The title comes from a lyric in Craig Ferguson's theme song, which I thought was funny and is probably only tangentially related to this story at best.
Characters/Pairing: Green/Red, Leaf, Professor Oak, various
Warnings: spoilers for the post-E4 events of FRLG, minor language
Disclaimer: Pokemon is property of Nintendo.
tomorrow is just your future yesterday
"It's not the end of the world," Red's mother consoles them while Green's grandfather attempts the impossible task of dragging the two apart.
Which is a lie, of course - and a very pretty lie at that, if Green has ever heard one. But Green is older and wiser now and knows all about grown-ups and their trickery. For him - whose four-year-old world consists only of playing with Red, being with Red, and nothing but Red Red Red - how could it be anything but the end?
"A Magnet Train Line between Saffron and Goldenrod is being built," Green's grandfather reasons. "After that, visiting Red in Johto will be as easy as visiting him next door."
Green shakes his head, and the two boys cling to each other, sticking together like glue.
After another half hour of pleading and cajoling, Red's mother clicks her tongue. "Red," she says scoldingly, and Green's best friend reluctantly lets go. (If there's one thing Red is that Green is not, it's obedient and well-behaved.)
"I'm gonna miss you," Red tells him between hiccups and sobs as Red's mother waits in front of the moving truck for them to have a proper final goodbye.
"I'll miss you, too," Green replies and adds, "We can be pen pals. I'll send you letters!"
Red nods vigorously though neither of them knows how to write yet, and Green accepts that as that. Green hugs Red tightly one last time as Red's Pikachu - a present from Green's grandfather to him on his third birthday - leans over to kiss Green on the cheek and nuzzle his Eevee.
"You better not forget me!" Green shouts at the moving truck as it disappears down the road. Even though he knows Red can't hear him, it's the thought that counts.
Green's almost six when he remembers his promise to write to Red. They're slowly learning characters in school now, and this week's homework assignment is to write someone a postcard.
He makes his grandpa give him a postcard of the ranch - one that visitors to his lab like to buy as a souvenir - and thinks carefully about what he wants to write, what he wants to tell Red. When he settles on the message, Green prints meticulously in large, childish characters: "I miss you."
Green squints at his postcard and frowns, displeased. Then, he thoughtfully adds: "Eevee misses Pikachu." When he rereads his message again, he is satisfied. He signs his name at the bottom, and Eevee dips her paw into an ink jar and presses a paw print next to it.
Green is especially pleased when he hands the postcard to his teacher at the end of the week. Not having anyone else to send their postcards to, most of the kids in the class ended up writing letters to their parents instead. Letters that their parents had helped them with, and would receive in the mail. Where's the fun in that?
But not only did Green write his letter all by himself, he's sending it to someone different, someone special, someone who's never read his message before.
Green just hopes that his postcard won't get lost in the mail.
It's three weeks later when he finally receives his reply. By this time, his worry that the postcard would be lost has already faded because he's forgotten about mailing it in the first place.
The postcard has a picture of a pretty mountain (but not prettier than his grandfather's ranch, Green notes) and is crammed with miniscule words in what Green recognizes as Red's mother's handwriting. The note is long, filled with unknown kanji that Green can't read, and after staring hopelessly at it for a few minutes, Green gives in and makes his grandfather read it to him.
"Red is doing fine," his grandfather informs him before rattling off the details of Red's new life: his new house and new room, how he's terrible at making new friends, how he wishes Green could be there right now, and how he and Pikachu really really really miss Green and Eevee.
Green pouts the entire time as Red's postcard is being read to him. What the heck? That's not fair - actually, that's totally cheating! If Green had gotten his grandpa to write his postcard, he could've told Red a lot more.
"Why didn't he write it himself?" Green asks when his grandfather is finished.
"Red hasn't learned to write yet. Children start school later in Johto," his grandfather says.
Green frowns. That's not acceptable. If Red can't write yet, then they can't be proper pen pals. Instead, Green stuffs the postcard in his desk drawer to wait for a time when he and Red can both write to each other.
Except Green never ends up going through that drawer.
Children, unfortunately, are not graced with particularly good long-term memory. Green is no different.
On the first day of fifth grade, a brown-haired girl he doesn't recognize walks up to his desk and smiles at him.
"Hi, I'm Leaf. My family just moved here from Saffron," she says and grabs his hand. "Let's be best friends."
Green blinks at her, confused.
When he doesn't reply, she continues. "Now, I think you should show me the playground."
What the heck, he thinks. "No."
Unfortunately for Green, Leaf doesn't know the meaning of "no" and continues following him everywhere, dragging him around, and stealing his popsicles. She's annoying, cheerful, and pretty much everything Green dislikes, yet he finds himself getting used to her.
"Fine," he eventually relents a week later, after Leaf shows no signs of giving up.
Leaf is like no other friend Green's ever had, and Green has a lot of friends (but only, if he were honest with himself, because of his grandfather).
Still, having a best friend, Green discovers eventually, is kind of nice.
"I'm off, Gramps, Daisy!" Green yells behind him, Eevee happily hanging off his shoulder. "Wish me luck!"
"It's going to be quieter around here without that boy," Oak remarks, watching his grandson disappear down the road with a heart full of dreams replacing everything that he leaves behind.
Daisy hums in agreement and heads inside to make morning tea.
Later that day, a postcard from Johto arrives at the Oak residence for the first time in six years.
It takes him three years to get to the top, but when he does, Green gets to be Champion for all of five minutes - literally - before he gets challenged for his position. He's barely had the time to take his photo for the champion gallery, much less do an interview or call his grandfather, when he gets pulled aside by the league coordinator.
"What do you mean I have a challenger?" Green hisses. "I've been champion for - "He looks down at his watch. "- exactly five and a half minutes. My Pokémon haven't had time to rest yet."
The coordinator shrugs. "Sorry kid, I don't make the rules. Just doin' my job when I ask you to do yours."
It's not an easy battle by any means, taking more than twice as long as Green's championship battle. Both he and the challenger are down to their last Pokémon...
...and he loses.
"Congratulations," Green says to the challenger as he shakes his hand, but doesn't quite manage to meet his eyes. (If he did, perhaps he would've recognized a glint of something familiar.) He collects Eevee, who is wearily snuggling against him in apology for losing. He knows it's not her fault, and he strokes her fur to soothe her.
"Someone else will come to induct you into the hall of fame," he says absent-mindedly as he walks towards the door. He doesn't really want to be here for that. "Haven't been around long enough to know how," he mumbles.
The worst insult to his injury is when he finally makes it outside and sees his grandfather rushing towards him.
"Green." His grandfather smiles and pats him on the shoulder. "I came as soon I heard. Congratulations on becoming Champion!"
Green shrugs off his grandfather's hand. "Yeah, well you're too late." His grandfather looks at him, bemused. "Why don't you go induct the new Champion into the Hall of Fame. I'm going home."
On the way home, in between melodramatically contemplating ways he can smother himself with his own pillow, Green wonders what the history books will say about him. Probably something like, "Green Oak: Failure; Champion for All of Five Minutes." Then he wonders if anyone will remember him at all.
He can't decide which one is worse.
By the next day, Green has failed to smother himself with his own pillow. All he wants to wants to do is sulk in his bed and be left alone - but the phone won't stop ringing.
"What?" he snaps when he finally picks it up on the fifth ring after the twelfth call.
"Where the hell are ya, kid?" It takes a moment for Green to realize that the voice belongs to Pokémon League coordinator.
"Why are you calling me?" he asks flatly.
"There's something I need -"
"Then get that guy who beat me yesterday to do it. I'm not the Champion."
"He's not the Champion," the coordinator tells him.
What? his brain supplies.
"What?" Green says hesitantly.
"Are you deaf or something, kid? He's not the Champion. He didn't want to be, so we inducted him into the hall of fame, and he left."
There's a long silence over the phone.
"You still there, kid? There's -"
"First of all, my name is Green, not 'kid.' Second of all, if he doesn't want to be Champion, that doesn't mean I want to pick up after him. I never even got to tell you if I wanted to do it or not. Why don't you get the guy before me to do it then?"
Green wonders if the coordinator can hear him introduce his palm to his forehead.
"Then get the dragon guy to do it."
"Look, kid - Green, whatever," the coordinator finally says. "Maybe you're too young to get this, but actually being the Champion is about more than being a good trainer. So what if he beat you? Maybe he's a better trainer, but then you just gotta prove you're a better person. There are people who need you right now."
Green scowls. He's not sure who he hates more in that moment - the league coordinator for appealing to his poetically flawed sense of justice or himself for having such a poetically flawed sense of justice.
"Fine," he says and can almost hear the coordinator smile over the phone. "What do you need me to do."
He comes downstairs ten minutes later looking more human than he's been feeling all day.
"Green," his grandfather says, "there's something I need to tell you."
"Not now Gramps, gotta go to the Sevii Islands."
Green thinks that it must be important because his grandfather looks like he's about to try and stop him, but he's already out the door.
"You," Green says blandly when he sees the league challenger that beat him yesterday. "What are you doing here." It's not a question.
When he finally gets to Sevii Islands like the league coordinator told him to, some Celio guy demands his help to find this gem so he can fix his trading machine. Green's just spent the last day of his life fending off Rockets grunts and chasing after a stupid blue gem, and all he wants to do is hand it over and go home.
Instead, when he gets back to One Island, he sees the last person he wants to see right now. Or, probably, ever.
The challenger stares at him expectantly. When Green's annoyance doesn't seem to fade, he sighs and pulls out a red gem - as red as his own eyes and exact same shape as the sapphire Green had to find.
Green stares. Hard. Before he can say anything though, Celio comes rushing out of the Pokémon center.
"Green! Red!" He waves them over. Green's challenger - Red, he supposes (why does that name sound so familiar?) - struts over to Celio and calmly places the ruby in his hand.
"You're really a life-saver. Hope it wasn't too much of a bother," Celio says, and Red just shrugs. Green can't help but feel a bit affronted. What is that person - Red, whatever - doing, coming here and stealing his thunder? And Green doubts he had to trudge through five islands and fight off a handful of Rockets to get it.
Celio looks at him expectantly.
"Here," he says, and tosses the sapphire at him. Celio attempts to grab it, but it slips out of his hands. Instead, Red manages to catch it right before it hits the floor and hands it to Celio.
"Thanks." Celio smiles at Red again, and then turns to nod at Green.
Of course. Perfect. It's Green's job so of course it wouldn't matter if it was out of his way.
Green just rolls his eyes and leaves.
Then it happens again. Several times. Much to Green's displeasure.
Red showing up to save the day. Red showing up to help finish what Green's started. Red showing up and just being smug.
The worst part is that he's usually more helpful than not, and Green finds himself appreciating Red's reliability.
"I don't need your help," Green grumbles anyway, and Red just shrugs and look at him blankly with those eyes.
But occasionally, he doesn't show up, and that's when Green freaks out.
"If he wanted to be a big damn hero, why didn't he just be the Champion in the first place? I have more important things to worry about than a personal stalker," Green complains to Leaf as they're having fries and milkshakes. Well, fries for him because Leaf keeps complaining about how they'll make her fat, but makes then him buy her a milkshake anyway. He does so this time, if only because she's being a good enough friend to listen to him whine about the same thing for the twentieth time. (He realizes retrospectively, though, that he also ends up buying her milkshakes when she's upset and whining at him, and then wonders if she ever pays for her own milkshake.)
"Maybe he just wants to see you?" she suggests while staring at her glass, swirling her straw around to mix the whipped cream and drink together.
"Yeah, right," Green scoffs. "Even if he did, I don't want to see him."
Leaf blinks and looks up from her milkshake. "You don't?" she asks, genuinely curious.
"He's all you ever talk about these days..."
"Because he's annoying -"
"But then you complain when he doesn't show up. It's almost like you have a crush," she finishes, and there's a long, uncomfortable pause.
"What?" Green eventually hisses, but his cheeks are tinged pink. Leaf takes the chance to steal a fry.
"Don't you?" she asks, dipping the fry in ketchup.
"Of course not!" Green ignores that nagging little thought that Red looks so cool saving the day and all that jazz.
"Really?" There's a glint in her eye.
Green pauses and really considers it, furrowing his eyebrows.
Okay, so, maybe. Just a little. Stupid girls and their intuition.
"Fuck," Green says and buries his head in his hands.
"Mmhm," Leaf says, dragging his plate of fries over to her side of the table. Green doesn't even try to stop her.
"This is all your fault," he whines, even though he knows it's not. But it's easier to blame it on someone else. "Why am I friends with you?"
"Because I was the only person in our class who could tolerate you?" she suggests.
"I hate you," Green tells her much without heat.
"You're welcome," Leaf says, and stuffs the last fry in her mouth.
Realizing his feelings, Green thinks, has made things worse, not better.
"Go away," he snaps the next time Red shows up to help. With feeling now, because suddenly he has this secret, and it scares him. No one can find out about it, especially not Red - there's just too much at stake, too much to lose.
Green isn't blind, though. He doesn't miss the way Red flinches or how he ducks his eyes to hide the hurt. Afterwards, Leaf swats at him and scolds him for being immature, for ruining his own chances, but Green thinks that distance is still better than the alternative.
After all, despite what Leaf says, the only possible alternative is rejection, and even if Red holds himself a little further, shows up a bit less often, it's better than never being able to see Red at all.
There's only whispers and hushed rumors floating around, but Green already knows. He hasn't seen Red in a while, but he knows his rival (if he dares to call Red that) has been training to challenge the Elite Four again.
This time, Green thinks, when Red beats him, it would only be proper to make sure he doesn't decline.
When finally Red does show up, does beat him again, there's something very final when Green shakes his hand afterward.
"Congratulations, Champion Red," he says and smiles like it's the last time he'll see Red again (it just might be).
Red frowns and refuses to meet his eyes, his cap pulled down and his lips pressed into a thin line.
Green sighs and lets go of Red's hand. It's not really in him to apologize (though it's not really like him to act like a ten-year-old with a crush either), but since he might never see Red again, Green figures that he might as well make peace.
"I'm sorry I was an asshole to you, okay?" Green looks to the side. "I'm just not used to people being better than me. So I probably over reacted," he says and makes exaggerated gestures with his hands. "Anyway, you should accept the title this time. I'm - I'm going to be the new gym leader for Viridian City, so if you don't do it, then they won't have a Champion and maybe they'll make that dragon guy do it..."
Green realizes that he's rambling now and shuts up, carefully looking over at Red. Red looks at slightly uncomfortable and slightly nervous, with something unreadable in his eyes.
"S-so," Green swallows. "I'm sorry. I mean, after this, you won't see me anyway, but I wanted to tell you it was 'cause I like y-"
Before Green gets to finish, Red closes the two feet of distance between them and presses his lips against Green's.
Not being rejected, Green decides then and there, is also kind of nice.
"Um," Green says when they break apart.
Red looks at him expectantly, then sighs when Green comes up for a blank.
"You forgot about me," Red accuses, so quietly that it almost gets lost.
What? Green doesn't quite know what Red's talking about, but before he can ask, Red pulls him down for another kiss. Kissing, he thinks, is also acceptable.
Hey, Green's brain helpfully reminds him a minute later, you know, someone could - and probably will - walk in at any minute now. And, oh, yeah, that's probably not a good thing.
Green's the one who ends the kiss this time, both of them breathless when he pulls away.
"We need to talk," he says. Red narrows his eyes, and all but says, I'm not a girl. We don't need to talk about anything. Green's known Red long enough now to know how well that will go, considering how his previous statement had been one of the few things he's ever said to Green.
Green clears his throat, then points to the door behind Red. "Later. Because someone will probably come around soon. To induct you into the hall of fame. And um, it would be bad. If they walked in. On us."
Red stares at him thoughtfully for a moment. Green fidgets. "What?"
"Can you lock the door from the inside?"
Oh. Oh. "Maybe?" he squeaks.
Red smirks. "Then go lock the door."
In the end, Green thinks that it's only be proper to introduce Red to his family.
"Gramps! Daisy!" he calls out when he walks into his house, Red following closely behind him. His sister pokes her head out of the kitchen, and comes out with his grandfather a few seconds later. Before Green get the chance to introduce Red, his grandfather surprises him by greeting Red instead.
"Red!" His grandfather smiles. "Looks like you finally found Green."
"That's what I wanted to tell you last time before you rushed out the door," Oak says, sensing his grandson's confusion. "Red came to visit right after you left on your journey, so I sent him after you. Looks like he finally caught up."
"Um?" Green's pretty sure he hasn't known Red for that long.
"Red? Your best friend until he moved away when you were four?"
...now Green feels like a real ass. He turns around and looks at Red, who's smiling at him almost smugly. "Sorry?" he offers.
"I'll forgive you for that," Red leans in and whispers in his ear. "But you also never wrote back."
Green makes it up to Red in little ways. He keeps a stack of postcards now, both blank ones and ones with replies on the back, in a drawer he frequently opens.
On this morning, he selects one of a beautiful sunset over Viridian City, and writes:
Dear Red, Hope you are well. - Green
The weather is really nice in Viridian this time of year, perfect for a picnic. If you were here, I'd take you out on one.
I miss you! Eevee misses Pikachu!
Hope you are well.
Eevee dips her paw into his jar of ink and presses a print on the postcard before lifting it up by the corner with her mouth and padding into the kitchen.
She comes back a few minutes later with Pikachu in tow and what looks to be a postcard-sized cutout of one of their cereal boxes, and Green just laughs. He feeds them both of them a treat as payment for her delivery services, and the two curl up contently on his desk as he reads the one-line reply.
4:30 today is fine with me.