Two Garnets and some Cherries with Cream

Chapter 4 of ?

By Kayi S. Rowling

"I wouldn't know how to recover it, even if it was just lost and someone found it; it depends on them wanting to return it." Good point.

And Giovanni didn't want to suspect it was stolen, but he would have to give it a try anyways. He was going to hunt Petrel down at the darkest alleys of the city, and have him help if he didn't have Ariana's stuff himself. "I think I know where to look," he whispered. "If you'd give me your address, I'll send back your belongings, if I find them." She looked at him in distrust.

"No way!" She stood up, and he feared he had screwed up again when she actually glanced down at him and said: "Lead the way. I'm going with you—"

—Silver continued to feel tired.

He had also continued to laugh after his father described what was basically his mother pulling a prank on him. Giovanni might have had his pride hurt by that incident, and he might not be admitting anytime soon that his beloved had tricked him for her own amusement—and, arguably, for cheering herself up too—, but it was obvious she had. And, of course, the older man didn't take his son's fit of laughter well either, so he had stopped narrating after it seemed Silver wouldn't quit doing it anytime soon. Whether or not that silence qualified as a sulk, nobody knew.

When the redhead did stop, though, he wasn't just tired but exhausted. Thankfully, the knots of worrying thoughts his mind had entangled itself into earlier had loosened. Yawning and enjoying his renewed relaxed state, Silver turned to look at the nearby digital alarm clock. It read 3 AM… probably. He wasn't sure, but he had the suspicion his eyes were lying to him. After all, how could it be that a story that had dragged on like that was only one hour long? It couldn't be! And how much more was his father going to tell him, anyways? He had already finished the bit about how he had met his mother, so the premise was pretty much done with since the very beginning. Was he going to tell him the whole love story before dawn broke, perhaps? And when did a love story end, if at all?

"Aren't you tired?" Silver asked out of the blue.

Giovanni chuckled, shaking his head as he replied: "Not since you arrived; I don't feel as tired anymore. Worrying for your safety is definitely not something I want keeping me up at night, but it did, all that time you were away…"

"You haven't slept either?" The redhead himself had had no time for that. All that fighting implied in saving the world and ensuring the universe's continuity had kept him rather busy from the first moment until the very end. He hoped those he cared about—Blue and, rather grudgingly, Gold—were already resting at their homes… because he wasn't.

"I don't think anybody has slept well in a while," his father told him softly. "Your mother was no exception… But I called her when you first got here to let her know you were back. I hope she'll be less stressed now," said the man dying of an incurable disease of a woman who, at worse, had bags under her eyes. Love could indeed drive someone mad enough to do such weird situations a reality.

Sighing, Silver let himself fall back upon the bed. "We should rest for a little while, shouldn't we?" he suggested, truly delighted at the thought of getting some decent sleep at long last…

Giovanni chuckled again, though, as if the sole idea was funny. "It's not that much until I reach the end of what I want to tell you," he promised. His facial expression, however, betrayed the fact that he was actually lying. "It would be a shame if we forgot where we were at, in case we continued tomorrow or any other day."

Barely keeping from groaning, the redhead sat down again. "Then I need some fresh air," he simply stated, nearly bored.

"Let's go outside," Giovanni agreed, rising to his feet. Silver followed suit.

The redhead let his father guide the way out, all the while looking around himself at the horrible hideout he had chosen. It had its advantages, and he knew them well; it was hard to find and even harder to reach, and only three people—or maybe four, counting his mother—knew the place, so Giovanni was safe and he could recover in peace. However, it didn't have enough space to be truly comfortable; it was probably not helping the older man much anyways. It made him keep thinking rather guiltily that he could have found a better hideout…

Once outside, Silver sighed, leaning against the rough "wall" by the entrance. "How did your little adventure in Viridian at night go?" he asked Giovanni, still mildly amused by the memory of what had preceded that.

His father sat down upon a rock nearby. "As well as you can imagine, I bet," he answered, one dark eyebrow up. "Petrel did have your mother's things. I had honestly never been as ashamed of my people as I was back then—"

—upon leaving the Pokécenter and walking a couple of blocks, Giovanni took off his hat and scarf, handing them to Ariana, who looked up at him in puzzlement. "I don't want you to have trouble after this," he explained. "It's better if they don't see your face clearly." Nothing could be done about that long cherry-red hair, though. Unless he also gave her his coat, which might actually be the best choice; she wasn't even wearing a jacket or a sweater, unlike him, and she could be freezing…

"Don't do that," she muttered, blushing slightly as he took off his coat and handed it to her. "It's not cold or anything. Sinnoh is far worse than this."

He shrugged. "You could still use it to hide your hair."

Sighing in defeat, she put it on and readjusted the scarf as well, frowning all the while. "We're not going to meet anyone on the legal side of the city, are we?" she asked. She didn't sound scared, surprisingly enough.

"It's not that bad," he told her as they resumed walking, Ariana keeping one step behind him. "If your things aren't there, we leave immediately; is that fine with you?" He had to look back over his shoulder, because she only nodded silently and kept her eyes glued to the pavement beneath her feet as they went into the first dark alley.

As always, Giovanni was simply amazed by the growth his gym had brought to the city; he wasn't proud of it most of the time, though, feeling guilty and ashamed instead. It wasn't all for the good of everyone, after all, but at least Viridian City wasn't just a random town off the path like Pallet Town anymore. The gym itself, the train station, the Pokémart, the Pokécenter, the many other activities and jobs related to honest Pokémon training, the alleys he was currently walking through with Ariana, the various sellers of obviously fake Pokémon vitamins, the group of thugs beating someone in the shadows, and the woman that walked past them stinking to cheap perfume… All of it was a sign of a successful city in Kanto, and all of it was his fault.

Warily, he reached out for Ariana's hand, pulling her along a little bit faster. "Afraid of the dark?" she whispered in amusement.

"Afraid you get a good look at it," Giovanni muttered intelligibly. He didn't answer when she asked next what he had just said; chances were she had heard it clearly, and he didn't want to repeat it to her if she was in the mood of mocking him like before.

Reaching the end of the alley and a nicely illuminated street again, they hurried to the next. Perhaps fortunately, this was the one Petrel had chosen to put up his "shop" at. Unfortunately in all certainty, though, the freaky thief practically materialized out of nowhere and gave them a good scare in the process—

"—he liked to do that," Giovanni commented almost fondly.

"He still does!" Silver groaned. "Whenever it's not one of his disguises, he will suddenly be on your shoulder in a previously empty hallway." And that was just one example. He especially liked to sneak in whenever he was talking with Ariana, though, and more than once that had resulted in her slapping him so hard it was a wonder his head stayed on every time. Silver really wondered how those two could actually be the ones with the friendliest relationship among the former executives; it truly made no sense…

"You should be a little bit more patient with him. He's a nice guy, even if it takes a while to get used to his antics," his father advised. The redhead only crossed his arms, unwilling to believe. "Well… After your mother shrieked in a way that echoed through the alley in a really nasty way—"

"—black suits you," Petrel addressed Ariana as if he hadn't seen Giovanni, who turned around to fully face the thief that had snuck in on them from behind. "I could get you something to replace all that green you were wearing at the gym. After that Weavile came around, you're not tricking us again into believing you're a tame plant type trainer. And—"

Giovanni cleared his throat to interrupt him. "May we see what you have for sale?" he asked in a tone that made it clear he didn't want to be acknowledged as the gym leader.

Smirking, Petrel nodded. "Sure thing, sir," he said, reaching back with his foot and pulling forward the first box. "Are you looking for some chloroform to use on this lovely young lady?" Ariana looked at him and then at the thief in shock and distrust, eliciting a chuckle from the other man: "Just joking, miss." He better had to be just joking. "But after your horrible loss at the gym, I could offer you some help. I have explosives, if you ever want to bring down the building in revenge. It's a rather ugly building too, so I'd recommend it anyways, and…" he continued to make chat with the very silent redhead.

If there was something that Petrel was lacking, it wasn't credible acting skills, but the almost physical inability to shut up once he opened his mouth. Which generally ended up ruining his acting, too, as if it wasn't enough already… "Look for your things," Giovanni told Ariana silently. The look she threw him then was rather awkward, but also grateful that she didn't have to be on the receiving end of Petrel's talk anymore as she knelt to browse through the stuff in the box.

The verbal attack was redirected at him next, though, as if he was a damned lightning rod. "Sir, you could use a jacket or something," Petrel unhelpfully pointed out, "or Sird will have your head on a platter tomorrow morning," he mouthed.

"Mind your own business!" he hissed back.

However, he was right; he was likely to catch a cold as Sird had said, at best, considering the training he had done recently—two weeks ago, actually, but the effects were long-lasting—had left him as weak as a newborn Caterpie. He had disregarded her ban on his mysterious Viridian Forest powers, and he had gone ahead and both started—accidentally—and ended a Kangaskhan stampede without the intervention of his own Pokémon. Then he had proceeded to train normally until exhausted, which went as good as expected when he also fainted. Being an actually good parental substitute, Sird had dragged him over to the hospital next thing, and she had been keeping close watch on him since. And everyone and their grandma knew about it at the gym. Just peachy for a twenty-something year old…

"If she turns off that boiler again, I'll kick you," Petrel muttered in response. "If she also turns on the air conditioning, I'll bury you alive." He glared for good measure. It helped that he was older and more menacing than his boss.

"You live with your parents; you could shower at home," Giovanni quickly countered in a low whisper.

Petrel shrugged. "I'm still kicking you." He, of course, wouldn't do it. Repeating a threat generally meant he wouldn't carry it out. "And why give your coat and your scarf and your hat over to—?"

"I found my ID cards," Ariana said, sounding confused. She truly hadn't expected to find a single item of her "lost" stuff, had she?

Giovanni looked at Petrel again. "You're dead."

"I didn't know you liked her," the older of the two replied flatly. He got punched for all his trouble.

"You…" Ariana began, trailing off as she rose to her feet, "didn't need to do that," she finally added, worried at how Petrel hit one of the alley's brick walls and dropped to the ground.

Giovanni knew it was all a very dramatic act. "He's a shameless opportunist," he told her with a sigh. "We should go now. Are you sure you have everything back?"

The redhead checked over her stuff again. "Yes, all of my missing ID cards are here," she answered simply.

Nodding toward the street they had entered the alley through, Giovanni led the way out as Ariana put her things back into her bag—

"—that was it?" Silver asked, disappointed.

"Yes," his father replied. "Petrel would later confess to stealing your mother's cards right out of her bag while Archer was still pushing her buttons to see if he could make her cry some more. As I told her back then, he was just a shameless opportunist." It was a surprising thing that he had known that without the confession, though, which meant he actually paid very close attention to his subordinates back then, enough to figure out their personal quirks and such. Sird, however, had just slipped right through; that much was obvious.

"And what did you two do next?"

"Nothing much, really," Giovanni sighed. "Your mother proceeded to show me what she actually thought of me, though—"

—they walked in silence under the streetlamps, occasionally passing other people that didn't pay attention to them, too "polite" to mind a young man biting down the bitter cold that had fallen upon the city and the redheaded girl following him in an overly large coat she didn't seem to be comfortable with. And, torn between Sird's threat and real politeness, Giovanni couldn't find the words to ask Ariana to return his things. He was also concerned about what would happen after they split up later that night; he would probably never see her again now that she had lost at his gym, as she might proceed to Pewter City or return from where she came.

He definitely had to make the most of the moment, if that was the case. "Would you like to dine with me, Ariana? We—"

"Weavile!" And then, just as he was turning to look at her, Giovanni had the Pokémon's outstretched claw at his throat. The redhead herself was glaring daggers through his head. "How do you know my name? I never gave you that information!" she growled in distrust—

"—that was a serious slip of the tongue." What an idiot.

His father coughed uncomfortably. "I made a mistake, I know. But she didn't even trust me to begin with."

"Then how come she allowed you to take her to meet Petrel?"

"She thought I had stolen her things; she was just waiting for the right moment to take them back." By force, he implied with his tone. "When she found them, however, she only grew more suspicious for some reason—"

"—what have you been doing all this time? Following me? Are you a stalker?" Ariana kept growling at him. The people in the street just hurried past them, some even crossing to the other side, not meeting their eyes. It was clear nobody would be calling the authorities on this case. "Answer me!" she demanded, her Weavile pressing its sharp claw a bit more against his skin.

Giovanni almost groaned. Did she truly believe he was such a low-life, with no better things to do but follow her around the city since they left the train station? He had certainly been watching out for her, but at his gym. And that didn't count, obviously. "I'm not stalking you."

"Then how did you get to know my name?" She was going to keep throwing that question at him for the rest of the night, wasn't she?

He understood he wasn't going to get her to act like a reasonable adult anytime soon, so he looked down at the glaring Weavile. She hesitated for a second when their eyes met, but she was back to defending her owner soon enough. "I don't like you, sir," was written all over the Pokémon's face.

"Why do you distrust me so? I didn't do anything," Giovanni said aloud addressing the Weavile. Ariana looked at him weirdly.

Weavile snorted. "I think you're after my mistress, sir." This made her the second Pokémon to point out he liked the redhead. Was he truly that obvious? He couldn't help blushing very slightly at the thought.

And, since neither Ariana nor her Weavile wanted to relent—those claws at his neck were beginning to make him feel uncomfortable too—, Giovanni resorted to turn the Pokémon against her owner. It wasn't a skill he particularly liked using, because it was basically mind control and it made him feel incredibly bad in more than one way, but he would have to use it anyways to get the redhead to listen—

"—mind control, huh?" What an odd concept.

"If a child of Viridian Forest uses certain abilities the wrong way, it will result in that happening," his father confessed. Silver could only shudder at the thought. "Back when I was first discovering my own abilities when I was seven or eight, I accidentally developed a couple that made it much easier to control Pokémon, whether wild or not; in exchange, I lost the capability to heal them, not to mention the skill itself had adverse effects that far outdid any benefit… It's been many years since I last used it; I don't think it's worth it."

Silver proceeded to stare at the older man. "And you still decided it was for the best to use it back then?"

"I was young and believed myself to be immortal, son; it's obvious that I did—"

—Giovanni met Weavile's glaring eyes again with a firm look of his own, and then he went a little bit deeper than her current thoughts, causing her to shudder as he quickly went through all her memories. He tried not to fix his attention on any, though; he wanted to have the chance to ask Ariana about it himself, and from what little he saw in passing, he could tell they had known each other for a very long while. Weavile's Pokéball, surprisingly enough, had disappeared pretty soon, which meant it was something fairly recent…

And finally, that uncomfortable feeling of losing sight on one eye and the growing pain of a skull-splitting headache set in, and the Pokémon swiftly turned around to put her claws up against her mistress. "Weavile, what are you doing?" Ariana asked in fear, taking a step back. Her Pokémon followed suit with two steps forward.

"She won't hurt you," Giovanni assured her. "I want you to recall her." The redhead shakily brought her Pokéball out and did as told. The gym leader rubbed his sightless eye with a closed fist, offering the still scared Ariana a smile. "I'm not a stalker, and I don't want to hurt you," he denied all accusations once more. "And I heard your name at the gym."

"I don't remember seeing you there," she replied carefully, taking off the scarf around her neck.

Giovanni chuckled. "There were a lot of people, but you're right; I was watching you battle Sird from the office upstairs, through the security cameras."

"And there you said you weren't a stalker," she muttered.

"I'm not," he insisted. "I'm Viridian City's gym leader," he finally admitted.

Ariana froze, her garnet eyes growing wide as she just stared at him in disbelief. "You… You are Giovanni?" she whispered unconsciously. "I can't believe you. Just how…?"

"You can ask anyone in this city, and they will just confirm it to you." Stepping up to her, he took his hat and put it on again. "Could I have my scarf back, please?"

With surprising care and gentleness, she threw it over his head and adjusted it, perhaps a little bit too tightly. Then she glared and growled at him: "Why did you not tell me that in the train? Does it amuse you to lie to your challengers?" Oh, damn right it did!

But since she was tightening her hold on both ends of his scarf, Giovanni just shook his head. "Not at all, Ariana; I just didn't want to ruin the surprise for you—"

"—what a lame excuse," Silver complained.

Giovanni chuckled. "Your mother said those exact same words."

The redhead just sighed in exasperation. "I don't think that's funny," he told his father, "and, surely, neither did my mother."

"She was laughing at the issue mere minutes later, son," the older man said, shrugging. "I repeated my offer for dinner to make up for hiding the truth, and she fortunately calmed down completely by the time we got to the restaurant. She was also quite thankful for all the help I had given her so far, so she found it easy to forgive me, I guess."

"I think she actually liked you." There was no other explanation for her change of heart. Unless she was actually that dumb and willing to stand a guy who had lied to her face like that, with little to no remorse.

His father nearly laughed out loud at that. "She confirmed that much, much later." He made a rather awkward pause. "It was no longer relevant then, though; it made neither of us feel better or worse about our relationship, it was just something she wanted to say." Those words he had chosen to explain the situation carried a rather depressing meaning when stringed that way.

Curious now, Silver asked: "When was that?"

"A week or two after you were taken away," Giovanni reluctantly replied.

The redhead hoped that what his expression showed was interpreted as sympathy and not pity. He just felt terrible, anyways. "Well… What happened after your little first date with my mother?"

Gratitude for the change of topic nearly shone in his father's eyes. "I invited her to join the gym to train some more, and she agreed, saying that she might actually need it. After she promised to go visit the next morning, we split up and I went back to the gym—"

—he woke up to a cascade of snow white hair falling toward his face but barely brushing his skin. "Where were you last night?" It was Sird. And she had evidently just showered; her hair had lost all the color the dye usually gave it… again. No color ever stuck; not even off-white ones, which were her current favorites.

Giovanni groaned and pushed her to the side, kicking away the sleeping bag and sitting down on the floor of his office. "Nowhere," he answered—

"—wait a minute: you lived in your gym?"

"Yes. I kind of liked living with the others; they didn't all fit in my house, after all. Also, the training area was equipped very well and had enough space to roll out everyone's sleeping bags. However, those days I had been sleeping at the office, like I'm sure you remember Proton pointing out. Either way—"

"—did you keep your coat and scarf on?" Sird pressed, reaching out with her hand to touch his forehead.

"Yes," he lied, yawning and crossing his arms.

She smirked. "I heard you coughing when I came into the office. Are you sure you went along with my suggestion?" That hadn't been a "suggestion," that had been a threat!

"I'm fine," he insisted, nearly growling.

She laughed softly, patting his head affectionally as she used to do when he was shorter than her. "No fever, indeed. And if you were sick, you wouldn't be fighting so much." He just glared silently. "I'm off now," she declared, rising to her feet and going to the locked drawer on his desk, where she kept the hair dyes a secret from the rest of the team. Sighing, she added: "If only I didn't look like a lost Eevee with this hair…"

He couldn't help chuckling at that; he knew she preferred being bald over being seen with white hair for more than five minutes a day, and her sole hatred for her albino hair was hilarious by itself. "Then hurry; it's nearly 6 AM, and everyone will be waking any moment now," he warned her, looking over at the clock on the wall.

In haste, she left the office, closing the door behind herself. Giovanni took that time without Sird to roll the sleeping bag up and kick it under the desk where it wouldn't be seen, as well as pick up his traveling bag from where he had sandwiched it—between the wall and a series of bookshelves, right at the corner—and running downstairs to shower and change clothes, having remembered Ariana had promised to come in the morning—

"—you had forgotten?" Silver asked in disbelief.

"I'm not a morning person," Giovanni excused himself. "Much less a Sird-in-the-morning person; her sole unexpected presence in the office at those hours…" he trailed off, shaking his head as if in defeat. "Honestly, she had the creepiest ways to wake me up at times, especially when we didn't go to sleep on good terms." The redhead vaguely remembered his father mentioning he had left Sird to go search for his mother; had she taken that the wrong way?

"So, did my mother arrive on time?"

"What do you think—?"

—it was almost noon and no news of Ariana. Giovanni's mood had fallen to the ground during the morning, and it was currently on the process of being absorbed by it to plummet even lower. In an attempt to cheer up, he had gone downstairs to train—or, more accurately, let his Pokémon play around—, and he was intercepted by Archer first thing. "All hail Giovanni, the man who left his office," he greeted his boss with arms crossed and lips a thin line.

"I saw you bullying the challenger last night," the gym leader replied, pointing at the older man accusingly. "You're losing your manners, mister lawyer."

Archer smirked, removing his glasses to clean them with his shirt. "And the girls still flock to me, boss." The fact that he had gotten away with mentioning he was an abusive boyfriend in a personal ad—in a challenge put forth by Proton—, and that it had even resulted in more women contacting him even when it was not a lie, was proof of it.

"Must be the title," the aforementioned repeat sex offender contributed, appearing out of nowhere and throwing an arm around Archer's shoulders, much to the bespectacled man's disgust. "Hi, boss!" he added as an afterthought. "Found the chick last night?"

Doing his best at ignoring the look he got from the oldest of them three, Giovanni nodded silently. Archer's eyebrow went up at that. "So she's the reason you have been so gloomy, huh? You were waiting for her to come and challenge you…" he nearly purred; he was having ideas.

The gym leader shrugged to try to discourage him. "I was interested because she's from Sinnoh. I thought she'd have interesting Pokémon."

Proton snickered. "Is that what you're calling them nowadays?"

Meanwhile, Archer thought back to the day before. "She did have an accent," he admitted. Then he beat the younger man off his shoulders. "I'll make sure you land in jail next time, you pervert!" he hissed lowly. Those two were always at conflict…

"Go solve your issues with fewer fists and more kisses," Petrel said as he walked past them, his six or so Koffing following suit.

He left the three in a stunned silence, only broken when one of their three female members, the eleven-year-old girl, skipped up to Proton to drag him away to fight. "Sorry, guys, the lady needs me," he excused himself with a chuckle.

"Just keep your hands to yourself," Archer warned. "Anyways, boss, since you watched the fight, I guess there's no need to report it to you?"

Giovanni shook his head. "Not at all," he began, "but you better cease offering badges to challengers if they beat Sird." He was rather bothered by that; had the guy refereed every match and done that offer every time? He had no right!

Archer coughed uncomfortably, adjusting his glasses. "I didn't think the girl would win. And she didn't, so there's no harm done."

"Just don't do it," the gym leader insisted.

Then he turned on his heels and marched away to go find Sird, who was missing since the early morning. She was the only training partner he actually got along with, and he also admitted he wanted to scrub the floor with her Pokémon—which didn't deserve it—for all those tears Ariana had shed the night before.

And he happened to spot both women from afar at the entrance of the gym. "Hello, Skitty," Sird greeted the redhead, ready to kick her out.

Ariana looked over the other's shoulder and spotted him as he approached. She waved at him cheerfully. "Good morning, Giovanni! I came to train as promised!"

Author's notes: Damn, I swear I have been working on this chapter since the day I published the third, but the inspiration just didn't come… I'm sorry again, everyone. However, please notice that, according to the Fire Red Leaf Green chapter of the manga, today is Giovanni's birthday. Anyways, I guess it couldn't have been more proper, huh? (Either way, I'm sorry) In other news: this story has a page at TV Tropes; you can find it by searching my Troper profile (same name) or by searching the title of the fic directly.

Story comments: This chapter is rather messy, I think…; there were too many characters wanting to get the spotlight. So many, in fact, that Orm, who was coming in to cheer Sird's day up, didn't appear this time either (I wonder if he'll ever). At least Proton has a friend (that 11-year-old), Petrel was plagued by Koffing, and Archer was a bastard and knew it. I feel mildly happy with those results. On the other hand, poor Silver, he appears less and less each time…

Reader requests: As I'm making a custom of saying, Alerts to motivate me to write more and Reviews only if you want. Also, I would thank you a lot if you told your friends about this story if you liked it.