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Adventures of Guzma & the 'Cave Troll'

Chapter Text

The most prevalent thought going through the former Team Skull leader’s head was how unnecessarily cold it was. Everything was fucking COLD, and it pissed him off! If he’d realized it was going to be so damn cold in Sinnoh, he might have actually hesitated a bit before jumping headfirst into a trip here unprepared – or coming at all...

Whoever came up with the rumor that Hala was a softie had been lying through their teeth. Maybe with actual kids, yeah. But adults? Not a chance. Normally this would sit fine with the former Skull Leader – he didn’t get his title just by running his mouth – but being put through an adult’s training while still being treated like a child was more than a little grating.

The only real reprieve from the constant belittlement and exhaustive training was on the rare occasion when he managed to meet up with some of the old team at the Hau’oli cafe for some tapu cocoa. It was at one of these get togethers with his old team members that he finally broke.

“I’m sick of this shit, yo!” A heavy handed fist slammed on the table, startling the other patrons enjoying their drinks nearby and gaining the group significantly more dirty looks than usual. The white-haired man sighed roughly before continuing at a lower volume. “Gettin’ real fed up with Hala’s shit. The guy’ll have me move mountains, then complain ’bout the rubble like it means I ain’t done nothin’ to begin with!”

The former grunts seemed to calm down with their former boss’ explanation, murmuring their agreement and condolences as he slumped over his tapu cocoa. Plumeria, on the other hand, snorted at the outburst before rummaging through her bag. A small pile of travel brochures were unceremoniously dumped on the table seconds later. “’Bout time you fessed up, dweeb.”

Guzma ignored the brochures past a cursory glance in favor of downing more of his drink. The grunts, meanwhile, had taken to them immediately, oohing and awing over the different locales. He was already preparing a mental list of all the reasons he wasn’t gonna go traipsing around some foreign region, when one of the grunt’s comments caught his attention.

“Yo, check out Sinnoh’s! There’s supposed to be some big-ass centipede Pokémon over there, why’d they leave it outta the brochure?!”

“Whoa whoa whoa, bug? Beg pardon? Bug pardon? Whatchu talkin’ about here?” Guzma’s head snapped up from looking into his drink to stare. While the affronted grunt continued to comb through the brochure, the other two chimed in.

“Yeah yeah, I think I remember you tellin’ us about it before, Grunt! Some kinda legendary, right?” Grunt B piped up, nearly knocking over her drink when she went to grab for the brochure. Grunt A made a squawking noise and held it out of reach, accidentally squishing Grunt C in the process. Plumeria snatched the brochure herself before a scene could get started, handing it over to Guzma.

“Sinnoh, huh?” Flicking through the glossy pamphlet didn’t show much of anything too amazing to Guzma. “Yo, you were born there, weren’tcha? What’s the place like?”

“Uhh, kinda not much t’say ‘bout it? I only really saw Canalave before jumpin’ onna ship to out here.” Grunt A said, wincing when Grunt C elbowed him for the near-squishing. “There’s s’posed ta be a lotta bugs out in Eterna Forest too, lotta Wurmple and Combee an’ shit like that.”

Guzma’s eyes practically turned into buginium crystals at Grunt A’s words. He slapped his hands on the table again after tossing the brochure back, taking care not to put as much force into it this time. “Yo, I’m fuckin’ sold!”

After that, it hadn’t taken long for Guzma to toss all he owned in a single backpack, hand off most of his team to Plumeria and the grunts and say ALOLA! to Alola. Hala hadn’t even tried to stop him as he left, just giving the younger man a knowing smile and a nod when he heard Guzma was headed off. Talk about ruining a smug mood.

In retrospect, diving ass-first into the journey hadn’t been his best idea, the thought solidified when he felt the cold begin seeping into his bones. Sinnoh was cold as fuck. Guzma had managed to shiver his way into the closest building hoping for some warmth, just to step into a wall of air conditioning.

“Hey there! New to the region?” A man at the counter of the convenience store asked, a wide, too-cheerful smile on his face. “Got here at a good time! The Kricketune down on Route 214 always make their best music on these summer nights.”

Guzma gave the jolly man a blank look. “...the fuck you mean, summer?”

The poor cashier gave a surprised jump at the profanity, but continued on with a heartfelt chuckle at the question. “Why, Summer is summer, of course. It’s gotten so warm out I’ve had to turn on the air conditioning. The weatherman predicted this year to be the warmest in history!”

Guzma felt a part of his soul die with those words, but that might’ve just been it freezing over too. The man at the counter, his nametag obscured by some of the merchandise, leaned towards him looking concerned. “Are you alright, sir? You’re shivering up a storm. We have basic cold medicine in the first aid kit if you need any.”

“Wh- nah! I’m f-fine, totally.” A quick look around the store showed it was only selling souvenirs and regular trainer gear, much to the former boss’ dismay. “Uh, there anywhere ’round here I can get a coat or some shit?”

The cashier leapt into action at the question, hefting a large box out from under the counter. “We don't keep coats out of season, but I’m sure I saw one or two in the lost and found here. We rarely have anyone come back for anything, so feel free to help yourself!” Guzma slipped off his backpack, plopping it on the floor by the counter before examining the contents of the box.

Marshmallowed GuzmaTen minutes, an atrocious outfit, and a free soda pop later, Guzma could feel the shivers beginning to abate somewhat. To his credit, the cashier didn’t comment on the bug specialist’s mismatched attempt at warmth, only bidding him a friendly farewell as he trudged back out of the store.

The hodgepodge conglomeration of clothing managed to turn more than a few heads once Guzma was out of the building and stomping down the road, but no one bothered to comment on it, or give a second look after he’d passed. Whether they were trying to avoid him, or just stay out of his business, Guzma couldn’t tell. He was just glad that no one tried to say anything about it, ‘cause he was pretty sure even when he could barely move his arms like this, he’d still find a way to deck the first person to start laughing at him. A few death threats directed towards the Grunt who stupidly sent him out here without any mention of the weather crossed his mind, and he kept himself occupied with ideas of dismemberment to distract him from the cold he could still feel seeping through the cracks in his puffy coat of armor. That kid was going down when he got back.

It took a minimum of twenty minutes before someone mentioned his outfit, and even then it was only to suggest catching a Ponyta to help stay warm. Not usually one to catch anything but bug types, it was a good show of how cold it felt that Guzma actually considered the suggestion. Considered and went along with it. He all but bolted when told they could be found just south of the city – or, as much as he could given his current ensemble. Route 214 was easy enough to find, but the Ponyta sure weren’t, and Guzma’s patience was about to become just as elusive when one finally turned up.

“Ha! There ya are!” The fire type didn’t even flinch at the loud exclamation, watching Guzma clumsily hop over one of the many, many fences along the route. A curse left the ex-team leader as he stumbled and almost ended up on his face before he steadied himself. Damn this weather. And these stupid fences, too!

The Ponyta was unimpressed.

Focus clearer than ever now that his objective was within reach, Guzma was quick to call out Golisopod. He was also, unfortunately, quick to fall flat on his ass when he tried to assume his usual squatting position. Heavy footsteps indicated the large bug type had ignored the Ponyta to run back to him. Instead of being helped up as expected, though, the specialist found himself ensconced in shivering exoskeleton.

“Oof– hey! What is it, ya big baby?”

Golisopod gave a loud whine and clung tighter to his trainer, his shivers enough to make them both vibrate. Guzma looked over where the Ponyta had been, and groaned in frustration as he caught sight of it prancing by them as if they were just another fence on the side of the road. The bug’s upset chirring brought his attention back to the matter at hand.

“…aw, don’t tell me that thick shell a’ yours ain’t keepin’ ya warm!” Guzma attempted to push it away, drawing increasingly upset noises from the Hard Scale Pokémon. A small arm nabbed the obnoxiously floral-print scarf from around Guzma’s neck before he could get free, sending a burst of cold air into his otherwise impenetrable coat armor. It chirred angrily at him while drawing the scarf close, doing its level best to put it on despite its lack of familiarity with the winter accessory. Guzma heaved a long sigh, amazed he couldn’t see his breath in the cold air.

“Alright, alright, fiiine, let’s go getcha bundled up too, ya wuss.” Struggling with his constricting clothing and the bug type who refused to stop clinging to him, Guzma took a few tries to finally get up on his feet and return Golisopod in order to head back to town. Maybe that shopkeep had something Golisopod could wear? The Alolan trainer recalled a few other bits of winter wear he’d not donned himself still being in the box, and a new realization that he didn’t yet know where he needed to go next anyway. Guess it was a good thing they had to head back.

TBC

Chapter Text

He’d only seen it twice so far, and Guzma was already starting to get annoyed with the cashier’s ever-present smile. Who the hell was that consistently happy? Especially working in retail, yeesh.

Luckily for Golisopod, Guzma hadn’t been forced to wear the biggest items in the Lost & Found box. The cashier had happily (surprise, surprise) assisted them in finding suitable items in the box to fit on his large-carapaced bug Pokémon. The white-haired man laughed as his Pokémon all but burrowed into the warm clothes, muffled clicks emitting from behind the fabric.

“Uhh, hey, thanks or whatever for helpin’ us.” Guzma managed to get out while rummaging through the box. “A…pal of ours told us ’bout some hugeass centipede Pokémon that’s supposed ta live out here. Didn’t think ta mention it was gonna be cold as balls, though.”

“Wellll…” The man paused for a moment, face contorting in thought. “…hrrrm. I can’t say I’ve seen anything like that recently. Though, I’m sure the ruins down Route 214 could certainly have all manner of creepy crawlies lurking about.”

“What is it with shit bein’ on Route 214?” Guzma muttered under his breath. The cashier looked like he was about to ask him to repeat, so he cut him off beforehand. “WELL! Ya ready ta go now, big guy?”

Golisopod gave a pleased chirr in response, happy to be fully clothed in the mismatched winter wear. The cashier gave him a friendly pet, eliciting more pleased sounds, and produced a poffin, from where Guzma didn’t know, for the bug type. It snatched the offering right up after a cursory sniff.

“Geez, ya want some ribbons too or somethin’?” The former Skull Leader joked, only to regret it immediately as he saw the cashier perk up at the words.

“We do have a small selection of ribbon styles, if you’re interested.” The man’s name tag was missing, now, though the pin for it remained securely on his shirt. “Though, we only have pink left in stock, I’m afraid.”

A blunt “no thanks” was about to leave his mouth when Golisopod gave a series of excited clicks in response. It had seen the ribbons. The ribbons were Cool. It turned the full power of its cross-shaped eyes onto Guzma, as if able to hypnotize him into the idea without even being able to learn Hypnosis. Unfortunately for the trainer, he remained susceptible nonetheless. He gave a heavy sigh.

“How much?”

Golisopod chirred happily.

Ya Bug in coats and ribbonsGuzma grumbled, frown on his face, as the two left the store shortly after Golisopod had been decked out in at least three new ribbons in addition to a lost and found jacket and ski pants assortment. “Tch, no Team Skull Pokémon outta be wearin’ ribbons.” He conveniently denied to think about the fact his team had been disbanded, he was still the hardest guy around! Team Skull or no.

They caught the attention of a few people as they headed back to the route, most of them focused on the tall bug Pokémon, who stood up even taller at realizing this and managed to strut a bit. Man, it was having too much fun with this. Anyone who tried to approach, however, got cut off by the trainer’s sharp glare from underneath his cloth prison.

They decided to bypass trying to catch a Ponyta again – if Guzma had to spend any more time skulking around those fences, he was gonna scream. The route was easy enough to navigate, despite said fences, and the two of them soon saw a set of stone stairs in the distance.

“Yo, that it?”

Golisopod let out a curious chirr at the question, not knowing the answer, either. It seemed to answer itself once they got closer. Guzma might not know much about ruins, but he at least knew that modern, fancy buildings don’t get built on them. “Nevermind that shit, then.”

Just as he was considering retracing his steps, a familiar voice spoke up cheerfully. “Hello!”

“Wh- you again?!” Guzma startled at the sudden reappearance of the cashier from earlier, this time wearing…fishing gear? “Yo, weren’t you just in Veilstone?”

“Hmm, not since spring.” The happy man replied with slight consideration of the question. “You’re from Veilstone, then?”

“Uhh, nah, but–” He shook his head, cutting himself off. This was already weird enough. “Some guy up there told us there’re some ruins out here. You know anythin’ ’bout that?”

“Hrrm. Ruins?” The same look of thought as the cashier’s crossed the fisherman’s face, now with added chin-stroking. “We’ve got a lot of them here in Sinnoh. I think there is an old path near the fences that would take you to the closest one, but I’ve never gone down there myself. Lake Valor’s more my style! It’s recovered so wonderfully since getting blown up by that Team Galactic-”

The younger man and his Pokémon were already on the move before he could finish, backtracking as fast as they could. “Uhhyeahthanks, yo! Have fun at that lake or whatever!”

If the uncannily familiar fisherman said anything more, it was lost to Guzma as he tromped back through the tall grass. He only slowed down once he got to a strange yellow tree – a Honey Tree, Grunt A called it? Whatever it was, the fences started with it. They kept close to the treeline this time, pointedly ignoring the now numerous Ponyta milling about. Golisopod thwacked him on the arm as it noticed a small, run-down little path. Guzma had overlooked it entirely.

“Yo, nice catch! But watch those claws a’ yours.” He rubbed at the offended arm, mainly for show since the coats had cushioned most of the blow. Golisopod clicked in acknowledgment, but made no promises.

The path itself widened up a bit past the entrance, but the condition deteriorated exponentially. It looked like no one had so much as set foot there in years! Both of the Alola natives had to watch their footing as they traversed the mess of vines and other flora along the way, inevitably getting tripped up anyway.

More than once Golisopod had to help it’s trainer back on his feet after a big tumble. The layers of coats being too hindering for the bug-man to get up on his own. Leaving him embarrassed and glad no one else could see him flailing on his back like a flipped Wimpod. Luckily for him, Golisopod wasn’t going to crack any jokes. It knew the feeling too well itself.

They were met with a large swath of tall grass at the end of the path, further enforcing the idea of isolation. Or it would’ve, if it weren’t for the jolly voice they heard ring out as they began wading through it. Guzma’s eyes flicked to the direction the sound was coming from. His jaw dropped and he flailed his arms as best as his layers allowed. “SERIOUSLY?”

It was the cashier man again, this time dressed like an experienced hiker.

“Oh, hello!” The man spoke boisterously and waved at the two foreigners. “Don’t get many folks back here. How are you today?”

“…aight, listen yo,” Guzma took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “I dunno why y’all look the same, but some cashier in Veil-wherever and a fisher somewhere back there told me there’re some ruins out here. And oh yeah, cold as fuck is how I am.”

“Well, that’s not so great. There should’ve been some Ponyta out thataways if you needed some warmth!” At the murderous look the comment got him, the man scurried to switch subjects. “But, uh, they told you right, then! About the ruins, I mean. Hope you have a Pokémon that knows the HM move Rock Climb, though. That slope is a doozy!”

“...I’m sorry, what? The hell’s an HM move?” Guzma gave the hiker a stink-eye before turning his gaze on the approaching slope. If a Pokémon was needed for this, then… “You got a Ride Pager?”

“A…what now? What would you need a pager for?” The head-tilt accompanying the question was just the icing on the cake.

Guzma took a deep breath to try and keep from completely going off on this guy. With the day he’s had so far though, he was ready to say fuck it and punch the nearest thing as hard as he could. “A pager. To page. A Pokemon. To cLIMB THE FUCKING WALL!”

"But why would you need to page a Pokémon? Can't you just use one of your own?"

"That's not how it–!" He stopped. As much as he loathed to admit it, those self-control exercises that Hala had drilled him on had stuck with him. Deep breaths, remove yourself from the situation – fucking shit, he could practically hear the old man from here. He groaned and threw his arms up in resignation, pushing onwards past the strange hiker. “Whatever! I’ll figure out somethin’!”

“Well, good luck to you!” The hiker smiled and waved at Guzma’s retreating form, showing no notice to the Alolan’s wordless cry of rage that followed.

TBC

Chapter Text

If someone tried to claim “determination” wasn’t Guzma’s middle name, he would fucking fight them for it. After the pointless and excessively freezing hoops he’d been jumping through since his arrival to this godforsaken, frigid wasteland of a region, he deserved it.

Golisopod had perked way up after the addition of his own hodgepodge winter gear, and Guzma wasn’t ignorant of the fact his Pokémon was playing in the tall grass, like a goddamned Vulpix in fresh snow, when he thought his trainer wasn’t looking. However, seeing Golisopod capable of moving much more freely than himself, even with the addition of coats, gave Guzma an idea.

To say that the three attempts thus far to scale the rocky ledge had been unsuccessful would be an understatement. He’d only managed to get a few feet up the slope before a tag team of gravity and loose rock dethroned him from his progress, sending him flat on his ass at the bottom again. The cloth armor restricting his mobility certainly didn’t help, even if the gloves were starting to look worse than a Mimikyu’s attempt at cosplay, shredded in some areas due to the sharp rocks. The hiker…cashier-fisherman, whoever was right about the slope being too rough to climb without assistance. So, since Golisopod was oh-so-content frolicking like a baby Pokémon…

“Yo, big guy!” The bug type looked over at the shout, quickly assuming an imitation of a downed Pidgey as it realized its trainer was looking. “Ya ain’t foolin’ nobody with that act. Now c’mere for a sec, I got an idea.”

After a few more moments of the charade, Golisopod begrudgingly stood and ambled over to him. It wanted more attention, like back at the store! Or more beans. Some more of those tasty poffin snacks the cashier had given him would be great, too. Guzma rolled his eyes at the unhappy chitters, pushing its head back when it lightly headbutted him. “Ya ain’t gettin’ more food just yet, neither! Ya just ate!” Golisopod gave a dissatisfied growl and pouted in response.

Any way,” Guzma continued, pointedly ignoring his spoiled bug as he fixed his fraying gloves to minimize contact with the cold air, “I think I can get a hold a’ the ledge if I can jump high enough, so couldja gimme a boost?”

Golisopod tilted its head, as if considering. After a long moment, Guzma gave a sigh. “I’ll give ya some beans once we’re up there, ya big baby.”

That seemed to do the trick. The bug’s plus-shaped eyes lit up at the promise of more food, assuming position at the base of the slope. Its larger, shelled hands locked together as Guzma followed, a tentative foot placed on them once ready.

“Aight, now on three, ya gotta lift me up so I can jump up the slope.” Golisopod clicked in understanding. Its goal was in sight. It could taste the beans already. “One, two…thr–!”

Being flung through the air wasn’t new to Guzma, especially not after trying to talk some sense into Lusamine back in Ultra Space. Being flung by his own bug certainly was a change of pace, as was the extra cushioning provided by the many layers – aside from his face, he barely felt the impact! He managed to latch onto the slope at the last second, luckily, as his protection against the cold saw fit to have him start rolling back down again. A few flailing kicks and grabs later, he was finally pulling himself up onto the ledge. He debated between staying there on the ground for a moment or flipping off Golisopod, who he could hear tittering with amusement back at the bottom, before compromising.

“You ain’t gettin’ no beans after that stunt!” Guzma called back down to it from his spot, causing the stifled laughing to quickly turn into unhappy whines. It was using the baby-doll eyes again. He groaned and let his head fall back, rolling onto his side and standing up after a few moments. A quick return to, and release from, its pokéball found the hard shell Pokémon up on even ground with him once more. Its gloomy, childish moping cleared up the instant its trainer produced a bean from the depths of his coats, having to draw a hand inside the sleeves just to get to them. Guzma shook his head and laughed at his Pokémon’s antics, turning to observe the area.

…if someone honestly expected to go diving off of that pier when they built it, they were more mental than even Lusamine . It was a cool idea, sure – but in freezing-cold 60 degree temperatures? Fuck that. It did look to be the fastest way to get down to lake-level, though, which would make it easier to get to the small strip jutting into the lake at the bottom. A cave entrance, too angular to be natural, sat prominently against the rock. Typically-rebellious attitude tempered by the thought of freezing into a Guzmacicle led him to skirting around the rim of the lake, instead.

‘Skirting’ was thought loosely, as only the biggest coward in the books would think this wide path was frightening. A layer of ice would’ve made it far more dangerous to travel, and Guzma was thankful that, even though he felt like it was freezing, it actually wasn’t. Having to go through piles of snow was most certainly not on his agenda.

The bug-trainer focused on his steps, having to hunch over more than usual to see past his coat layers, which remained poofed out against all odds. Because of this, he failed to notice how close he was to his destination until a clawed hand appeared at the corner of his vision, loud clicks accompanying it. Guzma startled as he realized it was pointing directly at the cave, which they were now stationed over.

“Okay! We’re gonna do this nice an’ slow this time, got it?” Guzma clapped, glaring at Golisopod. The bug in question gave an innocent and questioning series of clicks, placing a claw at its mouth in a way Plumeria had done so often back at Po Town when she was faking innocence or stupidity.

Guzma scoffed at the action and turned around, starting to lower himself down the slope, only for a two clawed fist to collide with him sending him tumbling over the ledge. The…luckily short tumble found him crashing headfirst onto the isolated landmass below. It was at this point, while pondering if his neck could have snapped by such a fall, that he remembered how Plums always ended her charade. “Goddamn stupid- YOU’RE S’POSE TO HOLD BACK ON THE PUNCH!!”

Golisopod gave a boisterous buggy laugh. Plumeria’s ‘punch-line’ was always his favorite joke. Especially when it was on Guzma. Fucking traitor. The chortling died down as it realized it now needed to follow suit. It looked to Guzma in confusion, not understanding why it hadn’t been called back to its ball yet.

“Nuh-uh, ya gotta do it yourself this time!” A wail of complaint. “Hey, ya loved seein’ me do it, so now it’s your turn! C’mon down, ya jerk.”

The bug hesitated for a moment, eyes darting around as if trying to figure how to get down the cliff before it came to a brilliant conclusion.

“Tch, ain’t no way down that direction!” Guzma called up at his spoiled Pokemon as it turned around, walking away from the edge of the small cliff. When no response was gained, the ex-team leader raised a brow. Golisopod may have been spoiled, but it had never just walked away be-

Before Guzma could even finish processing his own thoughts, a loud battle cry was heard, followed by rapid, heavy footfalls leading up to the over six-foot-tall bug-type launching itself over the edge of the cliff. Right…towards…him… “Shit–

The resulting crash was strong enough to ripple the surrounding lake, a miniature plume of dirt and dust momentarily clouding the air. Having stuck the landing, Golisopod gave a victory cheer with all six arms waving in the air. The lack of backup cheering, or at least another treat, paused its celebration. The sudden, harsh squirming of the body under it managed to throw it off long enough for the ex-Skull Leader to escape, kicking one of its large legs in retribution as he did so.

Guzma stumbled to a standing position, dusting off the dirt and retrieving his hat from where it had been knocked off. He fixed the bug with his best, patented Nanu Look Of Disapproval™ before speaking.

“No more beans for the rest of the day.” The dramatic look of despair on the bug’s face was nearly enough to get Guzma to break the facade laughing, causing him to turn and start walking towards the cave entrance. Golisopod’s loud, whining chirrs followed him close behind. “Nuhhhh-uh! No! You ain’t usin’ those cute lil bug eyes on me this time!” More whining. “Yeah, well, try not ta nearly break my neck as often! Maybe I’ll reconsider!”

A large wall of writing met the two as they entered, the stone too worn to read in most spots. Shit, this place was ancient – a fact that sent a jolt of thrill through Guzma, knowing he was one step closer to the legendary Centipede Mcfuckyouup he’d heard so much about. A muffled woop rang out from him as he charged further in, Golisopod keeping pace with his sudden change in mood. The writing remained unread by either.


Cyco: Emperor of the Distortion WorldLoitering around the area bridging the two worlds had become a sort of past-time to the former Galactic Leader, observing how reality melded together at its weakest point. He was unsure of the amount of time he’d spent there in his current session – time was not immune to the Distortion, bending and bleeding away – but, at the very least, he could say that no new bodies had turned up in the cave on the other side. It had felt like quite some time since the last fool had wandered in, woefully unprepared for the journey.

His Pokémon had long since returned to their pokéballs for the time being, unable to withstand the stress of the Distortion World for extended periods, and who was he to force that on them? They sought solace where they knew it would be found, much like he had. Giratina had also retired somewhere, it seemed, possibly to sleep. Consequently, he was left alone in the silence permeating the dimension.

…that is, until the sound of shouting broke it. It seems there would be a new body in the cave today.

TBC

Chapter Text

Guzma was losing his mind. That had to be it. The ex-Skull Leader couldn’t come up with any more of a reasonable explanation than that. What else would explain the fact that he had passed through the same room consecutively at least five times now, without entering another in between? He’d even left one of his gloves in the center of the room, just to be certain. And, sure enough! Same damn room.

Golisopod had started to pick up on its trainer’s confusion a few…rooms back, having previously been occupied with hopping along the multitudes of small boulders lining the space. Now the large bug-type was paying a bit more attention to the rooms, it could tell there was something off about them too. It didn’t even remember to bug Guzma for more beans.

“…don’t tell me we’re fuckin’ lost.” Guzma said, at last. Twenty times they’d passed through a doorway– twenty Arceus-damned times, but they were still in the same room.

The Pokémon inhabiting the place had only grown more aggravating than ominous along the way. Who knew Sinnoh would have problems with Zubat, too? The white-haired man had half a mind to have Golisopod start using them as target practice for Razor Shell, as it was certainly a bit too late to work on his First Impression. The two of them traipsing around in ridiculous, non-matching winter wear ruined any intimidation factor they could’ve had, anyway.

Feeling the act was pointless, but having nothing else to do beside fight more Zubat, the duo traipsed through yet another doorway. Nothing new about it, practically identical to the ones they’d entered what felt like a hundred times before – only to be shocked and amazed that it did NOT lead back into the same room!

“Holy fuck…” Guzma didn’t think it was possible to be SO amazed just from walking through a doorway, but here he was! The sudden change in location managed to perk his mood up dramatically, despite being such a silly little thing. “Oh yeah! Who’s ya boy now! That’s right! No fuckin’ cave is gonna keep ME trapped!” He raised his hand, gaining an enthusiastic high-five from his best bug bro before strutting up to a random doorway in this new room. Things were looking up!

The smug grin was wiped from his face faster than a Wimpod on the run as they entered. It was the first damn room again. Golisopod gave a nervous chirr as it realized this too, and took two big steps away from his trainer before Guzma finally went off, flailing and screaming, punching and kicking all the stupid rocks in the stupid cave for lack of anything else to take his anger out on in this STUPID FUCKING CAVE but the fucking cave itself!!

“Were you separated from your babysitter?” An almost monotone, but definitely stuck-up voice cut through Guzma’s tantrum, giving pause to his thrashing long enough for him to look up and glare at the palest motherfucker he’d ever seen.

“Th’ fuck you want?” The Alolan native was breathing heavily by then, voice making its way out of the cloth prison at half of its normal force. He was not willing to deal with whatever advanced level of assetry this…apparently eyebrowless newcomer was about to bring, even if he did look different from the cashier-fisher-hiker-whatever man.

“I would like to know why there’s a large child having a meltdown in the middle of my cave.” Man, barely a minute into meeting the guy and Guzma already couldn’t stand him.

“‘SCUSE me? Who you callin’ a kid?” Guzma puffed out his chest, attempting the confident swagger he’d developed over the years despite the constraints of his outfit. “What you lookin’ at is destruction in human form, yo! It’s ya boy, Guzma! So y’all best not be talkin’ bout ME.”

“My mistake, I must be thinking of the…other…person running about, dressed like a multi-colored marshmallow.”

“Aight, that’s it!” He did not have to deal with this guy, so he wouldn’t. “Yo, Golisopod! Let’s give this fool a nice First Impression!”

The bug type clicked in acknowledgement and readied its signature attack. The stranger could only raise – oh wow, he did have eyebrows – an eyebrow as the move proceeded to do…absolutely nothing. Not even a flinch.

“…it’s a bit too late for that, it seems. Unless this is some childish game you’ve made up, too?”

“Fine, I’ll do it myself–” Guzma didn’t even bother replying as he marched up to him, dead-set on at least putting a shiner on the guy. Instead of a solid hit, though, he only felt a strange, cold shiver ripple over him as his fist passed through the guy instead. The momentum carried him into the wall just beyond, which he did make contact with.

“W-what the hell?” He fought to keep the pain out of his voice, surreptitiously attempting to apply pressure to the now-wounded hand. Thick glove or no, that still hurt like a bitch! “What are you, a fuckin’ ghost or somethin’?”

“Hmm, a ghost in a graveyard. How quaint.” The comment was quiet, the man muttering before returning his attention to Guzma. What a prick. “What’s the matter? Are you afraid of ghosts?”

“I ain’t scared a’ no ghosts, yo!”

“Not even the Haunter behind you?” The monotone of the mystery man’s voice could hardly be considered joking, to Guzma. The former gang leader most certainly did not startle at the question, nor did he spin around just to find empty air instead of a ghost-type. Or was it? Shit, this was why he never fucked around in Acerola’s trial site. Fuck ghosts.

“Regardless of your own personal phobias,” the man continued, despite Guzma’s insistence that he was not scared, “Giratina isn’t going to be particularly impressed if you do manage to wreak havoc in its tomb.”

Guzma rolled his eyes, growling. Who did this guy think he was?! “Like I give a shit what ya boss or– whatever thinks a’ me. I’m here for the giant centipede!”

If it were even possible, the man looked even more nonplussed at his words. He gave a heavy sigh before continuing. “Giratina is the centipede. Do you truly think you’re the first person foolish enough to try capturing it?”

“Huh?” Guzma deadpaned momentarily before scoffing. “Pff, I ain’t gon’ catch it. Just was hopin’ to see it! Ain’t never seen a centipede big as they say this’un is!” Guzma’s eyes took on an excited glint at the prospect of finding a bug of such magnitude. A legendary, too! “'Sides, I already got ma boy, Golisopod! Ain’t no other bug could replace him." His Golisopod preened at the comment, standing a little taller.

If the mystery man’s eyebrows weren’t hiding out so close to his eyes already, they would be furrowed in annoyance by now. He seemed to think for a moment, then turned, walking through the door Guzma had entered the room from. “Do as you must. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to make it past the third pillar within thirty rooms, anyhow.”

“Wait, we’re s’posed ta count rooms? That's stupid!” Guzma’s outburst, however, was met with silence. Without thinking, he ran after the man, pausing in the doorway. “Wh- hey! You ain’t gettin’ away that– easy…”

He groaned as he was faced with the same room again, Golisopod looking over at the exit he’d gone through in concern. When Guzma turned at the feeling of a tug on his coat, though, Golisopod was…right behind him? His bug was doubled? He stumbled back into it, almost losing his balance altogether.

“I’d advise you to not stand in the archways. Liminal spaces are especially susceptible to distortion.” The man’s voice sounded without his appearance this time, if fainter than before. Great, he can piss me off when he’s not even HERE!

“I’d advise you to stop being a cryptic asshole!” The white-haired man yelled back, his voice echoing off the stone walls. “What’d ya mean by that ‘thirty rooms’ shit?! The hell are ya even, a fuckin’ cave troll?!”

More silence. Golisopod chirred sympathetically as it patted its trainer’s head, the man grumbling from under the tacky, flower-patterned scarf. “…Fuck this cave.”

TBC

Chapter Text

The man – Guzma, he’d called himself? – still hadn’t left the cave. If Cyrus could bring himself to feel pity, he was sure he would feel some towards the other. He’d gotten lost enough times in the Distortion World to know the inexplicable confusion caused by it. As it stood, however, he more felt irritation than the nothing he would prefer. Even with his sense of time… distorted as it was, it had surely been hours by now. The increasing number of rests the man was taking only added to the notion; what the fool lacked in brains, he made up for in determination. It would get him killed, that much Cyrus was certain.

Guzma had managed to get Cyrus to tell him his name in return, somewhere along the line. Something about it ‘only being fair,’ since he’d already blurted his own name at the former Galactic leader. Although plenty aware that the claim did not, in fact, adhere to typical social decorum, Cyrus had gone along with it nonetheless. It was becoming abundantly clear that Guzma would not be relenting with his questions.

At the very least, the man-child had calmed down considerably since his meltdown earlier, though Cyrus suspected it had something to do with encroaching exhaustion as well.

“So, ah–” Cyrus, were he a lesser man, might have heaved a heavier sigh as the pest once again started up in his questionings…as he had every time he entered the same room as the soul (human) resident of the Distortion World. “You s’posed ta be a big bad ghost up in here, or somethin’? Ya never gave a straight answer on that.”

That got the sigh out. “For that to be the case, I would have to be dead first.”

“Well, ya could’a fooled me.” Guzma scoffed and crossed his arms, his action backed up by a nod from Golisopod. “So what are ya, if ya ain’t dead?”

“I’m currently residing in an alternate dimension known as the Distortion World. The barrier separating worlds is especially weak here, allowing us to interact.” Cyrus could see the man’s eyes glossing over already. Good to see that his ‘lecture voice’ was still as effective as ever. “If this is truly boring you, you are welcome to leave.”

The response was immediate, Guzma snapping back to attention. “Whaa? Nah, nah! Ya boy ain’t givin’ up that easy, y’hear? I came here ta see a bigass bug, an’ I’m gonna see a bigass bug!”

His companion clicked jovially in agreement, easily returning the high-five extended to it. Or, rather, the high-two in its case. Cyrus could almost taste bile at the back of his throat at the display of camaraderie. Such emotions were the source of all strife, after all – despite how positive they could be, it only spelled for the magnification of the negative once it arrived.

Cyrus gave a quiet scoff and averted his eyes from the duo. “I believe I've already made it quite clear the likelihood of you reaching Giratina.”

“An’ I already said I don't care ’bout yer stupid countin’ cave rules! We're gonna find it! And then I'ma rub your smug-ass face in that fact!” Guzma snapped back vehemently before turning on his heel and storming onwards through another doorway.

Certainly not enough time passed before Guzma was right back in the room with Cyrus. The ex-Skull boss looked ready to tear his hair out as he received one of the space-man's patented, disaffected scowls. His fingers had threaded into his own curly white locks ready to tug, when a loud growl caught his attention. Guzma almost thought it was a wild pokémon at first, until Golisopod chirred and nuzzled at his side, bringing attention to the growing ache in his belly that he'd been ignoring since arriving in Sinnoh.

“Guess it's snack time for real, huh?” The bug trainer rubbed the back of his head, choosing to ignore the obvious elephant (or rather, the obnoxious specter) in the room. Golisopod gave an excited series of clicks, nudging its face into Guzma’s coats in an effort to make treats appear faster. The trainer in question laughed, pushing the bug away so he could begin wiggling his arms back up his sleeves. After a few minutes of squirming, his hands reappeared, now holding a variety of Poké Beans. Golisopod chirred, please, as it began to chow down on the ones it could reach.

“Woah woah! Easy there! Save some for me!” He protested, drawing the hand back a bit. Golisopod whined, but had the manners not to follow it. The trainer took the opportunity to pop a few of them into his mouth.

“Are you seriously partaking of Pokémon treats?”

“Don’t knock it ‘til ya try it, yo.” Guzma replied before remembering he had been trying to ignore the other man. Well, might as well keep going now that he’d started. “‘Sides, whaddaya eat over there in the Distortion-Whatever?”

“…point taken.”

Guzma spared him a smug smirk, munching away at the treats. They weren't half bad for being Pokémon chow. The mildly disgusted look on Cyrus’ face made it all the better.

Deciding they didn’t need to get moving again right away, the white-haired man settled down against one of the boulders in the room as he ate. He was glad he only brought Golisopod with him – he didn't realize it'd take this long to find that giant bug, so he’d only brought a meager amount of snackage. But like hell was he gonna throw in the towel now, they’d gone too far to just bail out! Gotta be soon, right?

“So uh…how long didja say it takes to find this thing?” Guzma ever-so-casually questioned Cyrus. The man gave him an unimpressed look before speaking.

“As I said, you would need to come across three pillars within thirty rooms in order to find Giratina.” The Lecture Voice™ was back on. “The inscription at the cave’s entry room signalled no different, but I see now that it’s safe to assume you didn’t bother to read it.”

“Aight, so maybe I got a lil ahead a’ myself.” Guzma yawned, head starting to droop again as it had been on and off throughout his adventure in this hellish place. Golisopod gave a chirring laugh and lightly shoved Guzma’s shoulder, bringing the trainer to shove his bug-type back in return. “Down, boy. Ain’t like you read it either!”

“…at any rate,” Cyrus continued, “There possibly were more precise directions described in the text. Unfortunately, the flow of time that has managed to overpower the distortion, coupled with the cave’s climate, have left it largely illegible. It doesn’t help that the words themselves are of an antiquated dialect–”

As Cyrus continued lecturing about the oh-so-fascinating distortion abilities of TurnBack Cave, Guzma was finding it harder and harder to focus. The cave around him seemed to blur as he blinked, long and slow. He was still cold as he had been since arriving in Sinnoh, but…

Another yawn escaped the former boss, his ever-loyal Golisopod picking up on what was happening faster than Guzma was, and pulled its trainer close, allowing the exhausted punk to rest against its soft underbelly. Guzma’s face scrunched into a frown as he began to fall into unconsciousness, the droning sound of Cyrus’ voice strangely soothing in a sense. Looks like the troll had some use, at the very least.

“…this isn’t the place to take a nap.”

Guzma jolted awake with a sharp gasp, his heart suddenly racing a mile a minute as he tried to figure out both where the fuck he was and what was going on. “Wh- I’m up! I’m up? Whassit-?”

Golisopod gave a gentle series of clicks and wrapped its arms more firmly around Guzma, pulling the white-haired man back down to a resting position. Guzma continued to gasp for a few moments before finally catching his breath, getting his bearings, and shooting a heated glare at Cyrus. The other man remained steady under the gaze.

“I repeat: this isn’t the place to take a nap. Time may run awry in this dimension, but I can still notice its passing in yours. You’ve been here for hours. Leave.”

Wriggling free of Golisopod’s grasp, Guzma sat up, his hunched position further emphasizing the dark shadows under his eyes. “Lllissten...fancy...hologram...dude. I had a LONG trip ta get here, and I’m still fuckin’ jetlagged, aight? So piss off and lemme sleep.”

“Sleep elsewhere. Too many ghost types dwell here for you to be letting your guard down like this.” Cyrus somehow seemed to portray slight urgency in his words, despite never varying his tone or facial expression. Or maybe Guzma was just more tired than he realized.

“Pff, you should watch it, almost sounds like you care. ’Sides, Golisopod could take ’em! Ain’t that right?” The tired man grinned, giving the bug in question a few well-deserved chin scritches. It chirred contentedly in response, still obviously half-asleep.

“Suit yourself.” Cyrus’s eyebrows crinkled down slightly more than usual, and he turned to leave the room. He had no intention of standing around watching the fool sleep.

TBC

Chapter Text

Despite his incredible exhaustion, Guzma hadn’t managed to fall back to sleep after Cyrus left the room. It seemed that the eerie silence that spread through the cave, and the constant maybe-teasing – he could never be too sure – about ghost Pokémon from Cyrus had left him on edge. Begrudgingly, Guzma realized he’d either have to leave the cave or get Cyrus to go off on another tangent to get any real sleep. And you can best be believing he had no intention of the former taking place before he’d seen that legendary Centipede-zilla!

A few Poké Beans were removed from his inner layers and split between himself and Golisopod as the two continued walking, himself seeing no point in sitting around if he couldn’t get any rest out of it. Golisopod had, as usual, inhaled its beans, but Guzma took his time chewing this round, knowing he actually only had a small handful left. Not that he had any intention of letting Golisopod know – there was no need worrying the big lug about it.

It had been some…ambiguous amount of time since they’d left the room he’d fallen asleep in, and Guzma was actually rather shocked that he’d not run into Cyrus again since then. It was almost a little unnerving, really.

He’d been happy to find that he’d found a room with a pillar in it, vaguely recalling Cyrus mentioning something about needing to find those to get to Giratina. On top of that, the rooms they were traversing now, though repeated, were still different than the rooms they’d been stuck in upon first entering.

To be honest, with the only things breaking the quiet being the occasional, distorted cries of Pokémon from unseen distances, along with the entire ambiance of the cave, it was really pulling his mind back to his experience in Ultra Space. He would hardly be surprised at this point if one of those Nihilego creatures were floating around in the caverns somewhere – they’d definitely fit the mood.

…fuck. He should not have thought of that, not when he was already getting paranoid to begin with.

Golisopod easily picked up on his growing fear and gave a worried whimper, nuzzling at his hair in attempts to distract him, which gained a startled jump from his trainer. Guzma shoved the large bug-type off with a half-hearted “’M fine, yo!”, but it didn't do much to deter his Pokémon. The man’s body was far too tense and jumpy for his words to be true.

Golisopod was smart, despite being spoiled, and it knew better than to believe its trainer when Guzma got like this. Giving another series of chirrs and clicks, the bug type moved its main arms to the top of its head and wiggled its claws in a crude rendition of the action a much younger Guzma had often performed when teasing Plumeria about her excessive pigtails. Realizing the implication, Guzma bit his lip before conceding to dig out his phone. Putting his best friend and former admin on speed dial had been the first thing he’d done upon getting it, and he was eternally grateful to his past self for that as his eyes darted around the room.

The phone rang four times, but felt like forever, before Plumeria answered, sounding like she’d just been woken up. Knowing his luck, she likely had. “Sup, G?”

“Ah-uhh nothin’ much?” Guzma responded, now feeling stupid for calling her, even though hearing her familiar voice was already helping him calm down. “Big guy just missed ya is all, y’know how he gets.” He continued over casually, rubbing the back of his head with a torn-gloved hand.

“Uh-huh…” a small shuffling could be heard, likely Plumeria sitting up more comfortably in bed. “There anything else ya bug wanna tell me?”

Guzma shot a half-panicked look at Golisopod, hoping the bug type would give him something to say. Instead, his starter just pointed back at the phone with an angry chirr, demanding for its trainer to speak. “So, uh– y-yo, you seen Grunt A recently? I need ya ta start kickin’ his ass for us, it’s cold as shit here!”

“Guz? What’s-- on over th-re?” Her knowing and worried tone was barely registered as the phone grew staticy.

“Plumes? YO! PLUMES!” With a few more flickers of almost-speak, the phone abruptly cut out altogether. “Hey! HEY!! DAMNIT, ANSWER!” Guzma was pacing frantically by then, frustrated panic written clear on his face and in his voice.

“Swear if this is some sick prank, yo! I'm gonna–!” The ex-Boss didn't get the chance to finish his threat as his body pitched forward over a small rock he’d tripped on, having not paid attention to where he was going. The air in his lungs escaped him as he hit the ground hard, his cell spinning across the cave floor. A daunting “Call Dropped” message flashed on the screen for a moment before resuming its normal background.

Hoping against hope, Guzma scurried over to the small device in a heartbeat, redialing the number as soon as he could get a grip on it. The crackling hum of static was all that greeted him upon raising it to his ear. The young man tried again, cheap material nearly bending with the force he clutched it with, but the result was the same. No signal.

With a groan that bordered closer to a yell, the bug-trainer chucked the cell phone across the room. Having anticipated the action, his tall companion caught it before it could hit the ground, or any of the boulders dotting it. Golisopod attempted to return the item, but froze in its tracks at the reappearance of a certain someone.

“…I’m amazed this is only the second time I’ve seen you lose your temper thus far.” Cyrus began after a moment, his unimpressed tone leaving Guzma torn between relief at hearing someone else’s voice and annoyance that it had to be this guy. “You’ve been here for nearly a day. Don’t you suppose it’s time you moved on?”

“Yeah, move on to that next Pillar-whatever.” Guzma snarked before rounding on the apathetic ghost man. “And where the fuck you been?”

“Hm, how strange. Did you, perchance, miss me?”

“NO!” The denial was shouted a bit too forcefully. “Just don’t like people sneakin’ up on me is all!”

“Of course.” Cyrus rolled his eyes. “If that is the case, a tomb such as this must be paradise to you. Perhaps you should improve upon your perception – that way you will not miss the exit when you come across it.”

Guzma gave the other man a weary glare at the unwelcome critique. “I toldja already, I ain’t goin’ nowhere without seein’ that bug!”

Grabbing Golisopod by the arm, Guzma stomped the two of them through the nearest doorway, and…right back into the same room. Naturally. He gave an internal sigh at the predicament, wanting to tear his hair out at the loops they kept getting stuck in. What am I doin’.

Nowhere seems to be exactly where you’re going.”

If it weren’t for the fact that it was the closest the other had gotten to humor since their meeting, Guzma would have groaned. This he could work with. The cave troll had to start warming up to him sooner or later, right? Maybe then he could get the guy to help them out!

“...SO…uh,” The bug specialist blanked for a moment, trying to think up something to talk about. It wasn’t often he tried to plan for conversations – years of being head of a gang meant not caring about how most people saw you, as long as they feared you. These days, though, it seemed to keep happening more and more. “Hhhow long ya been out here, anyway? You get lost, too?”

“Hardly.” The answer was short and clipped, planting a seed of doubt in Guzma’s plan before Cyrus continued on. “I was brought here against my will. I remained for…personal reasons. It’s been a while, I’d assume. Time barely flows in the Distortion World – this place being the exception, seeing as how thin the barrier is here.”

“Huh, that’s…neat?” He hoped it wasn’t too painfully obvious how little he knew what to make of that. “Ya hang ’round here a lot, then?”

Cyrus looked like he wouldn’t be responding at all for a moment, before the toll of living completely isolated from anyone willing or capable of basic conversation seemed to win out. “You could say that.”

“Welllll~, have ya noticed any ‘nifty tricks’ ta navigating this hellhole?” Guzma leaned in slightly at the question, his hope for advice blatant in his actions.

“Indeed. None of which I’m particularly inclined to share with you, mind.”

Well, there goes that plan. Guzma huffed in annoyance as he swiveled to walk back out of the room. And…right back into the room, on the other side. Cyrus was giving him the usual deadpan expression. Not to be deterred, he stalked back to the same doorway as before. “Quit ya starin’!”

So caught up in his frustration, he didn’t notice when Golisopod stopped following him. It chose instead to stand by the other man’s ethereal form, watching its trainer with concern. Was Guzma aware he was just going through the same door repeatedly? Should it point this out?? This was certainly shaping up to be an odd day for the two of them. The two humans continued to trade short quips as the white-haired one continued to loop, the majority of which consisted of Guzma snapping at Cyrus.

Guzma grit his teeth as he once more entered the same room he’d left, only to see the notorious cave troll and his own concerned Golisopod once again. His mouth opened, as if to start yelling like all the other times, before he simply deflated. What was the point? He let out a heavy sigh and gave a short halfhearted wave. “Alola.”

“A...lola?” Cyrus raised a brow, obviously confused by the greeting, but Guzma didn’t catch it.

“Nice t’ know ya got some manners.” The ex-skull boss scoffed before continuing on through the chosen door, managing to enter a different room this time. A confused Cyrus was left behind with the now-distressed bug-type.

TBC

Chapter Text

When Guzma didn’t reappear entering the room once again, Cyrus and Golisopod exchanged looks for a long, awkward moment. Just as suddenly as it stilled, Golisopod rushed towards the door its trainer had gone through.

“Wait–” Cyrus’s words fell on deaf ears as the bug-type charged through the doorway, hurtling right back into the room from the other side. It repeated the action a second time, and then a third, before falling to its knees near the center of the room. A wailing sound echoed through the cavern as it realized the full gravity of the predicament, sending a beseeching look to Cyrus. The man grimaced at the odd, plus-shaped eyes that were now focused intensely on him. Bugs are…still repulsive, it seems.

Seeing it wouldn’t be receiving any help from the man, Golisopod gave another shrill wail as it continued to dash through the doorways. Its shrieks were warped by the distortion as it looped, creating a cacophonous uproar in the room.

Cyrus cringed at the increase of noise from the panicked Pokémon, internally cursing the idiot now traipsing around further in the cave for leaving his, clearly too-spoiled-to-function, Pokémon behind.

-

It took Guzma a solid twelve seconds to realize that he’d managed to get into a different room this time around. To say he felt like crying with joy would be an understatement. And another one of the Pillar rooms at that! Things were really starting to look up now.

“Yo, check it! We don’t need some cave troll tellin’ us where ta go!” When his exclamation wasn’t met with an equally exuberant response, he looked over to Golisopod. Or, rather, the empty space where Golisopod should’ve been.

Dread settled hard in his stomach as the situation sunk in, the familiar taste of bile rose in the back of his throat. Daring to hope, he spun around and dashed back through the archway, only to be faced by an entirely new room. Of course. Of fucking course! The first time he doesn’t want to progress in this shithole, and he does it without breaking a sweat! His anger continued to rise as this new string of luck took him to yet another new room at the next doorway.

Guzma grit his teeth, raising his fist to let his anger out on the nearby wall, when an echoey trilling sound caught his ear. His blood ran cold. He couldn’t have known, and certainly didn't even consider, that it was only the voice of his own Pokémon crying out for him. But while in the distortion of the cave, the sound left only a single possible owner for that noise in his mind: Nihilego. Fuck.

He needed to get out of here. Now! There was no way in hell he was going back near those things, especially not without his partner– who he really, really needed to get back to. Guzma could feel a numb static descending on his brain, his breathing growing labored. Or was it too frequent? Either way, the air was too thick. Thick with poisons and other chemicals that those things thrived on. Was there even any air left in this place? What about Golisopod? Where was- (oh right. In the ball. Always in the ball. It’s unprofessional to have Pokémon running about like that, she'd said. She was right, definitely. She was always right.)

The next room was a repeat of the first, then a new one after that. Guzma’s steps were heavy, too slow. Or maybe not slow enough? He wasn't even sure anymore. Was he even still walking? Or had an Ultra Beast already snatched him up, and was carrying him away? Shit–

Terror won out for once as he ran through the ruins, the panic swallowing him whole.

-

Cyrus massaged his temples as the bug-type went on with its screeching, the dissonant noise being audible regardless of what room he moved to. There was no escaping this headache, it seemed, not with how it kept looping back to the same place. With a sigh, he resigned himself to… helping.

If it had been a dark type, he might have been able to effectively engage it in a sort of conversation. So then…what to do? He’d had to communicate mainly through movement to his Gyarados when it had first evolved, perhaps this would be no different?

Waiting for the Pokémon to pause for a moment, Cyrus cleared his throat to get its attention. Once its (still very unnecessarily) plus-shaped eyes were back on him, he moved to one of the doorways and stood by it. The bug seemed to get the message, cautiously walking up to and through him to exit. Startled clicking met his ears when he followed suit, the other apparently not expecting to find a new room. It rounded on him in a heartbeat with those (repulsive) eyes again, giving him no choice but to look away if he wanted to ignore it.

He moved to another door – this time, the one on the opposite side of the room. Golisopod curiously trailed behind, hesitating for a moment before entering. The next instruction was met with fervent enthusiasm as it finally caught on to what Cyrus was doing, charging through at full steam. The ethereal man nearly felt the need to move out of the way as it barreled by him.

The lack of white-haired, obnoxious man was…slightly unsettling as the two forged ahead. Surely Guzma hadn’t solved the entire cave? The foreign, oddly dressed man, had been stuck in the same room for hours! As Cyrus and Golisopod steadily approached the last Pillar, though, it became apparent that he had – though not for any good reason, if the man-child being curled up on the ground was any indication.

Cyrus could feel something flickering as he analyzed the scene, muscle memories more than conscious thought matching up to the sight of the figure on the ground. Golisopod’s soft clicks took a seat in the background as he noticed the rock its trainer was holding. It was still sharp enough to injure, even if the hands holding it were shaking.

The clicks turned into alarmed chirrs as Cyrus stalked forward, the action having the intended consequences – the rock sailed through his form effortlessly. What he hadn’t expected, however, was for Guzma to suddenly leap to his feet, nor did he anticipate for the bug-type to immediately tackle its trainer the moment he was unarmed.

Muffled yells spewed out from where Golisopod had him pinned, sickening terror lurched through Guzma as he thrashed to get away. “No! Nonono! Not again! Not today!” He was not going to be Beast chow!

Guzma managed to wriggle his arms free of the creature's grasp, and did the only thing he could think to at this point. He fought. Fists striking the hardened carapace of the being which held him pinned. All the force his exhausted and overly-tired self could manage. If he was going down, Guzma was damn well sure he was going fighting! Fist fighting is no way to behave in polite society. The bug-trainer froze up in an instant at the memory that rose in his mind. She wouldn't approve of this. I’m gonna die...

Golisopod took the beating, its face contorted in worry and concentration. Its arms, all six of them, remained tightly wrapped around its trainer as the man thrashed and yelled, borderline screaming in his panic. Eventually, as Golisopod knew would happen, Guzma stopped. Though the sudden end to the tantrum was atypical, the bug was glad that Guzma had quieted, and thus it didn't care right then for the reason. Instead it started up a rhythmic, steady chirring sound, which ever-so-slowly caught Guzma’s attention and dragged the panicked man out of his memories, back to reality.

Cyrus refrained from intervening, trusting the bug to not crush its trainer to death. He backed off as they scuffled, needing time to withdraw from the scene – it was too familiar, too unnerving. Memories were bubbling up, ones that he had meticulously stashed away in the back of his mind, intending for them to never again see the light of day. Taking a deep breath, he forced them back down again, drowning them as best he could. Just in time for Guzma to return to them, shakily sitting up with much help from his Pokémon.

Neither man said a word.

TBC

Chapter Text

After the incident, which both men continued to pretend hadn't happened, Cyrus knew this needed to end. The other had been lingering in the cave for far too long – it was time for Guzma to leave. He wanted to get to Giratina’s resting place, did he not? If that was what it would take, then Cyrus would, for once, be happy to help.

Guzma had remained on the floor with Golisopod, content for the moment to just sit with his bug. When Cyrus opened his mouth to speak he was met with a hand raised in a stop motion.

“Don't wanna hear it, yo. I ain't leaving ‘til I see that bug.” The grumbled comment was expected, if ironic.

“I am aware… Which is why I suppose I will… help you.” The word ‘help’ was spat like Slandit venom. Several moments of silence passed before Guzma’s brain caught up with what Cyrus was saying.

“Wait, what?” The surprised outcry was only matched by Golisopod’s accompanying chirr. “Hold up–”

“Do not force me to repeat it.” Cyrus cut him off before he could even try to protest. “I am only assisting in order to get you out of my home.”

While Golisopod perked up at the offer, Guzma sighed and slouched back against the bug-type, rubbing at his eyes. “Lemme get this straight– ya let us run around here for what, hours? A day? And now you wanna help us?!”

“Well, perhaps if you had left when I told you to the first hundred or so times–” Cy snapped his mouth shut after the comment and took a deep breath, he was not going to let this…hooligan mess up years of perfect control. “Look. You wish to see Giratina, do you not?” Guzma gave a blank stare in reply, so Cyrus continued. “Then you can either do as I say, or you can stay here and become one more dead body to be found later.”

“Tch, fine. Alright. We’ll follow ya.” Guzma accepted, though remained stationary on the floor. “But if ya just takin’ us back to the entrance I swear I’m gonna find a way into that Distortion-whatever and beat you down.” The ex-Skull boss jabbed his thumb downwards, a look on his face which would probably be more threatening if he didn’t look like a toddler after dressing themselves for the first time.

Though he had his doubts about whether the white-haired man could accomplish such a feat, Cyrus nodded in acknowledgement before walking over to one of the doorways. The silence stretched long as he waited for the other to follow, eventually prompting him to look back at the other. He was…still sitting there. “What are you doing?”

“Gettin’ a damn snack, what’s it look like?” Guzma’s arm returned from where it had been drawn back into the abyss of coats, bringing more beans with it. There weren’t many left, by the looks of it. He offered the handful to Golisopod first, who hesitated as it went to grab some. After a few moments of thought, it settled with nabbing two, shoving its trainer’s hand back with the rest. “What? C’mon I know ya can’t be full. You’re always hungry!” Golisopod whined, using the same begging eyes as it had back at the convenience store. “Fiiine, fine.” He conceded, popping three of them into his mouth before quickly stashing the rest. “There, ya happy now?”

Golisopod gave a stern look at Guzma, it had seen the man put half of them away again, before conceding that at least Guzma ate at all. Cyrus stood off to the side during the exchange, waiting for them to hurry up.

“…if you are quite finished now, Giratina’s room isn’t far.” Cyrus’ attempt at coaxing was met with a loud, obnoxious yawn, and the other man stretching in what had to be an exaggerated manner as he leaned back into Golisopod. “Are you listening?”

“Yeah uh, that's great, real nice.” Guzma replied, rather unenthusiastically. “I’m gonna sleep now, so if ya don’t mind, how bout startin’ up that drone of yers again?”

“I beg your pardon?!”

Guzma ignored the offended outburst and continued, shuffling around a bit to get comfortable, eyes already closed. “Look, it's too damn creepy-quiet in this shithole. Ya want me out so bad? Make some white noise so I can get some sleep first.”

The first thought to come to Cyrus’ mind was to leave him there, but that was quickly dismissed. The memory of just moments ago still too fresh in his mind. Though he was loathe to admit it, Cyrus could feel the sympathy sitting heavy on his shoulders. He hated it. Sighing, he settled down as well, sitting on a nearby boulder.

“…many, many millennia ago, the world was frozen over. Mamoswine and countless other Pokémon thrived in the frigid conditions, but the first ancestors of humanity were barely eking out their existences, huddled together in caves.” He could see Guzma’s tense form begin to unwind as he spoke, weariness from the earlier event obviously taking hold. “A bleak world, confined as such, but there remained something that drove them. At night, as they lie awake from cold and hunger, they saw from the mouths of their caves the millions upon trillions of lights flooding the night sky. Thus began what would later become humanity’s adoration of the stars…”Cave Story art by Barbwalken

Sleep quickly claimed the former Skull Boss as Cyrus’s voice droned on. His last thought, ridiculously enough, was that he should sell a white noise recording of it. He’d make a mint. Maybe get some new duds for the grunts…Guzma’s face melted into his usual sleeping scowl as he lost consciousness.

-

The other World was always changing, that much Giratina knew. It had long ago become unrecognizable from the one the legendary had once wreaked havoc upon. Those dwelling upon it, on the other hand…

The expressionless man was far from the first to attempt what he had, but the only one to get so far. Breaking its prison – especially right under Arceus’ nose – had been a gamble on Giratina’s part, but it had worked out in the end. For a time, at least. Dealing with an eternally-sulking human was never high on its list of favorite pastimes. It knew it could not risk the man continuing in his efforts, just as it couldn’t risk trespassing into the other World again without consequences. Thus leaving the man to freely roam in Giratina’s own realm, much to its displeasure.

This newcomer, however…while it wasn’t rare for a human to enter Turnback Cave in search of the legendary distortion Pokémon, a certain ambiguous 10-year-old coming to mind, the Galactic Leader had never interacted with them before. He took too much pride in his solitude to do such. Once the newcomer had spotted him, though, he’d acted as if he had no choice but to respond. How strange. With its unwanted roommate so invested in this strange new human, Giratina felt it prudent to better observe this newcomer.

What it learned from its observations was…certainly a mixed bag. This “Guzma” was aggravating, at least by human standards. His ability to affect the Galactic Leader from across the distortion was noteworthy, if not outright hilarious. The bond they shared with their Pokémon was remarkably similar as well, heavily relying on their companions for emotional security. Giratina was nearly bowled over when the Galactic Leader voluntarily offered his assistance and even helped the other man sleep.

Yes…this was interesting.

TBC

Chapter Text

Guzma woke slowly, not wanting to leave the comfort his deep sleep had brought. Unfortunately, his fight to return to dreamland was cut short by the feeling of something heavy rolling on top of him. The ex-Skull Boss wheezed at the sudden weight, flailing as his brain was forcefully dragged to full alertness. He heard a familiar, chittering grumble moments later, the weight – Golisopod, of course – shifting off of his chest.

Now that breathing wasn’t his immediate concern, Guzma blinked the remaining sleep from his eyes and looked around from where he was trapped in Golisopod’s grasp. Right. This fuckin’ cave. Great.

He most definitely did not startle when he abruptly noticed Cyrus glaring at them. “Arceus fuck, don’tcha know it’s rude to stare at people?!”

“My apologies; I’d assumed rudeness was your native language.” The comment earned Cyrus a sleepy glare from the man on the ground. He sighed as he stood up, knees cracking faintly at the sudden change. “Are you quite finished now?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Guzma groaned, starting to squirm in earnest now as he shoved at the large bug latched onto him. Golisopod whined in protest, attempting to cuddle him closer. Its trainer huffed out a laugh. “Get offa me, yo!”

Though surprised the man wasn’t yelling (yet), Cyrus was thankful for it. That impromptu nap the other had taken had given him enough time to recover from his mounting headache, the likes of which he hadn’t experienced since acclimating to the Distortion World. He was convinced that getting the other man on his way would prevent another one from trying to form. If said man would get a move on, that is…

The bug-type wasn’t very keen on being awake just yet, though. Its trainer had become the perfect cuddle toy, due to the man’s extensive padding. Luckily, Guzma still had just enough room to maneuver, even with the coats. “Aight, buddy, ya asked fer this.” Guzma gave an evil smirk and readied his fingers, for once glad that the gloves had been shredded on their way to the cave, thus giving his digits more mobility.

If bugs can’t shriek, then Golisopod definitely got close to it as its trainer began a tickle assault on its unguarded underbelly.

“Who’s a happy bugaboo?!” Guzma cooed, tickling his favorite bug with relish, grinning wide as Golisopod thrashed around and attempted to respond all at once. “Who’s th’ cutest bug?!”

“Are you really using baby talk on that...thing?”

Guzma froze as it suddenly hit him: this was NOT his bedroom, and he had an audience. “Uh…nooo?” Looking like he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Guzma jerked his hands away and stood up, much to Golisopod’s displeasure. A sad buggy noise came from the prone Pokémon as it wiggled a few more times, hoping its trainer would start playing again.

Cyrus was going to need to upgrade from his 3.5 facial expressions at this rate, if only to properly capture the nausea he felt from such a heartfelt display. “It’s a bug – nothing about that nasty creature could possibly be cute. You’re going to make me vomit.”

“Woah, woah! ‘SCUSE me?!” Guzma’s head jerked around to glare at the other, all the while holding Golisopod’s face, as though trying to block the bug’s non-existent ears from hearing Cyrus’ blasphemy. “Looks like somebody needs ta get their eyes checked, cause I KNOW ya ain’t talkin’ ’bout MY bug.”

There was the headache again. Cyrus grit his teeth and took a deep breath. Conceal it, don’t feel it. He was not dealing with this stupid headache again, and soon he could say the same about the cause of it, Arceus be praised. “I have been waiting for you to wake up for hours. I reserve the right to be perturbed by this situation, which could have been avoided if you had left when I told you to.”

The white-haired man ignored the key part of the message, as per usual. “Ya watched me sleep? That’s weird, yo. Even for you!”

Cyrus repressed his aggravated fuming as the trainer carefully low-fived (low-twoed?) his companion, the bug finally, finally getting to its feet as well. Its chirring interrupted Guzma as the trainer opened his mouth to say something else, mandibles chewing lightly on the ridiculous heart-patterned beanie.

Guzma gave a scowl and waved Golisopod off of the now-sticky hat. “Aight, shoo! Ya hungry, I get it.”

The bug gave a short, staccato set of happy clicks as its ultimatum was acknowledged. Still mildly grossed out by the combination of affection and bug drool, the former Galactic leader glanced back once he heard the other man addressing him. “So...you were gonna take us to th’ bug?”

Cyrus took a moment to process the question. Was the most obnoxious man in the world finally doing what the former Galactic Leader had told him to? He had to physically bite his tongue to avoid spitting out a sarcastic remark. Guzma slowly raised a brow as he waited for a reply. “Yo, ghost dude. You alive, there?”

“If I were a ghost, I wouldn’t be alive.” The distortion dweller retorted. “I distinctly remember establishing this earlier.”

“Ya know what I mean, yo!” Guzma gave an exasperated eye roll. Even if the guy wasn’t dead, his sense of humor sure was. “Jeez, were ya born with a stick up ya ass or somethin’?”

Cyrus didn’t bother deigning the question with a reply, instead turning on his heel and heading towards the doorway across the room. “Anyway, if you intend to meet Giratina–”

His words warped as he passed the threshold, making the rest of his sentence unintelligible. The Alolan duo shared a look, Golisopod shrugging at Guzma’s unspoken question before they followed after. Better not lose the guy now.

The monotone voice cut back into clarity as they entered the next room. “–need to leave immediately afterwards. You’ve been in here for a day and a half after that nap of yours, and you obviously didn’t come prepared for even that long.”

“Hey, kinda hard ta prepare for a cave that breaks physics, yo.” Guzma’s usual annoyance wasn’t as obvious as before, the extended nap really having a positive effect on the foreigner. And the bug! It was hard to keep a handle on his excitement as they drew nearer to their goal.

The trio didn’t linger in the final pillar room – Cyrus routed them to the next door, leading them onward quickly, ready for this little “adventure” to be done and over with. He purposefully ignored Guzma’s growing excitement keeping a small mantra going in his head. Almost over, almost over. Perhaps Gyarados would like another swim in the waterfalls, it always liked those. The thought was a good distractor, and managed to keep his mind off of the other man behind him until they entered the final room.

“Here. The Altar of Giratina.” The blue-haired man gestured simply, indicating the large platform in the middle of the room. Guzma bounded over to it almost immediately, Golisopod trailing close behind. After taking in the large inscription for a moment, he turned to their guide, confused.

“Yo! If this is the place, where’s the bug?”

Cyrus gave Guzma the most deadpanned stare he could muster. “I told you: 30 rooms to see it. Do you even know how many you passed just getting to the first Pillar?”

“‘Course I don’t! Who th’ hell counts rooms?”

“Literally everyone who comes here. Those are the rules of Turnback cave.”

“Well that’s just stupid!” The white-haired man certainly was not going to admit defeat after such a long search. “Like I toldja before, I ain’t leavin’ ’til I see that bug!”

“You’re not GOING to see the ‘bug’; Giratina is a DRAGON type you halfwit!”

“Say WHAT?” The earlier excitement seemed to shatter in Guzma’s expression. “Not a bug?! But that was the only reason I even came here!”

Cyrus took a small victory from the recoiled reaction, though attempted to not let it show. “Yes! Isn’t it SUCH a shame.”

While the two humans had continued to bicker and ignore their surroundings, Golisopod began shuffling its feet uneasily. Something in the room did not feel right – starting with that weird blotch on the wall of the central altar, right next to its trainer. Was that thing…growing?

The large bug gave a worried series of clicks and chirrs, trying to get it’s trainer's attention. It only grew louder as Guzma continued arguing with the other human, until Cyrus finally put his foot down. “Will you silence your infernal Pokémon?!”

“You should silence ya damn mouth!” Guzma snapped, turning to his companion in concern. His boi was distressed! “What’sa–”

Golisopod cut him off as it rushed up to grab him, the human glancing behind him just in time to see something too close to a wormhole for comfort. Unlike the wormhole, though, this one was dark, practically vantablack. That alone was disturbing, but the inky appendages that shot forth from it really took the cake.

“Oh shi–!” Guzma was cut off as both man and Pokémon were dragged into the perceived abyss.

Welcome! To Hell.

TBC

Chapter Text

Guzma was halfway to freaking out again before he got a better view of their surroundings, the swirling blackness from the portal finally fading. They…were not in Ultra Space. Ultra Space wasn’t this fucking purple… and full of weird waterfalls, last time he checked. This fact didn’t make him feel incredibly better about the situation, but at least there weren’t any Nihilego in sight.

Taking a deep breath, he looked over to Golisopod, who was amazingly right beside him. “Hey, you okay, yo?”

The bug did not respond, staying uncharacteristically still. Guzma felt the hairs on the back of his neck raise, buried under fabric as they were, as he noted his companion’s plus-shaped pupils pinpointed on something behind him. “There's somethin’ fucked up behind me, ain’t there?” Golisopod gave a silent nod at his whispered question. Dreading what it could be, but knowing he had to look, Guzma turned his head ever so slowly.

A large golden face entered his field of vision for a split second before he felt himself slipping from whatever was holding him, bringing to attention the very distant ground. A sharp yelp tore itself from both trainer and Pokémon as they began to plummet, only to peter off just as quickly when their descent slowed just seconds in. They floated down gently to the odd red rock below, landing on their feet. “Uh…‘aah’?”

“I see the distortion wasn’t amplifying your volume levels after all.” A familiar monotone voice cut into their confusion, much clearer this time.

Guzma gave a blink as he processed the sadly familiar voice, before snapping his head around to scowl at Cyrus. “Yo! Didju just call me fat?!”

Cyrus sent him a withering glare before willing his face back into its neutral facade. His voice was nearly scolding as he continued. “As amusing as I’m sure you found that little stunt of yours, why, exactly, did you do that?”

“I didn't do shit!” The bug specialist protested, only to have any further appeals interrupted.

“Not you, idiot.” The answer was short, clipped, Cyrus didn't even deem to look at Guzma while he said it.

Guzma ever so maturely stuck his tongue out at Cyrus, ignoring the insult and turning to Golisopod to complain when he remembered. He snapped his head up in time to see two red-hot disks staring back, far too close for comfort. “Arceus FUCK! What the hell?!”

The creature backed up a little at the most definitely dignified squawk, almost seeming to be chuckling. “Sorry If I Scared You, It’s Kind Of My Specialty. Not That You Were Paying Close Attention To Your Surroundings, Anyway.” It wiggled for a moment to fit its elongated body on the rest of the ledge they were standing on, sending up a small cloud of red dust. “Afraid I Haven’t Cleaned Lately. Then Again I Don’t Have Hands, And I Rarely Get Guests.

“Nah man, it’s chill! I ain’t much for cleaning either.” Guzma was about to wave it off with a laugh, before the situation clicked together in his head. Alternate dimension. Distortion World. Giratina?! “WAIT! You’re the legendary bug poser I dragged my ass halfway ’cross the planet to see!”

Cyrus deadpanned at the bug trainer. “Did you really?”

Guzma tuned him out in favor of continuing his tirade. “It’s cold as fuck, everyone looks the same, I’m stuck waddling around in this ridiculous getup, my damn BUG had to get his OWN coats and ribbons! Fucking ribbons!! He chucked me up a cliff, then punched me back down it b’fore JUMPING ON ME!” Golisopod had the decency to look cowed. “I went through the same damn room near a hundred fuckin’ times and got stuck with THIS jackass for a day and a half! Had a damn panic attack! Ran outta food! All just for this eyebrowless CAVE TROLL to tell me that you’re a DRAGON!” Guzma threw his hands in the air for extra emphasis, waving his arms around and almost smacking Golisopod by accident. “YOU! Legendary, Centipede McFuckYouUp! AIN’T! EVEN! A BUG-TYPE!”

“I strangely feel insulted by all that.” The former Galactic leader rolled his eyes, waiting for the child to finish his tantrum.

“Oh yeah! Thanks fer remindin’ me!” The Alolan paused to turn and thwack Cyrus on the backside of the head, not willing to pass up the opportunity. “THAT'S FOR FUCKIN DITCHIN US, ASSHOLE!”

An uncanny, warped screeching erupted from Giratina as it burst into laughter at the human’s antics. Once it settled, it offered a proposition. “Maybe I Am A Bug Dragon.

“No, you’re not–” Cyrus tried to counter, rubbing the light injury, but the ex-Skull Boss’ mood had already done a 180˚ at the prospect. Golisopod clicked in victory beside him.

“A bug-dragon, huh?…okay, now that’s cool, yo.”

“It is NOT a bug of any kind! It is a ghost dragon!” Cyrus continued to point out, only to be interrupted by the Pokémon in question.

You Don't Know That.

“You’re the ancient Pokémon directly linked to the earliest understandings of antimatter and ectoplasm, both of which have been repeatedly evidenced as composing the bodies of ghost-type–”

Nope. Bug Dragon.

“I have spent the better parts of my life studying and researching you! You are a ghost dragon!”

Are You Arceus? No, I Didn’t Think So.

Cyrus, fuming to inarticulation, didn’t respond. It was obvious that he wasn’t going to be getting anywhere with either of them. Guzma, on the other hand, was living it up while he could.

“Aight, anything that can screw with no-brows here is fine in my book.” He snickered, eyes lighting up as an idea came to him. Fishing his phone out from within his coat layers, he held it up curiously. “Hey! Mind if I…?”

The ancient being inspected the small device to the best of its abilities – was that the newest Pokémon-recording device? – before agreeing, sensing no ill will from the newcomer. Guzma grinned widely as he flipped the phone open and went right to the camera app, Golisopod ducking into the frame as it anticipated its Trainer’s actions. Cyrus was oblivious as he was caught in the background of the photo, still fuming.

Once Guzma had saved the photo, returning it to its pocket amongst the fabric, Giratina decided to put its plan into motion. “Now That Introductions Are Out Of The Way…I Believe We Need To Talk.

…You Are Not A Social Person.” The ancient Pokémon began, directed at Cyrus, after studying them both intently for a moment. “You Have Forsaken Your Emotions. Yet, You Still Attempted To Help In Response To His Distress. And You, Newcomer,” it rounded on Guzma, “You Were Persistent Enough To Draw This Side Out Of Him. No One Before You Has Managed That. As Amusing As It’s Been To Have Company, I’m Not Interested In Being Stuck With Another Creature’s Presence For The Rest Of Eternity. So, I’m Sending Him With You.

GiraTroll “Wait, what?!” The effect of the last line was instantaneous, both former Team Leaders objecting. Golisopod even giving a chirr in confusion.

“Seeing as this is my life we’re discussing here, I believe I ought to have a say in this!”

Yeah, Well. My Dimension, My Rules.

“I can’t believe I’m sayin’ this, but I’m with Cyrus on this one, yo.” (“You actually know my name? Shocking.”)

Giratina disregarded the two humans as it rose back to full height, unwinding from the ledge it was perched on. “It’s A Good Thing I’m Not Asking, Then.

With a mighty sweep, both the distortion dweller and the Alolan found themselves ensnared by the same tentacles that had dragged the latter into the Distortion World to begin with. Their movement through the air was noticeable, and they suddenly found themselves tumbling back into Turnback Cave, right in the entrance room, the distortion portal closing behind them.

TBC

Chapter Text

Unfortunately for the two humans, their trajectory led to them landing in a heap as they crashed into the cave floor. The two ex-bosses groaned, and then both attempted to get up at the same time, resulting in their limbs getting tangled up in the process.

“Get off me, yo!”

“In case you haven't noticed, you are on top of me.” Cyrus spat, too off guard from the recent situation to manage his tone.

Guzma rolled his eyes and went to shove the other man away, when something occurred to him. “Wait– shit! Where’s Goli-?!”

A panicked trill was all the warning they got as a 128 kg Golisopod fell on top of them. Both of the humans groaned again as soon as they could get in enough air to do so. Golisopod took note of where it had landed and gave a happy chitter, wiggling around in it’s joy to be back with its trainer. “Good to see you too, buddy.” the trainer in question managed to wheeze out.

“Get your disgusting bug off me!” The (former) distortion dweller demanded, face half squished into the dirt floor of the cave. Golisopod startled, seeming to remember its own weight suddenly, and quickly rolled off the pile. Guzma grasped the clawed hand it extended to him, and accepted being hefted up onto his feet by the excitable bug.

Cyrus wheezed in air once the weight was removed. “I wasn’t aware you had brought a bug-type Snorlax with you.”

“It’s muscle.” The bug specialist claimed, a massive pout on his features as he patted the Pokémon in question on the arm.

“It’s beans is what it is.” The other countered as he stood, dusting himself off. “Don’t think I didn’t notice you constantly feeding him those multicolored pokétreats your whole time in here!”

“Poké Beans are TOTALLY healthy! He practically lives offa the stuff!”

“Yes, I can see that.”

About to yell back, Guzma was interrupted by a loud growl. Cyrus seemed to double over in time with it, stumbling badly as he attempted to keep his balance. “…the hell was that?!”

“Obviously, there is a noticeable lack of food in the distortion world.” Cyrus’s voice was much fainter than only seconds before. Having never planned to leave the Distortion World, he hadn’t considered the effects re-entering the space-time continuum would have on his physical form. Guzma, meanwhile, had to take a few seconds to process the comment before he swore loudly, digging out the remaining Emergency Beans™.

“Arceus fuck, how long were you in there?! Wait no, better question– how the hell are you alive???” He motioned for Golisopod to support Cyrus’ weight and proffered the beans. “Here, eat this. Ain’t much, but it's better‘en nothing.” Golisopod gave a shocked whine as it witnessed its trainer giving away the last of the Poké Beans, but stopped after a quick glare from Guzma. Part of the Team Skull code was that everybody got something to eat, and Golisopod knew the code well.

Having nothing else to consider, and hit by another hunger cramp, Cyrus accepted the strange food item without looking first. Only after chewing the beans to a pulp did he pause, a disgusted look crossing his usually blank features as the taste of the Poké treats hit him. “…what is this?”

“Gourmet Alolan cookin’, now shut up and swallow.”

The gaunt man forced down the beans and shuddered, then seemed to realize what the only food Guzma had eaten during his entire time in the cave and gagged. “Did you just feed me Pokémon food?!”

Guzma scoffed and crossed his arms, leaning against Golisopod, who continued to stare mournfully at Cyrus. “Whaddya expect? Not like I had time to go grocery shopping between here and the Distortion World. Jeez! Be grateful I shared at all.”

The blue-haired man continued to grimace, regardless.

The Alolan glared, hands on his hips. “Well it's not like I need ta please ya anyway. I got what I came here for. C’mon, big guy,” he gave Golisopod another pat, the bug-type giving a resounding chirr in response and happily nuzzling into the contact, “Let's get outta this shithole. Bet there’s some nice, warm beds at the Pokémon Center.”

As much as Cyrus had wanted to see the duo actually leaving earlier, this was far from how he expected it. What kind of nerve did this guy have?! “You can't just leave! You dragged me from my chosen home!”

“Yo, technically, Giratina threw ya out–” Guzma was quick to defend himself, but Cyrus wasn’t having any of it.

Regardless! If you hadn't shown up, I would still be thoroughly enjoying the nothingness of the Distortion World!”

Enjoyin’ the nothingness?” Guzma made a funny face and grumbled under his breath. “Somebody needs a hobby…”

“What was that?!”

“I said: Ya still in this damn cave! Just go back to the last room! Use that navigation skill ya got, damn!”

Cyrus nearly bit his tongue holding back – did nothing get through to him?! He had to take a second to get his words in order, but they still came out with an acidic ring to them. “It doesn't work like that!”

“Worked pretty well for me.” The maybe-shrug, weakened by the layers of clothes, that accompanied the response only served to frustrate Cyrus further.

“Yes, but you– You!! There is no logic! You shouldn’t have gotten in at all!”

“Yeah...but I totally did.”

“Giratina just made an exception, Arceus knows why–”

“I still got in, me an’ Golisopod both.” Guzma cut him off to boast, fist-bumping (or, rather, fist-claw-bumping) said Pokémon in the process. Its mood had brightened considerably since the loss of the last beans, now that it had something to be distracted by. “So, since everythin’ else in this damn region is broke as far as logic goes, ya might as well try to get back.”

Fuming, Cyrus stormed off, eager to put some space in between him and the other man again, even if it wasn’t as impermeable as a dimensional barrier. The bug specialist sighed as soon as the strange man’s footsteps faded beyond one of the archways, turning towards the entrance. Looked like it was day again, at the very least… “Think we’re finally rid of him, pal?”

Golisopod gave a buggy little smile as it nodded, enthusiastically, excited to be leaving the cave. Its cheer was dampened as the ‘troll’ in question suddenly reappeared, back colliding hard with the ground as he fell from what looked to be another distortion portal. The bug’s nods turned to shaking its head “no”, now frowning as much as its species could. Guzma rolled his eyes at his bug’s antics. “Oh gee, ya think?”

Both leaned over the cave dweller, expectantly. Cyrus had repaired his impassive look by then, willingly having turned to apathy to numb the gravity of the situation as it bore down on him. “…apparently, I am supposed to follow you. Whether I want to or not.”

As if to emphasize the statement, the Distortion World portal opened once more, allowing Giratina to fire a glowing red blast at the two men. Guzma startled and jumped back, away from Cyrus, managing to trip over his own feet and stumble into Golisopod. Thankfully, the Pokémon caught him with only minimal teasing. The glow from the unnamed attack spread out around the two men, but otherwise had no apparent effect. Both quickly understood the warning, though, even if they weren’t happy about the situation.

“Tch, fine, great…whaddya want? Dinner and a show?” Guzma had said the line with sarcastic intent, but immediately regretted it when he saw Golisopod perk up at the thought. “Wha– no, no! I was being sarcastic! I didn't actually mean–” He didn’t get to continue as the bug whined like a kicked Rockruff, pleading with its eyes. The heartbreak over the lost beans and its totally empty tummy had returned full-force. Its trainer gave a long sigh.

Cyrus slowly got to his feet, unamused by the duo, and dusted himself off.

“If your…bug…is so insistent,” He couldn’t suppress a cringe as another wave of hunger caused his stomach to physically ache. “There is a restaurant on Valor Lakefront, just south of route 214–”

“Fuckin 214, everything in the damn world is on 214,” Guzma grumbled, already making his way to the entrance again, Golisopod by his side. “Alright, fine, let's go.” The two exited into the vaguely-warmer sunlight, peeking back in when Cyrus didn’t follow. “You comin’?”

The Sinnoh native was mildly surprised, though he didn’t let it show on his face. In all honesty, he had been planning on letting the other leave, then re-attempting to reach the portal once Guzma was far enough out of Giratina’s domain. “…and why would I do that?”

“You're supposed to follow me, right?” The Alolan flashed a smug grin, and Cyrus could feel his temper begin to simmer below the surface again.

“You're incorrigible.”

“I'm gonna guess that's an insult, so fuck you.”

A dark cloud might as well have followed Cyrus out of the cave, the mood he was in. He’d had his reprieve. Now it was on to the next disaster, it seemed…

TBC

Chapter Text

Cyrus blinked a few times before letting his eyes fall into more of a squint than normal in the sudden harsh (to him, at least) sunlight. Thanks to the warping of time within TurnBack Cave, and the Distortion World as a whole, the former Galactic Team leader had no idea when the last time he’d actually seen sunlight had been. Though – and he hated to admit it, if only to himself – even without considering his time in the cave itself, he was hard pressed to recall the last time he’d been outside in full sun.

“Oh, it’s summer already?” he murmured, reluctantly taking off his vest so as to avoid overheating.

"What is wrong with you people?" Guzma looked at him like the pale man was crazy. Like hell could this count as summer. Golisopod burrowed further into its own coat, shivering, as if to emphasize its trainer’s point.

“I shudder to imagine the type of climate you must hail from that has you thinking this is cold.” Cyrus barely restrained the urge to roll his eyes. “If you want out of the weather so badly, send out your rock-climber already so we can go.”

“Uhh…” If it weren’t for the myriad of coats blocking it, Guzma would probably be rubbing at his neck reflexively. “So, yo, remember when I mentioned gettin’ thrown around?”

Cyrus’ eyes cut through Guzma disbelievingly. “You’ve got to be joking.”

Guzma gave a shrug and a cheeky grin in response, Golisopod bursting out in a loud buggy laugh.

“Oh, for-!” The Sinnohite did roll his eyes this time – of course the other would have done that, he wasn’t sure why he was surprised at this point – and called out his Gyarados. The water-flying Pokémon dove into the lake, breaching the surface seconds later with a look of excitement. The expression morphed into disbelief as it realized where it was, shooting a glare at Cyrus. The trainer sighed and patted the Pokémon in greeting once it swam over to the bank sulkily.

Guzma watched the interaction curiously before realization struck. “Wait! You had Pokémon with ya all along?!”

“Of course I did. What do you take me for?”

Feeling his ire rising in the face of the other’s indifference, Guzma continued his line of questioning instead of answering. “And I bet’cha fed them as much as ya did yerself in that cave, huh?”

“Naturally–” Cyrus suddenly found himself slammed against the rock wall behind him, being held up by the front of his turtleneck. Gyarados made a startled noise at the sudden action.

“Aight, listen here ya lil troll! We’re goin’ t’ this restaurant place, and ya ain’t gonna eat a single BITE ’til ya feed ALL your Pokémon, ya hear me?!”

Being a man of machines, Cyrus would usually have had it in him to argue – the combined effect of the inconsistency in the time stream and the semi-stasis induced by being inside their Poké Balls so often would have slowed their metabolism greatly. But, he was hungry, and it was true that he hadn’t considered his partner’s needs. So, reluctantly, the former Galactic leader gave a nod of confirmation.

Finding themselves in agreement for once, Guzma released his hold on Cyrus. The latter dusted himself off. “Gyarados will be taking us across the lake. It seems like an adequate re-introduction to this dimension’s physics.”

“Uhh…that pier is a lot higher than the lake, yo.” Guzma pointed out, looking up at the said structure.

Cyrus gave a murmured “Is it really?” but otherwise ignored the comment. The man was proving to be a garden-variety fool, aside from his apparent devotion to Pokémon health and safety.

Cutting his eyes over to the large bug-type, the Sinnohite cleared his throat to get its trainer’s attention again. “It will likely be easier for Gyarados the less weight it has to carry.”

“Maybe ya oughta swim, then.” Guzma countered, getting another chortle from Golisopod.

Cyrus returned Guzma’s glare for a brief moment, somehow managing to not snark back at the punk, before returning his attention to his Gyarados. The large Pokémon did its best to hold still as its Trainer climbed on, though it began struggling to stay in form as the two newcomers cautiously followed suit.

“As you can see, gravity is back to normal here.” Cyrus reminded his Gyarados, which whined loudly, obviously upset at the knowledge. “Yes, you’re going to actually have to expend energy for this, such an outrage. Could you take us over to that pier?” The monotonous voice continued, likely accompanied by an eye roll which Cyrus’ current traveling companions weren’t privy to.

“Hey, whatcha mutterin’ about up th–” Guzma’s question warped into a yelp as Gyarados hurtled through the water far faster than the ride Lapras Guzma had experienced before. “Yo, y’know that pier’s way up on the…cliff?”

Cyrus restrained from showing any sign of amusement at the other’s confusion as their ride slowed, submerging slightly to grant better access to the wooden structure. The bug-type was making a long, low chirr in amazement, its mouth hanging wide open – he half expected it to start cheering. At any rate, it wouldn’t have to chuck its trainer around, this time. Said trainer began speaking again as he returned his Gyarados, much to his dismay.

“Uh, aight, so I’m not a Professor or anythin’, but I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t’ve been able to surf UP,” Guzma paused, going deadpan. “That was more Distortion shit, wasn’t it.”

Busying himself with the next task to hide his smirk – the fools, really – Cyrus released his Crobat and Honchkrow, having to steady the former as it acclimated to the shift in gravity. Honchkrow gave a bleary, bored look at the oddly-dressed Alolan duo, vacillating on whether or not to try pecking at them. It settled with not, ruffling its feathers instead; the two of them smelled like mothballs and dollar-store clothing. Cyrus was quick to bring it back to attention.

“Stop turning up your beak. You’re carrying him down the slope.” Honchkrow gave a startled bwaak?! at its trainer’s statement, shooting him an offended look. It was too late, of course – Crobat was already latched onto Cyrus, sealing the bird’s fate. Grumbling, it waddled its way over to the apparent walking mound of cheap fabric.

Of course, dark-types didn’t have a reputation for nothing. The bird gave Guzma a leering glare, putting the man on edge. “Uhh…maybe I should take the bat, yooWOAH!!” He attempted to protest the team up himself, when the dark/flying-type snatched him in its talons and took to the sky. ‘Carelessly’, it lost hold of the man halfway down, not that its grip wasn’t shoddy to begin with.

Golisopod jumped into action the second it saw its trainer falling, literally jumping down after him. And…landing on him, again. It sniffed and snuffled at the groaning man for a moment, chirring when it determined Guzma was (relatively) unharmed.

Cyrus couldn’t really find it in himself to care, allowing a small snicker to escape him he looked over the edge, securely held by his Crobat. “Well…You’re not on the cliff anymore.” The former cave dweller landed gently next to the pile of bug, coats, and trainer. “Perhaps this will teach you the importance of bringing along the proper Pokémon for a journey.” He monotoned blandly, returning both of his own as Golisopod rolled off and helped its trainer to his feet.

“Wouldn’t NEED to if y’all had some fuckin’ ride pagers ’round here!” Guzma griped, dusting himself off.

“And what, pray tell, is a ride pager?”

How did someone not know what a ride pager is? How did apparently everyone he’d mentioned it to in this backwater region not know what one was?! He was seconds away from a tangent about it, but faltered at the last second when the most horrible and frighteningly familiar sound reached his ears.

“Hello again, there!” The hiker-cashier-fisherman. How could he fucking forget?

“Great, this again.”

The man must not have heard Guzma’s comment, because he continued on, unperturbed. “You weren’t too long up there, sport! Didja find what you were looking for?”

“Wait, wait! Whatdya mean I wasn’t ‘long’ up there?”

“Well it’s only been about,” He checked his watch…thing. Were those even watches? “10 minutes, you know.”

“...wh–” Guzma instantly snapped his head to give a narrow glare at Cyrus. “Th’ fuck is he talkin’ about?”

Cyrus ‘hmmed’ in acknowledgement, waiting for a stab of hunger to subside before explaining. “The Distortion affects both space and time. Though you were in Turnback Cave for a minimum of 36 hours, you were only removed from this specific dimension for about ten minutes.”

The smile lookalike-hiker had worn every second Guzma had seen him suddenly fell, possibly for the first time ever, as the mystery man finally noticed Cyrus. “You look familiar…”

Cyrus somehow stiffened more at the comment, though Guzma barely had time to pick up on it before he assumed a seemingly casual stance. A polite smile – albeit one that was far, far from reaching his eyes – was stretched across his face, throwing the bug and bug-specialist for a loop. “Yes, I hear that quite often.” Having responded to the unknown man, he turned to his Giratina-approved companion, who had to resist the urge to back up. “Now, you mentioned wanting to visit the restaurant earlier, correct? I’ll lead you there.”

Without further ado, he latched onto Guzma’s arm and began directing him back towards Route 214. Golisopod followed behind them, twiddling its claws while sending the occasional nervous glance back at the wary hiker. Once the man was out of sight, Guzma all but shoved Cyrus off of him, an action which was met with no resistance.

“What the hell was that?!” The Alolan demanded, actually relieved the former cave-dweller had gone back to his impassive face.

“…I am unsure.” Cyrus responded, after a moment. “Regardless, his reaction to me – or whoever he thought I was – was less than encouraging. Also, I’m going to need your hat.”

If Cyrus were any slower, Guzma might have considered warning him that the headgear was still somewhat slimy from when Golisopod chewed on it earlier. Granted, he probably would have decided against telling him anyway; the full-body shudder the Sinnohite gave when he noticed the sensation only fortified that thought. “What…is on this……”

Guzma shrugged, casually draping an arm (to the best of his extent) around his Golisopod. “Prob'ly bug drool.”

“...pleasant.” Cyrus deadpanned. Already starving, and now wearing an ugly pink hat covered in slime, the once-Distortion-Dweller internalized his agony. “It just keeps getting better.”

TBC

Chapter Text

The trio had just made their way to the end of Spring Path, entering the fringes of Route 214, when Guzma’s cellphone abruptly started to ring. Despite the shrill tone being muffled by the fabric it was buried under, it still managed to startle their guide before he saw his forced companion digging around in his coats. Cyrus sighed, trying to key down from the tension of almost being recognized earlier. “Answer that damnable contraption already.”

“Jeez, I thought ya hair was blue, not gray.” Guzma snarked, finally unburying the device and flipping it open to answer it. “Yo! It’s ya boy!”

“Guz, you alright? Ya must’ve lost connection back there, the call got dropped.” Plumeria’s still-sleepy voice spilled from the speaker, instantly arresting Guzma’s attention. “You doin’ alright out there?”

“Oh! Yeah, uh–” He made a perfunctory attempt to flip off Cyrus as the man passively glared at him for wasting more time. Ya don’t put ya second-in-command on hold, yo! “Yeah, I’m fine now. Got lost in this weird-ass cave for a bit, but yo, I saw that bug legendary!” Cyrus managed a small grumble of “not a bug” before getting a ratty-glove-covered hand shoved in his face for standing too close.

On the other end of the line, Plumeria heaved a sigh of relief at her friend’s chattering, glad he wasn’t panicking anymore while that far away. She didn’t even want to get out of bed just yet, much less figure out how she could possibly get all the way to Sinnoh to help him.

“–oh yeah! I got a picture too! Hold up!” Guzma had to search around for a minute to bring up the selfie, then tacked it onto a text message, sending it on its way. Golisopod practically hung off of his shoulders to shout to Plumeria over the phone as Guzma returned to the call, Cyrus internally gagging at the show of camaraderie. “You get that?”

“Yeah.” Plumeria paused to give a loud snicker-snort as she put the picture in full view. “Nice outfit.” Golisopod twitched its antennae as it picked up her voice and gave a louder cry. “Yeah, you too big guy.”

“Hey, it’s cold as balls up here, yo.”

“Sure, sure.” Plumeria continued to snicker, fully planning on getting prints of the picture next time she was in town. “Who’s that nerd with you?”

“Oh, that’s Cy, we gotta babysit him now. Giratina said so.”

“...do I wanna know?”

“Nah, prob'ly not.”

“Damn, that’s a lot for like, what? 10 minutes?” He could hear her yawn on the other side of the line, matching his own groan at the thought of his ‘10-minute excursion’. “Selfie kinda proves it, though.”

“Yeah, the bug had these crazy space-time distortion powers or some shit. Was in there for more like two days.”

“Sounds rough.”

“Yeah, and now we’re all starvin’! So Cy’s takin’ us to some restaurant place. He better be footin’ the bill, too.”

“I’ve been in a cave for Arceus knows how long, I am not paying for your food. Or anyone else’s, for that matter. I have no money.” Not that the former Galactic Leader was about to admit to losing his last bit of on-hand cash to a certain ambiguous 10-year-old, that is.

Private conversation, yo! Jeez, the nerve a’ some people. Anyway I guess I have to pay…shit.”

“Best be beatin’ down some local trainers then, G, ’cause unless you got somethin’ stashed away, ya ain’t got no money to be eatin’ out.”

“I know, I know. Ughh, I’ll figure somethin’ out.” Guzma groaned, pretending to stretch in order to lever the bug-type off of himself a bit.

“You better. I’m goin’ back to bed. Don’t call back ’til it’s mornin’ or ‘less it’s an emergency, got it?”

“Yeah, yeah. Was this damn spoiled bug made me call anyway.” Golisopod chirred loudly at the acknowledgement, leaning in close to the phone again.

“Night-night t’ you too, Goli. Make sure our boy’s takin’ care of himself over there.” Golisopod gave a series of clicks and saluted, as though the woman could actually see it.

“Suck-up.” Guzma said, pouting at his starter as Plumeria could be heard cackling through the phone once again before she hung up.

Call done, he turned his attention back to Cyrus, who grimaced. “So! There trainers on Route 214, too?”

-

To say Cyrus was impressed would be…an exaggeration, but he would admit to being surprised, at the very least, as Guzma and Golisopod mowed down yet another trainer in battle. He’d been working under the assumption that the bug wasn’t much more than a spoiled house pet, possibly a therapy Pokémon – obviously, he was wrong. Very wrong.

Golisopod helped its trainer up from where he had squatted down during battle, got back its coat and ribbons – which Guzma had refused the bug to wear during battle, claiming “No Team Skull Pokémon outta be wearing RIBBONS!” – and waited as Guzma held out a hand for the losing trainer to pay up.

“Anybody else wanna go?!” The Alolan trainer asked, gesturing as dramatically as he could with his coat-impeded scope of movement. His unusual shades just added to the spectacle, having been fished out of his pocket to replace the hat. He received no response, other than a wild Ponyta briefly glancing over.

“I’m certain you’ve successfully beaten every trainer on this route.” Cyrus assured. Not that he’d really watched, having taken to half-hiding behind Guzma and pulling the slobbery hat down low to try and avoid all acknowledgement of his presence. Luckily, Guzma was loud and a curious enough sight that he kept all his opponents’ full attention. A loud growl from Cyrus’ stomach brought their attention back to the situation at hand, not that the Sinnohite’s had ever really left.

Cyrus flinched at the noise, deciding enough was enough. He’d run the numbers in his head three times already – with the most recent win, they’d acquired enough money to comfortably feed themselves and their Pokémon thrice over. That is, assuming the bug didn’t eat half its body weight, and Guzma wasn’t hiding any other Pokémon. Hard to tell when all the foreign man used was the Golisopod.

At any rate, it was already growing to be late afternoon. If they didn’t head to the restaurant now, it was doubtful they would be eating anything. As he turned to voice such a concern, he found the other man already giving him a once-over. Noticing Cyrus making eye contact, Guzma smirked and looked back to Golisopod. “Aight big boy, looks like we got ‘nough to eat at least a lil somethin’.” Golisopod gave off an ecstatic, chirring cheer, bringing a bigger grin to its trainer’s face. “Lead the way, Cy.”

The former Galactic Leader sighed in relief, suppressing another wince from the hunger pains. Finally.

TBC

Chapter Text

It was late evening by the time they made it to the restaurant, both of them internally damning the steep stone steps leading up to the Hotel Grand Lake. Guzma had demanded that Cyrus lead the way, not willing to put off his next meal due to getting lost (again). Golisopod was grateful of that, all three of them were definitely too hungry to deal with Guzma’s penchant for getting lost on this route.

Entering the high-class restaurant was a mortifying experience to Cyrus, seeing as Guzma deemed it appropriate to let out a loud cheer upon arriving in the establishment. Golisopod was quick to follow. The sudden ruckus was enough to draw the attention of every last one of the restaurant attendees, much to Cyrus’ displeasure. The native Sinnohite cringed at the stares, tugging at the slime-encrusted hat, hoping none of them would be able to recognize him. Even if his own ‘disguise’ wasn’t much, hopefully the other man’s outrageous appearance would be enough to counter it.

Uncertain of how to address the two men, the hostess cleared her throat to catch their attention, tapping a small stack of menus in her hands against her podium. “Are you diners?”

“Hell yeah we are! Wh–Mmph!” Guzma tried to say, getting cut off as Cyrus managed to stifle him by shoving the floral-pattern scarf in his big mouth.

“Yes, if there is still a table available.” Cyrus offered, smiling blandly at the hostess as Guzma spat out the scarf. “Please forgive our appearances; we’ve been out training our Pokémon all day.”

The hostess visibly relaxed at the explanation, the other diners losing interest in the duo as they saw there wouldn’t be any further outbursts from the walking coat pile. “In that case, welcome to Seven Stars Restaurant! Might I recommend outdoor seating for your meal? It’d be the perfect time to let your Pokémon relax after a long day.”

“That would be perfect, thank you.” The sooner they were away from the crowd within the restaurant, the better. Cyrus caught a glimpse of Guzma’s brow furrowing, even behind those ridiculous shades, and fell back beside him for a moment, hissing “We’re sitting outside – I’m not listening to you complain about the air-conditioning for the entire meal.”

The fight instantly left Guzma at the thought of enduring both the climate and air-conditioning, the memories of first arriving in Sinnoh still fresh. “Uh, yeah! Right, ya know, come t’ think of it, Goli wouldn’t really fit in here anyway…”

The hostess smiled and nodded towards the set of doors leading to outdoor seating, grabbing a few menus from the podium as she moved to guide them. “If you’ll please follow me, then.”

Guzma eyed the establishment as they walked through, well aware of the number of curious and suspicious stares. Golisopod was far too excited for the meal to come to notice them, and Cyrus seemed to be attempting to disappear inside the ugly pink hat. Used to the hate-filled and distrustful glares of many Alolan locals, Guzma didn’t think too hard about all the attention, but the action still niggled in the back of his mind. After all, it wasn’t just him they were staring at.

Much to Cyrus’ relief, the outside area was much more sparse than the inside. It seemed the late afternoon sun had driven most diners indoors while it shone, no one wanting to deal with the heat. Their menus were handed to them as they got settled, the hostess inquiring as to what they’d like to drink.

“Tapu Cocoa.” The Alolan responded before he could even process the question fully. The hostess tilted her head in confusion.

“Um…I’m sorry?”

Cyrus scoffed quietly, ordering them both water instead. Guzma glared at the other man, but didn’t protest the decision. This shit region didn’t even have ride pagers, for fuck’s sake – figures that it wouldn’t have his favorite drink, either.

Cyrus nodded in acknowledgement as the hostess assured them that their waiter would be right out with their drinks and to take their orders, his attention falling back to the menu in front of him. His companion glanced at him for a moment, frowned, then got up to follow the hostess, catching her right as she got back inside.

“Uh, miss?” The Alolan put on his best ‘polite’ voice, trying not to draw too much attention to himself this time. “My, uh, friend forgot ta pack lunch for our trip today, so he’s been havin’ some blood sugar problems. Obviously he ain’t gonna say nuthin’ himself, but ya know how it is. There anythin’ we could give him till we order an’ sh-stuff?”

Guzma had an abrupt mental image of Aether’s Assistant Branch Chief, Wicke, as the hostess made an “Oh!” face, her hand covering her mouth. “Of course! I’ll pass along the information to your waiter.”

“Thanks, yo.” The smile he offered was mostly hidden by his scarf, but she gave one in return nonetheless. As he made his way back to the table, Golisopod chirred at his return, curious as to what Guzma had done. Its trainer wasn’t one to go after servers – unless he had asked for something special?! The bug began sniffling around him, hoping to find treats. Guzma laughed and pet his partner on the head, knowing exactly what was going through its mind right then.

“Please tell me you were not harassing her over your strange beverage.” Cyrus deadpanned, not even looking up from the menu.

“Wha–?” Guzma shoved Golisopod off at the comment, gaining a buggy pout for his troubles. “Tch, fuck you! I can do what I want, yo! Ain’t my fault y’all got shitty taste in drinks round here.”

Cyrus sighed, resigning himself to the knowledge that their meals would be coming with either spit in them or upcharged prices, not even close to suspecting the other man’s good deed. The resignation turned to confusion when their waiter came out, carrying not only their drinks, but a glass of orange juice and a small plate of crackers as well. The extra items were placed in front of him sans explanation from the waiter, who only smiled at his baffled expression.

“Have the two of you decided what you’d like today?” The waiter asked, setting the waters on the table.

“Nah, not yet.” Guzma answered in lieu of Cyrus finding himself lost in his thoughts. “But some’a these sound good fer now.” He pointed at an appetizer item on the menu, picture depicting a plate of french fries dunked in gravy, and what was probably ham and cheese chunks.

“Coming right up. I’ll give you two a few more minutes to decide on the main course.” The waiter smiled, writing down Guzma’s choice of appetizer before scurrying off.

Once the waiter’s back was turned, Cyrus leveled his gaze at Guzma, suspicious. “What did you do.”

“Jeez, are ya that paranoid?” At the glare Guzma continued to receive in response, the bug specialist withdrew. “Okay okay, yeesh! I just don’t want ya passin’ out here, yo. This way ya can get digestin’ somethin’ while the rest a’ the food is still gettin’ here.”

The former Galatic Leader’s glare only narrowed further, not having forgotten Guzma’s promise that he would not be eating until his Pokémon did.

“Don't get me wrong, I’m still hard as bone out here, yo!!” Guzma kept talking, hiding behind his menu as he pretended to read it. “But I know what it’s like ta be starvin’. Ain’t no one deserve that shit.”

Cyrus stared wide-eyed for a moment, before quickly imitating the foreigner and hiding his face behind his own menu as well. After a few minutes, he tentatively took a sip from the juice and began nibbling at the crackers, the relief on his stomach nearly instantaneous. This was a…strangely nice gesture. It put him completely on edge.

Golisopod was quick to make itself known in the sudden silence, loudly this time. It was ready to eat! Guzma laughed at his Pokémon’s enthusiasm. “Aight, aight, we’ll getcha somethin’ soon, chill.”

The waiter reappeared momentarily, asking once more if they were ready to order. Guzma nodded despite not having paid attention to the menu, Golisopod cheering at the assertion. Cyrus, on the other hand, remained tense as he ignored the waiter. The other’s sudden act of kindness didn’t fully make sense, still – what was he putting up such a pretense for?

“Yo, Cy!” He was pulled out of his thoughts as the cause of them caught his attention, indicating the menu. “What’s the sweetest thing on here?”

“Slowpoke Tail with Magost dressing.” Cyrus responded, face sour. It wasn’t a dish he himself was particularly fond of, but if the fool wanted ‘sweet’…

Guzma raised a brow, surprised that Sinnoh still cooked Slowpoke tails. Despite them being commonplace in Alolan home cooking, Guzma had learned – from Kukui, back when they were still friends – that they’d been outlawed in Kanto and Johto due to some random town worshiping the Slowpoke, or something stupid like that. So, despite the unfamiliar berry name, he ordered it for himself. If it was sweet, it had to be good, right? He got the sweet-flavored Pokéfood for Golisopod, too, knowing the bug would have the same mindset about it. “Oh, right, how many Pokémon ya got on ya, again?”

“I have a full team.”

“Aight, so seven orders of Poké-chow, then.”

“Are there any specific flavors they’d prefer?” The waiter prompted, pen at the ready.

“Spicy, bitter, and sour.” He answered, curtly. He’d been in charge of preparing food for his team for most of his life with them; those were the only flavors he could honestly say they enjoyed. The order was quickly recorded, the waiter’s attention once again returning to him for a long moment. Cyrus raised a brow.

“Ain’t ya gonna order?” Guzma prodded, noting the silence. Cyrus glared at the other before ordering a Persim salad. The waiter scratched it down and swiftly departed, heading back inside.

Now to endure whatever passed as acceptable dinner conversation. Cyrus sighed as he closed his menu. Oh, the humanity.

TBC

Chapter Text

Dinner was an…interesting affair. In a word? Awkward.

Meeting Cyrus’ team had been quite the experience. Guzma expected the first five, having already met three of them, and judging from the way Cy acted, it wasn’t a surprise the other two were dark-types. The sixth member, though, threw him for a loop – a Cleffa. It gave a happy “pii!” as it was released, hopping up onto Cyrus's lap like it belonged there, before noticing the new faces also at the table. The Star-Shaped Pokémon peeped again, its eyes tearing up and lip quivering being the only warning before it began to cry. Cyrus held it gently as it tried to hide its face in his shirt.

“It’s shy.” Was all the Sinnohite deemed necessary to grumble out. Afterwards, he proceeded to pointedly ignore Guzma throughout the meal, feeling far too exposed to the man who was, still, practically a stranger. Cleffa continued to cower close to him, but the fairy-type gradually calmed down as he fed it bite-sized chunks of Pokémon food.

In the meantime, Golisopod seemed to have struck up a quick friendship with Cyrus’ Gyarados. The two water-types had taken to roughhousing along the nearby shore of Lake Valor – which had made a brilliant recovery from the explosion, Cyrus could now see – by shooting water at each other. This eventually lead to the bug being covered in mud, albeit both Pokémon happy and tuckered out by the end of the game.

The rest of the former cave-dweller’s Pokémon had been much more sedated in their actions, taking after their owner more than the Gyarados and Cleffa. Honchkrow took a moment to scoff again at the Alolan man before focusing on its food, presumably still upset about being forced to carry him earlier.

Still, the fresh food was a welcome sight to the weary travelers, even if Cyrus was noticeably more stiff and mechanical throughout the meal. Eventually, though, it had to end. Gyarados downed its food in one go once it had settled down from its game, Golisopod followed suit, using all six arms to finish it’s own food in record time. Guzma handed over a large portion of his earnings in payment as the waiter brought out the check, not including a charge for Cyrus’ snack.

Pleasantly full, and with the setting sun as their backdrop, Cyrus returned his Pokémon to their balls and followed Guzma out of the restaurant, still remaining silent. That is until Guzma made the stupidest suggestion since they’d been seated. “Aight! So where we settin’ up camp?”

“Excuse me, camp? Are you joking? Bug-types all but swarm this route during the night. I shall pass, thank you.”

As soon as he said it, Cyrus wished he could shove the words back whence they came. Guzma’s eyes widened, practically sparkling at the idea of meeting more bug-types. “Oh hell yeah! Now we gotta stay out here! Bring on the bugs, yo!”

Withholding a groan, Cyrus was about to begin protesting when Golisopod, surprisingly, beat him to it. The large bug let out a whine at the idea, giving its trainer the same bug-eye stare that somehow melted his heart. Simultaneously, it made Cyrus want to throw up – and not just from the emotional charge of it. Guzma gave his longtime companion an odd look.

“What? Whaddaya want? You LOVE camping!” He exclaimed, only for the bug-type to whine more, using Guzma’s hair as a headrest. Cyrus had to push down the urge to scoff as the other man struggled with his Pokémon.

Keeping his voice level, despite his urge to snap, he called attention to Guzma’s earlier words. “Do you not remember? You promised it a warm bed at the Pokémon Center.”

“Fine, fine!” The Alolan groaned, successfully shoving Golisopod off of him. “We’ll go ta the damn Pokémon Center, then! Yo Cy, y’wanna lead the way?”

“No.” Cyrus responded, simply, but began walking back towards Route 214 nonetheless.

The blue-haired man skirted along the mountainous side of the route, not wanting to risk re-encountering any of Guzma’s previous opponents; Arceus knew the last thing he wanted to do right then was wait around for the fool. Luckily enough, both of his reluctant companions seemed to share the same wish, though he caught the other man glaring at a distant group of Ponyta as they strolled along. For the sake of his sanity, he elected to not ask.

It wasn’t long before the trio reentered Veilstone, the sight of the cold city immediately putting Cyrus on edge. Unaware of this, Guzma and Golisopod high-fived as the Pokémon Center came into view. It had been a long day for both of them – even longer when the effect of the distortion was disregarded – and both were raring to conk out on the first bed-like surface they could get access to. Their guide, however, bypassed the Center altogether, much to their confusion.

“Uh,” Guzma paused for a second, watching as Cyrus headed towards a tall flight of stairs. “The– Center’s this way, yo?!”

“I’m not going to the Center.”

“But–! Bug-dragon dude said I had ta watch ya!” Guzma all but whined, Golisopod concurring.

Then watch me leaving, I’m not going to the Center.” Cyrus didn’t even pause, barely raising his voice to make up for the space between them as he began ascending the stairs.

Guzma growled, tugging at his hair in exasperation before charging after the (former) cave troll. Golisopod clicked and whined, pointing back at the Center a few times before slumping over and dragging its large arms in despair as it followed both trainer and troll.

“If we ain’t goin’ to the Center, where we going?” The bug specialist interrogated as he caught up, huffing and puffing from having to run up the first part of the stairs.

“Somewhere else.”

“Gee! That’s real fuckin’ specific!” He groused, rolling his eyes. Cyrus gave a faint “hm” as his only response. Guzma fell back a bit to walk alongside Golisopod instead, stage-whispering to the bug. “Ain’t no wonder Giratina didn’t want ‘im no more.” Golisopod chirred quietly in agreement.

The Sinnohite felt his brow twitch at the comment, but refrained from replying. He’d be damned if he were to accidentally allow the buffoon to start a scene with his yelling, not when he was already so poorly concealed. A hat and a removed vest – which he was still carrying, at that – did not a proper disguise make. His companion would have to deal with his, admittedly, dodgy behavior for just a bit longer.

The HQ hadn’t changed in the slightest, much to Cyrus’ relief. No one had altered his override codes for the doors, and the teleporters he could see were still fully functional – not much of a surprise there, seeing as he’d made them to last. He could ponder the unusually clean state of the building later, preferably in the morning. And after a shower, his mind hissed at him, having shed the bug saliva-coated hat as soon as he entered the building, Guzma and Golisopod right on his tail.

His personal room was still exactly as he’d left it, if with a fine layer of dust on most things. He gave a half-hearted demand that Guzma not touch anything before sequestering himself in the bathroom, bent on scrubbing his scalp clean of grime.

Left to their own devices, the bug and its trainer explored the room – or, rather, Golisopod did. Guzma, instead, chose to flop down on the large bed, sending up a small cloud of dust. The bug sniffed and scoured around the musty environment, immediately disregarding Cyrus’ request as it munched on a couple socks it found in a drawer. A brief sneezing fit in response to a particularly large pile of dust in the corner halted its investigations, if only for the time being.

Guzma had just begun to doze a good ten minutes later, the white noise from the shower running in the room adjacent only expediting the hold sleep had on him, when the sharp slam of a door registered in his senses. He bolted upright, still bleary, as a petite, seemingly livid, blue-haired man burst into the room.

“Who are you, and just what do you think you’re doing in Master Cyrus’ room?!”

“Uhhh…”

TBC

Chapter Text

The day had been…uneventful for Cronus, to put it simply. Projects were running on schedule, paperwork was filed properly, Galactic’s newest commercial seemed to be being received better than the last one.

That last bit alone was always good news, considering Team Galactic’s previous objective. Even with their assertion of expanding beyond their former goals, for the better this time, there was still considerable misgiving about the reformed corporation. He was lucky Frederick and Darrius had decided to stay on – they were indispensable in the research department as Cronus himself dealt with the public. They even had the Elite 4 breathing down their necks half the time, though it was mainly just Aaron and Flint nowadays. And Cynthia, of course.

…still no word from Mars or Jupiter.

But that was fine! He had plenty of other things to deal with, as expected when put in charge of the remains of a (former) terrorist organization. Days like this, though, almost painful in their mundane nature, made him miss being second-in-command. It had felt more fulfilling, at any rate – more so than the mechanical agenda it had devolved into. Get up, eat, deal with business, eat, business, eat, sleep, rinse and repeat…was this what his predecessor had done all along? How did he stand it?!

Newfound, retroactive respect for the man aside, Cronus was happy to finally be back in his room. He still needed to properly deal with Charon’s unauthorized projects, only now being found despite the man having been in custody for the past eight months. That could wait until tomorrow, though, or even later in the week – he’d need every ounce of patience to deal with the aftermath of the old man’s assetry. Everything was locked up for the night; time to relax, rest, and– investigate why on earth the alarm system was going off?

He was out of bed in an instant as the sound echoed, last having been heard in response to a certain ambiguous ten-year-old attempting to take the facility by storm. The security system had been upgraded heavily since then – even if there weren’t nearly as many things to hide anymore, it wouldn’t do to have such lax standards. Especially with the number of people still against Team Galactic…some punks had tried breaking in at one point, but gave up when it was made clear they wouldn’t be let off so easily. Were they testing their luck again?

Much to Cronus’ shock, the alarm going off was specifically for his predecessor’s room. He’d left it untouched since…the incident. There shouldn’t be anything in there worth breaking in for, save for maybe bragging rights. Whoever (or whatever) was in there now was in for it as the young man raced to the room, Toxicroak’s Pokéball in hand.

The faint sound of talking, as well as something large stumbling about, melted out from the door as he approached, silencing instantly once he flung it open. A…human cushion, apparently, and a hulking…bug…thing met his gaze. “Who are you, and just what do you think you’re doing in Master Cyrus’ room?!”

“Uhhh…” The multi-layered marshmallow man started out, having jolted upright from his position reclining on the bed. As he stumbled for an excuse, Cronus was able to identify him as the origin of the voice he’d heard previously. He was just about ready to send out Toxicroak when the man finally seemed to come up with something. “Yo dude! This wasn’t even my idea, aight?”

“Then whose idea was it?” Cronus demanded, only then noticing the creak resonating from the water pipes as they were shut off. He’d let his guard down – too focused on the one man (and…bug?), and didn’t come prepared for multiple intruders. He hadn’t even mention to anyone where he’d be

–and he could physically feel his brain shut down a little when a familiar face emerged from the bathroom door.

-

Exiting the bathroom, Cyrus felt infinitely more at ease since he’d been ejected from the Distortion World. That ease quickly flew out the window when he finished drying his hair – washed for seven minutes straight just to feel clean again – and opened his eyes to witness the destruction that had become of his old bedroom. Guzma was sitting on the bed, which would’ve been excusable enough if it weren’t for his bug standing at his now-ransacked dresser, half a sock hanging out of its mouth. Inexplicably, his old Commander was there as well, and doing a fine job at looking about as intimidating as an angry Shinx. His eye was going to develop a permanent twitch at this rate.

What did I tell you?” Cyrus finally settled on tackling the first problem with the scene. He’d been looking forward to sleep, not chaos and a former Commander piled into his room; he wasn’t even willing to fully process the latter just yet. Golisopod gave a muffled grunt and pointed at its trainer, as if to pass the blame.

“Yo! The hell you tryin’ to pin me for? You still got a sock hangin’ out ya mouth!” The bug-type’s only response was to fling the sock at Guzma, the offending article sticking in his hair. Cronus remained stock-still, only gaping like a Magikarp as the Alolan made a disgusted noise.

Cyrus could feel his migraine returning, the minor aid from the shower put to waste. “Just– go shower. Bathe, do something out of my sight! And do something about your bug, too!”

“Aight, if you say so~” Guzma sing-songed, waddling past Cyrus and into the bathroom. He paused only to grab Golisopod, who whined loudly, but allowed itself to be pulled along as well. Cyrus didn’t even have the energy to cringe at knowing the pair were going to break everything he owned. Instead, he turned to deal with the other issue in the room – his still-gaping former underling.

“Hello, Saturn.”

As if he’d been waiting to be addressed before speaking, Cronus, formerly known as Saturn – and really, he always would revert to being Saturn when it came to this man, no matter how many new names he came up with – finally choked out something that could pass for words. “M- Master Cyrus?!”

“Yes, that is me.” Said former Galactic Leader gave a heavy sigh. “It seems I’ve been brought back.”

“B-but how?! I thought– I saw– Mars and Jupiter, when they reported–!”

“I am aware of what happened. Apparently, however, Giratina was never fond of having a roommate.” Cyrus cut off the younger male as efficiently as he could, knowing the other needed a moment to regain his composure. He refused to mention how the ghost-dragon had given the Alolan fool explicit charge over him.

Saturn took said moments, wisely, and was hurling himself into a tangent about what had happened since the former Team Leader had vanished. Cyrus could only attempt to keep up, setting his expression on autopilot as the need for sleep weighed down on him. Today had been unnecessary. He just wanted to sleep.

A crash emanating from the bathroom drew out a quiet groan of frustration out of the taller Sinnohite, already knowing the foreigner would only keep causing him troubles. He always did. It was unusual to be so severe after only two days spent with the man, relatively speaking, but he was certain; whether two or two-hundred days with Guzma, he was right. “Destruction in human form, indeed…”

“–Master Cyrus? Are you listening?” Saturn’s voice brought him back to focus.

“Yes, yes. Please continue. I have to…fix this mess.” He muttered in means of explanation, eyeing the mess Golisopod had created. He’d need to at least try to restore some semblance of organization before he’d be able to sleep, a goal which seemed to be straying ever-farther away.

TBC

Chapter Text

Though the plan had been to clean up both himself and his Pokémon quickly, Guzma soon learned that there were few things so simple. Navigating someone else’s bathroom was not on that list, especially when said someone had enough upgrades done to it to put a Porygon2 to shame. “…the hell am I doin’.” He muttered at Golisopod poking at a cabinet. The drawers had no handles or grooves to pull them out with. How does any of this work…

It took a while – and quite a mess – before Guzma figured out how to get the water to work, then another minute to realize the shower-head was detachable. Obviously, his next course of action was to spray Golisopod, who had refused to enter the shower stall. Golisopod reacted with its own water attack, still hyper from its game with Cyrus’ Gyarados earlier. The naked water fight was on.

Of course, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, like slipping on the soaked chrome flooring. Guzma rubbed at the back of his head, trying to recover from where it whapped against the wall on his way down. Golisopod was quick to help him back to his feet, belatedly realizing that it had entered the shower in the process. Guzma barked out a laugh as it all but grumbled, throwing some soap onto its exoskeleton.

Eventually, the duo emerged from the shower clean – or as clean as the two could be, at any rate. A cursory glance around the high-tech bathroom had the former Skull Leader wincing and hoping that Cyrus didn’t plan on making them clean it up. It looked like the bathroom had been subjected to a few thunderstorms and a tsunami. At least the towels had been kept safe and dry in one of the mystery cabinets…now if only they could get it open.

-

Cyrus winced internally once more as an even louder crash than before sounded from the bathroom. He was almost afraid to know what they had done. Luckily, he wasn’t given the chance to stew over the worry as the bathroom door opened, letting in an enormous cloud of steam – how hot had Guzma run the water!? The bug and trainer exited, Golisopod carrying a sopping pile of coats and Guzma wearing naught but a pair of towels one around his waist and one wrapping his hair. More to his chagrin, they were both still dripping wet, beginning to soak his semi-organized and, thanks to the mechanical helper Saturn had brought up to the room during the duo’s shower, dusted bedroom. Even more unfortunately, they seemed to think the best solution to this problem was to shake themselves off like a pair of Poochyena. Cyrus muttered under his breath, something about there being two Pokémon instead of just one.

“I mean, I could go naked like Golisopod, if it’s offendin’ ya that much.” Guzma offered, having caught the jibe.

“I’m sure you would.”

Despite the sarcasm laced through the words, that ended up being exactly the case. As Guzma finished drying his hair, his hands were too occupied to catch the towel slipping from his waist. Saturn’s face went bright red; Cyrus was unfortunate enough to be looking the moment it happened, getting an eyeful of far more Guzma than he’d ever wished to see. His brain shutting down momentarily as he jerked his eyes away from the obnoxious man.

“What’s his problem?” Guzma asked, finally noticing Saturn’s Tamato impersonation.

“What is your problem!? Put some clothes on already!” The former Galactic leader choked out.

The bug specialist threw a skeptical glance, still not bothering to cover himself back up. “What clothes? My shit’s still gotta get washed, unless ya wanna gimme something to borrow.” Then, seeing Saturn still staring, “Take a picture, it’ll last longer.”

Saturn had half a mind to do just that – it could be useful as blackmail... probably – but realized he’d left his phone in his own room. No need to make it known that he’d been so foolish in his approach to the situation, especially if the ‘trespassers’ had been dangerous. Even more so since he was already making a fool out of himself, while Cyrus was keeping his cool. (Truth be told, the taller man was doing his level best to just keep eye-contact.)

Cyrus was quick to chuck a bathrobe at Guzma’s head. “For Arceus sake, here. Wear this. Saturn will wash your clothes, seeing as you refuse to wear anything else.” He wasn’t too eager to dig out some of his own clothing for the other to wear – the act seemed too intimate, especially considering he’d just seen the other man naked. Giving him the robe was bad enough.

Had he not been so tired, Cyrus might’ve considered the path his thoughts took, as sharing clothing was not an inherently intimate action; for the time being, though, he just wanted Guzma fully clothed, and preferably somewhere else. Then he could sleep.

“Prude.” The Alolan snorted, rolling his eyes as he slipped the article on. Golisopod handed over the damp clothes to Saturn in the meantime, the smaller man nearly buried by the layers of soggy fabric. Guzma jutted his chin at the newcomer as he tied the robe. “And who the fuck are you, anyway?”

Saturn straightened up, attempting an authoritative stance as best he could while swamped with soggy clothing. “I am Cronus, the current head of the Galactic Corporation.”

“Uh-huh, sure, then why the fuck is Cy callin’ ya ‘Saturn’, prissy boy?”

“My title was changed for legal purposes. Only Master Cyrus may refer to me as such!”

“Pff, yeah sure. Whatever ya say, Satty.”

With the way Saturn was fuming, he could’ve probably steam-dried the pile of clothing within a few minutes. Cyrus was far from interested in seeing his ex-Commander spontaneously combust in the middle of his bedroom, though, and nipped the inevitable argument in the bud. He had no intention of listening to the two bicker over something so petty, especially at this hour. “The laundry, Saturn.”

Though he wasn’t keen on leaving his predecessor’s side so quickly, let alone with the strange new man (and bug), Saturn could recognize an out when one was offered. It would give him time to strategize, if nothing else, and get his face back down to a normal temperature. “I’ll take care of it right away, Master Cyrus!”

Saturn left the room swiftly, already calculating the best course of action for researching the white-haired man. Master Cyrus had never mentioned him before, or why they were traveling together; he’d deflected any questions Saturn could ask. It was all QUITE peculiar…

Back in the bedroom, Guzma gave a loud, obnoxious yawn, mimicked by Golisopod, and inevitably traveling to Cyrus as well, though the former Galactic Leader did his best to stifle it. “So…can we finally sleep now or what, yo?”

Cyrus, in a rare moment of what he was willing to present as charity, offered Guzma the bed in return for the meal earlier. Of course, it was just to ensure the man wouldn’t be between himself and the door out to the hall, but he didn’t feel the need to call attention to that. He pointedly shut the bathroom door as he passed, refusing to look inside; he would deal with that mayhem in the morning, after sleep, and not a moment sooner.

“Aight, cool with me!” Guzma didn’t even pretend to protest the offer, all but leaping onto the bed, bouncing slightly as he landed.

In hindsight, Cyrus should’ve been expecting Golisopod to follow suit. The bug-type jumped onto the mattress immediately after its trainer, an ominous creak sounded as the two settled, the bedframe miraculously holding up to the test. What was wrong with this fool? It was standard procedure to keep large Pokémon inside their Pokéballs while in buildings, but no, the man just thrived off of being ridiculous, practically snuggled up to his revolting bug, blankets pulled over them both. He made a mental note to ask Saturn to wash the sheets in the morning – or, better yet, just burn them. There was no way he was going to sleep in the same spot as a bug without some cleansing of the area first.

As the two on the bed gradually stopped fidgeting, Cyrus closed his eyes, intent on falling asleep quickly in the reading chair; it wasn’t particularly comfortable for such a venture, but it was enough, especially after spending his last sleep cycles on red, rocky soil. This plan was sabotaged, after only a few moments of beloved silence, by the bed squeaking as the fidgeting started up again. Cyrus cracked an eye open to glare at the obviously asleep bug-type (if the experience in the cave was anything to go by), and an irritatingly awake Guzma.

“…do you mind?”

“Uh, shit. Sorry…”

The fidgeting stopped, briefly, just long enough for Cyrus to begin dozing again, before starting up again. “If you hold still, you might sleep faster.”

“It’s too damn quiet, yo!” Was Guzma’s only explanation. He was used to a house filled with teenagers, where it was never quiet; or being outside, where the bugs and other nocturnal Pokémon cries gave him security. Quiet was too much like the month he’d spent in Ultra Space. Or the time in that stupid ca– ooooh! The Alolan lit up, grinning as the memory came to mind. “Hey, uh…could you…ya know…do your lil speech again?”

Cyrus’ eye twitched for the umpteenth time that day as he opened his mouth, set to blatantly refuse, when he realized the extent of the predicament. This could last all night. He needed sleep. He heaved a sigh. “You’re not going to sleep until I do, are you?”

The Alolan gave a small shrug. “I’unno.”

Cyrus dropped his head against the wall behind his chair with a loud thump. A few minutes of silence stretched thin before he spoke again. “…fine. But we are not making a habit of this.”

Guzma grinned, the expression hidden by the sleeping Golisopod, and settled in against his bug-type companion as Cyrus took a deep breath, beginning to repeat the story he’d memorized verbatim.

Just like before, Guzma was out after the first few lines.

TBC

Chapter Text

Three unholy, caffeinated monstrosities later, Saturn was about ready to pull out his hair. His entire night had been all but wasted trying to dig up information on the newcomer. The man’s name was Guzma, and the bug was a Golisopod, both hailing from the island region, Alola. Everything else was missing; it was as if someone had wanted to make this man cease to exist as far as records were concerned.

The only lead Saturn had gleaned was while doing Guzma’s laundry, as per Master Cyrus’ request. An obnoxious, red-tape X had been on one of the many coats in the clothing bundle. Naturally nosy, Saturn had peeled the tape off and discovered a very distinct symbol underneath. When he’d left the freshly-washed clothes at the room, he’d only spared a glare at the Alolan man for taking up residence on the bed, forcing Master Cyrus to sleep in a chair. Before rushing back to the computer to research his find.

Running a picture of the coat symbol through the Sinnoh database failed to show anything, aside from those weird ‘S’ symbols that cropped up everywhere back during his school days. Internationally, on the other hand…

-

Saturn had nodded off at the computer, regrettably enough, soon after his shocking discovery, and mentally kicked himself for it. It was already morning, morning with a known member of a violent, Pokémon-stealing gang having been loose in the building the whole time! He knew Master Cyrus was a capable man, but that didn’t stop him from sprinting back to his predecessor’s room.

The room was empty upon his arrival, only serving to compound his paranoia, until a clattering from the bathroom caught his attention. He edged towards it, breathing a sigh of relief when he saw it was only Master Cyrus inside. He looked about as well-rested as anyone who had slept in a chair could; Saturn had to pause at the unusual dishevelment. It…wasn’t a bad look, certainly.

“Good morning, Saturn.” The taller man greeted, not looking up from his task of trying to fix up the mess his uninvited guests had made. Guzma and his despicable bug had gone so far as to bust a hole into one of the cabinets. How was he expected to fix THAT little detail? The entire disaster was just icing on the cake of this terrible morning – or perhaps it was more like insult to injury. He’d only secluded himself in there to avoid gagging at the Alolan’s bug babytalk again.

At least the other man was finally, finally gone. Cyrus could almost cry at the relief were he not so skilled at masking his emotions. Saturn, in the meantime, took a moment to catch his breath – from sprinting, of course! Not from the sight in front of him, not in the slightest – before sharing his findings. “M-Master Cyrus, there’s something important I need to tell you. I researched your…uh, acquaintance, last night.”

“Oh, really?” That got the man to look over, genuinely curious as to what dirt his former underling had dug up on his assigned tormentor, though his tone remained flat and disinterested.

“There was actually very little to research, sir. His records have been wiped clear. I wasn’t able to circumvent it, either – whoever went through the trouble of erasing his history did so in a way that is incompatible with Charon’s back-door method. But his coat – well, one of them, at least – had an unusual symbol on it. He seems to have some sort of connection with Team Skull, a gang that’s been terrorizing the island region of Alola for the past few years. They’re especially known for property damage and Pokémon theft.”

Cyrus barely contained a snort at the implication. Engagement in property damage was obvious enough for the delinquent, but stealing Pokémon? The man who had only wanted to see and photograph Giratina? The man who proceeded to blow a gasket when he thought Cyrus had been starving his team, planning on letting Cyrus himself starve until they’d been fed? Hardly.

Unaware of his former leader’s thoughts, Saturn once again took notice that the man they were speaking of wasn’t in the room. Was he really loose in the Galactic HQ? His panic rose once again at the thought. “U-uh, if you don’t mind me asking, sir, where…is he?”

Completely unconcerned by that point, Cyrus had returned to cleaning, attempting to rearrange things back into the drawers that still worked. “He left, as you can see. If he is to be trusted, he should be at the Veilstone Airport by now, hopefully leaving Sinnoh for good.” An air of quiet smugness surrounded the former Galactic Leader at that last part.

Saturn relaxed marginally, but only just. Even as he bid his predecessor goodbye, leaving to take care of his own morning agenda, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was on the horizon.

-

Something bad was on the horizon, but it sure as hell wasn’t Guzma on a plane. The bug specialist had already been on edge since entry – the airport was a lot more strict about large Pokémon being properly contained, so he’d gotten some flack at the start for having Golisopod out. It was almost funny how quickly he’d fallen back into the routine of always having his bug by his side, even after arriving only…jeez, was it only yesterday? The adventure in Turnback Cave really messed up his sense of time. Still, the thought of returning Golisopod put him on edge, though he knew it would have to happen eventually, especially once he got on the plane.

At least it was easier to navigate the crowded building now, being free of the coat mountain thanks to an unexpected (but appreciated) loan from the former cave troll himself. The gray turtleneck and pants combo was doofy, to put it simply, but it fit easily under his usual baggy clothes, and was insulated enough to keep him nice and warm. Guzma hadn’t been curious enough to care why the guy seemed to have a whole damn warehouse of them.

As a bonus to the increased mobility, Golisopod no longer felt the need to bundle up like its trainer had, though it refused to relinquish those Arceus-damned ribbons. True, it'd probably help him convince the security guards that the bug-type wasn’t going to hurt anyone, but it didn’t help how it kept waving like some celebrity everyone was there to see. Then again, people were looking at it, anyway – it wasn’t often a hulking bug Pokémon waltzed through the local airport.

The line to the next available teller was long, but moved fast. But Guzma’s relief at this small stroke of luck quickly melted away, when the teller informed him that he had a one-way ticket. “…’scuse me?”

“I’m sorry sir, but your ticket is one-way only. We can’t let you board.” The woman behind the counter repeated, handing him back the slip. Sure enough, the “one-way” checkbox had been marked in. Suppressing his frustration for the moment, he got away from the line without incident, even with Golisopod’s confused clicking following him. It wasn’t long before he found somewhere quiet enough to call Plumeria from.

“Whaddaya mean y’all got me a one-way ticket?!”

Plumeria didn’t even sound affected by his outburst, even as it was used in lieu of a greeting. “Sup, G. Was cheaper. We figured ya’d take at least a month t’ see that bug thing, anyway.”

A few more minutes of snark (and Golisopod trying to butt into the conversation) passed before Guzma hung up. He headed to the ticket counter this time, only to find out that all flights out to Alola had been booked solid through the next month. “Alola’s a BIG tourist destination in the summer.” The man, thankfully entirely different appearance from the cashier-fisher-hiker, offered as an explanation.

“I’ll show you summer…” Guzma grumbled under his breath as he made his way back out of the airport, Golisopod still sticking close. It wasn’t like he had enough money on him at the moment to buy a ticket back, anyway, he belatedly acknowledged. The thought of people native to this frozen hellscape landing in Alola was barely humorous enough to lift his spirits.

His first thought was to shack up at the Pokémon Center. Free bed, free utilities, and welcoming of large Pokémon, so long as they didn’t break anything. The catch, though: he wasn’t sure if their services were offered for as long as a month or not. He’d gotten kicked out of a few PokéCenters already in Alola, back when he’d first run away, and he wasn’t too fond of a repeat in a region he barely knew.

…Hey. That bug-dragon had given him all but explicit permission to bug the hell out of Cyrus, right? And it was obvious the guy held some level of authority, if that shorter nerd referring to him as ‘Master’ was anything to go by. Unless it was just a kink thing…he really hoped it wasn't.

Well, it wouldn’t hurt to see if the former cave troll had any bright ideas.

TBC

Chapter Text

After giving up on the mess that had become of his private bathroom, Cyrus found himself being lead around his former headquarters by Saturn. The younger man was eager to show all the changes that had taken place since his departure, both large and insignificant.

…it was boring as hell. The major changes were predictable enough – many of the teleporters had been taken offline due to power and safety concerns, labs had been refitted for more suitable scientific endeavors, and so on. Cyrus had taken to his usual passive expression, blandly nodding as his former underling went on in detail. He knew by now that keeping his replies to a minimum would discourage any unnecessary chatter, and was intent on following this rule. That is, until someone else finally spoke up.

“Jeez, this what ya do all day? ‘S boring as hell.”

Saturn leapt about three feet in the air, and even Cyrus gave a mental start as the duo snapped their attention to the newcomers in the room. Both Guzma and Golisopod, much to Cyrus’ chagrin, were back.

The Alolan natives approached the Galactic duo, Guzma looking around as they did so, rather unimpressed with the lab they were currently in. Aether had felt like decades ahead of this one, maybe even a few eras – the Veilstone building was practically in the stone ages by comparison. Golisopod, unaffected, gave a cheerful wave to the Sinnohites.

Cyrus stifled a groan. “And here I thought you’d left. How silly of me.”

Any possible reply was quickly blocked by a certain ex-Commander, who was doing a spitting imitation of Mars’ Purugly. “How did you get in here?! The clearance level for this area is highly restricted!”

Guzma gave a slow blink before over-casually jabbing a thumb behind him at the entrance doors. Both were wide open, looking like someone had taken a massive crowbar to them – or a large bug type's claws. “Door was unlocked.” Golisopod followed up the comment with a chittering chuckle.

Ignoring his fuming ex-Commander, Cyrus sighed at the intrusion. “Why are you here?” He’d been thrilled to be rid of the other, and his rampant destruction. Even if a small, bitterly-buried part of him was glad that Guzma had showed up, if just to break up the monotony. He hadn’t realized how…boring his life was. He didn’t recall this level of disinterest before. Perhaps that was because he’d had a goal, then – it all was so pointless now, wasn’t it…Team Galactic had become just another ‘save the world’ brand of organization, destined to fade into obscurity.

“Looks like somebody didn’t wanna splurge for a round trip, so guess I’m stuck with you! ‘Sides, the bug-dragon said to keep an eye on ya – dunno why, seein’ as this is apparently Snoresville.”

Cyrus tuned out at the mention of the ghost-dragon, just in time to avoid Saturn snapping back at the man for calling their work boring. The Distortion World had been far, far more tolerable than this one. Its only other inhabitant was Giratina, and the legendary wasn’t exactly talkative, either. If he could only return there…yes, all he’d need to do is find a way to escape the two men next to him. Saturn would be fairly simple, considering the amount of trust he held in Cyrus already. Then, if Guzma was as much of a Bug Pokémon fanatic as he claimed, all he would need to do is point the fool in the direction of Eterna Forest, and he’d be dealt with as well! All it would take was a bit of sneaking, and he’d be home free to the Distortion World once more!

His scheming was interrupted as Saturn brought him back into the conversation. “Excuse me, but we were in the middle of an important tour! Right, Master Cyrus?”

Not one to let the opportunity slip by, especially when someone was trying to shoehorn him out of a conversation, Guzma piped up. “Oh, yeah! What’s up with that ‘Master’ thing anyway, yo? You got some kink ya ain't shared with the class, Cy?”

Cyrus’ eye twitched, but he didn’t rise to the bait. He had a goal now, albeit a temporary one – he wasn’t going to let this idiot’s nonsense derail the plan. Saturn, on the other hand, was already wound up, and wasted no time coming to his (former) boss’ defense. Feeling ever more vindicated about his course of action as the other two men and one Pokémon began yelling again, the taller Sinnohite massaged the bridge of his nose to stave off the Guzma-grade headache that was swiftly making its reappearance. “Just…go attend to your duties, Saturn.” He commanded, voice a rough sigh of resignation.

“But–!”

“I will take care of it.”

“…yes, Master Cyrus…” Saturn shot another glare at Guzma before moving on to his regular work schedule. He still needed to sort through Charon’s mess…

Once Saturn was out of sight, Cyrus led Guzma and Golisopod back to his bedroom, only half-listening as the other drawled on about wanting to check out Sinnoh’s bug life. The Sinnohite waited until the bedroom door closed before cutting off the bug-themed rant.

“As much as I loathe to admit it, this place has…lost much of its appeal to me.”

“Ya don’t say.” Guzma snorted.

Cyrus glared, choosing to ignore the comment. “If you insist on following me around until Giratina tells you to stop, or whatever the case may be – then fine. But we’re not staying here to do it.”

It was best for them to get a move on. Guzma alone had attracted enough attention from the Galactic staff, and Cyrus could see some of the older ones stiffen in recognition as he’d passed them himself. There was no telling when someone would be showing up to apprehend him, anyway. This was for the best – not to mention he’d forgotten how incredibly overbearing Saturn was, especially when worried. He could feel the dread of having to deal with the younger man and Guzma in the same room again creeping up on him. No, thank you.

Casual daywear wasn’t something Cyrus wore often, but he still owned a few outfits. Getting Guzma (and the bug, which was eyeing his sock drawer) out of the room for a moment, the Sinnohite was quick to change out of his current garb. The replacement attire consisted of a white dress shirt and a somewhat snug sweater vest that hadn’t seen the light of day in several years – much like himself – as well as a, regrettably, non-Galactic issue pair of slacks.

It would be enough, he reasoned, hastily throwing together a bag for a few days worth of travel, mainly Repels to keep the bugs away, and a heavy raincoat for the weather he knew they’d be facing through Route 215. All he had to do now was get Guzma distracted by the prospect of Eterna Forest. Then, once the foreigner was out of his hair, it would only be a short Honchkrow flight back to the cave!

Exiting the room at a brisk pace, he acknowledged the two Alolans with a nod and a blunt, “Let’s go.”

Guzma and Golisopod exchanged a quick look before the bug trainer grinned and lead the two-person charge after their new guide.

-

Meanwhile, in Alola...

“Whatdya mean you only got 'im a one-way ticket?!” Nanu shouted at the small group of punks standing around outside a certain trailer on Route 13.

“Figured you’d be happy, old man. Ain’t got Boss skulkin’ ‘round Alola anymore.” Plumeria shot back, dry as ever in her snark. Grunts A and B muttered in agreement – it wasn’t a secret how Alola treated their boy, and even less of a secret how much the (former) Team didn’t like it.

The excuse wasn’t nearly enough to get them off the hook, but Nanu was already stressed as it was. He’d been pulling all his strings to get Guzma’s records cleared in time. These monsters couldn’t just wait for Tapu knows how long for the delinquent to show up again – if he even did! The young man was always vocal in his claims of hating Alola. The fact that he couldn’t come back now, might be just the push Guzma needed to decide he wouldn’t.

“Ugh…I’m gettin’ too old for this shit.” The officer groaned, starting on his way back to the station. “Let me know next time he tries to contact you.”

He needed to make some calls. Looker wasn’t going to be happy about having to wait for the prized asshole, and Anabel even less so. Checking the time on his phone, he took another look at the image Plumeria had texted him. A smug Guzma, and happy Golisopod, grinned up at him in front of one of Sinnoh’s legendary Creation Trio. Nanu’s eyes focused in on the ‘mystery man’ Guzma had called Cy in the background. This didn’t bode well either.

TBC

Chapter Text

As persistent as the rain that soaked Route 215 was, it stood no match for a certain Alolan duo’s love for battle. Only slightly protected from the rain under one of the many bridges of Route 215, Guzma and Golisopod were providing a swift beat down to a local Ace Trainer.

The Ace Trainer had been cocky at first, going up against a bug with a three-mon team of flying types, but his swagger had fled after the first 1-hit KO from Golisopod’s First Impression. Now, with his last Pokémon, a Drifloon, he was on the defense.

Guzma called a final attack for Golisopod, the Razorshell connected, dropping the opposing Drifblim’s HP straight to zero. Battle finally ended, the other trainer was left speechless.

The Alolan wooped at his victory, holding his palms out to Golisopod. The bug type met the low-five, then the ensuing high-five combo, only for its recipient to slip on the wet ground and get knocked into the mud. Guzma was back on his feet almost instantly, not exactly in the mood to sit around in freezing mud, but the motion was still enough to peel off a corner of the tape on his hoodie. Saturn’s unknown tampering had loosened the bonding material, leaving the Skull logo to peek out from behind the massive red X.

“If you’re done celebrating , it’s time we moved on.” Cyrus complained from where he hid against the rock wall from the rain, scoffing at the other man’s antics. The Alolan was already soaked through, both by rain and mud, and Golisopod was no better off. Cyrus had gotten reprieve from the weather the easiest out of the three of them – though, he’d also been the only one smart enough to bring a raincoat. If it weren’t for Guzma’s elation at the prospect of not wandering around Route 214, he might have thought to question why the former cave troll had slipped one on before they entered Route 215.

“Yeah yeah, eager ta keep trudgin’ through the rain, I got it.” Guzma quipped as he strut over to his angry opponent, clothes squishing with every step.

The Ace Trainer made to argue – “there’s no way some bug could beat my Drifblim! There had to be some kind of cheating involved!” It wasn’t until Guzma got in the guy’s face that he finally backed down, throwing the prize money at the taller man before stomping off into the storm.

Guzma beamed as he pocketed the cash, still riding his high from the victory. “The hated boss who beats ‘em down, and beats ‘em down, and never lets up… right bud?”

Golisopod chirred in agreement, getting into the spirit momentarily, before finding itself more interested in the loose tape flapping against the back of Guzma’s hoodie. Plus-shaped pupils tracked the colorful material as its trainer continued to strut, throwing in some more bragging comments about the fight. Cyrus rolled his eyes.

“I’m sure you can self-aggrandize just as easily somewhere it isn’t pouring.”

“Self-what?!” Guzma gave Cyrus a funny look, before shaking his head at the excessive vocabulary. Damn show-off. “Whatever, I can handle rain! I ain’t made a’ salt like some people.” Guzma snarked at the former Cave Troll. “’Sides, Goli here loves the rain, don’tcha b–” He was cut off as the bug in question bumped into him hard, causing him to stumble forward into the same damn mud puddle as last time. Guzma glanced up at the bug-type, affronted, looking like a half-drowned Glameow from his place on the ground.

“Looks like it’s not interested in staying in the rain, either. Or your fashion choices.” Cyrus wasn’t able to keep the hint of smugness out of his voice, prompting Guzma to glare at him before realizing what he was talking about. Snapping his head around, he found Golisopod quickly chewing up the last of the tape he’d slapped over the Team Skull logo.

“Oh c’mon!” He yelled. Golisopod tilted its head at the outburst, chirring innocently. What was wrong? It didn’t do anything wrong. “Don’t gimme that look. Ya know ya weren’t s’pose ta eat that!” The bug gave off some more innocent chirps, shuffling its feet. The trainer’s grumpy expression twitched, then finally gave out as he hauled himself to his feet, giving Golisopod some scritches. “You’re lucky your cute.” Guzma said, pouting.

Cyrus watched on with mild disgust at the friendly exchange. “Are you quite done yet?” He asked, pulling his coat tighter around himself. It was already foolish enough for trainers to lurk around the perpetually-rainy route, but to be so determined to stop and battle every one of them? Ridiculous. (Then again, it was Guzma.)

The Alolan conceded, having had enough of being soaked by that point. “Aight, aight, I got a good haul! Let’s–”

“Well, hey there!”

Guzma’s blood ran cold at the jovial, all-too-familiar voice. “Fucking hell…”

There he stood once more. The Everyone-Man, this time dressed in basic jogging attire and panting slightly, a friendly smile on his face as he waved at them. “Couldn’t help but notice you beating Dennis. He’s pretty powerful on this route, ya know. So I figured, why don’t we have a match, hm?”

Cyrus looked at the man, confused. “Wait a minute, weren’t you-?” Before he found himself being cut off by his soggy travel pal.

Guzma, at the recognition of the everyone-man was already half-hysteric and done with the situation. “Oh sure! Yeah! Of course you’re a trainer! Why the fuck not!?” He flicked his hands to shake some of the mud and water off himself before squatting down, ready for battle. “Let’s see whatcha got then!”

The obnoxious stranger smiled, as if oblivious to the cussing. “Alrighty then! Go!” He flung the first Pokéball, letting out a Ponyta.

The Alolan could feel his petty little heart swell with his newly-acquired vendetta against the fire-type. “Aight, yeah, it’s fuckin’ on, yo! Give em ya First Impression!” Golisopod grunted in acknowledgement before charging forward, the battle now underway.

-

“Six Ponyta. SIX fucking Ponyta!” Guzma bitched, throwing his hands up in frustration. Sure, he’d won the battle – by a landslide, both type and terrain working to Golisopod’s advantage – but the guy wasn’t even affected! Hell, he was as smiley as ever! The Alolan seethed, as if the exposure to what was surely his least favorite Pokémon, and the everyone-man, was the greatest insult he’d faced.

Cyrus watched on, only vaguely curious about the backstory behind Guzma’s hatred. Knowing what he did of the other man so far, though, he…really could not find it in himself to care enough to ask.

“Well, I was right! That was a great fight, there.” The everyone-man grinned jovially, offering the reward money over to Guzma for winning. “If you ever pass by again, maybe we can have a rematch!”

“Yeah, sure, doubt it!” Guzma snapped. He grabbed the money and stomped out from under the bridge, shivering a little as ice-cold rain began pouring down on him again.

Cyrus trailed along after, glad that they were FINALLY moving on. One would think he’d be more deterred in this weather, he groused internally, fixing his raincoat.

As they faded from sight, the jogger pulled out his phone, only just realizing he’d left it turned off. Turning it back on, he was immediately greeted with a message he’d missed. “Oh! Well wish I’d seen that sooner.” He replied quickly, speaking aloud as he typed. “Bug…man…just…passed…route…two-fifteen…send. There we go!”

He gave a grin as he put the phone away, plodding his way onward to Veilstone. “Better get the team back to the Pokémon Center.”

-

Finally on his break for the day, Saturn decided it would be a good idea to check up on Master Cyrus. He’d been apprehensive about leaving him with the foreigner – it was only right to go see if he was okay.

“Good day, Master Cronus.” Various employees greeted him as he passed. He returned the pleasantries swiftly, too on-edge to truly engage any of them.

His nervousness was founded, he soon discovered, finding only an empty room upon his arrival. No note, no signs of a struggle, nothing. Panicking, he rushed back to the control room, flipping through camera feeds until he found what he needed. The recording showed Master Cyrus leaving with Guzma hours ago. This was bad. Bad bad!

The blue haired man was quick to erase all footage of his former leader being in the building, not wanting to risk anyone finding out about the man’s presence. There was no telling what the League would do if they were informed, let alone the police! Saturn needed to find him before the officials could! But how?

…he needed to try contacting the other former Commanders. It was his only hope.

TBC

Chapter Text

The door to the Café Cabin slammed open loudly as two trainers and a large bug-type hurried in, all three soaked to the bone. The taller of the two humans looked like a drowned Rattata, the way his baggy clothes were clinging to his apparently bony frame.

Guzma shivered as they entered, the combination of cold and wet racking through his body. Golisopod was blissfully unaware of its trainer’s suffering, having loved just being in the rain. Despite his raincoat, their reluctant charge had fared no better at escaping the weather, and quietly seethed about how damnably long it had taken them to get through the perpetually-rainy route. If it weren’t for Guzma’s self-imposed need to prove his strength over the other trainers stupid enough to start a battle in the pouring rain, they could’ve shaved off half of the time it’d taken!

The subject of his ire was oblivious, however, still downright pissed about the run-in with the obnoxious everyone-man. The way his soggy clothes felt like they were about to freeze to his skin was just the icing on the cake. What was wrong with this region?! It was always raining in Po Town, sure, but at least there the rain was warm! Here it felt like ice sliding down his neck!

Several customers shot them looks of confusion and concern as they approached the counter. The Alolan trainer was quick to pick up on a whiff of the distinct smell of Moomoo Milk, mind on autopilot as he ordered a Tapu Cocoa. Hot, creamy, and chocolatey, what better way to warm up? Definitely not through the bitter chill of being denied the drink, the person working the counter not even knowing what it was.

“All we serve here is Moomoo Milk.”

“Of course ya do…” Guzma let out a sigh, slapping some of his muddy battle earnings on the counter. “Gimme a warm one.” Goli whined, prompting him to add a quick “Make it two” to his order. He got a nod from the counter girl.

“And your friend?” She asked, directed at Cyrus this time.

Guzma glared at his unwanted travel-pal for a moment, still miffed that Cyrus totally hadn’t warned them about how shitty the weather was going to be. The jerk had put on a rain coat without so much as a heads-up! “Nah, he’s good.”

Cyrus rolled his eyes at the Alolan’s petty response, before ordering his own dozen bottles to keep in his bag for later.

The two sat after retrieving their purchases, Guzma shivering intermittently because, like all the other stupid buildings in the region, the AC was set at full blast. The rain had soaked him too thoroughly for the under clothes to provide any warmth at this point.

“So, what is that symbol for, anyway?” Cyrus began, attempting to make small talk as he waited for the trainer and bug to finish their drinks. He already knew, of course, but couldn’t help but be curious of what Guzma would say to explain it.

“Huh? Oh!” Right, right. Golisopod had made a snack out of the tape he’d used to hide it. Though, it wasn’t like he was in Alola anymore. A crooked grin stretched over his face – he hadn’t had the fun of bragging about his old Team to someone who didn’t know in years! Grunts always got the fun with the tourists. “It’s Team Skull, yo! Baddest a the bad! No one in Alola stood a chance against us, not with ya boy Guzma in charge! Though, uh, had’ta disband it a while back.” He finished, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.

“Truly.” The Sinnohite restrained the urge to guffaw at the sudden shift in tone at the end of Guzma’s comment. “What did ‘your’ Team do, then?”

“Only the whole nine yards! Wreckin’ shit, stealin’ shit – hell, we took over a whole town at one point!” Guzma reclined in his chair as he bragged, grinning wide. His eyes kept flicking back to Cyrus’ face, though, trying to gauge the other's reaction. Not that he CARED of course, but ya know…if he was gonna be stuck with the guy…would it really be so bad if Cyrus thought he was badass?

“Stole a bunch’a Pokémon, too!” His companion raised a brow, skeptical of the claim. The Alolan began backtracking immediately, having mistaken the look for disappointment – that sure as hell wouldn’t help him look cool. Again, not that he cared. “Bu-but it wasn’t like that, yo! We never hurt ’em! Just needed the money.”

“Who could possibly be buying stolen Pokémon in such a small region?” Cyrus questioned, highly doubtful that Guzma had the resources to ship Pokémon overseas like most poachers did. Where would he even get the money?

“The Aether Foundation, duh.”

Cyrus tensed, blood running cold at the name. He…was joking, right? “Excuse me, I must have misheard you. You expect me to believe the Aether Foundation paid you for stolen Pokémon?”

“Tch, don’t care if ya believe me, it’s true. Right, yo?” Golisopod nodded at its trainer’s question, a prominent milk moustache on its face from downing its drink so quickly. “Madam prez – this chick, Lusamine? Damn was she fine…but fuckin crazy as shit! Wanted us makin’ a ruckus so no one’d notice Aether doin’ freaky Pokémon experiments and trying to rip open some hole to another dimension. If ya can believe it.”

The blue-haired man cringed slightly, his own actions not escaping him. At least now he knew he wasn’t the only one… “I…do believe that I can…” Internally, he breathed a sigh of relief that Guzma hadn't noticed his slip up. Aether wasn't exactly a ‘known’ organization in Sinnoh. Though, the foreigner probably wasn’t even aware of that.

“Yeahh, well…” Guzma rubbed the back of his head again, an embarrassed blush trying to creep over his face. He took another swig of his drink to postpone the inevitable, if only by a few seconds. Damn, would be a lot better if he had something stronger right then. “Not like I wasn’t, uh, helpin’ her do it.” Cyrus shot him a look. “C’mon dude, she was hot. I didn’t know she was outta her fuckin mind ’til we got there, and…yeah…”

The Alolan grumbled a few more things under his breath, swirling the milk in his glass around to serve as a distraction before finishing. “Anyway, ends up she was married the whole damn time, too.”

To say Cyrus was uncomfortable right then would be like saying ‘Wailord is kind of big’. He hadn’t been joking. He hadn’t been joking, and did he really just amount tearing a hole through dimensions to a bad dating experience? …the ex-Galactic Leader wasn’t even sure who he was kidding anymore, of COURSE Guzma was. Cyrus knew, logically, that he should be disgusted, but he really had no room to talk. At least, not about the creation of dimensional rifts. Lusamine on the other hand…

Guzma finished his milk while Cyrus mulled over the information in distaste. Once he’d analyzed the situation as much as he could bear, Cyrus stood, ready to leave. He wasn’t going to waste more time over this new information – not now, at least.

Considering Guzma’s apparent need to challenge every unfortunate trainer they came across, and assuming they took no more breaks, they could possibly reach Celestic Town by nightfall. Then, once his obnoxious babysitter was asleep for the night, it wouldn’t take him long to be right back in the cave once again. Cyrus made note to pick up a few more items in Celestic Town beforehand; a dozen MooMoo Milk wouldn’t last forever, even in the Distortion World.

TBC

Chapter Text

By some unusual stroke of luck, the trio managed to drag themselves into Celestic Town around sunset. Cyrus breathed a sigh of relief as the sleepy little town came into view. He wasn’t sure if he had enough Repel to last a night out camping, and he was not looking forward to a night filled with bugs. Kricketot and Kricketune already ran rampant on warm summer nights – there was no need to learn what kind of tomfoolery his forced companion would get up to if he found out.

And like hell was he going to be reciting that speech to the Alolan again any time soon…with the way the man slept – or didn’t sleep, as a matter of fact – it was only a matter of time until he asked Cyrus to tell him that story again. He wasn’t a white noise machine, for Arceus’ sake! All the more reason to escape the fool once the opportunity presented itself.

“You should go ahead and set up at the Pokémon Center.” Cyrus suggested as they entered the town. “I need to visit the Pokémart, first, while it’s still open.”

“Yeah yeah, I’ll get us a room.” Guzma breezed by, grumbling. The hulking bug-type following him might’ve perked up at the idea of resting for the night, but the bug specialist was less than eager. He’d slept last night! What happened to looking for bugs?! “Just don’t be pissy if ya wind up sleepin’ on the floor, yo!”

Cyrus gave a noncommittal grunt in acknowledgement before turning on his heel, making a beeline for the small shop that substituted for a Pokémart in Celestic Town. Such a tiny, sleepy town held no prospect for an official store – instead, this relic had formed to fill the void. The shop hadn’t changed much since the last time he’d visited, all that time ago, save for some new additions to the available stock. Hopefully, this truly would be the last time he’d set foot in the aging establishment.

"Well howdy mister! Anything I can do ya fer?" An older woman behind the counter greeted as he entered.

"No, thank you, just picking up a few things." Cyrus answered with a polite smile and curt nod, glad his public persona hadn't left him, before he began to peruse the shelves.

Stocking up on more Repels, and getting some Potions, Full Heals and stuff for his Pokémon, Cyrus moved through the shop quickly. It wasn't food – he would likely have to land in Veilstone to pick up more rations – but it would keep his Pokémon healthy for the foreseeable future. What he couldn’t foresee, though, was how long he'd have before Guzma came looking for him. The foreign man was more unpredictable than a Spinda’s footsteps. Once fully stocked for the road, or as much as he could be, Cyrus left the building with a nod to the lady behind the counter.

-

Guzma’s heart dropped for a split second, bringing an acrid taste back up with it when he spotted an all-too-familiar face in the Pokémon Center lobby. Trying to backtrack and avoid detection was no use – the other man had already noticed the Alolan and his signature bug-type.

“Well, hey there, sport!” The bright, jovial voice rang out, the same as the last four times. “We’ve been looking all over for you!”

“Ya don’t say?” Guzma responded taking a big step back. Then, the Everyone-man moved to grab him. Now, there were a lot of things Guzma didn’t get about Sinnoh. HMs, for one. How people didn’t regularly freeze to death, for another. Strange, too-cheerful clones of the same man, ominously looking for him, though? Guzma had to draw the line at that.

He bolted back out of the Pokémon Center before the Sinnoh clone could get close enough, Golisopod in tow. No WAY was he putting up with that shit so soon after the last one, not tonight, nope! He redirected to the Pokémart instead – or what he figured was the Pokémart, apparently Sinnoh showed how backwater it was, yet again, by having the Pokémarts in completely separate buildings from the Pokécenters. He’d noticed the janky setup back in Veilstone. This time, however, the blue-roofed building design was reduced to a blue sign entitled “store” in the window of an old wooden house. Might as well see what Cyrus was so busy getting.

Unfortunately, it seemed like his Giratina-assigned ward had different ideas on the matter. Just as Guzma arrived on site, he caught a glimpse of Cyrus’ Honchkrow taking off, its trainer securely onboard. At a loss on what else to do, Guzma watched the two fly out of sight, heading back towards the route they had just traversed.

Anger was quick to settle over anything else, dispelling the lost feeling as he scoffed at the retreating figure. “Well FINE, I didn’t wanna deal with ya anyway!” Golisopod clicked in imitation of its trainer, waving a clawed hand as if urging them away faster.

Turning on his heel, Guzma stormed off, heading out of the Town with Golisopod. He was already pissed off enough about Cyrus’ little stunt there – he wasn’t gonna deal with more weird-ass locals on top of it! Nope, tonight, it was just going to be him, Golisopod, and the night sky. Camping out in this strange, forsaken region.

-

“Oh, Bibarel…”

Back at the Pokémon Center, the familiar man from earlier was grumbling about his near-encounter with the bug man. After rustling around in his pockets for a moment, he produced a phone, punching in a quick message into a group text. “Saw…Bugman…aaaat…Celestic! There we go.” It was out of his hands, now. He just hoped they managed to catch the strange man soon.

TBC

Chapter Text

The wind bit into Cyrus’ face as he flew back to Veilstone, Honchkrow cawing at any other flying types that strayed too close. It wasn’t long before the cold glow of the city came into view, as awake at night as it was by day. The Game Corner probably had a lot to do with that fact.

The Pokémart was, to his luck, still open. Cyrus let Honchkrow stay out to stretch its wings a bit more as he shopped – it wouldn’t take long, most trainers were already setting up camps or checking in at the Pokémon Center at this time. As expected, he was the only shopper in the store. Hitting the back aisle first, he systematically made his way through the shelves and back to the front counter as he loaded up on as many non-perishables as he could carry. Not listening to the cashier's standard sales pitch, Cyrus paid the bill and left as quickly as he’d come.

Back outside, Honchkrow had seated itself on top of the Pokémart, at the perfect angle to shoot its trainer a contemptuous look as the man emerged. As happy as it was to be away from those bug hooligans, it wasn’t particularly impressed with Cyrus’ intended living arrangements. And it was certainly not impressed by what it could smell – or rather, couldn’t – of the man’s latest purchases. Canned food? Honestly, the flying type had standards.

Cyrus sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “You loathe filthy things, do you not? We’re going back to where there aren’t any.”

The dark-flying type puffed up its feathers, crowing at him, but hopped down to his level nonetheless. It liked fresh air, too! There was precious little the Big Boss Pokémon complained of more than filth, but there were limits to what it was willing to trade. Well, willing to trade without complaining more, that is. Either way, Honchkrow was putting its talons down at the idea of living in the Distortion World again!

Cyrus, however, knew his Pokémon well. “I picked up your favorite snack from the Pokémart while I was there.” He mentioned, casually expecting the flying-type to take the bait.

Honchkrow gave an indignant huff, shooting a swift glare up at its trainer. Surely the man had to be lying – its superior olfactory senses hadn’t picked up on ANY snacks! …But then again…hmm. Humans were always coming up with better packaging these days, weren’t they…best not to risk it, at any rate. Ruffling its feathers back into place, the flying-type conceded – just as Cyrus planned – though not without cawing out threats should the treats be a lie.

Most of Route 214 had cleared out by the time they arrived, including that odd hiker from earlier, so the two were able to slip back to Sendoff Spring unnoticed. Cyrus returned Honchkrow before it could try raising a fuss again. With full resolve, the ex-Galactic Boss marched back into the cave.

-

Again, it was some annoying shit that this region didn’t have Ride Pagers. Guzma and Golisopod had gotten onto Route 210 – or, at least, what they thought was Route 210, what with the heavy fog that had rolled in over it. Cyrus had gotten his Crobat to do one of those “HM” moves to get rid of it last time, right?

Not that a Ride Pager couldn’t’ve done the same damn thing, Guzma groused to himself, trying to ignore just how utterly fucked his bearings had become. Before he could press on, though, a glimpse of something skittered through his peripheral vision. Golisopod perked up as…whatever it was emitted a chittering noise, quick to disappear back into the fog.

Guzma didn’t even think twice about racing off after it, hearing Golisopod’s heavy footsteps keep pace. Finally, a bug-type! Maybe this region wasn’t so hopeless, after all!

Just barely keeping the new Pokémon within his range of sight, Guzma found his legs carrying him to a clearing just beyond the fog. Golisopod stumbled into him as he stopped dead in his tracks – the whole clearing was filled with bugs! The bug specialist stepped back a bit towards the treeline, dragging Golisopod with him in an attempt to not disrupt the bug-a-palooza going on. They were all of a species he’d never seen before, even! He’d hit the jackpot!

Doing his level best to keep quiet, Guzma circled the clearing until he found the perfect vantage point to watch from. It was a good thing he hadn’t planned on sleeping – “I slept yesterday, Goli, quit givin’ me that look” – it gave him all the more time to watch the new bugs, thankful for how bright the moon was. Golisopod whined, but knew better than to try and force its trainer to rest. Settling down next to the man, it wasn’t long before the chirps of the new Pokémon lulled the large bug-type to sleep.

Hours passed in this fashion. The moon gradually making its way across the sky just as Guzma’s foot made its fourth attempt to fall asleep. The Alolan stretched out gingerly with a yawn, restoring normal blood-flow. Enough observing, he wanted to catch one of these little dudes! Unfortunately, a quick pat-down of his still damp jacket revealed a distinct lack of Ultra Balls. Weird…he could’ve sworn he’d brought some with him?

Eh, it’s whatever, he figured, rolling his shoulders. Ultra Balls or not, he wasn’t leaving the clearing without one of those chirping little critters. Time to do some catching the good, old-fashioned, Alolan way…straight-up tackling!

Normally, he’d try to lure the bugs closer first, but he’d belatedly realized he hadn’t bothered picking up any food while at Celestic – that had been Cyrus’ job. He didn’t even have any beans left, having used them up back in the cave.

Ah well, can’t beat the classics. Slipping away from the sleeping Golisopod carefully so as not to wake it up, Guzma got in position. This would be a piece of cake!

-

Cyrus could feel a headache building, shockingly not caused by that fool of a bug trainer. He was having… difficulty navigating the cave, for some reason. It was ridiculous! He knew the path by heart, having paced along it from the Distortion side! Displeased, his ire only grew as he found himself in another unfamiliar chamber. It seemed the cave had been rearranged since his departure from it. Lovely…

He hadn’t been leader of Team Galactic for lack of resourcefulness, though. Cyrus didn’t hesitate to call out Crobat, allowing the affectionate Bat Pokémon to latch onto him as they traversed the cave. All it really needed to do was use its echolocation to determine which doorways looped away from the path, after all – those wouldn’t have echoes. Using this method, the pair managed to get through, barely, under the maximum room number. Cyrus thanked Crobat for its help, the chirring Pokémon nuzzled against his head before being returned. Pokéball safely stowed once more, the former Galactic Leader approached the altar.

…he didn't reach it. True to its nature, Giratina emerged from the shadows to meet the man, but the Distortion Portal was curiously absent. The legendary didn’t bother speaking; it’d already had enough of the pale human for the next century, possibly more.

Cyrus was aware of the large ghost-dragon’s eyes glowing before he suddenly found himself outside the cave again, hurtling towards a large group of Kricketune. The split second his expression morphed from surprise to horror before he crashed into their midst would be denied later, if anyone had seen. Thankfully, they scattered from the intruder instead of attacking, regrouping further away.

The former Galactic Leader stood shakily, unable to orient himself or even assess any damage before he felt himself moving again. Being lifted into the air, specifically…by Guzma’s bug. How on earth Giratina had transported him all the way back to Celestic Town was beyond him. Instead, his full attention was taken up by the revolting isopod clinging to him like an overgrown child. Cyrus began squirming immediately, about to demand that the Alolan make his Pokémon put him down, but stopped short when he realized the man was nowhere to be found.

The still wet outfit he found himself in was also…decidedly not the clothes he had put on that morning. Nor was his skin tone supposed to be this shade of definitely-not-pale. In fact…this would likely be an acceptable time to panic.

-

Guzma stumbled forwards a bit as he abruptly found himself standing instead of leaping, mind still catching up to his unanticipated change in momentum. Also springing to his attention was how this definitely was NOT the field he’d just been in, and that Good ol’ Centipede McFuckYouUp was standing there grinning down at him.

“…maybe I shoulda just slept.”

TBC

Chapter Text

A blue screen would’ve been more coherent than Guzma at that moment, still buffering just where the hell he’d ended up. Giratina let him orient himself before speaking, breaking him out of his reverie.

You Should Start Getting Back To Your Companion Soon. You Know, The One I Assigned You.

What? What companion?! Guzma wasn’t an expert, but he was pretty sure companions don’t leave each other for dead in tiny, one-Ponyta villages. “The fuck? He– …yo, hold up.”

That wasn’t his voice. Actually, giving himself a once-over, what was he doing in this geek-gear?! Turning to the legendary Pokémon, he was stopped again by the feel of his hair on his hand, having nervously gone to mess with it. Were these spikes? "What am I, a Sandslash or some shit?!"

Giratina was giving him a smug little grin all the while, looking far too pleased with itself. “Never Thought I’d See So Much Expression On That Face. ” It laughed, prompting a pout from Guzma. The face he pulled only caused Giratina to laugh even harder, unfortunately – who would’ve thought the Sinnohite’s face wouldn’t break when he tried making facial expressions?

“Aight...so now I’m the cave troll?” Guzma asked, once the legendary’s laughter had died down. He was processing this surprisingly well, remaining level-headed about the situation at hand. He was Cyrus now. Or... in Cyrus’ body? Oh jeez. “This ain’t permanent, is it?” The sound of Cyrus’s voice coming from his own (well, his at the moment, anyway) mouth was sort of weirding him out.

Giratina blinked, as if the thought had never crossed its mind. “Oh, Of Course Not. At Least...Not If You Two Remain In Close Proximity.

If there was ever going to be a warning sign that Guzma’s day was going to be fucked up, then that was it, complete with flashing neon letters. “Yo, so the hell’s this, then? I gotta be punished ’cuz he decided ta up an’ run off?! What’s yer angle, here?!”

Self Preservation.” Was stated bluntly as Giratina turned, already heading back towards its altar.

“Self Pres- ...the fuck does that mean?!” The gargantuan bug-type gave what Guzma could only guess was a shrug as it made to leave. “Wait! How’m I gonna get out?!”

You’ll Figure It Out.” Was all he got as Giratina disappeared through its portal, answering a grand total of absolutely none of the Alolan's pressing questions.

“…fuckin’ great. Stuck back in this shitty cave, and without Golisopod.” He hoped to the Tapu he didn't have another panic attack while trying to find his way back OUT of this literal hellhole.

-

Golisopod had, had half a mind to just start clinging to Guzma whenever night fell, in order to force its trainer to sleep on a regular basis. But it knew from their life in Po Town that it wouldn’t be the wisest course of action. You never knew when some emergency could come up, and having an exceedingly heavy bug-type on top of him could seriously hamper Guzma’s ability to take care of the rest of Team Skull.

That said, though, the bug was still less than happy about being woken up. The large Pokémon was midway through its complaint when it noticed how tense its trainer had become, heart rate bordering on what would usually signify one of Guzma’s panic attacks. That certainly changed things. Golisopod was quick to transition to chirring instead of angry clicking, hugging its boy close to calm him down.

Unfortunately, its “boy” was having none of that. Cyrus was willing to put up with many things, but being cuddled by a bug simply did not make the list. He automatically began flailing in an attempt to escape its hold, finally breaking free after a straight punch to the bug's jaw. Stumbling away from the startled Golisopod, Cyrus returned to the task at hand – namely, what the fuck was going on? It felt far too real to be some simple illusion, that was for sure. But then, what…?

Cyrus’ thoughts stopped dead when he remembered the legendary Pokémon. Of course. Giratina.

Strangely feeling a wave of rage crash into him at the realized injustice of now BEING his unwanted travel companion, Cyrus had to pause and take several deep breaths to slowly pull himself together. The task took…much longer than usual to accomplish. Just a side effect of Giratina’s actions, Cyrus assured himself, before shooting a disaffected scowl at Golisopod.

The bug-type was clearly confused, giving pouty whimpers in return. The punch hadn’t hurt it, not even by a long shot, but that certainly didn’t change how big of a baby it was. This wasn’t how its boy acts! What had happened?! Where was the affection? Where were the Apology Beans™?? The upset bug turned its biggest puppy eyes on the Cave Troll in Guzma’s body.

It was around this time that Cyrus realized he could, well, return the hulking bug to its ball without consequence. All the better to make it stop staring at him like a lost Shinx, at any rate. A flash of red light and a stowed Ultraball later, Cyrus surveyed his environment, trying to orient himself. Had the fool really wandered back into Route 210…?

Both a destination and a new focus for his repressed anger in mind, he started the long trek back to Veilstone. Or…he thought he did, at least.

-

Guzma was dead, he was sure of it. He was dead and this cave (and body) was his eternal damnation, or whatever. Being without Golisopod was the icing on the damn cake – he was sure Nihilego were just going to start popping in out of nowhere, at this point. Though the dread from earlier had yet to return full-force, he wouldn’t count on it to stay that way knowing his own usual anxiety levels.

After what had to be the tenth identical room, Guzma was already panting. How the fuck had Cyrus gotten ANYWHERE being this out of shape? Grudgingly, Guzma admitted to himself he needed to take a short break. Seating himself – …Cy's self? – on a nearby rock, the Alolan-turned-Sinnohite began wondering more about how on Earth he was going to get out of this place. Then it dawned on him. Cyrus had all his supplies with him when he’d given Guzma and Golisopod the slip, and his Pokémon! They’d know the way out, right? They were stuck in here with that troll the whole time, after all.

Grabbing a Pokéball at random yielded none other than that damn Honchkrow from before. Guzma flinched, cursing his bad luck as he expected the grouchy bundle of feathers to start pecking at him, but no attacks came. In fact, the dark-flying dual-type seemed pretty…chill around him?

…oh, right. I’m the Cave Troll, gotta remember that. The Alolan gave a smug grin, straightening back up. He could boss the feathery fuck around now, right? “Aight ya dumb bird, get me outta this hellhole!”

Sixty pounds of ruffled feathers and a loud, indignant “HONCH??” was his only response.

“Uhh…please?” It was too late for niceties by then, unfortunately. The bird was up in his face now, still squawking about being regarded so crudely. It refused to tolerate such talk, even from its master! And it certainly was not going to back down after a simple ‘please’. Guzma could only try staring it down, eyes wide as he racked his brain for a solution. “Uhh…wait wait! I’m sure he’s got some treats in here or somethin’.”

Honchkrow, having honed in on the word “treat,” settled down almost immediately. Its face was expectant as Guzma dug through the bag, zeroed in on his every movement. Luckily for the Alolan, he was able to find the food rations in Cyrus’ bag fairly easily – hell, the thing was organized better than Aether Labs. At least the jerk had been planning on feeding his Pokémon this time around. Next to the food was a weird, double-decker…basket-thing? “What the hell’s th–” Honchkrow was quick to snatch it out of the bag. “–is…”

Guzma couldn’t contain his snickers watching the bird struggle in its attempt to physically rip open the basket, over-eager to get at whatever was inside. He took pity eventually, reaching out to retrieve the basket – it was obviously the treat box. “Hold ya Mudsdales, I’ll open it.”

The bird relinquished the box, if reluctantly, allowing Guzma to get it open. As soon as it popped open, he saw a bunch of those weird treats from before. The kind that cashier guy had given Golisopod when they’d first arrived. Different colors must be different flavors, but there were only three colors in the basket…then again, Cyrus had mentioned his Pokémon only having about three flavor preferences. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all?

The instant Guzma went to offer Honchkrow the treats, every other Pokéball (sans what he could only assume was Cleffa’s) opened up, surrounding him with Pokémon begging for treats. And, well, Guzma had never been great at saying no to a cute face, even one as big as a Gyarados’.

He started dishing out the treats, remembering to release Cleffa too, so that it wouldn’t miss out. The Star Shape Pokémon gave him a confused look, but accepted the food nonetheless. It was pretty obvious to Cyrus’ team that something weird was going on, but hey, this “Cyrus” was handing out food! They would question it later.

TBC

Chapter Text

Cyrus stomped down the road, having to work especially hard to keep his anger in check and not just punch the nearest thing…and what a novel concept that was. What Cyrus had THOUGHT was the way back to Veilstone was, decidedly, not. Instead, he’d been headed the WRONG WAY this entire time, and was nearly back to Celestic Town!

“No surprise how long that fool took in Turnback…” He grumbled, kicking a rock along the path. “No sense of direction at all.”

The Sinnohite took a moment to lament his – or, rather, Guzma’s – lack of a town map. Or…anything else, for that matter. Had that simpleton seriously arrived in a new region with only Golisopod and the clothes on his back?! Clothes which, he was fast discovering, were far too baggy on Guzma’s lanky frame, even while wet, to be convenient! “How on earth can he even wear this? It’s a shock the pest can even stand up straight…oh, that’s right! He DOESN’T.”

Then again, he could possibly attribute his current lack of coordination to how his former companion had decided not to sleep last night. Nevermind the fact that Cyrus hadn’t exactly attempted to rest either. He was too busy dealing with the pressing issue of trying to return to Turnback Cave as soon as possible. Arceus knew what Guzma would be doing with HIS body at that very minute.

“I swear if he’s covered me in bug slime again…” Cyrus didn’t bother to finish the statement, instead choosing to play out several different mental images of horrible things he could do to Guzma in return, should the Alolan have done something terrible to his body.

As he pressed onwards, finally escaping the fog that plagued the northern half of Route 210, he found the sun had already begun its ascent. Mocking him and his situation, surely. He glared balefully at it before returning his gaze to the path before him.

Yet another agonizing realization to being in Guzma’s body was that, even with the growing heat of the rising sun, everything was cold! The fact all of Guzma's clothes had been soaked through and not given the chance to dry fully wasn't helping. Cyrus was shivering like a leaf. It was startling, to say the least, to experience the sensation so far south of Snowpoint. “What super-heated hellscape did that fool originate from that THIS is cold to him?!” He paused as another chill wracked its way through him. Or perhaps he just had a cold. Now, wouldn’t that just be fantastic.

-

It didn’t take long for Cyrus’ Pokémon to scarf down the last of the mystery treats – Guzma didn’t even get the chance to try to taste one of them. Still, if it meant getting them complacent enough to help him, he could deal with not knowing a while longer.

“So, uh–” Geez, six heads snapping towards him at once was more than a bit disconcerting. He had to play nice though; from the looks of it, Cyrus hadn’t packed any more treats he could use to appease them with. “Any of ya feel like leadin’ the way outta here?” Hoping for a positive response, Guzma looked to each of Cyrus Pokémon in turn.

Honchkrow, treats aside, was still a bit ruffled from the earlier crudeness. It snubbed its beak at Guzma instantly. If its trainer had to ask who could do it, then he could just figure it out himself. The dark-flying type’s attitude did little more than earn it a disaffected scowl from Weavile – their trainer was actually offering to leave the cave for once, and the bird wanted to play this game?

Gyarados was much more eager to help, but, well…it could barely pass through the archways between rooms, let alone navigate them. Weavile once again looked marginally exasperated, as the happy monstrosity bailed on its offer almost as soon as it had given it.

Guzma passed a cursory glance directly at Weavile, only to get what could've been a raised brow, had the Sharp Claw Pokémon had any. Yeah, he wasn't gonna be getting any help from that one.

Next up was Cleffa, who, while still a baby Pokémon, Guzma hopped might still have some cool attacks or abilities to offer. Instead he received an almost identical look to the one Weavile had given him. Luckily, unlike Weavile, Cleffa was more forgiving to its trainer. Having taken up residence on the back of the canine member of Cyrus team, Cleffa gestured to Houndoom with a soft “Piipi?” Unluckily, the dark-fire dual-type sniffed the ground, and snorted out dust before shaking its head. Nothing Doing. Everything smelled like dirt and Distortion. Ancient dirt and Distortion.

Expecting yet another useless response, Guzma turned to Crobat, confused when it gave a motherly nod. Further confused by how much heavier it was than anticipated when it decided to flap over and land on his shoulders. Situating itself on his back, it used one of its larger wings to point towards an archway.

Looks like the whole ‘Pokémon take after their trainers’ shtick has some truth to it after all, Guzma figured, returning the rest of the Sass Squad™ to their Pokéballs. He looked back to Crobat, which had made itself comfy clinging to his… Cyrus’… dorky sweater vest. The Bat Pokémon raised its wing again, pointing the way onward.

The bat was, Guzma found, a pretty damn good navigator. It didn’t take long at all to finally be back in the entry room with that stupid instruction plaque, which he still had no intention of reading. He gave a glance at Crobat, who was simply clinging to him now that the exit was in sight. “Yo uh, thanks fer gettin’ us outta this shithole, really appreciate it.”

The Bat Pokémon recoiled at the unexpected swear, taking to the air from its master’s shoulders, caught off-guard. The excessive treat time was excusable – well, it was odd, but still excusable since there were treats involved. Not knowing to let Crobat guide the way out when that’s exactly how he got in, though? And now swearing?! Something was very wrong with Cyrus. What was going on??

Guzma failed to notice the bat’s suspicion, darting out of the cave only to screech to a halt again. “The fuck-?!” Much to his dismay, he found the sun had already risen, light streaming down into the spring as he exited the cave.

“It’s LIGHT out now?! The sun is rising?! How the fuck long was I in that cave?! It felt like ten minutes!” Guzma’s voice echoed across the otherwise-still spring.

Crobat flew out of the cave as Guzma raged, quietly concerned, yet increasingly suspicious. As the Alolan-turned-Sinnohite finished being pissed about “fucking Distortion shit again”, he suddenly went silent, and winced. Getting out of the spring again was going to be a fucking spectacle, if the first time was any indication.

Guzma turned around slowly, awkward half-grin ruined by the harsh clench of his jaw. “Hhheyy, Crobat. Mind taking me to Celestic Town?” Tumbling down a slope had been bad enough bundled in layers of protective coats, like hell was he willing to go through that in the geek’s lighter outfit.

The Bat Pokémon tittered lightly in concern – concern which seemed to just keep growing for it, today. It could ferry the man down the cliff, sure, but it wasn’t Cyrus’ flier. At the body swapped trainer’s continued stare, Crobat realized it needed to take a more direct approach to the explanation. Flapping forward, it managed to tap against Honchkrow’s Pokéball with one of its wings, freeing the large bird.

Guzma groaned when the bat’s point finally got across to him. “Ya mean I gotta take this–”

Honchkrow, already irritated again from being sent out so suddenly, narrowed its eyes, cawing out a daring “Hooonch?”

Guzma backtracked immediately, knowing he couldn’t manage another treat spree. “–sss-LOVELY flying-type specimen! To get there?” Nice recovery, Guzma. Nailed it. Definitely.

That was…more than enough for Crobat, honestly. How did Cyrus not know his own team’s skill set? Honchkrow had always been the flier, ever since Cyrus had gotten the HM! Finally giving in to its worry, the large bat landed on his shoulders again, carding its wings over Guzma-turned-Cyrus’ face – checking for fever, for anything to explain its trainer’s unusual behavior!

Unfortunately, Guzma’s focus had been on Honchkrow, leaving him completely unprepared for the sudden weight that landed on him. The body-swapped Alolan barely got out a cry of surprise before he lost his balance, landing face-down in the dirt.

So it begins again, it seemed. Even as Cyrus, he couldn’t catch a break.

-

Cyrus trudged on, towards what he hoped was Veilstone this time. He was pretty sure he was headed the right direction, but after discovering his mistake earlier, he was rather paranoid of getting turned around again.

The paranoia he could swallow down easily enough, even if he was having to work double time to keep his emotions in check in this foreign skin. What he couldn’t handle – could physically feel himself not handling, not filing away for future introspection – was just… anger! And oh, what an all consuming anger it was. No food, no sleep, no fucking sense of direction, and it seems the fool hadn’t even eaten before running off into the wilderness!

Judging from his earlier issues, he was as good as lost out here as well! He’d never been LOST before?! Not even when he’d first run off on his own! But he was, and he could feel it, along with the anger in his – in Guzma’s – bones. (If he were in a better state, he might have had the ability to forgive himself for the blatantly stupid pun.)

And then, to just put the icing on the overdone cake, were the recurring, for seemingly no reason, memories he’d spent half his life repressing! He was near-physically having to distract himself to keep from dwelling on them – punching a tree, hell, punching himself would be grand at this point. The all-consuming sensations of anger and being lost were causing his body to quake, teeth grinding as if to bite back the building explosion as he did his best not to react. He could not – WOULD not – let himself be controlled by such pathetic emotions! He was better than that! He’d been better than that, ever since–!

Then, cutting through his storming mind, a drop of water landed on his forehead with a light plip. The distraction caught his attention mere seconds before the skies opened up, and it began pouring, soaking his barely-dried clothing almost instantly.

Sopping wet, alone, with the sun far past risen behind the storm clouds and his mind clouded with its own strife, it was all too much. A whine escaped the Sinnohite-turned-Alolan as he slumped to the soggy, muddy ground, trying to cover his ears as he was drenched on the outside and trapped in a seemingly endless loop of memories on the inside.

His mother and stepfather's disappointed scowls and comments always rang loudest – No, I did my best, right? That wasn’t my fault! I- Then, his sisters abandoning him – They never really cared anyway. I had only been a novel thing to the twins. They were already 13 years my senior. His real father never caring to even know him – Not a card or call. I tried to contact him so often at first… Never even meeting his hotshot brother – As if that would have turned out any differently than all the others. The loss of Team Galactic. Turnback Cave. Giratina. Guzma, Guzma, Guzma. And now, Guzma again.

Every failure, every regret, every memory he’d bottled up – even those that were seemingly insignificant – hit so hard he could barely feel the rain. He didn't even know where he was! A low steady rhythm eventually caught his attention, ever-so-slowly dragging him back to reality. His eyes opened to see Guzma’s stupid bug holding him tightly, giving that low chirr like it had when Guzma had gone through his panic in the cave. For once, Cyrus couldn’t find it in himself to pull away, hiding his face – wet from the rain and certainly not tear stained – in the bug-type’s soft underbelly.

Being Guzma was terrifying…

TBC

Chapter Text

At this point, Guzma was convinced Cyrus’ Crobat was just a Kangaskhan in disguise. How the heck that worked, well…it wasn’t like weirder things hadn’t happened already, his current body for example. With some effort, Guzma was able to pry the large bat off of him, returning it to its Pokéball before it could latch back on. Geez, and he thought Golisopod could be overbearing at times – at least the bug couldn’t literally helicopter!

Either through sheer dumb luck or the bird deigning to take pity on him after that display, the Alolan-turned-Sinnohite managed to convince Honchkrow to fly him off to Celestic Town. In retrospect, he should’ve probably thought to just keep his mouth closed. Of course the damn thing was gonna be an over sensitive snob, so his offhand comment of Honchkrow being almost as fast as a Charizard Ride Pokémon was met with instant offense. But was it really necessary to literally drop him into the middle of Veilstone?! Everything’s made of rock! That was the damn slogan of the miserable town! Needless to say, his back was sure to let him know the slogan was 100% true. Only positive side was that, technically, this was Cyrus’ back right now, so the damn troll could deal with it once they finally managed to switch back…however that was supposed to happen.

Honchkrow landed on top of the stone wall next to him, squawking indignantly all the while as he sat up. He glared up at the bird for a moment before returning it to its ball, shaking his head. Veilstone was fucking close enough – he wasn’t willing to deal with this bratty ball of feathers again. “Fine! I’ll walk!”

Getting to his feet and brushing off the dust from Cyrus' dorky clothes, Guzma was about to head on his merry fuckin’ way when he caught sight of someone. Specifically, someone he wanted to see even less than a certain snobby bird at the moment.

“‘Scuse me pardon me, in a bit of a hurry here, oh watch your step!” Were there lookalike-guys EVERYWHERE in this region?! The one this time around was bustling along, almost bumping into the other pedestrians that had seen fit to be out and about at whatever-the-fuck o’clock in the morning it was right then. Guzma cringed in anticipation of the usual confrontation – but hey, wait, wasn’t that the one from the store, back when he first landed here?

For once, though, the lookalike-man seemed keen on not noticing Guzma, too busy with his phone as he navigated the walkway. Then again, it was a good reminder that the bug specialist wasn’t exactly, uh, himself right then – you’d imagine it would be a constant thing, but he was finding it shockingly easy to forget that he wasn’t in his own body.

While Guzma was lost in thought, and what’s-his-name was focused on his phone, the two never noticed they’d meandered into each others path until it was too late.

“Oh!” Startled, the other man glanced up from his phone, giving Guzma the usual smile. “Sorry about that, little busy in my own world right now. If you needed anything from the shop we’re closed for today, I’ve got to make a trip over to Celestic Town.”

“Uh- right.” If the man had anything else to say, it was lost to Guzma, whose eyes and thoughts had both already drifted. Belatedly, he noticed the lookalike-guy was holding something behind him – it looked like a bag, maybe? The Alolan-turned-Sinnohite wanted to assume the other man just did deliveries from his store, but his interactions with the other identical men so far had him convinced that whatever it was, it had to do with him. (Or, well, Cyrus right now, since– ugh, Guzma didn’t even want to sort that out.)

Guzma shook himself out of his thoughts and tuned back in just in time to hear the guy bid him a good day, hopping onto a Drifblim as he headed off. The bug specialist was glad the encounter was short this time, but, ehhh…going to Celestic just got a lot less appealing. Then again, if the guy was looking for Guzma – Cyrus? – he’d probably find him there. Which means Guzma had to find him first!

Still not knowing why the lookalikes were looking for him, he broke into a run towards Route 215.

-

Golisopod had been concerned the minute it had noticed its trainer’s increasing pulse. That, who it thought to be Guzma, had returned it before it could manage to calm the human, was another major flag to the large isopod. From inside it’s Ultraball, it was only very vaguely aware of the outside world, which was why Guzma usually let it toddle around outside. Now however, Golisopod had to go with its gut feelings on how badly things were going for its trainer – and hope the man wouldn’t be too mad when it let itself out.

When the time came, the troll inhabiting Guzma’s body didn’t even notice.

Now Golisopod found itself holding its trainer bridal-style after the man had cried himself out into the bug-type’s underbelly and lost consciousness. It wasn’t the first time such a reaction had occurred, but it was still concerning…not to mention Golisopod was still on edge about the situation to begin with, especially given that it had absolutely no idea where they were, and that Guzma seemed to have started running a pretty high fever whilst the bug had been balled.

Letting out a whine of its own, Golisopod picked up the pace, doing it’s best to shield its sickly trainer from the rain while it searched for the way to a Pokémon Center. Unknowingly, it just kept running in circles in the unfamiliar, rainy route.

-

Guzma had completely forgotten about the rain on Route 215, but like hell did he have any other options, so he pressed on as fast as Cyrus’ body would allow him. He initially ignored the other trainers scattered along the path this time through, but gave pause when he overheard a pair of younger ones mention a panicking bug-type.

“Yo, panicking bug? Where’s it at?” He interrupted, inserting himself into the conversation with about as much grace as a Snorlax. His anger must have been apparent, because the younger trainers shrank back a bit before answering.

“U-uh, yeah, um– it’s running around further down the route, I d-don’t think it’s native? It’s pretty big, too–” Guzma was off again before they could finish talking, ignoring their fading cries to be careful. It was his bug, for fuck’s sake, what was there to worry about?!

It didn’t take long to find Golisopod, especially with the noise the bug was making, giving shrill cries as it tramped through the mud. The Hard Scale Pokémon recognized the approaching figure as the runaway cave troll almost immediately. After facing a short internal struggle, torn between telling the guy off and asking for help, Golisopod eventually settled on the latter. Cyrus lived here, right? He’d know where to go??

As Cyrus (who was actually Guzma) approached, Golisopod stopped its running and gave a loud chirr at the man, gesturing to the not Guzma in its arms. It was a bit disorienting for Guzma, to look at himself like this. The guy wasn’t looking too good, even for the Alolan’s standards, and that was really saying something. What’d he do, swap bodies and decide to run a marathon?…if he’d managed to get sick within that short a time frame, Guzma was going to be pissed.

The bug-type specialist still wasn’t entirely sure of their location, but he knew at least that they were closer to Route 210 than Veilstone at this point. He also knew he didn’t want to travel too much longer in the rain, especially with how bad he– well, how bad Cyrus – how bad Cyrus as him seemed to be faring. If the jerk really had gone and gotten him – them? – sick…well, Guzma readily felt any and all guilt over the back pain, from that fall earlier, dry right up. Served the cave troll right.

At another panicked chirr from Golisopod, Guzma was reminded that his poor Buggaboo honestly had no idea what was going on, or that he was still technically okay. He instantly switched into thinking mode to prevent more stress for the worried bug. Surely Cyrus had SOMETHING in his inventory to–

“Oh, right!” Belatedly, he recalled the Sinnohite had packed a map. The meticulous organization of Cyrus’ bag bit the dust as Guzma rifled through it, finally managing to uncover the device. Looked like there was a town close-by, one that wasn’t Celestic or Veilstone. Motioning for Golisopod to follow, he lead the confused but concerned bug-type onward, the passed-out Cyrus-turned-Guzma still cradled in its arms.

TBC

Chapter Text

Nanu couldn’t remember when eating at Sushi High Roller had become a regular occurrence for him, but like hell was it going to change any time soon. Who would’ve figured finding a decent kaiseki restaurant would be so difficult in Alola? Let alone an affordable one…or one that would let his Persian inside with him, when the Pokémon decided to tag along.

He was about three bites into the unrivaled bliss that was the restaurant’s signature Ronin Set when a stranger walked up to him. “Excuse me, sir! I couldn’t help but notice how neat your shoelaces are.”

“Looker, I’m wearing sandals.” Nanu gave the man a blank look before rolling his eyes, returning his focus to his food. “Sit down. It’s sushi, not some undercover operation.”

To say Looker was disappointed would be an understatement, but the slight pout on his face was enough to boost Nanu’s mood fractionally. Even if the guy insisted on remaining in-disguise while he joined the Alolan for his meal. Nanu motioned to get the server’s attention. “Hey, Sensei. Bring another round for my friend here.”

To Looker’s credit, he managed to wait until the server was long gone before returning to their conversation. “So, any word on the you-know-what?”

“Cut the crap, Looker, I’m too old to fool with that shit.”

“This information is far too sensitive for common dinner talk!” Looker protested, belatedly aware of his own volume level in the calm restaurant environment. Looking around sheepishly, he went to continue, but Nanu cut him off before the words could even leave his mouth.

“The kid’s not here.”

Que v-?

“Guzma. He hopped a plane and took off to Sinnoh.”

Ç'est un désastre!” Promptly forgetting his surroundings again, Looker started to rant while his food arrived. Nanu tuned him out easily, already focused on his next task at hand. Looker wasn’t as big of a fan of kaiseki as himself, even less of a fan of this particular set, but he’d still need to remain sufficiently distracted if the Ula’Ula Kahuna wanted to snitch food from across the table. Having already finished his own meal, the Alolan officer snuck a few quick pieces from his companion’s order as the man of unknown origins came down from his rant. Guy wasn’t kidding about being fluent in Kalosian, damn.

Looker rubbed the bridge of his nose, composing himself. “We NEED a Faller to lure them out. We can’t complete this mission without one!”

“Shame he’s the only one we got, then.” The lie came easy to Nanu as he stole another piece of Looker’s untouched sushi set. Sure, Lillie and their new – or, well, former, last he’d heard – Champion had also gone into Ultra Space, but he had no intention of offering the two children up on a silver platter to the International Police force. He’d experienced firsthand how little care was given to the lives of the people cursed to lure these monsters…it might seem cruel to throw Guzma under the bus instead, but, despite the punk’s obvious flaws, Guzma really was a strong trainer. (Not that Nanu would ever tell him that, of course.) So, if anyone had a chance of surviving an Ultra Beast mission out of the three Fallers, the Kahuna’s money was on Guzma. (Again, not that Nanu would ever, ever tell him that.)

“When will he be back?” Looker conceded, finally.

“Who knows.” Nanu stole another piece, the movement unfortunately catching Looker’s attention. Luckily, Looker decided he’d had his fill of the meal – at least a good third of it was gone, even if he didn’t remember eating it – so he slid the remainder over to Nanu instead. “The Skull brats bought him a one way ticket. Kid never really liked living here in Alola, can’t say I blame him. So who’s to say if he ever even comes back at all?”

The table gave a muffled thump as Looker’s hands banged against it. “We must ensure he returns! Anabel isn’t strong enough to face them herself!”

“I could probably think of something that might pique his interests. He ain’t a very complex character, after all. Brat cares about bugs, Tapu Cocoa, and his old Team – two of those are already here.” Nanu considered the options at hand, popping another piece of his newly-acquired set in his mouth as an idea came to mind. “That could take some time to do, though…”

“Whatever it takes! You have as much backing as my rank and station can give you. Just get. Him. Back here. We’ve been lucky so far, but who knows when the beasts will start to move again.”

Nanu’s mouth twitched, his signature half-grin flashing by in the space of a second. He nodded at Looker. “I’ll see what I can do.”

The detective thanked him for the meal – which he never actually touched – as he left, leaving some money plus tip arranged neatly on his side of the table. Nanu chewed on the last piece of his second (second – damn, there was a luxury) Ronin Set, thinking back on the picture Guzma had sent from Sinnoh. “Don’t say I never did nothin for ya, brat.”

(Somewhere in Solaceon Town, an Alolan in Sinnohite form gave a sneeze, and hoped to the Tapu he wasn’t catching the cold Cyrus had gotten in his body.)

-

Meanwhile, in the Galactic Veilstone Building, Saturn was really starting to see the appeal of replacing human workers with robots. Someone had let it slip that Cyrus had returned, so obviously, obviously that little tidbit of information had made its way all the way up to the Elite 4. Flint and Aaron were currently in the building – and why was it always those two that got sent out, why not send the ones who weren’t a walking disaster of a tag-team?!

He held his tongue, though, seeing as the two specialists in question saw fit to follow him around as he went about his tasks. Honestly, so far they seemed less concerned about Cyrus’ return and more about just hanging out. And touching equipment they weren’t supposed to, but again, Saturn held his tongue – they hadn’t pulled any risky moves this time. Yet.

It was a stroke of luck he’d yet to reach Mars and Jupiter, he decided, pointedly ignoring his unwanted shadows. Though it was frustrating that they’d lost contact upon Galactic’s semi-dissolution, he knew for a fact that they would come running if they’d heard Cyrus had returned. They had been fiercely loyal to Team Galactic, even if they had known about its true…objective all that time.

Just at that moment, Flint fumbled with the device he was holding. If it weren’t for Saturn’s proximity to the Elite 4 member right then, it would’ve crashed to the floor uncaught. “Are you QUITE finished here?!” The blue-haired man snapped.

Flint, recovering nicely, gave a lazy look around and a shrug. “Wellll, I guess we don’t see Cyrus here…”

Saturn was going to develop a permanent twitch from these two, he just knew it. “Of course you don’t see Cyrus here! You didn’t see him the last 43 times you showed up! Why would he be here now?!”

“It’s unlikely, Saturn, but–”

Cronus. I’ve told you repeatedly that I go by Cronus now.” Saturn could only grumble in response. If it weren’t for how they occasionally remembered his new title, he’d be convinced he was fighting a losing battle.

“–we do still have to follow up any reports submitted.” Aaron finished, having put the equipment he’d been inspecting down after Flint’s near-mishap.

Of course you do…”

“But, uh…we haven’t checked out that new lab you mentioned yet?” The word “new” had barely left Aaron’s mouth before Flint had lit up, already dashing out of the room. Aaron was quick to follow him to the lab in question, Saturn squawking out a demand for them to not touch anything, for Arceus’ sake as they arrived.

Flint waved off the warning. “We won’t, Sa– Cronus, relax!” A shattering noise was heard, as well as a quiet “whoops” from Aaron. “Oops…well, uh, nothing else after that!”

Saturn rubbed the bridge of his nose, breathing deeply. He needed a long, long, long vacation. Or three. Or a soundproof room to yell in, honestly.

TBC

Chapter Text

It was already late in the afternoon when Guzma led Golisopod and Cyrus – uh, Cyrus-as-him – to the small Pokémon center in yet another hick town, and all three of them had been sopping wet. Guzma was able to get them checked into a room at the Pokémon Center with little difficulty, as well as set up Cyrus and their Pokémon for check-ups. A hot shower and quick meal with a rather distraught and unresponsive Golisopod – who barely touched its dinner – ended their day.

Luckily for Guzma’s own growing worries, the man in his body was discovered to be generally fine. “Just a cold.” Nurse Joy had assured them with a gentle smile, earning a worried but relieved chirr from Golisopod. It’d stayed in its ball at first after being abruptly returned, wondering what its trainer was up to, but had quickly come to regret the decision once the man had began breaking down. What if it’d been too late?! But a cold – Guzma had dealt with those, before. Its boy was going to be fine.

“He needs plenty of rest and fluids when he wakes up. We’ve already had him transferred to one of the beds in your room, no need to worry.” She continued, offering Guzma the tray holding his- Cyrus’  Pokéballs. “Your Pokémon are all looking quite healthy too. Though, I would suggest you give them a bit more exercise outside of battling.”

Guzma gave her something of an affirmative for an answer, mind already checked out as he took the balls and led Golisopod to their designated room.

-

Afternoon of the next day found them quickly, despite Guzma waking up several hours earlier than he ever did in his own body. The Center had been kind enough to provide them with breakfast, as well as a small lunch – which Guzma had been sure to make Golisopod eat, even if he had to guilt the bug into doing so.

Afterwards, the bug-type outright refused to leave what it thought was Guzma’s side while the man remained unconscious, leaving Guzma on his own for the day. Sitting around in the Center while waiting for Cyrus to wake was a one-way ticket to Snoozeville. Guzma wasn't even sure how he’d managed to wait this long, and if he had to guess from his own experiences being sick, Cyrus was gonna be out of it at least until later that night. Great.

So now, Guzma found himself alone, boredom having driven him to meander around the sleepy little town. It would’ve been more fun with his usual buggy companion by his side, but nooo, that damn troll just had to go and get sick. Eventually, his feet led him all the way to what he could only assume was a Pokémon Daycare.

The daycare’s fence gave a low creak as Guzma leaned against it, but held firm as the Alolan-turned-Sinnohite observed the Pokémon being cared for. He honestly couldn’t place the names of any of them – his only non-Alolan native Pokémon experiences being those that came with the tourists – but he knew they were happy. Even now they were having fun and playing silly games with each other while the daycare worker groomed and fed them in between play sessions. He never really bothered checking out the daycare in Alola, but if he had to guess, it was probably just like this.

Movement on the other side of the fence caught his attention. One of the Pokémon – some small, white one – went to tackle a ball twice its size, only to bounce off of it instead, tumbling away again. The blunder drew a laugh out of Guzma, especially when he saw a couple more repeat the process. Pokémon sure loved to play, no matter how old they got. You let ‘em loose and they’re ready to stretch and run and battle.

Watching the Pokémon brought to mind his home back in Po Town, with the rest of the (former) Skulls. Nanu had always compared them to Pokémon stuck inside a ball, hanging out in the walled-off town the way they did. Guzma’d never liked the concept, nor did most of the Grunts – after all, though Po Town was home, it was a place to come home to above all. If it had been something trapping them in, they would’ve hated it too much to stay.

Memories of Lusamine demanding he keep Golisopod and his other bugs contained at all times rose unbidden, and he cringed in response. They’d really been upset about that, especially Golisopod. He glanced down, met once more with what were definitely not his own arms resting on the fence.

Right. He was Cyrus – er, in Cyrus’ bod– no, wait, that sounds even worse. Point was, he had Cyrus’ Pokémon, who had been cooped up in their Pokéballs for Tapu knows how long, and with minimal excursions outside of them since Guzma had met the cave troll. Looking back out over the daycare’s grounds, he felt an idea forming in his brain. Well…Nurse Joy DID say to let them exercise…

Spur-of-the-moment decision made, Guzma called out to a daycare worker he spotted rolling out some fresh Pokémon food. Once her attention was garnered he shouted. “Yo, would y’all mind if I let…uh, my Pokémon out to play here for a few hours? No daycaring required!”

The worker, in standard Pokémon Breeder class attire, balked at his question, unsure of letting a stranger into the area, and almost lost her grasp on the barrel of Pokémon kibbles she’d been carrying. “Um, I- No, I don’t think- Well, I just work here sir! You’ll have to talk to-”

Guzma continued on, pretending he hadn’t heard her, a classic tactic from Team Skull. “’Cuz, well, they’ve been in their balls for a hel– an awful long time now, so it’d probably be nice for them to get out an’ stretch a bit, y’know?” The Alolan-turned-Sinnohite reasoned, watching her conviction waiver, but only slightly. Luckily for him, the old man running the place with his wife had been drawn over by the commotion.

The old man took a good, long look at Guzma before barking out a laugh. “Not often we get trainers who think like that, after all!” He stated with a wheezy chortle. “Yes, yes, you’re more than welcome to let your companions play here.”

Guzma thanked him, hopping the fence on instinct instead of heading over to the gate, much to the Daycare Man’s amusement. Six flashes of light later, Cyrus’ team was fully released from their containment. They blinked around in confusion at first, before all eyes turned to Guzma. All it took was a gesture towards the specialized daycare field for most of Cyrus’ Pokémon to get the hint, giving a collective shrug before splitting up to relax.

Though initially nonplussed about the lack of lake to dive into, it didn’t take Gyarados long to begin splashing around in the daycare’s small, shallow pond like a little Magikarp. It managed to startle more than a few of the other Pokémon in the daycare. Until they realized the Atrocious Pokémon meant them no harm, and many of them began to make a game of sliding along Gyarados’ back.

Honchkrow went and roosted…somewhere, Guzma wasn’t quite sure, but he could still hear it cawing every now and then, so good enough. He was still a little salty about being dropped in Veilstone.

Weavile had gone ahead and reclined against one of the little tunnels set up in the field, putting on an air of nonchalance – though, it was still pretty obvious how it was keeping an eye on the rest of its pack.

Houndoom, in contrast, stayed standing next to Guzma, tail wagging intermittently. Its head kept swiveling between the other playing Pokémon, then back to Guzma, whining softly.

“Whatcha waitin for? Go play!” Houndoom’s eyes lit up instantly at Guzma’s words, the canine Pokémon bounding off with an excited bark. It wasn’t long before it’d gotten into a game of tag with the other Pokémon running around.

Crobat did similar to Honchkrow in that it settled down, though it snagged some of the food left out for the daycare Pokémon first, and set itself up on a nearby fence. Had to keep an eye on its trainer, after all. Especially with how odd he’d been acting. Though, with how he was playing with Cleffa for once, it was starting to wonder if it was just looking a Giftrafarig in the mouth…

Playing with the baby Pokémon had seemed like the obvious choice to take. But for some reason, Guzma just couldn’t settle his mind on the issue at hand. It was just so…odd? The Star Shape Pokémon acted too maturely to still be a baby, and seemed like it’d been with Cyrus for quite some time…so then, why hadn’t it evolved yet?

It didn’t take long for the daycare worker to notice the little Star Shape Pokémon, and even less to begin cooing over it. “Aww, it’s so cute!” She cooed, reaching to pet the little one. “People never bring Cleffa here, they’re always Clefairy, or Clefable, by then.”

Though startled at first by the unexpected contact, Cleffa quickly began giving off a happy, trilling noise in response. Guzma grinned as he took over once more, giving rubs and scritches to the tiny pal once the breeder had pulled away after the initial paps.

Staying to watch the trainer and Pokémon interact after she’d withdrawn her hand, something else caught the worker’s attention. As a certified Pokémon breeder, she was privy to a lot more knowledge about Pokémon growth than most trainers. As such, it caught her off-guard to realize that the Cleffa was a lot older than she initially thought – it wasn’t a baby at all! “Wow, either you’re with the B-Button League or you feed this little guy a lot of bitter medicines. I’ve never heard of one being so old, otherwise, and not evolved yet.”

Guzma paused, giving a forced smile after a moment. “...ya don't say?” He made a mental note to grill Cyrus about this after the damn troll woke up; Cleffa was clearly still a bit surprised about getting to play, but it was evident that it was loving every minute of it.

TBC

Chapter Text

It’d been a long day of goofing around at the daycare before Guzma returned to the Pokémon Center that night. The old couple running the place had assured him it was fine to leave “his” Pokémon overnight, especially with how well they’d gotten along with the daycare Pokémon earlier. It’d be a good experience for them, he figured, getting to stay out of their Pokéballs for a while longer.

Guzma’s eyes softened a bit when he got back to the room, finding Golisopod sleeping cutely, all curled up around– well, himself, but technically Cyrus. Heh, no wonder Plumes kept calling him a teddy bear when he slept. He dug around Cyrus’ clothes for a moment, searching for the other man’s phone – a fancy touch screen like Plumeria had – and snapped a quick picture of the cuddle fest to send to his own phone. Of course, that would’ve worked better if he had put his phone on silent before they swapped bodies, or at least set the ringtone volume any lower than “obnoxiously loud”. The noise was nearly deafening compared to the previous silence, rousing the Sinnohite-turned-Alolan from his rest.

Cyrus…had certainly had worse wake-up calls, he was sure, but something about seeing himself staring back at him while a tacky marimba theme blared lent a surreal edge to this particular one. It didn’t take long for his memory to catch up with him, though. We’re still like THIS, are we?

The loud ringing had woken Golisopod up as well, the sleepy bug-type blinking a few times before registering the ‘cave troll’ that had suddenly returned to the room. Hadn’t he just left?? It went on the defensive immediately, hissing and clicking at the newcomer. This ‘troll’ wasn’t about to roll his eyes and ignore the bug, though.

“Whatcha hissin’ at me for, yo?” Guzma snarked in his typical fashion, putting Cyrus’ phone back before the other man could notice he had it out. “You’re cuddlin’ the real troll over there!”

Golisopod gave pause at the comment, gaze swiveling between the two humans. What? But this was its boy, not some weird guy they’d met in a cave! This was its boy, who was– shoving it again, now, with a disgusted look on his face. Was this its boy?

“Hey, hey! Don’t be mean, yo. Goli carried ya the whole way here, y’know. Welcome back to the world a’ the livin’, by the way.” Guzma snarked, taking a seat on the side of Cyrus’ bed. If he just so happened to sit down with enough force to jostle the other man, well, he wasn’t hearing any complaints.

“It carried you the whole way here, you mean…” Was the grumbled response, Cyrus finally sitting up now that he was able to. “Being suffocated by a bug isn’t exactly what I’d call ‘welcoming’, but it’s evident you and I have different standards. I don’t suppose you have any idea when this effect will reverse, do you.”

Guzma opened his mouth to reply, but paused, shutting it again as he rubbed the back of his head on instinct. Damn, this guy’s got weird hair. “Uhhh…bug-dragon didn’t say, exactly…somethin’ about stayin near each other?” Though he wasn’t sure quite how near that ‘near’ meant, unfortunately. A conflicted gaze swept between the two beds in the room. They wouldn't have to share one, right?

To say Cyrus wasn’t amused would be an understatement, sort of like saying “Stark Mountain is kinda hot”, but he was still too tired from being sick to bother with it further. Granted, he was feeling a bit better than before. Still more emotional than he’d like to be, though! Far too emotional.

Once the true cave troll could muster the energy, Guzma moved from his seat to let the man shuffle over to the other, bug-free bed. The endeavor used up most of the strength left in his illness-weakened body, but that didn’t stop him from demanding that Guzma sleep in his daywear as he collapsed on the other mattress.

Cyrus’ words drew a scoff from Guzma. “Whatsamatter? Don’t want me seein’ ya naked?” The Alolan deigned mentioning his shower the day previous. They were even now.

“Yes! Glad you finally understand something! Now go to bed!”

Guzma rolled his eyes, but didn’t bother continuing the conversation, seeing as the other man was already halfway back to Sleepville again. Instead, he flopped down next to Golisopod, who had begun to doze off again itself. The bug-type startled awake again and blinked at Guzma. Was this its boy, now?

The Alolan heaved a heavy sigh, knowing how confusing this all must be for his best bug, and opened his arms to the isopod. “C’mon, yo. Let's get some sleep.” With a sleepy chirr in reply, Golisopod hesitantly curled around him.

-

When Cyrus awoke, he could practically measure how much calmer he was than he fell asleep feeling. He was also a lot closer to being suffocated by a bug-type again. With a cross between a sigh and a groan, he went to shove Golisopod off of him, startling when he realized he was back in his own body. Perhaps it’d been a timed effect…? Either way, he doubted the fool in the other bed had bothered maintaining his hygiene for him, so he made a beeline to the bathroom for a long shower. A very long shower.

Said fool awoke to the sound of Cyrus shutting the door behind him, blearily looking over in the direction of the noise. Guzma’s head was too foggy for him to discern much other than Golisopod, looking at him curiously from the other bed. He flashed it a crooked smile and waved it over, the bug-type more than happy to comply. This must be its boy! The two Alolans snuggled while Cyrus showered, the white noise of the water running lulling them back to sleep.

-

It wasn’t long before Guzma found himself abruptly woken back up, this time by a fresh-from-the-shower Cyrus who had just discovered all his Pokémon were missing. Unfortunately for the Sinnohite, his frustrated urgency was dulled by the cold Guzma was contending with. The former Skull Boss had to take a minute just to wake up enough, then another to process Cyrus’ words.

“Yo, chill, they’re just at the daycare.” Guzma rasped out, nudging his buggy companion awake in the process. What was the guy so up-in-arms about??

Under any other circumstances, Cyrus would’ve bolted from the room to retrieve his team. As it stood, though, he didn’t want to risk another body-swap – not knowing how exactly it was triggered, just yet – from getting too far away from Guzma. He’d just gotten his body back, for Arceus’ sake. Instead, he resigned himself to waiting (impatiently) for Guzma to get himself fully coherent, enduring one of the other man’s mushy babytalk moments with his bug.

Then, because of course, the Alolan insisted on getting breakfast before leaving, too. Cyrus barely managed to get down a slice of toast during it, too wound up thinking about his Pokémon for his appetite to have much presence. At the very least, he was glad he wasn’t stuck worrying while in Guzma’s body – one breakdown was enough for the year, in his opinion. Speaking of whom, the Alolan had been strangely quiet throughout the morning, aside from his disgustingly affectionate display towards his bug after he'd woken them up. Not particularly in the mood to hear the other blather on, Cyrus decided against looking the Giftafirig in the mouth, for now.

Meanwhile, though Guzma would admit to dragging his feet to get going, for once he couldn’t say it was out of spite. Though he hid it shockingly well…holy fuck, was he always like this?! After acclimating to the emotional desert that was Cyrus’ body, suddenly switching back to his own was almost overwhelming. He’d never realized how wild his own emotions got, until now, when he was struggling to handle them. The fact that Golisopod had yet to let go of him since getting up that morning was probably the main reason he’d been able to keep it together at all. Caught up in all this, he was less than observant of Cyrus’ antsiness, or of how the other barely ate anything.

Once breakfast had been conquered – by Golisopod, naturally, who’d enjoyed a very filling meal due to both men shoving more than half of their food over to the bug-type – the trio checked out of the PokéCenter and left. With Cyrus all keyed up and Guzma fighting both sickness and emotions, both were too distracted to take note of another lookalike-man that caught a glimpse of them.

TBC

Chapter Text

Cyrus was still fuming when they finally, finally left the Pokémon Center, ready to start snapping at a moment’s notice should the imbecile a step or two behind him suddenly regain his chattiness. Leaving them at a daycare…Cyrus was a wanted criminal now, and Guzma had thought it would be wise to leave his Pokémon at a daycare? Even with logical reasoning beating it down, the Sinnohite couldn’t swallow the fear rising at the back of his throat, which only served to aggravate him further.

The daycare wasn’t too far from the Pokécenter, thankfully. And as they approached the fence, Cyrus felt his anger and worry start to dissipate – his team were all out in the field, playing with the others at the daycare. The former cave troll paused for a moment watching as his well-trained team frolicked like Buneary in the fields. Guzma, still leaning into one of Golisopod’s claws, came to rest against the fence railing next to him.

Catching onto what Cyrus was seeing, the Alolan felt a smug grin spread over his face despite his inner turmoil. But, before he could comment, the other man’s Pokémon noticed the duo. With excited cries, the majority of the team rushed towards their trainer, leaving the daycare Pokémon watching on in curiosity.

Cyrus knelt to pet them, inspecting them each closely in the process, before turning his head to Guzma. “…what did you do to them?” They’d never been this energetic and eager to see him before – sure, they loved him and all but this? This felt more in-line with Golisopod’s antics. (He took a moment to thank his past self for never including any bugs in his lineup.)

Guzma shot him a funny look in reply. “What’d I do to ’em? I didn’t do nothing I wouldn’t’ve done for Golisopod. Play time, treats, there ain’t much to it?” His eyes narrowed in suspicion as Cyrus gently picked up the Cleffa, the Star Shape Pokémon trilling happily. Was this guy a Pokémon abuser?

It didn’t take long for the daycare worker from before to emerge from the building, making a beeline for the two trainers. “Hey again!”

Without thinking, Guzma automatically raised his hand in a wave, a slight smile coming to his face at all the welcome distractions. “Hey yaself!” The woman glanced at him curiously for a moment, returning the wave, before regarding Cyrus again. Oh. Right. The disappointment he felt was followed by a gentle chirr from Golisopod as the bug squeezed his shoulder with one of its smaller arms.

“Thanks a bunch for helping out yesterday,” The worker went on, holding out Cyrus’ Pokéballs to him. “They all behaved excellently. You’ve raised them well!”

Cyrus accepted the Pokéballs numbly, still a bit stunned as he tried to figure out just what he had slept through. Six flashes of red light later, and his Pokémon were safely returned to their capsules. The Sinnohite managed to snap out of his daze in time to thank the worker before they were off again. This time, they headed south – or, rather, Guzma headed south, with Cyrus following behind, not really paying attention.

While lost in thought, Cyrus remained unaware of what Guzma and Golisopod were up to, until the sound of screaming grabbed his attention. He looked up just in time to catch Guzma manhandling an older woman while Golisopod clung to a ridiculous number of packages.

Oh lovely, NOW what have they done?! Expecting the worst, Cyrus hurried over, several fake apologies queueing up on autopilot, but upon arriving the lady appeared to be…thanking them?

“Oh you’re so kind, I would’ve dropped all of those for SURE, and then I’d have to go all the way back to Hearthome, oh.” She tittered, tutting in disappointment at that last thought.

Now that she was steady on her feet, Guzma relinquished his hold on her, opting instead to run one of his hands through his hair in embarrassment. Man, it felt nice having his usual floof back – way better than that troll’s spikes. “Ah, ain’t no problem, miss?”

“Nonsense! I really must thank you and your Pokemon.” She insisted, glancing over to the bug-type. Golisopod preened and puffed out its chest a bit, emitting happy little bug noises. The lady laughed and fished around in her purse, the only bag still on her person, and produced a poffin, offering it to the large Pokémon. “Such a good Pokémon deserves a treat, yes you do~!”

Golisopod nearly dropped all of the bags in its excitement for the treat, paying no heed to Guzma’s yelp as he caught the few that managed to fall. The woman didn’t notice, too wrapped up in cooing over Golisopod as it munched on the poffin.

Cyrus cleared his throat, hoping to get moving on quickly. “As…charming as this has been, we really must be going. So if you could please direct us in the placement of your packages–”

“Oh, well bless your little pea-pickin’ heart.” The stranger gave a wide grin, assuming the statement was an offer to help carry everything all the way home for her. She prattled on about the two “generous, upstanding boys” as she set off northwards, not realizing that she was talking only to Golisopod at the moment. The “boys” in question had yet to begin following her, unlike Golisopod, who was right on her heels in hopes of another treat. Guzma and Cyrus shared a look, for once on the same page as the woman glanced back at them. “Are you coming?”

“Right behind ya.” Guzma chirped with a strained smile, readjusting a couple of the bags he’d been burdened with as he trudged after her. Cyrus rolled his eyes at the exchange and followed along as well; the situation had already grown boring to him, but he couldn’t just wander away, either. The threat of another body swap was still fresh in his mind.

The trio were led back through town, then east into the stand of trees, where they then had to navigate the ledges littering the area. Cyrus almost felt bad enough to offer carrying some of the bags Guzma was struggling with. Almost. Luckily, they came across the woman’s house rather quickly – she held the door open for them, allowing Golisopod to sidle through with all its bags, then Guzma and Cyrus.

“Again, I can’t thank you enough!” She rambled on, already starting to get things organized away as soon as the bags were set down. “I would’ve been at my wit’s end if I had lost anything.”

“No trouble, miss, but like th’ Troll said, we should–”

“Aha! That’s it!” The woman snapped her fingers before digging through one of the bags they’d carried in, producing a small blue box from it. “I know just how to thank you!” She offered the container to Guzma, who took it with confusion and mild trepidation.

“What is it?”

To the side, Cyrus immediately recognized the seal case for what it was, and barely suppressed a groan. Don't tell me… He just knew this was going to end with another unnecessary escapade. Joy.

As Cyrus internally groaned, the woman had explained the container to Guzma. “Anyway, it’s always helpful to have, especially if you want to make it big in those contests over in Hearthome. They’re so much fun!” The lady laughed, “And the winning Pokemon for each contest is awarded a lovely prize ribbon!”

Ribbons!? Golisopod snapped to attention at the word, then whipped its head around to Guzma, eyes sparkling. That’s right! Guzma had taken its ribbons during the last battle spree! With all the drama building up, Golisopod had forgotten, but now it began chirring loudly as it nudged its trainer. It had ribbons! Its ribbons were cool! They should get more!

Guzma gave a groan, almost getting knocked off his feet by the force behind Golisopod’s nudging. “Aight, aight, I get it already. We’ll go get more a’ ya damn ribbons, happy?”

The hulking bug-type gave an excited, buggy roar at the concession. Guzma shot an exasperated look over to Cyrus, but the Sinnohite offered no relief. “Don't look at me, it’s not my fault you spoiled it.”

The ex-Skull Leader pouted. “Whatever, yo! Just take us to this Hearthome place.”

Cyrus’ eyes narrowed – he was about to reject the idea when Golisopod leaned forward, giving him its best (still gross) bug babydoll eyes. “Ugh, fine! Just keep that thing out of my sight.” He relented, pushing the bug’s face back slightly.

Golisopod was all but vibrating with excitement as they set off, the woman calling out to them as they left. “Good luck in the contest hall, deary!”

TBC

Chapter Text

In retrospect, Cyrus wasn’t exactly sure why he hadn’t expected the Alolan duo to take advantage of the sandy slopes on Route 209. There wasn’t any reason for non-bicyclists to even bother with them – but no, apparently there weren’t any bikes in Alola, either, so that information just sailed over Guzma’s head. (What kind of region didn’t even have bikes…?)

And thus, there they were. Cyrus stood off to the side, trying to pretend not to know Guzma as the man and bug skidded down the bike slopes, Golisopod acting as a giant sled. There was a reason those were for bicycles!

The Sinnohite shook his head with a sigh, recalling with nearly a touch of fondness how he’d almost convinced Guzma to explore the Lost Tower right when they’d left Solaceon Town. Guzma had almost fallen for it, too, if it hadn’t been for one of the groundskeepers calling out to the foreigner about the ghosts lurking within. Ah, well. Maybe next time.

The man’s thoughts were cut off as Guzma shouted to him from the bottom of a slope. “Yo, Cy! Ya gotta try this!”

“I’d much rather not, if you don’t mind.” Cyrus could barely contain a grimace at the other’s disheveled appearance. Honestly, wasn’t he supposed to be recovering from a cold? How on earth was he already so active again?

“Tch–” Of course, Guzma just had to take that as an opening. “Well, what if I do? Maybe havin’ a lil fun for once ‘d do ya some good!”

“Yes, because breaking my neck is the epitome of good health.”

Guzma scowled at the deadpan response, though Cyrus could swear it more closely resembled a pout. Was the other man really that upset that Cyrus wouldn’t indulge him in such a childish game? Body-swap notwithstanding, he barely even knew Guzma beyond being a pest – he didn’t owe the man anything, least of all his dignity! Rolling his eyes, Cyrus pressed on. “Well then, if you’re done rolling around in the dirt like the bugs you love so much, I would like to be past this route before the next coming of Arceus.”

“‘I would like to be past this route before the next coming of Arceus.’” Guzma mimicked in a mocking tone under his breath, but dusted himself off nonetheless, turning to regard his bug. “C’mon big guy, the sour troll wants ta go.”

Golisopod’s only answer was a loud whine. Seeing that it was going to take a bit of convincing, even from its own trainer, Cyrus bit back a sly grin as he casually reminded it of the objective. “You don’t want to go? Hm, and here I’d thought for sure you’d want to get to those contests and win another frivolous ribbon.”

The hulking bug-type was much more simple to understand than its trainer, luckily. Golisopod was on its feet in a heartbeat at the mention of ribbons, dragging Guzma along as the two clambered up the steps and out of the pit they’d slid down into.

Once out, they’d barely gotten more than a few steps before a young cowgirl came racing up to them, gesturing at Guzma. “Hey, you! Bug-man!”

“Eh?” Guzma cocked his head at the excited trainer. The hell was this…?

“Can’t b’lieve I found YOU of all people.” Her grin widened as she stopped in front of them, Guzma only growing more confused. “I’m Shelly!” She greeted, wielding a single Pokéball. “Let’s battle! Me ‘n you, one on one!”

“Aw hell yeah!” Guzma exclaimed, prompting a whine from Golisopod. The ribbons, Guzma!! “Oh c’mon, this’ll be the perfect warm up!” The Alolan tried to reason.

“Do you even know what a contest is?” Cyrus droned out, less than amused.

Guzma chose to ignore Cyrus’ comment, especially seeing as his buggy partner had warmed up to the idea. Ribbons or no, Golisopod couldn’t deny being gungho about battling.

With a small cheer, Shelly sent out her Pokémon, a…Ponyta. Guzma saw red. “Okay, yeah, I’m definitely kickin’ your ass.”

The battle started with Guzma squatting down as Golisopod lumbered over to face off against the fire-type. Cyrus elected not to comment on the habit – he still thought it was ridiculous, sure, but the man had been consistent about it so far. Just another oddity about the foreigner, it seemed.

“Alright Goli, let’s give ‘em a good First Impression!” The bug-type roared and charged at the command – being Golisopod’s signature move, it was damn near impossible to anticipate for those that’d never seen one before. Ponyta ended up swatted aside for some major damage, but it was still far from out.

Shelly had an even larger grin on her face, now, if that were possible. “Should’ve expected a big openin’ from you!”

“Do you know her?” Cyrus asked quietly, standing close enough to where Guzma squatted so that only the other would hear.

“Never seen this chick before in my life!” Guzma snapped up from his position, dismissively. “Do ya mind! Tryin t’ focus here!”

“Hm…” Cyrus filed the information away for later.

The cowgirl was quick to call their attention back to the fight. “Better keep yer eyes on the battle, Bug-man! Yer about to lose!”

“Pfff, not in this century.” Guzma retorted, confident in his bug’s abilities, but the smug look on his face fell instantly at Shelly’s next command.

“Ponyta, Bounce!”

“Shit! Move!” The Alolan swore. Golisopod whined as it tried to dodge the incoming flying-type attack, but the move’s landing was inevitable – the attack took a sizeable cut out of the bug’s HP.

Cyrus watched on as the two fought, following along with the battle instead of ignoring it like the previous ones. In his natural environment, this Guzma was a stark contrast to the pest he was every other moment of the day.

“Oh, you’re gonna regret that!” Guzma warned his eager opponent, but despite his tone of voice, the growing grin on his face betrayed his true feelings. Nothing was more thrilling than an exciting match. “Razor Shell!”

Shelly gave a gasp at the move choice, not having known the foreign bug could use water-type attacks. “Get back from it!” Ponyta reacted quickly, galloping out of range for the expected water move. As the seconds ticked by, though, it seemed to have been a completely unnecessary action. Both trainers and their audience of one stood waiting for the attack from Golisopod, which…never came?

“…Huh?” Shelly and her Ponyta looked to Cyrus as if he could provide an explanation. He gave a slight shrug of his shoulders in response – how was he supposed to know? Focus was dragged back to Guzma as realization dawned on the man.

“You didn’t…” He groaned, running his hands through his hair. Golisopod chirred sheepishly.

Shelly was first to recover, unfortunately. “Don’t you fret none, Ponyta! He musta been pullin’ a trick! Counter with Flame Charge!”

“DODGE!” Golisopod barely got out of the way of the fire horse Pokémon in time – and likely wouldn't the next. Obviously agitated at the turn of events, the bug specialist called out a different attack. “Rockslide!” Guzma was visibly relieved when the bug actually did something, this time.

“Flame Charge, again! Use it t’ dodge the rocks!” The skillful Ponyta followed its trainer's commands, using its flame-enhanced speed to dart out of the way of the falling boulders, successfully dodging every stone.

“Damnit!”

If the smirk on her face was any indication, it was apparent that Shelly thought she had the battle in the bag. “We got him now, Ponyta! Yer too fast fer him t’ dodge ya! Let’s go! One more Flame Charge!”

The bug-type specialist was far from being outdone, though. A crooked grin flashed across his face suddenly. “Sucker Punch.”

Shelly’s eyes widened, realizing her error. “No, wait!” She tried to call Ponyta back, but it was too late – the fire horse charged forward, only for Golisopod to ram a clawed arm into it at the last possible moment. The speed and momentum from Ponyta’s Flame Charge came back to bite it as it took the hit, wiping out the last of its HP.

The cowgirl looked stunned for a moment, then sighed with a smile, returning her Pokémon. “You take yerself a long rest now, Ponyta.”

Guzma and his bug cheered, sharing a high five as Cyrus shook his head at their antics, ever more accustomed to their emotional displays. Shelly approached once again to congratulate them, fixing her hat. “Man, I thought for SURE all that hubbub was nothin’ but rumors, but you really are a top-class trainer.”

The comment caught both men off-guard. “Hubbub?”

“Well, sure! Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout you! I’m sure you’ll prob’ly meet more’n a few others who wanna test out that reputation a yers.” A sudden beeping startled Shelly, the cowgirl glancing down at a strange…not-watch device on her wrist. “Ah shoot, I’m late fer work! Thanks for battlin’ with me, it sure was fun! Say what’s yer name anyway?” She asked, shaking Guzma’s hand.

“Uh…Guzma?” The Alolan managed, still kind of shellshocked at the information.

Shelly gave a smile, tipping her hat. “Well, good luck to ya, Mr. Guzma.” She nodded to Cyrus as she left, rushing off back towards Solaceon.

Once the cowgirl was out of hearing range, Cyrus turned to Guzma, dread starting a slow boil in his stomach. “You have a reputation, now?”

“Y-yeah…” The Alolan’s shock was quick to melt into a huge grin at the assertion, excitement visible on his face. “I guess I do!”

TBC

Chapter Text

As the Cowgirl, Shelly, had predicted, they did end up meeting several other trainers on Route 209 who called Guzma out demanding battles. With each new battle and each new victory, Guzma somehow could only grin wider, clearly enjoying the praise and winning streak. Building up his new reputation was awesome – and showing off in front of his reluctant companion was a bonus, too. (Uh, not that he cared, of course. Guy was a jerk.)

Unfortunately for Guzma, Cyrus could only see it as the other man’s swelling ego. So he won a few battles, what was so significant about that? What irked Cyrus even more was the fact that, with all these extra stops – combined with escorting the lady home in Solaceon, and Guzma spending possibly HOURS playing with his bug on the slopes – there was only one, very unwanted, outcome for the quickly approaching night. He felt whatever approximation of a soul he had wither slightly at the concept. Maybe he could still convince the other two…he tried in vain to summon hope. This wasn’t going to end well, he already knew.

Guzma stretched and yawned after the latest challenger had taken their leave. “What a day it’s been, aye bud?” An affirmative chirr sounded out from Golisopod, very pleased but obviously very tired from the day’s exertion. “Aww, ya all tuckered out ain’t ya buddy?” The bug nodded with a pitiful whine, nuzzling into Guzma’s chest. Cyrus’ nose wrinkled up in distaste, but he chose not to comment, focusing instead on the issue at hand.

“The Pokemon center in Hearthome City is still several hours that way.” Cyrus pointed in an attempt to keep the group moving. If the look he got from the other man was any indication, though, he was better off bidding such an idea goodbye.

“You nuts?” Guzma scoffed, incredulous. “It’s already sunset, yo! We ain't gonna keep walkin’ a few more hours! We’re settin’ up and sleepin’ out here!” Golisopod agreed with a chuff.

To say Cyrus was unimpressed with the situation would be an understatement – he’d intended to sleep in an actual bed tonight. The cans of Repel he always kept well-stocked were his only saving grace.

-

About an hour later found Guzma and Golisopod sitting next to a small fire, the bug-type gulping down one of the Moomoo Milks Cyrus had purchased while its trainer nursed the soda pop he’d managed to hold on to since he’d arrived. The bug specialist didn’t pay much attention to the fizzy drink, brain already whirring at the idea of more bugs to see now that night had fallen. He couldn’t wait! Maybe those small, red ones from the clearing would show up?

Neither had packed a tent – Guzma had nothing but Golisopod and the clothes on his back, and Cyrus never had any intention of staying outside to begin with. Still, the food rations the troll had gotten would make a decent meal, at the very least…if the man would get them out and going already. Honestly, if they had to wait any longer, Guzma was gonna dig into the guy’s bag himself! They already had enough firewood for a few hours at the least, the hell was Cyrus doing? The Alolan turned at the sound of a faint hiss, catching sight of Cyrus spraying Repel along the ground.

What are you doing?!”

“I have no intention of being mobbed in the night by wild Pokémon! We have no tents, so I am clearing the area with other means.”

Guzma whined loudly at the statement, about a third of a second from complaining, only to get a spritz of Repel for his trouble. Startled, he stumbled back and into Golisopod, who hissed at the smell of the spray.

Cyrus made quick work of surrounding their sleeping area, and was soon dishing out food, his own Pokémon joining them around the fire. His Gyarados perked up when it noticed Golisopod, the two water-types cheering in greeting. They started to play around almost immediately, straying from the camp, only to run face-first into the wall of Repel. Hacking and snorting, they made their way back to the center of camp, shooting glares at Cyrus.

With nothing better to do, the two water-types settled for joining the rest of the travel party for the lackluster meal. Guzma and Golisopod all but inhaled their portions; a day of battling was an easy way to work up an appetite. Cyrus’ Pokémon ate almost as ravenously as the Alolans, though generally with far better manners. Even the snooty Honchkrow only gave a cursory scoff at the meal before chowing down. Though, Gyarados was still glaring as it munched, grumpy about the face-full of Repel it had endured.

A certain tiny, pink blob caught Guzma’s attention as they ate. Cleffa was sitting on Cyrus’ lap again, delicately munching away at the food on Cyrus’ own plate as well. It was…kind of weird, seeing the small Pokémon so at ease around the Cave Troll. Guzma could feel himself circling back to the same old question, and it was getting frustrating – was Cyrus abusing his team? The bug specialist certainly hadn’t seen it, aside from the man forgetting to feed his Pokémon while he himself also starved in the Distortion World. But why was it still a Cleffa, then? It didn’t have an everstone. And from what little he knew, a Pokédex was needed to pull off a B-Button maneuver. He’d have to just…keep watching, he supposed.

Once their meal had been consumed, Guzma fixed Golisopod with a patented Look ready to tackle the OTHER problem that had been plaguing his mind. The bug-type tried it’s best to pretend not to notice, but failed spectacularly.

“Aight, what’d ya replace it with THIS time?” Guzma questioned, arms crossed like a disappointed parent. The bug tilted its head trying to ramp up the confused bug look – was it playing dumb? Cyrus watched on with minor curiosity, his pause in eating allowing Cleffa to snitch more off his plate. This was…a new interaction.

“Don’t act stupid! Ya do this ALL the damn time! Ever since Kukui–!” The Alolan clenched his fists and growled, before giving an angry huff. “Nevermind. What d’ya know now? I gotta know ya moves if we’re gonna battle, yo.”

Golisopod had the decency to look effectively cowed and remorseful, but honestly, it just couldn’t help itself! New moves were so cool! It still wasn’t entirely sure why Guzma and Kukui stopped hanging out, anyway. Guzma had totally supported the move changes when they were younger – it made all of their battles unique.

One successful interrogation later, and the mystery move was revealed to be Liquidation. Which was…pretty damn cool, even Guzma had to admit. “But ya better not do it again, ya hear me!” He scolded, despite being fully aware that the bug was gonna pull the same thing again somewhere down the road. Damn bug. This was why most of it's moves were TM taught. “If you weren't so damn cute…” The specialist grumbled, shaking his head at the bug’s antics.

Cyrus cast the other man a Look of his own, still unable to figure out just why the man kept claiming the bug-type was cute. His Pokémon were largely ignoring the Alolan duo, but Weavile felt it necessary to give Cyrus the same stare, as if it couldn’t believe the company he’d chosen. Cyrus raised a brow at the sharp claw Pokémon’s silent accusation, somewhat offended. As if he had chosen to travel with these idiots…

Once everyone had completed their share of the meal, Cyrus returned his Pokémon for the night. Cleffa went last, just as all the other times – averse as he was to letting others see the small Pokémon, he still enjoyed having it out. Guzma watched the process before finally caving in. “Aight, what’s up with that one, yo?”

The Sinnohite was on the defensive almost instantly, leveling a sharp glare at the other. “Mind your business and go to bed.” He snapped, voice cold as he laid down, pointedly facing away from Guzma. The lack of proper camping supplies had made itself well-known at that point – Cyrus probably should’ve brought at least a sleeping mat for the Distortion World, but ah well. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Guzma huffed at the response, not being tired at all, but it was drowned out by another yawn from Golisopod. The hulking bug-type settled down on the ground, dragging its trainer down with it for snuggles. Truth be told, the melodramatic bug was worried about its boy – last time it let Guzma go, the man had gotten sick. Granted, that had been Cyrus as his boy, but…

The Alolan trainer scoffed, interrupting Golisopod’s worrying. “I ain’t gonna go nowhere, jeez.”

The bug-type calmed a bit at the assurance, dropping off into a deep sleep almost immediately afterwards. This left Guzma just laying there, clutched against the bug’s belly, still wide awake. Troubled thoughts and unfamiliar environments had always made getting to sleep – and staying asleep – hell for the ex-Skull Leader, and this was no different. He laid there for all of…maybe a minute before opening his mouth to pester Cyrus. “Yo, do you think you c–”

“Absolutely not.” Cyrus didn’t even allow him to finish the sentence. He knew what Guzma was going to ask, and he was not going to tell that story again; the Alolan had heard it twice already, that was enough! “Now go to sleep, you’re still getting over a cold.”

“Tch, fine, hardass…” Guzma grumbled, shutting his eyes.

But, alas, sleep eluded him. He couldn’t train because Cyrus would bitch about it, and he couldn’t watch Pokémon due to the Repel sprayed all over the area. All he could do was lay there, held tight against Golisopod’s underbelly, and stew over the events of the last few days. They’d flown by so fast, too…it’d been five days already, six if the cave was taken into consideration. Tomorrow would be almost an entire week here.

Almost a week, and what had he to show for it? A cranky tag-along, a sudden insight on his fucked-up emotional level…oh, and a selfie with a bug-dragon. Which wasn't really much to write home about, after the cursory text message. Legendaries might be a big deal to the rest of the world, but when you could walk down the street any random day and see your guardian deity stealing berries from a vendor’s cart, the novelty sort of wore off.

Unfortunately, Guzma’s fretting was enough to rouse Cyrus from his slumber – the Alolan had been sighing and fidgeting without even realizing it. Now mildly cranky, the Sinnohite shot him another glare, this one more weary. “Go. To. Sleep.”

“Well shit, it's not like I ain't TRYING…” Guzma muttered back, sheepish.

After a long pause, Cyrus gave a sigh at the inevitability. “Many, many millennia ago…” He began, slowly; he was barely awake himself, but he still knew the story by heart. Eventually, his voice tapered off again, the story calming him down as well. But by then, his “audience” had already nodded off too, troubles left to worry about in the morning.

TBC

Chapter Text

Since their initial development, generic Repels could now boast of being able to last up to a hundred paces for active users. Unfortunately for Cyrus, this equated to only an hour or so when used on unmoving targets. Despite using up all of the spray he had in stock, the protective bubble around their sleeping area dissipated long before morning. Which meant…

“Did I die and go to heaven?” Guzma’s sleepy comment cut through Cyrus’ internal screaming. The trio had been swarmed by Wurmple overnight, the small bug Pokémon congregating around the closest heat sources to stay warm. The Sinnohite shook the bug-types off of him with a huff, snatching a Pokéball from his belt in the same motion.

“Houndoom, chase them off!” The dark Pokémon barked in acknowledgement before setting to work, snapping and blowing small puffs of smoke at the crawly bugs to scare them away. The scene was enough to wake Guzma up completely, the man shoving Houndoom’s snout away when the dark-fire-type tried to shoo away the Wurmple climbing on him.

“Don’t be mean, yo! They just wantin’ to say hi!” Cyrus rolled his eyes at the other’s protesting, calling Houndoom off. Seemed he would need to pick up some Max Repel as soon as they got to Hearthome, as basic Repel wasn’t cutting it – and he doubted this would be the last time the buggy idiot would have them camping out. Speaking of which, the other man was going through his usual morning emotional display, now with an extra helping of hyping Golisopod up.

The bug was beyond excited, if its chirping was anything to go by – this would be its first contest, after all!

Miraculously, once up and moving, they managed to make it to Hearthome without anymore battles disrupting their progress, thank Arceus. Guzma led the way to the PokéCenter as their first order of business; Golisopod had to be in tip-top condition before any kind of competition! Unable to find fault in the man’s reasoning, Cyrus grudgingly agreed.

While their teams were being healed, Guzma took the chance to make some small talk, leaning against the counter. “Y’know, me an’ Goli used to compete in battle competitions all the time back in Alola. Always did pretty damn good, too!” Granted, they’d won absolute fuckall, but that wasn’t something he felt necessary to share right then. “Things have been lookin’ up out here so far– aside from, y’know, the whole gettin’ sick thing.” Guzma wisely didn't bring up the cave or body-swap incidents. “So maybe it’s a sign we’re gonna get even better! Right?”

Cyrus shot him a glance that almost, almost teetered on concerned. Clearing his throat, he brought up his still-unanswered question from before. “You…do you know what a contest is, exactly?”

“It's a battle, right?”

The former Galactic Leader could feel his soul facepalming at the naive assumption. No bikes, no contests…just what the hell was Alola? Possibly actual hell, based on Guzma’s apparent intolerance for anything ‘cold’. If he hadn’t lived in the Distortion World for several months already, Cyrus might not have been able to attest the case.

The Sinnohite sighed. He had ample knowledge of contests, though very little inclination to explain why – hopefully, the foreigner would just pass it off as another Sinnoh Thing™ and not question further. His hopes were confirmed as he gave a brief rundown on the concept of contests, the performance and appeal, and how the battles ran a different course from usual trainer battles. “They’re about how your Pokémon look, not how fast they beat their opponent. The best coordinators will string a battle along to gain as many points as they need to win before the time limit.”

Guzma had started blue-screening not too far in, because honestly, what kind of assetry was this? And he had promised Golisopod, too, so now he had to do it! Shit.

As if on cue, the hulking bug-type came lumbering back in, Nurse Joy following with Cyrus’ Pokéballs. “All done! Your Pokémon are in perfect condition.”

“So, uh, Goli.” Guzma started off as Cyrus thanked the nurse, getting the bug’s attention. “About the contest thing…”

Now, he was supposed to follow that up with an explanation as to why it definitely was not going to be happening any time soon. But the way Golisopod’s face lit up at the mention of contests was enough to trample his resolve on the topic into the dirt. How was he supposed to say no to that face?! Guzma rubbed the back of his neck, looking over to Cyrus as if the man could give him an ide– wait.

“Uhh…yeah! Cy here was gonna show us how it’s done!” Guzma proclaimed, slinging an arm around the other man’s shoulders.

“Excuse me, I’m what?” Cyrus was quick to shrug off the Alolan’s arm. He was not about to voluntarily involve himself in this ridiculous–

“Listen, yo.” Guzma leaned in, keeping his voice at a low hiss so Golisopod wouldn’t hear him. “I dunno shit about contests, but I know I don’t wanna be haulin’ around a mopey bug for the next coupla weeks. And if Giratina was right about stayin’ close, you’ll be havin’ ta deal with it, too.”

The Sinnohite glared for a moment, but ultimately sighed, acquiescing. “Fine, then. But it’s going to be on my terms.” As if he was going to let these fools drag him around the entire region, anyway, for however long they were stuck together…a brief feeling of dread coiled through him at the possibility of their situation being permanent, but he dismissed it as soon as it made itself known. No, no – there was always a solution. And if they didn’t figure it out soon, then Cyrus would just make one. Saturn would be falling all over himself to help, no doubt.

As they departed from the Pokémon Center to begin a contest ‘crash course’ of sorts, the Sinnohite took a moment to wonder what his former second-in-command had gotten up to since their disappearance from the HQ. Hopefully nothing too rash…

-

Meanwhile, Saturn was doing something rash.

He had finally, finally managed to track down his fellow former Commanders, getting the two of them into a video call. Surprisingly – or unsurprisingly, knowing them – the two women were already together, and looking rather unimpressed that he had interrupted what seemed to be a date.

It was a challenge convincing them to even acknowledge that Cyrus was back, both of them having grown despondent on the idea after waiting for so long. The hysterical edge to Saturn’s voice when he mentioned how this “weirdo from Alola” – Guzma, a Team Leader himself, and a ruffian at that – had kidnapped Cyrus, was enough to get them on board.

Mars and Jupiter shared a look as Saturn talked. It was silently agreed that they both thought the blue-haired man was exaggerating a bit – but also that if Cyrus had, in fact, returned, then they would be returning as well.

“Saturn!” The redhead interrupted, cutting off the man’s tangent. “We’ll go find Master Cyrus and this– Mr. Team Skull or whatever, and bring boss back with us, alright?”

“But we’re finishing our date first.” Jupiter snapped.

Saturn let out a nervous laugh, recalling their disgruntled faces upon picking up the call. “Oh, uh, r-right, of course. Carry on!”

Quickly hanging up, the former Commander gave a deep sigh. Knowing the other two were aware now left him feeling a little – only a smidgen, though – better about the whole situation. Still…Saturn looked over to his computer, paranoid.

Maybe he ought to check the passenger lists of all the latest flights to Alola. Just in case.

TBC

Chapter Text

“Now, contests are divided into two parts: primary judging, and secondary judging. During the primary, your goal is to wow the audience and judges with a performance…” Cyrus was in full lecture mode as the trio strolled through Hearthome city, the Sinnohite leading the way to the Contest Hall. As much as he loathed having to do this, he knew he would hate having to deal with a whining bug-type more. So, for now at least, he would play along, and attempt to teach this neanderthal of a trainer about the finesse and artistic skills necessary to participate in a contest. (He wasn’t even going to pretend Guzma could actually win one. That was preposterous.)

“The second round is more move-based. Contestants are critically scored by a panel of judges based on both their move choices and execution. Well thought-out move combinations can yield–”

Guzma couldn’t measure how long it took to get bored with the explanation, but he knew it was something along the lines of hellaciously fast. Even Golisopod was noticeably losing interest! Which…well, wasn’t actually that bad of a thing, to be honest. For once, Guzma found himself fully supportive of the other man’s obnoxious monotone. His internal cheers were interrupted, though, when the scent of something delicious floated by. His stomach gave a loud grumble, and Golisopod responded with a chittering chuckle at his expense before its own followed suit. “Hah! Serves ya right.” Guzma stage-whispered at Golisopod. That’s right…with the bug surprise that morning, none of them had eaten breakfast yet.

Golisopod let out a low whine as it began to stray away, head held high as it tried to sniff out the source of the delicious smell. Having been walking ahead of the bug-type, Guzma was oblivious to his bug’s wandering until he glanced back, realizing it was just about to turn the corner around a building. “Wh– wait up, yo!” He called out, still in the quiet stage whisper, dashing after it. Inadvertently, this left Cyrus alone, still walking towards the Contest Hall, and now talking to himself.

As Cyrus finished his attempt to explain the need for a routine, he paused to allow the oddly quiet Alolan Duo to catch up. “Did you understand–” he turned around to speak to them, stopping short at his sudden lack of companions. “–any of that… Of course not.” The surprise didn’t last long, frustrated disappointment settling in its place. With a heavy sigh, Cyrus began the arduous task of backtracking through the sprawling city, attempting to locate his unwanted travel companions. To say he was amazed with himself for not up and leaving again, then and there, would be an understatement. That’s not to say he wasn’t still contemplating the repercussions of doing so.

It took about half a block of backtracking for him to stumble across the duo, who had taken up loitering just outside of the Poffin House, enjoying the savory scent emanating from within. Another sigh was heaved at the sight – of course something like that would be enough to draw them off-course. Fine. They would start with this, then.

“Thinking with your stomach isn’t going to help during the contest.” Cyrus deadpanned, startling the two as he approached.

“Goli’s fault.” Guzma was quick to point out, rubbing the back of his neck – a sheepish tell, the Sinnohite was learning. The bug-type in question whined loudly at the accusation, but received no mercy. “Yeah? Well, that’s for blamin’ me ‘bout Cy’s room, yo!”

Cyrus rolled his eyes as the bug groaned, beginning anew with his lesson. “Poffins are treats – as you may already have figured out, seeing as you cleaned out all of mine – but also have use in contests. We were going to do this part later, but since you’re both already here and distracted, we might as well start with it.”

“Yo, alright!” Both bug and trainer’s eyes lit up at learning they were going to get to find the source of the delicious smell after all – and probably eat it, too!

“Try and behave yourselves, would you.” The ex-Galactic Leader snarked as he led the way in, motioning for the other two to hurry up. He offered an offhand wave to the matron as they entered the building, so as to avoid having her interrupt them in his attempts to teach Guzma. The fact that the lady seemed to recognize Cyrus was enough to raise Guzma’s suspicion. The woman nodded at them, allowing the Sinnohite to continue leading Guzma to the cooking area, assured in her knowledge that Cyrus wouldn’t make a mess.

A few other patrons were there for the day, all nice and set up at the other tables, but none of them seemed to pay any mind to the two newcomers or the hulking bug type. They had their own cooking to focus on, after all.

Cyrus made quick work of getting down to business, grabbing a spoon with the intent of demonstrating how to properly make poffins before setting Guzma loose on the task. “Now, the purpose of poffins is to raise–”

Despite his best attempts to pay attention, for Golisopod’s sake if nothing else, Guzma still set a brand new record for losing attention. He managed to zone out after less than a sentence of Cyrus’ patented lecture voice. Cyrus caught on not soon after, feeling a bloom of disappointment curl up through his stomach. Was he truly that monotonous to listen to…? He’d lead an entire team without ever encountering this issue! Giving up at the other’s blank, glassy stare, Cyrus settled for just directing him over to the cooking area.

He threw a handful of berries next to the mixing bowl and forcefully shoved the spoon into Guzma’s hands, not particularly caring that the man had to fumble to avoid dropping the utensil. “Add the berries to the batter. Stir it. Don't spill or burn.” Cyrus snapped in short, clipped sentences, a slight frown obvious on his face. Hopefully that would break through the other's thick head! He turned on his heel, moving a few paces away to watch, arms held stiffly at his sides.

Guzma was startled, to say the least, by the very un-Cyrus action he’d just witnessed. His stare went to the spoon, then to the bowl, then to exchanging a look with Golisopod, who could only shrug. Cyrus remained nearly halfway across the room, glaring. “Uhh…”

“Well? Go on, then. Make them.” It was at times like these where Cyrus felt like his last name should have been Spite.

“Eheh, uh, okay, I guess.” Golisopod perked up at the words, crouching closeby. It was ready to receive some treats! The almost shiny-eyed look Guzma was getting from the bug was enough to draw a laugh out of him. “Ain't made any yet yo!” Making it a point to ignore Cyrus’ growing frown as he joked with his Pokémon, he scooped up the berries from the counter, plopping them into the mixing bowl. That’s when things got…tricky.

Guzma had a semi-coherent idea what to do – put berries in the batter, stir shit, stick it into the machine when done, that’s what Cyrus had said right? He shot another glance at the other man, who was still glaring at him.

“Well? What are you waiting for? Go wild.” The former cave troll monotoned, giving a curt nod towards the bowl. In hindsight, that…probably was not the best choice of words.

Guzma returned the glare – if this troll wanted to challenge him, then he’d show him up. Of course, doing so would be a fair bit easier if he, well, could. It took less than half a minute for Guzma to run out of batter, having stirred so fast that the substance had been flung out of the bowl and around the room. Both men, as well as Golisopod and several startled bystanders, now sported gooey batter as decoration. The table and floor didn’t fare much better – even the ceiling dripped with the berry-based slime. The mixing bowl, in contrast, sat as empty as the Distortion World.

The combination of angry looks and muttered comments about the mess from the other Poffin House-goers earned a sheepish look from Guzma, the bug trainer flashing an apologetic smile as Golisopod licked goop off of its exoskeleton. Cyrus deadpanned while he flicked goo off of himself in slow, measured strokes. “Are you quite proud of yourself?”

“Shut up, yo!” Guzma pouted as Golisopod moved on from itself and began nomming his hair, filling it with drool while removing all the batter that had settled there. “Just gimme some more berries, I got this!”

Cyrus, well aware that Guzma did not ‘got this’, gave an eye roll, but still handed over some more berries for the punk to ruin. At notice of this, many of those who had been in the splash zone of the man’s previous attempt quickly evacuated the shop with loud complaints. The matron couldn’t help her growing worry at this point, quickly regretting allowing Cyrus to waltz in with this destructive stranger.

Contrary to the expectations of the helpless bystanders, this time the brute only flung HALF the batter – he seemed to be getting the point of stirring slow. Except, now he was going too slow.

“You need to stir faster!” Cyrus barked, not looking forward to having to deal with batter that had been allowed to burn while in the mixing bowl.

Anger mounting, Guzma followed the command, only to launch the half-baked poffin mix into the air. Luckily enough, Golisopod snatched it out of midair like some parody of a Frisbee, rather pleased with both itself and its tasty treat.

“Have you never cooked before in your life? Start over.” Cyrus scoffed, providing more berries, much to the shop owner’s mortification.

“Um, I’m not sure that’s such a good–” She began, but it was too late – Guzma was already stirring again. The matron gave a small, strangled whine at the mess she already needed to clean up at that point, internally glad that the remaining patrons had dissipated after the second attempt. This was a disaster!

Ignoring the poor matron, Cyrus continued to critically monitor the other man’s attempt at progress, snapping out stirring commands intermittently. It quickly got to the point where Guzma just up and chucked the spoon at the Sinnohite in frustration, fed up with the man’s attitude.

“If ya so smart, then you do it! Sheesh!” Guzma groused, slouching. His arms were crossed as he matched Cyrus’ glare once more, scowl locked firmly in place.

Cyrus wiped a splatter of batter off of his face before stalking forward. “If you truly are incapable, then I suppose you leave me no choice.” He muttered. Collecting a new mixing spoon – Golisopod had grabbed the first one off the ground to lick clean, rendering it even further unusable – the ex-Galactic Leader shoved the fuming Guzma out of the way.

Not a spill or burn was to be found as Cyrus rapidly went through the memorized task, Guzma staying quiet all the while, still pissed off. The only reaction he gave was a muttered swear at seeing the poffins turn out perfect.

“Think you can do it now?” Cyrus asked, internally knowing it was a useless question at that point. Guzma huffed, refusing to look at him. “Perhaps you’ll actually listen to what I have to say for once, then.”

“Ain’t my fault ya drone on like a white noise machine, yo!” Guzma’s comment got him a glare in response. “Okay, okay! Maybe I could try a lil better ta listen. Happy now?”

That was…about as close as he was going to get, Cyrus supposed. He huffed, offering the spoon once more to Guzma, though with less force this time. “Now, the key to making good poffins is…”

-

A long, long time and Cyrus’ entire berry supply later, the results were… subpar, to say the least. Guzma had continued his grumbling throughout his ensuing attempts, with “attempts” being the operative word in the matter. Little progress was made towards improvement, leading to batch after batch of inedible creations.

Cyrus found himself rubbing at the bridge of his nose in agitation. Despite his efforts – his best efforts, at that – the other man just could not be taught! Now they had to clean up the resulting disaster zone the Poffin House had become due to Guzma’s failed attempts at cooking, a task assigned by one very irate matron.

As the two men cleaned, the process now being overseen by said matron, Golisopod snuck over to the pile of rejected treats. Guzma caught notice of the bug just as it gingerly sniffed at the most recent (and last) batch of…‘poffins’, promptly turning up its nose with an audible ‘blegh’.

“Oh c’mon, you ate a SOCK earlier!” Guzma protested. He’d worked hard on those!

“Yes. My sock.” Cyrus concurred, blandly – he was still pretty irritated about that. That and the fiasco he was reminded of with his bathroom. Oh Arceus. “It really is impossible to take you anywhere without you destroying something, isn’t it?”

Guzma let loose an obnoxious laugh at the observation, puffing up his chest and jutting a thumb back at himself. “I told ya: Destruction in Human Form, yo!”

The humor drew another tired sigh from the Sinnohite. Meanwhile, Golisopod had started up its quiet whines again, still sniffling at the tray of burned…rocks, essentially. The bug was utterly unwilling to so much as nibble at the burnt treats. It looked back to the two trainers, both of whom were still cleaning under the watchful eye of the matron, before its plus-shaped pupils darted over to the single, perfectly-cooked tray of poffins. Believing them to be too distracted to notice, it ever-so-slowly reached out one of its smaller claws to snag one of Cyrus’ poffins, only to get a sudden thwack on the head from a spoon for its troubles.

These will be saved for later.” Cyrus stated, shuffling the batch into his poffin case.

Golisopod whined again, louder this time, and Guzma walked over to join the two, mop firmly in-hand. The hulking bug-type shot him its best imitation of Babydoll Eyes, but even its cuteness couldn’t (completely) sway its trainer. “Sorry, bud, gotta side with Cy on this one. Ya already ate, like…a gallon of this shit before it got scorched. Ya gonna get a stomachache if ya eat anymore.”

The bug, aghast at the rejection, started to blubber and whine even more, prompting Guzma to scramble for a distraction. “Ah shi– don’t, hey, don’t do that, yo! We uh, we got that contest thing we gotta go do now, remember??” Golisopod instantly perked up at the reminder of the contest, leaving Guzma to breathe an internal sigh of relief, feeling like he had just dodged an Ultra Beast.

Their Sinnohite companion remained unamused, as always, at the exchange. Eventually, the two trainers handed their mops and cleaning supplies back to the shop owner, the mess that they (Guzma) had made finally, finally cleaned up. All except, uh…

“I’m not going to store your burnt rocks. You might as well throw them out before we leave.” Cyrus commented, not even sparing the pile of near-charcoal a last look. The former Skull Leader rolled his eyes and tossed the inedible creations, eager to get going already.

“My sincere apologies for the mess, he’s rather…new, to all this.” Cyrus mentioned to the matron as they began their exit.

The woman gave a strained smile in return – accidents happen, she had to remind herself, accidents happen “Just…please don't do it again, Cyrus, dear.”

“Of course.” He nodded politely, before walking out of the Poffin House, Guzma and Golisopod not far behind.

TBC

Chapter Text

This time around, neither Guzma nor Golisopod strayed from the group as Cyrus led the way to the Contest Hall – though, they both still wound up dashing ahead of the Sinnohite once they’d arrived.

The Alolan duo zipped around the lobby with near-childish glee, alternating between observing all the fancily-dressed people and Pokémon present and ogling the different novice performances some of the non-contestants were putting on, attempting to imitate their favorite contest winners. The audience’s hype was quickly getting to both man and bug – Cyrus didn’t even try to keep their attention as they darted about. It appeared the extra time they’d spent at the Poffin House had led them to arrive right on time for one of the larger performances the venue could host. If what Cyrus could pick up from the buzzing crowd was to be trusted, several big names would be competing today. The thought of just who those names might include had the ex-Galactic Leader a bit more on-edge than he’d been on the way there.

…of course, surely, if they sat towards the back, and left as soon as it was over, the contestants would never know that they had been there. Or, at least, that he had been there. Heading towards the doorway leading to the stands, he called out to Guzma, not wanting the man to get too carried away and break something. Or get lost and have to be tracked down. Again. “We’re going to be watching this contest. It’ll show you what you should expect when you try one for yourself.”

“Wha?” Guzma whipped his head around, surprised. “Why can’t we just go an’ do it now? Ya already told us about all the junk that happens, right? Goli ate a ton of treats– er, ate the batter, but yeah. Let’s just get it done already!” Honestly, he just wanted to get it over with. Couldn’t be that hard, right? This whole build-up was just Cyrus and his tendency to raise a fuss over everything, after all. And plus, he and Golisopod had been doing great in Sinnoh so far! Luck was on their side! (Or, at least, he hoped it was.)

Cyrus was fully unamused with the response, feeling the muscle near his eye twitching. “Must we really have two lessons about listening to me in one day?” Even if he didn’t exactly want to be doing this, or even be there at all, that didn’t mean he was going to let the Alolan bumble through this like the fool he was. They were going to do this right. “An explanation alone is nowhere near adequate preparation for an actual contest, least of all a Master Rank one such as this.”

The bug specialist opened his mouth to argue, but snapped it shut again with a huff, pouting. He hated, hated to admit it, but Cyrus was probably right. The guy had known what he was talking about when it came to the poffins, after all – he probably knew what he was talking about here, too. And, well, he really didn’t want to just go and screw up by doing something stupid. Golisopod was hyped to all hell about this; it REALLY wanted more of those ridiculous ribbons. Though Guzma didn’t see the appeal himself, if it was important to Golisopod, it was worth doing right.

Before he could speak to agree, albeit reluctantly, with Cyrus and round up his bug to join the man in the audience, a official looking woman approached them. “Pardon me, sir! Did I hear correctly that you were wanting to enter today’s contest?”

“Uh– well, yeah, but–” Guzma began stuttering out, but didn’t get to finish.

“Oh, that’s perfect! We had a last-minute drop out, so there’s room for another competitor!” The woman chirped cheerfully, leaving Guzma looking like a Deerling in the headlights. Golisopod, unaware that its trainer had changed his mind, had darted back to the group at the mention of potentially being in a contest, eyes now glittering with excitement. Guzma looked back to where Cyrus had been, hoping for an assist, but the man was nowhere to be seen. The bug specialist sucked in a breath – without any backup, it looked like he’d have to play the bad cop for the bug…which would be, well, easier if he had better immunity to the Babydoll Eyes it was employing. He let the breath out with a sigh, conceding.

Looked like they were going to be in a contest. Oh, boy…

-

To say Cyrus was…frustrated with how things were proceeding would hardly scratch the surface.

He’d stormed off into the audience section upon the woman’s revelation – really, the last thing the fool needed was encouragement – and secured himself a seat. As an afterthought, he made sure to save two others as well, on the off chance that the Alolan duo would wisen up in time to bail. And Arceus knows Guzma wouldn’t put his bug back in its Pokéball like any reasonable trainer would.

Cyrus settled into the seat, fighting to force himself to stay calm and emotionless; no small task, considering how Guzma always seemed to know how to get under his skin. (Both literally and metaphorically, as their past escapade proved.) If nothing else, watching the fools fail in front of such a sizeable audience might prove entertaining. Schadenfreude, and all that. Even if just being present in the building was enough to put him on edge…surely no one would recognize him by now, right? Who am I kidding, he groused, internally. She would always recognize him.

That thought in mind, the ex-Galactic Leader resigned himself to an uncomfortable, unrelaxing time as he waited for the show to start.

-

Meanwhile, Guzma and Golisopod found themselves being escorted to a large waiting room, filled with other contestants adorned in fancy outfits for both human and Pokémon alike. Guzma barely heard the lady from the lobby bidding them good luck before she was gone again, disappearing as quickly as she’d brought them.

It took all of about three seconds for the bug specialist to feel like a Feebas out of water, standing in that room. Everyone else present was a hell of a lot more done-up than either of them were. Shit, one guy was even wearing a full three-piece suit! They didn’t even have costumes or anything – Guzma had just strolled in wearing his normal outfit! Sharing a look with his bug, he could see Golisopod had noticed too, and was getting about as antsy as himself.

Guzma knew he should give the bug-type a pep talk, and he really wanted to, but he just couldn’t find any pep to begin with right then. He’d already blanked out completely on whatever Cyrus had prattled on about being important for the stupid thing. They were, without a doubt, about to make total idiots of themselves onstage, and it was his damn fault for jumping the gun! The fuck was wrong with him – he just couldn’t do anything right! Even lucking out and getting a clean slate in a new region wasn’t enough to fix him. He was doomed to always be a fucking useless

“Ohohoho! Yours is a face I have yet to have seen competing before.” The sudden voice startled Guzma out of his spiraling thoughts. With a jolt, he realized his fingers had already begun threading into his hair, his usual self-harmful habit imminent.

The Alolan trainer’s eyes darted over in time to see a strange lady in a purple dress, complete with one of the biggest hairdos he’d ever seen, pop up out of nowhere right next to him. “You are another special, last-minute addition I am guessing, non?”

Physically aware of how tensed-up he was, he gave the woman an obviously strained grin. “Er…yeah, uh, somethin’ like that…” It was taking all his willpower to drop his hands from his hair, trying to cancel out his typical tirade at himself. Things had been going…okay in Sinnoh so far, the hot mess with Cyrus aside, and he really was not ready to ruin it. Especially now that he was aware enough to stop himself from what he’d been about to do, albeit not without beating himself up on the inside for it.

Oblivious to the newcomer’s inner turmoil, the lady registered Guzma’s tension as pre-contest nerves. “So, as we are strangers. Introductions, shall we?”

“Uh, name’s Guzma. This here’s my partner, Goli– Golisopod.” He managed a shaky, bland introduction, petting the nervous bug-type in question. “This is, um, kinda our first contest, y’know? Not too sure how things are gonna go down here, yo.”

“Oho, an entirely fresh talent!” The woman gave a warm – if somewhat sly – smile, obviously pleased with his answer, however brief. “Well, incidentally, the Gym Leader of Hearthome, Fantina, happens to be a contest expert! Fantina being myself, of course. Do not think to hesitate if you would wish my advice.” Fantina gave a chuckle then, reappraising his appearance. “Do not worry too badly, oui? Contests in Sinnoh here are not too terribly different from Hoenn.”

“Ah– we ain’t from Hoenn, yo. Me an’ Goli just got here from Alola.”

The Gym Leader seemed surprised by the revelation. “Alola? And contests have begun there? This is the first I am hearing of it!”

“They, uh, haven’t?” Guzma supplied, but this only seemed to confuse Fantina further.

“Then from where did you obtain your previous exp– oh non!” A look of shock and concern was quick to replace the confusion written on her face. “You cannot mean to say that this is your début in the world of contests, do you?”

The Alolan duo shared a brief look, Golisopod nodding and chittering as Guzma gave an affirmative “Yeah?”

Purple ensemble aside, the woman looked positively green at receiving this news, shaking her head. “No, non, this will never do. You are both too new, so nerveux already. You would not even be able to sparkle in the primary of a master rank such as this, let alone shine to your fullest! What a horrible thing to do, throwing you to the Pyroar like so!”

“Li– Listen, yo, we might be new at this, but it ain’t like we’re scared or nothi–” Guzma tried brushing her off, but the attempt was ruined by a low whine from Golisopod. The bug-type hid its head in the back of its trainer’s coat just as someone popped into the room, announcing for the contestants to be ready to come out for the introductory section soon.

The bug specialist visibly hesitated at the action; Fantina couldn’t help but feel a bit bad for him. “There is no shame to be found in not participating, cher. Your, how do you say – Golisopod? – is already too nervous for handling the stage. Perhaps just watching may be a better plan, for now?”

Guzma ran a hand through the fluffy hair on the back of his head, letting out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “…yeah, I guess so, huh.” He ultimately agreed, if reluctantly. “Cy up and warned us ’bout this anyway, yo.”

Fantina’s attention piqued at the name, smiling faintly as a wave of nostalgia washing over her in memory of her own old supporter. “Please cheer for me, oui?” With that, she took her leave with the rest of the contestants, making sure to alert the ones reading out the names that Guzma would not be participating after all. If anyone happened to notice her dab at her eyes as she exited, well, they were polite enough to keep it to themselves.

In the meantime, Guzma went ahead and escaped from the backstage room, quickly escorting the now-moping bug back to the audience entrance to look for Cyrus. The man’s Sandslash-like hair was easy enough to spot – and hell, the guy had even managed to snatch up some pretty decent seats, too.

“Did you get lost looking for the stage?” The Sinnohite snarked as the two sat down, paying no heed to the quiet grumbling of whoever got stuck sitting behind Golisopod.

Ha ha.” Guzma gave a heavy sigh as he sank into the chair, pausing a moment before sitting up straight again. “Some chick got us outta there at the last second, asked me to cheer for her, all that nice shit. So, y’know, might as well watch this thing if it’s already underway, right?”

Cyrus rolled his eyes, unimpressed with the other man’s explanation. “And, of course, this has nothing to do with how I suggested you watch the contest to begin with.”

“Nahh, can’t say it does!” The Alolan gave a cheeky smirk, finally feeling the tension from the backstage room starting to uncurl from around his shoulders. Right then, Golisopod, who had tuned in intently to the stage as soon as they’d sat down, erupted in happy chitters. Fantina had made her entrance, waving gracefully at the audience as the announcer introduced her. “Yo, there she is!” The Alolan duo shared a grin, not noticing as Cyrus somehow managed to go three shades paler than he already was.

The first thing to force itself to the forefront of Cyrus’ mind is that he needed to run, to get as far away from right there as quickly as possible. But, as he was sitting on the inside of the row, Guzma and Golisopod were directly blocking the closest exit – and he doubted either of them would be willing to leave so soon. Why, why, why did he have to agree to bring them here?! Silently cursing himself for taking the risk to begin with, he resigned himself to stewing in his seat for the remainder of the show.

By the end of the competition, Guzma could see what Cyrus had meant when he’d mentioned watching a contest before participating in one – not that he’d ever admit it to the cave troll, of course. He would admit, though, that he was glad Fantina had talked some sense into him, especially with how the woman had diverted him from one of his… episodes. Her performance hadn’t been anything to scoff at, either! The whole show was pretty damn impressive – definitely a far cry from anything one would find in the Battle Royal Dome, that was for sure. Not that he couldn’t do better, of course! He’d beat them. Next time.

Guzma and Golisopod stood with the rest of the audience as the crowd made to either disperse or meander a bit. Now, the Alolan trainer had planned on sneaking backstage, or even just waiting in the lobby to see Fantina so that he could congratulate her; she did win, after all. Cyrus, on the other hand, seemed far from interested in the prospect, being strangely pushy about getting out of the place quickly.

“Yo, hold up, we can’t just run off!” The bug specialist protested, less than happy about being ushered into the throng of people.

“We need to leave. Now. Before she sees–”

“Before who sees?” And sees what? Guzma wanted to add, but the conversation was immediately interrupted by a familiar voice.

“Guzma, mon cher! Here you are!” The ex-Galactic Leader flinched as Guzma whipped around to face the quirky Gym Leader, Golisopod clicking happily in greeting. “How did you enjoy the–” Fantina’s exuberant tone cut off with a gasp as her gaze landed on Cyrus. One could almost feel the air freeze as recognition and denial fought across the ghost-specialist’s face.

Cyrus?

TBC

Chapter Text

A moment of awkward silence blanketed the group, one that not even the chatter of the crowded lobby could pierce through. Cyrus eventually spoke up, body language almost painfully rigid. “Hello… Fantina.”

It was as if a dam had broken. “Cyrus Stone!” Fantina snapped, and with the speed of a Quick Claw snapped her manicured nails at the man, catching his cheek and pinching his face hard enough to leave marks. “You horrible man!”

Guzma stumbled backwards in surprise at the action, bumping into Golisopod. “Woah, wait, y’all know each other?”

Hah! If you would wish to call it that!” She spat out, still pinching Cyrus’ cheek as she shook his head with her grip. The former Galactic Leader was clearly very uncomfortable with his current predicament, but escape was impossible. He had been caught; he was at her mercy, now. “You run away and hide from me for two years– two! Deux ans! Away to your little Team, and then! Then you go and are killed, or Arceus knows what! For months, I thought you were dead! You despicable man! How dare you worry me so?!”

Cyrus, still being shaken, attempted to respond despite the jerking movements his face was being subjected to. “I assuRE you, I diD NOT intend tO RETurn.”

Fantina finally let him go – mid-shake, at that, causing him to stumble, almost falling over with the sudden shift in balance. He may have escaped the claws, but she was still far from done. “And why is that?! You would have left me to worry about you forever? With not even a clue what happened?!”

The ex-Galactic Leader rubbed his reddened cheek, attempting to minimize the lingering pain from the pinch with replacement pressure. A scowling pout slid across his face in the process as he grumbled under his breath. “This is precisely why I was endeavoring to avoid you…”

Quoi??

Guzma watched on with wide eyes at the unexpected exchange, leaning further into Golisopod as the scene went on. Eventually, he started stage-whispering to the bug, just loud enough for Cyrus to hear as well. “Jeez, I didn’t know Cy had a girlfriend. What a dick move runnin’ off to that cave an’ shit, huh?” Golisopod chirred in agreement.

Cyrus could only cut his eyes over to him at the comment, but it only served to prompt Guzma to up the snark even more. “Though, gotta say, that seems like it’s ya specialty, huh Cy-boy? Ya like that cold ya got me, didja?”

The man could be compared to an angry Meowth – but, well, sharper, with those hair spikes of his – as he spat back at Guzma, voice low. “As if being in YOUR body would ever be enjoyable!”

Before Guzma could fire back with a perverted quip, Fantina interrupted them both. “Oh! I have been so distracted!” The sudden 180˚ of her tone was enough to give the two pause, a happy smile returning to her face. “Guzma– mon cher, my apologies. I was just…not expecting to see Cyrus, here of all places.”

“Ah– it’s, uh, it’s cool, yo!”

“Hmm.” Fantina struck a thinking pose as Guzma sputtered, before snapping her fingers, as if struck with a brilliant idea. “Yes! I have decided! You shall both join me for lunch! Come now, we can eat at my Gym. Yes, we have much catching up to do!”

“As lovely as that sounds, Fantina, we really must–” Cyrus attempted to argue, but to no avail. The Gym Leader had gotten a solid hold on his arm, grip unwavering as she steered him towards the doors.

“Oh, non, non! You will not be running away this time!” She tsked, hauling him along.

“Yeah, Cy~ Don’t go runnin’ out on ya girlfriend again, yo!” Guzma couldn’t help but snicker, fistbumping Golisopod. The Alolan duo were happy to follow Fantina, enticed by the mention of food.

Cyrus could feel his soul withering within his body as he was, literally, dragged away to Hearthome Gym.

-

The walk to the Hearthome Gym was much, much shorter than Cyrus would’ve preferred, not that he would’ve preferred to be visiting at all. Fantina was quick to usher them away from the actual Gym component of the building and towards her living quarters instead, demeanor all but bubbly as she discussed trivialities with Guzma.

“So then, you are specialized in bug-types?” The Gym Leader chuckled, holding the door open for the two to enter. “Cyrus must certainly detest that – of bugs, he’s never been too fond.”

“Tch, yeah, tell me about it! Ya shoulda seen him this morning: we woke up in bug heaven, Wurmple everywhere, yo! Then he had ta go an’ chase ‘em all off with his Houndoom.”

OHOHOHO!! ” Fantina’s laughter echoed through the Gym, a stark contrast to Cyrus’ fuming. The two had essentially been mocking him the entire way to their destination, in-between the ghost specialist’s questioning as to Guzma’s home region, and what he thought of Sinnoh thus far. Which, expectedly, wasn’t much. “So, that detergent of yours is still being used, non?”

“I’m afraid my hygiene is none of your concern, thank you.” The deadpan response only made her laugh even harder, much to Cyrus’ annoyance.

Guzma cocked his head in confusion, mimicked by Golisopod. “Detergent?”

“Oh, yes! He–”

Weren’t we here for lunch, Fantina?” The ex-Galactic Leader couldn’t even afford himself an internal wince at how harsh that had come out. Absolutely none of that was needed. The fool of an Alolan did not need to learn about more ways to attract bugs.

“Ah, you are absolutely right!” The woman clapped her hands, ever one for theatrics. “Pardon mes chers, I am in need of your assistance.”

Knowing what to expect, Cyrus’s eyes instantly darted to Guzma. His smirk was barely contained as he watched the other look around, confused, before practically jumping a foot in the air when a pair of fancily dressed ghost types materialized in the room.

Fantina stood behind her meticulously-trained Pokémon, beaming with pride as they both greeted the Alolans. “Guzma, Golisopod, meet my waitstaff, my dear Banette and Gengar. This is a ghost-type Gym, after all~”

The bug specialist felt his eye twitch as his bug clicked out a greeting. He’d gotten lucky with that grave-tower-whatever back near the bike slopes, but it seemed Cyrus had finally gotten him. The troll even had the faintest of smug smirks on his face. That fucker. “Ya don’t say.” Fuck ghosts, man. Always playing tricks, be it in an abandoned megamart or a damn Gym. At least Giratina had turned out to be bug-type instead…

Mes chers, please, if you would – set a table for lunch for my companions and I, oui?” The ghost specialist asked politely, curtsying to the Pokémon in question. The two ghost-types gave a grin in reply, and bowed before phasing through the floor. “Come, come, don’t be shy, now. Lunch will be ready shortly!” She assured her human companions, leading them further into the building. The hall they were in soon opened up into a quaint dining area, unmistakably styled after a classic Kalos café, with light filtering in from the large windows facing the Amity Square garden.

The single table in the room was certainly big enough for the four of them, but only three chairs had been placed at it. Fantina and Cyrus took their seats easily enough, but before Guzma could finish looking around at everything, Golisopod had beaten him to the punch. The bug-water-type seated itself comfortably at the table, like it belonged there.

Fantina blinked rowlishly at the bug – who just smiled back, expectantly waiting for the promised food – before she began laughing once again, holding her stomach with the force of it. “You are just filled with unexpectedness! Here, allow me to remedy this problem.” She was swift to call back her Banette, who promptly retrieved another chair so that Guzma could join them.

“Uh. Thanks, yo.” Guzma gave the ghost a tight, forced smile, before sitting down at the new seat between his bug and his reluctant travel companion. He was just close enough to the latter, now, to catch him breath out a muttered complaint about Golisopod. Something something annoying bug, whatever. Wasn’t gonna fly with Guzma. The bug specialist kept his face neutral, but delivered a kick to Cyrus’ leg under the table. The man jerked his leg back at the unexpected contact, making a muffled noise of pain, and shot at glare at the offender, who sat innocently.

Fantina giggled at the childish exchange, right as her ghosts returned with the entrée – perfectly prepared sandwiches and fresh iced tea, courtesy of her human staff members in the kitchen. Guzma attempted to stifle a scowl at the ghost-types, but a frown still managed to slip through as he regarded the tea placed before him. Iced tea was fine, yeah, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to lament the Tapu Cocoa it could’ve been.

Busy thanking her Pokémon for their help, the Gym Leader missed the expression. It had all but evaporated by the time Fantina returned her attention to the two men (and bug) joining her for lunch, a knowing smirk on her own face. “You two are quite familiar with each other, non?”

Cyrus could only scoff at the observation. “Unfortunately.”

“And, while I am most pleased at seeing my dear friend once again, it does not go…what is the word– amiss that Cyrus has ceased in being missing. You two must have been together for a while, oui? If you were able to drag him out of hiding with such ease…” She marched on, ignoring Cyrus’ interjection. The ghost specialist hid her expression by taking a sip of tea as she waited for a response.

Guzma was the one to supply it, with a snort in addition. “Sure as hell feels like it, but nah. Been abooout…” Golisopod clicked at him as he trailed off, earning itself a surprised look. “Shit, yo, only a week?!”

The bug clicked again in confirmation, this time with Cyrus nodding as well, conceding to the truth of the matter. Fantina, on the other hand, nearly spit out her drink.

Only a week?! Mon cher, it took me years to crack through his petit heart of ice.” She explained at the Alolan’s confused glance, setting her drink down. With the intensity of the focus now directed at Guzma, though, he kind of wished she’d stayed busy with the tea. “What could a week have held to form such a bond between you?”

“Gross, yo, don’t say it like that. Makes it sound like we’re datin’ or somethin’.” Guzma’s laugh was just a touch on the forceful side. “I mean…he ain’t exactly ugly or anythin’, just ain’t my type. Y’know?” The guy might have a nice face – a really nice face, not the Guzma was going to go broadcasting that – but he was still a jerk. Golisopod side-eyed its trainer as it chowed down on its sandwiches.

Cyrus rolled his eyes at the unsolicited appraisal. “Don't think so highly of yourself.” Honestly, he was loathe to consider dating anyone, and certainly not this hot mess of a human.

“Say WHAT? Yo, I’m TOTALLY dateable? Didja not hear me talkin’ ’bout that one chick back home?”

“Ah, yes…” The ex-Galactic Leader’s face soured at the reminder, brain conjuring up an image of that woman with this numbskull unbidden. Not particularly something to be bragging about… “If I recall correctly, wasn’t she married?” He gave a smirk at the glare Guzma shot him for that. Fair revenge for that unwanted mental image, at any rate.

Fantina began to laugh at them again, thinking about the way they banter as if they’d known each other for years. Yes, without a doubt, she MUST know what had happened between the two of them! “With all this talk, I think I must hear the story now.”

The words caught Guzma off-guard, causing him to nearly choke on the bite of sandwich he’d taken. He might as well have been a Deerling in the headlights as he coughed. “Uhh, about the chick, yo? ’Cuz that, uh, didn’t really work out–”

“Oh no no no,” Fantina cut him off, smiling lightly. “Though I am sure such a story is riveting, I was meaning your week together!”

So, much to Cyrus’ ever-growing chagrin, Guzma began recounting ‘the tale of the cave and the troll’ as he called it, the process aided by Golisopod’s input every now and then. Even as he tuned out the overdone explanation, Cyrus was mentally ready to bash his head in. His nerves had been fried to a crisp from the past week.

It had actually only been six days – seven, if the cave was counted – and he already felt like he’d had enough socializing to last him a decade. At least with Galactic, he’d been able to retreat to his private quarters for a brief period, or at the minimum order his Commanders to not bother him. But Guzma …Guzma was always there. And he brought with him the extra burden of unnecessary interaction with even more people, which alone meant having to act especially courteous to counter the fool’s natural rudeness!

By the time Guzma had reached the start of their…body-swapping fiasco, Cyrus’ hand had already migrated to his pocket without conscious notice, rolling Cleffa’s Pokéball between his fingers. He gently thumbed over the button, subconsciously careful not to use too much force and accidentally activate it. It took a comment from Guzma about a bug-type the Alolan had never seen before to bring his attention back to the conversation.

Cyrus felt a light wave of confusion. Guzma obviously knew what Wurmple were – he hadn’t questioned them at all, even after awaking covered in them. So then, what…

“A bug Pokémon you had yet to have seen before?” Fantina prodded, the glint in her eye betraying mischief.

“Yeah, yeah! It was this kinda reddish color? And it had these big-ass antennas, and made the coolest sound, yo!” Guzma explained, Golisopod letting out a low, indignant ‘gwoor’ at the enthusiasm. Its trainer chuckled and patted it on the head, affectionately. “Don’t worry big guy, yer still my fav bug out there.”

The coolest– oh no. Arceus, how could he forget? “Fantina, don't you–”

Did it, now?” The woman in question cut Cyrus off, years of experience acting before an audience being the only thing holding back her giggles. “What did it sound like?”

Cyrus might’ve been able to figure out Fantina’s angle, but Guzma was left out in the dark as he barged into a response. “Uh, kinda hard ta describe, I guess? But it was somethin’ like…delelelewooooooop!” The jazz hands he did in accompaniment was just the icing on the cake.

Fuck. Cyrus let his head fall to the table as Fantina roared with laughter, slapping her hand on the table a few times. When she’d gotten herself back under control, albeit still giggling, she sought to remedy Guzma’s bewilderment at their reactions. “Oh, mon cher, take no offense – just a bit of local hazing. The Pokémon you speak of is a Kricketune. And it is well-known throughout the region. One can always tell if someone is a tourist from their lack of knowing it! Getting them to say the sound is a delight.~”

Guzma heaved a sigh, fixing his reluctant travel companion with an annoyed look. “Coulda warned me, yo.”

Cyrus turned his head towards him, not lifting it from the table just yet. “And ruin the surprise?” Not even his usual deadpan could drown out the intense sarcasm that time.

“Aight, y’all had yer fun.” Guzma conceded with a pout.

“Hehe– ahem, yes I believe we have.” The Gym Leader let the rest of her laughter die down, but her eyes were still twinkling. “Do continue with your story now, oui?”

“Nuh-uh! You pull that shit, ya owe me! It’s your turn ta talk now.” The Alolan had a smug grin splayed out on his face now – now he was gonna get some dirt on the nerd. He just knew it! “So, what’s the big secret with you and Cy-boy here? How’d y’all meet?”

TBC

Chapter Text

Moving to a new region was, by nature, a challenge. Even more so when you can hardly speak the regional language – which was exactly the situation Fantina found herself in, unfortunately. Kantonese, by that point, had become all but a common second language in most regions. The obvious exceptions were Unova and Kalos; the former was due to isolation, and the latter, as Fantina was finding out, was due to the sheer dissonance between Kantonese and Kalosian.

Thus, the aspiring ghost specialist was essentially lost in this strange, new region. She’d come for the Contests, of course. In her home region there had been Pokémon Showcases, which she’d excelled in, but Contests…Contests were a whole new challenge to face. Even more competitive than the Showcases, they were exceptionally beautiful spectacles, with higher emphasis placed on the Pokémon than the trainers. Having attained the rank of Kalos Queen once already – albeit being overthrown from that title, sadly enough – naturally the next stage for an ambitious, young woman as she would be to become a master Coordinator!

Now, if only she could find her way…

The trip to Sinnoh had felt like a lifetime, but once arrived, it took no time at all for her to get turned around and completely lost. Her intent had been to locate the closest Pokémon Center for directions, but she’d somehow managed to mix up what basic Kantonese she knew, landing herself out in the routes, far off the path in the woods. Which was…definitely not the Pokémon Center.

Just as she was about to call it a day and admit that she was, well, lost as hell, she picked up on a voice through the trees.

“No, no. No!” A noise of distress followed, along with a string of words she couldn’t quite understand. Following the sound led her to a teenage boy, possibly just a year younger than herself, scolding a Cleffa while a bored-looking Sneasel and Murkrow stood off to the side.

A younger trainer may have charged in right then, but years of Showcases had more than taught Fantina how to show restraint. She wanted to at least try to piece together the point behind the frustration – sadly, her willingness didn’t quite make up for her ability, or lack thereof. Nothing of the teen’s sentences registered to her, with even her best efforts only allowing her to pick up on the word “name” used several times, and the names of the Pokémon being repeated throughout the rant.

Met with that impasse, she didn’t linger in her failed attempt at spying, walking up to the other with a flourish. “Bonjour! JeI am called Fantina. How you are called?”

The teen seemed to panic the instant he saw her, returning the Cleffa and hiding its pokéball behind his back, not unsimilar to someone who had been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. “…Cyrus?” He finally managed, after a few moments spent processing her broken speaking. His eyes flicked over her rapidly before darting away again, another unparsable sentence escaping him. Fantina couldn’t even pick up on any words, this time – clearly the boy was well-educated, or just using some dialect she hadn’t known of.

…yeah, uh. That was a pretty long sentence, she wasn’t going to parse through that. Hopefully he would understand? “Fantina is new! Native of Kalos.” She smiled, spreading her hands far apart.

“Kalos?” Realization striking him, Cyrus allowed himself to relax slightly, Murkrow fluttered over to land on one of his shoulders, while Sneasel remained standing by his side. Much to Fantina’s shock, he replied in a mildly-broken form of her own language, having to pause frequently to find the words he needed. “You are– lost. It’s late.”

Glancing around at the gradual darkening of the sky, the sun slowly sliding back to the horizon for the night, she nodded. Getting late, he meant. “Oui.”

Cyrus looked between his Pokémon; Murkrow had turned up its beak snobbishly, but the Sneasel simply rolled its eyes, nodding to its trainer. Said trainer sighed, himself. “I will show you– show the, um, Pokémon Center.”

“Oh! Merci beaucoup!” Fantina clasped her hands together, treating him to a thankful smile. “Start the path, s’il vous plaît.”

-

Seeing as Cyrus was the sole person she knew in this strange region who could (somewhat) speak her language, it was no surprise that Fantina stuck to him like glue. The moody boy’s attitude had her feeling like she was walking on thin ice at times, but she was quick to learn to brush it off – it seemed that was just how her new friend was. And, despite his reluctance, Cyrus found himself sticking around, helping her with learning the local language as well.

The other teenager wasn’t taking the Gym challenge, or the contest challenge, or…really anything at all, from what Fantina could see. He seemed lost – but he was never willing to talk about it, no matter how she phrased any inquiries about the subject. It was beginning to worry her, to put it simply. So, what better solution than to work on a solution?

She would take a brief break from her contests to train Cyrus in the art as well.

Which was…much, much easier said than done, apparently. The boy was just so loathe to draw attention to himself! “Non, non, NON! You ne – you cannot to be a wallflower! You must be in FULL BLOOM, mon cher!”

Cyrus crossed his arms irritably, and – just as every time before – evaded eye contact, looking just off to the side as if he wasn’t paying attention to her. “I am not a flower of any sort!”

“…is perhaps you cannot see?” Fantina asked, delicately, after a moment. From the way conversations with him always skirted around talk of family over their months together, the Kalosian had begun to suspect that he was an orphan. Perhaps he had no way to fully care for himself?

“What?” Cyrus’ confusion was crisp, clear. The question had caught him completely off-guard.

“Your eyes, Cyrus. You look never, at anyone when speaking.”

The other teenager, amazingly enough, managed to go a shade paler than he already was, his entire frame tensing up at the comment. Something akin to a memory flickered behind his eyes before being replaced with a glare once more, demeanor practically prickling. “Pardon, but it’s far from your jurisdiction to police where I look when holding a conversation–”

Fantina’s attention to the dialogue withered as Cyrus’ vocabulary skyrocketed, already well aware that she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the strange language given her basic understanding of it. It dawned on her, then – maybe he was sensitive about his shyness? After all, he most certainly was shy. The poor boy, quite obviously, couldn’t stand social interactions.

“For one to stand out, one must have confidence! Even if you do not feel it. Si vIf you cannot meet my eyes, you must fake!”

Cyrus had the luxury of feeling confused in peace for a split second, before being bodily jerked around by the taller teen. Fantina hauled him into a ridiculous, playful dance, despite his struggle to escape from it. “Important steps to appear confidently: Stand straight! Smile! Speak with clarity! And always, look ALWAYS people in the eyes! If you cannot look at the eyes, then nose! Or to the chin, I’ve heard!”

The moodier of the two found himself struggling less as he listened to Fantina’s fanciful talk, the speaker herself having transitioned to less forceful movements. They eased into a sloppy waltz, with Fantina as the lead. “Why are we dancing?” Was grumbled out, still with a bland voice – she would work on that later, she decided.

“The mind moves with the body.” Fantina smiled at him, before abruptly spinning him away, releasing her grip on him in the process. Cyrus did a twirl as he attempted to regain his center of balance, somehow managing to stay on his feet, arms spread out to his sides as he came to a stop. Murkrow flapped over and landed on one of his outstretched arms with a loud caw, throwing its own wings wide open as well in a flourishing finish pose.

“Bravo, bravo! Magnifique!” The taller of the two cheered. “You are quite the dancer, mon cher. Perhaps, should we integrate that into your routine, hmm…if you dance all the time, the dancing at the Contests, they become challenges no longer.”

“There isn’t any dancing in contests…” Cyrus grumbled, standing up straight again and brushing himself off. Murkrow shuffled a bit to accommodate for the movement, but ultimately stayed perched on its trainer.

“Maybe others do not dance, but Fantina! Fantina shall dance, and thus, Fantina wins!” Fantina clapped her hands. “Now, we are back to practice! And remember: act confident, mon cher! Look me in the face!”

The Sinnohite gave a groan and slumped, reluctantly accepting his ‘defeat’, before he was jerked into step once more.

-

Years had passed since that conversation. Cyrus, amazingly enough, did manage to bloom in the contest world. With the title of Contest Prince under his belt, he began making fewer appearances, but his standing remained solid nonetheless. His lack of participation nowadays could be partially blamed on his own actions – using the skills Fantina had taught him about confidence and presentation, he’d been able to start up a small company. Galactic Corp., he’d named it, dedicated to researching and improving newer, cleaner sources of energy for Sinnoh.

Of course, even the extra activity couldn’t do much to separate the two young adults. In this particular instance, Cyrus found himself lounging on a loveseat that had yet to be moved to its intended place in Hearthome’s Gym. Fantina – or, rather, “Fantina, the Leader of Hearthome Gym”, as she insisted upon since her official appointment – was all but scrambling to prepare the building for challengers.

“So, ghost-types, hm?” Cyrus muttered, contemplating the decision. Sure, her team consisted of all ghost-types, but even after their years of friendship, she still struck him as a potential psychic specialist…or perhaps that newer type classification. Fairy, was it?

Exuberance shining out through her movements, Fantina danced back into the room, holding the fabric swatches she’d been using to pick out curtains and accents for the Gym’s redecoration bundled in her arms. “I have always had adoration for ghost-types, mon cher! You know this!”

The man could only give a small smirk as she let out a squawk, her steps having led her to nearly trip over a carpet that had yet to be unrolled and dropping at least half of the fabric she held. She huffed at him – he rarely mentioned these…less-than-graceful moments of hers, oh no, but he certainly remembered all of them.

“Perhaps if I had someone to assist, rather than laze about, the preparations would be completed more rapidly.”

Making a big show of it, Cyrus dramatically leaned down from where he sat, scooping one of the fabric swatches she’d dropped off the floor. “There. I helped.”

Fantina puffed up like a Drifloon. “Ohhh, you horrible man!” She scolded, marching over to snatch the fabric, before stomping out of the room to put it, and the others, away.

Cyrus allowed his smirk to grow, just minutely, at her retreat before yelling after her. “What did bring you to ghost-types, anyway? Most seem to find them appalling.”

Hah!” Her bubbly voice reached the room before she did, popping back in all cheery again. “The same thing which has brought me to Sinnoh, of course.” At Cyrus’ extended blank look – which she’d long since learned to recognize as confusion – she elaborated. “You did not believe Sinnoh to be the ONLY region to hold contests, did you? Non, Hoenn would have been much closer for traveling. But, it did not appeal to me.”

“And that is because…?”

Fantina gave a fangirlish sigh, swooning against the wall. “As a native as you would know, Sinnoh is home to only the most amazing ghost-type~!”

Rolling his eyes, the Sinnohite settled back into the couch a bit. “Save your theatrics for the stage; that’s where they’re supposed to be.” He mentally ran through the list of ghost-types he knew dwelled in Sinnoh, trying to come up with the rarest one trainers would go after. “So…Spiritomb?”

The purple-haired woman snorted at the thought, plopping herself down on the loveseat Cyrus had been occupying since his arrival at the Gym-in-progress. “The legendary Giratina, in fact. The chances of ever meeting are…null. But it is still so fascinating, do you not think? And the legend! I know Arceus is worshipped in this region, but I still would much prefer to encounter the strongest ghost-type in existence.”

“Would you, now?” Cyrus mused, shifting slightly so that she would have more room. “Well, perhaps I can arrange a meeting, then. You are a…peculiar woman, I’ll give you that.”

“And such is why you love me~” She cooed, pinching his cheek and shaking him a bit, before relinquishing her hold in order to stand again. The young man glared up at her as she did so, a pout on his face as he rubbed halfheartedly at the offended cheek. “If anyone could meet it, I’m sure it would be you, mon ami.”

-

Guzma let out a loud snort, effectively cutting off the Gym Leader’s story. “Ya sure nailed that one square on the head, huh?” He drawled while elbowing his unwilling travel companion, trying to draw a reaction out of the stone-faced man.

Fantina couldn’t help but chuckle as well. “It is apparent! I cannot believe that is where he was all this time.”

“Better believe it! I got a picture of it an’ everyth– wha? HEY!” The bug specialist cut himself off this time, having gone to take another bite of his sandwich only to find his plate suspiciously devoid of it. He immediately fixed Golisopod with a glare, the bug in question trying its damnedest to look oh-so-innocent.

While the Alolan duo bickered between themselves, Fantina’s attention drifted back to Cyrus, who had remained far too quiet since their reunion. A pang of sorrow crawled through her chest as she found him simply glaring off to the side. “…I never told a soul, you know.”

Cyrus’ brow twitched, eyes flicking over to her for a moment. He was listening – she could tell, so she continued on. “About your…Team, that is to say. I told no one. Hearthome still remembers you as our darling Contest Prince. I could not bear the thought of ruining any chance that you may change your mind and come home.”

“This is not my home.” He spat out the words like they burned him. Guzma and Golisopod had quieted down by then, both feeling the gravity of the conversation’s sudden shift in mood.

Fantina flinched slightly at the words, fists clenching. She wanted to argue – talk, yell, scream until she was blue in the face, or until something finally got through to him, whichever came first. This is his home! After all the years they had spent together, why was he still so intent to keep pushing her away?! But…she took a deep breath, letting it out in a quiet huff. Sometimes, the only thing one can do is let bird Pokémon fly. They will land when they must. “Like you say, then. But know that you are always welcome. No matter how much you may push me away, Cyrus, I remain your friend. And I care about you.”

Cyrus remained resolute in avoiding eye contact, still glaring off to the side.

Plus-shaped eyes darted around the table at all the tense humans. Guzma and Golisopod's previous argument had pittered out during the short exchange. Now, the bug-type was getting anxious from it all – the air was too charged, like how it always was before a pair of Grunts would get into a fight. It needed to do something! Golisopod gave a tiny whine as its only warning before thwacking Guzma onto the floor, effectively breaking the heavy atmosphere with the unexpected action. And…unintentionally upending the table as well, from where Guzma had grabbed onto it in an attempt to stay upright.

Despite the crudeness of the action, it couldn’t be denied that Golisopod had achieved its goal. The hulking bug-type gave a relaxed gwoor as the trainers began shuffling around, trying to pick up both the mess and Guzma. The only downside, as far as it was concerned, was the proclaimed “No beans for a fuckin’ month, yo!” from the floored punk.

TBC

Chapter Text

After the last of the havoc from Golisopod’s idea of a tension-breaker had been tidied up, the first thing past Fantina’s lips were an invitation to stay at the Gym.

“It has already become well into the afternoon – if you travel now, you will not be getting very far. Why not stay, relax? Perhaps use the Gym, oui?”

Both Guzma and Golisopod were all for staying, Cyrus could tell, which is why he needed to act fast. His unwanted travel companion now knew more about him than he’d ever wanted the idiot to learn (which was a grand total of nothing) – thank you so much, Fantina! The fool didn’t need any more information!

“My apologies, but we are, regrettably, unable to do so. We will be continuing on our journey early in the morning, and still have many things to attend to before nightfall.” Never mind just what those tasks were; Cyrus refrained from elaborating, knowing it would run the risk of the Gym Leader inviting herself along. “So, if you would please pardon us, Fantina. Thank you for the meal.” He turned on his heel with that, stalking back towards the exit.

“Jeez, what crawled up his ass?” Guzma groused, once the other man was just out of earshot. Golisopod gave off a series of clicks in agreement.

Fantina could only chuckle lightly, shaking her head. “He is upset, semble-t-il. I do not believe he wished for you to know of any of his life.”

“Well, that ain’t fair! He knows a shitton a’ mine, yo!” The bug-specialist blurted out. The outburst earned a sigh from Fantina, before she proceeded to fuss over him, straightening out his clothes. The fabric was still rumpled from the lunchtastrophe, and – as much as the dishevelment may have added to his contest outfit’s effect – it gave her a quick outlet for the nervous energy that had been building up since Cyrus had first snapped at her.

“He is a man of secrecy for a reason, mon cher. Please, do not hold it against him. It takes only time for him to thaw – and you are already on the right track.” She chuckled, smoothing out the last of the wrinkles. “I wonder what your bond may become, in time. Perhaps you could be able to be there for him in the ways I was unable.”

Guzma cocked his head at the comment. “Whaddaya mean by that?”

“…Mm, non, it is of no consequence. Just thinking aloud. Now, ah, you should go before he leaves without you, oui?”

“Ah, shit! C’mon, Goli, we gotta catch the nerd before goes cave again!” Both trainer and bug charged off towards the exit on the other side of the battle arena – one bodyswap fiasco was more than enough for this trip, thanks. As Guzma reached the doors, though, he paused for a moment, shouting back to their host. “Uh, hey! Thanks, yo! For…uh, y’know, a lot!”

Fantina giggled, her ghost-types rejoining her as she smiled wide. “And thank you, mon ami! If you should return to Hearthome, do come see me again!”

“We will, yo!” He assured, waving as an impatient bug-type ushered him after the fleeing cave troll.

-

Cleffa’s Pokéball was still being rolled in Cyrus’ palm as he left the Gym, legs carrying him away at a brisk pace. Pressing down on the device’s sole button caused it to emit a satisfying click and bwoop combo as the ball was activated and deactivated over and over. It wasn’t enough – but it was all he could do, right then.

Arceus, he hadn’t been this worked up since…memories of a certain ambiguous 10-year-old came to mind, as well as his short-lived breakdown in the Distortion World, but he squashed them back down as quickly as they reared up. What had Fantina been thinking?! Guzma was a complete stranger!

While Cyrus’ internal ranting and stress stormed on, Guzma and Golisopod managed to catch up with him – but, not quite knowing how to approach the steaming Sinnohite, stayed behind a few steps. Cyrus’ fidgeting with the Pokéball didn’t escape Guzma’s notice, though. A metaphorical light bulb lit up over the bug-specialist’s head as he considered how to defuse the situation.

“Ya sure can book it when ya wanna, huh Cy?” Guzma started, tentative as he fell in-step with the other trainer, Golisopod taking step right behind them.

Cyrus didn’t even look over at him. “We still have tasks to complete before we can rest tonight. Our Pokémon may be healed, but we still need to restock on supplies – especially after your cooking fiasco–”

“Yeah, sure, aight.” The Alolan interrupted, arms in a mean-you-no-harm position, not wanting to spur the guy into a diatribe. “So, where we goin’ in such a hurry, then? Ya up an’ left yer girlfriend pretty upset, yo.”

“Fantina is not my girlfriend!” Cyrus snapped, though he remained looking ahead instead of at Guzma. Honestly! They had been friends, and only friends – and only once, at that!

Guzma allowed himself to relax minutely, shifting into teasing. “She ain’t, huh? Think she’d go for me?”

The Sinnohite didn’t rise to the bait, but he did gave a sarcastic bark of a laugh. “Hardly. The last I knew, she was engaged to a man over in Kalos.”

“Damn. Figures…” An awkward silence loomed as Guzma trailed off, but at least Cyrus didn’t look to be just short of sprinting off anymore. The Alolan duo traded looks, Golisopod motioning with its smaller arms for its trainer to keep going. The trainer in question gave a dramatic, silent ‘ugh’ before drawing in a breath, mind scrambling to come up with something else to say.

Cyrus instinctively tensed at the intake of breath. Here he went again. Could the man not even go two minutes without talking?!

“So, uh, guess it’s a good thing she never got ta meet Giratina, huh?”

That was…definitely a lead-up to something, Cyrus assumed, and probably not something he particularly cared to hear right then. That didn’t stop the question from escaping him, of course, in spite of himself. “…what leads you to that conclusion?”

“Well, I didn’t wanna say nothin’ with how excited she sounded, but…damn, yo, she’d’a been crushed to find out it’s not a ghost.” Golisopod gave a sagely nod at its trainer’s words, clicking out its agreement in an almost tutting manner.

Cyrus nearly stumbled for a moment when the words registered, both the justification and reason for his anger temporarily escaping him. When no continuation came, he finally looked over at Guzma, disbelieving. He…couldn’t possibly be serious, could he?? This had to just be even more lead-up, certainly.

Unfortunately, Guzma had adopted the look of someone just trying to fill the awkward silence, giving away the sincerity he’d intended with his words. Oh Arceus, he is serious… “Despite whatever jokes it may like to tell, Giratina is, in fact, a ghost-type.”

“Ha, nice try, Cy, but it said bug-dragon. Not bug-ghost.” Guzma folded his arms behind his head in a relaxed stance as they walked, silently pleased that the change in subject had gone so well. “But yo, I don’t blame ya for callin’ it a ghost for ya girlfriend~”

The bug-specialist thought back on Fantina’s words as he continued to run his mouth – babbling on about life in Alola, much to Cyrus’ confusion. The deluge of words, combined with Golisopod chiming in intermittently, were enough to effectively derail Cyrus’ previous stress. The Pokéball he’d been fidgeting with had found its way back to its proper storage, the Sinnohite having subconsciously put it away while trying to make sense of the pointless jabber.

Fantina had insisted that the troll was a good person…and yeah, he did lend Guzma the dorky undershirt and pants. Which, despite the level of nerd oozing off of them, were pretty damn well insulated. He hadn’t even thought about how cold Sinnoh was in a while. Perhaps he ought to try a bit harder. Maybe making nice with the guy would at least make their reluctant journey together a little easier to manage.

“–and yeah, dunno what got the idea into their heads, but they had the decency ta at least offer me a plate of it, even if it was. Y’know. Mud.” Cyrus had to summon willpower he didn’t even know he still had at that point to keep from rubbing his temple as Guzma wrapped up the current rambling. Honestly, who on earth eats mud? And at that age! It was clearly a lie. He could only muster the energy to feel mildly disappointed in himself for thinking Guzma was actually telling some…heartfelt life story, or something.

Oh! And what do you know! There it was – the one and only Guzma-grade headache had reintroduced itself to his cranium. The Alolan was just so predictable, in the most UNpredictable ways!

Cyrus did his best to block the words out as Guzma fired up yet another anecdote. Something about ghosts and a megamart, this time. For a brief, glorious moment, the Sinnohite could almost forget how the other would inevitably try quizzing him about his own life later on. For the time being, though, he focused on getting them to the Pokémart. They had some Max Repels to obtain.

TBC

Chapter Text

The reach that the International Police had was, to understate it, amazing. Nanu could almost, almost say he was impressed by it, but…eh, better not open that can of pokébeans. Needless to say, digging up information on the brat’s parents had been a breeze, once clearance had been granted.

Now the Kahuna stood off to the side of a certain house on Melemele, staying just out of sight as Looker began his spiel to Guzma’s parents. It’d been easy enough to convince the other man – all he’d needed to do was mention “justice” and “getting Guzma back in Alola”, and the guy had been ready and raring to go. His intensity hadn’t let up at all in the trip over, nor did it look like it would any time soon. Even with, uh, the fist that made contact with his ‘handsome’ face as he delivered the court summons to the kid’s father, after explaining what the couple was being charged with.

Nanu shook his head while the poor excuse for a parent was restrained by the two lower ranking officers that had come along, though he felt a faint twinge of pride at how well Looker handled the blow. Guy didn’t even stutter as he wiped the blood from his mouth, tacking on “assault of an officer” to the list of charges. Even from where he stood on the side, Nanu could still hear the angry, muttering swears from the aggressor, Guzma’s father – at this rate, both he and his wife would be off the island before the week was out.

Time to give the bug brat a call, it seemed. Naturally, Nanu wasn’t going to let the kid know he was involved in this whole affair. Didn't want the kid getting the wrong idea.

-

The call in question reached Guzma’s cellphone as the trio had left Hearthome City, just entering Route 208, after a long and tedious shopping spree at the Pokémart.

Guzma looked at the caller ID only to wince – Nanu, of all people?? The hell did HE want? “Yo, ’sup?” He reluctantly started out casually enough, ignoring the glance Cyrus spared him as he answered his phone, already having stopped at the sound of Guzma’s obnoxious default ringtone.

“Hey, kid. Having fun in Sinnoh, so far?” Nanu’s tone had Guzma suspicious from the get-go – the guy was up to something.

“Hah, yeah, totally havin’ fun bein’ stuck in a frozen damn wasteland for a month.” The bug specialist drawled out, Golisopod chuffing out a laugh of its own from the side. “Hey, ya’d love it here! Probably’d be ’bout as bleak as you are, in the winter.”

“Can it, brat.” Ahh, there’s the man’s usual voice. “You aren’t gonna be out there foreve–”

Guzma cut him off, already knowing what point he was trying to get across. “Yeah, yeah, can’t stay forever…” A smirk grew and settled on his face as he chose his next words. “But yo, says who, though? What if I wanna stay out here?”

“Why? Finally found yourself a boyfriend?”

The completely deadpan comment caught Guzma entirely off-guard, leaving him sputtering as his face lit up. “Wh– NO!”

“Sounds t’ me like you have.” Guzma could literally hear the shit-eating grin the dark-type Kahuna was no doubt wearing, that asshole.

“Shut the fuck up, yo! Ya don’t know shit.”

“Suuure, sure. Anyway, I didn’t call to talk about your lovelife, or lack thereof–”

Alright, nope, Guzma had absolutely had enough of that conversation. Time to Emergency Exit. Make Golisopod proud. “Krzchh, oh uh sorry Nanu, looks like– krshch! – ya breakin’ up on me, yo, krrsshchh!

“Bulushit.” Of course Nanu would call that bluff. He’s only seen it like, what, a hundred times before? Nice goin’, Guzma. An intake of breath made it through the phone, and Guzma knew he had only seconds to act before Nanu launched into some useless lecture or another. He needed to act fast.

…aight, fuck it then. “Your right. I just don’t wanna talk to ya.” The bug-specialist didn’t wait for a reply, snapping the phone shut to successfully end the call. Surely that wouldn’t come back to bite him…but what was he supposed to do? He already had one lecturing nerd out here, and in-person, at that. He didn’t need one over the phone, too!

Silence reigned for a brief, peaceful moment, but for once, it was Cyrus ruining it. He threw a skeptical look over to Guzma, eyebrow raised. “What was that all about?”

“None of ya business.” Guzma muttered, already punching in the speed-dial for Plumeria.

Cyrus looked like he was halfway to prying further, but settled with a ‘hmm’ as his companion brought the cellphone back up to his ear. Glancing over to Golisopod didn’t yield any information for the Sinnohite, either – the bug-type merely plodded along with them, taking in the scenery.

“Yo, Plumes, whassup?” Guzma started off the second he heard the other Alolan pick up, not even waiting for her to greet him. If something big enough to get Nanu to call him had went down, rather than just the old man looking to nag at him about something, Plumeria would give it to him straight.

“Not much, just got done with some dance practice.” There was a shuffling noise on the other end of the line before she continued, a note of concern slipping into her voice. “Was thinkin’ about takin’ a nap. Sup with you? Sinnoh treatin’ ya well?”

“Ahah, not much, yo!” He chuckled nervously – he might be hard as bone, but like hell did he want his BFF worrying about him out here. “And it’s been treatin’ me ’bout as well as any winter wonderland can, y’know? But anyway, uh, I was wonderin’ if ya mighta picked up on anythin’…weird goin’ on over there?”

Plumeria keyed into what he meant almost instantly; as far as the norm for Alola went, the IPD didn’t do well at flying under the radar. “So ya heard ‘bout that, huh? Yeah, International Police been lookin’ for ya, G.” …uh. Well. That definitely wasn’t what he was expecting – or wanting – to hear. “Don’t know if they know that ya left yet. I haven’t been tellin’ them anything.”

“Your a blessin’, Plumes.” The ex-Skull Leader sighed out, mind racing to process the news. “The hell they looking for me for?!” Mentally running through the list of shit he’d pulled, though…damn, what wouldn’t they be looking for him for? That was the real question in this situation.

Cyrus, who had decided to listen in this round, tensed at the implication of people looking for Guzma. As Giratina had ever-so-helpfully explained, according to Guzma, the two of them needed to stay close in order to avoid another swap – wherever Guzma was forced to go, Cyrus would likely be forced to go with him, which could risk the former Galactic Leader’s exposure. “Who’s looking for you?” He prodded, temporarily forgetting himself.

“D’ya mind?! I’m on the phone!” Guzma hissed as means of a response, tossing the other man a glare before returning to the call.

“Chill, Guz. Nobody else here’s gonna rat you out, either.” Plumeria drawled through the connection, but the assurance did little to answer Guzma’s question. “’Cept maybe Nanu.”

“…Nanu?”

“Yeah, he came askin’ for ya, so I sent him that selfie ya got with the big bug.” The simple comment felt like ice seeping into the two trainers’ veins, both of them freezing up. “But so long as ya don’t piss the guy off…”

“Uhh…” Well, fuck.

“…Guzma, you didn’t–”

“How was I s’posed ta know, yo?!” He blurted out, running a hand through his hair. Not pulling, not just yet. Guzma could almost physically feel Golisopod tune back into the conversation at the faint note of panic in his voice.

“Trouble in paradise?”

Okay, now the hair-pulling began, that deadpan voice just enough to grate against the last of his nerves. Pulling the receiver away, Guzma sent a nasty snarl over to Cyrus. “Snoop off, yo!”

The Sinnohite’s face remained as unimpressed as ever, but at least he held his tongue for the time being. Golisopod gave a gentle chirr from its trainer’s side. Guzma patted the bug-type knowingly – he’d be fine, big guy. Plumeria’s voice, in the meanwhile, handily picked up the conversation where it had stalled. “Yo G, don’t go yellin’ at ya boyfriend or whatever over there.”

Guzma could only give a strangled sound of confusion as Cyrus mentally checked out of the conversation, having had his fill of this…tomfoolery. “He ain’t my boyfriend, damn it!”

“Sure, Guz, whatever ya say.” She chuckled, clearly teasing him. Even Golisopod was doing its level best not to give off amused chitters at how flustered its trainer was getting.

Their banter kept up like so for a solid four minutes, before Plumeria regretfully had to cut the call short – she still had training to do and errands to run. Guzma bid his farewells, as did Golisopod, who gave an obnoxious gwoor loud enough to startle some nearby Starly. Once he’d snapped the phone shut once more, the bug specialist gave a loud sigh, dropping the device back into his pocket. “Well, looks like I’m stuck out here ’til this investigation shit blows over.”

“A pity.” Cyrus had gathered that much, at the least, though he couldn’t exactly drum up much sympathy for the other man. At the continued silence, though, he rolled his eyes – looked like he’d have to say something, after all. “Don’t fret over it too greatly. Whoever may be looking for you is in Alola, are they not?” He waited for the other to nod before pressing on. “Then you’re plenty far away from them. Not to mention how much more land comprises Sinnoh than Alola – if we keep on with our travels, who would find us?”

Nevermind the fact that Cyrus, personally, needed to stay under the radar, what with the botched attempt at…genocide? Universicide? However one wished to call it, he knew it wasn’t looked upon favorably. His reasoning was enough to boost Guzma’s spirits, anyway, even if he wasn’t quite sure what had spurred him to reassure the bug maniac.

“Yeah, you’re right!” Guzma exclaimed, perking up as he turned to his Pokémon. “Shit, I dunno what I’m even worryin’ about! C’mon Goli, let’s enjoy this vacation in hell-frozen-over, yo!” Golisopod gave a cheerful bout of chirrs in response, nodding along happily.

With that round of drama thwarted, Cyrus led him towards the little house they’d been approaching during the phone calls. “…uh. The fuck we here for, yo?”

“This is the Berry Master’s house.” The Sinnohite explained, already regretting his decision to ‘cheer up’ Guzma. “Since someone,” Cyrus shot a Look at the other man, “decimated my berry supply, and it’s not possible to buy berries at Pokémarts, he’s the most convenient source from which to restock.”

“Well that’s dumb.” Guzma complained, but made to enter the house anyway, only to give pause when Cyrus pulled him back. “What, yo??”

“Absolutely not. You aren’t coming in, Mr. ‘Destruction in human form’. Neither of us can afford to fix or replace anything you break; you’ll wait out here.” The ex-Galactic Leader huffed, steering Guzma a few steps back away from the door. The fool was already a wanted man, from the sounds of it – ‘destruction of property’ was probably high on his rap sheet. Like hell was Cyrus going to enable more of that, especially when it could risk his own secrecy as well.

The Alolan made to protest, but snapped his mouth shut as he remembered Alola’s own Berry Master. Man…if this one was anything like him, then Guzma really would prefer to stay out. He wasn’t in the mood to get lectured, and he certainly wasn’t in the mood to get yelled at, or ignored, or whatever-the-fuck else. “Aight, fair enough.”

Cyrus disappeared into the house within moments, leaving the other man and his bug to soak up the relative silence of Route 208. Eventually leading to the two Alolans trudging around the area in their boredom.

Guzma was just about to go into the house anyway (honestly, what was taking the guy so long?) when he suddenly found the ground a lot closer than it should’ve been. Specifically, he found it with his face, Golisopod chuffing out a laugh in the background. “Can it, Goli.” He grumbled, sitting up. The hell’d he trip over?…a jar?

-

After spending longer than expected trying to just get some berries – the Master had wanted to chat and gossip before handing them over, Arceus knows why – Cyrus finally escaped the house, only to find that Guzma was decidedly not where he had left him. Before he could get too concerned, though, he spotted the man and bug combo in the grass, not too far off. He gave an internal sigh of relief as he made his way over. What is he up to now? His thoughts stalled upon seeing exactly what the duo were doing.

“…you found honey.” The former cave troll commented, after a few moments of watching Guzma inspect the unlabelled jar.

Guzma startled at the words, not having noticed the other man approach. “Jeez, warn a guy, yo! But yeah, ya said this is honey? Sweet.” Cyrus could feel the headache threatening to intensify as the bug specialist’s first reaction was to open the discarded jar, scooping out a sizeable amount of honey with his free hand to give it a lick.

“You do realize that its purpose is to lure Pokémon, not for human consumption, correct?” What was with this guy and eating Pokémon food?! The Alolan paused in his tasting just long enough to send Cyrus a quizzical look, Golisopod taking the opening to snitch some of the honey for itself. “…if you spread it on a certain type of tree, the scent will attract Pokémon.”

“Oh shit, so this is the stuff?” He knew Grunt A had mentioned the honey trees themselves, but he hadn’t realized it was literally honey that got used on them…Probably should have figured that though based on the name. “Yo, that’s awesome! We should do that!” Guzma had honed in on the mention of luring Pokémon, already figuring it’d be a fast-track to seeing some more bugs. He held the jar further out of Golisopod’s reach as he voiced his thoughts, getting an annoyed whine from the bug-type in the process.

“I am not waiting around for six hours for something to maybe show up.” Cyrus deadpanned, already wishing he hadn’t volunteered the information.

Guzma froze at the new information. “Six hours?” But before he could protest more, Golisopod decided to make a go for the honey. Two of its smaller arms shot out, managing to knock the jar out of its trainer’s hand, spilling about half of its contents onto his shirt in the process.

Cyrus sighed at the duo’s antics, only to be startled himself as Guzma piped up. “Yo…d’ya think I could attract bugs like this?” Oh no.

Without waiting for a reply, the bug enthusiast proceeded to unceremoniously dump the rest of the honey onto himself, spreading the substance out. “Hah! Now I’m the hardest and the sweetest guy out here!” He laughed as Cyrus shuddered. Golisopod wasted no time in licking at the honey, earning even more laughs from Guzma.

Cyrus’ headache pulsed beneath his skin, prompting a twitch in his eye. This was so much worse than being questioned – so, so much.

TBC

Chapter Text

Even with all he’d experienced over the past week, Cyrus found he was learning just how far his capacity for regret went. The conclusion: it was endless. There was not a single thing about his current situation that he did not regret.

“Haha! Hey, Cy! Yo!! Check it! I can stick to Goli!” Guzma’s voice bubbled over to him. Golisopod was chittering as it spun in circles, trying in vain to reach its honey-covered trainer currently stuck to its back.

Cyrus spared a glance, but didn’t deign it worth responding to, returning to his previous train of thought. With the sun quick in its descent, he could see that they were almost to their destination. Logically, he knew they should’ve stayed back at the Hearthome Pokécenter for the night, but…he just had to get out of there.

“Mannn, I’m gonna get sooo many bugs, yo! Hey, Cy! What bugs ya got ’round here anyway? D’ya think we’ll get some a’ those cool red ones??”

Fantina had put him on edge, to understate it. Severely. The woman knew more about him than even his own sisters could claim to! She was undoubtedly a liability, and yet…he still couldn’t completely crush any semblance of shame for abandoning her. Ugh. His time spent with this moody Alolan had wrecked his emotional composure. Though, it didn’t help that he had yet to be spared a single moment to pull himself back together since meeting the guy!

“This is awesome– I’m like a psychic-type! Check it, I’mma pick shit up with no hands!”

And of course said Alolan had to be the most obnoxious punk under the sun; the other man was laughing like a child at this point, sticking random objects to himself thanks to his new honey coating. Honestly…the bike slopes he could at least reason out, seeing as they apparently didn’t exist in Alola, but the honey? Was Guzma always this much of a ridiculous moron, or was he just seeing how far he could push Cyrus’ patience?

“Hey– Cy! Cy, look!…Cy, ya ain’t looking! Lo–!”

A rock zipped by the Sinnohite’s head right then, just barely missing him – though it failed to land a direct hit, it still made just enough contact to throw him off-balance. Cyrus whipped his head around in a heartbeat, leveling Guzma with a near-acidic glare. “What?!”

Guzma had the decency to quiet down at such a reaction, but not enough to own up to being the cause of it. “Uh…Goli did it.” He inclined his head towards the bug, getting an offended gwoor for the claim.

Cyrus drew in a breath, ready to go off on the foreigner, but his mind managed to catch up to him first. He forced himself to exhale instead. Deep breaths; feel nothing. He could do it, he mentally reassured himself, though that wasn’t to say he held any belief in the words.

“If you are quite finished…” The former Galactic Leader ground out, gesturing towards the cave entrance they’d arrived at.

“…ya really like caves, huh?”

Cyrus’ glare only intensified at the comment, before turning to stomp– walk forcefully towards the entrance. Guzma and Golisopod exchanged looks, the trainer getting a swat from his Pokémon for trying to pin it with the blame.

“Ow.” Pouting childishly as he rubbed the arm that had been hit, the bug specialist followed Cyrus’ lead, Golisopod right on his heels.

-

Guzma was unable to hold back a shiver as they entered the cave opening. Not even his borrowed under armor could protect against the chills he got from this new cave. “S’cold as shit in here. Why can’t we just sleep outside, yo? Already got all honeyed up and everythin’! Sure as hell ain’t gonna get no bugs in here.”

Precisely!” Cyrus knew he was likely a bit too thrilled about the concept, but he was just so, so utterly sick of bugs at that point. No more bugs! Not ever! As soon as he worked out a method to peel Guzma away from him, permanently and without triggering another body-swap, his first course of action would be to move to some far-off town completely devoid of bug-types.

“Damn, killjoy…” The bug enthusiast grumbled, but hey, whatever. ‘Pick your battles,’ Nanu had always preached – at least the guy wasn’t like Hala, trying to pick his battles for him. Golisopod whined, in response to both the cold and the knowledge that they would be sleeping in it soon enough. The hulking bug-type wrapped itself around Guzma in what would have probably passed as a warm hug in most situations, but, due to the sticky film covering the trainer, only resulted in the two Alolans getting stuck together again. Another laugh burst out of Guzma as he wiggled, trying to get the two of them separated.

The ex-Galactic Leader rolled his eyes at the display of camaraderie, turning his attention to setting up their makeshift camp instead. This time he’d actually planned ahead, having picked up a pair of sleeping mats he’d come across in his search for Max Repels. One for himself and one for Guzma. Look at him, being all nice and considerate…the fool was making him sentimental, it seemed. Or senile. Never the matter – the less complaining he heard, the faster he could sleep, and the faster this awful day would finally come to a close.

“Sooo, uh…about sleepin’ in here…” Guzma started out, rubbing the back of his neck as he took a moment to look around the place. Yeesh…caves? Silence? Him stuck in the middle of both? Now there was a recipe for disaster. “Are ya gonna–”

No.” Ugh, how could I have forgotten about this inanity?

“Ya didn’t even let me–!”

“Because I’m already well aware of what you’re going to ask! You always ask! And the answer is no, I’m not telling you a bedtime story anymore. Act your age!” Or, at least, whatever age he appeared to be. Cyrus pondered the likelihood of Guzma being, perhaps, younger than his height led to suggest, but the idea was scrapped as quickly as it came about. No; though the fool might call himself a boy, he was most certainly a man. A completely immature and obnoxious man, yes, but a man nonetheless.

Cyrus’ remark drew Golisopod’s ire, apparently, if the angry hiss it gave was anything to go by. The bug-type hugged its trainer protectively, albeit lightly this time, before prying itself off of the sticky man. Its tinier arms flurried in their movement, a cacophony of chitters and chirrs accompanying it until Guzma lit up with a grin. The Sinnohite watched on in mild confusion, wondering just what he’d missed being conveyed through the seemingly-random movements and noises, but Guzma filled him in momentarily. “Awww, ya gonna tell me a bedtime story, big guy?”

Golisopod clicked in confirmation, nodding before it sat down next to the mat Cyrus had purchased for Guzma. Its pose was meditative, larger claws resting in its lap as it gestured with its smaller claws, beginning the telling of its story.

Guzma chuckled at the bug’s antics, settling down onto his mat. Their reluctant companion followed suit with his own, albeit while somehow withholding a groan instead of a chuckle. Apparently he would not be sleeping tonight, not with some noisy bug rambling on about Arceus-knows-what. And to think, Cyrus’ whole point behind sleeping inside the cave was to avoid disturbances by bug-types…

Without consciously realizing it, though, the Pokémon’s utterings gradually melded into a pleasant drone. The noise comfortably filled the otherwise silent cave passage as it trailed off, abandoning its story for a meditative trance instead. The new sound was not unlike the kind Golisopod made to calm its trainer down from a panic, or when Cyrus had been stuck in Guzma’s body. Just like all the times that had come prior, it wasn’t long before both men found themselves being pulled in – slipping out of their personal hells, and being lulled into a restful sleep.

Guzma had been wrong; he’d had the perfect white noise machine, right there with him, all along.

TBC

Chapter Text

Cyrus awoke to a distinctly unpleasant sticky sensation, as well as loud snoring being directed straight into his ear.

Apparently, he had laid their sleeping mats too close together…during the night, without his bug to restrain his movements, Guzma had managed to tangle his sticky, film-coated body around Cyrus. At this point, a thin layer of honey, not to mention dirt, was no doubt plastered to his own skin and clothing as badly as it was to the Alolan’s!

The stickiness, he found, is what truly made the situation even worse; Guzma had a tight grasp on him, dashing any hopes he had at making an escape from the embrace. Golisopod, that blasted bug, appeared to have fallen asleep in its meditative pose, having maintained the same position he had seen it in before falling asleep himself.

At least it was morning now! Even from his low vantage point, he could still see light spilling into the cave from the entrance. If he’d been woken up in the dead of night like this, he would’ve been downright infuriated – and with the level of sound Guzma was producing through snores, he could at least take comfort in the fact that the bug enthusiast couldn’t have been this close to him for too long.

Cyrus squirmed in an attempt to worm his way to freedom, torn over whether or not to just wake the delinquent. Waking him would certainly make it easier to escape his hold, but the ex-Galactic Leader just knew Guzma would have something immature to say about the situation. Ugh, if only he would let GO – Cyrus gave a final jerk just as, lo and behold, Guzma unconsciously did exactly that, rolling over again. Cyrus’ momentum sent him tumbling away, brief surprise melding easily into irritation.

“Up, get up! We’re going now!” The Sinnohite snapped, patience drawn thin as he began to fold up his sleeping mat, giving Guzma’s a good tug while the man still lay on it for good measure. He was sticky and filthy and every inch of his body protested about having to sleep in Mt. Coronet for the night, the ground of which felt even harder than that of the Distortion World; he was certain there had been a sharp rock lodged under his mat the whole night.

Guzma jolted awake at the stimuli, brain slowly firing up for the day. “Ah’m up, yo, I– uhh…fffuckin’ shit, yo, s’still dark?”

“We’re in a cave, you moron. It’s always dark.” Cyrus’ words were clipped in his anger as he stuffed his sleeping mat into his bag. “Hurry up and rouse that monstrous bug of yours, so that we may get going.” His only response was a blank, half-lidded stare from the bug-specialist, who was clearly not quite awake yet.

Guzma gave a long, slow blink as he sorted out his situation: Cyrus. Cave. Golisopod. Bedtime story…? His memory process was interrupted as Cyrus grew tired of waiting for him to get his shit together, yanking on the other man’s sleeping mat again, much more forcefully this time. The Alolan rolled hard onto the rocky ground, and right into his sleeping Pokémon.

Shit, yo! Didja wake up on the wrong side’a the cave or somethin’?” Guzma whined, rubbing where he’d felt a particularly pointy rock had made contact with his back during the tumble.

“I woke up in a cave. There is no right side of it.” Cyrus got a pout in lieu of a verbal response as Guzma let the subject drop, turning to wake Golisopod up with some pets and tickles. There was no way he could stay upset when going through his buggaboo’s wake-up routine! Of course, the gushy… emotional practice only served to annoy the Sinnohite further. “Hurry up! Ugh– Must you start every day like this?”

“’Course I do! Don’tchu ever show ya partners some love? Oh, right–” The bug enthusiast feigned thought for a moment, before morphing it into a glare. “–ya don’t! That’s why ya Cleffa ain’t evolved yet, ya numskull.”

Be quiet. You don’t know enough about my Pokémon to be making such claims.”

“I know that it’s a friend evo who ain’t evolved yet, despite not holdin’ an Everstone, and I know that it ain’t no damn baby anymore. S’probably old as you are, gramps!”

“I’m 27, you–!” Cyrus cut himself off then, forcing himself to take a long, deep breath. This was NOT how he intended for his morning to go. He fixed Guzma with a glare in return as he shifted the subject. “It’s morning. We’re leaving. Get ready to go.”

“Tch, fine. Whatever.” Guzma grumbled out, giving Golisopod an affectionate pat as he hoisted himself to his feet. “Let’s get goin’, Goli.”

Golisopod gave a long, low chirr, bordering on sarcastic, as it followed suit. Getting dragged out of its meditative sleep just to witness drama first thing in the AM – truly, there was no better way to start the day.

-

The resident Veilstone Everyone Man was officially at his wit’s end. In all his years of owning a convenience store, he could’ve never imagined that tracking a single tourist would be so difficult! Even after alerting the rest of the family so that they would be on the lookout, he still had yet to find this elusive bug man!

For the moment, he had taken the time to pause at his uncle’s house in Celestic Town, both to catch his breath and to let his trusty Drifblim rest, after rushing to the tiny village from Veilstone. Just as dreaded, though, there was no sign of the tourist to be found. But! He did get word that the man had been sighted in Solaceon, heading onwards towards Hearthome, from his cousin who lived out thataways. His attention was suddenly grabbed by an incoming text, and his Drifblim crowding in to get a look at it as well.

…ohoh! He leapt up as he read the message, almost stumbling over his own two feet. It seemed that his quarry had caught a contest over in Hearthome! (A grand idea, that. The Bug Man was certainly getting the full Sinnoh experience!)

It was easy enough to convince his uncle to lend him a bike, especially when he threw in an offer to bring over fresh Leppa pie the next chance he got, just to sweeten the deal. With his transport now secured – and his Drifblim snoozing away in its Pokéball – he set off for his new destination. If he could just cut down through Cycling Road quick enough, he could intercept the bug man before Guzma could get too far off from Hearthome!

Now he just had to hope the foreigner hadn’t made a detour through Mt. Coronet…

-

Bright afternoon sunlight washed over the traveling trio as they exited Mt. Coronet, but Cyrus hardly noticed it. The Sinnohite needed to formulate some sort of plan. Not only did he need to escape, but he needed a way to thwart any potential body-swaps as well. Surely Giratina’s powers could only stretch so far? Whatever the price, he had to find a way to be free of this– he paused his internal monologue for a moment, jerking a limb free from his now-honey-encrusted clothing– sticky creature.

Guzma, for however dense he could be at times, hadn’t let the other man’s stickiness go unnoticed, and was quick to comment on the fact the minute sunlight brought his attention to it. “Hold up– didju steal my honey, yo?!” The bug enthusiast could’ve sworn there was just a bit left in the jar; he’d been planning to use it to befriend whatever bug he could lure in.

Cyrus was damn near ready to start pulling his own hair out. “I did not steal your honey! Just why on earth would I want to be covered in filth?!”

“Well that sure beats me, but uh, ya still are.”

That’s because you–!”

“…I what?” The Alolan prodded, his reluctant companion having snapped his mouth shut instead of finishing his sentence. Golisopod had watched on until then with mild disinterest, still pretty unimpressed with the amount of tension it’d woken up to, but even it found itself curious about why Cyrus had abruptly stopped.

“Nothing! Nevermind! Let’s keep moving.” He pressed a hand to his head, regret instantly bubbling up as the sticky texture sent his skin crawling, but forced himself once more to take a deep breath. The non-answer wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the other, Cyrus knew; he wracked his brain for a diversion. “You should…love this part. Oreburgh is right down one of those ridiculous bike slopes the two of you seem to enjoy so much.”

“Really? Sweet.” Guzma would let it go…this time. “But, ah, yeesh,” he continued before his bug could get too excited, cracking his back loudly, “I miiight not be able to goof around on ‘em too much. Sleepin’ in there was killer on my back. Yo, Cy, how’d ya get any rest in the Distortion World when it was all rock? An’ without a sleepin’ mat, too!”

Though internally grateful for the easy change in subject, like hell was Cyrus going to admit it. “The ground there, much like everything else, is distorted. As such, it behaves far softer than actual rock.”

“Damn, ya think we could get Giratina to distort shit for us out here, too?”

Cyrus opted for a noncommittal ‘hm’ in place of an actual response. Truthfully, he wanted to say something to the effect of “you should ask it if I fail, and we swap bodies again” – but no, no need to clue the other in on his plan. He’d just become even more insufferable. Besides, it wasn’t like Cyrus was planning to fail next time.

The conversation fully fell to the wayside as the Alolan’s attention veered off to their right, away from the bike slope still a ways ahead of them. A certain large, golden-colored tree sat innocently on the roadside. He and his bug were in sync as they sprinted over to it, the large Pokémon giving off a dejected whine when it became apparent that there weren’t any other bugs hanging out around it. “Well shit, ain’t any here either…” Guzma complained, patting his partner. “Ya’d think we’d be rakin’ in the bugs by now, with all this honey shit I got on me.”

The Sinnohite could only thank Arceus that the effects of honey didn’t last forever; with only one jar to his name, Guzma would cease to be enticing to any wild bug types soon enough. Himself, on the other hand…

Just past the honey tree, Guzma spied a path leading northward, – as Golisopod started trudging south, heading towards the bike slope nearby. The bug specialist knew he wasn’t gonna be able to withstand Golisopod’s adorable babybug eyes, so he needed to scrounge up a distraction, and fast. “Yo, uh, Goli! Wanna see if there’re more Pokémon up here first?”

It was bare-minimum as far as distractions went, but it seemed to do the trick. The hulking bug-type clicked in assent after a moment, beginning to trod after its trainer, only for their companion’s deadpan voice to throw a wrench in the works. “You can’t go that way.”

“Yeah? Who’s stoppin’ me?”

“Cycling Road lies that way.” Cyrus was, briefly, tempted to roll his eyes at how the other man puffed up like a Starly with his question, but decided against it. He was going to develop eye problems, at the rate they’d been rolling recently. That wasn’t going to stop him from being petty, of course. He’d more than earned it. Logically. “And oh, you don’t have a bike, now do you? So we won’t be going that way.” Not that he particularly cared, no – in fact, going up Cycling Road might grant him an opportunity to slip away, but the urge to ruin Guzma’s fun overrode that reasoning before he could stop it.

Guzma managed to suppress his own impulse to stick his tongue out at the other trainer. Barely. Resigning himself to the bike slope – and the inevitable back pain that was going to come with it, but hey, he wasn’t the hardest boy in Alola for nothing – he let Golisopod all but drag him southwards again. That is, until a certain voice caught the group off-guard, accompanied by the ringing of a bicycle bell.

“Hey, there! Wait up!” A familiar, jovial voice called out, from none other than the strange lookalike man from before, again. The man skidded to a halt on his bike right in front of the horrified Guzma. “Ah, looks like I made it just in time, eh? Can’t even begin to tell you how long I’ve been trying to find you!”

Cyrus felt his entire body tense up; Guzma’s reaction wasn’t much different. Whatever had been coming, it’d made its arrival now. Had someone sent him? Was he just some run-of-the-mill stalker? Was–

“Here ya go.” The moment of truth was…offering a backpack?

“…huh?” Guzma took the bag, cautiously, still pretty confused about the whole situation. Granted, the bag did look a little familiar…

His pondering was cut off as Golisopod gave a loud series of clicks and began sniffling bag. The odd man gave a laugh. “You left it at my shop when you went through the lost and found! Didn’t notice it at the time, since we kinda made a mess of it. It seemed pretty important – you said you were visiting from out of the region, right? So, I texted my family to be on the lookout so I could return it, but boy, you’re certainly a hard one to track down!”

Guzma stared at the bag as the other man rambled on, the pieces slowly slotting together in his head. “Ohh, right…brought a bag with me here, didn’t I…” Golisopod chirred in affirmation, prompting an embarrassed sort of half-laugh from its trainer. “Guess I’m so used ta not carryin’ one, I jus’ straight-up forgot.”

Cyrus couldn’t even fathom why he was surprised, at that point.

“Annnywho~! Just wanted to make sure you got that back all safe and sound! You enjoy the rest of your vacation, now!”

“Yeah, uh, thanks, yo! I will!” To say Guzma’s hostility towards the man had been dropped would be an understatement. The whole…lookalike thing still creeped him out, but hey, he wasn’t a stalker! And he’d gotten his bag back! The Alolan made to turn for Oreburgh as the stranger hopped back on his bike, pushing off to start peddling back north again.

“Oh!” The man skidded to a quick stop once more, twisting to look back at Guzma. “Don’t think I ever mentioned my name before, how rude of me! It’s kind of a mouthful, you see? So the locals just call me NPC. It's a family nickname, you know.”

Guzma withheld the tempting snarky comment. “Err, thanks then…NPC…” Family nickname? The fuck's that supposed to mean??? Aight, so Sinnoh can get weirder.

“Don’t mention it!” And with that the clerk, NPC, was off, starting the tough ride back up Cycling Road. The former Galactic Leader had the decency to wait until he was out of sight before fixing Guzma with a raised eyebrow.

“You forgot you’d brought a bag?”

“Shut it, yo. I was kinda distracted by, y’know, not freezin’ my ass off out here!” Guzma snapped in means of response, actually sticking his tongue out this time.

“I suppose it’s good to know you didn’t intentionally come all the way here with no supplies.” At least that was one less group of people chasing them. Shaking his head at the development, Cyrus began running through the logistics of having a second bag on-hand now. The extra storage meant he wouldn’t be the sole one hauling supplies around, which would certainly make it less of a spectacle if he were to slip away. Unless, of course, Guzma insisted on splitting supplies evenly; he would have to endeavor to keep his stock-up secret until he could make his escape.

“Hell no, man! Now, lessee what Plumes packed me up!” Guzma’s voice sounded over the Sinnohite’s inner monologue as he excitedly dug into the backpack, looking for all the world like a kid on christmas. “…oh fuckin’ sweet, yo! Ultraballs! And look, Goli! She packed ya some more beans!”

Golisopod’s victorious trill was nearly earsplitting. Cyrus feared not even Arceus could help him handle these two.

TBC

Chapter Text

The trio finished their trek to Oreburgh in no time after the return of Guzma’s backpack. Said bag now found itself upended on the table next to their meals in the Pokémon Center they’d checked into for the night. Despite the conditions in the cave, all three of them had overslept due to the darkness, and now the evening stretched out before them.

Cyrus eyed the strange contents as he picked at his late lunch, justifying the action with how the items had, essentially, been spilled over most of the table. The travel trunk was expected enough – at least the punk wouldn’t be trudging around in the same outfit for the rest of their travels. Praise Arceus for that. Guzma was starting to smell quite ripe, and it was nearly impossible to wash clothing for the man when he had nothing else to wear.

The TM Case and the Exp. Share both followed as logical travel gear, he supposed, but…an unopened package with Guzma’s name on it, a surplus of beans – which he recognized as the treats from Turnback Cave, after Golisopod practically lunged for them – a bag full of strange pastries that seemed to have Guzma’s mouth watering, and some sort of…green crystal? There was also something that looked akin to a makeup bag, and, knowing what he did of Guzma, it probably was.

The rest of the small variety of items spread over the table – Potions, Fresh Water, a plethora of Ultraballs, and a Berry Pouch – were joined by the Seal Case and now mostly-empty jar of honey the Alolan had extracted from his pockets.

“Yo, this is sick!” Guzma managed through mouthfuls of food, sifting through the mess. Sick was one way of putting it, Cyrus figured as his eyes narrowed in disgust. Honestly, did the man not know better than to talk with his mouth full? He was sending bits of food flying across the table!

“Might I ask why, exactly, you seem so overjoyed to be opening your own backpack?” The Sinnohite questioned, shifting his food out of Spray Radius.

“Well, aheh, y’see, Plumes kinda packed it for me? Didn’t bother lookin’ through it before hoppin’ on a plane. She ain’t never led me wrong before, yo!” To Guzma’s credit, he had packed his own bag, at first. Which, of course, Plumeria had promptly dumped, then repacked with “stuff ya actually need, numskull.” He’d been annoyed by it at the time; he’d had all the beans and malasadas necessary to last him the trip! What else would he have needed??

Now that he was stuck out in this weirdass region, though, the bug enthusiast was beyond grateful for her packing prowess. Except for… He glared at the package, recognizing the box for what it was almost instantly. “Sure wish she hadn’t stuck that shit in here, though.”

Cyrus reassessed the box at Guzma’s comment. “…it’s just a package. A ratty one, at that.”

“Yeah, the jerk’s cheap. It’s kinda dirtier than when I got it, had it for a while now. Damn old man won’t take it back. Gave it t’me back ‘fore shit went sour with Miss L. Told me to open it if I ever ‘got a clue what I actually wanted in life’. Tch.” Guzma grabbed the box off the table, turning it over in his hands. “What pisses me off th’ most, is he was fuckin’ right.” He shoved the item back into the backpack, content to let it get buried at the bottom, if the deep frown on his face was any indication. “All that shit with Miss L wasn’t what I wanted. Was just all what she wanted.”

Golisopod gave a low chirr and settled a large claw on its trainer’s shoulder, receiving a thin, tired smile in return. “But all’a that’s history now, right big guy?”

The Sinnohite quietly regarded the interaction, storing the new information neatly away for later. Guzma was quick to finish his meal as he repacked the bag, with his Pokémon inhaling the last of its own meal, as well as the handful of beans the Alolan had allowed it to snag.

Welp, back towards Route– whatever it was, 214, right?” All the Routes in this region were 214, as far as Guzma was concerned. Hell, he was just waiting for a Ponyta to show up, just to taunt him with its cold, soulless eyes. “Saw a patch’a grass on our way in. I’mma go get me a bug, yo!” The Alolan hooted. Had to make the most of his time while he was stuck here, right?

Cyrus gave him a withering look before shaking his head. “I’m not going to accompany you in your…irrational search for more bugs.”

“Aight, fine. I’ll go without’cha, then.”

“And put us both at risk of exchanging bodies again?”

Guzma huffed at the accusatory tone. “If I end up in your sorry ass again, I’ll just head back where I was an’ go bug-catchin’ anyway, yo.” A beat passed in which Cyrus gave him a blank look, whereas his Pokémon squinted accusingly at him. He could only stare back, confused, before a review of his words caused the dots to connect. “… augh! Ya know what I mean!” He motioned for Golisopod to follow him as he stomped off, flustered.

The hulking bug-type emitted low chortles as it trailed behind its trainer, leaving Cyrus sitting steadfast at the table. Even the…admittedly bland atmosphere of the Pokémon Center was preferable to tromping around in the grass and dust out here. Besides, he thought to himself, settling back in the chair a bit, he won’t even be accomplishing anything. The bugs don’t show themselves until night.

-

Cyrus would confess to feeling…mildly antsy since Guzma had departed. As the hours stacked without any body-swapping consequence, though, he found his nerves calming down in proportion. Well, like hell was he going to stay up waiting for the moron. If their ‘leash’ allowed for them to be separated for this long, then surely it could hold until Guzma retired for the night. With that in mind, he set about getting ready for bed.

The pure silence, not to mention aloneness, present in the rented room for two was nothing short of heavenly. Finally, it looked to be that Cyrus was going to get to sleep alone for the night. “Almost forgot what this felt like…” He muttered to himself as he crawled into bed, all but melting into the comfort of it after practically sleeping on a cave floor.

…many, many millennia ago, the world was frozen over. The thought arose unbidden, but Cyrus was too relaxed right then to dispel it, allowing the story to lull him into a light doze. Now the only thing missing from the picture was, well, actual sleep – the Sinnohite kept startling back to alertness every time noise filtered in from the hall, expecting it to be Guzma returning.

It wasn’t until the first hints of sunlight began filtering in through the window that Cyrus finally gave up the ghost. He wasn’t going to get anywhere even remotely close to well-rested, not even with all the quietude and comfort afforded by Guzma’s absence; it was time to cut his losses and start the day. Crawling back out of the bed was the first step towards beginning his morning routine.

Guzma had…failed to appear even once through the night. Cyrus proceeded through the motions and on to breakfast, alone, trying and failing to keep his nerves from faltering as the solitude lasted. Where on earth had the Alolan wandered off to?

One finished meal and a retrieved team from Nurse Joy later, the former Galactic Leader found himself headed back to the grassy patch on Route– ugh, whatever number it was! Whose bright idea had it been to name every road by a number, anyway?…Cyrus swore internally as he realized that was exactly something he could hear coming out of Guzma’s mouth. The fool was rubbing off on him. Lovely. He blocked the thought off as best he could, opting instead to move faster towards his destination.

Cyrus arrived at the grassy patch, panting slightly as his eyes darted around, expecting the worst. Only for them to land on Guzma, clearly fine, and quite literally bouncing in the tall grass like a giddy school boy.

The Sinnohite allowed his irritation to well up. Here he was, having actually expended the energy to be (arguably) worried about the other, and the man was perfectly fine! He started to turn, to maybe head back to the Pokécenter and pretend he’d never gone looking, but the movement was just enough to catch Guzma’s attention. The bug enthusiast scrambled to his feet, calling out to him. “Cy! Cy, look, yo!!”

Reluctantly he turned. “Oh no…” Was the only coherent thought Cyrus could articulate as Guzma pitched an Ultra Ball, a flash of light from it revealing a tiny Kricketot.

“He actually caught one…”

TBC

Chapter Text

One Emergency Exit from that awkward exchange he’d set himself up in, Guzma marched himself right back to that grassy patch on Route-whatever. 214, or something.

“Aight big guy, ya know th’ drill.” Golisopod gave off a noisy whine at its trainer’s words, glaring at the Ultra Ball he held out. “Look, I ain't gonna turn into no troll again while ya in there, but ya know ya too big. You'll scare our new bug buddy away 'fore they even get ta know ya!”

The bug-type huffed, but ultimately accepted the precaution, disappearing back into its ball with a flash of red light. With that issue dealt with, Guzma rooted around for a good spot before hunkering down in the tall grass. All was quiet for a few moments before he began rustling around again, an idea having sprung to his mind. He could dump the rest of the honey on his head for good measure! Brilliant. Now his bug magnetism would be off the charts! All he had to do was wait.

...and what a hell of a wait it turned out to be. He had to have sat there for hours before something even showed up – only for it to wind up being a fucking Ponyta, because of course. The bug enthusiast couldn't even begin to feel a bit bad for abruptly jumping to his feet, scaring the creature off in a heartbeat. Good riddance. Guzma still couldn't fathom where all the bugs had to be. Where were they? The fuck was wrong with this region…?

-

A loud trilling was the next thing to register in Guzma’s mind, jolting him awake. He must have dozed off while staking out the area for bugs...dozed off a lot, if the lack of light in the sky was any indication. It was deep into the night by then; Guzma found himself shivering, even in Cyrus’ clothes, and knew morning had to be close.

The trilling repeated, softer this time, and Guzma’s eyes darted around until they found the source. A tiny, red Pokémon, undoubtedly a bug type, was half-hidden in the tall grass, peering out at him. Guzma cautiously fetched out a Pokébean from his pack, moving slowly to avoid startling the Pokémon. Curious, it let itself be lured in, inspecting the strange treat before chancing a bite. It was…delicious! The odd bug-type was won over – it proceeded to crawl onto the strange human after finishing the treat, chewing lightly at the honey residue still present in his hair.

Some patting and playing later, and Guzma could say two things for sure. First off, the bug was cute as hell. Not Golisopod levels of cute, of course, but still. Getting there. Second, it looked like it already had Growl and Bide under its belt – a fairly decent starting moveset. He couldn’t help a chuckle as he pet the little bug. “So ya know how to make some noise, and how to deliver a good beatdown…a classic combo, I can dig it.” The bug gave off cute little chirrups in response. Fuckin’ adorable, yo.

The sun had become well-established in the sky by the time Guzma figured he should probably start heading back towards town. Who knew where Cyrus could’ve run off to this time. But, as he started to move, the new bug Pokémon began chirping again, looking up at him expectantly. The Alolan blinked, as a grin stretched across his face.

“Ya wanna come with, lil dude?” At the bug-type’s happy little chirp of acceptance, Guzma rustled an Ultra Ball out of his pack, offering it out. The Pokémon headbutted the device, effectively capturing itself – and lo and behold, just as the ball clicked to signify a successful capture, Guzma noticed the arrival of a certain ex-Galactic Leader on the scene.

The Alolan scrambled to his feet upon spotting the other man, calling out to him excitedly. “Cy! Cy, look, yo!!” He didn’t quite catch Cyrus’ words as he released his new Pokémon, wanting to parade the tyke around a bit.

The bug-type gave a loud chirrup, bouncing in place and giving little mock-punches as it was released from its Pokéball for the first time. “Just lookit my tough boy!” Guzma crooned, patting the new friend affectionately. “Walked right up t’ me, too! Little guy’s got some guts, yo!” He gushed, oblivious to the growing look of exasperation on Cyrus’ face.

“Yes, well…” Cyrus began, endeavoring to excuse himself from this buddy-buddy moment as he moved to take a step back. “I see you’re enjoying yourself. I’ll just–”

He didn’t get to finish as a strong arm was abruptly thrown over his shoulder, rendering the Sinnohite immobile and pulling him in close to an excited Guzma. “My first bug in Sinnoh, yo! Got a good rep, and now a new ‘mon, too! An’ look how cute it is! Shit, I can’t believe all’a this, man!”

The Alolan’s babbling didn’t fully register for Cyrus, whose brain had decided right then was a perfect time to check out. This whole “physical contact” thing was…new. Very new. So new, in fact, that he had no idea why he wasn’t pulling away, which logically should have been his first instinct…why wasn’t he pulling away? Augh!

Before that particular existential crisis could progress very far, though, Guzma was gone again. “Hold up, gotta let Goli meet the lil dude too.”

The Hard Shell Pokémon gave its best glower the second its eyes landed on the smaller bug – with a roar, it loomed over the newcomer like it was looking to give it a beatdown. The new bug shrank back for a split second, but was puffing up again the next, trying its damnedest to look intimidating in return with its own tiny, chirrupy growl in response.

Golisopod leaned down further, glare intensifying. Kricketot matched it glare for glare before getting swatted at by one of Golisopod’s smaller arms, causing it to stumble back as the taller bug gave a laugh. It liked this new kid! Lots of spunk. The smaller of the two took a moment to realize the squaring-up was just a test – and a test it had passed, no less, prompting it to swell up again with buggy pride.

Guzma turned away from the exchange to comment on it to Cyrus – granted, it would’ve just been more gushing over his newest team member, but still – only to find the other man had made haste in vacating the area. The guy was already halfway back to town! “Tch, spoilsport!” He called after him halfheartedly, but honestly, he was still too psyched up to get mad about it. Waving for his Pokémon to follow, he set off after Cyrus, unable to stop the smile on his face upon hearing the happy chirring noises from the bugs as they trailed along.

-

The Pokémon Center was, blessedly, still providing breakfast by the time the four of them arrived back, and the news might as well have been music to the Alolan’s ears. Who knew falling asleep outside on a bug hunt could make a guy so hungry? Kricketot had whined its way into getting some more treats, too – not that it had needed to try very hard, of course, with Golisopod backing it up.

Cyrus was staring off to the side again while the trio chowed down, much like he had back with Fantina. He’d eaten earlier, before he’d gone rushing off to look for Guzma, like he had been worried or something. There wasn’t any point in making himself sick with more food. Instead, he took the moment of relative peace while the others ate to review what had transpired back on Route– Route 207, he finally recalled. Specifically, he needed to piece together why he’d acted the way he had in response to Guzma’s hug.

…it hadn’t even been a whole hug, honestly, just some strange attempt at a half-hug. The Sinnohite had observed enough by then to know that Guzma was a pretty tactile person when it came to his Pokémon, but did that extend over to humans as well? Was this a sign Guzma was becoming more comfortable around him? He didn’t even want to begin to dissect how that made him feel, other than acknowledging that it might get the Alolan to be a bit calmer and easier to tolerate, even if at the price of something as foreign to Cyrus as physical contact. Speaking of which…he really wasn’t used to being touched, was he? Most affection he received came from his own team, after all. People in Sinnoh weren’t particularly known for being touchy-feely.

So, perhaps that was it. Cyrus was unused to touch, and Guzma apparently used it as some supplement to communication. It was hardly any different from when the Sinnohite’s Weavile would nudge his leg in way of greeting, or…something like that. The bug enthusiast was about as naturally tactile as his Golisopod, because of course he would be. It was just something Cyrus was going to have to deal with, from the looks of it.

A small sound caught Guzma’s attention as Cyrus’ internal monologue went on, the repetitive noise confusing him for a second before he spotted Cyrus fidgeting with a Pokéball again. Hadn’t Cy been doing that back in Hearthome when he was still pissed off about that stuff with Fantina? Golisopod had noticed the loop of click-bwoop noises too, if the look it was giving him was any indication. Alright, time to distract the guy into snapping out of…whatever he was thinking again?

“So, uh–” Shit, right, needed to have something to say before he could actually say stuff. “Whaddaya think of the new bug, yo? S’cute, right?” The Alolan gave a nervous laugh, the food currently in his hands being the only thing keeping him from instinctively rubbing the back of his neck. “And, uh, any chance ya could tell me what it’s called?”

That seemed to do the trick. Cyrus paused his clicking to shoot Guzma the most unimpressed, deadpan look he could muster at that moment. Really. After all that celebratory nonsense, and Fantina’s prank in Hearthome, the Alolan didn't even know?!

Guzma’s face was far too honest to be joking, prompting Cyrus to roll his eyes. “It’s called a Kricketot.”

TBC

Chapter Text

With breakfast finished and a quick checkup for Guzma’s new Kricketot pal out of the way, it was finally time to move on. Cyrus wasn’t particularly keen on staying too long, especially now that the ‘everyone-man’ knew where they were. Even if NPC had ceased following them, it’d be less of a hassle in the long run if they just kept on the move. If Cyrus just so happened to walk a bit farther ahead of Guzma than usual, the bug enthusiast didn’t see fit to bring it up. What with their lack of bikes, the only exit left for them was through Oreburgh Gate to the west.

Cyrus spared a look back over his shoulder, eyeing the small Pokémon warily. “Do you…intend to keep your new bug out of its Pokéball as much as the other?”

“So what if I do?” Guzma grumbled. Not like the little guy was causing trouble or anything, jeez. The Sinnohite gave an unamused grunt in lieu of an actual answer, turning his attention back to the dirt road ahead of them.

The road in question led them to the west edge of Oreburgh, right to a couple flights of hard stone stairs. They were nothing like the ones back in Veilstone, luckily, but Guzma could dully feel the effects of sleeping on the hard-packed dirt last night as he climbed. At the top of them, lo and behold, was another cave, prompting a scoff from the bug enthusiast.

“Man, weren’t we just IN a cave, yo? The fuck’s up with Sinnoh and caves?”

“It tends to happen when a region has mountains and rain.” Came the dry response – even without seeing Cyrus’ face, Guzma could feel the Sinnohite rolling his eyes.

“You ain’t gonna try movin’ into this one while I ain’t lookin’, right?” Guzma asked, after a moment. It was a joke, sure, but even he knew better than to try tempting fate.

Cyrus had to fight to keep his deadpan intonation. “We’ll see.”

Watching the exchange in confusion, Kricketot eventually turned to Golisopod, letting out a curious chirp. The larger bug chuffed, giving it a look that spelled out “you don’t wanna know” – the Hard Shell Pokémon had gotten used to the weird banter by that point. Just humans being humans. Kricketot cast another glance between the two trainers before humming, going back to basking in Guzma’s still-honeyed scent instead.

Oreburgh Gate was…arguably just as boring as the cave they spent the night in, as far as Guzma was concerned. With so many damn caves, you’d think some of ’em would at least be interestin’… Guzma paused for a second at that thought, shaking it away again. Turnback Cave and its high-class bulushit was probably compensation for all the others. He could deal with that.

The bug enthusiast kept his grousing internal as he scanned the dusty passage. Even with his surveying, it still took him a good minute to register that his two bugs had veered off to the side of the path, Golisopod honed in on one of the small boulders spotting the ground and Kricketot simply following along.

The hulking bug-type was prodding at it curiously, much to his confusion. “…sup, Goli?” Golisopod prodded at the rock, causing it to shake before a pair of eyes glared up in unspoken reply. It took Guzma a moment to realize what he was looking at, before he let out a scoff. “Yo, it’s just one of those weird Geodude ya hear about from the tourists all the time. Leave it be, big guy.”

The bug chirred in assent, giving the nonplussed rock-type a pat on the head before lumbering back to its trainer. Kricketot chirped out a laugh at the Geodude’s face as Guzma turned to continue following Cyrus, who had– shit! The guy had already been walking a good ways ahead of them, but now he was leaving the trio in the dust! The Alolan broke into a sprint, Kricketot now hanging on tight to his jacket as Golisopod followed behind.

“Cy, yo! Hold up!”

Cyrus paused and somehow contained a heavy sigh as he waited for his companions to catch up. Of course they managed to fall behind…I should have figured as much, after Hearthome.

“Man, you can really make tracks when ya wan–”

Guzma’s statement was cut off, abruptly, by a sharp trill from Kricketot, who had been launched closer to Cyrus by his abrupt halt. The little bug had picked up a new scent from it's sudden proximity to the Sinnohite and decided right that second was the opportune time to lunge at it. Cyrus went stock still as the bug made contact, wasting no time in snuggling up to the man and crawling about, chirping happily as it did so.

After his initial worry at the burst of movement, Guzma let out a breath, which morphed into a chuckle along the way. “Aww, looks like the lil dude likes ya!” A fact that Guzma had to force himself not to grumble about. What had the bug going ga-ga over this guy now, instead of his honey-coated self?…maybe it was just a Sinnoh thing??

Whatever it was, Cyrus was already through an entire can of Max Repel trying to counteract it, but the bug-type stayed unfazed in its cuddling. Taking pity on him, the bug enthusiast attempted to pry off the Pokémon, but to no avail – every time he would reach for it, it would skitter to a different place on Cyrus, and Cyrus would turn in attempt to hose it with another squirt of Max Repel. After several failed catches, Guzma finally caught ahold of his Kricketot, but it clung too tightly to the other man to be removed.

“Aight, c’mon yo, back on the Guzma express.” Guzma stated, tapping on one of Kricketot’s antennae, but the Pokémon just wriggled harder in an attempt to remain on Cyrus. Cyrus’ pallor was beginning to resemble that of a corpse in his mortification; a sharp flinch accompanied each movement Kricketot made. That was, uh. A bit concerning.

Guzma gave a more halfhearted chuckle as Cyrus tried swatting the bug away, but it died almost the second it left his throat in the face of the other man’s actual, bonafide freak-out over the situation. The bug-type just wasn’t having this whole “separation” thing, and Cyrus’ removal attempts weren't helping, either, only managing to make Guzma loose his grip on the small bug once more. Golisopod gave a low wail in the background, motioning for Kricketot to let go, but it simply gave a defiant chirp and held on tighter.

The ruckus from the bugs seemed to be the limit for the ex-Galactic Leader, and he finally snapped. “Return the damn bug!!

Red light flashed near instantly as Guzma complied, not having considered its Pokéball. The cuddly bug-type disappeared back into the capture device without further issue. A tense silence blanketed the group as Cyrus continued to shake. Fists balling up, he took a deep breath before spinning on his heel towards Jubilife once more. He refused to speak.

Effectively cowed by the unexpectedly emotional response, Guzma stowed the Ultra Ball for the time being, both he and Golisopod trailing behind Cyrus like a couple of kicked Lillipup. Damn…and things had been goin’ so well, too.

TBC

Chapter Text

The rest of the hike passed by uneventfully, albeit tense. Cyrus was still stilted by Kricketot’s unwanted contact, if the rigid way he carried himself was any indication, but he’d at least seemed to settle enough by the time they approached the outskirts of Jubilife City.

“So, ya gonna give me a tour a’ this place, too?” Guzma joked, closing a little of the distance he’d been giving his reluctant companion. “Might wanna skip the Poffin House this time.” The Alolan forced a laugh at the comment.

For a moment, it looked as though the Sinnohite wouldn’t reply, but a drawn-out sigh gave him away. “There isn’t a Poffin House here. Wasn’t Hearthome enough of a mess for y–”

“Excuse me!!” The sudden outcry pulled the trio’s attention to a newscaster duo hustling towards them. Cyrus held his tongue as he was shoved out of the way – like hell was he going to start drawing attention to himself with a camera present, even if they were being rude. The reporter didn’t miss a beat, immediately addressing Guzma. “Hiii, sorry to spring this on you, but you’re from a different region, right? Or at least your Pokémon is?”

“Geez, what gave ya that idea?” The bug enthusiast’s dry joke got a chuckle out of the cameraman, but didn’t so much as faze the reporter.

“Great! Not many new trainers have passed through in a while, and we’re trying to do some coverage for the Trainers’ School, see? But we’re not going to get much of a reaction if we use the same Pokémon as last time, so we need something fresh to get any footage we can use. Kids need variety, you know? And I don’t even know what that big guy is, but it’s perfect!” The woman was fast and clear with her words, her accentless, professional tone coming through as she gestured at Golisopod. “Sooo, if you’re not too busy, could we convince you to come demo for us? We could throw in a Pokétch as a reward, if you’re interested~!”

Guzma had to take a moment for the words to process, Golisopod leaning in curiously. The hell’s a Pokétch? Another weird Sinnoh thing? Ah well, it probably wasn’t that important. What really stuck in his mind was– “Yo, uh, kids? Like grade-school kids? Ya sure ya want me for this?”

“Of course! Of course.” She was nodding before he’d even finished his question. “Kids love seeing cool, unfamiliar Pokémon, right? So you two would be great!”

For all his acting tough, the Alolan couldn’t help but get hyped up at the idea. Working with kids was a blast! Even his bratty Grunts back home! Damn, I miss those numskulls…

While Guzma thought it over, Cyrus could feel a growing sense of dread. He knew exactly what was about to happen, and there wasn’t anything he could say that would change it. Seems they were– “Aight, I’ll do it! Lead the way, yo!” –going on another stupid, pointless misadventure. Of course. He was chained to an idiot.

-

“On me in three, two–” The reporter made the OK signal, and the film started rolling. “Hello, this is Reporter Roxy coming to you from the Jubilife Trainers’ School, where our monthly battle demonstration is about to get underway!”

Jubilife’s Trainers’ School was…a hell of a lot smaller than Guzma had expected, now that he was up close. The one back on Melemele was loads bigger than this place! Then again, the Alolan thought to himself as he spotted some of the students through the windows, these kids look way younger. Smaller kids, smaller school?

“And here comes the class as we speak!” As the camera focused in on the children being led out of the building by their teacher, Cyrus seized the opportunity to express his displeasure with the situation. Honestly, they were both former criminals…why a filmed demonstration, of all things?!

“Do you enjoy dragging us into these shenanigans?” Cyrus spoke, voice low so as to not attract the reporter’s attention, as the traveling trio stood out in the practice battling area behind the school.

“Wh– uh, yeah? C’mon, who do you think I am?” The bug specialist nudged him as he joked, the contact brief enough to only garner an eye-roll. Golisopod chittered away in agreement, then excitement as it saw the class they were supposed to be demonstrating for start filing out of the building. “’Sides, bet you were gettin’ bored with just watchin’ me battle all the time, right? This’ll be fun!”

“Yes, now I’ll get to be bored watching you battle children…” The response was clipped as the camera suddenly pulled a 180 to focus on Guzma.

“For this month’s demonstration, we bring you Mr.– (ah, what was your name again?) Mr. Guzma and his bug-type partner!” Guzma slapped on a wide grin at that, puffing out his chest somewhat. The bravado was immediately ruined as Golisopod all but flopped on top of him in its excitement, gwooring loudly and waving at the camera. Cyrus couldn’t help but smirk a little – there goes the Alolan’s attempt at a “cool guy” image.

In the background, the teacher had been attempting to talk their class through the activity that was planned for the day, but Golisopod’s noisy introduction dragged their attention away. A murmur started growing among the kids as they caught sight of the newcomer, until one of them finally piped up. “No way! It’s the bug man!”

“I thought that was a myth?” Someone challenged, just as another kid started razzing, “You suuure it’s him?”

The first student was quick to defend their honor. “Hey, he’s got weird hair an’ a big bug, right?! He’s the bug man!”

“...weird hair?” Guzma mumbled to himself, glancing up, but only seeing the bangs of his favorite ‘do. “What’s so weird about it?”

Cyrus, of course, wasn’t willing to spare mercy. “It looks like Purugly’s tail did the time Mars forgot to brush it for a week.”

Golisopod starting chirring in laughter at the jab, bringing out a pout on its trainer’s face. “Ya don’t even know what that is, numskull…”

Meanwhile, the exchange was apparently enough to convince the class that the new guy was, in fact, the legendary Bug-man. Even the doubters seemed on-board as the whole gaggle of students started crowding, moving as close to the edge of the practice area as they dared while the teacher was still trying to direct them.

“Are you gonna battle with a bug-type, bug man??” One of them called out, quickly getting chided by another. “Of COURSE he’s gonna battle with a bug-type! What else would he use?!”

“Well, well~ Seems we happened to snag a celebrity for this month’s demonstration.” The reporter practically sang as the camera turned back to her. The kids couldn’t even be heard over each other’s yelling by then. A smaller one emerged from the mass, nervously stepping forward onto the field, Pokéball in-hand.

All eyes, and the camera, fell on Guzma. “Ready to take the field?”

Guzma gaze the tiny challenger a once-over, then slid his eyes over to Golisopod. His big ol’ bug would tear the kid apart! He couldn’t just decimate some baby trainer like that! Scrambling for a solution, his gaze landed on Cyrus. The man was unamused, probably not feeling the hype for watching another awesome bug battle, though it wasn’t going to be very awesome unless–

The Alolan’s eyes lit up. He had another bug now.

A huge grin split his face as he shooed Golisopod towards the sidelines, before clearing his throat loudly. “Hey, yo! My boi Golisopod’s been battlin’ real hard lately, and I know y’all wanna see him fight, but he’s just too tired. Right, buddy?” Golisopod stared at its trainer oddly for a second, not catching on, until he motioned for it to play along.

The Hard Shell Pokémon gave a sudden bleat of realization, then hammed it up, flopping down onto its stomach. Ohh, it was SO tired! It could fall asleep right then! Yawn~!

Guzma could see the camera guy trying to withhold a laugh at the performance, but the kids seemed to fall for it well enough. He felt his eye twitch when the giant bug finally chilled out, turning back to the trainer that had stepped forward. The little kid looked even more freaked out, now, but she probably didn’t know that she wasn’t about to get decimated anymore.

The Alolan tried for a reassuring smile as he dug out the Ultra Ball holding his team’s newest addition. “But, y’see, I just happened ta catch this lil guy on the way here. So, would ya mind givin’ it a shot at his first battle, too? Would really gimme a hand at gettin’ it some experience.”

Hesitantly, the kid nodded, the level of the capture device not escaping attention. An Ultra Ball? Those were for really strong Pokémon! She could feel her heart sinking into her shoes as the device clicked open, its sudden burst of light revealing–

“UwhaA?! That’s just a Kricketot!” A murmur of dismay started up among the students. They wanted to see the big bug!

“You know, Kricketot can evolve at level 10.” The teacher cut in before the crowd could get going. “If it gets enough experience, it could even evolve during class today.”

These were the magic words, apparently, as the class’s mood did a 180. Evolution?! Even if it was something as common as a Kricketot, the thought of seeing it evolve was enough to prompt a surge of enthusiasm. The reporter breathed an internal sigh of relief – the demonstration coverage would have definitely been a dud if the kids weren’t excited.

Guzma couldn’t even keep himself from getting hyped up, overhearing the teacher’s words. Hot damn, bugs were fuckin’ amazing! What other type could evolve so fast?!

Meanwhile, Kricketot was raring and ready to start its first-ever battle, bouncing in place. Taking her place on the field, the challenger sent out her own Pokémon, a Bidoof. The Plump Mouse Pokémon looked around for a moment, before straightening up, catching sight of its opponent.

“Alright!” The teacher clapped. “Let the battle begin!”

TBC

Chapter Text

After a few hours and a slew of short-lived battles, all the Pokémon that took part in the demonstration found themselves plumb worn out. In Guzma’s opinion, his new tiny ‘Tot had held its own pretty damn well, even if its opponents were pretty limited in variety. And hey, they hadn’t won every round, but the kids all had big smiles on their faces. That was enough to make it a victory in Guzma’s book. Kricketot had even learned a new attack!

The news segment ended with a shot of the kids that had piled onto Golisopod on the sidelines, the bug type chortling heartily at their curiosity as Roxy wrapped things up.

“This has been the monthly battle demonstration at Jubilife Trainers’ School. Thank you for tuning in!” As Oli signalled that the film was done rolling, she let out a cheer, not wasting any time in congratulating Guzma. “Great job out there! That was the best demo we’ve had in a while!” The reporter’s exuberance shone through over the job well-done as the cameraman packed things up, before a thought struck her. “Oh!” She clapped her hands together with the exclamation. “Hey, why don’t we treat you to lunch for helping us out? We did sort of snag you right as you got to town, after all–”

She was cut off by the cameraman clearing his throat, loudly. “We, uh, don’t really have time for that. We still gotta get this all edited and done for it to air on time. Weren’t you just gonna give him a Pokétch?”

“Oh, right!” The Alolan pouted while the reporter went to rummage through one of the camera bags real quick – he still didn’t know what the hell a Pokétch was, but he was pretty sure he’d take free food over whatever it was any day, hands-down. But fine, whatever, they had a job to do, yadda yadda.

“So~!” Roxy spun around then, presenting a small item with a flourish. “As I mentioned earlier, as a thank-you for helping us out here, I’d like to present you with your very own Pokétch!”

Guzma blinked at the device in front of him. It looked like just… “…a watch?” He couldn’t help but give it a skeptical once-over as he accepted it from the reporter. Really? “Don’t know if ya noticed or not, but I kinda already got a watch, yo.” He held out his arm, bringing attention to it.

A beat passed before Oli gave up, letting out a full laugh – Roxy wasn’t far behind, with Cyrus rolling his eyes at the uproar.

“It’s– I mean, yeah, it’s a watch, but it’s more than just a watch, y’know?” Oli eventually got out. “It has a calculator and a calendar and a ton of other stuff, too. Like, uh, I think there’s a friendship checker app? And then there’s the memo pad…”

He went on to detail the other apps, but Guzma had already tuned him out, poking at the buttons on the weird device. So it was just…a smartwatch? But with an LCD screen. Maybe he could set timers or something? See how long it took him to find another cool bug? He was at a loss, for the most part. His observations got sidetracked as Cyrus came to stand by him, their arms barely brushing in an effort to get his attention.

“Just take it. I’ll show you how to use it later.” Cyrus wanted to kick himself right as the words left his mouth – it’d keep Guzma from wanting to hang around the reporters to ask questions, sure, but why on earth was he offering to help? The Pokétch was hardly a complicated tool, even for someone from a region that apparently didn’t even have bikes or HMs.

The interviewers were more than happy to leave him to the task, bidding their farewells. Guzma barely noticed their departure, already back to prodding at his new acquisition.

Meanwhile, the kids that hadn’t flocked to Golisopod like a swarm of Wimpod had gone ahead and gathered around Kricketot instead. One of them – Guzma’s initial challenger, it looked like – reached out to pat its head, getting some tired chirps in return. “Wonder why it hasn’t evolved yet? It battled a lot today…”

“Maybe it’s too tired to evolve?”

“That’s not even a thing!”

You don’t know that!”

The discussion devolved into squabbling from there, a couple children even getting out their notebooks to see if they’d gone over the topic in class. It wasn’t until the teacher approached that the argument died down again, if only to be replaced by a new dilemma.

“It’s snack time, everyone! Mr. Guzma and his friend probably have things to get back to, so it’s time to say thank you and goodbye.” Much to the teacher’s chagrin, this opened up a whinier debate, a chorus of “awww”s echoing from the group.

“But Kricketot hasn’t evolved yet!” Someone piped up, and the tone shifted – Bug Man couldn’t leave until his bug evolved! That just wouldn’t be fair!

Cyrus was certain he could spot a few gray hairs sprouting from the woman as the beleaguered teacher sighed, then turned to them with an apologetic smile on her face. “Would it…be too much trouble for you to stick around for a bit? At least until your Kricketot evolves.”

Guzma grinned wide at the request, shooting a look over to Cyrus, whose only answer was a death glare. Well, screw him, then. The Alolan glared back for a moment before slapping the grin back on, focusing back on the teacher. “We’d love to, yo!” Things were going good for him out here! Like hell was he going to let some cave troll ruin his fun. For a moment, badgering Cyrus into letting out his Pokémon and joining in on the fun crossed his mind, but he allowed that thought to get shot down immediately. He could practically hear the guy snapping at him for that one. Spoilsport.

The teacher let out a breath of relief as her students cheered, a potential mass tantrum averted for the time being. “Thank you so much. Alright kids, it’s still snack time! Did everyone remember theirs today?” A round of affirmations. “Good! Mr. Guzma, and, uh– Mr. Guzma’s friend, you’re both invited to join if you’d like.”

Oh hell yeah! Nothing like free food! “Thanks, Teach.” The Alolan turned to look at Golisopod, only to find Cyrus by his side instead, the Hard Shell Pokémon still loafing around with the swarm of students that had clambered onto it. The ex-Galactic Leader looked for all the world that he would rather be anywhere else at the moment, and Guzma had a pretty good idea where that ‘anywhere’ might be. His habit of fidgeting with a Pokéball had resurfaced as well, even if he was taking care to be subtle about it this time, the device partially hidden behind his leg.

Guzma felt the urge to pick a fight with the guy start to bubble up – honestly, what the hell was his problem? – but he managed to wrestle it back down. Fantina’s words came back to him as he did so. It takes only time for him to thaw – and you are already on the right track. Perhaps you could be there for him in the ways I was unable. A frown worked its way across his face. With the way she’d gone on about it and the way Cyrus acted, it wasn’t hard to picture his old team members. Gladion, especially; granted, the kid hadn’t been an official Skull member, but he’d sure fit in like he was. The blond had all the signs of emotional abuse a psychiatrist could ask for…maybe if Guzma had put two and two together, figured out that Lusamine was responsible for it, things might’ve played out differently. There was no way Cyrus wasn’t an abuse victim too, and the more he was forced to hang around the guy, the more obvious it was. He gave a heavy sigh – time to change tactics. Gotta play nice, Guz. Gotta play nice.

“Actually, we should prooobably head to the Center an’ heal my bugs, yo. So why don’t we, uh, come back later, that cool?”

“Of course! Of course. Right across the street.” Came the flustered response. Guzma could feel Cyrus’ eyes on him as they left, extricating Golisopod and Kricketot from their ‘adoring fans’ to go get them healed up. The Sinnohite was relieved for the reprieve, however short it may be, but it did little to quell his nerves. Arceus only knew what the fool would drag him into next.

TBC

Chapter Text

With both bug-types safely in the care of Nurse Joy, Cyrus was surprised when the bug specialist led him back out onto the street and began to stroll around. Just the two of them, no bugs or anything. Not even Guzma’s headache-inducing chatter was present, the Alolan busying himself with his new Pokétch instead.

Cyrus found himself…marginally relaxed by the quiet change, albeit confused by it at the same time. Of course, he wasn’t about to question it – he didn’t want to give Guzma the idea that he cared about the bugs, let alone wanted them around, but it was still very odd.

The silence stretched on for a couple more blocks, the low drone of city life settling over them like a blanket. Guzma found that keeping his mouth shut to preserve the silence was a lot harder than he’d thought it would be. Finally, he cleared his throat, looking away from the Pokétch. The silence was starting to get to him by that point, though his efforts to get the other man some quiet seemed to have paid off. “So, uh, this Pokétch thing, yo – you said you’d explain it, right?”

“…mm.” The Sinnohite felt the words rise up, but stopped himself at the last second, pursing his lips. Neither the Pokétch nor its applications were particularly difficult to understand, but he was hesitant to launch into an explanation after his past experiences trying to teach the Alolan. The last thing he needed was to run around Jubilife trying to track Guzma down because the man had ‘gotten bored’ and wandered off. Cyrus mulled over the situation until a flag-decorated building came into view, bringing with it a solution. “Better idea. Let’s take a tour.”

Guzma followed, confused, as Cyrus led the two of them over to the building, until he saw the sign out front. “Wow. Aight, I see how it is.” A smile crept across the Alolan’s features, and he snickered as he fell back in-step with the other man. “Ya offer to help, but then ya turn around an’ get someone else to do it for ya.”

“Yes, it’s called delegating.” Came the response, accompanied by a smirk that could arguably be considered ‘amused’.

The bug enthusiast found his grin growing wider at the almost-positive show of emotion as they headed into the building.

-

The Pokétch Company was even less up-to-date than Galactic had been, if the tour was any indication, but it did give Guzma quite a bit of insight about the weird little watch he now owned. It wasn’t too useful at the moment, what with the extent of the basic apps, but it could definitely come in handy once he got a few more added. The tour itself was given by the President’s own wife, an older woman with her hair tied back in a bun. It was a laid-back place – Guzma saw what the lady had meant when she’d called it a family-run operation.

“Oh, and there’s my husband now!” She remarked as they returned to the first floor, gesturing to a balding man standing at the front desk, chatting with the receptionist. The man looked away from the conversation at her voice, a bright smile lighting up his face.

“Hel~lo, darling.” The President greeted, giving her a light peck on the cheek and wrapping one arm around her as he regarded the duo. “Enjoying the tour, you two? My wife does just the best tours, if I do say so myself.”

Ignoring the lovey-dovey display, Cyrus put on a polite smile. Pleasantries were easy enough; his words were almost mechanical. “It was a lovely tour. Thank you very much.”

“Yo, really!” Guzma, meanwhile, was a bit more enthusiastic about it. Of course, he was the one with the new toy, after all. “Hey, Cy, what’s say we go get some more a’ these apps, huh?”

The President jumped on the question before Cyrus could feel the need to physically shrivel up at the thought of another side-adventure. “Actually! If you’re looking for more apps, you happen to be at just the right place to start!”

Both former Team Leaders were surprised by the statement, Cyrus’ quickly morphing into relief. Guzma, meanwhile, kept a curious eye on the President as the man adjusted his tie.

“Well, ah, you see…” Somehow, the man had managed to jump from business-casual to business-uncomfortable in a matter of seconds. “We’re running a special promotion, currently. There are a few clowns in the building – did you notice the clowns? Of course you did, they’re uh, pretty hard to miss – who will reward you with an app each if you find them and answer their riddles.”

Cyrus’ relief was short-lived. They were already on the side-adventure, it seemed, and this one involved even more clowns than the one he was being forced to travel with. That one, of course, was perfectly amiable to the idea. “Aight, sounds good. Don’t s’pose ya can give us a hint where they’re hidin’ out?”

“Oh, dear, no. Sorry about that, I just, ah– I don’t really interact with– I mean, they usually run promotions outside of the building, so–”

“He’s not a big fan of clowns.” His wife cut in, gently, effectively ending the man’s sputtering with an embarrassed ‘Dearest!’. “But no, unfortunately – that would ruin the fun!” She continued, “Just look for three people in yellow costumes, it’ll be easy.”

Sparing a weary, sidelong glance at Guzma, Cyrus forced himself to withhold a cringe. Somehow, he was skepticle.

-

Finding the first Clown had been juvenile, not that there were many places to hide in the small company, anyway. The Clown in question was standing in a corner near the stairs, crowding a potted plant. The clown must have followed the tour group downstairs; there’s no way they could’ve missed that, of all things. Casting a questioning look over to Cyrus – who was still too dead on the inside from knowing that he had gotten them into this, to do much more than stare back – Guzma stepped forward, tapping the clown on the shoulder.

“Who-o-oa! You found me!” The performer spun around abruptly, almost knocking over the potted plant in the process. Guzma had to step back quickly to avoid getting hit himself, though the clown’s arm still grazed him. “Great job! So, ready for your question?”

“Uhhh…sure, yo?”

“Allllllright~!” The clown clapped. “Now. If you take my age, and you add that and a half, you’ll get 36. How old am I?”

“Fuck if I know, yo. Shouldn’t ya know your own age?” Guzma tried joking after a pause, only to get a half-hearted glare in return.

The clown clucked his tongue at the bug specialist. “Language, pal! This is a family-friendly promotion!”

“Er, right, sorry. Uhh…” He shot a pleading look over to Cyrus. Math? Seriously?? This was not his area of expertise. The Sinnohite, however, wasn’t even meeting his eyes now. Figures. “So, just takin’ a stab in the dark here, but–” This person couldn’t be that old, right? How old were clowns, usually? “–tweeenty-six?”

The clown mimicked a buzzer sound. “Ennh, nope!”

That was about all the warning either of them got before a light zap of electricity jolted them, effectively bringing Cyrus back to the situation and startling the hell out of Guzma. “The fu– the frick, yo?!”

“That’s part of the challenge!” The clown was smiling as though nothing had happened. “If you get the question right, you get a neat new app! But if you get it wrong, instead you’ll get a zap!”

The duo glanced at each other. Just what the hell had they gotten into…? Guzma let the pleading expression slip back onto his face.

“Yo, uh, Cy? Lend a hand?”

“You have two of them, don’t you? Do it yourself.” Cyrus had turned away again the second his companion’s expression had begun to shift. “This is your problem, not mine. Take responsibility for it.”

Shock played out over Guzma’s face for a split second, before quickly being overridden by spite. He could feel his spine creak in protest as he straightened up – he vaguely registered the clown letting out a surprised little “wow!” at the bug specialist’s full height. Without looking away from Cyrus, he blurted out the first number to come to mind, not even bothering to think it over. “How ‘bout sixty-five?”

Ennh! Nope~! C’mooon, are you even trying?” Another wave of electricity washed over the two ex-Leaders as punishment for the incorrect answer, the clown pouting before them. This one was slightly stronger than the last – just enough to startle a yell out of Cyrus.

“What did you do that for?!” Cyrus snapped, only to snap his mouth shut again when he noticed the receptionist looking over in concern. No need to call attention to himself, after all…

Guzma, unfortunately, had no such qualms. “This whole Pokétch thing was your idea, yo! I was just down for some free food! So maybe ya could, y’know, pitch in t’ get us outta this faster!”

The Sinnohite set his jaw; Guzma was, unfortunately, not wrong about the current scenario, however unintentional it had been. That was fair enough. He wasn’t about to admit to it, aloud, but it was fair. What wasn’t was how the other man was handling the situation so far. It was a simple math riddle! For Arceus’ sake, did he not realize– “Guzma, you have a calculator on your arm.”

“…say wha?” The Alolan oh-so-eloquently uttered out as he looked down at his watch, right before remembering the Pokétch. His eyes lit up as they snapped over to the device instead. “Oh, right!” It was only a matter of clicks to get to the calculator, even if he accidentally passed it at first in his rush. He looked up then, offering a sheepish smile to the clown. “Uh, would ya mind repeatin’ yer riddle real quick?”

“Those zaps went to your head fast, huh?” The performer laughed, but didn’t object to the request. “If you take my age, and you add that and a half, you’ll get 36. So, how old am I?”

“Right, right, okay, so…” Guzma punched in 36, pausing for a moment. “Uh. Ya wouldn’t happen to be 35 and a half, would ya?”

“Ennh! Nope~!” The clown’s peppy reply came in sync with yet another jolt of electrocution. “A good guess, though. That would technically work!”

Cyrus managed to shake off the residual effects of the electricity faster than Guzma, a frustrated noise escaping him. “Gah! You’re hopeless!” He took hold of the bug specialist’s arm this time, punching in the calculation himself. “36 by three is 12, 12 times two is…” He trailed off, pushing Guzma’s arm back at him.

“…you’re 24, yo?”

The clown cheered, bounding forward to Guzma. “Ding-ding-ding! We haaave a winner~!” With a flourish, he presented a tiny, USB-looking device, motioning for Guzma to let him see his Pokétch for a moment. “Now, all we gotta do is plug this in annnnd…violà!” The Pokétch beeped, signalling that the new app had finished downloading. “There you have it! The Move Tester 1.1 app is all yours now, congratulations! (Even if your partner there did most of the figuring…)”

Ignoring that last, muttered line, Guzma immediately went to investigate the new app. “Move Tester? It got the definitions of moves or somethi– okay yeah that ain’t what this is. What’s it do?”

“The Move Tester 1.1 shows you how effective your moves are by type! You can see how effective each one is against the others by changing the types of the attacker and the defender. Plus, since this is the 1.1 version, it includes Fairy type, too!” Cyrus had to force down a snide comment as the clown rambled on a bit more. It was about time! The introduction and classification of the Fairy typing had been a scientific breakthrough, but where it fit on a matchup chart always managed to throw him off.

Unaware of the Sinnohite’s thoughts, Guzma snorted at the idea, even as he started poking at the new app. “Yo, when would I need this, though? I know all the types I need!” He didn’t get to be the best bug-user in Alola by not knowing what his bugs could beat down and what could beat them down. That was all that mattered, wasn’t it?

Cyrus fixed his fellow ex-Leader with a look of disbelief, right as the clown was donning his own sneaky grin. “Who knows~?” The grin quickly morphed back into a cheery smile as he bid to duo goodbye. “Oh, and good luck finding the next clown! He’s even better at hiding than I am!”

With that, the performer spun back around, facing the corner as he had been before their interaction had begun.

“Uhh…” Gumza snapped his mouth shut before he could form words, shaking his head instead. “Nope, nuh-uh. Nah. Let’s go, Cy!” He really just…was not interested in asking if the guy had a few screws loose; the whole ‘electrocution’ thing was enough proof that he did.

For once, Cyrus found himself agreeing wholeheartedly with the idea. Glancing over his shoulder – just in case – he followed close behind the bug enthusiast as they made haste to the second floor.

TBC

Chapter Text

When the first clown said that his compatriot was even better at hiding, it…wasn’t by much. The brightly-clad performer was visible almost instantly as they reached the building’s second floor. As he spotted the duo, he quickly held up the Clefairy there in front of his face as if to hide behind it, the Pachirisu nearby giving him an odd look.

“…fairy~!” The small, pink Pokémon brightened up as they approached, wiggling in greeting from where it was being held. Cyrus couldn’t help but give a barely-detectable smile in return, remembering his own Cleffa. The clown behind the Fairy-type, giggling gleefully, ruined the moment.

Guzma paused for about ten seconds before reaching out to move the Clefairy, expecting another spin move from this performer as well. Instead, the clown stumbled back in an exaggerated display of shock, with the Pokémon quick to cuddle up to the newcomer. The bug specialist patted the Clefairy awkwardly before prying it off of himself, handing it to Cyrus without taking his eyes off the clown. Just to be safe. “Sooo…found you? Ya got a riddle or what?”

The clown laughed off his pseudo-surprised look, assuming the same peppy disposition as the first clown had. It was almost as annoying as the Everyone-man – NPC? – had been. “Innnnndeed I do, kiddo! You think you’re up for the challenge?”

Guzma gave a scoff at that; as if they had any choice. “Obviously, yo.”

“Excellent! So for this one, I’ll be naming three different Pokémon, and you’re gonna need to figure out a move type that’ll be super-effective against each. Buu~ut, you won’t be able to repeat types. Sound good?” At the Alolan’s nod, the performer clapped happily. “Alrighty! Let’s start off with Palkia! What move type would be super-effective against it?”

“…Pal-who?”

That got Cyrus’ attention off of the Clefairy chirping happily in his hold, turning to raise an eyebrow at Guzma. “Palkia.” A confused look. Sinnohan mythos wasn’t particularly obscure, but…well, different regions have different focuses, he assumed. “It’s a member of the Creation Trio, the master of space and dimensions.”

“Space, okay.” Guzma let out a breath at that, rubbing the back of his neck. “Like a Minior or somethin’, right? Or maybe a Clefairy…” Hopefully not Ultra-Space, at least.

The Clefairy squeaked at its name, but its holder was quick to dismiss the idea. “It’s nothing like a Clefairy.” What on earth is a Minior…?

“Aight, sooo…let’s go with…” The bug specialist tapped at the new app, switching the defender’s initial type over to Rock. “How ‘bout a Water move?”

Ennh! Wrong!”

A light zap and the smell of electricity answered his question. Clefairy, already used to the game, hopped out of Cyrus’ hold after the first shock – it took up residence next to the Pachirisu instead as the Sinnohite fumed. “No, you simpleton! It is Water!”

“Whaaat? Why’s it in charge of space then? Pfff, wait, this’s another one a’ your ‘Ghost Dragon’ things, ain’t it?” Guzma gave a bark of laughter at that, only to light up with an idea a moment later. “Oh! I bet it’s part Dragon though, right? Like Giratina!”

“Well, yes, but–”

Cyrus couldn’t get the words out fast enough, his companion already checking the Move Tester. “Hit it with Ice, yo!”

Ennh, wrong again~!” The clown sang out. Another jolt – just like with the previous clown, it was stronger than the first.

What the fuck?!”

The clown’s scolding of Guzma’s choice of language went unheard as Cyrus cut in. “I just told you that it’s a Water Dragon! Use a Dragon-type move!”

“Tch, fiiine.” The Alolan rolled his eyes. “Let’s go with a Dragon move, then.”

Both ex-Leaders let out a breath of relief as the clown cheered. “Ding ding~! You got it! Now, for the next one – which type of move would be super-effective against Dialga?”

“...against who, now?”

Cyrus barely suppressed the urge to facepalm. Naturally the Alolan wouldn’t know about that one, either. “It’s also a Dragon-type. Another Dragon move should suffice.”

“But I already used a Dragon move, yo”

“…so?”

“Re~mem~ber~” The clown chimed in, a smile stretching wide across his face. “You can only use each type once~! So, Dragon’s a no-go now!”

The Sinnohite glared at the grinning performer, but acquiesced. His attention had been…mildly diverted while the clown was explaining the challenge, what with the Pokémon that’d been unceremoniously shoved into his arms. Guzma, meanwhile, was still puzzling over the new legendary. “What even is it? I’m guessin’ it’s another part of that Creation Trio ya mentioned, right?”

So he can remember that much, at least. Cyrus resisted rolling his eyes in favor of answering. “Yes. Just as Palkia rules over space, Dialga rules over time.”

“Time?…OH! It’s Psychic, then!”

“That– wait, no!” The look on Guzma face as he spoke told Cyrus he needed to act fast if he was going to catch the mistake, but by the time he spoke up, the other man was already charging ahead.

“Can I get a Dark-type move, yo?!”

The clown waited a few long, pitiless moments before piping up, the huge grin on his face not even wavering. “Ennh! No you can not!” Guzma could swear there was a mischievous glint in the guy’s eyes as they were fried again, but hey, he was getting zapped. Might’ve just been the light.

Cyrus groaned, dragging a hand down his face. These jolts were going to get to him, at this rate – or, knowing their luck, wind up shorting out the Pokétch. “Dragon types only have three weaknesses, just pick another!”

Two electrocutions later, it was clear that had been the wrong approach. Ice and Fairy both failed the test, much to Cyrus’ confusion and heightened frustration; Ice he could understand, in hindsight, but Fairy? Was Steel resistant to that? Probably why this puzzle came after getting the Move Tester…

“Well, you could just check the app~” The clown’s voice was practically dripping with smugness as he echoed Cyrus’ thoughts, only serving to aggravate him further. Guzma wasn’t faring much better, if the glare he shot at the performer was any indication, though the latter didn’t so much as blink.

Having had enough of this nonsense, Cyrus grabbed Guzma’s arm again, this time accidentally with enough force to haul the rest of his body with it. The bug specialist stumbled along with the movement, huffily resigning himself to stand at an odd angle as Cyrus tapped through the moves. Within moments, he snapped out an answer, abruptly releasing Guzma’s arm again. “Fighting.”

“You got it! Good job!” Guzma gave a meager attempt at smiling in response to the clown’s cheering, but it came out more like a grimace. “Now, onto the last one~! What move type would be super-effective...” the clown paused for dramatic build up, “against Giratina?”

TBC

Chapter Text

He should’ve seen it coming. Dear Arceus, why didn’t he see it coming? No sooner had the clown finished forming the legendary’s name than a shit-eating grin made its way onto Guzma’s face. “Flying!”

Ennh!” The clown tsked as the newest wave of electricity made its way through the duo. “Boy, you two aren’t very good at this…”

The Sinnohite was all set to get on Guzma’s case for his impulsive answer, but the other man was already up in arms. “ExCUSE me?! I know my bugs, yo! I don’t need no fuckin’ not-watch to tell me what types they’re weak to!”

The clown frowned at that, the smile finally slipping off of his face in his confusion. “But, you see, Giratina is a Ghost–”

Thank you!” Cyrus interjected. This clown can’t be all bad…

Unfortunately, Guzma was quick to zero in on that. “Aw, don’t start that shit, yo! I met Giratina!” He whipped out his cellphone without hesitation, showing off the selfie he’d taken with the legendary in question – set as his background, naturally. “And it said that it’s a BUG-Dragon!”

Taken aback, the clown silently examined the photo, providing Cyrus with ample opportunity to start in on Guzma again. “It was a joke! It was only saying that in order to mess with you!” And to infuriate me, apparently… He left that last part unsaid, already preparing for whatever slew of arguments the fool would try using.

Before the fight could progress further, though, the clown gave a loud “Welp,” standing up straight and shrugging. “Can’t argue with that.”

“You’re kidding me…”

“That’s Giratina alright,” the clown asserted, definitively, “So if it said that it’s a Bug, then it must be!”

“That’s what I’m sayin’, yo!”

“You’re both out of your minds!” The Sinnohite withdrew any thoughts of this clown being even mildly decent – he was anything but! He was just as awful as Guzma!

“Well, I guess this app is yours, then! I’m just gonna have to refigure my questions here, it looks like.” Guzma flashed another shit-eating grin as the clown installed the Memo Pad app, and Cyrus felt himself lose a last, little bit of hope he didn’t even know he still had.

The advertiser clown bid them farewell after the app finished downloading. “Good luck finding the last one! He’s awwwful good at hiding~!” He sang out as he scooped up the Clefairy off the floor, resuming his “hiding” pose from earlier. The Fairy Pokémon waved at them.

Both ex-Leaders elected to back away a few steps, neither feeling safe turning their backs to the clown so soon, before continuing on in their search. Cyrus was far from done with that previous conversation, though, and didn’t waste time opening it back up once he was sure they were out of earshot. “I can’t believe he still gave you the app. Giratina is a Ghost-Dragon! It has no reason to be Bug-type!”

Guzma crossed his arms in an X-shape as he mimicked the clown’s voice. “Ennh! Wrong–”

The duo stumbled into each other as they were zapped, the sudden burst of electricity catching them off-guard. A pause stilled the two for a full minute before realization dawned on them – the clowns had always made that buzzer noise right before they were zapped. Their eyes met for a fraction of a second, Cyrus already wary. “Don’t you dare–”

A sly grin crawled across Guzma’s face. “Ennh!”

Cyrus felt his muscles involuntarily seize up as they were both zapped yet again. “You imbecile. You’re electrocuting yourself as well, you know!”

“Tch, totally worth it!” Guzma could barely get out through his laughter. “Ennh!”

Another jolt rocketed through them, and the Sinnohite couldn’t tell if it was good or bad that the shocks didn’t seem to be increasing much in intensity anymore. “Stop it, you–”

Ennh!

“Are you truly THAT inclined to self–”

Ennh!

Cut it out!

EEnnnh!!

Cyrus was downright furious now. Wisps of smoke had begun rising from their bodies at the the continuous shocks – and this moron acted like he was having fun?! If that’s how he wants it… His gaze hardened. “Two can play at this game.”

“Pff, I’d like ta see that.” Guzma’s toothy grin was almost a grimace at that point. The zaps were small, sure, but that didn’t make them any less painful when done consecutively.

All pretense of a mature and collected manner falling to the wayside, Cyrus gave the Alolan a deathly glare. “Try me.”

Back on the main floor, the few other citizens who were exploring the building that day quickly evacuated the area near the stairs as the two hotheads stumbled down it at a near run. Intermittently, they would shout buzzer noises at each other, their clothes and hair smoking slightly from the excessive electrocutions.

A glimpse of yellow and orange caught their eyes, even through their self-made distraction, and Guzma was quick to point out the final clown, clearly having 'hidden' after they'd left the first floor earlier. “Over there, yo!” He shoved Cyrus towards the performer, causing the other man to stumble – thus prompting him to make another buzzer sound as payback.

The clown – who had been as poorly hidden as his compatriots – had actually strayed out into the open, wondering what all the commotion was about. This decision didn’t last long before the regret set in, the company clown’s eyes widening as the pair of frazzled-looking trainers barreled towards him. He didn’t even get a chance to start his spiel before Cyrus started in on him, voice harsh. “You’re the last one. What’s your problem?”

Dealing with the populace of Jubilife and the occasional traveler? That was within the performer’s work description. But two scary-looking, slightly-smoking guys that seemed for all the world like they were about to throw down in the lobby? Absolutely not.

Before the clown could open his mouth to speak, Guzma started on his own commentary. “Yo, shouldn’t I be askin’ that? You ain’t the one with a Pokétch.”

“And yet I’ve been instrumental to solving all of these puzzles to begin with.”

“Hey, I would’a gotten them right on my own eventually! At least I don’t got Giratina’s typing mixed up–”

It’s not a Bug-type!

Words started flying out of the clown’s mouth even before he started backing away from the two, hands raised in an attempt at pacification. “Y-you can have the app! Really! Forget the questions!” The two men swerved on him in an instant, their combined glares getting a shrill “eep!” out of the costumed man as he made a hasty retreat, tossing the app installer over his shoulder as a distraction on the way.

The sudden flight caught the two ex-Leaders off-guard for a moment. A pause stretched between them before Guzma inevitably started cracking up – restrained at first, but quickly dissolving into a full-fledged laugh, complete with some casual back-slaps to Cyrus as he guffawed. “Lookit us, yo! We look fuckin’ nuts! Haha!” He waved his free hand between himself and an increasingly confused Cyrus as he scooped the app installer off of the floor. The Sinnohite could only stare back. Weren’t they…mad at each other?

“…I suppose he did really run, didn't he?” Cyrus muttered as he came back to his senses, realizing the disheveled state he was in.

“He did!” Guzma wheezed on his words, struggling to catch his breath after another fit of laughter. Once he’d calmed enough to speak again, he managed to get himself back on track. “Okay. Okay! Fun as all this was, yo, we better be gettin’ back to the Center, then the School, y’know?”

The words barely registered with the former Galactic Leader as they made their way out of the building, his mind trying to analyze the sudden shift in mood. He was still…quite confused.

TBC

Chapter Text

They left the app installer with the receptionist once the Marking Map app finished its download. The lady shot the two mildly-fried men a look of concern, but refrained from asking any questions before they departed.

Guzma lead the way back to the Pokémon Center, where his bugs were elated to see him, all but tackling him the second he got through the door. Golisopod bellowed out its woes at the prolonged absence of its trainer, latching onto the man in a full-body cling. Laughter bubbled out of the bug specialist as Kricketot got in some fierce cuddles as well.

Cyrus, meanwhile, had remained detached from the situation through both transit and reunion. The odd end to their…clown misadventure was still rolling around in his mind as he picked at it, trying to dissect it. The mood had shifted too quickly to be logical – unless that was just the effect of the compound electrocutions manifesting itself? He had felt a little off nearing the end there, especially after recovering his composure from that zap-fight the two of them had gotten into…

His trail of thought derailed into wreckage as a pair of fingers snapped in front of his face, jerking him to attention. The bug reunion had concluded while he had gotten lost in his thoughts, apparently, and now Guzma was fixing him with a curious stare. “…what?”

Jeez man, ya checked out up there?” Guzma let out a light laugh at the other’s confusion. “I been askin’ if ya wanna go get lunch before hittin’ the school again.”

“Ah…” He could, potentially, go for some food right then, but his response tapered off as he considered how it would require more one-on-one time with the bug enthusiast. Cyrus wasn’t particularly interested in navigating that social interaction, especially while he was still trying to piece together the last one. “…no. Let’s get this over with, shall we?”

Guzma and Golisopod shrugged, and Cyrus noted the Kricketot was missing – it must have been returned to its Pokéball already. (Not that either Alolan would admit that it’d tried latching onto the former cave troll during his zone-out, of course. No need to start up that again.)

-

Cyrus could feel regret introducing itself to his body for the nth time that day, hyper aware of the multiple smaller bodies crouched around his own. The children had been overjoyed at the return of the Bug Man, the excited buzz of energy from earlier returning full-force as they insisted on watching Guzma train. It’d taken some smooth talking from Cyrus to convince the teacher of the idea, but ultimately, they’d reached an agreement.

Thus, the class (and Cyrus) found themselves in the immediate outskirts of Jubilife City, just barely on Route 203, watching as Guzma slowly crept up on an Abra.

How they’d managed to get as close to the Psychic Pokémon as they had before noticing it was beyond him, given Abra’s tendency to teleport away from disturbances much more mild than, say, a group of chattering children. Even Golisopod had gone quiet as its trainer crept forward, though it was clear the Bug-type was on high alert, honed in on the scene. Cyrus only had time to register how Guzma tensed to pounce – Alola must be weirder than previously thought if tackling Pokémon was seen as a common catching practice – before the other man was in motion, lunging at the yellow Psychic-type.

The Alolan wound up with a faceful of dirt for his troubles, the Abra having teleported away at the last second. Cries of disappointment rose up around Cyrus. “Aww! You almost had it!” Someone commented, a few others echoing the sentiment as they stood from their crouched positions. Cyrus found himself near the edge of the group as it congregated around Guzma again.

“Hey, don’t worry ‘bout it!” The consoling from the kids was unnecessary, it seemed, Guzma already chuckling as he brushed the dirt off himself. “Not like it’s th’ only Pokémon on this Route, right?”

Admittals of agreement went around as the kids acknowledged the Bug Man’s point, the excited buzz quickly returning to replace the disappointment. The former Galactic Leader was ready to tune it out when he felt a light tug on his pant leg.

“Uh, Mr. Cy?”

Cyrus cringed at the moniker as he glanced down, finding one of the smaller children standing close to his side, almost behind him. Of course Guzma had to introduce him as ‘his friend Cy’…as if they could even call themselves that. Arguably tolerable acquaintances, maybe, but friends? No. Another light tug on his leg brought him out of his internal grumbling – he still hadn’t responded to the kid. “Yes?”

“You gots a bug on your back.” The man froze instantly, every nerve in his body going into high-alert. “Can I pet it?”

With Guzma not actively doing something interesting at the moment, and Golisopod not doing much more than chortling about its trainer’s faceplant, it didn’t take long for some of the other kids to notice the unexpected Pokémon as well. “It’s so fluffy!” One of them squealed, the class as a whole taking it as a sign to let loose a barrage of commentary.

“I’ve never seen that bug before!”

“Can we pet the bug, Mr. Cy??” A veritable wave of pleading followed the question, some of the students already crowding in an attempt to pat the bug – completely ignoring the extra feet they’d need to reach it.

Curious at the sudden uproar, Guzma waded into the group of anklebiters to get a good look. “Uh…Cy?” He could’ve sworn that the Cave Troll hated bugs? A glimpse at Cyrus’ face showed that the man had gone positively rigid in his panic. “Ah, jeez…” Guzma let out a sigh. Better see what crawled on the nerd this time… “How ya know there's even a bug on ya? Turn ’round and lemme see.” The other man turned sharply, his movements stiff as Guzma started scanning him for the supposed bug. His eyes widened with glee as a tiny puff of yellow caught them, almost neon-bright against Cyrus’ wardrobe choices. “Is that–?!”

Joltik shuffled in its hiding spot, peeking out of Cyrus’ sweater vest in a nervous manner. Guzma’s face softened even further at the sight of it, Golisopod leaning in now to get a better look as well. It was, hands-down, the fluffiest lil motherfucker the bug specialist had ever seen!

Cyrus snapped him out of his cooing without mercy. “I don’t care what you think it is, get it off!”

Of course, Guzma didn’t earn his title of “Alola’s best Bug-type user” just from running his mouth. He knew better than to just grab a bug – let alone an electric bug – out of the blue. You had to warn the little dudes, or else they’d freak out! “Tch, it’s scared, yo. Ya boy’s gotta be gentle here.”

“You’re– what was it you called yourself? ‘Destruction in human form’? I’d be amazed if you had the capacity to be gentle, even by accident!”

“At least I know how ta act like a damn human instead of a walkin’ corpse, unlike some people,” Guzma shot back, eyes still on the Joltik. Cyrus didn’t even respond this time – he grabbed the sweater vest and yanked it off of himself in one swift motion, sending both it and its uninvited guest flying. The clothing item landed a few feet away, the small Bug-type peeking out from the folds in confusion. “What the hell was that for?!”

The Alolan was downright affronted, but no answers were forthcoming as Cyrus made his escape from the scene. Guzma tsked and turned to where he’d seen the article of clothing land, only to be faced down by a full class of scolding looks. “…what? Whassup?”

“That was really mean…” A smattering of ‘Swearing is bad!’s followed that initial statement, but the focus soon shifted to the departed man.

“Isn’t he your friend?”

“If I had a friend on my Pokémon journey, I'd want them to be nice.”

“You should go tell him sorry!”

“Well…but–!” The bug specialist bit his tongue before the ‘but he started it’ could slip out. Yeah…he’d probably crossed a line there, and that was far from a good reason for it. Especially since he was actually starting to have, well, fun hanging out with the cave troll. Jeez, sounds weird just admittin’ it. He thought to himself as he scooped up the sweater vest, the Joltik skittering about the cloth curiously. “Aight, yeah. Should prob’ly go apologize, huh.”

A wave of agreements rose up to reaffirm the statement, and Guzma sighed, passing the Joltik off to one of the kids – the one that’d noticed it in the first place, if he recalled correctly.

“Here goes nothin.”

TBC

Chapter Text

Cyrus was good at making himself scarce when he wanted to, Guzma was finding, but at least he hadn’t run back to the cave this time. Instead, the Alolan found him sulking on the southwest side of Jubilife – the sound of the fountains he’d parked himself at were the only immediate noise in the vicinity. Guzma settled down next to the other man without a word, shoving his hands into his pockets.

“…so, uh.” The bug specialist tried, awkwardly, wracking his mind for words. “Ya…found a pretty nice spot out here, huh?”

He didn’t get a response. Cyrus continued to stare into the middle distance, ignoring him completely. Guzma got ready to try again, latching onto the topic.

“S’really, uh, neat, y’know? Don’t think ya can find somewhere this quiet in Hau’Oli.” The Alolan pulled one of his hands out of his pockets to rub at the back of his neck, looking around. “One hell of a building over there, though. That just another Sinnoh thing?”

Still no answer. Well, fuck. That’s a dead end. Guzma fidgeted where he sat for a full minute, noting the lack of Cyrus’ usual fidget – though, the other man did have a white-knuckle grip on his clasped hands, nails digging into the skin. Maybe he could ask about tha–

Guzma’s line of thought derailed as Cyrus’ stomach gave off a growl, the ex-Galactic Leader’s face taking on a look of annoyance. His own stomach gave a twinge of protest as well, and he couldn’t help a laugh as Cyrus huffed and turned his head away. “Damn, guess we shouldn’t’a skipped lunch, huh?” He slung his backpack off his shoulder and rustled around in it, eventually producing a pair of Fresh Waters and Big Malasadas.

Cyrus gave the items a skeptical once-over as he turned his head back, but didn’t get a chance to protest as Guzma shoved one of each into his hands. The skepticism continued for all of half a minute before he cautiously followed Guzma’s lead, slowly biting into the strange food.

The silence stretched on as they ate, almost forming a bubble around them. It didn’t take long for Guzma to polish off the malasada. “Listen, yo.” He scrunched up the wrapper with a sigh, not moving to throw it away just yet. “M’sorry if I crossed a line, earlier.”

The Sinnohite finally looked in his direction at the apology, only half-done with his own food. It wasn’t too bad – perhaps a bit sweet for his tastes, but not tooth-achingly so. “If you crossed a line, hm? I suppose the children put you up to this.”

Guzma visibly flinched at the comment; did the guy really have to call him out that fast? “What, like you can blame ‘em for being worried after ya ran off like that?”

Ennh.” Cyrus meant the buzzer noise as a sarcastic response, but froze halfway into his next bite when Guzma, and only Guzma, gave a yelp, a light electric jolt running through the bug specialist. He blinked at the other man, who seemed just as confused, before his eyes narrowed. “…turn around for a moment.”

Quirking an eyebrow, Guzma adjusted his position as he was asked, albeit reluctantly. Not seeing what he was looking for on the surface of Guzma’s clothes, Cyrus clamped down on his remaining malasada, keeping it securely in his mouth as he reached out to gently shake the short-sleeved jacket. Within moments, a fluffy yellow head peeked out from the hood, four blue eyes honing in on the ex-Galactic Leader.

Cyrus retracted his hand and took the malasada back out of his mouth. “So that’s how it is, hm?” The Joltik blinked curiously at him, before disappearing back into the folds of fabric.

“How what is?”

Returning to his ‘meal’, Cyrus directed his attention away from Guzma once more, nonplussed. “You seem to have a bug on you as well.”

“Yo, forreal?!” If he’d been looking at the man’s face, he could have witnessed Guzma experience the full emotional scale between starry-eyed and apprehensive in a matter of moments. “…waiiit a min–”

Cyrus smirked. That was all the warning Guzma got before the Sinnohite made the buzzer noise again, the Joltik still clinging onto his hoodie zapping him on-command. “I’m not certain how,” he paused to take a bite of malasada, “but I’m assuming the clowns – for lack of a better word – bugged us with trained Pokémon.”

With the number of times he’d been electrocuted by that point in the day, Guzma was pretty sure he couldn’t be blamed for giving a snort at the pun. “The last one must’a forgot ta get ‘em off when he ran!”

“Nice to see there’s something in that head of yours.”

Hey!”

“Speaking of which…” Cyrus didn’t allow time for a conversation to branch off of that comment as he finished his malasada, folding the wrapper up before standing. He felt…much more collected than he had moments before. Perhaps skipping a meal hadn’t been the best of plans, seeing as he’d wound up stuck interacting with Guzma again, away. “Am I to assume that you left a class of grade-school children alone in the wild?”

Guzma puffed up, only mildly indignant. “They ain’t alone, yo! Goli’s with ‘em!”

The Sinnohite gave him a look.

“…we should get back.”

-

Luckily for the duo, chaos had not taken control of the class in their absence. Most of the kids had remained occupied with the Joltik, which basked in the attention. Guzma couldn’t keep a grin off his face as he nudged Cyrus, the second Joltik safely secured in his hands. “They gonna love this. Hey! Got another bug for y’all!”

Cyrus backed away at the last second, barely avoiding getting taken down himself by the surge of children that put Guzma flat on his ass in a heartbeat. Even Golisopod joined in on the over-enthusiastic greeting, all but tackling its trainer along with the kids.

“Easy, easy!” The Bug Man called for order, struggling to sit up, but ultimately managing to unearth himself from the pile without his hands. “Let up a sec! Where’s that other one?” The second yellow fluffball nervously peeked out of his hands as he opened them, but brightened as it noticed its teammate being held up in response to Guzma’s question. Barely missing a beat, it hopped from the bug-specialist’s hands, landing on the kid and skittering up to its companion.

The class was positively overjoyed as they swarmed the new addition – even Golisopod cooed over the tiny Bug-types as they skittered about, lightly zapping each other in greeting. Guzma took the moment of distraction to get back on his feet, dusting himself off. Thoughts of his and Cyrus’ bickering fell to the wayside in the happy atmosphere, the children radiating wonder as they marveled over the Pokémon. Clearing his throat, he drew some attention back to himself.

“Now, who’s ready ta evolve a bug?”

-

Just as hoped, Kricketot hadn’t been far from evolving after the battle demonstration. Guzma watched on, just as excited as the kids, as the bug began to emanate light, its body morphing into its new form. As the light of evolution faded, it let out the cry its species was known for.

Delelelewoooop!”

The bug specialist almost doubled over as the class cheered. “It did the thing!!

Cyrus startled as Guzma began mimicking the Bug-type’s cry back at it. The Alolan’s tiny fans didn't take long before they enthusiastically joined in – even Golisopod tried to imitate the cry, with…arguable success. The newly-formed Kricketune seemed thrilled to bits, and sang its tune even louder in response.

The ex-Galactic Leader found himself stepping back a few feet from the cacophony. The dead silence of Turnback Cave was sounding incredibly inviting, right about now…

TBC

Chapter Text

It took some effort to corral the kids after all the hype from the Kricketune cry-fest, not to mention get them back to school. But, somehow, the unconventional duo had succeeded.

Guzma had, predictably enough, been rather reluctant to return the Joltik. “Yo, if they wanted ‘em, then they shouldn't’a left ‘em on us like that!”

Cyrus wasn’t buying the bug enthusiast’s reasoning, fixing him with a steady glare instead. “Take them back or I will sign you up to be an advertising clown as well.”

“Aight, aight, sheesh!”

Returning the bugs seemed to be the right decision, at any rate. The President was already in a tizzy by the time they got back to the Pokétch Company. Apparently, the man had managed to at least semi-conquer his fear of the clowns during their absence – the travelling duo walked in to find him shaking down the last clown for information.

Guzma opened his mouth before his brain could fully form a comment, but only got out an eloquent “Uhh…” before the pair of Joltik squeaked in unison. The Pokétch President’s head snapped over to them at the cries, all attention diverted from the employee. “My babies!!”

The man proceeded to coo over the tiny, yellow fluffballs as they hopped their way over to him, the clown making his retreat to stand behind the counter with the chortling receptionist. Guzma felt a little less unhappy about leaving the Joltik, knowing that they were in another apparent bug enthusiast’s hands. Cyrus just rolled his eyes. Nonetheless, the President made sure to thank them for the return of “his sparky little boys” – or, at least, to thank Guzma, with a download of the Coin Toss app.

“Funny story behind that one.” He chuckled as the app loaded, gently scritching one of the Joltiks’ little chins. “You see, I was at the Hotel Grand Lake recently, and I suppose the downloads are more popular than I realized – one of the other guests there noticed I had a Pokétch, and immediately offered me the one for Coin Toss! I never did get to return it to them…” The President trailed off into muttering after that, something about needing to make more media appearances if he was that unrecognizable. Cyrus nudged Guzma to get his attention once the download finished, quickly bidding their farewell to the man – Arceus knew what other misadventure the building might hold for them if they were to linger too long.

Thus, the duo found themselves on their way back to the Pokémon Center once more, and Cyrus found himself calling attention to the fact that they hadn’t really eaten yet. “As admittedly enjoyable those…malasada were, they weren’t particularly substantial.” He explained, Guzma nodded along in understanding as he spoke. And, well, if Cyrus secretly intended to spend long enough at the Pokémon Center to deter them from camping outside again, that was his own business.

It was, in retrospect, a foolish decision to expect the bug enthusiast to be anything but verbose over dinner, especially with his newest bug freshly evolved. He even left Kricketune out of its ball! With Golisopod, at least Cyrus could understand – but did he really need two bugs out just to eat a meal? The Cricket Pokémon in question had begun shooting “longing” looks at the Sinnohite at the beginning of dinner, as if it wanted to tackle him again. Luckily for him, it seemed that evolving had brought with it a sense of control the Pokémon had lacked as a Kricketot.

“Yo, Cy.” Guzma caught his attention, bringing his wary thoughts away from the bug. “Weren’t you the one who brought up gettin’ dinner? Ya still gotta eat it, y’know – just suggestin’ it ain’t enough to fill ya up.”

Cyrus couldn’t tell if it was just because the Alolan was focused on his own meal or not, but his words seemed to lack any real heat behind them. Something else to analyze, then. “I apologize for not inhaling my food. Should I begin rambling about Bug-types as well?”

The comment managed to get a snort out of the other man, forcing him to finish his current bite of food or risk choking. “C’mooon yo, ya can’t tell me ya never been hyped about an evolution before! Bet’cha got all jazzed up ‘bout that bat of yours evolving.”

Cyrus made to respond, but clamped his mouth shut in contemplation. Granted, he'd never gotten as exuberant or loud as Guzma, but he could admit to being...happy when Crobat had finally evolved. Friendship evolutions took a considerable amount of work, after all, and that one had been no exception. “I…suppose you’re not wrong.”

“Ha, ‘not wrong.’ Ya mean I’m right. Hey–” Guzma paused, pushing one of Golisopod’s smaller claws away from his food. “The heck you doin’, yo? Ya got ya own plate! Eat what’s on it before ya go grabbin’ at mine!”

Unbeknownst to the bug specialist, Kricketune had positioned itself on the other side of him. Cyrus had to fight to keep his face neutral as he watched the smaller bug swipe a few chunks of food off of its trainer’s plate while he was distracted, then skitter back before Guzma could notice what it was doing. Well played. The Sinnohite hid the small smirk that managed to break through his facade in his drink. As he turned his attention back to his own plate, however, he noticed a good portion of what had been left was suddenly missing – or not-so-missing, if the blur of Golisopod’s smaller arms lifting something to its mouth was any clue as to what had transpired.

“…huh. How long we been here, yo?” Guzma’s voice interrupted Cyrus’ thought process before he could get properly upset at being played like a Pokéflute, the other man checking the time as he spoke. “Damn, didn’t think we were eatin’ that fast…”

The ex-Galactic Leader could only take another sip of his drink, shifting into a somewhat more defensive position over his food. For how excitable it was, the larger Bug-type was certainly doing a good job of maintaining its poker face…

-

When dinner finally concluded – which still took a good length of time, even after certain buggy thievery – Cyrus knew he needed to act fast. Clearing his throat, he caught Guzma’s attention before the other man could start for the door. “Perhaps we ought to stay here for the night. It would be a good opportunity to get your Pokémon looked over.”

“Wha–? Nah, yo.” Guzma shot him a skeptical look. “Kricketune’s the only one that’s done anythin’ today, and it got a onceover while we were waitin’ for food! Ain’t any point in hangin’ around here for the night.”

“On the contrary.” Wasn’t this man bundled in winter wear when they first met? Perhaps providing him with Galactic underclothing wasn’t the best decision after all… “There are beds here, and a solid structure to prevent Pokémon from swarming us in our sleep.”

The Alolan all but laughed at his companion’s reasoning, heading towards the door again. “Ya boi don’t need either of those! And ya don’t have to come, neither – I can go on my own again, ain’t no big.” His bugs were hot on his heels as he exited the building, eager to get going. Cyrus was left alone in the PokéCenter lobby within moments, blinking. Well… fine then. If Guzma so wished to go hiking off by himself, he was more than welcome to do so. Cyrus, on the other hand, would be staying right there at the PokéCenter – where more wretched bugs wouldn’t be able to congregate overnight!

His resolve held just long enough for him to take three steps towards the front desk, intending to check in. Instead, the ex-Galactic Leader found himself, annoyingly enough, dredging up the memories of the sleepless night he’d suffered through in Oreburg. Cyrus let out a sigh of aggravation as his fourth step landed, this one moving him in the direction of the exit for the third time that day.

The grin Guzma flashed when he noticed Cyrus quietly join the traveling group again – surprised as the bug specialist was at his appearance – was almost luminary in the low light of the evening. He opened his mouth to comment, something like a joking “glad to see you could make it” on the tip of his tongue, but Cyrus snapped out his own line before the Alolan had the chance.

“This is only to prevent another potential body swap. That’s all.”

Guzma’s mouth closed again, a huff replacing what he was going to say while a pout formed on his face. “Yo, whatever.”

The two men continued on in relative silence – broken only by the chitters and growls of Golisopod – towards their next destination.

TBC

Chapter Text

Camping out was an inevitability. At least Cyrus was prepared this time.

Guzma had gone off to train Kricketune once again on Route 203, leaving Cyrus to decide on a place to camp. "Gotta take advantage of the daylight, yo,” He’d claimed.

So, much to the Sinnoite’s ire, Cyrus and Golisopod were left alone at the soon-to-be campsite. At least the arrangement gave Cyrus the perfect opportunity to properly prepare the area. The quiet hiss of repel cans filled the air as he methodically worked his way through it – he paid little mind to Golisopod, who would occasionally shuffle around to put some distance between itself and the spray.

When the Bug-type’s shuffling ceased after a point, Cyrus grew wary. A different type of ruckus replaced it. Something…shifting, maybe? Cloth of some sort? What is that bug getting in to?

“…ahem!” Golisopod jumped to attention as Cyrus cleared his throat, the bug assumed an innocent look upon being put under scrutiny. It totally wasn’t doing anything. At all. The human narrowed his eyes at the Pokémon, briefly, before returning to the task at hand.

After only a few sprays of Repel, the sound began again. Cyrus could feel his annoyance grow as he worked his way closer to the bug’s location. Once he was within range, he spun in its direction, catching the Hard Scale Pokémon off-guard with a quick spritz of Max Repel.

Golisopod let out the bug equivalent of a yipe, as it stumbled back from the offending spray. It wasn’t fast enough for Cyrus to miss how it snatched its claws away from his bag and quickly hid something behind its back.

Now the bug was going to get his full attention. Repel duty abandoned, Cyrus turned to confront the hulking Alolan Pokémon, tone scolding. “And just what do you think you’re doing?! Going through my things…your trainer may let you crawl all over him, but don’t you dare assume that I will be anywhere near as lenient!” Golisopod tried to keep up its “innocent” facade, however poorly, dragging an aggravated groan out of the man. “Whatever you’re trying to hide, hand it over– don’t give me that look, it’s painfully obvious that you’re hiding something behind your back! Return it at once!”

Seemingly cowed, Golisopod shifted back and forth for a few moments before reluctantly revealing Cyrus’ TM Case. Cyrus blinked in surprise – out of all the things he would’ve expected the Bug-type to go after, the TM Case was far from the top of the list. “Now what, pray tell, were you planning to do with this?” He mumbled to himself, not expecting a reply even as he took the case back, turning to return it to his pack.

Unbeknownst to Cyrus, the Hard Scale Pokémon had, in fact, managed to wriggle one of the discs out before being caught red-handed. It took the tell-tale shattering sound for the Sinnohite to whirl back around, finding Golisopod surrounded by the remaining pieces of whatever TM it had finagled out of the case.

Cyrus could feel a vein threatening to bulge out of his forehead.

-

The sun had receded below the horizon by the time Guzma made his way back, the campfire Cyrus had started up in his absence leading the way.

Kricketune was secure in its Ultra Ball, having been returned shortly after they’d finished up with training. Evolving had done a hell of a lot to quell its excitability, but not even the bug enthusiast was willing to risk another freak-out from Cyrus. Kricketune was still as lovable as ever, like any bug! Guzma grinned wide as he caught sight of Golisopod and Cyrus both sitting around the fire. The troll just needed to get used to them first, was all.

Guzma’s train of thought was succinctly derailed by a sudden armload of massive bug, the trainer finding himself squeezed tightly by the Hard Scale Pokémon. “Aww, hey big guy, ya miss me?” He managed to wriggle an arm free to pat his companion with. Cyrus cleared his throat, then, and Golisopod’s tactics shifted drastically – it quickly skittered behind Guzma instead, as if setting him up as a defensive shield against the other man. “Yo, what’s…up?”

“When you established yourself as a Bug-type specialist, I was under the impression you’d at least have the decency to teach it not to rifle through someone else’s bag.” Whereas Golisopod had hidden behind him, Cyrus took up position in front, words heated. “But instead, it seems I’ve become acquainted with a Pokémon that not only has no sense of privacy, but which also has the nerve to steal and break TMs as it sees fit!”

Holding his hands up in a pacifying gesture, Guzma made to interrupt before Cyrus could get rolling. “Yo, hold up, hold up– broke it?”

“Yes, I just said that, didn’t I? It’s unclear just which move it taught itself; I’ve still not gotten them reorganized again yet, but–”

“Wait, taught? Ya said it broke the damn thing!” Guzma ran a hand through his hair and cast a glance at the bug behind him – just what the hell was going on here?!

Cyrus paused at that, a slight furrow in his brow. “That is…it’s the same thing. TMs break after they are used, remember?”

“Since when do TMs break at all, yo?” How the hell was he supposed to remember something that’d never happened before? Shit, this is another Sinnoh thing, isn’t it. At this point, I’m just gonna start chalkin’ up anything weird to just bein’ ‘More Sinnoh Bulushit.’

“Pardon…?”

“…wait,” Guzma blinked as Cyrus’ words caught up to him, swiveling around to face Golisopod. “Ya did it again?!”

Golisopod whined as it shuffled back around Guzma, this time trying to hide behind Cyrus. Cyrus was having none of it, stepping out of the way almost immediately. “Oh no. Whatever trouble you’re in, you deserve it.” Seeing as your trainer clearly doesn’t care about your destruction of property…

“Goli, we’ve been over this, yo!”

Cyrus huffed, ignoring as Golisopod gave an embarrassed gwoor, and extracting himself from the confrontation in favor of taking up residence on his mat. Might as well try to get his bag – more specifically, his TM Case – back into some semblance of order while the two of them bickered. Perhaps the fool should’ve thought twice about promoting the “force of destruction” image to his bug…

…actually, didn’t this happen with Liquidation as well? The thought was enough for Cyrus to give pause, the corner of his mouth twitching with the urge to smirk. Guzma did sound pretty upset about the situation – and, well, Cyrus didn’t particularly mind sacrificing a few TMs for some payback. The Alolan had been a pain in his side since the beginning, save for a few…tolerable moments. Now it was Cyrus’ turn to return the favor.

So lost in thought as he planned how to best screw with the Bug-type’s moveset, Cyrus was caught unaware when Guzma joined him by the fire. The bug in question was nowhere to be seen. “So, what’ve we got to eat, yo?”

“We would have something to eat if we had stayed at the Pokémon Center for the night.”

Guzma snorted. What had he expected from this guy? “What, and miss out on this ‘nice weather’?” It was still as cold out as it’d been when he’d first shown up, but the borrowed clothes were taking care of that for the most part. Better than freezing my ass off from the Center’s AC, at least.

“Hmm.” A hum of acknowledgement seemed to be Cyrus’ only intended response – at least, until he inclined his head at his companion. “Not nice enough to keep Golisopod out of its ball, I see.”

“Ehh, the Repel circle ya set up’s too small for it ta sleep well. And between you n’ me? It’s kinda a big baby 'bout me skippin’ meals–” The bug specialist interrupted his own sentence with a stretch, vertebrae audibly clicking into alignment. “–so bein’ in its ball’ll keep it busy ’til tomorrow.”

“Well, if we can expect no more interruptions, then I suggest we rest for the night.”

“W– already?!”

“The sooner we get to sleep, the sooner we can wake up and have breakfast – at the Pokémon Center.” And not be mauled by bugs. There was an air of finality to the ex-Galactic Leader’s voice as he tossed Guzma’s sleeping mat to him, the item giving a fwap as it collided with Guzma’s chest. He was quick to take up residence on his own mat, already rolled out, rather than allow Guzma room for argument. “Good night.”

With what was definitely not a pout, Guzma rolled out his mat, sitting down on it once unfurled. “Night, ya nerd.”

TBC

Chapter Text

Guzma couldn't sleep.

A recurring problem he faced, but for once, it wasn't due to stress or anxiety. He was simply wide awake. Honestly, he’d slept almost every night since landing in this crazy region, and he could feel the extra rest catching up with him, even despite only dozing the previous night.

The thought of pestering Cyrus for another rendition of that star-snooze story was waved away – in all honesty, he didn't want to sleep. There was far too much potential for night bugs, after all. Guzma scoffed quietly as he shifted on his small mat. No doubt Cyrus wouldn't approve of yet another night time bug run, but if he was already asleep…

Thus the waiting began, sitting and staring at the fire as it flickered – until, at length, he heard Cyrus’ breathing even out. With the other man asleep, Guzma crept away from the camp to explore. Nerd couldn’t nag him about sleeping if he wasn’t awake to do it, after all.

-

Cyrus woke with a start. It took a few good, long minutes for the thoughts rattling through his brain to fall back in order, but when they did, there were two things that jumped to his attention: the fire was dying down, and the camp was far too quiet. That second fact was appreciable enough, given as it was time for sleeping, but Cyrus knew better. Rolling over, he felt a brief shock of fear as his gaze met with Guzma’s empty mat.

Rationally, he knew that the likelihood of the Alolan running off in the middle of the night was significantly lower than his own. Yet here he was, sans one very noisy Alolan. He shrugged it off – probably just Guzma doing a Guzma thing – as he tried to go back to sleep. The world around the camp was pitch dark, only just barely held back by the diminishing glow of the fire. Leaving the Repel oasis he’d set up would be ridiculous at this hour, especially to search for some fool who’d probably wandered off after a bug.

…even more ridiculous was how he couldn’t get back to sleep now. As a tired sigh escaped him, Cyrus dragged himself to his feet.

-

When the first rays of light began to creep over the horizon, signalling the impending sunrise, Cyrus was ready to call it quits on the search. Of course, that was exactly when fate decided to reveal the bug-loving Alolan to him.

Guzma had settled himself down on a jump ledge, long legs dangling over the side. Really, the ledge practically doubled as a natural chair for him – he was tall enough that his feet just barely rested on the ground below. “There you are!”

The bug specialist visibly startled at Cyrus’ voice, but managed to recover quickly. “Cy! Yo, c’mere, c’mere!” He whisper-yelled to the other man, waving him over to the ledge. Cyrus was tempted to walk back to the camp right then; he’d actually bothered to look for the fool, to start worrying, only to find him perfectly fine – again! The look on Guzma’s face right then, though, was just excited enough for him to huff in annoyance instead. Carefully, he took a seat next to the Alolan on the ledge, taking mental note to stop feeling so damn much.

Grinning at the Sinnohite’s presence beside him, Guzma slung one arm around Cyrus, and pointed rapidly at the swath of tall grass they faced with the other. Cyrus felt a brief flutter of distaste at the display of camaraderie, but his attention quickly turned to whatever had gotten Guzma so eyed up.

A swarm of Kricketot had gathered, milling about aimlessly. “…of course.”

Cyrus was about halfway through formulating a cutting remark before Guzma jostled him. “They all just gathered up after that big one there called ‘em.” He whispered, pointing to one of the bugs. Sure enough, the Kricketot seemed to have oriented themselves around the largest one present. The urge to throw out some sarcastic quip was put on the back burner as the swarm of Kricketot started chirping in harmony.

Cyrus chose to stay quiet, his curiosity overriding his snark for the time being. A coherent melody soon emerged from the noise. It lacked direction, but from how the bugs danced to it, it seemed to serve its purpose. The large one Guzma had pointed out earlier was staying unusually still in comparison to the others. Cyrus was half-tempted to question why until it began to glow. The Sinnohite was suddenly reminded of Guzma’s arm still wrapped around him as the taller man gave him an excited squeeze and a breathy, “Here it comes!”

Despite the evolution-in-process, Cyrus couldn’t help but find his attention drawn more to Guzma himself. His companion looked positively overjoyed. Even in the poor lighting, the ex-Galactic Leader could see Guzma’s excitement radiating off of him in waves. It was…certainly a look befitting of him. Cyrus couldn’t quite place a name to the actual, bonafide feeling it was giving him, but…well, there was an evolution he was supposed to be watching. He could analyze whatever this was later.

Once the now-Kricketune emerged from the glow, it spread its arms like a conductor, gaining the attention of the other bugs. Purposefully, it began to conduct the tune into a much more musical song. A bubbly bouncy thing that seemed to match natures slowly awakening state. Then the grand finale came just as the sun breached the horizon, signalling the end of the performance.

The world fell still for a moment after the song’s conclusion, before the silence was abruptly shattered as Guzma leapt to his feet. “Woo!” The Alolan hooted and hollered as he gave the performance a standing ovation. A number of the more skittish Kricketot scattered at the noise. The rest remained, chirping back and forth amongst themselves in congratulations over their show.

Guzma turned an immense grin on Cyrus, “That was awesome!” his expression took on an edge of smugness, “Bet ya don’t see that stayin’ cooped up in Pokémon Centers and caves all the time, huh?”

Cyrus tried to put forth a disaffected scowl, but he couldn’t muster much displeasure. It had been...nice, he would admit to himself, only. “No, but I do get to enjoy other experiences, such as a warm bed, hot meals, and a distinct lack of wild Bug-types.”

“Whatcha got against bugs anyway, yo?” The Alolan bumped their shoulders together as he sat back down. “Bein’ alone with Goli didn’t bug ya out. Is it just the wild ones ya got issues with? Maybe just the lil ones?”

“Not that it concerns you, obviously,” Cyrus muttered the last word, thinking back to the other man’s elation at waking up covered in bugs, “But I’m not a fan of anything crawling on me against my will.”

“Well they ain’t crawlin’ on ya now, are they?”

“Not yet…” The ex-Galactic Leader muttered, prompting what he could only assume was meant to be a consoling pat on the back from Guzma.

“Chill out, yo. Ya gotta learn t’ relax a little.” The hand stayed on Cyrus’ back as the other man spoke, the weak warmth of the contact echoing the arm that had previously been slung around him. “Not every bug out there’s gonna jump ya like my lil 'Tune did, y’know?”

As if to spite him, one of the runaway Kricketot caught Cyrus’ scent at those very words. The resulting tackle knocked the duo off their perch on the ledge and into a mud puddle below.

Cyrus failed to withhold the shudder of revulsion as he found himself half submerged in mud and tapped beneath Guzma's arm. Ugh, gross…

TBC

Chapter Text

Guzma had gotten stuck on laundry duty before, yeah, but this was the first time anyone aside from Plumes had shoved a list of demands at him. The Grunts always knew better than to try pulling that kind of shit with the big boss. So now, scanning over the actual written list Cyrus had drawn up for how to wash the clothes, the ex-Skull Boss couldn’t help but snort. What a nerd.

We ain’t even got enough for separate loads. The thought paused Guzma for a split second, but it only took that long to come up with a solution. With a grin at his own genius, he chucked both loads of clothes into the washer at once. As long as the nerd’s clothes got washed with that fancy detergent he’d insisted on, what was the big deal? Guzma was saving them both time, anyway. The troll ought to be thanking him for being so conscientious.

-

Halfway through a cup of the strongest coffee the Pokécenter could offer, and Cyrus was feeling almost normal again.

The Sinnohite was enjoying his short reprieve from Guzma, sitting in relative peace in their temporary room. His comfortable clothes, reminiscent of his Galactic wear, put him at ease despite knowing Guzma would return soon. Hopefully without causing another disaster.

The Sinnoh native had almost completed his third cup of coffee when Guzma entered, half dressed in freshly-laundered clothes. “Here ya go, your majesty.” Guzma snarked as he tossed the wadded clump of Cyrus’ clothes at him. Freshly laundered clothing delivered, Guzma turned to his own wad to dig out a clean shirt.

Cyrus scowled, straightening them out to the best of his ability. Really, was it so hard to not wad them up into a wrinkly mess? He was quite certain he’d included that little detail in his list of instructions. Beginning to feel the niggling dread that Guzma had Done Something™ once again, Cyrus muttered, “You’re back sooner than I anticipated.”

“Yeah, I’m just that great.”

Cyrus rolled his eyes, but refrained from commenting as he finished folding. In the meantime, Guzma went ahead and let Golisopod out of its Pokéball. Their next stop was breakfast, and like hell was the Bug-type going to be okay with missing out.

Golisopod gave a handful of happy chirps, sweeping its trainer up into a hug, but then froze. A snuffling sound followed, soon morphing into a high trill as the bug proceeded to nuzzle the human intently.

“Woah, woah, wha–” The Bug-type specialist let out a laugh as his main Pokémon proceeded to affectionately maul him. At the commotion, Kricketune popped out of its Ultra Ball as well, sniffing in Cyrus’ direction before noticing the smell emanating from Guzma. It was on him in seconds, just like it’d been with Cyrus as a Kricketot. Its trainer wasn’t off-limits, after all!

“Jeeeez, so now y’all wanna crawl all over me, huh?” Not that he’d been jealous or anything about how they’d kept swarming Cyrus. Well…maybe a little. But he wasn’t about to admit that.

Wait. Something suddenly clicked in Cyrus’ mind. Standing abruptly, he grabbed onto Guzma’s sleeve, bringing it towards his face so that he could smell the fabric. The Alolan startled at the contact.

“The fuck?! The hell you sniffin’ at me for, yo?!”

Ignoring the question, Cyrus snapped a question of his own. “Why did you use my detergent?”

“Ya told me to!”

“Yes, for my clothes!” The ex-Galactic Leader was less than happy with the situation, nose wrinkling as if that would somehow stop its input. The scent itself already bordered on painfully nostalgic, but the addition of Guzma’s natural dirt-and-sweat musk only amplified the feelings. It was awful.

“An’ did I not do that, yo?! I washed ’em both at once, ya ought’a be happy! I was all efficient an’ shit!” It wasn’t easy to gesture with two bugs clinging to him, but Guzma managed an attempt. “What’sit matter if I used your deter–”

Guzma froze, Fantina’s words once again coming to mind with new clarity. ‘OHOHOHO!! So, that detergent of yours is still being used, non?’ He glanced back and forth between his bugs and Cyrus. “Ooooohhhhh, so that’s what Fantina meant…”

Cyrus could see the dots connecting in Guzma’s mind. It was time to panic. His mouth opened to speak and–

“You motherfucker.” Cyrus startled at the sudden outburst.

The bug specialist’s course language was offset completely by the massive grin that swept across his face. “Ya been holdin’ out on me this whole damn time! I could’a been being ten times the bug magnet I already am, yo!”

Yes, there it was. The one outcome to this that Cyrus had wanted to avoid. He couldn’t hold in his groan. “As if I would want more bugs around me!”

“Tch, as if they’d want anythin’ to do with you when ya boy Guzma’s this allurin’.”

The Sinnohite rolled his eyes again at his companion’s bragging. “You should enjoy it while it lasts, then. It won’t be happening again.”

“Well why not, yo?” Guzma asked, giving his partners some nice scritches.

“Because–”

Cyrus was cut off as Guzma suddenly shoved Kricketune in his face. He recoiled on instinct, but it seemed his efforts were unnecessary this time around. Kricketune gave a delicate sniff, frowned at its findings, and proceeded to wriggle backwards to escape Guzma’s hold. It wanted to go back to cuddling its trainer!

The Alolan beamed. “Ya see that?”

Cyrus was taken aback. Kricketune had gotten better at restraining itself after evolving, he’d admit, but now it was like the Cricket Pokémon had just…lost all interest? Even when he had on freshly-laundered clothes?

“You're as appealin’ as a raw Tamato berry when I smell this great, yo!” Guzma crowed, bringing the bug back so that it could cuddle into him some more.

Well. As much as Cyrus wanted to stay upset about Guzma’s “shortcut,” he couldn’t deny how effective a solution it was. If bugs were going after the Bug-specialist, then they’d be more likely to leave him alone, right? And even if the idea didn’t work, he now knew how to properly exact revenge. The fewer bug-based shenanigans he was involved in, the better.

Speaking of shenanigans, he thought to himself, What TM did that bug use up, anyway?

-

Cyrus began flipping through his TM Case as he neared the end of his breakfast. He wound up having to restart the process twice as he went along, a testament to just how tired he was at that point. So much for that coffee… He groused internally, before clearing his throat. “We should rest after this. It’d be wise to stay in town for a short while, seeing as neither of us have slept well recently.”

“Aw, come on, yo!” Cyrus didn’t even need to look up from the TM Case to know that Guzma was rolling his eyes. He was doing fine! He didn’t need sleep. “Ya boy finally finds some bugs, and ya think I’m gonna just hang around now? No way! There’s still a ton a’ cool shit left ta see!”

Cyrus felt his eye twitch involuntarily but refused to look up from his efforts with the TM Case. “You’ve gotten your way since you got here, especially for the past two nights. Enough is enough!”

“Yo, it ain’t like I made you follow me!”

Golisopod chortled at that, and leaned over to Cyrus. It held up two of its smaller hands to its mouth and it chittered away, as if the appendages would actually provide any privacy for the loud bug.

Cyrus gave a scoff at the bug. “As if I care that he wanted me t–” His head snapped up as he actually processed what he’d just heard. Did he just… understand the bug?

He glanced back down at the TM Case, taking a closer look at the empty spot his fingers had paused at. “Ah…”

Meanwhile, Guzma couldn’t do much else than sputter. “Wh– my own bug?! Yo, Goli, you know that ain’t true!”

Golisopod clicked back at him insistently, sparking an argument between the two.

“Well yeah, no shit! You think I wanna be wanderin’ around a cold-ass region with no clue where I’m goin’? ‘Sides, he’d already led us through that hellhole of a cave–”

More clicking.

“It’s not like th–! So what if he’s got a nice face, yo?!”

Cyrus decided to speak up then, not caring to let this conversation to go any further. “It seems that your bug is going to be a lot more loose-lipped for the foreseeable future.”

“Huh??”

“It taught itself Confide.”

There was a long pause as Guzma processed the news, before he unceremoniously dropped his head to the Pokécenter table. “Fuck.”

“Oh, is this a bad time?”

The new voice prompted Guzma to cringe and lift his head slightly, only to end up regretting it. Of course they weren’t free from the everywhere-man.

“Is there something you need, Mr…?” Cyrus answered for him, before he could let out a groan.

“Ah, my name’s sort of long, so everyone just calls me NPC.”

“Wait, you too??”

“It’s a family nickname.” NPC nodded, giving a light chuckle at Guzma’s look of disbelief. “Well, I see you got your bag back alright! How’ve your travels been treating you? You looked like you had fun at the Trainer’s School recently.”

“W-well uh–” Guzma stumbled over his response as he took in the last line. “Wait, how’d y– I mean, yeah, that was a blast yo! But uh, how’d you know about that?”

NPC motioned to the TV on the wall of the lobby. “Well, it’s on right now, y’see.”

If there was a world record for how fast someone’s blood could run cold, Cyrus was certain he broke it in that moment. He could’ve kicked himself for forgetting that they had been filmed as he snapped his attention to the TV, seeing the battles from yesterday unfolding on the screen.

“They certainly hustled to get the video out…” He muttered, only to feel his heart leap to his throat when he spotted himself in the background. It was bad enough that Guzma was onscreen, but they put him on there, too?!

Cyrus was on his feet in an instant, rushing the last few bites of his meal. “We need to get going, grab your things.”

“Wait, wha–?” Guzma didn’t get an answer from the other man.

Cyrus was already clear down the hall, leaving Guzma confused in the lobby as the bug enthusiast hurried to finish eating. Cyrus had known that battle demonstration was a bad idea right from the get-go, but no, of course Guzma just had to go along with it didn't he!

So much for getting some rest…

TBC

Chapter Text

“That’s–!”

Mars was halfway out of her seat at the Pastoria City Pokémon Center when she remembered where they were. She settled back down as the drone of the Pokécenter lobby faded back in, but those bright red eyes were focused on Jupiter now.

The other woman was still watching the TV broadcast, her mouth moving silently as she read the information running alongside the scene. It took her a full minute before she turned to Mars. “You never did teach your Golbat Fly, did you?”

The redhead did a double take. “What, like you did either??”

Jupiter’s phone began to ring before the conversation could continue. She answered it on autopilot – only two people had her number, after all, and one was already sitting across from her. “Yes, Sat– calm down, we saw it. We’re heading there now, don’t get your panties in a twist.” She didn’t wait for a reply before hanging up.

“Sooo…?”

Jupiter rolled her eyes fondly at Mars’ energy, reaching to pat her hand. The shorter woman took the opportunity to entwine their fingers. “You were the one that brought up taking a break, right? Let’s finish resting first.”

-

“Flint, do you see that?!”

Truth be told, Flint had been goofing off on his phone. The Fire-type specialist nearly gave himself whiplash looking up, focusing on the TV screen. When’d it change from the weather report…?

Oh, there was a Bug-type on-screen. Flint was halfway to commenting on it when he noticed a man in the background of the scene, looking far too familiar to be a coincidence. The comment morphed into a choked noise, leading to coughing.

Aaron looked over at him in concern. “You okay…?”

“Y-eah! Great! Uh–” Cyrus really was back? Fuck, so that report about him being at the Galactic HQ might’ve been legit after all?! We are So Dead– “We gotta get going! To uh, to Jubilife, I mean.”

Aaron’s face lit up at the idea. “Yeah! That bug looked awesome! We gotta go see it in-person!”

“Wh– wait, what? No, I mean we–!”

Flint’s sputtering attempt at an explanation fell on deaf ears. Aaron was already at the door.

-

Ohohoho!!

Mismagius startled at its trainer’s sudden squeal of delight. Fantina was practically vibrating as she motioned at the screen to her Pokémon, rapidfire Kalosian springing forth from her mouth. That weird Bug-type trainer from not too long ago was onscreen, as well as the bug he’d had with him. Oh, and Cyrus, too.

The Magical Pokémon smiled indulgently at the woman, listening along as she gushed about the two humans. Maybe it could snitch some of her tea if she stayed distracted…

-

Route 204 was a scenic route, but it wasn’t doing much to help Cyrus’ mood at the moment.

Guzma, of course, was ecstatic. He’d let his bugs out early on in the walk, and both Pokémon had begun to alternate between mauling their trainer with hugs and eagerly exploring their surroundings. He was pure bug nip, now! And I ain’t even gotta worry ‘bout ‘em goin’ after Cy!

All in all, Cyrus could practically kick himself for thinking that he could actually rush Guzma anywhere. The only thing keeping him from giving up on a sense of urgency were the recurring bolts of anxiety from seeing himself on TV.

Must you have all your Pokémon out?” At that point, the former Galactic Leader was vacillating between ditching Guzma again or dumping some of his less-useful TMs on the other man’s bug. At least the latter wouldn’t put us at risk of another body-swap…

“Uh, yeah.” Guzma snorted at how put-out Cyrus looked. “S’a great day out, yo! Maybe ya oughta let your team out to enjoy it too, for once.”

“They’re good as they are.” Cyrus’ reply was stiff and concise, a frown spreading across his face. His Pokémon were perfectly fine in their Pokéballs, not to mention safe.

The Alolan scoffed at that. Really, who did this guy think he was fooling? Before Guzma could comment on it, something solid and sticky collided with the side of his face. Guzma recoiled on instinct, and Cyrus took the opportunity to back up a few feet before the other man could recover. All the Bug-specialist could see was yellow!

“Oh my GOSH I am so sorry–!” Guzma could hear the sound of people approaching in a hurry, but couldn’t quite see them through whatever had attached itself to his face.

Soon enough, someone else helped him pry the strange new Pokémon off of him, leaving behind a generous covering of sticky sweetness where the bug had hit. The helper, a young lass flanked by…four identical-looking bug catchers? Each with a Bug-Type – Scyther, Kricketune, Dustox and Beautifly – by their side.

The girl, apparently the new Bug Pokémon’s trainer, scolded it all the while. “Beebee, what’s gotten into you?? You know you’re not supposed to buzz off like that!”

“…Beebee?” The very bee-like Pokémon smiled at him with its three little faces nestled in a honeycomb body. Is this a Combee? Vaguely, Guzma could recall Grunt A mentioning the Pokémon living out here, but this would be the first time Guzma had seen one. It definetely fit its name. And it was cute as hell! Not in the same vein of cute as Golisopod or Kricketune, but still! Get a load of those lil wings and tiny faces!

“Aww, s’alright, yo.” The Bug-type enthusiast couldn’t even pretend to be mad as he held the Pokémon, cooing at it. “Ya just wanted ta get a big ol’ sniff of ya boi, right? Wanted to see who was goin’ around smellin’ so sweet?”

Cyrus groaned quietly from his place in the background. Was the other man even listening to himself right now? Reluctantly, he rejoined the group, swatting at Guzma’s hands so as to free Combee. The Bug-type stayed hovering in the same spot near Guzma, predictably enough, looking overjoyed at the delectable scent it’d found. “My apologies, he tends to get carried away when it comes to Bu–”

“Hey, wait a minute! I’ve seen that Pokémon before!”

All eyes snapped to Golisopod as one of the bug catchers yelled in excitement. The center of the quartet’s focus was quick to come back to Guzma, their mouths hanging open. “You’re that Bugman from TV!!”

Oh, joy. Cyrus barely managed to suppress a cringe. Was there anyone who didn’t see the news that morning? Weren’t there better things to watch?!

The five children had taken to chattering away to Guzma in a heartbeat, ooh-ing and aww-ing over the man’s bugs. Both Pokémon were preening under the attention, and their trainer was too, judging by the grin on his face.

“It’s nice to meet you, by the way.” The lass cut in through the babble, shaking Guzma’s hand. “I’m Samantha, and these are Brandon.”

The Alolan’s grin shifted into something more confused. “I– yo, sorry, what?”

“Brandon. That’s their names.” Apparently, that didn’t register as weird at all to this girl.

“I’m Brandon One.” The bug catcher with the Scyther clarified, nudging the one next to him, the Kricketune’s trainer.

It took a couple seconds, but the Kricketune kid caught on. “Oh! I’m Two!”

“Three…” Dustox dude followed up.

“FOUR!!” Aaand the Beautifly, which struck the closest attempt it could make at a flexing pose next to its boisterous Brandon.

Guzma was…surprisingly not as surprised as he thought he would be. “Lemme guess…y’all family?”

“Yeah! How’d you know?”

The confused, happy look on Brandon 2’s face got a laugh out of Guzma, unaware of how Golisopod was slowly closing in on its boy. Guzma’s laughter only intensified when the Hard Scale Pokémon went to chew on his hair, the sticky substance Combee had left drawing it in like a magnet.

“Oh gosh, I’m sorry, Combee got honey all over you!” Samantha quickly apologized, looking to her Combee, ready to reprimand it once more.

“Wait, honey?” Cyrus could feel his stomach drop as Guzma’s eyes lit up.

“Yeah, yeah! Combee gather it!” Brandon 4 piped up, much to Cyrus’ chagrin. “They’re hard to catch, so you gotta lure them out with honey, too! You can get some at Floaroma Town if you wanna catch one!”

Guzma was all but vibrating in place at that point, finally getting Golisopod to back up a bit. “Hel– uh, of course I do, yo! Lead the way!”

Cyrus was awash in a mix of horror and acceptance as he followed the group, trying to keep as far from the bugs as possible without seeming conspicuous. At least they were moving faster, now…

TBC

Chapter Text

Guzma was, honestly, delighted when the quintet requested to tag along with him to Floaroma town. It was great getting to chat with people – even if they were kids – who were just as into bugs as he was! Cyrus had stayed mostly silent since they’d met them, but at least the other hadn’t run off yet, so Guzma counted that a win.

Even the bugs were enjoying themselves, from the looks of it. Golisopod had been quick to strike up a conversation with Brandon 1 and 4’s Pokémon, who’d been introduced as Scythy and Beast, respectively. The Beautifly kept flexing (or, at least, what passed as flexing) every time someone mentioned its name, which cracked Guzma up to no end.

Guzma and Brandon 2’s Kricketune, the latter aptly named Tuney, started up a duet within minutes of walking together. Samantha’s Combee, Beebee, still all wound up about the new trainer, kept buzzing back and forth between Guzma and the lass.

Meanwhile, Dusty, Brandon 3’s Dustox, opted to just chill out on its trainer’s head. It would flutter its wings every now and then, glancing back at the blue-haired man trailing behind the group.

All the while, though, not a single one of the Bug-types had shown any interest in bothering Cyrus. Guzma internally cheered, counting it as a win. Hell yeah! And here the Cy-man had doubted him, hah!

“Anyway!” The Alolan spoke as his attention returned to the conversation he was having with the lass. “I figured waitin’ around for six hours was way too long. Ya boy got sh-stuff ta do, y’know?” He’d been good about censoring his vocabulary so far, at least. “So since it’s supposed to attract bugs, I figured I’d just dump it on me instead! That way I ain’t gotta keep checking up on a tree or nothin’.”

“And it worked?!” Brandon 4 blurted out before he could stop himself. “That’s awesome!! Mom an’ Dad said the wild Pokémon would just get scared off unless you stayed super still and quiet!”

Samantha looked like she was mulling it over. “That’s definitely a novel style…honey’s supposed to be good for your hair too, right? So maybe soaking it in honey would have the same effect?”

“Oh man, never thought of that? Maybe, yo?” Guzma ran a hand through his own hair as best he could. The usual floof had gotten half-clumped together due to Combee’s honey.

“Hate to interrupt, but, uh. Hey.” Brandon 3 coughed quietly to get the Alolan’s attention. “Do…you know that there’s a guy following you?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, he’s supposed to be there. No worries, yo.”

With the group’s attention off of him at the simple reassurance, Cyrus allowed himself to roll his eyes. He was right there, and he wasn’t deaf, for Arceus’ sake. Seems that children are as tactless as ever…

Then the kids led Guzma to a cave entrance, and the Alolan visibility deflated. Un-fuckin-believeable. He thought to himself, shooting a look back to Cyrus. “Weee gotta go through a cave to get there, don’t we.”

Despite his efforts to ignore the busy and bug-filled group, the ex-Galactic Leader couldn’t deny the smallest of smirks slipping onto his face. As insignificant as this particular cave was, it was a necessary part of the journey. Guzma would hate it. That fact alone was enough to boost his mood ever-so-slightly as he moved to the front of the group, graciously leading the way through. He subtly slipped a TM to Golisopod as he passed the Hard Shell Pokémon, keeping it out of Guzma’s sight. What the Alolan didn’t know, would be entertaining later.

-

Ravaged Path was every inch as short and mundane a Cyrus remembered it being, but Guzma looking like a kicked Riolu throughout the whole thing was entertainment enough.

The Alolan blinked when the group suddenly stopped, faced with a line of ragged-looking boulders. It took a few moments as the kids looked between each other, before Samantha finally cleared her throat, speaking up.

“Did anyone think to bring a rock-smasher?”

At her words, all eyes turned to Golisopod, who had moved away from its new bug friends to walk right next to Guzma as they’d entered the cave. The kids had all seen the TV broadcast that morning, after all – the thought of watching the cool, new, and BIG bug break some boulders sounded awesome.

Guzma, naturally, was clueless. “Whatchu lookin’ at us for, yo?” And the hell they mean by ‘rock-smasher’, anyway?

“They’re hoping that you taught Golisopod the HM move Rock Smash.” Cyrus supplied, monotone. As much as he wanted to get a move on, the urgency of the situation still biting at the back of his mind, he wondered just how long they might be stuck there. It’d be worthwhile just to see the Alolan squirm a bit, at any rate.

“Oh! More Sinnoh sh-uh, stuff. Right.” The explanation was about as clear as soup, seeing as Guzma still didn’t know what the fuck an HM was, but it was enough for him to work with. “We could get a Tauros, y’know, if y’all have Ride Pagers?

“A what?”

“What would we use a pager for?”

“Why would we be paging a Tauros…?”

Aaand I’m still the only one who knows what that is. Figures. Guzma let out a sigh. “Well, I know fer a fact that Goli don’t know any HM moves. Sorry to burst y’alls bubbles.”

After a collective groan from the kids, Brandon 2 piped up. “Tuney knows! We’ll take care of it.” Not getting to see Golisopod in action yet sucked, yeah, but at least he got to show off in front of the Bugman. “C’mon, Tuney! Use Rock Smash!”

With a chirp and a salute, Tuney turned and began to lash out at the rocks, cracking one of them down the middle. Cyrus rolled his eyes as the bug focused on clearing all of them out at once – it only needed to get rid of one rock for the corridor to be passable. Guzma, on the other hand, was stoked.

“Yooo!” Guzma nudged his own Kricketune in excitement. “We gotta teach you how to do that!”

Kricketune trilled in agreement at the idea, even as Cyrus cringed, leading the group towards the cave exit. Arceus knows Guzma was already capable of causing enough damage with his team…

-

With the way Saturn had taken to pacing back and forth, he wasn’t too far off from wearing a trench in the floor – and it wasn’t even doing much to help his anxiety levels. Had Mars and Jupiter rushed over fast enough? Did they ever even teach their Golbat Fly? (Not that he could criticize them there.) Dear Arceus, what were they supposed to do??

The monitor before him was replaying the news clip from earlier. Specifically, it was set to repeat the part where Cyrus appeared in the background of the scene. Saturn gave one last glare at the monitor, as if doing so would scare it into handing over the man on the screen, before turning to bolt from the room. Standing around doing nothing wasn’t going to help any! He needed to get out there and search himself!

“Master Cronus!”

“Sir! We’ve been looking all over for you–”

As Saturn attempted to leave the Galactic building, he unfortunately found himself accosted by Grunts. Being CEO meant being the one to give the final OKs to most of Galactic’s actions, not to mention the…paperwork. Fuck. He hadn’t so much as looked at any paperwork since Master Cyrus had disappeared; it had to be piling up by that point.

Painting over his grimace with as pleasant a smile he could manage, he began sorting through the papers handed to him. Alright, he just needed to finish these up really quick, and then he could run to Master Cyrus’ rescue.

He just hoped Mars and Jupiter got there before Guzma could move Cyrus along again…

TBC

Chapter Text

With summer in full swing, the meadows of Floaroma Town were picturesque with their endless supply of flowers.

Guzma had to pause for a moment just to look out at it all. Alola had no shortage of meadows, but they generally had the same color flowers throughout – not the variegated sprawl laid out before him. Cyrus watched on as the man took in the view, recalling the mini-adventure they’d had before even getting to this point.

It’d been an endeavor just getting Guzma to stop at the Pokemon Center first thing upon arriving. The Alolan had been staunchly against the idea – “We ain’t even battled none, yo!” – but his complaints were swiftly cut off when both his and Golisopod’s stomachs started growling.

Guzma pouted, but had allowed the other man to herd them inside. The five-child, two-adult, and thirteen-Pokemon party was certainly enough to turn a few heads at the counter, but Nurse Joy wasn’t in charge of the Center for nothing. The woman took their arrival in stride, and in no time, they all found themselves well-fed and ready to set out once more.

“Aight, yo! Where the honey at?” Guzma had rubbed his hands together in anticipation. The plethora of bugs were currently returned to their Pokéballs so that they could rest their feet and wings for a bit; though if they’d been out, they would’ve been as hyped up as he was.

Cyrus dragged his feet as Brandon 1 cheerfully directed the way. He’d known exactly what was about to happen, and the longer he could delay it, the better.

Whatever the honey vendor expected when he’d woken up that day, Guzma definitely wasn’t it. The Alolan wasted no time in blowing every last cent of his battle earnings on honey. Then, much to the seller’s shock and horror, Guzma promptly and without ceremony dumped a minimum of three jars of the substance over his head.

Cyrus stood at a distance and shuddered, trying not to imagine the sensation of the sticky substance against his own skin. Still, he couldn’t say he hadn’t seen it coming the entire trip here. The kids were looking on in awe at Guzma, and Brandon 4 seemed like he was only moments away from copying the Bugman’s actions.

Fortunately, the honey vendor did not look too keen on selling more to their group after Guzma's display. They shuffled over to stand near Cyrus as Guzma added on yet another jar to his arms for good measure. The vendor wasn’t sure what to expect next from the odd foreigner, but keeping a distance seemed like a good idea. “Your friend here is, uh…interesting?” The vendor whispered to Cyrus, who could only offer a grimace.

“Don’t remind me…”

-

The skies were clear as Aaron and Flint flew to Jubilife, but the lack of clouds didn’t make Flint’s Drifblim any faster. The Blimp Pokémon just wasn’t built for speed.

Luckily, this gave Aaron time to strike up a conversation.

“Flint?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re the League’s Fire-type specialist, right?”

“Well jeez, I’d sure hope so. Seeing as that’s, y’know, my title.”

“Yeah, so, uh.” Aaron coughed. “Why do you have a Drifblim, then?”

“Well…why do you have a Drapion, huh??”

“Because it started as a Skorupi, and Skorupi’s at least a Bug-type! You can’t try claiming that Drifloon is a Fire-type!” Aaron lightly kicked in the direction of Flint’s legs, careful not to lose his grip on Drifblim in the process. He had confidence in his bugs, but he knew none of them would be able to use Fly to save him if he fell. “Same goes with Lopunny and Steelix! You’re a Fire-type specialist, why do you only have two Fire-types on your team?!”

Listen–”

The argument was a welcome distraction from how the two men were having to cling to Drifblim to stay aloft. Their arms were practically numb by the time they finally arrived in Jubilife, the late afternoon light dying the city an orange hue. They didn’t notice, of course, until Drifblim righted itself fully in descent, causing them to fall into a heap on the asphalt below.

Flint felt the air get knocked out of him first as he landed on the hard street surface of Jubilife. Honestly, falling from Drifblim was always a pain in the ass, but he wished it could be a little less literal sometimes. He was going to wind up seriously breaking his tailbone one of these days…

Before he could fully assess his aching backside, he found the air getting knocked out of him a second time as Aaron landed on top of him – then again as Aaron sat up, squarely on Flint’s lap. And if his face had gone as red as his hair at that, well, Aaron was nice enough to not comment on it. There was a scuffle as they both scrambled to stand up at the same time, but somehow, they managed.

“ALRIGHT!” Flint winced at his own volume. Way to further embarrass yourself, man. “Okay, now we’ve gotta track down–”

“–the Bugman!”

“No, I meant–! Ahh…” The Fire-type specialist trailed off as Aaron charged away. Well, at least Flint knew who they were supposed to be looking for here…

-

With how late in the day it already was, it didn’t take very long before the two Elite 4 members were meeting back up again.

“You’d think it’d be easier to find this guy! He’s not exactly hard to miss, right?!” Flint kicked at the ground in frustration, cursing under his breath when all he got for it was a stubbed toe. Man, he really needed to get some sneakers or something, listen to ol’ Volky’s advice one of these days. “Didn’t get a single lead on the dude…”

“Oh, I did!” Aaron’s announcement caused Flint’s head to snap up. “They said he stopped by the Pokétch company for a bit, then the school. Then apparently he headed for Floaroma Town! And yeah, he’s kinda hard not to notice with how tall he is, or that cool bug he has with him.”

The redhead let out a sigh. Of course he was still focused on the bug guy… “Well, we better get headed over there then, huh?” Wasn’t like they had much else to do, since Cyrus’ trail had pretty much gone cold. And if the huge grin Aaron gave was cute enough to make Flint’s heart skip a beat, well, that was a bonus.

TBC

Chapter Text

Guzma stood in a T-pose mere feet from a honey tree, in the center of a patch of grass, and giggled like an absolute child. A slowly growing swarm of wild Combee buzzed around him with fascination, occasionally buzzing in close to sip some of the honey off of his offered arms and hair.

Seated on the stone steps adjacent to the first grassy patch on Route 205, Cyrus was convinced his skin was going to separate from his body with how much it was crawling. He did his best to ignore it, tapping his foot on the ground to provide what little distraction it could.

The only interruption in the swarm of Pokémon were the kids, who were frolicking amongst them. Or, at least, frolicking in their own terms – Brandon 3 was just petting any Combee that buzzed close, while Brandon 4 was actively pursuing a few of them. Samantha kept pausing to locate her own Combee amidst the wild ones, all thus far being males like her own.

Brandon 2 was quick to protest. “Hey, how come Samantha’s the only one that gets to keep her Pokémon out? Ours could be having fun too!” And have more chances to show off to the Bugman…

“Yeah, but then they might scare off the Combee. Wild Combee aren’t gonna get spooked by another Combee.” Brandon 1 pointed out condescendingly, rolling his eyes.

“But they’re all bugs, shouldn’t they be fine?”

“Wha– no! Just because they’re all Bug-type doesn’t mean they’re gonna get along!”

“Some bugs eat other bugs.” Brandon 3 saw fit to bring up right then, sparking an entirely new argument.

“Yeah, but ours don’t! We already fed them earlier!” Brandon 2 waved his arms in exasperation, oblivious to how Brandon 4 was beginning to look around confusedly. “Well, Beast might, but– hey, Beast doesn’t attack other bugs, right?”

Brandon 4 didn’t even pretend to hear what the other boy had asked. “What’s that sound??”

“That was me, I was asking you if–”

“No, no, THAT sound!”

Despite his distance from the group, even Cyrus could pick up on the particularly loud buzz that was quickly rising above the drone of the other Combee. It sounded almost…hostile?

Guzma was looking around as much as he could without breaking position, not wanting to move for fear of scaring off the swarm. Unfortunately, he found himself forced into movement anyway as something barreled into his back, almost knocking him off his feet. The other Combee fled the instant their honey source stumbled forward, leaving Guzma to turn and face the newcomer one-on-one. A particularly haughty-looking Combee buzzed up to get in his face in a heartbeat, this one bearing a red dot on its lower face.

“Oooh, looks like it’s a lady Combee! Already keeping all the boys in line, huh~?” Samantha snickered, getting some unamused looks from the Brandons for it.

Guzma raised an eyebrow at the comment, but was quick to focus back on the Combee. Even if he couldn’t tell what that was all about, he could tell that this one was a fighter. Unlike how he had to wait Kricketot out just to find it, this Bug-type had attacked right off the bat – definitely a feisty one.

He slipped Kricketune’s Ultra Ball into his hand, and the kids honed in on the move in an instant.

“We get to see the Bugman in action?! Awesome!” Brandon 2 crowed, earning a grin from Guzma. The Alolan couldn’t resist a good ol’ stroke to the ego.

Despite his own enthusiasm, Brandon 3 snorted at him. “Maybe if you pay attention, you’ll actually learn how to fight with Tuney.”

Brandon 2 stuck out his tongue at the other boy, but found himself getting barreled over by Brandon 4 before he could get a retort out. The Beautifly trainer was making a beeline for the stairs. “I call top step!!”

“Wha– hey, wait! That’s not fair!”

“Yeah, no calling steps!”

Brandons 1 and 2 scrambled after him, nearly tackling Cyrus in the process. This bug battle was going to be epic! They needed good seats to watch from!

“Well don’t hurt him, dummies.” Samantha was hot on their heels, scolding them – not that she could speak, really, with how she jostled him while grabbing her own seat. She patted his head consolingly, having to suppress a giggle when his hair sprung back into position almost instantly. “There, there, Mr. Cyrus. Here, you can hold Beebee!”

Without a doubt, he was going to have an aneurysm. Cyrus could feel his soul shrink back as Samantha’s Combee was placed in his lap, buzzing up at him cheerily. He couldn’t even escape from it! Brandon 3 had settled down sedately at his feet, and the other three Brandons were all but piled onto him with how they were leaning over him from the top step. Samantha, to her credit, was giving him at least a minimal amount of personal space, but Beebee sitting on his lap was the final nail in the coffin. Cyrus was trapped. He stared at Guzma just shy of pleadingly, hoping the other man would provide him with some exit strategy from the dogpile.

Guzma’s grin only grew, oblivious to Cyrus’ inner desperation. Good ta see the troll lightening up a bit. “Hah! Never thought ya’d be so good with kids, Cy!”

Cyrus all but bristled at that. What the hell was Guzma laughing at? His suffering?? Before he could form a response, though, the lady Combee let out an impatient buzz, drawing Guzma’s attention back to her. She’d shown up specifically to battle, not watch some humans chit-chat!

“Alright, yo!” The Alolan couldn’t even tamp down on his smile as he tossed the device, dropping down into his signature squat. “Sorry fer keepin’ ya waiting, missy. Let’s fight!”

Kricketune popped out of its ball with a loud trill, ready to rumble.

Patience already worn thin, the wild Combee didn’t even allow Guzma to give his Pokémon an order, starting the battle off with a strong Gust. Kricketune found itself pushed back by the force of it, sustaining a good deal of damage right off the bat.

Well, shit. Probably should’a called out Golisopod for this one… He mused, but like hell was he gonna back down now. “Aight, shake it off lil’ dude! Watch out for the next one, an’ use Focus Energy!”

Kricketune chirped in acknowledgement, getting its focus on while keeping a close eye on the Combee. The wild Bug-type was darting about rapidly, trying to decide on her next move.

When she caught on to what her opponent was doing, though, all three of her faces let out a mischievous little giggle. Without missing a beat, she let out a Sweet Scent; the delicious smell completely derailed Kricketune’s attention, causing it to lose focus.

The Combee didn’t give it a chance to re-focus before unleashing another Gust.

“Yo, move it!”

As a species, Kricketune weren’t really made to take hits – Guzma’s had lost a ton of HP at that point. Aight, so maybe switching to Golisopod IS what I need to do here– Right as he considered switching out, however, Combee started buzzing in a strange manner. Almost…wiggling at them? Was it trying to sass them?? Fuckin’ RUDE!

It was the chance they needed, luckily. Kricketune started up another Focus Energy the moment it noticed the Combee’s distraction, the move fully ready by the time Guzma gave his next command.

“Aight, take ‘em down a peg with Slash!”

Kricketune’s foreclaw connected solidly with the Combee’s body, sending the wild Pokémon reeling. A critical hit! Before it could recover, Guzma chucked an Ultra Ball at it, not wanting to chance the fight lasting longer. Kricketune had already taken enough damage just from what’d already gone down.

The kids were practically vibrating with excitement, the top-step trio all fully leaning on Cyrus by that point – really, if he so much as shifted, one of them was bound to take a tumble. Their attention was absorbed by the Ultra Ball now on the ground, wiggling about, until…

Click.

Capture successful!

Both the kids and Beebee sprung up to congratulate Guzma, evacuating Cyrus in a heartbeat. The ex-Galactic leader was halfway ready to give him a piece of his mind for letting that nonsense go down, but found himself pausing at the…genuinely overjoyed look the other man had on.

…hm. Cyrus contained his pout as Guzma looked his way, giving the bug specialist a bland nod in congratulations instead. He could always just slip Golisopod another TM or two, after all. Some passive revenge sounded more appealing than ruining…whatever fun kind of moment Guzma was caught up in, anyway.

Not that he cared.

As the celebration continued on, no one in the group took notice of the curious little eyes watching them from just behind the honey tree.

TBC

Chapter Text

As much as he hated to admit it, Cyrus knew there was no way he could convince Guzma to head back to Floaroma for the night. Especially seeing as the kids had opted to stay with them, rather than head home. The ex-Galactic leader chose to consider himself lucky that they hadn’t set up camp in the tall grass, at the very least, despite how Guzma had all but begged for it.

Disappointed as Cyrus was, he settled for rustling through his bag for supplies. If they were going to set up camp for the night, he would need to spray some Max Repels–

…he would also need more than the one Max Repel left in his bag.

Cyrus could physically feel the remains of his soul freeze as he processed the sight. How could he have allowed this to happen?! With all the mayhem and distractions that came in conjunction with Guzma, he’d completely forgotten to stock back up on supplies!

Looking over to the man in question, Cyrus found him spraying both Kricketune and Combee down with Potions, yammering on to the kids about proper bug care.

Cyrus couldn’t gather the energy or the interest to fully listen in on the conversation, let alone process it.

With a sigh escaping him, Cyrus went ahead and sprayed himself down. It was far from enough to protect the whole campsite, but it would have to do. If he was lucky, the effect of his Max Repel – contrasted with the sweet scent of Guzma’s honey coating – would lead any bugs to swarm the Alolan instead. For a while, at least. He really did not want a repeat of the Wurmple incident back on Route 209, but he wasn’t about to hold his breath.

Kricketune gave an unexpected trill, distracting the ex-Galactic leader enough to start on a new train of thought. The Cricket Pokémon had managed to weather multiple Gust attacks from Combee – and the wild bug had been a formidable opponent even without the Flying-type advantage. Had Guzma really trained it that much between their rests?…was he holding an Exp Share? That would make sense…

Or maybe he was just going about it in an odd way. No bikes in Alola, right? Nor were there HMs. There was no telling what other weird things existed about the region, including training practices. Plus, Guzma might be a disaster on legs, but there was no denying that he was an adept battler. With his love of bugs, he’d probably figured out how to optimize results while training them, even with new species. Adaptability. Not bad. Now, if only he could be more adaptable outside of training – maybe then he could stop with the “destruction in human form” nonsense. Golisopod might even follow suit, seeing how much it seemed to take after its trainer. Or maybe it would become even worse just to even him out. Was the world even ready for a non-destructive Guzma? Would it throw off the balance of nature? Not that Cyrus could really talk, given his past plans, but…

-

“Uhh…Cy? Cy?? Cyrus! C’mon, yo!” Guzma was just about ready to snap in Cyrus’ face. Here he was, trying to engage the cave troll in at least some conversation, and the guy was dead on his feet! Cyrus wasn’t even looking at anything; he was wearing one of those thousand-mile-stares Guzma would sometimes catch Nanu with in the morning, before the old-timer could get his hands on any coffee. S’like he’s asleep with his eyes ope–

The Alolan found his train of thought cut off by a yawn.

wait, fuck, was that me?

Guzma blinked as the realization sunk in. Looking around the group, the kids looked pretty tired themselves. It was pretty late, wasn’t it…but he’d slept last night, so– wait, no, the Kricketot orchestra had been last night, right? …And he’d caught Kricketune the night before.

Well, shit. Maybe Cyrus was dead on his feet.

“Eheh, uhhh…” Guzma rubbed his neck, a sheepish expression creeping across his face. “Yo, why don’t we uh, y’know, settle down for the night?”

“Aww, but we can still keep going!”

“I’m not even tired!”

Combee and Kricketune returned to their Ultra Balls in a flash of red light as the children whined. Despite their complaining, they did start getting their camping gear all nice and set up like Cyrus had done. Just needed to get it out of their systems, from the looks of it.

Guzma approached Cyrus in the meantime, booping him on the nose. The Sinnohite startled instantly at the contact, the zombie-like expression shifting into something more…open? Unguarded? Guzma couldn’t pin it down.

…it, uh, wasn’t a bad look, though.

“Yo, kids’re gettin’ set up for bed. Anythin’ ya need doin’?” The bug enthusiast asked, trying to keep any awkwardness at a minimum. He hadn’t even noticed how worn-out Cyrus had gotten, and he wasn’t exactly a big fan of the twinge of guilt that came along with that.

“Well…” The other man seemed to mull the offer over for a few moments. “If you would be willing to go back to the Pokémon Center instead of camping out for the night, that would be superb–”

’Side from that, yo!” Guzma huffed out in fond exasperation. One-track mind, much?

Cyrus had figured, but it was worth a shot. As it stood, he was too tired to even walk back to Floaroma anyway. “In that case, I suppose we should just get some sleep.”

“Aight.” Guzma nodded as he settled down, that twinge of guilt coming back. Just nothin’ I can do, huh… “Night, kids!”

He got a chorus in response. “Night, Guzma! Night, Mr. Cyrus!”

Sleep came easily to the group after the long day – even Guzma, with all his new-bug euphoria, found himself drifting off the second he settled in.

Unbeknownst to the group, sleep wasn’t all that descended upon them…

-

A sharp yell jolted Guzma into semi-consciousness. “Whoozat? I’m up! I’m up–”

The Alolan went to get up, only to get a bag to his face for the trouble. He fell back onto his pallet for a moment as he tried to process his surroundings. Cyrus was awake, on his feet, and freaking out from the looks of it. A mass of green encircled them, too dark to mistake for grass, and too wiggly. The other man seemed to be trying to swat parts of the mass away with his bag, being met with moderate success.

“Yo, we got bugs?!” Guzma felt all remnants of sleep abandon him the second he could form coherent thoughts, a sense of elation overtaking him in its stead. He lurched towards his bag in an instant – he needed to get the Beans out, the bugs would love them!

Instead of the fabric of his bag, though, the bug enthusiast’s hand came into contact with something decidedly more…furry. And blue. And– trying to eat his whole damn bag??

“Wh–?! YO! Scram!!” Guzma tried yanking the bag away, only to be met with some stiff resistance. The kids had woken up at the start of the commotion, but the sight of a new Pokémon snapped them to full alertness.

Brandon 4 was the first to chime in. “Is that a Munchlax?! Cool!”

The Alolan had to hold back a swear, remembering his audience, but he couldn’t keep himself from snapping out his response. “Don’t just stand there like a bunch’a numskulls! Help ya boy out!”

That seemed to get them moving. Brandon 1 got to the Munchlax first, trying to pick up the offending Pokémon. Even with Brandons 4 and 2 joining him, though, they could barely lift the thing off the ground! Samantha did what she could in helping Guzma pull the bag back, and Brandon 3 tried to physically push Munchlax’s face away from where it was munching on the fabric, but to no avail. The Big Eater Pokémon held fast to the bag, trying to chew through it by the looks of things, even as the Brandons holding it tried swinging it around.

Unfortunately, the small Bug-types Guzma had been so eager to meet moments before scattered in all directions at the ruckus. Even worse, the bag hadn’t exactly been designed with tug-o-war in mind…

Fuck!” Guzma couldn’t bite back his cursing in time as the material ripped, spilling the bag’s contents haphazardly. The wild Munchlax, dislodged with the seam it had torn, seized as many jars of honey from the pile as it could carry, darting off with its spoils before anyone could move to restrain it. “Of fuckin’ course!”

He threw the empty remains of the bag onto the ground, half-wishing something had stayed inside so that the action would be more satisfying. As it stood, it only served to tick him off further – prompting him to kick at the spilled items this time, sending one of the unstolen honey jars flying and shattering against the rugged wall nearby. As he tracked its movement, his glare landed on Brandon 1, who stared back with a wide-eyed expression.

…uh. All the kids were staring at him like that, now that he took a good look at them. Even Brandon 3 seemed nervous in the wake of the older trainer’s outburst.

“Shit…” Guzma got out before clamping his mouth shut, settling for a closed-mouth scream. Vaguely, he was aware of the kids backing up a bit as he started tugging at his hair and pacing, probably trying to give him some space. And get out of harm’s way, he reminded himself, the thought only serving to upset him further. Of fucking course he was gonna scare them like this! At least he could recognize that he was terrifying when angry nowadays, but like hell did it do anything to help him calm down. Tapu, what the hell was wrong with him?!

As he swiveled around, his gaze honed in on an Ultra Ball that had landed in the grass, a faded sticker clinging to the side of it. A solid kick was enough to activate it, Golisopod popping out in a flash of light. Guzma couldn’t say that he wasn’t at least a little relieved as he found himself encased in one of Golisopod’s patented bug hugs. Now all he could do is flail and seethe, rather than fuck up any MORE than he already had.

Fuck, he couldn’t do anything right, could he?! And the way the kids were watching him like a bunch of skittish, worried Wimpod just made the whole thing worse. He’d actually been doing okay for once! Being all jovial and friendly and shit! And all for fuckin’ nothing, all ’cuz I can’t get a fuckin’ GRIP–

“Here.”

Cyrus’ voice brought his thoughts to a standstill. “…huh??”

The ex-Galactic leader sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. “As fun as it is to watch you traumatize children…” Cyrus trailed off into muttering, too quiet for Guzma to pick up on from his position. The Alolan chose not to ask for a repeat as the other man scooped up the torn bag, picking his way around the mess and back to his own pallet.

Guzma stared at Cyrus blankly as he pulled what was apparently a small sewing kit out of his excessively organized satchel, setting about the task of stitching up the Alolan’s pack.

The following calm in the still dark campsite managed to remind the onlooking children how tired they still were. With the sound of nocturnal Pokémon as a backdrop, and Cyrus’ repeated motions near hypnotic to watch – the group of five kids began to drift where they sat. Samantha dozed against Brandon 1, and Brandons 2-4 slumped onto each other in various positions.

Cyrus was just glad it had frightened off the Burmy.

Guzma, much like the younger trainers, felt himself calming down, bit by bit, as he watched the repetitive motion. By the time Cyrus was finished with sewing up the bag, Golisopod had deemed its trainer chill enough to gently set him back down.

Cyrus refused eye-contact, even as he handed the bag back to a stunned Guzma. “Uh…” The Bug-type specialist rubbed the back of his neck as he eyed the bag. It looks good as new. He wasn’t sure why this was happening, but it was still…nice of the troll? “…thanks, yo?”

Cyrus didn’t explain his actions, barely acknowledging Guzma’s thank-you with a grunt. “It’s still dark out. We should get back to sleep.”

Well, that’s that, I guess, Guzma figured, letting the topic drop as Cyrus returned to his pallet. He scooped up the spilled items and dumped them into his newly-repaired bag, then shuffled over to help Golisopod get the kids back to their sleeping bags without waking them.

Cyrus was tense as Guzma worked. He curled up on his side – back facing the group, eyes closed – and tried his hardest to fall into much-needed slumber. But despite the comfortable burn of finally laying down after far too long, and his eyes feeling heavier than a Hippopotas, he just couldn’t stop thinking enough to sleep.

Naturally, his actions were just to keep Guzma from complaining more, he rationalized. Fixing the bag didn’t mean anything; being nice didn’t mean anything.

Cyrus’s thoughts were interrupted as Guzma returned to his own sleeping mat. Curses filled his mind as the object of his inner struggle was now seated beside him.

The Alolan, as could be expected, was wide awake after the Munchlax event. He sat on the pallet instead of laying down right away, contemplating Cyrus’ sleeping form for a few minutes. The guy…wasn’t that bad, he guessed. More like an abandoned Pokémon than a straight-up jackass. He found himself reaching out, smoothing down Cyrus’ hair from where it had gotten disheveled during the panic earlier. Guzma kept the touch as gentle as he could, so as not to disturb the other man – Tapu knew he didn’t want to wake Cyrus up again so soon.

“G’night, Cyrus.” Guzma whispered as he pulled his hand back, finally settling down on his pallet and looking up at the stars, an increasingly familiar story introduction coming to mind.

By his side, Cyrus remained still, faking sleep as he stared out at Route 205. Good night...

TBC

Chapter Text

Morning came way too early, in just about everyone’s opinion. Especially Guzma’s. He knew he couldn’t just leave last night – that morning? – as it was. The kids might like him a lot, sure, but he knew he’d freaked them out a bit when he’d gotten angry. He needed to apologize.

Knowing that didn’t make it any easier to approach, though. The kids were already about halfway done with their assorted breakfasts before he finally managed to get the words out.

“So, er, sorry…y’know…’bout last night.”

Guzma could feel his skin crawl as the kids paused, glancing between him and each other. That wasn’t a good reaction. Was it possible for one man to shove his entire foot in his mouth at once? Looked like it!

Just as he was starting to think he shouldn’t have brought it up after all, though, Brandon 1 spoke up. “It’s okay. I think anyone would’ve been ticked off about that.”

“Don’t worry about it…” Brandon 3 nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, it’s–” Brandon 4 tried to contribute, only to break off coughing for a few moments. Consequence of trying to eat and talk at the same time. “Sorry– but yeah, it’s not like you were worse’n Samantha that time she woke up ’cuz a Ponyta tried chewing on her hair!”

Guzma felt himself let out a breath he hadn’t even realized he’d been holding. He rubbed at the back of his neck, giving a nervous laugh. “Er, yeah…heh, good to hear ya boi ain’t the only one who’s got problems with those firey fu– uhh, jerks.”

As everyone’s attention went back to their meal, Samantha giving a laugh at his comment, Guzma found his gaze drawn over to Cyrus’ Pokémon. They were chowing down too, by the looks of it, situated a bit aways from the rest of the group. The nerd himself was still distributing poffins to his team, gently swatting away Weavile’s hand when it tried sneaking an extra treat.

It wasn’t until he noticed Crobat trying to give its poffins back that he realized Cyrus wasn’t, well, eating anything. He tryin’ to skip breakfast or some shit?

“Yo, Cy, ain’tcha gonna eat?” Guzma asked through a mouthful of malasada, quickly swallowing. He dug another one out of his pack – the last one, he noted offhandedly – and offered it to the other man. “Most important meal of the day, y’know.”

After a few moments of silence passed without further reaction from Cyrus, Guzma’s offered hand began to sag at the lack of response, awkwardness setting in. Crobat, knowing Cyrus all too well, gave its trainer a gentle nudge. The motion was accompanied by a soft croon, the Bat Pokémon trying to gently direct him towards the other man.

Cyrus sighed, knowing he’d already lost, and got up from his place among his Pokémon to join the rest of the humans. He stole a half-hearted glance back to his team, hoping for some kind of out from the situation, but Crobat only waved him forward. No escaping this one. He pressed onwards, taking a seat next to Guzma.

Guzma, to his credit, completely ignored the awkward atmosphere from just moments ago. In fact, he somehow managed to grin wider as Cyrus sat, taking the offered treat.

Cyrus eyed the malasada with trepidation. At least Guzma wasn't offering Beans again. Even though the last malasada he tried was still too sweet for his tastes, he couldn’t deny that the food was pretty decent. Well, more decent than the treats both of their Pokémon were chowing down on, at any rate.

So…” Guzma drawled out, once he’d polished off his own malasada.

“Hm?” Cyrus hummed, barely acknowledging the other, only to startle as he felt the other man sling an arm over his shoulders. It was a miracle he managed to keep ahold of the last few bites of malasada he had left.

The startled jump Cyrus gave at the contact didn’t go unnoticed, but the Alolan chose to ignore it, flashing him a wide grin instead. “Where we goin’ next, nerd?”

Despite his surprise, it didn’t take more than a few seconds for Cyrus to recover. “I wouldn’t know. Haven’t you been running this adventure so far?” He asked, tilting his head as though genuinely curious.

Sarcastic banter. Alright, that was an upgrade Guzma was willing to accept. As he opened his mouth to fire back, though, Brandon 1 cut in.

“How about Eterna Forest?”

“Yeah, yeah! Let’s go to Eterna Forest!” Brandon 4 was practically bouncing at the idea. “It’s really close and it’s got TONS of bugs! It’ll be awesome!!”

Stars started forming in Guzma’s eyes the second he heard the word ‘bugs’, but he caught himself before he could agree right off the bat. Cyrus had a point – the trip so far had mainly revolved around things Guzma wanted to do. Granted, all that Cyrus wanted to do seemed to involve running back to the Distortion World, but that didn’t mean the Alolan couldn’t ask. Besides, aside from the snark, the ex-Galactic Leader had actually been…pretty decent.

“Uh. That sound good to you, Cy?”

Cyrus had to physically stop himself from saying no, the word forming on his tongue automatically. Since when had Guzma cared about his opinion, anyway? But then again…there was something in that forest he’d like to see once more. “I…suppose it wouldn’t be too awful.”

“Wait, really? Even with the bugs?”

“Did you want me to say ‘no’ instead? Perhaps I should change my mind–”

“No no, it’s cool!” Guzma scrambled to backtrack, giddiness welling up inside of him. He used his hold on Cyrus to give the other man a quick, one-armed hug before finally letting go, turning his attention back to the kids. “C’mon, last one there’s a rotten egg!”

You –!” Cyrus bit down on his retort as the five actual children darted past him as well.

Looking back to the remaining campsite mess that Guzma had literally sprinted away from, Cyrus felt himself fume.

-

“Deep in Eterna Forest, the mighty Bugman stalks his prey~” Brandon 2 narrated, imitating a documentary voiceover.

Guzma crouched in the tall grass, carefully controlling his movements as he inched closer to an unsuspecting Beautifly. “Here, the elusive Beautifly has fallen into his sights–”

“Well, not really that elusive, since Brandon 4 knows all the good spots to find ‘em, but still–” Brandon 4 tried to interject in his own mock narrator voice, gaining a small shove from Brandon 2 for his troubles.

“–the ferocious Butterfly Pokémon seems to be unaware of the Bugman’s presence.” Brandon 2 continued, trying to stifle his smile as Brandon 1, Brandon 4, and Samantha giggled. “He slowly creeps closer, steadily getting within range. A tried and true method, he–”

This time, the narration was cut off by Guzma himself. The Bug-type specialist let a curse slip out as his foot caught on an upraised tree root.

“–trips…”

The kids winced as Guzma stumbled forwards, face hitting a few of the lower tree branches as he fell, landing himself right next to the Beautifly. To add insult to injury, there was a fwap as the Butterfly Pokémon whapped him with its wings as it took off.

“…annnnd there it goes.”

Guzma groaned into the dirt before sitting up, quickly brushing off the leaves that’d stuck to him on his way down. The sound of a slow clap caught his attention, prompting him to look over at Cyrus.

“Good job. You almost seemed to be competent for a moment, there.”

Normally, Guzma wouldn’t have hesitated to fire back a jab of his own, but the look on Cyrus’ face tripped him up at the last second. Was that…a smile? He choked on his words, a snort taking the place of whatever he had intended to say.

“Awww! We would’ve had that!” A loud voice caught the group’s attention as a young boy, probably no older than the Brandons, tramped out of his own hiding spot in the tall grass. Whatever complaints he had in mind died as he got a better look at Guzma, though, face lighting up in excitement. “Oh!! I know you! Hey Jack, Philip, c’mon, I found the Bugman!”

At his words, two other boys emerged, picking their way through the undergrowth to join the group. Brandon 4 gave an excited wave as they approached.

The initial boy scurried over to Guzma to help him up, the lost bug-catching opportunity seemingly forgotten. “I’m Donald, hi! It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Bugman, sir!”

“Uhh, yeah, sup?” The Alolan rubbed at the back of his neck once he was on his feet again, glancing over at where the Beautifly had been. “Sorry ’bout all that. Wasn’t exactly plannin’ on eatin’ dirt today, but looks like ya boy didn’t really get a choice.”

“Honestly, I wasn’t all that invested in it.” One of the new boys drawled out, getting an annoyed look from Donald.

“Yeah, ‘cuz you already have one, Jack.” Donald snapped out.

Ignoring Donald, the now identified Jack continued. “What’re y’all up to in Eterna Forest?”

Before the new trio could start squabbling, though, one of the Brandons all but materialized next to them. “We’re bug-hunting!” Brandon 2 exclaimed, as if it weren’t obvious. “He’s the Bugman, after all.”

“Yeah, yo. Gotta check out what this place has to offer, y’know? Wanderin’ ’round a forest seemed like a good way to find some bugs.”

“Well, then it’s a good thing we found you!” Donald puffed out his chest, as though priding himself. “Any further and you would’ve wandered into the Old Chateau!”

The other new boy – Philip, Guzma figured – nodded emphatically. “Yeah, the place is abandoned and spooky and stuff, not to mention haunted as all get-out. It’s chock-full of ghosts!”

Guzma felt himself mentally check out of the conversation the second ghosts were brought into it. Nope, nuh-uh, not interested – he’d seen his fair share of paranormal bulushit with the Abandoned Megamart, no need to go looking for more. Tapu knows it would be just as weird as the rest of the region.

Cyrus smirked.

Hell fuckin’ no. That was a look Guzma absolutely did not trust. He wasn’t sure how he knew that look, but he knew that nothing good was going to come of it, especially if it was heading in the direction he thought it was. “Well, sucks we ain’t goin’ in.” He said quickly, side-eyeing the other man.

“Oh? And here I thought you were the ‘hardest boy’ out there? Must not be very tough if you’re scared of a few ghosts.”

…he was right. That definitely wasn’t anything good. “Huh. Y’know what? Fu– Screw you, we’re goin’ to the creepy haunted house.”

TBC

Chapter Text

It was dark. It was cold. It was spooky as hell. Despite being positive that they had entered the Old Chateau in the middle of the day, it felt like the middle of the night inside. The natural darkness of Eterna Forest didn't help any.

Guzma could feel himself breaking out in goosebumps at the creepy atmosphere, but like hell was he about to admit to that. As self-proclaimed hardest boy in Alola, he had a reputation to uphold!…though that didn’t make the abandoned building any less shadowy, and not in a Shady House kind of way. The vibe he was getting from the place was more like Turnback Cave, and way too similar to Ultra Space for his comfort.

In true cave troll fashion, Cyrus had all but spirited himself away the second they’d stepped foot in the building, making his way through the dark as if in his natural habitat. Fuckin’ troll. Straight-up ditched me in this hellhole…

With a lack of anything better to do, the Alolan decided to look around a bit himself – he wasn’t going to risk a bodyswap just because Cyrus wanted to dick around in a haunted house. Couldn’t be all that bad, right? Just a lot of dust, maybe some Gastly…just a more decayed version of the Shady House. He could do this.

The way the stairs creaked under his weight made him question that resolve.

Just past the stairs, Guzma found himself wandering into a little room jutting off to the left of the main hall. It looked like the world’s shittiest attempt at a library, from where he was standing. The room was mostly empty, save for some books and boxes littering the floor, as well as an overflowing bookshelf, all covered in a thick layer of dust. He stepped in further–

–only to startle harshly at a sound from behind him. He was in battle mode in a heartbeat, sending out Golisopod. The hulking Bug-type took a battle stance before the light from its release could fade, ready to square off against– “Cyrus?”

The tension went out of Golisopod’s frame, the bug sending a long whine at the Sinnohite.

“FUCK, yo! Don’t sneak up on ya boy like that!”

Cyrus seemed unimpressed, staring at the boy-and-bug combo like they were stupid. “Perhaps you should pay closer attention to your environment. I wasn’t even being quiet.”

“You’re always quiet…”

Guzma’s grumbling went ignored by the other man as he strode into the room. As Cyrus walked over to inspect the bookshelf, Golisopod busied itself with inspecting and snuffling at its trainer. Had to make sure its boy was safe after that scare, after all.

“I’m fine, mom.” Guzma pouted as the Hard Shell Pokémon hovered over him. He patted its face in reassurance, before glancing over at Cyrus. “Yo, where’d ya been, anyway?”

“Around.” The response was minimal as Cyrus ventured further into the room, brushing away what had to be years worth of dust off of things as he went along. Guzma chose to stick close to Golisopod rather than follow after the other man, but kept a close eye on him nonetheless.

The amount of dust getting stirred up by Cyrus’ haphazard “cleaning” didn’t help, unfortunately. Within a few minutes of enduring it, Golisopod let out an abrupt sneeze, with its trainer stuck in the line of fire. Guzma whined as he brushed off the bug-snot, moving away from his main Pokémon. “Aww, come on!”

Satisfied that its boy was nice and safe for the time being, Golisopod turned its attention to the rest of the room. Most of what it could pick up on was dust and old paper, but it could also smell something…sweet-ish? Treat-ish? The Bug-type’s eyes all but glowed in the dim lighting at the thought.

Within minutes, Golisopod managed to sniff its way through the dust and decay, ultimately locating a small plate of…something. Guzma kept a close eye on the bug as it gently lifted the plate with its smaller arms, inspecting the purple whatever that had arrested its attention. Only when the Hard Shell Pokémon went to nibble on the weird item did its trainer take action.

“Goli, yo, wouldja knock that off? Ya already ate a sock!”

My sock…” Cyrus muttered, the addition going unheard by the other two.

Guzma moved to confiscate the plate of – he almost wanted to call it cake – from his partner. Golisopod ducked out of the way, keeping the plate close to its body and out of the human’s reach. “Gimme that!”

Cyrus finally spared the two a glance at the shout, only to find them fighting over a plate of Old Gateau. Of course…naturally they would stumble across some, especially with Golisopod’s enthusiasm for treats. The food was a regional specialty, after all.

“Ya don’t even know how long it’s been here, yo! Look, it even looks like something else’s already gotten into it!”

Golisopod whined obnoxiously in response. The Bug-type squirmed to keep the plate away from Guzma, even as the man managed to grab onto the edge. What did the age of it matter? It smelled like a treat! It had to be good! Whatever had been snacking on it before hadn’t even eaten that much!

Cyrus shook his head at the Alolans’ antics. Despite the marketing for the famous Old Gateau, though, he found himself agreeing with Guzma. This building has been abandoned for ages…unless the ghosts have suddenly taken up cooking, that plate has likely been sitting around for years. He mused. Especially if it’s the same one that I fou–

His thoughts were derailed as the plate slipped from Golisopod’s tiny claws, its trainer finally getting in a good tug on it. Guzma got a plate to the face for his troubles, the purple not-cake getting into his mouth. He swallowed without thinking as he stumbled back a step, but quickly began spitting out what was left, sputtering out complaints.

The amount of force Cyrus had to use just to keep a straight face in that moment could’ve broken bone. As it stood, he was only able to half-look in the other man’s direction, keeping his face partially obscured. Just in case. “You realize that was poison, don't you? You’ll perish soon if you don’t use an Antidote.”

The look of horror that slipped over Guzma’s face was too much. Cyrus felt the edge of his mouth twitch upwards in amusement.

It took less then a second for Guzma to hone in on the movement, even in the dim lighting. “Augh!! You li’l SHIT!”

Despite being called out, that upwards twitch bloomed into a smirk. Really, this side-adventure was proving to be more fun than Cyrus had anticipated. He felt…at-ease, almost, being back in such familiar territory. “You’re far too gullible.”

“Shut up, ya–” Guzma sputtered for a moment, scrambling to find a good insult. “–ya troll!”

That got an actual chuckle out of Cyrus.

The Bug-type enthusiast could only fume at how thoroughly he’d been had. “Yeah yeah, go on, keep laughin’! We’ll see who gets th’ last laugh when you’re the one gettin’ ghostnapped this time ’round!”

Even Golisopod was getting a good snicker out of its trainer’s dismay.

“Hey! You cram it too, yo!” The Hard Shell Pokémon covered its mouth with its claws at Guzma’s scandalized shout, but the action didn’t do much to hide its amusement.

When Guzma rounded back on Cyrus, he had every intention of cobbling together some sort of comeback for the situation. Instead, he found the irritation draining from his body as quickly as the blood drained from his face. “Uh– guh– Cy?”

“Yes?”

“CY!”

It was then that the Sinnohite finally noticed the shadows creeping around him. “...oh.”

The shadows converged upon Cyrus in an instant, dragging him backwards and– through the wall?!

Cyrus!” Guzma launched forwards after him, but to no avail. He scoured the wall for an opening, but it was solid under his hands – and his fist as he punched it in frustration.

“Fuck!”

TBC

Chapter Text

“Alright. Alright!” Guzma swatted away a cobweb as he scrambled back down the stairs, Golisopod in tow. “We’re gonna find Cyrus, and then we’re gonna get the fuck outta here.”

Searching the first floor seemed like the best starting point; Guzma had only spotted one door while they were down there. Easy to knock out. Or, at least, it would be, if the door didn’t lead to a dining room the length of a street back in Po Town.

“The hell…?” The Alolan found himself muttering as he looked around, Golisopod giving a low gwoor of agreement. Who the fuck needed a dining room this big? Not even Aether went to this extent. “They host a whole town in here or somethin’?”

His companion chittered then, drawing his attention to the left. As overkill as it was, it looked like there was another room attached to the side of the dining room – probably a kitchen area, with how interested in it Golisopod seemed to be. Guzma rolled his eyes.

“Ya better not go eatin’ any weird shit, got it?”

Golisopod gave a trill of agreement as it scampered over, though it had no intention of keeping its word if it actually found any treats. Waving off the small dust cloud the Bug-type had kicked up in its haste, Guzma turned his attention back to the rest of the room.

Golisopod was busy snuffling away at the dusty insides of a fridge when it heard its trainer yelp. It almost hit its head on the roof of the device as it immediately launched into action, rushing back to where it’d left Guzma. The man looked thoroughly alarmed – though still a far cry from a panic attack – and was pointing animatedly at…nothing?

Tschch?” The Hard Shell Pokémon tilted its head, shooting a look of concern over at its boy.

“Fuckin’ ghosts– it was right there!” Guzma exclaimed, throwing his arms up in frustration. He rolled his eyes when Golisopod continued to peer at him. “Yo, don’t gimme that look. I know what I saw.”

The Hard Shell Pokémon chose not to pursue the topic. Instead, it chittered again, lifting one of its bigger claws to pat Guzma on the head. The trainer swatted the appendage away with an exasperated groan, motioning for Golisopod to follow as he made his way back out to the main hall.

“Don’t fuckin patronize me, yo! Now c’mon, we got more shitty haunted house to cover.”

-

“Damn, rich people really love big staircases an’ shit, huh?” Guzma rambled as he started up the western stairs. Totally ain’t nervous, he insisted to himself, just uh…gettin’ bored, is all. “Like yo, y’think they could’a managed with one staircase, but nahh, shit’s gotta be symmetrical.”

To its credit, Golisopod clicked along in agreement.

It didn’t take long for them to reach the second floor, finding it identical to the other side. The Alolan rolled his eyes as he made his way over to the door jutting off to the side of the landing. Fuckin’ symmetry.

His thoughts stumbled to a stop as he got to the doorway, Golisopod staying just outside of it, eyes still roving around the entrance hall. Unlike the other side-room, this one was unmistakably a library. Hell, if there were any more bookshelves crammed into the room, the floor would probably give in from the sheer weight of it all. And there amongst the shelves, looking for all the world like he belonged there, was Cyrus.

There ya are!” Guzma meant to sound annoyed, but he couldn’t keep the relief out of his voice. “Yo, nerd! The hell you doin’ holed up in here for? We’v–”

Cyrus had looked up from the book he’d been inspecting as Guzma spoke. Then, like something out of a bad dream, the bookcase next to the Sinnohite lurched forwards without warning. Before Guzma could even think to warn the other man, the shelf toppled over, crushing Cyrus beneath its girth.

"CYRUS!!” Guzma surged towards the fallen shelf, nearly tripping over his own feet. Golisopod’s confused trill from behind him barely registered as he fell to his knees next to the bookcase. He spared a glance back at the Bug-type, finding it looking at him curiously from the threshold. “Well don’t just stand there! Help me–…”

He’d begun reaching to grab ahold of the bookcase as he spoke, but trailed off as his hand came into contact with tile floor instead of rotting wood. The bookcase was…upright again? Yeah, it was back exactly as it’d been when Guzma had opened the door. Not a book out of place. Not a Cyrus to be found…

The tension drained out of Guzma’s body for just a second, just long enough for him to shift from a kneel into a crouch. Just as quickly as it had left, though, it returned – there was a solid thunk as Guzma hit the offending shelf with the side of his fist. “FUCK this!”

Golisopod ducked out of the doorframe as its trainer stormed out of the room, seething.

“Fuckin’ ghosts!” Guzma hissed out, all but stomping to the doorway located at the back of the second-floor landing. “’Cuz havin’ to deal with ‘em out at the Thrifty Megamart just wasn’t enough! Gotta have haunted shit out in the middle of this weirdass region, too!”

His rage fizzled down into something more like exhaustion as he entered the new hallway, shoulders drooping. Five fucking doors lined the hall, and Tapu knows what Bulushit laid behind them.

“Well, c’mon yo. Let’s start from the top.” Guzma trudged over to the leftmost door, a pout on his face. Golisopod followed along after him, if not a bit absently as it looked around curiously at the hallway.

Either the owners of this place had weird aesthetic tastes, or Guzma had just found a storage room – most of it was either tables, boxes, or chairs. Cyrus could be hiding anywhere in here. The Alolan groaned as he took a step into the room, only to stop short as one of the chairs scraped across the floor. As if on queue, the rest of the furniture took to the air.

Nope! Guzma slammed the door shut. “Aaactually, uh, let’s start on the other side, aight?”

Golisopod gave a confused gwoor as its trainer all but sprinted to the other end of the hall.

The rightmost door opened up to…well, for the most part, a lot of dust and mold. Unlike the last one, this room was completely devoid of furniture. Abso-fuckin’-lutely nothin’. Hah, sounds like a Cyrus-y place ta be at! Guzma snickered at his own joke, turning to Golisopod to share it when movement caught his eye.

A young girl was standing just to the side of the door, staring at Guzma expressionlessly. There was something…off about her. Her skin was way too pale, and it looked like she’d just sloppily smeared on some red eyeshadow under her eyes. If she was going for a striking look, she’d definitely succeeded. Damn, Plumes would have a field day with this one… “Uh, sup? Whatcha doin’ in here, k–”

He felt his breathing still as the girl’s face morphed suddenly, rippling like water. Her skin became– well, the only word coming to mind right then was distorted, pitch-black but with weird purple discolorations. Red, glowing eyes peered up at him now.

The girl dropped her jaw and screeched, revealing a set of wickedly-sharp teeth. Guzma let out a shriek of his own and darted back out of the room, slamming the door shut behind him. NOT NOTHIN’! DEFINITELY not nothin’!

Golisopod shot its trainer a look as he hid behind it. Question marks all but physically manifested over its head as it turned its attention back to the door Guzma had just slammed shut, stepping forward curiously when nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

“Don’t open th–!” Guzma’s warning was too late; the door creaked open beneath the Bug-type’s claws before he could even finish. He flinched back–

–only to hear a confused chitter from Golisopod. The room was empty once more, with not a trace of the creepy girl to be found. Ffffuckin’ GHOSTS.

Guzma let out a quiet whine as he curled up on the floor between the forth and fifth rooms, knees to his chest, hands tugging at his hair. Maybe Cyrus had just gone back outside. That could’ve happened, right? With how the Sinnohite had been joking around earlier, it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that he’d pull a double-prank like that. But still…

He looked up as Golisopod made a guttural, worried noise. The Hard Shell Pokémon wiggled its claws near its head in the way that was meant to imitate Plumeria’s pigtails, much like it had back in Turnback Cave.

“Aw hell no! I ain’t callin’ her! She’d fuckin’ laugh her ass off at me–EGH!” Guzma flailed back a little, sentence turning more into a choked yell as he caught a glimpse of the girl again, standing – floating? – right behind Golisopod.

But, of course, she vanished right as Golisopod turned around to look.

Mmnn– FINE!” Guzma groaned as he dug out his cellphone, dialling up Plumeria without leaving his place on the floor.

The line was quiet for a moment after the call went through, before Plumeria’s mumbling filled it. “…mmn. G? Sup, yo.”

The Bug-type specialist felt himself calm a little just at hearing his old Admin’s voice, even if it was laced with sleep. He must’ve woken her up again. “S-sup yourself, yo! Uh, sorry for wakin’ ya up must be pretty early over there."

“Mmnahh, shoulda got up hours ago anyway. Your old sleeping habits must’a rubbed off on me."

Guzma couldn't help but smile at that. “Goli’s been missin’ ya a lot, wanted me ta call ya. Y’know?”

“…mm-hm.” Even in her half-asleep state, Plumeria didn’t buy it for a second. She could be merciful, though. “Guess you’re still alive out there, at least. Yawwwn– Been busy, huh? Few things been goin’ on here, too.”

“Yeah?” Guzma was quick to latch onto the easy out, all his focus on Plumeria’s voice. Damn, being back in Alola sounded fantastic right about then… “What all’s goin’ on out there?”

“Well, Nanu–”

“H-hey hey!!!” In his reminiscing, Guzma had glanced up to his bug just in time to see Golisopod pushing open the next door in the chain. “GOLI DON’T–!” His phone slipped out of his grip as he jumped to his feet, all but lunging to grab onto Golisopod’s arm. It was just barely too late, though, the door opening to reveal–

…nothing?

Goli gave a concerned gworr.

“Shit.” Guzma heaved a sigh as his heart rate settled once more. Least there ain’t another ghost tryna jump us this time. He looked over at where his phone had landed. The battery had gotten knocked out of the device when it’d clattered to the floor. Maybe he ought to call her back…disconnecting like that probably wasn’t the best way to end the call.

With another sigh, Guzma scooped up the phone and popped the battery back into place, watching the little screen light up. He should probably get out of the hall first, though, before he called Plumeria back. ’Specially if that ghost chick’s still out here… He walked past Golisopod, noting the two doors that had yet to be checked still. Cyrus had to be behind one of them, right?

And behind door number one, was– a significant spike in Guzma’s blood pressure.

A Haunter was floating just inside the room, with what had to be the smuggest grin on its face. Before Guzma could even think to react, the Ghost-type honed in on him, hitting him with a full-body Lick attack, causing his muscles and joints to lock up in paralysis.

Fucking perfect!

-

The shadowy mass quickly resurfaced in a different, noticeably less-cluttered room, protruding from the wall as it dumped Cyrus from its grasp. The man gasped as the shadows receded from him – really, was it too much to ask for a little warning? Walls weren’t exactly known for being easy to breathe in! He found himself on his knees as he caught his breath, disoriented by his sudden transport.

Once his breathing was under control, he glanced up, only to immediately deadpan at the Haunter floating before him. The Gas Pokémon looked downright delighted. “Having fun at my expense again, are we?”

Haunter broke into a cackle at the comment, a Gastly appearing by its side to join in.

Cyrus sighed, dusting himself off as he rose to his feet. Truly, these two would give Guzma a run for his money as far as shenanigans are concerned…

…ah. Right. Guzma didn’t like ghosts, did he? Perhaps Cyrus should ask his ‘kidnappers’ to get him as well, before the Alolan ended up having a panic attack. Cyrus shuddered as he remembered the one he’d had during his time in the other man’s body. At least he has Golisopod with him, Cyrus considered, hopefully it’ll be enough to keep him steady.

Opening his mouth to call out for the two Ghost-types, Cyrus paused as he found them absent from the room. Of course…in typical Ghost-type fashion, they’d gone through the trouble of kidnapping him, only to ditch him the next second. Might as well just find Guzma myself, then, he figured, turning to the door.

Bzzt!

Cyrus went rigid at the familiar buzzing sound, eyes wide. It…there was no way. It couldn’t be…could it?

He turned, ever-so-slightly, to locate the source of the sound – just in time to see the TV in the room burst to life. The screen flashed brightly with static before a small, ghostly spark of a Pokémon bolted out of it with a cheer.

Cyrus could feel his throat trying to close up as he spoke, constricted by an emotion he wasn’t quite able to suppress. “Rotom…

TBC

Chapter Text

The room was dark. Empty, but for the barest student essentials. One would be hard-pressed to imagine that a child could possibly live here. Just how the young Cyrus Stone liked it.

The quiet stillness of the room was cave-like in essence, broken only for a moment by the bedroom door opening and closing, allowing in its sole occupant.

School Boy Cyrus bodily sagged as he exhaled the stresses from the day, now once again in his semi-safe space. Test results had come in that morning but, as always, they meant nothing. No matter what praises the teachers may sing, it’s never enough for Mother and Charon…

Cyrus dropped his things onto his desk without ceremony, slumping down into his chair. Eventually, he would need to start revising for the next assessments given in class. As it stood, he couldn’t quite find the energy to do it yet.

Cyrus felt himself slipping into a numbed state as he soaked up the peace of the room. It was a relief to be able to let his guard down like this, even if only temporarily. Gradually, he became aware of a distorted beeping sound as he zoned back in. He snapped his head to look for the source of it. Only to find himself careening backwards in his chair from the force of the sudden movement. He, and the chair, both hit the floor with a loud thud.

A muffled voice filtered in from the living room barely a moment later. “What did you just break?!”

Ah, only mother… “Nothing, I just…tripped!”

“You wouldn’t trip if you cleaned your room for once!” Cyrus’ mother continued but, much to the boy’s relief, made no attempt to come to his room.

Cyrus took a breath, shoving down any and all responses to that statement. Nothing he said would play out well. It was best not to engage. Instead, he took a moment to glance around the room in its simplicity and bareness. Wait…

Despite his mother’s complaints, the room truly was spotless. Not a single item was allowed out of place...which is why a small toy robot in the middle of the floor caught his attention.

“So that's where it came from.” He climbed to his feet, carefully scooping up the little robot. Charon must've gotten bored with it.

His parents had been downright livid with him for stealing the lawn mower motor when he built it. Cyrus had gotten an earful from both scientists for wasting his time on toys instead of doing real science. Charon had confiscated it not long after, most likely to study it further, or take credit for the invention at work.

“I can’t imagine him giving it back, though…?” Cyrus mumbled to himself, turning the toy over in confusion. Charon would’ve trashed it the instant he was done with it, Cyrus knew from experience. So then…why had it wound up in his room?

Flipping the robot over to inspect the motor on its back, the School Boy jolted as a Pokémon burst forth from it.

Cyrus had a white-knuckle grip on the toy as he stared, mesmerized by the glowing creature. It floated freely for a few moments, but soon moved in closer to inspect the human, seemingly unafraid. Cyrus barely registered the crackling noises in the background at first, reminiscent of static electricity. But quickly, he was able to pinpoint that they were coming from the strange Pokémon before him. Whatever this was, it was Electric-type!

He flinched back harshly once that thought made it through his mind, expecting to be zapped as the Pokémon drew in close. To his surprise, it stopped just short of his face. The little creature seemed to smile at him instead.

Cyrus kept still for a few more moments, not quite sure if he should let his guard down or not. The Pokémon seemed to grin wider at him despite his hesitancy, and, gradually, he found himself giving a crooked, confused smile in return.

Perhaps we could be...friends?

-

Cyrus could feel adrenaline rolling through him, red-hot under his skin. He’d run away. His navigating skills had gotten completely turned around in his urgency, but he’d run away!

“St– Cleffa, this might just work.” The thirteen-year-old muttered to the Pokéball he held close to his chest.

Nevermind the directions; he’d come well-equipped with a map of Sinnoh. He knew he could easily find his way once he caught his breath and the adrenaline stopped pumping through his veins. What was important was he was far from home by now…at least by foot. He kept talking as he walked through what had to be the Sunyshore City dump, from the looks of it.

“From here on out, it’s just me and you, Cleffa.” Cyrus insisted lifting the Pokéball to eye level. “We’ll get more Pokémon, and make a real family! A-and, and find somewhere else to live, too!” We have to. His voice broke at the end and Cyrus returned the Pokéball to his chest, wishing so much that he could release his Pokémon right then. But he dare not risk it, he was still way to close to home.

“I can’t go back there. I’m…not going back there.” He continued insistently to the Pokéball’s smooth form, his small body trembling with anxiety.

Suddenly, he found himself stumbling over a piece of garbage he’d not noticed. He mentally thanked his tight grip on Cleffa’s ball for allowing it to stay in his hands as he found himself on his knees in the well trekked dirt.

“O-ow…” Cyrus scowled, shaking from the unexpected pain. He’d definitely scuffed his knees, if nothing else. That most assuredly, would not help him get further away. Twisting his head, he made to glare at whatever had tripped him up, only to freeze as he caught sight of a familiar form. His old robot toy…

Charon had found the device soon after Rotom had vacated it. The man had made a point of throwing it away in front of Cyrus this time, thinking the child had stolen it back.

The emotional agony the School Boy had felt at the whole event was only surpassed by how he’d felt the day he'd scared Rotom away in the first place.

“Oh, Rotom…” Cyrus’ voice was hushed as he got his feet back under him, dusting himself off. He’d…never really gotten to apologize to the Pokémon. It was another line on his list of regrets, which was much longer than any thirteen-year-old’s should be. Before he could go to far down memory lane, he reached for the toy intending to stuff it into his bag. Instead, he found himself freezing midway through the motion, eyes widening as the toy gave a small beepbzzt and waved at him.

“It…couldn't be?” …could it?

The plastic of the body was cool to the touch as he picked it up with hesitance. He’d dreamed of somehow finding his friend again but this? This felt too easy. Life was never this kind to him, and yet…

The robot toy gave more excited beepings and its eyes glowed with joy, while Cyrus felt tears filling his. Maybe things were finally turning around. He hugged the toy as tightly as he held Cleffa’s Pokéball. It really was Rotom! The surge of pure joy and elation was almost all consuming, and Cyrus found himself gushing about everything – how sorry he was for scaring Rotom, how Charon had thrown the toy away, how he’d finally fled his abusive home – until a sharp howl cut through the air.

Cyrus froze again, head whipping around in paranoia. This wasn't the time for happy reunions; he was still far too close to home. But soon…he gave a last smile to the toy, its head quirked in confusion at the sudden end to the hugs. “I'm sorry.” The pre-teen said, squeezing out another quick hug. “But we’ve got to keep moving.”

Rotom gave a bzzt in reply, its toy shell nodding fervently. It had no intention of leaving again. Cyrus gave pause at that as he realized he somehow understood its desire to stay. A rare smile came to the boy as he ran again, knowing he had a lifelong friend.

-

It took a long time for Rotom to be convinced to leave the robot after their reunion. The Electric/Ghost dual-type was still afraid of hurting its pseudo-trainer with another electrical outburst. It wasn’t until Cyrus’ first Pokémon capture in Eterna Forest that Rotom managed to relax enough to be playful with him again.

Murkrow was hardly impressed with Rotom, and made that fact quite clear to Cyrus any time the two were in the same vicinity – which, unfortunately, was the entire twisty and dark path through the woods. Cyrus had retreated inward in response to the constant bickering between his newest team member and his longtime friend, wishing for something to distract the two already. Apparently that had been the right thing to do, as within seconds, a pair of high-pitched screams filled the air. The Pokémon snapped to attention immediately, ready to defend their trainer.

A pair of trainers, a boy and a girl just a year or so older than Cyrus, bolted through the underbrush. A sudden squawking from Murkrow was the only thing that kept them from crashing into him. The loud cries startled the duo again, sending them stumbling to the ground. Murkrow puffed up on Cyrus’ shoulder, waiting for its heroism to be praised. Cyrus gave a chuckle and indulged the bird, petting it gently. “Yes, you did well.”

“Owww…that hurt!” The girl whined, drawing attention back to herself and her comrade on the ground.

“I think we escaped.” The boy replied, looking behind them instead of at Cyrus.

“Escaped what?”

Both children jumped at the new voice, somehow having not even realized Cyrus was there despite being startled by his Murkrow mere seconds earlier. “The ghosts!” The girl whisper-shouted, as if afraid to speak too loudly.

“Yeah, guy!” The boy cut in, obviously still terrified. “There’s this abandoned chateau back there. It’s been around forever, and everyone says it’s haunted.”

“We didn't believe them! But it's true! We saw the ghosts! They tried to eat us!!” Cyrus winced when the girls voice pitched higher as she staggered back onto her feet.

“You should stay away from there if you know what's good for you!” The boy insisted before the girl helped him up. They continued fleeing from the area without waiting for a response.

“Hm…a haunted chateau?” Cyrus exchanged a look with Murkrow, who huffed, unimpressed. In contrast, Rotom gave a high, giddy laugh. Naturally, they had to see it for themselves.

Finding the chateau was fairly easy – the other trainers had left a very obvious trail of trampled foliage in their flight. The broken bramble and flattened grass made for a decent path through the overgrown lawn, leading right up to the front door of what must have once been a magnificent building. The imposing front doors seemingly opened by themselves, creaking ominously as the child and Pokémon approached.

Well, if that wasn't enough of an invitation…? Cautiously, Cyrus entered the building.

His eyes darted around as they adjusted to the dim interior, taking in the mess and plethora of cobwebs. “Abandoned so long, everyone thinks it’s haunted, hm?” He spoke to his Pokémon as he began to explore the ruins. “It’s entirely possible, considering Ghost-types love such places, but there’s nothing scary about those. They’re simply lonely…and like to play.” He tagged on, with a small smile quirked towards Rotom. Cyrus was more concerned about the structural integrity of the building as he explored, rather than what shenanigans any Ghost-types might try to get up to.

Despite the ransacked appearance, there was actually still quite a bit of fully functioning furniture and appliances throughout the premises. Rotom was positively ecstatic, flitting from one device to another with gleeful abandon, but Cyrus found himself getting worn out. They’d been traveling all day, and a glance through any of the dust-coated windows revealed the darkening sky outside. He’d spotted some beds in the rooms upstairs – a heavy coat of dust would be the only thing between him and rest, and he could easily clean that off.

Not a single Ghost-type had been spotted through their entire exploration. Perhaps the kids from earlier had just been trying to scare him…? Ah, well. He returned Murkrow before he settled onto the bed he’d chosen for the night, Rotom still off zipping around the building.

Cyrus had barely closed his eyes before sleep took him. Next thing he knew, he was awoken to the sight of strange, shadowy figures hovering over him, looking far from happy with his presence.

“…hello?” Cyrus blinked his bleary eyes, trying to regain full alertness. These had to be the Ghost-types. If he could just communicate with them, then there should be no trouble. “I apologize for the intrusion.”

They didn’t like that either, judging by how they proceeded to flip him out of the bed. The old floorboards protested as he landed on them with a thud, scrambling to get his bearings.

Despite being older than most beginners, Cyrus was still a new trainer. When the shadowy apparitions began chucking items at him, he automatically chose flight over fight. He made it all the way to the balcony before the floor partially gave way with a loud creak, tripping him up sending him sprawling on the ground by the railing.

He tried to ignore what was surely the start of a bruise as he got back to his feet, glancing behind him to see the Ghost-types still closing in. Sudden movement off to the side caught his attention as a Pokémon darted out of the shadows, using a move on the Ghosts. Foresight, Cyrus identified it, just as the move identified the shadowy figures as a Gastly and a Haunter. The human looked down at his savior only to find a…Sneasel? What on earth is a Sneasel doing in Eterna Forest?

The Ghost-types stilled abruptly as the move took effect. Cyrus felt the hairs on the back of his neck raise as two sets of glowing eyes locked onto him. The stares didn’t last long, though; the wild Pokémon made to flee quickly. The human wasn’t supposed to see them!

“Wait!” He all but tripped over his own tongue as he rushed to speak, flailing his arms about for emphasis, trying to get the words out before the two could disappear. “I’m not– I don’t mean you any harm. I just need somewhere safe to spend the night. That is all.”

The wild Pokémon paused in their flight, considering Cyrus’ claim. Sneasel let out a low hiss and flexed its claws at them, seeming to take his side on the matter. The two Ghost-types eyed the Sneasel, who only hissed louder, this time adding a low growl for emphasis. The Sharp Claw Pokémon took a step backwards, bringing it closer to Cyrus, though not quite within his reach.

Gastly and Haunter turned to each other then, as if conferring, and seemed to come to an agreement. They floated back over to the newcomers with happy cheers, ready to greet their guests. Sneasel visibly relaxed at the change of mood, lowering its claws and shooting Cyrus a blank look.

Cyrus watched curiously through Gastly’s translucent form as the Sharp Claw Pokémon stalked back off to wherever it’d leapt from, as though nothing had transpired there. What a curious thing…

Either way, Cyrus was allowed to stay the night – and by ghosts who were eager to meet him, at that. Who was he to refuse?

One night became two nights, and two nights became a full week before Cyrus realized something. He liked staying at the Old Chateau. A lot. Rotom was enthralled with the place and its old electronics, and the Ghost-type duo seemed equally giddy about having more friends – even if Murkrow didn’t seem particularly interested in return.

Cyrus also frequently spotted Sneasel hanging around. The Sharp Claw Pokémon appeared to have formed an odd camaraderie with him through their few interactions, even going so far as to allow him to pet it on more than one occasion. He was still clueless as to how it had made its way to Eterna Forest of all places, but he didn’t feel he had any right to ask or judge, considering his own situation.

It was…peaceful.

That peace was disrupted one day. Another pair of kids tried sneaking in, no doubt drawn in by the rumors of the place like the first two Cyrus had met. They couldn’t have been much older than Cyrus, but the difference in their attitude was apparent; they were there for the thrill of a haunted house.

They got what they were looking for…

Haunter and Gastly cackled gleefully overhead once the intruders were out of the building, and Cyrus couldn’t keep a small smirk off his face either. Serves them right, trying to barge into our home like that–

The smirk fell as Cyrus caught up to his own thoughts. Our home? That… sounded nice. Maybe the Old Chateau…could be his home?

-

Cyrus remained unaware of the slight sad smile that had graced his features as he continued his trip down memory lane. Living here with his friend had been full of bliss, almost like a dream. Through all the Galactic plans and schemes, he’d actually…forgotten about Rotom. Arguably the only good thing to happen in his life, and he’d forgotten! Cyrus couldn't even remember why he’d left the old Chateau in the first place. If he’d only stayed…the Sinnohite sighed.

Rotom gave a bzzt in concern, circling Cyrus’ head a few times before darting into the television. “վօմ ժօղ'Ե հɑѵҽ Եօ ҍҽ Տɑժ,” A distorted version of Cyrus’s own voice escaped the speakers.

The man in question tensed at the comment, and looked up to see his own dead eyes on the TV screen. “Who ever said I was sad?”

TBC

Chapter Text

With another sigh, Guzma scooped up the phone and popped the battery back into place, watching the little screen light up. He should probably get out of the hall first, though, before he called Plumeria back. ’Specially if that ghost chick’s still out here… He walked past Golisopod, noting the two doors that had yet to be checked still. Cyrus had to be behind one of them, right?

And behind door number one, was– a significant spike in Guzma’s blood pressure.

A Haunter was floating just inside the room, with what had to be the smuggest grin on its face. Before Guzma could even think to react, the Ghost-type honed in on him, hitting him with a full-body Lick attack, causing his muscles and joints to lock up in paralysis.

Fucking perfect!

-

Guzma’s consciousness returned to him slowly. His body felt stiff, skin too tight for his bones and locked-up muscles keeping him from moving. It was a significant struggle just to open his eyes, but he managed.

A bleary view of yet another abandoned room met him. “W-huh…?

Golisopod’s worried chirring caught Guzma’s attention, bringing him to realize that he was securely in his bug’s arms. He could hardly even feel it at first – there was a tingling sensation as though his leg had fallen asleep, but all over his body instead.

How in the HELL– The mental image of an enormous, ghostly tongue coming right at him flashed across his mind. Right. Ghosts…

…WAIT! FUCK! GHOSTS!

Ignoring the vehement protests from his stiff body, Guzma lifted his head, frantically scanning the ceiling. No ghosts? No ghosts. Good. He nearly sighed in relief, but the sound of Cyrus’ voice distracted him. Or… not Cyrus’ voice…?

“աҽ'ѵҽ ҍҽҽղ աɑíԵíղց ƒօɾ վօմ.”

His eyes landed on the TV set sitting on the floor that’d escaped his notice – specifically, on the staticy form of Cyrus that shone out from the screen. The light from the old television gave the room a cold, nearly eerie glow he somehow hadn’t noticed before, and the way Cyrus seemed to distort on the screen was downright bone-chilling.

Guzma’s mouth went dry as he struggled to wheeze out a warning to Golisopod, keeping his eyes glued to the creepy sight. The unexpected weight of a hand as it clamped down on his shoulder finally tore loose the scream from where it’d lodged in his throat.

-

Outside of the Old Chateau, the growing group of kids jumped in surprise as a piercing scream cut through the air. They were quick to huddle closer together, tension palpable as they glanced between one another nervously.

“Sh-should we go look for them?” Brandon 1 stuttered out, after a long moment. Just like that, it was as though a barrier had broken, everyone in the group talking at once.

“I’m not goin’ in there!”

“M-me neither!”

“What if the Bugman got hurt?”

“Yeah, he might need help!”

Should we help them?” Donald asked sheepishly, fear lacing his tone.

Samantha was quick to snap a response. “Well somebody has to!”

The gang of rookie bug-lovers quieted down at her words, side-eyeing each other. An eerie silence permeated the forest until a lone Murkrow cawed right nearby, startling them all back into a huddle.

Maybe they should…wait…

-

“Just hold still!” Cyrus demanded of Golisopod, the Bug-type teetering on the edge of panic. The Sinnohite could actually admit to feeling concerned for Guzma at that point – the other man could barely breathe due to the lingering effects of paralysis, his scream only exacerbated the situation. Cyrus squatted down and pried up a loose floorboard, quickly grabbing the small med kit hidden underneath. Thank Arceus it’s still here…

Without wasting a moment, Cyrus proceeded to hose Guzma down with a Paralyze Heal he’d dug out of the kit. The effect took a few minutes to set in, what with the medicinal spray itself being quite out of date, but luckily still working. Guzma took a deep gulp of air, then another, his breathing slowly returning to normal.

Once suffocation wasn’t an imminent threat, the Alolan began looking around in confusion. He could feel his eyes tear up as they landed on Cyrus – real, corporeal Cyrus this time. “Holy fuck, I thought you were DEAD!”

“…I’m not dead, idiot.” Cyrus’ words lacked any real bite to them as he packed the med kit back up, stashing it away again. “You're lucky you swallowed that Old Gateau earlier; it helped you resist the status effect. You would've been a lot worse off, otherwise.”

“Still tasted like shit.” Guzma muttered words coming out scratchier than usual. He was not in any rush to get moving again. Guzma snuggled further into Golisopod as his adrenaline levels crashed now that Cyrus had been located. That status effect had left him pretty sore all over.

“Wait–” The Alolan felt himself tense up involuntarily, snapping his head around to look at the TV again. A low whine escaped his throat when he saw the eerie not-Cyrus still on the screen. “Don’t tell me nobody sees that shit!”

Cyrus spared a glance over at the TV set. Ah. That would be disconcerting to a stranger, wouldn’t it. “Perhaps it would be best if you introduced yourself face-to-face.” Guzma had been through enough for one day, after all. Maybe.

The ‘Cyrus’ projected on the screen frowned at its human equivalent, then sighed. There was a loud crackle as the TV overflowed with electricity before abruptly shutting off, the amount of light in the room barely dimmed despite it. A Rotom of all things bzzted its way into the room, glowing brightly as it waved one of its little arms at Guzma.

Guzma found himself stiffening up before recognition set in. “Oh…just a Rotom. Aight, cool.”

“So you don’t fear all ghosts, then.”

“I don’t fear no ghosts, yo!” Guzma protested loudly, voice rattling in his sore throat from the earlier paralysis-stifled scream. A short coughing fit followed. Golisopod chirred in mild agreement, the noise vibrating through its trainer’s body.

“Of course.” Cyrus’ smirk was visible even in the low light of the room. “Only Gastly and Haunter.”

Guzma shot a scowl at the other man, but turned his attention back to Rotom instead of protesting further. Funny how he named the exact Pokémon in the mansion. “So, uh…just how long’ve we been trapped in this house that you’re already makin’ new friends?”

That got a reluctant sigh out of the Sinnohite. “I suppose you could say that, once upon a time, I was the ghost here.”

The Bug-type enthusiast tightened his grip ever-so-slightly on Golisopod, both of them glancing at each other. If he says he's been dead all along, I’m gonna fuckin’ lose it.

“I used to hide out here.” Cyrus deadpanned, looking unimpressed at Guzma’s mild freak-out.

“Ohhhhh.” Explains why the guy can straight-up vanish in this place. Guzma let the semi-panic ebb out of him, but it was quickly replaced with a different kind of tension. The mad kind. “Hold up– ya knew it was Pokémon this whole time, didn’t you? Ya know the exact Pokémon here. Ya know this place like the back of your damn hand–”

Cyrus raised a brow, but made no move to dispute or agree with Guzma’s comments.

“–you set me up!” Guzma finished, pointing accusingly at the other man.

Amazing how quickly expired Paralyze Heal works. “To be fair, the intention was only to scare you away. I didn’t expect it to lead to kidnapping, let alone your paralysis.”

“Oh sure sure, ya just sicced your ghosts on meE–!”

Guzma’s sentence warped into a yelp as Haunter and Gastly chose to materialize before him, shoving their grinning faces up close to his. They backed off with a distorted laugh just as quickly, going to float at eye-level next to Cyrus.

“Fuckin’– are ya kiddin’ me?! What, so splittin’ us up, moving shit around, imitating a lil kid, and paralyzing me wasn’t enough?!” The Alolan ranted, purposefully leaving out the part about being tricked into thinking Cyrus had been crushed to death. The mental image alone was still terrifying at best, and like hell did he want to delve into why at the moment. Rotom zipped its way over to Guzma’s side, making cooing noises in faux sympathy.

Cyrus glanced between the two ghosts, who posed and bowed as they were called out. Clearly, they were proud of their pranking skills.

Despite himself, Cyrus could admit to feeling somewhat…guilty for not seeking out Guzma sooner, having known his distrust of ghosts. Something twisted in his gut, seeing how freaked out the other man had gotten. He couldn’t even bring himself to feel vaguely vindicated for the bug encounters he’d had to endure thus far.

“Perhaps it would be best for you to play somewhere else, for now.” He said quietly, but pointedly, to the two ghosts floating around him.

Haunter and Gastly whined at the suggestion, but relented all the same. They slowly phased into the floor, leaving two men, one bug, and a Rotom in the room alone.

Guzma let out a whine of his own as Rotom laughed loudly next to his head, the staticky sound assaulting his ears. Ghosts fuckin’ suck.

TBC

Chapter Text

As annoying as the Ghost-types in the Abandoned Megamart had been, Golisopod found himself almost missing them. With them, the Hard Shell Pokémon at least had the chance to get some battling in. This weird “haunted house” was way underpopulated by comparison. Plus, his boy was handling the few ghosts present a lot worse than the ones back home…

“So,” Golisopod glanced at his trainer as he began talking. Guzma seemed to have calmed down a bit, now that the Ghost-type duo had left and he was standing on his own two feet again. “What’s the deal with this lil dude?”

There was a blip of light as Rotom zipped around the Alolan’s hand, which he’d used to indicate the tiny Pokémon.

“As you can see, it’s a Rotom. It’s…an old traveling companion.”

Anything further that Cyrus may have said was lost to Golisopod as Rotom bzzted in his direction. Xe must’ve gotten bored with inspecting Guzma’s hand already.

Hi there, hi there! Bzzt!” Xer voice was small and metallic as xe zoomed about. “Wow, you’re real big– big Bug-type! Cool clawzz! I’m Rotom, it’zz like motor but backwardzz! Where are you from?

Golisopod let out a short, gwooring laugh at Rotom’s enthusiastic greeting, before moving his arms in a circular motion to properly say hello. “Alola, Rotom! I’m Golisopod, and this is my boy!” Golisopod gestured to Guzma, who seemed to be in yet another bantering, inconsequential, argument with Cyrus. “We’re from Alola. Are you close to our Troll? Is Cyrus your boy?” The Bug-type’s antennas twitched in curiosity.

My boy?” Rotom slowed down, almost seeming to whirr as xe thought the question over. “He izz… a boy? I am floating next to him? What do you mean my boy?

Golisopod went to chitter a response, only to click his mouth back shut for a moment. That was a good question… “My boy is...special.” The bug-type nodded after deciding that was the best descriptor for Guzma. “My boy is my trainer, but he’s a lot more important! He gets me ribbons, and lets me eat ALL the beans!Eventually. Golisopod followed the thought with a pleased chirr. “We do everything together! We battle, and watch after our Grunts, and annoy Uncle Nanu! ” Goli’s happy trills subside momentarily as another important piece of his boy comes to mind. “And he needs me.

Golisopod’s final words resonated with Rotom in a way that none of the earlier comments could. “My boy…” Cyrus needed xer. It was never specifically stated, but Rotom knew it was so. Even if it was just for Rotom to be nearby, Cyrus had needed xer so much. Maybe he still doezz? The small Pokémon perked up at that. “Yezz! Yezz, he’zz my boy, my boy! My boy my boy my boy~!” Rotom spun through the air in the euphoria of having a name for this. For xer place by Cyrus’ side, even if it was never on the man’s team. Cyrus was XER boy!

A laughing chirr made its way out of Golisopod’s throat as Rotom bobbed up and down, apparently enchanted by the new term. The trainers must have found it funny as well, judging by the bemused looks they wore as they watched the Pokémon interact.

Cyrus cleared his throat after a moment, bringing the group's attention back to himself. “Perhaps we ought to go check on the children.”

“…oh, shit! Yeah!”

“I doubt all the screaming settled their nerves any.” Cyrus’ mouth twitched like he was holding back a smirk. Guzma gave an awkward little laugh, rubbing the back of his neck.

Rotom bzzted in confusion, prompting Golisopod to explain. “We have friends outside! They probably heard my boy screaming earlier.” He couldn’t help but snicker at at the memory. Now that it was clear they were safe, it was hilarious. “They’ve been waiting for a while, so we oughta get going soon.

It took a few moments for the information to process. When it did, Rotom let out a staticky wail, zipping around Cyrus frantically. “Nooo!! No no no! Don’t leave me again! I’m your friend too!!

Cyrus took a startled step back at the sudden Rotom in his face. They’d been separated far too long; he couldn’t even make out what the Pokémon was trying to convey beyond distress. “What on earth is wrong?”

Taking pity on the confused Cyrus, Golisopod moved its claws in their personal sign language as he gwoored at Guzma, “Rotom doesn’t want our Troll to leave again.

The Alolan trainer’s mouth formed a small ‘o’ in understanding. “Well, shit– if it don’t wanna leave Cy, why can’t we just take it along with us?”

What’d he zzay? What’d he zzay??” Rotom bzzted, zipping back and forth from Golisopod to Cyrus.

He’s saying why don’t we just bring you with us.” Golisopod translated quickly. The Bug-type puffed up with pride. “See? My boy is great! He’s not gonna let you get left behind!

Rotom seemed to glow even brighter, clearly overjoyed. Golisopod almost got dizzy trying to watch as xe zipped up and down in excitement. “Yezz! Yezz yezz I like that idea!

“I–” Cyrus blinked, thinking it over. “I…suppose there’s no reason it couldn’t, technically. However, I don’t have the space on my team…”

“Dude, it’s a Rotom. They can possess, like, any tech!”

“But not Pokéballs, unfortunately.”

“Damn…” Guzma dragged a hand over his mouth. The trainer’s main bug could practically hear the gears grinding in his head. “Got anything else?”

As if on cue, the obnoxious ringtone of the Alolan’s phone went off, cutting through the air. “Ah- hold that thought.” Golisopod could only chortle as Guzma pulled the phone out of his pocket, where the Bug-Type had thoughtfully stashed it after Haunter made the man drop it yet again.

Seeing the obvious technological device appear in the Alolan trainer’s hand was all the suggestion Rotom needed. Before Guzma could process it, Rotom zwooped into the cell phone, integrating xerself into the device.

“Wha– hey!” Guzma sputtered, tapping on the buttons uselessly as the casing turned bright red and Rotom’s face appeared on the screen. “Nuh-uh, yo! I need that! Cy, tell it ta get out!”

It was clear to the bug-type that Cyrus found the scene amusing, but he at least made a token effort at hiding it. “Well, we do need something for it to possess.”

“But my phone?!”

“At least it wasn’t your Pokétch.”

The Alolan rolled his eyes at that, scoffing. “Oh yeah, sure! Take my one connection back home! Don’t matter so long as I ain’t gotta fight a bunch’a clowns for a useless not-watch again, right?”

A gwooring laugh bubbled out of Golisopod at his trainer’s theatrics. He could recognize that the man was only exasperated, not actually angry.

“Shut up, yo! Ya ruinin’ my image!”

Golisopod laughed even harder.

-

It had been a while since the two adults leading the bug-catching group had entered the Old Chateau. The Bugman and his friend had been in there for at least half an hour – which felt like forever to the frightened children. No further screaming had escaped the building since the last time, but the group was still too frightened to go inside, even as the forest Pokémon began to move and chirp out through the trees once more.

Eterna Forest made it impossible to tell the time of day. If not for their collective Pokétches, they would have assumed that night had already fallen. Still, it WAS taking a while.

Empowered by the time since the last scream, Brandon 1 got to his feet. “I-I’m gonna go in!”

His words had an immediate effect. The rest of the group began clamoring restlessly.

“What?! Are you nuts?!”

“Yeah, it’s dangerous!”

“But what if Guzma’s hurt?”

“Well, then let’s all go in!” Samantha eventually piped up, loud enough to be heard over the others. “We’ll be safe if we move as a group!”

The arguing died down at that, settling into murmurs of agreement. It’d be hard for a ghost to fight all of them at once, right?

“Let’s go save Guzma!…and Mr. Cy!” Brandon 1 declared, earning a cheer from the other kids. He and Samantha led the way as the group marched up to the front door, throwing it open–

–only to run right into the Bugman himself as he left the building, Golisopod and Cyrus in tow. Guzma had an irritated look on his face, but seemed unharmed, much to the kids’ relief.

“You’re safe!” Was the first thing out of Brandon 2’s mouth as he wriggled his way to the front, latching onto Guzma. Brandon 4, Brandon 1, and Samantha were quick to follow, all but knocking the breath out of the man. Brandon 3 and the newest trainers to the group held back.

“We thought a ghost had gotten you!” Samantha’s voice was muffled. “You were in there for so long and, and–”

“Wha–? No, I’m fine, yo. Gonna take more than a haunted house to take ya boy down!” Guzma puffed up his chest as best he could while being hugged, Golisopod mimicking the action right beside him.

“We heard a scream…” Brandon 3 intoned, eyeing the hug like he wanted to join in. (Not that he’d admit it.)

Shit. Guzma rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, uh, that–”

“That was me.”

Guzma whipped his head around to look at Cyrus in shock. The other man shifted as the group’s focus suddenly landed on him, before tacking on, “A…ghost startled me. Guzma dealt with it.” He seemed utterly nonchalant, like he hadn’t just single-handedly preserved Guzma’s “cool” reputation for the time being.

Before the kids could ask too many questions, luckily, RotoPhone decided to show itself, announcing its presence with a cacophony of tacky ringtones.

Gwah!” Brandon 2 stumbled backwards, taking Brandon 4 and Samantha down with him. Brandon 1 managed to stay on his feet, but detached from Guzma all the same, peering at the new Pokémon.

It took a full minute of staring before Donald spoke, astonished. “What IS that?”

Back on his feet, Brandon 4 tried hopping to catch the floating phone, but was thwarted as it zipped higher to avoid his hands. Guzma plucked it out of the air before it could get too far, holding it just out of reach of any more grabby fingers. “Uh, this is– this is Rotom, yo! It’s the ghost that startled Cy back in there.” He sent a silent thanks to the other man for the save. “It, uh…kinda phased into my phone.”

Even Jack and Philip couldn’t help but draw closer to ooh and ahh over the Rotophone. The screen blinked happily at all the attention, small buzzing noises coming forth.

“Can you still make calls like this?” Brandon 2 asked eagerly, only to get an odd look from Brandon 1.

“Why would he be able to? It has a Pokémon in it–”

“Yeah, but it’s still a phone too, isn’t it?”

“I…guess?”

Brandon 4 gave a shout while Brandon 1 mulled it over. “Maybe it can let you talk to Pokémon!”

Sensing they were on the verge of a group discussion on the subject, the Alolan cleared his throat.

“So uh, y’know, as cool as this place is and all, ain’t it about time we got a move on?” Guzma suggested, gently steering the focus away from the eager RotoPhone in his hand. He was ready to leave. One haunted house adventure was enough for today.

Donald managed to tear his gaze away first, though his eyes kept flickering back to the odd Pokémon. “Yeah! Jack, you know the way back to Eterna, right?”

“What?” Jack shot him a confused look. “You forgot again? We’re not even that far from it!”

“So then you should be able to lead us back no sweat, right?”

“That’s– that’s not the point!”

“I think there was a shortcut back near the entrance.” Samantha piped up with hope in her voice. The faster the group got away from the haunted house, the better – especially since evening was fast approaching. “That should get us there pretty quick.”

Jack shot her down immediately, though he didn’t look happy about it. “Yeah, but you can’t get to it from here.”

“Guys?”

Everyone turned at the sound of a distant voice to see Philip already past the fence. He waved at them. “Are you coming? It’s this way!”

The kids were fast to scramble after him. Guzma hung back, though, leaning in to bump his arm against Cyrus’. “Hey…” His voice was quiet when he spoke, just loud enough for Cyrus to hear him.

“Hm?” Cyrus raised an unseen eyebrow.

“Thanks for doin’ that.” Guzma didn’t risk glancing over at the other man before he took off after the kids.

Cyrus stared after him for a few moments. Some sort of tight feeling lodged itself in his chest, strong enough to rival his bewilderment. He was vaguely aware of how his fingers had hooked into his shirt, muscle memory directing them to fidget while his mind was absent.

What…?

TBC

Chapter Text

Standing at the newly abandoned house on the outskirts of Hau’Oli, any outsider would never know that its inhabitants had fled the islands. Nanu and Looker knew differently.

Looker was pouting, as ridiculous as it looked on him. “After all that, they still got away…where’s the justice!?”

“Got ‘em to leave, didn’t it? That’s the important part here.” Nanu pointed out, ignoring how Looker’s pout somehow managed to deepen. “Kid wouldn’t dare pass up an opportunity like this.”

Looker scrubbed a hand over his face, carefully avoiding the bruise there, but didn’t argue. The law would catch up to those two…eventually.

Nanu flipped out his phone, fingers already moving to dial up Guzma as Looker narrowed his eyes at the horizon. Let the nerd have his dramatic moment, or whatever it was he was doing – it’d keep him occupied for a few minutes, at least.

It’d be a lie if the Kahuna said he wasn’t a bit miffed about Guzma blowing him off the last time he’d called, but it’d be a bigger lie if he said he wasn’t concerned. Getting cussed out before getting hung up on? That he could understand. But the brat hadn’t even tried to speak last time, just hung up immediately. It wasn’t Guzma’s style.

Besides, the kid always had the decency to at least answer his damn phone, regardless of how little he wanted to talk to Nanu. Had to make sure there weren’t any emergencies while he was away from Po Town, after all. It was easy to assume that Guzma would quit worrying about the dump once Team Skull disbanded, but old habits die hard. For the self-proclaimed “hardest boy in Alola”, he had one hell of a soft spot for his old Team.

And yet, Guzma had rejected his calls a total of three times now. The Kahuna was on edge.

Before Nanu could hit the call button for a fourth attempt, though, a text came through. Guzma. Looker peered over his shoulder expectantly as he opened it, crowding close.

( ⁰ ▽ ⁰ ) ( , ⁰ _ ⁰ , )••• Σ(〇 □ 〇*) (〇 _ 〇*) ( ⁰ ▽ ⁰)ノ

What the fuck.

“Is this some kind of…code?” Looker asked after a long moment, voice right next to Nanu’s ear.

Nanu couldn’t resist snarking back at the guy. “Yeah, it says to mind other people’s personal space.”

“Fascinating! And this is something the two of you developed?”

“…you really have trouble with sarcasm, huh.”

“Not at all! Why do you ask?”

Sailed right over his head. Nanu rolled his eyes at Looker’s oblivious smile. He shrugged his shoulder to dislodge the other man from it, giving the Kahuna enough room to text back.

Hey. Why the hell haven’t you been answering your phone?

( ^▽^;;)ゞ ( , ⁰ _ ⁰ , )••• ━Σ(⁰o⁰ |||)━ 〣( ⁰ Δ ⁰ )〣 (* ⁰ ー ⁰)ゞ Σ(〇 □ 〇*)

“Dear Tapu, I am too fucking old for this.” Nanu sighed as he took in the strings of emotes and began to type in reply.

damn it just call me you–

A new message arrived before he could finish typing his sentence, redirecting his attention. It was an image this time. Blurry and off-focus, it showed Guzma from just behind and to the side; surrounding him were several young trainers, the unmistakable form of Golisopod, and…one very obvious former Galactic Leader.

Nanu had only two clear, coherent thoughts in that instant. One, Guzma was not the person texting him; and Two, Looker was still peering over his shoulder, and thus, had seen the image as well.

Well, shit.

Seeing Looker go still out of the corner of his eye, the Ula’ula Kahuna knew it was too late to close out of the message. Damn it, and after he’d been so careful to keep that selfie hidden from the other man, too–!

“That’s…!” Looker was doing a fantastic impression of a computer booting up right then, if said computer was an Interpol officer who’d just caught sight of a long-time criminal fugitive. “Cyrus Stone!”

Nanu cringed as Looker rapidly glanced between him and the image on his phone, mouth agape. Aaand here comes cop mode.

C'EST UN DÉSASTRE! I must go!” The man said abruptly, pulling away. Nanu could practically hear the dramatic action soundtrack playing as Looker rushed off, then backtracked, running backwards to say more. “I must– I have a contact in Sinnoh I need to call! Guzma is in the hands of a criminal fugitive! Nanu, send me that picture immediately, s’il vous plaît!”

FUCK. There were plenty more choice words going through the Kahuna’s mind, but he pushed them aside for the moment. He needed to warn Guzma; this could mean serious trouble.

Hey, whoever you are? Give the phone back to Guzma, it’s an emergency!

-

The life of a Pokémon League Champion was not nearly as extravagant as many would be led to believe. It was mostly hard work, a fact that Cynthia Shirona could attest to.

As the first time off Cynthia had gotten in quite a while, she intended to enjoy it: a book in one hand, and a warm mug of Moomoo Milk (spiked with something a bit stronger) in the other. Her team was relaxing as well at the Pokémon spa, save for Spiritomb, who refused to play nice.

She’d just moved on to reading through a magazine article on Mega Evolution when a ringing caught her attention. Someone was trying to call her...on her private line? Cynthia couldn’t help but be a bit on edge as she picked up the phone.

The Sinnoh Champion tensed as she recognized the contact, all trace of relaxation thrown out the window as unease settled in its place. “Looker.” She greeted tersely, setting both drink and magazine down on the coffee table before her.

“Miss Shirona.” Looker greeted back, no room in his tone for anything but business. “It has come to our attention that you could be of great assistance to the International Police.”

“Oh? And what assistance could I be?” She didn’t even try to disguise the exasperation in her voice, knowing full well that Looker wouldn’t catch it. Detective or no, he was about as socially inept as a sleeping Snorlax.

“We are currently trying to contact a man who calls himself Guzma.”

Cynthia paused. She couldn’t recall hearing that name before… “I’m afraid I’m not sure why you’d ask me for help with this. Why not just contact the local police force?”

“We believe his current travel companion may be of interest to you.”

Before she could question him further, Cynthia’s phone buzzed, alerting her to a new text message. Her eyes widened as she took in the blurry visage of a certain criminal, narrowing again just as fast. “So I see he survived after all. What a conundrum for the IPD. But why would I be interested in that Galactic scum?” She spat out, venom lacing her words.

“We know your past, Miss Shirona. All the pieces you’ve tried to hide since taking the title of League Champion.”

Cynthia could feel her blood run cold at those lines. It was no small miracle that Looker couldn’t hear her grit her teeth in anger before responding. “Blackmail, Looker? I would’ve thought you above this. What’s so important about this Guzma that has you stooping so low?”

“That information is classified, mademoiselle. Needless to say, it is of the utmost importance that we reach this man, and Mr. Stone may pose a great danger to any locals who identify him.”

She couldn’t keep a frown off her face at that. The Interpol officer had a point, even if she didn’t like it. Cyrus had shown he was just fine with destroying the universe – who knew what he would do if backed into a corner? “Fine. I see I have no other choice. I will head out as soon as I’ve collected my Pokemon.”

“Thank you for your assistance.” The call cut out without fanfare.

There was silence for a handful of moments before Cynthia groaned, flopping back down on the couch. A stress headache was already blooming across her skull.

So much for an enjoyable vacation…

TBC

Chapter Text

Damn it–”

Guzma swore to himself. Yet another Heartscale. There wasn’t even a chance to nab something better this time – the rock wall he was working on collapsed moments after he pried the tiny object out.

“Having fun?”

Guzma shot the dirtiest look he could muster at his–at Cyrus–before returning his attention back to the wall, hiking the Explorer Kit up higher on his shoulder.

The Explorer Kit. Yet another concoction native to the hell region of Sinnoh. If the hiker-looking dude was to be believed, hiding in a hole for hours on end wasn't just a Cyrus thing after all. The whole damn region had cave troll fever! And with the small army of fanclub Babydoll Eyes directed at him after Cyrus suggested they enter the Underground, Guzma knew he was about to be buried down there too. Joy. Ain't Cyrus the one who’s s’pposed to hate side quests??

Cyrus quirked a brow at the other man, a slight upturn to his lips that the Alolan decided to categorize under “smug jerk.” Guzma huffed at the sight, turning to glare at the wall instead. He wasn’t entirely certain without being able to see the sun in this hole, but he was pretty sure they’d been digging for over an hour.

What he was certain of was how fucking sick he was getting of digging up nothing but Heart Scales.

The kids were having better luck, at least. Samantha had dug up four Shards so far, and Donald had managed to dig up a Heat Rock and wouldn’t stop crowing about it. Hell, even Brandon 4 was finding Spheres galore, and he was breaking walls just as fast as Guzma!

So why the hell can’t ya boy find shit?! Guzma gave a frustrated sigh, Golisopod clicking in sympathy as it passed by behind him. “Yeah, yeah, I hear ya.” He ran a hand through his hair before moving on to the next spot.

His buggaboo was having fun, that was a plus. All of the kids were scurrying about excitedly, reburying some of the Spheres they’d found – apparently they’d grow like that, and could be traded later. And who better to dig holes to bury them in than a Bug-type with big ol’ claws?

Meanwhile, Cyrus was making out like a Salandit. Guzma couldn’t even count the number of Fossils the guy had uncovered at that point, not to mention the Star Pieces and evolutionary stones. How the hell is he findin’ so much shit?

Cyrus glanced over as the Alolan worked away at a wall. “You’re…you need to hit the wall more lightly if you don’t want it to collapse.”

“Like…this?” Guzma asked, tapping the wall with his hammer.

It crumbled instantly. Cyrus gave the same slight–definitely smug, Guzma was sure of it–lip twitch again.

“This shit sucks, man. How the hell can ya spend hours in a hole–” He cut himself off there, abruptly remembering just who he was talking to. “–actually, nevermind. The hell am I thinkin’? Of course ya can.”

Cyrus gave a small, strangled sound. Again with that smug-ass twitch – what was the troll’s problem?! Cyrus motioned at the small pile of treasures he’d accumulated. “You can have some, if you’d like. It’s not like I have use for any of it; I merely find the act itself therapeutic.”

Guzma waved him off with a pout, prompting an eye-roll from the other man.

“And here I thought you’d be overjoyed to gain an ancient Bug-type for your team.”

“Yo, what?!” Guzma’s head snapped up so fast, it was a miracle he didn’t get whiplash from it.

Cyrus gave a knowing look at the other’s reaction, holding out a Claw Fossil. “This particular Fossil can be revived into Anorith, a Rock-Bug dual-type. Judging from the looks of its evolved form, it might even be the predecessor of your Golisopod.”

The Bug-type enthusiast stared for a long, long moment before gently taking the Claw Fossil, holding it as though he’d just been handed a priceless gem. Before Cyrus could even think to move away, Guzma lunged, encasing him in a tight hug.

“Holy SH– Cy, yo, you’re not so bad after all, ya know that? Holy fuck, this is the COOLEST goddamn thing–” Guzma gushed as he squeezed both the fossil and his–and Cyrus!–close, but Cyrus’ brain was too busy shorting out to register any of the words. Guzma smelled like…like home.

Cyrus still hadn’t recovered by the time Guzma pulled away, leaving him frozen in place as he rushed over towards the rest of the group. He was vaguely aware of Guzma’s voice as he showed off the Claw Fossil, just as he was acutely aware of where Guzma’s arms had been moments prior.

…despite himself, he wished those arms were still around him.

-

Cyrus was still in a semi-dazed state as dinner rolled around. The cafeteria area of the Pokémon Center was abuzz with the rest of the group’s conversations, but he was tuned out as he picked at the Rindo salad on his plate. He was vaguely aware of a few new faces amongst the crowd – did they pick up more children already?

“Yo, forreal, look at how preserved this thing is – ya can still make out the different segments of the claw!” Guzma chattered on animatedly to his left, showing off the Claw Fossil to one of the newcomers.

Coooool…

“Not as cool as the Heat Rock I found, though!”

“Can that Heat Rock get revived into a Bug-type? No? Then I don’t wanna hear it, yo.” Guzma laughed as Donald stuck his tongue out at him. “But yeah, where’s ya boy gotta go to get this thing revived, anyway?”

“Uhh, I think there’s somewhere in Oreburgh…?” Brandon 1 ventured, looking to the others for back-up.

Samantha was quick to swoop in. “Yeah, at the Mining Museum, right?”

“Huh. Yo, Cy, you ever been there before?” Guzma gently nudged him, trying to involve Cyrus in the conversation – no response. “Uhh, earth to Cy, you in there?”

“…no, I’ve never been.” Cyrus responded at length, before abruptly standing up, eyes glassy. “I’m going to bed. Goodnight.”

“A-aight, yo…?” Guzma trailed off as he watched his–his friend?–leave the table and head for the front desk.

The kids quieted down at the sudden departure, casting confused looks between Guzma and the retreating Cyrus. “Is he okay?”

“Yeah! He’s fine, yo! Just tired from all that diggin’ fun, right?” Guzma assured quickly, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Yeah!!” The group was quick to echo back at him, the chatter from earlier picking up right where it left off.

Brandon 4 all but bounced in his seat. “Hey! Did I show you guys that one Pale Sphere I dug up?!”

Guzma pretended to follow along as the Bug Catcher starting rambling away, still half-concerned for his friend. I'll check on ‘im later.

TBC

Chapter Text

Guzma yawned, stretching his arms over his head. It’d taken a while, but he’d seen his not-so-little fanclub to bed, got a cool new Pokétch app to check Friendship (and was pleased to find that Golisopod had the highest ranking possible), and collected his growing Pokémon team from the nurse. Now, as he made his way towards the room he’d reserved for himself and Cyrus earlier, he hoped the other had been given enough time alone to fall asleep, or at least collect himself. Cyrus hadn’t looked…all there when he’d left.

Stepping into the generically-furnished room, one fact stood out. It was noticeably lacking one emotionally-stunted nerd. A slight chill ran down Guzma’s spine, and he instinctively reached for his only stickered Ultra Ball. A flash of light and curious gwoor signified Golisopod’s arrival.

“Chill out, yo.” Guzma coached himself, casually bumping into Golisopod as he shucked off his jacket and shoes in preparation for bed. Their bags sat on each respective bed, right where they’d left them, so the nerd couldn’t have gone very far. Cyrus was probably just in the bathroom, or taking a walk, or something. The ‘bug club’ had definitely grown bigger than he’d expected it to. And like hell was Guzma about to judge him for needing some alone time after being stuck in a crowd for so long. Maybe it’s ‘bout time to say bye to the kids…

Decision made, and feeling less on edge with Golisopod hovering nearby, Guzma yawned again.

“Yeah, it’s bedtime, buggaboo!” Guzma slapped on a wide grin for his bug that did nothing to hide how tired he’d grown. Apparently, bad sleeping habits – mixed with too many spooky Ghost-types and hours of digging in the Underground – was just the right collection of nonsense to wear a boy out.

Golisopod itself gave a yawn for emphasis and crawled onto Guzma’s chosen bed, taking over most of it. “Yo, yo leave some room for me.” Guzma pouted and attempted to pull off the Galactic undershirt he’d been wearing since Cyrus gave it to him– only to immediately shiver and yank it back down. Still WAY too cold for that shit! Sticking his tongue out as Golisopod chittered in amusement, he opted to just put his pajamas on over the underclothes like usual. Without a second thought, he tossed himself onto the bed, jostling the Hard Scale Pokémon where it’d gotten settled.

The trainer couldn’t help but laugh as Golisopod whined at him, bringing up an arm to pat at the smooth exoskeleton. “Time to get some sleep, yo.”

-

Guzma did not sleep.

Every time he began dozing, he’d find himself jerking back awake with a gasp, snapping his head around to look for Cyrus. If it weren’t for the 240-something pounds of sleeping Bug-type wrapped around him like an Octillery, he probably would’ve gone to take his own walk.

Guzma gave a heavy sigh. Cy’s stuff is still here, the guy’s fine. Just chill OUT, yo! The thoughts ran through his head over and over, but still sleep eluded him.

Huffing, he wriggled his way free of his buggaboo’s hold just enough to snag his sweatpants off the floor, digging his phone out of the fabric. Maybe texting Plumeria would distract him from the latest stressor. As he flipped open the phone, though, he was immediately reminded of one tiny problem…

“Ah, fuck.” Roto-Phone vibrated in his hand almost excitedly, a little happy face smiling up at him from the screen. “Yo, can ya let me text?”

(* ⁰ ー ⁰)ゞ Σ(〇 □ 〇*) ( ⁰ ▽ ⁰ )

The little Pokémon seemed to understand, and Guzma gave a relieved sigh as his texts opened up– only to nearly blow a blood vessel. “The fu– how many missed texts?!”

As he watched incredulously, Rotom began filling out a new message with a mishmash of gibberish and emoticons. “It’s autofill come ta life…” He muttered to himself, just as the monstrosity of a text was addressed to Plumeria. “Hey–!”

Despite Guzma’s pounding on the End and Home keys, the text sent out unhindered. The resulting response from his second-in-command quickly joined the rest of the unread messages. Of fuckin’ COURSE!

Guzma snapped the phone shut with a harsh clack, chucking it across the room and gaining no satisfaction as the device landed, unharmed, on Cyrus’s vacant bed. The Alolan flopped back down between Golisopods arms with a frustrated sigh.

Swear to the Tapu, I’m gonna beat his ass next time I see him. That’s a promise!

-

Guzma somehow managed to pass out eventually, the clock on his Pokétch going from 2AM to 10AM in a single blink.

The unforgiving light of day found him being suffocated in the hold of one very clingy Golisopod. “Mornin’, buggaboo…” He muttered to the Bug-type, which was shifting in its sleep in a failed attempt to avoid the dreaded light beams from the uncurtained window. Guzma gave a snort and managed to wriggle his fingers up to his partner in the optimum position for bug-tickling. If he had to be up, his bug was getting up too.

The resulting shriek from Golisopod as it recoiled from the tickle attack, rolling right off the bed, left Guzma howling in laughter and turning to the second bed in the room to see Cyrus’ reaction.

But Cyrus wasn’t there.

All humor left the former Skull Boss as he registered the lack of his newest human friend, and the untouched bed still holding the former Cave Troll’s backpack. Aight, time to panic a lil.

Typical wake-up routine forgotten, Guzma scrambled to his feet, nearly tearing his pajamas at the speed with which he changed. Golisopod gave a worried whine, half upset at the rude awakening, and half concerned Guzma was on a direct route to a morning panic attack. A red light lit up the room as Golisopod was returned before it could press the issue. Guzma didn’t have time to be coddled, damnit! Cyrus was definitelymissing!

The Pokémon Center was already bustling as Guzma shoved his way through the crowds towards the front desk, a backpack on either shoulder.

“Yo, uh,” he coughed, getting Nurse Joy’s attention from where she was assisting another trainer. “Y’all seen the nerd I came here with?”

Blank looks were his only response. Dammit I don’t have time for this! “Cyrus, the guy I came in here with last night. Short, spikey blue hair, wears all gray, looks like he would kill ya?!” Guzma listed off his friend’s defining traits, rapidly pantomiming them until recognition crossed Nurse Joy’s face. “Yeah, that guy! Have ya seen him!?”

“Not since he checked in his team, no.” She replied, the realization morphing into concern. “Is everything alright?”

NO it’s not alright! I can’t–” Guzma froze realizing what exactly she’d just said. “Wait, his team’s still here?!” His outbursts were quickly gaining him an audience out of the trainers in the lobby, but Guzma didn’t care – this was too important.

“Yes, sir.” Nurse joy responded cautiously.

Guzma made a strangled noise, not even realizing his fingers had already tangled into his hair. The action only managed to increase nurse Joy’s concerns over him.

“Sir, is everything all right?” She repeated more insistently, trying to keep the clearly-distraught tourist focused.

Fortunately, for both Nurse Joy and the Alolan, a voice from in the crowd spoke up. “Oh, are you looking for that gaunt fellow? I saw him leave the Center last night!”

Guzma turned towards the speaker, only to have to bite down hard on his rising anxiety. His fingers tightened in his hair as he saw another everywhere-man standing in the queue.

At a lack of verbal response, the stranger gave a small ‘Ah’ and held out a hand. “Sorry, I guess anyone would be on edge with a stranger. My name’s kind of long, so everyone just calls me NPC! It’s a family nickname, actually.”

“Ya don’t say…” Guzma managed to force out through clenched teeth, pointedly not accepting the offered handshake. Focus on Cyrus. “So you sayin’ you saw him? He left here?”

“I do believe I did!” The NPC smiled, unperturbed by his unshaken hand. “A man fitting your earlier description left the Center last night at…oh, around 8 or so. I remember because he almost ran right into me! I thought maybe he was sleepwalking?”

Guzma’s heart lifted a bit. Sleepwalking? It didn’t really sound like Cyrus, who slept like a corpse, but they hadn’t actually known each other for long enough to make that call. Fuck! If only I could use the phone! Maybe Fantina would know? Ah what’s it matter, I gotta go find that nerd! “Thanks, yo!” Guzma dropped his hands and bolted two steps forward before skidding to a halt. “Wait!” He twisted around to face Nurse Joy again. “Can I pick up his team? I dunno how far he went, and he’ll lose his damn mind if they aren’t around when I find him.”

“Oh! Of course!” Nurse Joy answered, startled, and quickly ordered her Chansey to retrieve Cyrus’ Pokéballs.

-

With Cyrus’ Pokémon safe in one of their backpacks – which one he wasn’t 100% certain, but he didn’t care at the moment – Guzma had searched the entire town top to bottom. Apparently, Eterna City didn’t have much of a nightlife. Everyone he met and questioned had already been in bed or at dinner (talk about a snooze fest!), but that meant that not a soul had seen Cyrus after he left the Pokémon Center. For all Guzma knew, he could’ve been halfway to Hoenn by now!

“Or more likely on his way back to that stupid cave!” Guzma gave a roar of frustration, punching the side of the closest building as hard as he could. “FUCK THIS!” Ignoring his now-bruised knuckles, as well as a pair of frightened pedestrians who quickly scurried away, Guzma began to pace. “So much for a friend! A little stress and he just takes off!!”

A swift kick to the path sent a handful of pebbles flying. “Doesn’t even fucking SAY anything! It’s not like I can call his ass and be all ‘Oh Cyrus! Come back! Bug Dragon said you can’t live in a hole forever!’” Guzma dropped the mocking tone, and made to punch the poor, innocent building once more when his own words struck a chord.

His eyes softened a bit when he got back to their room at the Solaceon Pokémon Center, finding Golisopod sleeping cutely, all curled up around– well, himself, but technically Cyrus. Heh, no wonder Plumes kept calling me a teddy bear. He dug around Cyrus’ clothes for a moment, searching for the other man’s phone – a fancy touch screen like Plumeria had – and snapped a quick picture of the cuddle fest to text to his own phone.

Frozen in place mid-punch, Guzma’s eyes widened. “I texted myself…”  

In a blur, he’d dropped both backpacks and fished his phone from his jacket pocket. “Aight yo! You like Cyrus! Work with me here!”

The Rotom possessed device gave a few curious tones.

“I sent myself a picture from Cy’s phone. Find that text in that fuckin’ mess ya made and call him!” Guzma shook the phone violently for emphasis.

RotoPhone made a rather discouraging series of beeps, but opened the call function nonetheless, dialing what Guzma could only assume was Cyrus’ number. If he ever got the damn Ghost-type out of his phone, maybe he could set up a proper contact for–

4, 3, 2, 1. Earth below us, drifting falling, floating weightless, calling, calling home~

The intense focus on Guzma’s face melted into confusion at the unexpected music, then horror as he registered it corresponded with Rotom calling Cyrus.

Turning his head in slowly-dawning disbelief as the lyrics played through a third time, Guzma’s eyes locked on to the source. Cyrus’ backpack… The guy up and left his fucking phone, too?!

A strangled laugh escaped the ex-Skull Boss as he snapped his phone shut. “Of course. Of course! Ya know what?! FINE! He can go ROT in that cave for all I care!” With as much force as possible, he crammed the silenced flip phone back into his pocket and slung both bags over one shoulder. To hell with Cyrus! He was going back to the bug-fest in Eterna Forest!

TBC

Chapter Text

Save for the occasional cry of Zubat in the distance, Mt. Coronet was quiet. Fantina was grateful for that as she stood back a bit, watching as Cyrus suddenly seemed to regain awareness of his surroundings.

The Ghost-type specialist could almost pinpoint exactly when this strange…behavior had started. They’d been at the Contest Hall together, watching a contest this time rather than participating. Cyrus had tensed up when an older gentleman had taken the stage for the Performance Competition, and at the time, she’d been too engrossed to spare more than a passing thought to it. When he’d remained out of it, though, the worry set in. He’d even stopped responding to her attempts to analyze the contest! Honestly, the boy could be quiet at times, but this was something else entirely.

Cyrus had left his seat long before the contest even ended, completely unresponsive to Fantina’s questioning. With one last, longing look at the stage as the Battle Competition got underway, she’d followed after him. He’d walked out of the bustling Contest Hall as if in a trance, making it all the way through Route 208 to Mt. Coronet before he finally stopped.

Mon ami, how are you feeling?” She asked at length, finally approaching the other trainer.

It took a long, long moment for Cyrus to muster a response. “I’m…alright.”

“Now, that does not seem true.” Fantina had to resist the urge to smooth his hair back. It may have just been the poor lighting in the cave, but Cyrus seemed even paler than normal. “Are you unwell? What time did you last eat, cher?”

“I’m– I ate earlier. You were there.” Cyrus shifted uncomfortably under her gaze. “I’m fine. Shall we return to the Contest Hall?”

The Ghost-type specialist didn’t budge. “Someone who is fine does not entrer en transe. Cyrus, what happened?”

“I…”

There was silence, again, for a few minutes. Normally Cyrus was able to at least look somewhere near Fantina’s face, but at the moment, it seemed like he could barely look in her direction.

Mon ami–

“I don’t know.” Cyrus interrupted, cringing slightly at the way his voice echoed in the cave. “It just–” A frustrated noise escaped his mouth in lieu of any intelligible words. One of his hands moved to flail, but the motion was aborted at the last moment. “–it happens.” He managed to get out eventually, voice strained.

Fantina sighed, but backed off nonetheless. It was obvious that there was more to the situation than the other trainer was telling. Despite how close she felt they’d been growing, though, they still hadn’t know each other for all that long – it didn’t feel right to push the subject. And yet…

She felt her hands tighten at her sides, frowning. Why do you not trust me?

“…well.” The Ghost-type specialist took a deep breath. If there wasn’t an explanation for what it was, maybe they ought to just focus on the why. This had all began right after– “That man of earlier, did you know him? The older contestant?”

Something flickered across Cyrus’ face. “No.”

“Thennn…perhaps he looked familier to someone you DO know?”

The other trainer fell silent again, fidgeting with the ends of his sleeves.

“Cyrus.”

“…yes.” His voice was small and paper-thin when he finally responded, like he was expecting consequences for telling the truth, and oh, did that hurt.

Pushing those feelings aside for now, though, Fantina nodded. “I see.” Cyrus had issues with someone who looked like that older gentleman – that was something they could work with, at least.

She didn’t miss the look of surprise on his face before he schooled his expression into something more neutral, turning his head away once again.

Mon cher, there is no harm in being uncomfortable. I will not judge you.” Fantina assured him, words warm. “Please, tell me about these things next time. Alright?”

Cyrus glanced up towards her questioningly. There was still something timid behind his eyes, something afraid of backlash, but hope was outshining it.

Fantina smiled again, before tactfully changing the subject to something lighter. “Now, as we are here already, perhaps we shall travel more, non? More experiences can do naught but improve our performances!”

Blinking, Cyrus let out a huff that could just barely pass for a laugh, a crooked smile on his face. “Naturally, of course.”

The Ghost specialist gave a wide grin at that, chattering away happily as she led a hopeful Cyrus through the caverns of Mt. Coronet.

-

Cyrus could feel himself come back to his senses, albeit only partially, as he stepped out of the shade of Spring Path. It was though he was only watching his body as it moved further into Sendoff Spring, rather than controlling it. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t quite remember how he’d even gotten there – something he was sure he ought to be more concerned about. As he reached the rock wall that led up to the ridge surrounding the lake, he faintly wondered how his body planned to climb it without any Pokémon.

As though in response, his hands sought out holds on the rocks, and up he went. Perhaps his body had been possessed by a Chimchar.

He couldn’t help but wonder if Guzma would find that funny.

TBC

Chapter Text

Training in Eterna Forest had been a great idea.

“A'ight, finish it off! Gust!”

Combee’s wings beat viciously as it whipped up the blast of wind. The move connected solidly with a wild Murkrow as it tried to dive at the Bug-type, knocking it clean out of the air. Guzma gave a grin as the territorial Pokémon crashed to the ground, down for the count.

“Looks like ya couldn’t measure up, birdbrain! Hah! Thanks for fightin’ us, though.” The Bug-type specialist drawled as he crouched down next to the Murkrow, getting a glare in return. The look wavered as it noticed the Oran Berry he offered it, courtesy of Cyrus’ Berry Bag. With a huff, it snatched the berry out of his hand, hopping away into the underbrush to eat.

The image of a certain snooty Honchkrow sprung to mind as Guzma stood back up. Geez, guess the whole line is full of jerks.

A soft bump against his arm brought his attention back to Combee, which buzzed at its trainer with a haughty look to rival Honchkrow itself. Guzma couldn’t keep a laugh from bubbling up as the Bug-type bumped into his arm again, and he quickly retrieved another Oran Berry from Cyrus’ bag. “Yeah, yeah, you can have one too, yo.”

Combee devoured the berry, buzzing happily. Guzma gave it a pat, still smiling, then froze as the Tiny Bee Pokémon started to glow. Its body morphed wildly within the light, nearly tripling in size. Within the span of a few seconds, the Bug-type enthusiast found himself halfway to petting a newly-evolved Vespiquen.

Scratch that. Training in Eterna Forest had been the best idea.

“YOO! THAT'S SO AWESOME! CY!! CY DIDJA SEE–” Guzma cut himself off with a grimace, jaw audibly snapping shut. He turned his head back to his Pokémon from where he’d instinctively looked for Cyrus. No point finishing that sentence…

Shaking it off, Guzma refocused on his new bug, patting her on the head. “Damn, look at you! Barely a day of trainin’ and you’re already evolved? You’re fuckin’ awesome, yo!”

Vespiquen puffed up in pride. Of course she was amazing – it was only to be expected, after all. The reaction got another laugh out of Guzma, who retrieved a poffin out of Cyrus’ bag to give the Bug-type as well. If there were any upsides to Cyrus ditching all his stuff, it was that Guzma now had full reign over it.

The grin on Guzma’s face wavered, then faded as he thought again about Cyrus’ absence. What the hell was up with the troll? Had he really gone back to the cave? Where was he?? Anxiety settled heavy and cold in the Alolan’s stomach, forming a tight knot. What happened to Cyrus?

Vespiquen gave a loud buzz as if on cue, demanding another treat. If she’d noticed Guzma’s mini-crisis, she was making a point to ignore it. Maybe…maybe that’s what he needed. He just had to ignore it, do his own thing. Actually focus on enjoying his vacation in this weird region.

“Thanks, Vespiquen.” He murmured, digging out another poffin for the Bug-type. He let her finish the treat, then returned her to her Ultraball. She’d trained hard – she’d earned a break.

A sigh rushed out of Guzma as the sounds of the forest filled the air. Cyrus’ map had been utterly useless for navigating the natural maze, so it wasn’t much of a surprise how quickly he’d gotten lost. Not like he was in a rush to get anywhere…it was about as dark and eerie as a forest could get, but the plethora of ambient noise was enough to keep him grounded. At least there ain’t any Ghost-types out…yet.

With the map being of little help, Guzma was left with only one other option.

“Aight. Heads is left, tails is right.” For what had to be the hundredth time that day, Guzma tapped on his Pokétch’s screen to activate the coin toss app. “Aaaand…left it is!”

-

Guzma didn’t particularly have a destination in mind as he walked. The goal was just to have fun, and he could probably figure out how to do that anywhere, foreign region or no. It wasn’t like Sinnoh had any shortage of Pokémon, after all.

Speakin’ of Pokémon… The Bug-type enthusiast froze as he heard shuffling somewhere on his right, a small grin making its way across his face. It disappeared when another sound caught his attention. As weird as Sinnoh was, Guzma was pretty sure that Pokémon didn’t whisper.

Guzma crept slowly towards the source of the sound, poking his head around a large tree to get a better look. Someone rocking a pair of bright-orange jeans was knelt down by a bush just a couple yards away, their head and shoulders obscured by the foliage. The orange-clad ass swayed slightly as the whispers continued, which were noticeably masculine in sound now that Guzma had gotten a bit closer.

“…the fuck you doin’, yo?”

The stranger startled, badly, giving a loud squawk as he flailed away from the bush. He wound up flat on his back in the dirt, one hand slapped over his face. Guzma moved to loom over him, gracing him with a patented “ y’all are stupid ” look when the guy started chuckling on the ground.

“Sorry– Sorry about that, I wasn’t expecting someone to–” The guy cut himself off as he moved his hand, finally catching sight of Guzma. His eyes bugged out, the laughter in his voice morphing into a sharp gasp. “You!”

“Me?”

“You’re the Bugman!

If Guzma had been touched by his fanbase’s enthusiasm, then he was nearly bowled over by this newcomer. Hell, the guy looked starstruck. The Alolan had to back up a step as the green-haired man shot to his feet.

“It’s great to meet you, Mr. Bugman, sir!” The guy bowed politely, the movement dislodging a few of the leaves still stuck in his hair. “I’m Aaron, of the Sinnoh Elite Four – also a Bug-type specialist!”

Now, Guzma wasn’t about to pay any compliments to any Elite Four, but if this guy was part of one? Well, the Alolan could at least say he had a favorite E4 member now.

“Name’s Guzma, yo! Nice meetin’ ya too.” He glanced between Aaron and the bush. “So, uh, again. The fuck were ya doin’ down there?”

“Oh! Um–” Aaron dropped back into a crouch; Guzma quickly mimicked the action. Shuffling back towards the bush, he pushed aside a couple branches, motioning for Guzma to look. Peering into the foliage, the Alolan was able to make out a small set of eyes staring back at him. “I was trying to get this little guy to come out. It’s being, well, kind of shy? You could say?”

“Shy, huh? Lemme take a look…” Guzma scooted closer, soon spying a tiny Wurmple cowering deeper within the foliage. It perked ever-so-slightly as it caught the Alolan’s scent, but still made no move to approach. He took on a gentler tone of voice as he beckoned to the frightened Pokémon. “Aww, hey lil guy, ain't nothin’ to be afraid of here.” Keeping his movements slow, he rummaged another Poffin out of Cyrus’ bag and held it out.

The offer of a treat, combined with the sweet, irresistible scent coming off Guzma himself, ultimately won the little creature over. It skittered over to his hand without caution, nibbling away at the Poffin with glee.

“Wow! You did that so easily, it just came right out to you!” Aaron had the sense to keep his excitement under control, not wanting to scare off the Bug-type just as it’d calmed down. As he glanced over at the other man to thank him, though, he gasped. “Wait – I know you!”

“…ya do?” Guzma had to resist the urge to scratch the back of his neck, hand already occupied with feeding the Wurmple. The hell’s this guy? I don’t know ‘im– shit, what if he knows me from Alo–

“You’re the Bug Man!”

Just like that, Guzma’s concerns went up in smoke. Hell yeah, newscast! Finally gettin’ the respect I deserve. “Ya better believe, yo! It’s ya boy Guzma!”

Aaron leapt to his feet suddenly, accidentally startling the Wurmple again in the process. “Let’s battle!” His voice nearly boomed in the quiet of the forest, but with the way his eyes were sparkling, Guzma couldn’t fault him. Besides, it wasn’t like the Alolan was any less hyped up.

“Hell yeah, let’s do this!”

Giving the Wurmple what was left of the Poffin, Guzma dug what he could’ve sworn was Vespiquen’s Pokéball out of his bag. A flash of light, and the Bug-type specialist’s eyebrows nearly hit his hairline. The unimpressed Honchkrow sitting before him was most certainly not his new bug.

Hhhhooooonch?!”

For some reason, Guzma had a sinking feeling that this battle wasn’t going to go well.

TBC