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Heart of Gold

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   Tim’s phone rang on the table next to him as he ignored it rattling. Harry sipped his coffee, reviewing the notes of his newest case.
    “Aren’t you going to answer it?” Harry asked just as the phone call went to voicemail. Tim stared at the want ads. Between searching online, searching around their small apartment and the want ads, he had zero idea what he wanted to do. He was starting to regret quitting the insurance company. Transferring would have been an option, there were plenty of offices here in Ryme City but wouldn’t that just be transferring his misery?
    Now Lucy was calling over and over. Because he refused to answer. Their singular date was full of awkward experiences and him being dragged around. She was nice enough and cute but that wasn’t exactly enough. He wasn’t sure what they had in common other than their shared experience with MewTwo. Even that was only some things. He still couldn’t explain what happened to his dad to her even if the same thing happened to her and Psyduck. On top of that, she was super busy trying to stay on top of becoming the next big reporter on CMN, which kept her super busy and he was a jobless guy not sure what to do next with his life.
    Why did he decide to stay with his dad again?
    The phone started again and he sighed.
    “She’ll just keep calling.” Harry nudged the phone closer to his son. “Thought you two stayed friends.”
    “We did, are. Whatever.” Grimacing at the phone, a third call came through and he finally answered. “Hey.”
    “Still looking for a job?” She knew the answer, why did she even ask when she wasn’t going to wait for a reply, “Want to meet up? I am tracking down some Team guys that took over the Pokemon battles down near the pier.”
    “I-I really don’t…”
    “Meet you at the Cafe.” She hung up and just expected him to go down and meet her. Did he even get a whole sentence in?


    Backup? That could be the reason he was following her. Lucy was feisty but it wasn’t particularly safe for her and Psyduck to just go walking around down by the docks. He was partnerless again, making him feel like he stuck out like sore thumb in this city. When he did take a step back to look at it there were plenty of people without partners in Ryme. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that people looked at him funny. Like they knew how he felt about Pokemon.
    Tim stuffed his hands in his jacket keeping a small distance between him and Lucy. She’d said something about the arena being abandoned, then a lab, then rushed down the street with Psyduck in tow.
    “What do you think?”
    He definitely was not listening to her rambling. In fact he was far enough back he didn’t know she was even talking to him.
    “Oh-well…”
    “How much do you think it would be?” She had moved on, realizing he wasn’t listening or not, she was off in her own world. Again.
    The docks were only slightly busier than the last time he had come down here, in the middle of the night with his father…no Pikachu. Both. Whatever.
    Stopping in front of the warehouse Gyarados tore through, the building was still in shambles. Police tape formed stripes through the gaping hole.
    “I guess the underground fights are back on in a new location, but I haven’t heard where yet.”  She was off again and he was following. Not sure where he was even going. Lucy was looking for something, or someone.
    He let himself trail behind, preoccupied with what he was going to do next. His grandmother had just sent a care package with some of his clothes, some snacks and a little album.  He hadn’t shown his father yet. It was mostly pictures of him and his mom and every time he looked at it he felt his heart rip open again. He didn’t blame his father anymore. He was happy to learn about his father all over again.
    Lucy spotted something as they were exiting the docks and heading back toward the city proper. Psyduck waddled as fast as he could but even he had a hard time catching up. Tim turned onto the busy street and jogged to Psyduck, keeping him from getting trampled.
    “Hey, we’ll find her.” Psyduck fretted, looking everywhere for his partner. Tim could barely see her up ahead, lifting him to see her as well and hoped that he would calm down. “You know how excited she gets,” he groaned.
    The crowd on the street parted enough for Psyduck to weasel his way out of Tim’s grip and off to Lucy. Letting out a sigh, he gave chase again, continuing to question why he was here when he felt so useless.
    As the crowd reformed he lost sight of both Lucy and Psyduck. Pausing on the sidewalk Tim considered texting Lucy and heading home. Not only did he feel useless, he had no clue what they were doing and all he wanted to do was hide away from the world again. At least until he figured out life.
    The crowd, thinning, parted again as a brunette girl in a black hoodie came barreling down the sidewalk. Yanking down the zipper, she slowed looking for someone. Tim ignored the girl while he contemplated what he was going to do.
    Until he was dragged by his jacket to the closest wall. The girl that had just passed him shoved her wadded up hoodie into his stomach. Wrapping her hair up she flashed a small apologetic smile before spinning him around so he trapped her against the wall.
    “Sorry,” she murmured, frantically searching the street. Tim would have ran but she held him to her. Two thugs chased people from the closest sandwich shop, bright red R blazoned on their jackets. “Shit.” Her eyes pleaded for a way off the street, a distraction. Tim braced himself with his free hand as he fell into the wall again. Pulled, again. “Sorry.” The desperation was clear but he had no idea why. Barely time to look her in the eye, she was on her tip toes wrapping her hands around his neck and pulling him into a kiss.
    Every single woman in this city was crazy. It was the only possible explanation. Something about this city made them lose all sanity.
    Keeping him close and in the longest kiss of his life, both Team grunts made their way past without so much as a glance at the couple making out.
    Coming to his senses, Tim pulled back enough to break the kiss. She had a different idea. It felt like the floor fell from underneath them. He may be a magnet for crazy women but this kiss was different. He let himself fall back into her embrace.
    Seconds passed. Out of breath she pushed him back, scanned the street and darted off with one final, “Sorry about that.”
    Dumbfounded, Tim stood there holding her hoodie. “Wait.” He grabbed her hand and chaos ensued. Lucy and Psyduck had backtracked to them and saw the entire kiss. Tim caught her seething as the mysterious girl swore. One of the guys she’d been avoiding saw her when she’d turned back around. She would have been home free if not for pausing to grab her hoodie.
    “Damnit.” Throwing her weight back into Tim, she hurled them into an alley way with Lucy in pursuit.
    “I get it now. I wasn’t pretty enough? Tall enough?” Lucy started screaming, echoing down the alley. Although this mystery girl was barely an inch or two taller than Lucy.
    “I-I don’t think this is the time.” Tim backed further into the alley as the girl readied herself. When the first black jacket turned into the alley her arm wrapped around his, disarming him swiftly before her knee and his nose connected. Unfortunately, his partner, a Sandshrew, swiped at her furiously cutting up her arm. She dashed from the alley letting the second guy chase her down. His partner, a beastly Pidgeotto, dive bombed toward the street after the girl.
    “Gees, Tim! Are you even listening to me?”
    “This is insane! We gotta get out of here.” Tim noted Psyduck wobbling dangerously, fearing he would unleash his explosive headache in the middle of the city he forced Lucy to see her own partner.
    “Right.” Bending to comfort him, “It’s ok. That crazy lady is gone.”
    “Yeah, the guy that attacked her and his Sandshrew aren’t.” Tim pointed ahead.
    The red R glinted in the bright noon sun at them. The bleeding from his nose held at bay with his sleeve. Waving at them in the alley his Sandshrew closed in on them and Psyduck went back to furiously squealing and swaying.
    Clanging and squealing echoed above them. Pidegotto circled a few times above the alley as something jumped down flights of stairs, ringing the metal with each landing. Two stories above them the girl jumped over the railing and Pidgeotto took a dive to her. She was out of breath, everything looked like it hurt but she rammed into the black jacket again. Sandshrew followed the intended prey instead of the three in the alley.
    Pidgeotto aimed for the two fighting, the girl rolled him into the street causing Pidgeotto and Sandshrew to collide. Just enough of a distraction for Tim to grab Lucy and scoop up Psyduck and get the hell out of there.


    “Why were we even there?” Tim cried out when they were clear of the alley and the flying fists.
    “Did you listen to any of the voicemails I left for you? Any of them?” The incredulity on his face was her answer. “After the whole fiasco with MewTwo and creating the catalyst to cause merging of humans and Pokemon other scientists have been kidnapped by some Team. They’re testing Pokemon, experimenting on them. Rumors are new drugs are flooding the streets made from Pokemon!”
    Insane. This is what insanity felt like.
    “And you want me to…what exactly?”
    “I was trying to find someone who was selling the drugs.” No, she was insane and dragging him into it. All over again.
    “What did you expect me to do?”
    Lucy shrugged. Her golden hair was curled nicely, she’d put a lot of effort into her make up and clothes too. Something fitted and trendy. Trying not to look too young, which she complained at length she was always called.
    She wanted to spend time with him while chasing down crazy, illegal, drugs sold by gangs. Insane.
    And he had no words. He should have listened to the voicemails, sure. But  this was absolutely crazy. He just wanted to have a normal day. Things with Lucy were either zero or 120%. No in between.
    Shaking his head, Tim wandered off toward home, Lucy close behind.


    Grinding her knee into the guy’s back, she cursed that she only caught one.
    “You’re under arrest.” She spat at him as she slipped a zip tie over his hands.
    “Bitch! You’re dead!”
    She sat on his back as she rifled through his pockets. Nothing! The other one had the merchandise on him. Damn! She looked over at Sandshrew and Pidgeotto, both still out cold from the head on collision. Backup was nearly there, lights flashing up the street. At least she wasn’t completely empty handed today.
    But she needed some patching up.

 

Chapter Text

    Lucy sulked the entire way back to Detective Goodman’s home office. He didn’t ask her to follow. Tim could tell she felt obligated. It was also the first time they’d seen each other all week.
    Tim wasn’t looking for adventure in life, he just wanted to be happy with his life. Things had been looking up since he got his dad back but he fell back into his slump.
    Ignoring the Geecko and sleeping owner of the building, Tim trudged up the stairs.
    Lucy and Psyduck now kept their distance a little. She tried to figure out how to make him feel better. And notice her. Oh, he noticed her. She really didn’t need to worry about that. Lucy Stevens was hard to miss.
    “It’s a big story. My sources,” this again about her mysterious sources, “think that some of the scientists from the lab we visited that were never accounted for were kidnapped after the parade.” When Tim turned at the door to acknowledge her she straightened her hair, smiling a little at him. The only thing he was was exasperated with her and turned to enter the office portion of his home.
When they walked in Harry and Pikachu paced the office past one another reading interview transcripts Tim had typed up that morning. Not the kind of work he had thought he would be doing but it kept his mind off being jobless for a short time each day.
    Lucy gave a little hello to Harry then tried to get Tim’s attention one last time, “I just thought we could…”
    They were several stories up, but the window behind Harry’s desk opened. Harry and Pikachu barely seemed to notice. It was Lucy who ground her teeth and shoved Tim out of nowhere. She recognized the girl swinging into the apartment. “Never mind, I can take care of this. You can go back to your girlfriend.”
    Harry stared at Lucy as she stomped out of the apartment and audibly down the stairs. There was so much he just did not understand.
    Not until he actually noticed the girl in the window. Tim stared at the girl, clearly breaking in like it was normal every day life. And his father didn’t seem to care. Every single woman in this city was a lunatic.
    “Mr. G, Detective Yoshida said you were back.” Blood smeared her entire arm. Stripping the dirt stained hoodie off again, only now did she realize the room contained more than just Detective Goodman. “Oh. Oh.” Her face fell. She needed to put a hand to her stomach as if she were about to be sick. “Oops.”
    “Ali.” Harry knew the insane woman. Maybe it was genetic that they attracted crazy women. “Oh, look, you need the medical kit.” Tossing the papers on his desk he rummaged around in the bottom drawer for the kit. “Didn’t go to the hospital huh?”
    Hiding her shock at seeing Tim behind some bravado, “For this little scratch?”
    “How’s your savings account doing?” Spraying antiseptic on the wound she ground down on knuckle while Harry cleaned the scratches. True to her word, they weren’t so deep but bled a lot.
    “How’s yours?” She countered.
    “Touché.” Remembering his son standing in the room, “Ali, this is Tim.”
     “Oh. Wow, um,” slapping gauze around the wound and holding it steady she reached out to shake his hand. “Yeah, um we met. I’m so sorry.”
    Looking between his son and Ali, Harry cautiously put tape across the top and bottom of the gauze.
    Tim sighed. Lucy was pissed off because of her, and he couldn’t exactly blame her for that. “Hi.” He shook his head and meandered off to his room. He was just done with the day.
    Following quickly, “I’m really sorry. Seriously, I had no idea you had a girlfriend. You were alone and…”
    “And you thought that it was a good idea…” Tim stopped when he saw his dad looking in curiously. “I don’t have a girlfriend.”
    “Ok.”


 

 Ali hadn’t been to Detective Goodman’s home since before he’d disappeared. Take out containers filled the waste baskets. She didn’t want to look in the fridge but she did. Ketchup, expired mayo and drops left in a creamer bottle.
    Harry had the good sense to start putting on a jacket and get out of dodge with his son’s bad mood. “Oh no you don’t!” Ali yanked him back into the office, Pikachu following obediently, even jumping for attention from the girl. “Take out! Really! Think of your waist line! And after your son finally comes here? Have you seriously been subjecting him to all this?” Jumping up she looped her arm around Harry’s neck and pulled him down, “That fridge is empty!” Sheepish, Harry pulled himself away. “Oh my god! Your son is here and…I need a clean shirt!” This conversation, as one sided as it was, devolved into something Tim did not want to hear as he’d left them to their arguement.
    Harry shrugged off the jacket, knowing he wouldn’t be allowed out the door because she would literally hunt him down, tackle him in the street. Even go so far as to drag him to the station.
    “Let me guess, you haven’t done laundry.” The office was like normal. Papers littering every flat surface. Not all of them Harry’s. Newspapers want ads marked and piled on an end table. “Can I borrow a shirt?” Harry shrugged at her in that annoying way. Taking a risk she asked again at Tim’s door, “Can I borrow a shirt from you?”
    When Tim didn’t answer right away she opened the closet. “Would me saying no make a difference?”


 

    “Yes. But people don’t like seeing strangers on the street in blood soaked clothes, so…please?” Tim gestured to the closet. Falling back on the bed he covered his face with a pillow. He could hear clothes rustling. Peaking from the side of the pillow he quickly covered his gaze again when he saw her shirking off the tank top. Black tattoos a blur. She snapped the collar of one of his dress shirts, a similar shirt to the one he had been wearing the day he’d heard his dad had gone missing. His dad had, kindly, helped him get a few things when he decided to stay. “Really,” the bed bounced when she jumped next to him, finishing buttoning the shirt, “I apologize for before.”
    Daring a look, he threw the pillow back to the headboard. “It’s fine. I’ll figure it out.”
    “If you need anything, let me know. And it’s really nice to finally meet you.” Tying her hair high again, Ali bounded out the door of his room and to the office. She helped herself to Harry’s drawers, taking out a pair of glasses with no lenses. A pair of boots hidden in the back of the closet in the office and she was out the door. Harry sat at his desk, Pikachu perched on the desk taking papers as he read them.
    Tim stood just outside his room and watched her go.
    “So, I won’t come out to the city and you…what-replace me?”
    “It’s not like that. She’s a friend.” Rubbing his eyes Harry felt the weight of his consequences coming to light. He pushed his glasses up, absently scratching Pikachu near his ear. Tim’s mouth hung open, “Oh my god, not like that Tim! You two are the same age! After I came to Ryme I found her. Homeless. On the streets near here. Alone except for her partner. She had nothing, no one. She was….no one can replace you Tim, you know that. But she needed help. I-” Harry and Pikachu stared back at the door where she’d just been. “I’m not helping here. Maybe you should just talk to her.”
    She had extra shoes in the office, knew where things were in the desk. Knew his father better than him. Although, to be fair whose fault was that.
    “She’s making a good head start to the market.”
    “Better not be setting me up.”
    Harry chuckled at his son, “What happened with you two earlier?” Oh, no. No way was he falling for that. “She’s an undercover investigator for Ryme City PD. Whatever happened earlier I bet she was on assignment. Just…don’t tell her I told you.”


 

    Tim rushed down the stairs and out to the street. The only market in walking distance was three blocks away. She wasn’t exactly running but at her brisk pace he had to jog to catch up. Neon signs lit up the evening shining more light than the street lamps for the pedestrians. Rush hour horns wailed in the distance.
    Ali carelessly walked in the street, not like a cop at all. She was way too young to be a cop, right? She could easily pass for a teenager, as in a younger teen.
    His shirt fit her well, though it seemed short.  As he caught up he saw she’d tied it in front to fit around her waist better.
    “Hey.” With the glasses and clean shirt, she was transformed into a rather adorable yet nerdy girl. The exact kind that never gave him the time of day. She almost didn’t resemble the girl that had snatched him and kissed him earlier. “You coming to help?”
    Standing awkwardly in the middle of the street Tim blurted out, “Explain to me in what world it is not crazy to just stop a stranger and kiss them?” Cop or not, it was just weird.  He desperately needed some sense in his life.
    A bike came whistling past them, Ali led him back to the sidewalk. People on their way home filed past. A great place to shove someone they hoped would not make a scene. “Your dad, who is actually terrible at keeping secrets, told you. Yeah?” He nodded but that was not enough to satisfy him. “Look, I needed a distraction.” She turned to walk away when he yanked her back. Which, in retrospect might not have been the best way to get her attention back. He’d pulled her too hard. Momentum carried her back into him. Adjusting her glasses she glared up at him, “Ok. Fine.” It was all the wrong thing to do, he knew that now. Ali advanced on him forcing him back into the wall again. Passers by were starting to stare, “Intimate physical contact makes people uncomfortable. Therefore when people are searching for someone that intimate contact tends to keep them from making eye contact. Or…you know…looking at their faces.” He was trapped again and now uncomfortably close with her. “It was a diversion for me because those Rocket grunts didn’t see me. Until-”
    “Oh, that was my fault you left your hoodie with me?” All she did was roll her eyes and start back to the market. “Every. Single. Woman. All crazy.” But crazy or not, it was a straight answer. Nothing to interpret. Nothing to wonder about, except the circumstances that led to her running from whoever the Rocket grunts were. But if she was undercover that was unlikely to be something she’d tell him more of the details.
    Sure he’d whispered that last comment he groaned when Ali responded, “If I had known about your girlfriend-”
    “Don’t call her my girlfriend.”
    “Ok.” If she was frustrated he could not tell. She shrugged at him, already a storefront away from him.
    Always chasing someone, Tim followed again, “I don’t know what she is.”
    “Ok.”
    Without another word she made her way to the market. Tim followed at a distance, the first time that day he didn’t feel it was uncomfortable. She just walked, not talking and letting him have space. Not even in a rush, just kept a steady pace.
    Tim realized as she walked into the market that she was the first person, besides himself, that he’d seen without a partner.


 

    A small basket nestled in the crook of her arm, Ali wasted no time grabbing fruits, veggies, fresh bread and then was off to the small meat counter. Choosing a cut of meat, she waited for it to be wrapped and took a cursory glance around her. Exits, patrons, weapons. She felt naked without her weapon, which she’d not taken to the docks. One of many mistakes she’d made already.
    Tim loitered behind her. He kept shifting uncomfortably. Her fingers drummed the counter. Peeking out from the bottom of her shirt he could just make out some lines that rounded, points. More tattoos.
    “You just going to stand there staring?” Ali pointed to the mirror above the meat counter where she could clearly see him bending to make out her tattoo. “It’s a little creepy.”
    He mumbled an apology as she was accepting a package of meat and then pointing to more. Sidling up next to her he looked at her basket.
    Another white paper wrapped package of meat landed in her basket. “Thank you for lending me the shirt.” Tugging at the bottom, she felt the need to cover her tattoos again. “Look, I know what you are probably thinking. I, uh,” she’d slept in that bed more times than he had, “I was never some kind of replacement for you.” He tried to counter but it was futile. “Your dad told me all about you.” Somehow, that kind of statement hurt more coming from weird girl that he’d just learned intimate details about from his estranged father than her crazy antics earlier in the afternoon.
    Slowly, she made off to the aisles to pick up a few more items and keep her mouth shut and stop herself from screwing up again. “What kind of stuff did he tell you?” Tim wasn’t sure his dad even knew that much about him but he was making an effort.
    “Probably way more than you would want me to know.” His jealousy evaporated. She’d slowed down grabbing groceries. Her hand shook a little with a bag of rice. “I’m sorry about your mom. I mean I know-”
    “Thanks.” Tim took the bag of rice that would just weigh down the basket.
    “Your dad really did a lot for me. He’s great.” Guilt was easy to read on people and Harry’s son was just as easy to read as Harry himself. What did he tell you about me?”
    “Nothing.” Terrible liar too. “You had, like a minute head start.” Ali set down the basket of groceries.
    “If he told you anything about me it was what I do, which we already talked about and…what? Homeless? That usually makes people uncomfortable.” Ding ding ding. “Um, look, your dad is amazing. And I am sure you don’t think that because he was here and you weren’t and I was never his kid and he loves you so much. And I can tell, even in the like few minutes I was in that dank apartment of his that he is so much happier now than he ever was and it’s got to be because you are here and I am rambling.” With pursed lips, Ali turned and gathered the last few things.


 

 As she walked off to the register Tim felt every conflicting emotion come up. This girl had had those years with his dad, years he should have had. How could he be mad, though? He’d chosen to stay in Leaventown.
    Food paid for, their pace back to the apartment was much slower.
    “I-” Tim would start then think better of it and stop again. After several attempts he said, “I know you weren’t a replacement.”
    “He’s pretty useless without you and your mom.” He could see that. Really. They hadn’t had groceries in the apartment since he’d moved in. Hadn’t eaten a home cooked meal since that last morning with his Gran and Grandpa. And then there was all the work he dumped on Tim.
    “And yet he came here without us.”  
    Looking at her again, she looked like she belonged in the cute funky glasses and slightly oversized shirt. She didn’t strike him as someone who would be in a Team, not for real. But she was. Kind of.
    “I’m actually really happy you’re here now. I never thought you would come see your dad.” They each carried a bag of groceries. Her’s swayed as she walked, bumping into her shins every so often. “He’s so happy. Like, really.”
    “You were in the apartment for, like, three minutes.” But he knew what she meant. People say that when you’re really happy you glow, which is silly. He’d never seen anyone glow before, not even pregnant women. But there had been a definite shift in his dad. “Yeah, I know.”
    “You miss Leaventown?” Tim stopped, he had never told anyone here in Ryme where he was from. “What?”
    “It’s the first time I have really been anywhere else.”
    “You’re planning to stay.” He could only shake his head at her. “I’m an investigator. I notice things.”
    “I guess.”
    “Not been going well? Finding a job? Or is this…? Sorry. I need to keep my mouth shut.”
    Tim stopped her at the door of the apartment, taking her bag. “It’s ok.”
    “I just,” she took the bag back refusing to let him haul it all up to the apartment, “I really don’t want to piss you off. Your dad, you are the most important thing to him in this whole world. I should know. But-ah…I just…he’s the only person I have now.” The absence of her partner felt more pronounced as a couple and their matching Growlithes passed them across the street. “I can’t lose the only family I have, even if he’s not my family. But I don’t want to impose on you and your dad. He’s your…”
    Taking back the bag one last time, Tim held the door open for her. “You’re not. You can come by whenever.” Trying to juggle both bags he searched for keys. Ali grabbed his arm and held up her own key. “Why did you enter through the window?”
    “Faster.”
    “Ok, why didn’t you go to the hospital, like my dad said?” It was incredible. Each answer was straight to the point. He kind of liked not having to guess what the answer meant.
    “I never do when I’m undercover. Has nothing to do with money. Someone in a gang would never just run to the hospital to get patched up.”


 

    Ali tossed the window glasses to Harry.
    “I could have had a full stomach by now,” he stowed the glasses.
    Pikachu trotted to Ali to climb her leg and rest on her head. Long brown hair fell messily from the bun as while she busied herself. He was amazed she could balance Pikachu on her head like that and work. Tim left the food with her. He stacked the want ads again, glancing at the top one. Part time assistant at some agency. Something he wouldn’t care about. Ads for nannying, he wasn’t going to try watching kids. Ads for trainers to work with sick Pokemon. Orderly at the hospital, human or Pokemon.
    Folding them he dumped them in the waste bin. He could start new tomorrow.
    Before he knew it, the food was stored and something was sizzled. Ali quietly made her way to the window.
    “See you later, Mr. G.” She hopped out the window, “Same as usual.”
    “Let it cool down ten minutes after it beeps.” Harry didn’t even look away from his computer screen. They could hear her steps clang down the ladders, “You ever going to call me Harry?”
    “No.”
    Tim stared at his phone. Lucy hadn’t called or texted since she stormed out. There was no explanation he could give her other than maybe the strange girl from the street was not as crazy as they thought. Lucy wouldn’t believe that. No girl would believe that.
    However much time passed, Tim came back to reality as the pot beeped loudly. Harry pulled out some plates and forks, “Going to have to do dishes now too.”
    Steam hissed out the vent, tender meat and vegetables rested on top of glistening rice.
    “When’d she do all this?” Tim accepted the plate from his dad.
    Pikachu took his small bowl from Harry, a smaller portion that he happily gobbled down while still steaming.
    “Got a lot on your mind?” Harry muted the television, he’d kept the detective movies on all day while he worked, when Tim wasn’t working too. The noise just ate at Tim and he couldn’t concentrate.
    Lucy. Docks. Teams and new drugs being peddled on the street. Job. Ali. No, not a lot at all.
    “Does she really work in the Ryme City Police Department?” Tim pushed the rice around. It looked vaguely familiar. The rich smell, those spices. They originated from near Leaventown.
    “Narcotics division. But when I talked to Hide last she was on some new task force.”
    “Where is she from?”
    “Kanto region.”
    Tim expected more, a town or maybe something else but Harry went back to eating.
    “Try it.” Harry urged.
    Timidly he scooped some rice and chicken. He wasn’t particularly hungry now though he knew he should eat. Strong saffron and spices filled him with memories. His mom. His mom made this dish all the time.
    Tim cleared his plate before he realized it. His father watching, eating far slower.
    “Where did she…?”
    Pikachu made a bid for more, hopping with increasing excitement with each “Pika!”
    “I tried cooking this for Ali when I first brought her here. I burned the rice, burned the meat,” the prick of tears threatened Harry. “She said it would be easier for her to learn how to cook than eat my cooking. Ever again.” Harry savored the next bite. “I should have come home so many times.”
    He wouldn’t put it past this woman to guilt his father into going home with just some cooking. She was smart. But that would have meant losing the person helping take care of her. Be by herself.
    “Did she ever have a partner?”
    Pikachu’s ears fell. Tim could swear he even looked like he would cry as a depressed, “Pikachu,” quivered from him.
    He cleared his throat. “Uh, yea. Yea. Cubone. Well, Marowak She still called him Cu. He was killed in the line of duty last year.”
    “What?”
    “She took it hard. She came to Ryme with Cu. They were together for years. I don’t think she’s gotten over losing him.” He dragged the napkin across his chin, taking his time. “A lot of people think she got him killed in the field. Ali is not well liked in the department. Not that narcotics officers are always well liked to begin with. Nor undercover officers.” Something stuck in Harry’s throat. “I am glad she’s ok. I’m sure the time I was gone was…” Harry stopped realizing how ungrateful he sounded sitting with his formerly estranged son about a random girl losing him.


 

    The television blared at Lucy. Her tiny apartment covered in stacks of paper. The current project, the new drug being touted by Rocket, covered her walls. Newspaper clippings, hospital reports, police records. Whatever she could get her hands on. It was all just staring at her and there were more dots to connect but none of it mattered.
    Her thoughts kept turning back to her date with Tim.
    “I don’t know.” He’d said after, when she finally cornered him in Hi-Hat Cafe, “I just-there’s a lot going on and I…”
    He couldn’t get the words out. They had fun. She’d had fun. But he just closed back up and wouldn’t talk to her. Not that he was incredibly forthcoming with information when they’d first met.
    But the stress didn’t end there. She’d had that singular big story but she was still young. Getting her name out there and trying to get big stories wasn’t easy even with one under her belt. It helped get her noticed but she was still thrown crap lists to write up and if she couldn’t deliver on another hugely breaking news story she would still be there writing those stupid damn lists for the rest of her life.
    Psyduck waddled around her to hop onto the couch. He fluffed his feathers as he watched the documentary on river Pokemon he’d turned on.
    Lucy pulled out her phone. She should just apologize. She was probably overreacting. She was pretty sure she was the only person Tim actually knew in this entire city. That girl was probably mental, didn’t have any social skills or something. She was climbing through a window.
    Scrolling through her phone book, Lucy tapped Mom.
    “Hey, Mom.” Her hair fell from the clips she’d kept it up with. The curls had fallen flat ages ago, the new shirt her mom had sent needed to get cleaned.
    “How is the new story going, honey? And did you have that second date yet?”
    Shit, she hadn’t mentioned what Tim had said. “It’s fine, mom. Fine. Making real headway on the story. Hopefully you will see me on tv again soon.” Avoid any more mentions of Tim.
    “Honey,” her mother droned, “what happened?”
    “Nothing.” Lie. Lie like your life depends on it.
    Her mother knew when something was wrong. And this was something her mother had seen happen many times. “Love, you don’t need to try so hard. You need him to see you.”
    “Mom,” Lucy groaned. They’d spent time together and it was adrenaline fueled fights one after the other. He’d saved her. She wasn’t looking for that same feeling but there was something missing. Going after this next story, it was close to what she’d felt before. How she felt energized. Maybe that wasn’t the same for Tim.

Chapter Text

    None of the numbers added up. How had Harry’s business worked when his books were such a mess? For heavens sake it was basic math.
    “Dad, do you have any receipts for that last case? I am finishing the invoice.” Tim called out as the front door swung open.
    “Oh my god, he has you doing the books?” Ali dropped a bag just inside. She needed two hands to wiggle the key out of the lock.
    Tim flipped back a few pages and then forward, cursing. Joining him on the couch, Ali took the notebook. “Before your dad disappeared I helped. He’s such a mess. This is where I stopped last.” She propped her feet on the coffee table, hole filled jeans stained with something dark and greasy. “You need to harass him to use the shoe box.”
    “Shoe box?”
    “Yeah, to keep all his receipts, every day. Otherwise he just puts them where ever and they get lost.” Handing the ledger back, “Pretty sure he plays basketball with scraps of paper when no one is looking.”
    “And Pikachu usually wins.” Lugging his own bag in Harry slammed the door into the wall. Pikachu came scampering in and onto Ali’s lap. She bounced him on her knees like a small child.
    Tim shut the ledger with an increasingly familiar and angry look, “Shoe box?”
    Harry fumbled his keys, dropping them a couple times. “Uh…Pikachu. Where’s the shoe box?” Exasperated with them both, Ali jumped Pikachu up off her knees, catching him then plopping him in Tim’s lap.
    “Pika Pi!”
    “Thanks.” Tim replied. “Helpful. Could have told me about this sooner, little traitor.” Pikachu bounded off his lap to dig in the closet. Returning with a full shoe box of receipts Tim moaned. Yeah, he would have found that buried in the closet. The magical closet that held His dad busied himself away from his glare. “What’s going on?” His stomach was rumbling, it had to be near dinner time.
    “Tuesday night.” They responded in unison.  
    “Pika!” Pikachu danced around the room. He scurried up Ali’s leg again, perching on her shoulder. “Pika pika pi?”
    Living so long with his grandma, Tim had learned to keep a tidy house. He hated cleaning but the results were comforting afterward. Everything in its place and clean.  His father, as evidenced by Pikachu when he first arrived, was more of a free spirit. Sometimes he needed to visualize things. Everywhere.
    Investigator Angeles clearly took after his father.
    “Do all cops wear grease covered tatters to work, that are getting grease all over my clean couch, or is that just you?”
    “Sassy.” Swiping some grime from her pants, she giggled and wiggled it close to Tim’s ear. “I would wear my finest blouse if it would get low life street thugs to tell me where their illegal operations are based. As it is, they prefer talking to their own grease monkeys.”
    Pushing her hovering finger away, “Do you even know what a blouse is?”
    “Do you?” She teased back. Cleaning her hand off with a tissue she nuzzled Pikachu and asked, “Want to come up to the roof?” She scratched his little hat warmly. “We’re grilling tonight.”
    Harry flipped a switch the entire room flashed bright then went dark as the night. The neon sign outside the window provided the only light.
    Each let out a respective sigh, “I’ll get that after dinner.” Ali flipped on the light on her phone.


 

    Pikachu beat her up the stairs. He pushed and pushed on the door, not that he could make it budge. One of their little games. Ali pushed the door open then feigned amazement at Pikachu’s incredible strength.
    “Did you learn Neuroforce? My favorite little guy can really do anything!”
    The door wedged on a piece of fencing. Chain link panels lay askew. The entire pathway had been destroyed and by the looks of it a while ago. Pikachu clambered over the wreckage toward the grill she’d hid years ago at the edge of the roof. Ali hauled the biggest pieces out of the way to clear enough of a path to get through to Pikachu.
    “That’s weird,” she mumbled. She’d heard about the chaos of the Tenth Anniversary Parade and seen much of the aftermath in the news coverage. She had been undercover for a different squad at the time. Living in the Southern slums as she chased down a lead on a Haunter that escaped a Plasma member’s home. She’d tracked it down but it had an ident chip registered to a Clefairy. After that things got messy.
    Ali piled the new charcoal in the grill. Pikachu hopped onto her leg changing the song blaring from her phone until he found something poppy and energetic.
   


 

    Tim caught them both. Pikachu hopped around, less coordinated dancing than when his father inhabited his little body. Ali, more coordinated. Very coordinated. Like she knew what she was doing. Everyone did compared to him, though.
    “Boy bands? Really?” She squealed at the intrusion.
    “Pikachu picked it.” The music continued to play but she’d lost all her bounce. Ali fanned the coals, making sure a few of the waves got her bright red face as well.
    “I can’t tell if that is you or my dad’s influence,” he whispered at Pikachu.
    “Huh?” Ali asked.
    “Nothing.” Tossing aside a broken fencing panel, Tim cleared a path and joined her. “I guess I expected you to like…other music.” Girls laughed at him and Jack, he liked to think mostly Jack, all the time. He liked to think he could tell the difference between being laughed at or laughing with someone. “Alternative? Punk? Metal? I mean…the tattoos.”
    She’d taken a break from fanning as flames had settled and the coals glowed.
    Ali grabbed the container from her bag, skewers had been marinating. Skewers of rippling meat and colorful vegetables lined the grill.
    “What the hell happened up here?” Fanning the coals again.
    Tim surveyed the damage. He hadn’t seen it since the first night he was in Ryme City. “Oh, uh, Aipom.”


 

     Ali willed herself calm, “Aipom? They’re docile.” They locked eyes for the first time. And there it was. Buried in his eyes, that sad look of not knowing really what to say. That stupid, stupid look that she hated so much. “I mean, yeah they pull pranks sometimes but you know. Harmless. Not like Primeape.” She held her breath, trying to think of something else to say to keep the conversation from slipping. Except she couldn’t think of anything else except that look. “He told you, huh?”
    “Yeah.” They were strangers. He hardly knew her. She hardly knew him. That wasn’t true. She knew ten year old him, who’d lost his mom. “Look…”
    “It’s fine, Tim. Most people don’t know what to say when they find out. Then they make it all awkward.”
    “Yeah, I know.” Of course he knows. By the look he gave her there were still people who didn’t know what to say.
    “Can you find the chairs I had tucked up here?” Head throbbing with the threat of tears, Ali returned to tending the grill. The last thing she wanted was to get into some deep conversation about the people they’d lost in their lives and relive that horror all over again with, well, anyone.
    “Yeah. Yeah, of course.”
    Harry joined them when all the work was done. Typical. Tim had cleared enough of the fence pieces away to make a picnic area. An old crate surrounded by three chairs with an empty platter waiting for the skewers. Ali brushed sauce on the skewers as they came off the grill.
    “Oh my god,” Harry stared around at the wreck of a rooftop then recalled, “Right. Aipom.”
    “Please tell me you bring more to the dinner than being late.” Loading the platter, Ali savored the fact that she finally got to sit.
    “Ta da!” He pulled a six pack of beer out, and one water bottle for his partner.
    “Acceptable.” Ali snagged one, popping the top off.
    Hesitating, Tim grabbed one too. She couldn’t say anything. He barely looked old enough to drink but she did too.     Ali offered a bottle opener on her key chain.


 

    “I have zero incentive to ever learn how to cook.” Empty skewers littered the makeshift table. Harry stared off at the neon sign across the alley, blinking randomly at him.
    Ali emptied her second beer, “What if I stop cooking for you?”
    “You would let me starve?” Harry chuckled but stopped when she shrugged at him. “What about Pikachu?”
    “I’d feed him.”
    Tim enjoyed the friendly banter. He was working on that himself. Even with his own friends he wasn’t this comfortable. Jack was the closest of his friends. They shared everything. He was, at most, incredibly sarcastic around Jack and he accepted that. He also, usually, went along with whatever crazy thing Jack came up with.
    “That’s low.” Harry looked to his son for help.
     “I think she’d feed me over you.”
    “You don’t know how to cook either.” Ali tipped her beer bottle at Tim. He tried to find a quick response but she pounced, “Yeah. Bird types of a feather,” and giggled. He liked it. She looked different than when he’d interrupted her dancing.
    Tim still felt guilty for even bringing up her partner before. He tried to match her nonchalance, “Well, these were better than that cart down the street.”
    “Yes!” Ali cried.
    “What? No, no. Don’t say that.” Harry pleaded.
    “Wait, which cart?”
    “Uh, Samir’s?”
    “Yes! In your face, Mr. G.!”
    “No. No, no, no.”
    Ali nudged his dad, “He uses illegally imported meats that I am pretty sure are at the end of their shelf life.”
    “Never tell me stuff like that. I love his kebabs.”
    “You love mine more. You just won’t admit it.”
    “The lab grown meat is not the same.”
    “Says the guy who loves Ryme.”
    Lost, Tim needed clarification, “Lab grown meat?”
    Ali slouched in the folding chair. “Howard Clifford, benefactor of this great city, dedicated a division to finding food sources for a large metropolis without the problems regions have had before. There is an entire lab grown market here in the city and certain foods are illegal to have imported because of where they lie on the endangered lists.”
    Tim frowned at the skewers, “I might take back what I said.” She just shook her head at him, disappointed.
    “It’s different in the towns. Remember when Farfetched were nearly hunted to extinction? Or Slowpokes?”
    “Those things are so slow it is their own fault they can be hunted so easily have so much meat.” Tim countered.
    Harry finished his own beer, “She won’t eat anything that is not lab grown.”
    “Not true. I won’t eat anything on the endangered, vulnerable or threatened lists.”
    “Right,” Harry winked at his son, “She won’t eat anything that is not lab grown.”


 

    Lucy had seen enough at the door to the roof. She stayed in the shadows and saw them eating dinner together. All three like one big happy family. There was no way to break into the middle of that without looking desperate.
    She did need to pull Psyduck back from jumping out and waddling over to the platter of skewers.
    One thing she firmly believed was that Tim didn’t know who that girl was a few days ago but they had become fast friends.
    Well, if there was one thing Lucy Stevens was good at it was researching.


 

    Used to cleaning up on her own Ali hesitated while Tim gathered the garbage to bring down to the dumpster.
    “What are you doing?” she gestured to the small piles he was already gathering up.
    “Helping.”
    “You don’t have to.” She’d gone to the grill, checking if the coals were still smoldering.
    “I don’t mind.” He’d already bagged the scraps, empty skewers and napkins. She caught that look again in his eyes, guilt about bringing up her partner. There was nothing else to say to that. “Even when my dad was home he’d never clean up after himself. Mom always…” Tim seemed to choke on his words and stopped all together.
    “Yeah, that seems right,” she filled the gap and let the idea die. Gathering the last of the bottles they had two small bags of garbage. Tim offered to take them down, “That’s silly. Here.” Taking the bags to the edge of the roof Ali leaned to see the dumpsters. They were closed, like normal. A few skewers of meat and veggies were leftover. Usually she left any leftovers with Harry to feed him in the middle of the night during his work marathon. Letting out a sharp whistle Ali called an Aipom over from crossing a neighboring building. “Want this?”
    The Aipom bounded across the wires and made a single leap to their building. Waving the skewer in front of him, “Take these down to the dumpster.” Before she handed over the bags, “This one goes in the green recycle bin. Got it?” He chattered a little then headed down with the bags. They watched from the ledge as he followed her instructions and scaled the building again. “Thank you,” Ali handed over the skewer. “Your dad will get fat if he eats all the food I cook.”
    Two beers was not enough to make her very tipsy. Tim, she noticed, had nursed just the one beer the entire dinner. Years of stories, she only knew about the kid he’d left behind not the adult that was here with her now. The kid who longed to go out and battle in all the gyms. Could recite the gym leader rankings at the time. Knew a ridiculous amount about Pokémon. Moves, combos, hell the trainable moves for lots of people the highest utilized Pokémon. And Pikachu. That was his favorite. The man with her, though, avoided the Pokemon around him. Except for his dad’s Pikachu.
    Harry, he slipped back down to his office with Pikachu before he could get roped in to helping clean. When they got dinner cleaned up they found Harry reading by flashlight.
    “Why are you using a flashlight?” Ali flipped the switch, “Right…lights.” Ali walked straight to Harry, wrestling for the flashlight, “Aren’t you going to help?”
    “I have three cases…”
    She could see what he was reading. “That,” flicking the page, “does not count as a case.”
    “She pays me, so…,” but Ali was already losing her temper. She wrested the flashlight from him and stomped off to the fuse box, pausing only to snatch Tim and steer him with her. “Shit.” Tim had a good six inches on her and zero clue what she was doing as the flashlight kept drifting down the box. She tried to keep her temper from boiling over too much but every so often she would adjust the flashlight in his hand to see something, flip a switch and swear. A loop she repeated for a minute with mounting frustration.  “Did you ever replace….stupid question. Where are those parts I brought over….stupid question.” Dragged by the flashlight across the room he was forced to shine the light in the closet Pikachu had retrieved the shoe box from earlier. “Why do I ever ask where anything is? You would think I would learn after all these years.” She started shoving parts and tools in his hand. Then it was back to being dragged across the room by the flashlight. Back at the fuse box he’d grumbled a little, tired already from the unusual work but she continued cursing under her breath at Harry and just pulled him closer slapping his arm around her shoulder to let him have a break. When she turned to pull a tool from his hand she noticed a small, kind of awkward, smile at her constant berating of his dad.
    In the pitch dark Harry stared out the window.
    “Stupid fuses. Stupid old building. You need to move.”
    “Rent controlled.”
    “Rent controlled,” Ali mocked when she didn’t hold the screwdriver in by her teeth. “Stop moving the light.” She yanked him so close to her she could feel him against her with every move as she replaced parts in the breaker box.
    “Are you sure we shouldn’t just call an electrician?” Tim asked. One final curse and Ali flipped the new switches filling the apartment with light.
    Ali needed room to move, “Excuse me?” She looked at him accusingly. He was in her way now that she was done. Tim took a couple paces back and let her slam the breaker box door.
    “Sorry.”  
    Wrenching the flashlight from his grasp Ali dropped it on Harry’s desk with the tools. “You,” she jabbed her finger at Harry, “label the new switches.”
    Bags together Ali headed to the door to leave. “We-uh,” Tim stammered, meeting her at the door, “have a client coming tomorrow and…?”
    Ali knew he would ask at some point, “I forgot your shirt at home.”
    “Oh, yeah.”  
    Pikachu wrapped around Ali’s leg holding tight. Late nights like these she would just stay in the apartment and sleep on a couch or, if she really couldn’t sleep, in Tim’s bed. Until now he hadn’t ever slept in it. Pikachu would sleep with her, especially since Cu had left. She was sure the little guy worried about her more than Harry.
    Out of intimidation Harry was already working on the switch label, “Crime’s been up in the area. Tim, walk Ali home?”
    “I don’t need a chaperone.” Maybe she shouldn’t have had the second beer. She couldn’t keep her snark in check, “He’s going to need a chaperone to get home after.” Harry wasn’t listening. He was just cutting tape.


 

    Tim’s experience with women was short. One thing he knew how to be was a gentleman. Cop or not, a partnerless woman on the street would draw attention to herself. “Are you sure you don’t want me to walk you back?”
    “Excuse me?” Ali squealed back. Pikachu actually dove behind the couch and Harry hid his face realizing his mistake in asking. She sent a sharp jab into Tim’s shoulder.
    “Oh my god! You got Machamp DNA in you?”
    “That was barely a tap,” she scoffed.
    There would be a bruise. He was sure this would bruise. “Yeah, sure. Got it. You can handle yourself. You think I can’t?” Tim wasn’t sure about that now. Did his chest hurt too? She could really hit. Ali pulled her fist back again, “Don’t! Just. Don’t. Please.”
    “Suit yourself. Walk me back. You can get your shirt.”

Chapter Text

    Unlike the walk to the market Ali kept pace with Tim. They didn’t talk just walked and Tim nursed his shoulder. Her apartment wasn’t far enough to take transit although Tim considered taking a taxi back. She seemed to be a little…off. Not just the lack of conversation, but everything. The further they walked the less aggravated she was so that wasn’t what was wrong.
    Neon lights had faded behind them to a darker, far more ominous street. The street lamp closest to her apartment had been broken and he wouldn’t have known there was a  building, let alone a door, there if she hadn’t turned up the stairs. Unlike near his father’s apartment, here he could smell fresher air, a hearty scent filling the night. Vines grew along the walls of the buildings, parted only by windows. Near the door he could hear a chiming sound as he walked up the steps. Kricketots clung to the vines, skittering up the wall as they opened the door.
    “Whoa.”
    Ali’s apartment building wasn’t tended like his father’s. The small lobby didn’t have more than a coat rack and umbrella holder. Climbing the narrow stairwell to the third floor, Ali dumped her bag on the floor to search her entire key ring for her own apartment key.
    Based on her own tidiness, Tim braced himself for a messy and infuriatingly disorganized apartment. Instead, she opened the door to her tiny and fairly tidy home. Her walls were empty except for several hanging awards or photos. They walked into the cramped living room with her well worn couch, coffee table and entertainment stand. Besides the television it was filled with more framed pictures and books laying where she’s left the last. Her kitchen was tiny too. The small counter space filled with clean dishes long since dried.
    Back behind the kitchen must have been her little bedroom. A bedroom that couldn’t have been used much from the rumpled blankets and pillow were piled haphazardly on the couch. Who knows how long she’d been sleeping on the couch.
    Stark white bone in a photo caught his eye. Tim moved to the entertainment stand. Ali and Cubone held their respective staffs above their heads, Cubone atop her shoulder. They’d been in some tournament, the medal hanging around the corner of frame.
    Ali cleared her throat. “We’d won a Ryme City Martial Arts competition three years ago. It was partners only. First competition we’d won.” Her voice cracked. All her sarcasm and snark melted away and beneath a depression akin to his own. She sighed, “You want your shirt?” Out of all the picture only Cu and his dad and Pikachu were in them. A lonely life. Cubone was gone. Then his dad and Pikachu were gone too, for a while. Just like he was going to have when Jack told him he was leaving Leaventown, like all his other friends.
    Standing next to her Tim fumbled for the bag she still clutched. “Want some help with the dishes?”  He fought to keep himself casual yet the awkwardness of trying to say the right thing and not the wrong thing but then everything comes out wrong anyways.  
    “Dishes?”
    “I just thought-you might want help…and…well you and Cu were…,” nothing seemed like the right thing to say.
    And her eyes showed it, “Yeah. How are things with you and your dad?” She swapped one  awkward topic for another.
    “M-my dad?”
    A sad smirk flicked up, “Yeah. Trying to get to know him?”
    “Wha-yeah. Of course.”
    Ali took the bag, emptying the containers into the sink. She rinsed them then started filling the sink basin to wash. Her hand bumped his, they both reached out for the sponge at the same time.
    “When my mom died it was the loneliest I have ever been in my life. No one knew what to say or do and I…I didn’t leave on my journey like the others. And I had talked about going on that journey for as long as I could remember. I followed all the competitions and gym leaders, I was ready for it! But I couldn’t go, not after….I get it. I know how lonely it is.”
    Ali shoved the sponge in Tim’s hand, “So, you want to do dishes with me?” He’d reluctantly accepted the sponge. “Thank you, Tim.” People would generally stop trying after being pushed back so many times so Tim kept at her. “I’m fine, really.”


 

    Like a jerk she was keeping him at arms length. Like she did with everyone. “Um-” Ali shut off the water. She held him back from starting the dishes. Her own guilt had been eating away at her since they’d been introduced. While she was not trying to replace him as Harry Goodman’s child she still felt like that was exactly what happened. “You know, you and your dad are a lot alike. You may have been estranged for a decade but it’s crazy how much you are like him. I’m sure you heard, your dad is a legend in the Ryme City Police Department.” Ali leaned on the sink. Now it was Tim’s turn to be uncomfortable. He played with the sponge making her feel even more like a jerk.


 

    He’d heard it and at the time he’d been so angry. He’d only come to Ryme City to clean up his dad’s apartment. He had never thought he would find out what actually happened to his father. “Do you know why he’s a legend?” She asked. His frustrations had resurfaced just like he’d had his first day here. Platitudes for his father that left him and his mom. Now that the dust had settled Tim felt all the emotions he’d bottled up for ten years surface. “He’s helped more people and Pokemon than the police department has.” Tim had been trying to get her to confront her feelings of loss now being turned on him. “The RCPD has all these rules that they have to follow to make an arrest and evidence to stick for trial. A private investigator works directly for his client and unless that client is looking for prosecution. I have seen your father save Pokemon from illegal slave and poaching trades, rescue women from cheating spouses, save children and Pokemon from a life on the street and I am not talking about me. Stop predators, illegal experiments. He has worked with me on the narcotics task force, on major crimes cases, solved cold cases that department just can’t crack. My neighbor, her Purrloin was stolen, sold to Skulls and he tracked her down and rescued her. Ludicolo, at Hi-Hat, she-she was nearly killed in the market place when someone tried to attack anyone near him with a knife. Your dad, he tracked the guy down so RCPD could make the arrest which they never would have gotten him. That place has no good angles and the crowds are crazy.” Ali worked to catch her breath after all that, “I’m just saying…”
    This was new, not just the platitudes. Before it had been mourning the dead where negative things about the deceased were never brought up. But no one had told him any specifics until now.
    “He’s a great private investigator.”
    “Yeah?” How had this conversation which was meant to try to make her feel better turn on him?
    She rushed off to her room and dug in the closet. He didn’t want to talk about him. He wasn’t looking be a hero, per se. Tim was not an expert in anything except how much people did not know how to help someone who’d lost the most important person to them. This was something he could do and yet he didn’t seem to be able to do that at all.
    Ali returned with his shirt on a hanger and two books.
    “Just maybe skim these, read them. They were the first books your dad gave me. I think he thought I might want to be a PI, especially with my, ah, past.” Ryme Province Private Investigator Licensing Handbook and the Ryme Province Governing Laws. Heavy reading, for anyone. “In the regions Teams have a strangle hold. But for ten years here in Ryme they have been trying to get their foothold.  The laws made for here are so different than out in the regions. Hence why we have the largest police force on record, but it also lent it self to being a great opportunity for great men, like your father, to help people.”
    “Have you been practicing that?” Tim flipped through the books, unsure. “He gave these to you?”
    “He never thought you would come. Ever, Tim. He lost hope.” The card he’d never sent. The calls that stopped, assuming his Gran hadn’t just stopped telling him about them. She slipped the sponge from his hand, her own hand momentarily taking its place. “Just think about it.”
    Pursed lips, Tim shook his head, “You know, I was trying to help you.”


 

     When he finally left a little while later she stood in the empty apartment, washing the last of the dishes from dinner, completely alone. She should have stalled him. Asked him to help like he’d offered.  
    Ali couldn’t admit to it while Tim stood there but he had helped.

Chapter Text

    Lucy had been without much sleep the last few nights, ever since mystery girl showed up. Her research had started to yield some results. She started with the Team Rocket connection. She was fleeing those Rocket guys and most likely not part of their team. The tattoos made her think there was a high probability she was part of another Team, namely Team Skull. Cubone. That was the most clear look she’d gotten of the tattoos.
    Moving down that line of thought she’d returned to the docks and went looking for anyone flashing Rocket colors. Her news story could wait. She needed someone young, someone who looked her age. They’d be easier to seduce information from. Well, ask. Bribe.
    And she’d done just that.
    Tim had been predicable, heading down to Hi-Hat Cafe with his dad most mornings. He would hide out there and search want ads while his dad had meetings for work then head up and do paper work when he got too annoyed looking for a job. Not that she was stalking him or knew his entire schedule more than he did.
    Today was different. No want ads. No sulking at his dad. Tim was reading some book. Intently. He sipped the coffee thoughtfully turning the book sideways. Handwritten notes in the margins like a school book. He’d made no mention of going back to school.
    “Morning!” Her caffeine induced excitement overflowed. Coffee spilled everywhere and Ludicolo made an annoyed chur at them. Lucy helped mop the spill with a rag. “Sorry, hey.”
    “What are you doing all the way down here this early?” The notes in one corner smudged a little. Lucy spied the curlier letters of a girl’s handwriting and growled under her breath while she lifted Psyduck onto a stool.
    “I made some interesting discoveries and I wanted to share them with you.”
    All he did was nod. His book uncurled slowly to reveal the cover. Private investigator licensing handbook? “Oh, did you decide to work with your dad? That’s great!”
    “No. No, not really. Just trying to understand my dad more.” Her heart swelled. He was finally trying connect with his dad more. “How’s your story going?”
    “Oh, this is more important. Do you have anywhere to be this morning?”
    Tim tapped the book. He didn’t really want to go get dragged around the city, not yet. Lucy turned up the charm with sad puppy type eyes. He caved quickly, “No, I can come help.”


 

        The motorcycle swung perilously while Ali yanked the tail pipe off. Whatever ran into the back of this bike did some pretty major damage. Enough that Ali thought that scrapping the bike and starting from scratch would be the easier option but the owner insisted on repairs and upgrades.
     She found a matching sized tail pipe then set to work. The bike already had mods to allow for extra weight in the side cab, the owner’s partner a Geodude. The entire bike was about to be rock themed.
    Ali’s lack of artistic prowess kept her from doing much on the design. Her expertise would fix the damn bike and make it run again while the little newbies get down to work making the bike drool worthy. Goggles down, flame on, she was ready to weld the new custom tail pipe.
    Chip, the shop owner and her superior in the Skulls, sat at the door of the garage eating his lunch with some new little punks. She hated the teens they picked up. Never knew their place, thought they were better fighters, and that their Pokemon were big winners now that they were in the Skulls.
    Sweat dripped down her sooty, grimy face leaving clean streaks. Summer wasn’t here yet but it was closing in on them. One piece done, Ali would finish and start the next step after a break and some cooler air. Ignoring the whoops of the little brats Ali tied her flannel shirt around her waist, a standard Team Skull bikini top to keep her cool outside the shop. She stole Chip’s chips and water.
    “How's that repair going?”
    “Fine. Tail pipe is coming along. Get that engine working later. Be ready for the little tikes to get to work this afternoon.”
    “Hey, that’s my Angel baby.” Yes, the one that does all the major work around the damn shop.  “Want to,” she didn’t even remember this child’s name. Her foot in his chest kept him at bay.
    “No.” 


 

    Warehouses lined the docks not far from the wharf where the illegal Pokemon battles were. Until recently. Tim was starting to hate this part of the city. Nothing, really nothing, good happened here.
    Lucy and Psyduck kept with Tim. She chattered about this and that. Her new story, a new restaurant, new whatever she could find to keep talking and avoid his questions about why they were down here, yet again. Ahead, tucked within the warehouses was a small auto shop. Not a great location for getting a ton of business but Tim was already gathering that maybe business was just fine judging by all the skulls he saw on bandanas, tattoos and shirts.
    “Oh, uh, I think we must be going the wrong way.” He stopped Lucy, nervously chuckling at the sight of at least five Team Skull members, all closely watching their approach. Because of course Lucy led him down a street where there were no other people to blend in with.
    “Really? Your new friend is right over there.” Lucy pointed at the only back still turned to them, a blanket of black tattoos coiling up from her jeans to her shoulders.
    “Ok, Lucy those guys are obviously Team Skull, let’s go. You can show me whatever you wanted to show me later.”
    “That’s what I wanted you to see. Don’t you want to go talk to her.”
    He wasn’t sure it was her, not until he saw the Cubone sitting on one shoulder, Marowak on the other and Ali’s pissed off glare when she turned around. Complete with a Skulls bandana around her neck and an uncomfortably revealing top for him.
    Then Lucy was marching towards them, ready to get some kind of scoop. Tim rushed to her, trying to turn her back around.
    “You wanted to show me that Ali is part of Team Skull. Ok, done. Can we please go?”
    She’d stopped but only to accuse Tim, “Your precious new friend is part of one of the worst Teams in all the regions and you don’t want to ask her why?”
    “I want to get out of here alive. With you and Psyduck too!”
   


 

    Shit. The kids always got jumpy and excited when fresh meat wandered their way. Kids like that were going to get them caught and arrested.
    “Oh, little love birds are lost.”
    “That Psyduck is as good as…”
    Psyduck? No. Not that. Ali had kept her back to whomever was coming because she was just not going to get involved. As long as they could all just keep their cool no jail, no potential of being outed, everything stayed in tact and she could send the little plebs out to find what she needed.
    That would have been far too easy. She recognized that Psyduck walking towards the shop. Along with Tim and the not girlfriend.
    “I got this.” Since she’d become partnerless she’d been known for staying back in fights. In fact, she was somewhat of a pariah now that she couldn’t battle but no one was going to kick her out. The smart ones were too scared to kick her out of the Skulls. So, whenever she got around to getting a new partner was when she did. The newbies weren’t smart enough to keep their mouths shut about her lack of partner and it ended up with several Skulls in the hospital that were later arrested.
    “Oh, chica, we can handle such a cute little…” Her serrated hunting knife shut his mouth. “Right, Angel baby. You got this.”
    A hard yank pulled the scarf over her mouth and nose. She didn’t need backup, she didn’t need a Pokemon. She needed these two to leave and be safe.


 

    Tim knew a pissed off girl when he saw one. Lucy, she’d been pissed lately. Girls back home were not overly enthralled with him nor his friends. Jack had left a trail of very pissed off women. Ali. He wasn’t sure he’d seen a girl so very, very pissed off and he got it. He completely understood. They shouldn’t be there and he very much wanted to leave.
    Lucy stood her ground. The proverbial pissing match was about to go down, but between women.
     “Whoa. Ah, uh…that is a big knife,” Tim backed up, trying to get Lucy to follow.
    “It is a big knife.” As she advanced Tim realized how terrible a decision he’d made to follow Lucy. More Team Skull grunts were joining the fray. “I’m very interested in why you came into a known Team Zone.”
    “I-I…uh,” Lucy better have a good answer since he had none.
    “I don’t get it. You two have been so chummy but he doesn’t even want to say hi.” Lucy grinned, “Angel?”
    “That doesn’t answer her question, Lucy.”
    “Sure it does! We came to visit a,” clawing at Ali’s face Lucy got hold of the scarf covering her face, “friend.”     


 

    Ali actually wanted to punch this girl. Whatever connection she had with Tim she did not need to deal with this. Her plate was full and she’d had enough.
    “Wrong move.” Ali lunged at Lucy. Not just the threat of a punch to the jaw anymore, she was all in. Ali put all her weight into shoving Lucy to the ground. She didn’t go as far as she should have, Tim pushed his way in to stop the girls.
    “Whoa, whoa. Ok, hey we are all-” Tim stumbled to keep his balance.
    Jerking Tim to her eye level, “Oh, you want out alive you follow my lead.” A small pellet exploded at her feet, silencing Psyduck’s increasingly frenzied panic. Stat pellets, illegal in Ryme City limits. Psyduck swayed and passed out asleep in the street. Her shoulder rammed Tim’s bruised one out of the way and she picked up Lucy kicking and screaming at her. The more Lucy thrashed Ali dropped her down her back, maybe she’d slam her into the pavement. Maybe not. “Shouldn’t have touched me.”
    Behind them the little baby Skulls had taken an interest in her fight. Those little ones, they’d never seen her fight. She was a legend. Which meant she needed to make this quick and out of their sight.
    Lucy fought her back, punching and grappling until the knife emerged at her cheek. Wheeling on the grunts heading her way, “I’m going to go play with them.”
    Tim scooped up Psyduck. Now they were without a Pokemon for any kind of protection while a Whirlipede, Sandile and Galvantula scuttled and rolled toward them. Electricity crackled, the Galvantula clicking his mandibles  readying an Electroweb.
    “By myself.” Chip’s signal stopped the others advancing.
    “Make it quick. You’ve got work to finish.” Chip called back.
    “Hey? Want your girl back, pretty boy?” Turning around again, Ali taunted him as Lucy swayed from her shoulder. “Come and get her…” Back toward the alley, “Let’s play.”
    A grunt came from Lucy. Any further response was cut short by another yelp after another drop of several inches. Road rash would scar that pretty face for a few days if she kept it up.
    “I don’t really want to play,” Tim groaned.
    Her serrated hunting knife struck off a few of Lucy’s hairs at the nape of her neck. “Not really an option. You either play with me,” Lucy dropped again to the pavement stopping only inches from the ground, “or them. I would choose me.”
    In the alley they were momentarily out of sight from the other Skull grunts. Full of dumpsters Tim had a sinking feeling. She flipped the lid open of the closest and amid screams hauled Lucy up to her shoulders, above her head and right in. 


 

    “In you go.” She whispered, “Unless you want me to throw you in too.” They’d been quiet too many seconds already and the little grunts were coming even though Ali had told them not to follow. The dumpster rang with a kick then another with the hilt of her knife. Tim handed over Psyduck. Pulling himself up Ali couldn’t help herself and tipped him all the way in, giggling at his little squeal and mouthing, “Sorry.”
    Ali joined them, setting Psyduck carefully among the refuse. She kept her voice low, “Give me at most ten minutes and then get the hell out of here.” She was searching the garbage for anything that might contain a liquid or liquid like substance. “It’s garbage day so I wouldn’t stay too long. I will lure them away.” Tim heart leapt at the hunting knife stabbing the garbage near his shoulder then again near his head. “Come on. Argh.”
    Lucy squealed one last time before a hand clamped over her mouth. “Keep your mouth shut. Or we are all screwed.” Her hunting knife caught used oils and a bag that contained lunch. Nothing red. She would have to hope that nobody looked close enough. Slamming the lid back open Ali leapt out and shut them back in.
    The horrid mixture of chemicals, grease and rotting food spilling onto him from the cut bag did not improve Tim’s mood.
    Muffled, they could still hear Ali and the other Skulls.


 

    “Took out the garbage.” Ali wiped the blade clean on her jeans, the grease and food blending with her dingy pants.
    “Good thing it gets picked up today,” Chip beamed at her. He liked a strong woman. Angel had been one that the smart Skulls tried to pursue. She was wily, he didn’t know anyone that had gotten her yet. Today, though, she was dressed to kill, making him some bank and took care of a problem swiftly and quietly. More than he could say for the new recruits. Feeling daring Chip grabbed her hip.
    “Don’t touch me.” His own Houndour growled at him for touching Ali. His arm bent suddenly back, near it’s snapping point. When she released him, “But I could go for a drink. What do you say?” Stowing the knife again she buttoned up her flannel, “The kids can go run an errand.”

Chapter Text

    Pikachu’s ears pricked causing him to race across the office to the window. Tim and Lucy came storming down the street.
    Tim shook out his jacket every few paces. Whatever had gotten on it wreaked, somehow becoming more pungent the closer they got. They were still several building fronts from Harry’s building and Pikachu wrinkled his nose. Even weighed down with Psyduck, Lucy tried to apologize the whole way up the street.
    “Pika?”
    “What is it, Pikachu?” Harry asked, seeing his son trying hard to keep his cool.
    “Was this whole thing to humiliate Ali or could you not handle another girl talking to me?”
    She was having trouble keeping up with Tim, “You wouldn’t have believed me if I had told you. She’s on a Team, you have to be careful.”
    “Oh boy.” Harry groaned. “This is going to get messy. Be cool, Pikachu.”
    They were in the door of the building before he knew it and the argument loud enough for the entire building to hear. Tim stormed up the stairs of the building. Harry pretended he’d not been eavesdropping and worked on an invoice and sorting receipts, at the same time. Completely believable.
    “I was protecting you! Ryme is nothing like the little towns! She’s on a Team!” Trying to make her case and run after Tim up the stairs left her breathless at the door.
    “She’s not on a Team!” Tim threw the door open to the office.
    “Hey you two,” Harry read the accounting ledger, upside down. “Anything interest-oh my god!” Whatever they were covered in explained why they didn’t take a taxi back.
    “I don’t need protection!”
    “Really? Making friends with a Skull, I would beg to differ! I mean, of the Teams to be a part of…”
    “It’s not what you think!”
    “Tim, they will literally kill people…”
    “And you knowingly walked us right up to one of their shops?”     
    “I would be sorry but it was for your own good.”
    Harry could tell his son was about to burst. He let the bickering continue, reminding him of soon to be divorced couples.
    “She’s a cop!” Tim shouted. Probably too loudly.  
    “A-a cop?”
    The phone rang which forced Harry to choose holding his nose and answer or help Psyduck. Ali’s number on caller ID forced his hand. “Oh god tell me you can help.” Harry pulled a vial from his desk, tossing to Tim. “Crack it near his nose.”
    Ali hushed her voice, “Did they make it back?”
    “Why wouldn’t you tell me she was a cop?” Her voice carried well, certainly through the phone.
    “I’m almost there.”  
    “My medical kit is not enough for this.” No one heard him as he hung up. Tim broke the vial. A blue phosphorescent gas floated around Psyduck’s beak as he breathed it in slowly.
     Tim seemed reluctant to say much now that he’d let Ali’s secret out. He was also reluctant to bring the stench to his room and get changed. Keeping it all trapped there for Harry to enjoy with his coffee.
    “Pika!” Pikachu exclaimed at Ali in the window.
    “That was fast. Don’t set off the duck,” Harry pleaded. The outline of her knife in the back of her jeans, Harry disarmed her on the way through the office and tossed it on the desk.
    File folder in her hand and a black zip up hoodie covering her grimy clothes, “Lucy Stevens. Reporter, and I use that term loosely, at CNM. You’re what, eighteen? Passed the high school equivalency two years ago, working at CNM as an online journalist, again loosely. Trying to make a name for yourself.” Her folder flew to the floor and Lucy into the wall, “What the hell were you thinking just walking into a Team Zone? Were you trying to get Tim, your partner, and you killed?” Ali rammed into Lucy again, throwing her into the wall.
    “Grab her.” Harry dove after Ali. Tim scrambled to do the same.
    “I am trying.”
    “Get the knife.” Tim couldn’t keep hold of Ali. He might not have been far off saying she might have Machamp DNA. For every step back Tim and Harry could drag her she still got two steps forward. They were on the losing end of this battle.
    “You already got the knife.”
    “There’s another knife in her boot.” An elbow slammed into his chest. “And I’m not paying for a hospital bill!” Harry coughed out.
    “And what exactly were you doing dragging him into…”
    “I didn’t drag him into anything!”
    While Tim locked both arms around her shoulders Harry made for her boot. Tucked right in the boot was her second knife. “She had a bigger knife?” Tim turned a little green as Harry tossed it with the other on the desk.
    “God,” Ali, freeing herself again, dropped Lucy back to the floor. “Keep the jealousy in check. I haven’t gone waltzing in and ruin your career over something so petty.”
    “You break it, you fix it.” A migraine. He was going to have a migraine. This was worse than all the divorcing couples he’d ever dealt with.
    “Oh, I’ll break something.” Plaster cracked under her fist, “I don’t care if you’re a reporter, a PI, a goddamn florist, do your research right!”
    Lucy picked herself up, “I did my research. Angel, well known mechanic or fixer for Team Skulls. The tattoos were easily recognizable.” Lucy found the notebook she carried in her bag, “Fixer huh? What problems do you fix for the Skulls, exactly?”
    Reluctantly, Tim pushed between the two women one more time, “Did you circulate a picture? Talk to Skulls? What did you do?”
    “Team Rocket grunts are always willing to help find a Skull to bash.”  
    Letting out a roar she screamed, “You needed to be right! You did half the research, didn’t verify your facts because you’re overly invested. Makes for a shit outcome, doesn’t it?” Tim had to wrap his arms around her to keep Ali from smashing Lucy into the wall again. Ali fought his grip, desperate to unleash her anger. He knew she was strong enough to pry him from her if she was thinking clearly anymore.  “Your little tricks not only put your life in danger, your partner’s life in danger but Tim’s. And over what? Honestly, I’m not even pissed about my career, I’m pissed because you could have blown my cover and we’d all have ended up in that dumpster and not come back out. You’re just trying to prove a point and acting like a little drama queen.” Her rage had started to dwindle. Tim let her go. She immediately made him regret it slamming both fists in to Harry’s wall. Plaster now crumbled to the floor, dust making them all cough.
    Pikachu broke her spell. “Pika pikachu?”
    “Alison Angeles!” Harry joined his son, this time successfully hauling Ali away. She shook them off. Chest heaving she bit back the urge to cry. Both girls stayed on opposite ends of the room. Anything could set them off again.
    “Ok, now that that is out of the way, care to explain what is going on?” Harry sat on his desk and sipped his coffee.
    “Not with a reporter here. I’m not dumb.” Ali wiped away tears pissed that they couldn’t be fought away. She climbed back out onto the fire escape kicking and hitting the bars until every joint flared in pain up her arms and legs.


 

    Psyduck croaked a little, “Psy?” His partner’s anger had turned inward, miserable with herself and Psyduck embodied all she felt now. He waddled to her to pat her leg.
     She wanted was to crumple on the floor. There she’d gone and screwed up any chance she had. There was no way to salvage this. Not right now.  Instead of giving in she walked quietly to the door. Her hope was Tim would follow her, stop her, not give up on her. She already knew he wouldn’t. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow. When you’ve all had a chance to understand…”
    “We understand.” Tim bit his tongue. “Yeah, fine.”
    Halfway down the first flight of stairs, “Lucy.” Harry Goodman stood at the top, still sipping his coffee.
    “Don’t tell me ‘I need to give him space’ or ‘He’ll come around’.”
    “I think he’s trying to find his place in a world where everyone seems to have their life figured out. You certainly have it figured out but I’m not sure you understand what Tim is looking for.” Admittedly he knew nothing about being a father anymore. He was suddenly thrust back into a world of younger kids.
    Lucy heard doors close above and below them. The show was over. “I just wanted to help. I was worried about him.”
    “Yeah, he knows that.”


 

    When her palms were cracked and raw from letting out her frustrations Ali sat on the fire escape stairs. Tim joined her at the window. He kind of envied the way she could just let everything out. Not bottle it all up.
    “Your cover wasn’t…?”
    “If it was I wouldn’t be here.” Her face contorted, several emotions settled on self loathing ,“I’m sorry I got so pissed off.”
    Still quiet, Tim nodded, “No, I’m pretty pissed too.” Ali was a mess, physically and emotionally. Striking out at the fire escape again she let out a grunt. Eventually she moved to the outside window sill.
    Mirroring him, Ali walked her feet up the side of the window frame, “She didn’t tell you where you two were going? Like if it was some date or…?”
    “It wasn’t a date.” Tim said flatly.
    “Why didn’t you say something?”     
    “Because…I-she….was trying to help.” Tim pulled the book from his back pocket, throwing it to the desk.
    Through the window Ali clapped onto his arm, which still wreaked of day old rotting fish, “Yeah, she was. Because she likes you. A lot.”
     Suddenly this thought didn’t make Tim as excited as it had before. “Yeah.” Jack. He’d known Jack for most of his life. His intentions had always been good, his help was well meaning. Like with the Cubone. He just wanted Tim to see his potential, find a partner. Jack must not have realized that he had always been his partner. Through all the failed attempts at getting dates for dances, setting him up on blind dates or those even more horrid double dates. Lucy was kind of Jack’s replacement here in Ryme. She tried, blindly searching for something that would help him.  The one thing that was consistent, “I’m just…I suck at telling people how I feel.”
    Knocking on the glass between them, “Doing fine with me.” Ali hid her little half grin as best she could behind the window frame but he could still see it.
    Embarrassing as it was to admit, “You remind me of my mom.”
    “Romantic.” Both burst out laughing. “That is what every girl wants to hear. Did you tell her that? Because great way to not get another date.”
    “Are you done?” He was being teased by her which would have made him so annoyed if Jack or his other friends did it instead he was laughing with her.  The first time he’d really seen her happy and not masking depression or anger. “I think it’s how you are with my dad.” The soft thud of her head resting on the glass made Tim realize she wasn’t laughing anymore, she was listening to him. “You’re both really comfortable with each other. Bicker. The way you cook for him. It’s just…” The void left behind by his mother’s passing was as present as ever. No one had really been able to step in and fill that for him no matter how they tried. But he was no better. He wouldn’t let anyone in, even his closest friends.
    “No, don’t keep going. You are making me sound like your mom!” Her grip loosened though she still held on.
     “I like Lucy. But I just uprooted my entire life. I left home and everything I knew and hated…”
    “Good reason to leave, if you hate it.”
    “…to get to know my dad. But some things just don’t change.” His head rapped on the wall over and over.
    “Like what you want to do with your life? Because everyone seems to have everything figured out?”
    Pikachu clambered into Tim’s lap. Little ears twitching around the tiny deer hunter hat, worried. “Yeah, well they all do. Even Lucy! Especially Lucy.”
    “Let me guess, wants to be a star investigative journalist.” Pikachu climbed higher, nuzzling into Tim’s neck to comfort him. His silence was the only answer she needed.
    “I don’t know. I’ve failed at everything anyways.” His arm pulled out of her grasp to pet Pikachu. “I didn’t become a trainer. Didn’t go on my journey. Didn’t leave Leaventown…well I did. But everyone else left to start careers, go to regions to further their journey or career. And to top it off failed at every date I have ever had.”
     Words weren’t always helpful. They were contrite and repetitive and there were times when it didn’t matter what was said it just wouldn’t help. Knowing that someone was there for you and not just in some placating manner, was better. “You’re not a failure.” A wan smile his reply. “You found your father. Which, might I add, no one else could do. Not even the RCPD.” That story he had not told her, or anyone that had not been part of it. “Mr. G and I text. I taught him how.” Tim found her hand, grinning. “Mom to the rescue. We always know how to make people feel better. “
    “I shouldn’t have said anything.” Tim swung himself down so she could come back inside. Offering a hand to help her in,  “You’re never going to let me forget that.”
    “Never.” 


 

Harry shifted his weight back and forth in the doorway, “Oh thank god you two are done. I finished my coffee ages ago and this was starting to get awkward.”
    Tim was in utter disbelief at his father not only for listening to them but he’d clearly heard quite a bit. Ali was far less concerned by this. “Oh for the love of the legendaries, this is what you missed.”  She eased into the room again and made herself comfortable on his desk, crushing papers. All Harry’s fault for leaving them on the desk.
    “Considering Lucy thinks your on Team Skull I guess you are back on narcotics.”
    “Yeah, that stint on the special Team’s task force never started.”
    “Never started?”
    “Yeah, well our task force fell apart. Namely because Sergeant Berhalter was a Flare, whom were bankrolling the entire thing. He never got approval from the Captain for the force and I was undercover for major crimes. Huge mess.”
    Harry beamed as he shooed her from the desk. He’d had a bad feeling about Berhalter. Never could put his finger on it either. “What’s the case you’re working?”
    Pikachu climbed to Tim’s shoulder, “Pi pi?” Excited for a new case to work with her.
    “No, you’re not working the case,” Pikachu’s ears fell. “Going to do something to rat me out to Yoshida again?” Harry’s face fell as far as Pikachu’s ears.
    “That was not what got you in trouble.”
    “I got suspended!”
    “I did not rat you out, you threw the first punch and Hide and I just happened to be talking and…the chair broke the window!” However hard Harry fought both young adults had nothing but disapproval. His own son! “It was only two days.  You busted them!”
    “No thanks to you!”
    “What’s the case?” Harry prodded again.
    Cautious, Ali chewed her lip about how much to tell. Finally, “There’s a new drug on the street. Rocket’s selling it. Big shock there.” Harry wound his fingers around, more. He needed more. “Fine,” she relented. “This isn’t just some typical drug for stat effects on Pokemon. How much do you know about neurotransmitter receptors?”
    “Oh no.” Harry groaned. “No, no bio lessons.”
    “Bio?”
    “I read.” She shrugged, with an added new enthusiasm took over Ali. “If you want to know about the case you got to hear this.” Science was his enemy. Mortal enemy. “Ok, Bernie and I figured it out. I’m trying like hell to get my hands on this stuff.”
    “That’s why you those Rocket guys were chasing you?” Tim’s comprehension did nothing to make his dad feel better. There was still an uncomfortable aura around Tim and Ali’s first meeting that he would not bring up.
    “Rocket’s will kill Skulls on sight, Ali! Why would you take this case?” The closest to a reprimand Tim had heard his father give.
    “Just listen. Ok, so,” she’d taken whatever papers were on Harry’s desk sketching weird lobe like cross sections then hexagons and something. Tim was not well versed in science, especially biology. “Do you know why Pokemon attacks that can effect a status, Sleep powders or paralysis, don’t always effect people? Our neurotransmitter receptors are shaped differently.” Folding a paper with the funny shapes in half, one fit into the lobe but when she flipped the paper the other side did not. “So…”
    Harry hit his head on the desk, “All I see are squiggles. Just tell me.”
    Tim took the paper with the chemical formulas. Looking at them side by side he saw the difference, some little cluster in the corner. “So, did someone on Team Rocket figure out how to make them…fit?”
    “Yes! This new drug is a narcoleptic that is Pokemon derived but only effects humans. It’s completely revolutionary! Also utterly psychotic! This has the potential to be hugely devastating.”
    Impressive deductions. “You still haven’t gotten the drug to test. That’s all theories.”
    “Yeah, well, fine. It’s speculation right now. But I saw the effect. A video was circulated on the dark web where the Teams occupy. It was an official match that was taken off the air due to ‘technical difficulties’. Happened in Johto Region. Local law enforcement won’t tell us if the player who threw the pellet had knowledge of what he had, but the opponent fell asleep and his Pokemon did not.” Ali crouched next to the desk. She looked like a child waiting on praise from their parent despite the grave nature of the conversation. “Mr. G, chemistry like this could be devastating. Rocket only cares about standings in the official rankings and profit. Other teams, hell even Clifford himself, could reverse engineer the process and create all kinds of drugs or bio weapons that could put every town and whole regions at risk. This kind of discovery could be catastrophic.”
    “Assuming no other company has figured it out first.” Harry sighed. Clifford, Plasma, hell any of the crazy Pokemon scientist could have engineered this already. “Bernie know anything?”
    “No, and we’ve been checking. No technical papers have been released with this kind of chemistry. No chatter at conferences, no patents, no copyrights and from what we can tell no tests within…uh…nearby corporations. No other incidents in the official matches or otherwise but it has shown up on the street and looks to be making waves in the city. Robberies gone wrong where people fall victim to a pellet. A Tauros ripped through some cars when a parking officer tried to stop him and the officer ended up in the hospital. Had no idea that the Tauros didn’t stop because he’d blacked out.”
    Lines creased Harry’s forehead. “This is more dangerous than your other assignments.”
    “Don’t you dare go to Yoshida to get me pulled from the case. Again.”

Chapter Text

    “Alison,” Harry spoke so softly. “This really is more dangerous than your other cases. You need to be extra careful.”
    “I am.” She reassured. Neither believed her. Lucy was relentless and her actions were already causing problems. “It’s just another drug ring bust. That’s all.”
    Sure. Just another drug bust. Berhalter’s arrest news made Harry and Pikachu uneasy. Finding a cop in one of Ryme’s upper echelons of the police force had to send waves through the government. Not just Ryme’s government, the ripples were sure to be felt all the way through the Regions, especially if a hungry news reporter gets a hold of the story.
    Ali’s phone vibrating broke Harry’s concentration. As she moved away to take the call he waved his son closer, “Keep your eye on Lucy. With a Sergeant being arrested for being on a Team and Lucy looking for a story…Tim this may not just become about impressing you.” Pikachu fell from Tim as he choked on air.  “Oh, like I can’t see that. You don’t think if she gets a whiff of this she won’t be all over it?”
    Keeping his voice low Tim insisted, “She’s already on a story.”
    “About what?”
    “New dru-uh…,” he stuttered.
    “Yeah.” Harry’s smile unsettled Tim.
    Tim conceded, “Yeah. Ok.”
    Ali had been pacing at the far end of the office, emptying the coffee filter and dumping the stale coffee as she spoke. “I have to come in to give a statement?” Pikachu jumped up onto the breakfast bar the coffee maker was on, taking the coffee pot from Ali. “Yeah, no…there is someone. But Lieutenant what is this…Yeah. Ok. Yes, sir. Bye, sir.”
    Unease blanketed in the room. Even Pikachu seemed to feel that there was something not right.
    “Lieutenant Yoshida?” Harry asked trying to pull Ali from her daze.
    “Yeah.” She couldn’t stop staring at her phone until, “Tim, um.” Her mind had gone blank trying to connect the conversation she’d just had with her case or any other recent events. “Can you come with me to the station? Just to verify where I was this afternoon?”
    “Yeah, yes. Of course.”
    “Change, you still smell like rotting…I don’t know what.” Harry pointed at a mirror, “You probably should wash your face.” He felt hollow inside as they ran off to make themselves presentable. Could the police captain be moving this quickly on suspected Team members in the force? Lost in thought he almost missed them leave. “Do you want to take Pikachu?”
    Ali, far more confident than Tim, looked nearly scandalized, “Why?”


 

    Neither said much until they were out on the street and not in ear shot of Harry’s open window. Tim had learned his lesson. He also still shied away from the Aipom chittering overhead.
    “So,” Hands stuffed in the hoodie, hair tied back her mood had shifted again. He would have let her be silent but it felt awkward this time. “You think I’m pretty?”
    Not only did that stop her, she choked on her breath causing a coughing fit. “What?”
    “When you attacked me at the auto shop, you call me pretty boy.” Teasing didn’t come naturally. Sarcasm, that came naturally but that didn’t seem like the right approach.
    “I-I wasn’t going to…what…I mean…” He hadn’t seen her fumble before. One thing she’d been since he met her was confident. Every action held that confidence. When it dawned on her, “Oh my god, you’re teasing me.”
    “Just…seemed like talking would be better.”
    “You’re terrible at ice breakers then.” She checked her cheeks anyways, which were a bright red. He really was terrible at trying with people. Ali didn’t look like she was about to cry anymore, so he classified that as a win. “It was always good news when your teacher called your parents.”
    They were waiting at an intersection. Tim hadn’t been a model student. Average grades and no discernible athletic ability. He didn’t really cause any trouble at school either. Calls to his Gran and Grandpa were almost non-existent.
    “Did your parents get called a lot?”
    “Don’t I just look like a juvenile delinquent?”
    “Not really.” Rolling her eyes at him as they crossed Ali turned walking backwards and unzipping her hoodie. She’d expose herself and her Skull paraphernalia in the middle of a busy downtown intersection. He caught up to her and stopped the zipper, “Fine. The tattoos are a little on the nose.” He shouldn’t have teased her.
    “Teasing you feels much more natural.”


 

    The last time he’d been at this police station he’d been in a daze learning about his dad’s disappearance after having just arrived in the Ryme and then was attacked by all manner of crazed Pokemon. For all Tim knew Ali had been in one of the desks working. He didn’t even really remember seeing the large room full of desks, just going off to Lieutenant Yoshida’s office.
    Ali must have had her badge hidden well. She pulled it out and signed him in to the station and up they went to the second floor and the seemingly unending room of desks. Only half appeared  to be occupied.
    Ali stopped at a nondescript desk that Tim could only recognize was hers by the small framed portrait of her in uniform and Marowak. Unlocking the desk she stowed her badge and knife, dawdling.  
    “You want to get this over with or should I grab you a crappy cup of coffee?”
    Several rows of desks back four investigators and their Pokemon watched them. Tim groaned inwardly as they sniggered at them, reminding him of the popular kids in grade school, middle school, high school and beyond since it was a trait that people didn’t grow out of. Add to that they were surrounded by partners that would put anyone on edge. An Absol lay across an entire desk, wide eyes unblinking at him. A Gallake and Machoke stood guard behind them as a Luxray paced in front of them.
    Ali could only ignore them for so long as the approached her desk. Tim regretted not bringing Pikachu.
     “Partnerless and a failure. Tell us again how she became an investigator.” One of the younger men in the group taunted.
    “Dumbass got her partner killed.” Another yelled. Tim and Ali would have to pass them to get to Lieutenant Yoshida’s office, there was no way around them.
    “Hey, did she bring her pimp to the station?”
    “Maybe to turn him in for not getting her enough work.”
    “Ignore them.” She stood with Tim. “Once an asshole, always an asshole.”  They weren’t taunting him and his blood was boiling already while Ali kept her cool. Shockingly.
    Of the four men, the biggest tried to quiet the others. “What were you out doing today, Angeles?”
    “Oh, I don’t know, Brockton. My job?” Trying to steer Tim around them, Brockton cut them off. Tim hated guys like this.
     Ali was sandwiched between them while the others started, “Funny.”
    “See, we busted these Skulls out by the docks,” another chimed in.
    Leaning in close to Ali, Brockton sneered, “Looks like we’re doing your job for you, Angeles.”
    She ducked under his jaw. Tim actually had hoped she would just stand up, knocking him in the jaw. The squad stopped her from getting far. “Trying to blow my cover, Brockton?” Her voice wavered. Exactly what Brockton and his squad had been looking for.
    “What cover?” Another snickered.
    Tim’s fists clenched, his teeth too. “From what I hear you don’t cover a lot.”
    Shushing his men again, “See, they told us something interesting.” Cocky son of a bitch pretended to think over what he’d heard, “Their fixer was fixing something this afternoon.”
    Another leaned in close, “Once a murderer, always a murderer.” Guess they’d heard her, not that she had been trying to be quiet about it.
    “Fuck off, Berger.”
    “Yeah, I’m the guy she killed, so…” Finally, something he could do to help. He couldn’t see her face but her shoulders fell, relaxing.
    Berger, still in close to her ear, “Oh, she’ll get you killed alright. Got her partner killed.”
    “Now, now,” Brockton pushed Berger back, “no corroborating evidence of that, Berger.”
    “Yeah. Don’t be a dick, Dick.” Shouldering her way through them Ali returned to taking Tim to Yoshida’s office.
     Berger dragged her back by saying, “You’re right, she straight up killed her partner.”
    “Tell Dick to keep his fucking mouth shut about Cu, Brockton. Or I’ll shut it for him.” She was only kind of cool now.
    “Let’s see where she was, boys!” Brockton leaned in close.
    “Fuck off, Brockton.” Ali was losing her composure with every word. All they did was chuckle, Brockton closing in on them again. “Don’t touch me!” Ali growled at them, hands up. Holding herself back from making a move. Brockton waited until Ali’s hands came back down as she was about to move off again. In one motion he unzipped her hoodie and whistled.
    “Look, little Angeles is ready to get down and dirty. Probably already turning tricks so she can move up the Skulls.” Her bikini top exposed, she hadn’t changed before going to Harry’s earlier. Brockton dared to grab her at the waist, turning her to show the rest of his squard. They all were jeering and catcalling and whistling like Pignites.
    That was it. Tim pulled her to him, “Hey, hands off!” But Ali had another idea. Brockton was still in the middle of his sneering when Ali’s fist landed in his nose.
    Hell broke loose. Brockton recovered quickly, taking a swing at her. She couldn’t get another swing in, Brockton grabbed hold of her wrist. The clap of metal hit her wrists as they were wrenched behind her back. Before her second wrist was clamped in she lobbed an elbow at his face. “Lock her up! Put her in the hold, see how many tricks it will take to get her back out again.”
    “Let me go, you son of a bitch! Brockton!” Ali yelled and leaned back into him kicking out. “No! Let me go!”
    “Throw her in!”
    Tim felt several hands grab him before he could make a move. Ali fought hard against Brockton. Real rage came when cuffs slammed onto Tim’s wrists too. “Put her little pimp in with them!” Brockton wiped the blood dribbling from his nose. “Bitch.”
    “He’s a civilian! Let him go. He didn’t do anything!” She kicked back into Brockton, knocking him into the closest desk. Tim fought back as well, though the Machoke closing in on him made his heart flutter dangerously. “Machoke, don’t you fucking dare!”
    Two of the younger squad members started dragging Tim back to the holding cells. Brockton’s smirk widened when he turned Ali to him. A simple smile spread on her face. Tim saw one of her hands slip from the cuff so he threw a shoulder into one of his guards. Ali grabbed hold of Brockton’s neck and she hurled her head into his. Blood streamed freely from rising welts on both.  
    Ali’s swing stunned Brockton, a wide hook to his temple. Another hook came around smashing into his cheek with the metal cuff swinging wildly into his jaw as well. She dashed down the row to Tim wrenching him from the other squad members.   
    “What the hell is going on in my squad room?” Lieutenant Yoshida boomed. All the chaos and frenzy halted. Ali and Brockton both bleeding and bruised.
    “Uncuff him, Berger! Now!” Ali yelled. She slipped the other half the cuff off, pelting Brockton with it. “What the fuck was that all about?”
    “She’s deranged, Lieutenant. As well as a traitor working for a Team!”
    “Enough!” Yoshida roared again.
    Tim’s hands freed she dragged him closer to Yoshida and safety. He’d taken a few hits during the struggle, no bleeding or bruises. Ali scrutinized his face until she was satisfied then swung back around, “It was assault, Lieutenant! I told him not to touch me!”
    Brockton’s Luxray did nothing to help him, purring as it cleaned it’s paw staring at the scene. She couldn’t be bothered to be in the middle of messy fight. Smart little Pokemon. “She’s fucking psycho! She’s going to get other cops killed just like her partner.” Brockton jumped at Ali. He wanted nothing more than to make her react again. Instead she dug in, refusing to move. “She take the Rocket assignment to help her Team’s foothold? Or maybe she’s just part of Rocket and being a little undercover Skull is for show!”
    She bounded forward only making inches of ground as Tim used everything he had to keep her back. “That’s a load of Tauros crap and you know it!” Finally inserting himself between the two investigators, Yoshida’s mere presence caused Ali to step back again. “Lieutenant, you know how deep Rocket’s pockets go. They can have anyone they want on their payroll. One thing they would never do is have an ex-Skull. I’m marked. They’d string me up and let a Charmander fry me to evolve.” Ali pleaded with her boss, hoping he understood.
    Guilt plagued Lieutenant Yoshida. “We’re all under the microscope, Angeles.”
    Everything about her fell slack with shallow breaths. “What?” she whispered.
    “You have a previous connection with a Team.”
    Deep breaths. That was all she could do to keep from hyperventilating. “I’m not-Lieutenant, you helped with everything. I was cleared, I was backstopped. Everything was cleared. I-” Brockton’s squad lingered, together again and thoroughly enjoying the show. All assholes, mocking her holding back tears. Mock wailing. It set her off again. Stalking to a desk she ripped out the drawer, “Maybe we should also keep tabs on the investigators who are abusing alcohol? Huh, Brockton?” A false bottom of the drawer fell when she held it upside down, tiny bottles spilling onto the floor. His own squad members had to hold Brockton tight. Ali flipped two bottles up, one sliding secretly into her sleeve.
    Yoshida caught the one she tossed, “Angeles.” His tone warning her not to keep pressing. But this was another item he would have to investigate. Speaking softer to keep this private, “I know.”
    “Lieutenant, I have a right to know what…” Ali pleaded one more time, cut off with a wave.
    “Look, Investigator Angeles. This is the official notice. You’re on leave the rest of the day while we conduct an investigation.” Like putting his own daughter in a time out when she’d done nothing wrong. He took her shoulder, “Your cover should be in tact. If we are able to clear you your case should go on unhampered. This isn’t from me, this is coming from higher up.”
    Balled up frustration with no where to release it, Ali just said, “Yes, sir.”
    The jeering from Brockton’s squad silenced when Yoshida commented, “Shouldn’t you be finishing the paper work for booking the four Skulls in custody?”
    Returning to her desk, Ali opened the drawer looking inside vacantly. Her badge was already there, her weapon.
    “Tim?” The Lieutenant looked puzzled then realized, “Did you come to give a statement for Investigator Angeles? Were you with her this afternoon?”
    “Uh-yeah, I mean yes, sir. She-uh…”
    Ali was locking up her desk. Solemnly she looked at the little framed picture one more time and got up completely forgetting Tim was there with her. “Take her home, please? We can take a statement later.” Tim nodded realizing he might need to jog to catch up to her now. “I’ll call your dad, let him know what happened. I am sorry for what happened.” He was already down the row of desks after her.


 

    Ali was already on the street when Tim caught up. Against the building she was trying fruitlessly to zip her hoodie back up. Her hands shook too much. At least the threat of tears was gone. Tim wrapped his jacket around her shoulders. Arms sliding in was when she really realized he was there with her again. Ali felt the hat his dad had left rolled up in an inside pocket. People were already staring at her bleeding and growing welt.
    Helping with the zipper, “Walk back to your place?” A stiff nod and they were on their way. “A head butt? Really.” He dared a question when they’d gotten to a quieter street.
    “Yeah, well Cu and I used to,” that was another sentence she couldn’t finish and he wasn’t going to make her.

Chapter Text

    More and more people gawking at her bruised and bleeding forehead made Ali dig out the hidden hat. By the time they were inside her apartment the bleeding had long since stopped. Tearing off the hat started the process all over again. Ali didn’t notice at first. She threw the jacket on the couch then proceeded to kick the cabinet and bash the counter in her kitchen. When blood dripped onto the counter and she swore incessantly though she did little to stop the bleeding.
    He could have just left. He ached from the fight and was tired. Both emotionally and physically. He could let her work out her anger and frustration, alone. She continued to ignore him and beat her kitchen, but leaving her didn’t feel right. Tim found her bathroom, searching the medicine cabinet for anything to clean the wound. He stopped on the return to the kitchen. Her bedroom which he hadn’t seen the last time he was here. Fairly spartan with a bed and nightstand and dresser. It was pristine. Another night she hadn’t slept in it. The culprit in the corner. A smaller bed with Cu’s bone club and what looked to be a cast of his skull bone he’d worn. He understood. He wouldn’t sleep in a room that reminded him constantly of someone he’d lost either.  Tim remembered the days, weeks, months after his mom passed away. They were unbearable. The nights were worse. Alone in his room, a new room that wasn’t really his.
    Sparing one last look at Cu’s bed in the corner he returned to find her renewing her assault on the counter.
    “We should clean that up.” She may well have forgotten he was there as she jumped at him. Embarrassed either at her actions or her clothing, Ali clutched her hoodie closed.
    “Yeah.” She murmured and sat down on the couch. Tim cleaned the cut with pungent and stinging antiseptic. Ali couldn’t bring herself to look him in the eye. “I’m so sorry. You keep getting caught in the middle of things with me.”
    Her head drifted down so Tim gently lifted it again. The bruise was creeping across her forehead already, pulsing. Closing the gap between them, Tim tenderly placed a butterfly bandage across to keep it closed. Ali eased back away from him. Reaching out, Tim wanted to make sure the bandage would hold but Ali swatted him away and pressed the bandage herself, looking at anything but him.  
    “It’s ok,” he sat back.
    Ali’s head pounded with each beat of her heart. Not able to sit still, Ali stood. Emptying her pockets the small clear bottle clinked on the coffee table. “Did you…?” Tim moaned. His father had a disastrous effect on people. She was already under investigation and now she’d stolen a bottle of her coworker’s liquor.
    But was she was listening? Of course not. Shaking the bottle Ali held it close to her eyes, then backed it away as if she was testing it to see if she was seeing things because of the head trauma. “Is there something in this?”
    “Alcohol?” Tim offered blandly. “Like you accused Brockton of.” If she was still listening to him she didn’t answer. The bottle wasn’t sealed, she twisted it open smelling the contents. Not this again.
    “Oh,” shoving the bottle under his nose this was all too familiar. “What does that smell like?”
    He wanted to stay at least long enough to know that she would be alright, he wasn’t comfortable smelling random things. Again. But not only had she perked up, she was talking, acting like herself gave him a small sense of relief. Surely she would get him in less trouble than his father did. Grabbing the bottle from her, “I don’t know. It smells…like flowers. Roses.”
    “Not just me.” She mumbled. “That means it’s not Snorlax, or any of the bug types. Grass type? Grass type.”
    Capping bottle again, Tim looked at her strangely. “The only attacks I remember that came from grass types were poison, sleep or cure.” Carefully he set the bottle back down on the table because the idea of being near poison made him understandably edgy. Especially with the case Ali had been working and her theory.
    Ali wobbled while she got a bag of frozen peas from the kitchen. “I would hope he’s not stupid enough to have poison just sitting in his desk.” The cold soothed the pounding, at least temporarily. “Probably. But that is not just alcohol. Well, it is but not the kind you can drink.” The bottle sat there, waiting to be sniffed again. He wouldn’t take the bait.
    Making her way to the bedroom Tim could hear the peas landing on some surface then drawers moving as Ali continued, “Brockton is a decent enough cop. He wouldn’t have a squad if he wasn’t.  I wonder where he got it because he is not exactly scientifically inclined.”
    “You are?” She was, he already knew. At least enough to draw out the crude pictures she’d attributed to her current case. Really, keeping her talking was more important. The other pictures on her entertainment stand caught his eye. Near the top was one of her and Cu, he couldn’t tell how many years ago it had been taken. She looked younger and Cu hadn’t evolved to Marowak yet. They were giggling about something, she’d bent and knocked heads with him. In the next shelf down was a frame with several pictures. One being Cu and his dad’s Pikachu sat snacking on popcorn on the couch he’d been sitting on this morning but cleaner, newer. Next to that another where they were fast asleep, Pikachu curled in Cu’s lap. Another at a gym. This one not geared toward official trainers for leagues but just a general gym. Both wearing gloves and sparring with one another. There she was, the girl with the brilliant smile in the pictures who was not the same girl here and now.    
    “You know I was on the street, right?” He didn’t want to answer. Yeah, he knew. He remembered her mentioning it and his dad. “Libraries make great places to get in off the street. They’d let me stay all day and read, nap sometimes too.” Back at the door, she was flipping through an incredibly dense book on Pokemon biology, gripping the peas in her teeth and now wearing a clean shirt. Still admiring the pictures she glared at him. With a grunt she hefted the book into his stomach and returned to her room, scowling the whole way and making him feel terrible. With his own scowl he flipped through the Pokemon biology book. Looked to be a university text book, filled with tabs and notes.  Calling out to him again, though far more annoyed, “I have a friend that runs a Pokemon clinic. He helps me with the science of it if I get stuck.”
    “So, this is normal for you?” He was still kicking himself and trying to make the best of his idiocy.
    Peaking in through the door Tim watched as paper and books dropped around her in piles as she looked for something specific.“I’ve spent enough time around Harry.”
    “He certainly rubs off on…wait-”
    Ali continued the assault on her bookshelf, “Heh, I only call him Mr. G to annoy the shit out of him.” Sitting in a circle of books, the peas lay forgotten as she thought. “Don’t worry. I won’t be making a maze of books and files with a laser grid of string around the apartment.” Tim shifted a mess of books, startling her as he softly placed the bag on her head. “Ah,” he held back a snicker. She kept swatting at the hand holding the bag, trying to take it herself. “Your dad’s a train wreck.” Nodding in agreement he saw that up close, so was she. She kept floundering and gasping for a breath, “Spends whole nights up in a caffeine induced solving cases. When he gets to day three-” Ali let out a low, nervous whistle.


 

    The peas helped her head stop spinning. And it was spinning so much.Tim towered over her when he stood and stopped her heart when he knelt close. “I-I don’t need a baby sitter,” she huffed.  “Can you grab my tablet? I have an icon for the bio journals on the home screen. Look up Grass Types and spores or…ugh precipitates. Pollen maybe?” Ali pushed him toward the door to get some breathing room.
    “I’m not exactly going to be much help. I sucked at science.”  
    “I’m not making you read the papers.” Ah, finally, there was the book she was looking for. Creased and worn, the book she held was in Kanto. ‘Ancient Grass Remedies’ There’d been a long history of working with Grass Types to make medicines in Kanto region. The use of Grass type spores or pollen in this way may point to someone based out of Kanto region, like herbalists.  


 

    Her tablet was different than his. Opening it, he tapped a button, then another and swiped looking for how to get to the home screen. When the picture came up he hadn’t touched anything else but a video started playing.
    Ali, leaner and more muscular, hopped around on the screen. A glimpse of her years ago. Clapping her hands together, “Come on, Cu!” She laughed, bouncing on the balls of her feet. They were sparring, behind them a tournament in a large gym in full swing. Other partners were sparring, crowds chanting for whomever was competing at the time. Cu controlled his swing while she blocked each one. Blow after blow came faster and faster and soon she couldn’t keep up so Cu slowed down again.
    “Cu! Cu!” He chanted at her ecstatically.  


 

    Ali could hear the video playing as ice trailed down her spine. Leaving the mess she rocked through the door peas clutched to her throbbing head. “No,” she whispered as she careened into the room and couch. She hadn’t thought of it, hadn’t remembered. Tim lifted it from her reach but she pleaded, “No. Please. Please.” Tears already brimming.
    “Next up, Alison Angeles and Cubone.” The announcer crackled over the video.
    Tim brought the tablet back down letting her take it from him. “Was that the competition you won? Did you-” She wasn’t listening.
    Pausing the video she sat back on her heels. The video paused at Cu excitedly jumping up ready to get in the ring for the competition. “No.” The pounding in her head escalated. “It was our-our first one.” She played at the edge of the tablet, a single tear rolling down her cheek. She could barely breath and she couldn’t stop crying now that the first tear fell. Nausea took hold, roiling her stomach.


 

    She had to have been watching her videos of Cubone every night since he’d passed. Sleeping on the couch away from his bed with his memorial.
    “You know,” Tim sunk himself lower into the couch. She couldn’t bring her self to look at him while he spoke. “I-thought Cubones were so useless. Before I came to Ryme my friend, Jack, tried to set me up to catch a partner and it was this Cubone just wailing in the middle of a field. I mean, whenever we saw them they were alone and crying and…I just thought they were so pathetic.” Face softening at the small bone headed Pokemon pictures on her shelves. He also thought they were creepy for wearing a dead relative’s skull. Except when he looked at Cu’s pictures. They weren’t creepy at all. They were sweet and full of joy.
    She didn’t wipe the tears away. Staring at the screen as her voice barely a whisper, “They’re not useless.” Collapsing onto the couch next to him.
    “Really?” He could see Cu jumping on the screen. Little guy was ready to fight.
    Wiping her cheeks clean, “He’d beat the shit out of you.”
    “Would he?”
    “Just for looking at me the wrong way. Or talking shit about me. Or…whatever.”
    “Is that so?” He dropped his guard to allow his standard sarcasm out, “That already happened to me, so…” He got a flash of half a smile. Sarcasm had been his defense for years now. Sarcasm and cynicism had kept him safe.  A wall he’d built to keep people out. Keep even his friends out. Probably kept her safe too.
    “Yeah? You seem relatively unscathed.”
    “Well, it happened about three and a half weeks ago.”
    Ali turned the screen off, not able to look at the spirited little Cubone any longer. “Your dad looked like hell for way more than three weeks after Cu got done with him.” Hugging the tablet to her Ali met his eye, “What did you do to the Cubone?”
    “Just try to capture it.” Which came out wrong. That was wrong. God it sounded so horrible to say out loud. Was that what they really did? “What’s with that look?”
    “I hate Pokeballs.” As a child, Tim had read enough about Pokemon that he remembered they were supposed to enjoy being inside the pokeballs. In the least, they weren’t uncomfortable. Though he’d read that certain types preferred different kinds of pokeballs. Electric types, like Pikachu, were one. “Just like I hate the idea of teleportation, which isn’t that much different.” Baffled, Tim had no idea how pokeballs worked. “You know, the conversion from matter to energy is probably…never mind.”
    “How much do you read?” Laughing felt good. More so when Ali joined him even if she was still curled up on the couch protectively clutching the tablet. “Anyways, my friend gave me crappy advice.” Or no advice.
    Her mission was forgotten for the moment. “What advice was that?”
    “That catching a Pokemon isn’t about skill.” To which she laughed even harder.
    “Yeah, that’s a load of crap.” Warmth started to fill her, letting her uncurl, her tablet falling between them. “I mean, maybe it doesn’t take much skill to get one in a pokeball, more skill than just throwing one though, but to get a partner that’s different.”
    That didn’t make sense. What was the difference? “Then how do you get a partner?”
    “Sometimes you just have to let the partner come to you.” Her advice was almost as bad as Jack’s but made less sense.
    She followed his gaze to the pictures on the entertainment stand again. “How did you meet Cu?” He could see another picture, one he’d missed before, low on the stand. Ali, Cu and Pikachu at a park, dirt splattered on each as they grinned at the camera. It looked like the ending of a great story which she seemed to have a lot of them.
    As the silence dragged on Tim realized he shouldn’t have asked. He was about to tell her to forget about it when, “I was nine. Uh-too young to take a partner.” Her sentences dragged as she looked for the right words. “The town I grew up in was tiny, we were either surrounded by forests or caves. I-I’d wander the caves when I couldn’t, just couldn’t be home, which was not the smartest thing to do. One night, I-I was bleeding and should have found someone in town and hid but I didn’t think about it and ran to the caves again and ran right into a Rhyhorn. He charged me and Cu jumped right in and beat him back with his Bone Club. Woke up later and he’d run to the cave entrance and collected clean water in my shoe to clean my…he wouldn’t leave me. Followed me home when I finally left the caves.” Fixed on the picture he’d found, “They tried to take him away. But he fought. Fought everyone. It took months but they finally gave up. His little, fiery spirit though kept getting us in trouble even when we came to Ryme. Little guy fought everyone, even here. Didn’t know when to back down.” Sometimes it was hard to tell if she was talking about Cu or herself. They seemed so similar to each other, mirror images. “It’s why Harry got us into martial arts. He wanted to fight, we could fight.”
    Wow. As far as he remembered, his dad had not been one to encourage him to get into sports. There was never anything wrong with sports. Maybe he’d left Tim to his Pokemon Trainer world because he knew that was what he wanted more than anything but he’d never taken him out to find Pokemon. Show him how to catch one or even just hunt for wild Pokemon. He’d been busy. “He-he took you…?”
    “To classes, to competitions, to-oh for the love of the Legendaries, Tim!” He had to duck her arm as she swung herself up and started to sway and apologize and hyperventilate. He’d felt a familiar coldness course through him as she’d answered him.  “Tim, please. I’m so sorry, no…that’s not…”
    “He was there?” Tim’s own chest tightened. “For your competitions?”
    “No? Yes,” she croaked.
     “It’s ok if he was.” He made himself look back at her. Instantly, all the coldness he felt melted again. “I’m glad he learned how to be there for someone.” He was kind of glad it was her. “D-Do you have any videos…?”
    “Yeah, yeah.” As if still unsure, Ali’s hand hovered over the screen. She did turn it back on, eventually, and found a video. There her hand stalled again with Tim lingering at her shoulder.
    The video started with Harry narrating as Ali and Cu bounced around to stay loose for their impending match. “And there, across the mat is the enemy.”
    “They’re not the enemy.” Ali answered, clearly hearing him above the crowd. Berger and his Machoke stood across the mat glaring daggers at them. He even flipped her off when his teacher wasn’t paying attention. “Fine, enemy.”
    A signal went up and they were allowed enter the mat for their match. His dad’s voice cheered behind the camera phone, “Go Ali! Go Cu!”
    They all shared a malevolent grin for the other and at the whistle each went on the offensive. Neither Ali nor Cu were deterred by the size difference. Cu charged the Machoke with no fear, a Headbutt to knock him back.
    Berger had both inches and weight on Ali but was put on the defensive quickly. Her strikes came hard and fast just like Cu. Crosses and jabs were a diversion to put him on the defense as her foot lashed out at his knee.
    Tim felt tense. His neck ached, jaw clenched watching his dad narrate this video. At the same time he also felt elated seeing tiny Ali beating back that Berger asshole. Ali set the tablet on his lap, resting her head on the couch cushion, nudging his shoulder as she watched.
    “Take him down!” His dad screamed. He was never really interested in the League like Tim had been. He always followed enough to discuss it with Tim. He would have assumed his dad didn’t care about martial arts either but this was different.
    Ali went for a fast cross faltering when Berger wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Berger made a dive for his own Machoke who was being beat back and nearing the out of bounds. In the dive Berger swung his leg out knocking Cu to the mat just in bounds. Cu’s head snapped dangerously back. The entire crowd agreeing with Ali’s flare of anger.
    A sharp whistle called for a pause to assess Cu’s injury during the foul. Cu, though, was ready. He shook it off, beating the mat with his bone club. Ali knelt with him on the screen checking to make sure he was ok, ready to fight again.  She was nodding with him then they shared another little head knock before signaling they were ready again.
    The whistle brought back the attacks. The pause allowed for Berger to regroup and he was able to put Ali on the defensive right away. A heavy kick to her chest sent Ali down. She caught his foot before it could slam into her again, twisting hard. She had a choice, keep hold of his foot with both hands or try to grab somewhere else or punch and take him down.
    In the end, it didn’t matter. Tim had never seen a little Cubone use Brick Break before and neither had the Machoke as he collapsed into his own partner.
    A whistle sounded again.
    Exhausted, the referee held up both their hands as the crowd drowned out any other sound in the video.
    Light engulfed the mat, the ref diving away and everything just stopped in the arena. Harry whispered, “Oh, oh my god.” Cu engulfed in the light dropped back to the mat over a foot taller and heftier. “Marowak? Marowak!” Harry shouted.
    Ali tackled the little Marowak nudging heads with him.
    The camera shook as his dad burst through the crowd. Turning the camera on himself, “Oh my god, did you see that! Cu evolved! Cu evolved. Pikachu can you believe it?” A yellow blur bounded on all fours to the cuddling duo. “Yeah! Marowak!”
    The ref reappeared to hand a medal to Ali but she was too busy continuing to celebrate Marowak’s evolution. Finally pausing on Marowak jumping onto the camera.

Chapter Text

    Her neck ached at the awkward angle she’d slept all night. Usually she wasn’t so upright. She’d roll onto her back, kick her legs into the arm rest and bang her head on the other. None of which made her neck twinge like it did. Might have been the fight with Brockton yesterday. Mumbling, she was not ready to be awake, far too warm and comfortable to get up and move even with her neck.
    “Mmmm,” she hugged her pillow closer, nose digging in and inducing laughter. Masculine, and not her own, laughter.
    “I think you drool in your sleep.”
    Her eyes shot open, scrambling back right off the couch with a bang and groan as she hugged her head to the floor. “Oh my god, what are you doing here?”
    “You fell asleep watching your old tournament videos with me.” Tim moved the coffee table out of the way. Crouching next to her on the floor he tried to roll her over rather unsuccessfully. Fresh blood pooled in her hand. “You’re bleeding again.”
    Everything felt like it was closing in on Ali. She should be alone, she wouldn’t show anyone her videos of Cu, she didn’t drool in her sleep. Her breaths were coming shorter and shorter which only served to panic her more.
    They had, apparently, not moved since Tim had grabbed her tablet. The supplies he’d used the previous night to clean her wound were still in reach. He cleaned her newly opened cut. Closely. Too closely for her.
    Fresh bandage over the wound Tim pointed, “That got a little…ah, ugly.” His warmth, his smile, still too close. He was trying to comfort her and now it was too much. She was completely unprepared, overloaded.
    As if she could feel the bruise on her head Ali searched her forehead. A less severe bruise had formed overnight on his cheek. “We-uh…match then.” She ducked under his arm, marching to the bathroom and barricading herself in.
    Her mind kept spinning trying to make sense of what was happening. Try as she might her heart and lungs seemed to have a mind of their own while her own mind just seemed to stop working completely. Eventually she stood to assess yesterday’s fight damage herself. The inflammation had gone down. Nearly half her forehead was covered in a medley of blue. She’d had worse.
    Grabbing a few things from her medicine cabinet Ali made sure she didn’t look like a complete lunatic and returned to the living room.
    Tim had already moved the table back, folded her blanket neatly on the pillow.
    “I don’t drool in my sleep,” slapping a new toothbrush and toothpaste into his hand Ali backed into the kitchen.
    A large wet spot clear on his shirt, “Really?”
    God she hoped she was making a smile and not some weird expression.
    “Uh?” he held out the toothbrush like she’d need it for something.
    “I have extras from the dentist. Do you want to…?” Keeping her back to him was all that kept her calm while she worked on breakfast and coffee.
    “Yeah. Thanks.”


    One video had led to another. He’d thought it would be more painful than it was to see his dad in the videos, messing around with Ali and being so utterly father like. He was so full of memories of his parents or his dad and Grams fighting near the end or his dad just not being there at all. Looking back that probably colored the view he had of his father because so many things happened so close together. For both of them it was like a floodgate had opened. After the initial hesitation about watching the videos Ali relaxed, scrolling through videos and not bothering to hide her tears. For Tim, it started with tension so strong he thought he would snap that started to melt away during the first tournament video.
    Asking to watch another was more difficult than the first but the more he watched Tim just wanted to see more, see a side of his dad he hadn’t seen or didn’t remember. His dad was a whole different person, even a stranger. And the videos were so varied. He’d assumed that all the tournament videos would be of Ali and Cu fighting with Harry’s ridiculous narration. For a folder listed as Tournaments, most of the videos they’d watched were not of matches. Also, his father’s camera work was atrocious.  The shortest one they’d watched Harry egged Ali on to bust a move where she just responded with, “Really, old man? Bust a—?”
    Three guys, around her age, passed behind her sneering something in a different Region’s dialect. The video cut off with Harry trying to defend Ali.
    “Means street Rattata.” Ali translated. “Got called that. A lot.”  
    She hit the skip button, “Wait, what about-?”
    “Next one is better. You don’t have to watch the match.” He was ok with watching the matches too, though. His dad’s commentary was silly and sarcastic and that was obviously a trait he handed down to Tim.
    Ali folded her arm, resting as she hovered at his shoulder. Stifling a giggle the next video started.
    The camera was skewed, not focused on anyone but the blue mat and the people’s heads in front of him.
    “Shit. Pikachu? Is it recording? Gah, how can I…oh there it is.” Ali bounces by, a familiar pattern of footsteps and rhythm, though Tim couldn’t quite place it. Dancing was not his thing.
    “How’d it feel to get beaten by a Rattata?” Harry followed Ali straight to the assholes who were already sullen as one of their ranks had apparently lost his match to Ali and Cu.
    The camera started bouncing with Ali making the entire screen shudder enough to make the watcher sick. Pawing at the camera, Ali turned it on Harry, “Really?” Even with  another “Street Rattata,” in the background.
    “She still handed you your ass.” Harry tried copying Ali, failing very, very miserably.
    “What is this?” Now the camera just shook with Ali’s laughter. Tim realized two left feet were genetic too.
    The next video started automatically.
    Their location wasn’t even in a gym this time but a restaurant. Ali and Cu both sporting bandages around hands and all along Cu’s arm, complete with specks of blood peaking through. Just as the screen settled, bowls were set in front of them all.
    “Why are you filming us eating ramen?”
    “For future generations to witness this,” he held her hand in a close up shot of her bandage. “What? No witty Skull rhymes after that display?”
    “They were assholes, Mr. G.” Unencumbered by the bandages wrapped around her knuckles Ali removed her chopsticks from their sleeve. Harry was waiting patiently.   Harry tapped her hand, shook her chopsticks, presumably kicked her under the table given her slap at the camera. “And what future generations?” Tim loved how she kept swatting at Harry, more like brother and sister. Giving in, she waved into the camera, “Hi future, non-existent, probably never even going to be conceived kids!” One last swat and Harry snatched her chopsticks. “Fine! Just for you, little imaginary kids! God, I feel stupid-” Ali couldn’t even bring herself to look into the camera, “I’m single as can be ‘cause no one can handle a badass like me.”
    “Oh!” Harry howled at her.
    “I hate you.”
    “So, tell your nonexistent children how this happened to the venerable, top of her class, Rookie of the Narcotics division.”
    Finally, having retrieved her chopsticks noodles started piling into her mouth. At a breath she sighed, “I punched an Incineroar.” More howls and she responded, “He burned Cu!”
    “You didn’t stop at one.” Harry really just couldn’t contain himself.  
    “He punched back!”
    Tim joined his father in unrestrained laughter, “Wow. Really, wow. I can’t believe you let me see this…,” Ali’s head landed hard on his shoulder, a soft snore rattling her nose. Once there she proceeded to wrap her arms around his torso. Presumably the same way she would with a pillow.
    He hadn’t had the heart to move her let alone wake her.
    Through the bathroom door her could hear, “Hey, Mr. G. Yeah, he stayed here last night after…hey that was not my fault.” Cracking the door he could see her back still to him, and two mugs of coffee steaming on the counter, butter melting on the stove. “I’ll walk him home soon. Feed him too.” Whisk whipping through eggs she shook her head at the man on the phone and hung up, “Bye, Mr. G.” Eggs sizzled only a little in the pan. A click the flame turned down and she covered the pan.
    From the bathroom door he could see into her bedroom again and Cu’s memorial. It was harder to look at now with how real Cu was, even to him, after seeing him and Ali in the videos.
    Tim looked back into the kitchen, toothbrush held out. “What should I…?”
    “I’ll take care of it.” She booted him from the bathroom again. He could hear her rummaging through her cabinet. “There’s creamer and sugar in the fridge. I have no idea how you take coffee.” He was already drinking a mug though. “Oh.”
    “Are you making me breakfast?” He’d expected to just bow out quietly, realizing he’d probably overstayed his welcome. Ali was actively avoiding him at all costs. “You don’t have to.” His stomach begged to differ grumbling loudly at them both. Neither had had dinner and it was catching up with them both. A fluffy mound of egg folded over itself onto the plate. She’d even heated some sauce, drizzling it over the omelette. “Whoa, is that Kanto style?” Plate out, silverware in hand, Ali waited for him to take it. Just one problem, he wasn’t sure where to eat. Her apartment much smaller than his dad’s. No kitchen bar or table.
    With an eye roll she set it on the coffee table, “Eat.”


 

    Harry played the video Lt. Yoshida sent again. She was pissed, most likely with every right to be. Brockton’s boys always goaded  her. None of it looked good for her either way. Didn’t matter if she didn’t start the fight. There was an official investigation into her and the details were sparse at best. One of the most upstanding cops in Ryme, Hide Yoshida wouldn’t let anything slip about it even to him.
    “Pika?”
    “She’ll land of her feet.” Which she did after throwing herself into Brockton.
    His office door squeaked open. Maybe with a little of this unexpected time off Ali could fix a few more things around his place. You know, to keep her busy. And out of trouble.
    “Hey,” Harry minimized the video. He’d just talked to Ali but something didn’t register, “We need to…oh.” Lucy peered in from the doorway.
    “Hello, Mr. Goodman.”
    Harry searched for his phone frantically under the desk. “Good morning! Wh-what can I do for you.” He wasn’t sure if he could make a full text without looking. He tried to type discreetly.
    “I came to talk to Tim. Apologize, really.”
    Harry nodded coolly. “Yes, of course. He-ah…ran out to get coffee for me.”


 

    Cleaning up helped refresh Ali until she saw Tim again. She needed her swagger back if only as a show to make things feel like normal. While she’d showered and changed he’d washed all her dishes and was in the process of figuring out where the hell she actually put everything.
“Uh-Thanks?” Ali stuffed her hands in her hoodie pockets and adjusted her baseball hat over the bruise. She could have attempted to use makeup to cover it but why bother. It was a badge of honor. If she got to go into the office today no one would mess with her after seeing what she’d done to Brockton.
    Tim was struggling to find where the frying pan and lid went. Which was sometimes a good question. She had some hanging on the back splash but there wasn’t actually room for all her pans there. Taking the pan she left it on the stove.
    At the counter Ali retrieved a bucket from under her sink. Tim kept watch as she gathered seedlings and dropped them into an empty basket. Working up the nerve to talk to him took effort. She only remembered bits and pieces from the night before. The videos came back but she only remembered one or two. Ali caught him staring at her hand. Instinctively she rubbed at the scar from a burn she’d gotten. She had to say something. “T-thank you.” Why was it so damn hard? She shoved the basket of plants into his chest, “Just…don’t tell anyone. About last night. I mean…argh. Whatever.” Opening the door, Alison nearly fell over a larger bucket when she stopped short and Tim ran into her. “Oh good.”
    “Yes, rotting food,” Tim gagged at the steamy and slightly putrid bucket contents as she dumped more in.
    “Do you mind running an errand with me?” Stupid. She’d already taken up so much of his time and gotten him in trouble. Harry was sure to give them both holy hell. “I mean, you don’t have to…I can take that.”
    “No, no. Of course.” He was staring at her hand again and, gah, uncomfortably close.
    It wasn’t until they were on the street that she felt comfortable enough to talk. Nervous ticks in full swing like rubbing her nose or lip she managed to say, “Are you coming?” As Tim started off toward his dad’s apartment. She’d turned to go the other way, lugging the heavy bucket and caught the tail end of him smiling at her.
    “Yeah,” he chuckled  



 

    In the light of morning her neighborhood looked less dingy than even his father’s. Somehow her block had more green than brick or asphalt. The vines that covered her building were only the start. Hanging planters, window boxes and large planters were everywhere. All kinds of plants hung down, grew tall and housed or attracted many Pokemon that he’d not seen yet while in Ryme.
    As they strolled toward the end of the street Ali picked up and emptied more small buckets set outside buildings as they went. Two buildings from the end of the block Ali searched through all her keys and unlocked the door to a different apartment building. Together they climbed six stories and searched for another key to open the roof door.
    “Uh,” she lifted the basket from Tim, “Ok, you’re probably going to want to stay by the door.”
    He was unprepared for the door to open to a full rooftop garden. Lush as a forest. Earthy. Like they’d been transported out of the city.  The buildings on either side were taller, providing shade. Trees, fully grown towered on the neighboring buildings. The vines that clung to the buildings seemed to originate here and travel the length of the block. Lurking in the shadows Tim felt eyes on him as Ali headed out into the garden. Stopping at a tree she set the bucket down.
    “I brought the babies!” She cooed at the basket and that was when he saw the plants squirming.
    From the shadow of a tree a Lilligant emerged. He’d never seen one in person. Elusive, they are rarely known to live among people. He’d never seen one before.
    In fact, several Lilligants tended to the hidden garden. Another emerged, cautiously approaching Ali. She passed around the baby Petilil. They yawned in the bright morning sun.  A Rowlet dozed in a flowering tree as one Lilligant carried a Petilil to show the flowers. Tim watched, mesmerized by them. The one Ali spoke to was flowering and he could smell the sweet aroma from the doorway. Sending a little wave his way, the Lilligant led her to the back of the garden. Tim started to follow but as he walked his footsteps on the gravel footpath were loud enough to attract attention. A Lilligant took her baby into the shadows again making him regret the move.
    Ali still carried the bucket the entire way to an even larger compost bin. As Ali started making the trek back he saw that the Lilligant with her was injured. One arm longer than the other, black and burnt away.  
    “They were injured in the foothills in a forest fire. They won’t do well back in the foothills. And they don’t want partners.” The other moved slowly and with a limp.Tim could see her face misshapen. More burn marks. As she turned toward Ali and caught site of Tim her instincts kicked in and she glided into the shadows blending perfectly with the other plants.  “A few friends set up sanctuary areas in the city for Pokemon that may not choose partners but also would not survive in the wild.” All three Lilligants had disappeared among the foliage.
    The idea for Ryme was bold. Living with Pokemon as equals and few people in the Regions were comfortable with that concept. Some professors that studied Pokemon he’d heard would care for injured Pokemon. Sanctuaries like this were not something he’d ever heard of.
    “There’s others?”
    Dragging him by the arm down the stairs again, “Yes. We have to be careful of where they get placed what with Team Zones and other high crime areas of the city. There’s a handful of clinics and Clifford Industries employees that tend to them. Plus the residents.”
    “You do…this?”
    When he showed he was capable of keeping up with her again she answered, “When I have time.”
    As they walked Ali pointed out other little oddities that he’d never noticed before. Things that go unnoticed if you aren’t up and out early in the morning. All the prep work the food vendors are doing even at this early hour. A small local squad of Squirtles cleaning the street and sidewalks. The tangle of Aipom overhead plotting what food to try to steal.
    “They swoop down like little Braviaries. Gotta watch yourself around them.” Something Tim was acutely aware of already.
    Even Hi-Hat Cafe was busy with Ludicolo cleaning. Coffee roasting wafted out into the street blending with the dewy morning.
     At the apartment door Tim’s phone buzzed. “Huh, my dad asked me to go buy coffee.” Already unlocked Tim held the door for Ali. She was just as confused as Tim since she kept Harry well stocked for his clients. Tim crashed into her tossing damp hair around her shoulder.
    “Did you get coffee?” Harry was nursing an early migraine.
    Stomach churning Ali already knew what this looked like. Tim waffled between utter shock and fear.
    Lucy jumped off the couch, “Thank you, Mr. Goodman. It’s not necessary. I know when I’m not…”
    “No, wait.” Tim chased her into the hallway.
    God, did she have a knack for ruining people’s lives. Not just her own but now Tim’s too and he was just trying to help.
    There was no time to worry, though. Harry ripped her hat off glaring at the spreading black and blue.
    “What were you thinking?” He wasn’t just stern, he was pissed and she didn’t blame him for that. She was dragging his son into this horrendous mess.
    “You have to be more specific.”
    His tone turned dangerous, “Don’t give me that crap. They were gunning for you. That whole time they were trying to get a rise out of you and you walked right into it.” Guiltily Pikachu turned the monitor stilled at the unflattering head butt. “I warned you.”
    “Brockton was gunning for me. Because that’s new! I had it under control!” She felt herself losing control again, not like the previous night or that morning.
    “Control? You call that control?” Harry’s scrutiny hurt. She felt like a small child being chided for a foolish schoolyard fight. Irritation kept her from getting closer to Harry but he wasn’t having that. “What are you going to do? Send me to my room and lock the door?”
    “Would if I could with how dumb that was!”  Ali threw one thing after another at Harry and they bounced on the desk. Ending with a hard shove.
    “Look, I’m sorry Tim got mixed up in that. But that was not my fault.”
    “Pi?” Lucy had made it out the door leaving it swinging open as Tim chased. Vehemently ignoring his calls to her until he actually caught her.
    Torn between helping his son and berating Ali Harry asked, “Do you want to help him?”
    “Tim can handle himself,” she bit her lip. “I’ve done plenty of damage. Obviously.” And Ali was back out the door.


 

    Not only was Tim blindsided by Lucy, yet again, he was completely baffled. Also again. This current situation was, admittedly, his own fault. It looked bad. The saving grace was Psyduck remaining oddly calm through the whole ordeal.
    Tim caught her arm at the stairs, “Don’t you want to go help her?” Like a slap to the face.
    “Ali can handle herself.”
    “I’m sure she can, Tim.” Each word was sharp, cutting into him.
    “You’re here early.” He had no clue how to ease into this. If this could be easy in any way.
    Bags hung heavy under her eyes. She’d been working late. Always working late. Everything was work. “I was working all night.” Shocking. “I came to apologize.” Wrenching her arm free, “And get out of your hair. For good.”
    “You aren’t in my hair.” Did anyone listen to him? Ever? Probably not because he could never get a word in edge wise.
    “Seems like I am.” Great, first girl to give him the time of day in forever and all he does is screw it up. “She’s showered, your in the same clothes from yesterday. Doesn’t take a detective or reporter to figure it out.” But he had no comeback, he knew that the second he saw Lucy on the couch. She wasn’t crying. Maybe she had overnight what with her bloodshot eyes and pink cheeks. “I don’t understand. You wanted to go on our date. What happened?”
    “I’m not a reporter.” He’d blurted it out. But it was true. “I wanted to go on a date with a cute girl and get to know her. That isn’t exactly what we got to do.” Here it was. Everything started spilling out, “And everything else…I don’t know what I am right now. I’m trying to figure that out. But you know who you are and what you want. You want to be a great reporter and you are but I…” A mixture of hope and confusion was fighting for control and confusion won.
    Shouting from his dad’s office had stopped leaving their disagreement to be the neighbors’ gossip later. Ali rushed by and down the stairs with nothing to say. Not even a bye.
    Tim wrestled with whether he should follow Ali or keep pushing forward with Lucy. “But…,” a familiar phrase for Lucy to hear given the way her face fell, “Ali’s, uh…”
    She’d heard enough. Lucy nodded, “Yeah. Whatever. I’ll talk to you…soon.” She had to have been as confused as him. God, he didn’t know what to say. She was cute and sweet and tenacious and so many other things. He admired that and so much more about her but he couldn’t get it out.
    “Duck?” Psyduck waddled to Tim slower than he’d seen him walk before, taking on his partner’s mood. His wing patted Tim’s leg and he waddled after Lucy.

Chapter Text

    Ok, he could only solve one problem at a time. Those problems were certainly starting to mount on him in a way that maybe made him miss the boring insurance sales job just the tiniest bit. Lucy, pissed. Ali,  pissed but unclear what set her off this time. Being suspended and investigated for an unknown reason didn’t help. Not to mention he was jobless, kind of. Starting to become friendless, maybe. Clean shirt. That one was doable. Possibly even a shower, which he sorely needed. Some kind of pain reliever for his own neck and head.
    “Smooth.”
    “Thanks, dad. You too.” His computer still displayed the paused video from the fight. “Dad, I’m sorry.”
    “None of this was you. Or Ali. Brockton has it out for Ali. Has for a while.” Harry threw photos on his desk. He hadn’t had a lot of experience actually raising a kid but Tim thought he should remember that being told explicitly not to do something wouldn’t stop someone from doing it. Papers and photos flew off his desk with a swipe of the hand sending Pikachu skittering around the room. “This is only going to get worse.”
    His dad wasn’t cringing at him anymore, not like when he’d gotten home yesterday. He must not still smell terrible but a shower sounded absolutely fantastic. A short time where he could drown out the world and maybe clear his mind. Something clattered in the office. Ali’s phone lit up with text after text, vibrating on the desk.  
    “Shit,” Harry moaned. “Tim?”  Another problem forthcoming. He would be lucky to have time to get a clean shirt now.
    “Yes?”
    Piled on the desk, fortunately not thrown across the room with the papers Pikachu collected, the contents of Ali’s pockets. The video frozen on the screen another reminder of everything that had occurred in the last day. Her swings between emotions looked so unstable. He just didn’t know what had caused the one at the station. She had thick skin, surely she could take the taunting of peers even if it was about Cubone.
    “Let me guess.” Tim picked up the phone, tiny bottle and keys.
    “I have a meeting with Mrs. Westin regarding her,” Tim just waved him off. The pictures from her case had been enough to keep him from asking too many questions about the little old woman and her pool boy. In fact, he really did not want to be around for the meeting after the way she leered at him. Clean shirt would just have to do. “Butterfree garden at the Pokemon Clinic three blocks over.”


 

    There was only one clinic near his dad’s place on the map. A small clinic that looked to be little more than a sliver of a building on the map. The morning hustle had picked up, the streets more crowded than they’d been just a short time before. Pushing his way through the crowds, Tim noticed more of the little details Ali had shown him on their walk. A Kirlia set plants out in front of a flower shop ready for commuters to purchase, twirling with each pot. A Purrloin stopped him at a traffic light coiling around his leg sweetly. Tim bent to pet the little Pokemon when another jumped on his shoulders.
    A furry paw clawed at his pocket, nudging for a treat and he felt the other go for his pocket.
    “Knew it.” He took them each by the scruff of their necks. Razor sharp claws cut deep into his arm. Dropping them with a hiss he crossed the street. “Little thieves.” The cuts burned and bled. Bastards. At least he was already headed to a clinic.
    He nearly passed the clinic. A tiny, shabby, easy to miss sign in the collection of electric signs. It didn’t even look open. Without her phone he hoped this was the right place. She’d only had a small head start, it was even conceivable he’d beaten her here if she’d made any other stops. Testing the door it swung right open, a bell heralding him.
    Several Pokemon roamed freely in the dank smelling waiting room, including a tiny Squirtle washing the floor happily.
    “Squirtle. We don’t wash in the morning. Someone will slip.” A younger, slightly heavyset man called as he came from the back, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. “Hello? We’re not…,” his eyes widened at Tim, “oh. Hello? Can I help you?” He flashed Tim a friendly smile which cracked a little once he realize Tim had no partner.
    “Uh, yeah. Is…” Ali poked her head around a corner.
    “You couldn’t possibly miss me already.” She said glumly, rolling out on a chair picking up the tiny Squirtle with her. Rolling around the back she kicked her and Squirtle back to the front tossing Tim gauze and antiseptic.
    “You know this…gentleman?”
    Squirtle bounced on her knees a few times. “Yeah, Bernie.” She sighed, letting Squirtle down to the floor.  Helping him clean the cuts, she rolled up his sleeve to tape on the gauze. “We’re even,” she mumbled. “This would be Tim Goodman. Detective Goodman’s son.” Just she patted the wounds just hard enough to sting.
    As recognition dawned Bernie’s enthusiasm grew more effervescent. “Mr. Goodman’s…wow. So, so very nice to meet you.” Bernie’s glasses slipped down his nose as he shook Tim’s hand. “I mean he has told us so much about you. Well, you know, what you were like as a small boy so I guess I can’t not think of you like that but you’re not. Definitely not.” Still shaking his hand Bernie wasn’t aware of whether he was breathing while he was talking then needed air.
    “Easy, tiger.” Ali wrenched Tim free, gratefully. “You’re babbling.” Tim could see the melancholy she’d desperately been trying to hide.
    Babbling or not Bernie collected himself. Primping his hair. “Yeah, no. Did-did you need something?” The little Squirtle hopped around between the three humans, not wanting to be left out of the conversation.
    Heaving a sigh, Ali rolled the chair back to the desk she’d been using in the back. “Yeah. I came to talk to Ali.” Tim hoped he could just follow her and not be under the scrutiny of another. He assumed she’d want to keep this private.
    Brandishing an overly wide grin Tim felt a little unsettled by Bernie’s intense, “Yes, of course.”


 

    Bernie would be impossible to deal with no matter what after this.
    “Come on, Squirtle. Want to help me with the garden?” Bubbles floated around her from the little guy. She tried not to notice Bernie mouthing ‘He’s cute.’ And winking at her. Oh god, she would die if Tim saw that. And then come back to life and murder Bernie.
    She couldn’t wait for Tim to follow. She needed to just get out of Bernie’s sight. Her, Squirtle and some gardening tools hurried through the back of the clinic. Tim met her in a lush green yard. A few tall trees reached up between the buildings. Had this garden not been here the clinic would have been more than double the size. There were the sounds of Pokemon buzzing, humming and rustling around them. Ali pointed Squirtle toward a small patch in the back with stands of potted plants.
    “Can you get these pots up here?” The little Squirtle tried hard to shoot a jet of water all the way up to the top shelf, which stood around Ali’s head, but he just couldn’t get enough pressure behind it. His little jet hit the pot on the second shelf. “Good try. Let’s keep watering these, buddy.”
    “Whoa.” Tim ducked under a tree limb that was dangerously low hanging even for Ali. She only kept it around because sometimes little Flying or Normal Types liked to sit on it when recuperating. Her or Bernie could easily get someone down from there without a ladder. Butterfree flitted between trees with Kakunas clinging to the interior branches.
    “Thought you would be…I don’ t know, trying to work things out still.” Great freaking start to her morning. Just existing seemed to be a problem, maybe she could keep the bad luck in check and just try to keep herself from getting into more trouble. Or causing more trouble.
    “What? Oh,” a bit sheepish about their loud fight, Tim shook his head. “No. That…I…”
    “You told her.” Donning gloves and sheers she started pruning some of the small bushes. Removing dead leaves and blooms. Tim had gotten quiet again so she picked up the slack, “I mean about you. You said you aren’t good at telling people your feelings.”
    “Yeah.” Tim knelt beside her and the small pile of twigs. “I’m not.”
    Squirtle came hopping over, jumping straight onto Tim and patting his chest. “Squirt. Squirt!”
    “He got hit in the chest by missed attack from a Pidgeotto in the park. He had no partner per se, he was training for the fire department but after the accident couldn’t squirt well. He’s been staying here to recuperate.”
    “Squirtle!” He led Tim across to the stands of plants.
    “He wants you to lift him up.” Ali translated. Bernie’s clinic was a hodge podge of things. “Bernie runs this small clinic to help Pokemon. He helped set up the garden we were at this morning, and here of course.” Ali dumped the clippings in her compost bin. “Good job, little man.” More bubbles floated around them from the happy Squirtle. He wiggled out of Tim’s grasp and ran off, “Don’t forget to get the apple tree.”
    “How can he possibly fund all this from such a small clinic.” He checked out the plants suspiciously. As gardens went, it was rather a hodge podge. Secretly, she used this garden to grow things she didn’t always want to pay for, it was just good fortune that many of those things attracted certain types that were not seen often in the city.
    “That,” she snipped off a blooming top from the plant, “is just basil. I cook with it.  He has a contract with the RCPD to run toxicology and render Pokemon first aid.” She felt him follow her to the rose bush. Kneeling in the soft patch of earth she clipped away again. “Why are you here? You should be sick of me by now.”
    Still standing Tim pulled out her phone, keys and the bottle she’d purloined from Brockton. “You, somehow, managed to leave everything but your hoodie at my dad’s.”
    One rose stood out to her. It had just opened the day before, “No.” She clipped it from the bush. Twirling it between her fingers Ali took a moment to enjoy the fragrance. “I threw them each at Mr. G because he was ready to lock me in the apartment like a child being grounded for some stupid playground fight. And considering I’d already screwed things up for you enough I wasn’t sticking around to help even more.” Ali offered a trade, the rose for what he held out. Her screen lit, “Oh, that is just fucking fantastic.” She just couldn’t keep her stupid emotions in check. Her phone slammed into his chest again. Her hands fumbled at the gloves to remove them.
    Bernie, no doubt he’d been watching their little tête-á-tête, sauntered out with a few folders. “Angel, honey. Did you hear about the Furret that I treated at the beginning of the week? The owner brought her in after altercation on the street. From the police report, it looks like someone from Rocket and maybe Magma got into it. Anyways, the Furret was fine but I had to call an ambulance for the woman because after petting the Furret at the end of the exam she fell asleep.”
    Gardening gloves landed in his file folder, “Don’t bother. I can’t do a damn thing.”
    “What’s she pissed about?” Bernie held out the dirty gloves like they were contaminated.
    Before Tim could read the text on her phone she yelled back, “I’m officially suspended without pay until the investigation is done.”


 

    “What is she talking about?” Bernie followed Tim back into the clinic. “What happened? Is this about that ghastly bruise?”
    “I don’t think it’s just about the fight yesterday.”
    He ducked into the couple exam rooms before finding her near the front washing her hands then splashing water on her face.  
    “So, Angel?”
    “That’s what you took from that?” Paper towels ripped to shreds as she took them from the dispenser. Her palm smashed the metal box hard enough to leave a small dent.
    Tim helped pull out the pieces jammed in the infernal dispenser so she could dry her face. Returning the rose and phone, “Can I do anything to help?”
    Ali burned a glare at Bernie as he giddily watched from the door. “No, thank you.” Wrinkling her nose once, “Maybe take a shower.” Taking only her phone, Ali stormed out of the clinic again, not announcing her next destination. “And I don’t want to hear another word about my goddamn case, Bernie! I’m not risking my job further!”
    Squirtle groaned a little at the door, depressed she hadn’t said a goodbye to him or even played more.
    The only thing she hadn’t taken from Tim was the small bottle. Tim tipped it back and forth, trying to see the crystals floating in it she’d mentioned the night before.
    “I don’t understand, what happened?”
    “Hey, do you ever do tests for my dad?”

Chapter Text

    Tim had had the apartment to himself for the rest of the morning. His dad had already left, leaving a note eventually found among the scatter of papers for him to  answer the phones and look through the papers for more receipts to put in the box. Code for organize all my stuff because I’m too lazy. There were still pages out from the Clifford Industries case when Tim had first arrived. Harry had to have eventually organized everything from previous cases. His filing cabinets were full of neatly organized files.
    As he put away files that had no reason to be sitting on the edge of the desk covered in dust Tim saw the handwriting on the tabs. The messy scrawl of his father and the still messy but undeniable curves of Ali’s. There was even a progression as she got older the handwriting more steady and sure.
    That double edged sword hit him again. His father being someone else’s surrogate father instead of his own. It hurt less now, though. He’d had a good childhood with his grandma. She’d done her best to make him happy, he was always the one to hold himself back. Other than losing his mom he hadn’t suffered in any way. He could scarcely imagine what she’d gone through.
    The case files must have been by client. Tim had to search through the pages of files to figure out how to label them correctly. Still alone, he figured he could look for a job again but the book Ali loaned him begged to be read, leaving him torn. He should get a job as soon as possible. Tim flipped to a page he’d marked and kept reading. He could keep searching for a job in a little while as a break.  
    Harry returned, sopping wet despite the lack of rain. Pikachu soaked as well streaked around the room shaking the water from his fur all over everyone.
    “That was a bust.” Harry stripped off his jacket, Tim knowing full well he was going to have to get the mop to clean up the floor. “Damn Quagsire knew Rain Dance.” His shoes sloshed across to his room. “Try to ask one question about his partner’s mistress as if everyone around him didn’t already know.” Feet on his dad’s clean desk, Tim ignored him and kept reading. He wouldn’t be dragged into this case. Pausing, Harry watched his son suspiciously. “Did you find Ali?”
    “Yes,” more notes lined this page about the test and Harry’s version of field work. Specifically interviews versus interrogation. Some of it was very familiar like her note saying ‘Never just roll with it. Mr. G gets into trouble’. This was a playbook of dealing with his father. “She’s now suspended without pay and pretty pissed.” And he also needed to figure out how to pay Bernie for running whatever test he needed to run on that green stuff.
    “Suspended?” This was going from bad to worse and probably was not about to get better but Tim would figure out how to help. Just another thing on his growing list of things to figure out. “And you’re reading?” His dad had seen the book already but said nothing. “Going to take the test?” Harry could not be falsely casual with him at all, he just came off as trying too hard.
    “No. I was waiting for you.” His foot nudged the screen over and Harry’s email was open. “I don’t know who you know but how did you get the results from Brockton’s alcohol test?”
    Sighing, Harry dropped the towel on the floor. “How did you get into my profile?”
    His dad was predictable, and hadn’t changed his password in literally over a decade. His mother’s name and their wedding date. Same as when they got their first computer at home. “Somehow I don’t think Ali was far off on Brockton but this says differently.”
    That towel taunted Tim until he picked it up.
    “And what makes you think that Ali was not wrong?” Tim brought out the hamper into the office, making his point to throw the towel in the hamper. Like a normal person. “I mean,” Harry scanned the email, “She’s not wrong, but I want to know why you think so.”
    Placing the hamper back in it’s spot, “Guy at Whimsmore Insurance I knew, he had a false bottom in his desk drawer.” Harry nodded approvingly. “Why? What do you know?”
    “That I need dry clothes and to talk to Hide.”    


 

    Her desk looked so lonely. Tim supposed it was empty more often than not since she worked undercover so much but it still seemed too empty. The floor was filled with many more onlookers this time, both cops and people in handcuffs. Most of which kept tabs on him and his dad making their way across to Lieutenant Yoshida’s office.
    Brockton’s squad, busy gathering reports from their desks, intercepted Tim and Harry.
    “Oh, you know this little pissant Angeles brought round?” Berger sneered.
    His dad wouldn’t know it, Tim had been bullied throughout school. Only a few times did he let it devolve to a fist fight. Each time he received even more from his Gram for letting a single punch fly. He wasn’t going to win any fist fights with these guys, just like he didn’t really win any in school. But he would stand up for himself and Ali as necessary.
    Harry Goodman just had the upper hand height wise. He drew himself up and closed the gap,  “I saw that you cuffed my son, Berger.” His father actually growled at the investigator. Maybe the strongest show of emotion he’d seen his father give. Ever.
    Brockton put himself between them, “One little miscreant dragged another into the station. You know how it is…oh. You actually wouldn’t, would you, Detective?” Tim held back a snicker as Brockton tried to pull himself as high as Harry. “Come to bail out your failed experiment? I mean, can you even salvage something so far gone?”
    Harry Goodman had always been one thing, when Tim was a child in Leaventown, when he and his mom fought about the possible move to Ryme, even when he was merged with Pikachu: calm. His anger was not only kept well in check, Tim was sure he’d never even seen it until now. “Keep the rest of that to yourself or we will both end up in lock up, I’ll make sure of it.” Not daring to push Brockton, “You the one running this against Investigator Angeles?”
    Brockton laughed him off, “Yes, well when you can’t make it as an investigator…” Pikachu crackled, sparks ricocheting from his cheeks, arcing out menacingly. Tim yanked his dad’s arm toward the Lieutenant’s office.
    Whatever history there was between everyone it had led to more animosity than he’d ever been party to. Harry led him to Yoshida’s office. “Don’t take his bait, he’s going to try.” Down to Pikachu’s level, “Keep an eye on Tim.”
    “Wha-why can’t I?”
    “Ali has a lot of secrets she’s not going to want you to hear. Not unless she’s ready to tell you. You respect her privacy?” Of course he did.  
    The door closed and Brockton’s squad started again, the entire room including those being processed taking an interest. All he had to do was not take the bait.
    “What do you boys want to bet she’s sleeping with both of them.”
    “That’s disgusting Simmons.”
    “That is the only way she gets any results. Act like a little princess in danger…needs daddy to come bail her out.”
    “Daddy, wanna bet…” Berger yelped, Brockton too. Pikachu huffing at them, more electricity sparking from his cheeks.
    Used to Pikachu’s little bouts now, Tim put him on his shoulder.  “God damn, your dumbass Pikachu! Luxray, eat that damn electric mouse.” Pops of electricity flashed faster and faster as Pikachu flew from Tim’s shoulder.
    “Pikachu!”


 

    Snubbull rumbled with a growl, sensing the animosity building outside the office. Yoshida tried to quell his annoyance with a scratch.
    “Harry, I’m sorry. I really am, but I can’t divulge anything about the investigation. You understand, right?”
    “Hide, you know Alison. If this is about her previous affiliation with Team Skull it was ended. You helped fake that accident to get her out. Her name. Everything.”
    Yoshida agreed with him but Harry knew he was also her superior. “She was always on a dangerous slope with the path she chose. She’s a damn good investigator. I want this to pan out for her. I don’t think she’d…,” he’d almost slipped. Damn.
    “Can’t I help? There must be something I can investigate. Pro bono. She is not only a good investigator, she’s the best you have.”
    “She had a great teacher.” Hide was up closed tight. “Harry…”
    “She’s not wrong about Brockton. Who chose the test that your department did? He could have been clean just long enough to pass the test. The bottles…”
    “Were rubbing alcohol, Harry.”
    “You can’t tell me that with what happened with his brother that he has been the same.”
    “No, he hasn’t. Ali either.”
    Electricity sparked around the floor making the lights flicker and starting a riot in the squad room. They could both see officers and Pokemon make for cover through the blinds. Pikachu hadn’t let out any large bolts of electricity, it was Luxray who was giving him chase all the way up to the ceiling lights.
    Snubbull marched to the door with Lt. Yoshida and Harry.
    A single snarl and yelp, “Snuuuuuuubbull!”
    “Pikachu!” Harry griped as the tiny Pokemon careened into him.
    “Brockton, call off Luxray. Now!” Yoshida shouted.
    Brockton was liable to have tried to put Tim in cuffs again the way this was going.
    Hands in a plaintive position over his head, Harry knew where he’d learnt that. He wasn’t in cuffs, yet so that was a win.


 

    Conveniently for Tim, Brockton had left some files open on his desk. While Luxray and Pikachu ran around bouncing off people and fixtures he was able to get a good look. Cases signed off by Alison Angeles. Brockton’s squad was definitely digging into her past cases. Also a records request to the Juvenile Courts but that was harder to read when he became a trampoline too.
    Pikachu bounded from head to head before hurtling into his dad’s chest. Pikachu stayed tucked safely in Harry’s arms as Yoshida personally escorted them out apologizing for the second time about Brockton’s squad.
    “I’ll put in a formal reprimand.” The Lieutenant’s entire squad room had been privy to this discipline problem. People were already talking and he didn’t understand how they could let Brockton off easy.
    To his chagrin his dad coolly accepted it and said bye and they were off. Nothing got solved. They hadn’t helped in anyway.
    “That’s it?” Tim stopped him on the sidewalk. “That was nothing. Brockton’s squad….”
    “Not here.” Harry led his son several blocks away. Shock hit Tim hard. How could he possibly be ok with this? And Pikachu. He looked like he needed to go to the clinic the way he still cowered into Harry.
    Tim almost lost his father when he turned into an alley unexpectedly.
    “Did you get it?” From his pocket Harry placed a plastic bag in front of Pikachu. Tiny fistfuls of hair dropped into the bag. Yanked right from Brockton’s head during the chase. “Bernie can run another test on this to check for long term use of drugs or alcohol. There is no way that cop is clean.”
    Better. But that wouldn’t clear Ali of anything, just place scrutiny on Brockton.
    “What did you see?” Pikachu hopped down again, excited to hear as well.
    “Brockton had old police reports of Ali’s.”
    “How old?”
    “I-I don’t know. Maybe a year or so.”
    “Damn.” Oh, cool, back to not getting straight answers from anyone. Harry added, “Means their not just looking at her connection to Team Skull probably. This has to go deeper. Yoshida’s nervous.”
    “Is there anything we can do?”
    “Not until we find out more. And I don’t know who we can call for that.”

Chapter Text

    Sitting at a coffee shop was infinitely better than the alternatives. One being talking to his dad about the interview for an entry level office position that did not go well because he did not have five years of experience. The other being around for another of Mrs. Westin’s meetings with his dad. The woman had to come up with excuses to see his father, which was now accompanied by suggestive looks his direction. Last meeting she’d hinted that her condo association could use a new pool boy, if he was looking for a job.
    As far as Ali’s situation had been going Tim knew nothing new. His dad had said and done surprisingly little. In normal circumstances no news would be good news, even he knew that wasn’t the case with an investigation into a cop. The longer it drew out the worse it would be in the end. He wanted to text her, check in. He was, understandably, worried. But he didn’t have her number and asking at this point would be strange. Maybe.
    Lucy texted him during the interview. After ten failed attempts at writing a coherent message back he let her know he was down near the city center having coffee.
    Buzz.
    A text from an unknown phone number popped up.
    ?: Mrs. Westin has been by a lot lately.
    ?: She must be looking for a new cabana boy. Did she ask you?
    Tim: Who is this?
    Ali’s face popped up on screen waving a peace sign, mud caked on her face and hair.
    Fine.
    Tim: How did you get my number?
    His dad’s desk framed in the next picture with the small post it where he’d jotted his number weeks ago for his dad. Harry Goodman. Pack rat or genius who kept everything for the sake of a potential case?
    Ali: It would pay good.
    Ali: Better if it were a father son duo. You should think about it.
    Tim gagged.
    Tim: That’s gross.
    She seemed better than he would be if he were suspended.
    Ali: Depends on your thoughts about a speedo.
    Ali: And seeing your dad in one.
    Tim: I’m officially mortified to know you. Or he was mortified by the turn of the conversation.
    Ali: You’d make good money. All those old women leering at you all day. Think of the tips.
    Tim: You’re scaring me.
    Tim: Has this happened before?
    She was typing for a while. Watching, Tim sipped his coffee.  
    Ali: Been happening about once a year for the last few years. She comes by after her latest fling with a barely legal boy ends and she needs a new boy toy. Finds whatever excuse to have your dad work a case. Pays well.
    Tim: Omg. She hasn’t…
    Ali: She thinks your dad is hot.
    Tim really was mortified now. He couldn’t look at Mrs. Westin again. Not after seeing that.
    Tim: Why would you tell me that?
    Ali: You know…if she asked you….
    Tim: Don’t!
    Ali: She
    Ali: Thinks
    Tim: Stop it!
    Ali: You
    Ali: Are
    Ali: Hot
    Tim: I’m going to vomit.
    He might too but he also couldn’t stop smiling. He had to turn this conversation away from creepy old women.
    Tim: Any word from Yoshida?
    Her response took forever considering how short it was. Tim scrolled back to her selfie. She was all over the place and while he didn’t completely understand he felt like he understood.
    Ali: No.
    Wait.
    Tim: Are you getting mud on my dad’s clean chair?
    Ali: Yes.
    Oh sure, that was fast.
    Blond hair dangled over his arm. Lucy looped her arms through his just as another text popped up. A screen shot from Ali’s phone of a new number entry named ‘Cabana boy’.
    “I didn’t realize you were so close to the station.” Was he?
    Stowing his phone Tim made his way out of her grasp. It didn’t take both arms but it was more comfortable. “I didn’t know you were coming to meet me.”
    “I messaged you back.” He must have missed the notification while him and Ali were talking.
    “So,” No books, no notes, nothing with her most recent story out, “how was the interview?”


 

    His coffee finished, Lucy’s was sipping slowly when Tim noticed she’d been playing with her hair anxiously or trying to keep her makeup straight while drinking her coffee. She was not in any hurry to head back to work. Their conversation was the biggest, most strange, difference. Not one word was about her story or article or her attempts at getting any of the producers to notice her enough to get her back on camera.
    She talked about music and clubs in the inner metro area. Most were so exclusive they were near impossible to get in to any night of the week, she’d certainly never gotten in. Lucy also grasped at hobbies to talk about and he knew exactly why. Becoming a reporter, an investigative reporter, was her dream and that overtook any hobby she could have.
    “Psyduck, he loves nature documentaries. When we get home that’s all he wants to watch.”
    When attention turned to him and what his hobbies were Tim realized the list was just as short. He didn’t do much back in Leaventown other than hang out with Jack and his friends, before they moved away, work and watch tv. Plus video games. Leaventown left much to be desired. The most excitement him and Jack had was going out in the hills and walking, watching League matches and, mostly, dreaming about getting a date. None of those things to say to a potential date. Or former date or whatever she was. Plus there was Jack’s recent attempt to ‘relive the glory days’ that ended in such epic failure he couldn’t believe it actually happened.
    Which this was becoming without him realizing.
    “Were you going to head home?” Lucy interrupted his confused train of thought. “I’m actually done with work.”
    He was planning to go home, yes. And pretend to figure out his life. Ali. Avoid his dad’s prodding questions. If Lucy wanted to come home with him and hang out and Ali were still there a war might break out. “I-I should make sure my dad doesn’t have any meetings.”
    Tim: You still messing up everything with your mud covered everything all over the office I cleaned?
    Lucy had brought a purse, not her backpack. She was really putting effort in to this.
    A pang hit him while he waited for Ali’s reply making him question what he wanted.
    Buzz.
    All her selfies must include the little peace sign. That and her eggs. Kanto girl. This time she was sopping wet, water spraying her from a dark location.
    Ali: Pipe burst at Bernie’s. Wasn’t waiting for you and your speedo.
    No excuses. And gross. But it made him smile.


 

    Harry was out doing surveillance for a real job, not Mrs. Westin. This led to the most amount of time he’d spent with Lucy in a normal setting without shouting or an argument since he’d met her. It wasn’t uncomfortable. He still wasn’t sure what to say some of the time and things would stall out between them. He tried talking movies, but their tastes were different. Television was the same. Any knowledge about the League was probably useless and out of date even in the short time since he had paid attention with Jack. Lucy did not appear to be a sports fan anyways. She didn’t go on a journey either, as apparently many people in Ryme now do not condone the journey.
    Watching television was really his last resort. They could talk and just hang out and there would be no pressure. Little pressure.
    There was already more pressure than he wanted but it was calm. And kind of fun.
    Over the television, during another lull, they could hear the clomping of someone on the stairs, through the front door and down the hallway to the office. “Hey dad,” Tim said when the door opened.
    Tools banged together and no yellow blur accompanied it, only a musky wet smell. “I’m more manly than your dad.” Ali dripped on the wood floor, her soggy clothes clinging strangely in spots. Flannel stuck to her legs past shorts, starting to weigh them down. All signs of the mud caked on earlier in the day were gone. “I’ll leave these, tell Mr. G to put them away.” Tim braced for a fight. Lucy glared while Ali just turned to leave, without any of the bounce he’d felt when they talked earlier.
    “You’re going to catch a cold.” He could get a towel, or even dry clothes without a meltdown. If he was lucky.
    “I’m fine.” Deciding which way to move was impossible for Tim. Ali was almost out the door, clearly she didn’t want to stay longer than necessary. Lucy grumbled with Psyduck in the corner, also pissed. “Sorry I interrupted.”
    “Seriously, at least get some dry clothes.” Two days had turned the bruise brighter purple tinged with green at the edges. The reminder like a slap in the face.
    “Thanks, cabana boy, but I’ll be fine and you’re on a,” she didn’t finish after the look he gave her. “Whatever. Have fun.”
    Psyduck mumbled to his partner, feathers ruffling. In his own way Psyduck was telling her to stop but Lucy didn’t listen. “There’s no record of an Alison Angeles until you started at the police academy.” The drip drip of her soggy clothes got louder than anything else, drowning out the television, the traffic outside, the neighbors and their constant fighting above him. “There was an-”
    Expecting her, Tim caught Alison at the waist grunting with the strain. She was all muscle and he counted himself lucky to still be standing as well as holding her back. Whatever silently happened between the girls, Alison suddenly jerked him off her and left.
    He was damp but more than that he was annoyed. “Was that really necessary? Are you still investigating Ali?”
    Psyduck’s feathers fluffed out again, a sign of his own annoyance at his partner. “You told me to make sure my facts were right. I am.”
    “I can’t believe you.” Clawing at his shirt to untuck it, Tim moved the tools so he wouldn’t trip on them. “Just, don’t,” Lucy wanted to explain, her eyes pleaded to let her. Except she’d gone too far this time.
    All the fun they’d had, awkward or not, suddenly didn’t matter.
    He hadn’t realized how livid Lucy was until she shoved him back to the now, “You feel sorry for her but you shouldn’t. I’m just trying to protect you!”
    “Stop! I don’t need protection.” His hands shook with his voice. “She doesn’t deserve this.”
    “You don’t even know her.” She was a fighter, which he’d seen in action first hand. She was fighting for what she wanted but the end goal seemed unclear to him. Was it to get Ali out of the way or just win his favor. Neither option he condoned. “You’ve known her, what, a week?”
    Really? This was never the reason he never got a second date. He was moody and sarcastic, sure. Jealous girls fighting, that’s never happened before. It was also something he never wanted to experience again. “I’ve known you a few weeks, Lucy. What’s your point? That I can’t trust her?”
    “You shouldn’t. I thought you trusted me.”
    “My dad trained her. She’s…like family.”
    Practically out the door with her purse and Psyduck, “Yeah, well your dad treats her more like his kid than you.”
    He was officially shit at dating.


 

    Ali ran into Pikachu as she shot out the door of the building. Of course she would knock him over. Shit she was on a roll.
    “Pikachu, oh my god. Are you ok?” Ali bent down to check the little guy. He shook off the pain, instead climbing to her shoulder and patting her head and wet hair.
    Busy scrolling through his pictures, Harry swung around Ali so he wouldn’t run into either her or his partner. “You in a rush? Come…what the hell happened to you?”
    She slapped at her shirt even wringing it out. She would have preferred slapping someone else. “Burst pipe or the goddamn reporter?”
    “Oh no.” Good thing Harry was wearing the strap for the camera because she didn’t want to try to catch it. “You can’t read too much into it.”
    “She’s digging, Mr. G! She’s looking pre-academ…she’s-”
   


 

    He’d shut off the television and now could hear his dad and Ali from the window. Did he really envy her? Her solid relationship with his father that should be his. Sometimes. Then he was with her and it didn’t matter so much. He stopped himself from coming here to Ryme. He could have come and had that time with his dad and didn’t.
    “If she finds out, there goes everything!”
    “She won’t. It’s ok. We’ll…Lucy!” A Goodman trait must have been not dealing well with pissed off women.  Harry faltered, trying to keep both girls calm.
    Tim should have been down there sooner. He should have chased after Ali when she had first left instead of fighting with Lucy. Running down the stairs he burst out the door. “Where’d they go?”
    His dad watched the Ali round the corner with Lucy on her heel. “Don’t ask me for advice. I have no idea what to do.”


 

Chapter Text

    “Leave me the hell alone.” Ali hated girls. She hated hanging out with them, interacting with them, pretty much everything because it always seemed to end up with cat fighting. Which, with her, usually led to fist fighting.
    This girl, she didn’t know when to leave well enough alone. Typical reporter. “I know what you’re trying to do.”
    “And what is that?” She couldn’t know. She couldn’t. There was nothing to know. Literally nothing! “Because last time I checked I wasn’t trying to do anything other than be a cop. But someone is trying to get in the way of that.” Ali wheeled around. God she wanted to shove that little blond. Shove her into the bricks, lay her out. Not with a Psyduck following her around, Ali was enraged. Thoroughly enraged but not stupid. “But what I am not doing is trying to get in the way of your story. You got one? Great! I’m not even trying to get between you and Tim.” Just keep moving, get the hell away from this girl. Maybe she’ll stop following. “I am not the one trying to ruin anyone’s career!” Clinic? How’d she end up at the clinic again. “Fuck!” Ali spun looking for an escape. She was face with Lucy or continuing up the street.
    Bernie’s head came from the alley, taking out the trash, which had been considerable after the burst pipe.
    “I really like Tim!”
    “Maybe,” Ali groaned, “you should tell him that.” Evening settled in, the sky darkening fast. She needed dinner and a stiff drink. Many of them. Alone.
    Lucy was brandishing paper in her face, phone out recording her. “Did you ever read the toxicology report from your Marowak’s death?” All said in that prissy way that reporters ask questions.
    Every fiber in her tightened, ready to snap. “No.” Keep her cool. She just needed to do that. Which is much harder when Bernie stuck his nose into this, just like everything else with his good intentions.
    “Toxicology? There was nothing,” the undeniable graphs and headers from the Clifford Industries reports took his attention. That report along made the world close in on her again. Add to that Bernie grabbing for the report, Lucy’s accusations and Tim running up to keep the girls from devolving to a fist fight.
    “Your partner! He was your partner. It’s dangerous enough to use attack stimulants even in the arena.”
    Squirtle clambered at everyone’s legs. Calling for their attention to the Psyduck swaying and shaking.
    Ludicrous.  “I have never used any stimulants on Cu!”
    Splitting his attention Bernie was reading the report. Tim held the girls at bay, more concerned with Ali, flinching when she swung her arms out. He wasn’t dumb. Good, because she was ready, ready to pound her into the ground. Ali clenched and unclenched her fists. She could dodge Tim and Bernie and not hurt either of them as she went after Lucy.
    “Tainted stimulants were found in his blood. Same ones you took from the Team Rocket bust he was killed in.”
    Bernie’s face contorted, she could hear him reading the badge number on the report for the blood sample. Cu’s badge number.


 

    This wasn’t her original story, it just so happened to turn into the perfect story. Lucy, however, had to have had it all wrong. Tim was sure, absolutely positive this was all completely and utterly wrong.
    “Lucy, just stop!” Again he had to catch Ali’s shoulders this time with Bernie.
    “She’s a murderer! Those stimulants were not prepared for pellets. There’s only a few ways for it to get into her partner.”
    “Shut up! Just shut up!” Acid churned in Tim threateningly. Tears streamed from Ali as she shouted and flailed.
    “I feel no remorse for someone who killed their partner.”
    “Shut your mouth about Cu.” The fight in her fizzled not that he trusted her to calmly talk this out. Ali was choking on her tears.
    “Psy-psyduck,” Tim managed to choke out.
    Shudders had stopped, momentarily, as Ali turned on Lucy again, “This because Tim doesn’t want another date? Can’t handle the rejection?” Had he said that? He couldn’t have. He hadn’t even thought that. Not exactly like that. Ali had gotten calm. Entirely too calm. Okay. Maybe, just maybe he’d been thinking about it being fun hanging out with Lucy but not romantically. After the last several days he might, just possibly, be a little over Lucy. Maybe.  
    “No, this is just the start of the story.” Bold, Lucy. Great way to egg on a pissed off cop.
    “Bigger question is where did you get an official toxicology report from the RCPD?” Taking it from Bernie, Tim read. Cu died nearly a year ago but this was a recent report. Within the last few days.
    “My sources wish to remain,” Tim cut her off with one hand. He didn’t buy her line about sources. She was being cruel and from the smirk enjoying the results.
    “Screw your sources. What else do you have?”
    Before Psyduck actually let his headache get the better of him she snatched him up. “It’s ok. We knew this wouldn’t be easy.” The eerie calm that had settled over Ali washed over Lucy as well. “I’m a journalist! I don’t,” Tim wasn’t listening though. Ali was sobbing, not an ounce of fight left in her.  Broken beyond repair. Bernie held her shoulders, trying to get her to stop and breath and possibly calm down just the tiniest bit. Squirtle tried too, patting her leg then hugging it tight.
    “How would it have gotten into Cu?” His lack of scientific knowledge left him behind in this conversation, he was also curious to know if Lucy was educated enough in the world of Pokemon drugs.
    Shrugging like it was nothing, “Drink it.”
    Bernie, on the other hand had much more to say, “No, no no no. Ingestion causes severe nausea, cramping, even worse. Cu had none of those symptoms before or during the raid.”
    “Which leaves?” Tim honestly had no idea.
    “Injection, which is not the case with Cu because there were never any injection sites used repeatedly and with this level of stimulant in this little ‘mons system they were an avid user.” Bernie answered, Lucy also not impressed.
    “So,” the pieces were not coming together easily for him. This was leagues outside of the worst thing that ever happened in Leaventown, which was that freak migration of Urasaring into their fields and forests picking their plants clean and screwing up their annual jam competition. Because that was the pinnacle of excitement in Leaventown. “What does that mean?”
    “It means I would have had to give Cu stimulants through an open orifice, Tim. Eye drops are the most common.”
    “And a narcotics investigator would know that, very easily.” Yeah, well did Lucy know that? He thought he knew her well enough to tell but now he wasn’t sure. The way she taunted Ali into giving up the answer, the correct answer. All recorded for posterity.
    This had gotten out of hand, even by recent standards.
    His dad rounded the corner, late to the party and without his expensive equipment. Smart. “What is going on?” Bernie obediently passed the tox report, Ali wiping away at her face, her nose ringing with congestion. “Shit, where did you-this is not right.”
    “The Rocket grunt arrested copped a deal with the prosecutors. You weren’t part of the court case were you?” Ali was done answering questions. Hell, he felt like he needed a lawyer. “Thought so. Did you know the deal included turning you over for stealing the drug before the bust. Two whole cases, twelve vials each. Half tampered with. More than enough for a Pokemon of Marowak’s size to last him months. You also knew it was tainted. His testimony states that you had been keeping the clean stimulants and selling the tampered drugs to other teams via the body shop you work for. Your friends we saw you with, the ones that got arrested, they ratted you out. Last year you were selling the stolen product but when they expected the dirty stimulants to go out it was clean and Skulls lost ground on a territory battle. Did you switch the vials on purpose? Trying to get back at your own Team? Maybe find a way off that Team and into another?”
    His dad mirrored how he felt. Gasping for a breath. “No.” Harry’s voice cracked and heart breaking in front of them. She wasn’t Harry’s daughter not that that would stop his father’s heart from breaking hearing such damning accusations. “I want every report. Everything!”
    The warmth next to Tim twisted away from him. He hadn’t even known he’s reached out for her again until she was gone. He wanted to ask where she was going but she shook her head, “Didn’t you just hear. I’m a murderer.” A fresh wave of tears streamed silently down her cheeks.
    “No, you’re not.” She wasn’t and he knew it. Deep down he knew it.
    “She has all the evidence, Tim.”
    “I bet an arrest warrant will be issued soon.” Lucy’s words were like a smack to his face.
    He reached for her hand pulling her back to them, “I want everything, Lucy. Everything. We are backchecking every single report. We are-we’re digging into all the past cases, the-the reports, everything.”
    “Tim, it’s too late.”
    “No, he’s right.” Harry agreed, his senses coming back to him which was fortunate because Tim had no idea how to do any of what he’d just said. “Everything.”
    “The RCPD has been investigating her for a year, what do you possibly think you could,” but all of them stood together against Lucy. Psyduck even stood against what was going on.
    “Ali, we’ll,” he didn’t know when but Ali’s hand slipped from his own. “Where’d she go?”
    “Damnit.” Harry looked at the Pokemon. None seemed to notice she’d gone either, weird since she seemed to have a strong bond with each she met.
    Lucy was a good person, all she wanted to do was uncover that huge Clifford Industries story before which was helping all the people and Pokemon of Ryme City. And make her way onto television.  A corrupt cop in RCPD was noble too. He guessed. Just not the cop he liked. Not the one that had become family to his dad when he left everything to help people in Ryme. And the Pokemon.
    “First, we need to find her then Ms. Stevens is bringing every single scrap of paper for this story to our office.” Harry grabbed Bernie, “Split up. We find her.”
    Louder than Bernie intended or Tim felt comfortable with, “I should go with Timothy. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to have those two, ok I’m coming.” Harry dragged Bernie down the street.
    “Where would she go?” He mimicked his dad and dragged Lucy by the arm with a happy Psyduck in tow.
    “Somewhere to make poor life decisions!”
    “That narrows it down in a city this size.” And a city he didn’t know. Neither of them really knowing Ali or where she would go when depressed and accused of murdering her partner.

Chapter Text

    They were in and out of every shop, bar and restaurant they saw open, which dwindled as they kept looking. Most were not really places to make bad life decisions after being accused of murder. With Ali’s head start she could be anywhere. A taxi, bus or even the elevated train and she’d be across the city and they’d never know. He prayed she’d stayed on foot and was someplace close. Lucy certainly wasn’t trying to help, going so far as to slow him down.
    The next place that was still open on their current street was a, highly, sketchy bar. Not this place. He really, really hoped it wasn’t this place. This was the kind of place a guy like him wouldn’t come back out. Lucy either.
    “Maybe you should just leave her. She’s a big girl.” Said the big girl that relished accusing the other of murder.
    Tim wasn’t taking her bait, “You need to apologize.” He would drag her by the arm if necessary.
    “Nothing to apologize for. She brought this on,” he was opposed to physically fighting with a woman but he was shaking again with frustration and spun on her again, “Fine.”
    Tim had been in bars before, snuck in with Jack and his other buddy, Teddy, when they’d taken a train to the next town where no one would know them. Tonight he wasn’t particularly dressed right for this kind of bar. Tim honestly didn’t own anything that wouldn’t make him stand out here however his dress clothes made him stick out in a sea of leather and smoke.
    “She’s not here,” Lucy, however tough she seemed on the outside, was anxious to leave. Yeah, he was too. Eyes turned towards them from all sides as they wound through the bar looking. Men and women each paired in metal studded black leather jackets and equally surly Pokemon, like the Incineroar stalking toward them followed their progress. This was the perfect place to make poor life decisions.
    Glass rattled across the bar, “Fuck, Jerry, get that little Kanto hick off my seat. She’s making a mess!” Oh they found her alright. There she was in all her glory, flipping off the biggest massively tattooed guy he’d seen, right around her glass of dark liquor. As far as poor life decisions go this was definitely a poor life decision for him.


 

    Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Wait, did she slip back into Kanto? Possible.  That has happened before when she drinks.
    “You know, there’s plenty of bars that ain’t this one that serve that fancy sake shit you hicks drink.” She could still see clearly enough to discern which oaf was badgering her. “That drink might be a little strong for you, honey. So, why don’t you get your ass off my stool and…”
    Said oaf did not read sign language well. “Fuck off.” Was she slurring her speech? Eh. Even if she was she could still see meaning she could still get another couple drinks in. She preferred those drinks in the din of the bar, minus the some slack jawed moron yammering in her ear.
    “Excuse me?” The guy tried a sharp jab to her shoulder. She felt it move, kind of. A small wobble.
    “Let me articulate it for you: Fuck off.” Sausage like fingers wrapped around her tiny wrist. “Or I’ll shove every single beer bottle on this bar up your ass.” Ali pried at the fingers but they wouldn’t budge. The glass was really a last resort. He tried to pull her from the seat and her drink sloshed around as the heavy glass bottom crashed into her hand. Half her drink ended up splashing out onto her and this dumbass trying to get in the way of her forgetting everything that had been happening. There was no break to catch. She couldn’t, not with work, not with men and not with her entire goddamn life.
    “Bitch!” He was throwing the remnants of her drink back at her.
    “Should have kept your fat mouth shut.” The last drops spilling into her mouth. She contemplated using the glass again, hurling in the general direction of that large, balding head that bobbed enough to make her nauseous.  You know, before he may or may not decide to punch her.  
    “Hey!” Tim pulled her off the stool as the swing went past her cheek.
    “Get your hick ass outta here with your little pansy boyfriend.”
    “Remind me whose top of the fucking League! Wouldn’t that be a Kanto hick like me?” Behind them two more leather clad morons blocked their path.
    Tim waved and called to the bartender, “She have a tab?” He nodded, “Close it, please.”
    “What? No, I am finishing that…”
    “No, you’re not.” That cute little tense smile kept her attention. She was utterly transfixed and thankful she could still see clearly. Enough. Right now there were few things that could dissuade her from finishing another glass or two. “I’m taking you home.” That would do it.


 

    Psyduck had perfect timing. In his little perpetual state of curiosity, he’d been waddling through the bar checking out his new surroundings. He’d never seen a place like this before. Televisions hung over the bars and along the walls playing various sports or reairings of the latest League matches with all the current standings scrolling along the bottom.  Other screens had humans, also fighting. The smells were all new too. Clinking billiard balls and the odorous stench of crappy alcohol and vomit.
    He’d waddled away from his partner searching for Tim. He liked Tim, Tim helped keep him safe just like Lucy.
    Everything around him fascinated him to the point Psyduck didn’t see where he was in the bar. He’d wandered right into the middle of four giants of humans yelling angrily, shaking fists and bottles. His stress started a frenzied rise and he frantically searched for Lucy to get out. He could hear her even over the racket of the bar.
    Then another voice sounded clear to him, after a sound thwack of flesh hitting flesh. “I don’t like to be touched. Especially by someone who smells worse than a Grimer. Did one use Stench on you?” The girl Lucy had been fighting with. She seemed nice and comforting to be around, though his partner didn’t seem to agree.
    “Psyduck?” Tim was there too. He would be able to get him back to Lucy!
    “She’s sorry. We’re just leaving.”
    “No, I’m not.” She bent out of Tim’s grasp right into the giant. “God, you need a shower.”
    “Stop. We’re leaving, now.”
    Psyduck turned in circles, he could hear Lucy still searching for him and Tim grunting as another giant closed in on him. The sounds were becoming a cacophony. Lights flashed at him from all angles and Lucy. Where was Lucy?
    A single clear voice said, “Too bad I don’t have a water gun.” He knew that!


    He’d had no idea that little Psyduck meandered into the bar. Lucy had walked with him, though she wandered off when he’d spotted Ali only to hover by the door and out of the way so other patrons could get in. Her sense of self preservation was surprisingly in tact, which shocked him after the last few days. Hands had grabbed at Tim, far bigger and muscular than him. This was the time when he really needed a partner for backup. Ali, she was wildly drunk but still held her own, slurred speech and all.
    Her head snapped back on the guy holding her around the waist just as Psyduck let loose a burst of water. His aim started at the guy tossing it with Ali but he spun and let the end of the jet douse him and the guys trying to lift him over their heads. There was no force left, it only served to soak them, the distraction it provided was gold. Tim tugged at the soggy waist wobbling back to try for another punch and ushered her and Psyduck to the exit with Lucy close behind while that little gang tried to figure out where they’d gone in the chaos as, apparently, several nearby Pokemon did not appreciate the sudden shower.
    Guiding her down the street he led them into an alley. Seconds later Tim realized how poor a decision it was because if they were followed they were also now trapped. Of them, Ali was in the best spirits. She needed to brace herself against the wall to keep from falling over. A mixture of nausea and elation she attempted to wring out her newly soaked shirt. She really couldn’t though, he kept having to push her hands back down as the shirt got too high.  
    “Who’s idea to bring a Psyduck to a bar fight?” Ali giggled wildly. Tim was finding this all a little less funny. First she cracked Brockton with her forehead, now drunkenly she did it again to someone who’d resembled a mountain. Tim turned her around searching through her hair for blood or a gaping wound. “That was brilliant.” Not the words he would have chosen for that situation. Poor life choice was an understatement now.
    “So,” Tim was still searching as Lucy scowled.
    “I never agreed to apologizing.”
    As if she’d just realized who was with Tim, Ali shambled back to the wall. Her eyes were already glassy which he had blamed the alcohol. “Need the rest of your story? Need some more sound bites?” He went for her wrist again. Even in her current inebriated state she wrenched free, wheeling on him. “You should have let me finish the bottle.”
    “See, she’s fine. Big girl.” Lucy turned on her heel beckoning Psyduck with her.
    “This isn’t over! You’re bringing every report you have to my place.” Tim cut her off at the street.
    “You said it yourself, you’re not a reporter.”
    “No. But you’re a good person, at least that’s what I thought. I went with you out to the lab assuming you wanted to help people not hurt them. I went on our date-” The night was still early but the street was fairly empty. Few passersby gave them notice.  “Help us make sure this story is accurate. That you’re not just attacking someone for,” was there a right thing to say here? Tim didn’t want this to be personal.  He could see the struggle play out. A battle she’d been losing since she’d opened her mouth at his dad’s apartment. “If it’s for anything, it can be for your career. What would happen if you report this story and it comes out to be completely false?”
    Ali shuffled past, unsteady on her feet. She struggled at her wet shirt and the flannel, sniffling loudly. She was also going in the wrong direction to get to her apartment.
    “Fine.” Psyduck waddled down to find a taxi. “Can’t have my career get derailed.”
    Ok, one thing down. Tim turned and in the seconds that his and Lucy’s conversation ended Ali had made it most of the way down the block. Running wouldn’t catch him up, Tim put everything into a full sprint so she couldn’t make it to the next corner and try crossing the street. He cut her off. It startled her enough she ran into the building at the corner.
    “God, Tim!” Drunk did not mean she lost her strength. Not well aimed, her arms shot him in the chest knocking him off balance as well. “Just go back to your girlfriend and finish the story on me.” She was crying again. Slowly a tear would roll down her cheek, then another. “Just go write about how the poor little girl from Lavender Town screwed up her life just as badly everyone thought the rest would!”
     Tim’s mind went completely numb which extended all the way down to his fingers and toes. Lavender Town?
    Ali was already stumbling off. Speech still slurring as she walked and talked, “Ended up just the same! Murderer! Team Plasma grunt turned suicide bomber! Oh! The psychotic, recluse leader of Team Flare? Almost went through with mass genocide! I don’t know if I can beat that ratings wise?” Every word, every sentence confused him but then brought clarity. He followed her down the street, she’d been shouting the entire rant. No one was checking out the drunken loon. Yet. “She steals, deals drugs. Drugged her own partner! Murdered him! Hell, I’m a fucking prostitute if you listen to everyone!  Make a great fucking story. Because that’s all those kids were, right? A great story! Fucking Ghastly.” Her stumbling had become erratic. She finally fell into a pile of garbage bags left for pickup, vomiting everything in her stomach.
    Kneeling in the bags all she did was shove him away again.  
    Tim remembered all the stories out of Kanto. They were impossible to forget even when he was a kid. In a single night every child between the ages of ten and fifteen disappeared without a trace. Lavender Town. Not that it was a town he’d have wanted to live in either way. Tiny, even by Kanto standards it held the region wide burial services for Pokemon. Twelve children just gone. As reporters descended on the town every night the tears and pleading of the parents were broadcast worldwide. A deep seated fear that they had been taken to all ends of the world.  No one could give a reason why they thought that. As weeks went on and more reporters converged on all of Kanto, the most famous investigative journalists now all got their names back then and for good reason. Deemed ‘The Lost Kids’, the first one found had been holed up on the seashore, everything he owned covered in blood and the bodies everywhere. During his murder trial the facts about Lavender Town came to light. The Ghastly experiments, such a cleverly coined name. Experiments headed by Dr. Fuji on Pokemon, both living and deceased. Primarily on the Ghost Types that already haunted the surrounding forest. And the children, not only were they part of the experiment, experiments that had spanned far back in Lavender Town history, their parents had been part of it all. These children were just the latest round of subjects.
    Tim remembered when the parents’ stories, the cries and pleading, turned. His Gram watched all the coverage. Pleading and sobbing overnight turned to accusations and excuses. Then even that fell apart and the final reason the children were so broken came out. Bile rose dangerously thinking about what had happened to those children.
    Hiding in the caves with Gravelers and Ryhorns and crossing every Ghost Type between the town and the infamous Rock Tunnel made sense. Safer there with incredibly dangerous wild Pokemon than most of the adults in that town. And a little lone Cubone to protect her.
    Cautiously, Tim knelt with her. He placed a hand on her back, rubbing gently. Jack was a pretty disastrous drunk, this was not out of his realm of expertise.
    “I won’t let them drag your name through the mud.” She tried to stand, caught in the bags and waste and still with no sense of balance. “Let me take you home?”

Chapter Text

    Drunk logic had taken over. Another fun aspect of being sober was having to deal with the drunk logic. Again, not new. Jack’s drunk logic usually got him in trouble. Like drinks thrown in his face and women punching Jack and, well the list goes on and does not get better from there.
    Ali’s drunkenness, while it led the bar fight was leaps and bounds better than Jack. Where he fancied himself a ladies man, when Tim could drag him out of a bar after intense humiliation, that he would never remember, Tim then needed to hear the rest of the night about the ladies they encountered and all the attributes Jack found attractive. In great detail.
    Ali got chatty. Chattier than normal. She did well enough walking back to her apartment, with a lot of zigzagging and running into him, buildings and posts. She surprised him with facts about recent League matches and rather well informed opinions on the training methods some trainers used. He thought it was the alcohol talking when she declared she could even beat Red, literally the top of the League, in a battle.
    “Not like an official match. Those have too many rules.”
    “So, just like a battle. What, a street battle or…”
    “The underground matches have no rules.” Yeah, he was well aware of that.
    “You would beat Red in an underground match?” The obvious problem was her lack of a partner. Not something to bring up, but it was a problem. Her swaying wasn’t rhythmic and she lost balance again falling into him. They were close, he could already see her block up ahead.
    “Yeah, stat pellets are,” Ali’s knees buckled. Tim wrapped her waist and she did the same. Close up her cheeks were flushed. He wondered how much of that whiskey bottle she had actually drank.
    She’d already walked most of the way without puking again. He would just take the risk. “Come here.” Swinging her around Tim pulled her arms around his neck, “Climb up.” She settled in hugging his neck. He could feel her cheeks had dried, now that it warmed his. As he held the back of each knee Tim slowly continued to her apartment building. “I’m surprised you know so much about the League.”
    He could feel her smile tug her cheeks up, “Mr. G told me how much you loved the League.” How much did his dad tell people about him. “I thought it meant that he loved it too.” He hoisted her up further as her arms slipped down. “So, I read up about it, watched matches.”
    “How long before you figured out””
    Her nose pressed into him. Breath, warm and sticky and still reeking of whiskey, “About a year.” An erratic giggle made her head bang into his, “By then I was on Team Skull and in underground matches.”
    He tightened his hold on her knees. She was way heavier than he thought, she was so damn small where did the weight even come from? “You-you took Cu?”
    “Yeah, he took down some of the biggest guys there. Made good money, like you would…”
    “Don’t say it.” The only way to stop her from saying it would have been to drop her and they were almost at her apartment. Three buildings to go.
    Stifled giggles buzzed his ear, “Cabana boy.” He let her slide down just enough to make her yelp and clutch tighter.
    “I’ll leave you right here.” Not even a convincing lie.
    She nuzzled her head into his neck, “But you said you were taking me home.” The pouting, mock or not, laid on thick in her voice.
    At the stairs to her apartment Tim eased her down. He doubted he could make it up all the stairs with her that way. His shirt clung to him now, heavy and uncomfortable.
    “So,” Tim caught her again tripping over her own feet. “Aren’t you going to take me up?” Clumsily she reached out for him but got his waist and now her drunkenness was what he was used to. Like Jack chasing after girls Ali pawed at him, pulling him in to her. “Do you think it would be a mistake?”
    Good, drunk groping and drunk logic. This was all drunken revenge for saying she reminded him of his mom. He really wanted to avoid this phase. “Yes.” Each grope he met with a bat that was becoming harder and harder because despite her current situation she was, in fact, infuriatingly beautiful. “Because this would just be revenge to Lucy.”
    Actually, this was different than Jack’s tactics. On him more effective, if she weren’t crazy drunk. “Who said anything about revenge?”
    Tim tried to stop Ali from unbuttoning the remainder of his dress shirt even amid protests. This was a new inebriated game. Her fingers wound around his shirt, belt or neck and he moved each away with an, “Ali? Ali? Alison?” Finally he’d gotten her attention and another tiny, stunning smile.
    “No one calls me Alison.” He couldn’t break free of her exactly so he settled with looking disapproving even if it gave her some small amount of happiness.
    “Where are your keys?” Her hands shot up, she was inviting him to find them.
    Free, Tim sat against the staircase. “I can wait all night.” He feared where she’d put her keys. There were few places available: the pockets of her shorts or stuffed one other place he was definitely not going. He knew girls that kept valuables in their bra. Completely off the table. Waiting was the better option.
    Ali pouted, waiting right with him. Seconds ticked by then Tim held his hand out for the keys and she begrudgingly stuffed her hand into her pockets trying to find them. They dangled over his hand, snatched away at the last second, “It wouldn’t be revenge. Maybe, I just think you’re cute.” Ah, drunk talk.


 

    Since she’d rested, Ali swayed less walking up the stairs although she still needed support. Thankfully, she’d stopped groping him. For a moment. Tim took the small victory.
    At her door she latched on again only to his shirt. “You are cute,” she said with a maniacal little laugh. She was still less obnoxious than Jack. Her door lock jammed for him just like his dad’s. Her hand covered his to wiggle the key and a well placed shoulder got the door open. Ali tripped into her own apartment and he had to catch her, again.
    After he locked her door, all with her trying to twine her fingers again around some part of him every few seconds, Tim guided her to her bedroom.
    “Dry clothes.” Shit she had an adorable and coy smile. Tim closed the door on her. “Alone.” Through the door he could hear her puff out a breath and the drawers open.
    Cute? She couldn’t know what she was saying. He wondered if she would remember any of this in the morning and at this point might be better if she didn’t.
    He searched her medicine cabinet for anything that would help with the hangover she was sure to have. It was pretty bare except for toothpaste, floss and a couple bottles not in the common language. Probably Kanto region specific and he had no idea what they said.
    Strong arms squeezed his torso to her. She couldn’t quite get her chin on his shoulder even on her tip toes. He tried to unwrap her again but she really was damn strong. He left her, secretly enjoying the momen, “Do you have anything for a hangover?” Her nose shook in his shoulder. “Of course.” Sleep was probably the only thing that would help. If she’d drank as much of that whiskey bottle he saw out as she claimed he figured she’d have to throw up more. He could feel her all along his back, “Ok, go sit on the couch. I’ll bring you something.”
    “Aren’t you going to come?”
    “Sit,” prying her off him again he steered her back to the couch. God, drunk people.
    Returning to the bathroom he pulled the bag out of the can.  The can, a glass of water and sleep. Best remedies he could find. “You don’t believe I find you cute?” She called out to him. “Oh, oh!” Great. Incoming brilliant drunk deductions. Jack had these from time to time. He set the can next to the couch awaiting her new discovery. “You’re like…like a Pokemon.” Yes, that was much better than being called just cute. He was cute like a Pokemon.
    He made sure she had a blanket and pillow before trying to make up the couch around her. “Right.”
    “You’re not listening to me.” Tim was but he really just wanted to get her to sleep.
    “You’re drunk, Ali.” Around the belt loops again and she pulled him onto her. “Alison!” A goofy, drunken grin picked her back up again.
    “Yes, I am. Very drunk.” Got it. He got it. She preferred Alison. “But you need to listen to me.”
    “I am.” If he worked faster and got the couch made up he could get her to lay down and go back to figuring out what the hell was going on with this investigation into her and Cu’s death.
    “No, you’re not.” Ripping the pillow from him, Ali sat up straighter. Listening to her drunk rambles might get this done quicker. Still disapproving, he sat on her lap. Which was beyond uncomfortable but he was trapped still. “Ok, you’re not like a Pokemon.” He waited. “Just hear me out.” Her fingers dug into his leg, not painfully but strong. Eventually she said, “You’re like a partner.”
    “That makes less sense.” He needed off of her without hurting her feelings because while she may not remember this he will. He put the pillow against the arm rest and felt himself be pulled down closer to her.
    Meeting halfway, Alison made sure he was listening to her. “No, you are.”
    “How?”
    One arm made its way up to his neck to keep him trapped. He really wanted to move. He needed to move. If this had been a date it would have been the best damn date he’d ever had. But it wasn’t. Her fingers kept making their way to his waist and pushed them back down until, “You make the good things better and the bad things…less terrible.”
    There was no response he could come up with, nothing. Thank you seemed wrong. “Alison,” he mumbled.
    He didn’t notice she’d gotten close enough to give him a peck on the cheek, “The Goodmans. They keep living up to their name.” If only she weren’t drunk.
    Eyes closed, Tim composed himself. A deep breath. Ali. Alison, was probably right about Lucy. He wasn’t after another date with her. Not even with her trying to be more what he wanted or expected for a date.
    In the moment he didn’t feel her move. Soft lips pressed against his. Sweet, gentle and completely different than before. He couldn’t smell the whiskey, just a faint mildew odor in her hair. Her lips beckoned for more but Tim took a sharp inhale and pulled back. Her cheeks fit perfectly in his palms. More to himself than her, “Oh, when you’re not drunk.” He realized he had been chasing the wrong Bunnelby for years. Jack had been trying to find him partners in the wrong places. His attempts to find dates had been all wrong too.
    “Promise?” Alison whispered, still close enough to try again though she didn’t.
    “Yeah.” Tim nodded with her. “Yeah, I promise.”

Chapter Text

    Alison allowed Tim to untangle himself without protest after his promise.  He set out a glass of water on her coffee table and sat against the couch to wait for her to fall asleep.  Other than linking hands with him again she laid down to finally get some sleep.
    Arm draped over his shoulder she said, “Timothy Goodman, gentleman.” Her voice finally groggy.
    “Alison Angeles, soggy, drunk Rattata. Who almost got me thrown through a table.” And held him close as she started drifting off.
    She mumbled something while he was still trying to compose himself from her kiss. “I can’t understand you…your Kanto is showing.”
    “I said,” slurred with sleepiness, “I would have saved you. You’re too pretty to get thrown through a table.”
    “I knew you thought I was pretty.” For the first time that night she fell completely silent, not even a snore. Just the steady rise and fall of her arm on his shoulder. Small cuts laced across her knuckles from earlier in the day. He listened to the steady sound of her breathing. When he was finally ready to move paper crinkled in his pocket. He didn’t even remember keeping the tox screen report, now it was all he wanted to focus on instead of the fact that he was pretty.   
    Except reading it was already a mistake. Most of the scientific terms went over his head. Graphs lined the bottom, color coded and easy to see that whatever the compounds were and that they were above an acceptable limit. A book still sat precariously on the coffee table, the Pokemon biology book Alison had been referencing last time he was here. Grabbing the book he found the compound name listed under the highest bar on the graph in the index. Paging through the book Tim realized he should have called his dad a long, long time ago.
    “Hey, I found her.” First page listed only mentioned that the compound was a stimulant. Not helpful.
    “Oh, thank Arceaus.” Harry called out, presumably to Bernie, then added, “Let me guess. A bar? In a bar fight?”
    “Nooooo.” He wasn’t even sure why he said it.  
    And it wasn’t as if Harry bought it. “Yeah.”
    “Is Bernie still with you? I need to ask him something.” Second entry was more useful. There was a listing of the effects on various Pokemon types in general terms.
    “Timothy? You found our little Angel?”
    “I need your help, Bernie.” He closed the book. Alison wouldn’t mind him borrowing it, especially if it helped him clear her name and understand what the hell was going on.
    “Anything, you name it.”


 

    Bernie agreed to run back to his clinic and pull the last six months worth of any test results he had pertaining to Cu. Official reports. Anything they could use to counter the evidence on hand. He’d said he never had an abnormal test result for Cu which was something Tim believed. Then he called Lucy to make sure she had all the reports and was going to meet at the office like she had agreed. She would, but she was not enthusiastic about it.
    Tim hoped that with Alison out she wouldn’t mind him looking at her books seeing as he needed all the help he could get. Still strewn about on the floor she’d barely touched anything since he’d last been here. Tim stacked the books again searching for any others that would help with the science. Books written in Kanto, comics he’d seen but never read were mixed in with her others, worn with love. Titles and cover art surprised him as he made tidy piles. She had everything from romance to science fiction and lastly scientific reference.  Another of her
well loved books, ‘Ancient Grass Remedies’. She must have been recently reading it because not only was this one on top of all the other books it was open. If only it weren’t in Kanto. Maybe Bernie spoke Kanto dialect, or he could try one of the online translation programs, though his previous experiences with those were miserable to say the least. He’d have to manage. Another two books looked promising enough solely based on the number of tabs for notes Alison had sticking out.
    Harry told him where the spare key was and he left Alison sound asleep on the couch. She didn’t even stir when he tucked hair behind her ear. Gently he traced the outline of the bruise on her forehead. He would keep his promise as long as he could help keep her out of jail.
    Tim beat Lucy and Bernie back to Harry’s office even with him stopping by Hi-Hat to get a large coffee from Ludicolo.
    “Didn’t bring me coffee?” Harry attempted to guilt him.  
    “I brought books.”
    “That’s not funny.” His dad frown deepening at the word biology on the spine. “How was she?” Harry asked to avoid the topic literally at hand.  
    Notebook and pen in hand, Tim spread everything out on the breakfast bar, circling words he needed to look up. When his dad asked again, “Not good. I made sure she was asleep before I left.” Turning the pen over in his hand, “Dad. Is her father still alive?”
    Pikachu scuttled up Tim’s leg and onto the bar looking at all the books and papers. He stopped at the biology books, kicking one closed and opening the other. Harry stalled, Pikachu making him choose between answering the question or looking at science. “D-did she tell you about him?” Tim knew it was another stall tactic. “Uh, no. He’s not. But there is other family…well, people looking for her.” Other family she was going to keep hiding from.
    A cop would have to be in trials and there are records for most that are made public. Even small trials. “How have they not found her after all these years?” At that, his dad had no answer and he was grasping for one. Harry Goodman was a man with answers. A bold man with an air about him to go confidently into any crazy situation. A man harboring a ‘Lost Kid’ from Lavender Town for years. There was a plan, Tim knew it. He could feel it. There would have to have been to get Alison a job, a public facing job with the possibility of television and juries and, “Oh.”
    “She needs all the protection she can get but you…you’ve spent enough time with her. She wanted to do something to help people, do you think we could stop her? We did what we could to make it hard to find her.”
    He could guess that the most news articles he would find about Alison Angeles would pertain to her partner’s death last year. If there were any. His dad kept saying ‘we’. ‘We’ meant someone was helping his dad. “Lieutenant Yoshida helped you?” The only other person he knew that was close with Harry Goodman.
    “Her name went on public record to get into the Police Academy.”
    He didn’t need a leap to understand, “If it was her birth name it would be easy to find with a search.”
    “Tim, she is a damn good cop. I tried to talk her into being a private investigator like me to keep her out of the public eye but still help people.” Yeah, that didn’t go over well, apparently.
    Working hard to push the book over Pikachu hopped up and down. The page was one Alison had marked at some point before this current assignment. Nothing to do with Sleep effects, it was about stimulants. Although not the stimulant from the report.
    “What was the case she worked when Cu,” he found he couldn’t finish that thought. Not out loud.
    The door crashed open behind them and Bernie overloaded with files and papers falling as he walked in the door. “Stat pellets were being distributed by Team Rocket. On the interrogation transcripts the grunts arrested claimed it was an attempt to sabotage the Leagues. Angel disagreed, vehemently saying that it was all a ruse. She never thought it was to actually get the Leagues or any official players, no matter their, uh, previous history.”
    “Why?” No Teams had a presence at all in Leavenstown. He’d heard plenty about them, knowing enough that Rocket and Skull were the two most ruthless and troublesome. Although, unlike the hierarchy in Team Rocket with their straightforward agenda of profit, Team Skull was an unorganized gang filled with cutthroats looking for a personal payday. For some reason they seemed to clash the most.
    Bernie dropped everything on the bar with Tim’s small stack. “Because, Timothy, Team Rocket, while extensive, has been banned from all Leagues.”
    “Ok, that never stopped them before. I have seen their grunts in matches.”
    “True,” Harry pointed at the book Pikachu had been calling attention to, “But not in years. It’s been nearly five years since their last grunt was in an official match. That hasn’t stopped their experimentation and Pokemon exploitation. Their problems have kept multiplying. Competition in experimentation has led to lower profits. Based on the business models of Clifford Industries I am honestly shocked they haven’t tried to take them out as well. And their attempts at retaliation against some of the most notable Gym Leaders in all Regions for their roles in removing Team Rocket from standings.”
    “Oh,” Bernie patted Pikachu’s head sweetly. “That was the drug they were adding to the stat pellets.” Tim finally took notice of the page and Alison’s hand written notes in the margins just like the book she’d lent him. ‘Causes erratic outbursts’ and ‘Effects vary on type’ and the most disheartening, ‘Kadabra subject, multiple homicides?’. “Angel was right. She is always right about these things.” From one sigh Tim could tell that Bernie and Alison disagreed many times about her cases and this was always the end result. “Angel got to the lab too late. She’d found evidence that Rocket focused testing on Psychic Types. No one else saw it coming. When she called in for backup, a SWAT team, they scrambled together but-” A file lay open for short seconds before Harry closed it again. “Official coroners report was blunt force trauma.” Cu had gone in with Alison, in to try to fight a manic Psychic Type. Bernie insisted, flipping the file open again, “I have all official documents, Harry. No mention of stimulants.”
    The folder flew across the room, “No one questioned the cause of death, Bernie. They questioned how Cu lasted so long against Kadabra. He shouldn’t have been able to. Not with all those drugs in that damned Kadabra!”
    Tim was out of the conversation watching the fireworks between Bernie and Harry. Unlike the others, Pikachu was back at work searching the folders and throwing things on the floor. Harry must have rubbed off on Pikachu from their time…together. Nothing was right to Pikachu, he just kept searching. Shooting across the room he waited for Tim at the computer.
    Abandoning the others, Tim sat down to help Pikachu find what he was looking for. He pointed and Tim clicked. Alison kept a bookmarks folder on Harry computer, which made sense. She spent a lot of time here, in this seat working on his books and research, probably even her own cases. As he followed Pikachu’s instructions he found journals she’d bookmarked. A whole subfolder dedicated to Pokemon psychology. Snuggling into Tim’s lap he scanned the titles, not really sure what he was looking for. There were a wide range of articles. Pikachu watched intently while Tim mumbled the titles out loud. “‘Non-Psychic Pokemon: Low level telepathy or intuition?’ Whoa.” Little feet danced in his lap.
    “You can’t believe she would have given Cu illegal drugs.”
    “I never said I did!”
    He needed quiet to read. This was filled with terms he didn’t understand or had to think way back to high school science. The louder the bickering the more Tim could only skim. Buried in the paper he found, “‘Akin to the adrenal system in humans, all Pokemon biology consists of a similar system with an analogy to the same fight or flight neurotransmitters. Structurally similar to Adrenocorticotropic hormone,’ oh my god how can she read this?” Pikachu, however, did not take kindly to his stopping. “Fine. ‘In fact, the precursors to these transmitters, in partnerned Pokemon become increasingly structured as that of humans.’ I have no idea what any of this means.”
    “It’s gibberish. Just like her notes.” Lucy held out a stack of folders exactly like Bernie’s. On top a newspaper clipping. ‘Team Rocket Kadabra attack leaves 312 dead’. The subheading stung even more, ‘Including 15 police officers’. Wounded people and Pokemon lay across the remains of a building. He could pick out Alison among them, fighting her way around paramedics to her partner. “I don’t know what you hope to accomplish.”
    “First of all,” no one wanted these continual reminders of Cu’s loss. Bernie took the files, closing the top one to hide the picture. “It’s not gibberish. Per se. It’s a fascinating article on the biochemistry of Pokemon neurotransmitters.” One by one the folders dropped onto the desk. “Second, these are copies of her reports.”
    “My source…”
    “Is going to be in deep Tauros crap.” Harry finished. He’d opened one. An annoyed tap on her signature at the bottom. “These are not public record.”
    Guilt ate at Tim, he didn’t want Lucy to get in trouble. He stopped them from starting a new fight before it started, “Ok, one thing at a time. Why would she be reading this for that last case with Cu?”
    “No. Not that, please.” Tim liked to think Alison tortured his father by reading technical papers out loud. It made him feel better when Harry stole the coffee cup Tim had left on the counter and said, “It’s a fair price if I have to listen to this.”

Chapter Text

“You have been talking for fifteen minutes and I think the only words I understood were ‘the’ and ‘and’.” Tipping the empty coffee cup around Harry groaned. He’d made a stack of files then was repeatedly slapped every time he tried to open one as Bernie would start explaining and thus the start of a new vicious cycle.
Tim rubbed his eyes. He could now say, without a doubt, that hating science was genetic. “Explain again.”  
    “You’re both beautiful but infuriating. Angel is a literal angel for putting up with you Harry Goodman!” Bernie shoved Harry’s feet off the desk. Lucy wasn’t enthralled with this long winded explanation, she had no interest in the nitty gritty details of this old case, just her story.
    “What do you hope to accomplish?” She asked again since no one bothered to answer her the first time.  A pencil balanced on the tip of her nose and Psyduck slept in her lap.
    With their momentary science break Harry returned to reading the reports and putting them back in chronological order as he answered, “We need to provide reasonable doubt to whatever the hell they are going to charge Ali with to stall while we finish investigating the case. Anything to keep Ali out of jail.” Which wasn’t exactly what Lucy was going for here.  
    That tox screen report stared at Tim, the graphs mocking him when Bernie started again. “Ok, listen. Properly.” Bernie snatched it away.
    “Explain it like we are one of your intellectually stunted fashion models.” Harry gave Bernie his best, simpering smile. Although the end result was more like Harry was on the verge of tears, which was also possible when he broke into a fit of childish giggles.
    “Interior designer, Harry. Do you even listen-?”
    “There was a fashion model.”
    “No, no, no. Are you talking about the clothing designer?”
    Tim slammed his fists on the desk, “Do you two need a mediator?”
    “Angel is…”
    “An angel. We know, Bernie!”
    “Shut up!” Lucy joined forces with Tim. The first united front they’d been since he’d almost left Ryme.
    “Oh my god, how does she put up with you two?”
    Fanning his flushed cheeks, “Timothy, if you haven’t noticed, our little Angel has a mother complex.”
    There was not much more Tim could handle. He was ready to kill everyone in the room.
    “Mother? I would have…”
    “Lucy,” Tim’s voice low with warning. Super. Now she was joining the fight. And to top it all off he swore she could see his guilt all over him every time she looked his way. She knew and he knew it. Not that she hadn’t been accusing Alison of it all along.
    “That feistiness would be endearing if you weren’t trying to put our Angel out as front page news.”
    “Pika pi pi!” A well aimed lightning bolt hit the empty coffee cup from the desk. The entire office froze.
    “I agree with Pikachu.” Tim truly understood why Alison had drank so much earlier in the evening. He wasn’t one to drink often and certainly not in excess but whiskey sounded really good now. “Please, Bernie. Just explain the case. In simple terms.”
    “Fine, Timothy. For you because you,” Tim couldn’t stop the glares that were exchanged around the room, “have Angel’s best interests at heart.” Bernie sat still trying to compile his thoughts. “Ok, you know about status effect pellets, right?” That was general knowledge. They were expensive enough and volatile enough that most people didn’t just carry them around. Plus there was really no need to just carry them around. Urban areas pretty much banned them all with the exception of in an arena or gym. But families that could afford them sent kids off on their journey to help keep them safe. Routes were notoriously dangerous even with a partner or two. “Attack pellets, the ones that increase a Pokemon’s strength temporarily, have been the source of contention in the scientific community. Not all Pokemon share the same biology, neurotransmitters are different even within a type. It took decades to find a compound that would work for all types.”
    His dad said nothing, flipping pages instead. “Okay, earlier you said something else about neurotransmitters. So, you can’t just, like, increase a neurotransmitters by giving a Pokemon more. Right?”
    “Timothy, honey. Biology does not always work like that. Attack stat pellets temporarily increase the production of,” Tim raised his brows at Bernie knowing where he was going, “uh, adrenal-like transmitters. Basically, its like boosting that fight or flight response.” Science seriously sucked. Both Lucy and Tim were still at a loss, looking completely defeated.  Bernie scrounged around for a more appropriate analogy. “Ok, have you heard about how a mother can lift a car to save her baby?” None of this was helping! Tim was still lost. Horribly, unequivocally lost. As he buried his head Bernie fetched Tim’s charred coffee cup, “It’s like coffee! The pellets work like coffee. Coffee is a stimulant that increases cyclic…sorry. Coffee increases energy, right? It does this by making you produce more of the compounds that your body uses as fuel. More fuel more energy.”
    “Was that so hard?” Harry grumbled. He’d still been sorting through case files through the entire explanation.
    “Yes!”
    Those damned graphs waved in front of Tim’s face again, taunting him again. “That is all well and good, but if you are looking to disprove anything how does all that connect with this tox screen?”
    “That, my dear, is a neurotransmitter from a Pangoro. Decades ago, many decades ago, Attack Stat pellets were not nearly as sophisticated. In the early pellet days that compound was used as a catalyst. Essentially, it did the same thing as what we had now but the effects were far more unpredictable. One of the many reasons it was banned. Certain types, like Normal and Flying saw a marked increase in strength for a short time. Others, like Psychic and Fire lost control.”
    Lucy and his eyes locked. Similar to the R drug refined from MewTwo. Creepy.
    “No stat pellets should be used continuously, just like you shouldn't drink coffee continuously. But the health effects were beyond detrimental. Prolonged use caused  degradation to a Pokemon’s autonomic systems. Not to mention it was incomprehensibly farmed. We can test for it now. The effects are quite unique in each type but distinct. In fact all official League participants are required to be tested for that particular drug. Angel found Team Rocket distributing Attack pellets laced with Pangoro transmitters.”


 

    “Daniel, I don’t care what time it is, you get that cute little ass of yours into the lab. Because…because we need to help Angel and you’re the only one who can do this. I don’t care who is in your bed just go!”
    Tim still wasn’t sure he understood why Bernie had become excited. Out of nowhere he started talking faster and faster and then he was making a call and no one got a word in edgewise. Meanwhile, his dad stayed on the other side of the office and just kept walking along the line of folders. Eerily familiar to Tim’s first morning in the office minus the string and obscene piling and general mayhem. That would just take some time. And he felt like he was doing nothing. Nothing but get in the way after hustling all these people together to figure out how to help Alison.
    “Who is Daniel?” Lucy asked. Like he actually knew what was going on. He didn’t. He had no idea and now he was sure it was too late to even ask. Tim shrugged half heartedly. They’d been reading transcripts from interrogations as if that would help them understand anything. The only thing that Tim learned was that Alison didn’t attend many of the interrogations, which seemed odd for an investigator. He supposed it could be to keep her cover in tact. Maybe the Teams had reach inside prison.
    “Daniel works for Clifford Industries, but another division. Really, he’s in R&D but he’s the only one that would take my call at this unholy hour.”
    “Bernie,” one of the pulled apart reports Harry started tacking up on his cork board. “No one, including me, has any idea what you are doing.”
    “Dad?” The cork board was a jumble of pages from a single report now completely out of order. So, not like anyone understood what Harry was doing either. Nose pressed against a page he inhaled. Not this again. Tim really never had a normal father. He’d always been like this. “Dad!”
    “These are pages Pikachu separated out.” He sniffed again.
    “I would say Harry has lost his pretty little mind, but…”
    “Bernie!” The bickering. Did. Not. End. He was going to have a migraine. No, he already had one. This was the worst idea imaginable.
    “Page numbers are written differently. I don’t think it’s Ali’s handwriting. Need to do an analysis to be sure. There’s plenty around we can compare.”
    Pikachu started pulling apart more files on the floor, new piles of paper forming at Harry’s feet.
    “He can smell the difference!” Pikachu nuzzled into Lucy’s hand scratching under his little hat.
    While it might not be a stretch Tim wasn’t sure how the pages could be switched. They had already found that these were the original files based on the signatures and dates and impressions in the paper. In a few pages were missing with handwritten notes. But now, they weren’t all actually written up by Alison?
    “Sloppy way to set someone up.” Harry read his mind. “What changed? Something had to have changed.” Mimicking his partner’s movements Pikachu paced in front of the board periodically handing papers up to Harry. “This was well planned. These pages have the records seal. They were changed out before the records made it to the archives. Meaning, whoever did this has been working on setting up Ali for months.”
    Tim joined his dad and Pikachu, taking another stack of random pages. “Ok, well, if these are the ones that are not written by Alison they go back more than a year.”
    “What? Someone has been setting up Angel for over a year? Y-you don’t think they were involved in Cu’s death?” Bernie stared at the board as he ransacked the cabinets for coffee and filters while the others gaped.
    Moving back from the cork board, Harry tried to see the whole picture. “What changed?” This caught Tim’s interest. “Something changed to force their hand. They’re rushing. They’re getting sloppy. They’re-they’re-I don’t know.”  
    “Oh, please. The only new thing around here is Tim. Well, both of you but Tim is the only one helping Ali.” The blood test was making it’s rounds irritating them. Shudders passed through the coffee decanter, coffee splashing on Bernie and the counter.
    “Oh, my god. Tim.” All eyes turned to him again. Then to Lucy too. They were the only things different. This had been a long term vendetta, not just some little scheme they threw together on a whim. Lucy hadn’t been getting these reports for months. She’d only started looking into Alison, at most, a week ago.
    “Shit.” Tim swore.
    Whoever was doing this got sloppy because of him then drag a young, naive reporter in? All he’d done was watch her get into a fight and talk and help her drunk self home.  But he’d been around the station. Enough for people to see him and know he was helping Alison. They wouldn’t even need to see him. A police station would be like any other workplace, rumors and news would spread fast. Maybe faster because they were in the business of gathering details and she wasn’t well liked. What better gossip to spread?
    Bernie had been ignoring everything else around him. He muttered about the blood, scooping coffee aimlessly into the filter. “I mean how do you even test the blood? Frozen, it would still degrade. Oh, wait. Yeah, no, it would. If it had degraded wouldn’t whatever drugs in the blood be degraded as well?” Ground coffee overflowed onto counter. “DNA!”
    “Ooooh, I think he cracked!” Harry said excitedly.
    “DNA!” He fumbled for his phone, “RCPD keeps records of all the officers DNA on file. Information is not purged. Daniel can have the sample checked. Either the sample has been degraded due to time and, or, the freezing or it is not Cu’s DNA.”
   

Chapter Text

     The world around Ali was too bright causing her head to go from a dull ache to pounding. Throbbing pulses beat against her eyes even with them closed. Two windows in the entire apartment and they made this entire waking up process excruciating. Her blanket was not enough to keep all the light out when she tossed it over her head and eventually all this stupid light from the stupid sun forced her up. However she’d gotten home the night before had been a miracle.
    Draining the glass of water helped. She was surprised she’d even had the foresight to put a glass of water anywhere near the couch. She could have just forgotten about it and passed out, of course. Gods, no Legendaries, did she hate herself for drinking that much.
    Yoshida hadn’t sent her anything since yesterday so they must still be investigating. All she could remember before becoming blackout drunk was Lucy and her dumb accusation then storming off after crying like a daft little girl in front of Tim and finding a bar. Like she’d have done anything to kill her partner. Fuck she hated how bright mornings were.
    When she was able to stand the noise of a shower, the harsh rhythm of brushing her teeth and hair and try to pull clothes on, Ali threw on a hat and sunglasses on to withstand the glare of daylight and get the hell out of her apartment. Not until she was on the street did she realize there was no where to go, which was quickly a problem on such a bright day. She needed to be out of the sun. She was too embarrassed to go to Harry’s so early in the morning and so very clearly hung over.
    Bernie would still give her hell about it but that was far better than Harry.
    A dark shadow passed behind her at the coffee shop she’d normally stop at. It looked like a shadow, like a very dark Gengar, but with a hat and hoodie like her. She saw it again at the light near Bernie’s clinic. Paranoid. She was always more paranoid after a stupid evening of doing stupid amounts of drinking.
    Gods be damned the sun was bright, reflecting painfully on the glass for Bernie’s clinic door. The door that was locked. She noticed the black figure lurking down the street from her as she unlocked the door with her own key.
    Making sure the closed sign was still in place, Ali drew the blinds to give herself a small sense of comfort. It was all just paranoia.
    “Hey, Squirt man. Where’s Bernie?” She kept the shades on inside until her eyes and head adjusted. Patting the little Squirtle’s head she took the seat behind the dingy front desk. Ali rubbed her eyes under the glasses. Things felt out of place. Especially with Bernie missing.
    Eventually out of the corner of her eye she saw his office door was open. Office was an overestimate, it was a closet filled with filing cabinets. Another thing she always found funny. He kept few hard copy records because everything in Ryme, especially for the police department, was kept electronically too. Like she was one to talk. She submitted all her reports as hard copies. The RCPD librarian, as she liked to call Bernadette, didn’t seem to mind. Even if her reports were twice or three times as long as most other officers.
    But Bernie had hard copies of certain things he kept around all the time. Primarily, she knew he kept her files. Cu’s files. Just like how Harry had files on her that he kept and thought she didn’t know about.
    This time a shadow passed by the door of the clinic. Ali hid in the office looking at the open file drawer. If her painfully aching memory worked correctly there were files for her medical care as well as Cu, which were still sitting right there in the file cabinet, files for Cu, which were missing, and there were cases Bernie had assisted on, also missing. Damn, the man had nearly an entire drawer for her. In the back of the drawer she saw the files he’d printed of her training exercises and Clifford Industries testing.
    The gaping hole of files meant he was looking for something. Or someone was looking for something. She only assumed it was him. Nothing else in the office, except missing files and missing Bernie, was out of place. Didn’t seem like a break in.
    The shadow still lingered by the door when Ali stuck her head out of the closet. Damn. Theoretically it could still be paranoia although that was becoming less likely. Ali searched the back files, they’d had some tests a couple weeks ago and Daniel had been working overtime on new projects which meant that whatever they’d recently tested might still be hanging around the office somewhere.


 

    Her hoodie snagged on the vent cover just like it had at every junction all along vent. This was the quietest way to the roof that also did not allow for Squirtle to follow her. He was not the most stealthy of little ‘mons. Years ago she’d convinced Bernie to  make his roof a garden too, cities had so little green space and it would comfort little Pokemon from all over the city. The garden, just like the other in the backyard, was pretty much all hers, she and Squirtle tended to them.
    Hood up over her hat, Ali crawled along the roof making sure to not disturb any Pokemon in the bushes or plants.  Their most recent additions had been several Cascoons attaching themselves among the branches of her new trees. Surely Bernie had nothing to do with that addition. Along with the Kakunas all along the trunks, blissfully sleeping. Careful to not knock into any of the pots and wake any of them Ali continued her crawl along the roof. At the edge she glanced quickly over the bricks. One man, definitely a man by his size, sat against the wall next to the door. Just waiting. No ‘mon in sight with him in front of a closed Pokemon clinic. So, yeah. That wasn’t suspicious at all. Right.
    Roof hopping it was.


 

    Lucy had been the first to bail near dawn. She’d been drifting on and off, with him, Psyduck and Pikachu on the couch. Bernie had downed several, incredibly strong cups of coffee and was chattering nonstop to Daniel giving him instructions. Punctuated exclamations stirred them all every so often. After a rushed apology he would quiet down again and talk low enough for them to return to dozing.
    When Tim couldn’t doze he read the reports from Alison’s cases or the medical files for Cu. They were pretty normal things for a cop and her partner Pokemon. Cu had been in many battles and over the years had several broken bones, a concussion or two and some internal bruising. Some reports lined up. Lucy’s mystery source had not only given her the reports from Cu’s final case but the few before that case. The only pattern he’d seen was they all had to do with Team Rocket and an escalation in drugs. He could see someone making the leap from these cases and the knowledge that she was previously on Team Skull to her having a personal vendetta against Team Rocket. He was learning they are Team Skull’s biggest enemy in Ryme and she was dealing huge blows to Rocket’s income while staying anonymous.
    The interviews painted a different picture. As transcripts there was less to look at for handwriting making it harder to tell if pages were replaced. They could only rely on what was typed in front of them. Lucy and Bernie already had their conflict on who had performed the interrogation of the Rocket grunt at the end of the case. He was inclined to believe Bernie over the transcripts.  Bernie was more apt to lie for a friend than the typed words of an official record but why? What reason would he have, here, to lie? Nothing said here would lead to a conviction or exoneration. Might make it into Lucy’s story. Which, admittedly, could be much worse when it came to the court of public opinion. But his gut told him that Bernie was telling the truth.  
    Either way, the interviews didn’t paint Investigator Alison Angeles in a flattering light and they would be used against her if they could.
    ‘Are you saying this Team Skull grunt, Angel, killed the Machop there in front of you?’
    Next interview:
    ‘No, you got it wrong. This Angel chica. She dosed ‘em before the match.’
    ‘Dosed him? Dosed who?’
    ‘Her little Marowak, man. Saw it myself. Man, that Marowak went crazy. Beat that Throh almost to death. Wouldn’t stop.’
    ‘Thought you said she was one of Skull’s champs. Why would she need to dose him then?’
    ‘You even know what a Marowak looks like? He ain’t strong enough…’
    More accounts, witness accounts of her giving Cu the stimulants or using excessive force. In all kinds of situations over the course of several investigations. All claiming  Alison gave Cu illegal drugs to win matches, beat enemies and even torture information from other Teams. A few with graphic detail. Paving the road for the investigation.
    ‘They beat that Primeape and his partner till he told them what they needed to know.’
    ‘What did they need to know?’
    ‘Who was getting in on Skull’s turf.’
    All wrong. Everything about this. This wasn’t the girl that showed him a garden she’d helped build for sick Pokemon. The girl who went to play with recovering Pokemon at the clinic. Who helped set up sanctuaries for partnerless, injured Pokemon that wouldn’t survive in the wild. None of it lined up and just frustrated Tim the more he read.
    Harry had taken up the empty spot on the couch to doze with his son, creeping Tim out enough to keep him awake.  
    “Daniel, honey. Just put the results up on the screen. God, I can’t read it. I’m going to get Harry’s ancient machine video conference.” Swung around by the arm Tim was dragged by Bernie across the room. “Help me.” Shaking the  drowsiness away he logged in with the credential Bernie read out. “Ok, Daniel. Hi!” His voice overly sweet in that scary, mom is going to murder you for not doing something kind of way. “Put the damn results on the shared screen already.” As he read Bernie muttered, a lot, under his breath at the screen. “That doesn’t make sense. Daniel, pull up the side by side comparison again.”
    When Tim got tired of waiting, “Care  to explain? Or should I just got lay down and get some actual sleep?”
    “Uh,” he went through several phases in a matter of seconds. Confusion morphed to disbelief. Physically shaking Tim before the last stage took hold Bernie explained, “That sample of blood, the one they claimed was from Cu was new. There was no degradation. Meaning it was clean and taken from a source without contaminants.”
    “That doesn’t make sense. I think.”
    “No, Timothy. It doesn’t. Even in the best of circumstances there’s contaminants and impurities and some kind of degradation even from contact with the air. Something this clean would have been taken from the source.”
    “Well, wouldn’t they have taken the blood sample from his body after he died?”
    “Yes, but the longer it sat or the process of freezing it would have caused damage. This is…perfect. Like it was tested right after taking the sample!”
    “I’m still confused.”
    “No,” he inched closer to the screen, counting and thinking through something. “No! NO! Oh my god.” Tim was so tired and so not in the mood for dragging information out of Bernie anymore. “That…that’s not Cu’s blood! It’s not his blood!”
    Little lines and dashes and strange things filled the screen. He couldn’t make heads or tails of it.
    “Those don’t match. They’re both male. They are similar but there are…they’re a familial match.”
    Tim had to stretch his memory back. Biology was only marginally more interesting than chemistry had been in high school. “Familial? So…I mean…who could that be? Cubone’s parents are…”
    “Unlikely. There is so much we don’t know about Cubones, particularly lineage. Most likely a brother. Maybe half brother?”
    “Someone found a Cubone’s biological brother?” Tim felt his heart skip beats. He was suddenly dry and parched.
    “It’s not a secret that Angel is Kanto. She speaks it all the time.” Bernie couldn’t have known where in Kanto she was from or he would feel like Tim did.
    Pikachu, who’d been dozing in Harry’s lap fell with a thump to the floor from Harry’s cell vibrating into his back, waking Harry with a start. “No, I’m not wearing that!”
    “Dad.” Rushing to Pikachu, Tim tried to keep his panic at bay.
    His dad was already distracted by the text he’d received. Mirroring his son, Harry answered an incoming call, “Hide? What is…?”
    Tim was close enough to hear the Lieutenant and tried to get Bernie’s attention. “I’m sorry, Harry. I need you to come to the station this evening.”
    “Hide, she didn’t…”
    Tim signaled for anything. Tossing his phone, Bernie had saved screen shots of the data Daniel had sent, the DNA analysis he couldn’t understand. All his dad needed was to understand they had something.
    “It’s always been out of my hands. I have been fighting for her but this started higher up. Investigator Angeles was contacted to turn herself in. We are doing it between shifts to minimize…”
    “Hide, no. We have proof. We can stall.”
    “This is straight from Captain Waterstone. I was hoping you would be there for her. Help keep her calm. You know how she gets.”  
    Tim knew that face. He’d seen it on his mom when he was younger, his grandma, even his friends parents when they couldn’t get out of something. “Yeah, yeah. We’ll be there.”

Chapter Text

    The text was no shock. Yoshida asking her to come turn in her badge. Without saying it, she knew that they were going to put her in interrogation and then holding. The story would be out and there went her career either way. Once on television she would be easily found. Little Lucy Stevens would get her story and all the attached fame. Probably much more fame than she was bargaining for.  Good for her.
    The guy in black hadn’t seen her leave. She’d gotten to the end of the block and shimmied down a drain pipe to the street. He was still sitting in front of the clinic when she’d made it several blocks over, scaled the fire escapes to the roof and checked in on him. From this distance she couldn’t tell what he was doing until he walked into the clinic. That was her cue to get the hell out of the neighborhood. Squirtle was going to be safe. He would either take care of himself or Mr. Yevin’s Houndour would. That little guy was close to evolving either way. One well placed attack and whoever was following her was in for a rude and bite filled awakening.


    Yoshida: The Captain has asked that you turn in your badge today. You know the alternative.


    Sure, warrant out for her arrest. So, make it easy on them and don’t fight.
    She kept to the shadows, not for her head now. Ali let herself blend in with the crowds where ever she went. Nobody noticed her black hoodie, jeans and hat. The busiest streets had lots of cameras which was both a blessing and curse. She could keep track of her movements for the day if they accused her of anything today, or whoever was looking for her could find her. She took the risk.
    Her thoughts turned to what she could have done and what could have been done differently. Both impossible questions because she didn’t know what she was being accused of. The accusation that she’d killed Cu was ludicrous. And she was by the book on her cases, her notes, her…everything. Sure she had made enemies but that generally stayed in the Team settings except for her favorite squad. Harry Goodman was the most likely to know anything. However, if she was being followed, he could be too. He’d come to her rescue. He always did. It was the only thing she was sure of. The Goodman’s, both of them, were really good men.


 

    Ali sighed, her desk was just as she’d left it. Locked and clean. The only personal item sitting right where she left it; a picture of her and Cu.  She’d stayed with the crowds all day, which was exhausting. Near the end of a shift there was a large influx of patrolmen that were out and about the city and ready to be done with their day. When that crowd came she slipped into the station and to her desk unnoticed. No one said anything if they recognized her because, other than being suspended, they must not have known that she was supposed to turn herself in. Yoshida, blessedly, kept that quiet.
    On the second floor business was going on as usual. Investigators were compiling reports, discussing cases, cheering on each other when someone closed a case. She would miss that. Sort of. She stayed undercover so much, so rarely in the office, and Brockton made sure that when she was in the office it was a nightmare. Most officers kept their distance from her for one reason or another. Her sad little life consisted of Bernie and Harry as her only work comrades. Oh, and the Lieutenant so she had the additional label of ‘Teacher’s Pet’.  Maybe it would be for the best. Harry always offered for her to come work with him. If he even needed that now that his actual son was around.
    Ali slouched in her chair, idly rolling back and forth. Sliding her feet on the tiles under her desk Ali felt a ripple. Hairs shed from someone’s partner. On her way down to look she noticed her desk lock. Her desk was never new, it was older than her probably. Fresh scratches filled the circle around the key hole.
    When an annoyingly familiar female voice chased another officer past her desk, Ali dove under with the blue and black tufts of fur.


 

    She wouldn’t be shoved around. In the morning light, Lucy had reclaimed the final report and transcripts, leaving the rest for the Goodman’s to continue bickering over with Bernie. The page numbers on the report had gone up to 34, with pages 16 through 22 missing. Keeping the pages out of order, Lucy looked at just the numbers. The first one she noticed was that there were 2’s that didn’t match. Then the 5’s. Most of the report was typed with the exception of the handwritten notes. But there were funny things written on the sides. Like, on some parts of the report she’d forgotten to add something and wrote it in before submission. Lucy mulled it over her first coffee of the day, by the third she realized they were time stamps on the corresponding interrogation transcripts.
    Time 18:04 was in the margin next to her case notes about Psychic Types and Pangoro hormones. Yet in the transcript the discussion at that time was about a fight. Not with a Psychic type but a Fire Type. That didn’t line up. The more she looked at the notes, they didn’t correspond to the transcripts. In fact, there was no mention of the Kadabra attack or use of the hormones on any Psychic types. The transcripts only focused on Investigator Angeles. Which was weird, the case wasn’t about her, it was about Rocket’s use of illegal drugs that ultimately ended in what was called a potential terrorist attack on Ryme City.
    “I just want to know more about these interviews.” Lucy demanded, stopping Brockton in the middle of the station. She’d taken the gamble as to whether he would be in the office to answer her questions. If he hadn’t, she assumed she could try to find the video recordings of the interrogations. Try to confirm if the transcripts were at all accurate.
    “I told you not to come here during the day.” Yoshida was still in his office, the rush of investigators and patrolmen would soon die down.
    “It’s just that, for my producer to sign off…”
    “Come with me.” Brockton sighed and led her to his desk.


 

    Brockton’s goddamn Luxray, that’s where she’d seen those colored hairs before. Of course that grade ‘A’ asshole  was Lucy Steven’s source. She would kill him! Well, his career at least. He, or one of his dumb minions, might have broken into her desk too. Staying hidden, she reached her key up and unlocked the desk. Stretching her hand out she searched her drawers for her badge, taser, and really anything else she could use as a weapon. People were already filing out of the office and night shift was light compared to day shift. In fact, night shift was mostly patrolmen.  Their floor would be empty soon except for the few who worked late.Sometimes she was one of those people.  And Yoshida to take her into custody.
     Her effects were still there, which was good. Brockton had to be looking for something in her desk.
    Over the ambient noise Ali couldn’t hear Lucy or Brockton once they’d moved down the to his desk.
    Feet and uniforms filed past her and down the stairs and the undertone of the room started it’s descent. A flicker near the ceiling caught her attention. The red light of the closest security camera flickered and died. Well, fuck.


 

    Tim was determined to get there early, before Ali had the chance to actually turn herself in he would talk to Yoshida and force Bernie to explain in the plainest common language possible what the hell was happening. Pikachu rode along on Tim’s shoulder. Harry insisted he would not be far behind and that they should have some kind of protection or backup. Not that Tim was sure what they’d need backup for he took Pikachu nonetheless.  Harry had gone into more of a tail spin when Tim asked if anyone at the station knew where Alison had been from, as in the specifically. They both knew Yoshida knew, Bernie obviously didn’t. Tim wasn’t granted time to find out as Harry practically threw them out of the apartment after they’d explained what they found out while he’d slept.
    Between the lack of sleep and the intense caffeine Bernie was jittering more than Tim thought was healthy. But if they could keep Alison out of jail he would come by the clinic every day play with that little Squirtle and do whatever Bernie needed.
    Waiting at a crosswalk Tim remembered, “Did you ever test that bottle of stuff from Brock…that I brought?”
    The jitters caused Bernie to flip through all his pages at every stop they made, “Yea, didn’t need to do much but look under a microscope. It’s Floral Healing suspended in alcohol. The pollen from a Comfey. Looked a little weird though.”
    “Weird?” What was weird was being surrounded by walking encyclopedia’s. First Alison now Bernie.
    “Yeah, like something was attached to it. I’ll have to look at it closer, when Angel’s not about to be thrown in the slammer.” Bernie hustled across the street the instant the walk signal appeared.
    Being a contract employee for the Ryme City Police Department, Bernie signed them both in and headed right up the stairs to the second floor and his immediate beeline for Yoshida’s office. Tim had to jog to keep up, not as fueled by coffee as his partner. He slowed seeing Brockton and Lucy talking. She sat on his desk reviewing what looked like a file. Just like the one’s she’d brought the night before because it was one that she’d brought. He’d texted her the basics of what Bernie had explained, that the DNA evidence was phony and, of course, she went straight to her source. God, he felt stupid. For so, so many reasons.

Chapter Text

    The boots were recognizable before the voices. She’d seen the first so many times, Tim was still borrowing clothes from his father and the man owned three pairs of the same damn boots. Bernie’s own boots, a mess of dried mud and scorch marks passed by her desk. When working he always looked like he could be a Rock Type Trainer with his sturdy khaki cargo pants and vest, a far cry from the posh restaurants he liked to frequent.  Ali pressed her face to the ground to see if she could make out where they were going. Bernie’s boots cut across the desks toward Yoshida’s office while Tim’s paused only desks away. Ali searched for her taser again, and badge. Now the realization of what was missing dawning on her. She carried a hunting knife a lot while undercover in place of her service weapon, which would only give her away as a cop. Distinct too. It was custom made. The leather and grip. Shit shit shit.


 

    “Interesting source, Lucy.” He bit down the urge to punch that smug face Brockton made as he walked up. He was only going to be of help if he could stay out of jail. Brockton, though, he thoroughly enjoyed pushing every button. He was sitting with Lucy, uncomfortably close, reading a transcript. Hand hugging her waist to him, on top of that he was practically resting his head on her shoulder. “And you gave me shit for making a friend that was a girl?” Jealousy took over and he didn’t know where it came from. Lucy was absolutely free to do what she wanted. Just, not with Brockton. That was more a slap in the face than anything else she could say or do.
    A hand pulled Tim back before he could make a move. Ali jerked him out of the way as she closed in on Brockton. “It’s ok, Tim. Don’t worry about it.”
    The room wasn’t empty yet, officers kept putting together their desks, preparing to leave. There were always a period where almost no one was in the office. So there were less witnesses than he thought. Few even looked in their direction seeing as this was normal. Not even worthy of attention.
    Alison stepped even closer to Brockton, “Where’s Berger?”


 

    Crouched at her desk she could see camera lights flickered off across the room. No one was coming, no sign that their own security in the building even knew the cameras were going down. Already busy with Tim and Lucy, Brockton didn’t see her stand. She pocketed what she could before Tim really got himself into trouble.  
    Ali hopped her desk sending papers flying. Not that that mattered. Stunned silence met her after yanking Tim back. “I’ll repeat, where’s Berger?”
    “Funny thing, Captain’s been looking for you.” Brockton’s hand creeped up and down Lucy’s waist, but she couldn’t see skin. His fingers were covered in black. The same black as their latex crime scene gloves.
    Slowly Ali raised her hands to her head after tearing her eyes from his gross display, “Brockton, I’m just here to turn in my badge. Just like I was asked to.” Palm open, her hand crept to her pocket. “See, my badge.” The gold of her shield glinted as it settled on the desk next to his other, ungloved, hand.
    Brockton nodded at the badge, he was close enough to both girls to touch either without much effort. “From what I hear, the charges aren’t going to stick. Some science Tauros shit.”
    “They’ll stick, Brockton.”  
    “It’s unfortunate, really.” Her heart hammered in her chest. His tone. She’d heard it so many times before in the truly desperate. The men who were utterly prepared to jump from the top of a building, men who had lost everything. “We tried to stop you. But this little reporter was after her story, the one that would make her career and you, Alison Angeles, kept stepping in her way.” Lucy just seemed to be catching on that something was strange about Brockton. He wasn’t letting her go.
    Tim moved behind Ali too late. He would never have been able to stop Brockton, though neither could Ali. In one swift motion her hunting knife pressed at Lucy’s neck as he moved her as his own shield.
    The lights were still blank at the cameras all around. A single light blinked over his shoulder. A perfect frame of Ali and Lucy face to face, the knife wouldn’t even be in the shot. Just two girls arguing and Brockton would give his narration that he was trying to stop Ali from making a terrible decision. His ungloved hand resting gently on her shoulder as if to pull her away from danger.
    “Let her go, Brockton.” All of her training was going out the window. He’d started when the squad room was nearly empty. His timing entirely perfect. No officers were left behind him. They must all be closer to the door now, not looking back on the room or day. All while Tim hovered at her shoulder. He was a variable. One that Brockton didn’t anticipate. Not the only one, though. “You want me. Fine. Take me.”  Whimpers escaped Lucy, but Psyduck was always the problem.
    “What are you talking about? Angeles, you’re a murderer. You’re going away.”


 

    Stupid. He should have just gone straight to Yoshida. Bernie better have because he was stuck. The knife. He’d seen it before; he could even still smell the dumpster. Alison may have been fast enough to disarm Brockton had the knife not been right up against Lucy’s neck, ready to slice her open.
    The wobbles of Psyduck started, the prowling Luxray making his little eyes grow wider and wider. Tim lunged for Alison, small bulges in her back pocket. She always carried stat pellets.
    Luxray darted away as the sleep pellet exploded in a cloud of purple smoke. Only Psyduck was close enough to succumb which was fine. He wasn’t excited to have a building fall on his head.
    “No, no, no, no.” Alison took the opportunity to pull her stun gun and aim as Brockton was dragging Lucy back. Tears streamed down the young reporter’s face. “Let her go, Brockton.” Luxray pranced after his partner with his tail curling back and forth mocking them.
    The world stood still around them, Berger cocking a gun and his Machoke cracking knuckles behind them. Her own gun fell limp, dangling from a finger while Lucy begged. They could only watch as Brockton forced her through the empty squad room and down the stairwell.


 

    “Lieutenant, I saw,” his reflexes were even worse than when they’d both competed on the mat. Ali spun, taking the barrel in her hand and twisting it away. The clip dropped free and slid under desks as grip slammed into Berger’s dumb face. He tried for one more swing at her but she caught him and twisted hard. Berger collapsed at her feet wailing.  Her and Tim still stood close enough that Machoke’s intended swing could hit them both. She planted her shoulder into Tim again, knocking him away. Dodging the punch Ali locked his arm to her. Her momentum carried her up high enough to land a hard cross.
    Vaguely she was aware of Harry shouting, Yoshida and Bernie joining and finally Tim next to her saying something. She couldn’t stay focused on them. Blood rushed through her ears in roaring waves. Jumping over Machoke, Ali sprinted through the room and jumped entire flights of stairs. She had no plan. She just needed to get to the auxiliary parking garage under the building. Brockton was sure to take Lucy somewhere with little security coverage. If he’d hidden himself well enough from the cameras, it might look like he was saving Lucy.
    With each leap down a flight of stairs her shoulder crashed into the wall. The rest of his squad was somewhere. Two members and two partners unaccounted for. If they were involved at all. It only mattered if she encountered them.

Chapter Text

    She’d left her weapons in the squad room which Ali only realized when she had nothing in her hand as she carefully walked through the first level of the parking garage. Squad cars and motorcycles waiting on service or repairs lined this level. Generally, after the end of the day shift this would get closed off but even during the day it was mostly empty. Someone should be around soon. Soon.
    Water dripped from pipes, condensation falling from the sprinkler system. No one was coming in or going out and everything felt unusually still. Ali held her hands up over her head. If she ran into Brockton she didn’t want him to think she’d be shooting first and attack or kill Lucy. Not that she had anything to shoot with.
    Passing the open garage door Ali started making the descent to the lower level when she saw movement outside. Pokemon milling around. She could hear them talking and scampering. No. Now she’d have to keep him and that damned Luxray down in the lower level. He was a damn good shot with a Tunderbolt but one good blast from Electric Terrain and all those innocent little Pokémon were potential victims.


 

    “Damnit, Harry.” Yoshida groaned. Harry groaned too. She made a scene. Of course she made a scene and before he got there. Frantic, Bernie raced through the squad room after Tim. “Get me all available on duty officers here now.” Yoshida growled into the radio. “Lower parking garage and hurry!”
    She hadn’t been gentle. Harry kicked Berger’s arm eliciting a scream. She’d rotated it until it snapped. “What the hell is happening, you little piece of Tauros crap?” Psyduck’s snores rattled next to the desk. He knew that Psyduck. “Oh my god, what the hell is Brockton doing?”
    “She’s lost it, Detective! She attacked for no reason. We were only keeping people safe but then she snapped and took that reporter!”
    Yoshida hovered over the Machoke, Snubbull sniffing rampantly. Following his nose to the staircase, Snubbull hopped into the stairwell.
    “Pikachu, follow Tim and Bernie.” He called as him and Hide chased Snubbull.


 

    Electricity crackled in his cheeks as Pikachu dove off each landing down another flight of stairs following the sound of Tim and Bernie running. He tried listening for Ali. She must have been too far away and treading too lightly to hear.
    “Pikachu?” The dim parking garage made him pause, long enough for his eyes to adjust. Faint footsteps echoed from ahead of him, so soft even he had to strain to hear them. No one was running like they had been before. As he trotted down the first level of the garage Pikachu found the open garage door. Chattering Emolgas waved their tails and ears at him. Giggling at his confusion while he turned in circles trying to figure which way to go next.
    “Pika pi pi pi?”
    “Emolga? Emolga.” A lone Emolga glided down from the neighboring building’s sign. Pikachu sniffed, turning towards the ramp to the next level. He heard Ali’s voice echoing and Tim. He could hear…no feel Tim’s anxiety ratchet up.
    “Pi pi! Pi pi!” Emolga followed him down to the second level of the garage.


 

    Ali passed the stairwell he should have come out from. Either he was hiding or he’d gone to the back of the second floor. Somehow she had to draw him out.
    “Brockton!” Her voice carried all through the garage. The second floor felt hollow with so few cars compared to the first floor of the garage. Many times this level was set up for training exercises. Wood standees shaped like people or buildings or any number of objects lined the walls, all filled with bullet holes, scorch marks and peeling paint. They made an okay place to hide but Lucy could easily kick one and reveal their location. More dark shadows. Support pillars were the best bet and she checked behind them carefully as she called out. “Alex…”
    “Don’t use my first name like I’m some dumbass. I know how to talk someone down. Try to connect with them. Empathize.” Wood clattered around her, still echoing like mad. “I’m a better cop than you! Always have been, Angeles.”
    She couldn’t get a bearing on him yet. It was not until he stepped out with Lucy that she was sure Lucy was even still alive. She was still unharmed, for the moment. Her face streaked with tears she was mumbling now. Trying hard to keep her sobbing at bay.
    “Fine! Brockton!” Keep him talking, that was the next thing. One foot at a time she started to close the gap until he twisted the knife closer to Lucy’s neck. “Brockton! Look at me.”
    “God, Angeles. I can’t understand why you snapped!” Good. Great. Either he snapped or he had something recording this. A camera, his phone, something.
    “Yeah?” Another step closer. They were only feet away now. Lucy struggled between trying to free herself and not so he wouldn’t hurt her.
    Heavy footfalls could be heard, as if they were coming from every direction. “Alison! Lucy!” Fuck! Not the backup she was hoping for.
    Not that Brockton wanted her to get any backup either. The knife wobbled as Lucy tried to free just her hands, clawing at Brockton. She was not nearly as strong as him and couldn’t pry his hand off the hilt.
    “No.” In the cavernous garage even her breathing echoed loudly back at her. Frantically she waved them back. “No, no, Brockton. Ignore them. You’re right. I mean, I hate her.” He was too calm, his breathing was now even. What was wrong? Something was wrong. “You know how it is.” He wanted her closer. Silently beckoning her so she would get closer. “She couldn’t let go of the guy I like. She’s a bitch, Brockton. So, yeah. I want her out of the way.”
    Mercifully, Bernie must have kept Tim quiet.
    Stretching Ali’s fingers grazed his arm, “But…what would be better revenge? Me in jail? Or…I resisted arrest, Brockton. Right?” His eyes looked glazed. His decision had been made before she’d said anything. Letting Lucy go, Alison gave her a push toward the Tim.
    There was no time to think, Brockton lunged at her shoving the knife into her side amid a flurry of screaming. Sliding along her ribs Ali’s side joined the chorus echoing. “Watch your friends die.”


 

    Both boys caught hold of Lucy. They were also captivated as the knife slid free. Fur flew past Tim, Pikachu and another in tow as Brockton shouted, “Lux, they’re all accomplices.”
    Arcing around Luxray, a Thunderbolt charged. They needed shelter and they needed it now but there was nothing to hide behind but pillars. Dropping Lucy’s arm, Bernie made a dash for the nearest pillar, Lucy trailing behind and having to haul Tim with her. Ali laid motionless on the ground.
    “Pikachu! Thunderbolt!” Tim had no plan. Try to cancel out the other was the best idea he had. And not get fried since they were surrounded by Electric types. As Tim said it, Ali surprised him by jumping up, sprinting for Luxray and straight into the first Thunderbolt. “No!” Her body shook with the violence of raw electricity until Pikachu reached them and sent another Thunderbolt at Luxray. Both Bernie and Lucy took hold fighting to stop him from running back to her even as she collapsed to the ground. Brockton kicked at her chest.
    Emolga glided above them all, keeping close to the ceiling until she was close to Brockton. Unleashing a furious Quick Attack on him.


 

    Breathing came in hitches. Everything really fucking hurt. Helped along by Brockton’s kick. A few chuckles ached but were worth it when the Emolga attacked him. The feeling didn’t last long as he pitched the little Pokemon across the garage.
    Coughs sputtered out of her, inciting him again. “God, why won’t you just die?” Rolling over she deflected the first punch, sending her own into his knees. Brockton buckled giving her enough time to try to get her feet under her again. Blood drenched his arm and shoulder from Emolga’s attack and she added to it, blows causing more blood to pour from the wounds. He wasn’t going to go quietly.
    He hurled her into the air by her armpits, right into a pillar. Protecting her face she took repeated punches to where he’d stabbed the knife in. She could barely move.  Ramming her head into his, again, she got a shoulder into his chest and he dropped her.
    Mimicking when she’d sparred with him in the boxing ring after the academy, both raised their fists taking jabs and crosses. Blood and sweat drenched their faces but something was wrong. Her footing felt strange, uneven. She’d lost blood but not enough to feel wobbly.
    And his smug-ass smile. “God, I did get you. You feel that?” His voice distorted before her and she could barely stand now. The shadows behind him moved, swirling and jumping rather unlike shadows. A huge cross knocked her down. Dragging herself up took too long.
    Throwing her hands in the air again, she stumbled back one step, two steps. Brockton’s smile only grew wider. Three officers tackled Brockton as black ate away at her vision.


 

    First out from the pillar, Tim ran to Alison’s side, praying to every god he could think of from every region he could think of. Bernie unzipped her hoodie, revealing a thick, protective vest.
    “Oh, you crazy genius. That damn vest.” Sweat continued to bead along her paling forehead.
    “She’s barely breathing, Bernie.” Tim’s chest constricted as he fought the rising dread. Bernie, to his credit, was already unzipping the vest.
    “It looks like the effects of a poison attack on a Pokemon.” The vest had kept the knife from piercing her chest mostly. A small cut tore through her shirt. Nothing more than an inch long. Her knife skittered near them during the fight. Smelling the blade, “Roses? Do you smell roses?”
    “Roses?” Tim asked.
    “Roselia.” They said together.
    Gentle hands tipped Ali’s head back. Bernie checked her pulse. Behind them Yoshida was calling for an ambulence but no matter what they would be too late. They needed to do something now. Cuffs slammed onto Brockton’s wrists feet away, a maniacal laugh still bouncing around the garage.
    Tim tried to block it all out. Alison’s chest was rising slower and slower. “If it’s a poison attack…I mean…Roselia has a cure.”
    “That would be great if she were a Pokemon!” Bernie carefully lifted one arm out of the vest, then the other.
    “What about the cure…the-the solution! What I asked you to test!”
    “Oh, oh my god.” Bernie patted all his pockets. Hidden in his breast pocket of his jacket he cursed his fingers for not being able to get a grip on it. The cut in her shirt slid around. Tim found the matching small cut along her ribs as Bernie dumped the contents of the tiny bottle on the wound. They waited. Bernie kept checking his watch, feeling for her pulse. Seconds kept ticking, dragging on.  Tim feared they were wrong. It was taking forever. People filled the lower garage and flashing lights.  “Oh thank god,” Bernie collapsed back and Tim, finally, exhaled.
 


    Harry joined the party late, keeping to the edges with Lt. Yoshida as the ambulances arrived. Paramedics flooded the garage. Before he knew what was happening, Tim was moved away from Alison as she was loaded on to a stretcher. Lucy and Bernie were corralled with Tim by more paramedics as officers taped off the scene.
    Their injuries all were minor compared to Ali’s but they had to go through the motions. Pikachu stood guard with Tim as the medic finished. He couldn’t tell if minutes or hours had passed. The garage was filled with flashing lights and people bustling around him. Lucy and, now awake and blissfully calm, Psyduck sat with him on the bumper of an ambulance watching.
    “I’m sorry.” They both stared off at the crowd. “I-I got really wrapped up in my own world and losing you. It was stupid.” Painfully, Tim nodded back. Never looking away from the crowd. “She saved me. She didn’t have to.”
    “She’s a damn good cop.” He finally said.
    “Yeah, she is.” One of the officers had recovered her notes, “Here. More evidence to counter Sergeant Brockton’s story.”
    “Duck?”
    Lucy stood. She still needed to give a statement.
    “You know,” he blocked her from leaving. He felt nauseous after the adrenaline subsided and assumed it was the fear of losing either Lucy or Alison. Eventually, he’d realized he would have to say something to Lucy. “Just because I, maybe, don’t want to go on another date doesn’t mean I don’t want to be friends.”
    “Yeah?”
    “Yeah. We could get coffee again. Or…something.”
    “Right now, I could use a drink.” Even if she was too young for that he got it.  
    “Yeah, me too.” Pikachu darted off to Harry, jumping up to his shoulder. Her cue to leave, she wandered off to give her statement.
   

Chapter Text

    The hospital was a bust. Either Alison was listed under a different name, someone gave explicit instructions to not allow visitors, or she’d been discharged which was completely insane given her injuries. He tried the next closest hospital but no luck there either. Her apartment was a last resort.
    His fist just hovered near the door, ready to knock. What if she just didn’t want to see him? What if she’d just instructed the hospital to not let him in. He’d understand someone putting the blame on him for this mess.
    Arm sore he had to make a decision. Either knock on the door or just go home and try again tomorrow. Finally, he knocked.
    “This was stupid,” he berated himself, waiting for the door to open. She was too injured to be here.
    Turning to leave, Tim heard a grunt behind him with the scraping of wood on wood. “Tim?” Alison asked weakly. Swallowing hard, Tim braved a look. She wore loose fitting shirt and pants, pulling a sweater closed around her. Half her face was covered in black and blue and greenish hues. And all her weight was on the door knob to keep her up. “Shockingly, I have looked and felt worse.”
    “Why aren’t you in the hospital? No, I know why but this is crazy.” The words just came out and didn’t stop.
    She was so weak and every movement, every breath, made her wince while he babbled. “Did you bring me roses?”
    He hadn’t even remembered they were there. Carrying them to two hospitals and her apartment made a few wilt and fall with broken stems or lose petals. They were, thankfully, mostly in tact.
    “Yeah.”
    “Your dad sent flowers yesterday.” Backing up to invite him Tim came in to see the big bouquet of lilies complete with a note ‘Get well soon. Love the Goodmans’.
    “Wish he’d told me that.” Tim cursed again under his breath. Alison used the door to keep her upright while she closed it. “I can’t believe you came home already. You should still be in the hospital,” he said with his free hand out to help her across to the couch. Instead she took the roses to the kitchen.
    “I hate hospitals.” She moved slowly, unwrapping the flowers. “Why did you bring roses?”
    His answer was simple, “You like roses.”
    “All girls like roses.” Every move was like moving through syrup the way she got her scissors out and took each rose cutting the bottom off the stem.
    “No, you really like roses.” She shouldn’t be doing so much. Just cutting the stems was hard for her. He covered her hand and took the scissors. “When you thought that the cure solution was from a Snorlax you said it smelled like roses. Snorlax dust smells different to everyone. Whatever is most comforting.”
    “Heh, you sound like an investigator.” He only heard her murmur because he was standing so close. “Thank you and I’m really sorry about what happened.”
    “Why?” He stayed close while he tried to mimic the way she cut the first couple roses, fearing she would collapse.
    “You got mixed up in…never mind. How’s Lucy?”
    “She’s…fine.” He’d actually texted her more in the last two days than he had in the week after their failed date. Alison nodded slowly, letting her loose hair fall into her face.
    “Good, I’m glad.” Except she didn’t sound glad, at all.
    “We decided that being friends was best.” He couldn’t concentrate on cutting the roses and talking. Setting the scissors down he decided to help her back to the couch. She wobbled and her hand shook when she tried to tuck her hair behind her ear again. “Everything ok?”
    “Oh,” her response stuttered when his hand took her elbow and the other on her back steering her to the couch. “Yeah, I’m not suspended anymore. Just on medical leave. Tim?” Her other thoughts floated away as she tripped into him. He caught her around the waist then dropped his arm away again just as quickly.
    He couldn’t place why he was so nervous now around her. There was the uncertainty of whether she remembered several nights ago and her drunken antics. He’d be utterly embarrassed if he remembered that too. But there was the promise he’d made.
    She was saying something that he didn’t hear. “Alison?” She paused long enough for him to make, maybe, the worst decision of the day. She was right there and looking at him with a sweet little grin twinkling beneath her bruises.
    That was all it took. He scooped her closer and kissed her.


 

    Ali was completely unprepared for Tim. In every way possible. The kiss, this one right now, just added to that. If she weren’t so bruised reciprocating would be easier. Breaking back with a sharp inhale she tried to regain every aspect that had been thrown off. She’d forgotten how to breath and was left gasping for air with her knees starting to buckle under her.
    Mistaking her need for air and inability to figure out basic bodily functions since he’d said her full name, Tim apologized, “I’m sorry. I am so sorry. I just…I had hoped you remembered the promise you made me make. I am an idiot.” Tim started to put her at arms length but thought better while she continued to find comfort in breathing again.
    Clinging to his arms, Ali asked, “Promise?” When had she made him promise anything? She’d kept her feelings buried knowing he didn’t need more melodrama in his life. Now, thanks to him and kiss, the floodgate was thrown wide open. She felt like she would simultaneously vomit, hyperventilate and never ever let him go again.
    Tim was starting to ease away with more sorry’s as she was able to stand again on her own and breath.  Fighting her aching body Ali grabbed his neck, bringing him down to her again. She didn’t care what his answer was. Her fingers moved down his arm, curled into his shirt until she remembered the need to breath again and the gasps returned.  
    “Ok, I thought you didn’t remember the promise.” He brushed hair from her face, his head gently bumping hers.
    She didn’t dare look him in the eye, not yet. He was trying to see hers so she squeezed them tight and admitted, “I don’t. I have no idea what promise you’re talking about.” This time her knees did buckle. The unexpected weight tugged Tim down too. “Can we wait on a date until my lungs aren’t on fire from the cracked rib?”
    Tim helped her get to her feet again. “Cracked…rib?”
    “Yeah. That and the spinning. Not sure if that is the concussion or whatever.” Keeping her eyes squeezed tight, Alison braced herself on him willing the world to stop moving.
    “Concussion.” His moan broke her as she cracked her eyes open, “You should be under doctor’s supervision. All the time.” That completely broke her into fits of laughter which she regretted instantly and yet couldn’t stop. Pain shot through her chest with each heaving chuckle in a vicious cycle.
    “Are you ok?” Tim walked her to the couch as she fought to breath.
    “Yes.” And collapsed on the couch and into more giggles. “No,” she admitted. “I got stabbed. Right here.”
    Snatching her hand as it lifted her shirt Tim shrieked, “Stop taking your clothes off around me.” Effectively stopping both of them in their tracks. “That’s not-I didn’t mean.”
    “I have literally never heard that before.” Her giggles had finally subsided, one or two popping up and making Ali’s chest ache. “Wasn’t exactly on the table. Or couch.” Ok, that made her giggle again since she was lying on the couch looking up at him.
    “Someone save me from myself.”
    “Nope. I could watch this all night.” Everything hurt so much again. In her face. Throughout her chest, the aches spreading into her arms and making her nauseated again. None of that stopped her from beaming.
    “You probably will on our date.”
    From the entertainment stand a groggy, “Emolga?” Brown and white fur hovered over the edge.
    “Is that the Emolga from the garage?” He noticed scars near her ears and a small patch of fur missing on the side of her head.
    Ali eased herself to sitting, tossing her books and tablet onto the floor near the coffee table. She’d pretty much been living on the couch and hadn’t really cleaned anything up since she had gotten home.
    “Yeah, I guess they thought she was my partner and let her in the ambulance with me. She hasn’t left since. I don’t know if she has a home but I was going to let her stay as long as she wants as thank you.” Cautious, Tim approached Emolga. Electric types could become territorial and zap without warning. Though, from this one, he had nothing to worry about. She accepted head scratches gratefully, squeaking and churring sweetly. “I-uh-I should thank you.” As if the intimate moment they’d just shared wasn’t enough to make her blush furiously. “The doctors said I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.”
    “Says the girl who jumped in front of a Thunder Bolt.” He offered to bring Emolga down but she hopped off the top, gliding to the spot Ali patted on the couch. “I need to be thanking you. Both of you.”
   “Yeah, well not the first time I did that either.”
    Making room on the couch for Tim to join her, Ali buried her face in a pillow. Hot and flushed she was just happy her brain remembered how to breath. Of course, when she thought that she momentarily forgot again. Emolga scampered onto them, plopping down right on both their laps, giving her enough of a jolt to take a quick inhale.
    “She likes you.” Her ears bent down as she nuzzled into the petting from both.
    “I think you have a new partner.”
    “Maybe.”
     “Well, a wise, unnamed, person once told me that sometimes you have to let the partner choose you.” Drawing her closer Tim hesitated, making Ali make the move. Gently she knocked her forehead into him, letting him press a kiss to her forehead. “Hmm?”
    “Yeah? Smart person.” Her blush furiously returned and Ali buried herself into Tim’s arm so he couldn’t see.
    “I never said it was you. Jack is smarter than he looks. Brilliant even.” Emolga snuggled Tim. Chittering when Ali punched him in the arm, a feat since she still felt as if she were sluggish and moving through some viscous fluid. She must have still had some strength because he rubbed the spot gingerly, even wincing. He watched her quietly for a moment, the unbruised side of her face. Just watching her.
    “How much is the coffee table bothering you.”
    “So much.”


 

    Harry had closed out two cases, praising that he was done with Mrs. Westin for the foreseeable future. That made two more invoices ready to be created and no one around to write them. Balling a piece of paper Harry realized he’d been alone most of the day when the front door opened.
    Tim caught the balled up paper before it hit the trash can. Unfurling the paper, “Which case was this from and why is it not in the shoe box?”
    But Harry pretended to be reviewing his schedule and case notes. Upside down. Again. “Where were you all day?”
    “Alison is home.” He hefted a bag onto the counter and unloaded the containers.
    “Yes, she hates hospitals.” Harry’s mouth watering before Tim could get half the bag unloaded, he was swatted away from the food as soon as he came close.
    “Could have told me that this morning.” Tim shoved the receipt back at him to put away properly. “I went to two hospitals.”
    “You’re taking the licensing test, I assumed you could figure it out.” Pikachu dug out the shoe box and met Harry back at the desk.
    “And you sent her flowers from us.” Tim knew his weakness, opening a container of fresh dumplings. Wafting the steam around the office.
    “So, what did you bring her?”
    “Roses.” That scent was familiar. The steamed buns from the little shop three doors away from Ali’s building.
    “Good choice. Ali’s favorite flower.”
    Drool not only formed, it was dripping out the side of his mouth. Those were his favorite. “So, what’s with the food?” Harry asked as his son continued to taunt him.
    “Alison asked me to buy her dinner.”
    “And…you went around to every stand and shop? There are easier ways to figure out what she likes. Detectives do things like ask questions.” All the receipts were in the box and Harry was ready for a dumpling. Tim slapped him away again.
    “I got exactly what she asked me to get.” He handed over the tray, not actually hungry. The containers were all different, mostly not take out containers, more like people’s Tupperware containers. “I might have told Mrs. Futaba that Alison was injured at work.”
    That explained all this. “You never tell a little old Kanto woman…”
    “Because I have been around a lot of old Kanto women,” Tim stopped seeing that his dad was currently scooping up containers and carrying them to his desk. Harry wasn’t listening anyways.
    In a huff, Tim went and threw his jacket on coat rack and started cleaning up the office which he’d left fairly clean in the morning. Harry watched his son while him and Pikachu gobbled up the food. He hadn’t said anything but saw more books that Ali must have lent him about various topics, some even being handbooks she’d received at the academy. She knew better than anyone what it would take to be a great investigator or detective.
    A note sat on the last container, ‘Get well soon. Can’t wait to see you at the book store again.’ He’d known she was well liked by a lot of people in the neighborhood. She always stopped to help them, fix things or take on extra cases in a more unofficial capacity. Looked like he had two great kids and he couldn’t even take credit for them.
    Harry cleared his throat though that barely made Tim pause. “I should have told you this sooner.” Tim stopped long enough to drop a stack of folders next to the stack of empty containers to be washed. “I’m really proud of you.”
   

Chapter Text

Alison was dumping things into a pot with low heat. He’d watched her cook enough in the last ten days and still wasn’t sure how she did it. Her choices of ingredients seemed random. Passing him a spoon with sauce for him to taste his eyes lit up but she just shook her head, “Nope. Not there yet.” It was great and yet she stood there pondering what else to throw in. Never once did he see her use a recipe. She had a few old books covered in dust.  
    Tim felt his phone vibrate and chewed on whether to answer. Jack. He’d texted and emailed with Jack enough lately but he’d left out lots of big details. Mostly…everything.
    “Answer it.” Alison sweetly shooed him from the counter, taking the spoon back.
    Tim obliged, though somewhat begrudgingly. He could already picture how this would go. “Hey.”  
    “Dude, why did you not tell me you were staying in Ryme?” Jack took off with this, “I just got an email from my mom that you put in at the Insurance place and hadn’t been back! And that was weeks ago! I thought you were just staying a little longer to spend time with-” Yeah, he really hadn’t told Jack anything. Honestly, he never believed in bad luck or good luck yet he feared if he talked about how good things were going in his life, finally, it would all just fall apart again. Maybe that was silly. Tim turned expecting Alison to be listening intently to him but she’d cranked her music on her headphones, bopping along happily. Giving him privacy like the kind, sweet girlfriend she was. Damn.
    “Oh, yeah. Well, it was kind of a sudden decision and I still have to go back and get stuff from my Gran’s.” Another thing he hadn’t even really put any thought into. He knew he needed, at the very least, his clothes. Although Gran seemed to sense what he would need and kept sending care packages with little things here and there. He would like to have all his clothes though and stop borrowing his dad’s.
    “That’s fantastic! Man, have you been checking out all the clubs? I hear the women in Ryme are fiiiiiiiiine.” Tim groaned, he hated when Jack got like this.  Not bothering to hide a cringe, it deepened when Alison giggled. His heart leapt fearing she’d actually heard everything but Emolga and Pikachu were batting each other trying to get a snack out of her. “Oh, how’s that little hottie you told me about.”
    He’d mentioned Lucy, literally, once and if he remembered correctly it had to do with finding his dad. Not their date. “Lucy? She’s…fine. Don’t say it.” Too late.
    “You said it!” Jack retaliated. “Come on, you gotta get yourself out there. Even if it’s just for me. I need to live through you! Especially being in the big city!” Declarations like this meant something.  Maybe he’d made a fool of himself out at a bar or club with his new coworkers. He’d had a date that ended badly or just been rejected again. No matter what phone calls with Jack were just as exhausting as hanging out with him.
    Watching Alison turn off the burner he fell into the couch. “I hate clubs, you know that.” Her face was finally turning mostly normal colors again. From this distance she looked completely healed. And striking even in her jeans and t-shirt. Completely and unequivocally out of his league. “Besides,” this was it, telling Jack was hard because he knew what was coming, “I met someone.”
    “You? Timothy Goodman, met someone? Like, a female? And spoke to her without her…?”
    “Yes.”
    “Same guy that blurted out his grandma dressed him when Chrissy Whitmore complimented you at Junior Homecoming?”
    God he was glad Alison was still busy. His lips already felt chapped from biting them. “Yeah.”
    “Also the same guy that said, and I quote, ‘It will be a cold day in hell when Becca talks to me let alone stand close enough to me to dance’.”
    “That’s-that…You set me up! She was standing behind me when you said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if Becca asked you to turnabout?’” This was not what he’d signed up for. He was fully capable, and did, remind himself nightly of his idiocy. He could just imagine what Jack would tell Alison. The same Alison whose feet were in front of him. Holding out another spoon with sauce as she casually climbed onto his lap. “What are you doing?”
    “I’m questioning the authenticity of one Timothy Goodman telling me he is seeing a woman.” Jack inhaled sharply, splitting his ear. “You hired her, right?”
    “I-I didn’t hire…god. Why did I tell you?” She shoved the spoon in his face, expecting one last judgment then used that distraction to snatch his phone. Tim tried to reach for it and of course this was one of the few instances that tiny little Alison would be able to keep something out of his reach. “Alison! What are you…?” She cut his answer off pointing to the spoon and not taking no for answer, little kitchen sorceress.  
    In that momentary lapse she’d done something, pressed some buttons and shoved the phone back in his hand all while Jack was calling, “Dude! Tim! Did I lose you? Wait, did you send something to me?”
    “Oh, for the love of…I am disowning both of you!” Harry crossed the room, both Pokemon jumping off the breakfast bar and following him happily, chattering and making sparks. His dad was constantly chastising them, warning them they’d start a fire, but two happy little Electric types were not to be contained apparently.
    “What did you do?” But his phone was back at the call and he decided answering Jack’s increasingly hysteric rants became more important. Plus he wanted to ignore Alison flipping off his dad.
    “Whoa. Dude. Who is that? She’s hot.”
    “She sent you a picture?” Tim went back to scroll through his camera roll and sure enough a selfie was the last picture. “How…whatever.”
    “No, you hired that girl. She’s, like, hot enough to be a…”
    “Don’t finish that if you ever want me to talk to you again.”
    “I need all the details. Every. Single. One. About. Every. Single.”
    “Stop! No! You need to go back to work.” This was worse than what he’d imagined. Alison did her best to cheer him up while simultaneously annoying the hell out of Harry by still sitting in his lap and making him contemplate what he’d done that life or karma was constantly out to make him uncomfortable. Jack was babbling about texting him every nuance of this mystery girl but Tim insisted Jack would get nothing out of him and, “Goodbye!” And hung up.
    “That is disgusting.” Ali glared at his dad, only the corners of her mouth turning up when he yelped as both Electric types shocked him. “Almost as bad as my two former children kissing.”
    “You say that like we’ve done more.” Ali’d pulled a throw pillow over, aiming for Harry and launched.
    “Zip it! Zero information needed!” This normal bickering started to take a disturbing twist, “Do we need to have the…?”
    He couldn’t, “No! No, we do not!” Exhaustion took hold and it was barely noon. He wasn’t sure he would make it to dinner. Forgetting himself, Tim buried himself in the couch.
    “I kind of want to hear this talk.” Why did he surround himself with people who teased him?
    “Really?” He couldn’t believe his ears. Harry wretched but Tim found the spot on her ribs and unleashed. Yelping she hopped across the couch from him, battering him with a pillow but no other retaliation. Even though she was more than capable.
    When her laughter died down and both him and Harry went on with their own business without offering up anything else she said, “Damn.” Then finished getting dinner ready.


 

    “I just…I can go…this is weird. It’s weird, right?” Lucy asked on their way up to the roof.
    “Only if you make it weird.” Tim had run back down to the apartment to gather the rest of their grilling utensils when he’d run into Lucy. She was trying so hard to find another excuse to leave.
    Alison was busy fanning the coals, trying to get the flames to spread a bit before she allowed them to die back down. Emolga greeted the newcomers. Hopping around, little sparks flicked between her ears as she tackled Psyduck in a hug. Lucy hovered at the door, ready to escape again. By the shoulders Tim forcibly pushed her toward the grill. One shuffling step, then another Lucy eventually ended up standing next to Alison.
    “Hi,” she squeaked out.
    “Hey.” Shaking her head, Alison went back to paying attention to the grill.
    Doing everything she could, adjusting her shirt and fixing her hair, Lucy eventually said, “I-uh-I really wanted to say…thank you.” Lucy bent over, trying to see if Alison had heard her. “For saving me. In the garage. And…I-I’m sorry for trying to…”
    Alison took her time. She stood straight up and took one sharp inhale. “I was doing my job.”
    “Your job.” Lucy whispered under her breath.
    Tim hadn’t asked Alison much about the sudden invite for dinner. When he did he got noncommittal answers and a kiss that he didn’t question much. “Look,” she finally faced Lucy, “I’m not a fan of reporters for many, many reasons. But,” Tim fiddled with the camera he’d been trying to learn about all day and still didn’t make much sense. The roof didn’t afford much privacy, both girls had to know he could hear them, Alison confirming that with a quick glance at him. “Tim really likes you. You’re his friend. So-”
    “Yeah.” Lucy agreed.
    Bernie crashed through the door with his dad, full of grins and arms filled with bags.
    “Oh thank god.” Lucy breathed.
    Tim hoped that meant they had some kind of truce. He’d honestly expected more from both of them, they were girls. He thought they talked about clothes and hair and gossiped about stuff and they’d be surprisingly good friends after Alison saved Lucy. But he didn’t really understand women, that was very clear.


 

    Pulling Harry aside, Bernie had been working on a case with him. Normally he would openly discuss such things with Alison and Tim around but he seemed wary of reporters too.
    “Didn’t we say no shop talk tonight!” Alison called. She lobbed a piece of paper at his dad’s head.
    Pointing to the bag, “Dig in, sweetie. Daniel insisted he would not show up if I didn’t bring his favorite.” Inside the bags Bernie had brought several six packs of beer as well as a few assorted non-alcoholic choices. “No idea if anyone is-”
    “Good call!” Passing a soda down to Lucy, Ali offered Tim his choice. “You’re underage and I am still a cop.” Waffling, Tim declined either for now. Even with their silent truce he felt the tension ebb and flow with the girls.
    “I didn’t know you invited Daniel too.” Standoffishly quiet, Alison shrugged while gulping down a beer. He could feel her bouncing the crate that doubled as a table with her foot. She was wound tight. Very anxious.  
    Lucy didn’t seem to realize or care, “Bernie’s pretty cute.” A small sigh escaped. Lucy was on the hunt again at their dinner, which was really weird.
    With a single peek in their direction, “He’s single again.” Alison said more to her beer than anyone else.
    “How?” Tim complained, then realized that her beer was almost empty.
    “He’s not wearing his ring.” She tipped the beer at them. “Plus the beer, in excess. Bernie never drinks beer. He’s more of a mixed drink guy. Daniel, he drinks beer.”
    Suddenly, Lucy felt the need to check her make up and hair, “What kind of girl does he like?” Tim couldn’t believe his ears. Was he hearing things?
    Her beer gone, Alison reached for another, “You’re not his type.” Lucy stopped cold.
    “Let me guess,” her tone had turned icy. No, no, no. Not again. It was starting to go well-ish.
    A single snicker rattled Alison’s nose, “I’m not his type either.” Throwing her hands up, Lucy asked who would be. Alison could barely hold back her laughter, it shook her violently. “Tim,” she told her beer.
    “What?” Tim shrieked.
    “He thinks you’re cute.” Both girls dissolved into full blown fits of laughter.
    “Stop!” He swore he could hear her whisper ‘cabana boy’ into her drink. Slinking off to the grill to start the kabobs. The best decision when he heard Alison ask Bernie about his cravings for a mocha. In the dim light of evening falling and the harsh colors from the neon signs he could still see Bernie blush.
    “What did you do to my camera?” He could just hear her over the others talking and the night traffic on the street below. Harry corrected her, not that Alison was even listening to him. He saw the neon light reflect back at him from the camera lens as Alison snapped pictures just as the first skewers went on the grill. Fire flaring up startled him away from the grill.
    “Ha ha,” he mocked her, yanking the camera from Alison, “I did what you told me.”


 

    “So, I guess I should say sorry about everything with the investigation into Angel.” Bernie cracked open a beer, proffering it to her though she declined. Taking up Tim’s abandoned seat they watched Ali as she giggled behind the camera while flames shot up. While he still thought it a shame that Tim didn’t pay much attention to him Bernie adored seeing the way Tim basked in Alison’s glow and vice versa. All the little nuances people didn’t notice when they flirted with each other. Ali’s fingers brushing his arm and elbow, the little smirk she’d try to hide unsuccessfully behind the camera before trading that for the dinner he’d started putting on the grill. “I heard you and Timothy dated.”
    From the look Lucy gave him Bernie thought she might want that beer now. “Just one date. Didn’t really work out.”
    “And you came? Bold. I like that.” Holding his beer out to her their bottles clinked. “At a girl!” A sigh slipped out, “Well, we can still enjoy the view.” Tim seemed boggled by how Ali had done something to the camera, inching further away each time the grill flared up again. “So cute.” He could have meant any number of things but Harry slapped him for the single thing they all knew it implied.
    Daniel’s arrival only meant less rude commentary by Harry about the state of his son’s personal life for a brief time. Alison played at Bernie’s hair, either to fix or muss it up, as she dropped a platter full of food on their shabby chic dining table for the evening. Between introductions and praise toward Daniel and his equipment Ali tested Harry grumbled about being surrounded by children.
    “I just can’t understand where my life went wrong?”
    Taking the closest skewer, Tim collapsed into a lawn chair that threatened to collapse further. Ali took the seat next to him, biting her lip while practically drooling. Sadly, not at the man. “When you didn’t take Mrs. Westin up on her initial offer. Just think of the penthouse you could have now.”
    “Are you trying to make me lose my appetite?” But she was already jumping her own lawn chair closer. “What?” he whispered though Bernie could still hear him. They’d both stowed as much of the cute moments as the could around everyone.
    She propped her chin on his shoulder.“You took the crispy one.”
    “Oh no. Timothy, honey. Did you not know?” Bernie consoled him.
    “Relationships only work out when you compromise.” Daniel added.
    Confused, Tim looked between them then back at Ali. “You know,” Bernie continued, “Like you share snack mix and she loves the little crispy breadsticks but hates the little rye chips but you love them.” He was convinced Tim still didn’t understand completely.
    “Do you want half?” He handed over the skewer to an elated, if subdued, Ali.
    “Ah, true love.” Bernie murmured until Ali kicked out at him and Harry gagged.


 

    The first batch was gone within minutes, a testament to Alison’s cooking. The beers were going almost as fast. He’d finally opened his first beer when Tim was cornered by Bernie and Daniel while Ali started the next batch.
    “So.” Bernie cooed.
    He hadn’t even gotten a single sip in. “Yes?”
    “You and Angel go on a date yet?” Every nice thing Tim thought about Daniel was starting to evaporate. Even better was Lucy listening in.
    His teeth ground. It had been two weeks of recuperating for Alison, every single day spent with him and sometimes his dad. “No.” The expected chorus started up, Lucy joining them. “Friday. Alison is going back to work on Monday, so we agreed on Friday.” As if expecting some grand story, they all leaned into his personal space.
    “Where are you taking Angel?” Bernie insisted.
    He should have started drinking sooner. “I-I don’t know.” He didn’t. He actually had no idea what or where they would go. The date with Lucy had been horrendous enough and they hadn’t even gone out to dinner. The city was full of restaurants and parks and museums and honestly it was overwhelming to try to pick something after growing up in a small town like Leaventown. After two weeks with Alison he thought he would have had a better idea of what she liked. Well, he did. They spent time fixing things and cooking and watching television which ranged from Kanto animated shows to League matches. Plus so much reading. Mostly Alison. She tore through books. And more would come with one of the little old women that visited often to take food containers back to their owners. He eventually learned she owned a local bookstore that Alison frequented. None of this seemed to help him figure out where to take her on a date and as Friday loomed he was getting more and more nervous. “What do you think-?”
    “Oh,” Bernie mumbled and Daniel gasped.
    “You have no idea? Oh, Tim.” Daniel fretted in a similar way as Bernie. This all suddenly worried Tim as they conspired. “Well, there’s always Rock at Lycanroc. That place is marvelous. And Angel likes music.”
    “Like, so cute, Daniel honey.” Bernie may have had one too many beers. “That’s probably out of Timothy’s price range.” At price range Tim was out. A fancy dinner didn’t seem right. “There’s that new club, Ghostbar.”
    “Does Angel even go to clubs?”
    “All the time. Did you see that dress I helped her pick out months ago? Really accentuated her…well…you know.” Bernie waved dismissively at her back.
    Either way, Tim didn’t think a club was right either and he didn’t exactly like popular, overcrowded and blaringly loud places. His face said it all. Bernie and Daniel were comparing notes on the times they’d seen Alison at clubs which devolved to discussing their favorite places. Which were apparently similar. Lucy watched from the sidelines with a mixture of pity and intrigue.
    “Well, you know,” the platter magnificently refilled appeared between them all with Ali’s sarcastic little sneer, “these aren’t going to last. Not with how Mr. G is downing beers.”
    “Let me wallow in losing my children.”
    “What is he talking about?” Lucy finally found her voice again.
    Moving all the empty beer bottles to a bag and counting what was left, Alison made sure to leave them next to Daniel with a stern look, “He disowned Tim and I for dating.”
    “One day they were here, next I was left with this void.”
    “That only these kabobs can fill.” With an enthusiasm Tim had only seen when Bernie was overly caffeinated, he hopped back to his lawn chair. Alison was already back at the grill, putting the last food on.
    “You say that like this is special.” Lucy said around the food she was shoving in her mouth in a most unladylike fashion.
    Eyes wide, Bernie and Daniel nodded together, “This is the holy grail.”
    “We never thought it was even true.”
    “Like it was all some fantasy.”
    Tim scratched at his eyebrow, “Tuesday literally comes every week.” He’d been fairly sure that Bernie was her best friend which left Tim thoroughly confused. Jack had dinner with him and his Gram so many times he’d lost count. He practically had his own bed at their house.
    Their simultaneous gasps made Lucy and Harry giggle, Tim was just exasperated. “Timothy. The cooking. The food right here.” He only raised his eyebrows more, “We’ve never been to a Tuesday night dinner.”
    A skewer in each hand for Daniel, “We honestly thought it was a joke. I mean, have you seen Angel?” He’d brought his voice as low as he could, leaning in close to their little make shift table, “She’s not exactly feminine. We all had our doubts.”
    “Angel is, admittedly, more masculine than all of us combined.” A coy cough from Harry and Bernie responded, “Yes, including you.” With Daniel quickly agreeing.
    “Do you know how many bar fights she has been in?” Bernie leaned in too.
    “Also more than all of us combined.” Bar fights were not a secret apparently.  
    He had to hold back a chuckle. Not everyone’s first impression of her was them getting kissed. Or her making breakfast. Certainly not wrapped up on the couch with him under a blanket reading or watching Kanto romance shows while burying her face in his arm to stifle little squeals. Which actually was the most feminine thing he’d seen her do during her medical leave.
    “The number is also higher than the number of meals I will ever cook for you. Enjoy it now.” A familiar growl made Bernie jump. It was guttural and raw. They wouldn’t be seeing a Tuesday night dinner this big again for a while. If ever.
    Daniel’s voice wavered even as he feigned confidence, “Yeah? We know where you have your dinners now.”
    Handing Tim one of the two slightly crispier skewers, “Daniel. You’re a top researcher for Clifford R&D, I know you’re not stupid.” Obviously they always had dinner at Harry’s place.
    “And if we just pop in?”
    Ali didn’t say anything but a familiar crackle electrified the air.  He had no idea where Alison had produced the taser from. She kept clicking it on and off, the electricity arc lighting her face menacingly.


 

    When dinner had wound down Tim offered to walk Lucy to the closest train stop.
    “I brought my car.” She offered a little wave goodbye to Alison and her and Psyduck made the journey down the street to her tiny car. Bernie and Daniel had graciously decided to finish the last of the beer. Tim thought they might need help getting home but Ali shook her head.
    “Squirtle will make sure they make it to the clinic. Maybe they’ll finally hook up.” That hadn’t been Tim’s imagination then.
    Finally down to the three of them and the two little electric Pokemon, Harry excused himself citing the need to not see them  be intimate in any way and therefore he could maintain his delusion that Tim would always be an innocent little boy.
    “Him! He’s the innocent one?” But Alison quickly clamped down on her own mouth. A moment later, “Yeah. Fine. I will concede that one.”
    Only a single bag to carry and not weighed down with much other than dirty containers she’d insisted she could wash at home Tim didn’t argue. Neither said much during the first block’s worth of walking after Alison pointed up at the window and made a show of playfully grabbing at Tim’s waist and snuggling until Harry vented his frustrations by raining paper balls at them via the rubber band stretched between his fingers.
    “He will never grow up,” Alison grumbled. When Alison stopped him from crossing the street while a car was passing, she’d finally twined her fingers with his as Emolga scrambled up his leg to his shoulder.
    “Ok, what did they say?”
    “What?”
    “Bernie and Daniel said something that got under your skin.”
    Too late to laugh it off Tim shook his head at her. “They asked where we were going on our date Friday night.”
    The grocery bag bounced against both their legs as they walked, her free hand trailing up his arm. She kept him gently on track to not run into anything on the sidewalk, “They suggest some hip new restaurant that I bet is so crazily overpriced neither of us could afford even an appetizer?” He exhaled slowly, “Yup. Then did they suggest some club that is so exclusive we’d practically need to be celebrities to get in, it is the height of popularity in the inner city?” She didn’t even wait for him to blow out the next breath, “Yup. Those are things they like. Bernie loves, and I mean loves, those expensive restaurants with his arm candy. And Daniel can get into any club almost as easily as I can.”
    “I just-” he stopped walking altogether. He didn’t want to screw up. They were already at the steps for her building. The light across the street from her front door had been fixed, illuminating the front of her building. Soft reflections of light played off every leaf crawling up the building. Tim couldn’t look at her even as she played with the collar of his shirt. Lifting herself up onto the cement handrail for the steps Alison grabbed his newly straightened collar and pulled him close, forcing him to actually see her.
    “Tim, I literally lived on the street for years. Ate out of dumpsters, begged on street corners and joined Team Skull so I could make enough money in Artist Alley to buy a sandwich.” Holding her waist Tim started fidgeting. He hadn’t wanted her to know he was having trouble figuring this out. It shouldn’t be so hard. “I am not looking for a guy to take me to some stupidly expensive restaurant when I could cook something better with whatever cash I have in my pocket.” She even shoved her hand into her pocket and counted down to the penny, “Apparently $4.23. Huh, yeah.” Money making it’s way back into her pocket Alison latched onto his waist. Sitting on the rail she made up most of the height difference, her eyes focused on every little movement his mouth made, not believing her. “I just want to get to know you.” Her fingers pressed into his sides bunching the shirt between them. Tim felt like he had no choice but to look at her, the first time since they’d started walking home which only made him feel guilty now for not paying attention to her the entire time. “You know, the person your friends know, maybe the things your friends, like Jack, don’t know. Besides, I already like you.” She needed one last boost to reach his lips with a quick kiss. “And you can finally talk to me again without saying something ridiculous.”
    Somehow she always managed to get hair everywhere even when it was in a braid or tied back. He brushed the stray hairs back, tucking them behind her ear. Whenever she kissed him he softened, though he didn’t always keep that up long, “You kept trying to strip. Not too crazy to tell you to keep your clothes on.” And what guy in his right mind says that to a beautiful woman? Him. “Damnit.”
    But it made her giggle, in that way that made his stomach flip and he thought he would screw it up again. “Take me to a movie, or a park or to do something you did as a kid and never told anyone or whatever. We don’t have to spend a dime. Being with you is what I want.”
    “Pretty sure we’ve been doing that for the last two weeks.”
    “With a change of scenery? Unless you just want to stay in.” The tiny tip of her tongue stuck through her teeth, teasing him again. Instead of trying to sit taller again she yanked him down to her level again for one last kiss, which was always the hardest to part from. Tim ripped himself away, leaving behind the temptation to go up the stairs and fall asleep on the couch with her. “See you bright and early?”
    Tim pressed a kiss right where she’d headbutted Brockton weeks before. A small scar still cutting across her forehead. “You’re supposed to be recuperating.”
    “I get bored. I’ll make eggs.” Tim played at indecision but they both knew no one wanted to eat Harry Goodman’s cooking. “See you in the morning.”  She was off the rails and snickering at him all the way up the stairs before he answered.