Author's Note:

Woot! :D Finally beat my writer's block!

Okay, besides that, if you know my work, it's normally a slow starter that ends up being well worth your time at the end. And if you don't know my work . . . well, now you know it's a slow starter but is going to be great at the end. ^^

So stick it through till the end! ;)

This is . . . a strange story, honestly. It's simply a one shot of video game Red and Copycat, of all characters for a crack pairing. I suppose the crack pairing is only icing. It's there, but it's not the driving point of the plot. It's Red's mother being sick, and showing the bond between Red and Copycat for meeting as kids and remembering each other. I don't know what to say about this story, honestly. It's strange, but I really, really love how it turned out ^^ So enjoy! (cause I can't remember what else I wanted to say . . .)

Oh! Songs of inspiration are as follows, you can find them all on YouTube:

Trainer Red Epic Remix by "Dj The Fishhead"

Tick Tack by "UKISS"

Like I'll Never See You Again by "Alicia Keys"

I had heard of him. I think everyone had heard of him. He was legend, after all. That enigmatic one who had done so much, and yet remained a mystery to us all. He was the only ten-year-old who started his pokemon journey with a Pikachu.

He was legendary throughout Kanto and Johto as the Champion from Pallet Town. Such a twist of fate that the nearly non-existent town was granted such fame. To this day, the great Champion Lance always said he was impressed by the strength that the boy had taken him down, but it was clear the defeat still stung.

Like a one-man army, he had put the evil and dogmatic Team Rocket back in their place. Team Rocket still had yet to resurface after their humiliating defeat by a ten year old, a ten year old that had single-handedly foiled their every plan. His fame was renown, and many hailed him as a righteous hero.

He barely spoke. Few that had met him in his prime years could say that he had said something, and some contemplated that he was just a mute. His mother was just as bad. She was a simple woman from Pallet Town, and reporters from all over came to her, asking questions, interfering with her life. She had been patient as one could be, but she rarely responded to the questions. If she suddenly decided she did have a comment, it was full of mystery with no real explanation.

That was proven more than true when he fell off the map. No one knows what happened to him. They said he journeyed to the top of Mt. Silver and never came down.

Rumors flew abound, and when his mother was presented with the pointed question of if she thought he was dead, what did she say?

"No. Merely waiting. He will come home when he is ready."

Still, what his mother believed isn't what most people believe. At first, it had been a mad dash to get to the top of Mt. Silver. Trainers flocked to the mountain all in the effort to find him, all determined to defeat the ultimate pokemon master. They braved the heinous terrain that caused even members of the Elite Four to struggle and pace themselves warily. The lone Pokemon Center out in that untamed wilderness gained much prosperity in these times.

Then came the grueling climb to the top. Mt. Silver was the second highest mountain in any region, falling just below the height of Sinnoh's Mt. Coronet. If only 20% of trainers managed to make it to the Pokemon Center checkpoint, the last 19% were wheedled out by failing to scale this daunting mountain.

Few had actually made it to the top. The little that did had accounted for his presence there on the mountain, and would never narrate the tale of how easily they were whipped in a pokemon battle. The mountain had only heightened his skills, and those trainers that came to challenge him failed to win his battle because of his strength and the way the rugged mountain terrain—howling blizzards, steep inclines of ice, rocky and jagged surfaces—would beat them down until they were lucky to make it to the top.

Some trainers traversed up, and they never came back down.

If slightly shorter than Mt. Coronet, Mt. Silver was twice as lethal with its climate, harsh terrain, and craggy, wet, and cold caves. And the terrible wild pokemon that stalked over its surface and lurked inside its black heart. It seemed unreal that he could survive all those years up there, and so the media proclaimed him dead.

Still, that didn't stop some. Periodically there would be a trainer that would dare to try and crest the indomitable mountain and fail, but none would make it . . . And thus it was that he fell off the map and faded into legend.

Before Red became legend, I met him as a boy on his pokemon journey. As it were, legends are trivial things. The carpet of the past was woven with too many hands, and what was true and false became twisted. Legend has distorted who he is in so many ways—they say ludicrous things anymore in many different tales. Some say his ghost haunts Mt. Silver, red eyes glaring through the dark more accursed than a Haunter; eyes crimson as blood, peering out through the dark winds of blizzards, soulless. Some say he still waits at the top for the one trainer that could finally defeat him. Some say he retreated so deep into the wilderness and so far away from human contact that he lost his mind and guards his mountain like a rabid pokemon.

It was not true—he had hazel eyes, not crimson. I remembered them from that day I had met him. He isn't mute, either. I myself was a quiet child, and I never wanted to speak either. I think . . . he saw some sort of comradeship in me—he, who had nothing to say, and so said nothing. Me, a girl who copycatted, and so had nothing to say until spoken to.

He was friendly, and seeing how shy I was, he asked me if I liked pokemon. Still, I had treated Red no differently than anyone else when I was eight years old, unknowing of the greatness that lurked in his ten-year-old future. I mimicked him.

"Do you like pokemon?"

"Uh . . . no, I just asked you."

"Huh? You're strange!"

Those were his exact words to me, and I copied him exactly. It's where I got my nickname, after all—Copycat. I remembered watching his face go from softly friendly (as if afraid to frighten me) to brows wrinkled with confusion, to a grin that was alight with disgruntlement and amusement both. Still, while he was bewildered by my eccentric hobby, he seemed to take a liking to it—his grin and twinkling eyes gave him away.

And so, I was pleasantly surprised when Red came back to me days later and gifted me with a Clefairy Pokedoll.

I collected Pokedolls. I could only assume he had seen the many in my room the last time he visited. I felt weird taking his present, so I offered Red a gift back—TM 31, Mimic. I don't remember him using it in battle when I watched him on TV. Maybe he didn't ever use the TM. It could be considered a weak move. But it was my favorite.

He had said thanks anyway. I parroted that too, and I made him happily disgruntled when I mimicked everything he did. I don't know. I feel like I have some sort of special connection with him now.

I was just eight when I met Red. Anymore I feel privileged that I was one of the few that really got to meet him—and not just meet him, he spoke to me with a soft-spoken voice that had a will of iron backing him. He got me a gift—how many could boast that?

But, I never saw him again after that. He moved on, finishing collecting his badges, and he took the Elite Four challenge. I trailed his battles closely, an adoring fan as I rooted for him. He swept through the League easily, crushed Champion Lance beneath his heel, and took on Mt. Silver.

He was eleven when he conquered the peak of Mt. Silver. I was nine.

It took until I was eleven to seriously consider becoming a pokemon trainer. It wasn't until I was sixteen that I took the idea to heart and began my journey.

I . . . wanted to find Red. Weird, huh? That he'd make such a lasting impression on me. Then again, he is legend, and I really did want to know what happened to him. Still, the thought of trying to take on Mt. Silver—much less the route that goes up to Mt. Silver—scared all my determination away. The pokemon out in those ways were tough and mean, and they attacked you before you could attack them. They were so territorial, and much stronger than most actual trainers' pokemon. And Mt. Silver—people died on Mt. Silver! What more did you need to freak you out than to know you wanted to go to a place where people died and it wasn't surprising that they died?

Still, despite it all, I took my trusty Doduo and became more of a "freelance" trainer. I just traveled around, scouting out pokemon, but I mostly caught the pokemon I did out of pity. A Bagon, because she was crying because she couldn't fly. A Cubone, because he wore the skull of his dead mother. A Shuppet, because it was a ghost said to have come from discarded Pokedolls. The last two pokemon I caught were ones I wanted. A Mr. Mime, because it was a miming pokemon and I loved to mimic. Last, a Clefairy, because Red had gotten me a Clefairy Pokedoll.

I finally began to take it seriously. I took the Kanto pokemon gym challenge but only acquired seven of eight badges. I moved on to the Unova region and did much better, collecting all eight. I competed in the Unova League and made it all the way into the finals before I was defeated.

My pokemon were all fully evolved at this point. A Dodrio, a Salamence, a Marowak, a Banette, a Mr. Mime, and a Clefable. By this time I decided that I would brave Mt. Silver.

It conquered me the first time. I only made it about halfway up before I realized it was too treacherous for me. The steep and icy inclines, howling blizzard, and rabid wild pokemon were too much for me. I retreated to train more. I took the Johto region challenge and collected eight more badges to compete in the Indigo League. I won. I battled the Elite Four, hacking my way through them, but Lance, the Champion, ground me to dust.

And so it was that I came to stand in front of Mt. Silver again.

I craned my head back up to look at it. It was cold already, but the season was only autumn. I had taken the advice of someone who had already tried to climb Mt. Silver. They had said they had climbed in the spring, and it had been treacherous because of the spring thaw. So, I decided I'd do it before the snow fell on too thick and there wouldn't be any thawing to trouble myself over.

Swallowing my uncertainties, I tugged my gloves on tighter and zipped up the fur coat I had bought for this occasion. Just because Red had climbed this demon without a coat and jacket didn't mean I had to. I refused to freeze my buns off. Even my boots were fur lined. I pulled the fuzzy hood over my head, pigtails tied back low, and ducked into the entrance of the dark cave.

It was damp, dark . . . eerie. I quickly flicked my flashlight on and was met with emptiness, endless halls of rock walls and numerous passageways to get lost in. The foreboding cavern yawned into a black pit that my flashlight's beam of light couldn't pierce through. Behind that curtain of darkness the intimidating howls and roars of wild and dangerous pokemon echoed, rebounding off the cave walls until they were all around me.

I took a step into the cave, my boots softly grinding the gravelly floor holding my weight. The sound was overly loud when it grated out, and a billowing mist of my breath swamped out to momentarily hamper my vision. My hand, coated with cold sweat inside my glove, tightened on the handle of my flashlight. I pulled my pack's straps taunt.

And thus, filled with fear of this lethal mountain, I began to trek inwards. I took the same way I had before because even though it takes a long time, I knew where it went. The other shafts were like demonic halls to hell, so I avoided them like the plague.

The task of fighting up Mt. Silver was grueling. My hands sweated inside the gloves I put on, and the snow clung to my coat like a shroud. My pokemon were stronger, but warding off the hostile wild pokemon was taxing. I used many more Potions than I wanted to as we slowly struggled our way up. My toes and fingers grew cold. I wiggled them steadily to keep them from growing numb.

The critical conditions were brutal. At first my face had strung from the cold, but now it hurt. My pokemon were starting to get tired, but I knew I was nearing the top, so I refused to turn back. Coercing my weary legs onward, I stamped my way through the graveyard caves of Mt. Silver, passageways as cold as death. I slipped on icy rocks; I waded through knee deep snow; I stepped on a corroded skeleton of a trainer and shrieked, causing the wild pokemon to converge and attack.

Finally, eventually, mercifully, I made it to the peak. My desperate eyes sought that faint light that wafted through the opening, but my body shuddered at the prospect of heading out into the shrieking winds and brutalizing snow of the blizzard. But, I did so anyway, and was met with a wall of slanting white shrouded in darkness.

I don't know what I was thinking by this time. Maybe I wasn't. I had only relief that I had finally made it to the top.

Yet, for some reason . . . I wasn't expecting anyone to be there. But his silhouette converged like a wispy darkness through the falling sheet of snow and sleet. His Pikachu still resided on his shoulder as I remembered. But . . . he was different than the boy I had met ten years ago.

He wore exactly what he used to wear, only in bigger sizes—which meant he HAD to come off the mountain at some point. He still wore plain jeans, tennis shoes, and that iconic jacket with gloves. How he didn't freeze up here in that lightweight clothing I don't know. The winds were whipping and the cold gripped deep in your bones and the snow coated everything and when you breathed it was like thousands of needles piercing your lungs—he survived without proper gear.

His cap was pulled low, hiding his eyes. This man's Pikachu growled on his shoulder, carrying only a vague hint of the cuteness it once held, and electricity crackled mightily from its red cheek sacks.

Red didn't even flinch when those ropes of electricity licked over his face.

He stood, as if he had been waiting all along, for another to make it this far. He sent me a cold glance, and without a word, he reached for a pokeball.

Trembling, I swallowed my fear and did the same.

Red's arm came back and he threw the pokeball with a vengeance. I watched his giant Snorlax form from the red light and grumble its challenge at me. Since he spoke nothing to me, I had nothing to copycat, and just as silent, I threw out Banette's pokeball.

He waited patiently for my first move, thick trails of electricity crackling over his face from Pikachu's restless charge. Finally peeling my tongue from the top of my mouth, I forced out, "Banette, Shadow Ball."

The battle began without earnest however, Red standing like a silent wraith of doom as he watched our powerful attack go hurtling towards him. I saw his mouth move, but couldn't hear him on the opposite side of our snowy field because of the angry blizzard that whipped around us. However, I did see his Snorlax move, grunting low and throwing its own Shadow Ball back at us. The two attacks met in the middle, crashing together and exploding, making smoke swamp out into the snow. Half a second later, before I could get the next attack off my tongue, his Snorlax had somehow managed to bear down right over Banette with a violent Crunch. I yelped in horrified shock when his Snorlax's jaws clamped over my pokemon, and echoed by Banette's howl, a thunderous crash and wave of snow.

His Snorlax backed off. My mouth was dry, and my lips were cracking from the cold. My hands began to sweat as I rasped, "Banette?"

He didn't get up.

My knees went weak. I suddenly felt very nauseous, and with a very tiny whisper, I returned Banette and thanked him for his hard work. Fingers twitching nervously, I looked back up to Red.

He stared blatantly back, eyes hidden by the bill of his cap.

I picked up my starter's pokeball. Dodrio formed with a determined cry from the light, and I wished her the entire well of luck that this battle wouldn't wound her too far. "Dodrio, Agility!"

I don't know if he could hear me all the way over there since I couldn't hear him all the way over here, but his eyes watched Dodrio's movements carefully, determining his next move of action.

I was stunned to see a Giga Impact, rippling with powerful yellow streaks barrel forth, still uncannily too fast for a Snorlax. "Dodge it!" I yelped, but Dodrio proved her speed with the help of her Agility, outrunning the menacing Snorlax that stood like a hulking beast. Forced to recharge, I jumped on the chance I had.

"Tri Attack! Run up and Drill Peck, and pummel it!"

Running forward with a Tri Attack, I watched his Snorlax take it head on, belly stuck out like a natural ward of fat. Then, when Dodrio was right on top of him, all three of her heads took turns jabbing the massive pokemon with Drill Pecks. Red's Snorlax merely crossed its arms to protect its face, carefully turning its body to take less damage—on the belly, the shoulders, the forearms. It was trained like a freaking boxer!

I knew I had run out of time, so I called out to her, "Back it off, Dodrio!" Half a second later, I saw—Arceus forbid it—a blizzard churn out from the Snorlax, just narrowly missing my pokemon. Dodrio leapt away, and before I could order my pokemon move, a Shadow Ball collided with the ground and exploded. I jolted.

The move was worthless against a normal type, but the explosion on the ground beneath Dodrio's feet sent her squawking without balance and falling. Before she could think to regain her feet, a terrible Blizzard swamped over her and encrusted her wings with ice, freezing her both and knocking her out.

Trying to control my shaking, whether from the cold or the battle I didn't know anymore, I returned her with thanks and stared at Red's Snorlax. It looked none worse for the wear, glaring out at me through narrowed eyes in the heart of this blizzard we stood in. Working up enough guts to keep going on with this, I picked up my next pokeball and sent out Marowak.

The size difference was humiliating. Red immediately began with a barrage of Shadow Balls that I had Marowak deflect with Bone Clubs. She knocked each one away, and I saw his Snorlax plow forward with another hideous Giga Impact. Marowak I knew would be too slow to dodge, so I commanded, "Double-Edge!" thankful that her special ability was Rock Head and the recoil would be negated.

I could only hope our Double-Edge did something to the resilient Snorlax because Marowak was knocked away like a fly. Red's Snorlax grunted and stopped, recharging, and Marowak struggled to her feet, using her bone for leverage.

I could only thank Arceus that she hadn't fainted in one blow.

"Marowak, Focus Energy, and Bone Club!" I watched the combination take off, the most powerful of her energy focusing in on her club, and Marowak dashed forward, brandishing her bone mightily. Red's Snorlax braced itself, and Marowak took a damage dealing blow to the ferocious pokemon, finally garnering its first pained grunt of this whole session from that critical hit. Still, the Snorlax grabbed Marowak before she could think to retreat or retaliate, and a menacing Crunch finished her off. She was tossed back into the snow, completely fainted without energy.

I returned her with a miniscule word of thanks. I wanted to run. I wanted to run so badly it almost had me gasping with terror that he was so powerful, and still he stood there unblinking, unwavering, and just as silent as always. But I was a trainer—running was forbidden.

Shivering inside my coat, I picked up another pokeball. I sent out my Mr. Mime, calling out, "Psychic!" even before Red had the chance to give another inaudible order to his pokemon.

His Snorlax was lifted high, and Mr. Mime threw him down roughly into the deep bed of snow between us. A colossal wave of snow puffed up and settled, and I saw a Blizzard churn out angrily from the bulky pokemon. "Barrier!" I cried out, flinching when Mr. Mime just barely managed to deflect it at the last second. Purple lights and yellow streaks erupted from the darkness, and I started at the sight of the Giga Impact hurtling our way.

"Substitute!" I yelped, and with a puff of smoke, I saw my Mr. Mime disappear with another in his place. Red's Snorlax collided and demolished the substitute without preamble, grumbling back at my Mr. Mime.

"Mimic!" I shouted, and Mr. Mime did the same, a Giga Impact slamming into the back of the indomitable Snorlax. Red's Snorlax growled shortly, bracing itself on a hand before rising up to its full height again. The pokemon was slowly being whittled down, but I shuddered to think of the rest of Red's party.

Before Mr. Mime was fully recharged, he was easily knocked out by a Shadow Ball. I returned him and thanked him, taking a deep breath to steady my nerves. My numbing fingers fumbled with my next pokemon, and I tossed out Salamence.

She roared at the Snorlax, fury for the fallen driving her. "Dragon Claw!" I shouted at her, and she took off towards his Snorlax, only to dodge with the repellant of a Blizzard. "Fly!"

She soared up with difficulty, the blizzard making it nearly impossible to fly in, but dropped like an atomic bomb on the waiting Snorlax. It grunted again, and we wore it out farther.

Another Blizzard hurtled our way, and I cried, "Protect!" The blast did nothing to us, thank everything, but the next nearly caught her as she pumped her wings to the side. Screw it, it still wasn't close to going down! "Dragon Tail!"

With a screeching cry, Salamence slammed her tail with a vengeance on his Snorlax. It gave a resounding roar of pain before it dispersed into red light and zipped back into its pokeball. Instead, I watched another large pokemon form, and his Venusaur blinked sleepy eyes at me.

Score! "Fly!" I ordered my Salamence quickly, and she did so responding, promptly crashing down on the pokemon that had been dozing.

Or at least, it had looked like it.

His Venusaur took the hit with little difficulty, and I watched a spurt of powder plume from the Venusaur's flower and douse over Salamence. With growing horror and widening eyes, I witnessed my pokemon falling asleep on the battlefield.


First it was a leeching Giga Drain that refueled his Venusaur with the energy I had taken from him. The thick binds of crackling grass-type energy sucked away Salamence's energy, and right after that, a sickening Sludge Bomb. It slammed into my sleeping pokemon, and before she could wake up, a deadly Frenzy Plant erupted from beneath the carpet of snow and utterly destroyed my strongest pokemon with a critical hit. Salamence sprawled out, unable to battle.

My hands began to sweat more. Returning her, thanking her for her hard work, I sent out my last pokemon. My Clefable took the field, and I looked at Red again.

He still hadn't moved, still hadn't said anything to me. And suddenly, I realized, he didn't recognize me. He didn't know I was Copycat even though I was using the one pokemon that had linked us together as a Clefairy Pokedoll. Granted, it had been ten years, but . . . I don't know. Maybe I was just thinking I was special and the legendary Red was going to remember me.

I hunched into myself, protecting myself from the blizzard whipping around us at the top of this mountain. No, that had been silly and futile. And now I was paying the price for my childish fantasies by letting my pokemon get the most royal beating of their lifetime.

And there wasn't a thing I could do about it.

I opened with a Metronome, and was shocked when I saw a rarely seen move Mist Ball hurtle towards his recharging Venusaur. The psychic type move collided, super effective, making the pokemon across from us grunt. I used it again, and this time we got Hurricane. Before the attack—that would have done much—could land, his Venusaur retaliated with a Sludge Bomb that keeled Clefable over.

My heart leapt to my throat when she struggled up. "Moonlight!"

Clefable quickly regained some health, and she narrowly dodged a Sleep Powder. "Mimic!"

Instead of managing this feat, I was shocked beyond all reasoning when that fat and heavy pokemon with stumpy legs, hefted itself up and moved nearly as fast as any of my pokemon could. Red's Venusaur dodged the mimicked Sleep Powder. With a massive Frenzy Plant, I watched my Clefable taken down, snapped like a twig beneath the thick roots. She didn't get up.

Numb with shock and cold, I returned Clefable, barely managing to squeeze out words of thanks and encouragement to my pokemon. I locked my knees, struggling not to collapse with exhaustion and awe, and I stared at Red as he returned his pokemon. I could see his lips moving, saying something to the Venusaur. Then, he reached up a hand and nuzzled a finger beneath his Pikachu's chin, and walked away, fading back into the darkness.

I had left immediately. I returned to the bottom of Mt. Silver to be pounced on by reporters that I waved off until I could give my pokemon to Nurse Joy. Then, I began to explain to the overly eager people what had happened.

To say I amazed them was the understatement of the year. No one had seen Red in over six years because no one else since me had managed to make it to the top of the mountain. Unlike others, however, I detailed my defeat for them, because I was so . . . awed that he was so powerful. I earnestly stated that I didn't believe any trainer could defeat him.

After my brief shine of fame for having lost to Red, I debated going back home. I was a bit tired, and I hadn't been home since I left on my pokemon journey, but I settled for a phone call instead. I told my parents that I wanted to sight see more. After all, focused on raising my pokemon, I hadn't done much to really enjoy myself. I wanted to go back to Lavaridge Town and bask in the hot springs; I wanted to play around in Nimbasa City; I wanted to go to Sunyshore City again and this time hit the beach.

So, I didn't go home. It had been several years, but I was nineteen after all. So I did go and do those things. I took myself, well, a vacation.

However, it was when I was at Lavaridge Town, relaxing in the hot springs and sands that I got a letter. Wrapping my towel around me, I opened it with shaky fingers when I saw who it was from.

Dear Copycat,

I hear you have met my son, Red. You can climb Mt. Silver. It is something I thought no one would be able to do, and so I am thankful you have managed.

I must ask you an enormous favor. You may or may not know, but I was diagnosed with breast cancer, a typical cancer. However, just when I thought I was going to recover, I slipped back into my sickness. I've struggled, and unfortunately, now . . . my time looks to be short.

Copycat, I humbly ask you to bring my boy home. I would like to see him one more time if this is to be my end. Red is quiet, but he will come back.

If you choose to proceed with this endeavor, I am at the Viridian City hospital. Please send this message to him, Copycat. You are the only one I can rely on, the only one strong enough.

I sat, hair dripping wet from the hot springs of Lavaridge Town. Sure I had heard the day that she had been diagnosed with cancer—but that had been three years ago. It hadn't struck me as that big a deal, and I suppose that was because breast cancer was so typical, and I had never lost anyone I loved or knew from breast cancer. Red's mother having cancer hadn't struck me as that . . . important, I guess.

So now I held this paper in my hand, sent by a Dragonite—Arceus only knew how much she had spent to get the pokemon. They were said to be able to circle the globe in sixteen hours they traveled so fast, though it wasn't safe for a human to be moving that fast on them. Then, I did a double take at the Dragonite—he nodded at me, and my jaw slacked open at the sight of him.

This was Lance's Dragonite.

How could she afford it? Or had he done this as a favor to her? Even so, the thought was staggering. I couldn't even contemplate it, but the urgency of the message finally began to kick in. Flipping the letter over, I looked at the date it was sent.

That was three days ago.

I mentally cursed myself that I had been selfish enough to go randomly traveling the continents without a word. If I had gone home to see my parents like they had wanted, Red's mom would have known exactly where to send her letter. Instead, the letter had been lost around the continents as Lance's Dragonite had to run on a wild goose chase to find me.

I jumped to my feet, pointing at Dragonite as I dashed inside. "Stay right there!" I sped to the front desk, snatching up a pen and jotted down my answer that I would do it.

I mean . . . it was her dying wish. Who in their right mind could refuse her? The only one she could rely upon, the only one strong enough . . .

My pen froze its hurried scratch across the page. My mind slowly backpedaled, registering her words, and registering the Dragonite just outside the Lavaridge Pokemon Center.

Lance's Dragonite. I had lost to Lance, and lost pretty pathetically too, and yet she was entrusting this with me instead of him? Then I had to shake my head, forcing myself to think logically. Lance had always struggled to conquer Mt. Silver because his dragons were ill suited for the challenge of ice, their worst weakness. But if she could get favors from Lance, couldn't she get one of the Elite Four to do it?

I back tracked again. I had defeated all but Lance. That had to be why. And I was the first person in six years that had managed to make it to the top of Mt. Silver.

I rushed back out to Dragonite, thrusting the letter to him. "Take it back to her," I said quickly, craning my head back to look at the large dragon. "I'll do it for her. Right away, I'll leave tonight—in the morning." It was almost evening. "No, no, I'll leave tonight. And—tell Lance I said hi." The majestic Dragonite grunted and nodded, taking off with a gust of wind that almost knocked me off my feet.

I stood awkwardly a second longer, unbelieving at what I was doing, and then, reality and time caught up to me with a slap. I bolted indoors, readying to head out as soon as I possibly could.

I can't begin to tell you how quickly I had left the Pokemon Center.

From Hoenn all the way to Kanto, it took me four days of traveling the lands and over oceans. Poor Salamence was getting a good work out.

Now, I stood at the foot of Mt. Silver again. My mind screamed at me not to do it—I knew the grueling punishment this mountain could dish out—would dish out. Still, I couldn't help but think about a little sick lady asking me to fetch her son, and my hesitation crumbled. I stepped through the cave opening, retracing my steps to the top.

It was just as hard as last time. I hadn't been training, just relaxing, and so it was just as difficult as before. The cold bit deep into my bones—and I was hoping that I would get along without losing any toes or fingers like I had managed last time—and the way was dark and treacherous. I never had to pull out my spare flashlight, but it was just as unnerving as last time, making thick billows of my breath fog my vision, and the howls of wild pokemon made my skin crawl. My pokemon fought long and hard, seeming more determined than last time with a worthy endeavor driving them.

I struggled my way to the top with my pokemon, Banette periodically out in the elements with a Will O Wisp to keep me warm. When I finally reached the top, I expected to see Red again.

I didn't.

Uncertain, I tramped forward, blizzard whipping at my coat that was zipped and buttoned tightly. "Red?" I called his name, but I heard no response. I squinted through the hazy darkness and the thick snowfall. Searching, I shouted out above the storm, "Red! Are you here?"

I was just about to give up searching when I saw a figure through the blizzard. An ear twitched, and I realized it was his Pikachu's. "Red!"

I stumbled a run towards him, stopping several good feet away. Pikachu glanced over its shoulder at me, but did nothing more before nuzzling his trainer's cheeks again. Red didn't even turn to look at me.

I panted, gusts of vapor filling the gap between us. "Red, you've got to come down with me." He didn't move. "Red, please, you don't understand, it's an emergency. You're mom wants you." He moved. "She's sick."

He whipped around quickly, and I took a wary step backwards. He said nothing, but his mouth was parted in shock, and even through the dark storm of snow and below that cap, it was apparent that his eyes were much larger with alarm.

I wet my cracked lips nervously at his undivided attention. "Sh-she—" I swallowed my own tongue with nervousness before I could squeeze the words out. "She's got cancer," I told him, feeling my chest constrict because I knew it had been a week since she had written her letter. "Breast cancer. She's at the Viridian City hospital, and she wants to see you."

No sooner had those words left my lips than he tossed out a pokeball, his Charizard forming from the red light. My jaw popped open as he mounted, and I quickly called out my Salamence, determined to follow him. He took off much before I did, but his Charizard's flaming tail acted as a beacon through the dark blizzard so that I could follow him easily.

He was so fast though. Red's Charizard was strong and quick, fighting its way down the mountain with much more ease than poor Salamence did. We struggled after him, refusing to lose him from our sights and the glow of his Charizard's tail. We fought the brutal winds of the blizzard in the biggest stand I felt we had ever taken in our life.

But this battle against the deadly winds . . . these winds that threatened to crash us into the side of Mt. Silver . . . It wasn't me. I was copycatting again, mimicking Red's actions as he plummeted a deadly flight in weather unfit for flying and perilous to life. I merely followed him, somehow sucked into his desperate flight for his mother, possibly the only person he cared for in his life.

The hours of flying were long, silent, and the twinkling night lights of Viridian City finally drew into sight. I followed him, and he landed right in front of the hospital, sending people on the sidewalk scattering with shocked gasps. I followed suit, landing next to him, and running after him through the automatic doors. He was already at the desk, hands gripped white and taunt on the edge.

"Where is my mother?"

The lady at the desk was so shocked she could barely form the words of her answer. When she fumbled with her words, Red slammed both fists down on the desk, shouting, "Where is my mother!"

She immediately began to stutter the explanation. She wasn't here, she said. She was in Pallet Town again, she said. She was sorry. She wasn't here. It was tragic. The cancer had escalated over the week. She was gone. She had passed just yesterday. She said she was sorry. She said and she said and she said and she said . . .

I could only watch Red's face coil with horrified pain and his knuckles bleach white against the counter. Finally, his agonized voice rasped, "What?"

The lady nervously repeated herself, stating his mother wasn't here. She was sorry. She had passed away yesterday morning.

His lips trembled. Rapid and shallow gasps began to suck into his dysfunctional lungs. "What?" his raw voice whispered again, voice trembling violently. He began to shake.

The girl at the counter tried to explain again, but she stammered to a halt with a sympathetic "Sir . . ." Pitying. Pathetic. Not truly grasping his loss.

"Where is she?"

His passionate gaze slammed into the girl, making her stutter incoherently again. Red's fists slammed against the counter again, making pens jump and the lady flinch. "Where is she!" he shouted again, voice cracking with emotion.

The lady finally stuttered something about Pallet Town, a morgue, being readied for the burial, and other such things.

His breathing was ragged and uncontrolled as he turned on his heel, nearly running for the entrance. I blinked, letting him push by me, and then I followed him again. He mounted his Charizard; I mounted Salamence. He took off; I took off. We traveled roughly five minutes before our speedy pokemon had us at the location his dead mother had been moved to. We dismounted, and I followed his quick steps inside.

The older man at the desk was not frazzled by Red and pointed him directly to where his mother's casket was, currently in the sanctuary. I followed him, shocked to see people in the room—a preacher, a reporter, people doing some documentary of his mother and getting shots of her face inside her casket. Her head was supported by an ivory pillow, dressed in an Easter green dress, looking young and beautiful even in death; yet pale and stiff, shrunken with loss of weight, scalp nearly bald from loss of hair, evidence of her chemotherapy.

A strangled cry caught in Red's throat. His hand finally whipped his hat off, respectful in the presence of his mother even when she was gone. His Pikachu leapt from his shoulder, making its way up on the casket, giving a soft cry of sorrow that was echoed by the despairing roar of his Charizard. Oblivious to the others. Caught in a swelling tide that pulled him under.

He did nothing that I expected. Maybe it was because he was so silent all that time that I never expected it. Maybe it was because I had seen how cold he had been in our battle at the top of Mt. Silver. I don't know.

He took his mother's cold hand and kissed it, bent over her, and wept.

It wasn't just weeping. It was more than that. This raw passion that suddenly poured forth from this enigmatic legend was hard, raw, and pained. He sobbed, shoulders shaking violently, tears pouring down his cheeks and dripping onto his unresponsive mother. This time, he was not silent. His sobs were audible, gritted between clenched teeth, breaking and halting, the most uncontrolled I had seen him at any moment. A part of me could see him just taking her shoulders, shaking her, and begging her to wake up like a lost boy, the boy he had been when he had left home.

Undying compassion rose with me, and I almost left him to himself feeling that I was unfit to look at him when I noticed everyone else. Their silence. Their stares. The camera zooming in on him, giving him no privacy when he needed it most.

I stalked forward, turning on them all as Red wept over his mother. "Get out," I hissed at them. When they stared, seemingly uncomprehending, my voice rose in anger. "Get out! Leave him alone!" When they still hesitated, someone even going so far to say that they should capture his love for his mother, I suddenly understood a part of him, why he stayed in solitude of Mt. Silver. These people had no shame, and it infuriated me. Rage splotched my cheeks an ugly color, and I whipped out Mr. Mime's pokeball, sending him out.

This was not for them to see. I had Mr. Mime's Psychic force everyone from the room, making them march their greedy and unfeeling little feet away. I followed them, and I shut the doors behind me, resting against them.

His weeping could still reach my ears. It was fainter, but still there, inescapable. I sank against the door, pressing my fists into my eyes that burned with the tears of guilt. Wetness spilled over my knuckles and down my cheeks.

It was my fault! I should have been home to get the letter! I shouldn't have been playing around! He had missed the chance to be with his mother, and it was my fault, I should have been faster! I know I could have pushed Salamence just a little harder; she was strong; she could take it. Just a little faster! Missed by a day! My own crying heightened, mimicking Red's in mournful echo.

I was a failure. I could apologize to him, but what good would it do? Nothing, and nothing was pointless, and I hated what I had done more, and I cried harder, tears wetting the fur coat I wore. I sweated inside my coat and gloves and boots, burning hot with guilt and yet trembling with the cold, Mt. Silver haunting me as a constant reminder of my failure and a man's broken sobs in the room behind me.

I bottled up my crying first. I sat staring at my knees for some time, hearing him in there. I just . . . sat. Eventually he stopped. I sat longer. Something that pressed forlorn seeped from the doors, so I swallowed how uncomfortable I was and stood shakily. I opened the door and saw him sitting on the front pew, his Pikachu curled up at his feet. His hat was missing. It was clasped in his mother's hands.

My wooden legs stiffly brought myself next to him. Red didn't look up at me, he just kept his hands buried in his hair, his head bowed low, and his elbows on his knees. I wet my lips and warily sat next to him. He didn't move, didn't say anything, and that compassion that had brought me to catch half my party out of pity swelled up again, and I wrapped an arm around him, holding him by his shoulders. He still sat bent over, unresponsive to my touch.

"I'm sorry . . ." I whispered, neck bobbing uncomfortably. He shook his head. "I'm sorry," I repeated again, fingers tightening on his shoulders. "I should have came faster . . ."

He shook his head again. Finally, he said quietly, "It's not your fault. Just cancer. Nothing could have stopped it, not the fastest pokemon in the world . . ."

His thick voice made a lump grow in my throat. "It was only a day," I rasped hoarsely. "Just a little faster, and . . . you could have . . . at least seen her . . ."

Red lifted his head then, red rimmed eyes staring out at his mother in the casket. His upper lip trembled a moment before it stiffened up, regaining control. "You couldn't help it. Don't feel guilty over it." He paused before taking a deep, trembling breath. His hands lay limp, palms up on his knees, and his chin sank to his chest. "Thank you for sending her message," he murmured tightly.

I kept my arm around him, and I took one of his hands with my own. After a moment, he took off both my gloves and helped me shrug out of my coat, sensing that I was overheating and not doing anything to help myself. Then, he took my clammy hand again. If my cold sweat was disgusting, he didn't say anything. "No problem, I guess . . ."

His fingers laced through mine, and we sat again. Just quiet, faint sounds of people mulling about on the other side of the door.

So, we sat. Just together, alone as alone could be, tied together by the cruel fate of his mother dying.

I didn't know what to make of it. If I hadn't decided on a whim that I wanted to meet the boy that gave me my Clefairy doll, would I have become a pokemon trainer? Would I have never taken gym challenges? Never fought the Elite Four? Never climbed Mt. Silver? Never battled him?

Never sent his mother's message?

Would he have never known? Would no one have been able to make it up there to him? Would he have come home years later to see his mother and found a deserted home?

Deserted. No one. Alone. My hand tightened on his. He would have been utterly alone. IS utterly alone.

It was a hard thing to ask, but . . . I had to know. No, that was wrong. I didn't have to know, but I wanted to know. I had risked so much for him, for his mother . . . and sitting here doing nothing but wallowing in our pity wasn't doing either of us any good. He was right—the cancer would have taken his mother anyway, and it wasn't my fault that I didn't want to hurt Salamence by pushing her harder. I had done my best, and now there was no going back. Only forward.

"What will you do now?"

There was a long moment of silence where Red said nothing. His hand tightened on mine which gave me some semblance of knowledge that he heard me, and I waited patiently for his answer. He let out a harsh breath, and his eyes squeezed shut in silent pain.

"Properly rest my Charizard," he whispered, realizing that his life was continuing even without her. "Take care of legal matters. I must . . . do what I have to." He swallowed, neck bobbing hard with suppressed emotion. "She would not want me to give up on life," he said quietly, almost guilty of the way he had thrown himself to his knees before. He shook his head again. "She never wanted me to give up . . ."

How odd was it that I felt like a third wheel in this conversation. Perhaps . . . perhaps it was because it seemed like he was speaking to his mother, and not me. I squeezed his hand reassuringly. "Then don't give up," I told him gently. Hazel eyes finally looked up to me, and I felt myself jerk back slightly just because this was the first time he had looked at me squarely where I could see his eyes, and . . .

I felt the breath knocked out of me.

To say his eyes were passionate wouldn't do them justice. Those hazel eyes were piercing, so intense with the way he looked at you as if seeing straight to your soul. I told myself to get a grip—I told myself I was overreacting. But I found myself irrevocably seized by the deep look he held, a curiously consuming fire that forever burned inside him, and I could see that determination flare back up, strengthening his shoulders with a will that wouldn't give up, no matter the circumstances. Despite how heavy with sorrow his eyes gazed out with, he was still strong. Subtle shadows of anger directed towards himself, and an eternal wisdom of age beyond his years.

I couldn't breathe.

"I won't give up," he proclaimed quietly, voice intoning a kind of enduring conviction I had never possessed. He took my hands, pressing them in between his with gratitude. His gaze still didn't move from mine.

It was just that sincere intensity about him. It drew me in, leaving me utterly captivated by his forthright ways—he meant what he said, and that was all. There was no beating around the bush—he always spoke true to his heart, and he meant his words with every breath and vibe in his body, a lust for life that was hidden deep beneath his enchanting charisma.

One of those sensual lips quirked up minutely, and he nodded his head to me, saying, "Thank you for what you have done here. I owe you much."

His features were stone, yet at the same time held a compassionate warmth, a face devoid of any weakness, beaten into strength through the grave peak of Mt. Silver. The powerful gaze of his hazel eyes pierced through my soul, judging me; and though I was so intimidated by him, there was nothing to fear from his immaculate features.

He frowned suddenly, looking closer at me. I was faintly aware of still holding his hands just as much as he held mine, but I was slightly detached from the world as I truly looked at this mysterious legend for the first time. His brows puckered, and he looked towards the closed doors, in the direction of Mt. Silver.

"A Dodrio . . ."

My throat bobbed at the sound of his voice as hard as steel and smooth as rich, thick velvet. With those fierce hazel eyes finally looking somewhere other than me, I gasped in a breath I needed, shaking my head free of stars. Still, truly looking at him for once, I let my gaze travel over him, taking in his sturdy frame that was taller than me. It was interesting how his muscles were sinewy and lean, and what I immediately determined deceptively thin for what brute strength I believed he could wield.

Still, those dark eyes returned to me, studying me. "A Cleffable . . ." The nerves were back, seizing me without escape from those intense hazel eyes that I swore had a glint of crimson overtone just for dramatic effect. I was struggling to understand whether my imagination was running off with me or if it was truly there, the epitome of the legacy of his name.

He leaned in slightly closer, a slow realization dawning across his features that softened with puzzled disbelief. "Clefairy," he stated quiet and clear, and I knew he had made the connection. Those shadowed eyes drew meticulously over my body, and as a self-conscious blush started to dust my cheeks, I swallowed again. It was that darkness in his eyes of enduring so much as a child . . . It was that darkness, the flirtation with someone so powerful that sent a rush of excitement through my veins.

Red's eyes looked back to mine, but he didn't retreat from our close quarters. In fact, if I was sure I was thinking clearly . . . I could swear he was closing the distance.

"Copycat." My name spilled from his mouth distinctly, enunciated carefully as if he himself still didn't believe it.

I wet my lips nervously, still struggling to breathe in his mysterious presence. "Copycat," I finally mimicked for the first time, confirming my identity for him.

His lips quirked up again. A shaky breath left me because he still wouldn't remove that serious gaze from me, but for some reason . . . I wouldn't look away either. "You've certainly grown up," his steady voice said quietly, and my heart rate quickened when his sights slid lower than my eyes. "I trust you've kept that enticing hobby of yours."

I shamed myself. While his voice was even, mine quavered against my will, and was a mere rasp without air. "You've certainly grown up," I mimicked him, breathless at how much of an understatement that was for him. "I trust you've kept that enticing hobby of yours."

Gentle warmth softened those serious hazel eyes. He still liked my hobby. For some unspoken reason that I couldn't comprehend, he was the first person that thought it was cute instead of getting annoyed by it. My heart slammed painfully against my ribs when he leaned in closer, eyes shadowed with uncertainty and . . . something else. It was hidden deep in the depths of his eyes as if he couldn't be sure it was there, and yet it coveted so strongly that it was impossible to not know what he wanted.

Red's mouth parted a mere hairsbreadth from mine, and I felt his warm breath when he spoke.

"I am so lost," he whispered, luminous eyes overshadowed with pain, sorrow, and yearning. "My mother was everything to me. And now . . . she is gone." He sucked in a tight breath, and I felt his nose skim mine. I was breathless with anticipation for the kiss I absolutely knew was coming, and his eyes drilled into mine again, the hazel nearly glowing red they were so impassioned.

"I never went home to visit her," he confided in a miniscule voice. Tears pricked his eyes again, and he closed them, fighting to hold back the crying that had already been spent. "I thought . . . I could come home when I was ready. When I truly believed I was the best I could possibly be."

Red shook his head, and thick tendrils of black hair tumbled down to rest on my forehead. "I was wrong . . ." he whispered in shame. He pressed his forehead to mine, taking a deep breath. I closed my eyes, leaning into this intimate touch as he confessed his heart's secrets to me. "I could never become the best sequestered and alone on Mt. Silver, festering in what I believed my failings as a pokemon trainer, which in fact were nonexistent. The failing I couldn't see at the time was this. Not returning to my mother, not telling her I loved her. And now . . . it is too late.

"So you see, Copycat," and he gave a weak laugh fueled by bitterness, "it is my fault my mother died alone."

I struggled to control the urge to just kiss him, and I opened my eyes to look at him. "She trusted you."

My simple statement opened his eyes, eyes filled with faint distrust. I shrugged one shoulder and kept my sights on him. "People used to believe you were dead until I got up on Mt. Silver," I told him. His eyes widened as the shock hit. I nodded, hands sweating extra hard now from his close proximity and the heat I could feel wafting from his body. "But, not your mother. She always believed you were alive, and she always said she trusted you to come home when you were ready."

The guilt that had been eating at his conscious slowly faded with my words, and he let out a breath. His shoulders slumped with slight relief, and this time he moved in for the kill, lips nearly touching mine.

His hands tightened on mine. "Copycat . . ." he breathed, voice filled with wonder over how fate had tied us back together.

"Copycat . . ." I repeated out of sheer nervousness, feeling a bit light-headed because I wasn't breathing enough.

I felt him give a silent laugh, and the amusement that lit his eyes was real. One of his hands let go to brush my cheek, the touch of his fingers leaving a flaming trail of heat embedded in my skin. "Red," he whispered back.

He wanted to hear me use his name. I mimicked him immediately, "Red . . ." hardly able to believe what was happening.

The sound of me saying his name made his breath hitch, and he dipped closer. His lips faintly brushed mine as he murmured, "Kiss me."

This time, there was no copycatting.

"Kiss me."

Red gently pressed his mouth to mine, and I melted into him then, unable to contain myself at the magnetic fusion of our lips. I gasped softly into him, and both of his hands reached up, cupping my face tenderly. He kissed me slowly, leisurely with patience, but I found myself impatient. My hands reached up to his chest, and I grabbed fistfuls of his shirt, yanking him closer. I felt the deceiving pull of his cheeks just before he suddenly changed his advance on me, slanting his lips downward.

I whimpered at the sudden change, forced off guard, and it immediately slowed me again to his lazy pace. His hands tilted my head upward, and I shivered when he deepened the kiss, each move he made deliberate for simple pleasure. The lavishing attention he exhausted on me was probably more than I truly deserved, but I didn't complain, especially when his kiss caused little chills to ripple through me.

When Red started to drag his mouth away from mine, I refused to have it. I caught his lower lip between my teeth, forcing him to stay close. What I didn't expect was for his tongue to lightly, playfully lick over my upper lip. His forward tease made me gasp and let go of his bottom lip, and a shy blush colored my cheeks.

A quiet laugh spilled from him, but other than that, it was quiet as we tried to control our breathing. Scratch that—I tried to control my breathing. It was so erratic right now that it was a wonder I hadn't passed out from oxygen deprivation, but Red was calmly in control, thumbs stroking my pink cheeks.

"I still have it."

He threw me a curve ball as I forced myself to take deeper breaths to calm down. "You—What?"

Disappointingly, he let go of me to pick his bag off the floor, rummaging for a second. His Pikachu was looking at me, and it gave a smile and a small cry of happiness before ducking and nuzzling Red's leg affectionately.

However, I was especially surprised when Red took out his box of TMs and HMs. My eyes widened when he opened it to reveal all the HMs, but only one TM.

He took out my TM31, Mimic. At my shocked face, his lips quirked up. "I always used my TMs," he told me, fingering the one he held fondly. "I used them to experiment with different strategies to find the one I liked best. But . . . I never used yours." His eyes flicked up to me. "I don't know why. All I knew was that I wanted to keep it, and I knew if I used it, it would break."

I stared quite dumbly in shock at what he was telling me, but Red merely shook his head and placed the TM back in its respective slot. Stowing away the case and slinging his bag on, he let his Pikachu climb back onto his shoulder. He nuzzled the pokemon that rubbed its chubby red cheeks against him, and he looked back up to his mother in her casket. He swallowed, and I witnessed his jaw locking tightly.

I took his hand, and he latched to it instantly. He sent me a rather wry look, muttering, "I suppose it's time to face the sharks."

It was obvious who the sharks were. "You don't have to tell them anything, y'know. They can just keep their noses out of your business."

A dash of amusement hinted in his eyes, and he looked back to me. Standing, he tugged me with him. "Then I suppose I'll need someone to protect me."

I stared at the twinkle in his eyes before I suddenly got it—he was legend! He survived on Mt. Silver! He needed no one's protection! Like the retarded girl I was, I started laughing at this way after the funny punch line was given and the joke fell flat. Then, a second or two later when I realized this and realized I was looking three times as stupid, I forced myself to stop with a red face.

Red just gave one of those fleeting, close-mouthed smiles before it disappeared, and he looked back at his mother one more time. His hand tightened to crushing before he took a deep breath and tugged me down the aisle to the door. Still, I almost expected him to stop and gather his bearings again before attempting to face the crowd waiting outside, but he didn't. He merely pushed through the double doors and faced the mobbing reporters that all wanted a piece of him for themselves to make their paycheck. As I helped him make his way through the crowd, I was able to catch some of their questions in the cacophonous roar of words.

"Red! What does it feel like to be home now?"

"How did you become the greatest trainer alive?"

"Why didn't you ever come home?"

"How did you survive on Mt. Silver?"

"How does your mother's death affect you?"

The questions were endless, and while I had some of the same questions, I had enough respect for Red not to ask. He could tell me of his own violation. Still, I was surprised when Red responded to one question.

"What's the secret to becoming the greatest?"

He halted so suddenly I almost ran into him. He looked back into the flashes of all the cameras, staring at said reporter who thrust a microphone in front of his face with many others. A shadowed look crossed his face.

When finally they quieted enough to hear him, he spoke, eyes hardening into that serious shield I had encountered on Mt. Silver.

"The greatest," he spat quietly, the word like venom on his tongue. "Starting from ten years old I strove to become the greatest. And I did. But was it enough? No. You have to defend your title as "greatest." And so I continued to train, madly, without thought or care of anything else but to become the greatest. And where has that gotten me?"

He gave a furious gesture towards the way we had come. "My own mother," he said darkly. "Becoming the greatest cost me my own mother!" His hands clenched, and the one around mine nearly crushed the bones in my hand. "So, to all of those who wish to know the "secret" of becoming the best . . . I'll tell you."

Mics were pushed eagerly into his face, and he shook his head slowly, anger ebbing away to that lost look that plagued him every time he thought about his mother. "The secret to becoming the greatest . . ." He looked up at them then, and his vice grip on my hand finally slacked. "Go home. Go home to your family. Visit your parents, siblings, adoptive parents, whoever is there, and draw strength from them. For, without that, you have nothing, and that will be your greatest failing even if you manage to make it to the top."

He turned his face away then, ashamed. "Go home," he whispered. "This power—it is not worth it. Don't make the same mistake I did, and come home when it is too late, because . . . you may never see your loved ones again."

Red began to pull me along again, leaving them all stunned for a moment with his choice of words. Still, we had barely made it to the door before they erupted in a frenzy, demanding more. That wasn't the secret to becoming the greatest; what was he hiding; what were his training techniques; would he really give up being a trainer for his mother. He ignored the rest of them and instead we left, mounting our tired beasts.

Red brought us to his home, and once we were there, we properly cared for our tired pokemon. We let out our pokemon into the dawning evening, and I took out my special brush for Salamence's scales.

Using the coarse brush on her brittle scales, I quietly told her how proud I was of her for flying so long and hard for her. The great dragon practically purred in response, lapping up the praise and stretching her neck so I could better brush her. I smiled softly at her, and I looked up at Red who seemed to be doing the same for his Charizard.

His mouth moved so little I almost expected that he wasn't actually speaking to his pokemon but rather communicating in a way I didn't truly comprehend. Sensing me looking at him, he looked up, and those electric eyes hit me hard again.

I stared at him for several moments longer, and then, I finally peeled my tongue from the top of my mouth. "So where does this leave us?" I asked.

He wasn't surprised by the question. In fact, I supposed that he expected it and was wondering the answer himself. Red took a moment to respond, searching for answers in the setting sun over the horizon.

"I suppose," he said quietly, "I'll have to take you out on a date when this has all passed. Because if this turns out to be love," and he fixated those intense eyes on me again, "I will not miss it." My throat bobbed tightly, and I felt another blush searing my cheeks, but his gaze was unwavering, so serious. "I will not miss it. Not the way I missed my mother." He shook his head. "I would have come home a stranger to her anyways."

"But still her little boy," I interjected before he could lay the guilt on himself again.

His eyes softened with eternal thanks, and he looked back up to the setting sun. "Yes. Still her little boy." Though his hazel eyes were still ravaged with sorrow over his mother, he looked over at me with traces of buried amusement. "Now look. I'm mimicking you."

"Now look," I repeated instantly, "I'm mimicking you."

His lips pulled again, and I took heart in the fact that I could make him smile so easily with something as childish as copycatting. "Thank you, Copycat."

"Thank you, Copycat."

As the sun disappeared and the stars began to come out, Red absently stroked his Charizard as he stared out over the horizon, Mt. Silver looming in the backdrop.

"I'll never go back," he whispered, and I repeated him in echo to strengthen his promise. "That forsaken place is not for me. I will not become a stranger to the world. Merely legend—merely human."

As I finished repeating him, I considering going over to give him a hug because he seemed like he could use one, but . . . something held me back. There was something . . . ethereal about him, but perhaps it was only my own twisted thinking over the years of believing him legend when, really, he was just human.

He looked down on his hand, and his hair ruffled in a small breeze, his hat still clasped in his mother's hand. "Still her little boy . . ." he whispered.

My heart betrayed itself. I went to him, hugging him from behind, astounded by his strength for the days to come. I copycatted him again, true to my name, just to see his lips pull closer towards the genuine smile I had coaxed from him as a child.

"Still her little boy."