pokemod: (by koyuki @ DW. [gen i])
pokémod team ([personal profile] pokemod) wrote2016-01-07 01:23 pm

"Meaning of the Journey" for AshcoForever

Recipient: [tumblr.com profile] AshcoForever
Title: Meaning of the Journey
Author: [archiveofourown.org profile] tauri
Rating: PG-13
Verse: Gameverse (Pokemon XY)
Characters/Pairings: Serena/Shauna
Summary: Having gained the title of Champion, Serena is still happily traversing Kalos to find the next exciting thing to investigate. Shauna doesn't feel that her path is quite so straightforward, and isn't sure what to do next. Serena tries to give advice, but Shauna has another method in mind.



Despite starting from the same place, the resulting Pokémon journeys of any given group of Pokémon trainers could differ quite wildly. To think on it, Shauna supposed that this was a rather obvious thing to consider in a moment of realisation, but she caught herself awake in the middle of the night thinking about it all the same. Some trainers wished to participate in the Pokémon League, and to take on the Champion. Others threw themselves into areas of study - Pokémon care, Pokémon grooming, Pokémon breeding. Pokémon could be partners in battle, in aesthetic competition, in life. At every turn, the message seemed to be find your own path in life! Follow your heart, and the thing you're most passionate about will reveal itself to you!

Those repeated platitudes, regardless of their intent, went through Shauna's mind as she sat up in bed, thumbing through the stored photos in her camera. Everything was making memories, wasn't it? That's important too, right? She gazed listlessly at a group photograph, taken shortly after Serena's Pokémon League victory. The next photo was of Serena, looking happy alongside her Delphox. Tierno and Trevor, caught in the middle of a happy conversation. Calem and his Greninja, looking somewhat pensive. Another group photo, taken some time later, back at the Sycamore Laboratory - and with Professor Sycamore himself grinning and waving at the camera as enthusiastically as the rest of them. Other pictures came afterward - bumping into Trevor at Camphrier Town, landscape shots of Geosenge, trips for icecream in Lumiose with Serena. (She lingered over those photos of Serena for just a little longer than the others.)

For a lot of Pokémon owners, the thought of challenging the Pokémon League and winning against the Champion was an unrealistic one. Not every Pokémon journey ended in success, and not everybody had the time or opportunity to dedicate themselves to such a goal. It was a lofty and impressive ambition - and Serena and Calem were already there. Just another step in their Pokémon journey. They'd achieved that long enough ago that it felt like a long time, and Shauna didn't know what to do about that even as time increased the space between then and now. Some trainers never had the opportunity to think about what they would do once they won victory over the Pokémon League, but those two? Even that was a far-off memory, now.

(Shauna turned her camera off, and tried to get back to sleep.)

The five of them kept in frequent contact - technology such as the Holo Caster made that easy. Easier still was going for stretches of time without seeing any of them in person, all while inundated with Holo Caster messages. Shauna found herself with the most messages from Serena; she didn't dislike that, but it was a bittersweet feeling. Everything Serena did seemed to have such purpose to it, whether it was raising a particular Pokémon team for some competition, or going to some far-flung cave off the beaten track to try to find some rare Pokémon hiding from view. If she was off the grid for weeks, it seemed to be a guarantee that she would be spending those weeks doing things. Shauna would smile at her when they met, "You're always so motivated!"... Serena would smile in return, saying that that was just how she was. Maybe it helped to have Grace as a parent? Shauna loved her parents dearly, but wondered if having a parent who had really achieved something public and successful made them more driven to have their children follow that same route. Shauna's parents were supportive, but always fell back on those unhelpful words. "Whatever you want to do is fine with us!" "Spend some time travelling, and find out what it is you really want to do." "Kalos is such a large country, you'll definitely find something out there that is right for you!"

Shauna was in the process of heading back to Vaniville Town by way of Lumiose, spending some time in the city to deflect the next part of her journey. Once she left Lumiose it wouldn't take her long to get back to Vaniville at all, but she still found herself sitting in cafés and taking in the sights and gently putting off the part where she actually did the thing that she was intending to do. She hadn't told her parents she was thinking of making a visit home, and there was no rush for her to do so, but Shauna still found herself reluctant to make that contact and turn her vague plan into a definite thing. Running back home to her parents saying "I don't know what I want to do--!" almost felt like failure, despite her knowing that there was no way that her parents would treat it as such. No, they'd be as comforting and supportive as they ever were. That prospect almost made the feeling worse.

Usually, the members of their group would contact one another to see if they were close enough to meet. Sometimes, those meetings happened at random; on her third day in Lumiose, Shauna had been passing by one of the many Pokémon Centers in the city when she'd caught the swoop of a Pokémon overhead - indeed, they landed at the Pokémon Center, and to her surprise, it was Serena and her Altaria. She headed into the Pokémon Center without looking around her - she's probably in the middle of something, Shauna thought. Despite that, she crossed the road quickly to make it inside before Serena was off and away on the next part of whatever her current adventure happened to be.

"Serena?" Shauna glanced around the building's interior space, before settling eyes on where Serena stood at the front desk, waiting for her Pokémon to heal. Shauna waited until the process was complete before stepping forward and speaking in a bolder tone. "Serena, it is you!"

Serena looked up with surprise, "Oh? Oh, Shauna! Hi! It's been a while! What are you doing here?"

That felt like a loaded question in itself. Shauna hesitated for a moment; the usual answer was nothing much and her thoughts were giving her no better alternative. Inevitably, when the question was reversed, it would lead to some grand explanation... but no, there's nothing else. Fighting off that hesitation, Shauna smiled broadly. "Nothing much! Just hanging around here, wondering where to go next. I bet you're in the middle of something important, huh?"

"You know me! I'm just preparing to visit Route 18. There's an old coal mine there that was shut down because of a 'monster' in it." Serena's eyes lit up as she explained her plans. "Doesn't that sound exciting?! It's got to be a Pokémon, right? Maybe it's a Pokémon nobody has ever seen before--! And even if it is one that we know about, wouldn't it be great to solve the mystery of the coal mine?"

Serena had taken Shauna's hands as she spoke, shaking them up and down in her joy. Shauna smiled, but couldn't muster the same enthusiasm as her friend. "It sounds great! Won't it be kind of dangerous, though...?"

That question only caused another grin. "Don't worry, I know how to take care of myself." Despite her words of encouragement, Shauna's look of concern didn't lessen. Serena noticed this, letting go of Shauna's hands and smiling gently. "It'll be fine. Hey, I'm not really in any hurry, though - since we haven't seen each other for a while, how about we go and get something to eat? I'm sure there's a lot for us to catch up on!" She paused, as if suddenly realising something. "Oh, but if you're in a rush somewhere, then--"

"No, no it's fine, we can go--! I wasn't really doing anything myself, just, you know, wandering around..."

"Awesome! I know just what would be good, while I'm in Lumiose..."



----



Shauna treasured the time she was able to spend with Serena, but couldn't help but find it a little exhausting, sometimes. They'd gone directly for a taxi - which Serena had paid for - to the restaurant, which turned out to be Sushi High Roller on Hibernal Avenue. Shauna had protested to this at first - not only was it expensive, but there was also the issue of the establishment only allowing in those who had the title of Pokémon Champion... but Serena, in her usual way, had insisted that it wouldn't be a problem. "I have the Champion title, and you're my guest! Besides, we both hold the Honor of Kalos, right? So from that alone, they know that you're someone special!" (And indeed, it hadn't been a problem.)

The food was excellent and the atmosphere was perfect, but Shauna still felt a knot of unease within her. Without even saying anything, Serena's actions made Shauna feel as if there was some invisible gap between them; by herself, she would never have thought to come to Sushi High Roller, or to use the award given to her for that reason. Even once they were inside the restaurant, it was still expensive - but Serena just smiled, "My treat."

Does she come here often? Serena had suggested the restaurant almost without thinking, like it was perfectly natural that somebody visiting Lumiose would want to go, because why wouldn't they? Concern over the exclusive nature of the restaurant - or the price! - barely seemed to register at all. Maybe that was just what it was like to hold the title of Champion? If you could be just that good at Pokémon battles, perhaps it was possible to reach a point at which certain things didn't even matter. Serena spoke of favourites on her menu, and smiled as she ate. Maybe Calem came here too? Maybe they come here together... (Shauna tried to shake the thought from her mind, but wasn't completely successful.)

"So, uh... have you been here many times before? I've never been here! I wouldn't really think to come to somewhere like this..."

"It would sound kind of obnoxious if I said I was a regular, wouldn't it?" Serena glanced down, looking slightly self-conscious. "It isn't just the food, though - it's the battling! The waiters here are very strong, so I find it a good place to train teams of Pokémon. Being just down the road from the Pokémon Center, too, that's really useful! I thought you probably wouldn't want to battle today, though. It'd be unfair to spring that on you without warning! But yeah, that's... mostly why I come here. It makes a change to just be able to come here and appreciate the food! Especially with a friend. I'm really glad you saw me, Shauna! Food always tastes better with friends."

"And, uh... about Calem..." Shauna trailed off, glancing between her plate and Serena; Serena only answered that glance with a look of relaxed curiosity.

"Wow, I haven't seen Calem around for a while. What about him?"

"Do you... ever come here with him...?"

"What!? Haha, no, I've never done that. I feel like when I do see him it's always, like, up a mountain or going through a forest or something. I like to come back to the city every now and then, but I don't think that's his sort of style. He'd probably come here if I told him how good the battles were, though. That's the sort of thing he's interested in."

Shauna attempted a casual laugh, feeling like her emotions were very obvious despite her attempts to hide them. "Ahaha... so I suppose you don't, uh, do, like... Champion things together?"

"Champion things?"

"Yeah, you know, like... things. That Champions do." She attempted a light shrug. "I'm not a Champion, so I don't know what those things are."

"I don't think I know what they are either...! No, we've never really... I mean, we have battles every now and then, usually if we meet up out of town then he's all, you know, I want to see who's strongest! and I want to see how your Pokémon have grown! and all that sort of thing. But that isn't really something that only champions do, is it?"

"I guess not..."

Shauna couldn't place the source of her anxiety, but couldn't shake that she felt like there was something bothering her. She could see it in Serena's eyes, too, that she'd noticed, and only felt more frustrated that it wasn't something she could put into words. There didn't seem to be anything between Serena and Calem, but. Being a Champion didn't seem like it held any sort of secret, but. Serena was just the same as she always was, but.

But... what?



----



Following up on the meal from Sushi High Roller came Serena's suggestion that they stay at a nearby hotel, as opposed to taking lodgings at the Pokémon Center for the night. Once more, it seemed almost natural that Serena would suggest Hotel Richissime, again with the casual comment that she was fine with paying for it. After all, they hadn't seen each other in so long, and what was better at having a sleepover together in the best hotel in the city? Shauna hadn't been able to help herself from asking if it was okay, if it was really okay, if it was really really okay, but Serena just shut her down further with each level of protest. "Why wouldn't it be okay?"

During previous visits to the hotel, they had taken a room with single beds. Serena had had the idea of pushing them together, so it could be like a real sleepover. On subsequent visits, this had changed to the straightforward order of a room with a double bed; Shauna would stand behind Serena, unable to help a blush as the other girl unashamedly gave her request to the front desk. They seemed to treat the request as if it were nothing out of the ordinary, so Shauna supposed that she was the only one to get embarrassed about such things. And so they would go to the room and take to the bed - that single bed - and once more Shauna would find it difficult to sleep, but it was okay, because Serena always seemed happy to stay up through the night to talk. Shauna would have been the first to admit that she enjoyed that part of Serena, but there was also that other part to her - she was perceptive, and the physical closeness seemed to work against any attempt Shauna tried to keep her thoughts isolated from the situation.

"... Shauna."

They lay in the luxurious bed, facing one another. Shauna tugged the duvet cover up around her. "... What is it?"

"I should be asking you that. You're worried about something, aren't you?"

"... Not really...?"

"Come on, you don't need to hide it from me. Even you don't sound sure about what you're saying." She smiled, gently. "If there is something wrong, I'd be worried to think that you couldn't talk to me about it...! But if you don't want to, then that's fine too..."

"N-no, it's not that..." Shauna took a moment to gather her thoughts, which Serena didn't interrupt. From meeting with Serena that morning through to the meal and up to now, none of it had given Shauna any room to think. The more time she spent with Serena, the more confused she felt - but none of that helped when it came to a simple question from Serena herself. She frowned, still unable to sort her trains of thought even as she started speaking. "You're the Champion... you and Calem both... and it's been a while since you managed that, even! It's amazing, you were even able to do that..."

"Do you want to be a Pokémon Champion...?"

"I--...! I mean... I guess... it would be nice? Maybe? I'm not really--... I don't think I'm as motivated as you or Calem are for it, though. If I could do it, that would be cool, but if I don't do it, and I find something else that I want to do, that would be cool, too."

Another smile. "I'm sure that if you really wanted it, you'd totally be able to do it. I'll support you, whatever you want to do! If you need my help with anything, just ask, and I'll do my best!"

Even hearing those words of encouragement felt like another weight on Shauna's shoulders. "... I was going to go back to Vaniville. I mean, I still am...! I just--... I just haven't got there yet."

"Okay...?"

"I still don't... really know what I'm doing. Or what I want to do. I thought I could maybe... go back to my parents and ask them? I don't know if they'll be able to help, but..." Shauna smiled, but sadly. "You're always going everywhere, doing everything... it's really amazing! Whenever you tell me about all the things you've done, I'm always so proud, and I think, wow, isn't it great that I'm friends with someone who does all these amazing things--!... But I should be doing things, too. Maybe not amazing things, but... I should be doing something. Back at the start of our journey, I was so sure I'd know what I wanted to do once we'd been on our journey, or that I'd find what I wanted to do along the way. And I had fun being with everyone! I loved every moment of it! But it still didn't--... everyone seemed to find something they felt strongly about. I just feel like all I feel strongly about is not being able to feel strongly about anything like that. Even if I beat the Champion, would that... help? You did that ages ago, and you're still doing things now - for a lot of people, becoming a Champion is the last thing on their list, but... not with you. And that's great! I think that's really great! I just--... I just don't know. I don't know how to say it. I don't know what I want." Again, she tried to laugh, weakly. "I guess that's what's wrong. Sorry, I guess none of that made any sense."

Serena reached out to stroke at Shauna's hair. "No, I think that's all totally understandable. I guess I was just lucky, finding something I wanted to do quickly? If my mother had had her way, I'd be a Rhyhorn racer like she was. She felt really strongly about that! But it just so happened that I found something else I wanted to do... but that's just me." Serena dropped her hand down to take Shauna's hand, holding it in a reassuring fashion. "I know you know this, but nobody can tell you what to do. Like you said, you could defeat the Champion if you wanted, but if that wasn't what you wanted, then it'd just be... another thing. Sometimes you need to try a lot of things to find what you want to do. Maybe it has to be a lot of things. Maybe you have to find your own thing. I don't know. ...I really was lucky, honestly. I think a lot of people don't know what they want to do. That's fine, too."

"Mmm..." Shauna pressed her fingers against Serena's own. "Like... you're a Champion, right? So... doesn't that mean that you're going to go off to the Pokémon League and stay there all the time...?"

"Well, there's a difference between being the Champion and being a Champion. I'm a Champion because I beat Diantha, but there's more to it than that. Like you said earlier, Champion things! I'm sure there's a whole lot of really important things that Diantha does that none of us know about. I think there's like... some sort of Champion's Tournament in Unova that regional Champions go to regularly? I'd probably be allowed to go to that, but it would involve going to Unova, and that would be cool, but I'm not quite ready to go overseas just yet! I can't even imagine what it would be like, there. Champions from all over the world, battling each other. I bet those would be some amazing battles to watch, though."

"And you don't want to do that?"

"Not... right now, I guess. I still want to go around exploring Kalos. The Professor wants to find out more about Mega Evolution, right? Maybe if I find that Pokémon at the bottom of that coal mine, I'll be able to find something out about it. Or maybe I'll find something new! That's something I wouldn't be able to do if I was hanging out at the Pokémon League all the time. But then Diantha is a film star too, isn't she? Because she loves both acting and Pokémon battles, she's able to balance those two things in her life. I might still find something else I want to do. You never know what's going to happen!" Serena leant in close, pressing a kiss to Shauna's forehead. "You never know what's going to happen, so..."

"So you're not taking up residence at the Pokémon League any time soon?"

"Not any time soon, no. I'm not going to Unova any time soon, either...! But maybe I'll think about it. It's up to me to decide what I want to do, after all." She leant in once more, gently kissing Shauna's lips, more as a statement of intent than anything else. "And what I want to do right now is to stay here with you, so that's that. Anything else can wait until the morning... right?"

Shauna nodded gently, leaning over to kiss Serena in return. "... Right."



----



The Lumiose visit extended to a little longer than either Serena or Shauna had intended, with lazy days filling themselves full of shopping trips and seeing the familiar sights of the city. Staying night after night at Richissime, the thought occurred to Shauna once more - she doesn't come here with Calem, does she? After two days, she was able to voice this question. Once more, Serena laughed. "We really don't see each other that often."

Then, with other people...?

Do you stay in hotels with other girls...?

It became obvious that they couldn't stay in Lumiose forever. Shauna still had her aim of going back to Vaniville, and Serena had mysterious Pokémon to hunt in the depths of coal mines, or... whatever it was she wanted to do. Having fulfilled their last activities in Lumiose, Serena and Shauna stood on Route 4, just outside of the entrance to the city.

"If you want me to come with you, I can do that...? I'm sure my mother would be happy to see me visit Vaniville again. I lose track of time so quickly..."

"N-no, you don't have to. I mean--... if you want to, you can totally do that! But you don't need to do that because of me, or anything. If I go and talk to my parents, I think that's definitely something that I've got to do by myself. Thank you, though!"

Serena stood, holding the strap of her bag with one hand. "Well, if you're sure...! If you do need me, you know where I am. ...Or I mean, you can get me on the Holo Caster! I'm probably going to be around Route 18 for a while. The next couple of days, at least. Let me know what happens when you talk to your parents, okay? And say hi to my mother!... Though that'll probably make her mad that I came this far and didn't visit... maybe I really should..."

There was a slightly awkward silence. Shauna knew that it would only take a moment for Serena to board her Altaria, and then she'd be gone, and then it could be months before they saw each other again, and they'd talked and they'd spent time with each other but Shauna still didn't feel like she'd been able to say what she really wanted to say--

"Serena--!"

She'd been in the process of producing Altaria's Poké Ball. "Mm?" Looking up, Serena was caught by the determined look in Shauna's eyes. "... What's up?"

"I--!... I--... I want you to battle me--!"

"Huh? Right now? Shauna, you know we don't need to do that--"

"That doesn't matter--! I just--... battle me, here and now. Even if we never battle again--... I probably can't beat you. Even if this is the last time we ever battle, and I still can't beat you--... to someone like me, you might be unbeatable. That's okay! I'm not a Champion like you, or like Calem, or like Diantha, but I can still fight a Pokémon battle with all of my strength! Maybe I'm not meant to fight Pokémon battles, but... like you said, I've got to try lots of things, right?... I want to give you everything I have. I want to put everything into a battle, so that I can know if--... even if I lose, I'll know that I've done my best. Maybe I was never meant to stand beside you, or be good enough for you, but I--"

"Shauna--! Who ever said you weren't good enough--?"

"Just--... can we do this, Serena? We haven't battled in a long time. I've been working alongside my Pokémon... I've made a lot of precious memories with them! If I can have this memory of battling with you, then... then I think I could take strength from that."

Serena kept the Poké Ball in her hand, though clearly now for a different purpose. "Are you sure?"

"I'm totally sure."

In that moment, Shauna saw Serena's expression change - there was that look in her eyes, that spark. There was that determination that had likely carried her through the Pokémon League, and beyond. She smiled, the excitement of battle clear on her face. "Then, I look forward to seeing you do your best, Shauna. ALTERIA, GO--!"



----



Lying on the grass just by the steps that led down to Route 4's impressive fountain, Serena and Shauna both stared up at the sky. Serena lay with her hands behind her head, while Shauna rested her own on her stomach, content in the silence but for the relaxing sound of flowing water nearby.

"... I really did my best."

"Yeah." Serena chuckled warmly. "I could see that just from watching you. Seeing you like that... it was really... electric."

"... Electric?"

"Like... I could just feel the energy coming from you. It was exciting! Were you excited?"

Shauna couldn't lie, not to herself and not to Serena. They'd spoken of the Champion's Tournament, and how exciting that must be to witness... but to Shauna, there was little better than being able to see Serena, lit up by the thrill of battle, there and focused on nothing more than her strategy and the tension between them. It felt like there was a part of Serena that only came out during battle, and there was something irresistible about being able to see that. Even if we never battle again, I saw her battle at full strength, so--. Shauna grinned, turning to face Serena. "I was, yeah. That'll be a great memory. You look so cool in battle! I wish I'd been able to take some photos, or something."

Serena looked mildly pensive for a moment. "... Do you... still want to go back to Vaniville...?"

"I still don't really have any other plans, so, I guess?"

That pensive look remained. "You don't--... you don't need to be good at battle to stand beside me, Shauna. Or to be 'good enough', or anything. You're already good enough! I love you as you are, so--..."

"I needed to try, though."

"... I know. I know." Serena pushed herself up on her arms, looking down to where Shauna still lay. "Do you want to come with me?"

"Huh?"

"To Route 18. I mean... it's a coal mine so it's probably gonna be dark and kind of dusty, but if you wanted to come with me, that'd make me really happy...!"

"But--... but why--...?"

"You can't say that you're not good enough when you were there with us defeating Team Flare...! It's because we were all there that we were able to achieve things, right? I've been thinking about things you've said... I don't see you very often, I don't see Calem or the others often either... if I could travel with you, that would make the journey more fun, I think. Climbing mountains can get kind of lonely when you're the only person up there! Oh, but only if you want to, though--! I don't want to try and force you into anything. Maybe you don't want to climb mountains! That's fine too."

Shauna thought about the proposition for a few moments, but knew that it was really no question at all. "... Maybe I don't need to go talk to my parents right now."

"No?"

"Even if we don't find anything in the coal mine, I'm sure it'll be fun to go there together, right?

"Exactly! So are you saying--"

"I'm saying 'yes', Serena--!" Shauna laughed, almost in relief. "Even just thinking about it now, I'm excited...! Maybe I still don't know where I want to go, but if I'm following after you, even for a while, that's still moving forward, right?"

Serena took Shauna's hand, staring at her intently. "You don't need to follow after me anywhere, Shauna. We'll be side-by-side on our journey, because we're equal!... Right?"

(Somehow, it felt like some of the weight on Shauna's shoulders had immediately lifted.)

"Right--!"





~*~

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