Author's Notes: This piece came to me prior to Correspondence did, but I didn't write it until afterward. I figured the hot springs in Hoenn would be a fun place to go, and since I never really remember much about that region (or Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald) to begin with-eek!-it would be in my best interest to challenge myself to include it. I'm not sure if this will be the last vignette or not-I've not written more, but I won't rule out the possibility. Hope you all enjoy it. ^^ Please be sure to review!
THE HOT SPRINGS
"Morty! Where are you off to? When will you be back?"
"The hot springs! I'll be back before you know it."
Whitney made a face. "And you didn't invite me?"
"I'm going with someone else." Morty smiled, weathering through Whitney's look of surprise. "Be back soon!"
The ghost-type trainer exited the pokémon center with a sense of purpose. He twisted the map in his hands to help him figure out the right path to take to the Lavaridge hot springs. From the looks of it he had a while before he'd get there. Maybe it would have been smarter to take a shuttle or something of the like. The crisp, wintry air chilled his nose and cheeks, reddening the skin not protected by his scarf.
Morty arrived at the entrance to the hot springs just as the sun set on the horizon, rippling beautiful purples and reds across the endless expanse. He set his eyes on the entrance to the spring, taking note of how similar the architecture was to that he knew back home in Ecruteak. Two paper lanterns hung on either side of the weathered wooden door, giving it a very timeless feel—almost as if the hot spring had been here for ages.
He pulled open the door and quickly slipped inside. Though it wasn't much warmer in the lobby, it certainly felt nicer than the cold air blowing through his clothes. He carefully undid his scarf and held it in his hands, approaching the woman sitting behind a small wooden desk. It smelled strongly of cypress, reminding him of home.
"Which way to the bathing facility?" he asked her.
"Just through that door," the woman said, smiling pleasantly. "In there you will find a section of cabinets to store your clothes in. Enjoy."
Morty de-robed, washed himself thoroughly and then grabbed a white towel from a rack near the exit to the hot springs outside. With that modest cover he then braved the outside, feeling an immediate chill that soon grew subdued. The natural warmth of the hot spring helped take the edge off of the cold air, but Morty shivered briskly nonetheless.
The hot spring was divided into three sections of varying size. In the smallest, which was closest to the entrance to the bathhouse, sat a mother with her two children. They were playing in the water while she relaxed with a washcloth over her forehead. Morty passed them by with a polite wave, moving toward the largest section of the spring in the back of the area. The hot spring sat atop a hill which lead down into a small valley in front of Mount Chimney. There grazed several different pokémon, each wandering aimlessly.
Morty slowly dipped his foot into the hot spring so he could get used to the temperature. As he further submerged himself he removed his towel, laying it on the rocky granite surrounding the spring. He resituated his head band to help keep his hair from his face, smiling softly.
Just as he came to rest against the side of the spring and close his eyes, a voice caught his attention.
"Why am I not surprised you've already slipped inside?"
Volkner stood beside Morty on the granite flooring, arms folded over his chest and a sideways smirk on his face.
"What can I say? You were very correct: this is the best hot spring around."
Volkner chuckled. He immersed himself in the water, removing his towel and setting it beside Morty's before submerging nearly completely. He floated around aimlessly in the middle, his pale skin flushing pink.
"I watched your battle with Norman," Volkner said. "Intense."
"Not the easiest match I've had," Morty said, recalling how difficult it was to defeat Norman's pair of Slaking and his Vigoroth. Normal-type pokémon were almost the antithesis of ghost-types, which extended their battle far longer than it should have. He won, though by a small margin, thanks to the power of confusion and impediment. "You did an excellent job against Misty."
"I think we both knew the outcome of that battle," Volkner said with a snort.
Morty simply gave an agreeing sound. He watched Volkner for a moment, enjoying the fact that he was nearby. When the other caught him staring, he didn't seem to mind.
Their relationship was hard to explain. Though Morty knew it was becoming progressively closer, no physical contact had been initiated on either side. He supposed Volkner's suggestion in coming to the hot springs while in Lavaridge had been an attempt on his part to getting there. Truth be told, he wished his visions would have given him a bit more guidance. The end result was clear: they were destined to journey through life together. The hard part was figuring out the in-between.
He pushed away from the edge of the hot spring, gliding through the water toward the other blond. Pieces of Volkner's hair had gotten wet and were clinging to his reddened face. Morty couldn't help but smile.
"What?" Volkner asked.
Morty chose not to reply verbally. Instead he lifted one hand from the water, bringing his fingers close to the other's face. He carefully brushed the moistened tips of Volkner's bangs away from his eyes and eyebrows, letting his fingers linger momentarily. Volkner's eyes closed briefly, the corners of his lips curling upward.
"Can I tell you something?" he asked.
Volkner gave a slow nod.
"I always knew someday that I would meet you."
"I'm not surprised," Volkner offered quietly, his eyes closing once again.
"Our lives are intertwined, for whatever reason. Fate made that abundantly clear."
"Yes, I know."
"What I feel for you is very strong, Volkner. I can't describe it. Do you feel the same?"
Volkner nodded again. His candid reply was unexpected, but appreciated.
Morty reached up again, drawing his fingertips down along the other's forehead, cheeks and chin. He closed the space between them, finally acting on the feeling coursing through his body. When he kissed Volkner, the sensations that overtook his body sent a jolt through his system. He pulled back with tingling lips and a fast-beating heart.
That was the sensation he'd felt while battling Volkner all that time ago.
Inexplicable. All-encompassing. Electric.
The two stared at one another for ages before Volkner spoke. He worried his lip, then said, "I want you to come back with me. To Sinnoh."
"For how long?"
"Any length of time. I want to be with you."
Volkner removed any and all distance between them when he gently guided Morty back toward the shallower end of the hot spring. There, he wrapped him in a warm embrace. That electric feeling engulfed Morty, bringing to light all kinds of distorted, unfocused flashes of future occurrences. Each and every one of them included Volkner to some capacity, and he knew for sure because of one thing—that feeling.
When they pulled apart, Morty nodded. "I'll take an extended leave for a week from the gym."
Volkner kissed him this time, his lips forming a genuine smile which lit up his face.
"I'm not scared," he said. "If it were anyone else, I might be. But not you."