notes – Just to clarify their ages, Garnet is 2 years older than Amber. & I promised myself I would write and publish something during my break week. Here it is?

?


side story: coming home

1.

"So. Did anything happen between you and Robot Girl?" Dad sneaks into his room late one night to ask.

"Dad. I'm twelve."

"– so did anything happen between you and Robot Girl?" Dad brings the question back after a brief silence.

"Nothing happened," Amber says, trying not to sound disappointed. He removes his pillow from under his head so that he can press it against his face. They'd traveled around Hoenn, beaten all the gyms, and met a few of their parents' old friends along the way. They had to resort to camping in the forest on days where the next city was nowhere in sight, they had to run through the rain and sweat through a desert. Garnet had laughed when things were really funny, frowned when they had gotten into tight fixes and smiled even when it wasn't needed and Amber had decided that he really really liked her.

"Not even a kiss?"

"Dad!" He pulls the pillow off his face and glares disapprovingly at his father.

"Ah well! You're still young!" Dad says, slapping Amber's stomach and making him jump. "I only got action with your mum when– "

"It's okay, you don't need to tell me about that," he informs his father, pleading.

Dad stops talking, a rare, fatherly smile appearing on his face. Amber remembers when he'd been younger, how his father used to sit on the edge of his bed just like this and tell him stories of when he'd been a Pokédex holder. The stories were all exciting and gripping and almost like a fantasy. Amber always fell asleep at the end.

"Good to have you back, kid," Dad says. He ruffles Amber's hair before closing the door behind him. Amber stares up at the dim ceiling of his room, the posters of the superheroes on TV and skateboard pros still in place. Strange, he remembers some of them peeling at the corners the last time he was in this room. Mum must have taped them back in place for him.

He closes his eyes. It's nice to be home after all.


2.

Having famous parents means responsibilities. Like not getting into trouble or committing criminal offences or telling people you'll help them get autographs. Saving the world is encouraged because you can continue their legacy. Of course, their parents never really pressured them to do that – and the world hadn't needed any saving for a long, long time. Still, the Pokémon Association holds an annual dinner for all its members, and their parents are always invited. Amber doesn't know how many times he's attended the event, he's lost count, but the food is always good and the company… the company has always been Garnet, so it never gets too boring.

This year, her hair is in a bun and her dress is a dark blue. She's wearing lipstick and oh, Amber remembers that she's already seventeen. Where did all that time go? He's sad that he doesn't visit her in Hoenn as often as he likes. Garnet is wearing solid black heels, and while they help her look fantastic, Amber isn't completely happy because the heels make her taller than him.

"What're you doing here?" he asks, wondering why she's standing outside the coat room.

"I was waiting for you," she says. Of course she doesn't mean anything by this, doesn't have any hidden agendas. Amber still blushes, happy and pathetic. Before long, he realizes he's standing in the middle of the hallway with his mother's coat dangling expectantly in his hands. He busies himself with hanging it in the room. When he emerges back to the main hallway, Garnet is still waiting. She holds her purse in one hand and his heart in the other.

"You look very pretty," he coughs.

Garnet doesn't jolt in surprise or let her cheeks go red. She smiles a little and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, slowly and almost deliberately. "Thank you." Her dark eyes soften and he learns that red lipstick looks good on her.

It's times like these, when Garnet reveals just a little bit more emotion than usual, that Amber can't help it. He tries to push it down, tries to brush it off, but then the feeling leaps and clutches to him even more. He just can't help but…

"… like you."

"Hm?"

"I said I like you," Amber whispers again.

"Mmm, okay." Garnet punctuates this with a single nod. "Do you want to go and join the rest now?"

"– What?"

"My parents said everyone's assembling in the dining hall."

"I– um – I forgot something. You can go on ahead first."

Garnet raises an eyebrow but doesn't object, proceeding to walk down the corridor. Amber stares at her back and the way her dress swishes, still not quite grasping the situation. Garnet never looks over her shoulder.

He looks at the ground, pockets his hands, and proceeds to sit down on the carpeted floor.


"Hey, your mum asked your dad to ask my dad to ask me to look for you."

Amber mumbles an 'I see' into the sleeve of his blazer. He raises his forehead from his knees to look at the girl standing over him. Maize is wearing a white dress that actually looks good on her, her short blonde hair and sunlight eyes matching the simple, lacey design. She's using the Viridian Gym badge as a hairclip. Had one been a passer-by, they would have found her a pleasant, quaint young girl. Amber, on the other hand, thinks this is the most ironic thing he's ever seen.

"Please tell them I don't feel like eating," he says, resting the back of his head against the wall.

"What's the matter?" she lands on the floor beside him, bending her legs bravely and resting her elbows on her knees so the hem of her dress crumples, all awkward angles and insistence. Amber hopes that no one is going to walk by.

"It's not something you would know," Amber says quietly.

"Then it must be about Garrie," the girl says with a confident grin. "You always get that look on your face when you're thinking about her. Either that or the other look where your ears turn way too red."

"Maize– "

She laughs loudly, a hand against her underwhelming bust line. "So, I was right!"

Amber tugs his jacket over his head in an attempt to hide. Then, he feels a pat on his back.

"Cheer up, things'll get better."

Amber produces the vaguest sound he can. He doesn't feel any better, but having a friend beside him does make it more bearable. She can be abrasive, but at least Maize is a caring person. Mostly.

"I know how to get your mind off this. Let's battle!" Maize says, reaching not-so-elegantly under her skirt to retrieve a pokéball. Auntie Yellow must have asked her not to bring her pokémon along to the dinner. "Mummy didn't want me taking my pokémon to the party, so I snuck them in this way." She hoists her skirt just slightly to show him what used to be a pokéball belt, cut and fastened loosely just above her knee. Classy.

Before he can decline her offer, a blastoise appears, occupying more than half of the empty hallway.

"Not in here!" Amber snaps at her, wondering how nice, normal people like Uncle Red and Auntie Yellow could end up with a daughter like her.

"You're right. There's not nearly enough space here."

No. Space shouldn't even be a concern at this point.

"Let's take it outside, then!" Maize suggests, springing onto her ballerina flats and charging towards the entranceway.

Amber opens his mouth, and then closes it in resignation. Maybe a battle will do him good. There's nothing much else to do now that he's decided he doesn't want to be on speaking terms with Garnet.

He pushes himself up from the floor, straightens his blazer – don't want Mum getting mad about creases – and follows the blonde girl. It's unfair that Maize is the one dragging him along on her whims all the time. He's one year older than her! Clearly, concepts like seniority don't matter to someone of her caliber.


Maize is Uncle Red's daughter.

The way she comes up with tactics on the spot, how she turns the tide of the match in less than a second, mirrors Uncle Red. Amber has never won a battle against her. He doesn't feel very compelled to try to upset this power balance, though. It's nice knowing that there will always be someone to compete against, and he's alright with not being the best as long as he can be good enough. He's never called her his 'rival' or anything like that, that was such an old school thing to do. (Dad still likes to call Silver that every now and again.)

"When did your pikachu evolve into a raichu?" Amber asks after the battle.

"Only just recently. I finally saved up enough to get a thunderstone for him," Maize explains, straightening her skirt and dusting blades of grass off it. They had held their impromptu battle on the lawn outside the Pokémon Association Building.

"He got stronger, didn't he?" She smiles.

"Yes," Amber admits sheepishly. Maize isn't afraid to show that she's competitive. Amber has gotten used to it after battling with her over the years.

The girl's smirk evens out as she waves to someone approaching behind them. He turns to see two silhouettes crossing the darkened lawn.

Garnet walks up to him with a small boy clinging onto her sleeve. If Amber isn't mistaken, Cyan is only nine-years old – the fact that he has Auntie Blue's cheeks and soft chin makes him look even younger. He keeps on adjusting his bowtie, making sure it's straight.

"Where were you?"

"Maize and I were having a battle," he says. Oh, great, he just spoke to her. There goes the not-on-speaking-terms decision. Amber at least refuses to look at her, hoping that he appears disgruntled enough for the girl to notice. But being Garnet, she doesn't seem to detect any hostility.

"That's not we were supposed to do," she says in that peculiar way of hers, not lecturing yet not completely nonchalant. She usually reserves this tone of voice for Maize. Amber glances at the blonde, who doesn't even look the least bit guilty. She shrugs her shoulders at him.

"Rudeeeee," Cyan calls from behind Garnet. "We saved a plate of food for you and you never showed up."

"I'm sorry." Amber bites the inside of his cheek. "I just didn't have an appetite tonight."

"Excuses," Cyan rebuts, crossing his arms. Amber has always found it interesting how a small boy like him tries so hard to look intimidating. He must want to be like his father. Garnet pats the boy's head and beckons Maize over to her side.

"Two of you head back first, okay? We'll follow in a while," she instructs them like a big sister.

Cyan tries to protest. "But, big sis'– woah!" He's interrupted when Maize scoots up behind him, grabs his shoulders, and starts directing him back towards the building. She towers over his small frame, making it hard for him to struggle.

"Come on, we'll head back first," she says, pushing Cyan like one would push a lawnmower. "Crim' was looking for you, you know."


"What's the matter?" Garnet asks him after Maize and Cyan leave.

Amber looks at her for the first time since his failure of a confession. Under the moonlight, her hair is still perfect, her expression patient. She knows he's unhappy. That's nice – wait, no. That's not nice. Nothing is supposed to be nice.

"What's the matter?" he repeats, his delivery carrying a fair bit more hurt and shock than hers. "The matter is that you completely ignored what I said!" he tells her, tired of running away from things. He didn't know what to do with her, and yet, he still liked her, somehow. Amber didn't know whether to be proud or annoyed.

"I see." Garnet isn't angry at him for shouting at her.

"I like you," he says despite himself. He blames his genes.

"You've already established that," Garnet reminds him. "I've always assumed you did, since we got along well enough. I… like you too? Is that why you're angry? Because I never said that back? I thought it was obvious enough."

"No, you've got it wrong. I mean, I like you more than that, okay?" Amber explains. Garnet tilts her chin, beckoning for clearer exposition. His shoulders slump in response to her composure. "I like you like- like I want to hold hands with you," he stutters in a weak voice, eyes darting from the floor to the middle of her forehead, not quite able to look into her eyes.

Garnet presents an empty palm to him.

Amber's jaw falls in exasperation. "No, I don't mean now," he says. Still, in the end, he takes her open hand. Her thumb curves over his knuckles and the fact that his hand is a little bit larger than hers makes him stronger.

"I mean, like… forever."

The girl blinks, registering his words. Amber holds his breath.

"That's impossible."

Amber hadn't expected to be rejected so bluntly, even by Garnet's standards. His heart clenches and he exhales the breath he'd held. Softly, dejectedly. He wonders if his pokémon, hiding in the pockets of his jacket, are hearing all of this. How embarrassing. Yes, just – think about something else – think about anything but this.

When he tries to let go of her hand, Garnet doesn't let him. He looks up from his half-polished shoes, startled and hoping that she can't see his eyes.

"We don't live forever, Amber. It's not wise to wish for things like that. And we don't even know if forever exists. I will hold your hand for as long as I can. I can't promise what will happen after that, but I will try my best."

"Sorry?" he sniffs.

Garnet sighs a little to herself, quietly amused. She simplifies it by saying, "I like you in that way as well."

His heart trumpets even though his cheeks are wet. Garnet smiles in that small, beautiful way of hers, where only the corner of her lips crook just so.


3.

"F.Y.I, my son likes your daughter, so – HEY – we're going to be related!" Gold tells Ruby.

Ruby chokes on his drink and thumps a hand against his chest. Once he's finished suffocating (oh how he wishes he could've passed out), he turns, almost mechanically, to face Gold.

"We're… we're getting too old for jokes, Gold."

"I'm being serious here pal." He throws an arm around Ruby.

"Please do not call me 'pal'."

"What do you want me to call you then? In-law?"

Ruby screeches into his hands. Gold clinks their champagne glasses together.

"Cheers!"


notes –

1. I skipped like… three years worth of interaction between Garnet and Amber. I just felt like writing this part for the time being – maybe I'll fill in the gaps next time. The basic idea: Amber fumbles around with his feelings, always finding new ways to slip up, whilst Garnet breezes through teenagehood.
2. Cyan has Green's eyes but Blue insisted for him to be named after her so he's the first kid to not be named after the colour of his eyes. He grows up to be the prettiest pretty boy that ever prettied and no one ever takes him seriously because his face is just too beautiful. Poor guy, cursed by being the offspring of two really flawless people. He also has a sister complex for Garnet. I think he and Amber will get along when they're older. They suffer together by the fact that they love someone like Garnet.
3. Red and Yellow are possibly really chill parents. Maize just runs all over the place and they're like "ah, there she goes again", "reminds me of when we were her age", "we were more wild than her weren't we", "wonderful", "ah, youth".
4. Maize has a younger brother, Crimson, who is the same age as Cyan. They are, in fact, best friends. Maize is named after the colour and the association to nature, referring to Yellow. Crimson is named after the colour, and is associated to prestige, referring to Red.
5. One time Maize showed Amber her new sports bra and he was like "OK. But I think black suits you better." That's the kind of relationship I think they have, heh.
6. Everyone forgets the one who has to suffer the most is Ruby.