Your Rival Appeared...

a fifth-gen fanfic

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NUVEMA TOWN
(retreat mode)

When you awoke, the walls surrounding you were that of your very own bedroom. Near to your bedside were your two most favorite people in the world (except maybe...)

Bianca's poufy white hat was missing, and she wasn't carrying her bag with her this time. Next to her, Cheren had taken off his jacket and slung it over the nearest chair. Both looked a little tired, a little worse for the wear, and decidedly moved-in. You wondered how long they had been holding vigil in your room. Maybe you'd ask them when you got a chance.

But for then, it was a bit odd to see them looking so disheveled when you'd grown used to seeing them one way over the past year.

"I feel okay, Bianca, I promise. You don't have to do all this, it's unnecessary!"

"No way you're talking yourself out of this one, sweetie! Do you know how scary it's been these past couple of days? You had this horrible fever after you came home, and I remember you would whimper in your sleep if we didn't change the cold cloth on your head every half hour or so. Professor Juniper said it was because you were so worn down from what had happened, but honestly, I've never seen a tired person react that way! No, just let me… I want to be sure you're okay."

"Oh B…" you said, feeling a bit lost for words as usual. It wasn't that you were emotionless, but you couldn't always wear your heart on your sleeve like your friend did. It was one of the things you liked best about her, but the reality stood the same. It was hard to talk about feelings for you, when you were so used to keeping them in. But if there was any time to speak your appreciation, it was now.

"Thank you so much."

"No problem! We always take care of each other, don't we? You should thank Cheren too, when he comes back. He was the one who told me what to do to keep you well. I'm afraid I wasn't sure, so thank goodness for him knowing things!" She bustled around your room, grabbing clean clothes and shoes from your closet, and setting them out, talking while she did. You watched her, nodding to yourself, and also thinking of how to phrase what else you had left to say.

"Yes, yes, I will… but. It's more than that. You both helped me so much. I can't even explain myself, but I'm eternally grateful. Most people, they wouldn't go as far as you two did. Even when it got difficult, or scary, towards the end… I could count on you and Cheren. You guys were always right there with me."

Bianca sat down on the edge of the bed as you quickly began to change from pajamas to a new outfit, one you could actually see yourself training in on any given day. It was a keen bit of ecstasy to get out of the sweaty set that you'd likely worn during the duration of your convalescence. Almost as if you were seeing the world in a different way, now that your appearance was more dignified.

"I suppose it's probably a big deal that we got involved, huh?" the blond intoned, "But honestly, it was just the right thing to do at the time. We were getting swept up in everything as much as you were." She shook off the praise with complete humility.

"Ohhhh," she added a moment later, as the two of you were sitting with your legs dangling over the edge of the bed, "You'll never guess what happened while you were out. I mean, this is... well, you know! I figured I'd be a spinster till I was thirty-five waiting for him to get a clue!" Bianca babbled on with spirit, assuming (correctly, fortunately) that you had a iota of what she was discoursing on.

One hand clapped to her blushing countenance. Emerald irises turned their dazzle on you, prompting for the conclusion of the sentence to come from your own lips.

"He asked you out? ... Congratulations." You rolled your eyes with a dry sense of humor. "I don't know what to do with this news. It's not like I can threaten him to keep your innocence in tact, since he's my friend too. Um, well, so is it... fun?"

Could it be more obvious that you'd never had a relationship yourself? Statistics pointed to no.

"Yes, and he's unexpectedly a hugger! And his arms... they're so strong that you wouldn't believe it looking at him, and sooo nice to be held by!" the girl chirruped contentedly, beaming up through the fingers fanned out across her face. "I woulda' never guessed he could be sweet, but I can't say I'm not happy with it."

You creaked out an awkward chuckle. Somehow, it was a little bizarre to talk about subjects like these when, up until now in your lives, the three of you had had an entirely platonic bond. It was going to take some definite getting used to.

Perhaps instinctively keying in to the fact that your laughter had run to the forced side, the ray of sunshine otherwise named your best friend mercifully changed tacks, just as swiftly as before.

"I forgot, you must be wondering about your team! They've all been so worried about you! I couldn't just leave them in their balls. Once I let them out – hope you don't mind – they started patrolling the outside of the house. Uh, Cheren and I haven't really left much because of that, haha! And Z-Zekrom's…" she paused, looking awkward at the thought of assigning a legendary Pokémon as belonging to her friend, "His Pokéball has been tossing and turning this whole time. I think it wanted to come out too, but, you see… I wasn't too sure about that, and Cheren agreed that it probably wasn't a good idea to let him loose in Nuvema… he's so…!"

You grinned, clapping your hands together. The mental image of your ancient partner hulking around the tiny streets of your hometown was more than a bit amusing because it was so out of place. "I get it! And yeah, that's probably good. Don't worry, he'll definitely get his chance to stretch his legs soon here."

"Really?" Bianca questioned, "Are you leaving somewhere already?" She seemed a bit apprehensive about the possibility.

"I think so. Nothing serious, only some training."

Hopping off the comforter, you adjusted the hem of your shirt just in time for footsteps to ascend the nearby staircase.

"Oh my Arceus, Cheren, what if we were naked? You can't just come barging in like that!" Bianca said, her face barely holding the illusion of being serious. You could tell she was trying really hard to get a rise out of him.

On his side of the room, the raven-haired teen stood as still as a statue, looking a little guilty, or it least it seemed that way until he began to snicker.

"Bianca, we've all known each other our whole lives. You don't think that includes me seeing at least one of, even though it's actually both of you, in varying states of undress? You are the one who made us go skinny-dipping in the forest pond a few years back, remember?"

"Oh, fine. Yes, I remember, Mr. Know-It-All. By the way your arms are too skinny, just so you know." She stuck out her tongue playfully, and you had to laugh because as brilliant as she thought she was, Cheren was just too good with comebacks. Bianca was utterly doomed when it came to bantering. She'd have the first word, but never the last laugh.

"Really? I thought they were 'so strong that you wouldn't believe it looking at him, and sooo nice to be held by,'" he sauntered, mimicking Bianca's tone of voice from before. She immediately went Razz-berry red, and you held the nearest pillow against your mouth to stifle the embarrassing sounding laughter pouring out of you.

You peeked slyly over the pillow as he walked over to her and took her hand.

"You know, Bianca, you're quite nice to hold, too," he said sincerely, as if to salve the embarrassment. She was more pink than red now, and she looked like she forgave him. Inwardly you found yourself happy over these events. You had been waiting years for them to come to fruition and yet, the moment seemed right. Perhaps letting things happen naturally was the best course after all.

You stood up from your bed and edged out of the room; your friends looked to be happily engrossed in their dialogue with each other - it wasn't something you were about to interrupt. More than that, if what Bianca had told you was true, you'd been asleep far too long already. You wanted, needed to get caught up on the world.

Mom would be happy to see you awake again, you were sure. She wasn't a clingy mother, no, that wasn't at all the case. She was more of the handle-loosely style of parent, but you had never doubted you were the most precious thing in her world. Even if she wasn't breathing over your bed twenty-four hours a day, she'd still be worried.

It was time to fix that.

. . . . .

As soon as you arrived downstairs however, anything you had planned to say to her flew right out of your mind. The sight in front of you was far too distracting.

"Err... mom?" you forced out despite your confusion. There were two identical representations of your mother at the kitchen table, and this... this was unusual to say the least. "Which one are you?"

A feminine giggle came from the one on the left, and by the way she winked at you she gave herself away. Patting her counterpart's shoulder good-naturedly, she added, "I told you she wouldn't be able to tell us apart. This is so much fun!" Did you ever mention the mischievious gene that came out strong in your mother seemed to have skipped over you? She was always doing things like this when you were growing up at home. But who could be the other one disguised as her?

Nothing came immediately to mind.

"Mom," you whined a little. "What's going on here?"

"Oh honey, isn't it a hoot? He looks just like me! Well, if you insist... Looker, why don't you take off the disguise?"

She directed the comment at her doppelganger, still silent this whole time. The person in question began to pull off wig and dress - thankfully there were clothes underneath. A distinctly masculine form emerged, dressed in a chocolate brown suit and topped with near-black hair with only the faintest touches of gray. Once everything had come off, you couldn't fail to identify the man standing at table's side.

"Papa!" You were working hard not to cringe from embarrassment. Of all the crazy costumes for him to visit in this time... this was in a word, over the top! "I didn't know you were coming to see us. When did you get here?"

"Chère," he replied, smiling handsomely, "this is an unannounced visit, however due to the current events I must be coming to see you! When it occurred that I heard of your valiant battle, as a father, I say to myself... I should surely be visiting my daughter an approaching day from then! Your Papa, I worry for you at times, your Mama... it is not often she informs to me these things! There is much peril afoot in Unova these days, and you, my little girl, seem to be at the forefront of them!"

"Perhaps if I could ever get a hold of you, I would tell you about what's going on with our daughter," Mom muttered not so quietly or courteously. This was a bone of contention between them.

Dad shrugged as if that would allay her concern, "I am on many an undercover mission where I may not be calling as often as one should call."

"The greatest understatement I have ever heard."

"It's fine, papa. I'm glad you came to visit." Having a roaming father both hardened a child to long separations as much as it did transform the joy of seeing his face from something taken for granted into a treasured event. You learned to fully savor what time you had with them. "Were you in Sinnoh the whole time since you last saw us, or did you get transferred anywhere else?"

"Sinnoh my home it has been, but now I am thinking to the new assignment I have occasioned upon. My superiors have a task fitting for me to do here, and, thus, ma chère daughter, I am coming home for the definite future!"

Although you had always thought the phrase went 'indefinite future,' (though admittedly after being around Dad long enough, your grasp on grammar waned) you declined to comment on such. Rather, more than anything, the news was a welcome surprise.

"Oho, and what's the reason we're getting stuck with you again?" Mom jabbed Dad in the shoulder affectionately. With the plans now beginning to click to place in your mind being how they were, you were glad that these two would be able to keep each other company.

"The Seven Sages, you may have heard of these ones. These ones I must be making an arrest of, with all haste!"

"All seven of them are still at large?" is the first thing to leave your lips, and you briefly recheck the number in your head.

After seeing the nod of confirmation from your sire, you mutely frown.

The last that you can remember before blacking out that day was Alder and Cheren taking Ghetsis into custody. The only conclusion to be drawn is that he escaped, as no one would have let him walk free. He'll still be out there somewhere then, on the open road. Something for you to keep in mind.

The conversation prattles on, and before too long, your family of three is increased by the presence of your two friends returning downstairs. A celebratory dinner is whisked out of thin air via your ever crafty mother, and, past that, the evening is quiet. Bianca and Cheren make their way back to their dwellings for the first time in however long they'd been guarding over you, and you spend some needed quality time with both parents.

Later on, the domesticity is halted by one curiously late phone call.

. . . . .

If, before you'd ever set out on your journey, someone had told you that in a year's time you'd be on "calling each other" terms with the Champion of the Unova League, you'd have dismissed them and their delusions rapidly. Nowadays, you found yourself wondering more about the ponderous notion of the rustic Alder owning a mobile that he knew how to operate at all. It was a skill far removed from what you expected out of his nature.

The tone of the call wasn't that unusual though. Alder was calling on two accounts: chiefly, to inquire after your recovery, and secondly, to extend a challenge for the title. Without the need to go through the other four kings prior to clashing with the elder.

"I just… need some time." You smiled reassuringly, although why was a mystery. This wasn't a video transmission.

"I want some time to be alone with my Pokémon, to train them the way I always wanted to, with no timelines or external pressures. The way they deserve. To simply focus on growing together, not getting x number of badges by this time so that I could protect the way the world was. They always did their best for me, and I want to pay them back for it. That duty… it's nothing I regret, because I believe in it so strongly, but some time to be average… would be nice."

"When I return, I want to start off from the beginning. It's only just. Any normal person has to battle the Elite Four and yourself all in a row, with no breaks. I don't want special treatment because of what's transpired. It's unfair to others, and my Pokémon would appreciate the challenge. So would I, honestly. By then, everyone will be a little stronger, and that will be more fun anyway. Don't you think?"

On the other end, the man released a deep-bellied laugh.

"Couldn't agree more! I'll look forward to seeing how much you've grown then!"

. . . . .

You glanced up at the sky as it spanned above your back yard. The plain was blue and cloudless, perfect conditions. A light breeze was blowing up the street, and the autumn leaves were getting swirled and rearranged in its wake.

Soon as it was after coming home, it was time to depart again, onward toward your next destination. There hadn't been a particular moment when you'd made this decision; it just felt like the next natural step after the final showdown had taken place.

You felt only a little bad for lying to your friends and family. It wasn't complete dishonesty. You did mean all that about training, and coming back to face up to the League again, but you might have had a different timeline in mind.

Because the truth was that not everything was settled, and you couldn't do those things until it was.

There was someone you especially needed closure with.

You pulled the first Pokéball off of your belt, and tossed it away from you. A soft growling sounded as the Pokémon emerged from its capsule home, but upon seeing you, it went obediently silent. You strode up to the mammoth dragon-type, your hand reaching to stroke the inky scales of its cheek. It lowered its snout to be petted, and the two of you sized each other up with your eyes.

"How about it, Zekrom?" you began, tracing circles over the reptilian skin with a lazy hand.

"He can't have gotten too far. Let's go and find him."

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THE END.

OUTRO: "Running" - Computer Magic. Which to me is a definite Touko/N song. ;)

A/N: I think Looker became my favorite character here in the last chapter. Please, tell me what you thought of the story. I hope it was decent. And thank you.