And Then There's LucasThis was written mostly because I'm bored and I love Brendan from the Ru/Sa games. Don't judge. I've also been thinking about the differences between Brendan and Lucas, another character from D/P that I'm pretty fond of, since they're very similar, but also very different, assuming that you don't pick either of them as the player.
It's really quite something! Imagine ... Cataloging every kind of pokemon in the Sinnoh region! And in complete contrast, there's Lucas ...
Rated: PG (K+) for mild language
I'm not sure if the above made sense. Oh well. Either way, this was inspired by one quote I read in D/P from Professor Rowan's assistant (the one that is the unchosen player's father) and that one small cameo I saw of Brendan and Lucas in one of the movies.
And no, this is not related to HLBMA at all.
And no, this is not the cussy fic I've told a few of you about. =P
He let him vent. He didn't know what else he could do.
“It's unfair,” the boy next to him muttered. He pulled off his cap, his short, dark blue hair flat and damp. He wiped at his brow, his fingers picking up a light sweat. “I try so hard, you know?” He recapped himself, hugging his knees to his chest and staring straight ahead across the wide span of the lake. The water was clear, glass-like with the exception of a slight ripple caused by the breeze.
Brendan shifted uncomfortably. “I guess.” The ground that surrounded Lake Verity was wet, too soft for his liking; he could feel his bottom slowly sinking into the mud. Cold moisture seeped through his clothing even though he layered quite a bit; Sinnoh weather was a lot colder than Hoenn's tropical atmosphere. “I don't think he really meant it.”
“'Then there's Lucas.'” The boy next to Brendan scoffed, his blue eyes narrowed with fury. He picked up a rock that was tangled up within the long grass and fiddled with it between his slender fingers. “I hate when he says that.” He threw the pebble into the lake, causing it to ripple more. The reflection of Sinnoh's mountaintops in the lake distorted, brown, pointy blurs. “He tries to hide it when he says things like that, I think. Or maybe he wants me to hear it. I don't know.”
“He was just mad that you forgot the case here,” Brendan replied softly, his fingers running nervously along the thick cloth of his bandanna. He pulled out a loose strand from his bandanna and examined it, green that eventually blurred into white. “You really got to stop forgetting things all the time.” He nudged his head toward the briefcase that rested in the grass next to Lucas while letting the thread flap in the breeze. He released it, watching it twirl and spiral in the wind. “How many times have you forgotten that thing here?”
Lucas picked the briefcase up by the handle and stared at it, admiring the worn leather and the rusty gold buckles. “Professor Rowan” was engraved in cursive in the lower left corner. “More times than I should have,” he admitted, carefully setting the briefcase down between the two of them. “That doesn't make me a bad pokémon researcher, though. We all have our ... moments.”
“What about that one time you got your pokédex lost or stolen? How did that happen?”
Lucas immediately ran his hand down toward the outside of his pants' pocket and pressed against it, feeling the hard plastic of his pokédex. Ever since he got it lost and stolen, the boy was constantly paranoid about losing it again. “I was excited,” he replied, his stare fixated on the tiny island in the center of the lake. “I was excited that they – Professor Rowan and my dad – actually let me travel so far, do something useful. It slipped out of my pocket and then someone stole it. Ever since then, I've been careful with it. It means a lot to me. I had to go through hell and back just to find it again.” He quickly turned his head toward Brendan, his eyes wide, wringing his hands. Memories about Team Galactic and how he had to beg that one girl to help him find it filled his mind. “Please don't tell my dad that I lost it. He still doesn't know, and he'd ... he'd kill me if he found out. He'd ask the professor to take away my apprenticeship.”
“I'm no rat.” Brendan leaned back on his hands and looked up. The pale Sinnoh sky couldn't hold a candle to the deep blue of Hoenn's that he grew so accustom to. Thick, puffy clouds dotted the canvas. Somewhere behind the clouds was the sun, its golden rays peeking out and hitting the area in patches of striped light. “That briefcase means a lot to Professor Rowan doesn't it?”
Lucas nodded, picking at a grass stain on his jeans.
“So imagine that this was your briefcase.” Brendan wrapped his gloved hand around the handle and lifted it, shaking it a bit. Something heavy rattled inside as it fell toward the bottom of the case. “Wouldn't you be mad if someone you trusted for quite some time lost it not only once, but at least twice?”
“Forgot, not lost.” Lucas was quick to correct. “I always knew where it was.”
“Right. Either way, wouldn't you be?”
“Mad?” He shrugged, hearing a sharp beep coming from Brendan's direction, though both boys ignored it. “I guess.”
“Exactly. Besides,” Brendan rattled the briefcase again, and whatever was inside it thumped against the sides, “there's probably something important in here.” He gently placed the case back down and reached inside his pocket, pulling out an oval-shaped device along with balls of white lint. It was a pokénav, if he recalled correctly; Sinnoh and Hoenn had different technology. The white glow produced from the screen lit up Brendan's face as he read what on the screen, his eyebrows furrowing together. He pressed the buttons on the pokénav; Lucas assumed he was typing up a response.
“There always is.” Lucas rolled his eyes. Brendan merely nodded back in reply, too enthralled with the device clutched in his hands. As Brendan typed away, laughing to himself, Lucas looked down at the six pokéballs clipped to Brendan's black, leather belt. He couldn't help but feel envious, running his own hand down the side of his belt, feeling the top of each of his pokéballs. One, two, three, he counted. The other three were empty; he liked alluding to the fact that he was an experienced trainer.
As Brendan put his pokénav down next to his knee, Lucas asked, “How many pokémon do you have? Er, captured, rather.”
Brendan leaned back on his hands and kicked his legs out in front of him, crossing them at the knee. “A decent amount. Nothing spectacular compared to some trainers, but it's enough for my dad to 'work' with.” He scoffed at this, rolling his eyes. “He's probably playing with them now.”
“And do you train all of them?”
His friend shrugged. “I try. The six I have with me now are the ones I use the most, but I try to rotate them all out.”
Lucas nodded as Brendan turned his attention back toward the lake, staring at the island in the middle of it. Brendan found it kind of odd seeing it there, the ripples of the lake crashing into it lightly. He remembered reading about it, or maybe it was Lucas that told him, about some special pokémon living there. He didn't really care, though. Hoenn was his specialty.
That didn't stop him from wondering what the hell was tweeting in the oak trees that bordered the lake. They reminded him of the taillow back home, though their tweets were higher in frequency and louder in volume. He racked his brain, trying to remember what he read in his books. Giving up in defeat, Brendan asked, “What is–”
“Starly,” Lucas quickly answered the unfinished question. “They're small and pretty weak, so they like to flock together, hence why they sound so loud and high-pitched. They have powerful wings, though.”
“Ah, right.” Brendan smiled, nodding. “You know your stuff.”
Lucas snorted. “Yeah, you'd know your stuff, too, if you've been around here for as long as I have.” He noticed that Brendan flinched at his sharp, biting tone, and he quickly relaxed his facial muscles, an apologetic look crossing his face. “Er, sorry.”
“It's fine.” Another beep from Brendan's pokénav resounded, and he picked it up, opening the new message and quickly responding to it. “Anyway, how many pokémon do you own?”
He cringed at the question. Lucas rarely got embarrassed over the amount of pokémon he owned (he was proud of all the pokémon he had), but sitting next to Brendan, a boy who pretty much lived the same life in a different region, made him feel like he had to be ... like him. Someone better. Someone special. Someone who would make his dad proud. “Three,” he finally murmured.
Brendan tore his eyes away from his pokénav to look at Lucas. “What?”
“Dude, I can barely hear you. You have to speak–”
“Three, all right, three!” Lucas yelled in a cracked voice, avoiding Brendan's eye contact, a little ashamed. He kept his head lowered, his bottom lip trembling. Slowly, his eyes looked up and toward the side to the boy sitting next to him, trying to get a glimpse of his face. He wouldn't be surprised if the boy was horrified, or better yet, laughing. Brendan was doing anything but, though, one eyebrow raised, the sides of his eyes crinkled slightly. His mouth was neither in a smirk or frown. He looked more curious, really, as if saying, “So?”
“It-it's pathetic, I know,” Lucas replied in the same hoarse voice, building up the courage to raise his head and look toward Brendan again.
Brendan was about to respond when the device clutched in his hand let out another shrill beep. Smiling apologetically, the boy pocketed the device, letting it beep once more as he ran a hand through his hair, spiking up the white strands in different directions. “It's not pathetic,” he remarked thoughtfully. “Every researcher, or person, really, has his own prerogative. For me, I like to capture pokémon, to observe them, to see how they adapt in their environment. You, on the other hand, memorized Professor's Rowan's encyclopedia collection.”
“Thanks,” muttered Lucas dryly.
The pokénav in Brendan's pocket beeped again, but they ignored it. “I didn't mean it as a bad thing. I think that's what Professor Rowan likes about you; you're curious. You want to learn about everything and anything. I take after my dad; we both love to go out into the field but hate actually writing about it.” He grinned, pointing his head up toward the sky. The clouds finally passed over the sun, bathing the two boys in gold light. The lake was almost unbearable to look like as it reflected the brilliant sunlight, making it sparkle. It kind of looked like diamonds were weaved into the lake, a glossy, smooth blanket with glitter sporadically thrown into it.
“You're not a bad assistant, Lucas, if that's what you wanted to hear.”
A small smile tugged onto Lucas' lips. “I hope so.”
“I know it.” Brendan gave him a firm nod. Another loud beep resounded from Brendan's pocket.
“Who is you messaging you so much anyway?”
“May,” Brendan replied. “You met her a couple of months ago, remember? She wanted to make sure I got here safely. She worried. I don't know why since I've traveled outside of Hoenn by myself a few times before.” He shrugged. “She wanted to come with me, actually, but I told her I wouldn't be here longer than a couple of days.”
“May,” Lucas repeated, blinking a few times. “Didn't she become some hotshot trainer back in Hoenn?”
A small smile tugged at Brendan’s lips. “Yeah,” he replied haughtily, puffing out his chest like it was he who was the hotshot trainer. “Everyone back home gets all jealous whenever I tell her that I’m friends with her. I sometimes get free stuff out of it.”
“No, but it’d be cool if I did.”
Lucas let out a small laugh, snorting soon after. “That’s good, then. How did you manage to stay friends with her?”
That was an odd question. Brendan scratched his head and replied, “Well, how couldn’t I?” as if it were obvious.
Lucas released his legs from his hold and stretched them forward, leaning back on his hands like Brendan. There was another strong puff of wind, making the leaves on the trees rattle and scratch against each other. He heard Brendan shiver, watching as he ran his hands up and down his arms. “Oh, come on, sissy.” He rolled his eyes. “It’s not even that cold. You Hoenn people are pathetic when it comes to cold weather.”
“I’m not cold. I just ... didn’t expect that gust is all.”
“Well, you’re wearing a scarf. You have more clothes on than me.”
Lucas looked at Brendan’s attire. The sleeves of his t-shirt were relatively long, though a little tight around his developing muscles, and he wore what Lucas assumed to be either really loose, black socks, or slightly tight jeans underneath his baggy, black shorts. His collar was also popped up, protecting his neck from the wind. People from Hoenn had the oddest fashion sense. “Nah. I’m pretty sure you’re more layered than me,” he simply replied, pointing at his plain, faded jeans and black t-shirt.
“Whatever.” Brendan rolled his eyes as Lucas smirked. “I still don’t have a scarf,” he grumbled.
Lucas waved this off with a motion of his hand. “Well answer,” he urged. “How are you and May still friends?”
“Because she’s my friend?” Brendan replied slowly, confused. “I don’t get what you mean. Even though she’s always in one place and I’m in another, and she’s some hotshot trainer and me some lowly pokémon researcher doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. We’ve both learned a lot from each other. In some ways,” at this, he grinned slyly, “I believe that without me, she wouldn’t be where she is today. I know, I know; she probably still would be an awesome trainer even if I haven’t met her, but she appreciates all that I’ve done for her. And I appreciate all the things she’s done for me, even if she doesn’t know it.”
“And what have you done for her?”
Brendan laughed to himself, his eyes sparkling in the sunlight as he pointed his head up toward the sky. “Well, the first time I met May was in my house. I learned from my dad that one of the new gym leaders was moving in, and he had a kid. So I was a little surprised when May bound up the stairs to meet me, all bubbly and whatnot. I can’t remember what I exactly said, but it was something like, ‘I thought you would be a boy’ since I thought, back then, that boys were better trainers, and she was the gym leader’s kid, and she called me a sexist pig and ...” He noticed the odd look on Lucas’ face as he rambled. “Er, right. It was two years ago, and I was immature back then; don’t judge me. Either way, it got her all riled up, but I had to leave before she actually had a chance to yell at me. Oh, and then she found me when she got her pokémon and beat me in a battle. I think I helped kick off her career, making her angry enough to become a trainer just to kick my butt.”
“And you’ve remained friends?” Lucas repeated, like it was a foreign custom.
Brendan let out an exasperated sigh as his pokénav let out another shrill beep, though Lucas didn’t know if it was from the question or the device. “What’s with you and your curiosity about me being friends with her? What’s the big deal?”
“You helped her,” Lucas remarked thoughtfully. “You gave her advice, tips, and because of that, she became a really big deal in Hoenn. Or you helped her become a big deal.”
Brendan blinked. “And?”
“And ... and she didn’t forget you?”
“Should she have?” Again, there was another beep from Brendan’s pokénav. He shifted his leg, trying to muffle the noise by pressing it against the fabric of his pants.
“Just answer it,” muttered Lucas, noticing the apologetic look that crossed Brendan’s face as he pulled out his pokénav. He ignored the noise that emitted from Brendan’s device as he read the message from May, observing how Brendan’s face lit up from it in pure joy. “It must be nice to be friends with someone that long.”
“You and me have been friends for awhile,” Brendan remarked, his eyes fixated on the device as he typed up a message.
“That’s because your dad is a professor and he sends you on errands here all the time. And we’ve only been friends for a few months. You’ve been friends with May for what? A couple of years? That must be nice.”
“Keep it up with these girly conversations and we’ll see how long this friendship lasts,” Brendan joked. He smiled sheepishly as Lucas glared at him.
“I’m serious, Brendan.”
“Well fine. I still don’t get why you’re in love with my friendship with May. Or jealous. Or whatever.”
Lucas discovered a thin twig in the ground, picking it up. He rolled it back and forth between the flat of his palms. “You and May were like me and Dawn.”
“Dawn?” Brendan blinked, setting his pokénav down next to him. “Who is she?”
“Oh, some girl,” Lucas simply replied as he threw the twig into the lake, watching it float. The lone, dead leaf on the twig separated itself from the branch and drifted with the lake's ripples, gently bobbing up and down.
“How detailed and not vague.” Brendan fell backward, his eyes cast toward the sky. He stretched his arms up, groping the rays of sunlight above him before placing his hands behind his head.
“She lives in the next town over.” Lucas ignored his friend's sarcasm and fell backward as well, taking off his cap to use it as a pillow for his head. “We used to be close.”
Brendan nestled his head in his open palms, his fingers laced together. “Close, huh? And used to be, huh? And the next town over, huh?”
“Repetitive, but yes.” Lucas put his hands on his chest, one of his fingers wrapped around a fray of his scarf. There was another strong gust of wind, making the starly tweet. “I met her here, actually, when I was with Professor Rowan. She came with some annoying blond-haired boy. There were talking loudly about that documentary that aired about the red gyarados found in Johto.”
“Ah, I remember watching that.” Brendan smiled to himself, closing his eyes. “My dad and I went to a local Hoenn lake after it, though I think it was because he wanted to go fishing ...”
“Anyway, Rowan and I had to leave before I could actually talk to them. I left his briefcase here–”
“Latios how surprising.”
“... As I was saying, those two got attacked by a bunch of starly, and somehow they found out that Rowan had three pokémon inside his briefcase, so they used them for protect–”
“Wait. You told me that starly were weak. Why would they attack two humans? Uh oh. Looks like you need to re-read Rowan's encyclopedia collection.”
“Dude, stop interrupting me. Ugh. Lost my train of thought. What did I just say?”
“Well, you were proclaiming about how awesome I was.”
“... Right. Anyway, they used those pokémon for protection. By then, I remembered I left Rowan's briefcase behind, and I saw them using those pokémon. I got so mad; those were for the new trainers coming next week, and Rowan promised that I was allowed to pick one as well. Long story short, Rowan, for god knows what reason, let them keep the pokémon they used – even though they weren't suppose to – and thus their journey began. He gave them pokédexs, too. Well, Dawn anyway. The annoying blond-haired kid ran off.”
Brendan didn't reply for awhile, his eyes still closed, until Lucas nudged him. “Er ... What a grrreat story,” he feebly remarked.
“So sarcastic today,” murmured Lucas, staring straight into the sky, his eyes squinting from the sunlight. “At least I didn't get my butt kicked in battle.”
“My story is much more interesting you have to admit.” Brendan sighed.
“Anyway, go on. Why isn't she your friend anymore? Or how was she your friend and then stopped being one?”
“Well, I thought I'd be nice. She was a new trainer after all, and I know a few things about being a trainer, like how to capture a pokémon. I taught her that, you know.” There was a hint of pride in the young researcher's voice. “I mean, I will admit that we never really were that close. Not close like you are with May apparently. But we were friends nevertheless. She helped me get my pokédex back, and I gave her pointers here and there. We had good talks here and there, too, whenever we both had the chance. Don't know ... We started to lose touch after awhile. She's a nice girl, though.”
“She was, you mean.”
“No, she still is.”
“I don't think nice girls forget about their friends like that,” Brendan replied coolly but airily.
Lucas quickly sat up, making Brendan do the same, and glared at him, bewildering him. “Don't say that,” he replied in the same cool tone, though Brendan picked up the low growl in his voice. He threw his hat back on, letting it sit crookedly on his head.
“Well, sorrrrrry,” Brendan muttered, rolling his eyes. He pulled his legs in and leaned back on his hands again, staring at the fuming boy next to him. “From what you told me, it sounds like this chick just dumped you on the street once she became a better trainer. Is that right?”
Lucas hesitated before answering. “She's busy,” he finally murmured.
“Ha, right. Busy. Okay then.”
“Well, she is! She's trying to qualify for the league, you know!”
Brendan rubbed his chin thoughtfully but profusely. “So let me get this straight. You were close in the beginning of her adventure, right?”
“And slowly you two began to lose contact, especially when she started to become known as a decent trainer. Is that correct?”
“Yeah. She totally doesn't want to talk to you again.”
And there he sat, mouth agape. “Why?” Lucas managed to ask. “She visits me still!”
“You? Or was she visiting Rowan and you just happened to be there?” There was another pause. Brendan smirked at this. “Let's be real, Lucas. She's moved on. She doesn't need you anymore. You'd only hold her back.”
Lucas stared at his shoes, the soles caked with mud. There was a hard truth behind Brendan's smug words, but he didn't want to believe them. “Maybe I am jealous of her. Out of the three of us that got our starters that day, I thought I'd be the shining star, being one of Rowan's right hand men, or researchers, or whatever. Now all Rowan and my dad talk about is how great Dawn is. 'Oh, Dawn managed to spot a legendary today, Lucas!' 'Oh, Lucas! Dawn has seen over one hundred pokémon species! Why haven't you?' Dawn this! Dawn that! I'm sick of it!” There was another strong puff of wind, and his body quivered, though Brendan didn't know if it was from the weather or the words.
“It's ... it's frustrating, Brendan,” he continued to vent, his hand reaching down toward the grass and grabbing at the blades, ripping them from the ground and crushing them between his fingers. “I'm always compared to her. Always. And if not her, then someone else. There's always someone else better than me.”
Brendan was at a loss for words and simply nodded.
“That's not the first time he's said that, you know.”
Brendan had to moisten lips before he asked, “Said what?”
“'Then there's Lucas.' He compared me to you.”
“Yeah, I know. I was ... there.”
Lucas continued to mock the tone of his father and Professor Rowan. “'Oh, Brendan. Your pokédex is marvelous! I can't believe you've seen so many pokémon! Your father must be proud!'”
“'Brendan, how did you manage to do all this AND compete in the Hoenn pokémon league? You know, all Lucas does around here is research that damn lake!'”
“'Oh my, Brendan! You were invited to the battle tower? That's impressive! And then there's Lucas, sitting here at home, doing noth–”
“I get it, all right!” Brendan snapped, eyes narrowed.
“No, you don't,” muttered Lucas under his breath, turning his head to look down the beaten path. His eyes started to water, though he wouldn't dare let Brendan see. “You wouldn't understand.” He sniffled, one hand wiping at his eyes furiously.
“Of course I wouldn't. Your dad is right. I don't sit around, hoping and waiting for some big break, so I really can't compare myself to you. I didn't sit around, and neither did Dawn. All you do is complain about how you keep getting compared to us even though you haven't really done anything except be some ... some errand boy for Professor Rowan. Yes, all apprentices are treated like crap, but ... but crap, dude. Do something with your life other than fetching stuff for Rowan. Or your dad. It's your life, not their's.”
“I'm not like you, and I'm not like Dawn. I don't want to travel just to prove myself.”
“Or maybe you're just afraid to. Maybe your afraid to do something that you really want to do.”
“No, they don't want me to,” Lucas argued, turning his head toward Brendan to take a glimpse at his face. Always cocky, that Brendan, but there was a trace of sympathy in his eyes. “My dad ... Rowan. They don't believe in me.”
“Oh, really? I really do think they want you to do something with your life,” softly replied Brendan. He pulled out his pokédex from the side pocket of his backpack, a different shape from Lucas' own. He tapped it a few times with his index finger, waving it lightly in the air, smirking. “They don't give us these if they don't think we'll do something with them. So use yours. Get out of here. Besides, even if they don't believe in you, wouldn't it be great to come back one day and rub your pokédex in their faces?” Brendan stood up and cracked his back, pocketing his pokédex. He stretched his hands over his head and gave Lucas a cheeky smile. “Come on. We've stayed here too long. Your dad is probably wondering where we are.”
Lucas looked up, not getting up, watching as Brendan swept his fingers down his clothing, sweeping off dirt. “You're an ass,” he finally murmured.
“Ah, but a right one.” Brendan then smacked his bottom. “The left one ain't half bad either.”
“Please don't do that again,” he groaned. Lucas grabbed the briefcase by the handle and stood up as well, straightening out the hat on his head. The two began to walk forward, leaving the lake behind, flattening grass underneath their shoes. The conversation with Brendan rattled him to the core, but it made him curious.
“Brendan?” he asked, stopping on the dirt trail, in the shade of an oak tree. Speckled light from the sun that managed to get past the thick branches of the tree sun rested on his body. His eyes were cast down. “Do you ... do you think I have what it takes?”
Brendan raised his eyebrows, stopping as well, turning his pokénav in his hand. “To do what?”
“To ... to leave.”
“Leave?” Brendan turned his body slightly to look at the environment surrounding him. It was quaint, peaceful, with the sound of chirping birds and oak trees that bordered the rugged, dirt path. It reminded him too much of his own home. No wonder the kid was bored. “I don't know, actually. I'd want to leave, personally. I think I'd get too bored here.”
“But I'm not sure if I'd want to travel. I do love seeing new pokémon, but to travel?” Lucas lifted the arm carrying the briefcase and heaved it above his shoulder, four fingers wrapped around the handle. There was another strong bout of breeze; he could hear the wind chimes of his neighbor's homes in Sandgem tinkle. He wondered if Brendan was going to respond.
“Then come with me,” Brendan replied after a minute of silence.
“What?” Lucas stared at Brendan, though Brendan's eyes were fixated on the town ahead. “Come with you where?”
“The battle tower. If you don't want to go to the pokémon, have the pokémon come to you. We'll 'observe' them together.” Brendan let out a snicker at this. “It'll be nice to have someone there with me. I don't think May will be able to come.”
“But ... but I don't really battle. I mean, I train the pokémon I have but ... but can I really just go there to battle?”
“Representation there just love it when blooming new pokémon researchers come there to observe the battles and maybe even compete themselves. At least that's what they told me. I'm sure getting them to agree to let you in wouldn't be a problem if you got Professor Rowan behind you and told them that you aspired to be a pokémon researcher. You seem to know the basics of being a trainer, anyway, from what you told me earlier.”
Lucas stared at the shadows of their bodies. Brendan's shadow was straight and proud while his was hunched down, almost pathetic looking. He shook his shoulders a bit and slowly stood upright, an odd sensation filling up his chest. Excitement? Happiness? “I don't know if I'm ready for that,” he couldn't help but argue.
Brendan let out a deep breath. “So train. I'm not leaving for the tower in a few more months. Hell, if you want me to, I can stay here for awhile longer and help you train. C'mon, Lucas,” he urged, “don't you want to get out of here?”
“Well, yeah ... But I'm afraid of failure. I'm afraid of disappointing my dad again.”
Brendan clapped Lucas on the back, making him cough. “Maybe you will fail. But you know what? That's okay.” He pressed him forward, a slight smile on his face. The two trod slowly toward Professor Rowan's laboratory, its white paint job shining in the light.
“... Is that it?” he murmured after a few seconds of silence. “You're not going to tell me why it's okay?” Lucas scuffed the ground as he walked, kicking up dirt. The air space in front of them clouded into a translucent brown.
Brendan shrugged, scuffing the ball of his foot against the dirt as well. “No.”
“Why?” There was urgency in Lucas' voice.
“Because that's what life is all about, my friend.”
“Well, no. Experience I mean. You win some, you lose some. You'll be disappointed with yourself if you do fail, sure,” Brendan paused at this, licking his cracked lips, “but you know, at least you know what happened instead of sitting around and wondering what could have been. And only then will you be okay with being compared to someone else. You would know. You won't ever have to wonder like you do now.”
The two reached the town and stood next to the glass doors of the laboratory, peering inside. Professor Rowan was at his desk, writing something while Lucas' dad was running his fingers down the spines of thick books placed in the towering bookcase, looking for the right one.
“Think about it,” said Brendan, wrapping one hand around the bar of the door. “I think it'd do you a lot of good, though, leaving.”
Lucas didn't reply as Brendan pushed the door open, the cold breath of the air conditioner blowing against their sweaty faces. The trekked mud and dirt in, dirtying the clean linoleum.
“There's Lucas.” Professor Rowan looked up from his paperwork and gave the two boys a slight nod. He noticed the briefcase clutched in Lucas' hand. “Ah, so you found it. Very good.”
Brendan stayed near the entrance as Lucas nervously walked forward toward Professor Rowan, putting the heavy case on his desk with a loud thump. Lucas gulped as he looked into the old professor's eyes. They were filled with wisdom, yet they looked awfully tired as well. There was also a slight twinkle, though it could have been a trick of the lighting. It always intrigued Lucas; was the professor mischievous once upon a time? Or was he still?
The professor pulled the briefcase toward him and unfastened the golden latches, opening it. His face was hidden behind the top of the case as he shuffled through papers. His hand reached over toward the edge of the desk toward a package. Lucas remembered Brendan came in with that package.
“Lucas,” began the professor in his gruff voice, “I have been thinking about your progress as my assistant. And frankly, my boy, it isn't up to par.”
“Sir?” quivered Lucas tentatively. He had had to keep his tongue moving inside his mouth; his throat was getting dry fast.
The professor didn't lower the top of the briefcase, opening the package behind it. “Compared to the other pokémon assistants in not only this region, but other regions as well,” at this, Professor Rowan looked around his briefcase and stared at Brendan, alarming him, “your pokédex is lacking. I am actually quite disappointed; I thought you would be one of my top assistant researchers. You were always so talented, so brilliant. It's such a waste.”
All Lucas could do was nod. He had to fight back the urge to vomit. A cold sweat formed on the back of his neck.
Then he heard the five words he dreaded to hear. “Give me your pokédex, Lucas,” muttered the professor quietly.
Lucas' hand immediately jumped to the pocket that contained the device, but he didn't reach into it. In fact, he pressed it harder against his leg. No, he couldn't take this. It was his prized possession. He shook his head. “N-no,” he trembled.
“Give me your pokédex, Lucas,” the professor repeated in a sterner voice. He held his hand out, his palm flat and straight.
He shook his head, backing away from the desk as Brendan stepped forward, standing behind him, eyes wide. “No,” he replied firmer, pulling his pokédex out and clutching it to his chest.
“Professor,” Brendan pleaded, “you can't–”
Professor Rowan stopped him by giving him a cold stare, making Brendan gulp. He then turned toward the shaking Lucas, his hand still out. “Hand it over.”
Lucas turned toward Brendan for comfort, but Brendan cast his eyes toward the floor, staring at his shoes. Hesitantly, Lucas stepped forward, his fingers wrapped tightly around the device before he dropped it into the professor's hand. Professor Rowan quickly retreated his hand behind the briefcase and started to tamper with the device. There was a sick cracking noise, making Lucas cringe. Was he ... was he trying to break it?
“I hope you'll understand why we're doing this, Lucas,” his father finally piped in, putting a hand on his son's shoulder. Lucas did his best to not try and shrug it off, his eyes fixated on Professor Rowan's briefcase, wondering what he was doing from behind it.
There was another loud crack followed by a quieter snap. Professor Rowan stopped fidgeting with the device and sighed, staring at Lucas. “I'm discharging you, Lucas. Your services here are no longer needed.”
“Yeah ...” Lucas felt his eyes watering up, fists clenched at his sides as Brendan put a comforting hand on his other shoulder. “I ... I figured.”
Professor Rowan closed his briefcase, though Lucas didn't notice, his head still bowed down. His hand was still wrapped around his pokédex. Giving it another quick look over, he gave a small nod to Lucas' dad before extending his arm, along with Lucas' pokédex, out. Underneath the device was a white envelope. Brendan had to nudge Lucas with his elbow to make him look up.
“Get out of here,” said Professor Rowan with a smile as soon as Lucas looked up, urging the boy to collect the items in his hand. “We need you out there. We don't need you in here.”
“Wha ...?” Lucas first turned toward Brendan who had the same dumbfound expression on his face, and then to his father who gave him a warm smile, something he hadn't seen in a long, long time. “I ... Professor, what does this–”
“Always with the questions, Lucas. So curious, seeking answers ... That's what I like about you.” The twinkle in Professor Rowan's eyes seem to grow brighter. “Get out of here.”
Lucas took the pokédex and the envelope from Professor Rowan's hand, first examining the device. It looked the same, its shiny red plastic glinting under the fluorescent lighting, though there was something attached to the end. Lucas recognized the piece; he saw it when Rowan connected it to Dawn's a few months ago, and he saw the same piece connected to Brendan's when he showed off his. “You ... you upgraded it,” he said in awe. “But why?”
“You always were pretty horrible at following directions. Go on. Get out of here. Both of you.”
Lucas slowly backed away, Brendan following on his heels, before turning around toward the glass doors, pushing them open, greeted by warm wind. The door swung close behind then, and Professor Rowan amusedly watched as Brendan threw his arms in the air and cheered, his yells muffled by the doors, while Lucas, wide-eyed, stared at the letter in his left hand and the pokédex in his right.
“He's a good boy,” muttered the professor in his gruff voice. “He'll be fine.”
Lucas' father agreed with a nod. “I know.”
“And then there's Lucas ...” the professor trailed off, lacing his fingers together and resting his chin on top of them. His white mustache tickled his fingers. “Think he'll open that letter?”
“I have no doubt about it, Rowan. And if not, Brendan will drag him to the battle tower anyway.”
“That boy is too much like his father,” Professor Rowan said, shaking his head. “Ah, I suppose that's a good thing, though. Professor Birch was always the ... odd professor. Lucas is a lot like you, too.”
Lucas' father smiled a little. “I know. That's how I know he'll be fine. He just needed a push in the right direction.”
“And then there's Lucas,” the professor repeated thoughtfully, “who will, one day, be a great pokémon researcher.”
“I hope so.”
“I know it.”