~*Painting A Masterpiece*~

It took more than one color to create a true work of art.

Written To: "Moonrise" by Brian Crain, I recommend Youtube-ing it.

There hadn't always been just two of them.

At one point, there had been three.

Blue still remembered her. Still thought of her, especially when the rain came crashing down. (It was her favorite weather after all.) At times, it seemed the pounding droplets carried her voice, her words, the invisible rhymes that she wove into her sketches—works of art—in other words, their friendship, the bond the three friends of Pallet Town shared.

Had shared.

Sometimes, he could even hear her sing, sometimes, she was all he could think of (especially during rainstorms, always, always during rainstorms.)

One bright summer day was all it had took for a cloud to cover his sun. To shatter their connection, their link. Three simple words—"I'm moving away."—that was all. Words held power, despite what anyone said or thought, Blue knew.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me…

That had been four long years ago, back when he was thirteen. He was seventeen now, and a young Gym Leader…the Leader of Viridian City's Gym. He…was…a Pokémon Master. Blue didn't know what she was now.

He could still recall it. A house empty of everything but memories in the darkest corners, trying to escape time's crumbling touch, its heart gone across the sea and far, far away. Without her to act as the water to Red's fire and the ice to Blue's waves, a rift had cracked apart the remaining two friends, now rivals.

It was raining again.

Blue didn't expect any Trainers today. If they wanted a match, they could come tomorrow, when the storm let up. He just wanted to get home before it started hailing.

(He didn't like hail. It reminded him of a boy on a snowy mountain with a burning auburn gaze.)

Dragging his tan jacket over his arms, Blue grabbed the keys to his Gym, nodding at his faithful Eevee with a smirk that only just touched his eyes. "Heh, so little people can beat me that the Pokémon League is complaining about the lack of new challengers to the Elite Four."

His Eevee mewled in amusement, long ears twitching, his bushy tail curling over his back. His companion blinked once at him, long and slow, face unreadable.

Pretending not to notice his Pokémon's concerned stare (it was a tangible force on his back), Blue picked up the silver case containing the Earth Badges that he handed out to the few that managed to best him in battle. It rattled loudly as he shook it, nearly full of the green emblems.

Just then, the door slid open with a raucous, unusual crash. As if someone had just shoved it open with brute strength since the raging tumult outside was probably trying to slam it shut again.

The sound was so startling that Blue dropped the case, and it banged loudly against the glossy floor, releasing a veritable explosion of shiny emerald medallions. Each one winked individually in the light overhead.

He just managed to cut off a swear—his Eevee was not fond of such things—and huffing crossly, he bent and began shoving the Badges back into their container, all the while muttering to himself about faulty electronic doors. Eevee paced over and began helping, lifting the items up with his teeth and trotting obediently back to his master's side.

Blue continued to collect his Badges, since he certainly didn't want some two-bit Trainer to find it and claim they "beat" him, his ears perking up in a similar manner to his Pokémon's as he heard footsteps approaching.

The Gym was empty except for him. What kind of crazy person would come during a veritable hurricane just to challenge him? Should he be flattered or what?

"We're closed," Blue called loudly, snatching the last Badge and dropping it unceremoniously within its prison. Snapping its lid shut, he shoved it into his jacket pocket. "Come back tomorrow."

Still, the footsteps came.

Eevee's nose trembled slightly as he scented the air.

That's when he heard it. The slow walk of a human, and the four-footed pad of Pokémon paws on the tiles.

For a wild second that twisted his insides and made his throat hurt terribly, he thought it was…But no. He had never come visit him before, why start now? He shouldn't care anyway. He was no friend of his.

At least…not anymore.

The stubborn newcomer was probably right behind him by now. With an irritated sigh, Blue turned, keys in hand, letting his annoyance bleed over into his words so that they literally flayed the person like a Bulbasaur's Vine Whip. "I said go—"

Keys clattered from suddenly nerveless fingers.

"It's horrible out there!" The Trainer spoke in a voice with softly accented vowels, barely hinting at an acquired accent. She casually handed him her sodden white hat with a short brim that went all the way around, wringing out her soaking wet brown locks. A puddle of rainwater was forming at her feet. She grinned at him in thanks for holding her cap, placing it back over her long, straight chocolate hair, arranging it so that her eyes were hidden.

Blue's eyes moved instinctively to her legs, and he saw her Nidorina murmuring to herself, shaking her feet out in turn, attempting to dislodge the moisture from her claws. Each individual spike dripped, adding to the small pool of water.

Leaf beamed at him, and for a moment, it was as if she had never left.

Blue felt himself tremor, and he placed his hand on the wall of his Gym for support. Eevee arched his back, convinced that the person causing his Trainer's distress was bad news.

It-It can't be.

To Blue, it was so shocking to see her—standing there nonchalantly, like she had only gone to the store and back—that he almost collapsed. Such moments of weakness were rare for him, and thus, he was not accustomed to dealing with the emotions battering against his armor of arrogance, vanity, pride.

"Leaf?" His voice wavered slightly, attempting to hide an ancient (new) wound that existed somewhere between his childhood and his start as a Pokémon Trainer that had just reopened (closed).

She smiled, easy as you please, folding her hands in front of her and laughing like his memories said she always did. "Surprised?" Green eyes twinkled, brief as morning stars, before vanishing behind her hat's brim.

Blue was stilling staring, her presence ruthlessly tearing open a million old cuts that had never truly healed when she had left.

"Aw, say something!" Leaf pleaded, her grin fading away slowly. "Aren't…you glad to see me?"

He heard her, but another voice was in his ears before he could reply. Brutal, harsh, as conceited as Narcissus, monstrous as a boy that had not quite faded…named after a color, a shade of azure. A voice from the not-so-distant past.

"You changed. Left Red behind to be Champion, and then you lost! She'll not like you as you are now. She remembers a friend that stopped existing…for ambition and fame and everything that comes with it."

Blue squeezed his eyes shut momentarily; not at all happy with what he was hearing. He was well aware of how…cruel he had been to Red, well aware of how much of a sore loser he had been. He was trying so hard to at least be graceful in defeat.

The bad thing about Leaf…was that she always made him feel ashamed, long after his conscience had stopped whispering empty words.

"Ni?" Nidorina nudged her owner with her muzzle, and a concerned Eevee weaved around and through Blue's legs, puzzled by his silence.

After all, how often was Viridian's Gym Leader speechless?

"Wait," Blue croaked as a hesitant Leaf stepped backwards. "I…" Some of his old composure returned to him at that moment, and gratefully, he accepted it. Grinning smugly, spreading his arms as he gestured to their surroundings, he remarked, "So, what do you think? Bet ya didn't expect me to become Gym Leader!" The pride in his voice had burrowed too deep, taken root inside of him as a shameless haughtiness that Leaf could surely see.

She didn't comment. Didn't say the dreaded "You changed." that he was so expecting and afraid of hearing.

Instead, she just lifted her head, studied him so quickly that Blue didn't even glimpse her eyes, and then pulled her hat down again in a manner so similar to Red that his heart twisted for his lost friendship. He wondered if she liked what she saw in him, or if she…

The alternative hurt too much to think about.

Nervousness was not a natural part of Blue's character, so when it reared its ugly head, he didn't know what to do. Leaf had her arms wrapped around her, still dripping wet, and he noticed a shiver run the length of her body. She tensed, as if to fight it off the next time it appeared.

"Here." He removed his jacket and draped it around her—(typical Leaf, not even wearing a sweater, just a t-shirt like another idiot boy on a hailing mountain)—holding the arms out so she could slip into it.

Leaf thanked him, brushing her hair behind her ears and not saying a single word.

Her silence disturbed him. "You just took me by surprise, is all. Want to go to my place? It's not far from here." Blue was making an effort to change his voice, almost out of desperation, but the smugness that was a part of his personality now was too embedded in every syllable. It was like an accent all his own.

Abruptly, she perked up, as if she had recalled something interesting. "Oh, how's Red? Is he here?"

Blue clenched his teeth, glaring at the wall behind her. That name…was everything he had wanted to be. Still wanted to be.

Pokémon Master.

What hurt more was the tone she had used. Red. Like he was someone so precious to her that she'd never forget his name.

Leaf's eyes moved over him, studying his posture. Blue pretended not to notice. "I don't know what I was thinking, coming here. I mean, this must be so strange and awkward! We were friends years ago and you probably don't…I mean…I'm so impulsive that…Sorry!" Her voice had risen in embarrassment at the end, and she tried to offer him his jacket back, blushing profusely. She seemed much younger all of a sudden. "I just got back from Orre and—"

"Shut up!" Blue snapped, throwing his hands up in exasperation. His Eevee snorted in agreement. "I'm happy to see you, Leaf! So put on the dang jacket so we can get out of this Gym!" He more or less demanded the last bit.

She gawked at him, eyes wide. "You aren't just saying that?"

Blue glared at her to get his point across, biting his tongue to keep his short temper in check. Once she had tugged his jacket back on, he grabbed her hand—ignoring her startled objections—and dragged her out into the rain.

The chaotic maelstrom outside blurred reality as well as color, turning the world into a smudgy gray backdrop broken only by neon lights from around the city, and even they seemed unnaturally pale. Thunder rumbled somewhere beyond the horizon, and lightning crackled once in the forest, probably attracted to the Pikachu living within.

Despite the freezing deluge pouring from the sky, the wet bundle of cold fur in his free arm that was his Eevee, and the blasting wind, Blue could still feel Leaf's warm hand in his, and he grinned only because she couldn't see it.

(And he looked like his old self again.)

It was only about a five minute walk to his apartment, and Blue had a heavy resilience to the weather, hence why he had insisted that Leaf wear his jacket. She might have gotten hypothermia or something otherwise, who knew?

Still, even he was miserably drenched when they arrived. Blue opened the door to his dwelling, flipping on the lights. He hoped that no one could sense the not-quite-loneliness that lingered in every inch of the rooms. Everything was new and renovated and filled with furniture that matched their owner's name, but…

The apartment felt more like a house than a home.

Eevee shook himself, splattering silver water droplets all over the place. Twitching his tail, the Eevee proceeded to pace around his Trainer, perhaps sensing his anxiety.

For some reason, Leaf's reaction was important to him.

"This place is huge! And you live here all alone?" Leaf hung his jacket on the back of the door, her tone incredulous.

"Well…yeah, if you don't count my Pokémon. So?" Blue shifted his feet, a little uncomfortable.

She lifted her head, and though the brim of her hat still obscured her eyes, he could feel her stare. "Blue, where's Red? When I got here, instead of going to Pallet Town, I just asked if anyone knew where I could find Blue Oak." She giggled slightly. "I said to myself upon stepping off that boat that you'd be famous around here. I was right. A boy named Brendan told me you were Viridian City's Gym Leader. You two were never far away from another before…so, where is he? Where is Red?"

She had no idea how far apart they were now. Didn't know that—in Blue's eyes—Red's few words seared like pounding hail and he himself was now as intimidating as an icy mountain that defied warming sunlight.

"If he's not on Mt. Silver, I don't know where he is," Blue responded stiffly, hands shoved in his pockets. Leaf seemed bothered by his statement.

"Why in the world is he on Mt. Silver?"

"It's where he challenges new Trainers."

Leaf's eyes flashed for a second, visible fleetingly. "You mean he's Champion now?"

"No. He's Kanto's 'Pokémon Master'. Better than the Champion." The words tasted like defeat on his tongue, bitter and dry.

"Have any of you congratulated the other yet?" And now her tone was disapproving.

Blue lifted one shoulder and let it drop, uncaring.

"Did you two move from Pallet Town or something?" Leaf fiddled with the ears of her Nidorina as she spoke. Sunlit memories of her said that she always moved her hands when she was nervous.

Dropping onto the couch, rubbing his damp hair, Blue didn't speak again until Leaf sat down beside him, their Pokémon on their laps. Their shoulders were brushing slightly.

"Listen. Red and I, after you left, went our separate ways."

Be honest, advised a small voice within him.

"It was mainly my fault," Blue added grudgingly.

"Oh…" Disappointment wound around her posture now, causing her to slump back. She pulled her hat over her face, silent for a few heartbeats. She asked tentatively, "Do you two hate—"

"Not really. At best we're rivals, at worst, enemies. Red isn't capable of hate anyway," Blue commented dismissively.

"Can you go with me to see him?" Her voice became gentle. Persuasive. Leaf sat up and straightened her cap, a smile playing on the edges of her lips.

Blue clenched his fists and Eevee growled, nails slicing into his leg. Over the years, he and Red had kept apart from one another. Once, the first year after his defeat, Blue had received a wrapped present and a simple phone call from his former friend.

"Happy Birthday," Red had said in a neutral tone. Then he had hung up before another word could be spoken.

The present was shoved in the back of his closet. But now, Blue wasn't quite so sour…he'd finally open it later. But no more peace offerings had come after Red's gesture for friendship had been rejected.

Several times, Blue would stand with his phone in his hands, thinking that perhaps just once he could call to wish Red a good birthday. Two words, like he had done. That was all. Red's call had come on the right day. However, no matter how hard he tried, Blue couldn't recall the Pokémon Master's birthday.

Blue was ashamed.

Reaching over, he lifted Leaf's hat up and stared straight into her pale green eyes. He felt something inside of him ignite with happiness as the two friends finally had their gazes meet.

He knew, at that instant, she was every inch as happy to see him as she was eager to meet Red.

"I'll go," Blue said simply.

And she smiled like he knew she would.

Though Leaf insisted otherwise, she spent the night in Blue's apartment. Since, as Gym Leader, he was more or less a celebrity, Blue decided not to go out for breakfast at some café. Regardless, Leaf stubbornly endeavored to make breakfast instead.

She blushed when he airily remarked that people might think she was his girlfriend if they were seen together in public. (Not a bad idea.)

Leaf surprised him by saying, "I couldn't do much better than to be with the most eligible bachelor in all of Viridian City." She grinned at him over her shoulder as she flipped a pancake.

Blue smirked and thought that it was a pity he had guest rooms.

Whilst they ate—Leaf, he found out, was an excellent chef, even making food for their Pokémon—he asked her about Orre. After all, he was curious to hear about the place that had changed her voice's instruments. The melody was the same, but sometimes her accent would throw him off.

"There was an accident from a big gang, I think. They ended up chasing most of the wild Pokémon away. They've only just started to come back." Leaf stabbed her pancake absently, eyes set in the past.

Blue raised his eyebrows, his Eevee mimicking him. "What gang?"

"I think…they were something like Team Snagem. Them and Cipher, they caused a lot of trouble over there." She shifted in her seat, jittery fingers turning and re-turning her syrup stained fork restlessly.


He narrowed his gaze down so that he only saw her, and he made sure that all of the intensity he was feeling was concentrated on just the girl across from him. "Did you encounter them?"

"Yes." Leaf tugged her hat lower.

An odd billowing tingle spread from his stomach to the tips of his ears. "Did they do something to you?" If they had, Blue intended to find the culprits and introduce them to his Arcanine.

"They almost did, but Michael saved me from them. The gangs in Orre do awful things to Pokémon. What my dad went there to prevent had to do with the Shadow Pokémon…" Leaf twisted a ring on her right hand.

"Michael?" Blue repeated, just to move away from the subject.

"A boy that stood—stands—against Cipher. A friend of mine. He's really strong and talented."

"I see." He arched an eyebrow at her, studying her uneasy appearance. Blue felt a small flame of jealously blossom into life within him at the thought of this Michael. "What kinda Pokémon do ya have?" He switched topics not at all subtly, but of course he had never been a subtle person.

Leaf stroked Nidorina's back, careful of the poisonous spikes. "Nidorina, of course, Jigglypuff, Swellow, and Houndoom."

Blue smirked again. "You struck me as the type that'd carry around Jigglypuff, but Houndoom?"

She stuck her tongue out, playfully indignant. "Oh, shush. Enough about me, how did you become Gym Leader? I mean…wow!"

What made him feel even better was that her excitement was real.

Bragging he could do. Blue launched into a spiel over his achievements, showing her his Pokédex and smugly proclaiming the details on his fighting prowess. Leaf gasped in all the right places, and she appeared genuinely impressed with his Pokédex, exclaiming at some of the creatures he had seen.

"I didn't even know this Pokémon existed." She shoved her hat away to see better, looking at Mewtwo. Unfortunately, Red had been the one to defeat the cat-like Psychic-type, but not before he had gotten a glimpse.

"Tch, a lot of people didn't know. If we're going to go see Red, we need to get moving. Does your Swellow know Fly?"

"Yeah, of course."

"Do you have the Badge for it?"

"I—nope." Leaf clapped a hand to her face.

"Don't freak out about it. I've got an Aerodactyl that can get us there."Blue shrugged.

If one went to Viridian City's Gym right about now, they'd run into a hastily penned sign that looked like someone had just scribbled the message whilst on the go (being badgered into doing so faster by a possible femme fatale) at the same time.

Off to Mt. Silver, smell ya later!

Mt. Silver was freezing, obviously. Anyone could have told you that.

Blue didn't bother dressing out for it, and neither did Leaf, though they happily proclaimed themselves the biggest idiots ever. Eevee was draped around his master's shoulders, and Houndoom stood close to his Trainer, devil tail swishing, smoke leaking from his nostrils. Aerodactyl had gotten them up most of the mountain. After they cleared this final ridge, they should encounter Red.

Throat clenching, Blue tugged at his shirt's collar, impossibly, impossibly hot. As if he was sweltering. Maybe it had something to do with the Fire-type beside him, embers flowing from between his teeth.

Leaf held her hat down with one hand, yelling over the gale with the other. It wasn't hailing at the moment, but it would start any moment, with his luck. "C'mon, Blue! I can't wait to see him, can you?"

He certainly could. He could wait an eternity and it still wouldn't be long enough.

"Whatever." Running to catch up with his friend—(and what a strange word that was, friend)—Blue and his ever-present Eevee stood again near Leaf, and together the foursome watched the battle that was ensuing.

With a vicious crash that sent up a cloud of snow, a brawny Charizard knocked a Floatzel into unconsciousness. The Trainer that owned said Floatzel—a boy with blonde hair and an orange and white shirt, dressed for the cold with a green scarf—began stomping his feet in agitation.

"That's impossible!" The challenger cried.

And Blue saw him. Red.

He was watching the battle with russet eyes that seemed to glow, cap turned backwards. He calmly recalled his Charizard and let his Pikachu back out. The electric mouse perched on his shoulders, tongue sticking out.

"I'm sorry, Barry. Better luck next time," Red said. And he seemed to actually mean it.

Barry, the blonde, huffed and muttered under his breath. He ran by so fast that Blue doubted the kid even noticed him. (He certainly remembered him.)

Leaf wasted no time. With her Houndoom scrambling to catch up, long claws extended to find a grip on the icy peak, the girl pounced on the unsuspecting Red and wrapped her arms around him. "Red!"

Red spluttered in shock, about to shove her away, and Blue just barely heard him exclaim in his quiet voice, "Leaf?"

Striding up casually, feeling put out that he hadn't gotten a hug from Leaf, the Gym Leader scoffed.

Leaf whirled around and pulled Blue into her hug with Red, jumping up and down excitedly. "Look, we can be together again! Isn't this great?"

Houndoom howled, probably causing an avalanche somewhere, and Pikachu's cheeks sparked. Eevee purred loudly.

Staring questioningly at Blue, the Pokémon Master blinked once.

"Hey, Red." Blue mumbled.

"…Hi." The red-capped boy looked dumbstruck.

Leaf was talking a mile a minute, and all Blue could think of was the weird feeling he was getting. The sensation that his memories had never forgotten, but he couldn't properly recall without her there to complete it.

Everything…was as it should be.

And for the first time in years, Blue smiled at Red, and the Master grinned hesitantly back.

It was spring in Pallet Town.

All three of them were lying on their backs—(like they used to)—arms folded behind their heads. Leaf's hat was off; nestled beside her, brown hair flowing in loose strands around her shoulders. Her pale green eyes were focused on the clouds overhead, her breaths slow, Nidorina lounging nearby, sighing, content.

Blue supposed they were all in a sort of triangular pattern, with their heads acting as the corners, close to one another. Golden rays from the sun caressed his skin, touching him deeply as only light could. He hadn't cloud gazed in…he couldn't probably remember. Pallet Town's slow monotony usually killed him just to be in, but every spring the three of them would return to the edge of the woods and just…be together, like they used to. Eevee was resting on his stomach, curled up, asleep. Moving up and down with each breath he took.

Red's cap was off too, resting on his Pikachu instead. The Pokémon was moving around energetically, pouncing on falling leaves.

One such leaf spiraled slowly downward from the heavens, and Blue caught it before it hit the ground. He turned it over and over in his hands, studying the intricate veins within its green interior, waxy on one side, sallow on the other.

His friendship with Red was slowly but surely being rebuilt. Since they came here once a year, it was easy to keep track of time. This was their second visit, and though it was still tense between them, Leaf's upbeat personality helped to keep them both in line.

Blue had had no idea how much he had missed his old companion until he experienced their former bond again.

And Leaf…perhaps; maybe, he felt something for her. Only time would tell.

A warm wind blew past them, carrying the sounds of spring and the smell of emerald growing things. Russet eyes, sapphire eyes, and jade eyes were focused on the spires and castles of the cloudy ivory shapes overhead, with more than one of the friends wondering if they should get their bird Pokémon and touch the sky.

Blue twirled the leaf's stem before letting go, watching the shape sail away on the wind, over the treetops and beyond.

"Spring is a time of rebirth," Leaf had whispered softly during the trio's first return visit to Pallet Town.

Rebirth. And reset. And most importantly…

Starting over.

Author's Note: This is my first story in this fandom, and I've gone back to fix some typos. Regardless, would you please review? I'd really appreciate it!