A/N: So, I dug this up. It's about two years old. I didn't post it back then because I didn't like it, but now, rereading it, I do like it. So. I'll see how it goes this time. Please review!

She crouched behind the bushes, cautiously peeking through the branches, examining each shadow for a human or Pokemon form. The light that was cast by her small candle was dim, and there was no moon that night, but she couldn't sense any danger. She knew that she had nothing to lose – if someone was, indeed, lurking there, he or she would have seen her light already – but she was still reluctant to leave the peaceful solitude of Route 1.

The path that led to Pallet Town was barely visible, overgrown with tall grass. A Hoothoot cooed somewhere in a tree. The woman shivered slightly as a gust of wind rippled through the grasses.

It's now or never, she thought, and impulsively sprung to her feet. She grunted over the heavy weight on her back and stood still for a moment, waiting for the dizziness to pass over her. She heard a sound coming from her head, like the sound of rushing water, and staggered forward a few steps to keep her balance. She needed a drink. Her mouth was so dry she could barely open it. But she shook the thought from her head and trudged on through, crushing the tall, dry grass under her feet. Ratatta scampered, brushing her ankles as they scurried past. Pidgey took flight at the sound of her steps.

Pallet Town was not the way she remembered it. It was dirty and unkempt. It was ominous and secretive – no lights came from the windows, no children inside sneaking midnight ice-cream. No streetlights, either. The only light came from the woman's flickering candle and a fire somewhere in the distance.

The whole town is buried in trash. Saffron City was cleaner than this! She thought somewhat despairingly as she kicked a broken Poké Ball from the path. And thought she should have known what to expect – she'd heard the news – it still came as a bit of a shock to her to see her hometown in such a pathetic state. I should start a cleaning committee… plant a garden, do something! Red would never have allowed it to get like this – not the one I knew, anyway.

Bitterly, she reminded herself that "the Red she knew" might not be the one she'd likely be coming in contact with now. The Red she recalled was sweet, dense, innocent. But she'd barely caught a glimpse of his other side – aggressive, suspicious, even depressed. It had been three years since she'd first seen that Red – since that Red had emerged. It took only one moment to taint a person's soul, she'd always thought. But it could take years for him or her to revert back to the person he or she used to be. And before it did – if it did – it would only get worse.

"Hey! You, with the candle!"

The loud voice caused her to jump, and she whipped around to face its source. It was a police officer.

"Yes, sir!" She said quickly.

"What are you doing out here in the middle of the night?" He demanded as he ran toward her.

She bowed. "I'm sorry, Officer. It's that... my younger sister is having a baby and she's home alone…"

"Uh-huh. And you wouldn't happen to know about that bonfire over there, would you?"

She shook her head vigorously. "No, sir. I mean, I saw it. But not up close."

He was unconvinced. "What's the candle for?"

"Light, sir. It's not too much, is it?"

He shook his head. "It's not, but you really shouldn't be out at night. It's dangerous."

"Yes, sir."

"I understand you have to see your sister, and I shouldn't let you go alone, but… unfortunately, we're all busy searching for whoever started that fire. Hmph. I'll at least need to record this. I'll need your ID."

"Um… right, sir," she said, drawing the card from the pocket in her long cloak. She handed it to the officer, who squinted to read it in the dark.

"Green… Oak?"

"Yes, sir."

He lifted his squinting gaze to her. "You happen to be related to Professor Oak?"

Her heart plunged at this reference; this reminder of why she was here. "Yes, sir. By marriage."

"Oh," he said. "I see."

She half-expected – half-wanted – him to say that he was sorry about the loss of her grandfather-in-law. And she half-wanted to say that she was sorry, too; to tell him all about how great of a man he'd been, and how he'd been like her own grandfather when she was growing up. But he didn't say anything more, and she knew it wouldn't have been smart of her to tell him that kind of thing, even if he had. Even admitting that she was related to Professor Oak by marriage was pushing it, she knew, and she mentally chastised herself as the police officer returned her ID card and said, "Be careful."

"I will, sir," she said, giving a quick bow and turning to walk away.

"Wait!" The officer exclaimed suddenly.

She spun around.

"What's that on your back, ma'am?"

Oh, no! Green thought. She felt her stomach lurch as she stepped back toward the officer. "On my… back?"

"Yes. You're carrying something on your back, are you not?"

Sweating, she reached behind her and felt the large sack. "Well, would you look at that? I am!" Mentally she cringed at herself. Her deceptive skills could really use some polishing.

But it didn't matter. She was only buying time while the candle behind her back slowly changed form.

"Ma'am, you're acting suspicios?"

No point in playing innocent anymore. Now it was time to play dumb. "And?"

"I'm going to have to have a look at that bag."

"Right, sir. Just a second. Let me just… oof... set it down."

Letting go of the "candle" - which floated in the wind behind her - Green reached for the bag and gently placed it on the road. Warily, the police officer zipped it open, reached in – and froze. He jumped to his feet immediately and said authoritively, "You're under arrest."

Green, who was holding her breath, didn't respond.

Not taking his eyes off her, and approaching her slowly, the officer took a walkie-talkie off his belt. "This is Jamison of the Kanto Police Force, Pallet Town branch. I am on Smallpetal Road and I'm going to need back-up; possible suspect of kidnapping and murder – long haired female in her late twenties or mid-thirties."

He grabbed her wrist and she let him, too tired to fight. She wanted to scream in protest, knock him down and demand how dare he accuse her of kidnapping – but she didn't. Instead, she watched as he subtly changed; his movement lost its valor and his eyes glazed over. He'd barely managed to get one handcuff on before he finally collapsed to the ground.

Zipping the sack up as she thrust it over her shoulders, she ran. She ran past the houses, even the one that had been her own, without a second glance, until she was sure she couldn't bear to run anymore. And then she looked up to see that familiar-looking building with the sign that couldn't be read in the dark – but Green knew it said "Welcome to the Oak Laboratory" and was decorated with Love Balls that Daisy had drawn. Green couldn't help but smile.

"We're here… Teal," Green whispered, and she felt the girl stir in her sleep.

'Murder', the police officer had said. 'Kidnapping!' Of course not! Teal had gotten tired of walking, so Green had been carrying her on her back. Ten years ago, that would have been the first thing assumed. But now…

She had been acting suspicious, she knew. That was because Teal wasn't a citizen of Pallet Town and thus wasn't allowed in its perimeters. Still – the police officer hadn't even tried to find another explanation for why Green had been carrying her daughter. He'd arrested her, just like that.

But this wasn't the time to be scared of her hometown. It was a time to be happy. She was coming home. For the first time in she didn't know how long, she was at the place her PokeDex holders' instincts were telling her to be. And if she'd come, others must have come as well. Red for certain. And Yellow. And maybe Silver or maybe even…

But there was no use in thinking about it. Green took Ditty in her hand and smiled. "You know what to do, Ditty."

Ditty morphed out of its previous form as a Jumpluff and stretched to fill the keyhole. Green didn't bother to knock; everyone would be asleep at the late hour, and besides, she wanted to see the looks on their faces when they emerged from the bedrooms in the morning to see Green and Teal sleeping on the couch. She grinned at the idea, in spite of herself. Then she quietly opened the door, resisting the urge to shout, "I'm home!" as she stepped into the dark lab.

She wasn't alone. There was a dim light coming from inside, and a figure standing in the doorway. Squinting, Green leaned her head forward to get a look at the figure's face.

And shrieked.