A Little Time Apart
I started to push myself up to my feet, but Robin moved quickly over to me, extending his hand out to me to my surprise. I took it and he smiled, helping me to stand.
Robin turned to June and assisted her up, too. “June, what brings you here?” Robin asked.
“Um…” June hesitated and gave me a quick glance. Her hands swiftly went to her now blown out, puffy hair and ran through it in a desperate attempt to keep it down. An attempt that proved entirely unsuccessful as it instantly returned to its red cotton ball state. She grunted and sneered off to the side as her hands fell hard to her sides and then smiled forcibly. “Well, to be honest, I’m traveling with Gary.”
Robin’s eyes widened in shock. “Really...?” He turned to me, and then back to June. “That’s… um… Why?”June’s eyes shot to the ground. “I just… think Gary has a great connection with his Pokemon,” June explained shyly, growing red in her face. “He has something I wish I had better of. I want to build a stronger bond with my Pokemon, too. I’ve traveled with Gary for a while now, and I’ve learned quite a lot from him. I want to learn even more. I’ve deduced that traveling with Gary is a great way for me to learn about Pokemon.”
This was now beyond embarrassing and I kept my eyes down.
It was very quiet. Only the wind blowing could be heard now.
Robin busted out laughing, loudly. “Gary? You’re learning from Gary?” Robin laughed. “I’m sorry, but what can you possibly learn from Gary??” Robin held his stomach and kept on laughing.
“At least my Pokemon listen to me!” I scowled. “Or have you just now gotten Catherine to do what you say?”
Robin’s laughter was cut short and he shot me a dirty look.
“Well, since you won’t even battle my Charmeleon, I guess you’re unsure of if she’ll listen or not, yet,” I continued, my tone easing up, not speaking so harshly now that Robin was mad, which was what I wanted. I felt happy getting him to shut up. “How do you intend to get anywhere with a disobedient Pokemon? You’ll never officially defeat me if you can’t get her to battle me. It doesn’t matter if she won’t battle me, or my Charmeleon. You’re no Pokemon Master if you can’t master your own Pokemon.”
Robin bared his teeth at me as he continued to glare. “I just want to understand what the exact problem is!” he shouted. He grabbed a Poke Ball from his belt, pressing the button in the middle, the Poke Ball growing in size. “I can’t be a Pokemon Master without understanding my Pokemon, right? So are we battling, or what?”
I thought for a minute.
Robin and I exchanged rival level glances.
I grabbed a Poke Ball from my belt. “I’m ready when you are!” A smile spread across on my face.
“Catherine, it’s time to win!” Robin threw her Poke Ball at the ground.
The Poke Ball bounced twice before popping open in midair.
“Squirtle!” Catherine cried out happily.
Seeing her, my smile only broadened.
Catherine looked up at me in shock and then returned my smile, her eyes seeming to glimmer with happiness. “Squirtle!” She ran towards me.
“CATHERINE! FREEZE!” Robin’s voice echoed as I knelt down to greet Catherine.
Catherine kept running to me, completely ignoring Robin.
I opened my arms and greeted her with a huge hug.
“Awwww!” June squealed. “This is so adorable! You two are closer than the last time I saw you two!”
I stood up and held Catherine out in front of me, then lifted her high in the air.
Catherine’s arms and legs swung out for me as she laughed gleefully.
“How’ve you been, Catherine?”
“Squirt! Squirt!” Catherine responded.
“That’s great to hear!” I chuckled. “You’re looking even better than ever.”
Catherine’s hands went to her face and she appeared embarrassed, turning just slightly red in her blue cheeks. Her arms outstretched towards me and I pulled her in for another tight hug.
“This is the most sweetest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!” June gushed and clapped.
Catherine nuzzled her head against my neck, her little arms gripping as much of me as she could reach.
A light giggle was forced out of me from the tickle on my neck. “I’m so happy to be seeing you again, Catherine.”
“Squirt! Squirtle! Squirtle!”
My eyes opened and I gasped, my heart jumping.
Robin was giving me a look that made me feel that my life was in danger. His hands were balled tight, shaking at his sides. His eyes were on fire with rage. He was breathing heavily and his face was red with fury.
I slowly lowered Catherine, keeping her in my hands.
Catherine looked up at me in confusion, then turned to Robin and started whimpering.
“Oh, no,” June whispered, noticing Robin’s anger.
“Robin,” I started.
Robin didn’t say a word. He just kept his flaring eyes on me. He looked ready to walk over to me and take a couple of good swings at my face. “Catherine, get back over here,” Robin growled.
Catherine huddled in my hands, trying to get closer to me.
“No, Catherine,” I said firmly, looking to her.
“Squirt?” Catherine looked up at me in surprise.
I set Catherine down and kneeled to her level. “Your Trainer, Robin, gave you an order. You should obey it. We’re about to have a battle! You and one of my Pokemon. Robin and me! So you go and listen to Robin, and let’s have a great battle, okay?” I beamed at her.
Catherine looked at the furious Robin, then back to me uncertainly.
I gave her a gentle nudge towards Robin, my heart beating hard, knowing how angry Robin was right now, probably not any more happy with the fact that I was having to give Catherine orders to obey her own Trainer. “Go ahead,” I whispered.
Catherine’s head lowered sadly as she walked back over to Robin.
Robin glared down at Catherine, looking ready to step on her. Or looking like a lion ready to jump his prey and devour it.
I stood up and faced Robin. “Okay! I choose to battle Catherine with my Kingdra! So, go!” I threw her Poke Ball eagerly.
“Dooo Doooo!” Kingdra appeared.
“Kingdra!” Robin’s face was still filled with anger. “A Dragon and Water type! This may be a bit tricky, Catherine, but we’ve got this! Ice Beam!”
I waited, not wanting to attack yet.
Catherine looked at Kingdra.
Kingdra stared back.
Nobody moved. Nobody spoke.
The wind swirled around us, howling.
“Dooo?” Kingdra uttered in confusion after a while.
“Catherine!” Robin snapped. “Use your freaking Ice Beam attack!”
Catherine stared at me, then back to Kingdra.
I felt sorry for Robin. Genuinely sad. This was terrible.
Catherine wasn’t concerned what Pokemon she battled, as long as the Pokemon didn’t belong to me.
“Catherine, what in the hell is wrong with you, huh?” Robin screamed, his face reddening again. He stormed over to Catherine and picked her up. He shook Catherine for a second, losing his temper. “BATTLE, DAMN IT! BATTLE GARY!!!”
“Robin, stop it!” I called out to him, shocked he would shake his own Pokemon.
“Squirtllllle!” Catherine squirted Robin in the face with a Water Gun.
Robin sounded like he was drowning and dropped his Pokemon, falling onto his back.
Catherine landed on the ground, turned to me, and ran around Kingdra, towards me. She hugged my leg and started crying.
I knelt down and tried to pet her head, my eyes on Robin, but Catherine leaped high and wrapped her little arms around my neck. My hands ran along the back of her hard, smooth shell, looking sadly at Robin as he stared at me and Catherine, a look of utter loathing on his face.
He sighed and looked down in shame, his anger starting to fade as he took some deep breaths.
I’d never known Robin to get so angry before. This was a side of Robin I’d never seen. He was always so happy and tried to look on the bright side of things.
Then again, neither of us had ever raised Pokemon before. This was an entirely new world we were in. Different emotions and reactions were bound to come out.
The wind, and Catherine’s cries, were the only sounds to be heard.
“Sssshh,” I spoke soothingly to Catherine. “It’s okay, Catherine. You’re gonna be okay. Don’t cry.”
Robin kept his eyes lowered, unable to look up at us. His eyes narrowed at the sounds of me comforting his own Pokemon from something he had done to her.
“This is a serious problem,” June said.
“I know,” Robin shot at her. “I’m sorry, okay? I lost it a bit! I’d never truly hurt my Squirtle! I’ve never gotten so angry at my Pokemon before, honest! I just… WHY?? Why Gary??? Why the hell is he so special to her? She battles against everybody else with no problem! She’s a great, powerful Pokemon and I know she could beat him! I know it!” Robin’s knees went to his chin and he wrapped his arms around his knees, frowning. “What am I doing wrong…?” he asked in a low, disappointed voice.
“I don’t mean what you did to her,” June replied. “That was horrible! How dare you do that to your Pokemon!” June stomped up to Robin, glaring down at him, her hands on her hips, looking authoritative.
For some reason, seeing her so angry struck a bit of fear into my own heart.
Robin looked up at her, still frowning. His face changed once he saw the look on June’s face, though.
“You truly have lost your mind doing that to your Pokemon,” June told him sharply. “You’re absolutely pathetic.”
Robin’s face turned to shock and he lowered his head shamefully.
Catherine stopped crying and turned to look at June and Robin, tears still flowing down her cheeks.
“But you’re a good person,” June said more gently. “I know you care about her. I know you love your Squirtle so much.”
Robin didn’t look up, but his eyebrows narrowed harder. “I do.”
“I know,” June nodded. “But the problem I was talking about…” June turned around and walked back to me.
Robin looked up and watched June walk away.
June stopped in front of me.
I looked her in her eyes.
June didn’t look back. She was staring at Catherine. She reached out and rubbed Catherine’s head.
Catherine closed her eyes and smiled.
June gently took Catherine from my arms and cradled her carefully, smiling.
Catherine stared back.
Robin looked on from the ground with wide eyes.
June turned to Robin and cast him a serious look. “She’s still a Squirtle, Robin.”
June continued to look at Robin, but Robin and I looked at Catherine.
“She hasn’t evolved,” June continued.
“So...?” Robin asked meekly. “Maybe she isn’t ready. Not all Pokemon want to evolve, you know.”
June shook her head. “I don’t think it’s as simple as that.”
“Then what?” Robin asked.
June smiled, and then turned to Catherine. “Give me a little time with her.”
“Huh?” Robin gasped. “What are you gonna do?”
June kept her eyes on Catherine, who stared back at her with wide eyes. “I want to spend some time with Catherine today.”
“Spend time…? With my Squirtle?”
Even I was even staring at June in confusion.
June turned to me, and then to Robin. “You two should go off and leave me and this sweetie alone.”
“Are you serious, June?” I asked.
June turned to me, smiling warmly. “Yes.”
I turned to Robin.
Robin looked to me, and then to June. “I can’t just leave my Pokemon with you like that! No way!”
June stared at him sternly. “Do you want to know exactly what’s wrong with Catherine, or not?”
“I’m Catherine’s Trainer! Not you!” Robin stood up quickly. “If anybody’s gonna find out what’s wrong with her, it should be me!”
June smiled at Robin sweetly. “There’s nothing wrong with getting help from people with a bit more experience. You haven’t been able to get through to Catherine’s feelings, so, since I can read Pokemon, won’t you trust me and give me a bit of time with her?”
“I don’t even know you outside of a Gym battle!”
“Gary can vouch for me!” June gave Robin a broad smile, flashing every tooth in her possession.
Unsure of what to say at first, staring at June, I finally turned to Robin. “I trust her, Robin.”
“Pffft,” Robin said, glaring at me. “For all I know, this is a robbery! A set up!”
Now, I was offended, and my patience with Robin was being sliced repeatedly. “Robin, you really think I would do that?”
Robin glared at me and opened his mouth to say something. His mouth closed. He took a couple of deep breaths. “Of course not, Gary,” he muttered, the anger on his face fading slowly. “I just… love Catherine. She’s my favorite Pokemon. I’m worried. Am I wrong to be worried?”
“No, Robin.” June walked over to him. “You have every right to be. But, please, trust me, okay? I want to help you and Catherine. Will you trust me? Please?”
Robin and June eyed each other silently for a short while.
Robin looked at Catherine, who also stared back.
Catherine turned back to June, who smiled down at her. The Water type turtle Pokemon smiled at June. “Squirtle!” she let out with joy, reaching up to the sky.
Robin looked at Catherine, and then at June.
June turned to Robin, her beautiful, comforting smile plastered on her face.
Robin looked away after a few seconds and sighed. “Okay, June. After all, you are a Gym Leader,” Robin conceded. “And Catherine seems to be okay with it, I guess. And I know I can trust Gary. If he says it’s okay, it usually is. He’s so unsure of everybody that if he trusts somebody, it’s usually a good bet. Though not always. He can be a bit too trusting, especially around pretty girls.” Robin smiled slyly.
My eyes widened at this statement, but Robin spoke up again before I could.
“He got tricked when a group of random girls asked to use his library card to check out several books and promised they’d return it. Gary didn’t get their phone numbers or any means of contact from them and they never returned.”
“Robin!!” I barked.
June turned to me, laughing.
That beautiful smile was one I hated to admit that I had missed seeing.
June turned back to Robin. “Robin, if you don’t trust me, it’s okay. But I hope you’ll give me the chance to try and help you and Catherine get closer. And by the way, I’m no longer a Gym Leader. I retired so I could travel the world with Gary.”
“What?!” Robin cocked his head to the side, his eyes widening at June in disbelief. A sly grin crossed his face. “Sounds like a lot more is going on between you two. You sure you two aren’t in love or something?”
“NO!” June and I shouted in unison. Me in anger, June in shock.
Robin kept smirking. “Riiiiight… Suuuuuure...”“Robin! She’s just a friend! Get over it and grow up!”
Robin’s smiled widened. “Yeah, right. She left the fabulous life of a Gym Leader to be with you, Gary. Totally nothing but friends.”
“It wasn’t that fabulous a life,” June mumbled, blushing.
“WE’RE JUST FRIENDS!” I insisted.
“I’ll bet,” Robin winked.
June’s head lowered as her face got a deeper red and she tried again to lowered her electrified hair, failing completely.
Robin’s face went serious and he turned to June. “June, I’ll trust you with Catherine,” Robin agreed. “But if you try anything slick, I’m telling you now…”
June’s face also darkened. “Your Squirtle is in safe hands, Robin. I promise I’m going to have an answer for you when you and Gary get back.”
“Get back from where?” Robin and I asked at the same time.
“From wherever,” June replied. “I don’t care where you two go, just get out of here and give Catherine and I some privacy, okay?”
Robin and I turned to each other.
“Well, there is a lake up ahead,” Robin informed me. “We could head over there and catch up on things.”
“A lake? That’s perfect! Me and Catherine will go there!” June picked up her large bag and ran into the woods.
Robin and I stared in silence as she disappeared from view.
Just a couple of minutes later, June reappeared with her bag on her shoulder, in a two piece, red bikini!
Squirtle stood on the ground, at her side.
My eyes scanned June up and down a number of times before I made a swift and noticeable turnaround and gazed at the trees behind me. “June, what are you doing??!!” I bellowed.
“Me and Catherine are gonna go for a swim!” June answered. “See you guys later!”
“June, it’s freezing outside! Are you out of your mind??”
“It’s okay, Gary. Don’t worry about me. It’s all for the sake of Catherine. I’ve done things like this before to get closer and better understand Pokemon. Now, bye!”
“Squirtle!” Catherine called out.
I heard June and Catherine run ahead off, presumably towards the lake.
Robin, standing next to me, began to walk ahead, after them.
I turned around and saw June running away from us. My eyes were admittedly glued to her body as she ran away. Against my will, I closed my eyes and shook my head, and then I grabbed Robin by the arm, stopping him in his tracks.
“HEY!” Robin shouted.
“No, Robin!” I returned Kingdra to her Poke Ball and began dragging Robin off the path, into the woods, away from June.
“Come on, Gary! What is wrong with you?” Robin struggled against my pull.
“Robin, cut it out!” I insisted. “Do you wanna get down to the problem with Catherine or not?”
“Damn it, Gary!” Robin answered furiously, continuing to struggle with me. He finally calmed down and walked alongside me, ticked off at first.
I finally released him. “So, what brings you here, anyway?” I asked him after a little while.
“My journey, of course,” Robin grinned at me.
“Idiot, I know that,” I replied, grinning back. “But, where are you headed? How’s your journey going?”
“It’s okay. I’ve caught quite an amount of Pokemon. I even got me a Totodile that I named Bright Eyes that I got in a trade! It’s an incredible battler! It’s always eager for a battle, too. It’s probably my strongest Pokemon, really. Except…” He stopped speaking.
“Catherine...?” I guessed.
Robin breathed out, looking ahead of us. “They’re both great Pokemon. And great friends. They help each other get stronger every day. Catherine is just the best thing ever.” A smile was sliding across his face as he got lost in thought. “We get along so great… when you’re not around…”
His words stung my heart. I didn’t respond. I wasn’t sure how to.
For a moment, we walked in silence.
“I have eight Badges, now,” Robin said.
“WHAT???” I roared, my heart beating so hard. The urge to throw up came over me.
Robin smiled. “That’s right. The Gyms weren’t so tough, really. And now I have the eight Badges needed to compete.”
“NO WAY!” I was unable to hide my anger and jealousy.
“See for yourself, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” He pulled his Badge case from his coat pocket and opened it. Eight shiny Badges gleamed from inside of it.
My jaw practically slammed to the ground as my heart dropped continuously into the deepest, darkest depths of eternity. Eight Badges, I thought. Robin can compete in the Pokemon League. He’s already done. This can’t be…
Robin closed his case, still smiling. “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! I see you must not have gotten as far as me. I’m just out here training, now. You can’t be too prepared for the Pokemon League. It’s months away, but I’m gonna be ready to win the entire thing!”
Robin has eight Badges already. How?
“So… how many Badges do you have, Gary?” Robin asked with a condescending smile.
Sneering at him, I spoke as proudly as I could, “I have five!”
“Haaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” Robin bent over laughing. “That’s awesome, man!”
Fury was strong in my eyes now.
Robin seemed to smile wider at this. “No, seriously, you’re doing fantastic! I’m proud of you! You’ll be at eight Badges in no time!”“Yeah. Whatever,” I muttered to the ground.
Robin stopped walking and turned to me, no sign of his previous smile evident. “Gary.”
I stopped and turned to him.
“What happened to you and Kiwi in Saffron City?” Robin asked with complete focus.
My heartbeat picked up rapidly. Damn it, Robin. Why’d you have to bring that up? “What do you mean?”
“My mom told me. All of Pallet Town knows about it, Gary. You’re kind of popular for that incident. And kidnapping June? What was that?”
“I was around Saffron when the attacks happened,” I explained. “June had been traveling with me back then, then decided to go her own way after we escaped Saffron. Kiwi had tagged along since we both were going to Saffron for our next Badge. When I got to Celadon, I was arrested and the police questioned me. Eventually, they let me go once everything was cleared up.”
“I believe you, Gary.” He placed a hand on my shoulder. “You’d never do anything as crazy as they accused you of. I’m just glad that it’s all over now.” Robin smiled.
I let out a sigh and grinned back. “Thanks, man.”
Robin’s face went hard again “But what about Kiwi? Nobody’s heard from her in quite a long time, now.”
“Huh?” I responded in surprise.
“She hasn’t been heard from in quite a bit. Apparently, the police questioned her mom about her involvement in the Saffron incidents, but she had only heard from Kiwi a few days before she was leaving to go to Saffron. Since then, she hasn’t heard from her at all.”
My heart beat hard in my chest. “Kiwi…” I whispered.
“I hope she’s okay,” Robin’s own voice went lower. “What took place in Saffron could be rather traumatizing, you know?”
I stared at Robin, fear on my face. My eyes lowered as I nodded. “I’m sure she’s fine,” I mumbled. I sure hoped in my heart that she was, but there was serious doubt. She’s fine, I told myself. Damn it, Gary. She’s fine! She’s just continuing her journey. She didn’t go back to Pallet. She’s out there. My eyes began to water suddenly. The similarity between the current situation with Kiwi and the ongoing one with my sister, Melissa, was too obvious and too close.
“Have you seen the news lately?” Robin asked quietly.
I turned to him, grateful he had pulled me out of my thoughts, and nodded, rewinding the tears in my eyes. “The attacks in Hoenn and Sinnoh.”
“Yeah. And something happened in the Safari Zone. Out here! I was training around here and felt the ground shake and heard all this commotion going on. I was kind of lost in the woods, and by the time I found my way out, there were police and huge tanks in the area. They wouldn’t tell me what was up, but told me to stay back. The tanks and cars drove on ahead, but the police still wouldn’t let us pass and refused to answer any questions, so after a while, I just decided to continue training my Pokemon. A while later, while training and catching some Pokemon, I heard voices. It sounded like a battle. It was you and June. You had Primeape out at the time.”
“The Safari Zone, Pokemon Preservation Area, and the Big P Pokemon Ranch were under attack.”
“What?? From what??” Robin asked, horrified.
“Team Solace,” I told him solemnly, secretly trembling in my coat.
“Solace! They’re a group bent on killing all Pokemon to bring some supposed peace to Earth and be hailed for their efforts. They’re the ones behind all the attacks lately.”
“No way!” Robin was now angrier than I’d seen him all day. “I can’t believe it! Team Solace! They must be kidding with that kind of name!! How do you know about them?”
Wanting to answer him, I paused for several seconds before speaking. “I was passing through the Safari Zone and one of the officers was nice enough to explain what she knew about them,” I lied, not wanting to go through the entire story and him possibly telling his parents and them telling all of Pallet Town and that spreading to the news and me gaining some kind of worldwide attention or something. Not to mention how freaked my mom would be. My journey would be over, post haste.
Robin shook his head. “Disgusting.”
Dwelling on this for a moment, silently, I could feel my heart pounding quickly. Team Solace… I thought angrily. You guys have to be stopped. Somehow… I listened to the sound of grass and snow being stepped on beneath our feet as we continued to walk. My fearfully shaking body started to relax a bit as my mind focused on my friend I was walking next to.
Robin had eight Badges so fast. The last time we battled, I put up a good fight against him. How many Badges did he have then? How much stronger have his Pokemon gotten since then? What Pokemon has he been using to battle Gym Leaders?
“June never used that Electivire on me,” Robin said, interrupting my thoughts.
“Huh?” I said, turning to him.
Robin looked to me and smiled. “I never battled that Electivire before. When I battled June, I faced Pikachu, Ampharos and Magneton.”
“Oh…” I thought to myself for a second. “I battled Ampharos, Manectric and Electrode…” My voice trailed off, remembering what had happened to June’s Electrode.
“I won without losing a single Pokemon,” Robin boasted.
“She managed to beat one of my Pokemon,” I admitted. I felt a wave of sadness, remembering that the Pokemon she had beaten was my Beedrill.
“Well, that’s not too bad, ha ha ha ha ha!” Robin said brightly.
We walked along the grass as I continued to think about my Beedrill. I hope he’s okay. I wonder what he’s up to right now. I wonder if he’s still with…. What was her name again…? Whoever that girl was… I hope he’s happy right now. I hope he knows he’s still on my mind, and always will be.
A voice cried out.
“Oh!” I backed up a few steps, staring down at what I’d stepped on.
A patch of weeds on the ground was shaking hard. It started to push itself from the ground as I stared in amazement! With a final push, it leaped up and I was staring at an Oddish!
“Ha ha ha ha! You stepped on an Oddish!” Robin pointed.
I pulled out my Pokedex.
Oddish. The Weed Pokemon. During the day, Oddish keep their head underground, absorbing nutrients from the ground, and during the night, it absorbs moonlight. It sometimes stays asleep for days on end because it typically only awakens when the moon makes contact with its leaves.
“I don’t have one of these!” Robin grabbed a Poke Ball from within his pocket.
“Hey, me neither!” I reached for my own Poke Ball. “Go!” I threw it at Oddish as Robin threw his own Poke Ball.
Robin gave me an odd look I didn’t pay much attention to.
My Poke Ball neared Oddish as Robin’s opened and sent out a Pokemon.
“Parasect!” the Pokemon called out, facing Oddish.
Oddish leaped in the air and did a backflip, kicking my Poke Ball away.
I backed up in shock as the Poke Ball flew back towards me. I caught it and stared at it in my hand, stunned.
“Still a noob, huh? Ha ha ha ha!” Robin laughed. “You have to weaken a Pokemon to capture it, usually.”
“I know,” I muttered. “I just thought you were going to toss a Poke Ball and I wanted to do it first!”
“I’m not a noob like you,” Robin winked. “Palace, use Stun Spore!”
“Parasect!” Palace sprayed an orange powder all over Oddish as it landed from the backflip.
Oddish twisted and squirmed in pain as it struggled against the Paralyzing powder.
Palace ran forward and raised a large, glowing white claw, bringing it down swiftly onto Oddish, who cried out and dropped.
“Now! Poke Ball, go!”
The Poke Ball hit Oddish, who was sucked in. The Poke Ball shook a few times.
It shook some more.
It continued to shake.
Oddish was caught, but the red glow in the middle of the Poke Ball remained.
Robin caught the Oddish!
“I guess that’s it, then. Good work, Palace.” He returned Palace to its Poke Ball and then turned to me. “Just tossing Poke Balls may be the reason you don’t have as many Pokemon as the rest of us. Prof. Oak really expected you to be a lot further than you were the last time I spoke to him. Last time I heard, you don’t even have ten Pokemon. But you have five Badges and want to become a Pokemon Master?”
I had no response to that. My eyes slid from his, though I wanted to face him. I didn’t want to turn away. I was trying out here! I wasn’t being lazy or anything. Throwing the Poke Ball at Oddish was just a hasty mistake. No big deal. But my error was still shameful. I turned to the Poke Ball Robin had used to capture Oddish and watched it vanish, going to Prof. Oak.
“Hey,” Robin said softly. “Let’s head to that lake now.”
I nodded, but didn’t look at him. I felt so worthless as a Trainer.
We walked back to find the path, completely in silence. It seemed to take a lot longer time to get back to the path than it took to get to where we had walked to from the path, but we found it eventually and continued through.
“You know, you’re a great Trainer, Gary,” Robin said quietly. “I still have yet to beat you, ha.”
I looked at him and snickered. “I guess so.”
“I expect a much better Trainer at the Pokemon League, though,” Robin said, smirking. “Someone who deserves to be at the Pokemon League and who earned their position there. And I intend to be the Trainer who deserves to be there, too. One whose Pokemon listen to him no matter what and who has a great relationship with them.”
I nodded with a grunt before I came to a stop. “Let’s fulfill that goal, Robin.” I extended my hand.
Robin stopped and smiled, grabbing my hand.
We shook in a firm handshake, trying to squeeze the life out of each other’s hand. We let go shortly after and continued our walk.
“Gary, before I forget,” Robin said suddenly. “I’m sorry for shoving you back in Celadon after our last battle. That was terrible of me and I had no right to do that. I’ve felt terrible about that for the longest time, now.”
“Robin, it’s okay,” I waved off.
“No, it wasn’t, Gary.”
“Robin! I said it’s okay! I was wrong to say Charmeleon was gonna lose to Squirtle like that. Okay? Let’s just leave it at that.”
It wasn’t much longer before I could see the lake ahead of us.
Robin suddenly sprinted ahead of me.
It took me only a moment to see why. “Robin! Get back here!” I ran after him.
June was splashing in the freezing cold water, playing with Catherine, both of them laughing and having a great time together.
As we neared them, I struggled, but couldn’t, take my eyes off of June.
She was soaking wet, her red hair matted down. She looked, as much as I would never admit it out loud, even on my deathbed, “perfect,” at that moment. I didn’t understand how she could be in the water in such cold weather, but she seemed unbothered.
Robin reached the water’s edge and stopped.
I grabbed him by the shoulders, panting.
“Hi, June!” Robin greeted June enthusiastically. “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!”
My fingers dug into Robin’s shoulders, but he didn’t seem to notice. Plus, his coat was very thick.
“Hey, Gary!” June smiled at me. She turned to Robin. “Good to see you, Robin. You see? I told you Catherine would be just fine with me.”
“Thank you very much,” Robin said gratefully.
Catherine popped up from underwater and sprayed me in the face.
“AUGH!” I hated getting wet! But especially in the cold! I wiped the water from my face and forced myself to laugh despite how angry I now was.
Robin smiled at Catherine hopefully, seeming not to want to be left out of the fun.
Catherine turned to Robin, and her smile faded. She disappeared underwater, the mood changing for us all.
Robin sighed and his head fell to his chest.
June happily dove underwater. She arose shortly, looking amazing as the water fell from around her, holding Catherine in her hands. She got out of the water and set Catherine on the ground, scooping up a towel and wrapping herself in it. “One second, boys.” June grabbed her bag and Catherine followed her as she walked into the woods.
I turned to Robin, who had his eyes glued to June as she walked away.
After several minutes, she reappeared, fully dressed again in her red winter coat, red boots, and white jeans.
“Awww,” I heard Robin grumble.
I considered kicking him, but didn’t.
June and Catherine walked up to us and stopped. They both looked at me with matching smiles.
June turned to Robin, her smile fading just slightly. Her smile for Robin was more concerned and caring. She wanted to be careful about her next words. “Robin, I have promised news.”
Catherine turned to Robin, sadness on her face.
“Okay, June,” Robin said strictly. “Please, just tell me what it is.”
June took a deep breath. “Catherine is refusing to evolve.”
Robin squinted at June quietly. “So I was right? She just doesn’t want to evolve!”
June shook her head. She bent over and picked up Catherine, Catherine smiling in her arms, looking up at her. “Like I said before, it just isn’t that simple. I feared this was the reason, and I was right.” June petted Catherine’s head gently.
“June, what is it? Please, just tell me already!” Robin pleaded.
June nodded. “Catherine is refusing to evolve because of Gary.”
“WHAT?” Robin and I both blurted out.
“Gary? What does he have to do with this?”“Yeah!” I chimed in.
“Please, relax and let me explain,” June spoke firmly. “Catherine met Gary when she was a Squirtle, like she is now. She was rejected by Gary, somebody she immediately liked. But Gary was never mean to her or anything. He just preferred Charmander. Gary and Catherine always maintained a friendly relationship. I’m not...” June’s eyes lowered before quickly returning to Robin’s. “...exactly saying that this gave Catherine some kind of…” June pressed her lips together, but then her eyebrows narrowed determinedly. “...Hope… that Gary would someday be her Trainer, because, Robin, Catherine loves you to bits. Really. She cares deeply for you. You’ve raised her so well, dear. She adores you. But there’s something inside of her, deep inside of her, that still reflects on that day with Gary. That day she helped him when he was attacked by Charmander, but was still rejected in favor of Charmander. It’s stuck in her. She can’t help it. She reverts back to that day often, and seeing Gary, and how sweet he still is with her, makes her think that one day, maybe…”
“She wants Gary.” Robin stared coldly at Catherine.
“Squirtle!” To everyone’s surprise, Catherine leaped out of June’s arms and ran to Robin!
Robin gasped as Catherine grabbed Robin’s leg and squeezed it in her arms, tears flowing down her cheeks, sobbing against his leg. She looked up at Robin and seemed to be pleading with him, saying her name repeatedly, desperately.
“Catherine?” Robin bent down to her.
“No, Robin. It’s not that she wants Gary, per se,” June continued. “It’s very complex. She loves you. You’re her Trainer. She just… can’t get over Gary, so to speak. She thinks that maybe, there’s a chance of Gary being her Trainer. That opportunity is still a strong possibility in her mind. She keeps going back to the day they met. She wants to remain a Squirtle for the day her and Gary get a second chance to be together, if such a thing were to ever happen. This way, they could start all over... with her as Squirtle... Like it was when they first met...” June swallowed and released her breath. “She loves you as her Trainer, Robin. She’s just having a bit of a psychosis going on in her head. She needs you right now, more than ever. Please try to understand.”
Robin and Catherine stared at each other. Robin’s eyes were tearing up at June’s words.
Catherine was still crying, but silently now.
My eyes were stinging with tears, blurring the scene before me, but I couldn’t wipe my eyes. I was afraid to move a muscle. I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard.
“Catherine!” Robin wrapped her in a hug.
“Squirtle!” Catherine hugged Robin back.
“I’m so sorry, Catherine! My coveted, cherished Pokemon!” Robin sniffled hard. “Catherine, I’m so sorry I didn’t understand!”
“Squirt! Squirt! Squirtle!” Catherine sobbed loudly.
“I’m so sorry I shook you earlier! I’m so sorry for my lack of patience and understanding! But I understand now, Catherine! Please, forgive me!”“Squirtle Squirtle!” Catherine kept crying.
I managed to wipe my eyes, trying not to sniffle or otherwise disrupt the moment. I didn’t feel like I had the right to cry or draw any attention to myself.
This was all about Catherine and Robin now.
Robin released Catherine, wiped his eyes and sniffled. “Catherine, I’m your Trainer,” Robin said strongly. “I now know what’s wrong. I won’t give up on you, okay? As your Trainer, I will never give up on you, Catherine! I will help you through this to the very end! If you have any problems, it’s my job as your Trainer to be there for you, and that’s what I intend to do.”
Catherine wiped her eyes and smiled up at Robin, her eyes glimmering with still falling tears.
“Catherine, I made a promise to you the first day we met. We’d beat the very best, and I intend to keep that promise to you if you’ll work alongside me to fulfill it, too. I can’t do it on my own, but together, we can make anything happen! What do you say?”
“Squirtle!” Catherine leaped at Robin and wrapped her little arms around Robin’s neck.
Robin laughed and hugged her back, tears flowing from his eyes. “Catherine!”
I smiled, wiping the nonstop tears from my eyes.
June was crying silently, her hands covering her mouth. Her eyes turned to me and crinkled in a smile.
Robin held onto Catherine. “Thank you so much. For everything!”
June’s hands lowered, revealing her smile, tears flowing faster down her face. “Anytime, Robin.”
“I’m so sorry for doubting you and Gary, thinking you’d rob me,” Robin apologized.
“If you didn’t care so much about Catherine, you wouldn’t have been so worried,” June said understandingly.
Still holding Catherine, Robin walked over to me and reached out a hand.
I wiped my eyes and dried my hands on my jeans before shaking Robin’s hand.
“Thanks, Gary. You’re the best, man.”
“I know you and Catherine will be just fine together, now.”
Catherine turned around in Robin’s arm and smiled at me. She struggled a bit and leaped out of Robin’s arms and onto me.
I caught her and pulled her into a hug at her tiny, outstretched arms’ insistence. “Catherine, you behave now, okay?”
I held her out in front of me and lifted her high in the air to her delight, her arms and legs wiggling out her sides.
Robin watched us with a pleased look. I held out Catherine to Robin, who took her and turned her around to face him. “Let’s go, Catherine,” Robin said calmly.
“Squirtle!” Catherine agreed.
Holding Catherine in one arm, Robin returned her to her Poke Ball with his free hand.
As Catherine started glowing red, being absorbed back into the Poke Ball, she turned to June and smiled, waving.
“Bye, Catherine!” June’s eyes starting to overflow again.
I wasn’t sure, but I could’ve sworn Catherine turned to me one last time before going inside the Poke Ball, but I could’ve been mistaken.
Robin clipped the Poke Ball to his belt and smiled broadly. “Well, I’ll be seeing you two. Good luck, Gary.” He patted me strongly on the shoulder.
I smiled and punched his shoulder.
Robin walked over to June, gently taking her hand between his two hands. “And, June, you take care as well.”
June eyes went wide and her face darkened red. “Thanks, Robin,” she seemed to giggle nervously. “Good luck.” June gave him a big smile.
Carefully releasing June’s hand, Robin walked off the path, towards the woods. “You two love birds take care!” Robin winked before looking away.
“What??” I called after him with anger. “Hey!”
“Come on, Gary.” June grabbed my arm and tugged me along the path as Robin waved goodbye and scurried off in the opposite direction.
“Stop pulling me! And get off of me!”
“I see you still haven’t changed,” June sang. “The same old grouch.”
I tugged my arm, but June had a firm grip on it. “Why are you holding me?”
“So you don’t go chasing after Robin!” June said brightly.
“Okay, I won’t! Just get off me!”
June never did let go of my arm. Not for a while, anyway.
Eventually, I stopped fighting against her grip. I didn’t care. I was too concerned about Catherine and Robin and everything we’d learned about them today.
June did a great job reading Catherine.
I was highly impressed.
And somewhere deep inside of me, I was kind of happy.
June was back.
It was me and June again, traveling the Kanto region together as if nothing had ever happened.
But so much had happened.
And so much more was coming for us both.
More than we could’ve ever imagined.
Or ever wanted.