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MATURE: I'm A Marionette

I
Created at
Index progress
Incomplete

I'm a marionette, just a marionette, pull the string
I'm a marionette, everybody's pet, just as long as I sing
I'm a marionette, see my pirouette, round and round
I'm a marionette, I'm a marionette, just a silly old clown

Song: "I'm A Marionette" by ABBA

Torchic W. Pip

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A Facadeverse fic

"Are you okay?"
In which Wallace isn't okay, but he gets better. Eventually.

Alternate summary: college/YA Wallace tries to hide the fact that he's a mess.


So this story originally started back in 2020 as part backstory stuff for a fic that never saw the light of day (a fic that eventually became the Facadeverse fics), part venting when I was suicidal and depressed over quarantine before I was diagnosed with GAD and PMDD (I would have a low, and in order to deal with urges to try purging or relapse into self harm and self starving, I would write about Wallace doing it instead). If you're wondering if I'm okay, yes, I'm okay. I'm in therapy, I'm taking meds, and while I'm not 100% better. I'm getting there. This fic follows a similar trajectory of things falling downhill before getting better.

I decided to go back to this story and publish it because 1. I wasn't letting it go to waste (I have 30k+ words of that old fic, and I refuse to let those words go to waste), and 2. there are some things that can't easily be conveyed in the form of a drabble (like in But How Will It Be). I decided to post it here because someone seemed to want me to do it. I forgot who, but to whoever wanted me to: thank you.

And I hear people like angst on TR.

This story is rated Mature.

This story contains depictions of:
eating disorders (including starving and purging)
alcohol and alcohol abuse
drug abuse
(including alcohol, LSD, marijuana, sedatives, and stimulants. There's also depictions of withdrawal, which includes an offscreen seizure)
parental death
self harm
abuse
(physical, verbal, and emotional)
sexual harassment and sexual assault
manipulation and grooming
mental illness
(including depressive symptoms, panic attacks, and manic episodes)
bigotry (including Fantastic Racism, homophobia, and ceterophobia, or discrimination towards nonbinary people. There’s also the use of the f-slur in Chapter 13)
suicidal ideation
blood, needles, and hospitals
implied consensual sexual content and discussions and themes of sexuality


Several things can't easily be stripped from the story (especially depictions of eating disorders and abuse), but summaries and chapters stripped of other elements can be provided upon request. Individual chapter content warnings are provided at the beginning of each chapter.

Also: if you feel this story warrants other content warnings, please tell me.

Preferred feedback:
  • Grammar/spelling/typo stuff
  • Is the angst too much? Just right?
  • Impressions on headcanons and characterizations
  • Did I do a good job of dealing with the heavy subject matter?
  • Did I portray hospitals/rehab/treatment/political scandals accurately?
 
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Chapter 1

Torchic W. Pip

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Mentions of purging and transphobia, anxiety

Wallace stared at his reflection. He used to be just a little short for his age. His Hinodego name, Mikouri, meant "little child" in Sootopolitan Chrysosian; he was a small baby, a small toddler, a small child. It was just one of the many things people would tease him for.

But then, at the age of fifteen and a half, he had a sudden growth spurt. Now, at the age of sixteen, he had a lanky frame and stood just under six feet. He felt awkward. He felt weird. He felt confused.

In ten minutes, he and Victoria would be performing in their first Contest.

Wallace picked up his beret and put it on. After staring at his reflection some more, he became dissatisfied with his appearance and took it off. He wore a purple shirt, white jacket, turquoise dress pants, and white boots. At least he had settled on that much—his outfit. If he was going to be defying Mayor Megalos and taking part in Contests, Wallace had to look professional in a way that would please him.

The green room of the Lilycove Contest Hall was sort of green, but more blue in Wallace's opinion. It was aqua: aqua tiles, dark aqua walls, light aqua chairs and tables. All four of Hoenn's Contest Halls had a different color palette: mauve for Slateport, scarlet or Fallarbor, emerald for Verdanturf, aqua for Lilycove.

They also all looked perfect. Everything was polished and lit to perfection. Everything smelled of clean linoleum and expensive, floral cleaning products. It was sometimes overwhelming, especially the lights, especially right now.

Victoria watched as he took out his makeup case and put on foundation and turquoise eyeshadow. Wallace had spent a whole hour making sure his Milotic looked her best—her scales shimmered like a lake, and her Blue Scarf was tied into a perfect bow—and now he was nearing an hour and a half spent on his own appearance.

If only there was a dimmer on the mirror lights. It would make doing his makeup easier.

He put on lipstick of a subtle shade of pink, but after five seconds, he wiped it off. It wasn’t that he was uncomfortable with makeup, but in that moment, staring at himself in the green room mirror, everything felt off, down to the finest details of his face.

He looked up to established and well known Coordinators and saw that the main difference between him and them was that he wasn’t perfect. If he wasn’t perfect, how would he succeed?

The stress made him feel sick.

Victoria rested her head on Wallace's. He gently petted her head, hoping some of her calmness would rub onto him. She was long for a Milotic, though her head fins were ever so slightly shorter than one of a Milotic born female. She was born male, but deep down, she knew she was female. Such was acceptable among Milotic, but not so much for humans. Wallace could find some solidarity with her; he was born male, but deep down, he knew he was... female? Male? Neither? Deep down, his true self was still foggy and blurry. Either way, he feared what people would say if they knew he so much as questioned his identity.

There was a knock at the door, and Victoria slithered over to open it. Meanwhile, Wallace prayed that it wasn't Mayor Megalos coming to scold him for taking part in such a "feminine" sport.

It wasn't, thank the heavens. It was his sister.

“You excited?” Nicole asked as she walked into the green room. She wasn't taking part in the Contest, but that didn't mean she wouldn't come and support her younger brother. As a former Coordinator, she knew the ins and outs of performing well.

She had the same hair and eye color as Wallace, but unlike Wallace, she was perfect. Her white shirt and skirt were perfect. Her simple makeup was perfect. Her posture was perfect. If they were siblings, then why couldn't he be perfect?

“Wallace.”

Wallace forced a small smile and forced down his anger. He couldn’t feel anger towards his sister; that was immoral.

“Sure,” he said. In this context, “sure” meant something more akin to “I might puke.” Nicole seemed to pick up on this, because she walked over to him and looked at his reflection with a sympathetic look.

“I was nervous before my first Contest,” Nicole said, placing her hands on his shoulders as she looked at their reflection in the mirror, “but as soon as I stepped onto the stage, all worries fell to the wayside, and Goldie and I both took home gold.”

Except she had been perfect. Nicole and her Goldeen had been perfect, with not a single hair or scale out of place. They weren't nervous. Wallace couldn't imagine Nicole ever being nervous, because she never was. Surely she knew that he was inferior to her. Surely she knew how pathetic he was. Surely she was only pitying him. That's how pretty much everyone else in his family viewed him. Wallace had been hand picked by Mayor Megalos to serve Sootopolis City, but his family was more worthy of such a privilege, and they made sure to remind him of that:

"Sick again? Weren't you just sick with a cough a few days ago, Mikró Mikouri?"

"You're so slow, Mikró Mikouri! You can't even keep up with us!"

"Why did Mayor Megalos choose you? You're nothing special, Mikró Mikouri."

"Wallace?" Nicole asked. "Is everything okay?"

He wasn’t okay; he was feeling a lot of emotions, none of them good emotions.

“What if I step onto the stage and spill my guts out on it?” he mumbled.

Nicole gently turned Wallace around so he faced her—the real her, not her reflection.

"Wallace, look up at me." She smiled when Wallace did. "Kamari mou, you’re going to be just fine.”

“I don't want to risk it. Maybe I should make myself throw up so I don’t feel so nauseous—“

Nicole's smile fell.

“Don’t say things like that.” Her face was stern but concerned. “Making yourself sick won’t make you feel better.”

Getting sick wasn’t fun; frequent influenza and migraines as a child taught Wallace that well. Part of it was from how yucky it was, but part of it was also the lack of control. Maybe it wasn’t so bad when you were the one controlling it.

“Are you sure?” Wallace asked.

“Wallace, would I lie to you?”

Nicole had lied before. When she was planning surprises for Wallace, for example. And when father wasn’t okay, back when he and mother were still alive… Maybe she was lying out of ignorance rather than malice; after all, she had never gotten nervous. She had never needed to make herself sick.

“Perhaps.”

Nicole crossed her arms. “Wallace.”

Wallace rolled his eyes. “Fine. No, you wouldn’t.”

Nicole smiled. “There’s my Mikouri. Now listen: I’ll be out there in the audience with Raphael and Lisia. We’ll all be cheering for you. You’ll do great.”

Wallace trusted the first two statements, maybe not the third.

He gestured his hand towards Victoria. “How does Victoria look?” he asked.

“Beautiful.”

Wallace motioned his hand back towards himself. “How do I look?”

Nicole’s eyes darted towards the counter. She picked up the beret and put it on Wallace.

“Beautiful.”
 
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Chapter 2

Torchic W. Pip

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Content warnings: Panic attack, descriptions of restricted eating habits, mentions of bigotry, depictions of purging/self induced vomiting, mentions of self harm, overstimulation, body shaming, themes of poverty and corruption, mentions of past character death

It wasn’t an eating disorder, he told himself.

He wasn’t restricting what he ate to get thinner; he was thin enough. He was fixated on the imperfections of his body to the edge of obsession, but that wasn’t the main reason for his restriction. It was restriction for the sake of control.

His duties and training were tumultuous shackles, dragging him across oceans. He was at the mercy of Mayor Megalos, the socialites of Sootopolis City, and the press, who seemed to intrude more and more into his private life with each passing day. The press took his right to choose when to come out to the world as genderqueer and pansexual and maybe sort of polyamorous, leading to some people ruthlessly attacking him in the press and even to his face. They took his right to privacy and incessantly speculated on his personal and sexual life. Every headline, every comment, every word was just as painful as a stab in the chest.

He was chosen to be Sootopolis City's Gym Leader, meaning he now had to deal with catching up to the other Gym Leaders, facing the wrath of Hoenn League chairman Kurogane Cockburn and the bigoted language he used on Wallace, and dealing with even more expectations from Mayor Megalos and Sootopolis City. Sure, with college, he only had to work on weekends, but he had a mountain of schoolwork to do as he tried to figure out what his majors would be. He couldn't choose just one. That would be unimpressive! That would be limiting!

And then there were the women Mayor Megalos set him up with. If Wallace was lucky, they were close to him in age, maybe even tolerant of his identity and love of art. But usually, his luck ran dry, and the women he had to put up with for a month or so would hurl slurs at him or touch him in ways he didn't feel comfortable with or call him weird for liking art and Water types as much as he did. And all he could do was put up with it until the women eventually broke up with him.

He couldn't control who Mayor Megalos set him up with. He couldn't control what the socialites did to him or said about him. He couldn't control the language Cockburn used when referring to him. He couldn't control what the press revealed about his personal life.

But he could control what he ate.

For breakfast, it was toast. For lunch, half a bowl of rice. For dinner, salad made of just lettuce and carrots. Sometimes, he even skipped lunch. He could compensate for any vitamin deficiencies with supplements. That’s why they existed: for vitamin deficiencies.

Was he hungry? Of course he was. Was he tired? Seemingly constantly. Did he feel like shit? Absolutely. He could ignore those side effects just fine. They didn’t mean anything serious. He wasn’t in the hospital, so he was fine. He wasn’t, so he was fine. And besides, fasting—or Nisteía —was a part of Rounékyo Feast Weeks. Sure, Wallace restricted his eating even when he was supposed to do the opposite, but surely the gods would understand.

His family sure didn't.

"You look like you're going to blow away in the wind, Mikró Mikouri!"

"You don't eat enough, Mikró Mikouri! Don't you like my cooking?"

"You're so skinny, Mikró Mikouri. Aeolus and I need to fatten you up."


Wallace got downright terrified at the prospect of eating with other people, even just one person or Pokémon. Because of this, he avoided it by any means possible. He made excuses every time there was a family gathering involving food, planned dates anywhere but restaurants or cafés, and refused to talk about eating under any circumstances.

He probably looked like a lunatic.

But he couldn’t avoid every meal, and his family always gave him weird looks when he couldn't go to a dinner or when he turned down a meal. But sometimes, the pressure and questions were too much, and he had to eat past his restrictions. When he had to, he felt like he was dying. His chest tightened up. Breathing became harder. He feared he would throw up in front of other people.

Worst of all, he felt like he had failed his parents and Sootopolis City, that the gods would punish him for failing to be disciplined, perfect, because he couldn’t even stick by his guidelines.

But it wasn't so bad, right? It gave him control. It gave him control.

-

Nicole’s house was nice. The lighting was soft and warm. Every piece of furniture was a warm shade of brown. The walls and shelves were decorated with watercolor paintings by Nicole and Wallace, family photos, photos taken during Nicole’s Contests, snippets of poetry written by father, mother’s sheet music… Every framed piece told a story. Sometimes Wallace would spend hours looking at the pictures, hearing the stories from Nicole or in his head.

The kitchen had old, cream, floral wallpaper and gray, marble counters. The fridge was covered in pictures by Lisia and Wallace. And of course, there was the aroma of spices and home cooked food.

Nicole set a plate down on the table. “Here you go. You don’t want to perform on an empty stomach.”

Fettuccine Alfredo. Wallace's favorite meal. How long had it been since he had eaten it? A couple months? A year? Gosh, even just smelling it brought happy feelings. He couldn’t remember the memories attached to them; he had suppressed most food related memories so he could fight off hunger and focus on his studies.

But still… he was hungry.

Aren't you disciplined? Aren't you in control?

Nicole's going to think you're a freak if you don't eat.

You're going to fail this Contest if you eat.

You're going to fail this Contest if you don't eat.


"Wallace?"

Nicole stared at Wallace. She gave him a small smile, but it was a perfect smile.

"Thank you, Nicole," he sighed.

Nicole picked up Wallace's beret from the table and on his head, but he took it off right after she did. His hair was short and tousled; he had cut it in the middle of the previous night out of a half conscious impulse, in part driven by confusion, in part driven by hating his appearance. At least he had been able to resist the urge to cut his arms with the scissors.

"Come on, Wallace,” Nicole said as she tried to put the beret back on.

Wallace gently swatted her hand away. "I look stupid in hats, Nicole."

Nicole chuckled and shook her head. "No you don't."

"I'm not in a 'wearing my beret' mood,” Wallace sighed.

Nicole cocked her head playfully. "Are you in a 'fettuccine Alfredo' mood?"

The two stared at each other. Wallace was… he wasn’t sure whether or not he was in a ‘fettuccine Alfredo’ mood. Well, he was, but he didn’t want to be.

Eventually, he gave up. “Fine. I am.”

Nicole giggled before hugging Wallace. Her happiness and love were contagious. Despite his anxiety, Wallace couldn’t help but smile. The two had been through so much: first their parents died, then their extended family rejected Nicole for having a child with Raphael out of wedlock. But despite everything, she still tried to make the people around her happy. Wallace had to be happy for her.

He could make her happy, right? He could let himself eat and feel happy, right? He could let himself have a little more than his strict limitations, right?

-

Slateport City, the city where Wallace’s maternal family has come from.

Well, he didn’t know a whole lot about his mother’s side of the family, other than the fact that they were poor immigrants and the fact that most of them died before he was even born. He had that one uncle who had moved to Kalos, but he rarely spoke to Wallace’s paternal family. The Papadakes and Izumis grew… distant after Wallace’s parents died.

Wallace had a lot of questions: Why did everyone hate his parents? What was wrong with his father? Why did uncle Milas disappear? Why did the family act like he had never existed? Why did Cousin Kristina get treated like a bastard child? Why did Cousin Kristina and Lisia get treated like they were freaks?

Why did no one like talking about things? Family was weird and confusing. Wasn’t family supposed to be loving and simple? Wasn—

A Poochyena barked at Wallace. He gasped and stumbled against an old, concrete building.

The center of the city was beautiful, but the west side slums were rife with filth, corruption, and poverty. Wallace couldn’t blame the people living there. From the stories he heard, up to three families would live in one apartment. The breadwinners would have to work two, sometimes three jobs. All those people and Pokémon, who had families to take care of, who probably faced disease and starvation, who could barely afford to put food on their table…

And look at you. You’re able to eat, but you can’t help those people who can’t eat.

You’re selfish for eating that.

You’re selfish for not wanting to eat it.


He thought about ducking into an alley to make himself sick, to make the thoughts go away. At least then he would be able to control the inevitable.

Despite how hot it was, Wallace wore long sleeves in dull colors. He didn’t want anyone commenting on his body, whether to insult it or to objectify it. He felt like he was going to keel over or throw up, but oh well. Such was life.

There was a small Arcean church on the way to the Contest Hall. Gray stone, one story tall, rusty bell in the tower.

Inside, the plaster walls and wooden pews showed signs of age and wear, but that age made Wallace feel like this place was a childhood memory, even though he wasn’t even an Arcean.

By the door, there was a wooden box with a slit in the top. The sign above read, “Blessed be the poor. Blessed be the charitable.”

Wallace opened his shoulder bag and took out his wallet. He slipped out about 3,000 Pokédollars and dropped it inside the box. So what if he was a Rounékyoto? It was Rounékyo principle to love your neighbor, help the poor, and remember where you came from.

“Who are you?”

The sudden voice startled Wallace. It was just an old lady with wispy, white hair and white and gold robes. She was sitting in the pews, reading Arcean scripture.

Wallace bowed. “Wallace Papadakis. Um… Do you know of the late Lucille Izumi?”

The woman thought for a second. “Ah… that woman. I remember her. She and her father would make meals at this church. She was a good cook.”

“She sure was…” Wallace couldn’t remember much of his mother’s cooking. He knew she knew a lot of recipes, but he couldn’t remember any of them. He knew she was a good cook, but he couldn’t remember how exactly her food tasted. Maybe his memory was just bad. Maybe he had suppressed those memories along with his hunger pangs.

The old lady squinted. “You’re the Runekyō priest, aren’t you?”

“Lorekeeper. Still in training. Though my mother was Arcean.”

The old lady’s eyes widened. “Ah, you’re her son, aren’t you? Bless your heart for stopping by our humble church. I see she raised you well.”

Wallace could see deceit in the woman’s eyes. He could see the disgust, the shame, the hate.

She tried to raise you well, but you still grew up fucked up. Look at you in your ugly clothes and your ugly body. Look at your slutty, fake identity. Look how you’re trying to compensate with money—how materialistic. How selfish. What are you? What would your mother say?

“Child, are you well? You look sick.”

“I have to go.” Wallace began to walk away, regretting ever eating that fettuccine Alfredo.

-

He was still regretting eating when he got to the Contest Hall.

Stress before Contests wasn’t new to Wallace, but it seemed even more overwhelming this time. Every single noise was too loud. Every light was too bright. Everything was too much.

This feeling wasn’t new to Wallace, but over the years, he had learned to suck it up and put up with it. Everyone else was able to tolerate overwhelm, so why couldn’t he? Besides, the future and image of Sootopolis City was more important than his feelings.

But now he couldn’t even focus on what his and Victoria’s routine was supposed to be. His hands were shaking too much to put on Victoria's makeup, and they both needed makeup to look and be perfect.

“Are you okay?”

Hailey, one of Wallace’s friends and Contest rivals, was staring at him, her brows furrowed with concern. Even she was perfect: perfect short, brown hair; perfect brown eyes; perfect short blue dress; perfect gold eyeshadow and lipstick.

Everyone around you is better. Everyone around you is in control. Hailey is in control. Victoria is in control. What about you? WHAT ABOUT YOU?

“I’m fine.” Wallace smirked, pointing to his beloved Milotic. “Victoria is fine, too. You should be worrying about yourself. We’ve been practicing for weeks.”

The confidence returned to Hailey’s eyes. “Ha! Lovelynn and I are going to wow you with our new techniques!”

“Yeah… you sure will…”

The lights in the green room were too bright. The marble counter was too scratchy. The room was spinning. Wallace’s gaze and attention turned away from Hailey and Victoria and the room… and to his thoughts.

You’re going to fail this Contest because you lost control.

What would your parents think if they saw you?

You’re a failure to them. You're a failure to Nicole. You’re a failure to Juan. You’re a failure to Megalos. You’re a failure to everyone.

Calm down, Wallace. Calm down. Calm—


“Wallace?!”

He slammed the door to the bathroom. Too bright. Too bright. Too much. His legs were shaking, and his head was spinning.

Tears stung his eyes. He couldn't cry. He couldn't cry. Sootopolitans didn't cry, especially not the city's Gym Leader, guardian, poster boy...

Why can't you calm down?!?!

He couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t take it anymore.

Fuck you. Fuck you. FUCK YOU.

The torrent of thoughts stopped when Wallace plunged his fingers down his throat.

It all happened so quickly that he couldn’t even register what had just happened. Slowly, he began to process the sound of his choking echoing on the walls of the bathroom, the slimy feeling of spit and vomit on his fingers, and the burning, bitter sensation in his throat.

He also felt... number, calmer, only just a bit disgusting.

He reached his hand over to shut off the light. It was dark. It was quiet. He could breathe. He could open his eyes. Things were better now.

“Wallace? Is everything okay?”

He could process another sound: Hailey’s voice. He could stand up, stumble to the sink, wash out his mouth, and open the door.

“Come on, Victoria,” he said monotonously, glancing over Hailey's shoulder. Poor Victoria was so worried, so confused. He could make up a lie to tell her later.

“Wallace, are you feeling well?” Hailey asked.

“Of course I am.” His tone didn’t change. “I’m feeling wonderful.”
 
Last edited:
Chapter 3

Torchic W. Pip

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Content warnings: Sexual themes, almost sex, discussions of eating disorders, mentions of self harm, drug abuse, manic episode, use of LSD, body dysmorphia, vomiting, migraines, overstimulation, anxiety

“Are you sure you don’t mind that I never take off my clothes when we have sex?”

Wallace looked up at Lucy when he asked that question. He was sitting on the edge of her bed, and she was standing in front of him. She was dressed in black lingerie, while he was dressed in a long sleeved shirt and long sleeved pants. The dorm room was dark, but Wallace still felt… insecure, almost guilty.

Lucy smiled and strutted over to the bed. “Why would I care? Besides”—she slid a finger down the buttons of his shirt—“you look sexy in those clothes of yours. Do you take them off for Steven or Winona?”

Wallace's heart started racing even more, partially from lust and partially from anxiety. “No.” Not even Steven and Winona—who were more than friends with benefits, unlike Lucy—were allowed to see Wallace’s body. He hated his body. Hated it. And what would Lucy or Steven or Winona say if they saw his body? What would they say about his body if he took off the makeup and clothes that hid his imperfections?

“Are you anorexic?” No, Wallace would respond, because he hated how thin he was, and he didn’t want to keep losing weight. Paradoxically, he didn’t want to gain weight either.

"All right then, are you bulimic?" Also a no; Wallace didn't binge before purging, unless eating even just a bit over his strict limits counted as binging, and even then he sometimes purged other times, like when he got stressed before Contests, or when he was having an emotional low, or when he was on the brink of a panic attack, or when he needed to tire himself out because his emotional high was too high for him to sleep.

"Do you have an eating disorder?" If he didn't have anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and if he didn't want to get thinner, he couldn't possibly have an eating disorder.

“Where did those bruises come from?” He hated those bruises too. They sometimes came from him accidentally falling, or intentionally slapping himself, or intentionally slamming his textbook on his arms just below the point of potentially breaking them.

“You look high.” He wasn’t high, Wallace would insist, just a little tired. Sure, he had tried marijuana and LSD, but that was for art, not for the high. Sure, he occasionally drank a little too much, but only on bad days. Sure, he took sedatives and stimulants, but only to regulate his emotions. He wasn’t high. He wasn’t an addict. He could stop if and when he wanted to—or as long as his emotions weren’t smothering him in exhausting sadness or distracting euphoria.

He didn’t have a problem. He didn’t have any problems. He couldn’t have any problems. He was Gym Leader Wallace. Coordinator Wallace. Guardian Wallace. He couldn’t let something as small as college or stress taint his perfect image. He was tired, though, and he did sometimes have to call in sick from school or work at the Gym because of a hangover or bad trip.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

“You’re hideous.”

"You're a freak."

“You’re—“

“Wallace? You stuck in space or something?”

Wallace stood up and walked towards the door.

“I’m so sorry for cutting this hook up so short, Lucy, but I’m not feeling well.” Wallace was still riled up on hormones and still physically wanted sex, but his sexual thoughts were spinning around alongside creative urges and panicky feelings, and he didn't mentally want sex.

Lucy smiled. “Hey, it’s alright. I’ll manage just fine alone. Maybe some other time?”

Wallace nodded. His head was starting to hurt, and he rested it against the wall for a second.

”Do you need help walking home?” Lucy asked. “You don’t look too hot.”

“I appreciate the offer, but I’m fine.”

As soon as Wallace shut the door, he began quickly walking down the hall. He was tired, but he also wasn't.

It was going to be another all nighter. God fucking damn it.

-

Wallace managed to deal with his sexual urges by jerking off at his dorm, but unlike other nights when he had these certain thoughts and feelings, he couldn’t get anything productive done. The thoughts were just too overwhelming. He didn't even feel happy, just shitty in an over-energized way instead of an under-energized way.

After pacing around the dorm's living room for what seemed like forever, he opened the dresser drawer where Filbert kept his drugs. They were reserved for his parties only, but it's not like he would miss a few pills.

"Gamó ton Drákou." No sedatives. In fairness, it would be improper etiquette to sleep at a party, and Filbert didn't know about Wallace's emotional problems. Obviously Filbert wouldn’t get drugs for Wallace’s emotional problems.

Actually, Wallace knew more about Filbert than Filbert knew about Wallace. Probably for the best; Filbert was a stereotypical rich boy frat bro, and Wallace was a disaster artist who couldn't tolerate a single piece of lint on his clothes.

He combed through the drawer. There had to be something he could use to sleep for focus or something.

There were a few sheets of... LSD tabs? Yeah, LSD tabs, with colorful pictures of Psychic type Pokémon. Wallace had done LSD once, when he was doing Art History assignments with some... acquaintances, not friends. Wallace didn't have human friends; he had family, lovers, a mentor, acquaintances, or people who hated him.

But anyway, someone offered him some LSD "for inspiration". It was certainly inspirational. It took the colors in his mind that appeared when he listened to words and music and put them in front of his eyes. Maybe he could use his frenzied energy and that hallucinatory energy and do something with it...

Well, Filbert was out for the night with a girl, and Wallace's Pokémon were asleep in their Pokéballs, so what did he have to lose?

-

The trip was bad, bad, bad, but the art that came out of it was good, and that was all that mattered.

Then the morning came like a tsunami to bring his emotional high tumbling down.

He felt too sick to eat breakfast, and by the time lunch rolled around, he was feeling downright miserable.

He, Winona, and Steven were in the bookstore café, discussing classes or something. Actually, Winona and Steven were doing most of the discussing. Wallace’s head was spinning, and he was too fixated on how nauseous he was and how many spots of black and white he was seeing to contribute anything meaningful to the conversation.

“Wallace?” Steven asked. “You doing okay?”

Wallace could only nod. The light was too bright, his throat burned too much, his head hurt to much—

“Do you want me to get you anything? I can ask the waiter for some ice water. Maybe you’re just hungry.”

Winona put a hand to Wallace’s forehead. “Wallace, you don’t look well. Do you want to go to the restroom?”

At this question, Wallace shook his head. He didn’t want to. He didn’t want to have to. He needed control.

Steven wrapped his arm around Wallace’s shoulders. While Wallace appreciated the gesture, it also further aggravated his condition.

“Alright,” Steven said, “just let us know when you need us.” Steven looked up at Winona. “So Winona, as I was saying…”

Wallace couldn’t focus on the conversation anymore. He was too worried he would throw up. He was terrified that he would throw up in public. He was terrified that he would lose the control he so desperately tried to cling onto. He was terrified that he would make a fool of himself.

Breathe, Wallace. Deep breath in, deep breath out.

You’re too weak to have control. You don’t have control.

You’re safe with Winona and Steven. You’re safe with Winona and Steven.

You have no control. You have no control. You have no—

He abruptly stood up and, with his hand over his mouth, briskly walked away from the table and towards the bathroom.

“Wallace?!” Steven shouted as he stood up.

-

Wallace knew he wouldn’t make it to one of the stalls in time, so he leaned over the sink just as he started to vomit.

No one else was in the bathroom. He would have counted himself lucky if his head wasn’t pounding so much that he couldn’t process anything around him. Even after throwing up whatever was left in his stomach, he still continued to choke up bile and, eventually, nothing. He kept retching, but he was too exhausted to keep standing.

“Wallace?! Is everything okay?! Speak to me, Wallace!”

Someone was holding him on the bathroom floor. Panting, Wallace slowly regained consciousness.

“Steven?” Wallace whispered feebly. He figured he had stopped retching right before passing out, but the violent nature of what had just happened left him exhausted. The whole bathroom was spinning.

Wallace leaned his head against Steven’s chest, his eyes closed. The light in the bathroom was too bright, too invasive. The floor and air were too cold, too harsh. He wanted Steven to hold him and protect him from the light, the floor, the air, the world. Steven knew how to deal with overwhelm. Steven knew how to deal with the world. Steven was perfect.

“You collapsed into my arms!” Steven gasped, his voice cracking ever so slightly. “You’re weak and pale as talc! What’s wrong? Do you need me to get help?”

“Don’t,” Wallace demanded weakly. “Whatever you do, don’t get help.”

“I’m worried, though. What’s wrong?”

Wallace couldn’t respond. Nothing could be wrong. Nothing could be wrong.

“Do you think it’s a migraine?” Steven asked.

“You’re the one who gets migraines, not me,” Wallace mumbled.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you got one, seeing how you’ve been drowning yourself in your studies. And stress isn’t great for migraines. Trust me; I know.” Steven thought for a second. “Have you eaten anything today?”

“Don’t remember,” Wallace replied.

“‘Don’t remember’? Wallace, you haven’t been forgetting to eat, have you?”

Wallace was starting to feel nauseous again, so he didn’t try to respond. He felt Steven’s arm wrap around his shoulders again. Wallace didn’t try to stop him.

“Think you can stand up?” Steven asked.

“Sure.”

“‘Sure’ isn’t enough for this.”

Wallace sighed heavily. “Fine. Yes. Yes, I think I can stand up.”

“Wallace, I’m going to need to get the manager and janitor for this, and I need to make sure you’re safe when I do that.”

Poor manager. Poor janitor. Poor Steven.

And now you’re causing problems for the people around you? What the hell is your problem?

Wallace heard a ping, and then he saw a Claydol.

“Take care of him while I’m gone,” Steven said to Claydol as he left.

Wallace washed out the sink and his mouth in silence. He washed it out as best as he could; soap and water and all that. He washed his hands several times to wash away the uncleanliness, the impurity, the—

“Kid? Kid, I can take over from here, though… it looks like you’ve done a pretty good job yourself.”

An old man with a sympathetic smile was standing next to Wallace.

“You look like you need a good rest,” the old man said. “Come on, why don’t you let your friends take you back to your dorm to rest? And get some water, too.”

Wallace bowed deeply. “Thank you. Thank you.”

With a hung head, Wallace walked out of the bathroom and to Steven and Winona.

“Please let me go back to my dorm alone,” Wallace insisted. “Please.”

“Nonsense,” Steven replied as he wrapped his arm around Wallace. “It’s like the Orbeatles song: you get by with a little help from your friends.”

“Gonna try with a little help from your friends,” Winona added as she followed suit.

Wallace gave her a small smile. His headache was starting to ease up. “It’s ‘I get high with a little help from my friends’ first.”

“We’re not gonna get high,” Steven said. “We’re gonna get… bi.”

At that, Wallace laughed for the first time in months. “Steven, I love you and your dad jokes.”

“Do you love me?” Winona teased.

“Of course I do. I love you both. So much.”

-

Wallace realized too late that there was vomit in his hair. He was too exhausted to apologize to Winona as she held back his hair.

It was supposed to be a perfect night, a perfect night of shopping at Lilycove City’s stores, walking through its gardens, and lovemaking at one of its love hotels. It had to be perfect; it was the last time they would get together before months of Gym challengers clogged up their free time. And for the first hour, it was perfect, aside from a dull headache and nausea. The silver skyline was like a painting, and the air smelled of azalea and rose. Wallace bought Winona beautiful, delicate dark chocolates. They even got to go to the art museum, where Wallace was free to ramble about colors and art history and painting techniques. It was shaping up to be a perfect night.

But then Wallace had to ruin the perfect evening with a stupid migraine.

He had to thank the heavens that he wasn’t puking over the bike railing next to the sidewalk because he was drunk. That last time Winona had seen Wallace drunk, he was a bumbling, stumbling mess.

But still, why were the heavens cursing him with migraines? Didn’t he throw up enough by his own accord? Was this some sick, twisted, divine punishment? Wasn't three nights in a row of no sleep enough punishment? Did he need to purge more?

When he finally started heaving up nothing, he realized that he had vomit on his hair and his shoes. He was even more of a mess than he thought.

He had even less control than he thought.

”You’ve been getting a lot more migraines than usual,” Winona said softly. “Is everything okay?”

Wallace let himself fall to his knees. Keeping his head hung and facing away from the railing, he sighed. ”My head still hurts, if that’s what you mean.”

”I mean in your day to day life. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well? Are you keeping your stress levels low?”

”Sure I am."

"That doesn't sound like a very sure answer."

Wallace sighed and looked up. "Darling, I don't think I can muster the energy to sound more sure."

Winona gave a smile: partly sympathetic, partly a smug "I told you so."

"Fine. Fine." Wallace staggered back to his feet, holding onto the railing in case he passed out. "You win. I'm not fine, surprisingly. I feel like I'm dying, and worse yet, if someone sees me like this, I'll have to kill myself or face public humiliation."

Winona's smile fell. "Wallace, are—"

Wallace collapsed against Winona, who caught him before he could fall in the puddle of his own vomit. Something worse happened: Wallace threw up onto Winona's dress.

Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit.

Silence. Wallace didn't even want to look up at Winona. She was probably disgusted, ashamed, furious...

"Wallace—"

"I'm so sorry, Winona. I'm so, so sorry. You can do whatever you want to me: break up with me, shoot me, let Aurora peck me to death, expose my kinks to the press—"

Wallace looked up at Winona. She… she wasn’t disgusted, ashamed, or furious. She looked like she was worried.

Maybe she was just pretending to be worried. Maybe she was actually disgusted, ashamed, furious—

"Wallace, Wallace, Wallace, deep breaths. It's okay. It's okay. You're not feeling well. A dress is replaceable; you're not."

Winona wrapped her arm around Wallace.

”Now come one. Let's get you back to the hotel. You need water and sleep, maybe a shower, too. If you need to throw up again, tell me. If this doesn’t get better—“

“It will get better.”

“—But if it doesn’t, we might have to take you to the doctor.”

No. No. No. He couldn’t go to the doctor. A doctor would be able to find out that he used drugs. A doctor would be able to find out that he cut himself. A doctor would be able to find out that he starved and purged. A doctor would be able to confirm that he was a freak.

"I'm sorry for ruining our date,” Wallace mumbled.

He looked back up at Winona. That soft smile of hers was back.

”Wallace, your health will always be infinitely more important than a date. Now come on. Let’s get you a nice bath, and then let’s get you comfy and cozy in bed.”

Wallace managed a small, dizzy smile. ”I would kiss you if I weren’t such a mess.”

-

The two went to one of Lilycove's cheaper love hotels, the kind with simple walls and floors in beiges and browns, the kind that only gave lovers a basket of condoms. At least it had a shower and other toiletries.

Poor Winona stayed by Wallace’s side in the bathroom, rubbing his back as he vomited up the first attempt to take medication. He was disgusting. He didn’t deserve such a wonderful woman.

“Winona,” Wallace groaned. “Water…”

“You’re still dry-heaving. I don’t want you to immediately cough it up, or worse, choke.”

Wallace retched into the toilet bowl again. “Everything hurts. I just want—” More retching cut him off. “I just want something to throw up so this will stop.”

“Hey.” Winona’s voice fell back into that soft, gentle tone that made Wallace feel safe and loved. “Deep breaths. Deep breaths. You’re going to be okay. This will pass. This will pass.”

And it did. After an hour or so, Wallace managed to hold down water, ibuprofen, and melatonin. Hopefully it wasn’t too late for the ibuprofen to work, but at the very least, the melatonin would help Wallace sleep.

He and Winona hadn't really prepared to be going to sleep in clothes, so all they had for sleepwear were their clothes for the next day: for Winona, the shirt and pants she wore under her flight suit, and for Wallace, a plain dress shirt, purple pants, and a short cape.

Winona didn't let Wallace use the cape as a blanket. Instead, she wrapped him up in a blanket and Aurora's fluffy wings and cuddled him, facing him and letting him rest his head in the crook of her neck. The pressure, the warmth, the comfort… Wallace was safe. Wallace was loved.

“Goodnight, darling,” Winona whispered before kissing Wallace on the cheek.

“Cuddle me,” Wallace mumbled, too out of it to say anymore.

Winona made a humming noise As she held Wallace closer.

“Of course, Wallace.”

Wallace smiled. He didn’t deserve such a wonderful woman. What did he do that made Winona fall in love with him and want to stay around with him? Assuming she even loved hi—

No. He wanted to have this one moment of happiness, of safety, of love.

He thought he could feel Winona getting out of bed and calling someone just as he started drifting off to sleep.
 
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Chapter 4

Torchic W. Pip

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Purging, mentions and depictions of self harm, discussions of drug abuse, suicidal ideation

“Wallace? Are you okay?”

Wallace slowly raised his head at the sound of his sister’s voice from the other side of the bathroom door. Of course he wasn’t okay; he had just purged dinner, and he didn’t know if he had the strength to stand up from where he lay on the bathroom floor.

“I… I don’t… I’m fine…”

“Can I open the door?”

“...Hold on.”

Grabbing the edge of the sink for support, Wallace staggered to his feet. He had to flush the toilet. He had to wash out his mouth.

The water from the sink faucet stung like the time Wallace had gotten his Speahl, Richard, to use Sheer Cold on him. It was heaven to his throat and hell to his skin. It still couldn't wake him up, so he turned it from freezing cold to burning hot. As steam started to rise, he stuck his hand under the water.

He had to bite back a shout as he forced himself to keep his hand there. He only pulled back right before he thought he would get a second degree burn.

Nicole opened the door as Wallace shut the faucet. There was shock on her face, along with hints of concern.

"Nicole, I didn't—"

“Oh Mikouri…”

The next thing he knew, Wallace felt Nicole wrapping her arms around him.

“Eíste kalá?”

Even if Wallace wanted to respond, he couldn’t muster the energy to do so. The past few weeks had been rough; he seemed to constantly have some sort of ailment or illness. It was his early childhood all over again.

"Did something not agree with you?"

"Nothing's agreeing with me," Wallace mumbled.

Nicole slowly rocked Wallace and gently patted the back of his head. Damn it, his hair was a mess.

"Go lie down, Mikouri. I'll get you some medicine for your stomach."

“I don’t wanna be sick. I don’t wanna—”

“Shh… It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Nicole slowly guided Wallace to the bed and helped him lay down.

“Are you okay?” she asked. “Should I call a doctor?”

“Please don’t.”

“But Wallace—”

“Don’t.”

There was a bitter harshness in Wallace’s tone, and it stung his tongue even after the words came out. He had a bad habit of snapping at Nicole, and sometimes—a lot of times—it would turn into arguing. In Wallace’s current state, he would probably call her some awful things, and he really didn’t want to deal with that.

Nicole sighed. “Wallace, I just want you to… I just want you to be okay.”

She stood up. Wallace couldn’t muster the energy to look up, but he heard the door open and shut.

Guilt weighed him down into the old mattress. Nicole was his older sister and his closest family member. Their parents were dead, and their grandparents weren’t too fond of them. All they had was each other.

None of those things made Wallace feel any better about essentially needing her like a sick child needed a parent. He was nineteen—legally an adult. Adults were self-sufficient, able to take care of themselves. Only children needed help from others when they were sick. Only children needed someone to give them medicine and reassurance.

Aside from that, Nicole had a child of her own. She didn't need to be burdened with deadweight that couldn't go a whole week without getting sick. She didn’t need some jerk who would irregularly snap at her at the smallest wrongdoings or questions. She didn’t need another thing to worry about on top of parenthood, dealing with the rest of the family, and working two jobs.

The weight was dragging him deeper into the waters of his mind.

Look at all the problems you’re causing. Look at all the dates you're ruining for Lucy and Steven and Winona. Look at the time and money and energy your sister is wasting on you. Look at all the worry and anger and misery you're causing. Look at how disgusting you are.

Things would be better off if you were dead.


-

He slept lightly but peacefully through the night and the next morning. When he woke up, his Milotic was there to greet him, hanging her head over his bed.

“Promise not to tell her?” Wallace mumbled.

There was an old Hinodego saying that everyone from Hoenn to Sinnoh knew: “Pokémon keep secrets”. Victoria was the only one who knew what Wallace was like behind the mask. She was the only one who knew about Wallace's scars and bruises. She was the only one who knew about his self destructive habits. She promised not to tell, and even if she didn't, it's not like she could say "Nicole, Wallace is a freak who's using drugs and making himself vomit up your cooking". Nicole wasn’t as fluent in fish Pokéspeak as Wallace was.

It was nice that he could tell someone about the darker parts of his self, but it was also shameful that he had those darker parts in the first place.

“I’m sorry.” What good would sorry do? Wallace was living in a personal hell, and he had dragged Victoria into that personal hell. “Sorry” wouldn’t take her out of it. “Sorry” wouldn’t make up for all of the pain Wallace put Nicole through. "Sorry" wouldn't fix or do anything.

There was a soft knock at the door.

“Uncle Wall?”

Wallace turned his head towards the door. “Lisia?”

The door opened, and a little girl walked into the room. Well, maybe she wasn’t that little; she was eight, not too little anymore, but still not big enough to be not little. She was wearing a blue hand-me-down dress. Once it had been her Grandma Lucille's, then her mother's, then her uncle's, and now it was hers.

She hopped up into the bed, holding a drawing in her hand. Wallace sat up. His head hurt from doing so, but he cared more about Lisia than himself.

“Mom wants to know if you’re feeling any better,” Lisia said. "She said I can visit you if you're doing better."

When Wallace was five, he came down with a cold. When he said he wasn’t fine after twenty four hours, he soon found himself in the ER—The Lilycove ER. Sootopolis City didn’t have a hospital at the time. It was just how his parents were, and it seemed that Nicole had inherited that same fear.

“Tell her that I’m doing better. I should be able to go to classes tomorrow.” He wasn’t sure how true that was.

The lie worked. Lisia was smiling again. “Good! I made you a get well present!”

She held up the drawing in her hands. It was a drawing of a Milotic, an Altaria, and a Metang. Maybe Wallace was biased, but it looked far better than the average eight year old’s drawing. It was certainly far better than anything he had done as an eight year old.

“It’s Victoria, Aurora, and Metang!” Lisia explained. “They’re all playing together! Just like you and your friends! Someday, I’m going to be strong like them, and I’m going to be a dazzling, dazzling Coordinator like you!“

Dazzling. Lisia really liked that word. She said it whenever she could. She really was a smart kid—always learning new things. She was going to do great things one day.

Wallace wrapped his arms around Lisia, holding her in a tight embrace as he leaned against the headboard. Lisia hugged him back. Wallace could feel the happiness radiating from her, but not even that could lift his spirits then.

“Lisia, can you promise me something?” Wallace said, voice grave. “Can you promise to not do anything to hurt yourself or make yourself sick? Can you promise to take care of yourself?”

“Sure I can!”

Wallace looked over at Victoria, who was resting her head on the bed and purring as Lisia pet her. Wallace reached his hand over so he could scratch her under the head.

"Can you promise me something?" Lisia asked.

"Of course. What is it?"

"Can you promise to do Contests with me? Just like you did with Juan! I think you're the best Coordinator ever!"

Wallace forced the best smile he could muster. “Of course I can, Lisia.”

Lisia beamed another smile before jumping off the bed and walking over to the dresser, where Wallace’s school bag was.

“Can I draw with you—”

“LISIA!”

Lisia froze at Wallace’s shout. Shit, he could already see the tears beginning to form in her eyes.

Wallace swallowed. “There’s… there’s a surprise in there that I don’t want you to see yet. I’m… I’m sorry for yelling at you.”

It hurt to lie to Lisia, but he couldn’t let her know what was in there. His textbooks? Those were fine; sometimes he would even let Lisia look through. Condoms? Those were a symbol of Wallace’s sin, his lecherous desires. And Lisia was too young to know about those sorts of things. The stimulants and sedatives? Those were from Mayor Megalos, but Mayor Megalos wasn’t a drug dealer or anything. He was giving them so Wallace could be functional, normal. It was like a doctor prescribing medication, not like a dealer handing out LSD. And besides, drug dealing and drug use was illegal, and in Sootopolis City, both were punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Duncan pushed the door open again. He looked up at Wallace and Lisia and made a confused noise.

Cute little Spheal. He didn’t care for battles or Contests, but he loved helping people: cheering up crying babies, playing with old people, and quelling arguments.

Wallace smiled at Lisia. “Why don’t we draw with Duncan?”

“Yay!” Lisia cheered, jumping up and clapping. Duncan also started clapping.

Wallace chuckled. “Why don’t you two go down to the kitchen? I’ll meet you there with my art supplies.”

Lisia nodded and skipped out of the room, Duncan rolling behind.

Wallace collapsed back in bed and stared up at the ceiling. What little happiness Lisia and Duncan had given him was draining away.

What would Lisia think if she found out her shining uncle on a shining pedestal was abusing drugs? What would she think if he died of an overdose or malnutrition? What would she think if he killed himself?

No. No. Even if Wallace did end up taking his own life, Lisia—no, nobody—could know it was a suicide. It would have to look like an accident. It would have to—

Victoria was staring at him. Shit, could she sense his negative thoughts?

Was he really contemplating suicide?
 
Last edited:
Chapter 5

Torchic W. Pip

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Panic attack, mentions of racism and queerphobia, body dysmorphia, mentions of purging and self harm, mentions of alcohol, suicidal ideation, emotional abuse

Wallace paced around the locker room, staring at his reflection in the locker room mirror as he did so. The light overhead was too much, the buzz of the radiator was too much…

He felt like he was dying.

It was his first swim meet in... well, a while. Panic attacks and migraines kept him from his duties on the swim team, and now that he was back, now that he was goodness knows much thinner, what was once an enjoyable hobby had become a metaphorical guillotine.

Most of the people on the Rustboro University swim team had far more muscular physiques than Wallace. Meanwhile, he was like a long twig. While he wasn’t into hyper-masculinity and was glad he leaned away from it, he hated how awkward he looked. He was a Coordinator. He wasn’t supposed to have bony looking arms and ribs sticking out. He tried hiding his body under long sleeved turtlenecks and dress pants. He knew he would have to change into his swim trunks soon (why did the swim uniform have to be swim trunks?), but he dreaded having to change. He dreaded having to show everyone his body.

He was already five minutes late to the meet. No one on the swim team liked him for one reason or another: because he spoke with a Sootopolitan accent, because he didn’t stand a chance against any of them in a fist fight, because he liked men, because he was one of those rebellious hippies, because of whatever else they could use against him. He couldn't remember all the names he had been called, and he certainly didn't want to repeat them. He couldn’t remember how many times he had gotten beaten up. He didn’t even get adrenaline rushes anymore; he was just exhausted.

He leaned against the lockers. Well, at least he knew to go into the locker room once everyone was gone. It was empty, but it was still too much. He was going to keel over any second. Part of him wanted to purge again, but the other part of him knew there wasn't anything left to purge. He thought about cutting his legs again. He thought about slamming his head against the lockers. He thought about—

Bzzz! Bzzz!

His Pokénav was buzzing with two notifications:

Winona and I haven't seen you yet

You okay?

- Steven

-

“You had better win this battle. The whole world is watching you.”

“That was a decent Contest, but it needs to be perfect. If you’re going to perform instead of study politics, at least be good at it.”

"Don’t wear that. You look like a stripper. People are going to think this city is a pornocracy.”

“You have a swim race today. People will be watching you. There might even be reporters. Don’t fail.”


Wallace was already failing Mayor Megalos’s order to not fail and not defy standards by wearing a full piece, long sleeved suit instead of the uniform. It hid his body, but it also made him stand out more.

Wallace ran into the natatorium. The rest of URC’s swim team was already there, along with Rootclaw Academy’s team.

Coach Alagona briskly stormed over to Wallace. He was somewhat shorter than Wallace despite being fifteen years older than him, and his messy, purple hair was held back with sunglasses. He had a slight tan from being in the sun often, and his face was red from anger.

“Where were you, Wallace? You missed warm ups, and you only have five minutes until the Individual Medley! And why aren’t you wearing your uniform?!”

“My apologies, Coach Alagona,” Wallace panted. “I did my laundry the other day, and I couldn’t find them.”

Alagona scowled, but he said, “Fine. Just get ready.”

Winona and Steven were sitting in the second row of bleachers just a few steps away from where Wallace was. He walked over to the two and waved.

Wallace sat down—or rather, collapsed—in between the two. “You two have anything interesting to talk about?”

“Are you doing okay?” Steven asked. “You look exhausted.”

“I ran all the way from here to my dorm and then back here. Of course I’m exhausted.”

“What are those bruises on your face?" Winona asked. She gasped as she saw the parts of Wallace’s arms uncovered by his suit. “And your arms?”

“I tripped.”

The sounds of people splashing in the people, talking, yelling... all of it felt empty in the seconds during which neither Wallace nor his companions spoke.

“Wallace,” Steven said gravely, “you’re not hurting yourself, are you?”

Shit.

“Of course not! What would possibly make you think that?!”

“Wallace, deep breaths.” Steven held Wallace’s hand. “We’re just worried about you. You’ve been pushing yourself a lot since becoming a Gym Leader and starting college. You’ve been drinking a lot, you haven’t really been taking care of yourself, you've been getting horrible migraines, you’ve been spending more and more time alone—”

“I’m fine.”

Wallace stood up—a bad idea, since a wave of dizziness almost immediately crashed over him and threatened to drag him to the floor—and walked over to the other swimmers. The 200 Metres Individual Medley was up next, anyway.

Wallace looked up at Winona and Steven. Before stepping onto the diving block, he forced himself to smile before giving them a thumbs up. He wished he could have given them a better apology.

In his head, Wallace went over the stroke order of the Individual Medley: Beautifly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle. Beautifly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle. Beautifly… backstroke… god, why did his head hurt so much? Why did he feel like he was going to puke?

“3… 2… 1… GO!”

The freezing cold waters shocked Wallace out of his half conscious state. He was too busy to dwell on how cold the water was. He had to win this race.

Before he knew it, Wallace reached the other end of the pool. The sudden switch from Beautifly to backstroke threw him off more than usual, and the backstroke itself felt more off than usual. Wallace felt himself losing focus…

...only for his head to hit the other end of the pool.

Even when the impact shocked him awake, Wallace was too dizzy to process his surroundings, save for the shouting of spectators, the splashing of water, and the fact that he seemed to be leaning against the edge of the pool. He soon realized how far behind the other racers he was. He couldn’t stop now, no matter how exhausted he was.

After giving his face a quick but hard slap, Wallace shot off the edge and swam faster than ever before.

What little focus remained was directed entirely towards catching up. Even when he reached the other end and spiraled into freestyle, he didn’t notice that he had caught up to the other swimmers, that he had surpassed them, that he had reached the other end, that he had won. It was only when the judge grabbed his arm and lifted it into the air did he realize people were cheering for him.

Everything was a blur, a blur of lights, flashes, cheers, and then screams.

-

He woke up on the pool deck. There were people staring down at him, including a medic. There were people talking or shouting. It was too much, especially when coupled with the haze still lingering in his mind. He thought he could see Steven and Winona, and he tried to reach for one of their hands. The flashes of light weren't helping his vision or state of consciousness.

“Is everything okay?” the medic asked.

“Sure I am... Sure I am...”

-

He was taken to the health office. Winona and Steven wanted to follow him in, but the medic kept them out, leaving Coach Alagona and Wallace alone in the room.

The fluorescent light made the baby blue walls and white, tiled floor even brighter. It was overwhelming, but at the same time, the room felt empty. Perhaps it was the silence. Perhaps it was Alagona’s stare: serious yet emotionless.

“Wallace,” he finally said, “at times, you are the greatest member of the swim team. You take first place. Your form is phenomenal. At your best, you guarantee that URC brings home gold.”

Alagona smiled, probably expecting Wallace to smile back. Wallace didn’t; he looked down at his feet. Making eye contact was only making him feel worse.

“At your worst,” Alagona sighed, “you're late to or even absent from meets and tournaments. You’re too tired to compete. You’re a gamble: Either the top of the charts or the bottom. As good as your best is…” Alagona sighed. “...I’m sorry Wallace, but I can’t risk it. Your skills are valuable, but not as valuable as your health. I’m going to need to ask that you take a break from the team and focus on yourself.”

Those words reached Wallace as “You’re a failure. You’re a disappointment. You don’t deserve to be here.” And then he heard Mayor Megalos’s voice: “You’ve failed your parents. You’ve failed Sootopolis City. You’ve failed me. I thought you were Sootopolis City’s pearl. You’re just a failure. You don't deserve to be here."

“Wallace?”

“I’m sorry, Coach Alagona.”

He stood up. Without making eye contact with Alagona, he opened the door and left.

Winona and Steven were waiting for him outside.

“Everything okay?” Steven asked.

“I need some time alone,” Wallace said softly.

“That doesn’t make it sound like—”

“I don’t ask you two such incessant questions about your goddamned scars. I don’t assume your injuries from wandering around caves are because you’re a cutter. If I was Winona, I wouldn’t assume I was an addict because I got drunk once. I’m not a cutter. I’m not an addict. I’m not a freak. I’m. Fine. Leave me alone.”

Silence. Shock. And then… and then regret.

Steven wasn’t the easiest person to read, but the way his eyes were so wide and his hands were shaking…

Wallace turned to Winona, who seemed just as shocked. No. No. No no no no no no this wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to snap at his two lovers.

“Winona?” Steven gasped. “What does he mean about…”

“I found him one night in his room. He was drunk and kept saying how he—”

He’d had enough.

Wallace stormed away from the two. “If you two want to speculate on my private life like the tabloids, go ahead. Just do it without me in the room.”

“Wallace!”

He ignored Winona’s plea and kept walking.

-

He only felt regret when he got back to his dorm, but it was… angry regret. He was angry that he had gotten mad at them.

Bzzz! Bzzz!

His Pokénav.

They want to break up with you.

Reluctantly, Wallace picked up the Pokénav and checked his texts.

15 minutes ago - 20 new messages from: Steven

They want to break up with you.

Hi Wallace

Hope you’re doing okay

Winona told me about that night

We’re worried about you

I don’t want you to do anything to yourself

Wallace please say something

I’m so sorry

I love you Wallace

Winona loves you

You have a family

Your Pokémon love you

Wallace they wouldn’t be the same without you

None of us would

Shit don’t feel pressured to respond right away btw

O understand

*I

I understand

Just respond soon

Are you still there

Wallace?

- Steven

Wallace couldn’t muster the energy to respond.
 
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Chapter 6

Torchic W. Pip

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Content warnings: Mentions of drugs and drug abuse, slut shaming, mentions of eating disorders and restrictive eating, mentions of sexual harassment, mentions of setting up people below the age of consent with people above it (i.e. a 16 year old with a 30 year old) with the intent on marriage when both parties are of legal age. Don't know what to tag that as, but it's squicky. There's also graphic depictions of physical and emotional abuse.

Mayor Megalos’s office was white. Stark white. White walls, white floors, white desk, white chair. It fit in with the white and blue architecture of Sootopolis City, even without any blue. In other circumstances, it probably would have been what Wallace imagined what the offices of Archangels looked like—ethereal yet homely. But in the given circumstances, it was far less welcoming and more intimidating, like a pristine altar that couldn’t be damaged, dirtied, or touched. Wallace felt like his presence in the room was a dirty stain on the clean room in and of itself.

Mayor Megalos was sitting up straight in his chair, hands clasped together on the table as he stared at Wallace. Mayor Megalos was old enough to be Wallace's dad, but his graying brown hair and wrinkles made him look closer to a grandfather. Sure, Wallace was taller, but speaking from both appearance and Wallace's own experience, the older and far more heavyset man was big enough in size and muscle to overpower Wallace by pinning him against a wall, or slapping him, or grabbing him and dragging him around like an angry child dragging a doll behind them.

Mayor Megalos's verbal power matched his physical power. Through tone or emotional appeal, he could make Wallace do whatever was needed: attend parties until four in the morning running on nothing but caffeine pills or other stimulants, skip Contests so he could takes on Gym challengers, date 30 year old women when he was 16... sure, Wallace sometimes resisted: he chose who he gave his heart to, he chose what he wore, he chose what he did and didn't eat. It was his only stability. It was his only control. And no matter how hard Mayor Megalos tried, no matter how hard he punched, he couldn’t take that away from Wallace.

“I have some matters to discuss with you regarding past and future events.”

Wallace nodded. His legs felt shaky, and his head was spinning. He wanted to sit down, but even if there was a chair for him to sit in, he knew that Mayor Megalos would look down on him for showing weakness. Understandable: weakness wouldn’t save Sootopolis City from ruin. Only perfection would.

So he stood in front of Mayor Megalos’s desk as perfectly as he could.

“I heard that you won this week’s swim relay… only to pass out and get kicked off the team. I’m disappointed, Wallace.” Mayor Megalos's stone-like eyes barely blinked. Wallace could stare into them; they were smooth and sharp enough to cut into his skin.

“I also heard you lost a Gym match.”

“I won the one after—”

“Don’t talk back to me. Losses reflect poorly on you and the city. It’s a miracle that we got to keep the Gym after your father croaked. If it wasn’t for Juan, you wouldn’t be here.”

“I’m sorry—”

“It’s too late for ‘sorry’, Wallace! Don’t you care for Sootopolis City?! Don’t you care for yourself?!”

Wallace's gaze fell to the floor. “I’ll do better.”

“You’d better do better.”

“Is that all you needed to—“

Mayor Megalos slammed a fist on his desk, sending the pencils on it shaking to the floor. "Stop being a lazy smartass with me, Wallace!"

See what happens when you try to stand up for yourself, bitch? Stop it. Just smile and nod. That's all you're good for. Smiling and nodding and being pretty and perfect. You can drown out your inner sorrows later. Just get through this meeting.

“Tomorrow," Mayor Megalos continued as he relaxed back in his chair, "I will be hosting a dinner party at Juan’s estate. The wealthiest and most important of Sootopolitan, Hoennese, and the larger Hinodejin society will be there. I want you to attend, and I want you to take part in an exhibition match against Cerulean City’s Gym Leader.”

Wallace wasn’t stupid; by “want”, Mayor Megalos meant “you had better do these things or else I’ll make sure you regret it”. Even still, Ren Mizutani was at best a controversial and at worst accused of several crimes.

“Ren Mizutani?” Wallace asked. “I’ve heard about her." He gulped. "Another Water type Gym Leader, is she not? Why her, out of all the Gym Leaders? Aren't you worried about her reputation?"

Mayor Megalos rolled his eyes, tapping his fingers like an approaching drum. "Ren is the strongest Gym Leader in Kanto. What 'reputation' are you talking about?"

"DUIs, unpleasant treatment of employees, harassment—"

"If she's a strong trainer in Kantonian high society, does it matter?" When he didn't get a response, Mayor Megalos slammed his hand on the table and stood up. "Does it matter?!?!"

"N-no, of course not!"

Mayor Megalos grabbed Wallace's shirt collar and jerked him forward. Wallace stumbled onto the desk. Mayor Megalos's eyes were aglow with fury.

“I want you to clean up your act before the match," Mayor Megalos hissed through gritted teeth. "I don’t want you losing and making an ass out of yourself and the city. You make an ass out of yourself enough with everything you do."

"Mayor Megalos... please... I'm sorry for—Hhk!"

Mayor Megalos twisted his hand, choking Wallace in an iron grip that kept him from speaking. Adrenaline rushed into Wallace’s body, but logically, he wasn’t surprised this was happening. This had happened before without Wallace dying. He wouldn’t die this time.

…Right?

“And one more thing: I want you to look your best. I want you to look respectable. Don’t look like a prostitute. Don’t look like a drug addict. Don’t look like a sad little Cubone who lost his mommy. Don't you know that Sootopolitans don't cry?"

This was just like every other encounter with anyone: just smile and nod, smile and nod, smile and nod. Would that be enough to please Mayor Megalos? Would that be enough to please Mayor Megalos?

It was. Mayor Megalos let go of Wallace, who had to catch himself with his arm before his head crashed into the desk. Panting, Wallace had to catch his breath and consciousness for a few moments. He felt around his neck for any marks left behind. He didn't want anyone thinking Winona or Steven or someone was abusing him. Luckily, his scarf was in his bag; he could easily hide his neck. If word got out about any bruises, Winona or Nicole or someone else would be accused of abuse. Wallace didn't want that. He wasn't being abused by anyone. He was just being put in his place.

"Now go." Mayor Megalos sat back down, his face expressionless. "And get your act together by tomorrow night. You have your… medicine, don’t you? Use that. And be at Juan’s estate by seven o’clock. Sharp.”

Wallace stood up straight, smiled, nodded, and bowed.

"Yes sir. Thank you sir." He opened the door to the office and bowed. "Goodbye sir."

This duty was his birthright. Countless Sootopolitans, especially most of his cousins, would do anything to be in his position. His ancestors had given up so much—sometimes their lives—so Wallace could have this position and carry on Sootopolis City's legacy. He had to stand up to the waves that would try to bring it down, either physically or culturally or socially or politically or whatever. He had to be its shining, guiding star, and shining, guiding stars were perfect. The people were staring up at him, and the gods were staring down at him: Wallace Izumi Papadakis, Gym Leader of Sootopolis City, guardian of Sootopolis City, priest of Sootopolis City, Lorekeeper of Sootopolis City. His outer shell had to be perfect. His inner self and desires and well being didn’t matter. He had to be perfect for Sootopolis City's past, present, and future, and that sometimes meant dealing with unpleasant things, such as Mayor Megalos.

So what if he had to use drugs to stay awake or fall asleep or stay sane? He never overdosed save the blackout drinking, and he wasn't an addict or dealer. So what if he had to discipline himself with starving and purging? It wasn’t like it was an eating disorder; it was more akin to an extended Nisteía. So what if he had to cut and hit himself? Just a bit of makeup, and there, he looked perfect again.

So what if Mayor Megalos yelled at him? So what if Mayor Megalos sometimes got physical with him? So what if Mayor Megalos all but encouraged old, rich socialites to flirt with Wallace, touch him, try to coerce him into having sex with them despite his protests...

This was his duty. This was his duty.
 
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Chapter 7

Torchic W. Pip

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Drug abuse, panic attack, mentions of purging, arguing

Wallace could barely tie his necktie with his hands shaking so much.

He wasn’t really a “suit and tie” sort of person, but he had to look pristine, presentable, perfect for this party. Everyone would be watching him, and he couldn’t make a fool of Sootopolis City, Mayor Megalos, or himself.

At the very least, his white dress shirt and dark blue pants could hide his bony torso, his gaunt limbs, and the bruises and cuts all over his body. Foundation, especially unnoticeable foundation, would hide the circles under his eyes. Sure, it would draw attention to his bloodshot eyes, but at least he could hide one problem.

He had barely been able to get himself out of bed by three in the afternoon. He had caffeine pills—in his dorm room, but inhaling an Awakening would work just fine to keep him from collapsing from exhaustion, and he had a few appetite suppressants in his travel bag. He wasn't hungry. He was just nervous.

But he still needed to straighten the creases and folds of his shirt. He still needed to arrive on time. Most of all, he still really, really needed to stop his spinning thoughts, his racing heart, his shaking hands. He thought about purging his fears. He thought about loosening up by sneaking up some wine from the cabinet downstairs. He thought about—

“Uncle Wall?”

Lisia had opened the door to the guest bedroom. She was holding a big box of crayons—a box Wallace had given to her for her birthday.

“Are you okay, Uncle Wall?”

Wallace took a deep breath in. As he exhaled, he forced a soft smile.

“Of course I am. I’m going to a party. Parties are… fun.”

Lisia’s smiled back, radiant as a rainbow.

“Do you wanna draw with me before the party?”

Wallace nodded. Maybe engaging in something he loved—art and his family—would help him calm down. Maybe it would be a better, easier alternative to vomiting or alcohol.

-

“I like crayons, Uncle Wall!”

“I do too.”

“I’m going to draw mommy and daddy and Vicky and Goldie and…” Lisia waved her crayon around like a wand, then pointed it across the table and towards Wallace. “...you!”

Wallace couldn’t help but laugh. He looked over at Joan, who was sitting next to him.

“But what about Joan?”

Lisia held up a drawing of the Swanna. “Already did! I want you to give it to Megalos!”

Wallace took the drawing. After a second of hesitation and thought, he folded it and put it in his pocket.

"I'm sure he'll love it," Wallace lied through the most happy smile he could muster. Maybe Mayor Megalos would like it. Mayor Megalos had a family: a wife and two sons. Maybe he would like a pretty piece of art from Wallace's own family. Maybe... Maybe Mayor Megalos would smile, say 'thank you', say he was proud of Wallace for everything he did.

“Why don’t you draw too?” Lisia asked.

Wallace snapped out of his thoughts. Well, maybe Mayor Megalos would like some art from Wallace himself, too.

“Well... I suppose I have time for a quick drawing…”

For just a brief moment, Wallace managed to keep his hand from shaking as he picked up a light pink crayon—coral pink, to be exact.

Lisia hummed to herself as she continued drawing pictures of Water and Ice type Pokémon.

She certainly takes after her mother, Wallace thought.

Speaking of Lisia’s mother, Nicole was preparing dinner alongside Raphael. Every so often, they would look over at Wallace and Lisia, smiling and whispering about how cute they were. Wallace smiled for them. He was happy. He was happy. He was happy. He didn't even have to lie to himself anymore. He was happy. He was happy. He was—

Shit. He had made the heart shape of his Luvdisc drawing too sharp. Luckily, it was small enough that he could simply cross it out and try again. Maybe he could make the patch of pink into something later.

The phone rang. Raphael nodded to his wife before walking over and answering the call.

“Hello, Raphael speaking… Yes, she’s here. One second.” He looked up. “Honey, someone named Steven is on the phone.”

Wallace's heart stopped. “Steven?”

“I’m sure everything is okay.” Nicole beamed a smile at Wallace before taking the call. “Hi Steven, this is Nicole…”

Wallace distracted himself from his returning fear by going back to drawing.

He tried again to draw a Luvdisc. Still not perfect. He tried again. Still not perfect. He tried again. And again. And again and again and again and—

Snap.

His hand froze in place as the crayon split in two. His hand stayed still for a few seconds. Then it started shaking.

He ripped the paper apart.

“Uncle Wall?”

Wallace stood up and stormed out of the kitchen. He could hear his sister calling for him, but he ignored her.

He slammed the door behind him and stomped down the stairs.

“Wallace—”

“I’M FINE!”

His breathing was ragged, and his hands were shaking as he clutched his unkempt hair. He let them fall to his side as he realized that he was standing at the bottom of the stairs, and Nicole was standing in the doorway, staring at him with terrified eyes. Well, at least he wasn’t a complete mess; he had put on his shoes for the party.

“What happened?” Nicole gasped. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. Nothing’s wrong. I have that dinner to go to, and I have to leave now—”

“Wallace, you don’t have to go to it. If you want to stay and talk about whatever is going on at work or—”

“I don’t. I have to. Now."

Joan was standing next to Nicole. She shared Nicole’s concern, and she cocked her head in confusion.

“Come on, Joan,” Wallace ordered quietly. “We have to leave... I said we need to leave!"

"Wallace, what is going on?" Nicole pleaded.

Anger joined the fear in Wallace’s blood. What had Steven said about him? Joan still wasn’t coming. What had Winona said about him? What had everyone else said about him?

“Joan. Now.”

Joan hesitated for a moment. Eventually, she stepped past Nicole and walked over to Wallace. He climbed onto her, and with a flap of her wings, she flew off.

Wallace felt a sinking sense of guilt in his heart as Joan flew higher. He had snapped at Steven and Winona. He had snapped at Nicole. He had snapped at Joan.

"I'm sorry, Joan." He could apologize to Joan, but it was too late to apologize to Nicole. It was too late to apologize to Steven or Winona. It was too late to apologize to everyone.
 
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Chapter 8

Torchic W. Pip

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Dissociation, depersonalization, slut shaming, alcohol abuse, purging, eating disorders, panic attack, emotional and physical abuse, internalized slut shaming and queerphobia, and purging mistaken for a suicide attempt.

This chapter also contains depictions of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Sebastian, Juan's butler, opened the door to Juan’s estate. The evening air was bitterly cold, and the person standing in the doorway was smiling, but shivering.

“Wallace! Welcome.” Sebastian was concerned: Wallace's blue blazer wasn't enough to protect him from the February cold, and with how thin he was, there certainly wasn't much his body could do to keep him warm.

“Good evening, Sebastian.” There was a smile on Wallace’s face, and his posture was straight, but there was no emotion, no life in his voice.

"You look unwell, Wallace. Are you sure—"

"I'm fine."

Wallace walked inside the estate. The entrance hall was grand and glorious: gold-cream walls and Ionic pillars reached for the fresco above, which depicted the Runekyō myth of Arousésou giving humanity the eighteen plates that they would use to paint their masterpieces. As a child apprenticing under Juan, Wallace would always ask questions about the mural: the story behind it, the painter who painted it, the techniques they used.

But now? Now all of that curiosity was gone. Now that curious child was just an empty, broken shell.

-

Wallace’s mind was numb, but his body continued forward.

He didn’t register his surroundings until he stopped in front of Megalos. Main hall. Bright white and gold light. Paintings of nautical life on the walls. A wall of tall mirrors. White tablecloths. String music. People. Lots of people. Tables with bottles of wine and liquor laid out. Megalos staring at him and not smiling.

“You’re five minutes late.”

“I’m sorry.” Wallace didn’t feel his smile fall. It was a miracle that he still had the energy to keep it up.

Megalos smiled, grabbed Wallace’s shoulders, turned him towards the mirror wall, smiled, smiled, smiled.

“See? You look better when you smile.”

Wallace stared at his reflection. All he could think was What is that?

-

He talked to Ren about something. They talked about... Water types. Occasionally, Ren would make comments that made Wallace uncomfortable. How he looked better in person than in the magazines. How cute he was when he smiled. How hot he was for a teen. Did he have any “experience”.

Wasn't Ren married? No wait, divorced. Didn't she have four children? Oh well.

He could speak without thinking. He was Wallace. Wallace knew how to speak to people. Wallace knew how to act in front of people. Wallace knew how to perform perfectly to people.

Was he Wallace? He didn't feel connected to himself. He didn't feel connected to the reflection he had seen in the mirror. He didn’t feel connected to anything.

Ren was watching him. Megalos was watching him. Everyone was watching him. And if he messed up in any way…

As Megalos watched the conversation, he nodded. He didn’t smile anymore. He stood close to Wallace. Too close. Ren was close. Too close.

Why wasn’t Megalos calling Ren a slut? He would attack Winona for doing so much as look at Wallace, and here was Ren saying things Winona would never think of saying without so much as a scoff.

“Well?” Megalos hissed into Wallace’s ear, sending wracking shivers through Wallace’s body.

“What… what do you mean by that?” Wallace whispered back.

“Does she seem like a good wife?”

“I… Yes. She seems like a good wife.”

No. Wallace didn’t want to marry Ren. He didn’t want to marry her. He didn’t want to marry her. He was sick of being set up with women twice his age. He was sick of being set up with women who at best only saw him as a sex toy and at worst a freak because of his gender or sexuality or—

…Was this event all just a plot to set up the two?

The fragile pillars began to crumble, and everything fell into place.

Ren’s words started blending together. They made less and less sense. It was getting harder and harder to breathe.

Wallace’s legs started shaking. His heart pounded in his chest as thoughts ate away at his mind. He felt like he was going to pass out or throw up. Either thing happening would be imperfect. Terrible. Terrible terrible imperfect imperfect imperfect terrible imperfect imperfect imperfect imperfect.

Don't you dare leave. Don't you dare make an ass of yourself you stupid stupid—

“Excuse me one moment, Ms. Mizutani.”

-

No matter how hard he stabbed his finger down his throat, no matter how deep he stabbed, no matter how hard he tried, Wallace couldn’t bring up more than a thin string of mucus and bile.

He stumbled back to his feet and collapsed against the wall. He felt worse. His stomach was sore from unproductive gagging. His throat ached from relentless attacks. He felt like he was dying. Was he really going to die such an undignified death?

Someone was banging on the door to the bathroom.

“Wallace!” Megalos shouted. “Don’t tell me you’re sick!”

“Don’t worry, I’m—”

As soon as the door opened, Megalos grabbed Wallace and dragged him by the necktie.

"I don't know why I chose you to be Sootopolis City's guardian and Gym Leader? Why can't you be like Juan? Why can't you be like your father? Why can't you be normal?"

With one last tug, Megalos threw Wallace into a small dining room and against a table.

Panting, Wallace shakily stood back up and looked over at Megalos. No one else was there.

Red room styled after Kalosian châteaux. Red rugs. Red drapes. Red furniture. Red. The color of love. The color of wine. The color of blood. The color of anger. The color of a lot of things, like the things swirling through Wallace’s head. None of them were red things, though, only black and white and gray: exhaustion, fear, despair…

Lisia.

Lisia’s drawing.

Sorry wouldn’t save Wallace, but maybe…

"I wanted to give you something my niece made for you." With a smile, Wallace stood up and took Lisia's drawing out of his pocket. He held it out to Megalos, hoping he would take it, see it, admire it, smile at it, smile at Wallace.

Megalos didn’t even give it a second glance. He walked towards the door, saying "I'll go find Ren. You two can continue your conversation from earlier."

-

Alcohol. Strong smell. Strong taste. Strong effects. Wallace was one year below the drinking age. Did he care? No. Did anyone around him care? No.

Nothing was stopping him from drinking. Hell, if he wanted to, he could drink a whole bottle of wine. No one was in the small dining room Megalos had brought him to. The doors were closed. No one else was there. Maybe he would stop panicking inside. Maybe he would be able to smile genuinely. Maybe someone would slip something in his drink so he could be completely numbed or maybe even—

Someone wrapped an arm around his back. A woman. Probably in her early 40’s. Red hair. Fair skin. Blue eyes. Clearly drunk.

Ren.

“Hey babe.”

Wallace couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want a woman over twice his age flirting with him. He didn't want to be touched so suggestively, not now, not with this woman. He wanted to be left alone.

Ren creeped her arm lower, wrapping her leg and other arm around him. "Look at the lucky lady who gets to play with a sexy little Coordinator, and no less than Sootopolis City's special boy. I'd love to get you loosened up some more so I can have a good time. Maybe we could go to my hotel room... or we could do it here."

I don't want either. I don't want either.

Megalos entered the room. Wallace stared up at him, desperate for someone, anyone to save him.

"Come on, Wallace. I thought you were the Gym Leader. I thought you were an entertainer. Aren't you going to entertain our guest? Aren’t you going to entertain your fiancée?”

Fiancée? Fiancée?!

Megalos turned his back, left the room, and shut the door behind him.

Wallace was choking. His tie and collar felt too tight. He wanted to scream. He wanted to scream or cry or even just say something . But he couldn’t. He felt like a doll cursed with sentience and stillness, a doll Megalos had thrown away when he had gotten bored, a doll that anyone was free to play with however they wanted.

Maybe he deserved this. Maybe he deserved this for dressing the way he dressed, being pansexual and polyamorous, being a dirty slut. Maybe he deserved this for not being a good Water type trainer like Ren, for not being a good Gym Leader like Ren, for not being a good protector of Sootopolis City, for not being perfect.

Maybe this was all Wallace was worth to the world. Maybe he was just a toy. Maybe he was just a puppet to be pulled around at other peoples’ needs or pleasure. Maybe he was just meant to be used. Maybe he had no real worth as a person. Maybe he—

“GET OFF OF HIM!”

That shout was all that echoed in Wallace’s mind for a second. Or minute. Or hour. He didn’t remember. Then Juan was standing over him. A Kingdra guarded them—Ruisseau. That name came up in Wallace’s mind. Ren screaming as she was taken away. Juan yelling at Megalos. Megalos yelling at Juan. Yelling. Too much. Too much. Too much.

Somehow, Wallace got the freedom and energy to run.

"Wallace, wait!"

-

Wallace was in Juan’s bathroom. Too bright. Too big. Too elaborate. Too much.

His smile was gone. His stillness was gone. He was shaking. Panting. Only one thing assured him that he was still conscious and alive and sane: he was trying to open a bottle with hands that could barely hold it.

He needed to open it. He needed to open it. He needed to—

“WALLACE!”

Juan grabbed Wallace’s wrists. The bottle fell to the floor and shattered. The label was still intact: ipecac syrup.

Silence. Deathly silence. Wallace looked down at the bottle. He hadn’t stopped shaking.

“I wasn’t trying to kill myself.” His voice was shaking. “I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I want to kill myself, but I don’t want to kill myself, and I wasn’t, wasn’t trying to kill myself.”

“What were you doing with ipecac syrup?” Juan paused. “You’re not making yourself sick to control your weight, are you?”

“It’s not about weight. It’s not about weight. It’s not about body image. I hate how I can’t swim or take off my clothes without seeing my ribs sticking out from under my skin. I hate how I can’t eat around other people without feeling like I’m going to die. I hate having to taste vomit everyday. I hate having to go to the dentist every week. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.”

Juan let go of Wallace’s wrists. Wallace almost fell over, but Juan grabbed him into a hug.
 
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Chapter 9

Torchic W. Pip

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Delirium, aftermath of sexual harassment/assault, blood, and Wallace spilling all of his drug abuse, disordered eating, suicidal ideation, and mental health issues, along with his stomach contents

He was in bed. Juan’s bed. Maybe. He was starting to forget things.

He thought he could feel Juan loosening the grip the tie and collar had around his neck. He still couldn’t breathe. He thought he could hear Juan and Megalos arguing outside of the room. It was all echoey noise. He thought he could see Victoria. Joan also seemed to be there. She was… comforting Victoria? He thought he could hear a door open and close. Echoey noise. He thought he saw someone sit next to him.

“Wallace, can you sit up?”

Juan.

Wallace took a few seconds to muster the strength to shake his head. Juan lifted Wallace’s head up and propped him up against a pillow. There was a bowl of soup on the nightstand.

“I’m sorry for not letting her—”

“Wallace, Wallace, Wallace, you didn’t do anything wrong. Do you understand? You didn’t do anything wrong.” Softness. Unwarranted softness.

“But I wasn’t a perfect host! I wasn’t a perfect Gym Leader! I wasn’t a perfect protector! I wasn’t a perfect Coordinator. I wasn't a perfect anything… ever. I’m an anorexic, slutty, Spinda’d, cutting freak. I don’t deserve to replace you in the Gym. I don’t deserve to protect Sootopolis City. I don’t deserve to be alive.”

Silence again. Silence that let Wallace—in his half conscious, feverishly delirious state—realize what he had just done. His throat was burning. His eyes were stinging. His heart was either beating too fast or not beating at all.

“Juan, I’m not… I didn’t…”

“Wallace, Steven and Winona called me and Nicole about your drinking and potential self injuring behavior, but… how… how long have you been drinking and starving yourself?”

Wallace didn’t want to look at Juan. He already knew that his mentor was ashamed. He knew he was disgusted. He knew he was… crying? Crying from shame?

“Starving started sixteen,” Wallace finally responded. “Purging eighteen. First binge drink maybe three months later. LSD and marijuana one week after that. Started cutting and hitting somewhere sometime.”

Hands on his sleeve. Unbuttoning the cuff. Making the tight shackle a bit looser. Juan staring at bruises and cuts. Juan staring at the cuts on Wallace’s knuckles. Juan staring at Wallace’s neck. The bruises on Wallace’s neck.

No. No. No no no no no no no no NO NO NO NO NO—

He felt Juan hug him. No. Juan would never hurt Wallace. Juan would never hurt Wallace. His touch was safe. His touch was safe.

“Wallace, I care about you. There are so many people who care about you. To see you like this, to see you suffering so much… I’ll never fully understand your pain. I’ll never feel the true weight and toll of it, but I will do everything in my power to try to bring you some relief from it. I’ll do everything in my power to help you out of this darkness. And you're not a failure. You're not a failure. You're not a failure.”

Juan let go of Wallace and smiled.

“Master, I’m sorry for refusing Ren’s advances. I should have—"

“Oh Wallace... If you aren't comfortable with something, you have every right to turn it down. And if someone still tries to force themselves on you—”

“But I never said no. I never said no. I never said—”

“Did you say yes?”

“I couldn’t say anything.”

“Wallace, if you did not give your consent, then it is not your fault. It’s Ren’s fault. Do you understand that?”

Wallace didn’t understand. He couldn’t understand. But he didn’t want to be hung up on this anymore. It made him scared. It made him sick.

"I'm sorry for breaking the bottle."

Juan’s expression softened. "In times before you were born, ipecac syrup was used to make people vomit after swallowing poison, but then people realized that self induced vomiting is far less effective than other methods of poison treatment, and that, in fact, it does more harm than good. I should have gotten rid of that bottle years ago.”

Juan took the bowl of soup.

“Wallace, I want you to try to eat. I know you aren’t feeling your best, but I promise that eating something will make you feel better.”

After some hesitation, Wallace accepted a spoonful of the soup. His throat and stomach immediately regretted it.

“I’m going to call your sister about the disordered—”

Wallace bolted upright. “Juan. Please. Don't.”

“Wallace, your sister loves you, and she’ll help you through this.”

“I don’t need help. I need to go back to the party.”

“You’re in no condition to be—”

“I’ll die if I can’t be perfect!”

It was all too much. Too much. Too much. Wallace hid his face in his hand. He couldn’t cry. Sootopolitans didn’t cry. Sootopolitans didn’t cry. Sootopolitans didn’t cry.

Too late. The floodgates had opened.

His sobbing was quiet. Shaky breaths. Hot tears falling on his lap. His heart felt hot with shame. But it also felt good to finally, finally cry.

He buried his face in Juan’s coat, and Juan wrapped his arms around him—tightly, in a comforting way. Wallace felt safe. Care for. Loved.

His sobs became coughs. Choking, it seemed.

Wallace pushed Juan away and vomited. He tried to cover his mouth, but that only coated his hand in wine, undigested broth, bile, and…

…blood.
 
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Chapter 10

Torchic W. Pip

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Delirium, hospitals, needles, IVs, dissociation, depersonalization, suicidal ideation, mentions of drug abuse and eating disorders, vomiting

Silence. Silence save his racing heart. Silence save the expanse of the ocean.

Juan came back. Other people too. Blurry in the thick water.

Questions. Questions he couldn’t answer. Maybe he did. He couldn’t understand his own response. He was taken from the bed and put in another one. It moved.

Gold light. Coral pink. Gold. Light yellow.

Black. Darkness. The depths of the ocean.

Red. Red. Red. Blue. Red. Blue. Red blue red blue red blue red blue rebureburebureburebureburebubububububu. Talking. Shouting. Questions. Faces.

White.

People surrounding him.

Stinging on his arm.

Screaming.

Sitting up. Bitter, slimy liquid burning his throat. Blood. Someone holding a bag under his mouth. More liquid. More blood. Someone putting something on his mouth.

Eyes. Hands. Fingers. Watching. Pointing.

Fading.

Drowning.

Dying.

White.

Blinding white light.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The white light turned into white squares. There was a humming or buzzing sound. There were also those beeps. Those persistent beeps.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Nicole was sitting in a chair next to his bedside. She hugged Wallace. He could hear her softly sobbing.

"Mikouri... Chília syngnómi..."

Wallace didn't speak. He didn't hug his sister back. He just stared into nothing. A heaviness overtook him. He didn’t want to be touched. But Nicole was safe. Nicole was safe.

He saw a nurse standing near the door.

"Nicole," she said. She made a beckoning gesture with her hand. Wallace was left alone as the two woman talked about something:

"Traumatic... temporary aphasia... a while to..."

Wallace sat up. He needed water. He tried to stand up. But then he saw the IVs on his arm.

Blinding white light.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

There was no one in the room when Wallace woke up again.

He tried standing up again. He was careful not to look at his arm. He grabbed the IV drip stand and shifted his weight from the bed to his feet.

He almost fell over when he did.

He leaned on the bed for support and slowly began walking. He stopped using the bed as a crutch when he opened the door.

The wall became his companion. He aimlessly walked down the hall. He found the restroom.

He needed water.

There was a yucky smell. Mildew. The lights were bright. His throat tasted like death. He grabbed the edge of one of the sinks. He was breathing heavily. He tried to reach a hand to turn on the sink. His eyes caught a glimpse of the mirror above it.

A turquoise-haired shell of a person. Sunken, bloodshot eyes. Pasty, bruised skin stretched over nothing but bones.

What is that thing?

Blinding white light.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Wallace was starting to think he was trapped in purgatory, maybe even hell. At least he woke up feeling less like… he was dead. Maybe he wasn’t dead.

Damn it.

The nurse was there with a Gardevoir, and Wallace seemed to be sitting against the bed, not laying down.

“Wallace, I understand the need to be independent, but if you need to use the bathroom, you have to tell me. I don’t want you hurting yourself.” She handed Wallace a notepad and pen. “If you can’t speak yet, you can use this.”

Wallace stared at the blue lines printed onto the yellow paper. After some hesitation, he began writing:

I want to see Juan.

-

Juan came into the room a few minutes later. After a short, quiet exchange with the nurse, he walked over to the bed and sat in the chair next to it.

His eyes were red and wet, but he smiled after a few seconds.

“How are you doing, my friend?”

Wallace stared at Juan. For almost a minute, the only sound in the room was the buzzing and the beeping. Wallace wanted to strangle the stupid beeping machine. Wallace wanted to strangle himself. Why was he here? Why had Steven and Winona snitched? Why hadn’t he said no to Ren? Why hadn’t he just listened to Megalos?

"Wallace—“

“Why didn’t you let me die?”

Juan froze at Wallace's whispered question. He shook his head, tears returning to his eyes.

“Wallace… why would you say—”

“Why did you have to save me?!” Wallace’s voice was raspy, and it hurt to speak, but that didn’t stop him from shouting and sitting up. “You could have let me be put out of my misery! You could have let someone replace me, someone who’s actually fit to be guardian and Lorekeeper and Gym Leader and whatever else I need to be!”

“Wallace—”

"I DON'T DESERVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE ANYMORE! I LOST THAT RIGHT A LONG TIME AGO! I DON'T HAVE ANY WORTH OR VALUE THAT GIVES ME THE RIGHT TO... to... to..."

Wallace’s face fell into his hands as he started sobbing. Juan reached his arms out to hug him, but Wallace weakly tried to push him away.

“Wallace, every human and Pokémon is born with equal, intrinsic value. No one and nothing can take that value away. No matter what. Do you understand that?"

"No..."

"Wallace, when you were born, did the doctors tell your parents 'you have created a child with no worth'?"

"...No..."

"Do you think that worth has faded as you've grown older?"

"Yes."

"What makes you think that?"

"I'm not a strong enough trainer," Wallace gasped in between sobs. "I'm a failure to Megalos and Sootopolis City, I'm a drug user, I'm an alcoholic, a purger, an anorexic—"

"But you're also a wonderful partner, if Steven and Winona's word is to go by. And I believe it is. And do you really think you have no worth to your sister, your brother in law, your niece, your Pokémon, or me?"

Wallace looked up at Juan. "I mean something to you?"

Juan chuckled a little. "Of course you do, Wallace. Why would you ever think otherwise?"

"I'm not a good Gym Leader... and I'm not good enough for Megalos."

"Am I Megalos?"

"Well... no."

Juan smiled. "That's my so—boy. That’s my boy.”
 
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Chapter 11

Torchic W. Pip

Bravo Echo Tango Alpha
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Overstimulation, panic attacks, arguments, past death by suicide, suicidal ideation, overstimulation, discussions of sexual assault, discussions of emotional and physical abuse, discussions of eating disorders and drug abuse.

"Steven, Juan just called. Wallace is in the hospital. Something... Something happened."

"Has Wallace ever done drugs?"

"Has Wallace ever shown depressive or anxious symptoms?"


"Has Wallace ever expressed thoughts of suicide?"

“Sir?”

Steven jumped. The receptionist was staring at him, so he forced the memories to the back of his head and offered her an apologetic smile.

“I’m here to see Wallace Papadakis.”

Steven stood even straighter as he stared at the receptionist. He held the box in his arms like a baby.

The receptionist nodded at Steven’s request. She then reached for the telephone, her brown, curly ponytail bouncing with every movement. It was satisfying, almost soothing, to watch them. Steven didn't want to look like a creep for staring at someone, but he needed something to calm him down, and stimming wasn't an option unless he wanted to draw confused glances towards him. He was already risking it by being a Champion visiting someone in a hospital. He didn't need anyone knowing that the Champion had problems.

The last 48 hours had been a nightmare of shock and fear and anger and panic. You could have lost him. His Pokémon and father couldn't even touch him, because everything was so overstimulating. You could have lost him. You could have lost him. You could have lost him. Too many thoughts and fears were running through his head. You could have lost him. You could have lost him. YOU COULD HAVE LOST HIM LIKE YOU LOST HER.

Things were getting better, better enough for Steven to eat and sleep. Ren was facing justice eventually, and Wallace was stable enough to have visitors. But even still, things weren't completely okay yet. The date of Ren’s trial was still undecided, and Wallace still wasn’t okay. Wallace could have killed himself.

The bright fluorescent lights above were making the clicking of heels on linoleum, the squeaking of wheels rolling, the opening and closing of doors—

“Your name?” the receptionist asked.

“Ah!” Steven blinked a few times to ground himself back in reality. “Uh… Steven Stone.”

The receptionist nodded and turned back to the phone. “It’s Steven Stone…Mm-hm. I’ll tell him.” She put down the phone and looked up at Steven, smiling. “You can visit him." She handed him a clipboard. "Just fill out these forms and I'll fill out your ID tag.”

-

The hospital room was just a bit dimmer than the halls outside. Good.

Wallace must have been wearing makeup or something for the past few years, because when Steven entered his room, he looked… Well, from the way Wallace was slouching as he sat on the edge of the sagging bed and the way he stared at Steven with glazed, bloodshot eyes, he looked like he needed first a good meal, second a hug, and third a long nap. One of those would be easier for Steven to give than the other.

“Hey, Wallace.” Steven placed his box on a table against the wall. “Um… Do you want a hug?” he asked. Perhaps that was too… sudden for him to ask, but what else was Steven supposed to say, “Hey love, I heard you almost got raped by the Cerulean City Gym Leader and almost died of malnutrition, sorry to hear” or some other hollow or potentially triggering shit?

Wallace collapsed onto the bed, though he nodded. Steven walked closer to the bed. He looked at the Chansey by Wallace’s bedside, who nodded to him, and then back at Wallace.

“Are you sure I can touch you?” Steven had always been one to need to give and receive explicit, unambiguous consent from Wallace or any of his romantic partners, but that was especially important now. This wasn’t just a matter of making sure no body language was mistaken; Wallace needed safety more than anything now.

“I don’t know if I want to punch you or hug you,” Wallace mumbled.

“Punch me?” Steven cocked his head.

Wallace sat up. “You told my sister and Juan, didn’t you? I was in the kitchen when you called. I heard her talking to you... WHY DID YOU TELL THEM?!”

“Wallace, Wallace, please—”

“I HATE IT HERE!” Wallace shrieked. “I HATE IT HERE! BUT WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW! THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS THAT I’M A FREAK! AFTER I LEAVE THIS SHIT HOLE, I HAVE TO FACE THE WORLD AND ALL OF THE PEOPLE WHO HATE ME!”

Wallace panted heavily, squeezing his hands and swaying like he was about to keel over. “WHY DIDN’T YOU SHOOT ME OR SOMETHING?!”

“I’m not going to shoot you!” Steven yelled with jabs of a pointed finger. “And you’re a stupid, fucking idiot for thinking I would ever shoot you!”

“ÁI STO DIÁOLO, NA!” Wallace shot out two spread out palms stacked on each other and faced them at Steven.

“WELL FUCK YOU TOO!”

Steven punched the wall before falling to the ground. Pain rang through his hand and up his arm. His breathing was heavy, shaky. The anger in him began to melt away, and all that was left was… fear, and suffocating sadness.

“I can’t let you die, Wallace. I can’t… I can’t… I can’t…”

Wallace stood up, but his legs were too weak to hold him up. He collapsed next to Steven and wrapped his arms around him. Soon, the two were crying in each other’s arms.

“I’m sorry…” Wallace hiccuped.

“I can’t lose you Wallace… I can’t lose you like I lost my mom…”

“I’m a freak, Steven.”

“No you’re not. No you’re not.” Steven rested his head on Wallace, who was starting to curl up against him. “I’ve been there with the cutting and thoughts about ending it all. And I don’t know if you’ll believe me now, because I sure as hell didn’t believe it myself when I first heard it, but it gets—” Hollow advice. How did Steven know if things would get better? What if Ren got acquitted? What if Megalos faced nothing for what he did to Wallace?

“Death is permanent, Wallace. Suicide is permanent. If you ever did anything to yourself—”

"I want to go home."

Steven swallowed back the pain in his throat. There was so much despair in Wallace’s voice.

Steven buried his nose in Wallace’s unruly hair. "Shhh... I know... I know... It's going to be okay..."

Steven drew little circles on Wallace’s shoulder with his thumb. He felt something bump against him. The Chansey was holding out an egg-shaped rock. Steven smiled and took it in his hand, wincing in pain.

Chansey took his hand in hers. She closed her eyes, and her hand began to glow pink. A warm, calming energy radiated onto Steven’s hand, and when she pulled away, the scars on Steven’s knuckles had gone from red to almost white.

“Thank you,” Steven said as he took the egg-rock.

The Chansey walked over to the wall, where Steven had punched a hole into the drywall.

“Shit,” Steven whispered, guilt weighing down his heart. “Sorry about that. If there’s a way I can pay for repairs or—“

(“Mr. Stone, that won’t be—“)

Steven held out fifty thousand Pokédollars to the Chansey. “Please, ma’am.”

Steven shoved the money in the Chansey’s hands and stood up. Some of the bills fell to the floor, but Steven didn’t care.

He shut the door behind him and quickly walked down the hall. He was mad and everyone and everything in the whole fucking universe. He couldn’t even see where he was going. All he could see was rage. Pure, blinding rage.

He blinked, and he was outside of the medical center. He stared at the vast, suffocating world. He pressed his hands against his face. And he screamed.

-

Sootopolis City didn’t have the money for more than one hospital—just Tzirachi’s Mercy Medical Center—but it managed to make that one hospital as beautiful as possible. A shining example of this dedication was the courtyard: a stone path wandered across a stream, wavelike patterns were drawn in a bed of sand, and a large maple tree protected the garden from harsh sunlight.

There were also Pokémon abound: Sunflora dancing in patches of sun, Chimecho floating by and ringing pleasant tones, Torchic playing tag, Roselia tending to beds of lavender… But what stuck out to Winona most were, of course, the Wingull in the tree.

But none of them were calming Winona down. She was angry. Very angry.

When she had heard of what had happened to Wallace, she immediately flew out of her parent’s house in Fortree City to the hospital in Sootopolis City, leading to her mom and older sister pestering her with angry calls. “Why are you leaving to see Wallace?” Why wouldn’t she leave to see Wallace?! She wasn’t going to share such personal and traumatic details with those two, but wasn’t it only natural for someone to see if their beloved was okay after a hospitalization?

But worst of all, Winona had never acted on any of the warning signs until it was almost too late.

Wallace was asleep off at the base of the tree, resting against a Chansey and holding Azurills in his lap. He looked... he looked peaceful in his sleep, and he certainly needed peace.

“Cerulean City Gym Leader Faces Seventh Sex Scandal.” “Sootopolis City Mayor in Hot Water; City In Disaster.” Most infuriating, a thousand theories about what Wallace was hospitalized for—cancer, drug overdose, sex addiction, and a whole slew of other things. Winona wanted to yell at every single reporter who had the nerve to speculate on Wallace’s mental and physical state after such a traumatic event. She wanted to storm into the Cerulean City Gym and fight Ren with her own two fists for what that woman did and almost did to Wallace. She wanted to—

"Winona? What brings you here?"

Wallace was awake and looking up at Winona. The two Azurills in his arms were also giving her curious stares.

Winona took a deep breath and smiled. "I'm here to see you. Are you... How are you doing?"

"Couldn't get much sleep last night. Too antsy." Wallace looked over at the Chansey next to him. "Winona, my girlfriend." He looked back up at Winona. "Sister Dymphna, my caretaker." The Azurills hopped out of his arms to run around Winona. "Antonio and Antonia."

Sister Dymphna held out a stubby little hand. Winona held her box and one hand and shook Sister Dymphna's hand with the other. Antonio and Antonia ran off, leaving just the three of them. Wallace's short-lived smile was gone.

"Can you..." Wallace's voice trailed off.

"Hm?"

"Can you, um, can you hug me?"

"Are you sure I can be close to you like that?"

"I feel safe with you, and I want to feel safe." There was looming terror in his eyes as he shook his head. "Because there's a world out there where I had to marry Ren and I never got to see you or Steven again and we couldn't get married and Ren uses me every night so Megalos can—"

"Wallace."

Winona knelt in front of Wallace. He was staring at his legs. Tears started to fall down his face as his breathing hitched.

"I'm sorry, Winona," he whispered. "I'm sorry I almost—"

"Wallace, you didn't do anything wrong. You have nothing you need to apologize for. You didn't do anything wrong.”

Wallace wiped away his tears. "I'm sorry for crying and—"

"You've been through... a lot of stuff. Whatever you're feeling right now is okay to feel. Whatever you're comfortable with or not comfortable with... it's okay to be comfortable with some things, not be comfortable with other things, and to take some time with other things."

Wallace smiled, shaking his head. "I don't deserve a woman as wonderful as you.”

"You deserve peace."

Wallace didn't say anything. He just leaned against Sister Dymphna and stared at the grass.

"'You deserve peace.' 'You deserve peace.' Wonder how long it will be before Megalos comes to take away that peace." Wallace chuckled. "But hey, if it's for Sootopolis City, that's all that matters."

“What do you mean by that?” Winona asked as she sat against the tree by Wallace's side. He didn't say anything in response, instead choosing to kiss her cheek.

“You look really cute when you’re angry, like a pretty little bird.”

“Pretty little birds can peck out eyes with no mercy,” Winona muttered.

“Oh come on, Winona darling. I had it coming for not listening to Megalos. I failed Sootopolis City by not listening to him.”

“Why do you say that?”

"Megalos chose me to be Sootopolis City's harbinger of greatness, and look where we are now: I'm in the hospital for countless problems, and Sootopolis City is still facing an unprecedented, historical low. Not even Megalos could beat me into perfection."

A storm of emotions struck Winona's heart. She slowly shook her head and stared at Wallace. He was... He wasn't showing any sort of fear; he was even smiling a bit.

"'Beat you'? What do you mean 'beat you'?"

Wallace pointed to a bruise on his neck. "Whatever helps Sootopolis City." He said that in such a nonchalant tone, as if physical abuse was just a normal thing for him. That only made Winona more angry. He had been used and abused.

"Wallace"—she sat in front of Wallace and stared into his half-focused eyes—"you shouldn't have to go through abuse of any kind."

Wallace looked up at Winona. "But it's not abuse. It's discipline."

"I don't care what the reasoning is. Abuse. Isn't. Okay."

"It's not abuse—"

"There is no excusing what Ren or Megalos or anyone did to you!"

"IF FORTREE CITY WAS GOING THROUGH SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC HELL, THEN SURELY YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND!!"

They both stared at each other, breathing heavily as the anger drained from their faces and their bodies. Sister Dymphna ran to Wallace's and held him by the arm. She chirped her little Chanseyspeak as he breathed in and out.

Winona closed her eyes and let the soothing music of the wind, the leaves, and the birds calm her down.

"Wallace, if the mayor of Fortree City was choking me or hitting me or making me have sex with older men, how would you react?"

"Simple," Wallace said in a much calmer tone, "I would kill him."

Winona was taken aback by that response. It wasn't the answer she was expecting, but at least it proved her point.

"So why should it be any different for you?"

"Are you planning on killing Megalos?"

Winona forced a laugh and sat back against the tree.

"No, but I'll fight in the courtroom with the strength and skill I fight with on the battlefield."

Wallace smiled as he leaned against Winona. "Can I have that hug?"

Winona wrapped her arms around Wallace. The two sat in silence for a bit as she gently rocked him back and forth. The only sound was the squawking of Wingulls. Others found that sound annoying, but to Wallace and Winona, Wingulls had always been a symbol of their love. Besides, they both liked the Wingulls' calls, and that was all that mattered at the moment.

"'Lady, shall I lie in your lap?'" Wallace whispered.

Winona couldn't keep herself from smiling. "'No, my lord.'"

"'I mean, my head upon your lap?'"

"'Ay, my lord.'"

"'Do you think I meant country matters?'"

Winona kissed Wallace's cheek, laughing.

"But in all honesty," Wallace whispered, "I'm exhausted. May I sleep on you?"

Winona took the box out of Wallace's hands and kissed him. "You may."

Wallace dozed off in Winona’s lap as she gently combed his hair with her fingers. He was smiling in his sleep, again. Winona hadn’t seen him like this in… gosh, she couldn’t even remember—

That night. The night she found him drunk.

His smile had been wide and his eyes had been aglow. He had looked so happy, but it had been fake. The only real part had been the smell of alcohol.

He had needed to lean on Winona to walk. He had rambled off the lyrics to “Yellow Submarine”, laughed at nothing, mused about love and life.

And then his mood had crashed. He had sprawled on the bed, staring at Winona, smile gone.

“Use me.”

“What do you mean ‘use me’?”

“Use me. Use me for whatever you wish and need. That’s all I’m good for.”

“What do you mean? Is everything okay, Wallace?”

He hadn’t said anything else for the rest of the night. The next day, Winona had cared for him during the nasty aftermath of binge drinking. So what if they had both skipped classes? Better to ditch class than leave Wallace alone, especially after that night. He didn’t remember anything. He denied anything was wrong. He pretended he hadn’t said anything.

Maybe Wallace was doing better now—maybe even a little happy—but Winona was livid. She glared forward, like a hawk on a spire, planning her next attack.

Ren and Megalos and all of those other old freaks were going to face justice—and hell.
 
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AetherX

make plove not warble
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Decided to stop by here for my first review for the daily review challenge since I've seen you around and you seem cool.

You mention this is a very personal story, and it shows. That makes it kind of hard to offer criticism, since what am I gonna do? Tell you that's not how eating disorders work? Say a character is being irrational? Even if I thought those things were true this whole story is so noticeably based on personal experience it's impossible for me to deny any of it. Hopefully you get something out of this though. I'll try to stick to the things you listed under preferred feedback (wish more people stated preferred feedback btw, that's really helpful).

Hinodejin
Worldbuilding! At first I thought this meant Hoenn, but further reading implies it's like a national thing which is neat.

Sootopolitan Greek
w o r l d b u i l d i n g

I'm not making fun, this is actually really cool. I'm curious how this fits in the grand scheme (although what you explain/imply later is sufficient for the purpose of the story). What makes Sootopolis so different from the rest of Hoenn? Was/is it a Greek colony or something?

“I’m fine.” Wallace smirked. “You should be worrying about yourself. Victoria and I have been practicing for weeks.”
At first this seemed really abrupt and out of character, but I guess this is just how hiding behind bravado works. We're in Wallace's head so we constantly see how he sees himself, so when he hastily puts up a front it's a sharp turn. All of his characterization so far has been from his own perspective, this is just a hint of how other people might see him. Good stuff.

Characterization in general is really solid. Not a lot of other characters besides Wallace have really had a chance to shine at least so far, but he's great. Hits really close to home sometimes. Realistic depiction of his particular cocktail of mental illnesses. Don't have much else to say for reasons stated above. I noticed there are some different POVs in the last couple chapters. Don't know how much you plan on continuing with that, but it's a fun way to mix things up.

As far as headcanon goes, I think this is cool and also pretty easy to follow. I don't know, I'm pretty lax when it comes to headcanons. Pokemon itself has at least three canons, with multiverses confirmed, so honestly anything goes at this point. Perfectly willing to take a story on its own terms. Like I said I liked the worldbuilding. Different languages are cool and well implemented. I don't know a word of Greek, but it was pretty clear what they were saying from context lol (I assume a lot of "fuck you, go to hell, etc"). Adds depth.

Only thing I can come up with as far as criticism goes is Megalos. He's almost... comically evil? Like literally saying "Why can't you be perfect?" is almost too neatly playing into Wallace's insecurities exactly. That said, he is the antagonist here, and this is a fictional story. A villain who actually sees Wallace in the way that he thinks everyone sees him sorta drives home the whole point of the story and helps show where Wallace's issues come from.

Also typo...

He awoke from his light sleep with a gentle huge on the head.

Yeah that's about it. I enjoyed reading this as much as someone can enjoy reading something this real. Keep up the good work.
 

Torchic W. Pip

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Decided to stop by here for my first review for the daily review challenge since I've seen you around and you seem cool.
Woah hi there! Was not expecting you to come this way, but it's very much welcome.
Also you think I'm cool? Thank you, senpai.
You mention this is a very personal story, and it shows. That makes it kind of hard to offer criticism, since what am I gonna do? Tell you that's not how eating disorders work? Say a character is being irrational? Even if I thought those things were true this whole story is so noticeably based on personal experience it's impossible for me to deny any of it. Hopefully you get something out of this though. I'll try to stick to the things you listed under preferred feedback (wish more people stated preferred feedback btw, that's really helpful).
"This isn't how eating disorders work. Young adult, Greek/Japanese masc/genderqueer people don't have eating disorders, only straight, white, female teenagers."

I'm joking, of course, but yeah, I totally understand how a fic like this would be hard to review. Also the preferred feedback thing is a carry over from another forum, and I think it's a really cool idea. Helps me figure out what to focus on besides typos.

Worldbuilding! At first I thought this meant Hoenn, but further reading implies it's like a national thing which is neat.
w o r l d b u i l d i n g

I'm not making fun, this is actually really cool. I'm curious how this fits in the grand scheme (although what you explain/imply later is sufficient for the purpose of the story). What makes Sootopolis so different from the rest of Hoenn? Was/is it a Greek colony or something?
depositphotos_83673930-stock-photo-state-of-enlightenment.jpeg

W O R L D B U I L D I N G

In all seriousness, I will gladly sit down and tell you all of my Pokémon worldbuilding headcanons (heck I have a whole Bulbablog for that), especially for Hoenn.
At first this seemed really abrupt and out of character, but I guess this is just how hiding behind bravado works. We're in Wallace's head so we constantly see how he sees himself, so when he hastily puts up a front it's a sharp turn. All of his characterization so far has been from his own perspective, this is just a hint of how other people might see him. Good stuff.
Good stuff in this review.
Characterization in general is really solid. Not a lot of other characters besides Wallace have really had a chance to shine at least so far, but he's great. Hits really close to home sometimes. Realistic depiction of his particular cocktail of mental illnesses. Don't have much else to say for reasons stated above. I noticed there are some different POVs in the last couple chapters. Don't know how much you plan on continuing with that, but it's a fun way to mix things up.
I'm planning on having a few different POVs at the end, at the suggestion of another reviewer on another site.
As far as headcanon goes, I think this is cool and also pretty easy to follow. I don't know, I'm pretty lax when it comes to headcanons. Pokemon itself has at least three canons, with multiverses confirmed, so honestly anything goes at this point. Perfectly willing to take a story on its own terms. Like I said I liked the worldbuilding. Different languages are cool and well implemented. I don't know a word of Greek, but it was pretty clear what they were saying from context lol (I assume a lot of "fuck you, go to hell, etc"). Adds depth.
Oh heck yeah, I did context. I wanted to do hovertext for the Greek, but hovertext didn't translate to Bulbagarden. I'll probably fix that with author's notes.

As for the last part, translating Nicole's raging in chapter eleven:
"Ánte sto diáolo kai parapéra! Gamísou, Kólo-malákas! Gamísou! Gamísou! Gamísou!"
"Go to hell and beyond! Fuck you, mega asshole! Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!"


...So you hit the nail right on the head.
Only thing I can come up with as far as criticism goes is Megalos. He's almost... comically evil? Like literally saying "Why can't you be perfect?" is almost too neatly playing into Wallace's insecurities exactly. That said, he is the antagonist here, and this is a fictional story. A villain who actually sees Wallace in the way that he thinks everyone sees him sorta drives home the whole point of the story and helps show where Wallace's issues come from.
I might get rid of the "why can't you be perfect?" line and tone down some other parts so it's at least a little less on the nose, but hey, you're not the first to point out how Megalos is every one of Wallace's insecurities in one person. Kind of. More like "Megalos is the source and incarnation of most of Wallace's insecurities."
Also typo...
Oh heck yeah. Thanks for pointing that out.
Yeah that's about it. I enjoyed reading this as much as someone can enjoy reading something this real. Keep up the good work.
:)
 

kintsugi

the warmth of summer in the songs you write
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Hiya, it's been a while! Glad to be back. I admit that I always struggle a little in saying thoughts about this specific flavor of fic--Aether sorta touched on a similar vein, but like, if I don't agree with your portrayal of depression or something, that doesn't really make it invalid; it just doesn't make it mine. This type of fic, where the focus is on purposefully flawed characters facing a lot of hard truths is sort of just inherently personal to the author and it's always hard for me as a reviewer to figure out how I want to approach the story on its own terms, and by extension, yours. One author who always writes "way too real shit" to another; I've been wanting to swing around to repay the favor but also wasn't sure when I'd be in the right headspace for things.

'cause shit hits really hard in this one. It's nice to read this after your drabble collection; "who's Megalos? I wish we got to see more of him"; past!me is a fucking idiot, my god. But without the constrains of being told as drabbles, and with the ability to focus more heavily on Wallace, I think I got a much better taste of what you were actually going for here, and I found this to be a really well-written story thus far. Normally with stories that I enjoy I use words like "fun", but I don't really think that applies here; this is one of those stories that I think is really well put together and touches on a lot of issues in a poignant/nuanced way; I hesitate to say "i enjoyed reading it" in the sense that this is the hurt part of hurt/comfort so it's mostly just been a lot of gut punches and not enjoyment so much as, ouch, no, goddamn ... all this to say, I think mission accomplished? I do understand the stress of trying to put deeply personal things in fic, the stress of how others perceive your experiences/fictionalized experiences--all in all I think you make these struggles feel real and painful, but not in a way that overstays its welcome.

There were a few moments that I flagged when I was reading as like, oh god oh no. In general you make really good use of Wallace as limited-third; we're stuck in his head and it's immensely clear that his perception of himself/the world isn't really okay, but his voice is the one he/we've got, so it's going to have to work (or it isn't). I thought the opening scene with the beret was really solid, followed immediately by Wallace taking it off--this isn't a fic where someone puts a cute little hat on you and your problems are fixed with someone telling you that they care. There's a lot of details that just sell how oppressive and bleak Wallace's mindset is; how he can't remember when he last ate his favorite meal, the crippling logic of "well if it's not anorexia or bulimia, it's fine" and "well it could be worse; I could be an actual addict so a little substance abuse is fine"; the art was good and that was all that mattered; the pressure of being your ancestor's legacy ... I think you really capture a lot of difficult emotions in these, and the characterization is really solid. There's something uniquely bleak about going through a shit time as a young adult with minimal coping mechanisms and not being able to even understand how deep in the shit you are that I think you really nail down with these. I haven't struggled with the specific things that Wallace has, but you portray his mindset in a way that seems native to him (in the sense that while he's sitting down and explaining that vomiting is about control for him, it does genuinely feel like he's having to re-explain this to himself rather than to an audience), and it all really works for me imo. And I especially like how it's really unclear how much of this pressure is expected of Wallace and how much is projected--it's the subtle lies that build into the bigger ones, and those lines aren't really clear, and that's the problem but it's also the point.

In light of this, let's talk antagonists vs villains real quick, specifically re: Megalos:
Then there was the tearing of paper. Then there was just the crackling of flames as Megalos tossed the pieces in the fire.
I've reached the point in my life where I can't really in goodfaith call a fictional character "cartoonishly evil" or "cartoonishly stupid" because I've seen enough real people do evil and stupid things that, idk, sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. So I think a better phrase is unnecessarily evil--is this action necessary to tell the story you want to tell, so to speak. In this case, the damage is mostly done with Megalos just ignoring Lisia's drawing, saying it's not important, throwing it aside (with the intent to throw it out later). Dude's a dick who doesn't care about kids with a heart of stone. In this case, the more compelling idea to me was that he doesn't see the drawing the way Wallace sees it, nor does he understand what it actually means to Wallace. The emotional disconnect in this scene is more interesting imo, and just the facts that he can't recognize a) the value that Wallace places on art and b) the desire Wallace has to impress him personally already makes him out to be a formidable person emotionally. His way of thinking is abjectly antagonistic to Wallace's here, and is largely responsible for a lot of Wallace's issues now, and it's really clear when he decides the drawing is a waste of space that this is how the board is laid out and these are where all the characters stand on it.

But when he tears up the drawing and then throws it into the fire for good measure--this doesn't add much imo. The drawing is irreparably destroyed and we get a tangible sense of truly how few fucks Megalos gives about it, but I think just him rejecting it and saying he doesn't have time for childish conceits would have as much of an emotional impact (or perhaps more, since the behavior will seem less exaggerated) than him burning a kid's picture.

And it's sort of up to you, of course--see above not about how reality is often stranger/eviler/stupider than fiction; I can't say with confidence that there isn't someone in the world who would burn crayon drawings if given the chance. I think it mostly depends on how you want to portray Megalos--if he's a cold, calculating guy who's got Sootopolis by the metaphorical balls of its public opinion, and he's socialiting with the best of the socialites or whatever--it does seem a little weird that he'd be so blatantly petty here. This action strikes me as someone who's more prone to giving into their emotions (I hate this waste of paper) rather than maintaining a facade, which seems like the opposite of Megalos's general role/advice for Wallace in the rest of the story, so it felt particularly weird to see him specifically doing this here.

And besides, he's got plenty of time to be evil in the sexual assault trial. Where he would, at least, have an excuse(*) for his shitty actions that's more complex than "I hate fun".
(*)I feel like I need to clarify that wanting your friends to not face jail time for sexually assaulting people and believing you have the wealth/power to do so is not a good reason and does make him a bad person. but as a character motivation it exists, is parseable, and is sadly indicative of a lot of people in the real world.

Nicole beamed another smile before hugging Wallace.

He could let himself have a little more than his strict limitations, right?
“I’m going to call your sister about the disordered—”

Wallace bolted upright. “Juan. Please. Don’t.”
"But it's not abuse. It's discipline."

"I don't care what the reasoning is. Abuse. Isn't. Okay."

"It's not abuse—"
Wallace sat up. “You told my sister and Juan, didn’t you? I was in the kitchen when you called. I heard her talking to you... WHY DID YOU TELL THEM?!”

“Wallace, Wallace, please—”

“I HATE IT HERE!” Wallace shrieked. “I HATE IT HERE! BUT WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW! THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS THAT I’M A FREAK! AFTER I LEAVE THIS SHIT HOLE, I HAVE TO FACE THE WORLD AND ALL OF THE PEOPLE WHO HATE ME!”
And, hmm. I don't think I'd actually spend so much time typing this out if I didn't think you did a really good job of making the other characters antagonists in their own rights--they're definitely working in Wallace's best interest and they're trying to help him, but in the literary sense of "being against the protagonist", I think you do a really great job of showing how sometimes mental illness takes your friends and makes them enemies, and you show that in a way that hurts but is real. Wallace is of course the main antagonist of this story--which is why his friends acting in goodfaith is actually perceived as acting against him in the first place--and conceptually I think it works really, really well. It fucking hurts to see that Nicole's trying to cheer him up with food when food is such a huge issue for him; it's really sad to see Winona just run into a blank wall when she realizes how deeply compartmentalized Wallace's perception of abuse is. Steven and Juan don't even realize the extent to which they've inadvertently antagonized Wallace because in their eyes they're doing the right thing for him--which is such a real and insidious truth about mental illness; it makes you alienate your friends. Honestly before Megalos showed up I think you already had the compelling antagonists on the page in a rock-solid format, which is why Megalos showing up in person to be an actual villain threw me for a loop a little.

And I think the seeds are there--Megalos, especially the perception we get of him from Wallace's general notes/fears about Megalos before Megalos shows up physically--is a really good foil to Wallace's inner voice of demanding to be perfect, of not being good enough. Megalos, unlike the others, doesn't think that Wallace is good enough, and even if you just left it at that I think he'd be a really compelling antagonist without just being an outright villain.
“It’s too late for ‘sorry’, Wallace! Don’t you care for Sootopolis City?! Don’t you care for yourself?!”
Like lines like these really drill home how much of his mindset has infected Wallace's here--don't you care for yourself, oof, my god. My heart dropped when I read this because honestly he reminds me of a lot of people who do think they're still acting in your best interests, and are trying to help you become your best self.

(And all of this would contrast really nicely with Wallace not really being able to discern if his actual friends are doing goodfaith efforts to help him :c)

-

But on the flip side, I really don't know. There's something deeply cathartic about personifying your issues as a fictional character so you can take him to court or punch him in the face, and I don't really want to take that from you while touting literary structure or character arcs lol--your story isn't meant for me-the-individual so it does feel weird to write long treatises on how much you should or shouldn't try to humanize this guy vs villifying him. Shitty people exist in the world and sometimes they exist without nuance, and in that case trying to empathize with them is almost counter-productive since the more necessary thing is to just take them out as quickly as possible before they can hurt anyone else. But I do think you really nailed the way that your own friends can be helpless to fix these things in a way that was really nuanced + delicate, so it was a little odd to see Megalos doing classic Disney villain stuff with the rest of these subtleties in the background.
You’re weak and pale as talc!
I legit burst out laughing on this line. God. It hurts so hard to think about how your friends really care about you but are also going to just irreparably be themselves when you're hurting them by being hurt,,, anyway here's a meme to end off on a good note
unknown.png


some small prose thoughts--mostly just pulled these because in general you asked for them + are receptive to prose tweaks; overall I thought the tone was really snappy here and you nailed the third-limited narrator. tbh if you hadn't asked I wouldn't have really bothered flagging much since things read pretty smoothly.
She had the same hair and eye color as Wallace, but unlike Wallace, she was perfect. Her white shirt and skirt were perfect. Her simple makeup was perfect. Her posture was perfect. Why couldn't he be perfect?
Having read + reread this in one sitting, I think you do a good enough job of presenting Wallace's obsession with perfection that you don't need the last "why couldn't he be perfect"--it's already pretty clear in just this section that he's jealous of what Nicole has that he doesn't. Purely a matter of opinion on this one though.
“but as soon as I stepped onto the stage, all worries fell to the wayside, and my Goldeen and we both took home gold.”
There are some words missing here in "my Goldeen and we". I'd also argue that it's kind of weird that she specifies "my Goldeen" and not Goldeen's name (since Wallace calls Milotic "Victoria" and in general the humans seem to treat the pokemon as friends rather than property), but I see why you're phrasing this as it is to avoid confusing the audience. Maybe something like
" [...] all worries fell to the wayside, and [Goldeen Name] and I took home gold."
Wallace remembered watching that one live. She hadn't seemed nervous at all; between her and her goldeen there hadn't been a scale or hair out of place. Perfect from start to finish. She hadn't seemed nervous. She hadn't been nervous.
(or something. idk. I don't think I nailed your style 100% in that one but lol, such is life sometimes)
His duties and training were tumultuous shackles, dragging him across oceans. He was at the mercy of Megalos, the socialites of Sootopolis City, and the press, who seemed to intrude more and more into his private life with each passing day. They took his right to choose when to come out to the world as genderqueer and pan and maybe sort of polyamorous, leading to many people turning on him. They took his right to privacy without speculation on his personal or sexual life. They took his right to dignity and respect.
"they took his right" and "without" didn't quite parse to me? I think it'd read more clearly as "They took his right to privacy with incessant speculation on his personal and sexual life"

"leading to many people turning on him" felt like a weird gerund stack. I'd tweak to "causing some people to turn on him" or "causing the less progressive ones to turn on him" or something, hmm. With bits like these it's a little tricky to parse the extent to which Wallace is the golden child and also the outcast loser who gets smeared in the tabloids--not that it's not possible for Wallace to have done nothing wrong and for him to have gotten wrecked like this, and not that it's not possible for Wallace to be hyperfixated on the perceived negatives when in general it's only one or two alt/fringe people trying to drag him (both seem plausible and also horrible for him to go through + understandably intertwined given his mental state)--I just wish we had a little more grounding for what the actual public perception was rather than "many people turn on him". It's one of those rare moments where we see what's happening outside of Wallace's head, so it'd be nice to get a little more grounded context.
“Come on, Victoria,” he said monotonously.
I didn't quite follow why he was talking to Victoria here, specifically why he thought this would be a good cover? Since she's quite large and it'd be difficult for him to act like she's here if she isn't (unless she was here in the entire scene, but she sorta drops off if so)
Winona and haven't seen you yet
You okay?
Wasn't sure if this was an intentional typo (since people texting on phones leads to disaster and it would make perfect sense if Steven forgot a word lol); figured I'd flag it.
But if Wallace tried to fly too close to the sun, Megalos could easily strike him down and send him plummeting into the ocean.
This metaphor didn't really parse for me. "flying too close to the sun" isn't really freedom in this case; it's overstepping your boundaries and overestimating your capabilities--something that Wallace is more than capable of striking himself down for tbh. And it's specifically that the whole overstepping/overcommitting stuff is actually behavior that Megalos would probably appreciate, since it's just Wallace trying to reach too hard for things that he can't get, taking more drugs to stay functional, etc.
“Don’t talk back to me. If you lose three matches in a row, you’ll lose your position.”
I don't really follow the logistics of the three strike rule--this just seems generally so much less forgiving and arbitrary than "lose more than X% of your matches" and it feels a a little ridiculous/difficult to implement. Especially since, from a logistical standpoint, losing one match badly might incapacitate your best team members for a small amount of time, making you more likely to lose the next match, so things would understandably spiral really quickly in a way that this metric seems specifically geared to encourage? And tbh the solution is just to start taking fewer matches with longer breaks between (so that you can guarantee that your aces are always fresh or whatever)--which just generally seems to result in a system where gym leaders are intentionally spacing out matches (either because they're overworked college kids or for the reasoning above) and it'd just be harder to get a gym challenge in the first place?

(and there is of course a pretty sound dystopian/failed system version where for whatever reason, the gym system being broken like this is actually done on purpose and the endgoal is to churn through gym leaders as quickly as possible, but I don't really follow that with the worldbuilding as presented)
but inhaling an Awakening would work just fine to keep him from collapsing from exhaustion
broke: don't do worldbuilding; pokemon canon is flawless
woke: do pokemon worldbuilding for cool shit like giving rowlet a cute hat
bespoke: do pokemon worldbuilding and show that self medication is in fact even worse under futuristic healthcare
Wallace was one year below the drinking age. Did he care? No. Did anyone around him care? No.
He's mentioned to be 19 somewhere else I think, so is the drinking age here 20? Wasn't sure what your intended math was to be (or tbf if 21 would be a realistic drinking age when they're all going out on joblike journeys at the age of 10, if that's also something you're rolling with)
Maybe we could go to my hotel room... or we could do it here, whatever I’m feeling like.
this dialogue is (rightfully) gross! Although I think "whatever I'm feeling like" is a bit too on the nose (not that we really get enough time to see how self-aware she is/isn't re: her being a massive piece of shit); it's sort of implicit in everything she's doing that it's all whatever she's feeling like and no one else is being considered rn.
LSD and marijuana were one week.
One week ago? Happened in one week? This one didn't quite parse for me.
Beep. Beep. Beep.

The light turned into pale gray squares. There was a humming or buzzing sound. There were also the beeps.
I don't know if you need "there were also the beeps" in immediate succession to the beeps. Onomatopoeia has no strict rules though.
A turquoise haired shell of a person.
turquoise-haired
"Well... no."

Juan smiled. "That's my so—boy. That’s my boy.”
oh no juan no this isn't fixed no juan no
"Wallace, when you were born, did the doctors tell your parents 'you have created a child with no worth'?"
"sir, ma'am, congratulations. there is no ethical consumption under capitalism and as such your child is worthless. also assigned male at birth."
There were talks of criminal charges against Ren—charges of sexual assault, charges she had faced before with no repercussions, charges that Ren and Megalos were desperately trying to hide.
the stack of "charges" here was a little hard to keep track off--there's the current charges (which presumably haven't actually been filed in court yet, so I don't think they're charges, just allegations), and then there's also the past charges w/ no repercussions (so presumably dropped/dismissed charges and as such not really charges any more)--so it's sort of unclear which ones are the ones that Ren/Megalos are desperately trying to hide. I think maybe rephrasing it as:
There were talks of criminal charges against Ren. But she'd faced sexual assault charges before with no repercussions, and it was clear that Ren and Megalos were desperately going through the cover-up steps again.
There were talks of criminal charges against Ren--charges of sexual assault, like the countless others that had been dropped and then hidden away by Megalos and Ren before.
(first one implies more that they're trying to hide the current ones + have hidden other ones; second one is more about them just hiding the previous ones with the implication that they'll probably do the same here. idk. I'm quite stupid at parsing things sometimes so the nuance helps a little.)
"Well, at least he's being taken to court."
in conclusion: oh no.
 
Chapter 12

Torchic W. Pip

Bravo Echo Tango Alpha
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I feel the need to preface this chapter by saying that I do not endorse the beliefs/actions of the POV character.

Emotional and physical abuse, sexual harassment, use of the f-slur, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, character death, Fantastic Racism, arguments, implied sexual assault, implied eating disorders and drug abuse, mentions of alcohol abuse, slut shaming, themes of sexuality, politics and political themes, blood, strangulation

In 2978, the Hoennese economy collapsed, and the mayor of Sootopolis City at the time, Mayor Myron Makris, did nothing to help his city, save for the select wealthy few. As a result, Sootopolis City fell into financial, social, and political ruin. Unemployment and homelessness reached an all time high. Crime and drug use ran rampant. The city’s reputation among the rest of Hoennese society was shattered. By the end of his first term, Makris was regarded as one of the worst politicians in Hinode’s city. He was almost unanimously voted out of office and replaced by Mayor Matthias Megalos.

Megalos was from one of Sootopolis City's wealthiest families—Upper Sootopolis wealthy. His grandfather had been the first Sootopolitan in the Hoennese House of Representatives, while his father had served in both the navy and the regional government. "Mayor" was a good title for a man of the Megalos bloodline, but it was far less than “Honorable Representative” or “Commander”. One could argue, however, that Megalos was in a much more high-stakes position; it was one thing to represent the city, and it was a completely different thing to save it. Failure could result in Sootopolis City losing its semi-autonomy, at absolute best. Failure could result in the Megalos name being tarnished.

“Don’t fail us, son.”

Opinions varied from wariness over Megalos's policies to claims that he was chosen by the Mediator of the Sky himself to save Sootopolis City. Expectations were high in either case, and if Sootopolis City was to survive, Megalos needed to be a good—no, a perfect mayor.

“Don’t fail.”

The first thing he did was kick out many of the unemployed people in the city; they could always find work in other cities, but in Sootopolis City they were just filling up the soup kitchens and streets and housing. He forced smaller businesses to close down, businesses that weren't adding anything to the city's economy. He got approval from the Hoenn League Association to instate a Gym in the city. None of the other Gym Leaders liked Megalos's candidates, and they instead chose Water type trainer and Lorekeeper Dorian Papadakis as the Sootopolis City Gym Leader… for some reason.

“Good?! You think ‘good’ is enough?!?!”

So perhaps Megalos didn’t have control over everything. Perhaps Megalos wasn’t a perfect mayor. This was unacceptable. He had to be a perfect mayor. He had to be a perfect mayor.

-

There was a child by Dorian’s side when he came to Megalos’s office—a small, frail looking girl with short, messy, turquoise hair—like her father’s—and a white dress—like her father’s white shirt. She smiled and waved at Megalos. Well, at least Dorian was raising one proper daughter. Maybe he learned something after conceiving a child outside of marriage.

“You wanted to see me after work?” Dorian sighed. Exhaustion was palpable in his voice and eyes, though he smiled when the girl with him tugged at his blue pants. He picked her up.

It was hard to ignore the shadow looming over Dorian’s past—his alcohol abuse, his defiance against the city by eloping with his love over his betrothed, his lack of a higher education, recklessly exploring the Hoenn Sea—but he tried to hide that shadow with blinding radiance. He won over the city with his charm and rhetorical skills, he proved himself worthy on the battlefield, and he made it a point to stand up for Sootopolis City on the regional and national stage.

But that light only intensified the shadows, from Megalos’s point of view.

Megalos nodded. “I did.” He sat down at his desk. “What a lovely daughter you have here—”

“Son,” Dorian corrected.

Megalos’s smile fell. “Son?”

Dorian looked down at the girl— boy —in his arms. She— he —was shivering. “Wallace, this is Megalos, my work friend. Megalos, this is Wallace, my son.” Dorian wrapped one end of his purple scarf around Wallace. “My little boy here has taken quite an interest in my duties as Lorekeeper. He—“

“Son? What, is he unbreeched or something?”

“Wallace likes wearing dresses. Besides, we can’t exactly afford to get new clothes for him, and Nicole's old hand-me-downs fit nicely.”

“Do you really need another daughter?”

Dorian’s smile fell. “If Wallace ends up being a man or a woman or something else, he’ll end up being that whether or not I let him wear dresses. The only difference is whether he grows up loving himself or hating himself.” He sat in the chair in front of Megalos’s desk, and Wallace played with his scarf. She— he —looked up at Megalos as Dorian asked, “Why did you ask me to come to speak to you?”

“I heard you lost a Gym battle today.”

Dorian nodded. “I did. To a rather talented Ice type trainer. She said she’s from Orzeska, and she’s traveling to regions of warmer climates so she can train her Ice type Pokémon.” He smiled, as though he was recounting a happy tale.

This wasn’t a happy tale. This was imperfection.

“You say that as though it’s a thing to celebrate,” Megalos growled. “It’s only been a week since you started. Do you think the League will tolerate this?”

“It’s a learning experience. I learned how to better counterattack Ice types. More importantly, I got to hear many wonderful stories of the woman’s travels. For example—“

“The Hoennese government already looks down on this city!”

Dorian sighed. That dumb smile of his was gone. “The government’s not going to like us regardless of whether I win or lose.”

Megalos slammed his fist on his desk, making Wallace gasp and begin to cry, burying her— his —face in Dorian’s scarf. Pitiful; this boy dressed and acted like a girl. If this was how Dorian raised his children, how was he supposed to be a Gym Leader?

“I don’t want you getting smart with me!” Megalos bellowed. “As your mayor—“

“I don’t care if you’re the mayor.”

Dorian’s shaky voice had sharpened. One arm was wrapped around Wallace, while the other was pointing a cold finger towards Megalos.

“Power is a drug, Megalos. Consume too much too quickly, and it gets to your head. For some, that kind of intoxication brings wrath, and it also brings a false sense of superiority.”

Dorian stood up and began walking to the door. His daughter— son —looked over Dorian's shoulder as the man said, “As a Lorekeeper of this city, I pray to the Sky Dragon that you find sobriety from your newfound power high.”

He opened the door and left, slowly shutting the door behind him. A few seconds passed. Then Megalos threw his chair into the wall.

What was Dorian saying? Megalos wasn’t drunk on power. That was like saying it was possible to get drunk on water. And sobriety! What a hypocrite; wasn't Dorian a recovering alcoholic?

Megalos needed power. He needed it for himself. He needed it for Sootopolis City. He needed power to be perfect. He needed power to make Sootopolis City perfect. Anything less than perfect was imperfect. Anything less than perfect was terrible.

Makris didn’t know how to make Sootopolis City perfect. Dorian didn’t know how to make Sootopolis City perfect. Nobody knew how to make Sootopolis City perfect. But Megalos knew. Megalos knew that everything— everything —needed to be perfect, perfect, perfect.

-

Dorian proved himself to be a formidable opponent on the battlefield, ranking as the second strongest Gym Leader in the Hoenn region and the tenth strongest in Hinode as a whole. He was also loved as a city figurehead, garnering praise and adoration from the region. He was a Sootopolitan Gym Leader, not a Gym Leader of the Sootopolitans. He made it his mission to connect to the people of his city as a fellow, not a celebrity.

Megalos also proved to be a competent, albeit strict mayor, pulling Sootopolis City out of economic disaster. Perhaps Dorian’s success was in part due to Megalos—in the sense that Megalos knew not to fire him despite wanting to do so and in the sense that he knew to publicly endorse Dorian. The induction of the Sootopolis City Gym into the Hoenn Pokémon League was generally regarded as a good move for the city.

Seven years later, however, the city lost its beloved Gym Leader.

-

Megalos was a very good mayor. He went to the funerals of important people to pay his respects, even if he didn’t like them.

Dorian Papadakis and Lucille Izumi were dead, alongside their Pokémon, taken from the world by Kyogre’s fury. Part of Megalos believed that this was part of the Sky Dragon’s plan. A new Gym Leader could replace Dorian, a Gym Leader Megalos approved of, and Sootopolis City could thrive. It was a sign that Megalos was right all those years ago and the League was wrong.

Another part of him knew it was selfish to celebrate the death of two people. But Megalos didn’t like Dorian and Lucille: Dorian had been effeminate, rebellious, unorthodox. Sure, as a Lorekeeper, he had been adamant on keeping Sootopolis’s culture and history and stories alive, but Megalos was sure that the ancient Sootopolitans were expressing their disappointment with him, assuming Dorian was allowed among them. And Lucille? Lucille had been a nobody, the daughter of two poor immigrants, a musician who had barely gotten by performing in Slateport City’s clubs. And the two had done terrible things: they had engaged I intimate relations before marriage, raised their children to be crossdressing deviants who would probably grow up to be strippers and drug dealers—

“Mr. Megalos?”

A young woman with black hair, turquoise eyes, and olive skin stared at Megalos. Cruzita Yoshiyama, Psychic type Gym Leader of Mossdeep City and Mauville TV’s newest weather reporter. She seemed like a respectable enough middle class woman, but she had never given Megalos any reason to like her. Maybe she would change his mind one day. Unlikely, seeing as she thought drug addicts made better Gym Leaders than well-to-do trainers.

“First of all,” Cruzita began solemnly, “I want to say that I am deeply, deeply sorry for the loss of Dorian and Lucille. Hoenn will be much less bright without their light, and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain you and their family must be going through.” Her words were certainly empty. Since when did Cruzita care for Megalos? Just as Megalos was putting up a facade of caring for Dorian and Lucille, so too was Cruzita putting up a facade of caring for Megalos. Maybe she was only at this funeral because she was Dorian’s mistress.

If anything, Megalos thought, it will be brighter without the stain of their presence.

“Second of all, the HLA has been discussing what to do about replacing Dorian, and there’s a very good chance—a 90% chance—that Juan will step up and take the role of Sootopolis City Gym Leader.”

Although Dorian and Megalos never got along when the former was alive, they did share a mutual friend: Juan. He was from a wealthy and well-to-do family. He was a strong and wise trainer. He was loved by women. The only thing Megalos disapproved of was that Juan took part in Contests, a wasteful pursuit. Even with that, he would still be a better Gym Leader than Dorian. Juan was the closest thing to a perfect Gym Leader for Sootopolis City. Megalos wasn’t one for battling; he had bought his Gyarados from rich breeders as a gilded, sheathed weapon to protect himself if need be. Juan was the battler, and for what it was worth, he did his job well.

By the side of the Church of the Ascent—the church where Dorian and Lucille had gotten married, the church where they had baptized their children, the church where they had been blessed so as to go on to the next world—was a small cemetery painted white. In one corner of the cemetery, a woman kneeled before and stared at two headstones. A man stood over her like he was Jirachi’s Angel of the Victims or something. Hopefully, that angel was taking Dorian and Lucille to hell.

That woman was Nicole, wasn’t it? Dorian and Lucille’s bastard child born before they got married?

Where was their other child?

-

Megalos weaved through grieving family and friends, professional mourners, and clergymen to find Wallace, sitting alone with a Seaking, crying.

Megalos wanted to grab the boy by the collar and shake him and scream at him. How stupid was this boy? Did he have any self respect? Did he know how much Megalos had paid for old ladies to cry instead of the grieving loved ones?

But Megalos wasn’t a bad mayor. He didn’t believe in unnecessary violence out of anger. When his father would beat him, it was because Megalos had done something wrong. When Megalos spanked his children, it was because they had misbehaved. He wouldn’t give into his emotions and beat the boy, especially not in a church and in front of his family.

“Stop crying, boy. Sootopolitans don’t cry.”

Sniffling, Wallace looked up and wiped away his tears with the sleeve of his black dress. A dress. Was this boy so poor and pitiful that he couldn’t even afford to stop looking like a girl?

The whispers of the other members of the Papadakis line echoed from the other side of the church:

“Will Nicole be able to take care of Wallace when she’s expecting a child out of wedlock?”

“Like mother, like daughter.”

“Ionia and I could take in the boy.”

Megalos looked back down at Wallace. He was nine or ten, wasn’t he? Still young and impressionable… He could be molded into whatever Sootopolis City needed: a replacement Lorekeeper, an eventual replacement Gym Leader, a political figurehead… Adults were defiant and firm in themselves, but children were malleable and impressionable. Sure, Megalos could have used one of his own kids, but none of them were as young and impressionable as nine or ten year old Wallace.

Maybe there was a reason why Megalos and Wallace were meeting here and now. Maybe it was the will of the heavens. Maybe they saw something in Megalos and something in Wallace. Maybe Megalos was supposed to replace Dorian as Wallace’s father.

Of course, Megalos couldn’t take in Wallace. He had two biological sons, after all. Perhaps he could live with a relative or a mentor, like an apprentice worked with a master…

“Beloved family of the deceased.”

The hushed voices went silent at the sound of Megalos’s voice. He had the voice of a mayor: powerful, confident, like a Gyarados of brass scales. It was the perfect voice for a mayor.

“Where is Juan?”

A man stepped out from the crowd, standing tall and silent.

“Matthias?” the man called.

Megalos looked over at Wallace, who was staring up with confusion mixed with sadness.

“Dorian was raising Wallace to carry on the legacy of the Lorekeepers, wasn’t he? If he’s still to be a Lorekeeper, he’s going to need a new mentor. Take him under your wing as you take on the Sootopolis City Gym. He has my blessing to take Dorian’s place.”

There were gasps—scoffs from the Papadakis family.

“Wallace?!”

“Why not our daughter? She’s much stronger and healthier than Wallace!”

“Wallace can’t even go a week without getting sick!”

“Children, children,” Ionia Papadaki, the matriarch of the family, hushed, “this is a blessing. Let us not diminish it because it isn’t perfect.” The shorter, older woman looked up at Megalos and Juan. “Please, he’s my only grandson. Raise him well.”

-

Juan couldn’t replace everything Dorian had been, but he could replace him in terms of strength: he became the strongest Gym Leader in Hoenn and the fifth strongest in Hinode.

In contrast to Makris’s laissez-faire approach to solving issues, Megalos took a more proactive approach to solving the city’s issues. While he met some criticism with many of his choices—detracting funding away from important cultural buildings in dire need of repair, halting the passing of several civil rights laws, and enacting stricter punishments for breaking curfew—his second term was marked by a return to Sootopolis City’s roots as a center of trade and commerce. During the second term, votes from people on or below the poverty line were at an all time high for any Sootpolitan mayor, though many people were openly critical of Megalos.

There was also the matter of the child Megalos had acquired. Some called him the child Juan could never have. Others called him Megalos’s amends for his rivalry with Dorian. In either case, he was certainly something to be proud of—Wallace was a prodigious child of the arts and of Pokémon. With the exception of one minor incident with a Gyarados, he had a gift when it came to Pokémon and an especially unbreakable kinship with his partner Victoria.

In other words, a perfect tool for whatever Sootopolis City needed.

-

Megalos was a good mayor. He put the needs of the many above all else. He knew how to talk to people. He knew what kinds of people were worth his time. Most importantly, he knew how to keep the right cards in his deck.

“What did you wish to see me about, Matthias?”

Juan had come to Megalos’s office alone. As friends, it wasn’t too uncommon for the two to spend afternoons together, discussing politics or finances. Office visits, on the other hand, were reserved for professional business only. No emotions, just business.

“How are Wallace’s studies going?” Megalos asked.

“Very well," Juan replied. "He’s a very fast learner. He’s shown quite the interest in the arts…”

As Juan continued fawning over Wallace, Megalos rolled his eyes. Sootopolis City didn’t need anymore artists; it needed leaders. It needed action.

“I think he is a wonderfully gifted kid, Matthias. I’m really, truly proud of him—”

“Has he stopped wearing women’s clothing yet?”

Juan raised an eyebrow at that. “Well, he sometimes wears feminine clothes, but he also tries out other styles. Back to his studies, I’ve been teaching him about—“

“What, does he think he’s a woman or something?”

“Wallace is experimenting with his identity.”

Identity? Identity?! The economy was going to shit, and Wallace was selfish enough to be worried about such a trivial thing as his identity?!

“Why are you encouraging this? He needs to focus on politics, not identity! How is he going to replace his father if he acts like this?”

“Why does Wallace’s personal life matter to you? He’s still a child.”

“He’s thirteen! That’s old enough to be getting ready to be the city’s guardian and the city’s Gym Leader!”

Silence. Juan was shaking uncontrollably.

“What are you doing with the boy?!” Juan gasped. “You expect him to be a Lorekeeper, the guardian of Sootopolis City, and now you want him to be its Gym Leader?!”

“His father managed just fine!”

“His father had panic attacks every day from the pressure you and the rest of the region put on him!”

Megalos sighed. He was right all along, and Cruzita had been wrong. Oh well. That was in the past. Wallace wouldn’t have panic attacks if he was raised well.

“Juan," Megalos said, slowly and more calmly, "you and I are in our fifties. Wallace is just entering his teens. When he matures to be an adult and we become old and senile, Sootopolis City is going to need a perfect leader, a representation of her greatness. This is the prime period of his life where we can make him perfect.”

“He’s thirteen. ” Juan repeated. “He’s going through the tempest of puberty. If you force those kinds of expectations onto him during such a tumultuous time, he will break .”

“Maybe if he quit those Contests—”

“Enough, Megalos—”

"—if he wasn't a transvestite—"

"Enough!—"

“—If he wasn’t such a goddamned slutty faggot—”

“I said enough!”

Megalos was surprised, almost startled. Juan never, ever yelled, but now he had yelled loud enough to rattle the framed portraits of Megalos’s father and grandfather hanging on the wall.

“Matthias, I will not— will not —tolerate you using such vile, bigoted language against my student, either to his face or behind his back! And I will not let you push him until he breaks! I have put up with enough from you!”

Juan stormed to the door. He was beginning to open it when Megalos spoke again: "I'm still the mayor, Juan, and you're just a Gym Leader. If you know what's good for you, and if you don't want a forced retirement, you will raise that child well.” Megalos’s scowl softened. “We need to make sure Sootopolis City outlives us.”

Juan’s hand fell from the doorknob. His characteristic confidence was gone.

“From now on,” Juan said grimly, “you and I are only business partners. Not friends. And I will raise Wallace to care for him, not to help you.”

With that, Juan left.

“I have put up with enough from you.” Juan said that a lot, more and more aggressively each time. And yet he always came back. He had to come back for the sake of Sootopolis City. If Juan was to be a perfect Gym Leader for Sootopolis City, and if Megalos was to be a perfect Gym Leader for Sootopolis City, they would need to work together. And if Sootopolis City was to have a future, it would need a perfect heir.

Megalos was still a good mayor, and a good mayor needed good friends. Juan would come back. Megalos knew this, because they both knew what was best for Sootopolis City.

And raising Wallace for his own needs? What was Juan talking about? The needs of the one were far outweighed by the needs of the many. This wasn’t about raising a child; this was about saving Sootopolis City.

-

Despite his increasingly aggressive political decisions, Megalos was known to be a very calm politician… for the most part. After drunken anger boiled into a fight with Mauville City Gym Leader Wattson, Megalos swore off of violence. Rumors still emerged of coworkers comparing him to a ticking time bomb, ready to explode if anything went wrong. A lot of rumors about Megalos spread, but such was life in a region where Dewford, Mauville, Lilycove, Fortree, and Sootopolis shared routes. On those same winds and waves, other rumors spread: who was sleeping with who, who would be getting replaced by who in the Gym Circuit, what gender or sexual identity the Sootpolitan pretty boy was identifying as. Gossip was Hoenn’s hottest pastime.

Then came news grounded in more than gossip: the Sootopolitan pretty boy, the mayor’s pet, the son of the late Dorian was of the legal age to marry, and the mayor was looking for potential mates.

-

Megalos was a very good mayor. He knew how to get elected and re-elected. He knew what people to talk to, what money to spend, what districts to draw out, what obstacles to crush, what enemies to destroy. He wasn’t doing anything bad; he was just doing what was right for Sootopolis City, and he was securing his right to and his need for power and control.

He was playing a game of chess. Every piece had to be moved to the right spot and sit perfectly in its square. Pieces had to be sacrificed here and there, opponents had to be destroyed, but that was all a part of the game, the game to save Sootopolis City.

“Wallace, I’d like you to meet Melissa Zaizen. Melissa, Wallace Papadakis.”

Melissa was a beautiful woman—clear, beige skin without a single imperfection; long, straight, walnut brown hair; eyes a beautiful shade of violet; a long, modest, light blue dress and a matching, modest sun hat; makeup that was simple, pretty, and modest.

Wallace was eighteen. He was old enough to get married. With that and his status in the city, it was imperative for Megalos to find him a wife, a wife to support him financially and politically, a wife to produce children for him, a wife to make Sootopolis City well respected in the Hoenn region. Sure, Megalos had been looking for mates for a while by this point, but now it would be easier.

Wallace waved to Melissa, though the confidence usually present in his eyes was gone. Then again, the confidence and glow in his eyes was slowly fading with each passing day. He was wearing a respectable suit, at least. Nothing foppish or feminine, thank goodness. It was loose, though, and it was enough to tell Megalos that the body underneath was skinny, feminine, weak.

Nevertheless, Megalos smiled, clasping his hands together. “Well, with those introductions out of the way, why don’t you two come down with me to the dining hall?”

-

Megalos had made sure that the chefs prepared their finest dishes and arranged them perfectly on the dining room table. Wallace, who was sitting in between Megalos and Melissa at the table, picked at a plate of unseasoned rice.

“Wallace,” Megalos hissed into his ear, “eat something.”

“I’m not hungry,” Wallace whispered back. Ungrateful little brat. If he was Megalos’s kid, that would be enough to warrant a spanking. If this was supposed to be the golden child chosen by the heavens, why didn’t he act like it?

“What are you two talking about?” Melissa asked, drawing out her words a bit. She put a hand on Wallace’s leg, but he quickly pulled away from her.

“Let her touch you, Wallace,” Megalos ordered. “Don’t you think Melissa is a pretty woman?” Wasn't Wallace pan or one of those other fake identities? Wasn't he a randy hedonist always seeking to bed someone? Why was he never attracted to any of the women Megalos set him up with?

Wallace smiled. “I-I think she’s a very pretty woman…” He took Melissa’s hand and pushed it away. “Well, Melissa, do you have any favorite artists?”

Megalos jabbed his elbow into Wallace’s bony side. He must have hit hard, because Wallace winced and held that area of his ribs.

“That’s your idea of a conversation topic?” Megalos snarled. Wasn't Wallace the son of Dorian, acclaimed rhetor? Wasn't he good with words? Why was he stuttering? Why was he talking about art?

“I don’t,” Melissa replied to Wallace. “Do you?”

Wallace closed his eyes, a soft smile forming on his lips as he leaned back. “Well, there’s—“

“Great. Wonderful. Save me the lecture.”

Wallace opened his eyes to glance at Melissa. “My apologies. I’m just excited to further study art once I start college.”

Melissa cocked her head. “You’re studying art? I remember studying medicine.”

Wallace gave Melissa a longer, more intense stare. “How… How old are you?”

“Twenty eight.”

Silence. Wallace looked at Megalos, then back at Melissa, then back at Megalos. Not once did his expression change. Finally, he spoke again:

“Melissa, I’m sure you’re a fine lady, but I… I don’t think we’re compatible as a couple.”

Melissa’s eyes quivered with tears, then—crying—she ran off. After a few seconds, Wallace briskly walked off in a different direction. Megalos was alone.

“WALLACE!”

-

Megalos thought he could hear Wallace throwing up in the bathroom. This was unacceptable. Illness was unacceptable. Noncompliance was unacceptable. Wallace had done nothing but unacceptable behavior the whole damn night. First his parents, and now Juan was raising him to be a spoiled brat? Juan was going to need a strong talking.

“Wallace! Get out here and speak to me, young man!”

A whole minute passed before Wallace opened the door. He was shivering. His tie was undone, and his face and hair were disheveled.

“Your behavior towards Melissa was unacceptable, young man!”

“I’m sorry, Sir,” Wallace half said, half mumbled. He looked exhausted, though the way his brows were lowered suggested he was annoyed with Megalos. He had the nerve to be annoyed after making a fool of himself?

“Melissa is a perfect potential wife!” Megalos continued. “She’s rich, she’s influential, she’s well respected—”

“She’s ten years older than me,” Wallace snapped back. “I am not marrying someone ten years older than me, much less someone ten years older than me who I just met. I’ll find myself the right—”

Something suddenly possessed Megalos. No, something had been boiling in Megalos for years: fear over the state of Sootopolis City, confusion over the changes surrounding him, anger over his lack of power and control in the world. All of those repressed emotions finally manifested into something physical and real and powerful.

He hit Wallace with a hard fist.

Wallace staggered back against the bathroom wall. With his hand over his nose, he looked up at Megalos, shocked, confused, furious. Blood started to drip from his nose, on his hand, to the floor.

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!” Megalos grabbed Wallace by the shirt collar and shook him. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!” He slammed Wallace against the wall. Holding Wallace tight against it, Megalos snarled in the bastard’s bloody face.

Megalos was a good mayor. Megalos was a powerful mayor. Wallace was a slutty little whore who slept around Hoenn instead of settling down with a respectable woman. Wallace was an attention seeking bitch who thought he could make up genders and identities. Wallace was a freak who thought he could disobey Megalos and defy Sootopolis City’s needs. If this spoiled little brat was going to try to defy Megalos’s commands and ruin Sootopolis City by being a slutty little whore, someone was going to have to keep him in line, and neither his parents nor Juan would be doing that. This was Megalos’s duty. Megalos needed to take matters into his own hands. He needed power. He needed control.

He twisted his grip on Wallace’s collar. Megalos was a good mayor, and Wallace was a bad Gym Leader, a bad Lorekeeper, a bad, bad kid who needed to be put into his place. If Sootopolis City was to survive, Wallace needed to be good—no, perfect, and Megalos was the only person able and willing to get anything done.

And then, Megalos let go of Wallace, who then fell to the floor, gasping for air. He looked up at Megalos like a terrified little Whismur.

Megalos looked down at his hands, the hands that wrote bills into laws, the hands that slapped his children, the hands that ordered his Gyarados, the hands that could have killed Wallace.

The hands that could control Wallace.

“I’m sorry, Sir.” Wallace meant it this time. He was practically begging for forgiveness, as if Megalos was the Mediator of the Sky himself. “I’m so, so sorry. If there’s anything I can do to make up for this—“

“Stop dressing like a girl, first of all. Second of all, stop sleeping around the Hoenn region. Third of all, cut it out with the art shit and focus on politics and government. Sootopolis City needs leaders, not useless tradesmen.”

-

As Megalos’s second term came to an end and his third term began, his political actions became calmly aggressive, quietly draconic.

He quietly shot down bills to protect the homeless and the unemployed. He gave drug crimes and even just drug use harsher punishments. He shut down papers criticizing him, even shutting down the sketch comedy show “The Andreou and Barlos Show” after they made a skit poking fun at him. He shut himself out from friends, coworkers, and even family, only speaking to the public during socialite parties and PR managers. One such PR statement stated simply, “We need perfection. Nothing else can be tolerated.”

-

Megalos was a good mayor. Megalos was a good mayor. Megalos was a good mayor.

Fuck Dorian. Fuck Lucille. Fuck Juan. Fuck everyone. But most of all, fuck Wallace. Megalos knew what was best for Sootopolis City, and nobody understood. Did they even care for the city? Did they have an ounce of self respect?

Ren understood, at least.

A woman of 38, Ren was one of the strongest Gym Leaders in the Kanto region. She was a wealthy woman with a lot of influence, socializing with the likes of Silph Co. and the Yamaguchis. Her eldest children—three triplets—were all in their twenties, while her youngest daughter Kasumi was seven years younger than Wallace. But age was just a number: Wallace could talk to people far older or far younger than himself. He and Ren were of the age of consent, and age gaps in marriages weren't uncommon. Besides, Ren still had a few years ahead of her to try to conceive more children with Wallace. Normally Megalos would have been against setting Wallace up with a woman who had been married before, but he was getting desperate, and Ren would bring with her enough national fame and fortune to bring Megalos much needed praise, to save Sootopolis City.

And so Megalos set up a party to acquaint Ren and Wallace on the battlefield and in conversation, eventually leading to Ren proposing a romantic relationship; at this point, Wallace needed to be offered such matters with alcohol.

Wallace didn't seem to like Ren yet, even when she started to flirt with him before their battle. Wasn’t he supposed to be a slut? He flirted with women and men and whatever those other made up genders were, but as soon as his future wife stepped in and flirted back, he got all quiet? He slept with that bird whore from Fortree City, but he wouldn't sleep with someone who could actually make a good, respectable wife? He slept with that man, but he wouldn’t marry a woman who was just as rich and influential? Ren would have to teach him to love her, but that was fine. He would learn. He would learn what was right for Sootopolis City.

Stronger measures would need to be taken. Ren knew how to make Wallace love her.

-

A crowd had formed outside of Juan’s estate. Far to the side, Ren was trying to fight her way out of the grip of Officer Jenny, kicking and screaming and shrieking.

“Out of the way! Out of the way!”

Several paramedics ran out the door with a gurney. Megalos caught a glimpse of the person laying on it: Wallace, his face pale, his mouth and shirt messy with blood, eyes barely open. He looked like one of those drug addicts Megalos would arrest.

He disappeared into the water ambulance. The doors shut, and the ambulance drove off. The stark red and blue lights slowly faded, dimmer and dimmer and dimmer… until the night became dark again, filled with the whispers of the onlookers:

“What did Ren do to him?!”

“Damn, he must have gotten really drunk.”

“Guess he had it coming.”

"You think he got into a fight?"

Some distance away from the crowd, Juan stood alone, staring in the direction the ambulance had disappeared. With his back away from Megalos, it was hard to tell what he was thinking or feeling.

Megalos stood still for a long time, long enough to see the crowd disperse, long enough to realize that he and Juan were left alone, long enough to see the police boat drive off, long enough to see Juan walk off.

Megalos was alone, alone to ponder his next move. What people would he have to pay to keep this scandal out of the press? What strings would he have to pull to keep his position? What lengths would he have to go to to get Wallace back or, if Wallace died, find a replacement? Maybe that niece of his could be pulled from her kiddie Contests and replace him. A woman could market her beauty. Or maybe he could find another young boy at the University of Sootopolis City or Upper Sootopolis City’s grammar school. Whoever the replacement was, they would have to be perfect. Everything had to be perfect.

Because Megalos was a perfect mayor. Megalos was a perfect mayor. MEGALOS WAS A PERFECT MAYOR.
 
Last edited:

kintsugi

the warmth of summer in the songs you write
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(just a heads up, nbd + I'm not personally hurt in any way by this, but you might want to update the cw tag at the main post to specifically mention slurs/the f-word. fwiw you do a super considerate job of tagging incredibly aggressively/comprehensively, and I think that's rad.)

Pano can confirm that I have a godlike habit of telling her something like "gee I wish we had more insight into X" immediately before a huge chapter on X, and I'm glad that I can continue the trend on with you. Megalos ahoy.

So all that said, knowing full-well what I said in the previous review--I think you nail the tone of what a sleazebag Megalos is, lmaooo. The first section is really effective at setting up his excuse systems and the ease with which he passes blame. "I just got elected but all the good shit was me and all the bad shit was the other guy, thanks", oof. I also really liked lines like "but the light only intensified the shadows". I think it really works with this running theme here of pursuing perfection constantly and never being satisfied with what you've got; even success just makes you feel like more of a failure. It's an oddly humanizing sentiment (albeit briefly; man's a dick) and I'm able to see how/why Wallace ends up taking so many cues from him. The last few chapters have been interesting since we start branching into other character's heads, and I really wasn't expecting the Megalos POV but in hindsight I should've. It adds a lot here! "the game to save Sootopolis city" is a really metal line.

As far as my previous comments--I do still think that the escalation to villain territory in the previous chapters is a bit much and could be dialed back a hair, but I think this chapter helps patch a lot of things. If I'd read the whole thing in one sitting I think I would've had an easier time. I do think there's a case to be made for not really showing the degree of Megalos's cruelty, specifically the physical assault, until this chapter (instead mostly relying on Wallace's perception of him)--sort of how a horror movie builds suspense by not showing the monster for a while, you can get a lot of mileage by showing the aftermath of a character before actually meeting them. Idk, just food for thought. This is a really chunky chapter comparatively and I think it adds a lot of depth. I love with alt-POV chapters start completing other parts of characters; this was a really cool aspect of your drabble collection and I'm glad that it's coming back here.

lil' Dorian flashback is really neat too. I liked how he's graceful and proud of his defeat, more focused on what he learned and what he was able to teach in turn, and how Megalos is just like ERROR DOES NOT COMPUTE. Bookends really nicely with Megalos not being able to understand Dorian's sobriety metaphor; how could anyone possibly learn from their mistakes by accepting that part of themselves and then striving to change??? Flashback-Juan is also nice to see, and in general I enjoyed seeing Megalos actually getting challenged by adults since so far he's just been bullying kids. I'm curious what happened between the Juan/Megalos argument scene and the present day--Juan seems to realize that Megalos is actual poison and isn't afraid to stand up to him + doesn't really bow to the same kind of political pressure that Megalos is used to exerting, so I'm curious why Juan would let Wallace anywhere near this guy.

Curious about his fascination with Wallace getting married + the absolute necessity of woman=perfect accessory and yet not a word about a wife of his own.

Although I am left feeling a bit of a disconnect/not understanding his full arc here, I think. Early on it seems like he's way more prone to ignoring/dismissing anything that would conflict with his worldview that it's not perfect; later, it becomes a pronounced shift to wanting to destroy things that don't align with his worldview (almost literally, in the sense of trying to beat the imperfection out of Wallace). It feels like a pretty dynamic/dramatic shift but I can't really put my finger on what causes it? Since it seems like the first half "gaslight/ignore" response, if applied to the second half of the fic would just involve him ignoring Wallace and denying Wallace's existence, while the second half "punch the problem until it goes away" when applied to the first half would involve him crushing dissidence in Sootopolis with an iron fist or something. One of these responses is hugely avoidant and the other one is hugely confrontational, so it's odd to see both extremes exhibited by the same person. The boiling over scene mentions "fear", but so much of this chapter is (paradoxically) spent with Megalos refusing to acknowledge that anything is wrong, so it's hard to understand what he's actually afraid of.

I think since the idea that he's so hellbent on destroying imperfection (rather than ignoring it) is central to the story, an easy fix would be tweaking the beginning to show that he's willing to beat down political threats rather than ignore them, just like he's willing to beat down social threats (ie Wallace) rather than ignore them. Maybe just the ones that he knows he can get away with, which is why he can't fire Dorian but he doesn't hesitate to punch Wallace; he'll only pick fights he can win. So a more confrontational political approach--like, bussing those lazy homeless vagrants to other cities, being tough on crime, harsher DA’s, mandatory minimums for drug incarceration, etc—all that necessary evil stuff that other people are too cowardly to do even though it would totally fix everything. So it’s less that nothing is wrong and that Sootopolis is perfect; it’s more that Sootopolis isn’t perfect but only Megalos is brave enough to take the steps to make it so; everyone else is a bleeding-heart and can’t understand that sacrifice is necessary for a perfect world. This could even start out kind of gradual/kind of just parallel to some of our “accepted” civic policies (looking at you, homeless spikes) and then escalate into blatant cruelty as he gets more and more desperate. I think a more harsh approach across the political board would mesh his two worldviews together.

The church worldbuilding was also neat--love seeing your little alterations on Hoenn here. Awesome addition; keep chugging!

some prose thoughts:
Nicole's old hand me downs fit nicely.
you'll want "hand-me-downs" here
“Do you really need another daughter?”
"sir, ma'am, congratulations. you already have a daughter and as such your second child is worthless."
“If you raise you say another word or come any closer to my son, I won’t hesitate to use my Pokémon against you.”
I thought that this was a bit of an extreme reaction--not that Dorian shouldn't be jumping to defend his kid from this shitlord, but if he's not hesitating to use physical violence (since idk what else a Pokemon would do in this situation) against Megalos, it seems kind of ridiculous that he'd even bring his kid here in the first place? Even leaving Wallace under a tree seems safer than bringing him into a room with a man who Dorian wouldn't hesitate to physically assault.
He opened the door and left, slamming the door behind him. A few seconds passed. Then Megalos threw his chair into the wall.
Same hat as above--I think the contrast between these two would be a lot more clear if Dorian stays calm, doesn't threaten anything, doesn't slam the door on the way out.
Another part of him knew it was selfish to celebrate the death of two people.
I liked the implication here that he knows what he's doing is wrong; he just doesn't really care.
A young woman of black hair, turquoise eyes,
I think "with" would work better than "of" here.
If anything, Megalos thought, it will be brighter without the stain of their presence.
Looks like your italics got dropped?
In one corner of the cemetery, a woman kneeled before and stared at two headstones, a man—presumably her boyfriend—standing over her like he was Jirachi’s Angel of the Victims trying to comfort the grieving family.
I think there's a bit too much going on here in this sentence.
Megalos weaved through grieving family and friends, professional mourners, and clergymen to find Wallace, sitting alone with a Seaking, crying.
this is a dumb question and you're totally allowed to be like "fuck off kint they're magic", but I can't really picture a seaking sitting next to someone? since it's a fish
“Where is Juan?”

A man stepped out from the crowd, standing tall and silent.

“Matthias?” the man—Juan—called.
It felt a little redundant to clarify that he's both the man answering to "Juan" and that his name is Juan.
Silence. Juan would have been still as stone if he wasn’t shaking uncontrollably.
This felt like an oxymoron--"he would've been X if he weren't the exact opposite of X" is an odd format.
Matthias, I will not—will not—tolerate you using such vile, bigoted language against my student, much less behind his back!
I'm surprised that "much less behind his back" is what's setting Juan off here--since the implied better alternative to "behind his back" is shouting slurs to a thirteen year-old's face? Which I don't really see Juan advocating for.
and if his son went down the same or a worser path...
I think you'll want "worse" here
a wife to make Sootopolis City well respected in the Hoenn region.
you'll want "well-respected"
Melissa’s eyes quivered with tears, then—crying—she ran off. Wallace ran off in a different direction. This left Megalos alone.
I think them both crying and running off feels a bit dramatic, but idk, I've never had someone point-blank look at me and say I'm not wife material
If this spoiled little puppet was going to defy his commands and ruin Sootopolis City by being a slutty little brat
I'm not sure if the word "slutty" is working for me here--since specifically it's Wallace's refusal to get intimate that's constituting his defiance of Megalos' commands.

I think there's a potential argument that Megalos is using "slut" in the sense that Wallace is engaging in casual relationships and isn't interested in marriage (or at least the ones Megalos is pushing), which tracks but I think needs a few more sentences of explanation.
He and Ren were of the age of consent, and age gaps in marriages weren't uncommon Besides, Ren still had a few years ahead of her to try to conceive more children with Wallace.
dropped a period
Wallace didn't seem to like Ren yet, even when she started to flirt with him. Damn slut. He flirted with women and men and whatever, but he wouldn't flirt back to a woman who liked him?
I think the train of thought is a little muddled here, as with the first slut. I'd maybe rephrase to something like:

Wallace didn't seem to like Ren yet, even when she started to flirt with him. Wasn't he supposed to be a massive slut? He flirted with women and men and whatever else they called themselves, but now that there was someone respectable in front of him he couldn't flirt back to his future wife?

Ren having kids that are his age is super horrifying from a marriage perspective, but I’m curious where “presumed divorced/widowed” or “blended families” intersects with Megalos’s idea of the perfect wife—if he’s super traditional I’m surprised he’d advocate partnering up with (what traditionalists might view as; this is absolutely not my opinion) damaged goods.
"Matthias Megalos, you are under arrest for attempted sexual assault."

No. No. No. Megalos hadn't done anything wrong. Megalos hadn't done anything wrong. Megalos hadn't done anything wrong. He was doing what was best for Sootopolis City. Didn't anyone realize that?! Why wasn't Wallace going to jail for threatening Sootopolis City's dignity?!?!
I'm not entirely clear where Megalos is legally in the wrong here (morally, yes, it's very obvious)--but Wallace is of-age and technically not coerced (in a legal sense) so it's not really pimping; Megalos set this whole thing up but Ren's really the only person who did the assaulting as far as I can tell? Wallace's POV for this is understandably fuzzy and Megalos isn't retelling that part.

But like legally Megalos isn't really accountable for Ren's actions, since encouraging someone to do something doesn't make you legally (again, separately from morally) responsible for what they do next; even in the cases where it does, there’s usually an extended court case to prove culpability/being an accessory to the crime (i.e. if some transaction/quid pro quo between Ren/Megalos were revealed to imply that this was technically prostitution; fun hoist by his own petard if you go for the harsher version of Megalos tbh). They probably wouldn’t just make the arrest on the spot based on eyewitness accounts + technically Megalos really only hosted the party and set them up; he has plausible deniability that he didn’t think Ren would assault anyone. It’s kind of weird that this ends in a double arrest when there's a clear, witnessed individual perpetrator.
 
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OrionTheAbsol

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I was going to read the last two chapters of "Heroes & Villains" but saw the disclaimer, so here I am.

Chapter 1

No commentary here. Though I imagine poor Wallace here is going to have a lifelong battle against perfectionism.

Chapter 2
  • Kurogane Cockburn. Cockburn. COCKBURN. WHO LISTENS TO A GUY NAMED COCKBURN?
  • This whole chapter is laced with anxiety, and I love it.
Chapter 3
  • Even more anxiety!

Okay, so I don't really much to say, lol. But it's certainly interesting to see the characters you love with a different take. While "Heroes & Villains" is sillier and more lighthearted, "I'm a Marionette" is more tense and distressful. It shows Wallace raised and trained to be the best that Sootopolis has to offer but is forced to meet unrealistic expectations (including those he placed upon himself) and cope with his spiraling depression. I'm hoping to see Wallace's relationship explored further with his sister Nicole, father Megalos and the rest of his family. Perhaps a way to break away from the grip of his father and the high society of Sootopolis.
 

Torchic W. Pip

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Hiya, it's been a while! Glad to be back.
Hi there! Sorry for the late response, in part from things mentioned in DMs, in part the fact that I dropped C13 and needed to wait to respond to that, in part fffffffffffffrick mobile while spending time with family.
I admit that I always struggle a little in saying thoughts about this specific flavor of fic--Aether sorta touched on a similar vein, but like, if I don't agree with your portrayal of depression or something, that doesn't really make it invalid; it just doesn't make it mine. This type of fic, where the focus is on purposefully flawed characters facing a lot of hard truths is sort of just inherently personal to the author and it's always hard for me as a reviewer to figure out how I want to approach the story on its own terms, and by extension, yours. One author who always writes "way too real shit" to another; I've been wanting to swing around to repay the favor but also wasn't sure when I'd be in the right headspace for things.
That’s perfectly understandable, friend. * Raises glass * To authors who write way too real shit.
'cause shit hits really hard in this one. It's nice to read this after your drabble collection; "who's Megalos? I wish we got to see more of him"; past!me is a fucking idiot, my god.
They always ask "who the fuck is Megalos" but never "should we know who the fuck Megalos is".
But without the constrains of being told as drabbles, and with the ability to focus more heavily on Wallace, I think I got a much better taste of what you were actually going for here, and I found this to be a really well-written story thus far.
:)
Normally with stories that I enjoy I use words like "fun", but I don't really think that applies here; this is one of those stories that I think is really well put together and touches on a lot of issues in a poignant/nuanced way; I hesitate to say "i enjoyed reading it" in the sense that this is the hurt part of hurt/comfort so it's mostly just been a lot of gut punches and not enjoyment so much as, ouch, no, goddamn ... all this to say, I think mission accomplished?
Mission accomplished. We'll get 'em again next time.
I do understand the stress of trying to put deeply personal things in fic, the stress of how others perceive your experiences/fictionalized experiences--all in all I think you make these struggles feel real and painful, but not in a way that overstays its welcome.
The stress didn't directly come from writing (I would write the original version of the fic when stressed lol), but yeah, cutting open my heart and laying it on the table is scary with the fear of someone's only takeaway being "0/10 a typo" or "I don't like this ship and you should feel bad for shipping it".
There were a few moments that I flagged when I was reading as like, oh god oh no.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing
In general you make really good use of Wallace as limited-third; we're stuck in his head and it's immensely clear that his perception of himself/the world isn't really okay, but his voice is the one he/we've got, so it's going to have to work (or it isn't).
Heck yeah, my limited POV stuff has helped me
I thought the opening scene with the beret was really solid, followed immediately by Wallace taking it off--this isn't a fic where someone puts a cute little hat on you and your problems are fixed with someone telling you that they care.
"Breaking news—wearing a beret cures depression"
There's a lot of details that just sell how oppressive and bleak Wallace's mindset is; how he can't remember when he last ate his favorite meal, the crippling logic of "well if it's not anorexia or bulimia, it's fine" and "well it could be worse; I could be an actual addict so a little substance abuse is fine"; the art was good and that was all that mattered; the pressure of being your ancestor's legacy ... I think you really capture a lot of difficult emotions in these, and the characterization is really solid.
"Oh, when the Orbeatles use LSD for art it's fine, but when I do it, it's bad?... And isn't it use to treat PTSD?"
"Wallace, I'm pretty sure it's a case by case basis, and in your case, it's probably not the best idea."
Emotions are really fucking complicated, especially when your brain wants to do a bad thing to you, so it makes up every excuse it can to justify that bad thing: "Oh I'm functional so it's not a problem. Oh I deserve it. Or it isn't X because I'm not Y." And when those gremlins start to sound rational... I'm gonna need more fanfiction therapy for this.
There's something uniquely bleak about going through a shit time as a young adult with minimal coping mechanisms and not being able to even understand how deep in the shit you are that I think you really nail down with these. I haven't struggled with the specific things that Wallace has, but you portray his mindset in a way that seems native to him (in the sense that while he's sitting down and explaining that vomiting is about control for him, it does genuinely feel like he's having to re-explain this to himself rather than to an audience), and it all really works for me imo. And I especially like how it's really unclear how much of this pressure is expected of Wallace and how much is projected--it's the subtle lies that build into the bigger ones, and those lines aren't really clear, and that's the problem but it's also the point.
I really like implications/stuff where there's more than meets the eyes, and I'm glad I was able to do that with this.
In light of this, let's talk antagonists vs villains real quick, specifically re: Megalos:

I've reached the point in my life where I can't really in goodfaith call a fictional character "cartoonishly evil" or "cartoonishly stupid" because I've seen enough real people do evil and stupid things that, idk, sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.
Friend, buddy, pal, big mood. Everything that happened in my life from 2019-2021 makes me believe that no evil character or tragic backstory can be "unrealistic".
So I think a better phrase is unnecessarily evil--is this action necessary to tell the story you want to tell, so to speak. In this case, the damage is mostly done with Megalos just ignoring Lisia's drawing, saying it's not important, throwing it aside (with the intent to throw it out later). Dude's a dick who doesn't care about kids with a heart of stone.
In this case, the more compelling idea to me was that he doesn't see the drawing the way Wallace sees it, nor does he understand what it actually means to Wallace. The emotional disconnect in this scene is more interesting imo, and just the facts that he can't recognize a) the value that Wallace places on art and b) the desire Wallace has to impress him personally already makes him out to be a formidable person emotionally. His way of thinking is abjectly antagonistic to Wallace's here, and is largely responsible for a lot of Wallace's issues now, and it's really clear when he decides the drawing is a waste of space that this is how the board is laid out and these are where all the characters stand on it.

But when he tears up the drawing and then throws it into the fire for good measure--this doesn't add much imo. The drawing is irreparably destroyed and we get a tangible sense of truly how few fucks Megalos gives about it, but I think just him rejecting it and saying he doesn't have time for childish conceits would have as much of an emotional impact (or perhaps more, since the behavior will seem less exaggerated) than him burning a kid's picture.
Good points. Very, very good points. I don't really have any profound responses, because your insights are profound enough. I'm gonna go back and tone down on his stuff.
And it's sort of up to you, of course--see above not about how reality is often stranger/eviler/stupider than fiction; I can't say with confidence that there isn't someone in the world who would burn crayon drawings if given the chance.
Even if there was someone in my life who burned my crayon drawings, I would feel really weird saying "well this was based on a thing in my life so you should FEEL BAD for personally attacking me and stealing my Oreos" because I've seen people do that before, and it feels really... guilt trippy? Like first of all, how is the reader supposed to know that if I don't put it in, say, an author's note? And second of all, if I did a writing/narrative thing wrong in a way that damages the story or characters, that means more to me than my pseudo therapy. Because after all, this is part processing and part "hey what if Wallace had a dark and troubled past" and part "I want to tell a good story".
I think it mostly depends on how you want to portray Megalos--if he's a cold, calculating guy who's got Sootopolis by the metaphorical balls of its public opinion, and he's socialiting with the best of the socialites or whatever--it does seem a little weird that he'd be so blatantly petty here. This action strikes me as someone who's more prone to giving into their emotions (I hate this waste of paper) rather than maintaining a facade, which seems like the opposite of Megalos's general role/advice for Wallace in the rest of the story, so it felt particularly weird to see him specifically doing this here.
"I hate this paper specifically. It offends my eyes."
And besides, he's got plenty of time to be evil in the sexual assault trial. Where he would, at least, have an excuse(*) for his shitty actions that's more complex than "I hate fun".
(*)I feel like I need to clarify that wanting your friends to not face jail time for sexually assaulting people and believing you have the wealth/power to do so is not a good reason and does make him a bad person. but as a character motivation it exists, is parseable, and is sadly indicative of a lot of people in the real world.
Totally get it. Writing C13 I was like “I hope nobody thinks I’m a bad person for writing bad people.”
And, hmm. I don't think I'd actually spend so much time typing this out if I didn't think you did a really good job of making the other characters antagonists in their own rights--they're definitely working in Wallace's best interest and they're trying to help him, but in the literary sense of "being against the protagonist", I think you do a really great job of showing how sometimes mental illness takes your friends and makes them enemies, and you show that in a way that hurts but is real.
YO. I did not even realize that they were antagonists in the literal sense. Someone pointed out how Nicole had good intentions and wants to help her younger brother, but because of how little she pries into his problems, she's unknowingly letting him spiral further. What's worse, when Steven/Winona/Nicole finally reach out, it's not a light reaching out through the darkness, it's betrayal. It's looking past his perfect image to see his flaws. It's destroying everything he's worked to build and preserve.
Wallace is of course the main antagonist of this story--which is why his friends acting in goodfaith is actually perceived as acting against him in the first place--and conceptually I think it works really, really well.
Mmmmmm yes being your own worst enemy.
It fucking hurts to see that Nicole's trying to cheer him up with food when food is such a huge issue for him; it's really sad to see Winona just run into a blank wall when she realizes how deeply compartmentalized Wallace's perception of abuse is. Steven and Juan don't even realize the extent to which they've inadvertently antagonized Wallace because in their eyes they're doing the right thing for him--which is such a real and insidious truth about mental illness; it makes you alienate your friends. Honestly before Megalos showed up I think you already had the compelling antagonists on the page in a rock-solid format, which is why Megalos showing up in person to be an actual villain threw me for a loop a little.
Subverting the "get a dollar every time someone says beauty or beautiful in my fics" trope by saying that things like this—mental illness making you think your friends are enemies, making you think that abuse is okay if it's towards you, making you think you're getting migraines and migraine vomiting because you're not making yourself sick enough—is just all saying that mental illness is really, really ugly. It tells you ugly lies about you and the people around you. It ruins your sense of self respect and makes you think everything you do and are is ugly. It's ugly, ugly, ugly.
And I think the seeds are there--Megalos, especially the perception we get of him from Wallace's general notes/fears about Megalos before Megalos shows up physically--is a really good foil to Wallace's inner voice of demanding to be perfect, of not being good enough. Megalos, unlike the others, doesn't think that Wallace is good enough, and even if you just left it at that I think he'd be a really compelling antagonist without just being an outright villain.
Like lines like these really drill home how much of his mindset has infected Wallace's here--don't you care for yourself, oof, my god. My heart dropped when I read this because honestly he reminds me of a lot of people who do think they're still acting in your best interests, and are trying to help you become your best self.
(And all of this would contrast really nicely with Wallace not really being able to discern if his actual friends are doing goodfaith efforts to help him :c)
Yes yes YES.
But on the flip side, I really don't know. There's something deeply cathartic about personifying your issues as a fictional character so you can take him to court or punch him in the face, and I don't really want to take that from you while touting literary structure or character arcs lol
The catharsis I get from having Megalos say and be things my brain gremlins (and, occasionally, real people) say to me or imply and then getting to kill him punch him is very... cathartic to say the least.
--your story isn't meant for me-the-individual-so it does feel weird to write long treatises on how much you should or shouldn't try to humanize this guy vs villifying him. Shitty people exist in the world and sometimes they exist without nuance, and in that case trying to empathize with them is almost counter-productive since the more necessary thing is to just take them out as quickly as possible before they can hurt anyone else. But I do think you really nailed the way that your own friends can be helpless to fix these things in a way that was really nuanced + delicate, so it was a little odd to see Megalos doing classic Disney villain stuff with the rest of these subtleties in the background.
At the same time, by putting this fic out online, it's meant for me and an audience, and that means writing a good story. I write stuff with characters going through hell knowing full well that I might never publish it. In publishing this, I know full well that it's more than just a catharsis.
I legit burst out laughing on this line. God. It hurts so hard to think about how your friends really care about you but are also going to just irreparably be themselves when you're hurting them by being hurt,,, anyway here's a meme to end off on a good note
unknown.png
This meme lives rent free in my head, omigosh. Now all I can think of is Med Student!Steven being like "oh no you're bleeding! This reminds me of hematite, which was named after..."
some small prose thoughts--mostly just pulled these because in general you asked for them + are receptive to prose tweaks; overall I thought the tone was really snappy here and you nailed the third-limited narrator. tbh if you hadn't asked I wouldn't have really bothered flagging much since things read pretty smoothly.
Not going to reply to everything line by line. Just know that I have read all your stuff and used it to edit as I respond to this.
There are some words missing here in "my Goldeen and we". I'd also argue that it's kind of weird that she specifies "my Goldeen" and not Goldeen's name (since Wallace calls Milotic "Victoria" and in general the humans seem to treat the pokemon as friends rather than property), but I see why you're phrasing this as it is to avoid confusing the audience. Maybe something like
(or something. idk. I don't think I nailed your style 100% in that one but lol, such is life sometimes)
I think you got it pretty good, imo. I'm just going to change/add a few words here and there so it's not a direct copy.
Wasn't sure if this was an intentional typo (since people texting on phones leads to disaster and it would make perfect sense if Steven forgot a word lol); figured I'd flag it.
Steven: Oh shit oh shit oh shit—
I don't really follow the logistics of the three strike rule--this just seems generally so much less forgiving and arbitrary than "lose more than X% of your matches" and it feels a a little ridiculous/difficult to implement. Especially since, from a logistical standpoint, losing one match badly might incapacitate your best team members for a small amount of time, making you more likely to lose the next match, so things would understandably spiral really quickly in a way that this metric seems specifically geared to encourage? And tbh the solution is just to start taking fewer matches with longer breaks between (so that you can guarantee that your aces are always fresh or whatever)--which just generally seems to result in a system where gym leaders are intentionally spacing out matches (either because they're overworked college kids or for the reasoning above) and it'd just be harder to get a gym challenge in the first place?
So this is a carry over from the novel Pocket Monsters: The Animation (checking now, it's actually four losses in a row lol). In the book, it led to a lot of bribery lol. I’ll probably keep it in for now, but there was probably a lot of reform stuff in between the events of IAM and, say, ATAC that lead to .this rule being removed. For Hoenn, at least
(and there is of course a pretty sound dystopian/failed system version where for whatever reason, the gym system being broken like this is actually done on purpose and the endgoal is to churn through gym leaders as quickly as possible, but I don't really follow that with the worldbuilding as presented)
I also imagine this is a pre-reform thing for Hinode regions, but places like Galar probably don't have it.
broke: don't do worldbuilding; pokemon canon is flawless
woke: do pokemon worldbuilding for cool shit like giving rowlet a cute hat
bespoke: do pokemon worldbuilding and show that self medication is in fact even worse under futuristic healthcare
Oak: do pokemon worldbuilding by, every time you see a medicine or Grass type or crafting material, asking yourself "can I smoke this"
He's mentioned to be 19 somewhere else I think, so is the drinking age here 20? Wasn't sure what your intended math was to be (or tbf if 21 would be a realistic drinking age when they're all going out on joblike journeys at the age of 10, if that's also something you're rolling with)
Yeah it's 20. Japan's drinking age is 20. Greece's drinking age is 18 to, like, buy alcohol and drink it publicly. There's no age for drinking privately, but it's far, far more complicated than "oh five year olds can get drunk". Drunkenness is frowned upon, and the legal BAC limit before you're legally drunk is lower than in America.
"sir, ma'am, congratulations. there is no ethical consumption under capitalism and as such your child is worthless. also assigned male at birth."
This is my favorite running gag of yours on these reviews but the "also assigned male at birth" KILLED ME lol
in conclusion: oh no.
Oh no. (Also changed it so Megalos isn't going to jail. Yet.)

Aaaaaaaaand before I could even reply to the first review I published Chapter 13 and got another review.
(just a heads up, nbd + I'm not personally hurt in any way by this, but you might want to update the cw tag at the main post to specifically mention slurs/the f-word. fwiw you do a super considerate job of tagging incredibly aggressively/comprehensively, and I think that's rad.)
Fixed that as soon as I could. My apologies.
Pano can confirm that I have a godlike habit of telling her something like "gee I wish we had more insight into X" immediately before a huge chapter on X, and I'm glad that I can continue the trend on with you. Megalos ahoy.
...Can I have some lottery numbers
So all that said, knowing full-well what I said in the previous review--I think you nail the tone of what a sleazebag Megalos is, lmaooo. The first section is really effective at setting up his excuse systems and the ease with which he passes blame. "I just got elected but all the good shit was me and all the bad shit was the other guy, thanks", oof.
Gaslight all of Sootopolis City
Gatekeep Wallace because he isn't perfect
Girlboss women into the kitchen
I also really liked lines like "but the light only intensified the shadows". I think it really works with this running theme here of pursuing perfection constantly and never being satisfied with what you've got; even success just makes you feel like more of a failure. It's an oddly humanizing sentiment (albeit briefly; man's a dick) and I'm able to see how/why Wallace ends up taking so many cues from him. The last few chapters have been interesting since we start branching into other character's heads, and I really wasn't expecting the Megalos POV but in hindsight I should've. It adds a lot here!
I really wanted to highlight the similarities between Megalos and Wallace with this chapter. Both want to do what's best for Sootopolis City. Both strive for perfection. Both see everyone else as antagonists in one way or another.
"the game to save Sootopolis city" is a really metal line.
What if I made a band named after this lol just kidding unless
As far as my previous comments--I do still think that the escalation to villain territory in the previous chapters is a bit much and could be dialed back a hair, but I think this chapter helps patch a lot of things. If I'd read the whole thing in one sitting I think I would've had an easier time. I do think there's a case to be made for not really showing the degree of Megalos's cruelty, specifically the physical assault, until this chapter (instead mostly relying on Wallace's perception of him)--sort of how a horror movie builds suspense by not showing the monster for a while, you can get a lot of mileage by showing the aftermath of a character before actually meeting them. Idk, just food for thought.
Still working to tone done stuff and debating if the first instance of depicted physical abuse (Chapter 6, I think?) should either be removed or edited so it better implies that Wallace is used to the abuse and it's just a "all right you know the drill" kind of thing.
This is a really chunky chapter comparatively and I think it adds a lot of depth. I love with alt-POV chapters start completing other parts of characters; this was a really cool aspect of your drabble collection and I'm glad that it's coming back here
The chinkiest chapter I've written for the Facadeverse lol.
lil' Dorian flashback is really neat too. I liked how he's graceful and proud of his defeat, more focused on what he learned and what he was able to teach in turn, and how Megalos is just like ERROR DOES NOT COMPUTE. Bookends really nicely with Megalos not being able to understand Dorian's sobriety metaphor; how could anyone possibly learn from their mistakes by accepting that part of themselves and then striving to change???
Megalos: What?????? You can learn from your mistakes??????????????? False.
Flashback-Juan is also nice to see, and in general I enjoyed seeing Megalos actually getting challenged by adults since so far he's just been bullying kids.
"Matthias Megalos, you abused and harassed a queer, probably neurodivergent, mentally ill minor, you hang out with sexual assaulters, but worst of all, you tore up a child's drawing? Evil."
I'm curious what happened between the Juan/Megalos argument scene and the present day--Juan seems to realize that Megalos is actual poison and isn't afraid to stand up to him + doesn't really bow to the same kind of political pressure that Megalos is used to exerting, so I'm curious why Juan would let Wallace anywhere near this guy.
I probably should fix this to make it more clear, but it's... complicated. Between Megalos's political stance and a small case of the cycle of abuse, it's really, really complicated.
Curious about his fascination with Wallace getting married + the absolute necessity of woman=perfect accessory and yet not a word about a wife of his own.
Well there is one mention of Megalos's wife:
But Megalos wasn’t a bad mayor. He didn’t beat his wife, and he only spanked his children when they misbehaved. He was a good person. He was a good mayor.
Although I am left feeling a bit of a disconnect/not understanding his full arc here, I think. Early on it seems like he's way more prone to ignoring/dismissing anything that would conflict with his worldview that it's not perfect; later, it becomes a pronounced shift to wanting to destroy things that don't align with his worldview (almost literally, in the sense of trying to beat the imperfection out of Wallace). It feels like a pretty dynamic/dramatic shift but I can't really put my finger on what causes it? Since it seems like the first half "gaslight/ignore" response, if applied to the second half of the fic would just involve him ignoring Wallace and denying Wallace's existence, while the second half "punch the problem until it goes away" when applied to the first half would involve him crushing dissidence in Sootopolis with an iron fist or something. One of these responses is hugely avoidant and the other one is hugely confrontational, so it's odd to see both extremes exhibited by the same person. The boiling over scene mentions "fear", but so much of this chapter is (paradoxically) spent with Megalos refusing to acknowledge that anything is wrong, so it's hard to understand what he's actually afraid of.
I think since the idea that he's so hellbent on destroying imperfection (rather than ignoring it) is central to the story, an easy fix would be tweaking the beginning to show that he's willing to beat down political threats rather than ignore them, just like he's willing to beat down social threats (ie Wallace) rather than ignore them. Maybe just the ones that he knows he can get away with, which is why he can't fire Dorian but he doesn't hesitate to punch Wallace; he'll only pick fights he can win. So a more confrontational political approach--like, bussing those lazy homeless vagrants to other cities, being tough on crime, harsher DA’s, mandatory minimums for drug incarceration, etc—all that necessary evil stuff that other people are too cowardly to do even though it would totally fix everything. So it’s less that nothing is wrong and that Sootopolis is perfect; it’s more that Sootopolis isn’t perfect but only Megalos is brave enough to take the steps to make it so; everyone else is a bleeding-heart and can’t understand that sacrifice is necessary for a perfect world. This could even start out kind of gradual/kind of just parallel to some of our “accepted” civic policies (looking at you, homeless spikes) and then escalate into blatant cruelty as he gets more and more desperate. I think a more harsh approach across the political board would mesh his two worldviews together.
Mmmm good point. I'll go back and fix that.
The church worldbuilding was also neat--love seeing your little alterations on Hoenn here. Awesome addition; keep chugging!
Chugga chugga choo choo
I like developing the religions of Hoenn! Now if only I could apply that energy to actually writing other stuff.
"sir, ma'am, congratulations. you already have a daughter and as such your second child is worthless."
"...And you're the only doctor out insurance covers, right?"
I thought that this was a bit of an extreme reaction--not that Dorian shouldn't be jumping to defend his kid from this shitlord, but if he's not hesitating to use physical violence (since idk what else a Pokemon would do in this situation) against Megalos, it seems kind of ridiculous that he'd even bring his kid here in the first place? Even leaving Wallace under a tree seems safer than bringing him into a room with a man who Dorian wouldn't hesitate to physically assault.
Same hat as above--I think the contrast between these two would be a lot more clear if Dorian stays calm, doesn't threaten anything, doesn't slam the door on the way out.
Good point. Will fix.
this is a dumb question and you're totally allowed to be like "fuck off kint they're magic", but I can't really picture a seaking sitting next to someone? since it's a fish
I'm too nice to say "fuck off kint they're magic" but, like, fish are weird in Pokémon.
download (6).jpeg

This felt like an oxymoron--"he would've been X if he weren't the exact opposite of X" is an odd format.
I do this a lot don't I.
I'm surprised that "much less behind his back" is what's setting Juan off here--since the implied better alternative to "behind his back" is shouting slurs to a thirteen year-old's face? Which I don't really see Juan advocating for.
Ooh that's true. Fixed that.
I think them both crying and running off feels a bit dramatic, but idk, I've never had someone point-blank look at me and say I'm not wife material
Oh, to have Wallace look you dead in the eye and tell you that you are not a waifu
Ren having kids that are his age is super horrifying from a marriage perspective, but I’m curious where “presumed divorced/widowed” or “blended families” intersects with Megalos’s idea of the perfect wife—if he’s super traditional I’m surprised he’d advocate partnering up with (what traditionalists might view as; this is absolutely not my opinion) damaged goods.
Older than him technically, since he's 19 and they're in their early twenties.

For the "divorced/widowed" wife thing, 1. She presumably doesn't have sex outside of marriage, 2. she has experience with being married to at least two guys, so she knows how to be a good wife and have a husband, and 3. she's rich. Already better than Winona, who has sex outside of marriage, doesn't even know how to cook like a good housewife, and is lower middle class. Virgins around Wallace's age or even just virgins weren't cutting it, so Megalos needed someone with experience in handling men.*

*I should clarify that these points do not reflect my opinions on Ren; these reflect the reasoning Megalos went through in choosing Ren as a wife. Ren is not a good wife at all. Megalos is wrong. Sexual assault is bad.
I'm not entirely clear where Megalos is legally in the wrong here (morally, yes, it's very obvious)--but Wallace is of-age and technically not coerced (in a legal sense) so it's not really pimping; Megalos set this whole thing up but Ren's really the only person who did the assaulting as far as I can tell? Wallace's POV for this is understandably fuzzy and Megalos isn't retelling that part.

But like legally Megalos isn't really accountable for Ren's actions, since encouraging someone to do something doesn't make you legally (again, separately from morally) responsible for what they do next; even in the cases where it does, there’s usually an extended court case to prove culpability/being an accessory to the crime (i.e. if some transaction/quid pro quo between Ren/Megalos were revealed to imply that this was technically prostitution; fun hoist by his own petard if you go for the harsher version of Megalos tbh). They probably wouldn’t just make the arrest on the spot based on eyewitness accounts + technically Megalos really only hosted the party and set them up; he has plausible deniability that he didn’t think Ren would assault anyone. It’s kind of weird that this ends in a double arrest when there's a clear, witnessed individual perpetrator.
My dad is a lawyer, but uh...

Me: Hey dad! If a mayor in Greece or Japan lets a woman coerce a person half her age into marriage, sex, and having kids, is he assaulting by proxy or anything?
Dad: Torchic I'm an American lawyer. Why are you asking?

I was going to read the last two chapters of "Heroes & Villains" but saw the disclaimer, so here I am.
Oh hi there! Fancy seeing you here.
Chapter 1

No commentary here. Though I imagine poor Wallace here is going to have a lifelong battle against perfectionism.
huehuehue
Kurogane Cockburn. Cockburn. COCKBURN. WHO LISTENS TO A GUY NAMED COCKBURN?
Gotta love names to run away from real fast.
This whole chapter is laced with anxiety, and I love it.

Even more anxiety!
Okay, so I don't really much to say, lol. But it's certainly interesting to see the characters you love with a different take. While "Heroes & Villains" is sillier and more lighthearted, "I'm a Marionette" is more tense and distressful.
Yeah that ties in the the PHAV author's note. I'm trying to tone down on the darker elements of that, leaving angst to Facadeverse fics.
It shows Wallace raised and trained to be the best that Sootopolis has to offer but is forced to meet unrealistic expectations (including those he placed upon himself) and cope with his spiraling depression. I'm hoping to see Wallace's relationship explored further with his sister Nicole, father Megalos and the rest of his family. Perhaps a way to break away from the grip of his father and the high society of Sootopolis.
Relationships will be explored indeed (though I should note that Megalos isn't Wallace's biological father—abusive father figure maybe, but they aren't related.
 
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Chapter 13

Torchic W. Pip

Bravo Echo Tango Alpha
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Arguments, mentions of homophobia and transphobia, implied eating disorders, anxiety, mental illness, and sexual assault, all from the perspective of a child.

Lisia liked a lot of things. She liked chocolate. Milk chocolate, not the icky chocolate that grown-ups ate. She liked fluffy, pretty birds. She liked shiny, colorful gems. She liked her family.

Most of all, Lisia liked Uncle Wall. He was good at Contests and Pokémon battles. He was good at makeup and fashion and art. He was smart and brave and kind. He was better at teaching Lisia Chrysosian than her Chrysosian teacher, old Dr. Gounaris and his old Grumpig. Uncle Wall was perfect. Lisia was so lucky to have such a wonderful uncle!

But sometimes, Uncle Wall and Mamá would argue. Sometimes they would argue about things Lisia could understand. Like college stuff. Other times, either from the grown-up stuff they were arguing about or the grown-up Chrysosian they were using, she couldn’t understand what they were saying. In either case, she would sometimes yell at them back to try to stop them from arguing. Lisia didn’t like fighting. Weren’t Mamá and Uncle Wall siblings? Didn’t Mamá and Uncle Wall love each other? Why were they fighting?

After one particularly back fight that led to Uncle Wall slamming the door to the guest bedroom, Lisia marched into the kitchen, stormed right up to Mamá and shouted, “Why do you have to fight with Uncle Wall?!”

Mamá didn’t respond. There were tears in her eyes. That made Lisia sad too. That made her feel sad about being so mean.

“I’m worried about your uncle, Lisia,” Mamá cried. “I’m so… so worried about him…” Mamá fell into sobs, unable to speak.

Papá stared from the doorway to the kitchen. The room was small enough that he could reach over to take Lisia’s hand.

“Lisia,” he said in a cheerful voice, “let’s go to the museum.”

Pouting, Lisia followed him to the other side of the kitchen and to the front door. She didn’t speak to Papá.

Papá tried smiling at her, but she glared back. How could he be so happy? Uncle Wall and Mamá had gotten into a fight! Fights were bad!

“Lisia, what’s wrong?”

“Why do Mamá and Uncle Wall have to fight? You said that only kids get into stupid fights.”

Papá looked up at the sky. He was silent for a few seconds.

“Lucia.” Wow. Papá and Mamá almost never used Lisia’s Hinodego name. Proyiayia and Dóro Pappoú sometimes did, but they... didn't seem to like Papá and Mamá, so maybe it was a bad thing when people used her Hinodego name.

Actually, from the niceness of Papá's voice and expression... maybe not. Maybe it was just serious.

“Nicole and Wallace’s family have been through… a lot," Papá continued, "and sometimes that makes them get tense and lash out at each other. On top of that, Wallace has been struggling to keep up with the classes for his double major in Art History and Religious Studies—“

“Double major? Wow! Uncle Wall must be very smart!”

Papá chuckled and looked down at Lisia. “He is, but sometimes smart people push themselves too much to do big things. Nicole wants him to take it easy, but…” His smile fell, and he sighed. “…the two’s needs and wants can sometimes conflict with one another.”

By then, the two had arrived at the Lilycove Museum. Lisia beamed with happiness. The museum! The museum had all kinds of pretty paintings and sculptures. Lisia liked the museum…

…but she liked going to the museum with Uncle Wall.

-

“Uncle Wall, how do you do makeup?”

Uncle Wall looked up from the book on his desk and down at Lisia. He looked tired, like he needed a nap.

“Hm? Oh! Makeup. Right.” He looked at the papers and books spread on his desk. “All right, Lisia, how about I teach you about makeup once I finish this schoolwork?”

“Okay!”

Lisia hopped onto Uncle Wall’s bed to wait for him to be done. Part of her was excited. Uncle Wall was really good at makeup. He was also good at fashion. He wore pretty shirts and pretty pants and pretty dresses—well, maybe he only wore dresses at home. Mayor Megalos didn't seem to like it when Uncle Wall wore dresses, and the extended family didn't seem to either. They always gave Uncle Wall and Lisia and her parents weird looks. All the time. Maybe they just didn’t like Lisia and Uncle Wall and Mamá and Papá.

On the other hand, Lisia was annoyed. Uncle Wall was always busy. He was always away at the Sootopolis City Gym or some meeting or school. Even when he was at home, he was too busy with paperwork to spend time with Lisia. Couldn't he at least bring Lisia along to some of his stuff? Why couldn't they do the things they used to—playing games, drawing, and making dinner with Mamá and Papá?

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The clock counted the seconds and minutes. Uncle Wall scribbled frantically with shaky hands and tapped his fingers and pulled at his hair and bit his fingers… until his hands shook so much that he couldn’t hold his pencil anymore. It fell and rolled off the desk.

“Uncle Wall? Are you okay?”

"I'm fi—" Uncle Wall looked over at Lisia. The anger melted from his face, replaced by a smile. “I… Yes, I’m okay.”

Lisia stared at him with shock. Was he mad at her? No, he couldn't be. Maybe he was mad at his work. He seemed okay now. “Is your work stressing you out?”

“No, I just can’t get myself to focus." He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. "Part of the reason might be that I have a date later.”

“A date! Where are you and Auntie Win going?” Auntie Win was really cool. She was a Flying type trainer, and she and her Pokémon looked so pretty whenever they battled. Best of all, Winona always got Lisia little presents, like candy or bird plushies.

Uncle Wall sighed, shaking his head. “Lisia, I love Winona with all my heart, but I don’t think I’ll ever get to marry her.”

“What about Uncle Steve?” Uncle Steve was also cool. He was the Champion, and he was passionate about stones and knew a lot about them. Sometimes, he would find pretty rocks and give them to Lisia.

Uncle Wall shook his head again. “He’s rich all right, but if Mayor Megalos found out I was with a man…”

Lisia didn’t understand grown-ups sometimes. Why did some of them hate people who liked people of the same gender? Why did some of them hate people who identified certain ways? Why couldn’t grown-ups just get along? And why did Wallace put up with people like that when he liked boys and identified in ways that they didn't like?

Eventually, Uncle Wall stood up. He smiled and looked at Lisia. “I don’t think I’ll be able to get this work done by tonight, and I want to have time before my date to spend time with my favorite niece…”

He picked Lisia up. She giggled as he spun her around in the air. She was flying! She was flying! The two laughed together. They were happy. They were happy!

Uncle Wall eventually stopped spinning Lisia and put her back down on the ground. Still laughing a bit, he did a pose—like one of the poses he did in Contests.

“Now,” he said, pointing his finger, “why don’t I teach you about makeup?”

-

“Uncle Wall?”

Uncle Wall stood up and stormed out of the kitchen, slamming the door behind him. Mamá raced after him. She left the door open behind her.

“Wallace—”

“I’M FINE!”

Oh no. They were fighting again. They were fighting again. Lisia covered her ears with her hands. Wasn’t it supposed to be a happy night? Wasn’t it supposed to be a happy night of drawing with Uncle Wall? Why was he mad? Why was he mad?!

The phone was dangling from the wall. Papá was watching Mamá and Uncle Wall fight, but someone had to talk to Uncle Steve on the phone.

Lisia hopped out of her chair and walked over to do just that.

"Hello? Uncle Steve?"

"Is this Lisia?" the voice on the phone asked.

"Yeah."

"Where's Nicole?"

"She's fighting with Uncle Wall."

"God damn it..." Uncle Steve mumbled. "Why did I say anything... Lisia, can you do me a favor? Can you make sure your uncle is okay? Keep an eye on him and all that?"

"Sure!"

"Lisia, can I have the phone?" Mamá was back. Her voice was cracking, and her eyes were red with tears.

"Mamá?" Lisia asked as she handed the phone to her. "What's wrong?"

The door was still open. Uncle Wall was gone. Lisia wanted to cry. How was she supposed to watch him now?

"Come on, Lisia," Papá said, "why don't we draw—"

"NO!"

Lisia pulled her arm away from Papá and ran off. She ran up the steps and slammed the door to her bedroom and hid under the covers to cry.

Why were Mamá and Uncle Wall mad at each other? Why did Uncle Steve say to watch Uncle Wall? What was wrong with Uncle Wall?!?!

-

Lisia woke up her mother screaming.

She sounded like one of those old ladies that wailed and cried at Yiayia Lucille and Pappoú Dorian's funeral. Did someone die? Did Uncle Wall die?!?!

Mamá and Papá were on the floor, Mamá sobbing in Papá's arms. What was wrong? What was wrong? WHAT WAS WRONG?!?!?!?!

"Should I call your grand—"

"No! No! No!" Mamá shrieked. "You can't tell them! You can't tell any of them! You can't! You can't! You can't!"

"Should I tell Steven and Winona?" Papá asked.

Mamá nodded at that.

"What should I tell them?"

Mamá sat up. She was shaking. "Tell them that Wallace is in the hospital. Juan can tell them the rest. Tell them that Wallace almost got..." she gulped, shaking her head. "They should probably know."

Hospital? Uncle Wall was in the hospital?! When Lisia was a little kid, Uncle Wall would sometimes have to go to the hospital when he was sick. He still got sick a lot, but never enough to go to the hospital. It was always something minor like a stomach ache or a headache. Was he sick enough now? Was that why he was so angry? And what did he almost get?

"I'll take care of Lisia," Papá whispered, holding Mamá close so he could rock her and pat her back. "You should go to Sootopolis City to see him. Leave all the legal stuff to me."

"I'll kill them!" Mamá screamed into Papá's shirt. “I'll kill them for what they did to Wallace! I'll kill them! Kill them! KILL THEM!!!"

"Lisia?"

Papá looked up at Lisia. She froze. Papá whispered something to Mamá, who then also looked up at Lisia.

"M-Mamá? Pa-Papá?" Lisia's voice trembled. "What's going on? What happened to Uncle Wall?"

"Everything's okay." Papá smiled, but even Lisia could tell it was fake. "Everything's okay. Just... say a prayer tonight for Wallace."

They were lying. Why would Lisia's parents lie?

Nothing was okay. Nothing was okay.
 
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