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One Way Ticket

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prologue


Two lamp posts line the street behind his apartment by the intersection where a single stoplight forces the trickle of traffic to traipse at a tempo similar to the swing of his heartbeat. Most days are quiet because his three neighbors are all old and kind, but the only company he would ever consider inviting over is a self-proclaimed braggart of a best friend he would rather not have inside his home, and that demands him to grow used to the silence.

He isn't a stranger to quietude, but there's a certain capacity for conversation required of a champion, even more so for the Champion, and he's been well versed in the art of faking it in the years since earning the title. It falls into the category of routine the same way he knows it takes approximately three hundred and sixty-seven steps to reach the station from his front door. Less, that is, when his best friend is in tow and he wills himself to take longer strides if only to save himself the trouble of listening to the brunet talk.

That day starts out no different than all the rest. As he strolls across the sidewalk, his feet fall into place like a delicate dancer relying on muscle memory to prance over precarious potholes, remembering precisely how each slope soars and plummets like his mood on a rainy day. His thoughts are shiftless like a silent spring, but the mouth spits out a waterfall of mercurial temperament almost like he's waiting for the runoff by the banks.

There's an anomaly in the way he takes down a photograph down from its place above his bed. His fingers carefully peel off the blue tack holding it up and he stares at it for a moment, recalling exactly when it was taken because it was right after he became known as the most powerful trainer in the world. Though Green had been whining incessantly about losing, he could say with conviction that his best friend was and is proud of him nonetheless. Leaf couldn't stop rolling her eyes, and Professor Oak behind the camera kept laughing at their antics.

He doesn't know nearly as much about the girl in the picture with ash brown hair and almond eyes, or maybe he just can't remember. His memories of her are sparse and scattered and he doesn't know why, but he wants to know all of the other w's, where they met and when, what he was doing and who she is to him. The questions drive him to make promises; first to find the answers, and then to never forget her again. With a flick of his wrist, the putty lands on a spot somewhere on a globe across the room.

Alola.

It's one of the few places in the world he's never been and that's more than good enough for him. Two minutes before the next train arrives, his mother calls to ask if he has everything. He shrugs and shuts his eyes, wild winds wafting through his hair before the waves wash over him entirely.

For now, he says.

He's spent years committed to every crescent curve of his city. It becomes an amalgamation of his aspirations and ambitions and all this time chasing for adventures has left him exhausted. Day after day, routine runs like a system: slapping snooze and sleeping in for six minutes before slowly stirring. As slivers of sunlight sift through the blinds, he ponders if there exists a place in this world where it feels warmer on the surface of his skin, and though it hasn't been long since he was a child, this sort of thinking makes him feel much older than he is.

His mom promptly hangs up with an I love you and he echoes the words earnestly, but he doesn't pocket his phone right away. Instead, he books his ticket right there at the station, and then he boards the next train, plugging in his earphones and pretending to sleep.

It takes half an hour to get to Vermillion and he decides there's no point in waiting and wading until he's all washed up. Despite the anticipation simmering in his veins, he doesn't bother waking up until the next hour swims by. The cataract is the catalyst; with white waters welcoming him, he dives headfirst into a lucid dream that fades into an unorthodox reality.

Minutes into his eight hour connecting flight from the Lilypad Airport in Sinnoh, he gets a text from Green asking why he didn't show up to lunch, and he panics just a little because oh shit, the Indigo League is starting soon and the Champion is about to be halfway across the world. There's something oddly comforting about that, though, perhaps because now he knows moments will come, but no longer in patterns. He replies shortly. Don't worryI'll be home soon.

"Like hell," Green snorts, ignoring the fact that international calls on cell phones are far from cheap. You're loaded, dude. You're the Champion, he hears often. "Wait for me there, loser. I'm not sticking around to do your dirty work while you take a stroll on some damn beach."

For the first time in a long time, his hands tremble with excitement. Lifting his fingers to the window, he can't help but think that he doesn't belong here, and that's how he knows he's exactly where he needs to be. The sun is hardly visible anymore and the clouds look a bit different from the ones at home, less like cotton candy and more like silhouettes suspiciously reminiscent of Clefable.

Somehow, in that moment, he feels warm.


postscript

Hello! This is something I wrote for a creative writing class re-worked into the Pokémon universe because I honestly couldn't shake the feeling that it was meant to be about Red. I grew up watching the show and playing the games and still do both pretty often even as a university student, but this is the first time I've ever written something for the genre, and I'm sure it won't be the last. I've been thinking about this story, in particular, for years and didn't have the courage to bring it to life until I read The Ash Connection by I Am Lu. If you have the time, I highly recommend it!

As with most of my works, I tend to be very sporadic in updating simply because I get inspired by different things at different times, but I've never published a piece of fanfiction about something I didn't truly care about, so I hope that offers a bit of reassurance that I'm not just going to leave them out to dry, at least without a good reason. I just have too many thoughts in my head that I always feel the need to put down somewhere and I figured that if I'm going to do write I might as well share my words with people who might find them interesting or even take from it some semblance of comfort.

That said, please let me know what you think! I'd love to hear your comments and suggestions or even your own stories about what Pokémon means to you.

Thank you for reading!