A Realistic Pokemon RP
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It’s Cassie’s warning cry that alerts him to the danger; it’s far, far too late.
Officers rush the scene, and before Joshua has a chance to hide, or run, or speak, he’s being tackled to the ground by the full weight of an Arcanine, breath driven from his lungs.
He grunts in surprise and pain, but doesn’t struggle as his hands are wrenched behind his back. They’re reading him his rights, he can hear shouting and the frantic cries of Pokemon all around him, but all Josh can think about is how he’ll tell this story to his wife.
He thinks she’ll laugh. Just like old times.
There are two sons in the Dale household.
Joshua is ice, with gray eyes like winter and a frigid stare, far more content on his own than in the company of others.
His brother is fire, blazing bright, with a hot temper that burns through everything in its path.
His father is a mystery, shrouded in secret and shadow, and Joshua doesn’t like to be kept in the dark. He claims to be a banker, but Josh sneaks into rooms and hides behind corners. He listens, and learns, and understands that there is something more.
He follows Donovan, one day, hides in the back seat of his father’s car when he leaves for what Josh hears him tell Mama is a ‘business meeting’.
Donovan catches him on the return trip, stolen pokeball still gripped in his father’s hand, and the silence on the car-ride home is deafening. Josh doesn’t dare break it, listens to the hammering of his own heart and wonders if this is how he’ll disappear.
He hides the bruises with long sleeves and doesn’t say a word when Father tells Mama that he’s grounded because of a fight at school.
He doesn’t say a word about what he’d seen, men exchanging Pokeballs for cash under the light of a setting sun while his father observed with folded arms.
He doesn’t say a word when his father starts taking him along on these so-called business trips, when homework graduates from maths and sciences into lies and lockpicking, doesn’t say a damn thing, because that’s how he’s taught, and he’s an excellent student.
Pokemon are nothing but objects. Tools. Easy money.
These are lessons that his father drills into him relentlessly as he’s taught how to steal, how to cheat, how to fight. The others in the trafficking ring think him a novelty, the boss’ son let loose to run around, but Joshua’s ice can turn to fire when he wants it to, driven by nothing but an urge to improve, to impress, to earn that glint of pride he sees in his father’s eyes when he picks his first lock, or steals his first pokeball from a passer-by on the street.
It doesn’t matter that the ball turns out to be empty, because she hadn’t noticed it was gone, and when Donovan claps him on the back, Josh doesn’t even think about the implications.
Little Rowlet with an injured wing, fallen from a high nest in the branches above the family’s Fortree abode, its parents nowhere to be seen.
Donovan would have put it down. Damaged goods.
Joshua, however, is struck with compassion. He carries the broken bird into his room and builds her a nest on a closet shelf, feeds her scraps of food from his own dinner and sneaks the occasional Pokepuff from Skitty’s bowl when Mama isn’t looking.
His father has taught him to lie, and Rowlet becomes his best-kept secret, caught in the very pokeball he’d stolen months ago.
He names her Cassiopeia, and she is the beginning of his end.
“What are you doing?”
It’s never bothered him before, part of the job, but something inside Joshua shifts as he watches his father drag a litter of Poochyena toward the frothing river water.
“They’re just pups,” he insists, a slight tremor in his voice as Donovan’s eyes narrow. “Can’t we just - dump them in front of a pokemon centre, or something? Someone’ll take care of them.”
His brother laughs. Donovan scowls.
“Get over here. Help me with this.”
And he thinks of Cassie, how she’d chirp her excitement whenever Joshua entered the room, how grateful the Rowlet had been for his compassion, how innocent she was.
The current’s stronger than he’d estimated.
The last thing he sees before the river pulls him under is his brother jump in after him, and Donovan’s hand closing over empty air, as if he’d meant to stop him.
He gasps for air and swallows water, chokes.
He wakes up in a hospital.
He remembers shivering on the riverbank and coughing up water, a squirming bag clutched desperately in his arms.
He remembers his brother crouching over him, dark hair plastered to his forehead as he berated Joshua for his idiocy, "You could have drowned!"
He remembers the ice in Donovan’s voice.
“We should have let you.”
The Poochyena were fine.
This is what he reminds himself, time and time again, as his father grows ever colder and his brother takes Joshua’s place as protege.
The Poochyena were fine, and all of this was worth it.
He visits them as they grow, taken in by a local daycare, and decides that the best way to destroy his father’s efforts is from the inside.
It works, until it doesn’t.
It’s his brother who catches him, late at night as he’s gathering the evidence he needs. Pictures, videos, documents, proof, months and years of planning.
Donovan’s hands are tight around his throat, and Joshua thinks that this, in fact, is how he’s going to disappear. Behind them, his brother shreds documents and takes the chip out from Joshua’s phone, dropping it into his pocket.
Later, he’ll throw it into the very river that Josh had nearly drowned in all those years ago.
It’s Mama who saves him, however unintentionally, returning early from work.
“One word out of your mouth -” Donovan growls, a warning.
Joshua doesn’t think he could speak if he wanted to. He’s trembling under his father’s stare, dark bruises forming around his throat, eyes watering.
He runs away, instead.
It’s the first time, but it won’t be the last.
They bring him home in a squad car, lecture him about his parents’ worry. He becomes a prisoner in his own home and school becomes his only freedom, so he throws himself into his work with a newfound abandon.
He’s always been intelligent; now, he is determined.
When he graduates high school, he leaves for good.
He announces his scholarship to his mother at the dinner table and delights in the way his father goes tense at the news, forced to feign pride as his son slips away.
This time, he doesn’t come back.
He gets a shitty apartment in Slateport and studies medicine and pokemon care. It feels like spite, some small justice against his father. It feels right.
He never forgets his training.
He steals back stolen Pokemon and sets them free, reunites them with their trainers, collects evidence in the same way he’d collected it years ago.
But they’re busted before he can take his findings to the police, and he’s forced to run from the only home he’s ever known, the Hoenn skyline fading on the horizon.
In Unova, he will start anew.
He hasn’t spoken to his mother since he’d run away from home. A simple text is all it takes to break his heart.
Pokemon trafficking, Joshua?
I can’t believe you. How could you be so cruel?
He doesn’t have the heart to reply.
Nell is an enigma.
He’s never sure what to expect from the tiny spitfire who accosts him as his stolen Deino tries to take a chunk out of his hand. To be turned in, perhaps.
Certainly not to fall in love.
It happens slowly, and yet it feels like it happens too fast, a sudden realisation of the way his stomach swoops every time she smiles and the way he smiles back, offers her a warmth that he’s never shown to anyone. He tells her the truth, one day, about his father and his family and all the broken pieces left behind in Hoenn.
They go home together, and together, they rebuild.
Joshua, who gazes up at the silhouette of Fortree against the night sky and tells stories from his childhood, of the river that had nearly swallowed him whole. Nell, who wakes in the night to the call of the ocean and finds her husband, instead, who becomes both her rock and her anchor.
Their home becomes a sanctuary for the lost, the abused, the forgotten. For them, and for all the pokemon they’d dedicated their lives to saving.
Fortree sits just across the river, but Joshua doesn’t return.
Joshua strokes the officer’s Arcanine behind the ears as she signs his release papers with a stern verbal reprimand that inspires not a hint of shame in the vigilante thief.
“No hard feelings, tough guy,” he assures the Pokemon, whose half-lidded eyes betray enjoyment behind an otherwise stern working-Pokemon posture. He’s reminded of the Sanctuary back home, a litter of Growlithe that they’d trained for service.
“Mr. Dale, are you listening to me?”
Joshua’s gray eyes flick back up to the officer, and he lifts his hands in a defensive gesture. “Don’t worry, there won’t be any more meddling on my end. I’ve got a ferry to board at noon.” Already, there’s butterflies in his stomach at the thought of reuniting with his wife at the docks. He hasn’t been gone very long, only a week, but it feels like a century. “Look, don’t think I don’t appreciate the strings you pulled for me—”
“I don’t wanna hear it,” the officer interrupts, but her eyes are kind. “Just—go on back to Hoenn, and try not to get involved in any crime between here and there.”
At that, he almost smiles. “Yeah,” he agrees. “All right.”