Title: Traces of a Person
Fandom: Pokemon Special
Warnings: slight mention of violence
Summary: They aren’t pretty, but they speak more of what she’s gone through better than any words she can say to him.
Other notes: Spoilers for Ruby Sapphire arc of Pokemon Special. Franticshipping.
Many say Ruby is self-centered, but he always takes the time to find out what Sapphire is doing every so often, made easier by the fact that they are neighbors. It’s actually quite easy, since Sapphire generally is out doing ‘research’ for and with her father, if not training with her powerful Pokemon.
He doesn’t worry too much about Sapphire’s ‘research’ activities until he finds out about her bruises.
He finds one entirely by accident when his hand accidentally presses against her stomach when he reaches for a Pokedoll at her secret base to show her how cute it is. Sapphire hides her reaction to pain well, he knows, but he thinks he knows her well enough to decipher her normal face from her “I’m-hiding-something face”. A more careful look at her reveals some healing bruises on her long legs, hidden normally by her socks which were hung up to dry today, his having insisted that she wash them.
They were both pretty messed up by that Salamence, he knows, and that incident led to Sapphire becoming so self-sufficient and independent to the point of being reckless and wild.
But being reckless and wild doesn’t excuse one getting bruises.
“Is it big?” he says, since it is likely inappropriate to just pull up her shirt to look at it.
“It’s nothing,” she says like he expects her to.
“There should be a limit to your wildness, you know.”
“I don’t exactly remember asking your opinion, Ruby” she sniffs, and he swears he can hear her mutter something about “caring but then he forgets the really important stuff, heck.”
He cracks a smile, though he is still worried about the bruises. Maybe it’ll be good to see the other Dex holders; maybe he can sneakily ask one of them to take a closer look at them.
Anyway, where could she have gotten a bruise to her stomach anyway? What could she have been doing then? Had she been doing something dangerous again? He sighed. That next meeting with the Dex Holders couldn’t come sooner, he thinks.
Sapphire had said she’d be running late because of research with her father when she called him a few hours before he was to leave for Johto, so Ruby came to the Dex Holders’ meeting place alone. He thought he’d be late himself, considering how far it was from Hoenn, but when he reached the Town Square in New Bark Town, only Senior Crystal and Emerald were there to greet him.
“Ruby!” said Emerald cheerfully. “Where’s Sapphire?”
“Running late, she had some research with her father to go through” he said automatically.
Crystal frowned. “Is this the research Professor Birch is collaborating on with Professor Oak?”
“I don’t know, why?”
“We just finished that two weeks ago,” said Crystal. “And from what I know, Professor Birch wanted to take a long break afterwards, at least a month so that he could also field any questions about the research from the other Professors. Both he and Professor Oak were frazzled when the paper was finalized and submitted then, I was there also on Professor Oak’s side and Sapphire on Professor Birch’s. It’s why we were glad that our meeting was postponed, so we wouldn’t have to miss it. I was telling Sapphire that we should celebrate, though she hasn’t been answering my calls these last few days, so I was quite worried.”
“Maybe he found something else to research on?” said Ruby, though he didn’t honestly like the sound of that. Senior Crystal was very dependable; what she said was usually to be trusted.
“Maybe,” she said disbelievingly.
“Yo, you all look like Super Serious Girl, what’s up?”
He chuckled weakly as he saw Crystal reflexively hit Gold on the head. “Gold, how can you be late when you actually live here?”
He laughed. “Hey, at least I’m not the last one to get here. ‘Sides, Mom made me clean up the house a bit. But where are the others, anyway?” He turned to Ruby and blinked. “Showy boy, where’s the wild girl?”
He frowned. “Research, she said.”
“Huh, Crys, I thought you said you had finished your research already, that’s why you let me drag you out last week-“
“Shut up, Gold” Crystal said with a faint blush on her cheek. “Ruby, if you want, I can check with Professor Oak about any new research Professor Birch and Sapphire might have started.”
He nodded, though his mind was already far away, thinking about the bruises he had seen on Sapphire with some too oddly placed to be gotten from ‘research’, or at least Sapphire’s usual way of conducting it. (After all, he remembered how proudly she said that she was able to observe Pokemon without their noticing her.)
“Where’s Sapphire?” says everyone who comes later to him, and he wonders why everyone asks him anyway.
Right, because you’re neighbors, he reasons, though he thinks that isn’t exactly the real reason after Gold shakes his head at him after he says that for the nth time.
“Did you tell your mother we were coming?” Senior Green asks Senior Gold, who shrugs in response. Feeling Green’s annoyance, Senior Crystal pipes up that she and Silver had talked to Gold’s mother, and that she was excited to meet them all.
It is in that moment that she comes into view on her Tropius, landing in the middle of the Town Square. Cheerful yet tired, she smiles at the other Dex Holders. “Hey everyone! Sorry I’m late!” Senior Crystal smiles at her after exchanging a quick glance with him, one caught by both Senior Gold and Silver who then looked suspiciously at him. He shook his head quickly, not wanting to cause any misunderstandings; he knew how protective the two were of Crystal after all their adventures together. It was probably the same way he was about Sapphire, not that he’d let the girl know about it willingly.
“Sapphire’s here,” said Red after a long moment, “so we can all go to Gold’s House.” Cheers follow his statement, and everyone starts walking to Gold’s House.
Ruby delays his walking so that he can fall in step with Sapphire, who has just waved to Tropius.
“Are you not telling me something?”
She flinches minutely, something no one other than he would be able to catch. “What do you mean, Ruby?”
“About what you’ve been doing these last few days.”
“I told you, research.”
“But Senior Crystal said that you finished your research with her and Professor Oak two days ago.”
“Yes, she did. Are you working on something new, because Senior Crystal said she didn’t know of anything new you were working on.”
He exhales as he prepares to ask his next question, spurred by seeing yet another new bruise on her arm: “Does whatever you’ve been doing with whoever, even, since I doubt your father knows about whatever you’re doing, cause-“
He stops, both of them reflexively dodging a Pokeball hit between them.
“Gold!” They turn to find Senior Gold, his billards cue in one hand, smirking and Senior Crystal, looking apologetically at Ruby. “Sorry, Ruby, I tried to stop him but-” She then hit Senior Gold on the head, causing him to wince.
“Aww Crys, what did you do that for? Anyway,” he scratched his nose before waving his hand “if you haven’t noticed, we’re already at my house. Lunch is served, you know.”
Sapphire dashes in quickly, sniffing the air cheerfully, though Ruby thinks that it’s more like she wants to avoid what they were talking about. Senior Crystal pats him on the head and pulls his arm to lead him in Gold’s house, which Ruby is surprised to note is much larger than he expected.
“I’ll try to ask her, Ruby, if you want” Crystal says quietly. “She might open up to another girl, at least about those,” she frowns and Ruby is thankful that Senior Crystal, at least, has also noticed at least some of Sapphire’s bruises.
“Please,” he says softly. “Thank you, Senior Crystal.”
Before he goes in, though, he notes Gold’s alert eyes trained on the two of them, a frown on his face.
After the plates are cleaned between all of them, most everyone goes into Gold’s living room to watch the latest news, though Ruby spies Sapphire sneaking outside with a Pokegear in her hand. He follows, making sure to hide himself well as he listens to Sapphire’s conversation.
“It’s okay, I’m in the area now, like I said I would be” she says in a calm voice that surprises Ruby, it seems so unnatural to hear her speak that way. She pauses to listen, then squeaks. “Mt. Silver?” She sighs, “All right, I’ll go there. ”
She puts away the Pokegear, frowning, then calls her Tropius. Gracefully it lands, and she flies off.
Ruby panics. “Now what,” he says lowly.
“We follow them,” said Senior Crystal, behind him.
“Don’t worry, I have Xatee, who knows how to be quiet. But she can only take one, though, and I guess you know a bit more of the situation than I do, Ruby, so you should go.”
“Thank you, Senior Crystal” he says, grasping her hands. She just smiles and releases her Xatu, instructing it properly.
“It’s okay, tell me later what you find out.” She frowned again while patting his shoulder. “Hurry, you might miss her.”
“Okay,” he says and Xatee secures him with its claws and flies.
Xatee hides behind a tree after they locate Sapphire in the densely populated forest on top of Mt. Silver talking to someone he can’t identify, and Ruby strains to hear what they are talking about.
“You’re taking a risk, you know. How are your bruises from the last job?”
“They’re fine!” she said brightly. “I’m used to them, since I used to always conduct research in the wild!”
The older man sighs, and Ruby slips on his glasses to get a better look at the man.
Steven Stone, he realizes, the former champion. What’s he doing in Johto? And what does he have to do with Sapphire?
And why does he know about her bruises? He stamps down the annoyance he feels, thinking them petty at a time like this.
“It’s okay, Mr. Stone, Father knows my role in this.”
He nods, frowning. “You know how to contact me,” he said quickly, “but Sapphire, think about it.”
She sighs, “Yeah, I know” she says softly.
“So,” he heard someone say from below him, “Sapphire’s been investigating things, huh? So the rumors were true.”
He is shocked to see his red-headed senior hanging on to his Honchow, contemplative. “Senior Silver?”
“Let’s talk later,” said the boy. “With her, of course.”
Senior Crystal doesn’t look surprised to see Senior Silver with him when he comes back, a little after Sapphire’s return.
“Ruby, Silver, what did you hear?” She then says the next words lowly, “Gold is distracting Sapphire right now.”
“She was meeting with someone I couldn’t identify,” said Silver. “And Crystal, you owe me an explanation. And Gold.”
“I know,” she agreed, “but maybe not Gold,” she amends.
“He is worried, somewhere deep down inside, you know.” She glares at him, and he says again, “Deep down.”
“Right,” she said, turning to Ruby. “Please, Ruby, tell me what you understood of what you saw.”
“She met with the former Hoenn Champion, Steven Stone” Ruby said mechanically, noting the surprise in their eyes. “It seems that Sapphire has been doing something, “jobs”, that cause her to have bruises. Mr. Stone told her to be careful and asked about them, and mentioned that she should think about something… But Senior Silver seemed to understand more about their conversation than I did.”
“There have been rumors, Crystal, Ruby, that there is something happening in Hoenn… and it may involve my father’s evil organization.”
Senior Crystal, after hearing Senior Silver’s words, stands up and says that she’ll call Sapphire.
“And Gold,” Senior Silver reminds her.
“And Gold,” she sighs, before turning to him. “Don’t worry, Ruby, I’ll do the talking” Senior Crystal said gently.
“Did someone say my name?” said Gold brightly. Crystal slapped her head and Silver sighed.
“Anyway, I’ll go get Sapphire,” she said softly, leaving the three boys to look at each other.
“Ne, showy boy, relax a little” said Gold suddenly. “You look like you broke a nail or something.”
He knows from all the other Dex Holders how much like a punk Gold is, brash, and saying things to wind people up but he checks his nails surreptiously just to make sure.
“Gold,” says Silver warningly, and he sighs.
“Is this normal Pokedex Holder stuff again?”
“Looks like it,” said Silver.
The interrogation with Sapphire goes better than Ruby expected, since Senior Crystal seems to be able to draw out Sapphire better than he could.
Sapphire herself seems to relax as she tells them everything, unconsciously rubbing her ankle. How Sapphire had been asked by her father to meet Mr. Stone on his request to talk to one of the Pokedex Holders. How she had, along with Mr. Stone, investigated some suspicious activity in certain areas. How some Forretress had exploded near her, causing some of her bruises. How some of the other bruises had been gotten when one of the members of the organization they were investigating had attempted to capture her, if not for her quick thinking.
How now the evil organization was starting to infiltrate Johto, based on Steven’s intelligence gathering, hence their meeting to plan what next to do.
Calmly, Seniors Silver and Crystal talk about what they’ve heard and what they can do to help. Senior Gold looks bored, but his eyes are as alert as ever, signaling his attention. Ruby stays silent. Sapphire answers questions, only saying that she’ll tell Mr. Stone that there are some more Pokedex Holders who wish to help, as he had requested she think about.
“We’ll set off tomorrow,” Senior Crystal said quickly, after the plans are set. “Get some sleep, both of you.”
“Do you think she’ll tell the other Seniors and Emerald?”
“I think they’re going to talk about that first, the three of them. Or rather, Seniors Crystal and Silver will. Senior Gold will just agree with them. But I don’t think so, not now. Emerald, I don’t know.” He sighed. “But Sapphire, why didn’t you tell me anything? Did he not want you to have help from the start?”
“No, he asked Professor Birch to send more Pokedex Holders after our first gathering of data, but Papa thought Emerald too young to jump headfirst into something this dangerous, and-“ She trailed off, her cheeks slightly tinged with red.
“I was going to tell you,” she says softly. “Tonight.”
“Right,” he says lowly, still discomfited. “Was that decision made before or after our seniors found out?”
“You don’t exactly make it easy to tell you things, ‘ya know!” she cried.
He deserved that, and he nodded before changing the subject. “Have you treated your bruises yet?”
“Don’t be stubborn,” he says, bringing out some medicine and placing it in her hand. “Hurry and put some on them. Do you need me to do it?”
She blushed, swatting away his hands. “I can treat them myself!”
“Fine, but I’m not leaving until you treat them in this room.”
“Fine, don’t look!”
The minutes ticked by as Ruby waited for her to finish, his eyes closed. Were they that many that it took a long time?
“I’m done!” Sapphire cried out, holding out the medicine to him.
“Good,” he said. “Keep it and use it two times a day.”
“I’m not as bad I used to be, Sapphire. I’m going with you.”
She sighed. “Okay, if you’re sure.”
“Sapphire, aren’t you afraid?”
She gritted her teeth. “Of course I am!” Her voice lowered as she spoke again. “But I have to help, because Pokemon are being mistreated and Hoenn and now also Johto is in trouble. I don’t care about the bruises as long as I’m doing my best! Better I get hurt than them!”
And with that, Ruby remembers why he left Sapphire in the air car all those years ago, how he understands that his master and he are much more alike than people think, why he attempted to keep his feelings hidden after everything had happened.
He sighs, seeing the bruises again, seeing all the possible ways she had been hurt since he had been looking the other way. Sapphire had grown since all their adventures together, but she was still Sapphire, still reckless, still passionate to the point of disaster.
Her bravery, her recklessness, her passion are all reflected in those bruises of hers, and I don’t want to worry anymore about what the next bruise will show, or if she’ll even tell me about it if I don’t go with her.
“You should care about the bruises too.”
“I’ll care about them, if you won’t.” And I’ll care, even though I say I don’t, if you won’t, Sapphire.