People Who Need People.

Silver woke up. He didn't recall deciding to go to sleep in the recent past, so this puzzled him. What puzzled him more, however, was the pain—the uncalled for, mysterious pain.

He opened his eyes and then immediately snapped them shut again. There was blinding light in the room he was being held in—the kind of light that would generally fall behind a heavenly host of angels. But instead of filling Silver with religious awe, the light just made his sinuses retract in quavering agony.

He took assessments. His tear ducts felt as though they'd been repurposed to dispense acid; his back stung as though he'd smacked it into something; every joint in his face was in permanent clench mode; and his nose felt like a polluted waterworks that had dried out long ago, yet was slowly but surely returning to production.

He very carefully and slowly opened his eyes again.

"Oh, so he finally wakes up?"

Silver tilted his head tenderly to the source of the voice. His groggy brain attempted, with some slight sputtering of machinery, to make sense of the situation.

Girl. Stupid hat. Lyra, his fragmented consciousness offered him.

"What?" he choked out, only aware as he tried to speak that a jagged stone made of pain had lodged itself in his throat. "What happened? Why am I here?" Wherever exactly "here" was.

Lyra tapped her finger against her chin, giving the matter some thought. "Because the universe has a really mean sense of humor," she answered.

She seemed to realize from his dazed staring back at her that he required a less sweeping explanation. "Right," she said, punching her right fist into her left palm. "So, I was just minding my own business trying to get into the Olivine City gym when you burst out of the door doing your whole 'I don't bother with wimps like you anymore' routine," she explained, launching into a nasally mocking tone that Silver was sure he did not sound at all like as she quoted him. "You told me that the gym leader wasn't there because she was taking care of a sick Pokemon over at the lighthouse."

"So," she went on, "I started heading off along the beach toward the lighthouse to see what I could do and you followed me, saying that I was wasting my time getting involved. That a sick Pokemon should just be abandoned since, according to you, it wasn't worth anything because it couldn't battle."

It all sounded vaguely familiar. And then…

"I did my best to ignore you," Lyra went on, her eyes narrowing at him, "but then I heard a splash and looked behind me." She shrugged. "Best guess I can make is that you tripped over a Corsola and fell in the water like a total klutz."

Silver winced, struggling to sit up more in bed so that she couldn't look down on him as easily—both literally and figuratively.

"You know what they say: wet clothes lead to colds. You were basically coughing and sneezing and being really germy all over the place in no time." She grinned. "Finally, after a while of claiming you were fine, you fainted!" There was a pause—the kind of moment where the knife is still in, but right before it gets twisted. "Usually it's just your Pokemon that faint when I'm around."

Silver answered her with a grimace. It was the best he could do since his brain wasn't supplying him with a stream of ready-made comebacks. Still, having a worthless, bleeding-heart like Lyra mouth off to him was grating to say the least.

"I considered leaving you on the beach to be picked over by the Krabby," she announced, all sour sweetness. "After all, it's what you would've done to a sick person or Pokemon. But I decided to be generous-hearted and I brought you here to recover."

A chilling thought rose in Silver's awakening brain. "Here?" he repeated, looking around in a few jerky movements. He hadn't bothered to really take in his surroundings until that moment.

Two twin beds. Television. Impractically small table in the corner. Not a bunk bed or a nurse in sight. He relaxed slightly.

"A hotel room," she answered, after his brain had already processed that fact. She folded her arms behind her head and looked knowing. "After seeing all those 'Don't accept checks from this man' pictures of you in Poke Marts, I figured you weren't exactly welcome in most trainer establishments, so I didn't even bother trying a Pokemon Center. Lord only knows what you've done to piss off the Joys."

"The lady at the front desk gave me a little trouble since she doesn't like renting out rooms to teenagers for… you know, obvious reasons," Lyra went on. "But you were, like, a fountain of mucous when Girafarig carried you in… so I think she believed when I said I wouldn't even go there."

Silver reached up to his forehead and felt a waterlogged face cloth folded onto it. He took it off and let it flop damply onto the floor beside the bed. He was beginning to suspect that Lyra had only fished him out of the ocean in order to have a captive audience to insult.

"You shouldn't have bothered to bring me here," he said through gritted teeth. "It was none of your business."

Lyra shrugged. "You wouldn't be saying that after the tide came in. You'd be saying…" At that point she devolved into a series of hammy "glug-glug" noises to simulate drowning.

"And anyway," Lyra went on, as Silver refused to dignify "glug-glug" with so much as a respond, "nobody else would've helped you." She walked around his bed and leaned on the small table in the corner and looked at him more closely. "I thought being sick might be a good way to remind you that you need people."

Silver's hair, wet from the combined forces of falling into the shallows and fever sweat, bristled. "I don't need you," he said in a low, definitive voice. "I don't need anybody. I—"

Whatever he was planning to say next transformed into a nose-tickled "Ah… ahh…" He looked around for a box of tissues. There was always at least one in hotel rooms!

They sat on the table next to Lyra—out of his reached. She picked up the box, rolled her eyes, and tossed it to him.

"Ah-choo!" Silver let out, burying his face in the three tissues he'd hurriedly ripped from the box.

"Bless you," Lyra half sang, though her tone judged more than it blessed. She rolled her eyes. "Man, I'm going to have my hands full between you and that sick Pokemon over at the lighthouse."

Silver wiped his nose with the roll of tissues and let out an unhealthy-sounding snuffle. "You're really planning on getting involved in that too? Why should you care about somebody else's sick Pokemon?"

Lyra narrowed her eyes. "Oh, you know," she said in a faux casual tone, "basic human decency."

Silver tried for a derisive snort, but it turned into a coughing jag partway through. "That's just," he tried, but was cut off as the drainage in his throat tried to climb its way out. "That's just a con weak people try to sell you on so they can get stronger people to do all their work for them. If something bad happens to them, they deserve it. If they can't help themselves, they're done."

Lyra shook her head. "Y'know, even if you want to be… like… a complete sociopath about stuff like this you could at least think."

"I'm the only one in this room thinking," Silver maintained, though he had to admit that much of what he was thinking was that he could use a good pain reliever/decongestant combo. Though, he was starting to believe he'd soon get to the point where he'd take being knocked out again.

"You're not," Lyra answered. "I don't know what alternate universe you live in where ships crashing into the rocks by Olivine coast because there's no Pokemon to illuminate the lighthouse or a gym leader you want to beat being too preoccupied with a sick Pokemon to battle you are somehow good outcomes for you."

She slipped her hands into the hip pockets of her overall shorts and shrugged her shoulders. "Even if you're gonna be selfish all the time, you have to sometimes think of other people for your own good 'cause, like, we're connected. Trying to act like you're never gonna help anyone or you don't need anyone… well, that's not a real philosophy. That's just having daddy issues."

Silver's bloodshot eyes widened for a fraction of a second and he ground his incisors together. "You don't know a damn thing about me, Lyra," he warned.

She raised an eyebrow. "I know that mentioning 'daddy issues' really upsets you for some reason," she concluded. "Wonder why."

Silver was still seething when she added in a much gentler voice: "You gotta learn that you need other people and other people need you."

He might've continued to argue the first point if the second point hadn't surprised him. "Who?" he asked from a genuine place of confusion.

Lyra laughed. "Look, I don't have time to go through the whole 'It's a Wonderful Life' routine with you right now, but trust me: it's true."

It couldn't be true, he knew. He'd strived all these long years to never have to need anyone again because you couldn't, you just could not rely on anyone to always be there. Even if by all rights they should, people were too full of weaknesses to fulfill their responsibilities to each other. So he'd shaken that off. The only real way to respond to that horrible truth was to become strong enough to never need anyone again.

But being needed… Well, that might've been the most horrible thing of all. A perverse linkage of his life—his singular, all-important life—with that of others. He couldn't allow that to happen. And here was Lyra saying that it was already reality.

His mind suddenly jolted as Lyra picked up her bag from the floor. "You're leaving?" he asked and immediately cursed his tone of voice. It should be nothing for her to leave. She shouldn't have interfered in the first place.

…But yet she'd brought him there—taken some interest in helping him—not that he'd wanted that. Surely she wasn't just going to abandon him there?

"Relax," she said. "I'm just going to check in at the lighthouse and see what the situation is there. I'll be back soon." She leaned down and opened up the mini-fridge, loading up her arms with several bottles of fresh water. "I got these from the vending machine," she explained, walking over and setting them on the bedside table. "Drink a lot. It'll help."

She strode over to the door to the small room and put her hand on the knob. She turned back. "Get some rest," she said. "I need you to get better."

As the door closed behind her, the tiny spark of energy that had been keeping Silver going, his argumentative spirit, extinguished. There was no one around to try to be strong for. He breathed out and lay back in bed, a cold bead of sweat trickling down his face. It was just him and the sickness now.

To Silver, it seemed as though his heart was beating too loudly. Rapid, with each pulse, each squeezing of blood through veins in his head, sending red-hot signals of pain. His mind, drifting into a delirious half-sleep, reverberated with Lyra's parting words.

Get some rest. I need you to get better.

I need you to get better.

I need you too. Get better.

I need you too.