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Mojo [Yuletide 2017]

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Firebrand, Dec 27, 2017.

  1. Firebrand

    Firebrand Indomitable

    A/N: This was my Yuletide gift for roule, who wanted a pokemon fic set in the real world. So... write what you know, right?

    The alarm on his phone chimed, and Todd fumbled with the touch screen to turn it off before it woke Raz, sleeping on the pallet by the windows. Todd had been awake for the better part of an hour already, watching the early morning sunlight slowly turn his bedroom curtains pink. He swung out of bed and padded through his studio apartment to wash up in the bathroom. By the time he had shaved and combed his hair, Raz was sitting on the kitchen floor, staring at his food bowl. Todd filled it up and turned on the coffee percolator, and the Lucario ate while Todd ironed his clothes for work.

    As Todd hustled out the door, he turned the radio to WBUR, the local NPR affiliate, so that Raz had something to listen to during the day. He descended the central stairway of his Cambridge apartment building and stepped out into the bracing cold air of a New England November morning. Todd hastily buttoned up his pea coat as he hurried down the stoop and set off for the train station. He made the last-minute decision to cut across the college campus to try and save time. Sometimes it shaved a minute or two off his walk, but other times he got caught behind a gaggle of undergraduates who only held him up more.

    As he strode across the central green, he saw a security guard blow past him, his face red, and not just from the chill. The security officer stopped in front of a sharply dressed student, foreign by the look of him, and obviously from a wealthy family. Todd caught a glimpse the guy’s watch, and it probably cost more than he made in a month. The student’s pokemon loomed behind him, its large leathery wings flaring out in the cold morning air.

    “Listen buddy,” the security guard said, his thick Boston accent drawing out his vowels and flattening them. “How many times do I gotta tell ya? Ya can’t park ya Charizard in Harvard Yard!” The student snapped something back, and it quickly devolved into a shouting match, and Todd picked up his pace. He reached the Red Line stop at Harvard Square and descended into the cavernous depths of the MBTA. As he quick-walked down the stairs, he saw a girl no older than sixteen sitting up against the wall just outside the ticket gates. She and her Monferno gazed sullenly out at the morning commuters.

    Todd’s gaze lingered on her a bit longer than he normally paid attention to the local homeless and vagrant population, if only because she didn’t fit the profile. Most of the normal subway lurkers were older, their hair matted and unkempt and their eyes hopeless. The girl was grimy, to be sure, but her eyes burned with an insolent fire. She was a little old to be a trainer, but before Todd could consider it any further, he heard an announcement for an incoming inbound train, and he raced to catch it before it departed.

    The Red Line rattled its way down through subterranean Cambridge before bursting out into the morning light as it crossed the Charles River via the Longfellow Bridge. People and pokemon crowded the train, the chatter of voices and cries filling the claustrophobic air. A woman apologized when her Machop bumbled into Todd’s leg, but Todd brushed it off. It had scuffed his shoes, but they were cheap anyways. The train was plunged into subterranean darkness once again when they crossed the river, and two stops later, Todd made his transfer to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing. Another few stops and he emerged in Back Bay station, and then joined the exodus of commuters making for their office towers. He reached his own, swiped his identity badge at the front door and was whisked up twenty six floors to his cubicle.

    He fetched a mug of what passed for coffee in the office and opened up the spreadsheet he had given up on yesterday afternoon. The hours ticked by, and when he took his lunch break at 1, like he usually did, he FaceTimed Raz, like he usually did. The Lucario propped the iPad up against a pile of books on the coffee table in the middle of the apartment and crouched to look at Todd through the camera. Todd chatted for a little while, because he had heard that it was good for pokemon to hear their trainer’s voice throughout the day, even if he wasn’t really a trainer anymore.

    His other five pokemon lived with his parents out in western Massachusetts, where they had a couple acres of property. He had never wanted to accumulate a large collection when he went on his journey as a teenager, just enough to have a few trusted companions. When he rounded out a full team of six, he had figured that was enough for him. After he decided to quit the league circuit, his parents had agreed to look after them while he went to college. Most schools only allowed you to bring along one pokemon, and he had picked Raz.

    You just couldn’t leave behind your first.

    Then, after he’d graduated and moved to the city, his parents had told him they were used to having the other five around the house helping out, and they were happy to keep them on until Todd was secure enough to get a real place of his own, the kind of place with a yard where you could keep six pokemon. Todd was trying.

    The day ended, and he joined the press of commuters hurrying home. Back to the Orange Line, change at Downtown Crossing, catch the Red Line, over the bridge, back into the dark, and then finally emerging at Harvard Square. As he exited the station, he saw the girl from earlier that morning sitting in the same place beside her Monferno. He would have sworn she hadn’t moved, but now there was a paper cup in front of her. Todd fished some of his change from lunch out of his wallet and bent over to drop it in.

    “Hey man, what the hell?” the girl snapped.

    Todd snatched the clump of bills out of the air an instant before it dropped into the girl’s cup of coffee. “Uh, sorry, I thought…”

    “Well, you thought wrong!”

    Her Monferno bared its teeth at him and Todd held up his hands. “I don’t want any trouble, really. Are you a trainer?”

    The girl rose to her feet with a groan and folded her arms. “Yeah. What’s it to you?” Todd could tell from her accent that she wasn’t from around here. Somewhere further west, maybe?

    “Why are you out here in the cold? Why not go to the center?”

    “It’s full.” The girl’s scowl deepened.

    “Have you eaten?”

    She glared at Todd from under uneven bangs, and finally sighed. “Not lately. The food in this stupid city costs too damn much.”

    “Let me get you some food. I know a Thai place around the corner.”

    The girl looked like she was about to tell him to piss off, but her Monferno put a hand on its stomach, and she relented. “If you try anything, I’ll scream.”

    Todd rolled his eyes and started walking, and he heard the girl shuffling behind him. They turned two corners to get to the restaurant a little ways off the square. It was a Thursday night, and early enough that they didn’t have to wait for a table. The chairs squeaked across the tiled linoleum floor as Todd, the girl, and the fire type sat down. Todd ordered three bowls of hearty beef and noodle soup, and considered the girl across the table from him while they waited.

    “I’m Todd.”

    “Alice. And this is Mojo.” The Monferno looked up at the sound of his name. The girl stared down at her lap. “Thanks, I guess.”

    “I remember what it’s like to be out in the cold on your journey. How far along are you?”

    “Three badges. This time around.” Alice sighed again. “We’ve kind of… hit a roadblock. No matter how hard I train, I can’t beat McCreedy.” Dennis McCreedy, the Boston gym leader, was a famed master of water type pokemon, and Alice was not the first trainer to be brought up short at his gym.

    “Where have you gotten badges so far?”

    “Hartford, that gym out in western Mass, and the one from Providence.”

    Todd nodded. Steel, grass and fire. Her Monferno alone could probably have handled the first two, from what he had heard of the gym leaders there. They were different from when he had done his journey over a decade ago. “Is Mojo your only pokemon?”

    “Hell no.” Alice ticked off on her fingers. “I’ve got an Excadrill, a Staravia, a Nuzleaf and a Boufallant too, but I can’t afford to feed all of them. I sent them back to my mom in New Canaan, she’s looking after them until I figure out what I’m doing next.”

    Todd whistled through his teeth. “Boufallant? You don’t see a lot of those around here.”

    Alice rolled her eyes. “Not that impressive, honestly. You can’t shake a stick without hitting a herd of them back where I come from.” At that point, their food arrived. Alice and Mojo set about eating with gusto, hastily slurping down broth and noodles. Todd let them eat without interruption, though he shifted his chair back from the table a bit so as not to get sprayed by their broth.

    When their bowls were empty, Todd set his credit card on the table, and the waitress whisked it away. “You’re not from New Canaan, are you?”

    “Nah,” Alice said. “Great Falls, Montana. Mom and Dad got divorced, and Mom decided that Dad could have everything west of the Mississippi. So we moved out here, but New Canaan didn’t feel like home, so I told Mom I was going to take another crack at the league circuit.” She drank the last of her water. “Mostly I just didn’t want to start at a new high school. It’s bad enough when you’ve had to deal with everybody else since you were five, but starting over in a new school? Forget it.”

    “Montana… that’s the Big Sky circuit?”

    “Yeah. Got four badges out there before I washed out.”

    “What happened?”

    Alice sighed and hesitated for a moment. “I just… couldn’t, man. I got to Boise, I got to the front door of the gym, and I just couldn’t do it. I called my parents and they bought me a bus ticket home.” Mojo chittered and looked downcast, and Alice ran a hand through his coppery fur. “That’s what bugs me, man. Technically this is supposed to be my eighth badge, even if it only counts as four out here. I thought by now we’d be stronger… I’d be stronger.”

    “Why not head north?” Todd asked. “There’s an ice type gym leader in Vermont, and a rock type one in New Hampshire. You could get stronger up there and save McCreedy for last.”

    Alice gestured out the window of the restaurant. “Winter’s coming. With my luck, I’ll get caught in a blizzard. I thought it would be best to stay around here and get stronger until the first winter storm comes through. Maybe by then I can get a bus ticket or something to bypass the worst of it.”

    Todd took his credit card back from the waitress and signed at the bottom of the receipt. “I ended my journey because of a winter storm.”

    “Really?”

    “Yeah. I was up north, in Maine. I’d gotten my seventh badge, was heading towards my eighth when the blizzard hit. My pokemon and I holed up in a cave in the mountains with two other trainers caught in the storm. We made it through, but after that I decided that I didn’t have it in me to keep going. I went home, and that was that.”

    “Seven badges, huh? You must have been pretty good.”

    “I was all right.”

    They left the restaurant and walked back towards Harvard Square. Alice buried her face in the collar of her too-thin coat. “Listen dude, thanks for the food.” She shrugged. “I… appreciate it.” She turned and started to trudge off.

    “Wait!” Todd called after her. “Where are you going to stay?”

    Alice shrugged again. “I’ll manage.”

    “Look, it’s going to get below freezing tonight. Come with me. I have a futon.” At Alice’s wary look, he shook his head. “I don’t mean anything… like that. I just… I remember what it’s like, being out on your journey, out in the cold. I want to help.”

    Alice looked like she was going to refuse, but Mojo tugged at her arm. She reached down and scratched behind the Monferno’s ear. “All right,” she said slowly. “But if I get a weird vibe, I’m going to have Mojo incinerate you.”

    Todd sighed and gestured for her to follow him. Raz met him at the door to his apartment, the Lucario’s eyes narrowed. With a jerk of his head, Raz motioned to the clock on the microwave. “I know I’m late,” Todd said. “And I know you’re hungry. But give me a break, we have company.”

    Alice and Mojo silently trooped into Todd’s apartment, and Todd immediately felt how cramped the studio was with four bodies. Raz and Mojo’s nostrils flared as they both sized each other up. Todd gestured weakly between them. “Raz, this is Alice and Mojo. Alice, this is Erasmus… er, Raz.”

    Alice crossed the room and flopped down on the sofa before giving a halfhearted wave. As she sank into the cushioned seat, she visibly deflated, all of her swagger and braggadocio seeping from her face. Mojo gave Raz a few more cursory sniffs before padding over to curl up next to his trainer. The Lucario turned to Todd and came as close as he could to raising an eyebrow. Todd sighed. “It’s kind of a long story. Well, not that long, to be honest.” He shrugged. “They needed a place to crash, okay?”

    Raz shrugged back and crossed the apartment to the bedroom. Todd rolled his eyes. Raz was always cagey around new people, and he figured he’d get over himself eventually. He reached for the cabinet where he kept the whiskey before stopping himself and turning on the kettle instead. He didn’t want to set a bad example or anything.

    While the water heated up for tea, he got the spare blankets and found Raz’s old bed shoved to the back of the linen closet. Alice quickly wrapped herself in a flannel cocoon, her hands only emerging to take the warm mug of jasmine tea Todd passed to her a few minutes later. Mojo had curled up on the pokemon bed, and was struggling not to doze off. By the time Todd finished brushing his teeth, both Alice and Mojo were fast asleep, her hand reaching out from underneath the blankets to rest on the Monferno’s fur.

    The next morning, Alice woke up when the toaster popped. Todd spread peanut butter on a piece of bread and then shook out a bowl full of food for Raz. He set out another one for Mojo as Alice rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “I’ve got to head to work,” Todd said. “Help yourself to whatever in the fridge. I left a towel in the bathroom if you want to shower.”

    “Thanks.”

    Todd shifted awkwardly from foot to foot. “If you need some time to stay here, plan your next move, whatever, uh, that’s fine. It looks like it’s going to rain today, so if you want to lie low…”

    “Thanks,” Alice said again.

    “Right. Well… gotta get going. Raz can look after you, whatever you wind up doing. I’ll, uh, see you later. Maybe. I guess.”

    He hurried out the door, leaving Alice, Mojo and Raz in a silence that stretched out uncomfortably long. The Lucario finally shrugged, briskly folded the blankets Alice had used the night before, turned on the radio and stretched out on the couch to listen to Morning Edition.

    ***


    When Todd had tried to call Raz on his lunch break, the Lucario hadn’t picked up. He did that sometimes, if he took a nap or just got into a finicky mood, so Todd tried not to think too much of it. He took the stairs to his apartment two at a time. When he opened the door, Raz greeted him with an insouciant look and gestured towards the kitchen, where Alice was barking orders at Mojo as the two of them toiled over the stove. The smell of chili powder and beef stock hit him as he rounded the corner, and Alice turned with a grin.

    “Mojo and I thought the best way to thank you for putting us up was to make you something nice!” She shrugged and smiled at him. “It’s all food you already had because, y’know, I’m like super broke. But it’s the thought that counts?”

    Todd smiled back. “It smells great.”

    They all sat around Todd’s tiny kitchen table, and as they ate, Raz kept casting glances over at his trainer. Finally Todd rolled his eyes. “Okay, okay, I get it. Less frozen meals and takeout, more home cooking from now on.” He turned to Alice. “You’re good at this. Did your parents teach you?”

    “My dad. He was a cook at a steakhouse in Great Falls. Is a cook, I guess. He taught me before the divorce.” She sawed off a piece of her meat and chewed deliberately.

    “Do you miss him?”

    Alice took another bite before answering. “Sometimes, I guess. It’s not like the divorce was nasty, things between my parents just didn’t work out. I chose to go with Mom, but it’s not because I hated my dad or anything. I was just tired of Montana. I’ll go visit him when my journey is over.” She cleared her throat and cut a bit of Mojo’s steak for him. “So what about you? It’s, like, a Friday night, dude. Shouldn’t you be going out to a bar or something? Out with your friends? Or on a date?”

    “That’s not… really my scene.”

    “Right.”

    “It’s that obvious?”

    “Dude, it’s like super obvious.”

    “You must think I’m kind of a loser.”

    “I didn’t say that. Oh damn it, Mojo, just let me.” She reached over and sawed at Mojo’s portion with her knife. “Nah, you just strike me as like that quiet nerdy high school English teacher type. You only go to, like, little tiny pubs that only other nerdy high school English teachers know about to, I don’t know, grade papers or something. You don’t wear a bow tie, but you kind of wear like, a metaphorical bow tie. With polka dots probably.” She finished cutting Mojo’s food into bite sized chunks and sat back. “I mean, I don’t think I could live like that, but I’m not judging you.”

    “Thank you?”

    Alice went on as though she hadn’t heard him. Maybe she hadn’t. “But I do get the vibe you’re kind of like, lost, you know? Like you don’t really know where you’re going or what you’re doing and you just kind of go through the motions.” Todd winced, but she went on. “All I’m saying, man, is you need to get your mojo back. Not you,” she said to her Monferno. “Eat your food. Like you and Erasmus, right? You said you guys got seven badges back in the day. Seven! That means you must have been at least pretty good. And it’s not like you quit because you got your butts handed to you, you just decided it was time to go home. I mean look at this guy.” She pointed at Raz. “He’s tough, you can tell just by looking at him. But when’s the last time you guys actually had a battle?”

    Todd shrugged. “I take him down to the fitness club every few days. He spars with the other pokemon there while I work out.”

    “That’s not what I mean. Like a real, honest battle. You calling the shots, and him blowing off all that pent up steam. It’s been a while, right?”

    “Well, yes.”

    “Then battle me.”

    “I… what?”

    “Tomorrow’s Saturday, right? So I figure you don’t have to work. I know there’s public battle areas in the Common, so let’s go there and just…” She mimed punching. “Y’know?”

    Todd glanced at Raz, and the Lucario nodded vigorously. Todd looked back to Alice. “Well, if you think it will do me some good.”

    “And, uh, me too.” She pushed the last of the mashed potato around her plate. “It’s probably good for Mojo and I to have a battle where we know we’re not just going to lose,” she snapped her fingers, “like that. The last match against McCreedy was… it was rough. Mojo, he… we need to get our spirits back up too.”

    “Have you thought about heading up the north shore?” Todd asked. “Once the summer tourists move out, a lot of trainers go there to train in the colder months. They set up little camps in Salem, Gloucester, Rockport, I think Manchester. And they do the same thing out at a few towns on the Cape, if you take the ferry. I was thinking that might be a way for you to avoid going too far north but still train your team up. Maybe earn a little prize money.”

    “I’ll think about it,” Alice said. “But you and me, we’re battling tomorrow?”
    “Count on it.”

    ***

    They got to the Common early enough that the frost from the previous night had not yet melted from the grass. Mojo darted ahead of them, gallivanting across the wide lawn to the public battlefields. Todd ran a gloved hand through Raz’s fur as he trudged down the gravel paths, their breath steaming. A few trainers were already at the fields, but it was early enough that they were able to get an open one and not have to wait.

    Alice and Mojo took their positions across from Todd and Raz. The Monferno stretched his arms above his head, puffing out his chest and making the flame on his tale flare up. Raz simply took a deep breath and settled into a ready stance, his weight resting lightly on the balls of his feet. Todd smoothed out the front of his coat and put down his paper coffee cup, moving his hands to roughly the same place that Raz’s were. “Ready?” Alice called.

    Todd felt a pressure in the back of his head as a blue haze crept into the edges of his vision. His muscles tensed and his arms snapped into the position as Raz, and he felt his connection to the fighting type tighten between them like a rope growing taut, linking their minds and bodies with Raz’s psychic energy. This was how they had fought in the old days, back during Todd’s gym challenge, two minds bound as one.

    “Ready!” Todd shouted back, and Erasmus howled.

    Mojo was off like a shot, sprinting at the Lucario. The fire type’s right fist lashed out, but Erasmus batted it away with a contemptuous flick of his wrist. Mojo shrieked and tried to follow it up, but Erasmus’s leg shot out and kicked the Monferno back, sending him sprawling across the cold, packed earth. Alice called out a command that Todd didn’t catch, and then Mojo was on his feet again, fire pouring from his mouth.

    The flames coalesced around Mojo as he raced forward. Todd and Erasmus stepped back in unison with their left foot, their two fists outstretched before them. Blue mist glowed around the Lucario’s paws, and when they drew their fists apart, Erasmus was left holding a long club made of shining blue light. Mojo closed in, but Erasmus battered him away until the Monferno dropped and rolled onto his back. Before Erasmus could recover from his overreach, Mojo kicked out with both legs, catching Erasmus in the chest. The club fell from Erasmus’s paws, and the instant it touched the ground it dissipated back into blue mist.

    The blow had knocked Raz off balance, so Todd took the initiative and thrust out his hand. Erasmus sensed this through their mental connection, and his own palm came up just in time to catch Mojo in the center of his abdomen just as Mojo’s fist connected with the side of Erasmus’s face. The Lucario growled and summoned his blue club again, battering Mojo back towards Alice.

    “Let ‘em have it!” Alice cried. Mojo sucked in a breath and expelled a stream of fire at point blank range.

    “Fall back!” Todd said, but Erasmus only retreated a few paces as Mojo burst through the curtain of flames, his fists blazing. Todd threw up his empty hands as Erasmus used his club to knock Mojo’s fiery strikes away. By now he and Alice had drawn a crowd of other trainers, some of them young and still obviously on their journey, but also a handful of others closer to Todd’s age. They gasped as Erasmus and Mojo battled back and forth, cheering whenever one of them scored a hit.

    Erasmus twirled his club and brought it around for a two-handed strike, but Mojo saw the move coming. He sprang up into the air before descending with a kick to the middle of the club, breaking it in two and making it dissipate again. “Time for our ace in the hole!” Alice called. Mojo grinned and briefly pressed his hands together. Todd saw currents of electricity crackling along Mojo’s arms as he came in for another punch.

    “I got this,” Todd said. He didn’t raise his voice. He knew Erasmus would hear.

    He drew back his right hand and thrust it forward, palm out. Erasmus did the same, catching Mojo’s fist and holding it. Erasmus winced as the electricity coursed through him, but he held his ground. When Mojo tried to strike with his left fist, the Lucario switched his grip on the Monferno’s right arm, pulling him into another palm strike and forcing the Monferno away. Erasmus jumped back to catch his breath and glanced over his shoulder at Todd.

    “Yeah,” his trainer said. “This has been fun, but it’s gone on long enough. Let’s finish it.”

    Together, they moved their hands over to the right side of their bodies, left hand even with their shoulder and the right at their waist. Their breathing synchronized, and a sphere of brilliant blue light formed between Erasmus’s paws. It started as a tiny crackling spark before growing almost instantaneously to a pulsing orb half the size of Erasmus’s body. Todd could feel the power rolling off Erasmus, could feel the heat of the sphere as though it were beneath his own hands as well.

    “Release!” he shouted.

    “Mojo, now!” Alice yelled.

    The Monferno exhaled a powerful stream of fire, but the blue sphere hurtled through it, scattering the flames like leaves in a gale. The sphere connected with Mojo, and there was a flash of bright blue light.

    When Todd raised his eyes, he saw Mojo still standing, barely, supporting his weight with one shaking arm braced against the ground. Erasmus’s back rose and fell with labored breath, but the Lucario strode across the battlefield to stand before his fallen foe. Mojo looked up at him and struggled to rise, but Erasmus raised one paw and rapped the Monferno once, gently, on his forehead. The fire type sighed and collapsed to the ground, and the gathered crowd cheered.

    Todd couldn’t resist a cheer either. His partner turned around, and Raz grinned in that canine way he had, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth. Then he sat down on the packed ground next to Mojo, patting the Monferno’s back. Todd and Alice hurried over to their pokemon, and despite the loss, Alice was grinning.

    “Dude, that was like, the coolest thing I’ve ever seen! How did you do that?”

    Todd glanced down at Raz and scratched behind the Lucario’s ears. “Years of practice, but we’re kind of rusty now.”

    “Remind me not to go up against you two when you’re at your peak,” Alice replied with a laugh. She crouched down next to Mojo. “How you doing, buddy?” Mojo raised his head and smiled weakly, and Alice rolled her eyes. “Quit being a drama queen, I know you’re fine. A quick rest and you’ll be good as new.”

    A few of the onlookers had approached them, offering congratulations. The younger trainers whisked Alice away to compliment her, while a man about Todd’s age inclined his head to him. “That was a damn good battle.”

    “Thanks.”

    “I’m Luke. You go to the fitness club at Central, right? I think I’ve seen you there.”

    “Todd. I do, but, sorry, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed you.”

    Luke waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it. I’m just saying, me and a few other guys come down here most Saturdays to battle. You should come sometime.”

    Todd looked down at Raz, and the Lucario nodded. “Sounds good.” Luke gave Todd his phone number and walked off. By then Alice had disentangled herself from the trainers.

    “Hey, so, they’re saying that a few beds have opened up at the pokemon center here. I don’t want to impose, and I need to get Mojo patched up, so I guess…”

    “This is it, huh?”

    “Yeah.” Alice scuffed her feet on the ground. “I’m not great at goodbyes. But thanks for your help.”

    “Of course. Thank you, too. I didn’t know how much I needed this.”

    “Got your groove back now?”

    “I’m pretty sure people stopped saying that ten years before you were born.” Alice grinned at him, and Todd grinned back. He opened up his wallet and pulled out two small strips of paper. “I picked these up on the way home yesterday. They’re for you.”

    Alice took them, but she raised an eyebrow. “Train tickets?”

    “For the commuter rail, yeah. Two tickets, for a round trip.” Todd shrugged. “Those are good for as far out as the train goes, so you could head to Rockport on the North Shore, or Haverhill up by New Hampshire. Why not get out of Boston? McCreedy’s not going anywhere.”

    “Thank you,” Alice said, pocketing the tickets. “Just wait, we’ll come back to Boston way stronger than we are now. Next time you go up against Mojo and I, it won’t be so easy! I’ll use you as a warm up for McCreedy.” She folded her arms and stuck out her chin. “Then when we kick your butt, you can come cheer us on at the gym!”

    “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Todd hesitated, then put a hand on her shoulder. “You’re going to do great, Alice. I’m rooting for you.”

    “Thanks,” Alice said again. “For… everything.” She stepped back. “I should get to the center.” She bit her lip. Goodbyes were hard. “So… see you later?”

    Todd watched as she and Mojo walked off. Alice turned and looked over her shoulder, and Todd waved. “See you later.”
     
  2. Psychic

    Psychic Really and truly

    This was a nice read! I don't know anything about New England, but I appreciated the details that made the place feel familliar - especially to Todd, who we see is kind of just on autopilot. I like a simple story that shows someone's routine getting disrupted for the better, and with characters that felt real enough.

    I liked your depiction of trainer circuits in the real world, how trainers decide to end their journeys, and what they do afterwards. The slice of life bits were also very nice, from Todd's cute interactions with Raz, to his decision to cross the campus and see the incident with the Charizard, to the Machop on the train. It did a nice job getting the autopilot feel across. I'm not sure I'd entirely agree with Alice that I got the impression that Todd seemed lost, but I enjoyed her assessment of him since it really let her personality shine through.

    Quick sidebar about Mojo (who I initially pictured as an Infernape, because Psychic doesn't know Sinnoh) - I really hope his name's inspired by Mojo Jojo of Powerpuff Girls fame! That aside, it worked nicely as the name and theme for the story. I would have loved to see Mojo interacting with the world a bit more, though. His rubbing his belly or pulling Alice's arm were cute, but I envisioned him riding piggyback or otherwise hanging off of Alice to make him feel a bit more monkey-like. He and Raz are totally different species, but I didn't feel like there was a ton of distinction between the way they behaved.

    That said, I really enjoyed the battle. You don't see a lot of Pokemon battles that are mostly made up of sparring, and keeping that interesting can be tough. I think you did a nice job of keeping the battle energetic and fun. I was super into Todd and Raz's mental link strategy, and wanted to see more of what that entailed aside from "performing actions in sync so we don't need to use verbal commands," both from a strategy and character relationship standpoint. Adding more reactions and emotions from Todd throughout the battle would also have been welcome.

    Quick nitpicks:
    Wouldn't it make more sense for her to threaten him with her Monferno, seeing as she has a Pokemon and he doesn't?

    Just missing a line break here.

    I'd put Alice's dialogue on a new line here.

    I think it's standard to put a hyphen between "fighting-type." Also, I would have loved to see a bit more insight into how it feels for Todd to connect with Raz again after so long. Especially since he later mentions being rusty, I'd be curious to see what that looks like instead of just being told it.


    Overall, this was a really nice, fluffy read, with a strong setting, fun characters, and a neat battle. I would read more fics in this setting or with these characters!

    ~Psychic
     
  3. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    What a great one-shot. The sense of place is the star, I think; your poké!Boston is wonderfully vivid and meaty, with that hint of many moving parts working beneath the surface that marks my favourite settings. So many things are happening, and Todd is tangential to almost all of them – which is obviously an accurate depiction of what it's like to be one person in a city, but I guess it also syncs up really nicely with the general idea that Todd is peripheral and isolated.

    Which is wonderfully understated, incidentally. Todd doesn't speak to anyone but Raz until Alice shows up; he spends his lunch breaks alone and FaceTiming his lucario. If anything, I kind of feel like it's a bit too understated; it makes it seem like Alice's judgement is coming out of nowhere – which, okay, it kind of is, because she's very obviously still a kid, but still, I feel like I could have used a little more convincing that Todd was as far off his game as Alice thinks he is, and as he himself seems to agree he is.

    That agreeable streak works for and against you, I think. Especially when paired with as strong a character as Alice, Todd comes across as a little bit flat – which is at least in part the point, because I think that's genuinely the sort of guy he is, quiet and unassuming, the sort of guy who responds to things rather than beginning them. Even after he's supposedly got his mojo back, he stays that way. Which, again, that's probably very accurate. So I'm in two minds about it; on the one hand, it makes sense for him to be written that way, but on the other, it would have been nice to maybe see a little more of his personality, which mostly stays buried.

    One final little thing: bouffalant is two Fs, one L, rather than the other way around. Other than that, there really isn't much to complain about here – this is a fun story, with a fantastic setting and a pretty satisfying conclusion. I like it a lot.
     
  4. Bay

    Bay YEAHHHHHHH

    I too thought you got some interesting worldbuilding stuff going with with how a larger North America/US fits in the Pokemon universe. I too don't know too much about the eastern part of NA, but there's this sense that Todd is very familiar with the various areas like how I'm very familiar with parts of the west coast of NA. I find it sorta amusing you also have a temporary roommate situation with Todd and Alice like how my own Yuletide is, though mines has a today different reason why my characters were roommates haha. Todd and Alice's battle was fun to read, like Psychic the stuff with Todd and Raz's mental link was cool.

    Like Cutlerine, I too was taken aback with Alice able to judge quickly with Todd's isolation. I feel it would make more sense if Alice hung out with him a little more to make that judgment. While the battle was fast pace, perhaps more reactions from Todd during the battle as Psychic suggested might make him a bit more lively. Overall though, this was a nice fun read!
     
  5. Damn, that was such a good read. The setting, the premise, the language—everything just fell into place so seamlessly that the one-shot felt engaging from start to finish.

    I think what I enjoyed the most was seeing how you tackled roule’s prompt, or how you built up this sorta-real world but with Pokemon and journeys. That monotonous angle you have with Todd in his daily commute felt so real, and I think the little details like what was going on inside the train and that shouting match between the security and the Charizard’s trainer added a lot in making your story feel more holistic.

    And how both Todd and Alice were talking about their respective journeys really did a lot in capturing what a journey meant to these people and, more interestingly, how hard it was to keep up with. That both of them needed their family to take care of the rest of their Pokemon because they couldn’t afford caring for a team of six was a particularly nice touch in pointing out just how difficult it was to be a trainer in your setting.

    The battle read very well, too, and while I had to re-read a few lines to get a sense of what some of their actions actually meant, I thought it captured the energy of the whole thing well. I also love how these are set in what looks like the Pokemon version of sports courts or something to that effect, adding again to the interesting setting you’ve built up.

    I have the same comments as Cutlerine and Bay with regards to how Alice analyzed Todd like that, so I won’t go into that anymore. Although, that’s really the only thing that caught me as odd, as again, this is such a solid one-shot. Great job with it! :)
     
  6. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    clearly I should have read this while I was in New England for the holidays :V

    In all seriousness, I love this. A risk with real-world pokéfic is that it can sometimes feel like the Pokémon don’t necessarily need to be there, but this was a Pokémon story through and through. And on top of that, it definitely wouldn't have felt the same if it had just taken place in any of the canon Pokemon regions. This is a fic that takes a real hard look at what training would be like in our world, and comes back with the fact that it'd be hard. Lots of ways to have a journey come to a bitter end. And yet, it never gives up on the view that Pokemon training is worthwhile. A lot of realistic stories about failed journeys can be so cynical, but this one never loses that spark that makes Pokemon fun to begin with. Part of that is due to an energetic character like Alice, who has so much drive but has fallen on hard times. But just as important, I think, is Todd, who believed in her. He saw a bit of himself in her and made sure that her journey didn't meet an early end like his did.

    I really like the battle at the end too. Lots of momentum and energy, and it felt like the kind of battle that would draw a crowd even in a world where Pokemon battles are commonplace.

    Also, the dual meaning in the title? Very clever.

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     

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