As I attempted to haul one of the stolen crates outside, I could feel Blue's gaze on my back, a gaze that I knew would be one of his unfathomable ones had I turned around to look.
I grunted with exertion as the crate bumped over the sliding door ridge. Blue wasn't exactly helping, and I looked up to meet his eyes with what was hopefully a pleading glance.
He was wearing that signature look of his as I had predicted, but to my surprise it could no longer be considered 'unfathomable'. I saw a little of what lay within, a little of the shadows of turmoil and ultimately quiet acceptance. I had no doubt a good part of what simmered in his eyes were a result of our close proximity but a few minutes ago, although I wasn't about to comment on it.
"Aren't you going to help?" I grumbled, wincing as my wound screamed in protest. He seemed to snap out of his reverie, but to my dismay he merely crossed his arms over his chest and slouched.
"How exactly do you propose we haul all this to town?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
I had a sudden urge to be petulant and insist he help, but he had a point. These things weighed a ton each and there were dozens of them. Hauling them all down would be impossible.
I sighed, giving up and leaving my crate halfway out the door. "I don't know. I'm kinda messed up right now."
His brilliant green eyes softened. "Alright. We can get back to town and tell everyone who lost Pokemon to come and get them here. Meanwhile, you are going to the Pokemon centre."
I was in no mood to argue, and I waited for him to join me at the door before starting off at a trudge for Celadon City. The poison, although not as lethal as Golbat venom, was starting to take effect, making me feel lightheaded and dizzy. He was silent as he walked beside me, then, out of the blue (forgive the pun), he asked something that completely threw me.
"Do you want me to carry you?"
I stopped dead in my tracks and glanced at him incredulously. He was serious. I saw it in his eyes, no hint of amusement or disdain, only concern and faint softness. I just stared at him for a moment before the image of that came to my mind and blood rushed to my face. "Uh… no." I pushed on, but then my body rebelled and I staggered, nausea overwhelming me.
He didn't bother to ask any more, instead grabbing my good arm and slinging it over his shoulder. Perhaps I ought to have been grateful that he didn't do the bridal style thing, but as his arm wrapped around my waist I supposed the contact was just as bad.
In the end I just shut up and let him support my weight.
I didn't know if something had possessed me that moment a few minutes ago, when I was hugging him and just feeling so plain happy to be having him back. Now that I thought about it, I wasn't just happy to not have to worry about crap anymore. There was this deep sort of joy, this… feeling of rightness when I had my face in his collar, his wiry arms tight around me. I liked the contact then, loved it even, and now I had to admit I actually missed it a little.
"Hey…" I murmured, something I had wondered earlier coming to mind.
He glanced at me. "Yes?"
"How… how did you find me?" It was strange that he could just pop up when I needed him most. Unless, of course, he had been stalking me. For some weird reason I found that both horrifying and flattering at the same time.
He snorted softly. "Logic. After all this time I'd have figured that you'd know. You're the sort of person who would fight for justice despite the odds, and when I couldn't find you in the Celadon hotels I came straight here. I've known for a while that this is their den of sorts."
"Then why didn't you do anything about it?" I asked.
"What was the point? I wiped them out, several times in fact, but after a while they'd just come back and everything would start all over. I might as well work on fixing the root problem."
"Which is what's been going on all this time," I said slowly, everything clicking together. "All that with Lieutenant Surge and that weird lady and all those danger stuff… It all has to do with…with this?"
Blue nodded, a single bob of his head. "I think it's about time you knew."
We arrived in front of the Pokecentre. "Okay, you go first. I'll spread the news," he directed. I opened my mouth to protest. "It's a long story," he interjected, directly answering my unspoken question. "I'll tell you later. Go." He wove into the crowd in the town square, and I heard his voice, faintly audible but incomprehensible at the distance I was. Despite that a ripple went through the crowd, as everyone spread the news to their immediate neighbor, and some broke off from the crowd to head for the warehouse.
I left Blue to his work and went inside the Pokecentre. Everything seemed almost back to normal now, with the light banter and his mind reading, although the chauvinism was new. The nurse, apparently used to unusual injuries and the sort, treated my wound with all the concern and loving care of a robot. But I wasn't about to complain. She was efficient and that was all I cared about. Honest.
In 15 minutes flat I was sitting out in the lobby with a new bandage on my arm. The nurse had given me the bloody spike 'as a souvenir' (I didn't know what kind of a twisted mindset was that, but whatever), and I, not really giving a damn, stalked over to the nearest rubbish bin and dropped it in.
Blue came back shortly after, and hoarsely requested for a drink. He gulped down the glass of water he was offered like he was dying of thirst, which I supposed he was in a way. Celadon didn't exactly have a small population.
"So?" I asked, more out of a need to start a conversation than actually wanting to know what happened. After the week (hell, it felt more like a month) without him, I really wanted to hear his voice again.
He shrugged. "Nothing much. I yelled. They listened. They went. That's about it."
"What, no screaming fangirls?" I asked in faint amusement.
He gave me a horror look. "Thank heavens no. I only have to worry about Pewter City and Viridian."
That struck me as a little odd. "Why though?" No one ever seemed to assault him after we both left Pewter City behind.
"Well, I tend to keep up appearances outside my home area," he replied. "No one knew me before I made a name for myself, so I made myself a little…ah…unapproachable."
"Figures," I muttered, smirking despite myself.
"Only those girls who knew me before that believed they had a chance with me. Thus the grab wars." He made a nonchalant face, but I saw the slight terror in his facial features and grinned. Aha. Here we have…BLUE'S WEAKNESS. MUAHAHAHAHA.
Scratch that. I was having a random moment.
I smiled to myself. I loved everything being back to normal. I loved teasing him and talking with him and… and…just him. Um.
Forget that line of thought. Forget it. Seriously. I… I wasn't thinking straight. It's just euphoria. Nothing much. Honest.
I watched as she steadily turned redder. I didn't have much idea of what was going on inside that haphazard brain of hers, and I wasn't sure whether I wanted to find out. She was looking at me like she'd just discovered something and wished she hadn't. I had no idea.
The brief moment of silence was pretty awkward, at least for her I thought, so I took her hand and led her outside. She seemed to read something in my actions, judging from the way her gaze fixed itself to our interlaced fingers for a good long moment. I didn't know what to say about that so I kept it to myself and changed the subject.
"You know, about last week…" The words caught in my throat, but I forced them out anyway. It was a sudden breach. I didn't care as much though. I just wanted it over with. "I'm…sorry." It was a minuscule repayment for what I did, but I could find nothing else to compensate her with. It was pathetic, and I expected no less when her eyes became guarded.
She was waiting for an explanation – that much I knew. Swallowing hard, I forced my throat to open and started to talk.
"I… left you because I…" I didn't know how to continue, and her eyes burning a hole in my head weren't exactly helping. Her gaze was hard to hold, and in the end I dropped it, opting instead to fumble for words. "I was scared. I lost a close friend before, I couldn't lose another. I was just so scared." Flashes of memories – the rumble of thundering feet – Nicole's echoing scream-
I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, my breath rattling as I tried to rein in everything that was running rampant. I knew I wasn't making a whole lot of sense. "When I was really young…six in fact…I… there was an accident. It was-" I bit back the words 'all my fault', remembering what Nicole had established on that. "-a freak accident. My friend…she…she died. Right there. Right before my eyes. I blamed myself. I hated myself. And I was so terrified. It hurt. It hurt so bad and I was scared to face it again."
I hung my head, angry and regretful and full of self-loathing for the coward that I had been. Right then I saw how much of a fool I had been, in both the past and the light of recent events. "I was scared of people. Of bonds. And you just reminded me so much of her." I exhaled heavily, and unbidden for, a fresh wave of grief washed over me.
Kathy gave my hand a reassuring squeeze, and I looked up from the pavement at her soft brown eyes. It was fascinating, that – how her eyes seemed to change in shades depending on her mood. I could almost read her emotions perfectly now.
She had taken over the lead sometime along my rambling, and now she led us to the hotel room she rented earlier. It was a tad more classy than the inn rooms we've lived in in the past, with a rug and proper sheets and air-conditioning. It meant nothing much to me at the moment, though. I sat down heavily at the foot of the bed and put my face in my hands. Damn. Why couldn't I seem to get back in control? Maybe I was a little stupid to breach that subject so soon, but I needed to get it out of my system, not that it seemed to be working.
I felt the bed shift behind me, then stilled as a pair of arms wrapped around my chest from behind. It was one of the rare times when my mind went wiped completely blank, though with Kathy around that seemed to be changing. A heartbeat later I felt the warm weight of her head settle between my shoulder blades.
A surge of some strange emotion clenched at my heart, and the tension went out of my frame as I unconsciously relaxed. She rubbed the top of her head into my back comfortably, and at that moment I felt different. I felt the need to connect with people again, to touch someone and to trust everything I had to someone. A need that had been long dormant, and yet seemed to have rediscovered itself in the wake of my turmoil.
To say that I was attached now would be an understatement. It was too late now to turn back, and I could only hope that history would not repeat itself.
I could feel his hesitancy as I hugged him tightly, trying to somehow convey my affection and comfort through touch. Words didn't seem to get through as effectively as touch.
Blue had been his usual self, despite the awkward situation – he didn't really hesitate in bringing up the subject that hung like a dark cloud between us. I sensed his agitation, and yet he doggedly pushed on with his explanation. I was grateful to him for that, for it offered me closure of sorts and a smooth enough return to our previous relationship. Despite that, I had a feeling that things would no longer be what it was between us. I had changed. In these few days of solo travel, I've become someone different.
I felt his pulse racing, even though he hardly twitched a muscle. I had hit a soft spot. Maybe Jed was right, after all.
Jed. That sneaky old fox knew a lot more than I previously expected him to. Reflecting on that, I chuckled softly.
"What's so funny?" Blue murmured softly.
"Jed knew you were going to come back."
He got my message and let out a faint huff of amusement. "Old fox."
Wow. We even think alike now.
Believing that he was fine now, I let him go, and he clambered around on the bed to sprawl out on the pillows. Scooting over, I sat next to him. "So. About Poke-Stealer Corps?"
He shot me a bemused look. "Team Rocket."
Rocket, sprocket, I don't care. "Yeah."
"Mmh." He turned to look out the window. "Where do I start?"
"Um. Like, who are they?"
"That's like, the whole point of the story."
"Ah. Then. What do they do? Oh wait. I know that. They steal people's Pokémon." I frowned. Abruptly I remembered the poor little kid who was waiting for the return of his little Sparky. "Oh hang on. I have a little errand to run."
"I'll be back in a moment. I promised a kid something. Hang on to that storyline, okay?"
I threw him a glance and a smile as I opened the door, to be answered by a knowing smirk.
Okay. Chapter out. Exams coming again so will be another month plus before I can update again. Sorry to keep you folks waiting.
The next chapter will be a half filler half evil plan sort of thing so don't give up yet. We have yet a way to go.
PS: What happened to all you nice reviewers? Y U NO LEAVE A ROLL CALL ON CHAPTER 19. *Gives cookies to those who did*