Yo! Here I am again, with a little shortfic to share before getting to longer, angst-filled, complete stories (spoiler: there's Lucas+Flint angst comin' up next). But before that, lemme say thanks to everyone who read and reviewed my previous story; you guys were great, and it means a ton to me! So, uh, thanks!

Let's get this started. Haah, I hope my idea here gets across properly…

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War

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Pokey liked saying it, and while Ness could be thrown off by his angry tone at times, he agreed: Ness was never the brightest kid around, and that's one thing he doesn't think has changed. He doesn't find it an insult, but an objective statement that means just as much as noting that the grass is really, really green in Onett - then again, the key to being friends with Pokey was not being offended and assuming the best, and he was pretty good at that. He was naturally good at that sort of thing, Tracy often said, so even the cops got along well with him. Pokey would grumble about his stupid, stupid luck, but he figured that he meant the same thing.

It was just the kind of thing meeting Paula made him think about, even aside from their conversations.

It wasn't easy at all; he'd never been so close to another psychic, never even knew there were others out there, and it was unpredictable enough to give his optimism a nice challenge. But like other things before the sudden headaches and uncontrolled sparks of their abilities, Pokey included, it did little to his bright demeanour. They'd learn to work with it, he knew, like he'd learned to use his power to attack instead of only healing, and to accept the fact that he could hurt someone through bare mind and will.

None of it had been easy, and even though it was troubling to look into Paula's eyes and convince her that accidentally burning his hand wasn't her fault - just a grin and a shrug and she knew; she'd always know and smile right back - nothing was harder than answering the questions she did ask.

What was a war, really? Buzz Buzz described a war - repeating that was as much of an answer as he had for Paula - but he never defined it.

If Ness was as lucky as Pokey accused him of being, he'd never know any more than that.

He looked at her then, confident in her steps and gentle in the way she held her stuffed bear, and decided getting her back to her parents was the first step in avoiding a war.

She didn't stay with them long, but the same idea resonates vaguely in the back of his mind as they fight together. A battle not fought is a battle won. And they have battles, sure, but that's not war. Even if he's not yet sure what war is. What does he know, after all? He's a kid and so is she. They don't know these things yet. They shouldn't know at all.

But maybe he has a rough idea, and maybe it does chisel away at his optimism, because the lost-eyed man they've been fighting finds a moment too obvious and his stance too open not to turn away from Paula and attack him instead, slashing in a wide motion.

War has nothing to do with the way she protects him. He'd do the same for her. It's friendship, not sacrifice or loss. Nothing to do with war and everything to do with being just children; maybe for that very reason, her first instinct is to raise her stuffed bear and close her eyes tight.

The man's knife is small and not sharp enough to be a mortal weapon, but it still slices the bear open with relative ease. From there, it takes Ness less than a second to react and bash the man with his cracked baseball bat, knocking him unconscious.

"Are you okay?"

He inhales deep and slow to catch his breath, then looks back at Paula. "Yeah, are you?"

"Yup," the girl nods. Her glance drifts down to the destroyed teddy and she sighs, but her smile never does disappear. "I guess I'll have to get another one of those, huh?"

Ness says his agreement as easily as ever. Of course he won't stop her from replacing it, and of course he'll even pay for it himself, but - and he doesn't really like how there is a but - things like that might just be what war is made of. The concept doesn't fail to leave a bad taste in his mouth.