A/N:

(This fic may have been on an IV drip recently, but still alive and eager to get back into shape.

I was rereading this story one bored weekend and I found myself jarred by all the little details that seemed off.

So I decided to tweak every chapter a little bit, and after reading it again from the beginning I found it better.

Most changes aren't very big, and I think I tried and ultimately failed to completely fix the tendency to switch between "blond/blonde" and "brunet/brunette".

There are a few extra lines that help in clarifying some bits I found vague, and rewrote a few lines to fit into the character's speech patterns.

The rest are just general spelling problems, and the occasional spacing fix.

Also, I'm using o's to break the paragraphs apart here, since for some reason the lines and asterisks in FFNet's story editor vanish sometimes when I post.

It happened at the revisions of the chapters too…

That's what I get for typing the first twenty-one chapters of something in Notepad.

But don't worry…the last few (including this one) will be in Word.

/ blah, blah, text wall blah!)

I hope you enjoy!

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DISCLAIMER: I do not own Pokémon Special. :)

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Chapter 22: The Comeback

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"Give Lenora and the girls my regards. It will be good to get together again."

It was morning, early enough for the sky to show lime green and pale periwinkle before the sun.

Alder had come to Sinnoh's Battle Frontier harbor, preparing to return to his home region. A very mature-looking man Alder was, with the heart of a bright child. He had a thick woolen coat on, covering his thin white robes. The other Champions came to bid him goodbye, standing by the sea. The fiery-haired man smiled at Cynthia's bidding. "Sure. It won't be long before the Junipers send their own Pokédex Holders, anyway, and we all know how much arrangements those warrant." Alder rubbed his stubbly chin in thought. "There are some candidates, but as of now I think it'll take time before they can join the other Pokédex Holders. No one's been picked yet, as far as I can tell. "

"That'll be something," Steven remarked, and Wallace chuckled at his friend's tone in surprise. "We'll have another set of remarkable children on our hands. Working alongside them makes me feel old enough as it is."

He made a discreet look at Red, who laughed.

Alder groaned, knowing out that he was at least a good five years older than most of them.

"At this rate, it's not the title of 'Champion' Trainers should be chasing after – it ought to be 'Pokédex Holder'! Count yourself a lucky one, boy. You've got both names to be proud of."

With a hearty laugh and a few more handshakes, Alder boarded the boat and sped away on the breaking waves. The four remaining Champions watched their colleague depart and slowly disappear into the water line before turning back, letting their latest situation sink with the dawning light and the morning snow.

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"You know, the others are probably having breakfast by now. "

Wallace—clad in a white jacket one might call "fashionable"—spoke to Red. He noted the ferocity in which the boy devoured the rice ball in his hand, and saw the injured arm (now half-way healed) dangle. "Why don't you join them?"

He made a pointed glance at the food in Red's hand. "Surely you can't be satisfied with that one rice ball. A growing boy's got to have his vitamins." The black-haired trainer chewed on the seaweed wrapper and made a face. "Nah, I've still got some stuff to do. And I'm not a boy, I'm already eighteen."

He finished his snack and grinned. "Why, that makes me quite adult already, I think."

Cynthia smiled at the "man". "You're an adult just in the legal sense, perhaps. There's a lot more to being an adult than shooting past eighteen." She twined a lock of corn silk hair towards the lapel of her coat as she spoke. "Still, being a kid's been fun, isn't it? I was a cutie-pie too, back then."

"You guys sound so old…"

And the other three Champions laughed.

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~ooOoo~

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"You'll just disturb her with your noise."

"My 'noise'? You underestimate me, Green!"

And Blue made a face that was almost shocked. "It's much better if l would go and bring Platinum's breakfast. Yellow's going to check up on Sapphire. And besides, no boy ought to be in those rooms at this time, right?"

She made an impish smile that implied all kinds of meanings. A good number of boys at the breakfast table burned in the face, and Green had to smirk at how easily the younger ones can get flustered. They were all present, save for Sapphire, Platinum, and Red. This greater ratio of boys to girls assured a lack of order on the table, and less chatter in favor of eating.

The blue-eyed girl sipped her milk tea, and continued arranging food onto a tray. She was a kind of nurturing sort, as Silver's bringing up evidenced. It was a change from her usual flirtatious demeanor, another side to the "noisy woman". Blue whispered something to Crystal that made the serious girl flush a bit, and bid the boys a good morning before going on her way.

Green sealed his lips with the brim of his coffee cup (he liked his brew hot and quite bitter—whenever he could get it) and stopped himself. He watched the brunette girl bounce from her seat, tray in hand, and wondered how much strength she mustered to be this good humored in the morning.

Blue was rearranging toast when she whispered, soft and serious, to the person across her.

"Remember what we talked about earlier, okay?"

She eyed her conversation partner, who looked up with wide violet eyes.

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The two girls were in their shared room, in the early morning. Blue was the first to hear of the story.

"Are you serious?"

Crystal sighed, soft and tired. She only pointed to a gift, hidden carefully enough behind a stack of papers. A Gracidea flower stood faintly upright in a simple glass bottle that might have held soda pop. It had a beautiful blush color in its six petals, and leaves of bright green.

The brunette girl remembered it as a memento of Shaymin, left behind after it had appeared and "spoken" to them back at Route 224. In spite of the rough journey back (perhaps it was a particularly lively flower) Emerald had managed to bring it back with him intact.

She, to Crystal's slight exasperation, made a little squeal of joy. "This is marvelous, my girl! Who would have thought that Rald—our rough-around-the edges Rald—could be so sweet just for you? It's quite obvious he has feelings for you! Ooh, how are you going to answer him?"

She looked expectantly at Crystal, who groaned. "I don't know! I can't think," she claimed, feeling her closed eyes roll under the knuckles she pressed against them. "I don't feel like myself. I'd take a long walk, if I could. Get away from all this. I mean…I've never had someone…take interest in me before. Now of all times."

Her palms burned from her cheeks.

Blue sighed, an elder-sister sort of sigh, and patted the girl's shoulder. "Crys, maybe you've been thinking about it too much. He cares for you, plain and simple, for a while now probably. You don't have to answer if you don't want to, after all."

"I mean…would it really be so bad if Rald likes you that way?"

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Blue's sentiment weighed on Crystal's mind, and it made her space out a little. She almost spread jam on her scrambled eggs, poured syrup into her cereal bowl—a bowl that Diamond was glad to exchange for—and became quite distracted with her cocoa, until Blue snapped her out of the reverie.

She nodded, and blew the hotness from her cup until it stopped burning her already bright face.

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~ooOoo~

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There was a clash of wills that had lasted almost a decade in that room. The two figures sitting across each other made a stark difference in the morning light—both black haired and with grave faces, looking at the face of whom they considered one of their most powerful enemies.

Red was watching the grave grey eyes before him carefully. It was a difficult task, having fought with the criminal Giovanni before, to ask for a mutual alliance. Team Rocket and its evils had inflicted scars in the Battler's heart, and he knew that within the former crime boss a wound, too, remained unhealed.

But times were different now, and today they were supposed to fight on the same side. He found the man sitting in front of him no less at fault, no less a sinner, but a more sympathetic man. He was not just a criminal—he was also a father who had longed to have his son again. Red's first words to the man were cooled, but kind.

"I heard Cynthia talking about giving you house arrest instead of actually going to jail. So that once this is over, Silver could live with you again. With that in mind, I hope you're still willing to help us."

Giovanni—in his dark clothes sans hat—remained silent, but the widening of his eyes was not completely obscured. This silence went on for a moment, and the young man let him have it before speaking again.

"We need to know what Sird's plan of action is. It seemed like her goal is what Team Galactic is chasing after too. Why would that be? Do you know what Team Galactic's plans are?"

"…Learning from Team Aqua and Magma's mistakes was simple. When using the powers of Pokémon, not one force must overpower the other. Since the Hoenn crisis, Team Galactic and I have known this. Hence, they will attempt the completion of the Sinnoh triad's energy. This raw energy is what Galactic plans on using to reclaim their leader once more."

"'Reclaim?' What does this mean? Is this about what happened to Pearl, Dia and Platinum?"

"I suppose it is, if you are referring to those Sinnoh trainers. Team Galactic wishes to retrieve their leader Cyrus from the Distortion World. This gateway can only be opened by a great power of a Legendary Trio. He used the Legendaries of the Lakes to open the gateway the first time, I believe. This time, they are trying a new triad—the nature-based Legendaries."

"…Sird… What about her? What does she want? And how does she know about Manaphy?"

"She had collaborated with Team Galactic once before and seeks the Distortion World, for Giratina. She seeks its power, although for whatever purpose she seems to have taken a deep interest in Manaphy as well. She seems to want to use its rejuvenating power for something. It is similar with the abilities of Phione dew, because its energy acts upon the very particles of our body and renews them. I learned of this as I was recuperating from the wounds I sustained in the airship crash."

A striking memory returned to Red's mind—hot flames, smoking skies, and a lone burned man holding his son above the wreckage. The bandages under Giovanni's coat masked the melting burns of his flesh.

The Champion was about to speak some more, until a scarred hand asked for silence.

"This knowledge led me to seeking out the Phione colonies of Sinnoh and taking some dew from them. I let Sird lead the operation. However your companion, Oak's assistant, showed me how far it had gone…it was too much. She made her plan known to me before leaving Team Rocket, thinking that I wouldn't be able to stop her. So I went to find my son myself…I went to find you all, to warn you and give you aid."

Red frowned as Giovanni's disposition became grimmer, and he knew then that he was seeing a man whose sense of justice was realigned at the prospect of finding his child. The end had changed the means of the plan, and Sird's deed had prompted the former Viridian Gym Leader to warn the Pokédex Holders.

"What does Mewtwo have to do with this?" Red had his lips pressed into a firm line. "Sird was just weaponizing him, wasn't she? He's not a Legendary."

"Mewtwo is a clone of the source of all life—or rather, clone of the personification of life in our world. The mirage Pokémon has proved ever illusive, even now. With Giratina as the personification of death, plans to form a new source of energy must be ongoing. Sird must think that Mewtwo could be a substitute in Mew's role to counter Giratina. With her knowledge of the resonance of the Legendary abilities, I think she will use the both of these creatures for her true purpose."

"It doesn't end there at Coronet, then…do you know of anything more?"

"I am afraid that is all I know on the matter."

Red got back on his feet, and saw a flash of burgundy at the door from the corner of his eye. He turned back to Giovanni, and offered a hand. He couldn't resist the grateful smile on his face. "Thank you for helping us."

"…Thank you."

They shook hands, and felt that they had finally reached a common ground.

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~ooOoo~

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It had been a medical miracle, the nurses declared (although that scrawny Battle Factory Brain protested at the oxymoron). Words of a marvelous change, a shocking development scattered in hushed tones among the Pokémon Centers in the whole Battle Frontier.

The once frail, wisp of the wild child Miss Birch—lying bedridden a day ago—was now in near-perfect health.

The staff did tests, and made examinations, and asked questions, and the most that they could guess was that the fragments of Manaphy's egg had been absorbed into her flesh. These pieces must have had a healing effect, and made the recovery doubly fast. One of the nurses took a sample from Sapphire's middle, mentioning something about "a hunch", while the others were careful of her vital signs before unhooking her from the machines that whirred at her bedside.

There was no other explanation for the phenomenon that was Sapphire. She had, upon the removal of her IV drip, begun to "test" her health by bouncing around the room before the Healer that had brought her breakfast. Yellow found her sitting cross-legged on the bed, flushed and slightly sweaty but invigorated.

"My goodness—Sapphire!" Yellow squeaked, nearly dropping the tray in surprise.

"Hi Yellow! Hey, is that food for me? I'm starving!"

The blonde smiled and joined her friend, carefully setting the tray on the side table. Sapphire wasted no time in eating her fill of berries, buttered toast, and scrambled eggs. She listened and nodded at Yellow's inquiries about her condition, and it was obvious at how well the girl had recovered.

Yellow reached up to stroke Sapphire's hair, and felt how damp her friend's forehead was from her exercise. "We were so worried about you, Sapph. We thought you could have died. We wouldn't know what to do if virtually everyone wasn't able to fight."

Sapphire's eyes went wide, and she swallowed hard. "W-what happened?"

The blonde girl blinked, and suddenly sputtered at her own outburst. "I…I didn't want to make you worry, I'm sorry! Most still have past injuries from that explosion back at Mt. Coronet. And when you went under, Sird and Team Galactic tried to get you. Since the whole confrontation at Snowpoint, Green and Silver's wounds have reopened a bit—and poor Platinum hasn't gotten back on her feet yet."

"'Platinum?'" The wild child's brows furrowed. "She…she accompanied me the day I fell. What happened to her?"

"Oh…Sapph…she's hypothermic. She almost froze fishing you out of the water. B-but she's recovering quickly! Wait! Sapphire, please!"

The brunette had leapt to her feet and was about to leave the room in search of Platinum. She took a few swift steps before opening the door, and smartly collided with the person coming in.

"Wah!"

Diamond landed hard on his posterior, surprised at the impact he certainly did not expect to be three inches beyond the doorway. His hat fluttered to the ground, and his eyes opened their very widest. "S-Sapphire!"

"Dia, where's Platinum? I've gotta see if she's ok—"

A small pair of hands grasped at her elbow, and Sapphire turned to see the petite blonde pull her back. "Sapphire, please don't just run off! Platinum's fine, it's you that was in the worst shape." Her faint green eyes were worried as she scanned the still-pale patient's face. "Just…just take it easy first, please."

The cobalt-eyed boy stammered and steered Sapphire back into the room. "S-she's absolutely right, Sapph, you've got to rest! I…I didn't think that you'd be on your feet so quick, but the n-nurses said not to just let you go off just anywhere!"

He squeaked when Sapphire shook her forearms free from his hold with ease. "But I'm fine! I've been up before the sun rose, and I've been moving around—I'm perfectly fine!"

"You're still awfully pale…"

"Lack of sunlight, is all! It's cold in Snowpoint, if you haven't noticed."

Yellow, thinking for a moment, cut into the two's bickering pensively. "I'll…I'll get Ruby in here to guard you if you don't. You know he wouldn't even let you get out of your bed, let alone run off somewhere else. Would you want that?"

Somewhere in the back of Dia's mind the picture of a nail being hit square on the head formed, and he watched Sapphire struggle with herself before throwing her hands up in exasperation.

"…Alright, I'll stop! But I wanna be there when Red calls a meeting, got it?"

Yellow could only sigh in thankfulness.

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~ooOoo~

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A good while after Platinum had her breakfast into the room, Gold and Emerald came over to "liven up the Lady's day". Green was wary of the two hot-blooded boys, but Blue had thoughtfully left a cup of tea for Platinum after bringing in the food tray, and Gold capitalized on her "suggestion" by bringing tea party things—cups, saucers, little spoons, biscuits, and all its frills.

"You are a very lucky lady," Gold remarked after stealing a side table from the girl's bedside to use for tea. "I would normally question my sanity as to why I would be throwing a tea party, of all things, but this is technically 'your' tea party, and I am merely being proactive by doing the throwing myself."

"Don't listen to him," Emerald whispered to Platinum as he passed her bed, carrying a plate of biscuits in his hands. "He's a showoff that thinks he knows all about girls." She smiled at this, and her shoulders shook with faint laughter.

"I think I know a good deal more than you, at least!"

"H-hey!"

A nurse slipped in the room, very discreetly, and came to Platinum to check on her condition. After taking note of her vitals, she brought out a syringe from her pocket. "This medicine will probably help speed up your recovery. I'll inject this, and if you feel anything after a while, don't forget that you can call us anytime, ok?"

The nurse brought the syringe of what looked like a slightly luminescent fluid to Platinum, who winced at the shot being administered. She made a note on the chart, and told the heiress to buzz if there was any problem, before leaving the room.

This was left relatively unnoticed by the two boys, who were bickering playfully by now, making a show of pouring their own tea into the cups and adding copious amounts of sugar and cream. Emerald seemed slightly more flustered, and at last stopped the discussion by sitting at the side table and cramming a biscuit into his mouth. Gold knocked back some tea, holding the cup in his fist and letting the contents slip into his mouth.

Platinum sniffed and murmured in her weak voice, bringing her own cup to her lips. Her words still slurred and stayed soft, but the black haired boy caught the tone on the lady's mumble and replaced his beverage on the table. His expression was one of incredulity and amusement.

"'Uncouth', you say? Ah, where are my manners? I might be a little rusty with them, but I have them."

And to his companions' surprise, the Breeder deftly took a sip from his cup in the refined style—one hand's fingers carefully settled on the saucer's rim corner, the other curled around the handle, pinky out. He went on about how his mother made him learn that, and admitted its uses in picking up girls.

"Which reminds me—I'll give a cup to Crys, she's been looking all kinds of baffled recently."He made a pointed glance at Emerald, who distracted himself by dropping another sugar cube in his drink. The blonde boy shifted his focus to the patient on the bed, who put her cup back on the bedside table with shaking hands.

Maybe it was a strange manner of illumination, but Platinum seemed to have regained color. She smiled at Emerald, and rasped her first audible words in a while.

"…You've got some sugar on your nose."

And with an exhilarated laugh, Emerald wiped his face and resumed flicking biscuits into his mouth before calling the others.

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~ooOoo~

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Silver lingered at the doorway after seeing the Battler leave and give him a thumbs up. His steps echoed hollowly in the room, and the redhead couldn't help but lower his gaze upon entering—seeing the criminal Giovanni so intertwined with the father Giovanni made it awkward.

The black-coated man was seated at the chair closest to the window across the doorway, having entertained Red's questions earlier. There was an unearthly pallor to his face, and the darkness around his eyes were a little more pronounced, but Silver could still see the proud face in the dull light.

Without batting an eye, Giovanni spoke first. "Have you eaten already?"

"…Ate a little while ago." Silver thumbed at the handkerchief in his pocket, but made no move to pull it out. There was something so simple, so powerful, and so primal about the query that the red-haired boy shivered. Giovanni seemed satisfied with this answer, and watched his son formulate a proper follow-up.

"…And you?"

"I will in a moment. The nurses bring me food here."

Silver saw his father as he was—weakened, tired, enduring. The corner of his mouth angled just so, and from the tiredness the Trader saw contentment in his father's chrome eyes. He saw unspoken things in those eyes-now familiar to his own-that pulled at him, as if the blood they shared was tugging them closer.

Driven by the sudden urge to close the distance, Silver stepped forward and let the door swing closed.

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TBC...