Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon Special or any of the characters depicted in the story. Proper rights are owned by the respected owners individually.
Notes: Manga!verse. It's just a fic that started out as practice for Yellow's voice and then turned into whatever this is. As always, any advice is great and I hope all readers enjoy.
It's a routine.
It starts out simple, quiet. Usually around eleven in the morning, Yellow wanders into the forest with her sketchbook or fishing rod in hand, Chuchu and Ratty by her side, and a small smile on her face. She takes great care to find the tree with the best shade (depending on the clouds in the sky) to sit under and always waits until her pokémon are comfortable in her lap or by her feet to pull out her sketchbook to start coloring. Sometimes she finds a shady spot by the river to fish, and other times she naps near the riverbank, her pokémon curled around her protectively.
Heading back into town a while later, she attempts (and usually succeeds) to smile at the people of Viridian City on the way from the forest, bowing slightly or smiling at that one young child, a spirited girl, who always manages to walk by the entrance to the forest at the right moment. She accepts treats – pokéblocks for her pokémon, cookies for her – on occasion from that one elderly lady and she always finds it in her to laugh when Ratty trots away for a second to get petted by that one boy who always waits on that one corner every Thursday (and sometimes Monday) for Yellow to pass by. As the afternoon sun rises high, Yellow usually helps her uncle with the fish, and then she hurries home before he does to cook it for them.
It's been an ongoing routine for most of her life, one that differs from time to time, and she's found comfort in it.
But it eventually changes.
One day, she watches as he walks into the forest, discreetly, soon hidden by the canopy of the trees, from the shadows cast down on the dirt floor. Yellow stands there, her grip slack on her fishing pole, and she breathes slowly as if she's forgotten how. Her feet carry her to the entrance in time to see his retreating back, the shocking red of his hair - and he's wearing a different outfit from what she remembered, this one blue and black and changed, but that long cape still dances at his feet, he still looks every bit a match to the definition of the word aloof as he walks away. She wasn't prepared to ever see him again, and on that day, she avoids going into the forest and tries to pretend she didn't see him, pretends the sight of him walking away looked more lonely than anything.
But then he walks by again on a day where clouds are absent and the sun is bright, around the same time she prepares to start her day, to enter the forest. He's still walking at that same pace, still wearing that same outfit as before, still aloof and distant even though she swears something seems different although she can't place what it is to an actual word. She watches him walk into the woods until he is no longer in sight, and again, as she's left standing there at the entrance of the forest, she postpones her trip, her routine, with a perturbed sigh.
The next day, he's there again. And the next day, and the next, and the next day after that. Yellow soon stops counting after a while but she feels strange, confused – why would Lance's return change why she should or shouldn't be allowed to enter a place that is practically her home? Why would the man that had once tried to kill her, the man that had apparently helped a friend of hers later on, a man she had heard helped saved the world with the Johto Dex-holders, a man—
She doesn't know. But she doesn't follow him into those woods, in the end.
Strangely, because of her caution, she wonders if Green would be proud of her.
One Monday, after the friendly boy runs away after petting Ratty, his steps wide and cheerful and a bit like how Gold's used to be (or so she's heard), she turns around and Lance is there. She glances at him and pretends to breathe. He glances at her and then he's gone into the woods. Yellow feels her fists curl at her sides and she breathes out repressed air in a long drawl, and at her side Ratty paws at her, expressing concern.
"Do you want to go in there today, Ratty?"
The pokémon, wise to its trainer's emotions, replies with a 'no' in the form of a soft squeak. Yellow nods and quickly finds her way back home.
Days pass. She sneaks in the forest despite the fact she can tell he is somewhere else in the very same trees; it's easy to tell, too, because the forest talks to her, breathes, speaks through the energy humming through the trunks, the roots and grass. The next day she does the same, sneaking into the woods, and after finding a small bit of the woods scarce even of pokémon for her to draw and relax in, she finally feels safe under the towering trees and nestled in between two large roots of a giant oak. She learns, as the hours pass, that there is even a small section of the river for her to fish from around these parts so she's content, even blissful as the feeling of connecting back with the forest returns and settles deep in her chest. But content doesn't last, and it breaks in the form of a piece of bark snapping off a nearby tree, the edges jagged, and upon touching it does Yellow see that maybe she's not the only one who knows someone is there, here, in the woods.
So she stays awake, and ignores how it hurts.
A couple of days later, Yellow on an errand for her uncle causing her to sprint through town, she finds herself face to face with him again – closer now, a few feet apart, her near the entrance and him near the exit. Her stomach lurches for some reason, and Ratty is tense at her side; Chuchu, however, hums quizzically from her perch on Yellow's shoulder, concerned for her partner but surprisingly docile enough not to voice it. Yellow remembers watching those same gold eyes only now they're calmer, more composed, less chaotic and more mature. His mouth is set in a loose line, as if the effort to smile or frown was almost bare none. He looks well, better, taller, shoulders somehow wider, hands somehow bigger, and Yellow just feels small.
And then he nods to her, tensely, as if acknowledging her, and walks away.
She's left there standing as a gust of wind kicks leaves at her feet, feeling as if she's missed something when she watches Lance go. Ratty snaps at her feet to garner her attention back to her package and with one last confused look, Yellow turns away and goes off to deliver it.
And so it changes again, that once routine of hers. Usually around eleven just like before, she'll find her way on the path to the forest and sometimes he'll be there and other times he won't. Sometimes she'll see him spare a glance as she walks by and other days he'll not even acknowledge her existence. It's unexpected, different, and while her routine always offered every day to be different from the last, this change is…well, different.
Most times when she sees him, she'll nod and a smile will peek out – most wouldn't call it a smile, except maybe Green; it was how he smiles most times, quiet and subtle, and she'll feel proud for perfecting it before her attention snaps back to the matter at hand. Lance will nod in reply, eyes narrowed with varying emotions she won't explore, and that's it - that's all that happens. Some days she'll be straining against the sun to see him, other's he'll be peering through wet bangs to find her gaze as the rain crashes around them.
It's strange, like they know each other beyond that connection of enemies, and Yellow can't really hate herself for feeling like it's not completely a bad thing. It's almost scary, but she thinks she knows the reason why it's good, why he isn't attacking her and why she's not defending herself: they are similar.
It goes on like this for a while, with an occasional few days where she just knows Lance is gone somewhere else, or days where she is with Green in the gym or with her uncle in Vermillion. And then one day, this new routine changes again.
She walks by the town with her fishing pole over her shoulder, humming happily to herself with the words from her last phone call with Red echoing in her head. Around the intersection where she usually sees him, she stops and surprises herself with waiting, her whistling dying to a few quiet notes before ending on a sigh, and minutes later he's walking out from behind the trees and instantly his gaze, bright gold and distant today, finds hers. He looks more like that angry guy she fought so long ago with his shoulders tense, fists curled, as if he was close to summoning his dragons again and charring everyone in the city to ashes.
He notices her assessment, the way her grip on the fishing rod tightens, and he glares in reply.
Yellow steps back when he steps up, finds herself weighed down with shame, and then she just sighs and says, "How are you?"
For a moment, she is too surprised at herself to realize she just spoke. That the first words she's spoken to him since then, since that time where their blood was on one another's hands, are ones of concern for him. But then she notices that same surprise written on his face before he shrugs it off, eyes still bright and almost bored with the sight of her, and Yellow nods as if that's an acceptable answer. It counts as one, as least for him it does – she doesn't expect him to recite to her a novel on his feelings or how his day went.
But then Lance says, "The pokémon miss you," and once again he walks away.
She watches as she always does and a smile finds her face – that's so like him, she thinks, looking after pokémon before his own comfort, making sure they're okay. That's always been something they've agreed on, something she will always expect from him if she ever had to expect anything at all from him.
And when Yellow talks to Red again later that afternoon, she's still smiling, just a little bit, because of it.
The next time they meet, Yellow asks how he is and he answers with a reply that doesn't answer her question, not directly – but at least he's talking, at least he seems fine, and at least he isn't afraid of her.
(She had heard from Gold that some impostor had impersonated her just to defeat him, that apparently her triumph over him so long ago had left him defenseless at the sight of her. Gold had found it funny. She finds it sad.)
And that continues, the somewhat conversation, the not complete trading of talking. It continues for days, for a while until it's almost normal, before weeks later, underneath the roar of the falling rain, she stops and asks him how he is; it's easier now, asking such a thing, even if it always leaves her with distant nervousness, a tingling in her neck that would give her away if she reached up to rub it away.
In the rain, he looks disheveled but composed at the same time, and she finds that nature suits him as well as it does her. He brushes his hair from his eyes, obviously not at all bothered by the rain as she was, and finally says he's fine.
Yellow stops combing her hair over her shoulder at the answer, a real answer, blinking away her shock and shivering, just once, before she blames it on the chill of the rainfall when a nervous laugh falls out of her mouth. Then, as if it was all she could do, she just beams at him happily in reply before running off to return to her uncle.
When she looks over his shoulder, he's not watching her leave but he's still standing there, still getting soaked, and she stops and cups her hands over her mouth.
"Um, don't get sick!"
Lance waves her off with a pass of his hand, and it seems like he's irritated. She laughs at that thought and runs home. When she arrives, dripping water from her hair and clothes and hands, her uncle tells her to bring an umbrella next time, but she says she's fine, as simply as Lance did beforehand.
"I don't mind the rain, Uncle."
In reply, the man shakes his head and tosses her a towel, reminding her of her job (self-assigned by her) to cook the fish. With an embarrassed laugh, she goes about doing it right after she takes one final look at the clouds outside.
The rain has stopped.
"The pokémon are still calling for you." He says one day in passing and Yellow almost has to bite her tongue so she won't question if he's been asking around, wondering about her visits into the forest. Instead she stops her steps, grips her sketchbook tight in her hand, and faces his retreating back while hoping that this brief moment of courage, this curiosity, will be worth it.
He stops, turns, and stares at her like she's lost her mind, like there are a million things he'd rather do – and there probably is things he'd want to do, none of them involving her, and she's aware of that; it goes both ways, after all. But then he turns back to face the forest and starts walking, and just as silently, she follows, the both of them disappearing under the trees and Yellow finds herself a little gleeful as she kicks a rock. It bounces off the back of his boot.
He doesn't reply. But she didn't expect him to.
The time there is spent in silence until Yellow sees a family of caterpie, nestled happily in a hollowed tree trunk, that call to her in greeting when she walks up and smiles at them. The newly-hatched baby, easily notable from the size and the closed eyes, inches its way into Yellow's soon-to-be open palm, and it coos in pleasure at the energy from her touch; Yellow instantly puts on a brave face as she feels her shoulders drop, her energy start to wane.
A snort comes from behind her. "Weakening already?"
When she turns around, the Pokémon now out of her hand and back with its family, Lance is gone.
She doesn't see him against until several days have passed, when they meet at the entrance of the forest and find their way in, together but separate; there's always distance, no matter how close her steps follow his. But their steps stop together in a clearing, and Yellow takes a moment to ignore him, ignore this situation as much as he probably already is doing, and settles against a tree. Going about making crowns out of fallen leaves, twisting the russet and green stems, uncountable minutes pass before she speaks up.
"Hey, where's your dragonite?"
He peers over at her from his spot in the grass nearby. His legs are folded and his hands are linked in his lap, and upon closer inspection, he looks as if he hasn't slept in days; she knows he's been training Silver – her friend told her himself – but she doesn't ask if he, Lance, has been resting. Her eyes wander when he doesn't answer for a moment, up to the slightly broken and misshaped circlet of leaves on his head, made by her, tilted at a weird angle that almost makes Yellow think it suits him: it's not something resembling perfection.
When Lance speaks, Yellow jumps.
"He's in his pokéball."
"Can you let him out?"
He's quiet. After a moment, silence as thick as the options he was probably weighing in that head of his, he taps at his waist and the roar of his dragonite fills the forest. Yellow laughs when the dragon, after shaking out his wings, stares at her, assessing her for surely the pokémon remembers the battle, remembers her voice in its mind, remembers her beating his trainer.
You are...Yellow. That one trainer.
She smiles and nods, and the dragonite tosses its head before bowing before her in curiosity as she picks up leaves and twists them into another crown for him. When she hangs it gently from the tip of the horn on the pokémon's head, she smiles. When she looks over at Lance for his reaction, he's not smiling.
But he's watching and Yellow assures herself that it's enough.
On the day Green tells her Red will be in town tomorrow, she walks with her head in a haze so thick she collides head first into him on his way out of the forest. He's not quick to help her up but he does after she blinks and shakes her head in confusion, and Yellow finds that her hand is small in Lance's, and that the way his fingers fold around the back of hers, the way they drift carefully over the knuckles as he pulls her up, is more than just a little strange.
That same hand then goes through red spikes when he lets go, as soon as she is stable on her feet, and she ushers out an apology that he is quick to shake off. When the silence stretches, she breaks it with a question that surprises even herself; sure, age has made her bolder, but this is Lance.
"Why did you come back? You know, to Viridian?"
To her surprise, Lance doesn't shrug it off. He doesn't glare at her. He doesn't yell or bicker or say she's going too far.
He just says, after a moment's hesitation, "It's my home."
And Yellow likes the sound of that, this person – not an enemy or a friend but not even a stranger anymore – having a home, being in this place, a place she know he loves almost as much (or maybe more) as she does. She doesn't even mind sharing it even though he's still arrogant and brash, but then again, he's also calm and collected, solemn, perhaps just a bizarre mix of his old self and this new self Gold and Silver had told her about, and now the one she's had the pleasure of knowing.
"Can you handle that?"
It takes her a second to remember the conversation but she nods, slowly, and says that she can. He doesn't say anything else but instead just walks away, footsteps barely making a sound against the dirt. She smiles and doesn't watch him leave, but as she watches him go, she finds herself a little annoyed as to why Lance's footsteps never make, or made, a sound despite him being sporting such a dominating presence. But it's a though for another day because he's gone and in front of her, that one boy rushes out as Ratty races to him, and Yellow puts her thoughts away in favor of conversing with the young kid.
"Is that guy your friend?"
Uncertain of how to truly answer, and because it didn't feel right to put a label to him, she shrugs.
"I wish I knew."
Lance leaves for a while and Yellow finds it bothers her, the silence of the forest when she walks in alone despite the fact they rarely talked, and that he moved as quietly as he could; she asked him about it once, and since then has found herself copying that soft walking style when he said it was so he wouldn't startle the pokémon.
But it stays quiet, the forest; Lance returns and soon leaves again, and it becomes a pattern. Sometimes Silver calls during Lance's absence to let her know where he is, how his own training is going, how he's gotten stronger under the older man's care. She always smiles, glad for her friend – for both of them – although she declines when Silver respectively asks for a battle (and it only happens once. Silver's respectable, and she likes that.)
Green knows by now, about Lance's return, about Yellow's meetings with him. He's known for a while and after talking over with Gold and Silver, after being reassured that Lance is different now, he says he doesn't care as long as Yellow stays safe. Blue, in passing and on days when she stops by to treat Yellow to a day of shopping, says Green's gotten soft because of her, but Yellow knows that Green is just the type of guy, while calculating and sometimes cold, that has a heart for people he cares for.
One day, when it snows, Lance finally returns. On her walk, her small shoulders bundled up in Green's cloak, she watches as he finds her gaze and holds it as he approaches. When a short distance is created between them, they just stare as if words weren't needed and Yellow finds it almost funny, how their hair was slowly getting covered with snow and how they both had cloaks dancing at their feet.
He nods in the direction of the forest, asking her without words. She nods in reply and together they walk, finding a companion's worth of space at each other's side as they find their way to the river. Silently, they watch the snow drift into the water, watching the ripples created by wayward leaves, and they listen as the pokémon call, and this is it, Yellow knows. This is how they're connected, by the forest, by the gifts it has given them, by the energy they're used to breathing in like air, like a necessity. And when she heads home, boots crushing ice underfoot and shaking snow from her hair when she's under her uncle's roof, she realizes that he is the only one she has that connection with.
It's lonely, almost. But she doesn't mind.
Lance seems like the lonely type of person anyway.
One day, Silver visits with him and Yellow is overjoyed, actually hugging the boy before flushing, embarrassed when he merely stares before patting her shoulder in greeting. Yellow takes up the Dex-holder's time with pictures of the land, how it's changed since his last arrival, and with walks in the woods, Lance always following behind with his cape swishing at his feet. Under the canopy of the woods, Silver nods politely at her questions but curtly, and asks about his home.
Yellow leans closer to him as she replies happily, and the two of them are lost in conversation under the tall trees. At least until she catches an observing gaze, and realizes that someone else might also want to know about his home, their home. And when the gaze flits away, as if embarrassed to be caught, Yellow giggles much to Silver's confusion.
Taking a moment, she leans back, holds both their gazes, and continues her stories. Silver and Lance stay quiet until she stops, breathing out a laugh to which they share a silent look, Silver almost smiling and Lance turning away to match his eyes to the light streaming from the open patches in the tree tops.
Yellow likes this, the three of them, this almost weird little trio. It's different from being with Red or Blue, Green; Silver and Lance act differently, and there's other ties to these relationships than with others, different foundations, connections, a diversity Yellow never thought she'd experience. And it's different from the others ones, her and Silver and Lance; Red, Blue and Green journeyed together as rivals and became friends; Silver and Gold acted as rivals while Crystal acted as a mediator; Ruby, Sapphire, and sometimes Emerald had that weird triangle that told her that Emerald just wanted the two of them to kiss and leave him alone; and Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum with their radiance of comedy and companionship that contrasted with her elegance. She cares for them all, loves them all.
But she likes this, too, her and Silver and Lance, in the forest, in a place they're blessed by, a place of importance.
(And maybe she's a lonely type of person, too.)
Days after her birthday, after Red's early surprise visit, gifts from everyone ranging from Ruby's high-dollar art supplies to Platinum's beautiful knitted sweater, Blue's party for her (with Silver helping set up) and Green's training battle (because he insisted, and she couldn't find it in her to say no to Green) and everything else that has blurred together in her mind, she excuses herself from her uncle's home and walks into the forest, not bothering to wait until Lance shows up to lead her in or follow her or walk away or whatever he wants to do today.
She finds the river's edge and sits, breathes calmly, and finds peace even though she's far from frazzled. Chuchu is at her side, starting to fall asleep as the sun starts to rise over the peak of the trees, and everything from the wandering pidgey to the swimming goldeen makes the peace last.
Yellow smiles, watches the water, and ignores the world. After a while, Lance arrives and sits beside her.
She doesn't look to watch him although she knows he's frowning, that his eyes are narrowed and his fist is probably close to being raised to his mouth that will make him look like he's pensive before it'll drop. She doesn't open her mouth to speak even though she knows his reply will be one word or two and spoken loosely and curtly because he's never really dropped that cryptic and showy speaking habit. She doesn't need to see him to know why he's here because he has fallen into a routine as well, one that isn't set in stone, one that defies the meaning of the word.
Or so she guesses, hopes even. She can never completely tell, not with him, but it doesn't bother her.
Minutes pass. An hour goes by. He still remains sitting, stretching every so often, and she notices how he runs fingertips over the pokéballs at his waist, brushing over harsh scratches and grooves. Chuchu, at Yellow's side, watches the motions before she approaches and tilts her head at Lance, and Yellow looks away the moment she sees Lance reach out a hand towards the pokémon.
Then, when Chuchu is back at her side, when Lance drops his shoulders and readies himself to stand, she asks, "How are you?" And as expected, he doesn't answer until she can't see him from out of the corner of her eye anymore, but when he does reply, she can't help the smile that takes over her face, small and subtle like Green's, eyes bright and happy like Red's, with her laughter sounding like Blue's whenever she's amused.
"I'm fine, Yellow."
So when he walks away, she calls back, "See you later, Lance."
He doesn't reply and simply leaves, as silent as he always does. Yellow smiles, and doesn't watch him go.
Comments and critique are always welcomed.