the long way home
like a heart that stumbles in the darkness


"I'm leaving."

She delivers this news on a spring day synonymous to quiet walks in the park, that vernal drizzle that dots the windowpanes and the sight of fresh tulips on the table. They are eighteen, and relationships are the last thing on their minds.

"Where to?"

"Just city after city. I'm traveling around Kanto."

"Oh," Green responds, trying to grasp the concept of days without Blue. He supposes his inability to do so is only logical, a natural progression of events. With Red almost always on the road, Blue is about the only person who keeps him on his toes.

The feel of her fingers, cool and smooth against his skin, jolts him out of his thoughts. "I'll write," she promises. Home is not a word in her dictionary and she does not say it.

"Don't bother," he replies. "I'll be too busy to read it."

She laughs. "I'll make them short."

When he simply harrumphs, her smile is nothing less than a secret, and Green gets the oddest feeling like she is already gone, even when she's right there in front of him. Maybe she's been gone for a while.

Sometimes, just sometimes, Green feels like she's around more when she's away.

Every day he wakes up to a postcard on his windowsill, his name scrawled messily on the top and framed by a fat red heart. She connects her 'e's and decorates her 'n's with spirals; writes about nothing but the pokémon and the food in the places she's been to.

Occasionally Blue sends along something else, too. It starts off pretty normal: pokémon treats from different places, special pokéballs, evolution stones; and then becomes weirder and weirder as time passes: clothes that he will never wear, rare stones he doesn't recognize, instruction manuals for objects he doesn't have. Green keeps them anyway, hoards them in a large box under his bed, while the ribbons he twists around his doorknob and clothes' hangers.

About five months after Blue started traveling, Green wakes up to a young pidgey perched on top of an enveloped letter on his desk, a small note around its leg. The note says "Now you can reply with Pidy!" in purple ink and ends with a jumble of dashes and shapes that he can only assume is a drawing of something he has never seen before. The letter, meanwhile, is double-sided and eight pages, cluttered with so many unnecessary details that his head spins just looking at it.

Green scribbles two words ("too long") on his last pokémart receipt, punctuates it with a period, and sends it off with Pidy.

Four days later, he receives a small slip of paper with three dots on it: an ellipsis. She does not send him anything else after that, and two weeks later Green is both guilty and a little bit worried that he takes out her previous letter and reads it word-per-word. Thrice, to make sure he doesn't miss anything. He spends two days writing back to her, crumpling paper after paper and throwing them to the bin when they didn't meet his standards.

The reply he sends is only three paragraphs long and starts with the words "pesky woman".

Blue returns two months later, a map in her hands. She spreads it out on the floor of Green's gym and talks about traveling around Johto next.

"I'll start at Olivine," she declares when Green returns from a victorious battle with a trainer from Cinnabar, "and then go to Ecruteak, Mahogany, Blackthorn… making my way around until I end up at Goldenrod. I think I'll leave next month."

He blinks. "Already?"

"Yeah, sure," she responds, offering him a mischievous smile, "Why? You don't want me to go?"

"Hardly. The five months you were away are the most relaxing months I've ever had."

Blue shrugs, undeterred by his placid response. Using a red marker, she starts tracing her journey on the map. Green crouches next to her, watching as she marks places of interest with a red heart. The space between his brows creases into a frown.

"How long?"

"Six months, at least. Maybe seven, eight," Blue looks up, something indecipherable on her face before the corners of her lips slide upwards. "I'll still send letters if you'll reply."

"Hmm," Green mutters noncommittally, "Maybe when I feel like it."

It starts with the small things first. Very small, sometimes, that he doesn't notice them until he is a second too late: conversations that stray a centimeter from the casual sphere, looks that linger, teasing smiles that etch themselves permanently into the back of his skull.

Blue is flighty, gone more often that she's not, traipsing around region after region. Every time she comes back, however, there is a little part of him that wishes that she stays. Green understands this as affection, as longing, as something that can grow into love or maybe already is.

He kisses her as one night just outside the borders of Viridian Forest as they recover from a particularly grueling training session. It is chaste but certain, his hands sinking into her entangled mass of brown hair as she curls her fingers into the front of his black shirt.

"I have feelings for you," he tells her later. His tone is neither arch nor dour, but matter-of-fact; the kind of tone one adopts when talking about pokémon biology or type disadvantages or what program is showing on TV this afternoon. "I think I've had them for a while."

If she's surprised, she doesn't show it. Instead she nods, pink lips summarily curved into a winsome grin that makes her eyes shine even more brilliantly. Green frames this sight in his head, tucking it into his pocket, and keeps it for future reference.

"I know," she replies, and the space where her arm is pressed onto his tingles warmly, "I know."

Blue disappears the very next day, leaving only a short scribbled note stuck on his bedroom door. Off to Hoenn, it says, and there is nothing else, not even her name or address.

She takes Pidy with her this time, and Green tries not to feel (too) disappointed.

The next time Blue comes back is seven months and thirteen days after she left. Green meets her outside the gates between Viridian and the forest fifteen minutes too late. It's raining and she's drenched to the bone, brown hair plastered to her forehead. She takes one look at him (at the lone flower between his fingers, freshly picked from a bush outside his gym) and wonders, "Is that for me?"

"No," he says, dropping it to the ground. Her voice is lighter, more feminine, piercing shrill traded for silver cadences. Her hair is longer and there is something different in her eyes, something adult and infinitely more alluring. He offers to take her bags and she thanks him, squeezing water out of her hair as they walk into the city. "You know, most people would have written home at least once."

"Sorry," she laughs, not sounding sorry at all. "I thought most people wouldn't reply."

"Most people might have if you give them the chance."

She pauses before a puddle of water on the road, gives him a look. "Sometimes, Green," she says, his name passing between her lips like a foreign object, "that's the hardest part."

He doesn't understand (her).

Blue knows this like she knows how to steal a woman's favorite earrings or seize a man's attention, like how many items she needs to sell before she breakevens, like the number of fingers she has on each hand. She's not staying not because she doesn't like him. It's in fact the contrary: she likes him a little too much to hang around.

"Leaving again, huh?"

Her fingers still over her bags and Blue freezes, turning around to meet his gaze ten seconds later.

Green is leaning on the doorway, arms crossed over his chest and eyebrows raised. The way his shoulders tense belies the easy smile curving his lips. "Yellow told me you excused yourself several minutes ago," he shakes his head, chuckles. "It's your own homecoming party. Can't the packing be done later?" She parts her lips to defend herself, but once again he beats her to it. "Blue… I'm not going to stop you."

This surprises her, not because it is unexpected but because something akin to disappointment is squeezing her stomach. "You're not?"

"No. You're so vexing that you're going to want to leave more if I try to stop you, anyway."

"Are you complimenting me or insulting me?"

"A little bit of both," he answers after a moment of consideration. "Look, I don't know what you're searching for and I don't know if you'll find it. All I know is that it's important to you—but think of the ones you're leaving behind, too. Yellow was worried sick when she heard nothing from or about you, and you know how agitated Red gets when she's unhappy. You shouldn't cover your tracks so completely," he pauses, shakes his head, and wonders aloud: "How is it that you're more annoying when you're not around than when you are?"

His question evokes a chuckle from her lips, honeyed and rich. "It's an acquired talent."

"I can tell."

"So what about you?"

"What about me?"

Her smile widens, and this time it is more cunning, more like the Blue he remembers from happy golden days. "Were you worried too?"

"What kind of a question is that?" he asks, shaking his head.

"One that requires an answer."

The tension on his shoulders eases, his green gaze meeting her sky blue. "You can take care of yourself."

She pauses at this, taking the moment to take him in, to paint him in her mind's eye. His shoulders are broad, his voice deeper and his hands larger, stronger, more like a man's. When did this happen? she asks herself, almost bemused. Am I gone for too much, for too long, that things just completely pass me by?

"You can leave," Green begins, his baritone soft and suddenly very, very close, "Just... don't keep us in the dark. Don't keep me in the dark."

(Maybe he does understand her better than she gives him credit for.)

"I'll write," the words escape her throat like a promise. "I'll write you. I'll write home."

He arches his eyebrows, his lips parting slightly in surprise, and then it all eases and his smile is so Green that it sends her heart beating a mile an hour and her knees trembling. "Then I'll wait," he replies, something molten is his voice that whispers not entirely unpleasant shivers down her spine, "Annoying woman."

Blue's next letter comes just two weeks after she leaves, and unlike her previous ones, this one is particularly short:


I miss Pallet. And you. (Well, okay, mostly you.) Meet me at the gates in thirty minutes?


This time he arrives ten minutes too early, and when she asks if the flower in his hand is for her, answers honestly.

He asks her this on a spring day synonymous to quiet walks in the park, that vernal drizzle that dots the windowpanes and the sight of fresh tulips on the table:

"Are you staying?"




a/n: I think Blue would have way more issues than Green does, given the way she grew up.

First Pokemon fanfic ever and I don't even read much from the fandom to understand its standards, so I can only hope that this is somewhat up to par. Still grappling with characterization, too, so feel free to point out anything that doesn't quite float your boat. Thank you!