Oh, captain, let's make a deal where we both say the things that we both really feel. I feel scared and I'm starting to sink, and I only sink deeper the deeper I think.
pfp by Dreary_Rowlet!
- Feb 15, 2021
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Thank you to CinderArts and UnderSeaWings on Thousand Roads for beta reading this chapter!
Depictions of self harm, blood, injury, depictions of purging, eating disorders, discussions of drug abuse, mentions of queerphobia and racism, minor mentions of violence, delirium, implied emotional and physical abuse, queerphobic and fantasy slurs, discussions of sexual themes, nudity, and enabling, all from the perspective of a Pokémon
Wallace was there when Victoria hatched from her egg, when she had been just a Feebas. She was the daughter of Juan’s beloved Milotic, Marie, and Kingdra, Arroyo. Wallace told her the meaning of many names, because as they said, names were chosen for a reason. Her first name had been "Alfonso", meaning "ready for battle". But that name was a man name. Having a man name didn’t feel right.
And so they gave her a different name, a woman name: "Victoria". "Victory".
Juan meant "God is gracious". Marie meant "star of the sea". Arroyo meant "stream". Juan and Marie and Arroyo were stars of the sea and the stage, glowing like pearls. They were graced with beauty and strength from the Mediator of the Sky themself. When the mighty Gyarados threatened to consume Wallace and Victoria in his waves of rage, Juan and Marie and Arroyo were strong enough to save them. They were... beautiful. Perfect.
Wallace was Victoria’s sibling through all but blood. They were siblings of the Sea. The two were imperfect, unlike their parents, But they sought to reach perfection together.
Her name meant "victory", and theirs meant "foreigner". They were the outcasts of Sootopolis City—kids and Pokémon their age just didn’t like ugly fishes and socially awkward bookworms. Kids and Pokémon their age just didn’t like kids and Pokémon who… stood out like Victoria and Wallace. But Victoria and Wallace didn’t mind. They were going to be good—no, better than those kids and Pokémon. They would be the smartest, the prettiest, the strongest, the best. They would reach victory.
Side by side, they studied and trained, ever improving their skills and aiming for greater heights. Side by side, they dominated the Contest stage and the field of battle. Side by side, they would grow to become the best Sootopolis City had ever seen. Side by side, they would be beautiful. Side by side, they would be the best. Side by side, they would reach victory.
Boys grew up to be men, Feebas grew up to be Milotic, and Wallace grew up to be a shivering teen on the bathroom floor, forcing fingers down their throat until they vomited themself dry.
("Are you okay?") Victoria and Wallace couldn’t speak each others’ languages, but they could understand each others’ languages, which was far more important.
"It was just one time," Wallace choked. They looked up at Victoria. They looked so small from where they knelt on the floor. So small. So scared. "Okay, fine. I’ve done this before. I promise to never do it again… But you can’t tell anyone. You can’t tell anyone… You can’t tell anyone."
Victoria cocked her head. She was a fighter as well as a healer, so she knew a few things about human sickness and health, including the fact that vomiting wasn’t good. So why would Wallace ever make themself sick?
("I won’t tell anyone. Promise not to do it again?")
"…Sure. Yes. Of course, I promise."
Victoria trusted Wallace. After all, they had been chosen to serve as the Lorekeeper of Kaióga, the mother of the sea. A Lorekeeper wouldn’t lie. A child of the sea wouldn’t lie to another child of the sea. A friend wouldn’t lie to another friend.
Except Wallace did. Wallace made themself sick again. Several times, actually. Every time, they would beg Victoria not to tell anyone. Every time, Victoria would comply. Even if she could speak to other people, what then? What would those people do? Ignore her? Mock her? Hate her or Wallace? It wasn't worth it.
Besides, Wallace was fine. They insisted as much, and they seemed capable of functioning in human society. Victoria trusted Wallace to know when they were okay and when they weren’t; when they were sick, they stayed at home, and that’s what humans were supposed to do when they were sick. They took medicine for their headaches, and that’s what humans were supposed to do when they got headaches.
Everything was going to be fine.
Victoria waited in Wallace’s dorm room. They and Winona—Winona, a name meaning "firstborn daughter"—were on a date, a thing two humans did when they were in love to get to know each other, grow closer physically and emotionally, relax and unwind. Having more than one mate didn’t seem to be common among or even accepted by most humans, but if that was the case, Wallace didn’t care. They had several mates—there was Steven, meaning "crown", a man who was heir to the crown of his father’s kingdom; Lucy, meaning "light", who weirdly seemed more like a snake in the shadows than any sort of light. But out of all of their mates, Wallace’s favourite seemed to be Winona.
Winona was the eldest daughter of someone named Haruki—"the spring child". She had a refined, mature grace, and she was very beautiful. She herself seemed to be a child of the spring, loving everything the land and sky bestowed upon her. Like Wallace, she was training to be a Gym Leader, a leader of Pokémon and people. She also was a child of the sky. She was a wise, calm teacher. Her students were strong—Victoria would have to do even better if she wanted to be victorious against them. Two strong trainers, two beautiful trainers, a child of the Sea and a child of the Sky…
The two seemed to be on a "go to a special mating nest" date, so it would probably be a while before Wallace came back to the dorm. Wallace—well, humans as a whole seemed to have strange views on mating. They kept it behind closed doors, whispering about it in shameful tones. Once, Victoria had come in on Wallace and Winona mating. Wallace wouldn’t speak for a whole day afterwards. From then on, the two only seemed to mate in the special mating nests.
Wallace was strong, but they couldn’t face every threat alone or even at all. The streets could be especially dangerous. There could be humans who insulted them for the way they were born and the way they identified like the people on their swim team, criminals who wanted to rob or attack them, predators—
The door opened.
Victoria slithered out of the bedroom. It was only ten, a meer hour after they had left. What were they doing back so early?
Wallace was leaning against Winona, eyes barely open and mouth slightly slick with vomit. Winona looked worried—very worried.
Wallace looked up at Victoria. They smiled when they made eye contact, though it was debatable if they were actually just staring into space.
There were times when Wallace would drink that strong smelling liquid that made them contemplate all sorts of things—Orbeatles lyrics, Sootopolitan poetry, how to kill themself in a way that would look like an accident. There were times when they took those tablets that made them see things that weren’t there. There were times when they took pills in the evening that kept them up until dawn. Victoria was there for them at all times when they were under their spell, because they usually consumed those things alone, and she wasn't going to risk them attempting to take their own life. They said the substances were medicine, like the stuff they gave to Victoria after battles, or the stuff they took for their headaches. Had they done those substances when they were with Winona? Why would they do them in front of their mate if they were too ashamed of themself to tell their family that they did them? Why were they so ashamed if it was medicine? Maybe it was a human thing; humans didn’t like to admit when they weren’t okay. Or maybe Wallace was too small of a sample size.
Winona carried Wallace into the bathroom, placing them on the floor next to the shower. Victoria slithered in after them, and Wallace looked up at her.
"Hello, Victoria," they mumbled. "Bad migraine, it’s nothing—" They brought a hand to their mouth and gagged violently. "I didn’t do anything bad."
Ah, a migraine. Wallace got those a lot ever since they started college. It was a lot better than doing substances that made them act strange. Victoria knew what to do when Wallace had migraines.
She placed her head on Wallace’s. She focused her mind on the world around her, the water in the air, the pain in Wallace’s body, a prayer to the Mediator of the Sky and the Alpha of the Sea for healing and easing of pain.
Wallace’s breathing became slow and steady. Victoria felt them put a hand on her. It must have worked.
"Winona," they said, "I’ll try to change and shower with Victoria in the room. If something bad happens, she can scream for me." At that, they laughed softly.
"Are you comfortable taking off your clothes in front of Victoria?" Winona asked.
Wallace’s short-lived smile fell. "Right… Yes, yes I’m fine with that. As long as she turns around, it should be fine."
Winona nodded and left the room, shutting the door behind her. Wallace looked up at Victoria. Their eyes had gained some lucidity.
"Victoria, can you help me stand up?"
They held onto Victoria’s body tightly as they stood up with shaky legs. After getting onto their feet, they leaned against the wall, opening the closet to take out a shirt and a pair of pants.
"I don’t have clean undergarments," Wallace mumbled, "could you… could you look away?"
Victoria turned her gaze to the opposite wall. She turned her mind to other things: Her new team members, Charles the Goldeen and Richard the Spheal. Charles meant "free man" and Richard meant "strong and brave ruler". Very self-centered individuals, but she had to constantly prove to them that she was stronger and prettier. She had to prove she was worth—
Victoria’s heart plummeted, and her head snapped towards Wallace.
They were on the floor. They seemed to be conscious, and they were even trying to lift themself to their knees. They didn’t have clothes on; Victoria had never seen Wallace without clothes on. They even wore them while sleeping or mating.
They were thin. Really, really thin, with bones sticking out from their torso. They looked dangerously thin for a human. There were bruises all over their arms and legs, and there was a notable one on their neck. They were so pale, like bleached coral ready to break.
"Wallace?" Winona called from the other side of the door. "Are you okay?"
Wallace stared up at Victoria, then they held their legs against their chest in a vain attempt to hide their body. "I’m fine."
They reached for the pill bottle resting on the counter—the pills that were supposed to keep them from throwing up—but that proved to be hard when they wouldn’t let themselves stand up. Finally, they gave up and stood up to get the pill.
"Well," they whispered before swallowing the pill. "Let’s see if I throw this—"
Victoria nuzzled her head against Wallace. A few seconds passed, then Wallace began petting her on the head.
("Are you okay? Have you been eating enough?")
"Of course I’m okay. It’s just a bad migraine." They pulled away from Victoria so they could put on their shirt. "Don’t tell Winona. She can’t know I look like this."
("So you aren’t okay.")
Wallace stopped buttoning their shirt and looked up at Victoria. Victoria couldn’t even recognize them anymore. They were just a stranger with a body she didn’t know, a foreigner to her memory.
"I’m okay, but she wouldn’t understand that." Wallace went back to buttoning their shirt.
("I don’t understand.")
("Do you even understand yourself?")
Again, Wallace paused, longer this time. They didn’t have a response, it seemed.
"Of course I understand myself."
Anyone could have heard the lie in Wallace’s voice.
The lights in the green room cast a warm, radiant glow on Victoria. They were different from the cool lights of the Gym, but they were no less beautiful.
("I’m prettier than you,") Lovelynn teased.
("Oh stop now,") Victoria chuckled. ("Your taunting doesn’t scare me.")
Lovelynn, a name meaning "love and cherished one." Names didn’t seem to determine how much a Pokémon was loved by their trainer; Victoria was loved by Wallace just as much as the Luvdisc was by Hailey—"hayfield". Victoria’s name certainly brought victory, though; whether it was in Contests or battles, she rarely lost.
Names were strange like that; they only told part of the story. Maybe the solution was to just have more names. Wallace had two other names—Izumi, meaning "water", and Papadakis, meaning "son of the priest"—given to them by their parents. Those names told the world that Wallace was a Lorekeeper, a child of the sea, and a priest of water. But they seemed more connected with people’s clans—everyone in Wallace’s family had the name "Papadakis" or "Papadaki", but none of them were priests. Maybe the first member of the family had been a priest, passing down their name so their legacy would live on past them.
There were names like "Mr." and "Mx.", indicating gender, "Mrs." and "Ms.", indicating mated status, and "Dr." and "M.D.", indicating wisdom. There were also bad names—"slut", "faggot", "runie", "amorpho"—that people gave to Wallace, but those names were more scars than crowns. They were mean names, names that indicated that Wallace was an outsider. Why would people make up mean names to use on others?
Names were complicated, but humans were even more complicated.
"You two seem excited about today’s Contest."
Hailey closed the door behind her as she walked into the green room. Her dress was the same shade of pink as Lovelynn, and not a hay brown or grass green like her name would suggest. She looked around the room. "Where’s Wallace?"
Wallace opened the door to the bathroom. The dark circles under their eyes were gone, and the colour had returned to their cheeks. Maybe they were okay again, just like when they were young, when things were simple and okay.
"You ready?" Hailey asked.
"Sure… Sure I am."
Hailey smiled, but Victoria could sense that Wallace wasn’t okay.
But they walked up to Victoria like they were okay. They whispered encouragement to her like they were okay. They walked onto the stage with her like they were okay. They performed, called out moves, stood, smiled like everything was okay.
They accepted failure like they were okay. They returned home like they were okay. They spoke to their sister like they were okay. They walked into the guest room’s bathroom to wash off their makeup like they were okay. They—
They weren’t okay. They weren’t okay.
Victoria slammed into the bathroom door. Wallace was on the floor. The mirror was shattered in an intricate web of cracks and falling pieces. Wallace’s hand was like the mirror: an intricate web of dripping blood. They were shaking, panting, staring at Victoria, red eyes wide with fear.
"Help," they rasped, like they wanted to scream but didn’t have the voice to do so.
She was immediately by their side, wrapping herself around them to shelter them from the broken mirror, the blood on the shards of glass and the floor, the bad luck and fear and everything else in the room. The air was filled with water—she prayed to the Mediator of the Sky and the Alpha of the Sea that she could draw on it to save her friend. There was only one other thought on their mind: Why did they do this?
Silence. Silence. Silence. She had to save Wallace. She had to save Wallace. She had to save Wallace.
"Wallace? Is everything okay?"
Victoria looked up. That was Nicole’s voice. Nicole—meaning "victory of the people". She was a very strong Trainer and Coordinator. Even Wallace, a Gym Leader, looked up to her. She was older, smarter, stronger, more beautiful than either Wallace or Victoria. She was even closer to Mediator-tiers of perfection than Juan or Marie were.
Victoria looked down at Wallace’s hand. The blood was gone, and all that remained was a pale scar running down their hand. Of course, there was still the mess of the blood and glass on the floor, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that Wallace was safe. Victoria had saved them.
Thank the Mediator of the Sky and the Alpha of the Sea she had saved them.
"I’m fine." Wallace whispered that to themself several times before finally being able to say it loud enough for Nicole to hear: "I’m fine! I accidently broke the mirror. I… tripped, and my hairbrush broke it. I’ll clean it up."
"But you have to meet with Mayor Megalos," Nicole called. "Do you need any—"
Victoria placed her head on Wallace again, channeling her energy to further heal their wounds and to quell their anger. Their breathing slowed before, in a calmer tone, saying, "I’m fine. I’ll clean it up."
They stood up to grab a towel. They turned on the faucet to run the towel under the water, feel the water on their healed hand, and wring the towel until it was damp. They got to work cleaning up the blood first. Victoria began to leave the bathroom to get the dustpan downstairs, but Wallace held up a hand.
"Victoria, wait." They stood up and tossed the towel in the clothes hamper, then tossed another towel on top. "You’ve done more than enough for me today… Thank you. Thank you so much."
They crossed their arms—hiding their hand in the crook of their arm—and left the bathroom. They opened the door with their uninjured hand.
Victoria stood close by as they spoke to their sister. If the two got into another argument, she would be there to stop it. She could win against Wallace’s demons.
This was perfect. Victoria could save Wallace. She could heal their injuries and suppress the anger that caused them. Sure, there were issues with that plan: for some reason, Megalos didn’t let Wallace let their Pokémon out of their Pokéballs when they went to his office. He would even sometimes make them leave their Pokémon out in the courtyard during their meetings. What if Wallace or Megalos got angry during one of those meetings? What if Megalos hit Wallace? Sure, they always brushed that off as a discipline measure, but they never struck Victoria. Was that just a human politics thing? Must have been.
Victoria didn’t care about victory anymore; her greatest victory was keeping Wallace safe, healthy, alive. They were alone together against the raging sea of the world, outcasts in their own city. All they had was each other. All Wallace had to keep them alive was Victoria, and all Victoria needed to do was keep Wallace alive.
All would be good, because Victoria had the power to save Wallace.