"I actually learned how to stitch a wound when a zombie Crobat took out a huge chunk of my skin," Volkner rolls up his sleeve and displays his wound to me proudly, two huge scars the only remnants of a battle long past. "There was this older man in Sunyshore who showed me how to do it. I just fixed your eye up like I did with my arm. It really wasn't that difficult, we had our own first aid kit and everything." I smile in response, not sure what to say. I think about asking him if that will cause any problems later on, but decide I don't really want to know. "But, man. You should've seen all the venom those things have. I couldn't feel my arm for a week!"
Scout looks up at me, just as confused about this strange man as I am. She sits cross-legged on the bed, her tail hanging limply off the side. I can feel her heat on my skin, a thick blanket the only thing between her and my well-bandaged torso. Volkner is close enough to her that she's visibly uncomfortable, and his Jolteon won't stop glaring at her. She stares back at him, willing the other Pokémon to look away. Volkner keeps talking, and I can't tell whether he's trying to diffuse the tension or if he's just a motor mouth.
"See, when you get bitten by a Poison-Type, even if you're immune to the virus you'll still get hurt by the Pokémon itself. You have to suck the venom out of your bloodstream immediately, or risk losing you limb. Luckily it's a pretty slow-acting poison, so I had plenty of time to get rid of it all. Though even now sometimes my arm gets really numb, right around where I was bitten, and I have to shake it around a lot to get the feeling back. The best choice would have been to get another Poison-Type to suck out the venom, as Pokémon in general can't stand the taste of human blood and obviously Poison-Types can't be poisoned. So they'd stop as soon as blood started to come out, and they'd know when all the poison was gone. Too bad you can't say the same for the undead, once that virus is in you there's no turning back. You'd have to completely amputate right when the thing bites you, and even then you can't be sure. Now with your eye, I'm fairly certain you didn't come in contact with any undead saliva, mostly because you aren't trying to eat me." I don't attempt to interrupt him because it would hardly make a difference. Anything I say calls for some ridiculous story, so I figure maybe I can just endure his rambling and he'll run out of things to say. Scout shifts uncomfortably, trying to avoid the Jolteon's line of sight. The former gym leader keeps babbling, and I refocus completely on the back of Scout's head. I don't want to listen to Volkner anymore, but I really don't want to think about anything that's happened to me lately.
So I start thinking about what it would be like to live in Scout's fur, as a little bug or something. It'd probably be extremely hot, so you'd need to have some kind of sustainable method for finding water and keeping cool. I start to wonder if Fire-Types sweat, or if they just give off heat. I don't remember ever seeing Scout sweat, but I haven't really met enough Fire-Types to be sure. Do Fighting-Types sweat? They'd have to. So if Scout is a Fire/Fighting type and Fire-Types don't sweat but Fighting-Types do, does Scout sweat or not? Well it would just evaporate, and there'd always be this really thick layer of salt on her. I've never personally licked my Pokémon, but I've kissed her forehead before and I'm fairly certain I don't remember any salt. That's the sort of thing I would definitely remember.
I must look extremely engrossed with my Pokémon's head, because Volkner stops short and looks down at me apologetically. "I'm rambling again, sorry. It's just, I don't usually have that many people to talk to and things can get really boring." Scarlet slips out from behind me and hops into her trainer's lap, watching the staring contest between Scout and Jolteon with great interest. "I think we're all excited to meet someone new." He scratches Scarlet behind her ear, and I can't help but notice how incredibly careful he is with her, as if she could snap with ease. She purrs softly, rubbing her head against his leg.
I clear my throat and ask him where he found her, trying to sit up a bit so I can see him better. "Lay down. On your side too, we're trying to stop the bleeding not make it worse," I obey him for some reason, lying back and craning my neck so I can look at him while he talks. "I found her just north of here. There was an old man there, I think he was dying. We tried to help him, but he refused. He made me take his Pokémon egg, which hatched just a couple hours later on the same route." Volkner leans down, looking Scarlet in the eyes. She stops purring and glances up her trainer, mewing loudly. He scratches behind her ear again, and she relaxes. "I named her Scarlet after my little cousin. She lives in Johto, so I can pretend she's safe from all of this."
Nodding slowly, I come to realize that I've misjudged this man. If anything he certainly cares for his Pokémon, and he seems to know a great deal more about a great many things than I first gave him credit for. He saved my life; maybe I should be a little more grateful. I start to sit up again, then stop when I remember what he told me. "Thanks," I tell him simply, turned away from him so I'm staring at the other end of the room. My coat and sweatshirt are hung up on an old nail extending out of the wall, my bag lying open and disorganized on the ground. I can see my Pokedex, a bright red square reflecting the midday light off its gleaming surface. It must have fallen out of my backpack, though I could swear I put it at the very bottom.
"No problem. I was passing through when I saw Looker trying to drag your bleeding body into an old warehouse. At first I thought he was a zombie, but as I came closer I saw he was just weird. He asked me to help him and obviously I did. So we patched you up and found a reasonable place for you to recover. I got to say though, that Monferno of yours is really crazy. She wouldn't let me get anywhere near you. My Electivire had to hold her down, and even then she fought him tooth and nail." I smile and pull Scout to my side. She yelps in surprise, calming a bit when I hold her against my chest and thank her quietly. Volkner chuckles, running his hand through Jolteon's electrified fur. He doesn't flinch at all, makes no moves to protect himself when sparks crawl up his arm. I raise my eyebrow but don't bother asking about it; he should have some electric immunity if they're the only Pokémon he raises. "I guess I shouldn't have been surprised though. She really cares about you. There was enough orange fur in your original bandages that I could tell she'd done them herself. It's not all that often you meet a Pokémon that can perform first-aid, you've trained her well."
"Uh, thanks." I say again, feeling much more awkward this time. Heat rises to my cheeks, and I feel a sudden throbbing in my face. Letting go of Scout, I put my hands to my bandages and push down, longing for the pain to leave.
"Stop doing that. You're only going to make it worse." Volkner reaches over to move my hands from my face, but Scout snarls and tries to bite him. He recoils instantly, watching Scout with a sudden flash of anger. She glares at him, her tail burning bright. He watches her carefully, eyes locked on her growling form.
The floor creaks loudly, and we all look over at Looker standing on the other end of the room. He holds a bowl of soup in each hand, while his Croagunk holds several more. "I apologize for interrupting?" He asks, looking from Volkner to Scout to me and back again. "I used several packets of instant soup and added water. There are now many bowls to go around!" Croagunk brings a bowl to me and a bowl to Scout before bolting back down the stairs to grab a few more. "Do not worry about supply, I am very well-supplied. I made enough for three humans and a full cast of Pokémon. By that I imply six."
"You're sure you don't mind sharing all that, Looker? It sounds like an awful lot of food…" Croagunk runs back into the room and hands several bowls to the former gym leader. He gasps as he tries to hold them all, spilling a bit on his hand. "Jolteon, send out the others." His Pokémon jumps off the bed and disappears out of my vision, returning with a beat-up, slate grey backpack. "Come on, they're in the side pocket. You know this." Jolteon uses its teeth to draw open the zipper, letting several Pokeballs spill out onto the floor.
"Ah, I will help you!" Looker takes two of the bowls from Volkner's hands and gives them to me. I sit up quickly, balancing the hot soup carefully on each leg. Croagunk re-emerges with three more bowls and tries to give them to Volkner. "No, Croagunk I forbid you from gathering any more soup!" The Toxic Mouth Pokémon looks down sadly, placing the bowls on the ground and slumping beside them. Looker takes Volkner's Pokeballs and tosses them into the air, careful to spread them out so they don't all appear on top of one another.
Jolteon runs to his team mates happily, greeting each of them with loud barks. Scarlet is a bit more timid, choosing instead to stay on the bed and nestle in my lap next to the soup. Volkner calls his team over, and they converge on me for food. I hand the largest bowl to a massive, frightening Electivire. He takes it gladly and sits down before us, downing most of it in one huge drink. Jolteon takes his from Volkner, and a powerful-looking Luxray takes my last extra.
Looker, Croagunk and most of Volkner's Pokémon sit on the floor while Volkner himself sits on the other end of my bed. Scout and Scarlet keep me warm on either side, taking great care not to spill one precious drop of nourishment. I bring the bowl to my lips and sip greedily, feeling a trickle of hot liquid drip onto my bare chest. My wounds hurt from sitting up, but the only other option is to lie down and be hand-fed. I like to think I'm not quite at that level of inability, so I ignore the pain and keep my body mostly upright.
Conversation comes to a complete stop while we eat. I thought Volkner looked healthy and well-fed, but he seems just as starved as the rest of us. His Pokémon eat quickly and heartily except for Scarlet, who takes great care to taste every little drop. My stomach is full before the bowl is empty, so I hand the rest off to Scout. Volkner notices this and puts his bowl down in his lap, face covered in soup. "Aren't you going to finish it?"
"Well, no. Not if I'm full…" He stares at me, looking somewhat disturbed. I try to explain, but he talks over me.
"Your ribs are literally poking out of your skin. I can see them right now, for Arceus's sake! Come on, you have to eat more. When was the last time you had a decent meal?" I sigh heavily and decide to wait until he finishes berating me. "You should really make the most out of this one, I mean, it's not like you can just make food appear out of thin air. And these packets are expensive, this sketchy guy in Veilstone tried to trade them to me for a star piece!"
"I haven't eaten anything reasonable in years, Volkner. This is the most food I've seen since I was fourteen. If I start eating now, I'll just get sick and throw it all up." I stop looking at him, instead focusing my attention on what remains of my meal. My voice becomes quiet and I push the bowl back to Scout. "Therefore…I'm done."
The room is silent for a moment, filled with the sounds of rushed, awkward eating. Volkner stares down into his bowl for a long while before apologizing quietly. I nod and tell him it's fine, he made an honest mistake. Scout and Scarlet are the last to finish, and Scout only has a little bit of mine before giving it back to Looker. He grins at all of us, him and Croagunk balancing several bowls on each hand. "I am sorry for the excess, but I wanted to for us to feel…glad. This is like a party. A party for the people in Jubilife City, we have had a citywide party right here in this very building." He's so happy about his little announcement that I don't bother mentioning how pathetic it is that a citywide party had only nine guests. Volkner nods and smiles, though I can tell he's thinking along the same lines.
Nonetheless, I'm thankful for the food and the help. Scout looks genuinely satisfied, leaning against the headboard with her arms crossed behind her. Scarlet sits beside her, rubbing her face against the Fire-Type's chest. Scout starts to shove the Flash Pokémon away before stopping and examining the little feline, carefully placing her arm around the Shinx's shoulder. Scarlet purrs, comforted by the warmth of Scout's body.
I watch the two Pokémon and smile, vaguely remembering a time when a sight like this was much more frequent.