Chapter 9: Cold
His eyes were icy, piercing. There was not a shred of kindness or remorse within those crystallized green orbs, not a tiny touch. It was as if a Lapras had Ice Beamed the boy and left him with a perpetually dead expression. The only thing that deflected such a dangerous message was the half hearted smirk carefully gracing his lips. Even then, if one was wise enough to look beyond the facade, they could see the emptiness within that practiced disguise.
Tugging on the sleeve of her yellow fitted hoodie in irritation, she watched the way he strolled, not rushed or slinked or even hunched but strolled, out of the meeting room that the Gym leaders of Kanto and Johto had been huddled within for the last three hours deep inside the recesses of the Indigo Plateau. As if he wasn’t bored and upset and angry with the proceedings within. He was dead inside even if his outward expression was smug, but only if you couldn’t read him.
How on Earth did she read him anyway? They weren’t friends so she shouldn’t be able to notice his mask as if she were. But as she followed behind him, almost like a shadow but far more colorful, Misty Waterflower could read Gary Oak like the textbooks at the PokeAcademy.
Wait. It didn’t matter. She should not care. They were not even friends. It was Gary Oak for Arceus’s sake.
Returning her thoughts to the meeting that just ended and the anger budded within her chest again, feelings of dread and hate filled her to the brim to effectively derail her thoughts about a certain brunette. The leader of Cerulean Gym took a sharp left at the next corner Gary and Morty and Brock were passing together silently, cutting off the chattering Jasmine and Whitney in the process, and whizzed down the empties halls. There was one thought running through the redhead’s mind as she pushed away the meeting’s unpleasantries. She needed a pick me up.
The shortcut she’d used led her straight to the small coffee stand Misty bought her caffeine from at the far end of the western wing of the Plateau’s main building. Greeting the stall owner with familiarity, he began brewing her preferred drink without many words, reading her dark expression. She, in turn, ended up leaning against the gleaming marble counter of the stall, hands tucked in her high waisted jean pockets and gaze pointed upward to the ceiling. She named the various Pokemon decorating the fresco while waiting for her drink.
Staryu. Nidoking. Mankey. Kadabra. Arcanine. Ampharos. Haunter. Cubone. Chansey. Dragonair. Scizor. Delibird. Grovyle. Mightyena. Beautifly. Salamence. Shieldon. Buizel. Skuntank. Machoke. Unown. Combusken. Manectric. Banette---
“Black coffee please. One sugar.” Aqua eyes snapped to her left and blinked quickly as a figure wearing purple cargo pants and a black collared shirt underneath a fur-lined brown leather jacket casually stood beside her staring pointedly at the barista. A free hand pulled itself out of his pocket to brush unruly cinnamon spikes away from his face in a suave manner before the male’s gaze turned to her on his right.
They were so cold, piercing her skin, those frigid eyes of his. Yet, Misty didn’t dare look away or back down from his unintentional challenge. The youngest Waterflower wasn’t afraid of him or his glacial aura. So they stared at each other with their only background music being the grinding of coffee beribeans and the whirling vents above that pushed heated air into the Indigo Plateau. Finally, the brunette’s lips parted to speak as his attractive features crafted back into the perpetually smug curves.
“You know, staring at me like you want to inflict a Fire Blast won’t actually make me burn. Only eighty-five percent accuracy and all that.” Smug asshole. There was a reason she didn’t like him, even without Ash’s complaints pertaining to this boy. Misty let loose her own cocky smile to balance the atmosphere.
“Too bad. Worth a shot either way.” She could be biting and chilly too. Turning to also face the barista who was ignoring the pair exclusively, the ginger haired girl crossed her arms comfortably. A hollow laugh was her response and hit a nerve as Misty scowled at the marble counter instead of the innocent coffee preparer.
“Temper temper, Miss Waterflower. I’ve been warned about you, you know.” The youngest Waterflower didn’t need to look at her fellow caffeine drinker to know he was egging her on for kicks.
“With good reason, Oak,” she shot back, not liking his presence or the fact that other gym leaders obviously gossiped about her. I seriously want to kill that Whitney girl. A long silence stemmed, even though it only felt so because of the stillness surround the gym leaders. Misty took the fingers of one hand from her crossed arms and began twisting them into her short bob. Why did coffee take so long to make?
“So I take it you’re upset from what Lance had to say.” His voice was airy, as if the topic addressed had no relation to him whatsoever.
“Duh.” Wow, not the most attractive of sounds. But her frustration peaked and frankly, civility felt like it would be wasted on the arrogant prick beside her. “You would be too, if you understood the pressures of being a gym leader.” She hoped he heard every ounce of her venomous tone.
“I do understand, Miss Waterflower, but there’s no need to get upset about such simple matters.” Flicking her livid water colored glare onto his impudent form, it was taking every ounce of self control her fifteen year old body held not to right hook that cocky look off his face. It didn’t help that while pretending to speak politely, his sneering inflection actually cued how frigid his intentions were.
“Simple? You think our livelihood is a simple matter?” her quivering voice spat. “Arceus, you’re an idiot Oak, an honest to Mew idiot!” Her hands now hung by her sides, clenched to white knuckled-ness in anger as the skin of her forehead tugged further and further down in a furrow.
“Hey, watch it Red, name calling is childish.” He too now turned to be positioned directly before the girl, arms crossed contemptuously and jeering expression not quite reaching his frozen gaze.
“Says a name caller!” If there was one thing Misty absolutely could not stand, it was being name called Red or Carrot Top or something of the sort. But beside that fact, did he find this funny? Was the situation at hand really so irrelevant that this boy of a gym leader did not comprehend its full meaning? “Arceus, I shouldn’t even be surprised with you. After all Oak, you don’t even take your gym duties seriously with all the disappearing acts you do! How could you possibly understand these circumstances!”
Feeling exceptionally prideful at calling the prodigy child out on his troublesome behavior, Misty had a strange sensation of excitement puddle in her chest. It had been a long time since she’d met someone worthy of her fury. Her unwanted companion, on the other hand, did not appreciate her words and finally lost that mask of indifferent priggishness.
“I wouldn’t comment about things you don’t understand, Red.” The ginger haired teen knew his selection of pronouns was a mere tactic to elicit her animosity, but she couldn’t control herself any longer. There was no reasoning with an idiot, especially a coddled, egotistical hot-shot who’d had everyone bow down before him because of his respectable grandfather. Someone like that could never comprehend the hardships coming upon the gym community.
“All I need to understand is once a selfish, spoiled prick, always a selfish, spoiled prick!” Turning on her heels, Misty spun away from the instigator of her rage. Coffee be screwed, she couldn’t handle this nonsense any longer. Disregarding any further words he spewed out, the petite girl stomped her leather boots into the polished tiled floors as loudly as possible, hoping to expel even a little ounce of energy causing her stress. It was amongst her name calling thoughts and plans to head home to Cerulean and train her hatred away that a hand entrapped her wrist and tugged her backwards powerfully.
“Re- Miss Waterflower, wait! Hang on!” She felt herself collide with a solid body, dissatisfied that’d she’d lost her balance on account of the Viridian Gym leader. Her head flicked upward so her glare burned right into pools of green gold staring down at her seriously. The warm hand, so different from the lifelessly cool gaze, squeezed minutely tighter around her wrist. When nothing was said within the seconds of time since he’d manhandled her, the water type trainer took initiative.
“What Oak?” she practically seethed. Oh how the redhead wished she could transform into a Seviper for half a second, poison the annoying flea and watch him thrash in pain until he took his last breath.
“Look, I didn’t mean to mock you or your problems.” It wasn’t sincere, his tone of voice, but at least all the self righteous prerogative had been toned down. That didn’t stop Misty’s visage from appearing like a ferocious Luxray ready to gnaw his too perfect face into shreds though. “I know it doesn’t look like it,” a snort from her end which went promptly ignored, “but this worries me too. And I guess I just misplaced my feelings onto you. Sorry.” It was half hearted, but did Misty just hear Gary Oak, prodigal grandson and better-than-thou extraordinaire, apologize? Not only that, but he lithely removed his clinging hand to extend to her and present a sort of truce when she freed herself from his grasp and turned his way.
For just a sliver, the ginger haired girl saw his cold, dead eyes actually carry a flash of something else . . .
Staring down at the hand that had held her hostage and back to the wiry expression of the brunette, Misty let her aqua eyes scan Gary’s forest ones for any ulterior motives. Was he going to yell ‘psych!’ when she attempted to shake his hand? Was he going to call her a short tempered loser for leaving him by the wayside? Was there a possibility that he was going to use this handshake as an excuse for a battle? The redhead had no idea what the outcome would be if she explored this small human gesture, but reading Gary Oak like before, however she’d attained that skill, told her that he was just tired and waiting.
Raising her own digits to clasp his slowly, they collectively bobbed their hands up and down repeatedly as the staredown continued.
“You’re forgiven for being a lousy, jerk-faced trollop with no responsibilities,” the Cerulean Gym leader conceded, eyes never blinking. The priceless expression that appeared on the brunette’s face was literally death worthy as his perfectly pouty lips fell open in shock and his cinnamon eyebrows shot upward towards his hairline while his green gaze blinked rapidly. She barked at the hilarity of him and was pleasantly surprised when he also chuckled with her a moment later.
Again, Misty could literally see that what once was ice and shards hidden within a mask of pride thawed into an array of emotion. His dead eyes now seemed to glitter with a hint of life, much more so than she’d ever registered with him. And the winter clad girl’s heart swelled with a smudge of happiness, even if it was at the expense of her nerves. She’d just made a person feel again.
“You know, those weren’t the words I was expecting to hear, but from you, Red, I’ll take ‘em.” When he saw her ready to burst about taking back her acceptance before she’d actually had the chance to speak, he raised a handled tray that had been hanging with him the entirety of their conversation. Within the holder were two coffees, diagonal of each other, steaming through the small holes of their lids. She blinked in surprise at the items and automatically accepted when he pulled one out and handed it to her.
“So, friends?” he asked tentatively, unsure if the word was appropriate. His glance shifted up to the ceiling as his free hand slipped into his back pocket, taking on a practiced ‘cool’ stance. There was a giggle building in her throat at his cute uncertainty, but she restrained herself in favor of a word as she looked down to the shiny floor.
When Misty Waterflower looked at Gary Oak after a moment, he gestured with his head that they should start walking as she nodded in agreement. Strolling in stride with him, she popped open the tab of her lid and watched her fellow trainer as he did the same. For the first time since she’d met him at the age of ten, the redhead didn’t feel anything but at peace in the presence of this Oak. She wondered how things would be from now on.
“Ack, eww Oak, this is your crap cup of coffee! How can you drink this?!” her shout echoed half a second later, making grimaces and trying to pull the gross flavor from her tastebuds.
“Says the girl with nothing but sugar in her cup! Mew, Red, this is like what eating a Jigglypuff would taste like!” he commented back, gagging beside her.
And so began a beautiful friendship.