"This is exciting," Maya chattered on, bouncing about like a deerling. "We haven't been traveling together like this in years!"

"Well, it's not quite like how it was. It's not like I'm a trainer," Ree replied mildly, ducking under a particularly low branch. The girls were trekking towards Castelia City, in a somewhat impromptu trip. Ree wanted to go shopping, and so did Maya, but it turned into a sort of extended camping trip instead.

Mordecai walked on ahead of them, acting as a pack pokémon, and Lilith trotted alongside Ree, excited to chat with her old trainer again. That was part of what Ree missed about her; the leavanny was always so fun to hang out with, and even after so many years, she was still excited to be with her. Maya alternated between walking with her sawsbuck and back with them, talking all the while. It was a pleasant sort of white noise.

"Do you normally travel like this?" Ree asked about sunset, when they were making an early camp. Bo was curled around their tent, supposedly helping but mostly just watching his trainer set it up.

"No, usually it's a bit... different."

"How?"

"For starters, I normally travel with my pokémon out in different intervals. Mordecai doesn't always carry stuff for me, usually only if I have a lot, but it's pretty easy to live off of the land with a team like this. We've gotten used to it. Bo usually acts nocturnal during the warmer months so he sleeps most of the day, and Edgar usually helps more with setting up the camp," Maya said pointedly. Her reuniclus giggled and floated on by without shame.

"Is it faster or slower traveling with so many of them out?"

"Both. It depends. Pokémon kind of act like little kids sometimes, you know?"

"Yeah, I can see that." Lilith flitted over and brought Ree part of a carrot she'd taken out of what was supposed to be their supper. Ree laughed and ate it, and then made sure to help chop up the vegetables so nothing else would get taken.

All went well that night, until the girls woke up to an awful yowling. By the time they unzipped the tent and made it outside, Bo was curled around the corpse of a tall, black pokémon. He still had dark blood dripping from his snout. Maya mutely went over and hugged him, wiping down his scales with her nightshirt. Ree stared at the dead pokémon. Its dulled blue eyes were turned upward towards the stars.

Neither one mentioned what had happened for the rest of the trip. Pokémon training wasn't all giggles and sunshine.

-.-.-

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Ree Majors' Wonderful Journey Of More Sweets and Scares

-.-.-

This was already not going according to plan, but like hell Ree was going to stop. Harper and Uni were just... lost. Just a little lost, they would meet up with them later. Ree just had to escort Harry around the building a bit longer, build up the fear and unease, and hope to discreetly run into either of them in a little bit. No big deal.

The building was large. Most of it was a three-story-high warehouse, full of old shipping containers (some of them delightfully and spookily rusted) and boxes, with three floors wrapping around two sides of it. There was plenty of room in there to wander. Some of the doors were broken off their hinges and several windows were cracked or outright broken. The floor was littered with glass, dust, dead leaves, and the occasional splatter of what could have been paint or blood. It gave Ree fun flashbacks to her first playthrough of Fallout 3.

Harry, naturally, didn't find it nearly so nostalgic.

"Ree, wh-what are we—you—doing here again?" she whispered as she caught up to Ree. She wrapped her arms around one of Ree's and pressed up against her side. She was trembling; Ree hoped it wasn't because she was cold.

"There were these girls who were talking about a real haunted place. Come on, doesn't that sound cool?"

"No!" Harry cried. Jackster whinnied in response and she released her grasp on Ree to wrap herself around him instead. Ree tried very hard to fight a grin. Sure, they may suffer a bit in the short term, but in the long term, it would only be beneficial.

"Well, we'll just do a quick run through, okay? Whippy really wanted to see the place." It was difficult to fake an apologetic tone. Whippy slithered down Ree's back and landed lightly beside Jackster, actually making him jump. Ree shook off the fun dip and swung the Shady-lantern around to give them a little bit of light.

"Let's just... hurry up. Please?" Harry asked pathetically. "I-I hadn't thought this place would be so... frightening. Jackster doesn't need another jump, okay?"

"It'll give him a bit of backbone. Just a quick run to the top, check out a couple rooms, and who knows? Maybe we'll find some bottle caps."

"Huh?"

"Nevermind. This door looks unlocked, let's check it out."

Ree's sense of locked doors was way off; the door was sturdily locked. And so was the next, and the one after that. The next door they came to was partially broken in, however, so she managed to break it down with a well-placed kick. Of course, there wasn't much inside; only an old office desk, a few scattered papers, and a bent metal folding chair met them. Ree checked the desk, making a grand show of it, but Harry stayed resolutely by the door with Jackster.

Hidden from view, Ree allowed herself a sigh. Shady pressed her little paws up against the glass, cooing up at her. "Yeah, I know. I'm sure the girls will be back soon and we can get out of here," she whispered to the litwick. Shady only yawned in response. Her violet flame wasn't giving off as much light as Ree had initially hoped, but she was more than good enough for scrounging around a—surprise—totally empty desk.

A screech rang out from down the hall. Harry screamed and Ree jerked, banging her head up against the bottom of the desk, and then there was a clatter of hooves and crying as Jackster tried to bolt. Rubbing her head, Ree crawled back out with the Shady-lantern hooked onto her arm. "Wh-What was that?!" Harry said in a high whine-like whisper. Sort of a whispered scream, really. Ree wasn't sure she could reproduce the sound if she'd tried. Whippy was staring at her in awe for it, too.

It wasn't any of the sounds she had ever heard Harper make, but maybe Uni had made it? She was still getting familiarized with the tynamo's various noises... "Nothing to do but find out what it was before it gets the jump on us," Ree said brightly. Harry gave her a look that could make a krookodile cry. "Oh, come on. We don't want to be leaving and then have something sneak up on us, do we?"

"We can leave?"

"...Soon, yeah. I mean, the place is pretty boring, after all," Ree lied, nervous about her missing pokémon. It wasn't supposed to be boring! Then again, she was all in favor of ending this as soon as humanly possible; the guilt in her stomach was starting to make her want to puke.

Or maybe that was the candy she had eaten at the party.

Whichever.

"But why are you so skittish? We have light sources, we have each other, we have pokémon! We have big, strong Jackster here to protect us!" May as well put the pressure on. The blitzle laid his ears flat along his skull, snorting in disagreement.

"A-And you have Whippy here, too," Harry said.

The servine and his trainer exchanged a glance. That wouldn't do. "You know, he's starting to look really tired..." Whippy faked a yawn, almost knocking his own hat off in the process, and Shady yawned again too. That made him actually yawn, and then Ree had to fight one. She returned him with a huff. "Okay, yeah, see? Tuckered out. We're fine here, I'm just going to give him a bit of a break..."

"Ree..." Harry started, suspiciously.

The brunette turned from her and peered out the doorway, down the direction the screech had come from. Nothing but a dusty, dark, empty hallway.

"Ree, um, you don't seem too... worried about your pokémon."

"Worried? Me? I just—of course I am! I just returned Whippy because he was feeling tired!"

Harry, wrapped around Jackster, fixed the taller with a flat almost-glare. "I haven't seen Harper or Uni out since we left the party, and when Lala ran off earlier, you didn't seem very worried..."

"I told you, didn't I? Harper got into a scrap with that swoobat, and Uni is still young, she was tired, too. And Lala—well, she normally runs off and stuff. She'll probably just scare us once and then be back." Lala was, admittedly, supposed to do that, but only as a back-up plan to Harper and Uni. And it was strange that she hadn't brought something back yet, too...

A screech at the corner they were approaching, and then there was a jumble of movement all at once. A pair of tiny joltik appeared, squeaking and sparking, and Jackster flashed in panicked response, rearing up on his hind legs. A galvantula appeared behind them not a moment later, and at that point the girls were screaming and backing away from all the arachnids. The pokémon and trainers danced around each other, screeching and shrieking, but soon the galvantula realized that nothing was really happening. It scooped up the two tiny joltik with its forelegs and climbed up one of the far walls, narrowing its many eyes at the girls and Jackster.

And right when Ree was beginning to calm down again, a woobat winged around the corner. The galvantula screeched—exactly like that sound before—and let loose a bolt of electricity at it. Jackster whinnied again and zapped wildly, knocking Harry back into Ree.

The woobat, having dodged the arachnid's attack, was not prepared for Jackster. It fell out of the air, looking singed, but flapped back up with confused squeaking. The galvantula lashed out at it again, and it returned its attention to that. Jackster grabbed Harry's sleeve with his teeth and dragged her back out of the way.

Ree scrambled after them with Shady swinging from her hands. "Back down the other way!" Harry was more or less being dragged by her starter, but it wasn't like he could move her very fast. At least they were putting distance between them.

And Jackster had tried to protect Harry. It was a good sign. It just wasn't good enough. After they ran down the hallway and turned the far corner, chests all heaving, Ree wondered where her pokémon had gone. They had to have heard that. Had Lala tried to pick on any of those pokémon? Either of them could have potentially given her some trouble... Or had Harper? A fully grown galvantula wouldn't have been easy for her...

"Okay, now I'm worried about Lala," Ree admitted as she dusted herself off.

"N-Now?" Harry repeated in a high voice.

"Usually she'd be in the middle of something like that, but she wasn't. Let's do a quick walk around and see if we can't find her, and then we'll get going, okay?" Maybe it was a tiny white lie. But she had to keep Harry and Jackster moving, make them not outright panic. She needed a short, controlled burst of panic to spur evolution, not a mad dash for the nearest exit.

But where were her pokémon? She couldn't very well send Whippy after any of them, not with the show he put on about being tired. Would Lala seek out the others on her own? Unlikely, given how she and Harper got along lately.

They trekked along, occasionally looking in other rooms, but didn't find very much. A wild purrloin and then a glimpse of another woobat outside a window, but they didn't approach any of them. Jackster did snort at the purrloin, however. Ree took it as a good sign. Maybe he'd just get so fed up with being scared that he'd evolve out of spite. Or something. She'd take just about anything at this point. Even she was beginning to get a little creeped out, if only because three-quarters of her team was missing in action.

"Okay, here, this one looks unlocked." Maybe Harper was just hiding somewhere with Unika tucked under her wing because they were scared of the galvantula?

Harry didn't say anything about how the past three times Ree had said that had went.

But this door was unlocked, and Ree pushed it open proudly—to come face-to-face with a beartic.

Ree stared up at it. It stared down at her, slowly turning its head as it took in the four of them. She felt the air temperature around them plummet, even with her jacket and Shady right there. What she could see of the room with her peripheral vision was coated in ice, glittering and colorless, reflecting little splashes of color from their costumes.

Jackster's trembling was enough to make his hoof slip on one of the nearer patches of ice. He stumbled and gave a neigh, and that broke the spell. The beartic roared and reared up on two legs, and Ree was pushing them all back through the door. "Go—run, go!"

"Which way?"

"Any way!"

They had a bit of a lead while the beartic fought through the doorway, but as soon as it was free, it let out a fearsome roar that led to a breath of frost that turned the floor beneath them to ice. Jackster's hooves lost what little traction they had, and since Harry's fist was wound in his scarf, he ended up taking her down too. Ree slid past them, unable to turn around, and collided gracelessly with an open door farther down the hall.

Her lantern broke on the floor; Shady squealed as she was plopped down amongst the broken glass. "It—it's okay, hold on—" Ree held onto the door for support while she scooped up the litwick, nearly burning her fingers in the process. Back towards the beartic, Harry was trying desperately to get Jackster moving again, and he was trying just as desperately to shock the advancing ice pokémon.

"Wick!" Shady cried, reaching out towards her trainer.

"Use a fire attack, then!" Ree replied, trying to skate her way back towards them. It wasn't easy in boots.

To her surprise, however, Shady did indeed use a fire attack. She belched out a blob of flames that nearly blinded Ree and melted all of the ice in their area, but it didn't make it all the way to their enemy. It definitely got its attention, though. The beartic rose up on its hind legs again, only to hit its head on the ceiling.

"Do that again!" Ree commanded, holding Shady out at arm's length as she ran for Harry and Jackster.

This time, the fire attack connected with the beartic. It roared and staggered backwards—and then Ree realized it was angry, not in pain. It shot an ice beam right at them. Ree barely had time to swear before it connected.

Things were black. She was cold, but it was an empty sort of black, not a dark sort of black. Nothing felt right, and Ree's arms felt heavy. It didn't feel right, but it felt... familiar. A woobat flapped into her field of vision, mouth open in astonishment. "Intruder!"

Ree awoke to red hair in her face. The coldness was multiplied, but the darkness let up—wait, had she been out cold? "Ha."

"Ree? Ree, okay, hold on, we'll get you free in a moment!" Harry's head whipped back and she looked up at her. There were tears in her eyes. Wait, they were standing?

Ree found herself propped upright by virtue of the fact that part of her was encased in ice. The arm she had been holding Shady with was stuck to the wall in half a foot of ice, and that had crept up to her shoulder and part of her side. Shady, entirely in the ice, had melted a little bubble with her flame but didn't appear to be moving—or conscious.

The beartic's roar filled the hallway and Ree's attention snapped to it. Jackster was loyally defending them, every bit of him crackling with electricity as he let loose bolt after bolt at the larger pokémon. That was good. But what was great was that he wasn't alone; with a rush of wind, Ree realized that Lala had appeared at last. She danced over a slash by the beartic, and then ran up its arm and to its head, scratching and biting at its ears.

"Lala!" The whimsicott turned and flashed her trainer a grin. The opening was enough that the beartic could reach her, batting her off and stomping after her with a growl. "Hold on, I'm—shit this is cold!"

"Hold on, I'm working on it!" Harry cried. She realized that the redhead was chipping away at the ice with the broken lantern's metal base.

"Release Whippy!"

"He's in this pocket!" She gestured to the ice on her side. Ree scrabbled with it, trying to tear it off, but it was sturdy stuff. She managed to free Sophia II, however.

"Stand back!"

"Ree, what are you—"

She swung at the thinner ice over Shady's little bubble. It cracked, and Ree swung again, and finally it broke. The influx of oxygen caused Shady's flame to pop and crackle and grow, and the litwick woke up with a start. "Get Shady out, get her to melt this! Start with down there by my pocket!"

Harry rescued her fire pokémon and held her where Ree directed, and Ree whacked away at her encased arm again. Her fingers were the easiest part to free, and she wiggled them thankfully, trying to get feeling back into them.

In front of them, Lala was steadily losing her ground. The temperature around the beartic was taking its toll, slowing her, and frost was beginning to accumulate in her fluff, further weighing her down. As Ree freed her hand up to her wrist, she looked up and saw her begin to shake out frost mixed with stun spore onto the beartic.

Something niggled at the back of Ree's mind, telling her that that wasn't a very good idea.

"What the hell is going on out here?!" another voice rang out. The beartic crouched, ears flat, and Lala missed her tackle by the unexpected move, soaring over its back. Ree twisted as much as her arm would allow and Harry ducked around her, holding Shady out like a weapon.

All Ree could see was a silhouette in a bloody apron, holding an even bloodier knife.

Holy shit, we really did stumble into a horror movie, Ree thought numbly. And then, she remembered why Lala shouldn't have been using stun spore in an enclosed space. Jackster sparked in fright, and the stun spore exploded.

Ree and Harry were blasted back, but then the ground crumbled, and Ree grabbed wildly for anything. She landed heavily on her side (and Sophia II) with a grunt, and then Harry was grabbing onto her arms, still falling, pulling her forward. The floor had been blasted away into a hole, all the way to the ground floor. The beartic was sprawled out on the bottom, burnt and stirring again already. Ree groaned and tried to pull Harry up, but it was no use. The second floor was far under their feet, but it was going to have to do.

"Harry, I'm going to swing you."

"What?!" she shrieked, hands tightening on Ree's. They slid further forward.

"I'm going to swing you before we both fall! If you—go back that way, you can land on there—okay?" Ree looked around for anything else. She couldn't see Lala. Jackster was getting to his feet on the far side of the hole they blew in the building, one floor down. He wouldn't be making that jump to save them. The beartic was likewise getting up, fixing its gaze up at them. She couldn't see Shady anywhere, either. "Fuck me, this is not how this was supposed to go, believe me. But you're going to have to help me with this, okay?!"

"Ree, please don't—"

A foot connected with Ree's side and turned her over, twisting her shoulders and making her cry out. Harry slipped from both hands to hanging from just one, and Ree was about to slide over the edge with her. "Who are you two, cops? UFO?" the figure—male, but young, and mad as hell—demanded. Ree blinked blearily up at him, wishing he'd just fuck off or at least worry about the building they had just partially blown up.

"Trainers, we're just trainers—"

"Ree, I'm slipping! Please—"

He put his boot on Ree's chest and pressed down. If Harry hadn't been holding on, she would have been dropped at that point. Ree scratched at him, even trying to punch him in the crotch, but she couldn't reach far enough and Harry was still slipping. Her shoulder was bound to come out of its socket at this rate if he didn't let her go or if Harry didn't.

A wave of cold blasted up from the bottom floor, and then a flare of fire. Sounded like they found Shady, but she wouldn't last very long against a beartic. Where the hell is Lala?! "Harry, you're going to have to swing!"

"I can't make it!"

An ice beam impacted with the ceiling, and icicles rained down on them. The guy standing on her looked up, and with his attention diverted, she threw Whippy's pokeball at him. It actually hit his face, too, she was pleased to see, and then released an angry and confused servine on top of him to boot. The guy jumped off of her, which Ree hadn't expected, and she skidded forward—nope, she was falling. Ree was definitely falling down three flights onto an angry beartic. Surprisingly, she wasn't even upset. The look on that dude's face when she'd hit him was just about worth it.

As her foot hooked around part of the broken floor they just vacated, Ree tried to push Harry as far as she could towards the second floor. It wasn't very far. She dimly heard the clattering of hooves, and next thing she knew, a zebstrika leapt across the gap.

He probably would've caught them both, too, had another ice beam not hit him in midair.

Harry and Jackster skidded onto the second floor. Or actually, she did, and he hit the broken edge and struggled to get up. Ree, in turn, hit him and simply bounced off, into the waiting claws of the beartic, which she swore was actually reaching up to grab her.

And it did. She had braced for impact, curling up as best she could, but the paws that caught her were surprisingly gentle. Astoundingly gentle. The beartic swung her down, negating her momentum, and then swung her back up like it was rocking a baby. It stared down at her, breath frosting in her face, and Ree wasn't sure quite what to do.

Sophia II fell down with a clunk on top of its head. The beartic snorted and Ree flinched back instinctively, but it scratched at its ear and then turned around. She caught a glimpse of an unconscious Shady near one of the walls, and then found an unconscious Lala in front of them. The beartic picked her up by the fluff collar with one delicate claw and then dropped her in Ree's lap. She clutched her whimsicott to her chest like a lifeline.

Fallout to horror movie to Twilight Zone. This night wasn't going as planned. The beartic swung around again and plopped down onto three of its legs, pressing Ree up against the thick fur of its neck. She caught a glimpse of Harry and a larger Jackster on the floor above them, looking worried. She couldn't get the right angle to see the third floor.

She pointed over the beartic's shoulder to where Shady lay, or tried to, and the beartic lumbered off with its Ree prize.

-.-.-

Ree awoke when her world suddenly shifted. She reoriented herself groggily, and she realized that the beartic had stopped walking and sat down. More alarmingly, the sky was streaked with pink and orange in the east. Daybreak?! She stiffened and checked to see if Lala was up yet. No such luck. Okay, they had left the party at... what time? How long had they been in that building? What time was it now?

She only had an unconscious whimsicott with her. Harper and Unika were still somewhere, and Whippy had been left in the building. At least he would be with Harry. Harry had Jackster, and Shady, and Whippy, and Sophia II. She would be alright. Ree, on the other hand...

"Baaaaaar," the beartic yawned and Ree jumped. It reclined against a tree—forest, okay, that... answered absolutely no questions about her location—and allowed her to slide out of its grasp.

Her legs were cramped and still half-asleep from being curled up like that for so long. She wouldn't be able to make a run for it for a couple minutes at least. Ree scuttled away from it, sitting near her own tree, and tried to wake Lala up. "Psst. Hey. Come on. Lala, Lala, wake up. C'mon, wake up..."

"Beartic," the ice pokémon said pointedly, making it clear it had heard her.

Ree stopped trying to whisper to her. Poking and pinching would have to do. She jabbed her finger repeatedly into Lala's side while she massaged her calf with her other hand. Her entire body felt sluggish, and strangely cool to the touch. It probably wasn't healthy to be pressed up against a beartic for however long that had been. If—when—she made it back to civilization, she'd have to talk to Lenore about what—

Ree froze with the realization. Then, very slowly, she reached up into her jacket pocket. Empty pokeball, empty pokeball, dead glowstick, empty pokeball... phone.

Her pokédex had the GPS in it, and that was back at the hotel room, but having a phone was good. Did they have location trackers? No, she'd had to explain where she was when she had called for help in the past... Okay, it wasn't like the beartic had been moving fast. They couldn't be farther than... How long had she been out? Ree began looking around, but it was nothing but forest as far as she could see. She couldn't hear any running water, or cars, or other pokémon. Then again, she hardly blamed the wild pokémon for keeping their space.

Okay, a hundred miles from the empty warehouse, which was what, three from the other warehouse that the party had been in? Five at the most. And that was on the outskirts of Driftveil. No, a beartic was slower than that. A human could jog at five or six miles per hour, but it wasn't that fast. Was it? Twenty miles, maximum, from where they had been. That was so much more reassuring than a hundred.

It'd hear her if she tried to call, but it was easier to scream out "help!" than text out a message. She could just try key-mashing a bunch of stuff while the phone was in her pocket, but that'd probably just result in a confused response and the ringtone would definitely tip off the beartic. A distraction, but what?

Her phone rang.

The beartic jerked in alarm, but Ree practically leapt into the tree with how badly she jumped. And then she realized that oh, wow, she shouldn't move suddenly; she hurt. More than she had thought. Before it could do anything, she whipped out her phone and flipped it open. She scooped up Lala and staggered to her feet, intending on making a run for it.

She fell headfirst into a bush.

"Ree? Ree! This is Allen, Lenore just called me, saying Harry called her. She says you got separated, and that there was an attack, and—"

"I don't know where I am!" Ree cried in a panic as she tried to swim out of the bush. Thorny little bitch, too. "There's a beartic here and it carried me off and—" She cut off with a scream as it picked her up out of the angry foliage. "Put me down!"

To her surprise, it put her down.

Ree threw herself flat against the nearest tree, holding Lala like a fluffy shield in between them. "Ree, I'm coming to get you, okay?"

"But I don't know where I am."

Allen's sigh was far more exasperated than she thought she deserved, considering the situation. "Stay on the line. Where is the beartic?"

"Right in front of me. Like, five feet. By a tree."

"Do you have your pokémon with you?"

"Only Lala, and she hasn't woken up."

"Don't make any sudden moves, and when I get there, hide, okay?"

"Okay, but—"

A flash of light later, and her knight in shining armor appeared, armed with an elgyem and another beartic. Ree personally didn't see how adding another to the mix would help the situation, but she dove for the nearest cover when they appeared and figured he knew what he was doing. One of them roared—she wasn't sure which—and the other answered, and soon there was a deafening roaring match.

Allen knelt down beside her, his elgyem throwing up a golden shield between them and the ice pokémon. "Can you stand?"

"Sort of, but don't expect me to move very quickly."

"Are you hurt? Where?" he asked, brow furrowing in concern. She noticed he still had bedhead, but at least he was in uniform. He grabbed her arm and helped her to her feet.

"I'm stiff all over and ouch!" He instantly released her, palms up in apology. Ree swayed, but stayed upright. She carefully prodded her side. It was the one she had landed on, but pulling up her shirt, she already saw some nasty bruises forming. There was a long, straight one diagonally cutting across her waist as well.

"What are those from?"

"This one is a Sophia mark."

"Sophia?" Allen asked sharply. Too late, Ree recalled that he had taken her last bat away from her.

"Nevermind that, we sort of exploded. You know how stun spore is flammable?"

He pulled her shirt back down and carefully pulled her arm over his shoulders. It still twinged, but she didn't say anything in gratitude. "Return Lala, and get ready to teleport. You were staying in the pokémon center in Driftveil still, right?"

"Yes, but—what about Harry?"

"I don't have a lock on her, Ree. I don't even have her phone number. All I know is that she called half a dozen people before getting Lenore, and Lenore told me all this. I have no idea what's going on—" he winced at another loud roar, "—but answers can wait. Where are the rest of your pokémon?"

"Back at the warehouse, I think."

"You think?"

"I got separated from Harper and Uni early on," Ree confessed, "and I threw Whippy at this guy with a knife before I fell. He's probably with Harry. Right? Did she say anything about him?"

"I didn't hear anything, but I'm sure he's fine," Allen said soothingly. He hiked her up a bit higher, and then nudged his elgyem with his hip. "Ready?"

It screeched in response.

"Maria! Disengage and back up to us!"

"Tic, baaaaaaar-beartic!"

"Wait, what?" Allen squawked, faltering for a moment.

"Um, can we just leave the beartic and go now?" Ree really didn't want to know what else was about to get tossed into this situation.

"Ree, where exactly were you last night?"

"Why are you mad at me?" she cried, confused (and a little hurt). He was supposed to be rescuing her, damn it, not interrogating her. ...Okay, she knew he would eventually, but preferably a soft bed and lots of cheap after-Halloween candy and all of her pokémon would be involved.

"Because she's saying that that beartic was a poacher's pokémon against her will. Where did you find her?"

"It was this old abandoned place just a little bit from Driftveil. I had heard something about it being empty and spooky, so I just went there with Harry to—for kicks."

Allen groaned. Maria sat back on her haunches and idly cleaned her claws. The other beartic sat down, too, and yawned. Apparently the roaring match had been a conversation. "It is too goddamned early for this."

"I agree," Ree said and leaned her head against his. "How about we all just go back and sleep and then sort it out?"

"Don't tempt me," he replied dryly. "Alright, here's what we're going to do. Tranjero, southern police station of Driftveil."

"Police? Why—" The elgyem scooted both beartic over until it could touch them, and then they were all sitting in a cell. Or rather, Ree was in one, one beartic was in another, and Allen and his pokémon were beaming on the other side of the metal bars.

"You two sit in here. I'm going to find Harry and your pokémon. She says she means you no harm, and that she had only wanted to take you away from the poacher."

"She attacked my pokémon!"

"She was attacked first. You startled her, attacked her, she defended, but she caught you, didn't she?" Allen asked, brow raised. Ree flushed and looked away. "I'll leave one of my pokémon with you, but I don't think Maria would be the best idea right now. Here, give me Lala's pokeball, and I'll give her to the officer at the desk on my way out."

Without asking, he pushed his hands through the gaps and exchanged them, placing a great ball in Ree's hand. She gaped at him.

"She'll get healed and checked out! And then returned to you. I promise I'll be back soon, okay? Just don't incite a prison riot or anything." Allen waved with false cheer and then vanished.

Ree wordlessly dropped the great ball, and a little audino popped out. "Au! Au!" it squealed cheerfully. Ree stared at it. The beartic yawned again, slumped against the concrete wall, and let out a loud snore.

The audino put up a light screen between their cells, patting Ree's leg as if doing it for her sake, and then sat down and stared at her with big, blue eyes. Ree sank down to the floor. She was exhausted. Tired, sore, stiff, and now confused as hell. She was now down all four pokémon, in jail with a beartic that may or may not be lying through its large teeth, and had a pink thing as her only neutral company.

As far as after-Halloween jail trips were concerned, this ranked very low on the list.

But at least Jackster had evolved.

-.-.-

Next Chapter: Ree figures out what the hell went on last night (and not for the reasons she's normally accustomed to) and Whippy tries to figure out where the hell his trainer went. Allen's out to reunite friends and teams, but with so many variables, and considering how well Ree's initial plan worked out, it's unlikely to be that simple. And through it all, Harry's team adjusts to its first evolution.