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The Greatest Loss

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“Death is not the Greatest Loss in Life.
The Greatest Loss is what Dies inside us while we Live.”
~Norman Cousins

0o0o0o0o0

When Green was five, he met a boy with eyes like gems.

Green was outside playing in a nearby field by himself; Daisy was too busy, and Grandpa seemed to just barely tolerate Green on a good day. Which was just fine; he was a big boy and liked to play by himself, anyways.

That is, until he saw another boy playing by himself in the field.

Green was upset; this was his Secret Play-Area!

And walked up to the boy to tell him just that.

That is, until the boy looked up from his Pokemon toys and Green saw garnet-red eyes.

Green said the first thing he could think of, because that was obviously the only thing to do right then.

“Your eyes are pretty.”

The boy was quiet for a moment, face almost completely blank, before he spoke back.

“Your eyes are prettier.”

And then Green forgot all about playing by himself in his Secret Play-Area after that; it was more fun with someone at your side, after all.

That night Green could barely sleep, too excited to show Red his Pokemon Trading-Card collection tomorrow.

0o0o0o0o0

Close to Green’s seventh birthday, he was told his parents weren’t coming home.

Daisy never said it out loud, and Grandpa immersed himself in his work - almost like everything was normal, like the world didn’t turn upside-down - but he knew what they didn’t say.

He knew by looking at Daisy’s tear-stained face; knew by seeing his grandfather look at him as if everything was his fault.

And it wasn’t… was it?

When Red asked why Green hasn’t been wanting to play with him lately, he simply told him that ‘playing pretend is for babies.’

He knew it hurt Red by lying like that, knew by the sad look in his eyes, but he didn’t think he could ever hurt Red by telling him the truth.

Even if the lies hurt him, too.

That night Green stayed awake, too scared of the nightmares to even try to sleep.

0o0o0o0o0

Soon after his tenth birthday, he was finally able to go on his Pokemon journey.

He grabbed the bag with all his belongings and supplies he decided to bring with him. Daisy helped choose the ‘essentials’ - clothes, toiletries, aspirin for ‘just in case’, etc. - while Green chose what obviously more important things to bring with him - his journal, the simple research guide to Pokemon, etc.

After all, if he wanted to prove himself to Gramps, he had to learn all he could about Pokemon, right?

And when he became Champion, Gramps would finally be proud of him, right? He would love him like he loved Red, right?

When Green walked into the lab, however, much of his enthusiasm was dashed.

Gramps was smiling, for once, but it was only because he was talking to Red.

Green felt something hurt in his chest, and he couldn’t stop the loud - painful - cough from escaping past his lips.

“Ah, Green, glad you could make it.” He didn’t sound glad at all. “You better not be sick, young man, or all of the equipment will have to be sterilized.”

Because his bookshelves were more important than him. Well, he already knew that, so it was fine. Everything was fine.

When Green saw Red glance at him, face as passive as usual - though with a flash of… concern? - he just flashed him a cocky grin.

He had gotten good at hiding behind walls, after all.

“It’s just so dusty in here, I think you’ll have to sterilize it all, anyways,” Green dismissed, trying desperately not to cough again, not let his mask crack; if nothing else, he still had his pride - right? - and he would not lose that to Red, too.

He already had taken so much, intentionally or not.

And Green could only watch as his grandfather eagerly congratulated Red as he picked his Pokemon first.

And Red had known; had known that Green wanted the Charmander, but he took it anyways, and only gave Green a blank look before turning back to Gramps and utterly ignoring him.

Green, his chest than burning, gently picked up the Pokeball containing the Bulbasaur, because if Fire was Red, than Grass was Green.

Grass was weak to Fire; Red was better than Green.

It made sense to choose it, right?

But when Green managed to beat Red anyways, he left the lab with a vow; he would become Champion first, prove that even the weakest could win sometimes.

That night, Green cried to sleep in between coughs, his Bulbasaur nestled right next to him; it was nice being with someone who cared.

0o0o0o0o0

Green was still ten when he met Red again on the S.S. Anne, but had grown more than he had since the day his parents left and his life ground to a halt.

All of his Pokemon had grown, too: he now had a Pidgeotto, Raticate, Kadabra, and of course, Ivysaur.

Despite having caught Pidgeotto first, he was most proud of his Raticate; despite being the weakest of his Pokemon - Abra used to be, but became one his most powerful when he evolved into a Kadabra - she was by far the most hard working.

Probably because of how many trainers he ran into that proclaimed Rattatas as ‘common and useless Pokemon’; it was always fun to see them shocked when their ‘more powerful Pokemon’ get taken down by her.

Of all his Pokemon, Green felt a special connection with her.

Maybe because she reminded him of himself.

And more than that, ever since Bulbasaur evolved and grew too big, Raticate had taken his place as the one who snuggled up with him at night, who made sure that his nightmares didn’t last too long to hurt too deeply.

Who made sure that Green’s coughing fits weren’t dealt with alone. Though, all of his Pokemon did.

It became a habit to take cough inhibitors every day; the fits got in the way of his training. They made the coughing and chest pain that much worse when they wore off at night, but at least he wasn’t usually doing anything important by then.

He was used to the insomnia, anyways.

Green was on his way off the ship to return to the Pokemon Center to take more inhibitors - the fits were really bad that day - when he ran into Red.

And against his better judgement, he battled Red.

To no one’s surprise, Green lost again; though he was proud of the fact that he managed to knock out Red’s Pikachu this time.

Trying to shake off the pain and disappointment - as usual - he slapped Red on the shoulder and told him the captain had Cut; and with a lazy wave, he turned and strolled away, trying to ignore the piercing Red eyes he could feel track him down the hall till he turned the corner.

Then, without a second thought, Green ran, his chest burning the entire time.

When Green reached the Pokemon Center, he was sure Raticate would be fine; Red’s Charmeleon had badly injured her, but it was nothing she couldn’t handle, right?

He realized his mistake when Nurse Joy came back, solemn, gently holding her Pokeball.

That night, Green again cried himself to sleep, his Pokemon surrounding him and his Raticate’s Pokeball cradled to his chest.

When he coughed that time, he ignored the blood.

0o0o0o0o0

Green felt far older than anyone had the right to be when he laid his Raticate down to rest at the Pokemon Tower.

Only Ivysaur, Pidgeotto, and Kadabra were out; Gyarados and Growlithe never knew Raticate, so they chose to stay in their Pokeballs in respect for everyone else.

When Green gently cradled his Raticate in his arms for the last time, he couldn’t help but to think she looked as if she was only sleeping, like he could use an Awakening and she would snuggle into his arms with a cheerful squeak like she always did.

Always had.

When he carefully lowered her into the grave, he forced himself to watch as the grave was filled, but as the slab of stone covered where her body now laid, he didn’t have the will to try and stop the tears.

He didn’t know how long he stood there; only that eventually he found himself kneeling in the dirt in front of her grave. Both Kadabra and Pidgeotto returned to their Pokeballs on their own. Ivysaur stayed by his side, gently pressed into his leg as a form of attempted comfort, a way for Green to ground himself.

As he stared at her name carved into the stone, cold and unmoving, he could only think why?

Why was it that everything in his life had to hurt so much?

Why was it that everything he did, held, loved, fell apart?

In the quietness of the tower, where even the Ghost Pokemon were silent in respect for the dead, he never got an answer.

It was only when Ivysaur gently nudged him with a soft, concerned - and mournful; Ivysaur and Raticate were (once) best friends… - sound that he forced himself to stand on shaking legs.

It was only when Ivysaur slowly led Green away - one of his vines gently yet firmly wrapped around his arm; Ivysaur had always been stronger than Green - that Green felt something inside him, something he thought had healed, tear open once again, leaving a gaping wound that had long since festered.

It was only when Ivysaur stopped that he looked up, only to see one of the people he didn’t have the energy, the will, to face.

Green doesn’t remember what he said. Doesn’t remember ever actually looking at Red.

Only that once Red started to pull out a Pokeball - he must not have noticed or didn’t care; good - that Green immediately declined, making up an excuse he doesn’t remember saying and walking straight past him.

He may have remembered Red trying to grab his shoulder to stop him, but the pain was too deep and he couldn’t breathe; it could very well have been the pain making him hallucinate, making him delusional.

Maybe the lack of oxygen was making him lose his mind.

The next thing he knew, he felt the heavy rain piercing through the haze.

Looking up, Green watched the rain streak from the dark, heavy clouds. He closed his eyes, basking in the cold; it numbed the pain, even if only a little bit.

When he felt another nudge, Green glanced down at Ivysaur, almost feeling like smiling when he saw the concern the Grass Type gave him.

Almost.

That night, Green fell asleep alone.

When he awoke drenched in sweat, his chest heaving, he could only see the blood covering his hands as Raticate’s; her death was his burden - his sin - one he would carry for the rest of his life.

0o0o0o0o0

Green was almost eleven, and he had finally achieved his dream.

He had no idea how to describe the feeling. It was… completely unbelievable.

The full weight only came down when Venusaur nudged him from his stupor with happy roar.

And if Green rushed to the next chamber to collect himself, well, that was only for him to know.

He did it.

Green… actually became Champion.

Just as he promised his team. Just as he promised Raticate. Just as he promised himself.

His heart was beating so fast and loud, it felt like his chest was going to break in two.

Now, he only had to wait for Lance and Gramps to show up so his name could be added to the Hall of Fame.

Gramps. He would come in, and maybe, just maybe, he would finally give Green a real smile, and tell him how proud he was to call him his grandson…

Green thought he was going to cough up blood and pass out (again) with just how much emotion was running through him. And wouldn’t that be a twist on fate?

That is, until Red showed up, only minutes later.

Green knew he would show up sooner or later. Knew he would have to battle him.

And honestly - though he did try his hardest - he was not all that surprised when he lost. He’s more surprised that he’s not that hurt about losing the Champion title so soon after getting it.

Because he still was a Champion, if only for a little while, so that still counted, right?

Green took as deep a breath as his ravaged chest would allow - it’s alright, everything was fine - but before he could congratulate his friend - once a friend; were they still friends? - Gramps showed up.

He congratulated Red first - not surprising - about becoming Champion and all that.

When he was done and turned to Green - he would tell him he was proud of him, too; that Green was worth it, that he loved him - and just… frowned.

Frowned and stared down at Green with utter disdain.

“Green… I’m disappointed.”

Green didn’t really hear the rest of what he said; didn’t need to.

Green felt what little was left in him… shatter.

Green felt cold as he watched his grandfather turn back to Red - as if Green was just a nuisance, as if his existence was meaningless - and led him into the Hall of Fame chamber.

Green felt numb as he watched Red insert his Pokemon and Trainer Card into the record - which Green never got to do - and was registered as the Champion.

Green felt… alone.

Before he knew it, he was riding Pidgeot; he didn’t know where he was going, and he didn’t care.

When he staggered off of Pidgeot, he found himself in an expansive meadow, a small, quiet field of soft grass and gentle winds.

His - and Red’s; it was his and Red's - Secret Play-Area.

That night Green fell asleep when his chest started to hurt too much, when the ground was stained with blood, when it was too much effort to live.

When he dreamed, he dreamed in Red; red stained grass, red liquid blood, red ruby eyes.

0o0o0o0o0

The day before Green’s eleventh birthday, he woke up in a hospital.

He was diagnosed with Stage III Lung Cancer.

No one knew how it developed so fast, or how long he’s had it, or how he’s managed to hide it and keep it to himself the entire time.

They never mentioned how long he had left to live.

Daisy cried and yelled at him for being stupid; not surprising, and underneath the overwhelming nothing, he felt just a little guilty.

Gramps didn’t enter the room; just stood outside, but never in Green’s direct line of sight.

His Pokemon - he really doesn’t deserve them - all just about broke down; they stood outside his ground-floor window and refused to budge, only eating and allowing Daisy to take care of them when Green insisted.

Red never showed up.

He went to sleep feeling… tired, and sad. And still very alone.

0o0o0o0o0

When Green turned eleven, he prepared to go into massive surgery the next day.

And he knew what they didn't say - he always knew what they never said - that today might be his last birthday. That today might be his last day alive.

Green joked that it was a bit ironic he never even reached his teens.

Daisy just held his hand and cried silently.

When they - Daisy and his sympathetic Doctor and Nurse, primarily - asked Green what he would like for his birthday - he wouldn’t be surprised if they would do almost anything; they seemed more than willing to - he just asked that he go outside by himself to be with his Pokemon.

Throughout his journey, they were the ones who were with him the entire time, even after he failed them.

And he would like to say a proper goodbye.

Green soon found himself in a wheelchair on the roof surrounded by the only ones who never left his side, with Venusaur and Pidgeot - his starter and first caught Pokemon, both holding a special place in his heart - resting their heads on each of his legs.

As Green gently pet all of them - even Alakazam wanted as much physical contact as possible - he felt his vision growing blurry, felt the tears stream down his face, but it didn’t stop him from giving them a truer smile than he ever showed.

Only when Venusaur lifted his head to gently give Green’s face a lick did the dam break

Through all of the broken ‘I'm sorry’s, his Pokemon only curled in closer, murmuring things he didn’t need to understand to know what they meant.

Before he fell asleep that night, he wrote a letter to Red, a letter containing all of the truths to all of his lies, a congratulations for becoming Champion, and one 'I'm sorry’.

And he never felt freer or had an easier night’s sleep in a very long time.

0o0o0o0o0

Green was thirteen when, for the first time since he was hospitalized, he found himself standing outside on his own.

Granted he could only be out for an hour or two, but he finally was able to convince Daisy and his caretakers that he didn’t need to be hovered over, that his Pokemon would be with him the entire time.

Not like they ever have not been since he collapsed.

Even now, Arcanine - his Pokemon have been taking turns acting as his ‘bodyguards’ - stood right by his side, seeming to be relaxed, but Green knew that as soon as he let out a cough or anything, Arcanine would force him right home, even if he had to carry him.

Which had happened a few times before with Rhyperior and Gyarados.

His feet automatically carried him through the small town he grew up in as he let his mind wander, one hand resting on Arcanine’s fur as he easily kept pace with him.

Lance had offered him to be the new Champion, seeing as Red disappeared soon after Green went under surgery.

Green declined.

Red won fair and square and all that, right?

And, honestly, he realized he didn’t want that sort of responsibility once he actually paid attention to what they were.

Lance then offered him to be the new Viridian Gym Leader, seeing as Giovanni was… yeah.

Green decided to think about that one.

He’ll probably end up saying yes, but after a bit more recovery time; he would like his lungs to be strong enough to handle the exertion put into being a Gym Leader before he did so.

He would just give Lance a call when he got home to let him know.

Green blinked out of his thoughts when Arcanine nudged his side, realizing he stopped at the edge of a meadow.

His and Red’s Secret Play-Area.

Green felt a rueful smile adorn his face. He would always just return back here, wouldn’t he?

Stepping forward, gently brushing his hand over the tall grass, Green couldn’t help think of all the times he and Red played here… before their lives changed forever…

It’s only when Arcanine gave a small bark in greeting that Green looked up.

Standing on the other side of the small field was Red.

Green wasn’t very sure what happened immediately after that.

One moment he was staring at the one person he thought he would never see - older, taller, eyes like fire and flame -

And the next Red had his arms wrapped around him as he clung to him, burying his face into Red's shoulder like he did when he had nightmares when they were younger.

“I’m sorry.”

“I know.”

“Can we… just start over? I’m too tired to continue on and-”

“I know. I’m sorry, too.”

They stood there in silence.

And for once, Green was sure the thump in his chest was not because of an illness, terminal or not.

Green took a breath - his chest only slightly aching, but nowhere near as bad as before - and let it out, feeling muscles he didn’t know he had relax.

“...Your eyes are still pretty.”

He would swear till the day he - really - died that Red laughed, broken and tearful as it was.

“...Your eyes are still prettier.”

It was always that much more - easier, better - to go through life with someone by your side, after all.