~*Catching Up To You*~

"I'll be back so fast you won't even know I'm gone!" Brendan said with a grin just for him. Time passed.


Part One: Something to Do


Charizard's flames flowed behind him like a kite's tail, the burning red and gold embers flaring brightly, sparkling against the deep blue ocean beneath them. Every few seconds his great bat-like wings flapped down with enough force to probably tear small saplings from the earth, and his broad back rippled with the motion of his powerful muscles. Smoke curled from his nose and he kept his paws tucked close to his pale stomach as he soared effortlessly over the sea that was Route 132, if Brendan remembered correctly.

The Trainer on his back was still young—only sixteen—but his eyes betrayed so much more. They were a vivid shade of cerulean, the kind that meant he had seen and done unbelievable things. The young male was clad in emerald green complete with a headband. His dyed white hair was ruffled over his head accessory, flat in the pleasant wind. Beneath, his hair was black. Ebony bangs fell into his eyes that he constantly had to wipe away, and normally it would have bothered him and reminded him that he needed a trim. But he was far too happy to be back for that to matter.

I'm home!

After three long years away in Johto and Kanto, with the latter still bearing one imposing obstacle to scale, Brendan was once more in his native region of Hoenn. It was an unbelievably exhilarating feeling, and his Charizard lifted his glittering orange neck and roared, ivory fangs flashing in the sun. He put on a burst of speed and practically shot across the marine, undaunted by the waves far below them.

Brendan gasped and covered his face as they flew straight through a thick white cloud, and Trainer and Pokémon came out soaking wet on the other side. Charizard's fiery tail wasn't even flickering slightly from the moisture.

"Ah! Stop!" Brendan yelped as his flying dragon-like companion dipped towards the sea at a startling speed, causing the world to transform into a spinning blue blur where sky and ocean became one and the same, with the clouds becoming foam on the tides of the heavens.

Charizard opened his mighty wings at the last second, making a huffing sound that released plumes of dark smoke from his formidable maw. He sprang effortlessly back towards his previous height, circling twice over a school of assorted fish Pokémon before continuing onwards.

This route held memories. When he looked down, the Trainer swore he saw an outline of himself, riding on Swampert as he Surfed, searching for the likes of the Regi family…

"We've got a festival to catch!" Brendan reminded his friend, leaning forward to speak past the howling of the wind. The sun caused the world below them to become an expanse of glittering gold dancing over an ever-shifting surface.

Before he had arrived at Hoenn, Brendan had been stopped by Red, requesting that he perform a double battle with him and a close friend of his back from somewhere called Orre—a girl named Leaf. The condition was that he had to return to his homeland and bring someone to carry out the formidable task with him.

Unfortunately, neither of the Kanto Trainers were pushovers, least of all Red. Brendan had challenged Red three times on his icy kingdom of Mt. Silver before finally emerging victorious, and even then the boy's tip of his hat had seemed almost mocking, as if he had let the foreigner win.

This bothered Brendan endlessly, and the first two people he had thought of the whole ride back to Slateport City was his own two rivals and friends, Wally and May.

He respected and liked Wally, for the kid was certainly strong and had probably bested Hoenn's Pokémon League by now and moved on, but he really wanted his neighbor and close ally May to accompany him back to Kanto. (Red had said to take all the time he needed, for he wanted a serious match that put even his alleged duel with the legendary Mewtwo to shame. Leaf had said much the same.)

But, upon arriving in Slateport, a sailor informed Brendan that one of his favorite places in the world, the elusive Mirage Island, had been sighted near Pacifidlog Town again, and the floating village was holding a festival. It was scheduled to be there for at least two days.

And thus, after a quick call to his mom back in Littleroot to explain that he wanted to check the island out again, he left the port on the back of his Charizard, evolved in the Fire-type's native land, waving to Captain Stern and a surprised Gabby and Ty, who was capturing it all on film.

Brendan had ever been the impulsive type.

Charizard clawed the air and roared again—(What did you expect? His Nature was a mixture between Impish and Rash)—sending tongues of fire screaming skyward. His Trainer gasped as he almost ended up caught in the inferno, but his Pokémon swooped down to avoid his own handiwork, rocketing forever onwards.

"Look!" Brendan called, lifting one hand to shield his eyes. "There it is! That's Pacifidlog!"

The town built on a colony of Corsola was a swiftly approaching smudge on the horizon.

Wing speed increasing, Charizard flapped towards the settlement, dark eyes fastened onto his goal with a single-minded determination that had let him overcome his variety of foes in the past. Even as a Charmander, it had been clear to his Trainer that he had dreamed of flying, hence his energy now.

Pacifidlog had never been a large place, but it had a cozy feel to it. Most of its inhabitants dove in the water or fished for a living, and the village had a rural sensation embedded in every chunk of dark, sodden log. The entire area was like a gigantic raft with houses after all, complete with wood planks tied to ropes, acting as bridges between one section to the next.

Now, it was covered with various banners the color of summer forests, each one proudly displaying the words Welcome to Pacifidlog along with Mirage Festival in a rainbow hue. The town had way more people present than Brendan had ever seen before, since it was usually a very remote area.

Needless to say, Charizard collected quite a bit of stares from awed Trainers and citizens alike as he spiraled wildly downward from a height of roughly eight hundred feet, nearly causing his owner to fall from his back like an incompetent idiot. He landed heavily, massive legs absorbing the shock of the impact, shaking himself with an almost disinterested air, now that he was back on the ground.

Brendan slid from his back, leaning against his Pokémon's great shoulders for support, and Charizard snaked his head down, puffing into his face, concerned.

"Just…a little…dizzy," he groaned, covering his face with one gloved hand. His compatriot in battling huffed again, plainly amused. Brendan smiled and patted the winged lizard's arm. "If you want to fly some more, go ahead, but be sure to come back!"

Charizard grinned—he swore it, his lips pulled back in what would have been a cute smile if it wasn't for his gigantic canines—and licked his Trainer's face with his forked tongue.

"Blech! Get outta here!" Brendan pretended to be disgusted, wiping drool away with his shirt.

Ascending again in a shockwave of air currents, Charizard circled once before vanishing past the low hanging clouds.

He watched until the great reptile was lost to his sight, arms crossed, before fingering the other five Pokéballs on his belt. In Johto, he had learned that it was a custom to let at least one Pokémon loose to follow you around, for it apparently built a stronger relationship. It wasn't that way in Hoenn, but no one would pay him too much attention provided that he didn't pick something show-offy, like…

Brendan slapped a hand to his face, groaning.

Like a Charizard, dropping from the sky.

In the end, he decided to leave it be. For now. The last thing the Trainer wanted was attention drawn to him, since undoubtedly; someone would recognize him as—

"Hey, aren't you Brendan? The Brendan? The guy that defeated the League twice before going to Kanto and Johto?"

Suppressing a groan with great difficulty, he turned and met the inquisitive gaze of a passerby. Judging by his curious garb, the blonde-haired boy was probably a Juggler. His green eyes were bright and interested, showing only friendly intrigue, a Voltorb rotating near his feet.

"That's me," the boy said with a nod. "Can I help you with something?"

"Nah, man! Wait! Well…can I have your autograph? Please? I mean, can you sign my Voltorb?" The Juggler ducked down and snatched his Pokémon, lifting it into the air and offering the spherical creature to Brendan.

Brendan took a startled step back. "You want…me to autograph…your Voltorb?"

I leave for a few years and the whole region of Hoenn goes to pot! Is it normal for people to sign Pokémon now?

In response, the explosive Pokémon promptly detonated itself, claiming its owner in a small blast that stained the Juggler a dark shade of ebony. Coughing, Brendan waved the choking smoke away, retreating even farther. "Hey! You okay?"

The Voltorb was now unconscious, but his owner was still standing, although he appeared dazed and quite a bit worse for wear. "Gackcoughcoughhackcoughhack!"

The spectacle had attracted a group of civilians, wondering who in their right mind had just fallen victim to a volatile Voltorb, and Brendan hurriedly slinked away before anyone else recognized him. Only after he had rounded a corner and hidden behind someone's log house did he release his breath with a relieved sigh.

I wish I wasn't a celebrity sometimes! I mean, other people have defeated the Elite Four… His face soured. But I guess no one else can claim to have stopped Teams Aqua and Magma, now can they? All of that Kyogre and Groudon business…And Rayquaza.

"Seems like ages ago," Brendan murmured. He rubbed at his hair, staring out across the familiar sea and smiling to himself. The breeze tasted like salt and summer, so similar and yet so different from Kanto's sweet sunshine and Johto's honeyed tides. "Guess there really is no place like home."

He stayed that way for a good twenty minutes, just relishing the cadence of Pacifidlog and the feel of Hoenn's wind and light. He had been away far too long in places where his accent revealed the fact that he was a born and bred Hoenner…

Oh! That's right! Mirage Island…

Brendan checked his Pokégear's clock, and finding that it was early afternoon, he decided he wouldn't have to go hunting for his Charizard just yet. He walked to the edges of the docks, stepping past merchants selling trinkets and the occasional rowdy Trainer, grabbing the Pokéball that held his Gyarados, when—

Holding tight onto his Pokémon's head-fin, Brendan yelped as the great mudfish put on a burst of speed and blasted around a large rock sticking out of the sea. The waves momentarily splashed up into his eyes and mouth before he was free from their salty reach. "Swampert! Watch out for that Tentacruel!"

Swampert snorted, causing air bubbles to pop along the water's surface, kicking out even harder.

The strength of the memory hit him so hard that for a moment, the traveling teen was unable to move. He rolled the Pokéball between his fingers, dropping it down from one hand to the other, a thoughtful frown flitting across his lips. His very first, and strongest, Pokémon had not been used since an incident in Kanto when he had felt the overwhelmingly strong desire to show up a cocky Gym Leader named Blue exactly what he was capable of. Generally, as an unspoken rule, Trainers heading to new regions would raise that region's Pokémon from scratch…

But I'm home now, and Swampert knows these routes unlike any other.

"Sorry, Gyarados. Sorry, guys. I think, while I'm here, I need my old team back." Brendan clipped the ball back onto his belt, heading for the Pokémon Center without further delay. His stride was that of the confident, that is, without being considered arrogant. He knew it was important to give off an aura that clearly said, You don't want to mess with me! without also declaring, Or else you'll regret it.

The Center's doors slid open with a mechanical whirr, and not a single head turned as the Pokémon Champion entered its interior. It had an odd mixture of smells, from the chemical blandness of medicinal supplies to the warm aroma of junk food. Centers, after all, were just as useful to starving travelers as a café, and some of the bigger ones even acted as hotels for a night or two.

Murmured conversations were going on all around him, and one girl appeared to be going into hysterics since her boyfriend was breaking up with her.

"I thought we were a Lovey-Dovey Couple!" She sobbed, her mascara running. Her Luvdisc twitched one of its eyes, clearly annoyed, near her shoes.

Brendan hid an amused smirk, finding an empty computer and typing in his password to access his computer box. As always, Lanette kept all of his Pokémon safe in her storage compartments.

The miracle of technology, mused the teen as he placed his Pokéballs within the empty slots on a nearby tray. There was a brief, white flash before they showed up on the screen as icons, destined for their predetermined slots.

He tapped the keyboard, surprised to find himself nervous—(How would his Pokémon react to his long absence?)—as he located his old team. Swampert, Shedinja, Skarmory, Raichu, Aggron, and Absol soon materialized, within their Pokéballs naturally, in the same spaces that his Johto Pokémon had left in.

Hooking each one back onto his belt, the teen turned around and swiftly collided with someone else just as the computer beeped, confirming that he was now logged out of his account.

"I'm sorry," a mild voice hurriedly said. It had a strong undercurrent of nervousness. "I didn't mean to run into you, I was about to ask if you were—" Green eyes shot wide open. "Brendan?"

Groaning, Brendan massaged his forehead. His gaze again became still, and the image before him solidified into none other than his friend and rival, Wally. "Wally? What are you doing here?"

The emerald-haired boy grinned, rocking on his heels. "I could ask you much the same!"

The Trainer narrowed his eyes.

He's different. More confident. Lost his stutter, I see.

Wally was wearing a white t-shirt with loose tan slacks, one hand in his pocket, the other busily brushing over his chest; though there was nothing there of interest that Brendan could see that would warrant the motion. He was still waiting for a reply.

Perfect!

Clasping Wally's free hand tightly, Brendan exclaimed, "It's great to see you, pal! What's up?"

"I beat the Elite Four! It was amazing, that was a while ago, but I still remember it so vividly!" His breathing spiked and for a moment he was afraid that something was wrong. Then, the boy just shook his head and ignored it.

That's right, he has that weird disease…But he looks fine now. Great, even. He's not pale at all and he seems to be steady on his feet.

"Sorry for not calling you." Brendan felt his cheeks burn with shame. "Busy, busy, busy. So, what are you doing now?"

"I wanted to go to Kanto. Like you did." Wally's shoulders slumped.

"But…?"

"My parents were worried about me going so far from home. Since…you know…" He gestured to his torso, where evidently his breathing problem lurked.

With all of our technology, we can't fix this...whatever he has? Where's the justice in that?

His rival brightened again. "But that's all right. I'm going to be the best Trainer in all of Hoenn then. I'm doing Battle Tower challenges and Gardevoir is even trying out some Beauty Contests. Though I get weird looks sometimes for entering Beauty Contests…"

"Ignore them; they're jealous of your mad skills." Brendan folded his arms behind his head and gave a goofy smile for his steadfast friend. "Nothing ticks a girl off like losing to a guy in a Contest about how pretty something is."

Wally laughed. "True. So, how about you? I've heard some interesting things about you."

"Really? What now? Am I saving damsels in distress?" He asked as his companion took over the computer and began writing a letter to home. Brendan didn't mean to peek, but he caught the lines met up with Brendan again, he's doing well on the screen.

"Yes and no."

Flummoxed now, the Champion spluttered, "What?"

The boy continued to type, unperturbed by his reaction. "Recent rumor says you rescued some little girl in a dark alley from a former member of Team Rocket."

Brendan shrugged, looking down. He wasn't sure how much he liked fame really. He had both a craving to be known but at the same time he wanted to be able to walk places without someone shouting out that he was Hoenn's current Champion—unbeaten when it came to the amount of battles he had won and the time it had taken him to gather Badges and vanquish the Elite Four.

Wally's jade eyes flashed to him momentarily before returning to the screen. "So? Is it true?"

"Well, yeah, but the punk only had a Raticate. It was easy for Furret to knock it out."

"Doesn't matter how easy it was, you've got a reputation for stopping to help every injured Johnny and Jenny under the rainbow." Switching the computer off, he turned and began walking towards the exit, and Brendan followed after a second of thought.

"When did I get a reputation?"

"Don't you pay attention to magazines at all? The Net? TV?"

The Trainer's eyebrows drew down as he responded with a pensive, "Not really. I mean…gossip doesn't interest me much, especially when they're talking about me."

Pacifidlog's cool ocean air swept back down to claim the pair of teens as they crossed the rattling planks of the floating town. Pausing only to let a Swimmer trot pass them, they headed for the outskirts of the small settlement.

Do I really miss that much? I get so into battling and keeping my Pokémon in shape that I don't do much else. So now here I am in Hoenn—what am I doing? I need to go to Mirage Island by tomorrow; at least, before it leaves…then I'll go home and hope May is around.

Brendan came to a halt beside Wally, hands in his pockets, staring out across the ruffled surface of the sea. They were in an empty "lot", a section of Pacifidlog devoid of any houses. It was fenced off by rope and probably used as a training area for aspiring battlers.

"Brendan?"

"Hmm?"

"Um…" The boy scuffed a shoe against the ground. "Do you want to…?"

"What?"

Squaring his shoulders, Wally faced Brendan and lifted a Pokéball, torn from his belt with a flourish. "I challenge you to a match!"

The corners of the Champion's lips turned up, clearly amused. "Is that so? I accept!"

"Alright! Go, Delcatty!" He tossed the red and white sphere high, and it released, in a bolt of red, the feline form of his Pokémon. She prowled forward, tail twitching, anticipating the bout.

Brendan didn't miss how her eyes widened once she beheld him.

Recognizes me huh? I bet she'll recognize this!

"Go, Swampert!"

The globe spun rapidly skyward, and in a burst of blinding scarlet, a heavy body hit the logs with a thunk. Roaring, webbed hands swiping the air, the Mud Fish Pokémon's orange gaze settled on the Delcatty with an intense strength.

Then, suddenly, he whirled around and gawked, open mouthed, at his Trainer.

Wally covered his mouth with one hand, plainly stifling a chuckle as Swampert pounced forward and tackled his owner. Falling onto his back thanks to the immense weight of the 4'11" Pokémon, Brendan gasped out, "Swampert! Great to see you too, but we're in the middle of something!"

Swampert ignored him, his rock-hard arms clasping so tightly around his master's chest that the boy had trouble breathing. At last, the pleased Pokémon sprang back and again glared down his opponent, obviously intent on impressing his Trainer.

"Well. Okay." Wally was still grinning. "Delcatty, Hyper Beam, let's go!"

Hissing, the feline opened her jaws and fired a burst of creamy-white energy from between her teeth. Swampert moved to the side, jumping straight into the water and vanishing beneath its surface.

"Yeah!" Brendan cheered. "Way to go, Swampert! Now, while she's vulnerable, use Surf!"

A wave lifted itself from the briny deep, towering over the entire platform. It crashed down on Delcatty before she could avoid it, and the cat swirled around wildly before ending up as a soaked mop of fur in one corner.

"Delcatty, up on your feet, you can do it!" Wally encouraged. When the pink Pokémon rose up, he declared, "Now use Solar Beam!"

Uh oh.

"Tch, you don't have to get out for that! Swampert, Surf her again!"

Despite the fact that their Trainers were also dripping wet thanks to the spray from Swampert's first Surf, they weren't nearly as drenched as Delcatty. The feline was hit helplessly by the tide, and this time she decided to move into the sea to combat her adversary there.

A flash of gold burst forth from the cat, and Swampert was hit in the chest with it. He flew backwards and slammed into a rock, (still underwater), and though dazed, he managed to kick off of the submerged stone and trap Delcatty in a Whirlpool, at Brendan's behest.

"Now, while she's caught! Use Hammer Arm!"

With a bellowing roar that sent bubbles popping along the water's top, the Mud Fish Pokémon brought his arm back and crashed his fist directly into her chest. Delcatty was hit so hard that she burst forth from the ocean and landed in an undignified heap on the log platform.

Wally withdrew his Pokémon. "You did great," he murmured. Lifting his eyes to Brendan's, he lifted one shoulder before letting it drop. "Note to self—don't challenge a guy with a Swampert to a battle near the sea."

"Darn straight."

"Okay, time to get serious then! Go, Gardevoir!"

As the elegant Psychic-type appeared in a glimmer of stardust—Kid must have gotten some Seals—Brendan reached for his Absol's Pokéball. His fingers brushed the surface before flipping past even his Shedinja's. Instead he tugged off his Raichu's and sent him out.

"Let's make this interesting! Go, Raichu!"

The Electric Mouse sparked and crackled in warning, lightning-bolt tail swishing, spiky ears flattened close to his yellowish-brown head. His dark eyes flickered to Brendan with evident surprise, but all he did was nod before stamping his feet, ready for the battle.

"Okay, Gardevoir use Calm Mind!"

The Pokémon placed her slender hands on either side of her face and closed her lids.

"Raichu, Thunder!"

Making a vaguely distorted chu sound, the rodent let loose with a huge lance of lightning that came from somewhere up above, presumably called on by the Pokémon.

"Avoid it and use Psychic!"

Gardevoir slid to the side an instant before the bolt hit, and then a ripple of arcane force hit Raichu so hard that he was thrown straight into the sea with a satisfying splash!

Wally looked exhilarated. "He's right where we want him! Double Team!"

The Psychic-type split into several copies of herself, but Brendan wasn't bothered. As Raichu hauled himself back up onto the deck, he commanded, "Shock Wave!"

The Electric-type move was sure to collide with its opponent, and the wave spread out and promptly electrocuted Gardevoir.

Or, would have.

"Protect, Gardevoir!"

The invisible shield popped into existence right before the move hit, and with an irritated snarl, Raichu bounded forward, picking up speed, already guessing Brendan's next order.

"Raichu, Volt Tackle!"

Yellow electricity, glowing brightly, enveloped the mouse as he took on Gardevoir directly. The collision sent them both barreling out to the ocean, and as they landed, the water began conducting the voltage at a dangerously strong level.

"Raichu!" Running to the platform's edge, a concerned Brendan peered into the depths. Wally was yelling for his Pokémon also.

Two shapes stirred, and an exhausted Raichu kicked to the surface of the waves, bobbing along with his long tail lifted high. Gardevoir emerged soon after, though she seemed less steady than Brendan's Pokémon, despite the recoil damage the robust Raichu had just suffered.

"Wish!" Wally exclaimed, as if the concept had just occurred to him.

Oh no you don't!

"Raichu, use Return!"

A golden radiance briefly slid along the Electric-type's body before he whipped his tail directly across the face of his foe. It connected with a loud crack!

Gardevoir blinked comically before she sank underneath the waves.

"Okay, look I'll get Swampert to—" Brendan began, but at that moment a curious luminescence highlighted the water.

"Her Wish came true!" Wally celebrated. "Gardevoir, Psychic!"

This time Raichu got critically hit, and he bashed his head against the logs as he rolled to a stop at his Trainer's feet.

"Fantastic job, my friend." Stroking the fainted Pokémon's fur, Brendan narrowed his eyes slightly as he withdrew Raichu. "Leaving Gardevoir here? We'll still keep it fair. But not by much. Aggron, I choose you!"

Wally blinked. "When did you get an—"

The great behemoth reared up over Gardevoir as she glided to the center of the platform, almost fully healed, very pleased with herself. She gazed up, not intimidated by the seven foot tall Steel and Rock type.

"Aggron, Dark Pulse!"

Roaring, he spread his arms wide and released a crippling aura of shadow. Gardevoir hurriedly used Protect, but instantly afterwards Aggron turned and slammed her in the chest with a well-aimed Iron Tail.

Though she used Shadow Ball in response, the Iron Armor Pokémon took the hit and simply smacked her with Iron Head. Gardevoir was clearly at a disadvantage, and though her Double Team threw off Aggron for a while, he succeeded in knocking her out with Iron Tail, but it took quite some effort on his part to catch the elusive Psychic-type.

"You win again," a visibly disappointed Wally remarked neutrally as he withdrew Gardevoir. Aggron happily received Brendan's affectionate pats and delighted words before returning to his own Pokéball. "That's the first time she's lost in a while."

Unsure what to say to that, Brendan simply chose Skarmory next. The Steel-type bird strutted forward and cawed. Wally was about to choose another Pokémon when a loud voice said from somewhere close by:

"All participants of the Deep Sea Diving competition should come forward now!"

"Oh! I forgot I was entering that! We'll finish later, okay?" He whipped around and charged off before Brendan could stop him.

Anxiety slid into his heart.

Wally's got a medical problem—and he's going diving?

Skarmory huffed, annoyed, his yellow gaze resting on Brendan questioningly. His Trainer rubbed his metallic head warmly. "Nothing's wrong, Skarmory. C'mon, Raichu and Swampert got hurt; we'll take them to the Center."

On the way there, a shadow abruptly obscured the sun. When the Trainer looked up, he saw none other than—

"Charizard! That's right! I forgot you were out of your—wait stop!"

With a battle cry, the flaming lizard dropped down and swiped his burning tail across the Steel-type's face. Shrieking with rage, the already short-tempered Skarmory proceeded to slice his talons across Charizard's snout, his fury increasing his strength.

"Stop! Right now! BOTH OF YOU." Brendan snarled, glaring at each of them in turn until they lowered their eyes. The last thing he needed was Pacifidlog burning down. "Charizard, buddy, time for you to take a break. C'mon." He turned and continued towards the Center, and once back at the computer, he called the reptile's Pokéball back, bade him farewell for the time being, and put him within storage.

Skarmory was looking thoroughly smug, and once the others were healed, Brendan dismissed him and instead took out the only two Pokémon he had yet to see, Absol and Shedinja.

Absol blinked dolefully at him, and the teen gave her a good rubdown, expressing how happy he was to see her. It was hard to tell if Shedinja was angry or not, for he just floated down with an unexpressive stare, as was the Ghost and Bug type's wont. Regardless, he stroked his tough exterior before releasing every else and spending the next hour in the Pokémon Center reacquainting himself with his first and best team of Pokémon.

As he scratched a pleased Swampert behind his head-fins, a familiar voice commented airily, "Your bond with your Pokémon is as sturdy as ever."

Brendan replied without turning around, "Of course it is. I love these guys to death."

"Nice to see you're back. How was Kanto and Johto?" The stranger inquired casually.

"Just fine…Steven."

Steven Stone, who had been the Pokémon League Champion before Brendan had defeated him(1), had somehow ambled up. When Brendan had left to go to Johto, he gave the job of Champion back to Steven, whom had swiftly tossed it straight to Wallace of Sootopolis City.

It's like no one wants to be Champion of Hoenn. It's a boring job, waiting at the head of the Elite Four just to battle a bunch of Trainers. Or at least I prefer traveling and battling a bunch of Trainers. Steven prefers his rocks.

Not that he didn't like and respect the powerful wandering Trainer, but he didn't honestly understand his interest in "rare pebbles".

"I've been to Kanto before, and Johto. Did you, perhaps, meet Lyra or Ethan?"

"Both." Brendan said absently, massaging a spot on Raichu's stomach as the Electric Mouse lounged on his back.

"Oh? Who's Champion of Johto, do you know?"

"Er—some dude named Silver. Most arrogant prick I've ever met, kept repeating the word 'weak' until I beat him. I don't know if he's any worse or better than Blue, though."

"Ah, Blue." Steven's massive Metagross stirred behind him, and a startled Brendan whipped his head around to look at it. He was surprised by how quiet the cobalt Pokémon was. "Is he doing well?"

"I guess. How much people do you know?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you, Brendan." Steven grinned before pulling one of his black sleeves up, checking his watch. "Ah, I'm late for something. Being a minute or two later won't do any more harm. How are you faring? Are the regions beyond Hoenn as wonderful and colorful as you imagined, or are you disappointed? Your relationship with Pokémon is certainly stronger than ever before."

Why does he always ask weird questions like that?

"It's great, actually. What about you? Found any extraordinary rocks?" Brendan had the nagging suspicion he was forgetting something. Shedinja rotated upside-down beside his head.

"Rocks aplenty, but unfortunately I lack the time to show you. I would battle you, if I could, since it's been a while since I've had a challenge…but like I said—"

"You're late." Brendan smiled at his old ally. "Then get going! Who was the last guy you fought that was 'challenging'? I thought you weren't battling hardcore anymore."

"I'm not, but she recognized me and asked, and I could hardly refuse. Her name was May." Steven appeared shocked at his reaction as the young Trainer jumped, startled. "Did I say something wrong?"

"No, I just…" Brendan shook his head. "Never mind. But hey, if you have a Pokégear, give me a call and I'll battle whenever you want."

"Deal." They swapped numbers quickly before Steven had to go. The silhouette of his Skarmory, larger than Brendan's by a good bit, flashed by the Center's window.

"What am I forgetting…?" Brendan murmured as Aggron pawed furiously at Shedinja for bumping into him. A light bulb went off in his head as he read the clock on his green Pokégear. "It's been more than an hour and Wally isn't done yet?"

Recalling all of his Pokémon, Brendan raced down the docks and bridges, his footsteps causing the planks to clatter loudly. He located the spot where he had last seen Wally, and then he set off in the same direction his emerald-haired companion had gone.

The Diving competition seemed to be over, or at least that's what the nearby people said when he asked. Genuine concern was emanating in waves from Brendan by the time the sun was beginning to set. He sent his Skarmory and Absol out searching for the boy, but it was Shedinja, floating just to his right, that spotted the wayward boy first.

Oh…

Some girl in black and white was talking with Wally, and judging by their relaxed positions, sitting on the ground with their backs leaning against a house's wall, they had been that way for a while. They were both chatting, but they also appeared somewhat nervous as well.

"Well, Marley," Wally was saying by the time Brendan had inched close enough to hear. "You don't have to watch your words with me."

"…But I want to be careful…"

Shedinja poked Brendan, hard, in the side. Grumbling to himself, the teen moved away so that he could no longer eavesdrop.

"You ruin all of my fun."

The Ghost and Bug type made a hollow hissing sound that sounded oddly close to laughter.

~*X*~

Brendan was staying the night at the local Pokémon Center, which turned out to indeed have a few rooms available. It was amazing, the spaces that opened up once it became known that Pokémon Champion Brendan was indeed staying for the duration of the Mirage Festival.

These people would kill to be able to brag that a celebrity spent a night or two with them.

Using his fame for such things was probably wrong, but at the moment he was too tired to care. It was late, but he couldn't sleep, his mind set on the past and the future, but strangely not the present.

Raichu was curled up at the end of the bed, but he was also awake, black eyes peering at his master in the semidarkness. Moonlight washed over the boy, and he found himself remembering the epic battle between Swampert and Rayquaza that had happened years ago.

The moon also reminded him of the mysterious Suicune, pelting by so fast that all Brendan saw was a blur.

"Are you thinking of me too?" Brendan asked aloud, his thoughts turning to May. "I wonder how your researching is going…is Professor Birch working you hard? If you battled Steven, you must be training your Pokémon still. Did Grovyle finally evolve, or did you get beaten by…?"

He voiced all of the questions he should have asked during the three years he had been away as if the moon held all the answers.

~*X*~

Author's Note: This two-shot is written with the intention of showing my three favorite Sapphire/Ruby/Emerald characters a few years later. This one-shot focused on Wally and Brendan, with a cameo from Steven, who seems to appear often whenever things are starting to get interesting. Next, naturally, focuses on May and Brendan.

Not as much environmental description as I usually write, but it'll do, since presumably you guys know what Pacifidlog Town looks like. It's my favorite place besides Lilycove City.

(1)—I played Sapphire only, not Emerald or Ruby, so keep that in mind regarding Steven and the Champion status he does or does not have. Or anything else, for that matter.