A Fluttering of Wings
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"Oh I can't believe we're finally leaving Phlox Town!" Misty shouted, surprisingly excited.
"What do you mean?" Ivory blinked, confused. "We were only here for a few days at best."
"Which is wierd! It feels like we've been hear at least nine months!" Misty insisted. "So...where's Jason anyway?"
"Over there." Ivory jerked her head in the direction of the benches, where Jason just sat, looking out the window. Pichu was looking up at him, tilting her head as she showed worry for her trainer.
"How long has he been like that?" Misty asked, concerned.
"Ever since he woke up." Ivory sighed. "He skipped breakfast today, skipped dinner last night...I think losing to Silus hit him really hard."
"It was just one loss!" Misty grumbled angrily. "Do you have any idea how many times I've lost as a Gym Leader and had to hand over a badge?"
Ivory smirked. "The fact that you seem irritated about it, I assume it's more than four or five?"
"L-let's not talk about that!" Misty hastily changed the subject. "I'm gonna go get him." She walked over to Jason, and gently nudged him on the shoulder. "Hey, Jason. Come on, it's time to go."
No answer. Jason simply sat there, staring off out of the window, into space.
"Chu..." Pichu tried to pull on it's trainer's clothes to get his attention.
"Jason, come on, this has gone on long enough." Misty pulled at his collar, like Pichu, to try and get the boy's attention, but he brushed her hand away, not even looking in her direction.
"Why you...!" Misty growled through clenched teeth, and quickly she slapped Jason across the face, stunning the boy as she struck him out of his daze. "Jason Reid, you get up out of that seat this instant and let's get moving! We're not gonna stay in this Pokémon Center all day because you can't deal with one little loss! Amelia is already gone and on her way to get her next badge, and meanwhile, you're sulking because someone who really needs a haircut beat you in one Pokémon Battle!"
"...fine." Jason got up, rubbing his face, which was now a bit red. "Sorry about that. I just need some thinking time."
"That's also worrying me." Misty snarked. "Come on, you can think all you want when we're out of here."
"Yeah yeah..." Jason sighed. "So, where are we headed next?"
Misty's eye twitched, but she kept her mouth shut. At least he was talking, which was an improvement. "Hand me your Pokégear, I'll look at the Town Map and determine where we should head to next."
Jason detatched the device from his wrist and tossed it carelessly to his companion. Ivory looked on in worry as Misty caught it, and opened it, shifting through the apps. "It would appear...we head south of here, through Route 20 if we want our next badge, which is in Diadem City."
"Alright, let's go then." Jason didn't even question why they were headed to Route 20 as opposed to Route 7. Whoever built these roads must not have been trying.
"I hope to see you again!" Nurse Joy called out to the group as they left the Pokémon Center, and quickly headed to the South exit of Phlox Town. "I really will not miss this place." Misty was grinning as they left Phlox Town.
"You know we have to come back through here after we're finished in Diadem Town?" Jason pointed out quickly.
"...Dammit." Misty groaned.
Jason coughed for a minute, and it quickly came to the attention that there was a mild sandstorm flowing through this area. "Another one...?" Jason frowned.
"Yeah, but it's not as bad as the one we saw on Route 6." Ivory explained. "We can get through this with no problem, and it might even blow over before we leave."
"Let's just make this quick..." Jason said. "I'm already starting to get sand in my mouth." The group rushed along the route, trying to avoid getting caught in the sandstorm. They soon, however, had to come to a halt when they saw a small figure lying in the road.
Jason looked for his Pokédex, halfheartedly holding it up. "That body...is it a Pokémon?"
"Starly, the Starling Pokémon. They are known for living in large noisy focks that move around their natural habitat, and are typically found inside forests and fields. Starly are known to compete with Pidgey and other Starly flocks for food, and are considered pests in some areas."
As Jason looked at the image on the Pokédex, and spotted the pointed beak, and sharp claws, and dropped the device onto the ground. Flashing before his eyes, a large, avian figure descended upon him, talons outstretched, screeching madly as he frantically tried to back away. What did he want? He had only been trying to get to Eevee. "G-get away!" Jason backed away from the unconscious Starly, shoving his hands away as if he could make it disappear. "Get away from me!"
"What the...?" Ivory blinked, confused.
"Did you forget?" Misty was already running over to Jason as she called back to Ivory. "Jason is scared of Pokémon like Starly!" She ran over to Jason, wrapping her arms around him for a moment as the boy thrashed like he was trying to escape from something. Normally, she had a more violent approach to stopping Jason's outrageous behaviour, but that wasn't the best method here. "Ivory, go check on that Starly! I need to calm Jason down!" Misty ordered.
"I think it's injured!" Ivory gasped as she bent down to check Starly; it's wing was broken. "It's got a broken wing Misty! Poor thing won't be flying anywhere. So what will we do?"
Misty frowned as Jason kept thrashing around. "We'll stay here, let's find a bit of shelter. We need to nurse that Starly back to health, and calm Jason down."
"Got it!" Ivory picked up Starly, as well as Jason's Pokédex. Meanwhile, Misty kept a firm grip on Jason, breathing slowly. "Jason, calm down. Ivory is taking Starly away. Nothing here is attacking you, calm down." She kept repeating this, over and, for a few minutes, until Jason stopped thrashing and slumped, remaining motionless. To the passerby, this would be a disturbing scene.
The group had set up a small shelter in one fo the more forested parts of the route, where the sandstorms winds were having trouble reaching. They had constructed a small campsite, with both Jason and Starly asleep inside the tent; Jason having falling unconcious from exposure to Starly. Meanwhile, Misty and Ivory were tending the fire, night having fallen.
"So what are we going to do?" Misty asked, stroking the flames with a stick. "It would best to take Starly to a Pokémon Center, but it's too injured for us to carry it in that roaring sandstorm. And then there's Jason..."
Ivory cast a look at the tent where Jason and the Starling Pokémon slept, sighing in exasperation. "Scared of birds....even my poor Swellow was rejected by him when we met." She took off her hat to get comfortable. "Starly usually travel in flocks. It's entirely possible that Starly got into a fight with a rival within the flock, and they cast it out. I suppose our first step is to help it heal, and then try and take it back to it's flock."
"Why do I have a feeling I've done something like this at some point before..." Misty sighed, racking her brain for this strange déjà vu.
"Uguuu...." Jason's eyes opened slowly, and he was immediately greeted by the tent roof. "What happened...?" He sat up, and realised he didn't recognise this area at all. "Miiiiiiiiiisty!" He called out loudly. "Bad times, bad times! I woke up in some place I don't recognise!"
"What the...!?" Misty's head jerked around from outside the tent. She had been cooking over the fire before she heard Jason's frantic calls from inside the tent. "Damn that boy...he's never getting a girlfriend, is he?"
"Nope." Ivory agreed, ruffling her bed-head.
Misty shoved her head into the tent flap, glaring at Jason. "This is our tent, dammit, we sleep in it every night! Stop screaming and just get ready!"
"Y-yes!" Jason cowed under her glare as she walked out again in a huff.
"So...how long until he notices Starly?" Ivory asked slowly.
"I'd say right about..." Misty began.
"GET AWAY!" Jason's cry of fright exploded throughout the area.
"...now." Misty groaned. She was now sopping wet; her hand having jerked at the pot handle, spilling broth all down her front. "I'm going to kill him." She started to dry herself off with a towel, her expression icy. "Ivory, go check on Jason please, I might slap him all the way to Azalea Town."
"Aye-aye." Ivory nodded, restraining the urge to laugh.
Sure enough, Jason was scrambling to the edge of the tent, his eyes wide and quivering as he tried to back away from Starly, who was still asleep. Pichu looked at her trainer with a very disappointed expression.
Ivory walked in, and picked up Starly, cradling it in her arms. "Jason, you need to calm down. This poor Starly is hurt and you're spazzing out over it."
Jason ignored her as he fled from the tent.
"That boy..." She sighed, but her attention was drawn to a movement in her arms, and she looked down. Starly was stirring, it's eyes opening slowly as it took in it's surroundings.
"Star....?" The Starling Pokémon looked around in a daze.
"Oh good!" Ivory sighed with relief. "Starly, you're awake!"
"Star!" Starly chirped, and tried to flap it's wings, whether in eagerness to get away from Ivory or simply to take to the sky, it couldn't, and trilled in pain for a moment.
"Starly!" Ivory gasped, almost dropping it in surprise. "Don't do that. Your wing is hurt, you can't fly!" She smiled kindly. "Don't worry, I'll take care of you!" She walked out of the tent with Starly in her arms. "Hey, Misty, where's Jason?"
"Oh, you mean the beta male?" Misty snapped. "He's over there." Angrily, she jabbed her finger in the direction of Jason, who was huddled between several trees, as far away from Starly as possible.
"Shut up." Jason snapped back. "Don't you have something you're scared of?"
"W-well...B-Bug-types." Misty stammered, her face a bit red.
"...that's more embarrasing than mine you know." Jason pointed out quickly.
"S-shut up!" Misty snapped. "It's cute when a girl is scared of something! Aren't males supposed to put on brave fronts? You call yourself a man?"
"Feh..." It seemed now that Jason was back by himself, his bad mood had returned. "At least I'm not twenty-something and running from a Caterpie."
"He has a fair point." Ivory acknowledged.
"Shut up!" Misty snapped. "Let's just eat.
They sat down to eat, or rather, Misty and Ivory did. Jason stayed away, secluded between the trees.
"Not coming to eat?" Misty called over.
"Not a chance." Jason replied, and Misty sighed in exasperation but said no more. "I lost...to Silus. What did I do wrong...? Was I not thinking?" He gritted his teeth as he gripped his head in frustration. "Where did I screw it up!? My combinations were great, and my Pokémon did their hardest! Was the shortcoming with me!? I don't get it!"
Pichu wandered over to him, carrying a small bowl on the top of her head, placing it at Jason's feet. "Chu! Pi pi chu!" She pulled at his sleeve, and he looked down. "Oh...! Pichu, you brought me food! Thank you..."
"Chu!" The small mouse grinned wide.
"So what do you think I did wrong, Pichu?" Jason asked as he started to eat quickly. "I lost so badly to Silus...where did I screw up?"
"Chu!" The Tiny Mouse suddenly got very animated, it's cheeks sparking briefly. "Pi pi pi chu, chu!"
"I know, I shouldn't let it get to me..." He sighed, placing the bowl down. "But I can't. I lost to him in the contest before as well...this was supposed to be different!"
"Didn't you beat Silus before?" Misty asked, her mouth full of food.
"That didn't count!" Jason snapped angrily. "Charizard only listened to me because Dewott irritated it, and it's tail would have gone out if it hadn't battled. If Charizard had just chosen to ignore me, I would have lost and you know it." He really seemed angry about that.
"So what are you going to do?" Ivory asked, her attention more on Starly and preening the bird's feathers than looking at Jason.
Jason stood up, Pichu climbing onto his shoulder as he looked away from them all. He gritted his teeth. "I'm going to get stronger. My partners and I will train non-stop, and I will never lose to Silus again."
It had been a few days since the group had stopped to camp along the route, and Starly was well on it's way to recover, aided by the Super Potions Misty had in her bag. And, despite Jason's claim of wanting to get stronger, his training...wasn't going well.
"What's wrong with him?" Ivory asked, sounding resigned to the fact that something was wrong with Jason every half hour now.
"He can't think of combinations..." Misty replied, taking a seat down by a tree stump. "Nothing he has is working, and most of the attacks are blowing up in his face — kind of like his battle with Silus."
"I heard that!" Jason barked angrily at Misty, who giggled to herself. "Not much you can do about it, Jason!" She called over to him. "Even if you get angry, I'll just show you sweet little Starly here, and you'll run halfway back to Gardenia Town."
"Misty, why are you being so...harsh?" Ivory questioned, looking worried.
"I never claimed to be nice." Misty smiled for a moment, a bit pleased that she was showing this side to Jason. "Besides, to be frank, he needs it. Coddling him isn't going to get us anywhere, and it certainly won't give him the resolve he needs."
"True...but doesn't that make you mommy?" Ivory smugly took a jab at her friend, and Misty blinked, her face flushing violently.
"N-no! I'm too young to be a mother!" She hissed violently, before calming down for a moment. "Besides..." She trailed off, not finishing her sentence. Ivory took notice of this, but resisted the urge to pry because she didn't want Misty's head to explode from the teasing.
Ivory and Misty tended to Starly well into the night, while Jason, as the moon began to rise, recalled his Pokémon, and retired to the tent in a bit of frustration. As soon as he collapsed, Misty walked into the tent with Ivory. "Hey Jason, we have something to tell you."
"What...?" Jason asked, his voice muffled from the sleeping bag.
"We're heading to the Poké Mart." Ivory explained quickly.
"Why do I care?" Jason asked in the same muffled, deadpan tone.
"Because..." Misty said slowly. "We're leaving Starly with you."
"WHAT!?" Jason's screams, still muffled, were now surprisingly loud. "Why with me!?"
"Because, we can't take Starly into town, so we have to leave it here, and someone needs to watch it!" Misty snapped and Ivory placed the bird next to Jason, immediately causing him to shudder.
"Why can't I go?" Jason complained. "You two stay and let me go."
"In addition to medicine, we're shopping for other things we specifically need." Misty said pointedly, and Jason immediately caught on. "...I'll stay with the bloody bird, thanks."
"I knew you'd agree." Misty said jovially, and she and Ivory quickly left Jason to his own devices.
"So...why are we doing this?" Ivory hissed as they headed out into the sandstorm to go into town.
"Because, if Jason keeps getting scared over that Starly, by the time we're done, Silus will be at the League and Jason will have missed it." Misty replied as if it was obvious. "I'm taking initiative."
Jason, back in the tent, cast the sleeping Starly a wary look. All he had to do was sit here and watch it. If it didn't move, he'd be fine. And he passed the time like that, sitting there, watching the Starly and dwelling on his loss with Silus. What was his shortcoming...?
"Starrrr!" Starly suddenly woke up, trilling in pain as it's cries pierced the woods. This immediately snapped Jason out of his reverie, and he nearly jumped back. Flashing before his eyes was the blint of talons, the flapping of wings, and an angry cry that pierced the heavens. "N-no!" He curled up, if possible, even tighter, the image of a Staraptor swooping down on him filled his thoughts, the sharp beak and talons intending to cut him into ribbons.
"Ly, Starly!" Starly kept crying in pain; it's wound was getting to it, and Jason was still panicking. Pichu looked at Starly, worried, and at Jason, annoyed, before jumping, slapping him in the face with an Iron Tail.
"Wha...?" Jason was slightly dazed, the impact of the technique he was sure broke a tooth, his it stopped his panicking before it reached hyperventilation. "Pichu...?"
"Chu!" Pichu snapped, angrily, it's cheeks sparking as it's small paw pointed to Starly. "Chu Pi Pi, Pichu!"
"Pichu..." Jason sat there, stunned at the anger the the Tiny Mouse Pokémon was showing him. And then, at that moment, he remembered an exchange between him and Silus only a few days ago.
"Like you said, Ivory." Silus continued as he watched. "Pokémon are partners. Not tools. From the moment I catch my Pokémon, I love them. Sometimes, even before then. I trust my Pokémon and put my faith in them. My job as a trainer is only to focus the power they already have. And this is the result... of that method."
"You speak like I don't value my Pokémon like you, Silus." Jason watched Zoroark carefully. "Pokémon are partners and are our friends. They stick with us through the hard times, we're supposed to be there for each other. If I didn't love these guys like family, they would up and leave me."
Jason bit his thumb, hesitant. To say something so bold — while it was how he felt — and then to react like this to a Starly who hadn't done anything to him...he was, in the truest sense of the word, a jackass. He gritted his teeth, and stood up, quickly rummaging through his bag, where he dug out a Super Potion. "I'm not just going to watch this..." He walked over to Starly, and, slowly, bent down to pick up the shrieking creature. "Slowly..." He raised the bottle of Super Potion, and sprayed, the stinging feeling causing Starly to wince for a moment. After a minute, it's pain died down, and Starly went back to sleep. Jason sighed.
"Talk about close..." He murmured. "I really am terrible....I love Pokémon, but...I kept rejecting this Starly, who hadn't done anything...I suppose I can try and accept you. Starly."
"Wait, you're going to what?" It was early morning now, and the group was standing outside their campsite, Misty's hands on her hips as she looked at Jason as though she found him impossible. "You are impossible..." Bingo.
"I think he said he wants to catch Starly." Ivory said, sounding as confused as Misty. "I don't get it, weren't you terrified of it just yesterday?"
"Well...I'm probably not over that fear yet..." Jason admitted, but then he shrugged. "However, Starly seems to like me, and I think I've grown to like it." Sure enough, the Pokémon was resting comfortable on Jason's shoulder as if that were it's perch. Pichu was jealous on the other shoulder. "What do you say, Starly?" Jason asked. "Want to come with me? I can even take you to someone who can fix your wing."
"Starlyyy!" The Starling Pokémon trilled with delight, and Jason rummaged for a Poké Ball, pressing it up to Starly's head, the ball opening and red light sucking it in. The ball closed, shaking in Jason's hands, before stopping. Jason smiled to himself as the Poké Ball vanished, on it's way to Prof. Changi. "We'll be good friends, Starly."
"I'm not even sure that can be called a capture." Misty chided.
"Oh be quiet." Jason hushed her. "Now...let's go to Diadem City. My next badge is waiting."
As the group set off, a small figure could be see staring intently at Jason as he walked away.
"Lo me..." It's gentle voice whispered as it began to float, quietly following the boy.