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He is eighteen, and she is seventeen. And he stands alone at the top of a tower surrounded by men in black suits. He is well aware of how he got there, and as far as he's concerned, if he had the choice of whether or not to repeat all the steps he took that led him to that room, he would not only do it but also do it with a smile. There is a reason why he's standing there – a good one. It plays in his mind over and over again as he stares at the only figure in that room who scares him.
The red-head reaches out for him, palm up and a grin across her face. She introduces herself as Ariana. Yet, despite her allegiance, he observes that her expression isn't particularly wicked. There is no malice in her grin, no twist in the corners of her mouth, not even a glint in her eyes that would betray anything else but straightforward professionalism. She simply looks at him as if he's an old friend.
"Bill," she says, "I'm sorry my leader isn't available to receive you personally. This is quite a surprise to be honest, and on behalf of our organization, I thank you for coming. Now, shall we get down to business?"
He says nothing. At that point, his arms begin to ache. The men holding his wrists behind his back are squeezing his limbs just a little too hard.
"We've watched you for a very long time. Your work is most impressive," Ariana tells him. "For that, I would like to invite you to join us. I have the means to make it worthwhile for you. Pokémon? Funding? Security for your family, perhaps? Anything you could ever dream of can be yours. Just name it."
As soon as she finishes, he begins to smile.
A long time ago, in a certain place
Evil people lived in a kingdom
And there, ruling over all at the throne
Was my very cute sibling
In one of their earliest memories, he is five, and she is four. They stand hand-in-hand on a beach, their small, bare feet buried in white sand as the cold water washes around their ankles. Years later, neither of them would be able to remember where their parents are that day; it's more than likely that he took her to the beach on his own. Back then, he took care of her, mostly. What else would he do? Their mother worked hard in an office until each evening, and their father…
He doesn't like to talk about that part.
In his other hand, he holds a bottle, and in this bottle is a scrap of paper. She holds nothing at all besides him.
They look nothing alike, and in terms of personality, they are night and day. The brother is smart, they say. Already, he's showing a lot of potential. That's what the teacher told their mother one day. He's learning at a far more rapid pace than any other child who went to that school, and wouldn't she and her husband like to discuss the possibility of placing him in a higher grade?
He squeezes her hand, and his sister squeezes back. They stand for a long time until she finally says something.
With a sharp turn of his head, he casts her a glance as if he was surprised that she could speak. He blinks once and then holds up the bottle to look through its clear glass sides at the scrap of paper resting within it. All the while, his head feels light, like he's just awoken from a very long sleep.
"It's a wishing bottle," he tells her.
She tilts her head. "What's that?"
"Didn't Mama tell you the story?"
His sister shrugs. "Yeah… but I like it when you tell it."
After a few seconds, he smiles at her. "Well, you know, they say there's spirits in the water. Good ones, not the scary kind that are in the woods. And if you write a wish on a piece of paper and put it in a bottle, you can send it to the spirits by putting it in the ocean. If it doesn't come back, that means one of them got it, and that wish is going to come true."
She nods. "So what are you gonna wish for?"
"I can't tell you. Then it won't come true."
He punctuates this by stepping forward and throwing the bottle into the ocean. It lands a few feet out to sea with a splash, and the waves whisk it further and further away from the shore. All the while, the siblings stretch their arms but never let go of each other's hand.
Eventually, the bottle can't be seen from the shore. When that happens, the brother steps back to stand beside his sister.
"Can you tell me now?" the sister asks.
"No," he replies.
They watch the waves for a long time. Inside, they both know they should be getting back because their mother is surely going to worry about them. But they stand, feeling each other's warmth through their fingers.
Eventually, he inquires, "If you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?"
At first, she doesn't respond. He waits patiently, knowing all too well that it's a big question for someone to answer, especially his sister. There's a lot of things an ordinary little girl could want, and knowing her, he thinks it might have something to do with fairies. She always liked the stories about Ilex Forest and the things that supposedly lived in it.
Eventually, she squeezes his hand again and opens her mouth. He looks at her, giving her all the attention she deserves.
"I'm hungry," she replies.
He pauses for a second. Then, he laughs. She stares at him with curiosity as he covers his mouth. He doesn't know why he's laughing. He simply is, and it feels good.
Once he calms down, he tugs at her hand and turns to lead her away from the water.
"Okay. Let's go get something to eat. I think I've still got some change left."
"Can we have ice cream?" she says.
"Faith," he tells her, "you can have anything you want."
With that, she takes a quick step to catch up with him, and when she does, she leans against his side, bumping into him with each step that carries them away from the beach. He takes pleasure in feeling her warmth, feeling that close to another person. There's something on his mind, but he doesn't let her know that he's at all troubled.
In the next month, he begins his first year of school. She doesn't.
It's the last time they get to be together.
We were born under high expectations
The bells of the church blessed us
But for selfish adults' reasons
Our future was ripped in two
He is nine, and she is eight. By then, the entire city knows about him – probably the entire region. They say he's a genius, but she doesn't know what that word means. All she knows is that her brother is her brother; why would he be anything else?
But lately, he hasn't been playing with her as often as he used to. They don't go to the beach anymore. He spends his time cooped up in his room with books all around him. She knows her brother; she knows he could read through all of those books in less than an hour and fill in all the blanks on each sheet the adults give him in no time at all. After all, she may not know what the word "genius" means, but she knows her brother is smart, probably the smartest brother ever. Besides, she's seen him do it before, not too long ago when he was six.
He started slowing down when he was seven. By the time he turned nine, it would take him hours to complete each task set by the teachers or the doctors or whoever else was interested in him. It's not that he couldn't do them or found them too hard. If anything, he found them too easy. It's just that he never wanted to do them. She doesn't know why.
Nowadays, there are times when he sneaks away from the piles of work for brief moments to play with her. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, his world becomes centered around her for those precious minutes. Sometimes, they climb out the window and onto the roof, and there, they talk and point out shapes in the clouds or they climb down the gutters and run away into the city.
It's Saturday, and she's bored. Snow fell that morning, coating all of Goldenrod City in a thin layer of white. She wants to go to the park and make snow angels, and she knows the perfect companion for that.
So, she opens his door and finds him staring out the window. A pile of books sit on his desk, and there's a mess of papers, many of which are crumpled or ripped, on the floor. She tiptoes through the room, but when the papers rustle under her feet, he finally snaps out of his daydreams and looks at her. His eyes are wide, and there's dark shadows beneath each socket. She doesn't think much of that until later on in life.
At that point, she smiles and holds out a hand, palm-up.
"Wanna go to the park?" she asks.
He smiles back. "Sorry, Faith. Wish I could, but I gotta finish up."
She huffs and puts her hands on her hips. "Doesn't look like you're studying."
"Hey! I am too! I'm just taking a break!" His voice is indignant, but the grin isn't fading.
Her cheeks puff out as she glares at him. "You're lying."
For a few seconds, he looks at her, at her expanded cheeks, her shrunken mouth, and her narrow eyes. Then, without warning, he bursts into laughter. Her expression softens as she stands quietly, but just as quickly as the look on her face changed, it shifted back to an annoyed glare.
"What?" she snaps.
He hides his mouth behind a hand. "You look like an angry jigglypuff!"
"Aww!" He stands and quickly makes his way to her side, stepping on his schoolwork along the way. His arms wrap around her in a tight hug. "Don't take it so badly. I'm just saying you're my cute baby sister."
"I'm not a baby," she pouts. "And you look like a gross raticate."
"You don't mean that."
"I do too!"
"Well!" He pulls away from her. Turning towards the window, he clasps his hands behind his back. "I guess you don't want to go out that badly, then. I was gonna say it'll only take me a couple of minutes, and then we could go to the park and make snowmen. But if you really think I look like a ratic--"
His words are cut off with a resounding "oomph" as his sister crashes into him. The only thing that keeps the two of them from toppling over is a few quick steps. Her arms circle him tightly as she presses her cheek into his chest.
"You're the best big brother ever, and I'm sorry I called you a raticate!" she yells.
One of his hands rests on the top of her head. "Okay! Okay! Lemme go so I can finish up, and then we'll go to the park. Sound good?"
She nods, rubbing her cheek into his shirt. It takes a moment on his part to finally pry her off.
"And I meant it when I said you were cute," he tells her.
"Were?" she responds slyly.
"Don't push it, kiddo. I could just change my mind about the park."
She takes a step back and holds up a finger. "Okay, but can we go in an hour?"
He grins. "Okay. One hour. That should be enough time for me."
At that, she cheers and whirls around to dart out of the room. He stands for a second, watching her go with a smile on his face. Then, his grin wavers a little as he turns back to the desk and walks slowly to its side. His hands pick up the first book on the top of the stack, and as if someone else is controlling his actions, he opens it and stares at the pictures inside without absorbing any of its information. Photos of bulbasaur, charmander, and countless other pokémon litter its pages, and the words beside each picture detail everything a beginning trainer would need to know about them.
He doesn't have the heart to tell her that the following month, he would be leaving for his pokémon journey. She wouldn't be going with him.
When I visited the neighboring country
I happened to see a green girl walking in the city
With her kind voice and a smile on her face
I fell in love at first sight
He is fifteen, she is fourteen, and everyone most definitely knows about them. To be more accurate, everyone knows about him more than her. Ever since he graduated college and moved to a remote part of Kanto, she heard all kinds of rumors about him. People say he knows everything there is to know about pokémon. Some say he locks himself in his cottage and performs twisted experiments on pokémon and himself. Others say he steals the research of far more experienced scientists. Still others have constructed a thousand different theories as to what goes on behind the closed doors of the house in the furthest corner of civilization – theories that have nothing to do with his work.
Sometimes, she feels a sense of pleasure in knowing her brother more than them. She knows that he isn't the type of person who would do the things that the rumors say he does.
But it's also been three months since she last spoke to him, and before that, there was a period of six months between that phone conversation and the one before it.
Not long before her fourteenth birthday, he calls her. It's not just a phone conversation this time, either. It's a complete invitation. She accepts without hesitation.
When he meets her, it's at the pier at Vermilion City. His smile is wide as he steps off the boat and walks briskly to where she's standing beside her charizard. The dragon grunts and steps aside as he quickly approaches her and wraps his arms around her.
"It's good to see you!" he exclaims. "How's your journey going?"
She returns his hug and breathes in deep. "Good. I'm almost ready to take on the Silver Conference."
"Again?" He pulls away and looks at her blankly.
"Third time's a charm, they say."
"No, I meant I didn't realize you were on the Johto circuit."
"Pfft." She smirks. "It's not like you could've found out. You don't call or anything, you know."
There's a split second where he looks a little hurt before his expression turns into a sheepish grin. The change happens quickly, but even then, she catches it. Narrowing her eyes, she lifts a hand and taps the back of it against his forehead.
"Hey, don't look at me like that," she drawls. "I know you're busy. Rumor has it you're kinda important now."
He chuckles nervously. "Well, I guess you could say that." Shaking his head, he quickly adds, "But enough about me! It's your birthday, isn't it?"
Instantly, her eyes glitter. "And where are you going with that?"
With a wink, he reaches into a pocket and pulls out a small box wrapped in a yellow ribbon. He grabs her wrist and gently pulls it up until her hand unfolds palm up in front of him. In its center, he places the box and closes her fingers around it.
"You'll like this. Open it," he informs her.
She raises an eyebrow as she pulls the ribbon off the box and slides off the lid. Inside, a computer chip sits, glinting in the noon sun. Looking up, she gazes at her brother with a strange glance.
"Um… thanks?" she mutters.
"Don't be fooled by its simplicity," he advises. "It's a pokédex upgrade. Not only does it include the latest entries from Unova, but it also allows your pokédex to perform faster. Let me install it later on today, and you'll see."
"You made this yourself, didn't you?"
She gives him another smirk. "Show off."
"Can you blame me?" he replies with a laugh. "You always give me the opportunity to test out my latest work. If that functions for you exactly as I intended, it'll be on the market within a year."
In response, she closes the box and shoves it into her shoulder bag. "Humph. Well, nice to know I'm your personal guinea pig."
"H-hey now," he stammers. "I didn't mean it like that!"
"I'm teasing you," she assures him. Then, she pauses as her fingers brush against another object in her bag. "Anyway, I'm glad you can spend some time with me. There's something I need to talk to you about."
He looks away, towards the ship again. Someone is calling his name.
"Oh, hold on," he says. He lifts an arm in a wave as he raises his voice just enough to be heard by the newcomer. "Hey! Over here!"
She follows his gaze and catches sight of a woman running towards them. The stranger's own arm is raised in a wave as a bright smile spreads across her thin face. With each step, the wind catches strands of her long hair and the hem of her green dress until she comes to a halt beside them. When she does, he gazes at her with a bright expression of his own.
At first, his sister frowns and clutches the strap of her purse a little tighter. She isn't sure what to make of this woman or the fact that she stole her brother's attention away from her.
But then, the woman turns her soft glance towards the sister, and suddenly, the latter feels her grip on the strap loosen.
"I nearly forgot!" her brother exclaims. "I hope you don't mind, but we'll be having some company for lunch today. I'd like for you to meet a friend of mine."
His sister looks away and mutters a hello. Inside, her heart pounds.
For the remainder of the day, she tries her best not to say much to the other woman. In her mind, the list of things she wants to tell her brother go untouched, replaced by mantras she uses to keep her expression when she looks at the other woman as indifferent as possible. Somehow, she manages to push through the day without incident of any sort, and with quick goodbyes, she leaves on the back of her charizard.
Only then does the blush begin to form.
Half a year later, her brother won't be with the woman. He won't tell his sister; he never wanted to upset her.
Before long the angry townspeople
Will probably overthrow us
Even if we so rightly deserve this,
Despite that, I will defy them
He is eighteen, and she is seventeen. His sibling is safe, asleep in his bed at home. For the past three days, a darkness has shrouded their city at night. No one can come and go anymore. All the lights are turned off as soon as the sun sets, and all the curtains are drawn. Men in black suits crowd the streets, and like monsters swallowing witless travelers whole, their hands grab every hapless person who wanders into the open alone.
Their father has been missing for two days. They've tried to talk to their mother about it, but she has locked herself in her room. He has a feeling she knows something.
Right now, though, a pair of men lead him up the stairs of the radio tower. Not a word is spoken between them from the time they lead him away from his home up to that point, and he goes out of his way to avoid expressing anything at all towards them. Their grips are a little too tight and twist his skin into a painful stretch, but he doesn't react at all. Instead, he closes his eyes and lets them lead him on their journey. He wonders what his sibling must be dreaming about. Is she happy? Is she having a nightmare? She may not know it – because they've spent far too long apart – but he frequently wonders about these two questions. The possibilities worry him more than he has ever admitted to her.
Part of him wishes that he had.
When his captors open the door, the thought rushes from his mind. He opens his eyes to find himself in a large office just barely furnished. In the middle is a desk, and on it sits a woman with bright, red hair. Her red eyes glimmer as she stares at him and smiles.
"Good evening, Bill," she says. "My name is Ariana, and on behalf of Team Rocket, I'd like to welcome you back to our city."
"Here, I will lend you my clothes
Wear this and escape immediately
It'll be all right -- we're twins
No one will notice"
He is eighteen, she is seventeen, and he has no idea that not too long from now, men will be leading him away from the house. In the darkness of the dining room, he sits alone, hands folded and eyes on the candle sitting in the middle of the table. Its light dances across his face, highlighting the shadows and the creases from a lack of sleep. He jumps at the sound of the kettle whistling, and shortly afterwards, he puts a hand on his head as he listens to his sister make them tea.
Soon, she appears across the table, as if by magic, with two cups balanced on two saucers. She places one set in front of her brother and sits down across from him. He mutters a thanks and brings the cup to his lips. His breath gently blows across the surface, pushing the steam away from his face and sending small waves towards the rim opposite of him. Meanwhile, she simply watches, her hands wrapped around the warm ceramic as her eyes steady on her brother's face.
"Are you okay?" she asks.
He shrugs and forces a smile. "Nothing to worry about. I just have a lot on my mind."
She looks towards the curtains and then back at him. It takes a moment for the gesture to register in his head.
"No, not that," he says. Then, after a pause, he adds, "Well, a little."
"Are you scared?"
He eyes her carefully. "No. They don't know I'm here, do they?"
"Not yet, no."
There's a beat of silence as he takes a sip. If he was more alert, he would have detected a strange bitter taste, but he's not.
"I want to apologize to you," he says.
She raises her eyebrows. "For what?"
Placing his cup on the saucer in front of him, he takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. "I know I've been busy lately, and it's not fair to you."
"You're doing a lot, Bill. You can't be too hard on yourself, you know. Anyway, you like your job, don't you?"
He shakes his head. "I do, but… you said something to me a few years ago. Do you remember? On your fourteenth birthday? You said I never call."
"Oh." She lifts her cup and shifts her eyes to the side. "That. Look, I didn't mean it, okay?"
"No, you did," he replies. "It's okay, though. You're right. I don't contact you as much as I should; I don't contact anyone in the family. Sometimes, I feel terrible about that. I care deeply about all of you, you know." He pauses, opens his eyes, rests his cheek on a hand. "I love being a pokémon researcher. I don't think there's anything else I would enjoy doing more than what I do now. And I love pokémon. But you're my family. I shouldn't ignore you."
"You know, it's really weird to hear you say you feel guilty over something. Usually, you're pretty shameless," she comments with a grin.
He narrows his eyes at her. "That's not funny."
Lowering her cup, she gives him a small smile. "You're right. It's not. I'm just saying what I said just a minute ago. Don't be too hard on yourself. We know you care."
"I really don't think you know how much." He slips his hand to the table. "There's something I should confess to you. Everything I do… it's for you, you know."
Instantly, her body chills as the expression on her face turns serious. "What do you mean?"
He keeps his eyes on his own cup as his mind struggles to put the words together. After a long time, he finally says, "When I'm a researcher, my goal is to understand pokémon so others may feel closer to them, and when I'm an inventor, I try to create things that would make life easier for everyone. Either way, every last thing I do is to create a better world for everything in it. That means…"
"…A better world for us." Her voice is faint, and her mouth feels like it's operating outside of her will.
He nods. "I thought it would be nice, you know. There were a lot of things that were difficult when we were children. You were too young to understand, and this was before Hope was born. I knew, though. I always did."
"Things? Like what?"
He glances towards the stairway. Even though they aren't as close as they were when they were children, she still knows what he means. She can still read his glance, his worried expression, and realize from there he means their parents and all the things that were secret back then but aren't secrets anymore.
"I see," she says quietly. "You know… you're too sweet. That's the problem with you, Bill."
Lifting his cup, he takes another sip. "Someone has to look out for you – the both of you, actually. I just wish I made it clearer that that was what I was doing. You shouldn't ever feel like you're alone."
"I don't," she says.
He nods and places the cup back on the table. "Anyway, why am I telling you all this?"
Lifting a hand, he rubs one of his temples. "A little."
"That's okay." She brings her cup back to her lips. "I spiked your tea with Sleep Powder. You should be falling asleep as we speak. It's harmless, though. You'll wake up tomorrow fully rested."
His hand grips his head. Suddenly, his body feels heavy, and it's becoming difficult for him to keep his chin up. When he looks at her, his vision grows fuzzy, and he squints to keep himself focused.
"What?" he murmurs.
She places her cup on the table and stands. One of her hands reaches over and ruffles his hair while the other reaches into a pocket to pull out a leather wallet.
"You've shared something with me, so I think it's only right to share something with you." With one hand, she flips the wallet open and lets him peer at the badge inside. "I tried to tell you back then on the pier that I got a job offer. I've been keeping an eye on Team Rocket for these past few years, you know. There's things you don't know about Dad, and there's things you shouldn't know about what they think of you. But it's okay. It'll all be okay. We're gonna fix this, Bill. We'll fix it so you won't have to worry about them ever. I promise."
She pulls away and walks over to the front door. In that time, she doesn't say a word as she twists the knob and opens it. Standing aside, she lets three men walk in: two in black suits and the third in a brown trench coat. She closes the door and locks it.
"Did anyone notice you?" she asks quickly.
One of the men in black answers her gruffly. "No. No one saw us, ma'am."
Turning, she walks calmly to her brother and puts her hands on his arm. He allows her to pull him out of the chair, but he leans against her when he's on his feet. His head swims, and it's getting harder and harder to concentrate.
"Sorry," she says. "This is the only way I can be certain you won't do anything stupid. I know you would. You're too sweet, you know."
She leans over and kisses him on the forehead. He doesn't say a word or move to object. All he does is close his eyes and sway.
"I'll need to borrow a few of your things," she says. "They won't notice a difference between us so long as I don't say anything."
"Who?" he murmurs.
"Team Rocket," she answers nonchalantly. "I told you, Bill. We're gonna fix this."
The man in the brown trench coat is suddenly by her side. Carefully, he slips her brother's arm around his shoulders and helps her lead him into his bedroom. All the while, he's shaking his head and whispering pleas to her. Don't go, don't do this, it's crazy, please, Faith, no. The words tumble out of his mouth, but he's no longer conscious of what he's saying. All he knows is he's terrified, and it's getting harder and harder to discern why.
"Just sleep for now, Bill," she says. "I promise, everything's gonna be okay."
He shakes his head. When she turns to him, she notices that he's crying. Her heart hurts; she doesn't like deceiving him at all. But she knows she had to, and with that in mind, she reaches up and brushes the tears away from his cheeks with a thumb.
"You used to do that too, you know. Whenever I fell and hurt myself doing something stupid, you were always there to bandage me up. You always were a good big brother like that."
When they finally pull him to his bed, they sit him down, and the man in brown backs away. Sister stands in front of brother, hands on his shoulders and dark eyes locked with his. She smiles and kisses him one more time.
"And Bill? Thanks for everything. You really are the best big brother ever."
With that, she gently pushes him into lying down. He rests his head on the pillow, eyes half-closed as she pulls the covers over him. Each blink lasts a little longer, and he fights to stay awake, fights to open his mouth and tell her one last thing, fights to say the three words he hasn't yet told her. But eventually, his body wins out, and his eyes close one last time.
She doesn't have the heart to tell him she might not be back. She leaves three hours later. He doesn't.
Even if all the world becomes your enemy
I will still protect you
So you just be somewhere
Smiling and laughing
She is seventeen. He is eighteen. Ariana has just finished her proposal, and as she folds her manicured hands over her lap, she waits patiently for an answer from someone she thinks is someone else.
Instead, the sister nods, and all around her, the men in black step into action. Not all of them, but there's enough. Pokémon appear. Attacks fill the room with smoke and fire and electricity. Agents grapple with grunts, handcuffs glinting in the light of each pokémon attack as one member of Team Rocket after another is subdued and cast aside. Ariana glares at her and slips off the desk to disappear into the chaos. The hold on the sister releases, and she stands with a small smile in the middle of the battlefield. Her hand reaches into a pocket and pulls out a poké ball, one that she knows contains her charizard, the one thing she could rely on in situations like this.
But then, an arbok appears above her, jaws open and a hiss rushing from its throat. She turns just as the snake opens its jaws wide, parts its long fangs, and lunges.
Time slows down at that point, but she doesn't have a chance to move before the snake envelopes her in darkness.
You are my prince; I am your servant
Destiny divided pitiful twins
If it's to protect you,
I'll become evil for you
Bill wakes up. After a second, he sits bolt upright and stares at the wall straight ahead of him. He swears he felt something – a pang in his heart that lingers. Something is missing, but he can't put his finger on what.
In the corner of the room is a man in a trench coat. It takes a moment for Bill to notice him, and when he does, he instantly feels a creeping sensation crawl across his entire body. He tenses, waiting for this man to say something.
"Bill," he says, "my name is Looker, and there's something I should tell you. It's about your sister."
Right away, Bill's heart stops.
He is eighteen.
If I could be reborn
At that time, I'd like to play with you again.