Notes: Big-time plot spoilers here, combined with fanon. Glorious, horrifying fanon that attempts to answer one thing that was never clarified in the actual game. Also jumping around in time like whoa, which in some ways is fitting.
Grovyle only asked once.
"A human...?" His tongue curled around the strange word; though slit pupils were fixed upon her, his next words were more for himself, as he tried to wrap his mind around the concept: "A human... here?"
"Yes!" she chirped, pirouetting in midair. "A very special human - a Dimensional Screamer! With her help, we'll fix this world in no time!"
She giggled, then - at her own joke, at the gecko's expression, at the confident air she hoped was all she was radiating.
"But - how?"
"Easy, my dear Grovyle! The Dimensional Scream..."
That wasn't the question he'd meant. She could read that much on his face. But she launched into the wrong explanation anyway, since this was something he'd surely be asking anyway, and...
And he'd let it go.
He sat through her outline of the Scream and its capabilities, and when she finally gave him an opening, all he'd asked for was clarification on a few matters. His original question wasn't one of them.
Dear Grovyle always did have a knack at reading her. Tempting as it was to hope that she'd successfully distracted him, Celebi suspected he'd simply picked up on something in her manner that signaled him to let it go. Some little twitch, a flicker, a shadow behind bright eyes.
Whatever the reason, she was grateful. Because some questions...
"You're sure about this?"
...Weren't worth answering.
A grunt, a flick of one glowing eye towards her, was all the acknowledgment she received. Her and her stupid question.
And it was stupid, because she already knew the answer. Already knew his mind was made up. He was committed.
And so was she.
Didn't mean she was ready, though.
It must be nice, she thinks, to have choices.
Real choices. Simple choices. Easy choices.
Like "What should I eat today?" without knowing in the back of your head that the answer is "Whatever I can find." Or "Where to next?" without mentally ticking off places where you know you're not welcome, until you're left with a depressingly short list of 'safe' spots that aren't really safe so much as marginally less dangerous.
Staring into the sun too long can hurt your eyes. Wouldn't matter to some pokémon. She still wouldn't try it, even if she had the chance. She'd just be grateful for the option, all the same.
It must be nice, to make a decision knowing you don't have to.
She's never felt more powerful.
She's never felt more helpless.
Palkia must have talked her through the process at least twenty times, had her repeat it back word-for-word thirty or forty or fifty times. Honestly, she lost track at some point, focusing on the steps rather than the repetitions. He's with her every step of the way; he stands above her, behind her, surrounding, engulfing. If not for all the raw energy swirling round them, binding, embracing, she'd be lost in his shadow.
Which would be fitting, considering. But that thought comes afterwards, for there's simply no room in her head right now for it.
All she knows is what they need.
All she knows is that was they need is out there, and that there is rather impossible to pin down at the moment.
But they will.
When is a choice no longer a choice?
She used to love riddles. She still does, but only the easy ones.
And for all that he'd stared and struggled to wrap his tongue and his head around the concept, Grovyle still had the gall to look decidedly unimpressed when she finally introduced the two of them.
Probably because this thin, shivering bundle of limbs didn't look much like a savior. But then, none of them really fit the whole heroic image, did they?
A pretty pink gnat, a red-bellied gecko and an almost-powerless slip of a girl. Even if they pulled this off, nobody would ever believe it.
Of course, if they pulled this off, nobody would ever remember it.
As far as she knew, Grovyle never asked her how she'd gotten involved, either. If he had, then he been courteous enough not to ask in front of her.
But he probably hadn't. Otherwise, she would've been able to tell.
For her, opening Time Tunnels was as natural as breathing, or just about. Though both had been much easier, before.
This wasn't all that different, really. Just a matter of degrees, a matter of scope - and with Palkia there to focus and refocus upon, it was almost like breathing again.
Breathing fire, or electricity, or ice. She wasn't sure which quite yet, only that it crackled against her lungs and out, behind and before her eyes, but it didn't hurt the way that would. Or should.
All they needed was a target, and with all of space-time stretched out before them, every 'verse and multiverse ready and waiting to be searched, well... they had a lot of ground to cover.
A lot of possibilities to choose from.
Too bad they didn't have the time to pick and choose.
But Palkia was there. Palkia was above and behind and around her, and Palkia kept her focused on the task at hand. On finding their prize and claiming it, the instant they happened upon it.
The very first prize that their combined powers could detect and seize hold of.
Pickiness was a luxury, too.
She couldn't stand anything bitter, and wasn't a fan of sourness, either. Didn't stop her from choking even half-rotten berries down when she could get her hands on them. Or foisting the better ones off on her companions, just because she was better at keeping a smile plastered on while her stomach rebelled.
Grovyle was good at reading her, but he knew when to keep his own mouth shut. Or preoccupied with chewing. Either way.
And Ichigo was never very good at hiding anything.
Once their target cleared the tunnel, Celebi shut it down. Or maybe Palkia closed it for her; with how abruptly his power slipped away and out of her grasp, it was impossible to tell. All she knew was its abrupt absence made her keenly aware of her stomach's attempts to turn itself inside-out. The way her eyes weren't adjusting to the lost light didn't help much, either.
Before them, the result of their labor quivered and curled in on itself, a disoriented wreck.
Ideally, they could have been more specific.
In all possible worlds, surely there were multitudes of Dimensional Screamers. Ones who already knew about their abilities, and had long since mastered them. Ones who were brave and stalwart and true, who would rise to any occasion. And surely there was at least one virtuous soul who would willingly sacrifice everything to save a world that wasn't their own.
But that hypothetical hero lay beyond their grasp. So they'd taken what they could get, and called it their choice. Like that was the right word for it.
"What's your name, kid?"
"Ic..." Dark eyes darted her way, then back to him. "Ichigo..."
There was the vaguest, fainted hint of amusement in his tone, and he smiled until she smiled back. It was faint, brief, hesitant, but still a good start.
She wasn't even sure if that was her real name.
She hadn't had a chance to ask, before.
"YOU HAVE THE DIMENSIONAL SCREAM?"
It wasn't a question. Not really. His tone held more disbelief than anything else, just a half-tonal shift away from a statement. They both knew already this... this twiggy little thing possessed the Scream; otherwise the search would have scanned right over her, left her wherever she'd been collected from.
But the blankness behind the terror twisting her face wasn't exactly promising.
Her partner grunted, then bent forward. Lowered his neck down, down until he was nearly on eye level with the girl,with his claws scraping the ground.
Air rippled like water, and their would-be savior screeched and folded in on herself.
"What are you-?"
"THERE. SHE DOES HAVE THE SCREAM. IT WAS MERELY SLUMBERING." Regarding the shaking mound before him with nothing even remotely resembling pride, he continued, "BUT NO LONGER."
What could she say to something like that? So much came to mind, but nothing reached her mouth. In the end, she merely stared at his handiwork, wondering when she'd wake up.
If she had to guess, it had taken about two days. Roughly. She only had a good estimate because of who she was; anyone else would have been hard-pressed to tell, given the circumstances.
She'd awoke with a bit of a gap in her memories. Palkia had been quick, efficient... but not precisely gentle. Or precise.
Celebi liked to think that given the chance, she would have torn the dragon of space a new one for leaving their so-called hero in such an addled state. That she would have screamed herself hoarse, shamed him into admitting he had no right, no reason...
But he did. And she never did.
When the girl came up with 'Ichigo', that was as good a name as any. All she needed was something more than 'you', or 'human', or 'girl'.
"You know that if we succeed..."
Grovyle trailed off, for she was already nodding. That same little half-smile reappeared, a touch less hesitant but a tad more ironic.
"Yeah. And it's okay." Drawing her knees to her chest, she gazed steadily back at her only two friends in this world. "No regrets, right?"
"Nope!" Celebi chirped, squeezing her eyes shut and smiling like she meant it.
No point regretting your choices if they were never really choices in the first place.
Whatever let you sleep when you needed it.
Celebi didn't sleep much, anyway.
"TAKE HER! NOW!"
He turned away and let out a shattering roar, and that was the end of it. She never could argue with him, anyway. So instead, she twirled in place, opening the Time Tunnel around the two of them. Just her and her quivering mound of might-be heroine.
How many Sableye does it take to completely cover a Legendary?
"I saw it... I really saw it!"
Laughter bubbled out of the girl like a fountain, and suddenly her arms were wrapped around Grovyle's neck, face buried in his chest. The gecko's expression was classic. Celebi wouldn't have missed it for anything.
"There was... there was light, and wind, and everything was actually moving and-!"
The description was all for him, just like the spark behind Ichigo's eyes as she babbled about what she'd seen. Celebi didn't miss the jealousy in those narrowed pupils, yet he managed a fond smile while listening to his partner.
Those two were always closer.
Of course. It wasn't like she could follow them everywhere, and all three of them knew that they couldn't all head into the past. It'd be difficult enough keeping a human girl hidden; adding a Legendary into the mix would just be asking for trouble.
Left unspoken was the fact that she was also being left behind as extra insurance. If they failed, she was the only one capable of finding somebody else to send back. She was the only one who could start from scratch if needed.
Also left unspoken: finding another Dimensional Screamer would be next to impossible now.
Another thing Grovyle didn't need to know about.
Another thing he probably already figured out.
Dear Grovyle could be a jerk like that sometimes.
"No regrets, right?"
In many ways, it was a blessing that Ichigo had lost her memory.
Yes, both times.
The first kept her from fully grasping what Celebi had allowed to happen to her. So far as she knew, she had awoken in a strange new world, with only a strange little pink creature and a wood gecko for company. She didn't fully understand all that she'd lost, and accepted what was expected of her with remarkably little struggle.
Easy enough to sacrifice what you don't know you had.
The second just... cleared the slate. A better wipe than before, a fresh start in all sorts of ways. Actually, thinking about it like that almost left her envious.
Saying somebody had to remember was too trite. Nobody had to remember. Not when the memories stung so much.
But that was never her choice to make, now was it?