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EVERYONE: All The Time In The World (lakehouseshipping)

Blackjack Gabbiani

Back due to popular demand!
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"It's like I told you," Turo reassured, "air travel is the safest. You hear about crashes because they're rare."

"Yeah, that doesn't do much to reassure me when everything is shaking around. Humans weren't meant to travel by flying metal tube." Sada wiped at her forehead although she wasn't sweating.

They hadn't boarded the airplane yet. The two students, sixteen and the top of not only their class, but the entire region of Paldea, were looking out over the runway, the Lavencia skyline in the background.

"Then how would you advise getting to Wyndon? It's a region and a half away over the water."

She could see his smirk in the glass and snorted. "By pokémon, like we've done for thousands of years."

"That didn't stop you from getting a motorized scooter and terrorizing the streets of Mesagoza."

Sada shoved him lightly on the shoulder. "It goes five kilometers an hour, drama king. And I've got to carry more stuff than a Cyclizar can handle. You can't really affix major scientific equipment to an excitable lizard."

"You can't really affix that sort of attachment to a scooter either. How you managed to do so seems like a violation of the laws of physics." He grinned. "But I suppose if anybody is going to figure out how to do that, it would be one of us."

She laughed, and he was glad to hear her lighten up a little. "Well, that's why we're going in the first place. To show up everyone else with our great, unparalleled genius. Said a lot more politely in public company, of course."

"We'll have plenty of down time between panels, I think. We'll see the full conference schedule when we get there."

"Hey, how many flights have you been on before? You don't seem nervous at all"

Turo chuckled. "Heh...none."

With a big grin, she swatted him again, and pulled him closer to rest her head on his shoulder.





"Good afternoon and welcome to Wyndon!" The greeter at the airport was a stocky middle aged woman of an indeterminate accent and a slightly raspy voice, likely from welcoming so many guests. Her name tag bore the name and logo of the conference rather than any personal indicator. "The shuttle to the hotel will be waiting at Pickup B, and you'll be leaving whenever you're ready." She smiled, handing them each a pamphlet. "The next arrivals won't touch down for another hour, so you can go straight there."

Sada glanced down at the paper. It was a guide to the Rose of the Rondelands hotel, with their names and room numbers pre-printed on the top and amenities below. "Awesome, thank you."

Turo folded his and stuffed it in his pocket, leaving his hand there as he tended to do. "Thank you. You knew us on sight?"

"Get used to it!" Sada laughed, patting him on the side with her paper before putting it away herself. "We're going to be famous someday soon, and not just in the scientific world."

"You seem so sure of that that I almost believe you," he smiled. "You'll love the spotlight."

Sada grabbed the handle of her suitcase and hoisted it up even though it had wheels. "Come on, don't pretend that you don't love all the attention you get. I've heard your interview voice."

The greeter laughed. Turo coughed awkwardly and started to walk off, getting just out of reach before taking a step back to fumble behind himself for his suitcase handle without turning around.




In an act of necessary foresight when dealing with unsupervised teenagers, the two were assigned to separate hotel rooms. In an oversight that a professional operation probably shouldn't be making when dealing with the same population, the rooms were adjoining.

Turo opened the door between their rooms just in time to see Sada flop heavily onto the bed. "Uggggh" she moaned overdramatically as she fumbled for one of the thick pillows at the head. "Jet laaaaag..."

He chuckled. "There's only an hour's difference."

She lay still for a second before twisting slightly to glare at him, face mostly obscured by the pillow. "Jet. Lag."

"All right, all right!" After looking back at the suitcase he had set up on his own bed, opened and ready to be unpacked, he sat on the foot of hers and laid back. "We're going to be up to our necks in conferences and notes for the next half a week. It's going to be absolute chaos."

Even with her eyes closed, Sada could tell he was smiling. "Mmm. We'll have to make sure to get plenty of sleep so we can give it our all."

They were silent for a minute or so before Turo sat back up. "Remembered I need to charge the spare batteries. Can't have my laptop running dry in the middle of a presentation."

Sada sighed loudly. "Oh my god, you and your laptop! You take better notes than I do. Your handwriting's way better than mine and you write faster and you still think a notebook is for squares."

He paused in the doorway. "...Squares." he mused. "Sada, have you been talking to Dr Clavell again?"

She bunched up and stuffed the pillow over her head, blocking out both the light from Turo's room and the rest of the conversation.



An hour or so later, Sada pushed the door open again and bounded into Turo's room, nap having solved her jet lag issues. "Hey, let's go over the schedule together!"

Turo had seated himself in the overstuffed chair in the corner with a well-worn book, something he had brought in his carry-on but hadn't anticipated airsickness making reading difficult. He set the book on the bedside table. "Very well. I saved it for you."

"Oh, I read that before," she noted, nodding at the book. "I don't remember much about it but I liked the idea of a superadvanced ancient civilization. It seemed more realistic than other stories like that."

"The author studies ancient Kalos, so it was probably based on their history. The king in the book is even a giant." Turo went straight to the schedule, set on the edge of the desk.

"Oh, huh, yeah that makes sense. The book didn't seem very Kalosian. Kalosian sci-fi tends to be a lot more about the human condition."

Turo paused, setting the schedule back down. "Wasn't expecting to hear that out of you."

She laughed, loud and sharp. "Seriously? You didn't know I eat that stuff for breakfast? Though I like the more speculative stuff. All the great scientists lift their ideas from sci-fi."

"Exactly!" Turo exclaimed, whirling to fully face her. "Well, not 'exactly', not literally, but it explores a 'what if we could do this' element that the human imagination sorely needs, and then people like us can make it into reality!"

Sada squealed. "Oh god, you know I think a previous year had a panel about something similar!"

"'Making the Impossible Possible', yes! I saw that! It's a shame Paldea wasn't sending students here then. You and I would have been in the front row."

She chuckled, suddenly more subdued in a way that Turo knew to be teasing. "We'd have had to be in the front row. That was five years ago. We were eleven."

He paused. "Hm, yes, that would present certain requirements." He had adopted an odd, deliberate tone, and crossed his arms and tilted his head down in mock deep thought. "One would need to take those limitations into account."

"Well, listen to you, mister actor! Told you I'd heard your interview voice."

"Heh..." He stood in that pose for a moment before smiling at her. "I thought going with the science fiction theme would be suitable."

"Are you a captain on the bridge of a starship?" She stood, smirking at him and drawing a finger down the side of her neck and opposite arm, a gesture he didn't understand in the slightest.

"Oh no, I could never be the captain." He took her by the hand, where she had drawn her finger to. "I'm the lead scientist. And I see a very strange life form indeed."

"Is that sooooo..." Sada cooed as she slid towards him and lightly gripped his shoulder. "Well, doctor, what sort of world do you think I come from?"

"Wellllll..." He drew the word out just as she had. "I would have to say...you must be from a world where you're far above everyone else. You're part of a highly advanced faction, aren't you?" He didn't give time for her to answer. "Your world has a rich history that you've devoted your vast intellect to studying. Not the history of your own species, but rather the ancient--"

"Oh, we're not the same species now?" Her hand bucked up to his chin to tilt his head slightly downwards, to make him lock eyes with her.

"They're saving that for the season finale twist," he said with a grin that had gone slightly lopsided from her close proximity. "Turns out we are, but our civilizations are from opposite sides of a time dilation. We're from the present but are millions of years apart."

Sada's eyes widened at that, seeming to drop whatever character she had developed. "Oh god, that would be a hell of a twist, wouldn't it? It would either completely suck or be the best thing ever, depending on how it was handled." She pulled back and laughed. "You should write that down. That's a great plot twist. Past and future are one and the same and nobody realizes it? That's fantastic."

And yet, Turo remained where he was, trying to parse what had just happened. "I...I mean, you're right, that would be great, but..." He brushed his hand over his chin, where her own touch had suddenly left from. "Weren't we in the middle of something? You were an alien being, or so we thought, and--"

But her attention had already drifted, and she patted the bed beside her. "Come on, let's plan our week!" she enthused, extended hand offering him his copy of the schedule.

When he sat, she immediately wrapped her arm around him, and he felt maybe they hadn't abandoned the plot so much after all.





"Mm, it's a good thing you're left-handed," Sada cooed as they finished their plans. "We can sit like this and both take notes at the same time. Wouldn't want you elbowing me in the stomach or anything."

Turo laughed, surprised by the bluntness of her statement. "It's always fascinating to me how you can go from all business back to whatever you were doing before."

She laid back and covered her face with her completed personalized schedule. The vast majority of panels they would see together, but their research was ultimately on different subjects. "That's why you practice so much, right?"

He stood, smoothing his schedule out and placing it on the desk. "Not to hear you say it in front of conference representatives, but yes. It doesn't come nearly as naturally to me as it does to you to be a social Butterfree."

Sada had always been outgoing, as far back as Turo could remember, and initially his impulse had been to avoid her because of it. But their shared passion for science, their rampant intellect, their insatiable curiosity for the secrets of the world made their alliance unavoidable. She had sealed the deal one day, approaching him in the library in the early evening and asking if he had ever climbed a tree. When he had responded no, she asked if he would like to.

He hadn't expected to be grabbed by the wrist and yanked out of his seat, but fifteen minutes later, the two were lost in conversation in a treehouse just south of Mesagoza.

That had been ten years ago, and they had grown from precocious children to highly esteemed and respected teens, expected by everyone to take the scientific world by storm. And with the help of events like the conference, that future seemed an absolute certainty.

"You always do fine," she told him, the paper moving as she spoke. "I know you'd rather stay in the lab all day, but you always sound great when you're giving a presentation. Even unscripted ones like the other day. That wasn't even about your research; you were just called on in history class." She shook her head. "You overthink things a lot but I swear, if there's anyone in Paldea who's more naturally suited to this than me, it's you. And I'm pretty damn suited to this so that's saying something." Finally she took the paper in hand and drew it far enough away to read it before stretching out, her back arching off the bed in such a way that drew Turo's sharp attention. "Wouldn't be surprised if we were the ones everyone comes to see in a few years. The Paldean phenoms, that'll be us."

He chuckled, a relaxed sound that belied his nervousness. "It's good to be confident, especially with as hard as we work."

"Mmm, work hard and play hard, that's my motto." She stretched out again and rolled off the bed, pulling herself to her feet and immediately launching into a series of toe touches. "That reminds me, I'll have to set the alarm to get up early." Frequent exercise kept her mind sharp, she had long said, and encouraged him to do likewise.

"Do they have a gym in this hotel?" He glanced at the amenities list again but wasn't really seeking an answer.

"Most of those you've gotta be eighteen to use. But it's fine, we can work up a sweat on our own."

Her words, combined with her rakish grin, brought another cough to his throat.

As if she didn't notice, though he knew she did, Sada started back to her own room. "Remember, we've got comped meals. Let's go take advantage of that tonight, shall we?" She closed the door before Turo could answer.




"Tonight" was still a ways off, so Turo returned to his book, and Sada reviewed her handwritten notebook. She had brought several new ones for the occasion, coordinating the covers to the subjects. Physics was purple, chemistry was blue, environmental science was green, biology was red, and so on. In particular, she was thumbing through her silver technology notebook, humming something she'd heard over the speakers at the airport, and scribbling down anything she felt needed to be added.

A faint knock caught her off guard, and her writing fumbled for a moment. "Crap. Come in!"

Turo walked in to see her frantically erasing something. "Make a mistake?"

"Yeah, rooming next to an untamed teenager," she grinned without looking up. "You're a wild man, knocking on doors all willy-nilly."

With a faint chuckle, he knocked again.

"No seriously, I gotta finish this sentence."

"Oh, sorry."

A few seconds of scribbling later and she closed the notebook, drawing her legs out from her curled up position to sit in a more typical way. "All right, wild man, you got me. What's up?"

"Oh, I wanted to see what you were doing. I reached a good stopping point in my book so I was wondering if you wanted to work on something together, or talk a walk, or..." He trailed off but gestured towards the window, towards outside.

"Wow, I remember when we met, I couldn't pry you out of the lab if your life depended on it." She flipped the notebook over her shoulder and stood. "Which it probably would have, eventually. You were headed to a blood clot or something. That'd be a hell of a way to go."

He had been going to sit beside her, but altered his course to wrap an arm over her shoulders, pulling her closer. She smiled at the touch, having hoped he would do something like that. "Sada, if that's the case, then I owe you my life." It was said in the same dramatic, theatrical tone as his previous flight of fancy. "And I'd like to spend some time with my hero."

She slid her hands up his arms until both hands were clasped behind his neck. "Do I get a costume? Should I wear a cape?"

To her surprise, he seemed confused by her playful questions. "A superhero?"

"Never mind." She leaned into him. This came up often, where one would have a very set notion in mind and fail to communicate it properly to the other. It rarely happened in the lab, where they could be precise and use exact terms, with no room for misunderstanding, but conversations where they brought in fantastical elements were different. "What were you picturing?"

His brief distraction gone, he brought his hands to her wrists and smiled brightly. "Well, if you save the imperial court wizard, the greatest scholar in the land, you must be a very powerful knight."

Sada paused, but couldn't stop herself from snorting. "Greatest scholar in the land until you find out the knight is an even greater scholar. And I've got a badass sword."

Turo chuckled silently, the motion running from his torso to vibrate in his chest, and leaned forward to press their foreheads together. "Yeah...but I don't need one."

She laughed sharply and pulled her hands back to shove them against his chest, forcing him to take a step backwards. "Meaningless if I get the drop on you!" she gloated.

"Is that how we're playing it? Bitter rivals now?" There was no disguising the gleam in his eyes, even despite the sour expression he tried to feign. "Very well, have at you!" He tried to charge at her, but she sidestepped him easily and he tumbled onto the bed.

Watching him squirm and fumble to get up was fantastically entertaining to Sada, but at the same time she couldn't shake the notion that she had wanted him to stay where he was. But she grinned heavily anyway. "Wow, you sure had at me, sir wizard. What now?"

He had managed to work his way to his feet faster than he would have thought he could, not taking his eyes off Sada. "Every bit of training reveals a new approach to perfection. I'll be untouchable in no time at all!"

Though she had softened somewhat. His fixed gaze had drawn her attention to his eyes, and there was something just so incredibly charming about the playfulness of his expression that she couldn't quite put into words. Instead of try, she said "God, you're so cute! Watching you nerd out is always a good time."

It was clear to her that he was initially taken aback by this sudden change of play, but he smiled and sat on the foot of the bed with a gesture for her to join him. "Well, then for the next few days, I'm going to be downright adorable."

Flopping down next to him, she wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him close. "I think I'll always be grateful that I picked you as a rival," she sighed as she rested her head on his shoulder.

She could feel him settle against her and lean into her touch. "I could stay like this for a while, honestly."

"I thought you wanted to take a walk or something."

He shrugged. "As long as I'm with you, I feel like things will be all right."

They sat like that in silence for a few minutes before Sada withdrew her arm and stood.

"Is everything all right?" Turo looked up at her, somewhat shocked.

She reached over to lay a finger on his nose. "You really are just too cute. I was just going to say that actually a walk sounds nice."

His wide eyes crossed for a moment to see her finger, leading to him blinking rapidly to cover the clear mistake. "Fantastic! I was thinking that a walk by the river would be fun."

Sada stretched out and looked towards the window. Their rooms overlooked the city, and as much as she loved the hustle and bustle, it was a chaotic place, heavily under construction for a constant march to the future. "Sure. It would be nice to get away from it all for a bit."

He rose up next to her and patted her on the back. "I'm glad to hear it. We haven't had a moment to ourselves all day."

"Really now. Planning the schedule? Talking about your book? Playing wizards?"

The hand on her back moved up to ever so gently tug at her hair. "I thought you were a knight."

Just as gently, she stepped on his foot. "And I've lured you into letting your guard down." With a giggle, she darted towards the door, grabbing the room key off the dresser as she ran. "Still going to have at me?"

"Upstart!" he called as he dashed after her, a laugh in his voice.





Things had calmed down soon after, and the two were overlooking the river some ways from the hotel, the enforcement wall serving as the perfect railing to relax against.

"Their revitalization efforts are really something," Turo murmured with a gesture at the blue water below them. "A few years ago, this river was overrun with pollution. Now it's..."

"--absolutely beautiful," Sada finished for him with a happy sigh.

He nodded at first, but then stopped to shake his head. "The river, Sada. Not you."

The statement seemed to take a moment to sink in, and she swatted his arm playfully. "You little charmer!" Though her gaze fell back to the water. "Um...actually I wanted to talk to you about that." Before he could react, to dispel any negative conclusions he may drawn from her ambiguous words, Sada added "I wanted to ask you if maybe we could..." But she just couldn't seem to force the words out.

He perked up, turning to fully face her. It wasn't often that confident, bold Sada was at a loss for words, and a part of him enjoyed seeing this atypical side of her. "I have a feeling I know what it is."

"Oh shut up!" she grinned, swatting his arm again. "Fine then, if you're so smart--"

"--Which I am," he interjected.

Sada snorted loudly. "Really selling yourself as a desirable date option, aren't ya?"

"Well, that confirms my suspicion then." He put a hand over hers and drew them over to the wall's ledge, curling their hands together. "You're planning on asking me out."

She flipped her hand over to more properly hold his. "I've had it in my head for years, honestly. Ever since we..." With her free hand, she gestured around. "That time on our treasure hunt. When we snuck into Area Zero."

Turo's grip tightened a bit, and he looked away from her out over the water, but he was smiling, pondering on that distant memory. The two of them had managed to find a way into the mysterious crater that dominated the heart of Paldea, and despite all danger had made it to a research station built by a previous scientific team. The research materials were all gone, removed long ago when the team withdrew, but to be there among the history and advancement that was so vital to understanding the world was an experience without parallel. They had been so excited that they couldn't sleep, and the night was spent holding hands from their parallel sleeping bags as they absorbed what being there truly meant, to be even a small part of something so grand and mysterious and utterly magnificent that it defied almost all human knowledge. Whatever awaited in the depths, whatever had eluded Heath and his expedition, whatever every other bygone soul that had made the attempt had failed to uncover was still there, and it inflamed their curiosity like absolutely nothing else could ever hope to.

Sada leaned against him, head drooping to his shoulder. Though he wasn't particularly tall, he had long been taller than her. "I guess I kinda got the idea that we should...go out sometime...but I never got around to asking." Her voice was oddly quiet.

He released her hand, sliding his own up her arm to rest on her opposite shoulder and pull her in a little tighter. "I'm not surprised that you never did. After all, I was under the impression that we'd been dating ever since."

At first she was almost silent, with only a faint chuckle under her breath, but within scant few seconds, it amplified into a hearty laugh. "Haha, really?" As she patted his hand, there was relief in her voice. "Wow, if I'd known that I would have bitten the bullet a long time ago. So, your idea of a date must be just doing what we already do all the time, right?"

"Of course. Though going to the movies would be nice sometime, if you really wanted to ask. Or," he added with a quick squeeze, "that comped dinner you mentioned earlier."

"You read my mind. Not often I get treated to a five star restaurant." She looked over at him. "I even brought something special to wear. Planning ahead and all, haha."

He smiled sedately, belying the excited twinkle in his eyes. "And if I'd said no?"

"Pfft," she snorted, "we'd still go out as colleagues. It just wouldn't be as fun." After a pause, during which she was surprised he didn't say anything, she added "Say, if you thought we were going out all this time, aside from you being a really easy date if that's the case, what did you think our first date was?"

Turo seemed a bit confused by her question, brow furrowing slightly. "I just told you, didn't I? The crater?"

She quickly grabbed his hand to hold it in place on her shoulder. "Hey nerd, it's ok, you did tell me. I just didn't pick up on it."

That smile returned. "Good, good. I wasn't sure how I would explain it other than that." He moved his hand away from hers despite her grip, this time to brush a stray hair from her face. "I look forward to seeing you in this special outfit. Truth is..." He leaned in to whisper in her ear. "I brought something formal too. Just in case."

Sada's subsequent grin spread out slowly, blossoming into something just wide enough to be unsettling. "That's going to look amazing. Can't remember the last time I saw you all gussied up that wasn't some school event. And you always look good," she added with a prod to his side.

"I have a certain image in mind," he shrugged, acting as though her eagerness wasn't present. "I like to work towards that vision. I know you do as well." This time he turned and smiled too, nowhere near as broadly as hers, but with a distinct sweetness to it. "That's why we get along so well, I think. We know what we want and how to work towards that vision."

"Top of the scientific heap, and looking stylish and magazine cover ready," she cooed. "Is that what you practice interviews for?"

"Absolutely!" There was a laugh to his voice, a sudden blossomed glee at their inevitable success. "We'll be the best, far and wide, and nothing can get in our way."

Pulling away suddenly, Sada clapped her hands sharply and giggled, starting to jog in place. "We're going to be the perfect power couple! I'm so relieved, you can't even imagine...aaaah!"

Turo leaned back against the wall to watch her. "Don't get me wrong. I'm looking forward to this too."

"But you're not as overtly excited because that ship sailed a while ago?"

"Yeah." With a relaxed sigh, he smiled. "You better believe I was a nervous wreck then though. I'm glad we're not going through that at the same time."

"I'm REALLY glad! Oh god you have no idea!" She clapped again. "You'll be the perfect arm candy tonight ahahaha. This is fantastic!"

"...Arm candy?" Though his smile shifted to a cocky smirk. "I've always wanted to be a secret weapon."

She stopped her jog. "Huh?"

Imitating a gesture that Dr. Clavell would make, he smoothed his hair with the flat of his hand. "All this genius, hiding behind these stunning good looks."

"And modest too. Tell you what." She extended an arm. "Let's walk back like we're going to a classy ball."

He wrapped his arm around hers with an aristocratic nod. "Yes, quite. Yes, quite. Shame they won't announce us when we enter. That will sound amazing, to hear 'Professor and Professor' called out."

"Getting a little ahead of yourself?" she laughed.

"Maybe a little. But it's good to plan ahead."

"That distinct vision?"

"A little bit."






Usually, formal wear for the two of them meant the school uniform, something they stuck with as an all-purpose garment that also showcased their advanced educations. They had both ditched the hat early on, however, with Turo's remaining on a peg in his dorm room and Sada's having long ago been careened into the river that ran along the south side of Mesagoza. The remaining conference would see them in the uniform, Turo preferring the spring variant and Sada the summer, but for this night, something far more unique was planned.

Sada paced in her room, trying to burn up some nervous energy. She was certain that her formal outfit had far more components than whatever Turo would have planned, but then, she was more practiced in assembling her makeup and accessories for the everyday. Being outside the lab and not having to worry about safety, she could wear big earrings and multiple bracelets, all of which had a twinge of her favorite color to them. The orange theme continued to her dress, a loose, ankle-length, elegant garment with a gathered sash at the waist to serve as a stylized belt. Two of the same sort of sash also served as the bodice, starting at the waist and overlapping above the bust to continue as the shoulder of the opposite side in a cut just revealing enough that she could never have worn anywhere close to home. She wasn't sure what it was made of, but it was soft to the touch and looked far more expensive than it was. It was bound to make an impression, not just on Turo but on the other conference attendees.

But mostly Turo, naturally.

She fiddled with one of her bracelets, rolling a wooden bead between her fingers. This was just what she had been after for a few years and now it was right in front of her. Or right in the next room anyway. The future had never been her forte.





On. Off. On. Off. It was the tenth or so time that Turo had tried on the tie. It wasn't as though he was unaccustomed to wearing one, being part of the school uniform, but that was the entire issue. It was too commonplace, too everyday. Sada would have seen it a thousand times before. No, far more than that.

He paused for a moment, trying to calculate roughly how many days, or at least months, it had been since they had met, but it was only a distraction from the matter at hand and he was well aware of it.

The black slacks were nothing new either, but he had gotten a fine matching shirt to go with it, spending far too much time making sure they were the same shade to properly blend. But an all-black look would make him blend into the background, and despite his apprehension of public speaking, this event was meant to get him out of his comfort zone. He had planned out how he would network with his fellow scientists, and in a place like this, genius alone wasn't enough to make him stand out.

A bold purple vest, nicely buttoned, gave him a desirable dapper and stylish look, something even the sales lady had complimented him on. Though he had bluntly noted she was being paid to do so.

Why was he so nervous? Though he wasn't a social person by nature, discussing his accomplishments came easier than most things, and discussing science and the specific areas of his study came easiest of all, and that's what he would be doing when he would meet everyone.

And Sada. They had already been dating, he thought. He shouldn't feel any different. He had already worked those nerves out years ago, after they held hands all night in the forbidden crater and talked about everything the future would hold for their research.

Nothing should have changed.

Nothing SHOULD have changed. But it had, and he couldn't deny it. He had made a baseless assumption and hadn't made it clear to her, or understood what she wanted. But then, she hadn't been clear with him either.

He set the tie aside and ran a comb through his styled hair a last time before knocking on the adjoining door. There was no use dwelling on the past.





Sada fumbled with the handle for a moment before throwing it open a little faster than she would have liked. "I'm loo--oh wow." She was trying to say that she was looking forward to the evening, but seeing Turo in such an utterly put-together state had drawn the words straight out of her. He was a handsome guy, but his default state was the same as hers, dedicated researcher. This was so out of the ordinary that she didn't even know where to look. "You uh...look good..."

Turo, likewise, could only stare. He'd always thought Sada was beautiful but this was something he could scarcely put into words. "Uh..."

Averting her eyes from his, she laughed faintly. "So eloquent. I thought you practiced all these scenarios."

He was also looking away. "Interviews are a little different..." His own laugh was distinctly nervous in tone.

She took his hand. "Let's go downstairs now before we giggle ourselves into a puddle." Not letting go of his hand, she started off towards the door of her own room before Turo yanked her into his own.

"One door at a time, nerd," he laughed.





"Holy geez, these prices..." Sada briefly whistled, but caught herself after only the briefest sound had escaped. "Good thing us geniuses write our own tickets."

"Or the youth science foundation does," Turo reminded her with a dry smile. "It's a good thing they've got deep pockets. Though I think it'd be best not to get a lot of attention by doing this TOO much."

"Oh for sure." She was still eying the menu with a wrinkle to her nose. "There's a cheaper place a block away. Saw it on the ride in. But!" She snapped the menu down on the table to emphasize her point, "that won't prevent me from living large for a night!"

He nodded. "Oh absolutely. Trust me, if I wasn't worried about potentially losing the funding as penalty, I'd be wanting to try a great deal of these dishes."

"Mmm. They do sound good. Do you see anything that stands out?"

To draw out his answer, he picked up his water and held it to his lips before responding. "Other than my date?"

Her face twisted up in overblown surprise and amusement while she held back a laugh. "Oh my god, you're just devoted to the bit, aren't you? I didn't think you had it in you."

"You really didn't?" He paused for a drink, but she remained silent while he did. "The constant flirting, the innuendos? I even called you beautiful right before you asked me out and you still didn't think we were dating already."

Before she could answer, a waiter approached. "Have you made your decisions?"

"I'll take the most expensive thing on the menu!" Sada blurted. It had been her plan the entire time, naturally, but the rushed and slightly uncontrolled tone was entirely unintentional.

The waiter chuckled. "Am I to assume you're with the conference?"

"Yeah, so we're supposed to tell you that we're in room 551. I am! I'm in room 551! He's in 553."

Turo reached over to put his hand over hers. "I don't think the waiter cares that we're in separate rooms." Glancing up, he added "I'll take the mixed fruits curry."

"Ooh, wild man, huh?" Sada smiled, sitting back casually.

"If I was that wild, I'd have ordered it spicy." He paused to give a nod at the waiter's retreat. "Usually I probably would though, so maybe I am pretty wild. Just I'd like to be able to get some solid sleep tonight."

She slid her hand out from under his, only to move hers to the top. "Well, that sure sounds like a genius move. Who knows what I'm getting, but it's probably pretty big." She sighed and drummed her fingers on the back of his hand. "Our first panel isn't until eleven, but I'd like to get down to the lobby earlier so we can start networking. And don't overthink it, champ. You always do great."

"Champ now? I'm a nerd, I'm a wild man, I'm a champ...what else will I be?"

"You literally are, nerd," she reminded him with a laugh. "Champion rank trainers, both of us."

"Yeah, but neither of us ever really mention it."

"Mmm." She settled back as far as she could, having to lean to the side of the booth to continue holding his hand. "So is this our first date, or was Area Zero our first date?"

Turo paused to think, stroking his chin with his free hand. "I'd think both, really. First casual date, and first formal date."

"That's a good way to think of it. A good compromise."

"We really do work well together."

"Yeah..." With a tilt of her head towards the ceiling, she smiled broadly. "I think we can go far together. We'll make it to the depths of Area Zero for sure. We'll find whatever the treasure is. I bet it's...knowledge." The last part was drawn out as if she was deciding then and there, though she had theorized it a long time before.

"Knowledge of the true secrets of Paldea and the world," he agreed. "Not everything, but enough."

She snapped her gaze back to him. "Enough to ensure us as the greatest scientific minds in Paldean history!"

"In world history!" he exclaimed. "We'll be lauded as the greatest geniuses in the history of ever!"

With a triumphant laugh, Sada raised her glass. "To the great scientific couple! The greatest geniuses in history!"






"Well, that wasn't smart..." Sada mused as they walked back to their hotel rooms.

Turo patted her arm. "You did order the most expensive thing on the menu without looking to see what it was."

"It was so small! I ate more than that out of a pretzel packet on the plane!"

"Molecular gastronomy is the wave of the future," he smirked, drawing his room key from his pocket.

"Sure didn't see you ordering it, spaceman." But after a sigh, she added "Thanks for giving me some of yours. I didn't think I'd like a sweet curry but it was nice. You have a bigger sweet tooth than me for sure. Still don't know why you don't like oranges though. They're really not bitter."

"They are to me. And grapes are too sweet for you, but not to me." He pushed the door open. "After you, captain."

"Oh, I'm a captain now?" Her laugh echoed in the hallway. "I thought I was a scientist."

"No, I'm the scientist. Though I suppose I'll need plenty of assistants."

"Assistants?!" She shoved him with mock anger despite the smile. "You'll eat those words!"

"Like how you ate my dinner?"

She growled in playful frustration. "Come here, nerd."

Turo gladly obliged, shutting the door behind them and approaching Sada. "Yes?" Though his coy smile showed he already knew what she would do.

"Um..." A quick glance away and back before she brought her hand cup his face, stroking his cheek twice before leaning in to kiss him.

His theory was correct, and he returned the kiss softly, winding an arm around her waist as he did.

It wasn't their first kiss. That had been as they parted after leaving the crater during their treasure hunt, so overtaken by the energy that echoing history had instilled them with, and promise of what their lives and studies could hold for the future. But this was quiet and gentle, and grounded them both in the present.

Sada broke the kiss first but didn't pull back, instead resting her head on Turo's shoulder. "...Thank you for being the best partner a scientist could ask for."

He trailed a finger through her hair with a happy sigh. "I hope it can be as wonderful as tonight was."

"We should..." She hesitated. "...we should get some sleep. We've got a busy week ahead of us..."

His finger drew down her jawline, diverting to her lips. "We've got an hour or so before we need to go to bed. We could stay up..."

She laughed, light and airy. "Haha no way, nerd. There's no way I'm going to risk anything."

"Oh uh...oh!" Turo startled, taking a step back, his arm jolting around her defensively. "That's not what I meant!"

"Ohhhh?" Her posture slid to the side, drawing up on one hip, with a finger under her chin as if finishing his action. "Then what did you have in mind?"

In lieu of an answer, he picked up the television remote and presented it to her with a grand flourish. "Specialty sci-fi tv. I've never seen the movie in the listing, but it could be good."

This time, her laugh was somehow even lighter than it had just been. "I'd like that. Give me a chance to get out of this thing though. A movie would be better in pajamas than a fancy dress." Without giving him a chance to respond, she disappeared back into her room with a "ta-ta!"





They ended the night curled up on his bed, half watching the movie and half continuing any number of conversations they'd built up through the years. In that moment, it didn't matter what the past had held or what the future would bring. They were, for that time, happy.
 
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