Kevin didn't get much sleep that night.
The second after he'd realized it had been Chikoro who'd captured Chuno, he'd spent a good amount of time being stunned while Kyle berated the kid for meddling in his personal affairs. Chikoro, however, stood strong, a sense of confidence seemingly overtaking him, though not without weariness. It was like he'd grown up in the space of a few minutes.
When Kyle yelled at him, the Chikorita snapped right back, saying that nobody should have been so surprised, since he'd said that he'd finish off Chuno if they didn't have the guts to. And he was right. It took a moment, but both brothers eventually remembered the kid telling them so back at Kyle's headquarters. Of course, neither of them had actually taken him seriously.
Kari, who had not been present for the event, had a free pass and could be surprised, if she wanted, or so Chikoro claimed. She was pretty much speechless, but thanked him and settled down in the backyard to try and catch some sleep. Kevin would have done the same, had it not been for Lana's ultimatum. He nudged her awake, told her in brief that Lana was basically kicking all of them out of her house, and begrudgingly led her, Chikoro, Kyle, and his sleepy dad out of the tiny town and into Route 201 to spend the night.
Despite the inadequate sleeping arrangements, nobody really complained. Kevin was used to sleeping in trees, after all, and Kyle was too. Kari had spent the past several days sleeping outside anyway, and Cory Holly was far too tired to protest. Chikoro muttered that he wasn't going to sleep anyway.
So, as Kevin watched the stars in the sky and heard three of his four companions drift off to sleep, he was left wide awake on a tree branch with Chikoro right below. As there was nothing better to do, he decided to talk to the kid.
"You okay?" he asked, hoping not to anger him in some way. He didn't want another grass type reptile snapping at him, after all, though he figured Kyle had already exhausted most of the Chikorita's argumentative desires.
Chikoro scoffed quietly. Kevin could hear some bug Pokémon in the distance chirping. "Why do you ask? Nobody laid a finger on me. I'm perfectly fine."
Kevin sighed. The kid was always so defensive. "Come on. You're totally shaken up. You've got to be."
Though Kevin couldn't see it, he had a feeling Chikoro was frowning. "Maybe a little. Something tells me Chuno would kill me if he ever got out of here," he said.
"Wait," Kevin frowned. "Out of here? Do you have the Master Ball with you?" Kevin was sure that it had been safely put back into his father's briefcase before they'd left…
"How do you think I managed to get it in the first place? I cracked the code. I wanted to feel it again."
Kevin, curious, climbed down from the tree and landed in front of Chikoro. Sure enough, the Chikorita was casually batting the Master Ball around, like he was a cat or something. "What? You cracked the code?"
Chikoro smirked. "It wasn't that hard. It's eight-six, eighty-eight."
Kevin blinked. "…How?"
"Oh, please. It's your dad's briefcase, right? You and your brother mean a lot to him. You were born in 1986, and your brother two years after. Thus, the combination." Chikoro grinned. "I'll admit, it wasn't my first guess, otherwise I would have caught him way earlier."
"You're really something, you know that?" Kevin muttered, watching him bat the ball. "So why did you want to play with it?"
Chikoro stopped rolling it around, picking it up with a vine. He held it up for Kevin to take. "Feel it."
Kevin was incredulous, but he accepted the ball. It… wasn't that exciting. He could feel there was something in it, trying in vain to escape, but otherwise it felt like a normal Pokéball.
"There's so much power in there," Chikoro said, watching it, mesmerized. "It's really incredible, to hold something like that in such a tiny thing. Don't you think?"
Not really, was what he wanted to say, but Kevin figured it was probably the human part of him talking. Training had felt so natural to him, but to Chikoro, something like this was probably alien enough to seem amazing. Kevin raised an eyebrow.
"I guess," he said, handing it back. "Maybe it's because you're the one who caught him. I don't know."
Chikoro eyed the Master Ball thoughtfully. "Maybe."
The two were silent for a moment, before Chikoro spoke again. "I can't imagine what it's like to be human. I mean, to have six of these things near you all the time. I don't think most Pokémon could do it."
"Mm. You're not like most Pokémon, Chicky," Kevin said, smiling.
"Pfft. Somebody needs to tell that to you," Chikoro said, snorting. He paused. "Then again, someone probably has."
Kevin grinned. "How astute of you."
"Yeah, well, it figures that she already said something. You really are a loony, you know?" The Chikorita shook his head. "And to think, I'm going to be spending the foreseeable future living with you. Man."
Blinking, Kevin said, "What?"
"Well, you're my trainer, aren't you? Wherever you go, I go."
"H-hey! That doesn't mean you can just—"
"Where else am I going to go, Slickky? Like Mr. Shade would let me in his home…"
"Can we talk about this?"
"We just did, didn't we?"
"Ugh," Kevin slumped down beside Chikoro, feeling deflated. "You're an evil little half-pint."
Chikoro smiled proudly. "Thank you."
Kevin shifted his arms. "Mom's going to love you."
The Chikorita's smile faltered. "Eh?"
"Yep. It's been years since she had a little brat to coddle. I'm sure she'll be very happy to meet you," Kevin smirked. "And you know, that just might make you more bearable."
Chikoro tapped the Master Ball softly. "…I see. Well, a place to stay and food to eat is all I need. Having a mom is an added bonus."
The quiet sounds of the night were soothing. Kevin found it hard to believe he couldn't sleep for hours before. If anything, it was like a lullaby, soft and gentle. He frowned.
"You know," he started, half-whispering, "having an adventure was great and all, but I'm glad it's over."
Chikoro nodded in agreement. "Me too."
And the two of them mutually agreed to end their conversation and catch some sleep. Hell, they sure needed it. It'd be morning soon, after all.
It was a sort of hectic morning when Kevin awoke, he noticed, as there was lots of animated chatter and walking around. As he surveyed the surroundings – a lightly-frosted clearing with a couple shallow piles of snow – he saw about fifteen apple cores and deduced, with a sigh, that everyone had already eaten. It wasn't until Chikoro skipped by that he found out that wasn't exactly the case.
"Those are all your brother's, Slick," said Chikoro, grinning. "Specially imported by the Pidgeot express. You'd think he'd bring some for everybody, but I guess he's kind of a jerk."
Kevin grimaced, stretching his arms. "That's Kyle for you."
Chikoro sniggered. "Your dad wanted to talk to you, by the way," he said.
"Mm? Oh, okay, thanks," said Kevin. With a nod, Chikoro skipped off the other way, off to do who knows what before everyone got ready for departure.
Kevin let out a yawn and glanced around again, this time attempting to find his father. It wasn't too hard; the clearing was spacious but Cory was the only human around. Kevin spotted him leaning on a tree, messing around with his phone or something. He cracked his neck to get rid of some of the early morning stiffness and walked over.
Cory was tapping away on a keypad of some sort, as if he was typing up a letter. It wasn't really surprising, however. Kevin sighed internally. He'd missed a lot of technological advancements in ten years, hadn't he? Being able to write on a phone was probably a given nowadays, however odd it seemed to him. Thank the heavens that as a Pokémon, adapting to new technology wasn't too much of a priority.
He gave his dad a small wave. "Hey. Chicky said you wanted to talk?"
Cory looked up from his phone for a split second before resuming typing. "Oh, Kevin. Yes, I did want to talk. Just give me a second to finish this."
It only took a few moments for Cory to write out the last few words and send his digital letter. Kevin watched him turn off the phone and pocket it with a little bit of wonder. "Who was that for?" he asked out of curiosity.
"Silph Co.," answered his father, looking disgruntled. "I had to place an order for a new Master Ball. I'm just hoping they buy the whole thing I made up about an out of control Pokémon situation… I mean, those things are pretty expensive and our budget's not that great. Hopefully I'll at least get it half price." Cory pushed up his glasses.
Seeing Kevin's look of confusion, Cory uttered a small laugh. "That's the wonderful world of having a job, Kevin. Constantly trying not to mess up and dealing with it as best you can when you inevitably do. Never guessed a nine-year-old would end up cracking my passcode, but hey, things happen."
Kevin frowned. "It wasn't his first guess, if that makes you feel better."
The scientist laughed again. "Ah, maybe a little. But I didn't want to talk to you about menial things like work."
"Then… what?" Kevin asked.
Cory smiled. "Well, I wanted to know what you're planning on doing next."
Glancing to the side, Kevin shrugged. "I don't know. I want to go home, first and foremost, and after that I guess I'll play it by ear. I'm done with all the adventuring."
"So you're not joining Kyle, then?" Cory inquired.
Kevin shook his head. "Nope."
His father brushed away a few brown bangs. "Hm. He'll be surprised to hear that. He's been complaining all morning about having to let you in The Shades."
Narrowing his eyes, Kevin shook his head once more. "Why is he so full of himself?"
"I think he's a little more like his mother's side of the family than he'd like to admit," Cory said quietly. The man eyed the view in front of him thoughtfully. "It really makes me wonder…"
"Wonder what?" Kevin's father had a tendency of trailing off, it seemed.
Cory frowned. "Kyle swears that Rowan kept him prisoner in his lab. I just can't wrap my head around it, though. Rowan is an old friend of mine. He of all people would know that Kyle and Kari would want to be let go…"
Kevin shrugged. "There are humans out there who can't take the simplest of signs from Pokémon, dad," he said.
"Oh, that's not the case at all, I'm sure," said Cory. "Rowan's got four brains; he's not exactly stupid."
Kevin did a double take. "E-excuse me?"
Cory blinked, realization dawning on him. "Oh, I didn't say, did I? Rowan is a Metagross. He would have understood what they wanted, whether they spoke Pokémon or human or just glared at him."
He stared. "…You're kidding."
"No, I'm not. If it weren't for Rowan, I'd say I'd probably still be developing the Cell Separation System, too. He's the most intelligent person I know," Cory frowned. "Which is why I can't fathom why he'd think it'd be in Kyle's best interest to keep him in his lab, but there it is."
There was a pause. "Did you ask or…?"
"Yeah, I did. Rowan told me that neither Kyle nor Kari would survive in the wild if he let them go free, but if Nick and I could then I'm sure those two would have been fine…"
Kevin frowned. "Well… Kyle was only twelve, right?"
Cory shrugged. "He'd lived in the wild his whole life before."
"With mom," said Kevin, "in a tropical region with fruit growing year round. Never mind the fact that he only eats apples, which I haven't seen growing on the mainland here as of yet. And Kari… She was raised in a lab, nice and safe her whole life. I think I can kind of see where Rowan was coming from."
His father contemplated this. "I suppose that makes sense, logically. He is a robot, after all."
"He was pretty nice to me, when I met him," Kevin added.
Cory blinked. "Oh, you met him?" Kevin nodded. "Well, I guess you're right, then. Still, I wouldn't go and tell those two about it, if I were you."
Kevin scoffed. "I wasn't really planning to. I think it's best to let them live their lives, now that they're out and can actually take care of themselves."
He leaned against the tree, feeling the cool winter breeze blow by. It really wasn't all that bad here, now that he was used to it. Maybe one day he'd come back, if only for a visit with Kyle or something. As for now, he was done with Sinnoh.
Cory seemed happy. "I'm glad. It was nice seeing you boys again after so long."
"Yeah," agreed Kevin, dropping his gaze to the grass.
"I think after I clear this whole work thing up, I'll come round to see your mother again, too," he said, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "That is, if she lets me live."
Kevin grinned. "We'll be looking forward to it."
He chuckled. "So will I."
Kyle pushed something into his hands. "Here. Breakfast."
Kevin eyed the dozens of dried leaves that were now in his arms. "Leaves," he said, his voice flat.
Kyle shrugged. "It's the best we can do this time of year. You're just going to have to deal with it."
"Says the guy who flew in a million apples and left the evidence out for everyone to see," muttered Kevin.
His brother merely shrugged. "I figured you were used to eating the plant life around here, and you wouldn't mind."
Oh, yeah right. As if Kyle really thought that deeply about it. He had to be so insufferable all of a sudden, didn't he? "I bet you saved an apple or two for Kari."
Kyle grinned. "Ladies first, of course. Besides, I promised her I'd let her have a taste when we got out…" He frowned. "And I kept it."
"I suppose you did, even if it is a few years too late," said Kevin. He let the leaves drop to the ground. "You have a hell of a lot to make up to her, you know."
Kyle scoffed, turning his head to the side. "I know. I am going to fix everything, even if it takes forever," he said, crossing his arms. "And nothing you can do is going to stop that, all right? No matter how hard you beg, you are not going to be part of The Shades with us and—"
"Good. I don't even want to be," Kevin said, catching his brother's attention.
"What?" Kyle said. "You don't?"
"No," replied Kevin. "The Shades is your thing. I'd hate to join if it means I'd only ever play second fiddle," he said confidently. He wouldn't mention Chuno's deal. He wasn't sure if the Raichu would ever escape from his prison to hold him up to it, but Kevin figured better safe than sorry.
And… The Shades didn't really seem all that appealing any more. Kevin didn't want to be involved in messy politics. Especially not if Kyle was at the forefront of them. He'd rather just go home…
Kyle raised an eyebrow. "Well…" he muttered. "I expected you to put up more of a fight."
Kevin sighed. "For what? Superiority?"
"For Kari," Kyle said. His mouth twisted into a smirk. "But hey, that's fine by me. I like winning, especially against you," Kyle chuckled, and then brushed past him, patting him on the shoulder.
"I guess I'll see you later, then. I've got arrangements to make, since Kari's going to be living with me and all. Bye!" And with a stupor that was incredibly unlike him, Kyle waved and sauntered off.
…What a jerk.
Groaning, Kevin put his hand on his head. Kari was going to live with his brother? Why in the world would she ever accept something like that? Unless she offered it herself… but she would never do that. Not after…
Guess there was one last person to talk to before heading home.
Oh lord. Kevin took a deep breath and began to look around for Kari. She was considerably harder to spot, what with his terrible vision and knack for blending in with other foliage, but soon he found a tree that was a tad too green for that time of year attached to a turtle who was a tad too important not to see before he left. He sighed and headed over to her.
Kari was staring down the frozen grass with an intense glare, and Kevin found it almost too intimidating to start a conversation. He vaguely remembered her glares when they first met, far too futile to scare his immature little ass. Times sure had changed.
She looked up when she noticed him, regarding him thoughtfully. "I was wondering when you'd wake up," she said.
In all honesty, at that moment he wanted to pretend that they still needed another badge and he needed her help to come up with a good strategy. "Fell asleep really late. I was up talking to Chicky."
"Oh?" Her voice still sounded like sandpaper, just like it had at the beginning. "What about?"
"You know," he said, "What we're going to do, where we're going to go. That sort of stuff." He had a feeling neither of them really cared about what they were talking about.
She tilted her head slightly. Kevin identified the movement as a tiny hint of confusion. "And did you decide anything?"
He frowned, finally sitting down beside her. He curled his tail in front of him, staring at it. "I'm going back home. Back to do nothing and be nobody of importance. Chicky's coming with me."
Kari turned her gaze to his tail, too. "So you decided not to come with Kyle and I?"
A heavy sigh. He flicked his eyes at hers. "I made a deal."
She paused. "…With Chuno? You don't have to keep any promises to him, anymore—"
"I know, I know. I don't have to. But…" Kevin winced. "I don't know. I guess I feel like I have to? And… I actually don't really want to be part of The Shades. Not now."
She seemed displeased with him. He sighed, bringing his hand to his face.
"Why are you going with him, anyway? It seems like the last thing you'd want to do," he muttered quietly. His tail flickered.
Kari looked away. "He… He asked me to marry him."
Kevin's eyes snapped wide open as he jerked his head up. "He what?"
The Torterra stared at the ground, uneasiness overtaking her. "I-I know. It caught me off guard. He took my speechlessness as a 'maybe'."
He squinted at her. "…And?"
"And then he went on about how he'd make everything up to me and I could be a Shade and we'd be perfect forever. And I was about to tell him he was kidding himself and that could never happen. But the way he was smiling… he looked just the way he used to. And for a second, it seemed like the old him was really there. And I figured… I figured it was only fair to let him have one last chance. The old him."
Kevin was more than incredulous. "After everything he did to you, you're going to let him have another chance."
"Well, I was under the impression I'd have you there with me, and that if he did end up being a huge idiot again, I'd still be okay," she said.
Kevin blinked. "…Oh."
"I want to be part of The Shades, too. It was my idea, after all, and I think Kyle could use a few ideas that don't come from a children's story book," said Kari, somewhat bitterly. "But that doesn't mean I don't want to stop being with you. These last few months, I've never been happier. Despite all the crying I may have done."
His expression was slowly turning back into a frown with creased eyebrows. "You cried a hell of a lot."
She laughed. "Mm. But I smiled too, didn't I? I don't do that very much."
He found himself leaning against her shell. He didn't remember when he'd started doing that, but judging by the smile on her face, he didn't think she minded all that much.
"Kyle told me you were in love with me this morning," she said, her smile turning into a smirk.
Kevin rolled his eyes. "Goddamn it."
Kari giggled. "I can't believe it took him that long to figure it out."
Grimacing, Kevin glanced at her. "Knowing you, you probably knew before I did."
"Since Iron Island," she said, beaming at the sky. "You were acting far too nice far too quickly."
Kevin opened his mouth. That… was a little early. "Um…"
"Oh, dear. When did you figure it out?" She sighed in exasperation.
"Like, two days ago," he said.
Kari was surprised. "Two days ago? But…" She blinked. "The league… you said…"
Kevin grinned sheepishly. "Uh… said what?"
She shook her head and stomped her right foot roughly into the ground. "You are a moron. Go home, all right? And don't come and see me until you grow up and get some brain cells, okay?"
He laughed. "'Kay. I'll go," He stood up. "When's your birthday?"
"Er… July twenty-sixth, I think," Kari said. "It may be off by a few days, being born where I was and all, but I think that's what they wrote down…"
Kevin gave her a salute. "Gotcha. I'll come see you on July twenty-sixth. You okay with that?"
She stared at him for a split second before smiling back. "I'll be looking forward to it."
He smirked before turning, off to collect Chikoro so he could hitch a ride on a boat at the port in Sandgem Town back home. In a few short hours, he'd be back in Petalburg Woods, sitting in his favourite tree, most likely hearing his mother scold him for being away so long, then revert to gushing over how happy she was to have him home.
Yep. Things would go back to normal, just the way they used to be. Nothing would be changed at all. Well, almost nothing.
If one thing was for certain, Kevin was looking at the world with brand new eyes.
And that was probably all he'd ever wanted.
That's the end.
I want to take the time to thank each and every one of my readers and reviewers for sticking with me through this mess. If you were brave enough to trek through the first ten or so chapters and end up here in the end, kudos to you. You are truly remarkable. Thank you:
Farla, for correcting my hideous dialogue grammar and giving me some helpful tips at the beginning.
ultima-owner, for your odd yet plentiful reviews early on.
grazar, for being a fan that inspired me to keep going.
The mysterious anonymous reviewer, who gave me a couple insightful reviews I was ecstatic to see.
Electric Claw, for sticking with me and pulling me through to the end.
hetaliagurl123, for being hilarious.
and mudkiprox, who is the best friend I could ever ask for. Thank you for listening to my crazy rambles at lunch all the way back in 2007. If it weren't for you, I don't know where I'd be.
I hope you enjoyed. I certainly did.