Spoiler: Author's Notes I've been writing this one-shot on and off since last year, and I shelved it a few months into writing it because I didn't think I would be able to deliver the kind of story I wanted it to be. But after reading [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]'s "A Hundred Tries" and churning out particular entries in Humans of Hoenn that relate with the theme, I got inspired to revisit the one-shot and shorten it to what you see here [shorten in the sense that, well, its working title was "36 Months"]. I mention "A Hundred Tries" because the subject of that one-shot is sort-of the same as the one I explore here—positioning Hilbert/Hilda in the years between BW and B2W2. When I first played the latter, I was particularly surprised at the dialogue we get from Hilbert's/Hilda's mom when we, as Nate/Rosa, visit her in the post-game. We get this sense that she's been waiting for her child to come home for a while now, to the point that she mistakes Nate/Rosa as them. I found it amusing but very sad, and I thought, hey, there has to be a story in there somewhere. And this was the result. I do hope you enjoy "24 Months". If you have any comments or criticism, don't hesitate to leave a reply. 24 Months "Mom, I'm gonna go look for him." She noticed how his voice exuded an overwhelming amount of confidence. It demanded more attention than she thought it would, something she could only attribute to him having been Champion for a year and a half. What made her worried was the determination in his eyes, telling her that his decision was unshakable—nothing in her power could convince him otherwise. She defaulted to the only reply she knew would satisfy him. "Whatever you think is for the best, honey." 1 month later She turned the mug upside down and watched its contents seep through the sink's drain. She opened the faucet and watched the water mix with the chocolate, the marshmallows turning into small soggy sponges. After putting the mug in the middle of the flowing water, she soaped and rinsed it thoroughly, making sure there was no trace of chocolate left. When she was satisfied, she dried it off with a clean towel and stored it in the counter. She then sat down in front of the window and, while watching the village be covered in snow, gripped her own mug of hot chocolate and finished it as slowly as possible. 2 months later Pairs of amazed eyes gazed at her as she stood in front of that spring's batch of beginning trainers. Their mouths were agape, their eyebrows raised, and their hands tightly clutched their newly received Poké Balls. She stood with the intention of looking humble so as not to intimidate them with whatever intimidation a Champion's mother possesses. Beside her, Professor Juniper spoke a few concluding words to them and asked her for any final tips. "Stay safe," she said in an almost rehearsed tone, "and call back home as often as possible." 3 months later There was a small get-together at Cheren's house to celebrate his new job as the Aspertia City Gym Leader. He was going to move out by the end of the month, and his parents had made sure to give him a fitting going away party to celebrate. She had wanted to leave early, but she ended up staying the latest because of all the questions she received about her son. She politely told everyone that he was doing fine, that he called almost every night, and that he would come home within the next couple of weeks, playing an unacknowledged game of two truths, one lie. Before leaving, she wished Cheren and his parents good luck and gave Cheren a long hug. She whispered to his ear, "Give this to Hilbert if you bump into him, okay?" 4 months later She noticed that there were more leaves than usual to rake this time around. It usually only took her an afternoon, but she was only halfway done when she saw stars appear in the sky. She mulled over the possibilities. Was this a sign that there were more trees growing around the town, or was this a sign that the trees were shedding more leaves at a faster pace than usual? Was her raking getting slower, or did the sun set earlier this particular autumn day? She then remembered that she had one less pair of hands to help her this time around. She hastened her pace and tried to think about something else, only succeeding in the former. 5 months later She offered Bianca a mug of hot chocolate, which the young trainer humbly accepted. The professor's assistant had just come home from a year-long trip with Cedric Juniper, where she visited professors in other regions. Nevertheless, she was assigned to go to Aspertia City the day after to deliver a starter to a beginning trainer, who happened to be the son of one of her childhood friends. She had given Bianca a letter to give to her friend, which contained her thoughts of meeting up and sentiments of soon being in the same page as mothers of distant children. "I'm excited to see Cheren again," Bianca told her. "It's been two whole years since we last saw each other. I wonder how he's doing?" Her weak smile grew weaker as she listened to Bianca's musings. 6 months later "I haven't had luck here in Kanto. If I don’t find him by next week, I'll head to Johto and try my luck there." "Will you be all right? Where will you be staying? Do you still have enough money? I can send you some if you'd like." "I still have enough money, and if ever I'd need some, I could always just withdraw. And I usually stay in the Pokémon Centers, but if I don't, I just camp out in routes like I used to. You don't have to worry, Mom. It's not like I haven't done this before." "I know, I know, but if ever your journey gets too tiring, don't hesitate to head back home—" "Oh, sorry Mom, gotta go. I'm about to go through this cave called Mt. Moon, and the signal's gonna be cut off. Talk to you soon. Love you." "I love you too," she said to the Xtransceiver's dial tone. "Stay safe." 7 months later "There, that should do it." She spent almost the entire day rearranging furniture in Hilbert's bedroom, being discouraged by the summer heat to go outside. What started out as her daily cleaning ended up with her thinking of a better setup for the room. She thought the TV set would be better if it wasn't in front of the stairs, and the bed would make more sense facing the TV. She then decided to put the computer table next to the bookcase, serving as a "study corner" of sorts. "I hope Hilbert doesn't mind the changes," she said when she had finished. She spent the rest of the next day putting everything back to their original places. She took even more time doing so. 8 months later "Alice? Oh my gosh! It's been so long! How are you?" "Hi, Jess. I'm doing okay. You still working for Pokémon Centers?" "Oh, not anymore. Ever since Nate left for his journey, I had to look for a job that would keep me in Aspertia. Now I teach kindergarteners in the Trainers' School." "That's good to hear. Speaking of which, have you heard from Nate yet?" "Yeah! He calls every day, asking me about the cities and routes he's in and telling me about his latest gym battles. With the amount of times he's called, it doesn't feel like he's gone at all! Oh, how about you, Mrs. Champion's mom? I heard from Bianca that Hilbert's gone off to another journey. How is he?" "…Uhh, great. He's doing great." 9 months later He looked like a mess when he entered the door and announced that he was home. His clothes were torn and tattered, his eyes were underlined with huge arches, and his hair looked like he hadn't fixed it in nine months. He threw himself on the chair and put his hat over his head, lazily plopping his bag on the floor. She immediately made him a mug of hot chocolate, the way he liked it when it was winter. She placed his personal mug on the desk beside him and asked him with a worried tone, "Did you find your friend?" The dream ended before she heard his answer. Seeing the night sky outside the window, she willed herself to fall asleep again. 10 months later She noticed that one of the beginning trainers had stayed behind, a twelve-year-old boy who picked Snivy. He seemed to be talking to himself while clutching the Poké Ball firmly. Seeing that Professor Juniper was busy, she approached him and asked what was wrong. "I don't know if I made the right choice," the boy told her. "I mean, all three of them are great, but what if Snivy isn't right for me? What if I'm actually a Tepig person or an Oshawott person?" "There's only one way to find out," she said. "You have to get out there and see for yourself. My son picked Snivy, too, and I know that he loves his Serperior very much. You could have the same relationship with your Snivy, or maybe one that’s even better, but you’ll have to give it a try. " "Thanks, Mrs. Black," the boy said, his face lighting up. "Hilbert sure is lucky to have the best mom in the world." She tried to make her face match his in response, but she knew she couldn't. 11 months later This just in: Opelucid City has been frozen solid. Ice blasts coming from the sky struck many portions of the city, leaving many residents stranded within houses and buildings. Mayor Dresden stated in a press conference that this is the work of Team Plasma, who has not made the headlines since the incident in the Pokémon League more than two years ago. "Authorities have mostly stabilized the situation," reports Mayor Dresden, "with help from one of my challengers. I urge the rest of Unova to keep a watchful eye and report any sightings of rogue Team Plasma members immediately." Other citizens say that a huge flying ship was seen around the time of the incident and is likely the cause of the ice— "He's here," she said as the news report dissolved into unimportant details. "Hilbert's friend is here." 12 months later "Hilbert, honey, why don't you head home now? I'm sure you've heard of the news of Team Plasma being back in Unova. Perhaps your friend is with them?" "I'm too far into this search to stop now, Mom. And besides, he's left Team Plasma for good. Team Plasma coming back there means he'd be as far away from Unova as possible." "But Hilbert, it's been a year since you started your search. What if—" "Oh, shoot. Just heard the final call for boarding of my plane to Kalos. I'll call you as soon as the plane lands in eighteen hours. Love you." "I love you too," she said to the Xtransceiver's dial tone. "Come back soon." 13 months later Her smile never went away the whole time she was conversing with Hilbert over the Xtransceiver. He told her how he bought her a ribbon accessory from a clothes shop in a city called Anistar, and she could already picture Hilbert trying to put it on her hair. He told her how the same city had this amazing sundial that would glow at night, and she could imagine watching it with him someday. "I still haven't found him, though," he said. "I'll probably head to the western part of the region these next few weeks. I hear there's a small town there with interesting stone statues that have images of Pokémon engraved on them. My friend would probably find that interesting." For the first time in thirteen months, she was thankful that Hilbert wasn't there with her—at least he wouldn't see her smile abruptly fade. 14 months later "It was unbelievable. Ghetsis was using Kyurem to freeze entire cities. He wasn't even giving speeches anymore—he was threatening innocent lives for no apparent reason." She listened to Cheren briefing all the citizens of Nuvema Town of what had happened in Northern Unova. Unlike the rest of the crowd, she wasn't looking for the validation of her safety or the confirmation of Team Plasma's defeat; she was looking for any traces of her son's friend. "Luckily, this incredibly talented trainer stopped him and his plans, and Ghetsis fled from his defeat. Officials have arrested all of the Neo Team Plasma members and are trying to pinpoint the location of their leader. I have to hand it to that trainer—he reminds me a lot of Hilbert." "But he isn't Hilbert," she said, louder than she expected. She was relieved to see that no one heard her over all the commotion. 15 months later "We're sorry. The number you are trying to reach cannot be found. The Xtransciever may be damaged, or there may be a problem in the coverage area. If this problem persists, please call the C-Gear Company at 508-414-823-1129." ... "We're sorry. The number you are trying to reach cannot be found. The Xtransciever may be damaged, or there may be a problem in the coverage area. If this problem persists, please call the C-Gear Company at 508-414-823-1129." ... "We're sorry. The number you are trying to reach cannot be found. The Xtransciever may be damaged, or there may be a problem—" Within an hour, she had gone to the police in Striaton and filed a report of a missing person. She told them all they needed: Hilbert Black, sixteen years old, five foot five, thin build, brown spiky hair, brown eyes, last seen wearing a blue zipper jacket and a red cap, last conversation in Cyllage City in Kalos, former Champion of the Unova League. She asked for updates every ten minutes after that, but each update was met with the same response. 16 months later She saw her face grace the screen, saying a phrase she has heard far too many times in the past few weeks. "Please, if you see my son, send word immediately." Her plea and her son's image stayed on the screen for thirty seconds before the channel went back to its Sunday night feature. They were interviewing two young boys who shared many similarities: both had just become champions of their respective Leagues, and both had just saved their region from the wrath of a villainous team. She didn't recognize the boy from Kalos, but she was surprised to find the boy from Unova was none other than the son of her friend in Aspertia. "At least Jess would always know where her son is," she said to the screen. "Lucky her." 17 months later "Are you sure you don't want to come?" Professor Juniper offered her a mug of hot chocolate, which she silently rejected along with the invitation. They were celebrating Bianca's birthday, and her family had invited everyone. Even Cheren had arrived, and he brought along other gym leaders like Elesa and Burgh. There were only two invitees who hadn't showed up, and one of them didn't know where the other one was. "Yes, it's fine," she told the professor. "You go and have fun. Don't let me bring the mood down." "All right. I won't force you, Alice," Professor Juniper said, "but if you change your mind, you're always welcome to attend." When Professor Juniper left, she got the mug of hot chocolate and poured the contents down the sink's drain. After rinsing it thoroughly, she put Hilbert's mug back in the cupboard and went to bed, gripping her Xtransciever tightly. 18 months later She chose not to speak in front of the beginning trainers this time around. She didn't feel that she had anything encouraging to say to them. In fact, she thought it was for the better that she didn't speak, for they might not want to go on their journeys if she told them about Hilbert. Outside, she saw the young trainers burst out of Professor Juniper's lab, signaling the start of their journeys. She saw two young boys already battling, the one with the Snivy overpowering the one with the Tepig despite the type advantage. She saw another young boy put on a new pair of running shoes, his mom hugging the shoebox right behind him and wiping tears off her face. She saw a trio of trainers, two boys and one girl, hold hands, breathe in heavily, and take their first step in Route 1— She closed her blinds and forced herself out of the window. She called the police for updates and was met with the answer she expected. 19 months later She rarely watched the news nowadays. She couldn't bear seeing the other 3,570 seconds not contain her plea for finding Hilbert. Besides, all of the reports seemed monotonous at this point—the sightings of Team Rocket members in Johto were still frequent, the closure of the Game Corner in Sinnoh was still unexplained, the small town in Kalos was still in shambles from Team Flare's doing, Silph Co. in Kanto was still getting richer, and Wallace in Hoenn was still making controversial headlines with his raunchy outfits. Her own Unova was not spared from the monotony—nothing after the proclamation of a new League Champion a few months ago seemed interesting to her. She spent most of her days in Hilbert's room, cleaning and recleaning every nook and cranny she saw. Her left hand never let go of her Xtransciever, and not a second passed before any call it received was answered. 20 months later "Alice, we're all worried about you." She was watching TV when Professor Juniper came in, though she didn't know what she had been watching. All that mattered was that the house needed to be filled with noise and conversation, and she knew she couldn't do that alone. "Alice, we know it's hard, and we're sorry that nothing's come up in the past five months. But you can't let this stop you from going about your daily life. Why don't you come with me and Bianca in our trip to Aspertia tomorrow? You could catch up with your friend there." She let Professor Juniper's invitation settle in her mind, and for a moment she considered accepting it. It would be a nice change of pace, she thought, and it would do her good to get some sunshine. But then she thought of the time that would be wasted. Why should she be spending time with her friends if she could spend time looking for Hilbert? Why should she go to Aspertia if she should be thinking about going to Kalos? Why should she leave the house if Hilbert could arrive at any minute? She bade goodbye to the professor and her assistant the day after, telling them to say hi to her friend for her. 21 months later "Hey, Mom. I know it's late and you're asleep, but I just got the Cyllage City badge! Grant was really difficult, but Serperior really pulled his weight. Shame I won't have time to participate in the League, but the Gym Leaders so far sure pack a punch! Call me when you wake up, all right? Love you." ... "Hey, Mom. Sorry it took me so long to call again. Going through that cave took me longer than I thought. The view of the beach is really pretty, though, and the sunset is just as beautiful as the one in Route 1. I know you're asleep by now, so call me when you wake up, all right? Love you." ... "Hey, Mom. The flight was a bit delayed, but I finally arrived at Kalos. I know it's midnight there, so I'm sorry for not calling you before you slept. But let me tell you, Mom, Lumiose City is huge! It's like three Castelia Cities rolled up into one megacity. There's so much more I wanna talk about, but I wanna tell it to you in person. Call me when you wake up, all right? Love you." 22 months later "Hello? Is anyone there?" She was watching TV when she heard him. She knew there was a reason that her plea wasn't being broadcasted in the news anymore. She knew seven months of silence was too long. She knew that she would tell him to replace his broken Xtransciever right away, so as something like this wouldn't happen again. "Welcome home, dear. Did you find the friend you were looking for? Wasn't his name something like N?" She turned around and saw the wrong Champion. He looked a lot like Jess and a lot unlike Hilbert. "Huh...? Excuse me!" she stuttered with a smile. "How embarrassing! Mistaking a visitor for my own child!" 23 months later "All right, that's everything." She had packed enough for a month's worth of traveling, deciding that it would be enough for a quick search around Kalos. Nate, her friend’s son and the current Champion, had given her the idea when he dropped by a month ago. She had told him her situation, and he had given her a short but precise solution: take matters into her own hands. She had booked a plane to Kalos a week ago, and a cab to Mistralton a few hours after that. Her flight tomorrow morning meant she would arrive at Kalos when it was afternoon there and midnight in Unova, just like Hilbert's flight. She was more than ready to leave when a thought crept into her head. But what if Hilbert came back and I wasn't here? She tore her plane ticket and itinerary and threw them in the trash. She spent the rest of the day unpacking all of her belongings, carefully returning them to where they were stored away. 24 months later When Hilbert came home, she cried. She cried when the police called her, telling her that they had found him in Geosenge with a broken Xtransciever. She waited in the Mistralton Airport for his flight, and when he arrived after twenty-four hours of waiting, she cried while giving him a welcome she had been bottling up for twenty-four months. She cried when Cheren hugged him tightly, fulfilling a promise he made twenty-one months ago. She cried when Bianca had released his Pokémon one by one, for he wasn't planning on going on any other journey soon. She cried when Serperior gave her a hug with his slippery body, and she tried her best to replicate the hugs his original trainer had given him. She cried when they took a walk to the Dreamyard, like what they used to do when he was still five years old. She cried when he watched him go through the piles of leaves in Route 1, just like what he did six autumns ago. She cried when she gave him a kiss at the end of the walk, something she hadn't given him in two years. And when everyone had left after his funeral ended, she cried some more.