll have to ask him to take you. As Champion, he’s allowed to go in. Or if you wait, I can take you when I become Champion.” Hop says it so confidently, you almost laugh.

                “Oh wow, cocky much? What if I become Champion and just take myself?” You tease him with a poke to his side, and he yelps but laughs regardless.

                “Don’t get lost if you go by yourself,” Hop teases back, and flicks your nose when you give him a face.

                After some more banter, you’re rested up enough to continue. The sun is beginning to set now, and you’re only half way across. Hop carries you on his back to make more distance, as neither of you want to be on the bridge when the sun goes down.

                The sun is hitting the tops of the trees when you’re finally across. Hop is dead exhausted from carrying you so much, and it’s mostly your Pokémon who set up the tent as Hop lays sprawled in the grass. With your direction, the group of six Pokémon are able to set up Hop’s tent for the two of you while you work on dinner for everyone.

                Hop only gets up when dinner is ready, and leans against you as he eats. “What, you’re so tired you can’t even sit up?” You throw an arm around him and rub his shoulder comfortingly. Your words are teasing, but you want him to know you’re fine with this.

                “You’re not that light, you know. Not after a while, anyways. I’m tired!” Hop wails, his head thumping down onto your shoulder.

                “Thank you,” you lean your head against his, and you can feel him smile against your shoulder. The two of you lay under the stars for a while once dinner is over. “The sky is so pretty here,” you murmur, and Hop agrees.

                “Not as pretty where you come from?” Hop prompts, and you shake your head.

                “No, not that. They are, but I’m from the city. You can’t really see the stars with all the lights from the city. I’d spend summer nights out on the farm under the stars like this, though.” Hop nods at your explanation.

                “Different stars, or the same ones?” Hop’s question confuses you.

                “I’m not sure, do you know any of the constellations here?” You ask Hop, and he shakes his head.

                “No, but we could probably find them online.” He takes out his phone and begins searching.

                You’re not surprised to find the answer to Hop’s question is a no. This world has entirely different constellations, of course. You don’t know enough about the stars where you’re from to recognize if any of the patterns are the same in the sky, so all you can really do is go by the constellations.

                You and Hop try to find constellations in the sky until you’re both falling asleep. You head into the tent then, sleep finding you quickly as you curl up with Hop and Raboot. Hop’s new Toxel also stays in the tent to sleep, but she keeps a distance away from the group of you.

                Hop wakes up before you; you only realize this because you wake up alone. Outside, Hop has made breakfast and is feeding all six Pokémon. You join him, and he smiles at you.

                “I let you sleep in. I slept in too, it’s later in the day already,” Hop gestures up to the sky, and you can see the sun has already almost reached its peak.

                “Wow, I must have needed it,” you muse, and Hop nods.

                “You’ve been doing a lot of walking. I know you’re pushing yourself so we can make it to Hulbury, but I don’t think we’ll reach it today. That’s ok, it was going to be a push to reach Hulbury today anyways. We can take it easier now.” Hop has already planned out your trip for the day, and he hands you a bowl of porridge.

                “That sounds great, actually. My leg is really hurting today.” Hop frowns at your words, before he begins dismantling the tent while you eat.

                “Still up for a battle, then?” He asks hesitantly, and you giggle.

                “I can battle from down here on my ass, so yes.” You tell him with a grin, and he sputters.

                “Did that really call for a swear…?” He mutters, and you let out a loud laugh.

                “Really, Hop. The fact that you don’t drop swears worries me. It’s normal!” You insist, and he shakes his head at you.

                “I think that’s just a thing from where you come from.” He argues, and you laugh.

                “I’ve heard Lee drop some f-bombs, it’s totally not.” You fight back, and Hop rolls his eyes at you.

                “Lee is a bad example, he’s a horrible potty mouth! He’s always so thankful to drop his Champion act that he swears so much!” Hop looks absolutely scandalized, and you laugh.

                You can absolutely picture this, you’d seen how Leon shifted when in public versus private. “How come you never swear, then?” You look over to Hop as he struggles with the tent.

                “Because it’s rude. You’re only supposed to swear when you can’t think of anything else to say. The situation has to call for it.” Hop expresses, and you want to roll your eyes,

                “Ok, mom,” you tease, and Hop glares at you.

                “Hey!” He shouts, and leans over to pick up a stick and toss it at you. It hits you right in the head, Hop has amazing aim after all, but it doesn’t really hurt. It’s pretty small, after all.

                You still pretend it does to panic Hop, only to burst out laughing when he rushes over all concerned. He swats at you playfully, then goes back to dismantling the tent. As soon as Hop’s put everything away, he’s got a Pokeball in his hands and a fire burning in his golden eyes.

                “You ready to lose your first match?” Hop grins at you, and you nod, calling Raboot and Corvisquire back over to you.

                “You’d have to actually beat me first, and we’re gonna kick your ass,” you grin from your seat on the ground, recalling your two Pokémon into their balls. Hop recalls all of his, and dashes a good distance off so you have enough room to battle.

                “Ready?” Hop calls, before expertly tossing the ball containing Wooloo into the middle of the space he’d created. You toss Raboot’s ball out next. If Raboot faints, you can just rest him beside you. You don’t have to recall him in an unofficial match like this.

                Wooloo rolls into action as soon as he’s on the field. Hop shouts out some orders for Wooloo, and he rolls towards Raboot. Raboot is faster, however, and hits Wooloo with a Flame Charge before Wooloo lands his Tackle. “Growl then Defence Curl!” Hop orders, and Wooloo growls endearingly at Raboot.

                The move causes Raboot’s Attack to be reduced by making him want to take it easier on the Pokémon, followed by Wooloo’s Defence to be raised by his next move. Go for Double Kick you tell Raboot, and he charges in. “Protect!” Hop shouts, but Raboot is faster. He kicks Wooloo back a ways, but Wooloo recovers. “Thunder Wave, then!” Hop changes strategy, and Wooloo obliges him.

                This leaves Raboot paralyzed, and he twinges as the Electric effect slows him down. You send him in for a Double Kick again, but Wooloo’s tackle hits first. Raboot is knocked over, but he recovers in time to land his kicks on Wooloo. This knocks Wooloo out of his protective ball, and he lands in a mass of limbs. While he struggles to right himself, Wooloo doesn’t have much Stamina left, Raboot runs over and a single kick is all it takes to finish him off.

                “Good try, Wooloo,” Hop grimaces while he recalls his Pokémon. “We’re only just getting started, and I still have three Pokémon! Raboot isn’t looking too good, you can finish him off, Rookidee!” Hop tosses out his next Pokémon, and Rookidee trills as she appears. She takes off, and Hop calls to her, “Use Swift!”

                You grimace, now. You know there’s no dodging Swift, and Hop was right. As the star-shaped projectiles hit Raboot, despite his best dodging efforts, he’s taken down. You wince as your bond with Raboot dies as he faints, and you’re about to call a timeout to go grab him when Rookidee lands and begins to glow white.

                “Oh! Hop, look!” You really don’t need to shout it, Hop’s eyes are already on her, but you were about to say something else, so this just comes out instead. Rookidee’s shape changes, and when the evolution is over, the light dissipates, revealing a Corvisquire in her place. Hop beams, and runs over to throw his arms in a hug around his newly evolved partner.

                It’s cool to see what a normal looking Corvisquire looks like, with the blue instead of silver. “Hop, can you bring Raboot over here? Then we can continue.” You ask him, as he’s now in the middle of the field and close to your Pokémon. Hop nods, and gently picks up your fainted partner and rests him beside you.

                Hop doesn’t bother running back to the other side of the battle area. When you raise your eyebrow at him, he raises one back at you. “Well? You gonna bring your Corvisquire out now?”

                “Aren’t you going back over there?” You gesture out to the opposite side of the battle area.

                “I can command from here,” Hop says with a shrug. “Now come on, let’s go! I’m about to win!” He’s got a wild grin on his face, and that fire still burns in his eyes.

                You nod, and toss out your last Pokémon. Corvisquire is quickly caught up on things through your bond, and outrage fills him to see his unconscious friend. Hop’s Corvisquire may be your Corvisquire’s friend, but Raboot is his best friend, so he doesn’t hesitate to use Retaliate against the opposing Corvisquire.

                The hit is devastating, it knocks Hop’s Corvisquire right out of the air. She recovers, but barely. Hop even flinches at the hit, and your Corvisquire screeches in triumph. “Use Fury Attack!” Hop shouts, and she flies up to land the hit against your Corvisquire. She chases him down and manages to land three hits against him, before he turns around to use Revenge.

                It’s more than enough to take her down, the hit knocks her to the ground again. This time, she doesn’t get back up. Hop jumps and throws his arms in the air. “So we have some training to do, you did your best, Cora!” Hop calls, recalling his Pokémon.

                “Cora?” You look up at him questioningly. This is the first time you’ve heard him call his Pokémon something that wasn’t the species name.

                “Well, it’s kinda confusing that we both have the same Pokémon. I thought a name would help to differentiate!” Hop smiles at you as he switches Pokeballs and gets ready to toss out his next one.

                “Oh, it’s cute, I like it,” you respond while you watch Hop throw his next Pokémon out. He spends a lot of time practicing this, and you can really tell. He looks good, a lot like his brother, but not in a bad way. You’d tell him, but just the thought of saying that out loud brings a blush to your face.

                Hop flashes you a grin before turning to his Toxel that he just sent into battle. “Ok Toxel, try Nuzzle!” You know the move is an Electric one, so you don’t want your Flying-type Pokémon to be hit by that. As Toxel leaps into the air to grab Corvisquire, he quickly tucks his wings in and rolls to dodge. Hop throws his fist in a small gesture of frustration. “Try again!” He calls out.

                She leaps again, but Corvisquire is ready for her. As she leaps, he charges right into her, nailing her with his beak. The Peck knocks her back down to the ground, the hit landing hard. She doesn’t get back up. “One hit?!” Hop cries, digging for Toxel’s Pokeball. “I didn’t think it’d be over that fast…” He grumbles while recalling her.

                “No matter, Thwackey can finish this!” Hop tosses his last Pokémon out. “Double Hit!” Thwackey jumps impressively high, and is able to land the hit on Corvisquire. He squawks in pain before launching into an attack. He nails Thwackey with one of his wings, causing the Grass-type Pokémon to tumble over. Thwackey is able to quickly flip back onto his feet.

                Use that move again. Let’s call it Wing Attack. You instruct, and Corvisquire charges in. “Protect!” Hop yells, and Thwackey is able to throw up the translucent shield just before Corvisquire charges into it. He shakes himself off and recovers, but Thwackey acts first. “Double Hit again!”

                Corvisquire is hurting. He shakes off the hits, but barely. He won’t last another. You’re hoping one more Wing Attack will finish Thwackey off. Corvisquire smashes his wing into Thwackey, sending him recoiling backwards. After landing on his back, Thwackey briefly struggles to his feet, before his legs give out and he faints.

                You sigh in relief and Corvisquire cheers, and beside you Hop sighs in frustration. He tosses his clenched fist in an agitated gesture. “We were so close, too…” He sounds almost mad, and he momentarily looks angry before he shakes the look from his face. “A bit more training with Toxel, and next time we’ll totally win!” Hop boasts, running out to Thwackey to spray him with a potion.

                Now that the battle is done, you dig a potion out for Raboot. You spray Corvisquire as well when he comes over, and you thank both your Pokémon for their battle. “You really almost had us, though!” You feel a bit bad, it’s apparent to you now that Raboot is not as strong as Corvisquire is. You know why, you’re trying not to use Raboot in battle in case he faints. You’re favouring Corvisquire because you don’t want to make Raboot panic.

                You coming to this realization means Raboot and Corvisquire also come to it, and there’s a moment where an awkward tension hangs over the three of you. Please use me first. I want to battle. Just recall me before I faint. Raboot’s burning passion for battle comes across to you, and you nod.

                I’m sorry I stopped using you. You scratch under his chin, and he forgives you. You promise to use him first in your upcoming battles.

                “You ok, mate?” Hop’s voice sounds beside you, and you startle. You hadn’t realized he’d come up next to you.

                “Yeah, sorry, everything’s fine,” you place a hand over your heart to calm yourself and take a deep breath.

                “Well, you weren’t answering me! I asked if you’re ready to go!” Hop sounds as impatient as ever, and you laugh.

                “Yes, we’re ready, help me up?” You make grabby hands towards him, and he chuckles.

                “What, too busy chatting it up with your chums in your head to respond to me?” Hop teases as he pulls you to your feet.

                “Yes, actually, I didn’t even hear you. I didn’t realize that could happen.” You give him a sheepish look, and he shoots you a sympathetic one in return.

                “And this is why you’re useless without me,” he gently bumps into you with his shoulder, and winks at you. You snort in laughter, and he grins at you.

                “And you’re useless without me, we’ve been over this.” You roll your eyes at him. Hop laughs, and begins wrangling all the Pokémon into walking the correct direction.

                The two of you continue to banter right up until you make it to Hulbury.

Chapter Text

                You and Hop plan to stop at the Center first, but there’s a commotion nearby that draws the two of you away from it. You look at Hop curiously, and he shrugs, leading the two of you to head closer. There’s a crowd of people around two people, but you don’t recognize them. On second thought, you might recognize the tall blond lady as the one always with Chairman Rose. Was the shorter man in the ridiculous getup the Chairman then?

                “Isn’t that Rose?” Hop asks rhetorically, answering your question for you. “Jeez, he looks ridiculous.”

                “And I thought Leon had bad fashion sense,” you reply, and Hop gives you a dirty look.

                He’s about to respond when the blond woman speaks up. “Our sincerest apologies! The Chairman is quite busy at the moment. Everyone, please disperse! Please leave now!” You put your finger to your lip and tug Hop behind the wall of a nearby building. It’s close enough that the two of you can still see and hear without really being seen yourselves.

                Hop looks at you like you’ve grown a second head. “What are you doing, mate?” He at least has the common sense to whisper. You still put your finger over his mouth to shush him regardless.

                “Eavesdropping, obviously.” You roll your eyes at him and turn back to Rose.

                “No need to rush off! I can still do autographs!” Rose calls after the retreating crowd. When no one turns back around, he tugs his cap down and turns back to the blond woman. “We need the support of our fans to keep doing what we’re doing. Chasing them off like that… Aren’t you being a bit too harsh, Oleana?”

                The woman, Oleana, sighs. “Yes, fans are very important, of course. That’s why you need to keep doing your work, for their sake.”

                There’s someone who’s hung back, and you recognize him as Bede, who steps forward now. Hop seems to recognize him at the same time as you, as he gasps beside you and shoots you a look.

                “I promise to do everything in my power to assist you, too, Chairman!” Bede exclaims as he comes forward, startling Rose. Oleana doesn’t budge.

                “Ah, Bede! I wasn’t expecting to run into you here. I daresay I’m impressed with how far you’ve come since I gave you that Hatenna all those years ago…” Rose seems to get sentimental. “You are of great help to me, my boy. I wonder, will you be the one to win the Gym Challenge? Or perhaps it will be one of those Trainers endorsed by the Champion.”

                Hop gives you a look, and you put a finger back on his lips to keep him quiet, pulling him closer behind the building with you. “I will prove your faith in me was well placed, Chairman.” Bede is speaking again, but from further back here behind the wall, you can’t see the three of them anymore. “I won’t lose to anyone!” Hop snorts behind your finger, and you have to glare at him. “Anyway, I’ve got the Water Badge, I will be on my way to Motostoke now.”

                “Ah, yes, you have quite the journey ahead of you. You take care out there,” Rose speaks, and the conversation goes quiet after that. After a moment of trying to listen for anything else, Hop’s eyes suddenly go wide, and he turns to you.

                He pushes you back a ways, and hisses, “Quick, dig in your bag or something, look not suspicious!” You follow his orders in a panic, and tug your bag in front of you and begin digging through it. For what, you don’t know, but as you hear the clicking of high heels approaching, you begin to understand exactly what Hop meant.

                “I’m sure I have it here somewhere,” you mutter out loud, trying hard not to seem suspicious, when you see Rose and Oleana round the corner.

                “Take your time, mate,” Hop replies robotically, and he sounds suspicious to you, but you hope to these two, it’s not obvious.

                “Ah, you two, you’re the Trainers endorsed by the Champion, right? We were just talking about you!” Rose comes to a stop beside the two of you, and you look to Hop guiltily before turning to Rose. Did he know?

                “That’s right, we are,” Hop answers for you, and Rose nods.

                “I admit, I’m curious about Leon’s reasons for endorsing you. You in particular,” Rose looks at you, “I can’t figure out why. Ah! I just had a good idea, as I tend to do!” This man is so full of himself, you clench your teeth to avoid rolling your eyes. “You’re going to face Gym Leader Nessa soon, yes?”

                Hop looks to you, and you realize he’s waiting for you to answer. “Uh, yeah, soon, why?” You figure less information is better, you don’t want him judging you over your leg, or worse.

                “If you get a Gym Badge from her, I’ll hold a celebration. I’d like to get to know you a little better, after all!” Rose smiles brightly at you and Hop, and Hop grins back. You feel an uneasiness settle into your stomach at Rose’s words. You don’t think him getting to know you better is a good thing.

                “That sounds ace!” Hop shouts, and you force yourself to smile.

                “Chairman, we should really be going…” You overhear Oleana as she leans in close to Rose.

                “I’ll take you for dinner at this town’s famous seafood restaurant. Please do your best, for the sake of Galar’s future!” Rose nods politely before turning and making his leave.

                Oleana steps up to the two of you. “Win the Gym Badge and join him there tonight. Do not keep him waiting.” Is all she says, before turning on her heel and following after Rose. Her words send a chill down your spine, and when you turn to Hop, he’s no longer smiling.

                “Certainly doesn’t leave us much time, hey?” Hop complains, frowning at you. “We should head to the Center first.” He gives you a hard look that tells you there isn’t any room to argue this, so you nod and let him lead you off to the Center.

                There is a doctor expecting you at the Center. She greets you in the room you’re taken to, and begins to assess you. When you realize Hop is here, and he might overhear her say something about how injured you truly are, you quickly think of a plan to get Hop out of there.

                “Hey Hop, wanna go get us all lunch while I do this? That way we can save some time.” You look to him, and he grins.

                You feel relief flood you as he replies, “Sure, mate! I’ll go find something!” He hops up from his chair and dashes off. You take a deep breath and sigh.

                The doctor looks at you and raises an eyebrow. You give her a sheepish look, “He doesn’t know how bad my leg is. I’ve lied to him about it. If I stop the Gym Challenge, he will too, and I don’t want that. That’s why I have to keep going. Even though I know I shouldn’t.” You explain, and she looks at you pitifully.

                “You understand this will leave you permanently injured, correct?” She asks as she bends your leg in a way that particularly hurts. You wonder if she does it on purpose.

                “Yes. I know the risks. But I’m going to try, because I made a promise to Hop, and to my Pokémon.” You wince, and she sets down your leg.

                “The doctor you saw in Turffield mentioned as much in his notes to me. I can’t stop you, as much as I want to. I only hope I don’t see you in here later,” she sighs as she begins writing down some notes. She leaves before Hop returns, and you’re thankful your secret is safe for a bit longer.

                You know you’re going to have to tell Hop eventually. You just don’t know how yet.

                You tell Hop you have the ok to do the Gym, even though you don’t, because you’re too afraid of what might happen if you can’t do it today. Would you get disqualified? Oleana made it sound like a threat, and you and Hop had better be there tonight with Badges.

                After lunch, Hop leads you out to go to the Stadium. He yammers on excitedly about the Gym Challenge, and you have to nod along with a fake smile, the lie sitting like a rock in your stomach. Hop leads you into the Gym, and up to the counter to register. There’s not nearly as many Gym Challengers here as there were in Turffield, so you and Hop are able to get spots right away.

                However, the League Staff at the counter has some bad news, “After the last Challenger, Nessa took off! She said she was taking a break! She left her phone behind, too. If you two want to battle her today, you’re going to have to go hunt her down. She’s likely at the docks, or the lighthouse. Fishing, I bet,” she laughs briefly. “You two shouldn’t have too much trouble finding her, don’t worry.”

                “Well, that certainly throws a spanner in the works,” Hop groans, and you nod.

                “Guess we’re going hunting for Nessa.” You get directions to both the docks and the lighthouse from the League Staff, and she helpfully writes them down for you. She even draws a little map for you.

                “If you’re anything like the Champion who endorsed you two, you’re going to need it!” She laughs, and Hop laughs along with her.

                “Nah, we’re not nearly as bad as he is! And she’s ace at finding her way around! We won’t get lost, don’t worry!” Hop brags, and you’re thankful for your amazing friend and his confidence in you.

                Who you are lying to. Blatantly.

                You suggest the lighthouse first, mostly because you want to see it. You have to take a break before you head out there, as your leg hurts from the walk to the Stadium, but Hop isn’t patient enough to wait with you. He runs down to the docks to check while you wait on a bench. Your Pokémon play with each other while you wait.

                Hop returns empty-handed, which means Nessa must be at the lighthouse. As you and Hop approach, you do in fact spot Nessa out past the lighthouse, with Sonia. You and Hop share a look, it looks like the two of them are in the middle of a pretty heated conversation. You want to eavesdrop again, but Sonia is your friend, so you think better of it.

                As you and Hop walk up, Sonia turns to greet you. Nessa does not, but she does throw her head over her shoulder to look at you. “Oh, wow, speaking of,” Sonia declares loudly as you and Hop get closer. Were they talking about you?

                “The Gym Challengers Leon endorsed. The two of you have become something of a hot topic among the Gym Leaders, you know,” Nessa states, slowly reeling in the line of a fishing rod.

                “Really? Why?” You can’t help but ask.

                Nessa raises an eyebrow at you, and turns back to the ocean when her line comes back up empty. “You don’t know? This is the first time Leon has ever endorsed anyone. Now Hop, we all saw coming, but you? That was a surprise. And you two have been nothing but surprises since.” She stares at her fishing rod as if contemplating throwing the line back in again.

                “Surprises?” You ponder, but you can also guess what she means by that.

                “I suppose you’re here because you want to challenge my Gym, right?” She asks, and Hop nods eagerly. “I love fishing, but I love Pokémon battles even more, and I’m aching to battle the two of you. Especially after seeing your battles with Milo. Come on, let’s head back to the Stadium together.” She decides against throwing the line back out, finally turning away from the ocean.

                You learn Sonia and Nessa are best friends as the group of you heads back towards the Stadium. Nessa pulls a face when you need to take a break due to pain, but she doesn’t argue about it. Sonia is quick to find a bench for you, and you wonder if Sonia is what keeps Nessa from saying anything,

                Back at the Stadium, Hop is once again the one going first in the Gym Mission. Once again, you can’t watch, as you haven’t done it, but Sonia goes in to watch Hop and offers to cheer extra hard for you. You thank her, and sit anxiously in the lobby alone with your Pokémon, while Hop completes the Gym Mission.

                He doesn’t set another record this time, but he still finishes it quickly. He wears a frown when he comes out to see you, though. “Mate, this isn’t good… I think you’re going to have some real trouble with this one.”

                Hop goes on to explain the grates for walkways, and the mechanics of the water puzzle. The more he explains, the more of a challenge this sounds like it’s going to be. Will you even be able to do it? There’s stairs, and the floor isn’t fully solid. Raboot and Corvisquire are confident they can help you through it. “Can you use your Pokémon again in this one?” You ask cautiously.

                “Yep!” Hop grins, and you sigh in relief. “Oh, I memorized the order of the puzzle. I won’t tell you if you don’t want me to, but I thought knowing in advance might save you some time. That way you can focus on just getting to where you need to go, and you won’t waste a bunch of time and energy going somewhere by accident.”

                “Oh, Hoppy, thank you. Yes, I absolutely want to know.” You’re timed again, Hop has informed you, so any bit of time you can save increases your chances of beating this Mission. Hop shares the order with you and your Pokémon, and now you have three heads remembering this. Hopefully between the three of you, you win this one easier than the last one.

                Hop walks back to the room with the Gym Mission with you. He takes your walker from you at the entrance, and Raboot and Corvisquire take their positions holding you up. Raboot grabs you from you left side, while Corvisquire wraps his claws gently under your armpits to hold you upright. You thank Hop with a brief hug before he runs off and you push open the doors to the Mission.

                Right away there are stairs down to the platforms where the puzzle is. There’s no railing you can cling to, either. Nor is there any on any of the stairs leading around between platforms. You cling a little harder to Raboot as you carefully climb down the stairs.

                At the bottom of the platform, you’re able to take in the whole room. Everything is suspended above a massive pool of water, and you see what Hop meant about water flowing at high speeds out of colourful pipes to block your way. You go over the order again in your head, trying to map it out as a League Staff comes up to you.

                “The Hulbury mission is this! A challenging maze! And you must reach the goal within the time limit to clear the mission!” The man explains how it works, and how you activate and deactivate the pipes. “Now, let the Gym Mission begin!” He announces, and the timer begins counting down.

                You begin hobbling over to the first switch, falling into it in your haste and inability to stop in time. Red, yellow, red again you repeat in your head as you and your Pokémon make your way to each switch. There’s stairs next, ones you have to go up, and you take a deep breath as your Pokémon help you keep your balance up them.

                You’re basically crawling up them as you fall forward and catch yourself on the stairs above you. It works easier this way, you don’t care if it looks embarrassing. You’re on a time limit here. Skip the next red switch and head for the yellow, then loop around for the red, you follow Hop’s steps, thankful for this. You’re able to focus on moving, instead of solving the puzzle. You’re sure you’d have a lot of trouble figuring this out through the pain without his solution.

                There are Gym Trainers here too, who try to stop you from proceeding. They all use Water-type Pokémon, though, so it’s easier to send Corvisquire out to fight them than it is to send Raboot. It’s easier to lean against Raboot than it is to lean against Corvisquire, anyways. It’s unfortunate that Corvisquire is still getting more battle experience, but Raboot understands in this situation.

                Up more stairs, past more switches, you race all the way to the far away yellow switch, as per Hop’s instructions. Then red, then blue, then we’re done! You and your Pokémon cheer, even as you crawl up all the stairs. You’re so close, and you’re doing well for time too. Even as you struggle up the final, long chunk of stairs, you’ve got over a minute left. Hop’s instructions really did save you this time.

                You make it to the platform at the end with 38 seconds left on the clock. You want to collapse, but you don’t, as right outside the door will be Hop, waiting with your walker and a warm hug. You push open the doors and fall into Hop’s open arms first, and he wraps them around you tight.

                “Mate, you did it! Are you ok? You look like you’re in pain.” You are, you’d been ignoring it through the Mission to focus on completing it. Now that you sag into Hop, however, it fully washes over you just how much pain you’re in. You wail softly into Hop’s shoulder, trying to bite back tears.

                “Yeah, but my pain meds are in my bag,” you explain. Your bag is in your locker in the change room, so Hop grimaces.

                “Let’s go get them, then I’ll get to my match. I’ll try to stall for as long as I can so they can take effect before you battle.” Hop helps you to your walker, but keeps his arms around you even after you take hold of it.

                “Hop, be careful, you don’t want to lose,” you scold him. As kind as his offer is, you don’t like how much he’s sacrificing himself for you.

                “Nonsense! I have Thwackey and Toxel! And Wooloo knows an Electric-type move! I’ve got this one in the bag, mate!” Hop grins widely at you, before his smile drops. “I’m more worried about you. You’re at a pretty big disadvantage, even without being injured…” Hop explains, glancing away from you as he leads you down the hall.

                “We’ll manage,” it’s all you can really say to that. You really don’t have a plan, after all. Hop gets your pain meds for you, and splits off with you when you go up to the stands to watch his match. Hop is going first again, so you can see what Pokémon Nessa has, and hopefully formulate a plan.

                It isn’t long until the announcer is introducing Hop and Nessa as they walk out into the pitch. “It’s so hard to cheer for Hop, but I know Nessa has to lose to Gym Challengers who are good enough. It’s still hard to cheer for her to lose, she’s my best friend!” You give Sonia a sympathetic smile, you can relate. You can’t imagine ever wanting to cheer for someone else against Hop. Hell, you want to cheer for Hop even when you’re fighting him.

                Nessa’s Stadium is interesting. You can see panels that look like they move to reveal water, and you guess that must be how the Water-type Pokémon battle. There’s still a circular Pokeball pattern atop the collection of square panels, and Hop and Nessa walk into the center of it. The stands are not as full as they were at Turffield, either, despite Hulbury being a much larger city than Turffield.

                “Welcome, Gym Challenger! Sorry to have made you look for me, I didn’t think I’d be getting any more Challengers today.” Ah, so maybe that had something to do with why the stands were emptier. “You used your Pokémon creatively to clear the Gym Mission, and I’m impressed. I always like to see new ways to solve an old problem. No matter how creative a plan you come up with, my partners and I will be sure to sink it.” She turns on her heel and begins walking out to the edge of the Pokeball.

                Hop scratches his head for a moment, it looks like he was about to say something before Nessa promptly walked away. He turns and walks to the edge regardless, and pulls out a Pokeball. Nessa pulls out a blue Pokeball and holds it out, and the same music from the last Gym begins playing over the speakers again.

                Nessa winds back and tosses out her Pokeball with a fancy flourish, lifting her leg perfectly vertically. You’re impressed by her flexibility. As the ball flies, the panel it was about to land on opens up, and reveals the water underneath. The ball opens, revealing a Goldeen swimming in the water. More panels begin opening around the pitch as Hop tosses out his Toxel.

                “Toxel, get to the edge near Goldeen and use Nuzzle on her!” Hop instructs, and his Toxel runs over to the panel Goldeen is swimming under.

                “Use Supersonic!” Nessa shouts, and Goldeen’s move hits first. Toxel wobbles back and forth before successfully using Nuzzle on Goldeen, grabbing the Water Pokemon when she tries to swim by underneath the Electric-type.

                “Try Acid next!” Hop throws a fist up in the air as he shouts, and Toxel tries belching some acid onto Goldeen. She swims around it and jumps up to use Horn Attack on Toxel, knocking him back and away from the edge. Goldeen gracefully dives back into an open panel.

                “Finish her with Water Pulse!” Nessa orders, and Goldeen swims back over to Toxel.

                “No! Get her with Nuzzle first!” Hop yells in a panic. Toxel is barely able to grab Goldeen and use Nuzzle on her before she hits Toxel back with Water Pulse. The move knocks Toxel out, and Hop grimaces. “Not good, you did your best!” He recalls his partner, and digs out his next Pokeball. “No matter, I still have Thwackey!” Hop tosses out his next Pokémon, and out pops Thwackey in the middle of the pitch. “Branch Poke!”

                Thwackey, a fast and agile Pokémon, has no issue hanging off the edges of the panels to thrust his stick into the water to hit the dodging Goldeen. One good hit takes her out, and Thwackey climbs back up onto the pitch.

                Nessa pulls a face as she recalls her Pokémon, and sends out her next one. You recognize Arrokuda from around Sonia’s Gran’s house, there’s a ton of them in the lake there. “Use Bite!” Nessa sends her Pokémon straight into battle, and the Water-type quickly swims over to Thwackey.

                Thwackey’s easily able to flip out of the way of the Arrokuda that shoots out of the water at him, even landing a hit on her with his sticks as the Arrokuda flies by. Hop grins widely at Thwackey, “Brilliant! One more hit and she should go down!”

                “Try again!” Nessa calls out, and Arrokuda turns around to hit Thwackey. Thwackey is prepared, and dodges down by grabbing the edge of an open panel and flipping himself through the water and out another open panel. You can see Hop’s hands move in somatic commands to Thwackey, instructing him through these tricks, but you only catch it because you’ve seen Hop teach these to Thwackey.

                Nessa audibly growls, and her mic picks it up. “Grrr, come on Arrokuda, you can do this! One more try!” She yells, uncrossing her arms to throw one out to point at Thwackey. Arrokuda begins speeding through the water towards the Grass-type, and he lowers himself again into an open panel, right in Arrokuda’s path.

                You’re sure Hop knows what he’s doing, but it sure doesn’t look like it. That is, until Thwackey’s quick reflexes allow him to hit Arrokuda first, knocking the Water-type out. Nessa tugs on her hair and groans, recalling her Pokémon to send out her last one.

                “I’ve saved my very best for last, my dear Drednaw!” She only sends him out for a moment, deciding to Dynamax him right away. “Time for Dynamax! Time to show everyone what you can do!”

                Hop recalls his Thwackey at the same time. “Then it looks like we’ll Dynamax too!” Both trainers are throwing their large Pokeballs out at nearly the same time, and two massive Pokémon form at either end of the pitch.

                Both Hop and Nessa book it to the side of the pitch, but not before yelling orders to their Pokémon. “Max Overgrowth!” Hop shouts, as Nessa shouts “Max Rockfall!”

                Both Pokémon use their moves at the same time. Only one explodes from the hit. Nessa’s giant Drednaw falls to the powerful attack, and you can hear Nessa let out a muffled scream over the speakers. Grass is something Drednaw is doubly weak to, so he went down in a single hit from Hop’s Pokemon. She shoves her hands into her hair, making a mess of it, and screws her face up.

                “Gym Leader Nessa is out of useable Pokémon, Challenger Hop is the winner!” The announcer’s voice comes to life again over the speakers.

                “How?! One hit?! I hate Grass-types!” Nessa stomps once on the ground before sighing. Both trainers walk back to the middle of the pitch then, and Nessa recalls her fainted Pokémon. “Your Pokémon are strong, and you’ve formed an even stronger bond with them. To use my own Stadium against me so well takes talent and creativity, and you’ve proven you have both today. Here, the Water Badge. You’ve earned it.”

                Hop holds out his hand, and Nessa places something in it. “I know you have goals of taking down your brother. Keep working hard, and I can see you using his own strengths against him to take him down, too.” Hop grins widely at Nessa’s praise.

                “Thanks!” Hop states. The two shake hands before departing from the pitch, and the announcer lets everyone know there’s going to be a 15 minute break before your match.

                “Good luck, you’re going to need it,” Sonia hugs you briefly before you leave. You hope to run into Hop and congratulate him on his match before yours starts, so you head down to the pitch as soon as Sonia lets you go.

                It’s easy enough to run into Hop, as he’s charging down the hall already when you make your way back. The Gym Staff here let you take your walker back again once you explain that they let you in Turffield, and she doesn’t even give you that much trouble about it. Hop throws himself at you and wraps you up in a tight hug, with a loud laugh right next to your ear.

                “What a match, mate! That was incredible! Was I amazing out there or what?” You can hear the wide smile in Hop’s voice, and you can’t help the happy laugh that bubbles out of you.

                “Yes! Congrats! You were as amazing as ever, Hop!” You gush to him, hugging him back just as tightly. Hop holds you for a while, and this time you can let him, as you don’t have to go find anyone before your match.

                “How’s your leg doing? The pain meds kick in yet?” They hadn’t yet, but you had about 10 more minutes for them to hopefully do so.

                You shake your head and share as much with Hop. “No, but hopefully soon.”

                Hop nods sadly, pulling back out of the hug a bit to look at you. “You going to be ok out there?”

                You shrug. “I sure hope so. I’m going to have to be, aren’t I?” Hop shakes his head at your words.

                “If you can’t do it today, we can just reschedule you for tomorrow.” Hop explains, but then you shake your head.

                “Rose is expecting us with badges tonight at that fancy restaurant. I don’t want to get disqualified, and Rose has the power to do that.” Hop’s eyes seem to bulge out of his head at your words.

                “What? Why would he do that?” Hop sounds concerned.

                “Didn’t you hear Oleana?” You remind him, and Hop’s face falls.

                “I guess they do have the power to do that… You’re right, but please be careful, ok?”

                “I’ll do my best,” it’s the best you can promise. Hop nods sadly, before letting you go completely.

                “You should get out there, I’ll walk back with you.” Hop offers, wrapping an arm back around your waist and leading you down the hall.

                “Thanks,” you lean into him a bit more than you need to, and take a big sigh.

                You really hope you can do this.

Chapter Text

                Hop leaves you at the entrance to the pitch, and he runs off to make it to the stands in time to watch you. A League Staff comes up and puts a mic on you, similar to last time, and you’re reminded for what feels like the 100th time that you can’t take your walker out with you.

                “I know, this is not the first time I’ve done this, I am well aware of the rules,” you shoot back angrily, tired of constantly being told this.

                You have a few minutes, so you let Raboot and Corvisquire out of their balls to talk strategy with them. Or less talk, more think to yourselves. You don’t really need words with your Pokémon, after all.

                Raboot wants to be used first. You let him know he might faint, these are Water-types, and he’s weak to that. Just recall me when it gets close Raboot request, and you nod. And I want to Dynamax this time.

                Well aren’t you demanding you chide him, but acquiesce to it regardless. Anything you want? You turn to Corvisquire, who just shakes his head. You go over what moves your Pokémon know that would be best against each of Nessa’s Pokémon.

                A chime in your ear lets you know to return your Pokémon and get ready to walk out. Your Pokémon help were helping you stand, so now you have to lean against the wall until it’s time to walk out. The lights are momentarily blinding again as you hear your name and number called, and you limp out weakly under all the lights.

                You’re thankful now that the stands are less full, as it’s still embarrassing to be limping like this. Nessa crosses her arms while she waits for you in the center of the pitch, and the cameras buzz around you while you make your way there. You make sure to wave at Hop and Sonia when your eyes catch them.

                When you meet Nessa in the middle of the pitch, she uncrosses her arms and speaks. “Well, well, well Gym Challenger. Finally here, huh? Despite your speed hurdles, my Mission seemed to prove no challenge to you. Your mind as a Pokémon Trainer must be quite refined. No matter what kind of refined plan you and your team have in mind, mine will crush you beneath our waves!” Nessa once again turns and walks away before you can get a word in.

                Which is fine, you’re really not good at smack talk or anything, so it almost feels better that you don’t have to think of something to say back. And good thing, that – Nessa sounds like she thinks you solved it on your own. You know you did not, but it’s good she doesn’t seem to be on to you.

                Or maybe she is, and this is her way of calling you out. Either way, now is not the time to be worrying about it. That familiar tune plays once more as Nessa holds out a pretty blue coloured Pokeball. She tosses it into one of the opening panels as you dig out your first Pokeball, and her Goldeen reappears to battle with you.

                You toss out Raboot first, just as he requested. If he wants to Dynamax, too, you figure the best time to do that is right away. As soon as he’s out, before Nessa can get her Goldeen to attack Raboot, you recall him and tap your Dynamax band. The crowd begins screaming as you Dynamax your Pokémon early on. You hold Raboot’s ball to your Dynamax band and it gets large and heavy. You twist with the weight of it and use its momentum once again to toss it up in the air as high as you can.

                The ball successfully breaks open and reveals a giant version of Raboot, towering nearly up to the overhanging rafters above the crowds. You remember that you don’t have to get out of the way unless Nessa also Dynamaxes her Pokémon, and it seems she is not as she’s run off to the side of the pitch.

                “Use Water Pulse!” Nessa shouts, and her Goldeen swims up to one of the open panels and shoots a blast of water at Raboot. It hurts him quite a bit, but being Dynamaxed means he’s still good to be battling. Aim there and use Max Fighting-type Move you tell Raboot over your bond, unsure what that move would be called. He knows what you mean though, and successfully hits Goldeen with a massive fist that comes out of thin air above Raboot.

                Another one of those should knock her Goldeen out, so you instruct Raboot to do it again. “Again!” Nessa orders, and her Goldeen is faster, as she hits your Raboot first, just before the strike of the massive fist hits her. Goldeen hangs on by just a bit, but she’s moving pretty slowly in the water.

                Raboot is not doing well, either. Those two water moves hurt, and he’s barely hanging in there. He’s propped himself up on his knee to keep standing. One more! You can hit her first! You instruct, but Nessa’s Goldeen is still faster, and she hits Raboot with another Water move before Raboot can finish preparing his move.

                It’s just like at Turffield again. When Raboot explodes when the Dynamax forcibly ends, it hurts you so much that you fall to your knees. You gasp as tears sting your eyes, and madly begin digging for Raboot’s Pokeball. He’s unconscious, you didn’t mean for this to happen, you should have recalled him before this happened. You had the chance, but you thought he’d be faster. You feel awful.

                You toss out Corvisquire once Raboot has been recalled, and you try to struggle back up to your feet. Corvisquire being airborne gives him as much room to dodge as Nessa’s Pokémon have in the water under the panels. There’s a moment where he sees Goldeen pop up, and is perfectly able to calculate where to dive based on your perspective of the battle and his.

                He nails Goldeen with Retaliate, which is totally overkill, but Corvisquire is pissed. You try to instruct him to use another move, but he is too angry over Raboot’s fainting to care about that. He wants to get back at Goldeen for taking out his best friend.

                Nessa frowns as she digs out her Pokeball and recalls her fainted partner. The next Pokémon Nessa brings out is her Arrokuda. “Water Jet!” Nessa yells as soon as he appears in the water, and he follows her command. Corvisquire’s easily able to dodge the jets of water Arrokuda shoots at him, but Arrokuda is able to dive deep enough into the water that Corvisquire’s claws rake harmlessly past her.

                “Use Bite!” Nessa instructs, and Arrokuda launches herself out of the water at high speed towards Corvisquire. He’s ready for her, though, and finally is able to land Peck against her. It’s such a devastating hit, Corvisquire is right pissed from all the dodging, and it seems to do more damage than it normally should have.

                She falls and lands heavily onto one of the panels not pulled back to reveal water, and she flops back into the water. Good hit, we almost have her! You share with Corvisquire, and he trills in appreciation. Arrokuda isn’t giving Corvisquire another chance to hit her like that again, though, swimming far into Nessa’s side of the pitch.

                From this far away, it’s impossible to see Arrokuda, so you can’t help Corvisquire with telling where she is. You’re going to have to get closer. Nessa runs around at the back of the pitch, directing Arrokuda on how to dodge Corvisquire. It’s easy when he can’t tell precisely where to dive with the aide of your eyes.

                You limp along the ground, watching for open panels so you don’t fall in. It’s difficult, the ground is slippery, and you can’t get good traction when you have to limp. Your left leg slides out from under you, and you fall on your ass. Pain shoots up your leg, and your spine from landing on your tailbone. You cry out, but struggle back to your feet. You can’t give up here, and Corvisquire is never going to land a hit like this.

                Nessa isn’t making her Pokémon attack, however. She’s solely focused on dodging right now. It’s a strange play, now is when Corvisquire is more open. Is she trying to test you? Make you move around her battlefield to see how well you can do it? She has her arms crossed as she stands there and watches you struggle, and you get the feeling that’s exactly what she’s doing.

                You make it upright once more. Hobbling a bit more gets you close enough to see Arrokuda, and you’re able to direct a hit of Power Trip against Arrokuda when she swims through an open panel. Arrokuda survives the hit, and keeps swimming. She shoots past underneath you, towards the other end of the pitch, and Nessa tears past you in a run.

                She’s totally doing this on purpose, you realize. This is what Milo meant about Gym Leaders being harder on you for your injury. You want to scream, but you take a deep breath and focus your anger on the battle. Corvisquire is even more pissed on your behalf now, and he’s ready to take Arrokuda out.

                You limp after Nessa and your Pokémon, in a hurry to get over there and finish the Water-type off. Your foot catches on the edge of an open panel in your haste, knocking you over.

                You tumble right into the open panel, into the water below.

                It’s cold, and that stuns you for a moment. Your feet can’t touch the bottom either, so you begin thrashing your arms in an attempt to get back to the surface. Corvisquire abandons battling, flying over to try and rescue you. He flies low enough to grab your arms with his claws, and he’s able to pull you back onto a closed panel.

                You cough and sputter as Corvisquire sets you down, and Nessa runs over to you. She doesn’t get very close, but calls out, “Are you ok to continue battling?”

                You’re not, you’re really not. You’re in so much pain. But saying no would mean taking a loss, and you can’t do that. You nod your head to her, and Corvisquire helps you to your feet by lifting you again.

                Nessa nods back, and shouts to her Arrokuda, “Use Aqua Jet!” You see her pop out of a panel, and instruct there! Corvisquire dives down, hitting Arrokuda with Power Trip before she can use her move. You see her tumble back in the water, and when she stops, she remains completely still.

                Nessa groans, recalling her. “No matter, I’ve been saving the best for last! Come on out, Drednaw!” She tosses her last Pokémon out, and he appears on the solid panels. You’re both down to your last Pokémon now, and you take a deep breath as Nessa recalls her Pokémon immediately. You know what this means, so you begin limping off to the side of the pitch. “Flood the Stadium and make it our ocean! Drednaw, time to Dynamax!” She shouts as she launches her massively sized Pokeball out behind her with what looks like relative ease.

                Out comes an even bigger Drednaw, who towers above Nessa. He’s not as tall as Raboot was, but he’s long, and takes up most of the back half of the pitch. “Use Max Geyser!” Nessa calls to her massive Pokémon. He launches a large jet of water at Corvisquire, knocking him out of the air with the powerful hit. He’s able to recover and launch at Drednaw with Revenge, hurting Drednaw pretty significantly since he was hurt first.

                “Max Rockfall! We almost have him!” Nessa is right, you’re not sure Corvisquire can survive one more hit. Drednaw is unfortunately faster, though, and lands the large Rock-type attack against Corvisquire. The giant chunk of rock causes him to fall to the ground, landing painfully, but he hasn’t quite lost consciousness. Please hang in there, please you beg of him, and he struggles to his feet before taking off.

                He launches himself at Drednaw, intending to finish this no matter what. He slams into Drednaw with Revenge, and the Water-type explodes as Corvisquire’s attack finishes off the Dynamaxed Pokémon. He falls to the ground after, barely conscious, barely hanging in there.

                Nessa frustratedly rakes her hands through her hair, messing it up slightly. “I can’t believe we were washed away like that!” She yells, before huffing loudly. “How can this be? You used a Fire-type against me! Tsk,” she seethes, and shakes her head. “Now that I’ve battled you, I think I understand what my best friend was saying. Continue to seize victories in the Gym Challenge with your Pokémon. You have incredible spirit that may even be strong enough to challenge the Champion.”

                Nessa meets you in the middle of the pitch. Her words don’t mean as much to you knowing what she put you through. “Thank you, that’s high praise,” you reply monotonously, and Nessa’s face softens slightly.

                “You and your Pokémon are indeed deserving of this Gym Badge.” You hold your hand out, and she places the badge in the palm of your hand. “Next will be the Fire Gym Leader. As you and your Pokémon are now, he’ll definitely want to battle you. He’ll recognize that burning passion in your eyes.” Nessa shakes your hand before departing the pitch.

                You turn in the opposite direction, and begin limping to the entrance you came out from. You all but collapse against your walker, glad for the pain meds that numb the bite in your leg slightly. Hop meets you down the hall, running like his life depends on it. He tackles you in a hug that knocks both of you to the ground with its force, as Hop has zero self-restraint and doesn’t even try to stop in time.

                You cry out in pain as the action really hurts your leg. “Mate, you did it! You really- are you ok? Did I hurt you?! I’m so sorry!” Hop’s going a mile a minute, as usual, and you wince as he pulls away to look at you. You nod to him in way of answer, and he carefully helps you up. Your leg won’t hold your weight after that, so Hop offers to carry you on his back out to the lobby.

                “No, straight to the Center. Raboot needs to get healed, and so does Corvisquire!” You demand, and Hop sighs.

                “I’m setting you down in the lobby, getting our things, and then we’re going to the Center, alright?” His tone tells you there isn’t room to argue here, but you try anyways.

                “No, you can get our stuff later! Raboot’s hurt! He really hurt when the Dynamax thing ended! We have to go to the Center!” You’re only fighting so hard about this because you’re so worried about Raboot. This feels like déjà vu.

                “Sorry, mate. That’s not the order. Raboot will likely be comfier if we let him out in the lobby and heal him up a bit with a potion, then get him to the Center outside of his ball.” Hop’s logic makes sense when you give yourself a moment to stop fighting him and to think about his words.

                “Ok, fine, you win,” you deflate against his back, and Hop seems satisfied with his victory over you. “Sorry I’m getting you all wet too,” you murmur quietly after a moment. You do feel bad, you’re still soaking wet from falling in the water, and cold, and you’re getting Hop all wet too.

                “If that bothered me, I wouldn’t have offered to carry you, mate. Don’t worry about it. We should get you out of those wet clothes before we get to the Center, though.” Hop leaves you in the lobby after that, and you let Raboot out of his ball. He’s still unconscious, and you’re thankful for that, that he didn’t wake up in his ball again and freak out. You stroke his fur, waiting for Hop to return with a potion.

                Sonia and Nessa both come out together before Hop comes back with your stuff. Sonia comes and takes a seat beside you, “Congrats on your victory! That was a close one, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time! Hop clung to my arm so hard, I think I’m going to have bruises!” Sonia pulls the sleeve of her jacket up to reveal large, red hand prints on her arm. “Where is he, anyways? He said he was going to help you,” Sonia looks around for him.

                “Grabbing our stuff, then he’s taking me to the Center. I’m in a lot of pain again, and Raboot really hurt when the Dynamax effect ended,” you explain to Sonia, and Nessa wordlessly pulls out a potion, and sprays your unconscious Pokémon with it.

                “I know, mine all hate it for the same reason. When it forcibly ends, it hurts them a lot.” Nessa relents quietly after a moment. She gently pets the waking Pokémon before carefully scooping him into her arms and passing him to you.

                Sonia nods, “You’re not the only people to complain about that. It’s something I’m looking into, but even I don’t really know why it’s happening. Only that it is happening. Rose is aware, yet he still demands all the Gym Leaders use Dynamax in their battles,” Sonia sighs dramatically, and Nessa pats her shoulder.

                Raboot freaks out slightly when he first wakes up, confused by the scenery change before relaxing when you pull him into your lap and pet him. He’s grumpy and upset that he fainted so early in battle, but he doesn’t hate the Dynamax effect like Corvisquire does, despite the pain it caused him. He really enjoyed being that big and powerful. I want to do it again! His passion for strength comes through over the bond, and you ruffle the fur around his ears.

                Hop comes out of the change rooms carrying both your bags after that, and runs over to the group of you. “Hey, he’s awake! How is he?” Hop asks as he passes you your bag.

                You grin to him, “Grumpy! But ok, he just needs some rest at the Center I think.” You explain, and Raboot nods with a yawn. “Thank you for the potion,” you turn to Nessa and offer her a smile.

                She simply nods, “It was no issue.”

                “Oh yeah, my Badge! I can put it in my ring with my Grass Badge now!” Hop exclaims, and he begins digging in his bag.

                “Ring?” You ask dumbfoundedly. This is the first you’ve heard of this.

                “You don’t have a Challenger Ring?” Nessa asks, raising a perfectly arched eyebrow at you.

                “Yeah she does, it’s this mate!” Hop pulls out a gold ring with his Grass Badge attached to it. Now that you see it, you recognize it. You were given it with your stuff when you signed up for the Gym Challenge. You were supposed to put your Badges on it?

                “Oh, I didn’t know that’s what that was for,” you laugh as you begin to dig in your bag for your ring and Grass Badge. Upon pulling them out, you set your Grass Badge and Water Badge in the ring. They click into place, by magnets you think, and Hop shows you where to put them along the ring.

                “Cuz then the Fire Badge goes here, between these two, so that’s why there’s a space.” Hop finishes explaining by pointing out where it would go on your ring.

                “Oh, shoot, look at the time, I have to go meet Rose for dinner!” Sonia suddenly shouts, and Nessa makes a gagging motion.

                “Ugh, good luck surviving that,” Nessa mumbles with a roll of her eyes.

                “Wait, Rose invited us for dinner, too,” Hop interjects, looking between Sonia and the clock on his Rotom-phone. “That means we won’t have time for the Center,” Hop grimaces as he looks at you finally.

                You frown, and hear Sonia sigh beside you. “Yeah, if Rose invited you, you can’t stand him up. That would be really bad. You two need to get changed and ready, we don’t have a lot of time, if we want to get there in time.” Sonia suggests, getting up from the bench.

                It’s less than ideal, but you don’t want to piss Rose off. Your leg is just going to have to wait. Nessa waves the lot of you off as she heads back to the lighthouse to do some more fishing. “Text me when you’re done, we’ll hang after!” Nessa calls to Sonia, and Sonia blows her an exaggerated kiss goodbye that Nessa returns. You smile at the best friends and their adorable antics, you wonder if other people look at you and Hop the same way.

                Hop leads you off to the change room, and helps you dry off and change. He’s kind enough to turn around and close his eyes when you’re changing underwear with your Pokémon’s help. But once you’re no longer naked, he turns back around and begins helping you again, mindful of how little time you two have to get ready.

                You, Sonia, and Hop don’t get very far outside the Stadium before you run into Oleana. “Good, I was looking for the three of you. Do not keep the Chairman waiting. Head to the seafood restaurant ‘The Captain’s Table’ immediately. Rose is the kind of man who gets downhearted if he can’t take care of the things he needs to right away…” Oleana’s threat makes you feel sick to your stomach for some reason, and it’s clear it doesn’t leave a good taste in the mouths of Hop or Sonia either.

                Oleana turns and leaves straightaway after speaking, without letting any of you speak. “Well that’s exactly where we were heading, lady,” Sonia mutters under her breath, and Hop snickers.

                “She’s terrifying.” You lean into Hop more, and Hop wraps his arms further around you and rubs your side.

                “Yeah, you don’t want to be on her bad side. I’ve heard the tales…” Sonia shudders, and even Hop grimaces.

                “Even Lee is afraid of her! She’s really not someone you want to trifle with.” Hop offers with a frown, and you get the idea. “I’ll carry you, mate. That way we can get there faster.” Hop helps you up onto his back again, and the three of you make your way over to The Captain’s Table together as quickly as Hop can with the extra weight.

                “So what does Rose want with you two?” Sonia asks on the way over.

                “Said he wants to get to know us,” Hop replies with a shrug. “What about you?”

                “Oh, says he wants to know about my research! Which, I’m sure he only cares about so he can find out what he can monetize from it. Ugh, the nerve of people like him.” Sonia glowers, kicking hard at a rock in front of her.

                It doesn’t take you long to get there, and you know which restaurant it is right away by the crowd gathered outside it. Sonia wades through it and leads you all up to the entrance. Hop sets you down and pulls out your walker for you.

                “You going to be ok from here?” He leans in close to your ear and whispers. A shiver runs down your spine at the way his breath feels against your ear.

                “I hope so,” you whisper back, and one of his arms snakes itself around your waist for support. You smile softly to him, and he returns it with a wide one of his own. The two of you follow Sonia inside the restaurant. The man guarding the door stops you in particular, and tells you that your Pokémon must be inside their balls within the restaurant. You don’t like it, but Raboot understands the situation well enough to not complain much about being forced back into his ball.

                The man moves aside once your Pokémon are safely inside their balls, and lets you and Hop in. Turns out Rose has the whole place booked, as there’s only restaurant staff inside. Rose is sat at a table near the wide windows overlooking the city. Your little group makes its way over to the table, and Rose stands to greet the lot of you.

                “Ah, there you all are! I was beginning to wonder when you would all show up!” Though his tone is light, you don’t like the implication that you’ve made this man wait. It’s probably not good. “Hop, Kieran, let us celebrate your recent victories! I’m so glad the three of you know each other already, this will make this a much more pleasant evening. Come now, please, be seated,” Rose gestures to the table, and Hop helps you into your seat. Sonia steals the spot beside you, much to Hop’s disappointment, forcing the lad to go sit beside Rose on the other side of the table.

                At least he’s across from you, so you hook your good foot around his ankle, and he smiles softly at you. “Hulbury is a seafood town,” Rose is speaking, so you and Hop both turn to him. “Naturally, if one is going to eat here, the obvious choice is the local cuisine! Everything on the menu is delicious, please order whatever you like.”

                A look at the menu and its prices sends your head reeling. You’ve never ate at such a fancy place before, and you’re not even sure what half the things on the menu are. It’s something that you still aren’t fully used to here. Where you’re from, people eat animals, but they don’t have animals here, so people eat Pokémon instead. As someone with the unique ability to speak directly to Pokémon, this has disgusted you and upset you in the past.

                Hop and his family are all vegetarians for the same reason you refuse to eat Pokémon – they just can’t stand the idea of eating creatures they care about so much. It makes you feel hypocritical, as you ate meat at home without batting an eye, but here? You feel like vomiting at just the idea of eating one of these precious creatures.

                The menu is full of seafood dishes, of course. You and Hop share a look over the tops of your menus, and Hop grimaces. Your eyes madly scan the menu for anything without Pokémon in it. Up until this point, it hasn’t been hard to find things without Pokémon in them in menus at restaurants. Most had many dishes without. There are only two dishes here without Pokémon in them, and Hop points both of them out to you.

                Through communicating quietly and through your eyes and with gestures, you and Hop agree to each order one of the dishes without Pokémon in it, and share. That way, if one of them isn’t that great, you at least both can eat the second one. “By the way, Sonia,” Rose speaks up while you and Hop are deciding this, “How is Professor Magnolia getting on? I’m quite indebted to her, you know.”

                “Oh, I’m well aware,” Sonia smiles fakely at Rose. He ignores her completely and turns to you and Hop.

                “She was the one who figured out how to unleash the power of Wishing Stars and use that power to Dynamax Pokémon. We would never have been able to create Dynamax Bands without her.” Rose explains to you and Hop, and the two of you nod politely.

                Sonia sighs, “Yes, these two are well aware, Gran was the one to give them their Dynamax Bands, after all. She was saying there’s still so much we don’t know about Dynamaxing. It’s causing her, and I, some worry.” Sonia plays with a strand of her hair as she sets her menu down.

                “I don’t like to hear that you both are worried. Whatever about?” Rose prods, and Sonia makes a frustrated noise.

                “That we make use of it too liberally while knowing too little about it,” Sonia explains, a hint of ire in her voice.

                “Ah, and thus why you are out researching more about the Dynamax phenomenon! I wish there was more I could do to help… Ah, I bet you might find more answers in Hammerlocke. I’d check the Vault, and the extensive library there, if I were you. I believe the key to unlocking the secrets of the Dynamax phenomenon lies in the history preserved there.” Rose concludes, and you can tell Sonia rolls her eyes at this from the way she tosses her head to the side.

                “Yes, that was the plan,” Sonia divulges sarcastically.

                A waitress comes by and takes your orders then, writing them all down before bowing and leaving. “Hop, I wanted to personally congratulate you on setting a new record in the Turffield Gym Mission. That’s certainly no easy feat! Especially Turffield’s, that’s the Gym Mission every Challenger attempts! Setting a record there tells me to keep my eye on you.” Rose turns to Hop when she leaves, buttering him up.

                “Oh, thank you, sir. I have a lot of practice back home, so it was a piece of cake for me!” Hop boasts proudly, and Rose smiles at him.

                “Yes, and you’re doing remarkably well in the Gym Challenge so far. Two fabulous victories, with a strong team by your side. I daresay you might just be the Challenger to beat!” Rose marvels, and Hop eats up his praise.

                “I should hope so! I’m aiming to take Lee down, after all!” Hop proclaims with a wide grin, and you can’t help but smile at him, as uncomfortable as you are here in this situation.

                “Yes, quite the talented lot, your family. I can’t wait to see that battle! I’m sure the whole world will tune in to watch two brothers battle it out for the Champion title! Ah, what a match that will be!” Rose’s compliments are going straight to Hop’s head, you can tell from the stupidly wide grin on his face.

                The waitress returns with your drinks, and Rose continues to speak with Hop about his battling. “Two Champions in one family! That’s never happened in Galar before! We’ll be the first! A legendary family!” Hop is going on now, and Rose encourages it with a soft smile.

                “Hmm, I’m sure your mother will be so proud. Kieran, what about your family? Are they cheering for you in the Gym Challenge?” Rose turns to you with this knowing look, and you don’t like it.

                What do you tell him, though? The truth? Or do you lie because it would be easier? “Uh, well, I lost contact with my family a while back, so they don’t know, I don’t think.” Partial truths, you decide to stick with.

                “Lost contact? I’m sorry to hear that. Where are you from?” Rose asks, and Hop’s eyes go wide.

                You don’t remember where Leon told you to tell people you were from. Unova, yes, but you don’t remember the name of the city. “I’m from Unova, sir,” the lie brings that terrible smile to your face, but hopefully it’ll just read as polite in this situation.

                “Unova? Where about in Unova? Your accent sounds different.” Hop bites his lip at Rose’s words, and even Sonia flashes you a look.

                “I’m from the capital city.” You think you remember it being the capital, but you don’t remember the name of it off the top of your head. You’re from a city where you’re from, so it’s not a total lie, and you look to Hop desperately for help.

                “That’s right, you told me you were from Castelia,” Hop pipes up to cover for you, and you’re relieved he’s got your back.

                “Castelia, is that right? Biggest city in the world, yet you end up in Postwick of all places.” Rose sounds like he’s accusing you of something, it makes a shiver run down your spine.

                “Well, I spent a lot of summers out on the family farm outside the city. When I came here, I wanted that kind of peaceful, quiet life that only comes from a small farming town.” Once again, it’s not a total lie, you’re weaving some truth in there. It helps to tell a bit of the truth, your smile is controllable then.

                “What made you want to come to Galar to begin with? It’s such a dangerous journey to make, to cross the Weather Wall.” Hop gives you a look that tells you he has no answers for this, and you force yourself to laugh.

                “Well, funny story, that. It was a complete accident! Would love to tell you the whole story, but I was pretty drunk, I have no idea how I ended up on that ship! Then I was on my way here. The whole thing was all a big mistake, but I don’t regret the fresh start.” This is a total lie, so it has your face split in that awful grin once more. You try to make it feel less fake and more genuine, like you really are happy you made this fake drunken mistake, but you’re not sure how successful you are.

                Rose raises his eyebrows at you, and gives a small chortle. “My, what an interesting individual. I’ve been wondering what made Leon decide to endorse you for this, but I think I’m beginning to see! I look forward to seeing how far you’ll go.” Rose’s smile seems as genuine as his smile was for Hop, which is to say either totally genuine or completely fucking fake. You want to side with fake, given everything you know about him, but it does feel nice to have that warm smile turned on you.

                Your food arrives then, and conversation turns back to Sonia’s research. It’s really beginning to feel like Rose is trying to figure something out from Sonia, and she’s having none of it. All of her answers are vague or dodge the question completely. If Rose really is only looking to see how he can make money off her research, he sure is determined about it.

                The food is delicious, as it should be given its price tag. You and Hop share your two meals between the two of you. Someone comes to collect your Pokémon, telling you they’ll be fed in the back, and you reluctantly hand over your Pokeballs. You hope Raboot doesn’t freak out too much when you aren’t there.

                “My, you two sure are close, aren’t you?” Rose remarks to you and Hop as he watches you share food. A blush paints Hop’s face as he pulls back and sits ramrod straight in his chair.

                “We’re best friends.” You see no reason to hide this fact, so you state it naturally. Something flicks across Hop’s face, before he’s smiling and nodding.

                “That’s right, and we’re doing the whole Gym Challenge together. Sharing food like this is just something we do, I kind of forget sometimes.” Hop scratches the back of his head, leaning back in to eat again.

                “Just friends?” Rose taunts, and you want to glare at him but think better of it.

                You don’t answer him, but you notice Hop doesn’t either. Sonia’s phone goes off, and that distracts everyone. You’re relieved that conversation is dropped; Rose resumes pestering Sonia after that.

                “Chairman, I believe it is about time we get going,” Oleana leans down to the Chairman and whispers in his ear. You’re still able to overhear it, however. It dawns on you that Oleana has stood behind Rose this entire time, and has not sat or ate at all. What kind of cruel man is Rose? Did Oleana have a choice about that?

                “So soon? But I’ve hardly had a chance to talk with Hop and Kieran! It’s regrettable, but I suppose it can’t be helped. If something needs to get done, there’s no time like the present, after all! In any case, I bid you all farewell!” Rose gets up then, and Oleana follows him out of the restaurant. They leave out a back door, likely to avoid the crowds that have gathered around the front, and you’re left alone to have a fancy dinner with Sonia and Hop.

                As soon as Rose is gone, Sonia sighs dramatically and collapses forward. “By Arceus, now I see what Gran meant! No wonder she coached me so much for this…”

                “You ok, Sonia?” Hop asks, poking her arm with his fork. She waves her arm at him to try to dispel him, but it doesn’t seem to have any effect on stopping him.

                “No! Ugh, what a nightmare of a man! Can you believe him? He wants to completely own everything to do with Dynamaxing, I swear. Everything was all about what he’s done and how Gran’s helped him. Gag me! Gran would have done all of that on her own if it wasn’t for him sweeping in and buying up everything he could. He loves to claim he’s the one who’s done everything, when he really just buys those that do. And then he’s all, ‘Oh what can I do to help?’” Sonia makes a horrible imitation of his voice, “and offers the Vault? Like that wasn’t already in my plans? What a bloody wanker.”

                “You really don’t like him, do you?” You ask, and Sonia sits up and groans.

                “No! Especially not after what I learned from Gran today… But nevermind that. He’s gone now. Let’s just enjoy our food.” Sonia turns back to her meal and digs in. You and Hop share a look and shrug, going back to your food as well.

                Someone comes out with Raboot after a bit, complaining that they can’t keep him under control. “You really need to train your Pokémon better. He doesn’t listen to anyone!” The man complains, and you glare at him.

                “He was just scared! And you were yelling at him!” You can tell what all went down quickly through the bond, as Raboot walks you through it. “He didn’t know where I was and was frightened! All you had to do was tell him I was out here and he would have calmed right down.” You lecture the man, and he shakes his head at you.

                “If you trained him better, that wouldn’t be an issue.” He counters, and you’re about to speak up, but Hop has your back.

                “Hey! He is very well trained! You need to train your staff better on how to deal with Pokémon! If none of you could tell what was wrong with him, then the issue is on your staff, not on Raboot!” Hop argues on your behalf, and you quietly thank him.

                The man offers a half-hearted apology after that, and you know it’s because he’s mad that Raboot wrecked some of his kitchen. You share as much with Hop and Sonia when he leaves.

                Sonia snickers, “Serves him right then! That’s what happens when you corner a scared Pokémon. They should have come and got you the moment they noticed something was wrong with Raboot.” Sonia shakes her head at their stupidity.

                Raboot sits with you calmly the rest of dinner and through dessert. Which, since it’s on Rose’s tab, of course the three of you decide to order dessert. When you’re all done, your Pokémon are brought back out to you, and you thank the staff for the meal on your way out.

                The crowd around the entrance is gone now. Your leg hurts so much. The pain meds have worn off completely by this point, and the whole reason you don’t stay at the restaurant longer is because you are in too much pain. Sonia splits off from you to go find Nessa to further vent, and Hop leads you off to the Center.

                The doctor has gone home for the night, but a nurse tells you she’s coming in to see you and will be a few hours. You’re set up in a room and given more pain meds through an IV while you wait, and Hop comes and sits with you. The two of you talk idly until she shows up, to take your mind off the pain and the worry about what she’s going to say.

                You’re so glad Hop falls asleep before she shows up. Her quiet lecture to you goes unheard by Hop as he softly snores through the whole thing.

Chapter Text

Milo:(I got in trouble)

(For what?):You

Milo:(I shouldn’t have helped Kieran when she fell over)

                Sonia bites her lip. He really shouldn’t have, but when she turns and looks at the girl who can barely walk as Hop supports her, she’s also glad he did.

(How much trouble are you in?):You

Milo:(The kind that has Rose coming here)

                Sonia clenches her teeth and squeezes her eyes shut until the sting of tears about to fall fades. She worries for her friend, she doesn’t know exactly what her friends mean when they say stuff like this, but she knows it’s bad. Rose is not a kind man, she hopes Milo will be ok.

(You really shouldn’t have helped her):You

Milo:(She couldn’t even stand! I don’t regret it. Rose’s rules hurt too many people)

Milo:(You were the one who asked me to go easy on her)

(I didn’t mean break Rose’s rules!):You

Milo:(Is she ok?)

                Sonia wants to face-palm, but resists. She sighs deeply – her friend is far too kind for his own good. He gets in often gets in trouble for helping out the Gym Challengers; this is a yearly thing. It doesn’t get easier to hear, rather, it only gets harder for Sonia to hear annually, again and again. The more she learns about Rose, the more she fears for her friends. That man is bad news – she’s not sure how – and everyone keeps telling her to stay away.

Milo:(Sonia?)

                Sonia shakes her head as her phone buzzes again. She pulls herself out of her thoughts and taps out a reply.

(I don’t know. Hop is helping her walk, we’re on the way to the Center):You

Milo:(Can you call me when you have a moment?)

                That worries Sonia. She looks down to her two companions walking next to her. She doesn’t want to ditch them, she’s worried about Kieran too.

(When we get to the Center, I’ll call, is that ok?):You

Milo:(Yes, thank you)

Milo:(I think Nessa is in a battle, she’s not picking up)

(If you get a hold of her before me, let me know?):You

Milo:(Of course)

                Sonia stares at her phone, unsure what else to say, until they get to the Center. As Hop helps his friend to the front desk, Sonia lets them know she’ll catch up with them in a bit, and walks off to finally call her friend and find out what’s going on.

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                “I thought I might find you here,” Sonia pipes up as she leans against the railing next to Nessa.

                “Mmm, I only had one Gym Challenger today, so now I’m free for the day. Getting some fishing in while it’s still quiet. You think it’s already slowing down? There weren’t as many Challengers this year.” Nessa flings her rod out over the railing, and slowly starts reeling it in when it hits the water.

                “I doubt it, it usually doesn’t slow down for you for at least another week, right?” Sonia watches her friend with idle curiosity, as she reels in nothing once again.

                “True, I’m sure another wave is coming. At least today is quiet. What are you doing out in Hulbury, anyways? You never mentioned in your text.” Nessa gives Sonia a quick raise of her eyebrow before casting the line back out once more.

                “Ugh, Rose wants to have dinner with me to discuss how my research is going. Gran’s already called me and coached me through what I should and shouldn’t say. After what I heard from her… I hate the man, Nessa. How am I supposed to go have dinner with him? He’s horrible!” Sonia cries out, and Nessa remains quiet.

                “He really is,” Nessa sighs after a long pause, letting her line sit in the water as she gazes intently out to the horizon.

                “You would know better than I about that, too.” Sonia gives her friend a sympathetic glance, but Nessa is still staring out at the sea.

                “Don’t get on his bad side, Sonia. Be careful.” Nessa finally looks to her friend, concern and fear darkening her eyes, like stormy clouds rolling in over a harbor.

                Sonia nods, and there’s an awkward silence for a while before Sonia continues. “Oh, there was another reason I wanted to talk to you.”

                Nessa blinks and throws the line back out into the ocean. “Oh yeah? What’s that?”

                “You know that Gym Challenger, Kieran? She’s becoming a closer friend to me now, and I worry about her in the Gym Challenge…” Sonia begins, twirling her hair around her finger.

                “She’s the injured one, no?” Nessa asks without looking towards Sonia, focused on her line.

                “Yes, she is. And I was hoping that maybe… You might take it easy on her.” Sonia pushes her fingers together timidly as Nessa whirls around.

                “What?! Are you serious?! You’re asking me to throw a match just because she’s your mate now? Sonia… How could you? You know I can’t do that!” Nessa screeches, and Sonia throws up her hands placatingly.

                “Ah, no, you’re getting the wrong idea… I just meant don’t push her too hard, you know? I really don’t want to see her injury get worse.” Sonia explains, but Nessa just shakes her head.

                “I really can’t do that, Sonia. Rose has already got his eye on me after that stunt I pulled in All-Stars, and you know he’s going to be analyzing her matches more because she’s injured. I cannot afford to risk going easy on her. I’m sorry Sonia, but I need to cover my own arse first.” Nessa admits, and Sonia can only cross her arms and sigh.

                Now that she knows more about Rose, she shudders at the idea of what Rose might do to Nessa. She knows Milo got punished for helping Kieran, and she knows Nessa would need to be careful. “But all you have to do is not chase her around the pitch, like you like to do. Please, Nessa!” Sonia begs, and Nessa shakes her head.

                “You know what happened to Milo! My answer is no, Sonia! If anything, I’m going to push her harder than I normally would, just because Rose is watching!” Nessa argues, throwing her head over her shoulder to glare at Sonia.

                “You’re going to hurt her!” Sonia tries to grab Nessa’s arm for emphasis, but Nessa only glares at her again, lips twisting into a scowl.

                “My answer is not changing, Sonia. If doing the Gym Challenge is going to hurt her, she should quit.” Nessa turns back to the ocean with a finality to her tone.

                Sonia’s eyes flash, and she’s about to argue further when she spots the very Trainer they were talking about coming down the lane with Hop. “Well we can’t talk about it more anyways,” Sonia mutters quietly to Nessa, before waving at her friends. Nessa looks over her shoulder to see the two Trainers approach. “Oh, wow, speaking of,” Sonia raises her voice as they get close.

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                “You’re sure this is the area,” Piers deadpans, tiredly scanning around for this strong Pokémon they were hunting for.

                “I’m not as bad at directions as Leon is, you hoser. I know where we are. And yes, but these Pokémon are rare. Leon spent a bunch of time out here with Sonia, and only found one.” Raihan explains with a flick of his wrist.

                “And why are we catchin’ your boyfriend’s Pokémon for him again,” Piers asks just as emotionless as before.

                “Because he’ll be so impressed, he’ll let me top for once,” Raihan barks out a laugh, and Piers rolls his eyes.

                “I let you top and you don’t catch me Pokémon,” Piers shoves against Raihan, and Raihan only laughs more.

                “Aww, babe, want me to catch you a Pokémon?” Raihan teases, throwing an arm around Piers, and Piers smacks the arm away from him.

                “Sod off you fuckin’ hoe,” Raihan doesn’t seem bothered in the slightest, changing his tactics and going after Piers’ waist instead as he complains. He wraps the man up, and this time Piers doesn’t swat him away.

                “Nah, can’t leave you alone out here, you might die on me,” Raihan grins at his friend, causing the smaller man to roll his eyes again.

                “That was one time-” Piers begins, but Raihan shushes him.

                “You hear that?” Raihan whispers, and Piers shakes his head. He tries to listen for whatever Raihan is hearing, but his hearing isn’t nearly as good as the Dragon-tamer’s. Years of concerts and loud music have ruined his hearing, which is why he relies so much on Raihan out here in the Wild Area.

                He hates the Wild Area, he wouldn’t be here unless he had to. After nearly losing his top 16 spot last year, Piers needs to train harder this year. Raihan always made a good training partner, they’ve been training together since doing the Gym Challenge together all those years ago. He trusts Raihan to take care of him out here, because he’s useless at caring for himself. It wasn’t just one time Piers has had something bad happen to him out here, even with Raihan around to save him, as much as he likes to pretend otherwise.

                Raihan gestures for Piers to follow him as he slowly walks through the grass towards where he heard the noise. He’s got a Pokeball out in his hand, ready to go, and Piers grabs a fistful of Raihan’s jacket to keep himself steady as he follows him. It’s only an Oddish, however, not the Sobble or Grookey that they were looking for.

                “This would be easier if I knew what either of them sounded like. I thought this could be it.” Raihan sighs, slumping in defeat. He takes a picture of the Pokémon anyways, and begins drafting a post in PokeGram for when he has a connection again.

                “We gonna set up camp then? It’s getting’ late.” Piers interrupts Raihan as he fiddles with filters on the photo.

                “Sure, if you want. I’m not tired, I could go a ways more, but if you’re ready to rest, we can stop here.” Raihan drops his teasing tone, making his offer kindly.

                They set up camp, Piers has never had the stamina Raihan has. Raihan and his Pokémon get a massive fire going as Piers prepares dinner for them. The two men cuddle around the fire, bantering for a while until the sun sets.

                The two spend the next few days hunting down different areas Grookey and Sobble have been seen. They battle often, against each other and whatever wild Pokémon they can find. “I see how Leon only found one, why does he even want these rare Pokémon? Doesn’t the bloke have enough of ‘em?” Piers complains, knocking a clump of mud from his boot against a tree.

                “It’s for Hop, apparently. He wants to give him his choice of a strong Pokémon to take on the Gym Challenge with or something. Hey, isn’t Marnie going to do the Gym Challenge this year too?” Raihan pushes a branch out of the way of his face, and as it swings back into place when Raihan lets it go, it smacks Piers in the face.

                “Ow! You fuckin’ arsehole! That hurt!” Piers kicks Raihan’s leg, not very hard, he doesn’t want to lose balance and fall over. Raihan only chuckles though, trying to hide his grin behind his hand.

                “Sorry,” he offers, but it feels empty with his dumb grin taking up half his face. Piers only glares at the man.

                “Yeah, Marnie’s well enough this year, so she said she’s goin’. I’m still worried, but Team Yell’ll keep an eye on her.” Piers explains in answer to Raihan’s earlier question. “I want to get her a Dynamax band. It’ll help her out.”

                “See, you understand wanting to get your little sibling something for the Gym Challenge. You’re both in the same boat, eh? Hop’s been putting it off cuz he’s scared though, not cuz he’s poorly.” Raihan throws an arm around Piers, and Piers groans with a roll of his eyes.

                “Can you ask him for me?” Piers tries to give Raihan his best Tearful Look, and Raihan scoffs.

                “Oh come off it. Tell you what, you find one of those Pokémon, and I will.” Raihan decides, and Piers raises an eyebrow.

                “How will I find one before you when we’re travelling together,” Piers crosses his arms and looks to Raihan.

                “I meant together, dickhead. Just help instead of be a pain in my arse, yeah?” Raihan gives Piers a knowing smile, and Piers rolls his eyes again. “They’re gonna get st-”

                “Stuck, yes, so funny Raihan, ha ha.” Piers snorts, shoving at Raihan as he passes.

                “Always the sarcasm with you,” Raihan shakes his head, but grabs Piers’ hand as he passes. Piers doesn’t pull his away, letting Raihan hold his hand.

                They continue like this for a while, walking alongside a river as they scan for the rare Pokémon. Piers almost overlooks a bluish rock, before double-taking. Rocks didn’t typically have yellow fins. He pulls out his Rotom-phone and looks up pictures of the Pokémon they’re hunting for.

                Raihan notices that Piers has stopped moving by the tug on his hand, and turns back around to see what he’s doing. When he sees the man looking at the photos on his phone, then out to the river, Raihan squints to try to see what Piers might be looking for.

                Then he spots the curled up, sun-bathing Pokémon. He grins widely at Piers, walking quietly next to him. “Ok, guess I owe you a Dynamax Band, babe,” Raihan squeezes at Piers’ ass and then continues walking forward.

                Piers would retaliate, but he doesn’t want to spook the Pokémon they’re trying to catch. It’s taken them this long to find one, after all. Piers was beginning to think they wouldn’t find one at all. Raihan lets out his Goodra when he gets close, and the Sobble wakes up with a start.

                He tries to flee into the river, but Goodra beats him there and scoops the Pokémon into her arms. The Sobble stops struggling when he realizes that the Pokémon holding him means no harm. “Looks like he’s calming down, what’s the plan?” Piers asks, bringing Obstagoon out in case help is needed.

                “Now I try to convince the little guy to come with me.” Raihan digs in his bag, pulling out some treats. He feeds the Sobble, and gently pets him when he lets Raihan do so. “Well aren’t you just the sweetest? How would you like to come with us? There’s more yummy treats for you where that came from, and I have someone very important to me who will love you very much.” Raihan asks, and Goodra loosens her grip on the Sobble.

                Raihan holds open his arms, giving Sobble the choice to climb into Raihan’s arms, or jump down and flee. The Sobble carefully reaches out towards Raihan, then crawls up his arm. Piers smiles as Raihan moves to cuddle the small Pokémon.

                “Now do we get to go home?” Piers asks tiredly.

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                “Ok, I don’t trust you with setting up the tent or with making dinner. So which one are you less likely to fuck up?” Raihan tosses his bag down in a clearing with the intent to set up camp here for the night.

                “Likely the tent,” Leon replies, and begins digging the tent out of his bag.

                Raihan lets all his Pokémon out, and Leon follows suit. “Flygon, Duraludon, please help Leon set up the tent. Otherwise he’ll destroy it.” Raihan calls out as he begins digging out the supplies for dinner.

                “Hey! I will not destroy it! At worst, it just won’t get set up!” Leon complains as Charizard begins doing the actual work of setting up the tent. Leon mostly stands back and watches, occasionally directing the Pokémon or holding a pole steady. Raihan grins while watching his boyfriend try to be useful.

                “You really only have two talents. Looking pretty and battling.” Raihan shoots off while he’s stirring the food.

                “I take offence to that! I’m damn good at organizing tournaments too!” Leon challenges, and Raihan howls with laughter.

                “That doesn’t really help your case, love!” Raihan gets out while wiping tears from his eyes.

                “I have other talents too,” Leon whines as he sits down beside Raihan. The tent is pretty much set up at this point, the Pokémon know well enough what they’re doing. This is always how things go when the two of them go camping together.

                Raihan grins at his partner, knocking Leon’s side with his elbow. “Of course you do, babe,” he teases sarcastically, and Leon only groans. “So the plan is to stay out here until we find a Grookey, yeah?” Raihan asks as he spoons food into bowls for everyone.

                “What? No, we’re doing a full sweep of the Wild Area. We’re out here the full two weeks, whether we find a Grookey or not.” Leon furrows his brows as he explains, and Raihan balks.

                “Whoa whoa whoa, you said ‘to find a Grookey’ in the text. Here, I’ll even pull it up to show you.” Raihan scrambles to pull out his Rotom-phone and unlock it.

                “Did you not read the whole thing?” Amusement dances in Leon’s eyes as Raihan pulls up the text.

                “Of course I did! See it says- oh.” Raihan deflates at once, and Leon lets out a loud laugh, clapping Raihan hard on the back.

                “I packed extra. After this happened last time we did a sweep, I learned my lesson.” Leon teases, and Raihan groans.

                “Come off it, I’m not that bad at this!” Raihan shakes his head, and Leon wraps his arms around him.

                “At least you’re pretty,” he wears a shit eating grin as Raihan shoves him.

                “How dare you turn my own insult against me,” Raihan wears a smile despite his harsh tone.

                The two men finish dinner the same way they started – bantering and teasing each other. As they’re cleaning up, Raihan turns to Leon. “You really think these Pokémon are going to make Hop want to go do the Gym Challenge this year?”

                “I hope so, Rai. He can do it, I know he can. But he’s so afraid he can’t do it, he won’t even try. He’ll never admit that, though. He’ll just make up another excuse. But I’m going to push him this year. I want to see him succeed.” Leon has a sad look in his amber eyes as he meets the teal gaze on him.

                Raihan smiles, “What if he actually ends up dethroning you like he keeps bragging he’ll do?”

                Leon chuckles lightly. “I wouldn’t mind in the slightest. It’d be nice to have something to work towards again. Of course, losing would sting at first, but I’d be more chuffed than gutted.” Leon sighs and look up at the darkening sky.

                “He has a long way to go still, if he wants to beat you.” Raihan wraps his arms around his partner and pulls him back to the fire. They’ve mostly finished cleaning up, they can leave the rest for the morning.

                Leon lets himself be pulled back to the fire, cuddling with his boyfriend. “That’s exactly why he’s so afraid. But every year he waits, it’s only going to be harder for him. Which is exactly why I’m going to push him to go this year.”

                “He knows a lot about battling, he’s going to be really good once he actually tries. Can’t wait to take him on in the Gym Challenge.” Raihan leans in and kisses the man in his arms on the cheek.

                “I know. I want to battle him, too.” Leon leans back, resting his head against the Dragon-Leader’s chest. “This is nice.”

                Raihan hums in agreement, rubbing Leon’s back with one of his hands. “Want to just cuddle here for a while before bed then?” Raihan asks as he looks down at his partner snuggled into his chest.

                Leon only nods, closing his eyes as he lets Raihan adjust the two into a more comfortable position. Eventually, Leon ends up in Raihan’s lap as they stare up at the stars through the cracks in the trees. Leon teasingly grinds his ass down into Raihan, and earns a gasp from him.

                “I thought you wanted some innocent cuddling time under the stars?” Raihan raises an eyebrow at his partner, and Leon turns in his lap, capturing Raihan’s lips in a kiss.

                It quickly turns heated as Raihan slips his tongue into Leon’s mouth. The two men pull away for air, and mirth dances in Leon’s eyes.

                “I changed my mind.” Leon dives in for another kiss, straddling the Dragon-tamer to get better access to his mouth.

                Leon grinds down hard into Raihan, and the taller man moans into Leon’s mouth. Raihan bucks his hips up into his partner, and Leon grunts.

                It’s not the sound Raihan’s expecting, but then Leon pulls away suddenly, rubbing the back of his head. “Everything alright?” Raihan asks, running his hands up and down Leon’s sides while he waits for the purple haired man to be ready to continue.

                “No, something hit my head pretty hard,” Leon looks away, trying to spot what hit him.

                Raihan looks up, trying to see if there’s anything up in the trees. As the branches sway, Raihan realizes there’s a Pokémon up there. He taps Leon’s arm and points up, and Leon looks to where he’s pointing.

                Neither man can make out what Pokémon is playing up in the branches, chittering away like it was laughing at them. Leon looks over to Charizard, and makes a gesture towards one of the trees. Charizard picks up on the queue immediately, and head-butts a nearby tree.

                The action causes the branches to shake, but the Pokémon doesn’t fall. Something falls and hits Raihan in the head this time. “Ow, fuck, little shit’s gonna pay!” Raihan curses, picking up a rock and tossing it up towards the branches. It clearly whiffs, and there’s more chittering as the Pokémon laughs at them.

                The two men stand, and Raihan calls over Flygon as Charizard takes off to see what’s up in the branches. Charizard roars when he comes face to face with the Pokémon, and Raihan and Flygon wait beneath the branch to see where he tries to move.

                Charizard’s loud roar seems to have scared the Pokémon, as it loses balance and falls onto Raihan. The Pokémon is quite a bit bigger and heavier than the berries it had been dropping on their heads, so the action causes the Gym Leader to fall over.

                Now it’s Leon’s turn to laugh, but he quickly gasps when he realizes what Pokémon it is. “Rai, don’t move,” Leon instructs, and Raihan lays still. He can’t see what Pokémon it is, but Leon wouldn’t tell him to lay still for no reason.

                “What is it?” Raihan asks from his position with his face basically in the dirt.

                “A Grookey,” Leon says as the Pokémon charges at Charizard. He slams his body repeatedly into Charizard, and Raihan gets up when he feels the Pokémon get off his back. Leon and Raihan watch with amusement as the Grookey tries to fight Charizard.

                “Well this one isn’t as scared as that Sobble was,” Raihan remarks as Leon pulls out an empty Pokeball.

                “Oh yeah, he’s got some fight in him!” Leon wears a wide grin as Raihan comes to stand beside him. Eventually, the Grookey seems to tire himself out, and he collapses in a heap in front of Charizard. As soon as he’s down, Leon tosses the Pokeball at him. It wiggles for a while, before the light turns green and it stops shaking.

                “Alright! That’s all three!” Leon picks up the Pokeball and strikes his famous Charizard pose.

                “Ok, make me eat my words, why don’t you. You win the bet. Tell me, Champion, what is my fate?” Raihan throws an arm dramatically over his face as he teases.

                Leon shakes his head. “You’re the one who has to do that fundraiser now, that was the deal.”

                Raihan wails, “Noooo, anything but that! I hate having to brownnose with those toffs!”

                “And you think I do?” Leon raises an eyebrow at Raihan as he lets his new Pokémon out of his Pokeball.

                Raihan continues grumbling about it for the rest of their two week trip.

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                “Good morning, ready to hear more about your past today?” The man asks as he closes the door behind him.

                The girl nods. “I have a few questions first, if you don’t mind.” She folds her hands politely on her lap as the man takes a seat in the comfy armchair.

                “Well, if the answers are ahead in the story, I’m not going to spoil anything,” the man laughs, getting himself comfortable in the chair by throwing both his legs over one armrest and leaning back against the other.

                The girl frowns, but asks anyways. “Who’s the father of my son?”

                “That’s spoilers,” the man wags his finger, and the girl pouts.

                “Fine. I’ve been having strange dreams, and now that you’ve told me a bit about my past, I’m beginning to recognize things. I see Hop and Leon in them. I’m dancing with Leon, then I’m getting crowned with Hop, then Hop gets hurt by a large Pokémon… Then I get knocked over, and there’s a man on top of me.” She takes a deep, shuddering breath. “Are they… Do they mean anything?”

                The man sighs, his face falling. “Yes, unfortunately they do. It’s not anything I’ll be getting to today, however. You’ll have to be patient.” The girl frowns further at this.

                “But… They’re terrifying! If you told me, it wouldn’t be as scary.” She pesters, but the man just shakes his head.

                “I’m afraid not, it would only confuse you more. Just let me tell you how things go in order, alright?” He sits up in his chair, looking her directly in the eyes.

                “Ok, you told me yesterday people didn’t know about me. Does that mean people think I’m dead? What did you mean by that?” The girl scratches at her arms uncomfortably.

                “Yes and no… It’s complicated.” The man’s lips pull into a line.

                “What?” She sounds exasperated at this point.

                The man scratches his short beard while he thinks on how to word things. He speaks slowly as a result. “Well… To certain people, no. But to the public, yes, they think you’re dead. Some think you’re still missing, as you are ‘Missing Declared Dead’, after all.”

                “What? You’re so infuriating. Certain people, missing and declared dead, what do you mean?” The girl crosses her arms and huffs.

                “Here,” the man undoes the Dynamax Band around his wrist and tosses it to her.

                Catching it, she examines the band up close. Most of it is stained a dark red, and the girl realizes that it’s blood. It’s old, judging by the fading of the stain. The face of the band is clear, but the fabric around the rest holds the history of what it has seen.

                “It was yours.” The man explains after she’s had a moment to examine it.

                “Mine?” She remembers him speaking about her having a Dynamax Band in the past. “Why is it like this?”

                “You were attacked by a Pokémon, that’s the very end of the story though. Happy with your answers?” The man gestures for her to toss the band back to him.

                “Why do you have my Dynamax Band?” She does, she tosses it back, but she’s curious. “Is it because you have my memories?”

                “That’s right,” the man nods, attaching the band back to his wrist.

                “Wait, when you mean certain people, you mean the people who were once close to me, don’t you?” Her eyebrows furrow accusingly at him.

                “Yes, that’s right.” He sighs, adjusting in the chair.

                “Does that mean people think you’re me?” She means it to come out more aggressively than the squeak that leaves her lips.

                “Well, yes and no…” His lips pull in a line again and he shrugs.

                “Stop it! Explain!” Her voice is steady this time, and the man holds up his hands in surrender.

                “Alright! The people who you were close to think I’m you, yes, but they’re aware I’m not really you. They do treat me as such, though. To the rest of the world? No, I’m not you. I’m a completely different person. I’m Victor.” The man relents, sagging into the chair further. “Any other questions? Or can I get back to telling you how things happened in order?”

                “Fine. Just tell me more about my past, then.” She grumbles, slumping back against her bed.

                “Gladly.”

Chapter Text

                You tell Hop you’re ready to head to Motostoke the next morning. “That’s great to hear, mate!” He cheers, helping you get ready to check out of the Center. Even though you’re in a lot of pain today, you really don’t want to waste the time here resting. You know you shouldn’t do it, you should stay here and rest, you’re not at all ready to head to Motostoke. Yet the grin that splits your face when you lie once again only aids you in selling the lie to Hop.

                “You going to ditch me somewhere while you go do all the shopping for us again?” You tease Hop, butting him with your shoulder as the two of you walk past some vendor stalls. Hop leads you to a picnic table, and gets you to sit down there.

                “Yep, you stay here and watch the Pokémon, ok? I’ll go get us everything we’ll need to make it back to Motostoke.” Hop pats your shoulder before dashing off, not even giving you a chance to complain. He leaves you with all but his trusty Wooloo for you to watch over, and you let the Pokémon play around your feet. You try to keep them out of the way of others, but they do have a lot of energy today.

                Hop comes and sits with you when he’s finished getting all the supplies. You go through everything while Hop maps out the best route back to Motostoke from Hulbury. “We could do the mines again, it’s another shortcut. I imagine they’ll be much like the mines in the west, so I’d probably have to carry you through most of it.” Hop suggests with a smile. He looks too happy about having to carry you again, but you’re not about to complain either.

                “Sounds like a plan, then. If that’s the fastest way, let’s do that.” You begin putting everything back in your bags once you’ve finished, and Hop nods to you.

                “Great! We can probably make it to the mines today. I think.” Hop helps you finish, and then the two of you are heading out of Hulbury. You take in the lovely scent of the sea air one last time before heading through a tunnel out of the city.

                Hop is partially correct, the two of you can see the mines in the distance by the time you need to set up camp for the night. “We’ll make it to them and through them tomorrow, easy peasy.” Hop grins at you while he fixes up the tent.

                Sonia had given you a cookbook after you’d asked her for cooking advice. You want to make Hop and your Pokémon better tasting meals, as it’s the one thing you can really provide in assistance to this team. You flip through the pages, looking for something that looks appealing and that you have the ingredients for. A lot of it is curry, which you do thankfully have the ingredients for. Also, curry is harder to mess up, as even if you get things wrong, it can be hard to tell when everything is mixed together.

                Your meal is edible, and not bad tasting. Certainly one of the better ones the two of you have made on the road, as even Hop comments that it’s better than normal. “Wow this doesn’t taste horrible! That guess I owe Sonia thanks for that cookbook,” Hop remarks as he stuffs his face.

                “She’s so helpful, I really appreciate her,” you reply as you begin cleaning up. When the sun sets, you and Hop head into the tent early to try and get some extra sleep. You stare at your wound for a while as you change the bandages, thinking about the implications of the actions you’re taking.

                It looks a right mess now, and it’s going to scar horribly. You’re likely to never walk normally again. “Everything ok, mate?” Hop looks over to see you just staring at your leg.

                “Huh? Oh, yeah just got lost in my thoughts. Can you hand me the antibacterial cream?” You try to wipe the concerned look from his face. You don’t want him to think something serious is wrong, because it is, but you don’t want him to have to deal with that too.

                Morning comes, and the two of you make it to the mines without incident. Inside is very similar to the mines on the west end of Galar, but with more water. There’s a few Water-type Pokémon around, and a lot more instances where Hop has to carry you. Some paths are completely underwater, and Hop has to wade through those with you on his back.

                “Ack, it’s cold,” Hop complains as he first sets his foot in the water. Raboot watches, grimacing at Hop’s remark. Corvisquire picks him up and carries him to the other side.

                “Maybe this was a bad way to come?” You offer sympathetically from up safely on Hop’s back.

                “No, really?” Hop’s sarcasm doesn’t dim his smile, at least, as he chuckles humourlessly to himself. “It must have rained a bunch, I think it drains in here,” Hop tries to explain, and you hum in understanding.

                “Is it normally dry in here?” You ask, and Hop shrugs. Or at least, attempts to with you on his back.

                “No idea, mate. This is the first time I’ve ever been in these mines. Though I remember Kabu said he trains here because of the Pokémon here. Maybe it is always wet? Would make sense for him to be training against Water-types and Rock-types at once.” Hop makes it across pretty quick, and sets you down on the ground before flopping down beside you.

                He was smart enough to roll up his pants and take off his socks, but he kept the shoes on in case there had been sharp rocks. Now, he throws his soaked shoes off, and begins rubbing his cold feet. You hand him his socks wordlessly, and he thanks you softly. You two sit there quietly while Hop warms himself up. Raboot helps, using his warmer temperature to speed up Hop’s reheating process.

                “Thanks, Raboot. Man that’s cold! I’m almost tempted to turn around and go back at the thought of having to do that again. But then I’d have to do it again!” Hop frowns, putting his wet shoes back on. “I don’t have a second pair of shoes, either. Ugh!” Hop puts his socks back in his bag, keeping them off to keep them dry.

                “Sorry, Hoppy…” You mumble apologetically, but Hop shakes his head.

                “For what? There’s nothing to be sorry for. I picked this path, I’ll manage.” Hop gets to his feet, and helps you back up to yours. “Come on, let’s get going. We still have a ways to go.” Hop leads you further into the mines, his arm around your waist to support you once more.

                The two of you head through a low tunnel into a room full of glittering rocks. It’s gorgeous, and the way the light reflects off of them mesmerizes you. However, the room is not empty. Your old pal Bede is off to the side, putting a different rock in his pocket.

                “Bede? What are you doing here?” Hop throws his arms up in surprise, letting go of you in the process, and causing you to lose your balance slightly.

                Bede turns around at the sound of Hop’s voice, glaring at the two of you as you walk in. “You two again…” Bede mutters as he walks towards you.

                He meets you in the middle of the room. “Didn’t peg you as the rock collecting type,” you tease, and Bede glowers at you.

                “I’d challenge you to a battle, but I’d feel bad making my Pokémon take part in a battle against such weak opponents.” Corvisquire and Raboot hear Bede’s insult, and are immediately offended by it. They both want a battle now, as they want to kick his ass for calling them weak. “I’m not in the mood to deal with weaklings right now.”

                “The only weakling I remember was you, when I kicked your ass.” You glare back at Bede, and he puts a hand threateningly on your walker again.

                “Then again, I suppose it’s a form of mercy to crush weak opponents early on.” Bede spits back, and you’d hit him if you weren’t sure he could probably punch harder than you could. “You’re under the misguided impression that you’re better than me, I suppose it’s my duty to set that straight.”

                “You’d have to win a battle, first. If you watch closely, I might even show you how!” You taunt as the man walks away to make space for your battle.

                “It is utterly inconceivable that I, the challenger chosen by the Chairman himself, will lose!” Bede shouts back as he pulls a Pokeball out of his pocket, and tosses it into the air in a fancy way before catching it.

                “You sure you got this?” Hop asks, and you turn your glare on him.

                “You doubt me?” You ask as you recall both your Pokémon as well.

                “No, I’m just worried. Seems like you’re in a lot of pain today, you sure you want to do this?” Hop’s eyes are full of concern, and you feel bad for glaring at him now. Your face softens as your shoulders sag.

                “Yes, I’m sure. Little shits like him need to be put in their place.” You spin back around to face Bede, and he scoffs.

                “Such vulgarity is why people like you never make it far in life.” Bede tosses out his first Pokémon, his Solosis.

                “Excuse me? How dare you!” You yell, angered. You toss Raboot’s ball out, and he charges in at Solosis. He dives in with Flame Charge, hitting the Solosis and knocking him back a ways.

                “Psybeam!” Bede shouts, and his Solosis shoots a pink beam of energy at Raboot. He jumps out of the way just in time, and Bede blinks slowly in frustration. “Again!” Solosis tries again, but Raboot is faster. He runs in and hits Solosis with Quick Attack. Solosis bounces briefly before firing off a Psybeam, hitting Raboot. “Now use Recover!”

                The Pokémon rests, healing itself. This gives Raboot a chance to run in and get Solosis with Blaze Kick. The powerful kick sends the Pokémon tumbling backwards. When Solosis doesn’t move after a moment, Bede takes a sharp intake of breath as he recalls his Pokémon.

                “I’m just testing you to see how much you’ve improved.” Bede states, throwing out his next Pokémon, his Gothita. “Use Hypnosis!” His Pokémon fires off a wave of energy that would make Raboot sleep, but he’s easily able to jump over the waves and dodge the attack. Another Flame Charge knocks Gothita over, but she recovers quickly. “Charm!” Gothita makes herself look cute, and Raboot feels like going a bit easier on her.

                You squeeze your hands around your walker in frustration. Raboot goes in for another Blaze Kick, but Bede is prepared this time. “Protect!” The barrier goes up just in time for Raboot’s foot to bounce harmlessly off it. Raboot doesn’t let that bother him, he just tries again. Bede growls, “Again!” But the second time Raboot’s foot connects, as Gothita’s barrier does not work two times in a row.

                Gothita is barely hanging in there. “Use Psybeam now!” Bede calls out, and the beam of energy hits Raboot as Gothita prepares for him jumping out of the way and adjusts her attack accordingly. The hit sends Raboot tumbling backwards, and you wince in pain. When he gets up, he’s dizzy and disoriented.

                Dammit, he confused us again! You bite your lip as you push your message across the bond. You fall into your walker, and Hop is quick to catch you.

                “You ok? This happened last time, too,” Hop looks concerned. He looks out at Raboot, who’s struggling to run up to Gothita, and then back to you. He seems to be getting it as Raboot tries to attack, but the kick throws him off balance and he falls over. Hop’s face changes from concern to suspicion as he watches Raboot.

                “Now!” Bede shouts, and Gothita shoots another beam of pink energy at Raboot. Unable to dodge it, Raboot rolls backwards. You fall into Hop as the dizziness gets worse. Raboot is barely hanging in there. In one last attempt to beat Gothita, he runs forwards, lighting himself on fire, hoping to hit Gothita with his Flame Charge and not the wall.

                The hit connects. Gothita is slammed by Raboot, and both go tumbling together in a heap. Raboot is still hanging in there, but Gothita passes out from the tumble. Hop seems to put things together as Raboot stumbles around as he gets back up. “Oh, he’s confused! So you are too!” Hop whisper-shouts in his excitement at figuring it out. You nod to Hop, trying to keep your focus on the battle as much as possible. Hop wraps you up in his arms and holds you up, so at least you don’t have to hold yourself steady anymore. “Don’t worry, mate. I got you.” His voice is right in your ear.

                It sends a shiver down your spine that you ignore for now. Bede has recalled Gothita and is sending out his next Pokémon. Hatenna appears, and Bede grins. “Quick! Disarming Voice!” Bede yells. This is the same thing that got Raboot last time. He tries to dodge, and goes down, unable to dodge the unavoidable attack. You stumble as the dizziness you feel is suddenly replaced with silence, and Hop helps right you against your walker. He runs out and grabs Raboot for you, Bede raising an eyebrow at the action.

                He doesn’t say anything as you toss out Corvisquire, however. As always, Corvisquire is pissed that Raboot got taken down. He cries out before diving down at Hatenna with Retaliate. It doesn’t take her down in one hit, but it certainly weakens her significantly. “Use Play Nice!” Hatenna acts cute, causing Corvisquire to suffer the same weakened state that Raboot was in earlier. You curse Bede and all his Attack-lowering moves his Pokémon know.

                Corvisquire is going to finish this, though. Use Power Trip to raise your Attack back up you instruct over the bond, and he quickly follows through with the command. One hit is all it takes to finish Hatenna, and Bede huffs.

                “Excellent! Not everyone can corner my team like this!” He wears a small smile, and there’s a light in his eyes that reminds you of the one Hop gets when battling you. He recalls his Hatenna and tosses out another Pokémon.

                You haven’t seen this one before, so you nudge Hop. “What Pokémon is that?”

                “Ponyta, Psychic-type,” Hop answers, filling you in on what you need to know. You could have assumed Psychic based on all of Bede’s other Pokémon, but you don’t remember Ponyta looking like this, or being anything other than a fire type. “I thought you knew what Ponyta were?” He looks at you funny.

                “That one looks different, I know them as Fire-types.” Bede takes advantage of your apparently distracted state to try and get a hit in on Corvisquire, but your attention is still fully on the battle. Just use Power Trip, it’s super effective and it raises your Attack is all you have to instruct Corviknight to finish this, really. Bede looks stunned as Corviknight easily dodges his Confusion attack.

                “Oh, you know Kantonian Ponyta,” Hop guesses, and you nod to him.

                “You aren’t even paying attention to the battle!” Bede suddenly shouts after he’s apparently got a bit fed up with you. He hasn’t been able to hit Corvisquire, but Corvisquire has landed two hits on his Ponyta. It must look like you’re just having a conversation with Hop and not paying any attention to your Pokémon to Bede, as he doesn’t know you can watch the battle through Corvisquire’s eyes. Your eyes don’t necessarily need to be on the battle, but it does help your Pokémon to see the multiple perspectives in order to judge distance better.

                “Don’t need to, kicking your ass.” You shoot back with a grin, and Bede snarls at you as Corvisquire lands another hit of Power Trip, knocking Ponyta out cold.

                “You showed at least a little effort so I decided I should let you win!” Bede retorts, and you and Hop snort in laughter again.

                “Oh we’re going with that excuse again, are we?” Hop rolls his eyes as you call out to Bede.

                “Ah, pardon me. It seems I must take back my earlier words. You’re not weak – you just lack talent.” Bede almost had you for a moment, you really thought he was going to take it back.

                “Lack talent? And I still beat you, wow, what does that say about you?” Your offended by what he says, so you try to turn it back on him.

                Bede only rolls his eyes. “You lack any real talent. Your Pokémon may not be weak, but you aren’t going to get very far the way you are now. Your chances of completing the Gym Challenge are pretty slim, I must say.”

                Hop steps in at this, anger boiling over. “She’s one of the most talented trainers I’ve ever seen! You’re only jealous of her skills!”

                “Jealous? Of this?” Bede grabs your walker and tugs on it, which causes you to lose your balance. You fall to the ground, as Hop isn’t quite fast enough to catch you. You cry out in pain as you hit the hard rock floor.

                “What the fuck is your problem?!” Hop steps up and tries to grab Bede by the collar, but the man just takes a step back out of the way, dodging him.

                Hop just swore, holy shit. You look up at him with wide eyes. You don’t think you’ve ever seen him look this angry. He looks just as terrifying as his brother does when angry, and you’re glad that anger isn’t turned on you.

                “Just stay out of my way,” Bede answers, turning and leaving to avoid Hop.

                Hop turns back to you. “Are you ok, mate?!” He asks as he collapses beside you, throwing his arms out to hold you. You lean into him for a moment, still a little startled by the whole thing. “I’m… That hurt…” You tell Hop, meeting his worried hazel eyes.

                “What do you need?” He asks, rubbing your back. You aren’t sure, it’s too early to take more pain meds to help, so you only shrug and lean further into Hop. He lets you rest against him for as long as you need, quietly rubbing your back while you gingerly massage your painful leg.

                Eventually you’ve got the strength to continue, and Hop helps you back to your feet. “Let me carry you, yeah? You can barely stand.” Hop’s face is full of concern as your leg buckles under you when you try to put weight on it. You let him without complaint – you’re never going to get through here unless he does.

                Further into the mines, you and Hop run into a group of Team Yell members. It sounds like they’re searching for something, based on the pieces of conversation you catch as you get close. “Oi, there’s Gym Challengers over there!” One yells when he spots you, and the group breaks up to all turn to look at you and Hop.

                “Let’s show ‘em they should just drop out!” A woman steps forward and pulls out a Pokeball.

                “Yeah, let’s get ‘em!” Another man steps forward and joins her, pulling out a Pokeball of his own.

                Hop frowns, and looks at you over his shoulder. “I don’t think they’re going to let us pass without a battle.” He groans, shaking his head. “What do you want to do?”

                “Let’s take them on together. We’re pretty unbeatable together, aren’t we?” You reply, looking back at Raboot and Corvisquire. They’ve both healed up from their earlier battle with Bede and are ready for more, so Hop nods.

                “Yeah we are! Alright, we’ll take you guys on!” Hop has to get you off his back in order to be able to battle properly, but he at least helps hold you up so standing isn’t so painful on your leg. You send Raboot in first, and Hop throws out Wooloo. The woman tosses out a Linoone while the man sends a Thievul out.

                You and Hop are doing incredibly well, even as other Team Yell members join in to try and make the fight unfair so they can win. You and Hop just send in more of your own Pokémon, your team working flawlessly from so much training and time spent together. You’ve taken down a combined total of four Trainers when another runs in from somewhere.

                “What are you lot doing?! Boss said to leave that trainer be, you bumbling buffoons! You’re supposed to be working!” The man shouts, and Team Yell quickly recalls their Pokémon and disperses. You and Hop look at each other and shrug.

                “What was that about?” Hop asks, and you shake your head.

                “Depends which of us he was talking about, I suppose. Who knows for sure, though. But wow, that was so much fun to battle with you again! We really do make an amazing team! We were completely unbeatable! And we fought six Pokémon at once!”

                Hop grins. “Thanks for your help! I couldn’t have ordered all four of my Pokémon at once without you. We’re really something else when we’re together, huh?” Hop pulls out potions for all your Pokémon, then helps you back up onto his back so the two of you can keep going.

                “Aren’t you getting tired, Hoppy?” You ask, he’s been carrying you for a while. You don’t want him to get hurt, too.

                “I’ll need a break soon, yeah. But I’m getting better at this!” He throws a grin at you over his shoulder, and you can’t help but laugh.

                “I guess my injury is good for something! You’re gonna be as physically strong as your brother by the time the Gym Challenge is over.” You grab his bicep with one of your hands for emphasis; he really is getting stronger.

                Hop makes an airy sort of laugh – it almost sounds fake – but doesn’t reply to you. Things feel awkward after that, you wonder if you took the flirting a little too far and made him uncomfortable. It remains silent until you hear someone training in a cave off to the left. “Hey, doesn’t that voice sound familiar?” Hop is the one to break the silence finally, and you nod.

                It does sound familiar to you. “Yeah, but I don’t recognize who it is. Want to go check it out?” Hop nods to your question, and heads down the tunnel into the cave. Inside, you find Kabu training with his Pokémon against some wild Water Pokémon.

                Kabu turns to greet you, hearing you coming before you enter the cave. “Are the two of you on the way to Motostoke now?” He jogs over to you two, his eyebrows going up as he takes in Hop carrying you, and your Pokémon behind you carrying your walker for you. He doesn’t say anything about it, however.

                “Yep! We got our Water Badges, so next stop is your Gym!” Hop exclaims in excitement, and Kabu smiles.

                “I had faith I’d be seeing you two at my Gym again. Well, I suppose that means I should finish up my training and get back to Motostoke, shouldn’t I? All those Team Yell goons have gone and disappeared, too. Not that they were much to train against, however.” Kabu collects his Pokémon and smiles warmly at both you and Hop.

                Hop launches into a story about you and him taking out those Team Yell goons, and Kabu listens intently while he walks with you.

                “Really? Using all your Pokémon at once is impressive, that’s not easily done. Thank you for chasing those hooligans out of the mines, they were getting in the way of the Pokémon and people hard at work here.” You and Hop had seen a few workers and their Pokémon as you’d been going through the mines, but mostly stayed out of their way.

                “Of course! Glad we could help!” Hop eats up Kabu’s praise, and Kabu walks with you all the way to the exit of the mines. Hop continues carrying you the whole time, despite just earlier mentioning he would need a break soon. You worry about him, but there’s never a break in Hop and Kabu’s conversation for you to bring it up in a way that wouldn’t potentially embarrass Hop.

                Kabu calls a Corviknight Taxi to take him back to Motostoke once he’s out of the mines, something you and Hop aren’t allowed to do. “Have a safe night, you two. See you when you make it to Motostoke.” Kabu waves briefly as he climbs into the cabin.

                “Have a good flight!” Hop calls back as the Corviknight takes off.

                At least it doesn’t take you and Hop long to find a suitable camping spot. It’s not very late yet, but you’re in too much pain to walk, and Hop is too sore to carry you any further.

                “I forgot to stop for a break! My arms are killing me!” Hop complains as he flops to the ground. This leaves you directing the Pokémon with the tent, as Hop refuses to get back up.

                “Sorry, I wanted to find a way to remind you, but I didn’t want to embarrass you in front of Kabu.” Hop has flopped beside you, so you grab one of his arms and attempt to give him a massage. Hop doesn’t pull his arm away.

                “Oh, that feels kinda nice, actually,” Hop says after a moment, a blush rising on his cheeks.

                “Thanks for carrying me through the mines. I’m sorry you had to.” Hop shakes his head at you.

                “No, don’t do that. You don’t get to apologize for being injured, alright?” Hop gives you a stern look, and you bite your lip. It is your fault you’re this bad, though. If you’d just followed what the doctor in Motostoke had told you, and stayed there until you were healed, you wouldn’t be in this mess at all. And that is entirely on you.

                “Ok,” is all you say, and silence falls over the two of you. It feels awkward to you, but you’re not sure what else to say. Hop continues letting you massage him, however. He offers to cook dinner after a while, which brings conversation flowing again as the two of you end up working together to make dinner.

                It’s the best meal you’ve made yet.