Of Kings and Champions
Chapter 1: Say What You Don't Mean
The name on his caller ID amuses him greatly.
Reggie sits down in front of the videophone and brings up the screen. The smile he flashes to the man on the other end is not returned, but he knows the curt nod is pretty much his brother's equivalent.
"Good morning, Mr. Pyramid King," Reggie says teasingly, leaning back in his seat and lacing his fingers together behind his head. Paul doesn't respond, merely reaches for something out of sight of the camera. He pulls his hand back and puts the cigarette he retrieved to his lips.
"You shouldn't smoke, little bro. It's bad for you," Reggie chides, even as he fishes in his drawer for his own pack.
The joke is lost on Paul, who stares at his brother uncomprehendingly. Reggie sighs and lights up.
For a while the two simply watch each other in silence (or, more accurately, Reggie watches Paul; the younger man seems determined to look everywhere but at his brother) until Paul unceremoniously puts out his cigarette and focuses hard eyes on Reggie.
Reggie raises an eyebrow.
"Well, what? You called me."
Paul blinks. "...It's Tuesday. You always call on Tuesdays so I figured I'd save you the trouble."
The corners of Reggie's mouth twitch.
"...I guess that's true. All right then. So how's life? The Pokémon?"
"They're all fine," Paul responds, gesturing vaguely behind him, where Reggie can just make out the bulky shapes of an Electivire and a Torterra. The hushed sounds of Paul's other Pokémon can be heard in the background.
Paul grimaces, and Reggie immediately feels sorry for asking.
"It's pathetic, Reg," the younger man growls in disgust. "This whole generation of trainers is pathetic. A fucking joke. All these people I've faced... They're stupid, simple, clueless idiot children. No one's been able to put up even half the fight I'd expect from someone challenging the Frontier. God, I don't even know how they got far enough to reach the Pyramid in the first place! Actually, wait, I do. You wanna know why? Because the other Brains don't do jack shit. The whole world's gone fucking soft and I am the only one who actually does his damn job around here." He rips another cigarette out of his pack with unnecessary ferocity and jams it into his mouth.
Reggie waits patiently as his brother silently fumes, puffing furiously on the new cigarette as he attempts to calm himself.
"So I guess being a Frontier Brain isn't all you thought it would be."
Paul's shoulders slump somewhat, and he averts his gaze. "N-no, it's... it's not that. I like the job," he admits. "I like being in this position." He clenches a fist in determination. "I worked hard for this and I'm not throwing it away."
Here Paul's eyes become dangerously dark. "It's the rest of the world I have a problem with." He looks up, almost pleadingly. "Being a trainer used to mean something, Reggie."
And Reggie suddenly finds himself having to actively resist the urge to reach out and touch the screen, as though he could somehow, through it, reach his brother.
Instead they both return to their cigarettes, another silence stretching between them as they each take drags. Reggie blows a final smoke ring into the air, puts out the stub of his, and drums his fingers on the desk, resting his chin in his other hand.
"What's the real reason you called?"
Paul glances up, confused.
"I saw the news broadcast, if that's what you want to know," Reggie says, shrugging, "And yes, he called me."
If looks could kill, Reggie would have died just now.
"What are you—" Paul snaps, but Reggie holds up his hand to cut him off, his expression grave.
"Don't bullshit me. I know a bit more than you give me credit for. Did he call you too or not?"
Paul makes as though he is about to retort, but he almost immediately deflates under Reggie's sharp gaze. He shifts in his seat, like a guilty child.
"...No," he finally admits. "No, he didn't call me." He almost sounds offended.
"Really?" Reggie replies, raising an eyebrow. "To be honest I'm surprised. I was sure he would." Here he pauses to shoot his brother a meaningful glare. "Present circumstances notwithstanding."
A tremor seems to run across Paul's face for a moment, but he quickly composes himself and leans back in his seat, folding his arms across his chest, projecting nonchalance.
"Whatever. Look, I really don't care."
Reggie ignores him.
"If you ask me, I think now would be the perfect time for you to call him."
"There's no way in hell I'm going to—"
"You don't have to have some long-winded conversation. Just congratulate him, Paul." Reggie crosses his arms too. "He tried to congratulate you when you became Pyramid King. He called you, like, six times, he said. You wouldn't answer. He ended up calling me out of desperation."
Paul's scowl intensifies.
"Why the fuck didn't you tell me about that?"
"What does it even matter? You're the one who didn't answer your damn phone. If you had there wouldn't be anything to tell."
For a long moment Paul just sits there, staring down into his lap. When he looks up at Reggie again, his voice seems far away.
"If I didn't pick up the last time he called, what made you think he'd try again?"
"Because that's the kind of person he is." Reggie smirks. "I think you'd understand that better than I would."
Paul frowns, unable to think of a single thing to say, and yet another silence fills the air.
"His team choice definitely impressed me," Reggie finally notes, appreciatively. "Did you know he had a Charizard?"
"No." Paul seems to shrink into his chair, as though he can somehow will himself to disappear. Reggie pretends not to notice his apprehension.
"I think I wrote it all down somewhere, actually... Charizard, Sceptile, Snorlax... God, see, I don't even remember—"
"Pikachu, obviously," Paul adds flatly.
Ah, there he is. Reggie knowingly smiles.
For the first time since the phone call began, Paul smirks back.
"No surprise there."
"No surprise there," Reggie echoes. Paul bows his head, pensive.
"A Champion using a Pikachu." He chuckles, shakes his head. "That's... that..." But thinking of a word to describe it seems to suddenly drain his energy, and his eyes glaze over. Too quickly, he reaches for another cigarette. Reggie frowns.
"Slow down with the smokes, Paul."
From under the mauve curtain of his bangs Paul shoots his brother a spiteful glare and flips him the bird before lighting his third cigarette. Reggie sighs.
"I really think you should call him."
"Is that really what you're going to do? You're just going to spend the rest of your life running from your problems?"
Paul narrows his eyes.
"I'm not running from anything," he growls.
"I'm not," Paul repeats, forcefully. He inches forward slightly, menacingly. "I'm not like you, Reggie."
The words hit him like a punch in the gut.
"Not like me?" Reggie's voice is soft. "Is that still what you think of me?"
Paul doesn't answer, just trains that same dark glare on him. Reggie leans back in his seat again, cool under pressure like he always is, like he's always had to be, and he says to his brother:
"You know something? Brandon was right. You are a child."
You can almost hear the snap.
"Goddammit, Reggie, will you shut the fuck up?" Paul screams, shoving his seat back and jumping up. Reggie flinches before remembering that Paul is three continents away. In the background, Electivire and Torterra look over at their master in shock.
Paul actually trembles with anger, pointing a shaking finger at the screen, eyes wild with unfettered rage.
"Stop it. Fucking stop it. I do not need to hear this, especially not from you of all people."
"Well, who else is going to tell you this but me?" Reggie snaps back, except he's no longer sure what to feel. He rises as well to match his brother's movements, slamming a fist on the table. "He tried to, once; shame you didn't listen to him..."
"Shut up, shut up..."
"You know what you once told me, Paul? You once told me that you would never say something you don't mean. Those were your words, a philosophy you said you would always stick to."
Reggie leans forward, his expression dark.
"Or did you forget what you promised him after the League?"
Paul clenches his fists against the desk, crinkling the papers unfortunate enough to be caught in his grip.
"I didn't forget anything," he snarls. "But you know damn well how it all worked out in the end anyway."
And then suddenly neither of them knows what to say.
Startled, the brothers look over to the figure standing in the doorway of Paul's office, a short, nervous-looking young man that Reggie recognizes as one of the Battle Frontier assistants.
"Sir, I'm so sorry to intrude, but there's a challenger here to see you..."
Paul grits his teeth together and sighs audibly, the tension dissolving from his taut frame. He stares down at his desk.
"Reggie, I... I need to go—"
"Yeah. I know." He swallows. "...Good luck, Paul."
Paul scoffs, not looking up.
"Like I need it."
He reaches over, flicks a switch somewhere offscreen, and the videophone goes dark.
And that's it.
i want to make this into a muli-chaptered story but i have no clue whatsoever where i want to take it.
i also promised myself i wouldn't write any author's notes (i have often felt they disrupt the flow of a story), and in fact specifically went and edited a bunch of my unpublished stories to remove them.
except here we are.
paul apparently laughs in the face of lung cancer.