Ralts was looking far better than he had the day before, she thought as she watched him sit and eat. Each hunk of PokéKibble was daintily picked up and brought to his mouth in a very human sort of way that warmed her heart. An IV line was embedded in his shoulder, and fresh gauze bandages looped around his legs.
"You found him in the nick of time," Nurse Joy told them as they clustered around the window into the ICU. "Ralts' appetite is strong, and he is responding perfectly to the medication."
Visitors were not allowed in the ICU; wild Pokémon were known to lash out at strangers, even ones that were helping it, and any domesticated Pokémon that was injured badly enough to even need the ICU was kept sheltered from their Trainer until the authorities worked things out. Most cases were never returned to their abusive Trainers, and instead sent to ranches to live out their days peacefully.
"There is a severe but small portion of frostbite," Joy added. "It will require removal, before the remaining healthy tissue becomes affected by the dead weight. It will also hurt him less in the long run."
The humans backed away from the windows, allowing their Pokémon the chance to peek in on their rescued friend. A quiet commotion sounded as they squabbled and tried to arrange themselves fairly.
"Will he be able to return to the wild?" Augustine asked. "Si non, I will care for him."
"Wait up," she pursed her lips and crossed her arms. "It was my Pokémon that found him."
"Ma belle, a wild Ralts will not do well inside your house. My Labo has a large enclosed yard in the back, safe from predators and Trainers."
"We do not know yet if Ralts will be capable of returning to the wild. It depends on his recovery after the surgery. It is also common for wild Pokémon under these circumstances to become at least partially domesticated, so he may not want to return to the wild. We will have to see."
"Partially domesticated… That means he will only tolerate people caring for him, but won't want to be their friend, right? He might not be friendly?"
Joy nodded and watched the younger woman frown thoughtfully. After a moment, the girl turned to Professor Sycamore.
"If it comes to that, then Augustine, you can take him. He'll have more room and more Pokémon to socialize with, and he won't have my mom trying to love on him all the time."
"Mon idée précisément."
"Feel free to stay as long as you like," Joy offered. "I must get back to my duties. If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask. I'll be at the front reception."
"Thanks, Nurse Joy."
They watched their Pokémon peer through the glass, the smaller ones climbing atop the larger ones for a better view. It was hard to tell they were two Teams when they were clustered together like that.
"Um, I was thinking…" She hesitantly began. "I wanna go back to school. I'm not going to be the League Champion forever, and I want to do something with my life."
"That is a very good choice, cheri. As I said, you are wise." He cast a benevolent smile her way.
"Would you recommend any schools?"
"Hmm… Oui, I may know a few. There is an académie in Camphrier that excels in battle strategy and Laverre has a université des beaux-arts."
"Not to sound cocky, but I'm the Champ. I think I know all the battle strategy I'll ever need. I always liked Laverre, but I'm not very artistic… I might just waste everyone's time, including my own."
"Mn, vous avez raison… Kiloude has a very respectable breeders apprenticeship."
"No thanks. I cried when it came time to trade away Firefly's babies. I couldn't go through that again."
Augustine raked a hand through his hair as he thought it over, nearing on stumped.
"Well, there is a university in Lumiose that has a program for restaurants and tourism- You are shaking your head. D'accord… I know of another académie where rangers are trained. It is in North Lumiose."
"A ranger… I'd get to help Pokémon in the wild…"
"It is very strict, very rigorous, cheri. Are you certain you want that?"
"It can't be any worse than what I've been through." She tapped her lips thoughtfully with her fingertips. "And it's in Lumiose, you said?"
He looked at her and nodded, amusement crossing his face and growing ever more into a grin.
"Il semble que vous avez un plan."
"Il semble que you look quite happy with my plan, monsieur."
He laughed, then, and wrapped her in his arms. He smelled of his hand-rolled clove-and-orange cigarettes, aftershave, and Pokémon kibble. She closed her eyes and snuggled close, smiling. I always wanted this.
"Seigneur, how I miss you every time you are away," he breathed against her hair.
"If I get into the ranger academy, I'll have to move to Lumiose. Then you'll be begging me to get lost."
"Never. I would go to you if I could."
"Wouldn't that give mom a surprise?"
They shared a chuckle at that. After a few more moments, they parted and recalled their respective Pokémon, then made their way out of the PokéCenter. She released Dizzy Twister and secured her coat and hat before climbing on.
"Bon voyage, ma belle."
"I promise not to not call you for two months."
His bark of laughter made her grin.
"I promise not to let your HoloDeck rest if you forget."
"I will see you soon, Augustine-"
She reached forward to grab his lapel and dragged him close for a kiss. Like the one last night, it wanted more, but she drew back before either of them stretched out their already long goodbye. It rather pleased her to see the happy shock writ across his face as Dizzy Twister flexed and flapped her wings, and then with a brief sprint, the Talonflame had them airborne.
They spoke every other day via HoloDeck, but calls –even holograph ones- were a cheap substitute for the nuances of facial expression, embraces, kisses, and warmth. The rescued Ralts had been set free in the wild again, and she knew every time she traveled along Route 5, she would keep an eye out for him.
She returned to Lumiose two weeks later to tour the academy grounds and create her application. Despite being the League Champion and the Heroine of Kalos, they still grilled her through a three-hour interview. She'd never felt more normal and accepted.
Standing before Professor Augustine Sycamore's desk, she handed him her Pokédex as well as her formal report, summarizing her findings on Mega Evolution. The Mega Ring sat primly atop her paperwork and Pokédex.
"As promised," she told him.
He gestured to the chair beside her and slipped on a pair of red-framed reading glasses. Her Pokedex was connected to his computer to copy its data. While it transferred, he extracted the report from the envelope she had packaged it in and began to read.
She watched the subtle emotions –surprise, affirmation, deep consideration, shock- play out as he flipped page after page, paused to examine the Mega Ring with an intense concentration, and then returned to reading over the report. She silently hoped it was what he needed for his doctorate. In between preparing for her academy interview and traveling with her mother, she had spent hours flipping through her travel journal and Pokedex, compiling every last factoid and nuance she could think of into her laptop, and then many more hours assembling that data into a sensible report.
Finally, Augustine set the report down and slipped off his glasses. For a long moment, he seemed lost in thought. And then he looked at her and shook his head.
"Ma belle, ma petite flamme, you are incredible. You are a force of nature."
"Was the report alright? I hope it was alright…"
"C'était parfait, ma cocotte. It was everything I needed for my research and more. I could kiss you. In fact, I will kiss you."
He rose and came around his desk, and she stood, giggling at his enthusiasm. They met halfway, her arms reaching to embrace him as he pulled her near. He reached up and plucked her hat off as their lips met, dropped it somewhere on his desk, and ran his fingers through her hair.
She was the first to break away, gasping softly and mouth a little redder than before. He kissed her cheek, the bridge of her nose, and her forehead.
"I owe you everything," he whispered. "Merci de cinq millions de fois." A kiss to her temple. "Elle a sauvé mon pays, elle sauve les Pokémon, elle a risqué sa vie pour ma recherché…"
She chuckled and nestled close, her face against his neck. She reached up and stroked her fingers through the hair at his nape.
"You're very welcome, mon amour. I would not have done it for anyone else."
He kissed her throat and she sighed. Yes, this is where she belonged.
Thank you for reading this far and commenting. I love your feedback, even if it's just a quick shout-out. 3 It's Just Dinner is now wrapped up, but I have more in mind for our dashing professor and his Championne. I'm working on a sequel as we speak, but I cannot say when it will be ready to start posting online.
I am also holding a contest for Tumblr users. Find out more here: post/66829500659/its-just-dinner-part-8-of-8