Notes: For larky over on Dreamwidth, who wanted a Red/Leaf piece written to Vienna Teng's "Recessional." She also stipulated that I not break the ship, and I guess it's up to your interpretation if I did or not. Let's just say I didn't, okay? I totally didn't. I recommend listening to the song; it really is beautiful, and it's a good companion for this piece.

Characters: Red/Leaf

Universe: Games

Warnings: implied sexual situations.

Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon, nor do I stand to profit from this story in any form. All mistakes are my own.

Dreaming Through the Noise

The terminal is empty save for the two of them, and he has never felt more isolated in his entire life.

It is that fleeting time between a late night and an early morning, and the darkness clings to the outside of the wide, sweeping glass of the window. The harsh glare of the fluorescent lights overhead sharpen the tired ache in his eyes, but he keeps them open to stare at something in the distance tiredly.

Leaf stirs against his shoulder, her mouth parting so that her lips brush against the worn cotton of his shirt.

He stiffens for a moment, then relaxes when she stills. When he is sure that she has drifted away again, he cranes his neck to look at the glass that, caught as it is between the light of the terminal and darkness of the harbor outside, reflects his likeness back at him.

Her form, attempting to curl around his, presses against the armrest separating their seats instead. The plastic jabs into the side of her stomach, but the rest of her torso spills over the divider. Her arm lies across his lap, and her head rests on his shoulder so that her hair spills out from under her hat and onto his abdomen. The chestnut strands ghost across his skin, and he makes a conscious effort to avoid brushing them away.

It must be uncomfortable for her; it certainly is for him. He wonders if he should reposition her somehow, but he lets those thoughts drift away as soon as they occur to him. He doesn't want to wake her.

So he stays still and lets his ears fill with the buzz of the light bulbs, the lumbering hum of the air conditioning, and the deep, steady rhythm of her breathing.

Soon a rusty, monotonous voice will echo out from the intercom to announce the next departure. It will rouse her from her sleep and call her away.

He knows this, but Red clings to each moment as tightly as he can anyway.

Outside, it begins to rain.

— . . . —

Red arrives at Pallet Town when the light of the afternoon has just begun the slow process of surrendering to the evening. The sky is a deep azure against the orange of Charizard's leathery skin, and the contrast makes them even more noticeable than they already are. A group of people have gathered around the hill they landed on. They stare at him curiously.

It takes him a few moments to come to the realization that he does not know who any of these people are. He tugs at the brim of his hat in a hurried gesture of greeting, recalling Charizard and making his way down the cobbled path to his house.

He has always regarded Pallet Town as a constant. In his mind, it takes the form of an unchanging tableau of rolling pastures, humble houses, and familiar faces. But it had changed in the years he was away: the dusty dirt roads have been paved, the old wooden houses repainted and renovated and - in some cases - replaced altogether by large, sprawling constructs of cement. People had come and gone, but those who stayed had done something else entirely. They had settled down and had children, taking on the trappings that their parents had worn before them.

These observations are unsettling to Red, and he hastens his steps.

In the midst of his disconcerted thoughts, he does not recognize the familiar form walking toward him until it calls his name. He turns toward the speaker, and finds that it is Leaf.

Her eyes are almost comically wide with surprise. "What are you doing here?" she asks incredulously.

Red shrugs as if to say, Because you asked.

She seems to decipher the meaning, because she grins at him, her cheeks flushed.

Their eyes meet, and a moment passes between them. Something hovers in the air, something that Red feels he could grasp if he would only reach out and touch it. He is struck with the unfamiliar pang of being at a loss for words and tries to swallow the feeling away. It persists, however, his throat thickening with words he cannot - nor knows how to - articulate.

Mercifully, the moment dissipates soon enough.

Leaf's grin tightens into a thin-lipped smile. She reaches for his hand, her fingers pressing gently against the pulse point in his wrist. "Come on," she says.

She takes him to the old tree the three of them had claimed during the time they had been friends instead of rivals, the one with their initials carved into its stubborn bark. They sit in its shade, their bodies resting between the webs made from its thick roots.

He wonders, distantly, if he should say something. But the lump remains lodged in his throat, and it is all Red can do to suck in enough air to keep himself clearheaded. Instead, he runs his index finger along the sharp, exaggerated lines of a G while Leaf reclines across the grass and launches herself into an easy monologue about the weather in Hoenn.

The sound of her voice is softly punctuated by the chirping of pidgey and the faint whisper of the breeze though the grass. The sounds are soothing, and he soon finds that he can breathe easily again.

But he remains silent as he always has, his fingers tracing the slanted grooves of an L and - a short distance away - the point of an R.

This, at the very least, has not changed.

Eventually, he closes his eyes.

— . . . —

It is cold, but she pulls away from him all the same.

He does not protest nor express concern, but he does turn his head a little so that he can watch her out of the corner of his eye.

She takes a few steps through the cave, her toes curling gingerly around the smooth rock to avoid slipping on melting frost. The flickering light of the fire lends the skin along her right side a faint orange hue as she bends her knees to rustle through her bag with a free hand; the rest of her pale profile is left to blend in with the shadows. Her other hand remains clasped around the blanket draped over her shoulders, preventing it from falling off and leaving her body bare to the winds that whistle along the mouth of the cave.

She rises, clutching something he cannot quite distinguish from the shadows. With small, careful steps, she continues to draw away from the fireplace. Eventually, she makes it to the curving surface of the cave's wall, and brings her hand up to touch it. She stays like that for a moment, then raises the hand clutching the object so that it lies against the stone. It glints in the firelight, and he realizes that she is holding a knife.

A grating sound echoes in the cave as she digs the blade into the face of the rock in repetitive motions. He continues to watch, but he averts his eyes modestly when she issues forth a small, frustrated sound and drops the blanket to clutch at the handle with both hands.

After a few minutes of this, the grating sounds stop, and she clears her throat to gain his attention.

He turns to look at her despite himself.

She stares straight at him and beckons silently, her arm outstretched, palm opened. There is no room for anything in his mind but her, so he acquiesces, rocking forward onto his bare feet and making his way toward her with quick, sure steps. When he reaches her, he bends over to pluck her discarded blanket from the ground. She takes it gratefully and uses it to cover both their forms as she presses against him, her front to his side. Her skin is cold against his own, but he does not pull away. Instead, he squints his eyes at the spot she had been working on a few moments before.

"You won't be able to see it," she says over the chattering of her teeth. Gently, she takes his hand and guides it onto the wall. "Feel it out." She guides his finger along the rough, dusty lines carved into the stone. "L," she reads. Her voice vibrates along the skin of his shoulder. "R."

He remembers the old maple tree and days spent playing tag and staring at the sky.

"Something to remember me by," she tells him, "while I'm away."

Her lips press against the juncture between his shoulder and neck. The kisses are featherlight, and he wraps his arm around her.

He holds her close until her shivering stills.

— . . . —

She sways a little against the wind, a wavering sliver of color amongst the surrounding white. She sways and sways, her arms cradling her chest for warmth, but then she takes a step forward, her boots sinking into the blanket of snow with a muted crunch. Her form wavers once more, and then her arms disentangle themselves to hover at her sides. She leans in close.

There are snowflakes in her hair, in the fluttering, windswept ends of her scarf, caught in the spaces between her lashes.

Her hands, pale and bare, pull at his in a soft search for stability. He lets out a long breath of air he had not been conscious of holding, and their breaths mingle between them, the vapor warm and steam-like for the briefest of moment before the cold swallows it all away.

"Red," she whispers.

He closes his eyes, and when her fingers intertwine with his own, he lets the wind move him so that he sways forward.

Their lips brush.

A/N: My gratitude goes out to the readers. Thank you for taking the time to read this fic. Reviews and feedback are always appreciated.

I hope you enjoyed reading this piece as much as I enjoyed writing it.