As Tessa strolled around the top of the hill housing the Aeon Observatory, she held up a paw and swatted away dead leaves carried by the breeze before they hit her eyes. More dead leaves crinkled beneath her feet with every step. She paused halfway around the building to kick some damp leaves off her right foot, then continued on her way until she found Shane sitting on the edge of the hill. He was looking down at the rows of trees from Dewdrop Woods. Some were bare. Others still had smatterings of yellow-orange leaves left on their branches.
"It's funny," Tessa began, resting her paws behind her head. Shane didn't flinch. He must've sensed her coming. "The leaves never used to do this in past autumns. I think the Tapus played a role in clearing them away." She walked up to Shane's left. "I take it this is something that happens in the human world?"
Tessa's aura feelers grew heavy. "Something wrong?" She looked at Shane. He had a noticeable slouch and, rather than curling his tails around his legs like usual, they were lying behind him against the ground.
"It doesn't sound like nothing."
Shane sighed. "Okay, then it's stupid."
"Y'know, if Nero heard that, he'd tell you not to belittle your own feelings." Tessa tilted her head and rested it against her right paw. "Try me."
"I, uh—" Shane's eyes turned pink, followed by his cheeks. "It's kind of embarrassing, but I think I'm homesick."
"Oh." Tessa straightened up. "That doesn't sound stupid at all."
"Yeah, well I'm homesick because of food," Shane admitted, rubbing his forelegs together. When Tessa didn't respond, Shane exhaled a cloud of frost. "See? Told you it was stupid."
"What? No, it's not." The lucario fidgeted with her scarf. "I'm just… not sure what to say, that's all."
"Because I've never really talked about missing the human world," Shane said. "So, for it to come up now, and be about food of all things…" He trailed off and shook his head. "You can tell me it's stupid. I feel guilty just for thinking about it. Especially after all the insanity we've been through."
Tessa had a response in mind this time. Putting a paw on Shane's shoulder, she said, "I think the stupid part is that you're beating yourself up over this instead of just coming clean and telling me what food-related memory's got you feeling blue."
Shane's tails curled up. Tessa worried she'd been too harsh, but relaxed when Shane's tails uncurled. "Right." He clicked his tongue. "Still working on the whole communication thing, I guess."
"Well, relaying building instructions is easier than talking about feelings," Tessa offered. She chuckled, but deduced her attempt to lighten the mood feel flat when Shane didn't reciprocate.
"So, like, there was this bakery near my house in the human world." Shane finally made eye contact with Tessa. "When fall came around, they'd sell the most amazing pumpkin products. Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie. Oh, gods, their pumpkin pie was to die for!" He salivated as his eyes and chest core turned orange. Tessa stepped back. Shane's tails briefly squeezed together into a bright, golden dragon tail. He glanced back at it and scrunched his face up. His icy tails returned.
"Uh-huh." Tessa scratched her head. It must've been a special bakery to evoke such a strong reaction. "One question, though: what's a pumpkin?"
Shane's head snapped back up. "Huh?"
"I've never heard of pumpkins." Tessa scratched her chin. "What kind of food are they?"
"They're a kind of fruit." He furrowed his brow. "No, wait, a squash! They're a special squash. They're plump and orange and they have a bunch of seeds inside of them." His tails swished in different directions.
That… doesn't help me much. I've never heard of squash, either. Tessa didn't want to say that out loud, though. Just talking about pumpkins improved Shane's mood a bit. "Well, uh, we don't have them in Aeon Town."
"I know." Shane's ears drooped. His head rippled between necrozma and ninetales. "I went to Crabrawler Café and the Kecleon Shop. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy." He gave Tessa the biggest puppy-dog eyes she'd ever seen. "Does the Horizon Continent just not have pumpkins? Or… or the whole pokémon world, for that matter?"
"I… can't say for certain," Tessa said. She didn't like seeing Shane bummed out. Especially when they finally had some time off. The team would be going back to work on building Arceus' community in the Mystery Continent any day now. So, Tessa needed a way to cheer Shane up.
Of course, one thing came to mind. But she wasn't sure the best way to go about it. Maybe I could ask Fenrir? Her zoroark spirit-brother had lived down south most of his life. Perhaps he knew about pumpkins?
"You still there, Tessa?" A blue-white forepaw waved in her face.
"Huh? Oh, yeah." Tessa stood at attention. Shane got to his feet and stretched. "You still need something?"
"Nah. I think I'm gonna go for a walk," Shane said. "Try and clear my head and stuff." He turned around. "Catch you later."
"Hang on." Tessa reached her arm out, though that wouldn't do anything.
"What's the matter?"
"You, uh…" Tessa's face flushed and she pivoted away from Shane. How could she phrase this politely? "There are… some wet leaves… stuck to your butt."
Shane's ears and tails shot up. He glanced at his backside and his eyes, core, and face abruptly reddened. "Aha… ha. Thanks for the save." He brushed the leaves off with his tails.
"No problem." Tessa had her face buried in her scarf. The sooner she could pursue the pumpkin matter, the better.
"Pumpkins? Can't say I'm familiar."
Fenrir lay atop a stack of boxes in the dining room, scratching his right ear with a claw.
"That town by Cosmic Cavern didn't grow any?" Tessa asked, though at this point it was the longest of long shots.
"Nah." The zoroark yawned into his paw. "Why the sudden interest?"
"Shane's feeling homesick because he used to have pumpkin treats at this time of year," Tessa explained. "I thought maybe it'd cheer him up if I could find pumpkins for him."
Giggles sent Tessa's aura feelers shooting up. She turned around to find Rebecca leaning against a wall, hand pressed to her snout. "Get out. No way Shane's a pumpkin spice bitch."
Tessa frowned. "Excuse me?"
"That's what we called people back home who went gaga over pumpkin products in the fall," the salazzle said, smirking.
Tessa didn't believe her. "If you're not going to help, you should keep the snide remarks to yourself."
"Oh, brother." Rebecca rolled her eyes. "I didn't mean it as an insult. I'm a pumpkin spice bitch, too. Lattes were my jam." She licked her snout. "Still, of all the things to get homesick over… that ought to be pretty low on Shane's list. What about television and smartphones and computers and, hell, any electricity for that matter?" Rebecca held her hand out and looked at her fingers. "Frankly I'm still shocked this place has running water."
"Give it a rest, Becca."
The room noticeably brightened as a certain xerneas waltzed in. Tessa offered a small smile. Celeste was looking far better than the filthy, disheveled state Shane had brought her to the Observatory in. Her horns even looked freshly-polished.
"Complaining about what you don't have won't change your situation," Celeste said. Rebecca scowled and looked at the ground. "Anyway, what's all the commotion about, anyway?"
"Shane has a hankering for pumpkins," Fenrir said. "Don't suppose the old god of life would know what they are?"
"Pumpkins?" Celeste's antlers shifted orange. "Of course I know about them. I'd grow some in Primeval Forest every autumn."
Tessa's heart skipped a beat. "Really? Then could you grow some for us now?"
Her jubilance took a hit when Celeste's antlers dimmed. "I wish I could… but when I lost my godly powers, I lost the ability to grow plants with Geomancy. I'd have to do it the old-fashioned way: fertile soil, seeds, water, and sunshine."
I don't have that kind of time. Tessa's aura feelers drooped. She'd been so close.
"Why not try the Grass Continent?" Celeste offered. "That's where most farmland is, if I'm not mistaken."
Fenrir chuckled. "I guess it is in the name."
Tessa didn't think the answer was that obvious, but what did she have to lose?
Her circadian rhythm, of course. Because jumping time zones was oh-so fun.
Feraligatr Chester yawned to stop a snot bubble from bursting. He rubbed his eyes with his right arm. "I don't know why you needed to come here at this ungodly hour for pumpkins, but this ought to do the trick, right?"
Tessa held a luminous orb up in the direction he was pointing. Rows of plump, orange spheres sat nestled amongst vines. Green stalks connected each pumpkin to the vine. An unexpected surprise that Tessa fortunately had a working solution for.
The lucario walked up toward the nearest pumpkin and knelt down next to it. "Hey, uh, how do I know if these are fresh?"
She was greeted with snoring as an answer. Guess I'll have to wing it. Tessa held her right paw out and jammed her metal spike into the stalk. It broke apart, allowing her to grab the pumpkin. Tessa picked it up and brought it over to a large crate she'd taken with her. Thank goodness she decided to bring it, otherwise she'd have only been able to take two pumpkins home with her.
… actually, wait, how many pumpkins did she need for baking purposes?
Tessa scratched her head, then decided it was better to air on the side of caution.
"What's with the cloak and dagger routine? It's not my birthday, y'know."
Tessa guided a blindfolded Shane down the Observatory's eastern hall, walking by the rainbow walls gradually shifting from deep blue to yellow. "Do you even have a birthday in this world?" she mused.
Shane stumbled. "Uh, well… you're dodging my questi—" His nostrils twitched and he abruptly came to a stop. "H-Hang on. That smell." Shane sniffed the air. "Is that… pumpkin pie?"
Having gotten close enough to the dining area, Tessa pulled Shane's scarf off of his eyes. "Surprise. I went out and found pumpkins. But I took way more of them than I needed for one pie, so…"
She gestured into the dining area, where six tables had been shoved together. Each one had several pumpkin pie tins sitting on it. Shane's tails shot up. His four necrozma wings momentarily popped out of his back before he got them under control. "H… Holy…" He swallowed a mouthful of drool.
Tessa grinned. It had been a long, sleepless night, but the reaction was even better that she imagined. Yes, Shane had been dumbstruck before, but that was usually out of shock. Here, he was happy. The good kind of dumbstruck.
"Wow, this stuff's incredible!"
Sitting at one of back tables, Nero stuck his head up from a mostly-empty pie tin. Pumpkin was smeared across his face from the tip of his head crest down to his chin. He licked pie off of his beak. "I vaguely remember this stuff from way back when, but I didn't know you could bake it into a pie."
"Aha… yeah. But maybe you ought to eat it a little less ravenously next time." Selene levitated a towel over to him. "Your head is orange… and not from fighting memories."
Nero licked more pie from his face. "I could share it, if you want."
Selene's ears crinkled. "Pass. I just showered."
"Aww, you're no fun." Nero stuck his tongue out.
Shane walked up to the nearest table. Tessa offered him a fork. "Shouldn't I, like, cut myself a piece?" he asked.
"People have just been taking their own pies." Tessa pointed to right with her fork. Rebecca lay on the ground with two empty pie tins next to her. Her slender salazzle physique emphasized the bulge in her belly.
"Oooogh, I think I," she interrupted herself with a belch, "overdid it."
"All right. If you insist." Shane snagged the fork with his ESP and scooped up some of the pie. Tessa clasped her paws together, hoping her work would get his approval. She was delighted when he bit down and his eyes widened and cycled asymmetrically through different colors. His mane turned to necrozma head tendrils for a few seconds and his tails squished together and turned gold.
If Shane were butter, Tessa would've thought he'd melt right in front of her. He lay his head down next to the pie tin. "I've missed this delicious treat." He chomped down on another forkful.
"Glad to hear it."
"You didn't have to do this for me, y'know." Shane sat back up. "I feel bad… since I don't have anything to repay you with."
"Consider us even for the breakfast picnic on Sky Peak, then." Tessa winked at him. "Besides, I had plenty of help with the actual preparation."
A raggedy arm appeared in porthole of the kitchen door.
"Still, I hope you didn't work yourself too hard," Shane said between mouthfuls.
Tessa rubbed her snout. "I'd like to think it was for a good cause. Between our whole adventure and now this construction job, I feel like Aeon Town hasn't been all that homely for you."
Shane raised an eyebrow. "Huh. That's a good point."
"I'd hope so." Tessa smirked. "I've got spikes sticking out of me. I should know a thing or two about good points."
Shane broke into a giggle fit. It warmed Tessa's heart. She couldn't help chuckling herself. A small part of her wondered if such a nice, happy moment was too good to be true. Some sort of fever dream. But no, that wasn't the case. She was happy. Shane was happy. They were happy together.
And then the ninetales reminded her of that fact with a surprise lick on her cheek. Lost in thought, Tessa reflexively leaned away. Her aura feelers shot up and her face reddened. "W-What was that for?!"
"A pumpkin spice kiss for my pumpkin spice princess," Shane cooed, eyes and core turning pink. Tessa blushed even harder. It was so awfully cheesy, but so Shane. Still, she had to do something. Everyone was staring at them.
"You know what I think of that?" she said.
"This." Tessa scooped up some pie with a digit and plopped it on top of Shane's snout. He went cross-eyed trying (and failing) to lick it off with his tongue.
"Okay, fair. I deserved that one."
And the rest of the room burst out laughing… save for Rebecca, who'd slipped into a food coma.
Just another short, fluffy, post-epilogue piece I felt like making. Please consider reviewing if you enjoyed. Also, there's a link to the Discord server at the end of the epilogue.