Chapter 1: #RedInstead
RedInstead but every time Red makes a pun it gets faster
The jokes start on a nice Spring morning as three Kantonese eleven-year-olds stay in the Pokémon Centre in the Indigo Plateau. They chat amongst themselves as they look for something to do. The green-eyed boy with spiky auburn hair plays games on the PC in the corner of the Centre; the red-eyed boy with jet black hair sits on the bench, seeming content with doing nothing at all; and the blue-eyed girl with long brown hair combs the bookshelves for something entertaining.
These children all have one thing in common: They all know what it is like the be a Champion.
The blue-eyed girl, Blue Leaf, started her journey with a Squirtle by her side slightly after the two boys, but she traveled fast and gained Pokémon faster, and somehow she got to the Indigo Plateau before either of them. She was Champion for a short time before being beaten by the auburn-haired boy, Green Oak, who was in turn beaten by the red-eyed boy, Red Tajiri.
That’s why they chose the Indigo Plateau, of all places, to meet. All Pokémon Centres have bookshelves full of picture books and board games designed for young children to use while their parents heal their Pokémon. But since very few children make it here, the entertainment in the Indigo Plateau is rather lacking.
“We could do a jigsaw puzzle?” Blue suggests weakly, taking out a box with a picture of a Raichu and text saying, 1000 Piece Raichu Puzzle. “It’s got a thousand pieces so it’ll keep us busy for a while.”
Red looks up at the puzzle and a smile crosses his face. “No,” he signs, in Kantonese Sign Language.
“Why not?” Green asks as he starts to turn the PC off so others can use it. “I’m game for a puzzle.”
Red shakes his head. “Hashtag,” he signs, still grinning. “Me instead.”
It takes the others a second to realise what he means. Blue is first, bursting into giggles at his joke. Green takes a little longer, but he snickers as well, walking over to his friends and ruffling Red’s hair. “Good one, little Red. But seriously, do you want to do the puzzle or not?”
“I don’t see why not,” Red signs, and he starts to unbox the puzzle.
They made this first joke in March.
In April, the jokes increase tenfold.
“Me instead!” Red signs throughout the month, first just every time he sees something about Autism Speaks but soon just when he sees the colour blue. The jokes get old almost immediately but neither of his two closest friends have the heart to tell him, and so the jokes continue.
It’s not until the fifth of May that Blue slaps her palm on her face and groans. “Man, we had such a missed opportunity in April!”
“Huh?” Green asks.
“What do you mean?” Red signs.
“We could have made jokes about setting me on fire!” Blue laughs. “You know, to light it up blue! Oh, man, Green has a Charizard, we could have actually made this work.”
Red chuckles. “Maybe next year.”
Then the group goes to Mt. Silver together and there isn’t a next year.
There’s a storm, a blizzard, a cold wind that threatens to freeze them completely, and suddenly Red has a Blastoise and all of their jokes about how they should “turn off the Blue” seem harsh.
Green leaves immediately. He’s furious with Red, furious for suggesting a trip such as this without properly weighing up the odds. He’s furious with his Charizard, too, for not being able to save her despite being a Fire-type. He leaves it on the mountain for Red to adopt and train as his own.
Red stays there for far too long.
It’s three years before a young boy named Ethan comes up to find him -- comes up to battle him. Even after three years of only battling wild Pokémon, the legendary Red still has his skills, and Ethan loses.
He still convinces him to come back, somehow.
The first thing he does when he’s back is go to Pallet Town in search for Green. Professor Oak tells him to go to Viridian City, because Green is now the Gym Leader there. Red does this.
Green seems to have somewhat forgiven him.
“You know,” says Green sadly as they sit outside the Gym together. “I always felt like we were meant to be a trio.”
Red nods in agreement and Green continues. “Now that you’re back from Mt. Silver, I’ve been thinking … Ever since I was eleven, there’s been someone who I really love.”
Red’s heart speeds up. “It was her, wasn’t it?” He signs with shaking hands.
Green looks him dead in the eye and smiles. “No,” he signs back, for once sharing Red’s language instead of his verbal speech. “Hashtag you instead
Chapter 2: Stimming
Steven needs to stop forgetting his stim toys at work
Steven looks up from his stack of paperwork, interrupted by the sound of something being slammed onto the table in front of him. He sees the dark skin of Phoebe’s hand as she gestures towards the chewing gum she just forcibly gifted to him.
“Chew it,” she says forcefully.
“No thanks,” he mumbles, pushing it aside as he continues with the paperwork.
She sighs. “You left your stim necklace at home again, didn’t you?”
“Whah on Eart makes you tink tat?” he asks, his words unclear as a result of the pen he is chewing on.
She raises an eyebrow. “Dude, you’re absolutely demolishing that pen.”
He takes the pen out of his mouth, glaring. “What are you, the pen-chewing police?”
“Uh, no,” she mutters. “But that’s actually my pen you’re chewing.”
His grey eyes widen and he stares at the writing utensil in his hand. Sure enough, it doesn't seem to be one of his. “Uh, sorry.”
He wipes his spit off and holds the pen out to her, but she holds up her hand in refusal. “Eh, you can keep it. Just don’t wreck any more of my pens, okay?”
“Noted,” he mumbles, the pen once more in his mouth, and Phoebe barely suppresses a chuckle
Chapter 3: Special Interest
Special interests change, but being too obsessed to notice anything else doesn't.
“Eh, whatevs,” is perhaps not the most common response to being scouted by a famous Contest Queen and given a free Contest Pass, but it's the response May Marina Sapphire gives.
Maybe it's her tomboyish streak, or maybe it's her Johtonese blood, but either way, she cares so little she doesn't even pretend to be interested for the sake of the cameras.
Lisia eventually persuades her to give one a go, but she finds it just as boring as she expected and decides to never try again. Lisia, however reluctantly, doesn't mention the subject again, although she is determined to be May’s friend.
May’s busy mind simply has no room for Contests. She's occupied with her dream to become the Champion of Hoenn. Every second of the day, she's training her Pokémon, planning her strategies, calculating the result of every possible move.
She's so obsessed, she fails to notice Lisia's obvious crush on her.
“Eh, whatevs,” is perhaps not the most common response to being invited to the Pokémon World Tournament in Unova as the former Champion of Hoenn, but it's the one May gives.
Maybe it’s Lisia’s influence, or maybe it’s just the Hoennian culture, but either way, she cares so little she does not even RSVP.
She doesn't have time for battling, not when every second of the day is occupied with planning, watching, and performing in Contests.
Besides, Contests helped her meet her girlfriend Lisia.
Chapter 4: Communication
Wally, May, Lisia, and Brendan go to get lunch together
Honestly, considering how common it is, you’d think he’d have found a way around it.
It’s hardly as though he’s lacking in the necessary resources. Devon sells AAC devices cheaply and he could probably get a discount because May is friends with Steven Stone. Sign language is common and, considering his learning speed, probably something he could realistically figure out. He’s sure one of his friends could find someone to train his Gallade to speak for him with its psychic powers.
And yet here he is, scribbling on a notepad.
He taps May on the shoulder and, waiting until he has her attention, hands her the paper. She reads it over, then stands up. “Sure!”
The teal-haired girl sitting besides May, however, has questions. “Where’s she going?”
Wally passes the notepad to the boy sitting besides him, Brendan. He would have asked Brendan to go instead of May, but Brendan’s sitting against the wall and Wally’s blocking his exit route so he would have to get up anyway and then everyone would stare at him and ask why he’s not just doing it himself.
Brendan glances at the paper, then turns to Lisia. “She’s getting extra ketchup for him,” he explains through a mouthful of food, spraying crumbs onto the table and making Lisia cringe.
“Uh, no offence,” she asks. “But why don’t you just get some, Walls?” She pauses. “No, I can’t call you Walls, that’s my nickname for my uncle. I’ve gotta work on a nickname for you.”
Wally glances around the crowded tables of Mauville Food Court, trying to find a way to explain it to her. He picks up his pen, but Brendan swoops in to save him. “How is he meant to ask for ketchup if he can’t talk?”
“Point taken,” says Lisia before shoving a handful of fries into her mouth.
The sudden noise makes Wally jump as he turns to face May, who is frantically waving to him. “How many ketchup packets?!” she calls out to him.
He’s not sure what the right answer is, so he just shrugs and lets her decide.
Satisfied, she runs off. Lisia swallows a mouthful of food. “Hey, Wally, you okay?”
He nods frantically in a way that probably won’t do much to convince her and she raises an eyebrow. “You sure? You seem really anxious.”
“Yeah, he has anxiety,” explains Brendan.
Honestly, Lisia has a point. Wally would much rather be at home, not freaking out, then here, internally screaming at the idea of being around so many people. But he’s not exactly going to get better with social situations if he never leaves the house.
At that moment, May comes back, holding more ketchup packets than can fit in the known universe. “I wasn’t sure how many to get,” she explains. “So I decided to play it safe and get a googolplex.”
Brendan stares at her. “Uh, what?”
“I think you’re going to destroy the universe,” says Lisia. “Where did you even get that much ketchup?”
May blushes. “Okay, maybe next time I’ll only get three.”
“You say “next time”,” says Lisia. “Like you’re not going to go and put most of that ketchup back right now before the universe collapses.”
Sighing, the brown-haired girl throws a handful of ketchup at the table, then takes the rest back.
Wally hopes everyone is staring at her instead of him
Chapter 5: Freebie
Sidney says something confusing about autistic people in Ever Grande.
Based on a true story.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Phoebe Uhane, the youngest member of the Hoenn Elite Four, is bored.
Being in the Elite Four means that she has to spend a large part of her day in Ever Grande waiting for challengers, but the system of having to obtain eight Gym badges before going through Victory Road deters many Trainers from challenging the League. In addition, there is a large gap in difficulty between the last Gym Leader and the first Elite Four member, which means that many Trainers who decide to go straight to Ever Grande after their last badge will be beaten by Sidney within minutes, before Phoebe has a hope of battling them.
The other Elites, too, are bored, and so is Steven Stone, the Champion. They all have different objects which they are using to relieve this boredom; Sidney and Drake have the Uno cards they’re using to play against each other, Glacia has the book she’s reading, and Steven has the sudoku puzzle he’s doing.
Phoebe has a wooden pencil and a pin with which to entertain herself.
She uses the pin to scratch the pencil and accidentally breaks off a piece. She holds it out to Steven. “Hey, Steven, do you want a piece of wood?”
Sidney looks up from his game of Uno, looking genuinely offended.
“He’s got autism, why would he want a piece of wood?!”
Steven blinks several times in an attempt to make sense of this statement. “Um, I don’t see how those two things are connected.”
“Uh, it was just a joke,” says Sidney good-naturedly, placing down a card. “Drake, pick up two.”
Drake swears under his breath as he picks up the cards from the pile.
Steven stares at his coworkers. He does not get the joke
For those who are confused, this is pretty much an exact copy of a conversation I had with some IRL friends. The only major differences are (1) that they're all Pokemon characters instead of my friends, and (2) that they're at work and Sidney and Drake are playing UNO, while when this actual conversation happened we were walking home from school together.
Chapter 6: Food
May gathers some close friends for a much-needed explanation
Three pairs of eager eyes look up in the darkness of the Super-Secret Base. Brendan’s hands find their way to his pockets and his fingers start fidgeting with a fidget cube, but he doesn't look down; his attention is all on May. Wally stares at her with apprehension, wondering what she’s planning and where all this is going.
Lisia rolls her eyes.
“You see,” continues May, her blue eyes flashing in the darkness. “I spent the first twelve years of my life living in the Johto region. I learned all about the legends of our Legendary Pokémon. When I was five, I saw Celebi with my own eyes, just for a second. One day, I’ll go back and catch it. So for all intents and purposes… I’m almost a time traveler.”
“So that’s why you’re eating fish fingers and custard.” says Lisia.
As answer, May dips a fish finger into her tub of custard, then shoves it into her mouth. “Hey, if it’s stupid and it works, it ain’t stupid,” she says with her mouth full, spraying crumbs across the room.
She goes with Lisia’s explanation -- Lisia’s theory that she explained her encounter with Celebi just to explain why she’s eating fish fingers and custard, because it’s easier than telling the truth. Easier than asking her three best friends to go to Johto with her to catch a Legendary Pokémon. Easier than explaining why she really told that story:
She wanted to explain how she ended up throwing her bike off a cliff
Chapter 7: Spoons
Each evolution in the Abra line has more spoons than the last.
Piercing lights. Noises like sandpaper on eardrums. Pounding heart, pounding headache. Need to get out, need it to stop. Meltdown incoming. Without thinking, he runs.
Steven Stone doesn't like walking out on events, but he also doesn't like putting himself in pain, and he definitely doesn't like having meltdowns in public. He only came to the market in Slateport in the first place to see if they had any stones he could buy, and they don’t, so the whole adventure is pointless. His feet leave footprints in the sand as he runs, and at some point his mind starts working well enough for him to become aware of the fact that he has a Super-Secret Base somewhere on the beach.
He finds it and hides in it. He prays to Rayquaza that nobody will come looking for him.
What? Your STEVEN STONE is evolving!
Congratulations! Your STEVEN STONE evolved into KADABRA!
It’s with a tired groan and half-closed eyes that Steven Stone stands up. Oh Rayquaza, he’s exhausted. He’s dimly aware that there are bite marks on his arm that are still bleeding, and that human bite marks are more likely than most Pokémon to cause infection and he should really do something about it, but he just. Can’t.
He doesn't have the equipment necessary in his secret base which means he has to go back to Mossdeep, and he’s not confident he could steer Metagross well enough to get there in this state. Could Metagross take him by memory? Possibly, but not worth the risk if it can’t. Could somebody pick him up? Not unless he can contact them, and he can’t call anyone if he can’t talk.
Besides, at this point he would probably just have another meltdown from the sting of disinfectant and that would just cause more problems. He’s not going to develop sepsis and go into shock in the next half an hour.
The dust in the cave probably isn’t helping, though. But the cave walls are helping by blocking out the noise of the market, and so he’ll stay here as long as he needs to.
It’s not like there’s much else he can do.
What? Your STEVEN STONE is evolving!
Congratulations! Your STEVEN STONE evolved into ALAKAZAM!
As his senses grow less sensitive and the noise of the market in Slateport becomes inaudible, the sting when the bite marks on his wrist touch the fabric of his jacket remains, and he should really do something about that. Can he actually treat it properly, so soon after the meltdown? Probably not, but he might be able to examine it properly, or call Wallace or someone else he trusts to explain the situation and ask for help. At the very least, he can go home and check if he has the first-aid equipment or if he has to buy more.
Sighing, he steps out of his secret base and almost immediately feels a teenager run into him.
He doesn't have the physical or mental energy to suppress the tiny whimper that escapes him, even if it is stupid for a grown man to whimper when someone runs into him. He looks at the girl and internally groans. It’s May.
He can either talk to her or go home; there’s no way he’s accomplishing both. “Hi,” she begins, voice grating on his eardrums. “I’ve been looking for you! I--”
“May, I can’t really talk right now.” Both literally and figuratively. “I just had a meltdown.”
“Oof,” says May, which pretty much sums it up. She reaches into her pocket. “But maybe this will cheer you up!”
She presses a small stone into his hands. “It’s an Alakazite,” he says, more to himself than to her. He clings to the thought, grateful that his mind is working again.
She nods. “I found it in the corner of the marketplace. I don’t have a Pokémon that could use it, though, so I thought you might like it.”
“Thanks,” he murmurs. “I … Have to go now.” It’s a weak excuse, but he barely has the energy to get himself home safely and he can’t afford to waste it on this conversation.
Your STEVEN STONE seems to be reacting the the Alakazite…
STEVEN STONE Mega Evolved into Mega Alakazam!
“I swear to Rayquaza, Steven, if you apologise or thank me one more time…”
“Sorry,” Steven mumbles Mareepishly, his face going red as he realises what he just did. “It’s just … This is really a big help, Wallace.”
“It’s fine,” Wallace insists, further rolling up Steven’s sleeves so that they can properly access the wound. “My Pokémon get bitten by Poochyena all the time.” They raise an eyebrow, and add, “Although most of the time the Poochyena doesn't have a broken jaw.”
“And … This is no exception?” Steven says hopefully.
Wallace elects to ignore this comment. “I feel deeply sorry for this Poochyena that supposedly bit you,” they continue. “It must have sustained a horrible jaw injury to cause its bite marks to resemble that of human teeth.”
“Hmm,” says Steven.
“Who do you think you’re fooling?”
“Well, optimally I would be fooling you, but I suppose that's a bit -- ow!”
He withdraws his hand as he feels the first sting of disinfectant. Wallace audibly clicks their tongue but says nothing on the matter as they take the silver-haired man’s arm back.
“What was the meltdown over?”
“...The market in Slateport…” His explanation is mumbled into his hand, as though Wallace will just stop asking if he doesn't give a clear answer. “It was too loud.”
Wallace’s mind darts back to their ventures to Slateport, to the crowds and the music that all so generously faded into the background for them, and how Steven would have no such luxury of ignoring it. “I can see how that could have caused problems.”
“I told you, there’s no need to thank me. Although perhaps next time you want me to help you like this, you should tell me the truth.”
“Maybe I should.” He sighs, leaning back against the wall and closing his eyes to prepare for the process. “Maybe I should
Chapter 8: Crowd
Wally has got to be the only autistic person in existence to like crowds.
Wally is convinced he is the only autistic person in the world that likes crowds.
Okay, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration. He’s sure that there must be some other autistic person out there that feels the same way. But the general consensus from both the online autistic community and the autistic people he knows in real life seems to be that crowds are the worst thing imaginable.
He’s not surprised, really -- he knows all too well that any large crowd is guaranteed to be overwhelming to both sight and hearing, possibly touch if the people are packed tightly together, and that’s ignoring the possibility of the other senses being overloaded. There’s something in a crowd that can torture any kind of autistic person; nobody can be hyposensitive to everything.
He hates it too, really -- the sensory experience of being in a crowded room. But he’s lucky, in a way, in that his autism manifests more in his inability to talk to people and less in his tendency to have meltdowns over noises. He doesn’t think it’s very lucky, and he secretly envies the likes of May and Steven who can hold a conversation seemingly with ease, but the point is that he can endure crowds without having a meltdown.
In a crowd it’s easy to blend in. In a crowd nobody except your friends will look twice. In a crowd he doesn't have to be paranoid that he’s walking wrong or his hair isn’t brushed properly or everyone is staring at him.
That’s why he tends to gravitate towards larger cities when he has to heal his Pokémon, places like Slateport or Mauville or Rustboro where there’s sure to be a line in the Pokémon Centre and there’s sure to be so many other trainers in his age group that nobody who doesn't know him personally will spare him a glance.
But sometimes his Pokémon are burned or poisoned and the sun is setting and they can’t wait until morning and he can’t go to a large city at this time of night, and so he uses the Pokémon Centre in whatever town or city he’s currently in. And sometimes he’s lucky in that he happens to be in Mossdeep or Fortree, smaller cities where the Pokémon Centre won’t be crowded but nobody will notice him.
Sometimes he’s not lucky.
Sometimes he’s in Oldale or Lavaridge or Fallarbor, small towns where everybody knows everybody and they want to know him, too. Small towns where even the nurse at the Pokémon Centre can instantly recognise that he doesn't live there and start making small talk, to find out what brought him to their town and where he’s originally from and what Pokémon he has and what his favourite colour is.
Small towns where there’s never enough people in the Pokémon Centre to take attention away from him, but it’s also never empty, so he can feel the stares when he enters. Small towns where his legs are shaking because people are looking at him and he’s sure they can see that, too. Small towns where he’s walking wrong and everybody’s judging him.
He prefers large crowds where he can blend in to uninhabited places where he's the centre of attention, yes. But most of the time he’d just prefer to be alone
Chapter 9: Phone Calls
Making phone calls when you're autistic is hard enough as it is. But making phone calls when you're autistic and phone calls aren't a generally accepted thing that exists? It's an absolute nightmare.
“Okay, it should work now!”
After what feels like hours of tinkering, Joseph Stone finally hands the PokéNav Plus back to his son. “Could you test it out for me by calling Roxanne?”
“Uh, sure,” says Steven, searching through the apps until he finds the new addition -- a button labeled Match Call with a picture of a Pokégear. He presses it and is met with a similar interface to his usual emails -- a list of possible recipients in order of how recently he’s spoken to them. He finds Roxanne rather quickly and presses her name, mentally preparing to type up an email, but he’s brought back to reality when the screen displays the text Calling Roxanne Stein.
“Hold it up to your ear,” advises Joseph, and Steven does so. The device makes an odd ringing sort of noise, and then he hears static cackling along with Roxanne’s voice.
“St-Steven? What is this?”
“It’s a new feature my dad wanted me to test out,” he explains. “The PokéNav records what I’m saying and transmits it to your device so you can hear me, and vice versa. It’s a method of real-time communicating at long distances.”
“Oh,” says Roxanne. She pauses, breathing into her device, every exhale creating a rush of static that attacks Steven’s ears. “How long can we talk like this?”
“I … Don’t know. I suppose we ought to try having a conversation to test it out efficiently.”
“Okay, good idea. I wanted to ask you, actually, did you see the new episode?”
“...New episode of what?” How is he supposed to read her mind without his Metagross?
“Duh, Steven Universe.” She sounds mildly annoyed, as though it were obvious. Was it perhaps a cue in body language he was supposed to read? But how could he be expected to read her body language when they’re not even talking face-to-face?
Still, he answers. “No, I’ve been busy helping my dad with this. I’ll watch it tonight. Please don’t spoil any major events or plot twists.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it. I re-fuse to ruin the episode for you like that. Just like how Steven and Connie re-fuse--”
“Roxanne, that’s enough.” He tries to find another way to steer this conversation. “So how has the … Gym been doing?”
“Good.” Does she mean that literally? He has nothing to work on but tone of voice distorted by static; he’s clueless without body language to interpret.
“Is that so?”
“Oh yes,” she continues. “Gave a few badges out, of course, but mostly I’ve had free time in which to read.”
“Hmm,” says Steven. Oh Rayquaza, this is awkward. “Well, I ought to hang up now. Bye.”
He hangs up. “It works,” he says to Joseph.
The older man smiles. “Aha! With the next system update, I will make this feature readily available and usable on every PokéNav Plus!”
Steven can’t help but hope that it never fully replaces emails.
Steven takes several deep breaths to steady his racing heart as the device in his hand rings. He would prefer to email, he really would, but May has the memory of a Magikarp and the chance of her thinking to check her emails and respond in time to help with this crisis is … Well, it’s not high enough that he’s willing to rely on it. So he supposes he has to call.
“Hello?” May’s voice rings through, distorted enough by static that he can’t possibly hope to determine emotions and intent.
“…Is that you, May? It's me.” Who’s “me”? How is she supposed to know?! “Steven.” Too blunt. Did it sound blunt on her end? Better to be safe than sorry and add an everyday script to lighten the mood. “Have you been doing well?”
“...Yes?” She still sounds confused. He needs to launch into an explanation before she starts to think he’s pranking her.
“Heh… I image you must be quite shocked. This is a communication mode that Devon is still currently developing. It comes installed on every PokéNav Plus. I thought I would only use it if I needed to contact you urgently…”
Thinking about the reason for this call gets his heart racing again, and he doesn’t have a clue how he’s going to actually tell her about it at this rate. He takes a few seconds to breathe before continuing. Does the sound of his breathing into the device bother her as much as it bothers him? He hopes not.
“But it looks as though that time has already come. I'm sorry to ask this of you, but I need you to come to the Devon Corporation in Rustboro. There's something I have to talk to you about–in person… I'll be waiting for you there."
Chapter 10: Labels
Glacia is not as knowledgeable about autism as she thinks she is
Glacia reads the newspaper in her hand time and time again, as though the story will somehow cease to be true. Unable to believe it, she takes her PokéNav Plus and checks BuzzNav -- a rarity for her, since she gets almost all of her news from newspapers -- and finds, to her shock, that it is indeed true.
“So,” she says finally, to her coworkers, the rest of the Elite Four and Steven. “Red Tajiri is now the Champion of the Indigo Plateau.”
Drake raises an eyebrow. “You only just figured that out now?”
“Yeah, Glace,” agrees Sidney. “What rock have you been living under? Uh, no offense, Steven.”
“How could I possibly be offended by that?” asks Steven.
Ignoring this comment, Glacia sighs. “I’m just surprised that he’s the Champion. I never thought it would be possible for an autistic person to be a regional Champion.”
There’s a stunned silence in Ever Grande, and everyone except Glacia exchanges somewhat confused glances. The four share a knowing eye contact -- well, in Steven’s case it’s not exactly eye contact, but the point still stands.
Phoebe is the first to speak up. She pointedly looks at her coworkers, her stare lingering on Steven, and says, “Uh, do you guys wanna tell her, or should I?”
“Tell me what?” questions Glacia.
“That I’m autistic,” answers Steven.
Glacia’s cheeks grow red as she quickly tries to backtrack. “Yes, well, you’re high-functioning and Red is low-functioning.”
“Low-functioning?!” chokes Sidney. “Uh, dude’s literally the Champion of the Indigo Plateau. That’s, like, the equivalent of being the Champion of Hoenn twice over, and he’s, like, eleven.”
“Yes, well,” says Glacia pointedly. “Red can’t talk.”
“...And?” says Steven. “Do you really think that someone’s ability to talk is the best way to measure their success and talent? He’s achieved more than any of us at a much younger age, and yet you insist that he is “low-functioning” simply because he is nonverbal?”
Glacia considers this. “You’re right,” she says, and Steven’s short-lived relief is shattered when she continues, “He’s not low-functioning, he’s moderate-functioning.”
“Um,” says Steven.
She gives him a look that seems to suggest that she’s under the impression that he’s actually six years old, and explains in a tone that seems to suggest that she’s under the impression that she is an autism expert, “You see, Steven, autism is a spectrum. Some people are high-functioning, which means that they’re just normal people that are a bit quirky, and some people are moderate-functioning like Red, and some people are low-functioning and those people can be quite violent.”
“So-called “high-functioning” autistic people can be violent too,” says Steven in a tone that is clearly intended to be threatening, but subtly enough that he’s safe if he accuses him of threatening her. “If you really anger them.”
“Yes, well --”
“Oh, give it up, Glace,” yells Sidney. “You don’t know what you’re on about.”
“Yeah,” agrees Drake. “At this point everything you say is just making things worse.”
Phoebe nods. “Go back to Kalos, you cheese-eating surrender Mankey!”
“Um,” says Steven. “You do realise I’m one-quarter Kalosian?”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever, rock rock.” She turns to Glacia. “Functioning labels are cringey anyway.”
“Exactly,” agrees Steven. “Well, minus the part about rock rock. Normally, when
neurotypical people refer to autistic people as “low-functioning”, it’s to dismiss their strengths and dehumanize them, while when they refer to people as “high-functioning”, it’s to dismiss their difficulties and deny them accommodations.”
“Um,” says Sidney, who doesn’t want to admit that he has essentially no idea what he just said. “Uh, yeah, what he said.”
Glacia tries to chuckle as though the whole thing was just some big misunderstanding. “Aha, a thousand apologies. No such thing will happen again.”
It probably will, but at least she’s trying.
Chapter 11: Collection
Twenty years might have been long enough for him to go from obnoxious schoolchild to Hoenn Champion, but it certainly wasn't long enough to shake his interest in geology.
In the crowded halls of the Rustboro Pokemon Trainers’ School, a lone silver-haired boy calls out to his friend. At last he catches her, a young girl with dark brown hair tied into pigtails with large red ribbons and piercing red eyes.
She runs over to him. “What is it?”
“Daddy helped me…” He visibly struggles to remember the complex word that his father taught him. “Daddy helped me or-gan-ise my rock collection in al-pha-bet-ic-al order.”
Roxanne looks at him in confusion. “What’s al-pha-bet-ic-al order?”
“I don’t know, but he says that’s what libraries use and that’s why Miss Alderman always knows where to find the books she needs.” He smiles. “Will your mummy and daddy let you come over to see my rock collection?”
“I don’t know,” she answers. “But I can e-mail them and ask!”
She takes out her PokeNav and begins typing, and a few minutes later she beams at him. “Mummy said I can go!”
He grabs her hand and pulls her through the crowded halls, and they begin the walk to his large house. “You’ll love it,” he rambles. “I have smooth rocks and shiny rocks and rough rocks and Daddy gave me a pretty green rock that he sayed is called an em-rald!”
“Wow!” she says, eyes sparkling. “I didn’t know rocks can be green!”
“I didn’t know too but it’s green and it looks really sparkly!”
As he pushes open the door to his house, Roxanne looks around the living room. She’s been to Steven’s house a few times before to look at his rock collections. He wants to show her at school but sometimes mean kids take them and throw them at each other and then he gets in trouble when he didn’t do anything. So he prefers to just invite her.
The two go to his room together. His rock collection is on display on a shelf low to the ground so that his tiny form can reach it. Roxanne looks at the pretty green one -- the emerald -- and seems fascinated. “Pretty!”
Meanwhile Steven is staring at the shelf, frowning. “This is wrong. It didn’t look like that this morning.”
From the hallway, a high-pitched voice speaks up. “Sorry, dear,” says a tall woman with grey eyes and blonde hair tied into a ponytail. “I tripped over the shelf and knocked some of the rocks off. I didn’t realise it was meant to be arranged a certain way.”
Steven stares at his mother, his entire body quaking with fury. “I’m going to burn you alive!”
He doesn't, for the record.
White shoes meet with a misplaced chair leg and the owner stumbles forward, holding out their arms to break their fall. They find themself gripping a wooden shelf and the impact causes several rocks to roll onto the floor.
“Sorry,” mumbles Steven, quickly adjusting the hazardous chair. “Are you okay?”
“I’m alright,” Wallace answers, bending down to pick up the rocks they knocked over. Carelessly, they place them back on the shelf, and Steven’s eyes widen.
“I have a system!” he yells, running forward and very nearly knocking them over. He begins meticulously rearranging the stones in their correct positions, and Wallace snickers.
He turns to glare at them. “I swear to Rayquaza, I’m going to burn you alive.”
He doesn't, for the record.
Chapter 12: Sensory Overload
Come to the concert, they said. It will be fun, they said.
FUn fact: The song Lisia sings is an actual song in the game's extended soundtrack! It's called Appeal Love and it's on YouTube Idk if the lyrics are right here so if someone who understands Japanese could help me that'd be great
“Tomaranai anata ni ekisaito…”
Lisia’s voice fills the room, bouncing off of the walls and into ears.
“Koi no kirameki apīru to doite…”
Coloured lights circle around the stage, shining directly into silver eyes.
“Utsumuite me o sorashita…”
In the front row seat, Steven forces himself to look at the teenage figure performing.
“Dakedo kidzuite! Suiitona tameiki…”
The verse transitions into an instrumental part and the crowd cheers. The crowd cheers loudly. It’s too loud. He can’t breathe.
How did Wallace convince him to come here?! Come see Lisia’s concert, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. She’s my niece, you can’t not come when my niece is performing, they said.
He spares a glance at Wallace. Their teal eyes are staring up at the stage, mesmerised with their niece’s performance. They don’t even spare their boyfriend a glance, don’t even notice his pain.
“Totsuzen deatta karen’naru shō geki!”
Steven doesn’t want to wince at the sound of such a beautiful soprano singing, but that’s what he does anyway.
“Hitome de meromero na no masutaaranku na anata!”
He swears her voice is being amplified a thousand times over, screaming in his ears.
“Surechigau dakede ashimoto guragura guraundo!”
He doesn’t want to retreat backwards into his chair and dig his nails into his palms, but that’s what happens.
“Semete kyō wa “ohayō” ieru ka na!”
It’s just noise, just endless noise, and it won’t stop, it just. Won’t. Stop.
“Midareru kokoro wa kirameki no rapusodi!”
Oh Rayquaza, he can’t take this anymore, but he also can’t leave, not when it’s his partner’s niece performing.
“Kon’ya mo nemurenai no yume demo aitai no ne.”
He needs to leave, he needs to leave now, he needs. To. Get. Out.
“Omoiu kaberu no hitomi wa daiamondura burī…”
Maybe he can find some sort of excuse to be leaving early? That would be better than letting Lisia think he didn't like it, and it would be infinitely better than forcing himself to stay until the inevitable meltdown.
“Otsuki sama ni “oyasumi” tsubuyaku no!”
He takes a few deep breaths before he can bring himself to gently tap the shoulder next to him.
“Todokanai anata ni ekisaito!”
“Wallace?” Talking is painful but he doesn't have another way of communicating, so he just forces a smile and hopes they can't tell.
“Futari de iru to umaku henasenai!”
“I'm just … going to … the bathroom…” His voice comes out strained, his sentences broken, and he hopes they can't hear his pain over the music and the crowd.
“Gomakashite me o fusete mo...”
They're staring at him with concerned eyes. They can tell, can't they? He shouldn't have said anything.
“Naze ka kereru no sumātona hohoemi!”
“Oh my Rayquaza…” Wallace shakes their head. “I shouldn't have pressured you into coming. You look awful. Just … go outside, okay? I'll meet you soon.”
“Anata no tonari de…”
Lisia’s voice echoes through the walls, reaching Steven's ears with none of the earlier sharpness.
“Mainichi go suīto basudei!”
He sits against the outer wall of the building and sighs.
“Kītto ashita “sukina no”!”
Now Wallace is going to miss out on part of it because of him.
“Feeling better now?”
He looks up. Wallace is standing over him. “Y...Yeah,” he mumbles. “Sorry about…”
“Tomaranai anata ni ekisaito!”
“She's a good singer,” says Steven.
“Osai kirenei kimochi afureru no!”
“She is,” agrees Wallace.
“Utsumite te o tsunaida!”
“I can appreciate it now.”
“Yūki o dashite! Imadake wa…”
“I'd better go back in now,” says Wallace. “Bye.”
And they walk out of sight, leaving Steven alone to listen to the music.
“Aah anata ni ekisaito!
Ai no tokimeki apīru to doite
Utsumite me o mitsem
Sōtto tsutaeru suītona tameiki…”
He's okay. He's safe. He's away from the deafening noise of the concert. He can listen safely now.
“Sōtto kasanaru suītona tameiki…”
Chapter 13: Autistic Character
Good allistic allies to the autistic community will listen to the autistic people in their life, go #RedInstead in April, and be mindful of ableism as they go through their everyday life. Great allistic allies to the autistic community will accidentally join an autistic cult worshipping Julia because they needed a soprano.
“Uh, are you sure I’m meant to be down here?”
“That’s what all the green-haired people say,” says May in what she hopes is an encouraging tone. Towards the back of the cave, a green-haired boy that Lisia has come to know is named Wally opens his mouth as though he wants to say something, but falls silent.
“Yeah,” says Lisia. “But didn’t Steven make this Super-Secret Base just for autistic people?”
“Eh, he doesn't have to know you’re down here,” says Brendan. “Besides, we needed a soprano singer for the ritual.”
“What exactly is the ritual?”
May winks. “You’ll see. Just do what I say and sing like we rehearsed.”
Lisia has no idea how she agreed to this, but apparently at some point she did, and so that’s where she is. May sends out her Blaziken and uses it to ignite the many candles on the cave walls before returning it to its Poké Ball.
“Brendan?” She asks, turning to the boy. Wordlessly, he nods, unzipping his green backpack and taking out … A toy?!
It’s … A Sesame Street toy, by the looks of things. Is that Julia? The autistic one? Lisia supposes that explains why they’re in the autistic secret base … But it doesn’t really explain why she learned the soprano part to church songs before coming here, or why the candles have to be lit.
Brendan zips up his bag and places the toy in the centre of the room before stepping backwards. He, May, and Wally change positions so that they and Lisia are spread roughly evenly apart, the four of them each in one corner of the secret base.
“So, uh, do we sing now?” Lisia suggests.
May shakes her head. “We have to T-pose first.”
“You’re kidding me.”
Apparently she’s not, because she brings up her arms so that her body looks like the letter T, and the two boys do the same. Lisia, however reluctantly, copies them. She doesn’t know how she ended up in an autistic cult, but that’s where she currently seems to be and she’s not in the mood to argue.
The room is silent for a few moments. Although Lisia supposes that, to the three autistic people with her, it’s probably not silent. They can probably hear the flames cackling, and themselves and the others breathing, and all sorts of outside noise that Lisia never notices. Or at least May can -- she never fails to amuse Lisia with the sounds she notices.
Finally, Wally, as the bass vocalist, begins the singing.
Steven is proud to say that, out of all the autistic geologists he knows, he’s the one who is least likely to end up setting someone’s house on fire in a horrifically misguided attempt at environmental activism.
He doesn’t often get a chance to show this pride, however, because it very rarely comes up in conversation.
Honestly, though, he had no idea a low-level Numel could do so much damage. He managed to keep the citizens safe, somehow, but the next time he happens to be in Slateport when an autistic cult of horrifically misguided environmental activists accidentally set someone’s house on fire, Wallace had better be with him.
He dismisses that thought because it is such a bizarre occurrence that he’s sure there won’t be a next time.
Honestly, if such a thing does happen again, it doesn’t have to be Wallace, strictly speaking. He would also be satisfied if Juan was with him, or May, or anyone who has Water-type Pokémon.
Such a thing won’t happen again, so such an exercise is pointless by nature.
Still, he’s exhausted from the effort and also sporting a few minor burns. He’ll have to do something about that later, but for now he can just rest in his Super-Secret Base.
Or he could, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s occupied by four teenagers T-posing and singing around a Sesame Street doll.
He groans. He needs to stop giving the base location to any autistic people he meets. Sure, it’s supposed to be a safe space, but he’s sure they could have found somewhere else to do an autistic satanic ritual.
They finally notice him and stop dead, looking like they’ve just been caught red-handed committing a crime. Which they sort of have, to be honest, because misusing this base is a crime to Steven.
“Look,” he says with a sigh. “As long as this remains an autistic safe space, it’s none of my business what you guys do in here. I’m going to Mossdeep.”
As he exits the cave, all four teenagers breathe a sigh of relief, but a second later he sticks his head back in.
“Wait, what are you doing in here, Lisia?”
“Uh…” Lisia might prefer blue outfits, but as she feels her face burning, her complexion starts to stand for the red instead movement. “Well…”
May jumps in to save her with a chuckle. “Well, duh! We needed a soprano!”
He stares at them. “Oh, right. I should have thought of that.” He sighs. “I’m going to Mossdeep.”
Chapter 14: Nonverbal
Green says something so idiotic that a nonverbal autistic boy miraculously gains the ability to speak. He loses it a second later.
I'm more likely to be hyperverbal than nonverbal (I guess I go semiverbal sometimes but I usually end up talking too much, lol) but this is kind of based on my older brother, who is high support and usually 100% nonverbal but sometimes he says, like, one sentence that's not very clear and we're not entirely sure if he's talking or just vocally stimming in a way that sounds like verbal speech
Blue’s first word is the typical two-syllable “mama”, common enough that it’s hard to know if she even knew who the sounds referred to when she first said them or if it was just her mouth’s confused first attempts at speech.
Green’s first word is a mumbled and unclear “oh” sound, and those close to him by and large think that he was trying to say “Oak” as in, Professor Oak. The professor himself, who knows Green better than anyone, thinks he was trying to say, “Oh my Mew, gramps, get me my damn bottle.”
Red’s first word is a confused, “Whah?” that only serves to make everyone else more confused, including him.
“Red?!” chokes Green, staring at his boyfriend. “Did you just talk?!”
Red can’t really blame him. He’s confused too. After fourteen solid years of not saying a word aloud, it seems a bit late to start talking. “Uh…” he tries to say, but his mouth refuses to make the sound.
He shrugs dismissively and then explains, in sign language, “I don’t know, it just sort of… happened.”
Blue chuckles. “Wow, Green, you managed to say something so idiotic you made Red verbal. Congrats, egg sharpener.”
Green rolls his eyes. “I only sharpened an egg once, leave me alone. Besides, what I said was perfectly reasonable.”
“Green,” says Blue. “You said that if autism is more common in boys than ASD should stand for autism spectrum dick.”
“Like I said, perfectly reasonable.”
Red rolls his eyes and continues with the soduku puzzle he was doing before Green’s idiocy broke the laws of autism. The incident is never mentioned again, but at some point Green learns that the D in ASD stands for disorder.
Normally, they would never stop joking about it, but Red and Blue already spend all of their time jokingly calling him “Egg sharpener”, and so it is forgotten.
Chapter 15: Stim Toys
May really needs something to chew on.
Lisia has a funny story she’d like to tell her uncle: Once upon a time, May went five minutes without chewing on something.
It’s funny because it’s unrealistic.
Granted, she might not know May as well as some other people, like her father or mother, but she knows her well enough to know that she is chewing on something at all times. Pens, her own fingernails, her headband, gum -- if it fits in her mouth, it’s going in there.
When she was younger, before she moved to Hoenn and went on her Pokemon Journey, the teachers were annoyed by this habit, and tried to prevent it by taking any object that she put in her mouth, even if it came at the expense of her ability to actually do her work -- she would just be told she didn’t have to do it if the teachers took her pen because she kept chewing on it.
Or if they took her book because she kept chewing on it.
Or if they took her table because she kept chewing on it.
Suffice to say, the only way to deprive her of any objects she could chew on was to put her in an empty room with nothing to entertain herself with. This, of course, is morally questionable at best and also probably illegal, not to mention unproductive.
They did it anyway.
They did something similar a few years before this incident, in which, frustrated by her inability to focus on her school work, they put her in a room with nothing but her work and a pen, so she couldn't find anything to distract herself with.
Both incidents ended the same way: May just got distracted chewing on her fingers and the teachers gave up.
When she moves to Hoenn, however, this habit worries her friend Lisia. So Lisia gets her a silicone necklace in the shape of a Torchic, May’s starter Pokémon, and tells her to chew on that instead.
At first, she fidgets with the necklace in her hands instead of chewing it, so Lisia gets her a fidget spinner. Then, she chews on the fidget spinner, so Lisia has a heart attack over the very real possibility of her choking on the small parts.
Luckily, she eventually starts using the necklace.
Lisia is grateful.
Chapter 16: Autistic Utopia
But really, aren't we already in one?
Steven’s special interest is Steel-types, and so he trains them exclusively. He devotes his life to them and other similarly typed Pokémon; he is hesitant to try training other types because they just don’t catch his eye in the same way.
Perhaps in another world, he would be ostracised for this. Ostracised for liking something others don’t like, ostracised for talking about his interests too much, ostracised for daring to be different.
But in this world, it’s indistinguishable from the many other type specialists like him.
May never makes eye contact. It makes her feel intimidated and uncomfortable; it’s unnatural. Pokémon don’t make eye contact, so why should she? In her eyes, no pun intended, staring at someone’s eyes and insisting they have to do the same or else they’re “rude” is just plain creepy and controlling.
Perhaps in another world, she would be ostracised for this. Ostracised for coming off as dishonest or uninterested, ostracised for not sacrificing her comfort for theirs, ostracised for daring to be different.
But in this world, it’s just saying that she’s not looking for a battle.
Red gets his Espeon to talk for him. His brain isn’t good with spoken language, and while he can process the words of others talking is near impossible. Not everyone speaks sign language, so he gets his Espeon to use its telepathic powers to read his thoughts and transfer them to other’s minds.
Perhaps in another world, he would be ostracised for this. Ostracised for using his Espeon as a crutch, ostracised for not being able to do everything others can do, ostracised for daring to be different.
But in this world, it’s just another method of communication.
Wally doesn't like loud noises. They hurt his head and his ears and they make him want to run. If the environment is too loud, he will leave, and if he can’t leave, he’ll tell the others to keep the noise down, even if it does take five minutes of unsure stuttering to muster up the confidence to make such a request.
Perhaps in another world, he would be ostracised for this. Ostracised for being bothered by things that nobody else has a problem with, ostracised for ruining their fun, ostracised for daring to be different.
But in this world, they apologise for the loudness and comply.
Brendan can’t stay still for two seconds. His body is always moving, always stimming, always flapping his hands in the air or fidgeting with something or chewing on something or hopping from foot to foot. It comes naturally to him just as smiling does, and he doesn't know anything different.
Perhaps in another world, he would be ostracised for this. Ostracised for not being still and quiet like everyone else, ostracised for being who he is and being proud, ostracised for daring to be different.
But in this world, nobody looks twice.
Chapter 17: Inspiration
An autistic preteen wearing red clothes convinces Wally to come to the beach. Several years later, an autistic adult wearing red clothes convinces Wally to come to a different beach.
He can’t be a Pokémon Trainer if he’s autistic.
Wally knows this fact just like he knows that Rattata eat cheese and Water-types are super effective against Fire-types -- it’s been drilled into his memory so strongly that he can’t remember the first person to tell him, but he knows it’s true. He can catch a Ralts, with the help of a normal Trainer. Maybe use it in a Contest or two, if he’s lucky.
But he can never go on his Pokémon journey no matter how much he longs for adventure. He has executive dysfunction and semi-frequent meltdowns and social anxiety and these things will make it unsafe for him to be unsupervised for a significant length of time. He won’t be able to evolve his Ralts into a Kirlia or a Gardevoir or Gallade because he’s not good with change.
That’s what he thinks until the Gym Leader’s daughter, the girl who has been assigned to help him catch his first Pokémon, starts flapping her arms with joy.
He loses every subsequent battle with her, of course, but he doesn't care, because her victories prove that autistic people can win battles, even if they don’t prove that he can. It’s thanks to her friendship with Steven Stone that he finds out the current Champion is autistic, and he’s dangerously close to crying tears of joy. He gets even more dangerously close when May defeats Steven and takes his place.
When she invites him to go to the Battle Resort with her, though, there’s nothing stopping the tears from falling.
He battles Trainers on the beach, feeling the sand against his bare feet, and the texture is so comforting that he’s half tempted to take a bucket of sand home so he can just run his fingers through it whenever he pleases. He settles for helping random kids make sand castles as an excuse to touch the sand. This is part of why he hated being cooped up in Verdanturf; in Petalburg, he was walking distance from the beach, and he could always go and play in the sand if he wanted.
Wally likes sand and he especially likes beaches. So it’s only natural that when world-famous autistic nonverbal Indigo League Champion Red Tajiri announces his plans to go to Alola for the Battle Tree, Wally is already looking up the costs of plane tickets.
Chapter 18: Puzzle Pieces
Wally hates puzzles. Especially blue ones.
Wally is ten when his uncle first thinks to ask what his favourite colour is.
His response is a moderately confused shrug. He hasn’t really thought about what his favourite colour is, really. It’s never been terribly important in day-to-day life and he’s never had a reason to consider. At last he answers, “Green,” because it’s his hair colour and therefore it’s the answer people will expect him to give.
His uncle gives a wholehearted chuckle. “Why’s that?”
He shrugs again. “Like my hair, I guess. And Ralts.”
His uncle smiles and ruffles said green hair in that special way that makes him cringe slightly but not pull away. “Well, do you have a least favourite colour?”
This time, it takes him half as long to think of an answer. “Blue.”
Another chuckle. “And why do you hate blue so much, Walls?”
It takes him a few seconds to respond. “It’s … It feels like I’m drowning.”
His uncle launches into a speech about Water-type Pokémon that he tunes out, because he wasn’t referring to the possibility of water entering his lungs and threatening to swallow him from the inside, even if that has been one of the many things he gets anxious about every time he goes swimming -- besides, most of the time he’s more worried about people staring at him as he drowns than actually drowning.
No, what he meant was the all-too-familiar feeling of drowning in a sea of blue, seeing blue jumpers and blue wristbands and blue posters and blue puzzle pieces all around him, talking over him. Of turning up to events as the only person wearing red in a sea of blue, of being pointed at and laughed at by people who don’t understand that his clothing choice is anything but a mistake.
The feeling of trying to explain to people why they’re unknowingly hurting him, but even if he can get past the first stuttering sentence they immediately interrupt him by explaining that actually, my mom’s cousin’s babysitter’s doctor’s sister’s coworker’s sister’s ex’s husband is an autism sufferer so I would know what those affected by autism want, and even if there are people out there who will be willing to listen, every time he encounters someone who refuses to hear him out it gets harder to risk talking to someone else.
And oh Rayquaza, this is why he’s scared of the autistic community … The all-too-familiar feeling of searching online for places he can buy autism awareness shirts that won’t directly profit horrible organisations, second-hand from someone who really thinks that lighting the streets up in blue is helpful to autistic people. The feeling of putting it on in the morning underneath a hooded jumper for #RedInstead. The feeling of hiding in his hood as everyone stares at him for wearing a different colour and sticking out like a sore thumb. The feeling of avoiding an anxiety attack at the last second by taking off his jumper and pretending to wear his Autism Awareness shirt with pride.
The feeling of tearing the shirt off as soon as he gets home as though it’s going to explode, and the feeling of hating himself for betraying the autistic community like this, and the feeling of throwing it in the trash and making a promise to himself he won’t keep that he won’t do that next year.
But the next year, come April, he has an all-too-unfamiliar feeling:
The feeling of May and Brendan wearing red beside him, having the confidence and ability to actually explain their clothing instead of letting everyone think they’re just colourblind. The feeling of letting them do the talking while he stands aside and hands out information leaflets. The feeling of knowing he can go home if his anxiety gets bad and still be confident that there will be someone standing up for autistic people.
And the feeling of realising that when a group of ten walk past the little group in red and listen to May’s explanation, nine of them will leave the event and come back half an hour later wearing a matching colour.
Chapter 19: Routine
Variety is the spice of life and Steven has never eaten anything spicy in his life.
Routines are restrictive, says Steven Stone, budding trainer and soon-to-be Champion of Hoenn. So he’s not going to have them anymore.
He has meltdowns when his routine is disrupted, so the logical solution is to stop having routines -- in fact, the logical solution is to stop having anything resembling order in his life. He has it all planned out. He’s going to move away from his hometown of Rustboro and the routines that come with the city, buy a house in Mossdeep, and he’s going to go to a different restaurant and order something different every day until he runs out of restaurants.
He’s not going to fall into the habit of eating the same thing at the same place at the same time every day. Variety is the spice of life, they say, and his life is about to gain a lot of variety indeed.
It’s not like routines are a part of the way his brain works. He’s not going to form a different routine that he will be just as obsessive about. That would be ridiculous.
“So do you want to try out that new Kalosian restaurant with me tonight?”
Steven barely looks up from the essay he’s reading, a ten-page explanation on various properties of rubies and sapphires. “Are you asking me or are you inviting me?”
“What do you mean by that?” Wallace asks, glancing over their boyfriend’s shoulder at the essay and just as quickly giving up when they realise it makes no sense to anyone who’s not a geologist.
“Are you asking me to come with you, or are you asking me if I want to come with you?”
“Uh, inviting, I guess,” they mumble. “I can always get Juan or Lisia to go with me. Why, do you not want to go?”
“First of all, I hate Kalos.” Not giving Wallace a chance to debate, he continues, “Second of all, it’s Tuesday. Tuesday is when I go to the Sinnohan restaurant.”
Variety is the spice of life, they say. And this routine is marginally more varied than the last.
Chapter 20: Animal Or Pet
Are Pokemon actually animals? No. Do I care? No.
Red’s first Pokémon is a Bulbasaur.
It’s gifted to him as his starter Pokémon and it soon proves itself in battle, defeating Green Oak’s Charmander despite the type disadvantage at play. It walks beside him most of the time when it’s not battling, always eager to help its Trainer.
As it evolves, its back grows a spectacular flower, a beautiful shade of pink that Red loves just looking at. The texture is blissful, and Venusaur loves nothing more than letting someone stroke its petals.
Red likes it too.
Red’s second Pokémon is a Pikachu.
He finds it in Viridian Forest and catches it on sight. It takes an immediate liking to him and insists on staying by his side despite its dislike for Poké Balls. As his Pokémon evolve and grow in both size and numbers, he starts having them out of their Poké Balls less and less, but Pikachu is the exception. He won’t make it go in the Ball if it doesn’t want to.
After all, he knows what it’s like to struggle with a sensation that nobody else minds.
Besides, when it’s out of its Poké Ball, he can have its comforting weight on his shoulder and run his hands through his silky fur as its Electric-type moves create beautiful lights.
Red’s third Pokémon is an Eevee.
It’s gifted to him in Celadon City, and within moments of having it, everyone and their mother is asking him what he wants it to evolve into.
He’s never sure what he wants it to evolve into; he’s more concerned with what it wants to evolve into.
He buys a Water Stone, a Thunder Stone, and a Fire Stone, and lays all three out in front of his partner for it to choose. When it avoids all three, he assumes it must not want to be a Vaporeon, a Jolteon, or a Flareon, and despite the many people advising him to just force it to evolve into a form of his choice, he respects its wishes.
(He offers the Thunder Stone to Pikachu, but it refuses. He won’t force it to evolve before it’s ready.)
(Even if it’s never ready.)
He hopes it doesn't want to be a Glaceon or a Leafeon, because he doesn’t know where to take it to evolve it into either of those forms, so he decides to just let it do whatever it ends up doing in terms of evolution. And eventually his hard work pays off as it evolves into an Espeon.
Espeon’s psychic powers give him a tool he’s never had before -- it can read his thought, can read what he wants to say, and transfer it to someone else’s mind. Since so few people speak Kantonese Sign Language, it’s incredibly helpful.
(He still would have accepted it if it evolved differently, though.)
Red’s fourth Pokémon is a Snorlax.
It’s blocking the way on Route 12 and he decides to catch it, since he has to battle it to clear the path. It’s skilled, but it’s lazy, and for a long time it refuses to do anything in battle.
It takes so long to defeat it that Red keeps using it, keeps getting it to battle, and never gives up on it, because he knows he would hate it if somebody gave up on him like that.
Eventually, it starts fighting.
One move in a battle, one attack in a day, and it would still rather chew its own feet off than get up to dodge, but it’s something. He encourages it, tells it how great it is improving little by little, and it craves the praise, so it tries even harder.
Nowadays, it obeys his every word.
(It still won’t get up to dodge, for the record.)
Red’s fifth Pokémon is a Blastoise.
He doesn’t want her Blastoise, not so soon after the incident that tore her from the world, but unlike her other Pokémon it doesn’t run feral after her death. It follows him, refusing to leave, and eventually he takes its Poké Ball from her bag (it feels uncomfortably close to grave robbing) and adopts it as his own.
He knows that’s what she would have wanted.
He knows he can’t nickname a Pokémon that isn’t originally his, because changing the name it was registered with is impossible without the OT and it wouldn’t adjust to the new name anyway, but if he could, he would call it Blue, after its colour.
And in her memory.
Blastoise takes him across water, when his skin feels hypersensitive and asking him to swim is like asking him to set himself on fire. It reminds him of how Blue would use it to give him a lift when he wanted it, and he knows it’s what she would have wanted.
Red’s sixth Pokémon is a Charizard.
Green Oak is there when Blue is forcefully taken from the earth, there when her lips turn blue and her skin turns pale and her frail body stops shivering. Charizard is a Fire-type Pokémon, and in Green’s eyes, that should have been enough to save her.
(It tried, it really did, but it was struggling enough to keep itself alive in that weather.)
In a fit of rage after her death, Green slams the Poké Ball containing his starter on the ground as he declares his intentions to go back to being the Gym Leader in Viridian and chews Red out for the idea to go to Mt. Silver, for not thinking things through, for not saving her.
Red, not knowing what else to do, adopts it.
When Ethan arrives on Mt. Silver and convinces him to come down, he offers to give Charizard back to Green. Green has calmed down and worked through his resentment, and he apologises to Red and to Charizard, but he refuses to take his starter back. It brings back too many memories, and the way he yelled at it has made him realise that it may be better off with Red anyway.
Red’s secretly grateful. He had enjoyed having something to fly him around, something to keep him warm when the cold is unbearable.
Red loves his Pokémon and his Pokémon love him.
Chapter 21: Honesty
Five times Wally lied about his brain and one time he didn't.
Wally is barely old enough to know what autism is when it’s first mentioned in a conversation that does not include his immediate family.
“Are you autistic or something?”
It’s just another jerk with a Zigzagoon, just another one of the bullies that have been tormenting him for his sickness and strange habits. Honestly, as much as they do still freak him out when they tease him in front of people, right now they’re alone outside Petalburg Gym and the efforts have gotten boring.
Wally’s not sure how to answer the question, though, because he thinks he rather might be autistic or something. His parents took him to a pediatrician and then made him leave the room while the words “autism” and “high-functioning” and “possible Aspergers” were muttered in hushed tones, but he could hear some of it through the thin walls. Enough to research when he got home. It didn’t take a genius to figure it out.
He does not exactly want his tormenters to know this.
So, instead, with all the confidence he can muster -- which isn’t a lot, but it’s better than nothing -- he looks the bully dead in the eye and says, “No, but you might be.”
Which, of course, is a complete lie.
Wally might be terrible at lying to his parents, but apparently he’s better at lying to bullies, because the older boy turns very red and runs off and Wally has a feeling he won’t be seeing him again.
Wally is ten when the Gym Leader quits.
It’s a confusing point in his life, because the Leader is moving to Unova to start a family, and for a few weeks the Gym in his hometown is closed altogether. When the new Leader arrives from Johto, he lives in Littleroot with his wife and daughter, dominates Trainers with his powerful Slaking, and is really intimidating.
Wally knows he can’t go his whole life without meeting the Gym Leader, and the longer he puts it off the harder it will be, so he introduces himself shakily.
The man chuckles fondly. “I’m Norman. Good to meet you, Wally.”
Norman. That explains why he’s the Normal-type specialist, Wally supposes. “So, um…” A part of him -- most of him, actually -- just wants to leave now, but he can’t just introduce himself, that’s weird. He has to at least try to have a conversation. “So how’s your daughter?”
“She’s been doing wonderfully!” He smiles at the thought of her. “My wife called me yesterday about her, actually -- she saved Professor Birch from a Poochyena by taking a Torchic out of his backpack. He’s thinking of letting her keep the Torchic as a gift and go on a journey.”
“Wow!” He digs around in his brain for more information he could ask about concerning his daughter. “How old is she?”
“She’s turning twelve in a week, actually. So Birch has until then to decide whether to let her keep Torchic, so it can be a sort of birthday present.”
“That’s amazing, I wish I could have a Torchic.” He sighs. “My parents don’t think I should go on a journey because I’m on the …”
He stops himself just in time, because there’s no way in hell he’s telling this man he just met that he’s on the spectrum. “Actually, never mind. I have to go and check my emails now.”
And as confused as Norman is, he does not bring this up the next time he sees Wally.
“Yeah?” Wally says, turning to the girl, but she’s already seemingly forgotten her reason for saying his name.
“No,” May says to herself. “I can’t call you Walls, that’s what Lissi calls her uncle…”
Wally’s eyes are wide with shock, and he stutters, “Y-You know Lisia? As in the f-famous contest star L-Lisia?”
“Oh yeah, she scouted me. Anyway, Walls, no offense or anything but like, are you autistic?”
There’s no malice or teasing in her voice, only genuine curiosity, and Wally can tell her intentions are good. Despite this, he’s tempted to pretend to be offended and stomp off, and the only thing that stops him is the knowledge that she, too, is autistic.
So he shrugs and mutters, “I don’t know.”
“Well, it’s just that I see a lot of my traits in you, you know? But maybe I’m just looking too far into things.”
Wally knows that, if anything, she’s not looking far enough into things.
He does not say this.
“Hey, Wall, do me a favour?”
As a matter of fact, Wally does not want to do her a favour. He also does not want to refuse and be seen as rude, so he mumbles, “Sure.”
“Okay,” says May. “Could you do me a favour and go order something at Mauville Food Court while I go do some inverse battling? That way the food’ll be ready by the time I’m done.”
“Uh…” See, this is why he needs to learn not to agree to do anything until he knows what it is. “Um, yeah, I guess I can do that.”
His legs are shaking. His face is burning. He can’t breathe.
May takes some money out of her fanny pack and starts to hand it to him, then pauses. “Dude, you okay?”
“I’m fine,” he lies.
It’s not a very convincing lie.
“Uh, Wally?” May presses, looking a little concerned. “You know, if it’s a problem I can just order the food and then go battling.”
“W-Won’t that take too long?”
“Eh, I get through trainers fast. Relax, it’ll be fine.”
He nods meekly, no longer having the energy to talk, and follows behind her as she walks into the food court. Some twenty minutes later, she comes back in, soaking wet and covered in glitter.
“Don’t ask,” she says as she sits down and starts helping herself to the food. “Had some very interesting battles, that’s all. Anyway, are you seeing someone for that social anxiety?”
His heart speeds up and he plays dumb. “I … don’t have social anxiety?”
She raises an eyebrow but says nothing more on the matter. He’s not sure what he’d say if she did.
“Never have I ever attempted to sharpen an egg.”
To Wally’s surprise and mild concern, Brendan and May both sip from their drinks -- it’s water, of course, because they’re all underage, but they’re drinking nonetheless. Lisia chuckles. “Okay, I knew May was a weirdo, but Brendan?”
“It was for an experiment,” he says defensively.
Mah chuckles. “Okay, my turn. Hmm… Never have I ever … err, never have I ever been diagnosed with any sort of mental illness or developmental disability.”
Wally’s not sure if it counts as a lie if he deliberately does not drink when he’s meant to in this game, but either way, his cup stays firmly on the ground as May downs hers, and everyone’s too busy asking each other for details to notice him.
He still does not dare drink.
“Nice lock screen!”
His brain catches up with what May’s saying and he stutters, “What are you doing with my PokeNav Plus?!”
She chuckles as she tosses the device back to him. “Just playing around. I knew it all along, by the way.”
“What do you...oh.”
His lock screen has words on it.
The words are, I love being autistic.
“Seriously, though, where’d you get that? Cause I want that on my Nav now.”
And he’s too busy giving her the link to try and deny it.
Chapter 22: Favourite Place
Steven likes caves.
Now, this may come as a shock to you, considering that it’s such obscure and little-known knowledge, but Steven Stone enjoys being in caves.
I know, it’s a shocker, mind blown. But after the initial shock fades, is the obvious question: Why?
Why does he choose to spend so much of his free time in caves when he could surely choose anywhere else to go? What is the magnetic pull of the underground areas of Hoenn that attracts the metal exterior of his Steel-type Pokémon and, by extension, him?
Perhaps it’s the quiet and the dark, the rock walls functioning as a shield that protects him from sensory input. The way the Pokémon take advantage of the dark by using it to sneak around for an ambush, and the way they do that so quietly he doesn't even know they’re there. The way all of the screaming, flashing battles from the surface are left behind, unable to reach him.
Except for those dreadfully annoying caves that are home to flocks of screaming Whismur -- but Steven knows to avoid them by now.
Or perhaps it’s the isolation, the sheer distance separating him from most other humans before one even factors in the rocks. Calls rarely reach him in the darkest corners of the underground, and if they do, he can always ignore them and say he didn’t have signal. Isolated by metres of rock and distance, he’s free to act however he wants without fearing judgement, free from the pressure of having to keep a conversation going.
Well, there are other hikers that insist on following him around and asking for his autograph, but his Skarmory can move faster than they can chase him and he can climb in places they’d never dare venture to.
Or perhaps it’s exactly the explanation he gives when someone asks. Perhaps it’s just the rocks. Perhaps it’s the rush of dopamine that comes with engaging with his special interest, that comes with being surrounded by years of geological history, able to find stones of every sort with just a bit of searching.
The exact reason doesn't matter. What matters is that he loves caves, and he’s not going to stop loving them any time soon.
Chapter 23: Happiness
Why do they attract such different reactions, when they're both expressions of happiness?
When Lisia is happy, she smiles. That’s what feels natural to her allistic brain, and she does it without a second thought, without needing to consider whether she’ll be judged for expressing her joy like that.
Nobody looks twice, nobody asks why she’s smiling, nobody gives her funny looks. Nobody asks what she’s doing, nobody yells slurs at her, nobody backs away from her for fear of being seen with the girl who smiles.
After all, it’s just an expression of happiness. What’s wrong with that?
When May is happy, she flaps her hands. That’s what feels natural to her autistic brain, and she does it without a second thought, her hands acting too fast for her brain to consider whether she’ll be judged for expressing her joy like that.
People stare, people ask why she’s flapping her hands, people give her funny looks. People ask what she’s doing, people yell slurs at her, people back away from her for fear of being seen with the girl who flaps her hands.
She doesn't understand why. After all, it’s just an expression of happiness. What’s wrong with that?
Chapter 24: Support
It's unfortunately very common for neurotypical and able-bodied people to deny disabled people accommodations because it seems like too much effort. But sometimes the little things can help a lot.
Water steadily pours down out of the tap, landing in the bottom of the cup with a small splash and rising up until the cup is almost full. Satisfied with the amount of water, a pale hand grips the cup and holds it to his mouth, then immediately spits it back out.
“Waaa-llaaace!” whines Steven. “Did you wash the dishes again?!”
“Um, yes?” says Wallace from the other room. “Why, shouldn’t I have?”
“Not unless you know what dishwashing liquid to use!” yells Steven. With a heavy sigh, he turns the tap back on, rinsing the cup to rid it of the lemony taste.
“Sorry, Steven,” calls Wallace from the other room. “Won’t happen again.”
As the storm rages outside, the lights turn themselves off in Ever Grande and everyone collectively groans. “How am I supposed to do internet stuff now?!” whines Phoebe.
“Your Banette knows Thunderbolt, right?” asks Sidney. “That might be able to turn the power back on.”
Drake’s eyes widen and he glares at the two. “We are not using Thunderbolt in this storm. There’s no way that could end well.”
Meanwhile, Glacia has eyes only for the teal-haired Champion sitting at their desk, a book in their hands. “How on Earth are you reading in this light, Wallace?!”
Wallace shrugs nonchalantly. “Steven hates having the lights on, so I’ve sort of learned to adapt.”
“And anyway,” they continue. “While it seems easy to say that only a diamond could shatter another diamond based on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, due to the existence of cleavage planes in diamond gems, it would be relatively easy to cut it in half with a sword --”
They pause mid-sentence. “Wait, how did I know all that?”
Steven blushes guiltily. “I guess you weren’t completely zoning out when I was infodumping. Anyway, you’re right, it could have been Pearl. My money’s still on Yellow Diamond, though.”
“Oh, uh, Steven?” The device cackles with static and they continue. “I’ve got to go and get something at Lilycove for Lisia after I finish up at the Gym tomorrow, so I’ll be approximately twenty-three minutes later than usual.”
They hang up the call to see Lisia’s raised eyebrows. “That’s, like … an oddly specific warning to be giving two days in advance.”
“Well, Lisia, if it’s foolish and it helps, it’s not foolish.”
The crowd is alive with murmurs and cheers, but people are people, and people will find something to complain about like their lives depend on it.
“This is boring,” a teenage girl mumbles to her friends. “Walls has really jumped the Sharpedo, haven’t they?”
“Yeah,” agrees another. “Their contests are so, like, plain now. They used to have all these flashing lights but now they don’t.”
Meanwhile, in the front row seat, an excited geologist eagerly watches the stage.
Chapter 25: Freebie
May decides to read fanfic about autism written by allistic authors. It goes about as well as you'd expect.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Well, I don’t know what I expected.”
Lisia glances up from her BuzzNav app to look at her girlfriend. “You’re going to have to be more specific.”
“I don’t know what I expected when I decided to look at fanfiction about autism written by allistic authors,” says May. “But I really should have anticipated the quality.”
“Or lack thereof?”
“Lack thereof.” She stares at the screen in her hands. “Okay, this one’s about a boy with ‘mild high-functioning Asperger’s’ who knows the dictionary definition for every word and does not understand metaphors.”
“Of course, the mild high-functioning Asperger’s.” She sighs. “What else?”
“This one’s about a girl named Ellie who’s totally nonverbal and unable to understand language at all, then she gets a surgery that lets her talk and she inexplicably shows no other autistic traits.”
“What?” chokes Lisia. “That’s ridiculous.”
“There’s more,” continues May. “She has a love story with a boy named Lewis, who is also autistic and got the surgery to make him not autistic. They both think the other won’t like them if they found out they’re autistic, but eventually they find out because Lewis’s magical anti-nonverbal surgery inexplicably wears off and he has to have it done again in the same hospital where Ellie’s getting a check-up after hers.”
“That … does not make any sense.”
“And apparently autistic people have to wear funny clothes. Oh, and to top it all off, the summary says the author wanted to write something about autism because her nephew has it and it might cause him to die.”
Lisia tries to make sense of this narrative, then gives up. “Do you want to just read fanfic by autistic authors?”
May pauses. “Yeah, I think that might be a good idea.”
For those who are curious: The "mild high-functioning Asperger's" was based on a specific fic I saw on this site, but I'm not naming names because it's a pretty common trope and it seems pointless to name one person who does it while ignoring everyone else who does it. The story about Ellie is literally a story I saw on the app Episode: Choose Your Story, I didn't even change the names. The story was called "Autism And Love" and I'm probably going to make a Tumblr post about it.
Chapter 26: Echolalia
May chooses an ... unusual word to echo back, several days after it is originally said, confusing everyone involved.
“Lisia, could you pass me my jacket? It’s on the chair behind you.”
Wallace’s voice echoes through the room, the unknowing instigator of chaos. They’re asking because they’re cold and they don’t want to get up, but Lisia doesn't want to get up either.
Of course, there is only one possible solution.
“Yeet!” she yells as she throws the jacket across the room. It flies over Wallace’s head and hits the wall behind them, rendering the entire effort useless. Sighing, they get up and grab the jacket, then put it on.
Meanwhile, Juan is sitting next to them while May stands by the door, and both are staring at Lisia.
“Yeet?” Juan questions, as though he’s never heard the word before -- which, considering the fact that he doesn't seem to have an account on any social media and rarely interacts with people in Lisia’s age group other than Lisia herself, is likely.
With a jolt she realises that he’s staring at her, and he looks confused. He … Doesn't actually know what the word “yeet” means, presumably. Which is justifiable, she supposes.
“Uh, yeah,” she explains. “It means throwing something.”
“It’s popular in her generation,” adds Wallace.
Juan raises an eyebrow, and Lisia half expects him to go on a rant about kids these days, but he says nothing. By the next day, all involved have forgotten about it.
Well, almost all involved.
“Yeet!” May mutters, more to herself than anyone, and Lisia instinctively ducks -- she has enough experience with May throwing things to know that her aim is … Not the best.
When she doesn't get hit by a flying object and she doesn't hear anything hitting the wall, she looks up. May doesn't seem to have yeeted anything.
She raises an eyebrow. “Uh, May, you’re not meant to say that unless you’re throwing something.”
May glares right back. “What are you, the yeet police?”
“Point taken,” says Lisia with a shrug, and the incident is forgotten.
Chapter 27: Colour
May has two favourite colours: blue and red.
“Hey, May, what’s your favourite colour?”
May thinks about the answer for a few long moments. “Um, either red or blue.”
Lisia raises an eyebrow. “Those are like, literally at opposite ends of the colour spectrum.”
“Eh, whatevs,” says May, which pretty much sums it up. “What’s yours?”
“I dunno. Maybe purple or a really deep blue?”
“So we both sorta like blue, then.” She sighs. “I dunno, Lissi. Like, I like red because of a lot of things. There’s the #RedInstead movement, my Blaziken, that kid who went to Mount Silver, and, like … it makes me feel like I’m fighting, you know? It’s, like, the colour of fighting for what you believe in. So I guess that’s why I like red.”
Lisia smiles. “And why do you like blue?”
May shrugs. “Looks nice.”
Chapter 28: Empathy
In which May has the empathetic capacity of a Ralts
When Lisia hears sobs from the living room, she abandons the food she's making and is there in an instant. But when she glances at the TV screen, she wonders if the hurry was really necessary.
"Uh, May?" she probes cautiously, staring at the crying girl with apprehension. "Uh, what's wrong?"
Tears comically stream down May's face. "The character in the cartoon cried and now I'm crying!"
"What was he crying over?"
"He remembered Seviper don't have any arms! And now I've remembered Seviper don't have any arms!"
Now, Lisia is Wallace's niece. She's witnessed some incredibly stupid reasons for tears coming from her uncle, and then she grew old enough to start getting periods and surpassed them. So when she privately thinks that this is the stupidest thing she's ever seen anyone cry over, it's really saying something.
Despite this, she sits down and explains how Seviper are perfectly happy without having any arms and how they have Poison-type moves to make up for it and doesn't stop talking until she smells smoke.
"Shit!" she yells. "I was meant to be cooking! Ugh, I'd better go deal with that."
May sniffles as her girlfriend hurries back to the kitchen. Then the character on the TV cries because he can't save the fictional alien except with his own spit and the tears start falling again.
Chapter 29: Overthinking
With the help of the Gym Leader's daughter, Wally catches a Ralts.
There are the good days.
Those are the days when he runs around Petalburg City unattended. Those are the days when he can bring himself to talk to Norman without stuttering. Those are the days when he goes down Route 104 in broad daylight, instead of waiting until evening when nobody is outside and he has to go home in half an hour anyway.
And then there are other days.
This is one of them.
Wally Skye Emerald woke up this morning with a Rattata gnawing at the insides of his stomach, or at least that’s what it feels like. His hands are shaking for reasons he can’t quite understand and he just hopes and prays to Rayquaza that it’s not as noticeable as it feels.
What is he getting so anxious about? For most of the morning, the answer eludes him and simply causes him more unneeded anxiety. It’s not until he’s flipping through apps on his PokéNav Plus out of boredom that he sees it on his AreaNav.
That’s where he’s heading tomorrow.
Wait, it is tomorrow, isn’t it? He’s leaving on Saturday, and today is Friday, so it must be. Wait, is today actually Friday? Of course it is, yesterday was Thursday. Or was it? Maybe he should ask his parents? No, no, they’d think he’s so stupid if he asked what day it is. He should know what day it is. He checks the calendar on his PokéNav Plus. It’s definitely Friday. He checks several times just in case he’s reading it wrong somehow, then checks the day he’s meant to leave several times, then finally lets himself trust his own ability to read.
He’s definitely leaving tomorrow.
He groans aloud. He can’t do it, he just … can’t. It took him ten solid years of living in Petalburg City, from his birth to today, for him to actually be able to learn everyone’s names and make a few friends. He can’t just throw all of that progress away and start from scratch! He barely even knows the family members he’s staying with, let alone everyone else.
He doesn’t want to be lonely again.
He pauses. Maybe if he had a Pokémon by his side, one he could call his very own, would the trip be bearable? He could make friends by battling, and being a Pokémon Trainer would make his lack of eye contact less unusual, since the others would just take it as a sign that he’s not on the lookout for a battle.
Could he catch a Pokémon all by himself? He has fifteen Poké Balls, so he has fifteen attempts to get it right, and he can always go to the store to get more since he has money. But … Will there be people watching on Route 102? At this time of day, someone is bound to be there. What will the more experienced Pokémon Trainers think of him if he uses all fifteen Poké Balls and fails to catch a single Pokémon?! Rayquaza, what will they think of him if they see him trying to catch one all by himself in the first place?!
That decides it, then. He can’t go on his own. He’ll ask Norman to help him. He might not know Norman very well, since he only recently moved from the Johto region, but the Leader is already one of the few people he can trust. The two met on Norman’s first day in Petalburg, when some of the boys in the city had been making fun of Wally (like always) and Norman had stood up for him. That was enough to get the bullies to more or less leave him alone permanently, and out of gratitude he forced himself to talk to Norman and build a friendship with him, even if the idea of talking to an important person like a Gym Leader makes his heart pound.
Norman has a daughter, apparently, only slightly older than him and also on the autism spectrum, so Norman sort of understands him.
It’s the best he’s going to get, he thinks. Most autistic people probably wouldn’t like him very much if they met him in real life; his insistence on hiding his autistic traits would be seen as being ashamed and not as a survival mechanism.
Okay. He’s going to Verdanturf tomorrow. He has to ask Norman for help now. It’s now or never.
He walks into the Gym. Norman is talking to a young girl with short brown hair who is wearing a red tank top and a matching bow headband.
He can wait until the girl’s gone, but he can’t use this as an excuse to cancel the visit. He’s leaving tomorrow. It’s now or never.
Norman looks at him and his legs turn to jelly.
No! He’s doing this, whether he likes it or not. Besides, Norman’s already seen him. What would Norman think if he left now?
He takes a deep breath. “Um… E-Excuse me… I …” Stop stuttering. “I’d like to get a Pokémon, please…” Rayquaza, that was rude! What is wrong with him?!
“Hm?” says Norman. “Aren’t you … You’re Wally, right?”
He nods. “Y-Yes… I’m supposed to go stay with my relatives in Verdanturf Town for a while. But I thought I might be lonely by myself…” Oh Rayquaza, he’s making Norman think he hates his relatives. “So I wanted to bring a Pokémon with me. But I’ve never caught a Pokémon by myself… I’m not sure if I can.”
“Mm-hmm. I see.” Norman looks at the girl. “May, you heard all that, right? You go with Wally, and make sure that he safely catches a Pokémon.” He turns to Wally. “Wally, this is my daughter, May. She’s twelve years old and she’s only just starting her journey. Here, I’ll lend you one of my Pokémon.”
He hands the green-haired boy a Poké Ball and Wally feels his face go red. “Oh, wow… Your Pokémon, sir? Th-thank you, Mr. Norman! Um… May? You will … you will come with me, right?”
Of course she will.
“May… Pokémon hide in tall grass like this, don’t they?”
May smiles brightly. “Yeah, I’ve run into a whole bunch in grass like this!”
He nods. “P-please stay there to watch if I can catch one properly.” Oh Rayquaza, he hopes he can catch one properly. What will everyone think if he can’t?
Then he sees it -- a small Ralts that jumps out at him. “Wh-whoa!”
He sends out the Zigzagoon that Norman lent him. “Use Tackle!”
As Zigzagoon attacks Ralts, he begins to doubt himself. Is he doing it wrong? He’ll look stupid if he’s doing it wrong. His hands and legs are shaking as he turns to May. “I’m su-supposed to try to weaken the Pokémon before I throw my Poké Ball, right? I read that in a book recently.” He leaves out the part where he read that book for an entire day when he was too scared of being judged to go outside.
Finally, he throws a Poké Ball and the Ralts is swallowed up. It rolls over three times, then clicks shut.
“I did it… It’s my… My own Pokémon!” He has to consciously suppress the urge to flap his hands with joy. “Thanks so much, May! Let’s head back to the Gym!”
Then May’s hands start flapping and he realises that he doesn’t need to worry about what she thinks. They flap their hands together in pure happiness, and he starts to think that maybe today isn’t going to be so bad after all.
Chapter 30: Neurotypical
My dear readers, I have a confession to make.
I had numerous ideas for this prompt, mostly involving a neurodivergent character explaining to an autistic character the meaning of the word neurotypical. But this idea required something that the Pokémon franchise does not have -- a neurotypical character.
Really, I checked! This franchise spans almost 23 years with 31 games as of April 2019, soon to be 33 games with the release of Sword and Shield, and that’s just in the main series without counting any of the side games! It has two anime series based on it along with multiple animated trailers and countless manga series inspired by the game! And through all of these adaptations, there is not one single neurotypical character.
I checked them all. Steven Stone? Autistic. The red Gyarados? The red stands for #redinstead. Ash Ketchum? Autistic and ADHD. Wally? Socially anxious and autistic. The gay Pikachu couple that appear in the background of one specific scene in the anime? Autistic. Lady Platinum Berlitz? Autistic. The Trainer in Pokémon Shuffle with the Mega Audino? Autistic. Clemont and Bonnie? Autistic. Beauty Nova? Autistic icon. Amarillo del Bosque Verde? Autistic as well.
Even the rocks in Steven’s house are autistic icons!
So, try as I might, I can’t complete this prompt, because every single character in all 23 years of this franchise is neurodivergent.
Happy Autism Acceptance Month and neurotypicals stay the heck away from my Pokémon.
(And we’re taking Steven Universe back too).