I was honestly hesitating about putting this fic up here, knowing how unwelcome Originshipping is, but...
...I could not call myself an Originshipping fangirl if I didn't have enough faith in my ship to support it anywhere and everywhere.
Some of you folks may have seen this fic on my Fanfiction.net or Deviantart accounts.
The last thing Wallace was expecting upon his return to Sootopolis was a visitor. The League Champion had made arrangements and obtained permission to return to his hometown for a brief visit with his teacher and the Pokémon that he had left behind when he had assumed his new rank. He was fairly certain that he had left Ever Grande in as inconspicuous a manner as possible, so that no one other than the other Elite Four members and his former teacher would have known of his return. Nevertheless, at this very moment his Pokémon were insisting that someone was at the door.
"But that's odd...I didn't hear any knocking. Or footsteps." And his Pokémon were acting far too calmly for the visitor to be a thief or intruder, even though half past three a.m. was a decidedly unusual time for most people to be up and about. Then again, he hadn’t been able to sleep himself, and had chosen to deal with his insomnia by introducing his new Pokémon to his old ones and catching up on recent developments with the latter, all whilst basking in the calm ambience of the night.
e's just standing at the door. He hasn't knocked yet, although it looks like he wants to. Now he's starting to leave. This most recent piece of information came to Wallace courtesy of his Milotic—his most trusted Pokémon and one of the only ones who had been able to stay with him in his transition from Gym Leader to Champion.
"He?" Wallace pondered the significance of this as he raced to the door and opened it just in time to see a figure freeze in mid-walk about twenty meters from the doorstep. As his eyes adjusted to the dim moonlight, Wallace detected something familiar about the person.
"Steven? Is that you?"
The figure made no response. Wallace was now fairly certain that it was indeed his longtime friend whom he had not seen for nearly a year. He quickly caught up to the figure, which at least was not making any attempt to get away. He confirmed his suspicions upon approach.
"Steven! Why, it's been a while, hasn't it? How are you doing?"
Steven did not turn around.
"Steven...Are you all right? What are you doing here at this hour? Is something wrong?"
Nothing but silence greeted all of Wallace's questions, which was enough to answer at least one of them.
"Would you care to tell me what's bothering you?" Wallace reached out and put a hand on Steven's shoulder to call his attention. He felt Steven flinch under the touch, although the other man did not move away.
An expectant silence.
And then, almost inaudible despite the silence of the night:
Wallace found it difficult to decipher the muttered words.
There was another silence. Then...
"Wallace." The word was a mere whisper. Steven at last began slowly turning around to face his friend. However, he kept his head down so that Wallace could see nothing of the facial expression hidden beneath the wind-tousled strands of silvery-blue hair.
"I...I'm so sorry..."
"You're...sorry?" Wallace could now easily guess the expression he couldn't see, but this only left him more confused.
"I...I went traveling..."
The water trainer forced his mind to adjust to this bit of non sequitur.
"Yes, as you always do."
"I went...all around Hoenn..."
"Did something happen somewhere?" Wallace desperately wanted Steven to get to the point. The water trainer was only too aware that speaking in a direct, concise manner was second nature to a businessman's son with a scientifically-oriented mind. He therefore found Steven's sudden attack of circumlocution highly unnerving.
"...and then…I…I met someone.”
“A…a very…powerful trainer.”
“Do I get a name?”
“…” Steven hesitated again. “…It’s, well, let’s just say you’ve probably heard of this person.”
"All right, I’ll take that as a no. Let me guess, you battled the trainer, he or she defeated you, and you came back here to apologize for losing," Wallace teased.
"No, it’s not like that at all!” Steven stopped, surprised by his own sudden outburst. “Sorry. What I meant is...we…we just talked. Mostly. That’s all."
"Oh? But somehow I doubt that ‘just talking’ would leave you this upset."
Steven did not respond.
"I won't stop questioning you until you tell me, you know."
Wallace smiled mischievously. "Ah, so you did—"
"But we didn't finish. We called it a draw, because—I mean—he said something—asked me something—and then I..."
"And then you…?" Wallace silently noted the new detail revealed by Steven’s choice of pronoun.
"I…” Steven knew it was now or never, and he just couldn’t bring himself to keep a secret like this from such a close friend. “It's really complicated, but some things happened and we—we got...involved." There, he’d said it.
"Involved? How do you mean?"
"I mean...I...the way we...you and I...were..." Steven's voice faltered.
Wallace mentally finished the sentence and gave himself a moment to digest this information. He could feel the tension emanating from Steven as the young man awaited a response.
“I…I see.” Wallace noted with concern that his companion flinched visibly the instant the first syllable broke the silence. Another long period of silence followed, and then Steven spoke.
“I’m really, really sorry—I mean it. And if you’re angry, I understand. You have every right to be.”
“I do? What for?” Wallace asked with his head tilted quizzically to one side.
Steven looked up in surprise. "What do you mean 'what for'? Didn't you hear what I just said?"
Finally able to get a good look at his friend’s face, Wallace took his time observing the trepidation in his companion’s flustered expression before responding, "Yes, indeed I did."
"Then...Then you ought to know exactly why..." Steven let his words trail off as the realization hit him:
"You're not angry with me?"
"Is there some reason I should be?"
"Is there any reason you shouldn't be? I just admitted to...doing that...with...with a complete stranger, after we—you and I—had already…!" Steven did not bother to hide the embarrassment and frustration he felt—frustration partially at himself for being so stupid and vulnerable, and frustration partially at Wallace for remaining so calm. Said frustration only deepened when Wallace's reacted to his outburst with an amused chuckle.
"Come now, Steven, the expression ‘beautiful stranger’ wasn’t invented for nothing. You can hardly be blamed for acting according to human nature—especially given that your own nature is unusually sweet and guileless." Wallace's voice was soft, almost purring, and Steven found himself hating the way the silken sound flowed through his mind and broke through every last one of his usually-impregnable mental defenses. How could one person hold so much power over anyone, least of all over someone who prided himself on his ability to conceal and suppress any and all emotions at will? But all the irritation in the world could not stop the sound, and it continued, as mesmerizing as ever.
"Besides, I would've been surprised if you of all people didn't find a powerful trainer attractive." Wallace tilted the corner of his mouth up in a sly smile. The expression only served to aggravate Steven's discomfiture. "He must have been quite charming,” Wallace added, watching with mischievous enjoyment and just the slightest twinge of guilty pleasure as the pink already tinting his friend's cheeks deepened to a shade of crimson.
"I—I still—I never should have...I never should have agreed...I never should have let myself..."
"I don't see why."
"What-what do you mean? What I did..."
"I'm quite aware of what you did, Steven, and I don't see any reason to be upset about it. Well, I suppose I might be a bit concerned if it wasn’t consensual—"
"No! I mean, no, it-it was—it must have been—consensual…on my part and his…" Steven kept his gaze trained on the floor. "It’s just...right now, I can't imagine—Wallace, I'm so sorry." Steven stood staring at the ground for another minute or so. Then, as if he suddenly remembered where he was, he turned to leave. However, he had not taken two steps when the gentle pressure of a hand on his arm arrested his progress.
"Steven. Steven, please. It's all right."
"I really should go."
“Steven, you realize that it’s almost four in the morning?”
“So? You’re up, aren’t you?”
“What about your Pokémon? I should think that they won’t be too pleased.”
“That’s all right. My Pokémon will be fine; none of them are strictly diurnal. And I’ll be doing paperwork all day tomorrow, so they’ll have as much time as they want to rest up.”
“That’s not what I meant. They might not have set patterns of rest and activity, but I’m sure they know that you do, and I doubt they approve of you wearing yourself out. And if you’ve got enough paperwork to keep you occupied all day, you certainly won’t be able to rest up. I can tell you’re exhausted even as we speak. The least you can do is come inside and sit awhile.”
Steven realized there would be no arguing with his friend, so he let Wallace lead him into the house. Both were met at the door by Wallace’s Pokémon, who despite the formality of their greetings were apparently just as pleased to see Steven as their trainer had been. Steven returned their polite but congenial salutations, and decided that his own Pokémon could do with some company as well. The Pokémon were aware of the crowding that was now occurring in the house, and excused themselves outside, conveniently—and not unintentionally—leaving their trainers alone. Milotic even shared a knowing glance with his trainer as he closed the door behind him with his tail.
Now once again alone with Wallace, Steven felt embarrassment overcome him. He shifted awkwardly in his standing position and made several attempts to raise his head, but no matter how hard he tried, he could not bring himself to look at his friend. This left Wallace to break the silence.
“Steven, I’ve already told you there’s no reason for you to apologize. You haven’t done anything wrong.” Wallace did not bother to hide the fact that he was getting tired of Steven’s guilt trip. However, Steven still couldn’t understand the reasons for his friend’s continued apathy toward his confession.
“What do you mean, ‘Why’?”
“Why…Why aren’t you angry? As if it weren’t enough that I forced the burden of the Championship on you, I used the new freedom you’d given me—a freedom that you and your Pokémon alone paid the price for—by going off and fooling around with someone else! And worst of all, I did that after we’d already…given ourselves to each other! I’ve done the unforgivable, and yet you…you…” Steven’s chest was heaving with barely contained emotion, making it impossible for him to continue speaking.
“Steven, please calm down. I now see why you expect me to be angry, but the truth is that those are the reasons that you are angry with yourself, not the reasons that I should be angry with you.”
“Then…Then…you’re still not…?” Steven was stunned. Even after all that he had just said…
“Of course not!” Noting the expression on Steven’s face after this declaration, Wallace quickly added, “And before you continue feeling guilty about how you don’t deserve such magnanimity from me, you should know that my lack of anger doesn’t stem from any sort of altruism. I haven’t gotten any saintlier since we last met, and if you had indeed done something to hurt our relationship, I would most certainly be angry. But the fact is that you haven’t. When you told me why I should be angry with you, you were comparing things of two entirely different magnitudes. I’m surprised you don’t realize this.” Wallace raised an eyebrow at his friend in mild consternation.
“What—what do you mean? What haven’t I realized? What do you mean by comparing things of two different magnitudes?”
“I mean the difference in importance between what I did in taking over for you as Champion and what you did in becoming involved with a stranger. A relationship as close as ours has to be based on things—events, emotions, memories—that truly mean something to us, things that have affected us deeply and permanently. My taking over for you as Champion is one of those things; our little one-night stand was not.”
“What…? Are-Are you…Are you saying that sleeping with me didn’t affect you?” Steven’s disbelief and agitation caused his voice to rise in volume and pitch. “It certainly affected me! And I’m pretty sure the memory won’t disappear anytime soon!” Steven’s voice quavered on those last words. Seeing the other man so distressed, Wallace’s gaze softened, and he reached out and gently grasped Steven’s hand, squeezing it softly in reassurance. He half-expected Steven to pull away, but instead felt a brief tightening of fingers around his own. Wallace smiled in relief and responded to his friend’s question.
“It did affect me, and I treasure that moment and hope never to forget it. But I must ask you, which do you think means more to me: the romance we had for one night, or the friendship that we’ve had for years? Which do you think our relationship is based on?”
Steven realized what his friend was trying to say and felt slightly stupid for not realizing it sooner, but even so, not all of his doubts had been quelled. “I…I thought…because we’d…done that…that we were in love, and that it was part of our relationship now! Our relationship isn’t just one of platonic friendship anymore…is it?”
“And what if it isn’t? Even if romance is now part of our relationship, it certainly isn’t the most important part! At least, I’ve never thought of it as part of the basis of our relationship. I’ve always seen it as a sort of…side effect that happened because we’re so close.”
Steven narrowed his eyes slightly and sighed before continuing. “But...Wallace, didn’t you know that it was precisely because we’re so close that I was afraid that I’d damaged our relationship? If we weren’t so close, I’d never even worry that you’d be angry with me for what I did, because I’d be certain that you wouldn’t care and wouldn’t be hurt if you knew. But because we are so close…I…I…I was so afraid that I had hurt you that…that…it never occurred to me that you wouldn’t see it the same way I did…”
Wallace could feel Steven’s hand trembling in his own, and he entwined their fingers together in an attempt to comfort the distraught man.
“It’s all right—”
“No, no it’s not!” Steven jerked his hand away and clenched it into a fist.
This time it was Wallace’s turn to sigh. They appeared to have taken a step in the wrong direction.
“It’s not okay because I’m being an unbearable idiot and forcing you to tolerate it—” Steven stopped short as another thought hit him. “I’m always forcing you to do things, aren’t I? I always come to you with some sort of request or complaint, and you always…you never refuse. Why?! Why can’t you say no once in a while?! Why do you always put up with me?!”
Wallace closed his eyes and sighed again. “Because, contrary to what you believe, you’ve never forced me to do anything. Forcing me would imply that I acted against my will, but you said yourself that I never refused you.”
“That’s because you’re too good to say no! You’d never say no to me even if you knew you should!”
“You’ve never asked anything of me that I knew was wrong or impossible. And I know you never will, because you’re not that kind of person.”
“How do you know?”
“I know for the same reason that you know that I’ll never say no to you. Don’t you see? It’s the reason that we became such close friends in the first place!” Wallace waited for Steven to say something. When a minute passed with no response, Wallace spoke again, but this time he tried a slightly different approach.
“I believe you said somewhere back there that you felt guilty for—how did you put it—‘forcing the burden’ of being the Champion on me?”
“Well it is a burden, Wallace, don’t try to deny that. For me it was a burden so great that I eventually couldn’t bear it.”
Wallace continued as if Steven hadn’t spoken. “When you came to me and asked me to replace you as Champion, you knew, and I knew, that you were risking everything. Firstly, you were revealing to me that you weren’t as strong as you wanted me and everyone else to believe—you were admitting your greatest weakness. In addition, you were revealing to me your deepest desire, your wish to free yourself and your Pokémon from the constraints of a life of battle, and you came to me because you thought I might be able to make that wish come true, or at least not judge you for having such a wish. And lastly, you were entrusting me with you and your Pokémon’s proudest achievement—something that you all sacrificed a great deal to obtain, even if by then you were no longer proud of it. Do you know how I felt when I realized all of this?”
“I—Well—you—you can’t tell me that you were overjoyed. I know you weren’t.” Although his mind was still reeling from all that he had just heard, Steven forced himself to respond, unwilling to reveal just how deeply Wallace’s words had affected him.
“True enough. I was surprised—maybe even shocked—and more than a little afraid. But most of all…most of all, I was grateful.”
“Grateful?” That was the last word Steven had been expecting.
“Yes, Steven, grateful. Grateful for your faith in me. Grateful that you entrusted me—me of all people—with your most feared weakness, your deepest wish, and your greatest achievement. You knew that I wasn’t even the next strongest trainer after you, and you knew I had no obligation to say yes, but in spite of all this you came to me. Do you have any idea how much that meant to me? Do you, Steven?”
This time Steven was too stunned by Wallace’s revelation to do anything but stare, open-mouthed.
“And if that hadn’t been enough to convince me of how much I meant to you, your reaction when I said yes erased every last doubt. I’ll never forget it. Never.”
Steven would never forget it, either.
“I…I cried, didn’t I?”
Wallace nodded, smiling fondly. “Yes, you did, all over my shoulder, if I recall properly. And you were holding onto me so tightly that I thought I’d pass out before you let go.”
A faint blush was spreading rapidly across Steven’s features as he muttered a sheepish “sorry” in response to the last statement. Wallace noticed the change in his friend’s expression and decided that it was the perfect time to continue.
“And I knew then, right then, that you loved me. So when you told me you loved me that night of—consummation—you were telling me something that you had already proven to me long before. And the truth is, Steven, the love that you have for me as your friend—that’s all I truly want, and that’s the only thing that I couldn’t stand you giving away to someone else. I could care less if I stopped being your romantic interest, as long as I always remain your best friend. That’s all that matters.”
“I will always be your best friend, right?”
Steven looked up, startled at the question.
“Of course, I don’t mind taking second place to your Pokémon—that’s only natural.”
“N-no, that’s not what I meant,” Steven amended hurriedly, then realized that Wallace had added the sentence as an afterthought, not in response to his two stuttered words. “I mean, I meant… Yes. You will always be my best friend.” Steven could no longer keep the smile from spreading across his features. “Along with my Pokémon,” he added with a chuckle.
Seeing his friend finally at ease, Wallace returned the smile with an equally heartfelt grin of his own. “Then I take it that you won’t apologize for any more trivial, silly things from now on?”
“I... Of course.”
The two stood in silence for a few minutes, just enjoying each other’s company. Then Steven spoke again.
“You said you’d never refuse any request I made of you, right?”
“Yes, I believe I did.” Wallace wondered what Steven wanted.
“Then will you promise not to say no to my next request?”
“What is it?”
“Will you hit me?”
Wallace stared at Steven for several seconds. Then, without warning, he burst out laughing.
Steven fixed an annoyed expression on his friend. “I…I’m serious! I won’t feel better until you do.”
Wallace only continued to laugh. About half a minute passed before he could bring himself to speak again.
“Are…are you sure?”
“All right, if you’re truly sure…” Wallace formed a fist and swung his arm toward Steven, who waited docilely. However, just as contact seemed imminent, Wallace suddenly stopped short and unclenched his hand…
“Hey, why’d you—”
…and flicked Steven on the nose.
“I’m sincerely sorry I couldn’t fulfill your request this time. But hitting someone is such a graceless action… I couldn’t bring myself to do it. You understand, don’t you?” Wallace flashed Steven his most charismatic smile.
Steven opened his mouth to respond, but all that came out was a dry, breathless squeak, and in the end the only thing he did was blush fiercely.
“Oh, dear, I hope I didn’t offend you that much!” In an unexpected gesture, Wallace took one of Steven’s hands and placed a light kiss on the surprised man’s fingers. “You’ll still love me, though, won’t you?” Wallace asked in his most seductive purr.
Steven flushed an even deeper red and gave a barely perceptible nod.
“Then that’s all that matters,” Wallace finished, pressing his beloved best friend’s hand to his lips once more.
Epilogue to follow.