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Under The Alolan Sun

Chapter Text

"Are we there yet?"

Steven was briefly tempted to ask Phoebe if her Drifblim wanted to practice its Hypnosis, but a single glance at Sidney's pale, sweaty face was enough to convert irritation to sympathy.

"About ten minutes," he said gently. He gave his friend a critical glance. "Are you sure you don't want me to call the steward?"

There was a snort from Sidney's other side. "And actually admit he needs help?"

Sidney scowled, but at that moment the plane banked gently to the left and his face turned an even more interesting shade of green. Phoebe shot Steven an exasperated look over their friend's head, and Steven shook his head. Sidney was very nearly as stubborn as he was, but he wasn't completely stupid. If he said he could manage, then Steven wasn't going to force him.

They were on holiday after all.

An excited gasp came from his other side. "Look at that."

Besides, it wasn't just Sidney he had to keep an eye on. Steven glanced past Wallace, ignoring the way the Water-specialist was practically vibrating with energy, and looked down at the rich blues and greens below them.

"Very nice."

Wallace tore his gaze from the oceans long enough to give Steven a scandalised look. "Nice? The unspoiled beauty of nature, the clarity of the water, the perfection of the waves, is nice?"

"I said very nice," Steven pointed out. He lived in Hoenn after all, he was hardly a stranger to the sea. Wallace, though, just shot him a disgusted look, and turned back to the window. Steven caught a mutter about rocks for brains and a diamond for a heart, and rolled his eyes. In hindsight, Alola might not have been the best idea.

The plane began to descend, and Steven allowed himself a slight smile. It was a little late for second guesses now.

To Steven's relief they landed without either Sidney losing his lunch, or Wallace exiting the plane prematurely, and it didn't take long for the four trainers to pass through passport control to the main airport terminal. Naturally, their luck could only last that long.

"Where's Wallace?"

Sidney, now recovered enough to have regained his natural colour, if not his smirk, shrugged. "Haven't seen him, Boss."

"Me neither," said Phoebe. She spun a Pokéballs expertly on her finger and caught it again. "Want me to send Mismagius for a look?"

"Not yet, thank you," said Steven quickly. The Ghost-type was very gentle, but also far more mischievous than he was comfortable with. Phoebe's grin told him that she was well aware of his thoughts, but she set the 'ball back on her belt and stood up on tiptoes to get a better look.

"Why is he even here?" Sidney asked. "We live in Hoenn, he can't need more Water Pokémon."

"Like you can't need more Dark-types?"

"Because he's wanted to visit for years and he was due some time off anyway," said Steven absently, as he scanned the crowd. Wallace rarely hard to miss, even when he wasn't trying to attract attention. It wasn't like him to disappear without warning either, which was a fairly good sign that he was planning something.

So Steven wasn't entirely surprised when an enormous straw hat was dropped unceremoniously onto his head.

"Thank you, Wallace."

Phoebe and Sidney both cracked up, and Steven tilted his new accessory up enough to see Wallace looking thoroughly pleased with himself. As Steven raised an eyebrow, his friend shot him a bright, innocent smile.

"Well, we both know how badly you burn, and I did promise your father that I would at least try to keep you out of trouble."

"It's a good look, Boss," Sidney managed between snickers. "You should totally keep it when we go home."

"I don't know if I'm keeping it when we get to the hotel," said Steven dryly, ignoring Phoebe's redoubled laughter. He took the hat off, refusing to acknowledge Wallace's pout, and winced at the bright pink and blue ribbons that decorated the top.

"They didn't have purple," Wallace explained cheerfully. "And I'm pretty sure you've got at least a couple of blue shirts with you."

Steven glanced at him, then at his two giggling colleagues, and then finally at the bright sun and sighed. "You could have got one that isn't going to fall apart in less than a day."

Phoebe and Sidney gaped at him, but Wallace just laughed. "I think you can afford a replacement."

Steven set the hat back on his head, ignored his still staring friends, and picked up his bag. "I will not be keeping the colour scheme."

"Maybe it'll grow on you," Wallace suggested, and Steven couldn't hold back his smile.

If nothing else, it was going to be an interesting holiday.

Chapter Text

Wallace loved Alola.

How could he not? Sun, sea, Water-types, sea, friendly people, sea… It was paradise. He'd managed to talk everyone into putting off any official business until after they'd spent a day at the beach, and after seeing how much Sidney and Phoebe had already relaxed he was very pleased that he had.

Of course, some people weren't getting into the spirit of things.

"How can you come to Alola and not want to go swimming?"

"Leaving aside the fact that I can't swim?" said Steven dryly.

Sidney goggled at him. "How did you grow up in Hoenn and not learn how to swim?"

"More to the point, how have you been friends with Wallace for so long and not learned how to swim?" Phoebe asked.

Wallace snorted. "Not for lack of trying. He can be rather stubborn."

"Pots and kettles," Steven murmured. He set his book down on his lap and looked up at his friends. "You don't have to go in the water to enjoy the beach, you know."

"It's still hot though," Sidney pointed out. "Last thing we need is you getting sunstroke."

"I'm in the shade. I'll be fine."

Wallace eyed him sceptically. Steven had swapped his usual casual outfit for light cotton trousers and a short-sleeved shirt in deference to the blazing sun, but he was still more covered up than anyone else on the beach, and was attracting some curious looks. Although that might just have been because he had let Cradily out to enjoy the sunshine. Apparently giant reanimated fossil-plant Pokémon weren't a typical sight on Melemele Island. Naturally, both Steven and his Pokémon were oblivious to the attention.

"You're supposed to be enjoying the sun," Phoebe tried.

Steven shot her a puzzled look. "I'm outside, aren't I?"

Sidney snorted, and Phoebe shook her head fondly. Steven gave her a small smile. "I appreciate your efforts, but I assure you, we are both quite happy where we are, doing what we are doing."

Wallace eyed him a moment to check he actually genuinely meant it, then let out an exaggerated huff and threw up his hands.

"Fine, but don't complain when you're the only one who doesn't come back with a tan."

Steven raised an eyebrow. "We all know that was never going to happen," he said dryly.

True, spending most of your free time underground didn't build up a good complexion for tanning, but that was beside the point. Wallace pouted, but Phoebe just smiled.

"Okay, but give us a shout if you get too bored."

Steven reached into his bag and pulled out another thick book about Alola's geological history. "I'm sure I'll be able to keep myself occupied."

Phoebe hesitated a moment, but Sidney just chuckled and walked down to the water to release Sharpedo. Wallace highly doubted they would see either of them for the rest of the day. Phoebe shook her head fondly and wandered over to where a casual, albeit enthusiastic game of beach volleyball was going on, and Wallace shot a final glance back at Steven.

"Not even just a tiny paddle?"

Steven rolled his eyes without even looking up from his book. "Go and have fun, Wallace." He settled back rather pointedly, but Wallace could see the faintest trace of a smile, and had to laugh.

"All right, all right. Keep an eye on him, Cradily."

He heard a disgruntled mutter under Cradily's chirp of acknowledgement, and Wallace headed down to the water with a spring in his step.

The next hour passed just as blissfully as Wallace had expected. He had released some of his Pokémon, and his friends were equally delighted by the chance to explore their new environment. Wallace was pleased to find that the locals and tourists were unperturbed by his admittedly enthusiastic Pokémon, and it reinforced the already very positive impression he had of the region. Humans and Pokémon seemed to live in perfect harmony here, and it was refreshing to see.

Wallace could quite happily have stayed in the water all day, but he didn't trust Steven not to get distracted by something shiny and wander off, and while his friend was more than capable of looking after himself, he was also very capable of getting into trouble. He waded back onto the beach, and was halfway back to where he'd left Steven when he spotted something that made him pause.

Wallace had seen a lot of Water Pokémon, but he'd never seen anything like this. The creature was oval-shaped, and about a foot long. The pink spikes on its back were a sharp contrast to its black body, and Wallace couldn't help crouching for a better look. The Pokémon completely ignored him, seemingly content to just lie there, and Wallace had to grin. This was exactly why visiting new regions was so much fun.

"It's a Pyukumuku."

Wallace tore his gaze from the Pokémon to find a young boy standing in front of him. He couldn't have been more than ten, and his teeth flashed in a bright grin as he met Wallace's gaze.

"They're really cool Pokémon that are only found in Alola," the boy continued. "Professor Kukui says they're," his face screwed up in concentration, "specially adapted for this habitat. And they attack by spitting out their organs!"

Wallace blinked. That was a new one on him. "I see. I've certainly never seen anything like them."

The boy's grin widened, then he crouched and carefully picked up the Pyukumuku. "We're supposed to chuck them back in the sea if we find them on the beach," he explained. "They're too lazy to do it themselves, so they starve otherwise."

Wallace nodded as he watched the little Pokémon vanish into the water with a splash. "That's very good of you." He held out a hand. "My name is Wallace, by the way."

The boy blushed slightly as he shook it. "I'm Hau. Nice to meet you." He cocked his head to one side. "So what sort of Pokémon do they have where you come from?"

"Well, I'm from Hoenn," Wallace told him, "so we've got a lot of Water Pokémon." He was about to elaborate, when Hau's jaw dropped. Gasps and exclamations sound around them, and Wallace knew what he was about to see before he even looked round.

Wallace could understand the awe. Unlike Cradily, Milotic both acknowledged and revelled in attention, and she was going to make the most of having a whole beach full of strangers to enchant. The rainbow scales on her tail shimmered in the sunlight as she swam lazily back and forth, and every now and then she would let out a low, melodic trill that sent shivers down the spine. Wallace could see how much she was enjoying herself, and it made an already glorious day all the better.

"Woah," Hau breathed.

"Gorgeous, isn't she?" said Wallace proudly. "I take full credit and blame for her tendency to show off."

Hau tore his gaze away from the spectacle to stare at him. "She's yours?"

"She's my oldest and dearest friend," Wallace corrected gently. Steven was different, and your first Pokémon was always special. Hau nodded in understanding, his attention back on Milotic.

"I guess Pokémon are amazing wherever they come from."

Wallace smiled at him. "I couldn't agree more."

They stood watching the display, then the silence was broken by the rumbling of Hau's stomach. The boy coughed, and gave a sheepish grin. "Sorry. I'm meant to be meeting Gramps. We're going to get malasadas!"

Wallace chuckled. "I won't keep you, then. Thank you for telling me about Pyukumuku."

"No problem. Thanks for letting me see Milotic!"

"It was our pleasure," Wallace chuckled. "We'll almost certainly be back some time this week.

"I'll keep an eye out," Hau promised.

He waved and dashed off along the beach. Wallace watched him go with a smile, before shaking himself and heading back to where Steven was sitting. His friend was still engrossed in his book, and Wallace felt his grin turn evil.

Really, what was he supposed to do in this situation?

Wallace crept forward, silent on the warm sand. Cradily glanced over, but Wallace placed a finger to his lips and he could have sworn she smirked before returning to basking in the bright sunshine. Wallace crossed the last few metres, then caught his friend up in his most exuberant, soaking wet hug.

"Did you miss me?"

"Wallace!"

Wallace really loved Alola.

Chapter Text

Sidney couldn't help but whistle as he made his way along the Hau'oli seafront. He'd spent a very pleasant evening exploring the bars with the others, but unlike them he'd had no desire to return to their hotel. It was a perfect night, warm but not stifling, with a light salty breeze coming off the sea. The beach was filled with people, tourists and locals of all ages, and Sidney basked in the relaxed atmosphere.

Absol let out a low hum of agreement, and Sidney scratched her head fondly.

“Yeah, I like it here too.”

Alola was awesome. He’d never admit it, but he was glad Phoebe had talked him into coming. It was definitely more fun than going to Sinnoh like Glacia would have been, let alone staying in Hoenn with Drake.

Or he could have gone off on his own, but hey. Alola was awesome.

Sidney was just debating whether or not to start heading back to the hotel when Absol suddenly stiffened. Sidney paused and looked down at her.

"What's up?" he said quietly. He'd learned to pay attention when she acted like this. Absol had a natural sense for disasters, and his partner was one of the best.

Absol remained still for a moment, then let out a low growl and dashed off. Sidney swore and took off after her, easily weaving in and out of the light crowds as he pushed himself to keep her in sight. His PokéNav bumped against his leg, but he left it where it was. He could always call Steven for backup later, but he was a member of the Elite Four. He could handle himself. Absol darted down an alleyway, Sidney close on her heels, and then stopped short.

Sidney took in the situation at a glance. Three teenagers, all wearing baggy clothes emblazoned with a skull, and bandanas over their faces, surrounded a small red and black Litten. The Fire-type was in bad shape, and Sidney didn't have to look any further than the grunts and their Pokémon before fury overwhelmed him.

"What the hell do you think you're doing? Absol!"

Absol snarled and launched herself forward, and the gangsters scattered with satisfying yelps. Sidney planted himself firmly between them and the injured Litten, and folded his arms. "You don't hurt Pokémon," he growled. "What is wrong with you?"

Two of the grunts actually looked uncomfortable, but the third puffed out his chest. "Hey, we're Team Skull! We do what we want, yeah!"

"Never heard of you," said Sidney flatly. He heard a soft whimper from the Litten, and his anger spiked again. "Now scram, before I make you."

"Who the fuck do you think you are?"

One of the other grunts scrunched up his face. "Hey wait a sec, I've seen him on TV. He's one of the Sinnoh Elite Four!"

"Hoenn, actually," Sidney snapped. Honestly, that was just embarrassing. "Again, get out before I lose my temper."

Sure, it was a bit late for that, but hey. At least he was trying not to jump straight into pounding them. Steven would be proud.

The loudmouth was still glaring at him. "You don't tell us what to do, and we're not going anywhere without that Litten."

"Yeah," one of the others shouted. "We found it, and we fought it, so it's ours."

Litten hissed, and Sidney's hands clenched into fists. "Not three on one," he snarled. "And not when you've beaten it so hard it can barely move."

He didn't try to keep his fury from his voice, and a wary look passed between the quieter grunts, but the one who fancied himself leader was still glaring and Sidney knew exactly how it was going to go down. His lips stretched into a savage smile, and Absol tensed, her body humming with anticipation.

He'd show them what happened to anyone who hurt Pokémon.

Sure enough... "We're not backing down!" the grunt yelled, and two Makuhita joined the Machop and the other Pokémon. "You can't take us all on!"

Absol's tail flicked angrily, but Sidney frowned. Absol was more than strong enough to win the fight, even outnumbered six to one, but she didn’t just have to win. The Litten was shaking with pain and exhaustion. If it got caught up in the battle it wouldn’t stand a chance. The thought made Sidney grit his teeth, and he grabbed another Pokéball.

“Give us a hand, Mightyena,” he growled.

The sooner they finished this the better. Mightyena landed next to Absol, teeth bared in a vicious snarl, and Sidney was vindictively pleased to see the grunts exchange wary looks. Wrenching his anger under control with an effort, he folded his arms and gave them his best smirk.

“Still wanna try to take on one of the Elite Four?”

He realised a split-second too late that taunts probably weren’t the best way to go. That thought was confirmed when the biggest of them shot him a deadly glare. “You’re just like all the Kahunas,” he spat. “Think you’re all so special.”

Sidney had no idea what a kahuna was, but the gangster didn’t give him a chance to interrupt. “Well we’re sick of it! There’s three of us, and we’ve got four Fighting-types and you’re going down!”

The other grunts shouted their agreement, but Sidney just rolled his eyes. Honestly. Did people think he didn’t know his own specialty? "Show 'em what we think of type advantage, guys."

Mightyena crouched, a snarl rumbling through his body in agreement. Absol just flicked her tail at Sidney, but he recognised the confirmation for what it was. He turned back to the grunts, and let his own teeth show in a sharp grin. “Good luck.”

The grunts frowned, but then Absol and Mightyena were upon them.

The ensuing fight was just a little bit one-sided.

"Y'know, it helps if the super powerful Fighting-type moves actually hit," Sidney drawled, as Absol moved an inch to the side and the Force Palm that had been aimed at her instead sent some weird Alolan ‘mon with a blond stripe flying backwards. On the other side of the field, Mightyena was trading blows with two of the Machop and the other Makuhita, and Sidney knew both his Pokémon well enough to know that they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

At least, they would be in any other circumstances.

Speaking of which… Sidney took advantage of the chaos to finally turn to the little Litten. The feline hissed at him, but fell back after only a moment with a soft yelp of pain. Sidney swallowed and knelt next to it.

“Hey,” he said gently. Litten’s ears lay flat, and he held up his hands. “I’m not gonna hurt you, okay? I just want to make sure you’re all right.”

Litten’s eyes narrowed, and Sidney attempted a smile. “I’m not going to catch you,” he promised. “And I’m definitely not going to let those guys anywhere near you.” Very slowly he held out a hand. “Will you let me take you to a Pokémon centre?”

Fierce yellow eyes darted to where Absol and Mightyena were taking out the trash, before locking on Sidney’s with burning intensity. Sidney held its gaze, and forced his muscles to relax. The little Fire-type needed treatment, and to do that Sidney needed to earn its trust. It was the sort of thing Steven and Phoebe were good at, not him, but a Pokémon was hurt and so Sidney wouldn’t, couldn’t, do anything else.

Slowly, very slowly, the Litten padded forward to brush Sidney’s fingertips. Sidney let out an explosive sigh, and very carefully lifted it into his arms. “You rest now,” he whispered. “I’ve got you.”

He couldn’t be sure, but he thought he felt the tiny body purr. Sidney looked back in time to see the defeated grunts take off, and met his triumphant Pokémon’s eyes, and nodded.

That was more like it.

Chapter Text

Phoebe whispered a final prayer and opened her eyes. It was early enough that Hau'oli Cemetery was deserted, and she preferred not to attract attention when paying her respects. There was a time and a place for being recognised, and this wasn't it.

Sableye shifted slightly, and Phoebe gave her a small smile.

"Yes, I'm finished, and we've got plenty of time before we meet Steven at the caves."

Sableye gave a soft, satisfied croon, and scrambled up onto Phoebe's shoulder. Phoebe chuckled and stood up, one hand raised to steady her partner. She turned to leave the cemetery, only to stop short.

Standing in the middle of the path was what had to be the largest Tauros she had ever seen. Phoebe tensed automatically, but although the Tauros kept its gaze on her, it made no threatening moves. Phoebe took a step closer, and when it only flicked its tail lazily, concluded that it was used to people. Smiling, she reached up to stroke its neck.

"Hello, there," she said softly. "Did you come to pay your respects too?"

Tauros snorted softly, and Phoebe reached into a pocket for some Oran berries. The large Pokémon accepted the offering gratefully, snorting up the berries in one mouthful and butting Phoebe gently with its head. Sableye chittered plaintively, and Phoebe gave her a soothing scratch before returning her attention to the Tauros.

"So, where did you come from?" she mused.

Tauros let out a deep rumble, but before Phoebe could try to decipher anything a booming voice rang out.

"Looks like you've made a friend."

Phoebe glanced round and saw an old man watching them. He looked to be around her grandmother's age, but was in far better shape. There were deep laughter lines creasing his face, and Phoebe liked him immediately. She took away from the Tauros and made a polite bow.

"They're very rare back home," she apologised. "I couldn't resist."

The old man chuckled, and patted the Tauros' flank. "Well, this fellow seems happy to meet you too. I doubt he's ever met a member of the Hoenn Elite Four before."

Phoebe blinked, and his eyes twinkled as he moved closer. "We might not have a League of our own, but we do try to keep an eye on our neighbours. Even the more distant ones." He held out a hand. "I am Hala."

Phoebe blinked as she recognised the name, and smiled as she shook his hand. "It is an honour to meet you, Kahuna."

"I see I'm not the only one to pay attention." His dark brown eyes twinkled as they looked her over. "You're a long way from Hoenn."

"A few of us were due a break," Phoebe told him. "And we'd heard a lot of good things about Alola."

"Hoho, I'm glad to hear it." He gave her and Sableye a considering look. "Ghost-types, I believe?" At her nod, he smiled. "We've got a few interesting ones here in Alola."

"That's one reason I wanted to come," Phoebe admitted. "I'm looking for a Mimikyu."

Hala chuckled. "They certainly are fascinating Pokémon." He stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Talk to Acerola on Ula'ula Island. She's always happy to help a fellow Ghost enthusiast." He laughed again. "Actually, she's happy to help out just about anyone."

Phoebe smiled. "I'll be sure to visit. Thank you, sir."

Hala waved a hand. "Call me old Hala, everyone does." He shot her a knowing look. "Titles take up too much time."

"I couldn't agree more," said Phoebe fervently. They did deserve the respect they had earned, but they were on holiday. She and Sidney had been as relieved as Steven to leave the titles behind for a few weeks. Hala smiled, and walked up beside her to look out over the cemetery.

"No need for it here." He glanced at her. "Even if this is hardly typical tourist spot."

Phoebe caught the unspoken question and shrugged. "My grandmother lives on Mount Pyre. She raised me to respect the dead." Sableye crooned, and Phoebe rested a hand on her head. "I still have much to learn."

Hala's eyes softened, and he gave her a gentle smile but said nothing.

They stood in silence, watching the sun rise over Melemele Island, but after a minute Tauros raised its head and snorted. Phoebe turned, and felt Hala tense next to her, but a single glance down the path relieved her fears.

"It's all right. He's with me."

Sidney joined them a moment later, and held up a hand in a lazy salute. "Knew you'd be up here," he greeted her. He shoved a paper bag into her hands. "Knew you wouldn't have had breakfast either."

Phoebe's stomach rumbled on cue, and she smiled at him. "Thank you." She turned to Hala. "Sidney, this is Kahuna Hala."

Sidney straightened from his slouch and inclined his head politely. "Pleasure to meet you."

"The pleasure is mine." He glanced down, and his eyes twinkled. "I see you've been making friends."

Phoebe followed his gaze, and blinked at the sight of a small red and black Pokémon watching her curiously from behind Sidney's ankles. "He stayed?"

"Oh, yeah." He scratched the back of his head. "Nurse Joy healed him up. I told him he could do whatever, but he decided to stick around."

His shrug was deliberately casual, but Phoebe saw the delight in his eyes and had to smile. "He's got good taste." Sidney swelled up proudly, and she added, "For a future Dark-type."

Sidney deflated with a scowl, but Hala let out another booming laugh and clapped him on the shoulder hard enough to send him staggering. "You'll have to meet Nanu when you visit Ula'ula," he said. "He trains Dark-types also." His eyes twinkled. "I suspect you will get along."

Sidney's frown faded at that, and disappeared completely when Litten rubbed against his ankle with a purr. "Sweet. Been a while since I had some sane conversation."

"Wonder why that it is?" said Phoebe as sweetly as she could.

Sidney pulled a face at her, but Hala forestalled any bickering by crouching to pet Litten. The Fire-type let out a contented purr, and Hala smiled. "You must have impressed him. They are notoriously picky about who they choose to travel with."

Sidney ducked his head, but not before Phoebe saw his cheeks blaze red. She gave him a gentle nudge. "Told you he had good taste."

Litten purred agreement, and Sidney smiled, a proper smile, not his usual smirk. "Thanks." His smile faded slightly. "Still wish I'd been able to catch those jerks. No-one should treat Pokémon like that."

Hala's eyes narrowed. "Team Skull, I presume?" Both Elite Four trainers nodded, and his scowl deepened. "They're getting bolder. I'll see what I can do."

"Thank you," said Phoebe gratefully. The last thing they wanted was to have to deal with those idiots.

Hala nodded, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "If you could keep an eye out, I would appreciate it," he said. "A lot of young trainers begin their trials on this island, and Team Skull know it."

"We're happy to help," said Phoebe immediately. "We're meeting Steven and Wallace soon, and they take quite a dim view on this sort of thing too."

Sidney snorted. "Understatement of the century."

Phoebe let her smile turn sharp, and Sidney met her gaze in perfect understanding. At his feet, Litten flicked his tail to the side, his green eyes very bright. Hala just looked at them, and nodded.

They wouldn't go too hard on any troublemakers though. After all, they were on holiday.

 

Chapter Text

Steven eased himself down onto a rock and let out a long breath. As excited as he was to be exploring Alola, and Ten Carat Hill in particular, he couldn't ignore the effects his recent illness had had on his body. He was over the virus now, but being effectively bedbound for a while had taken its toll.

A Pokéball twitched on his belt, and Steven smiled at the echoing concern in the back of his mind.

"It's nothing," he said softly. "Just a little tired, that's all."

The 'ball remained still, but Steven knew better than to think Metagross was content with that. Sure enough, a moment later another 'ball opened and Steven smiled as Aron appeared next to his feet.

"Good morning," he murmured, bending down to rub the steel head. Aron crooned at the attention, but then he caught the scent of the new rocks and ores surrounding them and was off.

Steven watched his youngest friend scurry from one outcropping to the next, and had to chuckle. It had been too long since they had last had a chance to relax. It was early enough that the sun wasn't too hot, but it made a pleasant change from the chill of the caves.

He was just debating whether the clearing was large enough to send out more of his Pokémon when the quiet of the morning was interrupted by a sudden howl.

Steven was on his feet immediately, his weariness forgotten. This was not the sort of environment where one ignored the sounds of an upset Pokémon. Even a weak attack could all too easily cause a rockslide, or worse. The howling was followed by a series of roars, and Steven grabbed a Pokéball from his belt.

"Skarmory, find out what's going on!"

Skarmory took to the air with a shriek of his own, and shot off in a blur of silver. Steven glanced at Aron. "We'll explore later, all right?"

Aron let himself be returned without any fuss, and Steven took off in the direction of the commotion. The ground shook under his feet, but years of Aggron's Earthquakes served him in good stead and he kept his balance, instead increasing his pace. Skarmory knew better than to dive straight into any trouble, but Steven still wanted to be on hand in case there really was something wrong.

A minute later, Steven was breathing heavily, and deeply regretting taking Wallace's advice to wear sandals instead of his usual boots. His feet and ribs were beginning to burn and the dust in the air was making his eyes sting, but he could hear the clash of bodies and attacks and forced himself on. He swerved around a tree, and skidded to a halt as he found himself at the top of a sharp incline. Heart pounding from the exertion and his near fall, he stared down at the events below.

The slopes around him formed a rough bowl-shaped arena, and standing at the edge Steven had a perfect view of the chaos below. It took him a moment to sort out what was happening, and another moment to recognise the Pokémon involved.

"So that's what Alolan Graveler and Golem look like."

The variation in Alola really was fascinating, but another howl effectively diverted Steven's attention from the novelty. The dozen or so Rock/Electric types were roughly gathered at one end of the clearing, and at the other were two lupine Pokémon that were clearly different Forms of the same species. Though heavily outnumbered they were clearly preparing to attack. Steven swallowed, grateful once again that he had bothered to read up on Alolan Pokémon, and looked up just as Skarmory swooped down to hover next to him.

"Where are they?"

Skarmory jabbed his beak past the two Lycanroc, and Steven gritted his teeth at the sight of three tiny bodies attempting to hide in the bushes. Sometimes he hated being proved right. There was only one reason why two vastly outnumbered Pokémon would make a stand instead of running, and it made the whole situation exponentially more serious.

Steven didn't have time to think about it though. Several of the Golem and Graveler were already preparing fresh attacks, and both Lycanroc had already taken heavy damage. Steven grabbed a Pokéball from his belt and scrambled onto Skarmory's back.

"Drop me at the bottom, then protect the Rockruff!"

Skarmory clacked his beak in clear concern but didn't argue. He dived for the impromptu battlefield, and Steven jumped off and flung the Pokéball at the same time.

"Stop this!"

None of the Pokémon paid the slightest bit of attention. They continued to ready their attacks, and only the Midday Lycanroc spared him even a look.

Then half a ton of Steel-typed Pokémon landed in between them with a crash that made one of the Graveler fall over, and all movement died rather quickly.

Metagross gave a threatening growl and turned to the Graveler and Golem, and Steven took the opportunity to approach the two Lycanroc. Both bared their teeth and snarled, but Steven stopped well out of reach and raised his hands.

"It's all right," he said gently. "We're friends. We just heard the battle and wanted to help."

The Midnight Lycanroc's snarl deepened and she took a step forward, but her mate glanced back at their den. Steven knew better than to take his eyes from the female, and he didn't need to look to know that Skarmory had followed his orders and the young ones were safe.

Sure enough a little of the tension left the male's body, and the glare he turned upon Steven wasn't quite as antagonistic as it had been. Steven was careful to keep his body language open and non-threatening, but just as he was opening his mouth there was a sudden flicker of warning, and he glanced back at his Starter.

"Metagross?"

Metagross didn't move, but Steven saw the problem instantly. The Graveler and Golem seemed to have recovered from their surprise, and none of them looked particularly happy with the situation. Growls from the Lycanroc confirmed that they hadn't missed the change, and Steven bit his lip. As much as he wanted to keep the Rockruff and their parents safe, he didn't want to hurt the Electric types either.

But it looked like the Lycanroc had been there for some time and the pups were in danger, and that made his decision. Still keeping his eyes on their opponents, Steven spoke in a low voice,

"Metagross. Bullet Punch."

He felt the warm rush of agreement, then Metagross launched itself forward far faster than any of its targets would have expected.

The next few seconds were very, very loud.

But it was over quickly. The last Golem fled, and Steven hurried to his partner's side.

"Are you all right?"

Metagross gave a reassuring rumble that held more than a little satisfaction, but under the circumstances Steven could hardly fault them for that. He checked his friend over and let out a relieved sigh.

"That was amazing," he said quietly. "Thank you."

Metagross leaned into his touch for a moment, but then their red eyes flickered in the direction of the Lycanroc and Steven nodded.

"Good point."

He straightened up, and turned to find the Midnight Lycanroc staring at the two of them. The Midday one had gone to their pups, and Steven was relieved to see that Skarmory had retreated to a nearby tree rather than interrupt the reunion. The Rockruff were already spilling out of the bushes, any fear apparently forgotten, and even as Steven watched the Lycanroc raised his head and barked.

At that signal the Midnight Lycanroc finally lifted her gaze from Metagross and turned to her children, and Steven let himself relax against Metagross' side.

"Well done."

Metagross hummed in acknowledgement, and Steven felt their contentment echo in his mind. The young Rockruff were safe, and the parents relatively unharmed, and as the two of them watched the family of Rock-types disappear into the rocks Steven could only smile.

Skarmory let out a soft caw, and Steven nodded.

"Yes, we should leave them in peace," he murmured. His Flying-type flew down to land next to him, and Steven fed him a berry before returning him to his Pokéball. He took a final look at the Lycanroc and Rockruff, but as he turned back to Metagross something made him pause.

It wasn't anything he saw or heard. It was a feeling in the air; the sting of ozone before a Thunderbolt, and the moment when nature held its breath before a summer storm. It was the almost tangible feeling of being watched by something with incredible power. It left Steven frozen where he stood, every sense straining for something that was just out of reach...

"There he is. Hey, Boss!"

Steven spun round so fast he almost fell over. The near suffocating aura vanished, and Steven would have thought he had imagined it but for the fierce unease he could feel emanating from Metagross. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a flash of yellow and orange, but when he turned he met only concerned brown eyes.

"Steven? Are you all right?"

Steven blinked, and finally pulled himself together. "Yes, fine. I just thought...Never mind."

Phoebe did not look convinced. Neither did Sidney, but the elderly Alolan man they were with just gave him an appraising look.

"You'll see some strange things around these parts," he said. Then he grinned and held out his hand. "Kahuna Hala. Heard a lot about you, Champion Stone." He looked round at the battlefield and shook his head. "And I thought they were exaggerating."

Steven winced. Metagross hadn't done all the damage. Just a lot of it. "It's a pleasure Kahuna, and please call me Steven." He paused, but the memory of that unearthly presence as too strong, and he couldn't help himself. "When you say strange things..."

Hala's dark eyes twinkled. "Local legends. Maybe you'll get a chance to learn more about them."

Steven frowned, but something in Hala's expression made him let the subject drop. If it was a local legend he would have plenty of opportunities to investigate for himself. A soft yowl provided a distraction, and Steven looked down and smiled.

"So he did decide to stay."

Litten spared him a single glance before disdaining him in favour of climbing Sidney's leg. The Dark-type specialist winced. "Yeah, he's gonna be sticking around for a bit." He gathered into the feline into his arms and flicked him lightly on the nose. "No getting holes in my clothes, okay?

Litten did not look convinced, and Phoebe looked like she was trying to hide her laughter. Steven shook his head. "I had similar problems with Skarmory when he first hatched." Razor sharp feathers did not mix well with even the thickest clothing.

"Just keep him away from Wallace's Contest outfits," Phoebe chimed in.

Steven imagined the resulting carnage and winced. "Yes, let's avoid that if we can."

Hala chuckled. "I've seen your friend on television. Most impressive."

"He's the best," said Steven with a smile. Though Lisia was improving rapidly. He had a feeling the Hoenn Top Coordinator title was going to be staying within the family. "He came to Alola with us."

"Oh, I know," said Hala. "My grandson bumped into him the other day." He paused. "I now know exactly how cool Hoenn-native Water Pokémon are. All of them. In detail."

Sidney snorted. "Now why doesn't that surprise me?"

Steven shook his head fondly. Wallace would never change. Hala just laughed.

"It's good for Hau to know more about other Pokémon," he said. "He'll be getting his own partner soon." His eyes twinkled. "Though if he asks for a Feebas I will have to talk to Lana, of Akala Island. I was always terrible at fishing."

Phoebe glanced at Steven. "Didn't Wallace say he wanted to go to Akala Island next?"

"Indeed he did," Steven confirmed. "We'll spend a few days there and then head to Ula'ula Island."

Hala nodded approvingly. "I'm glad to see you want to explore our islands fully. You will see things in Alola that you will never see anywhere else." He glanced at Steven. "But I would like to ask one favour."

"Name it," said Steven immediately.

Hala smiled at him. "It would be interesting to see how a Kahuna fares against a League Champion."

Steven brightened at the idea, and Metagross let out a deep rumble of agreement. Hala turned to the Steel-type and nodded. "It would certainly be an interesting battle." He glanced back at Steven. "Perhaps when you return from your tour?"

"I look forward to it," Steven replied. A glint at the Kahuna's wrist caught his eye, and he couldn't help himself. "And if I might ask a favour of my own?" Hala inclined his head, and Steven grinned. "Might we make it an all out battle?"

Hala looked at his Z-Ring, and then at Steven's Key Stone, and an answering grin lit his face. "I would expect nothing else."

"This is gonna be awesome," Sidney breathed.

Steven had to laugh.

"There you all are!"

For the second time that morning Steven nearly jumped out of his skin. This time he turned to find an irate Top Coordinator glaring at him.

"You all left without me!"

"You were asleep," Steven pointed out.

"You could have woken me."

"You threatened to have Milotic soak the next person to walk through the door."

Wallace folded his arms with a scowl, but the boy by his side just laughed. "She totally would have too, wouldn't she?"

Wallace's frown vanished in an instant, and he beamed at his new friend. "Of course. My darling always knows exactly what I need." He scowled up at the sky, and moved so that he was in the shadow of the rocks. “Besides, you should be appreciating it in this weather.”

Hala chuckled. "Thank you for showing him the way, Hau."

The boy's brilliant smile somehow got even wider, and Steven could see the family resemblance. "That's what we do in Alola, right, Tutu?"

Hala laid a fond hand on his shoulder. "It is indeed."

"And we appreciate it," said Phoebe with a smile.

Wallace wandered over and flung an arm around Steven's shoulders. Steven rolled his eyes and shoved him off, it was far too hot for that, but his friend just smirked. "I like Alola," he announced. "Wonderful people, fascinating Pokémon, and I'm assuming interesting rocks?"

Phoebe snorted. "Sableye was very happy in the passages coming here. What about you, Steven?"

Steven rubbed the back of his head. "Well, Aron was enjoying himself, but then I'm afraid we got a little distracted."

Metagross’ deep grumble vibrated through his body, and he patted his partner’s head. Sidney stared at them, then rubbed his ear. "Wait, say that again?"

Litten mewed a protest at the lack of attention and Sidney quickly turned back to scratches, but Phoebe too was eyeing Steven in open confusion. "You got distracted from rocks? New rocks?"

Wallace just folded his arms and glared at him. "You managed to get into trouble here?"

"It's not completely unheard of," Steven protested. "And it wasn't much trouble."

A chorus of mingled exclamations met his words. Hala and Hau didn't even bother to hide their amusement, and Steven leaned back against Metagross with a smile.

This really was turning out to be an excellent holiday