Notes: Whenever I write about these three, the words just spill out of me... hope you enjoy it!

Characters / Pairings: Green/Red, Leaf. Daisy, Professor Oak, Red's parents, Lance. Mentions of some other characters.

Universe: Game. R/B/Y, FR/LG.

Warnings: a bit of violence, cursing, some speculation.

Disclaimer: I don't own Pokémon, nor do I stand to profit from this story in any way.


The first time Green saw Red, he was five years old. His mother had just run away to Unova, and his father had dumped Green and his sister at their grandfather's house in Pallet Town before running off somewhere himself. Green spent most of his days feeling confused, wondering why Daisy's eyes were always red-rimmed and puffy, or why his grandfather couldn't meet his eyes. He took to wandering Pallet's endless fields alone, increasingly lost in his own imagination. One day he happened upon another boy, crouched down in the dirt path, staring at the grass like it was the most interesting thing in the world.

"What are you doing?" Green asked, crossing his arms.

His shadow fell over the smaller boy, who looked up and squinted at him. "Nothing," he replied, eyes settling on Green for the briefest of moments before returning to the blades of grass.

Something heated and angry ran through Green's tiny body at the feeling of being ignored (again), and his foot kicked out into the dirt before he knew what he was doing. The cloud of yellow dust hung around the other boy, who coughed and rubbed at his eyes.

"What was that for?" the boy asked, voice monotone, hardly a demand.

"That's for being stupid," Green told him matter-of-factly, feeling rather proud of himself for getting his attention. "How old are you?"


"I'm five. That makes me the boss of you."

The other boy scowled, eyebrows knitting together. "No it doesn't."

Before Green could open his mouth to retort that yes, it so did, the other boy got to his feet and shoved Green to the ground, hard. He landed on his butt and looked away when his eyes filled with hurt tears at the dull throb of pain, unwilling to let the other boy see that he'd won.

"That's for kicking dirt at me," the boy said simply, pale hands dusting his shirt off a bit.

"Shut up," Green snapped back, and the boy just walked away, disappearing into the tall grass down the path. Green let out a small sob, but quickly forced the tears back down, forcing himself to take deep breaths and not short and shallow ones.

Green got to his feet and went about dusting himself off, chin giving a small shake with suppressed tears every few moments. With a scowl, he resolved to continue playing cops and robbers with his shadow, but found that he really couldn't focus on his imagination anymore. His shadow was just a shadow, and Green was just Green.

He huffed in annoyance and kicked at the dirt again, decidedly ignoring the way his heart was still beating fast from his encounter with the boy whose name he'd never asked.

— . . . —

At his mother's request, Red had shown up at Green's front door the next day to apologize. Green had scowled at the other boy from behind Daisy, who gently pushed him out so that he could face Red. They glared at each other for a few moments before Red's mother cleared her throat and gave Red a gentle prod.

"I'm sorry I pushed you," Red said, voice as monotone as the day before.

Green had no intention of forgiving him, but when Daisy set her hand on his shoulder and squeezed, he relented. "Apology accepted," Green groused, and after a second or two of expectant silence, added a bit more. "And I'm sorry for kicking dirt at you… I guess…"

"I forgive you." Red replied without being prompted this time.

Red's mother smiled and patted Red on the shoulder, pleased with the way the exchange had turned out. "See? Was that so hard?" Yes, Green thought to himself bitterly. "Now, why don't you boys play a bit while I invite Green's sister for some tea. Miss… Daisy, was it?"

As the grown-ups chattered and made their way down the dirt path to Red's house, Red kept his eyes on Green, who intently kept his own averted from Red's. When Red's mother and Green's sister had disappeared from view, Green scratched at his head, unsure of what to do.

"Wanna play cops and robbers?" Green asked eventually, throwing caution to the wind.

Red shrugged. "Sure."

They played together for the rest of the day, until the sun hung low over the endless fields and the sky turned orange. Red's mother and Daisy had to come separate them for dinner, but Green had made Red promise that they would play together again the next day. Keeping the promise close to his heart, Green went to bed contented and excited for the first time since he'd been left at his grandfather's house.

— . . . —

True to his word, Red showed up to play the next day, and every day after that. If Red didn't show, Green would make his way to Red's house and pace outside his front door until the other boy came out. Green had never had a real friend before, and he supposed that it was okay, even if Red's lack of interest in anything Green told him made Green mad most of the time. He would make it a point to avoid Red for days if he ever made him angry enough. Green ended up going to the same school as Red, but didn't hang around him there, preoccupied with all the other boys who wanted to play pretend Pokémon Masters with him, or hear the stories he had to tell about his grandfather's lab. The other boys thought Green was cool and listened to everything he had to say (unlike Red). At school, Red usually played alone, but sometimes the girls would coerce him into playing house. One girl in particular always insisted on hanging around Red, and it annoyed Green to no end.

"Why do you keep playing with that girl?" Green would ask when they were by themselves, laying side by side in the tall grass by the brook. He spat the word 'girl' as if it was the worst thing possible (which it was, especially since it was Leaf).

Most times, Red would shrug (as always), and run his fingers along the blades of grass. "Leaf's nice," Red would say if Green pressed him enough, but wouldn't say anything else. Green would scowl and pull at the grass until he uprooted a handful of it, tossing it into the water angrily. He would watch the drift along the current until they were lost from sight.

— . . . —

After a few months of living in Pallet Town, Green became sure that his grandfather did not like him. Professor Oak hardly ever ate dinner with them. Daisy would tell him that it was because he was a busy, important man who had a lot of research to do, but Green knew that it was because he didn't like him very much. Whenever he did come to dinner, Oak would make it a point not to look at Green, commenting on how Daisy's cooking skills were improving and occasionally talking about his research and pokémon.

Once, Green snuck into his grandfather's study. In the impressively furnished room, he had stared at all the books that lined the shelves, each and every one about pokémon, and marveled at his grandfather's collection of fossilized pokémon specimens, a small dragon skull and what looked like a shell trapped forever in the stone. But most of all, he was captivated by the red and white ball that rested on his grandfather's desk among scattered research papers, almost inconspicuously. After debating it for a few moments, Green made to touch it, fingers tracing the smooth surface in wonder.

"What are you doing in here?" his grandfather's stern voice demanded, and Green whirled around, pulling his arm back as if burned, heart thumping wildly. His grandfather stood in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest and eyes boring into Green's with disapproval.

"I j-just..." Green stuttered. "I just wanted to see what was in here…"

Oak made a clucking sound with his tongue, and Green flinched as he walked past him and grabbed the poké ball off the desk. "This isn't a place for children. These," Oak made a gesture with the hand holding the poké ball, "are not to be played with under any circumstances. Have I made myself clear?"

Cheeks burning with shame, Green nodded quickly and ran out of the study and into the hall, past Daisy (who asked him what was wrong concernedly) and out into the fields, where he kicked at the ground angrily, hating the town and his grandfather and his parents for leaving him there.

Green much preferred it at Red's house, where Red's mother would always ask him how he was doing and how the day at school had gone over dinner. She would listen intently and smile at them when they spoke, rewarding them for eating all of their vegetables with homemade desserts that were too good to be real. It reminded Green of the perfect families on TV, and of his own family before it got broken.

More often than not, Green would end up sleeping over and Red's mom would call his sister to make sure that it was okay while the two boys ran up the stairs to Red's room. They would stay up late together, under the covers with a flashlight, while Green told scary stories and Red pretended not to be scared. They would fall asleep together, limbs tangled and faces buried in the same pillow, side by side. Green would often wake up to find Red staring at him with his oddly colored eyes. The first few times it had happened, Green had yelled at Red for being creepy, but after getting used to it, Green would just smile at Red for a few lazy moments before pouncing on him and giving him a round of tickle torture, delighting in the way that Red's laughter sounded, reverberating off the walls of the room.

Green liked Red's house and mom just fine, but Red's dad was mean (when he was even around). When he was back home from the work he did in Viridian City, he would sometimes answer the door when Green came looking for Red, and had told him to get lost on more than one occasion. So Green would scowl at the closed door and sneak into the backyard, where he would climb up the tree and balance himself on a branch that reached close enough to Red's window to scratch against it on windy nights. He would tap at Red's window until the other boy let him in relunctantly.

"I'm not supposed to let you in," Red said once, eyes staring at the floor. "Father said that I shouldn't play with you anymore."

"Are you gonna listen to him?" Green shot back, heart pounding in a familiar kind of panic. When Red bit his lip and shook his head, Green found that he could breathe normally again. "Good," he said, keeping the relief from coloring his voice. "Wanna play pretend Pokémon Masters?"

Green knew that Red didn't like playing pretend Pokémon Masters (he didn't like pokémon much at all, really), but he also knew that he would take any offer Green made to get him out of the house when his father was home, so Green wasn't surprised when Red nodded and followed him out the window and into the tall grass surrounding his backyard.

He had never been scared of his parents like Red was of his dad, so he couldn't understand why Red was so afraid of his father, or why he flinched whenever Green made sweeping gestures with his arms. Still, Green knew that something was wrong, and he didn't mind rescuing Red from whatever it was that scared him if it meant that Green could spare Red the trouble of making his way to the Oak house and into Green's window in the dead of night like he was wont to do whenever he was scared of something, which tended to be almost every night whenever Red's father was home.

After an hour of playing, with Green pretending that his dragonite had just used a hyper beam on Red's nidoking with a whoop of triumph, they heard the backdoor of the house slam open and Red froze up like Green's imaginary dragonite had used an ice beam on him instead.

"Red!" they heard his father shout, his voice furious, "Where the hell are you?"

Red turned his eyes to Green's helplessly, but Green clamped a hand over Red's mouth and eased them down onto the ground hurriedly.

"Be quiet," he instructed Red in a stern whisper, whose eyes were wide. "Don't worry, I won't let him get you."

They stayed down in the tall grass as Red's father paced in the backyard, yelling Red's name and kicking at the toys that they'd left strewn around the day before. Green kept his eyes locked on Red's, forcing the fear of being found by Red's father down and replacing it with as comforting a look as he could muster. Finally, they heard the backdoor slam shut, and Green let out a sigh of relief, unclamping his hand from Red's mouth.

"I'll get in trouble now…" Red said softly, tears in his eyes.

Green wanted to tell him to stop being such a baby, but he hugged Red to him instead, running a hand through his hair and whispering that things would be alright. Red's mom did that for him whenever he started crying, and judging by how Red's crying was starting to subside, Green was doing it properly.

"You can sleepover at my house tonight," Green told him after a while. "He won't remember in the morning, you'll see."

Red hiccupped and nodded into his shoulder, so Green grabbed his hand and led him through the tall grass back to his grandfather's house, careful to avoid getting back on the dirt path until they were a safe distance away from Red's house.

— . . . —

Dinner was less of a quiet affair with Red around. His grandfather asked him careful questions, mostly about his father and whether he still trained pokémon or not. Red replied that he didn't really know, and Oak nodded a bit, lost in thought.

"I remember when I was young," Oak said, voice deep with wistfulness, "I journeyed through the region, collecting all the gym badges to challenge the Pokémon League…." he trailed off after that, muttering something about greatness running in the blood. In the distance, thunder rumbled and Red's hand found and closed around Green's, who rolled his eyes at Red's stupid fear of a little thunder. Daisy smiled awkwardly and shooed Green and Red off to bed, as it was already past their bedtime.

Green made a show of not being tired at all, but Red sniffled and rubbed at his eyes tiredly, so Green sighed and climbed into bed, gesturing for Red to follow. The other boy did, and Green arranged the sheets so that they cocooned Red in the way that Green found particularly comforting on stormy nights. As the thunderstorm drew closer, Red buried his face into Green's chest and wormed his way into his arms. Green had always liked the idea of saving someone, of being a hero and being admired for it, but he also liked the feel of Red's hair against his chin, and how much warmer it was in the cold room with him there. He wasn't sure which feeling he liked most, though, but he found that he didn't really care.

They fell asleep as the rain began pelting against the windows, oblivious to the world.

— . . . —

When Green woke up the next morning, Red was gone and the window was hanging open, the smell of fresh rain hanging about his room. Blinking blearily, Green toed on his sneakers and made his way down the hall hurriedly, a bad feeling twisting his stomach into knots at the thought of Red leaving without saying goodbye or anything. At the door to his grandfather's study, Green paused and pushed it open, making his way to the desk and plucking the poké ball from its surface without really knowing why he did.

The walk to Red's house felt longer than usual, and Green's sweaty hand wrapped itself around the poké ball in his pocket nervously, fingers feeling the smooth, polished surface. When he reached the other boy's house, he made his way to the back and climbed up the tree, tapping at the window. When Red didn't show up, Green tried lifting the window, and smirked to himself when it gave way; Red must not have locked it the night before.

Red's bedroom was messier than the night before, and Red was nowhere to be found. Eyebrows knitting in concern, Green bit his lip. The sound of sniffling drew him away from his thoughts, and he bent down to stare under the bed, where a single crimson eye stared back at him.

"Red!" Green whispered, relief washing over his voice uncontrollably. Red flinched, but Green didn't notice, stretching his hand out to the other boy. "Why are you hiding down there?" he asked, fingers stretching for Red, who remained motionless. "I thought that something happened to you when you weren't there when I woke up and –,"

Green was cut off in a squeal as a hand wrapped around his ankle in a vice grip and he was pulled out from under the bed. Lifted so that he was hanging upside down from his ankle, Green could barely make out the angry form of Red's father, dark eyes gleaming angrily at him. "What the hell are you doing in here?" the man snarled, and Green's heart felt like it might explode.

"I-I-I… I was looking for Red!" Green said as bravely as he could muster. "Let me down!" he shouted, and began squirming in the man's hold, arms flapping wildly and reaching for the ball in his pocket.

Red's father let out a string of curses and started toward the door, but Green grabbed onto the door and held on, shouting all the while. Letting out a grunt, the man pried his hands off the doorframe with his free hand, and Green let out a cry as tears stung his eyes and his head collided with the wall. Distantly, he registered the clatter of something against the wooden floor, and the sound of a ball rolling against it.

He was being dragged down the stairs when he heard another voice from behind them. "Let him go."

Monotone and flat, Green noted, and then he saw Red standing there in the middle of the hallway, right eye purpled and swollen shut. His left eye blazed in a way Green had never seen before, and he was holding the poké ball in his hand threateningly.

His captor laughed. "What are you going to do with that, kid? Do you even know how to use it?"

Green saw the look of unstoppable determination of Red's face (for the first, but definitely not the last time), and then many things happened at once.

There was a flash of light and a thud as Green was dropped onto the stairs, and then there was a cry as Red's father was thrown back against the wall by a brown-and-white blur. Green's vision swam, his head throbbing, but soon Red was standing over him, a solid form among, and Green realized that the other boy was protecting him.

"Tackle!" Red shouted, and there was another pained cry. "Headbutt!" the cry was fainter this time, obscured by both distance and the ringing that had settled between Green's ears.

What seemed only like a few moments passed and Green became aware of a woman's crying, and flashing red and blue lights that doused the house, and his sister's hands all over his face and his grandfather's stern voice calming everyone down. He searched for Red wildly, but his movements were sluggish and his vision was blurred with blotches of black and white that danced across his eyes, blinding him.

— . . . —

Green woke up in the Viridian City Hospital with a concussion, a few stitches, and Daisy sobbing over his chest like he'd died, or something. He had to stay there for a few days for observation, but he would be fine, the doctor told them. The police visited him the next day, the Officer Jenny sent to question him uncharacteristically kind as he recounted everything he could remember about the day before.

The memories leading up to and following what had happened at Red's house were fuzzy, but he remembered almost every detail of what had happened vividly. The most vivid by far was the memory of the fire that had blazed in Red's left eye, the determination set in his jaw, the way he had shouted commands that his grandfather's pokémon had executed without question. He hadn't known what the man would have done to him, but the memory of Red's black eye flashed through his mind, and he almost felt sick.

The guilt settled in Green's throat like a stone. Despite the fact that Green had caused the whole situation by pressuring Red into playing with him in the first place, he realized, Red had saved him, and Green wasn't sure how he felt about that. When had their positions been reversed so thoroughly? Hadn't Green been the hero just the night before, holding Red close as the storm rolled in? And why hadn't Red told him about what was happening? Didn't Red trust him?

"He's tired," Daisy said politely to the Officer Jenny, "So if you don't have any more questions…"

"Yes," the Officer Jenny said, "I should let him get some rest," she met Green eyes and held them. "You did a very brave thing, Green. Because of it, your friend and his mom are safe from that bad man; he can't hurt them anymore, not where he's going."

She gave him a smile and walked out of the room, and Green just knew that everything she'd just said was a lie.

He spent the rest of his stay staring up at the ceiling mutely, and it wasn't until his third day there that Red showed up to visit, standing over his bed silently. Green expected him to cry, and he eventually started to when his mother and Daisy left them alone.

Red buried his face into Green's chest, staining the pristine white hospital sheets. Green couldn't find it in him to stroke his hair comfortingly like he always did, and couldn't put his finger on the reason why.

Green didn't thank Red for saving him, and Red didn't say a word about the whole thing. In a way, Green was thankful for that, if not a bit annoyed by Red's crying.

Outside the room, Green saw his grandfather put a comforting hand on Red's mom's shoulder, telling her that it was all for the best. "Your son is something else," Oak said, voice alive with something Green had never heard in it before, "The way he handled my eevee…" his grandfather seemed at a loss for words, and Green saw his dark eyes settle on the pathetic creature crying on him. "So much talent… almost prodigious..."

Looking back on his memories of the days before his parents left and abandoned him and his sister, Green noticed something, a slight shift in the way they behaved, a tenseness that settled over the house and permeated every layer of it. Green was too young to articulate what it was (was still too young to articulate it as he lay in the hospital bed with Red crying on him and his grandfather muttering about prodigies and mastery inscribed in the genes), but Green had noticed it again, that subtle shift.

He had never liked change, but at that moment, he knew that he was too late to stop it.

— . . . —

By the time Green was eight and Red was seven, Green had a lot of other friends besides Red. Eventually, Green started ignoring Red altogether at school, laughing at all the things the other boys had to say about him.

"He's such a freak. He never talks or anything!" they would say. "His dad's a bad man and an alcoholic! That's what my mom says!" And Green would laugh and laugh and laugh, ignoring the way his stomach tied itself into knots every time he did.

After school, he would wait for all the other boys to leave and make his way up the hill that overlooked the school to meet Red under an old elm tree that they'd claimed as their own a summer a few summers before. Red would smile when Green showed up, and Green would do his best to smile back, hiding the guilt as best he could.

Green didn't know why he kept being friends with Red. Ever since that day, Green hadn't been able to look at him the same way. Maybe it was because of the way his grandfather invited the boy over as much as he could, even letting him into the lab to look at his pokémon. Green had always made a sharp distinction between Red and his other friends. His other friends only wanted for Green to invite them over to see his grandfather's lab and hear stories of Oak's legendary pokémon journey, and Green knew that their friendships never extended past that superficial admiration of his family name.

Red had always stayed by his side unquestioningly, not caring either way if Green wanted to talk about his grandfather and his research or something as trivial as their favorite Saturday morning cartoons. Green had always thought that Red didn't care about who his grandfather was, but after he had used his grandfather's pokémon so masterfully to save Green without any prior training or experience (and a whole four years under the legal age to train pokémon), Oak had started calling him a prodigy, and had started paying more attention to the other boy than he had ever paid Green.

Green was jealous of Red, which he used to think wasn't possible, because Red was always the kid who needed saving and not the other way around. Already there was talk around the lab of giving Red a pokémon, of sending him on a journey to see the world, and Green wanted to scream that Red didn't even like pokémon. He did, Green Oak, the professor's own fucking grandson.

The hurt swirled in his heart, mixing precariously with the sickly green envy that grew there, a wretched emotion that Green didn't want, but needed all the same to keep his balance, to pretend that everything was alright.

So Green started hanging out more with the other kids who sung him praises (and their insults toward Red, well, that was just an added bonus). Every time he laughed at their jeers, the guilt became less noticeable, the envy strangling it with mangled roots.

— . . . —

One day, Green climbed the hill to find that Red wasn't alone. She was there. Leaf. She was running her fingers through Red's dark hair, chattering animatedly about nothing at all like the stupid girl she was. Green's hands tightened into fists.

She caught sight of him first.

"Oh! Hi Green!" Leaf called, disentangling a hand from Red's hair and waving at him.

Red turned his head and smiled at him, but his face fell at the sight of Green's expression.

"Green?" Red called, voice small and uncertain.

Green glared at him, then at Leaf. "Nothing. I've got to go."

He turned and stomped away, stomach hanging in his throat, not knowing why he was so angry but angry all the same.

"What's wrong with him?" he heard Leaf ask stupidly. "Is he mad, or somethin'?"

He was almost all the way down the hill when Red caught up to him.

"Green..." Red said.

"What?" Green snapped back harshly without pausing in his stomping.

"Why are you mad?" Red asked (stupidly, Green thought. Cooties must have been contagious).

"I'm not mad."

Red grabbed his hand, then. "Then why are you acting like you are?"

Something snapped inside Green then, and he wasn't even sure that he was mad at Red for bringing Leaf to their place anymore. He was mad at everything, and Red was there, and Green needed to get rid of all this anger he hadn't even known that he was keeping inside of him. The envious roots crawled up his throat, making themselves known for the first time, and latched onto his tongue and he couldn't help himself.

He shoved Red as hard as he could and watched with satisfaction when his eyes filled with tears like his had the day they met.

"So you like her, huh, Red?" Green sneered. "Then go marry her. She's the only one who even likes you, anyway."

Red's eyes stared up at Green, the dull crimson beginning to run over. "G-Green…" the other boy choked out.

"Do you know what everyone calls you? Huh? They call you a freak, Red, because that's what you are. A freak. When you're off playing house like a little girl they all call you that and I laugh, because it's true. It's all true!" Red had lost his control now, and the tears were running freely down his cheeks. "You dumb crybaby… you're nothing but a stupid little mama's boy… why don't you run home to her and cry about how your dad doesn't want you just like everyone else?"

And then Red was on his feet and running past Green down the rest of the hill and the dirt path home. Green swallowed the lump in his throat, unsure of what had come over him, but relishing in how good it felt, being able to lash out at the boy (who was taking everything from him) like that.

Leaf shoved him to the ground as she walked past, righteous anger and conviction in her eyes as she glared at him with as much venom as she could muster. "You're a mean jerk!" she snapped, and ran after Red, calling after him.

Green, on his hands and knees, began laughing. Softly at first, then wildly, almost madly. It was so funny, so fucking funny.

(He wondered, then, why a few drops of salty water hit the ground, his vision blurred.)

— . . . —

Green willed himself to become different, and he did.

He forced himself into the lab every chance he could, soaking up everything the assistants said like a sponge. He no longer sought his grandfather's approval because they were family, but because the old man was the one who would give him a pokémon when he turned ten . After that, Green would get the hell out of Pallet Town and see the world (the stupid little hick town was much too small for someone with Green's talent, anyway).

He bullied Red at every turn, shoving and taunting him, delighting in the way the other boy always got tears in his eyes and ran away, leaving Leaf to fight his battles for him. At first, Red had fled from him, but then the moment came when things shifted.

Green had pushed Red to the ground by the (their) old tree, and Leaf was screaming at him to stop. Ignoring her, Green taunted Red by calling him a crybaby, and he mockingly recounted every time he cried. When he reached that time in Green's room during the thunderstorm, Red got to his feet before Green could do a thing and shoved him to the ground so hard that Green was sent rolling down the hill, skin scraped by the rocks that littered the path. Green's eyes were stinging with tears when he rolled to a stop, but when he looked up at Red, the boy's eyes were alive with that fire, the same one that had been there when Red had stopped his father.

Scowling, Green got to his feet. He didn't bother shouting an insult at him, instead focusing on the day he would be able to beat Red into a pulp with his own pokémon and show his grandfather just how talented his fucking prodigy was. The thought filled Green with jubilation, and he smirked to himself, gritting his teeth against the pain.

— . . . —

His tenth birthday came and went, and his grandfather still refused to give him a pokémon. Green locked himself up in his room for days, staying silent when Daisy knocked on his door and begged him to come out and eat something. His would-be hunger strike brought him nothing; in the end, he was the one who caved to the painful grumbling of his stomach, not his grandfather. Still, he resolved to do everything in his power to make his grandfather so annoyed with him that he would have to give him a pokémon, if only to get Green out of his sight.

When Red's tenth birthday rolled around, Green snuck into the lab and hid in the darkest corner he could find, intent on being there when his grandfather brought the other boy in to give him his pokémon (because he just knew he would). When the door opened and Oak escorted Red in, blathering about the start of his own pokémon journey, Green made his presence known.

His grandfather was both surprised and exasperated, and Red glared at him across the hall from under that stupid cap of his, still sporting a yellowing bruise along his jaw where Green had punched him during one of their fights the previous week. When Oak sighed and finally caved, Green smirked in triumph, fingers running unconsciously along the split lip Red had paid him back with.

Red would get his first, Oak warned, and Green scoffed but acquiesced, watching as the other boy made his way to the small table and made to pick up the poké ball there. The red light that glinted in the sunlight that dappled through the window called out to Green, somehow, and he shoved Red away and skidding across the floor, clutching the ball to his chest greedily.

Oak had to restrain Red from jumping on Green again, promising him another pokémon. Eventually, Red relented, and Oak pulled a poké ball from one of the pockets of his lab coat hesitantly before handing it to the other boy.

Green insisted that they battle, practically salivating at the prospect of victory. His smirk nearly split his face in two when he saw their pokémon and realized that he had chosen the better one. An Eevee. Red's Pikachu still showed signs of being wild, newly caught and disobedient. Green growled when he realized that his grandfather had been planning on giving him the inferior pokémon, the newly caught rat that he'd caught on a whim, so his orders became especially vicious.

Tackle, tackle, tackle, he shouted, watching as his Eevee practically wiped the floor with Red's Pikachu. It was about to happen, his dream would finally come true…

But then… "Thundershock!" Red shouted, and Eevee was crying out as the current zapped it and sent it skidding across the floor, fur singed. Green shouted for it to get back up, but Pikachu was too quick, its pouches crackling with static as it let another volley of electricity out, making Eevee cry out even louder.

After two more attacks, Eevee was unconscious at Green's feet.

Across the lab's pristine floors, Red smirked at him, and it took everything in Green to keep himself from screaming when Oak congratulated Red, regarding Green with the briefest looks of disappointment as if to say see? I told you. You weren't ready, after all.

"Smell ya later!" Green snarled, charging out of the lab and running into the tall grass that led to Viridian City. He'd get stronger, he'd be ready next time…

The words were a mantra in his head on repeat, and Green wondered if he ever would be ready.

— . . . —

The sting of each defeat he suffered at the hands of Red was mellowed by every easy victory against the gym leaders (and Leaf, who received a bulbasaur a week after he'd gotten Eevee from his grandfather and had managed to catch up to him at Cerulean City).

Green justified his losses at Red's hands with the vaunted rationale that he and Red were a fated pair, and the Green was destined to defeat him at the pinnacle of Red's would-be triumph. So each time he lost (in Viridian, in Cerulean, in the S.S. Anne, at the Pokémon Tower as he grieved over the Raticate Red's Pikachu had beaten too hard on the S.S. Anne, at Silph Co., and finally on Route 22) Green told himself that no, it wasn't time yet, and ascended higher, better, faster than Red until he reached the top, so far ahead of Red and Leaf that he was like a god compared to them.

Champion. He tested the word on his tongue and found it to be to his satisfaction. He remembered the days of playing with Red in the dirt and the small fields, pretending that they were Pokémon Masters and having pretend battles. He laughed, staring at himself in the mirrors that lined the chamber. Well, he had finally done it. He was a Pokémon Master (the youngest one of all time at thirteen years old) the strongest trainer in the entire world! No one, not even Red, could stop him.

When he heard that there was a challenger facing the Elite Four not five minutes after defeating Lance himself, Green smirked and called his grandfather, leaving a message with one of the assistants at the lab to tell his grandfather what he had done and to come, because Green wanted to see him. In reality, Green hoped that Oak would show up just in time to see his precious little prodigy put in his place.

When the massive doors to the Champion's (his) chambers opened, Red stood there, blazing eyes locking onto Green's forest ones instantly. With a (fake) smile tugging at his lips, Red made his way across the placid room, stopping a good distance from Green.

"I knew it would be you," Green said, because it was true. There was no doubt in his mind that it would be him and Red there, at the top of Indigo Plateau, at the end of it all.

Red said nothing, but Green didn't expect him to, anyway, unable to remember the last time Red had said a word to him. "Shall we start?" Green asked smugly, and when Red nodded, he let the metal ball fly from his hand, smirk illuminated by the bright light from within.

He trusted himself to win. Years of repetition left him a firm believer in his own talent, in Red's fated defeat at his hands. He expected it to be the moment that defined his life, the moment in which he would detach himself from Red's shadow and could prove himself to everyone that ever doubted him. His parents, Daisy, Leaf, his grandfather, Red, but mostly, himself. He would not be looked over again, he would never be ignored. He would force them all to look at him, really look at him. He was the best, the very best, Green thought. He would win, win, win.

So when he didn't, Green fell to his knees, the world that he had built his entire existence over shattering in an instant. Red was wearing that same smirk, and his fire red eyes were burning into his own, burning down the forests that made up Green's until there was nothing left but ashes.

When his grandfather made his way into the room, Green decided that it was too much humiliation for one day, so he elbowed past the reporters and the old man as he prattled on about showing pokémon love and respect and how Green was a failure for not loving or trusting his pokémon like Red did his.

Whatever, Green told himself as he made his way down the endless stairs. Whatever, whatever, whatever, whatever.

He banged his fist against the white walls, once, twice, three times. Breathing hard, he winced at the sight of that familiar crimson against the once pristine surface. He could never get away from him… could never….

— . . . —

Green returned to Pallet Town and locked himself in his room for weeks, eating from the rations leftover from his traveling days, which were over, he realized. For those few weeks, with no one asking for him but Daisy, Green didn't know what he would do with his life. Red had always been at the center of it, something Green thought he'd understood from the years that he had spent protecting and caring for the other boy, but he'd soon discovered that Red had been a mystery all along, waiting to be deciphered, but never quite close enough to be solved. All that time that Green had been running away from everything and Red, it had been Red who was ahead all along, and Green felt like a fool for ever believing that he was the best.

When Daisy finally gathered the nerve to break down the door, she found Green face down on the pillow. She hesitated briefly before making her way over to the bed, rubbing his back in comforting circles and begging him to get up, to eat, to talk to her. So Green did, eyes still dulled from Red's all-consuming fires, and let her hold him to her tightly, sobbing how she was trying the hardest she could to be there for him, but could never quite be perfect for him because she would never be their mother. Green found himself patting her back comfortingly, returning her apologies with one of his own, and it wasn't until she buried her face in the crook of his neck that he realized that there hadn't been anyone to do this for her since their father had left them on their grandfather's doorstep and she had been forced to grow up too quickly at the age of twelve. Green held her tighter after that, marveling at how long it had been since he'd held anyone like that himself.

— . . . —

Slowly but surely, Green learned to let go. He did so in small doses, during daily meals with his sister as he got to know her as a young woman and not the ever-present mother figure, or by spending time with his Eevee, who was wary in the face of his newfound tenderness at first, but soon took to riding around on his shoulder and sleeping curled around his head in bed with him. Green traveled for the sake of traveling for a couple of months, getting to know his other pokémon like he should have the first time around.

By the time he was homebound and resting at Viridian City for the night, he ran into Leaf at the Pokémon Center. She looked different, Green noticed. Her chestnut hair was longer, shinier, under that white hat of hers, and her figure had filled out so that every step she took was elegant and poised despite the fact that Green knew for a fact that she was anything but. At first, they regarded each other with the familiar animosity that had permeated the air between them since that day he had pushed Red away from him on their hill. Soon, the animosity and resentment faded into a new (but tense) dynamic that consisted of sarcastic sniping and insults over dinner at the local diner joint.

"Red's gone," she said eventually, hazel eyes settling on her plate of fries sadly.

Green's expression soured, the almost-ease between them dissipating quickly. "So?"

Leaf frowned at him. "So?" she repeated, looking annoyed. "So he's your best friend… What if he's been kidnapped… or what if he's dead?"

Green laughed because Leaf is just too fucking melodramatic. "Who would want that loser dead, anyway?"

"Team Rocket, for one," she replied. "He took them down," at Green's indignant look, she sighed and qualified her statement. "We helped a little, Green, but it was Red who stopped them. He was the one who took down Giovanni and exposed him for what he truly was…"

Green rolled his eyes. "Like you said, he took them down. They're gone now, so I doubt that something gone is capable of kidnapping or murdering anyone. Besides," he added when Leaf bit her lip in concern, "he took the best they had to offer down; as if anything that's left could even pose a challenge to him. That idiot's probably off somewhere, training his pokémon for no reason at all."

Leaf didn't look convinced, but nodded anyway "I guess you're right…" she murmured.

Green smirked at her in triumph, dipping some of his fries in ketchup and lifting them to his mouth, but his hands were shaking so hard that he ended up smearing ketchup across his lips. Leaf noticed, and her expression was caught between a smirk that mirrored Green's and a look of complete concern. Green scowled into his napkin as he blotted at the stain, wondering why it was that he cared so damn much, anyway.

— . . . —

At the end of their meal, they exchanged PokéGear numbers (while Green complained about newfangled inventions and his inability to use them) and Leaf hugged him a bit awkwardly. "Find him," she whispered into his ear, "I know you will."

"Oh yeah?" Green said. "What makes you so sure?"

"You need him," Leaf told him matter-of-factly before leaning in close and whispering in his ear. "And you care for him too much to live without knowing about where or how he is. Trust me, I know the feeling."

She kissed his cheek and waved at him before taking off out the door and down the street.

Green rubbed at the spot where she'd kissed him in annoyance, dwelling on her words and wondering if there was any truth to them, after all. It wasn't until the waitress dropped the cheque on the table with an expectant smile that Green realized that she'd just dined and ditched him with the bill, and he let out a string of curses that startled the nearby customers and made all the mothers cover their children's ears and glare at him in reproach.

This, Green realized angrily, was the beginning of a thoroughly annoying and parasitic friendship.

— . . . —

That night, Green did three things.

The first was to use all the money he'd won during his battling career to make the deposit on a modestly sized apartment overlooking main street. Eevee pranced around the empty space appraisingly before giving a small bark of approval, and he held his arms open to her, holding her close to him when she jumped into them, twirling around and around and laughing at how free they felt.

The second was to procure and begin filling out an official Pokémon League application for the Viridian City Gym Leader position. He figured that he might as well take the position if it gave him access to a few areas that he didn't have as a regular trainer, places that might provide excellent training opportunities for trainers well above the average level.

And the third was to pull the old town map Daisy had given him at the beginning of his journey as a parting gift, marking up the paper with circles and annotations. He made red circles around the dots of the map that demarcated the Cerulean Cave, Mt. Moon, the Abandoned Power Plant, the Seafoam Islands, and finally Mt. Silver in permanent marker.

When he got the job (because, please, who else had former Pokémon League Champion on their resumé?), he decided that he would visit those areas with the new clearance afforded to him. It wasn't his business, and Green didn't care all that much, but still, he resolved to look for (and find) Red.

— . . . —

It took two days for the League to contact him in reference to the position, giving it to him without question. It took a couple of months before Green became comfortable enough in the swing of things at the gym to leave his second in charge. The scores of trainers that had tried (and failed) to claim his Earth Badge was telling to Green, and he knew that he wouldn't be depriving anyone of a shot at his badge if he took an extended leave of absence (the challengers really were that pathetic).

The Cinnabar Island disaster set him back a few weeks, as Green and his Gyarados were among the first responders along with the rest of the gym leaders. Blaine clung to Green's Pidgeot, tears in his old eyes, and Green was surprised that this old man was the same enigma that had made him sweat with scorching hot flames and doubt himself with the simplest of riddles years earlier. Green ordered Gyarados to fire off hydro pump after hydro pump at the molten rock, wondering if it was futile as steam rolled off the magma in waves. The night sky, usually covered with stars, was obfuscated by the volcano's smoke, the orange flames of the lava casting a frantic light on the citizens, who were ferried off the island by a combination Misty's water and Sabrina's psychic pokémon.

The next morning, when the Elite Four had finally arrived and had used Lorelei's ice pokémon to ease the behemoth into inactivity, Green had stood on newly created ground, awed by the volcano's destructive power. Nothing was left. Not the gym, nor the countless homes of the people that lived there. Green swallowed hard.

"It's terrifying, isn't it?" Lance asked from beside him as he surveyed the damage for himself.

Green nodded to himself. "Yeah…" he replied dumbly.

The dragon tamer ran a hand through his hair before letting it come to rest on Green's shoulder. "Your help was invaluable," Lance told him, giving his shoulder a grateful squeeze. "You know… when you first defeated me and became Champion, I thought that you were the worst thing that could possibly happen to the League. I was… well, I was relieved that you lost so quickly."

"Well, thanks…" Green grumbled, running a pale hand over his forehead and finding soot all over it.

Lance chuckled. "Yes, well… I'm grateful to have you backing me up, and I'd welcome another shot from you to take the Championship back, this time for a longer period of time, hopefully."

Green frowned, worried that excessive smoke inhalation had done something to the dragon tamer's head. "Red is missing. How could I possibly challenge him for the Championship?"

Lance's face mirrored his own for a moment before a look of realization dawned on his face. "No one told you?" Lance asked, and when Green shook his head, heart beating quickly. Lance sighed. "Red abdicated the position three months ago, so the League had no choice but to make me Champion again."

Green froze at Lance's words, hands forming fists at his sides. Red had… abdicated? Why would he have gone through all that trouble only to abdicate…?

"I suppose that I've been trying to say is that… you've really matured, Green." Lance was saying, "I believe that the League could only stand to benefit if you took the reins as Champion, at this point."

And despite the fact that everything he'd ever wanted was basically being handed to him on a silver platter, Green shook his head. "No thanks," he replied, surprising both himself and Lance. "No offense, but defeating you wouldn't make me Champion, not really…" he trailed off and coughed a little. "Besides, I sort of like being a gym leader, ya know? All the perks without nearly as much responsibility…"

At Green's smirk, Lance laughed heartily and gave him a friendly slap to the back. As the sun rose over the horizon of the Cinnabar Sea and the citizens of the devastated island were taken to Vermillion City to start anew, Green wondered if it had always been this easy, to start over. If it was just something came naturally as breathing, after all.

— . . . —

Finally, after two years of searching and several phone calls from Leaf, who was always quick to encourage him to keep up the search, Green found a weather-worn boy standing in the snow atop Mt. Silver, a yellow mouse perched on his shoulder.

It took him four days to fully survey Mt. Silver, the harsh conditions and unbelievably strong wild pokémon forcing Green to retreat to the Pokémon Center far more often than he would have liked. But on the fourth day, Green had finally reached the peak, and there he was, almost as if he had been that easy to find after all those years. He considered calling Leaf to tell her that he'd finally found him (he'd done all this for her after all, hadn't he?), but when Red turned and stared at him with those familiar eyes, Green found that Leaf was the furthest thing from his mind.

Her bushy tail wrapped around his neck acting like a warm scarf, Eevee let out a jubilant cry of recognition at the sight of Pikachu, who let out an echoing cry of joyous acknowledgment. Both pokémon jumped into the snow and towards each other, meeting halfway and letting out several squeaks and squeals of greeting. Green winced as the cold started biting at his neck, folding his arms and rubbing at his arms in an attempt to keep warm. Red just stood there, regarding the other boy blankly.

"Hey," Green called, voice barely audible over the howling winds.

Over the years they'd been apart, Green had matured enough to let himself be the one to break the impenetrable silence between them, so he expected Red to give him some sort of reply, or even a gesture of acknowledgement. When his rival didn't give him either of those, opting to stand there like a fucking asshole instead, Green scrounged up what was left of his abused pride and stood his ground.

They stood like that, just staring at each other, for what seemed like hours. Finally, when Green was shivering madly and the sun was beginning to disappear over the horizon, Red moved, stepping effortlessly through the snow and stopping beside Green. After a moment, Red's gloved hand closed over Green's wrist, and he dragged him back into the mountain, Eevee and Pikachu following dutifully.

Red led him through the darkness effortlessly, and Pikachu took out any wild pokémon that crossed their path with almost laughable ease. It was then that Green realized that they must have been doing this ever since Red left the Championship behind, and he wondered what it was like to be all alone up there, on the top of the world, surrounded by things that were hungry to take your life. Green shivered, and not because of the cold this time.

When they reached a cave that seemed devoid of any wild pokémon, Red let go of Green's wrist and reached for a poké ball at his belt. Wordlessly, he tossed it, and Charizard appeared in a flash of light that made Green's eyes sting in the darkness. Without being instructed, Charizard spat a flamethrower at a hearth that Green assumed that Red had constructed in the middle of the cave for warmth. When Charizard was done, Red offered the dragon a small smile and released the rest of his pokémon, gesturing for Green to do the same. Green complied, releasing his pokémon and watching as they huddled close to Red's pokémon around the fire, talking like old friends did after a long absence.

In the face of such camaraderie, Green felt awkward, the silence between him and Red that had sufficed for years suddenly feeling heavy and cumbersome. He didn't know how to break it, or even go about attempting to make it right. Daisy and Red's mom weren't around to make them apologize, this time, and Green wasn't sure how to go about it, anyway. He'd never apologized for years upon years' worth of wrongs before.

"How did you find me?" Red asked, breaking the silence at last. His voice was raspy from underuse, but God, he was actually talking to him.

Green scrambled for an answer, the cold having slowed down his thinking considerably. "I searched," Green replied lamely. "The Cerulean Cave, Mt. Moon, the Seafoam Islands, that old abandoned Power Plant… and here," he added, as if it weren't already obvious.

A single eyebrow is quirked at him in response, and in the light of the fire, Green let his eyes get to know Red, again. He was thinner and taller, having lose all the baby fat that Green had once teased him for. His face had become angular and handsome in a gaunt sort of way. The dark hair Green remembered running his hands through as a child had grown into an untamed beast, poking out from under that old, frayed cap at strange angles

Green gulped at how, well… grown up Red looked, and he told him so. "You look all grown up," Green said stupidly.

Red's pale hand settled on the brim of his hat and pulled it down. "So do you."

The rest of the night was spent in a much more comfortable silence, and when the pokémon began to yawn and curl up for sleep, Red shed his vest and his cap and gestured for Green to join him, which the gym leader did after a few moments of hesitation, if not a bit awkwardly.

Green ended up laying next to Red near where their pokémon were all sleeping soundly, the warmth from the fire types and the fire keeping them warm enough to be chilly and the shared body heat enough to make it a bit warm. "For body heat to keep from freezing," Red had explained monotonously, but Green blushed all the same. They weren't children anymore, after all, but Green doubted that the thought had even crossed Red's mind (hell, he doubted that Red had even discovered the existence of hormones, yet).

The cave was surprisingly quiet at night, aside from the even breathing of all their pokémon, of course. Green lay awake, back-to-back with Red, warmth spreading from his the place their their bodies made contact to the rest of his body pleasantly. Still, Green was uncomfortable. There were far too many things to say, way too many things to apologize for.

Green opened his mouth to say so, to ask Red to come home, but all that came out was a small, "I'm sorry", and Red stiffened behind him at the sound of his words.

A long, uncomfortable silence stretched between them before Red spoke. "I don't forgive you," Red said, and Green felt his heart fall.

"S-sorry…" Green stuttered, feeling like an idiot for thinking that two stupid, insignificant words could make up for a betrayal and years of taunts and jeers and punches and shoves. "I just… everyone just wants you to come home… Your mom misses you, and Leaf… hell, Leaf has been calling me every other week to check on my progress…"

Red made a sound that sounded suspiciously like a snort. "You talk to Leaf?" he asked, voice a bit incredulous beneath the usual veneer of his monotone.

"Yeah," Green said, "We go to lunch together when she's in town, too. She never pays and ends up crashing at my apartment, anyway…" Green trailed off, feeling embarrassed.

"You're going soft." It's a statement, not an admonition, and Green couldn't do anything but agree.

"Yeah, and look at you up here, getting stronger by the day, like some sort of solitary hero in his fortress of solitude," Green chuckled at his own joke, but Red remained silent. "I feel weak, compared to you." the silence stretched again, and Green forced himself to say the next part, if only in a whisper. "I always have."

Red didn't reply, and though Green was a bit hurt that he had basically laid a piece of his heart bare to Red, he supposed that he shouldn't have expected anything back from the other boy, not even the few words that he'd given him, which he'd been unbelievably lucky to receive in the first place. There must have been something about sleep deprivation and the cold, Green reasoned, that made him more tender towards the people he cared for. Admitting it to himself in abstraction like that, that he cared for Red, was easier than trying to come to terms with it logically and forcing himself to acknowledge it.

The silent boy with the red eyes had always been the greatest part of Green, a large chunk of his very being that made him who he was, perhaps more intimately than he would like to admit. A part of Green would always lie on his back beside Red by that brook, or sit under a tree on a hill overlooking the local school with him and play pretend Pokémon Masters until the long days came to an end. But the greatest part of Green would always hold that boy close on stormy nights and stroke his hair, whispering that everything would be alright until the morning light, when he'd tickle torture him into submission for staring at him until he woke up.

Green may have convinced himself that he'd let go of everything, but the small doses of release were too small to purge the parts of him that Red owned. He wondered, ever so hopefully, if Red felt the same way. Red had hardened himself over the years, and Green knew that he was responsible for most of it, but still…

With a faint rustling at his side, he heard Red shift onto his side so that he was facing Green. Not knowing what to expect, Green remained still until Red's arm snaked its way over his torso and pulled him close, another settling in his hair. When Red's hand wandered to his cheeks and wiped some moisture away, Green realized that he'd been crying.

Red didn't lie to him and tell him that everything would be okay, but he did let Green turn to him and cry onto his chest, keeping his lean, wiry arms wrapped tight around him, chin resting on his head. It had been years since Green had cried, and it was unbelievably draining to start again, sobbing for years and years of bottled up abandonments, and pain, and silence.

When Green was finished, Red sighed and pressed his lips to Green's forehead almost tenderly. "Go to sleep, Green." Red whispered against his skin, breath warm as it tickled the hairs at his hairline.

It wasn't a promise of better things to come, or an acceptance of his apology, but Green liked to think that it meant that they could try rebuilding things back to the way they used to be, or maybe even something better, something more. With one last shuddering sigh, Green fell asleep, wondering how despite the fact that while some things change, a lot of (important) things stay the same.

A/N: Oh, boy... this took me the whole day to get out, but it was a nice catharsis to do so. I love writing Green and Red very much, as I can relate a bit to their whole situation. Leaf wasn't featured too prominently. Fortunately, I have a few ideas that do. I really do need to give the female characters a bit more of the spotlight... *sigh*

As always, thanks go out to the readers who took the time to read my work. It really does mean a lot to me. Your reviews are always highly appreciated!

Hope you enjoyed it!

EDIT: Fixed some grammatical, syntactical, and tense errors that were really bugging me.