Sammie: Oh my gosh y'all I'm sooooooo sorry please forgive me ( ;n; ) I know I'm super late things have been so crazy for me lately I've been so exhausted and I don't even know why. I tried to do a really good job on this chapter I promise it's super important to me and is one of my personal favorites so proof reading and editing took longer than usual, plus it's super long. But I know those are just excuses I'm so sorry. I promised and I let you down I'm sorry. May's will most likely be late too, I have exams the week after next ( ;n; ) I'm so sorry, in advance, I'm so sorry.

Plad: Alright already! Quit apologizing there are format changes remember?

Plink: *sigh* I'll tell them. First off it's all in 3rd person omniscient now all the way through, sorry if you're not fond of that style, but it really is best for this story. Also because of that Pokémon dialog will be slightly different quotation marks are what everyone else hears, the literal sounds if you will, brackets are what they are actually saying and what Ray hears.

Author Note: I'm sorry that I forgot to tell y'all this sooner.

Okay so thanks to my only consistent reviewer (thank you so much for all the encouragement, you know who you are XD) I was reminded that I forgot to explain why the first shadow Pokémon is Houndoom and not Makuhita. I may get some hate for saying this, but I don't like Makuhita and I think its evolution is ugly so I'm gonna use my creative license so that I don't have to use any Pokémon I don't particularly like in my fanfic. I love Houndoom as a Pokémon and I already had a Houndoom becoming very important to the plot and he's really quite sweet. So, with that in mind I chose Houndoom to take Makuhita's place as a shadow Pokémon. Also the shadow Pokémon will only get nicknames when as their personalities become more apparent Ray can decide on a nickname that suits them they will not be called Houndoom and Quilava forever.

Chapter 9: I'm Not the One

"You're way too young to be broken; you're way too young to fall apart,

You're way too young to play these games, but you'd better start, but you'd better start,

This is when it starts, from the beating of your heart till the street lamps talk to you,

Jumping off of the edge or asleep in your head, everything's turning dark to you,

I went to pick up the parts, the doctor's hiding the charts, he won't let me see this side of you,

It's on the tip of my tongue you know you're way too young to have someone lie to you,

I'm not the one; I'm not the one, who wants to hurt you,

I'm not the one; I'm not the one, who wants to hurt you,

You'd better find somebody else and get a hold of yourself,

I'm not the one; I'm not the one, who wants to hurt you,

I'm not the one; I'm not the one, who wants to hurt you."

~"I'm Not the One" by: 3OH!3


Sam bit the inside of her cheek, stubbornly refusing to give in to the temptation to start asking Ray questions again. Ever since they had come within sight distance of Phenac city Ray had been periodically glancing at her for no apparent reason; it was all but driving her insane; not that she didn't want him to look at her, in fact, she rather liked that he did, it was just so odd. She had already resisted the urge to ask him, jokingly of course, if he expected her to just disappear or something several times and she wasn't sure how many more times she could hold it back.

As they entered Phenac city again Ray glanced over at her again, quickly turning away when their eyes met, suddenly busing himself with taking off his gloves and stuffing them in his pockets. 'That's it!' Sam opened her mouth, about to ask the question that has been nagging at her when the woman who had been there when Ray had rescued her from her kidnappers came running up to them, looking flustered and very worried.

"Oh! It's you, thank goodness!" She exclaimed, panting a little from her dash across the square, "Something terrible is happening. Some scary looking man came here not too long ago, including those two men from before kidnapped you."

Sam instantly tensed at that, instinctively skirting a little closer to Ray. She couldn't help it, she still didn't know what those two men had wanted with her and she wasn't exactly eager to find out. Ray tensed at Sam's sudden movement, almost flinching, but he stayed still rather than moving away; forcing his now jumping nerves to settle before he responded to the woman; once again cursing his inability to just walk away from this whole situation, which seemed to be growing crazier by the second.

"Where did they go?" Ray asked coolly.

"Towards the mayor's house as far as I could tell." the woman responded, then gasped as if hit by a sudden realization, "Oh no! The mayor's probably in trouble!"

Ray suppressed the urge to roll his eyes; that seemed to be a pretty obvious conclusion to him.

"I guess that means I'm going to have to go check it out then." Ray said in a flat, hard tone; still hiding behind his tough exterior as much as he could; which wasn't nearly as much as he would've liked since Sam kept catching him off guard and sneaking through it.

"I'm coming with you." Sam interjected as soon as Ray finished his sentence. Ray stared at her for a moment, surprised.

"Are you sure?" He asked, "I mean we're talking about the same men who tried to kidnap you and they're not alone this time by the sound of it."

"I'm sure." Sam replied confidently, "You're going to be there too after all. Besides there's no way I'm letting you have all the fun."

"Somehow I don't think this is going to fit into the category of fun." Ray replied in a dull monotone voice, but he couldn't suppress a smile at her confidence or the slight blush that came at her comment that he would be there too, as if that made it perfectly safe. 'Like that.' Ray thought wryly, belatedly realizing that she had snuck past his guard once again.

They walked quickly up to the mayor's house, Ray taking two steps at a time when they came to the white stone stairs that led up to the next level of the city, while Sam had to run up them to keep up with Ray's long strides. When they got close Ray and Sam both stopped in confusion at the sounds that could be heard, if only barely, through the walls.

"Is that…" Sam asked utterly stunned.

"Music?" Ray completed an equally bemused tone.

"Espi, espeon esp." [I don't know, but it sounds good whatever it is!] Dawn exclaimed brightly, bouncing up and down a little.

"Umbreon." [Please tell me you're joking.] Eva replied in a long-suffering tone, her black ears pined back in irritation at the obnoxious music leaking through the walls.

Ray recovered first, stepping forward suddenly, jarring Sam out of her momentary confusion as Dawn and Eve bounded after him. Ray opened the door and stepped inside confidently, but stopped abruptly just inside the door completely taken aback by what he saw inside.

"Um… Ray?" Sam asked, unable to see what was going on through him.

Ray quickly sidestepped so that she could enter in behind him. In the center of the room a very tall man was dancing to the obnoxiously loud salsa music. Sam gapped openly at the sight; the man was wearing a blindingly yellow outfit and looked like he'd come straight from the 70's with disco glasses and everything. The most baffling part of his attire was a huge red and white afro that looked like a Voltorb was sitting sideways on his head. Ray also stared open mouthed at the spectacle completely floored; he'd seen some crazy looking people and things, but this definitely took the cake. Eve wore an expression of almost insulted disbelief. Only Dawn didn't seem to notice the man, nodding her head lightly in time to the music.

"Master Miror B! It's him! He's the one who took the girl from us!" Folly exclaimed, pointing accusingly at Ray. Ray's gaze instantly snapped from the crazy yellow dressed man to Folly at the sound of his voice. He was standing beside his partner Trudly near the wall behind the yellow dressed man; he had been too distracted to notice them before. Suddenly the man in the center of the room whirled around, instantly ceasing his dancing as he stood to his full height. Trudly, as if on cue, hastily hit a button on the radio behind him, changing the jovial salsa music to a gram and quite sinister tune.

"Oh, now aren't you two boys frightfully pathetic?" He said, addressing Trudly and Folly, "You mean to tell me that you were bested by these darling infants?"

"Ray." Sam said in a soft, somewhat scared voice. She didn't know exactly why she said his name or why it comforted her to say it, but perhaps it had something to do with the fact that she couldn't move closer to him to comfort herself, not without agitating him anyway.

"Don't worry." Ray murmured reassuringly, "I won't let them hurt you."

"Darling, did you say your name was Ray?" Miror B asked, much too lightly for Ray's liking.

"Well I didn't, but yes, my name is Ray, what of it?" Ray answered, much more confidently than he felt.

"I do believe I've heard of you before…" Miror B. replied thoughtfully, well as thoughtfully as anyone dressed so ridiculously could sound, "Yes, I'm absolutely certain I have, but I can't think of where…"

Ray's eyes widened slightly in alarm; despite his attempts to show no reaction. This, Miror B. was clearly a big fan of music and that did not bode well for Ray in that Miror B. probably had heard of him and the last thing Ray wanted was to have to confront his past.

"Oh well," Miror B. announced cheekily after a short pause, "that's not important. I do hate to have to say this, but we're not at liberty to keep your lady friend at liberty." He declared with a tactless smile.

Sam shrank back a little in fear at the implied meaning behind his words, despite the poor wording of it.

"You see," Miror B. continued, "that sweet young thing, she can see things that ordinary people aren't supposed to see. And that just won't do for what we're planning, not at all. So, if you don't like pain, like most people, you can avoid the pain by keeping your nose out of places it needn't be."

Ray laughed, but not in amusement, it was a bitter, caustic laugh.

"Pain? Do you even know what that word truly means?" He asked bitterly, highly doubting that this man could even fathom the definition of pain that Ray himself knew all too well, "If you honestly think I'm just going to let you hurt her you're dead wrong!"

Miror B. frowned, realizing that his threat had not had the desired effect, and turned to Trudly and Folly.

"Boys! Oh boys! I shall make my return to Pyrite now. Do remember that I will be waiting for you to return with the little lady here. Am I making myself clear? I won't accept another failure from you two."

Both Trudly and Folly gulped fearfully.

'This Miror B. guy must be fairly high up in the chain of command of... whatever group they all belong to.' Ray thought.

"Y-yes sir." Folly stammered.

Ray rolled his eyes; this was going to be too easy if he just had to beat Folly again. When he did he noticed that along the wall to his right were three more men dressed in odd, flashy uniforms –one all in green, one in blue, and one clad completely in red- that he had been too preoccupied to notice before.

"Good!" Miror B. chimed happily, striking a tacky dance pose that more than deserved a few face palms, "Let the music play! Let's get it on!"

Trudly immediately turned around and changed the music back to the same obnoxious salsa song as before. Then he quickly handed the radio to Miror B. who took it with him as he danced out the door; Sam and Ray quickly skirting out of the way. The three men dressed in the odd tacky uniforms followed him, each glaring silently at Ray as they walked past him. The music, thankfully, fading as they all left.

"You… you…" Folly spluttered, apparently having trouble speaking, "you… last time you caught me off guard, but that's not gonna happen again! Go Whismur and Lotad!"

Ray raised one eyebrow in amused surprise, a confident smile on his face.

"Umbreon umbre." [These two had better be stronger than his last ones.] Eve muttered crossly and walked forward.

"Espi… espeon esp." [I think… that Whismur is the same.] Dawn replied, bounding forward.

"Whismur whis!" [Oh no! Not you two again!] The Whismur exclaimed, confirming Dawn's observation.

"Lotad?" [Not who again?] The Lotad asked, sounding distinctly sleepy.

Ray sighed internally. 'Well, there goes the hope that this battle was going to be at least a little harder.'

"Dawn, use confusion on Whismur!" Ray instructed immediately, rather than allowing Folly to waste a chance of attacking first... again.

"Whismur, counter with tackle!" Folly commanded as his Whismur scrambled back up after taking the full brunt of Dawn's attack, "Lotad, use astonish on that Umbreon!"

Ray didn't bother telling Dawn to dodge, knowing that she would do so on her own, instead he focused on Eve.

"Eve, dodge and use bite!"

Eve grinned mischievously as she dodged the Lotad's weak attack and leapt forward, biting down on the dark green lily pad attached to its head.

"Umbreon, umbre!" [Hey sis, catch!] She called around the lily pad while Lotad protested in vain for her to put him down. When Dawn looked over at her twin Eve tossed Lotad at her, as if he were a frisbee. Dawn grinned and used her psychic powers to stop Lotad in midflight. Ray chucked at their antics, clearly they were having fun, despite how pitifully easy this battle was.

"Whismur, quick, use tackle!" Folly ordered, but Dawn was one step ahead of him, quickly using her powers to hurl Lotad at Whismur. They collided, hard, knocking out both already weakened Pokémon.

"Return." Folly said sullenly, taking the Pokémon back into their Poké Balls, "Damn, I failed again."

Ray smirked at his easy victory.

"Oh no, you're not getting off that easy, not this time!" Trudly declared, stepping forward aggressively, "It's my turn now and I'm not going to end up like Folly. Go Spinarak and Duskull!"

Ray frowned dubiously. Trudly probably wasn't any better than Folly, talk as he might. These two both barked a whole lot louder than their bite could back up. Trudly's Pokémon certainly didn't seem to be any tougher than Folly's.

"Spinarak? Spin spin." [Do we have to? I was about to take a nap.] The Spinarack complained.

"Dusk," [Yeah,] The Duskull agreed, "Dusk, Duskull..." [Well, only I'm hungry…]

"Spinarak!" [You just ate!]

"Dusk?" [So?]

Dawn and Eve exchanged a disbelieving look.

"Umbre umbreon." [You've got to be kidding me.] Eve muttered.

"Espeon esp." [We have to battle these losers too?] Dawn whined.

"Seems that way." Ray replied, then got down to business, "Dawn use confusion on Spinarak. Eve, use bite on Duskull."

"Spinarak, dodge and use string shot!" Trudly ordered.

Spinarak tried to dodge Dawn's attack, but it wasn't quite fast enough. Meanwhile Eve leaped at Duskull with a powerful bite attack.

"Ugh! Spinarak use tackle!" Trudly commanded, "Duskull, use night shade!"

The two Pokémon paused for a moment, each unsure of which of Ray's Pokémon they were supposed to attack.

"Dawn, Eve attack again, just like before!" Ray instructed, taking advantage of his opponents' confusion. This time Trudly's heavily weakened Pokémon fainted. Trudly called back his Pokémon and grinned, pulling out a third Poké Ball.

"I told you I wasn't going to end up like Folly, didn't I?" He gloated and threw the Poké Ball, from it emerged a large, back dog-like Pokémon, a Houndoom.

Ray's eyes widened in surprise, unlike all of the Pokémon he had battled so far today this one seemed to be quite capable. The Houndoom snarled viciously at Dawn and Eve with a murderous glare. Ray stood, completely frozen with shock, he'd never seen a Pokémon with so much hate in its eyes; he hadn't thought it was even possible for a Pokémon to hate.

"Espi Espi…" [I wonder what his problem is…] Dawn murmured nervously.

"Umbre, umbreon?" [How 'bout, we not find out?] Eve replied, equally nervous.

Sam's eyes widened in fear at the sight of the Houndoom, it was the same Pokémon she had seen in Pyrite town. But a heartbeat later her features hardened into determination; this time there was something she could do about it and she wasn't going to let herself be too scared to say anything.

"Ray, it's that one!" Sam called. Ray looked back at her. Sam froze for a moment; he looked totally freaked, as if he couldn't believe what he had just seen. For a moment Sam wondered if he could see it too; then he nodded, finally registering what she had said, his expression now a little sad, but resolved too, as if he already had a plan.

"Ray! Look out!" Sam cried, remembering that this Pokémon wasn't hesitant to attack people with its full strength only when she saw it lunge at him. Ray whirled around, but too late. He only had time to brace himself before the Houndoom hit him with a powerful headbutt that sent him flying back into the wall. Sam gasped and took a step towards Ray, fearful that he had been badly hurt, but when he looked up he didn't seem to be in much physical pain. But his face was a caricature of horrified disbelief. Dawn and Eve growled threateningly at the Houndoom, but he didn't seem to notice, he was staring back at Ray with an expression that resembled startled confusion, even though it lasted only a few seconds it seemed, to Sam, like an eternity passed as human and Pokémon stared at each other. Ray's expression was so clear that he may as well have asked Houndoom aloud 'how could you?' he looked utterly devastated. Houndoom stared back at him with an expression that reminded Sam of the moment in a realistic dream when you have to stop and ask yourself if this can really be real or if it's just a dream and you're about to wake up. It almost seemed as if some silent exchange was made that brought a mutual understanding to each of what had just happened.

"Houndoom! Quit messing around and use shadow rush on the Espeon!" Trudly ordered, shattering the stunned silence that had engulfed the room and snapping Ray, Houndoom, and Sam back to the present situation.

"Dawn, dodge it!" Ray instructed quickly, his mind now working furiously, fumbling for a strategy; he couldn't use any of Dawn's psychic type moves, not against the dark and fire type Houndoom and Eve's bite attack would do less damage against him than her comparatively weaker move tackle. Ray clenched his jaw in frustration; there was only one real choice, but it was risky because of how powerful the move was.

"Dawn, I need you to use return, but go easy, we can't let that Houndoom faint!"

Dawn glanced back at him in surprise.

"Espeon esp." [Easier said than done.] She told him. She had never attempted to hold back the strength of her return attack before so she had no idea how much she would need to in order to weaken it enough and she only had one shot to get it right, "Espi esp." [But I'll try.]

Sam's jaw literally dropped in amazement at the power of Dawn's return attack. 'She must love him very much.' Sam thought, 'I've never seen a return attack that strong.' She glanced over at Ray whose golden eyes gleamed with pride. The Houndoom staggered to its feet, severely weakened by Dawn's attack. Ray quickly slotted a Poké Ball into the snag machine and tossed it at Houndoom.

"No!" Trudly cried belatedly in horror as the Poké Ball captured his Houndoom. The whole room seemed to hold its breath as the Poké Ball rocked back and forth three times before a light ding indicated a successful capture. Eve darted forward and snatched it up in her jaws, taking it back to Ray.

"N-no, m-my Pokémon!" Trudly stammered in disbelief, "Y-you snagged my Pokémon Damn you! But you're good." He admitted reluctantly.

"What are you saying?!" Folly demanded, "You're not supposed to be impressed! Oh man!" he groaned, "What are we supposed to do now? We got flattened again. Miror B.'s gonna have our hides for sure."

"What do we do?" Trudly asked in a rhetorical tone that indicated he'd already formulated an answer, "What can we do? Run away you good for nothing moron!" He shouted and dashed out the door, Folly running close behind him.

Ray breathed a sigh of relief.

"Yay, you did it!" Sam cheered enthusiastically, jumping up and down with joy, "You saved that poor Pokémon from them. But I'm sure there are more…" She added sadly, no longer happily excited, "I know! We should go rescue them all." She suggested.

Ray sighed in resignation.

"We don't have much of a choice." He replied, gazing at the pokeball in his hand, "I'd be damned if I just let them go around hurting Pokémon like this and not doing something to stop them."

"Where are you going?" Sam asked as she followed Ray across the city to the eastern exit.

"We should get out of here and I don't trust that exit by the Mayor's house, so we'll leave this way." Ray replied.

"Aren't we going to get something to eat first?" Sam asked, "It's almost lunch time and I'm hungry."

"We can get something once we get where we're going." Ray replied.

"And just where are we going?"

"I don't know, you tell me." Ray replied, "After all you're the one who–" Ray broke off abruptly when a man dressed completely in red suddenly appeared in front of the exit, Ray immediately recognized him as one of the goons who had been with Miror B. uniforms that tacky were, unfortunately, kinda hard to forget.

"You didn't really think we were going to let you get away that easily, did you?" The red clad man inquired.

"Maybe, we should try leaving a different way…" Sam suggested quietly to Ray, but not quite quietly enough because it was the man in red who answered her.

"Don't bother, my companions have the other two exits blocked; there's no way out." He told them and though his face was hidden, his smirk showed plainly in his tone of voice. 'I should've known they wouldn't give up so easily, they never do.' Ray thought with a jolt of fear. He didn't let it show though; forcing his features to remain relaxed. He tipped his head to one side in a cool, dangerous looking appraisal.

"And you really think we're going to be easy to stop?" Ray inquired with a confident smirk of his own. The other man was visibly shaken by Ray's confidence, taking an uncertain step back. He quickly recovered; however, and started laughing loudly. Ray briefly wondered if he was insane.

"You really think you can take me in a battle?" He asked, still laughing hysterically.

"I don't think," Ray replied coldly, "I know."

The red man stopped laughing.

"We'll see about that! Just don't start crying when I beat you."

"Esp, espeon espi." [Well, if he's as good as he talks, this should be fun.] Dawn observed excitedly.

"Umbre umbreon. Umbreon umbre. Umbreon um…" [I wouldn't get too excited if I were you. These guys all bark a lot better than they bite. I on the other hand…] Eve responded, finishing her statement with a dangerous grin, the last words clearly implied.

"Alright then girls, let's show this joker what real teamwork can do." Ray declared as Dawn and Eve leapt forward to battle.

"My name is Rosso!" The man shot back in an insulted tone, "And it's about time you learned to show some respect! Go Grimer and Spoink!" He called as he threw out two Poké Balls.

"Spoi! Spoink!" [Yay! We finally get to battle again!] The lively Spoink cried, bouncing up and down on its spring.

"Grime, grimer," [Ugh, stop bouncing,] the Grimer complained, "Grimer grime." [You're giving me a headache.]

"Grimer, use toxic on Espeon!" Rosso ordered.

"Dawn use confusion on Grimer!" Ray instructed at the same time.

"Grime…" [My head…] The Grimer griped, holding the sides of its head with its two sludgy purple arms.

"Espi." [Too easy.] Dawn replied, hitting Grimer with a powerful confusion attack that knocked it out.

"Ugh! Return you stupid Pokémon!" Rosso muttered, calling Grimer back into its ball, drawing out a third Poké Ball, "Go Quilava!"

Rosso's Quilava looked completely normal to Ray, except for the fact that it seemed every bit as full of hate as Trudly's Houndoom had as it snarled murderous threats at Ray and his Pokémon.

"Oh please no." Sam whispered in a choked, horrified voice.

Ray looked back and saw that she was almost crying.

"You know this Quilava?" He asked calmly, despite the sudden prick of anger he felt, perhaps irrationally, at Rosso for upsetting her so.

"No, it's just…" Sam began, but stopped, biting her bottom lip, hard, as a few tears slid down her cheeks before she continued, "And it has that black aura too. Oh the poor thing."

'Quilava must just be her favorite type of Pokémon.' Ray reasoned and turned back to the task at hand.

"Eve, use bite on Spinarack, as many times as it takes," Ray instructed, "Dawn, use confusion on Quilava."

"Quilava, Spinarack dodge!" Rosso ordered.

Quilava nimbly dodged Dawn's attack. Spinarack; however was not so lucky; though to its credit it took two of Eve's bite attacks to make it faint. Meanwhile, Dawn managed to hit Quilava with her second confusion attack. Quilava staggered to his feet, but couldn't seem to stand up quite straight. He frantically sidestepped to correct himself, but ended up throwing himself off balance even more, as if he was dizzy. Ray smirked in satisfaction; it was confused, but Rosso didn't seem to notice, either that or he was just too desperate to care.

"Quilava use shadow rush!"

Quilava darted forward, but ran head first into the ground.

"Eve use tackle, Dawn use confusion again!" Ray instructed, grabbing a Great Ball out of his pocket, just to be sure.

"Dodge it!" Rosso ordered in vain. Both Dawn and Eve's attacks hit their mark. Ray immediately threw the Great Ball at Quilava. As soon as it dinged Eve snatched it up and ran back to Ray, dropping it in his hand.

"Y-you…" Rosso stuttered in shock, "You're tough…"

"What did you people do to those Pokémon?!" Sam demanded before Rosso could retreat.

"Huh, that?" Rosso replied, caught off guard by the question being asked while he was still dazed with the shock of his defeat, "We turned them into fighting machines by artificially closing the doors to their hearts."

"No! You didn't." Sam half-whispered horrified, "You closed the doors to the hearts of those poor Pokémon? How could you?!"

"Shit!" Rosso exclaimed, belatedly realizing his mistake, "Well, knowing that's not going to help you do anything!" He shouted and ran off.

Sam looked over at Ray, suddenly remembering that she'd heard of that before and about to tell him what she knew that could fix it over time, but she stopped herself; he was clearly very upset.

"Damn it." He muttered through tightly clenched teeth, "Damn it all!"

"Espeon." [It's not your fault.] Dawn whispered.

Sam looked down and saw that both Dawn and Eve were rubbing comfortingly against his legs. That was also when she noticed that his hands were clenched into tight fists at his sides, his hands shaking from the force with which his fingers were digging into his palms.

"Ray!" Sam gasped in horrified shock when she saw a thin ribbon of blood weave its way through his fingers and drip onto the ground. Instantly, and completely without thinking, Sam reached forward and grabbed his right arm –the closest one to her– near the wrist. Ray's instant reaction was to flinch away from her and jerk his wrist out of her hand. But as he whirled around, before yanking his arm back, he could feel the looseness of her grip, so loose that just whirling around had nearly freed him and, for some reason, that stopped him. He didn't understand why, but that one small detail left him standing there, frozen; still scared and nervous, yet strangely reluctant to retract his hand. Sam didn't move either; she just gazed at him steadily, her sapphire eyes brimming with gentle compassion. They stood like that for several minutes as the apprehensive shivers rippling across his skin slowed, then stopped, as the nervous fear faded from his golden eyes, as his rapid startled breathing calmed and his limbs -which has been rigid with adrenaline- relaxed. Then, and only then, did Sam slowly run her hand down his wrist. Ray tensed slightly at her movement, but made no attempt to move away. Sam gently smoothed open his still clenched fingers, murmuring softly to him.

"What were you thinking? What a silly thing to do."

"I didn't even feel it." He whispered in honest reply, soothed by the gentleness of her voice and touch.

Sam shook her head fondly, looked up into his golden eyes for a moment, smiled and slowly began to walk backwards towards a nearby stone bench, turning a little as she went. She didn't go far though; just enough for a tiny tug on his arm, just enough to silently communicate that she wanted him to follow. Ray hesitated for a moment, but Sam's motionless, silent patience encouraged him and he followed, allowing her to guide him to where she wanted him to sit.

"Wait here," Sam said softly, letting go of his hand, "I'll be right back."

"But-" Ray began, taking a half-step forward, a flash of sudden panic coursing through him.

"I'll be fine." Sam reassured him before walking off. It was a gamble, she knew, but it was one she felt that she had to take. It was a test, in a way, to see if he would just run off or stay and wait for her to come back.

Ray slumped down onto the bench staring blankly in the direction Sam had gone even long after she had left from his sight.

"Espeon espi?" [Will she really be okay?] Dawn asked, echoing his own fears, "Espi espeon esp espeon?" [What if those guys aren't really gone and they find her?]

"Umbre umbreon umb." [Well she wanted to go on her own.] Eve replied though her dubious tone suggested that she didn't consider that line of reasoning sound at all.

"She'll be fine." Ray responded, surprising himself with how strongly he felt that, "She has to be."

He couldn't quite believe how quickly he had gone from wanting to get away from her to anxiously waiting for her to return. He hadn't realized just how much he had already come to enjoy her companionship until she left his side. To Ray it was almost as if something important, some essential part of himself had suddenly, inexplicably, been taken away. For a moment he worried that Sam had just left; that she had gone with no intention of returning. 'No, she wouldn't do that, she would have said something if she wanted to part ways.' Ray reassured himself. She just didn't seem like the kind of person who would just walk away like that. Then again, Ray didn't exactly have a good track record when it came to the people in his life. And how well could he really claim to know her when he knew next to nothing about her?

Ray stared down at his hands vacantly, not caring about the blood on his hands enough to wipe it away, not bothering to do anything but sit there and stare. He wasn't even truly aware of them, as anyone staring off into space with a preoccupied mind is not fully aware of anything around them. He missed her, he really did; it was so strange and he could find no sound explanation for it, but the empty feeling was there, too strong for him to ignore, or deny. He only faintly felt Dawn rub her head lovingly against his arm.

"Umbreon, umbre?" [You really miss her, don't you?] Eve asked him after a small sigh.

Ray blinked and looked over at Eve, her words dragging him out of his reverie.

"Well yeah… I mean…" He sighed, "I don't know. It doesn't make any sense I know, but I just do."

Eve didn't respond to his answer, she only looked away with a somewhat sad, somewhat resigned look on her face.

"Umbreon, umbre," [I can't help, but wonder,] Eve said to no one in particular after several moments of silence, "Umbre umbreon um?" [What exactly did Sam go off like that for?]

Dawn fired her a quick glare that seemed to say 'Did you seriously have to say that?'

"I don't know." Ray answered in a somber, almost sad tone and Eve felt instantly guilty.

"Espi esp!" [I think I might!] Dawn yelped excitedly, bounding to her feet suddenly, "Espeon espi espeon esp." [I bet she's gone off to get something for your hands."

"Maybe." Ray responded half dubiously, half hopefully. Eve wanted to make the comment that she wouldn't have had to go off on her own for that, but held herself back, she didn't want to make Ray sad again.

It took Sam longer than she would have liked to go pick up some bandages and Neosporin, but she had to admit, albeit grudgingly, that any amount of time would have been longer than she would have liked. She was afraid that Ray would take the first opportunity he had to just run off and leave her, but she had to reassure herself that he wouldn't and giving him a chance to do so freely, if he wanted to, was the only way. Rather than just going back the way she came, Sam decided to take a different route back which she hoped would be shorter. When she saw him she stopped for a moment in surprise. He was still sitting there, staring intently off in the direction that she had originally gone, waiting for her to return. And she was certain, though she immediately scolded herself that she must be imagining it, he seemed a bit anxious, as if he wasn't quite sure that she would return.

"Hey, sorry I was gone so long." Sam apologized, walking up to Ray. He looked over at her when she spoke, his eyes lighting up with relief for a moment before he covered it up by looking away from her with an indifferent shrug.

"It's fine, really." He replied, his soft voice barren and distant.

Dawn; however made no attempt to hide her joy in seeing Sam again, bounding up to her from where she stood at Ray's side.

"Espi! Espeon!" [See! I knew it!] She exclaimed happily, noting what Sam was carrying as she bounded up to her.

"Umb, umb." [Yeah, yeah.] Eve muttered, flicking one ear back, as if in irritation. Sam suppressed a sigh; she didn't think Eve liked her at all. And she was certain that the easiest way to win Ray's trust would be to gain the trust of the two eons, though Sam chaffed under the idea of purposely doing anything to gain their trust just so that she could win his; it seemed too close to manipulation for her liking. She didn't like the idea of manipulating anyone in the first place, but there was an almost angelic innocence and diffidence about Ray that made doing anything of that sort to him seem even more criminal and malicious than it otherwise might. She walked the rest of the way over to him with deliberate slowness so as not to frighten him. Ray looked back over to her as she did this, eyeing her movements warily. Cautiously, Sam sat down beside him. Ray tensed when she did this; they were so close that they were almost touching. But for Ray it wasn't nearly as nerve wracking as he would have expected, as being close to another person usually was. There was a certain gentle earnestness about Sam that made him want to trust her, more than he had ever wanted to trust another person before.

"Let me see your hand." Sam said softly, holding her own out expectantly. Ray hesitated, instinctively shrinking back a little from her outstretched hand. He gazed at her with open wariness, not bothering to hide his fear behind a cool, indifferent expression. He purposely let down his defenses for her and allowed her to see, written clearly on his expressive face, just how scared and vulnerable he felt. At first Sam didn't know what to do or say. What could she possibly say to reassure him? She had certainly guessed that he was fearful of other people, for even though he tried to hide it behind a tough, indifferent and cold exterior it showed in little ways, the slight flinch that would come whenever she reached out to him, the distance he tried so hard to keep from others, the fact that he didn't like her being directly behind him where he couldn't see her. But she had never thought it was this bad. She was torn between joy that he had let his defenses down for her and heart wrenching pity at the hurt and miserable fear that she saw in his eyes. It took Sam a long moment before she could summon some words to say, they weren't much, but they were all she had to offer him.

"It's alright. I'm not going to hurt you, I promise. I would never hurt you." She coaxed gently, using the same tone that she would use if she were talking to a skittish wild Pokémon who had been injured that she was trying to help. Ray gazed silently back at her for a moment more, his golden eyes searching hers carefully, before he tentatively placed his left hand in hers. Sam didn't reach out farther as he did this, fighting the temptation to meet him halfway, as she would do for anyone else; instead she waited patiently until his hand rested freely in hers. With her free hand Sam slowly reached over to grab one of the Wet-ones she had just bought. Ray watched her movements with nervous closeness. Even though he wanted to believe that she truly meant him no harm it was a hard thing to believe when harm was all he'd ever really known from other people. She gently wiped his hand clean from the nearly dried blood that half covered it. Just as Ray finally began to relax, somehow soothed by the slow gentle strokes that she was using, Sam stopped, having accomplished her task, and put the used wipe down onto the stone bench beside the unused ones. Ray reflexively tensed when she moved; she slowly reached over and picked up the tiny tube of Neosporin and screwed the top off skillfully between two fingers as she held it. He eyed it cautiously, the only, and rare, experiences he'd ever had with medicine were a harsh sting or being inexplicably sick for a day or two after taking it. Sam paused when he looked up at her. She could clearly see the nervous fear in his eyes; it amazed her, how purely expressive his face was; emotions and thoughts so clearly displayed that he may as well have spoken them aloud, but only if he allowed them to show. It was so easy for her to compare him to a child at moments like this, but in a good way. Sam couldn't help but smile as she thought that he looked just like a little kid who had gotten a cut or scrape while playing, nervously asking in a small voice if the medicine would sting while protectively cradling their injury from their mother's reach.

"Don't worry." She murmured softly to him, "It won't sting I promise. I'm just going to squeeze a little out onto your cuts and then put the bandage on top. It's just going to keep them from getting infected. It won't sting at all. That's why I always liked it when my mom could use this instead of Hydrogen peroxide or something like that. Now that stuff stings!" Sam added with a note of light humor that she hoped would help Ray to relax and add a sort of intangible validity to her claim. Ray smiled a little and almost laughed at her tone which somehow made the statement funny despite its literal meaning. Sam smiled and gently applied the medicine, placing one little dot on each little cut where his fingernails had broken through his skin. Sam slowly placed the little tube of Neosporin on the bench, pleased when Ray didn't tense at her movement. She picked up a gauze pad and medical tape, gently placing the gauze pad on his palm and then carefully wrapping the medical tape around his hand to secure it; she didn't want to make it too tight and accidentally hurt him, but she also wanted to make sure it was tight enough to keep any dirt or grime from getting to the open cuts. When she was done Ray slowly pulled his hand back, mystified by the fact that he no longer felt nervous around her at all.

"Can I see the other one?" Sam asked softly. This time Ray placed his hand in hers without any hesitation. Sam cleaned and bandaged his right hand with even more tenderness than the first, as if his hand were a one-of-a-kind delicate piece of china that was as expensive as it was irreplaceable. Handling his bare hand Sam felt and even greater sense of responsibility than she had with his left hand –which had been covered protectively on the back of it by the snag machine– when she'd held it. Just as she finished bandaging it she noticed that under the very edge of his coat sleeve was a whitish, almost pinkish, patch of skin that looked like it might be a burn scar. She opened her mouth to ask him about it out of her impulsive curiosity, but right at that moment Ray leaned forward across the small space that separated them and rested his forehead lightly on hers, his eyes closed in what seemed to be content.

Ray hadn't even realized that he'd done this. The only thing he was aware of was the deep sense of peace and content he felt. He'd never felt like this before, not even when he'd stayed with Malarie. For several moments Ray sat completely still, focusing on every sensation that he could feel both inside and out, individually. First, the deep sense of calm and safety that seemed to reach down into his very bones and the deepest parts of his soul, then the slight, warm, dry desert breeze that gently ruffled his sandy hair, then the warmth of the sun shining down on him, then the feel of Sam's smooth hands on his own, and finally the gentle press of her forehead against his own. This realization snapped Ray out of his peaceful state instantly, he head whipping up in surprise as he quickly pulled his hand back and stood up, turning slightly away from Sam so she couldn't quite see his face. As amazing as that moment had been, he was still scared of being hurt again in the end.

"Thanks." He murmured half absently, unsure himself as to just what he was referring to exactly.

"Y-you're welcome." Sam replied almost automatically. She was shocked and confused by his suddenly moving away from her. She knew, without even trying to approach him that she would no longer be welcome within arm's reach of him; the distance was back, his diffidence had returned, but she couldn't understand why. It had been too sudden, too inexplicable for her to fathom any reason for his sudden change in behavior.

"Anyway, we'd better keep moving." Ray said briskly, walking away, back in the direction of the Pokémon Center and Poké Mart. Sam followed him, staying well out of arms reach of him, hoping to ease his renewed skittishness. Ray glanced over at her a few times as they walked. He couldn't understand why she was walking so far away from him; farther than she ever had before; had he done something wrong?


"Ray?" Sam asked tentatively as they walked into the Pokémon center.

"Yeah?" Ray replied, glancing at her, secretly relieved that she still wanted to talk to him.

"Did I… I mean what… did I do something wrong?" Sam asked as Ray allowed the nurse to take his Pokémon and heal them.

He looked over at her in surprise.

"No… no of course not."

"Then…" Sam began, but stopped herself; she had no idea how to put the question she so desperately wanted to ask into the right words. Why had he so suddenly pulled away from her? An awkward, heavy silence sat firmly between them as they waited. A few minutes later the nurse came back, handing Ray the two Poké Balls that held his newly obtained Houndoom and Quilava as Dawn and Eve trotted eagerly over to him.

"Why didn't you put them in their Poké Balls?" Sam asked as they walked outside the center. She thought it was odd that he had not returned them to their Poké Balls before letting the nurse take and heal them. Ray shrugged casually, hiding the alarm he felt at her question.

"I just didn't feel like it." He lied, he felt almost sick for lying like that, but he couldn't think of anything better than that on the spot.

"Oh, I see." Sam replied somewhat awkwardly, she still didn't think that made much sense, but decided it was a subject better left alone.


"Why do you need to stop here?" Sam asked suddenly when she noticed that Ray was leading her straight to the Poké Mart.

"There are some supplies I need to get." Ray replied matter-of-factly, opening the door, "Alright girls," he said in a light, happy tone, addressing Dawn and Eve as they walked in, "you know the drill."

"Espi!" [Yay!] Dawn cried happily, running over to the side wall of the store where many different little treats, candies, and berries were displayed.

"Umbre." [Finally.] Eve muttered, trotting after her twin,

Ray laughed softly, shaking his head fondly as he followed them.

Dawn was flitting about excitedly, looking at all the different treats and berries while Eve peered suspiciously at one container of flavored candies as if she was trying to decide whether they would be something she'd be willing to try or not. Sam watched nonplussed as Ray walked up and started putting a good fistful or two of several different treats in individual baggies. He paused for a moment and Sam could see his lips moving as he quietly muttered something to himself; his fine featured face displaying mild consternation as if he was making somewhat difficult decisions. What these decisions were Sam couldn't have said, but they resulted in Ray filling up a few more baggies before he addressed Dawn and Eve again.

"Alright you two, is there anything new you want to try?"

"Espi, espi esp… espeon!" [This, this and... that one!] Dawn replied, excitedly pointing to three different bins.

"Umbre umb umbreon?" [Can't you ever choose just one?] Eve asked in a lovingly irritated tone.

Ray laughed a little.

"It's alright Eve, I don't mind. Did you find anything" Ray replied, grabbing a few candies out of each bin that Dawn had indicated.

"Umbre" [Yeah.] Eve replied, pointing to the bin that she had been examining.

Ray smiled and got a few out of that bin as well. When he was done he walked over to the store counter to pay for everything before they all walked out.

"Why'd you buy so much?" Sam asked once they were outside, surprised by the sheer amount of treats that Ray had bought.

"Well this should last them all a good two weeks." Ray replied taking two candies out, one from the bag of new ones Dawn had picked out and one from Eve's, deftly tossing the candies to them. Eve looked completely pleased with hers, but Dawn did not, though she didn't seem overly displeased either.

"Well?" Ray asked.

"Umbre!" [Good.] Eve confirmed brightly.

"Espi… espeon esp espeon espi." [Well... it's definitely not the best one I've ever chosen.] Dawn admitted.

Eve snickered lightly.

"Umbre umbreon." [That's what you get.]

"Espi!" [Why you!] Dawn retorted and jumped on Eve, the twin eons scuffling rowdily.

"Girls." Ray chastised in a light, but parental tone, ginning all over his face at their antics. The twins instantly froze, Eve having Dawn half pinned. A heartbeat latter they scrambled to their feet.

Ray pulled one of the pokeballs out and gazed at it steadily for a long moment before taking a deep breath.

"Well here goes nothing." He murmured before opening it.

Houndoom shook his head forcefully then looked around, appearing to be half dazed. Ray drew a few more candies out and knelt down, holding his hand out, several different colors of candies laid out in his palm. Houndoom backed up warily, his ears pinned back in agitation as he growled aggressively at Ray. Sam held her breath for a moment, concerned for Ray's safety in handling such a volatile an unpredictable Pokémon, but Ray didn't seem fazed, patiently holding his hand out.

"It's alright," he murmured gently, "here, come try some." He coaxed, moving his palm a little, causing the candies to shift slightly. Houndoom stared him straight in the eye for several moments before taking a tentative step forward. Sam forced back a gasp of surprise as the black aura around Houndoom shrank slightly. Houndoom took another cautious step forward before reaching over and carefully sniffing each of the candies in Ray's hand before picking one up and eating it, letting out a pleased exclamation at the taste. Ray smiled and slowly pulled back his hand, Houndoom instantly stepped back again, growling softly. When Ray brought his hand back out there were two more candies the same color as the one Houndoom had eaten laying in his palm. He held out his hand again.

"Here you go boy." Ray coaxed. This time Houndoom came forward much more readily and took the candies, chewing them slowly. Ray carefully reached up and gently stroked Houndoom's ears. At first Houndoom tensed under Ray's touch, but soon leaned into his hand contently. Sam couldn't help but smile hopefully as the black aura shrank a little more.

"Good boy." Ray crooned softly pulling Houndoom's Poké Ball back out and calling him back into it. After he put it away Ray drew out the second Poké Ball.

"Alright buddy, your turn." Ray murmured before releasing Quilava.

Quilava immediately drew away from him, snarling fiercely. Again, Ray pulled out several different candies and held them out in his palm and patiently waited for Quilava to come forward, gently coaxing him. It took longer that it had with Houndoom, but Quilava did come forward and take a candy which he too seemed pleased with. Ray drew back his hand carefully, but instead of backing away like Houndoom had Quilava snapped at Ray, barely missing his hand. Sam gasped in fear; it took all her willpower not to plead for Ray to just return Quilava to its Poké Ball for his own safety.

"Easy boy." Ray soothed as he took two more candies out, "No one here is going to hurt you." He assured Quilava as he bravely held out his hand again. Quilava hesitated for a moment before he stepped forward to take the candies, backing up quickly once he had. It was clear that Quilava would not tolerate Ray's touch as Houndoom had.

"There you go boy." Ray murmured softly before calling Quilava back into his Poké Ball.

"So, where to now?" Ray asked, turning to look at Sam.

"Umm... well…" Sam thought for a moment, which was not an easy thing for her to do with Ray looking at her; it distracted her in a way that she wasn't quite ready to admit, even to herself, especially to herself, which only flustered her even more.

Ray tried to wait patiently for her answer, but with each passing moment he became increasingly anxious. 'Why is it taking her so long?' He asked himself worriedly. Was she still upset about earlier, he wondered fretfully. She would barely even look at him which unsettled him for some reason, he didn't understand why, but it did, which only served to unsettle him further.

"Sam?" He asked tentatively, "Are you okay?"

"Oh, y-yes I'm fine." Sam stuttered, blushing a little. Ray had no idea how to react to that, or how to feel about it, and so ended up just staring back at her.

"A-anyway," Sam continued, "I think we should follow those guys to Pyrite town. I bet we could find out more about this whole situation if we go there."

"Are you sure you want to go there?" Ray asked, "I mean, that's where you said those guys kidnapped you in the first place, isn't it?"

Sam nodded.

"Yeah, but I still think we should go there. We might learn something important."

"Alright. We should probably grab lunch before we go though." Ray agreed reluctantly. He didn't like the idea of going there, of putting Sam in danger, but she had a good point. He was certainly still wary of trusting her completely, but saying that he hadn't grown at least a little attached to her would have been a lie.

Sammie: Okay so some parting things. Y'all are probably gonna be mad, sorry if this comes across a little harsh, I don't mean it too, It's just that my mommy's said this to me before so I don't want to hear it on here too.

No one had better say that hydrogen peroxide doesn't sting because I think it does, I got my face drug across the pavement by my dog once -because I was too stubborn to let my mommy help me hold the leash so my bad- and having the hydrogen peroxide poured over it was the most painful part of the whole ordeal so there.

Also please just trust me on the fact that everything in this chapter is important right down to the little fact about Ray and medicine that becomes very important latter... dun dun dun

Plad: Stop trying to scare people!

Sammie: But it's true!

Plad: [face palm]