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Candela watched as the drink she ordered made its way to the white haired patron typing away furiously at their keyboard. She knew the new Mystic leader was nervous about their recent appointment. That was clear enough by how expressionless their acceptance speech had been. So robotic, calculated. Candela wanted to help loosen them up. Only when the waiter made their way to the table with the Glaceon inspired cocktail did green eyes leave the screen in front of them. A confused, if muted, expression painted on their face. Adorable.

The waiter pointed to where she was sitting at the bar, a crimson shirt, white skirt, and a knowing smirk. Your move darling…

Blanche stared surprised at the drink in front of them. Just coming here to try and lose themselves in the buzzof people. They looked over at the person, recognizing them as the leader of Team Valor. They remembered seeing the other at their induction ceremony where they literally were so tense they were almost robotic.

It was hard for them; this was the first time they had been away from their twin Noire in a long time. It was like they had been ripped in two.

Who gets ordered a drink and then looks depressed. She thought to herself. She picked up her clutch from the bar and sauntered over to the booth. “Hello Team Leader Blanche. Fancy seeing you here of all places. I thought the analytical types preferred libraries over cocktail hours. Mind if I join you?” With that she sat down next to them without giving them opportunity to protest. 

“The buzz of the people is nice…. It reminds me….” They trailed off, refusing to talk about their past to a stranger. Well basically a stranger they knew little about them. They pulled their phone back to their face to hide behind it like a rock, a protection mechanism to keep others from getting close.

Upon closer inspection of the rival team’s leader, she noted red around the eyes. Had they been crying earlier? 

“Now where are your manners, it is rude to be on your phone when people are talking. Why not enjoy some time where you don’t have to think so much.” A sultry smile played across her lips as she flagged down a waiter and ordered a pricey glass of red wine. 

“I can’t say I know all of the best proper etiquette so forgive me….” They said, still trying to hide behind their phone. Hoping maybe the other would go away and leave them in their loneliness.

“Oh, you don’t need to be embarrassed. I’d be more than willing to educate you.” She didn’t give the other time to react; she confiscated the phone with ease. Holding up her prize just out of Blanche’s reach. “Maybe a bit of motivation would help you learn.” She quickly stowed the device in her white jacket pocket. 

She smiled sweetly at the silverette, waiting to see their reaction.  

They startled as the phone was stolen from their grasp and growled some. Looking at the other with a frustrated glare. “Give. It. Back.” They said flatly

“Aw, you were right… you really don’t know much in the way of manners. Don’t fret darling, It will be returned in due time.” Candela smirked. She couldn’t help it, they were being too cute. And she knew that one good way to overcome homesickness was to garner other emotions…

They clenched their fists, teeth gritted. The other seemed to manage to rile them up all too easily. Their eyes glared at the other, cold as stone. “What do you want?”

“Is it so wrong of me to want to get to know my fellow Team Leader? I am a little insulted you haven’t even asked me my name.” She noticed the waiter coming her wait with her wine. Appreciatively, she thanked them and proceeded to shift their attention on their stoic companion. 

“I know your name. Candela. I listen when other people talk more than I prefer talking.” They said as they shifted to sit straight

“Is that right. Well, if you haven’t noticed I love to pry. It would be great to hear what people say about me when I am not around.” She sipped her glass happily, and then gestured at the Glaceon drink in front of them. Why not? She challenged them.

“I don’t enjoy the concept of getting inebriated around anyone. Especially those I don’t know. That requires a level of trust in humans in general that I sorely lack.” They responded, looking at the drink. It was pretty to look at.

“‘In humans?’ Well what does that make you? A Pokémon? Don’t worry about the drink; you can pick whatever you like. Water if you like. My treat.”

They shrugged some. “I have never thought of myself as human. But that is none of your concern.” They shrugged and rolled their shoulders slightly. “Coffee…” They mumbled, wondering if this place even sold any.

“Maybe not my concern, but it certainly has piqued my interest.” Candela flagged down the waiter once more ordering 2 coffees and an order of fries to split. 

They rolled their eyes. “Well I am not interested in self-story time. So best lose that interest.” They said, studying the menu as if that was somehow a substitute for their phone which was still in the others jacket.

The Valor leader chuckled then. “Well then you should be a lot better at conversations then. Since the entire point of the conversation is to learn about the other person. But if you don’t want to talk there are much more intimate ways of learning about each other.” she slid her hand tenderly over Blanche’s hands. The menu trembled a bit from it.

They twitched some as they felt the other touch their hands, startling and feeling themselves tremble. This action made them sickened of themselves. It felt like they were giving the other some sort of power.

Of course it was right then that the waiter returned with the coffees. A bowl of creamers and sweeteners placed between them. Candela grabbed a creamer. Pulling away from the other to open and stir her coffee. 

“If you don’t say anything I may the wrong idea, Blanchie.”

The other drank hers straight, nearly coughing or gagging on it as the other nicknamed her. “My name is Blanche.” They responded shortly.

Concealing a devilish grin, Candela sipped her own cup. “Alright darling. Well I guess we can run through the basic conversation starters. Where are you from, Blanche~~?” Intentionally calling them in a sultry voice…

They shrugged. “I don’t exactly remember…. My past is not something I wish to talk about. I moved to Opal City…” They mumbled, avoiding the question as they shivered some.

“Found anything interesting in Opal City? I hear they just opened up a new research lab…” Candela could respect their privacy. If the past was of limits that still left the 2 most important parts. The present and the future.

“I spend most of my time there… Either there or the in house library that they have…. There are a lot of interesting books.”

“What kind? I like fire and fighting type Pokémon and am always looking for new information on them. Romantic Mysteries are another genre I enjoy.” She was glad that the other was finally opening up about something. It made the conversation more interesting and easy.

“I like water and ice types…. Obviously…. Beyond that, I basically enjoy most books if they have a plot I can get immersed in…” The other said as they held the coffee between their hands.

“Did you read the latest book by Tamao? I loved the plot. It really lived up to its name of The Phases of the Moon. It has a Weavile in it too.”  Candela was glad to see the other lighten up. 

“I think I have heard of it. Recently I have been reading genetic code books to understand how Pokémon divulged into the various types we see today.” They said, shifting to sit on their foot.

“Oh you mean the Eevee evolution mystery?”

“That is one of them. I have read others as well.”

“Like what?” Candela was genuinely curious. While her main passions in life were building up Pokémon to the best that they could be, her curiosity always got the better of them. The waiter had appeared again with the fries and a bottle of ketchup. She took one, but kept her attention focused on the other. 

They blinked some as they recalled the titles. “One of them was suggesting how one Pokémon or a small group may have slowly changed and evolved to make those we have today…”

“Evolving outside of their Evolution? That is pretty interesting. The only time I have heard something weird like that happening is when Pokémon combine. Like in a slowbro…”

They nodded as they continued to think. “I’ve not read too much into it but there are always interesting theories as to why some Pokémon evolve while others do not.”

“I have a few Pokémon that can’t evolve. They always train hard. Walking km after km, gaining candy after candy. I level them up as best I can but they look at me, wanting to evolve… I wish that they knew they were already strong. They don’t need to change…” Candela took another sip of coffee. Her eyes were cast downward, so she couldn’t see the look on Blanche’s face. 

They listened silently and gave a slight nod. “I can understand that. But I learning about and studying them.” They said as they drummed their fingers against the cup that warmed their hands.

“To each their own. If Mystic wasn’t so dedicated to research we never would have discovered so much of their needs. Fries?” 

They shook their head some. “Not hungry….”

She just looked at them. Unconvinced eyes and a flat expression. “When was the last time you ate?”

They shrugged some. “Don’t remember.” Was their easy response. Due to their past they were more than used to going without necessities.

“Well then it couldn’t have been recent. Should I remind you that I am in charge for the evening?” She tapped her jacket pocket as a gentle reminder to the other. 

They glared at the other after their remark and begrudgingly took one. Nibbling on it.

“You know you are cute when you pout. How do you like it? This place has some of the best fries Opal City has to offer.” Her smile was a prideful but happy the other had complied. 

They shrugged some. “It’s fine…” The mystic leader was far from picky about food.

Try as they might, Candela could see the reddening of their cheeks. They could play cold all they wanted. It was clear they weren’t hating the evening. The conversation lasted into the night. Pokes and prods from Candela met with short answers from Blanche. When Candela checked her gold watch it showed that it was nearly midnight. 

“Why don’t we continue the evening at my place?”

They nodded some. Through the few coffees they had they felt oddly lightheaded. Wondering what was in it, not realizing the waitress had spiked theirs with alcohol.

As they stood Candela moved gracefully out of the way so Blanche could leave the booth. She checked that she had everything. “Phone, keys, wallet?” she spoke aloud to the both of them. 

“Keys…. Wallet…” The other mumbled, stumbling slightly.

“Oh right. My bad–! Hey what’s wrong?” She caught them before they took a nose dive. 

The other stumbled into her. “Just feel…. A little hazy…” The other said, not realizing that the waitress had spiked their coffee. Considering they had at least a few during their conversations with the Valor leader.

“Are you tired? Maybe anemic? You barely touched the food…” The other sagged into her arms. This didn’t look good. 

They shrugged. “Dunno….” They said, head resting on their chest as they nuzzled some. The other’s warmth was slightly pleasing to them.

“Darling, if you wanted to get closer you should’ve said so.” Candela helped the other to the counter of the bar, getting her wallet from her purse. When she looked at the tap her eyes narrowed. 

“Sir, I don’t remember ordering any spiked coffees, I think you made a mistake.” She handed the paper back to the bartender. “Just one more minute Blanche, Blanche!”

Blanche was sitting in the chair where they were sitting, resting their head on the less than clean table. Their body was cold and they were half asleep. Slowly they looked up at the other and tilted their head.

Blanche was dazed. They looked so far gone. 

“Miss, this is correct. Your waiter has been putting these in all night.” Candela saw red. Blanche had told her that she didn’t want to drink. While she was game for fun, trickery was not ethical. 

“Oh? I’m sorry to say that not a single one of these were ordered by me or my companion. Get the remainder from your staff.” She put what they owed on the counter and gathered up her companion. Glaring at the waiter who was shocked at her fury. They probably thought they were doing me a favor. Cowardice scum.

Blanche rested against them; they looked like an absolute mess. Their eyes, usually a dark emerald, were dull and unfocused from the alcohol. Due to their intoxicated state they could barely manage to stand straight let alone walk. For the Mystic Leader this had been the first time they had been intoxicated since leaving cipher. Sometimes the laboratory assistants enjoyed resting the subjects to see how they reacted to alcohol. Blanche could remember drinking disgusting liquids and waking up the next morning not remembering anything

Once outside Candela flagged down a taxi. She got them both inside and to her apartment. Thank the stars there was an elevator to her apartment on the top floor. She fiddled with the keys with Blanche leaning heavily on her left side. Propped up only by her arm. 

“Almost there darling. Hey. Tell me again why Mystic has a better locator system than Valor?” Her attempt at keeping them awake…

Blanche thought for moment, somehow trying to collect their thoughts on the subject. “It is because…. We collect data from our trainers at every spawn point and then use algorithms that can determine where specific types of Pokémon like to appear the most. We then test it to find out if the algorithms are accurate.” They nodded some to themselves.

The door finally swung open. Small victories. Candela carted them in and led them to the bedroom. With their state she knew once they were down there’d be no ‘moving to the bed later.’ 

She went back to lock the door and get some supplies. Water, peanut butter crackers, protein bars, anything that would help the Mystic leader’s pain in the morning. She went back to the bedroom arms full. 

Blanche was in the process of mumbling to themselves when they were set on the bed. They immediately curled up under the sheets, stealing them and making themselves a cocoon to simulate being warm. They were still somewhat used to sleeping with Noire for comfort. So blankets and sheets were the best substitute.

Candela placed the bundle of goods on her nightstand before fully looking at them. They were bundled up like a cute little hatchling. There was no remorse as she dung into her jacket and retrieved her own cell phone. 

One photo-set later, Candela returned to her role as caretaker. 

“Blanche darling. I know you’re tired, but I need you to sit up. Please? I need you to drink this glass of water.” She moved closer to them glass in hand. It had one of those dissoluble packets meant to reduce hangover effects stirred in.  

Blanche opened their eyes from the curled up bundle on the bed, growling quietly and grumbling in malcontent. They didn’t want to get up now that they were starting to feel warm and comfy.

“Pretty Please? You’ll thank me in the morning~~<3!” She didn’t give them a lot of choice. She moved an arm behind them to lean them forward. The way their long fingers grabbed her maroon comforter was precious! 

They growled at her cheerful behavior and glared slightly, being pulled up and forward without much will to fight. The other pulled them into a sitting position.

“Patience little flurry.” She helped them drink. Placing the empty glass back on the nightstand. She swiftly grabbed the protein bar, wrapped it and held it up to them. 

They glared at the other weakly, looking broken. They slowly ate it, not having the energy to fight beyond glares.

“If you keep looking at me so cutely, I won’t be able to control myself.” She teased half playful, half seductive. She still needed to undress them; she doubted sleeping in boots could be comfortable. 

They grumbled and shifted away from the other once finished, eyes shutting to try and sleep again.

Candela let them lay back down. Satisfied that they had something in their system. Honestly, they were such a lightweight. But that didn’t hinder their charm. She stood again, this time in search of 2 pairs of clothes. She knew she had an extra-long t-shirt that would cover them up easily. 

She decided to change in the bathroom. Silky maroon top with some matching undershorts. Grabbing the t-shirt she placed it on the bed. She also got a set of clothes out for them. The clothes, some ibuprofen, a bottle of water and another protein bar were displayed on next to Blanche’s side of the bed. The only thing left was to change their clothes…

Blanche had already began to doze off, curled up on a ball and cocooned under the sheets.

Beginning with their shoes, Candela made quick work of untying them. Careful not to scuff. They weren’t her style but she could appreciate fashion in all of its forms. They were placed near the nightstand, but out of the way. Just in case her guest didn’t see them in the morning. 

Next to come off was their jacket. Then the vest. They didn’t want to give it up but with gentle encouragement she managed to get it off. The only thing left was the blue undershirt. She pulled it up to their chest, and then moved the blanket to cover them.  

Blanche struggled with the feeling of the other touching them and pulling off their clothes. Having almost nightmarish memories about their experience.

Candela gently lifted the shirt off the other. Carefully lifting their head so not to shock them awake. She grabbed the t-shirt and brought it down over their skin. Purposefully avoiding the tanned skin. She felt for the strap around their chest and undid the last of the other’s top. The t-shirt stretched to the silverette’s thighs. With just a few gently pulls the pants came off. 

Candela folded the garments carefully. She placed them on her dresser. Everything settled, she turned off the lights and crawled into the bed. She managed to get under the covers despite the death like grip that was clutching them. One last look at the other was enough to make her smile. 

Blanche grumbled and complained, struggling about as well as a kitten at this point. Once the other left her alone they curled up and easily fell to sleep.

Just as Candela was drifting off, cool arms reached out, as if looking for something to hold. Smirking, she draped her arm over the other. Her bonded kept her warm. The other probably reached out instinctively. She closed her eyes. Glad to be asleep. Hopefully the other wouldn’t be too upset in the morning. With that she drifted off to sleep…

The silverette instinctively cuddled close, the other feeling warm and comforted by Candela. Her body and warmth reminding Blanche somewhat of their sibling Noire.

They slept like that until morning. Candela was anything but an early bird, 

Blanche wasn’t either, staying close to the other and hiding their face when the light began to shine through the window in the bedroom.

The light hit her eyes, causing the other to grimace in response. She rolled over away from the offending light, unknowingly pulling the blankets with her. Leaving her bed mate exposed to the cold morning air. 

Blanche awoke shivering, quickly crawling into her warm clothes and groaning.

The rustling of sheets and moans helped to jostle the brunette. “Five more minutes…” was all that escaped through a sleep-hazed fog.

They huffed and drank the water quietly.

Candela welcomed the quiet. Mornings were the bane of her existence. She shifted into a comfortable position and drifted off to sleep once more. 

Blanche unfortunately was awake once their eyes were forced open for the day. They stumbled into the kitchen, feeding the Flareon who danced at their feet for food. Before sitting at the kitchen table and reading the news off their phone.

Normally Candela couldn’t sleep with so many blankets on her. She would get too hot. So a few minutes under so many began to eat away at her comfort. Then once a happily fed Flareon jumped on her stomach, she was awake. Sadly.

Sitting up, she looked to where Blanche had been last night. A few stretches and she was on her way to the kitchen for her morning smoothie.

Blanche was already sitting at the table, head resting on curled up fist to read off their phone. Their thoughts drifted to their Vaporeon, hoping the other had figured out the automatic food and water dispenser and wasn’t too upset with them.

“Morning~! How are you feeling darling?” She walked towards the fridge and began preparing her ingredients. “I see you’ve met Cynderella. Hope she wasn’t too much of a rascal.” Candela looked down at the kit in question. Sending the ball of fluff an air kiss. “You have quite the demanding Vaporeon. They made me run them a bath in the middle of the night last night.”

“that is fine.” They blinked some and chuckled some. “You are under their paw now. I hope you know that.” They said with a smirk as they gently pet their Pokémon’s head when they slithered out.

“Well, they were so cute I think I’m ok with that. Honestly, though, are you feeling ok? I don’t know if you realized it last night, but our fuckboi of a waiter spiked your coffees. I didn’t realize until we were leaving…” Her face was somber as the words left her lips.

They nodded some. “I may not…. Handle alcohol well… But my body has learned how to deal with the aftermath….” They said, quietly, remembering their past and shaking their head.

Candela nodded. “Well I’m glad you know yourself. Though to be honest, I am not one to just share a bed on the first date. I did manage to get some compensation for my services last night though.” She winked. Her lips twitching up at the memories of Blanche curled up in a nest of blankets. 

They blinked and their cheeks grew pale, not remembering much after the alcohol really started to hit them. The silverette couldn’t remember what the other could have done to them. Vaporeon instinctively nuzzled their hands and climbed into their lap to cuddle with their stressed owner.

“Oh don’t stress, Snowdrop. I took excellent care of you~~ ♥” Wanting to tease the silverette a little. She did have some delightful photos of the other on her phone. 

At the concept of pictures they got even more anxious, remembering the cameras that watched their every move. And the lecherous men with whom their sibling and themselves were tasked under.

“Blanche?” Candela was at a loss. They had a really fun time last night, and the other clamming up didn’t make sense to her. “Don’t worry, I didn’t post them anywhere. Plus you were a doll.” The other was really shy; perhaps this was just part of it. “I wouldn’t be that heartless.”

“What…. What pictures did you take of me?” The other asked, swallowing hard. Remembering when in the past pictures were used against both their sibling and them. Their Vaporeon, Snowdrop huffed down at Cinderella when the other batted their tail.

“Hmm? Well darling, you were just so adorable curled up on the bed. I couldn’t help myself.” Candela was teasing them. She knew they probably wouldn’t be too happy with her the morning after. “If you’d like I’d be willing to share a few photos…for a price~♥”

They relaxed some. “As long…. As it was nothing inappropriate…. I don’t really care…” They responded, hugging Snowdrop gently whom did not seem to care for Cinderella.

“Who knows? I had my fair share of drinks last night too. There may be photos I simply don’t remember taking…” She let her words play in their mind. They had woken up in a new set of clothes and in an unfamiliar bed. I wonder just how imaginative they can get…

Their cheeks turned pale, repressed memories of their past flooding back. Vaporeon looked up and pawed at their companion, trying to calm the other. Blanche, never one to willingly lose their cool in front of the other looked shaken.

“Blanche? BLANCHE?! No I was just joking. I’m sorry. I would never do that. Here. Look for yourself. I only took a few of you wrapped up in blankets. See? I’m sorry.” She was tripping over herself trying to comfort the other. Arms embraced the pale figure tightly. Even Cynderella was nuzzling the others leg in concern.

They looked up at the other, their face showing vulnerability that they held tight and hid from the world. So that no one would judge them for their past.

“I’m so sorry honey. I swear to Arceus I didn’t do anything. You know your Snowdrop would’ve drowned me in my sleep if I had.” 

Snowdrop licked her companions hand and nuzzled to comfort them. The other hugged the eeveeloution close. “It… Is a sore subject…”

“I had no idea love… Wanna kiss and make up?” Candela said it in a laughing manner. She liked to tease but there are limits. “Since we are up, I’ll throw your clothes into the wash. We can watch Lifetime and pig out on donuts.”

“I… Shouldn’t have to explain… But never mind it is no big deal…. Furthermore I don’t want to be in the way.” They said.

“Darling. I know it’s obvious that my sense of style is worth stealing, but I could never let you wear my clothes on the streets. We have different measurements… It’s settled.” She quickly added the last ingredient to the blender and hit start. A wide grin painted on her face. 

They startled and blushed some, glancing away and mumbling, hiding their face in Snowdrop.

Smoothies finished, a box of donuts opened, and two leaders on the sofa. They picked up from where they had left off last night. 

“Oh and one time a trainer forgot to close the door to the training pool. The next day there was a wild Staryu at the bottom!! It was huge! Willow gave the trainer an earful!” Candela laughed at her own recollection. She hoped it was helping the other feel more confident. 

“I think I remember seeing said Staryu in the lab…. It seemed rather happy being with the other Pokémon.” Blanche noted. Less than confident. But it was nice to hear the other talk and they just had to interject from time to time.

“I haven’t seen it, but I’m glad it is getting along. Poor thing was scared to death when Willow had to fish it out of the pool.” She wiped a tear from her laughing eyes. “For someone so quiet you sure are attached to that phone of yours. Who are you texting? Could it be you have already have a partner to love?” Puppy eyes looked to the other as if they had been replaced. Dear Arceus Candela loved to tease the other. 

“I am texting Annie to remind her that I need files on my desk and such. She is also reminding me that I have meetings…” The other said, deflecting the question as they continued to text their assistant.

“Duty calls I guess. I’ll go check on your clothes. I can’t imagine you have meetings today. It’s a Saturday.” She got up and took the empty plates to the kitchen before heading to the laundry room. A quick shift of clothes and an hour from now and it’d be finished. She plopped herself on the sofa next to the silverette. Questioning eyes in their direction.

“Say Blanche? Why’d you decided to join the Go program in the first place? I’m curious.” 

They were silent for a moment before speaking. “Professor Willow asked me….” They responded, remembering the day very vividly. As it had been their last truly harmonious one with their twin Noire since they survived Cipher.

“He asked for you? Really? Why?! He was there when I joined but he didn’t take note of me until after I had joined the program. Where you a high level trainer?” Curiosity coursed through her veins. How could one be asked to join the program so few were even accepted into?

They shook their head. “I’ve known him for years…. He knows my aunt well…” They said, being vague as they really didn’t want to get into the past with someone they barely knew.

“Oh I get it. You gotta use any advantage you have. It would’ve been easier if I had a family connect too. Bet you had butlers and chefs waiting on you hand and foot. Well don’t expect me to wear kiddie gloves. When we battle I’m not going easier on you.” It was a little irritating to think that people got into the program based on which family they belonged to. 

However, she had made it to the top without any of that. And the victory was all the sweeter.

They flinched, frowning and looking down. “Don’t assume you know me.. ” They mumbled, Snowdrop licked their hand, noticing the other shake. Blanche had gotten in based on their own merits. Professor Willow even said so…. He wouldn’t lie to them right. They clenched their phone tightly in their fist. Wanting to talk to Noire… Aunt Sabrina, anyone…. Wanting to get some sort of confirmation that they weren’t a weak failure.

“You don’t need to be embarrassed about it. My parents would’ve done the same thing if they could.” The other was terribly quiet. Did I strike a nerve? “It’s not like you were chosen to lead Mystic because your aunt has connections. I don’t think anyone could pull that off.”

They hid their shaking by hiding it against Snowdrop. The thing was they didn’t get into the go program because of Sabrina…. Or so they thought. They more hoped… The silverette kept their face hidden, not wanting to start crying.

“Hey. Are you crying?” She was taken aback. “You know, I’m not psychic. I need you to talk with me. Did I say something wrong? You know that no one can control the top positions. Hey! Could you at least try to explain? I can’t apologize if I don’t know what I am apologizing for…”

They shook their head, unsure if they could speak. They were too afraid to speak to the other about their past. It was a dark and ugly past, all of the memories they had tried to repress.

Candela didn’t know what to do. This self-indulging pity party was beginning to grate on her. She’d noticed it last night in the little things. Only when Blanche lost their temper would they begin to express themselves. 

Then an idea struck. She moved like she was getting up, only to pounce on the other. “Maybe I can tickle some information out of you~!” Fingers scattered across the baggy t-shirt. 

They screamed, not one of laughter but of fear. Being touched out of nowhere, especially when they were close to having a panic attack from their past was not a good combination. Out of instinct her foot connected with the other and they trembled. “It has nothing to do with you. Why do you insist to stick your nose where it doesn’t belong?” The others temper flared as they spoke.

It was so sudden. A terrified scream followed by a hard kick to the stomach. It tipped her off balance, leading to an echoing thump where she laid on the floor. She would’ve yelled back but the impact had knocked the air out of her. Angry eyes flashed red for only a moment at the other. Guess I deserved that. 

A few seconds passed and she caught her breath, “Trying … help… looked s-sad…” She waited for the others reply. While she knew she’d crossed a line, the other simply wasn’t communicating. 

“You have no reason to know. But if you knew…. What happened to me…. Then you might understand…” They said, shakily, wanting to close themselves off

Groggy, Candela tried to shift so she could get back up to her feet. “Forget it.” She rasped out. If the other didn’t want her to interfere then why bother. She stabilized then. choosing to walk away from the other. I’d tried to be nice. Tried to help. Just thought that they might be homesick. If they want to drown in their sadness I’ll let them.

The other pulled their knees to their chest, sniffling quietly as they cried against their knees. They felt so alone. But for them it was so easy to push others away. It was supposed to be safer… Then why did it hurt.

Candela ignored the heap on her couch. She made her way to the laundry machine. 45 more minutes? Great… She headed back to the living area and booted up her computer. If bonding time was over then she might as well finish up the reports Charles had handed her before she went to the bar. 

Why she alone was expected to distribute stardust and training levels was beyond her. She stayed like that. Moments of fierce typing followed by a series of mouse clicks. At least a few of the trainers included progress pictures. Showing the Pokémon in question after each evolution. She’d all but forgotten her guest completely. Almost.

Blanche silently cried, having Cynderella and Snowdrop nuzzling and licking at them. Their phone startled them as it rang. “Hello? Yes, this is them. I… I guess I will be there soon. Yes Professor.” They said, frowning some.

Candela heard their conversation. How could she not? They were in the same room and the only noise that was made was from her computer. She didn’t bother to ask, they won’t tell me anything anyway…

She just continued on. They knew where the front door was. 

They ended the call. “Uhm… Candela…. I… I need clothes to wear. Professor needs to see me for a checkup…. You can ask him about things if you want…” They said, rubbing their arm nervously

“Dryer is in the hallway.” It was petty, sure, but she had tried. No one had done as much when she was appointed. The sound of typing continued without a hitch. She hadn’t even bothered to turn around to face them. 

They flinched. “I… I see… Thank you….” They left some money on the counter for the other and a phone number in case the other wanted to get in contact with her. They walked and got their still damp clothes from the dryer. Feeling like they didn’t deserve much else they put on the clothes and their boots, going and leaving quietly.

They felt their heart aching. It was their fault…. But how could they explain when so much of it was heavily linked to memories that they didn’t even want to remember let alone think about. They walked, walking through the busy streets. By the time they were half way there it had been about an hour.

A hand tugged on their hair and tugged them into an alley, Snowdrop tried to help them but was kicked aside. They whined and ran to get help from Candela. The professor happened to call her around the time Snowdrop made it to the house. Concerned that the other had not arrived.

Snowdrop anxiously scratched at the door, whining.

A slight ringing began from her phone. When the professor’s face appeared she moved to accept the call. “What? I am almost done with the files Charles sent me.” She had little patience, still fired up from the scuttle earlier. 

“Have you seen Blanche? They said they’d be here by now.” 

“They left a while ago. Probably moping the entire way there.” A loud thud hit her door. “Hold up, I think I have someone at the door…” She stood and stretched her arms as she made her way to the door. When the peephole didn’t show anyone she turned back. *Thud* 

This time she opened the door to see Snowdrop. Cynderella had followed and was now wrapped around the valor leader’s leg. “Um professor? Blanche’s vaporeon is at my door.”

“Well tell Blanche to hurry up.”

“Blanche isn’t here.”

“Well where are they?” The professor asked. Snowdrop paced and tugged at Candela’s clothes. Concerned about their companion who still could be in danger.

Speaking of Blanche, the silverette was trying to fight off their captor, struggling as they were thrown against a wall.

“I think something happened. I’m going to follow Snowdrop.” She hung up and grabbed her keys. The Pokémon didn’t let up until she had finished locking her front door. The Vaporeon tried to lead them, but she doubted she could track them by foot in enough time. She gathered up the kit and placed them in her car. After buckling up, she started driving in the general direction of the lab. 

“Call Charles.” The button on her stirring wheel turned green in comprehension of her request. A few rings later and her assistant picked up. 

“This had better be good-” She didn’t have time for banter. 

“Blanche is in trouble. Work with Annie and give me the location of their cell.”

Snowdrop looked out the window, seeming anxious about finding their companion. They knew the other was in trouble, they could feel it. Even if they were still sore from being kicked by the captors.

Blanche felt a heavy object smack the back of their head, causing them to become dizzy and pass out. Their limp body was shoved into a van with the letter C on it. Cipher was up to something again. They wanted back Blanche, these grunts not knowing that this was truly Claire.

Annie’s phone rung and she blinked. “Hello, where are- Carl? What is it?” She said, blinking some. “What??”

“Just hold on for a bit Snowdrop. We can’t be far behind them. Here is a healing potion. I can’t really apply it while driving. Try to apply as much as you can honey.” What could have happened? They were so reserved, there was no way they just wandered off. It was the middle of the day too. 

Meanwhile Carl contacted Annie with details. Since Blanche was a Leader now, they had their phones tagged into the security system in case they needed to find them. Candela had a flag on her own cell. It took a little while, but once the location was found Carl called his Leader. 

“They are in route. Their GPS shows that they are moving fast enough to be in a car. We don’t know where they are going. I’m sending a signal to the security tracker on your dash.”

“Thanks Charles. Keep me posted. If they stop longer than a minute send reinforcements.”

Snowdrop curled up around the potion, not fully sure what to do with it but enduring the pain they felt in fear of what was happening to Blanche. Their large eyes wide with fear.

Blanche was unconscious, tied and cuffed in the back of the van. The men who had captured them had blindfolded them as well. Since they thought that they were Blanche they knew that their powers could be dangerous if they woke up and locked onto a Pokémon to take over. And that wasn’t a chance they could take.

Candela wanted to apply the potion properly, but if she crashed she could do little in the ways of finding their owner. “That’s it honey. I’ll put it on once we arrive.” 

Snowdrop watched things anxiously, unable to see much from the passenger’s seat. They wanted their companion. Knowing the other wasn’t okay.

“I’m sure that they are going to be fine kit. They just haven’t eaten all that much. Plus going out in damp clothes probably didn’t… help…” She felt bad that she hadn’t gotten them a dry set of clothes. Letting the anger get the best of her. If there was any chance of Blanche tolerating her, it probably was out of the question now. 

“If they are moving they are probably headed to the closest ER.” She looked to the cell tracker screen on her console. The car had been moving quickly, but well, ambulances typically do. 

The other wasn’t consoled, knowing that the people who took their companion were not nice…. Their ears flattened and they whined.

I’m starting to get a bad feeling about this… She noted the GPS again. The closest hospital was 2 blocks ahead of Blanche. But when the tracker continued past it… My lucky day…

She pressed her foot on the pedal. She began to speed. She wasn’t too far off. maybe 15 minutes if she really booked it. The maroon sports car maneuvered around the others. When the signal began turned onto a different street it began to slow down. She noted the location when it finally came to a stop. 

12 minutes. That was 10 too many for her comfort… 

Blanche awoke to their hair being tugged on, feeling their body being tied to a chair. “Thought you could get away, hm?” One of the men said, the other looking around trying to target the source of the voice. “For a beast you are acting awfully docile. Did time away make you soft?” The men laughed as they kicked the mystic leader in the stomach.

9 minutes… “Come on!” Her anger had her seeing red. She was almost ready to rear end a particularly dingy Toyota if they didn’t move over…

“Come on, fight back Blanche, or do we need to find your sibling Claire to make you play nice.” They said as the tanned mystic leader coughed up blood from their lung being punctured by a rib from another particularly hard kick. “N-no…. Don’t hurt them…”

“Finally!” An enraged brunette whispered hastily. She parked sloppily, but it wasn’t in the road. Good enough. She turned to the vaporeon and made quick work of applying the potion. She only had a few of her own Pokémon on her, she wanted them ready if she needed her. Who knew how many people were inside. 

“Listen Snowdrop. We have to be quiet at first ok? I need to see how many people I’m up against before we can help Blanche. They probably think Blanche has bonded already. So these are gonna be some bad people. Think you can be good for me?”

Snowdrop nodded some, licking their fingers appreciatively. They hopped out of the car, whining as they heard Blanche’s voice. “Good. Then you are going to come back with us to the lab like a good little rat. It’s not like you had much choice. You weren’t allowed to leave.” The other man said as he went to make a call.

Candela heard voices. It was hard to make out what was being said. She saw a window not too far from where she parked. She crouched down and raised her head to look into the room. 

Despite the blindfold, she recognized the other tied to a chair. 4 not so small men were stationed around them. One of them, a brunette wearing sunglasses, began to head in her direction. Have I been spotted? She moved from the window to the door and readied her stance behind the door. Only after it was shut could Sunglasses see her. 

Poor guy. Hope it hurts like a bitch… She attacked without mercy. Elbowing them in the kidney, followed by a kick to the back of the knee brought them down. She then brought her weight down on their back, causing them to lose their air. Much like myself earlier today. Nope. Pettiness could wait. It seemed that the noise had brought the attention of the others. 

Blanche looked around, eyes sparked with confusion behind the blind fold. Wincing as their broken rib dug into the space it made like a claw. They wanted to vomit from pain.

Candela didn’t hesitate. After the door opened again, right into the face of Sunglasses mind you, she pounced. It looked like we were doing this one at a time… The newcomer was rather slim compared to the others. Expressionless and a small tuff of black hair covering an eye. Resident Goth was pulled forward by a manicured hand by their shirt. A fist then slammed against their jaw. Sending the other to the floor. She used the momentum to lift herself off of Sunglasses. 

Once on her feet she tightened her grip on Goth and flung them into Sunglasses once again. When neither moved she was content. Then arms wrapped around her neck. She smiled, it was her lucky day. 

She grabbed the arms around her and pulled the other down. They crashed in front of her, releasing their grip. She spun around to face the lump on the floor and followed up with by simultaneously dropping their weight onto their knee and punching the other in face. 

“Oh my, did I leave a burn mark? Oh well.” 

Now there was only one other in the room. A fair enough fight…

Snowdrop rushed forward and bit the last ones ankle, growling and ripping off a mouthful of the others pants. They rubbed against Blanche’s leg, trying to comfort them. “Cipher lab rat…” The man growled and tried to kick Snowdrop again.

“Now if I had to call someone a rat, shouldn’t the title go to the low life that kidnapped a Leader? The one that used dirty tricks, then decided to attack them once they were tied down?” She wanted to get the other’s attention. It would get them away from Blanche. 

She rushed them. Holding a fist back, ready to strike if given the opportunity. The other, a weasel like face, held their ground. When Weasel extended an arm towards her chest she spun into the air. Like an ice skater kicking off for a jump, she used the movement to hit Weasel’s hamstrings. 

She landed elegantly, but the other was flat on their back. She unhooked a pokeball from her belt. “Blaze,” she called out. Her  Blaziken appeared from the pokeball as a red energy. “Please watch this Weasel for me…”

She grabbed the blindfold gently. Trying not to pull any silver hair along with it. “You ok Blanche?”

Blanche winced and let her, trying to avoid pain and tears from the sharp pain in her lungs. They coughed and blood tinged their lips red. “I…. I’ve been better….”

Cutting the ropes with one of her pocket knives, she watched Weasel try to back away from her Blaziken. “Blaze, if they move burn their legs for me.” Her Pokémon nodded  and inched closer to the other. “Hey anything broken? I told Charles to call for backup once your GPS stopped moving. They should be here shortly. Do you know these barbarians?”

“My… I think… They broke a rib…” They said, panting some and coughing up blood again. “I… Guess that question is double edged. I don’t know any of them. They must have been hired after we escaped…” They said, swaying some and looking pale.

“Don’t talk. If your rib is broken it could pierce your lung. Save your breath. I know it doesn’t work as well on people but I have a one super potion left. Use it. I’ll interrogate this garbage.” She stood up and left the silverette with Snowdrop. 

A sinister slow pace brought her in front of the quivering scum. She brought a one of her burgundy tennis shoes to the others stomach and kicked them. “Now, now, don’t worry. I’ll be gentle…♥” She snapped her fingers to ignite a flame in her palm. “Blaze be a dear and help them up. Mama needs to practice her boxing skills.” 

Blanche slowly took it, the potion shaking in their hands too much for a moment. They slowly swallowed it and grimaced at the taste. Snowdrop watched quietly, staying close to her companion.

The men shook as they looked at the woman in front of them with wide eyes. “Why are you protecting that lab rat scum. They have nothing to do with you.” One said.

Once the other was on their knees with her Blaze behind them, She punched the other with her flamed hand. “Try to behave. I don’t want to ruin my manicure. That ‘lab rat’ is the Leader of Team Mystic you swine. Leaders stick together. Why are you kidnapping them in the first place?” 

She cracked her knuckles in front of them for emphasis, which lead to fire spreading on both of her fists. Get her soon Carl…

“We are taking back what belongs to us. They are an asset not a human being. You don’t talk about an object being kidnapped.” The one with sunglasses said, grunting as the fist hit his body, struggling some as the fire lit up his shirt.

“Ooh Blanche, I might have overdone it. The heat must be getting to them. The filth think they can own people now. I think I’ll let them take a nap.” Her voice was a command to her Blaze. The Pokémon took it upon themselves to knock out the assailants. All 4 of the kidnappers were now unconscious. “Keep an eye on them, dear.” She walked back over to Blanche then, but picked her phone out of her pocket. The other answered immediately.

“Charles. How long until backup arrives? 15 minutes? Forget the ambulance. I’ll take them to the ER myself… No still send the backup. I’ve got Blaze guarding 4. They are sleeping… Yes I’ll text Annie. Yes. Fine.” 

“Blanche I’m taking you to the ER. I’ll help you to the car.” She leaned over to guide them to their feet. “Blaze Wait until Charles picks you up ok? Thanks for helping. I’ll see you soon.”

“Ready?”

Snowdrop growled defensively when the other got closer, not wanting anything else to happen to the other while she was around to prevent it. They nudged their head against Blanche’s hand. Their eyes were wide and glassy, unfocused from the pain and trauma they endured.

“Snowdrop, Blanche is hurt. I need to take them to a hospital. It’s a Pokémon center for people. They are in bad shape. I’ve gotta get them to the car, but then you can ride in the back seat with them ok?” Blanche hadn’t responded to her question. Either they were dying or just nearly. 

She pushed past the vaporeon. They were trying to protect their trainer, and she respected that about them. But Blanche needed to get to a hospital. The super potion couldn’t have done much. “Blanche?”

She thought about hoisting them up so they could hang an arm around her neck, but it the movement might cause more injuries. If the other didn’t perk up, she’d carry them to the car bridal style…

Blanche looked up at them with a dazed expression, almost as if they hadn’t heard the other speak in the first place. Their head hurt. Their chest hurt. Everything hurt. They coughed again, tasting blood.

Snowdrop stayed close to her companion, worried about them immensely.

When unfocused eyes met hers a pang of sympathy surged through her. “Don’t worry. I’m going to pick you up.” How ironic, to have picked them up 2 days in a row… When the other coughed she noticed the red on their lips…

“Here we go.” She pushed her arms under the other’s knees and shoulder blades. They weren’t as heavy as she thought, probably from their refusal to eat food… “Snowdrop. Come along. I need you to help.” How she was going to get the car door open was a mystery. Nevertheless, she strode past the attackers and her Blaze. 

Snowdrop followed them, trying to help the other open the door. They were far too short to do so but the thought was admirable. They tried to make little ice stairs to help themselves up to the handle and tried to pull it with their teeth.

Blanche rested against them, they looked exhausted, and were sore from the beating they endured.

This is one smart Pokémon… maybe… She lifted her own knee to the side of her car, to try and help stabilize the silverette. Quickly she reached into her pocket and pulled out the keys. They dropped to the ground. “Snow, can you push the big button? You can do it.” She hoped the other moved fast. If they unlocked it she could use a hand and pull the door open. 

Snowdrop jumped down and pressed the button with their paw, looking up at the other for more orders. Their head was tilted to the side.

“Thanks Snow.” She released her knee from under Blanche and twisted her hand to pull open the door, knocking over the ice that Snowdrop had created. I should probably keep them in the same position they were in… She gently placed the mystic into the passenger seat. She buckled them in before moving away. 

“Snow, don’t jump on them. sit at their feet or you will hurt them. They are hurt here.” She pointed at herself to illustrate. If the Pokémon tried to jump up in comfort it probably would make things worse. She picked up the keys from the ground, clicking the button to start the car. 

Snowdrop curled up at their feet, resting their head on their paws. They watched at the other with concern. Unable to stop worrying.

She darted around the car. When all doors were locked she began the engine and started speeding to the hospital she had passed earlier. “Blanche. Talk to me. Tell me something. Anything.” The other must be going into shock. What else could explain their behavior? “Tell me about the evolution theory.”

She sped through traffic with little regard for anyone else. They’d be there in a few minutes. 

Blanche looked at the other confused. “Noire? You know about it like I do… Cipher taught us that…” They mumbled, mistaking the other for their twin in their state of shock. Their head bobbed some as the car moved.

Noire? What? At least they are talking though. Guess I’ll play along… “Yeah, but I forgot. Remind me.” This can’t be good. They must be delirious. She looked to the dash. They were only 6 minutes out. She needed to keep them talking. “Tell me more about this Syther.” 

“Cipher taught us that we would become the next evolution of humans…. To be able to control Pokémon…. Well they are right about you…. You are…” They mumbled again.

What the f… She looked again at her dash. “How could I evolve? I’m not a Pokémon.” This is some crazy stuff. They aren’t even speaking clearly… Maybe those bastards drugged them. “We are almost to the hospital. Tell me more. I forgot.” 

“How can you forget… What they did to us…” They mumbled, barely able to keep their head up. Vaporeon nuzzled into them gently.

“They are bad people.” She didn’t know what to do. What to say? This was so confusing for her. They were a stoic brick wall and every time she had tried to breach it they blocked her. Then they kicked her away. Now they had been kidnapped and beaten after leaving her apartment. 

It was a lot to take in. Thankfully she saw the hospital come into view. She’d made it in half the time. Yay for speeding…

“That is a nice word…” They mumbled quietly, feeling their entire body get heavier. “I’m sorry Noire… I’ve been…. A failure….” They mumbled, feeling Vaporeon rub against them to comfort them.

“You aren’t a failure Blanche. You never were.” She parked the car next to the ER entrance. If the police ticketed her, it’d be worth it. She unfastened herself and turned the car off leaving the doors unlocked. She walked to the other side and opened the door. “Come on Snowdrop. Go inside and get some help.”

Snowdrop ran inside, quickly trying to get help for her companion. They tried to get the workers attention, leading them outside.

Blanche's head fell against their chest and they mumbled weakly.

“Up we go. Blanche. Don’t sleep.” She lifted them from the seat with some effort. She really needed to work her back more to compensate for all the lifting she had been doing. 

She shut the door with a swing of her hip and pressed the lock button on her keys. When they entered the room the staff turned their attention from Snowdrop to her. “This is their trainer. They broke a rib. Help them.” 

A rush of personnel came to them. 

Blanche felt hands on their body but were too tired to fight back or move. They tried to open their eyes but the lids felt like they were glued shut. “I’m… Sorry…” They mumbled with their head aching from it all.

Snowdrop looked up concerned for their trainer.

“Hush now.” Candela handed them off to the medical staff. Staying behind to answer as many questions as they had. When Snowdrop tried to follow their trainer, she picked them up. “Sorry flurry, they need to get treated. You have to wait with me. They are safe here. I promise.” 

Snowdrop whined and wriggled, trying to follow her companion, making sounds that sounded akin to a child crying for their parent. The vaporeon reached their paws out trying to reach for the other as they were wheeled out of view.

“Patience, you will see them soon.” At least that was what she was hoping. 

Hours past. It was maddening. Of course Willow and Annie showed up, even Charles. They came and handled the financials, luckily the press hadn’t gotten wind of the latest leader’s capture. Everything was going smoothly. They were told that the other was fine, a few broken ribs and deep bruising. 

After they awoke the doctors allowed 2 visitor and Snowdrop to see them. Annie was still managing the business side, so Willow and Candela were the lucky 2.

Blanche was laying asleep, a nasal mask being used to help the other breathe since they were struggling with breathing. They slowly opened their eyes to see Willow looking down at them, an image that was all too familiar. When they felt to their side, expecting Noire to be there…. They were not. The bed was cold. Reality hit them. “Sorry….” They croaked, their throat dry and their entire body ached.

Candela watched the two talk, and saw that Snowdrop had jumped onto the bed near Blanche’s feet. The two looked so serious, discussing in small voices. She hadn’t been kidnapped before, so she didn’t know why they had tried to do to the other. When she saw the other’s face crumble she moved closer. “Are you in pain? I can get the nurse…” 

“I’m fine… I deserve this pain…” Their eyes shifted away, unable to look at the other. It was their fault that the other was so involved with their mess now. Cipher would probably be looking for payback from Candela now. Knowing that they were closely related to their… Merchandise. “Please…. Professor… Protect them…” They said, speaking about Candela. “You know….”

“Professor?” She turned her head to them. The other wasn’t being clear. “Is something wrong? Is it Rocket?” She wanted answers but she also wanted to just get away from it all. The hours of waiting had gone on until evening. 

At the mention of protecting Candela perked up. “I’m fine, you saw me wipe the floor with them. I barely broke a sweat.” 

The Professor gently squeezed their hand and turned to Candela. “I have a lot to explain to you. But I don’t know if you want to hear it today. I imagine you must be tired.”

“I want to know who those guys were and why they kidnapped Blanche. Everything else can wait. We’ve got security surrounding this place and I have to stay put anyway. Charles said it’d be easier on security if both Leaders were in one location.” She had discussed in length with Charles over the phone. He had canceled her appointments for the next week to give this time to smooth over. 

“I have my Pokémon and Moltres here too. If security fails I’m the last defense.”

“The short of it… Those men worked for the Company… Known as Cipher, that is where we found them…” He said, trying to not be too specific, so that way the other could rest.

“And now they want their employee back? They could’ve just asked. Why all the drama?” She really wanted to hear the story from her fellow Leader. She looked at them then. They had tried so hard to shut her out. Even the Prof was being vague. “Actually. Just tell me what I need to know going forward. How likely is it that this is going to happen again?”

“If they were an employee…. They wouldn’t have injured them as they did…. No… They… Were a laboratory subject.” He looked over at the now sleeping leader who was breathing weakly. “I wish I could tell you, we thought we had squashed the whole program out if existence…”

“Laboratory… subjects?” She followed her Prof’s gaze to Blanche. It was hard to imagine… “Don’t tell me. If it is important enough Blanche will tell me themselves. I’ll be with them here until they are discharged. Charles is bringing me my Blaze and Cyndy, some clothes and food. If this Cipher or whatever shows up again I can fend them off.” 

She wanted to know more about Blanche. She truly did. But the kick to the stomach this morning had knocked some sense into her. She didn’t have to know. Honestly, the way Blanche had acted around her before was proof that they didn’t want anyone close. As Leaders they would have to do just that. It’d be better if the other didn’t completely hate her guts…

“Go home Prof. I’ve got this.”

“Blanche… Fears letting people close. They have lost a lot already…. Give them time.” He gently squeezed Candela’s shoulder and gave one last look at Blanche before turning and leaving. He paused at the door. Thinking for a moment. “Cipher project…. How is it still active…” He shook his head, knowing he would need to call Sabrina. So they could warn Noire.

She nodded at the statement. She moved to sit in the single chair next to the bed. The other continued to sleep. Time passed by at a crawl. Charles came by with the promised delivery, and they exchanged a few words before the other left. Concern on his typically stoic face for the newest Leader. 

Cynderella and Snowdrop were both cuddled around them. Cynderella positioned close to Candela, who began to pet the soft fur. After a few hours Candela began to drift off into her own catnap like state. Only waking if a nurse came in. 

Nurses came in from time to time, occasionally taking blood or changing an IV fluid bag. The newest leader looked in a miserable state, skin pale, much more pale than usual.

A small sound woke the Valor Leader. Another nurse coming in to do rounds. Rubbing her eyes with the palm of her hands, she moved her rigid body to sit up right in the chair. Hospitals. 

She stood up and stretched properly, before turning to Blanche. They were so weak and fragile looking. I hope they come to soon. 

When the nurse left she sat halfway on the bed. Snowdrop hadn’t budged all night. Her Flareon had noticed her movements and started to beg for their morning food. She obliged and placed set some out for Cyndy and Snow. She didn’t quite realize she had started talking out loud.

Blanche… Snowdrop has been worried about you… They’ve been keeping you safe all night long. Such a wonderful vaporeon you’ve got… And Willow has been worried about you… Texted me throughout the night to see how you were doing…” She spoke while focusing her attention on the two Pokémon in front of her. Absorbed in her own little world.

Blanche heard the other talking to her, slowly trying to rouse themselves. Everything just felt heavy like they were trying to move lead. The other talking about Snowdrop, and the Professor…. They were as much family to them as Aunt Sabrina and Noire…. They kept trying to open their eyes, feeling like they were moving concrete.

Not noticing the quiet struggle, she continued. “I’ve been … worried too. You were so stoic in your speech… I just thought you were homesick, shy? We had fun… it was nice… Then in the morning, I don’t know…. You clammed up like before.” She frowned at the memory. Talking to herself seemed to help solidify the memories. Could it really have only been 2 days?

“You looked like someone had ripped your heart out… Then of course, ha-ha you did kick me.” It was a broken laugh, an echo of the normally vibrant energy she had. “I got angry… I shouldn’t have bothered you…”

They slowly mumbled, trying to open their eyes still. “Sssnot your fault…” The other didn’t want the brunette to think they hated her.

“Well it kind of is. If I hadn’t pushed so hard, you wouldn’t have done that. I was just too excited to have someone who could relate. Being the only one was lonely. I never had- Wait. Blanche? Are you awake?” 

“Somewhat…” They mumbled, trying to sit up and wincing. Their eyes still feeling like they were glued shut with cement.

I hope they don’t remember this. How embarrassing to be caught talking to yourself. “Probably best you don’t move right away… How are you feeling? They worked you over pretty good…” She stretched out an arm to lightly press their shoulder. A small gesture to keep them from sitting up. 

“Sore… I’m sorry…” They mumbled, feeling bad for what had happened. “I still can’t… Live up to my name…” Blanche, in the Cipher world where they grew up, meant that they were the best of the best. At everything. But… Blanche wasn’t this. They were a Claire…. Used to keep Noire in line and as a test dummy to see what went wrong.

“What? Doesn’t… doesn’t ‘blanche’ mean white?” She didn’t know if this was a good idea. Maybe I should get the nurse… “If you aren’t feeling well you should save your strength. Don’t want to undo what the doctors have done.”

“Blanche means… In Cipher that… You are a successful experiment…. I am a Claire… Noire…. Noire was a Blanche…” The other mumbled as they spoke. They were able to form completely coherent thoughts though they were unsure why they were still talking

Blanche meant successful? Successful for what? “You’re Blanche though. Not an eclair… Is Noire a friend of yours?” She didn’t know what she wanted to do. They looked less than conscious… She pressed the nurse call light. Maybe their medication was wearing off… either way she wanted them out of pain.

“Not… Eclair…. Claire…. A color ranking system…” They mumbled quietly, frowning some. “Noire…. Noire is my sibling, my twin…” They mumbled.

She let that sink in. For once she was speechless. This is something else… Snowdrop and Cynderella were still cuddled around Blanche, both having finished their meals. She picked up Cynderella and placed the confused kit on the chair that she had used as a bed. Then she picked up Snow to do the same. They weren’t particularly happy about it. 

Before Snow had a chance to jump back up Candela took their place. The space was small, and she was on her side facing the silverette. She didn’t try to hug the other. Just lay beside them. “…Why are you telling me this?” 

They startled when the warmth at her side from the two eeveeloutions had disappeared. Startling weakly when the others form appeared at her side. “Because…. You wanted to know why those men captured me. They thought I was Noire…” They looked away, feeling like a miserable excuse of a being. Maybe those men were right. That they were a lab rat.

She tentatively reached out. Pausing a bit before resting her hand on their shoulder. It was gentle. A breath of a hug. “…” She wanted to say something to them. Help them. But how could she? They were basically strangers. What could she possibly do to help them?

“…Thank you.”

They frowned some, lost in their thoughts. “They did horrible things to us…. So much torture in all forms… Thinking about it even now makes me sick…. The professor and Aunt Sabrina saved us. Aunt Sabrina gave us a home. Let us have a family. Something neither of us knew…” They said, unable to look at the other. Not even hearing the others words.

The other was finally opening up. She squeezed them just a little. Letting them know she was listening. That she cared. She’d never admit it, but her throat was tight with emotion. A little strain from pushing back tears. No one deserved this. No one. 

“Even now I still have nightmares. I go… To the professor so he can check my vitals and such from what they did to me… To make sure that my body can handle being a leader. I… I’ve seen and felt so much suffering.” They couldn’t feel the other touching them. Blanche just felt numb, inside and out.

“You are strong though.” You were able to make it through so much. Even your kick, ha-ha from yesterday? Not many can put me on my back.” She used her other hand to gently stroke the other’s hair. She couldn’t imagine what it was like. “And Noire must have protected you. They probably love you the most.” She offered them the words of encouragement. She didn’t have a clue who this Noire was like, or if they were even alive. She just wanted to protect them. 

“We…. Protected each other…” They said, eyes lacking expression as they stared in the others direction. It was more as if they were staring through her not at her. They rested their head against them, looking as broken as they felt.

“They must love you. You know that. People don’t stick their necks out for just anyone. Hey.” The other leaned into her. Her heart breaking just a little more. “I’m here. It’s ok.” She meant it. She hugged them as tight as she dared. Still cautious about their broken ribs. “You protected Noire too. I’m sure of it. Everything worked out. Professor is taking care of all the details.”

Blanche looked up at them slowly with dull emerald orbs. They looked unsure and uncertain at the others words like a child. Wanting that love and attention that meant they would be okay.

“I swear it. I don’t know if you saw but I took out all of the kidnappers. I’ve been training in martial arts since I was old enough to walk. I’ll train with you too. You won’t ever have to feel that way again. You’ll be able to protect yourself, your titan, your team.” Her words were firm but soft. A reassuring pledge that the other could hold on to. 

She smiled at them. It was going to be ok. She would make it so. 

Blanche gave a weak nod, looking unsure but… For the first time in their life…. They felt willing to trust someone else. To put their faith in someone other than Noire, Aunt Sabrina or Willow. Maybe for once, they could let someone in without fear?

With Candela, maybe it couldn’t hurt to try.

“I’m sorry I pushed too hard earlier. Maybe it’s not my place?” She realized that she may just be asking too much of the other. They were injured and reliving a nightmare. She moved to give them more space, in case they needed it. 

Blanche shifted closer for warmth, afraid of being left alone after everything that has occurred recently. They coughed some, wincing at the pain in their chest.

She placed her arms around them once again. The arm under their head began to warm slightly. Just enough to comfort them. She moved her thumbs in a soothing rhythm on their shoulder at their wince. The two kits had curled up in a similar position to their trainers. “Blanche look. I think they are finally getting along.”

Blanche slowly opened an eye and looked over at the two eeveeloutions, smiling some as they saw Snowdrop curling up with the other. The only other Pokémon they got that close to was Noire’s Eevee… But that was because like Noire and themselves, the Eevees were twins as well. This vision, brought them some sort of happiness that they couldn’t place.