Even at five years old. Red heard the whispers of the adults around him. They never said anything to his face specifically but he still heard the whispered, scornful words.
“Look, it’s that boy.”
“Shh! Don’t look or say anything, we all swore we wouldn’t.”
“I feel sorry for his mother, she’s so young. If only his father hadn’t…”
At five he didn’t really understand what they were talking about, especially the parts about his father. Red has never seen nor heard from him, all the pictures in his house were devoid of any male figure. He asked his mother about it one day. His mother only smiled gently at him and brought him into a warm hug.
“It’s nothing sweetheart; they were just talking about me when I was a kid. It has nothing to do with you.”
“…What about Daddy? They were talking about him too, I heard them.”
“…Your father had to go away on a journey and went missing, no one knows where he is but…I’m sure he loved you very much.” Red didn’t miss the way her warm hazel eyes shimmered with tears or how her smile seemed strained.
After that talk Red learned to ignore the occasional stares and whispers, no one ever said anything around him. He didn’t even question the lack of his father. It wasn’t like there was anything he could do, so eventually he forgot all about it.
Green noticed it.
Whenever the brunette brought his silent friend over to play with the Pokemon in his Grandpa’s lab he always noticed the looks the lab aids gave whenever Red was around. Sure, they smiled and always commented on how cute they were (Green would beg to differ, they were 6 years old, too old to be cute anymore!). But something was…off whenever they talked to Red, it always seemed held back. Like they didn’t want to be near him but had no choice but to be around him.
It was weird and he told Red.
Red only blinked his large ruby eyes and shrugged, “I don’t notice anymore.” He said simply and that was all Green was able to wrench out of the raven haired boy no matter how much he poked at him.
Fine. He would ask his Grandpa.
Oak had nearly choked on his evening tea when his six year old grandson climbed on the chair opposite of him and demanded answers.
“Gramps, everyone says weird stuff about Red. What are they talking about? It’s kinda annoying!” Oak frowned at him, “That’s adult business Green and I’m sure you’re misunderstanding, no one’s saying anything mean about Red.”
Green disagreed. But his Grandpa wouldn’t say more on the matter.
So he dropped it.
Until the bullying started.
“Green, wanna play Elite Four with us? You can be Lance, he’s the strongest!” The boy offered grinning excitedly before it fell into a slight frown. “But don’t bring Red, he can’t play.”
Green scowled, “He’s my best friend, why not?”
The other boy gave him a sympathetic look, “Hasn’t your grandpa said anything to you? My mom says that I shouldn’t play with Red because he’s really weird, like, he’s too quite or something. No one actually knows why, but my parents said to stay away from him. You should too.”
“Forget it; I don’t want to play your dumb game.” Green growled and resolutely walked away, determined to find Red. Who was a way better playmate than any of the other kids anyway!
Red was found under some bushes by Green’s house, covered in scrapes and dirt. He raised an eyebrow, “What happened to you?” As Red patted down his cloths sniffing slightly. Green sighed and grabbed the smaller boy’s hand and dragged him into his house.
His sister through a fit and cleaned Red’s scrapes and made them sandwiches with some Oran berry juice.
“So you gonna tell me what happened?” Green asked after a few minutes of silence, it didn’t take a genius to figure out what happened but he wanted to hear it from Red’s mouth. Then he can find the guys that hurt his friend and give them a piece of his mind!
Red shrugged listlessly and refused to say what happened to him.
It wouldn’t be the last time this happened.
Small accidents kept happening; Green would find Red curled in small spaces with scrapes on his arms and legs. The other kids would sneer at him whenever he walked past them or Red’s lunch would mysteriously disappear if he left it alone and while it eventually died down because Green chased them off, it never ended completely.
But Red never said or did anything and as months went by Red spoke less and less. But that wasn’t too big a problem because Green understood what his friend wanted to say anyway. Besides, it was kinda cool that Red only ever spoke around him and no one else.
And if some idiot tried to be too mean to Red then Green would just chase them off.
The subject wasn’t brought up again until the boys were ten years old and a few days away from starting their respective journeys.
By this point Red barely ever spoke a word and over the years seemed to withdraw into himself more. The only ones who ever knew what the raven haired boy was thinking were his mother and Green.
But lately the brunette hadn’t exactly been friendly, he seemed determined to push Red away with all his angry yelling.
If Red grew more introverted and quite then Green became more brash and loud.
“You should talk more, than maybe people wouldn’t think you’re weird or something.” Green criticized, ignoring the small pang of guilt in his chest. But he wouldn’t apologize, especially to Red of all people, he had his pride.
Red barely blinked at him and didn’t even look up from his Pokemon picture book. He snatched it away, “Why are you even bothering looking at this? It’s for little kids!”
There was a slight crease on Red’s brow and he held out his hand expectantly, his stare at little harder than before, almost sad. A definite reaction, abet a hurt one, but finally! His smaller friend had been growing more jaded by the day and Green was starting to wonder if Red would ever not look emotionless.
He handed the book back, Green scratched the back of his head, “I didn’t mean it, the whole you being weird and well you know…Sorry.” He mumbled at the end, to be honest Green wasn’t even sure if the people of Pallet town looked at Red differently anymore. Maybe they still did and he just hadn’t been paying attention to it. The bullying had died off completely as far as Green knew, but maybe the adults still whispered and stared. If the raven haired boy’s reaction was anything to go by maybe it hadn’t gone away.
Maybe the townspeople’s whispers and stares bothered Red more than he’s willing to let on. “…It’s okay.” Red finally says voice barely above a whisper and slightly horse from misuse.
Nothing more is said between them and Green leaves Red to his book and heads for his Grandfather’s lab.
The next day, both boys left Pallet Town.
“You’re a very capable trainer.” The Fossil Man (who hadn’t given his name) compliments, mouth stretched in a friendly smile. Red nods in acknowledgement as his Pokedex registers his newly caught Sandshrew. He escorts the man through Diglett Cave and says his good byes before making his way to Pewter City.
Red barely acknowledges the small inkling in the back of his head.
Green only ever caught a glimpse of the Team Rocket leader but one look is enough to make him shiver. Giovanni seems familiar, like he’s seen him somewhere before. But Green can’t put his finger on it and chooses to ignore it in favor of continuing on his way.
Team Rocket isn’t his business, and besides, his mind sneers, Red is here.
Red isolates himself on Mt. Silver the very next day after he took the Championship from Green. He’s too bitter, angry and humiliated to care that Red’s run off so he brushes off questions about the other boy’s whereabouts.
Green turns his head in disgust when Daisy presents him with a news article of Red’s victory over the leader of Team Rocket, a clear picture of Giovanni on the front page listed as ‘Wanted’. And just like before, feels a sense of Déjà vu, but he’s too angry to care.
He tosses the paper into his closet and closes the door.
Years later, Green is making monthly trips up Mt. Silver to visit Red.
They’re seventeen now and Green has long past gotten over his childishness he thinks, he’s happy being the Viridian Gym Leader. He’s gotten over the anger and jealousy he once felt toward his friend and even patched up their rocky relationship three years following Red’s isolation. It had been awkward at first but they both soon fell back into the easy friendship they once had as children.
Green’s matured enough to recognize his past behavior as a crush on his best friend. Green’s willing to admit that their rekindled ‘friendship’ has grown to affection-love even. And when Green thought back to his childhood he thinks that maybe love has always been there, he just didn’t want to admit it. Maybe his subconscious blindness is what led him to push Red away.
Either way Green never gets around to telling Red anything; the raven haired teen, despite being the most powerful trainer in Kanto and Johto, was very oblivious to things not related to Pokemon or battles.
Green blames it on Red’s lack of socialization.
But neither said anything, they didn’t need too.
The two trainers ended up overlooking the whole of Kanto and Johto from atop the frozen mountain. Their hands intertwined, and didn’t let go once even when they trudged back to Red’s cave.
It’s during Green’s monthly cleaning that he finds the ratty old newspaper.
The pages are yellow and slightly faded but Green can still clearly see the ex-Viridian Gym Leader’s face. The Déjà vu hits him again but this time he thinks about it.
Something about Giovanni was familiar but what?
He should ask Red, his boyfriend had seen the creep much closer than he had a few times-
He studied the picture again, and pulled out a recent photo of the ruby eyed teen from his wallet.. The brunette stared back and forth between the two images.
And suddenly it made sense.
The trek up Mt. Silver is different this time.
Technically Green wasn’t due to visit, at least not for another week.
But this can’t wait.
Red is already waiting for him at the mouth of his cave with Pikachu perched on his shoulder (the yellow rodent once again making it his job to make Green’s life difficult). Green complains about the bitter cold and Red huffs in amusement as the brunette slips his arms around his to thin waist for warmth.
Green makes dinner from the supplies he brings and Red makes sure the fire never goes out. Once dinner has been consumed they both cuddle under piles of blankets that Red has accumulated from Green’s visits.
“…I thought you weren’t supposed to come for another week.” Red finally says.
Green scratched the back of his head, “Yeah well…I think you need to see this.”
He reaches into one of his many pockets and pulls out the faded newspaper, “Doesn’t he look familiar? Think really hard.”
Red stares and raises an eyebrow; he’s not going to ask the obvious question of why Green has a picture of the enemy. “What am I looking for?”
“Remember what the people back home used to say?” He frowned slightly and his eyes shimmered, Red nodded. Green pulls out a photo of Red and holds it next to the news clipping. It only takes a few minutes for Red’s eyes to widen in horror and his ivory skin grew pale.
“I think we know why everyone…you know.” Green trails off, waiting for the raven haired teen to say something. It would make sense, Red thinks, his mother never mentioning his absent father. Pallet Town was small and closed off from any major towns and cities, everyone knew each other. Everyone knew each other’s business, private or not. And if a stranger walked into town, everyone would know. Especially if a young girl had a child a year after said stranger left, they would see the baby boy grow up and remember.
Just because Pallet Town was closed off didn’t mean that they were stupid, they’d probably had some idea of what happened to the stranger. His mother would have kept track at least.
Everyone had known, and it wasn’t his stoicism that put everyone off.
It was the blood he carried.
He remembers the way Giovanni expertly commanded his Pokemon, the way the corner of his eyes crinkle happily when they do a particularly good job. The soft almost smile of thanks he gives his poke balls regardless if the Pokemon won or lost. Green and a few others have made him aware of the same habits at least once.
This begs the question of how could a man who obviously cherished his Pokemon turn around and order the stealing of said Pokemon. Approve of the use of them as tools? Left behind a teenage girl who might have never stopped loving him? Red doesn’t know and his head is beginning to swim with confusion and hurt.
He jumped slightly as he felt himself being pulled closer to the brunette’s side, “It doesn’t matter, it’s not like you’re a different person. They were all just being stupid adults.” The jade eyed teen reassures moving closer to press a reassuring kiss on his forehead.
Not long after the revelation of his father being one of the most morally confusing men in existence, a challenger appeared.
Gold comes in loud and is energy reincarnate.
His companion, Silver, is quite and looks exasperated at his friend.
Red knows who Silver is. Via Green, he’s heard of the supposed heir of Team Rocket teaming up with a talented trainer from a small town to squash the resurgent Rockets. Wither the red haired teen knows about him, he doesn’t know.
Neither he nor Silver says anything, although he catches the steel eyed teen staring at him intently.
One battle later, that results in Gold declaring that he would restrain himself and beat Red next time, Silver pauses. He locks his weary eyes with Red’s.
The contact barely lasts a few seconds before the younger breaks it off and wordlessly heads back down Mt. Silver with Gold.
Red releases a breath that he didn’t know he was holding, shoulder’s sagging from relief. He feels light, as if a great weight has been lifted and he suddenly has energy to spare.
Maybe it’s time he came down himself and accepted Green’s offer to move in.