Chapter 14: A 'Pun'ishing Defeat

Disclaimer: You will find intense battles, terrible puns, and fantastic Magikarps within this story. In other stories, you might find something else, like bears. Why risk it?

~o~

The steady beep of the monitor was what finally woke her.

It took a long time. Her head was fuzzy, and her body felt heavy and lethargic. But slowly, her mind focused on that repetitive beeping, becoming clearer and clearer, until Violet realized she was listening to the monitoring of her own heart. She opened her eyes halfway; her breathing echoed strangely, because of the plastic mask pressed over her mouth and nose, filled with mist. Her heart beat faster; the monitor kept time, beeping at a quicker pace, as her thoughts cleared, and memories flowed out of the darkness of her unconscious.

Memories of Cerulean Cave, of Indigo, coupled with the dawning realization that she was alive and well.

She struggled to sit, seemingly tangled in tubes and an unfamiliar piece of clothing, and wrapped in constricting bandages down both arms, indescribably weak and tired. She took off the soft plastic mask, lifting the straps carefully over her tangled hair, and took a moment just to breathe, orientating herself. She was deliciously numb – probably a result of the painkillers pumped into her bloodstream – and completely parched.

But still she sighed with contentment, happiness coursing through her like its own drug. Alive, and without any kind of crisis to deal with, all Violet intended to do was rest for the next eternity or two. She was sure Indigo would agree.

"Violet!" Indigo opened the door to her emergency care room, soaking wet and with what looked like a piece of kelp plastered to one ear. "There is trouble."

Violet gave him a disparaging look. Of course there was. He began pacing before she could speak, his words fast and clipped; he avoided her eyes, almost as though he were afraid.

"I am…glad that you are awake. Very glad. But before you say anything, there is…I mean…" he broke off as though frustrated, finally looking at her with scorching crimson eyes. "I need your help. Please, whatever you think of me, set it aside for a little while, just until we can resolve this situation. If you never want to see me afterwards, I'll understand, I swear, just please…can we not speak of Cerulean Cave until a little later?"

Violet blinked. "Okay?"

Relief filled his gaze, and he let out a breath as though the world had fallen off his shoulders. "Thank you," he said roughly. "There is a powerful and possibly unstoppable Ditto causing havoc, with consequences that could destroy the career of a Gym Leader, and have repercussions across all of Kanto…no, across the world. It must be stopped. I shall give you a moment to dress."

Violet's eye twitched. Her head hurt. She blinked tiredly, fighting the urge to yawn. "Ask someone else."

His eyes burned. "I need you," he insisted. "No one else will suffice."

Violet groaned. "Water," she insisted, her tone brooking no argument. "Then we'll see."

Indigo disappeared around the corner, and Violet sat, blinking sleepily as she came to grips with reality. She was still sitting groggily in her room when Indigo returned. He pressed the cold glass into her hands; she raised it to her cracked lips, swallowing with care. Her throat hurt. The water helped, though it didn't make her thirst disappear entirely. She finished the glass, and took a deep breath. Indigo was waiting, somewhat impatiently.

She sighed. "I'll need a change of clothes," she consented finally, and her Lucario's eyes flashed with victory. He was already half out the door when she called out, "nothing pink! Or stolen!" Where was he intending to get clothes anyways?

Violet realized she didn't know where they were. It was disorienting. She pressed a hand to her forehead, and focused on breathing, and wondered how she could convince Indigo she wasn't the right person for the job – whatever it was they were doing! She was toying with ideas of mutiny when he returned, nearly ten minutes later, a modest set of clothing folded in his arms.

"I borrowed these from a girl I met earlier," Indigo explained, looking at the clothing as though unsure about its suitability. "She appears to be a similar size, and assured me such attire is…normal, for a trainer. Violet?" He caught the expression on her face, and set the clothes down on the edge of the bed. He stood near her, looking unsure. "I'm sorry…I want nothing more than to allow you to rest, I swear. I realize it isn't easy to act when your body wants to rest." He seemed to remember something, and opened the small bag that had been with the clothes. "I also brought these."

Her Lucario produced Mr. Fins Master Ball, a hairbrush, and a fresh sandwich wrapped in plastic. There were more small items in the bag, including a mirror and basic cosmetic supplies. It appeared to be a trainer's travel kit.

"Your fish is alright," he explained quickly, before she could speak. "I thought you would want to know, even if it is a useless insult to humanity. And I just thought, with your arm still healing, perhaps it would be difficult to brush your hair, and that perhaps I could assist in this one small matter…if you wouldn't mind that is. We do have a little time, at least."

Her expression softened. "Ok," she said in a quiet voice. "What's going on?"

Indigo filled her in with clipped sentences while she ate the deliciously soft sandwich, teasing the tangles out of her long hair while he spoke. He was shockingly good at it; he worked his way up from the tips of her midnight locks, holding it with one paw while he brushed with the other. She wondered where on earth a Lucario had learned to brush long hair, and chalked it up to one of the many mysteries that seemed to surround Indigo.

By the time he finished with his story, she was feeling considerably better, if a little light headed. She washed her face in the sink of the connecting bathroom, and changed from the hospital gown into the clothes Indigo had borrowed. Her new attire was simple; a black tee shirt, worn under a midnight blue leather jacket, and a pair of matching black pants, with decorative blue circles lining the left side of her leg from ankle to waist.

It was a little loose, but fit well enough. She was grateful, since it was easier to put on. The jacket especially was just relaxed enough not to chafe her bandaged arms, though she still moved with care. Violet surveyed her appearance in the mirror above the sink. Her face was paler than usual; her cheeks were flushed from the towel. It made her purple eyes seem fever bright. Violet reached up, peeling the white bandage off her dark eyebrow carefully, revealing the slash from the Golbats fang which just missed her eye.

She pulled her silken hair out from under her borrowed leather jacket, letting it fall around her shoulders, and brushed her long side swept bangs to the right. Violet barely recognized herself. The girl in the mirror stood tall, with new strength in her shoulders, a level and unyielding gaze, and a slashing cut through one eyebrow.

And despite her tiredness, in fresh clothing, and with some food and water in her, Violet felt like she could actually do something to help. She took a deep breath to steady herself, promising herself she would rest as soon as possible, and went out to face Indigo.

He had been right about one thing. She did know what to do. The Ditto had a fatal weakness, and she could win. For Misty, for Kanto, and for Indigo, she could win.

"I've got an idea," Violet said, walking with more confidence than she felt, her lilac eyes determined. "For it to work, we need to challenge 'Misty' to a battle, on live television." Indigo blinked twice, caught off guard. And Violet smiled, as though she had a joke she wasn't sharing, her mood lightening abruptly. "Here's what we need to do!"

~o~

The sun had begun its descent down the vast expanse of sky by the time the two of them reached Cerulean Square. Violet stepped out first, walking with unspoken strength in her step and steel in her eyes, as the slight breeze twirled through her pitch black hair, Indigo a few steps behind. Susan Summers eyes flickered with recognition, followed closely by confusion; the question on her breath was cut off by a quick shake of Indigo's head. She fell silent, watching with a piercing gaze as the jigsaw pieces placed themselves in her mind.

She looked at 'Misty', and realization spread across her features. With a quick gesture to her assistant, the camera began to play, trained on Indigo and Violet, and the false gym leader standing before them.

"I'm here for a battle," Violet declared, meeting the imposters gaze without hesitation. "My name is Violet Hikari. And I'm here to defeat you." Her voice was steady, and her eyes clear, but Indigo's eyes saw right through her act, catching the tremor in her hands. She was barefoot – they'd forgotten about shoes. Indigo had carried her this far, letting his weakened trainer reserve her strength for this one act. She was playing her part well.

But still. The Lucario knew she couldn't keep it up for long before she would need rest. Everything was riding on this. They only had one shot left. And he couldn't help but wonder if she would be able to pull this off.

"If it's gym badges you want, I could just…" Misty began, her hand reaching into the blue bag at her waist automatically, but Violet cut her off steadily.

"Without a battle, gym badges aren't worth anything. It isn't the item that has value, but the hard work and skill that goes into earning them. Wouldn't you agree?"

"Alright," Misty blinked, seeming pleasantly surprised. "Let's play! I have to warn you though, I'm pretty incredible! Beating me won't be so easy!"

The Ditto sounded exactly like Misty, and Indigo doubted it was an act. He hadn't realized how similar their pride was until now. He made a mental note to never mention the similarity to Misty, in case she killed him with her bare hands.

"I can do it!" Violet smiled, sincerity ringing out in her clear voice. "Because I have a powerful and dependable partner on my side, I can do anything! Mr. Fin! This is all up to you!"

She threw her Master Ball in a long arc in the air, releasing her Magikarp in a golden shower of light. Mr. Fin posed grandly in midair, his fins outstretched, and his eyes closed, arching his body fabulously in the light, before hitting the ground, where he flopped uselessly. "Karp, Karp Magikarp!"

"What's the matter?" Violet grinned, at the surprised expression on Misty's face. "Do you think this strategy is a little 'fishy'? I think this will balance the 'scales'! You know what they say, 'Karp-ay' Diem!"

Misty beamed happily, and Indigo's eye twitched with irritation; he had to resist the urge to groan. He could feel Susan Summers glaring at him without looking, as if to ask what exactly he thought this would accomplish, and avoided her gaze in favor of watching the battle at hand.

"So what exactly is the plan?"

Violet had taken a deep breath, cradled in his arms as he carried his exhausted trainer through Cerulean City. She'd explained in a quick voice, focusing on stilling the tremors in her arms. "Dittos can take the form and abilities of anything they remember. Most Dittos have a pretty terrible memory, and can only change into something directly in front of them. This one has demonstrated the ability to change into many different forms, making it a serious threat. But all Dittos have one, single weakness."

"And that is?"

Violet smiled. "They lose their transformation abilities…when they laugh! We have to make the Ditto laugh so hard it can't hold its transformation anymore! If we can do that, the battle will be ours!"

"I see," Indigo said thoughtfully. Such a strategy had never occurred to him before. "In that case, I will…"

He broke off on seeing the severe skepticism on her face. "I can be funny!" he insisted, and her skeptical expression grew stronger. "I am known to be quite hilarious."

"That may be the funniest thing you've ever said," Violet retorted, and his eye twitched.

"And I suppose you think puns are funny?"

"Puns are hilarious. You'll see! This will totally work, probably!"

The Fake Misty released her first Pokémon, a deep purple Starmie with a gleaming scarlet core to the field. A geyser poured from the tip of its star shaped arms, rocketing up into the clear blue sky, and clouds boiled outward, as rain poured from the heavens, in one of the most impressive Rain Dance attacks Indigo had ever seen. In moments the square was doused with raindrops, darkening the concrete and turning the gutters into streams.

Violet had incredible faith in her starter Pokémon, the 'all-powerful' Mr. Fin. And perhaps, Indigo thought, as the Magikarp prepared to battle a Gym Leaders Pokémon, this battle would be funny. To him, at least. It would be gratifying to see the Magikarp lose.

"Attack, Starmie!" Misty ordered with a manic smile, as the rain soaked her fire-hued hair, battle-fever flashing in her sea green eyes. Her Starmie whirled like a throwing star, spinning towards Mr. Fin in a deadly, bladed attack, as the Magikarp flopped happily in the new puddles on the concrete.

Violet grinned. "Splash attack, Mr. Fin! Let's show them what we're made of!"

Mr. Fin slapped his white tail onto the concrete, shooting upwards like a rocket as the Splash propelled him high into the rain drenched sky. The Starmie's Rapid Spin attack whirled right underneath, missing the Magikarp entirely. Mr. Fin arced high, posing at the height of its flight with its fins stretched out like wings; he flipped in midair twice as he descended, smacking the Starmie staring in confusion at it directly in the face.

She posed dramatically, extending one arm out in a flourish as lightning boomed above. "Now, 'Fin'-ish him! Tackle attack!"

"It knows more than one move? I'm in shock," Indigo said, as the Magikarp tackled the Starmie, which seemed to be honestly confused as to why it was battling a Magikarp in the first place. Violet grinned.

"Do you know why Mr. Fin knows two moves?" Violet asked. "It's because I caught him with a 'tackle' box, ehehehe. It was a 'reel' challenge, and I'm not 'fishing' for compliments. As soon as I saw him, I was 'hooked'!"

Indigo's glare was as dry as sand, but Misty's lips were twitching with amusement, as if holding back giggles.

It was working!

Mr. Fin Splashed out of the way of a Hydro Pump, skipping on the watery field like a stone, taking the opportunity for a different pose between each skip like a fishy supermodel. He pouted his pink fishy mouth with sultry eyes, posed with one white fin on its hip, and the other on its head, and flicked his tail out like he just didn't care.

"Y-you won't defeat me so easily!" Misty insisted, her lips quivering as laughter bubbled up in her throat. "Starmie, what are you doing? Defeat them!"

Starmie seemed to have realized Misty wasn't quite right, and didn't move, staring with confusion at the being it thought was its trainer. Violet took advantage of the lull for more pun-based attacks.

"Don't you mean, 'water' you doing? I 'sea' what you did there! Mr. Fin, do the wave!" Violet ordered with a flourish, and her Magikarp wiggled around as best as a Magikarp could, looking utterly ridiculous as it crossed its eyes and waggled its long golden whiskers.

Misty laughed, and her form wavered a bit. She caught herself instantly, clenching her fists tight, eyes narrowing. "Starmie, use Hydro Pump, now!" she commanded, and the Starmie seemed to snap out of its confusion, focusing in on Mr. Fin once more.

"And now, for the coup de grace," Violet said quietly, as the Starmie released a massive torrent of water directly towards the helpless Mr. Fin. Her Magikarp dodged with another powerful Splash attack, landing in the pool of water surrounding the Gyarados statue in the fountain, and Violet took a deep breath.

"Mr. Fin, give us your best impression of Indigo in battle!"

Mr. Fin's eyes became steely and determined, and power seemed to rush in around him as his resolve strengthened. He burst out of the fountain in a powerful arc, gleaming water splashing out in front of the massive stone Gyarados in a fan-

-and hit the concrete of the square, flopping around in useless circles as though brain damaged, before dramatically pretending to die.

Misty busted up laughing, gales and gales of it that had her hunched over with glee. "T-that was perfect! He looks exactly like that, hahahaha!"

The girl continued to laugh, and her form melted down into a blob of hysterical pink goo, which quaked with high pitched giggles, completely helpless. Violet lowered her outstretched arm, her smile turning soft. She walked over to the Ditto, picking it up carefully before turning to face the camera, and the stunned Susan Summers.

She bowed deeply, the giggling Ditto in her arms. "This Ditto was the Misty you all saw earlier today. I'd like to apologize for its actions on air. Please know that the real Misty had nothing to do with its shenanigans. This little guy has no trainer to teach it right from wrong, but I'm sure it never would have wanted to cause such a scene."

Indigo doubted that was true with every fiber of his being.

"And do you have a statement for us regarding the capture and subsequent escape of Karo Asuna?" Susan Summers asked, stretching out the microphone in her left hand, her professional demeanor firmly back in place. "You are the same Violet, aren't you?"

Violet's eyes flashed. "I am. Karo Asuna is a monster, make no mistake of that. But he isn't invincible. He was exposed through the combined efforts of ordinary trainers and Pokémon, like Terry Slade, and my own partner, Indigo. He may be out there right now…but he will be caught again! Because Karo now fights alone. But all of Kanto stands as one!"

~o~

Things returned to normal in Cerulean City soon after that. Misty was found tied up in a closet in the gym, furiously angry, but unharmed. The Elite Four of Kanto, along with their fearless Champion, Lance, swept the area personally, and the lockdown was ended. Karo was nowhere to be found, seemingly vanished into thin air. Any other day, Indigo would have gone to see the famed leaders of the country for himself, but he found he simply didn't care. He had more important things to worry about; mainly his recovering trainer Violet, who he'd decided required snacks and attention in order to make a full recovery.

The Ditto had disappeared again, and Indigo was constantly on edge, half expecting it to pop out from every corner with a bad pun, or another disaster in the making.

But, he mused, as he snuck into the Pokémon Center through a high window, a white box held carefully in his arms, it wasn't all bad. It had been two blissfully boring weeks since those events after all. Indigo found he was enjoying the break.

The Pokémon Center had a decent security system, complete with robotic cameras that swiveled in the halls. Indigo crouched in darkness, peering out from behind a corner carefully, watching the camera turn, and counting the beats between each rotation. He narrowed his eyes with concentration, his legs tense.

When the camera began turning away once more, the Lucario dashed forward in a burst of speed strengthened by aura, running as low to the ground as he could manage. He tucked his ears down as an afterthought, skidding beneath the camera, and out of sight, where he caught his breath, planning his next move.

When the camera turned to scan the other end of the hall, Indigo dashed forward again, ducking into the hall branching to the left, bare instants before the camera rotated serenely back. He checked inside the box carefully, sighing with relief when its contents were undamaged by his flight.

His own wounds were feeling considerably better. Indigo felt better than he had in ages. Even his Aura vision was recovering, albeit slowly. He was much stronger than he'd been before meeting Violet – he could feel it in every step he took. Cerulean Cave had done wonders for his power levels, even if he had spent most of his time there running away from monsters and trying not to die. He would complete his quest in no time at all at this rate!

His oversized ears pricked at a slight sound – footsteps, coming from down the hall. Indigo gritted his teeth, closing the cardboard box as he sprang into motion once more. Two girls walked down the hall, chatting amiably with a Nurse. They passed right by Indigo, hiding in the dark indent between the wall and a vending machine, the white box sitting unnoticed on top of the machine. He slipped out of the tiny space after they'd passed, retrieving the box, and dashing down the hall once more; a perfect ninja intent on his mission.

His goal in sight, Indigo put on a final burst of speed, avoiding being seen by yet another camera, and skidding to a stop in front of the creature guarding his destination. The round Chansey glared at him; tension sparked between the two as Indigo appraised the guardian before him.

He reached into the pouch tied at his waist, retrieving a golden dessert in plastic foil, known by the humans as a 'Twinkie'. He passed it to the Chansey without a word. The pink Pokémon opened the package, sniffing the contents as if to verify their authenticity, before nodding once, and stepping to the side, his bribe accepted.

Indigo felt a thrill of victory, ducking into the room beyond. He closed the door behind him. "Hello, Violet," he said by way of greeting, unable to help a faint smile when he saw her.

Violet beamed upon seeing him, sitting cross-legged in her bed in a pair of new pajamas, a pencil in one hand, and a half finished drawing on the covers. The room was a little nicer than the one she'd been in before – it wasn't an intensive care space, but an actual room, one of the many available for travelling trainers to rent in the extraordinarily useful Pokémon Center. Although Violet had recovered considerably, the nurses had insisted she remain on the premises until her healing was complete. They seemed to have some insane notion that she would get into trouble the instant she left their Pokémon Center, which Indigo thought unreasonable. After all, what could possibly go wrong now?

"I brought you a present," Indigo announced, stepping forward with his prize. "An illegal present. Which the Nurses would kill me for giving you." He set the fragile box on the bed, opening it to reveal his gift.

Violet's eyes sparkled with bliss, and she gasped with sheer happiness. "Donuts! For me? Thank you!"

Indigo grinned with satisfaction at her obvious pleasure, taking a seat on the edge of her bed as she took a huge bite out of a powdery donut. He had earned the money for his present by doing odd jobs around Cerulean City while she was stuck within the Pokémon Center. The almighty Nurse Joy had expressly forbidden her patient to eat junk food until she was completely recovered from her traumatic wounds, forcing Indigo to drastic measures. It had been completely worth it. He watched her eat, completely content with the world.

His gaze caught the sketchbook lying on the covers of the cushy bed. He picked it up carefully, his eyes widening when he saw the half-finished drawing coming to life on the white canvas, drawn in bold lines and deliberate shading. "Violet, this is…" he began, amazement coloring his voice. "Truly terrible. I've never seen anything so bad in my life. Is that a Pidgey, or a loaf of bread with wings? Honestly, woman."

She snatched the sketchbook away with a huff of exasperation. "It is a Ho-oh," she said, enunciating every word separately. "The Rainbow Pokémon. And I think it's beautiful. If I had colored pencils it would be easier to tell."

"I suppose you are correct," Indigo sighed. "It is a pity, I've always wanted to see a loaf of rainbow bread flying through the sky. Some dreams are never meant to be."

Violets pencil bounced off the side of his head, and Indigo grinned light heartedly. He leaned back, completely content with the world, while Violet launched into a happy explanation of Ho-oh's abilities, and the lore surrounding it.

"It's said that Ho-oh only appears to the pure of heart, and that it lives at the end of a vast rainbow. It embodies life, and reincarnation, and has been known to resurrect those who died unfairly. Ho-oh is served by its three guardian beasts, Raikou, Suicune, and Entei. Rumor has it that the beasts were once Vaporeon, Flareon, and Jolteon, before being killed in the burning Brass Tower in Johto. Ho-oh brought them back to life, as Legendaries. That was a little over 150 years ago. The funny thing is, the Legendary beasts have been noted in history as far back as a thousand years! A lot of people think Ho-oh has created the three guardians from fallen Pokémon many times in the past, with an unknown purpose."

He kept his silence, though he knew more than she did in regards to Entei. He'd once tried to control the beast using an ancient artifact, in an attempt to gain power. Entei's will had been too strong; a raging volcano of fury and burning hatred that he'd been helpless to fight. He'd been such a fool.

It felt odd, remembering his past war while sitting on a cozy bed, eating donuts with a girl from the peaceful future. Making jokes, having a friend, being happy…it almost seemed wrong. Like he wasn't supposed to be happy. Or even allowed. Perhaps he didn't deserve such a thing.

Violet finished off her donut with blissful contentment, smiling happily. He stared at her in thoughtful silence, his expression unreadable. It was like she didn't have a care in the world. Violet didn't seem to remember anything at all.

His paw clenched. At first, he'd been so relieved. Then…he'd found himself wishing she had heard his confession. At least that way, he'd know for certain how she'd react. Instead, he was caught in limbo, always wondering, and too cowardly to speak up again.

"Hey, earth to Indigo!"

He blinked, focusing on her once more. "Sorry," he replied automatically. "You were saying?"

"Zoned out again," Violet sighed. "You've been doing that a lot lately. Is something on your mind?"

"Nothing. I've just been distracted," the Lucario lied easily, and Violet shrugged, choosing her third donut.

Perhaps he wanted to tell her because he knew she would turn away from him forever. Perhaps Indigo felt like he deserved to be punished, to live unhappily while under his curse. It was a curse after all. But there he was, too afraid to make that choice, too cowardly to accept his well-deserved punishment, clinging to a single human connection as though it were a life-line.

He would never actually do it. Indigo sighed faintly, looking out the window of the room into the fading light of day.

"The nurses say we can head out soon. My arms are much better, and the after effects of the venom are finally gone. And your Aura Vision is healing up nicely, thanks to all that extra physical therapy! I think we should work on some training after we get out, to prepare for fighting Misty. Battles against water Pokémon are way different than normal after all. Maybe you could learn from-"

"I've been lying to you from day one," Indigo interrupted, not looking at her when he spoke. Her words trailed off, the thought dying on her lips. He could feel her staring at him.

He stood, pacing furiously at the foot of the large bed, unable to look at her, his movements rough and jerky. He desperately wanted to stop talking, but his mouth moved without permission from his brain, spilling words out from the darkest shadows of his heart.

"I'm not who you think I am, Violet. You think I'm this brave, heroic creature, but I'm not. I'm a liar, and a coward, a weak fool who has done nothing but make mistakes from the moment he was born. And I've been lying to you. I'm human, or I was. I realize that doesn't make sense…but it's true! I was human, and a fool, the traitor from that story about Halladen, the one who ruined everything. I never thought that things would…I tried, but I…"

He found he could not continue, and broke off, as what he'd just done began to sink in. He'd never been so afraid in his life, and his words began again, desperately filling the silence before she could speak. "I'm sorry. I didn't know how to tell you. Please know it was never my intention to deceive you, and that I understand…whatever you think of me, I understand, there won't be any hard feelings, or…I thought you should know. I'm living under a curse. I died in the past, but that wasn't punishment enough for my betrayal. I was cursed to lose my humanity, exiled to a future I did not understand…but now, after meeting you, its stopped feeling like a curse, and more like a second chance…but still I-!"

"Indigo."

Her voice caught him, stilling the raging sea of his heart before he drowned in his desperate confessions, and he couldn't speak through the sudden tightness in his throat. The boy turned Lucario looked at her finally, absolute terror and hopelessness in his eyes as he waited for the justice he knew was coming.

"Don't look at me," she whispered quietly, with perfect sincerity and finality, and Indigo flinched, unable to hide how much that hurt-

"…with that expression on your face," Violet finished, sounding pained. She unfolded her legs and stood, pulling the stunned Lucario into a hug, holding him tightly. She didn't let go, and his arms shook. He stood like a statue, every muscle completely tense, tears gathering in his crimson eyes. She was so warm. He could feel the ice in his chest melting, along with all his terrible fears and guilt, and for a person who had been in pain for so very long, it was too much. His rigid posture relaxed, like the crutches of pain he'd carried for so long had been kicked away, and Indigo discovered he'd never lost the ability to feel after all, only forgotten. His head slumped down on her shoulder, his arms tightening around her back, shocking even himself with the strength of his tears.

She didn't say anything at all, and she didn't need to. Indigo cried, finally giving voice to the pain which had eaten at him for more than a year, unable to hold back his grief. Violet rubbed circles on his back, hugging him carefully so as not to get impaled by the steel spike in his chest, until his surge of emotion had run its course.

She pulled back, keeping hold of one paw, steering him towards the edge of the bed, taking a seat next to him. Violet reached for the box, selecting a glazed donut and pressing it into his paws. "Eat," she commanded, her tone brooking no argument, and Indigo did so numbly. He chewed the soft pastry, and the sweetness was almost a shock. She'd given him her favorite kind. He finished it quickly, surprising himself with how much he'd needed it. Violet watched, nodding with satisfaction once he was finished.

She didn't seem angry, or even surprised, and the pieces began to come together in his mind. "You knew," he said quietly, and somehow, he wasn't surprised either. "You've known since Cerulean Cave."

Violet smiled sadly, but shook her head. "I remember bits and pieces, but I wasn't asleep during your confession. My heart…for just a minute, it was…" she stopped for a moment, and took a shuddering breath, suppressing her reaction. "A few days after I woke up, Mewtwo showed me a vision of everything that happened, without saying why. Indigo…you tried so hard to save me. I knew you'd tell me the truth when you were ready."

"What comes next?" Indigo asked tonelessly, although oddly enough, he didn't care. Violet beamed, her smile lighting up her expression like the sun.

"Now, we figure out how to break your curse! There's a lot of work to do, but we can figure it out together! I've been reading up on curses that turn people into Pokémon, especially ones involving Ninetales, and I really think it's doable! Of course, you'll need to tell me what the conditions are, cause they're always different, but if it wasn't possible, the curse couldn't have been laid on you in the first place, according to this research article I read online. After that, you can fix everything that went wrong! Indigo?" she blinked, catching the expression on his face. "Is something wrong?"

"You would help me?" he asked quietly, a flicker of hope coming to life behind layers of worn apathy. He'd prepared himself for rejection, for agony, his just punishment…

But Indigo found he hadn't been prepared to face kindness.

Violet blinked her lilac eyes. "Of course! That's what friends are for, right? I'll be sad when you go, but who knows how long that could be? I'll be by your side, no matter what. This is important to you, so it's important to me too, okay?"

His heart clenched, and Indigo stood again, shaking his head while he paced restlessly. "No. You don't understand…how bad it was. That fairy tale book didn't tell you much of anything. I did things that I can't forgive, that no one could forgive. I'm no hero, Violet."

"I don't believe that," she refuted. "Not for one second."

"You should."

"So, tell me," Violet said simply, as if it were that easy. "It doesn't have to be all at once. Little by little, tell me your story, without leaving out anything. And let me decide, ok?"

He stopped pacing, thinking it over. He'd already come this far. "Alright," he consented finally. "I'll tell you. After we leave Cerulean…I'll share my story. From the beginning. If you'd like."

"Alright," she agreed, seeming to understand his need for delay. "Let's get healed up, and rest for a while. There's no rush. Besides…we've got a Gym battle to get ready for!"

~o~