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COMPLETE: I'm A Marionette [MATURE]

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.
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.")

"That’s fine."

("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.

Knock knock.

"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—"

"I’m fine!"

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.
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Chiquitita, tell me what's wrong. You're enchained by your own sorrow. In your eyes there is no hope for tomorrow. How I hate to see you like this.
Mental illness, discussions of sexual assault, vomiting, use of queerphobic slurs, mentions of transphobia, hospitals, misdiagnosis, discussion of medication, arguing, self harm, injuries, trauma, mentions of seizures, discussions of physical/emotional/sexual abuse, discussions of queerphobia and misogyny, offscreen suicide attempt

Special thanks to @Spiteful Murkrow for beta reading this chapter.

Wallace was Juan’s little kid. Wallace was the child Juan could never have, and Juan was the father Wallace would never have again.

Wallace was a very quiet, precocious child. He didn’t spend time with other kids his age, whether by his own choice or because they wouldn’t let him. It didn’t matter too much at the time; he easily found companionship with Pokémon. And he eventually found human companionship: Steven and Winona, the best human companions a person could ever have, in Juan’s humble opinion.

They were probably the only things keeping him from becoming a hermit. Well, them and his niece Lisia. But Wallace was a good kid in his heart. Wallace was Juan’s kid.

But now that sickly boy was older. Now he was taller, smarter, wiser, sicker, thinner, weaker, more confused, more terrified. But despite the expectations placed on his shoulders, despite his public image, once you stripped away the facade that was carefully carved to perfection, he was still just a kid. He was still Juan’s kid.

Juan had done everything he could to take care of Wallace: he made sure Wallace had access to well-balanced, nutritious food. He made sure Wallace got exercise through walks around the city or through swimming, as was customary in Sootopolis City. He made sure he got a well-rounded education while also cultivating his strengths and interests. He let Wallace explore his identity with safety and privacy—or as much privacy as a public figure could afford. He assured Wallace practiced healthy and nourishing spirituality. He kept Wallace in tune with his culture and heritage.

But it wasn’t enough, and now Juan had to learn from his mistakes and move on. Not as a perfect mentor, but as the mentor Wallace needed.


Victoria and Wallace’s other Pokémon stayed with Juan at his estate. And Victoria… well, she had been acting strangely lately. She had always been a quiet Pokémon, but she always took time to take care of herself.

Now she wouldn’t eat. Now she wouldn’t play with other Pokémon or even converse with them. Now she would just sit by the fountain or the cove in front of Juan’s estate. She didn’t go to the hospital to visit her trainer; she left that for others: Juan, Nicole, Raphael, Steven, and Winona. He needed the familiarity and comfort of people he loved during such a terrifying time.

But then a week or so into his recovery, Wallace had a seizure. He was okay, thank the heavens, but it left him even more terrified than he was before. He begged the hospital staff to let Victoria visit him; he hadn’t seen her since his hospitalisation. It made sense; the two had been inseparable from Victoria’s birth until now. The staff allowed it, but that left Juan to be the one to tell Victoria that Wallace wanted her—needed her.

She was at the courtyard fountain, staring blankly at the rippling water and the Goldeens. Long ago, when she and Wallace were under Juan’s tutelage, they would spend their afternoons there reading poetry. Juan had a book Wallace had been reading recently with him. Perhaps he could try to bring back happy memories.

"Good morning, fair Victoria," he greeted.

Victoria barely looked up. Her eyes were glassy with melancholy, like a tranquil lake in the winter.

"I have some poems Wallace has been reading as of late. Would you like to read some with me?"

After teaching Wallace and guiding him through tumultuous trials of grief, puberty, and his current mental and physical state, Juan knew that it was sometimes better to ask questions that could easily be answered with body language. A nod here, a head shake there, counting with fingers, pointing to things, all of that. Wallace was often a nonverbal speaker, especially in moments of emotional distress.

Victoria shook her head. Well, maybe that was for the best considering she’d been out of sorts lately. Wallace was starting to take an interest in the black comedy of poets such as Dionysios Ueda-Ioannidis and Dolores O. Arima. Poets known for works that centered around drug addiction, mental instability, and suicide. Poets known for tumultuous personal lives. Victoria likely needed something more… positive to read.

"Victoria, Wallace wants you to come to the hospital to be by his side. Do you want to come there with me?"

("I failed them.")

That gave Juan pause.

"...‘Failed them’?"

Victoria curled up, refusing to make eye contact. ("I tried to help them. I tried to heal them when they were sick. I tried to heal them when they were hurt. I tried everything I could to save them. But it wasn’t enough.")

She hung her head and shut her tear-filled eyes. Pain. Insurmountable pain. Pain Juan could have prevented if he had done better in raising Wallace. Juan extended a hand towards her.

"Victoria, can I touch you?"

Victoria was still for a second, then she nodded. When Juan hugged her, she started crying.

"It’s okay, Victoria. You did the best you could. We’re all doing the best we can. Sometimes we mess up, and that’s okay."

Her tears fell on Juan’s coat, no matter how much he tried to comfort her.

("But I’m his partner Pokémon! How could I have failed so horribly?")

Well… Juan had also failed, in a way. Wallace had always been a sickly boy, so Juan had never attributed his myriad symptoms to anything but that. Juan had tried to create a safe environment, but it wasn’t safe enough for Wallace to come out about Megalos’s abuse. Juan had failed.

…But really, hadn’t everyone failed, in some shape or form?

"Victoria, no one knew Wallace was suffering this much. Not his sister. Not his lovers. Not me. Beating yourself up for not knowing won’t do any good."

Victoria looked down at Juan, eyes wet with tears. ("Then what will do any good?")

Juan didn’t have a response to that question, not at first.

“We’ll… We’ll figure out the answer to that question together, okay?”


Wallace was laying in bed and staring out the window when Juan came to his room. He was a shadow of the curious child he had once been, an empty shell devoid of any energy or emotion.

Dymphna nodded to Juan as he shut the door. The flickering light had been turned off, likely a choice the doctors made after Wallace’s seizure, so the curtains were open to let sunlight in. Juan swallowed, then he spoke to Wallace:

"Hello, my s—friend. How are you doing?"

"I ha’ a seizure in fron’ of my girlfrien’," Wallace mumbled.

The buzzing of the radiator filled the silence. A few seconds passed, then Juan had to fill it with something else: "Winona told me."

Juan's throat twisted a bit as he recalled that phone call, but he brushed those memories aside. "How are you doing now?"

Wallace groaned loudly, shrivelling up under his blanket.

"They pu’ me on benzos for withdrawal an’ anxiety." Wallace’s words were barely comprehensible. His usual sharp diction was gone; t’s became d’s and g’s became much softer. "Makes me tire’ and nauseous. I hate i'... being here. I wanna go home."

Juan looked to Dymphna. After the Chansey gave him a nod of approval, he walked over to the bed so he could sit in the chair next to it. It was clearly a chair rescued for free from some other building long ago, the elaborate, dark wood in no way matching the simple whites and silvers of the hospital.

"I know you want to go home, Wallace, and you will." But you need to heal, my child. No, he couldn’t say that. That would be too aggressive. So what could he say?

But thankfully, before Juan could try to think of another response, there was a knock on the door, and Nurse Chara Joy walked in with a tray of food: egg noodle soup, potatoes, salad, and juice.

"How are you doing today, Wallace?" she asked as she placed the food in front of him.

Wallace didn’t sit up, and Chara Joy’s kind smile disappeared.

Even Juan felt a bit disheartened. Wallace needed to eat. He needed to eat to get better and get healthier and back to… the real Wallace, whatever that looked like. Not even Juan knew what the real Wallace looked like anymore. The boy had been lying about himself for so long, that everything Juan knew about him felt like a lie.

"Wallace?" Juan put a gentle hand on his student’s shoulder. "Aren’t you going to eat?"

"There’s three people starin’ a’ me. Of course I’m no’ gonna eat."

“Wallace, we can’t keep doing this,” Chara Joy sighed.

Juan looked up at her as he started to stand up. "I could leave so Wallace can—"

"Juan, they have to eventually learn to eat around other people," Chara Joy interrupted. "It’s part of the reason why he’s here."

Wallace finally sat up. "Can’ I ea’ with Dymphna? She’s jus’ like a person."

Dymphna looked up at Chara Joy, who smiled, partially with sympathy, partially with resignation.

"Wallace, it’s wonderful that you’ve grown such a close connection with Dymphna—"

"But I’m a social baske’ case who can’ interac’ with people. I’m a los’ cause.”

No, no, no. Those words hurt Juan’s soul. Wallace was troubled, but he wasn’t a lost cause. He just needed… needed something.

Chara Joy sighed and stood on the other side of Wallace’s bed. "Please, Wallace."


Wallace managed to get three bites of food down before needing an emesis bag. At least Chara Joy had managed to get it out of the drawer and under his mouth before he could get anything on the bed.

Wallace shivered as he hacked up what little he had managed to swallow. Juan could only pat his back and whisper that things were going to be okay, as he had done when Wallace was a little boy.

Wallace seemed to be done vomiting, and it eventually dissipated into unproductive retching, then coughing.

"I’ll dispose of this," Chara Joy said stoically as she sealed the bag. "We’ll have to write this down."

She looked down at Dymphna, then turned to leave, flinching at a particularly bad coughing fit from Wallace.

"If their condition gets worse, get me right away."

As soon as Chara Joy left, Wallace, still coughing into one hand and wrapping his other arm around his stomach, fell on his side. He lay there listlessly, facing away from Juan.

"Sh’ gon’ make me do thos’damn protein shakes. Hate ‘em. Hate ‘em. I hate i’ ‘ere."

Juan turned his gaze to the floor, heart heavy with shame. Wallace was so weak, so miserable. Juan just wanted to pull Wallace out of his ocean of suffering and hold him close.

But that would be hard when Wallace was spiralling so deep. He needed more than a hug to save him. He needed so, so, so much more.

(“Mr. Aguado,”) Dymphna said, (“I can leave you and Wallace if you need some privacy.”)

Juan looked up, then nodded at Dymphna’s suggestion. “That would be good, thank you.”

Dymphna bowed before waddling over to the door, shutting it behind her.

The future was very big, and the path to recovery was long. But for now, for this moment, Juan could take the first steps to help Wallace. By supporting him, by… making small talk to distract from the pain.

Yes, that was probably a good place to start.

"Um… How has today been, Wallace?"

Wallace curled up at the question. "I had grou’b therapy. I’m the only non-girl with an eatin’ disorder."

Juan smiled. "Group therapy! How wonderful! How was it?”

Wallace wasn’t as joyful; he shook his head and pulled his blanket over him.

"Terrible. I ha’ two pani’ attacks and one o’ the girls called me a tranny."

Juan’s short-lived smile fell. Even with Wallace’s voice slurred and muffled, Juan could make out that last word.


"Juan, she’s pro’bly goin’ through a lo’ of shi—"

"That’s no excuse for someone to use such terrible language towards you!” Juan snapped. Going through shit or not, that didn’t justify using such… horrible language on someone also going through shit.

Though it did make Juan wonder… was Wallace transgender?

“Why didn’t Chara Joy do anything about it?!" Juan demanded.

"She tried." Wallace turned his head back towards Juan. The older Coordinator froze at the sight.

Sunken cheeks. Ghastly skin. Bony fingers. There wasn’t even a hint that this was the same kid who would lose himself in literature, who would try to connect with the heart of every Pokémon he met, who wanted to be a Coordinator just like Juan.

"Master, have you ever been in a boy’s locker room? They said shi’ like thatta me all the time. Worse stuff, too."

Those words pierced Juan’s heart like a knife. He looked at Wallace with a concerned gaze.

"Wallace… how long… have people been calling you those kinds of things?"

Wallace rocked a bit back and forth, resting his head in his hands.

"Don’ remember. Maybe ten when kids firs’ thought I was no’ straigh’ and when I still wore dresses."


Wallace shook his head. “Swimmin’ kids wou’ beat me up because I wasn’ man enough an’ call me worse things than ‘tranny’. I’m used to it.”

Juan’s whole body ached at the thought of Wallace suffering from that kind of horrible, horrible harassment for so long, and starting at such a young age.

Well, now that Juan thought about it for a bit longer, Wallace had been… different from a very young age. There was the fact that Wallace wore dresses as a child, mostly from his own insistence, according to Dorian. There was the fact that, in his pubescent years, he seemed to fixate on suggestive art of men and women alike in his books. Of course, way of dress and looking at art didn’t necessarily mean anything, but…

"Wallace, are you gay?"

Wallace swallowed. "Juan, y’know Winona, righ’? And y’know Steven, righ’?" By now, he was shaking. "I’m… I’m fuggin’ Steven too. I’m some fuggin’ faggie an’ maybe a tranny—"

"Wallace, I’m gay."

There was silence between the two. Juan spoke before Wallace could interject:

"Wallace, I never want you to think that you don’t deserve love, dignity, or respect because of your sexual orientation or gender identity,” he insisted. “If anyone has ever made you feel like that, then I am truly, truly sorry. It’s not right and it’s not how things are supposed to be. Do you understand?"

"No! I can’t understan’ shit! I’m too fugged up to understand anythin’! I’m never gettin’ better an’ I’m gonna die some fugged up freak!"

Wallace fell back against the bed, sobbing and blubbering incoherently. Juan could only hug him.

"You’ll always be mi chiquito, no matter what,” Juan said. “You don’t have to understand now, but I promise, I promise that you are worthy of love no matter who you are."

Juan sat up and took out a familiar Pokéball decorated with Milotic-inspired patterns. He looked over at Dymphna, and she gave him a nod of approval.

"My beloved friend, you’ve been through so much these past few years, months, weeks, even days—"

"Bu’ Imma los’ cause."

"—and a dear friend of yours wants to stay by your side during this tumultuous time."

A beam of blue energy shot towards the floor, and it materialized into a long, elegant Pokémon. Wallace quickly sat up, his mouth agape and his body shaking.


Victoria’s forehead went to Wallace’s, and he flung his arms around her. Tears rolled down their faces as they both broke down into loud sobs.

Juan let them cry. They were both going through so much; they deserved to cry.


The halls of the Pokémon League were quiet, as usual. Then again, the Elite Four tended to lean on the milder sense in terms of temperament: Ice type Trainer Glacia, Fire type Trainer Moore, Dark type Trainer Sidney, and Juan’s old friend… Dragon type Gym Leader Drake.

Juan opened the door to his friend’s office. Drake immediately looked up from the papers on his desk and stood up.

"Juan!" he boomed. "It’s been ages since we last saw each other! How have you been?"

Juan sighed but put up a smile. "A little tired, that is all."

Drake nodded and crossed his arms.

"How’s Wallace been?” he asked, his voice a little less energized. “I haven’t seen him in a while, and the other Gym Leaders are getting worried."

Juan froze. Had the other Gym Leaders suspected anything? The news had too many rumors to be a reliable source. Were the Gym Leaders drawing their own conclusions about what had happened?

No. Juan knew several of them, and they would never be so cruel. Had they seen the news about Ren’s arrest and Wallace’s hospitalization and put two and two together?

Drake was generally a reliable confidant, but Juan didn’t know if he could trust him that much. Drake was old, and Juan feared that his views were too.

"Wallace has been in the hospital for pneumonia. It was a bit worrying when he was first hospitalized, but he’s been recovering,” Juan explained.

He felt horrible for lying, especially about his own student. But mental illness was so misunderstood by Hoennian society. Juan couldn’t just go around telling people the truth of Wallace’s condition. People already attacked Wallace for his sexual or gender identity; who was to say he wouldn’t face similar or worse harassment for being mentally ill?

Drake stared back down at his desk, a grim expression on his face. The desk was messy and disorganized, but Juan could notice a newspaper with a familiar-looking face: Steven Stone, arrested for petty robbery. With no prior criminal record, he just had to face a fine. But still, why was Steven suddenly getting into such risky behaviour?

There was another mugshot: Ren, convicted of sexual assault.

"Juan, who’s Ren Mizutani?"


Juan’s thoughts had stopped with that one word. He couldn’t… How… Why…

"A Gym Leader from the Kanto region," Juan said as flatly and calmly as he could.

Drake nodded slowly. "She didn’t… She didn’t do any of… those things to Wallace, did she?"


Muffled screaming echoed from one of the other Elite Four offices, followed by banging and incoherent shrieks. Drake bolted from his desk and dashed out of the office, and Juan ran after him.

Sidney pinned Steven against the hallway wall. They were both bruised and staring at each other, eyes ablaze with murderous intent.

"Boys, boys!" Drake gasped, trying to calm his voice. "What is the meaning of this?!"

"He was shit talking me!" Sidney shouted.

"I wasn’t. Everything I said is true," Steven growled. "You’re poor and ugly and you're a little bitch. And your hair looks like a rat ate it."

"I’M NOT!" Sidney shouted as he punched Steven in the face, sending a shot of spit and blood flying.


As soon as he recovered and stood back up, Steven went for one more blow in Sidney’s direction. Drake grabbed Steven before his fist made contact with Sidney’s nose.

"Boys! Please!" Drake dragged Steven away from Sidney and then stood in between the two, hands up in case either one tried anything. "Sidney, Steven, deep breaths. Count to ten. This isn’t like you."

"Yeah, no shit," Sidney growled. "What changed, bitch?"

"Sidney," Drake scolded.

Sidney rolled his eyes. "Fine. What changed, Steven?" There was a mocking tone in the way Sidney said the last word.

To Juan’s surprise, that got a rise out of Steven, who lunged for Sidney.

"FUCK YOU!" Steven shrieked, jabbing two middle fingers up at Sidney as Juan held him back. "FUCK YOU ALL! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU!" Tears were cracking his voice, but he kept screaming.

Juan had never seen Steven so… aggressive. Steven had always been a mild-mannered kid. Never before had he been so prone to violence.

Juan slowly, slowly, carefully approached Steven and wrapped his arms around him. "Sh… Sh… Steven, Steven, it’s going to be okay."

"IT’S NOT!" Steven half screamed, half sobbed. "NOTHING’S EVER OKAY! NOTHING’S EVER OKAY!"

The harsh sounds of Steven’s howls filled the hallway as he began weakly hitting Juan’s chest. It didn’t physically hurt, but seeing Steven like this mentally hurt. All Juan could do was hold him until he tired himself out.

Juan looked up at Sidney, who still looked angry at Steven.

"Sidney," Drake said, "why don’t you go talk to Glacia?"

Sidney huffed and walked off. As he did, Juan could feel Steven’s breathing waver into gasps.

"Steven, what’s going on?" Juan said softly. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Steven shook his head. By now, he had gone limp, but Juan still wouldn’t let him go.

"That’s fine if you don’t, my friend. It can wait for now,” Juan said. “Would you like to go sit in Drake’s office?"

Steven nodded and, without looking up, let Drake take his hand. Juan caught a glimpse of the skin covered by his shirt sleeve. It had… light, fresh scars. Drake seemed to notice them too.

"Steven," he said. "Have you been cutting yourself?"

"Only a little," Steven mumbled.

Drake’s eyes widened, then his brows furrowed.

"Steven, what the hell is going on?"

"Wallace was sexually assaulted by Ren and almost died of starvation."

As soon as the words left Steven’s mouth, his breathing stopped, he stood up straight, and his eyes widened with fear.

"Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK FUCK—"

Juan grabbed Steven before he could fall to the floor.

"Steven, Steven, Steven." Drake put his hands on Steven’s shoulders. "It’s okay."

Steven began to cry again, shaking uncontrollably.

"It’s not okay," Steven blubbered. "He’s in the hospital and he not going to be okay and—"

"Shhh…" It’s okay." Juan held Steven again and rocked him back and forth. "It’s okay. Wallace is going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay."

Drake looked up at Juan with a grim stare.

“Juan, why don’t you tell me what’s actually going on?”

Juan sighed. Lying wouldn’t get anyone anywhere. If anything, lying was the reason Wallace had suffered for so long.

"Drake, Wallace… doesn't have pneumonia. He has… He has a lot of other physical and mental health issues, and…"

There wasn’t any hint of anger or disgust or even pity in Drake’s eyes, just… understanding. He started to walk back to his office, beckoning Juan and Steven to follow.

"Well, maybe it would be easier to talk about this in private."


All eyes were on Juan when he entered the conference room.

Seven Gym Leaders—most of them his friends and former colleagues: Rock type Leader Robbie, Electric type Gym Leader Wattson, Dark type Leader Vivian, Grass type Leader Hanada, Psychic type Leader Cruzita, and Flying type Leader Winona.

Cruzita stood up. She was sharply dressed in a pink suit, her generally soft appearance further softened by a sad smile and friendly eyes.

"Juan," she said. "It's wonderful to see you again. How are you doing?"

"A little tired, that is all."

Juan couldn’t count how many times he had told people that phrase in the past month. It came as naturally to him as breathing.

There was a moment of silence.

"How’s Wallace?" Cruzita asked.

Terrible. Awful. The medication was supposed to make Wallace feel better, but for some reason, for some reason, it was making him sleep less. It was making him more irritable. It was making him feel worse.

"His recovery has been…difficult. I don’t know when he’s expected to be discharged."

Juan couldn’t look at Winona right then. That would break his heart into even more pieces. She knew the truth. She knew Juan was lying.

Juan had to be strong. He had to protect Wallace.

"I… I came here so that Wallace could stay up to date with the goings-on in the League."

A girl in a sailor fuku shirt and long skirt—Vivian—brushed a few strands of wavy, dark purple hair out of her face. "He’s not missing much.”

"How so?" Juan asked.

Robbie shrugged and pulled down the face mask he was wearing. His black, unkempt hair was a bit neater than normal, and his black leather jacket was also unusually tidy.

"It’s just that nothing’s happening. That’s all.” He smirked. “Unless you count Wattson’s business stuff, which I don’t."

“Robert,” Wattson scoffed playfully.

Robbie shrugged. “Sorry, old man.”

He pulled out the chair in between him and Winona. "Here, you can keep his seat warm."

"Developments in Mauville City are going smoothly." Wattson stroked his graying, almost white beard. "Gym renovations are almost done. TEPIG is still protesting the Game Corner, but we can’t really close off a venture that’s bringing funds to the city."

Juan caught a glimpse of Winona as he sat down. She was… staring into space with a blank expression.

Wattson continued on about Mauville City. It couldn’t do much to distract Juan from the past month: seeing so many of Wallace’s loved ones suffering, awaiting Ren’s trial and not being able to do anything but pray that she would face justice, seeing Sootopolis City Hall go up in metaphorical flames, seeing Megalos move on so quickly even after all of the pain he’d put Wallace through…

"Juan? Is everything okay?"

Juan looked up at Cruzita. He could feel the stares of everyone in the room, searing into his skin. The air was humid with silence.

Juan couldn’t lie and say that everything was okay, but how… how could he put into words just how not okay everything was?

He couldn’t find a solution with words, so he just shook his head.

Cruzita looked down at a lady with a brown ponytail and overalls, who was sitting next to her. "Hanada, I’m going to go talk with Juan and Winona for a bit. Could you take over the meeting while I’m gone?"


Cruzita took Juan and Winona to a different conference room. The two sat across from each other in silence.

Juan stared down at the table. He usually preferred eye contact, but now didn’t seem to be the time for that. Winona didn’t seem to like it in general, and looking at her right now would mean seeing her miserable. Juan couldn’t bear the sight of her like this. He just wanted her to be okay. He just wanted everyone to be okay.

The door opened and closed again. Now, Hanada and her Xatu, Xaxa, were also in the room. Her posture was straight and professional, in contrast to Juan and Winona’s awkward, solemn glances between objects and people in the room. For an eternity, no one spoke. The silence was unbearable.

Finally, Cruzita spoke up:

"Winona, Juan, I don’t think you two should… come to work for the time being, given everything that’s been going on with Wallace."

Winona’s gaze shot up, her eyes wet with tears. "But—"

"Winona, you haven’t been yourself lately. Your performance in battle has fallen by at least 50 percent, you’ve been visibly depressed during every meeting, and…”

Cruzita stopped when she noticed Winona start shaking.

Cruzita continued: “I don’t want you to be working yourself too hard after Wallace was sexual—"


Winona’s high pitched cries were sudden, startling, strangled. She was holding her head in her hands, hands gripping her hair. Juan had never seen her in so much despair, and now… god, it hurt to even just look at her.

Cruzita walked over so she could sit down and hug Winona.

"It’s okay, my sunshine."

Winona curled up against Cruzita, sobbing.

"You don’t know what’s going on with Wallace! YOU DON’T!" she bawled. "You haven’t seen him! You haven’t seen what’s happened to him! He’s not okay! He’s not okay! He’s not okay! He’s never going to be okay!"

"Shh… Shh…"

Cruzita held Winona for a few minutes, gently rubbing her hand up and down Winona’s arm.

"It’s okay to stay home and—"

"I’m scared of home," Winona sobbed.

Cruzita closed her eyes, holding Winona closer. "Is there… anywhere you feel safe where you can stay?"

Winona sniffled and rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand.

"I don’t… I don’t know…"

"Would you like to stay at my place?"

Winona nodded.

Cruzita smiled and looked in the corner, where Xaxa stood.

"Xaxa," Cruzita said, "do you want to take Winona down to the food court to get some tea or hot chocolate?"

With a kind and protective wing, Xaxa led Winona out of the room, shutting the door behind her. Now it was just Cruzita and Juan. And silence.

"What has the…" Juan’s voice trailed off for a moment. "What has the press been saying about… everything?"

Cruzita shook her head in exasperation.

"Juan, if I were you, I wouldn’t bother with the press. I’m in the news industry, and I can tell you for a fact that anyone speculating on Wallace’s life is, 100 percent, without a doubt, full of shit." She shrugged. "Granted, meteorology and gossip are about as different as you can get, but…"

"But what will Wallace think when he finds out they’re speculating about him like this during such a turbulent time?"

Cruzita looked back up at Juan. Her expression was as cold as death.

"What will he think when his own family and friends give into that fear?" she retorted. "Odds are he’ll think something’s wrong with him… something innate and unloveable. And you don’t want him thinking that, do you?"

Juan didn’t want that. He didn’t want Wallace thinking something was wrong with him, be it his sexual orientation, his gender identity, his… psyche. But mental illness was different from gender or sexuality; it was inherently harmful to Wallace. But that didn’t mean Wallace was any less worthy of love because he was mentally ill.

Juan sighed. "It’s a scary world out there."

"It is. But it becomes a lot less so alongside people who accept you and love you." Cruzita chuckled. "Though ‘scary world’. You’re telling me. I’m the only woman on Mauville TV. Every other day, I’ve got someone harassing me. And if I ever want to get married or have children?" She tossed her hand in the air. “Good luck keeping my job.”

"And I’m a closested gay in Upper Sootopolian Society. If someone asks me why I’m not married one more time…"

The two had to laugh, as the tension in the air was replaced by a sort of mutual understanding.

“How many different excuses have you made up?” Cruzita asked.

Juan shook his head playfully. “Oh, I don’t even remember. People have been asking me since I was sixteen. So it’s been… forty years now?”

Juan’s Pokénav buzzed in his coat pocket. He looked down at it, then quickly back up at Cruzita.

"Excuse me."

Now - 2 new messages from: Nicole Papadaki
- Nicole

What happened?
- Juan

Wallace tried to kill himself
- Nicole

Juan raced to Tzirachi’s Mercy Medical Center the moment he got that text.

Nicole and Raphael were already in the waiting room. Nicole was shaking, and not even Raphael’s tight hugging could calm her down. Wallace’s psychiatrist, Dr. Angelopoulos, was standing in front of them, explaining Wallace’s current state:

“...going to need to be put on antipsychotics and watched 24/7. We’ll assess him every day until he’s deemed stable again.”

“Could it be the medication?” Nicole asked, voice quivering through tears.

Juan quietly walked into the room as Dr. Angelopoulos answered:

"Usually, SSRIs don’t cause mania unless the patient taking them has bipolar disorder."

He was so calm. How was he so calm?!?! Wallace had gone three whole days without sleep. Wallace had developed horrible delusions and hallucinations. Wallace had attempted suicide. Juan had almost lost his child.

"But Wallace has depression, doesn’t he?" Nicole gasped, desperately trying to keep the tears at bay. "That’s what you said he had, isn’t it?"

"Well, misdiagnoses aren't unheard of, especially for bipolar disorder,” the doctor answered. “Oftentimes, it is confused for depression.”

He looked away from Nicole and Raphael.

“If that’s the case, then I’m sorry for my error…"

It was then that Dr. Angelopoulos noticed Juan.

“Mr. Aguado, are—”

Juan turned to leave, rage beginning to boil in his blood.

‘Sorry’? Was ‘sorry’ supposed to make up for all of the pain this misdiagnosis had put Wallace through? Would sorry make up for the fact that Wallace had almost killed himself?!

Juan almost slammed the door, but he decided against it. That would be rude, and besides, part of him still needed to hear the rest of the conversation. So he left the door slightly ajar, breathing deeply as he tried to listen.

"Wallace mentioned dealing with manic episodes with sedatives, didn’t he?" Dr. Angelopoulos asked.

"H-He did,” Nicole replied.

"My first impression was that the mania and mood swings were brought on by anxiety and drug abuse," Dr. Angelopoulos continued, "but maybe those two factors were just worsening an underlying cause."

There was a long moment of silence.

"I’m the only psychiatrist at this hospital, and we can’t exactly afford to have every medication for every illness,” the doctor said. “We just have antidepressants and benzodiazepines. It… might be a while before we can order the right medicine…"

Juan shouldn’t have stayed back to listen. This whole conversation was miserable. Shaking his head, he wandered away from the waiting room door. He didn’t bother to hear the rest of Dr. Angelopoulos’ reassurances.

He was too numb with anger to care about where he was going.


Sootopolis Mayor Faces Cholera in the Midst of Political Upheaval; Fate Unknown

Juan felt a lot of emotions reading the newspaper headline, but above all, he felt regret.

Juan had never trusted Megalos, especially not around Wallace. But politics were… messy by nature, and the most Juan could do was let Wallace stay at his estate instead of Megalos’, or try to stay around Wallace when the boy was with Megalos as much as possible.

That still wasn’t enough. That still wasn’t enough to keep Wallace safe from verbal or physical or sexual abuse. That still wasn’t enough to keep Wallace from… from…

("You’re ruminating again.")

Marie gently bumped her head against the newspaper, a sign that Juan was better off throwing it away, along with his thoughts.

There wasn’t much Juan could do to fix the past. All he could do was fix the present, as best as he could. Learn from the past, fix the present, change the future. Learn from the past, fix the present, change the future.

The estate was empty for the day. Juan had dismissed his butler and maid so he could try to find some peace of mind in this hurricane of emotional turmoil.

It was a chance for Juan’s mind to take a break from constantly thinking about Wallace. Juan was Wallace’s teacher, not his father. And besides, Wallace was recovering from his psychotic episode. Wallace was in safe hands. Wallace didn’t need Juan constantly obsessing over him.

…But he needed a parental figure.


Tests were done over the next few days. Wallace was off of the antidepressants, he was back in touch with reality, he wasn't actively suicidal, and he was being watched by at least one nurse at all times. He was safe, but he was exhausted. After three days of no sleep, he could now barely get through his therapy and meals. Juan worried about what the reevaluation and potential new medications would do to his present state…

There were indications that Wallace had bipolar disorder, a much more… stigmatized mental illness. Depression was one beast, but what about the countless tabloids about celebrities with bipolar disorder being violent and abusive and—

No. Fuck those tabloids.

No tabloid, no mental illness would ever diminish Wallace’s worth to Juan. As a student, as a person, as a son. Nothing would. Nothing. Noth—

("Mister Aguado? Are you okay?")

Sister Dymphna, was looking up at Juan with a concerned look from in front of the door to Wallace’s room. Juan felt tears on his face. He was crying, wasn’t he?

"I’m… not okay."

Sister Dymphna nodded in understanding. ("You’re an artist, aren’t you? Maybe you and Wallace can process your feelings together through art?")

Juan stopped for a moment.


Sister Dymphna opened the door and led Juan inside. Wallace was sitting at a small table—not in bed. Chara Joy was carefully watching from the corner as he moved a brush back and forth along with his hands: he was painting with watercolors.

Juan stepped over, still in disbelief to see Wallace actually out of his bed for once again and looked down at the table to see his work. He froze at what he found: people being strangled, drowned, sexually assaulted, cut apart. The human subjects didn’t have eyes, though they were often surrounded by them. Surrounded by watching eyes. Surrounded by hands pointing, grabbing, choking, pulling. Messy techniques. Purple blotches on necks and torsos. Red lines over arms and legs. Gray blotches on private areas.

Wallace had always been an artistic type, despite Megalos’s strict orders against it. His works occasionally dabbled with taboo material, but they had never been this… raw.

Juan took a moment to compose himself, then he spoke: "Hello… Hello, Wallace."

Startled, Wallace jumped in his seat and looked up at Juan. The older Coordinator took a moment to look at the watercolor case.

Juan smiled. "Aqua Ring Watercolors, I see. My my. Whom did you get those from?"

"Steven," Wallace said, voice devoid of emotions and gaze still on his canvas. "And Winona got me some, too. Steven got earth tones. Winona got cool colours."

"Well, isn’t that generous of them. And to get you the same present yet also not? It seems like Fate is a cunning maiden."

Wallace looked down at his art, frowning. "I’m sorry."

That sorry caught Juan off-guard.

"Why are you apologizing?"

"I’m sorry for drawing…" Wallace gestured across the table and the drawings on it. "...This."

Juan shook his head a bit, smiling once more.

"Wallace, there’s nothing to apologize for. If drawing these things is how you process your emotions, well, you’re not hurting yourself or anyone else,” Juan reassured his son—student. “And besides, you’re a talented artist. A very, very talented artist."

Juan knelt in front of Wallace. "Art has always been a means for people to express the parts of their psyches, and not all of those parts are made of sunshine and rainbows."

Wallace collapsed against Juan and groaned.

"I’m getting reevaluated."

"...So I’ve heard,” Juan said, gently rubbing Wallace’s back. “But it’s okay. You’ll get a better diagnosis and better medication to help you—"

"What’s wrong with me?"

Juan was taken aback by Wallace’s question. He looked down at his student in confusion.

"What do you mean?"

Wallace buried his face deeper against Juan’s chest.

"I have all these stupid diagnoses and stupid medications and stupid anxiety and depression and bipolar and shit,” Wallace muttered. “I can’t even function anymore and I’m a freak. I’m a freak. I’m a freak. My brain’s messed up and it’s never going to get better."

Juan hugged Wallace. "None of that changes anything, Wallace. Depression, bipolar disorder, or whatever you’re facing,” Juan insisted. “You will never be undeserving of love."

Tears returned to Juan’s face, and he hugged Wallace tighter.

"I love you so much. And I will do everything, everything to help you,” he promised. “Because so many people love you. So many people and Pokémon love you and care about you. No diagnosis can take away your worth and value."

"Stop crying, Juan!"

Wallace’s words came out in choked screams. Juan looked at him and saw that Wallace was gritting his teeth, at once scowling and dribbling tears from the corner of his eyes.

"You’re supposed to be emotionally stable! I’m the sick freak! I’m the one who’s not okay! Sootopolitans aren’t even supposed to cry!” he shouted. “I shouldn’t have been such a fuckup and started crying, because now you’re crying! Now everyone’s sad and suffering and wasting time and money on me and—! And—!"

Wallace’s words cut out as sobs overtook him. Juan pulled him into his shoulder and just stood there as he let himself sob too. For a few minutes, Juan rocked him back and forth, and the two cried in all of their perfect imperfection.
Last edited:
Come receive the light
suicide attempt, discussions of mental illness and eating disorders, discussions of physical/emotional/sexual abuse, misdiagnosis, psychosis, blood, medical stuff, hospitals, discussions of strangulation and icky bodily functions, discussions of suicide, past death by suicide, discussions of sexual assault, discussions of sex and sexuality, seizures, discussions of drug abuse, corruption, religious themes, internalized queerphobia

Special thanks to @Spiteful Murkrow and BitchHips for beta reading this chapter.

When the world was still new and the night was still dark, Sin created disease and unleashed it upon humans and Pokémon. Young and healthy men fell dead in the fields. Parents watched their newborn children wail as pestilence overtook them. Entire villages were wiped out in a matter of days.

On the darkest night of the year, a comet flew over the sky, a tiny village living in the sky. Tziráchi the Star, a being who dwelt in this village, saw the horrible diseases in this world and flew down to help.

"I see your pain. I see your sickness. Come forth to me and bring your foreheads to my hands. Let me touch them so that this disease may leave you."

And so they did. Humans and Pokémon came from far and wide in search of Tziráchi’s healing, and with a mere touch, their disease disappeared from them. Everyone marvelled over the miracles and great works they beheld, and were ever-grateful for the Star and their salvation.

But then, after many days and nights, the Star grew tired from their healing. Rekkoúza came down, and told them to rest.

"Oh Mediator of the Sky," said the Star, "I cannot rest. How could I when there are so many who are still suffering?"

"There is no one person in this world who knows all. None who can do all."

Rekkoúza departed and left the Star to ponder this wisdom for three days. At its end, Tziráchi came upon a pool of crystal-clear water. The Star dipped a hand in the pool, then flung the speckles of water into the air.

A thousand stars filled the skies, twinkling and sparkling. the Star smiled and spoke:

My children, I must rest so I can heal the world in its times of great need. Go to the highest mountains and the deepest seas, and heal the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the righteous and the sinful. May you pass your knowledge onto your children, so the world will always have healers.


Wallace Papadakis

19, M

Ruptured esophagus, malnutrition

Suicide precautions

Sister Dymphna held the report in her hand as she ran through the hallways of Tzirachi’s Mercy Medical Center. It was two in the morning, but she had to take on this duty. She had to help Wallace. As a Chansey, it was her birthright to help others. As a child of the Sky Dragon and the Mother Star, it was her duty.

In the elevator, she took a moment to take a few deep breaths and collect herself. It was important to remain calm in her field of work, both for her patients and for herself. As the doors opened, she put aside her worries for later and put up a professional front.

You can do this, she said to herself before she entered Wallace’s room.

Wallace was laying in bed, unconscious, deathly pale, bruised, scarred. He was hooked up to several machines and an IV. Sister Chara Joy had the endoscope snaked down his throat, and Sister Aphrodite was using Heal Pulse on Wallace. There were clothes in the sink—bloody clothes.

Sister Aphrodite looked up from Wallace and over at Sister Dymphna, who pointed to the sink. The Gardevoir nodded before Sister Dymphna waddled over to the sink, hopped onto a stool, and began washing the clothes.

For the next few minutes, the air filled with the hum of psychic energy, the splashing of water, and the scrubbing of sponge against cloth. From the bed came the erratic beeping of the heart monitor and the inflating and deflating of the blood pressure monitor. There was the metallic smell of blood and the sour smell of vomit. Such smells filled Sister Dymphna’s heart with dread, no matter how used to them she was.

The stark light overhead flickered every few seconds as she worked. In a way, it all felt like walking the city streets at night: the world wasn’t empty, but it was still scary.

Then the psychic humming stopped. The beeps became much more hollow, much more lonely. The two women at the bed were looking up at each other.

"It looks good," Sister Chara Joy said. "You can begin retracting the endoscope. I’ll talk to Sister Dymphna."

Sister Chara Joy stood up and walked over to the sink, sighing and resting a hand under her chin.

"Six phone calls tonight," she sighed. "Poor thing’s gone through the worst night of his life, and it’s not even over yet."

Sister Dymphna took a deep breath. That could mean many different things, and Sister Dymphna had to be prepared for every option.

("What else should I know about the patient?") she finally asked.

"Apparently, Mr. Papadakis has a history of drug abuse and self harm. And he…" Sister Chara Joy inhaled deeply. "…He was sexually assaulted not long before his guardian called the ambulance by a Gym Leader from Kanto. Ren Mizutani."

Sister Dymphna’s heart stopped. She had seen and heard of tragedy her whole life, but it never made such stories hurt any less. No one deserved to go through something like… that.

And the report said he was only nineteen… Only nineteen, barely an adult. A child with a whole life ahead of him.

"He had a BAC of .19 and an estimated weight of just barely over 45 kilograms," Sister Chara Joy continued. "We had to perform an emergency gastric suction."

Sister Dymphna nodded, wincing a bit.

("The report mentioned a ruptured esophagus. Is it bulimia, or prolonged alcohol use?")

Sister Chara Joy shrugged. "No one mentioned binge eating, but we’ll… have to wait for him to wake up to know for sure."

Sister Chara Joy looked back over at Wallace and Sister Aphrodite. "There are… There are also signs of strangulation. We’re not sure if it’s from the assault or—"

Sister Dymphna froze. Strangulation. Strangulation. Strangulation. Sister Dymphna knew damn well that strangulation could have lasting effects, even if they weren’t immediately obvious.

Internal injuries.

Brain damage.



Sister Chara Joy flinched at Sister Dymphna’s sudden rise in tone.

"Sister Aphrodite performed the Healing Wish procedure when Wallace first came to the emergency room. He…" Sister Chara Joy sighed. "He seems to have been strangled in at least the past few days. But it’s okay. He’s going to be okay."


Sister Dymphna ran back to Wallace’s room. Sister Chara Joy had to take care of another emergency patient, and someone had to be there for Wallace. It was too dangerous to leave him alone: he could purge or cut himself or try to—

Oh no.

He was gone.

Sister Dymphna tried to calm herself down with deep breaths, but that couldn’t do much when one of her patients was missing. She ran back out of the room, shouting, ("Where is he? Where is he?!")

She opened every door she came upon in the hallway: the janitor’s closet, the elevator, the bathroom—

That was where she found him. Wallace was laying on the floor. His IV was still in his arm, but he was on the floor of the bathroom.

Sister Dymphna tried to pick Wallace up, but it was hard given how much taller he was than her. Sister Chara Joy noticed the two from the hallway and bolted into the room.

"What happened?" she gasped.

Sister Dymphna shook her head worriedly.

("I found him here. I don’t know what happened!") Sister Dymphna helped hand Wallace over to Sister Chara Joy. ("I don’t… I don’t think he hurt himself.")

Sister Chara Joy looked up and down Wallace's arms. No fresh wounds. Thank The Mother Star. It didn’t look like he had come here to do anything bad to himself. Maybe he just needed water or to use the restroom.

Sister Dymphna exhaled with relief, and the tension building up in her body faded away

But Mr. Papadakis still needed someone to be with him. Suicidal thoughts usually went away after at most 72 hours, and Wallace had barely been in the hospital for 12. And besides, he still needed to be evaluated for a potential mental illness diagnosis. He still needed to be evaluated on whether or not he was at risk to himself.


("Hello there! My name is Dymphna, and I’m going to be your nurse alongside Sister Chara Joy. We’ll be trading places back and forth so you have someone with you at all times.")

Wallace sat up in bed awake in his hospital room, but his half-lidded eyes and tired frown showed he was still exhausted. His posture suggested boredom or shame, and his gaze was just barely directed toward Sister Dymphna.

She smiled and walked over to his bedside, climbing onto the chair next to it and handing him a clipboard and pen.

("The doctors have deemed you well enough to take a few assessments for us. Nothing bad, just assessing your mental state so we can take care of you as best as we can.")

Wallace stared at the page on the clipboard for several, long seconds before taking it. Sister Dymphna nodded.

("Answer all of the questions honestly. It will help us in your treatment plan.")

This was all standard procedure, and standard procedure like this—paperwork and surveys—tended to be the least stressful part of the job for Sister Dymphna.

"But what if I choose the wrong answers?" Wallace mumbled.

Dymphna sighed, a small chuckle escaping her lips. ("There’s no right or wrong answers. Just tell us what’s true for you.")

That seemed to be enough; Wallace went right to work filling in bubbles with the pen. He was very precise with his penwork, filling in every bubble with not a blank spot or stray mark. It made for a slow process, but if he—

Wait, was Wallace a he?

("Wallace, your medical records list you as being male. Are you… comfortable with me addressing you as such? Would you prefer that I use pronouns other than he?")

"I’m whatever Megalos needs me to be," Wallace replied without looking up. "So male."

Megalos, the mayor. Right, Wallace was the mayor’s protégé. Some people said that Wallace had been chosen to go on to be Megalos’s successor, others said he seemed too rebellious for the role.

Megalos wasn’t the best mayor, to say the least, but this Wallace person seemed… not too bad, just troubled.

Sister Dymphna shook her head and turned back to Wallace. ("But when you look into your heart, when you ignore Megalos, who are you?")

…Oh dear. Wallace’s eyes were getting misty now, and he dropped the clipboard on his lap.

"I—I don’t know."

("Well… what would you like me to call you during your stay here? What pronouns would you like me to use?")

A pause.

"I like the name Wallace. I like ‘he’ and… ‘they’… and ‘she’?"

Sister Dymphna smiled. ("That’s good. All of us Chansey are what you humans call female. I like ‘she’ and ‘her’.")

Wallace picked up the clipboard again and began filling out the questions. The silence and scratching of pen on paper soon became… lonely.

("Um… what do you like to—")

"What does this question mean?"

Sister Dymphna stood up on her tippy toes to get a better view. Wallace was pointing at the last question in the assessment:

Have you ever in your life attempted to take your own life?

Yes ☐ No ☐

Well, that was the… first time Sister Dymphna had been asked about… that question. It wasn’t exactly the most fun of the questions, even for a depression assessment.

("It’s asking if you have ever attempted suicide,") Sister Dymphna explained.

Wallace’s expression didn’t change. Something else was wrong.

"I don’t remember whether or not I’ve attempted suicide, and even the times I do remember… don’t count."

Dymphna froze. ("What… what do you mean?")

Wallace shrugged nonchalantly. "Maybe I was drunk or high and tried to do something. I wouldn’t remember. I only remember my LSD trips." He stared back up at the ceiling, seemingly lost in thought. Or tears. "And well… There have been times where I crossed the street without looking, or drove a car recklessly without wearing a seatbelt, or went into a dangerous part of town, and my logic was…"

Wallace covered his eyes with his arms. "… My logic was ‘if I die, oh well’." His voice cracked a bit. "But that doesn’t count, does it? There’s a chance that Megalos had sex with me when I was drunk, but I’m not going to accuse Megalos of infidelity. There’s a chance I tried to kill myself when I was drunk, but I’m not going to accuse myself of having attempted suicide."

Sister Dymphna was at a loss for words. There was a lot in Wallace’s words. Too much.

("Megalos didn’t… He didn’t rape you, did he?")

"Of course not!" Wallace shot back, seemingly insulted. "There's... vague memories of sex in his office..." He shook his head. "But he didn’t rape me, how dare you say that! And even if he did have sex with me, I only started drinking at eighteen"—he stared at Sister Dymphna angrily.—"so if you’re implying he’s guilty of pedophilia—"

("It doesn’t matter if you’re both above the age of eighteen,") Sister Dymphna interjected. ("No one in a position of power like that should take advantage of a person below them. No one should take advantage of someone when they’re drunk. No one should take advantage of anyone—")

"You’re not going to snitch on me, are you?"

That question caught Sister Dymphna off guard. Wallace’s eyes were wild with terror, and their face had gotten even paler.

Sister Dymphna forced a smile. ("Wallace, do you know about patient confidentiality?")

Wallace shook his head. "No."

("Under the oath every nurse makes, I won’t tell anybody else what you tell me—unless you are at risk of hurting yourself, hurting someone else, or being hurt by someone else. And well… you’re being hurt by Mega—")

"He’s not hurting me!"

Sister Dymphna flinched. The sharpness of Wallace’s words was startling, and his whole body was shaking.

"Are you a registered priest?" they asked frantically. "You’re a child of The Mother Star, right? Can I make this a confessional? I might as well if you’re going to snitch on me."

Sister Dymphna held up her hands defensively, trying to calm down Wallace.

("Wallace, Wallace, I’ll only tell what I—")

"I had sex before marriage," Wallace blurted out. "I had sex with a prostitute once to try to figure out how sex works. I had sex with men! I had— I had—" They shook their hands in front of them, as if trying to conjure up thoughts. "I had sex just to satisfy my own degenerate desires! I— I’m—"

His voice cut off with a choked sob, and he weakly hit his forehead as he collapsed on the bed and curled up like a scared, scared child.

"Miku did worse things than whatever Megalos did," Wallace said, not looking up. "Miku is bad. Miku is very, very bad."

‘Miku’? Was that… Was Wallace referring to themself in the third person? Was it a coping mechanism? But aside from that, it was clear Wallace had been through… so, so much. He needed respect more than ever.

She took a few deep breaths before speaking again:

("Wallace.") Her tone was calm. ("You’re a priest in training, aren’t you?")

Wallace was still for a moment, then he nodded.

("Do you know about Lokásoúvia?")

Wallace nodded again, tears streaming down his face. "Goddess of love, marriage, fertility, and friendship. She’s one of the most important deities in Runekyō scripture, and she’s the most important to the Megalos family. She represents perfection. I-I… Miku has to know about our gods and goddesses to—"

("Did you know that Lokásoúvia was a prostitute?")

There were several moments of silence.


Sister Dymphna put a hand on Wallace's. ("Wallace, prostitution, homosexuality, premarital sex, sex for personal pleasure… none of those things are wrong or sinful. As long as it’s safe and consensual, there’s no fault in fulfilling physical needs.") She paused. ("And before you say anything, do not blame yourself for what Ren or Megalos did to you. Rape is not an act of love; it’s an act of violence.")

An idea came to Sister Dymphna. She opened the drawer in the nightstand, and inside was a copy of To Chon—the most important book to any Rounékyoist . Pretty much every patient who came to the medical center was a practitioner of the faith. Unsurprisingly, most hospitals in Hoenn... didn't respect their religious needs.

She opened to the Book of Mánafi and sat in the chair next to Wallace’s bed.

("When Kaióga first slumbered, he sent his child to us to watch over our daily lives. The Princess of the Sea came up from the foams of the early morning sea, coat shining like a blue pearl. The first ones to spot the child were not the nobles or the merchants, but the children of the fishermen.

("‘Who are you?’ asked the children. ‘Are you a human or Pokémon? Are you a prince or a peasant? Are you a boy or a girl?’

("The Prince of the Sea laughed. ‘Do you really think it’s as simple as being one or the other? Tell me, what does it mean to be a human or a Pokémon? A prince or a peasant? A boy or a girl?’

("‘That doesn’t make sense,’ said the children.

("‘Many things don’t make sense, little ones. Many things can’t make sense until we spend a day in the body of others who are different. Only then can we realize that we all have fears and hopes, loves and hates, flaws and strengths, joys and pains. The body matters not, for it is the mind that carries who one truly is.’

("At this, the children—")

"With all due respect," Wallace interrupted, "I don’t see the point to any of this."

Sister Dymphna looked up at Wallace. Well, perhaps her choice in passages wasn’t conventional. For most patients, she would have turned to the Book of Tziráchi and the Song of Healing. But it wasn’t just the Prince of the Sea’s connection to water that made his book relevant to this moment with Wallace.

("It seems you’ve been told throughout your life that you must look or act a certain way to deserve respect. But you already deserve respect, no matter who you are or how you look or where you come from.") She smiled. ("I have to do a lot of analysis of religious texts, and I think it’s notable that To Chon uses both masculine and feminine language for—")

Sister Dymphna stopped as Wallace looked down in his lap. He didn’t seem to be feeling any better.

"I’m disgusting. I’m a gross, disgusting person."

Sister Dymphna shook her head. ("You’re not disgusting at all.")

"I threw up on my girlfriend. Several times."

Sister Dymphna swallowed. That sounded rough.

("Well, I can’t speak for your girlfriend, but when Nurse Joy called her…") Sister Dymphna shuddered. When Nurse Joy called Winona, the poor girl was inconsolable. ("…she didn’t seem to be any less worried for you because you were sick a few times.")

"I had to stop going to the dentist and just bleached my teeth so I wouldn’t get found out for purging. And so my dentist wouldn’t see my fucked-up teeth."

Sister Dymphna sighed. ("Well… we’ll be sure to help you find a dentist who specializes in treating patients with eating dis—")

"Sometimes…" Wallace’s face was red with embarrassment. Sister Dymphna didn’t want to say anything just yet; it seemed like Wallace just needed to vent.

"Sometimes Megalos would discipline me and I would… I would…" He stopped for a second. "I would lose control of my bodily functions."

Sister Dymphna’s heart stopped. ("How did he… discipline you?")

Wallace put his hands around his neck, tears returning to their face. "Miku is a disgusting little pig who needs to be treated like a baby and—"

He was cut off by a hiccup, and he tried to rub away the tears in his eyes.

"Younger Miku needed to go to the hospital a lot. Miku couldn’t eat or stand up or even use the bathroom without help. A-And look at Miku now!"

Wallace held his legs against his body, shaking again.

"Miku can’t even force himself to choke down food without vomiting it up immediately afterwards like a sick dog! Miku is a disgusting junkie whore who uses drugs every damn day! Miku is a damaged slut who sleeps around with people who don’t even like him! Miku is a pathetic coward who can’t even take being disciplined like he deserves without pissing or shitting himself like a frightened bird half the time!"

His body and expression were twisted up into something so unrecognizable, so angry, so scared. His posture was sharp with despair, eyes violent with pain.

"Miku never deserved to be loved by Megalos! Megalos was a perfect mentor, and Miku—Miku is just a worthless, fucked-up freak!"

He crumbled into loud, shaky sobs. The poor thing… The poor thing…

Sister Dymphna felt her body tense up with anger. Wallace was so young, so weak. He had been abused for so long, and his mind was trying to make him feel disgusting for it.

She put a hand on Wallace and took a few moments to think of a response: ("Incontinence is a… common occurrence in victims of strangulation. It’s okay to not be in control of your body during times like those. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. You aren’t at fault for the abuse you suffered.")

She paused for a moment. ("And I’m… sorry to say Wallace, but you will need a doctor to watch you at all times, including when you shower or use the bathroom.")

Wallace’s eyes shot wide open, but Sister Dymphna’s continued:

("I know this will be difficult for someone like you, but believe me when I say that we’re doing all of this because we want you to be safe. And there’s nothing for you to be ashamed of. You are worthy of respect, and nothing can ever change that.")


Fear. Fear when Winona rushed out of Wallace’s room, crying, screaming that Wallace was convulsing. Fear when Sister Dymphna ran into the room, praying that Wallace was okay. Fear when she went through all of the steps of first aid, laying him on his side, cushioning his head, timing the seizure. Fear that the worst would happen. Fear. Fear. Fear.

But then… the worst didn’t happen. The seizure ended. Wallace was okay, and Doctor Angelopoulos and Sister Dymphna were discussing its aftermath outside of his room.

"The symptoms Wallace has been exhibiting are in line with those of alcohol and drug withdrawal," he said.

Sister Dymphna nodded. Doctor Angelopoulos was a very old and very wise doctor. He knew a lot about medicine—for the body, for the mind, for the soul. She trusted him to do what was best for Wallace.

"Is Chara with Wallace?" he asked.

Sister Dymphna nodded, and Dr. Angelopoulos began to leave.

"All right, then. I’ll go discuss this situation with his partner. I was going to discuss Wallace’s diagnosis with her anyway."

She followed the doctor for a bit to ask, ("What’s the diagnosis for Mr. Papadakis?")

"Major Depressive Disorder, Purging Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, abuse of almost every substance you can name," the doctor replied. "We’ll put him on sedatives, since we have those handy, but you’ll have to keep an eye on him while he’s under their effects. They are one of the drugs he abused before his admission."

Sister Dymphna put a hand to her chin. She was a bit… confused by Dr. Angelopoulos’s plan. ("Then why would we put him on sedatives?")

"Because it’s the best we can do. Better to have him on sedatives under careful supervision than let him keep having these adverse effects."

Sister Dymphna nodded. She trusted Doctor Angelopoulos. And with that, she turned to walk back to Wallace’s room.

She pushed open the door. Wallace was sitting at the table in his room, staring into space with glazed eyes, frowning. Nurse Chara Joy was sitting in the corner of the room.

("Wallace? How are you doing?") Sister Dymphna asked.

He held his hands together in front of him, opening and closing them. Her smile fell.

("Mr. Papadakis, do you need something?")

"Wallace," Nurse Chara Joy sighed, "can you speak?"

Wallace shook his head.

What a predicament. The poor thing was so mentally shaken by his seizure that he couldn’t even speak. Though… perhaps they were speaking in home sign…

An idea struck Sister Dymphna. She ran out of the room and to the waiting room, where Doctor Angelopoulos and Winona were talking.

"...He’s in good hands," Doctor Angelopoulos reassured Winona, whose face was wet with tears. "We’ll take good care of him."

("Winona,") Sister Dymphna interjected. ("Do you know what it means when Wallace opens and closes his hands? Does he need something?")

Winona wiped away tears and looked over at Sister Dymphna. "Both hands together?"

Sister Dymphna nodded. Winona’s sad expression sharpened into something more professional.

"Um… can I… can I see him? I think he might want me."

("Of course!")

Dr. Angelopoulos shot a glance towards Sister Dymphna.

"Are you sure?" Doctor Angelopoulos asked.

But Sister Dymphna didn’t respond, because she was already running off to Wallace’s room. When she got there with Winona, Wallace was still staring into space, still opening and closing his hands. Except now Sister Dymphna knew what it meant!

("Wallace, do you want Winona?")

Without looking at Sister Dymphna, Wallace nodded.

As if on cue, Winona came into the room. She made her way in and knelt by the side of Wallace’s chair, and Wallace turned towards her.

"Hey, Wallace," she whispered, "how are you doing?"

Wallace put his head in his hands. Winona smiled sympathetically.

"Not good, huh? Is there anything I can do to help?"

He wrapped his arms around himself.

"A hug?"

He nodded.

Winona smiled and wrapped her arms around Wallace. She hummed like a chipper little bird.

"I love you, Wallace, and you’re going to be okay. Okay?"

Wallace shook his head. Winona nuzzled against him, glancing over at the bedside table. Her and Steven’s presents for Wallace sat atop it.

"The doctors will take good care of you. Steven and I will visit. It’s going to be okay. Do you think opening your presents might help?"

Wallace nodded. Winona let go of them and stood up to pick up two boxes from the nightstand. One had been from her, the other had been from Steven.

"Do you want to open them, or should I?"

Wallace pointed to himself, and Winona handed them the boxes. He slowly stripped off the wrapping paper, folding it neatly on the table.

There were watercolors inside of the boxes. Wallace’s eyes glowed brighter than the shades of blue and purple paint within.

And then, Wallace hugged Winona and buried their face against her body. Winona gently ran her hand up and down Wallace’s back.

Sister Dymphna sighed out of relief. Wallace seemed to trust Winona. They seemed to trust that Steven man too, even though he punched walls. That was good. Having a support network was vital for recovery.

Wallace had Pokémon, right? Maybe those Pokémon could help, too!


As it turned out, Wallace’s partner Victoria liked to help, she just…

("I shouldn’t have ever let it come to this point. Was I not a good enough healer?")

…Well, perhaps it would be mean to say that Victoria was bad at her job. She clearly cared for Wallace and wanted the best for them. But… But…

Sister Dymphna swallowed and tried to sort her words out. ("Victoria, do you know what codependency is?")

Victoria’s brow scrunched. ("What do you mean by that?")

Sister Dymphna stopped in the middle of the hallway, and Victoria stopped some seconds later. For a few seconds, Sister Dymphna let the buzz of the radiator fill the silence. Then she spoke again:

("Well, it seems as though Wallace has been… quite dependent on you, and in turn you’ve enabled many of his more unhealthy—")

Victoria’s tail slapped! on the floor.

("Enabled?!") she shouted, eyebrows furrowed with anger. ("Do you think I would let Wallace suffer?! Do you think me caring for them is just as bad as letting them hurt themself for so long?!?!")

Dymphna held up her hands, signalling Victoria to pause and take a moment to calm down. Victoria’s body still seemed tense, but her tail slowly fell to the floor.

("Victoria, it’s important to have family and friends to help you in difficult times, but when it gets to the point where you put the needs of others over your own well being…") Sister Dymphna began. ("When you forget that you’re a person too, when you put a little bandage on a broken leg and don’t address the underlying problem… that’s when it becomes a problem.")

Victoria’s body relaxed a bit, and Sister Dymphna smiled. ("I don’t think you’re a bad partner, Victoria. And I don’t think Wallace is a bad partner. But—")

Victoria turned to leave down the hallway.

("Wait!") Sister Dymphna gasped. ("Where are you going?!")

("I don’t want to hurt Wallace anymore,") Victoria said, eyes sharp with worry and anger.

Victoria dashed down the hallway. Sister Dymphna almost ran after her, but she decided against it. Victoria needed time. Everyone did.


Reports of abuse were to be taken very seriously. Sister Dymphna took Wallace’s testimony to the police as soon as she had the time.

"You have reached the Sootopolis City Police Hotline. For human services, press 1. For Pokémon services, press 2. For—"

Sister Dymphna pressed "2".

"Thank you. Please wait while we connect you with a dispatcher."

Barely a few seconds passed before a dispatcher came:

"How may we help you?" The voice on the other end of the line was firm yet calm. Sister Dymphna felt safe.

("I need to report a case of abuse.")

"A case of abuse? Would you mind elaborating?"

Sister Dymphna nodded, before remembering that the dispatcher couldn’t see her. The Pokémon services tended to be handled by… well, Pokémon. Human-Pokémon verbal communication tended to work better when both parties were near each other.

("I have a patient who has… confessed to being physically, emotionally, and… and sexually abused by… by…") Sister Dymphna swallowed. ("...by the mayor. Matthias Megalos. For at least a few years.")

"...I see. Do you have any evidence of the abuse? Do you have photos of the victim’s injuries? Has she—"

("‘He’. The victim is a ‘he’.") Well, Wallace was more than a ‘he’, but Sootopolis City didn’t seem too fond of anything outside of strict ideas of ‘male’ and ‘female’.

There was a brief silence.

"Alright then, has the patient taken a forensic exam?"

("I don’t believe that’s possible anymore. It’s been… a bit since the victim was last in contact with Megalos. But there are still visible bruises I can take pictures of.")

"Alright then. You can send those into the police department. Can I have the patient’s name?"

("Wallace Papadakis.")

"And can I have your name?"

("A—Dymphna. No last name.")

"Okay, Dymphna. We will call you back once we look further into this case. Thank you for reporting this."

Sister Dymphna never got a call back. A few days later, news came that Ren had been acquitted of her charges.


"She can’t come in!"

"Wallace, Sister Dymphna won’t hurt you!"


Wallace and Sister Chara Joy were fighting—loudly. Wallace had been refusing to sleep, insisting that he wasn’t tired. One night of restlessness was understandable, but three nights of no sleep was taking its toll on his mind and mood. He was more irritable. He was talking to himself. He was… different. It started once Wallace started taking antidepressants, progressively getting worse as the month continued on.

Was this a side effect of those antidepressants? The nausea and dizziness that accompanied the sleep problems seemed to line up with the side effects, but what about the…?

…This wasn’t psychosis, was it? Was it the LSD he supposedly took? Was it schizophrenia?

Sister Dymphna left the room, heart aching with pain. She couldn’t help herself from rocking side to side. It was a self-soothing behaviour that had been with her since infancy. She was so, so worried about Wallace. His own mind was turning against him and making the people around him into enemies.

But psychosis wasn’t a common symptom of depression, was it?

She looked back into the room. Wallace was pacing around the room, speaking rather than shouting now.

"All of them want to kill me. All of them want to kill me. They want to kill Sootopolis City. Use me. That’s all I’m good for. Use me and drug me and beat me and choke me and fuck me IT’S NOT ABUSE IT’S DISCIPLINE!!!"

…His condition was getting worse. It was supposed to be getting better, but it wasn’t.

Wallace was safe with Sister Chara Joy, so Sister Dymphna ran to Doctor Angelopoulos’s office and told him about Wallace’s condition. His stoic face turned grim.

"Talking to himself?" Doctor Angelopoulos said. "Oh dear…"

The world stopped for Sister Dymphna. It was never good when Doctor Angelopoulos said "oh dear". "Oh dear" was not having the medication to treat a patient. "Oh dear" was finding out that a patient had terminal cancer.

"Oh dear" was bad. Very bad.

"Has Wallace been happier than usual?"

Sister Dymphna looked up at Dr. Angelopoulos, who was resting his chin on a finger. It was a strange question, but she replied, ("Sometimes, but not really. Just more… energized.")

"More self-confident?"

("I can’t really tell. He’s just been screaming about how everyone wants to kill him and Sootopolis City.")

"Is he speaking faster than normal?"

Sister Dymphna was starting to suspect what Doctor Angelopoulos was suspecting. ("Yes.")

Doctor Angelopoulos’s frown grew more grim.

"This sounds like it might be a manic—"


Sister Dymphna ran out of the office at the sound of Wallace’s scream. He was still screaming, and now Sister Chara Joy was too, but Sister Dymphna couldn’t hear it.

Wallace ran out of his room, Sister Chara Joy pursuing him. He crashed into the window at the end of the hall, banging desperately on the glass until it shattered. Why didn’t the hospital have enforced glass? Why didn’t the hospital have enforced glass? Why didn’t it have the funds for enforced glass?!


He stared down at the ground outside the window. First floor; not a height that would kill. He still looked… sick in the brief moment he looked out the window.

("Wallace, please!")

He grabbed a shard of glass and held it to his throat, panting and staring at Sister Chara Joy and Sister Dymphna with eyes wild like a storm.


Memories flashed before Sister Dymphna’s eyes: a young woman, a child of The Mother Star, standing at the edge of the Sootopolis Crater.

("Please, Dymphna. I love you. Your family loves you. So many people love you. It will get better, I—")

"Whenever it gets better, it just gets worse."

Then there was silence, nothing but those two.

Then there was just one.

There was no serenity in Wallace’s eyes, nothing like Dymphna’s, but there was that same fear, that same despair.

From that day forward, Avi—no, Sister Dymphna made it her mission to save as many people from her lover’s fate as she could.

"I HATE IT HERE!" Wallace shrilled. "I ALREADY FAILED MEGALOS! I ALREADY FAILED SOOTOPOLIS CITY! I NEED TO DIE! I WANT TO DIE! I WANT TO DIE I WANT TO DIE I…I…" Their voice fell to a whisper. "I want to die I want to die I want to die…"

Their mantra continued as their grip slackened and they dropped the glass. Blood dripped from their hands. There was no more anger. Just fear. Just despair.

Sister Dymphna caught Wallace before they could fall to the floor. His blood was warm on her fur. So were his tears.

"Miku wants to die," he muttered under his tears. "Miku’s scared to die. Megalos loves Miku. Everyone else wants Miku dead. Miku needs to obey him. Miku’s scared to die. Miku needs to die. Miku needs to be disciplined. It’s not abuse. It’s discipline. Miku doesn’t like being disciplined. Miku wants it all to go away. Go away. Go—"

Sister Dymphna could feel him suddenly look up, then he went limp. Two people took him away from her: Sister Chara Joy and Sister Aphrodite. She looked up at them for comfort, for answers, for something.

("Is he going to be okay?") She was supposed to know. She was a nurse. She was a Chansey. They were supposed to know. But now she was just scared, and she didn’t know anything.

("We’ll put him on a suicide watch,") Sister Aphrodite reassured her. ("We’ll remove all hazards from his room, and I’ll stay with him at all times. Go call Wallace’s next of kin.")


Sister Dymphna needed a break after that day.

She took a lot of pride in her duties as a nurse, but even nurses needed a break. As the Book of Tziráchi said, "Eat when you’re hungry. Drink when you're thirsty. Rest when you’re tired." So it only made sense to take a break, and Wallace was in the safe hands of Sister Aphrodite and Sister Chara Joy, so Sister Dymphna finally had the time.

And if she didn’t rest, she would surely go crazy.

It was hard to play instrumental music when one had such short hands, especially with a bouzouki, but Sister Dymphna had built up minor skills in telekinesis. Perhaps she wasn’t as skilled as Sister Aphrodite, but she could hold down the chords with her mind while strumming the lute with her hands.

She played a few chords for practice. It had been… so long since she had held her bouzouki. It felt like meeting an old friend, with memories blurry but rediscoverable.

"It’s good to see you around again, Sister Dymphna. Where have you been?"

Sister Dymphna stopped and looked up. A pretty, petite woman with bluish-grey hair was walking over to her, a stáchifláouto in hand.

("Sister Markella, Earth and Sea and Sky Above.")

Sister Markella smiled as she sat down next to Sister Dymphna, causing the Chansey to blush. "You look like you need a friend to play with."

("That would be nice, yes. You can play the melody, I’ll play the chords.")

For a brief moment in time, Sister Dymphna was at peace, playing nautical and urban songs with Sister Markella—"poor Sootopolitan’s music", so to speak. That brief moment reminded Sister Dymphna that the world could be good and kind. She had seen the worst of the world so many times over her life, but these moments of kindness… they were important.


Wallace was beginning to stabilize mentally. The order of lithium had finally come in, but it would take time to tell if it was the right medication for Wallace. Different medications worked for different people.

At the very least, things were finally going back onto the path to recovery.

Sister Dymphna noticed Victoria waiting outside of Wallace’s room. Well, Wallace still had therapy and wouldn’t be back at his room for another hour, so maybe Dymphna could talk to Victoria again.

("Victoria! What brings you—")

Victoria snapped her head down to Sister Dymphna. For the first time since the two had met, Victoria seemed hopeful. ("I want to be Wallace’s service Pokémon.")

Well, this was… hm…

("Their… service Pokémon?") Sister Dymphna tilted a bit to the side in confusion.

("Yes, service Pokémon! ") Victoria waved her fin to emphasize her words. ("The ones that help humans who can't see. The ones that help humans who are sick. The ones that help them through panic attacks. I want to be that for Wallace!")

Sister Dymphna forced a small smile. She didn’t know… how to word her next statement.

("Victoria… A therapist can’t treat their own family. You and Wallace are very close—that’s wonderful! But… well, a therapist wouldn’t treat their sibling. For practical and ethical reasons, we would need a different Pokémon to be a service Pokémon for Wallace.")

And besides, Victoria needed to learn about boundaries, and about taking care of herself.

Victoria looked shocked at this news, and tears were beginning to form in her eyes.

("B-But I’m supposed to be there for them. I’m their partner Pokémon. How… I…")

She was cut off by a harsh sob. Sister Dymphna hugged her long body.

("But you’re just as important as any therapist or service Pokémon,") Sister Dymphna said. ("Family is very, very important. They’re just important in a different way.")

An idea suddenly came to Sister Dymphna’s mind. Victoria was too close to Wallace, but maybe…

("Are there any other Pokémon Wallace? Ones who maybe aren’t as… close with the ?")

Victoria sniffled, but said nothing. After a long silence, she sighed.

("I mean, there’s quite a few, but all of them are very close… Not as close as me, but they’re also very busy. Duncan… Duncan isn’t. He’s a Spheal and used to train with Nicole, but he likes helping people more than battling. He doesn’t know too much about Wallace. I guess… I guess he can help.")

Sister Dymphna nodded.

("That would be good. For you and Wallace.")
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you're not a monster just a human and you made a few mistakes
Mental illness, discussions of sexual abuse/assault, offscreen death, discussions and aftermath of abuse, discussions of drug abuse, discussions of eating disorders and self harm, discussions of bigotry, minor arguing, cigarette use, alcohol, mentions of self harm

Steven was on the porch of the Mizushima-Papadakis house, smoking a cigarette. He had drifted between his dorm, Wallace's home, and Winona's dorm in the wake of Wallace's suicide attempt.

His dad had been texting him earlier—"How are you doing son?" "How's your friend?" "If you ever need to come back home, your old man's door is always open". Steven didn't want to respond, and luckily Dad was probably too busy anyway to read any responses.

Too busy to scold Steven for smoking.

He couldn't even remember when or why he had picked up the habit. Probably in middle school or high school, when he wanted to stick it to his dad or teachers, when his poor study habits finally caught up to him, when he needed a way to deal with a new ADHD diagnosis. It wasn't pleasant, but… well, it was always there when things were rough.

It wasn't a pretty habit, and deep down… maybe Steven really did want to drop the habit, even with Winona's teasing pleas that she didn't like a man who reeked of tobacco. Maybe—

"Need a smoking partner?"

Steven jumped at the voice and looked up. Oh, it was just Raphael.

Steven sighed. "Don't you have a daughter?"

Raphael sat in one of the porch chairs. "Social smoker. Try not to make it a habit."

Steven chuckled, handing Raphael the box of cigarettes. "How do you do it?"

Raphael raised an eyebrow at the label on the box. "Camerupt Luxury?"

"What else would I blow my dad's money on?"

Raphael said nothing in response, instead taking a cigarette and letting Steven light it for him. The two sat in silence for a few minutes. Steven wanted to strike up some sort of conversation, but that had never been a strength of his.

Luckily, Raphael started the conversation: "Seen any… movies lately?"


Well, never mind. That conversation died about as quickly as it started.

"Well…" Actually, maybe Raphael was going to try again. "How are the… Rustboro Cradily? Is that your baseball team?"

Steven smiled. "My dad would probably know. He loves baseball. Made me try out for the little league and everything. I think he thought it would do me some good."

Raphael turned to Steven. "Your dad's the president of Devon Co., right?"

Steven fought the urge to roll his eyes. "Yeah. Why?"

Raphael shrugged. "I don't really know a lot about you and Winona, really. Wallace doesn't talk a whole lot about you." He paused and thought for a moment. "Well, he was over the moon when he met Winona and first introduced her to use… But Megalos didn't like her." He stifled a laugh. "Wallace's family sure didn't like her."

Steven's heart broke a bit at that. Sure, he and Winona had gotten used to the fact that they couldn't make their relationship with Wallace public, but… the fact that Wallace felt like he couldn't talk about them with his own family, even as a friend…

"I mean," Raphael continued, "Nicole liked Winona. Lisia liked Winona. I liked Winona. But…" he groaned. "Their family, I swear. They think we have some curse because Nicole was born out of wedlock or Lisia was born out of wedlock or Wallace wore dresses or—"

He collapsed against the back of his chair. "Sometimes I wish they would just ostracize us already so we wouldn't have to deal with them."

Wait, Wallace used to wear dresses? And Raphael… didn't seem to show disdain for it?

"It's kind of sad, really." Raphael's voice was much quieter. "I barely know anything about Wallace, and we've known each other for almost a decade. Are Nicole and I… really any better than the rest of the family?"

Steven's heart broke. Raphael looked… well, he looked stoic as always, but… it felt like a different kind of stoicism. Was he hiding something?

"Y-Yeah," Steven stammered. "Well… when I came out to my dad as… as not straight, I didn't come out immediately after I found out. I…" He bit down on his cigarette. "I didn't have the best relationship with my dad as a kid. But we… tried opening up to each other, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, and only when he showed that he unconditionally loved me, I… I felt like I could be myself around him."

His hand fell against his side, the flame on the cigarette dying away.

"I think you just need to make sure Wallace feels safe being himself around you, right?"

Raphael looked up.

"Steven, how do you know Wallace?"

Shit. Shit shit shit.

"I… Well I… I'm the Champion." Steven stood up, holding his cigarette in a shaky death grip between his fingers. "Of course I would be there for Wallace! I—"

"Raphael? Steven?"

Nicole was standing in the doorway, expression… expression uncharacteristically emotionless.

"You… you need to come see the news. Megalos is dead."


Megalos had succumbed to cholera. He was fifty five years old.

His death set Sootopolis politics on fire, with his followers mourning him and turning their attention to memorializing a symbol of Sootopolis's rise from near destruction, while City Hall scrambled to choose a successor.

Nicole, meanwhile, celebrated with a bottle of her most expensive Asírikó wine.

She wasn't intending to get drunk, but she deserved to treat herself. Megalos could never hurt Wallace again. Megalos could never beat or rape Wallace again. Megalos was gone, and Nicole couldn't be happier.

…But Ren was still out there in the world. There were still so many predatory socialites in Sootopolis. The world was still so scary.

But without Megalos, Wallace wasn't shackled to publicity and Sootopolis City. He had no reason to stay, and he had every reason to leave.


"Lisia," Nicole said one morning, "we're moving to Lilycove City."

Lisia looked up from her cereal. "But… why?"

Nicole looked over at Raphael, the gears in her head turning.

Of course.

"Well, you know how Tàta works at the museum in Lilycove City?"


"Well, it's been getting harder to commute between cities, and so we're moving to Lilycove City to make it easier."

"But what about school? What about my friends?" Her eyes widened. "We're not leaving Uncle Wall behind, are we?"

Nicole couldn't help but chuckle. Cute Lisia, watching out for her uncle. "Of course we aren't leaving Wallace behind! Wallace is family, and we'd never leave him behind!"

Lisia crossed her arms. "You're a bad liar."

The whole table went silent. Then, Lisia's voice came back, louder and harsher:

"You said that Wallace is okay! You said that he would be okay! But he's not! He's never going to be okay!"


Lisia ran out of her chair and out of the kitchen.


Wallace eventually went from just barely above 45 kilograms to a healthier, albeit still below healthy weight. The withdrawal symptoms lessened as the months went on. Most importantly, Wallace was back in touch with reality, and he wasn't at risk of killing himself the second he was left alone.

He moved to Lilycove City with his sister and her family. Steven didn't have an excuse to follow them, not unless he wanted to out his true relationship with Wallace.

So instead, he tried to focus on college. He tried to focus on his studies. And somehow, he even managed to get himself to do Devon work. Anything to distract himself from Wallace.

And hey, maybe it was a good thing that he wasn't thinking about Wallace. After all, being a caretaker was exhausting. It took a lot out of Steven. It gave him panic attacks and self harm thoughts and—


What kind of a boyfriend was he, thinking of Wallace like that? Wallace was the greatest man Steven had ever met. Wallace was calm and kind. He loved art and Water types. He… He…

Who was Wallace? And did Steven even know the real Wallace? Wallace had lied for so many years that he was okay, that he loved everything about his life, that he was perfect. How could Steven know what the real Wallace was like? How—

His Pokénav was ringing. It was Nicole.

"Hello, Ms. Papadaki." Shoot, was it 'Ms.' or 'Ms.'? 'Papadaki' or 'Mizushima'?

"How do you know Wallace?" Nicole's voice was direct. Was she mad at Steven?

"I-I told Raphael already, I'm the Champion! And a good Champion cares about the other League members! And—"

"Then why is Wallace begging me to let you and Winona share a bed with him?"

Silence. Cold, cold silence.

Nicole sighed. "I'm not mad at you, Steven. I don't care if my brother is gay or straight or whatever. I just… I just want him to be happy." Her voice cracked at the end. "I—"

"Wallace and I are gay." Fuck it all, it's not like anything even mattered. "We're gay and we have gay sex and—"

"Steven, Steven, you don't need to go into detail. I don't—" Nicole was cut off by a laugh that took her out for a few moments. Honestly, it was nice hearing her laugh.

"Then what," Nicole asked once her voice had calmed down again, "what about Winona? Did she and Wallace break up?"

"No. She's…" Shit, how was Steven supposed to explain this? "She and I are dating Wallace. And I'm dating Winona. We're all dating each other."

…Thinking for a moment, Steven realized that maybe using "gay" implied he was only dating Wallace. Maybe he should have used… what was the word… bisexual?

"I really don't know anything about Wallace, do I?" Nicole sighed. "I've known him since he was a baby, and I feel like he's a stranger."

Steven chuckled awkwardly. "I don't even know if I'm dating the real Wallace or some made-up fantasy."

"Steven… from now on, we need to be honest with each other. All of us. Me, Raphael, you, Winona, and Wallace."

Someone was missing. "What about Lisia?"

Nicole was silent for a bit. "We… We'll have to figure that out."


Wallace wordlessly looked around the new house, ducking in and out of the rooms. Unlike the home in Sootopolis, this house was one floor. The kitchen, the living room, the dining room, the three bedrooms, and the garage. That garage probably wouldn't be getting much use; cars weren't really a thing in Sootopolis City, and surely Lilycove City had public transport. It was better for the environment than a car.

Well, as Wallace looked around the garage, he could imagine it as an art studio of some sort, with all of his paints and canvases and folders… but Megalos wouldn't like that. Megalos would want the place dedicated to something more useful, but how did one make a politics studio?

What would Megalos think of Wallace taking lithium instead of his government-mandated drugs? What would Megalos think of all of the mean things the doctors said about him? What would Megalos think of the false accusations of abuse? What would Megalos think of Wallace no longer living in Sootopolis City?

What was Wallace supposed to do now, after he had attempted suicide, after he had been hospitalized for drug addiction and an eating disorder, after his whole life had almost ended several times over? What—

"Hey, Wallace."

Light flooded into the garage as someone opened the door… Steven. And Winona was with him, too. They had come! They… They looked... They looked off, but Wallace couldn't pinpoint why.

"Can we talk to you about something?" Steven asked as he looked around the garage. "Like… sitting down… there's nowhere to sit here—How about the kitchen?"

Wallace's heart raced as he followed the two out of the garage, down the hall, and into the kitchen.

"Are you breaking up with me?" Wallace asked.

"No," Winona replied.

"Are you pregnant?"


"Do I have some sort of terminal illness that the doctor didn't tell me about?"


Now they were sitting at the kitchen table. Winona and Steven occasionally glanced at each other.

"Is Ren pregnant? Are Ren and Megalos going to jail? Is Megalos still going to be the mayor? When do I need to go back—"

Steven raised his hand, signaling Wallace to stop talking.

"Wallace, I love you. Winona loves you. Nicole and everyone in your family loves you. Juan loves you. Your Pokémon love you." There was a resigned smile on Steven's face, genuine love, genuine exhaustion. "But this… All of these things… the alcohol, the drugs, the self harm, the purging, the constant lies and coverups… they're all hurting you, and they're hurting us. You can't go on like this and expect to live very long or very well. If it's all for Sootopolis… you can't really do much for Sootopolis if you're dead. And you're just…" Steven sighed, rested his head in his hand. "You're living for someone else and you're not even living your true self."

Steven looked back up. "So I'm going to give you a choice." He pointed to the front door. "Either you walk out that door and return to living for Sootopolis City and return to the drugs and the purging and the self harm and the lies"—Steven took a deep breath—"or you stay here and start living for yourself, you start living your authentic self, and we can all start figuring this out together. Coming from someone who's been there… it gets better, with the help of others, and help from within. There's nobody that can snap their fingers and make everything go away. It's a long, long road, and it's not an easy one, and, well, only you can make the first step."

Wallace's heart stopped. He had… hurt Steven and Winona. No, that couldn't be... No... looking back on their time together—the cancelled dates, the ghosting, the fighting, the nights of migraines and drunkenness—he had hurt them…

...and they still loved him. They still wanted to stick around to help him. They wanted him to stay. They wanted him to get better. They still loved him after all of the pain he put them through.

And he had to do his part.

"I don't…" Wallace whispered. "…I don't know where to start. I want to get better, for you. But I want to start somewhere, and I don't know where to start."

It was Winona's turn to smile, to speak: "You can start by answering a question: How are you feeling? And be honest."

Wallace stared back down at his feet. "I'm scared. I don't know..." He swallowed back the lump in his throat. "...I don't know how to keep living... much less live for me."

"Well," Winona said, "what makes you happy? Forget about the things that others want you to do or like; what makes you happy?"

"I like... Water types." Wallace searched through the depths of his mind. "I like art. Making art, looking at art, talking about art. I like Nicole and Raphael. I like Victoria and all of my other Pokémon. I like Juan. And I like..." He smiled, and this time he didn't have to force it. "...I like you two. I like your hugs, too."

Steven chuckled. "Are you trying to ask for a hug?"

"Yes. Your hugs are good touch. Very, very good touch."

Their touch was good—great. He trusted them. He loved them. He wanted to do his very best to give back for everything they had done for him.
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alone... at the edge of a universe... humming a tune...
Discussions of mental illness and medication, self harm, eating disorders, and drug abuse; arguing; codependency; sexual themes; implied past abuse

Duncan rolled into the pharmacy. Bright, colorful boxes stood on bright, white shelves. Fluorescent light reflected on the Spheal's satiny skin. Everything glowed like ice on a sunny day.

"Can I help you?" the lady at the counter asked.

Duncan nodded and took out a small slip of paper from his purse, which was wrapped to his side in a way that would allow him to roll without damaging the items inside. The lady's eyes widened.

"Oh! I see. Let me just… get that…"

She reached over and took the slip of paper out of Duncan's mouth:

Patient Name: Wallace Papadakis

Date of birth: 2976年8月15日

Date: 2995年5月30日

℞: Lithium, 500 mg

Sig: PO nightly

Disp #: 30 (thirty)

The lady smiled. "Of course! I'll get it right away!"


Duncan came back home about half an hour later. Well, it was the new house in the new city, not yet home. Lilycove. It seemed like a nice city. Lots of shiny buildings. Lots of friendly people. Lots of friendly boats. It was like a round cube of ice, full of possibility and joy.

Nicole was waiting outside the new home, a big smile on her face. She hadn't looked this happy in years… many, many years. She was very happy as a Coordinator and a Trainer, but when her parents died… when Wallace became the leader of the colony at such a young age…

"Thank you, Duncan," Nicole said. "You did good today."

The Spheal squeaked happily, clapping his fins. ("I finally found where I belong! After so many years… I've found my place.")

Nicole smiled brightly. "I'm very happy you have."

But now things were good again. Wallace was getting the help he needed, and Duncan finally knew where he was meant to be: helping others and spreading joy.


Duncan rolled into Wallace's sleep-cave. Wallace was sitting on the bed, reading. He was like a fragile triangle: tapping on the book with his fingers, darting his eyes up from the book and back down, tapping his foot on the ground, shaking.

("How are you doing, Wallace?")

Without looking up, Wallace said, "Miku is having bad cutting thoughts. Miku needs to make them go away. Miku doesn't know how."

Duncan's training had prepared him for this.

He rolled into action, patting Wallace's foot.

("All right then! Let's use our coping strategies!")

Wallace smiled weakly at Duncan. "Is Winona around?"

"Did someone say my name?"

Winona was poking her head in the bed-cave.

"Winona," Wallace said, "I need… Miku needs help. Bad thoughts. Doesn't know how to make them go away."

This was the first time Wallace had asked for help! Progress!

"Why don't we go for a walk?" Winona asked.

"A walk? Sure. Walks are nice."

("Can I come, too?") Duncan asked.

A flash of blue light sprung from the Pokéball on the bed table. Victoria stared down at Wallace, cool anger simmering in her sharp eyes.

But Wallace didn't seem to notice, and he smiled. "Why don't you both come with us?"


The city was very pretty in the daytime. Very hot, yes, but the sky was blue as the sea, and the buildings shone like ice. In a way, hot and cold places were very similar, but their differences helped them sustain all types of life.

Winona and Wallace looked so happy talking about human things and birds and fish. It was so nice to see Wallace smile again. It had been years since he had been this happy. Maybe Wallace was like Duncan, stuck in a life that he wasn't meant to lead. Maybe Wallace had also finally found his place.

"Hey, at least now we'll get to have more Lilycove dates," Wallace said to Winona. "Maybe we'll even get to see the red light district together. I've heard there are some wonderful strip clubs."

Strip clubs? Those were the places humans went to for mating, right? Humans had a lot of mating rituals, but at the same time, they didn't like talking about mating. Humans were strange like that. Very wonderful, but very strange.

Victoria was looking at Winona with disdain.

Wallace's Pokémon partners were… odd friends, to say the least. Flamboyant and self-centered, all of them were. Spikes ready to strike at any moment, imposing rectangles, or destructive spheres.

Victoria was the most hard to read: she loved Wallace, but she was bitter to the doctors helping him, and she was bitter to Duncan. She was never explicit in that, but… he could tell she didn't like him. She had a vague shape of something, but Duncan couldn't pinpoint what that shape was.

Duncan stopped rolling, waiting for Victoria to catch up. Rather than continue to follow Wallace, Victoria stopped, sighing.

("What are you doing?") she asked.

("Why don't you like me, Victoria?") Duncan asked.

("I do like you. When did you ever get that idea?") There was a defensive, rectangular tone to her voice.

("You always look annoyed with me. And right now, you sound very triangular.")


("Angry. And sharp, like you could hurt someone. Wallace is like a triangle, too, but in a different way.")

Victoria shook her head. ("I don't understand.")

Duncan thought for a moment. ("Well, circles are round. Very friendly. But sometimes their friendliness causes them to spin out of control and into the wrong hands. Squares are firm and determined, but they're sometimes also stubborn. Triangles are dramatic and creative, but sometimes they can be violent and unstable.")

Victoria scowled. ("You're calling me violent and unstable? You're calling Wallace violent and unstable?!")

Duncan waved a flipper.

("No… Victoria, be honest: Why don't you like the doctors? Why don't you like me?")

"Victoria? Duncan?" Wallace called.

He and Winona had stopped walking, standing some distance away from the two Pokémon. Victoria began to slither again.

("Coming, Wallace—")

("Victoria, wait!")

An idea struck Duncan. He rolled over to Wallace and bumped against his leg to grab his attention.

("Sit!") Duncan pointed a flipper to a nearby bench. ("Talk about birds and fish and strip clubs! I want to talk square things with Victoria!")

Wallace cocked his head. "Um… sure! What are the square things you're talking about?"

Duncan didn't answer, instead pushing Wallace a little more firmly.

Wallace and Winona eventually sat on the bench. Wallace rested his head in Winona's lap as she rambled on about birds. Birds were nice! Very round. Very friendly. Wallace and Winona's happiness was round and bright.

("Why does Wallace need doctors?")

Victoria's sad voice was… not round. Not square. Not triangular. It was a sad, sad blob.

("Wallace needs doctors so he can get better.") Duncan explained.

("But why wasn't I enough?")

("What do you mean?")

("I'm their partner Pokémon!") Victoria's voice was just a bit louder. ("I should have been enough to help them!") She gasped. ("A Trainer is meant to teach and guide, and in turn, the Pokémon cares for them. But I… I wasn't able to do that. I failed to help them.")

Duncan thought for a bit. When he was a younger Spheal, he was determined to be the best battler or performer, even though it wasn't what he wanted to do. But with Victoria… Victoria wanted to be Wallace's protector, Victoria wanted to be the best protector, even though… well, she couldn't be a protector all by herself.

("Victoria, outside of caring for Wallace… who are you?")

("I'm Victoria! What a silly question to ask.")

("Not like that. I mean… do you have ambitions? Do you have dreams?")

("I want Wallace to be okay!") Her voice was sad now. ("I want to be useful! This is my purpose, and I've failed!")


But she ran off.

"Victoria!" Wallace called as he stood up. "Where are you going?!"


Victoria opened her eyes. Familiar white and blue buildings were there to greet her: the buildings of Sootopolis City.

There were many people going in and out the streets, going about daily business.

Wait. Where was Wallace?

She dashed up and down the street. Were they still in Lilycove? Were they hurt? Were they doing drugs or hurting themself or making themself sick?

No. They were walking down the street, Winona on their arm, and smiling. Their smile… It was the most wonderful thing in the world. Her happiness returned. Wallace was finally happy again. After so many years of pain, they were finally happy.

She slithered her way through the crowd toward them.

("Wallace!") They didn't seem to hear her, but it didn't matter. They looked healthy . They didn't look scrawny and exhausted anymore. Even with his clothing, Winona could tell he was healthy, happy. Happy happy happy.


They turned to her, and their smile vanished. Winona patted them on the arm and whispered something gently to them, and they nodded in response. What were the two talking about? Why wasn't Wallace happy to see Victoria? They were partners, friends.

Then Wallace approached, but with formality, not camaraderie, as if they were meeting with a foreign diplomat and not their sister through all but blood.

What's going on?

("Wallace? Don't you remember me?")

"Victoria." They remembered her name. They spoke in their voice, but their usual compassion was gone. "Our partnership was a very fulfilling one. I gave you strength, and in exchange, you gave me companionship. But we don't need that partnership anymore. We've been over this before. We must go our separate ways. Please leave my beloved and me."

A crack, like the one Victoria had heard when Wallace had hit the mirror in a fit of self-hatred.


Then Wallace left Victoria.
Wallace left Victoria. Left Victoria, back for Winona, didn't look back.

Her heart raced and her whole body trembled. She wanted to cry out, but her mouth was stiff, like she had been frozen with Freeze Dry.

Wallace was her family! Sure, she had her mother and father back at Juan's estate, but they weren't as close as Wallace. She and Wallace were two pearls from the same oyster, two kindred, inseparable souls. What would Wallace do without her?…

Probably do just as fine, if not better than when he had been with Victoria. They had seen their doctors and therapists. They had gone through their partnership with Victoria. They had no more need for someone to heal their scars, someone to stay up with them through restless nights of hallucinations and suicidal ideation, someone to protect them. They were at peace. They were finally at peace.

What would Victoria do without Wallace?

All her life, she had been by their side, pulling them back from the brink of ruin. Her life mission had been to protect Wallace. Her life purpose was to be there for them. But now that they didn't need her anymore… what now? If she stayed any longer, she would probably bring them back down, probably ruin their happiness.

But if it was the last time she would ever see them…


She didn't care if Wallace didn't hear her or didn't want to hear her. She stopped right in front of them and Winona. Before Wallace could protest, she cut them off:

("Before you go…") she swallowed. ("Before you go, I… you may not need me anymore, but if you ever do need me in the future, I'll always be there for you.") She rested her head on theirs. ("You can always come back home.")

Wallace wordlessly pushed her away.


They and Winona left again, and this time, Victoria didn't stop them. She knew it was futile, even dangerous. She wasn't needed anymore.

She watched the two until they disappeared in the crowd and the horizon. Then she began to cry. What was she supposed to do now? What was she supposed to do now? She felt like a part of her had been stripped away, and now she had nothing to fill that void.

What did she want to do now?

As she wandered the streets, as she tried to figure out the answer to her question, all of her wants circled back to Wallace. She had thrown her whole self into them. She prided herself on being Gym Leader Wallace's ace Pokémon, Coordinator Wallace's shining star, Wallace Papadakis's caretaker, but she… she was her own Pokémon. She was a strong battler. She was a talented performer. She was part of a whole, but she herself was also a whole, complete by herself. She had been part of an archipelago, but she was a whole island in and of herself.

Eventually, she came upon the edge of the Sootopolis Basin, the doorway to the Hoenn Sea. She carefully slipped into the water.

She let the waters take her in. Light glimmered from the sky above. Rocks, coral, sand…

It was lonely without Wallace. But they were with Winona, healthy, happy, well in body and mind. They were their own person, too, and… the time had come for when they didn't need a caretaker anymore. The baby Feebas had left the nest, metamorphosing into a beautiful Milotic. And now Victoria had to find herself.

Maybe she would travel Hoenn—no, the world. Maybe she would help other people and Pokémon. Maybe she would—

She woke with a start.

She raised her head from the floor and looked down at Wallace, who was asleep on the left side of the bed with their mates asleep to the right.

She looked down at them. They were frowning, muttering in their sleep.

"Óxi, Megalos… óxi… óxi…"

Victoria rested her head against Wallace's forehead as she began to say a prayer in her head:

Rekkoúza, Mesolavitís ton Ouranón, bless my partner's mind and heart. Bless their indomitable will. Bless… bless those who are easing the pain in their mind and heart. One day… I won't be needed as their caretaker. When that time comes, guide them down their own path. Guide me down my own path—

Wallace wrapped their arm around Victoria. She let them nuzzle against her neck as she shifted into a position more suitable for sleeping.

Whatever the future had in store was unimportant for now. What mattered now was getting comfortable, and drifting off to sleep.

Side note: the Victoria nightmare scene is from an RP I did over on Thousand Roads. Originally it was intended for ATAC-era Victoria, but I felt it was more fitting for IAM-era Victoria.

Formatting of Japanese dates: Years年Month月Day日

Óxi - Greek, "No"
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pale green things
Discussions of physical/verbal/sexual abuse, discussions of sex and hypersexuality, physical abuse, discussions of death, victim blaming

"Wake up, Wallace," Winona whispered.

"Don' wanna."

He looked cozy in his baggy clothes and under the blanket. Sure, he still had those dark circles under his eyes, and his skin was still the sickly gray of a cloudy sky, but for once, he looked cozy. He looked safe.

Winona playfully nudged Wallace's arm and sat up. "Come on, Komala Kid."

Wallace turned over and nuzzled against Winona's legs. "No." A smile crept into the corners of his lips. It was good to see him smile again. That thought came to her every morning she woke up to his smile.


"This is the one."

Wallace held out a red book with gold trim: "Woodblock Prints of Fortree". Winona could feel the joy the book had given over the years, in the musty smell, in the soft edges of the cover, in the countless sticky notes scattered throughout.

"The purple ones mark the bird prints," Wallace explained. "Everytime I pick it up, I think of you."

"How long have you been thinking of me, two hundred years or so?" Winona teased.

Wallace chuckled. "It was my mother's, then my sister's, then mine, and now… now I want it to be yours."


"Maybe Megalos will let us be together now."

Winona's throat tightened up. She swallowed. "What do you mean?"

Wallace leaned against Winona's shoulder. "Well, you've proven yourself to be one of the strongest Gym Leaders in the Hoenn region." He chuckled. "And if he saw how kind you were to me through… everything, I think he would have a change of heart. If… Sootopolis can't live without me, it can't live without you."

He smiled. "Megalos loves me. It's… tough love, but maybe he just needs to hear what Steven told me: live for yourself."

"I… sure, Wallace. Sure."


"Where are you going?"

Wallace turned his head to Winona, eyes glowing from the street lights outside, hand gripping his wallet.

"I have… sexual urges. 'I need to fuck ten people right now or I'll die' urges. I can't put the burden of that on you."

"That's one way to say 'I'm very horny'."

Wallace looked even more distressed.

"It's different. I feel like the most fucked up, worthless piece of shit, and if I don't go to the district and get fucked by ten businessman, then I'll die a worthless piece of shit."

"How about we… talk through it instead?"


It was sometimes exhausting for Winona to care for Wallace, but it was downright miserable to spend the weekend at her mother's house. But she had to put up with it. Mom was family, no matter how miserable being around her was.

"Why do you stick around Wallace?" Mom mumbled.

"Because I love him. It's basic human decency."

"Rina, please," Dad sighed. "Not now."

"I don't think our daughter should be marrying a man who's too weak to keep a woman off of him."

Winona stared at her mother from across the kitchen table.

"Go fuck yourself," Winona replied calmly.


"Where did you get those bruises from?" Steven demanded.

"I fell."

"Winona, is Wallace—"

"It's mom." How dare Steven insinuate that Wallace was abusing her?!

Steven sighed, holding up his hands. "What did I say about taking breaks?"

"Whenever I do, my mom spouts out bullshit, and I get a slap on the face for telling her to stop."

"I mean from your family."

Winona thought about that proposition for a moment, but Steven spoke before she did:

"How about… How about you and Aurora have a little… girls' day? Bring Lisia along, too. I can stay with Wallace."


"Winona? Miss Winona? You have a challenger… Well, you've had a challenger for fifteen minutes… Winona? Whatcha staring at? Everything okay?"

Winona wasn't paying attention to Bran. She was paying attention to the spinning windmills, the late spring breeze, the smell of the woods, the world. The physical. The present. Breathing away the "what if" and "why can't". Breathing in the moment. Being in the moment. Trying to stay in her body and out of her mind. Today, here, and now. That was all she knew and would know for now.

She would be okay, for even just one moment.


Winona woke up in the middle of the night, and the first thing she saw was Wallace sitting up in bed, staring at nothing.

"Wallace? Is everything okay?"

"Why didn't Megalos visit me in the hospital?" There was pain in his voice. Confusion. Betrayal. "Nicole visited me. Steven visited me. Juan visited me. You visited me. Why didn't Megalos?"

"Wallace, Megalos… hurt you. So, so much."

"But he didn't. He struck me and all that because he loved me. He did everything out of a love for Sootopolis City, a love for me. He loves me, Winona."

He hated you.


Lisia and Ali were fast kids. Winona had to thank herself for starting track back in high school.

The two ran (or flew) in short bursts, running halfway across Lilycove City before wanting to stop to buy ice cream or Hi Kitty and Papimocchi plushies. And just when Winona thought they needed to go home to take a nap, they were back on their feet, just as excited as ever. She and Aurora could barely keep up. Lisia and Ali were smiling the whole day.

And for the first time in the tumultuous year, Winona was happy. Unconditionally, indescribably happy.


"How's Wallace doing?" Cruzita asked.

"He's doing… well," Winona said. "Maybe he'll be able to go back to the Gym soon."

"Cockburn's bugging me about how Juan will have to replace Wallace if they're not back by the end of the month, and he 'means it this time'." She rolled her eyes. "Who's got the notorious Xatu, buddy?"

Winona laughed at that. "You're not going to challenge him to a battle, are you?"

"Well, Xaxa wouldn't mind skipping the middle mon and pecking at him."

Winona gulped. "Oh… Well, I think therapy's going good. Wallace is… good. Everything is good."


"How was therapy today?" Winona asked.

Wallace shrugged. "We talked about how Megalos is abusive. My therapist thinks he was a business authority or something, but he was more than that. He was family."

"Domestic abuse is a thing."

"It's like spanking a child. It's not how I would discipline a child, but it's how Megalos does."

"If we're going with this parent bullshit, then it was rape and incest."

"It's not! I don't remember shit from the 'sexual abuse'. Who's to say I didn't enjoy it?"

"You were drugged, Wallace."

"Megalos can change! Megalos can learn!"

"Megalos is dead."

The kitchen went quiet. Winona's words weighed the two down, deeper and deeper and deeper.

And then Wallace screamed.

Winona ran to him, trying to talk over his incoherent wailings. Her voice got louder and louder as she tried to reach him somehow. More people came into the room. More voices. Louder and louder and louder and louder too much too much too much.

She was on the floor, cradling Wallace as he sobbed. The room had finally quieted down.

"I killed him!" he screamed. "I killed him I killed him I killed him…"

"Sh… No you didn't. No you didn't."

"I deserved it. I deserved to be hurt. I deserved to be raped. I deserved it I deserved it I deserved it…" His voice got weaker and weaker as he repeated those words over and over.
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It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin
Discussions of physical/emotional/sexual abuse, mental illness, disordered eating thoughts, intrusive thoughts, mentions of illnesses, religious themes

The blue of the afternoon sky tinted the chipping, white walls of the Church of the Ethereal Sea and reflected on the golden murals of Kaióga. The benches were supplied with only a few worn, torn copies of To Chon in the front row. The air was stuffy with the smell of decay and neglect, memories dancing with a sense of loneliness. A priest stood at the altar, lighting stubs of burgundy candles.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Nicole's footsteps echoed across the emptiness. The silence and emptiness was at once overwhelming and comforting, as if the heavens were guiding her through the uncertainty.

"Brother Spenser, Earth and Sea and Sky Above."

The priest turned at the sound of Nicole's voice. He wore white and blue vestments, standard for priests and Lorekeepers serving under Kaióga's domain. Perhaps most distinct was his balding head and long, white beard.

"Sister Nicole, Earth and Sea and Sky Above," his voice was powerful yet gentle. He could speak directly to the heart and bring it light. "What brings you here today? It's unusual to be praying at a church under Kaióga's domain during the Feast Week of Gourádon."

"Brother Spenser, I come here to ask for your blessing."

"Ask and I shall give. Is it a blessing for the Feast Week? A trial you're facing? Your daughter?"

Nicole nodded. Swallowed. Collected herself.

"My brother cannot fast for the Feast Week, and I seek your blessing on his behalf."

Brother Spenser's brows furrowed with worry. "Is Brother Wallace sick?"

Nicole looked down at the ground. "He is."

Spenser swiftly glided past Nicole, down the aisle, out of the sanctuary, into the church office. It was a small room with three desks against the walls, with papers scattered on the floor.

He spoke not a word as he searched through the bags and bottles he stored in his cabinet.

"What is it? Influenza? Bronchitis? Salmonella? Tetanus? There's an outbreak of pneumonia in the city."

"We… moved to Lilycove City."

Spenser laughed softly, his voice tinged with lingering worry. "And you failed to tell me? I was there as Wallace memorized To Chon, you know. And your father as well, bless his soul."

"It's a disease of the mind."

Spenser looked up. The smile on his face was gone. "Does he have… Huntington's Disease? Parkin—"

"Mental illness. It's… mental illness."

Nicole rubbed her eyes with her wrist to fight off her tears. She had to stay strong to face whatever Spenser was about to say to her: that Wallace wasn't ill, that he was actually cursed, that he needed to be exorcised or killed or—

Spenser there wasn't shame or disgust or malice in his eyes. There was simply the same gentle power of his voice.

"I see. Would you still want me to come to him for the blessing of Tziráchi? I might be able to come once the Feast Week is over."


Wallace spent the next few days in the garage, only coming out when Nicole dragged him out for meals and therapy, or when he went into the red light district in hypersexual heat.

It was Gourádon Feast Week, but under no circumstances would anyone let Wallace fast for any amount of time. Being forced to eat three meals a day against religious law only drove Wallace's state of near-constant anxiety. He barely slept at night and was constantly on edge. There were times where he couldn't even hold down a meal because of stress, though at the very least, he never induced vomiting himself. It was a small miracle.

Duncan stuck by his side through everything to make sure he wouldn't… do anything. The good news was that Wallace didn't do anything. He didn't cut his arms or hit his head with books or purge after meals. Progress was being made, at least, even though certain other things were falling back.

Most notable were the black clothes he wore: black shirt, black coat, black pants, black shoes, all stained with paint here and there. He refused to wear any other color.

The paint got on his hands and face, too, along with the general dirt and grime that came with not bathing for several days. He looked haggard with his unkempt hair and sunken eyes.

"Come on, Wallace," Steven coaxed as he knocked on the door to the garage, "I thought you were a performer."

"I'll do it tonight," Wallace called back. "I'm busy."

"But don't you want to change your clothes?" And stop mourning your fucking rapist???

"I said I'll do it tonight!"

Tonight became the next morning, which became later in the day, which became tonight again.

Eventually, the Feast Week ended, and somehow Wallace made it out alive. With the week over, Spenser came by for the prayer of sickness.

"My my, Wallace," Spenser sighed, "I always believed Coordinators were prissy about their clothes having even a speck of dirt, and now here you are covered in dirt and… paint?"

"Forgive me, Brother Spenser."

Wallace was laying in bed. As was tradition for prayers for the sick, the rest of the household stood or sat close by—except for Lisia. She was off playing with Ali in the living room. She had to stay oblivious to Wallace's condition, for her sake. She wasn't going to become what Steven became. She was going to get a good childhood and a good life. All she had to do was stay out of this.

"Ah, there's nothing to apologize for," Spenser said. "Just remember to bathe and shower every other day. I recommend mixing up a scrub of olive oil, honey, sugar, and oatmeal to remove dead skin cells. And remember to nourish yourself with good food and drink."

"Easier said than done," Wallace mumbled.

Spenser placed a hand on Wallace's forehead.

"Tziráchi to astéri

"fére chíkari sou

"Tziráchi to astéri

"fére chíkari sou"

Spenser had a strong and baritone singing voice, protecting Wallace like a golden barrier. Even when the song ended, the warmth of it lingered on.

"Tziráchi, To Astéri," Spenser said, "blessed be the heart and mind of Wallace. Blessed be the family who has stayed by his side as he has walked this difficult path. I call upon you, if you cannot be with Wallace, to instead lend him your strength, your love, and your serenity. By—"

"Brother Spenser… may I make a request?"

Spenser looked down at Wallace, smiling.

"Of course you can."

"Can you say a prayer for Megalos?"

Steven shot out of his seat, and Winona had to grab him before he could storm to the bed. Rage fumed in his body.

"We are not saying any prayers for Megalos!"

"But Steven—"

"Wallace," Nicole said, "respecting the dead is important, but if they didn't respect you—"

"He did!" Wallace shot upright. "He loved me and respected me and—"

"Wallace," Steven snarled, "he raped you. He choked you and beat you within an inch of your life."



Spenser held up a hand, and the room went quiet.

Wallace was shaking and gasping for air. Spenser turned back to him, expression softening.

"And Tziráchi, To Astéri, as Megalos moves on into the realm after ours, let us not forget the person he leaves behind, distraught and lost in a typhoon of emotions. Shine your light on Wallace, and let him know that he is not alone. Let him see you in the light, and let it guide him." He looked up at Steven and Winona. "And please… do not forget the family around Wallace. They are trying to help him, but they are doing so alone in the darkness. Give them light. Give them hope. By Earth, Sea, and Sky, in Harmony."

He smiled. After a moment of silence, he turned to Steven and Winona. "Can I speak with Wallace alone?"

Steven huffed, but he stood up to leave. Soon, the others had left, as well.

"Steven," Winona said as she stopped him in the hallway, "why do you have to be…" she waved her hands "...so aggressive?"

Steven exhaled harshly. "This is ridiculous, Winona. We can't have Wallace glorifying his rapist and almost-murderer."

"He doesn't understand that what Megalos did was wrong." Winona smiled as she put her hands on Steven's arm. "But he will."

"When will he?"

"He'll figure out that it was abuse eventually, but…" Winona's smile fell. "Steven, it's going to take time. We can't rush him, or he'll just push himself further away. It's like when he denied he self harmed or had an eating disorder. We kept pushing and pushing and demanding and demanding—"

"If we had demanded more, then Ren wouldn't have raped him."

"Steven, we can't blame anyone but Megalos and Ren."

"We should have done more! We should have intervened sooner!"

Now Winona was angry, too. How dare Steven imply she was a bad girlfriend! "But now we can't! Now all we can do is be here for Wallace until he figures out all of this shit!"

"Why can't he figure it out now?!"


Pain shot through Steven's hand—a familiar pain, but that didn't make it hurt any less. There was a small dent in the wall where his fist had made impact, and there was a dull, throbbing pain in Steven's hand.


Winona took Steven's hand in both of hers, gently stroking it.

"Remember how you told me about taking breaks to focus on self care? Have you ever considered doing that yourself?"

"I'm a hypocrite, remember? I've even been cutting because of all of this shit."

Winona immediately rolled Steven's shirt sleeve up. Several fresh cuts ran up his arm.

"Steven…" she gasped.

"If you think I'm violent now, then imagine how bad I would be if I didn't let it out on myself." Steven forced a chuckle, despite the fact that tears stung his eyes. "I sometimes worry that I'm going to let out my anger on Wallace."

"Steven, you would never, would you?"

"They're intrusive thoughts. Very scary intrusive thoughts." A tear managed to crawl down Steven's cheek. "I've never… I've never told anyone about those thoughts, but sometimes I just want to… strangle him." He rubbed his eyes with his unrolled sleeve. "That makes me no better than Megalos, doesn't it?"

Winona hugged Steven. "It doesn't. You would never act on those thoughts, would you?"

"Never in a million years, but sometimes I worry I would."

"Have you ever thought of therapy?"

"I did OT in elementary school and CBT in high school."

"What about now? What about getting therapy and taking a break for a day every once in a while?"

"I don't think a day away is going to make Wallace realize he was abused."

"Then how about… a temporary breakup?"

Steven's eyes widened, and his heart stopped as he grabbed Winona's arms and stared into her eyes. "A breakup?!" Steven didn't hate Wallace; he only hated Wallace's thoughts. He just wanted to use his power in battles or money or whatever to make them go away. "Are you crazy?!?!"

"I said temporary. Maybe until Wallace realizes that he was abused… and after he's gone through the aftershocks that follow that, unless you would want to be there."

"Are you thinking of breaking up, too?"

Winona shook her head. "I think I'll be able to manage. I can just tell my mom that college is getting busy. So instead of worrying about family, Wallace, college, Gym duties, and myself, I can just worry about Wallace, college, Gym duties, and myself."

Winona looked down at Steven's feet. "And there's the matter of… Wallace's sexual… everything."

"Winona, I may be asexual or demisexual or whatever I am, but I'll be able to handle Wallace's trauma and readjustment to healthy intimacy."

"Are you sure?"

Steven leaned against the wall, sighing. "Maybe… the anger wouldn't mix well with intimacy post-assault and abuse. I don't want to become another Megalos."

"You won't."

"But what if I do?"

Winona smiled. "The fact that you're even introspecting about your anger automatically makes you better than Megalos. I don't think he was even capable of regret. And the fact that you're acknowledging it might be better to step back instead of suppressing things until they boil over…"

"But how will we break the news to Wallace?"


"Brother Wallace," Spenser said as he sat at Wallace's bedside, "is there anything else you wish to talk about with me?"

"Is Megalos going to heaven?" Despair dripped from Wallace's voice like wax on a melting candle.

Spenser winced. "Well… that's for the Angels of Tziráchi and the Judgement of Rekkoúza to decide."

"What do you mean?" There was confusion in his eyes. "He hurt me, but he did it because he needed to. For my sake. For Sootopolis's sake. He made sacrifices for Sootopolis."

"Megalos was selfish."

Spenser had seen countless Sootopolitans die of illness, illnesses that could have been prevented if the people in power cared. He had seen his church begin to crumble as they looked away. Megalos had power. Megalos supposedly cared for Sootopolis, unlike Hoenn. So why did those countless have to die? Why did the church have to crumble?

"He cared about Sootopolis," Wallace retorted. "He cared about me."

Spenser sighed. "You'll understand one day… I won't try to force anything on you, but focus not on what you lost, but the people around you, who love you no matter what."

"But Megalos—"

"Grief is a funny thing, you know? In my time, I've seen many people and Pokémon leave the physical world: my first companion, my parents, your parents, Megalos… I've felt different things every time. Grief is a primal, innate creature that brings out the deepest emotions of Man and Mon. And the grieving one creates waves of collateral for the ones around them…" Spenser chuckled. "I'm sorry for rambling."

"Keep rambling," Wallace's voice cracked.

"Why do you say that?"

"So I can stop thinking so I won't start cry—"

Spenser held Wallace tightly as he sobbed.

"It's okay to feel those deepest emotions," Spenser whispered. "All of them, none of them, some of them. It's okay… It's okay…"


Dinner was always loud, with the sounds of people talking and utensils and dishes clanking. At least it drowned out the sounds of people eating, otherwise Wallace wouldn't be able to eat.

Why did people make such a big deal about eating? There were too many events and rituals and other bullshit centered around eating. Why couldn't it be a private thing?

Wallace stared down at his food: rice, lemon-egg-miso soup, and grilled vegetables with spices. His therapist always talked about focusing on food—mindful eating or something. So he tried that. It soon turned into him staring at his chopsticks, and the traces of soup on them.

"You should let yourself have unconditional acceptance and permission to eat what makes you physically and mentally well."

Bullshit. Food wasn't something to make into unconditional love and acceptance. That was ambiguous, uncontrollable. It was a tool for survival, not something to enjoy. It was a necessary evil, a—

"Wallace, can Winona and I talk to you?"

The table was cleared except for Wallace's food, and the only people left at the table were Wallace, Steven, and Winona.

"Is everything okay?"

Steven swallowed, glancing over at Winona.

"Well…" Steven began, "I've been… thinking… considering… contemplated…"

Nausea clawed at Wallace's throat, and he hadn't even eaten half of his food.

"What?" he choked out. What was Steven doing what was Steven doing WHAT WAS STEVEN DOING???

"I think I need to take a break," Steven blurted. Before Wallace could say anything else, he held up his hands and said, "This isn't a breakup. This isn't permanent, but well… you saw how I reacted to the prayer for Megalos. You haven't processed Megalos's abuse as abuse yet."

Why did Steven keep calling it abuse? "It wasn't—"

"Exactly my point. I don't think it's healthy for you to hear my thoughts on Megalos when you're still processing yours. And on top of that… you have sexual trauma. A lot of sexual trauma. Even you can admit that, right?"

Wallace looked down at his lap, nodding. His head was filled with…nothing. Static-like, buzzing nothing. "Ren hurt… me… Miku. Lots of people hurt Miku. But—"

"And I don't think I'm in the right headspace to be able to give you the care you need to recover. But… Winona can. Winona can set boundaries that you can respect. My boundaries would be 'don't talk about Megalos', and that's… that's impossible." A pause. "I love you, Wallace. I want you to grow into the greatest, most beautiful version of yourself. And I think if you stay away from the hell of Sootopolis high society, if I take a break while you process your baggage while I figure out myself… I think you'll blossom."

"You think so?"

"Of course I do, Wallace," Steven chuckled.

"Then why do I keep loving Megalos? Why do I keep hating myself?"

"Because human emotions are weird. Take it from me."

"But why can't my emotions be normal?"

"What even is normal?" Winona asked. "Are we normal according to your standards? Because Steven and I aren't normal according to society's standards." She thought for a second. “We both have autism, you know. Not the first thing people think of when they think of ‘normal’.”

“The only normal thing in life is the Normal type,” Steven teased. “And even then… take any Normal type Pokémon, and you’re sure to find something not normal about them.”

Wallace shook his head. "But I'm a drain on everyone around me. I can't even think like I should be thinking. I—"

"Deep breaths, Wallace." Winona's hand was on his shoulder. "Deep breaths. Your feelings are okay. All of them. You're okay. You're okay. You're okay."

Images and sounds blurred into one. Winona was Wallace's only tether to reality, the only person or thing reminding him that anything was real.

"Wallace, think of it like a little vacation. Steven's going to take a two-month break so he can focus on his Champion and Devon Co. duties. And you're going to take a break so you can process your trauma from Megalos and…" Several seconds of swirling spinning went on. Silent buzzing. Ineligible noise.

"Wallace? Wallace, did you hear Steven?"


Wallace shook his head. "What did you say?"

"Do you want to discuss the terms of the break and boundaries?" Steven asked. "Stuff like how long it will last, what we will and won't do, how we'll re-evaluate once the two months pass. I'll be in touch with Winona, so I'm not completely cutting off contact. I just need… a break. A break to reflect on my own issues and figure out how to be a better boyfriend."

Silence followed. Stillness followed. Then Wallace took Steven's hand in his.

"And I'll do the same."
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Discussions of sexual abuse, mental illness, self harm, and suicide; mentions of past suicide attempt; injuries and body dysmorphia; intrusive thoughts; past physical, verbal, and sexual abuse; Stockholm Syndrome; religious themes; suicidal ideation

Special thanks to @Spiteful Murkrow for beta reading this chapter.

Steven left two days after the intervention on the promise that he would come back in two months to reevaluate whether or not his relationship with Wallace and Winona would still be on hiatus. Other terms of their hiatus were laid out—lots of other things. The three agreed to be open to the possibility of forming other sexual or romantic relationships, depending on their various needs. Steven would only make contact with Winona and Wallace (and vice versa) if there was an emergency. The three would all seek out individual therapy to try and address their various issues. And most important of all, Wallace would make a point of taking showers regularly again.

The water rushed out of the faucet, splashing into the bathtub. Wallace was mystified by it. Water was so gentle, so powerful. So calm, so aggressive. A giver of life, a killer.

“Do you want me to help you take off your clothes?” Nicole asked.

Wallace’s bloodshot eyes were wide with fear as he looked up at her. “Can’t I bathe alone?”

“I don’t want you to hurt yourself in the bath. You know…” Nicole swallowed. “...I’ve heard of all sorts of ways people kill themselves in the bathroom…” She shook her head. “Not to mention how frail your body still is.”

At that, Wallace had to look down at his body.

“But there are scars all over my body. There’s bruises and imperfections and bad things.”

“Would it be better if Winona helped you bathe?”

Wallace grimaced, then he shook his head. It was no secret to Nicole that Wallace had sex before marriage—she was frankly indifferent to his intimate life—but that didn’t make her implication anymore… embarrassing? Sinful.

“She’s… She’s never seen me naked.” The only color on his face was the blush forming on his cheeks. “We’ve always… I’ve always done… those things fully clothed.”

Duncan rolled into the bathroom. He, too, was covered in splatters of paint, though he seemed to enjoy being a round paint canvas. Wallace smiled as Duncan rolled into his leg.

“Can’t I bathe in my clothes?” Wallace asked.

Nicole sighed, raising her head to her forehead in resignation.

“Will you at least take off the coat?” she asked.


“Well… if it means you’ll get in the bath.”


Wallace’s clothes stuck to his bony body, but at least they covered his bruises and scars.

Nicole let him shower by himself with her supervision. Humiliating, but he’d grown used to being watched while bathing by now. Back in the hospital, Sister Dymphna would watch him shower and brush his teeth and… use the bathroom. She had to so he wouldn’t try to off himself.

Wallace wasn’t thinking of attempting anything right then, but… well, he had attempted something before. Maybe even several times before, when he was drunk and/or high. As shameful as needing someone to watch him shower was, as humiliating as the lack of privacy was, he couldn’t blame Nicole for being so worried about him.

It felt nice to wash the oil and grime out of his hair. It felt nice to let the water cleanse him, envelop him, soothe him, purify him. It felt nice to free his soul of its pain and Sin. It felt nice to be at peace. The water was sacred. The water would protect him. The water would never hurt him. The water would never slap him or choke him or use him or hurt him.

Megalos didn’t hurt you, either.

Go away. Like your therapist said. Breathe in, breathe out. Focus on the water

Megalos cared for you. Megalos loved you.

Shut up.

The bath afterwards felt like a blanket, maybe even better, with warm water that smelled faintly of lavender. Safe. Safe in the water. Safe with Nicole. Safe with Duncan.

You were safe with Megalos. You were—


Wallace slammed his hands against the water, splashing water all over Nicole. His heart stopped as he looked at her, and she stared back with wide eyes.

“I’m…” Wallace stuttered. “The thoughts. Miku’s thoughts were loud.”

Nicole’s expression softened, her eyebrows furrowing with worry. “What kind of thoughts?”

“Scary thoughts. Mean thoughts.”

A small bark came from outside of the tub, and Nicole looked down at the floor.


(“Put me in the bathtub! I want to help Wallace!”)

Nicole thought for a moment, then she smiled and picked up Duncan to put him in the bathtub. He looked up at Wallace, a big grin on his face.

(“Wallace is safe with his friend Duncan!”)

Being smaller than the average Spheal, Duncan could fit with Wallace. Duncan was eager to float on the water’s surface and spin, spin, spin, but hugs from Wallace were also welcome. He was like a squishy toy, a rubbery ball that would keep Wallace safe from any scary thoughts.

“Can I sleep here?” Wallace asked.

“No,” Nicole chuckled. “It’s not safe.”

Wallace frowned. “But water is safe, and the world is scary.”

“Are beds safe?” Nicole asked.

Wallace about that question for a second.


“Are beds safer than the garage?”

Annoyed, Wallace flicked water at Nicole. “I like the garage. I’m safe with my art.”

“What kind of art do you make?”

Wallace shuddered, and he picked up Duncan. The Spheal patted a flipper on Wallace’s arm.

“I can’t show you,” Wallace mumbled. “It’s bad.”

Nicole shook her head, but she smiled.

“Wallace, you’re a very talented artist,” Nicole insisted. “I’ve seen the work you’ve done.”

That only made Wallace hold Duncan closer and lean against the side of the tub away from Nicole.

“It’s bad art about bad things.”

Nicole raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms. “What do you mean?”

Wallace held Duncan tighter against his chest and shook his head.


Wallace wrapped himself under several layers of towels. The water dripping from his hair was quickly cooling down, until it became cold enough to make him shiver.

“Mind if I come in?” Nicole asked as she peeked her head into the bathroom.

“S-sure,” Wallace said, teeth chattering.

A sympathetic smile came to Nicole’s face as she walked into the bathroom. She was holding a blue bag—Winona’s shopping bag.

“Winona bought you a present that might help.”

She took something out of her bag: blue pajamas with fluffy white lining. They looked cozy. Very, very cozy. And a size too big, but something about that fact made them even more comforting in Wallace’s mind. Not to mention the Winona charm of them being Altaria pajamas.

But there was a problem.

“I can’t wear those. I’m supposed to be in mourning.”

Nicole sighed. “Wallace, Megalos wasn’t your father. He wasn’t related to you in any way. You don’t have to keep wearing black, especially to bed.”

“But I need to,” Wallace insisted. “The scripture says—”

Nicole jabbed a finger at Wallace. “The scripture says nothing about wearing mourning clothes at night.”

“It doesn’t not say anything about it!”

Wallace wanted to shoot something back at Nicole, but then he stopped himself. He didn’t want to get into any more fights with her. Instead, he glared at her. Nicole held up her hand, breathing harshly. For a few moments, she didn’t speak.

“Wallace… Spenser told us that we need to respect your grief and all of the emotions that come with it,” Nicole started. “But… well—and maybe it would be helpful if you… talked to him about your grief? I could take you to church every week or every other day, and you two could talk through your feelings.”

Wallace looked down at his feet. “It’s hard to talk about my feelings.”

“What do you mean?”

Wallace leaned against the shower door, sliding down until he could sit and curl up his legs against his chest. “Miku doesn’t like talking about their feelings. It hurts them to talk about it. It’s scary. Scary. Scary.”


Winona had always been plagued by worries. Something always seemed to be nagging at her in her head: Was she a strong enough trainer? Was some shadowy figure going to rape and murder her in the streets if she didn’t get all A’s? Was Wallace going to off himself?

Luckily, Wallace was with Nicole, so there was little chance of him attempting to off himself. She was getting A’s—barely. She had other priorities. She was still a Gym Leader, so she was probably a strong enough Trainer.

So then her brain tried to find other things to worry about.

What did Wallace do in the garage? Why was he in there all day? Was he huffing fumes? Was he huffing paint? No, Duncan wouldn’t let that happen… unless Duncan was accidentally huffing fumes himself. Maybe Wallace was accidentally huffing fumes. Or on purpose.

Eventually, Winona’s worries took over the rational part of her mind, and she had to investigate.

She slowly opened the door to the garage. The lights were off, and the air smelled of dust and paint. Alarm bells began to ring, but then the sound of a fan registered in her mind. Good. Air. Ventilation. But was it enough? She flipped on the light switch to check if—

Canvases, paper, canvases, canvases, canvases. Watercolors splatters. Graphite dust. Acrylic blotches. Sketches of Spheal drawn in graphite and red pencil. Lake and ocean landscapes. Charcoal scribbles of arms bloodied with ink. Depictions of consensual sexual acts and… nonconsensual sexual acts. Eyes all over the papers and canvases and walls and floor. Hands scratching the paper and grabbing bodies. Bold, messy scribblings in Chrysosian, Hinodego, and Galarian that blurred into each other:














未来がない 未来がない 未来がない

At some points, the writing became too scratchy or smudged to read, until they blurred into nonsensical scribbles hidden by paint splatters.

Most notable, however, was the large canvas leaning against the garage door. It seemed to be an outline of a person: gangly arms and legs, disproportionately skinny torso, and hair with two distinct curls… an over-exaggerated form of Wallace. Red pencil scratches raked his arms and legs. Blotches of purple watercolors bruised his whole body, most notably his neck. Gray acrylics assaulted his genitalia, upper chest, and mouth.

Winona could only walk around the garage, staring at every drawing. She couldn’t even feel her heart sink; it had already felt the darkest, most awful pain a heart could feel. All she could feel was shock. She didn’t know a whole lot about art, but she could feel the rawness of the drawings bleeding out, like Wallace had cut open his heart and left it out on the table.

She felt like she was walking in on something sacred and desecrating it with the dirt of her awareness of it.

She shut the door rather quickly, her heart racing faster than a Swellow. There wasn’t anyone in the hallway. Good. She hadn’t—



Wallace’s silhouette appeared in the doorway at the end of the hallway. Her eyes adjusted to the harsh contrast of light and shadows, and she saw he was wearing his pajamas—the pajamas she had gotten for him—under a black robe.

Fear sparkled in his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Wallace,” Winona gasped out. “I shouldn’t have—”

“I’m sorry.”

Winona looked back up at Wallace.

“I’m sorry for making such horrible art,” Wallace said. “It’s… it’s how I voice my thoughts and emotions.”

Winona nodded, trying to make sure Wallace wouldn’t misinterpret her body language as anything more than curiosity.

“Is it easier for you to speak with art?”

Wallace nodded. He slowly walked over to Winona as he continued speaking: “No dissociation. Just putting my thoughts on paper.”

“I see.”

Wallace drifted from side to side, until he rested his forehead against Winona’s shoulder. He lazily wrapped an arm around her.

“You know, when I was a kid, I didn’t speak a whole lot. I used ‘Mamá’ and ‘Táta’ to call for my parents, but beyond that, I didn’t speak like a normal child until the age of seven. Instead… I drew.”

As if possessed, his eyes grew wide, and he dashed down the hall and into the living room. He flung open the cabinets, searched through moving boxes scattered around the room, until he found a box with the label “Μίκουρι”.

He pulled out a messy drawing of a child in bed. “Back then, I drew to tell my parents I felt unwell.” as the drawing floated to the ground, he took out another drawing, one of a child crying.

“I also drew to tell them I was sad.” Another paper fell. Another paper was pulled out. “And I drew to tell them I was angry, scared, happy. I drew to tell them I wanted to go with Mamá to the store, to learn our people’s stories with my Táta, to go on a journey to see the world alongside a partner Pokémon. Emotions were overwhelming to me, and words were terrifying.”

Winona’s mind was running faster than Wallace’s hands. He looked close to passing out from fear. On instinct, she grabbed his hands.

“Shh… it’s okay. Sit down.” Winona still had to process what Wallace had just said, but she had to be calm for him.

Wallace collapsed in the chair in the corner, then his head fell in his hands.

“I’m sorry.”

Winona cocked her head. “For what?” Was he apologizing for the art again?

“For making bad art.” He was apologizing again, but Winona couldn’t even be annoyed with him. He seemed genuinely remorseful for some imagined crime he had committed.

Winona knelt on the ground so she could hug Wallace. She was quiet for a moment so Wallace could calm down with deep breaths. His clothes were soft; she chose well.

“Have you ever shown your therapist your drawings?” Winona asked softly. “The ones in the garage, not the ones you drew for your parents.”

“Well, Sister Dymphna and Sister Chara Joy knew about the drawings. I drew them all the time in the hospital. Cyril? Haven’t shown him. Too scared.”

Winona nodded before kissing the top of Wallace’s head.

“Well, maybe you should consider it. I think it might help communicate how you’re feeling, what you’re going through.” Winona tossed her hand. “Stuff like that.”

Wallace still frowned. “Do you think Brother Spenser would like my art?”

Winona nodded. “I think he would. It’s very good art, Wallace. You’re a very good artist.”

“But is it sinful?”

Winona didn’t know how to answer that. She wasn’t religious like Wallace; she believed in spiritual energy that flowed on the wind, not pantheons of gods. But…

“Your creator god also gave humans the freedom to make art, right?”

Wallace raised a curious eyebrow. Some of his despair seemed to fall to the wayside. “Arousésou, yes. They created a world, and humans create art to celebrate it.”

Winona took Wallace’s hands in hers. “Well, the way I see it, art is a way to explore Arousésou’s world, both the good and the bad.” She smiled. “And if they saw that you were using art to explore yourself and your world… they’d be pretty proud.”

Wallace hid his smile with his hand. “The thing is that Arousésou is asleep. Making the universe takes a lot out of a god.”

Wallace’s smile was contagious. “Well, that’s even better.”

Wallace raised a cocky eyebrow. “Because they can’t see the horny pornographic drawings?”

病病病 - sicksicksick (Japanese)
永遠に愛してる - I LOVE YOU FOREVER (Japanese)
ΌΧΙ - NO (Greek)
お前嫌い - I HATE YOU (Japanese)
もう生きたくない - I DON’T WANT TO LIVE ANYMORE (Japanese)
未来がない - NO FUTURE (Japanese)
Mamá/Táta - mom/dad. “Táta” is an ancient Greek word for “dad/daddy”. “Babá” is the modern day equivalent, a carry over from Turkish, and since Sootopolitans came to Hoenn pre-Ottoman(????)/Turkish(????) influence, I figured that “Babá” wouldn’t be used for “dad”.
(Special thanks to @lisianthus for help with the Japanese translations)
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throw it all away 'cause I've grown tired of this body
Content warnings: Discussions of sexual abuse, mental illness, self harm, and suicide; fucked up perceptions on relationships and power dynamics, mentions of past suicide attempt; injuries and body dysmorphia; intrusive thoughts; past physical, verbal, and sexual abuse; Stockholm Syndrome; suicidal ideation; panic attacks and dissociation

Special thanks to @Spiteful Murkrow for beta reading this chapter.

The first day back at the Gym was, as Wallace expected, terrifying.

As soon as Cockburn announced Wallace’s return—without Wallace’s knowledge that he was returning—the signs already spelled disaster. Media outlets ate it up, sending out responses ranging from the pitiful (“Will Wallace Come Back After Tragedy?!”) to the scornful (“Sootopolis Gym Leader Returns After Accusing Cerulean's Gym Leader of Rape”).

The return to Sootopolis City wasn’t any better. The entrance to the Gym was crowded with people, questions, demands, loud sounds, bright flashes. It was a miracle Wallace made it inside the Gym without passing out or vomiting.

“Welcome back.”

Juan was at the entrance, and Wallace immediately fell into his arms. Luckily, Juan took that as a sign to hug him, even though his body seemed tense with surprise.

“Miku doesn’t like all the people outside,” Wallace whispered.

“Shh… all is well… Come with me, my child.”

With his head down, Wallace stuck to Juan’s side as the two walked down a corridor to the left.

In contrast to the elaborate splendor of the Gym’s waterfalls and tiled floors, the office corridor was much quieter, much simpler, with white tiled floors and wooden doors. Every now and then, there was a framed painting, ten in total—Wallace had examined every one countless times over the years to analyze Juan’s skills as an artist.

Juan’s office was similarly simple with flashes of decor here and there: potted hyacinths in the corner, old books on the wooden shelves, a fish tank of Luvdisc against the wall, a plush chair by a bookshelf holding Paldean and Kalosian textbooks and classics. Wallace was safe here. Wallace was safe here. All would be well.

“Sit down,” Juan said, pointing to the chair in the other corner. His voice was breathy, almost anxious. “I’ll make us some tea. Black, green, or herbal?”

Without looking up, Wallace held up three fingers, indicating he wanted herbal tea. Juan seemed to pick up on Wallace’s use of nonverbal communication from a very young age, and so Wallace felt safe using it around him.

Megalos always demanded that Wallace speak. Megalos never understood.

“Alright then. Well… I have a blend of pine needle and lavender Winona recommended to me. Have you tried it yet?”

Wallace shook his head.

The two were silent as the water poured into the pot, as the pot clattered on the stove, as the water began to boil. Wallace tried to focus on the sounds. He couldn’t look up; he was too scared to see Juan’s expression. (Did he hate Wallace? Was he disappointed?)

Juan knelt in front of Wallace, who turned his gaze to his lap to avoid eye contact.

“Wallace, can you look at me?”

A head shake in response.

“That is quite alright. As long as you can hear me,” Juan reassured him. “I believe it's… a bit thoughtless of Cockburn to be forcing you to go back to the Gym so soon.”

“But I have to be ready!” Wallace shook his fists by his side as he said that. If Cockburn said he had to be ready, he had to be ready.

“Wallace, Wallace, Wallace,” Juan chuckled, “it’s okay if you’re not okay yet. It’s okay if you’re not ready to work at the Gym yet.”

Wallace shook his head. He felt ready to keel over. “But then I’ll get fired and my family will hate me and—”

Juan grabbed Wallace’s hands, gently squeezing them. “Deep breaths… Deep breaths… Breath two three—”


You had to start on one when you counted. That was how things were meant to be. You had to start on one. You had to start on one. YOU HAD TO START ON ONE.

“Hey, Wallace, it’s okay. We’ll start at one then, okay? Can I hold your hands as I count with you?”

Juan was here. Juan was here, still leaning in front of Wallace. Juan was here, still holding Wallace’s hands. Juan was here to keep Wallace safe from the chaos. Juan was here. Juan was here. Juan was here.

“We’re going to count to ten, okay?” Juan’s voice was still calm. It kept Wallace from spiraling out of reality. “Okay.” With each number, Juan raised Wallce’s hand up or down a bit. “One… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine… ten…”

With each number, Wallace’s heart rate slowed more and more, until he could notice the feeling of Juan’s smooth hands, notice the feeling of sitting, notice the books on the shelf, notice he was still a real person in a real world.

A world he still wasn’t ready to function in yet.

“Why am I not ready to be normal already?” Wallace muttered.

“It takes time to recover, Wallace,” Juan insisted. “If you broke a bone, you would take time away from work to heal. If you were afflicted with a serious illness of the lungs, you would rest until breathing became easy once more. Why should it be any different now?”

Wallace didn’t have a good answer. He didn’t have any sort of answer. His body and mind were heavy with nothing. All he wanted to do was lay down in bed and drift off to sleep. He still didn’t want to look up at Juan, though now it was because he was too tired to.

“Wallace, why don’t I take care of the Gym duties while you recover?” Juan suggested. “Paperwork is easy to do, and if I increase the difficulty of the Gym puzzle, and if I just convince the Trainers who do get past not to tell Cockburn… why, he'll never know the difference!”

But that won’t… Wallace couldn’t think of a good response. Maybe he was too stressed to, or maybe Juan had a point. Juan was the smartest person Wallace knew, after all.

“I guess so…”

Juan chuckled. “Hahaha, that’s the spirit, my son!”

Son. Not chiquito, but...


Wallace couldn’t see Juan’s face, but he could see his hands tense up.

“It’s-It’s an old saying in… um… A mistranslation of chiquito!” Juan stammered. “You see, it's Paldean for 'my son' and—”

Wallace fell against Juan, flinging his arms around him. Juan gasped, but soon Wallace felt Juan’s arms wrap around him.

Megalos would never hug Wallace—only grab his neck. Megalos would never whisper so kindly to Wallace—only shout at him. Megalos was like Wallace’s father—except Megalos was never like Dorian. Dorian never drugged him, beat him, yelled at him, held him down on the bed to use him—

Juan was… a good replacement for Dorian, and a good replacement for Megalos.

But Juan couldn’t get back the time that Megalos had stolen with beatings, shouting, or rough sex. He couldn’t reverse the pain, the scars and bruises that would haunt Wallace for the rest of his life, or the nightmares that tore at his mind. He couldn’t fix all of Wallace's long-term side effects from being so fucked up: the fertility issues, the esophageal damage, the heart problems—

But Wallace deserved those things for not listening to Megalos. He deserved them for failing to save Sootopolis City. He deserved—WHY THE FUCK DID HE HAVE TO GO THROUGH SO MUCH PAIN?! WHY THE FUCK DID HE HAVE TO GO THROUGH SO MUCH PAIN WHY WHY WHY?!?!

He buried his face against Juan’s chest, sobbing. It was nice to be allowed to cry. It was nice to not have someone yell at him to be a man and stop crying. He wasn’t a man. He was Wallace, and he was afraid. And Juan was here to hold him, care for him, love him.


All eyes were on Wallace when he entered the conference room with the other Gym Leaders.

He didn’t look at any of their faces, but he could feel their stares burning into his skin.

“Good to see you again, Wallace,” Wattson said.

There was a world where Wallace wasn’t in this room because he had killed himself. There was a world where he killed himself. That thought alone made him want to run out of the room to have some privacy to cry.

Wallace took a deep breath, rubbing his eyes with his hands. “Good to see you, too.”

“Why don’t you sit in between me and Winona?”

Winona. Thank the heavens. Wallace didn’t know what he would do if she wasn’t a Gym Leader. Sure, the other Hoenn Gym Leaders were nice, but Wallace… well, he didn’t know them. They were like his college roommate Filbert in a way: he knew who they were, but he didn’t know anything about them.

But they sure as hell knew about him now. Thanks to his stupid fucking disobedience, he would forever be known as “the Gym Leader who accused the other Gym Leader of sexual assault”. Wallace had to live with that baggage she forced on him until he either died of heart failure or killed himself.

But what about Lisia? What would she say if she found out her beloved uncle killed himself? What would Sootopolis say if their Gym Leader was tainted with the Sin of suicide? What would your family say if Dorian's fucked-up son continued on the family curse by offing himself?

“Wallace?” Winona whispered. “Do you… need to step out for a moment?”

Wallace looked up at the sound of her voice. “I’m fine.” Fuck, he wasn’t supposed to lie anymore. “Nevermind, I’m not. But I need to stay.”

Winona gave Wallace a small, sympathetic smile, and he looked away to stare at his hands on the table. He felt pathetic. He didn’t deserve to have a girlfriend like Winona. He didn’t deserve to have a friend or even colleague like her. She deserved better, and he deserved to—

“Winona,” Wattson said, “why don’t I… talk to Wallace outside? Maybe it’ll be good for him to get a less attached point of view on… stuff, you know? Besides, he probably needs a break.”

“I don’t,” Wallace insisted. He couldn’t embarrass himself like this, not in front of every single one of his colleagues!

Wallace heard Wattson stand up.

“Come on, youngster.”


The next moment, Wallace saw himself outside of the conference room, in a different room, sitting down, shaking. There was the smell of… something. Something sweet. Hot chocolate? His mother made it for him once, but he couldn’t remember much more than that. If only he did.

“So, Wallace,” Wattson began, “how are things?”

Wallace made eye contact with Wattson. A sudden thought struck him, a horrible, terrible flash of him having sex with Wattson. Why had that come up when he looked up? Why wouldn’t it go away?!

Wattson wants sex with you, Wallace. You want him to love you, don’t you?

Stop it stop it stop it stop it I don’t want it stop it

You need to if you want him to love you. You need to if you don’t want him to abandon you.

He thought about all of the older, richer socialites who would attend Megalos’s parties, who needed sexual favours from a young man like Wallace, who Megalos needed to save Sootopolis. He was wanted, needed by other people. He—


In a quick, perhaps stupid instinct, Wallace kissed Wattson on the lips. He forced as much fake passion into it as he could, even wrapping his arms around the older man. The older man tasted like... nothing. When he was younger, Wallace imagined kissing would taste like summer rain, but now... not even kissing Winona or Steven tasted like anything.

When Wallace pulled back, Wattson looked… scared? Confused?


Wallace held the older man tighter, resting his head against his chest. He had to be perfect, or he would lose Wattson. He couldn’t lose Wattson. He couldn’t lose anyone.

“Whatever I can do to pay for your service and kindness,” he whispered with faux seduction and hidden desperation, “I am willing to give.” Was Wallace not good enough??? Was Wattson going to hurt him?!?!


“Use me for whatever you wish. I’ll do any—”


Wallace flinched at Wattson’s raised voice, and he backed away from Wattson and looked up. Wattson… didn’t look angry. His eyes were wide, and his brows were raised. Was Wattson impressed by Wallace’s service? Wallace had to impress him. Had to. If he didn’t—

“Wallace, I don’t want anything like that from you. I’m old enough to be your grandpa or even great-grandpa, and I’m... I'm married!”

Wallace gave Wattson a blank star. That hadn’t stopped people before. Megalos was married. The wealthy socialites of Sootopolis were all married. Wallace should have been married by now, but now he was just a dirty whore.

“So?” Wallace asked. “Don’t you still want… that from me?”

Wattson shook his head. By now, he was… shaking?!

“No!” Wattson shouted. “What on earth would make you say that?”

Wallace responded by falling back against Wattson into… something resembling a hug. Wattson's sweater was soft.

“Then how can I repay you?”

He felt Wattson stiffen. “Repay me?”

“For… for being… nice to me.”

Wattson gently pushed Wallace away, until Wallace was sitting again.

“You’re in therapy, right?” Wattson asked.


Wattson sighed, and a soft smile appeared on his face. “Good. Keep going to therapy. You need it.”

What was Wattson talking about? What did that have to do with what Wattson needed?

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

The smile quickly left Wattson’s face. “Wallace, you don’t… you don’t need…”

“That's how Miku got people to like them.”

Wattson looked at Wallace as though he had just said the stupidest, most impossibly ridiculous thing possible. Fuck, it was the dissociation speech, wasn’t it. It made Wallace sound like a child, not someone worthy of respect.

Wattson sat down in a nearby chair before moving it closer to Wallace. With his hands in his lap, Wattson looked up at Wallace, then down at the ground, then back up at Wallace, then to the wall.

“Wallace, you shouldn’t worry about those sorts of people liking you. People who like you only for your ability to have sex with them are the worst kinds of people,” Watson said. "Especially if they’re in a position of power over you.”

“But then…” Wallace was at a loss for words.

Wattson thought for a moment.

“Let me put it in a different way: Winona’s not in any position above you. She’s not a boss, a teacher, a parental guardian, anything. And you’re not in any position above her,” Watson explained. “My current wife is ten years younger than me, but we met when she was thirty and I was forty. It wasn’t like she was nineteen and I was twenty-nine.”

“But those are both adult ages.”

Wattson pointed his finger against his own temple. “A nineteen year old’s brain is much less developed than a twenty-nine year old’s. It doesn’t matter if they’re both adults.”

Wallace didn’t respond. This wasn’t making any sense. So what if his brain wasn’t as developed? So what… What... Maybe Wattson had a point. Even still, Wallace didn’t want to admit that he was wrong and, by extension, stupid.

Wattson sighed and shook his head.

“Wallace, I don’t know what you’ve been through, but I’ll tell you this: whoever hurt you… that’s not the kind of relationship you want.”

He smiled, crossing his arms. “Eat delicious food. Wear comfortable clothes that make you feel pretty. Surround yourself with good people who love you. And when you grow up to be my age—”

“If I grow up to be your age,” Wallace interrupted. “I’ll look back and regret all of the shit I did to myself.”

Wattson chuckled softly. “Hardly. You’ll look back, and you’ll see just how strong you were.”
Last edited:
My teeth are yellow HELLO WORLD Would you like me a little better if they were WHITE LIKE YOURS
Mentions of past abuse, discussions of mental illness, strangulation imagery, mentions of drug abuse and eating disorders, mentions of self harm, suicidal ideation, past suicide attempts by two characters, past character death (not by suicide), mentions of cancer, vomiting, arguing, familial abuse, really... shitty family

Special thanks to @Spiteful Murkrow for beta reading this chapter.

It was nice to have a routine again.

Wake up, fly to the Sootopolis City Gym either on Joan or the front seats of an air shuttle, rest in Juan’s office and catch up on schoolwork. Then fly back home, go to therapy, and go to Spenser’s church. After that was all over, he went back home, had… had dinner, maybe tried to do intimate things with Winona, and went to bed. It could get stressful, yes, but it was structure. In a way, it felt like control.

Such was routine as the weeks went on. July began to wind down as the temperature went up. Hoenn summers were notoriously hot, and that combined with Wallace’s previous purging meant that Nicole was adamant on him staying hydrated.

“You’re a Water type trainer, aren’t you?”

Wallace rolled his eyes at Nicole’s remark. “That sounds like something Yiayiá would say.”

“But it’s true, isn’t it? And besides, water is good for the complexion.”

Wallace froze up at that statement. Shoot, his complexion. He had been struck with near daily panic attacks about his appearance: small breakouts from that time he didn’t shower for a week, red junkie eyes, the bruises Megalos had branded him with, the scars that he had inflicted upon himself. Sure, some things would go away with time (too much time), but there were some things that would never go away no matter how much sleep or how much therapy or how much medication or—

“What day is it?” Wallace asked in an attempt to snap himself out of his thoughts. His therapist would’ve liked him doing that.

“July twenty seven.”


“So Fláoutoagáne’s Feast Day is in… three days?”

Fláoutoagáne Feast Day wasn’t the most important holiday of the Rounékyo calendar, but it was certainly an important one. It was a celebration of Sootopolis’s culture, something that had long been at political and social risk, like a coral reef facing storms that got harsher and oceans that got warmer with each passing year. It was Wallace’s duty to preserve his ancestors' culture, lest the world lose such unique and beautiful literature, music, art, food…

Wallace shuddered briefly at that last thought. Why the fuck did food have to be such a big part of culture? Why wasn’t it treated as a private necessity, like using the bathroom or having sex—

Using the bathroom or having sex. Shit, what the hell are you thinking?

“Wallace?” Nicole asked.

Wallace looked back up at Nicole. Stupid fucking brain. Did he not pay attention during therapy or something? Wasn't he supposed to be getting better?

She nodded as the smile left her face. “We’re going to be celebrating it here–”

Wallace slammed a palm on the table. “We have to celebrate with our other family.” Part of that culture reef was family. It was the—what did Steven say it was called?—the calcium carbonate of Sootopolitan culture. It was the very foundation that its people were built upon.

Nicole, however, seemed to disagree. She just shook her head and said, “But Wallace—”

“We haven’t been to any family gatherings in, what, months?” Wallace grumbled. “How am I supposed to reintegrate into society if I can’t even attend regular…” The anger in his voice disappeared. “Nicole? Is everything okay?”

Nicole sat down at the kitchen table. Her face was uncharacteristically emotionless.

“Our father… struggled with depression and alcohol abuse,” she said in a tone just as lifeless. “Right before you were born, he… he drank himself into a stupor and overdosed on a bottle of sleeping pills.”

Silence. Cold, cold silence. Even if Wallace wanted to speak, he couldn’t find the words to think, let alone say anything of value.

Well, at least he had one thing to connect him to his father. And well… that also explained why Nicole held onto his medication so tightly.

“Did he leave a note?” he asked.

“He burned it when he got back from rehab. It reminded him too much of the shame he brought to our family, the supposed curse he brought on him and his descendants.”

Curses, curses, curses. The Papadakis family and their curses. Lydia and Kristina were cursed when Milas left them, Dorian was cursed when he conceived a child with a prostitute before marriage... Well, maybe the Dorian curse was real: Dorian had tried to kill himself, Dorian and Lucille had died, Nicole and Raphael had conceived a child before marriage, and now Wallace... Wallace felt like the walking personification of the Dorian curse.

Yiayiá stopped mentioning Dorian being cursed once Wallace got taken in by Megalos, but his aunts and uncles… they never forgot. In fact, their disdain for him and Nicole’s part of the family only got worse once that happened. And with Megalos gone, the family had no reason to even tolerate Wallace anymore. They could call him whatever he wanted, because without Megalos, he was no—


He looked back up at Nicole, who was now sitting right next to him and wrapping her arm around him.

“I want you to know that I love you very, very much, no matter what diagnoses you have,” Nicole reassured him. “But… the rest of the family is still very behind on such matters.”

“So we just won’t bring it up,” Wallace insisted. “Surely it will be as easy as that, right?”


“Wallace? Would you mind if we talked?”

Wallace looked up at Winona. “Sure? Is everything alright?”

Winona sat down at the kitchen table next to Wallace. She lacked her usual spirit, her usual smile.

“I don’t know…”

That didn’t make Wallace any less worried. But he had to stay calm. He had to stay calm for Winona.

“Are you…” Damn it. He shouldn’t have started speaking before thinking about what to say. “If you’re pregnant, um…”

For a brief moment, Winona smiled.

“I’m not.”

Then what was wrong?!

“Is everything okay?” He hadn’t meant to sound so… scared, but if something was wrong with Winona…

“Yeah, it’s fine, it’s just…” Winona sighed, resting her face in her hand.

Wallace put a hand on Winona’s shoulder. “Winona?”

“Dad has cancer.”

Wallace’s heart stopped. “Oh… Oh no. Is… Is he okay?”

“I don’t know.” Winona’s voice was a shaky whisper.

Wallace wrapped both his arms around her and gently pulled her into a hug. “You should… move back in with your family. I should be fine.”

Winona didn’t look too convinced.

“I’d rather not spend all of my time with my mother.” she sighed. “But… I have to take breaks, too. From the both of you. Not because I don’t love you, but—”

“I understand, darling.”

Winona smiled again, and this time, it stayed. Wallace gave her a small peck on the cheek.

“You’ve been doing… so much," Wallace sighed. "You deserve rest… and the best.”

That got a small chuckle out of Winona.

“I missed your fancy poetry and sappy rhymes.”

Wallace chuckled, but that statement made him feel…

“Have I… When was the last time I used ‘fancy poetry and sappy rhymes’?”

Winona shook her head. “I don’t even remember. It’s been so long since I’ve seen the old Wallace— this Wallace. The Wallace I fell in love with.” With that, she hugged him back. “I missed him.”

Wallace rested his head on Winona’s, smiling. “I missed him, too.”


Another agreement was written out and signed: Winona would spend weekends with Wallace and weekdays with her father. The exception was Fridays, which were reserved for therapy, training, and a 24-hour break from caretaking.

Fláoutoagáne Feast Day happened to fall on a weekday, not that Wallace planned on inviting Winona to it; Wallace’s extended family… wasn’t too fond of her. But part of Wallace wished he had support…

But he had Nicole. He had Lisia. He had Raphael. That would be enough, right?

Those thoughts kept pestering Wallace as he tried to tie his tie. It was too tight around his neck, and even just trying to adjust it either undid the whole thing or made its grip tighter. He felt like he was choking.

Like how Megalos would choke him. Like how Megalos would hold him against the wall or the desk. Like how Megalos would drag him around with the tie, the chain shackled around Wallace’s neck.

His shaking, sweating hands dropped the tie, and he had to sit on the bed before he passed out. He undid the buttons of his collar, which felt like hands tightening around his neck.

“Uncle Wall! Mamá says we’re leaving soon!”

Lisia’s smile fell as soon as she opened the door and saw Wallace. “Uncle Wall, are you okay?”

Still shaking, Wallace forced a smile. He probably looked like a mess, but he had to look like… less of a mess. Like a good uncle. Like the uncle Lisia deserved.

“Of course I am,” he forced out. “I’m just… cold.”

Lisia pouted, clenching her fists. “Stop lying! Mamá lies! Papá lies! Everyone lies!!!”

Wallace jumped off the bed as Lisia ran off.


Wallace had a very, very strong sense that he didn’t belong in his grandparents’ house that night, a sense that he wasn’t needed, a sense that he wasn’t wanted.

Perhaps it was the stares he got from his aunts and uncles, or the fact that all of his cousins would talk to each other and not him. In either case, he felt like an outcast, as though he weren’t a part of his own family.

Maybe they would have liked him better if he was dead.

On top of facing his family, he had to eat in front of them. And everyone was watching him, as though they were all expecting him to eat, to breathe perfectly.

Like always, it stung, this time more than ever.

“Uh… Manami, Amara,” Raphael said to the twins, “how’s… how’s modeling work?”

“Good,” Manami mumbled.

“Better than Wallace,” Amara added.

Raphael winced at his failed attempts to be friendly. Well, at least he was trying. Wallace could appreciate that much. Maybe if he tried to speak himself—

“You’re so mean to Uncle Wall!” Lisia shouted to Manami and Amara. Wallace grimaced and shrank in his seat. He wished Lisia would stop talking; she wasn’t making anything better. In fact, she was just making things worse.

“He deserves it,” Amara snapped. “Out of all of us, he gets chosen as Sootopolis’s saviour?!”

“And look where that got us,” Manami added. “Now Sootopolis City’s economy is even worse, and it doesn’t even have a mayor anymore.” She stared at Wallace. "Great job saving us."

"I'm sorry..."

"Did you pick up any hints from other Coordinators? Did you give Megalos good hea—"

The table shook as Nicole stood up.

"You have no. Right. To say those things to my brother." Wallace had never seen his sister so angry, yet so calm. It made his rising nausea even worse.

Did Megalos really only keep Wallace around for sex? Was Wallace secretly a bad Gym Leader, a bad Lorekeeper, a fake?!

But Manami's words brought back flashbacks to the secrets he had to keep, the drugged-up nights at Megalos's estate and office, the... the...

“Tell them to stop being so mean!” Lisia shouted at Yiayiá, cheeks red with anger.

Lisia, please shut up.

Yiayiá shook her head at Lisia before looking up at Nicole with a stern expression.

“Why did you come into our home?”

Yiayiá’s voice was powerful, and even the clinking of silverware whimpered away in its presence.

“You invited us,” Nicole hissed without even looking at Yiayiá.

“That was before Meglaos dropped dead! I knew Dorian had cursed his family, but now the curse is killing others in this family?! Why, this curse will ruin Sootopolis City at this rate!”

At that, Nicole’s gaze turned to Yiayiá.

“My father, bless his souls above, had nothing to do with Megalos’s death.”

Yiayiá shook her head, glaring back at Nicole.

"Sure he didn’t,” Yiayiá harrumphed. “Surely even as a child, you knew your father hated Megalos.”

“But he didn’t kill Megalos!”

His curse did! His curse damned his children, and you damn yourselves for speaking his name!” the woman shouted, waving a finger accusingly. “His name brought Wallace illness and Megalos death—”

“I brought illness on myself.”

All eyes were on Wallace again. Fuck… it was too late to back out. He had to get himself out of this. With a deep breath and with all of his emotional energy, he stared at Yiayiá directly and began to speak:

“Well, Megalos did, to an extent,” he began. “He… did some bad things to me. I guess. And I did… bad things to myself. Drugs. Self-starving. I didn’t have pneumonia; I had a ruptured esophagus and a drug addiction. Dorian didn’t curse me. I just have problems that I need to work through.”

Wallace braced himself for the worst: yelling, crying, physical beatings. Somehow, he got worse:

“Why would you do this to us?” Yiayiá whispered. “Why would you do this to yourself?!”

“He didn’t do anything to anyone!!!” Nicole screeched.

But Yiayiá was right. Wallace had brought upon his own illness. Wallace had brought about Megalos’s death. Wallace had cursed the family.

And then Wallace threw up on the table.


The run for the bathroom was a blur of terror. Wallace was barely able to think enough to get out get out get out.

He was too exhausted to keep himself from sobbing as he vomited into the toilet. Everything was too much. Why had he ever opened his mouth? Why had he ever been born?

He just wanted to purge himself until he was too empty to keep living.

“Wallace?” Nicole’s voice. Softer. Gentler. “We’re leaving.”

Wallace stood up. There were people outside the bathroom. Scary people. Scary eyes. Scary shouts. Shame. Guilt. Pain.

“I’m sorry.”

Except, it was too late for Wallace to say sorry.
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Remember to let her into your heart, then you can start to make it better.
Attempted suicide, discussions of dysfunctional family, suicidal ideation, intrusive thoughts, discussions of drug addiction and eating disorders, use of the r-slur in a self-deprecating context, panic attacks, arguing, mentions of murder and suicide, discussions of mental illness, past parental death, despair and dissociation

I promise this ends on a happy note

The ride back on the air shuttle was silent. Wallace silently insisted on sitting in the back, away from all of the watching eyes. Motion sickness wouldn’t be a problem for him; it wasn't like he had anything left to throw up.

There was no chance in hell they would ever see that part of the family again, not after Wallace’s disgraceful episode. It was a miracle that Nicole still wanted to associate herself with him. Why, had he been in her shoes, he would have sacrificed his pathetic excuse for a sibling to preserve his family and reputation.

Every so often, Wallace caught a glance at Lisia, who was sitting in Nicole’s lap. Lisia didn’t say anything, but there was… terror shaking in her eyes. It broke Wallace’s heart every time he saw her.

He prayed that the air shuttle would crash, and that somehow only he would die in the process.

It didn’t, unfortunately, and it instead landed safely in the shuttle station. The platform wasn’t too busy, but Wallace still kept his gaze on his feet, too ashamed to look up at his family.

The walk back home was quiet, save for the occasional car that passed by the sidewalk. Wallace considered jumping in front of one of them, but decided against it after remembering Lisia was there. No, he couldn’t do that to Lisia. Killing himself in front of her would traumatize her, to say the least.

He went straight to his room once he got back home and buried himself under the covers of his bed, drowning in the sea of his sleepy thoughts.

Why didn’t you kill yourself? Why didn’t you kill yourself? Why didn’t you kill yourself?


He opened his eyes again. It was still dark, but things felt… different. He checked the clock: four in the morning. Well, that explained it.

“Uncle Wall?”

Wallace rolled over to face the door as it creaked open, and Lisia walked into the room, Ali in her arms. Her cheeks glistened in the moonlight; she was crying.

“Oh, it’s you, Lisia,” Wallace mumbled. “Did you have a bad dream?”

Lisia nodded as she sniffled again. The Swablu in her hands gave him a pleading look.

“Yiayiá was yelling at you and being mean to you and she killed you and everyone was sad…” The rest of her words were a bubblering mess.

Wallace forced himself to sit up, even though his chest and shoulders were weighed down by an incomprehensible force. Poor kid was caught in the crossfires of Wallace’s mental instability, and she didn’t even know what was happening.

“Do you want to sleep next to me?” he offered.

Lisia didn’t look very sure. Wallace couldn’t blame her; who’d want comfort from a drug addict who had shattered the family apart?

“Will you keep me safe?” she asked.

Wallace sighed, smiling. “Of course I will.”

“Is Yiayiá going to kill you?”

If only.

“No, Lisia.”

“Is Wallace going to kill you?”

…Oh. Oh. She was… She really…

“I…” I can’t promise I won’t. “I won’t. I promise.”

Lisia jumped up onto the bed, and Ali landed on Wallace’s head just as he collapsed on his pillow again. Winona talked about how Swablu liked to land on people’s heads, how they liked to pretend they were hats. Not that Wallace minded; Swablu and Altaria wings were very soft, very comforting.

Lisia nestled against Wallace, and he instinctively wrapped his arms around her. He had to protect her from the monsters in the dark, and the demons in his mind.


Wallace went through the motions of waking up and eating breakfast on autopilot. He could barely register the taste of his food; it just felt like mush in his mouth.

“Wallace? Do you want to say the morning prayer?”

His mouth moved without thinking: “Oh glorious Gourádon, Oméga tis Gis! Oh glorious Kaióga, Álfa tis Thálassas! Oh glorious Rekkoúza, Mesolavitís ton Ouranón! Thank you for keeping me from killing myself, and please keep on keeping me from killing myself—”


With a shaking hand, Nicole grabbed Wallace’s arm.

“Please, please, please promise me you would never, ever hurt yourself.”

Wallace gazed at Nicole. Horror filled her eyes; she looked damn near ready to cry.

“I already do,” he said calmly. “I make myself sick enough to tear my esophagus, I scratch and slap my arms and legs and body, I once hit my head with my textbook…” Wallace trailed off. “I mean, the worst ones were from Megalos, but without him… Nicole?”

She hugged him, and Wallace could feel tears fall on his shoulder.

“Come on, Nicole. Don’t look so sad; I’ll start to feel guilty about having these urges and habits—“


“My brain’s fucked up, Nicole.” Wallace pushed Nicole away. He pointed his finger against his head, imitating a gun pointed to his head. “My brain’s fucked up and I fucked up my body, too. I’m fucked up. I’m—”

“Uncle Wall! Stop swearing!”

Lisia stared at the two, pouting. Ali, who was sitting on her head, mimicking her expression. She must have walked in when Wallace and Nicole were talking—arguing?

“Uncle Steve said that swearing is bad!” she protested. “Uncle Steve said that only bad people say that swear word!”

I am a bad fucking person, Wallace wanted to yell. He hated Lisia in that moment. He wanted her to shut up about his fucking—




He couldn’t get mad at Lisia. He couldn’t get mad at Lisia.

Wallace forced himself to smile. “I’m sorry Lisia. I won’t do it again.”

Lisia crossed her arms. “Good.”


Wallace couldn’t remember how long he had been sitting at the kitchen table. He didn’t have the energy to stand up and do anything. On the plus side, it also meant he didn’t have the energy to purge or hurt himself.

Fuck, he was ruminating. What would his therapist say?

Nicole was in the doorway. How long had she been there? Wallace hadn't seen her just a… second, minute, hour before.

“What time is it?” Wallace mumbled.

“Three. I… didn’t want to disturb you. You seemed a bit troubled after breakfast.”

Three in the afternoon? How… How many hours had he been sitting at the table? How much of a drugged-up freak was he?

“Was I just…?”

“Staring at the table. You seemed to be thinking.”

Goodness, how many sedatives had he gotten fucked up on over the… months? Years? How long had it been? Time didn’t feel real anymore.

He forced a chuckle nonetheless. “I wasn’t.”

Nicole’s eyes lit up. “Well! How about you and Lisia make lunch?”

Wallace’s heart stopped. Make lunch? Make food?! Did Nicole know who she was talking to?! The idiot who couldn’t remember his own mother’s food? The fool who sometimes went over 24 hours without eating? The bitch who almost died of a fucking eating disorder?!


“The doctor said it would be good for you to prepare meals, especially with loved ones.”

Wallace looked down at Lisia and Ali. Right. Loved ones. Like nieces. Nieces who didn’t even know what drugs were, let alone the fact that her uncle was a drug addict.

He took a deep breath. “Lisia, Ali, let’s wash our hands and wings.”


“Lisia? Could you get me the basil and thyme?”


Wallace smiled as Lisia hopped over to the pantry. Ali flew up to the top shelf in search of carefully hidden bird treats.

Nicole was sorting through the morning mail at the kitchen table, and everytime she looked up at the three, she smiled. Wallace was finally making her happy again, and that was enough to make him happy in turn. Exhausted, yes, but there was nothing fake about his smile, nothing fake in the glimmer of his eyes, nothing fake at all.

A bit of anxiety creeped in as his shaky hands picked up the pepper grinder. Three twists. Equal, precise, perfect. Not too much. He was going to keep feeling real happiness for once, because it felt better than fake happiness.

“Uncle Wall! I have the basil and thyme!”

Lisia was holding up the jars to Wallace. He smiled and put the pepper grinder down on the counter.

“Thank you, prinkípissa mou.” He took the jars and put them next to the grinder.

Lisia giggled and grinned, then she hugged Wallace. “You’re welcome!” Wallace could hear the smile in her voice. She looked back up at him, still holding his leg.

"Can I taste it?” She gave him Fidough-eyes for good measure.

“Of course.”

Wallace took a wooden spoon and scooped out a small amount of the sauce. He knelt down so he could give her a taste. Her eyes shut with glee, and she hopped on her heels.

“It tastes great!”

Wallace twisted open first the basil jar and then the thyme jar. He took a plate out of the cabinets and set it on the counter. After pouring a bit of the thyme on the plate, he started to count out the specks of thyme until he had ten. The perfect number. The—

“Wallace, why are you doing that?”

Nicole stood over him. Wallace sighed.

“I’ve got to measure it out so I don’t use too much or too little, you know?” That was what measuring cups and spoons were for, right? He was just using a more precise, more certain, more controllable method.

“Mikouri, Mikouri, Mikouri.” Nicole’s voice sounded slightly annoyed. “When it comes to spices, it’s best to follow your heart, take a handful or a dash, and just toss it in.”

She sprinkled some basil from the jar into the skillet.

Wallace’s smile fell, and his hands started shaking again.

That was too much basil. That was too much basil. That was—

“Wallace?” Nicole said as she took Wallace’s hands in hers, “are you okay?”

“No I’m not! The basil is unbalanced! Everything is—”

Wallace stopped himself and took some deep breaths. Nicole hugged him.

“It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Duncan rolled into his leg, and Wallace knelt back down to pat his head.

“Nicole, could you finish the Alfredo sauce while Lisia and Duncan and I wash our hands?”


“Mizouchá, parakaló.”

The two stared silently at each other. There was little emotion in their expressions, but deep down, Wallace felt his anxiety simmering close to a boil.

“Fine,” Nicole said.


The dining room was warm with the aroma of food and the love of family.

It was nice to be with people who cared for him, even if eating was scary. Part of him wished that Winona was with them, too, but she had her own family…

…family that didn’t see her as a fucked-up freak who had cursed herself and her progeny for eternity.

The fettuccine Alfredo smelled wonderful. He had to give Lisia and Nicole most of the credit; if it wasn’t for them, he wouldn’t have even been able to touch the ingredients, let alone finish making the food. He wished he was hungry, but… he was fucked up. He was fucked up for the rest of his miserable life.

“Wallace?” Nicole whispered, “is everything okay?”

“It’s a nice day,” Wallace said calmly, dodging the question. “A very pretty day. And the sky’s so pretty. I don’t think I’ve seen a prettier sky in—”

“Wallace, you haven’t eaten yet,” Nicole whispered. “Is everything okay?”

She looked at him with a tinge of worry, and even Lisia and Ali seemed a bit concerned.

Wallace's voice lowered a bit when he spoke again, so only Nicole could hear him: “To be completely frank, I’m not feeling hungry… I’m not feeling that well at all.”

Surprisingly, Nicole nodded. Wallace expected her to insist that he eat. After all, he had a habit of… well, not eating.

“Do you want to have something else for—”

“No, no, that’s fine. I should… really eat the food I make. I’d be a hypocritical cook if I didn’t. Besides, we deserve a normal dinner for once.”

Nicole put her hand on his, gently squeezing it. “Just focus on the food. Focus on the taste and texture of the food, the smells, the feelings the food brings you.”

She gently pulled her hand away and smiled reassuringly.

“And just remember: it’s okay,” she insisted. “You’re safe. It’s okay to let yourself eat.”

Wallace nodded and slowly spun some of the noodles on his fork. He took a small, slow bite, smiling as he chewed and swallowed. It tasted… nostalgic, if food could even taste like a feeling. He hadn’t felt such good feelings from food in… years.

“It’s like how mother used to make it, around the time when you were off on your Gym Challenge,” he said. “Whenever I was sad, she would make fettuccine Alfredo for me.”

Nicole exhaled, smiling back.

“She’d always tell me stories about her and father and how they met,” Wallace continued. “My favorite was always the story when she saw him for the first time: She was performing the harp on stage, and he was out in the crowd. Their gazes met… and it was love at first sight.”

It was then that Wallace realized he didn’t remember many other stories his parents told him… or maybe that was the only one he remembered.

Wallace’s smile fell. “The only reason why I remember any of that was because I remember her making it for me after I was sick with pneumonia. I don’t remember any of the other foods she would make.”

He remembered his mother making food, and he remembered it tasting good, but he didn’t remember what it was. People made such a big deal out of all of the different meals that different cultures made, so why couldn’t Wallace remember any of his own culture’s meals?

“Well, we can always go through her things and see if she wrote anything down,” Nicole suggested.

“And what if she didn’t?” Wallace’s whisper struck harder than a scream. “What if the last memories of our mother died out because I stuck my fingers down my throat and purged them along with my food?”

“Wallace, that’s a long stretch to be mak—”

“And what would she think if she saw me now?!” he cried. “Surely the souls in heaven know what’s good and bad, assuming she didn’t already know what was good and bad before she went up there.”

The whole table went quiet, and everyone stared at Wallace with horror.

“Wallace,” Nicole whispered, voice growing angrier, “I knew our parents longer than you did, and I know for a fact that our mother would still love you!”

“Oh really? ” Wallace’s voice was growing into a louder growl. “You really think she could love a bipolar freak?! Do you really think she could love a drug addict?! D-Do you really think she could love someone so fucked up—“

He couldn’t speak anymore; sobs clawed at his throat, and he choked on them as he buried his face in his lap.

“Wallace?” Nicole whispered.

Wallace shook his head, even though she didn’t ask a question. Even that soft whisper was too much. He needed things to be dark and quiet and safe. He needed things to be okay again.

Someone was hugging him. He could feel small hands and small arms.

“Uncle Wall,” Lisia whimpered, “Why are you sad?”

“I’m not sad.”

“Yes you are.”

“Then why are you crying?”

“Sometimes people cry!” Wallace snapped as he looked up at Lisia.

She was crying too.

“W-Why are you lying?! Lying is bad!”


Duncan bumped against Wallace’s leg and gently patted it. That was the deep breath signal, but how the fuck was Wallace supposed to deep breathe???

How was he supposed to keep living?

If he ran outside, he could run into the street and get hit by a car. He could jump in the ocean and let the waters put him out of his misery. He could get out of this nightmare, get out get out GET OUT—

He barely made it outside before Raphael and Nicole caught up to him.

He tried desperately to escape their grip, screaming and shouting and biting and doing anything to get them to let go so he could put himself out of his misery.

“Wallace, please!” Nicole begged, sobbing. “Please, it’s going to be okay!”


He was on the floor. He didn’t feel real anymore. Not even time was real. There was no future. There was nothing beyond this. There was nothing. Nothing. Nothing.


He was too exhausted to get up from the floor, too weak and cowardly to even try to kill himself, too fucked-up to scream coherent words. He just screamed nonsense not even he could comprehend, as Raphael and Nicole hugged him.

Someone else wrapped her arms around Wallace: Lisia.

“No!” she sobbed. “You're not! You’re my uncle!”

Wallace wanted to retort back, but his throat ached. It felt like his very soul ached.

“I-I don’t like it when you’re sad, Uncle Wall. It makes me sad,” she sniffled. “And now-now you’re always sad. And that makes me sad. And it makes all of us sad!”

“Lisia,” Nicole whispered, “why don’t we go up your your room and—”


Raphael looked up, face serious.

"We said we weren't going to lie to each other anymore, and... that includes Lisia. Let me—"

"No," Wallace choked out. "Let me... Let me tell her."


Miku has a lot of brain illnesses, like how some people get sick with other illnesses. Lots of people hurt Miku and did bad things to them, and that made the brain illnesses worse.

A small person was drawn below those words, surrounded by mean-looking hands.

One of the brain illnesses is bipolar disorder. Sometimes Miku sees things that aren’t there, or Miku is more restless or angry. This is hypomania.

There was a drawing of the person surrounded by squiggly, frantic lines and disorienting stars.

But sometimes Miku feels sad and tired. They may be angry at themselves or family. This is depression.

The person was on the ground now, surrounded by dark, gloomy blocks of graphite.

But Miku is taking medicine to get better. Miku is talking to doctors to learn how to live with their illnesses. And most importantly, Miku has family to help them.

The person was surrounded by said family: a sister, a brother-in-law, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a father, and…

“Is that me?” Lisia asked as she looked up from the pages of Wallace’s therapy journal.

Wallace smiled. “That’s you.”

Lisia hugged Wallace. “I want to be the best helper niece ever!”

Wallace brushed his hand over Lisia’s head. “Well, you just have to be my neice. That's all I need.”

There was more than bipolar disorder to talk about—anxiety, PTSD, OCD, possible OCPD. There were things beyond his diagnoses he would have to explain—hospitalization, abuse, the whole family situation. But those things would take time, and Wallace wanted to do it right. There would probably be a tomorrow, but Wallace and Lisia would have to take tomorrow day by day, together.


“Uncle Wall! Are you ready yet?”

“I just need a minute, Lisia.”

Wallace turned back to the bathroom mirror. For once in his life, he didn’t let his thoughts overtake him—the ones that told him he was ugly or too feminine or looked like a starving drug addict. He… he had to smile. His pearl white and blue eyeshadow looked very lovely, and the subtle shade of nude lipstick added an elegant flair.

But most of all, he was… still here. Most of all, today he turned twenty. And Winona, Steven, and Lisia were going to make sure they celebrated in the best way possible; the four of them were going to the Lilycove Museum, featuring a special exhibition on Sootipolitan art. Wallace wanted to raise Lisia knowing about her ancestors’ rich culture, raise her without the lessons his grandparents had taught him, raise her to… not make the same mistakes that he did.

Two decades of… surviving. Living. Pushing through despite everything. Despite everything, he was still here, still alive. Sure, he had so many people to thank for that…

…but he had to give himself credit. He had to thank himself for having the strength to survive, to live, to push through despite everything.

But there was still something missing.


Wallace looked through the boxes in the living room, through the boxes of his drawings, through the medical documents, until he found it: his beret.

He remembered his father giving it to him when he was seven. Unlike most of his memories, he remembered this one distinctly: it was night time, and his father had come home from a long day of work. A brown package had been in his hand.

“I heard that your studies have been coming along well,” his father had said, a smile on his face. “I have a present for you.”

That beret had been the greatest gift Wallace had ever received. In fairness, his family hadn’t been able to buy many gifts, and perhaps the beret was too big for him, but still! A beret, just like an artist’s beret. Wallace wore it everywhere, showing it off like a crown.

He… began wearing it less and less once he began tutoring (suffering?) under Megalos. But now…

As he walked back into the bathroom, Wallace put on the beret. It finally fit him. He looked at his reflection in the mirror and adjusted it, until it—no, he was beautiful.

parakaló - "please"

Oméga tis Gis - Omega of the Land

Álfa tis Thálassas - Alpha of the Sea

Mesolavitís ton Ouranón - Mediator of the Sky

prinkípissa mou - my princess

Well, this is... finished. Feeling a lot from this. I might write an afterword about this fic because... wow, what a journey we've been on.
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I feel like I'm cheating a little bit for also reviewing this, but since this was probably the first work I "found" through the BulbaBot on discord, I figured I had to go through it... and this was quite the ride. I really enjoyed the idea that "it doesn't matter that someone is famous or does something that garners a lot of the spotlight, because in the end they experience the same that everybody else does." I believe that you wanted this to be messy, jarring, messed up, and you executed perfectly. The mind does many things - be it good or bad - to us, and manipulation is one of them. As someone who also - admittedly - talks to himself quite often, this also made me a tad uncomfortable due to how much I relate (excluding the drug/alcohol abuse and periods of not eating) to the Wallace in this universe, though I tend to be like that with any work that features a protagonist who has mental issues of some sort.

Onto the idea I had mentioned above, and do bear with my rambling here, but seeing how Wallace was written made me think of two cases of this idea. One is that of the late Tim Bergling, more well known as Avicii. Everybody knows who he was, but not many initially knew about his mental health struggles and drug/alcohol abuse. He would be touring, playing shows at festivals all around the world, being in the spotlight, as his performances drew tens of thousands of fans. Of course, his passing five years ago really hit the world by storm, and unlike Wallace here, the former never had a chance to heal.

The second idea was, more recently, Damar Hamlin, a football player for the Buffalo Bills NFL team, who went into cardiac arrest after making a tackle. Unlike case 1 and like that of Wallace, Hamlin recovered, managed to heal, and is on his feet again. These, to me, came to mind because of that shared big idea, that even with one's big name and the amount of fame they garner, they can still go through things like psychotic episodes, their minds will still do things to them, and that's what I got out of seeing Wallace through his journey and struggles.

Admittedly, I'm not much of a religious guy, and having gone to a K-8 school that which reinforced my stance on said subject, having a religion like that added a really nice touch.

The murder plot was something that I didn't think would happen, but in the sense of being in their situation, the reality is that it could be considered. I was going through all the possible charges brought by law when I got there, but realised that I was thinking too hard and that I should just let things proceed as the road goes. Of course, I liked Steven and Winona doing whatever they could to help Wallace, and their actions when faced with the aftermath of their decision. That, to me, is just the human condition, the double-edged sword of, "oh crap, we just did that" and "we can't turn back now, we've gone this far, it's all for [insert name." It's refreshing to see that Wallace has people who'll stick it out through thick and thin for him.

Lisia going through those phases of "why can adults do things that they tell children not to do?", also part of the human condition, and the response is perfect as well. Using the difference between can and have to also adds a lot to the tension.

Well, as a reader, I'm glad to see that Wallace seems to have finally healed enough, and as a reviewer... well, I've rambled on enough. They say that one can still end a story the way they want to, and your ending this is a perfect example. Well done seeing it through to the end, and can't wait to read more from you.
So hi, it's a bit weird to be here. But reviewing event, due to sake of my time and being busy, plus I did not expect this to be finished (seriously, congrats on finishing this, not a lot of us can do it as I've proven) I will only be covering the first chapter but I'll read the others I swear!

First, it's a bit weird to see Hinodego here now since I know you help me come up with it and you asked permission to use it. Technically, we can make this canon to the Orre: The Desert verse if we want since we use the same terms for Kanto/Johto/Hoenn/Sinnoh people, but unlikely for me. I do like how you used it, with people having both a Hinodego name and a "common" name to differentiate from.

Your version of Wallace reminds me of a more broken version of Wally of all things, since his health came into the equation when becoming the chosen whatever by the Mayor. It seems to build a lot of self resentment himself due to being chosen despite his health being a major issue among others and now getting into contests and later will be Gym Leader/Champion adding more stress onto the fact.

The discussions with Nicole also bring this up, Wallace thinks she perfect in coordination so why was she nervous about her first contest while he's pretty much trash before he goes on stage. Also, I refuse to believe a Goldeen could do anything remotely perfect.

I do love the discussions with Nicole as it does bring up the first signs of recovery for your Wallace as she doesn't give up on him or let him wallop in misery unlike characters in other media (specially Japanese media) would. The fact he lets her in and do this stuff says that Wallace is already on recovery more than anything, the line about him turning around to face the real her instead of a reflection says a lot in my opinion.

Anyways, that closes my thoughts on the first chapter and I did enjoy that a lot more than I thought I would. I will come back and read the rest of it when I get the time. Thank you for the good read and see you around!
Alright Torchic, hiya! I didn’t realize that this actually finished since I last stopped by–congratulations! It’s a lot of emotional effort to start and finish something like this, and this has definitely taken folks on a pretty wild ride, so thank you for sharing!
I have no idea how I finished this fic lol. It was one of the lucky ones.

I originally planned to finish this by the fic's anniversary... and it didn't happen. Even I'm surprised that this didn't become a long running, slice-of-life fic. But I must move on to other ventures!

For me, this fic shines in the quieter moments, when the stakes are (relatively) lower and it’s mostly Wallace with one or two friends trying to work his way through things not being okay. It’s hard, too–I’m sure if you poll your audience you’ll get a lot of different answers. But the murder bits, the political intrigue, the gloating over how your bullies kill themselves–the back half of this story certainly takes a turn. I’m reminded, in a sense, of the escalation in a lot of anime, where the kiddos start small in the pilot and then somewhere around season 3 the showrunners decide it’s a beautiful day to kill god.
IAM but it's a shonen anime

I’m also, oddly enough, reminded of the bit in Return of the King where Frodo realizes there is no going back, you can never really go back home again. You can physically return to places, but you can never again be who you were when you first went there. This rang through with Wallace no longer being able to be the happy kid he used to be, Juan mourning the son he never had, Lisia losing her idyllic understanding of her parents/uncle, Victoria wondering if she can be her own person outside of Wallace. It’s bittersweet but inevitable in stories about growing up, and it’s nice to look back on the way the characters used to be and see that, yup, there was an arc there, a lot of shit went down, and in some small way this world has changed for it.
It's a big part of growing up maybe—looking back on all of your triumphs and mistakes, seeing how far you've come, but also seeing how you can never go back to innocence once you've lost it, seeing how you can never go back and change things.

I did find myself stumbling a bit on the deities–Tziráchi, Gourádon, Kaióga, Rekkoúza are cool localizations of the various Hoenn legends, but it was hard to see what presence they had in Sootopolis culture beyond just being prayed to frequently as great watchers–something that feels distinctly judeochristian, which I didn’t quite square with Hoenn’s mythos. It felt like they were adapted in name only, and it was hard to understand how they intersected with characters specifically in a more detailed level: what it means for Wallace to be a Lorekeeper, why there’d be a fast in Groudon’s honor, etc. Not that it’d be impossible to have these things, just that my base understanding of Groudon in Hoenn is “beeg, sleepy, hasn’t been seen for millenia”, so phrases like “let Gourádon guide you” felt like there was a missing piece, something to explain why people would wish guidance from the notably absent deity that, when present, didn't seem to do anything particularly mindful/guidance-oriented and just makes land–I certainly think there could be something! But as a throwaway line it felt incomplete. Lokásoúvia had some really nice story and religious tie-ins, but I think she was able to do that more because she (I think) was made up wholecloth, so it felt like you were able to exercise more flexibility in tying her significance to the characters.
I will take any excuse to add more worldbuilding to IAM

Thinking about it more in terms of things that need to be clarified more and fixed, TLDR Gourádon, Kaióga, and Rekkoúza are sort of King in the Mountain/Holger Danske types in that if shit gets really bad in Sootopolis, then a Lorekeeper will wake them up and say "please help" (deity depends on the shit that's bad). Every other god is more a servant to deal with lesser problems (meaning Tziráchi needs to go against canon in Sootopolis belief but uhhhh different interpretations of Jirachi). The fasting part is half "we need to focus on self reflection and soul renewal in the absence of Gourádon (food) and Kaióga (water) because they slep, Rekkoúza is still awake because air fasting would be impossible" and half "we must honor the suffering of our ancestors".

In terms of themes, this means I can very epically theme:
  • Even the gods are imperfect so please please please Wallace stop putting perfection on a pedestal
  • Even the gods need a slep
This does mean that the "let Gourádon guide you" message might need to be altered to like "please get slep" but we'll see.

I lost the quote for this specifically, but re Gym Leaders:

A thing I’ve noticed with the Hoenn Gym Leaders is that, with the exception of Wattson and Juan, they’re all young and/or new to the Gym circuit—Flannery and Norman are explicitly new Trainers, and Tate and Liza are babies. So my brain was like “you know what that means? I can make up new Gym Leaders for IAM! And tie them all into the evil teams via “disappearing” so I can shove in RR to the Torchicverse

In general I think xeno is a cool way of getting people to think differently, and the term gets applied pretty liberally to non-human POV, though I think 1) there’s a lot of non-human POV that reads as very human-adjacent and 2) there’s a lot of human POV that reads as xeno. Wallace has a lot of thoughts and coping mechanisms that I don’t, and Lisia is a small child, for example, so it’s insightful to me when we see how they rationalize the world. And it’s always nice to see pokemon get a chance to speak, even if they also decide literally that it’s not worth speaking, rip Victoria.
That's a really interesting perspective on xeno, tbh. the prefix itself means "foreign, stranger", so in a sense, xeno POV can be anything unfamiliar to us, human or otherwise.

(Also yes rip Victoria she deserves only good things)

One thing I was interested in was the spectrum of roles that pokemon seem to fill here. Victoria has a fully-fledged personalty, and with it a huge codependency on Wallace; she’s told that she’s intelligent enough to be a therapist for Wallace, and it’s the emotional connection that would be their main reason for vetoing her. Sister Dymphna has a job and is basically seen as equivalent to a human nurse. Duncan also functionally has a job midway through the fic (support companion). Ali takes a bit of a backseat, and he mostly is just here to be soft and fluffy. So there’s somewhat of an established baseline, especially with Victoria and Sister Dymphna, that pokemon are effectively treated like adult humans.
That's a big thing I wanted to establish: that Pokémon and humans are on equal footing.

This made me think he was around Lisia’s age mentally–in the same way that she likes Auntie Winona for giving her cool toys, Duncan abstracts joy mostly through physical rewards. He also references varying kinds of roundness and how walrein are different than his current state, so he’s aware that he’ll grow up one day but hasn’t yet. And it’s possible that I’m lost in the xeno sauce and he’s a mature spheal, spheal mature at different ages, etc–but for me the switch to a more basic prose style, the repetitions of “very, very”, the eager! sentences! that end like this–push the prose towards at least feeling like it’s from someone with a more simplified worldview than the adult characters in this story, and gave him a similar-sounding voice to confirmed-child-aged-Lisia, which made it hard to follow the intricacies of using him as a support role.
But if pokemon are equal in social status and cognitive ability to humans in this setting, it seems really weird to allow, or even encourage, Duncan (in the cognitive state he’s conveyed to be having, which I interpreted as naive/immature/possibly childlike) to fill this kind of role for Wallace, both because it’s inevitably going to be incredibly taxing on him, and also because the he probably isn’t safely equipped to offer good advice here–it takes a lot of work to reliably be someone’s bastion of support!
That's a good point. Probably something I'll want to work on in edits.

And, truthfully, intentionally or not it does seem like there’s a lot of “adults asking children to take on way more emotional burden than children should”, so I don’t think this is inconsistent, especially given that the weight of unrealistic expectations at a young age is part of what’s crushing Wallace–but it does feel unfair, and I was surprised that this choice didn’t end up backfiring in some way.
Ah shit Lisia is gonna become another Wallace

Again, another thing I should work on in edits, something like "Lisia please do not take it upon yourself to be a caretaker for Wallace just focus on being a kid". Oh also raising Duncan's mental maturity.

On the one hand, Lisia has to do a lot of growing up too quickly in the wake of Wallace's mental health crisis/the family ostracizing him, in the sense she has to learn a lot of hard truths about her idols and about mental illness, but on the other hand, all she really needs to do is understand why Wallace might be not okay and why he might not always be in the mental headspace to be cool uncle.

I wasn’t sure why triangles are viewed as better in the roundness hierarchy–wouldn’t shapes with more sides be closer to circular?
Part of my reasoning was that Walrein tusks are cones (triangles), and cones have an easier time rolling than squares, and squares are sort of uncanny valley circles. But also ice cubes. But also icicles. But also most countertops are square/rectangular and not triangular and countertop corners are terrible..

I also wasn’t sure what these concepts actually meant, what led these perceptions of staged roundness to develop–both in the sense that I’m not really sure how a walrein is strictly round, and also that I don’t fully understand the mirrored progression between friendliness/humbleness/courage and evolving roundness.
Thinking about it now, it's probably more along the lines of nuanced round more than friendliness>humbleness>courage. Like, Sealeo gets a lot more shapes than the single sphere Spheal, and Walrein gets more circles than both of them. So it's like... gaining round shapes and wisdom.

(For future Torchic reference, it's edit time.)

I also wasn’t really sure if either of these metaphors made sense for a spheal to bring up–since islands can come in pairs, and there wasn’t much in the fic that made me think that spheal, who don’t really seem to have fingers for tying knots of materials for making rope, would intrinsically reach for “tying things together” as their first method of making things strong.
That island metaphor was the bane of my existence with the "an archipelago can be two islands". Making metaphors for Spheal is hard.

(For future Torchic reference, it's edit time.)


This is sort of a “xeno2” section tbh, though now the humans are back in it.
are those okays" from the fic or from the review

There’s a frequent trend across all the POV chapters, regardless of who the narrator is, to focus on this concept of “everything is okay, it’s not gonna crash” and then immediately crashing. On a per-chapter basis I think it works, but reading it all at once, it did make me wonder what the narrative through-line was here–that everyone is actually faking it, that it never gets better? It made sense that some of the more focal POV’s like Wallace and Victoria would have this huge pressure to cope and be perfect, and it made sense that some of the younger POV’s like Duncan and Lisia wouldn’t really understand how bad things were until it hit them, but I was a little surprised when Sister Dymphna and Juan had the exact same style of coping.

I think there’s something to be said about how, on some level, no one is actually always okay and everyone is coping a little–that’s certainly a core understanding of growing up. But without elaboration, I think it also leads to a feeling of stagnation–different POV chapters (Lisia, Sister Dymphna, Lisia, most of Wallace) have different events happening in them, but the concluding realization of “this is not fine” and specifically “Wallace is not Fine”, with limited differentiation between what not being fine meant, made it feel like the cast as a whole wasn’t progressing internally, even if various external events were changing with the chapters–they were realizing the same thing that previous POV chapters already realized, with little uniqueness between their internal discovery.
I did find myself waiting, on a broader level, how these xeno culture bits were going to tie into the broader themes of the story. Victoria’s interest in names, for example, was interesting to me–since a lot of people in this fic don’t live up to their name’s etymology, and a lot of the fic is about how you shouldn’t have to live up to someone else’s ideals for your life, how family isn’t always perfect, how you’re still worthy even if you aren’t that one Thing that’s supposed to be You. Duncan’s focus on the intrinsic roundness of things felt like another phrasing of perfection, expectations, physical appearance–there’s ways to change how roundly you behave, but you can’t really change how round you intrinsically are. Sister Dymphna’s focused on healing and helping, and how those two interplay, but she’s also got the same sort of focus on what’s expected of her, what’s good and just
These two points are maybe sort of related (not really, but that's how my brain interpreted it), with characters having an idea of how things are, and things not paying off—or at least things not paying off in different ways. The solution is probably something along the lines of characters starting and ending in different places (Victoria learning that people are complex and need more than one relationship, Juan learning to be a better parental guardian and understanding Wallace more), and throwing ideas at each other and making more.

I didn't follow the connection in dialogue here--"A date! Where are you and Auntie Win going?" doesn't seem to be dialogue that would elicit "I'm not going to marry her" as a response.
In the Papadakis family, eye contact means instant marriage

errant capitalization
In some sense it's intentional, because 1. Sea as a Water types' mother in a metaphorical sense, and 2. Sea as a religious... entity? Something

(Or, maybe leaning into the xeno, milotic don’t have the same hangups about sex being a private act between two individuals because oceans have really long sight lines or something. But also this feels like something that doesn’t really need to be addressed in the story unless it has a payoff later.)
This was an angle I was going to go with for one of Wallace's other Pokémon, but now that you mention it as a possibility for Victoria...

I also wasn't sure why she was watching the depositions! Seems like she's pretty busy and doesn't have a personal reason to get involved here.
It was more of a plot thing than anything, but I can probably somehow make it make more sense

Funny story with this one: I was reading this chapter at like two in the morning and saw that typo. I made it my mission to fix the typo... and I never did.

I didn't understand the distinction between "someone close to you can't be your therapist" and "but someone else in your household can".
This one's a bit... complicated. In real life, there's cases of household pets being trained as service animals, and there's a big difference between a service animal who's trained to predict panic attacks/seizures and act accordingly and a therapist who you meet weekly/bi-weekly/etc. to learn strategies to cope with anxiety and open up about trauma. On the other hand, a lot of this becomes harder the more human Pokémon come.

some more AO3 import italics I think
My arch nemesis

arrays start at zero
what is this math you speak of

This whole setup, but also this last line, feels kind of childlike for an adult man. Especially "haha, is that not a clever plan?"
Writing Juan dialogue continues to be the bane of my existence. It's a tricky balance of "archaic speech" (not to be confused with Archaic speech), and "dude it is the year of our Lord 2023 and you are in your fifties". It's one of the disadvantages of blorbofying Wallace, because Juan kind of comes with the territory.

I feel like I'm cheating a little bit for also reviewing this, but since this was probably the first work I "found" through the BulbaBot on discord, I figured I had to go through it... and this was quite the ride.
This is said neither negatively nor positively, but you're the last person I would have expected to be reading IAM. That being said, glad to see you here.

I really enjoyed the idea that "it doesn't matter that someone is famous or does something that garners a lot of the spotlight, because in the end they experience the same that everybody else does." I believe that you wanted this to be messy, jarring, messed up, and you executed perfectly. The mind does many things - be it good or bad - to us, and manipulation is one of them. As someone who also - admittedly - talks to himself quite often, this also made me a tad uncomfortable due to how much I relate (excluding the drug/alcohol abuse and periods of not eating) to the Wallace in this universe, though I tend to be like that with any work that features a protagonist who has mental issues of some sort.

These, to me, came to mind because of that shared big idea, that even with one's big name and the amount of fame they garner, they can still go through things like psychotic episodes, their minds will still do things to them, and that's what I got out of seeing Wallace through his journey and struggles.
I think a lot of people (myself included lol) really have a hard time seeing celebrities as anything other than all good or all bad, all fine or all not fine. In reality there are some really bad celebrities and really good ones, but most of them are a mix of good and bad. They’re people too (people with a much bigger platform and much more money/influence than the average person, but people regardless), and they can fuck up and be not okay like the average person. The problem is that, with great power comes great responsibility, but while celebrities do have a responsibility of… not normalizing shitty behaviour, a lot of people take that to mean that they can’t do wrong ever in their lives or they’re all bad.

(There’s a lot I could say on modern celebrity culture, but maybe for another time… or another fic)

Lisia going through those phases of "why can adults do things that they tell children not to do?", also part of the human condition, and the response is perfect as well. Using the difference between can and have to also adds a lot to the tension.
I like child POV a lot, both because it’s so different from adult POV, but also because adult characters can learn a lot from child characters.

So hi, it's a bit weird to be here. But reviewing event, due to sake of my time and being busy, plus I did not expect this to be finished (seriously, congrats on finishing this, not a lot of us can do it as I've proven) I will only be covering the first chapter but I'll read the others I swear!
Take all the time you need because I’m in edit hell and that means inconsistency and plot holes

First, it's a bit weird to see Hinodego here now since I know you help me come up with it and you asked permission to use it. Technically, we can make this canon to the Orre: The Desert verse if we want since we use the same terms for Kanto/Johto/Hoenn/Sinnoh people, but unlikely for me. I do like how you used it, with people having both a Hinodego name and a "common" name to differentiate from.
Omg Wallace is Orre: The Desert canon :lapras: /j

Your version of Wallace reminds me of a more broken version of Wally of all things, since his health came into the equation when becoming the chosen whatever by the Mayor. It seems to build a lot of self resentment himself due to being chosen despite his health being a major issue among others and now getting into contests and later will be Gym Leader/Champion adding more stress onto the fact.
The Wally/Wallace parallels will become more real (as soon as I write Wally into ATAC)

Also, I refuse to believe a Goldeen could do anything remotely perfect.
You underestimate its power :annoyedVoltorb:

(No more emotes on mobile because it fricks with scrolling)
Big thank you to everyone who read this during the February review event <3
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