My first Pokemon fic! Hope you all enjoy. Updates may take a while to arrive, mind. The list below is just so you can tell who's who - you'll see as you read it.
Nebula: \ Elesai: - Alqualai: ~ Varivea: ^ Rafellan: [ Aranir: { Varele:
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A snow-laden wind howls through the chill pass between the mountains. Flurries of snow are kicked up by the wind, as well as falling from the leaden clouds above. Surely no-one would be out on a day such as this, not in these mountains, not if they had any choice in the matter. But through the swirling snow, battered by the driving wind, a darker figure begins to appear, walking slowly towards the end of the pass. It is quite short, perhaps the size of a twelve or thirteen year old, and roughly human in form, but through the blurring snow little more can be seen. Closer still, and it becomes more distinct, this figure; undoubtedly a small human, for nothing else has quite that shape. It is thin, almost too thin, in fact, but not quite. Another, larger shape begins to loom out of the snow behind it, definitely not a human, this. It appears to have the form of a large bird, wide wings outspread to protect the walker from the worst of the wind and snow, hopping forward with the ungainly movements of any bird on the ground with its wings held in such a way. As the wanderer comes yet closer, features and colours begin to resolve, especially since it walks in that small protected area created by the outspread wings. Windblown pale blonde hair, cut to roughly shoulder length; large, pale blue eyes; a thin face with delicate features, eyebrows drawn slightly up in a sort of puzzled determination. The clothes seem totally inadequate for the weather - thin, shapeless grey things, looking more as if they were simply some kind of covering than real clothing that anyone ever expected another to see. No shoes, only thin grey slippers protect the feet against the terrain. No clothing for anything but remaining in some heated building. But the face does not appear that of a desperate runaway, or some escaper from a disaster - there is just that faint look of puzzlement and determination. The only thing that is not a shapeless grey is the carefully-worked brown belt, six red-and-white balls set into it. Each has some symbol carved into the surface of the red half, curves and lines, each one with a different symbol. Face set against the bitter wind, the person continues through the snow.

Behind, the bird keeps pace. Feathers a darker blue than those of its kind should be, the amber eyes glow with a bright intelligence, and a slight concern as well as the faint puzzlement that shows equally in the face of the slowly walking person.

After some interminable time of walking, they finally reach the edge of the snowstorm, the end of the pass. The girl - for she is such - takes one of the carefully carved balls from her belt and holds it out - there is a streak of red and the bird vanishes within. Then she continues, down into the lands below where grass grows underfoot and trees flourish. Having finally reached a small grove of trees, she stops, tiredness evident in her face. Sitting against a tree, she holds out one ball after another, and from each a different creature appears. First, a red-and-cream furred one, with large ears and thick-furred cream tail, chest, and tuft atop the head. The eyes show clearly the same intelligence that lived within those of the bird, and the same puzzlement also. Second, a yellow-and-white-furred creature, fur standing out in spikes towards the tail and along the white ruff. It is maybe a little bit taller than the first, but not by much, and the same intelligence and faint puzzlement burn within its eyes. Third, a sleek blue creature, long tail ending in a fin like that of the mermaids of myth, very slightly taller than the other two, and in its eyes are the same intelligence and puzzlement shown before in the eyes of the others. Next comes the bird seen before, fifth a large spiky creature, heavy-clawed, brown on the spikes and creamy-yellow beneath. Bright eyes show an intelligence like that of the others, and the faint puzzlement also. Sixth - sixth is a creature of a kind hardly ever seen, often thought to be no more than legend. Small, feline, with short white fur that shades to a pale pink in a few places, it floats in the air rather than stand upon the ground, and the same intelligence and expression can be seen in the feline face as upon the others. Thoughts flash behind all their eyes.

\Where...?
{Wherever this is.
\But where is this?
[I wish I knew.
{Maybe if you flew up, you could see something...?
^How could I see something when I don't know what I'm looking for?
~You have a point.
I'm cold...
^Just stay there in the sun, Varele.
Right... it's warm...
{We know who we are, and we know what we are. What else?
-I think that's it.
[Somehow, I don't think this is quite how life normally works.
-You mean, wandering out of a blizzard with no memory? I doubt it!
\Does it matter? Right now, we're fine. We can worry about that later, when Varele's warmed up a bit.

The first three curl up about the girl, warming her with their own heat. The bird flies from the ground and finds a perch nearby. The fifth wanders a little way off and looks out at the magnificent view, while the sixth shoots straight up into the air, to hover above the treetops for a few moments before coming down again, laying on a branch in an attitude of total feline relaxation. Were any here but they, they would marvel at this sight. The creatures comprise, in order, those known as Flareon, Jolteon, Vaporeon, Articuno, Sandslash, and... Mew. Where has this child come from, a watcher would wonder, and where will she go? Little would any watcher know that she knows as little of that as they.

After a time, they stir, and the girl rises to her feet, running a hand through her hair. Partway through, the hand stops, moves back. Here and there are small bare patches, almost perfectly circular in shape, scattered about her head. She considers it for a while before attempting to brush the rest of her hair across the bare patches, but achieves little success - it is too straight, returning to hang straight down almost immediately after she has moved it, and no matter what she does some patches still show through. Eventually she gives up, and turns to look out over the view.

Those buildings down there... other people live there. Maybe they can tell us something.
{Maybe.

The Mew lifts off its branch and performs a loop-the-loop in midair before settling down to the girl's head height.

{It's strange... how do we know people will be there? I don't remember ever seeing anyone before the blizzard.
[Yeah, and if anyone knows about our memory, it'd be you, eh?
\Well, when we get down there, we can find out what people are really like. Maybe... Aranir, are we likely to remember something, if we go down there?
{It's not like losing our memory, not in any way that can be regained, I don't think, though I'm not certain what that would feel like. It's like an absence of anything, as if we were only born then, or something...
That doesn't make sense! We're... well, we don't feel like children, not that young.
{I know it doesn't make sense. It's just what's there. If we have any buried memories, they're too deep for even me to find.
-No point hanging around here, anyway. Let's go down there and see if we can find some answers.
~Right.

The girl hesitates but a moment, looking around, before she sets off again for the small town below. Her companions walk or float alongside, except for the Articuno, who flies in the skies above, so high that he is almost out of sight, no more than a faint speck against the blue and grey. A time passes in silence, both physical and mental, thoughts on the walk or fly, a warm sense born from companionship on a nice day their main feeling. Yet each has his or her thoughts, interweaving with and overlapping those of the others. Such absolute communication is not easily described in any way. Each is an individual within the one shared mind, every mind connected to the others in a unique bond, thoughts shared and yet separate. Their feelings intertwine on the most basic level. The girl walks and has that sense, yet also shares the sense of flying, decides in the shared decision that is yet uniquely the bird's which feathers to twitch to fly best; the Mew floating alongside takes the several sets of steps and yet does not step at all. The Sandslash senses using mental power alone to keep itself aloft, despite the fact that it could never do such... and what watcher could ever equal the sense of completeness found by the uniquely bonded seven?

As they near the town, their thoughts change in response to the changing thoughts and senses of the Mew.

{There are a lot of people here. I can feel their presence.
-So? That's what we wanted, right?
Of course... it's just... I'm not sure what we're going to find... I'm not sure we want to know...
A mental shrug. ^Of course, we don't want to see things not be the way we expected, especially since we have so little to build on. But it's that, or
~wander forever, never knowing
[what we are or why, or
what the rest of the world
\is like, never knowing...

The shared thoughts interweave and intertwine, each thinking the same but in a unique way, parts of the same sentence rising and falling above each other, merging seamlessly into the shared communication of the seven.

{Onwards, to the
~town, and whatever we find,
[we find.

They are more different aspects of the same personality than separate ones in some ways. Though the aspects are divided, and they think of each other by different names, yet in truth it may be the best description. However, they are far more divided than the personalities of most if such is their description. One and the same, yet unique; unique, but does that necessarily mean completely individual? Such a thing is hard to describe to any, for none know the bond that only the seven have.

They walk on towards the town, coming ever closer. When they are only a short way from the nearest house, the Mew suddenly swoops higher, turning a somersault in the air before coming swiftly to earth in a ditch, rising again with a filthy baseball cap held in one small paw. The greens and browns of ditch scum have long since obscured the original colour, and the girl laughs out loud - possibly the first sound she has made beyond a sigh.

I'm going to wear that?!
Her mental 'voice' is shot through with laughter. The Mew's thoughts in reply are laughing and slightly smug.
{Yup! Watch this!

A shimmering glow of psychic energy moves slowly across the cap, removing every speck of dirt as it goes until the whole thing has become its original blue shade. With that, the Mew drifts to the girl and hands it to her, and she adjusts it on her head. It fits well enough, though she has to tighten the strap at the back a little. Then they continue onwards, to the first house, one they chose at random.

Is there anybody there?
{Yes... but I don't think they can 'hear' you, Varele.

The Mew's delicate mental touch reaches out to the mind of one of the two people within the house, carefully inserting the suggestion that someone waits outside the door. At the same time, the girl recalls her Pokemon to the Pokeballs, one by one, until only the Mew remains. Sure enough, they only have to wait a short while before the door is opened. A woman is framed in the doorway, smiling down at the girl outside, while the Mew hovers nearby out of sight.

"Well, hello there, child! I see you're a Pokemon trainer too, eh? My son Aldan, he's just got his first, and he's so pleased with it I don't know as I can get his attention at all beyond mealtimes! Anyway, you'd best be coming in, for I'm just about to put lunch out and it seems a trainer can always do with lunch, eh?"

Slightly nervously, the girl steps in, though the woman's air of familiarity helps to put her at ease. The Mew whisks through the door just a second before it closes, hovering now behind the girl where he cannot be seen.

"Oh now, and here I am forgetting my manners again! I'm Mrs Kaltern, but you must call me Elsie, dear. And who are you, and where are you from if you don't mind my asking?"

Hands linked behind her back, the girl looks up into Mrs Kaltern's - Elsie's - eyes.

"My name's Varele. Uh, can we go outside? There's not much space in here."

Elsie looks puzzled, but acquiesces readily enough once she decides that the strange girl must want to show her her Pokemon. Once out in the garden again, Varele continues, letting out one Pokemon at a time, then recalling them again.

"This is Nebula" - the Flareon - "Elesai" - the Jolteon - "Alqualai" - Vaporeon - "Varivea" - Articuno - "Rafellan" - Sandslash - "and Aranir," she finishes, indicating the hovering Mew. Elsie is clearly impressed.

"Well now, I don't reckon as I've ever seen quite such an assortment of beautiful and lovely Pokemon in my whole life, so I haven't! But where is it you come from, child?"

"To be honest," Varele replies, "we don't know. All any of us can remember is walking through a blizzard on that mountain, and even Aranir can't tell if we have any memories before that. We just walked here to see what we could find. All we know is who, and what, we are."

Elsie is visibly moved by this story, pity for Varele in her voice and face.

"You poor thing! Do come on in again now and I'll fix you up some lunch!"

As she turns away, Varele settles out her impressions of the good-natured woman in her mind. Elsie is not actually as tall as her strong personality makes her seem, though she is still quite a bit taller than Varele. She is of medium height and build, black hair now shot through with silver drawn back into a ponytail, and has grey eyes. Varele's impression of her combines with Aranir's mental assessment, and both agree that she is a good, kind person.

"I think if you and your Pokemon both be wanting feeding, then we'd best eat outside - there's hardly the room in here for some of them, is there?"

As she sets up the table in the back garden and prepares lunch, Elsie talks almost non-stop about a variety of subjects. Varele sits and watches and tries her hardest to follow what is said - not always easy when she knows so little. Then Elsie walks to the stairs and shouts up them to the son she had mentioned earlier.

"Aldan! Come on down here now, and we've a guest for lunch!"

A short while later, feet can be heard noisily descending the stairs. The boy who appears in the doorway looks perhaps a year or so older than Varele. Sharp hazel eyes under a fringe of untidy brown hair examine her for a moment before he speaks.

"I haven't seen you around. I suppose you're a trainer? Mum's forever inviting trainers in. I'm a trainer too, now. Look, I've my first Pokemon!" Behind him is a small Pidgey, sitting nervously on the ground, trying to hide behind his leg. The boy, Aldan, turns to it, voice turning encouraging.

"Come on, it's okay, you've gotta get used to people sometime, don'tcha? Here, come on, see, you'll be with me all the time, right, and someday we're gonna be the greatest, so you'll grow out of being shy, right? Come on, see, she's not gonna hurt you, she's nice, her name's, er..." He looks quickly up at Varele, who grins, amusement dancing in her eyes.

"Varele. Come here, little one, let me see you." As she kneels, one hand outstretched towards the shy little bird, Aranir sends it a positive mental message of warmth and reassurance. Suddenly the little thing hops and flutters towards her, landing just in front of the hand and looking up at her, head cocked to one side. Varele smiles down at it, 'talking' with it in the group mind, Aranir's telepathic ability transmitting her thoughts automatically as another facet of the same mind.

After a few seconds she looks up again, at Aldan, whose face is lit up with amazement and curiosity.

"What - I mean, uh, how did you do that? Get him to come to you, I mean? He's so shy, he won't even always go to Mum. He's called Lightningstreak, really, but I just call him Streak most of the time 'cause it's easier. Someday, you know, he and I are gonna be the best around!" The boy seems just as voluble as his mother, the confidence and impulsiveness of youth evident in his manner. Varele smiles gently at him.

"He's still very nervous. You only met a few days ago, right? You're going a little too fast for him. Slow down. He'll get his confidence back soon enough if you give him a little time. Oh, and he likes the name you gave him, but he's worried that he can't live up to it."

Aldan frowns, puzzled. "How do you know? Anyway, there's nothing to be worried about! If we're no good to begin with, we can always get better, right Streak?"

Streak chirps a little, looking quizzically back at his trainer.

"Yes, but he doesn't want to start off bad. You're the only human he's ever known for more than a few minutes, and he really looks up to you. He wants to be everything you want of him, but he's afraid he can't."

Aldan walks over and kneels down in front of Varele, by his Pokemon. Very gently, he picks up little Streak, holding him carefully in his hands, murmuring quietly to him.

"I don't know how this girl... er, what did you say your name was? Varele? I don't know how she knows all this about you, but she sounds like she means it, and it makes sense. Listen, Streak, you could lose every battle we ever fight and you'd still be everything I want and more. I couldn't believe it when Mum came in five days ago and handed me your Pokeball. I still keep thinking it's all a dream I'm gonna wake up from or something, 'cause this is just too great to be real."

Streak chirps again, his tone somewhat brighter, reassured by his trainer's words. Aldan puts the little Pidgey on his shoulder and gets up, brushing grass from his knees, as his mother pulls out three of the four chairs arranged round the table. Although the meal begins, Aldan continues talking, alternately questioning Varele and addressing Streak.

"So anyway, how'd you know what he was saying? You must be a real great trainer if you can do that! Someday, Streak, I'm gonna learn everything you have to say so as I can understand what you want just like she does! Did it take ages to learn? Can you understand all Pokemon, or is it just Pidgeys like Streak, or what?"

Varele finds herself laughing, unable to keep up with the flow of questions. Unlike those of the shared mind, she doesn't know what's coming next, her answers not already half-formed because in a way she was the one who asked the question.

"Whoa! Slow down a little! I can see why Streak had trouble keeping up with you!"

Aldan grins apologetically and gestures for her to take her time.

"I don't know much, yet, about most things. I don't remember anything before walking through a pass up in the mountains somewhere." Varele waves a hand to the nearby mountain range, still with forbidding clouds hovering about their summits. "The first thing I can remember is walking in a blizzard. Then we got down here. I don't understand Pokemon so much as Aranir and the others do - oh! You haven't seen them yet, have you?" She releases them from their Pokeballs, one by one, Aranir keeping up a running commentary as she does so. She can tell he's also transmitting the thoughts to Streak, who seems rather overwhelmed by so many Pokemon.

{...and do you know,
a mental ripple of laughter colours his 'voice'
{that Aldan is looking at every one of us, now he's got over seeing so many 'rare Pokemon' - we're rare?! - and thinking, nope, Streak is better? He reckons I'm not as cute, Varivea's not as fast, Rafellan's too spiky, Nebula's not as cuddly, Alqualai's a little too calm, and Elesai looks too short-tempered!

All the seven laugh inwardly, and Streak shifts his perch so that he's brushing against his trainer's face, for he knows Aranir to be telling the exact truth. Not only that, but it's backed up by commentary from the others, who all express amusement in their various ways. Varele smiles, laughter dancing in her eyes.

"Aranir can tell what you're thinking, but he doesn't beyond obvious surface thoughts because he knows you wouldn't like him to. Of course, they all understand other Pokemon."

"Yeah, but... how can you tell what they understand, then? Is it Aranir who tells you? If he's, er, telepathic, right Mum," Elsie nods, "then does he sort of tell you what they're thinking?"

"Nooo... not really." Varele's not certain how to explain, because she's never known any other way of being, can't even truly conceive of being just herself in her own body as all others are.

"I... It's like we're all the same, but we're different. I know what Nebula's thinking because part of me is Nebula and is thinking those things, but Nebula's Nebula and only herself, even though parts of her are me and Alqualai and all the rest of us. And we're all like that. I'm me and only me, but I'm also all of them. If that's not the way it is for you, what's it like?"

Aldan stares at her for a few moments, a new awe coming into his face.

"Whoa... so you're all like the same person, even though you're all separate? Wow... nobody's like that. What's it like? How'm I gonna tell you what things are like for me?" Now Aldan faces the same problem she did - how to get across a barrier of experience using only a language that, no matter how hard either of them try, cannot adequately transmit such things.

"It's... have any of you... no, I don't know. I can't tell you, I don't know how. Maybe... maybe your Aranir can tell you better'n I can, if he can look inside my head like you say. But," and he leans towards her across the table, "you gotta show me what it's like being you, okay?"

Elsie watches in fascination as her son and the strange girl stare into each other's eyes, all else seemingly forgotten. The girl's Pokemon, too, appear rapt, staring into the middle distance, though her son's Pidgey, Streak, seems unaffected. A few minutes later - though it could have been years, or microseconds, to those involved - Aranir gently withdraws the contact, and they sit back, a strange expression coming across both of their faces. Varele doesn't ask him how he stands the, to her, terrible loneliness, because she knows from his mind, and he doesn't ask her anything for the same reason. For a few moments, they're both silent, then Aldan speaks up.

"Listen, you just showed me something I never knew was possible. You gotta show Mum too. Please? I think it'd be really special to her if you just showed her like you showed me."

Varele nods, understanding the unspoken feeling behind his words. She reaches out to touch Elsie's arm, and the gaze turned on her carries permission, curiosity, and perhaps just a glimmer of unspoken hope. Varele and Elsie stare into each other's eyes for a long moment, Aldan watching, half elated, half afraid. Again Aranir withdraws the contact delicately, but they keep staring as if it still continues. Eventually Elsie looks away, forcing herself to bring up a hand and brush back some stray hair.

"Thank you for that, child. You've something very special, a unique gift. I know you've to be finding your own answers to life, and your kin, whoever they may be, but remember you'll always have a place here, in our home and in our hearts." The suspicion of a tear glistens in her eye, or is it just a reflection of the sun? Aldan can't be sure.