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Thread Description
"According to Hop, I am Princess Peach." (Chapter 20 11/21) One-Year Anniversary!

Spectacles

Rule Maker
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
139
Caught
Jun 24, 2019
Messages
453
Location
Pennsylvania
Nature
Jolly
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Fairy
Pokédex Entry
It hides deep inside caves where no light ever reaches it and remains virtually motionless there. ~Pokemon Crystal, entry #52
Omg Ig rolling around in the snow almost makes me forget that he is one of the most dangerous pokemon in nuzlocke history… although I am hoping that Lav and Leon’s eventually battle will not be to the death, at least for story purposes.

YES SONIA IS ZELDA!!!! I am the biggest Zelda geek so I am so glad the princess herself has made her way into this beautiful metaphor. Also, even though you said yourself you are ticking off all the rom com clichés, I just LOVE Lav and Sonia’s friendship and not once did you delve into the cringy drama that could have resulted from their relationships with Leon. Especially during this chapter it could have been easy to have Sonia’s concern for Lav to be a misunderstanding for jealousy and drama, and I am so glad you did not go that route!
 

Garish Garchomp

Friendly Neighborhood Landshark
Administrator
Moderator
🌱Featurer
Writer
Pokédex No.
43
Caught
Jun 12, 2019
Messages
497
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
He/Him
Pokémon Type
Dragon, Psychic
Pokédex Entry
he's ok i guess
At this point I'm pretty much ticking off romcom cliches and then turning around to check off all the ways I can make Rose the Worst.
And you goddamn succeed, ugh. I hate that the extended metaphor calls for him to be Bowser though. Bowser is too good of a person (and too caring and great a parent) for Rose. Also, better hair. Just sayin'.

Also also, ZEPHYR!!!!! You can just end the chapter there actually, or maybe just the whole run. Just end it on Zephyr evolving and Lav/Leon being happy in the snow and that's it, there's no drama or anything they just live happily ever after! :)

Seriously though, I have to agree that you do so well at pacing this chapter and hitting that one-two punch of happy feels and, uh, just feels. The way you dig into and bring out details of canon charries and really give life to the region and Rose's influence and the ripple effects is A+, and it's like... there's a very clear path to how this all goes wrong, but it's still gonna fuckin hurt and there's still potential for twists and you just hope it doesn't go the way you fear it might.
 

glancesherlock

Consulting Detective
🌱Featurer
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
32
Caught
Jun 10, 2019
Messages
716
Location
221B Baker Street
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ghost
Pokédex Entry
Just wants to stay home and solve crimes.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #103
@Dee - Yes! Zephyr almost solo'd the Melony battle because he's GOAT. Speed + flamethrower goes a long way. Lapras was too intimidating to keep him out for that one though.

@Tookie - I love Sonia so much. She deserves everything good in this world. And thank you! Rose sucks, but he's so fun to write.

@Magicforbeginners - Rest assured, Zephyr is Best Boy! "It's like a marshmallow with a steel pipe in the middle." Omg, what a description.

@Thirteenth - Fluff with a dash of bastard. Recipe for success. And thank you for pointing that out! Lav gets gradual moments of growth, and that might be my favorite touch, especially since Gretta was such a crutch in the playthrough.

@Aurea - I love, love, love writing cute scenes with big Pokemon. It's just adorable to see something as big as a Flygon be confused by snow. I'm kinda proud of the pacing of this chapter in going from the safe haven of the cabin to learning about yet another shitty thing Rose has done. Forever my proverbial punching bag.

@Whozawhatcha - Oh my god, I was kicking around Lavlee for their ship name, but I really like LoL. XD "Glad they got the knick knack paddy whack give lavender a.... bone " WHOZA.

@pinkshellos - I'm so sorry that as soon as you found the fic again, I went on such a long hiatus. Back again though! Regular updates until the end, barring something irl cropping up.

@Spectacles - During my first playthrough my Inteleon oneshotted Leon's Charizard, so that thing lives in my head as a giant pushover lol. And god, I gag at the though of making Sonia a jealous bitch. No petty, cliched drama here. We are adults who love each other. Making Sonia Zelda felt so fitting since she's such a queen. Lav just mentally places her above everyone else.

@Garish Garchomp - Honestly, I feel like I'm insulting Bowser 'cause the guy is pretty cool. Thank you for such a bombass analysis though. ;;;; Sometimes with this fic it felt like I was just flinging words onto the page, so that's really nice to hear.
You can just end the chapter there actually, or maybe just the whole run. Just end it on Zephyr evolving and Lav/Leon being happy in the snow and that's it, there's no drama or anything they just live happily ever after!
But, darling, the shitshow must go on~

Heyyyyyy, it's been a bit, huh?

Yeah, the pandemic is not a fun time, but I'm back! With an extra! About Sonia! Enjoy~

Her suitcase has more notebooks than clothes. The twenty-first century is calling, but Gran’s influence is sown deep.

It’s more satisfying to reference her own handwriting than a screen. The information is concrete, and it’s hers. Her words, her mark. Nevertheless, her phone is still packed with short notes. She’ll be taking a laptop and a tablet. Reference books are admittedly too heavy, and typed-up reports and correspondence are simply the done thing.

Standing in front of her closet, she rapidly sifts through her catalog of a wardrobe and snatches up whatever will do best for a researcher on the road. Khakis, Gran suggested. She’d rather put her own head on a spit.

She rants to the computer on the desk.

“And then Garret sends back the abstract, practically dripping with red, after three people already approved it.” A blouse gets whipped at the bed from her frustration. “I told him he wouldn’t know a proper abstract if it blew ’im in the alley.”

Nessa’s image on the screen chuckles. “You didn’t really say that.”

Sonia pauses. “Well, not to his face, no.” She eyes up the mess of clothes tossed haphazardly in a pile and starts to make work folding them. “Damn, it’ll be a balm to get out for the summer.”

“Just be sure to wait until mid-June to come to Hulbury,” Nessa says. “I’m flushed with the early season challengers until then.”

Winking at the screen, Sonia replies, “Oh, of course. You’ll be treating me to seafood, naturally.”

“Those are the worst words you’ve ever said to me.”

“I’m kidding. I’ll get seafood on my own time.” Sonia sticks out her tongue. “Raggedy veggie-thumper.”

Nessa counters with a proud flip of black and electric-blue hair. Then she groans, pivoting. “I’m not looking forward to this year’s circuit. Rose has seen fit to front-end the matches like they’re going out of style. I’ve had to cancel three photo shoots this month to accommodate.”

A heavy pit forms in her stomach, but she stays with the conversation. “Posh bastard clearly doesn’t understand it’s swimsuit season.”

“Exactly!”

“Sounds like I’ll be swamped too.” Sonia flips through her planner, a fringed mess of a book with a rainbow of tabs sticking out of all ends. “Three meetings, power lunches, a report due next Friday, not to mention the time I’ve set aside for reading and research… Yeah, I’m booked.”

“Ugh, disgusting.” Resting a head in her hand, Nessa swirls a finger at the suitcase. “You’re not planning on toting that entire library, are you?”

Sonia snorts. “It’s all my findings!”

“Hm.”

“Well, some are a bit old.”

She concedes to leaving half the notebooks behind.

*****

The mid-sized classroom at Motosoke College is sparsely filled with professors, researchers, her fellow grad students, and one old man who probably retired from the field ages ago. She’s grateful for the laser pointer—gives her hand something to do so it doesn’t twirl her hair. Bloody tic.

The presentation is a high; she’s excited to share her hypothesis on how the Hero could very well be two. Images of ancient documents project on the screen, and she points out pictures and her own translations of early texts. She clips through the sides, making use of the space as she did during her practice runs and crossing the stage when she needs to visually emphasize on a point.

Every person in the audience gets at least one moment of eye contact, but she pays special attention to the representative from Macro Cosmos, tossing him a rehearsed smile now and again to remind him she understands who the lab’s benefactor is.

Maybe she should have put her head on a spit.

It’s difficult to resist bowing when the small crowd applauds. She takes twenty minutes of grilling questions, fumbling over only a couple. Face heating up, she thanks her past self for applying thick foundation earlier.

Then someone asks how much of these findings were Professor Magnolia’s.

It throws her off.

None, she insists.

People whisper.

Half the crowd hangs about in small groups, sipping the complimentary coffee and nibbling on store-bought cookies.

She can’t stomach any of it.

People shake her hand, asking about Gran. Give Gran their regards. Tell Gran so-and-so wishes her well. Gran is so lucky to have a granddaughter to continue her research.

You could cut a diamond on her smile’s edge.

*****

She stands in the hotel lobby, furiously typing a novel-length text to Nessa. Yes, the presentation went well. No, they’re still not accepting her as the driving force of this research. Gran is retired in every way the world doesn’t see. The name Victoria Magnolia is still on everything, listed first—contractual obligation.

Nessa won’t see the rant until long after her preliminary matches for the day are over. Sonia’s mood requires more than delayed gratification.

Dress shopping. Fuck it. That bloody ball’s coming up anyway.

Then she sees her—Hop’s cute little timid friend. She exists the elevator with all the confidence and nervous wide eyes of a Phantump, looking like a thing being hunted by everyone else in the lobby.

They exchange pleasantries. She invites the girl along out of politeness—at least that’s what she tells herself.

*****

She offers to pay for Lav’s dress on impulse. Maybe it’s the happy disbelief on her face when she tries it on. Maybe it’s to blow off steam.

Maybe she just loves the broken ones.

*****

“S… Sonia?”

“Yes, hun?” She blinks as the fake eyelash settles in place.

Lav’s sitting in the hotel room chair, all glitzed in pink and sparkles and tumbling curls. They both look smashing, really. Sonia hasn’t lost her touch in the slightest. Head low and flushing, Lav fumbles her hands and says something inaudible.

“Come again, darling?”

The girl shrinks into herself and says again, only a little louder, “Just… thank you for being nice to me.”

Be still her bleeding heart.

*****

Rose saddles up next to her, and it isn’t worth it to soil such a bomb-ass dress with his blood, so she holds off on punching his doughy-eyed face.

Maybe she could trip and spill her drink on him instead.

“Enjoying the evening, Miss Sonia?”

His sweetness makes her bitter and she blurts, “Up until this very moment.”

That sickly pleasant grin of his is unmoved but goes sour, somehow.

Fuck.

It’s Leon who saves her. Fitting, in a darkly poetic sort of way. He approaches them with the most genuinely amicable excitement a person could possess, and suddenly the three of them are in a conversation while Oleana stands by like the lifeless sentinel she is. Sonia finds herself jealous of Galar’s dearest champion. Years of history and secrets and lies, and it’s all flown over his pretty head. Ignorance truly is bliss.

God, he’s so bloody stupid.

*****

It’s all over the poor girl’s face as she keep tossing glances at Leon across the ballroom. He’s surrounded by a crowd, and she’s just standing at the edge of it all, unsure of what to do with herself.

Sonia sighs as she walks arm-in-arm with Nessa and whispers, “Oh honey, no…”

*****

The library is a welcome refrain from the crowds, well-dressed or otherwise. She’s got ancient tomes in front of her. Restricted material, accessible only by the ID she flashed at the front desk. She handles them with gloves and tries not to over think the staff member’s words when he let her in:

“Normally we don’t allow grad students in here without their project head, but Professor Magnolia’s granddaughter is a different story!”

What a compliment he must have meant.

She sits back and closes her eyes. She meditates, breathing, clearing out everything save for the task and her work.

Her work.

Then she gets back to it.

*****

Sometimes it’d be easier if she and Gran didn’t get along. She could separate herself.

What a horrible thing to think as she receives a call.

“How are you getting on, dear?” Without pause, her grandmother adds, “You’re not pulling any of those late nights of yours?”

“No, I’m sleeping fine.” Gran’s always asking about sleep, ever since Sonia stayed awake for two days straight in the lab. It’ll never die.

“Good, good. Keep that mind of yours sharp.” She asks about the research, and they veer into more business-like tones. Being colleagues feels just as natural as being family.

Then Sonia’s a granddaughter again.

“I’m planning to make some melting moments tomorrow. Give me your room number, I’ll send a box through the post.”

Oh fuck yes. Wars could be waged over Gran’s biscuits. Still. “You don’t need to do that, I’m okay.”

“Nonsense! Your spirits sounded low when you answered the phone. Field researchers need sweets too.”

Sonia leans back in her chair, letting a smile show. She twirls her hair. “Alright, Gran. Thank you.”

*****

With the biscuits come lotions, minty gum, and a jar of loose leaf tea—grown in Arnold’s garden. When’s that man going to propose to Gran already…

There’s a note too, written in perfectly splendid cursive:

Don’t forget to forge your own way.

On the back is a list of recommended history books and museums.

*****

She finds Hop in the Stow-on-Side Cafe, nursing a cup of pinap juice like it’s a pint. His eyes look sunken in. That loss of his must still be weighing on him.

He felt like a little brother when she and Leon were dating.

She sits across from him, chipper as hell, because she can’t help herself.

*****

“Wait, that’s a storm?” Hop leans over the photograph of the ancient landmark outside of Turrfield. “I always thought it was the sun.”

Sonia shakes her head. “No, there isn’t any evidence ancient people depicted the sun as a swirl like that.”

“But it has rays coming down.” He traces them with his finger.

“Yes, but see how it veers off to the creature’s mouth?” Their heads nearly bump as they loom over the picture. “I think this represents the black storm of the Darkest Day, and this giant helped defeat whatever it is. It’s not the Hero, though. There’s no sword and shield, which means the Hero didn’t fight alone. What’s more…” She produces an image of the Circhester hot springs. “They say the Hero healed themself in this spring, clear across the region, but I discovered a new translation of a tapestry that states the Hero rested for a thirty nights in that field.” She points to the Turrfield photograph so each of her hands rest on a picture. “If the battle was fought by Turrfield, why would the Hero go all the way east and then come back to rest? That doesn’t add up. And look here!” She scrolls through pictures on her phone in rapid succession. “There’s a formation on the other side of the giant that suggests a second creature was once depicted in this scene. You see this farm? The land was likely plowed and covered it up. Two giants, two places of rest, two youths in the tapestries.”

“Everything’s in pairs,” Hop observes, “except the Hero.”

“Exactly!”

“Blimey…” He takes a look around at the pages and pages of notes “What else have you found?”

The question shouldn’t strike her so strongly.

*****

“Okay, Sonia!” Hop plops a packet of binders in front of her. “I might’ve gone down a Bunnelby hole and put a new timeline together for the Heroes. I followed all your notes. Let me know what you think!”

Her heart bloody melts at the lad’s enthusiasm.

*****

“Alright, be straight with me.”

“I can’t promise that, Sonia.”

She snorts. “Cheeky.”

They’re at a pub in Ballonlea, two pints in. The week saw one finished report from her and three evolutions on Hop’s team. It was cause for celebration.

Sonia leans forward. “I have to know—well, first off, you know Lav’s crush on Leon?”

“Oh, she told you?” Hop blinks. “I sorted it out, but I didn’t think she’d want to tell anyone.”

“She didn’t!” Sonia starts, not wanting to step on their friendship. “I might have sorted it out too.”

He laughs, rubbing his face. “She’s such an obvious disaster, I love ‘er.”

“What about Leon? You think he’s figured it too?”

“Hell no.”

That tracks.

“Well, what do you make of it, hm?” Sonia prods. “I mean, does it bother you?”

“Does it bother you?”

Not in the way he assumes.

“No, I just… Look, I don’t meant to be curt about your brother, it’s just that dating Leon is…” She can almost feel Rose standing at her shoulder. “A lot.”

Hop shrugs. “I don’t even know if anything will happen. Long and short of it is I’ve seen Lav get hurt before, and I’ll deck whoever hurts her again.”

He’s still assuming.

“I don’t see Leon being—”

“Hey, I don’t…” He shifts uncomfortably. “I don’t really want to talk about Lee right now. He’s been on my mind too much as it is.” Bringing his pint close, he slumps. “Didn’t realize how heavy being under his shadow would be.”

Sonia deflates with empathy. “I understand.”

*****

She steps off the train, still wondering if it was a good idea to confide in Lav about Rose. Yes, she felt guilty scaring her. But yes, Lav needs to know what she’s getting into.

No, she’s sure Lav won’t tell Leon.

Hammerlocke bustles around her as she walks to the hotel, letting her thoughts get distracted by the rhythmic clicking of her boots and the whirring wheels of her trunk. She passes by a newsstand and spots that disgusting tabloid. She thinks of Lav—a sweet, meek little thing on Rose’s radar. A pox on that bastard. A pox on that photographer.

Her face scrunches. She shouldn’t feel the need to be involved or worry. It’d be best to turn heel and pivot, focus her energy on what she set out to do. Her work. But oh, does she worry. Gran’s influence and all that.

The hotel room feels stuffy. After hours of reviewing notes and playing crossword puzzles on her phone, she decides on a walk. The city air isn’t nearly has revitalizing as Postwick, but it does the trick of clearing her head a bit. The park has a hill overseeing the Wild Area. It looks like a painting in the twilight hours. She leans against the railing, nibbling on the last melting moment from Gran’s care package.

The day will come when they’re no longer colleagues, and she can finally be just a granddaughter. Maybe it’ll be the same day Hop can be his own person and Leon can read a room.

She snorts. Wishful thinking on that last one.

The coming night feels calm. Perhaps she’ll grab tea on the way back. Chamomile for the soul. Or maybe ginger root for the kick.

As she ponders over whether her evening should be mellow or spicy, the ground beneath her feet begins to rumble.

I've got one more extra in store before we dive into a proper chapter. Just think of it as easing back in. Don't worry, Lav's shenanigans will return soon.
 

pinkshellos

Black Lives Matter !!
Artist
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
1220
Caught
Dec 23, 2019
Messages
278
Location
Hoenn Route 120
Nature
Calm
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Bug, Flying
Pokédex Entry
A timid Pokémon typically found in groups. The only thing that motivates her more than companionship is food.
It's back!!!!! You have nO idea how much I've missed reading this. I am so so so happy to see an update.
You write Sonia so well! The nuances of her character are *chef's kiss*

Pandemic is totally not a fun time and I totally understand having to take time off of certain projects. Things are rough.
 

Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
Caught
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
805
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
God! I love Sonia so much, and she's so believable here--bitter and rough-hewn in so many ways, chafing under her grandmother's name, and the fact they get along is just icing on the cake cause she can't hate her. The bit she thinks before picking up the phone is so believable.

I never thought that Hop made for a good fit as a lab assistant, but this extra fixes that! He's quite energetic following Sonia down the rabbit hole, isn't he? And seeing Lav from Sonia's POV is fantastic. She's such a disaster in those early chapters, isn't she, omg. Bless Lav. and seriously, fuck Rose
 

Thirteenth

Number XIV
Writer
Pokédex No.
14
Caught
May 20, 2019
Messages
1,724
Nature
Quiet
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ice
Pokédex Entry
The reason she guides people all the way down to the mountain's base is that she wants them to hurry up and leave.
People shake her hand, asking about Gran. Give Gran their regards. Tell Gran so-and-so wishes her well. Gran is so lucky to have a granddaughter to continue her research.

You could cut a diamond on her smile’s edge.
Wars could be waged over Gran’s biscuits. Still. “You don’t need to do that, I’m okay.”

“Nonsense! Your spirits sounded low when you answered the phone. Field researchers need sweets too.”

Sonia leans back in her chair, letting a smile show. She twirls her hair. “Alright, Gran. Thank you.”
Damn I really feel for Sonia ;; Really nice to get this insight to her character and all, and fun to see the other side of her interactions with Lav! Plus seeing Hop's interest in research and all begin to develop.
 

glancesherlock

Consulting Detective
🌱Featurer
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
32
Caught
Jun 10, 2019
Messages
716
Location
221B Baker Street
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ghost
Pokédex Entry
Just wants to stay home and solve crimes.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #107
@pinkshellos - Aww, you're so sweet. Thank you! Sonia's pov was challenging to write for some reason, but I think she turned out well.

@Dee - I figured she's in this transition period between working under Magnolia's supervision and being on her own and she's anxious to make the switch. And yeah, Hop's arc is cute but just as paper-thin as most of the canon outside of the trainer card flavor text. Just wanted the boy the come alive. ;;;

@Thirteenth - Sonia came to me with more difficulty than the others in the cast for some reason. I feel like I can't reach her? She's just so high above the rest. A true queen.

Okay gang, we've spent a lot of time with Lav and her antics, but what's been going on in Leon's head this whole time? It's time to get an inside look into our heart-of-gold-dumb-of-ass love interest.

Getting Lavender a Scorbunny was a fluke. Dumb idea—shouldn’t have acted on that one. At least the breeder was able to take it back. He can stop weighing his thoughts on it now and think about other things. Like how nice it was to come home after a year, see his parents, see Hop.

See her looking a little different than he remembers. See her excited about her certificates. See her come alive mid-battle. See her tease him like she always has. They talk, and it’s the first breath of fresh air he’s had in ages. No Unbeatable Champion pretense around her. Just Leon. It’s an uncanny feeling.

It dawns on him he’s smiling. For how long? Can’t say.



Uh-oh.

*****

He stayed up way too late playing Smash with Raihan last night, and he’s paying for it now.

The urge to rub his face is hard to resist. They fetched the makeup crew earlier to cover up the bags under his eyes. Again. At least the cool concrete of the stadium tunnel is nice to lean against. Good thing Rose is already on the pitch, or else he’d nag him about wrinkling the cape or something. The thing’s heavy, it’ll be fine.

Head’s fuzzy as fuck.

He slaps himself. Opening ceremony. Same speech every year. He can autopilot through this.

“C’mon, Ig,” he pats his Charizard as their cue approaches. “Let’s give ’em the show.”

The audience is a thrill, normally. Jolt’s not quite as big this year. He should be excited, considering. New season—his first year endorsing anyone (not to mention who he’s endorsed). All of Galar has their eyes on him, and they deserve their champion. He gives them that. But through the speech and the big arms and the gigantamax demonstration and striking that dumbass pose he made up when he was sixteen, he just wants to sleep.

He doesn’t feel awake until he spots Hop and Lavender in the crowd of challengers.

*****

He’s ready to change into his civvies, but some little tikes run up to him on the street for autographs and pictures. They’re bouncy and lively, and one of them is eager to show off her Rookidee. He’s reminded why he still loves this.

*****​

This is all Sonia’s doing.

The girl entering the ballroom isn’t Lav. She’s like… advanced Lav. One-up Lav. Yeah, that’s it.

Pretty, you nitwit, he thinks. That’s the bloody word you’re looking for.

Lav. No, Lavender. Hop’s mate. Off limits.

Abort, Leon.

She’s uncomfortable in the crowd, and his arm has a mind of its own as it wraps around her shoulders. He thinks better of it and takes Hop with the other. This is perfect, though. Two of his favorite people.

He can hold it together during the pleasantries and the conversation. Even when she asks him to dance, even when he’s separated from the others and socializing with guests, he keeps it in.

Maybe he can push it down, get distracted by someone else who’s not so close to his brother. But he risks one glance and kicks himself for the sad look on her face.

He drowns himself in the crowd to block her out, but it’s getting harder to breathe.

*****

Hop couldn’t have planned it better if he tried. They’re alone, it’s quiet, surrounded by goddamn flowers and shit.

Romantic. Nice.

Wait, no. Fuck.

If only he could stop saying and thinking utter bullshit and just enjoy dancing with her in peace.

While his heart’s on the run, his head is clear. It’s like a veil’s been lifted. He can just breathe like a human being.

It’s fun to tease her. It’s fun to make her laugh.

Kissing her hand is a mistake because that’s fun too.

*****

He watches every match of theirs he can, even if he can’t be present. They’re so talented, the both of them, but he can’t stop muttering words of advice at the screen in hopes they’ll hear.

Rose catches him streaming Hop’s battle with Milo on his phone. They’re in a meeting. League board stuff he should probably pay attention to. He expects an earful, but the chairman just gives him the head shake/chuckle/shoulder pat combo and lets it go.

*****

He’s in a tug-of-war between the photo shoot in an hour and the frantic text from Hop.

Two. She lost two ’mon in one match.

He wants to be there for her. He needs to be. Feelings he shouldn’t entertain aside, she’s their girl. Their Peach. And she’s in trouble. Guess the game never wore off.

If he says a word to anyone, they’ll just hold him here, so he flees the studio like a thief in the night.

Rose is going to tan his hide.

He’ll need beer for this.

*****

“Of all the irresponsible—”

“I know.”

“An entire crew standing around, waiting for you to show yourself, and not a word. Not a single bloody word!” Rose paces his office. “You should have at least rang me! Or answered any of my calls.”

Leon sits in a leather armchair, head back, facing the ceiling. Only trying a little to stay in this conversation and not think about how cute Lav is when she’s giggly and drunk.

Dragons go rawr. That’s got a safety deposit box in the memory banks.

The pacing stops. “Leon.”

“Yeah?” It’s more indifferent than he intends.

Rose goes from angry to exasperated. “My boy, we’re in the midst of the season. Crunch time. My plate’s overladen, I need to know I can rely on you.”

“Sir, I’m sorry. It was an emergency. Hop and Lavender needed me.” Especially Lav. He held her while she cried. He wants to hold her again, bloody hell.

“Yes, I know. They’re important to you.” Rose leans against his desk, arms crossed. “And we’re sorry for what happened to Miss Lavender. I’ve already spoken with Kabu; an arrangement will be made.”

“Don’t bother,” Leon interjects. “I mean, thank you, but don’t. She won’t accept it.”

The chairman waves his hand. “Very well, but that isn’t the point.” He has that look. That doughy-eyed, disappointed look. “Any warning my way would’ve been appreciated. Hell, I wouldn’t have stopped your flight, what do you take me for? Would it have been an inconvenience? Yes, but for you... I thought you could trust me, boy.”

Dammit, there’s the guilt.

Leon stands. “I do, sir. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.” He lays on the old charming grin. “Besides, when have I ever missed an appointment before?”

Rose gives him a sideways smirk. “Yes, well, that’s why you’re getting off easy this time with a slap on the wrist.” He inclines toward the door, things seemingly patched between them. “Now go on before you’re late for training.”

*****

Training. Meetings. Public appearances. Interviews. More meetings. The cape gets positively itchy after a time. He wants a nap. Maybe he should actually try escaping down a pipe...

He wants to see her again so he can take a breath.

*****

Once more wasn’t enough.

*****

He doesn’t know what to say to Hop, but he tries. At least, he sends texts.

Lav told me about your loss. You doing alright, mate?

Hey, sorry the match with Allister was brutal. Do you need some tips?

You gonna talk to me or no?

Hey.

Call Mum, she’s worried.


Nothing. He can’t tell where he went wrong.

He types one thing a million times but never sends: Would you hate me if I had a crush on Lav?

Ironic how Hop dubbed them Mario and Peach in the first place.

*****

He’s going to kill Raihan.

All summer he’s been sitting on the fence between Lav and Hop, and that bloody fool just dragged him down to Lav’s side.

She’s braving a party. He has to say something, Hop or no Hop.

Though…

Fuck Hop a little. Moody git. Call Mum.

Shit, she’s here. Someone just shank him.

*****

He left her side because he didn’t have the spine to tell her, and now she’s sitting here crying from her scare.

He wants to dry her tears and call her Princess. It just comes out as “Peach” because he’s a bloody coward. He’d still fight a thousand Goomba for her.

The words come out differently than he pictured, but dammit if that absurd metaphor doesn’t help him say it.

Her eyes are telling. She’s caught off guard. He is too. He thinks she might…

“Leon?”

Time to jump.

“Hey, Lav.”

Kissing her gives him more clarity than he can handle.

*****

She’s soft. Silly. He says whatever he can think of to make her laugh or blush. She’s cute when she’s bashful. Cute making any face, really.

He’s drunk. They’re together, no barriers. It’s secure and simple and sublime. She carries him a million miles away from responsibility.

He wonders if he could bench press her.

*****

Fans wave as the car passes by, but he’s only got eyes for the wall of heart emojis she just texted him. If it weren’t for her messages and the three shots of espresso he did, he’d stretched out on the leather, passed clear out.

Rose clears his throat. “It’s going well with Miss Lavender, then?”

“Oh yeah!” Leon tears his gaze from the phone. “Absolutely brilliant.”

“Excellent, excellent.” There’s a cheeky tone there. “Honeymoon phase is always the high.”

He replies with the same wall of hearts before checking his schedule. There’s a free day ahead.

“Hey, Rose.”

“Yes, my boy.”

Leon takes a deep breath. “I’m trying to think of something I can do for her, but I’m either drawing a blank, or the ideas I have are too… much.” Kalos excursion probably won’t happen anytime soon.

“Well, there’s the usual.” Rose counts them on his fingers. “Flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep.”

“I’m serious,” he laughs. “We haven’t had a proper date yet. I want it to be something nice. But maybe not public, you know?”

Rose scratches his chin in thought. “Yes, theatre or dinner might be too risky. Park’s aren’t the most reliable for privacy, either. Oh! She’s up in Circhester, hm? Why not give Melony a ring? She’s got that cabin of hers. I’m sure she’d loan it for a night.”

God, it’s brilliant, and why didn’t he think of it? “Yes, that’s perfect! Quiet, no people. Yes, thank you!” He makes a note to call Melony, adding it to his mosaic of a schedule.

“Indeed.” The chairman taps him playfully. “Best fit for some old fashioned hanky panky, I think.”

Leon grimaces, cringing. “I think you’re not allowed to say that to me ever again.”

He laughs heartily. “Just taking the piss with you, dear boy.”

“No, scratch that.” Leon chuckles, in spite of himself. “Never say any of those words to anyone. Ever.”

The car stops. Oleana addresses them from the front. “Put the giggles away, boys. We’re here.”

“Ah, fun’s over.” Rose adjusts his tie. “Time to go behave ourselves.”

*****

He could stare at her in the firelight forever. The way it dances in her icy-grey eyes mesmerizes him. He wonders… if it weren’t for his endorsement letter, would they have discovered this new side of each other?

Not for the first time, he regrets being away from home so much for the last ten years.

*****

She’s not next to him when he wakes. The space feels empty and cold, despite the cozy warmth of the cabin. The air is so still, he wonders for a moment if he dreamt last night.

God, that’d be so fucking pathetic.

No, she’s outside. He watches her make attempt after attempt to mount her Rapidash. It’s not her failing he finds adorable, but the trying—the many tries. Even from here, he can see the snowflakes peppering her braids, and they make her smile all the more radiant. She’s so gentle with the ’mon. Relaxed. No anxiety. He’s glad she can be herself out here. Glad he could bring her somewhere she feels safe enough to smile like that.

He’s going to skewer that bloody photographer.

*****

He hasn’t talked to Hop yet. Not in the way Lav is expecting him too.

He tells himself there hasn’t been an opportunity for it, but he’s really just putting it off.

Lav’s match against Melony is as good a time as any. Leon scored them a private box so they could watch in peace. He can’t think of another time he’ll be alone with his brother.

Match hasn’t started yet. They’re just staring in silence at an empty pitch.

Leon clears his throat, then yawns. Shit. “So, how’ve you been getting on?”

Hop shrugs. “Alright. Better.”

“Seems like it.” Fingers drum on his elbow. “What exactly brought on this soul searching quest, hm? Not just a loss, surely.”

His brother’s all smiles. “Nothing, just had to do some thinking, is all.”

“Did you finally call Mum?”

“Of course.”

“Good.”

It can’t end there. It’s just the dirt covering the root.

“Nothing else to it, then?” Leon challenges. “Cut everyone off, worried Mum and Lav, just because?”

That gets him. “Okay look, it wasn’t just that. I had to work out a problem…”

“What was it?”

“We here to watch Lav’s match, or was this just an ambush?”

“Hop, just tell me. Out with it, mate—”

“You!” Hop rounds on him. “You’re the problem!”

He can’t hold back the flinch.

“Er, no!” His brother scratches his head. “It’s me. Or something. Us, I dunno!” He whirls around, sealing his words with crossed arms. “Being your little bro, I guess.”

Okay, that’s a lot.

“Can you, um… elaborate, or…” He’s not good at this. This shit’s usually scripted, and his head’s too heavy to think.

“Bloody hell,” Hop says through a tired sigh. “I barely remember a time you weren’t the champion. It’s all you’ve ever been, and you’re amazing and everyone adores you. Then I come along.”

This is the part where he’s supposed to impart a life lesson, but words aren’t cooperating right now. “And…”

“That’s it. I come along, and I suck.” His voice catches. “I’m a bloody joke, Lee. I thought since I’d studied all your matches and took a million notes, it would rub off, but no. All summer, the region’s been cheering for you while laughing at me.”

Anger rises in him, but not toward his brother. “Point these people out to me.”

Hop rolls his eyes and gestures to the crowd below them.

“Yeah, I see a bunch of blokes who watched you sweep Melony the other day with barely any advantage.” There’s that pep talk, he knew he put it somewhere. “No one’s done that this whole season, and she’s one of the hardest leaders on the circuit. If Kabu’s the Fire Wall, she’s the Ice Wall. Pretty sure that makes you the best trainer on the road right now.”

Hop scowls. Now he’s just being stubborn. “Thought Lav was the best. Your words, remember?”

Leon shrugs. “Well yeah, maybe at the start of the season, but have you two battled since you got out of your slump?”

There’s hesitation. It’s getting to him. “No.”

“Then I can’t say.” He holds his hands up. “You figure it out.”

Speak of the devil angel, Lav walks on the pitch. The crowd cheers for her, but it doesn’t come close to the cheering in his head. He sighs.

Hop eyes him pensively. “I’m glad she’s got someone like you.”

It catches him off guard. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” His voice rasps. “I’ve watched her chase after people over the years. Arsemongers, mostly. She tends to go for the first person who says a pretty word to her. There was one girl… I dunno. She made Lav happy for a while, so I kept my thoughts to myself. Didn’t like the way she spoke to her much.” He inhales. “So it’s good to see her with someone I trust. Well, mostly.”

Leon raises an eyebrow. “The fuck’s that mean?”

He’s expecting a joke or a jab, but Hop is serious. “Look, I know you got a lot goin’. I’ve been looking up to you all my life, there’s not much you can hide. You’re worn out, mate. Running on fumes.”

Shit. “When the hell did you get wise?”

There’s a grin. “While you were gone last. And eh, hangin’ with Sonia helped.” He hits his point. “It’s easy to throw yourself into something new when life is too much to handle. So I want to make sure she’s not just a distraction from everything else.”

Leon’s almost offended, but he has to steal another look at Lav before he can answer. It’s true she makes him forget about things, takes him into a bubble where he can enjoy existing. But isn’t that what partners do? Make you feel comfortable despite all your bullshit? Fill your mind with something pleasant until you can see them again?

He watches her command Zephyr with ease. There’s none of the hesitation or fear from her previous matches. She’s relaxed and alive. It’s beautiful. She’s beautiful. If he could teleport down to the pitch to tell her so, he’d do it.

“She’s not,” he says with more emotion than he plans. “Promise.”

“Good.” Hop elbows him. “I operate on a strict bros-before-hos policy. ...You’re the ho here.”

“Psh. Bitch, I was born a ho.”

They snort and break into a fit. Leon brings Hop in for a half hug, and they watch the match like that.

“Sorry if I made you feel like piss,” he offers. “I’m proud of you. Truly.”

He feels a soft pat on his back and hears a small sniff. “Thanks, mate.”

*****

Rose tells him it’s time to cash in that favor. Attend a demonstration of Macro Cosmos’ new generator? Easy peasy.

Be nice if he didn’t have to do it after a nine-hour day.

It’s massive, this thing. Like a golden egg some giant Corviknight might have laid. Can’t believe those engineers built this underneath Hammerlocke Stadium. Leon cranes his head to the top and whistles. He nudges Rose teasingly.

“Does Rai know you’re storing your stuff in his cellar?”

The chairman chuckles. “Afraid not. We’ve been keeping it out of the spotlight for the time being. It’s still experimental. Today’s show is about showing potential backers what they could invest in.” He shrugs, feigning innocence. “Doesn’t hurt for the region’s golden boy to give his seal of approval, of course.”

“Ah, I see how it is.”

“Indeed. Good of you to take the time.” Rose adjusts the knot in his tie. “You’ve had quite the day already.”

“It’s fine. I mean, what you’re doing for Lav is big.” Gratitude can't even come close. Leon crosses his arms so his hands aren’t tempted to go for his phone. Her smiling face is his lock screen image. Snowflakes in her braids, Zephyr nuzzling her ear. Picture’s almost as good as the real thing. “I care about her a lot, Rose. Last thing I want is for my job to give her grief.”

The chairman’s hand pats his shoulder, accompanied by that trademark doughy smile. The same look and gesture that's supported Leon the last ten years. “Anything for you, dear boy. Can’t have Miss Lavender living in fear of the cameras, can we?” Their attention is drawn to the elevator as it dings, signaling the guests’ arrival. “Ah, show time then.” He snaps his fingers at the scientists to get into position.

“Right.” Leon slaps his face and tries (fails) to stifle a yawn. “What level am I giving this?”

Rose rubs his chin in thought. “Keep it hovering at a four—light but casual. Somewhere between a benefit dinner and a budget meeting. You’re here because you’re curious about the project.”

“Brilliant.” Squaring his shoulders to adjust the cape, he steps forward to greet the newcomers, slipping like a glove into his champion role.
 

Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
Caught
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
805
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
Oh hey, it's Leon! He's dumb and cute and a good brother and a caring partner and BRO DO YOU NOT SEE HOW BAD ROSE IS FOR YOU AND EVERYONE AROUND YOU. BRO.
The chairman waves his hand. “Very well, but that isn’t the point.” He has that look. That doughy-eyed, disappointed look. “Any warning my way would’ve been appreciated. Hell, I wouldn’t have stopped your flight, what do you take me for? Would it have been an inconvenience? Yes, but for you... I thought you could trust me, boy.”
Like just look at this shit it makes my skin want to slink right off my bones. And the whole thing about hanky-panky, just, eugh can Ig please boot this guy into the nearest volcano or something.
 

glancesherlock

Consulting Detective
🌱Featurer
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
32
Caught
Jun 10, 2019
Messages
716
Location
221B Baker Street
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ghost
Pokédex Entry
Just wants to stay home and solve crimes.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #109
@Dee - HEART 👏 OF 👏 GOLD 👏 DUMB 👏 OF 👏 ASS 👏 Leon definitely has some blinders on he's unaware of. He really believes in his heart of hearts Rose has his best interest in mind since they've worked together for so long. Golden-hearted idiot.

Ayyye, lookit that. It's a real chapter with our disaster heroine. It's Spikemuth time, mates.

Spikemuth is something else. Below the grime and neon signs and old, moldy papers there’s semblance of an intricate, booming city. The streets are ragged. The few pedestrians and solicitors out and about blend into the backdrop like they’re one and the same. It looks like the kind of place Mum would tell me not to adhere to stop signs while driving through. Admittedly, I’m uneasy making my way down the sidewalk, and I notice Hop shifting his eyes about.

Marnie’s calm as can be.

“My flat’s just down that block a tick,” she points out. “You’re welcome to crash after you trash my brother.”

It’s so matter-of-fact it gets a snort out of Hop.

“Not in his corner much, are you?”

She looks back with a cheeky grin. “’Fraid not.”

There’s been no talk of scheduling matches. I can’t spot any signage for a League office. The closest thing is a few old posters of Rose, defaced almost beyond recognition (they give me a little glee). I don’t say a word. Marnie’s pretty confident as she marches us down the street. I figure she must know what she’s doing.

“Oi! Marnie girl!” A woman calls from a second-story window. “You been followed by a coupl’a knobs?”

“Piss off, Polly,” Marnie snaps. Her east-end accent noticeably thickens. “Takin’ jabs like that is a naff move, innit?”

“Meant no offense, luv.”

“Full of tom tit, you are.”

The lady shakes her head and laughs before disappearing into the flat.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” Marnie shrugs. “Nice folks here, I promise. They’re just a little rough at first.”

I stutter out a quick, “It’s’kay,” as we continue on. No one else gives us trouble, but I notice Hop walking closer to me.

*****

Piers has a band, I’m informed. Team Yell, but they’re thinking about changing the name (again). They’ve got a stage set up in an abandoned warehouse with janky lights held together by duct tape and zip-ties. The crowd’s pretty sparse, which I’m thankful for. The place reeks of weed, and the floor is sticky. I can barely hear the vocals over the drums.

Marnie’s brother is somehow both nothing the way I imagined him but exactly what he should be. Giant black-and-white-dyed hair styled to look like he has three or four tails protruding from his head. Underneath a spiky white leather jacket, I spot his gym leader uniform. It’s pretty cute how his choker matches his sister’s, and I won’t lie, those heels are kicking.

I don’t know what to do, so I just follow Marnie and Hop as we snake through to the front of the small crowd. Piers doesn’t acknowledge us outside of a tired, dilated side-eye. The music dies with a twirl of Marnie’s finger.

“Ah…” Piers leans lazily against his skull-shaped microphone. “There’s my lil’ skin ‘n blister.”

She flips him off. “You got challengers, mate.”

He lets out a long, beleaguered sigh. “Shit, you serious?”

“Oi.” She flicks his leg. “You got a month left. Do your fuckin’ job.”

Hop leans over to me and whispers, “Bag check for maestro’s eyes,” and I have to bite the corners of my mouth to fight a smile.

Piers slips off the stage with dramatic reluctance, taking the microphone stand with him. He’d be a lot taller than me if he stood up straight, but even with his slouch I have to lift my chin a little.

“Right then.” He gives me a thousand-yard, bloodshot stare—he’s anything but sober. “Get on with it.”

I blink. “Wait, you mean… Here? Now?”

“Yeah?” He shrugs. “Whatchu lookin’ for, a stadium? A power spot? We got none o’ that rubbish here, and this is my side of the pitch, so…” He loosely motions to the back of the warehouse. “Get goin’ to your end. I’ll do the paperwork later.”

“But your… concert?”

“Whatever.”

Hop and I exchange a look. This is weird, and I want to ask if he can go first. But Piers seems to have locked me in, so off I go.

“Hey,” I whisper to Marnie. “I can’t fight him right now. He’s high as a kite.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, he’s high for most of his matches.” She twirls the charm on her choker. “Look, he’s not very good, but don’t go easy, got it?”

“Odd there’s not even a stadium,” Hop points out. “What’s up with that?”

Marnie curtly replies, “A history,” and leaves it at that.

My friends move to the sidelines with the other spectators. There can’t be more than thirty people in here.

No stadium, no big crowd, no obnoxious announcers, no cameras.

Sobriety of my opponent aside, I’m not nervous at all.

“Hey, Piers!” I call, feeling brave. “This is actually pretty great.”

He cocks his head. “Oh yeah?” I think I spy a grin under his huge bangs. “Ta, then.”

The first Pokemon is a Scrafty. Wasn’t expecting a partial fighting-type here, but it doesn’t change who I’m sending out. Ingrid hasn’t seen much action on the pitch, but she eats dark-types for breakfast in a way the rest don’t, so she’s my top pick. (Need to give her a quick reminder we’re not here to gather honey, though. I think she understands.)

I jump as Piers bloody yells into his mic. “Whooo, we ‘bout to intimidate tonight!”

The onlookers cheer, but I spot Marnie mouth, “It’s midday, you twit.” Hop lifts his fist in the air amusedly.

For my part, I just offer an awkward thumbs-up and give Ingrid her first command. The Scrafty goes down in a single, quick dazzling gleam. Sad opener for the seventh gym battle, but I chalk it up to having a double-advantage. I say the same thing when Ingrid one-shots Malamar with pollen puff.

Two-shotting Obstagoon is bloody ridiculous, though. This battle is uncomfortably easy, and it doesn’t help that Piers keeps announcing his strategy to our meager audience long before executing it. The sneer on his face makes me wonder if I’m doing something wrong.

I turn to Marnie for help. She gives me a look that says, “Sorry, this is exactly what I meant.”

Hop is just incredulous.

We finally get a challenge in Skuntank. Ingrid still has plenty of energy, so I keep her out. I about reach for my dynamax band before I remember.

Piers forewarns me about toxic in his speech to the crowd, so I tell Ingrid to keep her distance and stay on the move. She gets slammed twice with a sucker punch before each pollen puff, and I’m ready to call her back before she surprises me with one last dazzling gleam that blinds the Skuntank out of the match.

I’m in the middle of praising Ingrid for her hard work when the little crowd starts booing me. I hold my Ribombee close to me, and my fight-or-flight kicks in. It’s only self-restraint that keeps my feet planted.

Hop reaches for a PokeBall, but Marnie shuts them up with an angry kick at a chain link fence.

“Bloody wankers,” she grumbles.

*****

After Opal’s private carriage, Melony’s cabin, and Raihan’s monstrosity of a mansion, I just assumed Piers and Marnie would have similar accommodations.

It’s night and day, actually. Two-bedroom flat with minimal living accommodations. The kitchen feels like it was tacked on to the place. It’s half lit by black lights and strings of tiny lights. The sitting area only offers a love seat and “coffee table” that’s really a piece of plywood atop a plastic tub. Marnie fetches a couple bean bag chairs from her room for us.

“Sorry it’s a bit cramped,” she says, scooping up papers from the table. “Course, I like to call it cozy.”

“You parents live somewhere else in town, then?” I ask.

“No, they’re in Unova, I think. Piers, I thought you cleaned!”

His voice sounds from his room. “Practice went over!” A hand appears from the dark doorway, pushing Marnie’s Morpeko out. “And could you keep Punky out of here?”

“Well, maybe if you kept it tidy, she wouldn’t assume it’s a bloody nest.” Marnie rolls her eyes and mutters curses as she finishes her task.

“You need any help?” Hop offers.

“No, make yourselves comfy!”

I sink into the bean bag, soaking in the myriad of posters and newspaper clippings taped on the walls. Amongst the stories about Team Yell performances is an older article about Marnie taking first place in a local tournament. She’s pictured hugging Punky with a young Piers, donning a League jersey and wrapping his arm around her proudly. He looks significantly less tired.

Piers emerges rummaging through a small cardboard box. “Knew I’d put them somewhere… Here.” He hands Hop and me each a badge. “Congrats, or whatever.”

“Thanks…” I have to brush some dust off, but it’s still exciting to click it next to my other badges. Just one more from Raihan, and the medallion’s complete.

Damn.

One more.

Then if I make it through the semifinals and finals, I’ll be facing my boyfriend.

Godammit, I can picture myself both kicking his arse and letting him charm me out of a win.

Piers declares he’s making spaghetti with tomato sauce. Marnie puts on some tea. I have to stir five lumps of sugar into it before I find it palatable, and I make sure to drink it so I’m not rude.

I can’t let it go. Boyfriend. Still. Even still.

Despite… me.

Thoughts creep in as I stare into my tea. Bad memories. The kind that remind me of what I am. Kai running off with a snicker to his mates because he’d taken me on two dates, and I fell for it. Thomas telling me off in favor of someone else. Grace yelling. Grace crying. Grace telling me to get out of the car because she can’t do this anymore. I picture Leon standing in front of me, uncertain and tired. Tired of me. I wonder how long before something breaks and I’m back on my own. Back to me and my storm, with Leon’s door sealed shut forever. Because it can’t keep going, not with the way I am.

Toxic, Grace called me.

How long before he sees it too?

“I’m still curious about the gym situation here,” Hop pipes up. He’s so fucking good at distracting me from the holes I’m digging.

“Well…” Marnie sips her tea, thinking of where to begin. “Guess it all comes down to dynamax. We don’t have one of those fancy power spots, yeah? So when dynamax was introduced to the League, and they were building new stadiums to accommodate, we were overlooked.”

“What about the old Spikemuth stadium?”

“Junkyard.” She shrugs. “Teenage playground. Losing your virginity there is a rite of passage.”

Piers snorts from the kitchen. “I mean, if you wanna get tetanus!”

“Seriously.”

“Okay, but…” Hop leans forward, determined to make sense of this. “You’re still part of the League, yeah? You can do something to… spruce things up, I guess.” He holds up his hands. “I-I don’t wanna offend, but—”

“Oh!” Piers’ head pokes in. He must be coming down from his high, as he’s much more animated. “Can’t tell you how many plans I made, mate. That tosser Rose can’t shell anything from his billion-dollar bath. I get the smallest piece of the pie come payday. Hence!” He throws his arms up at the flat. “My gleaming palace.”

“Gym leaders don’t get paid a flat rate,” Marnie explains. “It’s based on how much revenue their gym brings in per season. No dynamax, no fancy stadium, no reason for a crowd to flock to us. People keep moving out of town to find work. So money’s more scarce every year.”

It doesn’t stop Hop from trying to fix it. “What if Piers was the first gym leader, ah? A lot more trainers heading this way, that’s more people to spectate.”

Marnie crosses her legs, slowly rotating one ankle. “No, we’re number seven by design. The gym leaders aren’t arranged based on pure strength. Raihan’s skilled as they come, but he’s ultimately the top leader because he puts on the best show.” Her eyes narrow in a tired anger. “Melony tends to weed out more trainers than the others, so we’re straight after her. Rose is hellbent on squeezing us dry till Piers’s contract runs out.”

Hop’s eyebrows meet at his nose. “That’s total bollocks!”

“That’s why I said ‘fuck it’ and stopped charging admission!” Piers yells proudly. “Free concerts! Free gym matches! Fuck any and all other venues. I haven’t played Wyndon since 2015.”

Marnie rolls her eyes. “Being escorted out of the stadium is not a performance.”

“Whatever. Not bringing in a bloody red dime for that bloated bush!”

My stomach churns from all this Rose talk, and Hop’s right behind me.

“Really getting uncomfortable with this bloke being Lee’s boss,” he mutters.

“Whatchu think, Lav?” Marnie asks. My back straightens. “You’ve been awfully quiet.”

I shrug. “Just listening, s’all. But…” Leon’s always exhausted. Sonia cried so hard on the train. Even Bede got the shaft. That fucking necklace is still in my pack somewhere. Maybe Zephyr should burn it for me. “Yeah, I really hate the tosser.”

“Wonder if Lee knows about any of this,” Hop offers. “Maybe we can have a word with him.”

Marnie gives him a grateful look. “Not sure he has a say in how the money’s moved, but it’d be something. Don’t think Leon’s ever visited Spikemuth.”

“H-he’s really busy!” I pipe up, feeling a sudden urge to defend him. “I-I mean, he should still know, but Rose sorta has a hold on his day-to-day, and he’s strict about where Leon can go and what he can say. So…” My voice quiets as I lose steam. “Fuck him for that too.”

“You mean to tell me the billionaire who owns two-thirds of our corporations is also a control freak?” Piers slowly leans back so he’s visible from the kitchen. “Crikey.”

Marnie snorts and hides her face.

“Also, sorry to interrupt our bashing, but I just want to make a culinary suggestion.” Piers holds up a yellow container. “Honey mustard on spaghetti. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”

Maybe he is still high.

I don’t accept the honey mustard, but the food tastes just fine without it. We get on other topics of conversation and turn on the TV for background noise. Piers cycles through his DVR, and I notice all of Marnie’s matches have been saved. She makes him turn on the news instead.

The minutes pass, and I try to focus on my friends instead of the pit in my stomach. The voice screaming Leon’s going to grow tired of me won’t shut up. I keep hearing it in his voice: “Sorry, Lav, but I just can’t do this.” I strangely want him here to guard me from these breakup visions. Hop and Marnie are the next best thing. Laughing with them is fun. Though shit, how long will this last?

Something starts howling. The wind from my storm. That room in my head feels a lot bigger right now. Or maybe I’m smaller.

My body tightens like it’s trying to hide within itself. When the season is over, and we’re not on the road, will I see Marnie again? Will Sonia grow sick of helping me? What if Hop claims the championship title, and Rose keeps him just as busy as Leon, and he grows out of me?

God, the howling’s so loud.

When Leon finally tires of me, I might not even have my best friend to fall back on, but wouldn’t he stick to his brother’s side anyway? It’d just be me, alone, like it was before Hop and I were ever friends. Because I’m needy and annoying and difficult and not worth their time. What the fuck can I even offer anyone?

I nearly toss down my plate and run for the loo. My sick just barely makes it in the bowl.

“Didn’t think my cooking was that bad,” Piers quips, and I feel worse.

Hop’s hand rests on my shoulder as the first tear falls down my cheek. “Lav, you alright?”

I nod and try to wipe my face before he can see. “Just… an attack, you know?”

“Eh, maybe. Think some passin’ Hoothoot let loose a supersonic,” he says, digging a pinky into his ear canal. “Bloody ringing in my ear.”

Marnie’s voice sounds from the other room. “Oh what the fu—Piers, turn it up! Guys, get in here!”

Breaking news story. Emergency in Hammerlocke. People are screaming and running. The camera’s shaky, but it eventually settles on a giant beam of red light protruding from the stadium. A giant foot steps into frame, followed by another. They belong to a Perrserker and a Bewear. Dynamaxed. In the city. Just roaming free outside the stadium. Brick and mortar fly this way and that as they thrash about. They’re too wild to belong to a trainer.

Piers leans forward. “Why kind of Cloverfield shite…” He throws up his arms. “You see the bollocks we’d deal with livin’ over a power spot?”

“Bruv, hush!”

My heart drops like a stone when I see Ignatius. Leon’s astride him, full champion attire and all. He lets loose a fire blast as the Perrserker takes a swipe at him. It misses, thank god, but I still scream and bring my hands to my face.

“Lee…” Hop’s as terrified as me. “What the bloody hell is he doing?!”

It’s obvious. Fighting them off. Because he’s Galar’s champion. Who the hell else is going to do it?

That fucking idiot.

Hop has his arms around me. My eyes are glued to the screen, though I want nothing more than to look away.

Leon lands Ignatius and immediately gigantimaxes him. It’s only a small relief, as he’s still so small and running around a kaiju’s feet like a bloody fucking fool!

He’s still by himself.

“I have to be there!” I blurt, snatching up my pack. I don’t care how or why this is happening, I just have to be there. “We need to go!”

Hop nods rapidly. “Y-yea-yeah! We gotta move!”

Marnie jumps up, not missing a beat. “Piers, get your keys!”

“You get ’em.”

“Are you fucking serious?!” She hits him. “I am not driving your bloody monstrosity! Get your sorry arse up!”

“Fine! Fine!” He retrieves a key ring from a drawer. “All aboard the Goon Buggy, mates!”

Despite my panic, I have to pause.

Goon Buggy.

I’m afraid to ask.

1. I really love how Piers's intro turned out. He is super fun to write for.

2. Ah yes. Me. My romcom fic. And its entire chapter about socioeconomic inequality.

3. I LIED, THREE THINGS. LOOK AT MY NEW AVIE. @Thirteenth FOUND IT, AND I'M REELING. THE COAT. THE BRAID. THE YAMPER. AAAAHHHHHHHH
 

Wwarborday

Gradually Becoming Productive
Pokédex No.
153
Caught
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
200
Location
Gaytown
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
He/him/his
Pokémon Type
Ground, Ice
Pokédex Entry
I'm Doing My Best
You can have Leon, let me marry Piers. An icon. Look at him. Amazing. Incredible. The GOON BUGGY. That's my husband.
 

pinkshellos

Black Lives Matter !!
Artist
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
1220
Caught
Dec 23, 2019
Messages
278
Location
Hoenn Route 120
Nature
Calm
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Bug, Flying
Pokédex Entry
A timid Pokémon typically found in groups. The only thing that motivates her more than companionship is food.
I always get so excited when I see the notification for a new chapter!!
You do such a good job making Galar feel alive. Spikemuth is so incredibly bland in the game, but in this chapter it actually feels like a real place! Where people live! And not just a hallway with invisible barriers!
I could reread this entire fic 12 times and still not be bored of it honestly
 

Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
Caught
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
805
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
Piers is awesome, no doubt about it. I love his whole style and feel the run-down grimey feel of all Spikemuth too. Man, Rose really is gonna squeeze them till there's nothing left, huh?

I know that most of my comments on this fic boil down to "Hey fuck that guy" but seriously--fuck that guy!

Also can I just say I love the way you write Marnie? Understated, sassy, and caring... an icon.
 

glancesherlock

Consulting Detective
🌱Featurer
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
32
Caught
Jun 10, 2019
Messages
716
Location
221B Baker Street
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Fairy, Ghost
Pokédex Entry
Just wants to stay home and solve crimes.
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #113
@Wwarborday - Only if I'm your maid of honor. :v

@pinkshellos - Awww thank you so much! You're always so sweet.

@Dee - lol Yeah, this fic sorta went from a silly romp about wooing Leon to "eat the rich," didn't it? Spikemuth was ripe for an extra turn of the screw, and yeah, Marnie and Piers are such a joy to write for.

Hello! Today marks Brick by Boring Brick's one-year anniversary! (Yes, only a week after SWSH's release, I started down this mad path.) While I didn't begin posting it on the forum until February, I was still cranking out chapters like a madwoman and sharing them with friends, so I still consider today to be its birthday. For a long time, I didn't think it would make it on the forum because it's so...? Like it's a thirst fic featuring an OC shipped with Leon, and I wasn't sure how well-received that would be. Thank you to everyone who made me feel comfortable posting here and to everyone both on and off the forums who's been supporting Lav and her antics. It means so much. Zephyr says thanks too. 💜

With that, here it is! The conclusion of Arc III: Fences.

🙃

Postwick, Ten Months Ago

The air’s so tense I think its pressing down on the car and making it slower. Or making time slower. Maybe both.

I feel so ill. I want to throw up, though I already have. Guess I couldn’t toss the sick.

Grace’s silence is so loud, filling my head with her disappointment in me and how this night turned out. My hands wring until they sweat. I lost count of how many times I said I’m sorry.

Better chuck in another.

“I’m really sorry, babe,” I say quickly, quietly.

Grace inhales long and exhales hard. Her words are sharp. “I know.”

I chew my lip and look at the clock. “It’s almost half past. We could swing around now and get back before intermission—”

“What’s the point if we miss most of it?”

“I… yeah.”

She sighs. “Thought you said you’d be okay tonight.”

I slouch and murmur, “There were just… a lot of people.” So many. A packed house.

“You said you were getting better, though.” Grace rubs her face. “Lav, we planned this.”

“I know,” I say guiltily.

“I took extra shifts at the shop to pay for these tickets.”

“I know.”

“I even got us seats in the back row! So you wouldn’t be surrounded!”

“I know…” My throat catches.

Grace leans an elbow against the car door and rests a temple in her palm. She hasn’t looked at me the whole drive. “If I’d ’ave know you were gonna freak out, I’d…”

Thinking of the moment makes me go cold. Screaming in the back of the theater. Crying as I clumsily scrambled through the row to the exit. Tripping at the door. Grace right behind me, apologizing to everyone who stared.

My god, they all stared…

“I’m sorry,” I say again.

“I know, I know! Dammit, I bloody know you’re sorry! Fuck!” She hits the steering wheel, and I jump. “You’re always sorry for everything. You’re sorry for breathing.”

“I’m—” I bite my tongue.

Silence. Agonizing silence.

We’re in town now. Grace pulls the car into the lot of a closed cafe two blocks from my house. She puts it in park. The engine’s still running.

And we sit.

I stare at the storefront. It’s colors are muted in the dusk. There’s still silence. I ruined our night.

“Lav.” Grace begins with a tone that sets my insides on fire. “I’ll admit I didn’t… I didn’t mind it at first. You’re limited, and I was fine with that. Thought I could protect you or some bullshit. But then… Well, after a time you really weigh on me, you know? You rely on me to pick you up after every fall. You ring me up at three in the morning because of a nightmare. We try to do fun things like tonight, and it gets cut short because you’re tired or uncomfortable or you have an attack. I can’t say things or go to places with you because I never know what will set you off. It’s like walking on eggshells.”

My head lowers as she speaks. A few tears roll down my cheeks. I want it to end. I want her to pull me into the back seat and wrap me in her arms and tell me she didn’t mean it and she still…

“I can’t remember the last time I had fun.” She continues, frustration rising. “Everything we do is on your terms, and I can’t live like that, Lav. I can’t spend every bloody moment thinking how you’re going to feel about every fucking gesture I make. And I’m tired.”

I can feel her gaze on me. Searing. Desperate. My throat does the best it can to suppress a sob.

The seat creaks as she shifts. “You make me feel guilty every day, you know that?”

Please, Grace. Please stop.

“You make me feel bad that I’m not bending over backwards to make you feel comfortable every bloody moment. And the pressure—it’s there! It’s always there!” Her voice rises, and with it my sob breaks. “Don’t cry, Lav. I… Dammit, this is what I’m talking about!” She’s yelling at me. Yelling. “You don’t communicate! You just sit and cry and stare at me with sad eyes until I feel sorry for you and give in. Then you apologize, and then you do it all over and over and over again. That’s fucked, Lav! That’s really fucked! Shit…”

I hear her fumbling with the seat belt, and the door opens. Grace pauses with one foot on the gravel before deciding against it and shutting herself back in.

“No,” she says with a new resolve. “No, it’s my car. I need you to get out.”

That makes my head shoot up, and we look at each other for the first time since the theater. Her eyes are red.

“What?” I choke on it.

“I can’t do this, Lav. I can’t do it anymore. I’m sorry, you might think you care about me, but all I am is a crutch. What this is, what we have? It’s toxic, innit. You’re toxic, Lav, and I need you to get out of my car.”

I shake my head, slowly at first then desperately as the reality of her words crash down on me. My shaking hand reaches for her. “Babe, no. Please. Please don’t—”

“Just get out of my car, Lav!” She roughly shoves me away, and we freeze, both surprised at the act. Then she breaks, and I see the first tear pour over before her forehead hits the steering wheel. Her back shakes as she cries.

My fight-or-flight kicks in and caries me out to the pavement. I just barely remember to snatch my jumper off the seat. I stand there, shaking, crying, watching her. Suddenly, I’m scared of her and her words, but I want her. I want her to comfort me like she has the last few months.

I need someone.

“What do you want?” I ask pleadingly. “What do I have to do to fix it?”

Her head snaps up from the wheel. “Be better, Lav.” The hurt in her eyes destroys me. “Stop being selfish. Just be better. With someone else.” Sniffling, she reaches over to shut the door and puts the car in reverse.

I’m stuck in place as I watch her leave. The moment I’m alone my chest heaves, and hyperventilation takes over. Scrambling for control, I seize my phone and dial because I fucking need someone.

I breathe. I try to breathe as it rings.

“Hey, Lav,” comes Hop’s voice on the other line. “How’s the show?”

“We left.” It comes out in another sob. “I fucked up, Hop.”

“Whoa, hey, hey, You alright?”

“Grace, she—” I can’t speak. Can’t say it. I just cry into the receiver.

Hop sighs in realization. “Oh, Lav… I’m so sorry, I—what’s that?” Someone in the background says something to him. “Right, just gimme a minute, Mum.” I can hear people. He’s somewhere crowded. “Sorry, we’re about to enter the stadium for Lee’s match. But are you okay? Do you need me to stay on?”

My mind is hit with an emotional cocktail.

Longing. Leon.

Frustration. I thought being with Grace would kill that crush. Fucking old habits.

Relief. Hop’s offering to stay, to talk. I have someone. My best mate.

Eagerness. Yes, I want to tell him. Skip your brother’s match. I know you’ve been rambling about it for weeks and you’re excited to watch him defend his title again, but stay and talk to me.

Guilt. I’m doing it again.

Reluctance. “No, it’s fine. I’ll just… I’ll go home and we can catch up after.”

“You sure? Lav, promise me you won’t be stupid—”

Anger. “I’m fine, Hop!” I hang up and chuck my phone. It cracks against the concrete building, and bits of plastic catapult away as it hits the ground.

I scream.

I walk.

I keep walking.

Not toward home.

Just anywhere.

Hop will probably worry now. He’ll worry for the whole match and not enjoy himself because that’s just how he is.

It’s my fault. Everything is… my fault.

I ruined tonight for two people.

I’m selfish. I’m toxic.

I’m alone.

And maybe it’s better for everyone if I am.

*****

Spikemuth, Now

Turns out the Goon Buggy is really a bus. More specifically, it’s an old school bus painted white with black and hot pink accents. “Team Yell” is branded on the side in bold, stylized lettering, and it’s clear it’s been painted over several previous band names.

The interior is like a janky mobile home. All the seats have been ripped out and replaced with old couches, bean bags, a makeshift plywood table, and a large cooler. Strings of pink and violet lights crown the windows, and a sound system is installed throughout.

I’m curled on one of the couches, holding Honey to my chest for comfort. Hop sits opposite, eyes glued to Marnie’s phone as they view a stream of the attack. I can’t watch. I just can’t. All I can muster is to ask every two minutes if Leon’s okay.

“He’s good, Lav,” Hop reassures, though his voice shakes. “He’s got it.”

“Brilliant, really,” Marnie agrees. She’s more confident.

Piers scoffs from the driver’s seat. “Brilliant publicity stunt, more like.”

His sister snaps at him. “Bruv, shut your hole and drive.”

He shrugs. “Just sayin’.”

I don’t know what it is. I don’t care what it is. It’s happening, and Leon’s in danger, and I can’t reach him fast enough. Don’t even know what I can do to help him, but I’ll do it.

Honey whimpers at me, nuzzling her head under my chin. She knows something’s wrong. Comforting her comforts me. I’ll hold him like this soon, I tell myself.

“Lav!” Hop exclaims. “Raihan’s there now too. Lee’s got help.”

“The Perrserker’s down!”

I nod, but it doesn’t ease my nerves like it should. He’s still fighting wild dynamax ’mon. That’s insane. That’s unheard of.

“Oh, blimey.” Piers sounds uneasy. “They really shootin’ a better Pacific Rim sequel out there.”

Bracing myself, I look out the front. Hammerlocke is in full view against the setting sun. It’s castle-like city center is nearly dwarfed by Ignatius, the Bewear, and a gigantamaxed Duraludon that must belong to Raihan. I try to take comfort in the two-on-one setup, but the Bewear is still giving them trouble. It’s not behaving like it’s got a strategy. It’s just swinging wildly at one or the other. Battling in the streets like they are, movement must be limited. Leon and Raihan are sure not to let their ’mon run wild in the city.

I clutch Honey tighter as I watch Ignatius take a punch to the face. Fear grips me even as he recovers from the blow and retaliates with a blast of fire.

Leon’s right there, at the base of this.

“H-he’s got this, Lav,” Hop says shakily, like he’s trying to reassure himself too. “They’ve got this. They’re the strongest in the region.”

I’m still shaking like a leaf.

Piers takes us as far as he can before traffic and a growing crowd block the road. We have to stop, and I’m fit to scream. Sitting here like this is unacceptable, so I return Honey and push through the bus doors without a word of warning.

“Oi, Lav!” Piers calls. “You even know where you’re goin’, girl?”

Marnie yells over top. “Lav, come back!”

Answering them would waste too much time. I push through the crowd, ignoring that it’s a mile of people. Ignoring how tightly packed it is. Ignoring how slow I’m going and how often I have to pause. Maybe there’s nothing I can do. Maybe Leon doesn’t need me, but I need to be there!

It’s getting harder. It’s so much. It’s too much. I’m stuck in place, being jostled by the frightened crowd. My anxiety flares. It’s so hard to breathe now. I can barely move. It feels like I’m drowning.

I could fly over everything on Zephyr if I wasn’t so afraid of falling. I’m a coward, what the hell am I doing here?

I’m gonna fucking faint...

Someone grabs my wrist, and I scream.

“This way, Lav!” Hop yells over the noise.

He pulls me up for air and drags me along, more abrasive about it than I was. I focus on the back of Hop’s head and try to breathe. We’re moving, we’re moving forward. Closer to Leon.

I recognize more and more of the city as we make our way to the center. The crowd erupts in a deafening cheer, and my stomach flips in hopes that it’s over.

We reach the police line, and I can see him. He’s standing at the Hammerlocke stadium entrance with Raihan, Rose, and Oleana. He pants heavily as he talks, and even from here I can see the sweat and a few cuts, but he’s okay.

Bloody hell, he’s fucking okay.

The place is a torn up all to hell, but I can’t see any dynamaxed ’mon.

Hop moves to take us under the police tape, but an officer steps in our path.

“Kids, for your safety, we need you on this side of the—”

“THAT’S MY BROTHER!” Hop shouts, deeper than I’ve ever heard him speak. The officer’s so taken aback that we shove past him and bolt.

As we approach, Leon does a double take. “Guys?”

We about bowl him over. Now that I can feel him, tangible in my arms, I let out the sob I’d been holding in.

There’s a quick exchange between Leon and Rose, but it’s muddled for me until I realize we’re moving inside.

I don’t let him go the whole time. We just walk like this.

Even when we’re out of sight of the cameras and the group takes a collective sigh, I don’t budge. I just cry into his chest, because I can’t hold it together and I suck.

Hop speaks for us both. “Lee, what—”

“I know,” Leon pants.

“What the bloody hell got in your head?!”

“Okay, lemme just take a breath.” His arm’s around me. “Lav?”

My only response is a whimper. I squeeze him harder. Like if I don’t hang on, he’ll slip away to something more dangerous.

“Lav, I’m fine. Don’t cry,” he soothes.

Rose clears his throat. “Allow me, my boy. They deserve to know, surely.”

His voice is grating. Just because it’s his. Just because it’s the same voice that threatened Sonia and fucked over Marnie and Piers.

He and Oleana relay how there was a demonstration of a new generator under the stadium. How it tampered with the power spot and caused random dynamaxing, and how lucky it was Leon was present to tackle the beasts head on.

“Made a bloody mess of my city,” Raihan snaps. “And my pitch to boot. Put everyone in a right panic.”

“The damages to Hammerlocke are my priority, of course,” Rose states. “Rest assured protocols are already in place for events such as this.”

“Oh, wonderful.” Raihan lays on the sarcasm thick. “Glad you’ve so thoughtfully considered the aftermath of your bloody death machine. Good work.”

Rose chuckles. He’s trying hard to save face, I can tell. “I recognize things got out of hand, which is why we will delay any further testing until the season has concluded and more information is gathered.”

“When you’ll have a different champion to play janitor for you?” Hop rebukes.

My heart pounds. This could happen again. Someone else could be thrown at these things.

I think of everyone I know on the fast track for the semifinals: Hop, Marnie, me…

“Alright, everyone cool their jets a minute,” Leon speaks up. He’s rubbing my back. “That was mental what just happened, but it’s over, okay? No one was killed. Let’s be grateful for that.”

A realization hits me. I remember what this is. Slowly, I show my face.

“Leon,” I rasp, tears staining my cheeks. “Is this that side project Rose needed help with?”

His face falls at the sight of me. “Y-yeah, it was.”

My throat tightens. I shake my head pleadingly as I back away. “No. No, you can’t do this again. I don’t even care what the papers print. I am not worth it!”

“Sorry, what?” Raihan leans forward, arms crossed.

“Rose said he’d pay the tabloids to lay off Lav,” Hop explains, glaring at the chairman. “If Lee agreed to this.”

Raihan is incredulous. “Pardon my language for a bit, chairman?”

Rose sighs, exasperated. “Sure.”

“That is thoroughly fucked.”

“Alright, alright!” Leon throws up his arms, trying to reign everyone in again. “That’s not exactly what happened. The deal was I attend a couple demonstrations, nothing more. There was no way we could have predicted this disaster. Right, sir?”

“Of course!”

“Great.” He clasps his hands together, frustrated. “Though I do agree for the sake of… present company, it’d be best I wasn’t involved until things were more secure.”

It’s a landing pad, and Rose takes full advantage. “Certainly, certainly! I could never place you in such peril, my boy. I was at my wits’ end tonight as it was! And besides…” He takes my hand and gives me a slight tug toward him. My shoulders rise uncomfortably. “I’d sooner suffer a thousand sleepless nights than witness another tear shed from this pretty face.”

“The money to those papers doesn’t stop, then?” Hop demands, still on the offensive. I feel him step close to me.

The smile on the chairman’s face is pleasant, and I’m sure Sonia saw through it too. “Consider it a permanent media blackout.” He snaps his fingers at Oleana, and she takes note on her tablet.

I pull my hand away and move back to Leon.

“Appreciate it, sir,” he says. I love him, but he’s so oblivious. “Really, I do.”

Oleana checks her phone before whispering into Rose’s ear.

“Ah, yes. Of course.” He adjusts his tie. “Leon, I’m afraid duty calls.”

“No, I understand.” Leon puts his hands on my shoulders. “Lav, listen. There is a giant crowd of people out there, freaked all to hell. I need to go out there and calm them down. Let them know everything’s alright.” His grip tightens a little. “Because everything is alright, got it?”

I nod, trying not to cry again.

“I’ll see you later tonight. Promise.” He kisses my forehead. “Rai, take them to your place?”

“Yeah, mate,” Raihan replies flatly. He’s still got his eyes on Rose. “Sure thing.”

*****

It’s quiet in Raihan’s flat.

Hop sits in an armchair, staring out the window in thought. Raihan messes with his phone, occasionally getting up to do something in another room. There’s no sound save for the hum of the air conditioning and Jabber’s snoring.

Leon and I are stretched out on a couch. We have been since he walked through the door. The incident was related to Macro Cosmos more than the League, so his job is over. I get him for the rest of the night.

I’m lying on top of him with my head on his chest. The way he’s holding me feels secure and safe, and not just for me. If he’s here, he’s not out there, not being stupid. The sound of his heartbeat reminds me he’s okay. I squeeze my eyes shut, wishing we could stay like this and never face Rose again.

I texted Marnie earlier, apologizing for my recklessness. She told me to take it easy and that she’d be back in Hammerlocke in a day or two, that we’d touch base then. Her understanding makes me feel guilty for the help, from her and from Piers.

Leon’s lips rest on the crown of my head for a moment. “How’re you feeling, Lav?”

My fingers curl around a crease in his shirt. “Still freaked out.”

“I’m sorry.” He hugs me tighter. “But hey, took care of it, didn’t I? Nothing I couldn’t handle.”

“Are you serious?” I raise my head. “You could’ve died.” I glance at Raihan. “Both of you could’ve died.”

“We battle dynamax ’mon all the time,” Leon counters.

“Not like that!” Hop interjects. “Wild dynamax? No stadium? And you two just throw yourselves at it? That’s mental!”

Raihan leans the back of his head against his hands. “Yeah look, mates, I’m not too thrilled with how it shook out either, but some heavy chips were down. Wasn’t much time to think on it, y’know?”

“Yeah, but…” I purse my lips with searing guilt. “I mean, Leon… You wouldn’t have even been there if you didn’t make that deal for me—”

“Lav, don’t.” Leon moves my head to make eye contact, so reassuring he’s almost stern. “Bloody hell, I can’t believe you’d even think—this is not your fault.”

“It’s not just that...” I swallow. “I think… maybe you should be pickier about doing what Rose says. The hell does a generator have anything to do with being champion?”

He inhales, shrugging.

I press harder. “What’s so bloody special about it anyway?”

That, he answers. “It’s some machine that gets energy from wishing stars, that’s why the malfunction triggered the dynamax. I guess, I zoned out for most of the presentation, to be honest.”

And yawning to boot, I bet.

Hop sits up like something bit him. “Sorry, come again?”

“Wishing stars,” Leon repeats. “That’s all I got, mate.”

Gears are turning in Hop’s head, and while I wait for him to put the pieces together, Raihan gets a buzz.

“Ah, Sonia’s here.”

She’s absolutely livid.

“What the hell were you thinking?!” Raihan can’t get his arms up quick enough to stop the smack to his head.

“Fuckin’ hell, Son!”

“You dumb, foolish gits! Where the fuck is Leon?”

The man in question hides his face with my hands, and I have to giggle at it.

Sonia marches over, not finding the joke funny one bit. “Lav darling, get up, I don’t want you in the crossfire.”

I do as she says because, fuck, I don’t either. The instant Leon is in range he gets hit, and what a noise it makes.

“Okay, yeah.” He rubs his head. “Happy now?”

“Not in the least!” She huffs, face red as a tomato berry. “What the devil happened out there!”

“Sonia,” Hop speaks up urgently. “Rose is trying to use wishing stars as an energy source. That mean anything to you?”

She whips around, gone from angry to curious like a switch. “I’d have to look at my notes, but that seems dodgy. They’ve never been used on a grand scale, and lord knows what would happen if a number of them were triggered over a power spot—wait! Is that what tonight was about?”

Leon and I nod.

Dropping her bag, she storms off to the kitchen. “I need a bloody drink.”

*****

We stand around the kitchen island with drinks and snacks (save for Raihan, who sits on the counter top), but the air around us still feels heavy. I can’t handle anything more than water and at the moment.

“I knew it,” Sonia says once we’ve finished explaining things. “That deal was rotten. Utterly rotten. How fucking dare that slimy bastard—”

Leon interrupts. “Hey, I know Rose isn’t your favorite guy, but he’s juggling a lot.”

Sonia grunts in frustration and pounds a fist on her knee. “Understatement, Leon. Bloody understatement.”

I avert my eyes, not wanting to let on we share a secret.

“Things went south, I know. We’re all a little put out.” Leon looks between us. “It was a freak mistake, but things are getting patched. You guys don’t know Rose like I do, alright? He’s got his issues, but he’s a solid guy all around.”

He’s trying desperately to keep the peace in this room. That’s what he does. That’s what the Unbeatable Champion does: makes people happy, all of Galar. My heart should go out to him for it, but we’re not the whole region. We’re a group of people who have suffered at the hand of one common factor.

After everything I’ve learned and seen, I can’t let that statement stand.

“He’s not, Leon.” All the air seems to get sucked from the room as Hop beats me to it. “Rose is a right bastard.”

Leon sighs. “Hop, please—”

“No.” He shakes his head, suddenly looking a lot taller than normal. “No, I need you to listen to me. This guy took you from me and Mum, and for the last ten years he’s paraded you all over the place like a prized Tauros. I used to think it was really cool. I’d watch you on the telly and think it was the best life there is, but after this summer and especially after tonight, no.” There’s such conviction on his face, I hardly recognize him. My Hop. “No, what Rose has done to you is bloody mental.”

Leon’s stone-faced as could be. “Excuse me, this job is not easy, alright? He’s been with me every step of the way.”

“Yes.” Sonia sighs. “Making you say stupid catch phrases and wear clothes you don’t even like.” She starts counting the ways on her fingers. “Plus planning your education, switching out your team members, controlling your social media, your public opinions, your diet, your personal life—”

“Son of a bitch!” He takes a step back, irritated. “Any the rest of you have something to say about this bollocks?”

His eyes fall on me, and I want to disappear. He’s not challenging me, he’s looking for help. An ally. I wish I could respond in the way he wants, and I nearly do. My senses are flaring from all this conflict, and I’d love nothing more than to calm things down so breathing gets easier.

Actually, that’s a lie. I love him more.

Can’t look at him, though.

“You’re exhausted,” I murmur. “You tell me all the time how tired you are.”

Raihan doesn’t offer a bone either. “Nah, mate, I’m with them on this one. You’re stacked like a Jenga tower fifteen minutes into the game. One little nudge…” He demonstrates, raising an arm and tipping it until it falls, making a crashing noise for emphasis. “That’s you.”

“Yeah, I got it.” Leon pinches the bridge of his nose. “Well, I know three of you have eyes on the top, so I guess one of you should take the damn title so we can be done with it, ah? See how you fuckin’ handle it. Shit! Let’s draw straws. Winner gets the cape.”

God, he’s right. If one of us is champion, Rose is what we get.

This is heading to a poor place, and I need to do something. “Leon…” Fuck my meek voice.

“Alright, mate, cool it.” Raihan slides off the counter. “You’re talkin’ like a real arse right now.”

Leon scratches his head with irritation. “Am I? What, you think old Rose rubbed off on me? Go on, then.”

My insides are hollow, replaced with hot air. I want them to stop.

“Just talk to the guy.” Hop leans forward. “We’re worried, bruv.”

They erupt, all talking on top of one another.

“Okay, just—”

“Dammit, look—”

“You can’t keep—”

They’ve been my support, and it’s crumbling.

Sonia piles on. “This is hard to hear, I know, but you need really need to listen before—”

I try to reach for him, practically wheezing. “Leon, please.”

“Will the lot of you just sod off!” He flails his arm, shoving me away. And the look on his face…

I think of Grace.

The attack kicks in full throttle. I bolt, hyperventilating. Too choked to vomit, too hot to cool down.

I don’t know where I’m going. Up the stairs? Sure! Anything to get away. Step by step, I run. It never ends. The staircase, the panic, the pain. It never fucking ends.

Arms are numb, chest is heavy, legs give out.

I’m vaguely aware of falling. I’m vaguely aware of hanging on to the railing with the last of my energy. I’m vaguely aware of my name called, of Leon and Hop setting me on a couch, of Sonia trying to revive me, of Raihan calling the ambulance. It passes over me like a breeze until it all fades to black.

I’m left with my thoughts. The most dangerous place to be.

At the end of the season, someone stands as the champion. Someone’s going to be under Rose’s thumb. I imagine him working Leon to the bone for another year. I think of him telling Hop he can’t visit home and ordering Marnie what to wear, what to say. I picture him finding something to hold over Raihan’s head to reign him in.

I think about how happier their lives would be if it were me instead.

Yeah. I never wanted it, but I could still be the champion. Leon said I could beat him. I’m already miserable all the time, what difference would it make? They’re all so much more than me. Better than me. Wonderful and kind and incredible, and they’ll outgrow me, eventually, because I’m tiring. I’ll just cut it short now and get it over with on my terms. I can take the hit. I can shield them. No need for Peach to be saved if she chooses to be locked in Bowser’s castle, right?

It’s fine.

It’ll be fine.

The publicity, the attention, I’ll… It’ll be fine.

I’ll make it work, even if it kills me.



Yeah.

Thank you SWSH for giving me the opportunity to make the champion title utterly poisonous and not a triumphant end goal.
 

pinkshellos

Black Lives Matter !!
Artist
Team Delta
Pokédex No.
1220
Caught
Dec 23, 2019
Messages
278
Location
Hoenn Route 120
Nature
Calm
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Bug, Flying
Pokédex Entry
A timid Pokémon typically found in groups. The only thing that motivates her more than companionship is food.
I have no other reaction to this chapter other than Oh My God— I’m not super familiar with the tail end of the SWSH main story, so I don’t know what happens with Rose after he goes through with his antagonist’s evil plan(TM), but oh MAN I hope it is something bad.

Bowser indeed.

I love that, with the direction the story’s been going, the Super Mario (plus Zelda) metaphor has been crumbling a bit. Mainly where it pertains to Leon and Lav. It’s pretty obvious now that Leon isn’t actually that much of a Mario since he’s been under Rose’s thumb for so long, and when you compare his situation with Lav’s, she seems like far less of a Princess Peach — less trapped and far less alone. I’ve got a soft spot for intentional character inversions like that. God I fucking love this fic.
 

Wwarborday

Gradually Becoming Productive
Pokédex No.
153
Caught
Jun 28, 2019
Messages
200
Location
Gaytown
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
He/him/his
Pokémon Type
Ground, Ice
Pokédex Entry
I'm Doing My Best
Glance, "Yeah, uh, this is my thirst fic?"
Every single goddamn person, "Interesting." (But it's the meme of Megan from Dark and Josh and NO it won't let me inser it the way I want to.)

Yeah. I never wanted it, but I could still be the champion. Leon said I could beat him. I’m already miserable all the time, what difference would it make? They’re all so much more than me. Better than me. Wonderful and kind and incredible, and they’ll outgrow me, eventually, because I’m tiring. I’ll just cut it short now and get it over with on my terms. I can take the hit. I can shield them. No need for Peach to be saved if she chooses to be locked in Bowser’s castle, right?
NOOOOOOOOOO WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

Spectacles

Rule Maker
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
139
Caught
Jun 24, 2019
Messages
453
Location
Pennsylvania
Nature
Jolly
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
Fairy
Pokédex Entry
It hides deep inside caves where no light ever reaches it and remains virtually motionless there. ~Pokemon Crystal, entry #52
Finally all caught up! I loved getting into Sonia and Leon's heads for their chapters, especially that conversation between Leon and Hop! Speaking of Hop, he is really starting to become such a badass and is really standing up for himself! Ugh I hope poor Leon breaks out of his Stockholm Syndrome soon...And I hope Lav doesn't have to put up with this same shit as champion.
 

Dee

THIS IS MY HAPPY FACE
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
147
Caught
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
805
Location
Zion National Park
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
They/Them
Pokémon Type
Bug, Clever
Pokédex Entry
A regular writer of fanfics and other works, this pokemon loves puns, bugs, and the outdoors.
Caught up and oh man, this chap hurt, this one hurt, poor Lav, both in the past with Grace and in the present--is this why she guns for the Championship? No my poor girl don't do this to her ;o;

You're so cruel, glance, I love you, I love this fic ;w;
 

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