"I'm getting real tired of the 'your princess is in another castle' shit," Scott groused. Gripping the controller tightly, he tilted back his head to look at Ree. He looked deceptively calm. "Make it stop."
"Stop," she replied. The game didn't stop.
"What is with the damsels in distress everywhere in games? And what is with the fact that they move everywhere?! I hadn't thought that evil overlords had that many dungeons to shove them in!" He broke off with a sigh that transformed into a whine. Scott nuzzled into her thigh and she brushed his bangs out of his eyes, trying to resist laughing at him.
"Someone has to be the victim of the evil dude. Otherwise he's not evil."
"At least Link gets to stab him with a sword," Scott grumbled. "Mario just jumps on him or swings him by the tail."
"I thought Zelda usually helps with her light arrows."
"And you can use a fishing rod or empty bottle, I guess," he said.
"So Mario still gets the short end of the stick," Ree agreed. She vastly preferred stabbing and shooting to jumping and swinging, anyway.
"I'd say Peach does. At least Zelda gets to shoot arrows into Ganon's ass half the time. Peach just gets her cakes ruined and otherwise gets perved on by a giant dragon."
"Don't worry, you're more of a Zelda than a Peach, anyway," she said with a tug on his hair. Scott huffed at her. "I'll come swinging my sword any time you need rescuing, princess."
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Ree Majors' Wonderful Journey Of Sweets and Scares
The day Ree finally lost her place in the tournament, she woke with a foul mood. She was pretty sure she had a weird dream, but it wasn't like the woobat one. She couldn't recall much more than Scott making an appearance and someone evolving. Jackster? That sounded right.
She considered it a good omen for the end of the month.
What wasn't right was that day's battle. Ree faced down an emolga, an emboar, and a vanillish; the team seemed perfectly built to completely wreck her own team. It was dumb luck that let her see all three rounds: her opponent switched out each time, anticipating disadvantages. What a joke that was. To make it an absolutely perfect loss, the referee's phone went off at the end. His ringtone had been the Final Fantasy victory tune.
Whippy led her out of the stadium by the hand, and then slithered up onto her shoulders as they exited. He was getting heavier, larger, and it was hardly no time at all before Ree was staggering underneath his weight.
"At least you made it far," Harry said, falsely bright. "Y-You even got money from the last round..."
"But I could have gotten more! And I was so close to getting a free shot at Clay!" Ree cried as she fought to get Whippy off of her. He refused to leave, and she ended up walking the rest of the way to the center with him in her arms. She handed over the rest of her team and sat on the couch. He stayed happily in her lap. "Why are you so clingy today?"
"Servine," he replied.
"I couldn't have used you in that battle. Lala's faster, and it ended up being painful for everyone, anyway. We lost, mister, and let's leave it at that."
"Ser," Whippy whined, butting his head up under her chin. She tried not to, but ended up cracking a smile.
"Yeah, we'll do better next time. And I guess going through the gym normally will be some good practice... Too bad Uni won't be of much use." Then again, the gym was closed until after Halloween. They had a few days to bum around, get costumes together, (formulate an awesome evolution plan), and there were plenty of trainers still in Driftveil to battle. Birds and water pokémon were common enough.
Ree's phone went off with a text tone. Wondering if it was Scott—she hadn't heard from him in a couple days—she flipped it open, and was instead surprised to find the return address as Kev's. "can you plz not worry harry into an aneurysm by acting like a serial killer"
"why didn't you spell please but could spell aneurysm right?" Ree texted back sourly. She looked up at Harry, who was fretting with a scarf she'd been working on. She caught Ree's eye and smiled, but there was still an undercurrent of tension.
"she says shes worried about you. have you been scaring more baby trainerlings?"
Okay, maybe she had been a little rough with some of her opponents. And maybe she had been dismissive of some of Harry's concerns. And maybe she had cackled once when thinking about her master plan of getting Jackster to evolve. But why had Harry been worrying so much?
Harry sighed and set down the scarf. The nurse at the desk called Ree for her pokémon, but the redhead stood up quickly. "I-I'll get them! You can stay there." And she was gone before Ree could protest.
There were two rational reasons for Harry fretting over her, Ree knew. She was either worried about Ree losing her temper, or she was worried about the pregnancy. She pursed her lips. Neither was an appealing option. She would not lose her temper and become some sort of rage beast... That reminded her far too much of Tori. She wasn't that bad, was she?
"Are you free tonight? We should video chat so you can soothe her & we can catch up." Ree texted Kev.
By the time he replied, Harry had come back, beaming, with Ree's pokeballs. "i get off at 8"
They had time to burn, then. Ree stood up, dumping Whippy off her lap, and stretched. "Let's look for Halloween costumes today. I had a weird dream that kinda inspired me." Getting out and about would keep Harry's mind occupied, and Ree was into Halloween. And then they'd talk to Kev, and he'd go all big-brother voice-of-reason on them, and everything would be calm and peaceful until Halloween. Of course, then all hell would break loose, but at least that would be planned in advance.
Harry talked her into another trip to the yarn store. With all of her non-battling time, she'd worked up quite the pile of knitted items. She swore up and down that she could sell them easily, but Ree was starting to think it was her equivalent of a nervous tic. Next to that shop, however, a building had been rented out for costumes and accessories, so Ree begged off to go peruse that.
It was better than she had even hoped. Of course, she was more of a build-it costumer rather than a buyer, but nothing said inspiration like getting mad at all of the 'sexy' costumes for girls. Sexy liepard, sexy vespiquen, sexy Eskimo, sexy pirate, sexy flapper, even things like sexy hippies and sexy zombies. She nearly peed herself laughing when she saw a sexy heatmor costume. If Harry hadn't shown up right then, Ree probably would have bought it for herself just for the sheer hilarity factor.
"I hadn't thought you were so into Halloween," Harry said as she led the still-laughing brunette away from that display.
"Maya and I used to get all dressed up for it... It was just a thing we did. I've always liked dressing up, though, but ahaha... Some of these ideas are just so fuckin' terrible, I can't even begin to take them seriously. Sure I can't be a sexy heatmor?"
"D-Didn't you say something about getting a good idea from your dream?"
"Oh! That's right—hold on, I just want to check to see if they have something in stock."
Ree ducked out from under her arm and rushed to the back. All sorts of lights were strung up. Rope lights, packages of glowsticks, fake torches, fake cauldrons, a wide array of flashlights, and more. It took a little digging, but Ree eventually came up with her prize: a lantern with real glass and metal. There were slits in the glass near the top and no room for oil on the bottom, but it looked real enough.
"That's... nice?" Harry guessed, unsure of why Ree looked so pleased with herself.
"So... Harry. Friend. Darling. What do you say to a trade?"
"This is a lantern made especially for small fire pokémon, but especially especially for litwick. If you let me borrow Shady for this, for my costume, I'll let you use Lala."
"Why would I want... I mean, what? Wh-Why do you need Shady?" Harry asked in bewilderment.
"My costume needs a lantern."
"Wh-Why would I want Lala?"
"Because I bet I can put together a Bo Peep costume for you, and I bet Lala would make a great mareep."
Harry's eyes practically sparkled.
With that, it was sealed. Ree had her lantern, and Harry had a costume idea for herself. Ree refused to let Harry even look at the pre-made costumes, especially since the overall quality was pretty shitty anyway, but instead grabbed a couple of articles to build one instead. The cashier asked if Ree wanted to rent a litwick for her lantern on Halloween, but Ree happily said no. She had never gotten to use an actual one before, as much as she would have wanted. Rental pokémon were terribly expensive around Halloween.
They stopped at a thrift shop to go scrounging for other pieces of costumes. Ree felt confident in her ability to do this, since both of their costumes were pretty normal all things considered, although Harry's crook was going to be difficult. But with nothing else to do until the end of the month, she figured she had time to make one. She picked out the perfect brown jacket for herself, and on a whim, an old trainer belt, too. That wouldn't be for her costume, but what Harry didn't know wouldn't hurt her.
They ate an early dinner, and before their video call with Kev, Ree managed to 'accidentally' make one of the pokémon center's brooms go missing. (Also without Harry's knowledge.) She broke off the end, coaxed Whippy into helping her smooth it down, and now all she'd need was some sort of curly part for the top...
Eight rolled around and while Harry was confused, Ree pushed her down into the tech room. It was a mix of a computer lab and video phones for trainers to use, and only had one other person in it, a boy surfing the web. He blushed and quickly changed tabs as the girls walked in. "Wh-Why are we down here? What's the rush, Ree?"
Ree logged into her trainer account and gleefully clicked on Kev's screen name. Harry scooted in close, making a surprised sound. "It's been awhile since I've seen—"
Her excuse got cut off as he picked up. "Hello there, girls."
"And there's my favorite eye candy!" Ree crowed in delight. Kev pinched the bridge of his nose. "...Woah, nice glasses."
"They're reading glasses, and they're new, okay," he ground out.
"No, seriously. They look good on you." Ree set her chin in her hands and sighed.
"Um, hi, Kev," Harry broke in, before they could get to bickering. Or one-sided flirting. It was difficult to tell sometimes. "Gosh, we haven't seen each other in awhile."
"Not since I accidentally drunk dialed you," he admitted, smiling guiltily.
"...You drunk dialed Harry? You got drunk?" Ree asked. She wasn't sure which part to be more appalled at.
"It was when I was home. I was online, and he managed to call me from his cell phone," Harry supplied.
Ree wasn't sure how to feel about them talking without her. Yes, she knew that they were friends outside of her influence, but it felt weird to have that brought up in front of her. She felt... a little left out, if she was being honest. She made a vague mental note to keep in better contact with him from then on.
"Let's talk about something else," Kev said, pushing his glasses up a bit. He was abruptly shoved back in his chair as his spoink hopped up onto his desk, bouncing on his keyboard. "Oh, uh—Visoka wants to say hi."
Visoka snorted into the microphone, and then licked the camera.
"I think he sort of misses battling with your teams. He's not sure how to handle working in the bug gym, being a psychic type and all." At his trainer's word, the purple swine snorted again, angrily. Kev chuckled and carefully took him off the computer desk. "Speaking of battling, how have you two been doing?"
Smooth as ever. Ree just barely managed not to roll her eyes. "Well, you know, got kicked out of a tournament. Bought a cool lantern today though."
"Harry, why is preggers purchasing things that are made to be set on fire?"
"Preggers?!" Ree screeched, making the other boy in the room jump horribly.
Kev ducked down and held up Visoka like a shield. "That one was my fault, I apologize. But Burgh is the one who keeps referring to you that way. Elesa stopped by for a visit this past weekend and they both asked me how you were doing. I think he has half the gym trainers convinced his leavanny is pregnant."
Ree wasn't sure which was worse, that Burgh still remembered her or that Elesa still remembered her. As she pondered that, Harry gently steered the conversation back into safer waters. "How has your job been going, Kev? Is Burgh planning anything for Halloween?"
"Every other year, we put on a haunted house for the public. But this year, it's Elesa's turn—she's putting on some sort of spooky masquerade ball. It's less work for me, and it means I get the night off."
"You should come up and join us for our party! Driftveil is having a large one for trainers!" Harry burst out.
"I only get Halloween off. It wouldn't be worth the travel time." Harry drooped, so Kev added with a sad smile, "Sorry. Maybe next year you guys can come to this one and see me dressed up. There was some talk of sexy vampires or something... I don't get why the girls were in a tizzy over it."
Picturing Kev as a sexy vampire was nice—okay, maybe she was going a little stir-crazy with all of the new hormones and no action—but the 'next year' bit was... unsettling. She hardly had planned out what to do after getting rid of her baby problem, much less continuing after that. Training was fun, sure, but it was also hell. Would she want to continue...?
Kev's only an hour away from home, she reminded herself, pushing other thoughts away. I can visit him anyway.
"We'll make sure to send you pictures of our costumes. Ree is going to be helping me make mine," Harry said proudly.
"Oh! And Kev, guess who I'm gonna be!"
"Hint: I use a lantern."
"Um," he repeated. "...Hal Jordan?"
"No—video game character."
"You're not going to go as the Batter?" Kev asked.
"No! Daniel, from Amnesia!" Ree exclaimed, exasperated. And he called himself a gamer, for shame. There was a beat of confusion, but then his eyes widened and he broke into a wide, amused smile that distracted Ree a little more than it probably should have. Definitely going stir-crazy.
"You'll have to send me pictures of that. I've never really gotten to do specific characters as costumes before, but Burgh is letting us borrow clothing from his gym collection, so I may rehash Link."
"Scottie and I did Link and Zelda last year. I think there are still some pictures of us on his phone." Not on hers, since she had managed to break her previous phone last May in what she swore was a freak amateur bungee jumping accident. "His ass looked great in that dress, too," she added dreamily.
Harry coughed awkwardly. Kev choked back a laugh. "Right. Harry, what—or who—exactly are you going to be going as?"
"Oh, um, Bo Peep. Lala will be dressed as a mareep, and I think I can find something for Jackster and Shady to wear easily. Ree seems confident we can, anyway..."
They lapsed into less and less relevant chatter. Talking to Kev again was nice, and oddly calming. He just seemed so normal and level after what happened in and after Nimbasa. Ree desperately wanted to get his opinion on her plan to make Jackster evolve, especially since he had seen firsthand what the blitzle was like, but she couldn't think of a way to politely get rid of Harry.
It seemed as if the gods took pity on her, however. While Ree was gleefully showing off Unika and the larger Harper, the tynamo spilled her soda all over Ree's pants. After Ree was done swearing (and Kev was done trying to smother his laughs), Harry pointed out that they had to do laundry and they may as well do it that night since they could sleep in the next morning and it would've give the stain time to set. "Why don't you go change and put the first load in, and I'll watch it for the second load?"
Ree could have kissed her.
She had never been so happy to do laundry; by giving Harry and Kev time to talk now, she could corner him later. And best of all, it had been Harry's idea so she wouldn't look like she was planning or plotting or anything! She practically had a skip in her step. They normally had about two loads of laundry to do if they pooled their clothes, which they normally did, so they could separate the darks and the lights. Ree didn't quite get the process but Harry insisted upon it.
She spent the half hour of washing painting her nails and chatting with her pokémon. One-way chatting, but that sort of unexpected win in the stealth department had her hyper. Harry texted her to trade off, and Ree sprinted for the tech room.
"Wh-Why aren't you wearing pants?" Harry asked, eyes wide.
"They're in the wash. My turn!" She shooed off the redhead and plopped down in her seat, all smiles for Kev. He arched an eyebrow.
Ree waved off his concerns and got down to business. "No one's awake anyway. Okay, so, assuming you had a lovely chat with Harry, I have a plan to tell you about."
"Do you have a camera?"
"Huh." It turned out that cameras were actually pretty low on a trainer's list of things to have. Phone cameras usually did in a pinch, unless you were trying to take a picture of a full body costume, with squirming pokémon, from a small bathroom mirror. Even taking each other's photos was difficult. And Ree wanted to show off everything, dammit. She worked hard on that crook. Even if it had come out slightly lopsided. Harry was pleased with it, either way.
And it could be used as an emergency weapon.
You know, just in case.
"Well, whatever. Okay, you ready? Lala, stop it," Ree scolded. Her whimsicott froze, teeth in the yellowed ruff around her neck. They had found pokémon-friendly dye, but apparently it had some sort of scent or taste that was driving the grass pokémon nuts. Lala wouldn't stop chewing on herself. At least it got her attention off of the tail they had all but sewn onto her backside.
"Please, Hattie, just one picture," Harry all but begged. Her sewaddle grumbled. Hattie was another displeased with her costume—pretty much a sleeve with fake wool attached to it and a collar with a bell—but she refused to even attend the party.
"Okay, before we head out, we have to have the glowstick talk." Ree couldn't fight with them for pictures any longer. They could only hope to mooch photos off of people with actual cameras at the party. From past experience, she didn't think it'd be particularly hard.
"Glowstick talk?" Harry asked over her shoulder.
Ree dug around in one of her bags and pulled out several packages of purple glowsticks. She started ripping them open with her teeth, making quite the pile between her legs. "Help me make necklaces out of these. Guys, everyone is going to have a glowstick with them at all times, okay? I chose purple because red and orange will be everywhere, so hopefully we'll stick out a bit." She cracked one and held it up for them all to see the color. "I don't care if it doesn't match the costume, no one take this off. There'll be a lot of people there, and chances are we'll get separated at least once."
Harry nodded and started tying them to the strings they came with. They had to use two for Jackster's so it'd fit around his neck, but he seemed pleased with wearing one. Lala was less so. She already had a collar, too, and they eventually just had to tie it around her mareep tail. At least she'd ding, too. That should make her easy to find.
"These should last for most of the night, but I do have extras in my pocket. I also have my phone. Shady, I'm tying yours to the lantern, okay?"
"Lit," the little ghost replied with a sort of dazed agreement.
"Don't be afraid to do your own thing, but let someone know where you're going. Uni, stick close to Harper, okay? Harry, you stick close to Jackster and Lala. You sure Hattie will be staying inside?"
"She might come out later... I don't know. She doesn't like crowds very much and she's been a little, um, cranky..."
"One less to worry about," Ree replied with a shrug. "Everyone have glowsticks?"
"Ser!" Whippy squealed, playing with his between his claws. He was dressed as the cartoon villain he was named after, complete with a little fake mustache. They had nearly had to hot glue it onto him to get it to stick to his scales, but he seemed pleased with the end result. And he was happy to be in a top hat again.
Harry giggled. Ree looked at her, and she explained, "You're acting so... responsible, Ree. It's nice."
"Halloween is serious business," she said solemnly and stood up. The humans would be the only ones with bags, so they could control how many goodies they brought home (Ree simply hoped Whippy didn't overdose while they were there), and once they were sure everyone was properly glowing purple, they set out. Ree was rather pleased with her own costume. It had the added bonus of having pockets in the jacket, which was rare. A couple other groups of trainers were headed out from the center at the same time, so they walked together, showing off their pokémon and costume ideas.
They arrived at the warehouse hosting the party. Muffled music and lights came from within, and Ree entered feeling a little more jealous than before. Someone had a heatmor and had dressed it as Godzilla. Life wasn't fair. Still, Whippy had turned out to be another favorite of the group, until they figured out that Jackster and Lala were cosplaying as well—Jackster was a ponyta, and Lala was a mareep. They both worked it surprisingly well.
Two and a half seconds inside, and Whippy was already crawling all over a nearby table with candy on it.
"He's going to get another cavity," Ree sighed. "Bloodwing, go. Fetch." Harper flapped off her shoulder and plucked up the dastardly servine, depositing him into Ree's arms.
"Jackster, do you want to go see about bobbing for candied apples?" Harry asked brightly. The blitzle was practically being carried with how close he was to her, but nodded all the same. Ree bit her lip to stop herself from smiling. The more nervous he was now, the better for later.
She allowed Whippy to go with them to get something in his stomach that hypothetically wouldn't rot his teeth too badly, and wandered over to the costume registration. She entered them all without qualm. Maybe they could win something nice.
It wasn't long before Harper got into a squabble with a swoobat with a similar mask. Ree was confused until she saw that its trainer was in full Mordecai costume, and they spent a pleasant while geeking out together. A couple others recognized Ree's costume, especially when she brandished her lantern, and Shady seemed pleased with the attention, too. She recognized other ideas, including several trainers dressed as gym leaders (she nearly had a heart attack when she thought she saw Elesa in the crowd), and a couple as TV personalities. There were naturally dozens upon dozens of trainers dressed as various pokémon, 'sexy' versions and more realistic versions, and plenty of couple costumes.
Ree smiled at a pair of girls dressed as a sawk and a throh, but her heart hurt a little. She missed Scott, and she missed her sister. Between the two of them, she was usually half of a pair rather than a loner.
Harper let out a shrill, almost metallic whistle that made Ree jump out of her skin. "I really, really regret trying to teach you that," she said, pressing a hand to her chest to make sure her heart was still beating. She had shown Harper the monster chase music from Amnesia and tried to get her to copy it; it had ultimately failed, but Harper was still fond of making sudden loud whistles that Ree had come to associate with the theme anyway.
"Tranquill-quill?" Harper asked.
"Ty?" Unika squeaked, as if surprised.
"I don't know what you're saying." The music wasn't deafening, but it and the crowd noises were enough to lose most emphasis and inflections they might have used. As if Ree could understand them to begin with.
Harper flapped from her shoulder, Unika bobbing up beside her. "Tranquill?" Harper repeated calmly, and then jutted her masked beak to their left. One of the walls was covered in several murals of balloons, most of them some sort of pokémon (or maybe ghost?), and pokémon seemed to be taking turns popping them. Ree was positive she saw a certain servine's vine whip near one end.
"Okay, you two can go. Just stick together."
That meant Ree was alone with Shady, though the little litwick seemed to be asleep. It was the perfect time to begin her plan. They had been there long enough for Jackster and Harry to have relaxed, but no doubt the constant mass of people and pokémon would be beginning to wear, too. Just as Ree was about to slink off to mimic her servine's villainous namesake, however, her phone went off.
It was a picture message, from Scott. Her heart did another little flop in her chest as she opened it. Wherever he was, it was better lit than the warehouse, in a Red Baron costume that she had seen him in before. And, as before, he had aviator sunglasses instead of goggles perched on his hat. Vince was just barely visible in the picture, butting his head up against Scott's chest, but Scott was looking up at the camera with a slightly crooked smile.
Below, it read, "do i get a pic in return?"
She couldn't help but read it in slightly accusatory tones. She had meant to send him one, of course she had, but it was too hard to take one with so many squirming pokémon. "Later."
"Vine?" Whippy just about sent her jumping out of her skin again when he tugged on her hand.
"Fuck, Whippy, I thought you were... Oh my god you're covered in—what are you covered in?" She tugged him towards the wall, out of the way of the crowd, and squatted down beside him. It almost looked like glitter, only grainier. She got her answer when he licked off part of his cheek, and then leaned up against her as if offering her some, too. "Is that fun dip you're covered in?"
"Servine!" And that answered her question.
"You're taking a bath as soon as we get in. Ugh. But Whippy, you know that plan of mine?" He nodded, attentive but still licking his claws. "We're gonna be starting it soon. If we wait too much longer, then they'll just get tired, and we want at least Jackster alert for this. Go send Harper and Uni back my way, and then go brief Lala. We'll be headed out soon."
He saluted, and then slithered off into the mass of costumes. Ree allowed herself a chuckle. If he took a bath, he'd likely just turn it all into koolaid or something. Maybe they could dye Lala another color with it... In no time at all, Harper and Unika had returned to her. Her tynamo had chocolate smeared all around her mouth and Harper had several pieces of candy in her claws.
"Sorry to cut that short guys, I'll buy you cheap after-Halloween candy tomorrow. But we're gonna be heading out. You remember what to do, right?" Unika had been working on her aerial control, and could easily go as high as Ree's shoulder if she was trying. Harper was helping with that, but they had unexpectedly bonded over it. Initially Ree hadn't been sure about sending Unika into unknown territory, but ultimately, she felt better if they were together. Hopefully they could handle it.
"Tranquill," Harper said and gave Ree's cheek a quick nuzzle. She then left her precious pieces of candy with her, picked Uni up with one claw, and soared out of an open window.
"Time to scare us up a scaredy-skitty," Ree told a sleeping Shady with no small amount of evil delight.
Next Chapter: Jackster will evolve, come hell or high water. Ree sets her plan into motion, intending on scaring the blitzle into action, but what happens when the scares and threats are actually real?