Author's Note: because FFN's site policies ban R-18 pieces, this is a censored version of the last chapter. To see the full (NSFW) version, please visit Archive Of Our Own; look up "Skylark Halcyon" in the site's search bar, and this fic will be the only result.

Chapter tags for near death situations, nearly drowning, and pointless fluff.

Chapter five's illustration can be found at ( imgur dot com slash sbbA8mm ).


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The lighthouse on the far point
still sweeps away the darkness with the brush of an arm.
The tides inside your heart still pull me towards you.

—Richard Jackson

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"Wait wait wait," interrupts a voice on the radio, "Jimmy found something."

There's a beat of silence before the channel fills with a dozen eager voices asking questions. Professor Oak shouts, "Everyone, please!"

The channel falls quiet, and Oak chuckles. "We're all excited, so let's focus on what we came here for! Joanna, you said? What team is she on?"

"Jimmy, sir," corrects the voice, "one of my mantines, about three kilometers at two o'clock."

"Let's follow him, then!" Professor Oak replies. "All ships turn, ah, starboard!"

"Turning starboard," shouts the navigator. The ship's engines roar as it accelerates, and Green tenses with anticipation.

They're slowed by rough water, but palpable energy runs through the ship and time passes quickly. Gyarados and Green stand near the center of the deck, keeping a lookout. Soon they're joined by a collection of researchers and fishermen. Their patience is rewarded half an hour later when a mantine breaches the surface, graceful fins waving in the air.

Elm's researchers crowd by the side of the heaving boat, heedless of the danger, and watch the entire mantine fleet surface. "Good job!" one of the researchers calls; Green recognizes her voice from the headset. She tosses the first mantine a treat and then shouts, "Just like we practiced, okay? Go!"

As one, the mantines dive. For a few minutes there's nothing, just the restless shifting of the ocean. Then the surface breaks with streams of bubbles: a few at first, then more and more until it looks like part of the sea is boiling. Dazed pokémon start floating to the surface, half-translucent bodies nearly invisible in the foam.

"Tynamo!" the researchers shout. "We've got tynamo! Place the nets, hurry, be careful—"

The fishermen loop a huge net beneath the school of tynamo and heave them out of the water. Many of them fall back into the ocean and flee with a quick flick of their tails, but the net still contains dozens when it hits the deck. The researchers send up a ragged cheer.

Green reaches for a poké ball, then pauses. These tynamo are weak, already confused from being pulled from the water; he'd probably blow them off the deck with one hit. The researchers, however, show no hesitation. They call their personal pokémon, species not usually seen on the competitive circuit—furret, farfetch'd, girafarig. One researcher even uses a pair of unown.

One by one, the tynamo are paralyzed, charmed, or False Slashed until the researchers can throw ultra balls to capture them. The deck becomes a battlefield: pokémon skid every which way and half the tynamo flop back into the ocean before the rest are captured. Green ducks behind several large boxes to avoid poorly-aimed Hidden Powers and Supersonics and casts a jealous glance at Wingull, safe at the ship's crown.

Eventually, there are no more tynamo to capture. Green helps gather the poké balls rolling all over the deck, and they hustle back to the lab to start analysis. The lab is cacophonous with people taking measurements and photos, entering data into their computers, and tagging as many tynamo as they can to follow their long, inter-regional trek home. Some researchers pull on thick rubber gloves to hold the pokémon, while others take notes. Despite the thick humidity and the boat's relentless rocking, the lab is festive, dissipating the grim tension of weeks of endless waiting.

Eevee winds through the crowd to place her paws on the glass of a tynamo tank, but Green hovers near the periphery, one eye on the windows just in case. When he looks back, he catches Professor Pax's gaze. She's beaming, hands clasped around a tynamo whose skin glitters with sparks. "C'mere, look," she calls, and when Green obliges she orders him to don a pair of gloves and take the pokémon she's holding.

"Smile!" she says, whipping out her Xtransceiver and snapping a photo. When Green complains he wasn't ready, she waits until he smiles at the camera before taking another one.

He leans over to see the photo and laughs. "Send it to me," he says. "No, wait! Send it to Red, too, here—" as Pax types, he rattles off Red's e-mail address along with his own.

"We really did it, huh?" he says. Message Sent! rolls across the screen.

"Of course we did!" Pax declares, clapping him on the back. "We've got the best team in the world, don't we?"

He looks at her, a complicated feeling unlocking in his chest. The gym didn't feel like a team—everyone looked to him for answers, separating him by the distance of authority. But here, among the milling researchers, he's just another pair of hands. It's the same feeling as helping the fishermen unload their boats, a feeling of welcome camaraderie, his presence so ordinary that it goes unremarked.

The tynamo in his hands is thrashing, and Green can see the research tag glinting against its scales. "Is this guy done?" Green asks. Professor Pax nods once before recalling it to its poké ball, soon to be released back to the ocean.

Green feels eyes on his back and glances around until he catches his grandfather staring. Professor Oak coughs into his fist and turns away, suddenly interested in a nearby pile of papers.

"You need something?" Green asks.

"No, no," Oak stammers. He glances at the Xtranceiver in Professor Pax's hand before forcing his gaze away. Green's lips curve in a disbelieving smile.

"Do you wanna take a selfie?"

Professor Oak blinks. "A selfie? What's that?"

"Of course you don't know what a selfie is, I don't know what I expected," he sighs, walking over to his grandfather and fishing his PokGear out of his pocket. He flicks it over to the front camera and holds it out, laughing a little at Oak's perplexed expression. "We're taking a photo together," he explains. "Say 'Eevee.'"

"Ah, Ee—"

Green flashes a peace sign and takes a few photos, just in case. He flips through them, then shows the best one to his grandfather. Well, the best one of him, anyway. Professor Oak is caught mid-consonant, looking vaguely confused.

Professor Oak tries frowning, but the corners of his mouth betray him. "I look ridiculous," he complains.

"Wanna try again?" Green says. They take a few more before his grandfather is satisfied—Green comes by his vanity honestly. He e-mails it to his grandfather too, and Daisy just because.

Green keeps the first photo, though, and glances at it every so often with a secret grin. All the photos of him and his grandfather are from when he was fourteen, the both of them stiff and not touching, Green's expression just this side of mutinous. But he likes this one. It's nice. He'll keep it.

They head back long before Golduck says they need to; everyone agrees that's enough work for one day. Green, Wingull, and Eevee all tumble through the front door, laughing and making a racket, until Red appears in the doorway to the living room.

"Did you get Pax's e-mail?" Green asks as Wingull hops over to Red and squalls, demanding to be picked up.

Red shakes his head no before lifting Wingull and settling her on his hat.

"Ugh, would it kill you to check your inbox more than once a year? Anyway, we did it!" he says, tossing a poké ball at him. Red catches it with surprise, blinking at it. "Gramps said I could have one if I wanted. I picked a girl—I'll give her to Daisy and her new assistant, and see if they can start a breeding line of out it."

Red twists the ball in his hands, a small smile on his face. "Congratulations," he says.

He looks up to find Green peeling his damp shirt off with a grimace. "Ugh, the humidity is awful," he grumbles. When the collar pops over his head, Red is staring at him with an odd expression. Their gazes hold a beat too long before Red looks down, gaze settling somewhere below Green's chin. Wingull meets Green's gaze instead, half-dozing already in her favorite place.

"What?" Green says suspiciously, kneeling to pet Eevee. Red shakes his head, fingers tightening around the poké ball. Green has felt the calluses that match the easy way the ball fits into his hand. He remembers the crazed battle on the deck, the effort it took to catch this one small pokémon, and realizes in all the months he and Red have spent together, he hasn't seen him fight once.

As if reading his mind, Red says, "We'll go with you tomorrow."

Eevee looks up at that, identical surprise on both their faces. Green's expression sobers when he realizes Red is, as always, dead serious.

"Yeah?" he says.

Red nods. "Pikachu's not afraid anymore. He says—" he pauses, translating. "He says he wants to help. Like Lucy and Wingull."

Green is perched on the balls of his feet, but at Red's words he settles back onto his heels, flashing Red a contemplative look. "It's not fun," he says. "And to be honest, I don't do much. Mostly we find tentacruel, and even then the Unovan seismitoads handle most of the fighting."

"I want to go," he insists.

"You'll just stand around bored and wet, listening to researchers nerd out on the radio."

Red holds his gaze. "I want to go with you."

Green breathes sharply. He ducks his head and scratches behind his ear. "It's not quite what I imagined for a first date, but you have terrible taste, so..." He tries to sound breezy and flippant, but instead his voice is quiet with nerves.

"Are we dating?" Red asks.

"You're the one who kissed me," Green grumbles. Eevee gives an irritated chirp. "Oh, sorry," Green says, and continues scratching behind her ears. She arches her back, pleased.

Red watches Green's hands move over her fur. "It's not a date," Red says. "But I still want to go."

"Oh," Green says, voice flat. "Okay."

Red's eyes dart to the side. "Another time," he murmurs. "Take me somewhere."

Eevee has to lick his fingers before he stops staring, mouth ajar. He jumps, then digs in his fingers a little too hard, trying to excise the butterflies from his stomach. She nips him to make him stop and flounces off to his bedroom, tail held high in the air. Green wouldn't be surprised to find an Eevee-shaped dent in his favorite pillow later.

Green swallows. "Yeah," he manages. "Yeah, okay. Cool." He looks down, trying to hide the huge grin overtaking his face. Red kneels down in front of him, eyes thoughtful.

"You should apologize to Eevee," he says.

In a rush, Green leans forward and pecks Red on the cheek, making Wingull squawk. When he pulls away he's not sure who looks more surprised.

"Okay," he says, and flees to his bedroom.

Red reaches up and touches gentle fingers to his cheek. Slowly, he smiles.

(Later that evening, Red opens his e-mail and ignores 800 new messages in favor of opening the e-mail from Professor Pax. The first attached photo captures Green mid-word, hands clasped around a blurry tynamo. The second is in-focus: Red can see the crinkles around his eyes when he grins, and the excited light in his eye.

He saves the photos to his computer before sending a one-word reply: Thanks.)

Professor Oak beams when he sees Red coming up the gangplank. He rests a hand on Red's shoulder, steering him inside as Green follows, trying to stop the familiar jealousy from rising in his chest. His grandfather takes Red around the Sea Ruby, showing off their research tools. Red nods along, his expression serious and attentive even though Green knows it must all be going over his head, until Green can't take it anymore. He storms off to the deck with Gyarados and stays there until they're in deeper waters.

Wingull joins him soon after they push off, taking her usual weatherbeaten perch on the upper deck's railing, and Red and Pikachu show up an hour or so later.

"Have fun?" Green says. He tries not to sound bitter, but Red steps closer anyway. After a moment he reaches out to brush the outer edges of their hands together, pinkies touching, and Green's sullenness evaporates.

Red is quiet company, content to watch the rolling waves. He's more fair-skinned than Green, though, and eventually he retreats out of the sun to the observation deck, opening the glass door connecting the stairs to the lower deck, and sits in the entranceway. Eevee follows to play with Pikachu, but the sensation of Red's gaze on the back of Green's neck never fades. At first it's unsettling, then flattering, and finally familiar. He grounds himself by it, much like Gyarados's presence as they pace the deck together, scales hissing across the steel.

Green pauses when he hears his grandfather over the headset.

"We're here, gang," Professor Oak says. "Just like the other day, so make your preparations."

Green grins and rubs his hands together, then turns to wave at Red.

"Tynamo like hiding places," Green explains over the headset, "and there's a shipwreck below us. We had good luck last time we were here, so—" Red scrambles to his feet and Green laughs. "So you were bored, huh. Don't bother coming down, there won't be much to see until we get some tynamo."

He sees Red nod and settle in beside Wingull. Then, the golduck on the far side of the deck barks a hoarse warning.

"What, now?" Green shouts. Golduck meets his gaze and barks again, his red gem flashing. He groans and calls over the headset, "Gramps, Golduck says we gotta head back. Storm's coming."

"But we're already here!" someone protests.

"Monsoon storms are serious!" Professor Pax scolds them. "It's not worth it."

"Can't we stay ten minutes?" Oak asks. "We've had good luck here before, so it shouldn't take too long."

"Lemme ask," Green says. "Golduck, ten more minutes?"

The golduck closes his eyes, his gem settling into a continuous red gleam. After a few moments he grimaces, snaps his beak, and then turns his back.

Green has no idea what to make of it. He glances up at Red, who nods. "Golduck says it will be close," Red whispers. It's the first time he's spoken all day, and the channel hushes at the sound of his voice. "Hurry."

The tynamo in this spot haven't learned better. The search pokémon quickly fish some up, even as the wind and waves intensify. The researchers catch them with grim efficiency, the deck covered in flashes of light as one tynamo after another is caught. Golduck paces, casting nervous glances at the darkening horizon.

"Five minutes," Professor Pax warns.

"Yeah, we're good, boss!" one of her researchers calls back. "This is all we'll need for—"

Then the search pokémon scatter from the Sea Ruby, tentacruel and mantine and seismitoad united in a wild dash to the depths. Within seconds the waters around the ship are deserted.

"Um, guys?" Green shouts over the radio channel, fighting to be heard over the worsening weather. "You seeing this?"

Wingull shrieks, louder and more frightened than he has ever heard. He glances back and sees her hopping on the railing, wings flapping. Distant thunder cracks, and then—as if summoned by the sound—a monstrous black shape heaves itself onto the deck, a horrifying creature with slippery skin and eyes as brilliant as searchlights.

"Oh, shit," Green breathes, and in a second he's sprinting forward with Gyarados. "Run! Get inside! It's an eelek—"

Her shriek drowns him out, echoing across the channel as crackling feedback. The eelektross rears up to her full height and screams again. Bioluminescent warning patches of red and yellow flash across her hide, highlighting her menacing claws and endless rows of teeth.

The researchers and their pokémon sprint past him toward safety, a flood of white charging for belowdecks, but he barely notices. Gyarados leaps into the fight ahead of him, responding with his own battle cry.

Green's mind empties and years of experience take over, his field of vision narrowing to the pokémon in front of him. His lips peel back into more of a snarl than a grin, eyes wild. Throwing a hand out before him, he yells, "Outrage!"

Gyarados lunges forward with a shriek of fury, shooting across the deck to bite down on Eelektross's neck. She wails, the volume making the air tremble, and throws him off with a violent lurch.

Gyarados lands poorly, slamming into the deck and skidding backwards, coming to a stop centimeters from Green's feet. But Green doesn't budge. He's about to call another command when two things happen simultaneously: the eelektross's jaws open to reveal a mouthful of lightning—

And Green realizes that Gyarados is flying- and water- type.

The Zap Cannon that roars across the deck is so brilliant that the rest of the world seems darker. There's no time to dodge, no time for anything except for Green to flinch and throw his hands up before him. Gyarados takes the hit full-on and flies backwards, knocking both of them overboard into the roiling waves below.

The shock of the impact blows the air from his lungs, and the sound cuts out as he goes under. He watches the air bubbles vanish up through the green-blue water, becoming smaller and smaller as he sinks. Gyarados's body loops around him in a loose spiral, limp with unconsciousness and dropping just as quickly as Green.

Icy panic clutches his insides as he realizes the attack paralyzed both him and Gyarados. He can't move, can't even scream, can't do anything but stare at the shimmering surface dwindling rapidly away—

Until the water's surface whites out with a blast of power. In its wake, Green thinks he can make out a darker smudge sent flying, though it vanishes so quickly he can't be sure.

His lungs burn and he wants to clutch at his throat but can't, he wants to recall his gyarados but he can't even save one of them from this—

The water ripples as something lances into the ocean, and he sees Red clutching the back of Blastoise's shell, the pair of them darting towards Green and his gyarados. His vision sparkles from the lack of air and he can't reach out, but he feels Red's hand close urgently around his. He fumbles for a second until he finds the button on Gyarados's poké ball and presses it, pulling him back to safety.

Red wraps a strong arm around Green's waist and Blastoise surges up and out of the water, flinging them all back onto the deck. They tumble across the surface, collecting more bruises and scrapes until friction pulls them to a stop.

Red rifles through his pockets and pulls out a rage candy bar, rips the plastic packaging open with his teeth, and forces it past Green's lips. The flavor floods his tongue, chokingly sweet and a little stale, and then Green can move again. He rips himself out of Red's arms as he heaves upright, coughing and coughing until water floods from his mouth and nose and he collapses onto his side.

His lungs feel like they're on fire. He groans, unable to resist when Red pulls him into his arms again. He blinks his eyes open to see Red's trembling mouth and furrowed brow. His grip is so tight his knuckles are turning white.

"You're hurting me," Green croaks, but Red doesn't let go.

With the last of his strength, Green reaches up to press a cold hand to the side of Red's face, and only then does some of the wildness fade from Red's eyes.

He slings Green's arm over his shoulders and drags them both to their feet, limping to the interior of the ship. At their backs the storm chases them across the sea, the ship plunging through the waves at top speed as it races back to shore.

It's quiet.

The sun has set and Lucy works upstairs, her light so brilliant even the closed bedroom blinds can't shut it out. Red watches the striped pattern oscillate on the far wall, lines vanishing and appearing as steady as a heartbeat.

Sometimes in the wild Red would spend hours like this: watching, breathing, observing every detail. Now his eyes trace the mussed spill of Green's hair, ends curling from the last traces of sea salt, and the soft part of his lips. His eyes are closed and his breath catches before easing again, following the pace of his dreams.

Red drifts, lost in thought, until Green stirs beneath the weight of his arm. He doesn't move and Green hesitates, trying to see through the heavy shadows.

"Eevee?" he murmurs.

Red squeezes a little tighter.

"Oh," he says, his voice a soft rasp. He turns his head and their noses brush. "How long was I out?"

Red answers him with a kiss. Green's eyes widen and then flutter shut, mouth going pliant beneath the pressure. Red pulls back and watches Green shake off the last vestiges of sleep, his focus returning.

He shifts closer until he's half-draped across Green's chest, his weight sinking Green into the mattress. His eyelashes brush against Green's cheek.

"Don't go," Red mumbles in his ear, so soft the words are almost entirely air. "I won't lose you again."

"You're the one who left, not me," Green mumbles, but Red isn't listening. He hugs Green a little tighter, forearms awkwardly braced against the mattress. He wonders if Green hears the rush of his breath, how it hitches slightly with every shallow inhale. After a moment Green hugs him back, and Red sags into it.

"It's okay," Green murmurs. "I'm fine."

Red burrows his face against Green's neck, and Green jumps at the clumsy kiss he presses there. He pulls back and lets Green consider, looking up at the dim spots his bedside alarm clock casts on the ceiling.

"I have you to thank for that, don't I?" Green says, voice wavering. His hand moves to the back of Red's neck, their eyes meeting in the next flash of Lucy's light. Red cuddles closer, and they're silent for a long time.

"All of this...doesn't seem real," Green murmurs. "I've been dying to touch you for, I don't even know."

"Even when you hated me?"

"Especially when I hated you," Green mumbles. Red's shoulders shake silently. "Hey, don't laugh. Why do you think I kept trying to battle you?"

"To prove you were better?"

"To make you look at me," Green says. "I didn't want you to look at anyone else. It took me years to figure that out." He makes an agonized little noise into Red's shoulder. "God, I was so stupid."

"Yeah."

"Don't agree with me, jerk!" he says, banging a loose fist against Red's shoulder, but he's laughing.

"I'm here now," Red says through Green's protests. "I am looking at you."

Green falls still. Red wonders if he's offended him somehow, before he clears his throat.

"Yeah," he says, voice rough. He fumbles for Red's hand and squeezes it—an old habit he spurned once their ages reached the double digits, saying it was childish. There's no hesitation now, and his grip is steady. "It's true, isn't it? You really are."

Red tilts his head until his cheek rests against Green's hair, and squeezes back.

The monsoons recede in July, leaving calm seas and clear skies. Green visits the lab often to see how things are going, not exactly helpful but trying not to get underfoot. The first time Professor Oak sees him after the disastrous expedition, he rushes over then hesitates, looking Green up and down. He pats Green a little too hard on the shoulder, and turns away with a cough. Green breathes a sigh of relief, for once grateful for his grandfather's emotional reticence.

Red tags along sometimes, watching with rapt attention as Professor Pax shows them the Unovan PokéDex and talks about the different training niches Unovan pokémon occupy. "You might like one of my colleagues, Kukui," she tells him. "He's a researcher from Alola who specializes in pokémon moves. I bet you'd have much to talk about."

Eventually Red starts visiting Professor Oak by himself while Green visits Daisy, and one day joins them in the garden with a receipt saying he's enrolled in a class.

"You want to turn Pikachu into a defibrillator?" Green says as Daisy pours them tea.

Pikachu nods, front paws resting on the table. Daisy shoos him into Red's lap before setting down Red's teacup. Red glances at Pikachu before saying, "He wants to help."

Green slumps against the table, one hand cushioning his cheek as he considers, the other stirring sugar into his tea. "I guess I can see it," he says slowly. "Pikachu's sensitive to electrical impulses, right? I guess he could feel someone's heartbeat and shock somebody like a defibrillator. But what about you, Red? You want to become a doctor or something?"

Red shakes his head no. "But if there are trainers in trouble by the lighthouse, or when we're traveling." He gestures between Green and himself, making Green blink.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," Daisy says, returning with a plate of cookies for the three of them and poffins for Pikachu and Eevee. "There's no such thing as useless knowledge, after all."

"You want us to go traveling?" Green says, mind still stuck on Red's last statement. "I mean you like to travel, obviously, but it didn't go well last time we tried it."

"We were eleven," Red reminds him. He fiddles with the brim of his cap before mumbling, "It's worse without you."

"When was the last time you took a vacation, anyway?" Daisy says.

"I used to travel for work," Green retorts.

"When was the last time you went somewhere just to see what it was like?" Daisy tries again, gentler. "It sounds fun. And the lighthouse isn't a gym—it wouldn't be hard for us to help Lucy while you're away."

Green glances at Eevee, who isn't paying any attention, too busy stealing bites of Pikachu's poffin. "Maybe," he says.

After weeks of being cooped up by the rain and dense humidity, it's weird to be alone when Red and Pikachu go to class in the afternoons. So when Leaf shows up and demands a "long walk on the beach, you know, like people always say on their dating profiles," he doesn't even pretend to be busy.

Leaf hops from rock to rock, light as a bird, as Wingull soars overhead. Green whistles a tune he picked up from the fishermen, more unearthed childhood memory than something newly learned.

"Where did you learn to whistle?" Leaf says, turning her head to ask over her shoulder.

Green stops whistling as he considers. He gives a jerky shrug. "My dad, I guess," he says. "Can't you whistle?"

"I can't! Teach me, sensei."

"Ugh, people only call Gramps that," he groans. But he teaches her how to purse her lips and blow out a gentle stream of air, laughing when her tongue gets tangled, whistling complex melodies to goad her whenever she's about to give up.

After half an hour a shrill note slides out of Leaf's mouth and she leaps to her feet in shock. "I did it!" she yells.

"Congrats, you can whistle one note."

"No, no, I can do more, look—" she whistles again, cutting across the noise of the ocean, then sends it soaring up an octave. Wingull cries back in approval, and Green claps as he stands up beside her.

"See? It wasn't hard," he says, and lets out a little oof when Leaf pulls him into a fierce hug.

By August, he has difficulty recognizing his reflection as he cleans the beacon room windows. His eyes blaze beneath hair grown long enough to pull into a short ponytail and his shoulders are bare, golden from the sun.

"Looking good," he says to himself. He turns to Eevee; "Don't you think so?"

"Vui," she says, rubbing against his ankles.

Though the temperature climbs and the sun beats down on the last days of summer, Green's strip of beach remains empty. It's his beach, though, and Green isn't afraid of the strong wave break or the currents just offshore. He pulls on a wetsuit, summons Gyarados, and clings to his serpentine body as they hurtle through the surf. Gyarados doesn't stop until they are far, far out, the lighthouse their only landmark.

Gyarados ducks underwater and rears back up, sending water cascading down his scales, splashing Green in the process. He rattles a self-satisfied growl. Green laughs and rubs his sides in thanks, using the rough pressure he likes best, before sliding into the water. He rests his folded arms on Gyarados's smooth back, letting his legs dangle, kicking just to feel the silkiness of the water against his feet. This far out the ocean is frigid, and Green sighs in relief.

Gyarados is a sleek and watchful presence as Green swims and floats. He practices all the strokes he knows, even those like the sidestroke that are mostly for emergency response. A lighthouse keeper is not a lifeguard, but there's a pleasure in the longer, slower pace of lifesaving strokes. He pauses breathless underwater for a long beat and listens to the heavy silence of the ocean around him, before rising for air and filling his lungs without urgency. He floats on his back and lets his arms spread away from his body, savoring the water washing against his sides. Just drifting.

After some time, he paddles back to Gyarados and drapes himself on his back, one foot dangling off the side to skim the surface of the water. He doesn't ask to head back, instead content to feel the smooth ripple of Gyarados's muscles beneath his scales as he shifts and twists through the water.

He did this last when he was fourteen and angry, slamming through the front door of his grandfather's house and storming out to the ocean, pushing Gyarados to swim as hard as possible until they reached Cinnabar and spilled exhausted across its golden beach. But all he wants to do now is lie here and soak in the sunlight, content and aimless.

Wingull comes to find them eventually, her squeaky cries equally worried and scolding. They head back. Pushing through the current and the crashing waves is a challenge, but Green revels in it, eyes flashing as he shifts his weight to help Gyarados navigate and laughing when they make it to shore.

He rinses in the outdoor shower before heading inside, peeling off the wetsuit and letting fresh water sluice his skin clean. He's not surprised when Red joins him a few minutes later, two towels around his neck and a smile warming his eyes. He flicks the towels over the door and then steps into Green's waiting embrace, forearms resting on Green's shoulders. Red kisses him beneath the spray and tastes the lingering tang of seawater, salt-sweet.

"Our visas expire next week," Professor Pax says, "but this has been amazing. We got far more data than we ever thought possible. I can't wait to publish this! Let's stay in touch, all right?"

"Yeah, of course," Green says. "You know Gramps, he'll never update you on his own."

"Not for work," she says. "Just because we're friends."

Green blinks, then grins. "Yeah. I'll be sure to write."

He's sitting with Lucy, legs dangling through the gaps in the balcony railing and watching the last scraps of sunset fade into the water, when she makes a startled noise. He peers at the ground below and sees Kris walking up the long hill to the lighthouse.

"Green, is that you?" she yells.

"Kris!" he shouts back, and sprints downstairs to fling the front door open. He pulls her into a ferocious hug, kissing her on the cheek in greeting before holding her at arm's length to look her over. Kris is laughing, looking better for her time away, and she kisses his other cheek in return.

"You didn't tell me you were coming," Green says. "When did you get here?"

"Oh, it's been awful," she groans as they head inside. "I was supposed to be here three weeks ago! But Professor Elm needed me to help with a project that was really behind, and then there was a mixup with the plane tickets. Sorry I didn't text, but at times I was afraid I'd never make it! So, um, surprise!"

"Lucy saw you first," he says, "you should go say hi, she'll be so happy to see you."

"As happy as you?" Kris says, eyes sparkling.

"Probably more," he replies with a grin. "But not as happy as Silver. He know you're here?"

"I saw him first," she says, flushing a little. She bursts into laughter when Green gives her a knowing nudge, and the two of them chatter as they head up the stairs.

Lucy waddles forward, stubby arms spread open wide, and Kris hugs her too. "How's my girl doing?" she murmurs. "How's my Johto girl? Has Green been good to you?"

"The town loves her," he says, kneeling beside them. "I have to ration the gifts they send or she'll get fat."

Lucy glares at him. Kris laughs and kisses the tip of her nose. "I'll be here all winter, so I'll spend lots of time with you."

Pikachu wakes from his nap, roused by the commotion, and Kris blinks at him when his head pops out of Lucy's sleeping spot. "Oh, who's this?" she says. "Lucy, did you make a new friend?"

"He's Red's," Green says, and Kris swivels to look at him. He glances down, suddenly self-conscious.

"He's still here?" she says.

"Yeah." Green swallows. "He—uh. He and I, are."

Kris stares for another moment, then breaks into a smile. "So you two worked it out?"

"Yeah," he says with a disbelieving laugh. "We did."

Kris leans against his shoulder. "I'm really glad," she says. "You seem so much happier than you were a year ago."

It occurs to Green that more than Leaf, more than Daisy, Kris best understands the unbelievable odds through which Green's current happiness emerged. He thinks back a year to the long nights spent with Eevee looking out at the endless black of the ocean, the secrets he whispered to Kris in the dark.

"You deserve to be happy," Kris murmurs, watching his face.

Green blinks hard. "That's not true," he says, working to steady his voice. "But I think it means more to me because of that."

They sit for another few moments, wordless understanding settling between them, before Green clears his throat and gets up. "Come on," he says, "let me introduce you to Red."

The next week finds Red, Green, Leaf, and Kris on the beach, arms overflowing with blankets and baskets. They spread a picnic on the weathered black rocks scattered away from the tide. Green remembers the bedsheet they're sitting on; it's faded now, with small holes from when Pikachu was learning to control his electricity. The food, too, has the hallmarks of Red's mother's cooking.

"You know, when I visited last year you were the only one without an accent," Kris says to him. "Now you sound just like everyone else."

"Don't tell Erika," Green replies with a wry twist of his mouth. "She's the one who helped me get rid of it in the first place."

"Why, though?" Leaf asks. "It's kinda hot." Green snorts and leans back on his hands, thinking.

"I thought I sounded weird," he says. "I thought people wouldn't, y'know, take me seriously or something. But it doesn't matter now."

Kris chatters with Red and Leaf through bites of food, only pausing to giggle at Pikachu and Eevee cavorting on the sand. She learns to translate Red's silences with a speed that doesn't surprise Green. There's always been something similar about the two of them.

She cracks a joke and Red starts laughing, an odd nearly-silent sound punctuated by puffs of air. He leans against Leaf's shoulder to keep his balance, eyes bright, fingers tangled with Green's on top of the sheet. Green grins and drapes an arm around Red's shoulders, just to see Kris's reaction—her eyes flicking to Red, then Green, before smiling.

He follows Kris back to Viridian in the fall. First, he takes her on an extended tour of Viridian Forest, showing her the secret places he would practice when he was a gym leader, or go fishing on his rare days off. The light filters through changing leaves, dappling Eevee's coat in shades of red and gold.

"Oh," he says when they reach a small clearing, "my berry trees are still here." He plucks a sitrus berry and pops it into his mouth, then passes one to Kris. The flavor bursts across his tongue and he licks his lips. "I figured I wouldn't need these, but Red wants to travel, so maybe…"

"You can sell them, at least," she says. "Or Daisy can use them for her business."

Kris and Eevee dig up the weeds that sprouted, while Green treks to the river to fill his old watering can. The two of them gather the meager harvest before heading to Viridian City.

Neither of them need to discuss that the Gym is their next stop. Green flings both doors open like always and grins when all activity screeches to a halt.

"Miss me?" he calls.

Silver straightens from where he's slouching against the wall, but he only has eyes for Kris. Bonita and the other ace trainers, though, run towards him, pounding him on the back and ruffling his grown-out hair, barraging him with a thousand questions. He ends up taking them out to lunch, casting a significant look over his shoulder at Kris and Silver as he leaves. Kris doesn't notice, absorbed by whatever story she's telling, but Silver catches his eye and nods quietly.

Being back in Viridian feels more like a homecoming than returning to Pallet did. Word spreads quickly, and the restaurant they choose is soon overrun with eager visitors. It feels like no time passed: he laughs at stories of his ex-neighbor's feud with the old man from the Weedle Fancier's Society, and he's comforted by Bonita's familiar presence at his right hand. Eevee gets as much attention as Green, receiving belly rubs from all sides.

The supervisor of the Training House asks if he's still willing to present now and again, one of a dozen requests Green gets for advice or assistance. He says yes, as always, but there's a different weight behind it. He likes helping, he missed these people; instead of doing favors to maintain the gym's reputation, like he always told himself, now he does it because he wants to.

Silver closed the gym for the day but Green leads the ace trainers there anyway, asking them to share their progress. As Ida and Elan face each other, and as Arabella's new Miltank shows off, he feels an old itch in his fingertips.

"Anyone want to battle me?" he says.

They quiet, looking at him. Then Salma cracks a grin.

"Two on two," she says. "You're so out of practice, it'll be a cakewalk. Try to keep it interesting, okay?"

Green shifts his weight onto the balls of his feet, one hand reaching for his first pokémon. "Big words for someone who never beat me once!"

Battling wild pokémon on the deck of a ship is nothing like the game of wits that defines a battle against a strong trainer. He knows Salma's fighting style like the back of his hand, but she can say the same for him.

They open with Exeggutor and Slowking, as always. Her slowking sets up Trick Room on her first turn and Green laughs, because of course they have to use Viridian Gym's strategy. Green's always favored offense; Exeggutor floods the field with Leaf Storm, but Slowking still stands when the arena clears, which he didn't expect. Curious, he tells Exeggutor to use Hypnosis but it fails, and his hesitation costs him the match when her Slowking uses Ice Beam.

"She didn't have that before!" Green shouts as he recalls his fainted pokémon.

"Silver's advice!" she shouts back. "You've been away a year, Green!"

Green rolls his eyes as he sends out Rhyperior, who flexes his huge arms and roars loud enough to shake the rafters, as much a showoff as his trainer. "Teaches me for going easy on you, then!" he calls, grin growing dangerous. Rhyperior's Megahorn sends Salma's slowking flying; she recalls her back to her ball before she hits the ground.

"That's more like it," she says. "It looked like you lost your touch."

"You wish," he says, spinning Rhyperior's poké ball on the tip of his index finger. "How's that lickilicky doing, Salma?"

"Why don't you come find out?" Lickilicky waggles her tongue at Rhyperior, who snarls in response.

Both are slow, tanky pokémon, and Salma's so used to battling Green that she knows exactly when to Protect and when to hit hard with Return. It's a closer fight than Green would like, and when Rhyperior deals the final blow they're both sweating. The other trainers burst into applause as they recall their pokémon and Bonita fetches healing items from the back.

"That was good," Green says, and Selma preens; from him that's high praise. "You've started taking more risks, and they're paying off. Return is always a strong choice for normal-types, but consider switching it for Dragon Tail or something, to give you more type coverage and force some switches."

"You are out of practice," Salma replies, because he's always told them to be as hard on him as he is on them. "But you've still got it. You should come train with us some time!"

"It's all right," Green says with a lazy smirk. "You can just say you miss me."

"We do miss you," Arabella says quietly, and the smile slips off Green's face. Bonita nods in agreement. "Silver's really great, but you recruited us. You believed in me when no one else would. You can't get rid of us that easily."

Green pauses, caught in the motion of hooking his poké balls back onto his belt, and looks at them—really looks at them, the team of trainers he lived with, dawn to dusk, for over ten years. When he moved to Pallet Town he thought he took care of all loose ends, but a gym is more than four walls and a roof. It's the people who are the gym's beating heart, and he left them without a second glance.

He straightens, expression serious. The ace trainers all straighten up too, their attention trained on him. "I'm sorry I fell out of touch," he says. "It's...been a hell of a year. Yeah, I—I'll visit you guys. Honestly, I'm grateful you still want to train with me."

"Aw, come on, you're making it weird," Salma says, striding across the arena to hug him. "You're gonna run twice as many laps as punishment." The others surround him, a too-warm, too-close dogpile of affection. Green tucks his chin against Salma's shoulder, arms around Elan and Ida, with Arabella and Bonita's hands steady on his back. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes.

"Why'd you come back?" Green asks, weeks later.

He whispers it, really. At first he's not sure Red hears, continuing to watch the ocean and dig his toes into the sand. Green's defense against the cutting breeze is a light sweater, but Red seems fine as always in his short-sleeved shirt.

The only sound for a long time is the steady rush of the ocean. The tide is low and the waves keep their distance, and the moon has yet to rise.

"You did everything first," Red says. "I hated it. I wanted something you hadn't seen."

Green's gaze pulls away from the horizon and toward Red's face. The way Red props his chin up on his knees pushes his mouth into a soft, thoughtless moue.

"Mt. Silver was good," Red says. "Quiet." His gaze wanders to the sand. "But you never came, so I left."

Green's eyes narrow, but he doesn't interrupt.

"I met lots of pokémon. People, too."

Green breathes in, familiar jealousy twisting in his chest.

"They were hard to talk to," Red admits. Green snorts.

A tenuous and tense silence falls between them. Green looks up at the sky, where the stars would be if not for light pollution. Beside him, Red sighs.

"I found all these cool places and couldn't tell you."

"Isn't that what you wanted?" Green says, voice dry. "To have stuff I never had?"

"What kind of rival would I be if you never had a chance to catch up?" Red murmurs.

Green tenses beside him, his fingers leaving furrows in the sand.

Red shakes his head. "I was lonely. It was always quiet if I walked far enough."

"You had Pikachu."

"Yeah," Red agrees. "I wanted you, too."

Green looks away. He leans sideways, harder and harder until Red's supporting most of his weight. Red lets him.

"Do you still want to show me?" he says, his voice softly hoarse. "All those places?"

Red nods. "But right here is better than any place I found out there."

In the spring, Green gets an e-mail from Professor Pax. My friend in the league sent me this and I thought of you. If you're interested, I'll pass your name along. Hope to see you soon!

Attached to the e-mail is what seems like a building project proposal, written on the stationery of Driftveil City. POKÉMON WORLD TOURNAMENT, it proclaims.

Green skims the document and a slow grin spreads across his face. He's suddenly grateful for training at Viridian Gym the past few months.

"Hey, Red," he calls. "Wanna go to Unova?"

Red pokes his head out of the bathroom, hair still wet from the shower. Green walks over to show him the e-mail while he towels his hair dry.

He looks up, his eyes shining with the same excitement building in Green's stomach. Slowly, he smiles.

"Let's go," he says.

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The End

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Extended author's notes for this story can be found at ( outstretched dot dreamwidth dot org slash 86743 dot html ).

A fanmix for this story can be found at ( thingwithfeathers dot dreamwidth dot org slash 49874 dot html ).

Thank you so much for reading. Reviews are deeply loved.