notes – This fic focuses on Cheren, his friendship with two amazing girls, a little bit of romance (cheren/bianca and n/white) and celebrates the release of the bw games in English. Enjoy.

Concessions of an Intelligent Young Male

It was a trial growing up with two girls living on either side of his house.

Cheren always had the obligation to assert the presence of his male genes, from the moment they were seven and building lumpy sandcastles on the beach shore. (His one had to be the tallest, but not the prettiest.) He liked to reason with himself that it was because he had to be able to protect White from her foolishness and Bianca from her naivety. But, honestly, being bested by a girl just wasn't something his male pride could endure, even if said female was one of his best and only friends.

When they were children, confined to the fences lining the town and the longest afternoons of their lives, they spent most of their time playing. It had been, every now and then, an apparent problem for young Cheren. He feared playing dress-up and cooking make-believe gourmet dinners because that just wasn't what boys did; boys got down and dirty and slayed rampaging dragonites with cardboard swords. (But in the end, he was mostly concerned about playing the role of the guy, and he had never really liked dirtying his clothes.)

White and Bianca were rather impartial, they didn't suffocate him with overtly girlish games. Still, it was rare for them to entertain his notion of fun – reading in excess and doing mathematical problems. But Cheren was mature and well-behaved, and he knew he could never convince them even if he tried.

And, not too often, there were times when he didn't feel like convincing them to go indoors. White and Bianca were loud and spirited when they chased one another, and they revelled in the sunlight like flowers in bloom. Cheren could never take that away from them.

They were fourteen when Bianca and White began a blatant chat about the colours and sizes of their new bras, and Cheren realised that he would always be friends with them.

It was a sudden thought, a revelation that scared him as much as it awed him. Logically speaking, one could find new companions everywhere on the road, but he would never know anyone with White's combination of compassion and mischief. And to find someone with Bianca's absent-minded happiness would be both disconcerting and disappointing (he liked to think that she was special, in all her simplicity and the colour of her hair). Cheren couldn't imagine them falling out of friendship, and it was an intimidating thought in all aspects – when had he become so reliant on them?

He kept these thoughts to himself.

He liked White, sure, even though she could be notorious and playful to a devilish degree – he remembered the time she hid his glasses while they were napping in Bianca's backyard. He had never gotten them back because she conveniently forgot where she'd stashed them. He had been furious then, as angry as a ten-year old with smudged vision and squinting eyes could be (which was, admittedly, quite furious as Bianca could testify).

But then, White used her father's old tool hammer to break her mamoswine-bank and scrounge up the money for his new lenses. While he groped around for her handful of pokédollars, Cheren found himself laughing along with them at his inability to focus on anything an arm's length away without his glasses.

And she was always a smiling challenge; she knew how to talk to her pokémon with her heart and train them with her wit. It came naturally to her, she didn't need to read the library of books he had collected over the years to know how to battle or how to treat her pokémon. She stroked them and smiled at them after every match they had, and it was common for him to envy the spark of understanding in her eyes.

Yes, White could be a frightening sort of devious and a bothersome rival, but she was honest and pure in the way she had nursed injured pokémon outside town and snuck through their bedroom windows on especially dark nights to comfort them when they needed her. He saved these compliments in the carefulness of his mind, because White was utterly spoiled by Bianca's adoration for her. If he added his share of respect, the girl would develop an unstoppable ego.

But, somehow, a part of Cheren knew that he would still remain her friend even if it came down to that.

Bianca was another complexity altogether.

She tripped over her own feet and found joy in the smallest things. She was unlike White in the fact that she was incapable of doing anything bad, and that she was never quite as independent. She needed clarifications to instructions and help in the things she was supposed to do alone – cleaning her room, cooking, visiting her grandma. White babied her with unconditional affection, she could never say 'no' to Bianca's hopeful eyes. Even Cheren was guilty of doting on her at times, in his own manly way.

He picked her up by the elbow and scolded her when she used the wrong tense in her speech. He adjusted her hat when she wore it backwards and lectured her on type-disadvantages because they always slipped her carefree mind. He enjoyed being with Bianca, as troublesome as she was, because she made him feel essential. Because of the smile she produced after he helped her, because of her weightless gratitude and her keenness to learn. (And, goodness, did she have a lot to learn.) But mostly, she accepted him, for all his intimidating knowledge and uppity-ness, as White liked to say.

Over the years, he stopped regarding his friends as the collective species called 'girls', and started seeing them as White and Bianca.

His heart may have sped up during the instances Bianca'd hugged him or giggled at the words in his extensive vocabularly. And for a few times – it wasn't like he kept track or anything (thirty-seven) – the thought that crossed his mind when he saw her walking on the roads was that 'oh she looked… different in this light'. Cheren considered that it could be love, meshed into some indistinct and infectious form in his chest that he wished he could cure.

But it was all so… questionable.

White, on the other hand, was immediately convinced. She was so taken by her deduction that, in her period of incomprehensible bliss, almost lost the match. She promised to consult Bianca (but be subtle) about it and get back to him. He wanted to tell her that it didn't matter to him and she shouldn't breathe a word to Bianca, but they never got around to that, not with Team Plasma's constant intrusions.

Travelling alone was an experience. It was odd, not to have Bianca's clumsy comments or White's noisy intuition.

He saw them at such regularity; he wondered why they were not taking the journey together. But then it struck him that it had been his idea to become pokémon trainers separately. He had insisted, even as Bianca frowned and questions appeared on White's face. They had always done everything together since they were young – they'd taken baths (but that was only up till they were eight) and went to the doctor's and touched their first pokémon together. Cheren was determined to find something he could do himself, if only to prove that he was capable. White and Bianca would not be with him for much longer, they were sixteen and almost adults and they would go their own ways.

As Emboar lumbered beside him through the fields of grass and over shuddering bridges, a loyal companion and a listening ear and so different from the friends he was used to, Cheren could not help but feel just that slightest bit of loneliness.

N was a person he could not pass unbiased judgment about because he did not know him well enough. Only that his name was highly agitating, in all its singular capital mock.

But White was fascinated by N, and Cheren could not comprehend her fixation. She seemed to understand his aimless words, about freeing pokémon and treating them how they 'should be treated'. She'd looked at Cheren once with an expression that was odd. He'd never seen it before, in all ten years of being with her. She seemed happy and torn at the same time, and her cheeks were an extreme shade of red. Perhaps that was how girls got when they were in that state of unfathomable love, this he picked up from reading the fairytales Bianca horded.

He felt that it was his duty to tell her that being infatuated with someone as enigmatic as N would not do her very good. Then again, he wasn't exactly enthralled with the idea of breaking the news and jeopardizing his physical well-being. When it did come down to him and her sitting in a café in Nimbasa, and him warning her with his best intentions, White did not protest or ball her hands into fists. She nodded and sipped her iced tea.

Cheren looked at the way she avoided his eyes and combed a hand through the length of her ponytail, and understood that she wasn't listening. Perhaps it was not her decision, perhaps it was something otherworldly that prevented her from doing so. Perhaps that was what love could do to a person. Cheren could only sigh and prepare himself for the time when he would have to comfort her – he never was quite good at that.

And in some deep, curtain-drawn chamber in his mind, he could not help but feel relieved that it was White and not Bianca, sitting across from him.

He remembered losing to White all the time.

Whether it was running along the empty streets or in rock-paper-scissors, White almost always won. Bianca was comfortable being last, contented by the very fact she was playing with them. She had no competitive bone in her body, it seemed. Conversely, while White never betrayed her own agenda (she liked to say that she didn't care if she got first or last), on the few occasions where she had indeed lost in a game, she'd looked rather sad.

It was no different when they were trainers. White's pokémon seemed to reflect her in all their determined vigour and never-say-die growls. Cheren had grown used to losing, but it wasn't as if he would take it lying down. With every victory White took from him, he spent longer in the woods, crouching in the tallest of grass.

In utter contrast, Bianca's team was laidback and calm, they battled hard for their trainer but weren't devastated when they lost to his unfezant. The blonde had raised them with her own morals and beliefs, and her musharna seemed happiest only when she hugged it and nuzzled its cheek.

Cheren looked at his own pokémon, quiet and sturdy and serious. He wondered if this was the kind of person he was, too.

N disappeared. Cheren would have liked to add 'for good', but one could never be sure. Not with someone like N, who was as mysterious as the many ways White was strong.

White was quiet in the ruins of the castle, sad and still. Cheren assumed that he knew her well enough. He knew how she claimed she was ambidextrous but really her left hand had atrocious handwriting – that she liked her vegetables and disliked milk, that she had a birthmark on her shoulder, that she owned the most absurd dreams and that she was emotional to a fault when it came to the simplest of matters.

And now, he knew she probably felt like she had been left behind.

Bianca was at his side in the next instant; it was surprising how dependable she could be at times so dire. She gazed at White's shaking back with heavy eyes, and Cheren did not know how exactly to deal with the situation. H– he was cautious as he reached out to hold her hand, so as not to break her or scare her. But it seemed that his plan of action was wise, for Bianca's fingers wrapped around his palm and she leaned against his arm for support. He could not explain what emotions bombarded him when that happened, his vocabularly, for once, failed him.

She pulled him along as they treaded on the torn red carpet, until they were at White's side and Bianca was wiping away the girl's tears with one finger. The wind breezing in through the gaping hole in the wall tousled their hair and cleared their faces. Bianca took White's hand and placed it into his free hand. He could feel her fingers shivering, not from the cold but from something he would not understand until he was older and wiser, until he knew the texture of Bianca's lips.

It was in the small gesture that Cheren felt like he truly was a boy in their haphazard friendship. Not because he was strong or tear-less or nonchalant, but because of how soft their hands were, so feminine and fragile it made him seem so coarse in respect.

They smiled at him, his two girls – rivals – friends; one with a mischievous grin in spite of her swollen eyes and the other with a breathtaking smile. Years of playing tag in the grass and growing up cranky and adventurous unrolled like a map, fresh in his memory. They would grow up and part ways, as much as they would remain themselves and converge their lives when it mattered. The thought of being friends forever with White and Bianca, it wasn't so much a frightening truth anymore. It was inevitable, not too bothersome, and he looked forward to it.

Cheren smiled.