notes – weeps into hands and tells you that this is basically rubysapphire, greenblue, goldcrys and redyellow, along with the sinnoh ot3 before rolling into a ditch forever to lie and wonder what ever compelled me to write and subsequently finish this monster

maps I must keep

"I'm back!" Sapphire closes the window behind her. It's the easier way to get into the house even though Ruby never gives up asking her to 'please use the front door!'. She just doesn't like carrying keys. They jangle in her pocket and fall out whenever she jumps around (which is to say: more often than not).

The young woman pulls her hair out of its ponytail, saying, "Work was boring today, there weren't any trainers 'cept for like one or two and– ". The smell of her favourite soup wafting from the kitchen makes Sapphire's nose twitch. She throws her bag aside and walks in to find Ruby preparing dinner.

"What's the occasion?" He hardly goes out of his way to cook her favourites, serving them only on special dates. 'That's what makes them all the more enjoyable when you finally get a chance to eat them' is what he chants all the time.

Ruby checks the calendar pinned on the wall. "Isn't it the middle of period week? I thought I'd better cook something to keep your spirits up," he says absently before returning to the broth.

Sapphire, who'd been leaning against the doorsill, straightens her back abruptly. "… I'm late…" she mutters.

Ruby glances at the clock in the room. "Thank you for acknowledging that for once. You're lucky that I preempted it and started cooking dinner a little later today."

"No, you idiot! I mean I'm late!" Sapphire repeats with frustrated emphasis.

The young man swivels away from the stove to stare at her. The ladle in his hand slips out of his grip and clatters loudly on the floor.

Ruby invites all the ladies over to his house to celebrate the arrival of the baby and to conduct a much-needed session of afternoon tea. Platinum feels odd not having Diamond or Pearl with her, but she's sure they will be able to take care of themselves for a few hours. In the meantime, she can enjoy the company of freshly brewed tea and the girls as they flock around the dining table. Ruby wanders in and out with plates and cutlery – very much a man on a mission.

"How old are you, again?" Blue asks, probably because it's more convenient than working the numbers out.

"Twenty-three," Sapphire reminds her, staring with uncertainty at the plate of cute, pokémon-shaped biscuits on the plate in the middle of the table. She picks a jigglypuff and proceeds to break it in half.

"Ah, what was I doing when I was your age?" Blue wonders, tapping her chin with a teaspoon.

"The same thing you're doing now," Yellow says with a warm chuckle, blowing her tea to cool it down. She holds her cup in both hands, elbows jutting out. This reminds Platinum of Diamond and the difficulty he has remembering the table manners she's been trying to teach him lately. Yellow makes this method of drinking tea look cute; Diamond just makes it look clunky (though perhaps slightly adorable in some ways).

"Being fabulously successful and happy?" Blue squints an eye as she tries to recall. "Oh, you're right!"

Yellow smiles at the same time Crystal sighs. The woman with the star-shaped earrings takes her coffee with milk and only one teaspoon of sugar. When she's sipped enough of the drink to be polite, Crystal clears her throat and asks Sapphire, "So, have the two of you thought of any names yet?"

"Ah, I leave that stuff up to Ruby." Sapphire makes a nonchalant wave with one hand. "I just tell him whether I like it or not."

"Which reminds me, how does 'Tourmaline' sound?" Ruby finally manages to take a seat with them, having arranged all the necessary items for tea. Platinum admires how he's positioned the plates of biscuits and the pots of coffee and tea. They sit an equal distance away from everyone around the table. It's so organized, and not anything like what Pearl would do if he were the host.

Sapphire sticks her tongue out. "That's too fancy."

"Fancy is good!"

"You're the only one that likes fancy."

"Because, clearly, I'm the only one with good taste," Ruby grieves.

Sapphire hits his shoulder lightly and Platinum still can't figure out at which point in time their infamous arguments shifted from destructive to almost affectionate. (Then again, she also doesn't know when she first started seeing Diamond and Pearl as boys who mean too much to her – maybe all of this is a process that happens inch by inch over time, unnoticeable but irrevocable, like the way a tree's roots sink deeper into the earth.)

"Alright, then, what about Topaz?"

Sapphire gives him a neutral gesture, her other hand holding a headless pikachu.


"Wait, are they all girl names?" Sapphire raises an eyebrow at the realisation. "How sure are you that it'll be a girl?"

Ruby just laughs as if the question is silly. "Trust me."

Sapphire balks.

Platinum shifts closer to the tabletop, leaning forward, her attention snagged. "What do you mean?" she asks.

Ruby seems amused by Sapphire's confusion, keeping his mouth closed for once.

"Well, Ruby did ask me to help him with something," Crystal says when she deduces no one else is going to talk. "I was going through some books in the library when I came across some myths about how to conceive a boy or a girl."

"I knew you were the serious type, but I never thought you'd be the superstitious type," Blue laughs at Crystal who, to her credit, only bites her lip in slight indignation.

"It didn't hurt to read up," the woman says, setting her empty cup down. "Anyway, what I found out was that…"

Apparently, 1) drinking lemonade, 2) facing South while doing the deed and 3) having the female initiate, all contribute towards the baby being a female. Platinum hadn't been aware of this. It's intriguing how much she doesn't know she doesn't know until she is with her friends.

Ruby admits to committing all of the above – except for the last point. He begins to give them a wry smile before Sapphire shoves him off his chair. It's hard to make out what he's saying when his face is crushed against the floor.

"Are you sure it isn't raw? Maybe you should eat something else wait-no-don't-oh… nevermind." Ruby lets his head hit the table as Sapphire sticks the sushi into her mouth.

"Look, look! I made more maternity dresses!" He skips into the living room with his two latest masterpieces draped over an arm. Sapphire arches an eyebrow. She's wearing a loose shirt and sweatpants (that don't even match!) and doing a fantastic job of hiding her obvious excitement. Ruby checks and discovers that the first set of dresses he finished three days ago are still hanging in their closet.

"Are you feeling tired? Want to take a rest?" He walks into the open, fenced area behind their apartment building, finding Sapphire still training with her pokémon. It's been like, what? Three hours? She shakes her head and proceeds to dive towards the ground to avoid the charging headbutt from Dono. Ruby swallows a yelp when her stomach grazes the blades of grass.

Sometimes, he feels like he's the one who's going to have a child.

"You really should drink the ginger I prepared– "

"It tastes awful. An' I don't need it!" Sapphire declares. She thinks that she can will the morning nausea away. She overestimates herself like that.

Ruby is used to it though. He's there to hold her hair back as she clutches the toilet in the early dawn. He even withholds himself from saying 'I told you so' because he doesn't want Sapphire trying to punch him while she's puking – the many ways how that could go wrong make him shudder.

One day, Sapphire finally gets tired of him sitting next to her in the bathroom and talking about the finer points of pokéblock-blending while she throws up yesterday's dinner. "Sometimes – I think I puke because of you – and your talk, and not 'cause of the baby," she tells him as she washes her mouth.

"Oh, please." Ruby waves her away, unconcerned. "I'm your professional hair-holder. You need me there so you've got to deal with it."

Sapphire retaliates by cutting her hair without sparing him any prior warning.

When Ruby returns home to see her with her hair short again – after growing it out for at least a year – he clasps his chest and collapses from the terrifying shock. Sapphire rushes over, worry apparent on her face.

"… Oh, you're okay," she says when she realises that he's only paralyzed by the sheer horror of the situation. She stands over him and looks smug.

"I'm not okay." He would have a wittier comeback if his head wasn't so woozy and overcome with grief. Women get cranky and volatile when they're pregnant, and Ruby had been more than prepared to handle that because Sapphire is already cranky and volatile on a daily basis. What he isn't equipped for is how handle a wife with unpredictably disastrous decision-making skills.

"I didn't even go to the hairdresser. Toro helped me slice it off," she says with a smirk. It is then that he notices the choppy ends of her hair.

It's. Hideously. Uneven.

Ruby proceeds to pass out on the carpet.

He comes to on the couch. Sapphire's sitting with him in silence, cupping her hands and hunching her back. Her hair is still a train wreck of epic proportions, but what prevents him from slipping back into unconsciousness is the look on her face. Sapphire's previous smirk is gone, replaced with a frustrated expression of both fear and worry. He's read about this, this flip-flopping between extreme ends of the emotional scale.

"What's wrong?" he asks her, not bothering to sit up.

"What if I'm not good enough, Ruby? How do you be a good mom?" Sapphire gulps.

"You don't need to worry about that. I'll be fabulous enough for the both of us," Ruby explains. A cushion slams against his face.

"I'm being serious!" Sapphire barks.

"I was too?" Ruby coughs as he peels the cushion off.

"You just don't get it, do you? Sure, I was happy at first. I'm still happy. But bein' a mum won't come naturally to me. I don't know how to do it, it's not like you can just wake up one day and know how act like a mother."

Sapphire and her mother have never been heartwarmingly close. They love each other, sure, but Professor Birch has always had a more parental presence in Sapph's life. Ever since she was six, she'd spent most of her time alone in the forest or with her father. She never had the time to bond with her mother over the more feminine aspects of life (which explains a lot of things, really). She never stayed still long enough to learn what a mother did – or to pick up fashion tips. Lucky for her, she has him.

Ruby owes a lot to his mother for raising him when Dad hadn't been around, for always encouraging him to pursue his interests, no matter how flamboyant they were. He knows how much hard work it takes to care for a kid. But Sapphire loves hard work, loves going out of her way and putting effort into everything she's dedicated herself to. She eats determination for breakfast because the eggs he scrambles for her just don't satisfy her appetite all the time.

"Sapph' relax. It will come naturally and you'll be great. If you don't believe me, then let's just take one step at a time. This can't possibly be as hard as the time we saved the world."

"It is," Sapphire assures him. She leans over, her face close to his.

"Well, we did save it in the end!" Ruby reminds her with a smile.

Actually, she saved it, he thinks. He remembers how Sapphire had looked at him, disappointed and betrayed – but at the same time, hoping and hoping that he'd turn around and tell her that he would help in the crisis. How she'd accepted the new clothes he'd sewed for her, accepted him despite all his errors.

They keep their old attire from their days as official Pokédex-holders in back of the storeroom. Ruby takes them out annually to hand-wash them. They're too important to leave dusty and cardboard-boxed up, after all. They mean too much.

Sapphire always, always had this inane ability to believe in him, to see something in him that no one else could or wanted to see. She never stopped looking at him with those eyes of hers – expectant, patient, waiting for him to prove her wrong and for him to prove her right. Maybe, in the beginning, he wasn't the boy Sapphire thought he was. But, because of her, he started to become something like that boy.

He reaches up and kisses her lightly.

"What was that for?" Sapphire asks, her cheeks red.

"A thank you." Then, he kisses her again.

"And that?"

"Because I could tell you were waiting for it."

Before she can hit him, he presses his lips against hers once more, resting a hand below her throat. Sapphire's collarbone is hard under his thumb, just like the rest of her is. Her head, her heart, her character. So tough and sturdy and all the things Ruby has never been.

"Don't think you can kiss all my doubts away," Sapphire snorts. As she says this, she runs a hand through his hair and scratches the tips of her fingers against the nape of his neck. "You ain't that great."

Ruby knows he isn't, even though he pretends to be.

He tries anyway.

Sapphire gets used to the looks her challengers give her when they face off in the gym as the months pass.

"You'll have to beat me to get the badge. Don't think that I'll go easy on you!" she tells them, firm and resolute. Of course, it is them that go easy on her when they see that she's expecting.

Still, she's happy with her job and with the occasional trainer that actually employs strategy and skill instead of brute force. At moments, she can't quite believe that Norman passed the reins of Petalburg gym over to her. Then again, Ruby hadn't been a very likely candidate, seeing as how he shunned battles unless they were absolutely necessary – just like how he avoids discount racks unless they have his favourite shade of red. (Carmine, or whatever. It's disturbing that she knows this.)

Ruby instead clinched a job over at the Contest Hall in Lilycove with Wallace's recommendation.

Norman had seemed more than satisfied to pass the gym over to her, which made Sapphire feel proud every time she thought about it. She'd applied to continue running the gym as one that specialized in Normal-types, but managed to appeal to the higher-ups in the Association to let her keep both Toro and Rono on her team roster.

She's flustered to admit that in recent weeks, her reflexes haven't been up to par. It's still a relatively easy feat to climb trees and move on all fours with her pokémon – she just gets out of breath much faster. This in turn, makes her encounter a few more close brushes in battles. Sapphire likes fighting alongside her friends, not behind them in the arena, so it can't be helped if she gets a little shaken up.

One afternoon, she grips the windowsill and enters the house with her lightest feet. Sapphire pads through the living room, ears searching for Ruby's whereabouts. Maybe she's lucky and he hasn't returned from work. That'll buy her some time from the impending inevitable.


Ruby makes her name sound like a grave misfortune as he approaches her. As she stands onto her feet, she shuts her eyes and runs a hand down her face. Here they go again.

"Just look at you!" He gestures at her, arms ricocheting up, down, left, right. She examines herself, finding mild scratches and cuts on her arms and legs. Sapphire recalls a challenger with a nuzleaf, a flurry of razor leafs and a very close battle. "This is even worse than what happened yesterday!"

When she doesn't open her mouth to reply, Ruby exhales, his lips buzzing like the wings of a ninjask. "We need to get these injuries tended to! Is the baby still in one piece?"

She hugs her womb, only a slight bump under the dress Ruby made for her. "She's fine. I didn't fall over or anything. Some attacks just nicked me, is all. Y'need t'stop overreacting like this after work."

"I'm not!" Ruby shrills. He's already brandishing a bottle of antiseptic in one hand and a box of bandages in the other. "You have Walo, don't you? Use him to shield you from the challenger's attacks! I don't want anything to happen to you!"

"He'd dry up on land," she points out. "And smash a hole in the wall. The gym's too small for him."

"I – I'll lend you Zuzu!" He starts smearing the antiseptic on her skin in a bid to make his point. Sapphire edges away, the cool, piercing smell is too strong for her nose.

"No need," she says, dodging him as he tries to apply a bandage on her.

"Stop moving!" Ruby clenches his jaw. "I was fine with you rough-housing before, but now you have the baby to think about too! You can't jump around or climb trees or let yourself get hurt! I'll… I'll go with you to the gym every day and make sure you're safe!"

He is getting way too worked up over this. Previously, Ruby hadn't minded her coming home with a few scrapes, and Sapphire had actually found it commendable. He takes great pains to try not to be a huge sissy, after all. At most, he'd chided her or advised her to stop favouring her right side until the bruises there had been healed.

Now, though, one thin cut is enough to send him reeling towards the first aid kit. She doesn't think she can stand another day of this – which is saying something because her tolerance levels have greatly increased since she first started living in the same house as Ruby.

He slaps a bandage on her arm and Sapphire tries to shake his hand off vigorously. He clutches onto her, unrelenting. She can't stand it when he underestimates her – when he thinks she can't take a few beatings and bruises, when he can't even trust her with the baby.

Sapphire roars and Ruby backs away a few steps. This is short-lived though, because he advances again as soon as she releases the tension in her body.

"Stop it," she growls. "I'm tougher than you think I am."

And Ruby actually stops. This is what surprises her.

He regards her, his brow creasing. "I'm not doing this because I think you can't handle it," he tells her, sounding taken aback. "I'm doing this for safety."

"Well, maybe more for the safety of my heart than yours, since you know, this whole pregnancy period is not doing my health any good," Ruby babbles a little. "But, yes, I just want to make sure you stay safe."

Sapphire feels her shoulders even out, the initial irritation fading in of the hollow in her chest. It's slowly replaced with a lull – a quiet calmness. When Ruby speaks, this time his voice sounds clearer.

"I just want to be sure that our child will be alright. You're skillful at what you do, but who knows? I'd have a more reassuring life if I know that you're out of harm's way. Better not to risk it than to risk it, right?" her husband chuckles. "We need to be sure that she'll have all that she needs," Ruby insists softly, "including a mother that comes in one piece."

Then, he looks at her with those eyes. Damn those eyes.

She blows a puff of air through her teeth, surrendering reluctantly. "You have a point." Sapphire concedes. "I'll try not to get so close to the challenger's pokémon. I need to watch out for our kid." She'll never best him in a battle of words and feelings. She tilts her head and lets Ruby paste a bandage on the cut on her cheek.

This is more for him than for her, Sapphire is sure.

"I won't use pink ones, alright?"

"Pink ones are okay," she whispers like it is a secret. "Just don't go overboard."

Ruby smiles at her and Sapphire, despite all sensibilities, smiles back.

Sapphire starts counting.


"Yes?" a voice chimes.

"I think the baby's coming?"

The subsequent crashes, bangs and thumps that occur cause Sapphire to cover her ears. Ruby rockets out of his studio, glasses askew on his nose, hat missing and hair out of place. Nana and Coco straggle out behind him, tangled in yarn and sewing threads.

"Excuse me? Did you just tell me you're in labour?"

"Oh. Yeah, probably," Sapphire confirms as she times the regularity of the contractions against the clock on the wall.

Her husband starts crying out hysterically. He falls onto the floor in his mad rush to her side, then stumbles onto his feet and nearly trips over again. This is the man who won over fifty ribbons in both the beauty and cool master rank.

"Okay, calm down. Calm down. We're ready for this. Calm down. Just calm down, Sapphire."

"I am calm," she insists though the contractions are getting excruciating.


The baby – correction, their daughter – wriggles in his arms and Ruby is close to tears.

She reaches out her hands, so small and so babyish. Her tiny fingers brush against his hair and his scar. Ruby sighs and holds his daughter closer.

For the longest time, Ruby had never wanted to take his hat off. Despite being someone who raved on and on about beauty, he never was particularly beautiful on either the inside or out. And the last person he wanted to show his scars to had been Sapphire. He hadn't wanted her to feel guilty or pity or any other inelegant emotion.

When he finally did, Sapphire made him feel acceptance, forgiveness – she'd made him feel silly for being so hesitant about it. He thought maybe he wasn't so ugly after all if a girl like Sapphire could find something worth liking about him.

The baby in his arms has his eyes and his dark hair, but Ruby can't help see anyone but Sapphire in her tiny, delicate features.

"You're beautiful," he tells his daughter.

She starts crying, tears wailing down her pink face. And Ruby cries too, and Sapphire doesn't scold him for being a wimp so everything's alright.

Yellow cradles the newborn in her hands, singing a soft lullaby. Gold knows this song. It was a hit on the radio when he'd been a kid. It's about a lapras and sailing together on 'a sea of dreams' – something mushy like that.

The hospital ward is decidedly less crowded than it should be but the smell of medicine and disinfectant in the air is just as heavy. Only a few of them could make it to Hoenn on such short notice – but, hey, this is a big occasion. Gold's pretty sure his boss won't be too angry when (and if) he finds out that he's going to be slightly late for work today. Crystal won't be thrilled to know that, but she's not here yet and Gold prefers to take things as they come. (Or avoid things all together if feasibly possible.)

He balances his plastic chair onto two legs and surveys the room. Green's the only other visitor, standing behind Yellow and observing the baby with that usual silent-but-unmistakably-cool card trick of his. Ruby has scooted close to Sapphire's bedside, his eyes redder than usual because of all the crying he's been doing. Gold is pretty sure Ruby has gone through a year's worth of tears at this point. Sapph's a tough one, dealing with the delivery and her emotionally unstable sissy, all while on painkillers.

"She's asleep," Yellow says, voice barely audible.

She holds the baby up to Green. "She's so warm. Here, you try."

The man hesitates, but when Ruby and Sapphire nod at him, he unfolds his arms and carefully lets Yellow lower the baby into them. Gold abandons the chair and wanders closer, peering over Green's shoulder at the sleeping infant. She's got Sapphire's oval face and soft cheeks. The baby seems incredibly tiny in Green's arms, reminding Gold of all the baby pokémon he's helped hatch before. They all come into the world, not knowing anything except how to cry and how to be happy.

He does a double-take when he catches the expression on Green's face.

"Green, you're… smiling?" Gold exclaims. The eighth wonder of the world right here, folks.

The gym leader immediately switches back to his usual scowl.

"What?" Gold doesn't understand the hostility. Anyone would have been surprised.

Green shakes his head as he turns towards Sapphire, who's resting in bed. "What's her name?"

The woman thinks for a moment, exchanging a brief look with Ruby.


Blue strolls into Ruby and Sapphire's apartment, noticing how much Ruby has baby-proofed it. His sewing kits and materials are stowed away on the highest shelf of the cabinet. The corners of all potentially sharp surfaces have rubber cushions glued on them. Their pokémon are wandering around, a delcatty sleeping in front of the windows and a mightyena lounging near the kitchen door – another line of Ruby's defenses to keep Garnet safe.

There are framed photos of Ruby and Sapphire's wedding hanging on the wall, over the TV. Sapphire's carrying Ruby bridal style in one of them, beaming in her slim white dress. Her veil is lopsided and crumpled on the ground near her feet, along with a pair of white heels. Sapphire makes for a beautiful, barefooted bride. Ruby looks tormented in his black tuxedo, his mouth gaping open.

In a second photo, he decides he might as well look fab in Sapphire's arms and winks at the camera.

Blue lingers on a picture of all the pokédex holders, from Red in his crooked bowtie to Platinum in her sparkling, elegant evening number. She smiles, not quite believing that this all happened less than two years ago.

She wants to say that she can't believe that one of their youngest were the first to get hitched – but, hey, they were practically on the verge of dating back when they were ten, so this all makes complete sense. Blue is more shocked by the fact that no one else has taken the hint and exchanged any rings. Red and Yellow might soon if Red actually remembers that he has to propose, Gold and Crystal have been engaged since forever because Crystal has always prioritized work ahead of wedding prep. As for her and Green… well, she doesn't really want to think about that right now.

Ruby walks out of the kitchen without his hat. He's stopped wearing it as of late, opting for headbands or nothing at all. Blue supposes he pulls off this new look quite decently.

He searches through the items in the room and does a double-take when he spots her sitting on their couch, flipping through an issue of Pokégirl.

"Did you invite yourself in again, Blue?" he asks as he takes off his spectacles and places them on the coffee table.

"Aren't you happy to see me?" She slings the magazine aside and opens her arms. "I came to Hoenn to review some new tourist hotspots for the magazine, so I grabbed the chance to drop by. You're very welcome."

The small sounds of plastic hitting plastic catch her attention. She pokes her head into the kitchen to see Garnet sitting in a baby chair, mighty spoon in hand. A castform hovers around her diligently as Ruby finds what he's looking for (an empty milk bottle) and returns to the kitchen.

"Oh right, I've heard that you're well-received among the readers," Ruby says as he travels around the room.

"Of course, everyone can't help but love my opinion and my taste!" Blue slides into the seat next to the baby. "By the way, I'm planning on doing coverage on the Lilycove Contest Hall soon, and I told my boss that I could snag an exclusive backstage tour behind the stage and the counter. Pull some strings for me, please?"

"So that's why you're here," Ruby says in a humouring tone.

Blue gasps in offense. "Of course not! Why, I came here to see my favourite little girl!"

She turns to face the gurgling Garnet. "Call me big sis' Blue!" she says as rests an elbow on the high chair.

"Aunty Blue."

"No, no, big sis' Blue!"

"Aunty Blue."

"Alright, just Blue is fine too," the woman says through gritted teeth. "Blue."


Blue feels terribly old. She grabs the milk bottle from Ruby and jabs it into Garnet's mouth.

"So, what's the big news?" Sapphire asks, seating herself amongst the towers of documents on a desk in Pallet lab. She glows despite the fact that she's been fully flung into the throng of motherhood. Maybe Ruby is the one that's been flung into motherhood, not her. Yellow laughs inwardly at the thought.

She surveys the room, surprised to see that Blue and Sapphire haven't brought their partners along with them. She feels embarrassed for having Red accompany her to the lab. She would have asked him not to if she'd known that this was actually a girls-only event. Red doesn't seem to mind, the usual carefree smile on his face as he maneuvers his way through the piles of research papers stacked all over the floor. He manages to sit on an empty swivel chair, gluing his hands on his knees. Having just returned from a trek through Unova, he'd told Yellow he didn't want to stay home when he could follow her to visit Crystal. "We haven't been together in ages, after all," Red had said, his grin unrestrained.

Yellow feels her cheeks heat at the memory.

The woman breaks away from her thoughts to look at Crystal, who's standing in the middle of their circle, her large labcoat drawn over her frame. She seems to be preparing herself, inhaling and exhaling. When she's ready, she raises her eyes and opens her mouth.

"I'm pregnant."

Blue snaps her eyes up from her fingernails and Red teeters off the chair, crashing loudly on the tiled floor. Yellow hurries to help him up and Crystal coughs, smoothing a hand over her coat, lingering over her stomach.

"But you and Gold aren't married yet, right?" Sapphire asks, tilting her head.

"Well, we're engaged – "

"But that's very different from being married," Blue interrupts.

"We'll marry after the baby is born, I'm too busy to plan a wedding and have a child at the same time," Crystal explains, shaking her head at the thought of having to handle that much of a workload.

Red, who's been speechless this entire time, stutters out the words, "Y-you can wait that long?"

"I've waited for ten years." Crystal's eyes crinkle with amusement. "Another is nothing."

"Well," Blue coughs. "Congratulations! Double congratulations, really! You have got to let me plan the wedding when it comes around, and let me do all the baby shopping," she insists, linking hands with Crystal. Sapphire hops off the desk and grips Crystal's shoulders, leaning into her. "And if you need any help with the baby, y'can just ask me, I can give ya' pointers."

Just then, the door opens and Green steps into the room, also decked in a labcoat and carrying a stack of documents under his arm. He looks at the crowd in the office and Yellow can see the less-than-enthusiastic thoughts written on his face.

"What's going on?"

"Um, just an informal meeting of sorts," Crystal clears her throat. "They'll clear out soon."

"Wait a minute, wait a minute, did I miss something while I was travelling?" Red interjects. "Green, why're you here? Shouldn't you be at Viridian gym?"

"You did," Green replies, "my grandfather retired. I've taken over his position as the head researcher in this lab."

Shock unravels on Red's face. "Then, what about– "

"They're still looking for a new gym leader. Why don't you apply? Didn't you want to, fifteen years ago?" Green says.

Red doesn't say anything. He stares at Green, his clear eyes reflecting so much. Though it's been a long time since they were kids, Yellow remembers how eager Red had been about becoming a gym leader. Of course, his past injuries had prevented him from pursuing the dream – but now…

Yellow had assumed he would be ecstatic at the opportunity. Instead, Red looks so torn up. The silence between the two men blankets the room, and she finds it difficult to even draw breath.

"…. I'm gonna' go and check up on Ruby and Ga'," Sapphire announces, half in an effort to break the tension, half in an effort to escape it. She scurries out of the room without looking back.

Red stands up and catches the door before it shuts. He excuses himself quietly before wandering outside. No one else gives an indication of following to find out what's the matter. Yellow meets Green's eyes and he tilts his chin, gesturing for her to check on Red. She replies with a small nod.

The blonde finds Red sitting outside, just beyond the front yard of the lab on one of the many benches situated around Pallet. In a field in the near distance, Garnet is playing with her father and his milotic. Sapphire jogs up to meet with them, swinging her daughter up from under her arms and spinning her around. Ruby dashes in circles around them, his arms flailing and mouth open in distress as he strives to ensure that Garnet keeps all limbs intact.

When Yellow reaches Red's side, she notices that his eyes are pinned onto the family. The expression on his face tells her not to interrupt. In this silence, Yellow takes the empty spot beside him, smoothing the creases out of her skirt and combing her ponytail over one shoulder.

Suddenly, Red turns to face her. "Would you still like me if I told you I was afraid?" he asks.

Yellow doesn't think anything can ever stop her from loving Red. But that is not the answer she gives. Instead, she says, "Y-yes! I would! Of course I would. But… but you're one of the bravest people I know, Red."

He chuckles. "It's a force of habit."

Yes, bravery is natural for someone like Red. Yellow's never been particularly courageous, but she remembers being ten and fighting Lance and forgetting about fear because being brave was more important than anything else. Red though – Red has never been afraid of cruel enemies or brutal pokémon, there must be something else that unnerves him.

"I never wanted to stop travelling," Red begins. "I wanted to continue finding new places, battling with new friends. The thought of reaching the end of the road… It's not pleasant. I don't know if I can stay in one place, I don't know if I can stand being in one place for the rest of my life, with nothing else to do," he shudders softly. "Being a gym leader was my dream, it still is. But now… I don't even know if I can stand being cooped up in the city, doing the same thing day after day without change."

"I'm," he laughs, "scared."

Yellow can't read human minds, yet she can't help but think: iceiceicestonestonestone.

She lifts her hand from her lap and places it over Red's on the bench. He doesn't move for a second, considering the weight of her palm on his glove. Then, he flips his hand and laces their fingers. "But maybe I can be brave, for one more time," he whispers.

Being brave is an uphill task, and Red's been brave more times than she can count. Yellow wonders what could convince him to do it again.

"And maybe it's time for the adventures to end," Red murmurs, distant and pondering, looking at someone Yellow cannot see.

So she sits beside him, clasping his rough hand in hers until the sun goes down and she falls to sleep.

They enter the ballroom in their best suits. Platinum stands between them (like she always does), hooking their arms close to her.

"This is great!" Pearl exclaims, the eagerness building in him as they step past the threshold. All the tables have been set up for the lunch reception and the small stage in the center of the room houses a four tier wedding cake and a pyramid of champagne glasses. It reminds him of Ruby and Sapphire's wedding, only a great deal less glittery. The cake is simple, candy pokéballs decorating its rims and miniatures of the newlyweds propped at the top. Diamond had a hand in throwing together the recipe and design.

"You did great with the cake, Dia." Pearl nudges his friend. Diamond responds with a modest grin.

"And Ruby and I made excellent choices for the colours and interior design, no?" Platinum says as they seat themselves at their assigned table.

"Of course, Missy," Diamond laughs. "And you look beautiful today too," he adds, shy but sincere, lowering his chin. She really does, and he knows that he tells her this at least once every day – but she does look pretty and Diamond has always been truthful.

"Thank you." She flashes him one of her classic smiles. The hem of her strapless blue dress ends just above her tucked knees and the threads of her grey stockings look like the fine, silver webbing of an adriados under these chandeliers. "You're quite dashing yourself." Platinum reaches a hand out to adjust his tie, then turns to check Pearl's. She fingers with his collar.

"It's straight," he tells her.

"No, it wasn't."

"Yes, it was."

"Well, now it is," she says with a decisive pat on his neck.

They've always been like… this. Whatever this is. Pearl and Diamond haven't really figured it out – but maybe there's nothing to figure out. Maybe they can just sit beside Platinum forever. That sounds nice. When they'd been six, all they wanted was their own comedy show. Now, they've found a smaller but equally important dream.

"Hiya' guys!"

Pearl leans over the back of his chair to see Sapphire and company approaching. At two and a half, Garnet is growing up just fine, quiet and curious in her father's arms. Diamond notes that she is wearing quite possibly the pinkest, fluffiest dress that has ever existed. It must be something Ruby custom-made. When Ruby hoists her over his shoulder, exposing the back of the outfit, Diamond confirms that it is indeed the fluffiest, pinkest dress in existence.

Emerald, Red and Yellow, then Blue, Green and Silver appear right after Ruby and Sapphire settle themselves down. The other guests (consisting of a picking of gym leaders, pokémon researchers, and so on) file into the hall and fill up all the empty tables too. Pearl notices that Silver is also carrying a baby with him. He looks much smaller than Garnet, maybe less than a year old? Silver looks awkward with the tiny boy, but he eventually manages – clutching carefully onto the bundle and rocking him back and forth at an uneven pace.

While they exchange greetings and catch up, Ruby grants everyone the honour of holding Garnet. They transfer her from one person to another down the table, like they're playing a game of pass the parcel. Garnet, amazingly, is mostly calm throughout this process, crying softly every so often. A funny face or quiet, gentle words rectifies this. She even breaks into giggles when Green holds onto her, and Green permits a gentle smile to escape his usually stoic face.

Then, it is Platinum's turn, and she scrutinizes Garnet intensely. The little child returns the gesture, staring with inquisitive eyes.

"Hello. My name is Platinum Berlitz. You may address me as Lady Platinum."

Garnet gazes at her, slack-jawed and lost. She reaches a hand out to play with the lariat necklace looped around Platinum's neck. Diamond laughs wholeheartedly and Pearl strives to ensure that his friend isn't choked by someone less than half her height. He pries Garnet out of Platinum's hands and goes to deliver her back to her parents.

When Pearl takes his place back in his chair, Platinum's eyes are pinned across the table where Ruby is fixing the ribbons tangled in his daughter's hair.

"Children," she hums wistfully. "I'd like to have a child one day. That sounds quaint."

Pearl and Diamond exchange looks of mutual horror behind her back.

"But this is fine for now." Pearl feels a soft, graceful hand wrap around his. On her right, Dia's hand is being held too. Platinum eases her eyes close. For once, she seems to be clearing her mind instead of sifting through it, emptying it of all the countless thoughts and knowledge constant in her head.

Then, the lights in the room dim, and Blue is on stage, mike in hand, asking everyone to rise to their feet and welcome the newlyweds into the ballroom.

Three of them stand in unison, hand in hand.

"Yes. This is perfect."

"Sorry to do this to ya' Silver, but I can't bring Ga' with me to the special meeting in Johto," Sapphire says, her voice so incredibly apologetic that Silver can't find it in himself to be even a little angry at this. "And Ruby over here got in trouble the last time he brought Ga' with him to work."

"It was an honest mistake, I was momentarily distracted by the contestant's marvelous performance and she slipped my notice! I found her easily."

"You sound all calm about it now, but I remember how you called me and bawled on the phone." Sapphire crosses her arms and Ruby withholds a comeback when he checks the time on his wristwatch. The two of them look like stark opposites standing beside each other, one dressed in a slightly tattered shirt and shorts, the other in a pristine, ironed suit.

"Well, we won't be gone for long. We'll be back tonight to take her off your hands before you know it!" Ruby yanks Silver into a quick, involuntary hug before thrusting a bag pack into his arms. And just like that, Silver's saddled with a five-year old. A furious five-year old in a blue pinafore.

Maybe he should consider going into a proper field of work. Being a freelancer offers him a lot of spare time when he doesn't have any jobs to complete, but he does not want to become Ruby and Sapphire's default babysitter whenever they're in Johto. He already has Amber-duty every other Saturday.

"Be good, Ga'," Sapphire says, letting go of the girl's hand.

Garnet marches bravely over to Silver, clutching onto the leg of his pants. Silver experiences both intense ease and intense fear at this. He closes the door and hobbles back inside his house with the girl in tow.

He doesn't trust himself with children. They're unpredictable – either easy to please or hard to please. If they're one thing, they could be another the next second. He releases Feraligator out of his pokéball to entertain Garnet.

"Be careful with her, okay?" Silver says to his friend. The pokémon nods and grins when Garnet pokes his belly. He opens a claw, lets the kid grab onto his scales, and lifts her up and down. She dangles with joy and Feraligator laughs a low laugh that comes from deep in his throat. He puts her back onto the floor very softly and observes her with those big, sharp eyes.

"Again!" Garnet demands, puffing her cheeks. She pauses for a moment to think about something. "Please," she adds, very proud to have remembered the word. Feraligator pats her bobbed hair.

By the looks of it, the blue crocodile is gentler with Garnet than Silver could ever hope to be.

One hour later, Feraligator – the strongest member of his team – is exhausted and asleep behind the sofa. The kid, on the other hand, is wide awake and hungry. Silver rummages through Garnet's bag for packed food – Ruby's child should be on some strict nutritional diet to promote beauty or something, he thinks – but doesn't manage to find anything edible in the bag. Thus begins the inner panicking.

He rolls sugar biscuits at Garnet from a safe distance, reaching for his phone as she takes the bait and is distracted for awhile. Silver has Gold on speed dial – when did he put Gold on speed dial? Is his life spiraling out of his control?

Silver pushes a box of tissue paper at Garnet when she opens and closes her hands to indicate their stickiness. "Gold, you're not busy with Amber today are you? Get over here now," he hisses into the phone when Gold picks up. "And bring some kid food while you're at it."

He's willingly inviting Gold over. His life has officially spiraled out of control.

"Uncle Silver, what're you doing?" Garnet crawls over and asks. Before he can do anything else, she grabs the packet of biscuits out of his hand and claims ownership over them, munching with triumph.

"Asking Gold to come over," he says as he places the phone back onto its cradle.

"Why?" Garnet cocks her head.

"To… uh.. play with us?" he attempts with uncertainty.

The girl looks confused about this. "Daddy says Gold is a hazard," she tells him quite seriously. Then, she asks, "What's a hazard?"

Silver lays himself on the floor of his living room wordlessly. Garnet joins him after awhile and together they gaze up at the blank ceiling.

"What are we looking at?"

"My life and my choices."

"There's nothing there, Uncle Silver," Garnet informs him.

"Do something," he orders Gold.

"Why don't we try throwing her up and down? The higher the better. Amber's a fan of the ol' rocket maneuver!" Gold suggests, burning with enthusiasm.

Silver realizes far too late that Gold is obviously only good at taking care of pokémon. The only reason Amber has survived for the past three years is because Crystal is his mother.

"Daddy says no throwing. Only Mama can do that," Garnet instructs them from her position at their shins. She raises her arms and makes an 'x' with them and Silver should not be finding this cute but clearly he hasn't been having a normal day thus far, so whatever. She's adorable.

"Aw, you sure, kid?" Gold lowers himself to her level.

"Yes." She nods.

Gold sighs, he sticks a hand into the bag pack and fishes out a storybook entitled 'The Ugly Feebas'. Garnet lights up at the sight of it, running forward and snatching it from Gold.

"This is my favourite book!" she says with Sapphire's smile. "Uncle Silver, can you read it to me? Please?"

"Sure– "

"Wait a minute, wait a minute!" Gold rises to his full height. "Why don't you ask me? I'm a better storyteller than this guy over here."

"You can read?" Garnet says this with genuine surprise and awe.

Silver can't suppress the bout of laughter that follows. He decides that Ruby is a great father.

When Ruby and Sapphire return to take their child back, Silver doesn't expect to get a hug at his knee. Ruby lifts Garnet up in his arms and tells her to give a goodbye-kiss.

She smacks a tiny hand against her mouth and hurls it out in Silver's general direction.

Furiously. Adorable.

"Garnet, you like gym leaders don't you?"

"Yes. Granddad was one. Uncle Green was one. Mama's one too. They're cool."

"Well, your Uncle Red is a gym leader too," Yellow tells the seven-year old sitting on her lap.

Garnet looks up from the empty pokéball she's fiddling with to gaze at Red. It's like she's noticing his existence for the first time. He doesn't know whether to feel honoured or disappointed.

"Really?" she asks, apparently distrustful.

"Yep, I have a badge here." Red opens his vest to reveal the Viridian badge pinned on his black shirt. "I've got a couple extras in my pocket, do you want one?"

The girl says "No." Then, she stops to think, "– thank you."

"Why not?" Yellow asks. Red understands her surprise. All the younger kids in Viridian and Pallet love flocking to him whenever they see him strolling around town, insisting that he show them his official gym badge.

"Mama taught me that gym leaders are important people," Garnet says as she glances between Yellow and Red. "And badges are really important. It's something that takes effort to earn. Gym leaders help trainers get stronger, and it's a job that never ends as long as there are challengers. Every day's a new experience."

Red feels these words pinch in his chest.

"You're absolutely right," Yellow says, patting the girl's head. "Isn't she, Red?" she looks at him, the smile on her face bursting with joy. Red nods, his voice wedged in his throat.

"One day, I'll be old enough to travel to your gym, Uncle Red, I hope you'll have a battle with me," Garnet tells him, sounding intent.

"I will be," Red says.

"Okay," Garnet replies quietly, holding him to this promise.

And Red looks at this small girl who's only just started attending school. He thinks of all the other children growing up, and how one day all of them will want to travel the world and challenge gym leaders. That sounds like a long line of people to battle – a long line of dreams for him to help fulfill.

Red thinks that maybe, just maybe, he'll do fine as a gym leader.

"I'm back, Green!" Blue sings as she closes the door behind her, toeing her heels off.

"Welcome back."

– hold up. Something is very wrong here.

1. Green never greets her back. He usually makes a small grunt of acknowledgement (and only when he's in a generous mood).
2. It's a girl's voice.
3. There isn't actually a third point. Things just sound more convincing in threes.

Blue storms into the house, her greatest fears confirmed as she swerves into the living room to discover Green sitting with another female.

"Green! I can't believe you'd actually cheat on me!" she gasps in a fatally injured voice.

Garnet looks up at her curiously. "Cheat?"

"Don't mind her," Green tells the child, studying the chessboard between them.

She 'oh's and returns her attention to the game. Blue drops the hand clenching her heart. Well, phooey – it's no fun for her if no one plays along. She strolls over to the duo and observes the match. Green's leading by a few pieces. She is almost sure that he left openings for Garnet to take his rooks. He's a huge softie around her. Blue tries not to get jealous over an eight-year old but– oh too late.

The two of them don't exchange any words as they strategize, silently directing their pieces around the board, white against black, zig-zagging past each other in mental combat.

Green's presence has always kind of sedated everything in the house: things are always neat and tidy and symmetrical and always where you last leave them. Everything is at an apex of absolute order. Having Garnet here just magnifies this calm, serious atmosphere to a whole other level.

"Wow. And I thought this household could not get any more boring," Blue comments, swinging one arm up to stretch.

Silence is her only reply.

Deflated, she slinks into the kitchen, gunning for her secret stash of vanilla ice cream. It's the only vaguely rebellious thing left in the house.

When Blue returns with metal spoon and tub of confectionary delight in hand, Green and Garnet are still sitting in the exact same positions. Watching paint dry might actually be more eventful than this.

"Checkmate," Green finally says half an hour later. Blue stirs from her unexpected nap in the armchair, and sighs dramatically when she finds her ice cream all melted and sticky.

"Is it over? Can we do something actually fun now?" she asks, eyes still bleary.

Blue feels someone lift the ice cream out of her hands, and tilts her head to see Green walking into the kitchen, storing it back in the fridge for her.

"I have a question, big sis'," Garnet pipes up, one hand fiddling with the sleeve of her blouse.

"Yes, dear?" Blue says as she mats her hair down. She checks her reflection in the blank screen of the living room's television, frowning when she realizes her left cheek is slightly red. She must have fallen asleep on it.

"Are you and Uncle Green married?"

Blue chokes.

"No," Green answers as he returns, setting two cups of hot chocolate down on the coffee table. Blue smiles when she realizes that the second one is hers. The mini marshmallows bob up and down in the steaming drinks.

"But you live together."


"And you love each other."

Woah. Blue doesn't like how easily she throws that word around.

"Yes," Green confirms.

On second thought, maybe this isn't so bad.

"So I don't understand why both of you aren't married," Garnet concludes, very matter-of-factly.

Blue tucks one leg under herself and looks at the girl, wondering how to give her an adequate reply. Things are… complicated. Well, maybe not as complicated as Blue likes to tell herself. She's never really thought of tying the knot with Green because, hey, they have a lot of great things going on for them right now already. And, maybe, a small part of her is still unsure about all this. They've been living together for over eight years. She's been waiting for something to go wrong, to signal to her that they aren't meant to be.

But so far, nothing has really gone wrong. They cohabit relatively well, have breakfast and dinner together, listen to Gold on the radio on lazy Saturday mornings, and brighten up each other's lives (well, Blue does for Green's). It all feels so fragile and perfect at moments, and Blue has learned to be careful with all the important things in life. Her family, Silver… Green. Marriage doesn't cross her mind, she hasn't allowed it to. What does it mean, anyway? Being married to Green won't change anything (and yet, it might change everything).

She wonders if Green knows this, and if that's why he's never brought it up. Green knows her more than she knows herself at moments – it's scary and strangely heartwarming at the same time. Blue likes to think that she understands Green more than he does himself too, so it's a fair trade.

"I've never asked," Green explains to Garnet.

Yes, Blue supposes that that's a simple way to answer the question.

"Well why don't you ask, then?" is Garnet's response.

"Ha-ha-ha!" Blue breaks into a fit of strained, awkward laughter. "That's funny, Garnet!" she squeaks as she stands and takes the girl's hand. "How about a change of pace? Why don't I show you my collection of jewelry?"

"You're right."

Blue shifts her eyes onto Green, who's looking at her, suddenly very daring.

"I am, aren't I?" Garnet says from her position ducked behind Blue's back.

"Do you want to get married?" Green asks this seriously. Very. Seriously.

Numerous things flash through Blue's mind and she can't arrange her words. She swears that the surprise physically smacks against her forehead, like a tsunami of thoughts crashing down on her brain. The man and the girl stare at her, waiting for a response. It takes Blue a few long moments to resurface from the onslaught of 'what-if's and 'how's and 'what just happened's. She chooses her words carefully before speaking.

"This isn't how it's supposed to go!" she cries out. "Where are the flowers? Where is the big diamond? Where's the romantic, candlelit dinner?" She flings the chessboard off the sofa, scattering pieces everywhere, hoping to find the engagement ring hidden under it or something.

Nope. Nothing.

In its place, all Blue has is a partially messy living room, a mug of hot chocolate that is already cooled, and an eight-year old as a witness. (And she should not be as happy as she is feeling right now.)

"That's no way to ask a lady," Garnet agrees, folding her arms. She is Ruby's daughter through and through.

Green manages to look cornered, but amused by it. He rubs the top of Garnet's head, surrendering to her logic. "I'll ask Blue properly next time, then."

The girl grins an accomplished little grin (oh god – did Ruby set her up to orchestrate all this?) and Blue thinks she should thank the girl for her superb matchmaking skills. That would be really disconcerting though.

Instead, she pours some of the marshmallows from her cup into Garnet's.

"Aunty Crys." Garnet opens the front door with a small, subdued smile on her face. "It's nice to see you. You haven't visited in awhile."

"Hi there!" Crystal leans on her knees to hold Garnet's hands, delighted by the warm welcome. "That's a lovely blue dress. I like the flowers!" she tells the girl. "Did your father sew it for you?"

"Nope," Garnet says as she shakes her head. "Uncle Green bought it for me."

Ruby pokes his head out into the entryway, eyes alert behind his spectacles. "But I was the one that made your hair ribbon!" he reminds her before returning back into the house. Crystal chuckles as she walks with Garnet into the living room to find Ruby at the coffee table, yarn coiled around him.

"And I'm knitting a sweater for winter," he says, his eyes never leaving his hands.

"Another sweater," Garnet says, swaying on the balls of her feet.

"One can never have enough sweaters."

Crystal watches Ruby as he tries to out-father Green. She has a feeling that this is a competition that Green isn't aware of. As she places her handbag on the sofa, she scans the room for a phone. "Would it be alright if I call Gold? He's with Amber now, though I'm not entirely sure where they are. My pokégear's not working, you see."

Garnet looks up curiously. "Could you let me see it? Maybe I can help."

Crystal doesn't think she can, but it wouldn't hurt to let her give it a try. She hands the pokégear over. It stopped being able to make calls since last week. Garnet studies the old model, presses a few buttons, and returns it to a startled Crystal.

"It should work now."

Crystal scrolls through her phonebook and presses the 'call' button. She raises the pokégear to her ear and is surprised to hear the line ringing.

"Gold? Where are you?" she asks when he picks up. The woman runs a hand through her shoulder-length hair. "Forest? Petalburg forest? Which part of the forest?"

"You don't know?" she tries to suppress the scream. It comes out sounding like a very high-pitched squeak. Ruby offers her his very special I-still-don't-understand-why-you-reproduced-with-him-but-you-have-my-sympathy look. Crystal hangs her head. This is her fault, really, not quite Gold's.

Well, it is mostly Gold's, but she should have known better than to allow him to take Amber out on a 'father-son bonding escapade'. She paces feverishly back and forth, hugging her elbows. Garnet watches her with only mild interest, the rest of it occupied with the empty quickball in front of her.

Crystal kneads the knot between her eyebrows as Gold jettisons through a very long-winded and muddled explanation of what happened. Amber inserts a 'yeah!' and 'don't be mad at Dad!' every few sentences. Gold must have bribed him with something. A new skateboard? A promise to never take him out on another 'father-son bonding escapade' again?

"Sapphire!" Ruby calls. When he gets no response, he sets his project aside and goes to stick his head out of the living room window. "Sapph'! Could you stop training for awhile? No, I'm not watching the shopping channel. I still don't understand why I need your permission to. No, it's not about Garnet's aesthetic development. And yes I still want to sign her up for art and contemporary dance! No! It's about exposure and it is completely justified! More justified than taking her swinging through the jungle! I know you didn't actually do that, but you were going to at one point! Wait! The fence is not a part of this discussion! Stop harming the poor thing! Oh, and Crystal needs your help," Ruby shouts out to somewhere below the apartment building.

Gold is still talking. About – something. Crystal had drifted away from the one-sided conversation before she'd even noticed. Wow, is this what he feels like when she's nagging?

Ruby steps away from the window as Sapphire clambers in, hands first. She's covered in light scrapes and bruises from her sparring session with her pokémon. "What's up?" She gets onto her feet and turns to ask Crystal.

"Gold and Amber are lost in the forest," Crystal explains, lending her friend the pokégear.

"Hey Gold! I'm great, how're you? Really? Tell me all about it when I find ya'. Anywho, what does it look like around you?" Sapphire holds the receiver to her ear. "What're the shape of the leaves? How many trees around you? Can y'see the sun?"

Ruby busies himself with applying bandages on Sapphire's cuts. The designs printed on them are cutesy, ranging from a snoring munchlax to a sashaying beautifly. She continues talking with Gold, unaffected by the treatment.

"Alright, I got it," Sapphire says, raising her arm so that Ruby can plaster the nicks located on the underside. "Stay there and don't move. Amber, I'm counting on you to make sure your papa stays put, alright?"

With that, she returns the pokégear to Crystal and whistles. A tropius appears outside the building a few moments later, and Sapphire leaves, closing the window behind her like one would close a door.

"This is…" Crystal struggles to find an appropriate word to describe the situation.

"Normal," Garnet finishes the sentence for her. She doesn't look up from the pieces of the quickball she's dismantled. There are screws and microchips and metal pieces scattered in her lap like a jigsaw puzzle. "Dad and Mama always argue about it, but I'm not interested in developing my aesthetic talents or exploring the jungle."

"Right, of course." Crystal should know better. "Anyway, how did you fix my pokégear, Garnet? That was really smart."

Ruby is the one that answers. "When Sapph' and I are too busy to stay home with her on weekends, I drop her off at Emerald's place on my way to work. Who knew that hanging around him would make her a whiz at gadgets?" he sounds almost heartbroken as he says this.

Crystal nods in understanding just as she hears tapping coming from the window.

"A letter from Uncle Green!" Garnet allows a rare, enormous smile to erupt on her face. She moves the metal parts aside and jumps onto her feet, finally looking like an energetic ten-year old when she rushes over to open the windowsill. She still isn't tall enough to push it up all the way so Crystal helps. The pidgeot pokes its head into the room, drops the letter into Garnet's hands, before launching back into the sky once the job is done.

"He went away." Garnet observes with a longing look, disappointment in her words.

"What's the matter?" Crystal asks.

"I wanted to write a reply for Pidgeot to take back to Green," the young girl says.

In the background, Ruby pretends to stab himself with his sharpest knitting needle.

Amber still can't quite understand Garnet even though he's been seeing her at least once a year since he's been two (according to mum, anyway). It's hard to talk to her because she always has a really blank expression on her face. You can't tell if she's angry or bored or other things girls can be. Amber doesn't understand girls. Mum says he will when he's older, but Dad says he never will. He doesn't know who to believe. (Silver's opinion on the matter would be helpful.)

So Amber sits beside her on the floor while their parents catch up over the coffee table. He regrets not bringing his DS with him for the visit. There's nothing else to do but to watch her fiddle with a pokégear.

"So…" he coughs. He can never remember how he manages to make conversation with her on all those past occasions.

"How is school?" she asks. Amber wonders if she's just trying to be sociable. When he doesn't give her a reply, Garnet raises her head away from her lap. She scrutinizes him, expecting an answer.

"Oh! Uh, great, I guess," he fumbles, "as great as school can be, I guess."

"You find it boring?"

"No, not really! I've made some friends and the teachers are funny. It's just that my mum helps me with schoolwork all the time, so whatever they teach in school, I've already learned," Amber explains. He fiddles with the zipper of his red jacket, sliding it up and down absently.

"That's nice," is Garnet's comment.

Amber opens his mouth, preparing to ask her what she's doing with the pokégear exactly –

"Do not tell me that you actually wear clothes like these to work. No wonder you're on the radio! I don't think anyone would listen to you if they knew you wore yellow and blue together. You had better colour-coordination when you were a teenager, Gold," Uncle Ruby says dryly.

"But this shirt was a gift from my fans!" Dad reasons. "And this jacket's been with me since forever. It's a trademark. Besides, you know you can be honest with me – I make anything look good."

"I have never said or implied that, nor will I ever!" Uncle Ruby gasps.

Dad steps over the coffee table and imprisons him in an arm lock.

Their fathers are at it. Again.

Aunt Sapphire and Mum don't seem to mind, chattering between themselves. Garnet acts just like them, the pokégear appearing more interesting than the fact that their dads are trying to wrestle each other down or chew each other's arms off. It's hard to tell when they move around so much.

"How do you ignore them?" he asks her curiously.

"I've learned to tune them out," Garnet says. Then, she looks up from her hands again and stares at him earnestly. Her father's eyes with her mother's intense gaze.

"Do you want me to show you how to hack into your dad's pokégear?" she offers.

Amber perks up. He leans in close.

"You can do that?" he whispers.

"Yes. Uncle Em' taught me," she says softly.


"You need to know the PIN of the pokégear, and the rest after that is just a matter of knowing which button to press."

"I see."



"…. Why are we whispering?"

Grandfather passes away the year Garnet turns eleven.

He'd lived a good, long life. Green had been preparing for this for at least the last decade. Still, when it does happen, he can't shield himself from the great pang in his heart. He realizes that some things you can't prepare yourself for, no matter how many times you tell yourself that it will happen it will happen it will happen. Because when it does happen, you feel like you still need more time to tell yourself 'it will happen'. It will never be enough.

Blue cries on his behalf, cries like it is the end of the world and Green doesn't stop her or tell her to at least soften down because god does she make a lot of noise when she cries. He lets her cry because, maybe, he needs her to do this more than she does.

Grandfather had wanted a quiet, simple funeral. He was, after all, just a quiet, simple man, in spite (or maybe because) of all his achievements. Green made sure that while the whole world could grieve over the loss of the revered Professor Oak, only a tight-knit group of people were there for the actual wake.

Ruby and Sapphire don't falter in their decision to bring Garnet along with them, but Green thinks she is too young and too happy for things like these. Garnet runs up to him when she spots him amongst the sea of grays and blacks. She's wearing a quiet, dark dress and holding a bouquet of flowers and an envelope in her hands. Blue accepts the condolences and stores them away and for once, Green knows that the money will be kept safe.

Garnet grabs onto his hand and he leads her over to the coffin, where she places the flowers amongst the rest the other guests have bought. Charizard roots on the other side, no different from where he's been the entire morning, neck bowed and wings buckled over Grandfather, eyes fixed in deep thought.

They stand with his grandfather for a moment, and somehow it stretches itself so that they stand there for quite some time. Green wonders what death must mean to this young girl – when he was ten, he'd never even spared a thought for death. Being young made you feel so invincible, like nothing could bring you down except for your own pride and rashness (but that- that was something invincible too).

Garnet cranes her head and looks up at him. He can tell that she doesn't totally understand what's happening here. Still, she's trying, desperately. Green thinks that they're on the same boat.

"Uncle Green…" It is the only thing the girl says, yet he feels comforted for the first time that day.

He closes his eyes and feels her fingers squeeze his hand.

One day, Dad returns home with an unfamiliar pokémon.

"Her name is Bebe," Dad says as he lets the tailow hop down from his shoulder and onto Garnet's outstretched arm.

"Hello," Garnet greets her new friend with a short bow. Bebe clips her beak and copies her, fanning out a wing as she dips herself down. Garnet cracks a small smile at this. As the tailow flutters and settles on the top of her head, the girl turns to her father. "Thanks, Dad."

"You're very welcome. It was due time you got a pokémon for yourself anyway. Nana and Coco can't follow you everywhere now that they're getting on in years."

A resentful bark makes him turn to address the mightyena and delcatty curled up together at one corner of the living room. Garnet realizes how different the two of them look now, with their dusky eyes and rough, worn coats.

"Aw, you two," Dad coos. "You'll always be beautiful to me no matter how old you get. No need to worry." Nana simply grunts and returns to her nap beside Coco.

"Which reminds me!" Her father whips a hairbrush out of nowhere like he always does. "It's time to groom both of you! We have a contest in Lilycove a week from now," he hums. The two pokémon crawl onto their feet and patter over to rest near Dad's ankles.

Garnet feels Bebe shuffle in her hair.

"Why did you pick a tailow for me?" she asks her father as she sits down beside him, letting Coco curve into her lap.

"Well, you love visiting Emerald, don't you?" Dad says as he carefully runs the brush down Nana's mane. "Your mother can't lend you Pilo all the time, you know." Dad stops here to think to himself. "And I know how much you want to mail your Uncle Green some letters. If you train Bebe well enough, she'll be strong enough to fly to Kanto herself."

Garnet feels her spirits lift. She's always had countless things to tell Uncle Green, but whenever she'd received the occasional letter, most things had already slipped her mind.

"Do you think Mama will train with me?"

Dad smiles in that odd, knowing way of his. "You don't even need to ask."

"Thanks," Garnet says again. On the top of her head, Bebe chirps a 'thank-you' too. She returns to her room and starts on a letter even though it might take weeks or months before Bebe is ready to make the journey. Garnet just wants to make sure that she has this written down because it's something she can't forget.

'Dear Uncle Green,

My father is great.'

"Don't you think it's time for Garnet to go out on a journey?" Gold poses the question one cloudy afternoon. He's visiting with Amber, who'd just finished conquering all the gyms in the Johto region.

Dad makes a dismissive noise. "Garnet hasn't shown any interest in it, there's no sense in making her go on a journey of self-discovery."

Gold sits up in the armchair and laughs. "Oh man, as prissy as always I see. When Amber turned ten, I just shoved him out of the house and told him not to come back until he was done travelling Johto!"

"Figures," Dad sighs an exhausted sigh. He usually reserves these for Mama and Gold. They must be special to him. "I pity you, Amber."

Amber looks up from the hand of cards he's playing against Garnet. "Oh, don't worry, Uncle Ruby. It was fun most of the time. I learned a lot of things and I got to meet a lot of people."

Garnet leans back a little to scrutinize the boy better. It only took him six months to travel around and beat eight gym leaders, and he looks mostly unchanged. Scrawny, short, messy black hair. Still, there's something different about him she can't quite define. Maybe it's the fact that he's taken to wearing his father's old pair of goggles. They make him look like a splitting image of Gold… except that he doesn't have that slightly insane, restless twinkle in eyes. His eyes are Aunty Crystal's eyes, warm and keen and observant.

"Actually, I was thinking if whether, maybe, I could travel around Hoenn with Garnet?" Amber admits sheepishly.

Well, the idea doesn't offend her.

"I don't mind," she tells him. The wide smile Amber gives her in response makes her feel like smiling too. That would be ridiculous though – to smile for no reason. She contents herself with placing an ace in the pile of cards between them.

Her mother climbs in through the living room window carrying the groceries. Dad has given up on asking her to use the front door. Garnet isn't sure if it's because he's resigned to fate, or because Mama's logic makes sense. The shortest distance between the grocery store and the house is from the window to the street across.

"Did I hear that right?" Mama says as she sets the bags on the dining table. "Will Ga' be going on her own adventure?"

"Yes!" Gold declares.

"No," Dad says.

Amber's shoulders sag and Garnet notices that he's lost their game. Oh.

"Y'know, I think it's time for you to start training her."

"For contests?"

Sapphire switches the TV off and turns to face Ruby. He's sitting on the other side of the couch, knitting something questionably pink and soft.

"Don't play dumb," she sighs, attempting to make it sound less like a plea and more like a demand. "You know what I mean. If she's going to travel around Hoenn, she needs t'know how to defend herself."

"You've been training her all this time, haven't you?" Ruby skillfully avoids the matter, dances around it in that patented way of his. Sapphire knows him so well, but even the things she knows, she can't understand.

"Yeah, but I can't teach her everything. There're some things you know that I don't. You have to teach her what Norman taught you. If she runs into trouble, her pokémon'll be able to protect her."

"Nonsense," Ruby scoffs, "anyway, who said anything about letting her travel with Amber? That's just far too dangerous. For all we know, some new evil organization could be scheming out there, and I don't want her getting involved with anything like that."

Sapphire feels insulted on Garnet's behalf. "She's nearly thirteen, Ruby. We travelled alone when we were eleven! Y'shouldn't keep her from journeying, it's not fair."

"That's not– "

"It is the same," Sapphire says, getting up on her bare feet and bridging the distance between them. He's still doing the knitting. Always keeping his hands busy, always keeping his mind on something else.

"I just don't want her to get hurt. You know how important she is to us."

"Oh, I know. That's what you always do. Y'just lock things up and think that they'll be okay with it." Sapphire folds her arms, her heart pumping in her chest, hammering against her ribcage. She remembers getting shoved into the aircar, remembers feeling trapped and suffocated. It's been twenty years. She loves Ruby enough to never forget the mistakes he's made.

Ruby looks into her eyes and in an instant, he knows what she's thinking. "I – I did that because I didn't want you to get possessed by the orb. I knew how you felt back then, that's why I've stopped myself from doing anything like that even though it tears me – "

"Then why're you doing that to Ga'?"

He breathes out slowly. "I said I don't want her to get hurt."

Sapphire feels a twist and a break. "She might not get hurt on the outside, but she'll get hurt here!" She jabs a thumb to her heart. "She'll get hurt in here and it'll hurt more than falling off a tree or a mightyena bite or breaking a leg or having the boy she likes pretend to forget that they saved the world for seven years before finally coming around again." She doesn't know when she starts shouting – only that she can't stop. The last sentence straggles out of her throat: "And it didn't matter to her because she loved him all that time, and the happiness was greater than the pain…"

"… but the pain, it never went away."

Ruby throws his knitting aside and stands so that they're level. He stares at her, frustration etched in his eyes. Sapphire can't help but glance at the scar on his forehead.

"Did she ever stop to think that maybe it hurt the boy to do that too? That maybe, the boy didn't want to do that, but he had to because there was no other way out?" Ruby doesn't even bother to keep calm. "The boy never wanted to hurt the girl again but he did and he does and he's never been fine with that."

Sapphire glares at him. "Well, maybe if he'd let them fight together from the beginning, all this wouldn't have happened."

"He couldn't. He didn't want to risk it. He made the choice he thought was best and – "

She laughs, bitter and rough. "Ruby, you always think you're the best. And you are. You're better at me in cooking and in battles and in contests and in everything else – "

"But I'm not the best. If I were strong enough then I could be sure that I'd be confident enough to believe that you could be safe … and it's the same for Garnet now."

"Then you should've let me be strong for you too. I know I'm not as strong as you, I know I'm not strong at all. But you don't need to be sure about things like these," Sapphire says her voice cracking, "you just need to believe."

She doesn't know how he can make her feel so much, and she can't hold back the tears leaking from her eyes. When he sees her crying, he lowers his gaze, clenching his hands.

They're six again.

A minute passes. Ruby gathers himself and raises his head to look into her eyes. He takes her hand in his and Sapphire doesn't pull away. She feels their rings brush by each other. If she'd wanted to get away from him, she would've done it years ago. She's stuck with this hopeless, stupid man, through thick and thin.

"Sapph'. I know you."

And it's true. Sapphire can tell by the way he murmurs this. Ruby knows how to sugar his words because of all the contest introductions he's done, but when push comes to shove, he knows how to present them raw and real. Even through this anger and the regret, Ruby is sincere.

"You're the strongest person I know. You can lift me above your shoulders, you can scale mountains and climb trees without even breaking a sweat. And you have the most unbendable, unbreakable, beautiful determination." Ruby releases her hand and pulls her into an embrace. "It's not about having or not having strength. I'm always strong when you're around. It's about fear. I feared losing you, and I fear losing Garnet."


This is the boy she loves. He doesn't come out often (and in those gaps of time, she has grown fond of the other boy – the one with manicured hands and glitter in his pockets).

Sapphire's chin is on his shoulder. She uncrosses her arm and returns the hug, savouring the texture of her hands hanging on the cotton of his shirt, the familiar smell of the roselia moisturizer he uses before bed every night.

Then, she takes a deep breath.

"You big sissy!"

She shoves him so that he lands, dumbfounded, on the sofa.

"Well, at least I'm not a barbarian who bulldozed over the one she was just caressing affectionately for no apparent reason!" Ruby gasps, too appalled to be angry.

Sapphire ignores this (even though she wants to grin from ear to ear – it's been a long time since they've used those names). "Y'used to be scared of so much! Seems like you haven't outgrown that, have you? Listen. If we make you strong, then there's no need to be afraid. Even if you're afraid, everything's gonna' turn out okay. You have to believe in it."

Ruby stares up at her, an exhausted smile yielding on his face.

"You win, Sapph'."

She doesn't know why she wants to kiss him and slap him at this very moment. Usually the kiss-slap ratio in her brain is pretty straightforward (slap-slap-kiss, slap-kiss-slap, and etcetera). Sapphire settles on just curling up beside him, relaxing until she no longer feels stiff. Ruby has always known how to calm her down, and she's always been thankful though she knows she doesn't actually show it. (Things are better this way. She doesn't want to add to his already exemplary ego.)

"I guess… we can tell Garnet the good news in the morning," she mumbles, catching herself before she falls asleep against the front of his shirt.

"We could tell her right now, I bet our fight woke her– " Ruby stops midsentence.

The two of them exchange looks of alarm. They race out of the living room and down the hall to the door that's been left afar. The window in Garnet's bedroom is wide open, the curtains fluttering as the night breezes in. They're on the sixth floor. How could she have survived climbing out of –

While Ruby panics and scatters himself in frantic circles, Sapphire dashes to the room next door and checks the pokéballs on her dresser. Pilo's missing.

Emerald doesn't know what force compels him to stagger out of bed half-asleep and answer the ringing doorbell. He checks the clock in the darkened hallway, and snaps awake when he realizes that it's two in the morning. Who could it be at this hour? A burglar with manners? He shuffles into the small workshop of his apartment, stubs his toe against a cold toolbox and nudges Sceptile awake. Better to be safe than sorry. It's… it's not like he's afraid or anything.

With his groggy pokémon behind him, Emerald cracks opens the front door. He's surprised to see a young girl in her grey pajamas standing on his doormat, hands balled at her sides. Her eyes are heavy from a severe lack of sleep, and her hair is in a mess. If Ruby were here, he wouldn't stand for it. Luckily there's just Emerald, and Emerald is fine with frizzy hair and gloomy eyes.

"Squirt," he says, trying to hide the sigh of relief under the name. Technically, Garnet outgrew that nickname awhile ago. She's twelve and already taller than his shoulder. Old habits die hard though.

"Uncle Em'," she greets back, calm and collected.

Emerald steps aside with uncertainty, and Garnet takes it as an invitation to enter his house. She heads straight for the sofa and slumps down on it. Sceptile flicks the light in the room on before wandering back into his room, determined to go back to sleep now that he's sure there's nothing there to hurt his trainer.

Emerald pours her a mug of warm water and sits down opposite her.

"Okay, spill. What are you doing here in the middle of the night?" he asks, pausing to yawn loudly. "Wait – first – how did you even get here in the middle of the night?"

Garnet catches the yawn and digs two pokéballs from her pocket to show him. One of them contains a sleeping tailow. In the other is Sapphire's tropius.

"You flew from Petalburg to Mauville in the middle of the night?" Emerald notes. Garnet just shrugs and sinks further into the cushion, not in the mood to talk. She's never been in much of a chatty mood, very unlike her parents. Sometimes it relieves him and sometimes it worries him. Now is definitely the time to be worried.

"What happened? Something bad at home?"

Maybe Ruby and Sapphire finally burned down their house in the middle of a freak argument. Maybe Sapphire flung Ruby out of the window in a fit of rage. Or worse – maybe they kissed in front of her. Argh! Now he can't extract the mental image out of his head! He can't blame Garnet for escaping all the way here if that's the reason.

"Nothing, I just felt like coming to see you," Garnet lies. She lies right through her teeth and even though it's such an obvious lie, she doesn't betray any weakness or hesitation on her face. There's the father.

"Please," Emerald grunts in disbelief. He gets up to brew some coffee. He's going to need it, seeing as how he probably won't be getting any more sleep for the night. When he returns, Garnet has curled up on her side, her head pillowed on one arm of the couch. Of course, it doesn't look like she's going to fall asleep soon.

"Listen, squirt, I can't help you if you don't tell me what's wrong."

"Nothing's wrong. I just," she exhales. "I just couldn't sleep." Her shoulders shiver.


"There was–" a pause, "noise."

"What kind of noise?" Emerald presses on. He knows where this is going already.

"Because Mama and Dad were arguing," Garnet says, softer than she's ever been the entire night. "About whether or not I could travel. And then, it wasn't about whether I could travel or not. It became something else altogether."

Emerald just wants to shake her and tell her that it's really no big deal – maybe even share a story of how when they were teenagers, the two of them argued day and night. However, there's something in the way Garnet curls her toes and hugs her knees to herself that prevents him from doing just that. Maybe it hadn't been one of their usual fights. Garnet hardly lets herself get affected by most things, even the things that should matter.

"You were scared, weren't you?"

The girl doesn't meet his eyes.

He combs a hand through his short blond hair, not sure of what else to say just yet. The silence between them is punctured when he hears sniffing and the vicious rubbing on hands against eyes. Tears soak the sleeves of her nightshirt and she just keeps at it. Garnet's crying nonstop, unhesitant and unafraid, not even bothering to hold back a whit of emotion. There's the mother.

Emerald stands up and brings the tissue box to her, holding it out cautiously. Instead of taking the tissue, Garnet reaches out for him.

"Squirt, you know I'm not good with touchy-feely things," Emerald tells her.

Garnet ignores this. She wraps her arms around him, and continues to cry courageously into his shirt. The pendant containing the green jewel he used to wear on his forehead now rests in the middle of hers. Emerald rubs a tuft of black hair and waits for her to settle down. Maybe all she needs is a good tear to sort her thoughts out, maybe she doesn't understand what she's feeling right now. He thinks about how much he'd wanted to cry when he was ten and alone and lost, how he'd never let himself shed even one tear, and how constraining that had been.

After she washes out all her tears, Garnet actually manages to look a whole lot better. Even with the puffy red eyes and runny nose, the ease and composure on her face makes Emerald feel oddly tranquil.


"Much." Her voice is muffled under a tissue. This time, Emerald can see that she isn't lying.

He sits next to her and takes a long, thoughtful gulp of coffee. She peers at him from underneath the tissue before speaking, "Tech and pokémon are so easy to understand compared to people."

"I couldn't agree with you more," Emerald says with a grin.

"Yes." Garnet nods to herself. "But I suppose I'll have to try harder to understand people too, so I can deal with my feelings better next time." she concludes.

"At least you try," Emerald laughs. He stands up to stretch his limbs, feeling their conversation coming to an end. "You can sleep in the spare bed in that second room. In the morning, we can go down to the workshop in New Mauville. I've got a few new inventions that need testing. How's that sound?"

He turns around to see Garnet already fast asleep on the sofa. He smiles despite himself, wonders how a couple as crazy as Ruby and Sapphire could have someone like her for a daughter. He drapes a spare blanket over her and proceeds to turn off the light.

Emerald checks the pokégear on his nightstand as he gets back into bed. He's not surprised to find that he's missed dozens of calls from Ruby. Just as he prepares to return the call, the pokégear vibrates in his hand.

"What do you want?"

"Emerald!" Ruby shrieks through the phone. "Where were you? Anyone would have assumed you dead!"

"It was 1.A.M, I was asleep," Emerald deadpans. "Until your daughter knocked on my front door and came in for an unscheduled counseling session."

"See! I told you!" Sapphire bellows at the other end of the line.

"Thank goodness," Ruby groans. "Sorry for the trouble, Emerald. Could we come and get her in the morning or..?"

"We'll see about that," Emerald snorts. "I'll let Garnet decide if she wants to see you or not. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need some shut-eye."

He hangs up before he can hear Ruby's outraged protests.

Emerald regrets drinking the coffee. He can't sleep a wink now, and it's only just past three.

He kicks off his covers. Might as well get some work done with all this caffeine in his system. Emerald tiptoes past Garnet and into his workshop, unraveling the plans for his latest pokéball prototype. The light of the desk lamp and the shuffle of blueprints stir Sceptile from his slumber in the corner of the room.

The pokémon releases a soft gnarl, crawls over and crescents himself at Emerald's feet, snuggling against his toes before drifting back to sleep.

This is the lifestyle Emerald has grown to love.

In the morning, Sapphire gives him a good punch in the arm before sending him off to retrieve Garnet from Emerald's place. "Don't do anything stupid!" she instructs. "I'd go there myself but there're a long line of challengers at the gym today."

"I'll try," Ruby replies, massaging the throbbing bump on his arm.

"That's good." Sapphire nods confidently, the passive-aggression flying clear over her head. Ruby wonders why he bothers.

Emerald's gone into research on capture technology. He's looking in on how to build the next generation of pokéballs apparently, ones that allow the occupants more comfort in their shrunken form. He's trying to make the pokéball simulate the pokémon's hometown. Something like that. Ruby doesn't want to go into the details. Too science-cy.

Pilo descends onto the open fields outside Mauville, and Ruby scans the vicinity. As often as he's been here with Garnet, the exact underground entrance to the city below ground sometimes slips his mind. He unclips Zuzu's pokéball off his belt (it doesn't match his collared shirt or his pants, but this is all Sapphire's doing – giving him only fifteen minutes to get ready, honestly) and summons the swampert out.

"Zuzu, could you lend me a hand here?" he asks his companion.

The water-type tilts his head, flippers wiggling. He then lumbers over to a patch of grass and slams a fin against it. The ground opens up to reveal a lighted tunnel leading underground. It looks questionably dirty, and Ruby clamps onto Zuzu as they navigate their way down the long flight of metal stairs.

"Look what the swampert finally managed to bring in." Ruby hears Emerald's teasing voice around the corner as he and Zuzu reach the end of the tunnel. It opens up into a wide area that leads into a further network of rooms for Emerald and the other researchers working underground. He spots his old friend at his usual workbench, goggles over his face and a frighteningly sharp screwdriver-drill hybrid in his hand.

"How did you know it was me?" he asks as he inches cautiously up to Emerald.

"Security cameras. I saw how your swampert had to hoist you over the puddles of oil on the stairwell and drag you down the last quarter because you were scared of the germs. That was funny," Emerald chortles and Ruby feels incredibly indignant.

"That wouldn't have happened if you actually kept this place clean and sanitary. I distinctly smelled something back there," he harrumphs. "And we don't drag, do we, Zuzu?" Ruby pats the water-type. "We glide."

Emerald rolls his eyes. Ruby swears that one day they'll roll off his face and onto his palm.

"Now, where's Garnet? Don't tell me you've let her get dirty again, you know how greasy her hair can get if she spends too long tinkering here."

"She's over there." Emerald points.

Ruby wishes Emerald hadn't pointed.

He follows the finger and his eyes land on the most horrifying sight in his life. His darling little girl is wearing a gaudy labcoat and holding one of those monstrous screwdriver-drill-death traps. The tailow perched on the desk chirps along as Garnet examines the device.

Ruby springs into action. He dives, barrel-rolls across the floor, leaps onto his feet (feels a crack in his back) and soars towards Garnet. Behind him, Zuzu waddles over at a much less urgent pace.

"Put that down!" he shouts, one hand reaching out for his daughter.

"Oh, hi Dad," Garnet says nonchalantly. Did she not see his fantastic display of sheer heroism over the last five meters? Ruby almost wants to retrace his steps but his aching back doesn't let him. Instead, he turns his attention to the little tailow sitting on the table.

"Bebe! You're supposed to protect her. Not encourage her to swing these metal death traps around!" Ruby squawks at the bird pokémon. She wibbles and bats her eyes at him. Ruby has to gallantly fight off the urge to take out his camera and snap a photo for his albums.

"Don't worry, it isn't plugged in," Garnet tells him as he takes the frightening tool from her and sets it at the far end of the desk.

"Don't worry? Don't worry? It's like asking Zuzu to not be blue and bulky. He can't help it," Ruby says, his voice pitched high.

He hears a sad, low peep behind his back. "Oh, no, Zuzu, I didn't mean it that way." Ruby hugs his friend in consolation. "You make bulk look trendy and you rock blue even when it's not in style. Remember, as long as you feel good, you'll look good. I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings."

"Squirt, can you please remove your dad? He's distracting the researchers," Emerald calls over.

"Okay," Garnet agrees. "Come on, Dad, let's go home." She removes her goggles and coat, grabs his wrist and begins leading him out of the lab.

Ruby looks around the room in confusion. He thinks that this isn't how things were supposed to go.

"Your mother and I want to say we're sorry for scaring you yesterday," Ruby starts once they are outside, standing in the windy meadow. The sun beats down on them, and Garnet borrowed the worst brown-coloured shirt from Emerald to wear. They clash horribly with her sandals. Everything clashes with brown and he can't believe Emerald let her wear this in public (actually– he can, sadly).

"I wasn't scared," Garnet informs him.

"Oh, then– "

"I felt surprise and shock and something weird, undescribable here." She points to the middle of her chest. "I didn't know what to do and I didn't want to go out of my room. So I went to find Uncle Em," the girl explains in detail.

"I see." Ruby smiles. "Well, I have good news for you. It's been decided that it's best for you to set out on your own trainer journey," he says, "and I made you this as a good-luck charm."

He takes out a bracelet from his pocket and fastens it around her wrist. Garnet holds her hand out in front of her, her eyes widening as she realizes that the bracelet consists of all of Sapphire's old badges.

"Thanks, Dad," Garnet says with a small smile. Then, she removes it and keeps it in her pocket.

"Aren't you going to wear it?" Ruby asks her.

Garnet shakes her head without hesitation. Ever ready to tear his heart to pieces, just like her mother. Ruby doesn't know how he manages to feel comfort along with the searing pain bursting from his heart.

Amber grows up to be more polite than rebellious – which should make Gold happy because hey, it's easier taking care of a kid who actually listens to what you have to say. Still, it feels like he's lost to Crystal somehow. He's pretty sure she's been bribing Amber with her pecha berry pies or something.

But he's happy that Amber can be daring if he wants to (there's only the fact that he doesn't like to be). Gold remembers that the only thing he had going for him back when he was a ten was his daring. He wasn't particularly smart or skillful like Crys and Silver were. He'd just taken a lot of risks and he'd been lucky that they were there to save him.

Amber though, has a lot going for him now. He's curious and thoughtful and he studies hard about pokémon and their traits. Crystal raises him to love the concept of learning and reading. Gold raises him to skateboard like a pro and do stupid things once in awhile (because hey, some things you only learn that way, and diving head first into a lake that might or might not be filled with tentacool is not really considered 'stupid' as it is inattentive).

Parenting is easy when the kid is out of diapers. He doesn't know why other couples struggle.

So maybe it's alright if Amber isn't brave 24/7 as long as he can stand up for himself when it counts the most.

In comparison, sometimes Gold thinks that Garnet is broken somewhere. She's just… no fun.

Okay, maybe 'broken' isn't the best word to use. He makes a mental note to never say this out loud. Then, he makes another mental note to remind himself to never forget the first mental note. He's a genius.

Garnet grows up to be a very mild girl. She treads lightly on her feet, she doesn't make a lot of noise except when she wants to make a point. Whether she's happy or sad or angry, she always speaks with a level voice. It's kind of scary, actually. One would expect a child of Ruby and Sapphire's to be loud and obnoxious in one way or another. Nope. Garnet expresses herself in a very structured way. If she feels something significant (maybe an emotion that takes up more than sixty-percent of her current mental state), she'll tell you. Other than that, Gold doesn't think she'll bother herself with reactions. She seems like the kind of person who expends an extreme amount of energy to show emotion.

Maybe growing up and dealing with eccentric parents made Garnet pretty much immune to a lot of things. Nothing can take her by surprise – and even if she is surprised, it's a muted sort of surprise.

But kids are supposed to be loud and crazy and have uncontrollable energy at their fingertips! They're supposed to run and jump and fall and scrape their knees and then repeat the cycle again because it will never get old. Amber, at least, knows how to get excited. Gold is thankful for that.

"Hey, bud!" Gold cups a hand to his mouth and hollers.

"What is it, Dad?" Amber's distant voice replies. He sounds like he's up in his room again.

Kids are not supposed to be in their room when it's two in the afternoon.

"Keep your books, we're going out for some fresh air!" Gold shouts from the bottom of the staircase. He spots Crystal emerging from their room on the second level.

"Remember to grab some milk," she says as she walks down the stairs, a thin stack of paperclipped documents in her hand. "I'll be in the study."

Gold catches her elbow as she brushes past him. He inks a kiss on her cheek and Crystal jumps in surprise. This will never get old.

Silver sees so much of Gold in Amber at times. And then, he'll see bits and pieces of Crystal and he'll find the boy more endearing, less annoying. Amber inherited the best traits of his parents. Gold's courage, Crystal's carefulness. That being said, he's also cursed with their worst: Gold's one-track mind, Crystal's hesitance.

Now he's showing shades of Gold and Crystal at the same time – Silver has learned to deal with this from all the years he's spent babysitting the boy. Today though, he seems especially frazzled. Amber is supposed to be used to riding on Gyarados' back (when he was a kid, all he ever wanted to do was ride on Gyarados – to think that his shiny, one-of-a-kind pokémon had been converted to an amusement park ride for the sake of a six-year old boy) but he'd nearly slid off the red scales once or twice thus far.

"Something on your mind?"

"No!" A gulp. "…Maybe?" He closes one eye with uncertainty. "Yes," he admits, finally settling on an answer. "I'll be setting off with Garnet next week," Amber says, anxiously playing with the edge of his shirt.

"Okay," Silver replies, reason obtained and behaviour explained, no more need to talk. He keeps his eyes glued to the sea route ahead. Today's job is delivering a parcel from Professor Elm to a researcher in Cianwood. He looks over his shoulder to see Amber giving him a pleading look. Despite himself, Silver motions for the boy to elaborate.

"I just want to know – how do you act around the girl you like, Silver?"

Oh, great. The Talk. Why is he scheduled to give Amber The Talk? Shouldn't it be Gold's responsibility? Then again, responsibility and Gold can't be used positively in the same sentence.

"I wouldn't know," he tells the kid. It's seven in the morning, not even the swimmers are out in the sea yet, they must still be at home with family.

"Oh, right." Amber shrinks, ashamed for having asked such a question.

The redhead sighs. This is all Crystal's fault. She must have schemed this from the very start. Make him get attached to Amber so that whenever he has a question Gold can't answer sufficiently, he can look to Silver. Well played, Crystal.

"Just be yourself," he tells the eleven-year old.

"But that's not cool," Amber explains. "I'm not… cool." He cringes at the word, as if the fact that he lies so far from its very definition pains him.

"What do you think is cool, then?"

Amber furrows his brow and thinks. Gold's face looking thoughtful. Silver keeps the inevitable chuckles on the inside.

"Dad says that to be cool you have to save the world and stuff." He stiffens out of his disheartened slouch when he notices Silver's disapproving expression.

Amber sighs. "But I should never listen to Dad unless I have permission to," he recites from memory. Then, he stares up at the open blue sky, inked with the pastels of the early morning, and yells. A long, drawn out, exasperated one. It's a yell that would make Gold proud and Crystal unimpressed. With that done, Amber crumples on Gyrados, groaning at… whatever ten-year olds groan at. It's been a long time since Silver was ten.

"Just tell her what you think of her and take care of her," Silver advises, "be nice and choose your words carefully. Most importantly you should just be yourself. And don't stop her from doing what she wants. Girls don't like that."

"Silver, I think people in general wouldn't like that."

Okay. So there may be reasons why he's still single (and content!).

"I like your hair," Amber says, a little shy and brave at the same time.

Garnet touches her ponytail, trying to recall what she'd done with it in the morning. Oh, right. She'd used Dad's charm to hold her hair in place. That's the only thing she can find to do with it because she wants to wear her pokégear on her wrist instead. Given the choice, she would rather keep it hidden in her bag, but that might make Dad intensely disappointed and potentially suicidal.

"Thank you," she tells the boy as they sit in the living room, double-checking the items they've packed for their trip. A super potion is knocked out of her bag as she tries to fit her folded sleeping bag along with the rest of the items her father insisted her to pack. She doesn't know when a spool of thread will come in handy, or why he's left her his old pokéblock holder. The new brands are much sleeker in design, but Garnet doesn't mind this old thing. It still smells like a grove of berries from his days as a coordinator.

Amber picks up the super potion and holds it out for her. The moment their hands touch, his face flashes an incredible red, and Garnet doesn't understand what's so embarrassing about this. The only thing she knows that Amber's face is prone to going pink around her lately. She doesn't really mind.

Her father walks over, his face lighting up when he sees the bracelet in her hair. "Garnet, that's wonderful!" he sings, clapping his hands. "Oh, but it looks a little loose, let me see." Dad fiddles with her hair for a bit.

"There we go! Beautiful!" he sparkles.


"I won't be around to help you with it every day though," Dad sighs. "Amber, be a good boy and help Garnet out if it gets loose, alright?"

Amber stands at attention, taking the mission he's been assigned very seriously. "Y-yes Sir!"

"Thatta' boy!" Gold whoots as he steps out of the kitchen, the cookie jar under one arm. "Smooth with the ladies just like I was when I was his age," the man sighs fondly, crumbs around his mouth. Amber blushes furiously and Garnet wonders in what way the boy had been smooth. Dad bangs a fist against his forehead in exasperation.

Mama follows behind Gold, two packed lunches in her hands.

"I'll be seeing you two soon, when you're ready to come challenge me." Garnet lets her mother zip the lunch box in her sling bag, whistling away. She seems to be most excited in the room.

"Thanks, Mama." She turns around to face her mother proper.

"No problem at all." Mama stands back to observe her from head to toe. She remains still for a moment, holding her breath like she is holding onto a final thought. Then, without warning, she sweeps Garnet up into a bone-crushing hug, lifting her clear off the floor. "Be sure to clean up all the gym leaders quick, okay? They should be pushovers after all your training sessions with me."

Garnet nods into the collar of her mother's blouse, savouring the familiar scent of the forest and the lavender soap Dad forces her to use. When the soles of her mary janes touch the floor, her father clutches her left shoulder.

"I'll think of you every day," Dad sniffs, dabbing the corner of his eyes with an embroidered handkerchief.

"I'm going to miss you too," Garnet says simply, hoping that these words are enough to comfort her father.

Dad, instead (of course), bursts out bawling. The tears in her father's eyes are contagious, because she feels something welling up inside her chest. She has spent holidays over in Johto with Amber, and in Kanto with Uncle Green and big sis' – but this is the first time she's actually, officially leaving home. Garnet doesn't know why these feelings choose only now, of all moments, to surface. She hugs her parents close, and they hug her back with equal might.

"Wow!" Gold interrupts. "She can cry! So she isn't broken after all!"

Dad proceeds to glare at Gold (looking very, very much like Granddad – he even has the fierce, ruthless quality down pat).

"Ah, shit."

"Are your parents going to be alright without you there to take care of them?" Amber asks her as they walk out of the city, half-joking, half-serious. He's an odd boy.

"I don't know, actually," Garnet says, pensive.

"Well, no matter! We're gonna' have our own adventure!" her friend chirps with enthusiasm. "We're going to beat all the gyms! Conquer all the contests!" He punches a fist into the air.

"I can't wait to finish trekking through Hoenn, then we can go to Sinnoh and visit Uncle Diamond and Pearl and Miss Platinum – we don't see them enough! I really want to go to the set for their show and everything, you know?" the boy rambles, enthused by the possibilities.

"One thing at a time, Amber," Garnet advises him. She prefers certainty to probability. The only thing on her mind is the path just ahead, the one she can see. The feeling of her skirt swishing against her knees as she treks down the worn dirt path adds a skip in her step. She tries not to let Amber notice.

"You're right. We should just focus on this journey for now," he says with a grin. As they near the entrance to Petalburg Woods, he gazes up to the canopy of trees towering over them. They walk out from the sun and under the shadows cast by the branches of the trees. "I've never really explored Hoenn before. I wonder if there's anything dangerous waiting for us out there."

And Garnet thinks. She thinks about all the lessons her parents have taught her, thinks about the loyal swellow strapped to her belt. She knows all the strengths and weaknesses of the sixteen types of pokémon, she knows which stance to take in a battle, she knows how to make high-grade pokéblocks, she knows how to be beautiful. Then, she looks at the boy walking beside her, courageous and careful. She smiles without knowing why.

Garnet holds onto Amber's open hand. This is more than she needs.

"We'll be alright."


extra notes -
crawls feebly out to extend the warmest and most grateful thanks to both snoaz and arisu rin for beta-ing this for me, I had too many doubts regarding this but you two helped me salvage it thanks so much

- jobs of the dexholders if you're wondering: red (viridian gym leader), green (head of pokémon research in kanto), blue (writer for pokégirl), yellow (took over her uncle's fishery), gold (dj for goldenrod radio), silver (freelancer, unofficial babysitter for all the dex holder babies to come), crystal (assistant to green and emerald, head of pokémon studies in johto), ruby (manager/judge at lilycove contest hall), sapphire (petalburg gym leader), emerald (entrepreneur, researcher in capture technology), diamond & pearl (variety show hosts, dia has a cooking show on the side), platinum (socialite - no I'm joking, I think she goes into teaching/research like her father, but I'm not decided yet).
- Garnet is named after a birthstone, also because it predominantly comes in red, since she has her father's eyes, but most importantly, because garnet can also be found in a variety of colours. And Garnet has grown up around all the dex holders and leads this colourful life, I think it suits her well.
- meaning behind the title: it's based off a Chinese proverb (Stay by your parents, don't wander. If you must, then leave them a way to find you.) It basically means that we must care/respect our parents, because if we ever leave their side, they tend to get worried for us. So if you must leave their side, one of the things you can do is to give them a map so they can find you back. The whole fic is about Garnet charting her own metaphorical map (who she is, where does she want to go) for her parents when she finally leaves the nest.

And the idea of a map also means to represent the map of the character's hearts, which is why I spent equal amounts of time here exploring the hearts of the dex holders. It's to elaborate on where they are and who they are when they're all grown up.

A lot of the characters also get/feel lost during the course of the fic (I think!) so they need metaphorical maps to help guide them get back on the right course.

Thank you and I hope you enjoyed this monster!