Curio shifted her weight, lying down on the couch with a great big yawn. "I'm so totally done with tonight, I swear to god."
"Ditto to that," Tony said, stretching in his chair. "Thanks for sticking with it, everyone. You both did a great job. Jeez." Tony sighed and took his glasses off, wiping his eyes. They looked a lot smaller when uncovered by that lens. "Yeah, I'm spent for tonight too. What time is it?" He squinted at his phone, then in the same breath, his eyes widened. "Past midnight?"
"Woah," Curio said, "I think we hit a new record there." She started laughing out of nowhere, which slowly dwindled into a sigh. "Okay then, now what? I feel like there's a lot more I wanna say, but—" that broke off into another yawn— "you know what, this couch is really nice. Forget it."
Tony smiled, standing up as he removed the camera from its tripod and scrolled through the screen. "Glad I got a good deal on that one."
"Speaking of deals…" Curio laid on her side, looking to both Shine and Tony. "I gave you a really bum deal before, Tony. Sorry again."
That was news to Shine. Again? So she apologised before? Never mind, they had buried the hatchet a day ago, so he put that at the back of his mind, but Shine sat still, taking in where the rest of the conversation would go.
"Well, I appreciate that you stepped forward to apologise. I know that's hard, given your stance on humans. I—"
"No, that's not why I was so pissed." She took a deep breath and stared at the ceiling, putting her metal hand behind her head. "I don't hate humans at all; I freaking love 'em. All the stuff they do, you know, it's inspiring. There are a few dipshits here and there, but there are also a lot of dipshits in the Pokemon kingdom. And the humans I meet I do get to talk to, well, whenever I have long, interestin' conversations with 'em, I forget I'm a Pokemon."
"It's the trainers she specifically doesn't get along with," Shine chimed in with a flat tone, repeating it for Tony's benefit.
"Ah…" He scratched his head. "Well… I can't exactly help being Shine's trainer. And we haven't even had one single battle since I got the license, so he had no obligation to do anything a typical trainer would expect him to do, really. Is that what you thought at first?"
"Yeah, exactly." Another sigh from her. "I thought you pulled him away from the stuff he wanted to do, like writing. That's why I planted the bucket on the roof."
"Huh, that's… interesting." Tony snapped the camera screen back into place, turning it over in his hands. "I thought that was just directed at me in general."
"Nope." Yet another sigh, then Curio sat back up with a newfound rage in her eyes. "Look, as a Pokemon, you really don't know what you have until you get it taken away from you. My time with a trainer back then was hell. No sculpting. No drawing. Just fighting. Each day I wasted with that bitch, bits of myself just slipped away." She grit her teeth. "I wasn't gonna let that happen again with Shine and his dreams."
"My dreams?" Shine said, rising up. "You don't know what my dreams are now."
"Yeah, you're right, I don't." She crossed her arms. "And I was stupid. But you guys know what I mean, right?"
Shine did, despite everything hurtful she said before. Tony laid the camera down on the seat and took a deep breath.
"Um, Curio, I think there was a bit of a misunderstanding. I never stopped Shine from doing anything. Hell, if I knew he was into writing, then I would've found groups for him." His tone was a bit more desperate there while still being quiet, waving one hand around to make his point. "I already try to encourage him to do the things he enjoys doing. So, I dunno what to say to that." He stomped one foot on the floor, trying to hold himself together.
"Tony," Shine said with a lump in his throat, "you wouldn't have known unless I told you. Besides…" he trailed off, thinking back to all those fractured memories, those broken dreams, and how they festered in him for ages. "I made the choice to stop doing it. I just couldn't start again after what happened." Even thinking about it set him on edge, but Shine put it to the side for now. "If I wanted to, I could've looked for groups myself, or continued my works in progress. I just lost the spark for it though, and I don't think I want to try it again."
Another bout of silence. Tick, tock. A few sighs there. All the while, Shine felt the eyes of the two most important people in his life boring into him, both sorrowful.
"So…" Shine said with a nervous smile. "I think that answers your question, Curio?"
"Yeah, yeah, it does." She relaxed her gaze, then yawned again, lying down on the couch in the most comfortable position she could with her tail tucked away. "You know what, both of you are awesome. Both of you…" Another stretched-out yawn. "Are doing great…" She closed her eyes, breathing in and out as she tried to fall asleep.
Shine and Tony were left on their own with the silence again.
"I'm gonna get another drink and back this up." Tony turned towards the door, taking the camera with him. "I want to talk to you for a bit, if you're not too tired."
His tone didn't suggest he was telling him off. While Shine was a bit groggy and stiff from sitting for so long, there were still some loose ends he wanted to tie up with his trainer. So, he agreed and went along with him to the kitchen where Tony opened another beer, then to the computer desk where he connected the memory card to the desktop. While the backing up process was going on, Tony turned around in his chair and took a big swig from his bottle. Shine couldn't say he was pleased to see his trainer drinking, but it wasn't his place to judge.
"Well, I'm thinking about what Curio said about your writing and what you mentioned you were doing once the second year calmed down. Did you want to tell me this now or on the record?"
Shine paused, humming to himself as he looked at his bookcase-bed combo in the corner of the room. He read a lot, and frequently got inspiration for what he'd pursue in his own worlds, just like the fantasy authors he revered so much. Being online was also a good chance for him to pretend to be someone he wasn't, but… was it worth it? All that time he spent at GeL, and did he manage to do something with it in the end? Now wasn't the time to think about that; Tony was still looking at him expectantly.
"Um, off the record." He sat on his haunches, maintaining eye contact with Tony. "I think…. Allister let me go to one of his writing classes with the other students, and over time, I got to share my work with everyone else and also talk to the human classmates about what they were working on."
"Was that just one session?"
"No, a few. We workshopped quite a bit, so we got to make our own stories in a group under a time limit, well, I helped as I brainstormed ideas since I couldn't write that well, but when I brought my own stories in, I got a lot of good advice there. So that was nice."
Shine grumbled, looking down at his feet. "I'm… sorry. I don't remember that bit that well. Like Curio, I did quite a bit, but unlike her, the exact details of each project I worked on are hazy. Besides, I wouldn't want to bore you with that."
Tony sighed. "Look, I wouldn't have asked if I wasn't interested." That struck him as a bit too severe, but his trainer relented, taking another swig. "Sorry, just, it's great to hear you worked on something like that. And a shame that you stopped. That sort of creative hobby might've been another good outlet for you too."
"I know." Shine stood up and approached Tony, getting a closer look at his face. He wore a poker face, but through his uncovered eyes, there was a lot of turmoil going on in them.
"I, um…" Tony held up his glasses, absent-mindedly polishing them. "Do you think I could've done more to help? When Curio mentioned that and what happened with her trainer, you know, I felt kind of bad." He gripped his glasses tightly. "I should've known since you were so interested in your books and all that."
"That's not your fault." Shine's lip trembled, trying to avoid those stirring emotions within him, but he suppressed it and put his big paws on Tony's lap. "You do more than enough for me without overriding your life. And I know things are hard for you already, I can take the hint."
Tony blanched at that, putting his frames to the side. "I—"
"You don't need to put on a show about it either. If you're struggling, then I want to know as well." His grip tightened, lightly digging his claws into the fabric of Tony's shorts. "We're in this together. If you want to get something off your chest, just say it."
Tony held Shine's paws, stroking them with his thumb, and looked to the hi-fi set of the living-room wall. "The video can wait. Do you mind if we sit over there and talk over some TV?"
So that was that. The screen switched on as Tony sat down with his legs on the cushion, with a remote in one hand and beer in the other. Shine sat next to him, curled up close as best as a Luxray could've done on a couch meant for humans. Finally, Tony settled on one channel which played late night reruns of that cop show he seemed to enjoy: featuring a drug-busting police officer and her Arcanine going on adventures with various capers on their hands and paws. Shine liked to watch it himself sometimes when he needed to turn his brain off, and while Tony warmed himself up by taking sips from his bottle, face redder with each passing minute, the show eventually faded into the background as it was just them.
"So," Tony started, "well, I won't lie, this has been on my mind for some time lately. Especially with the interviews we've had."
"About… me?" Shine asked.
"Well, sort of, but also about my own life these past few years, ever since we met."
Shine grumbled, thinking back to those days out in the streets, the slow bond Tony developed with Shine, and everything that followed after. He remembered being very sick at one point, and that was all he wanted to remember for that moment. Tony already interviewed him about it before he started the GeL work in progress, so that was one chapter of his life he could put behind him. His trainer poured all that energy into working towards a full license, and not only that, caring for Shine in general. Moving out of Sinnoh and finding a new work placement here. Moving into an apartment of his own and getting everything settled.
Those years were a blur at the moment with everything else going on, but it worked out for the best for both of them. Then, what was Tony thinking? If he wasn't pleased with the way things were going, then he would've understood. And so, Shine finally mustered up the courage for one simple question.
"Yes, then what?"
"Well, I'm not sure what next." He sighed. "Lately, I feel like I'm not getting anywhere. I mean, I like my job and all. I feel great in that area, even with the office politics that goes on. But, well, between this and the interview, I haven't focused that much on my own life."
Shine was afraid he'd say that, though he also expected it. "I… well, I understand."
"I mean, it's no one's fault. Especially not yours." He brought his hand up to Shine's chin, scratching lightly underneath there. "In fact, back then, when I was nobody but an intern, you were the best thing that happened to me."
"O-oh." He wasn't quite sure how to take that. "Well, thank you."
"And I really do mean that, Shine. You were a good friend when I was on my own, and still are."
There was a pause. Shine lost himself in that moment, being pet by the person he trusted the most. He awaited a response though, but Tony found none, instead, focusing on the TV. A scene played at the end of the cop show where, after solving a long case, the officer enjoyed a bit of banter with a fellow police man as they had coffee and donuts at their house. They exchanged biting remarks, but clearly had a connection with one another from the way that they spoke, in the teasing but not mean-spirited sort of way. That was reflected by their own Pokemon as well, as the male Arcanine playfully chased the female Houndoom. How long did they tease at that ship for?
"You know what, I'm just going to say it: I want to ask Ines out."
Shine rose at that and sat up. Now, that was a surprise. She went with Tony on quite a few trips, especially with their marine excursions outside of work, but nothing suggested they were too close. Then again, he didn't know what their working relationship was like exactly. Well, she shared lunch with Tony at breaktime, and outside of work, also gave Tony pointers on how to edit his own videos and put them out on the web when he was still learning. Aside from that, Shine didn't pry into it too much.
"You do? Since when?"
"It's been a slow burn, I admit." Tony took another swig, his face turning beetroot at this point. "Heck—hic!" His first hiccup. Was he about to go down for the count as well? "I don't think I told you much, y'know." His voice was slipping a little. "Whenever we work together, in the office or with some help on my own videos, I feel something there though." He frowned, putting the half-empty bottle to the side. "Since I've had my hands full with this project though, and I haven't talked about it with anyone else aside from you, well…" His hands interlocked together. "That means I've been seeing her less."
That made sense, so he wasn't disappointed to find that out. Shine sat back down, nestling against Tony's side. "Take some time out to do that, then. I'll be fine."
"You'd do that?" Tony pulled his hands away. "I mean, I didn't want to suggest it was your fault. And if you're still recovering from learning about M again, then—"
"Oh, I'm fine." Shine lightly butted his head against his trainer's body. "You know, when Curio retold that story about him, about that second year…" He smiled. "I felt… relieved. And now I want to continue riding that high. You know, you keep saying I should go out more, but I actually want to do it this time. And talk to more people as well!"
"Well," Tony said, "don't feel you have to do everything at once."
"Of course. But I want to try doing what I can." Shine leaned closer into Tony. "And I want you to do the same with Ines. Now that I think about it, me and Curio could give you time alone to get your feelings out there. Maybe we could travel together, if she wants."
"Oh? Would you be fine after, you know, you had that episode earlier?"
"Y-yes." He wasn't sure himself, but he pulled his way out of it there. He just needed to remember what happened in case it happened again. He talked it out with Barley last time and pulled through. He had a friend there. And if he was together with Curio, then he would do the same with her if he was in a bind, and vice versa. "I can handle it."
"Alright. It won't happen right away, and we've still got that thing tomorrow, so I might ask her then. She still might be busy, though."
At that moment, Tony pulled him in for a hug, stroking his coat in all the right places. "You've come a long way though, Shine. I'm really proud of you."
Again, he didn't know how to take that compliment. Still, even though the worst was far from over, even though there still would've been days when they struggled together, he was more hopeful than ever. If they kept it up, if Shine kept pushing himself and continuing on with the lessons and his budding social life, then there was the possibility that he would change for the better.
Tony's eyes relaxed and his grip on the Luxray loosened, though those two stayed in that embrace for a little longer. Shine let out a big yawn, and the two very nearly fell asleep on the same couch together. Through Shine's blurry vision, ads played on the TV, which, like the show, were just background noise. Except for one. A quick ad for Lucario's cereal played: a mess of oats and chocolate chunks, because of course. Why was Curio on the TV now? Wait, no she wasn't, that was just a generic cartoon of her species. That's right, Curio.
There was one other thing Shine wanted to do before turning in for the night. Curio was still in the studio. Hopefully, she hadn't thrown up in there and was just sleeping soundly, but he wanted to check up on her anyway in case the alcohol took a toll on her. He slunk out of Tony's embrace and padded through the apartment into his room, taking a blanket from the storage closet. From there, he crept into the photo room. She was still asleep, turned on her side and facing towards Shine. It was the first time he saw her like that. Come to think of it, even when they slept at the PokeRoom and by the beach, he was the one that always fell asleep first.
He approached her, heart beating faster with each step forward. Curio lightly snored underneath her breath, fast asleep. With the blanket in his teeth, Shine stood on his hindlegs, being careful to not accidentally wake her up, and draped the cover over her with his mouth. He took extra care to leave the face uncovered. With the job done, Shine sat back down, pleased that Curio was a lot more comfortable, at least to his eye. He would take one last look at her before leaving for Tony's couch.
She shifted slightly and stopped snoring, grunting instead. Time stood still with each breath her and Shine took, one asleep, the other awake. Then, Curio sniffled. Tears fell down her face in one unbroken stream like rivers bursting through dams. She was still asleep throughout all of it.
Shine sighed and sat at the edge of the couch, below where Curio sat. Still a few sniffles here and there, but they were soft cries at the most. It must've been a condition of some sort, but how did it start? When did it start?
Perhaps it was best to ask her in the morning. For now, Shine lay down, making himself comfortable on the studio floor in case Curio woke up. If she needed someone to talk to as well, he'd be there. Crazy to think their reunion was nearly a week ago.
It was a nice week.
[End of Part 1: Fractured Memories]
Author's Note: And that's it for Part 1 of The Curious and the Shiny! Not the end of the story, period, since there's still a Part 2, but I think this is a good place to put a checkpoint on TCATS since we've reached the point where the premise of the fic has been flipped on its head. This was one of the main moments I was building up to, and from here, I might as well drop the GeL pretense, since, well, you've seen it for yourselves. There will be a couple more interlude chapters before the proper 2nd part starts, but I will probably be doing them at a later date.
For more information, since this fic has been so long so far, I'm splitting it up into two parts. Everything before this point will retroactively be called Part 1: Fractured Memories, while the next one will be called Part 2: Broken Dreams, continuing on from The Growth Arc. But anyways...
This has been a wild ride so far. I really wasn't expecting to write this much of TCATS going into it. Considering its length so far at over 200k words throughout the course of two years, I'm surprised I kept it going for so long.
The reason I've decided to split this up into parts is because I want to take a hiatus from writing fanfiction for a little while. At least, until the next NaNoWriMo event, or maybe before that. The reason for this is that I want to focus on original writing and experiment more with new concepts, as well as extend some of the themes seen in TCATS. As much as I love writing this story, not being able to show it to many people outside the fanfic community does distance me a bit from the writing community, when it's something I want to network with and get a foot into the industry with.
That's not to say I'll be cutting myself out of the fanfiction community entirely. I might pitch in with some one shots in between then, and I have another surprise in store for y'all that aren't as caught up. Since I've revised everything up until the start of The Growth Arc, I'll soon be updating chapters 1-17 with new revisions. They include minor changes to the events within the story with nothing too substantial, but there's a lot more focus on expanding the characterisation this time around, especially in regards to the flawed first arc. So changes more for the benefit of first time readers or readers that dropped the story around that point before. That will be my last outing before I shift focus away from TCATS.
In any case, I want to thank everyone who stuck through this story, even though it might've been a bit slow paced at times, and I hope you'll stick around for more of this fic and my future works as well! See you around!