"What do you want for your birthday this year?"

"Oh, uh. I don't know."

"Well, write it on the list if you think of anything, please."

"Gotcha."

Ree Majors was surprisingly bad at coming up with things she wanted. There were always spur of the moment ideas, like a new coat, or a new game, or that lillipup in the window. (Or, in one very memorable example, a real heatmor. It had been a completely awesome and hilarious idea up until the point where it set her skirt on fire.) She was a terrible impulse buyer, and sure, she had a materialistic streak—she firmly believed that all gamers did—but it didn't mean she actually thought about what she wanted.

Maya was always the precise one. She always had a list of five things for each member of the family. She ranked them in approximate price ranges, and always had a polite reminder not to go over a certain spending limit on her. And she always picked out the perfect gifts for others, regardless of whether or not it was on others' lists.

Ree, in stark contrast, fumbled her way through gift giving and receiving with all the grace of a blind conkeldurr. Buying gifts for her at specific points in the year was like pulling teeth.

She just never really wanted. She never planned on future gift ideas and never gave much thought to what others wanted any more than she did herself. If she liked something and had the money on hand, she usually got it. If Maya or Scott happened to be with her and they liked something, well, she'd get it for them. If she didn't have enough, then she didn't buy it, and it was usually a case of out of sight, out of mind.

On the flip-side, she was also terrible at resisting temptation. She never put off gifts for herself or others, so she never built up a resistance to it. New game coming out a week before Christmas? She bought it and was halfway through by the holiday. Maya had her eye on a pair of earrings just before her birthday? Looks like she got an extra gift to wear for her party.

Ree closed her eyes and paused her game. Things for a gift... Gifts for me... Free food was always nice, and so were new games, but she had gotten everything that had come out already. Wasn't there some older series she had been wanting to try? It escaped her.

The only things that came to mind that she desired were not exactly the things she asked her family for. Maybe Maya could get her the romance novels, though. At least she came up with an idea for Scott. The brunette let the matter slip from her mind and resumed playing her game.

-.-.-

Chapter Twenty-Four: Ree Majors' Wonderful Journey Of Too Many Teeth

-.-.-

"You know, I'm not even surprised. The past couple days have been far too nice to me." Ree closed her eyes and held her arms out from her sides.

Harry frowned, looking between her and the sheet of paper, and then asked, "What are you doing...?"

"Waiting for the universe to finish heaping its misery and drama upon me. At this point, I'd like to get it all in one go so I can deal with it and move on with my life."

"I-I don't think it works that way. But at least this can be a good thing!" she exclaimed. Ree cracked an eye open.

"Elaborate."

"See, he's on the first sheet. Scott is in the first tournament, so... he can't be in ours. At the very least, you won't have to battle him in that." She tapped the paper again, a pleased smile on her face.

"So it's just a matter of avoiding him for a month until then." The tournament and its prizes were suddenly much less glamorous in her mind. Fighting her way through Clay's gym couldn't be that hard, surely, not with Whippy and Lala at her side. If she just stepped out of Driftveil and trained, and if Harper healed up, they could just have a go at the gym together without any of that...

But they had just gotten to the city. After getting lost, after having to return to Nimbasa under those horrible circumstances, after getting rained on for almost a week straight, they had just gotten into the city. Realistically, no matter how much it displeased her, she could handle not getting a badge until next month. Training time was still productive. It'd keep her off the grid and out of Scott's sight, too.

"Are you—"

"Shh. I'm thinking," she interrupted, chin in hand. Harry obediently fell silent.

The beginning of April was her deadline, which gave her six months. She wouldn't be able to get to Icirrus or Opelucid during the winter storms, and she wasn't sure how long that would take out of her schedule. That could be training time—no, it would have to be. Depending on how early the snow came, the gym before that might be off limits until the thaw. Damn the Unovan winters.

Taking away a month for this badge left her with five to get three more. In theory, that was more than enough time, but that was assuming the weather allowed her. She would have to hole up somewhere, or head south or east to warmer areas. That added travel time. She didn't exactly have a choice, though, unless she wanted to try to get them out of order. ...But no, the next closest gym was for flying types, wasn't it? She couldn't battle there without Harper...

Or another teammate, Ree thought. Three pokémon wasn't practical for higher gyms. Lenore and Allen both had been talking her ear off about getting a water pokémon. If she just skipped town for the month and trained, helped Harper to recover, and tried to get another pokémon, would it be so bad? They could go on to the next city and hope to catch a good pokémon along the way, which was admittedly possible, since they were getting into some better areas for wild pokémon. Driftveil wouldn't have too bad of a winter to shut down the gym, surely, so they could backtrack to it...

"All participants get a month's worth of free meals at this restaurant in town. Huh. I wonder if that actually makes them any money in advertising..." Harry mumbled absently, reading over the finer print.

A shortcut to Clay and free food. Ree pinched the bridge of her nose. She was supposed to be practical and smart about this, damnit!

"...Cash prize?"

"U-Um, looks like... the top thirty-two in each get money, and the amount goes up with each round."

Money, shortcut, and free food on one hand. On the other, Scott. ...That sounded bad when she looked at it that way.

"Oh, wait, here. There's a new prize added for every round you survive. All participants get that food, the next group gets a t-shirt and discount at the market, the round after that gets a free pass to either the spa or some sort of pokémon move class, and—"

Spa. Hot herbal bath, facial masks, pedicures and manicures, massages. Truthfully, Ree had probably been sold around the introduction of cash prizes, but the stacking effect ruined it for her. Practicality was never her strong suit.

"Okay, Harry, so here's the deal. We'll stay here a day or two and recuperate and enjoy hot showers. Long enough for the rainstorm from hell to get the hell away from us, and give our pokémon a break. Restock on some supplies. Then we head out of town for a week or so to train. Then we come back, sweep our tournament, avoid Scott like the plague, challenge Clay, and head onwards to our victory!"

Successfully avoiding Scott for two large cities already had gone to her head. She was at least that self-aware. But surely, how hard could it be? There were plenty of trainers around for the tournament, and they'd be out of town for part of his. What if he didn't even see their names on the second one? He could be out of town by the time theirs started.

And really, Ree loved free stuff. Who was she to back down from a challenge?

-.-.-

"We—you—can't make this into a habit!"

"It's less fun if we're on the ground floor."

"Although it is safer, at least..."

"Come on, let's get going. Training montage time."

It really wasn't as fun on the ground floor. Ree hopped out their window and took a bow. Whippy clapped from the windowsill, and then handed her her backpack. Two days had been spent lounging around, healing minor aches and pains, stuffing their faces with actual food (and smuggling more out of the mess hall for later). Even with Scott back in the picture, it was relaxing, something they needed.

Hoping he wouldn't have picked out their names from the second roster was too much to want; the phone calls and texts had resumed. Ree had even replied to a couple, usually too emotionally drained to bother ignoring him. She didn't want to ignore him. Thinking of him, so close, made her think of her personal issue, and that in turn made her think of Mitzi. It was easier to have silly conversations with him.

It was a sort of unspoken olive branch. They didn't talk about where the other was, fully aware that they were both somewhere in the center or city, or why both of them were there. Instead, they talked about their teams and tame, stupid little updates on their days. It was nice if she didn't think about it.

Ree pulled her hood up over her head, checking around the street they had escaped into. Despite their civil texts and fairly lengthy conversations, she had spied Yorick or Rocio out guarding the center door more than once, acting as a lookout. But now, it seemed as if the coast were clear.

"Didn't Kev ask you not to wear that one while you're acting suspicious?" Harry asked wearily, pattering up behind Ree and Whippy.

"I still don't get why you complain about this one," Ree groaned, rolling her eyes, and zipped up the black hoodie. Harry yanked the hood off her head and just as she whirled around to snap at her, sirens went off.

Both girls jumped violently, Harry grabbing onto Ree, and the pokémon center doors slid open to reveal more than one curious or startled trainer. Ree quickly pulled her hood back up, in case of Scott, and they jogged down the street. The sirens weren't from any vehicles, but rather for air raids or curfews. Except it was mid-morning and there weren't any active curfews in Driftveil City.

"Wh-What do you think those are for?" Harry asked loudly, over the din. She was still hanging onto Ree's arm, not that the brunette minded.

"I don't know, but I don't like them. We're getting out of town before shit hits the fan. I don't want to wind up in Silent Hill."

They turned a corner to catch the tail end of Clay and two gym trainers roaring down the street in an open jeep. A golurk rocketed on ahead of them, screeching loudly, adding to the overall noise. "We'll git 'em this time, boys! Those yella-bellied snivy won't git away 'gain!" Clay shouted as he waved his pickaxe. The jeep rounded another corner at an alarming speed and was out of sight.

"...We're definitely getting out of town. Gym leader can handle whatever that is," Ree said after a beat. A little dazed, Harry nodded her agreement. Whippy looked down at his pale belly with confusion.

The sirens didn't go off so much as dwindle out of earshot as they left the area. Ree didn't particularly care what was going on; Clay would take care of it. If a gym leader couldn't, then she wanted nothing to do with it. Wasn't that what they were around for? Harry glanced back down the path every so often, fiddling with her baggy sweater's sleeves, but they didn't speak about it.

They spent the day adjusting to life in the wilderness again. Lala, after being so rudely interrupted from her beauty sleep in her pokeball, took back to hunting and antagonizing with glee. Harper was less enthusiastic, and Jackster was least enthusiastic of all.

Hattie berated the blitzle for his cowardice, which, Ree had to admit, was fairly amusing. A little sewaddle squeaking and railing against a much larger pokémon was great entertainment. Of course, it did pose an actual problem—if Jackster still shied away from battling, he wouldn't get any stronger. And if he didn't get stronger, he wouldn't evolve, and if he didn't evolve, neither would Harry's other pokémon.

Of course, returning to traveling habits meant that Lala solved that through force. She brought back various wild pokémon and hid behind Jackster, forcing him to at least defend himself. Whippy helped occasionally, and Hattie made it clear she approved of this (while her teammate made it clear he certainly didn't), and Ree wondered if it was really a long-term solution.

"You could teach him a TM or something. Give him a secret weapon or show him he's strong," she suggested. The girls were sitting cross-legged in the high grass, in the sunshine, trying to avoid the rather cool breeze. Ree was helping Harper stretch out her wing in different ways. The bird was eager to get moving and whenever her trainer let go of her, she'd happily flap and attempt to get airborne, until Ree inevitably snatched her up again.

"He hasn't shown much interest in learning any. And they've been pretty expensive these days..." Harry smiled when Jackster came over to sit by them, ears drooping and trembling slightly. Lala berated him from afar.

"I have a couple I haven't used yet. My snotty little pests haven't wanted to learn any, either."

"Oh gosh, I couldn't take any from you!"

"I am not even using them. What about something defensive? In town they were selling some of those, too. I could sell one of my shit ones and help you get something good. Like flash or protect." Maybe he'd get an ounce of confidence that way, she added mentally.

"Well, let's just see how the next couple of days go," Harry replied.

The next couple of days turned out to be a running joke of a training montage.

Ree nearly had a heart attack when Harper flapped out of her grasp and managed to get into the trees, away from her. Jackster must have had a series of small heart attacks with how hard Lala was driving him. Harry eventually drew the line when Hattie tried to string shot his hooves to the ground to force him into retaliating, but Hattie seemed keener than ever to get him to stand his ground and battle. Whippy, for the most part, stuck close to the girls, only venturing out with Lala or once, to chase away a would-be mugger.

Ree didn't like seeing another one so close to Driftveil. They were about a day away, max.

"I should have gotten a new bat in the city..." If nothing else, Sophia had given her peace of mind.

"The second tournament starts next week, if you still want to join in. We can head back then."

"We. We are joining it. Gotta sharpen these skills against more than just wild fodder," Ree replied dismissively.

"Well, we can return to the city next week, then..."

"I guess we can handle another week as we are."

The dinner of the fifth night in the wilds was when Ree noticed Whippy cringing as he chewed. She watched him, confused at first, but when she handed out more little pieces of chocolate—she had maybe bought more than was strictly necessary as a coping mechanism—for dessert, Harper shot him a nasty look. Of course, that only served to confuse Ree further.

Things cleared up when, after he eagerly shoved it in his mouth, he flinched and whined, cradling his cheek. Harper hopped towards him with a tweet. "Tran-tran?" she asked, head cocked.

"Ser," he sulked. Lala let out a bark of laughter.

"...Whippy, does your tooth hurt?" Ree asked. He tried to turn from her, tried to hide it, but the pout and the water in his big eyes told her all she needed to know.

"Oh no, does he have a cavity?" Harry asked in concern. Harper nodded and Ree had to wonder how long her tranquill had known. He had been trying to hide it, she could see now, but for how long?

"C'mere, sit here." She dragged him into her lap in front of the fire, then tilted his snout back so she could look into his mouth. He didn't have a lot of teeth, not used to chewing as often as she or Jackster did, but the ones he did were mercifully large enough for her to inspect fairly easily. She had to use her phone as a secondary light source, but she soon found the problem tooth. One of his top canines had a clear hole in it. "Fuck, mister, how long have you been nursing that thing?"

"Servine," he replied moodily with a tail swish.

"Tran-tranquill!" Harper responded, flapping her wings in obvious agitation.

"That long, huh?" Of course they couldn't stay out in the middle of nowhere for that long. Nothing could ever be that easy. "We'll just head back to town in the morning. No more chocolate for you, mister. And, uh, drink lots of water. I don't want that getting any worse..."

"Scott?!" Lala demanded, attention caught. Ree stared at her, lost. "Whimsi-scott?" she elaborated with a wave of her stubby arm.

"Quill," Harper replied.

Lala growled at her and jabbed her paw in Jackster's direction. "Whimsi-si-whim! Whimsicott!" He laid his ears flat along his skull and gave a nervous, breathy whinny.

Ree must be getting better at the trainer thing; she caught on to that exchange quicker than normal. "Guys, we're just heading back to get this tooth taken care of. It'll take what, two, three days tops? You can resume your training later."

"Ser-servine!" Whippy exclaimed, shaking his head wildly.

"That tooth has to be looked at. Cleaned out and filled at least. I'm glad you guys are all gung-ho about this and you're not tiring out, but are you really going to give up sweets for a whole week until we head back for the tourney?" Ree asked and raised an eyebrow.

'Aghast' did not begin to cover Whippy's expression.

"Not to mention how much it'd hurt regularly," Harry added, albeit with much more sympathy. "Jackster, you'd like a training break, wouldn't you?"

"Blii-ii-ii!" he neighed in immediate response.

"Whimsi!" Lala spat at him and threw her bowl. It bounced off the ground in front of him and he sparked in reflexive fright. "Scott, whimsicott!"

"You can battle on the way to and from the city, and it should only take what, a couple hours? Depends if they take walk-ins and... I don't know. I could pick up a new bat while we're there, too..."

"I could pick up some new yarn. I'm almost out of maroon."

"Stop looking like that already. The tooth has to be taken care of, okay? That means you rid of it or the cavity in it." Ree petted her starter, mollifying him, but she could sense the sulk that was building in other parts of her team. She was sure that Lala would calm down once they got on the road tomorrow morning, since she could still go out and tease the natives, but she would just have to deal with it for that evening.

As they settled in for the night (Lala conspicuously staying away from their sleeping bag), Ree let Harper sleep with her wing out of its sling for the first time. Partially because she was making excellent progress, and partially to keep on her good side. She could tell that the bird was hoping to get some battling time in herself if they stayed out for much longer.

"Tran," Harper said primly, nestling in near Ree's neck. Whippy yawned and slithered into the sleeping bag beside Ree, and stretched out. His tail came down to her knees and his snout was just shy of poking Harper. Ree could tell he was growing, but she wasn't sure if it was because he was still young or if he was on the way to evolving again.

Harper healing and Whippy growing. Lala training Jackster. "You guys will be fine with a small break while we run back into town. You're all doing really good."

"...Tran," Harper agreed, albeit hesitantly.

"Shady, come away from the fire now," Harry called with a yawn. There was an answering squeak and then nestling sounds as they got ready for bed. Sleeping on the ground everything sucked, quite a bit, but the bedtime routine was so different than the one in pokémon centers.

Ree rolled onto her back. The night sky was barely visible through the tops of the trees. On cue, her phone buzzed with a new text. "Goodnight ree. wish me luck n the tournament tomorrow", from Scott.

"Good luck scottie. The stars are pretty tonight."

"not as pretty as you."

"you're a sap." She wasn't complaining about this bit of bedtime routine transferring over into the wilderness version, however.

Tori had done many things for her. Keeping her talking to Scott, if sometimes forcing her through residual guilt, was one of the things she was most grateful. It kept her from getting angry or sidetracked with grief. Although it didn't mean she didn't miss her.

-.-.-

Ree awoke to predawn light and screaming.

She blinked blearily and fought to sit up in her sleeping bag, feeling cold. And unusually roomy—Whippy was gone. Harper, woken up by the racket as well, flapped and tweeted frantically as she tried to orient herself. Jackster neighed shrilly and Harry had already thrown herself at him to keep him from running off, her red hair sticking out from all of the static he was giving off.

"What the hell is going on?" Ree asked thickly, looking around for any sign of her pokémon. The noise didn't seem far off and seemed vaguely familiar—wait, that was Whippy screeching. Harper nudged her boots over and Ree barely slipped them on before running. He was not shouting out of fright, and he sounded nothing like Mitzi, but her heart was in her throat and she was surely going to die if something had happened to him, too.

She found Whippy, stuck to the ground with web, not far from their camp. Lala and Hattie were beside him, looking up innocently at Ree's arrival. Everyone was in one piece. There was no smell of blood and there were no poachers. "Ser!" Whippy called pathetically, all watery eyes and whimpers.

She noticed he had blood dribbling down his chin.

"What—did you—what—" She was reduced to spluttering.

Lala proudly held up what appeared to be a servine's fang in her paw.

"What's going on—Hattie! What happened?!" Harry found them, tugging Jackster along like his scarf was a leash, Harper and Shady on his back. The sewaddle shuffled behind Lala, though she didn't look particularly guilty. "What were you doing here?"

"They were playing dentist," Ree grumbled, massaging her temples. Lala puffed out her chest.

It wasn't the best start to the day. In fact, it was just about the worst. It was ungodly early, she had to waste water cleaning out Whippy's mouth, and Lala was absolutely, one hundred percent convinced that she had done the right thing. Whippy didn't really seem to mind missing a tooth, though he might not have actually noticed it yet, and was more concerned with inspecting the tooth that had been pulled from his jaw.

Ree spent over an hour teaching her team how to brush their teeth. They had to use her toothbrush, but she could get another in town. Next week. With Whippy's cavity a non-issue, they really didn't have to return until the tournament, and her teeth would be fine for a couple of days. "Keep brushing," she commanded.

"Scott," Lala whined, drooping.

"You have teeth, so you're brushing them."

They had another nap before really waking up for the day, but it did little to improve Ree's mood. Or Jackster's. It was obvious he had been looking forward to returning to the city for a small break, and Lala had successfully taken that away from him. And Hattie. The appearance of the bug as an accomplice was a surprising one, but perhaps she should have seen it coming.

Harry spent most of the day scolding her. Ree knew Lala was the mastermind behind it, but it was poor consolation. Whippy still didn't seem bothered by it, however. "Dude, you only have three fangs now. Doesn't that bother you?" He responded by giving her a cheeky smile, showing off the gap. "Ugh. I hope you're all happy with yourselves."

"Si-si-si," Lala cackled.

"Of course you are."

At least they got more training done. Lala practiced her tailwind move, which made her little more than a blur as she raced past. More than once, she sped by with her breeze, messing up their clothes and hair, and in one instance, managed to get enough speed to completely knock Jackster over. Ree noticed that she still had some trouble turning at those speeds, but she figured out (after one too many crashes) that she could bounce off of trees like a ricochet if she could get the wind's direction changed fast enough.

Whippy had learned more moves in the past two weeks; he alternated practicing them, figuring out how to best use them himself. If Ree offered advice—or tried to—he would put his snout in the air and march off to practice alone. She usually rolled her eyes and let him be, but it was more than slightly aggravating. Neither he nor Lala wanted to listen to their trainer when it came to actually battling. Still. What kind of defective team was she raising?

Harper was much tamer. While it was clear that she was the weakest of the team, due to being out of the fighting since she had evolved, she practiced her stretching and roosted in her spare time. It was a healing move, sure, and like Lala, she had been using it to augment her natural healing processes. But unlike Lala, it was weaker; it seemed that grass had the advantage when it came to self-healing. She also got exceedingly good at detecting the others' attacks when they tried to sneak up on her or Ree, to the point that the trainer was convinced it had to be some sort of move.

When Lala wasn't whipping up a storm, she was using her powers for her usual mischief. Jackster still seemed to be her default target. Ree wasn't sure whether she was doing it to genuinely help him gain some strength and confidence, or if it was just because he was the easiest to pick on. He was the easiest to scare by far, yet he had the strength to defend himself if necessary so it meant that there were few actual injuries or accidents. The perfect victim.

"I'm not sure I give you enough credit sometimes," Ree remarked as she watched her whimsicott flip over Jackster's back, using him as a meat shield for the gust of wind that chased after her.

"Tran-quill," Harper said and rolled her eyes.

"Was that sarcasm?" the trainer asked, surprised. The bird resumed her prim preening without answering. "I didn't know you came in sarcasm mode. Do pokémon have the concept of sarcasm?"

"Whimsi," Lala replied.

"You don't count, I'm beginning to believe you may be a demon wearing a whimsicott as a disguise."

"Why don't you think Lala could simply be clever?" Harry asked, shooing the grass pokémon away from her blitzle. He butted his head up against hers with gratitude. Lala bounded over her sitting trainer in one go, using another gust to propel her forward.

"Harry, dear, are you watching this?" Ree asked flatly and pointed up to where Lala ricocheted off a tree. She waved her little arms around and the wind whipped up from the south, catching her fluff like a sail and sending her up into the trees. "I have a flying grass pokémon. She managed to figure out how to use stun spore as an explosive in our first gym battle, she can calculate opponents' strength better than you or I, and she's basically becoming Jackster's trainer."

Lala's cackle drifted to them on the breeze she left in her wake.

"Pokémon can't be trainers, Ree," Harry responded. "You caught her fully evolved, didn't you? Only the smart pokémon grow up to evolve."

"She maintains that she's never had a trainer before whenever I ask, but I dunno. She seems pretty smart for a wild pokémon."

"There are pokémon out there smarter than humans. Wasn't there a study done on the average IQ stats for adults versus unevolved psychic pokémon? I think it came out a few years ago..."

"Blitz!" Jackster whinnied and butted his head against her shoulder again.

"Oh, thank you. You're smart, too," Harry said with a pleased smile. She adjusted his scarf and scratched his neck along his mane.

Ree sulkily returned to helping Harper stretch. Or watching Harper preen, waiting for her to finish before she was allowed to handle her wing again. The tranquill was the most even-mannered of their team, but it didn't mean she was always agreeable. If only.

Their remaining reprieve passed by in what felt like a flash. Unlike the cavity scare, Ree found herself becoming nervous at the prospect of returning to the city. Scott was there. And it depressed her; the thought of seeing her boyfriend should not have filled her with such anxiety.

Her pokémon were less worried this time around. Lala seemed pleased with their progress and Whippy was excited for their tournament. Harper was flapping more than ever, sometimes into the air if Ree didn't watch her every waking moment. She was getting worse.

She had to wonder if they would be so excited and unruly if Mitzi had still been with them.

Ree called it an early night. Harry had no complaints about that. Lala had been tougher than ever on Jackster and recruited Hattie again, too. Whippy had tried to copy her, only to end up biting off more than he could chew when he pissed off a rather large swanna.

"You're not going to have any tail leaf left if you keep going at this rate," she scolded halfheartedly. The servine nodded while she ran her fingers over part of his shredded leaf. He had gotten his snivy one bitten and clawed and torn, and it had grown back a bit, but he had awhile to go before evolving again and this was a lot of damage for one incident. But at least he looked contrite. "It's okay, mister. It'll heal up if we don't mess with it, okay?"

"Ser!" he agreed happily.

"Now tilt back," she commanded and before he could get away, she grabbed his snout and forced it back. He squirmed in her grasp. They both know he would win in the strength contest, but he wasn't wiggling enough to hurt her. "Looks like the swelling's completely gone now, at least." She didn't know what Lala and Hattie had done, but it had made his gums swell. Unless they were supposed to do that normally. Ree didn't know; she had never had a tooth pulled.

"Quill?" Harper inquired politely, craning her neck out in order to inspect Whippy's mouth. "Tranquill, tran."

"Sher," he said around Ree's fingers. She released him and he ran his tongue all along the area.

"Stop poking at it. We don't want it getting infected. I guess we'll just get it checked out back in town... Lala, are you done brushing your teeth yet?"

"Whim!"

"No you're not!"

Harry giggled from across the fire. "You're already a very good mother."

"Not really. My children shouldn't be able to pull teeth behind my back. Or learn to fly, or become bullies." Ree set her chin on her first and looked over the two in her lap. The comparison was apt enough. She just didn't like it. It was easy to forget she was pregnant lately, as distracted as she was with other things, but 'mother' was the last word she wanted applied to her life. Even if it was for her own pokémon team.

"I'm almost done with this hat, and then I think I'll start something for your team. I'll have enough time to catch up on other orders in the town," Harry said, wisely changing the subject. Her needles clacked as she worked. "Ree, you already have a scarf, but I haven't made one for Whippy yet. Is that alright?"

"You're the one making it, don't ask me."

"Servine!"

"...Um, that sounded like a yes to me," the redhead said with another faint chuckle. "With the weather getting colder, you may want to make sure he does bundle up sometimes. Grass pokémon don't like the cold much, and he's a reptile."

"Yeah, I know. It just hasn't been that bad yet..." She tried to imagine him dealing with snow. All she could think of were servinecicles.

"I still have a bit of dark green left, or it could have several colors," Harry said with some of that excitement that she only really got when talking about knitting. Ree couldn't help but smile fondly. Jackster nudged her knitting bag over to her and Shady hopped over for light, illuminating the balls of yarn she still had. "Whippy, what colors would you like?"

He looked up to Ree, as if asking permission. "You can pick them. Two."

"Um, more isn't a problem—"

"I want to get extra sleep tonight before we head back. Keep it short and simple. He may be colorblind anyway, who knows?"

"Vine!" he whined, shooting her a betrayed look. Lala wandered back into camp, toothbrush still stuck—wrong end out—in her mouth. She plopped down next to Harper, on Ree's knee, and tried to brush her beak. Ree quickly separated them before a squabble broke out.

"A-Are you sure you want these colors?"

"Ser."

Taking the toothbrush from Lala, lest it be used as a weapon, she shoved it in her backpack and rolled out their sleeping bag. While Ree was busy, Harper flapped into the air with a cheery chirp. She sounded like a schoolgirl sneaking out of class for the first time. It had been cute the first time Ree had heard it, but less so after a dozen times. The brunette caught her at thigh-height and held her against her hip as she kicked her sleeping bag the rest of the way open.

"Tranquill," Harper huffed.

"Tomorrow we can practice some flight," Ree soothed. She sat down and set her bird down. Lala began making a nest of leaves and grasses next to the bag. Whippy still sat beside Harry, watching as she finished the hat, tucking in the ends and then wearing it to show it off for him.

"I'll start your scarf in the morning," Harry told him and he nodded seriously.

The girls bedded down, pokémon out with them, and in the distance, a pair of pidove called. Harper whistled back and they fell silent. The moon was bright, nearly full, and it wasn't too cold of a night. All in all, a peaceful slumber.

A peaceful slumber until eleven forty-seven, at which point Ree awoke to something with teeth latched onto her cheek.

-.-.-

Next Chapter: Another rude awakening for our girls. Ree sees opportunity in this attack, however, especially in preparation for Driftveil's battling tournament. Harry, on the other hand, is not looking forward to it. For all of Lala's plotting, Jackster is still a blitzle, Hattie is still a sewaddle, and Harry is far from confident about their competitive battling skills. (Jackster even less so.) What's a girl to do?