A/N: Oh, hey. I'm that strange author with a predilection for less popular Pokémon pairings, including, but not limited to: Paul/Barry (ColdCoffeeShipping). It's been six months since I've published any Poké!fic, so I wanted to at least get something small out there. I love these two guys, so it had to be them. Hope you enjoy, and I appreciate [as well as respond to] reviews if you do.
If you don't like Slash / Shounen-Ai, avoid this ficlet like the plague. And most of my other work. Well, I shouldn't say that. I do have a few hetero fics out there, given another favorite pairing of mine is Dawn and Conway (HeatTagShipping). Bah, I digress. Read it or don't, people, that's all this writer has to say.
I imagined these two to be roughly fourteen when they were competing in the Sinnoh League Tournament. They'd be sixteen in this fic. I don't jive with the Pokémon anime's standard fallacy of age ten for all main characters other than the oddballs like Brock and Misty, who needed to be older for plot reasons.
He studied the blond with narrowed eyes, tracking the spastic circles the other made around the yard while he trained with his Pokémon. No, that wasn't exactly what he would refer to it as, in his mind of minds. Barry's way of going about it was different than his; their methods were oddly divergent for as much as they both claimed to aspire toward the same ideal - strength. Barry, if he had to analyze it, was more on par with that Ketchum boy in terms of how he dealt with the individual members of his team. He treated them as trusted friends, companions, equals.
Paul, although he had melted some since the Sinnoh League tournament held a few years ago, understood that he would never wind up being that way. The most he could do was give praise when praise was actually due; shallow encouragements during the trial and error period of training weren't his style.
He flattened his feet against the roof tiles, palms pressing down against the ceramic and absorbing the heat from the sun that had warmed them. Paul always felt a little bit cold, physically, and though he didn't favor acting like some sunbathing desert Pokémon, the feel of the tiles was revitalizing and not something he would protest feeling for a while yet.
Hoenn was getting to be hot for it being only mid-spring, perhaps that was why he had taken the pace slower here without realizing it. The climes were more favorable, and the more rustic metropolises scattered throughout the region appealed to Paul's intrinsic nature. Spending as much time as he did training, he was often outside. He felt at home there, more so than at the foot of skyscrapers.
This house had been empty when they had stumbled upon it, in the throes of an inclement afternoon rain. The interior was coated with a layer of dust, most of the furniture left untouched. It was off the beaten path and out of the way, so he had supposed no one had come across it in some time. It was small, two tiny bedrooms and one shared bathroom shoved into two narrow stories of architecture. They had only intended to shelter there for the night, leaving in the morning when the weather let up, but one night had turned into three, and then longer. If he counted it up, they were approaching the two week mark. That was the longest Paul could remember staying anywhere except his own childhood home.
One of the minimal advantages to traveling with Barry was that their paces were compatible. They both got up early, went to bed early, and preferred to move on from a place once it had fulfilled its use - a city with a gym was only hospitable until the badge was won, and so forward. If he had to travel with someone, it was more palatable that he travel with someone who kept the same routine as he did.
Just why and how had this happened in the first place? Paul couldn't expound on the topic himself, to be honest. There were still questions even after this long, so it was a veritable mystery. He supposed the clearest answer he could come up with was that he he had just permitted it to happen to shut the other teen up. How that had developed into two years of hitting the road together, well, that was equally as unclear.
Paul stared downward again at the tail end of that train of thought, and subsequently wanted to slam his palm against his forehead.
Barry had collided with his own Hitmonlee, and was now sprawled out on the ground. His long legs flailed slightly in the air as he rebounded, screeching to the open air about something Paul couldn't discern from where he was sitting on the roof of the house.
All Paul could think to himself in that moment was, 'That clumsy idiot.'
. . . . .
Let it not be said that Barry was unaware of the combined lenses of disdain, mystification, and grudging tolerance that Paul viewed him through.
He knew very well that the (slightly) older teen was more of a loner type, and that the fact that they had been traveling together this long was unthinkable for a person of Paul's temperament. It really was a dream come true, after all!
Every so often Barry had to re-evaluate in his own mind how it had come to happen. The defining points were persistence and determination. After that final battle, the one in which he had been sorely beaten down even when he had tried his best, Barry had hungered to see more of his idol, to try and rectify the gap that existed between them in both skill and on a more personal level. He didn't want the last time he saw Paul to be that day, to fall out of touch.
After the hubbub of the tournament had died down, and everyone had made their own departures, Barry had set off back to the mainland in all haste, catching the boat that aimed its course for Snowpoint City. It was rather a long boat ride, and even though he personally wasn't the biggest fan of traveling over water, it was many times faster than detouring to Sunyshore via a short boat ride, and then trekking it by land the rest of the journey. It was on Dawn's direction that he had done so; the younger girl had confided to him that that was here Paul had told Ash he was headed.
His urgency was fueled by the notion that Paul would leave the snowbound city as soon as he had accomplished goal there of defeating the Pyramid King. To Barry, Paul was an enigma on the battlefield, that person who he looked up to, kind of wanted to beat deep down inside, but could never, ever imagine losing. In fact, to contemplate that Paul ever could have lost to the King before was dubious. Sure, Barry had been there for the final dregs of the tournament where Paul had been defeated by Ash, but that also was hard to wrap his mind around. His opinion was just that high in the clouds as far as Paul's skill.
When he finally arrived and sought out the other teen, Paul had been surprised to see him there. Actually, 'surprised' was probably not the right word. Dumbfounded was more along the lines of Paul's reaction, and when Barry had proposed that they travel together, that only deepened the confusion. At the time, Barry had not said why he wanted this to happen, only that he really, really did want it to happen.
And even though he was denied, well, more than a few times, it came true in the end. They had first hit up a few spots in Sinnoh that had been missed during the breakneck pace they had traveled at on their respective badge quests, and then it was off to Kanto, and then Johto for a short time. Now they were here. Barry anticipated that the next region would have to be Unova, now that Paul had expended all the others had to offer.
They could have gone straight there, but the blond had a feeling they didn't go because Ash's next destination had been Unova. Even though the two other boys weren't fiercely at odds anymore, Barry thought that Paul probably needed some time without seeing Ash in order to get his pride back from having been beaten. Sort of like an animal going off to nurse its own wound. But what was a patient without their healer?
Every now and then, Barry liked to check in.
. . . . .
Today was a waste of a day, officially. Due to his unusual lethargy, he had accomplished nothing, but, oddly, did not pile on any guilt for that non-activity. Maybe even he could get tired of the grind, from time to time, get uninspired to train that particular stretch of hours. The next Gym didn't sound like anything special, and Paul hardly was worried about what his performance would be like once they made their way there. He would conquer, like he always did. No question about it because there was no room for nit-witted errors in his world.
He had spent the majority of the hours watching the spectacle in the yard or scrolling through his Pokedex, gauging variables for later. After a while it had felt more that he was going through the motions than anything else. He seemed to find himself these days in a state of limbo, personally ready to move onto greater challenges, but unable due to reasons of bureaucracy.
Paul was not one to be a sore loser, or to blame other people for his failures, but that last loss at the League tournament niggled at him intermittently, the wave of annoyance coming so strong that, when it hit him, it was all he could think about for a whole day, agitated and wondering how it could have been avoided. On the record, the most recent bout had occurred yesterday. Perhaps that was why he felt listless this time, on the way to recovering from that.
He couldn't help but have the opinion that tournaments were crap-shoots. The people in each match were decided randomly, and if a fool had a lot of luck, as fools oft did, they could reach a higher plane in the scale of things than they should have ever reached, based on ability. And then there were the better trainers. Pitted in such arbitrary battles, things could go wrong. All accumulating in a defeat. Because of the way the League structured itself, an official challenge could only be made to the Elite Four if a Trainer won the tournament in their region. The Elites were the pinnacle of battling in every area, several steps above your commonplace gym leader. They were who he wanted to face his strength against, not all these other diversionary figures.
It was a dead end that he couldn't fix easily, and that was what irritated Paul.
"Geez, you're still up here?" An indignant voice flowed out to the air behind him, and the purple-haired youth sighed preliminarily and knotted his brows. Barry had all the grace of a bull in a china shop, and a consistently loud volume. He also did not seem to comprehend the concept of solitude for as long as they had been in each other's company.
The distraction crossed the roof tiles and plopped unceremoniously a few inches away, gray-jean clad legs stretching out before him. Paul surreptitiously eyed his own lap, and the way his legs were able to fold up neatly at the knee and still rest comfortably. Then again, his weren't nearly as long to begin with.
To tell the truth, it had developed into one of Paul's pet peeves. He had never had to think of himself as short until he started parading around with this overgrown twig currently sitting next to him. It only got worse every few months when the blond kept inching skyward. It seems all the growth hormones were allotted for Barry's frame, rather than for advancing his mind. In that aspect, Paul was confident they would never have a clash.
"The question is, 'Why are you up here?'"
"I would have thought that's obvious!" he exclaimed, sitting bolt straight, a flashy smile adorning him.
The other shot Barry a look that expressed just how wrong he was.
In response, the energetic teen wilted slightly, the composition of his face - puzzled. As if it were something he couldn't truly believe.
"Because... because I like you, Paul. You don't know that?"
After two years of being followed around by the blond like a lost duckling, Paul couldn't find it in himself to say he was surprised. More resigned, if anything, as if he had been waiting for this epiphany to be announced. He was dense to other's emotions sometimes, but Barry was hardly what one would call a subtle person. Perhaps that's why he had put up with this walking, breathing nuisance for as long as he had, knowing that the other's feelings were genuine, not just a mask put on because the person was trying to be polite, or because they felt they had to get along with Paul for one reason or another.
"And, just so you know, it's not like in a friend kind of way."
"I'm not dim," Paul stated with sharp precision. "I know what you are referring to." He released his position, legs sliding down to lie flat and hands to either side of him, trying to center himself, somehow; if possible.
"Uh," Barry began nervously, "and what do you think about it? Can I even ask?"
Paul scoffed, almost like a bark of a laugh. "You think I know what my answer is? Or that I would tell you if I did? It's more trouble than it's worth." He deflated slightly after the declaration, leaning forward and ignoring the other's gaze.
"Yes or no, whatever I said, you would still freak out."
"Well... yeah. I mean, it's sort of important to me," Barry offered, casting his orange eyes at the ground. Where in life he kept a breakneck pace usually, any dealing with Paul was like wading through molasses in terms of speed and clarity. "I would like to know."
"Just... Learn to be satisfied with what you're given, idiot."
This order, while blipping on his mental radar, did not entirely compute for Barry. Give up? Settle? No way! Who had ever accomplished anything with that dumb strategy?
"You know, one of the reasons I like you, Paul, is that you're a challenge."
Paul turned away, smirking minutely despite himself. Fate had unloaded yet another fool onto his plate, but this one actually had his good points. Officially, Paul didn't like anyone. He could tolerate this person though, if he tried, and that was close enough to call it.
Barry craned his neck, trying to figure out what that character was up to, if not facing him to listen to his speech. When he caught Paul's expression though, his slight agitation was replaced by a frisson of hope. The guy wasn't warm, ever, but he knew enough of Paul's temper to know that the other wasn't mad at him, and in fact, if he were interpreting right, might actually be considering what he had said.
He scooted closer to Paul, their thighs brushing together as he made his move.
Throwing one arm around the other boy, he casually squeezed him before giving a thoughtful, "Hey, you know, it's actually kind of nice up here."
For once, Paul's face did not render a hostile expression.
A/N: Such joy at getting to write this pair again; I hadn't realized how much I missed them. I tend to write under canonically yaoi fandoms like Junjou Romantica and Sekaiichi Hatsukoi now, which is why I haven't been putting out any Pokémon fanfictions. Anyway, how was this story? Any good, yes or no? Lemme know.
Oh, and if you're wonder why no smooch - Barry is too low-leveled to try and get that! He needs some more experience points, or a really Rare Candy ;)