When Riley met Steven four months ago on Iron Island, the land of a thousand breeds of Steel-type Pokemon, the first thing he did was ridicule.
"I thought the Champions were type-neutral," Riley heckled, the first thing he said as he stumbled upon Steven training against the wild Pokemon of the island. "You train only Steel types? That's rather close-minded, Hoenn-boy."
Steven had frowned at him, this man with the strangely slanted hat, indigo attire, and the sturdy-eyed Lucario that stood beside him. Pluck a feather in his cap, and he could have been a sixteenth-century thief. "How did you know that I'm the Hoenn Champion?" Steven inquired.
"I can tell a Champion from the way he stands and the way he fights," Riley said.
"Thank you," Steven replied, taking that as a compliment.
Riley had cackled. "I never said your fighting style was good, sir." He paused. "Oh, and people from Hoenn have an accent that sounds like a foghorn. Just a thought."
That set the tone for Steven and Riley's friendship—cynical, devastatingly cruel, but with just enough care and gentleness for it all to be in offbeat kindness. Steven was a quiet man and was not one to associate with those who did not share his introversion, but it shocked him how well he got along with the former nomad and his Lucario. Riley's brash jokes and dry humor actually amused Steven, but only to a certain point—and once Riley passed that point, Steven became annoyed with him. Even Lucario would become disgruntled at Riley's wit, but that was usually long after Steven desired to slaughter him.
Upon their first meeting, Riley offered Steven a glass of iced tea, as it just so happened that Steven was training near his small cottage upon the tallest hill on this isle with emerald grass. Steven, against his better judgment from accepting drinks from a complete stranger, accepted. The two sat on Riley's front porch for several hours, sipping tea and discussing things about the astronomical world as Lucario and Steven's Metagross explored the woods nearby. Steven talked first about Pokemon battling and life as a celebrity, while Riley mused about finding Lucario abandoned as a Riolu and learning how to knit gracefully while still retaining his masculinity. Eventually, they dissolved into a deep conversation about the abomination of the evil organizations that plagued their world and dissented several times about who's intentions were better.
"Remember Team Plasma down in Unova?" Riley commented. "I think their hearts were in the right place. Pokemon, after all, have become slaves to their human trainers. I can understand their desire to free them and force humans to not catch or interact brutally with them."
"But you have a Lucario," Steven pointed out. "Are you not its trainer?"
"Lucario is my friend," Riley told him, "as your Metagross is yours, for you spoke to it as an equal while you trained. Lucario is free to come and go as he pleases. I do not own him. We live together and keep each other within security. He is more human to me than Pokemon. I simply can't stand trainers that abuse or force their Pokemon to fight for mere cash or sick pleasure. Battling should be a mutual enjoyment between both human and Pokemon, not a cockfight."
Steven, though disagreeing with Riley's support for Team Plasma—after all, they were a direct threat to innocent humans—understood his stance. His own Pokemon were travelling companions that protected him in exchange for safety within his Pokeballs, sheltered from the dangerous wild. His father had taught him that during Steven's childhood, when Devon Corporation was not quite so omnipotent and he was around more often to tend to his children. While Mr. Stone was a despised man in Steven's eyes, he did respect his old man for that one sound piece of advice—Pokemon are friends, not slaves.
These days, it was hard to find someone who believed the same way, as Pokemon battling had become more of a job than a thrilling pastime that flirted with death. More and more children were becoming trainers—in fact, Steven had been defeated by a boy of fifteen named Ruby, but most young men in the field were not nearly as focused or mature as he was. Oftentimes, they struck or yelled at their Pokemon if a fight was lost or they failed in some other abstract task. Steven was almost glad to find someone sane, that held his Pokemon in the same regard as he. He was almost glad.
Riley's boisterous personality tended to override that.
After they finished their tea, Steven got ready to depart Iron Island and waved goodbye to Riley as he got on Skarmory. It took several minutes for Lucario and Metagross to separate, as they had become fast friends. When Metagross ceased complaining, Steven returned him to his ball and took off. As he disappeared into the cloudy atmosphere, he heard Riley call behind him:
"Come back again soon, Hoenn-boy!"
And, in spite of the strange wisdom of Riley that turned most off, Steven did go back. Five more times in four months, to be exact—all without knowing why exactly he did so in the first place. If there was a lull in his days as the former Hoenn Champion (being a "former Champion" doesn't quite have the same ring or responsibility to it as "current Champion"), Steven would mindlessly pack Skarmory up, get on, and instruct her to fly to Iron Island. Whenever Steven disembarked at the little hill with the familiar cottage at the peak, Riley would always be outside, smiling pleasantly at the sky as if he'd been waiting the whole time.
Lucario was a constant fixture by Riley's side until dismissed to frolic with Metagross and Skarmory. He never left without Riley's permission. Steven remembered Riley's quip that Lucario was a free Pokemon and allowed to leave if he chose, but by the adoring way he regarded his master, Steven knew that would never happen. Though the Pokemon became good friends with Steven's team over the few months that he got to know Riley, the man was still his first and foremost comrade.
That made Steven a little jealous—Riley was his friend too, after all, even if he hadn't been around him as long as Lucario had. Granted, he was a very unusual friend and couldn't quite give the stability as a Pokemon could, but Lucario's constant hanging on Riley irritated him. He wanted to speak with Riley on his own, without any interference from their Pokemon. Which was why Steven released his Pokemon when he was, so Lucario could take a break from human interaction and spend time with his own species.
Now that he thought about it, that was probably a mistake—because when he took away
Lucario, he just had Riley.
And Riley alone was a dangerous force.
Iron Island is a long way from the Hoenn Region—and Riley probably knew that when he invited Steven for a visit at his home for the sixth time in their extended friendship. It had been four months since they met; yet Steven still absolutely hated to travel any duration of time over ten minutes, especially on the uncomfortable back of his sole Flying type, Skarmory. Of course, the day Steven met Riley, he immediately gathered that this man enjoyed minor suffering to others' expense, to some extent. Although strikingly handsome, Riley was not narcissistic—sadistic, more plausibly, especially as he told Steven over the phone (with a smirk, no doubt) to get there earlyso they could spend more time together.
"What can I say?" Riley chuckled at Steven complained about the trip. "I'm a possessive man. Come on, you steely lover, and let's chew fat together."
"You sound homoerotic," Steven commented.
"When don't I?" Riley said. "See you soon, lazy bum."
Steven gritted his teeth and hung up. He could be an ass sometimes. I'm doing this to study the Pokemon on the island, he thought snappishly for himself as he prepared Skarmory for the long journey. Not for Riley and his blatant sarcasm.
The journey took longer than he liked, but he was growing used to it. Lucario and Riley were waiting in the same spot that they always were when Steven landed at precisely noon. Waiting for himself, Skarmory, and Metagross were chicken salad sandwiches. One apiece for Lucario, Riley, Steven, and Skarmory, and twenty-seven for Metagross, all accompanied with glasses of iced tea (or gallons, in Metgross's case). The Pokemon sprawled out on the pristine foliage with their trainers as they enjoyed their lunch.
Later that afternoon, as their food settled, Riley and Steven were watching Metagross, Skarmory, and Lucario play on the lawn from the front porch. The trio seemed to be playing tag, and Metagross—being large, clunky, and exceptionally intimidating—was winning. Lucario was the tagger, and when he dashed to the low-flying Skarmory to touch her, Skarmory bowled him over and pinned him to the grass. Lucario, unable to move beneath her slick weight, blushed and wiggled in a futile attempt to escape, but Skarmory was sly. Cheerfully, she literally pecked him on the check and chirruped with glee as Lucario only became more embarrassed.
Riley laughed out loud as the scene unfolded. "Look at that!" He said. "That's something. I've never seen Lucario so flustered."
"Skarmory has him in a compromising position, that's why," Steven said, disgruntled at his Pokemon. He called out to her, ordering his steel bird to let Riley's companion go. Reluctantly, she did so, shooting him a glare on the process.
"That was cute," Riley mused as the three stumbled back into their game.
"That was brutal," Steven said blandly. "I taught her better than that."
"What's up your ass?" Riley snorted. "She was just being playful. Lucario will forget about it by the end of the day. Besides, I think your Skarmory has a little crush on him." Winking, Riley nudged Steven suggestively while Steven rolled his eyes in exasperation.
"Well, she can keep dreaming," Steven mumbled. "We need to keep an eye on those two, or else we'll have baby Skarmories and Riolus running all over the place and causing messes."
Riley shrugged. "I would reassure you that Lucario wouldn't ever cavort romantically with other Pokemon, but I'd be lying if I did." He scratched his nose. "I've never seen him like that. I think he returns her feelings."
Interested, Steven glanced at him. "Do you really think so?"
"Yes, I do," Riley said. "Pokemon emulate their trainers, you know."
Steven frowned. He didn't quite know what Riley was trying to get at. "Are you saying that you like me?" He joked, somewhat weakly. Surely Riley was just kidding, as he did with everything else. Seriousness was not in his nature. His tone wasjesting, as it usually was, so Steven was positive that he was merely frightening him.
But if I'm so sure about it, then why am I thinking so hard?
"You ass, there's a pie in the kitchen," Riley responded as means of an answer, as if the two phrases fit together perfectly. "I made it for us and the Pokemon. I think my sandwich has digested nicely, so I believe it's time to fill all my empty, despairing holes with sugar." Jumping up, Riley gestured for Steven to follow him through the screen door.
Grimacing at Riley's obvious dodging of the question—thus disrupting Steven's normal calmness about the place—Steven hesitated, but rose anyway. "You only made one?" He asked. "Metagross will need at least five."
Riley huffed as he ducked into the well-furnished, seventies-style living room with the orange shag carpet and tinted drywall. Steven was always amazed with Riley's passé sense of décor. "Okay, I lied, it's only for you," he said. "I don't have enough money to feed that behemoth you call your favorite Pokemon. But I reckon that I need a slice myself. Pie only comes around once in a great while. It's… the Mew of pastries in my world."
The kitchen—very homely with its yellow plastic countertops and appliances that appeared
as if they materialized from a 1950's issue of the Searscatalog, making Steven somewhat homesick for his childhood—opened up from the living room with just a framed arch separating the two rooms. Riley ducked in, and Steven went with him. Sure enough, there was a tasty-looking blackberry pie sitting beside the sink with a knife beside it. Hurrying over, Riley tapped the top.
"Cool to the touch," he grinned. Riley hustled over to the retro oak cabinets, shimmering from a recent oiling, and took out two paper plates and napkins. As he opened a drawer to find the plastic forks, Steven went to cut the pie without signal. Riley put the paper plates down, and Steven helped the two modest slices onto their respective surfaces.
The pair stood, holding their plates with their drooping pieces of homemade pie, the crust soggy with pervaded juices. Riley's fork was poised over the sweet. "You go first," he told Steven. "I want to know how it tastes."
Shrugging, Steven cut off the jagged end with the side of his fork and shoveled it into his mouth. Chewing thoughtfully, he swirled the fruity filling around in his mouth with the proficiency of a wine tester before swallowing. Staring Riley directly in the eye, he gave his report. "This tastes like shit."
Riley held his plate up in a toast. "Here, here! Success has been met!" Beaming, he chomped with zeal on his own bite before scowling, absorbed in the horror of the food. "Wow, you weren't kidding," he said. "This is awful."
"Told you," Steven said. "You aren't the best baker in the world, Riley."
Riley sighed and placed his half-eaten slice down on the counter. "It appears that there is only one thing to do with this lethal tart from Hell," he said. Scooping up another large mouthful, Riley bent the prongs of his fork back like a catapult and flung the doughy substance at Steven. It flew at the Hoenn Champion with the speed of a hurtling blue sphere of water, oozing as it went. Suddenly, it connected, slapping Steven's cheek. The pie was so viscous that it stuck with the texture of hard jelly.
Steven growled and wiped the morsel away, offhandedly making it fall to the floor with a chaotic slop."Don't you dare turn this into a food fight," he snapped. "I have a meeting tomorrow."
"So what, you bore?" Riley jeered. "You can take a bath between now and then. You like, never have fun. Ever."
"My idea of fun is different than yours," Steven pointed out. His cheek was still wet.
"Yeah, I got that." Riley took a step forward, already too close in this cramped kitchen. "Hold still. You have some blue cream on your face." Licking his thumb, he rubbed Steven's cheek like a fussing mother.
Steven's skin crackled at the contact, but he could not move away any further—behind his back was a wall, and there was a counter separating him and the archway. "Pokemon emulate their trainers, you know."Why was he thinking about that now? Riley was just grooming him. That wasn't gay at all, was it? His muscles reacted and frowned before he could control himself. What a rhetorical question.
Riley's hand stopped, but it did not move from Steven's cheek. "What're you thinking about?" He inquired. "You're always thinking about something."
Steven tried to speak, but he felt like his mouth was lined with cotton. He couldn't move. It was as if all his joints were frozen stiff.
Without caveat, Riley's hand uncurled from a fist into a flat palm and curled around Steven's jaw, caressing his earlobe. He stroked his thumb against the man's lower lip, sending chills of—what? Shock? Pleasure? Fear?—coursing through Steven's veins. "It's unhealthy to overthink things, you know," Riley said, his timbre now low and smooth.
"Pokemon emulate their trainers, you know."
"You weren't kidding, were you?" Steven croaked.
Riley simply smiled, pretending that he hadn't heard him. "Sometimes," he whispered, leaning in gradually until his lips barely flitted around Steven's, "you just have to go against your morals…" He murmured as if he were speaking into Steven instead of at him, his other hand weaving around Steven's waist, pulling his lower body close. "… and do what you innately feel is right."
Before Steven could even ask himself if he really felt that whatever was going on was really right, Riley pressed their mouths together. Instantly, every gear in Steven's body clicked on and began to move at full throttle, as if he were a machine—or one of his Steel Pokemon. Responding to the stimuli, Steven was amazed at how soft and delightful Riley tasted, surprising unlike sour blueberry pie. His mind was still confused, being led around in a maze of semi-expectance, but his body was alert and reacted posthaste. Without consent from his brain, Steven pushed back against him, not faltering for a second to slip his tongue into Riley's mouth, exploring the dank, hot cavern. Riley, pleased with his reaction, fought back, and their tongues battled in a struggle for dominance that seemed to last forever.
Stealthily, Riley slid his hands up Steven's shirt, massaging the small of his back with hungry provocation, raking his nails up and down the Champion's skin. Steven went into convulsions, the sensation turning him on and astounding his touch. Every nerve ending on his body was at attention from the action, and he wanted more. Grinding his pelvis against Riley's, he savored the friction between their hard selves and the ravenous moan that Riley gave with thinly veiled excitement.
Within minutes and a flurry of clothing, they were naked and tangled in heavy and desirous limbs on the tile floor. Riley propped himself above Steven, his dark eyes drilling lust and marvel into the man. "What did I tell you?" He panted.
"P-Pokemon emulate their trainers," Steven gasped. They weren't even finished yet, and he was already beaten.
"Good," Riley rumbled jovially. "But let's not think too hard about them. After all, I've already told you that I'm a possessive man."
As Riley descended upon him, Steven prayed that his brain would kick in soon.
Metagross was hungry. Twenty-seven sandwiches did not do him justice, nor did the ten gallons of iced tea he downed. Now, his thirst was not quenched and his roaring belly not sated—he just needed to pee.
He sat alone on the lawn, waiting patiently for his master and Riley to reemerge from the house—perhaps from a deep conversation—and for Skarmory and Lucario to return from the forest, where Skarmory flew when Lucario tried to catch her. They'd been in there for a good twenty minutes already, and Metagross was worried that they'd been eaten by a giant Mawile or something. And, judging by how long Riley and his master had been gone, they were probably being chased at the present.
Screw it,Metagross thought as he got off his feet. He could ignore his starvation no longer. He could hold his need for the bathroom at least until they got home, but food was a must. If he waited any longer, his own flat abdomen would arise from his metal exterior and consume him. Everybody being destroyed by monster Pokemon was not his concern. They were capable of taking care of themselves.
Metagross looked toward Riley's house with a clever grin.
Riley might have a nicely stocked kitchen…