Every day, Flint was alive only because he was utterly addicted. He couldn't escape his dependency for nary a moment—he thought about it twenty-four hours a day. It hardly mattered what he was doing, for his drug was always on his mind. Whether he was awake or asleep, training or eating, lost in a soundless void of darkness or dreaming (it especially haunted him when he was dreaming), his mind was always on his obsession. As time without his need wore on, he found his composure difficult to keep level. Whenever he had the opportunity, he'd slip away to cater to desires unbecoming of a Sinnoh Elite Four member. All he wanted to do was run away from his duties and responsibilities and act as if he were not one of the most skilled trainers in the region. He had a constant wish to abscond to where he could get a fix.

With him, alone.

Yet there were some days when Flint couldn't make up some invalid, weak excuse and disappear—when his presence was absolutely imperative to the Elite Four's function (which happened to be almost all the time, but he could be suave enough to get away). It was then that experienced withdrawal symptoms, like he was a true alcoholic or drug addict. His hands and voice shook as he rasped commands to his Pokemon in the midst of training or battle against challengers, for he was unable to control his tremulous jerking when he was unable to feed his habit. He broke out into periodic cold sweats; his palms became wet and clammy and his clothes stuck to him like glue. From the roots of his molars would originate a most unpleasant pain that gradually numbed him until it hurt, even to chew. Flint's eyes slowly became bloodshot from the frayed nerves and endless fear.

He wanted to fist his fingers in his smooth red hair and pull until he bled, shrieking in agony like a true madman whenever he envisioned the face of his addiction. It arrived to him in the form of a pale countenance, made of milky white skin that was partially eclipsed with black coal dust. The nose on this face was flat but pert, the eyes wide and silky brown. Clumps of tangled red hair were gathered beneath a mining helmet, since Flint knew his addiction liked to spelunk in his spare time. And, even beneath that grimy film of earth that covered his face, his obsession was always smiling.

When Flint caught himself in such a state of peril, he knew it was time to be purged of his sin, to claw even more desperately—and deeply—into a hole he'd been digging for a long time now. His transgression wasn't any more severe than being in love—only he knew that this, whatever this was, wasn't love. To him, this wasn't love. To his addiction, it might have been.

But to Flint, this dreadful emotion was beyond the very slight plain that love tended to stoop to. It was higher than desire and lust, higher even than friendship. He didn't just covet a dose of his favorite living hell; he practically needed him to survive. Life without him would become insufferable, miserable. Perhaps not even worthy of living. If his addiction failed to meet his thirsty standards, Flint knew that suicide would be his only option.

It was when he felt that way that he had to go see him. Had to.

There was no other choice. If he didn't, he would lose his mind.

When Flint knew it was time, he jumped on the back of his Rapidash and sped out of the Sinnoh Elite Four building, an edifice that, strangely, had no name (the Johto and Kanto Elite Fours called theirs the Indigo Plateau, but it was only in scarce moments of mental clarity that Flint pondered things like that). His Rapidash would carry him for what seemed like hours, but was probably less than even one. The wind against his face, caressing him with the passion of a lover, might have refreshed Flint, had the situation been different.
But he was resilient to all outside forces then, focusing his mind only on the task ahead.

Rapidash traveled until it reached the town of Oreburgh, a quaint village that had once been a roaring mining town in the early centuries of Sinnoh, long before Pokeballs were invented. He paid no attention to passerby as he paused at the city square and swung off his Pokemon, ignoring the strangers' awe at the visitation of a member of the Elite Four. He was very aware of his importance and his impact on the average citizen of the Sinnoh region; and yet despite his celebrity status, he'd never thought much about it. He still felt normal. Still felt like your average Pokemon trainer. And when he had encountered his addiction, he was then truly humbled as a human being.

He spoke to no one as he made his way to the Oreburgh Gym, adrenaline infusing his veins. He clenched his fist so hard that his knuckles turned a waiflike white, his fingers quivering in anticipation. Once he reached the large doors that were several times his height, Flint pushed them open with energy present to those who hold the determination of a god. Once the sun's rays from the outdoors filtered into the underlit Gym—inky and lightless like an empty night sky—he would see the impenetrable silhouette kneeling before him, almost as if it had seen him coming and waited to preempt him.

His addiction stared up at him from the dirt floor of the Gym, his clothes stained and mussed as usual from his perilous hobby and robust, stalwart style of battling. Peering at him from underneath a pair of scratched and blotched glasses, Flint's addiction would give him the slightest, naughtiest smile he had ever seen paint a person's thin lips. The light from the addiction's mining helmet came to be the only luminosity in the shadowy Gym once the mighty entrance closed behind Flint.

The addiction never spoke. He always waited for Flint to begin.

And Flint would. Clearing his throat, trying to sugarcoat his excitement, Flint would manage to choke out one single word before his infatuation sprung like a loaded geyser full of
scalding water.

Flint knew that would burn him in the end.

"Roark," he would say.

And Roark still said nothing. Still possessing his rascally smile, Roark gently rose from his position, not even pausing to brush off his cloudy grey cargo pants. Then, grabbing the front of Flint's shirt—and always leaving a soot-saturated handprint later—he pulled Flint down into the ground with him and ravished him until Flint felt exhausted from the onerous activity. Satiated, Flint would stir even before Roark could move and dress himself again. Without bidding a goodbye to the one who enslaved his soul so calmly, Flint wordlessly trussed his hair and left. Such a carnal passion gratified him! When he rode Rapidash from Oreburgh back to whence he had come, he always chose to face his duties with the Elite Four with grace and respect, the poise that any leader of an official league must contain to be successful.

Nevertheless, Flint could never shake the feeling that what he did with Roark might someday force him to renounce such respect.

It didn't matter. Flint knew he would be back within a day or so, anyway.

With him, alone.

*****

Every day, Volkner was alive only because he was utterly addicted. He couldn't escape his dependency for nary a moment—he thought about it twenty-four hours a day. It hardly mattered what he was doing, for his drug was always on his mind. Whether he was awake or asleep, training or eating, lost in a soundless void of darkness or dreaming (it especially haunted him when he was dreaming), his mind was always on his obsession. All he wanted to do was run away from his duties and responsibilities and act as if he were not one of the most skilled Gym leaders in the region. He had a constant wish to abscond to where he could get a fix.

With him, alone.