Author's Notes: Woo! I had a major lack of inspiration before so I'm secretly kind of proud of managing to write something cohesive. Although to be honest, this fic is a bit (or very) cliché, haha. But it was fun to write regardless. Characterization is still not how I want it to be; why is this so difficult? Rarrgh. Also, I don't know what the title's supposed to mean (possibly something along the lines of cutting the ribbon for a celebration?), but it's what came into mind when I wrote this…
cut the ribbons
He watches her back arch, tilting backwards as if she is an ice skater preparing for a layback spin. She looks graceful almost, but then he realizes that she has no footing—the space behind her is empty. The girl opens her mouth but he does not register her scream immediately; the moment slows when she catches his eye—the betrayal and horror in those crystal blue eyes is clear—and when can finally move he shuffles closer to the edge of the cliff. He cannot see her body and he is only left with the echoes of her scream as evidence of her existence. His hands are shaking, the brief warmth of her back still lingering on his fingertips.
Her corpse is never found.
Touya Black wakes with a start, trembling slightly and head pounding with an immense headache. He stumbles to the bathroom where he downs two aspirin with a glass of water, leaning his forehead against the cool surface of the mirror.
He'd killed her. That girl in his dreams—he'd been the one to push her off the cliff. He'd purposely let her fall to her death.
He feels sick as he realizes this, shuddering as he gulps in mouthfuls of air in an attempt to calm himself.
When the headache begins to subside, he washes his face and brushes his teeth, going through the normal morning routine, hoping that this unsettling feeling will disappear quickly. He sits down for breakfast and tells himself that it was only a dream, however disturbing it might have been. He has never seen a girl like her before—although, in any case, it wasn't as if she had any particular distinguishing features. Brown hair was common enough, and her blue eyes were rarer but nothing abnormal. It was only a bad dream; he has nothing to worry about.
When he convinces himself that it was only a nightmare, he drinks the rest of his oran berry juice and dresses in proper traveling attire, slinging his bag over his shoulder, securing the hat on his head, and leaving the empty lodge behind him.
His lampent and rufflet are particularly attuned to his unsettled emotions today, but he assures them that nothing is really wrong—besides, he himself can't really pinpoint the exact reason he feels so uptight. Lampent's flame flickers worriedly in the darkness of the night, but Rufflet lets it go with a skeptical look. They return to their pokeballs as Touya enters the hidden bar in Castelia City. He takes a seat next to a lone girl and orders something non-alcoholic (he doesn't want another headache); the girl turns to him to observe the newcomer and suddenly he freezes when he catches her eye.
Even inside their capsules, lampent and rufflet sense the shift in his emotions immediately.
It's her. Touya somehow knows that this is the girl inside his dreams, the girl that he pushed to her death with her wavy brown hair and blue, blue eyes. He knows that he must look awful and the girl looks at him with concern.
"Are…you okay?" She asks, alarmed at the sudden drain of color from his face at the sight of her.
"Y-Yes. F-Fine," he replies. Smooth, Touya, smooth, he can't help but think, and he forces himself to calm down; he tells himself again that it was only a dream, and he is only being overly sensitive about it.
The girl chuckles. "Not used to talking to girls, are you?" she teases, but as she looks at him a little closer she blinks and furrows her eyebrows. "…Uh…please don't take this the wrong way, but…have we…met before?"
Touya blinks, a shiver running down his spine as he tells himself yet again that he is only being overly sensitive. Only a dream, only a dream. We've never met before; she is not the girl I killed; I did not kill anyone. Briefly he hopes that he's not going insane; when he gathers his wits again he raises an eyebrow.
"I swear it's not a pickup line," she protests, her face serious as her frown deepens, "I…it's just…you look a lot like someone I know…"
Touya blinks again, but he tells her that he's sure they've never met before. Her gaze lingers for a moment before she flicks her eyes downward, looking embarrassed, but he smiles and holds out his hand. She takes it as he introduces himself.
"My name is Touya, Touya Black," he says. His name rolls of his tongue before he can come up with a fake name; he's never given his name out to strangers, but he feels as if this girl should hear it. The girl's grip on his hand tightens in surprise, but he passes it off as nothing because the girl herself doesn't mention it.
"I'm…Touko Blanche," she says, after some hesitation, and the way it tumbles off of her tongue sounds like a lie. But she smiles at him brightly and Touya is briefly blinded, the thought of her being strange disintegrating into dust. "It's nice to meet you."
So the two become friends, and when she requests to travel with him he doesn't object because he really doesn't have a reason to refuse. And besides, he feels strangely comfortable by her side.
Touko proves to be an excellent companion; she's knowledgeable about the region and for whatever reason, his pokemon are oddly friendly towards her—Rufflet in particular. Travelling with her proves to be enjoyable; he can't remember the last time he's laughed this much. It all seems natural, somehow, and he's never felt happier—if only that sickening feeling that Touko was the girl who died in his dreams would disappear. It won't leave him, although a lot of the time he pushes it into the back of his mind and forgets about it while Touko makes him laugh.
But at night, when the two sleep in the same room with their beds next to each other, everything come trickling back and the more he looks at her sleeping face the more he feels like his dreams aren't just dreams.
His headaches don't stop.
He watches her fall again—the graceful arch of her back, the piercing echo of her scream, her descent into the abyss. It's her, it's definitely her; the precise shade of her hair, the unmistakable color of her eyes, the chisel of her face—he remembers every part of her down to the last detail.
But why? Who is she?
When she is gone and all that he can hear is the sound of his own heartbeat, he begins to remember something else. A name, a name that he chants inside his head like a mantra along with his pounding heart: White, White, White, White, White…
He wakes up sobbing, his head pushed against Touko's chest as she holds him, whispering soothing words that he can't quite make out but they calm him nonetheless. His tears stain her nightgown and he makes a mental note to apologize to her later, when he can stop freaking crying. He doesn't know why the name White shakes him down to his very core. He doesn't know why the tears won't stop. It takes him a while to notice that he is shaking; Touko is holding him in a vice grip, and he is glad for it.
When he finally manages to breathe normally (god he must have looked so pathetic) he apologizes numerous times; Touko only shakes her head and tells him that he doesn't need to apologize for anything. She gives him a look that stops him from offering one last one, so instead he looks down at the blankets and goes quiet.
"…Do you…want to talk about it?" Touko asks hesitatingly as Touya puts his hands over his face. There is a long, long silence before he decides to speak.
"…I killed a girl named White." He finally says. He doesn't look up.
"…What?" Touko asks after a pause, the disbelief evident in her voice.
"I pushed her off a cliff and she fell to her death," Touya elaborates. Touko doesn't say anything else for a while, so he continues. "I see her falling in my dreams. And she looks exactly like you. I don't know what's going on. I'm going crazy."
He hears Touko breathe in deeply before exhaling. "She's not dead. And you're not going crazy."
Touya removes his hands from his face and looks at her. "What?" he says, the word coming out sharper than he'd intended. The how do you know? is implied.
"There's a reason why White looks exactly like me—because she and I are the same person." When he looks confused, she waves her hand and continues. "I'm sorry I lied to you when we first met; my real name is Touko White. People tend to call me by my last name a lot—as a nickname, I guess."
The brown-haired boy stares at her, not sure what to say, until another headache splits his head open. Touko gently lies him down and quickly scrambles to get him some aspirin. The headache fades by the time she returns, so he refuses the pills and lets unconsciousness fall over him, instead.
The two don't talk very much the next day, although there is still a lot to be explained. Touya feels tired and a bit grouchy from the uncomfortable feeling of another incoming headache—he snaps viciously at trainers who want to battle, so Touko takes care of them in his place.
It's the first time he's seen her battle, he realizes. She is surprisingly good at it—almost too good. Her mienshao can nearly OHKO all of the Ace Trainer's best team, and it's not even her strongest pokemon.
"…Who are you?" Touya grumbles suspiciously, when the battle is over.
"…Right now, I'm acting as temporary champion," she tells him nonchalantly, clipping her mienshao's pokeball to her belt, "Because the official champion went missing six months ago."
"Yep. Missing. Poof. Just like that." She says this with a hint of bitterness, and he wonders at the reason behind it. She notices his expression and smiles. "I loved him, you know. And he loved me. I was high on affection then—I thought we'd always be together, taking on Unova's strongest challengers, laughing like the idiots we are. And then he disappeared, without a trace."
Touya watches her curiously, his irritable mood starting to ebb away at her words. There was a question bothering him though, one that he wasn't quite sure he should ask. He decided to take a chance. "But…what if he's dead?"
She looks at him for a long time, blue eyes boring into his brown ones before her lips tilt up into the prettiest smile he's ever seen. "He's not," she says, and he asks her how she can be so sure but she only laughs and turns away, walking up the path to avoid answering as he trudges after her.
He grows stronger with her by his side. His pokemon grow as well; his entire team evolves through his travels. Chandelure sings as she lights up the night with her purple flames as Braviary soars through the sky, wings cutting through the harshest of winds. His axew becomes a hard-hitting haxorus, and his little cubchoo grows into a tough beartic. The childish gothita he didn't think would make it evolves into an elegant gothitelle, and the skinny frillish he'd found drying out on sand expands into a healthy jellicent. He feels proud of how far he's come, and Touko beams at him once he's collected all eight gym badges and decides to challenge the League.
He's noticed that every time he defeats a gym leader, Touko stays behind a few minutes to talk to the leader while he goes to the Pokemon Center. He simply assumes that she has things to discuss with them, being temporary Champion and all.
Touya also notices that his headaches have started to subside; the nightmares he's had no longer bother him. It feels as if the pieces are falling into place now—though pieces of what, he's not entirely sure. All he knows that right now, he feels like everything's right—just like the moment he and Touko decided to travel together.
He is less nervous than he'd imagined he'd be, faced with the challenge of the Elite Four. He breathes in the air of Victory Road, Touko smiling at him as she watches his lips split into a wide grin.
"Excited?" she asks, and he nods, gripping the strap of his bag.
"I'm less nervous than I'd thought I'd be," he says, looking up at the gate, "To be honest…it feels familiar."
Touko blinks, then smiles again. "Don't go getting too confident, now. You still have to beat me, yeah?"
He smirks at her. "What, you don't think I can win?"
"We'll just have to see, now won't we?" she retorts with a smirk of her own.
The two grin at each other and bump the sides of their fists together.
"I'm gonna go ahead. I'll see you at the top, Touya," Touko says, and her companion nods.
He watches as she releases her mandibuzz, riding it up to the gate. Touya and Touko give each other one last wave, and then he takes another deep breath. Looking up at the gate once more, he mutters "alright, let's do this," and takes his first step forward.
The entire climb upward, he feels more and more like he's coming back to a place where he is supposed to be.
Marshal's face lights up into the widest of grins when he sees Touya's face up close.
"Ha! Touko wasn't kidding," He laughs, and Touya raises an eyebrow. "I've heard about you, Touya Black. You better not disappoint me!"
The brown-haired trainer smirks as he holds up his pokeball. "Right back at you, Marshal!"
Something about this seems familiar, calling the man by his name and not some fancy title, but Touya disregards it once the older man throws out his Throh and the battle opens with a competition of sheer force.
Shauntal gives him a shy, friendly smile when he is brought up to her stage. "And the challenger returns, eyes still alight with a passionate flame that has not diminished since the time he had left…his memories scattered, he once again returns to the place where he belongs…"
Touya is confused at her words; she seems to be talking about him, yet not at the same time.
"I'm sorry, that's part of the novel I'm writing," she giggles, a pokeball floating atop her hand. "Let's get started, shall we?"
Just before he exits her room (with victory in hand), he turns back for a moment on impulse. Shauntal inclines her head towards him in acknowledgement and smiles a knowing smile—and the gears inside his head start to turn.
Caitlin is sitting elegantly atop her bed when he arrives; for some inexplicable reason, Touya finds it strange that she was not sleeping. She gives him a haughty sort of smile when he approaches.
"Hmph…I stayed up for this," she yawns, staring at him with her piercing green eyes, "Do not bore me with a sleep-inducing battle, understand?"
Touya merely nods at the sharpness in her tone, but her expression softens somewhat when she sends out her reuniclus and it clashes with his haxorus.
Afterwards when he wins, Touya puts his hands in his pockets and stares at her. "…Did I bore you?" he asks, a bit cheekily. Caitlin laughs.
"You and Touko are still amongst the most interesting trainers I have ever had the pleasure of battling," she smiles.
It is only after he leaves that Touya realizes the strangeness of her statement.
Grimsley looks terribly smug when Touya arrives. He wastes no time in initiating the battle, startling the brown-haired trainer. But he fights back hard nonetheless, and when he wins the battle Grimsley shrugs and sighs dramatically.
"I suppose expecting to defeat you was a long shot," he says, adjusting his yellow scarf and crossing his arms, "I was hoping to ask Touko for a date if I won."
"She'll break your nose if you do that," Touya finds himself responding, "Besides, we all know you're really after Shauntal."
Grimsley and Touya both blink at the statement before the dark-type trainer grins.
"Do I see jealousy rearing its ugly head?" he sings as he pushes Touya out of the room before the trainer can question where his own words came from. He stands outside Grimsely's door for a few moments, thinking, before he finally moves on.
The gears continue to turn.
When he finally meets back up with Touko, she is wearing a black-and-white dress, tapping her feet on the marble floor out of boredom. The black ankle-strap heels make sharp click-click sounds, increasing in rhythm as she grows slightly impatient. Her face brightens when she sees him.
"Looks like you made it after all," she says with a grin.
"Miss me?" Touya replies, holding out his arms.
Touko laughs, but to his surprise she actually walks into his embrace, patting him quickly on the back before stepping back. "How were the rest?"
Touya pauses before replying. "…It was…strange. They…seemed to have already met me before or something. It's like they knew who I was better than I do. And…actually, it feels like I've been here before."
Touko beams at him, evidently pleased with his answer. She takes her place on the other side of the field. "Well, let's see if we can jog your sense of déjà vu!" she calls, sending out a vicious-looking krookodile.
Touya sends in his beartic, and their battle opens with an explosion of icy mist and whirling sand.
He falls, back arching farther than he'd ever thought possible, scream stuck in his throat before he finally lets it go. It echoes, and he watches the swoobats and pidoves fly from their hiding places.
For a brief moment, he appreciates the sensation of falling—because isn't it every child's dream, to be able to fly? But he knows that the situation isn't looking good for him and oh my god he is so going to be late and Touko's going to kill him—
He prays that he survives this; he hopes that he will wake up in a hospital with Touko beside him and everything will be fine. Amnesia is too cliché, right? But just in case he repeats the words inside his head: My name is Touya Black and I am in love with Touko White, Touko White, Touko White, Touko White…he burns the image of her hazelnut hair and ocean blue eyes into his mind; he carves the precise shape of her face into his memory. He breathes out her name in a whisper before his body makes a sickening crack on the bottom of the cliff.
When he wakes, he remembers nothing. When the couple who nursed him back to heath (a medical couple, lucky for him; they nearly had a heart attack when they found him, they said) finally lets him go, he checks into the Pokecenter first. From the PC he determines that his name is Touya Black, at least, he thinks so—he doesn't give his name out to anyone because he's not sure if that is who he really is, but it does feel right. He doesn't remember why there's so many high-level pokemon in the box—the team that he has on him are relatively weak, although they are an excellent team for a beginner.
He cuts his hair, buys a new wardrobe (with the surprisingly large amount of money he has), and sets out on a journey to find out who he is.
When the battle ends, Touya stands there for a moment, silent. It's not the excitement for having just beaten the (temporary) champion that causes his stillness; is the realization of who he really is. Touko takes in his expression and doesn't speak for a while. Finally, she smiles, walking towards him slowly at first before finally breaking into a run and tackling him all together.
"Welcome home, Champion," she whispers, tears beginning to leak out of the corner of her eyes as she tightens her grip on him.
"I'm home," Touya whispers, shakily. He repeats it again, in a stronger voice as he envelopes Touko in a crushing hug. "I'm home."
He kisses away the tears that are streaming down her cheeks before he presses his lips to hers; they are as soft and sweet as he remembers and he loses himself in the scent and taste of her.
When they finally break away for air, the couple hears chuckles and sniggering behind them. They turn to see the entire Elite Four, plus Alder who returned to see Touya, aligned in a totem-pole fashion, all their faces stretched in some form of a mischievous grin. Touko flushes red and lets out a yell as they all file into the room, Grimsley wolf-whistling and Alder's booming laughter bouncing off the walls. Marshal thumps Touya on the back and he crumples underneath the unintentional force; Touko tries to make Shauntal relinquish the little notepad she had been scribbling new lines on.
And Touya laughs, gathering all of them in a crushing group hug. He pulls Touko into another kiss and he doesn't care who sees—because he loves her and he's happy and he's never felt more at home.
Some extra info to tie up some loose ends:
-Touya's rufflet is especially friendly towards Touko because she's the one who gave it to him. He traded her a vullaby in return.
-People didn't recognize Touya's face (a) because they've never seen the Champion before or (b) because his personality was so different and they passed him off as having similar features. The couple who took care of him didn't know who he was.
-Touya dreamed of Touko falling because he kept thinking about her while he actually fell and he dreams jumbled everything up. Dreams do weird things.