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Stay Tonight

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Responsibilities such as this always fell on Gordie. Never mind that he was the oldest sibling and felt a certain obligation to handle these situations, but he also didn’t want to leave all of these difficulties to his mother. Or rather he cared enough about his brothers and sister to step in when they needed him. He may not have been speaking with his mom, but his siblings weren’t involved in their feud. The least Gordie could do was remind them that they were still family, regardless of the fights he and his mother got into. The younger ones’ cheerful disposition often masked the weight that they bore: the fear that their family was falling apart. Rather than make them worry he felt he could sometimes include himself in random get togethers or help them when they were in trouble. 

Which was exactly why Gordie was wandering around Circhester looking for the youngest of their bunch. Spoiled wasn’t exactly the word he wanted to use to describe his youngest brother. Gavin was more of a free spirit, he supposed. He liked things his way, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. When it came to Melony, however, and arguing about whether or not they could have a fire breathing dragon in the house… Well, obviously her word was law. Every child wanted a Charizard; Melony knew that, but her child was hardly old enough to care for a Magikarp let alone something as dangerous as a Charizard. Even Charmanders could do enough harm when not properly cared for. Gordie agreed on this, but little Gavin, angry that he couldn’t replicate his Champion, ran off into the busy streets of Circhester. At least that was the story his sister gave him when she called him, asking him to look for Gavin while she calmed their mother down. That old feeling of obligation washed over Gordie, and he felt himself agreeing before he could stop himself. Well, the task couldn’t be too hard. After all, how far could a five year old go? 

Pretty far apparently. 

Gordie perused the streets of his hometown, nodding at passersby who recognized him while keeping a sharp eye out for Gavin. Initially he was unconcerned about the whole thing, but after an hour of searching at the hot springs, the restaurants, his gym, and the stores, his worry began to grow. Thoughts of the worst case scenarios slowly developed in his mind. No doubt something he got from his mother. Yet, while she would have panicked Gordie kept his neutral pace, his calm expression, and his breathing even. His hands remained in his pockets as he scanned the main street once again. Gavin wasn’t dumb enough to actually the leave the city… Was he?

“Oh boy….” 

Gordie shook his head as he whispered to himself. He’d have to get his sister to help him if Gavin actually did wind up leaving the town. And if he told his sister, then his mom would ask why she’s leaving the house and sure enough she’d learn that Gordie couldn’t find Gavin and then she’d be out in the streets looking for her boy and… Well the downhill spiral that would continue from there was something Gordie wanted to avoid at all costs. It was probably all Gina could do to keep their mother from calling Gordie, wondering why he hadn’t returned with Gavin yet. One last look around the city would suffice before it was time to sound the alarms. 

Right now, there was no sign of Gavin in the main square. Children were abound in every direction, but not the one Gordie was looking for. The only thing of interest was a random little Zigzagoon that most certainly didn’t belong here. A small “hmm” came from Gordie as he made his way towards it. Zigzagoons weren’t exactly a fearful sort. If anything they feared nothing and were ready for battle at a moment's notice, but this one was trembling as it looked up at all the strange people around it. The poor thing backed away as people briskly walked past it, ignoring it or simply pointing it out to their children before telling them to not touch it. Couldn’t they see it was only a baby? It needed help and everyone was just brushing by as if it were nothing more than a paper bag. 

“Come on then,” Gordie bent in front of the little Pokemon, flashing it a smile. “Don’t be afraid. You’re not the only one who’s lost around here.” People often told Gordie he had a calming voice, and it seemed Pokemon thought so too. Or at least this Zigzagoon did. It was slow in its approach to Gordie. The naturally untrusting creature, or perhaps just frightened creature, sized Gordie up, took in his scent, eyed him with a glare that only a starry-eyed Zigzagoon could produce, and even snarled at him as if to see how he would react. Gordie stood his ground, as he often did. It took a look more than that to shake up someone who specialized in immovable rock Pokemon. 

“Are you coming? I don’t think you want to stay here, do you?” 

If that was the cue the Zigzagoon needed, then it took it. Putting it's confidence in Gordie, Zigzagoon ran up to him and jumped into his arms before climbing onto his shoulder. 

“Excellent. Now let’s go--oh! What’s this?” Before Gordie could resume his mission, he noticed something attached to the Zigzagoon’s leg. A bracelet it seemed… Bright pink and black… A very distinct logo etched on it. “Oh… Interesting. I know exactly who you belong to. Though I wonder what he’d be doing in Circhester.” Zigzagoon licked Gordie’s cheek as if that was all the answer he needed. “Exciting day, isn’t it? Two lost little boys, and it’s my job to bring them both home. Well, I intend to do just that, little one. Let’s find my brother first, and then we’ll get you home.” 

With a chuckle and a tap on his new friend’s head, Gordie headed towards the boutique in hopes of running across not only his brother, but Zigzagoon’s parent as well. 

****

“I can’t believe you lost him.” 

“It’s not my fault! I didn’t lose him!” 

“Then who did?” 

“Look, he’s not lost! Not yet anyway. We just haven’t found him yet. So he just needs to be found. That doesn’t mean he’s lost.” 

“That’s literally what it means.” 

Piers ignored the aggravated whine his sister gave him as she stomped off towards Circhester’s gym. He padded after her, keeping his eye out for their missing Zigzagoon. What should have been a day of relaxing, writing songs, and playing with said Zigzagoon, got turned on its head by Marnie. She begged her brother to take her to the boutique in Circhester on the sheer fact that she didn’t want to go alone and all of her friends were busy. "Why not bring Zigzagoon along?" she added, turning what should have been a quick trip into a fiasco. 

“I knew this was a bad idea,” Piers mumbled to himself as he trodded up the ramp, staring at the large gym they approached. He had only just gotten this Zigzagoon and it was little more than a year old. While it was certainly old enough to travel with them, it hadn’t had the training needed to behave itself while out like this. Still, Marnie insisted and Piers succumbed to her pleas. Now here they were, looking for the runaway Zigzagoon that had jumped out of Piers’ arms in its excitement at being somewhere entirely new. They’d check all over, and even when they caught a glimpse of it and chased after it, it was out of sight before they could blink. 

Even though Zigzagoon had escaped from Piers’ arms, it was Marnie’s fault for even insisting the little thing join them. If it was truly lost, then she’d have to deal with the guilty conscience. At least that’s what Piers tried to convince himself of. Truth be told, his own guilt was eating him up right now. The normally relaxed Piers was running through all of the worst case scenarios in his head, wondering which one had probably already befallen his little Zigzagoon. How cold was he right now? The poor thing was just running around in the snow with nothing to keep him warm. What if he had somehow left the city? A bigger Pokemon might have gotten him. Or he could have fallen into the freezing waters that surrounded this city. 

“Snap out of it. He’s fine.” 

“Hmm?” Marnie looked back at her brother as they finally approached the gym. “What was that?” 

“Nothing” Piers shook his head to get rid of the thoughts that continuously infiltrated his mind. There was no point in panicking until there was something to panic about. Right now all Piers needed to do was focus on finding his little Zigzagoon. “Let’s keep looking. Why don’t you check inside and I’ll look out here. Ask around too. Surely, someone has seen him.” 

Marnie nodded before running off into the gym. She maneuvered her way around the busy entrance while Piers slowly made his way around the outside of the gym. He kept his eyes and ears open, hoping to see the distinctive black and white markings or at least hear the little cry or squeal that he had grown so familiar with. Every now and then he’d stop someone and ask if they saw the Zigzagoon, but everyone told him no. A few people offered their assistance or told him they’d bring Zigzagoon to the gym if they found it, but their helpfulness did nothing for Piers. As much as he wanted to blame his sister he couldn’t help but feel that this was all his fault. He should have insisted that they not bring Zigzagoon with them. The little Pokemon needed more training before it could be out like this. He should have just left it with someone from Team Yell. He should have thought things through more. 

So many “should haves.” 

“Everything will be fine once I find him,” Piers told himself. He carried on the search, checking along the edge of the gym in hopes that Zigzagoon curled up in the shadows from fear of all these people and other Pokemon. He listened carefully. Faint crying was barely audible over the chatter of all the people. For a split second, Piers’ heart did leaps, though it didn’t take long for him to settle back down when he quickly realized that the crying was from a person, not a Pokemon. His eyes soon followed the sound, and sure enough there he found exactly what he expected to see. A crying child, lost no doubt. The kid looked exactly how Piers imagined his lost Zigzagoon would look: curled up and crying into his knees, the absolute picture of pitiful. On top of that, no one seemed to want to help the child, which was also how Piers imagined he’d find his Pokemon. 

“Dammit…” 

As much as Piers wanted to keep looking for his Zigzagoon he couldn’t leave this poor thing like this. His brotherly instincts kicked in and, with a heavy sigh, he went over to him and bent down in front of him. 

“Hey.” 

“Gordie??” 

The kid looked up, eyes wide and excited with a smile plastered on his face… At least until he saw Piers. Crying once again broke out and it was all Piers could do to not roll his eyes. Still, that name sounded familiar. Gordie…

“Isn’t he the gym leader here? He specializes in rock type Pokemon, right?” 

The child nodded his head as he rubbed his eyes, though it did nothing to stop his tears. Piers sighed again before sitting down beside the child, leaning against the walls of the gym. “Do you know him?” 

Again, the child nodded. “He’s my big brother.” 

“Ah. I see. Well, it's right clever of you to stay here. No doubt he’ll be coming back around soon enough. Were you separated from him earlier today? I bet he’s worried about you.” 

People often said that Piers had a calming presence about him. Frankly he never understood where these people were coming from when they said that. All he knew was that he was himself and if people found him easy to talk to, then great. Though perhaps he should give himself more credit than that, or at least when it came to younger people. The child, who couldn’t have been a day over five, looked up at him, eyes watery and brimming with tears. He had stopped his sobbing, though, and was now sniffling, trying his best to hold back his crying. 

“I… I guess he’s worried,” the child said, still rubbing his eyes in vain. “I don’t know.” 

“Well, I can imagine he is if you were separated from him. I bet he’s looking all over for you.” 

“H-he is…” the kid nodded, and his sobbing was quickly picking up again. “I… I… I ran away!” The waterworks started where they had left off. The confession was more than the little boy could handle, and all of the fear and worry and concern he had bottled up was finally let loose. “I ran away from home! I saw Gordie looking for me, but I kept avoiding him and now I can’t find him anymore! He’s gone! He’s not looking for me anymore and I can’t get home and I’m scared and I just want to go home! Mommy!!! Gordieeee!” 

Crying children weren’t exactly Piers’ forte. He knew well enough how to deal with his younger sister, but handling someone else’s younger sibling…? Well, that was an entirely different story. Yet even with his hesitation, Piers knew that he wanted to help this child. The big brother in him refused to let any young brother or sister be this miserable. “Come here, come here… Hush now.” Piers gently cooed at the boy, pulling him into his arms to let him sob on his shoulder. “I promise you that if Gordie dares call himself an older brother, then he's still out there looking for you. And I have a feeling he wouldn’t just abandon you so trust that he’s still out there.” The sobbing quieted down a bit as Piers' words reached the child. “Remember, I said you were clever to come here. I’m sure Gordie will return here. I bet he knows that you’re a smart kid who understands to stay in one spot that he’s guaranteed to find you. So we’ll stay here and wait for him to come back, okay?” 

The young boy lifted his head, his eyes puffy and cheeks red from his sobbing. “Y-you mean it? You’ll stay with me?” 

“Of course. Now come on. Let’s get out of this dark corner so he can find us. We’ll stay right in front of the doors of the gym.” Before the kid could say anything more, Piers took his hand and guided him to the front of the gym. “What’s your name, kid?” 

Wiping away his tears, the little boy looked up at Piers and even managed to crack a smile. “Gavin. And you’re umm... ” The child squinted his eyes as he racked his brain for what was so familiar about Piers. He tilted his head to the side, looking his savior up and down. He even made a few grunts of effort as he used all of his brain power to remember why he recognized Piers. After a few moments and a number of eyebrow raises from Piers, the young boy seemed to put the pieces together. He nodded and smiled widely once it all came back to him. “You’ve battled my brother before! I remember! You’ve battled a few times, I think.”  

“That’s right. I’ve definitely run across him once or twice in the arena. My name is Piers, the dark-type gym leader. That’s not important though. We need to focus on getting you home, so make sure you help me keep a look out for Gordie. I’m sure he’ll be here soon enough, but there’s a lot of people here. I might miss him, but you won’t, will you?” 

“No way!” Gavin finally seemed energized now that he had someone on his side. He looked all around for his older brother, keeping his eyes peeled for any sign of him. Piers did the same, though he wondered if he’d even recognize him in this crowd. The two only ever spoke when they had an exhibition match or if there was a tournament. Those seemed to be the only times the two gym leaders ever existed to one another. The only thing that Piers really remembered about Gordie was that he used rock type Pokemon and wore sunglasses all the time. It was a bit annoying to him, but Piers was never the type to judge someone on their fashion sense. He barely knew the man anyway, although now he supposed he could add “older brother” to the list of things he knew about him. 

“You said you’ve seen him wandering around Circhester looking for you?” Piers asked. 

“Yep!” Gavin said with a nod of his head. “I heard him calling my name, but I hid away from him. I wish I hadn’t. What if he doesn’t come back here? If he’s already been here enough times he might not come back.” 

“Hmm… I suppose you’re right.” Piers lifted his head as he thought about what to do. While it wasn’t the worst strategy to wait at the gym, it wasn’t the best either. “Oh! Surely you have his phone number? Do you have a Rotom?” 

Piers knew the answer as soon as he asked. Gavin immediately looked towards the ground, clearly ashamed of the answer he was about to give. “I dropped it at the house when I ran away. I didn’t want them to call me and somehow find me.” 

Piers snickered as he shook his head and took out his own Rotom. “You were really determined to hide, weren’t you kid? Well, I think I have his number.” He didn’t remember ever exchanging numbers with Gordie, but he did remember that Nessa had text them all about a year ago to hand out everyone’s phone number. The gym leader group text was always full with information on events or questions on how to best utilize new training strategies, but Piers never input the numbers of the leaders he didn’t talk to. He sighed as he tilted his head and clicked on one of the random numbers, hoping it was Gordie. 

“Hello?” said the voice on the other line. 

“This isn’t Gordie.” 

“Uhh… No. No, it isn’t. Don’t you have his number in your phone, Piers? Or my number for that matter?” 

Piers sighed again. It seemed the ever diligent Bea input everyone’s numbers into her address book. “I don’t. Say, can you look up his number for me and tell me what it is? Then I can avoid this embarrassment again.” 

“Is that really Piers? Let me talk to him! Hello? Hello, Piers!” 

“What?” Piers raised his eyebrow as a new voice came on the line. It seemed his destiny today was to interact with as many gym leaders as possible. “Raihan? You’re with Bea?” 

“Yeah! We just finished an exhibition match. You’re looking for Gordie? Why? I thought you two didn’t really talk to each other.” 

“We don’t, but I happened upon his little brother while visiting Circhester with my sister. He’s lost and I figured Gordie might want to know where he is. The little one doesn’t have his Rotom so it’s up to me to locate him.” 

“His brother? Which one?” 

Piers found himself raising his eyebrow once again as he eyed the little boy next to him. Was there more than one of these Gordie brethren and if so how did Raihan know about them? What even made him curious enough to find out which one was lost? “He said his name is Gavin.” 

“Really? I’m on speaker, right? Gavin! Can you hear me?” 

“No…” The young child hid behind Piers as if it would somehow save him from the scolding he felt coming on. 

“Oh yes you can. I have a hard time believing you just got lost. I know you better than that, and I also know that you would have been found quite quickly if you did actually get lost. What happened?” 

“Nothing!” Gavin cried as she shrunk more behind Piers. “I just… I mean… Leave me alone, Raihan! Help me find Gordie! I want Gordie!” 

“Well I can’t leave you alone and help you find Gordie.” 

“Hey.” Piers interrupted the conversation before it could escalate any further. The last thing he wanted was for the kid to start crying again. “You can leave him alone. He’s not the one searching for Gordie. I am. Tell me the phone number so I can help this kid get home.” Part of Piers was more than curious to find out how Raihan knew this kid well enough to scold him. Learning that Raihan was even remotely close with Gordie’s brother, possibly his whole family, served as a reminder that the gym leaders all had their own lives outside of battling, and that Piers knew about almost none of it. He was itching to ask, but the other part of him knew this child was desperate to get home. His curiosity would have to wait until he was sure Gavin was safely back with his older brother. 

“Alright, alright. For the record, I think you should input everyone’s numbers into your phone. Even the ones you don’t talk to often. You never know when you might need to contact one of us individually.” With that piece of advice, Raihan gave Piers the information he needed and barely got in a good-bye before Piers hung up to call Gordie. He’d call him back later and apologize for his abruptness. Raihan was one of the few gym leaders that actually existed in Piers’ phone. The two talked often enough and enjoyed each other’s company. Were it not for this unexpected mission he was on, Piers would have loved to spend more time chatting with his friend. 

However, it was now time to call the one gym leader he almost never spoke with. 

The phone rang once he dialed the number, and he felt Gavin grip his hand tighter. The little boy’s nerves seemed to travel to Piers. His anxiety rose as the phone continued to ring. Logically, he knew there was no reason for his heart to pump faster or his breathing to become shallow. Gordie may have been unfamiliar, but he was hardly a stranger. And even if he were, it wasn’t as if Piers was calling for nothing. Still, his nerves bore deeper into him and the only thing he could do was blame the kid and wait for someone to pick up the damn phone. 

“Hello? Piers?” 

“Oh. You knew it was me?” 

“Yeah. I have your number in my phone. Funny you should call me.” 

“Is it? Why?” 

“I have something to return to you.”

Piers blinked as confusion set in his mind. “Something? The only thing I’m missing is…” Surely not. Piers almost laughed at the strange coincidence that was about to unfold. There was no way that Gordie actually found his Zigzagoon… Was there? “Well, before we get into that I actually have something that belongs to you. I think you should come get it.” 

“Oh? Is that so?” A soft chuckle came from Gordie. The moment he heard it, Piers calmed down. His nerves settled and his entire body relaxed from it's tense state. Perhaps Gordie had an “older brother way” about him the same way people said Piers did. “This thing wouldn’t happen to be about three feet tall, have blondish-brown hair, blue eyes, and whine a lot, would it?” 

It was Piers’ turn to chuckle. “Yep. Perfect description. We’re outside of your gym. We’ll wait for you, alright?” 

“Sounds good. See you in just a bit. Tell Gavin to hold tight.” 

“Will do.” 

Piers barely hung up the phone before Gavin grabbed his arm and began pulling him, begging him to tell him what Gordie had to say. 

“He’s coming, right? He’ll be here? He’s coming, isn’t he??”

“Yes, yes, yes!” If Piers hadn’t been aggravated with the lost little boy earlier, then he was now. He pulled his arm away and adjusted his white jacket, glaring down at Gavin as if he had lost his mind. “He said he’s on his way. Give him a moment.” The cheer of excitement that came from Gavin only succeeded in making Piers’ eyes roll right back to Spikemuth. The barest traces of a smile did cross those thin lips, however, and Piers found himself happy that little Gavin was finally going home. It was a happy ending to what could have been a terrible story. He only hoped the same could be said for his Zigzagoon. For all he knew, the only thing Gordie found was one of his bracelets or a Team Yell cone. The possibility of his precious little Pokemon still wandering the cold streets of Circhester was real. 

“Hey, how come you don’t know Gordie?” 

“What?” Piers was torn from his worried thoughts by his new best friend looking up at him with wide, bright blue eyes and a curious expression that resembled a certain Zigzagoon. 

“You’re both gym leaders, right? Don’t you guys talk a lot? I thought all the gym leaders were friends.” 

“Well, we’re not not friends. But we don’t all get on with each other like that.” Piers shook his head as he readied himself with an explanation that was rehearsed over and over again. This wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last that he’d have to explain just how these gym leader relationships worked. Even he had to remind himself that he knew little about his colleagues; Raihan’s relationship with Gordie and his family being just one example of how he barely knew anything about these people outside of their Pokémon lives. “Think about it. There’s quite a few of us. Me, Raihan, Gordie, Nessa, Kabu, yadda yadda. The list goes on, not to mention there’s the Champion too. It’s a bit much to expect us all to get along to the point where we all consider each other best friends. I’m close with Raihan and Allister. Milo to an extent. I like pretty much all of the gym leaders, but to call them friends… That’s going too far, I think.” 

“Oh…” The disappointment on Gavin’s face cracked Piers heart a bit more than he would have liked. The unfortunate reality was that not all of the gym leaders considered each other friends, and it just so happened that Gordie and Piers never bothered to build any relationship past gym leader mates. Though even the ones that he called friends, such as Raihan, seemed to have lives that were completely separate from Piers. Or perhaps he just never bothered to dig deeper than the surface when it came to his colleagues. Before today Piers never had an issue with barely knowing the others, but not knowing something so massive about Raihan irked him. Apparently it irked Gavin too. 

“Well, what about Raihan? You’re both close with him. How come you three don’t hang out?” 

Piers just scoffed. “This is my first time hearing that Raihan is close with Gordie.”

“But he posts pictures of him all the time!”

“I can’t keep up with all of the crap he uploads. I’m almost always swimming in pictures he posts when I jump online. I mostly ignore them these days unless I notice something interesting.” A shrug accompanied his unapologetic tone. What else could he say? Raihan liked to post pictures and if Piers attempted to look at every single one, he’d never manage to do anything. The big brother in him, however, couldn’t stand the disappointed look Gavin wore. It tore at his heartstrings and he quickly worked to make the child smile again. “You should yell at Raihan when you see him again. Tell him he’s useless for not working to include all of his friends together.” 

Not that Piers cared whether or not Raihan mixed his friends group, but better to sic the kid on someone else then deal with his obvious annoyance that Piers wasn’t his brother’s friend. Thankfully, Gavin seemed to accept that answer and dropped the topic. There was no doubt in Piers’ mind that he’d be receiving a scathing phone call from Raihan if the kid actually decided to scold him, but that was fine. There was never any harm in rocking the boat just a little bit. 

The minutes passed by quickly with Gavin chatting about how he’d be in trouble with his mom, but Gordie wouldn’t yell at him or how he really wanted a Charizard but his mother said no. Now that he knew he’d safely return home, Gavin was more than happy to share his life story with Piers. While he didn’t say anything in response, Piers listened to every word the kid said. Growing up with his little sister constantly chatting his ear off, he learned that most of the time children just wanted to be listened to. He made sure to nod his head or give at least a small hum of acknowledgement as Gavin spoke. Every word that came from his mouth made Piers' smile grow. If he were being honest with himself he missed taking care of his younger sibling. Gordie was lucky to have someone who seemed to look up to him. 

“Maybe Gordie will stay and have dinner with us since he’ll be stopping by!” 

“Oh, does he not normally eat with you?” 

“No. He doesn’t come by much since he and Mom began fighting.” 

“Fighting? Oh, I think I heard about that. I think I ignored it mostly, but…” 

Piers drifted off as he heard someone call his name. The voice was much too high and far too familiar to be Gordie. He turned towards the gym to see Marnie running to him, obviously distressed at the lack of a Zigzagoon in her arms. He would have comforted her and reassured her that he had probably found their lost baby had Gavin not suddenly screamed out. 

“Gordie!!” 

There was more going on than Piers was ready for. Up walked his fellow gym leader, looking confident and cool, and perhaps a tad arrogant in those sunglasses of his. The arrogance was deserved as far as Piers was concerned. Anyone who could stride up to him with his Zigzagoon perched on their shoulder as if they had known it for years earned their pride. Not only did his heart jump at the sight of his baby, but he was happy that this family would finally be reunited. Before Piers could do anything Gavin ran to his older brother and grabbed him around his waist, rubbing his face into his stomach and crying softly. 

“Why are you crying, Gavin? I thought you’d be happy to see me.” 

“I am!” 

Gordie laughed as he lightly pet his brother’s hair. “Then smile. There’s nothing to cry about. Besides you should save your tears for your mom. I’m sure if you cry in front of her she won’t punish you too badly.” 

Perhaps that arrogant look was just that—a look. Piers smiled widely at the warm welcome Gordie gave his brother, but he was looking forward to his own reunion. He eyed the Zigzagoon, and as much as he wanted to run towards it and snatch it into his arms he kept his composure. The same couldn’t be said for Marnie. 

“Zigzagoon!” Just as Gavin ran to Gordie, Marnie did the same thing. Her arms, however, wrapped around her precious Pokémon. She squeezed her Zigzagoon tightly, nuzzling into its neck as it licked her face. “I’m so sorry! I’m sorry I lost you! I should have never brought you here!” 

“He’s alright. A bit shaken up I think, but he calmed down as we walked the city together.” 

“Thank you so much. Gordie, right? You’re the rock type gym leader?” 

Gordie nodded as he continued petting his brother’s hair. “That’s right. And you are?” 

“Marnie. I’m Piers’ sister. I really can’t thank you enough for finding our Zigzagoon. We were so scared something had happened to him. God, I’m so sorry, Zigzagoon!” The attention on Gordie didn’t last too long. Marnie instantly began kissing and cuddling her Pokemon like a mother who’d just found her lost son. Gordie wanted to comfort her and let her know that everything was fine now, but he stopped himself as her eyes began to water. Perhaps this was a situation better left for her older brother. He may have been the one to find Zigzagoon, but Gordie could tell that her guilt lay in the fact that she had almost lost, not only her precious companion, but Piers’ as well. He imagined she would have liked to say more, but she quietly shuffled away and stood to the side as the Zigzagoon continued to lick her cheek. 

“Don’t worry about her, Gordie. She’ll be alright.” 

“Hmm?” 

Gordie looked away from Marnie to see Piers giving him a crooked smile. “You’re a good older brother, aren’t you? You look so concerned about her. Don’t worry. I promise you she’ll be fine.” 

Gordie returned that devilish smile with one of his own, though the sweet chuckle that accompanied it betrayed its mischief. The unexpected mix of sweet and sinister caught Piers off guard. He attributed his surprise to the reason why his heart beat just a bit faster. Not that Gordie would ever know that Piers was impressed with his little nuances. His normally expressionless face remained just that--stoic, calm, and emotionless. No need to wear his heart on his sleeve, especially when dealing with strangers... No matter how charming their smiles and laughs were. 

“I’m sure she will be,” Gordie said as he lifted his little brother into his arms. “You’ll take care of her. I have a feeling you know a thing or two about big brother duty.” 

“I’d like to think that.” Piers shrugged as he looked over at Marnie, watching as she squeezed Zigzagoon like she would never let go. “Thanks for finding him. I owe you one.” 

“The debt’s repaid. Isn’t it, Gavin?” Gordie smiled at his little brother and lightly bobbed his nose. “I can’t thank you enough for finding Gavin for me. I think his mom would have torn this whole city apart if I didn’t find him. Congratulations, Piers. You’ve saved lives today. You’re Circhester’s hero.” 

“And no one is even aware. Shame how that works out.” 

In that moment Piers decided he could listen to Gordie’s laugh for the rest of his life and never tire of it. How could such a soft, gentle laugh come out of someone who specialized in rock Pokemon? More impressive than that was just how gentle his personality was. Piers never once thought of Gordie as anything more than competition, but the more time he stood in front of him the more curious he grew. After all, rocks often had sharp, jagged edges. There was no telling what was hiding behind that sweet laugh. Perhaps it was something just as sweet or, as Piers’ preferred, perhaps there was something darker lurking inside. 

He’d have to wait to find out. 

“I’d better get this little one back to his mom. Thanks again, Piers. If you ever need anything just call me. You have my number.” 

“Now I do,” Piers mumbled to himself as Gordie turned to leave. “Same to you, Gordie. I’ll be around.” 

With one final wave, Gordie was gone. Piers let out a heavy breath as he made his way toward Marnie and guided her down the ramp. “The family is back together now, Marnie. I think that’s a good sign for us to go home.” 

*** 

Gordie stood on the porch of his old home, looking up at the door as if it were the giant, intimidating bridge leading to Hammerlocke Stadium. Knocking on the door felt like a monumental task. He knew that once he did, his mom would come barreling out to greet both of her lost sons. The thought of that was enough to make his legs turn to jelly. He hadn’t seen her, let alone spoken to her in… 

He couldn’t remember. 

How long has it been? More than a year? Two maybe? Even after all this time as a gym leader he was still looked at by the media as a rising star. How far had he risen since that day? How far had he actually climbed since he left his mother behind? How much farther would he have to rise before he could justify tearing both his town and family apart? Was it even worth it? Should now be the moment that he apologize? It would be a special moment; his mother not only gets back the lost little one, but the older one who broke away from her. A family reunited. A broken, torn family finally back together again… 

“Gordie?” 

Gordie blinked as his little brother called his name. He smiled at him, hoping to quell any worry that might have sprung up in the younger one. Whatever feelings of doubt he had running through his mind disappeared. He had to stay strong. He had to believe in his resolve. Not only that, but he knew that he wasn’t ready to speak to her again. Even if he wanted to apologize for everything, even if he wanted to get on his knees and beg forgiveness, he couldn’t. He simply wasn’t ready. 

“Let’s get you back inside.” 

Gordie finally knocked on the door and didn’t have to wait even a moment before it burst open. He and Melony met eyes for a split second before she turned her attention to the boy in his arms. 

“Gavin!” 

“Mommy!” 

“Oh, Gavin! What were you thinking? Why did you run away from me? Don’t you ever do that again!” Melony snatched her son, and squeezed him in much the same way that Marnie had done with her Zigzagoon. The memory made Gordie smile more than the reunion he was witnessing. While he was happy that Gavin had made it home, he couldn’t help but feel that horrible resentment rise in him again at the sight of his mother. Even when she finally focused on him and thanked him, all he could do was nod. 

“No, really. Thank you so much, Gordie. I just… I don’t know what I would have done if--” 

“It’s fine,” he cut her off abruptly, already hating himself for his rudeness. This wasn’t like him, but he couldn’t control himself in front of his mother. Those disgusting feelings of anger and resentment rose in him. Each second that passed by only made it worse. “I wouldn’t have let him, you know…” He drifted off as he attempted to speak with her. At least he could say he tried. 

“Umm… Do you want to maybe come inside?” Melony asked as her second oldest and only girl, Gina, appeared behind her. 

“Yeah! You should join us for dinner, Gordie. I cooked today so you know it’ll be great.” 

Hearing Gina’s voice settled all of the negative emotions that were swirling inside of Gordie. The two were close, probably the closest of all the siblings. They even considered their relationship stronger than the young twins. Perhaps that was why when Gordie and Melony got into their fight, Gina defended Gordie with everything she had. If she were old enough to move out she just might have considering how much she thought their mother had wronged him. Gordie could always rely on his sister, and as much as he appreciated her being on his side, he was happy to see that she didn’t seem strained living with Melony. They could get along and disagree all at once, which was something Gordie envied. 

“I’ve got some things to do back at the gym. I don’t really have time.” Such a lame excuse normally wouldn’t fly with women as strong-willed as his mother and sister, but even they treaded lightly on the fragile relationship of mother and son. Gordie could tell that his sister wanted to push more, that she wanted to have a family dinner like they used to. Her pained expression hurt Gordie more than she would ever know, but he still couldn’t bring himself to simply walk through the door and eat with them. All of the guilt and hurt and pain that he experienced couldn’t push through the anger brought on by just the sight of his mother. He wondered if Melony felt the same way about him. Surely no mother could loathe her son to such a degree, even someone as strong as Melony. Yet, when their eyes met, Gordie saw so much happening behind those blue eyes. There was pain there, yes, but considering that she was the ice queen there was a deep fire blazing through her. She wasn’t ready to apologize either; in fact she was more than ready to fight for her stance in the matter. 

Today wasn’t the day the family would be truly reunited. 

“I understand,” Melony said with a nod, still clutching her little boy. “Thanks again for finding him, Gordie. You know if you ever need help with anything—“ 

“I’ll call.” Gordie again cut her off. By this point Melony had taken all she could. She turned on her heel and disappeared inside of the house. The last things Gordie heard was her cooing and doting on Gavin before it faded into the darkness. Gina still stood at the door, watching their mother walk off before facing Gordie again. She shook her head and crossed her arms as she leaned against the door frame. She opened her mouth to speak, but Gordie, in what seemed to be a habit now, interrupted her. 

“Don’t, Gina. Just don’t.” 

A sigh escaped his sister, and she shook her head once again. “You know I’m not gonna scold you or anything.” 

“No. You’ll tell me you miss me, and that’s so much worse.” 

A short laugh came from her. “Well, I do miss you. It’s not the same without you here.” 

“You know I would have moved out anyway. Twenty isn’t a bad age to move out, especially when I already have my career in place.” 

“Yeah, but…” Gina rolled her neck as she thought about how she could explain herself to Gordie. “It would have been different if you left because you were ready to go out on your own. Not because you got into a fight with Mom.” 

“I know,” Gordie sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose to try and stop the oncoming headache. “Look, your mom is hard to deal with. Even you thought she was being unreasonable.” 

“Stop saying that.” 

“What?” 

“‘Your mom.’ It’s annoying. She’s your mother too. You really hate her so much that you can’t even acknowledge her as the woman who raised you?” 

“It’s not like that. I just—“ 

“Then say it! Say she’s your mom too!” 

Gordie was again surprised at how his family was associated with ice rather than fire. He considered himself the most relaxed of the bunch; everyone else was more intense than the last. He could practically feel his sister’s rising anger exude from her as he stood in the cold Circhester snow. The irony of it was more funny than bothersome. He giggled and lifted his glasses to rest on top of his head. “You should specialize in fire types. You’ve got enough passion to handle it. I’ll find you a Charizard and you can start from there. Just don’t tell Gavin.” He was ready to take the beating his sister would most certainly deliver to him, but it seemed his amusement was contagious. The anger slowly left her face and was replaced with a smile and a laugh of her own. 

“Shut up. You’re so annoying.” 

“I know.” 

The energy in the air calmed down. Both siblings were too tired to argue about this anymore. It was the topic of conversation almost every time they met up. By now they were weary of thinking about it let alone yelling at one another about it. For now they put their opinions aside and embraced one another. Regardless of the fact that Gina wanted the family back together, Gordie couldn’t deny how she had defended him when this whole war started. If there was anyone he’d do his best to stay on good terms with, it was her. 

“I do miss you though, Gordie,” Gina whispered to him as they hugged. 

“Yeah. I miss you too. All of you.” 

There wasn’t much more that needed to be said. Gina pulled away first and gave Gordie a pat on his shoulder. “You know where to find us.” Once she received a nod from her brother she retreated back inside with a wave and shut the door behind her. The wind sent chills through Gordie as he stood staring at the closed door in front of him. This is why he never enjoyed visiting his family. Saying good bye was the hardest part of all of this. His mother and siblings were inside the warm house, eating delicious home cooked food, laughing and joking with one another. Then here Gordie was, alone and cold in the snow, wishing things had turned out differently. Wishing he had the strength to apologize. Wishing he wasn’t so pathetic that he’d rather hold onto his anger than swallow his pride. Wishing he could at least tell his mother he missed her. 

The regrets piled on as did the snow on the sidewalk. He eventually left and headed back to his apartment in the heart of town, keeping his head down and his hands in his pockets as he braced the cold weather. No matter how long he lived here, he never got used to this cold weather. 

Gordie hated the cold. Everyone knew that. Everyone. 

He eventually made it back to his apartment and immediately turned up the heat. His blankets and couch called his name and he was soon curled within both with a hot chocolate to accompany him. Normally when he was this depressed he’d call Raihan to cheer him up. Raihan was the only person in this whole debacle who didn’t choose sides. He understood where Gordie was coming from and where Melony was coming from too. That didn’t make him any less understanding to either side. If anything it made him even easier to talk to. 

“Rotom.” Gordie’s Rotom sprang to life and floated in front of him, ready to do whatever he asked. He would have instantly asked it to call Raihan if another name hadn’t caught his eye in his recent calls list. The moment he saw Piers’ name his desire to call Raihan disappeared. Gordie and Piers were hardly friends. They could barely be called colleagues considering how little they saw one another. Yet, every fiber of Gordie’s being told him to call Piers. Somehow he felt that this random person could ease the pain in his chest. He imagined that he could spill his heart out to Piers and that the other would understand every word, comfort him, and tell him it would all be okay. He wondered if Piers would even find it strange that Gordie suddenly called him to rant about his mom and cry about how he missed his family. 

Of course he would. 

No amount of older brother energy could make sense of a stranger calling at night to talk about how rapidly he was losing his family. And yet… 

“Rotom, call Piers.” 

Gordie hoped he didn’t regret this decision.