• Bubapedia Error 503 Backend fetch failed

    Our technical staff are continuing to monitor the wiki to try and resolve these ongoing issues that are impacting page and image loading. We apologize for the inconvenience. We'll update as soon as we've got more information on this for you.

  • Check out our new Mysterious Garden forum style if you haven't already - we're sure you'll love it!
  • If you are finding yourself unable to log in, you should be able to fix the issue by following the following process.
    1. Close all browser tabs with any part of Bulbagarden open.
    2. Delete all Bulbagarden.net cookies (and if possible, any cached site data for Bulbagarden) from your browser.
    3. Close and reopen your browser, open a new tab, and log into the forums on the new tab.
    If you've followed this process and are still having issues, please contact us via the "Contact us" link at the bottom of the forum.

MATURE: I'm A Marionette

Chapter 14

Torchic W. Pip

Bravo Echo Tango Alpha
Joined
Feb 15, 2021
Messages
2,524
Reaction score
4,022
Pronouns
they/she/he
Thank you to CinderArts and UnderSeaWings on Thousand Roads for beta reading this chapter!

Depictions of self harm, blood, injury, depictions of purging, eating disorders, discussions of drug abuse, mentions of queerphobia and racism, minor mentions of violence, delirium, implied emotional and physical abuse, discussions of sexual themes, nudity, and enabling, all from the perspective of a Pokémon

Wallace was there when Victoria hatched from her egg, when she had been just a Feebas. She was the daughter of Juan’s Milotic, Marie. Wallace told her the meaning of many names, because as they said, names were chosen for a reason, and they gave her the name "Victoria" for a reason. Juan meant “God is gracious”. Marie meant “star of the sea”. Juan and Mother were stars of the sea and the stage, glowing like pearls. They were both graced with beauty and strength from the Mediator of the Sky themself. When the mighty Gyarados threatened to consume Wallace and Victoria in his waves of rage, Juan and Marie were strong enough to save them. They were... beautiful.

Juan wasn’t Victoria’s father; he was a legend. He was perfect. Besides, Victoria’s father was Brooks the Kingdra. (Brooks, “residing near a stream or brook”. He resides near an ocean; did that count?) Marie was a nurturing mother. She was also perfect, but she was at least connected to Victoria on a biological level. Wallace was her brother through all but blood.

Her name meant “victory”, and theirs meant “foreigner”. They were the outcasts of Sootopolis City—kids and Pokémon their age just didn’t like ugly fishes and socially awkward bookworms. But Victoria and Wallace didn’t mind. They were going to be good—no, better than those kids. They would be the smartest, the prettiest, the strongest, the best. Side by side, they studied and trained, ever improving their skills and aiming for greater heights. Side by side, they dominated the Contest stage and the field of battle. Side by side, they would grow to become the best Sootopolis City had ever seen. Side by side, they would be beautiful. Side by side, they would be the best.

Boys grew up to be men, Feebas grew up to be Milotic, and Wallace grew up to be a shivering teen on the bathroom floor, forcing fingers down their throat until they vomited themself dry.

(“Are you okay?”) Victoria and Wallace couldn’t speak each others’ languages, but they could understand each others’ languages, which was far more important.

“It was just one time,” Wallace choked. They looked up at Victoria. They looked so small from where they knelt on the floor. So small. So scared. “Okay, fine. I’ve done this before. I promise to never do it again… But you can’t tell anyone. You can’t tell anyone… You can’t tell anyone.”

Victoria cocked her head. She was a fighter as well as a healer, so she knew a few things about human sickness and health, including the fact that vomiting wasn’t good. So why would Wallace ever make themself sick?

(“I won’t tell anyone. Promise not to do it again?”)

“…Sure. Yes. Of course, I promise.”

Victoria trusted Wallace. After all, they had been chosen to serve as the Lorekeeper of Kyogre. A Lorekeeper wouldn’t lie. A child of the sea wouldn’t lie to another child of the sea. A friend wouldn’t lie to another friend.

Except Wallace did. Wallace made themself sick again. Several times, actually. Every time, they would beg Victoria not to tell anyone. Every time, Victoria would comply. Even if she could speak to other people, what then? What would those people do? Ignore her? Mock her? Hate her or Wallace? It wasn't worth it.

Besides, Wallace was fine. They insisted as much, and they seemed capable of functioning in human society. Victoria trusted Wallace to know when they were okay and when they weren’t; when they were sick, they stayed at home, and that’s what humans were supposed to do when they were sick.

Everything was going to be fine.

-

Victoria rested in her Pokéball, yet she was aware of everything. She had to be: Wallace and Winona—Winona, a name meaning “firstborn daughter”—were on a date, a thing two humans did when they were in love to get to know each other, grow closer physically and emotionally, relax and unwind. Having more than one mate didn’t seem to be common among or even accepted by most humans, but if that was the case, Wallace didn’t care. They had several mates, though Winona seemed to be their favorite.

Winona was the eldest daughter of someone named Haruki—"the spring child". She had a refined, mature grace, and she was very beautiful. Like Wallace, she was training to be a Gym Leader. Her Pokémon were strong—Victoria would have to do even better if she wanted to be victorious against them. Two strong trainers, two beautiful trainers…

Victoria probably wouldn’t be seeing much battling; this seemed like one of the “walk around and come back to mate” dates, not one of the “test each others’ skills” dates. She didn’t have any desire to see her trainer mate.

But she still had to be alert to danger. Wallace was strong, but they couldn’t face every threat alone or even at all. The streets could be especially dangerous. There could be humans who insulted them for the way they were born and the way they identified like the people on their swim team, criminals who wanted to rob or attack them, predators—

“Victoria, come out.”

That voice wasn’t Wallace’s, but it was Winona’s, and Victoria trusted Winona. Her vision flashed with blue light, and she was out of her Pokéball.

She was in a bathroom. Wallace was in the bathtub, eyes glazed, mouth slightly open and slightly slick. The water was running, but their clothes were still on. Didn’t humans take off their clothes to bathe?

Wallace looked up at Victoria. They smiled when they made eye contact, though it was debatable if they were actually just staring into space.

There were times when Wallace would drink that strong smelling liquid that made them contemplate all sorts of things—Orbeatles lyrics, Sootopolitan poetry, how to kill themself in a way that would look like an accident. There were times when they took those tablets that made them see things that weren’t there. There were times where they took pills in the evening that kept them up until dawn. Victoria was there for them at all times when they were under their spell, because they usually consumed those things alone, and she wasn't going to risk them attempting to take their own life. Had they done those substances when they were with Winona? Why would they do them in front of their mate if they were too ashamed of themself to tell their family that they did them?

“Hello, Victoria,” they mumbled. “Bad migraine, it’s nothing—“ They brought a hand to their mouth and gagged violently. “I didn’t do anything bad.”

Ah, a migraine. Wallace got those a lot ever since they started college. It was a lot better than doing substances that made them act strange. Victoria knew what to do when Wallace had migraines.

She placed her head on Wallace’s. She focused her mind on the world around her, the water in the bathtub and in the air, the pain in Wallace’s body, a prayer to the Mediator of the Sky for healing and easing of pain.

Wallace’s breathing became slow and steady. Victoria felt them put a hand on her. It must have worked.

“Winona,” they said, “I’ll try to take the ibuprofen with Victoria. If something bad happens, she can scream for me.” At that, they laughed softly.

“Are you comfortable taking off your clothes in front of Victoria?” Winona asked.

“Right… Yes, yes I’m fine with that. As long as she turns around, it should be fine.“

Winona nodded and left the room, shutting the door behind her. Wallace looked up at Victoria. Their eyes had gained some lucidity.

“Victoria, can you help me stand up?”

They held onto Victoria’s body tightly as they stood up with shaky legs. After stepping out of the bathtub, they leaned against the wall, reaching over to the counter to grab their shirt and pants.

“I don’t have extra undergarments,” Wallace mumbled, “but still… could you look away?”

Victoria turned her gaze to the opposite wall. She turned her mind to other things: Her new team members, Charles the Goldeen and Richard the Spheal. Charles meant "free man" and Richard meant "strong and brave ruler". Very self centered individuals, but she had to constantly prove to them that she was stronger and prettier. She had to prove she was worth—

THUD!

Victoria’s heart plummeted, and her head snapped towards Wallace.

They were on the floor. They seemed to be conscious, and they were even lifting themself onto their knees. But they were thin. Really, really thin, with bones sticking out from their torso. They looked dangerously thin for a human. There were bruises on their arms and legs, and there was a notable one on their neck.

They weren’t fine.

“Wallace?” Winona called from the other side of the door. “Are you okay?”

Wallace stared up at Victoria, then they held their legs against their chest. “I’m fine.”

They reached for the pill resting on a towel on the counter, but that proved to be hard when they wouldn’t let themselves stand up. Finally, they gave up and stood up to get the pill.

“Third time’s a charm,” they whispered before swallowing the pill. “Let’s see if I throw it—“

Victoria nuzzled her head against Wallace. A few seconds passed, then Wallace began petting her on the head.

(“Are you okay? Have you been eating enough?”)

“Of course I’m okay. It’s just a bad migraine.” They pulled away from Victoria so they could put on their shirt. “Don’t tell Winona. She can’t know I look this way.”

(“So you aren’t okay.”)

Wallace stopped buttoning their shirt and looked up at Victoria. “I’m fine, but she wouldn’t understand.” They went back to buttoning their shirt.

(“I don’t understand.”)

“That’s fine.”

(“Do you even understand yourself?”)

Again, Wallace paused, longer this time. They didn’t have a response, it seemed.

“Of course I understand myself.”

Anyone could have heard the lie in Wallace’s voice.

-

The lights in the green room cast a warm, radiant light on Victoria. It was different from the cool lights of the Gym, but it was no less beautiful.

(“I’m prettier than you,”) Lovelynn teased.

(“Oh stop now,”) Victoria chuckled. (“Your taunting doesn’t scare me.”)

Lovelynn, a name meaning “love and cherished one.” Names didn’t seem to determine how much a Pokémon was loved by their trainer; Victoria was loved just as much as the Luvdisc. Victoria’s name certainly brought victory, though; whether it was in Contests or battles, she rarely lost.

“You two seem excited about today’s Contest.”

Hailey closed the door behind her as she walked into the green room. Her dress was the same shade of pink as Lovelynn. She looked around the room. “Where’s Wallace?”

Wallace opened the door to the bathroom. The dark circles under their eyes were gone, and the color had returned to his cheeks. Maybe they were okay, after all.

“You ready?” Hailey asked.

“Sure… Sure I am.”

Hailey smiled, but Victoria could sense that Wallace wasn’t okay.

But they walked up to Victoria like they were okay. They whispered encouragement to her like they were okay. They walked onto the stage with her like they were okay. They performed, called out moves, stood, smiled like everything was okay.

They accepted failure like they were okay. They returned home like they were okay. They spoke to their sister like they were okay. They walked into the guest room’s bathroom to wash off their makeup like they were okay. They—

SMASH!

They weren’t okay. They weren’t okay.

Victoria slammed into the bathroom door. Wallace was on the floor. The mirror was shattered in an intricate web of cracks and falling pieces. Wallace’s hand had an intricate web of dripping blood. They were shaking, panting, staring at Victoria, red eyes wide with fear.

“Help.” They rasped like they wanted to scream but didn’t have the voice to do so.

She was immediately by their side, wrapping herself around them to shelter them from the broken mirror, the blood on the shards of glass and the floor, the bad luck and fear and everything else in the room. The air was filled with water—she prayed to the Mediator of the Sky that she could draw on it to save her friend. There was only one other thought on their mind: Why did they do this?

Silence. Silence. Silence. She had to save Wallace. She had to save Wallace. She had to save Wallace.

Knock knock.

“Wallace? Is everything okay?”

Victoria looked up. That was Nicole’s voice. Nicole—meaning "victory of the people". She was a very strong trainer. Even Wallace, a Gym Leader, looked up to her. She was older, smarter, stronger, more beautiful than either Wallace or Victoria. She was even closer to Mediator-tiers of perfection than Juan or Marie were.

Victoria looked down at Wallace’s hand. The blood was gone, and all that remained was a pale scar running down their hand. Of course, there was still the mess of the blood and glass on the floor, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that Wallace was safe. Victoria had saved them.

Thank the Mediator of the Sky she saved them.

“I’m fine.” Wallace whispered that to themself several times before finally being able to say it loud enough for Nicole to hear. “The mirror broke, that’s all. I’ll clean it up.”

“But you have to meet with Mayor Megalos,” Nicole called. “Do you need any—“

“I’m fine!”

Victoria placed her head on Wallace again, channeling her energy to further heal their wounds and to quell their anger. Their breathing slowed before, in a calmer tone, saying, “I’m fine. I’ll clean it up.”

They stood up to grab a towel. They turned on the faucet to run the towel under the water, feel the water on their healed hand, and wring the towel until it was damp. They got to work cleaning up the blood first. Victoria began to leave the bathroom to get the dustpan downstairs, but Wallace held up a hand.

“Victoria, wait.” They stood up and tossed the towel in the clothes hamper, then tossed another towel on top. “You’ve done more than enough for me today… Thank you. Thank you so much.”

They crossed their arms—hiding their hand in the crook of their arm—and left the bathroom. They opened the door with their uninjured hand.

Victoria stood close by as they spoke to their sister. If the two got into another argument, she would be there to stop it. She could win against Wallace’s demons.

This was perfect. Victoria could save Wallace. She could heal their injuries and suppress the anger that caused them. Sure, there were issues with that plan: for some reason, Megalos didn’t let Wallace let their Pokémon out of their Pokéballs when they went to his office. He would even sometimes make them leave their Pokémon out in the courtyard during their meetings. What if Wallace or Megalos got angry during one of those meetings? What if Megalos hit Wallace? Sure, they always brushed that off as a discipline measure, but they never struck Victoria. Was that just a human politics thing? Must have been.

But all would be good, because Victoria had the power to save Wallace.
 
Last edited:
Chapter 15

Torchic W. Pip

Bravo Echo Tango Alpha
Joined
Feb 15, 2021
Messages
2,524
Reaction score
4,022
Pronouns
they/she/he
Mental illness, discussions of sexual assault, vomiting, use of the t-slur, mentions of transphobia, hospitals, misdiagnosis, discussion of medication, arguing, self harm, injuries, trauma, mentions of seizures

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

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

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

So why couldn’t Juan save him?

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

So where did everything go wrong?

-

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

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

But then a week or so into his recovery, Wallace had a seizure. He was okay, thank the heavens, but it left him even more terrified than he was before. He begged the hospital staff to let Victoria be with him at all times. It made sense; the two had been inseparable from Victoria’s birth to Wallace’s hospitalization. Humans would have been a difficult matter, but Pokémon… Well, Pokémon were different, and besides, Wallace was responding well to Pokémon Based Therapy. The staff finally allowed it, but that left Juan to be the one to bring Victoria.

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

“Good morning, fair Victoria,” he greeted.

Victoria barely looked up.

“I have some poems Wallace has been reading as of late. Would you like to read some with me?” From teaching Wallace and guiding him through tumultuous trials of grief, puberty, and his current trauma, Juan knew that it was sometimes better to ask questions that could easily be answered with body language: a nod here, a head shake there, counting with fingers, pointing to things, all of that.

Victoria shook her head. Well, maybe that was for the best; Wallace was starting to take an interest in the black comedy of poets such as Dionysios Ueda-Ioannidis and Dolores O. Arima.

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

(“I failed them.”)

“...‘Failed them’?”

(“I tried to help them. I tried to heal them when they were sick. I tried to heal them when they were hurt. I tried everything I could to save them. But that wasn’t enough.”)

She hung her head and shut her tear-filled eyes.

“Victoria, can I touch you?”

Victoria was still for a second, then she nodded. When Juan hugged her, she started crying.
“It’s okay, Victoria. You did the best you could. We’re all doing the best we can. Sometimes we mess up, and that’s okay.”

But why did he have to mess up so badly?
-

Wallace was laying in bed and staring out the window when Juan came to his room.

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

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

The buzzing of the radiator filled the silence. A few seconds passed, then Juan spoke again:

“Winona told me.” His throat twisted a bit recalling that phone call, but he brushed those memories aside so he could be the wise mentor figure. That was what Wallace needed, not another anxious person. “How are you doing now?”

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

Juan looked at Sister Dymphna. After the Chansey gave him a nod of approval, he walked over to the bed so he could sit in the chair next to it.

“I know you want to go home, Wallace, and you will.” But you need to heal, my child. No, he couldn’t say that. That was too aggressive. So what could he say? “Um… How has today been?”

“I had grou’b therapy. I’m the only non-girl with an eatin’ disorder.”

“Group therapy! How wonderful! How was it?”

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

Juan’s short-lived smile fell. “Who?”

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

“That’s no excuse for someone to use such terrible language on you! Why didn’t Chara Joy do anything about it?!”

“She tried.” Wallace turned his head towards Juan. “Master, have you ever been in a boy’s locker room? They said shi’ like thatta me all the time. Worse stuff, too.”

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

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

“…Ten?”

There was a knock on the door, and Nurse Chara Joy walked in with a tray of food: egg noodle soup, potatoes, salad, and juice.

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

He gave no response. He just stared at the food.

“Wallace?” Juan said. “Aren’t you going to eat?”

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

“I could leave so Wallace can—“

“Juan, they have to eventually learn to eat around other people,” Nurse Chara Joy interrupted.

“Can’ I ea’ with Dymphna? She’s jus’ like a person.”

Nuse Chara Joy smiled, partially sympathy, partially resigned. “Wallace, it’s wonderful that you’ve grown such a close connection with Dymphna—“

“But I’m a social baske’ case who needs to learn to interac’ with people.”

Nurse Chara Joy sighed and sat next to Wallace’s bed. “Please, Wallace.”

-

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

Wallace shivered as he hacked up what little he had managed to swallow. Juan could only pat his back and whisper that things were going to be okay. Wallace seemed to be done vomiting, but he still kept gagging.

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

As soon as Nurse Chara Joy left, Wallace, still coughing into one hand and wrapping his other arm around his stomach, fell on his side.

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

Juan took out a Pokéball decorated with Milotic-inspired patterns. He stared at it for a few moments before looking back at Wallace.

“My dear friend, you’ve been through so much these past few years, months, weeks, even days—”

“Bu’ Imma los’ cause.”

“—and a dear friend of yours wants to stay with you during this tumultuous time.”

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

“Victoria…”

Victoria’s forehead went to Wallace’s, and he flung his arms around her. They were both crying, sobbing.

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

Juan felt tears burn in his eyes, but he couldn’t cry. He had cried enough in the days immediately following that night. He had to be strong in this moment.

-

“Juan!” Drake boomed as he stood up from his desk. “It’s been a long time since we last saw each other! How have you been?”

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

“How’s Wallace been? I haven’t seen him in a while, and the other Gym Leaders are getting worried.”

Juan froze. Had the other Gym Leaders suspected anything? The news had too many rumors to be a reliable source. Were the Gym Leaders making up their own ideas of what had happened? No, Juan knew several of them, and they would never be so cruel. Had they seen the news about Ren’s arrest and Wallace’s hospitalization and put two and two together?

“Wallace is in the hospital for pneumonia. A bit worrying when he was first hospitalized, but he’s been recovering. Still, it can be hard for young people to process such an event.”

Drake stared down at the papers on his desk, a grim expression on his face. Juan noticed a newspaper with a familiar-looking face: Steven Stone, arrested for petty robbery. With no previous criminal record, he just had to face a fine. But still, why was Steven suddenly getting into such risky behavior?

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

“Juan, who’s Ren Mizutani?”

Merde.

“A Gym Leader from the Kanto region,” Juan said as flatly as he could.

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

“WHAT DID YOU SAY TO ME, STEVEN?!”

Muffled screaming echoed from one of the other Elite Four offices, followed by some banging and more screaming. Drake bolted from his desk and stormed out of the office.

“What is the meaning of this?!”

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

“Boys, boys!” Drake said, this time with a much calmer tone. “What is the meaning of this?!”

“He was shit talking me!” Sidney shouted.

“I wasn’t,” Steven growled. “You’re poor and ugly and you're a little bitch. And your hair looks like a rat ate it.”

“I’M NOT!” Sidney punched Steven in the face. “GO TO HELL, SHITFUCKER!”

“Boys! Boys! Please!” Drake dragged Sidney away from Steven, who kept shouting insults. “Sidney, Steven, deep breaths. Count to ten. This isn’t like you.”

“Yeah, no shit,” Sidney hissed. “What changed, bitch?”

“Sidney,” Drake demanded.

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

“FUCK YOU!” Steven shrieked, jabbing two middle fingers up at the other three. “FUCK YOU ALL! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU!” Tears were cracking his voice, but he kept screaming.

Juan wrapped his arms around Steven. “Sh… Sh… Steven, Steven, it’s going to be okay.”

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

The harsh sounds of Steven’s howls filled the hallway as he went limp in Juan’s arms. All Juan could do was hold him until he tired himself out.

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

Sidney huffed and walked off.

“Do you want to talk about it, Steven?” Juan said softly.

Steven shook his head.

“That is fine, my friend. Would you like to go sit in Drake’s office?”

Steven nodded and let Drake take his hand. Juan caught a glimpse of the skin covered by his shirt sleeve. It had… light, fresh scars.

“Steven,” Drake said. “Have you been cutting yourself?”

“Only a little,” Steven mumbled.

“Steven, what the hell is going on?”

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

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

“Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK FUCK—”

“Hey, hey.” Drake held Steven, who was starting to cry again. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

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

“Shhh…” It’s okay.” Juan rocked Steven back and forth. “It’s okay. Wallace is going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay.”

Well, that was the hope.

-

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

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

“Juan,” Cruzita said. She was sharply dressed in a pink suit, her generally soft appearance further softened by a sad smile and friendly eyes. “It's wonderful to see you again. How are you doing?”

“A little tired, that is all.” Juan couldn’t count how many times he had told people that phrase in the past month.

There was a moment of silence.

“How’s Wallace?”

Going through new medication and manic episodes. “Much better. I expect them to make a speedy recovery.” Juan couldn’t look at Winona. That would break his heart into even more pieces. “I… I have come here so he can stay up to date on Gym related news and information.”

“They’re not missing much,” Vivian said, brushing a few strands of wavy, dark purple hair out of her face. She was still wearing her signature long skirt and schoolgirl shirt, even after all these years.

Another moment of silence.

“How so?” Juan asked.

Robbie shrugged and pulled down his face mask. His black, unkempt hair was a bit neater than normal, and his black leather jacket was, as always, very tidy. “Just nothing’s happening, that’s all.” He pulled out the chair in between him and Winona. “Here, you can keep his seat warm.”

“Developments in Mauville City are going smoothly.” Wattson stroked his graying, almost white beard. “Gym renovations are almost done. TEPIG is still protesting the Game Corner, but we can’t really close off a funding venture.”

Juan caught a glimpse of Winona as he sat down. She was wearing the shirt and pants she wore under her newly chosen flight suit, and she was… staring into nothing with a blank expression.

Wattason continued on about Mauville City. It couldn’t do much to distract Juan from the past month: Wallace switching to new medications after receiving a clinical diagnosis of anxiety and depression and experiencing the side effects, Juan seeing so many of Wallace’s loved ones suffering, awaiting Ren’s trial and not being able to do anything but pray that she would face justice, seeing Sootopolis City Hall go up in metaphorical flames…

“Juan? Is everything okay?”

Juan looked up at Cruzita. It seemed like everyone in the room was staring at him. The air was tense with silence.

“Of… of course everything is okay.”

Cruzita looked over at a lady with a brown ponytail and overalls. “Hanada, I’m going to go talk with Juan and Winona for a bit. Could you take over the meeting while I’m gone?”

-

They were in a different conference room. Juan and Winona were sitting across from each other.

Juan stared down at the table. He usually preferred eye contact, but now didn’t seem to be the time, both because Winona didn’t seem to like it and because seeing her would mean seeing her miserable. Juan couldn’t bear the sight of her miserable. He wanted her to be okay. He wanted everyone to be okay.

The door opened and closed again. Before any other sound could be made, Juan asked, “How much do they know?”

“Know about what?” Cruzita asked. “And who’s ‘they’?”

“What happened. The other Gym Leaders, the public, everyone.”

“Gosh, this speech pattern is… unpredictable for you, Mr. Agua—”

“I do not have the patience for your commentary on such insignificant matters.”

Juan froze. He was staring at Cruzita, pointing an accusatory finger, raising his tone, and all she was trying to do was help. His hand fell to his side as he fell back into his chair.

“I… I apologize for that outburst.”

Cruzita nodded. “A lot of rumors have spread, but about 80% of reliable news sources have made the connection between Ren’s charges and Wallace’s—”

“NO! STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!”

Winona’s high pitched cries were sudden, startling, strangled. She was holding her head in her hands, hands gripping her hair. Cruzita walked over so she could sit down and hug her.

“It’s okay, my sunshine.”

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

“Shh… Shh…”

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

Cruzita looked in the corner. Juan only then realized that her Xatu was standing there, still and watchful.

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

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

“If Winona didn’t already find out through Wallace’s family,” Cruzita said gravely, “then she would have found out through Rustboro Today: ‘Cerulean Leader Faces Allegations of Assaulting Sootopolis Leader.’ I don’t…” Cruzita shook her head. “I don’t know the specifics of what happened. None of the Gym Leaders do. But…” Cruzita sighed, and her hands fell to her sides. “Those kinds of things—I should call this what it is—sexual assault is a very, very complicated thing to do through. And whenever Wallace comes back, we’ll do whatever we can to support them.”

“Is there anything I can do to help him?” Juan swallowed. He didn’t like how his voice broke a bit.

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve been trying to help Wallace in any way I can. Steven and Winona too. But it doesn’t… it doesn’t feel like enough. He’s still suffering. He still has racing thoughts and panic attacks. He still has unhealthy views of himself and the people who hurt him. He’s still not getting better. He’s still—”

“Juan.”

There wasn't any sternness in Cruzita’s voice. Quite the opposite: she was speaking slowly, calmly.

“I don’t know everything about Wallace’s situation,” Cruzita continued. “From what I’ve picked up from Winona, he’s going through trauma on top of self esteem and body image issues, maybe other things.” She smiled. “And it seems you’ve been doing everything you can to help Wallace. But it’s a long road to recovery, and everyone travels it differently. And as you’re helping Wallace down that path, it’s important to watch after yourself.” She smiled. “It’s hard to predict what emotions a person will feel in the face of trauma, but it’s important to not forget about yourself when you’re helping Wallace.”

-

“Could it be the medication?” Nicole was shaking, and not even Raphael’s tight hugging could calm her down.

“Usually, SSRIs don’t cause mania unless the person has bipolar disorder,” Dr. Angelopoulos explained.

“But Wallace has depression, doesn’t he? That’s what you said he had, isn’t it?”

“Well, misdiagnosis isn’t unheard of, especially with bipolar disorder. Oftentimes, it gets misdiagnosed as depression. If that’s the case, then I’m sorry for my error… Wallace mentioned dealing with manic episodes with sedatives, didn’t he?”

“H-He did.”

“My first impression was that the mania and mood swings were brought on by anxiety and drug abuse,” Dr. Angelopoulos continued, “but maybe those two factors were just worsening an underlying cause.” He sighed. “I’m the only psychiatrist at this hospital, and we can’t exactly afford to have every medication for every illness. We just have antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Here, let me refer you to a clinic in Lilycove that might be more helpful…”

Juan wandered out of the worn-down waiting room. He was too numb to control or care about where he was going.

Wallace’s three day manic episode had calmed down, bless Sister Dymphna for helping him. Now he was just exhausted; he could barely stay awake for meals or therapy. Juan worried about what the reevaluation and potential new medications would do to that exhaustion…

But the reevaluation and medications were good things. Things weren’t working now, but with the correct diagnosis and correct medications, Wallace could be okay. Wallace could get better. Everything was going to be okay.

But all of those weeks of suffering. Wallace could have gotten the right medication sooner, but instead, he got prescribed a medication that made his mental state just as bad, maybe even worse. Why? Why?! Why couldn’t Wallace just be okay?

Juan was angry: angry at his former friend Megalos for abusing Wallace for so long, angry at Ren for hurting Wallace, angry at the doctors who had failed to give Wallace the right diagnosis and care, angry at Sootopolis City for not being able to fund their own damn hospital, angry at Wallace for not being okay—

No, no. That was a horrible thing to think. Juan couldn’t be mad at Wallace. Why had that thought even crossed his mind?! Juan was a horrible, horrible—

Wait. Calm down. Those were just intrusive thoughts. Those were just thoughts. And like Juan always told Wallace: “You are not your thoughts.”


“I’m sorry, Master. I… I don’t know the answer to that question.”

“Wallace, Wallace, Wallace. Why are you apologizing over a math equation?”

“I don’t know the answer. I can’t figure it out. How can I be smart if I can’t figure the problem out?”

“No one is born knowing the answers to even the simplest arithmetic. We learn. We grow. We discover.”

“But I thought I was a ‘prodigy’ or whatever. Those are supposed to be perfect.”

“My dear friend, the path to perfection is a fruitless endeavor. Why, not even the gods created a perfect world. It’s human nature to be imperfect, and those imperfections make us beautiful.



In retrospect, Juan gave a lot of advice to Wallace, though sometimes Juan wouldn’t even follow his own advice, especially when it came to perfection. It was easy to give advice, but it was harder to follow it.

Juan just wanted Wallace to be okay. He wanted him to be healthy, physically and mentally. He wanted him to get the love and care and justice and—

(“Mister Aguado? Are you okay?”)

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

(“It’s normal to not be okay when your loved ones aren't okay. There’s a lot of feelings that a person can go through when their loved ones are facing mental or physical illness.”) She took Juan’s hand. (“Maybe it would be helpful if you and Steven and Winona and Nicole could find a way to process those feelings: finding therapy yourselves, or maybe doing art, like Wallace!”)

“Art?”

Sister Dymphna opened the door and led Juan inside. Wallace was sitting at a small table—not in bed. He was painting with watercolors: strangulation, drowning, sexual assault, blood. The human subjects didn’t have eyes, though they were often surrounded by them. Surrounded by watching eyes. Surrounded by hands pointing, grabbing, choking, pulling.

“Hello… Hello, Wallace.”

Startled, Wallace jumped in his seat and looked up at Juan.

Juan smiled. “Aqua Ring Watercolors, I see. My my. From whom did you get those?”

“Steven,” Wallace said, voice devoid of emotions. “And Winona got me some, too. Steven got earth tones. Winona got cool colors.”

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

Wallace looked down at his art.

“I’m sorry.”

“For what are you apologizing?”

“For drawing…” Wallace gestured across the table and the drawings on it. “...This.”

“Wallace, there’s nothing to apologize for. If drawing these things is how you process your emotions, well, you’re not hurting yourself or anyone else. And besides, you’re a talented artist.”

Wallace collapsed against Juan.

“I’m getting reevaluated.”

“So I’ve heard. But that’s okay. You’ll get a better diagnosis and better medication to help you—”

“What’s wrong with me?”

Juan was taken aback by that question. “What do you mean?”

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

Juan knelt down so he could hug Wallace. “You’re not a freak. You’re human. Sometimes you aren’t going to be okay. And that’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re struggling right now. You’re struggling with so, so much. But you’re not a freak because you’re struggling. You’re not a freak because you’re not okay.” Tears returned to Juan’s face, and he hugged Wallace tighter. “And I love you so much. And I will do everything, everything to help you. Because so many people love you. So many people and Pokémon love you and care about you.”

“Stop crying, Juan!” Wallace was cry-screaming. “You’re supposed to be emotionally stable! I’m the sick freak! I’m the one who’s not okay! Sootopolitans aren’t even supposed to cry. I shouldn’t have started crying, because now you’re crying. Now everyone’s sad and suffering and wasting time and money on me and—”

Sobs overtook Wallace. For a few minutes, Juan rocked him back and forth, and the two let themselves cry.
 
Top Bottom