A chilled night had fallen upon the Tao Village of the past. A roaring, warm bonfire, reduced to its weakest flame as though it struggled to stay alight, still fought off the cold in its vicinity. After all of the hardships many of the present Pokemon had been through, they had earned their rest, and they were taking it. In scattered rows they slept, too numerous for the meager buildings to hold. It was nothing like their time, where residences were plenty. The one respite lay in the native villagers’ willingness to provide sleeping implements for their comfort.
All but one of them would rest at that hour. Seated at the dying fire with her back to a nearby log, a purple Kecleon, well-known to the rest from her time, was alone. Not only physically, but in feeling as well. The mild warmth provided by what remained of the once-great bonfire did little to comfort her. Even her blanket was cast to the side, unwanted.
Before their slumber, just about everyone had written a message to their loved ones from their time. Locked away in a most impenetrable box, it would surely get to them through the ages... that was the idea, anyway.
“... He’ll probably never even see it. What a stupid waste of time we all just went through...” PK muttered to herself, her voice cracking with held-back grief. She didn’t cry though; there were enough tears before. They were probably a waste too, she thought. The longer they’d be forced to spend their days in the past, the more she’d have to forget about that sort of thing and focus on the here-and-now, anyway.
Though she’d never admit it, many thoughts were racing through PK’s head about that very subject she was trying to convince herself to overcome. Her mind just went in circles over it without any distraction or someone to speak with. It was frustrating, and too personal for anyone around her to hear. Mike? No way. Nice guy in some ways, but he always manages to make her want to scream in some fashion, and she couldn’t handle that right then. Devonshire? He seemed practically unfazed by the entire thing... it was unsettling. She couldn’t talk to him.
Another Pokemon approached from out of PK’s view at that moment, noticed only by the sound of their movement. They didn’t speak, nor did PK find herself wanting to turn and see who it was. Gazing at that fire was perhaps the only thing keeping her sane. The only distraction, albeit a minor one. Whoever it was would probably annoy her anyway. She found herself glad, in a way, that they didn’t speak... though she heard them shuffle around next to her, probably to sit down.
Curiosity was a tough feeling to resist. PK turned her head, and saw the familiar scarred face of a Sneasel staring into the flames as she had been. It was Rhodes... and he appeared distant. For some reason, PK’s prior thoughts hadn’t turned to him as a possibility to talk to. Perhaps it was his younger age? Perhaps it was that he always seemed to favor Shroomsworth, when they were all together? She couldn’t really place what made her think that way... but in actuality, she knew she could trust him.
In those ponderous moments, Rhodes still hadn’t so much as showed notice of her. He just stared straight on. This made PK realize who would have to break the silence, which she bravely decided to do while glancing toward Rhodes, “Are you okay?”
Immediately, it felt like the stupidest thing she’d ever said, but it was his response that really made her heart jump.
PK had her problems, sure, but with that one word, that one quick, woefully confident response from someone who would never speak like that, her focus couldn’t help but shift to him. “Want to talk about it?” she quietly asked after a small delay. An uncharacteristically gentle tone from her, but she was speaking to perhaps the only remaining person who warranted it.
She watched Rhodes merely bow his head in thought. She really hadn’t seen him like that, even after Shroomsworth left. His eyes hardly moved, fixated on the ground as he spoke, “I saw how sad you were after you wrote your letter... I’d just make you sadder.”
He saw that? It wasn’t like she made much of an attempt to hide it... but he made himself so scarce at that time, she didn’t see him anywhere.
“Rhodes...” PK began, reaching an arm out and placing it over his shoulders, pulling him in for a hug of sorts. Rhodes simply let himself lean in her direction, and she continued, “... I don’t want to lie to you... we could be stuck here. I hope we’re not, but if we are... well, you might be all I’ve got. Sandy, and Malt, and... Shroomsworth, we wouldn’t see them again.” It was a difficult string of words for PK to manage, and she couldn’t do it without choking up at all. “That’s why I was... crying. All this after we fought, and...”
Further silence ensued. Another glance at Rhodes was met with him thoughtfully turning his eyes up toward the fire again. It seemed like they badly wanted to droop closed, to sleep... but perhaps just like her, he couldn’t do that.
“Winston isn’t here, is he?” Rhodes suddenly asked, apparently finally feeling up to talking.
It caught PK off-guard, as Winston was honestly the last thing on her mind. He and Rhodes did go off together though... the concern made sense. “I haven’t seen him... why?”
Oddly, Rhodes looked not toward the low-burning flame, but away from PK entirely. Then, he bluntly broke the news, “... He’s dead, then.”
To hear Rhodes say such a thing filled PK with so much more unease than if it were anyone else. Winston was far from even tolerable by her standards, but... dead? “Wh... how do you kn-- …” PK began to ask, only to catch herself and close her eyes as her mind worked a little faster than her mouth. “... Did something happen before Jasmine brought you here?”
Already, PK felt like she was stressing Rhodes. As tired as he looked, she could only feel terrible about that. Even still... she got her answer. The younger Pokemon finally looked her in the eye. “We went all the way to the mountain, and... some bad stuff happened. I tried...” Rhodes paused, averting his gaze from PK’s once more as his eyes watered, “... I tried to save him, and they caught up to him, and...” As he tried to explain himself, Rhodes was emotionally losing it. His voice seemed to struggle mid-sentence, and he simply gave up and began to cry.
PK couldn’t take it anymore. She took Rhodes in both arms rather than one, a true hug that allowed the young Sneasel to return the favor. “Shh...” she warmly consoled, simply allowing him to let out his feelings all he wanted. “We’ve been through a lot, and... and we’re not in the best place right now...” PK almost stopped, feeling an infectious desire to bawl her eyes out all the same, but managing to bear it, “... but we have each other, right? Everything’s going to be okay.”
It wasn’t so much something PK could truly believe as something she truly wanted. That they would be okay, despite the things that weighed on the both of them. Despite that, it was enough of a comfort to Rhodes that his uncontrollable crying quieted down into sniffling. In a way, helping him to calm down was helping her to do the same thing herself. Plus, simply having him there made her feel less alone.
With a turn of her head, PK spotted that discarded blanket of hers. “Hey...” she began in a whisper, releasing one arm from Rhodes just to grasp that soft, green sheet and tug it over. It was large... admittedly, she demanded it as such, refusing anything that might leave her freezing at night. “No reason we should both go sleep alone somewhere in the dirt.” She then wrapped it around the both of them, which it was the perfect size for, and she guided the both of them to lie down before the fire, which had finally died down to embers in their time spent with each other.
There was no vocal agreement from Rhodes, though he looked to her and, through his sniffling, managed a smile, and his eyes finally began succumbing to their weariness. His sleepiness was about as infectious as his sadness, and PK felt that first-hand, belting out a yawn before settling in and pulling their blanket over her shoulder.
It was cold, and things were far from better in the big picture, but they would at least sleep soundly that night.
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