koyuki: (pokemon 」 you'll always be my #1 girl)
/人◕‿‿◕人\ ([personal profile] koyuki) wrote in [community profile] southofreality2010-11-14 05:39 am

speaking a dead language (Green/Red + various, 3/3)

Title: speaking a dead language
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~6400 this chapter, ~12300 total
Genre: Angst/Supernatural
Series: Pokémon
Characters/Pairings: Green/Red, implied Ethan/Silver(/Lyra), Leaf, various others
Warnings: language, violence, additional warnings under the cut.
Summary: Sometimes, there are people you just can’t live without. For Green, Red is that person.
A/N:
OMG GUISE I'M SO SORRY THIS IS INCREDIBLY LATE Q_Q Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] wanderlark for the beta'ing even though she ended up holding the fic hostage too. I hope it's worth the wait (maybe?)

Also, I realized that maybe the story order is confusing, so I retroactively went back and relabeled all the scenes so you can get a feel for when they occurred relative to each other. You don't need to reread them unless if you want to since that's the only thing I changed, but that's why there are numbers now! I also created a timeline for you to look at, but I wouldn't suggest looking at it until after you finish reading since there are spoilers.

Lastly, here are some really tl;dr author's notes about the story if you care. Probably not. But I wrote them anyway.

Please enjoy!



Additional Warnings: highlight for plot-sensitive details. homophobia, language, violence, implied sexual situations, character death


one | two | three

and brick by brick we started crumbling
will i find you when it falls?

- "speaking a dead language"


speaking a dead language


(6)

"Red died, Green."

It had taken Leaf a while to figure out what to do. At first, she dances around the topic, and it takes her a suggestion to move to the kitchen and the shredding of an entire napkin before she finally spits it out. Green blinks at her, muted into shock. Then, he turns away and refuses to say anything, refuses to do anything at all. The kitchen clock ticks loudly in the background.

"Green," she cries. "I
told you. Weren't you listening?"

When Green still doesn't respond, Leaf almost dissolves into hysterics.

"He died, Green. Red
died. How could you not have known - everyone knew, it was all over the news, didn't it mean anything -"

Abruptly, Green stands up, his chair's legs loudly scraping against the linoleum floor, and Leaf jerks back in surprise, immediately quiet. Green is still as Leaf watches him for a moment.

"Green?" Leaf whispers.

"I - I know," Green says. He knows Leaf wouldn't lie to him. "I believe you. I just... need to think." He hesitates. "And I'm sorry."

Green walks out the door.



*


(18)

Green stares numbly at the ceiling in his office. He's never really noticed it before, he realizes, though probably with good reason. It's dull and grey and not particularly interesting, and he should be doing the paperwork he still hasn't caught up on, but he's not in the mood. So Green stares at his ceiling instead.

"Green?" There's a knock on his door.

Green sighs and sits up. "Come in."

One of his trainers - a girl he recognizes as Ida - pushes open his door with a box of badges in hand. "New shipment." She smiles. "Just came in."

Green nods. "Put them over there," Green says and gestures to a corner in his office. Ida walks over and puts the box down.

Just as she's about to exit the room, Green asks monotonously, "When did Red die?"

Ida stops in her tracks and turns. "Green?" Her voice trembles slightly. When Green doesn't respond, vacant eyes looking vaguely in her direction, she cautiously starts, "About three ye-"

"I don't mean that," Green snaps, and Ida jumps, shocked. Green sighs. "Sorry, I meant - a date."

There's a long pause as Ida thinks. "It was in March. Almost a month after I started."

"Thanks," Green breathes, and grabs for his coat. "Tell everyone they can have the rest of the day off. I'll close the gym."

Ida nods and scurries out quickly, just in case he changes his mind.



Green comes back from the library a few hours later with all the newspapers from February to June of that year. He scans through the articles about him or Red, careful to avoid the ones written with malice, until he comes across the story he's looking for.

Red. Team Rocket. The accident.

Green reads the ones after that too, and notices the change in tone. Red was a hero, they all read. Red was a brilliant trainer and a good person, someone who loved Pokemon. Like those were the only things people thought about him when he was still alive.

They were the things that really mattered, of course, but no one cared when he was still alive. Or maybe people were too cowardly to speak ill of the dead.

Green reads the articles about him, too, about how Team Rocket tried to take over his gym, how he single-handedly beat them all off, and chuckles at the memory. He remembers all of that, how angry he was, how he couldn't remember why he was so angry afterwards.

He digs through for the ones about the funeral next, but none of them mention him - how Red's death affected him, how he wasn't there, how he wasn't invited.

He doesn't stop reading until dawn.



Green wakes up the next morning to pounding against his office door and worried voices from the other side.

"Green? Green! Are you okay?"

Green grunts and pushes himself off his desk.

"I'm fine," he yells back. "I'll be out in a minute." He ruffles the flattened side of his hair with one hand and puts the pages back together with the other, folds up the newspapers, pushes the pile to the corner of his desk. He has work to do.

It isn't until past lunchtime that Green has a chance to return to his office. He looks at the giant stack of newspapers on his desk and squints. He'd been looking for something, and he's pretty sure that he doesn't want to remember why.


*


(8)

It was just supposed to be a routine mission, he's later told. Red was just supposed to check up on some Rockets, take care of them if necessary, but wasn't supposed to be dangerous or go so wrong.

This is what happens, the part he always forgets: after Green leaves for work that day, Red gets a call to investigate suspicious activity past Cerulean City, by the Power Plant.

Team Rocket had been trying to manipulate electric signals to weaken the wild Pokemon in the area, but didn't have the proper technology to control the pulse. Their signals would've caused all the Tentacool and Tentacruel in the nearby river poison the waterways and contaminate the drinking water. Or worse, the signal could have reached as far as Cerulean Cave and create enough havoc that the Pokemon there would escape and attack the city.

If Team Rocket even gotten that far - the signals they managed to create couldn't be sustained and would have devastated the entire area.

But Red had deactivated enough switches by the time the generator exploded that it was contained to just the power plant.

Red was a hero, they all tell him, like it would make a difference. He had saved thousands of lives.

Green wants to argue back: you'd hated him, had wanted him to fall apart. He doesn't and is instead just grateful that people even cared that much about Red at all.



"There are reports of Rockets attempting to break into your gym," Lance informs him.

"No shit," Green says. "Who are you getting your intelligence from? I could've told you that."

"We have reason to believe that a device which can control their desired electric impulse signal is located somewhere in the Viridian Gym, and that they are after it. Since this is an official Elite Four investigation, we would like your full cooperation, Gym Leader Green."

"Official investigation?" Green hisses. "Are you investigating why Red is dead? How well you take care of your own? Or why I wasn't invited to his funeral?"

Lance flinches back. "Green..." he tries.

"Shut up. Shut up. This is my gym, and I can fucking take care of it myself."

"Green," Lance says sternly. "This doesn't have to be a request."

"Yeah? So?"

Lance considers his words carefully before speaking. "You've recently experienced a very traumatic loss. Should the league council decide that you are not emotionally or mentally suitable for service, you will be relieved, at least temporarily, of your duty."

There is a long, uncomfortable silence, and the air between them hangs stiffly. "Green?" Lance asks, hesitant and unsure.

"You know," Green finally says, "if Clair or your grandfather died - or if were married - no one would dare tell you that you might be 'temporarily relived of your duty.' No one's even offered me an 'I'm sorry' yet." Green swallows, and his voice is low and shaky.

Before Lance can say anything, Green digs through his pocket for his gym keys and chucks them at Lance's head. "Here, have them. Do whatever the fuck you want."

When Green walks away, he holds his head up and makes sure that everyone knows he doesn't cry.


*


(19)

Leaf comes around to the gym every day for a week after that. Green doesn't want to see her, doesn't want to talk to her, and doesn't know why. He knows that with her is a reality he does not quite want to acknowledge just yet, if ever.

Instead, he holes himself up in his office until she goes away.

"Green!" Leaf yells through his door. "You can't keep doing this."

"Doing what?" he yells back. "My paperwork? 'Cause you're distracting me from doing it quite well."

On the last day, Leaf is quieter but more insistent, and camps out in front of his office.

"Green," she says. "I have things I need to do so I can't stay here forever, but I'm not going to leave until we talk."

Leaf is stubborn, but she also seems to have forgotten that Green is at least as stubborn as she is. He's slept in his office plenty of times before, and he's not afraid to do so until she decides to leave.

Five hours into their battle of wills, Eevee gets tired of the childishness, jumps off of Green's desk and pops open the lock to the door. Leaf blinks at Eevee once, stands up, picks her off the floor, and rushes into Green's office.

Green sighs and attempts to summon some sort of irritation or anger. He fails, of course, because it's Eevee and instead resigns himself to whatever lecture Leaf's about to give him.

"You're not the only one who loved Red, y'know?" Leaf says, her tone sharp and cold. She stares him down, but when it doesn't elicit a response, she deflates a little. "Red wouldn't want you to hurt yourself like this, Green."

Green stares at his paperwork and fiddles with his pen, and Eevee hops out of Leaf's arms to cuddle up to him. Leaf sighs. "You've been in denial long enough," she comments. "The other stages of grief are green with envy."



Leaf leaves without much of a fuss after that, and Green tries not to think about what she says for the rest of the day. When he finally steps out his office, though, Green's eyes unconsciously gravitate towards a sticky note posted on his door.

A message in Leaf's elegant penmanship left in red ink. Red sunrises are also the color of a new day.

Green should be thankful, he knows, but he almost hates Leaf at this moment, hates her for not letting him forget.

He also finds that he can't take the note off his door.



Green finds them plastered everywhere: on his apartment door, on the nightstand next to his bed, even inside his refrigerator - all places Leaf couldn't have gotten to without a certain someone's help. Green glares at Eevee, who only looks at him innocently and pouts when her dinner portion that night is a little smaller than usual.

Even though Green knows he should stop doing this to himself, he starts looking even harder. Every slight breeze that passes through his apartment, every fluttering of his curtains, all the things that used to hover in the periphery are now brought to the forefront of his attention.

At night, dreams of red and white and ice and snow are whispered in his ears, and he wakes up shivering and cold like death, reaching for something achingly familiar and just out of his grasp.

Green knows the truth. He has always known the truth, but he couldn't stop himself from wishing otherwise even if he'd tried.


*


(10)

Green doesn't hate his life, and he doesn't believe in defeat. It's not that Green wants to forget, it really isn't. He forgets because he doesn't want to give up, not in spite of it.

Green forgets because it's how he copes. He forgets because it's how he deals with a reality he refuses to accept. But most of all, he forgets because he simply does not know how to exist in a world where he doesn't have something more to look forward to.


*


(20)

Perhaps there's some truth to the saying "third time's the charm" because when Ethan ends up at his door again the first time in months, he doesn't look sad or dazed or ready to collapse. Instead, he's beaming with excitement, and even though he looks tired and disheveled and there's melting snow pooling on his cap and stuck to his hair, he's more alive than Green's ever seen him.

"Green!" Ethan pounces on him as soon as the door is open and invites himself into the gym without being asked.

Green almost pushes him out of his gym because he's getting ready to close, and Ethan doesn't have an excuse this time so he can damn well wait twelve hours or so just like everyone else.

Before Green can tell him this, Ethan spits out, "I beat him!" and Green stops dead in his tracks.

"Beat who?" Green asks carefully. He'd forgotten about this, why Ethan had come to him in the first place, and everything he'd assumed from that.

"The trainer on Mt. Silver! I beat him! I won!"

"Yeah?" Green tries to be as casual as he can about it. He's already eliminated the impossible, but he needs to make sure, just in case. "You find out his name?"

Ethan blinks at him. "I... don't know. He left as soon as I won. Didn't even shake my hand afterwards."

Green lets out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. It's not the closure he's been looking for, but it's enough for now.

He hums. "What're you going to do now?"

Ethan pauses. "I guess I could challenge the League again. Maybe even accept the Champion position this time. I mean all of this would be after..." After dealing with Silver. Right.

The two of them stand there awkwardly for a long moment until Green realizes that Ethan is dripping on his pristine gym floor.

"What are you doing here?" Green snaps. "Go find him."

Ethan tries to protest something about encouragement and moral support, and instead, Green shoves him out the door.



Ethan reclaims the title of Champion with such ease it's practically embarrassing, and Green ends up at Ethan's initiation ceremony against his will.

Silver is at Ethan's side the entire time, his expression a mixture of annoyance at Ethan's clinginess, pride, and discomfort at the glances cast their way. But he doesn't move away either, and Ethan's mother is also there to congratulate him at the end. Green can't help but notice Lyra awkwardly hanging at their side, smiling supportively and trying to be a good friend, but keeping a small distance.

There are still hushed comments and hurtful murmurs cast behind their backs in the crowd, but it's not nearly as bad as it had been with him and Red. Green even overhears a few remarks about how charming of a couple the two are intermixed with the other remarks. He can't help but feel a prang of jealousy at that - it's still not easy for Ethan, but it's easier than it ever was for him.

Sometime towards the end as the reception's dying down, Ethan wanders over to him, gratitude up to his eyes.

"I just wanted to thank you for everything," he says, and Green knows it's not just about the training, especially since Ethan had already thanked him for that. "You told me it was going to be hard, and I know it will, but - you made it a lot easier."

Green shrugs. He's not selfless - could never be selfless enough to wish for someone's happiness at the expense of his own (except maybe Red's) - but even then, he would never wish what he went through on someone else. Green never had a choice, but if that changed people's hearts even a little, he's not selfish enough to hope no one else would benefit from it.

"I won't say 'you're welcome.' But I am glad it worked out." He pats Ethan on the shoulder once before nudging him back towards the crowd. "You have people that want to see you more than me. Go mingle with them instead."

Green can't help but notice the expression on Ethan's face as walks back towards Silver.

Maybe, one day again, that could be him.


*


(7)

"Why the fuck would I want to watch this?" Green hisses the second time he finds Leaf at his apartment door after Red's funeral. "Yeah, okay, Red is dead. They're putting him into the fucking ground. Great. Thanks."

Leaf sighs. "This is the last time you'll ever see Red," she says too patiently, and presses the tape into his VCR. Green feels the guilt rise up in his chest. Leaf - the old Leaf - would never let him get away with saying these things, at least not without some snappy comeback.

He knows he's being ungrateful about the things she's been doing for him, and he shouldn't shoot the messenger. After all, Leaf is the only one telling him anything at all, who told him about Red, but Green needs to take his anger out on something right now, and they both know that.

"Sorry," he says, and Leaf turn towards him curiously. "I'm sorry. You're a good friend, and I'm a terrible person to be around."

Leaf shrugs. "It's not your fault. You have a right to be angry." Leaf bites her bottom lip. "I should've told you about the funeral myself. I thought you already knew. I mean, it was all over the news." She pauses. "Though, retrospectively, that was probably stupid since I know you don't watch the news." She looks up at him and meets his eyes.

Everything else that unsaid is left hanging in the air between them: why Green doesn't watch the news and why no one else said anything to him and if anything could ever make this okay. There are some things that Green will never be ready to talk about.

She presses play, and they both turn towards the TV screen.

"Why did they tape it?" Green asks rhetorically. "So they could remember the perfect tragedy for their perfect hero?" He laughs, and tries to ignore how much it stings that everyone else got to see this before him.

"Green..." Leaf says, but his eyes are fixed on the screen, and he doesn't say anything else for the rest of the clip.

It's almost a beautiful ceremony, Green thinks. There's pomp and grandeur and the sobbing, adoring masses. It's everything Red would've hated. But Green is thankful he had a proper burial.

There are shots of Red's mother as he's being lowered into the ground, close-ups of her crying and being comforted by Green's grandfather. A lump catches in his throat. Even if he had been at the funeral, Green wonders if they would've shown him at all.

"Red would've wanted you to be there," Leaf says finally, when tape cuts off and they are staring at a pixilated, grainy mess. Leaf looks at him expectantly, but he has no tears at all. Green is so far removed from what was happening on the tape that it doesn't even feel real.

"If I were there, I wouldn't have let them make it a spectacle of it," Green says definitively after he gathers his thoughts.

"Green," Leaf breathes. "Red saved thousands of lives. He died a hero. People wanted to pay their respects."

"People's memories are short," Green chuckles. "In a month, no one is going to remember who Red was except us."


*


(21)

It's not that Green wants to do it, but Leaf won't let him not. Reconciliation, she'd argued, is the first step to moving forward.

"I thought you said no longer being in denial was the first step to moving forward," he'd mocked her anyway, and she'd swatted at him.

"No, not being in denial the first step to not being an idiot," she'd snipped, though she was wearing a playful smile. "But seriously, Green. You don't have anything to lose. At worst, everything will stay the same, and at best you'll make peace with him - and yourself."

Green had rolled his eyes, but ended up promising Leaf he would try anyway, and Green's never broken a promise to her (that he could help). He isn't completely ready to forgive his grandfather yet, but he's not closed off to the idea of trying anymore.

Which is how he ends up sitting in front his telephone at 7am on a Saturday morning deciding what to do.

Green knows his grandfather is awake because his grandfather is a morning person and old, and normally - like a normal person - Green would still be asleep, but he's up early today, like he has been for the last several weeks.

But Green doesn't want to think about why that is. He doesn't want to think about what he's going to say to his grandfather either, but right now, he considers it the lesser of two evils.

After staring at his phone for half an hour, Green decides it's not going to bite him, picks up the receiver and punches in the lab's number, fidgeting as the dial tone sounds once, twice, three times...

There's dread and anxiety pooling at the pit of his stomach and threatening to push up to his throat, and Green realizes, oh no, he's not ready, he hasn't prepped himself enough for this, and he's just about hang up when there's a click and a voice on the other side of the line that says, "Oak Research Laboratory, Professor Oak speaking."

Green's swallows loudly - so loud that there's no way his grandfather could have missed it. He can't find anything to say.

"Hello?" Oak says again.

Green starts to panics after a second of silence - he knows he's about to hang up he doesn't know what to say he should just let him hang up-

"Grandpa," Green says, the word foreign on his tongue and his intonation halfway between a question and a statement.

Green wonders if he'd been too late, because there's a long pause but then there's no dial tone and -

"Green?"



Green doesn't know what he had been expecting, but he suppose awkward silence should've been on his list. He and his grandfather had never been close, and all the years of animosity and no communication probably don't help.

"I didn't know you were planning to call," his grandfather says after even more silence, and clears his throat.

Green barely manages to avoid saying something stupid like, Oh, I should've called ahead. To let you know I was going to call. Right. Instead he blabs out, "Oh, uh. Leaf said you wanted to talk so..." I got harassed into it? Had nothing better to do on a Saturday morning? "I just figured..." Green trails off and shrugs, even though he knows this phone doesn't have a camera monitor attached.

It's so horrible and awkward that Green is embarrassed for both of them and just wants to hide in a corner and die but that's not really an option. Instead, he pushes on: "Is this a bad time? 'Cause I can always call back later -"

"No! No," his grandfather interrupts. "Now's fine."

Green waits for him to say something else. Nothing else comes. Green shifts in his chair.

"Ahem. Ah, well, I just wanted to let you know I'm.... I'm still alive." His statement is met with a murmur of acknowledgement and more silence.

Green really wants to hang up, but how do you end a conversation with someone you haven't talked to in five years? Have a nice life? Smell ya later? Thanks for ruining my childhood? Green settles on the standard convention.

"Well, bye," he says, but just before he hangs up, his grandfather blurts out something like, wait.

"Huh?"

A pause. "Leaf was right. I did want to talk."

The breath Green lets out is shaky. He leans back into his chair and listens to Oak's side of the story.



"You know how stuck in their ways old people can be." Green isn't sure what he's supposed to say to that, if anything. "You always did look like your father," Oak muses. Green listens carefully. His parents have been out of the picture so long he's never considered them part of the equation.

"I don't even remember my parents," Green admits.

"You wouldn't," his grandfather says. "Daisy - she looks just like her mother now. She always did. I suppose that's why I've always favored her over you."

A spike of pain stabs Green in the heart. He hasn't cared about what his grandfather had to say for years, but even after all this time, hearing such a blatant admission of what he'd always known still hurt. He wonders why he's doing this, how tearing open old wounds that had been long-since healed can help him at all.

"But," Oak continues, "she can't help that any more than you could help looking like your father. I was bitter, and afraid, and I took that out on you. And in that, I failed my duty as a grandfather."

It doesn't make it okay, but it's better than nothing at all.

"I always considered Red's mother a second daughter, so when we found out - perhaps the old, conservative part of me didn't accept it for the same reason as everyone else ..." Green waits. "But it wasn't even your relationship. I felt like you were your father, stealing someone else from me."

"What you did didn't just hurt me," Green says. "It also hurt Red."

"I know."

Green closes his eyes and lets the words sink in. His grandfather doesn't actually say, "I'm sorry" or "I was wrong," but it's the closest thing Green will ever get to an apology.

"Green?"

"Yeah, I..." What can Green say? Not, You told us to keep away, and Red never got to see Pallet Town again. He can't say it because that would be petty. Even without a video screen, Green can tell that his grandfather sounds tired and old, older than Green remembered him sounding. Oak is old and wants to make amends, so Green won't be petty. After all, he better than anyone else knows what misery is, and knows it well enough that he wouldn't ever wish it on someone else, even if it was someone who'd ruined his life in multiple ways.

Green settles on, "Sorry for being such a stubborn brat growing up."

His grandfather snorts. "Yeah, well, I guess it definitely proves you are your mother's child." Green can practically hear Oak roll his eyes and smiles despite himself.

Right then, Green is hit with the realization that maybe it wasn't all so bad growing up, that maybe it doesn't have to be the way it is now. Maybe - maybe - it is possible put this past behind him, but he has a lot to think about first, and he's not going to let himself change his mind because of a story or a few quips. The urge to end the conversation before he can be swayed rises in him again.

"It was good talking to you, Gramps, but I, ah, I have stuff to do. Gym stuff," he lies. "So, yeah, maybe some other time -"

"Green," Oak says, and Green stops. "I - Daisy ... and Red's mother, they miss you. If you have some time, you should come back. Visit."

It's an invitation that comes a little too late - Green can't help but think about what the look on Red's face would've been if he had gotten to hear it as well - but it's also then that Green realizes forgiveness might not be so far off. "Yeah, maybe," he agrees.



The entire conversation is exhausting, and Green crawls back into bed after it's over. He falls asleep in minutes, but it's not an easy slumber. His dreams are filled with white and ice and snow and hail and it's covered in blood blood blood like red red Red.

Green jerks awake and stares up at his clock. Ten minutes. He buries his hands in his hair, his fingers icy and numb against his scalp.

Nothing makes sense anymore.

In a huff, he pushes off the covers and gets out of bed.

Leaf was wrong, Green thinks as he walks towards his closet. Reconciliation was not the first step towards moving forward. It was closure.

Green packs his bags.


*


(1)

Leaf is wide-eyed with disbelief. "You're kidding."

Red moves his right hand, which had been under the table resting on their booth seat, on top of Green's hand that was sitting on the dinner table.

Green makes eye contact with Red before he turns back to Leaf. "We're not. It's true."

There's an uncomfortable moment where they're just waiting for her response. "What you want me to say? I mean, I'm happy for you, but it's a lot to take in..." They both tense. "I'm sorry, I just need to think."

Leaf gets up and walks out of the diner. Green and Red look at each other. Leaf hadn't even finished her milkshake.



Leaf shows up at their apartment five days later with a bag full of popsicles in one hand. Red's out of town for work, but Green lets her in anyway.

"Red's not here, so you know," Green tells her.

Leaf shrugs. "S'okay. I kind of just wanted to talk to you. It's easier with two people anyway."

Leaf sets the bag down on Green's kitchen counter and offers him a green popsicle. "Or are you two such a soppy couple now that you'd rather have a red one?" she teases. Green sticks his tongue out at her and snatches the popsicle out of her hand. She laughs as she finds a blue one for herself and stuffs the rest into the freezer.

He and Red are still trying to situate themselves into their tiny studio apartment so the kitchen is a mess and their table is buried somewhere under a pile of boxes, and Green tries to clear out some space for them to sit. Leaf is impatient, though, and never had a great sense of propriety anyway, especially not when it came to him or Red, so she walks over to their bed and plops right down on it with popsicle in hand.

Green makes a slightly pained expression at her. The popsicle...

Leaf looks at him weirdly for a moment. Then something like realization and horror fades onto her face.

Oh God. "Wait, what, no!" Green sputters and hides his face in his hands. "The sheets are clean. Just - don't drip on the bed." He grabs a napkin from the kitchen.

Leaf scoffs and smacks him playfully when he's close enough to hand it to her. "Why didn't you just say so." Green sits down on the bed next to her, and they eat their popsicles quietly for a minute.

"Sorry I walked off the other day," Leaf says, wiping the sticky blue drips off of her hand. "I don't want you to think it was because I was... freaked out or anything. I mean, it was a lot to take in, but I wasn't lying when I said I was happy for you." She turns to look at him earnestly. "You've always been Green, and you're always going to be Green to me. And Red is and always will be Red, just like I'll always be me. That's what matters most, right?"

Green's expression softens. "Thanks."

"We're best friends, and that doesn't change a thing. The least I could do is support you, like I know you would for me." Leaf bites her lip. "But everyone else might not be as accepting. Have you told your grandpa yet?"

Green shakes his head. He has no plans to ever say anything to his grandfather again. They'd only told Leaf in the first place because they couldn't not and had always known she would come around sooner rather than later, but even then, the force of her initial reaction had surprised them. Now, neither of them are sure they want to say anything to anyone else at all.

"Oh, Green," Leaf says. "You don't need me tell you it'll be hard. I'll keep your secret but..." Leaf wraps her arms around him, and Green hugs her back. "Always remember that you have people who'll love you, no matter what."

Leaf pulls away. "But now you owe me milkshakes for the rest of my life," she laughs, but Green can't find it in himself to be annoyed. Not when in her smile was something a lot like hope.


*


(22)

Green's not sure how Mt. Silver could've ever been a vacation destination - he's not even sure there's not enough people living within a ten-mile radius of the place to populate an industry, and whoever gets sucked into thinking it does must have the worst vacation ever.

But it doesn't matter because he's here now anyway.

Green's not sure why he's looking for what he's looking for, but it seems like the right thing to do. Closure, he convinces himself. The last thing he needs to do before he can properly let go.

And maybe, he'll find the answer to all his weird dreams. All that snow and white and - Red? That had to have been a dream. But Green needs to know, needs to make sure for himself...

"Vui!" Eevee shivers and ruffles her fur, and Green sets her down on the cave floor.

"You're going to get sick if stay out of your Pokeball," Green scolds, and Eevee makes unhappy noises at him, pawing at his pants. "Don't worry, girl. I'll be fine," he says, though he's not sure if it's to reassure her or himself.

Eevee pouts, but doesn't fight Green when he returns her to her Pokeball. Green sighs as he reattaches her Pokeball to his belt, and shoves his hands in his coat pockets. The silence is deafening even through the blizzard. Now he's truly alone.

Green still has a ways to climb.

When he finally approaches the summit, Green is shivering like all those times when he'd woken up from those nightmares, and the flush of illness rapidly spreading across his skin is almost as imminent as the top. But he's gone for this long, he's almost there now and -

There's nothing. Nothing at the top. No Red or whatever trainer Ethan had fought. Just ice and snow and hail and white and nothing and - Green doesn't even realize it's his own tear freezing against his skin as it slides down his cheek.

Of course there was no Red. How could there be when he'd died? But oh, Green had been so shrewd, holding out that hope in his heart even when he knew the truth, but never quite accepting it as such. He'd always had that little irrational flicker of hope.

It serves him right, he thinks. This is why it was perfect: because there was never anything without Red, so there was just nothing. Nothing nothing nothing nothing there'd been nothing there all along.

Green collapses in the snow.


*


(0)

Sometimes, there are people you just can't live without. For Green, Red is that person.


*


(23)

Green's not sure how or when he makes it back down, but when he does, the world feels engulfed by fire. He stumbles across town, brain nearly incoherent with fever, and drops Eevee and his other Pokemon at his gym because he's in no condition to look after them himself.

Leaf yells at him through her PokeGear - Oh my God, how could you have been so irresponsible?! - and books the first available flight back from Isshu. But even after half a day, she's still at least another thirteen hours away.

For now, it's just him alone in his apartment. Green's tired and drowsy, but he can't sleep anymore. He's sure he's slept something like eighteen hours already, so now he's relegated to staring at his furniture and ceiling. He battles through his feverish haze, turns towards his window and - Red's standing there.

Green curses to himself. Why here, why now, when Red hadn't even been on top of Mt. Silver? When Green thought he was finally ready to move on?

"You're dead," Green says as he watches Red move away from the window towards his bed, to himself more than anyone else. "You're dead, I'm sick and delusional, and you can't be here right now."

Red stops at the edge of Green's bed, hovering so close that Green could touch him if he weren't so tired and his limbs so lethargic with fever. Green barely manages to turn on his side to look at him. There's something like a smile on Red's lips, halfway between a smirk and exasperated affection, that Green remembers he'd always loved.

That he still loves.

Red takes Green's wrist, his cold fingers burning like dry ice against Green's hot skin. He presses Green's palm against his cheek. Solid.

Don't I feel real to you?

Though cold, like death.

Green moves his hand from Red's cheek to his chest. No heartbeat.

"You died," Green whispers.

Red closes his eyes. I know. I'm sorry.

The wetness pooling at the corners of Green's eyes drips, running down across the bridge of his nose. His vision starts to blur over.

"You died and left me alone," Green says, not accusatory, but distant like a statement of fact, fighting through the haze and stuffiness in his own head.

Red turns his head slightly before taking a few steps back from the bed, far enough that Green would have to reach for him. Green barely manages to prop himself up against the headboard.

"You don't have to be alone anymore," Red says. He holds out his hand.

"Why are you doing this?" Green asks in the general direction of Red's voice. He's so dizzy now, and even trying to wipe away the water in his eyes isn't helping refocus his vision anymore.

The only answer he gets is Red leaning close enough so Green barely has to reach - just enough so Green that can see him again.

But he hadn't needed it anyway. Green knows. Green has always known in his heart, in the same place he had harbored that flicker of hope that should have died so long ago. He couldn't even consider it defeat because it was Red, and Green could never win against Red, even the times he had beaten him. It was Red, and he'd never had any other options.

There had never been a choice.

Green takes his hand.

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