~*See Me Splintered*~
Broken into pieces that have never fallen…
A familiar breeze caressed Ethan's skin as he stood on the far eastern edges of New Bark Town.
It hasn't changed a bit.
A gray stone flew from his hand to skip across the nearby sea, each and every splash shining like new dreams in the sun's golden light. Marill muttered to herself at his feet, scampering to the left, then the right, restless for some reason.
He lifted another smooth rock in his hand, but instead of throwing it, the boy turned it over and over in his fingers. For a moment, he could hear her voice, as if she was right beside him again where she belonged.
Laughing, she turned to him with a mischievous smile. Her light blue eyes, glittering with the strength of her delight, seemed to be the very embodiment of joy. "Bet my pebble hops farther than yours!"
He clenched his fists, grinning in reply. "You're on!"
A sudden fit of anger seized him, and Ethan threw the stone as far as it could go. It ended up crashing into the water with a grand spray of radiant yellow and melancholy, white ocean foam, quite a distance away.
He had never cursed before. No, not ever. At least, not before she had left. Now, her very name inspired an agonizing pain in his chest that he found impossible to ignore. The worst part was, it didn't break. It refused to fall apart. Instead, his accursed heart splintered at the core and stabbed him with traitorous shards of missed opportunities and words left unsaid.
No matter what he did, his heart insisted that if he had only told her before she had gone…
Ethan blinked hard, his eyes narrowing, and he shoved away her image and her voice. The sooner she was forgotten, not just lost, the better.
Marill was still acting up, her tail thrashing in agitated spasms in the sand and lively green plants that thrived near the waterside. He glanced down at her, his fury fading into concern.
"Hey, you okay?"
The aquatic mouse's big ears lowered and she continued to sniff the breeze, as if she had scented something she simply couldn't believe.
"You've got allergies," he remembered with a small smile. "I forgot." He screwed his eyes shut as another memory, unbidden, rose to the front of his mind.
"Aw, she's sniffling! Poor Marill. Let's go see Professor Elm, maybe he knows why she's being so weird."
"Ethan, you silly Farfetch'd! Your memory is so bad! She did the same thing last year around this time."
He furrowed his brows, blocking out the rest of the picture-perfect sequence created in his head meant just to torture him. "But that doesn't look likeyour allergies…better safe than sorry. Let's get home, Marill."
She chirped in agreement, and the pair made their way back through the small neighborhoods of New Bark. Ethan had his hands in his pockets, wondering when he would finally work up the courage to leave Johto.
I'm hoping…I'm hoping she'll come back. Worrying that if I leave, she can't find me.
His face twisted into a scowl of disgust.
She can call me. I need to leave, get out before these damn memories root me here forever.
The familiar roads were easy to traverse, and Ethan arrived at his house without any trouble. And why would there be? Nothing interesting happened unless she was home.
He pushed the door open, instantly registering the distinct smell of tea and chocolate cookies. His dad wasn't even into chocolate all that much. Odd.
"Dad, have you—" He had meant to ask about the allergy medicine. He had meant to simply take the medicine and be gone again, to nowhere; waiting and waiting and waiting for what his heart seemed to want. Instead, he found her. "Oh…Lyra."
She was facing away from him, sitting stiffly in her chair as if she feared some kind of imminent apocalypse. At the sound of her name, she turned slowly and looked at him with eyes filled with shame.
She was different now. Older. Her hair was a bit longer, but she still wore them in pigtails. Her posture had changed, her stance, her general bearing was now worthy of the respectable title master.
Pokémon Master Lyra.
But she was still Lyra, and he could sense it even from across the room. She had the air of someone that drew courage from nowhere and grinned when faced with impossible odds and danger.
It hurt. He would rather that she had become someone else, because then he could have turned on his heel and left. But now emotions warred within him and Ethan found it hard to breathe properly. Nervously, she waved at him, her eyes scrunching up near the corners and he recognized the tiny sign as proof of her worry.
Worry? For what? His reaction? He couldn't do a thing right now.
Her Pichu let go of his cookie and jumped down to confront Marill. The Water-type—who must have detected Lyra's presence from the very beginning—didn't rise to his challenge as the Electric Mouse began to spark. Ethan didn't miss the way Lyra's gaze flickered with some kind of intense emotion that he didn't recognize as she watched her Pokémon.
Then, she looked down, and stayed that way. He felt himself tremble, fighting his various emotions on his old friend, and as the silence became even more intense, he felt as if he was about to snap at her. Hit her. Some sadistic part of him enjoyed her suffering and he almost smiled…before recoiling in shock.
His father was studying him, watching the two, and Ethan knew what he had to do.
"Come on," he told her at last, though Lyra was too much of a coward to even so much as sneak a peek at him. Let her come if she wanted. He went outside, taking in deep breaths, and now that he was faced with nothing but nature and unending sunshine, he began to calm down. He heard the distinct noise of a Pokémon returning to its Pokéball, and he blinked thoughtfully at his Marill, wondering when had been the last time he had used hers.
Lyra warily stepped towards him and he found he wasn't yet ready to face her. He plunged into the woods without looking back, his feet finding well-known trails and hidden paths, and he hoped that she realized just how lost she could be in her own home. Again, something dark inside of him demanded that he hurt her, cause her to be as unhappy as he was…it was tempting.
Something glowed behind him and the heavy steps of a Meganium joined the melodic discord of theirs.
He shouldn't show her this place. He really shouldn't. But he still wanted her to know, still wanted her to be aware of his little acts in the woods. When she had gone, he and Marill had tended to each and every flower in the miniature forest meadow they had found. He had meant to pick her a bouquet as a welcome back gift when she returned…but now, he didn't feel that she deserved it.
Regardless, her Meganium's flowery scent added just the right touch to his clearing, as if it had always been waiting for…
He stopped that train of thought in its tracks, moving gradually as he turned, inch by inch, to stare accusingly at her. Ethan let all of his frustration show in his eyes, but not his pain. No, he wanted to hear what she said first to better tell if she was even deserving of anything else.
It seemed to take her a considerable effort to meet his gaze, but at last she did, and she flinched. Now that he was looking at her, face to face, a wonderful warmth from within was combating his pain.
If he decided to make believe…it was like she had only left New Bark yesterday.
"So…welcome home." Ethan was in awe. Lyra was wreathed in sunrays, pollen and dust motes floating around her like golden halos, and he blinked once before switching his attention to the sky overhead, in case he started…blushing.
"Um…yeah. So, how are you?" Her voice was lighter than he had thought it would be. But her "happiness" was sickeningly fake.
Why are you acting like you didn't do anything wrong?
He decided to tell the truth. After all, and he fought back a wry smile, it would set him free.
"I've been better. I had a friend once that I used to hang out with and call all the time. Then one day, she stopped picking up and I never heard from her again for a year. Made me wonder if I did something wrong. I had gotten to the point where I had forgotten all about her. Sometimes I thought she went on to be famous and forgot about me."
Lyra's face crumpled, and she bit her lip unconsciously—like she always did—messing with the strands on her Meganium's head. Marill had gone off somewhere. "Don't be like that," she said softly. "Ethan, please. I'm really sorry about what happened. That's why I'm here to tell you about it."
Is that so? Well.
"Took your time, didn't you?" He challenged, glowering fiercely at her. Despite this, he grinned scornfully, and she gasped a little as he remarked disdainfully, "Champion Lyra, it's an honor to hear about your life's story."
For a moment, she was herself again, not broken before him as if she had been beaten too many times to care. "Don't! Don't you start too! I hate being called Champion." She bunched her shoulders up, her eyes gleaming beneath her hat, full of life and defiance.
That's how they should be, he couldn't help thinking.
"Will you listen to me?" She asked, a plea for redemption buried in her tone, hidden beneath waves of fear.
She was afraid. Afraid that he wouldn't accept her incoming apology, would turn her away. This alone was enough to deflate the twisted joy he was getting from her anguish.
Marill squeaked in derision, but soon became quiet as Meganium snarled at her. He made no move to stop the powerful Grass-type.
"That's why we're out here." Ethan focused the full strength of his eyes on her and was heartened by the fact that she didn't turn away, didn't move her gaze from his. Those unchanged, beautiful blue eyes…
"Good," she said the word as a sigh, relief evident on her face. She seemed to hesitate before continuing, and not once did he stop looking at her, stop staring. He knew her, he thought. He was experiencing a similar kind of pain…but not quite the same, as she.
"Silver," she blurted from the blue.
Surprised—he hadn't been expecting that—his eyebrows rose, more shocked than skeptical. "You mean that boy, the burglar that made off with a Cyndaquil?"
"He's a Typhlosion now. Silver's my rival, you know…the guy I battled all the way to the Elite Four? So after I became Champion f-for the second time…after taking out Kanto's Gyms…About two weeks after I called to tell you I was going to Hoenn, he showed up. And we fought, and got to talking, and…"
All of this was said in a rush, and Ethan didn't get where she was going with her short spiel until…his smashed, barely intact heart took a heavy blow to its core. For an instant, all he could think of was Lyra and that red-headed boy, alone somewhere, and—
"You fell in love." His words sounded harsh even to his own ears, but he felt…betrayed. "You fell in love with a thief."
"He's not a thief!" And her eyes held strong roots that clearly said that she believed it.
"Why are you defending him?" Ethan snarled, and his arms trembled again as his treacherous emotions waged war once more.
Every scrap of energy seemed to leave her body. "He's not as bad as you think," she whispered, and he just barely heard her.
Recollecting himself, he gritted his teeth but waved a hand.
"We dated for about a year and a half." She seemed reluctant.
"So it's not his fault you didn't call?" (Made it a bit harder to hate Silver if that was the case.)
"Not at all," Lyra spoke with undeniable truth in her words. "I've been gone for three years, right?"
He jerked his head down curtly in a passable nod.
"'Gone' meaning I haven't been home?" She prompted.
She said nothing for two heartbeats too long, evidence that something difficult was coming. She steeled herself. "He went with me to Hoenn, and…that's where we broke up."
Every syllable seemed to catch in her throat, and he would have felt sorry if his heart hadn't been fractured and wrecked. "He…said we weren't right for each other. We made a mistake. I was happy, actually. I guess he wasn't. I think I know why he did this. Silver is hesitant to bond with anything that might make him weak or vulnerable. I guess…he saw me as a risk. Our relationship was a risk. So we broke it off."
So what? A relationship is the reason she's ignored me, her friend for more than a decade, for a year?
Rage transformed his voice again, but she didn't flinch. "That doesn't explain—"
Lyra raised a hand. "It does. I was being stupid, and the true reason for this is…the whole year I was in Hoenn without Silver, I was too hurt to talk to anyone. I just battled and went on my way. It's the first time I've had my heart smashed, and I really thought Silver was the one. Guess I was wrong."
"No duh," he hissed.
Lyra sighed, and he felt his anger vanish as she crouched beside her Meganium and hugged him, eyes half closed. "Silver was right. I am weak sometimes, and I guess he's my weakness. He was my rival and my friend, now that we've…broken up…But I'm not going to cry anymore, so…Oh my gosh this is such a pathetic excuse, but that's all I have to offer you, Ethan. I was too heartbroken to face anyone for a while. It only got worse when I saw Silver whenever I went traveling. He—"
"Stop." He couldn't take listening to one more word until he straightened out his own thoughts.
She shut her mouth and blushed so vividly that her cheeks became bright red. "S-Sorry."
She was weak. Just remembering all of his Pokégear calls, left unanswered for so long, made him want to reject her apology. Maybe it would be justified, and he almost said so too, but something stopped him.
He blinked, remembering fond memories still clear in his head. Their first encounter was particularly bright. They had been three, almost four, and she had looked so nervous—like she did now—and when he had shown her how to blow just right so that every wish on every dandelion came true, he recalled her smile. So…sweet. So innocent. He had thought, even then, what a beautiful smile. He had wanted to see that smile every day, even when they were older. He had wanted to make her laugh, make her happy…
Revulsion, aimed at himself, hit so hard that he almost lost his breath. He had been reveling earlier in the fact that he had made her flinch, made her ache and hurt…his pain was twisting him into a monster, and he tipped his hat up slightly, narrowing his eyes.
No. That won't happen.
"Okay," he stated without facing her.
Hope laced her next word. "W-What?"
"Okay. I accept your apology. I don't think this Silver guy is worth so much torment, but I've not had my heart crushed that way so…" No, he had had it crushed another way. "…What do I know?" He turned his head to look at her, grinning a bit. Her whole face lit up and he felt his heart begin to repair itself at last. Ethan gasped as she bolted towards him and unexpectedly hugged him so tightly that he could barely breathe. He had to pivot himself the right way before he ended up falling onto his back…but that would have been worth it, if only she had smiled.
"You understand. You always understand. Thank you."
Her voice was a nearly inaudible murmur into his shirt, but he heard her anyway. He wrapped his arms around her and exhaled slowly, shutting his eyes and inhaling the spicy-sweet aroma that clung to her clothes thanks to her Meganium.
A sliver of unhappiness pricked the back of his mind.
How can you not see? He mused sadly, resisting the urge to say this to her. How can you not see?
Simultaneously, they both realized the length of their embrace and pulled apart hurriedly, scarlet dusting both of their cheeks. Their Pokémon rejoiced, but Ethan let his mind wander, picking apart everything Lyra had said until she began to squirm uncomfortably. Meganium and Marill slipped off into the surrounding trees, but not before the former released another wave of golden pollen from his pink petals.
"Tell me about Silver. How did you end up attracted to a thief?"
What does he have…that I don't?
She inexplicably tensed, like his sentences had hurt. "He's strong, and stoic. He has this pull you just can't resist; it sort of materialized after we kissed for the first time."
They had kissed. He had guessed this, but…his subconscious conjured an image of the red-headed boy kissing her, and his irritation surfaced as a guttural growl. "How was it?" Why he asked, he did not know.
"The kiss?" Her eyes had moved to the ground but now they returned to his. A smile danced on the edges of her lips. "That's a bit personal."
He had a right to know everything, in his opinion. "You owe me."
"He kisses so hard that he takes my breath away." Her face flushed deeply as her words tripped against one another on their way out. "Happy?"
Ethan shook his head. No, I'm not. He's not…I…
She started to say something else, but just then she trailed off and her gaze became clouded. Her posture changed, her expression slackened, and he walked towards her as he observed her sudden change.
Silver was doing something right, or had, at least. He had been direct. Maybe…
"Lyra!" He grabbed her slim shoulders and shook her, hard. Her eyes regained their clarity. As she tried to reassert herself into the world, he observed her. She was blushing again, her features displaying something like longing, but that deep suffering that seemed to be connected to her Pichu was also there.
Easy to read as ever.
"You were thinking of him." He let go of her and averted his gaze. How much did she miss Silver? More than she cared about him?
"Yes, I'm sorry. I…yeah." She sighed from deep within her chest. "Are you happy now?"
The abrupt demand left him flummoxed, pulling him from his own thoughts. "I'm sorry?"
"I said are you happy now?" She opened her arms as if to embrace the world, her smile one of broken glass and punctured skin. "You've seen me shattered, smashed into tiny pieces, and they lay where they've fallen since that day, a year and a half ago. I've fought a gang, bikers, Gym Leaders, Champions, Pokémon Masters on hailing mountains and everything else you can imagine, not crying once. I've been strong everywhere else…but all it took was one boy that had my heart and dropped it for me to…fall apart. Pathetic. All of this unnecessary angst over a boyfriend, but for some reason, no matter how much I think he's just one boy…it still hurts. Badly."
Ethan's breath stuttered as glimmering tears started to flow from her eyes, and he pondered only briefly about what to do before proceeding to swipe the wretched things away.
No. She can't cry, not ever. Damn you, Silver! You're an idiot for letting her go.
He inched hesitantly nearer. "It's justified, I mean, he was your first boyfriend and a friend you trusted at that. It doesn't help that I'm making you talk about him when you were doing just fine before I brought him up. Of course it'll be a bit…difficult, but I'll make the pain go away. I promise." The conviction of his words was evident to everyone present. He would make her forget all about her rival (and now his, too) no matter what the cost.
How can you not see? How can you not see…what you mean to me?
They had been entirely focused on the other until a volley of squeaks interrupted their moment. Lyra's Meganium had located some berries and was chewing them as he held Marill away with a single paw, and the Water-type was chattering in fury.
The spectacle was quite amusing, and Ethan began to laugh before he could prevent it. Lyra did the same, and he fought for air as he enjoyed a fit of merriment that he hadn't had in a long while. He knew, he knew that keeping it against her wasn't going to solve anything, and his anger would only turn him into something she would hate. He would hate himself, even. No, he would forgive and forget…
His eyes reopened, and he blinked comically as Lyra met his gaze. He had pressed his hand against a tree that had been close to him for support so he wouldn't be rolling in the grass laughing. Now, he was dangerously close to her…her brown hair even tickled his skin.
She looked down. "I hope Meganium doesn't get fat."
She's not any different. Not at all. I was wrong. She's still Lyra, and I can see that. I can feel that. She's…my best friend. My very best friend in the whole wide world.
A foggy sensation was swooping up and down his heart, repairing the splinters. She was determination incarnate; she was his companion, his playmate…except now they played games of a different nature. She had gone on, but he would be at her side from now until she said otherwise. Beloved, kind, sensitive, teasing Lyra…
She toyed with her satchel's strap. "He's going to get sick from all of those berries, I bet."
What was she talking about…?
Look at me.
As if she had heard, she glanced up, her cerulean eyes glistening. He saw experiences he could only guess at in their depths. He saw Ho-oh's fire and Lugia's seas crashing in her gaze, and he wanted those eyes to only look at him like that. Unafraid and luminous.
"Lyra," he said her name with all of the affection he had.
"Yes?" Inquisitive, but still, not nervous or wary.
"Mind if I be cliché for a second?" He smiled the smile that she loved—and he knew, because his own memories of her said she smiled when he did—and he was proven correct as her mouth turned up at the corners as if of their own will.
"If you must." She imitated a bad actor, her words acquiring a pathetic imitation at a "rich" accent. He marveled at the fact she could do this even now, and she seemed more like herself every moment. "Cliché is so overdone these days."
I'll make the pain go away.
"There's something I want to tell you," he informed her in a low whisper no louder than the breeze that rustled New Bark's oldest trees. His heartbeat wasn't a roaring tempest in his ears, but a heavy thump in his chest, all aches forgotten.
Lyra blinked just once at him before she let her eyelids close.
He kissed her. He was careful to be as gentle as possible, because he knew she still harbored a partially healed wound somewhere within her heart of hearts. It was his first kiss, after all, but he found it wasn't difficult at all. With her, it felt right. Everything did.
How can you not see?
Her lips were soft and warm, and he couldn't quite believe it. Her hand found his, and their fingers joined together like their destinies would be for now on. At first, it was like she wasn't kissing him back, but he realized she was, preferring to let him lead. She tasted like sugar and spiced honey, just like how the perfume smelled that wreathed around her Meganium.
Or maybe it wasn't her Pokémon's flowers that gave her such a sweet scent.
Ethan felt like he was complete at last.
He moved away when it was over, late nervousness setting in to suffuse his entire being until he was stiff and uneasy. Lyra hadn't said a word, and he wondered if he had done something wrong, something to upset her.
At last she opened her eyes and he tried to stammer an apology, but she stopped him.
"Don't be. Thank you."
She wasn't mad? It wasn't too soon? "For what?"
"For being there, even when I wasn't for you. For understanding." A gust of wind caused more of the pollen motes to swirl.
"You're welcome," he answered, perplexed. He rubbed the back of his capped head, fighting off a blush now that he was finally understanding the fact that he had kissed Lyra. "What are you going to do now?"
Her reply was surprisingly swift. "I'm going to Sinnoh."
Was that it? Was she going to act like nothing had happened between them? Or maybe he was dreaming. "Oh."
And then suddenly her hand was in his and she squeezed tightly, smiling enough for the both of them. "Will you come with me?" There was no trace of sorrow in her eyes now.
A bubbling happiness emerged within him. "Of course! Marill can't wait to try those Sinnoh Gyms!" He promptly went on to pump his free fist into the air, and his Pokémon squeaked in agreement. Meganium paced solemnly to Lyra's side, his reptilian face smug. She seemed a little shocked that Ethan had mentioned the Gyms in particular. She put the hand not holding his on her Meganium and met his gaze with a smile just for him.
Maybe she knew all along.
Not so fond of this one as I am of Lyra's, but nothing cures insomnia/writer's block on other stuff better than random one-shots!
Review, if you want.