SPOILER WARNING: This is heavily based on the 3rd Special Episode, "Today's 'Oh My Gosh!'"

Haha. Actually, I pretty much just rewrote the entire episode following Loudred instead of Sunflora. I was mostly interested in what was going on through his mind during the whole thing, just because I was curious about what he was thinking throughout the episode. Hopefully I've kept him in character, as he was a lot more difficult to write than I thought he'd be.

Also, this story is part of a fic trade I'm doing with Netbug009, who asked me to write a story about Loudred and Sunflora. I hope this story meets your expectations, Net!

Anyway, enjoy!

Without Words

He saw her as soon as he stepped out of the guild, and Loudred couldn't stop the swell of anger that rose up within him.

"…HUMPH!" he growled out.

Startled, Sunflora spun around to look at him. Her body seemed to stiffen, and for a moment she said nothing and simply stared at him.

"Hm!" For some reason, her silence only enhanced his irritation, and he wasn't afraid to let her know that as he turned his back on her. "HUMPH!"

"Humph!" he heard her echo behind him, and when he turned back around, he saw that she had copied him and had her back towards him. Rolling his eyes, he hurried past her and headed down the steps of the guild.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Loudred realized that that was the most interaction he and Sunflora had in a while.

It was hard for him to be around Sunflora lately, ever since their previous explorations together where they were both knocked out. He knew that she blamed him for their failures in the past, and he could feel it whenever they spoke to each other. So he did his best to avoid her, so they would talk as little as possible.

If they were speaking, though, Loudred would have plenty to say to her. After all, he didn't think it was entirely his fault that they fainted during their explorations. He was a bit impatient and rushed into things, that was true, but they probably would have been all right if Sunflora bothered to help him. They were teammates, and she should have assisted him when he was in trouble. He would have done the same for her. But instead she argued with him over what to do, and left him to fight by himself until they were both kicked out of a dungeon.

Loudred growled to himself, his feet pounding the ground as he descended the last few steps of the guild stairway. "SHE was always trying to ORDER me around," he grumbled. "And after we FAINTED, she always HAD to shove it in my FACE! Just WHO does she THINK she IS, anyway? Acting as if she's ALWAYS RIGHT!"

Even though she always was…

He sighed, his pace slowing as he approached Treasure Town. He already knew that Sunflora was right most of the time, and he probably should have listened to some of the things she'd said. But it was just so difficult to admit it, especially since he was a member of the guild for a longer time than she was. He should be the one who knew what he was doing, and he was the one who should show her what to do.

That was all he could think of ever since he failed his graduation exam a while back. It didn't help that Sunflora, of all people, was the one who teased him the most for not being able to pass. Sunflora, who had joined as an apprentice after him but was already a better explorer than he was. Sunflora, who seemed so naturally talented, nice, smart, brave, beautiful…

"Hey, hey, hey!" Corphish's voice interrupted his thoughts before he could finish them. "What're you doing, Loudred?"

Shaking his head furiously, he turned to the Ruffian Pokémon. "WHAT?" he asked, though he was thankful for the sudden distraction.

"C'mon!" Corphish called as he passed Loudred on his way out of Treasure Town. "Hurry up so we can get back to the guild. We got a lot to do today, hey, hey!"

"Yeah, YEAH, I'm COMING!" Loudred yelled back, hurrying to the Duskull Bank. Vaguely aware of dropping off his Poké with the ghost, Loudred then ran all the way back to the guild to get ready for his gatekeeper duties. Diglett was already in place waiting for him, and he expected another busy day of screening the guild's visitors.

As he was taking his familiar position, however, he couldn't help but notice as Sunflora came out of the Guildmaster's room, a distracted expression on her face.

"Phew…" he heard her sigh in relief. "I was nervous, having been called in out of the blue like that!" Then she smiled. "But it was a request from the Guildmaster! I'm representing the guild on this…So I have to do my best!"

She seemed so excited, whatever she was talking about, that she didn't even notice Loudred watching her and listening as she talked to herself.

"I have to do my best and apprehend Haunter!" she continued, determination spreading across her face. "I should hurry and prepare so I can head out!"

Loudred continued to look at her, curious as she turned with a bounce in her step, heading up the ladder and out of the room. But he had little time to wonder before a low chuckling caught his attention, and he turned towards Croagunk.

"The Guildmaster was looking for Sunflora earlier," Croagunk commented idly, an amused smile on his face. "Shortly after Officer Magnezone arrived." He chuckled again. "It sounds like some official business. I hope she doesn't fail."

Loudred snorted. He wasn't sure if Croagunk was talking to him, but that wouldn't stop him from saying something. "WhatEVER. If the Guildmaster WANTED her to do it, then I'm SURE she can HANDLE it."

Croagunk laughed once more in that strange, familiar way he always laughed. "I suppose you're right," he said as he turned to his cauldron.

At first, Loudred thought the conversation was over. But Croagunk once again broke the silence when he added, "Although…Haunter is a poison-type Pokémon."

Loudred frowned, but the Toxic Mouth Pokémon offered nothing else and simply continued messing with his cauldron. He turned back to the hole of Diglett's post, but he found that he couldn't concentrate on his duties.

Haunter…was a poison-type Pokémon? Grass-types were weak against poison-types, weren't they? So, putting Sunflora against Haunter…was that really a good idea? Would she be okay? What if…?

He shook his head, trying to get such thoughts out of his mind. Sunflora would be fine, he reminded himself. Every Pokémon had to go up against types they were weak against sometime, but that didn't mean they would necessarily lose. Besides, the members of the guild were good at what they do, and he grudgingly had to admit that Sunflora was one of the best. He just couldn't imagine her ever failing, even against a type that was stronger than her.

Hearing the Guildmaster's door opening, Loudred quickly turned around to at least pretend to be working. Chatot would give him a beakful if he thought he was slacking off, no matter what the reason.

"ZZZT! Guildmaster? ZZZT!" he heard the rumbling voice of Officer Magnezone hum behind him. "ZZZT! Are you certain Sunflora can handle this outlaw? ZZZT!"

"Yup!" Wigglytuff replied cheerfully. "I wouldn't have asked her if I didn't think she could do it."

"ZZZT! Very well. I will leave this to her, then. Please inform us when she returns. ZZZT!"

"Of course," Chatot agreed.

The droning buzz of electricity grew louder, and from the corner of his eye Loudred watched Officer Magnezone levitate up the ladder and disappear.

At first, things were quiet for a moment after that. But that didn't last long before Loudred heard Chatot say, "Guildmaster?"

"Yeah?" Wigglytuff said. "What's up?"

"Do you really believe Sunflora will be all right on her own?"

There was a small pause. "You worried?"

"…Well…perhaps I'm a little concerned," Chatot replied in a slight defensive tone. Loudred almost laughed. Chatot could never admit when he was worried about a guild member. "But you said so yourself, the Hot Spring below Spring Cave is ideal for fire-type Pokémon. And to face someone as dastardly as the Invincible Haunter…"

"Sunflora'll be fine," Wigglytuff assured. "She's tough and resourceful. As long as she's prepared, I'm sure she'll be okay."

There was another pause before Chatot finally answered, "Yes, of course you are correct, Guildmaster. Your instincts on such matters are typically trustworthy."

But Loudred found himself less sure, as he stood there staring at the ground before him. Part of him knew he should be paying attention to his work, but he just couldn't focus on anything else.

Something just didn't feel right about the whole situation. It was bad enough that they sent Sunflora someplace where she might have to deal with fire-type Pokémon. Or that she had to find a poison-type Pokémon called the "Invincible Haunter". She was already vulnerable against both types of Pokémon, but if the Haunter was supposedly invincible, how was anyone supposed to beat it? No matter how much the Guildmaster believed in her, a mission like this put her at such a high risk for getting hurt.

And on top of all that, they had sent her on this mission…alone?

Tapping his foot impatiently, Loudred began glancing around the room. Wigglytuff had already returned to his room and Chatot was gone as well, probably to finish some work elsewhere. Croagunk was still occupied with his cauldron, Diglett was still underground, and there was no one else in the room. As long as Croagunk and Diglett weren't paying attention, he was pretty much alone.

Taking one more look around the room, almost nervously, Loudred made his way to the ladder as quickly and as quietly as he could.

"Just how big IS this dungeon ANYWAY?" Loudred grumbled as he trudged up the steps. "This is taking FOREVER!"

He was beginning to wonder if coming here was a good idea. After making it through about eight floors of Spring Cave, he hadn't run into any fire-type Pokémon, and he suspected that Sunflora hadn't yet either.

And he still hadn't found any sign of her or Haunter in this dungeon yet. He didn't think Sunflora had been that far ahead of him, but maybe she had left the guild sooner than he thought. Then again, getting lost in the dungeon because he had rushed in without really thinking things through probably didn't help.

Maybe Sunflora's advice would have been helpful at a time like this…

Reaching the top of the stairs, he paused to catch his breath. He wasn't really tired, but he needed a moment to think. What if Sunflora already caught Haunter? What if she had already taken it back to the guild? He would like to think that he would have seen her on her way down, but dungeons were usually big enough to miss other Pokémon. She could have come down while he had been blindly looking for the stairway.

His foot tapped impatiently as he tried to decide what to do now. He wasn't sure how long he'd been gone from the guild, but he knew he would already be in plenty of trouble just for leaving. Maybe he should just head home…

"Oh my gosh!"

His head shot up as the familiar voice bounced against the cave walls. He ran towards it.

"Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!"

He skidded to a stop just as he reached a cave clearing, his eyes wide and his body frozen in shock. Sunflora stood, panting heavily as she cowered against a rock, cornered by two slug Pokémon who were slowly advancing towards her. Parts of her body were charred black, showing where she'd been burned. But he had never seen her so…exhausted before. Sunflora…who was always so happy and determined…What happened to her?

"Oh my gosh!" he heard her cry. "I'm losing hope!" Inching back as much as she could against the rock, she shut her eyes as the slugs moved closer. "HELP!"

Hearing her scream like that…hearing her give up…Something in Loudred just snapped.

He rushed forward purely on impulse, jumping in between Sunflora and the slugs just before they began to attack. Quickly he grabbed a slug in each arm, catching them off guard so they couldn't put up much of a fight as he flung them back.

Vaguely he was aware of Sunflora gasping behind him, but he could barely hear her over the pounding of his heart, sending a rush of boiling blood throughout his entire body. An enraged bellow was ripped from his throat, echoing around the already-stunned slugs and confusing them even further. While they were distracted, Loudred charged at them again, shoving them back as hard and as far away from Sunflora as he could.

The two slugs hit the ground with pitiful yelps, the surprised haze clearing from their faces just enough for them to look up at Loudred. He scowled at them, pounding his foot in the ground as he took another step towards them, daring them to try attacking again. Glancing at each other uncertainly, the slugs then turned and ran off in separate directions, abandoning the clearing.

Loudred watched them leave, waiting until they were completely out of sight before taking a breath. The angry tension drained from his body as he finally turned to the flower. "A-are you ALL RIGHT, Sunflora?" he asked, unable to control the tremor in his voice as he once again noticed her burns.

"Y-yeah…" she replied softly, carefully pushing herself away from the rock.

"I-is that SO? GOOD," he sighed in relief. Even with her injuries, he could tell that she didn't seem too badly hurt.

Rubbing the back of his head, he once again glanced in the direction one of the slug Pokémon had gone. "Anyway…It's not LIKE you to FALL BEHIND those guys like THAT." Turning back to her, he noticed the small frown on her face as she looked at him. Realizing what he'd said, and not wanting her to feel bad about it, he hastily added, "Then AGAIN, you DID just take a LOT of DAMAGE. On THAT note, I just GOT here, so I'm doing FINE!" He laughed, hoping it would be enough to hide his nervousness.

"B-but…Why are you here, Loudred?" Sunflora wondered.

"Huh?" He blinked at her. "WHY?" He had to think for a moment; he'd been so angry at those slug Pokémon, he'd forgotten almost everything else. As he quickly tried to think back to what happened, the answer came rushing to his mind. "OH…" He knew exactly why he was there, but he couldn't tell her that.

He turned away from her, hoping she wouldn't notice the embarrassment that suddenly colored his face. "N-no REASON," he faltered, searching for a reasonable excuse. "It's not because I was WORRIED about you, Sunflora! Chatot ASKED me to come CHECK on you. That the ONLY reason!" He hoped she'd believe him, that it was a good enough reason for him to be there even though they had been so mad at each other before…

At first there was nothing but silence, but that was soon broken when Sunflora released an irritated huff. "Humph! What's that?" she snapped. "You only helped once, so don't get carried away!"

Loudred turned to her sharply. "Wh…" he stammered, taken aback by her words. He was not expecting that at all, and he couldn't help retorting, "What's WITH that ATTITUDE?!"

She said nothing, but the annoyed expression fixed on her face reminded him of all those times in their past explorations together; the moments of unspoken 'I told you so's that made him feel that Sunflora thought she was better than him. It was enough to rekindle the familiar anger within him, to recall why he wasn't speaking to her in the first place.

With clenched fists, he spat out, "GOT IT! I'm NOT HELPING anymore!" If she was too good for his help, he didn't need to be there. "I'm NOT helping YOU AGAIN! HUMPH!" With that, he stomped off, leaving Sunflora alone in the clearing.

He should have known, he should have! He should have known that Sunflora would be just as bossy as ever. Even if he had come to help her, it wasn't good enough for her, and she still felt the need to tell him what to do. It was just like in the other dungeons, when she wouldn't help him after he'd gotten into some trouble, and then lecture him about what he did wrong after they'd been knocked out. Nothing he did was ever right to her. Why should he have expected otherwise?

Just because she was scared…

His steps slowed to a stop just as he reached the stairway that led to the cave's exit. He frowned as the image of Sunflora cornered against the rock suddenly came back to mind. He had never seen her look so frightened before. She was always so courageous, so focused. But seeing her that way…and hearing her say that she was losing hope…it just wasn't like her. Whatever it was that made her that way must have been pretty serious.

Could…'whatever it was'…still be waiting for her in the cave?

Loudred hesitated; he was just a few steps away from escaping the dungeon, but for some reason he just couldn't force himself to move forward. Could Sunflora really handle this by herself? He couldn't argue that she was a skilled explorer, and he was aware of what she was capable of. But after being there, after seeing the situation for himself, he couldn't help but wonder if this was something she should be doing alone.

Especially since she already asked for help.

He knew Sunflora. As much as he could complain about her, he knew that she was smart. Smart enough to know her weaknesses and limits…smart enough to know when to call for help. If she was asking for assistance, then he knew she must really need it.

But then what was he supposed to do? Just moments ago, he'd sworn he wouldn't help her before storming off. If he went back to her after acting like that, wouldn't she wonder? What would he say to her? How would he explain himself? He just couldn't let her know that he was actually concerned about her!

But…she already asked for help. And no matter what, he just couldn't abandon her now.

With a groan, Loudred turned and hurried back after her.

Loudred exhaled loudly as he headed down the steps, quickly glancing around the room below him to make sure there were no Pokémon who could take him by surprise. He wasn't sure how far ahead of him Sunflora was, but he was especially careful so that he could catch up more easily. And if he did find her, he had to make sure he was suited enough for a battle in case she needed his help.

It was getting difficult, though. The farther down he went, the hotter it got, making each floor a little harder to pass through. It was probably because he was getting closer to the Hot Spring that he heard Chatot mention earlier. He still hadn't seen any fire-type Pokémon yet, but the cave itself was getting hot enough to bother him. How much worse could it be for Sunflora? Was she all right?

Suddenly the dungeon began to rumble around him, and the trembling ground nearly knocked him off his feet. Leaning against the nearest wall for support, he felt a wave of heat underneath him, rushing forward as the earth shook trying to contain it. Some distance away, he heard what sounded like an explosion, and he winced as the surge of heat expanded throughout the entire floor. And somewhere, just ahead of him, he once again heard a familiar scream.

"Oh my gosh! Hot hot hot hot…!"

Eyes widening, he dashed forward, ignoring the blazing heat that seemed to grow as he approached. Drawing closer, he could see the recognizable figure of Sunflora as she stood, facing off against three looming Haunters who were readying to attack. All three of them were laughing, as if they believed that they could easily defeat Sunflora now that they've lured her to this place.

He growled. Not if he could help it.

"Brace yourself!" he heard one of the Haunters say. The three Haunters charged as they opened their mouths, preparing for a combined Lick attack.

"Oh my gosh!" Sunflora exclaimed, preparing herself for the strike.

Ignoring the intense heat rising from the broken up ground, Loudred jumped forward and shielded Sunflora from the three ghost Pokémon. He shoved them back with all his strength, putting as much distance between him and the ghosts as he could.

Though taken aback, the Haunters instantly recovered from their shock. "Huh?!" they said.

"L-Loudred!" Sunflora gasped.

"Are you ALL RIGHT, Sunflora?" he asked, but kept a wary eye on the Haunters.

"Huh? Whaaat?" she floundered. "What are you doing here?"

Even as he briefly glanced at her, he saw the Haunters advancing towards them again. "FORGET that!" he said, the urgency of the situation overriding his embarrassment for the moment. "Here they COME! Look OUT!"

A blast of heat shot out from the cracked surface of the earth, shooting up from underneath him and scalding him. "That is…hot hot hot hot hot!" he yelped, running around to try and cool his body off.

He winced when Sunflora suddenly grabbed him by the arm, keeping him still as she came to stand beside him. "Careful, Loudred," she warned, glancing at the Haunters as they drew closer. Slowly she pulled out a Stun Seed, trying to keep it hidden behind him so the ghost Pokémon wouldn't see it. When they were close enough, she tried to throw it at the Haunter directly in front of her.

Unfortunately, the Haunter in front of her did notice it, and managed to dodge just in time to avoid it. The three ghosts laughed as the seed fell uselessly to the ground, and they came even closer.

Suddenly Loudred heard Sunflora gasp, and even he bit back a groan as the burns sent a wave of pain shooting through his body. When the Gas Pokémon began to laugh, though, anger quickly pushed aside the sting of his injuries. With a growl, he launched himself at the nearest Haunter and pounded it hard into the ground.

He stumbled as a second Haunter swiped at him with a regular attack, knocking him back and off the first Haunter. The ghost on the ground then got up, glaring at him as they both floated towards him threateningly. Taking a step back, he saw Sunflora from the corner of his eye dealing with the third Haunter. He was a little worried about leaving her to battle it alone, but as long as he could keep the other two Haunters' attention on him, then he hoped it would help.

Stomping his foot into the ground to brace himself, he inhaled deeply before releasing a powerful scream at the Haunter in front of him. The sound waves seemed to rattle the ghost Pokémon, and it flinched as it covered its ears. Smirking, he turned to do the same to the other Haunter, but his eyes widened when it suddenly disappeared.

Loudred glanced around, hoping to catch sight of the Haunter so it couldn't sneak up on him. Still, he jumped when the Gas Pokémon reappeared right in front of him. He barely had time to react as it smirked and swiped its red transparent claw through his body. As soon as it did so, he gasped, his knees suddenly feeling weak.

"Can't have you using that ghost move, now can I?" the Haunter cackled before disappearing from sight once again.

He growled, his body trembling as he fought to stay standing. Whatever the Haunter did took a lot of energy from him. He couldn't use his Astonish attack again, not in this condition. Looking around, he saw the first Haunter he had attacked, still startled from his last move. Taking another deep breath, he focused all his energy until he felt their glowing heat in the inside of his ears. He released the blue sound waves at the unwary Haunter before him; the Supersonic energy circles surrounded the ghost Pokémon as they moved around it, deafening the Haunter with its piercing sound.

Loudred smirked as the confused Haunter began to float away, as though unsure of what to do. But then a shocked yelp was ripped from his throat when he felt more energy drained out of him. Falling to one knee, he looked up as the other Haunter floated above him.

"You've been causing a lot of problems, haven't you?" the Haunter sneered, turning around to face him. "You're almost as annoying as that Sunflora over there."

"Loudred!" he heard Sunflora call. Turning to where he heard her voice, he just managed to catch the bottle flying at him. Quickly making a note of how Sunflora was doing (and glad to see she'd put that Haunter to sleep), he then looked at the Max Elixir bottle he was holding.

With a grin, he popped the top off the container and downed its contents, feeling his energy return as the liquid slid down his throat. Jumping to his feet, he inhaled deeply before letting out a low, rumbling Howl that shook his entire body, exciting him for his next attack. Looking at the Haunter, he smirked at its now-worried expression.

Just then, a surprised cry caught his attention, and he turned to see Sunflora suddenly hit the ground. The Haunter in front of her had woken up and already attacked her. Before he could say anything, though, the Haunter he was facing attacked while he was distracted, and he hit the broken up ground as well.

Frustrated for being caught off guard, Loudred rolled to his side and pushed himself up, turning to face his Haunter once again. He focused his energy, unleashing another set of sound waves from his ears, stunning the Haunter with the Supersonic attack. Dazed, the ghost began to float around aimlessly, just like the other Haunter he confused earlier. Hoping they would stay like that for a while, he hurried to help Sunflora with her Haunter.

She'd already put the Haunter back to sleep when he got there, but that didn't stop her from sending a barrage of razor-sharp leaves at the Gas Pokémon. Since she was a grass-type, though, and Haunter was a poison-type, he knew that her Razor Leaf was probably not doing much damage against it. So he took another deep breath before using another Astonish attack, combining it with Sunflora's Razor Leaf to overpower the Haunter.

During their assault, however, the Haunter once again woke up, and hit Sunflora with another regular attack. Clenching his fists, Loudred released his Astonish move once more, sending powerful sound waves that knocked the Haunter out of the air. The ghost hit the ground hard, and with a groan its body slumped until it was still.

Getting back to her feet, Sunflora looked at him with a small smile. Then she looked behind him, and he turned as well towards the two remaining Haunters. The first Haunter he'd confused earlier was recovered, and was floating towards them.

"Cover your ears!" Sunflora said, and Loudred did as he was told as she held one of her leaves to her mouth. Even though it was muffled, he could hear the soothing song as she blew into her leaf, and he watched as the Haunter was lulled into a deep sleep.

As soon as it nodded off, he opened his mouth and let out another sharp Astonish attack, hitting the Haunter with the thunderous sound waves. He knew the loud sound could possibly wake the ghost, but the move seemed to be super effective against them.

Luckily the Haunter remained sleeping, and Sunflora threw another set of Razor Leaf at it. With their combined attacks, it didn't take long until this Haunter was knocked out as well.

Finally, they both looked towards the last Haunter, who was finally beginning to recover from its own confusion. Picking up the Stun Seed that was still laying on the ground, Sunflora hurled it at the distracted ghost. The seed broke as it hit the other Pokémon, releasing its powder and paralyzing Haunter.

With it unable to move, Sunflora and Loudred both had some time to run over to where it hovered, getting in range for their attacks to hit. Sunflora threw another group of Razor Leaf, and he screamed out an Astonish attack, knocking the Haunter back a bit. With the powder shaken off, the Haunter once again regained its movement and swiped its ghost claw at Sunflora, who was closer.

Though she stumbled, Sunflora held her ground and raised her leaf to her mouth once more. Loudred covered his ears again, stifling the whistling that put the Haunter to sleep. Then he let out another stream of sound waves as Sunflora threw more razor leaves, striking the ghost until, finally, it was knocked out as well.

Sunflora and Loudred panted heavily, looking over the defeated Haunters as they lay, battered on the ground. Though they were regaining some consciousness, they were in no condition to fight or run away any more.

"OWowowowowowow…" one Haunter moaned.

"Owwwwwwww…" the second Haunter whimpered.

"I-I give up…" the last Haunter groaned.

The two guild members turned to each other, and Loudred pumped his fists in the air triumphantly. "ALL RIGHT!" he said. "We've knocked OUT EVERY Haunter!"

"Yippee!" Sunflora exclaimed. Then, without warning she jumped at Loudred and embraced him tightly.

He stiffened slightly, but didn't have time for much else before she pulled away, an excited smile on her face. "Let's hurry and arrest them!" she said, turning and skipping on towards the Haunters.

He hesitated for just a moment, watching her curiously before hurrying over to help her.

"FINALLY," Loudred groaned as he reached the top of the guild's staircase. Placing his bag down beside him, he stood there for a moment to catch his breath. "Geez, I'm TIRED. I can't WAIT to get to BED."

As if fighting his way through a dungeon, taking on some fire Pokémon, getting burned, and battling three Haunters wasn't enough to do for one day. But as he expected, Chatot wasn't happy about him leaving, and made him go to Apple Woods to gather Perfect Apples as punishment. He didn't even get a chance to rest a little before leaving, let alone explain to the bird why he'd left in the first place.

Even if he did have the chance to explain, though, he still wasn't sure what he'd tell Chatot…

Shrugging it off, he carefully lifted his bag over his head and made his way to the guild entrance. He was exhausted, but he knew he couldn't just drag the bag along since Perfect Apples bruised just as easily as regular apples. If any of the apples were damaged, he worried that Chatot would make him go back and get more. And in his state, he wasn't sure if he could make another trip down there.

The bag was heavy,though…

Hesitating for just a moment, Loudred passed over the grate and walked up to the gate. It was late enough that the guild wasn't accepting visitors, so he didn't have to worry about Diglett checking him. Carefully he lifted up the iron gate, just enough so he could slip inside before he headed down the ladder into the work room. Looking around, he was a little surprised to see no one was there. Then again, he realized, it was almost time for dinner. Maybe they were all in the meal room.

He was about to head down the second ladder when suddenly Sunflora came up from the room below. Startled, he jumped back, causing her to look up and finally notice him.

"Loudred!" she said, just as surprised to see him.

They both fell silent then as they stared at each other, unsure of what to say. But the quiet soon irritated Loudred, so he simply said the first thing that came to mind. "HEY, so where IS everyone?"

"Huh? Um…" Sunflora thought for a minute before pointing to the floor. "They're all downstairs telling scary stories, I think."

He laughed, hoping it would ease some of the lingering awkwardness. "Oh YEAH? I can't BELIEVE I'm missing THAT. I tell GREAT scary STORIES!"

She laughed as well, shaking her head. "Right, sure…" she retorted with playful sarcasm.

Looking at her curiously, Loudred then frowned. "But what about YOU, Sunflora?" he wondered. "What are you DOING here? Why aren't YOU with the OTHERS?"

"Oh, well…" She seemed to blush a little as she glanced away. "I was just…waiting for you…"

"Waiting…for ME?"

She nodded. "I just…wanted to thank you for coming to help me. I'm sorry you got in trouble for it, though."

"I…uh…" he stuttered, hesitant to really say anything. He had worried that she would find out that Chatot hadn't really sent him to check on her when they returned to the guild, which was why he didn't really mind his punishment too much. He didn't want to be around when she found out that he didn't need to go after her, and he thought that maybe being alone in Apple Woods would give him time to think of what to tell her if she ever brought it up.

Instead, he returned a little more uncertain than when he'd left. Because while traveling through the woods did let him think, it made him realize that he had no idea why he was so worried about Sunflora in the first place. He was glad he'd been there for her, of course, but he wasn't sure what made him go in the first place.

Hearing about that she'd been alone, thinking about the trouble she could get into, he'd merely reacted and went to help her. But looking back on it all, he couldn't make sense of what he'd done, let alone explain it to her.

Luckily, Sunflora seemed to realize that he didn't want to talk about it yet. "Did you get a lot of Perfect Apples?" she suddenly asked, looking at the bag he held.

Thankful for the change, he replied, "YUP. I found a BUNCH of Perfect Apples. It SHOULD be enough to keep the Guildmaster HAPPY for a WHILE." Carefully he lifted the bag again. "I BETTER go put them AWAY."

"It looks kind of heavy," she said as she watched him. "Do you want some help?"

He blinked as he turned to her. "Uh…sure," he said. Then, doing his best to sound indifferent, he added, "I GUESS…" But he couldn't hide the smile on his face.

Returning the smile, she nodded and picked up the other end of the bag. Then the two, with the bag between them, carefully made their way down the ladder.

Loudred knew they still had a lot to talk about, and they still had a way to go before everything was all right between them. But he was sure they would get there eventually.

The End

Just a last note: The battle with the three Haunters was based on my battle with them in the game, more or less. So apologies if the battle seemed a little lacking or anything. I swear, that is the last time I write a Pokemon battle. That was hard!